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Mindconnection eNL, 2007-06-03


In this issue:

  1. Product highlight
  2. Brainpower tip
  3. Time tip
  4. Finance tip
  1. Security tip
  2. Health tip/Fitness tip
  3. Miscellany
  4. Thought for the day

1. Product Highlight

No lemon for you?
This course on how to buy a used car shows you how to get a good deal, and how to not end up with a lemon. What to look for, how to work with dealers.

This course pays for itself several times over the first time you use what you've learned. 121 pages, 8.5 x11 format. Includes quizzes and inspection checklist.

If you're a parent with a teen who "knows everything" and won't listen to you (but will come to you to be bailed out later), this course can save you immense headaches. Your kid may think the only thing that matters is how loud the stereo is, and no amount of logic from you will be heard or understood.

To solve that problem and prevent many others, buy this downloadable course and let someone other than you provide the information your kid needs.

2. Brainpower tip

Let's think about assumptions, for a moment. You've probably heard the adage, "Never assume," with the person saying it strongly accenting the first syllable. This seems like good advice on the surface, especially when you consider how blinding assumptions often are. But assuming is not the actual problem.

The problem is making incorrect assumptions in the first place, or not evaluating your assumptions in the face of new information.

Assumptions help us analyze efficiently. They also help us avoid an endless loop of reanalysis on the same subject. But, this is a double-edged sword. Faulty conclusions result from one of three sources, and the invalid assumption is one of them. The other two are incorrect data and faulty logic. We addressed the data part of this in our previous article (about tuning your BS detector).

Formal arguments have a definite structure. Various disciplines have their own accepted practices for this structure. Attorneys, for example, use a format that differs from the format used by engineers.

All of these formats have a section that lists the assumptions (by whatever name). This is usually prefatory to the actual argument. Assumptions serve to limit the scope of the argument, provide necessary definitions, and state what the author believes to be true.

I use the word "argument" here in its academic sense. I do not mean two people trying to justify their own views to each other. I use "argument" to mean applying logic to a data set and arriving at a conclusion. Most arguments use deductive reasoning or inferential reasoning, though other forms of logic are often applied (for example, abductive reasoning).

Another purpose of assumptions is to define the conditions of the argument. The author is presenting an argument that isn't axiomatic, so must state the conditions under which it is true. For example, someone arguing that Christmas should be moved to June might show under the assumptions area that most people recognize the date for Christmas is arbitrary in relation to the holiday's alleged purpose. This may or may not be true--the author is not determining that. If it turns out to be a false assumption, then the argument is conceded.

Outside of formal arguments, we often make assumptions. The problem here is most of us do not make those in keeping with formal rules of argument construction. Instead, we use the argument to support our assumptions (exactly bassackwards).

Whether you use assumptions correctly or not, it's important to get them right. Here are some tips on ensuring you make good assumptions.

  • Base them on correct information. Assumptions are always based on something. By definition,  they are based on incomplete information else they would be conclusions and not assumptions. See the BS detector article in our previous eNL to at least weed out the pseudofacts from your basis of assumption.
  • Base them on representative information. Look at a wider set of data than only those data that immediately support your assumption. For example, you may observe three women exiting a grocery store and assume that all grocery shoppers are women. Had you observed a wider data set, you would also have seen men emerge from that grocery store and thereby avoided an incorrect assumption.
  • Challenge them by looking for disproving data. Using the previous example, suppose I ask the question, "Do men ever shop?" before stating my assumption. This would prompt me to look not just at a wider data set but specifically for data that could disprove the assumption. This step take a high degree of intellectual honesty. If you take this step, your ability to argue with confidence is greatly enhanced.
  • Use only assumptions that are relevant to the argument. Otherwise, the argument leads to corollary conclusions that are unsupportable.
  • State assumptions specifically and clearly. Broad assumptions just don't cut it.
  • Don't let your assumptions be the argument. They should merely form the basis on which you make the argument.

Finally, remember that wrong assumptions invalidate an argument, no matter how impeccable the logic is.

3. Time Tip

4. Finance tip

Due to popular demand, I am resuming and continuing the energy savings discussion from our 22APR2007 eNL.

