Monday, September 08, 2008

Unemployment: Democrat VS Republican Presidents

Last Friday the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released a statement claiming that the unemployment rate in the US had jumped from 5.7% to 6.1% in August (here). That means that there are roughly 7.6 million people unemployed in the US today. That is a large number of people looking for a job and will likely play a big roll in the next few weeks as Obama and McCain try to persuade people that their economic policy will be the most beneficial to the american people. So I decided to see what the trends of unemployment under Democratic or Republican presidents have been, and, not surprisingly, it appears that the democrats have outdone the republicans.

Below is a chart depicting the yearly data collected by the BLS since 1947 when the legal working age became 16. The date of each president's final term along with their party affiliation is labeled. On top of the raw data chart is a sloppy trend line graph that I added to show the increases or decreases of unemployment during the entire incumbency of the president. For the trend graph the lines that are blue represent a democratic president and the red lines represent the republican presidents. Click on the image to enlarge it.


It is fairly obvious to see that under nearly all of the democrat president's administrations unemployment has gone down, and vice versa for the republican's. I was, however, surprised that even one of the republican administrations, Ronald Regan's, was able to lower the unemployment rate and he was fairly successful at it. I was also surprised that the only democrat that showed an increase in unemployment was John F. Kennedy, though the increase was marginal and Lyndon Johnson continued J.F.K's policies and he did exceptionally well. The actual numbers for each year can be found here.

Furthermore, I averaged the rate of change in unemployment per year for each president and came up with these numbers:

PresidentAvg. % Rate Change Per Year
Truman (D)-0.15
Eisenhower (R)0.357
Kenedy (D)0.066
Johnson (D)-0.42
Nixon (R)0.333
Ford (R)0.933
Carter (D)-0.15
Regan (R)-0.2
Bush I (R)0.5
Clinton (D)-0.438
Bush II (R)0.263

Averaging all the democrat and republican presidents' percent change per year and we see exactly which party tends to create more jobs, ie the party with a negative change per year in unemployment.

Democrat Avg.Republican Avg.
-0.218%0.364%

The next question I asked myself is what policy did each of these presidents decide to follow? I quickly came to an answer by reading through Wikipedia (which I understand is probably not the best source of information but I am too lazy to go looking for any real documentation). The Republicans seem to rely on a model of economic policy called Supply-Side Economics which tends to benefit the producers, ies corporations and the rich, in an attempt to increase the amount of goods and services produced. The Democrats, on the other hand, tend to follow the model of economic policy termed New Keynesian Economics, which changes in response to economic downturns by investing in more infrastructure and cutting taxes to create more jobs and give more money to the less wealthy, which will hopefully create more demand for products and services.

While I have not analyzed which model of economic policy works best for the general economy of the US, I believe it is safe to say that under democrat presidents unemployment tends to decrease, and that is probably due to New Keynesian economic policies, and conversely under republican presidents the number of unemployed tends to increase (especially under George W. Bush's policies), which is most likely due to the failings of Supply-Side Economics in providing new jobs.

Of course, and as obligatory adjunct, there is a lot of variables I did not consider that are very likely heavily involved in creating jobs in the US that aren't even related to the presidency or an economic model. However, I think it is compelling data and shouldn't be taken too lightly when considering what president you plan to vote for in November, especially if you are going to be looking for a job anytime soon.

Friday, May 23, 2008

What do I want out of life?

Before I die I would like to have accomplished these things:

-Find someone I love to marry me (maybe have kids but that's more for my mom I think).
-Earn enough money to have a house with a nice pool in the back yard.
-Have a cabin in California (maybe the Stone Ranch).
-Live by the ocean.
-Be able to work my own hours.
-Contribute something to the world that I am proud of.

That's it.

What do you want?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Fear Contest

Bruce Schneier has posted his third annual movie-plot threat contest. The rules: 150 words (basically an extended log line) and this:
For this contest, the goal is to create fear. Not just any fear, but a fear that you can alleviate through the sale of your new product idea. There are lots of risks out there, some of them serious, some of them so unlikely that we shouldn't worry about them, and some of them completely made up. And there are lots of products out there that provide security against those risks.

