Mega Drought in California

California is in a mega drought which may last many more years.

How to respond to the looming specter of enduring drought in California is a controversial topic, subject to much debate and pontification on the part of pundits and politicians.  The first thing to do is to divide the debate into two parts, water conservation by individuals and conservation by farms.

Eighty percent of water used in California is by large agricultural corporations. We see a lot of sad stories about small farms who are losing their livelihood but in most cases it is a result of an unwillingness to change in the face of facts. Farmers have been overusing water for many years with methods like flood irrigation and choosing to grow the most water intensive crops possible. Now that we are drilling for water deeper and deeper, the realty that water is not an infinitely renewable resource has hit the farmers hard.

So while individual efforts to conserve water won’t have as much of an impact as say banning flood irrigation, it is still something everyone should think about and do because every little bit helps. A significant amount of water can be saved by upgrading or changing appliances. A more efficient toilet tank system can save a lot of water as well as a water saving clothes washer. Upgrading appliances can qualify you for a rebate.

There are also a lot of opportunities to save water outside.

  • Use mulch, a layer of groundcover evens out the soil temperature and increases water retention in the soil.
  • Use a soaker hose or drip irrigation instead of a normal sprinkler, this can save up to seventy percent.
  • Plant a tree, trees need less water than grass and they provide shade which reduces evaporation and keeps things cool.
  • Plant drought resistant varieties of plants instead of water hungry grass.
  • Get a timer for the watering system and water at night or early morning to reduce evaporation from the hot sun.
  • If you have a lawn keep the grass long so the roots stay shaded and need less water.
  • Use a broom to clean patios instead of a hose.

We are currently experiencing the worst drought in 1200 years and indications are that it won’t end for 10-20 years. In light of that sobering forecast, we all need to do our part to save water.

Stuck at the Denver airport

So I suppose its not that bad, it’s not snowing here or in Boston either and i don’t have to sleep at the airport but chicagos is delayed so my pilot is late. I left at noon in LA and will be in boston at two-thirty in the morning.  After which It being christmas eve and everything, i will have to go spend time with my girlfriend and her family.  This is normally fine except for the fact that I will be drop dead tired and perhaps slightly offensive with my disinterest.

After that though will be a some time to relax at my moms and then at the cape, the most relaxing of all…

I was lamenting the work ethic of americans a moment ago becuase no one gives us any credit for being the hardest working people outside of asia.  I’m taking a week off and so I will get paid for three weeks instead of three and will need to subsidize my rent.  Even If I were a salaried worker, I would christmas day and newyears day off and the rest would have to be vacation days out of the ten or twenty given to most each year.  The average person in Europe works 30 hours a week and shuts down every afternoon for two hours to take lunch and a nap.  I would say that the average United state’s citizen works about double that and clocks out for lunch.

These stats are not totally accurate but the idea is spot on.  If you were to tell someone in Spain for example that you work 15 hours a day, every day, with health benifits that couldn’t cover a cold, they would consider it inconceivable and possibly criminal.  I would argue that it is a conflict in our constitution, albeit a debatable one.  One could see this hard work as cruel and unusual punishment for being poor or unintelligent but it is a necessary path for people in the pursuit of happyness.  And they are working like this to make other people happy, generally their families.

Suggestions?

Federally mandated paid vacations, even for hourly workers?

Tax Breaks for people working more than 40hrs a week?

This country was built on people willing to sacrifice their lives’ work to provide a better environment for following generations.  How are we not at a point where driven hard working people can have a few minutes of free time?

This began as a reflecting on my last six months of work and how hard it is to clock 50hrs a week and be tired all the time but now I see that it’s not about me, It’s about the people really stuggling to make ends meet because they are stronger than me and I don’t know how they do it decade after decade.

To the people whose shoulders’ we stand on!

The Crisis of Unemployment

It can also be seen as a cris of cost and stability. For previous gnerations a person, being smart and capable, could get a job with a company and be put on a payroll and get health benifits and retirment plans.  This is not an easy task these days particularly if you want to do something you like.

