Archive for the ‘random musings’ Tag

With regard to daylight savings

It’s worth noting that upon googling ‘anti daylight savings’, the link to an anti-DST opinion at Daily Kos is immediately followed by an anti-DST opinion at the National Review.

Clearly, this is a bipartisan issue if ever there was one. Time (no pun intended) to do away with DST once and for all. It serves no purpose anymore, other than screwing up millions of people’s lives twice a year.

Stray thoughts on the upcoming conclave

I think the single most fascinating thing is that this is the first conclave I can think of where the College of Cardinals has been able to get the feel of the public well before the actual voting starts.

Whether or not that’s happening, I don’t know, but they don’t exist in a vacuum. I have to wonder how many are at least aware of the betting sites and commentary and all, and how much some of them will weigh public expectations when they fill in their slip of paper.

I think the pre-conclave buzz over Turkson is probably hurting him now. I don’t think the Europeans can coalesce around a single candidate to elect a European, and the strongest European candidate, Schoenborn, is probably hurt by being an Austrian — too close to another German. I doubt strongly that the Italians can ‘reclaim’ the office. I expect the next pope will be young (at least relatively), and more a pastor than a professor. Personally, I think it will be Braz de Aviz of Brazil, or Tagle of the Philippines, but handicapping a Conclave is not unlike Kremlinology in the 1980s — guesswork on a good day.

I’ve been idly wondering about the regnal name — all I can say for certain is that it won’t be Peter II. I expect it won’t be John Paul III or Benedict XVII — those names are going to both have a cool-down period, I think. I shouldn’t be too surprised if there’s a John XXIV by the end of the month. Something simple and accessible.

So I was thinking, again.

I’m going to be 50 this year, and it really doesn’t scare me, not the way 40 did. I got the ol’ salt and pepper going, I wear bifocals, I take glucosamine supplements to keep my knees from sounding like Rice Krispies, and my digestion isn’t what it was 20 years ago, and in gay years it means I’m already dead, but you know what? If this is going-on-50, it doesn’t suck. Mentally, I still feel twenty-something, and I feel like I still have half my life ahead of me rather than most of it over with.

Heh. Back when I was going on 40, I kept seeing things saying ’40 is the new 30!’

Now I’m seeing ’50 is the new 30!’

Well, hell, if I can just keep resetting to 30 every ten years, I don’t mind that. Anyone care to wager if 60 will be the new 30 in ten years?

I will say this: there are a few things I want to live long enough to see.

I want to see equal marriage rights across the country. I give it about a 65% chance of happening this year or next, depending on when the cases hit the Supreme Court.

I want to see another manned landing on the Moon, and I don’t care which country does it. I give it 75% within the next 15 years. I want to live to see us reach Mars with people rather than robots. 40% within the next 30 years.

I want to see microbial life discovered on another planet or moon in our system. I give it 50% for Mars (once we get a mission to where the water is — permafrost, polar caps, or northern frozen sea if that theory pans out), 60% for Europa, and 15% for Titan. Everything we’ve seen about life just on our own planet is that once it gets a foothold, it doesn’t let go and it will find a way to make a living. As long as Mars’ climate change from warm and wet to cold and dry wasn’t catastrophic, I think any life that arose early on found a way to adapt. It won’t be more than microbes, but microbes would be enough. Europa, we need to get under the ice. It’s quite possible, maybe even likely, that the tidal stress Jupiter puts on it is enough to keep its core molten and therefore it should have an active geology — see Io — which means something quite like the black smokers in the Atlantic are likely there. If microbial life ever took hold, it’s had plenty of time to become multicellular, and maybe even more complex. As for Titan, I’d love to have something turn up there just to see life based on something other than water. It’s not likely… but something has to explain the excess acetylene in its atmosphere, and life is a possible source for that. You have a solvent and an energy source… whether it was enough to ever start anything, I don’t know, but if it did, wouldn’t cold methane life be an astonishing and awesome thing to be able to study?

I want one confirmed SETI signal. Given the size of the galaxy and all the other variables involved (I think the most difficult is: will we even recognize it when we see it?), I’m going to give it 1% within the next 50 years — but 100% within the next thousand.

I’d also like a MegaMillions hit. I put the odds of that at 0+ε% :)

The lessons the GOP should learn from this election… but won’t

1. Losing ground in an election that was theirs to win is not a mandate.

John Boehner claimed a Republican mandate; considering his party failed to capture the White House, lost ground in the Senate, and at best will only manage to hold the line in the House, that’s among the more ludicrous things said by any politician and indicates self delusion matched only by Baghdad Bob.  If the American public issued a mandate, it was that it’s time to grow up and go to work, and that a Republican policy position of “NO!” is no longer tenable.  Since most of the victims have been freshman teabaggers, you’d think that would be an easy lesson to learn, but Republican knee-jerk obstructionism goes deep, and American patience has its limits.  The only Republican who came out well from all this is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.


