Hyperpat\’s HyperDay

SF, science, and daily living

Archive for November, 2006

Seems Like There’s Still a Place for Bond

Posted by hyperpat on November 30, 2006

The flap over the radiation poisoning of the former Russian spy Litvinenko keeps growing, now with several airplanes showing possible signs of contamination, with shades of James Bondian skullduggery. What is most disturbing about this is that it seems to confirm the rumors that the current Russian government is taking extreme measures to silence any voice of dissent, regardless of how many denials Putin issues. Now back in the days of the Cold War this might have been expected behavior for the USSR government, but seeing it today should splash some very cold water on the idea that Russia is a good place to try and expand your business, will make a good trading partner, is not a military threat, or can handle its internal security and terrorist threats in a reasonable and effective way.

Nor can our government afford to just ignore all of this. The amount of various radioactive materials that is  controlled by the Russian government is very large,  and its clear from the events of the last several years that at least some of this material is subject to pilferage and black market sales. This increases the security risk to the rest of the world by a large amount. If the Russian government cannot abide a free society and dissemination of information about its failures, and is willing to use extreme measures to silence anyone who dares to point out problems, it makes it just that much more difficult for the rest of the world to find out exactly what is going on and to take appropriate control measures.

Seems to me that our own intelligence organizations need to have a greater presence in Russia and better analysis of what is happening over there, as opposed to their current seeming obsession with suspected domestic and middle-east terrorists. And the diplomatic hammer needs to be employed to get the Russian government to do something more positive than just eliminate any sign of opposition to its rule.

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Posted in Politics | 3 Comments »

Post Turkey Day Fun

Posted by hyperpat on November 27, 2006

Well, turkey day has come and gone, and I guess I can post something here now.

After the turkey I decided to indulge myself in my other hobby of note, namely chess. Played in a little local 2 day event on Saturday and Sunday, and played in the top section for a change, so I could test myself against people who really do know how to play.

Game 1 was a very good game – I got the better of the opening, then lost my way a little in the middlegame, but managed to hold on till the end game with equality. Then we traded rooks and were down to nothing but King and 4 pawns each. I thought and thought, and ended up making the wrong move, when the correct move was a very clear win. This against a high class A (1924).

Game 2 got even better, with lots of tactical combinations happening on both sides. I managed to come out of all the tactics the exchange up, and though it took awhile (70 moves) managed to win this one. The opponent was a low class A (1828).

Game 3 saw me playing the only lady player in this section. This one I wanted to kick myself on – I had the advantage and then blundered to lose, when I had at least a draw in the bag. Another high class A (1956).

Game 4 saw me paired with a high expert (2158) (who has been rated at master strength at one time, I know from previous run-ins with him).  This pairing was rather odd, mainly caused by the small number of players in this section, and would be my second game in a row with the black pieces – not what I was expecting for this last round, as I had figured I’d be paired against one of two other low class A’s. This was the only game where I was clearly outplayed, as he instituted a strong king-side attack that I did not manage to defend very well. I could plead a nasty headache I had as a result of Game 3, but the fact remains that I am still not capable of playing even-up against opponents of this caliber.

Net: 1 win, 3 losses, and a perfomance rating of 1780, not as good as I hoped, but still reasonable given my current rating of 1726.

Posted in chess, Daily Happenings | 3 Comments »

How to Feel Good

Posted by hyperpat on November 22, 2006

It would appear that we not only have happy penguins, we have a happy customer – me. I saw Happy Feet last Friday, and I was impressed with its good story line, excellent music choices, a very nice visual portrayal of not just Emperor penguins but also a couple of other species, and just how well some of the actors characters became the on-screen persona (Robin Williams’ Ramon role is near perfect). I did think the environmental message was played a little heavy, and the portrayed ‘solution’ came about much too easily and was too simple, but it really didn’t interfere with the sheer entertainment factor this movie has. As is typical for these types of animated movies these days, some of the jokes are really meant for the adults watching, and will fly over the heads of the youngsters – which is just fine with me. People younger than about 30 may also not catch some of the musical references, which for me anyway added a lot to this movie.

