#267 Mark and Steve – Acupuncture and Politics
Mark: Hello everyone.
Here we are for another EnglishLingQ podcast. Mark here with Steve.
Steve: Hello there. This is the Mark and Steve talkfest.
Mark: Mark and Steve Show.
Steve: The Mark and Steve Show. You know what are we going to talk about? Before we get on to things that are less serious…
Mark: We're kind of in mourning today, because our Vancouver Canucks lost in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Steve: Yeah.
Mark: Most people out there probably have never heard of the Vancouver Canucks, but here in Vancouver hockey is king.
Steve: No longer.
Mark: So the City is in mourning after our team lost to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Steve: We won't go into details. Mark: No.
Steve: It's too annoying to talk about, but, mind you, you know, in sports you can't always win. Somebody has got to win and somebody has got to lose. We've got the World Cup now in South Africa and there's, I don't know, how many teams and only one team is going to win, so. Mark: That's absolutely right. Steve: There you go.
Mark: And some teams that are not expected to do as well will come and will do well and some of the top teams will not do well and will get lynched by their respective media.
Steve: I read in the paper that somebody, I think it was the ABN Bank, which is a Dutch bank, said the best thing for the world economy is if Germany wins, but their prediction is that Spain will win. Apparently, it has to do with the size and power of the economy of the country.
Steve: Because the most powerful economy that's playing in the World Cup is Germany. Mark: Right.
Steve: So if Germany wins the impact on the economy and spending and so forth.
Mark: Oh, I see. I see.
Steve: So, well, who knows; all these different theories. While we're on the subject of Europe, of course, we've had a change of government in the UK. For the first time in a long time they've got…like, typically, we think of the UK as having two parties… Mark: Right.
Steve: …the Conservatives and the Labour Party and now they have a Coalition Government.
Steve: Because the Liberal Democratic Party has formed a coalition with the Conservatives.
Mark: But the Liberal Democratic Party kind of came out of relative obscurity to get a significant percentage of the votes so that they became a player in the political scene over there.
Now there always as been that third party, the Liberal Party. I think there was a coalition in the 1930s when a Canadian, actually, John Bonar Law, was prime minister, if I remember my history.
But the big issue in the UK, as is the case in Canada, why there's typically either one party or the other, is that they have this First-Past-The-Post election system. Mark: Right.
Steve: So, in any riding or circumscription or whatever we call it, only one party will win.
Steve: But there are systems elsewhere; in fact, I think it's more common to have this proportional representation system where, even little parties, if they end up with 15% of the vote then somehow or other they'll end up with 15% of the seats. Mark: Right.
Which, I guess, seems more fair, in a way. I know that here in British Columbia for the Provincial Government they had a referendum on whether to move away from the First-Past-The-Post system to more of a proportional representation-type system and it got defeated. I think, mostly, because nobody could understand the system that was proposed.
Steve: Well, that's right. It wasn't simply a matter of, you know, whatever percentage of the vote you get. It's factored in and divided and subtracted from and no one understood it. But, you know, I understand that one of the demands of the Liberal Democrats in the UK is to have a referendum on switching to a proportional representation system because, obviously, the Liberal Democrats, I mean, those parties that concentrate their votes in certain ridings are going to win those seats.
Steve: Those parties that are kind of evenly distributed and have 35% everywhere or 20%, they're never going to win a seat. Mark: Right.
Steve: So the Liberal Democrats would benefit by proportional representation and one of their demands is to have a referendum. But I think people don't understand the issue and I think they'll probably vote for what they know. I don't know. Mark: I mean that's certainly what happened here. That's certainly what happened here. I think, yeah, from what I've read, the Conservatives are not necessarily that keen on changing the electoral system because it obviously benefits them right now. Now they have to form this coalition, so they have to give up something to form it.
Mark: But it will be interesting to see. I mean, for starters, they have to come up with a simpler formula for the proportional representation than the one they came up with here so that people can at least understand what it is they're voting for or against. Steve: Yeah.
