Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Stop using oil to generate 'renewables'

No this isn't about using oil to fuel tractors to generate ethanol. Why would I complain about that? There are plenty of other people to complain about that.

Instead I bring forth a different 'renewable' resource which is being generated with oil. Expensive oil. Increasingly expensive oil. And rare. If we don't control our excessive use of oil for this resource, we'll have none left.

We used to use coal. This wasn't as bad, since there's much more coal. And the furnaces powered by coal could have also used wood. But no, now we're high-tech and insist on the use of oil.

Can you imagine that we used to produce with pure manual labor? Hand-eye coordination, quick reflexes, and strength; those used to be valued in the industry. No more.

It is time we stopped wasting oil to fuel tanks and planes and helicopters over Iraq and Afghanistan. We don't even need coal or wood-burning factories. Instead we should return to the old days, when we butchered parents by hand with the perfectly renewable resource of anger.

In the industrial ages they were a renewable source of energy. Grown from surplus moldy bread, they powered our mines and factories and the remarkable thing was, building more factories and mines created more of them. It is time we returned to physical violence and unsafe factories, only then can we return to the orphan-based economy which made the world as prosperous as it is.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I've never before heard of Jante's Law

So thank you, Larisa.

  1. Don't think that you are special.
  2. Don't think that you are of the same standing as us.
  3. Don't think that you are smarter than us.
  4. Don't fancy yourself as being better than us.
  5. Don't think that you know more than us.
  6. Don't think that you are more important than us.
  7. Don't think that you are good at anything.
  8. Don't laugh at us.
  9. Don't think that anyone of us cares about you.
  10. Don't think that you can teach us anything.

As I interpret her interpretation, this is a negative law. It destroys creativity and individualism and any sense of initiative. Taken as a whole, I agree.

However the individual pieces, and how they are interpreted, are much more mixed.

Don't think that you are special.
I see this in two ways. First, don't think you're a unique and beautiful flower, God's gift to mankind, so special that you get a category to yourself. However I also see how it is wrong, that we should think we are special in the sense that we are all different and only by acknowledging our differences can we achieve our full potential.

Don't think that you are of the same standing as us.
This I just disagree with. This is the arrogance of a society. It is exclusion and elitism and the creation of an other for the sole purpose of raising up the self.

Don't think that you are smarter than us.
Is this shooting someone down or teaching humility? Is it "you are not above average" or is it "don't assume you are a above average."

Don't fancy yourself as being better than us.
Well this is just a good rule in general. Many people need an ego check. The fact that I try to write as if I know this better than you doesn't automatically mean that I qualify, for I could be saying this with a sense of humbleness. Alas, I am not and so I, like most people, need a dose of this rule.

Don't think that you know more than us.
This is just a good rule to have. Humility again.

Don't think that you are more important than us.
Odds are, this is true.

Don't think that you are good at anything.
That's just a downer without the possibility of being a source of humbleness.

Don't laugh at us.
Unless they deserve it.

Don't think that anyone of us cares about you.
Sounds terrible, but, to those who don't give a shit about their fellow humans (you know who you are), why should society care about them? It's a reciprocal relationship. I believe that those who don't care about society should be left entirely to their own devices. That means no government police protecting them for free, no justice system to punish those who hurt them, no one so much as raising a finger to save them from their inevitable and justified execution.

Don't think that you can teach us anything.
That's a dumb rule. Everyone has something to teach someone else.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

When the world is privatized

What will you own?

Let me start out by saying, I use iTunes. I use the store. I grew up using Macs and I have a little bit of the Apple cult in me. On a base level I like all of that. But then I ruin it all when I start thinking.

Let's look at those songs. 99 cents is pretty cheap, I think. Right? Well sure, it would be cheap if I owned the song, if it was my song. That would be a bargain. But I don't. I don't? Nope. It is limited. I can't use it anywhere, and not because of technological limitations, but because of technology used to limit it. I'm not complaining that some devices can't play it. I am complaining that my ability to use the music anywhere that it is technologically possible.

