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Certain authors October 23, 2017

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I read a lot for pleasure, around 50 or more books in a year. My tastes vary – fiction, biographies, history, geography, and other genres. So the authors I read are also varied. One area I focus on in choosing books and authors is award winners. The awards I pay attention to are the Booker Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, and the Nobel in Literature.

There are certain authors that have written a really great book that grabs my interest. When that happens, I often then find the other books that author has written to see if they are also good. Sometimes they are and I will then read every book that author has written.

These include such authors as Saul Bellow, Pater Carey, Michael Chabon, and Jennifer Egan,. A few have written such a small number of books that reading everything of their is easy. Charles Frazier and Jeffrey Euginides are 2 of those.


How to appear to be brilliant October 22, 2017

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Tip #1: When there is a group discussion, do not say much in the early part. Answer any questions asked of you, occasionally ask a question that does not give away much, only a Do you mean this or that? or another type asking for clarification. But listen to everyone. Sort through their thoughts, meld some, come up with points to reinforce or refute ideas, and just listen and wait. When the discussion starts to wane or when 2/3 to 3/4 have expressed themselves, then speak up with a few of the ideas you have had time to create. You are starting much further along than everyone else, so your opening points will sound so much more advanced, expansive, and in depth than most of the others.
Tip #2: Know and respect the boundaries of your knowledge. Speak on things you know. But if it is something you do not, and then do not be afraid of saying I did not know that. (and “Tell me more” will boost the others’ egos.) Do not try to appear to know everything. People are put off by that. So know almost everything and admit those few bits are new to you. People will accept you as very knowledgeable.

Tip #3: It is OK to expand your vocabulary, but do it only occasionally and only with words that exactly fit your needs. Too much, and you sound unnatural and ostentatious. But most people understand many more words than they commonly use. A sprinkling of those different words, when the meaning is obvious and natural, creates the impression that you are very knowledgeable.

Tip #4: Pick your battles wisely. There are many topics and arguments where your difference in opinion may exist but where its impact or that of the topic is minor. It is better to weigh in on more substantive things than to try and pontificate on everything. The result is that people learn that when you do speak up, it is something worth paying attention to.

Tip #5: If you have the big guns, use them when that is needed. Sometimes you need brilliance to seem brilliant. That is why one theme of these tips is to listen, wait, and think. Use your brain to come up with really good ideas. Too often people just think on the fly and their ideas are weak and incomplete. This leaves them very vulnerable to numerous counterpoints. The stronger and wider your ideas are, the less chance that someone will have a strong argument against your opinion. Think, think, think. But use the heavy weaponry only as sparingly as is needed. You do not have to annihilate the others.

Geographic Oddities – Binational islands October 14, 2017

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I have always been intrigued by international geography. Things like the shifting borders through history, the creation or demise of nations (including little known temporary nations like Los Altos in central America and Maryland in west Africa) , exclaves and enclaves, and secessionist nations (Biafra, the Confederate States of America, Katanga).

Today I looked at the startup page here and it reminded me of another (the startup page includes a counting of viewers of these posts, listed by nations). There were 2 views from St. Maartens, the Dutch portion of an island in the Caribbean. The other portion of St. Martins is French.

There are a few such politically split islands in the world. The best know are Ireland, split between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, and Hispanola, split between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Borneo, split threeways between Malaysian and Brunei and Indonesia, and New Guinea, split between Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Besides these, there are 2 others of some size -Timor, split between Indonesia and Timor Leste, and Tierra del Fuego, split between Chile and Argentina.

Besides Saint Martins, there are many small islands of less than 1000 square kilometers in marine waters and there are a large numbers of tiny islands divided because they lie in rivers or lakes on national boundary lines. Wikipedia has a category of these. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_divided_islands

Career Tip: Reviewing as Networking October 11, 2017

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I have written about the advantages of being a reviewer for submitted manuscripts to scientific journals. In brief, you find out about some developments In your field sooner than others, you keep the review process robust because every manuscript – including your own – requires reviewers, and it gives you new names in your field to search the past literature for.

There is another benefit, but in the area of career development. These invitations to review come from a journal’s editor(s). An editor is usually a very established leader in the field. If you review, there is a building of name recognition and reputation. In the longer term, editors nominate scientists to be on the journal’s advisory board. If you have built a reputation, your chances are higher. Being on an advisory board is an accomplishment and has more prestige for more prestigious journals. Additionally, advisory board meetings are fantastic opportunities to network, learn of new unpublished research, and connect for collaborations.

