Cogito Patris

Random Thoughts for Random People

A Day for Rememberance…Anyday

Today is Sunday, October 10, 2010.  Today is not Memorial Day; today is not Veteran’s day; Armed Forces day; labor day or even Thanksgiving.  In fact, the only holiday I could find for today on a quick internet search was ‘National Cake Decorating Day’.

But for some reason, today I am remembering those people who have sacrificed for the society I take for granted.  A big part of my thoughts naturally fall on our fighting men and women in the military who risk life and limb for our safety and protection.  I will not expound on my won feelings on the wars our military is asked to fight on behalf of politicians which may or may not have our country’s (or the world’s) best interests at heart.  But I am proud of how our military responds whenever and wherever they are needed.  They do things that I simply could not do on behalf of life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and  global freedom.

More than the military, I would like to thank our civil servants.  Police Officers, Agents for the DEA, FDA (yes, I meant to include them), CIA, FBI (etc ad nauseum), Fire Fighters, Volunteers, some Spiritual Leaders, Teachers and those folks who run our snow plows, mow public roadways, maintain and build our roads.  These people contribute to the improvement and maintenance of our society.  Often times these people are woefully underpaid and asked to risk their lives or health for us.

I want to take a moment to single out Teachers.  Remember your favorite teacher.  I’ll wait.  Remember him or her?  OK, I will assume that the person in question is not a college professor (most aren’t).  Now remember all the crap they had to deal with from the other kids.  Now remember that they made a pittance compared to most other professions that require a degree.  In my opinion the highest paying jobs in our society should be Teachers (by a large margin).  I would love to hear a conversation like ‘Graduate 1: “Did you get that job a Podunk Middle School?” Graduate 2: “Nah, I had to settle for a computer programming position at Microsoft.”‘ Presently, that isn’t the case (obviously).  Today our teachers fall in to two categories. 1) Incredibly dedicated, intelligent and competent people who genuinely want to help mold the future. 2) Incompetent people who couldn’t get a better job and use teaching as their fall-back.  The second group could be eliminated if the pay was higher so there was genuine competition for the positions by the best and the brightest in every field.  We may lose some of the first group (a real shame*), but I would still consider it a large improvement.  But I digress. Every teacher, no matter which group they fall in to, deserves our thanks.  They not only care for our children, but they also produce our future.  I am proud of my Mother for teaching for 39 years.  Now that she is retired, she continues to substitute.  You rock mom.

The final group in my cascade of thanks are the people who make a decent wage, but still help to improve our society.  Doctors, some lawyers (too few in my opinion), some Politicians (stop laughing), Nurses and even those professionals that produce our medical equipment.  Researchers, programmers, engineers and even the people working on the manufacturing line (not well paid, but they help our society).  They all contribute to our medicine and the greater good not only of our society, but of our global neighborhood as well.

One last note.  In the past I could have included myself in this final group.  I worked at the American Red Cross as a software tester.  I miss that feeling of ‘helping my fellow man’, no matter how minimal my contribution.  Now, I work for a financial institution.  It just isn’t the same.

* That isn’t sarcasm

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October 10, 2010 Posted by | Random Thoughts, Wild Theory | 1 Comment

I contacted my Congressman and Senator today…I feel so civic minded.

I do not feel that Energy is receiving enough attention. I would like to make a recommendation for a strategy I would like to see pursued. All energy on earth originally came from the sun. I think that solar technology has the highest potential for a semi-permanent energy strategy. The technology is not mature, though I think we can make a good start.

This is what I would like to suggest: The Government will purchase and install all solar panels produced with a minimum efficiency rating paying a premium for higher efficiencies. That efficiency rating can be changed from year to year (announced ahead of time).

If we can reduce the costs and pollution indicative of electricity production via fossil fuels we may also be able to encourage electric vehicles.

By paying a premium for higher efficiencies and upping the minimums the industry will be forced to innovate. By having a guaranteed buyer the industry could move to more efficient, higher throughput manufacturing techniques.