2. Demographics change

Even if they get away with their policy of “NO!”, time is going to cut their base out from under them.  They’ve been living on borrowed time on Nixon’s Southern Strategy, which relied on white anger against the Civil Rights movement to turn the Solid South for the Democrats into the Solid South for the Republicans.  The old South is changing, though, and the last generations that were born and raised in the segregated South are not going to be around that much longer.  Look at the broad swathe of blue through the South in the county results; Dixie is fractured right up the middle, and with the growth of a minority-majority America, that crack is only going to become a fissure, and then a canyon, into which all GOP electoral hopes will fall.  Virginia’s a full-blown swing state now, and North Carolina’s on the edge.  Considering the GOP’s substantial voter gap with Hispanic Americans, it won’t be long before Florida is reliably blue and Texas is a swing state.  If the GOP doesn’t reach out past tokenism, and doesn’t change track from its elitism, it’s going to be reduced to a minority party of the mountain states and high plains.


3. We are electing politicians, not priests.

The Republicans’ reliance on the laissez-faire economic Libertarians taking advantage of Talebangelical right-wing “christians” is on shaky ground.  The free marketeers have been dealt a major setback with Romney’s defeat, which is going to open the way for one of the religious extremists grab for nomination in 2016.  And that candidate is going to go down to an epic defeat, because he or she will be so monumentally out of sync with where the country actually is.  Keep in mind that the fastest-growing belief segment is ‘none of the above’ — not just atheists and agnostics, but various non-Christians, and the spiritual but not church-bound, who number about 20% in all as of last counting, and most of whom feel alienated by the GOP’s narrow-minded religious extremism.  So if the Republicans run someone in the mold of a Santorum or Bachman, all the Democrat will have to do is have a pulse, and not drool on camera.  Personally, I’d welcome that — it would send the party to the wilderness for a decade or so, and they might come back having learned some humility.

Stray thoughts

I haven’t posted an entry for a while (discounting the brief one I just did), so this is going to be a mish-mash of a lot of things that have been on my mind.

Let’s start with NASA, Curiosity, and Mars: YEEEAAH!  I watched the landing online.  And I jumped up and yelled and cried when word came back that all was well.  And then I went to the BBC News website (my preferred news source, since they actually do weird things like… report the news, real news, not celebrity antics masquerading as news and distracting people from things that really matter) to do battle with the commentors who were inevitably going to say that it was a waste of money.

First and foremost: it’s not a waste of money.  There was a Chase Econometrics study done in the wake of the Apollo missions.  D’you know what it found?  It found that every $1 spent on the project generated $14 in the terrestrial economy.  That is what I call a return on investment.

Consider what we spend on NASA as a percentage of the annual budget.  No, it’s not twenty or ten or even five percent.  It’s $18.4 billion – or 0.48%.  That’s all.  That’s the tiny amount begrudged the program–while corporate welfare accounts for about $100 billion of the budget.  Oh, and how much is spent on social welfare programs?  About half that.  So arguments about the cost of NASA don’t cut much cloth.  We could double social spending and still have another $50 billion to spend on NASA if we’d quit bankrolling private corporate interests.

I’ll have more to say about it later — I’m still settling my thoughts — but I’ve been contemplating the Long Now Foundation and the idea of truly long-term thinking.  Seeing as how most long term thinking in the world consists of trying to decide on what to have for lunch when it’s already 10.30 in the morning, I’m finding the perspective shift refreshing.

Third: Romney/Ryan.  No shock.  Romney needed someone to bring in the teabaggers who aren’t really convinced about him.

The danger to the public aside, I think it’s funny that the GOP convention might get hit by a hurricane.  Funny as in funny how you never hear “it’s god’s punishment/judgment/whatever” when it happens to them, but if it were the Democratic convention, it would be the televangelist talking point for weeks.

Duh, that’s why it’s called classic literature and why it’s still around.

I bought an ebook reader this morning; the price was right, and it’ll be kinda nice to be able to carry a library with me instead of just a book.

It was pre-loaded with a lot of stuff from Project Gutenberg, some of which I’ll be keeping, and some of which I’ve already deleted. The Holmes stuff stays, let there be no doubt about that. And it’ll be neat to have digital editions of our old ‘zine/APA in there as I convert them all slowly to digital format.

Anyway, I was sorting through the files, a lot of which is in the “classic literature” category that has never really appealed to me — Dickens, Austen, Melville, that sort of thing. The stuff they make you read in high school lit classes.