So go see it, and feel good for the rest of the day.

Posted in Movies | 2 Comments »

Let’s Get Smart

Posted by hyperpat on November 22, 2006

It would seem as if at least a few people in Britain are looking to do something about the drug problem other than just harsher sentences and greater enforcement. While the listed idea of prescribing legal heroin for drug users  is at least a step in the direction of divorcing drug use from criminal activity, it still misses the major point of the problem: why the heck is such use considered criminal in the first place?

The result of the ‘War on Drugs’ here in America has been an abysmal failure, and will continue to be one. You simply cannot legislate and enforce laws which fly in the face of human behavior patterns. You would think that we would have learned our lesson from the Prohibition experiment, but it would seem certain moral blue-noses just can’t deal with the idea of some people getting pleasure from a chemical substance. As long as laws remain on the books that makes it a crime to have, obtain, or use these substances, there will be a market for them – a very price-inflated one, supplied by characters who really are less than upstanding citizens, which drives the consumers into actions that are really injurious to the rest of the population.

When we finally get some sense, we will de-criminalize such use, and set up places where you can legally obtain your drug of choice, with proper quality controls in place, and where the price tag has some relation to the actual expense of making the drug. This alone would probably reduce the overall crime rate in this country to half or less of what it is now. We could remove all the resources currently dedicated to enforcement, the huge number of cases clogging our courts, and the outrageous expense of incarcerating these people. If we would also apply a federal tax to such items, just as we do with cigarettes and alchohol, it becomes clear that America as a whole would reap some large financial benefits.

This is not to say that drug users would be getting a free pass. Any actions they might take while under the influence of same that cause injury to another or that violate other laws should be prosecuted, just like drunk driving. But making criminals out of people who are only pleasuring themselves is not only wrong, it will never work.

Posted in Politics | Leave a Comment »

We Don’t Know Everything Yet

Posted by hyperpat on November 17, 2006

Looks like yet another accomplishment for the Hubble Telescope. Analysis of some of its images of very distant supernovae is giving credence to the idea of dark energy, and that it’s been around a long time, exerting its repulsive force between objects for that entire period. Now dark energy, along with dark matter, is a pretty strange beast. The only way we can even infer its existence is the observable effect it has on the amount of gravitational force between objects. Apparently it doesn’t interact with anything else that’s ‘normal’. And yet the supposition is that over 70% of the universe is actually composed of this stuff.

One of the competing theories to explain the observed accelerating expansion of the universe is that the gravitational force is somehow changing over time. I don’t think the current observations have knocked out this hypothesis yet. And, given our poor understanding of just what gravity is, why it exists, how it propagates through ’empty’ space, and how it fits in with the strong, weak, and electromagnetic forces, (grand unified field theories have so far not been totally successful), this hypothesis appeals to me rather than the invoking of an otherwise unobservable ‘dark energy’.  Of course, I’m only an engineer, not an astrophysicist, so what do I know? But at the very least, it appears that there is some method of producing a negative gravitational force. Which means that all those SF stories with anti-gravity thingies running around may not be that far off-base.

Posted in Science & Engineering, science fiction | 6 Comments »

Organizing the Opinions

Posted by hyperpat on November 16, 2006

For those readers into book reviews, I’ve added a RSS feed to my reviews at Amazon in the right hand side bar. This is something new that Amazon has just implemented, and I expect there may be some glitches in this for a little while (Amazon is not known for having glitch-free software rollouts). What displays here are the links to my latest 10 reviews. If you really want to see all of them (253 as of today), go to My Reviews (you can also get there by clicking on any of the review links here, then clicking on the link beside my picture that says “see all xxx reviews”). With this link available, though, I won’t be posting any more of my reviews here, though I still may have comments about various books as they relate to something else I’m talking about.

