Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

Trump vs. the Media in the Shadow of Nuclear War

August 10, 2017

I think that North Korea is doing nothing more than trying to act tough, which is why I write this particular post instead of something concerning the upcoming nuclear war.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have heard that North Korea threatens to nuke Guam in a show of power and as a demonstration of their nuclear capabilities.

Several commentators have said that the threat, and a nuclear attack would be a “direct result” of Trump’s statements about North Korea.

Did you get that?  A nuclear attack, destroying several US Military installations and killing over 150,000 people by a dictator is the “direct result” of something Trump said?

No.  The phrase “direct result” implies a cause and effect relationship.  Therefore, this implies that a nuclear attack would be BECAUSE of Trump.

I’ve heard stories like this before.  I once had a friend in high school who told us that her bruises were a direct result of her actions; not her boyfriend’s fault.  After all, if she had called on time, she wouldn’t have been hit.

To blame Trump’s words for a nuclear attack is to remove any responsibility from a spoiled dictator, who just said he has no problem murdering 150,000+ people as a demonstration of power.  Furthermore, it is a denial of basic cause-and-effect relationships, and replacing them with the whims of a dictator as a fact of life:  mess with him, and get killed.  It is as if these commentators are saying, “Shouldn’t have messed with him, it’s your fault.”

One thing we have learned from feminism (and I agree, totally), is that it is wrong to blame the victim, be it rape, abuse, or in this case, mass murder.  If a woman drinks too much and is raped, one could say, “if she had not been drinking, this would not have happened,” which may or may not be true, but that does not place the blame on her.  “That’s what she gets for getting drunk,” would be victim blaming, as it implies a 1 to 1 cause and effect relationship:  If she gets drunk, she will get raped, cause and effect.  It implies that she is responsible, not the rapist.

While Trump may not be the direct victim of a nuclear attack, these reporters are placing the blame of a nuclear attack on someone who made some mouth noises versus the wee “man” dictator who launched the missles.

Thank you for reading my post.

 

Censorship, Yet Again

July 13, 2017

Censorship exists only in one fashion:  when the goverment forbids you from speaking/writing/etc.  Censorship cannot occur unless THE GOVERNMENT forbids speech.  A person, a corporation, Facebook, etc., cannot “censor” anything.

There has been quite a few misconceptions about this over the past few weeks, starting with the Kathy Griffin incident, where she displayed a model of a beheaded Donald Trump.  No, Kathy, CNN did not “censor” you.  You are free to speak, but you cannot demand CNN, or anyone else, for that matter, to provide you a platform to do so.

I have also seen quite a few posts recently talking about how Facebook “censored” them.  No, it didn’t.  Facebook can choose to keep or discard any information they want. It is their platform.  They don’t have to support your views, nor are they required to provide you a microphone.

If you go to a concert, security is not “censoring” you when they do not let you run up on stage and take the microphone from the lead singer.  They are not “censoring” you by not giving you “equal time” or any other nonsense.

Unpopular Opinion Time:  The same is true for Net Neutrality.  A company can decide what content travels along their equipment, and at what speed.  Plenty of you will point out that the internet operates under Net Neutrality at this time, and that blogs like mine could be blocked.  So what?  I should not be able to force someone else to display my content.

Would this be the death of the internet?  No.  In fact, it opens up a huge door for companies to CHOOSE to be Net Neutral.  I bet that a few internet providers that choose to be net netural, instead of being forced to be net neutral, will very quickly displace the companies that choose to reject net neutrality.

Even so, whether or not the internet will change with no net neutrality requirement should not supercede the rights of the provider to run their network how they wish.

Really, it comes down to property rights again.  The KKK cannot show up in an interracial couple’s bedroom and protest, because the couple’s property rights supercede the KKK’s rights to “free speech.”  In the same way, an internet provider should be able to determine what content and at what speed and conditions messages are passed through their property.

Thank you for reading my post.

Meetings with Members of the Opposite Sex

July 6, 2017

I should just stay off of Facebook.  Every time I go on there, I end up seeing articles that annoy me, and sometimes losing respect for people along the way.

The most recent offender was this article by the New York Times.  The point was that Mike Pence, and apparently most Americans, consider going to dinner alone with a member of the opposite sex (other than a spouse or romantic partner) inappropriate.

