- 83% of the U.S. population believes that Jesus literally rose from the dead.
- 53% of the U.S. population believes that the universe is 6,000 years. old.
- 44% of the U.S. population are confident that Jesus will return within the next 50 years.
Even my maniacally orthodox Roman Catholic best friend (who practically refuses any Mass not conducted in Latin) realizes that the earth has probably been around for billions of years. In fact I won't even use the terms accepts
because it isn't a matter of defeat, even in his mind.
Perhaps these numbers are skewed or over-exaggerated or perhaps not. Nevertheless, 83% or 23%, does it really make a difference? How can we form a competent non-biased uncorrupt government when we are so easily dupped - even if it is only a half of us, or a quarter of us? The swinging state of Ohio knows that you don't need too many people to change an entire presidential election..
An election that is flawed, inaccurate, broken, and probably corrupt as all hell.
Unfortunately, I'd guess about 83% (or more) of all Republican politicians can't accept
On free markets and mediocre politicians. On how to achieve more forward-thinking societal decisions from a mass of mind-numb citizens.Perhaps the sheer mediocrity of our public officials, which we ostensibly choose, is but a reflection of the sheer mediocrity of our society right now. We don't demand better, we allow the market forces to dictate what is available without geniune resistance. And perhaps it is our genuine resistance that woud allow one to use the market to generate any kind of rational distribution of goods and services and energy usage.
If people would REALLY demand quality, not cheapness, but quality and fairness in the production of goods perhaps it would be reasonable. If we demanded a long term approach to resource usage, or if we based our consumer decisions on how it effects the quality of life of our children.....perhaps.
Isn't this what green energy and stuff like that is all about? I know here in Maine you can choose to buy more expensive energy "credits" from the power company, etc, that comes from green(er) energy sources and thereby make a positive choice in the market to go with the higher quality product (in this case greener energy).
Still, to this day, there are quality products - if you want a high performance, quality motorcycle then you can spend a little more on a Ducati or an Aprilla.. If you want a more aesthetically pleasing computer than you buy Apple over Dell.
The bottom line (the problem, really) is that our society is made up of a bunch of dumb trashy fucks. I hate to be harsh about it, but, hey. That's just The Way It Is (tm).
Is it our TV culture? Is it the speed at which society and technology travels now (quickly, with new products coming out as fast as they can design them and old products quickly becoming obsolete).. Maybe things are so fast that people see little point in buying quality and lasting products when they will want newer products so quickly, anyway. Even houses are not built to last, made with chintzy plywood and inferior design. Nobody goes the extra mile
I don't think people actually think
about these things in any sort of concious way, usually, but this is the mindset.. no? Can you fix this? No? This is a bigger cultural problem then you or I can fix, that is for sure. It will take a flash-flood radical shift or a glacially-slow cultural movement but it will take something
that is not you or me. It will take a mass of people, en masse, deciding (whether thoughtfully or not) to change the short-sighted approach we now embrace.
An optimist will tell you that this movement is already happening. More people are more aware of global warming, more inundated with global warming facts, and more thoughtful of environmental impact every day. But not enough. It doesn't happen over night and it doesn't happen because of one man
. The question is whether we can make it happen quickly enough to beat the clock or if we'll end up just out of time.
And damn, that is pretty depressing, even for an optimist.
No joke, this is on Amazon.com's lingerie website. Apparently you don't need to go to a porn site to find some skanky smut. BAD amazon. Bad dog.
Don't ask how I stumbled on that.
The fascist pigs have won!
Despite vehement protests and a petition that garnered more than 30,000 names, city council voted yesterday to rename Park Avenue in Montreal after former premier Robert Bourassa.
The Yanks offered $26 million and won the rights to negotiate with the 2nd best pitcher in Japan
- just over half of the BoSox's $51.1 winning offer for the best pitcher. Hmmph.
The New York Yankees got a chance to sign a Japanese pitcher on their second try this offseason, winning the rights Tuesday to Kei Igawa after losing out to the Boston Red Sox two weeks ago for Daisuke Matsuzaka.
New York's offer of $26,000,194 -- the last three digits matching his strikeout total this year -- was the highest bid among major league teams for Igawa, and it was accepted Tuesday by his Japanese team, the Hanshin Tigers.
Get your music while its hot.