Your job is to invent one. First, find a risk or create one. It can be a terrorism risk, a criminal risk, a natural-disaster risk, a common household risk -- whatever. The weirder the better. Then, create a product that everyone simply has to buy to protect him- or herself from that risk. And finally, write a catalog ad for that product.

OK, I love this kind of stuff so here is my attempt, but before I post it to his blog I'd like some feed back from anyone out there so tell me what you think of the following ad:
Are you worried about turning into a human-plant mutant because of all the genetic modifications being made to our wholesome crops these days?

You need the Clean-A-Gene!

Increasingly common, especially in the United States, genetically modified foods are being grown for their "added nutrients", "extra strength", and durability for packaging. All these genetic modifications however are mixing in with the human gene pool. It isn't noticeable at first but after several generations of plant DNA recombination with humans some of our babies will have broccoli for arms and corn cobs for feet! The Clean-A-Gene is a patented food purifier that removes all DNA from genetically modified plants*. How can you or your family live without a Clean-A-Gene purifier?! It's the responsible thing to buy.

*This product is not approved by the FDA, and has not been shown to work in any laboratory settings.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Business Plan, Part 1

I have been discussing the future of my life a lot with my friends as of late and we have been working on a business plan for the next few years. The following are my ideas for how our business will materialize.

The idea for our business:

A biotech/pharmaceutical company that will develop two types of drugs and will work on gene-therapies. The first, and foremost priority, will be the profitable drugs that work on human aesthetics and anti-aging, such as hair loss drugs, wrinkle creams, etc. Through my years of research, and particularly my work in Seattle with skin diseases and wound healing I have worked out the molecular mechanisms that I believe are highly important in management of aging skin. A lot of those molecular signals in the skin and hair do not have drugs that have been created yet to mediate the effects and those drugs will be worth multi-billions of dollars. Developing these drugs by first determining the structure of the important molecules by utilizing biophysical techniques such as x-ray spectroscopy and 3D-NMR will be my goal in the next several years of my PhD program.

The second set of of drugs will be cancer drugs. I have been very closely working with stem cells and cancer for the last few years here in Boston and have come to a few conclusions as to where the future of cancer technology is going and I plan to exploit this knowledge for use in drug therapies. The cancer line of work will help in getting initial funding for the start-up through governmental grants.

So that is the basic idea of what we will be doing but how are we going to get it going? Well, luckily, I have a head start on that as well. First of all the company will be co-founded by Ian and myself. Ian will be spending the next two years or so getting his MBA from Yale, MIT, or Duke. During that time he plans on acquiring the connections to get a lot of start-up funding through venture capitalists as well as the skills to manage a business such as this (and a lot of international business skills, which he is personally interested in, which can only be beneficial for us).

The next advantage we have is my father who has been working in the biotech industry and has a lot of connections with many companies, particularly on the west coast and has expressed interest in working with me to develop this company.

Ian's brother is a patent lawyer and will be extremely helpful in helping us patent our drugs and techniques (even if he doesn't want to be our lawyer he will certainly help his brother out in whatever ways he can).

And lastly, but definitely not least, our friend Seth has shown an interest in being our political lobbyist on the Hill in DC. He could potentially help get us pushed up on the list of FDA reviews and make our name more visible to grant agencies like NIH and NSF.


An ideal time line for getting the business going:

-In two years Ian will get his MBA, we will begin filing for business licenses and searching for venture capital.
-In four years (or so) I will get my PhD and hopefully have solved the structure of several important molecules in our body for which we will continue researching and developing drugs.
-Five years we will have our own lab space with the initial grant money and whatever capital we can muster.
-Ten years, our first drug will have passed clinical trials and be on course for FDA approval, we will have several other patents as well. The value of the company will start appreciating.
-15 years, we will sell the company for $800 million, at least.