That isn't an absurd thing to want. Imagine reading a book. Sure you need enough light and you don't want to try reading it in a steel mill with sparks flying all over. But you are allowed to. And, you can read it anywhere else. It is your book. You can read it, use it as a paper weight, burn it, buy a hundred thousand and use them as bricks. It is your book.

You don't own the content. It's not your book to copy or plagiarize. It's not yours to reprint and resell for half the cost. But it is yours to resell or give away. In fact, you can even use the content for some purposes; sometimes without even having to pay anything extra.

iTunes songs aren't like that. Well, they can be, but you must pay 40 cents extra. Imagine if it cost 40% more to read your book anywhere. Actually... I ran into this not long ago.

Let's move on though, I don't want to waste time bashing particulars of Apple.

This is not abnormal. More and more you do not own what you buy. Software is not yours. Music I already mentioned. DVDs. If you play WoW, your account. Yep, not yours. You're only renting and they can take it back any time they want, because it's not yours. You can argue that in this case it is essential for the integrity of the game that accounts aren't being sold, and I'd agree with you. But as part of a larger trend of non-ownership, it is disturbing.

Publicly owned utilities are sold off. Privatized. The institutions which your parents (or got a few generations back) paid taxes so that you could have them, are not yours. Were they ever yours? Indirectly. You were essentially one of many owners as a citizen of the relevant area. Not any more.

Let's look at the effects of the mortgage crisis. Sure there were people spending more than they should have and they deserved to lose the homes which were never theirs to begin with and never would have been. But there were also people who were paying all they agreed to and then the economy went down (with a great deal of fault resting with the banks) and jobs were lost or unrelated medical expenses came up. Then the banks took the homes. Imagine that, you work to pay off a mortgage and fulfill all your obligations, then the banks wreck the economy, you lose your job, and the bank takes your house.

As time goes on people will own less and less. How long before people own nothing? Then who will own the world? Not people, but corporations, and they don't give a shit about you, your kids, your friends, or anyone. They aren't people. Strangely, corporations are considered people: "The law treats a corporation as a legal 'person' that has standing to sue and be sued, distinct from its stockholders," But they are not taxed or held to the legal standards of people: "corporate profits are taxed at a lower rate than the rates for individuals." Oh sure, corporations make vastly higher profits than any individual, so it would be absurd to use the same scaling, right? Maybe. But why should an idea, that's what a corporation truly is, make any money?

I don't have a quote there for the second part about legal standards. Let's just look at common sense. If I dumped benzene in your house and I was caught, what would happen? I'd likely go to prison, probably have some sort of fine, and maybe you'd move or I'd be forced to stay far away from you. Now let's imagine that I also pumped sulfur dioxide into your house and it killed your family. Would I not be charged with murder? Likely found guilty and imprisoned or even killed? Corporations do this all the time, yet despite being 'people', they pay insignificant fines and carry on exactly as they were.

You don't own the air you breath. You own the water, but before you buy it, some corporation does and they'll charge whatever they feel like and you'll pay it because price-gouging is less deadly than dehydration. You used to own the water, back when it was on public land, but then they pumped it out and resold it. Did you know farmers don't truly own their seeds? Normal seeds can be saved and replanted and allow self-sufficiency, a very American ideal. There are seeds designed to last for one harvest, then you must buy again. They aren't owned, they are rented. The farmer rents his ability to survive, as do you.

It's funny how so many stories are written about robots taking over the world. We would be enslaved by our own emotionless creations. It's happening.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


There is a rough correlation to be found in the world. This is an important one to see and to respect, to take advantage of.

Let us start with something obvious: The United Stated of America are awesome. Fucking awesome. Best ever? That's debatable, but what reasonable and informed person can denial that we are awesome?

Sub-Saharan Africa is less awesome.

Even less awesome is a place like Afghanistan under the Taliban.

What am I getting at? Let's look at another trend.

