Current location: California
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 26,048
Current location: California
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 26,048
I'm a very dangerous fellow when I don't know what I'm doing.
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In my mind, the most absurd isms are the sports hooliganisms. You riot because "your" sports team won or lost? That's mad.
But mostly sports isms are relatively harmless compared to religion and nationalism. (Patriotism is a flavor of nationalism...) Vast numbers of people die in those tribal disputes.
I was raised Jehovah's Witness and then Quaker, thanks to my mom's rebellion against the various Catholic vs. Protestant vs. every other "Judeo-Christian" religion disputes that plagued my ancestors. (I'm PTSD about Christmas because when I was a child it was a time of religious warfare within my family.)
I didn't say the Pledge of Allegiance in school, I didn't even stand up for it. I was already one of the weird kids and that just cemented it.
Okay, I'm a little proud of my Wild West heritage. My great grandmas were all fierce Wild West matriarchs skilled with knives, guns, and horses; the sort who could kill a bad man and call their friend the county sheriff-coroner to clean up the mess and file the proper paperwork.
My U.S.A. Civil War heritage is interesting. My ancestors were all living in U.S. territory at the time, but none partook of it.
"Bob?" Bob's not here.
One of my grandfathers was a Conscientious Objector in World War II, the other an Army Air Force officer.
My pacifist grandpa was offered a choice of prison or building and repairing ships for the Merchant Marine as a welder. He built and repaired ships. Both my grandpas were metal wizards. My Army Air Force grandpa mysteriously acquired a knack for titanium and other exotic metals during the war and was later an engineer for the Apollo project.
Everyone is searching for the thing that makes them "special." My formal training as an evolutionary biologist convinced me that everything we humans are will be nothing more than a peculiar layer of trash in the geologic record someday. Ball Point Pen Balls.
Does that make me special?
Posted by hunter | Sun Apr 23, 2017, 02:31 PM (0 replies)
Dropped on your driveway, FREE.
Your neighbor is growing them in his backyard like zucchini. They're tough panels too, like tire rubber, will last a good ten or fifteen years on your roof, maybe more.
So you buy a grid tie inverter, hire some roofers and electricians, and it's solar utopia, right?
Sadly, even in that fantastic scenario, I can't make the damned math work, and I can't save the world.
Can't do it with nuclear power or magical fusion power systems either.
A sustainable society looks nothing like the high energy society many DU members now enjoy, especially when it's extended to all the billions of people who now exist on this earth.
I'm not a "doomer." I think we already have the technologies we need to mitigate some of the worst horrors of our excesses. What we lack is the will, and the inclination to help our neighbors. We've already got climate change refugees, and soon-to-be refugees. We've got people who deny there's any problem. We've got people eagerly anticipating their fossil-fueled entry into our world economy and our "consumer" lifestyle. And we've got people chasing after pretty, impossible dreams of sporty electric cars powered by solar panels and wind turbines.
The trouble is 8, 10, 12 billion or more people can't live like affluent U.S. Americans without destroying what's left of this planet's natural and sustaining environment.
But maybe we can feed everyone, find comfortable homes and communities for everyone who is displaced, establish a universal medical care system robust enough to prevent plagues even as the climate changes in ways favorable to disease organisms, and most of all, stop fighting.
How do you create a low energy, low environmental impact society in which most people are happy, their communities thriving, and at peace with their neighbors?
New technologies may or may not be helpful, but that's not the answer.
Posted by hunter | Thu Apr 20, 2017, 11:01 PM (2 replies)
My own perception of time is a little twisted. I don't know why, but the narratives in my head fade in and out sometimes. Déjà vu and dread are constant companions. At times (heh, he said "times") I'm deliberately ignoring the narrative voice or voices in my head. We humans do what we do, and then another part of our physical brain makes up a story for it; a reason. Powerful psych meds with some irritating side effects keep me somewhat functional in this society; I suspect in less clock-calendar-and-linear-narrative obsessed society I'd do a little better. Maybe I wouldn't have to take meds at all.
I think our human perception of time, and our insistence on narrative, blinds us to many aspects of the universe we live in. A lot of it is cultural, but most of it is genetic. Every one of your ancestors, all the way back to the beginning of life on earth, survived to reproduce. Most every perception that wasn't conductive to that (even single cell life forms perceive) has been ruthlessly edited out by natural selection.
