Monday, April 28, 2014

Writing Resources and my new Phone App

Okay, enough of my ruminating and complaining about political stuff. Now, back to entertainment, fiction writing, marketing, and my new phone app - The Murdock Society phone app.

First off, writing resources.

I get a lot of emails everyday, mostly writing oriented things that I've subscribed too, various informational sites, some political, some humor, many merely updates on my web sites, blog, Linkedin, Facebook pages, or yes, even MySpace.

What the heck, while we're on the topic and just in case it's useful to anyone though mostly writers I'm sure, here's a list of many of the sites I get regular updates from or on. Most of these are daily, but some are weekly. I won't list all the sites or those specific to me as user, just the ones related to me as writer.

I'll skip user oriented and purchaser things like Amazon Kindle,,, and marketing stuff like AdSense, etc., as there's a lot of all that. Going down my Outlook email list here's what I found.

There may be one or two I'm not frequenting much but I thought I'd mention them anyway in case someone might find them useful. I also have a Writer's Resource page here on with my personal writer's list just for me to keep in mind and find easily when I want them. I thought others might find them useful so they are available (and yes I should probably clean that up some).

In the references below, I'll offer links related to myself as much as possible (hey, why not?), but you can just go to the site and click on their home page if you're more interested in that site for yourself.

Here we go:
While going through my daily email routine, some emails I quickly scan through, some I mostly ignore and mark read and move on. But one caught my attention the other day.

It was from a company called, Conduit.

So now, about the phone app.

Conduit makes it easy for you to create your own cell phone app. When I noticed it, at first, moved on; but I kept coming back to it over the rest of the day. Finally, I just went to the site and one thing led to another and, I created my own phone app. I'd heard that authors were doing this, so it seemed reasonable to check it out.

And, it's kind of cool. Here it is, Murdock Society phone app.

It wasn't that hard to do, either. A little intimidating at first, like so much of this stuff is, but you just have to push through that. And so I did. Once I was done, it took a couple of days but it was reviewed, accepted and pushed out to Amazon for iPhone and Android (I have a Droid MAXX so that was good for me).

To initially do this was free but there are various forms of payment that walk you up the ladder to more and more accessibility to the public. For now, I'm just biding my time getting used to it. Then I may choose to pay and see how it works out.

Since we are now nearly finished with the re-edit of my book, Death of Heaven (video trailer), I thought this would be a good time to set something like this app up. For now, it's just seems kind of cool to have. Later, it just may turn out to be a useful, if not profitable app. Time obviously, will tell.

Thanks for you time, I hope you found something useful.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Today as Conservatives National Shame Day

I believe from now it would be appropriate for the first work day Monday after Easter Sunday to be, Conservatives National Shame Day. At least until things have been worked back into their proper place and our country brought back up to its once again, deservedly respectful position as world leader.

Why? Because of what Conservative's mishandling of our country has led us all into. We've all head their craziness, their attempts at limiting voters who would vote against them, disrespect for women's rights long ago established, attempts to make corporations equal to citizens, and it just goes insanely on and on....

If you're not at least somewhat ashamed of the following information, then maybe you are one of those with whom our problem lay. We have a rather idealized view of how great we are and we have indeed done great things; but you can't rest on your laurels forever. That's how you eventually fail as a leader. That's how your country eventually falls. And now we have. We have fallen in the ranks of world leader categories.

The new Report on Social Progress from The Social Progress Imperative, is led by one of the most highly quoted experts in his field in the World, Michael E. Porter, Professor at Harvard Business School. His group has taken a look at the world and found the US severely lacking in so many things.

We are overall #16 in the world on social progress. NUMBER 16!

I am laying the blame for this on conservatives and Republicans, on their extremists mostly and those others for following them; or worse, for allowing them to lead; for the cowardly actions of their groups who are bulwarks of greed while arguing all along how compassionate they are and laying the fix for everything at the door of increasing their own personal wealth and that of corporations (who should not be considered "people" by the way). Democrats are to blame some too for not finding ways to push those conservative groups off our national political stage after those groups have consistently done so much damage to our country in the name of "progress"; when really it was about moving all the money to the top of the tier for personal and corporate gain.