I find no harm in this, either way.  I have dinner with whomever I want, whenever I want.  I traveled alone with a member of the opposite sex for two weeks, and will likely be in similar situations throughout my life.  No big deal.

Pence chooses not to.  Not my problem.  As long as he doesn’t back legislation forbidding it, who cares what he does?  It is his decision.  Or so I thought.

I dared post this, and I was informed that the real purpose of this article was that because of this choice, “women were being held back” as Pence would only meet with male members of congress and male special interest representatives.  Furthermore, it was my “white, male privilege” that prevents me from seeing these problems.  It was also suggested that I get “woke” immediately.

Fuck off.

Foolishly, I had once considered a graduate degree with these people.  Thankfully, they were not interested.  Now, I see that any successes had more to do with my race, gender, and sexual orientation, in their eyes, than any hard work on my part.

One of these days, I’m going to walk away from this world and all of its shitty people.  I just want to watch it all burn.  Is it time to shrug?  Perhaps.  I wish I was more important, such that my shrugging would matter.

 

 

Mechanization and Automation

June 23, 2017

I have heard far too many reports about how many jobs will be “lost” to machines in the near future.  These reports, some of which come from automation magazines, all have one thing in common:  the end of the world will occur as we will all become unemployed and homeless because of automation.  Figures and years range from 50-70% of jobs in the next 10 years will be replaced by automation.  I am not referencing this garbage, just know that these articles exist.  A quick Google search will get you plenty of fodder.

Part of being a human being is improving our world and making our lives easier.  During the dark ages, people worked and had zero leisure time.  Everything was about survival, and survival meant doing everything in-house.  All food was grown, all clothes made, and all home repairs done by the members of the household.  For their endless days of hard, manual labor, life expectancy was in the 40’s, and conditions were awful.

We have increased our abilities through invention and creativity.  In the strictest sense, we have no collective knowledge, but we do get to benefit from the development of others through free trade.  I don’t have to develop the air conditioner that is currently protecting me from 104 F temperatures outside.  Someone else did that, and I paid them money for it.

Through this combination of invention, creativity, and free trade, we went through the scientific and industrial revolutions which improved our lives significantly.  150 years ago, “Go west, young man,” meant walking away from your family forever and traveling by wagon, foot, or horse across the wild unknown.  Many did not survive.  When I went west in 2005, my parents were a mere three hour flight away.  FLIGHT.

In electronics, Moore proposed that the number of transistors on a single chip would double every 18 months.  It has been called “Moore’s law”, and has pretty much held true for the last 30 years.  If we are developing computing power that doubles every 18 months (not quite, but transistors are a proxy for this), then why do we expect our lives to be as they were 50 years ago.

Perhaps the days of working 40 hour work weeks are about done.  Many places have made the switch to 32 hour work weeks.  Are 20 hour work weeks in our future?

But what about the lost revenue?  What about the lost jobs?

As an undergraduate, I lost a job to automation.  I used to check student ID’s at one of the dorms at night.  I would stay up all night and just look at student IDs.  Eventually, a card swipe was installed on the building, and I was no longer needed for that role.  So what?  I found other work.

Jobs go away.   If our world is changing so quickly that Moore’s Law is followed, why do we go about employment the same way as our parents and grandparents did?

Fifteen years ago, there was no such thing as a “social media expert,” “Uber driver,” or grocery picker for curbside delivery.  100 years ago, there was someone who jammed wooden stakes into the wheels of the ore cars to slow them down.

The authors of these articles, and those who worry about their jobs being replaced by automation are short-sighted.  What job will these folks have?  I don’t know.  I know there are still problems in the world that need to be solved, and that those solutions will involve people at all skill levels.  I do know that those who resist change will be left behind.

If your job can be replaced by a machine…it should be!  And, it is happening, whether you adapt to a new job, or not!

 

 

Free Market Wins Again

June 2, 2017

I recently was involved in a story where a large gas station in an isolated area locked its doors during a tornado warning.  People driving on the state highway flocked to the gas station to find shelter, only to have the teenager on duty point to a “Closed” sign, sending the scared travelers fleeing in all directions.

As a private company, it is the store’s right to close their doors.  However, as it turns out, this was not the company policy.  Based in Oklahoma, their bathrooms are designed to be tornado shelters.

