Older blog entries for steve (starting at number 229)

Do I Detect a Cultural Regression?

I’ve noticed an increasing number people suggesting that conservatives are being replaced by “regressives”. By definition, conservatives advocate keeping things the same or “conserving” the status quo. To them, any problems we have are caused by change. Preventing change prevents problems. Progressives believe problems are inevitable and their solution requires us to change or “progress”. We used to have a third group, almost extinct, called moderates who believed we needed to use both approaches in moderation. Lately, a new group seems to be evolving. It started out as a small faction on the far religious right but it’s rapidly assimilating much of the right, maybe the entire Republican political party. For this new group, everything about the modern world is a problem that must be solved by regressing to ideas discarded in the past. The name “regressive” has been suggested to describe members of this group. In a Nov, 2011 blog post, Robert Reich, Professor of Public Policy at UC Berkley, described some differences between regressives and the conservatives they’re replacing.

What sort of regressions are we talking about? They want to take science out of education and replace it with religion. They want to roll back religious freedoms and replace them with a Christian theocracy. They want to turn back civil rights for women to days when women couldn’t vote and were property to be owned and used by men. They want to roll back regulations that protect the economy and the environment from the abuses of corporations. They want to roll back awareness of our place in the natural world, the importance of the environment, and any belief that the human race should work conserve natural resources. To quote Ann Coulter, “God said, ‘Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it.” They want a world where they can pollute the air and water, sell toxic foods and drugs with impunity. When they talk about deregulation, that’s what they’re after; rolling back any and all restrictions on business. At the same time, they advocate an authoritarian government that restricts freedoms, liberties, and privacy of individuals. They advocate government mandated, unnecessary medical procedures and other draconian measures to enforce their religion’s moral code on all citizens.

The regressives also want to roll back public education. They target education and science as “elitist” and frequently demean books, scientists, schools and teachers. If they really want to insult someone, they call them “professorial” or “academic”! They have already personally regressed to a time when the concepts of “believing” and “knowing” are conflated. In their view, science and facts are just sets of beliefs, like religion. This leads to a phenomenon known as denialism that seems to go hand-in-hand with regressionism. Because facts are no different than beliefs, there’s no reason to accept them if you don’t want to. Don’t like the latest theory of climatology? Deny it. Have pesky geologists and cosmologists determined the Earth is older than the 5,000 years you’d like it to be? Deny it. Don’t like that theory of Evolution that biology is based on? Deny it.

They deny medical facts like the efficacy of vaccines and the existence of AIDS; historical facts as big as the Holocaust or as small as Obama’s birthplace. I can think of no field of science or history immune to denialism. Instead of truth, they now see truthiness. And having lost their grip on reality, they seem to easily succumb to belief in every form of superstition, pseudoscience, and conspiracy theory. From Tea Party claims that electric utility Smart Meters emit “spy rays” to a resurgence in belief that the Earth is flat, I don’t remember any time in the past when so many people fall victim so easily to so many forms of quackery and nonsense. If you can choose what’s a fact on a whim, it’s easy to choose “facts” that reinforce your existing views and deny those than don’t. This creates a feedback loop, constantly pushing you to further extremes.

Ironically, denialism among fundamentalists has taken them so far to the right that they now see “liberal bias” in the Bibles that needs to be denied. They’ve started the “Conservative Bible Project” to rewrite the Bible without the dangerous “liberal ideas” that have “crept in”. Their new-and-improved Bible will be anti-science, anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-women’s-rights, anti-communism (apparently the word “comrade” is used too frequently in modern translations!). It will leave out “liberal falsehoods” such as Jesus defending a prostitute from stoning by telling the crowd that whoever is without sin should cast the first stone. Also to be dropped is Jesus saying “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Obviously, if God and Jesus were good conservatives they’d stick to the party line as understood by the modern right.

No better example of denialism exists than North Carolina’s bizarre new law that restricts the rate of sea level rise and limits the methods scientists may legally use to study it. It also forbids them from discovering that the ocean may rise at an accelerated rate in the future! Perhaps next they’ll make a law requiring the Earth to be flat or legislate gravity out of existence?

What’s the reason for this growing group of regressionists and their denialism? Is it just a chance coalition of religious fundamentalists and far-right facists? Is it our equivalent of the Taliban? Is something in the water making people stupid?

Perhaps regressionism is an over-reaction to the increasing pace of scientific and cultural change in the world; change that can erode traditional beliefs. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by change, especially when we hold on to a too-rigid world view that can’t adapt to new facts. Maybe it’s something else. I honestly don’t know. I hope we can find a way to fight it. If not, well, when the Regressive Inquisition kicks down your door and hauls you off to be burned as a witch for having too many books or “believing in” science, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Syndicated 2012-06-07 02:58:31 from Steevithak of the Internet

Waiting for the Plane

I’m at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, Terminal C, gate 14, waiting to board a flight to Santa Ana, California. I’m headed to the VEX Robotics World Championship event in Anaheim where I’ll be shooting photos. It’s also the first time I’ve flown in nearly a year.

As usual, I forgot to eat breakfast this morning. There’s a Wendy’s directly across from gate 14, so I walk over and order a breakfast sausage biscuit; Wendys’ version of an Egg McMuffin. The Wendys is chaotic. There’s a guy dissasembling a deep fryer, pulling out a grunge-encrusted pump. There are several people running around behind the counter preparing orders. A manager is training someone at the register. Orders are taking a long time.

I finally get my Wendy’s McBreakfast thing and hunt down an unoccupied seat at a row of tables. Like the Wendy’s itself, the sausage biscuit is suprisingly random. McDonalds Egg McMuffins are precisely shaped, each identical to the one before and the one after. But this looks like someone literally fried an egg in a pan and plopped it onto a randomly shaped biscuit. I drink my tiny plastic cup of orange juice to cut through the greasy fast food taste left from the biscuit.

There’s no recycle bin. Nobody recycles at airports. Everything is trash; the paper bag, the plastic cup. Maybe they sort out the recyclables later? I doubt it. I pick up my laptop bag and the new camera bag I’m trying out. I bought it at Fry’s last night. It’s a backpack style bag. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll return it when I get back to Dallas.

I’m assuming I’ll get back of course. I think about statistics. The odds against winning the lottery are millions to one but when the prize is big enough, we buy a ticket and hope to be that one in a million. The odds of dying in a plane crash are also millions to one but, when we fly, we hope we’re not the one. Being lucky doesn’t always mean beating the odds. Just to be safe, I buy one of those inexpensive travelers insurance policies.

