I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.
Edgar Allen Poe

The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.
- H. L. Mencken

Many people would sooner die than think; In fact, they do so
-Bertrand Russell

What I have been telling you, from alpha to omega, what is the one great thing the sigil taught me — that everything in life is miraculous. For the sigil taught me that it rests within the power of each of us to awaken at will from a dragging nightmare of life made up of unimportant tasks and tedious useless little habits, to see life as it really is, and to rejoice in its exquisite wonderfulness. If the sigil were proved to be the top of a tomato-can, it would not alter that big fact, nor my fixed faith. No Harrowby, the common names we call things by do not matter — except to show how very dull we are ...
-James Branch Cabell

May 16, 2012 - 3:27 p.m.

Billions and Billions [in Carl Sagan's Voice]

An interesting thing happened down the rabbit hole last yesterday; I fell down into a deeper rabbit hole. I found a friend there. He might actually be down a still deeper rabbit hole. This might not be all bad. If you're read Dante you know that the way out of hell is from its very center.

Am I being too mysterious? I have to admit I enjoy the challenge of writing opaquely while trying to convey true feelings.

I finished Paul Krugman's, End This Depression Now!. It took me less than 48 hours. I wish I could read everything like that. We'll see how long it takes me to get through Yeats's Irish Fairy and Folk Tales. I get a kick out of the diversity of my literary tastes. In the last three days I've read a historical naval adventure story, Hornblower and the Atropos, a book on popular economics, and a book of fairy stories. Of course two of the three authors won Nobel Prizes. Do I have to tell you which ones?

The Krugman book got me back to a common train of thought for me, how people's lack of comfort with math has serious consequences. The accepted wisdom now is that the US tried a MASSIVE economic stimulus and it failed. Too bad no part of that is correct. The only reason people think there was a MASSIVE economic stimulus is because they don't understand fractions and percents or large sounding numbers. The stimulus was about $800 Billion spread over 3 years. People say, exactly, that's MASSIVE! . Really? OK I'll give you a massive amount of gold, 800 Billion atoms for $100. That's fair right? I mean a massive amount of gold is worth more than $100. The thing is that 800 Billion gold atoms is about a trillionth of an ounce. You probably get that stuck to your hand whenever you handle gold. Numbers need context to be considered big or small. $800 Billion spread over three years is not a lot compared to the size of the US economy. It's about 2% of the Gross Domestic Product over that time. Two percent is not a huge amount. It certainly isn't MASSIVE, or even massive. Here are two analogies. Imagine a computer center with 45 Terabytes of memory but still operating at near capacity and somebody comes in and says, "I'll solve the problem, I'll bring in an 800 gig hard drive." Do you think that would solve the problem? Of course not. That's what we tried to do to

Here's a perhaps more telling analogy. Let's say you earned $100,000 a year and owned a nice home. A storm hits and the roof springs a leak and water gushes in. You can fix it properly for $4,000 and it will be as good as new or for $2,000 and water will still seep in and do damage and mold and mildew will grow and affect everyone's health. What would you think of the argument, "You can't afford $4,000 that's a lot of money and you have to retire some day. Of course by not paying it you take a double hit, you have the current damage to your health plus the damage will reduce the future sale price for your house which is part of your retirement fund. Yet that is what people are telling us we have to do. We have to suffer with current unemployment while letting our infrastructure run down.

Just remember context matters. A billion is neither a big number nor a small number. It's a number. It is only big or small in context.

Now I have to get back to work. Tomorrow is my final and I haven't finished grading the last test.

Music Hath Charms To Change the Savage World. - May 15, 2017
Sibling Rivalry - May 14, 2017
Old MacDonald Had Some Daughters - May 13, 2017
The Man In The White Suit - May 12, 2017
Banding Together via RADAR - May 11, 2017

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License. Horvendile May 16, 2012
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