Please help me along in this endeavor, if you have any suggestions or comments or would like to be apart of the whole start-up process then let me know.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Not Meant to Offend

After our discussion about how the Micheal Crichton Anti-Global Warming book (which I didn't even mention in the post!) and how I think people are getting influenced by incorrect data I decided to post about the Climate Securities Act after my friend Seth suggested it to me to write about. However, it seems I have offended a good friend (sorry S, I didn't mean to discount your ideas) and I thought I would say that I welcome all opinions and mine is definitely not the only one out there and most likely very biased (that's why I write a blog and not in a respected journal). I'm sure Micheal Crichton has some good points in his book that I should look at more closely and examine. I would just like to point out though that nearly all scientific data published, and basically all data published in Nature and Science, the two most respected scientific journals on earth, is cautioning about the imminent warming due to greenhouse gases. This should not be taken too lightly. Even a 1°C increase in average temperature will cause agricultural shifts that will cause real problems.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Lieberman-Warner Global Warming Legislation...Is Good?!

Who would have guessed that Joe Lieberman would have done something good? I've kind of always thought of him as jack-ass because of his stance on the Iraq war, but he might be redeeming himself a little with the latest bit of legislation that has been submitted to the senate called the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act. (Thanks Seth for pointing me to this.)

It is surprising that the President hasn't openly stated that he will veto this also, though maybe it's because conservative-independent Lieberman and republican Warner are the main sponsors of the bill. Probably. For whatever reason, if it passes it will be a very good step forward for the future of our little blue gem.

Before addressing what this bill proposes I thought I would take a few paragraphs to go over why it is important that such a bill be introduced now. The issue of global warming still continues to be prevalent in mainstream media mostly because it is still hotly debated as to whether or not it is really even happening--and as we know the media loves controversy (if not the truth). Well, as it turns out there is basically no doubt what-so-ever that global warming, and hence climate change, is occurring and it is caused by greenhouse gases that have been released by humans. The controversy arises from conservative media outlets (FOX, Wall Street Journal, etc.) that take hold of any news story they can find that puts any doubt as to the final outcome of global warming and spin that story to acquire a new meaning: that it may not even be happening! For instance, Media Matters calls out FOX News. Of course more liberal media outlets can tend to exagerate the problem as well, but in actuality the more information that pours in regarding greenhouse gas emissions and their effects on global warming the more extreme the models get. Quoted from Joe Lieberman (a supporter of big-oil subsidies and who received oil lobbyists' money and therefore making this quote that much more realistic):
"With all the irrefutable evidence we now have corroborating that climate change is real, dangerous, and proceeding faster than many scientists predicted, this is the year for Congress to move this critical legislation. If we fail to start substantially reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the next couple of years, we risk bequeathing a diminished world to our grandchildren. Insect-borne diseases such as malaria will spike as tropical ecosystems expand; hotter air will exacerbate the pollution that sends children to the hospital with asthma attacks; food insecurity from shifting agricultural zones will spark border wars; and storms and coastal flooding from sea-level rise will cause mortality and dislocation."
I would also add that because of CO2 levels currently in our air we are already seeing the acidification of the oceans causing more and more dead-zones to form because of oxygen deprived plumes of ocean stretching hundreds of miles in which most life can not survive. These dead zones are also caused by other types of pollution as well such as sewage and fertilizer run-off, all of which should be looked at as well. The acidification of the oceans also causes coral bleaching, and numerous other negative effects that most people do not think of when talking about global warming.

There is no controversy amongst atmospheric and meteorological scientists across the globe that global warming is indeed a very big problem. The IPCC, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is a group created by the United Nations and the World Meteorological Organization to asses the scientific basis of global warming, the effects it may have on the world, and the policies that governments can implement to mitigate the negative effects. Each of those areas of assessment was assigned a work group, i.e. work Group I, II, and III, respectively. The latest results have come back recently from the final Work Group III and and even though the summary of results have been considered to be very conservative by the actual scientists the conducted the research, it is still scary what can happen in the next century or two as concluded by the study that surveyed something on the order of 19,000 different climate research projects funded by the government in nearly every industrialized country on earth.

So what does the Lieberman and Warner act entail? Here is a quick run down (summarized mostly from here):
-Instant capping of CO2 emissions.
-Put a cap on CO2 emissions at the 2005 level by 2012.
-Further reductions of 1.8% per year after 2012 resulting in 15% reduction of 2005 levels by 2020.
-Continued reduction in CO2 emissions until 2050 resulting in 70% reduction of CO2 emissions compared with 2005 levels.
-Up to 80% reduction of major sources of CO2 emission.
-Implements trading of CO2 credits.
-$500 billion investment for low- and zero-carbon emitting fuels.
-$350 billion in assistance for low- and middle-income families for heating, transporation, etc. until 2030.

