Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Disparaging Non-Science


 The Globe and Mail recently published this piece: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/the-age-of-aquarius-why-more-people-are-turning-to-astrology-foranswers/article38289222/ that is just a laundry list and quick report that many people are turning to various fashionable pseudo-spiritual thimsgnaes to give more comfort and support that are lacking from their lives. The message is that people are gullible to believe them, and the simplistic answer is, yes, they are gullible and they don't work as advertised because the story suggests a simple causal relationship between events and these ideas. 
  The plaintive question is why are people turning away from Science to this obvious bunk? Because they are foolish and gullible, led astray from the One Path of True Knowledge by fashion? They are falling away from real knowledge is the message here.
  The issue is more subtle than that. People turn to other, non-science-based ideas because Science(TM) became an ersatz religion that demands total adherence to its tenets of materialism and disparages and denigrates all other subjective forms of human experience. Any bizarre facts that it cannot explain get airily dismissed and waved aside. Each fact is treated as a single anomaly, even when there is a statistically significant amount of anomalous events that defy the simple mechanistic cause-and-effect of Newtonian Physics. Yet people experience bizarre events every day. Being disparaged for their own experiences is a surefire way to get their back up and quit listening to someone and start looking around for other answers, even if that person is right and those other answers are bunk.
  Then, in the midst of the demand for absolute trust in Science as the Answer to Everything, the public -- most of whom aren't drawn to be scientists -- out on display are scientific debates and populist science loves to speak in sonorous tones of absolute gravitas about what is 'correct' (at this time). People are told one thing at one time, and the complete opposite at another time. Right now the evidence is that the global climate is warming and the prediction is we are going to have massive ecological disruption. Remember in the 1970s when the Earth was about to enter another global ice age that would cause massive ecological disruption? No? Science boosters are denying that any such discussion ever took place, but the record is out there, and people remember it. So when everything from 'coffee is good for you' to 'coffee is bad for you' to 'no, it's good for you' to 'no, evidence is it's bad for you' gets whiplashed back and forth people stop believing they can be relied upon. All this sounds like the religious disputes of the late Roman Empire.
   Scientists have done themselves no favours by either cautiously hiding away or boldly making pronouncements that are quickly proven wrong.
   Moreover, we have been witness to a long and dreary parade of science papers later shown to be falsified to satisfy the demands of grant money. Corruption is widespread enough that people -- even I -- have a hard time believing what is published. e.g. the GMO crop debate where Monsanto funds studies that says it's utterly safe and wonderfully productive and the EU produces studies that suggest mutagenic effects in rats. Hmm. I'd go for the precautionary principal, but corporations go for the profit now principal and those with money get their pet politicians to do their bidding, or so it appears. Hence one part of the world has government regulators looking to ban GMO crops entirely while the U.S. and Canada ban telling people on packaging whether they are eating GMO products.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

The Band-Saw

   I have a general rule that if I spend longer fiddling around with the tool than I do actually using it, it probably isn't worth it.
   The band-saw is pretty much on the edge of that category.
   Yes, I did manage to make long, lengthwise cuts that probably would have taken a very long time by hand, but the blade twisted and pulled off & I had to spend a great deal of effort trying to get it out of the wood and back onto the wheels. Now it has some permanent wonks it it, but it still cuts.
   So, I'm wondering if it's actually worth the effort, since, as I try to cut, the blade inevitably warps off to the right side, which means I have to keep twisting the wood off to that side to keep a straight cut, which, inevitably, does not remain straight.
   It does not work as advertised (then, again, what does?), it does not perform as 'experts' assure me it should, it does make a large job much faster, within certain parameters, but the cut must be constantly adjusted manually and requires a lot of sanding down to make it smooth afterwards. Despite lots of screws and guides to make exquisitely fine adjustments to it runs perfectly, these apparently make no difference at all in how it actually performs. I think the engineers were just thinking they were being clever. The cutting blade wrenches off to the side and no amount of guides or adjustments seem to compensate for that.
   The reason I say that is because, as much as some people love to use tools for their own sake, when the using of the tool is an end in itself, and love to spend hours on their craft, this is not my craft. I use wood because it is convenient and useful, but I am still trying to achieve an end, some other goal.   I suppose there is also an element of my own unfamiliarity with this tool. I don't use it every day, or even every week, so I'm not really familiar with it. Perhaps if I did, I'd understand it better and wouldn't have the problems that come up. I discovered that as I have become very good with other tools that I have used a lot, a hand-saw, for example.
   But, while I did have to spend almost as long fiddling with the band-saw as actually using it, it certainly was a lot faster than if I had cut the pieces by hand, and the inaccuracies will be easily sanded out.
   Conclusion, it's still worth it.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Bitcoin is a Doomed Bubble