In that eNL, I discussed many ways to slash your energy consumption. To me, it seems prudent not to get too carried away with this. Adopt those measures that are easy to adopt, and you can probably consider yourself part of the solution rather than part of the problem. Yes, we all want to reduce our electric bills. Yes, we all want to send fewer oil dollars to the Middle East. Yes, we all want to do what's right and save money at the same time. But how far should we take it?

If we score the "typical" energy as being 100% energy wasteful (as a point of reference), then maybe we should feel good if we are only 70% wasteful. This whole thread of thought is, IMO, a personal issue and nobody but you can decide how energy-conscious you should be.

There are many ways to take personal responsibility for your part of the energy problem and to also benefit from paying less for energy. Some of those ways require very little sacrifice.

It seems to me that if you adopt a draconian approach, you will find such an approach hard to maintain. You are also likely to make other people think they have to make a false choice between being a nutcase or being wasteful.

Note to parents

Yes, it's utterly stupid to leave a light on when you exit a room. If your kids are doing this and yelling at them hasn't resulted in their correcting the behavior, do not be surprised. Do not be surprised either, if they rebel at any idea of being energy-responsible.

Here is a suggestion. Play energy cop, making a game of it. The way it works is this. Every time you catch a kid leaving a light on, fine the kid a dollar. Keep a running log. Now, every time the kid catches an adult doing this, that's a $5 fine paid to the kid. If you don't catch a kid messing up on any given day, the kid earns a dollar. Make it so the kids can work off any piled up debt and redeem rewards for things they want.

When I had stepchildren many years ago, we did this at 50 cents and a dollar. One of the girls got way behind and had run up quite a tab. She was very distraught over this, thinking she would never catch up. Her sister had piled up quite the nest egg and was buying things for herself. Meanwhile, we had a rule that you were grounded if you owed money.

My idea of helping her was to tell her she'd need to change her behavior and let time run its course. This was a 6 year old child, which means that was a really stupid and ineffective thing for me to say.

Amazingly enough, her mother suddenly developed the habit of walking out of a room with the light on just as the girl approached. My wife also reminded me of the double dollar rule that I "must have forgotten" wherein the payment doubles on a second offense. Hmm. Quite a few of these "forgotten" rules popped up over the next few days, and the debt was quickly paid off. It wasn't long before lights, mysteriously, were never on when someone wasn't in a room.

If your kids are leaving water running while brushing their teeth or being wasteful in some other way, consider this approach. It gives them a stake in the outcome of their behavior, which is why it works. Don't forget to extend some grace, if need be.

Middle road

In most cases, taking the middle road probably isn't a bad idea. At least, not as I see it. For example, I have a 21 cubic foot refrigerator. It's one of the most energy-efficient models you can get, and it's far smaller than what is in the typical American home. I also abstain from the American custom of putting ice in drinks, which means I don't consume energy to run an ice-maker.

Compare my refrigerator to what's common in most other Western countries, and I am an energy-wasting pig. But do you remember when you were little (and maybe not so little) and your mom would ask, "What if everyone did that?" This is the logic I am applying here. Being an American with a "dinky" 21 cubic foot refrigerator is rather progressive.

Similarly, I drive a Camry. With its 5-speed manual transmission, its fuel economy exceeds the national fleet average by about 15MPG (I think that's the correct number--if not, it's close). Should I feel like a pig because I'm not riding around in a dinkmobile that gets a few more MPG?

Cut back from your current usage, and you are heading in the right direction. A more fuel efficient car makes sense, while going all out and giving up the car for a bicycle may be too extreme for you.

When it comes to electricity, go back to that 22 April eNL for ways to reduce consumption. Select the tips that you feel are reasonable for you to implement.

Christmas lights vs. Christmas spirit

A no-brainer savings measure for me is to not have Christmas lights. Wait, some might say--that's Christmas and buddy, them's fightin' words. Well, I suggest you read up on the history of Christmas. If it holds significant meaning for you, fine. But let's not get dogmatic about it and think there is some kind of requirement here. There's not. For those who believe in the Bible, I say just read Galatians 4:10.

If you think it's barbaric not to string lights up for 8 weeks or whatever, ask yourself how in the heck people were able to string up those energy-wasting lights in the days before we had electrical grids.

If you think those lights are necessary for generating Christmas cheer, let me suggest something. Take the money you would (literally) burn on that lighting and buy a homeless person a meal (you can probably buy several).