Consider that just after America at #16 on the list comes Belgium, Slovenia and Estonia. Awesome! So we're better on social progress than Slovenia. Feeling proud yet? Rather, feel ashamed. Shouldn't we be over #1 New Zealand, or at least above #10 Australia, or Germany at #12, UK at #13, Japan at #14, or Ireland at #15. But no, we're #16 in the world.

We are #23 on Access to Information and Communications. This one I've known about for a while and it annoys me every time I think about it. Mobile Telephone Subscriptions put us at #83 behind the THREE tied for #1, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and Russia. Even Jamaica beat us out at #82 and we are only one ahead of Latvia. Latvia!

If you've ever, even in good service areas, had a call not go through due to network over-saturation because the cell phone companies aren't keeping up to the demand, then you know what this is referring to; but it's more than that. It's also about how many places have little or no cell service. I've heard people who were backpacking in remote places around the world and were stunned to find how much better cell service was in those to countries where they had so little else to boast about. Not to mention the countries who get new technologies faster than we do here in America, the so called, "Greatest Country in the World."

We all should know now that we pay more than anyone and get less bang for the buck on Health and Wellness where we are #70; where we have so many who have no healthcare at all because they have to choose between bread and a doctor visit. At least we should know about that by now; and again, we should feel ashamed. Yes, those who can afford our healthcare can get very good healthcare, world class care in fact, but when put up against all those who cannot, we don't shine quite so well.

But we have intangibles right? Like Access to Basic Knowledge (things like enrollment in primary school) with Japan at #1, New Zealand at #2 and Norway at #3. Yet we're ranked #39! With Cuba (CUBA!) ahead of us at #35 and Georgia (the country not the US State, you know them as the people Russia attacked a while back before the current incursions to another sovereign nation by hitting Ukraine's Crimea), who are at #42.

Primary School Enrollment shows China at #1, Japan at #2, Iran at #3 (IRAN?), but the US is ranked at #77! Nicaragua at #78 and Iraq at #79. Feeling ashamed, YET? Okay, then hang on. Also consider our rather high drop out rates in secondary schools.

Consider, Freedom of the Press. We have to be top there, right? But no, we're ranked #21. Are you starting to not care that we're number one yet? Starting to devalue us to let yourself feel better, rationalizing, just thinking about ranking us as over others as our call to our greatness? If so, that's what we have been doing for far too long. Rationalizing our decline. Stop it!

You should be pushing in your mind for us being NUMBER ONE in as many things if not all, as is possible. Or at least for us to be in the top ten of everything. But see?  See how insidious that is? Because that's simply doing it again, rationalizing our decline. Why CAN'T we be number one all across the board? What the hell is going on? What has happened to us as a people? Could it be the corporations who have their finger up the nose of government, leading them along, have consistently beat us down decade after decade, taking not only our pay from us but our dignity; and rationalizing our self esteem until we should no longer have any at all (hey, chin up, we're not quite there YET, we have a few minutes before it's all over).

One word sums it all up that is killing us as a nation, and I'd argue that is: conservatism.

Look, it's got to go. Yes, we need some as a balance to getting out of control with too much progressiveness, but too much isn't none at all. Conservatism has gotten out of control and we need to not just start reigning it in, but simply reign it in. Now. ASAP.

We need to start looking at ourselves honestly and objectively. We need to stop talking so much about how wonderful we are and start being wonderful again, before we simply aren't anymore. We can get our status back so that when we brag, we are accurate. I'd actually argue we shouldn't be bragging, but then we have that status as braggart Americans to uphold that so many love so much (doing it, not listening to it, people around the world are pretty sick of our attitude, not our country, but our demeanor in many cases). Our status now is more of a general concept. If you try to get too articulate about it, it all quickly starts to fall apart. Just pull out this new report and your argument for greatness is dead in the water.

