Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Population Arguments

I have been reading some population debates online and it has caused me to reflect on it yet again.

So many people like to shout about "getting yourself fixed" or "not having children in this climate" or "stopping breeding" or how responsible it is not to reproduce.

There have also been comparisons to bacteria in a petri dish exponentially expanding their numbers blissfully uninterested in the finite nature their "sugary-gell" resources.

In that model, where we are a bacteria and the Earth is the dish of finite resources, our population is ultimately limited. It will not grow exponentially forever, as the Earth's resources are not infinite, even though one can see that human population can grow at an exponential rate (while the resources are not yet exhausted).

So, at some point the growth curve will round off. I just finished reading Carl Sagan (and Ann Druyan)'s book "Billions and Billions" from which some of my thoughts on this are derived.

The point is this: an individual deciding not to breed will never limit or reduce the potential population of the Earth. The population will march forward so long as even 2 people and their offspring breed exponentially. Their descendants will eventually fill the whole earth. So the only thing to stop it is a die off due to failing resources. We can become more efficient and try to become more just in the sharing of resources, but ultimately that upper limit is where the population cannot grow any more because of hunger, thirst and exposure.

The only decision those who choose not to reproduce are deciding is, how many of the future Earthlings will be their descendants.

To control population we must get everyone on board...EVERYONE. If we can disable reproductive powers and hand them out at a controlled rate we can then control the future balance. It's like polio, you must vaccinate everyone or you have not solved the problem.

Right now, it is a contest between you and me as to how many of the future humans will resemble me or you. The end of expansion will come in all cases, all you can do is lay hold on more resources. This is how many people are thinking who try to out-breed others.

Groups are conscientiously using Natalism to compete for the Earth's limited resources and space. The Palestinians are breeding with wreckless abandon to try to "outnumber" the already small (in a planet wide sense) group of Jews.

Mormons have a culture of pushing breeding to try to out strip the world population growth rate. Although they are noticeably failing to increase the Mormon percentage of the Earth's population. They are being strongly out done by the other groups. Making Mormons a smaller and smaller percentage of Earth's population even with their growth rates and missionary efforts.

You can't stop Central Americans from breeding at ages far closer to the onset of fertility than is culturally acceptable in the United States, so in that sense, the future will be more of them and less of us. Their time-span for a "Generation" could be half that of ours. That's a "survival of the fittest" strategy where they are winning. Not to mention the highly successful Asians.

Even if many humans die off at an alarming rate when the "sugary-gel" (Earth's life sustaining resources) vanishes, those left will resemble the current proportions of groups that had both wealth and large numbers of offspring.

So, is it irresponsible to reproduce? The upper limit is already set to stop our exponential growth. That limit is set by the finite availability of food, shelter, water, warmth and wealth. Choosing not to reproduce, even if MOST of us chose the same thing, is only a way to subtract your genetic heritage from history and quit the contest. It will not reduce the march upward, it will happen as fast as it can with or without your genes. All you are deciding is how many of the left over humans will be like you.

All it takes is one non-compliant group and over a few generations they will exponentially fill the space you leave by not having children. Self-selecting your own unfitness to propagate seems remarkably self-defeating.

If we disable reproduction and manage it, allowing a balanced mix of people to procreate, then we can control the future by our actions. Until such a freedom limiting method is instituted by an awful sounding regime, individual choice will not reduce the world population. Others will just grow more.

=sw

Thursday, December 11, 2008

OnStar and Freedom of Movement


In the current economic situation we are in, I would like to think I could plan to buy an American car the next time I go shopping. Maybe in a year or so. Shopping for a new car is always a year away somehow.

I would not want a vehicle with OnStar. All the wonderful features it provides cannot overcome the one troubling drawback. The actual prospect that a networked car can be disabled.

I don't believe it's a conspiracy. It's just a potential opportunity for corruption that trouble me. One of the things dictators do is inhibit freedom of movement. This is something that, intentionally done, hacked or abused is possible in a car that is on the grid the way an OnStar vehicle is.

My car has a governor that means its speed is limited to 135mph. It doesn't cut out, it just doesn't accelerate any more beyond that speed (don't ask me how I know). This never limits my movements. I don't have a need to drive that fast anyway.

OnStar is capable of slowing a vehicle to 5mph or less. This is very nice when someone has stolen a car and is causing a high speed chase to take place. Peoples lives are put in danger by high speed chases. The lives of my fellow citizens are important to me, though I still think I should be the one to log in and kill the car with my own credentials. I don't think someone else should ever be sitting behind a kill switch on my own car.

In the wrong hands, this is a tool of dictatorship.

What did we think would never happen that has surely happened? The current American government has given itself the power to declare anyone an enemy and to detain the person without charge or habeas corpus rights (the right to seek relief for unlawful detention).

I find networked cars unnecessary for law abiding citizens. Accident detection and communication are helpful. Remote access to a kill switch (or even a "slow down" switch) is not acceptable to me. It will deter me from buying a GM product.

=sw

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

How I Chose

When I saw the woman at a McCain rally step to the mic and say "The Lord says care for the poor". I knew where my vote should go.



It struck me as entirely inappropriate for her to speak as if in church, when at a political rally in America. I respect her freedom to do so, It just made me concerned that some people don't understand the separation of church and state doctrine that keeps claims about unseen beings from directing our public and civic policy.

Even my right wing christian friends agree with all this so long as the unseen being is not their unseen being.

I realize I voted for a church going christian. But I also voted for an eloquent rational thinker.

While thinking about who I wanted to vote for,I saw the movie Religulous and I watched Bill Maher on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on NBC October 7, 2008.



He used scathing wit and humor to totally trounce the irrational right and mock their appeals to ignorance and bigotry.

He also reflected many of my beliefs and values on his own show in his New Rules segment. He said, "You can't be president if you practice a violent middle eastern religion and worship a genecidal desert god, which is why Sarah Palin cannot be president".

Funny then sobering...


I saw Sarah Palin's crass jingoistic comments about there being "a patriotic" part of America as a comment that appeals to credulous people driven by emotion to believe whatever best conforms to the majority and fears diversity. She used the phrase "those that are fighting our wars for us" to refer to her small town America constituents. That says it all about right wing elitism.

It boggles the mind that the Republicans want joe sixpack to believe that the system is not set up to concentrate wealth away from him and to rob his retirement accounts for ceo mansions.

There seems to be a rash of ignorance on the right, driven by irrational belief and fear mongering. When the stupidity of the American religious extremists reared its head, McCain actually had to correct his own party members and assure them that they need not fear an Obama presidency.



Obama was of course born in the United States of America (Hawaii) and raised with American cultural values.

In this world of ever increasing enlightenment about natural law, science and knowledge, I don't want to be ruled by a whacky cult that believes in witchcraft and longs for the end of the world.

=sw

Monday, October 27, 2008

Net Books and Smart Cars

I see a silly trend. When companies run out of ideas they try to pitch something that is "less" as something "new".

Everyone keeps trying to get rid of the personal computer platform. Because what we want is less power, less accessibility, less capability right?

That's of course just wrong. What people are looking for in a "net book" is a small and light personal computer. That's why Apple got it mostly right. They did not try to make an incapable dumbed down machine, with the Mac Book Air. They designed a personal computer making compromises only to achieve weight and size limits.

These stupid concepts like a "dummy terminal" or a "dumbed down" laptop called a "NetBook" are marketing ploys that are trying to mask the failure to produce a smaller size Personal Computer.

