Monday, April 10, 2006

Is There Money "For the Rest of Us"?

Blogburst has burst on to the scene! Or so they say. Will it mean money for "The Rest of Us?" Well probably not. It might give a few a chance to get hooked into other media, but that kind of misses the point doesn't it? Blogging, if it thrives, will thrive at the expense of traditional print media not because of it. It is just possible, I suppose, that 'print blogs' might become an important niche print form. However; if print media needs bloggers, it isn't because they need to pay more money for content, but rather that they need more content for less money.

This is not to say that I wouldn't take half of what a major syndicated columnist probably gets for a weekly column and like it. However I sincerely doubt that I or anyone else will ever make anything like that much from print syndication of a blog.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Cell Phone Monitoring Service

Spy program snoops on cell phones

The above article describes a software and internet service that is down right spooky. If you are a cell phone user with a little paranoia (justified or otherwise) you might want to keep that little device under your constant watch and maybe that isn’t even good enough. The kind of surveillance that cell systems and computers can provide to apparently even average Joes is pretty amazing and more than a little worrisome.

The seller of the software and internet service says:

"FlexiSpy is activity monitoring software that needs to be consciously installed by a human who knows exactly what the software does," Vervata said, to distinguish its product from a Trojan horse. "It does not self replicate, it does not pretend to be something it is not, and it always requires conscious human action for installation."

as though this were some kind of defense of its product. Any wiretap system could say exactly the same thing but that does not make them ethical or even legal. The system is specifically designed so that the users of the phone will have no idea that the monitoring is going on. The only ‘conscious human action’ required is on the part of the potentially underhanded criminal sneak thief doing the monitoring. This software should be declared illegal and its makers sued by any and all that discover that it has been used against them.

National ID Cards

ID cards to be mandatory in U.K. by 2010

After reading the above article and some of the responses to it I decided that I should say my piece.

I think the UK is not going anywhere near far enough and the US should take action too.

I believe that a personal identification number should be tatooed on our forearms at birth and a tracking chip implanted also; one that can be monitored via something like the cell phone system so that we are never out of contact with the authorities. Nothing is too good for our security! I think a little remote controlled bomb in our heads would be good also so that if someone is committing a crime that might endanger someone else or a cat or something, the authorities could stop them permanently without risk to themselves or any bystanders or trees or what not. There is never any reason why our government officials should not be able to locate any of us at any time they choose and kill us if we are being bad. Id cards are a waste of time and can get lost and require lots of extra expense. We have RFID chips and mini-explosive devices so the only sensible thing is to get right to the point.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What is "moral"?

What is "moral"? The use I am concerned with is, from the American Heritage Dictionary, 1:Of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character: moral scrutiny; a moral quandary.

My question is this; Is there a base criteria that can be reasonably applied to test 'morality' of 'human action and character'?

My answer is this; Yes, there is! And it is simply "Does this action or this aspect of character enhance or advance the survival of the human species?" A 'Yes' answer would indicate 'moral' and a 'No' answer would indicate, at best, neutral and, at worst, definitely 'immoral'.

Now I grant you, as is often the case, while the question is simple, the answer is not. Nevertheless, I can see no other reasonable basis for judgment of 'morality'. What other criteria could we apply that would work in all situations? What other definition of 'goodness' or 'badness' really makes sense?

There is plenty of room for discussion here. What constitutes 'survival'? What constitutes 'enhance or advance'? Maybe those 72 virgins (or whatever the number is) are the best thing for all of us! (Personally, I think somebody forgot to ask the virgins and what about the lady martyrs?) I'm not all that fond of the concept of 'harps in the hereafter' but if you are truly convinced that that is the best we can do then your concept of what is moral might differ from mine. Then at least you will have to make the case that 'harps in the hereafter' are better for the human species than the likely result of my actions if you want me to see your proposed actions as 'moral' and my opposition to them as 'immoral'.

What should America's Role be in the world?