An agreement dated Nov. 19th, 2006 (pdf)
, and posted to web site of the Office of the United States Trade Representative summarizes the joint efforts of Russia and the USA to fight content piracy. AKA, it looks like the US may have finally got Russia to help shut down AllOfMP3.com
This agreement sets the stage for further progress on IPR [Intellectual Property Rights] issues in Russia through the next phase of multilateral negotiations, during which the United States and other WTO members will examine Russia's IPR regime.
Meanwhile, AllOfMP3.com has released a press release (pdf)
Mediaservices today presented a legal position that outlined why it is likely that consumers in the U.S. are legally purchasing music from the site. (my emphasis)
Likely indeed. Get your music while its hot - as in stolen?
And that's not all, folks. Remember that silly bit about Microsoft paying a fee to Universal for each Zune sold?.. Now Universal is trying to argue it deserves a fee for each iPod sold
as well. I yell conspiracy theory. Okay, maybe not.. Or maybe. It sound pretty fucking sketchy to me, that's for sure. Microsoft quickly develops a new portable media device well after
the iPod's raging success... and then makes a deal with Universal. Certainly one could argue they had
to, in order to get Universal music on their big time online music store, thereby ensuring a decent launch. Or you could argue MS+Universal have ganged up as common enemies against Apple.
And so it begins. Universal Music Group exec Doug Morris told the Reuters Media Summit that his company is interested in receiving a cut of the profits from each iPod sold.
"It would be a nice idea. We have a negotiation coming up not too far. I don't see why we wouldn't do that... but maybe not in the same way," Morris said. His "same way" comment is a reference to the Zune, which Universal already gets $1 from after signing a deal with Microsoft.
Universal believes that much of the music on portable players is illegal, and the company argues that it deserves a share of the profits from such devices in order to make up for the money lost in album sales.
Since when is random conjecture worthy of serious payment? This doesn't sound like normal business to me. If Apple gets suckered here, I think they're real wimps and feel weak in the marketplace. I don't
think that will happen, however.
The Microsoft Zune, which is receiving generally horrible press, has already had its DRM cracked
.. or at least you can use it as a portable hard drive if you want, which wasn't in its original feature set, but it is really more of a hack than a crack.. and still a pain in the ass. So what? Gizmodo seemed to like the Zune on first look
. The real question is how badly is negative press going to impact sales? Also, are they making the right decision by tying themselves to a single consumer outlet (Zune Marketplace
)? We won't know for quite some time and if this guy had to guess, I'd say it will play out very similarly to the Xbox vs. Play Station debacle.. sluggishly, like a slow and painful death.. for someone.
Short and sweet
Producers of "An Inconvenient Truth" offer 50,000 free DVDs of the documentary to the National Science Teachers Association.
Association rejects offer stating that they "didn't want to offer 'political' endorsement of the film; and they saw 'little, if any, benefit to NSTA or its members' in accepting the free DVDs."
Also, acceptance would place "unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters." One of those supporters, it turns out, is the Exxon Mobil Corp.
That's the same Exxon Mobil that for more than a decade has done everything possible to muddle public understanding of global warming and stifle any serious effort to solve it. It has run ads in leading newspapers (including this one) questioning the role of manmade emissions in global warming, and financed the work of a small band of scientific skeptics who have tried to challenge the consensus that heat-trapping pollution is drastically altering our atmosphere. The company spends millions to support groups such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute that aggressively pressure lawmakers to oppose emission limits..
..NSTA's list of corporate donors also includes Shell Oil and the American Petroleum Institute (API), which funds NSTA's Web site on the science of energy. There, students can find a section called "Running on Oil" and read a page that touts the industry's environmental track record -- citing improvements mostly attributable to laws that the companies fought tooth and nail, by the way -- but makes only vague references to spills or pollution. NSTA has distributed a video produced by API called "You Can't Be Cool Without Fuel," a shameless pitch for oil dependence.
I know I
can't be cool without fuel, how about you?
While not quite as exciting as Steve McQueen's estate sale, you can have your crack at Syd Barrett's personal effects
on Wednesday. Oddly, lots of homemade wooden stuff.
Probably one of the more mis-represented musical creatures of the 20th century, Syd was only around for the first two Floyd albums Piper at the Gates of Dawn
and A Saucerful of Secrets
, of which little is played on mainstream radio and most people have never heard.
He is probably best known for being the subject of the Wish You Were Here
song "Shine on You Crazy Diamond", a two-parter that was split due to the fact that it would not fit on a single side of vinyl. Together, the two pieces are the longest Pink Floyd song ever recorded.