I mean some countries like France and I think the Ukraine, because I followed their election, there they have a second sort of turn, right? So you have one election and then whoever… There are eight parties and then the top two or three are in a runoff. So there's actually a runoff, a second election, so people have to go, you know, to vote twice. So I don't know what they'll come up with. But one of the things that David Cameron -- the new leader -- is talking about, which I think is highly overdue but whether he actually pulls it off or not I don't know, is this idea that in the UK they'll have to get away from the idea of entitlement. In other words, everybody, whether they are government servants, in other words, public employees or even the electorate, they all feel they're entitled to this and entitled to that. Mark: Right.
Steve: I should have five weeks holiday. I should have this. I should have that. All these countries are going bankrupt in a hurry and he's saying we've got to talk about what we can put in rather than what we're going to take out. Easily said.
Mark: Lots of people say those things, the problem is you get into power and then it never feels…
Steve: You like to stay there.
Mark: You like to stay there and, I mean, human nature is that if you were given something and then it's taken away from you then you feel hard done by and you're going to complain, just like in Greece where their country is going bankrupt and they're out in the streets protesting that things are going to have to be tightened up on them. Steve: Mind you, the situation in Greece is probably no worse than the situation in California insofar as government debt is concerned. The bigger problem with the politicians is that the business model for a politician is I take the taxpayer's money and I use that money to buy his support so that he'll vote for me next time. Since a small percentage of the people pay most of the taxes, therefore, in a situation of majority rules, if 20%...10% of the people, I think, pay 55% of the taxes.
Steve: So, 10-15% of the people are unhappy, 60% of the people are happy they're getting something for nothing, however inefficient the delivery of that service and entitlement is. Mark: Right.
Steve: Anyway, we've been on that subject before. Mark: For sue.
Listen, speaking about health, which we weren't, but it's a public service, both of us now have gone to visit this Chinese acupuncturist. Mark: Yeah.
Steve: And I've decided to give up on the guy. You've got your bad neck, which you can describe. I have a situation where sometimes I think the circulation to my fingertips, it's not the blood circulation, but it's the nerves or whatever are such that my fingers get cold and sometimes a little bit numb and my thumb is sometimes a little bit sore, so I thought this would be something for acupuncture. Mark: Right.
Steve: Because I haven't been able to find a doctor who's got anything useful to say other than wear gloves, you know? Mark: Yeah.
Steve: Now it could also be carpel tunnel syndrome, I don't know. So, anyway, I've gone there twice. The first time I went there he sits you down, doesn't say anything. I was about to tell him what was wrong, “ssshhh, ssshhh, don't tell me.” And then he kind of squeezes my fingers, looks at me, “stick out your tongue”, then he draws a little stickman and says “you've got this, this and this wrong, now follow me.” Then he makes me lie down, sticks a bunch of needles in me and I lie there for an hour. Then I didn't feel any better and then I went again and the same thing happened and I still don't feel any better. So even though I've heard great stories about his guy, I'm not going again. What's been your experience? Mark: Well, I should explain that the reason you went there is because I went there and the reason I went is because a friend of mine had gone there. And this friend of mine had had back problems forever; I don't know what, disc problems in his back. He couldn't walk. He couldn't golf. He couldn't do the things he liked to do and he'd had surgery, I don't know, three or four surgeries, like a lot of surgeries and didn't get better. He was recommended to go see this guy and after I don't know how many treatments, how many times he went to see him, but he said the guy cured his back, like he's fine now. So, I mean, you hear stories like that, that's pretty convincing. So I've had this problem with my neck, so I went and saw him and same experience as you had. You know, he flicks your fingers, looks at my tongue, draws a little picture, but after he drew his picture -- and he doesn't ask for any input -- he gave me a list of four of my problems, one of which was my neck. So, okay, fine, we're on the right track anyway. Let's see what you've got. So he did what you described. He sticks needles in you. You lie there for a while. He flips you over. A couple needles in the problem areas and I've got to say that after that first treatment the pain that was in my neck in the one particular spot for at least a few years is now gone. So, I mean…
Steve: But gone forever or is it still sore?
