Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Requirements for Learning

Years ago while discussing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome at a case review meeting, our chief at the time - a newer paramedic and a single man with no children - announced that we would launch a campaign to teach parents not to co-sleep with their babies. Righteously, an EMT - an actual mother who was educated on the subject - spoke out against the proposal, citing conflicting recommendations and schools of thought from multiple sources. The chief had no parenting experience, and therefore no foundational knowledge on which to form an understanding of the needs of a baby or the needs of an exhausted mother, and could not have spoken on the subject with anything greater than specious authority, parroting controversial advice from other entities. In the end, his well-meaning but ill-advised proposal was dropped.

Lately I have been thinking about the prerequisites for ethical instruction and legitimate learning. I have developed a two question test to determine if an instructor is acting ethically, and a subsequent two question test to determine if learning will take place.

Requirement for ethical instruction:
1) The instructor must have a thorough knowledge of the subject, and teach the subject correctly, and
2) The education must be delivered in a constructive (i.e. nonviolent) manner.

Requirements for legitimate learning to take place:
1) The instruction must be ethical, and
2) The instructor must have credibility with the students.

Case Studies

Case #1: Ethical instruction, but no credibility.

While visiting Nazareth, where He was raised, Jesus went to the synagogue and began teaching the people there. Although Jesus had a thorough knowledge of the subject matter, the people proclaimed, "Is this not Joseph's son?", indicating that Jesus had no credibility with them since they had known Him as a boy. Jesus noted, "No prophet is accepted in his own country," and escaped right before the people attempted to hurl Him off a cliff. 

Despite His ethical instruction, no learning took place among the people of the synagogue due to Jesus' lack of credibility among His Nazareth audience.

Case #2: Unethical instruction, with positive credibility.

Marshall Applewhite was the leader of the Heaven's Gate cult and claimed to be God. He held a great amount of credibility with his followers, to the point that the men willingly underwent surgical castratration in Mexico at Applewhite's instruction. In March of 1997 Applewhite told his followers that an alien space ship (hidden from sight by a government conspiracy) following Comet Hale-Bop would transport them to heaven. In order to reach the space ship, Applewhite and 38 of his followers took barbituates and placed plastic bags over their heads in the largest mass suicide of US citizens since Jonestown.

Despite Applewhite's clear credibility with his followers, his instruction was unethical because he was unable to comprehend or correctly advise his followers about the subjects he taught, which finally caused them harm. No legitimate learning took place. 

EMS Implications

There is an idiom in EMS, and I'm sure elsewhere: Those who can't do, teach. People who are incompetent or inexperienced in a subject, and who don't have credibility with their peers, can often achieve  the acceptance they crave from impressionable students who don't know any better. Their instruction is often incorrect, and the instructor lacks a thorough enough comprehension of the subject matter to answer complex questions and advise students appropriately. I once observed a training captain boast to a student, "you know... female, fat, forty... That means diabetes." The student was amazed by the new piece of information gifted to him by his instructor. When I advised both of them that those were  in fact risk factors for gallstones and not diabetes, the instructor attacked me as too young to know what I was talking about, and vehemently defended his incorrect position by claiming to have learned it before I was born. The instructor was willing to continue teaching false information to new EMTs in order to maintain his credibility among his students - a testament to the power of social acceptance as a motivator.

On the other hand, even when the subject matter of the instruction is correct, the education can be delivered in an unethically destructive manner, such as by means of the public embarrassment and emotional flogging characteristic of traditional case review meetings, which leads to no learning taking place. Additionally, some inexperienced EMS leaders may lean on hospital RNs to provide instruction to their paramedics. Even if those RNs end up teaching correct material, few medics will have faith in the nurse who consistently treats them like inferior garbage during patient care hand-offs. This is exacerbated in systems where EMS leaders treat paramedics as inferior providers to those RNs. Consequently, no learning occurs. 

All educators should make an interospective evaluation of their motives for teaching, and test if their actions are ethical. Organization leaders should evaluate their continuing educational systems to determine if actual learning is a realistic expectation of their students. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Bitcoin: Are you being pumped & dumped?

