24 April 2015

I Always Knew It

I took one of the many internet IQ tests this morning, and scored an impressive 190.

And since we know that IQ doesn't change over time, I thought it was perfectly appropriate to take a test designed for third graders.

15 April 2015

Voting Made Easy

This may be the most important post I've written in a while, in that it may—and arguably should—influence people's behavior. Please read it carefully and thoroughly.

Following is an "edited quote" from a respected journalist who I'm not naming so as to avoid as much bias as possible. I thought this was an excellent and unusually clear assessment of the American political situation and voting options, so I'm passing it along more or less intact.

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There has never been a time in American history when the alleged personal traits of candidates mattered less. As we head into 2016, each party is quite unified on major policy issues, and these unified positions are very far from each other. The huge, substantive gulf between the parties will be reflected in the policy positions of whomever they nominate, and will almost surely be reflected in the actual policies adopted by whoever wins.

Democrat:
  • Maintain the basic U.S. social insurance programs — Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — in essentially their current form, while also preserving and extending the Affordable Care Act.
  • Retain the tax hikes on high-income Americans that went into effect in 2013, and possibly seek more.
  • Preserve the 2010 financial reform laws designed to rein-in big financial firms
  • Move forward on climate policy, through executive action if necessary

Republican:
  • Destroy Obamacare, make deep cuts in Medicaid, and probably try to convert Medicare into a voucher system.
  • Cut taxes on the wealthy while slashing programs that aid low-income families.
  • Roll back 2010 financial reform laws, eliminating both consumer protection and the extra regulation applied to large, “systemically important” financial institutions.
  • Block efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

The differences between the parties are so clear and dramatic that it’s hard to see how anyone who has been paying attention could be undecided even now, or be induced to change his or her mind between now and the election.

One thing is for sure: American voters will be getting a real choice. May the best party win.

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So what the pundit is saying is that you, Ms/Mr voter, have a very clear choice. It does not matter who becomes the candidate: the position above are those of his/her party, and those are approximately the things that will happen under the next President.

So make your choice based on the above. It's simple, clear, unambiguous. Which set of actions or reactions do you think best serve the interests of America and/or yourself?

Please use Comments, below, to say if you think any of the above positions are mis-represented or biased, or if other points of difference or similarity between the parties should be included.


14 April 2015

Aurora Again

Another great aurora picture.

After the picture is displayed, click on it to change background to black, which is preferred for best viewing. Do NOT view on phone, screen is to small.

The Devil Makes Three

I just "discovered" a new musical group which I really like and thought I'd share with you. They've been around for quite a while

Here's a YouTube version of the song that caught my attention.

And here's one of a concert they did in 2009. It's 33 minutes long, but (a) is very good quality, (b) you don't have to view/listen to the whole thing, (c) you can listen while doing something else, and (d) it shows the performers performing very well and clearly.

Here's their website in case you want more info.

I'll be going to see them in concert the next time they're in Southern California.

Rejected Political Slogans

I expect that this didn't get much traction in the Hillary campaign meeting to come up with a good slogan:

Hill and Bill in 2016

Tough Decision

(This post is political, but it's clearly not partisan.)

----------------------

Paraphrasing the civil rights / human rights reporter Glenn Greenwald:

A serious debate is going on inside the State Department and White House these days.

Should our response to people in the Middle East who we think might be terrorists, or have some sort of connection to organizations or suspected terrorists or other people we won't like, be to:


  1. Continue Obama's policy of using drones to kill them, their families, the associates and other bystanders without any sort of trial or legal framework/recourse.

    or

  2. Re-initiate Bush's policy of kidnapping them from their homes and indefinitely imprisoning them in Guantanamo without any sort of trial or legal framework/recourse.

11 April 2015

With It

Just heard the following on a local radio station, which a little research revealed to be from a 1996 episode of "The Simpsons:"

I used to be with it, but then they changed what *it* was.

Now what I'm with isn't *it*, and what's *it* seems weird and scary to me.

It'll happen to you...

Appomattax

Talking now to baby boomers:

Is there ANYTHING at all that we learned about American history that was/is not an orchestrated set of lies designed to shape our thinking and our attitudes?

This New York Times article on Appomattax and the aftermath of the formal end of the Civil War shatters yet another myth.


06 April 2015

Aurora

Here's a particularly great picture of the aurorea borealis I was sending to friend LC, then decided to share with everybody.

Same viewing tips as always:

  • View on as big a screen as possible (although small high-resolution screens may be better than large low-resolution ones).
  • After getting the image displayed, click on it to switch to a black background, which is generally better for viewing and seems to be preferred by the photographer comments I've read.

04 April 2015

The White Silence

Click on the image for a full-page view, and then click on that to change background to black (better for viewing).

At the bottom of the image-display page, there are thumbnails of additional pictures from this photographer. You might want to scroll through them, they are pretty impressive.



02 April 2015

Minimum Wage by State

Another great map.

America’s Angriest White Men

The following is a long and tough read. I'd suggest trying a few paragraphs to see if it interests you enough to continue reading.

It calls to mind the quote I posted here a couple days ago: "The false God turns suffering into violence." So tragically true here.

Salon article on "America’s angriest white men"

Thanks to JD for the link.


30 March 2015

Dictionary

Here's a really great resource: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary—from 1913!

And here's a nice article on why you should use it.

Thanks to son Kyle for the connection.

Simone Weil

I don't know much about Simone Weil, and what little I do know I found here on WikiPedia. But a friend quoted her in a recent conversation, and I was really taken by this quote:


The false God turns suffering into violence
The true God turns violence into suffering


Simone Weil
Gravity and Grace

27 March 2015

Rainfall Map

I like maps in general, especially those that combine great graphics with good information. Here's one of the best in that category. It would be great if this were on the wall of every school classroom and city council in the America West.


