Have a maximally inefficient Christmas!

Have yourself an inefficient Christmas
http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/12/22/have-yourself-an-inefficient-christmas/

This may not be as amusing to my reader(s) as it is to me, but what the heck, I have been rather serious on this blog for a while…

The idea is that there is this tug of war between a purposeless gift on the part of the receiver and something that stands out and becomes remembered and perhaps cherished. I am a Scrooge from way back, I stopped liking Christmas gift giving probably around 13 or perhaps a bit younger (I don’t care for birthdays either). My rationale is that every gift choice I would care for that is reasonably priced I already have, so what remains is unreasonably priced items or stuff I don’t care for. Except for children (though I largely remain a Scrooge, allowing my wife to manage that aspect), I tend to project these thoughts on others so would rather just skip the whole process. It is interesting, though, the idea the author mentions, that someone might be clever/insightful/lucky enough to conceive of a gift that you don’t realize you actually desire/need until it is presented. I have some older friends who doggedly resist any efforts to connect on-line (meaning they remain in the 20th century and lack smart phones or Internet access) and though they express interest in watching our satellite TV, they have adamantly resisted any suggestion that we get them a dish so they can watch more than the handful of channels they get over the air (and don’t get me started on their refusal to purchase a new TV to replace their gigantic tube that is probably causing the floor to sag because of its mass). I sometimes consider giving one of these ‘gifts’ despite their avowed objection in the hopes that once they have it available they might come to see the utility, but so far I have honored their rejection (it certainly ‘helps’ in that regard that we are dramatically over extended on our construction efforts).

My wife and her siblings engage in a gift exchange. Each sibling purchases a gift at a pre-set amount, then they draw lots, pick a gift, then open it. Interestingly, the earlier openers then have the option to swap gifts after they have seen what the later opener’s gift is. What is really fascinating to me is how often the gift that was purchased for the exchange winds up back in the hands of the original purchaser. It seems the current strategy is to purchase a gift you yourself would like, then if you don’t get to open that gift, swap for it later. Sort of like the stories of spouses each purchasing a gift for the other that the other then gives back to them. At least you would never be disappointed.

So, what do you think? Should gift giving be ‘efficient’ or is our current culture of swapping generally meaningless gifts the optimal path?

New Commandments

Behold, atheists’ new Ten Commandments
http://www.cnn.com/2014/12/19/living/atheist-10-commandments/index.html?hpt=hp_t4

Printed here for your enjoyment:

1. Be open-minded and be willing to alter your beliefs with new evidence.

2. Strive to understand what is most likely to be true, not to believe what you wish to be true.

3. The scientific method is the most reliable way of understanding the natural world.

4. Every person has the right to control of their body.

5. God is not necessary to be a good person or to live a full and meaningful life.

6. Be mindful of the consequences of all your actions and recognize that you must take responsibility for them.

7. Treat others as you would want them to treat you, and can reasonably expect them to want to be treated. Think about their perspective.

8. We have the responsibility to consider others, including future generations.

9. There is no one right way to live.

10. Leave the world a better place than you found it.

I am more of a polytheist than anything else (if you are curious, you can get more here) where I believe all gods have validity. However, I believe that gods were created by humans in the image of humans, which is why all gods tend to be fucked up. I think that if you need to justify doing something you should simply take responsibility for your thoughts/actions, not blame/attribute them to others (be they gods or humans). It wasn’t the voices in your head, it was your head making the decisions. Humans (much as my last post talked about) seem to love to not be personally responsible for anything. I think that is why religion is so popular, it allows one to absolve oneself of responsibility for one’s life/actions. Anyway, I kind of like these ‘commandments’ and thought I would pass them along to my reader(s).

Why can’t we all just get along?

Another rambling rant I have been thinking about for a couple of days…

It is interesting to me how doggedly people hold to their notions. It’s Obama’s fault for everything they dislike, yet he is responsible for nothing they like, or, of course, the exact opposite. Every life is sacred, yet it is perfectly OK to let those lives exist in squalor and to blame the teenage parents for having sex. No government it the best thing ever, except when we need some government (it is almost laughable to hear some of my relatives complain endlessly about government, yet insist it is some existential right to own property and have a government enforce that ownership). Naturally there is their opposite, where endless government is the panacea to every possible problem, ignoring the situations where letting the market decide really has been shown to be the best course of action.