Not surprisingly, retailers did well in the big-bang weekend start of xmas shopping. In fact, sales rose 6% to $8.96 billion for Friday
. I can't help but think that I could be doing more for the environment, that I could be helping to slow this consumerist frenzy in some way.. and then I think about the fact that I don't buy anyone christmas gifts and I feel a lot better. See, I am
doing something! Regardless, that penguins movie beat out the new James Bond by almost $7 million
this weekend. I can't help but think that the more our nation watches cartoons the more disengaged with reality we are and therefore the more palatable all this consumption becomes because it isn't real, nothing is real, it is all make-believe and supercallifragilisticexpialidocious. Sugar swwwweet!
I can't help but think a nation of movie goers more excited to see explosions, high-tech gadgets, and a blonde british secret agent man would be more in-tune with the world around them than a nation full of fuzzy-penguin loving 'toon freaks. I mean, isn't that why CNN gets all those ratings? Isn't it all about things blowing up? Who wants to see an environmental message packaged in a family movie? Really now.
Dear fine readers, I have foresaken you and for it, my hits have dropped as low as my gut feeling for another Patriots superbowl championship this year. I won't say it is because I have writer's block or because I've been partying too hard or because I've got too much on my plate lately. I don't even really have a good excuse at all except that I just have too much to talk about. I can't filter. It's all in there and it all wants to come out and each item, each piece and parcel taken individually, it just seems so insignificant and.. well, pointless.
to write about how it is completely ridiculous for someone to dump the coffee at an office at 3:30pm regardless of who is in the office just because that is when they do their rounds. It is pointless, though. It is pointless to talk about how even discussing this issue with said person is a hopeless battle, like trying to punch your way out of a paper bag in the dark (once you're out, you're still in the dark), because said person can justify their actions through the inactions of others - "nobody else
will clean up the mess" - when in fact you, yourself (that's me) have in the past always cleaned up said mess in the wake of none-3:30pm dumpage.
Truly pointless. I want
to talk about the frustration of five roommates who constantly post notes in the common areas for people to be aware of - common things such as keeping the sink clear of dirty dishes - yet the people posting
these notes are the ones who are truly responsible for dirty dishes left in the sink.
to talk about the lack of quality television, the unending ability of americans to drive like complete assholes, the dilution of good pitching in the major league, and a host of other virile problems that I face almost every single day..
But it is pointless. Instead, you have gotten silence and for that I am 100% responsible. This, at least, I can own in full and blame no other. It's comforting, really, to be able to acquire, address, and attack a problem from the bottom up.
I am working now. I have no excuse (if I ever had one) to ignore this space. Hopefully, from now on, updates will be more rapid and forthcoming, provided my situation doesn't change.
With all this new talk of fusion
lately, I thought I'd put in my two cents on nuclear power. Sure, it would be great if we could harness fusion power (I mean, heck, a teen has created a home-grown fusion reactor
) but the one thing everyone never seems to talk about anymore is our regular 'ol fission. Despite the problem of spent fuel disposal (I still say we put it on rockets and send it to the sun) it is nevertheless a very environmentally friendly way of producing power. For those countries trying to actually following the Kyoto Protocol (the US is busy saying "what, me, worry?") it makes sense. Meanwhile here in North America we shy away from the roughly one cent per kilowatt hour
it costs for nuclear fuel. Meanwhile, the US average cost of residential power is about 11 times that, at 10.94 c/kWh
Certainly, when waste disposal, decommissioning, etc are thrown into the mix, the costs can reach towards 3 cents/kWh, but this is still far below alternatives such as gas and oil, and far more environmentally friendly than coal. Considering that the air pollution from coal burning is estimated to be causing 10,000 deaths per year
, there would have to be 25 melt-downs each year for nuclear power to be as dangerous.
The French have made things work through economy of scale and a standardized design throughout the country. They now manage to produce about 80% of their energy from nuclear reactors. Meanwhile, coal accounts for roughly 54% of the power produced in the US - the single biggest source of air pollution in the country.
Coal burning causes acid rain and smog and is the leading cause of global warming. In an average year, a typical coal plant generates
- 3,700,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary human cause of global warming--as much carbon dioxide as cutting down 161 million trees.
- 10,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (SO2), which causes acid rain that damages forests, lakes, and buildings, and forms small airborne particles that can penetrate deep into lungs.