No one wants a less useful machine.


It reminds me of the Mercedes "Smart Car" which is an idiotically small car that is supposed to be a compromise for fuel efficiency without actually providing much better gas mileage than many larger, more convenient vehicles from Honda, Toyota and even BMW.

These things like the Smart Car and Net Book are silly marketing games being played by companies who are trying to convince you that you don't want the real thing and I think they are wrong.

=sw

Monday, October 06, 2008

Not an Atheist

This is a little commentary on why I do not wish to be called an Atheist.

I have some religious friends. These are people I like with whom I occasionally have philosophical discussions that usually end in agreeing to disagree.

One of my friends likes to casually refer to me as an Atheist. I understand that when religious people come up with a 5 point test of what makes an Atheist I may qualify on all five of them, however, I do not define myself in terms of other people's perspectives.

Atheist sounds like "Anti-something". I believe there probably isn't a God, especially that meets any of mankind's popular definitions. If we are not alone in the vast universe, there may be powerful beings we would find godlike out there, only because they are more advanced...or maybe we would realize that the difference was simply growth, know how and experience.

I think there probably isn't a God (and I capitalize it just so christians know who I am saying probably doesn't exist). I cannot prove a negative. I can't demonstrate to you that there is no God just by showing you silent moments or unanswered prayer. In the same way faith is required to believe in God because the proof is not there.

I am certainly not anti-"something I don't even believe in".


It's like the when I filled out the e-Harmony forms. Yes, they let me in somehow! On their form they have ethnicity choices. The closest one for me, as a caucasian, was "White (Non-hispanic)". Well pardon me, but I am not used to defining myself by how "hispanic" I am or am not. No insult to hispanics of course. It's just not a notion I am associated with. Calling me "non-hispanic" puts way too much focus on hispanics. I don't even wish to make a statement about anyone else's ethnicity or how it differs from mine when simply describing myself to someone.

It's like considering how "Un-Australian" I am. I am not defined by what I am not. That's illogical and really awkward to me actually.

Likewise I will never wish to be labelled by what I do not believe in.

Imagine this unlikely introduction: "Ladies and gentlemen, the non-car thief, Mr. So and So"... With me saying, "I have never even thought about car theft much less do I want the phrase in my title!"

Or "Mr. So and So, the Non-Santa Clause believer"...what do I say to that, "um...yah..I gave that up when I was a kid, my non-santa clause belief status is really not even a part of who I am anymore."

In the same way I am not an Ex-believer or an Atheist. I am simply me. I am a rational thinker, a skeptic, a doubter and someone who loves knowledge, science and evidence.

I am finally a grown up human being who wants to see his place in the Universe as it really can be known with the best knowledge available. I don't want fantasy stories or religious dogmas anymore. I find no comfort in the quaint and violent scripture myths.

I think 1000 years from now some whacky sect will believe in "Captain Picard" as their God and will even have "real" pictures of the man (unlike the Christian faith). They will not admit to their basic misunderstanding that this was a character in a performance. While there may have been a moral to the story, it was always a story. I see the Bible in the same way. They were myths meant to inspire, socially control and politically manipulate people or challenge rulers.

I thought the other day of the meaning of "Rational Belief" to which I lay claim. Rational is a word about a ratio. A ratio of claims to supporting evidence. If claims exceed a 1:1 ratio with evidence, you'll find me skeptical. I did not say I would automatically reject all such notions with confident authority, that's what an Atheist tries to do, also without evidence. I am far more curious and am willing to try ideas and listen to reason. The experiments, evaluation of data and conclusions are all part of the scientific method. Being skeptically curious leads to new experiments and new knowledge.

I am not against the ideas of justice and reconciliation taught by some belief systems, nor am I anti-God. I am just me and I think religion has done incredible amounts of damage to the world.

I just saw "Religulous", the Bill Maher documentary about religion. It was a great film that really reflected how I feel about how problematic belief can be.

He said one great thing near the end:

Religion tries to make a virtue out of not thinking. -Bill Maher


I agree with that and will continue to use my mind, grow my understanding and increase my knowledge while refusing to end all thought and consideration by quickly resorting to a label.

=sw

Monday, September 29, 2008

Why I am Against the Bail Out

At first I thought a bailout would resemble socialism. Now I think it would more closely resemble a wealth grab in an economic dictatorship.

The market leading managers and CEO's abandoned the basic rules of economics by obscuring worthlessness with complexity and then tried to abdicate all responsibility for their exploitation. They want to siphon off wealth with reckless disregard for their fellow citizens and then want tax payers to be burdened with their golden parachutes, bad debts and recapitalization of their banks and "investment/ financial institutions".

Lincoln looks angry!


Capitalism is not a dictatorship where wealthy people may irresponsibly give loans to people who can't afford them then sell those loans as commodities as if they are guaranteed valuable assets then expect everyone to reward them for their failure.

In Capitalism, when people fuck up they should fail.


If the average citizen messes up and gets fired, they walk away with no severance pay, no help, no bail out or promises. Not even a silk parachute, or some kneepads.

Many of these failures are of the Enron "Criminal" variety and will result in jail time. I think such prosecution should also result in the seizure and sale of the assets of these criminals. Where is your retirement? It's in some 24 million dollar Florida mansion to which some CEO will happily resort when his 2 year sentence is commuted to 6 months for time served and "good behavior".

Or worse, it's over seas where you will never see it again.

Will the IRS put a lien on that CEO's mansion for the taxes you owe, that you spent to heat your house while you were unemployed? No! They will come to YOU for that, as if the failure of your employers company was down to your job skills or behavior.

Lots of work isn't worth what people are paid. Alan H. Fishman of Washington mutual did not contribute enough to the society by holding the wheel of a sinking ship for 3 weeks to earn $11 Million dollars in a "Golden Parachute". Fuck that! You fail, you get fired. Learn something, move on. Hopefully some other CEO didn't rape your 401k for his beach house.

Maybe a better society is possible, one not based on greed and destroying wealth and resources for one's own over-consumption. I don't think any of the communist dictatorships of the world got it right either.

Though sometimes, a more socially aware society seems like a better way. If you sew and reap you may eat. If you cannot reap but you can make something someone needs, or serve them in some way they need, you may be compensated to a reasonable proportion with food and shelter. If you are too helpless to contribute, your basic needs will be provided.

Capitalism is sometimes so cruel and ignorant to the plight of humanity occupying a 7,926 mile diameter space ship (Earth) with limited resources. It's not all about one person having every luxury. It's about the survival of us all (arguments against over-breeding in another posting).

The wealth of the planet belongs to all! This system of veiled theft is bad enough. We are already on the hook for 500 billion or more in bailout money for the banks and mortgage firms we plan to save. The 700 billion on top of it would just reward the crass, corrupt wealth sucking machine on Wall Street for failure. It would represent the largest imaginable burglary of tax payer, citizen wealth to private already corruptly wealthy banks, managers and CEO's.

CEO pay is justified by returns, so it actually rewards exploitation and law-breaking if the increase is good

What they couldn't get by gouging my 401k they'll get from the investment IRA I rolled it into, beautiful!

Wasn't most of America's wealth already confined to a small percentage at the top before this crisis? What do they want now, the rest?

Where will it come from?

You and I will be working our asses off without reward for years to pay these bastards even more money from the taxes on our labors. If you ask me, It's a goddamn coup de ├ętats and we just became serfs, to one degree or another.