There is nothing worse however, than a braggart who has no leg to stand on. Or a has been, who is spouting how great they once were, when everyone in the room knows they are a has been. It's, pathetic. And our mindset isn't one of our being a pathetic entity in the world.

We're the US of A dammit! Let's get back to being who we know we are. We need to stop talking brave and acting like cowards in these areas. Because we're not cowards. Not at all! We have just let the cowardly speak too much on our behalf (making us, what?). They have taken over too much of our political system, repeatedly invoked fear in us over economics and pulled all the wrong strings in order to get us back on the right path. They have done this so much we don't even see it anymore when it happens.

The first thing we need to start with is putting conservatives in the back seat where they belong. Where they can cry out their warnings about how we are being too progressive, even when we are not, and not let them govern us anymore on the things we all know that we need to be doing. We need conservatives as a check on our progress. They mean well, but are too frequently deluded of late. But to let them run things is a huge mistake and we're now seeing the disservice they have done to us.

Let's get back to being the leaders of the world in all the right ways and not just in bullying the world with our military. Like our drone strikes which again have killed ten Al Qaeda on Saturday last (4/19/14) in Yemen, but also took out three civilians and so we have probably just spawned another thirty new terrorists, ten for each civilian killed. Let's put our money where it needs to be on the things we truly need. Let's do it because it's the right thing to do.

Because, it's who we are.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Three Counters to the Extreme Conservative Mindset

There are three major elements to be aware of in debating the conservative mindset:
  • The "Closed Minded" concept
  • Specificity vs Generalities
  • Jumping Forms of Logic
Now to be fair it's not just conservatives who can have this mindset but also extreme liberals or religious mindsets, too.

If you keep getting into debates (or worse, bickering types of arguments), with people who maintain the extreme conservative mindset, you may find you are getting nowhere with either them. Or their argument is against what seems to be perfectly rational and something settled long ago. Or something that has been proven by perhaps even the majority of scientists in the entire world but is for no apparent reason currently controversial.

What's going on there? Are you feeling frustrated? Part of the problem is, people's tactics have changed therefore, we need to update the meanings of some of the trap words they are using. Words that once meant one thing to all of us, but now are being used against us, in a very different way; thus at times, trapping us in our own arguments.

One tactic they like is to say that it is you how has a closed mind, which let's face it, is pretty irritating. But, just laugh about it when you noticed it. As long as you have made the due diligence to have an informed opinion, that is. And to have an opinion on something means that you have closed your mind (for now) on that topic, by definition. So just tell them that a closed mind means that it can be opened, not that it is locked closed as usually, that would be them, not you. Right?

Don't let people try to mistake confidence for arrogance. Sometimes they will say that you are being arrogant in your solidarity on your opinion, cuz after all, gravity exists, and the Earth has been around longer than 6,0000 years. Look, it's okay to seem a bit arrogant at times when you are either that good, or that correct. It is never okay to be arrogant however, or to seem so when you simply don't deserve that arrogance. See, people who are very good, can seem arrogant to others who are not. It'st that feeling that "you are so much better than me, that you have to be extremely humble around me so I don't feel bad." Hogwash. That's your issue. They are that good, so you be a little humble around them as you're in the presence of  greatness; again, if they truly are that great.

There's an awful lot of people around now a days projecting that kind of arrogance when they have absolutely no right to do so. Like a lot of Americans, when they visit other countries. Okay, maybe America is that great of a country, but it's very likely that you had nothing whatsoever to do with that. I mean, died in any wars lately? Cured cancer? Won in the Olympics?

Anyway, when you know or you are really that good at something, it can seem like you arrogance to others. Or you can feel irritated or annoyed by those others for wasting your time on things, especially as an a priori consideration; where they do not, or can not see that it is due to something they are lacking; like skill, or knowledge.

