Archive for the 'ranting' Category

Two thoughts on climate change

Sunday, July 21st, 2019

First an analogy: I’m sure it’s been used before but I was talking about climate change ether other day with a coworker and used this one; climate change is like lifestyle diseases. Like diabetes or high blood pressure or cholesterol, climate change is something we were warned about, that it would be a consequence of our continued bad behavior and, like lifestyle diseases, too many people have ignored the warnings. This is a particularly good analogy for my peers, we are in our forties and all that past bad behavior has started catching up with many of us. Too many of my coworkers are dealing with diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol.

So, climate change is like lifestyle diseases: it’s a problem created by the success of the first world, and you have been warned about it for years. Doctors have been telling you that present you needs to eat better to protect future you for most of your life. The doctors told you that you eat too much sugar and salt, that you get too little exercise. But present you figures “I can have one donut, I’m gonna start going to the gym” or “some salty fries won’t kill me, I’ll eat better tomorrow.” But future you never gets a chance to eat better and exercise because when the time comes present you is always making other plans and giving excuses. Then one day present you is pricking your finger every few hours to measure your blood sugar, or taking pills for high blood pressure or cholesterol. Present you has got to live with the consequences of all the bad behavior of past you and there is nothing future you can do about it anymore. Preventing the disease is always better than treating the disease, but past you always assumed future you would be better than present you ever was. Psychology knows this, that future you is always going to be better behaved until present you is future you and then you behave the same as past you always has; present you likes donuts and fries just like past you did.

Like first world lifestyle diseases, climate change was avoidable but past, and indeed, present humanity has failed to curb the bad behavior. The scientist have been warning us for years that we need to take better care of the environment to stop climate change. Now we have passed the point of preventative maintenance, where future humanity could have done better and everything would have been alright. But present humanity continued to be as bad as past humanity and now future humanity will need to manage the chronic disease we have infected the planet with.

Even if you don’t believe that climate change is man made we are to the point where we need to do something to stop the changes if we want to keep living. Just like changing your diet when you get diabetes or high blood pressure we need to change our consumption; less meat, less plastic, less fossil fuels. But once the disease has set in you can’t use change your diet and hope it will all be better, you need some medicine, you have to take pills or insulin shots.

Which brings us to thought two: we can’t rely on stopping our bad habits alone. We need to reduce our use of fossils fuels, stop using plastics, limit meat, and many other things too. But we need some medicine too. And just as science continues to look for a cure to diabetes and high blood pressure, to reverse the disease we need to invest in finding a cure for climate change that we have already caused. Here I want to see America take the lead, to get America out of this funk of “all we have is capitalism, all we have is making money.” I think America needs a collective challenge one a global level to invest itself in.

America needs a nation commitment to tackling a global level challenge to grow, we don’t seem to work well without a grand shared goal: ending the depression, saving the world from Nazis and Kamikaze, or beating the Russians to the moon. Since the fall of communism we have not had any real global challenges to rise to. So, since yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, I propose to tackle climate change in a similar way as we tackled the race to the moon. Let’s challenge America to return the atmosphere to the carbon dioxide level of 1900, by the year 2030, and keep it there.

“And keep it there” is an important part of that challenge. It means that we don’t get off the hook for changing our ways. We have to stop adding to the problem; stop adding to the carbon dioxide problem. Even if NASA and NOAA can develop a plan and succeed in sucking the excess carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere we need to find alternatives to putting it back. Even if they can return the atmosphere to 1900 we also need to see how we tackle plastics in the environment, industrial chemicals in the environment and massive distraction of the environment through logging and farming. And how do we help the people who are disaffected by fixing those problems. But “return the atmosphere to to the carbon dioxide level of 1900, by the year 2030, and keep it there” is a mission statement we can remember and America can take up a challenge for the good of all mankind.

Fish Fetish: The Breatharian

Sunday, July 7th, 2019

Oh my god. Flashback! I just cam across this article on I Fucking Love Science:

WTF is “breatharianism”? If you are not familiar:

Breatharianism, in the traditional meaning, is a belief that it’s possible for humans to survive without eating food. Breatharians claim that food, and sometimes even water, is not necessary for humans to live, and instead people can keep themselves alive with breathing and sunlight.

James Felton in Please Do Not Attempt The Breatharian Diet, You Need Food To Live [iflscience.com]

I know this delusional bullshit from a IRL encounter with a practitioner before Instagram, before social media, in the age of dialup. I can’t believe this story is not already posted here, but back when I sold fish for s living I met a “breatharian” so here is a factionalized account of that encounter…

It was a slow weekday at the shop, the dry stock delivery was tagged and shelved and it was only two PM. By some coincidence the shop still had a full house: J—- was working. I wasn’t working but O— and I were just hanging out with J—- after lunch till it was time for him to head to work. J— and D– were waiting for J—‘s Girlfriend S—- to come by the shop and they were going off somewhere or other to play tennis or mountain bike or something.

