Archive for the ‘Doing it better’ Category

Units. Of measure


Meters and liters, inches and feet.  Ounces, quarts, gallons.  Kilometers per second.  Light second, light minute, light hour, light year.  Terabyte, barrel, kilowatt, hands, stone, the things we measure have changed along with the way we measure things.  Learning the metric system is only a start, because our immediate neighborhood is only a few light hours across.

Mars averages about 12 light minutes from Earth, while the Earth is only about 8 light minutes from the Sun.  Light travels about 300,000 kilometers per second, so, unlike the Sun, Mars can be anywhere from 3 something light minutes away to about 22 light minutes.  Sometimes, a radio beep would take nearly an hour to go to Jupiter.

On Earth, everything is only a fraction of a light second away, but even the Moon is nearly a light second away.  To get into space, we have to get going about 7 kilometers per second, after we get above most of the atmosphere.  Space is only a about 100 kilometers from wherever you are right now, but the atmosphere gets very thin only a few kilometers up.  And space is big.  Really, really big.


Strength through knowledge, not arms


President Trump has been talking about spending a bunch more money on the military, supposedly to make the U.S. safer.  But the military cannot make us safer, they only can provide the means to retaliate for any acts of terrorism.  What can make us safer is technology, technology to detect threats and identify the people behind them.

A big part of the justification for increasing military spending is to insure that the high-tech companies that are essential to the military are kept in business.  But these companies are also the ones which make possible our exploration of space.  By spending money on space technology instead of on the military, we can support the development of new technologies as well as keeping the industrial side of the military-industrial complex healthy.  Many of the military’s weapon systems have been impacted by developments resulting from space exploration.

Aircraft carriers, tanks, and airplanes will not protect us against acts of terror.  Spending more on the military will not make us safer.  Spending on space exploration promotes the development of new technologies, while at the same time providing business to companies involved in defense.  The microprocessor was a spin-off from the space program which has affected every aspect of our lives.  Spending on space is a far better investment than spending on the military.

The wrong stuff


America was made great by companies working together with employees to build products which would last and last.  America was made great by governments investing the public’s money into roads, bridges, and water systems.  America was made great by working people sacrificing part of their lives to an employer, or by people who built their own empires from the ground up.

America is being destroyed by greed, the belief that work is somehow demeaning, only fit for inferiors.  Greed which drives corporations to focus on practices which drive away customers; cutting costs often means cutting staffing, so there are fewer people to provide customer service.  The emphasis on profit has become obsessive, driven by shareholders who demand an income from lending money to a company.

Capitalism may have been great during the early years of the United States, but it is doing great harm today.  Wealth is so concentrated that the economy is capsizing.  Debt is considered an essential financial tool, instead of last resort.  Banks no longer are lending depositors money, but money from investors hungry for immediate rewards.  Many dwellings are mortgaged for more than they are worth, and there are vacant homes all over the country.

Taking care of the people should be the most important aspect of society, insuring that there are healthy, educated, well-fed people to perform the work needed to support an advanced society.  Single-payer health care is an essential aspect of an advanced economy, protecting the employer from the costs of employee’s health care for life.  This health care should include dental, vision, and behavioral aspects, as the prevention of problems is far cheaper than dealing with the problems.  Providing minimal housing is another essential government role, insuring that everyone can sleep indoors if they want to.  We don’t need a three-bedroom home for every person, but a shipping container can provide superior protection from the elements for a very small price.  How you fix up the inside is up to you.

Taking care of the people is like taking care of your car.  Unless you don’t care about costs, taking care of tools, vehicles, or plant and equipment is essential.  People are our most valuable resource, and we have been exploiting people without mercy.  The rewards for submitting to the constraints of employment have been diminishing for decades.  Our spiritual lives are frequently empty and barren, amidst a society obsessed with material things.

Our culture  of greed is making people sick, to the point of killing each other, and themselves.  Our society is destroying us, exploiting us to death.  We cannot go back to earlier days, nor can we afford to continue as we are.  Change is inevitable, and the longer it is delayed, the more disruptive it will be.

Living in the cloud


A friend has gotten me to think about the difference between studying to gain knowledge and learning how to access knowledge quickly.  ‘In an era when I can look up practically anything, why should I spend years studying different subjects so that I can be tested upon them?’ is a paraphrase of what he said.  He also once talked about living in an “effluent society”, but that is neither here nor there.

Human knowledge has far exceeded the ability of any one person to grasp.  We need to decide what are the fundamentals that we must teach each other, what skills are so essential that we should group people together for hours at a time so that they can learn them.  Simply knowing that knowledge exists is not the same as having the knowledge, and knowledge affects our actions and thoughts.  But not all people are going to be receptive to the same knowledge, so we must choose a way to convey it that is flexible, with those who are interested being able to pursue something further.  The ‘classroom’ has become one of the biggest impediments to education, in my opinion, because it stipulates that everyone is going to learn at the same rate, and in the same way.

