I know I harp on this from time to time, but I'm going to do it again after an argument I had with someone recently.

Look at this photo:

[Ginormo Version]

This photo gives me the shivers whenever I see it. It is said this was the first time we could see our whole home in one picture. All of it. So small from 200,000 miles.

Now, reflect for a moment on what went into getting this photo. The resources, the technology, the know how, all of it.

Now, reflect on the fact that this image is over 40 years old. We did this 40 years ago. We. Humanity. The US may have driven it, but at this moment, and a moment 8 months later, it was us. All of humanity captured in one shining moment.

Or this image:


This foot print may be Buzz Aldrin's, but it is also the foot print of every human. We touched the very surface of another world. They walked there for us, but we walked with them. That print is yours, mine, the print of every last human, whether they accept it or not. It says, "We are explorers. We seek new things. We can seek beyond even our world. And this is just among our first steps."

Marvel, friends. Marvel at what the human mind and spirit can achieve.

But, while you marvel, I don't want you to worship it. I don't want you to think this is some mystical, magical thing. To do so tarnishes the achievement. We could very well do this again. And again and again and again. There was no magic here: sound science, hard work, engineering, perseverance and human will power made these things.

And especially don't genuflect to any deity. No small, human-crafted deity had anything to do with this. If you believed the shepherds, pastors, priests, holy con-men, this was a Tower of Babel, a human folly, an affront to any number of deities.

I will not give thanks to some deity for these accomplishments. I will thank the numerous men and women who worked hard for these things. Who spent their lives to make these things possible. I will thank them properly, I will not force them to share their rightfully earned spotlight with some petty, bronze-age figment of human imagination.

Therein was the argument I had. That everything humans did was by the "grace" of that imaginary friend. And it made my stomach roil. It was not. It was us, and we should not be ashamed to say so. It was our knowledge. It was our engineering. It was us. And only us. Why is this concept so hard? Why? Why can't it be just us? Why does it have to be anything else as well?

I refuse to bend my knee to some fictitious lord just as I refuse to bend my knee to any human lord. I am no servant, and neither is any other human. And it is when that spirit, that sense of wonderment, that sense of exploration, shines through those mental shackles, we accomplish these things. That we touch other worlds. That we do grand things. That we strive for our very best.

That we send ourselves farther than we have ever been.


Just some thoughts that popped into my head throughout the day today:

  • Taxing the upper 1% by income tax is meaningless. And crushing down with capital gains increases ends up pinching down on us poor fools that now gamble long term for our hope of meaningful retirement (IRAs, 401(k)s, etc).
  • I have a book addiction.
  • I need another bookcase (see previous).
  • I don't care if some executive in Grosse Point, or the Hamptons, or Beverly Hills or (insert ultra-wealthy enclave here) loses their job. I really don't. A bit sad that I've lost compassion for a fellow human. But it is hard to have compassion for someone supping upon china plates while another someone buys food with stamps.


Healthcare Again

Can someone tell me what the healthcare reform would be sans a public option?

I'm dead serious? How is it any different? What changes? What makes it better for those in desperate need of care?

There will never be a bipartisan solution. Forget that. Anyone that tells you it is possible is a fool. The far right is just digging in their heels on the hope that the left will blow all their political capital by the next election. Then they (the right) can cackle that the "reform" failed.

What is needed here is for the left, the real left ("blue dogs" are merely dixiecrats in disguise) to seize this opportunity and to cram the reform down everyone's craw. To take the will and use it the way their counterparts on the right always do; the way left used to know how to do.

That's what it takes in the US. It's what it always takes to get things done here; to get things past a group of people that are, as a general rule, neophobic. It takes a few people of vision, power and conviction to break the status quo so severely that returning becomes an impossibility without total societal breakdown.

If you try to take the gradual change, there will be constant fighting and petty, tit-for-tat reversals.

It is almost akin to an intertial thing. If the will is expended strongly enough, the ball can be made to roll such that by the time the opposition can gather any will, it is almost unthinkable to the public to change back. Those on the center-left (the real left is nearly non-existant), take note of what those on the right have done over the last 15 years.

And the politicians in control of the reins: this is your time to say you amounted to something. That you stood and said, "We will make the change, damn the costs." Yes, your career will be on the line. But if you are obsessed with building a long political career, you will let yourself focus on your short term gains (the next election) over the long term gains of the greater good. And if you play it right, if you push and this succeeds, well, you can then feed your vainglory by knowing your name will get etched down among those others that decided that what was right was far more important than what was right for them.