I know it would be expensive. Also finding a place to put all of those panels may be difficult (putting them on residential house roofs would allow for distribution, but not all houses would be able to handle the additional weight).

My undergraduate degree is in Integrated Science and Technology with a concentration in Energy Systems. I don’t work in the industry, so please take this as the advice of a knowledgeable citizen. Not a lobbyist who is trying to turn a profit.

February 17, 2010 Posted by | Random Thoughts, Thoughts on Politics, Wild Theory | Leave a comment

People are bad…probably

Recently I have been trying to figure out of people are generally good, generally bad or downright evil.  My original thesis was this:

First, “Good” can be defined as what everybody thinks is acceptable.

Second, Most people define “Good” in a way that fits their own activities.

Therefore, most people are good.

This may be a logical answer, but the argument falls short as an actual argument.  So I am going to try to have a better answer.  I would like to apologise if I seem to be arguing with myself during this post as that is exactly what I am doing.

Why are people good (as they define it)?  Is it because they fear retribution?  Is it a moral imperative?  If the former, then I would say that is an indication that, given the chance, most people would be bad (if not evil).  If the latter, then there may be hope for the human race after all.

How can we determine a single person’s internal reasons for taking actions, much less everyone’s?  The best way is to evaluate those people who think they are above retribution by means of personal wealth or because they think they are too stupid or crazy to know better.  Now in the second case, I am not talking about the people who steal to feed their family (they are being pushed in to violating societal mores).  I am talking about true lunatics here.

The evidence here gets hard to gather.  Many people are financially well-to-do and stick to their morality.  These people never make the news.  Then there are cases such as Bernie Madoff.  So, Are there more “good” guys than “Bernie” guys that fit this “above the law” criteria?  Probably.  Does that prove that most people are good?  Probably not.  I would rather use the term “adequate” for people that only do no harm.  What about actually doing good?  Again, the people who do good rarely make the news.  It can also be argued that the harm that one Bernie can do is not mitigated by the good that a single goodie-two-shoes does.  And what about the good guy?  If he has $20M in money that can be spent on anything, and buys himself a $19.9M car and give $100k to charity…is that good?  The car was built by someone and therefore he is helping the economy.  But that is not a selfless act…and therefore not really good.

Then there are other cases that do not conform to the case study from above.  I was renting a house until I got a job.  My landlord knew that we were strapped for cash.  He and his wife were both employed.  He chose to sell the house we were living in rather than take a financial stalemate (which was the situation with my lease).  This put a lot of pressure on me and my family.  He was a decent guy otherwise, but did something uncomfortable to me so that he and his family could be more comfortable.  Is that a good act?  I will leave it up to the reader to decide since I am too close to this example.

This is a small sample size.  But can we make a tentative conclusion?  I am going to say that people are not good.  People who consistently do good deeds are far outnumbered by the truly evil and just plain unconscientious.  Are people evil?  There is evil in the world, but the mere presence of the Mother Theresas in the world would seem to disapprove the “people are evil” hypothesis.

I think, by and large, people are inconsiderate.  Not really evil, but definitely not good.  So, if I have to put people in to one of the categories I outlined at the beginning, then I am forced to put the human race in the “bad” range.

October 2, 2009 Posted by | Thoughts on Politics, Thoughts on Religion, Wild Theory | Leave a comment

State Secrets

It has been absolutely nuts the past few weeks.  Not only have I started working on a cool new project at work, I have also been working on a Morgan Family web site, projected release date is somewhere between December/2008 and December 2099.

Anyway, I have been thinking again.  Always a dangerous prospect.  Anyway, I was thinking about the United States.  Not the country, the actual states.  Why do we have states? 

The founding fathers had an idea about a weakened national government that was only really in place to settle arguments between states, and provide a unifying front for external nations.  Prior to Lincoln, that is exactly what the United States of America was.  Not “One Nation…”, but a loose conglomeration.

But for 7 score and 5 years, the United States has been a unified nation, with state governments simply providing a layer of government.