On the way back to gate 14, I see a newstand and decide to check out the books. I usually take a book or two along on flights but didn’t have one handy this morning. It’s been a while since I’ve been in an airport bookstore. I’m disappointed to see there’s no science fiction. There are lots of supernatural/fantasy books about witches, wizards, and vampires. The only thing that’s even close to science fiction is The Hunger Games. I saw the movie a couple of weeks ago, so it doesn’t interest me much. I make my way back to the gate without a book. The plane should be here soon.

Syndicated 2012-04-20 07:16:17 from Steevithak of the Internet

The Monster From Earth’s End

The Monster From Earth's End

The Monster From Earth's End

The Monster From Earth’s End by Murray Leinster is another recent estate sale find. Murry Leinster isn’t my favorite author but always writes an entertaining story. Leinster was a pseudonym. His real name is William F. Jenkins, under which he’s better known as the inventor of the front-projection process used in movie special effects during the 1960s and 1970s. In the SF world, he’s known as the inventor of the parallel universe story, the originator of the term “First Contact”, and the idea of a Universal Translator, a handy device that later became common in SF and even beyond, thanks to its use on Star Trek.


The Monster from Earth’s End is not a groundbreaking novel. It’s billed as a science fiction “horror” story but fans of Stephen King or Dean Koontz aren’t likely to be very horrified. Despite the back cover blurb about bloody deaths and mysterious disappearances, and despite the front cover artwork of a beautiful nude woman being hoisted into the air by strands of green slime, the novel is pretty tame. It focuses much more on the characters and the science fiction aspects of the story than on the horror.

The plot is something of a cross between Gilligan’s Island, Who Goes There? and Day of the Triffids. Our protagonists operate a small military base on remote Gow Island, used as a refueling stop and storage depot for military and scientific planes doing research in the Antarctic.

“The island was a pile of dark rocks in an ocean which reached out endlessly from its shores. The winds of all the world blew around it, and seas marched three-quarters of the way around the globe to hurl themselves thunderously against its cliffs.”

Actually the island is not entirely dark rocks. It has a variety of wooded areas convenient as hiding places for spooky monsters and even an extra-spooky swampy area heated by underground hot springs. But the island has no animal life larger than harmless snakes and sea birds. There is a dock near the rocky shore for cargo ships. The inland base has a runway, some warehouses, a mess hall, radio shack, and a few other buildings.

The primary characters are Drake, the administrative officer; Nora, the executive assistant Drake would like to notice him; and Beecham, a research biologist. There 20 people on the island including quite a few supporting characters. There’s Spaulding, an officer who’s been stuck on the island too long and through overwork has become a bit irrational and paranoid. Hollister, the island’s chief mechanic, who can improvise a solution to any problem that crops up. Tom Beldon is a younger military man who’s made it his job to protect Drake from harm. There’s Sparks the radio guy, the cook and his assistant, and assorted other stock characters who seem to inhabit every remote base. Leinster does a great of job of giving every character a backstory and role to play as the plot unfolds.

As the story opens, an unscheduled cargo plane has stirred up excitement. It’s a research plane carrying scientists and crates of plant specimens from a newly discovered area in the Antarctic, an oasis of life heated by underground hot springs where life has evolved isolated from the rest of the world for untold years. As the plane approaches, something goes wrong. Over the radio, they hear shouts for a gun, shots fired, and then silence. The plane manages a crash landing. There’s no one aboard but the pilot, who shoots himself before they can reach him to find out what happened. All the passengers are missing and one of the crates of botanical specimens is scattered inside the plane.

The wrecked plane is blocking the runway, so the only way to get on or off the island now is by sea. After reporting the incident, base personal are asked to preserve the botanical specimens as best they can. Beecham takes the tree-like specimens from the broken crate and plants them near the island’s swampy hot spring area. The undamaged crates of specimens he moves into a warehouse for storage. Hollistor is set on the task of moving the wrecked plane from the runway.

That night the horrors begin. The dead pilot’s body vanishes. A dog dies mysteriously. Within a day, people start disappearing. Strange venomous insects turn up on the island. Evidence accumulates that some type of beast is loose on the island; something strong enough to kill a man and bend rifles in half. It comes and goes without being seen. Spaulding jumps to more and more irrational explanations, from prehistoric birds to invisible monsters. Drake does his best to keep the base from panicking. And, like any good leading man in a science fiction novel, he insists on reason.

“In the real world, everything follows natural laws. Impossible things do not happen. There is an explanation for everything that does happen. The explanation links it to other things. There are no isolated phenomena. There are only isolated observations, and sometimes there are false observations. But everything real is rational. There was a rational reason for everything that had taken place on Gow Island. The problem was to find it.”

He’s helped out here by Beecham, the biologist who spends most of the book gathering evidence and testing theories. How many horror novels these days have protagonists who fight unseen horrors using the scientific method? When the answer Beecham’s research leads him to an extraordinary conclusion, he asks Drake to double-check his evidence and come up with his own theory:

“I’ve been guessing at things, Drake, and I’ve got some evidence. Pitiably little, but evidence. Will you look at it? I think that just possibly there’s a very simple explanation for everything that’s happened. I want to show you the evidence and have you come to your own opinion. If it’s the same as mine, we’ll know what to do. What I suspect is perfectly reasonable. There’ve been legends about it. People have believed it for centuries. Nothing superstitious, Drake! I’m not talking about an actual discovery of werewolves, or anything like that. It’s quite natural. It’s even inevitable from a biologist’s standpoint. But I want somebody to look at the evidence with an open mind.”

But Beecham’s theory may be too late. Bad weather has cut off the base from sea rescue and Hollister needs more time to clear the runway — time they may not have. They’re forced to retreat to the buildings for safety when they learn they’re facing not one impossible creature but a multitude. Can they hold out until help arrives? Do they dare go outside to finish clearing the runway? Or should they try to hold out until the weather allows help from the Navy. Even if help arrives, can they chance a run for the docks? Who will die next? Will Drake ever get a chance to be alone with Nora? Will Beecham find a way to stop the invisible killers? The answers to all these questions await in this compact 175-page novel. Even if it’s not scary it is a fun read.

I’ve since discovered the book was the basis of an apparently awful 1966 Roger Corman film titled The Navy vs the Night Monsters, staring Mamie van Doren and Anthony Eisley. I haven’t seen it yet, but I found the trailer on YouTube.