We (and by we I mean the millennials myself being born at the top of that generation 1984) we were all told we could do whatever we wanted with our lives; they told us the oppertunities are limitless and all ours.  Using my friends and childhood companions as case studies, we were given all the possible advantages and yet few are prosperous enough to even consider say having a kid.  We went to the best schools and a bright future was the motivation to do well in school.

This sunny outlook on the future stuck with most people right until the end of college.  Everyone graduated but no one found the modern equivalent of a steady job and white picket fence.  We found that work was long, hard, and unrewarding…if you are lucky.  We can only afford to live with several other people or as many do, with the parents.  What do you do after graduation?  Move back home until you can find a job that will let you afford a crappy apartment with a bunch of other college graduates.

Most of my friends made it out of our parent’s houses but after that we are just treading water.  No one is optimistic about advancement, we can only afford to be optimistic about keeping whatever dead-end job we have.

Which brings up the graduate schools and how a bachelors degree BA BS is the new high school diploma.  After working for a few years and realizing nothing differant is happening, many of my friends decided to get a masters degree.  Luckily for them, all my friends are smart so the only problem is financing the endevor.  The truly practical got degrees in Chemistry or computer science while the people such as myself who still had that hope of doing something enjoyable got a degree in Television, Radio, and Film.

“The Fog of War” five lessons from Robert Macnamra

Five Lessons

note: These comments are for WWII inclusive

 

 

 

“Belief and seeing are both often wrong.”

            Agree. They are always wrong; the real difference comes from perspective.

 

“Proportionality should be a guideline in war”

            Disagree. In order to win, it may be necessary to destroy the enemy’s moral and this may not be possible to do with a proportional guideline.

 

“Rationality will not save us”

            Agree. The smartest most intelligent calmest person will be completely irrational under the right circumstances.

 

“Emphasize with your enemy”

            On the Fence.  On a policy level, empathy should play a part. Once a war is in progress, however, empathy may cause hesitation to inflict the necessary damages.

 

“Maximize efficiency”

            Disagree. Historically efficiency causes many side effects and by-products. In war we may call these collateral damage or unnecessary civilian deaths.

World Finance

I’m very tired of everyone trying to explain what is going on in the global economy. To which everybody else simply responds “Well if you know what is happening, then fix it!”.  This doesn’t seem like the best way to approach the problem. If consumers could help in some way (other than not taking out bad loans) then we should tell them what to do, otherwise keep the mob in the dark. The more the average person knows, the less they understand, and the more they panic. A person can be rational, reasonable, and capable of not acting like a fool.  People on the other hand are crazy, irrational and prone to stampedes.

Money doesn’t exist, it’s just one way to measure value.

funny quote from I don”t know where

Any man, in the right situation, is capable of murder. But not any man is capable of being a good camper. So, murder and camping are not as similar as you might think.

Conflict in Ireland–1995

                                      Conflict and Cultures    

 

 

The conflict in Ireland, while having many similarities with the current conflict in the Middle East, has a much better chance of coming to a peaceful solution.  The first and most prominent reason for this is the fact that the cultures in conflict in Ireland are very similar while the Israelis and the Palestinians are extremely different.  The animosity between the Protestants and the Catholics was probably very strong when England split from the Catholic church, but now seems to be more of a result of the conflict than a reason for fighting.  This is not to say that the Protestant/Catholic line is not the main battle line drawn by both sides, just that the closeness of the religions makes it easier to cooperate.  The Palestinians and the Israelis, however, have vastly different cultures with very distinct histories.  The conflict in Ireland is also centuries old, meaning that the native Irish people who were kicked out of their homes have been dead for hundreds of years.  Due to the closeness in culture and being neighbors for so long, the Irish Catholics and the Protestant English/ Irish are able to compromise better than in the Middle east where the battle lines are much more distinct.