  So, Bitcoin is IT! The latest, coolest, most awsomest tech to come along since the invention of the leather bag on a belt to hold your coins in. (Seriously, that's all it is. If you dropped your purse of coins, it was gone. God(s) help you if you drop your i-thingy into the water, your Bitcoin just vanished without a trace.)
  More to the point, as everyone who worships the God Hy-Tek in the Church of Eternal Progress gets breathless over this bubble, they (like most fervent religionists) blithely ignore the harsh realities of the world we live in, such as increasing energy constraints.
 

http://www.cbc.ca/news/business/bitcoin-mining-electricity-canada-1.4543319
 

  If we need as much power to process a bitcoin transaction as a small town, and about the same amount to do a year's worth of transactions as a small country, what happens to all this as energy constraints bite down harder over time? We are Conventional oil production has already been in steady decline since 2005, the difference being made up by Condensates (a costlier method of extraction), Tar Sand extraction (a costlier method), and Shale Fracking (a very costly and very short-term method).
  We simply do not have the energy resources on this planet to support this high-tech economy crap.

Renewables Will Not Save Our Collective Lifestyle

  Every so often, I see posts passed around FB gloating about how Germany or Denmark or someplace has met all its electricity needs with 100% wind or solar or something. The implication being that it's possible to maintain our current lifestyle on nothing but renewable energy, with absolutely no CO2 producing fossil fuels.
   I also like to occasionally get out my lance, get on my horse and skewer sacks of straw with the sharp end.
   That argument is today's straw sack, here is today's lance:
   http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2017/09/how-to-run-modern-society-on-solar-and-wind-powe.html

   The crucial point in there is the last one: that we are going to have to radically change our living arrangements, give up the notion that everyone gets a Personally Owned Motor Vehicle to travel hither and thither at will, that everyone gets a detached house from with they can drive their P.O.M.V. hither and thither at will, that we can continue to mass-produce throw-away 'consumer' goods.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

A view of History

   The reason for my disparaging view of mainstream politicians, i.e. Prime Minister Trudeau and Prime-Minister-in-Waiting Scheer, and their mainstream political Parties, i.e. the Red Party of Industrial Free-Market Capitalism that pretends to care about the middle-class and the Blue Party of Industrial Free-Market Capitalism that only supports the wealthy classes, is because they subscribe to the notion that paying a bottom wage as a living wage is somehow going to destroy the economy. Whereas all these agglomerations of pundits, theorists, and their tame intellectuals are perfectly fine that the annualized income of those CEOs and Board Members at the top of their various corporations take home more money in the first hour between midnight and 1:00 O'Clock on the 1st of January than the total annual take-home pay of the lowest two fifths of the population. It does bother me that there is a group of people who love to believe that they somehow 'deserve' to earn more than, to pick my own example, 200 times what I do. They are certainly not 200 times smarter, nor 200 times stronger, nor 200 times more anything than I am. They may be 200 times more avaricious, but this should not be a laudable characteristic. What truly concerns me about this situation is that I take a different view of history than the vast majority of people in my world, and I see something they are busily ignoring, and that is, this situation is neither new, nor unique to us, now. Because there are, broadly speaking, two ways to look a history, one being as a linear sequence of unique events, the other being a cyclical sequence of similar patterns. Obviously, I favour the latter, and therefore see a pattern that does not bode well for anything in the coming decades.
   It is very easy to subscribe the the former view; it is the default view of Western European-based society and informs our language and perception of everything in the past.We see increasingly complex life-forms and multivaried ecosystems through the time-line of geology, and conclude that we are the epitome of life. We perceive changes in technology through the existence of humanity, from chipping stone tools, to smelting and working with metals, from hard bronze to development of steel, and conclude that all technological changes are improvements. We have accumulated knowledge over time, and in recent centuries, that accumulation has accelerated and conclude that we must be smarter than our ancestors because they apparently did not. Moreover, every situation the past appears unique and each culture is different. Obviously a Roman Senator differs from a Feudal Prince, which, in turn differs significantly from a Member of Parliament.

