Sunday, December 28, 2014

Loose Ends 2014

Late in 2014 my iPad Flipboard app was updated. Flipboard bought Zite, much to my dismay, earlier this year.  Zite is still a useful, somewhat intelligent, search and filtering engine for online content to your specifications.  But, it is a slowly dying app as well.  Now, Flipboard has incorporated some of Zite's vast topic catagorization capability and can filter online content for you quickly.  As a result of this I stopped emailing articles to my email account, as I used to do, and instead "flip" content into my several Flipboard magazines.

You can read my magazines without the Flipboard app but they are formatted for that app so the page might look funky. My magazines are...

Notice Magazine

Notice: Space
Notice: Climate Change
Notice: The Police State
Sex and Intimacy

The last is by far the most popular.  I have the most followers there and over 6,800 page flips, so a lot of viewers to that particular topic.  Sex.  Go figure.

Then there is a catch-all magazine for my wide ranging interests...

Loose Ends

Loose Ends has no followers.  It has few viewers and only 600 page flips with a lot more (wildly varied) content.  But sometimes people will flip articles out of Loose Ends into their Flipboard experience.

I have often written Loose Ends posts for this blog. Here are examples from 2011, 2012, and 2013.  I just use Flipboard these days to keep track of all this, the online content I sift through day by day on my iPad.  Once you figure it out, it is a very efficient information storage system.  So, here are some of the larger themes dancing in my head in this moment at the end of 2014...

When she was 14 the Taliban tried to kill her.  Now, at 17, Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person to ever win the Nobel Peace Prize.  See her inspiring acceptance speech here.

More human beings died from Ebola in 2014 than in all previous years combined since its discovery in 1976.  Time Magazine's Person of the Year award went to the people collectively fighting this disease.  

Apes continue to exhibit remarkable reasoning powers and emotional depth.  Two recent stories stand out.  One involves a Chimpanzee who has mastered sign language and adopted an young orphaned chimp after her own two babies died. What the chimp communicated to her keeper reveals a high level of personal awareness.  The Chimpanzee taught her adopted child to sign with their human keepers in only eight days.  The other story involves one smaller monkey attempting to save the life of another after it had been rendered unconscious.  Though the chimp's efforts were haphazard, the other chimp was revived.  In related news, an orangutang was granted "basic rights as a person" in Australia.  Human being is a special thing but it is more closely related to apes than most people care to admit.

As I have written before, human language is a key to understanding human experience.  Any spiritual or philosophical path that does not adequately address the importance of language in this regard is lacking in its scope. It was revealed this year that humans who are bilingual have more efficient brains, a direct impact of language upon neurology. Other modes of human expression, such as meditation, often boast of a positive influence on the brain, yet hardly anyone recognizes language itself as such an influence. Further evidence of the importance of language on human experience is revealed in the fact that people who speak multiple languages more often than not express different personalities depending upon which language they speak. Human beings express and experience life differently within language itself.

Yoga remains an important part of my life. Recently, I came across articles relating to how yoga can improve your sex life and, somewhat more cautionary, how sex abuse is a dark side of yoga.  It seems the spiritual tool can be used many different ways depending upon the person involved.  So while yoga potentially frees a practitioner from some of the effects of karma, the discipline itself has a karmic force of its own where human sexuality is concerned, and in other ways as well.

The central dialectic between body and mind is something I continue to observe.  The debate continues between those who elevate the human mind to encompass all reality and those who feel the brain and body (rather than mind) deserves primary place in our experience of reality.  The full power of the human brain is only dawning on us. For example, for the first time ever a man was able to control two prosthetic arms with his brain this year.   Similarly, scientists have developed a technique to potentially teach human beings to experience synaesthesia, a rare condition where humans mix-up sensual experiences such as hearing colors and tasting words.  Now wouldn't that be extraordinary?  To widely teach and completely different way of sensing reality.

