Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Bright Ideas

Years ago, when I lived on a tropical island just north of the great continent of Australia, I would run into the lone or pair of Australian tourists enjoying the moderate Muslim culture in which I lived daily.  I think it was at an ex-patriot dinner party where the length of the evening found many had slid into more than moderate drinking and comfortably into politically incorrect talks, that an Australian fellow on his fourth (or fifth) bottle of beer said he would never want to live in America.  What a bunch of wussies we were.  Rules and more rules.  "My God you cannot spit on the sidewalk without some Jack telling you to hold your spit." 

Of course, most of us who live in the U.S. do not see that kind of  petty rule enforcement and we are probably the first to take a somewhat dim view of police officers wasting their time on such.  Unlike Singapore we CAN chew gum in public.

Still many Americans think we are a land of too many regulations which put a stranglehold on business and growth.  This may be true, but I have been unable to get a small business owner to give me an actual example of some ridiculous/unnecessary rule that brought his business to a standstill or cost an unreasonable fee as a follow-up to his statement. They are there, but we cannot protest against them if we do not publicize them.

BUT I can think of rules that I want kept in place that protect citizens from highway robbery.  For instance we now have more homeowners using solar and wind power to reduce their consumption of energy.  This costs them money up front in setup, but over time the effort reduces the size of the bill from the power company.  Every dollar saved by a homeowner reduces revenue for power companies.  The power company may attempt to tack on fees if you install a renewable system, and they may try to charge you for sending power back to them by a process fee.  Currently we have regulations that do not allow utilities to raise the cost of energy just because they are selling us less and they want to improve their profits!  I like this rule because heating our homes is a necessity, unlike other things we may buy. 

Other consumers are buying more efficient appliances that reduce their consumption of power from the grid. Replacing light bulbs with high efficiency LEDS means you use up to 80% less electricity. Smart thermostats cut back on use of heat or air-conditioning when no one is at home.  All of these are cutting into the bottom line of your utility company.  I can guarantee you if we did not have consumer protection regulations, you would be using less energy from utility companies and paying just as much if not more for that.

This is just one of the many, many regulations I support.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Thinking, thinking.....

The news of the world that has ramped down my mood with its dystopian stories has cut me low and lost.  I keep searching for a post that is worth both your and my time.  I find that any ideas are like die rattling in my head and I am rolling no numbers.  I am leaving Wednesday early for travel and have a post written at a prior time that will post tomorrow.  Maybe I will have time on my trip?

The sniper and my fear (years ago) where I worked?
The update on the situation with my math student?
The book(s) I am reading?
My travel over Thanksgiving?

I am open to ideas....

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Liberty, Egality, Fraternity

AND of course I  also weep for Beirut, Syria and other places where religious craziness and  pathological anger kill innocent men women and children.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Challenge of Things to Come--Thursday 13 more depressing thoughts...unless you add you own.  But here are some facts (most gleaned without added footnote links) for you to actually add to your arsenal of knowledge.  If it takes only a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun, it takes only a good brain with factual data to stop a bad idea or foresee and avoid the consequences of said bad idea...or some such paraphrase like that.

  1. We are just a short way away from making cancer a chronic illness and not a deadly disease.
  2. We are going to use fetal cell research to create animals to grow for harvesting organs or for testing drugs on diseases (probably mostly pigs).  This may lead to repair of that ugly facial  damage you got as a kid or the better replacement of a heart.
  3. Drone photography is becoming the tool of the day for real be sure you are not nude sunbathing if you live next to that house with the For Sale sign.
  4. With the enormous expansion of video and photo sharing apps you can now be found on the Internet whether you like it or not.
  5. There is very little you can do on the Internet that is not shared with some company that wants your money.  Do you have familiar ads stocking you?  They have decided, based on your searches, that you want/need what they have to offer.
  6. Scientists are now researching ways to use technology in human brains to help understand why we feel the way we do.  This might be expanded to help find soldiers in the field who need medical assistance.
  7. UCLA did a study and found that most children, having unsupervised time with technology, had trouble recognizing emotions in others.  I just want to that due to the time with technology or the lack of time being supervised?
  8. Is technology 'soulless' if it can read your feelings using input from your body?
  9. There is a new lab in London that wants to research all kinds of technology and humans.  You may not want to volunteer but there are many who will. 
  10. I have a friend on FB who has developed a device that you wear that monitors how Zen you are as you work.  It helps to lower your stress so that you are more productive.
  11. Some researchers are monitoring a possible solar storm in ten years that could wipe out our use of technology as we know it...but do not worry because the government has plans to be prepared for such an event.
  12. Facebook is already using a digital assistant called "M" that makes reservations, coordinates order delivery and sends reminders.  It does require a human 'robot helper' at this time.
  13. All is not lost because China, UK, and USA are coming together in their searches for solutions to common apolitical problems.  Scientists and intellectuals come together in one place... the best students, faculty and industry experts from around the world, and apply their talents to solving the challenges of our time.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Just a Few More Weeks