Reviewing is something I’ve been doing for quite some time. Even before Amazon existed, I was merrily telling my friends on various message boards what I thought of various works. So when Amazon came along and became established enough to look like it wouldn’t fold in the next week, I latched onto it as a good place to put these opinions out before a much wider audience. Writing for this format was a bit different, much more formal and detailed, and some of my very early reviews on Amazon weren’t very well done (there’s a learning curve to everything!). I do get a nice ego-boost out of Amazon’s system for ranking reviewers – at one point I was listed at #410 (out of 2 million reviewers) on the US site, and am still listed at #24 on the British version of Amazon (unfortunately, the UK site has some severe adminstrative problems in handling reviews, and I haven’t submitted anything new over there in quite some time, hoping they’ll finally fix their problems). Reaching revewer ranks higher than this, though, calls for more work than I have time for, but if you do so happen to read some of these reviews, and find they helped you make a decision about purchasing/reading the item, please vote! That will at least keep me somewhere in the 500’s.

I’ve also put a few reviews up on Epinions (I didn’t do so in the early days because back then they had an exclusivity clause in their contract), expanded versions of those on Amazon. But I find it too much work to write at the length and detail that Epinions seems to like, so I’ve pretty much stayed with the Amazon format.

Happy reading, and I hope my reviews will direct you to something you really enjoy.

Posted in Book Reviews | 2 Comments »

Penguins Conquer!

Posted by hyperpat on November 15, 2006

What’s with all the penguins lately? First we had a penguin logo for a certain flavor of computer operating system. Then came March of the Penguins (recommended! Darn few documentaries get this level of viewership, and this presents a view with as many harsh moments as those “Ahhh…” ones). Now we have Happy Feet (which I do plan on seeing this Friday) and Surf’s Up. Even Amazon tried to get into the game, adding a little penguin figure to their pages – although it disappeared today while they are trying to fix some software bugs.

I guess, like everything else, once someone starts something, everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon. At least this fad is a warm and fuzzy one.

It also points up something else that’s been happening in the movies lately: the large number of animated features that have been released in the last few years, only a few of which have been Disney flicks. From Flushed Away (also recommended) and Over the Hedge to the excellent Chicken Run  and Ice Age, each one has seemed to push the limits of just what is possible in the world of animation. And that’s probably a good portion of why animation is suddenly hot again, after a long dry spell. Computation power + better software has led to the ability to deliver this type of film with much better graphics while still controlling the cost to something that is reasonable. As long as they can couple this with good, original stories, I think this trend will continue. The danger is if Hollywood, seeing the success of some of these movies, decides to make effective clones, without looking for good, original stories. Because nothing will kill this faster, regardless of how good the graphics are.

Posted in Movies | Leave a Comment »

200 in Sight

Posted by hyperpat on November 13, 2006

My bowling average may have finally kicked up into the 200’s. For my last five sessions I’ve averaged 216, 209, 200, 215, and 218, a total of 18 games worth, with lane conditions ranging from pretty wet to almost bone dry. Hopefully this is related to a change I made in my backswing, where I now keep a small break in my elbow and a crooked wrist throughout. This seems to force me to put more fingers into the ball at release, imparting more spin and drive, and it seems to help with my bugaboo, the infamous 10 pin. It also has seemed to reduce the number of bowling-god splits – pocket hits that leave 8-10s, 7-10s, or other nasty things. Proof of the pudding will come, I hope, in the next couple of weeks. If it’s real, though, I will definitely think about joining the PBA.

Posted in Bowling | Leave a Comment »

When SF is as Real as Tomorrow’s Headlines

Posted by hyperpat on November 11, 2006

While I’m in the mood to plug things, I suppose I should mention Battlestar Galactica. Now the original show with Lorne Greene back in the sixties wasn’t terrible, but neither was it great, and its fan base was too small to keep it on the air when the inevitable budget axe fell, unlike a certain other SF series of the same period. In its reincarnation, though, what we have is a show that goes to places the original wouldn’t have dared go: the morality of genocide (last night’s episode), inter-species sexual relations, the rationality (or not) of religion, the validity of torture during war time (sound familiar?), discourse on the best and worst of political campaigns – this list keeps getting longer. All rounded out with characters who, while often strange, are also immediately recognizable as real people, with anywhere from stoics and martyrs to cowards and schizophrenics occupying the stage.