All of these plans are very appropriate steps in reducing greenhouse gas levels, stimulating the economy of alternative and low-carbon-emitting fuels, and helping those that have the potential to be most effected by the rise in costs of conventional fuels. Congrats to Lieberman and Warner for doing a good job, now let's just see the rest of the senate pass this!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Buddhism and the Great Outdoors

I have been reading the book The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac and have become absorbed in the philosophy of Buddhism. For years now whenever I am asked what religion I am by a person who is very religious and I don't feel comfortable saying "atheist" to them I will tell them I am Buddhist. It's not a lie either. I believe in the philosophy of the Buddhist traditions and their road to enlightenment even though I hardly ever meditate and I sometimes get over involved in materialistic ideas.

Buddhism is not a religion, however. Religion is defined as "the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods." In Buddhism there is no worship of a God but instead it is the practicing of the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, otherwise known as Buddha. There are four basic principles that underlie the Buddhist philosophy that are called the Four Noble Truths. Though, there really is only one basic underlying theme of Buddhism and that is finding truth, or put differently: understanding reality.

The First Truth: There is suffering in life.
My life has been wrought with suffering, though that is of course relative, i.e. compared to billions of other people on earth I have lived quite nicely and my suffering would be laughed at by many as inconsequential. But again, suffering is relative and everyone suffers in life. The first truth is so self-evident that it almost does not need to be mentioned if not for the the second, third, and fourth Truths.

The Second Truth: The cause of suffering is craving.
If you did not crave that cool toy you saw on TV as a kid then you would not be upset if your mother told you that you couldn't have it. Likewise, all negative emotional feelings are driven by craving as well; break-ups being a prime example. When one person leaves another but the other person craves to be with them still it causes an intense amount of personal and emotional suffering. There is good news however:

The Third Truth: Suffering can end.
We get over our problems eventually though some problems take longer than others and sometimes a new problem arises that diminishes the extent of suffering from previous problems. There can be a state of no suffering as well, this is called nirvana, and it is to be strived for.

The Fourth Truth There is a path that can be followed that leads to the cessation of suffering, nirvana.
The path is called the Noble Eightfold Path and I will talk about it in a second. This Fourth Truth and the Eightfold Path is the essence of Buddhism.

Really quickly, from Wikipedia, the Noble Eightfold Path:
1. Right Speech—One speaks in a non hurtful, not exaggerated, truthful way.
2. Right Actions—Wholesome action, avoiding action that would do harm.
3. Right Livelihood—One's way of livelihood does not harm in any way oneself or others; directly or indirectly.
4. Right Effort/Exercise—One makes an effort to improve.
5. Right Mindfulness/Awareness—Mental ability to see things for what they are with clear consciousness.
6. Right Concentration/Meditation—Being aware of the present reality within oneself, without any craving or aversion.
7. Right Understanding—Understanding reality as it is, not just as it appears to be.
8. Right Thoughts—Change in the pattern of thinking.

It all seems very self-evident. And in fact it is. But when is the last time you focused really hard on making sure you were really following these guide lines? Not many people do, I know I am constantly forgetting to watch myself and do the right thing. If you follow these eight rules then you will achieve nirvana. Of course you have to follow them all the time and that can be a little difficult (we are only human after all).

Sooo...how does this relate to the great outdoors as I put in the title of this post? Well, back to the Dharma Bums novel I am reading, Jack Kerouac writes very descriptively about nature and the wilderness in the mountains of Northern California and I have decided to follow in his footsteps. Soon I will be starting grad school (to study biochemistry--one of the best ways to understand reality and the ultimate Buddhist career) but before that I will be taking some time to travel and relax. One of the ideas that I have been talking about with a friend of mine is to go on a long hike. To get back to nature. To meditate by living in the absolute silence of the woods. What better place to do that than in Yosemite National Park? It also happens to be fairly close to where my family lives so I can see them again as well. While I am out there I can clear my mind of the cluster-fuck of bad thoughts that have recently been gracing my usually tranquil mind. I can work on bettering myself and be far enough from distractions that I won't have to focus too hard on most of the Noble Eight paths. Hopefully, and I believe likely, I will reach a state of nirvana. I've experienced this before by hiking 56 miles through the mountains of New Mexico, 36 miles around Mt. Rainier, and a beautiful 30 mile beach hike along the Pacific Ocean of Washington State. Many other hikes and camping spots have brought me much pleasure as well but I think it takes a few days of exhausting hiking and observation of nature to really learn to respect it and understand it.