S—- is important here so some backstory: S—- was an ex-marine, single mom who was becoming ever more obsessed with new age natural healing. S—- was cool but even among a group of liberal vegetarians we all agreed she had jumped right off the deep end into crystals and raw food diets to try and fix her hypochondriac illnesses. At this point she had been on raw food for a few weeks or a month.

When she showed up at the shop that afternoon she had a friend none of us knew with her. I don’t remember how the conversation went up until S—-‘s friend said something to the effect of “I’m a breatharian.”

J—: “What is a breatharian.”

S—-‘s friend: “It’s a movement to free us from our fear of starving and remind us that all we need is to be open to the Universes energy.”

I think D– finally said something like “what?”

S—-‘s friend: “Yea. You see everything your body, and your mind, needs for nourishment it can get from just breathing in the energy of the universe.”

Beggs: “But you have to eat. Or you’ll starve to death.”

S—-‘s friend: “No, no, no. That’s just fear. The companies and the government they teach everyone this and we all develop this fear of starving if we don’t eat. But it’s just fear. You don’t need to eat or drink.

Beggs: “That’s just not how biology works…”

S—-‘s friend: “That’s just fear and lies. See the founder of Breatharianism, he’s been living without food and water for decades. And he’s not even aging.”

O—: “That’s because he’s fucking dead.”

J—-: “So, like, how long have you been starving yourself?”

S—-‘s friend: “I’ve been training for a year now. I still can’t break the fear. Sometimes I go a week without eating, I just drink juices.”

O—: “So you cheat. You should commit to it, one less crazy in the world in a few weeks.”

J—-: “You really believe you can live off sunlight?”

Beggs: “Photosynthesis!”

S—-‘s friend: “It’s not photosynthesis, it’s not sunlight it’s more than that. The universe is filled…”

This exchange went on for some time, round and round the loony bin as we all stood around the counter. Eventually it got a bit hostile, S—-‘s friend and Owen raising their voices. As S—- was extracting her friend and heading towards the door O— had the last line, “if there was a way to live without food and water, it wouldn’t have been discovered by some nut in Australia, the Ethiopians would have figured it the fuck out in the eighties!”

D–: “You know, the more I meet S—-‘s friends the more I understand how the Branch Davidians could exist. And the more I realize there is nothing wrong with S—- a cheeseburger wouldn’t fix.”

Shit on fire, yo.

Saturday, June 29th, 2019

Authorities with the regional conservation office suspect the fire started on a farm when a pile of animal manure that wasn’t being properly stored spontaneously self-combusted.

Maddie Stone, in Wildfire Explodes in Spain as Europe Reels From Record Heat [gizmodo.com], on Gizmodo

It’s so hot literal piles of shit are bursting into flames. And while Trump screams “perfectly normal” in the background, the Sahara has come for Europe: It was 45.9 Celsius (that’s 114.6 in ‘Merican) somewhere in France [washingtonpost.com].

Loops over Batam

Monday, June 24th, 2019

Last Tuesday night flying back to Singapore from Jakarta I was dozing off and listening to music when I heard the pilot say something about a delay. He said we would be landing at one AM or something. I thought “that can’t be right, we are only 20 minutes away and it’s only 11:30.”

Then we proceeded to make tight little turns over Batam. For an hour.

Loops over Batam

There were really bad storms around Singapore so I just assumed bad weather was the cause of the delay. Really bad weather, I guess? And then the next morning one of my colleagues sent me this link: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/transport/37-flights-delayed-one-runway-closed-for-10-hours-due-to-unauthorised-drones

Now, almost exactly a week later I’m writing this while I wait for my three hour delayed flight from Singapore to Jakarta which is currently sitting in Batam after a drone sighting at Changi.

Mother fucker!

I feel ya Jules

H. Pylori

Tuesday, June 18th, 2019

A few weeks ago I spent two nights in the hospital. I checked in after going into the emergency room for sever chest/stomach pain. This was the second visit to the emergency room for this. I went back at Chinese New Year in February. At that time they hooked me up to all the wires and took blood and the whole nine yards to check for heart issues. No heart issues so they called indigestion and sent me home with industrial strength antacids. I have never experienced any indigestion like this. It was just above the bottom of my sternum and was a sharp pain like someone wiggling a knife in my chest.

Cut to mid-May and I spent one night in agony again for about four hours. I racked my brains to see what I had eaten or done similar to Chinese New Year that could cause it. I couldn’t think of anything. So when it happened again the next week I went back to the emergency room.

Same procedure with the wires and blood and all but, again no signs of heart issues so they checked me in for more diagnostics.