Syndicated 2012-03-19 05:35:02 from Steevithak of the Internet

Fedora 16 and GNOME 3: First Impressions

I’ve been holding out on Fedora 14 for as long as I can, trying to avoid moving to GNOME 3. I’ve read too many bad reviews and horror stories. But I finally decided it was time to try it. I backed up my laptop and did a clean install of Fedora 16 and thought I’d offer my impressions.

GNOME 3 seems to be the result of a well-intentioned user interface design that largely misses the mark. The results could have been greatly improved by proper use of time-motion studies and consideration of common use-cases. Unfortunately, it feels like the design was done without the input of users. The result is that GNOME 3 makes almost everything I commonly do on my computer less intuitive and slower. By slower I mean three things: more keystrokes, more mouse clicks, more waiting while the UI presents unnecessary eye-candy in a task-blocking way. Here’s a simple example you’ll run into right away:

Shut down your computer in GNOME 2 – click ‘system’ menu, select ‘shutdown’, click ‘shutdown’ (or suspend, hibernate, or restart) on the shutdown dialog. Done.

Shut down your computer in GNOME 3 – click the name of the current user in the upper right hand corner. Select ‘logout’. Wait several seconds while the desktop cycles and brings up the desktop login screen, click ‘shutdown’.

Sure it looks really cool with all the animations, boxes, and stuff sliding up and down. And you could argue that it’s the same number of clicks but it really does take significantly longer. And there’s the added non-intuitiveness that a user will have to overcome to discover that clicking their user name and then logging out is required to find the ‘shutdown’ option. Compare that a user guessing that a click on a ‘system’ menu might present system-related functions like ‘shutdown’.

Use GNOME 3 for a couple of hours and you’ll find a dozen similar cases where common tasks are slightly slower and slightly less intuitive.

There are other, more drastic and baffling UI changes. One thing I noted throughout GNOME 3 is that there is a general move away from multi-tasking towards something more akin to a primitive task-switcher. Using GNOME 3 feels like a cross between a 1980s DOS task switcher and a badly designed phone UI.

For example, in GNOME 2, suppose you’re running several terminals to monitor real time data on a remote system. Now you want to open a word processor document to make some notes about the data your monitoring. You’d probably click the ‘Applications’ menu, select ‘Office’ and then ‘OO Writer’. And it would start without interrupting you other activities.

That simple, everyday scenario is completely impossible in GNOME 3 because it can only do one thing at a time visually. In order to start a word processor program you have no choice but to stop watching your terminals because the UI literally can’t do both things at once. Viewing the desktop and the ‘Activities’ menu simultaneously is not possible. So the thing to be aware of is that if you need multiple programs and are doing something critical, start them all before hand or you’ll be interrupted by the UI’s inability to multi-task.

So how do you start a new program anyway? Basically the same as always, except the applications menu is now called ‘Activities’ and takes up the entire desktop instead of a small area on the upper left. The first step is to click ‘Activities’. Then you wait while you’re shown a 2 or 3 second eye candy animation of windows zooming all over the place. Once the animation is over, the entire desktop is replaced with a combination of the old applications menu and a sort of crude taskbar that shows what’s running.

Not only does the ‘Activities’ menu takes up the entire desktop, but each level of the menu is in a different visual form and location. The first level is a horizontal text menu on the upper left, the second level is text-based again but vertically on the far right side of the screen, and the third level is a jumble of gigantic icons that fill the center of the screen. You’ll waste a lot of time and effort pushing the mouse pointer the full width and height of your screen several times to start one program. Need to start two programs? Sorry, can’t do it. Once you’ve started one, you’re taken away from the ‘Activities’ menu and back to the desktop, where you’ll have to click ‘Activities’ again and start all over for each program. Starting up a dozen or so things can be incredibly time consuming. The apparent design goal here is to slow productivity while speeding development of carpal tunnel syndrome.

As you’ve probably heard if you’ve read any reviews of GNOME 3, they’ve removed the maximize and minimize buttons from the windows. It makes you wonder if they set to out make GNOME 3 the most frustrating user interface ever. Think how many times a day you minimize windows. In GNOME 3 you’ll quickly end up with a disorganized mess of overlapping windows. Need to get a window out of the way for a few seconds and then bring it back? Sorry can’t do it anymore. Need to keep a certain program minimized and at the ready so you can pop it up briefly and hide it again? Sorry can’t do it. If a window becomes completely covered up, there’s no obvious way to reach it. The only way to get it back to the top is to drag and resize other windows until you can see enough of the desired window to click on it.

Why not just click on it in the task bar, you ask? Well, there isn’t one any more. At least there’s not one that’s visible on the desktop where you need it. So even though I found a hack to get the minimize button back on the windows, if I click the minimize button, I’m pretty much screwed.

Where does the minimized window go? Non-intuitivily, it ends up on the ‘Activities’ menu. Remember I mentioned when you first arrive on the ‘Activities’ menu there’s a crude replacement for the task bar? That’s where you’ll find your minimized window. Only you’ll have to identify it by squinting at little screen captures. There is some tiny text with the window title but it’s significantly smaller than the text in the GNOME 2 task bar. So if you had say, 10 browsers or terminals open and minimized a few, it becomes non-trivial to tell which is which among the screen captures on the ‘Activities’ menu. But you can always click them at random until you find the right one.

And between each of those random clicks you have to “task switch” back and forth between the desktop and the ‘Activities’ menu, watching the eye-candy animation of windows flying around between each transition. I think the goal here was generating something akin to road rage in the computer user.

Is there more bad news? You bet! Context menus have been removed. You remember context menus? The menus you get by right-clicking on things to find meta-functionality. Traditionally, left-clicks affect a thing itself (e.g. left clicking an program icon starts the program). Right clicks on the other hand traditionally bring up a menu of properties (e.g. a right click might give lead to settings or version information).

Well throw a couple of decades of usability research out the window because GNOME has a better way of doing it! Let’s get rid of that right-click menu by – wait for it – taking away all the functionality that it accessed. In GNOME 3 a right click duplicates exactly the functionality of a left click. Any function you used to access from a right-click is gone, with a few exceptions where they’ve shoe-horned the functionality in a left click menu. So, no, your mouse isn’t broken, it’s just being used half as efficiently now.

Typical example: left click the Network Manager icon in the task bar of GNOME 2. You get a list of available networks. Now right-click. You get a list of options that affect how Network Manager behaves, like turning notifications on or off, editing connections, or version information. Okay, what about in GNOME 3? Left click is pretty much the same, a list of network you can log on to. Right click is – yikes! – it’s the same as left click. How do you turn notifications on and off? Sorry, can’t do it. How do you edit connections? Left click again and look at the bottom – they’ve shoved a new option in there: “Network Settings”. Where’s “about”? Gone. I’ve noticed that menus like ‘help’, ‘about’, and ‘version’ are hard to find in GNOME 3. Even finding out what version of Fedora you’re running (two clicks in GNOME 2) is now a complex task that a new user is unable to discover without help.

