Tuesday, January 22, 2013

You understand...I am unable to despair of humanity

"My dear friend, I am starting from a different point of view. I am persuaded that evil and suffering will never completely desert our poor earth, but I am also convinced that it is everyone's task to work to reduce evil and suffering as much as possible, in our own sphere, humbly, simply, without concern for our precious personality, through dedication, love, the gift of ourselves to that which is our duty. I believe that to accomplish this mission, the first thing to do is to try to become our best selves, even perhaps without knowing it. And God will do the rest. Our effort, our sacrifices, our actions, even the most hidden, will not be lost. This is my absolute conviction; everything has a long-lasting and profound repercussion. This thought leaves little room for discouragement, but it does not permit laziness. We are poor day-laborers of life; we sow and God gives the harvest. You understand...I am unable to despair of humanity." - Elisabeth Leseur

We cannot despair of humanity because God does not despair of humanity.

I've been making my way through Vannevar Bush's memoir's. Bush's chief accomplishments include:
  • Functioning as the primary point man and orchestrator of the Manhattan Project
  • Founder of Raytheon
  • Established government dollars as the become the primary source for funding university research
  • Championed Memex, which went on to become what we now know as the world wide web 
"No, I invented the internet!!!"

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pappy's Big Adventure

I've made a few mentions of my affinity for Pappy VanWinkle Bourbon's before...uh, actually there's a quite a lot of Pappy on this blog. Anyway, it can be difficult to get this stuff. How difficult? Well, this year I noticed that the UK retailers seemed to have plenty, (in contrast to US retailers it seemed), so I ordered a few bottles and had them shipped to a colleague who lives there. Then, my US based boss kindly offered to bring my shipment back from his next European trip for me. This turned into a bit of a "Flat Stanley" of  Pappy travels...

First pick up at the hotel. Uh...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Sane Economy

I've been looking forward to delving into this subject because it's a favorite of mine.
I did touch on it a little bit in the  "Civilization Death Spiral, AAAAAAAACK!!!" post but that was mostly a focus on the insanity of our economy and the language the Druids of Econ use to cloak that insanity. I closed that post out with a proposal that people like Dave Ramsey are on to something with his emphasis on actual home ownership and debt free living. I also think he doesn't go deep enough and that he has some errors in his general faith in the "market" but he at least provides a really good start for millions of Americans who are living on the edge. Debt is slavery.

However, I've realized I'm not going to be able to knock this one out in one post or even a few posts so I'm just going to make some bullet points as mental markers that I'm working to develop. Here goes...

What is a sane economy?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Lance + Oprah

I’m a cyclist, (or in less self-important terms, I ride a bicycle pretty regularly).
I race a few times a year and do ok for my age group. All in all, I'm pretty much sufficiently average when it comes to competition, relatively speaking.
But it's just fun to pedal.
Dirt or road, there is simply nothing like going fast on a bike.

I got into cycling because mountain bikes are cool. Then I started getting more miles in on the road to train for long mountain bike events. Then I noticed that the Spring Classic races, (particularly the ones in Belgium and France), are just spectacular. 
Gent Wevelgem  http://www.gent-wevelgem.be/en
Tour of Flanders http://www.rondevanvlaanderen.be/en
Paris Roubaix  http://www.letour.com/indexPRX_us.html
Yeah, this guy was a doper too, but still, it's Paris Roubaix, "Hell of the North"!
From there I started paying closer attention to the personalities and particulars of the highest competitive levels of the sport. This was mostly post Lance though so I never really was much into Armstrong. So the personal Lance let down for me was pretty minimal. In fact, I was pretty happy for the poop to hit the fan. The idea of Lance always seemed like a big sales gimmick to me, (having the benefit of mostly hindsight). Nike, Livestrong, Oakley. etc. If you paid attention to cycling you pretty much assumed that everyone doped. Personally, my take was that the big sponsored teams doped a little less and with more discretion and restraint. So yeah, I thought Lance probably had doped but just not to the full scale, systematic way in which it turned out that he did.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Efficiency - The First and Last Remaining American Virtue

My brother is a small independent farmer. He feels the pressure of agri-business harping about the pressing need for carte-blanche acceptance of GMOs all day long. He says it works like this: If a scientist writes about ethics he is bio-ethicist. If anyone else writes about science he is just an idiot.

In the days of 21st Century high insanity we have real debates on whether or not "scientists" can claim human parts, (and parts from other living things) as their own intellectual property.  Scientists quibble and claim that they only want to patent the extraction method, ("you see Your Honor, I used a knife while my competitor must use a saw, which allowed me to extract the brain first, which makes it mine. Finders keepers you know.") Yet, they haven't invented or created anything to patent. They only want a legal exclusive on profiting from these particularly parts of living organisms. The extraction argument is a mere technical point on which they hope to win. The body parts from other people and other organisms are what they must use to secure profits. Is this good?

The new druids of Europe, (they call themselves bio-ethicists and award themselves certificates as experts of medicine AND morality), do much hand-wringing that backwards Luddites are doing irreparable damage to this odd and mysterious force they call "progress." Progress is quite fragile apparently, almost a vapor of a deity. Easily scared off and quick to sucomb to the titan "Stagnation."

The ACLU will argue that you cannot patent a gene. 

Greenpeace, gets downright pro-life on us.

Igor and other agents of progress argue that they are only working to advance science for the good of mankind, and therefore must be allowed to objectify...mankind.

Human embryos are a viable commodity for these people.
It is a pressing matter that the law be interpreted such that any restrictions be removed on the trend of taking credit for naturally occurring living beings. Science is entitled to extract any living thing as patentable, harvestable and profitable.

The question of whether or not this is "good" will not stand up to the question of legal precedent and the urgent need for perpetually sunny quarterly earnings forecasts.
Profit and legalism are the only things that can be measured for efficiency.
Goodness is to messy.
"I have spent all my life under a communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale but the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities. The letter of the law is too cold and formal to have a beneficial influence on society. Whenever the tissue of life is woven of legalistic relations, there is an atmosphere of moral mediocrity, paralyzing man's noblest impulses.
And it will be simply impossible to stand through the trials of this threatening century with only the support of a legalistic structure"-  Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Harvard 1978