19 December 2014

Life Hacking: The Series Begins

OK, update on the whole weight loss thing... did you know that you can suddenly start losing weight for no reason if you become diabetic?  Unfortunately, I'll have to wait until the seasons change a bit before I can get back to testing the sunlight thing.  Or if I can figure out a way to get some sun in relative privacy beforehand, then I can test.

The "seasons" where I live aren't the traditional Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring.  They're "Oh dear God it's unbearably hot", "Finally, it's starting to get less unbearable", "It's finally cool enough to go outside without an environment suit", and "Oh, no, it's getting hotter again!"  No, the problem isn't that it's too cold to get some sun.  It's the position of the shadows of the trees in the back yard.

So, on to other topics... I'm going to start a new Life Hacker series here on my blog.  I've seen lots of "hacks" on the Lifehacker website, but many of them are disappointing.  Not because they don't apply to me, because it makes sense that many things that apply to one person won't apply to another, but because nearly all of the "hacks" I read involved invoking or evoking a deity.  If I want to read advice that says to pray the stress away or something like that, I'll visit an overtly religious website.

But I don't.

Now, I should be clear on this... When I say "hack", I generally am not referring to the word as it has come to be used, which is not the correct meaning at all.  To "hack" did not originally mean to crack a code and steal someone's nude selfies.  Cutting-related origin aside, in computers, to "hack" originally meant "to find a simple, elegant, creative solution to a complicated programming problem".  The original "hackers" were clever programmers who found ways to do things with code that made their professors scratch their heads.  At some point, this translated into computer pranks (one of my favorite pastimes) and penetrating security measures (again, one of my favorite pastimes), but originally, it was basically about finding clever solutions and new, better ways of doing things.

These days, the term is no longer used simply in computers, but in many areas of life.  And this is where I want to focus my new series.  I don't yet have an outline of the series, because I'm just putting together the beginning details.  I know I need certain things.

  • I need to shorten my commute to work or increase my productivity.
  • I need to find a new place to live.
  • In that new place to live, I need to contrive a work space.
  • I need to have room for my daughter to live with me without either of us losing basic privacy.
  • I need to work on my health.
  • I need to find a way to reduce the cost of groceries and other living expenses.
  • I need to find additional income.
  • I need to spend more time with my dog.
  • I need to increase my overall productivity, both at work and in my personal life.
  • I need to work on my personal appearance.
  • I need to further my education.
  • I need to work on my blog more often.
  • And I need to do all of this within the bounds of a fairly small salary.

The obvious solution starts with having a job that pays well, or money to fall back on, but those aren't options for me at this time.  Therefore, hacks.  New, clever ways of doing things.  My financial resources are limited, and my time is currently limited.  Some of the bullet points above will help with that, but there has to be a starting point.  Therefore, I'm going to hack my life.  I don't know exactly how I'm going to start, but I'm working on putting together a plan, and I'll share what I learn in my new Life Hacking series.

I have to set my goals.  I started with the basics.  If you look at a build-it-yourself project, like on the Make Magazine website, it starts with a list of "materials and tools you'll need".  Well, for the most basic of these, I need a job - Check.  I just spent half a year unemployed, so I'm still working on getting caught up, but that's in progress, so soon I'll be able to move on.  That said....

Hack 1: Set up payments.  If you owe money from a period of hardship, you can usually set up automated payments.  Take your expenses, figure out the most you can afford to pay back each pay period, and then cut that in half.  That's the amount you should pay each pay period.  If you have something set up, then you don't have to worry about it after that.  It should take care of itself.   Just try to figure out when it will be paid and then make sure the payments stop at that time.  Some companies will continue to charge as long as you allow them to do so.  I owe a little money to my bank, so I have them take a small portion of my direct deposit.  In two weeks, that should be paid off.

Hack 2: Prioritize the things that you need to catch up on.  If you've been unemployed or otherwise financially burdened, you might have several things to pay up.  You need to set your priorities.

  1. Things that will get you arrested are priority one.  Get your car's registration and insurance done, pay any fines owed, that sort of thing.
  2. Things that affect your health and welfare are next.
  3. Things that affect other things are next.  Get your car serviced if it needs service, because that car might be needed to get to work.  Make sure to get your phone bill paid.  Internet access can also fall here, if it's necessary for your work or other IMPORTANT things.  If you only use it for entertainment, it can fall to the bottom of the list.
It's all about priorities.  Make a list of things that need to be paid off, in order from most dire and immediate to least dire.  If you really think about what's the most important, you might just decide that some things you've been paying for for years aren't worth keeping around.