Spain will Disintegrate October 3, 2017

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Catalonians want out of Spain. Spain refuses to recognize that. This is the culmination of decades of Madrid-centric Spanish politics and centuries of Spain existing as the result of conquests and takeovers. There are differences in Spain’s regions, especially in Catalonia. There is a linguistic and cultural identity in that cornet of northeast Spain.

But like the rulers of many nations, this diversity has not been recognized and valued. Spain, like many nations, has tried to force every region to fit some common mold. In this case that of some average Spaniard. This ignores and devalues the differences, and that makes those differing people resentful and feel as if they cannot be themselves. For the unity of Spain, and other nations, this is short-term. In the long term the differences have become accentuated by the Catalonians. This building tension means that each and every instance where the pattern continues is an affront, a potential tipping point.

Now Catalonias see a better future outside of Spain than within it. Spain only see the use of force and their own self-written laws and constitution as the continuing solution. Madrid has little or no flexibility or tolerance. But this is not the 17th century, and forced unity is not the only solution. People have seen the breakup of the USSR, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Eritrea splitting from Ethiopia, and South Sudan from Sudan and borders are not as sacrosanct.

The GOP is Wrong on Legal Immigration October 3, 2017

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The Republican party in the US has taken a stance against immigration, legal or illegal. This broad-brush approach is wrong no matter what political persuasion a person might have. I will not rehash the thousands of blogs, magazine and newspaper articles, and TV commentary on illegal immigration. But having such a stance on legal immigration hurts their cause.

Why? They are social conservatives. One of the largest immigrant groups in the past 30 years has been Indians. Indian Americans now comprise about 1 % of the US population. Culturally, the 2 largest groups on immigrants from India are Hindus and Sikhs. Both religions and the cultures surrounding them are socially conservative. The majority of Indian Americans become GOP members and voters, like Nikki Haley, Bobby Jindal, and Harmeet Dhillon. The GOP ought to be thinking of ways to increase the number of legal immigrants from India, not moving to reduce that number.

Iraq and other failed states September 29, 2017

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Iraq was created by the European powers in the peace negotiations after World War I. It was one of several new nations created from territories formerly a part of the Ottoman empire. Others were the Transjordan (now just Jordan), Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. All were originally controlled by either England or France. These 2 nations only care about contiguous large chucks of territory, so the boundaries of these new nations contained mixes of people who had never had a positive connection with each other and often were sworn enemies. Two other possible nations, Armenia and Kurdistan, were initially proposed, but they disappear from the maps during the negotiations.

Today there are 4 very fractured nations that remain, all directly suffering from the blundering then, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine/ Israel. Each’s mixtures of diverse people never gelled, never unified. Simmering ethnic and religious hatreds kept them apart. The Syrian civil war is essentially one of Sunni versus Shiite, with ethnic clashes dues to the Kurds and Druze thrown in. Lebanon is those 2 plus the Christian. Iraq is Shiite versus Sunni versus Kurd. Palestine became Jew versus Muslim when the British started letting Jewish people settle in Palestine, returning after a 1900 year absence.

Iraq is now showing very strong fracture lines. The Kurds still want their own nation. Iraq wants to retain its unity, mainly because the more numerous Shiites are in power and need the money from oil in that part of the nation. The Europeans still push the sacrosanct borders they drew in 1920 and the US has adopted a borders are permanent attitude. Russia and China object to changes because they might open the door to secessions on their own territory. So war is inevitable.


Why people are kneeling in the US September 24, 2017

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A true story to show that police in the US are not the same as in other nations.

I worked for years in a research center of a major corporation. It was on one end of a rough-and-tumble city. To get there you had to go through that city’s core, the typical urban ghetto.

One of my colleagues, a Mexican-American (originally from New Mexico) was a PhD chemist of some renown in his field. Like most of us, he would occasionally work late. On one of those occasions, while driving home, he was stopped by a patrol car with 2 officers. After looking over his ID, they asked him what he was doing there late at night. He told them he was working late. He told them. Being dressed in blue jeans and a casual shirt (we had a casual dress policy for decades), they were skeptical and asked him to step out of his car. They wanted to frisk him. He got upset and asked them Why? They did not like that and started to do so forcefully. In the ensuing scuffle, they broke his arm and beat him a few times with billysticks. He was arrested for resisting arrest.