Treating us as individuals means stepping away from the industrial ‘assembly line’ method of instruction.  Focusing on a persons strengths, helping them to overcome weaknesses, developing their personalities, these are the role that the public school system must fulfill.  We can have a room full of students, but we should not view them as a ‘class’.  American society has gutted the family, destroying the network of relatives and friends that were responsible for the raising of the young for thousands of generations.  Nurturing means showing the world to someone, while helping them to cope with it.  The world is a vast mix of ideas, cold realities, and ignorance.

The electronic world offers us near instant feedback on our efforts, if we are strong enough to pay attention.  Living in the cloud means being aware of each other in near real time.  This promotes a group consciousness, a multi-mind, which can occur when a number of people are thinking about the same thing at the same time.  We may be evolving into a single sentient organism, if some science fiction writers are correct, but we still need to get along with each other in the meantime, and schools are where we will learn how.  People have to be taught how not to get caught up in emotions, how to say ‘no’ to themselves, and to others, and how to believe in themselves as people, with intrinsic value.  We have to care about ourselves before we can really care about others.

Keeping the sky from falling


Most people seem to have little interest in space.  They perhaps believe that nothing that goes on off-planet will affect them.  Yet, it has been shown that rocks falling on Earth can affect us.  Most recently, a city in Russia, Chelyabinsk Oblast, was nearly hit by a meteor large enough to destroy a building, and the shock waves damaged hundreds of buildings.  There are geological remains of impact craters kilometers across, and photographs of the results of a meteor blast which leveled trees for kilometers around.

Detecting these rocks from here on Earth can be very difficult, because they are dark and do not reflect very much light.  Also, some of them spend most of their time between the Earth and the Sun, so they are nearly impossible to see.  Back in the early 1990’s, a rock over a kilometer across passed between the Earth and  the Moon, and no one knew it was there until it was between the Earth and the Moon.  A rock that size would destroy an entire region, and could potentially cause extreme weather which would make life on Earth very difficult.  An impact of a similar size 65 million years ago is almost certainly what ended the long reign of the dinosaurs.

From outer space, rocks are much easier to detect, because they reflect some of the thermal energy of the Sun.  A satellite close to the orbit of Venus would be able to detect any large rocks with orbits near the Earth’s, and could also detect any intruders from the outer Solar System.  A few hundred million dollars for such a satellite does not seem too expensive to insure that we do not get blind-sided by a big rock.


Stopping the pain


Most people I know are hurting in some way, spiritually, emotionally, physically, or in other ways.  Life seems to be needlessly complex, and drains us of energy.  We often do not feel like our work is of value to anybody, and getting rewarded for what we do is frequently inadequate and materialistic.  People all over the country are losing their sense of community, withdrawing from society, becoming increasingly isolated.

Most of us are doing the jobs of three people, yet our pay is the same as it was 30 years ago, correcting for inflation.  Wages should have grown as productivity increased, but the capitalists kept them low, choosing instead to pocket the increased revenues.  These are the same people who decided to send jobs overseas so that they could increase their profit margins.  Those decisions were made without regard for community, or society, and were driven by pure greed.  Everyone was making decent money back in the 1970’s, but then thefts began.  Retirement funds held by unions, Social Security, trusted companies, all were ripped off, or ripped us off.  Social Security was the biggest heist in history, billions of dollars stolen from the fund that was supposed to pay out the benefits.  Enron was responsible for thousands of elderly folks to lose their retirement savings, along with Tycho, General Motors, and several others.

Greed is driving the push for ever-greater profits, a lust for money beyond reason, a desire for money that cannot be satiated.  People who believe that they are above having to work, because they have invested their wealth so that they can receive dividends.  Their neighbors used to live on interest from their investments, but the banking world is upside down now, and banks don’t pay interest anymore.  Banks are upside down because nobody is saving any money, like they used to.  Who can afford it?  A friend of mine said the other day that most of the people that she knows are one crisis away from losing everything, because they have no reserves left.  Can’t use credit cards anymore, the interest is so high.  If you can get one.

Only new hires, or teenagers, should be working for the minimum wage.  People should be earning more, so that they are not struggling to survive.  They should have the chance to do a good job, one that they can be proud of, rather than be forced to turn out shoddy merchandise or poor service.  We all need to remember that we need community, feeling connected to each other, sharing with each other.  These are things that government cannot make happen by passing laws or creating regulations.  These are things that capitalists should be doing anyway, to protect their most valuable resource, people.

Gobbling us up


Probably the greatest danger we Americans face is not terrorists, nor is it a president who acts like a terrorist.  Illegal immigrants are not the problem, unless they refuse to show up to build the Wal.  I mean Wall.  What is behind so much of the misery and despair right now is plain old Greed.    Instead of being rewarded for the enormous contribution that they have made over the last 50 years, workers have seen wages stagnate, benefits shrink, and workloads skyrocket.  The average wage should be about three times what it is right now, regardless of what the minimum wage is.  Were wages this high, economic activity would be much greater, with more consumption of goods and services, as well as more people owning their homes.