These are two starter hacks.  Simple, yes, straightforward, yes, and obvious, maybe.  But things that seem obvious are often overlooked.  That priorities list is something I haven't seen mentioned elsewhere, but that I've never done before.

So, here's the deal... I'm looking at changing my life.  It's not a bad life, really, but I think it could be improved.  The improvement will involve all areas of my life, hopefully making them work better together, and, in the end, improve my quality and enjoyment of life.  And I want to share anything I figure out that helps.  I'm going to change my life for the better, period, and if I can help you change yours for the better, then everyone wins.

So that's what the new series is about.  I got back on my feet, so next I need to find a place to live, and then I need to work on the things dependent on having a home, and so on, and I want to do a better job than I've done up to this point, and I want to share anything I learn.  I hope I'm able to convey information that helps people out there, and I look forward to seeing what happens.

On a side note, this could become a collaborative project.  It's the biggest thing I've ever worked on, and I've worked on some doozies, and yes, I know that I ended a sentence fragment with a preposition, and I would like to hear any non-preposition suggestions, comments, or questions.  If you don't want to add a comment to this blog, you can e-mail me.

Insert clever ending here, and let's get hacking!

13 August 2014

Photosynthetic Philosophy

I've discovered a new, wonderful thing!  Druids heal when exposed to sunlight.

No, think about it.  Have you ever heard of a Druid dying of skin cancer?  Maybe.  But not skin cancer from the sun, because if a Druid gets skin cancer from UV rays from the sun, the cancer cells immediately "heal" into normal cells.  Druids who don't get enough sun can suffer from all kinds of problems.

What's my source, you ask?  Because shut up.  That's why.

Anyway... isn't it wonderful?  I've noticed that since I started getting sun at least twice a week I've lost about twenty pounds a month, without making any other changes.

So, not only do Druids heal from sunlight, but we also get healthier.  This has possibilities.

11 August 2014

When Knowledge Takes Root, New Ideas Germinate

OK, new plan.  After planting those seeds, I started actually reading up on the raising of trees from seeds.  What a concept!  As it turns out, you can't just plant apple seeds and have them grow right away.

I had been thinking of what we did in elementary school, which involved taking dried beans and watching them germinate in moist paper towels in the windows.  Those beans sprouted little plants within days.

In other words, those beans lied to me.

Apple seeds germinate during the winter, apparently.  Since I currently live in Texas, where "winter" is a euphemism for "the coolest part of summer", I had to simulate Winter.  I placed four seeds in a moistened paper towel, put that into a plastic bag, and put that into the refrigerator.

Fast forward to today.  Four weeks after I put the seeds into an artificially cold environment, I checked on them.  One tiny little guy has germinated.

The others show no signs of life, as yet, so I put them back and kept this one out.  Now, on to planting.

Now, as much as I would LOVE to have a little bonsai at my desk, my current setup doesn't have room for a bonsai.  SO I decided to look at other things I could do.

My roommate, Jean, was complaining about all of the empty bottles and jars I've been collecting, with an emphasis on the fact that I can't use one of my alternate "planting pots" when placing plants outside.  Now, I don't know that an apple tree can be kept as a desk plant, and I definitely want to give this little thing room to grow.  I didn't have any actual pots handy, and definitely need to get a big one for this, so I decided to go with something very non-traditional.

Did I select a pill box for planting my first apple tree?  Yes.  Yes, I did.  But wait, hear me out...

The cardboard box is ideal for planting a new seedling, because it's small enough to move easily, and will have no problems holding the soil.  And when it's time to replant, I don't actually have to remove the box.  I can plant the box right into the soil of the bigger pot, and the box will become compost.

So, I folded the flaps inside the box, to reinforce the strength of the box, but, more importantly, to get them out of my way so that I could think.

I added soil to the box, filling it about half-way.  Then, I dropped the seed into the center and filled the box the rest of the way.

The potting soil I chose is, according to the label, formulated for vegetables, fruits, flowers, and herbs.  I figured apples might fall somewhere under there, so I used that kind.  Next, for moisture.

Obviously, cardboard's One True Weakness is water.  Well, water and fire.  I'm concerned with water.  I need to be able to water my little plant.  Due to the way these boxes are coated in some kind of shiny mystery layer, I wasn't worried about the box falling apart, as long as I didn't overwater, but obviously the box would still leak water through the bottom.  So I needed something to catch and hold the excess moisture.