Big talk from someone with nothing to lose? Perhaps. Keep in mind I don't stand where you stand. I serve my duty by taxes, voting and making my opinion known. By standing up and criticizing not only those for whom I did not vote, but also being critical of those for whom I did.

To paraphrase: We chose to do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. This is our Moon Shot. This is our great chance to finally yank ourselves again towards the top. To be the exemplars of change and progress. To admit that, yes, we are flawed, but we will fix our flaws.

Feh, healthcare reform without a public option. If that's the way we want to go, we may as well not even try. The system will still be broken.

There are times and places and things upon which we should compromise. This is not one of those things.


Healthcare as a Business : Broken Idea

I think of all the talk recently about the overhaul of the US healthcare system, one point made on Midmorning a while ago, sticks with me: when did people cease to be patients and become customers?

That's a question I'd dearly like to hear answered. I'm a patient, I am ill, I am going to a doctor/nurse/etc for care. I am not interested in buying healthcare services, I am interested in care. I don't want hospitals and other providers of care to be profit motivated.

Why? In all my reading and experience, anything that goes to profit motivation eventually falls into the myopic whims of idiots with more money than sense. Penny-wise and pound-foolish becomes the rule of the day. The enterprise self-destructs as if its management is some sort of insidious cancer. Best case example I can think of: ATT; not the current one, the old one. Read a bit on it.

In my own personal experience, all the nurses in my family (the good ones anyways), didn't get into nursing for the money, to service customers. They got in it to help make people better, or at least, hurt less.

I think the debate on this whole topic needs to be reworded. And the financial hand-wringers need to shut up. It will cost some in the short. But in the long, it will be cheaper as we all become healthier and need less treatment over time. We need to care for each other, to provide care to patients. We don't need to provide services. No options but a public option: sure, let the current companies manage the handling of paperwork and such, they already know how to do it.

I no longer want to hear free-market fantasies on healthcare. I don't care if the upper 1% can't get their third ivory back scratcher this year. The upper 1% has, by and large, never really "re-invested" or "created jobs". This is myth, pure and simple. They've "re-invested" just enough to keep their private, buffered and pampered life-style. You want proof: take a drive through the Hamptons, or Beverly Hills, or West Palm Beach, or Grosse Point, provided you can enter past the community gates.



Jobs, Hobbies, and Well Roundedness?

Perhaps I'm reading far too much in a beer commercial, but the Mich Ultra commercials really, really piss me off. They follow the typical trope that jobs are jobs and personal life is personal life, and never shall the twain meet.

I call bullshit. I might not like doing the fiddly things (forms, etc) my job has, I really love my job. And I love what I do at my job: write software. I love it so much, I do it as a hobby. I was doing it before it was my job. I was doing it before I went to college.

I don't feel the need to fill my time with activities to forget my job and what I do. I do fill my time with other activities besides coding, but not because I wish to escape my job, but because I guy with myopia and astigmatism shouldn't look at a monitor too much.

To all those who are unlucky to not do such a thing, you have some of my empathy. Just stop looking down your damn nose at me as I kill an evening writing code while you're out trying to forget your day at the bar, alright?

Book Review: The Golden Compass

I'm going to add book reviews to the list of things I put here. I don't like the cramped little spaces sellers and such have, nor do I like their little "star" systems. On the flip side, I'm not going to give a lengthy review either. I will mark a review if it has spoilers.

I know I'm massively late on this novel. And I'm not precisely the target audience for it (I'm thinking ages 10 to about 15). But I have to say, I rather enjoyed it.

I avoided the books a few years back when all the hoopla came about from our friendly wingnuts (the sort of folks that generally have issues separating fantasy from reality and like to burn books). I'm not a fan of hype, good, bad, or otherwise, and I tend to shun anything getting any hype.

First off: panserbjørne. I was sold on that concept alone. It decidedly appealed to the little boy in me: how cool is the concept of armored bears? Getting beyond the cool factor of the bears, I thought their culture was well fleshed out. It's a fairly spartan culture with strong honor-sense. Somehow, I got feelings of Klingons combined with Tolkien's Elves combined with, oddly, Ents and something else that escapes me at this time. Anyway, I found these creatures to be the most real of the others in this universe of Pullman's.

Keying off that last note, I did find most of the characters to be not quite three-dimensional. They were decidedly not as flat as characters in other books I've had the displeasure of reading, but they certainly don't come fully to life. Perhaps I am expecting too much for the genre, but I do compare these sorts of novels to Pratchett and, of course, Tolkein.