Somehow, we have to get the 1 percent to spend their money on us.

Trump this!



President Trump, could you please talk to your multi-billionaire friends, and convince them to shake loose some of that money that they have so much of?  It would really help, because there is enough wealth in the U.S. to buy everyone a house, a car, a college education, and healthcare for the rest of their lives.  But it is locked up in the hands of a few, where it just sits, or is used to create even more wealth, by manipulating numbers instead of making actual work happen.

Raising the minimum wage will simply make it so that you can be broke with more money than ever before, because everything will get more expensive.  Unless the greedy people agree to give up the massive profits that they are taking with no effort on their part.  Sometimes, profits are so large that the owners could double the wages paid and still take home a tidy sum.  A lot of the money is going to pay dividends, which is where people get paid for doing nothing.  Lend a company money by buying their stock, and they pay you every year, even if they end up paying you more than you lent them.  Isn’t that a nice system?

President Trump, do the unbelievable thing, get your wealthy friends to spend their money on the masses, instead of just letting it sit in banks.  Talk them into paying for low-income housing, or public transportation, or music education, things that will raise the quality of life for everyone, and put people to work doing it.  Remind them that the tax rate on the very wealthy used to be 95 percent.  Today, it is closer to 30 percent.  Without the wealthy voluntarily putting a portion of their wealth into the community, the community will die.  And community is dying all across America.  Help us, please!

Racing to ruin


Perhaps we do need to scale back on the imports, and start producing more things here in America.  Things like steel, carbon fiber composites, and wood substitutes.  The stuff we are importing is cheap, and of poor quality.  Big surprise, right?  Of course, we can’t lay all the blame at the feet of the foreign workers.  They have to work with what they get, and what is specified by their multi-national bosses.

When the parts that you are supplied with are made with soft steel, then the product you are building will not last.  Costs have been cut until mere pennies are fretted over and pondered.  All in the name of profit, ever increasing profit.  The materials that we are having to work with, the fasteners, the frames, the motors, are all of poor quality, regardless of the brand.  Doing a good job is becoming increasingly difficult.

Everybody wants things to get better, but few people are willing to sacrifice to make that happen.  We are going to have to pay more for products, or settle for lower quality, much lower quality.  It doesn’t matter how cheap something is, if it can’t do the job.  Even the premium brands are having their stuff built overseas, because paying a reasonable amount to have the work done will cut into profits.  A pair of boots built in the U.S. would cost about 100 dollars to manufacture, and would be sold for nearly $200.  When production was moved overseas, the quality of the leather decreased, the workmanship was sup-par, but the boots still cost $200, even though their cost to manufacture had dropped to about $30 dollars.

People began to turn away from that brand of boot,  and the company had to bring production back, and sell at cost for a while to reclaim market share.  Management is the greatest threat to the well-being of companies these days, I believe, as tried-and-true methods are tossed out in favor of more ‘economical’ ways.

You paid people a good wage and bought good materials, you would have a good product, worth the money.  People would associate your name with quality, and become loyal customers.  Nobody got rich doing it that way, but everybody made enough to get by on and be comfortable.

The obsession with getting rich in a hurry is pushing America into a downward spiral.  Because someone usually loses when somebody else gets rich in a hurry.  Huge fortunes were acquired in the early 2000’s, as people began to buy and then sell houses rapidly.  That led to a mania about flipping properties for profit, which created a big demand for new houses.  Until somebody realized that no one was moving into these homes.  The American homeowner took a beating during the Great Recession, and many people lost their retirement.  But money was made in quantity for a while, without having to work.  How real was that money, if so much of it vanished overnight?

Making America great again


Alright, Mr. Trump, let us make America great again, but without breaking agreements, or shutting people out, let us do it by investing in ourselves.  Help us find a way to get the people you know so well to put money back into the system.  There is more than enough wealth to make things good again, if we can spend it right.  One way proven to pay off is to invest in high technology.

Give us something that we can be proud of again.  Give us a goal to strive for, something to lift our eyes from the daily tedium.  Give our children dreams by making wonderful things happen today.  Put the incredible potential of this country to work accomplishing something that will benefit the entire human race.  The cost will be insignificant compared to what must be spent to fix our roads and bridges.

The manned space program has been the most inspirational effort any nation has ever undertaken.  We need to be inspired again, to believe in the future again.  There is a better way to get into space, and we should develop it.  We already have proven that a spacecraft can fly back to Earth and land like an airplane.  Now we have to learn how to leave for space like an airplane; horizontally.  A small fraction of our national budget devoted to creating access to space that is safe, reliable, and affordable would be an investment that would begin paying off immediately.