To give a more commonly used example, how do you change your desktop background? In GNOME 2 you right click on the desktop and select ‘change desktop background’. In GNOME 3 it’s a bit harder to find. Click your user name, then ‘System Settings’, then ‘Background’. As with a lot of the changes, it’s only slightly harder and slightly less intuitive but the cumulative effect will make you want to throw your computer out the window.

It took nearly an hour to get a common network printer working with Fedora 16. This is a process that was intuitive and took only a few seconds on Fedora 14. GNOME 3 kept complaining that I needed to change the settings in a firewall daemon (firewalld), a message that would be meaningless to new users (and may represent a new firewall mechanism – the name isn’t familiar to me from previous versions of Fedora). Where is the firewall UI? Never found it. Not in ‘user name’ -> ‘system settings’ which would be the obvious first choice. Also not in ‘Activities’ -> ‘system tools’ or ‘Activities’ -> ‘internet’. Apparently there’s not a firewall UI component in GNOME 3.

After a little Googling, I discovered the GNOME 3 printer setup UI is completely broken anyway, Recommendation online was to ignore it and use the old version from GNOME 2, which is possible by going to the command line and typing ‘system-config-printer’. You may need to install it if it’s not there already. Once I did this I was able to get the printer working in under a minute.

There are too many similar annoyances and my rant is getting way too long so I’ll just list a few others I’ve run into without expounding on them:

  • You can’t run multiple instances of a terminal any more. Trying to start a second terminal just takes you back to the one you already started. This is a deal-breaker for me as I often have as many as dozen terminals open at once.
  • No more applets on the tool bar. Forget that weather applet that tells you the temperature outside, or the little CPU temperature monitors, and bandwidth monitors, all gone.
  • There is a clock on the tool bar but it’s completely unconfigurable aside 24 hour vs 12 hour time. No date, no seconds. And worst of all, it’s centered and displays in a proportional font, so it jiggles back and forth every time it updates.
  • The only difference between the active desktop window and inactive windows is a slight variation in the text color: dark gray on light gray for active compared to slightly less dark gray on light gray for inactive.
  • There are lots of violations of the principle of least surprise. For example, typing something in the “search” field of the ‘Activities’ menu doesn’t search the ‘Activities’ menu, it starts a web browser and does a wikipedia search (forget about finding the firewall configuration that way).
  • One of the most surprising changes is that the update notification in the status bar is gone. There’s no way to know when software updates are available now unless you manually start the software update program, another thing that won’t be intuitive for newbie users.
  • The concept of multiple desktops is gone as is the desktop pager on the lower task bar. Maybe the theory is that since window management is a mess now, one messy desktop is better than several?

So to sum it up, there are two fundamental problems here: 1) GNOME 3 is buggy and unfinished 2) GNOME 3 is fundamentally a non-intuitive UI design that’s inefficient and slow to use. I suspect that by Fedora 17 or 18, problem #1 will be rectified and it will be a lot less buggy and have features that are missing from the current version. Problem #2 I’m not so sure about. There are a lot basic UI design mistakes in GNOME 3 and I’m not sure they can be easily fixed.

A good start to improving GNOME 3 would be:

  • Add a better, smaller applications menu to the top toolbar so programs can be started without leaving the desktop.
  • Add a bottom task bar, or at least a task area to the top tool bar so it’s easy to find out what’s running without leaving the desktop.
  • Add max/min butttons back to windows to simplify windows management
  • Add right-click context menus to speed up access to frequently used properties of desktop objects.

Those four changes would make GNOME 3 ten times faster and easier for new users. It wouldn’t completely fix things but it would be a good start.

Syndicated 2012-03-09 00:43:12 from Steevithak of the Internet

The Non-statistical Man

The Non-Statistical Man

The Non-statistical Man is a collection of four short stories by Raymond F. Jones. The author is better known to some for his novel, This Island Earth , which was turned into a cheesy 1950s B movie and later lampooned on MST3K. But Jones’ real claim to fame is the title short story in this book, The Non-statistical Man, which has been called the best science fiction ever written about the human sense of intuition. Like most interesting SF books, this one is long out of print. I’d read it before, many years ago, in an anthology or old pulp. I recently happened across this copy at an estate sale and bought it so I could re-read it.

The Non-statistical Man is the story of Charles Bascomb, chief statistical analyst for a major insurance company; a man obsessed with logic and precision, a man who lives and breathes statistics, a man who endlessly ridicules his wife’s sense of intuition. His world slowly turns upside down after he discovers a series of anomalous insurance claims. Somehow a growing number of people are buying exactly the insurance they need, just in time to make a claim, and then cancelling. Convinced there is something possibly illegal and definitely strange going on, Bascomb sets out to investigate.

The trail leads to Dr. Magruder, an obvious quack who teaches self-help classes designed to develop the human sense intuition through a series of mental exercises and pills. The mental exercises are clearly nonsense and the pills turn out to be ordinary vitamins when analyzed. But somehow, where ever the doctor turns up, people begin outsmarting insurance companies. Every time Bascomb thinks he’s close to understanding the scam, logic and statistics fail him. His wife’s logic-defying intuition, however, repeatedly puts him back on the right track.

If Bascomb can’t put a stop to Magruder and his quackery, the entire insurance industry is doomed and field of statistics with it. In his desperation to preserve his world view and belief in statistics over intuition, Bascomb decides the only way to find out the doctor’s secret is to sign up for classes, take the pills, and follow the exercises. Strange doesn’t even begin to describe the events that follow.

The other stories in the book are enjoyable footnotes in SF history but don’t compare to The Non-statistical Man. The Gardener is the story of a child born with a mutation that gives him unusual mental powers. It’s notable primarily for an early use of the term Homo Superior. The term originated from Olaf Stapledon’s story Odd John in 1935.

The Moon is Death, set in a future of interplanetary travel, is the story of astronauts sent to Earth’s moon to find out why no mission there has ever returned. It reads like an early SF pulp story; you’ve got weird radiation, rapid aging, gun fights on rockets, and atomic explosions.