Enter the lid.  I took a jar lid that would have gone into the trash and cleaned it thoroughly.

And that's it.  I added just enough water to moisten the soil (I hoped) and the runoff sits in the lid.  As the soil dries, some of the water should soak up from the lid back into the soil.

And that's it for now.  Let's see how this seed turns out, and also let's see how long it takes before Jean starts screaming, "You planted a tree in what?!?!?"

14 July 2014

The Roots of a New Idea

OK.... so.... on a lighter note than I've been using lately...

I'm thirsty.  Like, all the time thirsty.  I've had diabetics watch me chugging water, and tell me to slow down.  For the record, I'm not diabetic.  I'm just the thirstiest person I've ever met.

Water is great.  Cleaner water is better, of course.  Still, who wants to drink just water?  It's unhealthy to drink more than a gallon or two of plain water per day.  I used to do that, when I distilled water for a living, but it flushed nutrients out of my body and caused issues.

Enter the juices.  Variety is the spice of life, as it were.  So when I go to the grocery store, I look at various flavored drinks, mostly aimed at children, distilled and spring water, and fruit juice.

The trick with fruit juice is that many of them are loaded with extra sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), extra acids (citric is a huge one), and other additives.  I'm not afraid of some additives, but most of the things added to fruit juice destroy the taste.  Ignoring the health implications of various additives, particularly HFCS, fruit juice that has added sugars just doesn't taste right.  And the additional acids?  Orange juice is already highly acidic.  Why add more acid?  Some brands of orange juice literally burn when I drink them.  So I don't.  And apple juice... whose bright idea was it to add two kinds of acid to apple juice?  And whose idea was it to then label it as "100% pure apple juice"?  Seriously?

So I read the ingredients list.  One thing I've found that I want to share is a brand called Simply Orange.  They make the purest, yummiest orange juice that I've found.  They also make other juices and juice mixtures (like orange and banana, if you can believe such a thing).  Another brand I've found that's pretty good is Mott's Apple Juice.

Note: I'm not being paid by either of these manufacturers.  I simply want to share them with everyone.  Added sugars and other ingredients are a significant factor in the health crisis that goes largely unreported in this country, mostly affecting young people.  When I find something this good, I want to get the word out there.

Anyway, dietary considerations aside, let's get on to my idea, which has nothing to do with nutrition.

In searching for juices that were consumable in large quantities, I found a brand I didn't know (Mott's), and it was being sold in small child-sized bottles.  I saw an opportunity to try it without having to buy a whole gallon, and found the small bottles to be convenient, in addition to the juice being better than most other brands.

As I stared at a bottle I as about to throw away, I was hit with an idea.  See if you can see where my thinking was headed:

This was the empty bottle.  It's made of plastic.  I've been thinking about "green" things lately, like alternative energy, rooftop gardens, and reusing packing materials.  It occurred to me... I could cut off the top of the bottle and use it for a teensy planting pot.

I've also been thinking about growing baby plants.

So I cut off the top just above where the label is, and I removed the label just for aesthetics.  I washed out the bottle because I didn't want anything growing on the residue of the juice.  Then, I purchased a small bag of potting soil.  A little soil in the bottle, followed by two seeds from an apple, and I had myself a cute and obviously homemade potted plant.  Or what WILL be a pottled plant once the seeds sprout.

Of course, I'll need to wait a while before the seeds turn into anything beyond the barest of plants.  Longer still until they need to be transplanted.  Still, that gives me time.  I hope to move soon, and to have more room for the plants with which I wish to surround myself.  Apple trees are often bearing fruit during their first decade, so I might get some fresh apples from these guys.  I also hope to plant some orange seeds, but those are trickier.  I'm not sure how well they'll do in the climate where I live.

But even if I raise them as indoor trees, keeping their size small and using "grow bulbs" to provide the sunlight they might not always get, they'll be plants, and the benefits are numerous.

For one thing, there's the aforementioned fruit.  If your trees bear edible fruit, then planting them is worth the effort.  Also, they provide oxygen.  Not a lot, individually, but if you surround yourself with enough plants, the slight elevation in oxygen levels might be beneficial.