The greatest patience is humility. -Atisha

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Lessons on Stocks and the Economy: My Experience

Back in June of '07 I decided to play in he stock market. I had no idea of what I was doing, all I knew is that I wanted to make a lot of money. As you might guess, the market doesn't always do exactly what you would hope and since I bought in the market has crashed. Some of my stocks have rallied recently to he point where I am breaking even again with them but the others are still looking pretty bad. The following is my experience and the lessons I have learned in the world of stocks and the economy.

First and foremost I wanted a stock that would earn me a lot of money. I didn't have a lot of money to begin with so I was looking for a cheap stock that had potential to grow a lot. I started reading about small-cap businesses and what analysts were saying about them. I read one article on smallcapreview.com that talked positively about a company called Gigabeam that makes high bandwidth wireless transceivers that are supposedly poised to disrupt the market for land-lines used for cable-internet. Since I believe that wireless internet, via WiMax and the advent of the iPhone and more portable wireless devices, is the future of computer technology this stock looked good so I bought some shares at $4.

Within two days the stock price jumped up over 40% and then the next day it was up over 50%. I was making a good amount of money and only three days had passed. Why not hold onto the stock for another few months and make 1000% profit, right? Not so. Now, less than a year later, the company is delisted from the NASDAQ and I had to sell it at $2 loss per share. The lesson from this is don't get greedy. If the price reaches a point that you are making reasonable money--sell. You can always reinvest the money again if you have reason to believe it will go up a lot.

The next two stocks I bought were based on instinct: Apple and Intel. I just really like these companies and as I already mentioned I thought the iPhone was going to be iconic (and I was right). I bought Apple at $132 and Intel at $24. Both went up and up. Apple hit over $200 and Intel was up over $30. It seemed my instincts were paying off. Did I sell? No. And in this case I'm not unhappy about that either. I still believe that Apple will reach $225 in 2009, and Intel is ruling the market and should bounce back. Currently though Apple is at $130 and Intel is down to $21. These stocks fluctuate with the market though and will grow rapidly once we start seeing the economy grow, I hope.

The last stock that I bought I tried using some statistical analysis to pick a good one. Using online software to sift through all the companies I came up with a filter for what companies I wanted to invest in. The basic structure of the filter was a mid-cap company, on the NASDAQ, in the healthcare sector (because I know a lot about science I figured I could determine the strength of a healthcare company), share price less than $10, profit margin above industry standard, low P/E ratio, earnings per share growth of around 20%, high volume of trading, and a lot of analyst coverage. Also, I didn't really care about dividends.

Using that filter I came upon OraSure. OraSure has created a fast and reliable HIV test that can use blood samples as well as saliva. They recently hired someone to their board of directors that is very capable of getting a product through the FDA for over-the-counter sales (the HIV rapid test is already used in hospitals and clinics but has not yet been given the ok for OTC use). The price I bought at was $8 and it is now down around $7. The market is weak but the company is strong so I figure it will bounce back soon. I will also make the prediction that once they are given the approval to sell their HIV test OTC the share price will jump up to around $12 to $13 or more. This is a good stock and I am very happy with it so far even though I am currently losing money on it. In the future I will definitely use a similar filter strategy for picking stocks.

I'm glad I went through this little experiment in stocks because I believe I have learned an enormous amount about how the market works (well it's really simple actually: fear drives the market down, speculation drives it up).

More to come soon from me regarding how I think individual stocks move and where the economy is headed regarding the sub-prime mortgage fiasco and the dropping value of the dollar and the correlated increase in oil prices. For now I would just like any comments on my stock decisions. Anyone out there?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Obama WINS Texas!!!