I want to say thanks to Brian Westbye and his article "questions for the common man". The title of this article is one of those questions. And one that we could stand to have a bit of discussion on, I think. I am Asking not Telling, but I have some ideas.
I think we should be defenders of the weak.
I think that to be effective at that we must be strong.
Strong enough to pay the cost of providing harbor for the weak.
Strong enough enough to say no to those who would abuse us.
Strong enough to say yes to those who would join us.
Strong enough to pay the cost of finding the right thing to do.
Strong enough to pay the cost of doing the right thing.

Frankly we have not demonstrated any of those strengths as country for a long time. Probably since the second world war. Our record there was far from perfect (look at what we did to our own who were not caucasian), but we did show that we could give on an individual level for the percieved common good.
Have we ever been perfect, will we ever be perfect? Of course not! But I think we were better once as a country and we can be again.

Energy! Where does it come from?

Well believe it or not all energy on earth is derived from atomic reaction. And the biggest reactor on earth is not on earth. It is 8 minutes by light speed away at that big bright spot in the daytime sky. Oil is solar energy, hydro electricity is solar energy, wind power is solar energy, firewood is solar energy, ethanol is solar energy, coal is solar energy, waves and ocean currents are solar energy. Even geothermal energy is solar (maybe not our sun but some sun somewhere and when) energy.

Lets roughly rank these in ascending order of 'efficiency': geothermal, oil, coal, ethanol, firewood, waves and currents, wind, hydro, solar cells. Now I certainly don't claim to have these all in exactly the right order, but you can see the drift. By the way 'efficiency ' would be the ration of energy put in to energy retrievable (or is it the other way around). The basic rule is that the more steps you are away from the atomic reaction that fuels it all the worse off you are. There are other considerations, of course. The cost of retrieving the energy stored and of handling the by products of that retrieval are certainly two big ones.

Geothermal for example is several steps away from the original energy, but it is not very expensive to harvest in some areas of the world and creates little or no pollutants (though there could be side effects of wide spread use such as volcanic triggers and even 'core cooling') but it is readily available only some areas.

Oil? Well let's see. Use sunlight to grow a plant, feed the plant to an animal, bury the animal under centuries of weather (powered by sunlight) erosion, hunt it down and get it out of the ground and refine it and then burn it for the energy left.

Coal? Well let's see. Use sunlight to grow a plant. Bury the plant under centuries of weather (powered by sunlight) erosion, hunt it down and get it out of the ground and crunch it up and then burn it for the energy left.

Ethanol? Well let's see. Use sunlight to grow a plant. Chop the plant up and feed it to yeast. Distill the yeast pee to get alcohol. Burn the alcohol for the energy left in it.

As you can see there isn't much difference in the 'efficiency' of those three. Ethanol's big advantage is the ability to reduce "centuries of weather (powered by sunlight) erosion" to a few days or weeks of yeast feeding. Its quicker than coal or oil but it isn't much closer to the source.

And they all three require a huge expenditure of energy to harvest the energy. Oil has actually reached the point where it is energy negative. It now cost more energy to get than it produces.

So why is oil still used? Well there is a huge infrastructure all ready in place, it is quite portable, and it is economically storable in even small to medium quantities.

What about coal? Mainly it has pollution problems, is not easily transported, and cannot be readily stored in small to medium quantities. For these reasons only a limited infrastructure has ever been developed.

What about ethanol? It is portable and readily storable in even small to medium quantities, but there is almost no infrastructure, and, frankly, due to its inefficiency and cost not much reason to develop any.

All energy sources have some drawbacks but there is just no reason to think that switching one grossly inefficient system for another is the best way to go.

The Dubya Refrain

How could I know that
No one said anything to me
There is no problem

Had some information
It might have been all correct
We acted on it

I can not see it
A conflict of interest
My man would never

Oil not the reason
Freedom is not the excuse
Profit not the goal

Tax cuts raise revenue
Everybody knows this is a truth
My people tell me

I did not suspect
No one said anything to me
There is no problem