30 January 2010

Flip-Side Metaphysics

A-side and B-side refer to the sides of 7-inch vinyl records, or singles, first released in the 1950s. The A-side had the featured song that the artist hoped would become a hit. vinyl single

The B-side, or flip-side, is the lesser song (that often does not appear on the artist's LP). Many of our most closely held assumptions have a flip-side. Derek Sivers inspired me to consider the flip-side in this short TED video.

The B-side, or flip-side, is not the lesser, simply different.


Derek Sivers, a professional musician and circus clown since 1987, is founder and former president of CD Baby, an online CD store for independent musicians. I covet the title clown and would like to sneak it into my bio without the inconvenience of having to join the circus.

29 January 2010

Obama Freeze Appalling Sham

In Obama Liquidates Himself, Paul Krugman calls the Obama administration’s spending freeze appalling, bad economics, and a betrayal of everything Obama’s supporters thought they were working toward.

I agree on all 3 charges.

The biggest head scratcher is why would the President exclude military spending? The US Congress nickels and dimes programs meant to help ordinary schlubs like me, and those less fortunate, but with a complicit President, hand out unmonitored blank check after unmonitored blank check to military expenditures and dubious nation building operations.

US Congress 2009 Budget Allocation
chart and spending figures from War Resistors League

An estimated 54% ($1,449 billion) of the US Federal budget in fiscal year 2009 was allocated to current-day and legacy military expenditures (of that, roughly 200 billion poured down the rat hole of elective wars in Iraq and Afghanistan).

I fear the terror-industrial complex pre-saged by Gen. Colin Powell is upon us. The following quote is from an October 2007 interview GQ Icon: Colin Powell

The only thing that can really destroy us is us. We shouldn't do it to ourselves, and we shouldn't use fear for political purposes—scaring people to death so they will vote for you, or scaring people to death so that we create a terror-industrial complex.
~ Colin Powell
In October of 2008, during a presidential debate, Sen. John McCain proposed a spending freeze on federal programs except the Department of Defense. Now President, then Sen. Barack Obama, countered by saying that approach would be the equivalent of
"using a hatchet where you need a scalpel."
I say we do need a hatchet -- to chop military spending.

The Obama administration has to do better. The people expect more than a politically motivated sham like a spending freeze - particularly when it ignores the money-sucking black hole of military spending.

26 January 2010

Oppose Internet Censorship

I have joined Aussie mate Ergun Çoruh, author of Negative Matter, in support of The Great Australian Internet Blackout.

I believe everyone has a responsibility to oppose state-sponsored control (and censorship) of the free, transparent, and responsible flow of information over the Internet whether in China, Australia, or your home country.

From Monday, January 25th to Friday, January 29th, Aussie websites will turn their lights out — black out — to inform Australians and the world about the insidious threat of state-imposed Internet censorship.

No posts this week in recognition of the black out.

24 January 2010

What Impedes Progress?

Many things contribute to the drag coefficient of progress. Three are
  • Dubious reasoning
  • Delusion
  • Denial

Dubious reasoning?
  1. The world is flat.
  2. The science of climate change is inconclusive or politically motivated.
  3. Independent voters are post-partisan and objective.
"I get sick of people valorizing independent voters. Studies show that independent voters are really just uninformed, not post-partisan and objective."
~Jonah Lehrer, verbatim from Twitter.

  1. Aliens are spying on me.
  2. I am going to win the lottery.
  3. Jesus is my lord and savior.
  1. This isn't happening to me.
  2. Don't think about it and it will go away.
  3. They're at fault, not us.
Cows, Pigs & Chickens tell us about other impediments:
  • Half-hearted Commitment
  • Indifference to Differences

cows, pigs and chickens
Half-hearted Commitment

Half-hearted commitment is recognized in The fable of The Chicken and the Pig

Pigs are committed or it'll be their bacon. Chickens consult and are informed of progress. By extension, a rooster struts around offering uninformed opinions.

I have been asking, what is my level of commitment to my ideals? And what is my commitment to incremental progress?  I fear I'm a chicken. Or worse, a rooster.

Indifference to Differences

There is a geography of thinking. There is a geography to the window frame from which a person views the world. There is a geography to how a person understands and reconciles his existence.

Many of us are indifferent to our differences. Societies self-segregate. I suspect things would be better if we acknowledged, then worked to understand differences -- cultural, geographic, or political.