AS things developed, those 2 were part of a rogue group of cops in that department who liked to stop black or Hispanics on suspicion and things often got rough. My friend case was one that got that department investigated and this group of cops fired and in some cases prosecuted. Was it an isolated incident? Well, in the past 25 years since these sorts of things have become more open because of the Internet and it was part of a pandemic. Some officers are unfit to serve.

Ajman? The 5 other emirates September 8, 2017

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I do work for a training company in the United Arab Emirates. Since I began 9 years ago, they have been located in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, although courses have also been in Dubai, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia. I just learned that they are relocating to Ajman, one of the 5 lesser-known emirates. It is always Dubai or Abu Dhabi in the news.

It seems that Abu Dhabi has raised taxes and fees on training courses and on companies that moving to another emirate where these are lower made sense.

These 5, Ajman, Sharjah, Umm al Qawain, Ras al Khaimah, and Fujeirah are small and have smaller populations and economies. A map of them, of the northeaster part of the UAE, shos a patchwork of little bittle of these scatter around amongst each other.That history, what little I have found, is interesting with family feuds and wars and mergings and secessions and intrigue. There were other emitates there at different times, too.

The most famous person I ever met, updated a little August 6, 2017

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On July 25th, 2008, I posted on the most famous person I had ever met. With 9 more years of experiences and further thinking here is the post repeated in Quotes, with following new comments.
“I had a discussion yesterday with some friends. The topic meandered into “Who is the most famous person you ever met?” I had a hard time because my life has been filled with encounters with moderately famous people. There’s no anyone so well known that they are the definite “most” and there are literally dozens of somewhat famous people. I’ll break the choices down by venue.
Athletes: Probably my weakest area. While growing up, I lived in a rural area of Arkansas. Dan Hampton, who was a star defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears, lived a couple of miles away. In college – the University of Arkansas, a small campus at about 10,000 students when I was there, I met future NBA players Ron Brewer and Sidney Moncrief and future pro football players Joe Ferguson, Ivan Jordan, and Jerry Eckwood.
Music and Entertainment: AS a kid, I lived in Salinas, California. My elemetary school was across the street from Dick Smothers house – he is the younger bother in the Smothers Brothers, the “smarter” one. We used to say “Hi” as we walk by after school. THey were just then getting known. In high school, I met Mary Steenbergen, Oscar winning actress, who attended the neighboring school in North Little Rock, Arkansas. While in grad school in Athens, Georgia I shopped a lot at Wuxtry Records, a used music store. The clerk there most of the time was Peter Buck, later guitarist for REM. Michael Stipe, REM’s lead singer lived in the same apartments as a girlfriend’s best friend.
Politics: My aunt was involved in politics and served on the county commission for the Democratic Party committee for Pulaski county – the most populous one in Arkansas and where Little Rock is. She had visits there from governors and congressmen. I remember dropping by one time and a tall balding man effucively greeted me with “Bill Fulbright, but just call me Bill” as he shook my hand. My scholarship sponsar in college was former governor Winthrop Rockefeller – yes, of those Rockefellers. He was Nelson’s older brother. In grad school one day, I was walking across campus when my advisor called me over. He was talking to a big, older man. “Meet Dean Rusk.” Yes, that one who was Kennedy’s Secretary of State.
Finally, science: My research advisor in grad school was a moderately big name in analytical chemistry, so he had lots of luminary friends. When they’d come to visit, he would either tour them around the lab or have an informal meeting for his students to be introduced. I thought meeting Fred McLafferty, of mass spec fame, was big because I was doing mass spec, albeit simple stuff, at the time. Once I moved to the San Francisco bay area, I met Glenn Seaborg and Al Ghiorso, discoverers of many artificial elements. I had a transcon flight with Nobelist Henry Taube as my seatmate. I met Richard Smalley and corresponded a lot with Harry Kroto, Nobelists of buckminsterfullerene fame. I had a brief attempt at a collaboration with Carl Sagan. His group was making brown goo to imitate what might happen on Saturn’s moon Titan. Nothing in it of note. At one conference I was an invited plenary speaker at in Kuwait, I met the head of OPEC and the then crown prince of Kuwait.”
Athletes: I had Golden State Warriors season tickets for several years in the 1980s and 1990. At fan-appreciation days, I met the then coach, Don Nelson and numerous players, like Chris Mullen, Tim Hardaway, and Mith Richmond, and at a pre-game “chalk talk” I met Nate Thurmond and Al Attles.
Music and Entertainment: I used to eat breakfast at a certain restaurant, nowe defunct, in Point Richmond. At different times Elliot Gould and Robin Williams were eating there, too.