That brings me to my point.  The driving laws are essentially identical nation wide.  Yet we have 50 different state trooper organizations and 50 different DMVs.  The taxes are pretty close to each other in each state, yet there are 50 different state tax organizations.  Each of these has some overhead.  Combining states would eliminate some of this overhead…leading to a more effective use of our tax dollars.

However, I am not advocating eliminating all states.  States do have a purpose.  California and Virginia are good examples of what I mean.  California is a forward-looking state that is almost always the first to implement any wide-sweeping social reform.  In IT, we call this a beta release.  A trial run of new software to see if it works or not.  Virginia is more of a wait-and-see state.  They gauge the results from other states, and adapts the changes that they feel are improvements.  Having a mixture is probably a good idea.

So, here is my plan:

Staying the same:

  • Alaska – 663,661
  • Hawaii – 1,275,194
  • California – 36,132,147
  • Texas – 22,859,968

These constitute the largest states, and the states that are not a contiguous.

Now, we start combining some stuff:

  • Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa (Illiminnowiscowa – ILL) – 26,398,705
  • Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska (Wyodaknebidawashorigomon – WASH) – 15,974,272
  • Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah (Colariznevutnewmex – COL) – 17,417,245
  • Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana (Kanoklarkmisslou – KAN) – 19,395,663
  • Indiana, Ohio, Michigan (Indohmich – IND) – 27,856,875
  • New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut (Newmassrhoconvermhampyor – NEW) – 33,494,354
  • New Jersey, DC, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania (Jerdelmapenn – JER) – 28,141,974
  • Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina (Carolikenvergitenn – CAR) – 32,459,010
  • Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi (Georgalaflorimiss – GEO) – 34,341,336

The New US

By the constitution, the Senate takes 2 representatives from each state.  That would reduce the size of the senate from 100 to 26.  A much more manageable size.  The House has 435 members right now.  That is much more than was originally intended.  The house was supposed to be based on population.  The original total was for 65, divided by the original 13 colonies.  Although I didn’t plan on it, the Combined states happen to add to 13.  So, we can reduce the number of representatives to 65.  Hawaii and Alaska would each have one representatives.  The others would also be based on population, per the Constitution.

State Population # Reps # Senators
California 36,132,147 8 2
Georgalaflorimiss 34,341,336 7 2
Newmassrhoconvermhampyor 33,494,354 7 2
Carolikenvergitenn 32,459,010 7 2
Jerdelmapenn 28,141,974 6 2
Indohmich 27,856,875 6 2
Illiminnowiscowa
26,398,705 6 2
Texas 22,859,968 5 2
Kanoklarkmisslou 19,395,663 4 2
Colariznevutnewmex 17,417,245 4 2
Wyodaknebidawashhorigomon 15,974,272 3 2
Hawaii 1,275,194 1 2
Alaska 663,661 1 2
Total 296,410,404 65 26

That would reduce the number of people in the government.  The founding fathers wanted deadlock in the house and senate.  They wanted that to make it difficult to pass legislation unless it was important.  But I think we have gone too far in that direction.  A little smaller would allow for some bold decisions to be made.  It would also have the unfortunate result of making Reps and Senators more important, but maybe that will get more people to the polls on non-presidential election days.

As usual with my wild theories, there are some major problems.  California has a lot of power in the current setup.  They would continue to be powerful in the new system, but not quite as powerful.  Getting California to agree to give up power to reduce government might be difficult.  And it would be difficult to make these changes without the approval of California.

Also there are states that are way outside the “norm”.  New Hampshire is proud to be odd, having no state taxes to speak of.  How would they do merging with the high-tax states like New York and Massachusetts?

I also like the idea of a recombining of Virginia and West Virginia, but I’m not sure if West Virginia would like it (nor, for that matter would Virginia like it).  But even when states are philosophically similar, there can still only be one state government and state capitol.  So, which one?

I doubt that this could ever happen in my lifetime, but it makes sense to me.

