Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Wealth isn't all bad; especially now that Bernie Sanders is part of the 1%

Bernie Sanders is now part of the 1%.

Reminded by the Times reporter that he is now someone of considerable means, Sanders retorted: "I wrote a best-selling book. If you write a best-selling book, you can be a millionaire, too." Apparently, Hillary Clinton made a similar comment and got flack for it.

I remember when being a millionaire was a big deal. These days, you pretty much have to be a millionaire to be middle class if you live in a place like Seattle or the San Francisco Bay Area. At least you are a millionaire if you own a home and your mortgage is paid off.

This reminds me of the controversy over Al Gore's big house from a few years back. An environmentalist living in a big house? Well, maybe a former vice president still needs space to house the Secret Service.

Big time celebrities and politicians are the ones with name recognition that people flock to. Seems like that's all but inevitable in a big country such as ours. I think if I ran for president, it wouldn't get much farther than my Facebook friends.

Getting electioned takes name recognition. I've often thought that one house of Congress ought to be selected by random lottery, rather than popularity contest. By random lot, maybe some obscure janitor would be represented. There would be representation from pretty much all walks of life. Experts as well as nitwits in many fields.

Lots of very wealthy people are on our side culturally. Many support higher taxes on their own wealth. The left does need it's powerful and influential people as well. Much of it depends on how the money is used and what policies are being promoted.

At the same time it can often be said that we have met the enemy and he is us. Our society tends to create and then follow the people of wealth. Hollywood celebrities are often listened to more than scientists, for instance. Whether we like it or not, we tend to uphold fame and fortune.

I constantly like to remind people, "we have met the enemy and he is us." I saw that phrase on a banner in the hallway of my high school many years ago. It's been with me most of my life.

I think it's useful to try not to think in terms of who's the enemy. Another quote I like is from Mahatma Gandhi. "Be the change you want to see in this world."

Friday, April 12, 2019

Dating; a more fertile field for bots than deep conversation

I may have been chatting with a rather crude version of artificial intelligence a few days ago. I accept just about all friend requests as who knows, they may be followers of my website that I haven't met yet.

Some of these "new friends" will immediately go into chat and ask questions such as "are you married?"

When I say things like I like being single and I am gay, they often respond like a real person basically saying no problem, but sometimes they still like to chat; like maybe practicing English as they live in India, or someplace.

A few days ago, the "person" was supposedly a young woman. Answers to my responses came quickly as if not typed, but canned pre scripted paragraphs. Even when I say I am gay, it keeps asking if I want to see nude pictures. Also another one of my friends ask if I knew the "person." It was sending more friend requests to my list of friends. Eventually, I unfriended what I think was the bot.

I've seen nude pictures of a computer before.😆

Even real people can seem like robots when they are looking for romance, or doing some kind of business promotion. They reach out to large numbers of people with pretty standardized responses. Kind of ironic if it's romance as they don't know anything about me. It's supposedly an intimate interest, but they are just going down the list; playing the field.

This is what much of the dating world is like even off line, I guess. When I was younger, I was often passed over by the dating scene as I was kind of odd in a lot of ways. Now I'm probably too old for most of the algorithms that run, both on the internet and in people's heads. I was never really into dating.

New contacts are most interesting if they have seen something I have posted and are responding to that. If someone is responding to something that's unique from me, that seems like truer intimacy to me.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

When a regular MD says, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away," that's pretty good.

One of the favorite quotes of my MD is this, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." There's a little more to it than just that, but that makes a nice sound byte. He's a regular MD, but in many cases this is still the best strategy. Avoid having to go to the doctor. My MD is ready with evidence based scientific treatments if need be, but lifestyle is usually the first choice. Then there's then whole question of the cost of medicine. Another incentive to err on the side of less medially intense solutions. Not everyone is so fortunate as some do need more intense medicine, but ideally it's a good thing to try and avoid.

I tend to avoid non scientific alternative medicine. It still has the downside of cost.

Tuesday, April 09, 2019

For tenure to work best, the institution needs to be growing and hiring

Tenure was sometimes complained about, even back in the 1970s, as tenure could make it hard for new talent to get into the school's teaching positions. Not enough tenure track positions available and, at the same time, folks would say it's because they have to keep the dead wood; or at least what's perceived as the dead wood. When the institutions aren't growing and hiring, there isn't enough abundance to protect tenure AND provide a place for the new talent.