          The Irish who were forcefully displaced by the English in the early 1600s were not put into refugee camps and that is not only a stronger base for grievance but also one that many Palestinians can still remember.[1]  By the time the Irish Catholics were strong enough to separate themselves, at least partly, from England, there was no suggestion or goal to kick all the Protestants out and move back onto the land their ancestors had been kicked out of hundreds of years ago.  The recent Irish Catholic grievances have more to do with being second-class citizens and under the thumb of England.  Both of these problems were much easier to approach because the Irish Catholics were asking for a lot less, in terms of what their enemies could gives them, than the Palestinians are fighting for.

          The Catholics and Protestants in Ireland have been living together for so long that despite the anger they have for each other, they have the same culture and much of the same history. “Ninety percent of what could probably be defined as culture is common in our society”—Eamonn McCain talking about the different cultures in Ireland[2]. Facing an enemy of the same religion, particularly in battles that involve civilians, does make a difference in how badly you view them and this in turn changes the way one would approach peace.  This is significant even if the only difference is that the IRA buries it’s dead in the same way the Loyalists do.  While the Israelis and the Palestinians do coexist in close proximity, their cultures and religions are very different.  “The Middle East is a mosaic of peoples, religions, languages, and cultures”[3], this is true even without Israel because the Middle East has so many independent countries and conflicting Muslim sects.

          There is a ceasefire in Ireland right now because two close cultures found a way to live in peace for now.  The war in the Middle East is escalating because the conflict is relatively new and the enemies are strangers.  At the present time the Palestinians do have stronger grievances and while Ireland was oppressed by England for much longer, the assimilation that happened made and end to the problem come a lot easier than it will in the Middle East.

[1] http:://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/facets.htm#chap2

[2] http:://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem//kerr.htm

[3] THE ISRAEL-ARAB READER. Yitzhak Shamir: Israel’s role in a changing Middle east. P.426


The National Debt

This isn’t a good sign, literally. The federal debt clock in New York no longer has enough digits to show the debt because it now exceeds Ten Trillion dollars.  I never understood the philosophy of having lots of debt as an economic policy but it does seem like average Americans have also adopted this idea and look at the shit we are in now.

YOU personally owe 86 grand

YOU personally owe 86 grand

Something to keep in mind.

I don’t advocate the dissolving of our government.  The government should, however, remember that the people have the option.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. –That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