February 19, 2008 Posted by | Thoughts on Politics, Wild Theory | Leave a comment

Peace in the Middle East

Yes, I think Peace in the Middle East is possible…in fact, it is inevitable.  The question is “When?”

Theoretically after the human race is extinct and the Solar Star has gone cold the Middle East will be peaceful (there won’t be anything left alive, but there shouldn’t be any war either).

I’m thinking of a shorter term plan though.  Granted, I think we would still be looking at a couple of generations before we would see real improvement.
What is my plan?

Religion is a poor excuse for war.  It is a common excuse, but a poor one nonetheless. In the absence of other factors, religion is not enough to sustain a war.  I am not privy to the economics during the Crusades, but I am sure more than one soldier signed up because they needed a paycheck.

Ultimately prosperity is the best piece keeper.  I am not sure where I heard the following, but it sounds reasonable:

“There has never been a war between two countries that had a McDonalds”.
The idea being that in order to support a fast food industry a certain level of economic stability would need to be reached.  Rather than risk that prosperity the populace will be more willing to leave a war alone.

I am not familiar with the economics of the Middle East, but I seem to remember that the rich are filthy rich while the poor are just plain filthy.  So, how can we raise the quality of life in the area?

Well, despite our high-tech endeavors, the United States economy is still dominated by agriculture.  The fact that Americans have plenty to eat (domestically) is a big part of our own prosperity.  The problem with the Middle Eastern area is that it is primarily an arid environment.

There are people a lot smarter than me trying to figure out how to reclaim farm land from the desert.  The science seems easy enough.  With enough Sun and water at least some kind of vegetation can grow…even if it is algae.  The desert has plenty of sun…the water is where it gets tricky.

The Mediterranean sea…as well as the Persian gulf…are full of water.  It shouldn’t take a genius to pump water from these sources inland to a centralized area (to start).  The energy for these pumps can be run off fossil fuels to begin with (plenty of that around) then can be switched over to wind and/or solar sources (the principal component in solar cells is silicone.  Most of the sand in the desert is also silicone).

So, now we have water and sun…time to start growing crops, right?  Not exactly.  Agriculture has become a science in and of itself.  It is also a science that I only slightly understand.  But one thing I do know, you need some nitrogen to grow meaningful crops.  Where is that going to come from?  Well, it is best to pull it from the air.  There are crops that are not consumed that do this pretty well. (that is called rotating crops…I think).

So even if the area starts as an algae farm that produces no usable food, it will help to enrich the soil to make meaningful crops later.  But wait…one more thing.  The water that is pumped in from the Med and the Gulf are salted.  Crops don’t grow well with salt water.  That means a desalination plant…which requires yet more energy…which requires more solar panels/wind mills.

But people are stupid.  You see, where would you build this new community?  I would suggest a new city so that sanitation plants and plumbing can be built in.  That is the one thing I can say.  I would personally like to see it on the border of Jordan, Iraq and Syria.  But the Saudi’s wouldn’t like that and may actually attack the city while it was under construction.

Putting it at the border between Jordan, Saudi Arabia Israel and Egypt would also make sense (that has the benefit of being pretty close to the Med), but if the Americans took point on this project (which we are likely to do), we would be showing favoritism toward our allies in the area.

I don’t have an answer…but let’s move on.

Above all else, I think that what the middle east needs is to be less important to the world.  The best way to do that is to eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels.  Once this new city was finished, the technology for creating a renewable energy economy would be developed.  America could take the lessons from “Capital City” to eliminate our own dependence on the fossil fuels.

I call it “Capital City” because I think it should be the new home of the United Nations.
The big problems with this plan?

1) Make war, not gifts – America is more likely to attack an area that is unstable than try to help it.  Remember Vietnam?  For that matter, Iraq really need aid, but we brought guns.

2) Protecting the project – Although the project would be intended to help the area, it would inevitably be a source of attack by short sited people and royalty that would see it as a way of subjugating their wealth and power.