When I exam the physics of our situation, everything we think we know is an interference pattern written in light. E=mc2 doesn't mean matter can be converted to energy as most people think (atomic bombs go boom!), it means matter *is* energy and energy *is* matter. Yet photons know no time.
The universe is very big, the human mind is very small. There are many things we humans will never know; things we will never be able to comprehend.
I'm not a mystic in any way, I'm rather autistic in some ways and a fan of Richard Feynman and Houdini. Spiritualism and quantum physics don't mix. I don't have any patience with anyone's Tesla electric cosmologies, homeopathy, or power of positive thinking because, you know, quantum physics! crap. Faster than light travel, and time travel, so popular in science fiction, are eternal fantasy too, no more "real" than wizards and dragons and comic book superheros.
I enjoyed Arrival immensely, a story told as a gestalt, not as a "first this happened, then this, then this, then this..." narrative. And the visitors didn't fly in our out, they were just there and tangible to us, and then they were not. Our own lives in this universe are like that.
Posted by hunter | Thu Apr 20, 2017, 01:33 PM (1 replies)
... to hang themselves.
Even when they fail that, the occasional raised-eyebrow and very British tone-of-incredulity cracks me up, especially when the person they are interviewing doesn't pick up on it and keeps blathering on. In the U.S.A, only our comedians are allowed to do that, people like Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert. American journalists live in fear of unemployment and rat-fucks. Look what happened to Dan Rather. Most U.S. journalists turn to mush at the slightest challenge.
I don't think the BBC is unbiased, but their biases are predictable and consistent.
NPR and PBS frequently disappoint me. At times I curse them as "Fox News for people who think they are too intelligent for Fox News." They are too timid, too afraid of upsetting their mega-sponsors and their affluent white subscribers, too afraid of venturing out beyond comfort zone of people who listen to the market report because they are invested in the market and not living paycheck to paycheck, terrified the old cars they drive to work will quit working and they won't be able to pay the rent.
I used to subscribe to KQED when my kids were small, I loved watching Sesame Street and Bill Nye the Science Guy with them, and we couldn't afford cable television. I custom built a directional UHF antenna just so we could receive them.
My kids are adults now. My wife and I don't watch any broadcast, cable, or satellite television anymore. Our television is a movie player, that's all it does. No advertising, no "supported by some-foundation-established-by-fascists-I-despise." My radios are mostly useless, except that I recently discovered The Moth Radio Hour which I should send some money too because I love story-telling and it would be a nice "fuck you" to all that medical debt attached to my name and social security number, enough to buy a very nice house in most of the U.S.A.
Posted by hunter | Sun Apr 9, 2017, 01:55 PM (1 replies)
... and today's political circus, whatever horrors become of it, will be forgotten.
I think I chose one of the least lucrative biology majors, but I'd be a mess if I hadn't learned to think in geological time scales.
Holy crap, I could identify Foraminifera, but I didn't get a job with an oil company like one of my buddies did. I thought I'd be a science teacher instead. I burnt out on that quickly, but I'm not dead.
10,000 years from now, an instant in this planet's history, an instant even in human history, none of it matters. Trump is nothing. The Republican Party is nothing.
That doesn't mean I've retreated. Politically I'm fierce and it's because I have such a firm foundation in science, in REALITY. I don't have to accept or tolerate ignorance and anti-intellectualism.
I've dug up fossils, I've found bits of interesting bone in tar and dirt, and I've sifted archaeological sites on the Eastern Sierra.
On those time scales Trump is a silent-but-literally-deadly fart in the wind.
Every day I'm thinking of ways to minimize the damage, and I'm hoping this is beach where the Party of Ronald Reagan dies.
Trump reminds me a lot of Ronald Reagan. He's a tool. So is Pence.
I once attended a public event with Reagan, during his second term. I was riding on some slightly purloined press credentials. What I saw was a confused old man who didn't know where the hell he was or what he was doing there. But he had some acting skills and managed to fire off a few sound bites for the TV cameras and other lackey press. It was among the saddest things I've ever witnessed. Trump reminds me of that.