=sw

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Broken IT Culture that is Doomed to Fail

I predict that the concept of disabling the usefulness of a computer by not allowing users to install software will become a failed IT policy.

The policy was born of Microsoft Windows security deficiencies. Instead of demanding a properly developed and secured operating system, IT managers simply find it easier to essentially disable and handicap Windows users to help resist virus vulnerability and security flaws that are built into Windows by poor design.

The qualifier is that no machine is invulnerable, but you don't put a horse down before it gets sick. Disallowing installation of software crimps off the innovation and flexibility blood supply of the user and I will show, could even lead to physical injury.

Based on many real world scenarios that have come to my attention, here is short story:

Carla wants a portable computer. It would give her new capabilities as a field rep for her company like being able to access office documents and spreadsheets, maps, contracts, pdf field manuals and up-to-date weather info etc. Also very important to her well being, it would allow her some personal access to music, email, instant messaging and entertainment sources while she is on the road. She has not been issued a computer to do her job, but having access to one would make her more capable and efficient. She plans to buy her own laptop, but mentions her plan to her boss.

The Boss promptly sees the benefit of her vision and assures her he would gladly supply the laptop.

One morning she heads into the main office and voila, there it is:



A new laptop with Windows XP installed!! Woohoo! (because Vista is completely useless, but passes the "really pretty" test, sure)

[*Note: For the purpose of my blog I photographed a Dell running Debian/ Gnome because I don't have any crappy Windows machines in my life to even take a picture of.]

Aside: The new Vista commercials should be more realistic..."WOW"..at first then "WTF...???" and "SHIT!"...soon after.


Now she can fulfill her vision of having the benefits she sought. So she immediately seeks to install some widget software to get weather, Google Earth for her work real estate and mapping needs, Apple's iTunes for her iPod and store account to get her favorite music, movies and TV shows etc. She also likes to download her favorite I/M clients and OTR encryption tools (for security!).

Well, she can't install any of that, and the IT (idiotic trance) department is too mortified by Windows' reputed bad security and vulnerability to malware to give her the magic "Admin access" (which on any other machine is "regular user trying to do ANYTHING useful with a computer" access).

What can she do? Of course she could drag around 2 laptops, one for work and one for herself!






That's only 10-20 pounds of machine, carrying case and accessories. She could actually physically injure herself carrying two computers around. It's a ridiculous notion.

No way! That is not a solution!!


Oh I know, she will drive all the way to the home office every single time she even wants to evaluate any new software (or even run an update script for her third-party apps) and plead with a dense Microsoftie IT manager to please just allow her to do her job and have what she needs on the road.



All that driving back for every stupid thing makes Windows machines bad for global warming. Never mind the cost to the environment of the manufacture of a useless device. Now we need 2 machines made for each person because of inherent software flaws and the obtuse policies used to work around them!?

Forget it!

What will she do instead? Buy ONE machine that does everything she could possibly need including run Office software and if absolutely needed, emulate that one stupid app made only for Windows by idiots. And she will have a machine she can actually use, upon which she can install anything and not fear a highly unlikely virus and it will meet all her business and personal requirements with ease. Then she'll only need to carry around just that one lightweight brilliant computer:



The idea that effectively disabling a computer from being used is a "good security model" will utterly fail. This will benefit Apple or Linux or any other platform with a clue. Withholding Administrator Access from a user on their own machine is a failed IT policy which is a blatant direct descendant of Microsoft software flaws. It is a losing proposition in the long run, where better computers with superior operating systems are clearly a preferable option.

=sw

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tons of Travel

I have been a lot of places lately. Here is my USA map:



The cyan states are places I have been before. The orange-ish states are those I have been to this year. We are talking feet on the ground, I don't count airplane fly-over.

I have traveled a good 6000 miles, even more if I did count flights.

There are clearly some road trips yet to do. I want to visit Florida, New England...Minnesota and the Dakotas.

I need to do an Elizabeth Town type road trip to Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma. While I may not get to all the States this year, I could get pretty close.

What exactly does one see in North Dakota!?

=sw

Pandora

I really enjoy Pandora, the internet streaming music service that works like a radio station keyed to a single or group of seed artists to shape a program of songs in the user's preferred style.

It's pretty damn good and works rather well. It even digs into beloved album tracks you'd think would never get noticed. And the streaming is smart, pre-loading songs as much as possible to prevent mid-stream hiccups.

While Pandora is in stereo on broadband, it does run in Mono on the iPhone. However, that may be necessary to fly below the 115kpbs Edge network limits. 128kps or 160kbps mp3's in stereo won't fit, so 64kbps or 80kbps mono mp3's are used...see 160 > 115 while 80 < 115 so mono streaming works well generally, depending on Edge signal quality.



I tried going for a 4 mile walk the other night with Pandora playing on my iPhone (using the dedicated Pandora app). Walking around with Pandora on the iPhone is a surreal and wholly modern experience.

Walking around with Pandora on the iPhone is a surreal and wholly modern experience.


I realized I could not watch any marketing messages they might deliver while the iPhone was in my pocket.

I think Pandora offers a paid service, though to support the free service I could stand a 20-30 second audio ad every 3 songs or so. I think Pandora is a great evolution from traditional radio, though its very nature creates enormous licensing costs.

While Radio can pay one ASCAP fee for broadcasting a song to millions, Pandora is probably stuck with a fee per stream per user. There should be some middle ground license to allow Pandora's brilliant service to be more viable.

I get into Pandora, and who knew how much 80's hair band music made into my memory when I was a teenager. I can kind of tolerate it now, amazingly.

=sw

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Captive Marketing

In Las Vegas flying US Airways I discovered that I would be hit up with credit card marketing from the gate to the plane.



When you pay an airline more than you would pay for a 4 star hotel room, then pay them extra for baggage and they still have to hit you up for a coke and market credit cards to you...you know they were not managed properly.

They all want to be listed first on the travel web sites as the cheapest. Though, you quickly learn, that despite having paid hundreds to be canned up and exposed to irradiating microwave radiation from space, you still can't get even a 1/2 can of soda if you didn't bring cash!!!

Baggage, drinks and good service should be included. Just show us the real prices for fuel and proper service!!! I predict US Airways is going to be gone or fail, if it hasn't done so already. It's a ridiculous flying experience. Maybe Delta will fix them.

From now on, Southwest and Delta have provided a good experience for me. I hear Virgin America and Continental are good options for being treated well for your investment in travel.

Marketing to me while I am confined to an airplane is so over and gone.

=sw

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Things I hate about...

my iPhone:
Why can't my iPhone do picture messaging? Whatever political reason they have not to support it, it is not worth it.

What I get is a "viewmymessage.com" link with a cryptic, awful, impossible to memorize username and password. THEN, the viewmymessage site sometimes doesn't even work on the edge network!

What AT&T need to do is program the authentication info into the link they send me so I can tap and view the multimedia message immediately!


What is all this anyway? The iPhone should be the definition of multi-media mobile life. If picture messaging is not supported, the least they can do is make it easy to access in Safari!

I think AT&T and Apple need to get their show together. All the nice features of the iphone can easily get forgotten when something so obviously flawed and so regularly irritating happens. I am a hardcore Apple fan and I miss my Motorola Razor sometimes. It could shoot video, send and receive picture messages...and I could hack it to play any mp3 as a ring tone!

