www.MajorBS.com - Serious and humorous ruminations on the states of West Seattle, Seattle, America and the World

Friday, June 20, 2014

We Are Alone

There's been a bit of press lately about whether other intelligent life exists in the universe.   Most notably the cover of the July, 2014, National Geographic asks "Is Anybody Out There? Life Beyond Earth".

My answer:  nope, we are alone.

The Huffington Post had a great blog post on June 17th with a very thorough explanation of the problem and possible reasons why we haven't heard from any other intelligent life.  I'll cut to the bottom line:  there should be 10 million billion civilizations in the universe.  That's 10,000,000,000,000,000.

But none of them has contacted us.   This is called the Fermi Paradox - there ought to be a lot of civilizations but there aren't.  Why?

I personally think every intelligent species - every civilization - destroys itself.   That's why we're alone - everyone else has destroyed themselves.

There are so many obvious ways to do it, and, unfortunately, many of them are in our future.  Nuclear Armageddon - nuclear war - is the most obvious one, but we seem to have made it past that one.
But coming up are climate change gone wild, designer viruses and diseases, launched by terrorists which devastate the world, nano-technology gone wild which devastates the world, and the singularity, where machines become smarter than humans and decide they don't need us any more.  (Of course that implies there are machine-based civilizations out there, but I suspect they destroy themselves too.)

I'm rather happy to be living in the early part of the 21st century.   Lots of cool technology, enough to eat, nice houses to live in, and a world not quite yet so overcrowded that we still have great national parks.

But I'm kinda glad to live in this day-and-age too, because I think, starting about 50 years from now, life will be hell.

Monday, November 11, 2013

A Veterans Day without War Veterans

I'm hoping for a Veterans' Day without any Veterans of War, because the United States hasn't been fighting any wars.  
That certainly will not occur in my lifetime, as we are creating new War Veterans at an amazing clip in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
At some point, perhaps, with 3D printing and recycling and sustainable energy, we as a nation won't need to use an outsized portion of the world's resources to feed our consumption and economy.  That, in turn, means we won't have to fight overseas wars (such as the Oil War we fought in Iraq) to secure those resources.
We'll still have veterans, of course, and we'll celebrate Veterans' Day for as long as we are a coherent nation, and perhaps beyond.  We'll celebrate Veterans' Day to commemorate the greatest generation, those who fought World War II, and all the others who have fought wars to preserve our way of life - freedom in all its forms, including the freedom to endlessly consume and drive fossil-fueled vehicles.
And we'll always be creating new veterans, I hope, but these will be soldiers who provide relief to the Philippines after devastating typhoons, to Haiti after earthquakes, and our own National Guard and Army Reserve, mobilized to combat our own natural disasters.
But no more veterans of foreign wars, youngsters who've lost limbs and sight and suffer from PTSD seeing events which no human being should endure.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Did Voyager 1 open a hole for Sanity to return to Earth?

Voyager 1 Spacecraft

I'm flabbergasted by extraordinary events which  have happened in the last two weeks:

  • Pope Francis has tried to direct the Roman Catholic Church away from its obsession with "small-minded rules", bureaucracy and fixation on sex, contraception, gays, and abortions, and toward a wider message of pastoral care and concern for people.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has apparently brokered a deal to get Syria to sign the chemical weapons ban treaty and turn over or destroy all its chemical weapons.  Syria has already turned over an inventory of its weapons.   This is a great deal for the United States (if it works) because it means one less military entanglement for us, saving some face for President Obama, and less pain and suffering for the U.S. military and taxpayers.
  • President Hassan Rouhani of Iran wants talks with the United States.  Iran also opened access to twitter and Facebook for its people - but that only lasted a day.  
My personal theory on this is that when Voyager 1 passed into Interstellar Space on August 25th, it opened a hole in the heliosphere to rest of the universe and some sanity flowed in, reaching a few leaders here on earth.

My theory was promptly dashed yesterday as Republicans in the United States House of Representatives seem hell-bent on shutting down the government and having the U.S. default on our debt in a futile attempt to thwart Obamacare.   Clearly, sanity  has not leaked through to that side of the Capitol.  

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Hell no, we won't go ...

Those of you who lived in the Vietnam War era will perhaps remember that refrain, repeated especially by those who were resisting the draft.
I'm applying it to United States intervention in Syria.
I was heartened to see President Obama seek the advice of Congress before committing the United States militarily to an attack on Syria.
I have few doubts Bashar Assad did, indeed, use chemical weapons on his own people, including children.  And I agree that is an awful act, worthy of worldwide condemnation (and I clutch my own three-year-old granddaughter close as I write this).  But the world isn't condemning it and the world isn't calling for military action and "regime change" in Syria.  Indeed, few other governments - and specifically not the the United Nations Security Council - have signed on to military action.   This is exactly the opposite reaction of what happened in Libya.
Who made the United States the policeman of the world?  Who authorized us to enforce every treaty (i.e. the Chemical Weapons Convention)?   Aren't we hated enough in the world by pursuing an almost universal, fruitless and costly war in Iraq, and using drone strikes in nations across the planet?   Before we starting taking more such military actions, let's make sure we've got widespread support within the United States as well as internationally.
Yes, President Obama backed himself into a corner by talking about the "red line" of the use of chemical weapons in Syria.   But, unlike his predecessor, who rushed to consummate a war in Iraq, Obama "manned up" and was tough enough not to blindly rush into the Syria action despite the "red line".   Bravo!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Best Tweets of Election 2012