Other benefits are less direct.  For example, if you're surrounded by plants, you'll need to provide sunlight for them.  While direct UV can be harmful in large quantities, it's a simple fact that for people who don't have certain rare conditions, more sunlight has benefits.  We didn't evolve in air conditioned interiors with window shades  We evolved in the open.  As our ancestors left the more heavily wooded areas, we also lost the ability to produce certain vitamins without sunlight.  Also, more exposure to sunlight can sometimes help with conditions such as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), a form of depression that affects many people.  Also, for many people, being surrounded by plants offers some emotional boosts simply because they're surrounded by plants.

I'm looking at you, Druids.  And Buddhists.  And Celts, and Native Americans, and hippies, and children, and Cajuns, and botanists, and librarians, and farmers, and the list goes on.

So this little pot of "gold" holds what I hope to be my future - a future wherein I'm surrounded by plants, some of them feeding me, some of them looking pretty, but all of them green and alive and happy (to the extent that plants can be said to be happy).  And if that small bottle holds my future apple trees, what should I do with this?

That's a one-gallon bottle that previously held spring water.  I had saved them for various reasons, and then a roommate threw most of them away.  I kept one that I had dried out and was using to store coins that are older than I am.  (Apparently, my age is the marker some of my friends use to define "antique").  I kept another for storing pennies to use to decorate a kitchen floor or something similar.  Perhaps a desk top.  In this case, though, I think it will make a nice pot for a plant that's too large for a hand-held bottle.

I'll post more such ideas as I come up with them.

04 July 2014

The White Cloaks under the Black Robes

It occurs to me that the recent Hobby Lobby decision isn't sexist... it's racist.

First, I need to take a moment to apologize for my previous blog.  I had intended to marvel at the wonder of the scientific process, and how it's less a method of obtaining new technologies than it is a new way of thinking, and one that can lead to yet more way of thinking.  Instead, I slipped into a rant on politics, and that was not my intention.  I apologize.  Perhaps one day soon I can fix that and do the post I had intended.

Anyway.... where was I?  Racist!  Right....

I've concluded that the whole thing was racist, not sexist.

Wait, hear me out.

It's true that the ruling itself was a blow against women.  Some people are trying to argue that it's not serious.

"It only applies to birth control."
"It only applies to certain types of businesses."
"They can just use a condom."

Some people are making the whole thing out to be a minor issue with little impact.  I could just tell them to tell that to the women who work for stores like Hobby Lobby.  (I wasn't able to find statistics on how many women work for Hobby Lobby, but they have about 21,000 employees, so I'm going to guess.... a lot.)  But I don't even need to go with that argument.  Instead, I can argue consequences.

Insert philosophy police here.

This is one of the few cases I've seen where the "Slippery Slope" argument is applicable, rather than being a logical fallacy.  It goes back to the first argument above.

The problem with a "Slippery Slope" argument is that, often, it's used to complain that event A will lead to event B, where event A and event B contain some fundamental difference that makes them actually two separate issues.  As an example, idiots complain that legalizing same-sex marriage will lead to legal pedophilia.  The key difference here is that same-sex marriage, like all marriages, is between two consenting adults, whereas pedophilia involves at least one party who legally can't give consent.  (For the purposes of this article, I'm going to avoid the pedophilia vs. child molestation dichotomy.)

On the other hand, the "Slippery Slope" argument accurately applies to the Hobby Lobby decision thusly: The US Supreme Court ruled that certain corporations have religious rights that trump the religious rights of employees.  I referenced the first argument above, and here's how this one argument demonstrates the slope in question. To repeat: the argument is:

"It only applies to birth control."

Now, at first, the argument was:

"It only applies to certain forms of birth control which the owners of Hobby Lobby inaccurately conflate with abortion."

It was widely argued that only four methods of birth control were restricted, although they were really good methods.  A couple of days later, the aforementioned Supreme Court had to point out to the country that no, this didn't apply to just certain forms of birth control... The ruling applies to all forms of birth control.  Already, in one aspect of the ruling, we have two different points, and a line drawn through those points leads in a bad direction.

Here's the slope in general: It started with Corporate Personhood.  The idea there is, simply, that a corporation is legally a "person", having the same rights as a human person (or Natural Person).  This Legal Fiction allows corporations to enter into contracts with other parties, sue or be sued, and a host of other things that make doing business easier (to an extent).  The problem is that the origin of legal Corporate Personhood in the US was to allow corporations to have political influence as of they were humans.  The Legal Fiction that equates money with speech allows Corporate Persons to exercise their right to free speech to purchase the laws they want from politicians.