So it seems to me it is beginning to boil down to a simple choice: either we, as humans (or perhaps just as Americans), are either too stupid to have created a global society that has managed to influence the world on a global scale or we are all stupid enough to be led around like sheep and dance to the tune of the global elite. I just can’t figure it out. If we weren’t in the midst of a human created extinction event, driving evolution at lightning speed with our poisons in the environment I would easily go with the latter, except, of course, that requires an elite clever enough to direct the sheep. Since it is patently obvious we are capable of destroying ecosystems the implication is we are an intelligent species, yet with that as a given, why are we so susceptible to being led? Is it possible that we are such followers that we are incapable of thinking for ourselves, yet slavishly follow whatever happens? If so (as it appears), how is it that anyone is capable of leading?

For a number of years (decades, I guess) I have had this theory about humans I have occasionally expressed (it seems not here, leastways I wasn’t able to find any hits with the search terms I used). Humans, as a species, seeks the lowest energy state, meaning they want to do as little as possible to get the most in return. If that was the extent, then we never would have advanced to this point where we are destroying an entire planetary ecosystem, so something would be necessary to lift the species out of the ‘local minima’ they occupy. These people are what I term mountain climbers or hill climbers (another search term, perhaps this idea has been influenced by the several years I spent studying search and optimization): they deliberately seek to be away from the majority and do their best to get away from the local minima. In doing so, occasionally, these people find other locations with even lower energy state for the masses and that triggers a flow of the masses from their current location up over the ‘activation energy barrier’ to the new lower minima, where they remain happy until some other mountain climber identifies yet another new minima. Thus, as a species, we are all lazy worthless bastards sitting on our asses doing as little as possible (how accurate a description is that?), the only thing that motivates us is when we hear that there is a state that allows us to be even lazier and more worthless and invest the effort to achieve this new exalted low. The hill/mountain climbers are society members that generally can’t stand society, such as explorers, science geeks, etc. Because these people tend to be misanthropists, meaning they dislike humans as a species, but tend to like specific individuals a great deal, their discoveries are generally relayed back via their friends to the lazy hordes.

With this theory we have a decent explanation for why as a species we have the skill and will to destroy a planet yet at the same time lap up the lies told to us by our ‘betters’. As a species we don’t care to think, we would rather just sit around cherishing our preconceived notions and finding people who will agree with us. As occasional individuals we are capable of leading these hordes. Today those that seem best at leading the hordes are the elite (which generally translate to the obscenely rich, but they can be less than absolutely wealthy and still have an outsized influence). Today those elite seem to be most interested in consolidating power (though, really, have they ever _not_ been totally in control, at least here in the US?) and expanding their wealth. Government exists as a means to placate the lazy worthless horde and as a tool to fleece the hordes for more money.

If, as I am beginning (or continuing) to believe, this is just pure human nature, is there any point in my political ranting? I am more and more convinced that there is less ‘evil genius’ directing our current economic situation (meaning the growing gap between the haves and the have nots, the dramatically shrinking middle class, the endless wars all paid for with borrowed dollars, etc.) than we are just a cussed group of lazy worthless bastards that would rather bitch, whine and moan about shit that has nothing to do with us then take the time to climb some hill somewhere. Hill climbers are ‘different’ and ‘odd’ and therefore are not generally accepted in polite society (meaning to you and your cronies polishing your complaints over an intoxicant of your choice). No one wants to be different, except for those who abhor the masses and can’t stand to fit in, so as a species/society, we really don’t want to change, we just want to complain about how imperfect our lives are, no matter how great things are.

Over the years I have occasionally made an effort to discuss things with people who have already made their minds up. Some portion of that effort was just because I am, at heart, an asshole who likes to needle and annoy people, but another portion is to attempt to discover if there is indeed anyway to alter these people’s world view. I am starting to come to the conclusion that there really isn’t any way. Humans (certainly Americans) are bound and determined to whine, bitch and moan about stuff that has not the slightest impact on them (e.g., abortion, sex ed) that is intended to make other people’s lives as miserable as possible (e.g., poor people; once again, why is it that we blame poor people for every one of our woes instead of the people actually responsible for making things the way they are (the elite)?). There is this bizarre (to me) clannishness amongst the human species: ‘we’ are smart, good looking, intelligent, wise, all knowing, etc., while ‘they’ are stupid, ugly, dumb, foolhardy, ignorant, etc. I see this applied all the time to other groups of people such as the poor, other countries, the Middle East, hillbillies, etc. I am quite certain that except in a few extraordinary situations that the average Joe, be he a hillbilly, Muslim, Jew, Christian, Hindu, etc. just wants to be left alone to complain about how much their life sucks and to continue to do nothing about it. The idea to me that we, as a nation, need to go to war against another nation simply because the leader of that nation is a dick head is absurd. The vast majority of people on both sides just want to be left alone, but they lap up the nonsense promulgated by the elite (on either side) that ‘they’ must be destroyed, no matter what the cost. What rational person can think that everyone in the Middle East (for a topical example) really gives a damn about anyone in the US when they are fleeing for their lives from a group of radical extremists? Why do we need to go bomb and kill indiscriminately in the Middle East (creating new radical extremists with each bomb, btw) when there really are just a handful of individuals who are the problem? I think it is all about the sheeple-ness of us, as a species, being led around by those who profit from continual war.