Posted by hunter | Sat Apr 8, 2017, 12:16 AM (0 replies)
My grandma was exactly the sort who'd inexplicably have two hand grenades in her refrigerator. She was a bag lady who happened to own a house and a good pension too but she had to be removed from her house as a danger to herself and others. No nursing home would tolerate her for long so she'd end up living with my parents in the master bedroom with her equally awful cat. I have scars on my body from the cat and scars in my head from my grandma. It doesn't help that I've inherited at least a quarter of my grandma's crazy. Fortunately there are good meds for that now.
Thankfully my grandma didn't pass her smoking habit on to me so I'll probably live at least as long as her crazy mom did. My grandma's mom was True Hard Wild West. As a kid I'd watch mesmerized as she'd cut apart fish, birds, and small mammals for dinner, sometimes still steaming with body heat, faster than I could follow the movements of her hands. My great grandma was also the sort who'd've killed any bad man who'd crossed her and then called her friend the sheriff-coroner to clean up the mess and file the proper papers. All four of my great grandmas were steely eyed women of the Wild West, skilled in the arts of guns, knives, and words that cut to the bone.
When I'm in my nineties I'll consider myself successful if they find something scary in my refrigerator. A plutonium battery or some glow-in-the-dark tritium, even a bit of antimatter would be pretty damned cool. But the testicles of my enemies, fingers, and other Berserker trophies, not so much. We're not pacifists in my family for any noble reasons, it's mostly by necessity.
Posted by hunter | Sat Feb 25, 2017, 10:35 PM (0 replies)
By Tim Harford
BBC World Service
Back in the mid-1990s, an economist called William Nordhaus conducted a series of simple experiments with light.
First, he used a prehistoric technology: he lit a wood fire.
But Prof Nordhaus also had a piece of hi-tech equipment with him - a Minolta light meter.
He burned 20lb (9kg) of wood, kept track of how long it burned for and carefully recorded the dim, flickering firelight with his meter.
Imagine now if we all used as little artificial light as Benjamin Franklin did... a few one watt LEDs would be adequate. But that's not how it works.
There's an LED streetlight in front of our house that's crazy bright. Fortunately it's directed onto the streets and sidewalks better than the sodium vapor streetlight it replaced, which was always casting it's eerie orange glow into our house. The LED lamp is more like natural moonlight.
I've got seven nine watt LED can lights blazing down into my kitchen. They brighten up the room considerably, even when it's sunny outside, thus they are always on when I'm cooking. I value my fingers when I'm using a sharp knife, and I want to see the quality of my food.
So it's all a matter of expectations and income. I expect a bright kitchen and I can easily afford the lamps and the electricity.
Do I need all this light? No. I'm pretty sure I could live without the streetlights, without the bright light in the kitchen. I suspect I could be quite comfortable with a one amp electrical service to my house rather than a ninety amp electrical service. (This is green California. 90 Amp service is residential building code minimum, not 200.) Do I live as if I have a one amp service? No. I just put a load of clothes in the washing machine and that draws more than one amp of 118 volts electricity. But we could build a washing machine that uses less.
These questions become even stickier when we consider transportation. Are automobiles and airliners necessary things?
I don't think we are going to solve any of our environmental problems by technological improvements. If we chose to reduce our fossil fuel use then we have to reduce our fossil fuel use. That means shutting down fossil fuel power plants, and shutting down the refineries that make transportation fuels, and letting the chips fall where they may. Solar, wind, and other energy technologies are not going to magically replace fossil fuels.
I often do the thought experiment of "what would happen if solar panels were FREE? Would they replace gas fired power plants?" No they would not. There is a certain cost of installing and maintaining solar panels, and storing the energy they produce for times when the sun is not shining is not a trivial problem.
What might happen instead is that more gas power plants would be built to back up the "free" solar power as more people in the world begin to enjoy the kind of lighting I enjoy in my kitchen, and the kinds of machines that wash my clothes.
I wouldn't even call this any kind of paradox.
Instead I consider it a flaw of our economic system. This thing we call "economic productivity" is in fact a direct measure of the damage we are doing to the earth's natural environment and our own human spirit.
The sort of "work ethic" our society celebrates is killing us. These sorts of work ethics are of great temporary utility in warrior cultures and that's why they spread, but they are unsustainable in the long run.