Beyond the 2.5 D (nah, make that 2.75 D, Iorek and Lee Scoresby are decidedly well rounded) characters, the world itself is rather fascinating. The Church and government are definitely behaving as entrenched power structures behave. Perhaps that's what freaked out the wingnuts: it shines an accurate light on their actions. I also like the message that the established scientists (aka Scholars) are just human and fallible.

I guess one thing really stuck in my craw. And this is your only spoiler alert, although I don't feel too bad as this book was published in 1995 (I feel miffed that I missed this thing for 14 years, then again, I first read Pratchett in 2005-6). The betrayal of Lyra by her father was telegraphed from the beginning. Perhaps I've just read too many alt-world/fantasy novels, but Lord Asriel decidely comes off as an antagonist from the very beginning. And the perternaturally good Farder Coram and John Faa set up the obvious counter-point to the "secretly" bad Asriel. An ends-justify-the-means sort of person, but minus the deeper character that help us empathize with him (perhaps he is better fleshed out in the later novels), it was obvious he was going to do something bad by the end.

All in all, I will give the book fairly high marks. It did pull me through the last 100 pages or so last night (when I should have been sleeping). I would definitely recommend it to anyone; it's a good short romp, but it isn't going to make you think deeply.



My Goofy Mind

I must confess, this introspection was caused by following a self-reference made on Halfway There by Zeno, and following another self-reference therein.

I've come to the conclusion that my attention to sports in anyway has been mostly an effort to fit in. Some of it was fun, once in a while, but I could just never take it seriously. I can't get rabid about it, and I certainly can't fathom the amount of money spent on the subject (I also doubt the tenuous contention that sports stadia bring worth-while income to a university.). It's supposed to be a game, to help you unwind. But it never seems to be the case.

I recall many summers being on park-and-rec teams and being berated for not trying hard enough. After a while, I became aware of the mixed message being pushed by the middle-aged men coaching these teams: have fun, but win. Good sportsmanship was a buzzword peddled to forestall fights. It was around this time that I convinced my mother that organized sports weren't my bag: my mind was far sharper than my body. There's a post in there somewhere about my mother pushing sports, and my father being resistant to the idea; signal to self: post about that.

It was also around that time that I ran into someone I would consider the first real friend I had. His suggestion, being an asportual individual himself, was that we take the weight training offered by park-and-rec. Sure, some of the guys from the actual school-tied sports teams showed up from time to time; but these were guys that were actually dedicated to the art form within the sport and trying to maximize that, not the vainglory sought by most on the team. I spent the entire summer learning that I liked exercise when the only measure I had was against myself. I improved what was then my declining health, and we just basically shot the shit all the time.

Over time my opinion wavered back and forth, but I think I've finally settled into the idea that far too much time and money is expended on sport. Especially sports of the individualistic variety. A while back, before I did some unspecified, unidentifiable damage to my knee, I went wall/rock-climbing three or four times a week, while it was free at the local wall with a friend of mine. No disrespect to said friend, but he seemed to want to get into far more depth than I was. He still casually tries to get me to go to the more expensive, but more elaborate, climbing gym. But, the thought of paying for what I could do for free, and was doing just for exercise and enjoyment, bothered me. It immediately conjured the mental imagine of summers spent in grassy outfields catching the occasional fly ball (up to a certain age, it's fairly rare for kids to hit a baseball hard enough to make outfield the important thing it is in more advanced settings). And I balked. And my knee mysteriously balked on me, and has done so from time to time over the last year or so, but that's something different.

Coming back to my original link-set at the top of this post, I think about my current unattachedness, especially in light of the fact that I've not had a meaningful romantic relationship with a woman in approximately two years (not for lack of attempts). I am fairly certain I am not asexual: I don't knee-jerk like your stereotypical construction worker, but I do double takes when lovely women pass (I'm not going to go into my definition of lovely). I've had intimate emotional/physical relationships with women; I respond on an emotional and physical in a way that one could consider typically male.

But lately, I've felt less of this. Perhaps as I get older I get more selective by learning from failed relationships (failures are excellent learning tools). And perhaps the fact that the pool I have for immediate selection has dwindled (even though, techinically, the pool is much wider than before) has something to do with it. I don't run into fellow unattached women at work; my field is still heavily dominated by men. Nor do I feel the need to go to the usual locations where folks get together: if I want a drink with friends, I'm having a drink with friends, I am not puffing up my plumage for selection.

Perhaps this is just all in my mind. I don't know. I also think my mind might be warped outside of the norm anyway. I will have more on that later. It was a fairly interesting revelation when it struck me a few weeks ago, and I am still chewing on the ramifications.