Eric's Thoughts / Paroxysms / Rants / ...

by Eric A. Hulteen

Table of Contents:

What's the point of saving the planet?

Friday 11 April 2009 (updated Friday 5 March 2010)

This is sure to incite controversy, being politically incorrect. What's the point of saving the planet? Or, more accurately, who benefits from saving the planet? What is the goal of conservation movements? For whose benefit is the action being taken (and at whose expense)? Is it for the planet? It doesn't care. In a million years (a blink of the eye in the history of the Earth) there won't be a remnant of the human race. Is it for the animals? Do they care? Is it for people? It must be (because I don't see an alternative). Which people? The ones that like animals and clean air (to oversimplify) at the expense of the ones that value something else higher? The vague generalization usually expressed is that the human race can't survive unless the planet and other animals are healthy. This is deliberately vague not the least because there is no human race, only individual human beings (some of whom are being asked to pay, sometimes with their very lives, for benefits to be accrued by some other people). Would poor, starving people rather have clean air or the $20,000 a Californian paid extra for a hybrid car? I don't understand. If someone has a coherent explanation of cost versus benefit for saving the planet with particular emphasis on who the beneficiaries and benefactors are I'd like to hear it.

Ask yourself this question: if climate change was proven to your satisfacton to be a natural phenomenon (not caused by the activity or even the existence of mankind) would you be trying to change it? If your answer is no, then I congratulate you for consistency: you want to reverse climate change if it's man-made, but not if it's natural. But if your answer is yes, then aren't you just saying that you don't like the weather so you're trying to change it? Using human activity as an excuse because you can't afford to change it without enlisting the whole world to pay for it?

What are the odds of double yolks?

Sunday 26 February 2006

This is a short tale of astronomical odds. I don't know exactly what those odds are, but if you do please send them to me. This morning I decided to make scrambled-eggs. I took out a container of a half-dozen eggs (Judy's Family Farm Old Fashioned Organic Extra Large Grade AA Brown Eggs, to be exact). One of the eggs had previously been used so there were only five eggs left in the carton. Everything started out perfectly normal — I cracked one of the eggs into a bowl and then there was an egg in the bowl. When I cracked the second egg into the bowl is where it started to get weird because after I did there were three yolks in the bowl. Two of the three yolks were clearly smaller (about two-thirds the size of the first one) and I concluded from this that both yolks had been in the second egg. I had never seen an egg with two yolks in my whole life and I remarked upon this to my breakfast companion; we talked about the odds for a while and that was that. I cracked the third egg into the bowl and now there were five yolks. Another animated discussion ensued followed by suggestions that I purchase a lottery ticket immediately. Also, we started to discuss whether it was possible for this to happen again. I cracked the fourth egg into the bowl and now there were seven yolks. Three double-yolk eggs in a row; there's one egg left in the carton. We'll see.

"In the past, the future has always turned out okay."

Monday 28 November 2005

This is a quote of myself. I made this up in the early 1990s to describe my life, at a point where it wasn't going very well and I needed a reason to be optimistic. I've posted it here so that the person smart enough to look for it will find it.

The Death Penalty

Friday 18 November 2005

I have heard on several occasions (most recently in song lyrics) that one reason the death penalty is wrong (or doesn't make sense) is that you can't teach people that killing is wrong by killing people. I submit that, whatever your position on the death penalty, this argument makes no sense. Society doesn't kill killers to teach them that killing people is wrong. Society kills killers to remove them from society. If the killer was capable of learning that killing is wrong they would have learned it long before their own death became an issue. The fact that they didn't learn it suggests that they are incapable of learning it and no more effort should be wasted on that endeavor. Killing killers is intended to allow the rest of society to sleep better at night (and hopefully to cause would-be killers to sleep a bit worse).

I'm not firmly on either side of the death penalty debate. On one hand, I don't think that killing killers is wrong. To the contrary, it is often the case that it's the only reasonable response to that kind of behavior. On the other hand, our criminal justice system is not perfect, and while it never could be perfect it's clearly getting less and less perfect each year. I'd be willing to forego the death penalty if it was possible to sentence killers to life in prison, but as currently implemented "life in prison" really means prison until you can persuade the court to let you out, which doesn't seem that difficult to do.

Compact Fluorescent Bulbs

Tuesday 8 November 2005

I like compact fluorescent bulbs. I like efficiency in most everything, particularly in energy use. The thing that upsets me is the claim on every box of compact fluorescent bulbs that they last for seven years (plus or minus two). Mine don't last that long. I'm sure that in some vibration-free laboratory environment where they turn each bulb on once per day and leave it on for six hours and then turn it off that the bulbs last for seven years. But in my real life, where the bulbs are turned on six or ten times a day and the house vibrates from walking, music, and airplanes flying overhead they don't last seven years. Now I, of course, have not done a controlled study, but when I moved into my current residence two and a half years ago I installed thirteen new compact fluorescent bulbs. Since then four of them have burned out; that's a premature failure rate of 30%. The remaining nine bulbs are going to have to last nine years each in order make up for the early failure of those four.

American Airlines Dis-AAdvantage

Sunday 31 July 2005

Three times recently (over the past two months) I have tried to make reservations to use my American Airlines "AAdvantage" miles. Each time I have found that there are no AAdvantage seats available, not just on the days I wanted to travel but at anytime for weeks before and after the dates I wanted to travel. I have reached the conclusion, therefore, that my AAdvantage miles are worthless.

Bay Area Bridge Tolls

Saturday 2 July 2005

Think about this the next time that you're sitting in a traffic jam at a tool booth. The bottom line is this — the money the State of California collects from you at the toll booth ultimately gets spent by the State on whatever it wants to spend it on. It's not for the bridge or whatever other construction they attached the toll booth to (it may be for the first few years, but eventually the construction is paid for and they keep on collecting the money). The toll booth is simply an additional manifestation of the power of the State to point a gun at you and demand money (with the "consent of the governed", of course). So then let us stop and ask a question: If they're going to take the money anyway shouldn't they do it in the most efficient manner possible? I mean, why put up a roadblock and make us wait in a State-created traffic jam every day when they could simply take the money out of our paychecks like they usually do? The answer is that if they announced that they were going to "raise taxes" we'd object (some), but if they raise the tolls we won't. So let's object! Tell the State of California (or whatever State you find yourself in) to pay for the roads and bridges out of the General Fund and stop wasting our time collecting it along the freeway.

And while you're at it, tell them that you'd rather pay all your taxes at once in the same way, so you can see how much it actually is. There are two reasons that there are thirty-two different kinds of taxes: First, so that the taxpayers won't know how much they're actually paying in taxes — sales tax, meal tax, cigarette tax, alcohol tax, income tax, tolls, fees, luxury car tax, etc. And second, to use the principle of divide-and-conquer, to get people to vote for taxes that will be paid by other, less good people than themselves. This is why politicians will propose taxes for specific minorities in our society: smokers, drinkers, drivers, the rich, etc.

Kamin's Third Law: "Combined total taxation from all levels of government will always increase (until the government is replaced by war or revolution)."

The Declaration of Independence

Friday 1 July 2005

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

Have we reached this point yet in America? I feel we are approaching it.


January 1998

I'm not going to offer an analysis of what Apple Computer, Inc. did wrong or what they need to do to make it right; if I had all the answers I'd have a different job. What I will say is that I don't want to work with computers in a world where every piece of software I buy comes from, or only with the permission of, Bill Gates and Microsoft. If the only reason to keep Apple alive is to avoid that, then that's reason enough. The way you keep Apple alive is to buy their products and contradict the people that say Bill's copies are just as good.