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Profile Information

Name: Hunter
Gender: Male
Current location: California
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 35,932

About Me

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

Journal Archives

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.

Why the falling cost of light matters

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.

All sorts of wretched things happen in U.S. healthcare.

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.

The ACA has been good for the health insurance industry.

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.

Imagine what kind of hell DU would be if MIRT didn't ban certain posters.

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.

Let me guess... Evangelicals.


Their preachers told them that Trump is the Chosen One, and that's how they voted.

But other religions are not immune.

My parents used to live in a very Republican part of California. We'd go to Mass there occasionally when visiting and every time it was a diatribe against abortion, or gay marriage, and every other right wing talk radio meme of the week. Some of the older people were still complaining about Vatican II, and they'd kneel for communion, even a few who weren't even born then. I'm sure they hate Pope Francis, I'm sure they hate Hillary Clinton, and I'm sure they make Black and Hispanic visitors feel very uncomfortable.

We went to Mass enough times to know it was always like that. Plus, the priest was an asshole when my great uncle passed away. He did the bare minimum, going through the motions, and all but said he thought my great uncle was burning in hell so we shouldn't be like him.

But we had a nice wake. My great uncle had many friends and I'm sure he made the world a better place... which is more than I can say about that church.

I'm the worst heretic you know... I got that from my mom. She'd met a venal, chain smoking, hard drinking, and worst of all, leering priest when she was young and innocent and seventeen and she never got over it. Which is how she ended up with the Jehovah's Witnesses, until she declared war on them too. My own late teen and early adulthood religious experiences were the David Lynch version of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" that left me bleeding on the road after I jumped out of my girlfriend's moving car in Berkeley. I'm totally PTSD about it, and it's tripped me up a few times since, once when my wife and I were driving on the same street, and we were arguing about some stupid thing, and it all flooded back, and I jumped out of the car again, but not when it was moving, mostly because I was driving. And then again, another time...

My mom gave both my sister and me electric typewriters when we started college.

She'd made us all take typing in middle school. This was before computers. The skill served us well later on.

My mom's a master typist, she was probably among the fastest in the U.S. for a time She could transcribe tapes without pausing while editing along the way. Sometimes she'd hear us struggling to finish papers late at night in high school, tap.tap.tap...tap, and it would irritate her so much she'd get out of bed, shove us aside, and BRAAAAAAAAAAAAAP she'd finish typing the paper in two minutes. But it would cost us in peace of mind, she wouldn't be happy about it.

My original term papers were always cut-and-paste monstrosities. The magic thing about these typewriters was that they had a white ribbon erase feature so you didn't have to use liquid paper. I replaced that white ribbon much more frequently than the regular black ribbon. But my papers still looked like crap so I'd get them copied at Kinko's and hand in the copies. Professors and TA's sometimes balked at that until they saw what my originals looked like, or worse, suffered my handwriting. No one ever doubted I'd written the papers, my "I don't give a shit about grammar, I'm just hammering the words out" writing voice was unusual.

Then I discovered vi. It was a damned miracle, writing papers using a computer, and there was a spell checker too.

Soon enough I had my own computer, an Atari 800 (my favorite machine ever) and I traded some work for a nice Epson dot matrix printer. It completely changed my life. I even wrote a few printer drivers to make the printer do things the standard printer drivers couldn't do; simple math formulas and such. But the typewriter was still essential for filling out paper forms, especially since my handwriting was so awful.

When my kids were small they were more fascinated by the typewriter than they were my computers, learning how to change the paper and everything.

I gave the typewriter away years ago.

Even in grade school my kids were using computers to write book reports and papers.

I love old computers, they've got lot's of blinking lights and cathode ray tubes.

And men standing around being so attentive to something that has less computing power than a $3 kids toy at Wal-Mart.

Then again, I remember typing Fortran programs on punched cards. My mom had been prescient and made me take typing in seventh grade, even though there were only two guys in the class, both of us considered queer.

None of the other guys in my college Fortran class could type. There were two young women in the class, and they could type. We'd secretly laugh at the future engineers hunting an pecking, or begging others to punch the cards for them.

"Scary Black or Brown Person of the Day" is a regular feature of television news in the U.S.A..

That's one of the reasons I don't watch that crap. My television only plays movies. I don't suffer television advertising or propaganda.

I read the local newspapers and get my national and international news from more reputable sources.

The BBC is still pretty good, with some biases about international financial markets. They don't go looking for dirt in those. But they're not nearly so bad as NPR's constant groveling at the feet of Big Money. Oh, look, we have happy today, stocks are rising! Oh no, we have sads, stocks are falling!

News sources like CNN or MSNBC are just irritating. News-like stuff. Pasteurized process cheese product. FOX news is, of course, a public toilet that's rarely cleaned.

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