3) Price – This would cost a lot.  To protect and to build the city would be a huge project.  I wouldn’t mind helping to foot the bill if it would bring stability to my future grandchildren.  But I don’t know how many other people would feel as I do.  And I can’t afford it on my own (any Billionaires out there want to give it a try?)

All in all these are fewer problems than other wild theories I have had (remember the terraforming of Venus?).  But it is a long term plan that isn’t even guaranteed to work…but I think it is better than what we are doing today.

July 27, 2007 Posted by | Random Thoughts, Thoughts on Politics, Wild Theory | Leave a comment

That “Meaning of Life” stuff

For those who actually get the reference…Kumtria!!!

You know, I think the Canines have figured out the meaning of life.  Think about it.  At least in my house they run the house.  They have no responsibilities and yet get all the food and treats they need (including a few they don’t.)  So here is what my dogs would think the meaning of life is:

1) Sparky – (85 lbs Lab/Border Collie) The meaning of life is being tall enough to reach anything on the kitchen counter and a nose that can open any door…including the pantry.

2) Peanut – (70 lbs Pure Lab) The meaning of life is a good tummy rub.

3) Honeybear (55 lbs Golden/Chow/Lion?) The meaning of life is goofin’.  Especially when Sparky starts to grump.

4) Sasha (45 lbs Gremlin/Lab/Jack Russell/Rott/????) The meaning of life is a house that accepts Gremlins and a human to lick obsessively.

But in all seriousness, I think the dogs do know the meaning of life.  To have someone to love and to be loved unconditionally.  What more can you expect out of life.  And the dogs have mastered it.

July 26, 2007 Posted by | Random Thoughts, Wild Theory | Leave a comment

NAsERs

I coined a new term today.  The term is “NAsERs” 

I work in the IT field.  Specifically I am a Quality Assurance Analyst.  That basically means that it is my job to break software.  When I do it is called a “Not as Expected Result”.  So I am calling them NAsERs. 

Not As Expected Results

I hope it catches on.  That would be cool.

June 4, 2007 Posted by | Random Thoughts, Wild Theory | 1 Comment

I both Love and Hate the English Language

As a kid I truly despised the English Language.  Not so much for the difficulty in understanding euphemisms or slang, but because I couldn’t spell.  I have mentioned before that I have Dyslexia.  This causes my brain to confuse letters when attempting to spell words.  I have a logical brain and wanted a language that made sense.

I want to implement the following rules:

1) Lets get rid of “C” – there is no reason.  “K” and “S” do an adequate job of communicating pretty much all there is that “C” does. 

2) “Q” is also unnecessary.  “KW” works just as well.

3) Silent letters should be eliminated from all words.

4) New letters should be invented for “SH”, “TH” and “CH”. (“C” and “Q” aren’t doing anything)

5) Accents should be used to indicate “long” or “short” vowel sounds.

I am blessed to live in the age of Spell Check.  In High School I got only average grades (ok, slightly above average), but in College I got high marks.  I tell people that the reason for this is that in High School the teachers couldn’t read my handwriting and assumed I was wrong.  In College the Professors couldn’t read my handwriting and assumed I was right.  But the truth is that in College I started handing everything in typed up and spell-checked.  It is amazing the difference that made.

Those people I know who have learned English as a second language tell me that spelling isn’t the hardest part of the language.  Slang is.  Words have meanings that go beyond skin deep.

This was accentuated one day when I was at the local Chick-Fil-A.  The little girl behind the counter said “My Pleasure” after I said “Thank You”.  It reminded me of a rant by Tuesday Morning Quarterback about how the recent common use of the phrase is diluting the meaning.  But I think that is one of the strengths of the language.  When a word or phrase becomes overused it will eventually be replaced.  Sometimes with another existing synonym (e.g. Wonderful) and sometimes with a related, but not obvious, slang term (remember the whole “Bad”/”Good” thing of the 80’s)

In real life, when someone asks my how I am doing I try not to answer “Fine”.  Instead I answer “Wonderful” or “Wonderbar” or “Great”.  If someone says “Hi” I try to use words like “Greetings” or “Howdy” or “Good Morning” (no matter the time of day).  The English language is rich in words and a strong and/or unusual vocabulary can bring a smile to people’s faces.

