Problems. And Moore’s Law.

Way back in the age of flower power, Dylan, The Who, and The Beatles, some dude made a prediction about computer processing power. He said that it would double every year and he was kinda, sorta, almost right. When I was a wee lad walking uphill both ways in the snow to elementary school, we had this horrible thing called the library. If you wanted to know something you had to look it up in the card catalog, navigate this weird Dewey decimal system to find the book and either make Xerox copies of specific pages or check it out and hope you’d remember to return it.

Today the internet is seeing global IP traffic in the range of 1.3 Zettabytes per year, growing to about 112 Exabytes per month. (1 Exabyte would hold 3,000 times all the information in the library of congress) You have instant access to the entirety of human knowledge in a tiny little device you carry around in your pocket.

Why do I mention this? Because I’ve been watching the political debates. Watching these meat puppets bloviate has been a mistake for many reasons, but they did get me thinking. Why are we busy trying to solve the  problems of today using the same old school thinking of the past? Information and the world is changing too fast. Shouldn’t we be focusing on what we think tomorrows problems will be and try and solve those?

Take the disaster that is the VA and its ability to process and manage the healthcare claims of our veterans. The standard government approach is to study the data available today. Analyze the data. Hire flotillas of consultants to create fancy presentations about the data. Form a commission to inquire about the progress. And then, if we’re really lucky, some small incremental change might be made. Meanwhile the problem is now exponentially worse and advances in healthcare and informatics have made whatever we have obsolete. We’re busy solving a problem that will be vastly different tomorrow.

It’s time to start trying to solve what we think will be the problems of the future. The same tired old problems rehashed in every debate could have come from any election in the last two decades. How refreshing would it be to hear some thinking about what our actual future might hold? How are we going to feed a couple billion more people? Where’s our water going to come from? How are we going to generate enough cost effective power to run the new data centers coming online daily? I don’t care about ISIS, I care about what’s going to happen when Europe and China’s economy implodes. I don’t care about trying to revert the deindustrialization of the United States, I care about findingdarknet a new economic engine that will create middle wage jobs.

A wise man once asked, “do you take the red pill or the blue pill?” I’m starting to think I’ve been spending a little too much time on the darknet. It may be time to just take the blue pill, go back to being oblivious and go for a bike ride.

The Contrarian

Among my vast social circles, I’m often known for expressing an opinion that is alternate to the rest of the crowd. Most likely it’s because I was dropped on my head as a baby. Sometimes I really believe what I say. Sometimes I just like to be difficult. Needless to say, my social circle shrinks every year. I don’t know why it is, but the herd mentality of agreeing with things bothers me. Take lemmings. Everyone knows that lemmings are mindless creatures that will follow their fellow lemmings off a cliff. Except that it’s not true… that footage we all saw as a kid was faked. Boom – mind blown.

In todays age information flows incredibly fast and we consume it voraciously. The problem is, what are we consuming? We’ve become a society of soundbites and opinions. There is no real news or reporting anymore. The news consists of the same six stories everyday, repackaged as though it’s something new, and debated by panels of bloviating experts giving their opinion. What happened to simply being a journalist? A facebook meme pops up, two hours later twitter is exploding with people angrily blocking racist trolls, and that night Rachel Maddow and Megan Kelly are ready to do battle in a steel cage. Meanwhile, the networks are gobbling up advertiser dollars in the billions.

My point? I don’t know, I lost track. How bad has our herd mentality gotten? It now dominates science. Now I’m not the sharpest crayon in the box, but I have taken a couple of those science-type classes. I’ve even read a few of those fancy reports with all big words and citations and stuff (the ones with pictures are the best!). I do remember hearing something about the scientific method. That whole have an idea, do a bunch of fancy experiments, then turn it all over to your peers to see if they can replicate and/or disprove it. You know – like those couple ‘a guys who discovered that whole cold fusion thing. Oh wait, never mind.