You mind should only be closed for the time being on any topic, but not entirely closed overall. A permanently closed mind which never updates with new information can actually be quite deadly and the Darwin Awards are full of those types; just as Darwinian selection eliminates those from the gene pools. As long as you have sought the necessary knowledge and found a conclusion, at that point you close your mind on that topic so that you can now progress and take a stand and get things done. The thing about a closed mind is, it can be opened again when new information arrives.

Many forms of belief do not have closed minds, a good thing up to a point but not necessarily. Frequently they require (or desire) a sealed mind. A very different critter from a merely closed mind.

Science requires one to find the best information and synthesize it appropriately along with verification and a conclusion and thus consider for now, that it is a closed topic; so you can do work and progress to a yet newer truth.

Religion generally wants a sealed mind once the basics are put into place. Makes sense as once God gave His word, well, that should be it, right? Except that hasn't panned out very well over time. If it truly is God's word, well, he's been wrong a lot. Another considering is humankind progresses and so God's word needs to be updated from time to time. But he doesn't update it and yet if he tries, religions around the world will fight against it, because after all, the religion is right and unchangeable. Because, it's God's word.

And yeah, I know....

Though some are more reasonable than others, all really seem to want a mind sealed to anything to detract from their teachings and thereby, "shake the faith". Though I would argue that if you can shake faith, it's a defective form of faith and should be updated, which is not readily acceptable for obvious reasons.

Some people will say that science is faulty because it does change and what was once true, is no longer considered valid when replaced by updated information. But our best efforts are always to find a truth and update it with new information as it becomes available; thereby keeping us updated with the best available information.

So when someone tries to shoot down your beliefs that religion leaves much to be desired, relax. A lot of the issue that traps you, are just the traps that have been developed against scientific thinking for thousands of years.

For example, if someone tries to convince me that there is a vacuum in the room we are in and yet I'm breathing air quite easily, I may disagree with them and tell them that, as I know they are incorrect. If they persist I will not go against them on it at that point, as it is obviously not true and if they can't see that, there is really little I can do about it. I'm not going to perpetuate an argument or make up names for my position as I have no position, it is just something that... is. That is the trap they pull you into and then you find you are in a never ending cycle of argumentation with them. They are now wasting your time, and money, and in some cases our nation's money; our money.

There are a growing number of people who take up incorrect positions on things that are obvious, and in many cases obvious to most people as well as experts; and yet they persist on their disagreement and delusions out of mere ego, philosophy, or more frequently, theology.

All I'm saying is, you need to stop going about arguing as you would have done, historically. Things are changing, they have changed. We all have to be aware of this and stop handling it as we have always done. We need to break the cycle of finding new ways to continue believing in things that we have long since proven incorrect. We need to leave those people behind who can't keep up and after a while they will simply disappear through attrition and evolution.

Another issue in arguing with these types of people is the disparity in specificity within the argument. Frequently in arguments (debates that is and hopefully you see the difference) the two or more parties debating are on different planes of the same argument. One may be arguing a broader point and the other may be arguing a more specific, narrow point. When that happens you will seldom resolve the issue and more likely both walk away frustrated.

Finally, this is also true when someone skips logic from one form to another; sometimes within the same sentence. This is an issue either with people who are ignorant about forms of logic (which happens all the time), or those who are more highly skilled in logic, know exactly what they are doing and use it as a tool of obfuscation.

Please understand, this isn't meant to fix all this, but to make it obvious because I suspect once you know about this it will all become much easier and that was really my only content in saying all this. If not to help get around some of the blatant obfuscations on the part of those who are trying to spew nonsense into the mainstream.

So you see, you don't have to walk away frustrated with these kinds of arguments. Merely see what is going on. To just be aware of things kinds of things is a huge benefit and a useful tool to use in order to further spread genuine knowledge and start on the road where this form of behavior goes into the useless bin where all useless forms of thought need to go, along with all those winners of the Darwin Awards.

Of course you can always use something like too and for those who claim that to be a conspiracy you can use A Guide to Arguing With a Snopes-Denier on them....


Monday, April 7, 2014

Conspiracy Theories - Incompetence More Than Insight?