Okay so you probably heard that Hillary Clinton won in Texas, and by popular vote she did. However, the popular vote is meaningless in the US except to get press coverage. What is most important are the delegates, or the electorate college, and in Texas Barack Obama has 89 delegates to Hillary Clinton's 84. That is a win for Obama! Why the media is playing this off as a Clinton win I do not know. Where Obama really shines is in the caucuses, where he got 28 delegates to Clinton's 19. Even though Clinton beat him in the primaries 65 delegates to 61, the addition of the caucus delegates shows that Obama is actually the winner.

Outlandish prediction: Obama gets his name on the ticket. Obama chooses Joe Biden as vice president, Jim Webb is a second pick if Biden won't run. Obama beats McCain by eight points.

Thoughts? Different predictions?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Guitar Hero Comic


I was bored at lunch and had a sketch pad. And that's what I came up with. Yes, I know guitars have 6 strings and Guitar Hero uses five spots, whatever, I ran out of space. Click on it for a larger version.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Grad School - Biochemistry/Biophysics

I have officially been accepted at Tufts University and UMass Med. School to their umbrella biology PhD programs! Both are great schools and I am having a hard time figuring out which school will be best for my career in the future. I will also be interviewing at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and Brandeis University very shortly, where I expect to get accepted to both. So my question to anyone that may accidentally wander by (or anyone that may actually purposely check this site...yeah right!) is which school is the best?

There are many factors to contemplate when picking the school of choice so I will outline what I am personally looking for:

1. Strong biophysics and structural biology departments and researchers.
2. Good core facilities such as NMR and X-ray crystallography (though most crystallography goes to the particle accelerators now).
3. Good selection of classes.
4. Diversity of research to rotate through.
5. Fun area to live.

That's about it, but that is more than enough variables to make the decision very difficult. Please help me decide!

Progression of my Procrastination

My thought process as I try to prepare for grad school interviews online:

1. "OK, I'll read this article about integral membrane protein crystallization and x-ray structure determination."

2. "I wish I was reading about how close we are to finding alien life on another planet."

3. "Well as it turns out we are very far from finding life on another planet...that's depressing."

4. "Maybe some caffeine will help get me on track. And a little snack."

5. "I'll just watch a little TV while I eat."

6. "Wow, that woman is incredibly hot, I have to see the rest of this show."

7. "I should check out Google images for more pictures of that model."

8. "Maybe I'll spend a little more time surfing the web for 'other' stuff."

9. "It's getting late and I'm getting tired, I should start studying."

10. Loop back to step 1.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mutually Assured Annihilation -- Contest

Whoever can come up with the most likely and interesting scenario for how a world wide nuclear war might be initiated in our modern world with just a few paragraphs will win a prize. I have not come up with what the prize will be yet but guaranteed it will be worth it. I'm thinking a signed copy of the Reevolution's first LP. Just kidding. Add your idea by commenting and I will then copy it to the main post.

--- Andrew's Idea ---

Early 2008 - Russia and China strongly disagree with the US war in Iran, and Iraq. The two countries agree to set sanctions against the US including both trade and economic sanctions. In retaliation the US influences many financial institutions to withhold Chinese and Russian money.

Due to the conflict in Iran the US elects another President that believes in the supremacy of the US and its imperial rights in the world.

Soon the anger between the two axises of conflict begin to show their military might. The US demonstrates its advanced anti-missile shield and satellite missile defense systems. China, already ahead of the US for the use of nuclear energy begins massive nuclear armament. Russia buys many of the nuclear war heads and launches several surveillance satellites into orbit. Some of the Satellites launched have space-to-low-orbit anti-missile systems. Another Cold War has begun.

The US makes the first mistake leading to nuclear war. In 2011 an anti-missile test in the Sea of Japan sends a missile harmlessly into China. While the US immediately claims it was a mistake, China retaliates by moving many aircraft carriers and battle ships into Japan's water territory. This move spurs Washington to decide that China has declared war and moves it's battleships and aircraft closer to strategic positions in Chinese waters.

Diplomatic talks begin but do not resolve much. Some aircrafts carriers are moved. Russia, however, secretly pops up near the coast of Greenland and fires 6 Long Range Ballistic Missiles containing 5 to 10 megaton nuclear warheads. The first detonates over Washington DC. The others detonate over suspected nuclear sites. The president and most of Congress is instantly annihilated. Within hours the US, with the remaining Congress and Military, tries to figure out who attacked the US and how to retaliate. Nearly 150 nuclear missiles are sent to Russia and China. While in air another 200 missiles are launched back at the US from both Russia and China. The UK and most of Europe respond by launching attacks against Russian and China as well.