That's the top of the slope.  Corporate Personhood.  At that point, for some purposes, a corporation was considered a person.  Then, with the more recent Supreme Court ruling, it was determined that some of those Persons have religious freedom, and that those corporations can exert their religious views over the lives of their employees (who may or may not hold the same religious views) with respect to birth control.  That's an important detail, seemingly... The Court stated in the ruling that this only applies to birth control.

Said the majority opinion,  "... under the standard that [Religious Freedom Reformation Act] prescribes, the HHS contraceptive mandate is unlawful."  Essentially, The Corporate Person has First Amendment rights that are protected under the RFRA.  And those rights take precedence over the First Amendment rights of the employees.

Now, it's true that the Court stated that this opinion only applies to birth control.  This exemption was previously held for non-profit and religious organizations (which are considered non-profit no matter how many millions they make), but it has now been extended to "closely-held for-profit corporations".  Another slope.  Bear in mind that this same court previously ruled that the entire Affordable Care Act was constitutional.  Now, they're declaring that one part of this act is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment rights of Corporate Persons.  This clearly indicates that the Supreme Court might later revisit this limitation and decide that other objections that a corporation has on religious grounds are also protected.

Even Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in her dissent, "In a decision of startling breadth, the Court holds that commercial enterprises, including corporations, along with partnerships and sole proprietorships, can opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs."  Even a sitting justice in the Supreme Court agrees that this ruling is part of a Slippery Slope.

If the corporation can deny birth control to female employees because that corporation mistakenly believes that the Christian holy book opposes birth control, then that means that companies with other religious beliefs can force those beliefs onto the health care of other employees.  Blood transfusions, stem cell treatments, psychiatric care, pap smears, vasectomies, HIV medications, eyeglasses, and even medical care in general, can all be denied on religious grounds.

But wait, there's more!  Major religions also support slavery, racial discrimination, sexism, the stoning of infidels, and rape, while prohibiting homosexuality (not just the associated acts, but the condition itself), the eating of shellfish, wearing clothes containing mixed fabrics, planting multiple crops in a single field, working on "the Sabbath" (which can mean either Saturday or Sunday, depending), and the list goes on.  There are cases waiting on the court's decision regarding whether a company can opt out of other laws (such as non-discrimination laws) based on religious beliefs.

The Hobby Lobby decision clearly indicates that the current US Supreme Court is willing to allow exemptions from existing laws, even laws it has already deemed to be constitutional, based entirely on what one claims to sincerely believe.  "Claims" is an important word, I think.  After all, how does one prove a "sincerely held religious belief"?  Let's take another look at Hobby Lobby.

Hobby Lobby, lime many companies, offers a 401(k) plan.  In this plan, they have invested millions of dollars into companies that produce birth control.  One method is the Plan B ("Morning After") pill, which Hobby Lobby's lawyers call "abortion".  Other forms of birth control which Hobby Lobby wants to deny to its employees are also produced by companies that receive investments under Hobby Lobby's 401(k) plan.  And the owners of Hobby Lobby know this.  So, why would someone who is opposed to the use of these drugs contribute to their manufacture?  It must be part of a larger picture.

On a side note, Hobby Lobby owners have also been working to get Bible classes into public schools.  But that's another subject.

In trying to understand Hobby Lobby's position, I thought about the Koch Brothers.  David and Charles Koch are two billionaire brothers whose father became incredibly wealthy by dealing illegally with Russia during the Cold War.  They make an unreasonably large fortune mainly in oil, natural gas, and coal.  I don't actually have a problem with this... I wouldn't mind being wealthy, myself, and I don't blame children for the crimes of their parents.  What I have to wonder about is this: The Koch brothers have invested millions in funding opposition to the Affordable Care Act.  At first, I had to wonder why they would be opposed to poor people getting health care.

Well, as it turns out, the Kochs are opposed to the ACA because they are opposed to Barack Obama.  The ACA was his signature act in office, his crowning accomplishment, if you will.  The Kochs are attacking the ACA because they want to discredit the President.  This isn't a secret.

So, back to Hobby Lobby... Why would a company that doesn't actually oppose birth control fight so hard to earn exemption from the birth control part of the ACA, opening the door to a situation where religious extremists can impose their dogma on others?  To work toward discrediting the President.

How is this racist, you ask?  Good question.

Barack Obama isn't the first Democrat to be elected President.  In fact, his skin color is the only demographic fact to separate him from previous Demographic Presidents.  Let's review the facts.

