Monday, February 20, 2012

My final pre-blog blog entry: July 29, 1993

Here is the final blog entry from my pre-blog blogging thought experiment 20 years ago, before I knew blogging would ever exist. (read my first pre-blog blog blog here)


Seven-year law-making/breaking
July 29, 1993

Someone made the mistake of asking me: Why is marijuana an illegal substance?

It is illegal because it was once made illegal, and once something is made illegal it becomes very difficult to make it legal again. This is because we hire law-makers and not law-breakers. It is their job to make laws, and they do their job very well. It is not until we start electing law-breakers that laws can be unmade.

It was relatively easy to make marijuana illegal, and I'm sure many posters can fill you in on the financial, racial, and political reasons why it was made illegal so long ago. Law books are crammed chock full of laws that have been made over the years, and the books get bigGer and bigger but never smaller. There are still abundant laws about where you can't graze your sheep and can't shoe your horse, where you can't spit and where you can't remove your shoes, where you can't keep your slaves, etc... Eventually every imaginable action will be against the law. However, it is only those laws that are enforced that affect us and that we seem to care about. It is already the case that a well-informed cop can almost certainly find some law you're breaking (a local policeman told me this was probably correct as he evicted me from a video store for attempting to rent a video tape while not wearing shoes).

Thomas Jefferson recommended that we have a new revolution every seven years. I think think that a revolution every seven years is going a bit too far. I think it's more reasonable that every law enacted become void after seven years. If it's a good law then the test of time will clearly have shown that it is good and so re-enactment will be simple. If it is a bad law then that too will be obvious. If it is questionable, then it would be up to its proponents show a convincing reason why this questionable law should be re-enacted.

This is what I think, and when the day comes that the world recognizes me as its natural leader, then this is how it will be. So there!

My first pre-blog blog entry: October 13, 1991

I’ve been spelunking through old files on my computer, and found a couple of interesting ones from the early 90’s. They’re not interesting because of their content, but because they remind me that back then it was so difficult to be heard.

At about that time I’d had a letter published in the local Boston Globe newspaper [for you youngsters out there, a “newspaper” used to be daily pile of “paper” that had “news” written on it, although it could hardly be called “news” because the information often was many hours old]. It was quite a thrill to see my name and opinion in print, even though (I was later told) that particular opinion cost me at least one job.

I got to thinking how cool it would be if I could type out a quick little editorial whenever I was in the mood, and just, I don’t know… “publish it”. So I tried a few editorials, but never figured out the “publish it” part. That would have to wait for the invention of the web and blogging platforms.

But, oh my god, how things have changed. Whereas back then I could write something and it may or may not (usuall not) get published (in very truncated form) in the letters-to-the-editor section of the newspaper, these days, with blogging, anyone can write anything and be read by, quite literally, dozens of people who accidentally get misdirected by a search engine.

Anyway, here’s my first blog from over 20 years ago, before I knew blogging would ever exist.


How to Choose a Major Political Affiliation
October 13, 1991

It is no wonder that young people today, as they come of voting age, are choosing not to do so. To vote you must register, and to register you must (or are strongly influenced to) choose a political affiliation with a major political party: Republican or Democrat. How can an eighteen-year-old be expected to decide between the two when for their entire cognizant life there has been no discernible difference, at least not a difference that anyone but a politician would recognize?

It is proper that there be opposing political forces that shape the decisions our government makes. As one force gains too much control, reflecting the temporary majority will of the people, the other force(s) push against that dominant force and keep pit from going too far too fast. Perhaps the weaker force(s) gain greater control as the people see the errors of the dominant. In this way even a nation of extremists will not be a nation of extremes.

There are plenty of reasons to argue against a two-party system in favor of multiple parties. I'm not necessarily in favor of only two parties myself, but it's a whole lot more sensible than what we've got. What we've got is a one party system: The Republicans and the other Republicans, or is it the Dems and the other Dems, or the Growth and Prosperity party vs. the Prosperity and Growth. In less-idiotic days we were choosing between Coke and Pepsi; now we choose between Coke and Diet Coke.

And so, for the near future, I will be satisfied by a nation of two political parties. To regain a separation between our two parties we must define those parties. The young person registering to vote, or the older person contemplating a change in political affiliation, can align or re-align themselves along the line of the party whose definition they prefer. If a party's members know what they value, then that party will itself be forced by its mass of members into working for those values. Politicians will know what they stand for. Voters will know what those politicians stand for, and they won't stand for any crap because as one value loses favor another one will temporarily gain dominance.

"Liberty and Justice for all," is perhaps a contradiction in terms and, in fact, it would make a fine basis for classifying two parties. We could have the Party of Liberty in constant opposition to the Party of Justice, yin-yang pulling us into a stabile oscillation of peace and harmony. However, there is no precedent for giving either party a monopoly over the ideals of either Liberty or Justice. Both parties within themselves have tried to manage the polar ideals of Liberty and Justice. Unfortunately, there is no simple concept--no single word or phrase--that can be used to define either party or to choose which party to join.

Fortunately I have been able, using the magic of conceit, to define a simple quiz that anyone can take to determine their proper political affiliation. The quiz is this: You are shown a newspaper with two articles. Article A is about a person who has been collecting welfare money for years under two different names and so has chosen not to be employed. Article B is about a person who has been unable to find work for just as long and whose children haven't had medical care or new clothes and who is being evicted, family and all, from their apartment. Now you are asked to decide which article really gets your dander up. If you choose A then you should register Republican, if B then register Democrat.

This simple quiz should be taken on a regular basis by everyone, not just by young potential voters, for any person is likely to answer different at any juncture in their life. Depending on changes in age, job, status, health, wealth, and recent random events, one's answer to the quiz is likely to change through the years. At times you will find it difficult to believe one or the other of the newspaper articles and so be very upset that the paper would publish such slander.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

How propellers work (a lament for great minds wasted)

In times of yore great scientists formulated brilliant theories and equations for the fundamental laws of fluid dynamics. These principles described everything from how water flows through our water pipes to how an airplane flies.

Given the tools available to them, our scientific forefathers did amazing work. But imagine if the brilliant minds of our past had had the computing power available to us today. Imagine Archimedes, DaVinci, Pascal, Newton, Bernoulli, or Prandtl with the benefit of even the most basic computing power within a standard pocket-sized cell phone.

If Archimedes, in 250BC, had had a cheap camera-equipped cell-phone, he could have filmed for himself the propellers outside his plane window, as we did on a recent flight to Portland.

With the help of modern technology, it would have been immediately obvious to Archimedes how propellers work. Eureka, indeed!

What a shame that computers weren’t available until recently. What a shame for all the time wasted by great minds slowly developing theories, formulas, & calculi.

P.S. More delightful pictures based on CMOS scan lag of cell cameras here.