Tenure was good at protecting professors from the political whims of legislators who could turn off the spigot of salary if tenure didn't exist. At the same time, I think it was designed in a time when schools were growing and hiring. When growth slowed down, it became a choice between preserving tenured staff versus having room for new people in the system. Unfortunately turning into kind of a zero sum situation.

My thought about the term deadwood is related to the concept of ineffective rather than age, but I can see how it can be interpreted as age.

Effective and ineffective are somewhat in the eye of the beholder which is one of the reasons for tenure. Politics that's different than some legislator sitting on a funding committee could be defined as ineffective. Another term related to deadwood is boring. A professor who is not entertaining. To teach, I think it's important to hold the attention of students, but even that can be a matter of opinion. I've never been a teacher, but I have been a student; years ago.

As for the term "deadwood," I can't help but think of a joke that was popular during my college days. It may not be politically correct, but if someone thought a class was boring, they would often say, "the professor has already died, but they forgot to bury that professor."

It would be nice if there was enough jobs for both the aspiring new and already existing members of the faculty.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Were they worried about an ice age in the 1970s? Was the energy crisis a hoax?

Videos, like "In Search Of The Coming Ice Age" from 1977 are being passed around among global warming deniers. This video is from 1978 what could happen if we entered another ice age. A memory from 40 years ago.

I watched it and got a different take. I don't see it as discrediting today's worry about global warming. It was an interesting documentary; pretty sensationalized tho. Typical of television. the main point I got from watching it is how we take our fairly stable climate for granted. Things could change. For instance some forms of volcanism could put so much dust in the atmosphere that it would reflect out enough sunlight to cause severe cooling.

Even in this documentary, the prospect was not seen as imminent in the next few years. It was seen as something that could happen after, say 200 years of this kind of major volcanic activity. People are walking around saying they survived the ice age that was predicted for in the 1970s, like the ice age of the 1980s that didn't happen. Even this video wasn't predicting that. It had a disclaimer saying it wasn't predicting anything, necessarily. Just exploring what could happen given circumstances, such as the volcanism. Yes, we do take our climate stability for granted.

One of the environmental science classes I took, back in the 1970s, had a lecture about the stability of our climate over the past 10,000 years or so. A period of relative stability that allowed our civilization to develop. The lecturer's point was that more extreme weather could be the geological norm and we have just been lucky over the past 10,000 years. We've become complaisant. I also remember that there was less worry about global warming, back then. Scientists knew about the effects of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but it wasn't being discussed in the media till the 1980s. Or at least that's my own recollection.

Was the energy crisis of the 1970s a hoax? I bought it and I still buy it today. Seemed like we would run out of fossil fuels, but today, we have an oil glut. What happened?

The idea of a hoax wasn't so much from conservatives, back then. Some liberals, in the 1970s, did think the energy crisis was a hoax. A hoax created by big oil corporations to raise the price.

I didn't buy the hoax idea as I am not a conspiracy theorist. The OPEC oil embargo was part of the problem. Yes that was a conspiracy, but the United States was also running out of "easy to pump" liquid petroleum. Yes the energy crisis was real.

Back then scientists knew we had lots of oil shale, however. Back in the days of Jimmy Carter, they thought the shale would have to be brought to the surface via strip mining and then crushed to extract the oil. It was the famous "Carter Synfuels Plan."

Well, since then, some new technology has been developed in the oil industry. They don't need to mine the shale. They just have to drill sideways, frack the shale formation and then let gravity do the work. Just let the oil drip down to sideways pipes that they laid under the shale formation; like a drain field. Bingo, the oil comes out more easily. It's why people are still able to easily afford driving cars and flying in jet planes today.

One can ask, will there be a similar fix to the global warming problems of today? A fix from future technology? How about geoengineering? Putting up some kind of reflection to partially shade the earth from the sun.

All of these fixes, so to speak, are problematic. Fracking of the shale brings worry about water contamination. Geoengineering the earth's reflectivity is truly a Pandora's box. It's also true that, at some point in the future, even our abundant supply of oil shale will be used up. We do need alternative energy.

Waiting for the Greyhound Bus, one time back in my college days, this conversation took place between me and a somewhat derelict looking fellow. We were discussing the energy crisis and I started to say that America was running out of oil. Before I could finish the sentence, he interrupted right after the words, "running out." In a very proud voice he said, "AMERICA Ain't A Runnun Out A Nothun."