   But this view of the past does not match the paleontological record. There have been several instances of highly complex ecosystems developing over millions of years, which have been almost utterly eradicated due to some global catastrophe and had to start again from very few survivors. Improvements in technology have not been linear. We have, for example, lost all knowledge of how some technologies of the past worked and even the best archaeological investigation cannot tell us enough about it to recreate them. We have gone through periods of so-called Dark Ages, when human societies fragmented from highly complex civilizations into very simple and rudimentary tribal entities. For example, people are quite disturbed to learn that Roman ruins are actually older than Norman ones, because the Roman ones are obviously more impressive. During this period a huge amount of knowledge and technology was lost, and this has repeated several times in recorded history. Finally, the comparison between different politicial structures is akin to comparing the huge number of differences between me and a dog, or between a dog and a cow. However, there are also a great many similarities between all three species, starting with the fact that we are all mammals, and so every bone of my hand compares to similar bones in the paw or a dog or the lower leg of the cow, or the circulatory blood system and so on. Our morphology, the observation that different things are also similar in significant ways, is more similar than different. That is the foundation of a cyclical view of history, where one can look at the past, and see the similarities in the patterns that repeat throughout time.
   This morphology allows us to look at dozens of empires that rose and fell, to see overall patterns that repeat, time and again, and then compare those political entities with ours of the present day. Look past the superficial forms at those patterns and it becomes obvious that, if history doesn't repeat, it rhymes. It allows me -- and increasingly many others -- to observe that the United States is a world empire, if not in name, then certainly in form, according to any definition you would care to try and apply. Canada fills the role of a wealthy Satrapy, which is allowed to exist as we do because it is psychologically and politically convenient.
   This morphology is also why I can compare our current and increasing, economic disparity with France in the third quarter of the 18th Century, or Russia in the last quarter of the 19th Century, or Rome in the second half of the Fourth Century and observe that the pattern of events that transpired to create that disparity, then and now, is much the same, with much the same arguments being used to justify it.
   But that same morphological view also informs me that every society that has allowed the elites and their sycophantic supporters to delude and fool themselves into believing that it is fine to have such a high level of disparity between the wealthiest and the poorest has dissolved. Almost every time, that dissolution was extremely violent. Even without external pressures, and despite a strong common culture, complex societies have fragmented into violent conflict and dissolved. Sometimes they recover and reconstitute themselves into a new structure for a couple of hundred years, before dissolving temporarily into violence, as the Roman world did. Sometimes they disappear entirely. So my concern is just that: that every empire dissolves, and every empire breaks up, and most of them involve violence. And thus we percieve that the U.S. is currently an empire very close to dissolution. That concerns me.

   I, therefore, see a pattern that does not bode well for anything in the coming decades. I see a pattern that, for the moment, still has the poorest able to put food on their tables and mostly keep a roof over their heads. But I also see an increasing number who no longer perceive any benefit in our current electoral system that refuses to change, who have stopped bothering to vote, who are under increasing pressure to try and maintain their lifestyle, and who are increasingly angry and polarized. To the south, this has become quite acute these past three decades. In Mexico, and across the overpopulated Arab world, when food prices soared in 2011, it resulted in massive unrest and violence and chaos that has not really resolved itself. For the many who ascribe to the linear view of history, these are unique events. For me, and those who ascribe to a morphological view, these are inevitable consequences of our current policies, and if no major change happens, it will be coming here, soon.