This series is dark and often somewhat depressing, but it has an edginess and relevance that Star Trek never quite got (and that Star Wars never even thought about). While its special effects are good, they are not the centerpoint of this drama, a welcome change from all too many Hollywood attempts at what it thinks is science fiction, but rather the story always remains uppermost.

I just hope the writers and actors can continue to maintain the very high level of brilliance that has graced this series so far.

Posted in Movies, science fiction | 2 Comments »

An Unnecessary Plug for Final Fantasy

Posted by hyperpat on November 11, 2006

Just ordered Final Fantasy XII for the Playstation 2. Now I’m not much of a video game player (unlike my sons), but I do make an exception for this series. The quality of this series has been very consistent, with cutting edge graphics, excellent story lines, decent battle mechanics, and typically a slew of interesting side-games within the main line, all without being raunchy, super-violent, or morally questionable. For my money, the best of the RPGs that are out there. I was also happy that they developed this one for the PS2, rather than the PS3 – I don’t need to spend another $500 for yet another game machine, at least not yet. Maybe next year. In the meantime I’m looking forward to another 50-60 hours of engrossing playing time with this one.

Posted in Daily Happenings, General, Science fiction and fantasy | Leave a Comment »

Sheepless in San Jose

Posted by hyperpat on November 8, 2006

While watching the election returns last night, I was reading what might be considered the perfect complement to all the talking heads, John Scalzi’s latest novel The Android’s Dream:

My Amazon Rating: 4 stars My scale: 7.0

Scalzi, in his Old Man’s War, showed that he can write serious drama about important things, and was written very much in the mold of a Heinlein novel. With this book, he shows that it’s going to be quite difficult to pigeon-hole him into any particular category, as this is a fun romp, with large satirical bites suffusing it, somewhat like those of Neal Stephenson, an overall plot that is reminiscent of another author who has tackled the space-opera of old, Bujold, and with kudos paid to Philip K. Dick. Anyone who can bring such disparate influences together in a coherent whole will never have to worry about being accused of a being a one-note writer.

The book opens with a rather extended joke, where a mid-level bureaucrat manages to do away with his opposite number at the diplomatic conference table via a rather ingenious device that can send messages via scent. Of course, this sparks an immediate diplomatic crisis. In determining how this event managed to transpire and what to do about it, new elements of computer hacking, DNA manipulation, the Church of the Evolved Lamb (shades of L. Ron Hubbard) and their blue sheep, impending all-out war, palace coups, James Bondian skullduggery, and a super-competent hero who nevertheless seems to be constantly getting whacked upside the head are introduced and folded into this whacky mixture.

The plot’s the thing here, as none of the characters are super-deep, though they are all well enough presented to make them believable people. At some points, it seems as if the story line has gotten out of hand, gone in just too many directions at once, but the conclusion manages to bring each of the threads together in a surprisingly logical whole. All the while, the action is fast-paced and engrossing, with a humorous leavening to guarantee there will be no morning-after depression syndrome.

It’s not a great book, but it wasn’t heading that way in the first place. Rather, it’s an entertaining book, a fun way to relax and be carried away from everyday cares.

***************

Amazon is being persnickety about posting this today (they apparently have a software bug that has frozen everything for the last few days), so it looks like it this review gets to appear here first.