- 500 tons of small airborne particles, which can cause chronic bronchitis, aggravated asthma, and premature death, as well as haze obstructing visibility.
- 10,200 tons of nitrogen oxide (NOx), as much as would be emitted by half a million late-model cars. NOx leads to formation of ozone (smog) which inflames the lungs, burning through lung tissue making people more susceptible to respiratory illness.
- 720 tons of carbon monoxide (CO), which causes headaches and place additional stress on people with heart disease.
- 220 tons of hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds (VOC), which form ozone.
- 170 pounds of mercury, where just 1/70th of a teaspoon deposited on a 25-acre lake can make the fish unsafe to eat.
- 225 pounds of arsenic, which will cause cancer in one out of 100 people who drink water containing 50 parts per billion.
- 114 pounds of lead, 4 pounds of cadmium, other toxic heavy metals, and trace amounts of uranium.
One Chevy Suburban, a V-8 behemouth that gets roughly 17 miles per gallon, produces about 10 tons of greenhouse gases1
a year. You'd need about 370,000 chevy suburbans to produce the same amount of CO2
pollution as one coal plant. There are roughly 600 coal plants in the US..
Which is not to say vehicles aren't
a problem. A single gallon of gasoline requires about 196,000 pounds of primeval plant and animal matter
buried and compressed over millions of years. This is equivalent to the total production over a year’s time from “40 acres’ worth of wheat—stalks, roots, and all.” If you are inclined to pursue this kind of masochistic math, it means that filling up the 32-gallon tank of [a Chevy Suburban] is like taking all the energy produced by plants over the course of a year on 1,280 acres of land. The numbers suggest that this just might not be sustainable over the long haul.
Nuclear power, of course, requires very little fuel and does not generate significant amounts of air pollution or greenhouse gases. - The greenhouse gas estimates presented here are "full fuel-cycle estimates" and include the three major greenhouse gases emitted by motor vehicles: carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane. Full fuel-cycle estimates consider all steps in the use of a fuel, from production and refining to distribution and final use.
The boys in blue (Dodgers) just signed that traitor Nomar for another two years at $18.5 mill. That's a whole heck of a lot of money for a perpetually-wounded whine-baby. You all did know his name comes from his dad spelling his own name backwards, right?
, which is a Harvard-based resource center, a salary-checker and a tool for helping American businesses and workers understand more about work life
, has a VIP Salary section listing a breakdown of the top Yank and BoSox players:
Alex Rodriguez, aka Gay-Rod:
2006 Salary: $25,680,727
Hourly Wage: $2,931.59
Wage Per Minute: $48.86
Dollars Per At Bat: $84,476.08
Dollars Per Hit: $291,826.44
Dollars Per Homerun:$1,351,617.21
Times More Than Avg. American Salary: 698
2006 Salary: $18,279,238.00
Hourly Wage: $2,086.67
Wage Per Minute: $34.78
Dollars Per At Bat: $67,700.88
Dollars Per Hit: $220,231.78
Dollars Per Homerun:$794,749.48
Times More Than Avg. American Salary: 497
If the BoSox sign Matsuzaka for anything more than 8 million a year for a three year contract the payout will be more than the Yanks are shelled out for Gay-Rod this year. Bravo.
After a long summer in the city in which my motorcycle was mostly neglected, forlornly sitting in a parking garage all by its lonesome, it came to me that I was a rich person sitting up high upon a pedestal. Though not literally installed within the upper echelon, sitting on the top floor of a skyscraper, I was somehow blessed with that materialism that is hard to reach without the silky smoothness of gregarious greenbacks. This was my vacation home, a 900 cubic centimeter engine carved out by the hands of Italian blue collars, and for the entire season I walked by it, like so many privelaged, ignoring the possibilities of simple enjoyment, ignoring the relaxation that comes with free time, time off, vacation time, time to contemplate the true meaning and importance of everything around me. I strolled past, to work and other endeavours; to drink and be merry but in that blue collar way, escaping out from under the oppression of work late in the evening, throwing back one after another in hopeless abandon, ignoring completely the implications of tomorrow, the headache of early-morning-arousal, off-to-work-by-eight, bitter coffee and inside me nothing but feeble darkness, gray in its half-hearted attempt.
Somewhere inside every rich man is a twisted corridor and it is there that he is every day confused, turned around, and mislead upon his way. Every day when soft thoughts flutter down, percolating through the mid-brain madness, they are re-routed and dispersed, separated out and quarantined, left to their own devices like solitary prisoners slowly going mad in their little boxes.