How many rights, freedoms, and opportunities do women have in the US? Tons. Discrimination still exists, sexism exists, but it is low; at least as compared to history and other countries. It should be lower, but it is low.

Sub-Saharan women are less free. Less safe. The culture simply is less respectful. They do not control their own bodies even.

And then under the Taliban they were second class citizens, at best. Property, a necessary evil for the continuation of the bloodline, but temptresses and whores.

What does this add up to? Simple: The awesomeness of a country is directly proportional to the freedom and respect allowed to women. Want to improve your country? Free your women. They won't bite, but they will make your country a hundred times better than it could be otherwise.

This isn't feminism. This is practicality.

Larisa seems to think that sexism persists because we think it persists. "We reinforce the prejudices and injustices there may be by constantly bringing them into light." This isn't a terrible idea. But it is not yet true. I say not yet, because I believe we are close. Within a generation or less. But this is not true everywhere. In most of the world, sexism exists because it exists, not just because we think it exists.

I hope that the rest of the world gets up to speed.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Melting Steel

Everything produces conspiracy theories. 9/11 was no exception; there are some who claim that the towers couldn't have collapsed just by the plane crashes and fires because it wasn't hot enough to melt the steel. They think explosives were used to assist the collapse.

It might be true that the steel didn't melt, in fact I doubt it did. But it didn't have to melt. Just heating it enough will weaken it, taking it below the strength the building was designed with. Once one structural member stops supporting weight (such as by getting destroyed by a plane cutting it in half) it puts more stress on others. Combine that with heat, the impact, and the very suddenly uneven load; and you're going to have a very unstable building.

As for the picture-perfect pancaking, that's just how it happens when you progressively stack greater and greater weights. Why didn't it tip? Because there was no reason for it to tip. Things don't just tip over; they get pushed over or the structures below is uneven.

Just because 9/11 was very convenient for some people in America doesn't mean they made it happen.

On a lighter, and late note, Happy 9/11. Yes, happy. Why should we not be happy? I don't mean barbecue and cheering happy, but perhaps content, going about our normal days. Not sad. Terrorists would prefer that you be sad and scared and haunted by what they did. Well fuck them.

P.S. Yay for old post dates screwing up order.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I'm glad I asked

The textbook was about $135 new, no used copies. But oh, it says here I could get an e-book. I'm sure that would be cheaper.

It was, about $40 cheaper. Sounds great!

I'm glad I asked about the restrictions on it. In my initial naivety I had assumed it would be something like a password-restricted PDF or maybe some sort of online format that I could access anywhere but couldn't copy or print. Ha.

Instead it was something like unlimited use on one computer, limited ability to print, temporary use on two other computers. Let's go over that again.

I pay $40 less. In return I save them the costs of printing, shipping, storage, just about all costs associated with the book minus the creativity cost (which admittedly is still a huge part) plus a penny for digital access. I guess that's not enough savings, so they create pretend savings: making the product worse at no benefit to themselves.

The physical book I could sell back for something like half the purchase price at the end of the semester. That would take the effective price from $135 to only about $70. I can afford to 'lose' the $40 now in order to get back the $70 later. I can't sell back the e-book, and if I interpreted what they said correctly, it expires after a year anyway. While I am unlikely to keep the physical book pasta year, there is some small chance and that has a dollar value (a small, vague dollar value), in addition to the dignity of actually owning the book.

So in the end I chose to pay more for a product that is mine to write on and resell and carry around anywhere and no one can take it away because I violated to terms of use. It is my property, not a rental to be stolen at the convenience of the vendor.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Happy Labor Day

On Christmas we go to Mass and celebrate Christ.
On the Fourth of July we set off fireworks and talk about how awesome American is.
On Thanksgiving we cook and eat.
On all these holidays we do what is relevant to them. But on Labor Day, we take the day off. Shouldn't we have work parties? Rallies for worker's rights? Celebration of jobs? Mourning for jobs lost?