I found Intermission Time marginally more interesting. It involves colonists travelling to a planet with two intentionally designed societies that are experiments in solving problems that have plagued human history. Two musicians, a brother and sister, are destined for one of the colonies. John, the brother, falls in love with Lora, a woman he meets aboard the ship who’s destined for the other colony. Once a colonist commits to the voyage, they can’t back out or change plans and both colonies are sealed against contact with the other. The two lovers are faced with a series of dilemmas and choices, balancing individual relationships against the good of the species.

Lastly, I can’t help but add that this is the 1968 Belmont Future Series (B50-820) paperback edition published by Belmont Books of New York with some interesting and uncredited cover art that looks suspiciously like it might be the work of Robert M. Powers.

Syndicated 2012-03-01 06:34:17 from Steevithak of the Internet

It’s 2012, Time to Talk Resolutions?

Another year gone and it’s time to take stock of things done and make some plans for the new year. Do you want me list off a lot of goals and resolutions for 2012? I didn’t think so – too boring. How about if pull out my list of goals for 2011 and tell you some of the stuff I actually did. Things really done are always more interesting to read about.

After devoting a huge amount of 2010 to getting Dallas Makerspace off the ground, I took most of 2011 off from hackerspace managing. I attended meetings and helped out now and then but most of my time and interest went elsewhere.

In late January 2011, I joined a team of Camerpedia editors in saving the website from being assimilated by Wikia. We relaunched it under the new name Camera-Wiki.org. I developed quite an interest in Vivitar history and have been collecting many of the oldest Vivitar lenses; not just to document on Camera-Wiki but also to shoot with. Camera-wiki.org has been a huge success and has attracted lots of new editors. It’s growing at a faster rate than it ever did in it’s previous incarnation and we’re working hard to improve the quality as well as the quantity of the content. Hosting is paid for entirely through donation, so if you appreciate old cameras and lenses, why not help us out by donating a few dollars to our hosting fund!

I’ve continued to pursue photography in other ways. I did several more shoots with models in 2011. I did several paid shoots including a gig as the official photographer for the 2011 Vex World Championships. My photo essays continue to be published in Robot Magazine and Servo Magazine. One of my photographs was displayed in a local art exhibit, meeting another of my goals for the 2011. I hope to be in more exhibits during 2012.

Susan and I attended lots of art exhibits, music performances, and a few lectures. I managed to get to several Pecha Kucha and Spark Club events. Much more of the same for the 2012 I hope!

If you’re not an Advogato or robots.net user, you won’t really care but I finally managed to get the long-awaited libxml2 parser into the mod_virgule code base. It’s still a bit buggy but no more so than the old parser and it provides a good path forward for consolidating and simplifying the code. Whether mod_virgule can remain relevant in the world of Facebook and Google+ is another question. Perhaps 2012 will provide the answer to that one.

2011 was the year I finally created some ornaments for the annual Blue Yule charity auction at the MAC. I also volunteered at the 2011 Art Conspiracy Auction. That took care of two more 2011 goals. I hope to find a few more outlets for my artistic and creative sides in 2012.

As usual, there were goals I didn’t meet in 2011. I didn’t finish the project of scanning all my family photos. This has turned out to be much more material than I’d anticipated. I’ve scanned thousands of old photographs and negatives so far. Hopefully 2012 will see the scanning portion of the project completed.

2012 is an election year but with Obama running for his second term that means there is only going to be a Republican primary this year. I consider myself an independent but still feel compelled to vote in the primaries, which means this year I’ll be voting in the Republican primary regardless of how I vote in the final election.

At present I’m leaning toward Ron Paul for the primary vote. I don’t really like any of the choices but Ron Paul seems the least insane of the bunch and I think may be the only one of them who holds any positions at all that I actually agree with.

So for the next four years, the State of Texas will consider me a Republican despite my claim to be an independent. I’m pondering whether I should start going to my local Republican group meetings and see if I can do anything to reform them or shift them a bit toward the center or at least slow their movement toward the right-wing fringes. Unfortunately, I don’t think reason mixes well with the far right (or the far left for that matter). I’ll report on my experiences if anything interesting happens.

Syndicated 2012-01-09 03:24:53 from Steevithak of the Internet

Steevithak’s Pecan Pie Recipe

Like Pecan Pies? I do and I’ve been working on a way to make one that doesn’t involve using corn syrup. It’s taken a few years to perfect this recipe. The family Thanksgiving dinner each year is about the only time I make one, so the testing and revision cycle is a bit extended.

I should also explain that the reason I want to avoid corn syrup is primarily for the taste. I loathe the stuff and always have. I’ve avoided it for years, even before research began to show that HFCS was bad for you. I’m by no means claiming that this pecan pie is healthy – it still contains massive amounts of sugar. So bake and eat at your own risk.

In place of corn syrup, I’ve used another type of invert sugar – cane syrup. I get this at the local farmers market but it should also be available in most grocery stores that carry organic products. Because one of my goals was to avoid the super-sweet machine-made flavor of corn syrup, I’ve opted to combine the cane syrup with a small amount of molasses. Molasses is actually the waste product of producing cane syrup and other refined cane sugars; all the vitamins, minerals, and taste ends up in the molasses while most of the pure sugar ends up in the syrup. By putting a little molasses in, you get a much darker, more complex taste. The exact ratio of cane syrup to molasses is something you’ll want to adjust to your own taste. The Rum and brown sugar were chosen for the same reasons, they add a bit more complexity to the taste.

You can also change the sweetness a bit by adjusting the ratio of pecans to filling. For a sweeter pie reduce the number of pecans to a single layer on the surface. To decrease the sweetness, increase the number of pecans so that about half the thickness of the pie is pecans.

Also, one note on the Cinnamon is due; I’m using true cinnamon, aka Ceylon cinnamon. If you’re using grocery store Cinnamon (actually called Cassia), then you’ll probably want to use only 1 teaspoon or leave it out altogether. The tastes are quite different. If you’re not sure which you have, you have Cassia, it’s the substance most commonly sold as “cinnamon” in grocery stores. And if you’ve never tasted true cinnamon, I highly recommend buying some trying it out.

Ok, so on to the actual recipe.

Steevithak’s Pecan Pie
Revision 2.0 [2011-11-21]

1 Cup Cane syrup
2/3 Cup brown sugar
4 Tablespoon melted butter
1 Tablespoon dark rum
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon molasses
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups broken pecans
1/2 cup pecan halves
2 9 inch unbaked pie shell

Pre-heat to 350 degrees, use rack in middle of oven

Prep fresh pecans:
Bring pan of water to boil. Blanch pecans in boiling water for 1 minute. Oils that lead to bitter pecans will form a dark scum on surface of water. Remove pecans and rinse well. Toast pecans at 350 F for 10-15 minutes.