The price of Bitcoin, as measured in US currency, has recently skyrocketed. Over the past several weeks I've observed this generate a significant amount of interest in Bitcoin among my work contacts and colleagues. For most of those people, the recent attention being given to bitcoin is their very first introduction to any type of investment vehicle. Although I applaud them for their desire to grow their wealth and change their future, the current Bitcoin frenzy is exhibiting several similarities to both a Pump & Dump scam, and a speculative bubble.

The Pump & Dump:
"Pump and dump is a scheme that attempts to boost the price of a stock through recommendations based on false, misleading or greatly exaggerated statements. The perpetrators of this scheme, who already have an established position in the company's stock, sell their positions after the hype has led to a higher share price. This practice is illegal based on securities law and can lead to heavy fines."
Pump & Dump specifically refers to a scam in the stock market, and in that context it is illegal. However, Bitcoin is not a stock and is not subject to the same protections. If you are receiving panicked emails from Bitcoin related companies and newsletter's urging you to get into Bitcoin before it's too late, you are being pumped. Fear is a known tactic used by marketers to whip up emotions and encourage consumers to buy products. Examples of fear in this context are currency collapse, nationalization of retirement accounts, and stock market crashes. Although these are legitimate concerns everyone should address in their investment portfolio, it is not wise to allow simple concerns to grow into full blown fear which then becomes the all encompassing basis for making panicked, phobia based investing decisions. Investments made emotionally generally turn out to be money losers.

If my last paragraph enrages you to the point that you are scrolling to the bottom of the page to leave a nasty comment about how ignorant I am, then you have fallen prey to another predatory pump & dump tactic: brand tribalism. If you feel compelled to vociferously defend the honor of your chosen product (e.g. Bitcoin and the honor of your fellow Bitcoin owners), congratulations... you have joined a tribe. As a soldier of that tribe you have a duty to defend the rest of the tribe from foreign invaders who threaten the integrity of your tribe.

The Speculative Bubble:
"Tulip mania... was a period in the Dutch Golden Age during which contract prices for some bulbs of the recently introduced and fashionable tulip reached extraordinarily high levels and then dramatically collapsed in February 1637... At the peak of tulip mania, in February 1637, some single tulip bulbs sold for more than 10 times the annual income of a skilled craftsworker."
Bitcoins smell a lot like tulips. In this 17th century speculative bubble, panic buying drove the price of the insignificant tulip bulb to insane levels, right before panic then caused the price to reset back to normal... which is something far less than 10 times the income of a skilled craftsman.

Any time something increases in price by 1,500% within one year, you should be alert to the possibility of a speculative bubble. Similar to tulip bulbs, there is nothing more tangible apparently behind this recent rise in the price of Bitcoin than social panic. There hasn't been a sudden decline in the quantity of bitcoins, a sudden increase in the utility of bitcoins, or sudden increase in the intrinsic value of Bitcoin (because there isnt any... it's just as much a fiat currency as US dollars). Panic buying is driving up demand, which is causing the price to shoot through the roof. Its price is in fact now approaching the annual income of a low wage earner in the US, and certainly far exceeding the annual income of workers in some less developed countries.

“And if they insist on trying to time their participation in equities, they should try to be fearful when others are greedy and greedy only when others are fearful” 
 Warren Buffett, 2004 Annual Shareholder Letter.
Warren Buffett made his billions being greedy when others are fearful, and fearful when others are greedy. The current ferver surrounding Bitcoin ownership mirrors the behavior of people buying Powerball tickets whenever the jackpot reaches $100 million, and should frighten away any responsible investor. This is a distinctly different fear from that used by marketers to sell their products, since it is disconnected from the groupthinking, irrational fear associated with tribalism. As I have previously explored, people lose the capability for critical thought in large groups. Buffett, and another major player - JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon - have both spoken out about the dangers of investing in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. When incredibly successful and wealthy investors deign themselves to offer advice to the rest of us, it is wise to listen. 

In 1929 a wealthy investor named Joe Kennedy dumped his stock portfolio just prior to the Black Tuesday market crash after a shoeshine boy gave him a hot stock tip. Kennedy figured that if shoeshine boys were giving investment advice, then the market was overbought and the bubble was about to pop. Several days ago, a CNA at the hospital give me a hot tip to buy some Bitcoin. Please, my friends, get out of Bitcoin now before you are dumped!