Lets say you have a theory. You push it on the world. Movies are made, Oscars and Nobel prizes are won, and industries and government subsidies are created. Meanwhile, back in the Batcave a bunch of other folks say hmmm… let’s think about this for a second.

  • All the computer models that predicted gloom and doom have not only been wrong, but spectacularly wrong. By at least 3x.
  • A custom filter based upon questionable tree ring data produces a hockey stick graph that nobody else can replicate – and spawns hundreds of peer reviewed papers questioning the data and methodology.
  • Despite CO2 levels rising… we have seen no warming for 18+ years.
  • The motherf***ing polar bears are snacking on seals like Chex-mix and have significantly larger populations than a ten years ago.
  • We’ve had no strong cat 4 or 5 hurricanes here in a decade.
  • 97% of everyone agrees. Or, how to lie with statistics.
  • And point, after point, after point…

Now if you’re a Hollywood celebrity, I can see how you would fall to your knees and avow to host a gala dinner to fight this injustice. After all, you wouldn’t want someone to think you were some sort of luddite that dropped out of high school and waited tables for 10 years. But if you’ve had even a few science classes, when you read that computer models are wrong and that others can’t replicate your theories – you’d think that you might question things. Even just a little.

But when it’s a cult, you can’t. My god, what if I got voted out of the herd? Does this mean global warming isn’t true? Of course not and no climate scientist would claim so. The earth has warmed slightly in the last 100 years. The only question is, has man caused it?

My theory is yes. And the actual cause was when the real Dr. Evil Ryan Seacrest created the Kardashians. The heat produced by the combined processer power of millions of global iPhones frantically searching for the latest Photoshopped image has tipped the warming balance. It’s true. Thousands of cell phone repetitive stress injuries don’t lie.

We’ve gone too far to stop the Kardashian juggernaut. We just have to wait for the next massive solar eruption to disrupt all electronics and reset the balance. Meanwhile, I’m going to prep for the coming ice age. And check in on that wacky Lamar and Khloe. They’re such a cute couple!

A Single Resolution

For this new year, I had resolved to have no resolutions.  (well, starting after that one)  Done.  Move on with 2014.  Now happily enjoying my structure-free new year, I attempted to impress some friends with a smug, Cliff Clavin-like factoid.  After some rumbling and discussion we were forced to consult the device of all knowledge and look it up (smart-phone+search engine of choice+Wikipedia).  My information was wrong.

Boom, mind blown.  How could this be?  It came from what I believed to be a very reputable source.  Shortly afterwards, another statistic on a printed government map and trail sign.  Consult the device of all knowledge… the map was wrong.  How could this be?  My faith in humanity, government, and the fundamentals of science have been shattered.

At that moment I un-resolved my original non-resolution and resolved to have one resolution for 2014.  “QUESTION EVERYTHING”  I was so impressed with my new quote I thought about a line of T-shirts… then discovered I’m not as original as I thought.  Joe Rogan has a TV show by that name.  Some old dead Greek guy (it was either Euripides or Homer Simpson, I’m not sure) said it.  Whatever.  It’s still a good creed to live by for the next year.

What if everything you thought wasn’t true?  Maybe Miley Cyrus didn’t invent twerking?  Perhaps Hillary really hasn’t made up her mind about running?  What if skier packed powder just means we haven’t groomed in a few days?  Maybe the Koch brothers really are hatching a massive conspiracy to take down the government?  What if, gasp, Justin Bieber really is retiring???

The possibilities will shake you to the core if you start thinking about it.  So, the next time you tell me something don’t be offended if I immediately consult the device of all knowledge to confirm.

Food For Thought

I like food.  As a general rule (and I am a rule follower) the worse it is for me the better I like it.  But being the enigma I am, there are also fleeting attempts at being healthy.  Clearly some sort of foodie Jekyll and Hyde thing going on.  A few years ago in brief burst of health I read The Omnivores Dilemma and immediately resolved to eat nothing but food that was locally sourced, grass-fed, watered with unicorn tears, and lovingly harvested by nubile young virgins.  That lasted only a few weeks.  It’s just so damn easy to go to the mega-mart instead.  It wasn’t a complete waste however – I did buy a cow and will do so again once I finish the approximately 276 pounds of hamburger in my freezer.