"Survival is the second law of life. The first is that we are all one." ~Joseph Campbell

The barely perceptible line I draw in the sand is around accepted and observable facts and repeatable and observable phenomena (i.e., there's no reasoning with someone that simply makes shit up). After that, I am all eyes and ears.

Here is a compelling bit of knowledge about geographical differences that, taken in aggregate with other bits of knowledge, might help us to live better
"When we presented people with three words such as cow, chicken, and grass, and asked them which two go together, we got very different answers from Easterners and Westerners.
Americans were more likely to say cow and chicken go together because they are both animals; that is, they belong to the same taxonomic category. Asians, however, focusing on relationships, were more likely to say that cow goes with grass because a cow eats grass."
Richard E. Nisbett, excerpt from Intelligence and how to get it: why schools and cultures count
NASA's Mars Lander remains silent, but NASA continues to listen for signs of life from its robot frozen stiff near Martian north pole.

I am listening for signs that I am committed to progress and that I understand needs to be done.

22 January 2010

I Don't Need No Doctor

The reckless US Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance handed down yesterday is a giant step for corporate personhood, but a giant step backward for US citizens.

Schlubs like me, who vote in every election and make $25 campaign contributions, are eating humble pie.

A politically-charged US Supreme Court yields the potency to seed and nurture a Corporatocracy like invasive crab grass.
The Corporatocratic Court decision may be a blessing: it may trigger a groundswell of opposition to corporate personhood. ~J.P. Barlow, from Twitter

One of my favorites rock bands as a teenager was Humble Pie. In 1971, when this video of Humble Pie was made, I was a freshman at New Providence High School. Crank the volume.

In my slightly post-pubescent mind, I Don't Need No Doctor might have meant ditching school without a doctor's note.

Today, I Don't Need No Doctor is
A mantra for people without health insurance
The corporate shills and troglodytes in the Senate (e.g. Max Baucus, Harry Reid, the RepubliCants, and the ConservaDems) failed to hammer out a version of the insurance reform bill that the ever-so-slightly more enlightened House of Representatives (e.g., Anthony Wiener) could stomach.

The US Senate is a snake pit of uncontested corporate corruption. If ever you can't fathom a Senator's position or motives, Google their campaign contributions or go directly to the Center for Responsive Politics. Suddenly the irrational and unfathomable makes sense. Suddenly you'll understand your elected official is on someone's payroll. And, sadly, it’s not yours

15 January 2010

Follow The Money

Ever find you can't fathom your representative's position or motives? Then Google his campaign contributions.

Sometimes it's a head scratcher.

Delousing powder is stocked at the Center for Responsive PoliticsFor federal campaign data, do a disclosure data search at the Federal Election Commission website.

To follow the money trail in state politics, go to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

If you think the US Senate did an egregious disservice in 2009-10 by failing to look out for the best interests of their constituents during the 12+ month health insurance reform circus, then consider the top 10 Senators to receive contributions from the pharmaceutical and health products industry from Jan'09 to Sep'09:

10 January 2010

Gadget Profiteering

Many succumb to the ongoing lure of gadgets. Sleek gadgets that express of an image of ourselves as smarter, more savvy, more informed, sexier, etc.

Who hasn't experienced gadget envy?

Some of these gadgets are monuments to design ingenuity.

I applaud the professional designers and engineers who bring us these gadgets, albeit as hollow, and ultimately unfufilling as these agglomerations of plastic and metallic minerals tend to be. Yet they are beautiful in a MoMA design collection sense. Some of these gadgets might end up in the MoMA collection which also includes design icons ranging from a self-aligning ball bearing to an entire Bell 47D1 helicopter.

Bobtuse Money
Srinivasan Keshav, a professor in the School of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo, is an expert on mobile computing.

Professor Keshav analyzed the expenses that carriers incur handling SMS text messages from cell phones. He found that
  • wireless channels contribute about a tenth of a cent to the carrier's costs
  • accounting charges might be twice that, and
  • other costs round to zero since texting requires a fraction of a mobile network's infrastructure.
Keshav estimated a text message doesn't cost providers more than 0.3 cent. Do you know what you pay per text message?  It is pure profit for your carrier.

Here's some cocktail napkin arithmetic I imagine professor Keshav shared with a graduate student

Cocktail Napkin Arithmetic

I imagine professor and graduate student nursing some warm pints of stout at the Bombshelter Pub in Waterloo.

I also imagine professor Keshav looking above his reading glasses, then rolling his eyes as aforementioned student texts his mate about the true cost of SMS messaging.

Bomber Pub