It is there at that vacation home in peace and quiet where simple pleasures take hold and soothe the most frayed of nerves, mend the wild churning sea of thought, and slow the pace of life to a more reasonable speed. It is there, in that space that truth is found, in that place, where rarely we go. The rich get richer. The poor get poorer. Nobody has time for the vacation of home, for the hearth, for sitting around on the porch. I'm guilty, myself, of ignoring the truth, carrying the torch of a horrible noose. I'm no gallows gang or rioting mob, just a working sod with a suicide throb. Just this weekend I rolled the bike into the shed. Wrapped it up and called the season dead. Tomorrow I get up and go back to work. Just another asshole, a pitiful jerk.
Perhaps next year, when the sun comes out again, there will be time to change and re-ascertain what is really important. I can't say one way or another.
says "Here is a cost of drinking
Britcoal says "okay," and estimates something in the range of 7 beers a week at the price of $6 per (with tip.. these are montreal pints; unfortunatly pricey) which comes to $2184 a year. Not really that horrible, considering, but still:
$42 a week
$6 a day
$0.25 an hour, or about a quarter millionth of my salary.
Meanwhile, the cost of the Iraq war is $8.1 million per hour
, or about a 13,333rd of the US federal budget..
Sure, the research has limited scope, but at least it is a feel-good story about the environment
.. the researchers, using new analytical techniques, calculated that in the last 15 years forests had actually expanded in 22 of the 50 countries with the most forest, and that many others were poised to make the transition from deforestation to reforestation in the coming decades.
Certainly, the big offenders like Brazil and Indonesia are still hacking away at the trunks of our future, so to speak, but these are nevertheless attractive looking trends.
Especially attractive considering I made a bet with a friend of mine six years back on the matter. He bet me that over 95% of the old-growth forests in the world will be gone by 2050.. 95% of what was around when the time the bet was made, I presume. I think there is $10,000 in it for me, adjusted for inflation.
I'm a little late in the game to be mentioning the recent winning bid of the Red Sox for the right to negotiate with a Japanese pitcher
, but what the heck.. it has been making my head ring for a solid 24 hours:
The market price for pitching talent is soaring so high that it's come to this: The Boston Red Sox are ready to pay more than $50 million [51.1] just for the right to negotiate with Daisuke Matsuzaka, who's never thrown his "gyroball" -- or any pitch, for that matter -- in the major leagues.
No joke, I actually lost
sleep last night over this. I won't try and claim it is because I am such a staunch fan of the BoSox and worry like a grandmother about their financial well being. It isn't because I'm concerned about the sustainability of baseball and think that perhaps this is going nowhere good. I am simply astounded that someone - anyone, even an organization of anyones - would pay over fifty million dollars for the right
to talk to someone.
I lost sleep folks.
Now the Red Sox have 30 days to try and get a contract out of this Matsuzaka character.. which, itself, will likely come in close to $10 million a year
for a three year dealio. Adding on my fingers tells me that could mean as much as $81 million total, or $27 million a year, for a single unproven (in the MLB) pitcher.
Here in britcoalville we spell that r i d i c u l o u s
Luckily - and that is drippy sarcasm there - the Red Sox were savvy auction betters and they only put in a bid $10 million above
(25% higher than) the next highest, from the Mets. That's great.
Are we hard-wired to look for beauty? Is the golden ratio embedded in our brains; even, in fact, represented physically in our DNA? Is beauty measurable and definitive or are we unwitting sheep always trying to obtain that shapely shear that the magazines tell us we need - slaves to a consumerist society? Is the inevitable aging process our greater fear over death? Probably
, argues this Washington Post article.
And this is what we concern ourselves with.
To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System
The knowledgeable health reporter for the Boston Globe, Betsy Lehman, died from an overdose during chemotherapy. Willie King had the wrong leg amputated. Ben Kolb was eight years old when he died during ''minor" surgery due to a drug mix-up.
Two large studies, one conducted in Colorado and Utah and the other in New York, found that adverse events occurred in 2.9 and 3.7 percent of hospitalizations, respectively.
When extrapolated to the over 33.6 million admissions to U.S. hospitals in 1997, the results of the study in Colorado and Utah imply that at least 44,000 Americans die each year as a result of medical errors. The results of the New York Study suggest the number may be as high as 98,000. Even when using the lower estimate, deaths due to medical errors exceed the number attributable to the 8th-leading cause of death. More people die in a given year as a result of medical errors than from motor vehicle accidents (43,458), breast cancer (42,297), or AIDS (16,516).
