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Saturday, September 17, 2016

Questions for mom

The Mote in God's Eye is a great book. You should read it. Not only that, but the plot illustrates something interesting that few people think about. To make a long story short, aliens send a spaceship to Earth. The science is legit. They use a laser and a giant solar sail to send a spaceship lightyears away from their own world. The journey takes hundreds of years. Generations live and die on this ship.

FULL STOP!

Generations live and die on this ship! Can you imagine such a thing? You learn to talk and finally ask mama, "So you had sex with dad, got pregnant, and gave birth to me? Knowing I'd live and finally die in this giant tin can. You decided before I was born that your child would exist only as a breeder for some future generation that might one day exist on another planet. I'm here to do some shitty job, impregnate some other selfish creature that exists only to stuff steadily declining resources into her greedy maw so that in her own time she can crap forth another hungry resource devourer? And all this on the faint hope that someday some distant progeny might colonize another shitty world? Did you ever stop and ask yourself whether you had that right?

The funny thing is this...you don't have to be on a spaceship going to another solar system to ask the same questions to your mother.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

And now for something completely different...Seawheat

The future of the human race—if there will be a future—is out in space. Assuming we can capture and harvest comets containing the requisite elements, i.e. carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen—CHON—we can create food away from the Eden-like paradise we call Earth. Earthlings require air, food and water. Plants provide two out of three. Comets provide the last. If you want real space exploration, it all starts with lassoing a CHON comet. I'll leave the mechanics of that to NASA, but many people believe it can be done. Once we have a CHON asteroid or comet in Earth orbit, the space race will at long last, truly be underway.

Danger number one is the Sun. It regularly bombards the solar system with thick blankets of radiation. What this means, is that without protection, humans in space will die faster than a gerbil in a microwave. Interestingly enough, something as simple and as common as H2O can protect humans from this regularly emitted cloud of Sun wrath.

Once you have your habitat ready—I envision a spinning hamster-wheel-like vessel filled with water, harvested from your tame Earth orbiting comet—you need a food source. It must be energy rich. It must grow in water. It must convert CO2 into oxygen. If I'm a geneticist, I'm thinking kelp and wheat. Seawheat. Feed the Earth. End world hunger. Feed the astronauts up in Waterworld. Win win win win win!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Get rid of health insurance!

I’m watching the GOP debate in NH. So far, the candidates’ ideas to fix health care have included:


  1. Repeal Obamacare 
  2. Allow purchase of health insurance over state lines
  3. De-couple health insurance from employment (How? Are employers going to be forced to continue paying for health insurance when someone loses their job? That will just make it ten times harder to get a new job…)
  4. Empower and expand Health Savings Account
Here’s the problem with all of the above ideas: cost. Health care itself is too expensive, which means insurance has to be expensive, too. So with the exception of allowing purchase of health insurance over state lines, most of the schemes above are the equivalent of playing musical chairs on the titanic. Health care is expensive because health care isn’t sold in a free market. You don’t purchase health care from private entities. No, you purchase health care from the health conglomerate – and they like to shut out new competition. The health conglomerate includes the FDA, the AMA, the US Patent Office, medical schools, state medical boards, and state-licensed medical professionals – all of whom have a vested interest to stop new medicines from reaching the marketplace, and to stop new small businesses from selling health care to consumers.
"Health care is too expensive." Yes. When steaks are too expensive you eat chicken, or pork, or fish, or peanut butter and jelly. You don't buy steaks. You know how much a steak used to cost. You evaluate the cost of everything else. You decide how much you really want a steak and, finally, you decide if it's worth it to you. It's not a perfect analogy. Not eating a steak or eating one is never going to be a life or death situation. Nevertheless, the underlying economic decisions are the same. How much is it worth and what does it cost?

I'll tell you something that's true and you tell me if I'm lying or telling the truth. It's true that you can call an ambulance right this second, make them come to your house, carry you to a hospital and at some point receive treatment either from that hospital or from a different hospital which they will also carry you to, and all of this without insurance, and all of this without one thin dime to your name. Is the preceding statement true or false?

Nephew Sam is right. Read the whole thing. But there's more. The insurance system itself is a huge mistake. It's our free-market answer to risk and therefore just like in a casino, there will be losers, winners, and the house. The house makes all the rules and therefore the house always wins. The lesson is simple don't play. I might not make any friends with the statement I'm about to make. You'll immediately suspect me of being a liberal, but if you keep reading, I bet you'll eventually be convinced that my ideas are the fairest and best way to care for the sick without unduly burdening the healthy. If you start with the average cost for health insurance across the nation, and then factor in inflation I.E. the COLA, and finally set into law the amount of money every person across the country pays for health care based on this moving average, you'll begin to allow every citizen to pay his fair share. In using the phrase "fair share" I'm stating categorically that fair means the rich will never pay more than double that average amount and the poor always pay at least half that amount.

I'm talking single payer health care! At this point I can almost hear the hissing of a pack of vampires confronted with a Crucifix! Yes. I said it. Single payer. However, not one like all the other socialist countries surrounding us, but more like the free-market capitalists that we are supposed to be.