Rather than complain to the police about the locked doors, an influential storm chaser tweeted the dilemma.  As word spread, the corporate offices responded to the storm chaser, and the doors were to be unlocked. Thankfully, the tornado did not affect any of the folks who were seeking shelter.

In the end, free-markets, and words on social media made a huge change for a small town.

Thank you for reading my post.

The Gig Economy

May 12, 2017

In my parents’ day, a “good job” meant stability and working at the same place from the time you left your education until the time you retired.  Things were predictable, secure and safe.  One would perform a similar task (even in white-collar work) at the same time, in the same place.  In exchange for this task, this person would be compensated either hourly or yearly.

While there are some merits to this system, it no longer works quite the same as it did back then.  Today, companies change constantly.  The company you worked for five years ago probably changed names.  Sometimes, they split apart.  Sometimes, they merge.

Also, as we become more affluent, as a society, and more tasks become automated, more tasks can be done remotely.  Because of this, more workers can perform tasks from home, commuting on public transportation, or even while waiting in line at the grocery store.

Also, there is the issue of “dead-time” at work.  One of the most boring times at a job is when someone is between projects, but must maintain “butt-in-seat” time for a salaried job, or risk losing money by not clocking hours during an hourly job.  This is horribly inefficient.  We try to make manufacturing “just-in-time” so that product doesn’t sit in a warehouse.  Why should labor be different?

Some things will never move from shift work, and I am glad of that.  When my house is on fire, I am glad that there is a firefighter standing by, waiting for the call.  However, does a software engineer need to do this?

Really, the so-called “Gig-Economy” forces us to constantly innovate.  We have to develop new skills, and always look for the next thing.  Stagnation has no place in this economy.

In electronics, there is the concept of Moore’s Law, where the number of transistors on a computer chip doubles every 18 months in an exponential growth pattern.   Perhaps an exponential growth “Moore’s Law” accompanies us human beings.  A few generations ago, most people took their father’s profession, with very little change.  In the previous generation, people went to college and found a career.  Perhaps now, we all have many, smaller duration jobs.  Who knows what our kids will have.

And, ultimately, it is happening, like it or not.

Thank you for reading my post.

 

United Airlines and the Free Market

April 13, 2017

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have seen the video of the man that was beaten and dragged from the United Airlines flight.  You’ve probably seen the internet responses to this incident, including responses by rival airlines.

Unfortunately, I will give an unpopular opinion:  United was within their rights to do so.  They issued a ticket with the condition that it could be revoked at anytime.  Once it was revoked, the man’s refusal to leave was criminal tresspassing, just like the crackhead who hangs around 7-11 and is asked to leave. In both cases, you call the authorities to remove them.

Now, to a more popular opinion:  What a dreadful policy you have, United!

Thankfully, the free market has spoken.  Boycotts, hilarious parodies, and a large drop in your stock prices.  Competing airlines have offered specials to suck away your customers.

A company is allowed to make dreadful policies, such as this, but they are not protected from its effects on their bottom line.

Now, the trick will be to keep the government out of the way, and let the free market take its course.  No bailouts for struggling airlines, no new legisliation about treatment by TSA agents, no false “consumer rights” about being allowed to squat on an airplane.

Let United figure out how to reconcile this awful policy in the eyes of the free market, or let them fail.

What Government and Business Have in Common

March 24, 2017

I recently ran across a video explaining why government and business were not compatible, and how a CEO should not become president.  The video itself isn’t worth posting, but I will give you the highlights:  condescending casual businessman-looking jerk talks down to you for five minutes.  The jerkface makes random claims:

1.   CEOs “just” have to make profit, and that is not as complex as running a country.
2.  Presidents are representatives of the people, but CEOs represent themselves.
3.  The government pays for things.

First, the challenge of making a profit is what makes a CEO’s job difficult.  There is no “just” about it.  Whether or not it is as complex as running a country depends entirely on how your mind works.  Really, they are different types of work in some respects, and it is hard to compare them.

Second, a CEO answers to the board of directors.  The board of directors is elected through its share holders.  A president is elected through the electoral college, who base their votes on their state’s popular vote.  So, just as a president must answer to the voters, a CEO must answer to the share holders.