There are a few laws or theorems if you prefer,  that need to be applied to Conspiracies before one shouts them to the world. One thing Conspiracy Theorists seldom do is apply the right rules to vetting the subject of their typically ridiculous theories. The conspiracies they hammer us with in the media and online, which are usually more wishful thinking than fact, simply because of the nature of things that fit the theorist's conspiracy mold, typically are not reviewed well.

Or if they are well reviewed with the right filtering factors applied (like Occam's Razor), they simply ignore their findings and continue on; because at some level it makes them feel better because action, even incorrect action, feels better than non-action. Which oddly enough is typically what lead to the situation of a subject of a conspiracy theory in the first place, and not conscious thought, or conspiratorial collusion.

One of the obvious things about conspiracy theories are that they tend to be things that weren't conspiracies to begin with, but after the fact, because of a lack of information or transparency, they appear as there having been a conspiracy. Usually however, there wasn't. It was just how things played out over time. It's similar with recorded history wherein by simply writing out history, changes history, changes what actually happened, and in that small (sometimes large) variation is where conspiracy theories are born.

Occam's Razor is one of the best:

"Occam's razor (also written as Ockham's razor from William of Ockham (c. 1287 – 1347), and in Latin lex parsimoniae) is a principle of parsimony, economy, or succinctness used in problem-solving. It states that among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. Other, more complicated solutions may ultimately prove correct, but—in the absence of certainty—the fewer assumptions that are made, the better." - Wikipedia

Hanlon's Law is a Conspiracy Theorist's bane: "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity."

There are methods to apply to conspiracy to prove or disprove is to a reasonable degree, something theorists tend to avoid doing as it kills their theories. Theories which are fun for them, cathartic, and spire their inner fears which supports the theory in a never ending cycle.

For those addicted to conspiracies, a form of belief system that is fueled by lack of information and distrust of authority, and underlain by a sense of having little control in life, it is much the same mind type as are those addicted to religious beliefs, what is referred to as a "monological belief system".

My desire (and more importantly, pleasure) to believe in aliens and UFOs as a child in the 60s, became initially inflamed with I started to hear of other conspiracies. I thought those once in charge, in their sharing hidden knowledge, with information once allegedly disallowed to the masses, was a great and exciting thing. My first conspiracy was one by General William Westmoreland who ran the Viet Nam war. After Viet Nam he wrote a book which I read, which spawned many other conspiracies.

It was an interesting theory I cannot now remember and I cannot find that book any longer, which says something in itself. But my first thought after reading his book was not to merely believe or disbelieve, but to study just what conspiracy theories are, how they work, who were attracted to them, and why they happened. This is an important and key point in those who grab on to conspiracy theories and those who don't. Many of those who simply do not pay any attention to conspiracy theories, are not relevant in this consideration, as to ignore them from the start with little or no thought, indicates another type of individual altogether.

What is important is, for all of those who do pay attention at least initially and do look into them, what is the key deciding factor between those who keep going and those who see a conspiracy theory as simply white noise that appears to be something, but in the end logically just isn't. For me, when I read the General's book, I fell into a part mid book that just seemed questionable to me. So I researched it and his theory, for me, began to fall apart. I was stunned. How could such a high level official seriously believe in such nonsense? Was he just trying to make a buck on a book he saw was fictional, but sell-able? Or did he really believe what he was trying go convince others about.

I think he really believed it, at least at the time. But in my finding it was very likely his theory was not true, it brought up the question of how was that possible? That was my break, with conspiracy theories. Rather than try to swallow what he was selling, I instead looked into how it was possible he could believe what he was saying, and how others could believe something that to me appeared to be easily debunked. As it turned out, there was a certain type of personality (which I learned more about a few years later when I got my university degree in psychology) and certain elements needed that support a conspiracy theory as rational to that group of individuals. There are also those who know absolutely that it is an incorrect theory and yet, continue to push that theory for political and financial ends to better their position in some way.