But language does have a weight associated with it.  I know the Chinese written language has a different symbol for every word in their language.  The result is a  population that can’t write…or at least can’t read.

So, here is what I have been trying to do.  I want to create a logical universal language.  I think I will start by realizing that language is, by definition, not logical and taking a break…forever.

May 22, 2007 Posted by | Random Thoughts, Wild Theory | 2 Comments

Population: Infinity

You may have noticed that in my “Wild Theories” category I like to take the opposite approach than the conventional wisdom.  After all, I encourage the terraforming and populating of Venus, not Mars.  And I consider Autism an evolutionary step in the right direction instead of a learning disability.  This primarily comes from my family dinner table.  My father and I would debate over our meat and potatoes everything from quantum physics to football.  We were both contrarians, so no matter how difficult it would be to justify a position, I would take it as long as it was the exact opposite of my father’s position (he would do the same).  This may sound like typical teenager stuff, but I don’t know how many teenagers will argue with their fathers about Schrodinger’s Cat and Pavlov’s dog rather than Friday Night Curfew.

Wow, that was off subject. Now on to my latest wild theory.

Conventional Wisdom is that the human population of Planet Earth is growing at a rate that is not sustainable.  My favorite Author, Isaac Asimov, wrote many texts, both fiction and non-fiction, on the subject and every one of them took a negative view on the subject.  And to be fair, we are already encountering a lack of food and resources for all of those hungry mouths.  But necessity is the mother of invention. 

I don’t consider it to be that big of a problem.  Granted that may be because I have plenty to eat.  My thinking is as follows:

Premise: The human race is generally “good”

Premise: The rate of “Genius” is constant

Conclusion: The more people there are, the more benevolent geniouses there are in the world. 

You can argue with both of my premises.  But I will ask that you accept them for now.  The problems we currently face are numerous.  Everything from Global Warming to Global Dimming to food shortages to cancer and yes, overpopulation.  Who is going to solve these problems?  For the most part, solutions to global problems require two things:

1) Smart People

2) Lots of Data

So, the more “Normal” people we have, the more data collectors we have.  The more Geniuses we have, the more problem solvers we have.  I don’t pretend to know what the solutions will be (my IQ falls just short of “Genius”), but I think the more geniuses there are out there the more likely we are to find the solution.

That all holds true if my premises are right, but if either premise is wrong then we are probably screwed either way.

April 27, 2007 Posted by | Random Thoughts, Wild Theory | Leave a comment

I Think The Borg have it right

For those of you who either don’t know or don’t remember, the Borg were a cybernetic species introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation and brought out again every time ratings slipped on the subsequent Star Trek series.  They were supposed to be the embodiment of evil, but I didn’t see that.  I thought they were the embodiment of fanaticism.  If you were not a member of their “Clique” then you were forcefully converted.  If you read my post “A Rant About Religion” you will see how I feel about fanaticism.

But I am not currently interested in the fanaticism, or the use of cybernetics for enhancement (which I think may be a natural evolution of the human species in centuries to come).  What I am talking about are their ships.  They had two “classes” of star ships.  They had the spheres and the cubes.  Simple geometric shapes that were intended to show that the Borg had no real imagination.

I’m not sure that is true.  Why make a space ship anything other than a simple geometric shape?  A cube is a highly efficient use of space (why do you think houses are generally cubic).  The sphere is one of the strongest structures.  The only reason to make a star ship a different shape is for artistic reason and to eliminate usable space.

So, I think when the human race does eventually travel to the stars, the ships will not look like the Enterprise, but instead will resemble a Borg cube (although I would allow for a 3D rectangle as well)

April 17, 2007 Posted by | Wild Theory | 2 Comments