Posted in Book Reviews, Books, science fiction | 2 Comments »

Voters Aren’t as Dumb as Some Would Think

Posted by hyperpat on November 8, 2006

Well, it seems as if a goodly number of voters got smart yesterday, and let the current administration know that they are not happy with the current course of American policies. But neither was the vote an overwhelming endorsement of ‘blue’ policies, as can be witnessed by the passage of various propositions banning same-sex marriages. In fact, it looked a lot like a very typical mid-term election during a second presidential term, where historically the ruling party has lost a lot of its seats, and the net effect is a divided government that is unlikely to pass anything of great significance in the ensuing couple of years. This, to me, is not a necessarily bad thing – our Congress has a tendency to pass way too many new laws, many of which can retrospectively be seen as poorly thought out or with significant flaws, that our courts then have to trudge through to correct and/or nullify.

At the same time, there are items on the national plate that need to addressed, and soon. Social Security reform is probably at the top of the list, as every year that passes without some significant change here will make it that much harder to eventually get this program onto sound financial footing without shafting either current benefit recipients or those who won’t retire for another thirty years. National health care is also a pressing need, and here I’m a little afraid that the Democrats may have enough power to push through some form of this, and whatever they do pass would have significant flaws that could severely damage the health care industry – witness the current mess of the prescription care plan that no one can figure out and does not provide the expected financial relief to those who really need it. ‘Homeland Security’ needs an immediate revamp to where the rights of individuals that are supposed to be guaranteed by our laws and Constitution are once more honored.

What will hopefully not be one the agenda are more discussions about stem cell research, flag burning, and marriage definitions. The Republican agenda of forcing a certain moral outlook on everything will have less ability to gain the floor, and perhaps we can get the lawmakers out of our bedrooms and other aspects of our private lives that the government has no business monkeying with.

I’m a little leery of having Ms. Pelosi as third in line to the Presidency. She is too much a strident liberal for my taste, and if, by some chance, she became the President, government policy might become just as skewed towards her views as it currently is towards the opposite extreme. Moderation in government is a good thing.

Locally, it seems California voters aren’t quite as blue as many would think. Prop 87, the tax on oil companies, went down to defeat, as did 86, which would have raised cigarette taxes enormously. Democrats should have flocked to these anti-big-business props. And Gov. Schwarzenegger easily won re-election, a strong endorsement, I think, of neither Republican nor Democrat agendas, but rather the middle-of-road course that the Governor seems to have been following for the last year.

And maybe that’s something that Congress will try and pass – a Constitutional amendment to remove the native-born requirement for qualification for President. After all, Schwarzenegger may be the only really viable candidate the Republicans will have for 2008, and there is some support for this amendment even among the the Democrats.

Posted in Politics | Leave a Comment »

The Lights are Going Out

Posted by hyperpat on November 6, 2006

Once upon a time this country was the shining beacon of freedom and respect for the rights of everyone. There was no document in the world equivalent to our Bill of Rights, and our courts consistently not only upheld those rights, but interpreted them in such a way as to expand their effectiveness. Now it would appear as if our beacon has not only been shrouded, but practically extinguished. The latest court briefs filed by the government on suspected terrorist detainee’s right of access to their lawyers reads like something from Alice in Wonderland, or perhaps a KGB brief. I mean, they can’t talk to their lawyers because they might reveal the actual methods the CIA used to torture (I use that word precisely) them, and such methods are (gasp) Top Secret?

Now I don’t have much sympathy for actual terrorists, but I do believe that anyone, regardless of what they are supposed to have done, has the right to defend themselves in court, has the right to obtain proper legal help, and must be presumed innocent till proven guilty. Coerced evidence should not be admissible, else we slide down the mountain to where our court trials look like something out of the Stalinist regime, and no one is safe from the power of the government. And I believe these rules should apply to everyone, citizens, foreign nationals, even ‘enemy combatants’ as defined in the new Military Commissions Act. The whole concept that the interrogation techniques used by the CIA need be kept secret, and that our ‘war on terror’ would be irreparably damaged if these methods became known, is ridiculous on its face.

There’s really only one reason for classifying such things as Top Secret, and that’s to avoid embarrassment in the forum of world opinion. Definitely not a compelling reason, in my mind, and my votes tomorrow will reflect my disgust with a Congress and administration that thinks these types of actions are proper.

