Category Archives: Analytics

Humble Past

I find it somewhat healthy that the President’s recent remarks have moved people to recognize their humble past.  The immigrants who came to America didn’t leave their homelands for small reasons.  Death from starvation or disease was a major consideration.

Consider the photo below.

JuhoSilanderWSonSmall

The man on the left is my great-grandfatho Juho Silander; he was a cobbler.  The man seated is his son Heikki.  The location is Liperi, Finland, circa 1900.  That run down shack was the place my grandmother called home (she was born in the barn).   These are the sorts of people and situations from which our country was populated.  In the early 1900s, she and her two brothers came to America to leave behind this abject poverty and the death that came with it.  Let it always be a reminder for me.

Today Finland is quite an advanced country and is usually in the top-5 for standard of living among all countries.  People don’t immigrate from Finland to the US so much any more.  I have spoken to some that have, and it’s not uncommon for them to say, basically, that life in Finland can be boring and predictable – everyone has work, healthcare, maternity/paternity leave (total of 3 years), #1 school system in the world, and a social safety net that won’t allow you to become homeless if tradgedy strikes, etc.  In fact, the place is optimal enough that my sister Karin opted to move to Finland because America can be such a harsh place.  (She was valedictorian of her high school and has a Master’s degree, and so that criticism has some teeth.)

I am a booster for America.  It’s is a great country, and it has allowed me to do a lot.  But I fear that many Americans have forgotten their humble beginnings.  Immigrants bring vitality to a country because they are fully committed to making a better life for themselves.  For those people who worry that the immigrants are going to “take their job,” all I can say is the following:  Are you really afraid that some poorly-educated immigrant who may not even speak the language is going to take your job?  If that is the case, then your real job threat is not from the immigrant but from from the likes of machine learning/AI programmers like me who will replace your job with robots.  You would be better off making all AI programming illegal than keeping immigrants out because your job is likely to be taken more quickly by a machine that only needs electricity and works ceaselessly 24 hours a day.

Change is difficult, and one need only look at the census rolls of a boarding house of 1910 New York City to see how diverse our country was.  It must have been difficult with all the different languages and customs.  And even if the immigrants didn’t learn English or the new ways, their children did.   We have a long history of this sort of change – what are we worried about?

 

 

Is Traveling Abroad Dangerous?

Kate and I have traveled to many places in Europe over the past year  like Paris, Barcelona, Seville, Athens, Sofia, Krakov, and Kiev, and we are surprised by friends and family who ask us “Is it safe to be there?”  My immediate thought is “Don’t worry about us – is it safe to be where you are?”   Part of this is quite understandable because the US government issues travel advisories (click here for the most recent example) which warn Americans to be on extra-special lookout because violence can occur in public places like nightclubs (Paris), shopping malls (Barcelona), school retreats (Norway), and open-air malls (Turku, Finland).   So travel abroad gets presented as though it is a dangerous affair.

But it isn’t.

I was talking with a friend in Phoenix about random violence in America that occurs in churches (Texas, North Carolina), schools (Sandy Hook, Columbine), outdoor concerts (Las Vegas), nightclubs (Orlando), and even Federal Buildings (Oklahoma).  But these events are relatively rare and receive inordinate publicity due to their horrific nature.

What gets missed in the discussion in America is the daily killings.  Today I pulled up the Chicago Sun Times newspaper, and for a random day, Monday, November 6, there were five people injured in shootings:

  • A 37-year-old man got into an argument with another man who pulled out a gun and shot him.
  • Twol older people (67 and 50) were walking down the street when a car drives buy and people in the car and people on the street start shooting at each other and the older innocent bystanders took bullets.
  • A 17 year-old boy got into an argument with another male who pulled out a handgun and shot him.
  • A 32 year-old man was standing on the street when three males walked up and shot him.

That sounds pretty bad, but no one died. But the paper reports: “The day’s gun violence followed a weekend in which five people were killed and 24 others were wounded in citywide shootings between Friday afternoon and Monday morning.”  (See: https://chicago.suntimes.com/news/5-wounded-in-monday-shootings-across-chicago-2/)

Meanwhile I feel completely safe walking the streets of Helsinki or Kiev or Dubrovnik or Sofia.  The probability of being a victim of random gun violence in these places is minimal.  The question that Americans should ask is not whether it is safe to travel to Paris, but rather “Is it safe to travel to Chicago?”