Friday, 22 December 2017

The New Conservatives

Got around to looking at Andrew Scheer's Facebook page and some other material, as presented by him. After all, it's quite possible that Justin Trudeau (the lesser) will manage to get him and his elected as our next PM.

Apparently, the world according to Scheer (as presented to the world) lacks any sense of cogintive dissonance, because he is not trying to be funny or satirical. He is serious:

  • Trudeau is a liar and a cheater (yeah, OK, no kidding). But the Conservatives are not. Really? Do you think that Canadians were all buried under a f*g rock between 2006 and 2015? Harper's Conservatives have to be the most mendacious government we've ever had, by any honest metric. Only by dishonest metrics could anyone claim otherwise, which would, of course, prove the honest metric, wouldn't it. Note that Mr. Trudeau's Liberal government is doing their very best to try and out-do them in the five short years he's actually got.
  • Mr. Scheer loves SF. Well, who doesn't! He is both a lover of Star Trek and Star Wars, so, COOL!

  • His Party fought against the Liberal tax plan that would have broken what Mr. Trudeau, when seeking election, called the "backbone of Canada's economy." Kudos. But so was everyone else in Parliament and most of the country.
    It would have been even better if his own Party hadn't been (and still is) so keen to give Canada over to Trans-national Corporations in the name of trickle-down-on-you economics that was derided 100 years ago and has never failed to do anything except impoverish the majority of people and destroy small businesses.
    So, I call hypocrisy.
  • He seems genuinely concerned about the Middle Class paying more in tax. But he stops there. No actual alternate suggestion for who should be paying the taxes needed to run a country, like, say, those who own or control 75% of the wealth. (OMG! Socialism! Communism! REDS! Coming to steal your hard-inherited stuff!) His dedication to making the super-wealthy even wealthier at our expense is touching. Really.

  • He is very supportive of different religions, like the different variations of Christianity and Judaism. But not all religions. In fact, not even most religions. Apparently, he'd be very happy if all followers of other religions (especially Muslims) would go back to wherever they sprang from and vanish into the earth, that apparently, would be awesome.
Apart from ad-hominem attacks against Trudeau, I see no real difference from, or viable alternative to, the current Liberals economic policies, which is like arguing over who gets to sit in the drivers seat and stomp on the gas as the bus heads over a cliff. The cliff in question is, for those paying any attention over the past 40 years, the accelerating rate of depletion of available minerals and fossil-fuel energy, which is occurring pretty much as described in "Limits to Growth" and which means that no Mainstream Party (and almost none of the minor registered ones) has any indication that they will cope with this fact.
Want an interesting slap in the face from Reality? Look up the daily world conventional (i.e. liquid pumped from a land-based rig) oil production. Find a chart of listing that excludes Condensates. Note that world production of crude oil peaked in May 2005. Condensates, Tar Sands, Syncrude, &c. are all means of extracting oil from very hard-to-get sources that are expensive and require a large amount of energy in and of itself, leaving ever-less for everything else we have been conditioned expect from our economy, such as driving to the mall to buy plastic stuff made in Asia to put in oversized, energy-inefficient, ugly houses in the soul-sucking, suburban sprawl.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Libertarians

The thing about Libertarians -- and those of libertarian leanings, the free-marketeers -- is they so frequently turn out to be utter hypocrites.
The Canadian Taxpayer Federation exists as a collection of cranks who absolutely believe that all Government spending is waste and hold as a sacred tenet that private enterprise will somehow not do as it always does, which is, to screw people out of money. (Remember, it's intellectually dishonest sewer from which Mr. Harper, the spendthrift who managed to obliterate a surplus and saddle us with massive deficit, bubbled up.)
So the excuse is 'but it's not illegal'. No, Mr Anti-Government, it's not. But according to you, it's immoral and should be.
Fildebrandt apologizes for Airbnb sublet income, takes leave from UCP finance critic role