This breaks my 41 year streak of no hospitalization. The only times I’ve spent a night in the hospital was to accompany my wife when my daughters were born.

The next morning the doctor ordered, and performed, an endoscopy. The one where they shove a video camera down your throat and into your stomach. I don’t remember much about this since they put you to sleep but I will never forget the taste of some chemical they sprayed in the back of my mouth just before knocking me out. It was, how can I put this? I can only imagine this is what it’s like to have the Terminator or C3-P0 ejaculate in your mouth. There, you will never get that image out of your head, I’ve destroyed any remaining chance of having a political career and I’ve shared my pain.

Moving on…

I got the results the next morning: Helicobacter pylori [wikipedia.org] infection. A bacteria that lives in your stomach, among all that acid. It’s a bad ass bacteria, yea me. It is also the bacteria which causes stomach ulcers and can cause cancer. On the other hand Wikipedia says 50% of the world is infected —the most common infection in the world! Apparently most people don’t develop any issues.

Anyway, I got drugs, lots of drugs. Multiple antibiotics and various other things to kill my unwanted passengers:

H. Pylori by Yutaka Tsutsumi
Say ‘hello’ to my little friend.

Personal Best

Saturday, May 4th, 2019
Vinicunca

This is Vinicunca [wikipedia.org]. Commonly called Rainbow Mountain or The Mountain of Seven Colors. This photo was taken some 5,000 meters above sea level after a grueling climb (According to Wikipedia Vinicunca is 5,200 m.a.s.l., but that is the peak and we did not go to the highest point we stopped just above 5,000, so I’ll stick with 5,000 as my personal best). The climb itself would not be too hard, less than 500 meters vertical over a 5 kilometer trail, if it were not for the altitude. The altitude makes every step up, even a gentle grade, work is and the last 40 meters or so is a real lung burning experience. Every 10 steps I needed to rest for 2 minutes to catch my breath. But I made it up, without a horse (you can rent a horse).

For perspective: The highest point in the continental US is Mount Whitney [wikipedia.org] at 4,421 m.a.s.l. The highest point in Europe is Mount Blanc [wikipedia.org] at 4,808 m.a.s.l. (if you count the Caucus mountains on the Russia-Georga border as part of Europe then there are several taller mountains: Mount Elbrus [wikipedia.org] trumps me at 5,642 m.a.s.l. as does Dykh-Tau [wikipedia.org] at 5,205 m.a.s.l. and Shkhara [Wikipedia.org] at 5,193 m.a.s.l. — but that’s lower than the peak of Vinicunca so I’m going to stop there.) And finally, Everest South Base Camp in Nepal is 5,364 m.a.s.l. (North Base Camp is in Tibet at 5,150 m.a.s.l.).

Healthcare

Sunday, March 31st, 2019

So the Trumpcare legal drama continues? I thought the Republicans had given up on their quest to destroy Obamacare, [wikipedia.org] maybe because it’s not newsworthy enough to make the BBC World Service daily anymore… Anyway, I don’t want to talk about the attempts to repeal Obamacare or Trumpcare, I want to talk the apparent lack of healthcare among people my age even under Obamacare.

Obamacare was passed in 2010 and in the years since I have been asked, three times, to contribute to not one, not two, not three but four separate GoFundMe [gofundme.com] campaigns to cover health expenses for people I went to high school or college with. GoFundMe was, coincidentally also founded in 2010 and according to Time Magazine [time.com] one third of all campaigns are now for funding health related expenses. That’s $650 million in funding!

For me, 100% of the campaigns which people have reached out to me over were healthcare expense related. One was a Kidney transplant, one a liver transplant and one was expenses for surgery needed due to a hit and run accident and the last was living expenses to avoid foreclosure because someone had fallen into massive debt to fund their fathers cancer treatment. (aside: I don’t know a ton of people my age in the US but two of them needed organ transplants before they were 40. WTF?) All of my friends and coworkers have made it through their funding issues. That’s great but what happens next time?

Post Obamacare, shouldn’t an organ transplant, even if it was likely caused by some pre-existing condition, or back surgery needed due to a hit and run be covered by even basic insurance? These are the type of things that fall under “it’s never going to happen to me but that’s why I have insurance” right? I don’t know if my friends chose to remain uninsured post Obamacare and pay the tax penalty but I think it says a lot about the state of the US healthcare situation.

To counter this, I will give the example of the wife of a friend. She is Singaporean, he is from Sweden and the family moved to Sweden six or seven years ago. A year or two into their relocation she was diagnosed with throat cancer. Being in Sweden, even not being a citizen, she was fully covered for all expenses and her job was held for her while she took a year off (I think she went back before the year was over but she had a full year if she wanted it).