And in there is a translation of Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot”.

Now, I’ve never read Dostoevsky, in Russian or English — and my Russian is too far gone now for me to do anything more than clumsily sound out each incomprehensible word. So I opened the file, thinking it monstrously unfair to nuke it unread.

And read the whole thing (it’s not that long to begin with) in one sitting, even though I had a blazing headache.

That’s how classic literature becomes classic literature, isn’t it? It’s so damn readable!

Anyway, I’m still sorting through what to keep and what’s to go, and what my ‘permanent library’ should be. I’m keeping the Conan Doyle, Twain and Carroll and nuking the Dickens, Austen and Melville — everything else, I haven’t decided yet. I think I’m probably keeping The Art of War — I dipped into it and found it intriguing. And then I need to go to Gutenberg and get Jekyll and Hyde, and some ERB.

On matters nuclear

I’m not a big fan of nuclear power, mainly because of the human side of the equation. Our “friendly neighborhood” nuke plants were Fermi in Detroit (victim of a partial meltdown) and Davis-Besse (responsible for two of the five most serious civilian incidents in the US since 1979, according to the NRC).

However, current energy needs do not admit to a non-nuclear solution until we have wider-spread and higher-efficiency renewable sources.

That said, when you are looking at places to site a nuclear plant, does it not make sense to not put it somewhere that there is an active offshore fault, the presence of which makes a combined earthquake and tsunami inevitable over time? Or if you must put it there, that precautions against both should be taken?

Let’s be clear. The containment vessels far outperformed what they were designed to handle. What let the Fukushima facility down is the failure of the support facilities, which it now seems clear were not designed to survive what the reactors were designed to survive.

Unfortunately, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and now not only is there a growing radioactive leak, but even the reactors that were already shut down are at risk.

Can we afford a non-nuclear future? No, not in the short term. However, the lesson is clear: site plants in geologically stable areas, harden them against whatever the local environment can throw against them, and adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward corner-cutting, specifically including jailing executives, not just slap-on-the-wrist fines.

Ding Dong the DADT is Dead

And good riddance to it. It’s a policy that has cost us nearly 70 Arabic and Farsi speakers in a time when all branches of the military are suffering acute shortages of specialists in those languages. Apparently shaming gays for being gay is more important than actually collecting live intelligence so we can better protect our troops.

DADT was a bad idea to begin with; before, gays were banned because they were considered a ‘security risk’ because it was assumed that they were blackmail targets just for being gay. Rather than lift the stigma, DADT codified it, ensuring that gays and lesbians in the military were blackmail targets for anyone who knew they were gay.

Of course, the Repubs (with a few exceptions), who claim to be the party of the strong military, found themselves at odds with the JCS, the Department of Defense, and the bulk of the services themselves, all of whom agree that there’s no reason gays and lesbians can’t serve openly in the military. Again, I guess it’s more important to hate gays than actually support the troops.

And who ate John McCain’s brain, anyway?

While we’re at it, let’s take a quick look at the military that arguably has to be the most prepared on the planet: Israel. They ended gay exclusion completely in 1993. Subsequent effect on preparedness, effectiveness and morale? Nil.

Anyway, a welcome end to a bad policy.

How time flies.

Hard to believe it’s been 30 years since that terrible night in New York City when a madman killed John Lennon for… well, no real reason other than his own madness (various highly dubious conspiracy theories notwithstanding). I had made plans to drop in on my old high school the following day, and when there, ran into a friend who was also a Beatles fan—he was completely dressed in black, in mourning.

I think maybe that’s the wrong way to commemorate Lennon, though. I think I plan instead to smile a little more at strangers today.

Anyway, I’ve made a return to one of the first places I worked for in Columbus; I got placed at Franklin County Children Services (on my birthday, no less), where I had been working when I got married back in ’93. Different division, though. Temp placement, no idea how long it’s going to last.

It’s mainly an exercise in typing without comprehension. Partly it’s because I’m not a caseworker and it’s none of my business, mostly it’s because I really don’t want to know.

The mental procedure is disturbingly similar to what Orwell described in the appendix to Nineteen Eighty Four as ‘crimestop’ (or more prosaically as ‘protective stupidity’). The material is dealt with only and exactly as long as it takes to transfer the letters comprising the words to the correct part of the screen, and then they just unexist. Sitting here right now, I could not tell you any of the names that came across my screen last night (with the exception of one unusual first name–but the last name is completely lost to me), or more importantly, any of the allegations made.

Who’d’ve thought creeping senility could be a job skill?

Happy Answer Day!

It’s 10/10/10 — and 101010 is binary for 42. :D