Thursday, March 20, 2014

Do we really need 3+ 24 hour news networks?

I think this is what happens when you have a  24 hour news network, sooner or later you run out of things to talk about, even on an interesting topic...I suppose it beats another story about Justin Bieber...but not by much.  

CNN's Don Lemon: Is Black Hole Theory For Missing Jet 'Preposterous?':

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

So you've written a book...Now what. A guide to publish, self publish or just what to do next. PART 1

If you're reading this you've either written a book or about to finish writing one.  You may want to self publish or you may be seeking the more traditional path of trying to submit your book to a writing agent or publisher. 

But the bottom line:

What do you you do now?

1. Protect yourself and your work.
In the US, any work you create is technically yours under copyright law, however, if someone decided to steal your work, the burden of proof would be on you.  Your best bet (and your safest bet) is to invest the $35 and get an official Library of Congress Copyright registration You can do this part all on-line.  The piece of mind is worth it!

Once you have protected yourself with copyrights for your country (or countries where you will be submitting your work) you are safe to proceed with steps two and three.

Pharmaceutical Flavor of the month

In a recent study, one in five children (That’s twenty percent!) is on some type of medication to either combat depression, attention deficit disorder (we used to call it daydreaming), or hyperactivity. 
It seems like the pharmaceutical industry has stepped up to the plate to find a cure for the human condition.  

We have truly stepped into Aldus Huxley’s, Brave New World (written in the early twentieth century) where the entire population was addicted to “Soma” a drug which kept you even and happy.

Attention Deficit Disorder seems to be the diagnosis given so often to children.  Children who have imaginations and find their minds wandering are now being drugged so they will concentrate and focus on whatever information is currently being shoveled into them.  I’m not saying that a child doesn’t learn to concentrate, but I think we are medicating something and pumping chemicals into children, when maybe they just need to learn HOW to concentrate. 

Giving pills is easier.  It feeds the multi-billion dollar drug industry.  Plus, parents are both forced to work so much. Who has time to teach children something like concentration techniques?  

Monday, March 17, 2014

EZ Pass®, “1984” and…Star Trek

I don’t believe that technology itself can be evil or remove personal freedom, but I do think that some technology can be used for purposes that can enact that.  When the state of New Jersey deployed the automatic toll machine system, EZ-Pass, it was part of the original plan that the enormous cost of the system would be paid for by toll violators that got confused and went in the wrong lane accidentally, misread EZ-Pass transponders and ”speeders” through the gate.

Here is a system purchased by our government leader whose very existence is designed to be paid for my capitalizing on mistakes, manufacturer’s defects and speed limits (5 MPH) that were made artificially low, solely for the purpose of generating revenue.  

But this is only where the loss of personal freedom begins.

To begin with, the tags that don’t transmit properly are issued tickets.  These tickets are issued by a system that has the technology to take a picture of the “offender’s” license plate, cross reference their address and mail them a ticket.  If the system can locate their information from the license plate, why can’t it also simply locate their EZ-Pass account and charge it $.35 for the damned toll and not $35.00 for a ticket?
Next we have a system that can easily read the transponders at 55 MPH+, and they have slowed the tolls down to 5 MPH??  You cannot tell me that this speed is so artificially slow that it’s difficult to maintain.  Moreover, slowing down that much creates traffic tie ups that it was designed to elevate.  Moreover, it adds to the environmental issues that accompany toll booths.

Also, if you don’t think that this system will eventually be employed to time you from one point to another, think again.  Perhaps they do not do this today, but wait.  Printing tickets may not be the sole motivation for this timing.  Wait until the automotive insurance companies want this information to raise your rates depending on what kind of driver they think you are. 

Consider that we also now have a system that knows where you are and were.  It keeps logs and is easily searchable.  Yes, there is the public opinion that anything we do can be seen by a satellite anyway.  While it’s true that our current satellite technology can read the license plates off of cars, the face of the planet is a big place and someone has to have a reason to point that lens at a specific point.  It would be like taking a pair of extremely powerful binoculars from a three story window and looking for a specific ant. You could do it, if the optics were good enough, but how many ants could you monitor at once?

We are in the information age and “Big Brother is watching how fast you drive.”
How is this like Star Trek®?

In the original series episode “Court Martial” Captain Kirk stands accused of negligence in a 23rd century Court Martial and his primary accuser/witness is the computer from the Enterprise.  His lawyer boldly points out that we have the right to face our accuser, and this right is outlined in our Constitution.  But what happens when your accuser is a machine?

Here we are in the early 21st century and we have already begun to face a technological accuser.  Admittedly, it’s for a traffic violation.  But, is this just the beginning?

Friday, March 14, 2014

“Why? ….because it’s a tradition!” – Fiddler on the Roof

The area I’m going to touch on might get me burned at the stake in some circles.  The idea of following a “tradition” because it makes you feel good to do so is fine.  Keeping the tradition “with a vengeance” I have to question.