Mark: It's gone. It's gone. Steve: So that's worth it. Mark: That's worth it. I still have, you know, muscle tightness and whatever in my neck and shoulders and I don't know that anything can be done about that. That's just how it is. I mean I've been a few more times and it's done nothing additional. So, I mean, I'm done there too, but it did fix that one spot. Steve: Yeah, well that's good. Mark: When I'm in that situation, the guy doesn't ask any information. Steve: No.
Mark: And he's there flicking your tongue, flicking your fingers, look at your tongue. I mean I have to admit that I'm there trying not to laugh. Steve: Right.
Mark: It's, ah, but… Steve: And yet…
Steve: It's interesting, too, when you're lying there and you've got the needles in you and I had needles in my arm, too, I don't know if you realize it, but if you move your fingers it's very sore. Mark: Oh yeah, you don't want to move. Steve: Don't want to move and the same with the stomach. If you move, because he puts that terrible blanket over you, it can be sore.
Mark: I know.
Steve: As long as you don't move it's not sore. Mark: Yeah.
You know, speaking of China, I was at a breakfast this morning where the Canadian Ambassador to China, who is visiting here in Canada, gave us a bit of a presentation on China. It is amazing the growth in China. China will surpass Japan as the second economy in the world. It's growing at eight or nine percent a year. Apparently, they're building a new power station every week, a new electrical power station every week. They import 65% of the world's iron ore and produce 50% of the world's steel. I was at a forest industry conference yesterday and we were talking about the growth opportunities for wood in China, but China produces 50% of the world's cement, maybe it's even more and, of course, for every ton of cement you produce a ton of CO2. So there is some awareness that if they are to meet their CO2 obligations that switching to wood away from cement would be a benefit. I mean that's just unbelievable, a power station a week. Mark: Can that really be?
Steve: I don't know. Maybe that's one of those things people repeat, I don't know. Mark: Yeah.
I mean that's an awful lot of power stations. What kind of power stations?
Steve: Well that we don't know. Mark: Coal?
Steve: Maybe it's a diesel generator, I don't know. Mark: Fire?
Steve: No, no, these are big power stations. I mean they're just gobbling up resources. Mark: Yeah.
Steve: It's unbelievable. And, I mean, if they're growing seven or eight percent a year…you know if something grows seven percent a year it doubles in 10 years, mathematically, so, yeah. In other words, that would mean adding the economy of Japan every 10 years.
Mark: Now at some point they're going to slow down, they can't maintain that rate forever. Steve: You would think so.
Mark: They probably have a ways to go yet.
Steve: Well, they seem to be generating the wealth. I mean there's talk now about their overheated economy and speculation in real estate and all of these bad loans and stuff. It seems like the whole world is full of bad loans.
Mark: Yeah, yeah.
Mark: Well, I mean, if they can build up that consumer demand in China that creates a whole new marketplace for goods. That can only help the world economy that's been sort of dependent on the American economy for so long. Steve: Well, exactly. I think this opens up a whole new engine of growth.
Steve: Speaking of China and growth and stuff, I was in my car on the way back from my appointment downtown. I was listening to the history of Sweden in Swedish and, so, a number of thoughts kind of went through my mind. First of all that, really, the quality of, you know, mp3 players is such that, you know, I just plug it into my car radio and I'm listening to this phenomenal audio book on the history of Sweden. My car is my university lecture hall.
Steve: It is.
Steve: And, yeah, occasionally, I tune out, so I don't run over someone. Mark: Right.
Steve: You know? I mean you can't be 100% concentrating, but then I thought to myself, when I'm sitting in a lecture hall I'm gazing out the window half the time. I mean how much do people concentrate in a lecture hall?
Mark: Yeah, for sure, I mean you can't. Unless the professor is particularly gripping, it's hard to concentrate for that full period. Maybe part of the reason why you take notes is to keep yourself focused so you continue listening.