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment »

More Blather about Who’s Doing the Most for the Economy

Posted by hyperpat on November 3, 2006

The latest unemployment numbers came out today, showing another decline in the jobless rate and a fair number of new jobs added to the economy. Naturally, politicians from both sides are immediately seizing on these numbers to bolster their cases for re-election, with the Republicans saying these are great numbers, an affirmation of their economic and tax policies, while the Demos say these numbers are too weak, and hide the fact that there are still way too many people stuck in low-paying jobs, that all the benefits of the Republican policies are going to the ‘rich’.

So who’s right? They both are. It’s been known for a long time that tax cuts of almost any stripe eventually lead to an expanding economy. The current rise in employment can therefore be at least partially attributed to the Bush tax cuts of several years ago (employment is a very lagging indicator – almost the last thing to show results from economic policy changes). But it is also true that much of the gain in average income for Americans is concentrated in the upper 20% of the population, and our economy is moving to a much more service oriented one, as opposed to a manufacturing model, so many people, even though they have jobs, aren’t getting paid enough to really live comfortably, as many service jobs are at the low end of the pay scale.

I have some real problems with how the Demo’s define ‘rich’, however. My income is defined as being in the top 10% of the country, and the tax code reflects this – I’m at the next to highest tax bracket. But am I really rich? I’d have to say no: cost of living in this area is much higher than most other areas of the country, I’m spending almost 50% of my after-tax income on housing, and while I’m managing to save a little bit, it can only be done by following a pretty rigid budget, with darn few luxuries. I still need to work, and any extended time off due to illness would put me in severe financial difficulties. If the Demos really want to revise the tax code to be more equitable for everyone, then some serious consideration needs to be given to indexing the tax rates and levels to the local cost-of-living index. And they darned well better do something about the Alternative Minimum Tax, which was originally intended to force those with very high incomes to pay at least some taxes, but is now snagging almost 20% of the population, and without revision that percentage will skyrocket next year.

At the other end of the pay scale is my eldest son. He makes just over the minimum wage for this state (which is higher than the national minimum wage), and finds that he has barely enough to put food on the table, even living in shared housing, driving a fifteen-year old economy car, and his only ‘luxuries’ come from me. Now this isn’t unusual for someone attending college (his tuition is another of my expenses, and I can’t even come close to writing all of that off on my taxes), as it’s difficult to get any kind of good paying job when that is not your prime focus, when cracking the books really has to take priority. But it points up the fact that in this area the Demos are right – the minimum wage should be increased, that too many people have jobs that don’t pay enough to either live comfortably or be able to put some away for later retirement or as a rainy day fund. The Republicans will say that increasing the minimum wage will cause the employers to eliminate some jobs, and the poor will be even worse off because of this, but the historical data on prior increases in the minimum wage don’t reflect this.

Net score: Republicans 0, Democrats 0.

Posted in Politics | 2 Comments »

SF That’s Probably Not for the Masses

Posted by hyperpat on November 2, 2006

I’ve been reading a fair amount of ‘hard’ science fiction lately, the type where it sometimes helps if you have an advanced degree in physics to understand it. Now this sub-genre, which was pretty much started by Hal Clement with his Mission of Gravity, was at one point thought to be almost dead, that there weren’t any more new scientific ideas that a story could be based around, and everyone went off and wrote stories that revolved around ‘soft’ sciences (sociology, psychology, economics, etc.). Then came black holes, string theory, wormholes, tangled quantum states, Bose-Einstein condensates, Moore’s Law, nanotechnology, and a host of other concepts and inventions. Some of these weren’t really new, but had suddenly received increased attention as actually being possible things rather than just theoretical concepts. Aided by a new crop of well-educated writers (quite a few of the practitioners of this sub-genre hold doctorates in one hard science or another or work as scientists for their day job), this field has seen a great resurgence in the last fifteen years or so.