Winter is less than a month away, although our fall has been oddly warm.  It was 80F two days ago!  I got my daughter-in-laws bulb-garden-birthday-gift almost complete and looking forward to what she will see in the spring.

I came back to find that my clematis has put forth two blooms and my cosmos seeds (volunteers) have sprouted as seedlings.  They will die, but it was a surprise.

I also am enjoying the abundance of our garden that remains.

This Swiss chard is huge but very tender.

Lots of lettuce and bok choy for salads and side dishes and fried rice.

The last of these sweet long peppers are almost too pretty to eat.

And it does look like strawberry jam in the spring.  This bed is out of control!

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Tilting at the World

There were a few of my readers that felt the discussion of a dystopian future in the prior post was too overwhelming and depressing for thought.  There are those who are in the hands of God and feel they have no understanding of the future or what God has in mind and therefore focus on the day to day.  There are others who feel evil is a constant battle to be waged and they will pass tools onto the next generation to keep mankind safe and whole.  Then there are people, like me, who tend to be agnostic about the whole process, always refusing to give up the challenge, but also feeling the battle will not be easy and each turn must be analyzed carefully and sometimes solutions are very hidden behind our prejudices.  I know there is a precious goodness in mankind that means we will return whether in small numbers or large to restore beauty and love to the earth and to humankind no matter what dark days we go through.  Whether we are fighting religious fundamentalists, Bible belt salesmen, the unexpected results of our technology, or deeply greedy and evil leaders, we must prevail in our vesting of this planet and this civilization.   I also feel strongly that we cannot forget.  We cannot allow evil history to be buried and forgotten or we will continue to make the same mistakes.  We cannot be afraid that there is not enough to go around.  We cannot see human groups as "others."   They are us and that is sometimes frightening.

Evil can be difficult to understand because as writer Primo Levi says, "nor should you understand it, but it is a sacred duty not to understand, and that to understand something is to subsume it within yourself and we cannot do that."

Can you not look as a small child's face and know that your job is to stay aware and to always be brave?  You are their guardians of their future and you must prepare them before you hand over the reins to the young in the days to come.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

The Future is Somewhat Dystopian

I just finished reading a book that explained to me that my desire for a strong middle class is a futile wish.  This segment of society will diminish as technology replaces the more mundane jobs and tasks within those jobs, including writing scientific theories(!) and even teaching.  This is already happening with computers collecting and analyzing data for everything from how our blood reacts to drugs to how a product can sell to the why of the disappearance of some esoteric insect.  We just need a handful of people to understand the data that drives an answer.  All that will be needed is about 10% in each profession to be the bridge between the computer and man or the designer and tinkerer of technology.  But since these, about 10%to 15%,  will be very well paid, the upper class will grow.

The disappearance of jobs means competition will be fierce and the victory will go to the focused and very smart students who understand the technology, those students for whom numbers are a fascinating puzzle, those who like cyphers.  Robots can replace all the low end jobs and even things that are not supposed to be jobs such as sex.  The poor class will grow larger.

Then the author goes on to say that there will be no class revolution.  The poor will have lots of cheap food, cheap entertainment and cheap housing to numb them.  They will accept that this is their lot in life.  They will not be the beneficiaries of cheap health care, though.  Since it is paid for by others, it will be parceled out even more judiciously and sparingly.  I am not saying I agree with this, just reporting on what was written.

The book is titled "Average is Over" by Tyler Cowen, recommended to me by our financial adviser, who should be most worried about his job  with the growth of the use of computers to crunch numbers....

P.S.  This view neglects the importance of creative thought and creativity in all the art forms that we love.