GliderGuider has expressed the same sort of opinions in more existential terms, but mostly I'm just musing on how easy it is to become a shill for innovative technologies that won't "save" us unless we make fundamental changes in the way we approach environmental problems.
"More stuff!" is what got us into this mess. More stuff, even stuff judged good and economically desirable by certain environmental activists, won't get us out of this mess.
Posted by hunter | Mon Feb 6, 2017, 01:39 PM (10 replies)
Doctors are increasingly forced to practice "assembly line" medicine.
The patients come through their offices and emergency rooms like chocolates on a conveyor belt.
It's a false kind of productivity.
My vacation to the psych ward was my second bounce. On my first trip to the E.R. they gave me some powerful meds and sent me on my way in less than 24 hours.
A week later I was in worse shape.
I don't really remember my first day in the psych ward because I was hallucinating so badly, and paranoid. I remember wandering the halls late at night when some cheerful nurse caught up with me and gave me some meds I just took without question. Then he led me back to my bed and I sat there for a time. There may or may not have been a blood draw too. I figured if they were going to kill me, with pills or needles, or anything else, that was okay. I was just done.
Since then I've been taking some pretty powerful meds, but they seem to be working, except for some of the OCD stuff I've always suffered, much of it useless. I've become very chatty here on DU, and I can chew on computer code for hours at a time, my current obsession being image processing and compression algorithms, especially those that require minimal cpu horsepower.
Once again I've learned how important it is to have a support network of family and friends because here in the U.S.A. the social "safety nets" are very unreliable or non-existent, especially for those of us who suffer more severe forms of mental illness.
Posted by hunter | Fri Jan 20, 2017, 12:14 PM (0 replies)
The ACA pulled the health insurance industry's feet out of the fire.
Other plans for reforming U.S. healthcare might have severely damaged their revenue streams.
The insurance industry doesn't want to go back to the way it was. I'm certain they've got their lobbyists pushing back against Republicans who would repeal "Obamacare."
That's what the optimistic voices in my head are saying.
The pessimistic voices are saying that we'll be getting our health care from Wal-Mart clinics managed by twenty-somethings who've had three weeks of training on how to enter your medical issues on a secure web page form, read the automated diagnosis, and have a prescription prepared for you. Each patient's electronic diagnosis will be signed by a doctor in India who will briefly examine the data and push one of four buttons, "Approve, Deny, Send-to-Specialty-clinic, or Call-an-Uber-Ambulance," thus examining hundreds of patients every day.
The Republicans will still be complaining about the piecework rates they are paying Indian Doctors, in spite of the fact these doctors are being paid ten cents per patient, and the patients are being charged fifty dollars for a doctor's services.
Posted by hunter | Wed Jan 18, 2017, 01:34 PM (1 replies)
Read the comment section of any poorly moderated anyone-can-post news site. Anti-intellectualism, racism, and misogyny are still thriving in the U.S.A..
"Free Speech" doesn't mean I'm obligated to listen respectfully to vile gibberish. I'm certainly not obligated to provide a platform for it.
If anyone thinks MY words here are vile gibberish then they're welcome to tell me so or put me on "ignore."
The only time I ever demanded a respectful audience is teaching, and even then it's not about respecting me, it's about students respecting one another. Teachers enjoy a very limited freedom of speech anyways. A teacher who is not teaching the subject, or a teacher who is being a sexist racist asshole, or a teacher who is verbally abusing students, etc., will be fired. That teacher will lose their platform.
It amuses me to hear Breitbart bullies throwing temper tantrums like toddlers. "Waaaahhhhh! These people won't listen to me respectfully! Free Speech, Free Speech!"
The only people they're fooling is the morons who support them.
They are terrified that straight white males will lose the privilege of being listened to respectfully, no matter how vile the gibberish they are spewing.
They are very well aware of how they've disrespected everyone else and they don't want a similar disrespect heaped upon them.
Well too bad, they reap what they sow. They'll just have to grow a thicker skin and learn the language of righteous anger, just as all the groups they've oppressed have. If their anger is not righteous, and it's not, we have no ethical obligation to respect or tolerate their tantrums.
Posted by hunter | Mon Jan 16, 2017, 03:16 PM (0 replies)