Now as is typical for any field of literature, a lot of what gets written is not exactly stellar (pun intended), following Sturgeon’s Law, and this particular branch has its own special minefields for unwary authors.  The most prominent of these is to allow the neat scientific idea (whatever it is) to dominate over story and characters, often with large info dumps and authorial asides interrupting the story flow.  This is not a new problem for SF writers – some rather execrable examples can be seen of this in stories dating from the twenties.  In fact, getting the necessary amount of scientific info into a story while avoiding this problem has historically been one of the hardest of the unique aspects of SF writing to accomplish. It hasn’t gotten any easier when the basic concepts you need to impart to your readers are really complicated, confusing, fly in the face of ‘common-sense’, and are just plain difficult to communicate.

But when, for that 10% or so that manage to avoid being part of the ‘crud’ of Sturgeon’s law, the author manages to get it all right, suddenly we have a story where that ‘sense of wonder’ is not only most likely present, but suffuses and illuminates the entire story. And that’s the thing about SF that first captured me, that help set my interests towards the scientific realm, and I imagine that the same will happen to youngsters today who so happen to come across one of these.  At least I hope so, as we need more scientists, people who are both curious and willing to put in the hard labor to learn all that is necessary to reach a point where they can start finding some new answers, answers that will benefit everyone, not just the ‘geeks’ who get their kicks from SF.

 

 

Posted in science fiction | Leave a Comment »

Score One

Posted by hyperpat on November 2, 2006

The Hubble telescope will get a makeover! Finally, a little sense of priority in the space program. But I think the days of total government control over space exploration are just about over, and private enterprise will start making things happen. Which is all to the good. When companies can figure out a way to make a profit out of space, and devote a lot of energy to bringing down the cost, the real space era will have started. It can’t happen fast enough for me – I’m getting way too old, and that ticket to the moon is still not in my hand.

Posted in Science & Engineering | Leave a Comment »

Time Binding

Posted by hyperpat on November 1, 2006

One of the distinguishing characteristics of homo sapiens is their supposed ability to bind time, to look towards the future and modify current actions in order to achieve something better.  Unfortunately,  it seems as if the great majority of members of this species don’t make very good use of this ability.

Talk to your average teenager or twenty-something. Ask them if they’ve thought about their retirement, or have done anything to fund it. Probably more than 90% will answer this in the negative.  Ask about long-term goals for career and family. That answer will mirror the first. Ask about what actions they have taken to assure a clean, robust Earth for their children. Here you might actually get a few positive responses – but then ask them about nuclear, wind, solar, and water power and what percentage of the world’s needs can be met by these methods, and the answers will all too often indicate that they haven’t done any real research in this area and have been unwilling to do the math to really evaluate these items.

For that matter, talk to your Congressman. If his time horizon includes things beyond his next election date, I’d be surprised – note the almost total inaction on Social Security, energy policy, universal health care, etc. Although they seem to talk about these items a lot, when it comes to actually implementing policies and laws in these areas, it’s pretty much a blank sheet of paper, as regardless of how he votes, your Congressman is afraid of alienating someone, and hence not getting re-elected.

Corporations are no better – the next quarterly financials seem to be the be-all and end-all driving decisions about the company’s future direction.

Asking people to look not just to next year or even a decade out, but hundreds or thousands of years out seems to be an impossible proposition. About the only people who seem to do this are some scientists and science-fiction fans, who make up a miniscule percentage of the population.  And without this long-term perspective, I can guarantee that a lot decisions made now will be flawed, with some possibly very dire consequences for everyone on the planet.

Seems to me that people’s noses need to be rubbed into the catastrophic possibilities that are coming towards us like a train wreck.  Maybe science fiction works that illustrate these problems should be required reading in school. Maybe an organization should be formed to advertise this (hmm…there probably are already quite a few of these, all crying in the wilderness, and nobody is listening). Maybe it will take a real catastrophe that affects everyone before people will wake up and do a little planning.

Posted in General, Politics, science fiction | 2 Comments »