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Profile Information

Name: Hunter
Gender: Male
Current location: California
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 33,374

About Me

I'm a very dangerous fellow when I don't know what I'm doing.

Journal Archives

My kids were Cub and Boy Scouts.

It was always a very uneasy truce between the Mormon and Catholic Scouts.

Then Proposition Hate happened, and the right intolerant wing of both religious parties decided they were allies.

Totally radicalized my kids, nephews, and nieces. They had wonderful queer adult family in their lives. They refused that shit.

My youngest would pluck Prop H8 signs off people's lawns and bang on their doors to tell them their signs were offensive. Those sad people would close the door on him and he'd take their signs, throwing them in back of my little pickup truck. I did recycle the wire and plastic of the signs landing in my truck, and confess it was near hundred. (I'd taken a few signs myself, including a big 4X8 plywood sign, but not so in-your-face aggressively. Maybe I was as bad, but not anywhere so courageous.)

Worst I did was write a harsh letter to the Bishop. He wrote a mushy letter back claiming he was trying to "control" the dialogue.

Better than my mom who once got into a scratching slapping girl fight with a Bishop... scars of my own childhood... My biggest fear on my own Big Catholic Wedding night was that my mom or her mom would go Berserker. They did not. Worst that happened was my sister-in-law, before the wedding, asked if she could play the church organ and she played Queen as my gay brother in law and mom were decorating the church with flowers. The sister in charge asked "That's pretty, what is it?"

The Wright brothers were flying this in 1904:


It's amazing progress that this B-29 was built forty years later.

Despite being a tool of war, it is a lovely plane and I totally understand and applaud the motivations of those volunteers who got it flying again. It's one of the reasons our family cars have salvage titles. So much as I hate automobiles (and war machines...) I get some satisfaction bringing dead machines back to life, feeling in my hands what the original designers and builders were about. Reading history isn't enough. Sometimes you must touch it.

I think this progress in aeronautics is why people thought we'd be crawling all over the solar system by now, having landed men on the moon.

But we have made a whole lot of progress in computers and telecommunications.

In 1977 I thought I was hot stuff writing FORTRAN for a mainframe computer far less powerful than any smart phone today.

It still amazes me that I can find in the e-waste bin what would have been the world's most powerful supercomputer of the 'seventies. Or I can buy a Raspberry Pi 3 computer rated at 460 MFLOPS for $35 in 2017 compared to the Cray I supercomputer rated 160MFLOPS which cost $8.8 million in 1977.

(A couple of people, amused by this comparison have built miniature Cray-1 models with a credit card sized Raspberry Pi inside.)

One thing that surprises me is how all this modern computing power has been put to use. I'm sure a lot of it has been devoted to military uses that are not common knowledge yet, just as some aspects of the B-29's design were not common knowledge when it was built. The most obvious and big money use for all this computer power is movie making.

I get frustrated with myself because I haven't used the computer power I've been blessed with to make any great advances in science. I liked to think of myself as some kind of mad scientist after I quit high school for college. (Truth was, I was mostly mad. We've got meds for that now.) I think some of my better "supercomputer" use is posting words on Democratic Underground, and occasionally I've done more practical things with this immense computing power, but I've not created any AI's or opened any portals into other universes...

Television "news" is worthless, especially in the U.S.A....

... where it's mostly propaganda and a medium for advertising.

I won't pay a dime for it and I won't suffer television advertising.

My television plays movies, commercial free, that's all it does. No cable, no satellite, no broadcast.

One reason I won't pay for any form of cable or satellite television is that a certain portion of my subscription would go to channels that are absolutely loathsome (like Fox News) whether I watch them or not.

It's time for traditional broadcast and television news to die. That business model is obsolete. This is one of the reasons "conservatives" like the Koch brothers are fighting net neutrality and affordable high speed internet, especially in Republican strongholds. They don't want the television propaganda outlets they influence and control losing viewers.

Colbert is our generation's Will Rogers and Mark Twain

He nailed it.

Prideful "isms" and religions are overwhelmingly awful.

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?

Thought experiment: Let's pretend solar panels are FREE.

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.

That's one of the things I *LIKED* most about Arrival.

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=mc[sup]2[/sup] 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.

BBC reporters seem to do a much better job of giving their interviewees enough rope...

... 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.

In the end gardening skills and seeds will be important...

... 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.

I wonder if the nursing home will take him back.

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.
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