Construct the crust
Combine two pie shells for double thickness to help offset sweetness of pie. If you’d prefer, you can also make your own crust. This is left as an exercise for the reader.

Make the filling
Microwave cane syrup in 30 second bursts, or set in a saucepan of warm water, until the syrup is pourable

Combine the syrup, brown sugar, melted butter, rum, salt, vanilla, cinnamon, and molasses in a large sauce pan. Heat to boiling point, stirring constantly. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool.

While syrup cools, beat eggs in a separate bowl until creamy. When the syrup has cooled below boiling, stir in the beaten eggs and broken pecans.

Bake the pie
Pour mixture into pie shell, add pecan halves on top by hand. Add aluminium foil to cover exposed pie crust around edge. Bake for about 50 to 55 minutes. The pie is done when the top layer forms a deep golden brown crust that is firm when tapped. Aluminium foil may be removed during last 15 minutes for a more well done crust edge.

Syndicated 2011-12-22 21:46:03 from Steevithak of the Internet

The Art Instinct by Dennis Dutton

I finished reading The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, and Human Evolution by the late Dennis Dutton a while back and it’s about time I write a short review. Actually, I read it aloud to Susan. In addition to our own personal reading lists, we usually have a shared book that I read aloud when we’re on long drives or working on some project around the house. We alternate between fiction and non-fiction. Susan selected the Art Instinct because it covered topics we’re both interested in: art, evolution, aesthetics, anthropology, the human brain, to name a few.

The title is most likely having a bit of fun with Steven Pinker’s 1994 book, The Language Instinct, which examines how the brain evolved an innate capacity for language (also a great book by the way, did I ever write a review of that one? Hmmmm). Dutton’s book uses a similar model. He argues that our sense of aesthetics is not just an arbitrary social construct as presumed by many art critics and academics.

He leads into his arguments by attempting to answer the question of why landscapes depicted in calendar art are so uniform – in every country, in every climate, everywhere in the world. A well-known 1992 study sought to explain why humans find one particular type of landscape more beautiful and appealing than all others. We favor this type of landscape whether it occurs in calendar art, golf courses, public parks, or classic paintings. Americans favor it, as do Europeans, Inuits, Russians, even members of the most remote and primitive tribes who may never have seen this type of landscape before.

The landscape we favor happens to be identical to the Pleistocene savanna of the type that occurs in Africa. Evolving hominid hunter-gathers who favored this type of savanna had much higher chances of survival. It’s a landscape with direct evidence of game animals, variegated cloud patterns, evidence of water, low forking fruit-bearing trees (food sources and easily climbable to escape predators), alternating open and wooded spaces. If you’ve never read it, the original study is: Evolved Responses to Landscapes by Gordon H. Orians and Judith H. Heerwagen.

Frederic Church landscape with elements we’ve evolved to find attractive.

After going over the various non-evolutionary explanations and why they were found wanting, he moves on to similar cases of direct evidence of evolution shaping our aesthetic tastes. Can evolution explain, for example, why blue, the color of the sky and water is the most common favorite color? Green, the colors of plant life, is our second most commonly expressed favorite color. Our desire to see blue and green came to mind as I was writing because I’d just returned from an exhibit of paintings by Cathey Miller. She paints residents of the mythical Cathedonia in luminescent shades of blue or green. Somehow, I find a sort of perverse pleasure in knowing that the part of my brain which finds Cathedonia paintings appealing evolved to help my Pleistocene ancestors survive.

Watching by Cathey Miller, from the Cathedonia Blue Morpho Series

The tricky part is getting from the easy cases like agreement on colors and landscape to a more general description of beauty and aesthetic taste. It’s hard to look for the origin of a thing until you can agree on what the thing is. So, a large part of the book is involved in trying to precisely define art. Much time is spent or edge cases that are controversial – is Duchamp’s Fountain art? Are other readymades art? Why are expertly made forgeries not respected as much as expertly made originals? What about people who insist this or that category of art isn’t really art (e.g. abstract art, rap music, photography, etc).

Once he’s established a working definition or art, he goes after the problem of understanding how an innate sense of beauty could have evolved. He examines what we know about our evolutionary history to see if we can discover ways in which an innate art instinct would have direct survival value or if it could be an adaptive effect of some other survival characteristic that natural selection would have favored. Alternately, he looks at whether the art instinct is a result or adaptation of the other major evolutionary mechanism, sexual selection; like the Peacock’s tail – a case where sexual selection trumps natural selection. A bright tail actually has a negative survival value but serves as a fitness signal to the females (“hey, look, I’m so awesome at this survival game, even this flashy tail isn’t a problem. Mate with me!”).

Contrary to what art academics have argued for years, that art is culture-specific, Dutton presents world and history ranging emprical evidence that human appreciation for beautify is innate and occurs everywhere and at every time humans exist. To put it another way, Dutton’s revolutionary argument is that beauty is not “in the eye of the beholder” as folk wisdom claims but is rather part of the core workings of every human brain that evolved over millions of years.

What makes Dutton’s effort interesting (to me at least) is that it’s not just some random guy’s opinion, it’s an attempt to find an empirical, objective way to think about beauty and art; something that is not easily done. His efforts stop short of providing definitive proof that the evolution of our aesthetic sense followed the path he describes but he makes a convincing case.

Whether you’re a cognitive scientist or an artist, you’ll find this an interesting read. Who would have thought that it was Darwin and not some philosopher who finally figured out how beauty works! If you’d like to find out more about the book, visit The Art Instinct website. And you can read more about Dennis Dutton on his personal website, DennisDutton.com

In February of 2010, Dennis Dutton summarized the book in a 15 minute TED talk. The book offers enormously more detail, fascinating anecdotes, and mountains of evidence collected around the world and throughout history. But if you’d like a quick overview of what his book is all about, you can’t beat this TED talk.

Syndicated 2011-12-07 18:47:36 from Steevithak of the Internet

Help Stop Some Bad Legislation

More bad legislation is headed our way. Sorry for the long rant, I hate politics but it seems unavoidable sometimes. If you already know all about the PROTECT IP legislation, feel free to skip the following rant, but please scroll to the bottom of this post, click the PopVox links and register your opposition to the bills.