Anyway, last night after catching up on the Kardashian channel  (E! News) I stumbled across Michael Pollan’s movie “Food Inc.”.  It wasn’t bad.  A little disturbing and very sensationalist.  Like his books it does make you think about your food and that’s a good thing.  It would be a wonderful thing if we could all afford to buy from farmers markets and not be slaves to the evil corporate machine.  Evil-doers I tell you!

Unfortunately it’s not reality.  The US population is 317 million.  The world population is 7.1 billion.  By 2050 those numbers are projected to be 400 million and 8.92 billion.  We do not have the capacity to feed those numbers with sustainable chickens running free through the woods and listening to Miley Cyrus on their little iChicken headphones prior to slaughter.  Here in the US, we have already exceeded the soil’s capacity to grow.  If it wasn’t for the miracle of modern nitrogen-based fertilizers we’d be living in some sort of futuristic Mad Max dust bowl already. 

So enough of the self-righteous condemnation of the modern food industry.  If, as Warren Buffet said, you’re one of the winners of the ovarian lottery be thankful. Drive the 20 miles to Whole Foods in your eco-friendly Prius and be grateful you can pay $6.99 for Chilean Blueberries while sipping a $7 mocha-latte made from beans sourced from Brazil.

GMO’s, drought and pesticide resistant seeds, massive corporate food production slaughterhouses and assembly lines, cheap immigrant labor… these really are good things.  Why?  The alternative is third-world food scarcity everywhere.  If you have a true, viable, alternative to feed the planet I’m all ears.  Meanwhile I’m going to go get me some .99¢ deep-fried chicken tenders, feel bad about myself and resolve to eat more salads.

Cliffs, On Driving Over

Today’s topic is the so-called (insert finger air-quotes) fiscal cliff.  It’s a fascinating discussion that warrants many hundreds of paragraphs of insightful commentary.  Or, I could take this salad fork and repeatedly stab myself in the head.  Important etiquette note – when choosing place settings to stab oneself with, always work from the outside in.  Thus, the salad fork becomes the first weapon.  But I digress…

Discussing politics today is like having a debate about the latest episode of Real Housewives.  Extremely strong political factions will have real, substantial disagreements on whether Sue-Ann had the right to not invite Alexis to the black-tie fundraiser because she was like totally mean to Sandy (with an i not a y) for leaving her baby with the maid for a week while she cheated on Benson with Tobin in the Caribbean.  There’s a lot of moving parts to this and you can’t expect to have an informed opinion unless you’re willing to invest time in watching the fifty-six hours of exclusive behind the scenes talk shows aired per week.

It’s easy to become completely absorbed by it all until you realize one minor little point.  It’s not real.  I mean the politics not the Housewives,   don’t panic.  Politicians don’t poop in the morning unless it’s been focus group tested, polls conducted, and K street lobbyists approve.  Every word, each nuanced statement, the appearances on the talk shows… all carefully manufactured.  This may surprise you but all politicians work from a standard book of phrases.  It’s called the APWW (American Politicians Weasel Words) Style Guide and has been updated yearly since Truman was president.  Here’s a brief sample of some of the entries that have been included the last few editions:

  • Taxes – This term is no longer approved for use.  Terms/phrases that are acceptable are:  Revenue; Contributions; ‘those who profited the most can afford to do a little more’;
  • Spending – This term is no longer approved for use.   Terms/phrases that are acceptable are: Investment; ‘improving our infrastructure’; ‘investing in our children’;
  • Liberal – This term is no longer approved for use.  Terms/phrases that are acceptable are: Progressive
  • ConservativeSee entry for hypocrite.
  • Sheep or lemmings – Acceptable for internal memos only. Public documents should use: ‘the American people’; ‘the electorate’; the voices of America’;
  • Austerity – No known definitions of this term can be found. Considered to be a ‘danger’ term. Advise against using.
  • Lobbyist – This term is no longer approved for use. Terms/phrases that are acceptable are: Advisor; ‘the business community’; ‘worker representatives’;
  • Cuts – This term can only be used when referring to projected revenue increases that don’t occur.

