31 October 2023

Brad's pumpkin and our porch @ Halloween


My pumpkin for 2023.

Brad does one too but I got a jump on him.  

Supporting Joe Biden

I just contributed to the Biden campaign, even though it's more than a year out, and not because I agree with him on everything, because I don't. But because We cannot lose the struggle to retain our democracy. I've been saying this since 2016, of course, but if anything it's more stark than ever, with an actual Christofascist, MAGA Mike, who clearly doesn't value democracy at all, having been elected speaker by the entire House Antidemocracy delegation (including, to my personal chagrin, my Congressperson, who falsely ran as a "moderate." Remember, there are no moderates in the AntiDemocracy party.) 


Biking a car-free freeway... and dreaming of a better future

This (below) is interesting. There's a 50 year old science fiction story by Larry Niven in which, due to the development of transfer booths (more or less Star Trek transporters), the freeways have become unnecessary and had been turned into long, snaking parks. But you know, the park part (not the transfer booths, which probably violate at least one fundamental law of physics and so will be impossible forever)... isn't so far fetched. In the not too distant future, I picture the technology of tunneling becoming fully automated and far more effficient. We could have vehicles that are conjoinable and sent through pressurized tunnels controlled by AI, to emerge and become (electric, of course) driver-operated cars mainly only for the "last mile." Many existing roads and highways can be given over to green space. 

Our civilization has to return to dreaming of a better, more prosperous life, and get over all this senseless conflict in which, more and more, there can never be winners. 

Just as a few centuries ago alchemy became chemistry and, while they came to realize that you just can't turn lead into gold (at least not through chemistry), you can do all manner of seemingly miraculous things, we are just at the very threshold of a second Enlightenment and third Industrial Revolution that can transform human life from drudgery and tedium to nearly complete freedom. We can't zip around the galaxy, but there is a whole lot we can do. Or we can destroy ourselves. And the choice is pretty much entirely up to us. 

Happy Halloween

I'm one of those stick in the mud types of old fuddy duddy who is somewhat bewildered by how Halloween has become a "major" holiday, with costly decorations and even "Halloween lights" de rigueur. But Happy Halloween irregardlesslyfulness. Ihooditude. I do carve a pumpkin, so that's something. 

27 October 2023

Christofascist now Speaker of the House

I feel sure that chance has very little to do with the fact that we have ended up with an outright (and forthright) Christofascist as Speaker of the House. Third in line for the U.S. Presidency. 

This horrible man is an enemy of civil rights, free speech rights, personal liberty, reproductive rights, any concern for the "general welfare" (mentioned in the very first paragraph of the Constitution), or real religious freedom. (Which must include the right not to believe in any and not to be molested by members of any sect and their sanctimony in the public square or school). More and more, we shake our heads and look away from the gradual erosion of whatever there ever was of democracy in this country. 

We have to rise and fight against these developments, or, like many peoples in the past, we will lose what we had and rue the day it happened for a long, long time. 

19 October 2023

School Bonds

I remember nearly 60 years ago a grade school teacher of mine shaking her head and saying she just couldn't understand why people (most of whom had kids in those days) would vote "No" on school bonds. Actually, I don't particularly like bonded indebtedness as a way to pay for operations (as opposed to infrastructure), but in any case, I learned from her that indeed taxes, especially taxes for schools (and universities, and libraries, and some other things) are very much, as Justice Brandeis put it, the "price of civilization." Our off year election where I live consists only of a single issue, a school bond. Kinda steep, to tell you the truth. Going up about 40% to $1.63 per $1000 of assessed valuation (the wisdom of using property tax to pay for schools being another dubious policy value). But, I whipped out my pen and voted "Yes." Of course.  

Big Flip: Sidney Powell

Have to admit I was surprised that Sidney Powell has flipped on Il Donaldo. No escaping that she is admitting they tried to steal the election, and by the terms, she has to not talk to the press till the trials are over and testify against all the other co-defendants, truthfully.  Looks bad for Donnie. 

"Inevitable" war with China? WTF?

 This is very interesting, and I suppose it's inevitable and probably necessary that the DOD is thinking seriously about what armed conflict with China would entail, and preparing for that contingency, but I have to say that thinking in terms of "inevitability" or even likelihood of a war with China is just plain insane. If our civilization, which is already in many ways transnational, is to survive the crises of climate, resources, biodiversity maintenance, etc., we must learn to resolve our differences over hegemony and other such bullshit and learn to live together as a single world with a single humanity. To me it is so glaringly obvious that this must be our single overriding priority that I am speechless in the face of any other views. 

18 October 2023

Biden visit in light of cancellation by all regional partners other than Israel

Given that it is widely, even if likely incorrectly, believed in the region that the hospital calamity in Gaza was an Israeli missile, I think Biden's visit, which should not have been scheduled so soon in the first place, should've been "diplomatically postponed." The impression that the US, as usual, is pro-Israel reflexively and not an honest broker is being reinforced. The situation is calamity exponented. Yes, indeed, Hamas is a religious authoritarian terrorist organization that has held power without further elections for almost 20 years, and which launched an assault on civilians against international law. But this is not a fight of the pure against the despoiled; it is a war with tremendous injustice over decades by a powerful nuclear armed state against an occupied territory in its background. There can be no pretense of moral absolutism here. The US should do what it can to prevent a wider war or increasing tension. I'm fairly sure Biden's visit at this point is having the opposite effect.   