If you really want to generate "Christmas spirit," have that person eat with you. Make that person the center of your universe for an hour. Listen to that person's story. Make that person feel valued and respected, despite his or her present circumstances. The good you do for that person will be immense. If you don't have the moxie for this, then find some other way to do something that has value.

Electric usage in general

For lights in general, I do fairly well. But I refuse to use low-wattage bulbs in closets--I'm not in the closet but a few seconds, and that little bit of "waste" is worth being able to see what the heck I'm doing. As an electrical engineer, I can also tell you that the startup cost (in watts) of a fluorescent takes some time to "pay off" vs. using an incandescent lamp (in the lighting industry what most people call a "bulb" is called a "lamp."). If you turn a fluorescent on for just a few seconds, you have wasted energy vs. having used an incandescent for that application.

You could classify me as a "60A offender," meaning I use as much electricity as was typical back in the days of 60A residential services. I'm just not "with it" enough to drop to the next level. It may seem like a copout to say I'm doing far better than my fellow energy-wasteful Americans, but that's how I look at it. This goes back to that earlier point about taking the middle road.

So, think about your energy usage and start cutting back. Don't think you have to make major changes all at once or become some kind of ecolo-nut. As you get used to smaller electric bills, you will find conservation to be easier and more rewarding.

A closing remark on energy. A coal plant emits far more radiation than a nuclear power plant. I spent many years in construction of both kinds of plants, so I amassed a great deal of information on both.

5. Security tip

Here's a security exercise for you.

Observe a police officer in a public place. A diner, for example. What is that cop constantly doing? What you will observe is the cop is constantly scanning his/her surroundings. Not in a paranoid, stressed out manner. But in calmly.

Now, observe other people. Except for that cop, you can pretty well bet on everyone else in the place being blithely unaware of what's going on around them.

You may have noted that police carry several weapons on them. There's the sidearm (typically a .45 automatic, these days) and a baton, at a minimum. Contrary to the lunacy that the pro-criminal idiots like Nancy Pelosi spew, "allowing" law-abiding citizens to carry firearms does not put firearms automatically in the hands of criminals. Cops are citizens, too. Why don't we hear about all the cases where criminals are jumping cops and stealing their weapons? There is nothing superhuman about a cop. But a cop is observant. Forewarned is forearmed.

How can a police officer sit alone in a squad car with a shotgun openly displayed, but the shotgun is never forcibly taken? Once again, the cop is observant. Sneaking up on a cop is just not an easy thing to do.

Use the police officer example to protect yourself. Actively observe. Cops are trained in specific patterns of observations. And with good reason--observation is their primary form of defense.

You may recall from your Driver's Education courses that observation is critical to safe driving. You check your rear view mirror every 5 seconds, right?

The Smith Method and other defensive driving programs teach the concept of the space bubble. Keep a bubble of space around your vehicle. This provides you with enough time to react to nearly any danger that arises.

Practice the same thing whether you are in a car or sitting peacefully on a park bench. Of course, there are some circumstances in which you can't create a personal space bubble. A crowded theater immediately comes to mind. In those cases, do what the police do. Observe the people within your immediate vicinity. If you see someone who appears nervous, is oddly dressed (e.g., wearing a long coat out of season), or in some way seems out of place, consider that an early warning signal.

6. Health tip/Fitness tips

7. Miscellany

  1. An adult lion's roar is so loud, it can be heard up to five miles away. By contrast, the weeping from a tax audit can be heard from only four miles away.
  2. We don't run ads in our newsletter. We do get inquiries from advertisers, all the time. To keep this eNL coming, go to and do your shopping from there (as appropriate).

  3. Please forward this eNL to others.

8. Thought for the Day

Stubbornly defending an opinion blinds a person to the truth.


Wishing you the best,

Mark Lamendola


The views expressed in this e-newsletter are generally not shared by criminals, zombies, or brainwashed individuals.

Except where noted, this e-newsletter is entirely the work of Mark Lamendola. Anything presented as fact can be independently verified. Often, sources are given; but where not given, they are readily available to anyone who makes the effort.

Mark provides information from either research or his own areas of established expertise. Sometimes, what appears to be a personal opinion is the only possibility when applying sound logic--reason it out before judging! (That said, some personal opinions do appear on occasion).

The purpose of this publication is to inform and empower its readers (and save you money!).

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