But, so what?  I'm not sure mimicking abnormal sensory intelligence leads us anywhere of significance.  Part of the problem is that the issue tends to be greatly oversimplified by advocates on both sides.  This article, for example, argues that abstract art demonstrates that perception is reality. No it isn't.  Human perception affects human appreciation of reality.  But that, in turn, has no effect on reality per se.  To think our perceptive powers actually shape the vastness of reality is just a form of arrogance.  I will blog more about this subject in 2015.

Fun fact:  The drunkest day of 2014 in America was the Sunday before St. Patrick's Day.  Why did alcohol universally develop throughout the earth when there was little or no cultural interaction on the planet?  It seems to have happened about 10 million years ago over the question of what to do with rotting fruit.  Maybe alcohol is the surest proof of human evolution.

On a more practical level, the U.S. Economy kicked ass in 2014.  The year was enormously bullish for stocks and for employment.  At present it seems that the Fed expertly handled of the Great Recession.  2014 was the best year for jobs in the US since 1999.  The Dow closed above 18,000 for the first time in history.  There were many Dow Theory confirmations during the year and it looks like the markets will continue higher into 2015.  

Unfortunately, I missed most of this move and am mostly in cash awaiting a correction that is apparently going to occur later rather than sooner. Calls for a correction were wrong all year. The historic drop in oil prices in 2014 presents a new investment opportunity, which Jennifer and I are discussing.  It is worth noting that some of those most heavily invested in stocks are now selling.  No one knows what happens next.

But debt is still huge and the Fed "called time" on almost $6 trillion of debt generated for emerging markets, which now make up half the global economy.  This threatens these markets.  How will we manage this massive liquidity of cash and bonds?  While it is true that lower unemployment has brightened the outlook of the American consumer, it is equally true that the average net worth of typical families was over $135,000 in 2007 but is about $82,000 today.  The aftershock of the Great Recession is still very much with us. Nevertheless, the U.S. Economy grew at an outstanding 5% rate in the third quarter...with no inflation in sight?  Most people are still dissatisfied with economic performance.

Collectively, the world is experiencing its worst refuge crisis since 1945.  The United States has spent $1.6 trillion on wars since September 11, 2001.  NATO promises to be more responsive to recent acts of aggression by Russia.  There are conflicts spread all across the globe as we enter into 2015. And yet, as this excellent article in Slate Magazine reveals, we have never lived in more peaceful times.  The number of combat deaths and the victimization of children are at historic lows, while the number of nations moving toward democracy are at an all-time high.  We know a lot more about the world today thanks to the Internet and more varied and vigorous reporting, but the fact is the world is not falling apart and that is a hopeful sign.

Art continues to be a guiding light of my life.  Here are the "breakthrough artists" of 2014 according to The Museum of Modern Art.  Here is a list of the European artists whose art sold at the highest prices in 2014.  Here is the best "viral art" of the year.  New York City's best graffiti art of the year. The best snow scenes ever painted.  Here is one take on the best modern paintings of the last 100 years.

Some of the best photos of the year can be seen here.

Flipzines that I follow by other flipboarding folks out there in cyberspace include these relating to Art...

Red Lipstick (a Tumblr feed)

The Aesthetic
Love of Art

A 75-year study of male Harvard graduates concluded this year than boys who are most loved, particularly by their mothers, are significantly more successful financially and emotionally in life than boys whose mothers do not physically show them as much love.  An interesting fact, but did they really need all that time and money to prove this?  There is some value in instinctual (as opposed to academic) knowledge.  We all knew this (or suspected it) already.

NASA satellites have changed the way we look at the Earth. The International Space Station continues to provide amazing imagery of the Earth. Meanwhile, the Hubble Space Telescope continues to impress as it gazes beyond our Solar System. Here are the best images of the Earth from space in 2014 according to Wired Magazine.  Among the many magnificent images I saw this year was this one of sunlight reflecting off hydrocarbon seas on the surface of Titan.

This past winter solstice was the longest night in human history.  In fact, every night seems to be the longest going forward as the rotation of the Earth microscopically slows down.

Check out my magazines if you want to keep up with some weird and widely-varied items of interest.  

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