Big media corporations are trying to buy more legislation that will boost their profits and restrict our freedoms. This time they’ve written legislation that will create a “great firewall of America” similar to the one in China. It will allow the government to block access to any website their corporate donors disapprove of. It would do a lot of other bad things too. How can they get away with this, you ask. The media corporations claim this legislation will stop “pirates” (by which they mean people who share ideas and creative works with their neighbors, not people in funny hats who steal your boat and make you walk the plank). Here’s how the Fight for the Future blog describes the new legislation:

It’ll give the government new powers to block Americans’ access [to] websites that corporations don’t like. The bill would criminalize posting all sorts of standard web content — music playing in the background of videos, footage of people dancing, kids playing video games, and posting video of people playing cover songs. This legislation will stifle free speech and innovation, and even threaten popular web services like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

But even though the legislation would make us all suffer, maybe that’s worth it because it will eliminate piracy, right? Wrong. It won’t affect piracy at all. Zeropaid posted a detailed explanation of 8 technical methods of circumventing these censor ship laws that would allow piracy to continue unaffected while the rest of us lose our freedoms.

So it makes life worse for us and doesn’t affect piracy? That sucks but like a Ginsu knife commercial, this is the point where I say “but wait, that’s not all! You also get a broken Internet!” That’s right, this legislation was written by Hollywood lawyers who don’t have a clue how the Internet actually works and have probably never even used it themselves. The technical changes this legislation requires to allow censorship of the Internet will literally break the Domain Name System. Anyone who knows anything about the technical side of the Net knows Paul Vixie (as in Vixie cron, BIND, that sort of thing). He described in detail all of the breakage that will be caused to the Net if these bill pass and also noted that it would create new security issues:

Say your browser, when it’s trying to decide whether some web site is or is not your bank’s web site, sees the modifications or hears no response. It has to be able to try some other mechanism like a proxy or a VPN as a backup solution rather than just giving up (or just accepting the modification and saying “who cares?”). Using a proxy or VPN as a backup solution would, under PROTECT IP, break the law.

Just a few of the groups who are helping to oppose this awful legislation include the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, The American Library Association, Public Knowledge, Center for Democracy and Technology, American Association of Law Libraries, and Association of Research Libraries. Even a few of the least evil corporations like Google are opposing the legislation. But unless there’s a big outcry, Congress will do what the highest bidder pays them to do. A lot of big companies stand to profit from this legislation. They are paying a lot of money for it to be written and passed. The MPAA supports it – that alone should be enough to convince any reasonable person that it’s bad legislation!

The bills are S.968 “Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011″ and H.R.3261 “The Stop Online Piracy Act”. Like most bills, these have deceptive names. The bills will neither stop online piracy nor prevent threats to creativity. The bills are themselves a threat to online innovation and creativity. What they will do is help a few big corporations boost their profits while significantly curtailing your freedoms. That’s just how the bill-naming process works these days.

So what can you do? Unfortunately not much. Legislation has become a commodity that’s bought, written, and passed by large corporations with lots of money (that’s what the Occupy movement is protesting – the 1% who influence our legislative process to further their own greed). But you can at least make your opposition clear to Congress and entertainment industry folks who are buying this legislation. The easiest way to do that is to write a letter to you congressional representatives. If you’re used to doing that anyway and know who they are, please do it today.

If you’d like to fire off those letters but don’t have time to write and mail a paper letter, you’re in luck. There’s a cool site I’ve been using call PopVox that allows you to track bills through congress and fire off a letter supporting or opposing a bill with just a few clicks of the mouse. These electronically delivered letters count just as much as papers letters. The other cool thing about PopVox is that your opposition or support will be tabulated in a nice pie chart so everyone can see the stats on who’s for and against the legislation. H.R.3621 was closing in on 99% opposed and 1% supporting last time I checked the numbers (hmmm… where have we heard those numbers before?).

Here are the PopVox links for the two bills:

Syndicated 2011-10-28 20:41:03 from Steevithak of the Internet

What’s All This Occupy Dallas Stuff Anyhow?


To borrow and mangle a phrase from the late Bob Pease, what’s all this Occupy Dallas stuff anyhow? I’ve been hearing wildly contradictory reports of what the Occupy Wallstreet group is about. Now the group or movement or whatever it is, has begun spreading out to other cities around the world. When Occupy Dallas started a few days ago, I decided I’d probably get a better picture of what’s going on if I just had a look for myself and talked to some of the people. That’s what I did and I thought it might be interesting to others if I shared what I found out. I can at least confirm or dispel a few of the things I’ve been hearing in the media.

The whole thing seems to have started with Adbusters but was quickly joined by Anonymous. As people in more and more cities began taking up the cause, more groups started latching onto the concept, making it unclear which groups are the “real” ones. There is now an “Occupy Together” website that seems to have coalesced into a center of information for the movement, though it dis-associates itself to some extent from the the Occupy Wallstreet group. But for the most part, I think it’s safe to say that Adbuster, Anonymous, and Occupy are the focus of activity.

Officially, the group offers a fairly straightforward description of itself as a peaceful protest of the masses (the 99%) against abuse of power and wealth by the few (the 1%). They’re also protesting corporate greed, abuse of power by government; influence of government policy by wealthy individuals and corporations; and the political turmoil that has resulted from the two-party political system in the US (but it’s important to note that the group is not limited to the US). The group does not claim alignment with any specific political party and claims not to have a general right or left leaning. They claim to have no specific agenda.

I talked to a few participants in the Occupy Dallas group in person at their protest event and online. I also shot some photos of their base camp. I visited on Thursday when the primary protest was at the Federal Reserve Bank on Pearl Street and the base camp was at the JFK Memorial. After spending one night there, my understanding is that they’ve moved the base camp to Founder’s Park and the primary protest will begin moving to other major financial institutions such as Bank of America. At the time I visited there were estimated to be about 500 people involved. My guess is maybe 300+ were at the JFK memorial at the time and I saw more along the path between the memorial and the Fed, so estimates in the 400-500 range match the best guess I could make.

Here’s my impression along with my take on how accurate the media reports about them have been:

The people who were at the protest included Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, Ron Paul supporters, Ron Paul opponents, Obama supporters, Obama opponents, Tea Party people (I have to note again that, as a tea drinker, I still hate that they’ve besmirched the good name of tea). There were fringe nutty people including assorted conspiracy theorists who thought the Federal Reserve, or the lack of a gold standard, or you-name-it, was part of a conspiracy to take away their freedom. But overall, it seemed less conspiracy and nutjob dominated than the Tea Party seems to be. There were a lot of college aged kids but an almost equal number of older people, including many who looked to be at or past retirement age. There were an almost equal number of men and women protesting. Many of the cars driving past on Main Street were honking and gesturing support. I didn’t see any passing drivers showing opposition.