And now for something completely news worthy?
Leave it to those wacky Japanese to build a robot that thinks humans taste like bacon
Researchers at NEC System Technologies and Mie University have designed a robot that can taste — an electromechanical sommelier able to identify dozens of different wines, cheeses and hors d'oeuvres..
.. When a reporter's hand was placed against the robot's taste sensor, it was identified as prosciutto. A cameraman was mistaken for bacon.
So does this mean we can finally stop with the "we probably taste just like chicken" jokes?
Apple's movie-selling efforts are making progress, it would seem. Disney has sold almost half a million movies already
With half a million sales in just under eight weeks, customers are purchasing approximately 62,500 movies from Apple's iTunes store each week, or just shy of 9,000 each day.
Compare that to roughly eight million tracks in the first eight weeks of the music store back in early 2003 (rough estimates).. Eight million tracks is probably around 700,000 "albums" worth - a more fair comparison against a movie. So maybe they've got something here? That half a million movies was good for approximately $4 million in revenue and Disney hopes it'll be looking at $50M for the first year.
At this point the real hurdle is price and selection. Offering only seventy five movies is a pretty paltry start, even if they do have big ones like Pirates of the Caribbean.. and $14.95? Puh-lease. I can do better down at my favourite soul-crushing superstore Wal-Mart.
To follow up on a post I made recently stating that "A MINIMUM WAGE employee who works 40 hours a week for 51 weeks a year goes home with $10,506 before taxes." I thought I would delve into what that means, exactly, for that minimum wage earner.
To start, it means that after taking the 2006 standard deduction of $5,150 for a single, your taxes are roughly $535, not including FICA. Your net is below $10k.
Now, pretending that it is possible for a minimum wage earner to have no debt whatsoever, with the best possible situation being that they live in walking distance to work and therefore have no transportation costs, that leaves them with $9971 to live on. The normal recommendation for housing is no more than ~35% of your income. Unfortunately, that would leave only $290 a month. I once paid that in Montreal in the late 90's but I had five roommates and Montreal was dirt cheap. This isn't exactly a realistic number. Let us be generous and pretend
that you could find a decent place to live alone for $400. This is basically ludicrous in many urban areas unless you're willing to live in a sewer, but let us just pretend. Add a phone line, heat, and electricity and you would be looking at a minimum of $500 a month. That leaves $3971 left for the year to pay for food, clothing, and other incidentals, or $330 a month. It is possible
to live on $50 a week for food but difficult at best, and would still cost you $200 for the month.
The result? $130 of leftover to work with per month
or just $32.50 a week. Consider that even the poverty stricken need clothing and the occasional ice cream cone, this is not much to work with. There is little wonder that it is difficult to climb out of this hole and the rich get richer.
Certainly, this could be done. Yet one single mishap, a sickness, a week long flu, or loosing your job could result in shear disaster. Every week of work missed is ~$200 down the drain. That can mean going without food or heat. What is more concerning is that, at $32 a week in extra money (that must be used to put clothes on your back, remember), it is almost impossible to generate any kind of savings. If you drink (8 pints a week at $3 a pint) or smoke (at $5 a pack 5 times a week) you are broke. If you buy the newspaper ($1.50 a day) you're using a third of your incidentals.
Sure, this can all be done. But it takes extreme discipline and leaves no room for insurance. I haven't even discussed what it would take to provide your own health insurance if indeed you needed it. I haven't discussed how hard it could be to come up with a security deposit for an apartment. I haven't discussed how difficult it would be to stick to such a low budget indefinitely. I haven't discussed how much more difficult all this would be if debt was involved. I haven't discussed how hard it would be to get an extra job, juggle two schedules, and try to maintain at least one of them full time for health benefits. I haven't discussed the purchase of soap, laundry costs, and other hygienics.
And finally, I haven't discussed whether this should be considered an acceptable way for people to live in the western world - the "blessed" society where all is paved in gold. Is it? Should we be thankful for even this opportunity in a world so wrought with conflict? Is this the low bar we are setting our standards at? The worst of the best?
You tell me.
Apparently, fireworks should not be launched from your bottom
. Hints like these are always useful. You truly can learn something new everyday.