16 October 2023

Toyota's Pipe Dream

I just do not understand how Toyota can think that they can take the market by storm with an incredibly complicated hydrogen internal combustion powered pickup truck that will have 370 mile range, but cost at least twice as much as a comparable gasoline powered truck or electric truck such as Tesla's. Yet this is exactly what they're saying. Their timeline is "2028 to 2030" and such a project would depend on a multi-hundred billion dollar buildout, essentially from nothing, of a worldwide hydrogen production and distribution network. Their competition, battery electric trucks and cars, are already cheaper to build than ICE equivalents, and the charging infrastructure, while still in the development phase, is years ahead of any possible hydrogen infrastructure. And Rivian already has an electric truck with better specs, and Tesla soon will be manufacturing its cybertruck in large numbers at a profit. To me, this is so obviously a selection-bias driven pipedream likely to bankrupt Toyota and other makers following their lead that it isn't really even worth taking seriously at all.

13 October 2023

Bitcoin mining, WTF?

I came across the term "bitcoin mining" in a NY Times article... which didn't bother to even hint at what that meant, apparently assuming everyone knows. So looked it up in some reasonably reliable fact resources on the net, including wikipedia, having to learn the word "blockchain" to understand it. But I am left with a serious question to which I cannot fathom a reasonable answer. It is this: why on Earth would anyone assign any value to this nonsense and why do cryptocurrencies have any value whatsoever, since they apparently have nothing to do with any kind of useful production or even information? The factual accounts I read give no hint of any kind of sensible answer to my questions. 

08 October 2023

The horrible war in Gaza and Israel... an unorthodox view as an American

I can hardly read news coverage of the fighting in Gaza and Israel. After more than 50 years of this, it is all but unbearable to read about such folly and violence. 

 My view on this subject is not popular in my country, but it is one I haHove come to from many years of thinking about it. And it is this. Israel was formed out of a worldwide sense of guilt for what occurred in Central Europe... the Holocaust. But the truth is that the same kind of aggressive war and forced displacement was used to create a "Jewish nation" as was behind all the other wars of aggression in the first half of the 20th century. And the unjustified attack, including attack on civilians, against Israel in 1967 has led to the longest modern military occupation in history. Tragedy abounds. But so does fault. Israel has made Gaza into an open air prison, and repeatedly used white phosphorous against civilian populations... a war crime. The attack on Israel is calculated, deadly, directed against civilians... and unjustifiable. But hardly unpredictable or legitimately claimable to be anything other than the consequences of a military occupation. 

 So, unlike in Ukraine, where a 40 year UN member was unilaterally attacked in a war of territorial aggression, this is a situation where neither side has acted with fundamental justification, and, sadly, the world community has been unable or unwilling to pressure the Israelis to stand down an occupation and conclude a permanent peace. 

 Which is why, horrible as this situation is, I believe the US policy at this point should be to urge peace but remain de facto neutral. Just don't do anything to exacerbate the situation while doing everything possible to exert pressure on Israel's right wing government and, to whatever extent we have any credibility or influence with them, to encourage the cessation of hostilities by Hamas and to start, some how, yet again, to try to find a negotiated settlement. But no military aid to either side, ever again. 

 Unfortunately, the most likely outcome is the violent eradication of Hamas, which will entail terrible violence and suffering against civilians. This is not the way first world civilized nations are expected to behave. We have serious problems that require more and more substantial international cooperation than ever before facing us. We simply cannot afford this kind of thing, and we must make clear that no way will we support it. Israel can "defend" itself, no doubt, and has a right to, but what they intend is clearly retribution, which we must not participate in at all. 

 That's my view. 

04 October 2023

03 October 2023

A pet peeve

I swear I'm going to just plain stop doing business with companies that deliberately understaff their support departments to that a hold time of 30 min. or more, and, to add insult to injury, that deliberately play music so overvolumed and underbandwidthed for telephone that the result is actually painful distortion. They do this on purpose, I am convinced, to get people to hang up and give up. Oftentimes continuing to pay for some subscription service that has stopped working. But, oh, wait. I can't really stop doing business with companies doing this, can I? Because they all do it. Banks, insurance companies, mobile phone companies, cable companies, internet service providers, utilities, you name it. 

Just expressing my frustration. It really galls me, though, that it's become customary to treat customers as if their time was of no importance at all. My latest is Dropbox. I will be canceling out of an account I've had for more than ten years, because they are essentially incommunicado. Their support e mail fails to provide any real information, including even as to whether my disabled account is still being billed. I honestly think this kind of business practice needs to be illegal. If you want the privilege of using the Federally regulated banking system to collect money from American citizens, you should have to be available to communicate with, in a reasonable period of time, by means of public communication channels. Period, full stop, no ifs ands or buts.