One may argue that a CEO can blow off the concerns of John Q. Shareholder.   We could say the same about any given president.  One could argue that the nominating committee of the corporation determines who gets to run for the board of directors.  One could look at the Democratic Party’s nomination of Hilary Clinton over Bernie Sanders to see the parallel.

Finally, the video argued that services, like the US Postal Service, are required to serve the good, poor people of Bratislavia, Pennsyltucky.  At any cost, Bratislavian people are owed mail service.   He mention how UPS or FedEx neither one will support offices in small towns, and that it was the duty of the USPS to operate in that town so that the people could send mail form that town. He also states that the existence of the USPS keeps the prices of the UPS and FedEx low.   He also speaks of several other govenment services, and how they are required to give people what they need, even though fulfilling needs is not economical.

The big problem with this entire story is that the video assumes that the government just has money.  Where does it come from?  Nobody knows.  The government just has money.  Infinite money to pay for heavily subsidized health care and postal delivery in every town, especially those where industry knows are unable to support such a service.

In the ultimate slap in the face, this money comes from taxes.  Taxes taken from the companies who know it is not economical to run a delivery service to these towns.  Taxes then used to undercut their businesses in towns where there is (or perhaps was) enough customers to support them.

A good CEO president would trim the areas that were not economical to run.  Bratislavia, Pennsyltucky would not have postal service, but they are not owed postal service, either.  And just like towns that do not have a Walmart, UPS or Ford dealership, the residents would either commute to another town, or do without.  People of New York City, or Bratislavia or wherever are not owed postal delivery or health insurance any more than they are owed a Ford Dealership or an In N Out Burger.

That is what this video was missing.  The understanding that the government’s sole purpose is to protect the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of its residents.  Courts to uphold the law and police to arrest those who choose to violate the rights of others.

The government is not here to supply your needs on any level.

Bill Nye, the Not-So-Science Guy

March 9, 2017

Maybe my title is a bit inflammatory.  While I was a child of the 80’s and 90’s, I did not have cable.  Therefore, I was unacquainted with Bill Nye, The Science Guy until I was much older.  Thankfully, I do not have an attachment to this celebrity.  Overall, I do respect what he did by making science cool for many kids, and I have heard he has a mechanical engineering degree, which is no picnic to earn.

Always an advocate of carbon controls, a video he made has become quite popular on Facebook, and it warranted a response.  His video is found here:
Billy Nye’s Call To Action

I posted a response that outlines a few problems I have with his video:

1. Science is never “settled.” If your old “fact” doesn’t stand up to new data, you might just learn something new.

2. Plus or minus 2% is misleading. If you are talking about a 2% error bar on a 0.5% detected change, yes, it might mean that the effect is not happening.

3. In terms of energy balance, yes, there is plenty of energy across the US to power everything. And if you could do 100% energy conversion, and tell Newton’s laws to take a hike, we could power the country this way. Maybe we could some day (even Newton’s laws can be tested), but not today. Then, if we did generate it, that is only part of the problem. Storage and smart transmission are bigger problems.

4. Not everyone who asks questions is a climate denier. I am not a denier, but I expect sound science, not science based on an expected outcome. I expect error propagation and instrumentation error reported, just like I would for other scientific publications. These are almost always lacking. This doesn’t make me a denier.

5. No, Bill, free market and taxes are not compatible. A free market is not controlled by which technologies are taxed and which are not.

I expect as the “March For Science” approaches, we will see more of this garbage, as most people have no idea what is science and what is not.

Thank you for reading my post.

Scholarship

March 3, 2017

I received an email about a scholarship opportunity to forward to our students.  It was worth a few thousand dollars and required an essay, transcript and a few letters of recommendation.

I knew quite a few students who could use the money, and were worthy of a scholarship of this size.  Hard working, capable students.

However, as I continued reading the requirements I saw that none of these students qualified.  Was there a minimum GPA?  Sure, yet all of the students I could name met this requirement.

Instead, the students that come to mind were eliminated because they were not Hispanic.

Morally speaking, an individual or an organization should be allowed to give money to whomever they choose, regardless of whatever stupid reason they choose.  However, you have to wonder about someone who is willing to give money to someone based on their bloodwork and heritage.

I deleted this email.  This organization will not receive my support.  If they wish to choose their candidates based on non-essentials such as race, my students are too good to be involved in such an organization.

Thank you for reading my post.