I want on my iPhone:
* Any ringtone from any mp3!!!
* Picture messaging!!!
* The ability to shoot video!!!


As it stands, these features are represented by a symbolically blank screen:


My iPhone is a computing device I have purchased. I want to be able to use it how ever I like.

These improvements are software, not beyond reasonable and I believe they are necessary to keep any reasonable person from wishing to dump their iPhone.

=sw

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Why Drilling is Not the Answer

There is no doubt that I would board a yacht if a pretty brunette promised me there would be offshore drilling.

Our nation seems to be stuck in a similar trance. Even Democrats are approving more drilling.

Well over a decade ago, Carl Sagan warned that the climate consequences of human caused emissions would be vehemently denied, simply because the changes required would be so great.

The last thing we need to do is drill for more oil.



If we all had electric cars, they would emit less carbon dioxide even if we charged them on coal fired power. Also the coal is domestic not shipped from foreign sources often with destabilizing influence. Even this is a "step one", not a long term solution.

Solar Thermal power can spin turbines in the day and even store heat in molten salt at night. We could use Solar generated electricity to electrolyze and compress hydrogen for storage.



Bio fuels can be made from plants other than corn that can produce more alcohol per acre, more harvests per year and not compete for food growing lands. Swamp reeds like cat-tails have such benefits.



Wind power can be increased and a portion of it used to make and compress Hydrogen.

Even T.Boone Pickens makes a great point about switching to domestic natural gas. Driving a Honda Civic GX (Compressed Natural Gas model) is both cheaper (in terms of fuel costs) and emits far less CO2 than any hybrid. It is a cleaner way to use domestically sourced fossil fuels that is available now. That is a far better choice than finding more oil. Eventually, we'll want to get out of the fossil fuel business.

We could then clean the atmosphere using new carbon capture technology and renewable energy powered methods to store it in solids like sodium carbonate. There is already too much CO2 for us to contend with that we will not be able to avoid future serious impacts such as extreme weather, dust bowl droughts, sea level rise, cold snaps in places not adapted to them etc.

We don't need cheap oil now. We need to get off the oil! We need to invest in and develop what is at hand and already apparent and available.

Sometimes the debate in this country seems to legitimize the needs of those who would rape the planet and trod the less fortunate under their feet to enhance their own wealth before doing what is best for the ecosystem we all share and upon which we all rely. Such corruption is growing in big businesses of all kinds, though particularly in the energy sector.

I will vote for the candidate that supports renewable energy and rejects sacrificing the biosphere for the profits of a few.

=sw

Sunday, August 10, 2008

On the Books



I see that these two sections are alphabetized. I also see a delightfully subversive message in this aisle title at the Salt Lake City Library.

While I was there I was thinking about the "New Powers" the government has. They can compile a list of what you check out and draw conclusions about you without taking a compelling interest in who you are and why you were curious about whatever you decided to check out or even perhaps "pick up" and read.

If you choose simply to expand your knowledge by reading books within the library, making the wrong choices of just what to read could get you branded negatively which could lead to being imprisoned or even executed for treason if the impression of you is blown out of proportion enough to get the attention of the President of the United States who could declare you an enemy.

We should be able to read and learn any knowledge our society concedes may have place in the library for increasing our knowledge without creating a record of what we read and without any obstruction or interest whatsoever by any other person.

Should someone commit a crime, such as conspiracy to do harm, certainly they may be accused and prosecuted. We should not all start out as criminals. I am sick of feeling I cannot use the library, internet or other sources of knowledge without being watched over.

Some rationalize "I have nothing to hide". This is not what it is about. It is not freedom to be so observed. It is unacceptable.

I feel the same way about bank account reports, despite the obvious usefulness for finding criminal behavior. If criminal behavior is suspected in a specific case, the law enforcement agent representing the people of this country may seek a warrant to investigate that individual. How have we tolerated that our accounts should automatically light warning lamps in government offices?

Can someone explain to me where the civil liberties of the law abiding citizen have gone? I will have privacy and the presumption of innocence. I will not quarter soldiers within my home, accounts or computers. These are my constitutional rights.

Where is our America?

=sw

Monday, July 14, 2008

SMS Price Gouging

I am tired of the SMS price Gouging.

SMS, or Short Messaging Service allows you to send text to other cell phone users whose phone's support text messages.

Companies charge $5 for 200 or 20 cents a message. These kinds of prices figure at about a THOUSAND DOLLARS per Megabyte....$1000/ MB.

That is ridiculous. I have unlimited data on my iPhone for $20/ month. That could be many megabytes even gigabytes of data transfer. This awful price gouging for short text messages should not be tolerated. I am paying for access to the data network. I wish they would just figure out how to price that right and stop trying to scrape and gouge customers using small amounts of data that can simply be marketed differently. I am tired of being told how to use that access to the network and that some uses are more costly than others. Especially when the costlier uses have a very small data footprint but simply have a larger marketability.

The cell phone vendors need to remember what their product is, interconnectivity, not tying to fake us out and control how we use data. I want to be able to make a ring tone of what ever I want to as well. Presume I paid for the CD or digital download!!

And my rant is spent.

=sw

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Test of Basic Skills

Passing through Iowa I had a "What the Fuck is this!?" moment.

I know truck stops hear what people are willing to spend for specialty coffee drinks and they decide they can "pull this off" and the following happens...This is going to read a bit like "How it's made" but believe me...it's how it's not made.

I order a Latte from the menu for between 3-4 dollars. I ask for a double shot.

The server gets a waxy 20 ounce soda cup. She reaches for a coffee globe with drip coffee in it...fills the cup. She grabs the vanilla flavoring...administers exactly 2 shots of that into the cup then begins to mix in the flavoring with what looks like a milkshake blender machine. I realize there is no espresso machine nor espresso in sight.

The lid-less beverage IS slightly bubbly on top and looks a tan color, until after a few sips it is black coffee again.

They have cardboard hand protectors, at least, but no 20 oz. lids to be had. The server...one could never call her a barista until some steam or milk entered the scene... jams what looks like a clear domed slurpee cap with a big hole in the top onto the cup.

Voila!

And I think to myself...WTF is this? What planet am I on? I don't even have the patience or stomach to inform them how clueless they are...which is why they will never learn, as I am sure others feel the same way.

Latte...does mean "Milk" in Italian right!?

I was dismayed. When you are aching for a Latte...entered a building with a giant red Cafe sign...you dream of getting what you want. I learned...in some states...Cafe means "bacon and eggs at all hours" and trendy coffee drinks have a high profit margin, but are cheap fakers. It's amazing they have caffeine in them at all. It sure makes Salt Lake seem cosmopolitan by comparison.

WTF did I just say?

=sw

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Managed Fusion Power

The wild and free Sun, our local deep space campfire, is powered by condensed hydrogen atoms that as they get mashed by gravity, they heat up and merge (or fuse) to form Helium atoms.



This process releases a photon each time.

All that Hydrogen, which was really about all there was before the Universe condensed into stars, galaxies etc., creates a lot of energy and light as it fuses into Helium. The Sun is also, to use a scientific description, frikken huge. Its diameter is 68+ times that of the earth. So the way we get our life sustaining energy is from a big wild roiling explosive ball of nulear fusion.

The Sun is an entirely unmanaged resource. Or it seems about as well managed as an energy source as a BP Texas oil refinery. So much of the energy of the Sun just jets into space in random explosions.