Plus, I find myself listening to this and I notice that I missed some things, but I have the book at home and that makes me want to read it. So I think there's a whole tremendous learning opportunity just through listening. I've been talking about it on my blog. I'm quite big on it. I think we do far too much of just sitting people down and talking at them. Let people listen in other places.
Steve: Let them listen while doing other things, driving, whatever.
But the other interesting thing about the history of Sweden is that it talks about Sweden over the last however many thousand years and at different times it was covered in ice and then it was warmer than today. Even as late as when they were sort of a more hunter-gatherer society, let's say 6,000 years ago, there were like, I don't know, couple of thousand people in the whole of Sweden; not very many people. It is amazing. And that's like fairly recent in terms of the total history. That's still the 11th hour. Mark: Right.
Steve: You know? So, I mean the rate at which we're growing now, but I'm not a believer that we'll run out of space. Mark: No.
Steve: There's still a lot of space, but it's a different world, absolutely. Mark: Although, I think population growth will eventually peak. At least demographers suggest that it will peak and then start to decline worldwide.
Steve: Yeah, I mean I think it requires…
Mark: It is declining in some countries already, in Europe and Eastern Europe.
It declines in those countries where certain economic, you know, transformations have taken place where it becomes economically, you know, more advantageous to have smaller families or, you know, women are in the workforce and stuff like that, but it's precisely in those countries today where they are not able to provide for themselves, where there is no proper economic infrastructure… Mark: Right.
Steve: …where there is continuing to be this incentive to have more and more kids to look after you in your old age, whatever, and so forth. And in those countries I can see where they would reach a point where something's got to give and we're seeing it now through this massive migration, but migration is not going to solve the problem. Mark: No.
Steve: You're not going to take a billion people and move them to Europe, so. Mark: No, but I think those countries and I think, you know, the Internet is going to have a profound affect there; getting more knowledge into more people's hands… Steve: Well, that's true. Mark: …and helping people everywhere sort of advance, despite the infrastructure and the situations in those countries. Your average resident of those third-world countries may have a better chance now to raise themselves.
Steve: Well, you know, you raise an excellent point about how the third-world countries are going to leapfrog the technology. I was talking to a friend of mine who was in Paraguay and he said down there everyone has a cell phone. It's much cheaper than here. The phones are cheaper; it's like $10 a month for unlimited access. Mark: Yeah.
Steve: So everyone is connected quite cheaply so that the old issue that you had to build in a telephone infrastructure and all this kind of stuff and I think in Africa, as well. I hear that cell phones are becoming more and more common.
Mark: Yeah, I heard that in Kenya they're the most advanced in payment-by-cell-phone systems or something. Steve: Because no other payment system works.
Mark: No other system, I guess, works.
Steve: Well, no, that's right. So, no, you're quite right. Now maybe then with the iPad, mind you, then we hear that in countries like India they're developing the $1,000 car and the $100 computer. Mark: Yeah.
Steve: So if they come up with like the $100 iPad or the $50 iPad.
Mark: I mean those types of things will come.
Steve: They'll come. Mark: They'll come and the more people that are sort of plugged in and have access to all the resources that are out there, which certainly wasn't the case in the third-world before or is much better now with the Internet with access to all that information that is accessible online. Steve: Mark, do you realize something?
Mark: What's that? They can access LingQ?
Mark: I know.
Steve: I mean, think of it.
Mark: They're all going to be speaking 10 languages. Steve: Think of it. How many people? I mean those are our growth markets, like Niger and, I don't know, wherever the population is growing. If they can all get on LingQ and we've got to develop whatever language they need there, you know? Mark: Right.
I mean in Africa they've got all these different languages so they've got to learn each other's languages with LingQ. Steve: We're going to Africa. Mark: We'll send a research team to... Steve: That sounds like a good idea.
Anyway, that's probably about as much time is required for people to go for a jog or do the dishes, so we'll end it there and we'll pick it up again next time. Steve: Thank you for listening.