Some in the right-wing media have begin claiming that these protester are law breakers and violent. This is completely false, at least in Dallas. The protest and base camp were peaceful. The police had set up barriers to provide a safe protest area around the Fed for the protesters. The police and protesters were interacting, talking, joking, laughing. At one point policemen were helping protesters carry water and supplies to their base came. As the protesters have noted, the Police are part of the 99%, so there’s no reason for any hostility. I’m aware there has been some violence on both sides in the Wall Street protest but nothing out of the ordinary for a large protest and, in any case, nothing like that has occurred in Dallas (yet). The only way I can see a problem developing is if one side or the other stop being cooperative. But so far the protesters and police seem to be communicating, with the police willing to accommodate peaceful protest and the protesters willing to locate in areas acceptable to the police.

I heard Bill O’Reilly claim these are “anti-capitalism” protesters. I believe this is false.
No one I talked to expressed opinions that seemed even remotely anti-capitalist. The Dallas Fort Worth area has real Communist and Socialist groups; members of neither group were present at the Occupy protest. I think part of the problem here is that the far right has come to idolize money so much that they sometimes have trouble distinguishing greed from capitalism.

I’ve seen media claims that the protesters are all “hippies”. This is false. I saw a handful of people who might be described visually as hippy-like; long scruffy hair, tie-dyed clothes. One or two were hauling around acoustic guitars. They were greatly outnumbered by people who looked perfectly normal for Dallas. I saw people who fit just about any genre you want to mention from businessmen in suits to mohawked punk rockers on skateboards.

I’ve seen media claims that the group is a right wing movement associated with the Tea Party. I think this is definitely false. I heard that the Dallas Tea Party people at one point had planned a protest at the Fed to coincide with the Occupy protest but I’m not sure if it happened or not. There were at least a couple of Tea Party people present, there were also some Ron Paul supporters, Republicans, and anti-Obama people. I saw about the same amount of what I considered anti-right-wing signage as pro-right-wing signage. Also I’ve noticed the right-wing media outlets like Fox have started putting a lot of effort into casting the Occupy movement as left/evil/commie/socialist, so I assume as Tea Party people get the message from upstream, fewer of them will be willing to associate with the movement.

I’ve seen media claims that the group is a left wing movement. This one is trickier. I think it’s false in the sense of the left as the Democratic or Progressive US political party. But it may be true in a general sense depending on one’s definition of left. There were a few Obama supporters in evidence but there were also a lot of people looking to oust Obama in the next election, some even wanted to make demanding Obama’s resignation an official part of the group’s goals. More than a few of the protest signs seemed to me to be left-leaning but others I found moderate or even right-leaning. During the time I was there, I heard lots of talk about fending off attempts by the liberal MoveOn group to take over Occupy, take credit for it, or push the Occupy movement toward the left. The majority of people I saw or talked to believe the Democrat/Republican and Left/Right pardigms are in part responsible for a lot of our current problems and wanted nothing to do with either side. Overall though, I’d have to say there were probably more people I’d describe as left-leaning than right-leaning at the Dallas event, enough to put the average for the entire group slightly left of center.

Media reports have said that the group doesn’t know what it’s protesting or demanding. In my experience, this claim is closer to being true but is not entirely accurate. As a group, there seems to be consensus that what is being protested is 1) corporate greed 2) abuse of power by government 3) use of money to influence elections and legislation by indivduals and corporations. At an individual level, though, nearly everyone you ask has some additional gripe to add. Many are protesting specific politicians such as Obama, or specific institutions such as the Federal Reserve. Some are protesting abstract concepts like the personhood of corporations.

I heard a lot of debating and arguing amongst protestors while I was there. One protester would start in about a Fed conspiracy or the gold standard and another would disagree. For the most part the arguments sounded good natured and peaceful. But it was clear there was very little consensus in the group on what the root problems were (beyond the basic ones already mentioned) and no agreement on what the desired outcome should be.

I also heard a lot of complaints that I found contradictory and, well, baffling. For example one response I got included this complaint:

“We are fed sub standard and tainted foods by mega national food companies. We are sold cheap, sub standard and often dangerous goods made by corporations”

I thought about asking what happened to this person’s free will. The protesters are camped out within walking distance to the Dallas Farmer’s Market where they can buy food grown by local farmers. There are plenty of coops going where you can buy locally grown organic food and meats. Dallas even has a growing community garden trend. There are plenty of foods available that are grown locally, are not sub-standard, and are not grown by mega-corporations. The same can be said of many other goods. What this guy seemed to me to be saying, after correcting for reality, was more like “I choose to buy sub-standard food from mega-corporations and I demand the government stop me from doing that”. Which doesn’t really make sense when you consider the same group is complaining about too much government interference in our lives. It seems like there’s a bit of a personal responsibility gap in their reasoning.

This leads to the next media claim that was close to being accurate; the claim that the protesters are largely hypocrites. I found this one close to being true but perhaps less so than the previous one. I’m sure everyone has seen one of the photos of corporate product laden protesters protesting corporations. If you take a look at my own photos of the Dallas event you’ll see that the protester do indeed have a massive corporate footprint. They were using smart phones, social networking services, wearing corporate made clothes bearing corporate logos, drinking corporate bottled drinking water in plastic containers, using corporate made cameras, etc.

To what extent is that hypocrisy though? In many cases they’re not objecting to the existence of corporations or to corporate made products, just the excess corporate greed and corporation’s use of wealth to influence government. On the other hand, individuals like the one who made the comment about sub-standard food certainly sound hypocritical. A lot of the changes the protesters want might come about pretty quickly if they simply acted in line with their words. I wonder how many of them are eating locally grown foods, wearing locally made clothes, using an electrical provider that offers 100% renewable power, etc. While I don’t think it’s entirely fair to say the group as a whole is hypocritical, there is certainly plenty of hypocrisy to go around (but I suspect that I and most of my readers are guilty of little hypocrisy in this regard too).

One of the protesters told me this was largely about “gaining a voice”. After some reflection I think that may be part of our problem. We’ve been so conditioned by our political system that our role should be talking, protesting, arguing but never doing. I think it never occurs to most people that they can actually do something themselves. I certainly sympathize with the primary complaints of the Occupy movement and hope their protests do some good but, in the end, somebody still has to find some solutions and actually do the work. I’d love to see a group as enthusiastic as the Tea Party or the Occupy Movement who actually wanted to DO something instead of just complain about things, however justified those complaints may be.

That’s all the insight I’ve got for now and it’s probably worth about what you paid for it.

Syndicated 2011-10-08 22:16:11 from Steevithak of the Internet

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