Inaugural Post

In a recent conversation with a friend, I spent some time discussing the opportunity cost incurred to be a true “Couponer”.  I created a quick list of the activities involved in this(listed below) and made the claim that after completing this activity, the result was a savings in the $20-$50 range.  Calculating out the time required and the fuel cost the overall savings were in the few dollars per hour range.  Now none of this takes into account the joy some people feel while couponing.  In those situations where we truly enjoy an activity, we need to take into account that joy and figure it into the opportunity cost.  I might even argue that happiness should be taken into account as much more important than monetary or time value.  The point being, I was not attacking couponing as a joyful activity, but as a purely monetary activity.

  • Finding Coupons
  • Clipping Them
  • Mapping your route to hit all of the stores you need
  • Actually going and making your purchases
  • Any loss of value due to selecting an item based on the existence of a coupon and not its intrinsic value.

I used this to tell my friend that in the same amount of time you could have created a compelling and informative blog post which might have resulted in a huge payout.  Maybe this result would not have been in dollars, but in the appreciation and respect of fellow internet dwellers.  Who knows, you might get a job three years from now based on a potential employer running across that post.

I stand by my argument but immediately realized my hypocrisy.  Years ago I maintained a couple of IT Blogs.  I love what I do and through this I was able to add to the general knowledge available on the internet.  The problem was that I posted in spurts.  It would always be some new technology or methodology that would get me hyped up but invariably died down over time.  My problem was that these blogs where so niche that it was hard for me to keep them filled with content on my own.

That brings me to the purpose of this blog.  I intend to post on anything and everything which interests me.  This is as much a personal sounding board for me as anything else.  Even if no one ever reads the words I post here, it is my belief that blogging in this format will allow me to:

  • Arrange disconnected ideas into coherent thoughts
  • Resolve cognitive dissonance issues
  • Express interest and search for meaning in apparently meaningless facts and figures.
  • Force me to write less technically and more conversationally.  My aversion to absolute statements makes me often use 3 or 4 sentences to express an idea that would have been fine in a single sentence.
  • Get me out of this damn passive mode of writing that I always revert to.
  • Act as a sort of “Cognitive Vacuum Cleaner”.  I have read that writing something down frees your brain to move on.  My handwriting is so atrocious that even I have issues reading it.

I like lists.  They make sense to me.  They do a great job at separating out ideas and allow for a quick analysis of concepts with a hierarchical structure.  So, things I expect to be posting here and why:

  • Charts:  I love charts.  Anything that shows relationships in as pure a method as possible.  Simple graphs that show X in the context of Y.  Many of my charts are equivalent to mathematical rambling.  Meh, so what, they are fun.
  • Quotes:  I hate most of the quotes I see floating around Facebook.  They tend to be these feel good statements with no real teeth.  Mis-attribution is rampant.  Thomas Jefferson said nothing about “Dark Matter”.  Einstein did not fail third grade math.  The reason I point this out is because quotes have such poor content and attribution in the Social Media world that when I run across one or even come up with something compelling on my own, I refuse to post it for the fear of being associated with the complaints I noted above.  Here though, steeped in the knowledge that few if anyone is reading this, Ill post away.  I will always attempt to verify attribution and will make note were I was unsuccessful.
  • Science Stuff:  I love science.  I don’t like how the media portrays science.  Statements like ‘Global Warming’ caused this flood.  I find these statements, while probably true, to be so large as to be open for all kinds of interpretation.  I will use this blog to work on how I view and understand science concepts and their fundamentals.   Sometimes I am wrong.  Please correct me.  I claim no absolute knowledge here.
  • Discussion/Debate/Argument style:  As I said before, I do not like absolute statements.  This goes for deductive statements about the natural world.  If you create an experiment to test a small portion of a system controlling for all but a few variables, the results of that study cannot be evaluated by looking at the result of the total system which by definition does not control variables.  I will make the claim that, Global Warming/Climate Change, whatever you want to call it, works by trapping a greater amount of energy from solar fusion on earth.  This is done because while CO2 and other Greenhouse gasses such as methane are transparent and thus do not react with visible light, they are not transparent and do react with light in the infrared portion of the spectrum.  In other words, greenhouse gasses let the energy in, but not out.  Kinda like a Greenhouse.  This leads us to conclude that some amount of energy which would have left the earth is remaining because more greenhouse gasses exist to absorb it.  Saying that this argument is wrong because today it is colder than average is flawed.  Even average temperatures dropping for years would not invalidate the argument.  The argument above discusses one small portion of the energy and meteorological cycle on earth.  There are an untold number of other variables at play which affect the temperature.  I am not trying to debate Global warming here, but simply explain how I see the world and why I structure arguments in this way.
  • Random thoughts:  Some times ideas in my head are not fully formed.  I will use this as a means to put this information in front of me.  Are these two variable Causal, or is there simply a Correlation?  If x is twice y then you can claim that x causes y because x = 2y.  However we could just as easily say y = 2/x.  So does that mean that y causes x?  Even after evaluating all of this we may discover that in fact, x = z and y = 2z.  Therefore z causes both y and x in different amounts.  I think the question of causation vs correlation is extremely important in how we interpret the world.  Many of my random thoughts may deal with this.
  • ETC: No doubt there will be more.  Since I am viewing this as a playground for my mind, I wont be limiting my posts to anything specific.  The above list simply encompasses the thoughts that led me to create this blog in the first place.