It would be amazing if we could use Hydrogen to make a star that was carefully managed from the start. It could be steadily fueled and waste products somehow safely purged. We could maybe even design a star to live far longer that our Sun.

Our star, SOL, is among the longer lived star types. Some are so massive that they explode and die far sooner compared to other stars. The solar sphere is so vast and yet only a comparatively small bit of that energy strikes the Earth. A carefully designed, planned and managed star could be a stable reliable source of energy for many worlds for billions more years than the 5 billion our star will burn.

The work of replicating the Sun's energy system is in progress in the study of Fusion reactors

We need the supernovas and red giants of the universe to manufacture elements of higher atomic number in their violent death throes.

It just seems to me that if the Sun were an engine, that has a lot of torque but randomly backfires and blows seals, we'd see it as needing design improvements.

Not that I am complaining about my current solar-powered existence.

=sw

Friday, June 20, 2008

Killer Cover

I can trust the Killers with Joy Division covers. That is saying a lot. They made it "poptastic" as Stephen Morris (Joy Division / New Order drummer) would say while keeping the feel of soldiering jangly guitars and the driving bass line. I simply love it.

It even has a nice instrumental that is really New Orderish for a Joy Division cover.



Yewchube rules...though it is in MONO...which is lame.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIe3IgmdSlI

=SW

Friday, June 06, 2008

South Carolina's Jesus License Plate Wish

I seem to address a lot of religious topics for a non-believer, but some things just raise my alarms.

Why can South Carolina have Nascar license plates, Or school plates like this:



And foundation plates likes this:



But not a Christianity plate? Surely Jesus is as valid a thing to put on ones plates as a Nascar icon or a school!

I would say "The Problem Is..." but it is not a problem. In the United States of America we have a constitution that is the basis for our laws.

The first amendment to the Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights, states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion...


The license plate is a kind of government document and in America, the Constitution specifically says the government should not promote a religion. It doesn't say anything about schools, car racing, fishing...etc...etc...it mentions religion. This was done for a specific reason, because of the special concern surrounding the influence of devotion in society. The framers knew people could not be truly free if the government put its stamp of deadly authority on any religion.

So, you can't have Jesus license plates in this country! Love your country, because the same Constitution prevents someone else from foisting their religion on you.

Get a bumper sticker.

=sw

Monday, May 26, 2008

Aquaman

Since I like Smallville, and I noticed that Millar and Gough also made the Aquaman pilot and I downloaded it from iTunes. I have been putting it off though I finally got around to it.

The pilot is promising. It has the familiar witty banter between a hero and an unaware smart and verbally acute woman. In this case, Eva (Amber McDonald). She reminded me of the Lois Lane character (Erica Durance) in Smallville.

I would have thought, since Will Toale played Aquaman on Smallville that he would have been cast for the series. Instead they cast Justin Hartley, who does a good job, though he also plays Green Arrow on Smallville. That's an unfortunate dramatic problem for talented actors playing 2 roles in the same comic book universe. It's difficult not to look like yourself.

I still wonder what happened with Will Toale?

Adrianne Palicki played a searingly hot "Siren"...The writers introduce her in a way that really gives you the experience of being lured in and convinced by her. Also, the nude underwater swimming scene with Nadia (the Siren) pushes television margins. Since this is from iTunes, it may have slipped by where a broadcast would not, but with a pause button as my witness, I saw everything.

By the way, It is great to see Lou Diamond Phillips on T.V.

I like Aquaman...maybe they will bring it back. What better excuse to show lots of bikinis.

=sw

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Stuck in Belief

Today I had a conversation with some friends of mine. These are people I really like and admire.

We like the same movies and music.

However, I am a skeptical non-believer with an understanding of the perspective of faithful people since I was raised devoutly religious.

I heard someone suggest that one of the presidential candidates fit a rough description of an Anti-Christ. I said...you mean successful lawyer, married, parent, church going, Unites States Senator so and so seems like the epitome of evil in your faith? The evidence given was that this person would be charismatic.

What an out-there election tactic some preachers must be using!

This is a puzzling jamb in my opinion. Faithful, good people are stuck believing something where their own beliefs are used as proof of themselves. They discern truth and falsehood by checking whether something calls Jesus the Christ or not.

So things that agree with and support ones own faith and beliefs are the ultimate evidence of truth..even the exclusive evidence.

I had two insights recently.

One is that religion serves a valuable social purpose. It is a calling card, not a flawless one, for people who share your values. It means you can trust strangers if they profess your faith or one close enough to trust. You don't need to know much else. Also a christian? Here, take the car keys, my daughter and my wallet and go and get dinner and bring it back. Nothing will go wrong, people who profess our faith were taught like us and will act like us and not steal and not lie and not harm us.

It stems from a deep longing for social contact, a desire to be safe and a reliance on the power of social compliance.

There is a benefit to be had, I see that. Though at what cost? Reason? Common sense?

The reality is that many who profess faith are as human, flawed and prone to do evil things as every other person is. Some people who live with rational thinking as their guide can be the most compassionate, thoughtful, trustworthy and honest people. Yet anyone can make a mistake or suffer from a lapse in judgement or health or even low blood sugar.

Sometimes the searingly faithful brainwash themselves into a trance (using droning repetitive and awful religious pop music) where they are so fearful of "outside" influences that they see others in a really unfair way. I think it is sad that many so lock themselves into binding circular pseudo-reasoning that they can hardly learn to accept truth. Especially when truth is revealed by scientific consensus and not sourced from their only allowable trusted sources.

My other insight was almost off topic, though it relates. I realized things aren't always what you think they are the first time around.



That is the flag of Pakistan, which contains a common Islamic symbol of a crescent with a star in front of it.

I know what the symbol means on one level...it is associated with Islam or Muslims. I have puzzled, being a fan of Astronomy, what it symbolizes. It couldn't be the Moon, there are no stars between the Earth and Moon, obviously. So how can a star shine through a planet? Then I thought it could symbolize Jupiter, with one of its sunlit moons transiting in our line of site and reflecting some light back to us, like Venus appears star-like in the morning.

Then I thought it could represent the Fertile Crescent region of the world. The star could roughly approximate Mecca, if the Crescent shape were rotated and positioned so it matched the shape of the Fertile Crescent running from along the Nile Egypt up around Lebanon, Syria, maybe parts of Turkey and along through Northern Iraq and down in following the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys. Maybe there is a Muslim who knows.

=SW

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Intelligent Design

It must be spring time. All the life emerging all around, especially in the very green climate where I live, must bring people to flights of fancy. I hear it from my chiropractor, from co-workers, from my neighbors whenever I talk about the beauty and wonder of spring. There must be an intelligent designer.

Wikipedia has a great entry about the rise and fall of this priest in a lab coat:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_design

The argument, from my perspective, isn't about whether there actually is a God. It's about how to know a fact. God must remain a faith based matter for the same reason Intelligent Design is not science. There is just no way to prove it.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences has stated that "intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life" are not science because they cannot be tested by experiment, do not generate any predictions, and propose no new hypotheses of their own.


Whatever they call their now legally defeated movement, they are faith based beliefs...which are fine if people desire to have them...they just aren't a science or even a "theory"...because something must have testable experiments to be a scientific theory.

A theory, in the realm of science, can't just be something that pops into your head like "I think there's a spaceship behind the moon". That is merely "a conjecture, an opinion, or a speculation" (National Academy of Sciences quote N.A.S.)