I'm a twitter junkie.  Not so much junkie for viewing others' tweets, but I do, myself, regularly tweet.   I generally keep my tweets to strictly business - information technology use in government - although sometimes I've been known to tweet about personal stuff like my "mixed marriage" - my spouse uses all Apple technology while I'm a died-in-the-wool Microsoft guy (except for one gadget).

Anyway, it has been a hard and difficult election for the past few months.   Time for some humor before the real work starts.

Here's a few of the most humorous election tweets I could find:

@billschrier Breaking news:  CNN reports Ohio is 75% vowels.   Update:  Iowa is 75% vowels too.@jenstatsky:  Romney not watching any network projections. Will know it's time to pack it up & go home when his dog instinctively climbs on top of his car@UNTRESOR: If Romney wins I'm moving to Canada. If Obama wins I'm moving to Canada. I just need to be somewhere where the cops can't find me.@anylaurie16:  Are the conservatives having heart attacks right now just a LITTLE bit grateful for Obamacare?@clintonmath:  Hey Big Bird, you can come out of hiding.  Obama won the election.
@kenjennings: Maryland just gay-married Maine
@fauxjohnmadden:  Breaking:  Apple Maps projects Obama to win Brazil.
@mikedicenzo:  Mitt Romney did create one job, only it was for Barack Obama.
@indecision:  Today, voters from all over America go to the polls to help decide who Ohio will pick as president.
@glennf: Wasn’t there a president after Clinton and before Obama? I can’t find any information about him.

Did Sears Outsource American Jobs to China?

I've always liked Sears.
I guess it dated from the time I grew up as a kid near Waterloo Iowa.  Sears was the store where the family did most of our department store shopping.   Yes, there was "high end" store called "Blacks" - the Neiman Marcus of Waterloo.   But my family was a lower middle class farm family.   We shopped at Sears.  And especially during the Christmas season, when the store was all decked out for the holidays.
Our farm actually had a Sears mail-order garage as well.  I didn't realize it was Sears until many years later when I saw a photo of them, something similar to the photo at the right.
It just always seemed to me that Sears was an "all-American" institution, deeply entwined with the history of the United States.
Then I heard about the apparently shameless rip-off of Dan Brown's "bionic wrench", made in Pennsylvania.  After buying it from him for some time, Sears apparently took the design, sent it to China, and started to manufacture knock-off wrenches there.   And then stopped buying Dan's product, forcing him to lay off American workers.
Sears maintains they did nothing wrong.
Of course they're still having their "Craftsman" tools made in China.
That, in and of itself, is saddening to me.

Friday, April 5, 2013

The Death of the Garbage Disposer

I clearly remember seeing my first InSinkErator - garbage disposer built into the kitchen sink.
I was in college, and I visited a friend's house in Dubuque, Iowa.  The friend was a banker's son, and decently well-to-do.  The first thing I noticed was the horizontal light switch next to the sink.  Gosh that was odd, as was the rubber drain in the sink itself.
Now, remember I grew up on a farm in central Iowa.  The garbage disposer on the farm was simple if laborious.  First, we had to eat at least some part of all the food on our plate.  Next, Dad often played pickup food consumer so it wouldn't go to waste (poor-starving-kids-in-China syndrome - pun intended).  You put the garbage in a bucket and you took it out and slopped the hogs.  For pigs who were used to a grain meal diet, potato peels and kitchen scraps were a gourmet treat.
Anyway, I had to be instructed on how to use the InSinkErator in Dubuque, and it was a wondrous machine to behold, chewing and crunching the scraps is a loud and onerous voice, at the same time taking noxious odors down the drain with them.
As an adult living in Seattle, we've had a household kitchen disposal all our lives.  Indeed, when we totally remodeled the kitchen a few years ago, we dutifully added a brand spanking new disposal devices.
Our disposals received some use the first few years we lived in our house, but the ecological mindset of Seattle quickly overcame it.  We tried composting for years, with more or less - mostly less - success.  For some reason I could never keep the compost heap alive and well, and never knew exactly when to remove the compost and put it in the garden.
For the last few years, Seattle's had an active program of yard waste bins.   In addition to grass and leaves, the yard waste can include any kind of kitchen scrap including most food-soiled paper and cardboard.  So suddenly, my lack of composting skills has become irrelevant.
Equally irrelevant is the InSinkErator, which now sits forlorn and alone at the bottom of our sink, never used.
Another old appliance enters the dustbin of history.