I love discussion.  I don’t believe that there is a such thing as a stupid question or comment as long as it is created respectfully. It is my guess that anyone reading this is greater than 20 years of age.  Think of the amount of work that your brain has done over the course of your life.  Just the sheer amount of processing cycles?  While it is undoubtable that even through this huge amount of work we come to incorrect beliefs, these beliefs should never be belittled, simply adjusted with new evidence.

Now I say this, however I am extremely anti-pseudo science.  If someone believes that a crystal around their neck helps them, even though there is no evidence for it, than that is fine with me.  I might shake my head and ask for evidence but I wont go to much further than that.  Society is not damaged by this belief.  I do draw a line when a belief presents danger to society as a whole.  Three true statement:

I have no qualms about discussing any of these items in an intelligent and thoughtful way.  I bring this up to contrast with my earlier statement that ‘there is no such thing as a stupid question or comment’.  I am amending that to say, “Accepting that all questions or comments are based on a cognitive concept held individually and provided that the concept is held after an honest evaluation of available evidence and remains mutable in the face of further evidence, any derived question or comment is valid and makes me happy.”

I bring this up as an illustration of how I think.  I believe that the concepts I hold are the result of evaluating the best possible knowledge available to me.  I certainly may be wrong in statements I make.  Please don’t hesitate to call into question anything I put down here.  But also know that in order to change the concept, I will need the supporting evidence.  If you claim that contrails are in fact made up of a chemical released by government agents I will ask for the evidence.  Claiming that it is the kind of thing our government would do, even if I agree that this is true, would not be considered valid evidence.  The best evidence for this would by flying up into a so called ‘chem trail’ and collecting samples.  Then publish those results without bias and let another group duplicate your findings.  This I would accept as evidence.  With additional evidence, I certainly am quite happy to change my concepts.  In fact I believe this process is a requirement for reasonable, well-intentioned, thinking individual.

Now for the disclaimer.  Some of you may know me in real life.  Some of you may only know me from Facebook or Twitter.  Others of you may have randomly dropped onto a post because it matched some Google result.  For everyone let me be very clear.  I speak only with my own voice.  I do not at the moment have any intention for the posts to be collaborative.   If this changes at some point, I will be very clear in stating who I worked with and for what reason.  I will attribute statements as accurately as possible and I will indicate any problems I have in obtaining appropriate attribution.  If you believe I have made an attribution error, simply comment or send me an email.  I work hard to surround myself with intelligent thoughtful people especially when they hold differing views from me. Michael Dell said, “Try never to be the smartest person in the room.” (http://www.forbes.com/pictures/eimh45ehjl/michael-dell-never-be-the-smartest-person-in-the-room/)  I would put it as, “Surround yourself with people who hold differing views but are capable of honest discussion in an intelligent respectful way.”  I abhor the vacuum of my singular mind.  I abhor the echo chamber of modern political parties and social circles.  This I why I seek out those who differ from me.  If you believe that statements I make here are concepts or beliefs held by my entire personal or professional circle, you would be incorrect.  Please do not push onto my associate’s anything claimed here unless I specifically stated that they hold the same belief.  It is unfair to me and them and dishonest to yourself.

 

Micah Norman

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