As you can see, politicians face a complex world.  This is why it’s vital they hire the best advisors other people’s money can buy.  Just as with reality television, behind the scenes there are thousands of people (hard-working AMERICANS) who spend countless hours crafting an image, a product, that’s sold to the public for one purpose. Money.  As Abraham Lincoln famously said at the Gettysburg address, “…Greed, for lack of a better word, works.”

The most disappointing aspect of the annual fiscal cliff negotiations is clearly a lack of respect for AMERICAN institutions. By that I of course mean Hostess Brands.  It’s a sad day when we’re willing to invest in the US Antarctic Program Blue Ribbon Panel Review, but not a beloved creamy snack cake.  It shakes my confidence as a member of the AMERICAN PEOPLE.  It’s clearly time for the quintessential critical thinker of our time to tell me how to think.  Obviously I’m referring to the oracle of talk, the wizard of image, Oprah.  She alone can unite this great country again.  I urge you to contact your network affiliates and plead with them to allow her to work her magic – to heal the deep divide between the parties before it’s too late.

Respect, Or Not

Last night I watched CNN’s hit piece, sorry – ‘documentary’,  titled “The World According to Lance Armstrong”.  What a steaming pile of bravo sierra. You can almost see producers running around, peeing on themselves in their excitement to jump on the trash Armstrong bandwagon.  You would think a “news/documentary” would at least make an attempt towards an objective view – but I guess that standard is long gone in today’s pseudo news world.

Do I think Lance used performance enhancing drugs? Probably. It would be hard to remain competitive without it during those years.  Does it diminish what he accomplished? Not even in the slightest. The news makes it sound as if you take a drug and the pedals will practically turn themselves going uphill.  To compete as a cyclist at that level requires a massive amount of natural ability and a physiologic make up to take in and transport oxygen that you’re either born with or you’re not.  Not to mention a level of commitment to training, diet, and discipline that few people posses.

There are other factors that play into being a succesful pro cyclist as well. It’s a team sport. You cannot win without strong team members performing at the same level as you.  It takes a certain amount of luck to not get caught in a crash, puncture at the wrong time, and remain healthy when traveling non-stop.  Most of all, and what I think draws so many of us to be cycling fans, is a willingness to endure a level of pain and suffering that us mortal humans can’t fathom.  Running a marathon?  A triathlon?  That’s cute – go compete in one every day for a month and then we can talk.

I’m so saddened for US cycling.  I think that the way the USADA approached the problem has done a tremendous amount of damage to the sport and possibly doomed its future for quite some time.  Good luck finding corporate sponsors for teams or events.  How many parents are going to be excited for their kids to get involved in cycling now?  Yes, there’s a problem in the sport that needs to be addressed.  But if you kill the sport while trying to save it what was the point?  Valid or not, the USADA went after Lance with a vendetta and single-minded purpose to bring him down.  I suppose to make an example out of him?  So you bring down the media figure that probably single-handedly brought US cycling to the level that it is.  Hmmm, brownie points for you I guess.

So what about respect?  There are all kinds of problems with “laws of silence” and it’s certainly not something you want to encourage.  At the same time, the old saying is true – nobody likes a snitch.  Especially when you were happy to benefit from something… until you get caught.  To then start portraying yourself as a proponent of “clean” cycling or to write a tell-all book (looking at you Vaughters and Hamilton) is cause for a loss of respect.  To wait until the end of your career to say something and then take a sweetheart deal to keep your records intact – sorry lost much respect for you Hincapie.