I know that many will say that these shootings are in the wrong parts of town and that you just need to stay away from those places.  In that regard, I have a couple of thoughts.  First, if you visit a place like Helsinki, there is no part of Helsinki that is comparable as the “wrong part of town.”  You can get off at any stop on any bus line anywhere in Helsinki, and you won’t have to worry about your physical safety.   Second, I’m not sure I like the idea that we have two-Americas, a safe America and a dangerous America where one has to worry about which America you are in.  And third, it appears more and more that the danger of this dangerous America is now leaking into safe America, where you can be a congressman at bat in a baseball game and have to run for the dugout because shots are fired.

I am not an anti-gun nut or anything like that.  I own a shotgun, I’ve fired many guns at gun ranges and in the woods, gone hunting, and I believe in our second Amendment.  I have friends who own guns.  But traveling abroad has also shown me that some people in the world live without fear of violence in their daily lives too.  Not so in Atlanta or DC or pick your favorite city.  People talk about the second amendment in freedom terms, and freedom to own a gun is a nice thing, but freedom from fear of violence is also a wonderful freedom to have.

A lot of people are against any regulation of guns in America: registration, wait times, background checks.  And many won’t draw distinctions between handguns, shotguns, and assault rifles.  But there are plenty of alternative universes right here on our planet where ownership of a shotgun gets treated differently than an assault rifle because there really is a difference in terms of its destructive effects; that’s why we can’t own hand grenades. Handguns can be concealed where as long arms cannot.  In some of these alternative universes, the idea that you might have to wait a week or more or complete a gun safety course or register the weapon like an auto is just part of one’s civic duty to own and manage a dangerous device.  Does it ever make you wonder why we tolerate the registration of cars and require insurance on them when we won’t tolerate gun registration or have gun insurance?  My concern is that America will opt not for minor restrictions upon gun ownership like those found in the rest of the world but, in an attempt to find safety, will instead focus on creating a police state where our guardians act like the military in part because our citizens are so dangerous.  I am skeptical that such an approach will bring us safety from either the police or our fellow citizens.

DNA in Action

I have seen many relatives in Finland.  Here’s a second cousin (whose name I’ll withhold for privacy).  What do you think….is there a family resemblance?

 

The trip was a very interesting one.  I saw my DNA in its many forms, but not obscured with American culture.  And I came away understanding a great deal about myself.  I met many people with whom there was a near-instant bond that transcended culture.  It was obvious within minutes that we were alike even though separated by 100 years and two different cultures.

I’ve always been one to think in contingencies.  Not only have a plan B, but a plan C and plan D.  And I found in Finland a culture that thinks the same ways.   And it became apparent that the climate is so harsh in the winter that failure to think that way killed off those who did not.  It’s no surprise that I have this quality; it’s not really luck, but rather the result of thousands of years of necessity embedding itself as a DNA rule.

If you have a unique heritage, I strongly recommend the experience of visiting the motherland.  You will walk away understanding a considerable amount about why you think the way that you do and what parts of you are from culture and what parts of you are hard-wired.

Thanksgiving Daybreak

It’s just another day here in Dubrovnik, but I know it is Thanksgiving in America. Daybreak was pretty, so I am posting a photo. I really enjoy opening the window to the sounds of the seagulls in the morning. They soon fly off to live their seagull lives and you don’t hear them until the following morning.

tdaybreak

Hike in Dubrovnik

We went for an hour hike up the hill behind Dubrovnik to the fort built by the Napoleonic army in 1810 (a relatively new structure). The Homeland War Museum in it was good, and discussed how the Serbs and Montenegrins attacked Croatia after they declared independence in 1991. The most unbelievable fact was that the Serbs actually dropped bombs on the old walled city of Dubrovnik. I think it might not be too strong to say that bombing an UNESCO world heritage site that is largely unusable as a modern military location is just about a crime against humanity in my mind, and right up there with the Taliban destroying ancient relics like the Buddahs carved in stone in Afghanistan. Fortunately, the damage was minor in the case of the Dubrovnik bombing, but it is stunning to think that military commanders could conceive that this was a reasonable military action. Anyway, the day was beautiful at about 65-70 degrees, with a light wind and sunny. Here are some photos taken as we came down the hill near sunset.

dubrovnikonhill

fortatsunset

Kate was having fun:
katelookingoverdubrovnik