On Sensory Perception

On Sensory Perception——————————– There is an expression Everyone sees the world in a different light. but for the most part we see the world in the same way as everyone else. When we see a fire truck go by we can reasonably assume that the person standing next to us is looking at a red fire truck. This idea of a common perception is reasonable because according to geneticists, we share 99.9% of our DNA with every other human on this planet and we share about 98% with every other living organism that has ever existed. This raises a problem because mathematically 99.9 is equivalent to 100. So why do people look and act so differently? A more significant question would be how it is if we share so much in common, why are there no two identical people? Mothers in this country often tell their children that they are as beautiful and unique as a snowflake. This is an apt analogy because while we are as unique as snowflakes, we are all still made of snow from the same cloud.——————————————————————- It is reasonable to assume that humans have a common perception of the world because of our shared genetic material and evolution. This is not perception in a general sense, but only the process by which we convert physical stimuli into something we recognize and understand. Our sensory perception is, to put it simply, the seemingly objective projection of our five basic senses as the human brain processes them.———————————– Driving down a crowded Newbury street, a friend remarked excitedly on a bright pink Volvo he saw out the window. Naturally we all turned to look at the car.————————————————————————————————— Ben, that car is blue.———————————————————– Oh, well I suppose its not that interesting then, he replied, turning his gaze back to the street.—————————————————————- This short episode raised all kinds of questions in my mind about color blindness and following from that, questions about the general reliability of my senses. I tried to imagine what the world would look like if I had Bens eyes and the closest thing I could come up with was along the lines of a color negative. This idea of the world with all the colors reversed was not accurate because of course pink is not the opposite of blue. This only made the issue more complicated because how can you say that what I perceive is right or in synch with objective reality? Unfortunately the term objective reality is indefinable to me. How can you prove that what I see is an accurate portrayal of the world?—————————————————————————– But surely with all the technology and knowledge of the natural world, one would think we have found some objective truths. The problem is that any technology that exists to measure the world is created and calibrated by us. Scientific measurement can record change but not the full nature of what is changing. Take a spectrometer for example, a machine that measures color; It can tell when something is red only because we told it beforehand what red looks like to us. ————————————————————————- How we perceive color is very similar to how one would correctly color match a gallon of paint. When customers want paint they usually choose a color sample and using the ID number on the sample we find a formula to make the paint. The formula is the amount of different tint (concentrated colorant) that is to be added to a gallon of pure white paint. Customers can also bring in a color and the computer can look at it and create a formula. Before this color matching can happen, however, the computer has to be calibrated. Calibration gives the computer two constants, black and white, and it creates the formula based on the established color spectrum in between black and white. This is not an exact science because pitch black is hard to find and as a result, colors generally come out lighter than the originals.—————————————————- A significant observation is that people have faith in their senses above all other faith. A pilgrim may believe that God will not allow him to die while practicing his religion but the pilgrim still looks both ways before crossing the street. A common part of a definition of faith is the belief in something that can not be proven. Most people would say that they trust their senses because they believe what is sensed can be proven. I do not believe that sense can be proven to be a reflection of reality. To prove that, we would have to know how the brain processes the impulses it receives, a topic about which the most intelligent neuroscientists in the world wouldnt venture to debate.—————- What we know is that electrical impulses relay information about the world around us to our brain, which converts these impulses into something we understand. The process of understanding these senses is not understood. We also know that language plays a large role in cognitive recognition. According to the Sapir-Wharf Hypothesis: language, in addition to reflecting the values and experiences of a culture, is necessary and instrumental in shaping our perception of reality. If a culture does not have experience of something, they do not have a word for it and it is impossible to completely comprehend. In Chinese, for example, there is only one word for red in all shades. A native Chinese does not fully comprehend the difference between maroon and pink even if both colors were presented. A more concrete example is the impossibility of explaining snow to native people located in the tropics. These groups of people can not comprehend the concept, no matter how long a description of snow may be.———————————————————– Another import question to consider is what cant we sense? Plato believed our world is but a shadow of a greater one, the place where objective truth can be found. Any truth we find here in this realm is a reflection of a universal truth that we can not perceive fully. It is difficult to think about what we can not observe through our senses because of the inherent problems with comprehending anything that is not a part of our reality. ————————– This problem is similar to the astronomical problem, Paradox of the Night Sky, which tries to answer the question of why the night sky is not bright white. There are an infinite number of stars in the sky extending in all directions with an infinite number of ages so if the universe is mostly empty space then we should be able to see all these stars and the night sky would be lit up like the face of the sun. The currently accepted explanation is the existence of dark matter, which is unobservable yet blocks our line of sight to most of the universe. This is a concept that while difficult to understand, is not unreasonably applicable to the earth. There could be things that we cannot perceive because our brain does not acknowledge their existence and therefore does not present them to our conscious mind.————————————— Hallucinations are often described as an alternate reality by those who are experiencing them and delusions by most people. I do not believe that hallucinations, drug induced or otherwise, show people a glimpse of an existing alternate reality or even a comparative one to a sober view of reality. What is significant about tripping is that senses are often crossed or heightened. People describe hearing colors or watching sound while some senses are heightened to where you might be able to hear a dog whistle. This shows how easily the sensorial brain activity can be disrupted. If our sensory perception can be altered so easily how can we begin to believe our senses?—————– A persons faith in god is demonstrated by their actions and is not questioned because the maxim is It is a matter of faith. The existence of god, however, is questioned constantly through innumerable points of view and lines of reasoning. Yet most people trust their senses almost completely. In such a debate, one could counter the question of the existence of god with the question of the existence of a blue sky and still never prove anything.———————-