Pakistan attacks India. India attacks Pakistan. Egypt and Israel are bombed. The world is in utter chaos. Nuclear winter sets in. Human life is soon forgotten.

--- Ben's Idea ---

Global warming becomes such a problem 10 years from now that most nations agree that it's time to address this issue collectively otherwise we all will be destroyed in massive environmental devastation. This puts a temporary truce in place while governments of rival powers join intelligence and resources to combat global warming.

The people of the world remain ignorant and skeptical of their respective governments and for the most part continue their wasteful and environmentally gluttonous ways for several more years. As the condition worsens, the nations of the world decide that nuclear energy is the only solution. After some catty infighting between nations as to the whos/whats/whens surrounding this idea, it is agreed that 12 nations will be allowed to build enough power plants in their home nations to solve the crisis.

Greedy U.S. oil companies hear the news and get very uneasy about it. They ultimately forge a plan to leak disinformation into the U.S. government that several of the U.S.'s less trustworthy temporary allies are planning to take advantage of the new found nuclear resources to launch an attack on us. Because of the oil companies' still-rich resources and power, this information is taken seriously and deemed credible. As the U.S. begins looking at the other nations through this new lens everything starts to look shady. The paranoia gathers steam in the U.S. intelligence agencies and the military. Soon enough the U.S. gets trigger happy, and mistaking an abandoned Iranian missile silo being converted into a nuclear plant is mistaken for a WMD facility, the U.S. launches a pre-emptive strike deciding that with the ozone layer deteriorating by the second, diplomatic channels were too time-consuming to be left on the table as an option. This triggers the nuclear winter.

--- Andrew's Idea II ---

Time-Line For the End of the World

2035-Peak oil production is reached.
-Oil prices surge.
2040-Not enough nuclear power plants are in place to make electricity for all electric power transportation.
2043-The world’s trade and economy starts a rapid decline. The oil and automobile industries crumble.
2044-An economic depression worldwide hits and sends the EU into utter chaos. Soon the US falls into a chaotic mess as well.
2046-Black markets become commonplace and undermine real economies.
2049-Religious fundamental groups in the Midwest and Southern states begin to take larger roles of power, and start denying US supremacy of law over them. They band together under a treaty of religious origins.
-National Guard and other military units are kept from leaving those states and are instead used to maintain the rule of law dictated by a few Christian religious leaders that have ascended to power.
-These states secure the nuclear missile reserves within their borders, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of the US nuclear weapon stockpiles--enough to obliterate the world several times over.
2049-The USA is powerless to stop the disintegration of the Union. Military control is divided between the states.
2050-The Union of Christian Faith States, UCFS, decides the best way to serve its people and protect the faith is to take control of all remaining oil reserves. To do this they use tactical nuclear strikes in the Middle East with the presumption that no one else will retaliate with a nuclear attack. They were wrong; Everyone retaliates.


--- Faceyboy's (aka Chris') Idea ---

In the year 2007 (uh, later), Greenland finally hits her global warming tipping point opening the flood gates and releasing all her delicious ice water (no lemon) into the North Atlantic. This disrupts the world’s precious ocean currents forcing the developed world to think fast or face a new ice age in the next ten years. Claiming to be the “decider,” President Bush, in the final acts of his presidency, declares the forthcoming ice age a “terrs” (apparently terrorist, though it’s hard to be sure), and adds it to the axis of evil (now Iran, North Korea, ice age, and Freedomstan [Iraq]). He then uses his executive authority, circumventing congress (more fine print in the patriot act that we forgot to actually read) to launch a massive nuclear strike on ice age. He chooses targets just outside all major cities in Europe, Asia and the U.S. (“Who kerrs about Africa and Canada”) and launches with his new catch phrase “Let’s warm’er up!” His attempt to warm up the earth with nuclear strikes, though well thought out (for him), only plunges the earth more quickly into a nuclear winter expedited ice age. President Bush’s last words prove to be “cowboy up,” though no one was quite certain how that applied to the situation. Eventually, the mega-ice age thaws and with it some well preserved Neanderthals and they get their second chance. They prove to be kind of thick, but manage to live in equilibrium with the earth, so, I guess they’re not THAT thick.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

How to be an advocate

Sitting here with my headphones, listening to nothing at all, I realize that I don’t follow through with many things. Sometimes my interests change. Sometimes I’m lazy. Other times I just don’t know what I’m doing. It’s not that I’m not trying; it’s just that I don’t know the next step. Slightly over a year ago I embarked on a new path. I wasn’t going to just help myself. I was going to help others.