The Strange Maps
site is just what it claims to be, a collection of odd, weird, or strange maps. If you like looking at maps as much as I do, you might find it fun to poke around.
Despite having been the site of the first daytime march of the Ku Klux Klan, Maine is one of the few states with no hate groups to speak of, according to Tolerance.org
. Highest on the list? California, Florida, South Carolina, Texas, and Georgia.
Bruce Schneier, cryptographer and computer security dude, has a recent post on his blog about perceived risk vs. actual risk
. For anyone who reads my blog somewhat regularly this will sound familiar as he makes some points that I have been saying for quite some time (and so apparently has he. More hopeful is that he is discussing a recent LA Times op-ed piece
#1 We over-react to intentional actions, and under-react to accidents, abstract events, and natural phenomena.
#2 We over-react to things that offend our morals.
#3 We over-react to immediate threats and under-react to long-term threats.
#4 We under-react to changes that occur slowly and over time.
Schneier adds to these points:
People have trouble estimating risks for anything not exactly like their normal situation.
Personified risks are perceived to be greater than anonymous risks.
People underestimate risks they willingly take and overestimate risks in situations they can’t control.
people overestimate risks that are being talked about and remain an object of public scrutiny.
No doubt these are all self-explained, but it explains a lot. It explains our slow uptake on the global warming problem. Certainly, most people do not see the ice caps melting. Most people do not feel
the rise in temperature because it is so gradual. Nevermind the fact that millions of people choose to live in places like New Orleans and Los Angeles where natural disaster is a great risk yet their great fear is a terrorist threat.
What does our government do to help this? What does the media do to help this.. well, they help it along. They play on our fears in order to play out their agendas. In the long run this doesn't help us as much as we'd like to think.
We worry about anthrax but not about colon cancer. We worry about getting mugged but not about over paying for cell phone service. Basically, we worry about the wrong things. The question is why. What is it that causes these discrepancies between perceived and actual risk? It is no doubt linked to our somewhat amazing ability to act irrational and often illogical in the face of fact. Fiction is just more exciting, it would seem.
Compare this to a random off-topic: Solar guerrillas
The manifesto appeared in Home Power magazine, where it was attributed to an anonymous source. It reads:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all energy is freely and democratically provided by Nature, that utilities both public and private have no monopoly on the production and distribution of energy, that this century’s monopolization of energy by utilities threatens the health of our environment and the very life of our planet.
“We, the Solar Guerrillas of this planet, therefore resolve to place energy made from sunshine, wind, and falling water on this planet’s utility grids with or without permission from utilities or governments.
“We resolve to share this energy with our neighbors without regard for financial compensation. We further resolve that our renewable energy systems will be safe and will not harm utility workers, our neighbors, or our environment. Signed, Solar Guerrillas of Planet Earth”
Sounds great, right? But the problem is that the electric companies didn't want to play ball.
In 1978, the federal Public Utilities Regulatory Policy Act, was passed, requiring all utility companies in the U.S. to purchase the excess power created by qualified home electricity producers. But the act did not stipulate the exact costs utilities had to pay independent producers for their electricity. Most utilities chose to pay what are called “avoided costs,” or the amount of money they save by not producing the power themselves.
Afraid of what I can only imagine is diminished returns, power companies tried to screw the consumer. Their fear: no money.. and this from an industry that produces a necessary staple. Everyone needs power. But their line was "you pay us retail for the power we give you, we pay you whole-sale for the same power you send back" because they couldn't imagine a better system - a better solution for everyone. Sounds fair, right? No, of course not.. so it took a good thirty years for them to come around.
What would have been very useful during the cold war - a more robust power grid capable of handling small disasters in basically the same altruistic way that powers the internet - didn't actually happen until it was too late. That's our government at work.
The real fear in the United States and, indeed, all over the world, isn't even death. It's the loss of fiduciary potential. Loosing out on a buck that could be made which is, in the long run, a bit preposterous. The people who make so much money, the Larry Ellison's of the world, are the ones spending
so extravagently that they don't know which way is up. Certainly, more money would be nice but is it really necessary to buy that brand new Hummer when a used one will do?
Day in and day out people will bitch and moan about their employer cutting back on overtime or the government taking too many taxes.. when in the long run that energy could be used in a more effective manner to produce earning potential from the other end - by saving. By shopping smartly. By living within your means. By not building a bomb shelter in West Kansas because two airplanes flew into a skyscraper in New York City.