No other President has ever been required to provide his birth certificate after entering office.  Obama was asked to provide his, provided it, then asked for a bigger one, provided it, and then they still denied that he was born in the US.

Rick Santorum called the President a "nigger" during a speech.  It was on television and everything.  He tried to cover it up, but failed.

Barack Obama is, according to the Secret Service, the "most threatened President in history".  He receives over thirty death threats a day.  Some of them have been made publicly, such as when Ted Nugent, an alcoholic sociopath who fancies himself a musician, stated that if Obama was re-elected, "I will either be dead or in jail."  He later reiterated, indicating that he was "serious as a heart attack" and called for his audience to "ride into that battlefield and chop [Democrats] heads off in November."

Barack Obama was the first President in history to be denied the opportunity to speak to a joint session of Congress.

Benghazi.  IRS.  Bowe Bergdahl.  Need I say more?

The list goes on.  It's no secret that much of the opposition to what Barack Obama tries to accomplish is because Republicans are racist.  This is the reason that the Koch brothers lobby against the ACA.  This is the reason that so many people who had never heard of Obama and were self-described liberals were opposed to his running for office even before he was elected President.

And this is why Hobby Lobby is opposed to allowing their female employee to have bodily autonomy.  It's not about birth control.  It's about racism.

Addendum: Don't get me wrong.  It's also sexist.  Just not in its roots.

12 May 2014

I Hope I'm Not Wrong

This has been on my mind a lot, lately.  I've been watching debates and lectures, and reading articles, and basically stuffing information into my brain as quickly as my computer has been willing to feed it to me, and then pondering the result.

Not unlike a Middle Earth Dwarf enjoying a particularly pungent fart, and pondering the meal which produced it.

So, I've been thinking about how science is not what gives us all of the wonderful gadgets that fill our lives with comfort and convenience and put food on our tables... it's far more important than that.

No, hear me out.

Science doesn't give us gadgets and gizmos.  It doesn't produce new medicines and new strains of food crops.  It doesn't power our televisions.  It doesn't turn seawater into fuel.  It doesn't even allow us to mass-produce books with which to educate our children.

All of these tasks are accomplished via Engineering, not science.  Engineering is the application of processes and principles learned via science to produce new technologies.  Engineering can feed back into science, as with the electron microscope, Large Hadron Collider, and the process of putting the cream filling inside Twinkies®.  (Scientists eat a lot of Twinkies while conducting research.  It helps with the process.)  But Engineering isn't, strictly speaking, science.

So, then, one might ask, what is science?

I'm glad one asked.

Science is a process.  It's the process for discovering new knowledge.  It's the process for learning new things, not from someone else, but that someone else might not know.  The central part, the most defining part, arguably the most important part of science, is The Scientific Method.  That's what's really the key to why science is important.

Sure, there are other parts of science, like the classification of things based on what's learned, but The Scientific Process is the important part.  And here's why:

Science isn't about building a smarter phone, nor a self-driving car, nor a house that does the cleaning for you.  Science isn't about flying to the stars, nor flying across the ocean, nor making a flying car.  And science isn't about curing disease, feeding the hungry, nor streaming information more quickly across the Internet.

Science is about thinking.  It's about taking existing data, conditions, observations, analyzing them, making an educated guess about what's happening, finding a way to test that guess, and testing it repeatedly to determine whether the guess is consistently predictive of the results.  But mostly it's about thinking.

The Scientific Method was one of the truly great revolutions in all of history.  Writing, the domestication of food crops, The Scientific Method, tea cups with pictures of cute animals on them, and the willingness to look beyond the ideas handed down by our elders in order to examine the facts are, arguably, the most important revolutions to happen in human thinking.

Before the beginning of what can be called Human Civilization, all communication was oral, and that tended to change over time, so that the true nature of history, law, and who won the latest stick-throwing contest would become distorted.  Writing changed all that in ways that nothing else had.  Also, that which we were told by our elders (parents, grandparents, and assorted old people) was taken on faith, even though many of those same old people couldn't remember their own names.

And before The Scientific Process came about, one might look at, for example, lightning, and wonder, "Now what could be causing that?"  More often than not, the conclusions drawn led to beliefs about supernatural entities and forces that were powerful and must be feared and appeased.  The modern Scientific Process, though, would involve looking at the lightning, comparing it with what we already know (sweaters right out of the drier), setting up a way to test that, and so on.  We would eventually gain understanding about the world around us, and, more importantly, ourselves.