My first example is one I feel pretty comfortable with since I was raised Jewish, it is the act of keeping Kosher.  There is a long list of requirements for maintaining this tradition, but I’m going to begin with the bold headers that most people know.

1. Mixing meat and dairy:  This made a lot of sense once…when your bowls and plates were made of wood.  Wood is a very porous material and it absorbs some of the enzymes from food.  Putting a piece of meat down where you had milk yesterday could make you pretty sick.  So it was a very intelligent idea to keep sets of dishes separate for meat and dairy. 

Many Jewish families will still keep extra sets of dishes for meat and dairy.  Some extremists will go as far as to have separate shelves in their refrigerator, or if they have the money two different refrigerators (I wonder where the commandment for that is in the Torah).  I have met people who will get violently mad at you if you transgress this tradition (i.e. Use the wrong bowl for something).

Today’s cookware is ceramic, china, glass or similar (not porous).  We have anti-bacterial soap, and running hot water. 

2. Shellfish and Pork– Once upon a time there was a good chance you could get violently ill or die from eating these foods.  With modern methods of cooking and preparation, these are not a concern anymore. 

Following these rules simply “because it’s a tradition” is more an attempt for some folks to feel superior, that THEY follow the commandments of god and will be rewarded…unlike the rest of us “heathens.” 

If you think I’m wrong about this, or running off on some wild tangent, consider these factors.

1. If you were REALLY following all of gods commandments from the Torah, you’d be adding animal sacrifices (in some cases burning them) and smearing lambs blood on your doorposts for Passover.
2. When I had my first television it had rabbit ear antennae.  I used to have to adjust them for proper viewing.  It made sense and it worked.  Akin to “wooden bowls” of technology, I now have cable (ceramic).  Do I still plop a set of ‘ears” on my TV and adjust them?  Of course not; I don’t need them.  I don’t need two sets of dishes either.

You might argue that following these traditions makes you feel closer to god.  These folks also burn perfectly good food at Passover (food that is not Kosher for Passover).  Wouldn't God be happier if you gave the food to a hungry or homeless person?  Isn't that more spiritual?

There is no harm in keeping these practices, and I firmly believe that, as long as you don't hurt anyone else, What you do is your business, just don't look down on the rest of us for not doing it.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Aliens and UFOs

“The universe is big…I mean really big!  You may think it’s a long way down the street to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space!” – Douglas Addams

There is so much to day on this topic. 

To begin, most people recognize that with the universe being the size it is, the idea that we are “alone” is pretty absurd.  Most people also believe that intelligent alien life exists and that this planet has been visited by extra-terrestrials. 

In a Reuter’s news article from 2-3 years ago, a hacker in the UK was exposed.  This hacker’s sole reason for hacking was an attempt to gain information from US defense and space agencies surrounding the existence of extra-terrestrial life.  When asked whether or not he now believed that extra-terrestrial life existed, he responded with a firm, "ALIENS DO EXIST."

So this raises two practical questions:

1. What would it take to make the general public accept that extra terrestrial life exists and has visited this planet?
2. What impact would that have on the planet if it were revealed?  Panic?  Religious fervor? 

To the first question, who would need to make the announcement?  CNN?  ABC?  There have been many documentaries bringing to light evidence and testimony from reliable sources, but most seem to pull their punches in the end, not wanting to add their reputation to the credibility of their witnesses. 

To the next question, what impact would it have on the planet?  The economy?  Would it bring universal peace or panic?  Some believe we are being prepared by television and popular science fiction is laced with concepts and ideas that would prepare us to accept these beings.  While many Star Trek fans would argue that they have been ready for this information since the 60’s, I tend to agree with the line in “Men in Black:”

“A person can be smart.  People are stupid and panicky.” 

A crowd will usually act down to the level of the lowest intelligence of its participants.

The true religious zealots would still deny their existence, denouncing them as “work of the devil.” 

Most organized religions will need to redefine themselves if they want to remain in existence. 

“The world Universe was created in six days.”  

Friday, March 7, 2014

Angry Comedian Philosophers

Mel Brooks once described the roll of the “Stand-up Philosopher” (comedian) as “one who coalesces the vapor the human experience into a viable and logical comprehension.”  George Carlin defined the comedian as one who “thinks up goofy shit.”

Today’s popular comedians seem…well…angry.  When you have to start every sentence with: “You know who else I hate…”  And the list goes on for fifteen to twenty minutes alienating just about everyone.  Or the comedian needs to point out everything as if it were obvious, and “weren't you stupid for not realizing it.”

I’m really not saying that they are wrong for being angrier than in the past.  In my opinion, there seems to be a lot more to be angrier at.  In this powerful information age, we seem to know a lot more about a lot more things.  We have cameras everywhere and can transmit information faster than ever before and more channels to convey them.

I don’t want to get angry when I see a comedian anymore.  I get angry enough watching the news.  You know what I hate?  I hate people who go on with “…and you know who else I hate?”