In science, a theory is a testable model of the manner of interaction of a set of natural phenomena, capable of predicting future occurrences or observations of the same kind, and capable of being tested through experiment or otherwise verified through empirical observation. -N.A.S.


The idea that there is a God that designed everything is a fine opinion, it just is not knowledge that should be taught as such in our schools, private or not. It's simply unethical and mentally abusive to teach conjecture to impressionable children as if it were fact.

A creator may well be something we like to hope for, something we believe and preach in spiritual settings. We are free to delight our hearts with whatever we choose in those settings. I don't think science can, at this point, prove or disprove the ultimate existence of a creator or lack thereof. I don't think it's a contradiction to be a faithful person and a scientist, most of the time. Science does allow us to expand our knowledge, filling in those gaps we used to attribute to the "God of the Gaps", as Carl Sagan said.

In teaching science, the conclusions of repeatable and peer reviewed experiments are explained for what they say for themselves. The scientific method is taught so students can understand how the knowledge was discovered in the first place and how they can replicate those experiments to prove their results to themselves.

Forcing one group's hopeful imaginations or beautiful dreams on the education system would be a frightening and tragic dumbing down of critical thinking skills in our nation.

The same faith-based activists would react much like I do to them if, for example, a Muslim group were trying to impose Islamic teachings on their school age children.

Again to paraphrase the brilliant rational thinker and Astro-Physicist Sagan, The mission of the creationists is not to give students the best of our collective knowledge, it is to preserve the emotional attachment they have to the things they believe. Their mission is not truth-seeking at all, it's the preservation of long held dogma.

Here is a passage that sums up how I feel about the issue. It is a quote from the writings C.F. Volney, which I found on Project Gutenberg after reading about it in "Demon Haunted World" (by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan):

...to live in harmony and peace, we must agree never to decide on such subjects, and to attach to them no importance; in a word, we must trace a line of distinction between those that are capable of verification, and those that are not; and separate by an inviolable barrier the world of fantastical beings from the world of realities; that is to say, all civil effect must be taken away from theological and religious opinions.
C.F. Volney (published 1787, original in French)


I guess I have shown by all my quoting that my reaction to the pseudo-science Intelligent Design movement is shared by many great thinkers who expressed my concern and dismay about the movement much better than I could. From Volney over 200 years ago to Sagan only a decade ago and including the very recent statements from the N.A.S.

Many smart grown up Americans walk around repeating Intelligent Design ideas that are so ill-conceived as to be evidence against themselves. They talk of accepting evolution while pretending there is such a thing as a limit on "cross-species" evolution, a fully non-scientific idea, invented to help people rationalize their beliefs and reduce their cognitive dissonance.

I hear proponents of this sham say things like "we don't even know whether butter is good for you or not, we can't trust our science!" .

I'd like to address that one argument. Whether eating butter is good for you is a question with a lot of variables. First, the real issue is probably more one of whether local news programs actually do rigorous research into their sources and subjects on slow news days.

I digress to the idea of many variables. Maybe the question should be one of whether butter is good for you in certain quantities or combined with certain foods or when one has a sedentary lifestyle or an active lifestyle. Clearly there are always new studies, new discoveries and other motives, other than pure knowledge, for promoting one opinion over another.

Maybe sales of butter are slumping one quarter, so a corporate staff member is paid to write an article emphasizing anything at all positive or virtuous about eating butter.

That whole mess is somehow used to reduce the value of scientific knowledge that helps us to understand things like Gravity, Electricity, the Chemistry of Plastic or the properties of Light. The "virtues of butter" is an incomplete set of knowledge just like the "origins of the universe" is also an incomplete set of knowledge.

This incompleteness is exploited in a logically false way to play down the tested hypotheses and valuable results of science for the purpose of muddying people's understanding so they can still accept rationally unsupportable or at best, unprovable, beliefs. It is a totalitarianism of ignorance that is deeply troubling.

I recently saw Eddie Izzard's wonderful "Stripped" tour. In his show he did a bit about the Planet Mercury, and it went something like (and I take vast paraphrasing liberties): "It's a dry, lifeless, waterless world where the temperature ranges from −180 to 430 °C from night to day. What's so intelligent about that design? That's not intelligent design, it's either random and God doesn't exist or he's one sardonic smart ass".

=sw

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wired! Electrically.



http://www.teslamotors.com/

This is a fully electric vehicle available now, though there is a huge waiting list. It’s also 100K or so.

I think electric vehicles are great...they allow your fuel source to vary and get greener from Coal to Natural Gas to Wind to Solar depending on who supplies your power. You could even opt for all wind on your power bill and have a wind powered car.
Also, if we are going to emit CO2 anyway, the economy of scale of Coal power plants is probably more efficient than burning gasoline and Coal is a domestic source not a foreign one. All electric is all good no matter how you look at it.

=sw

Monday, April 21, 2008

Natalism

I sometimes get accused of taking a "victors perspective" on the Palestinian-Isreali conflict. I am not sure what people mean...are they talking about biblical jews returning from exile in Egypt marching in circles around Jericho or do they just mean...that the British won the war with the Ottoman Empire?

In any case, though I am solidly set on the need for a Jewish homeland in the world, I loathe and regret the suffering of the Palestinians. I think Gaza is such an inhumane place in some ways, run by thugs hell bent on teaching hate to their children to regain homes and lands the cost for which was long ago exceeded by their destructive behaviors and their losses at the hands of the Israeli military who seem to have a planned 10:1 destruction ratio in mind when retaliating against rocket attacks.

In some ways, I am convinced that Palestinians and Jews lived more peacefully and happily together at the time...maybe in the mid 80's...where Palestinians had very free and open commerce with Israel and crossed back and forth across territory borders daily for work. Ok, it wasn't perfect...suicide bombings from the Palestinian side and invasive settlements on the Israeli side led to a divisive zeitgeist along with the recent "intifada".

Now the Palestinians, especially in Gaza, are in a kind of constant desperation. Israel, now it has depopulated its Jewish settlements in Gaza, can manipulate energy and goods flow, guarding both their land border with Gaza and access to the Mediterranean sea. Recently the Palestinians burst through the border Gaza shares with Egypt, though this border is also controlled by Israel...in theory.

I think Palestinians have in mind that they can out-breed the Jews and use Natalism to eventually change the facts on the ground. While practicing this ideal, they grow hungrier, more pressured for resources and have serious health issues like sand-berm sewage storage lakes that burst actually drowning people..with the potential to harm many people. There is also an enormous disease risk in trying to over populate on principal. Eventually this tactic will bring disasters to Palestinians who would do far better to recognize Israel, live in peace even as citizens of the same country. They could hold office, have stability and benefit from the western lifestyle. It could be done, it would just take some common sense, leadership and vision. When there is peace, Palestinian compensation claims could be considered and promoted by the international community...investment could flow into these lands.

This awfully evil policy of keeping Palestinians in ignorant blind hatred of Israel is a great part of the harm done to this people. Stop firing rockets, stop terroist bombings and the future can look different. If not, the Palestinians will fight against a negative public image as terrorist thugs when what they really need is international financial and humanitarian aid on a huge scale.

Maybe I do see a "Victors Perspective" but that also includes concern for my fellow human beings who are taking a path which will lead them into needless pain and suffering. We may never be able to change their hearts about the absolutely immutable need for a Jewish state, but I would love to change their minds about dashing themselves to bits against its walls.

=sw

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fitna Film

I have been following the news about the planned release of the movie by Geert Wilders called "Fitna".