And as for sponsors… so much for loyalty.  Happy to make truckloads of cash off of an athlete for years and years.  Hints and rumors of the doping scandals have been around for years and you were happy to look the other way.  The media starts making an issue of things and you run like you encountered the Ebola virus?  Sorry Nike, Trek, et al… I have zero respect for you as company.  I understand the need to no longer continue with a tarnished brand, but I think there were much classier ways of handling it other than issuing a two sentence press release.  Oh well, ultimately it is all about money.

I took the time to read much of the USADA’s decision.  Some of its believable, some of it’s not.  I don’t think much of it would ever hold up in an actual court… but they’re not held to that standard so I guess it doesn’t matter.  There’s an excellent article about that here: Armstrong – Truth, Justice, and the American Way    Bottom line, it’s clear how bad the problem is in cycling.  While I don’t think most true cycling fans are shocked by it, it still tarnishes the sport.  I would much rather have seen the USADA put the same effort into working with the retiring “old guard” of cycling to get them to promote and encourage (as hypocritical as that may be) clean riding for the next generation.

The way they went about it and the wreckage it caused… I probably won’t watch the grand tours this year.  And that saddens me.

Latest Debate Summary

Last night there was a political debate.  The two presidential candidates gave a performance the likes of Webster, Lincoln, or Buckley would be proud of.  In the off chance you were otherwise occupied scraping lint out of the dryer screen, I thought I’d summarize the points made by the candidates for you.

  • I’d like to thank the viewers, the moderator, a god that’s non-offensive and inclusive of everyone, my opponent, the people of this great city, my wife, my family, veterans, heroes, and this great country for giving me the opportunity to be here tonight.
  • I will invest (spend) in one million new TV weathermen, ah I mean weatherpeople. I said forecasters, check the transcript.  I will invest (spend) on 21st century skills.  I will invest (spend) on our crumbling infrastructure – roads, bridges, robotic squirrels, Moroccan pottery classes, and the 2013 Alabama Watermelon Queen tour.  It is simply un-American to allow a watermelon queen and the fine watermelons of Alabama to wither on the vine.
  • My AMERICAN flag lapel pin is bigger than yours, bitch.
  • I promise to provide new iPhones to everyone in the country.  It is unacceptable that in the greatest country on earth there are people walking around, hard-working AMERICANS, who can’t play Angry Birds through no fault of their own.  My opponent is happy with half this country using phones that only make phone calls.  I’m sorry, I have a higher standard than that.
  • My opponent grinds up kittens and drinks them as smoothies every morning.  I’ve proposed legislation banning this despicable practice.
  • When I’m president I’ll create one trillion jobs; good paying jobs; the best jobs; you’ll want to quit your job to get one of these jobs they’ll be so good; they’ll be AMERICAN jobs; jobs of the future; high-tech jobs; jobs for heroes; jobs you can raise a family on; jobs you can take trips to Disneyland on and pose with motherf***ing Mickey Mouse and that creepy duck with no pants.
  • First off, I’d like to thank and honor the men and women who serve – they’re heroes… but there are other heroes.  The gargbagemen, the gal who makes my yummy pumpkin latte at Starbucks, the kid who retrieves shopping carts at the grocery store, the faceless folks who man the phone banks at my campaign headquarters preparing robo-calls – all heroes.  But you know who else is a hero?  A gal I met just the other day from Tulsa Oklahoma. An ordanry AMERICAN. She has six kids and holds down three jobs. She has only one leg due to a horrible meat grinder accident.  Her husband is on disability and the bank is foreclosing on their double-wide.  But you know what struck me? She’s not complaining. She’s not looking for a handout. She just wants a fair shot. She’s the true hero. I don’t think that in this great country of ours it’s too much to ask that she has an iPhone.  My opponent thinks otherwise.
  • My plan? Let me tell you about my plan. My opponent has a seven point plan. I have a twenty point plan. An AMERICAN plan that puts AMERICA first. I have thirteen more points in my plan than my opponent. Everyone on the internet has agreed that my opponents plan isn’t even a plan.  It’s not even a suggestion of a plan. His plan is so bad you look up bad plan in the dictionary and there it is.  Every economist on the planet agrees that my plan is the best.  I’m sorry, but I find it offensive that my opponent bad mouths my plan when the facts clearly lay out the brilliance of my plan.
  • In closing, I’d like to thank the academy, this university, the people of the planet, the people in this hemisphere and the great AMERICAN Americans of this great country.  Vote for me. I will cure cancer and put cute puppies on every doorstep.  Thank you and GOD BLESS THIS GREAT UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!!! Unless you’re offended by that, in which case I apologize, I don’t want to offend anyone – the focus groups told me to say that.