Insurance companies make a profit. They have investors. They have agents. They have overhead, wages, distribution, taxes, rent, utilities, on and on and on. We don't need any of it. Doctors, nurses, hospitals don't need middlemen anymore than you do. If health professionals receive 100% of your payment, and not the grudging share the insurance company finally pays out, they'll be happier. They'll agree to charge less, knowing that the $1000.00 procedure won't be chewed down and argued over and procedured away and eventually paperworked down to a fraction of that agreed upon amount.

Suppose that you want to buy a car? You could walk in and pay the sticker price. Lots of people do that by the way. There's no sense in trying to talk sense into this kind of person. They feel uncomfortable bargaining. They'd rather pay whatever the sticker says and drive home in their new car. Meanwhile there are the other kind of people who won't even buy a yard-sale paperback for fifty cents unless they can talk the homeowner down to forty-five cents. We all understand that wheeling and dealing (or not) is freedom. Therefore, allow each individual to decide what health care treatment they want. Allow them each to make whatever agreement for treatment they want, some making good deals and some bad. Finally, incentivize buyers and sellers who cost the government the least, and also punish buyers and sellers who cost the most.

"Doctor Jones, sir, Your particular podiatry clinic charges nearly twice the national average. This statistic is based on total cost paid to your clinic divided by the total number of patients we've paid for. Sorry, Doctor but we're doubling your taxes. Have a nice day."

"Your family members have been to the pediatrician on average four times more often than the national average, and by the way, this statistic is based on both your number of children and their various ages. Sorry, but your health care charge has just been moved up one bracket."

"You've been paying the national average for five years, but you've never done more than get a once a year physical. We're lowering your medical rate to the lowest bracket. Congratulations and stay healthy!"

Friday, September 2, 2016

A good driver...



A good driver is many things, what he is not, is the person behind the wheel doing anything except driving, i.e. Talking on the phone, eating, lighting a cigarette, drinking alcohol, fiddling with the radio, etc.

What qualities in driving excellence would you instill in your own child as you teach him or her to drive a car? I have a few commonsense observations which most of you probably know, but many of you obviously do not. I know this because I drive with you every day and some of you are not aware, not focused, not paying attention.

Let's talk mirrors. If you glance at your left-side mirror, can you see the side of your car? If you CAN then you're doing it wrong. The car in your left blind-spot isn't three inches from your rear quarter panel, he's several feet to the left of that. On your right side, can you see the right quarter panel of your car? If you can then you're doing it wrong! The car in your right-side blind spot isn't three inches from your fender. He's probably about four feet away from it. Adjust your mirrors accordingly. If you're doing it correctly, you won't have blind spots. As a car moves beside you from behind you, you'll see him in your mirrors the entire time, until he's beside you and you can turn your head and see him. The side mirrors are maladjusted on most every car. A logical person thinking logically about where cars are going to be would quickly understand that if you're mirrors show the side of your car, you're doing it wrong.

A good driver isn't lost. A good driver knows the route and alternate routes in the event that the main route is blocked or jammed. A good driver scans right, left, mirrors, instruments, constantly. A good driver knows the speed limit and just slightly exceeds it in clement weather, goes slightly under in inclement weather. A good driver has clean windows and working windshield wipers. He doesn't have ice, snow, fog, or mud occluding his view. Remember this, a deaf driver can be a good driver, but a blind driver can never be anything but a terrible driver. Look ahead as far as you can see. A good driver doesn't drive contentedly along within a pack of semis or behind an SUV with darkly tented windows. A good driver likes to see the road far ahead, not the rear-end of some big truck. If he's going slower than traffic he moves to the right lanes, if faster, to the left lanes. He never blocks the passing lane. (A good driver knows the leftmost lane on the highway is the passing lane.)

A good driver is well-rested. He's alert, relaxed, and doesn't have to use the bathroom. In the best of conditions a good driver has no distractions whatsoever and demands that passengers sit quietly keeping their mouths shut. If that is not possible, a good driver slows down, finds a safe place to pull over, and when safely stopped, cautions everyone that conversations and rambunctiousness cause wrecks. Tell them to shut up and sit there. You don't need their advice, their directions, their comments, their criticisms. You don't need to know about their plans, their hopes, their desires, or their dreams.

Concerning patience: A good driver masters impatience. Relaxing music helps when traffic is bad. A good driver doesn't listen to loud boisterous music like rap or heavy-metal when the streets are jammed with cars.

A good driver knows what's around him. He's aware of the cars around him and knows when somebody is about to drive thoughtlessly and carelessly. YES! A good driver has a sixth-sense about idiot drivers and can spot them a mile away.

A good driver doesn't drive in thick fog. He pulls to the side and waits. Every mass pile up in history has a thick cloud of fog surrounding it. When a deer or other animal runs out in front the car, a good driver reacts calmly, and smoothly, avoiding if safely possible, and if not possible, controlling the vehicle as it strikes the animal. If it's a pedestrian, a good driver takes a greater risk to avoid striking the person, but not at the risk of his own life or his passengers.

A good driver pulls over safely whenever something besides driving must be done, i.e. checking maps, adjusting seats, mirrors, instruments, phones, radios, or underpants.