I always want to seek the most rational point of view I can, though sometimes this is an art.I expect my perspective to be biased by my experience and I try to check for that in my thought patterns.

When I boil this down I see some things on both sides of this issue.

First, having lived in the Flemish speaking Belgium I can attest to some of the attitudes people have toward the rise of population in their countries of those from other countries and cultures. A good friend of mine, we'll call him Thomas, used to tell me about his views on this matter during dinners to which he and his wife and family would regularly invite me.

Thomas would focus on some details of the impact of immigrants, and even their descendants, particularly from countries in the Muslim world. He'd complain about health code violations from animal sacrifice rituals, identity problems with full coverage clothing and generally about the trend toward people creating a multi-cultural situation where many did not need to learn the Dutch or French languages because they had all they needed in their ethnic enclaves.

I was aware of the emotional nature of Thomas' reactions to the changes taking place in his country and society. The ethnic differences and perceived multi-culturalism made him feel like his own society, built up over years of identity forming struggle, survival, compromise and achievement, was under threat. Thomas has a strongly held belief that Islam was spread by the sword and that Mohammed himself beheaded many Jews and many of his rivals among his own people.

I think Europeans have a small part of their identity that is closely associated with holding back what they perceive to be Islamic raids on their lands and way of life. Something similar is held among Islamic peoples of the Middle East and Mediterranean regions where they view Christians as Crusaders whose raids and onslaughts have been held back over the many years. Evidence for both beliefs can be cited.

Europeans feel they have achieved secular, tolerant, free societies governed by law which is sustained by democratically elected representatives. That is a factual, though perhaps a bit idealized description which leaves out a lot of references to corruption, but a fair description none-the-less.

I think most Dutch people are tolerant, accepting and accommodating to foreigners who choose to join their way of life. They expect that new immigrants will obey and be subject to Dutch laws and beyond that, they are welcome to dress, pray, speak and do as they see fit.

To state the point of tension plainly, the Dutch value freedom of speech. To speak ones mind, state ones point of view, whether in word, art, drawing, film or music is a n inalienable right to them. Not everyone will be pleased with what you say, and if you break laws with your work, you can be subject to prosecution. This may be for libel or violating other legally coded limits. Sometimes history plays a role, so there is such a thing as banned literature in The Netherlands. "Mein Kampf" is an understandably banned book. The German World War II invasion of the Netherlands and the Holocaust have left an indelible impression on the social circumstances and laws of the Netherlands.

Protest, I think, is accepted as a valid response to a work of art. Legal action as well is within the realm of what is acceptable in Dutch society. Murder is not an acceptable course of action for making ones displeasure known.

I am referring to the story of Theo Van Gogh who made a film depicting a Muslim woman voicing the possible secret worries of a woman in a strict Muslim home environment. The actress was dressed in what looked like concealing Islamic conservative head and facial covering, while her nearly naked body was visible through a see through part of the long covering. Symbolically I can see the message of the clothing. The piece is very "artsy" but also makes some points about the lack of support a Muslim woman may have, even from her own family, if she is beaten or raped...even by family members.

I know that Theo Van Gogh also said deplorable things about Jews. I can understand someone being angry with Theo Van Gogh for his outrageous statements. As a former Mormon, I understand the anger religious people feel when their symbols are misappropriated to criticize their faith.

I cannot understand or accept Theo Van Gogh's fate. He was murdered by Mohammed Bouyeri, who left a note with even more deplorable anti-semetic statements as well as other references to a radicalized Egyptian Islamic group.

I can agree with the Dutch sentiment that such a killing is not a justifiable behavior and not compatible with their society. This line of reasoning all too quickly leads to ethnic slurs, an "us vs. them" mentality and talk of a "Final Solution".

It is simply not acceptable for someone to come from another culture, observe the ideas of someone in their host culture and murder that person for those ideas. This just cannot stand. I think reasonable people can accept the mixing of others from other cultures in their streets. I don't think they have to put up with something that looks like an act of war by an invader. Even if that person is a second generation descendant. A man who has such a poor level of respect for the laws, customs and culture of his newly adopted land clearly represents a real and serious problem that needs to be dealt with. It appears that the act of murder was somehow, in the mind of this particular Muslim perpetrator, justified by a belief system or doctrine. What is to be done about this, especially if it is a trend?

"How is it ok for religious zealots with Middle Eastern roots to enter Dutch society and tell them how to live?" That is the rhetorical question asked by many people who feel angered and threatened by Muslims living in the Netherlands.

From watching filmmaker Geert Wilders in interviews, it is clear he is not a cultural relativist. He tends to believe that some traditions are simply good and some are bad. He unabashedly states that some ways of life are better than others. I can understand how easily he could arrive at this notion given some of the outrageously ancient attitudes exhibited in "holy" books. Though, if the Koran is a source of ideas that are incompatible with Dutch society then so is the Bible.

I stare blankly in horror at the news of so called "Honor" killings, which are simply not humane and acceptable behavior. Then again, neither are abortions or death penalties by the same standards.

I think that ultimately every religion has irrationalities in it and the potential for fundamentalists to interpret the sayings and writings of the faith for what are by any definition evil purposes.

When I really think about it, I know there are over a billion Muslims in the world and I certainly do not fear them or think they are all trying to do evil. On the contrary, most of them are people I could get along with. I am aware that my perspective is under a powerful influence of the media, but I have also have personal experience with Muslims. I find them to be reasonable, good, descent, also sometimes imperfect human beings like anyone else. Sometimes I detect the notion that some young Muslim men have not found and defined the limits of the recourse against offenses to their faith. That is a troubling thing to discover. This seems to be the case even in people who are upstanding family men in America who appear to all observation to be moderate and tolerant.

I also see the similarities in what western religions value and what Muslims people value. The similarities are everywhere. Christians, Jews and Muslims share a wealth of religious stories and characters.

Still the question remains. What do you do about it when people murder their fellow citizens for their views? Surely that cannot stand. Geert Wilders is under death threats for creating an opinion piece. Like him and his movie or not, the threat of killing him for having a voice in a free society is a deep and intense undermining influence to freedom. He must not have to die so someone else doesn't feel "offended".

There is a better way to voice opposition to the movie that Muslim people will need to find, perhaps their own voice is what they need to find. Death threats soundly prove all of Meneer Wilder's points. I see Geert as taking a hard line himself and I do not feel comfortable with the way he insults the Koran, even though I am not a Muslim. Though I certainly have never heard him threaten death to anyone. He wants to preserve, and even share, the liberal Dutch society with others. He only voices his thoughts about his culture and what he perceives as threatening it. What less can be expected of a free man, Even if you don't like his attitude or ideas.

=sw

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Scientifically Designed by Idiots

I have recently had the absolutely baffling experience of encountering the "Step One Survey II™". This is a "tool" used by some HR departments to evaluate candidates in a way that is meant to determine their honesty and reduce the chance of hiring someone who might participate in fraudulent behavior, rip the company off, deal drugs at work or hoark things from the suppy cabinet.

The survey asks the same questions over and over in many different ways. What is the idea? Do they think they will trick me into a false memory?

Even after the third time they ask in a slightly altered way, I've still never used or distributed drugs in the workplace!

I have noticed these tests are most often sold to paranoid, perhaps gullible, small town companies probably by filling their decision-maker's imaginations with fearsome visions of the cruel world of the unwashed heathens outside their quaint under-sexed and bored main streets.