And there you have it – a clear choice.  If this doesn’t convince you that the other guy is a devil worshiping, America hating, hater, who drips hot wax on babies to make them squeal… then perhaps you haven’t been listening.  Don’t despair – there’s 32,413 more political ads to watch in the next few weeks to help you make your decision.

NBC You Suck, Or How I Learned To Love Dressage

Seeing as we’re at day 134 of the ’12 Olympics, I feel the need to offer an opinion. First off, I understand that the technical aspects of providing coverage for more than 400 events is analogous to planning a shuttle launch. Kudos for that NBC. Unfortunately the creative planners for Oprah and Dr. Phil have merged with the CNN news department to produce a frightening chupacabra-like entity that has little resemblance to sport. This is painful for me as I love sports. Any sport. I’ll watch bass fishing if it seems competitive and I can figure out the rules. However, this Olympics is stretching my tolerance. Dear NBC, here’s a few thoughts on how it’s going so far:

  • You’re broadcasting approximately 23.8 hours a day. Would it kill you to explain the rules of an event from time to time? I’m just not as up to date on my rules of etiquette for fencing as I should be.
  • You’ll show 154 hours of meaningless diving/swimming/soccer/team handball/water polo early heats in their entirety, but feel the need to quickly summarize the decathlon in 10 minutes? Seriously? It’s one of the original events and derived from one of the earliest events, the pentathlon. Same with other track events like the shot put. I get that those big ‘ole boys aren’t exactly as photogenic as women’s beach volleyball (oh-lah-la!), but couldn’t you show more than just the last two throws of a couple of athletes? It’s not like you’re running short on broadcast time.
  • I’m done with women’s gymnastics. An incomprehensible (and seemingly random) scoring system combined with 11-year-old dwarf-like children just isn’t working. I’m pretty sure women’s athletics have evolved past glitter, eye shadow, spastic hand waving and toe pointing.
  • Enough of the “inspiring” athlete profiles. I simply don’t care that Suzy Q lost her favorite dog at age nine (tragic cement truck accident) and that’s what inspired her to become a synchronized swimmer.
  • Ok, I know it’s been in the Olympics forever… but how is having a horse prance around to music a sport? I admit it takes a certain style to pull off that rock’n top-hat though. Ditto rhythmic gymnastics. It’s tough not to laugh at (I mean be inspired by) dancing around with a ball and ribbon.
  • How hard would it be to have a Sportscenter-type of show to summarize the events and standings each day? You’re broadcasting events on NBC, MSNBC, Bravo, NBC Sports, and CNBC. You must have someone over there familiar with producing a news-type show (well, it is MSNBC. Maybe not). I’m running out of DVR space and can’t keep up with all the results.
  • Apparently the only question appropriate to ask a gold-medal winning athlete who’s gasping and trying to recover from their event 30 seconds ago is “you just won gold, how are you feeling right now?”

I know I sound grumpy but I don’t know what it is about these games this year. It just feels so… so, manufactured. NBC so desperately wants to capture an inspiring, tear-jerker of a moment (cue 1980 miracle on ice), they’re ready to pounce on anything. The result has been a hodge-podge of events that are hard to follow with enough continuity to develop any sense of the competition. Except team handball of course. I’m pretty sure every minute of every game in every heat has been broadcast. And I still can’t figure out the rules. Sigh…