It is important however, to consider the difference between my path and that of those who believe in these conspiracies, the point at which I branched off to learn about the theory of "conspiracy theory", and those who simply eat up the perceived conspiracy and ran with  it. They like to use various techniques to quelch dissent in their beliefs, such as by being demeaning, calling those who don't believe in what they believe in as "sheeple" (for people who are sheep following the flock of the ignorant masses), something which elevates them in their beliefs and objectifies those who disagree with them. Objectifies others as is done by soldiers in war so they can more easily kill the perceived enemy. Except that in this case, the "enemies" are fellow citizens.

What I found in researching what a conspiracy theory is, rather than simply focusing on a specific theory in particular, saved me a lot of time over my lifetime in realizing that the majority of popular conspiracies are simply bunk, and those attracted to them have a certain type of personalty and view of the world, based in a general distrust and perceived lack of control in their lives which affects them deeply and personally. The belief  that our government is a super secret, super capable institution, says more about conspiracy theorists than it does about our government, or their abilities or desires.

I find there seem to be far more people believing in conspiracies in the extreme movements, in the "right" or "left" political arenas, but more so for some reason on the right, in the conservative and Republican movements.

We should indeed pay attention to our world, to find out what's going on out of our view, but we should also realize when it's time to move on, to take other action then complaining and making noise, like removing people from office in a general sense, or protecting ourselves in a more personal sense. It is just important to be on guard that you are not simply of a certain mindset that makes you susceptible to silly conspiracies and focus on what is provable and reasonable and not something that will inevitably turn out to be simply a mass delusion, of which now a days there are so many.

If you are going to shout about conspiracies to the world, before you add to the dissonance in the mainstream, study what conspiracies are, and apply that judiciously to your beliefs. You may think that simply by making noise right OR wrong, it will help regardless as others will also look into it and eventually the truth will come out. Many times, there simply is no "truth" to be found out, just more incompetence and stupidity.

Don't attribute more capability of secrecy and institutional skill where there is none and therefore become one of those on the stupidity side of the argument. Because then you are just doing yourself and the rest of us a disservice, adding to the groundswell of chatter and nonsense, and that helps no one.

For more on this, I highly suggest you research more about conspiracies themselves rather than any one conspiracy. Then apply what you have learned to a particular conspiracy, pick your favorite conspiracy and see if it doesn't begin to fall apart on you. Here are three articles from Scientific American to begin with, but don't stop there, until you have as solid a handle on what conspiracies are as you do believing in them. These are three interesting and useful articles.

From Nov 17, 2010 |by Michael Shermer - The Conspiracy Theory Detector:

The more that it manifests the following characteristics, the less probable that the theory is grounded in reality:
  1. Proof of the conspiracy supposedly emerges from a pattern of “connecting the dots” between events that need not be causally connected. When no evidence supports these connections except the allegation of the conspiracy or when the evidence fits equally well to other causal connections—or to randomness—the conspiracy theory is likely to be false.
  2. The agents behind the pattern of the conspiracy would need nearly superhuman power to pull it off. People are usually not nearly so powerful as we think they are.
  3. The conspiracy is complex, and its successful completion demands a large number of elements.
  4. Similarly, the conspiracy involves large numbers of people who would all need to keep silent about their secrets. The more people involved, the less realistic it becomes.
  5. The conspiracy encompasses a grand ambition for control over a nation, economy or political system. If it suggests world domination, the theory is even less likely to be true.
  6. The conspiracy theory ratchets up from small events that might be true to much larger, much less probable events.
  7. The conspiracy theory assigns portentous, sinister meanings to what are most likely innocuous, insignificant events.
  8. The theory tends to commingle facts and speculations without distinguishing between the two and without assigning degrees of probability or of factuality.
  9. The theorist is indiscriminately suspicious of all government agencies or private groups, which suggests an inability to nuance differences between true and false conspiracies.
  10. The conspiracy theorist refuses to consider alternative explanations, rejecting all disconfirming evidence and blatantly seeking only confirmatory evidence to support what he or she has a priori determined to be the truth.