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Thank you world

This blog has had just shy of 59k page views since I started working on it four and a half years ago. I know probably half of those are bots, but, to the other half, I appreciate your views. I'm especially touched by the people of Germany, Russia (oh no a Russian connection!), Canada, the UK, France, Australia, Ireland, the Netherlands, and India who have contributed the most page views from outside of my home country.

I know that this blog isn't wildly popular or necessarily relevant to the majority of the population, but I do want to say thank you to the tens of thousands of people who have taken the time to stop by my little corner of the internet. Thanks!


I took this photo in Florida while working for FEMA during the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan (2004?). I can't remember exactly where this was, but the name Yankeetown sounds familiar. As hard as we tried, we couldn't get anyone in the area to clarify for us if the sign was an attempt to alert passers by that the handicap chid was slow, or if it was a request for us to drive slow through the area on account of the handicap chid.

Integris Equipment

I can't remember if I've posted this one before. I order the supplies at my current job, and as such I get a lot of BS phone calls and letters from salespeople. Here's a particularly egregious flier from a company claiming to be medical equipment specialists, but who seemingly don't know what a normal or even abnormal EKG should look like. It's good because then I know who not to buy from.

Integris - in the words of Louis C.K.... Ya gone!!!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Heartbreaking Stupidity of Richard Wolffe's Guardian Editorial

Richard posing with his broken heart
I don't know anything about Richard Wolffe's background. From his editorial in the Guardian - The heartbreaking stupidity of America's gun laws - he strikes me as the kind of person who went to so much college that it began having a retarding affect on him, causing his ability to perceive reality to become... something more entertaining.

Wolffe made a number of intellectually dishonest statements based on factually unsupported assumptions in his opinion piece. Included are:
  1. "Prayers, sadly, did not save 26 churchgoers in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Just as they didn’t save nine lives at the Bible study group in Charleston, South Carolina, two years ago."
  2. "...Other countries are not awash with guns. So it’s that much harder for people suffering from mental health issues to gun down large numbers of their fellow citizens... Or take their own lives, which is by far the bigger killer with guns."
  3. Implying that armed citizen Stephen Willeford made no impact on the Nov 5. mass murder of churchgoers in Sutherland Springs, Texas, "According to the local sheriff, the gunman was only confronted by an armed civilian once he emerged from the church, after the massacre was completed. The mass murderer died by killing himself... Let’s please bury once and for all the storyline pushed so hard by the National Rifle Association, and echoed by Donald Trump. The only thing that stopped the bad guy with a gun was the bad guy with his own gun. The good guys were shot dead in their church pews."
I'll address these in order, starting with the allegation that prayer didn't save the murder victims. It in fact did save the murder victims. The Christian Bible that I, and those murdered churchgoers, know to be the truth makes no guarantee for our physical safety. It gives clear instructions for how to become saved spiritually by believing in Jesus Christ, and instructs us to buy weapons for our own personal protection (telling us to go so far as to sell our clothes if we can't otherwise afford a weapon). Wolffe's uneducated assumption is that if we pray to God He will do what exactly as we instruct. The Almighty Creator God does not behave as a puppet on a string. I can pray to Him and ask to live forever on the Earth in my current body and never become sick or die. The answer will almost certainly be "No."

Many other countries besides the United States are "awash with guns" and do in fact have higher murder and suicide rates per capita than the US. The award for the highest intentional homicide rate in the world goes to El Salvador at a rate of 108.64 per 100,000 humans. The United States' murder rate is multiples lower at 4.88 per 100,000. The deadliest mass murders in the world have been committed with explosives, chemical weapons, and airplanes  (the Rawandan genocide was perpetrated largely with machetes and clubs), and the deadliest mass shootings in the world have occurred outside of the United States in places where firearms are heavily restricted or illegal (Norway, France). I'm reasonably certain the terrorists who murdered 130 people in the 2015 Paris attacks didn't drop by Le Walmart to stock up on hand grenades and fully automatic AK-47s beforehand. Those items are illegal to own in France but for some reason the militant Islamic terrorists involved didn't seem to care.