The result of my choice to deal in good faith with employers is that I refuse to comply with these ridiculous surveys which were "scientifically" designed by idiots. They weed me out, thanks to my dignity, even though I am not the drug using thief they fear. That person is probably not qualified for that job anyway. Nevermind the possibility they could lie and game the test.

I'd rather pee in a cup.

=sw

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Leopard Update

Ah the glorious and wonderful, laudable and noble dock menu hath returned in true Leopard form.

Seriously now, I know this is far too important to me. Though when one lives all ones life (except for time at the bar, with the ladies, enjoying the great outdoors or working out at the gym) on the computer, these things matter a lot.

Other than the glamorous 1920 x 1200 sized (not naked) pictures of my favorite actresses, the dock menu is the best looking thing on my screen...this week. HYPERBOLE!! Say it with me now... HYPERBOLE!! You there, on the left...yes you. You are actually saying "Hyper Bowl" and that's not quite right.



=sw

Monday, February 04, 2008

Seeing The Forest for the Green

As the "green" movement hype pushes to fever pitch, I have observed some wonderful human behavior that mocks rational thinking and demotes reason to a second class citizen.

I am a centrist in a way. Some of my convictions may seem to fall far from the middle to one side or the other, though I make my own platform based on the best information I can get combined with my own values and perspective.

I am often stunned by the views on the political right surrounding global warming. I also think some of their claims about hype are entirely valid, though they do not remove the reality we are facing.

First, what stuns me. Sometimes I hear an attitude of "counter arguing" global warming claims. A common one is "the sun is actually warming up, see how all the other planets are warming". This is usually said as if the conclusion can then be "see? we don't have to do anything...I can continue to live in a self-centric bubble and not care what happens to other people...everyone else is living like I do and anyway, Jesus will end the world long before anything we can do."

This thought pattern is eminently debunk-able and really beyond rational thinking. The Sun is naturally the most important source of warmth for the planets. This does not negate the solid "greenhouse effect" science of Carbon Dioxide, Methane and other molecules. If Solar warming is increasing (which is still the subject of some debate among scientists) then this only serves to intensify the greenhouse effect. The warming itself IS cause by the Sun (excluding geothermal warming), and the human greenhouse gas impact is what makes that a serious problem for climate change. Even without an increase in Solar warming levels, the greenhouse effect would continually warm our planet by trapping the more and more heat over time. Additional Solar warming only exacerbates the green house effect. It doesn't excuse mankind.




Therefore, We still have a problem to which we largely contributed.

Naturally, the ability of the atmosphere to keep heat is a wonderful thing at certain levels. This helps us make it through nights and winters. The problem is the runaway increase in temperatures caused by the presence of greenhouse gases in too much abundance. Our portion of that only adds to what the Earth naturally emits from volcanoes, fires or decomposing vegetation. The Earth also has natural sinks for CO2 like plant growth or the sea. By absorbing so many carbon molecules, The sea maybe be becoming more acidic than we'd like it to be. A process that will eventually end the life of some species.

Clearly warming is happening. Climate change is happening. Sea level rise is happening. Though it may seem it happens more slowly than we felt it might, given the urgency put forward by Al Gore, we have to remember that the warming can be additive and even exponential.

Now to the Conservative criticism that the Left is full of hype.

Conservatives do have a point when left wing celebrities pay lip service to the global warming and sea level rise problems while flying around the world, driving SUV's and purchasing beach front property that surely will be underwater soon if they keep living that way. I speak as if my smaller carbon foot print is not part of the problem. It all adds up.

I think this "hypocrisy" argument holds water, but that does not correct the problem of global warming from human emissions.

I have replaced all but one bulb (I kept the dimmer light) in my place with compact fluorescent bulbs:



This makes me feel great, but look at this:

My estimated carbon footprint:

Electrical use related emissions = 2 tons/year
Automotive related emissions = 8 tons/year
Natural Gas emissions = 2 tons/year





My compact fluorescent bulbs MIGHT reduce my electrical usage at home by maybe .4 tons per year.

Including Natural Gas, my Car and Electricity I am at about 12 tons/year. I install a bunch of bulbs and I am at 11.6 tons. Have I gone green? Perhaps a tiny bit.

Even so, is the CF bulb over hyped? It does cost greenhouse emissions just to manufacture and ship these bulbs. They can be heavier than the old bulbs, but they draw a lot less power and last longer. In the end, the mass purchase of these bulbs could reduce the need to manufacture the old kind, thereby not netting much increase on the "making and shipping" side of things. They do use less power and that means lower CO2 and mercury emissions (from coal fired power plants). Let's overlook the mercury they contain themselves. If all light bulbs became fluorescents the carbon impact of lighting would be reduced. But personally feeling much greener for having done it, is a bit over-hyped. It still made sense to do it.

This can all be counteracted by the dramatic growth of population in other countries. We are all in the same biosphere, so their emissions play a zero sum game with ours. If all the millions of incandescent light bulbs not sold to me get sold to the third world because the incandescent bulbs are cheaper...what have I really done for the environment?

Simply transferring American over-consumption to other nations does not reduce emissions at all.

Apparently, we should all be vegan monks who live in silent darkness and walk everywhere.

It must be tough to an animal lover when saving the world means not only refusing to eat the cows, but culling all the cattle as well.

Sometimes you can get the impression that people think it's always other people's over-consumption that is the cause of their own inconvenience. Some act as if it is other people's over-breeding, other people's showers that are too long or thermostats that are too high. If all the poorer people could just live a more meager and lowly existence, then the jet-setting, fine dining life of luxury could continue, uninterrupted, for those who have it.

Tree planting is another common myth-laden issue. Trees will mostly return their CO2 to the atmosphere when they eventually rot and burn. They are at best a temporary sink to buy time. Even if they stay as beams in a house, they will be prepped and treated with greenhouse gas emitting processes and they have to be shipped from where they grew to where they are used. Trees are nice, they are not "THE" answer.

Ultimately, it will take a lot of changes. Maybe the bulbs are in the right spirit and other similar reductions can help. All of my effort, even if I convinced 150,000 friends, will of course be wiped out on Super Bowl Sunday. Even though they try to reduce emissions, it is overshadowed by the huge cost in greenhouse emissions holding the event generates. I don't think we should cancel all that is fun, though real solutions that have a meaningful impact are yet to arrive.

=sw

Friday, February 01, 2008

Microsoft and Yahoo!

The exclamation point is part of the Yahoo! name. That may give you an idea bout how I feel about this proposed merger.

I must lament... oh must it be?

does Microsoft have to further defile all that is good, holy and silicon valley?

must the one Mircosoft Way replace the Web Your Way!!! .........

must I be made to pine for the old days? can't Yahoo! merge with a nice neighbor like Apple or even Sun. I get that Google is a competitor and Microsoft wants to compete. But our precious ?

I remember having to stop using Hotmail when Microsoft bought them out. I was ok with occasionally tolerating IE for work testing and MSN Messenger for lowest common denominator PC users who just won't trouble themselves to try something else. But this is like a punch to the gut. It's like having Volkswagen get bought by GM. Nobody wants to lose what's great about Yahoo! to the Microsoft machine.

oh ?

Now, everyone, join with me and sing the Yahoo! anthem. Maybe if enough of us sing, we will ward off the impending evil. Feel free to wave your arms in the air. You might look retarded, but it's all about how you feel. Click the album cover below:



=sw