Duck! and Gather

Archive for December 2007

Three years and one month ago, I made the following prediction:

The North Sea Brent crude oil spot price will hit $100/barrel; the Kitco 24 hour spot gold (bid) price will hit $1000/ounce.

At the time I made that prediction (12/4/04), Brent crude was trading at around $40/barrel; Kitco gold at around $450/ounce.

Fast forwarding to the past month, we’ve seen Brent crude clear $95/barrel; Kitco gold, over $840/ounce.

With almost a year left to run on this prediction, I’d say it’s looking “more likely than not” that I’ll be collecting that ounce of gold from my PhD friend.

Hey, I’m just sayin’.

Three years and one month ago I made the following prediction:

The Democratic Party will either go the way of the Whigs, or undergo a profound metamorphosis whereby the current leadership of the party (DNC, the Clintons, U.S. Senators, etc.) is replaced with anti-Corporate leadership.

As of today, only three candidates stand the chance of winning the Democratic nomination for President. A year ago, I noted that one of the three — Barack Obama — seems a tad anti-corporate, albeit politely so.

Then in August of this year, a second of the three — John Edwards — came out as unambiguously anti-corporate:

Real change starts with being honest — the system in Washington is rigged and our government is broken. It’s rigged by greedy corporate powers to protect corporate profits. … For them, more of the same means more money and more power. They’ll do anything they can to keep things just the way they are — not for the country, but for themselves. … The choice for our party could not be more clear. We cannot replace a group of corporate Republicans with a group of corporate Democrats, just swapping the Washington insiders of one party for the Washington insiders of the other. … It’s time to end the game. It’s time to tell the big corporations and the lobbyists who have been running things for too long that their time is over.

As for the third of the three — Hillary Clinton — her standing in the polls has been in a free fall of late.

So one year from the expiry of my prediction, I’d say it’s looking like a “strong likely”. That’s quite an upgrade from last years’ “let’s wait and see” rating.

Over the past few days, I got busy again with my Personality and the Brain work. On Thursday, I noticed that some self-appointed Wikipedia policeman had deleted links to any info on the Enneagram and brain research, including the link to my work. After two years of sitting on this project, that incident gave me the shot in the arm I needed. So I whipped up a quick paper that summarizes the book. Then I sent that paper to the key researchers cited in the book. In the paper, I identify two remaining research questions that are needed to confirm my hypothesis. It will be interesting to see if I get any response from them. Here are my latest updates on the book page:

12/15/07: The Wikipedia Police

After two years of a Wikipedia link to this page, a Wikipedia “policeman” has taken upon himself/herself to delete any mention of brain research on the Enneagram. For your entertainment, here is the discussion thread between this person and myself:

12/15/07: Eric Lombrozo’s Paper

If you find my paper and/or book at all interesting, you’ll definitely be interested in the paper Prefrontal Cortex Dissociation from Amygdala and Personality Types by Eric Lombrozo. Check it out.

12/13/07: Paper

After two years, I finally got around to writing up a short paper summarizing the main points of the book. Basically, I started with the abstract of the book, and fleshed that text out into a (hopefully) readable paper. Happy reading.

Got back to the U.S. late Wednesday night after a 16-day trip to the Greek island on which I spend time every year. Been awake since 3am this morning and can’t get back to sleep. My body still thinks it’s in Greece. Good time to blog.

It was when I was sitting at the gate in Athens airport Wednesday morning, waiting for my plane to board, that it hit me. I heard American voices talking and I almost wept, overcome by that warm feeling of “home”. I’ve been going to this Greek island every year, sometimes twice a year, for stretches lasting up to four months. Not once had I left that country happy to leave it, and ecstatic to be returning home to America. So why this time?

It wasn’t the fact that the Greek culture seems to encourage lying and cheating. I had known of this dynamic since 1987 when I lived in Athens for a year playing semi-pro basketball. It bothered me only mildly back then; and my sentiments on that score are no different today.

Instead, what I think was bothering me was the cultural uniformity of that place. That aspect really struck me on Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning which I spent in heart of Athens. During that time, I walked around the main city squares — Syntagma and Omonia — plus in and around the narrow alleyways of Plaka, and also the green spaces of the three ancient hills surrounding the Acropolis. Walking for hours, I noticed the following two things:

  1. apathy toward nature
  2. uniformity of dress

Actually, I had noticed these two dynamics back in 1987. Although they puzzled me back then, then didn’t really bother me. But this time they did.

By “apathy toward nature”, I mean the following: Athens is a crowded metropolis approaching 5 million people. It is a bowl surrounded by mountains filled with an endless sea of 10-story white concrete buildings. Within this hell-hole, there are precious few expansive green spaces. The surrounding mountains are one such space. In the middle of the city, there is steep hill called “Lycabetus“. And the Acropolis area, with its surrounding three hills is a third such green space.

Including my 1987 stay and my visit earlier this week, I have walked all over these three green spaces. And in all of that walking, I have never seen a Greek. Mostly, I’ve never seen another human, except for the odd German tourist now and then. Five million people, and not a single one seems to revel in the extraordinary nature (not to mention history) that is their backyard.

Concerning “uniformity of dress” consider the following: Tuesday afternoon, there was a light shower in early afternoon. But the temperature was warm (about 68), and skies cleared up later on. I walked shirtless around the hills. What a lovely day. As I came down from hills into the bustling downtown, I was an odd duck in my jeans and bare chest. Almost everyone was wearing a warm sweater or jacket, many with scarves. And the vast majority was wearing black. Black pants, back sweater, black jacket, black hat — sometimes all of the above.

I had noticed the same thing about heavy black clothes on warm days in Athens in 1987. That behavior struck me as odd then. But this time it showed me clearly why I love America so. As I have written many times on this site, America is a glorious vacuum with no dominant culture that dictates what we wear, what we eat, how we are entertained, what we believe, what we cherish, and so on. Most every other place in the world has one or more of these things in common that binds the people together. A place like Greece has many such binding dynamics.

But in America, all we have that binds us together is our collective love of individual freedom. What are you wearing today? What will you be eating today? What form will your entertainment take today? What god will you pray to today? Will your mood be kind today, or prickly?

I have no idea what your answers are. Maybe you don’t either? But I say this: Bless you for your own choices!

Bless this fat, sick, bankrupt, violent, ignorant nation because nobody made us into these things. We chose this life for ourselves.

Bless this beautiful, historical, free nation because when the collapse comes, history says that the world will not witness such glory for centuries.

for the money has gone too far

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December 2007