The most recent World Health Organization numbers rank the United States at 48th in the world for suicide rate per capita, with 12.6 per 100,000. This is well behind other nations the gun grabbers glorify like Poland (18.5), Belgium (16.1), Japan (15.1), Finland (14.2), and Sweden (12.7). Clearly, the ability of law abiding citizens to purchase firearms does not directly correlate here.

As to Wolffe's allegations about Willeford's irrelevance in preventing further innocent deaths from occurring last Sunday, I can only conclude that a person capable of making remarks of such an unfortunate character & quality has gone to so much college for so long that he has inadvertently become retarded. There is no evidence to support the notion that the massacre was fully completed at the moment the murderer emerged from the church. The murderer still had a rifle in his hand and was reportedly shooting at neighbors who had come outside to see what was going on. Some news sources have reported that the murderer was in the process of taking a hostage when Willeford shot him. As far as anyone knows, the murderer could have been in the process of getting more ammunition from his vehicle and returning back inside to execute survivors. He could have planned to continue on to a secondary crime scene and kill more innocent people.

Willeford connected with two shots, causing the murderer to stop what he was doing, drop his rife, and flee the scene. The murderer called his father on the phone while running away, stating that he had been shot and didn't expect to survive. If any act is irrelevant here, it is the fact that the murderer committed suicide like a coward prior to being brought to justice or exsanguinating from his wounds. The facts demonstrably show that Willeford stopped a monster from hurting anyone else, which is a terribly inconvenient blow to the mainstream media narrative that normal members of the armed citizenry are incapable of stopping crimes. To argue that the scumbag church murderer stopped murdering people only coincidentally after being mortally wounded by an armed bystander is (to borrow a word from my new favorite editorial writer) stupid.

Richard Wolffe's problem is not a broken heart. He is in fact permanently and irreparably retarded, and higher education is likely to blame for his tragic yet comical ability to perceive real world events. Apparently Richard (also possibly known as Dick) did not get the memo:

Are you an adult? Or a weak, whimpering child?

In my post two days ago - The man with the biggest balls in America - I described the American Hero Stephen Willeford as a great man, but using rather unrefined terms. This is not an apology; I used the colloquial locker room language that every man on the planet would understand immediately to mean that Willeford demonstrated exceptional bravery and heroism in a situation that could very easily have lead to his immediate death.

Willeford has since denied his hero status. This is common and, I believe, healthy in individuals who have accomplished heroic feats. The usual answer, from someone we admire as a hero, is that they were just doing what they felt any person in their situation should do.

But not everyone chooses to do what any decent, adult person should in dangerous situations. Like the sniveling, pathetic man-child who took video of this Dallas police officer being murdered:

It's not fair to call this person (who stood idle in a position of wasted tactical superiority while recreationally filming another human getting murdered) the opposite of a man, because the opposite of a man is a woman, and the most beautiful, feminine women I have ever met carry firearms and would have rained a hail of death down upon that assailant. No, a person who chooses not to be armed and not to have the will or capability to defend life and liberty from the everpresent evil in this world, is a child. A weak, whimpering child who never grew up and still relies on mommy and daddy in varying forms for their safety and security.

I wage this unapologetic judgment against you: if you have not matured to the point that you are willing and able to accept the discomfort and responsibility of being an adult, capable of defending yourself and others from evil, then you are still a child. Part of that discomfort involves carrying and training with the tools required for your defense, whatever you estimate to be the most appropriate tools for your situation. I don't care if I lose friends over this. If we can't lay hard truths on each other then we were never friends to begin with, and we are both better off spending our time on other pursuits.

Thankfully life is synonymous with growth. If you make this honest assessment of yourself and determine that you are still exhibiting the immature, infantile, and weak characteristic of children, then you have the power and authority to begin growing beyond that stage of childhood right now. The maturation process is difficult and uncomfortable, and I will admit unashamedly that I struggle with this growth every day in some aspect of my life or another. If I'm doing this right, I expect to continue this process until the moment of my death. 

So, are you an adult? Are you prepared to repel evil when called upon by fate? Or are you still a weak, whimpering child?