That's all it was.  A revolution in thinking.  Certainly, there was a process involved.  We had to come up with new words (hypothesis, theory, Nobel Prize), but we started with some pretty basic information (maggots form on dead meat) and build up from there, and took what we learned and built upon it to learn more.  Science was born not as a gizmo to make pretty blinking lights, but as a new way of thinking.  An organized way of thinking designed to bring positive results.

And that's where it gets tricky.  We're living in an interesting time.  Mankind enjoys the benefits of science (and, by extension, engineering) like never before.  We have machines to make our morning coffee.  We can produce gasoline from seawater slightly more cheaply than from oil (and that process will become even cheaper).  We can cure diseases that didn't exist 10 years ago, and many that existed long before that, even cancer, if it's caught in time.

Ladies, check yourselves, and get regular mammograms after the age of 40.

We can cross the ocean in a matter of hours, fly to the moon, and even land robots on Mars.  So what's the problem?

There are people, many of them prominent figures with some political influence, who are opposed to science.  They aren't just opposed to creating clones of serial killers, nor handing over our nuclear arsenal to an artificial intelligence, nor even genetically engineered crops.  They're opposed to all science everywhere and always.  I hear phrases like, "Scientists don't know anything" and "Why can't science answer question answered 20 years ago" or "Why can't science answer unanswerable or philosophical non-scientific question?"

They want to eliminate science because it disagrees with their preconceived notions, or because the results of scientific studies interfere with their personal financial gain.  But, really, what are they doing?  Is science a bad thing?  What would happen without science?  If, for example, we eliminated all science and its fruits tomorrow?

Well, for one thing, most human life on this planet would be gone within six months.  This isn't an exaggeration.  Think about it.... We use machinery and chemicals to grow genetically engineered crops on smaller fields through the efforts of fewer people.  We process that food using factories and ship it using trucks and sell it using computers.  We have vaccines (and no, I don't want to hear your anti-vaxxer rhetoric, I know what's in vaccines, and I know why, and it has never been shown to cause autism).  We have personal hygiene that helps prevent the spread of disease.  Corrective lenses, endoscopic surgery, prenatal vitamins, mass transit... these are all things keeping people alive.

Why would people be opposed to something as important as science in the face of financial consequences?  Pure selfishness, to a degree that has never been seen in any species apart from humans.  The same goes for when someone chooses religion over science... it's not that the religion is directly harmed by science, but that people with their little beliefs in the superiority of their beliefs prefer for their beliefs to be dominant, and that's hard to maintain in the face of a method of determining what's real.  These people know, KNOW, that they're hurting the future of mankind.  They don't care.  Some of them have children and grandchildren who will be harmed.  They don't care.  What they care about is their own current success.  Fulfilling their own greed.  Getting their wishes.  They want their oil companies to net billions in profits this quarter.  They want their megachurches to take it billions in tax-exempt donations.  They want to maintain personal power over the lives of others.

I said that no other species has exhibited this kind of behavior.  Here's a caveat: there have been individual members of pack species that have worked against the good of the pack.  Whether it was due to a diseased brain, an injury, a genetic defect, or some other cause, there have been those who worked against the greater good.

The other pack members rose up and ate them.  THAT was for the greater good.

Right now, we're locked in a massive struggle.  Several, but they really mostly come down to the same thing.  A few individuals are in power.  They have the money, the means, and the media.  They want what's good for them right now, and they'll do anything to get it and keep it.

These individuals are diseased.  But the disease almost seems contagious.  Due to their influence, mostly through the media and through pre-paid politicians, they're able to convince seemingly healthy, clearheaded people to vote against their own interests, to donate to causes that hurt them, to work against their own good and the good of their descendants and the world in general.

What's needed, I think, is knowledge.  REAL knowledge.  Not prepackaged fluff from news agencies with an agenda.  The simple facts.  I would hope that, if people knew the truth, they would act in a way to benefit the most people over the long run.  This is what I want to believe.  It's what I have to believe.  Because if it's not true, then our entire species is diseased and we don't deserve to survive the next 100 years.

Such hope isn't science.  There's no evidence to support it.  But nor is it faith.  I no longer have the emotional energy for faith.  It's just hope.  I'm seeing signs.  I see more people opening their eyes, learning the truth for themselves, and working toward the greater good.  I see things improving overall.

I hope I'm not wrong.