Can you spot the difference? Americans need to open their fucking eyes. America is not the be-all, end-all of how things can or should be done and this ongoing train wreck of healthcare is a prime example of the bad that needs to be fixed (and for the record; guns is in the same category). It would help if a decent amount of Americans spent some time outside of the US to have something to compare our state to or paid attention to how many measures of things-that-matter that the US is not at the top —here’s a few cherry picked examples:

Human Development – the UN Development Programme [undp.org] ranks overall human development [report.hdr.undp.org] the US ranks 13.

Developing Humans…

The United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network [unsdsn.org] attempts to measure Happiness [worldhappiness.report]. The US? Number 19 this year… and falling over the last few years.

Why are the Nordics so happy?

Education? The OECD [oecd.org] ranks countries in their Program for International Student Assessment and the US raked average or below average (last results were released in 2015).

Admittedly I have issues with the Singapore system…

Ranking in the top 25 of all of these reports is something of an achievement, there are 195 countries in the world after all. I’ve been in Singapore for 15 years now and I have retained my US citizenship because I do think that America is a great country but as these measures show America is not worthy of being called the greatest. People should be a bit self critical and not blindly patriotic to the point of not wanting to do better. The current situation with toxic partisan politics and citizens who’s only information is soundbites and social media memes do not inspire confidence in me that the people of America are prepared to address these issues.

With regards to healthcare; I’m all for the individualism that is a key element of the American psyche, you should work for what you want and the government should not be forcing you to do things without good reason. But the cost of no healthcare is not just paid by you and yours. It’s paid by all, often in money to treat those who can’t pay, but also in opportunity, dragging the whole society down over the long run. And here I think the government is justified in intervening and making healthcare universal. Single-payer vs. Obamacare vs. Trumpcare vs some other solution yet-to-be-designed is where congress needs to do its job.

Looking up at lamps

Sunday, March 24th, 2019

A few years ago I was waiting for my coffee in a Starbucks and while I was standing at the pickup counter I was playing with my phone. I think at the time it was an iPhone 4 so, yea, a few years ago. Anyway, I took a photo of the lamps hanging down. The photo was awesome, these two bright lamps floating in darkness. Over the intervening years I took quite a few similar shots looking up at lamps. Some were very cool, but over all the phone camera was not up to making great photos so I never shared them. But the cameras have gotten much better and now in have Lightroom Mobile to even take “raw” photos for editing.

Armed with better camera and editing software I revisited the original Starbucks:

Untitled

I have taken a lot of up-lamp shots. Looking like a fool in restaurants and bars and shops craning my neck back to look up with the phone or holding the phone out over and over to take a photo where I can’t see the screen and then checking on the alignment of the shot. Five, six, ten tries to get the shot. Here are some of my best:

APC_0475.dng
APC_1419.dng
APC_1544.dng

Don’t believe the hype

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019

“[R]ather than drawing conclusions about who was vicious or righteous—or lamenting the political miasma that makes the question unanswerable—it might be better to stop and look at how film footage constructs rather than reflects the truths of a debate like this one. Despite the widespread creation and dissemination of video online, people still seem to believe that cameras depict the world as it really is; the truth comes from finding the right material from the right camera. That idea is mistaken, and it’s bringing forth just as much animosity as the polarization that is thought to produce the conflicts cameras record.”

Ian Bogost, in “Stop Trusting Viral Videos” [theatlantic.com] published by The Atlantic

The paradox of having access to more knowledge than at any time in history and not being able to transform that knowlwdge into wisdom.

As Chuck D told us “Don’t believe the hype!” anyone sharing video or images has an agenda and if it ain’t “look at how cute/smart/funny my kid/friend/co-worker/cat/dog/<insert living thing here>is then think twice.

Also: I have a history with Sergei Eisenstein [confusion.cc]!

The Right to Repair

Sunday, January 13th, 2019

So this happened:

Actually it happened back on the 10th of December. My original Apple Watch’s screen just fell off while I was walking around. I was actually packing for my vacation, which started on the 12th. So I just tossed the watch aside, no time to do anything and I was not planning on taking the watch on vacation anyway —one less thing to charge.

While on vacation I thought about checking at duty free to get a new Watch and save some tax but I never got around to looking. Back in Singapore in January I checked at a local shop and they said the Watch was out of stock and would take two months to get, at least the version I wanted. Since I expect Apple to release a new version in four months or so (Apple Watch is still an April product right?) I passed. No point buying the old version two months before the new one.

So… what to do. Looking again at my old watch it looked like the screen just came in glued. So I reconnected the one thing that looked like it was connecting the screen to the main board and with a satisfying “click” the screen came on. To fix the floppy screen I had to resort to using The Kragle [brickmedia.org]! Worked like a charm:

Which makes me part of the reason Apple is minting less money [motherboard.vice.com]. So far it’s survived two weeks including several trips to the gym: