Uncommon Sense

April 29, 2022

Elon Musk’s Twitter Buy Puts Free Speech on Sale

Filed under: Business,Culture,Politics,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 10:22 am
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I just saw a piece on a local e-newspaper with the above title and my immediate response was WTF?

People, let’s get this straight! “Freedom of speech” is a promise made in the first amendment of the federal constitution. Other amendments extend it to all of the state governments in the union. What is says is that the “government” can pass no law restricting the freedom of speech. The purpose of this law was to protect political speech in our democratic process, not to make sacred the utterings and opinions of every moron in the country.

Twitter is a private corporation and it is not subject to restrictions placed upon the government. There are laws, here and in other countries, that Twitter does need to conform with but “freedom of speech” isn’t one of them.

And for those over eight years old, remember when we talked to one another, in person? That is still an option. If you want to spread your message wide, you can rent a hall and announce your presentation as being a free event! You are sure to draw a large crowd, so be sure to get a public address system.

You can also go on numerous TV channels, podcasts, YouTube, etc. to “share” your wisdom.

If Twitter were to go away tomorrow it wouldn’t make a ripple in the stream of our free speech. In fact, since the medium demands shallow communication, that is the best thing Elon Musk could do.

April 27, 2022

Do You Participate on Social Media?

Filed under: Technology — Steve Ruis @ 10:47 am
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According to my dictionary social media consists of “websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking,” which seems overly broad, for example Microsoft Word “enables users to create and share content” but I can’t think of anyone which would claim it is a social media application. According to this very broad definition, this blog (and yours) are part of “social media.” Although Merriam Webster (my go to dictionary) defines it slightly differently as “forms of electronic communication (such as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos).” This seems more on the mark and the reference to “microblogging,” e.g. Twitter, kind of leaves full scale blogs out. So, maybe this is not a part of social media.

Other than that I think most people do not think much about blogs. If asked whether they participate on social media, they think of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and what not. Here is my participation tally on whether or not I participate on such sites:
Facebook?  No
Twitter? No
Instagram? No
Youtube?  Yes , as a watcher only
WhatsApp? No
WeChat? No
TikTok? No
SnapChat? No
Pinterest? No
Reddit? No
Quora? Yes
Skype?  Yes (to chat with grandkids)
LinkedIn?  Used To

So, of these 13, I got 3 yes’s, ten no’s.

To get a list of such sites I first searched for “social media sites” and, yikes! There are millions of the damned things. So, I jumped to the Top Twenty Social Media Sites for 2022. (I left off the Chinese language ones.) And, of the remaining 13, I got 3 yes’s, ten no’s. I also participate on Medium.com which is a mix of social media and journalism (also called a “social publishing platform”).

I tend to lump Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat and Instagram as GWOTs (Giant Wastes of Time), but it looks likely that my blogging could be also described by that.

How about you?

April 26, 2022

Speculating on UFOs

I just skimmed a blog post with the title “What If UFOs Are From Here?” The answer is obvious. It seems that the majority of UFOs are from here. You see, there is a progression. When something is first declared to be an unidentified flying object (UFO), if anyone bothers to make a substantial attempt to identify it, and in that effort, actually does identify it, the UFO becomes an IFO (identified flying object). And, apparently, thousands of UFOs have become IFOs, so the question “what if UFOs are from here?” is moot at best.

The real question needing to be addressed is “are all UFOs from here?” The observations of a great many military pilots seem to suggest that some UFOs possess abilities far beyond that of current aircraft. And, yes, some of those UFO’s were “caught” on film and radar, etc. (Note—Optical effects, sun dogs, mirages, etc. do not show up on radar.)

It is really hard to find an answer to a question that is ill-formed in the first place.

Gort “Klaatu barada nikto”

Even so, people do tend to go off of the rails. Their speculations seem to be focused on “What if UFOs aren’t from here?” and immediately go to the existence of aliens. Actually, if there are UFO’s not from here, the most interesting conclusion is not that aliens exist (that is a high probability speculation) but that faster-than-light speed (FTL) propulsion drives are possible and we should invent one (or more).

Here is my argument. There are ridiculous numbers of stars and planets. Leaving out other galaxies, because they are far, far too far away even for FTL driven ships, there are about 100 billion stars in just our Milky Way galaxy, and even greater number of planets, so the odds on life having evolved on some of those planets is essentially 1 (100%). So, assuming that this alien species evolved to make a FTL driven space ship and did so about the same time as our existence (not in our far past or will do so in our far future) and exists on a planet relatively close to us, we can make a few speculations. It has to be “relatively close” because the galaxy is 100,000 light years wide, which means it takes light 100,000 years to traverse it. If their FTL drive could make a speed of 10c (ten times the speed of light, c) it would take 10,000 years to traverse the galaxy. If 100c, then 1000 years. If 1000c then it would take only 100 years to traverse the galaxy, a reasonable time for the lifespan of living organisms. (So, the drive must be not just “faster” than the speed of light but many, many times faster than the speed of light.) Plus the stars they might want to explore aren’t necessarily at the outer edges of the galaxy, nor are they.

Now, let’s say all of the pieces are in place, the next question is why would they want to come here and study our sorry asses (. . . scalpel, forceps, probe . . .)? What would motivate such a species to seek out other species? Seeking out more advanced civilizations might be quite dangerous. In human history, every time a more advanced (technologically) civilization encountered one less advanced, it ended up with the less advanced civilization being brutally exploited. Seeking out primitive species would offer few rewards. Speculations have been that the “aliens” need: gold, water, air, uranium or other fissionables, etc. If that were the case, I think mining asteroids or unoccupied planets would be easier. An occupied planet may take umbrage at being exploited and the inhabitants may have weapons that were not considered to exist.

A civilization a little more advanced may have sharable technology (they want some of ours and we want some of theirs), but that is a fine line to tread.

Some alien enthusiasts claim that earth is literally littered with crashed alien space ships, to which I responded “So, they can navigate between the stars but not the obstacles on a planet’s surface, and we must conclude they are lousy drivers?”

Your thoughts?

April 11, 2022

Reinstitute Firing Squads!

Apparently, the shortage of the drugs commonly used for “painless lethal injection” executions of criminals has lead several states to consider other methods, one of which is to go back to firing squads.

Actually technology would make this a far simpler process. In traditional firing squads, multiple shooters, at least three, were use to fire at a condemned prisoners heart. Only one of those shooters, however had an actual bullet in their rifle, the others contained blanks. This was to lessen the impact of killing people for the state upon the shooters. The idea is that no “killer” could be identified, even by the people with the rifles.

Actually, human shooters are no longer required. Remotely operated rifles are available and could be set up to fire at a target placed over the condemned prisoner’s heart. If you wanted to further isolate the persons responsible for starting up the weapon, you could use multiple “go” switches, only one of which was actually involved in starting the aiming and firing sequence.

On second thought, let’s just do away with the death penalty. It is too messy legally, too many innocent people are executed, and it is too expensive. Executing someone on “Death Row” costs more than keeping them in prison for the rest of their life.

And, my argument is still that killing them terminates their suffering for the crime they committed. Keeping them alive with freedom in plain sight (out a window), but inaccessible, would be the less kind thing to do. And, of course, if they were wrongly convicted, there is time to discover the mistakes made and correct them.

March 31, 2022

A Must-See Documentary

Currently playing on Amazon Prime is a documentary entitled Billions in Change. At first I was thinking quarters, dimes, nickels, etc. but that was not the case (you’ll understand what it stands for below). The documentary is about Manoj Bhargava, the inventor of the 5-Hour Energy drink. As he tells it he had this idea, pursued it, and poof, he was worth over four billion dollars. So, what was he to do with his money, he thought. He started out funding various worthy projects but it felt like throwing sand in the ocean, unlikely to make a difference anywhere. So, build a space rocket to take his friends into space? No, that would be silly. What he did was buy an industrial park and create Innovations Ventures, LLC, in an attempt to solve major problems facing the whole world, especially focused upon the poor.

I won’t provide spoilers regarding the inventions he and his teams have been coming up with, but they are spectacular.

You probably know that I am of the opinion that we do not need billionaires. But if we are to have them, Mr. Bhargava is the kind we should have. Brilliant. Life changing. Watch it! I will watch it again tonight!

That is one of his inventions–a one hour stint on the recumbent bicycle generators produces enough electricity to power a poor household for 24 hours (no fossil fuels, air pollution, etc. involved).

March 24, 2022

Why Do So Many Kids Hate to Read?

Filed under: Culture,Education,language,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 10:55 am

There are, and have always been, people who do not like to read. From things I have read it seems that their numbers are increasing as a fraction of all of us.

There is a societal aspect to this. There are parents who read to their children all of the time and then acquire them “pablum” books to read themselves. There are also parents who have next to no books in their houses and do not read to their children. I presume this has an effect upon children raised in such households.

Sadly, many kids learn to hate reading for the simple fact that they were never given anything interesting to read. Most school books are painful to read and have been so mangled by reading level sweeps and censorship sweeps, as to be incoherent. (They may be “New” but they certainly aren’t “Improved.”)

I think another major factor is imagination. Before TV and video and the Internet, people told stores and, later read stories. As the words tumbled by our imaginations gave life to the dragons, and knights in shining armor, and brave princesses.

Most of you do not remember life before TV, but I was born in 1946 and we got our first TV in 1953, So, I was part of a household that listened to the radio. It was similar to being read to or a story being told and our imaginations did the heavy lifting. (Going to “the movies” was an infrequent thing at the time.) But soon came TV/video/Internet and our imaginations were required less and less.

My guess is that children raised with “handheld devices” constantly available will find reading laborious and somewhat colorless, compared to the whiz-bang visual extravaganzas available to them in vast quantities.

For those who eschew reading, a connection with the past is lost. You can read a writer’s thoughts directly and there is little translation. If you have to wait for the movie or mini-series to come out, you will be getting a treatment one or more steps removed from the original. (Anyone who loved J.R.R. Tolkien’s books was not entirely happy with the movie adaptations.) It is somewhat like reading something translated from another language. Some nuances will be lost. Scholars wishing to seriously study historical documents, for example, learn the languages they were written in so that such translating problems are minimized.

If you have a child who despises reading, a last gasp attempt to show the value to him/her may be as simple as when your child expresses a love for any topic (and I mean any) give them a gift of a good, easy to read book on that topic. It may encourage further explorations.

WTF? Entitlement?!

Filed under: Culture,Politics,Race,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 10:30 am

I saw a comment on the Internet in which the commenter argued that, well, “people are entitled to be anonymous if they want to be.”

Methinks entitlement has gone too far.

In this country (the U.S. of A.) there is no such entitlement. For example, you have to be known by the Social Security Administration just to get a job. You have to be known by some Department of Motor Vehicles just to be able to drive on public roads, etc. You cannot own a home or other property without showing up in public records. The only person I knew who tried seriously to become anonymous was doing so so that she could avoid paying taxes.

So, since the “entitlement claim” is referring to identifying who is “speaking” on the Internet, let us limit the discussion to that. Do people have the “right” to communicate anonymously on the Internet?

No. Simply because not being identifiable is incredibility difficult on the Internet. There are tracing tools and whatnot that allow people to be “located.” Search engines exist to search just for people. The very act of typing something and posting it leaves a trail of digital bread crumbs that can be followed. And if someone goes to that trouble and “outs you,” as in “AssKicker 831 is Joel Nerdly of Omaha, Nebraska,” what do you think the penalty is for doing that?

Right. <cricket, cricket, cricket>

What you do have is the right to try to be anonymous. There is no guarantee you will be successful.

I can think of only a handful of situations in which anonymity is appropriate (spousal abuse reporting, whistle blowing, voting, etc.) so I consider the use of monikers/pseudonyms/avatars, etc. to be suspicious. To communicate anonymously without a substantial reason is an attempt to avoid the societal pushback that causes us to think before we speak. Before the anonymity provided by the Internet, racist comments were disappearing from public discourse. Conversations held out in the open, at work, etc. were self-policed to avoid the approbation that one would get if one made racist comments. That is one of the few mechanisms by which a culture polices itself. But as soon as people learned they could communicate anonymously on the Internet, and hook up with other like-minded individuals, observable public racism made a big comeback in this country.

If some politicians decided to write a bill promoting the “entitlement to be anonymous” I would oppose it because it undermines our society.

March 9, 2022

Let The Grasping Begin

Filed under: Culture,Reason,Religion,Science,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 12:45 pm
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While we try to explain abiogenesis over and over again to newbie theists who think the theory of evolution covers it, progress on finding a mechanism for abiogenesis continues to be made in laboratories. Recently a team of Japanese scientists filled a major hole in the potential process by which living things could have formed from nonliving chemicals. To quote a Medium.com post:

But the main issue was the propagation, which according to the lead researcher, requires spontaneous polymer production and self-assembly under the same conditions. When they added water to the mixture at room temperature, they condensed & arranged it into peptides — which then spontaneously formed droplets. These peptides grew in size & quantity as more amino acids were fed to them.

Not only did this process work for amino acids forming proteins but also for (more complex) genetic material being formed from nucleic acids (genetic material building blocks).

Sensibly, the scientists stated:

While this new find does not guarantee that this is how complex life evolved on our planet but it does lend some credibility to the possibility.

Whenever a significant gap in our knowledge gets filled, one of two things happens: the religious apologists try to incorporate it into their theology, a la, the Big Bang theory or <cricket, cricket, cricket>. I have referred to the first effort as a manifestation of the time honored process of grasping at straws, meaning trying to find some way to succeed when nothing you choose is likely to work. (Well, besides my cartoon mind showing the God of the Gaps getting smaller and smaller crying “Oh, I’m melting” like the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz.)

I suspect that this time, we will get <cricket, cricket, cricket>, that is silence, about this finding, because the last thing these goobers want is a clear pathway between dead chemicals and living cells be shown to exist. They’d rather that no one notice that progress is even being made.

Why such a abiogenesis process is possible is a shock to anyone is beyond me. The facts are clear: whenever anything dies, it decomposes into a pile of not very valuable chemicals. That tells us is that, since everyone of us decomposes into roughly the same pile of chemicals, then all that we (you and I) are is a particular arrangement of those chemical’s atoms. So, it seems logical that there is a pathway for those dead atom’s to be arranged to create something alive (possessing the ability to eat, ability to propagate, etc.) The claim for the existence of a material or immaterial soul has no evidence, so that is just wishful thinking, so far.

I think I understand why organizations like Answers in Genesis and wealthy individual Christians do not sponsor research to find “the soul” they so dearly love to refer to, because not finding it would be evidence it did not exist. (Absence of evidence is evidence of absence, if many attempts are made to find the evidence and they all fail.) They would rather the question remain “open,” asking instead “well, how hard are those atheistic scientists trying to find the evidence?”

January 25, 2022

Crypto—Digital Greed

Filed under: Culture,Economics,Reason,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 8:52 am
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You have probably read here that I think capitalism needs to be on a leash, a leash held by government (of the people, by the people, for the people). If the leash is absent, capitalism is very, very destructive. Why? Because greed, that’s why. Capitalism places no limit on human greed.

You may also have read that the stock markets are a negative drain on the economy. The reason for that is that most sales are of already existing stocks, so the sales are based upon speculation, what the economist call “rents.” You take your money and let somebody else use it and you charge rent, interest, or whatever you want to call it. The problem is that nothing of value is being created, it is pure speculation, e.g. “buy low, sell high.”

Precious metals are often the subject of markets. When you buy a precious metal, such as gold, silver, palladium, etc. your are making the purchase in the hopes that the value of that material will go up, again speculation. Some buy gold as a hedge against inflation, that is they think its value will be eroded less than other assets, but again, this is a speculative endeavor. Nothing new is being created.

But at least gold and silver and whatnot have some pragmatic value. I have gold and silver both in my teeth right now. And this computer has connections that are gold plated. Of course, the adage that you can’t eat gold applies, but that can also be applied to some foodstuffs. (We all know what a lousy cook Grandma was.)

Then along comes cryptocurrency, or “crypto” in the jargon. This is a digital currency not tied to any government, so possibly it appeals to anarchists, but it is clearly a speculative endeavor, solely a speculative endeavor. There is no pragmatic function that it provides.

What it does provide is the speculative gambler’s rush thinking about how much money one could make buying and selling “crypto.” There is even a lampooning commercial now of a crypto holder thinking he is a millionaire and ten minutes later he is dejected because he is not a millionaire. This happens again and again. Wow, the experience of being a fat cat without needing a fortune to experience it! (The commercial is for a tax preparation service.)

So crypto, underneath all of the other justifications is just a rentier’s casino, allowing the little people to get in on the rich people’s game, making money without creating anything of value to society.

Interestingly, the religious people who are constantly bemoaning the values of our culture sinking into the cesspool of time, are completely quiet about crypto.

And why are economic endeavors that create nothing of value used so frequently in discerning the “health” of economies? The economy would be stronger, much stronger, if these endeavors didn’t exist.

December 19, 2021

The Internet and the Law of Unintended Consequences

Filed under: Culture,Philosophy,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 8:47 am

“Even though every individual possesses the truth, when he gets together in a crowd, untruth will be present at once, for the crowd is untruth.”—Soren Kierkegaard

With all of the wonderful attributes the Internet possesses and from which we benefit, one that was not anticipated was that it basically is a crowd-forming system: crowds of climate change deniers, Holocaust deniers, anti-vaxxers, COVID skeptics, Flat Earthers, chem trail claimers, all manner of political bullshit spreaders, etc.

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