So, if we really are a democratic society and really could change our government and as wide spread groups we complain about how fucked up our government is, why don’t we simple do so? Clearly it is because we can’t agree on what that government should look like. We are too busy complaining about stuff that has no impact on us. I have occasionally slipped on my tin foil hat and temporarily convinced myself that there is evil genius about in the world, but my ‘rock’ is ‘never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity‘ and as such, I have to conclude that the elite get their way not because they are smart enough to ‘stir the pot’ and keep the sheeple focused on stupid topics, but because we as a species are just butt ugly stupid except for the occasional mountain climber.

So, to summarize, we can’t get along because we are not evolved to get along.

Fucking humans!

So sad…

When charter schools are nonprofit in name only
Many institutions are paying for-profit companies for management services, and regulators are taking notice
http://www.salon.com/2014/12/11/when_charter_schools_are_nonprofit_in_name_only_partner/

The rich get richer, the taxpayer takes it in the ass. Ain’t America Grand?

Moveon.org has decided to ‘invest’ $1 million in an effort to get Elizabeth Warren to run in ’16. I hope she does; though I am intrigued with the idea of a female President and might vote for Hillary if it comes to that, I am quite certain she (Hillary) is no different than Obama (or McCain or Romney for that matter) and her being President means business as usual. Of course, Warren might sell out (have already sold out), but it is a certainty that Hillary already has. I doubt that the GOP will put up anyone moderate enough to appeal to the swell of democratic leaning voters for the ’16 election, the Tea Party will ensure that anyone who gets nominated will have to at least act like a crazy. A friend supports the Republican Ben Carson. If he is moderate enough to appeal to moderate voters then I doubt he can make it through the nomination process; if he is wacko enough to get the Tea Party seal of approval, I doubt he will appeal to the moderate voters. It is possible, though, that he could make a good President, but I am so sure that it is the Democrats election to lose that I can’t even generate the enthusiasm to read his Wiki page.

It is looking like the laser tag idea is going to fall by the wayside. Realizing that I might wind up spending thousands to save hundreds, I started to inquire how much my ASIC detector wafers might cost. Shockingly, I can’t get anyone to give me any figure which makes me think that the price is too high. I have considered revisiting the UMD FabLab where I made some halting efforts to get my DNA chip fabricated years ago, but my wife thinks even thinking about that idea is a waste of time. She pointed out that I have many other things I should be thinking/working on and I agreed that my time is probably (likely (almost certainly)) better spent working on the ‘retro’ game. Oh well, it entertained my brain for a number of hours.

Regarding our glacially evolving construction efforts: I have been spending the last couple of weekends getting prepped for the boiler installation for heating the pool. It is amazing how expensive copper fittings are, once you get away from the 1/2 and 3/4 inch variety at the Big Box Stores. We probably spent close to $300 for a couple of dozen fittings, on top of the $350 or so for the titanium heat exchanger and of course the $3,400 for the boiler itself. Oh, we will probably also pay a bit North of $1K for the installation by the professional plumber (to preserve the warranty). Heating the pool went from less than $2K to now over $5K, but the efficiency went from 80% to 96% and since we might wind up doing the bulk of the greenhouse heating from the radiant heat of the pool, I expect that extra percentage will pay for itself in 5 years or less.

Tacloban, Philippines (where my ‘rents-in-law live) managed to avoid the worst of the nearly super typhoon Ruby (also known as Hagupit). The eye went well North of them, but they did have some wind damage and the storm surge evidently put a foot or so of water in the street in front of the house. The airport was messed up enough, though, that they will be a week late visiting us for the holidays. The word I heard was even where the eye passed over the islands (it went over the North end of Samar) the storm surge was a lot less than Yolanda and the winds a bit lower. Also, people took the warnings seriously and got the hell out of dodge.

In case I don’t get on the blog in the next couple of weeks, a very happy holidays to all my reader(s)!