The one problem with the map is that it doesn't have a good legend. The scale goes from purple (more than 100 inches) to blue, green, yellow, orange, red. The darkest reds in Southern California are less than five inches.

For a bigger version that also is interactive ("click on your state to get state data"), go to this site at Oregon State University.



Treating Soil Like Dirt

As you may know, I've lately been paying more attention than usual to soils and land-restoration issues. It seems that in general, we are doing to the actual land/dirt upon which we live and farm the same thing we're doing to our air and our rivers and our oceans and our climate—i.e., destroying them little by little. Fortunately, there are some "voices in the wilderness" pointing out the stupidity and futility of our ways, and even more fortunately, taking steps to stop/reverse the destruction and improve the land.

Here's more commentary on that same general subject.

26 March 2015

Ideology

We all know people—including, perhaps, ourselves in certain contents or at certain times—who seem just a little too attached to their opinions about politics, economics, social affairs or whatever. "A little too attached" is not exactly a precise term, but there's definitely a difference between "here's my best guess at understanding the world, though I reserve the right to change my mind if/when additional or new information come to my attention" and "I know for certain that this is the way the world works and that's all there is to it."

Is it reasonable to define the holders of those two opinions respectively as "interested observer/interpreter" and "ideologue?"

Perhaps.

A friend sent me the following quote this morning, which helps me understand why the ideologue's arguments have a zeal and determination that I never seem quite able to match.



One might say that ideology is the construction and presentation of mirrors to meet certain predetermined purposes, none of which is  the valid self-understanding of the viewer.

24 March 2015

Staircase

I saw this cool picture on a photo site that I monitor, where there are lots of great / interesting / unique pictures. I'm linking to this one because (a) it is cool, and (b) the subject matter may be known to some of our readers. Try to figure out where the picture was taken before scrolling down and finding out. (And click on the picture once it is display, and the background will turn black for better viewing.)

23 March 2015

LHC

"LHC" refers to the "Large Hadron Collider," a giant machine in France/Switzerland that physicists use to run high-energy experiments. As you perhaps heard in the mainstream news a couple years ago, the LHC confirmed the existence of a particle called the "Higgs boson." This was a pretty big deal to physicists, in that the Higgs boson had never been seen, but was required to exist by the prevailing model of "how everything works." So finding the Higgs particle allowed physicists to breathe a sigh of relief and say, more or less, "things actually work like we've been thinking they work." Had they not found the Higgs boson, the Universe would have disintegrated.

If that kind of stuff interests you, click here for a very good article on the LHC and what's happening with it now. And by "very good article" I mean one that explains what's going on in enough depth and detail to provide a good understanding, but without being overwhelming with physics-talk.  I liked it, anyway...



22 March 2015

Dear Readers

Notes to blog readers:

1. If you recently signed up for blog notifications via email, thanks.

2. It's really great to get feedback, both about individual topics and about blog itself. At the bottom of every post is a Comments section that says either "Comments" or "No Comments." If you click on that link, you can make a comment anonymously or by signing in with a Google account. I appreciate that you read the entry, and would like to hear anything you have to say in response—as other readers of the blog likely would also.

3. If you read the blog entry via email, DO NOT "reply" to the email message. If you do, that message just disappears into the great Google void in the sky and I never see it. You can reply, of course, but make sure that you send the message TO ME and not to the blog.

4. Again, if you're reading from email, you can click on the link and then go to the blog, where you can both read and post comments.

If you have any questions about any of this stuff, please let me know.

Thanks again for reading.

Restoring Earth

I recently sent out an email on the subject of a book called "The Soil Will Save Us." If you got that message, you can ignore this blog entry. If you did NOT get that message, then:

A. I strongly recommend that book. It's an intriguing story of what's going on in the soil/dirt and how, when attended to and encouraged, the little critters and natural processes will restore the soil to not just health but fabulous health and productivity. Here's the link to Amazon:  http://www.amazon.com/The-Soil-Will-Save-Scientists/dp/1609615549

B. Please see the following encouraging and hopeful pieces about land being restored to health:

1.  Allan Savory, a Zimbabwean scientist, on large-scale grazing lands restoration. This is a 22-minute TED talk.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpTHi7O66pI&sns=em

2. David Bamberger, a Texan rancher, on a different kind of lands restoration.  I was told about Bamberger by a friend who is moving to the area of Texas where he lives ("Texas Hill Country" near Austin). So I sent him a copy of the "Soil" book. Here is a National Public Radio article which you can read or listen to.  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123068681

3. I saved the best for last. If those two stories make you feel a little hopeful, this one will make you laugh and cry. "How Wolves Change Rivers:"  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysa5OBhXz-Q



11 March 2015

New Word of the Day

A great word seen on a popular blog today:

"Globaloney"

def: bullshit opinions and arguments agreed upon and made by people from many countries.

Agreement

Several years ago, let's say in the year 2000, I coined a phrase which I thought nicely summarized the triumphs of American capitalism.

"Capitalism first killed off the communists, now it's killing off the rest of us."

I never once saw the phrase repeated in the New York Times or Comedy Central, so I guess it didn't catch on.

Today another, similiarly-inclined person took a shot at the same sentiment. Fran Lebowitz (Wikipedia says: is an American author and public speaker known for her sardonic social commentary on American life as filtered through her New York City sensibilities.), apparently said the following and is—dammit—getting widely quoted in the news media:

"In the Soviet Union, capitalism triumphed over communism. In this country, capitalism triumphed over democracy."