I’ve been putting the pieces together, looking at every angle, learning to use what is available to impact society – to leave the world better off than how I found it. Without picking an issue, I’d like to describe my thoughts on how to be an advocate. I haven’t quite found my issue yet. It might be cancer research. It might be global warming. It might be finding an end to hunger. The point is, that while spending time volunteering to ease the symptoms of certain problems, I haven’t devoted much, if anything, to eliminate these problems. I want to advocate for the elimination of problems. Big words, huh?

Well, they need to be bigger. An advocate needs to be heard. Louder still, folks. Not that being an advocate is like joining an exclusive club or anything, but certain professions carry with them some pretty loud voices. Think of journalists for instance. Lou Dobbs comes in pretty loud and clear when he criticizes illegal immigration. People stop and people listen. Politicians can often command an audience. Even celebrities, lauded by the masses, opine on political and social matters, resulting in news headlines and 30-second segments on the 24-hour news channels.

So you’ve become a journalist and want to advocate for an issue. What next? I’ll simply repeat what’s been said for many years: Stay on message! Be consistent with your message. Oftentimes people can become diverted by rhetoric, distracted by semantics, drawn into arguments on other matters. Be consistent. Advocate for a cause. Advocate for a solution. If you have to take some time to develop a white paper, consult with experts and bullet-proof your plan, then do so. An advocate needs to come well educated with a well thought-out plan in hand, armed with conviction and ready to withstand criticism.

This leads me to my next piece of advice: know your enemy. Have you played Devil’s Advocate? Who opposes you? What is their motivation? Are there lobbyists ready to pounce? Be sure to think about their agenda and study their ideas. Come well-educated on not only your own plan, but your enemies’ as well. Know the differences. Know the similarities. In politics it is very rare that one side completely dominates another. Where is the common ground? Where can compromise be reached? You need to know your enemy.

This is real life. This is not a text book. In the past, what has worked? What didn’t? History is studied for a reason. Hitler didn’t know the history of war during the Russian winter and thus lost WWII (there were two other failed campaigns in the Russian winter – can you name them?). Study history. Study advocacy. This essay is just the beginning. Who knows, maybe your issue will be the same as mine. We may be on the same side. We may not. In any case, you better do your homework.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Human Motivation -- Part 1

What motivates human beings to achieve more the those basic needs of life like water, food, and shelter? I propose two thoughts on this subject, and being I am not a reticent person and actually love to throw out my personal thoughts and theories about life I'll jump right into what I think is the most intriguing topic: sex.

What is one common goal of all forms of life? To pass on its genes. This is accomplished in different ways. Some species are asexual and their cells simply divide and create a near perfect replica of themselves. Who could possibly be better than yourself? Asexual creatures therefore are not highly motivated to interacted with others or perform any tasks other than those that are absolutely necessary for their own personal survival. We as humans were fortunate enough to have the opposite form of reproduction, which is to say we are sexual animals. Grrr.

Since we are sexual animals, though, the only way to pass on our genes is to have sex. This is a conundrum because a lot of the time who you want to have sex with doesn't want to have sex with you and vice versa. There in lies the crux of all human motivation. This topic is not very easy to delve into. Slight differences in physical, emotional, and intellectual tastes can lead to people that are completely incompatible. However, people still do everything in their power to make the other person understand, or believe, that they are the perfect mate, and as it turns out a lot of times these slight differences do not lead to people absconding as if being chased by the cops (the world now has over 6.6 billion people).

Of course there are always cheaters. What could bring a perfidious person to feel the necessity to be deceitful? Well that, I think, is obvious: they may not compare well as a good mate in the eyes of others so they must make up lies to boost their own standing. I constantly catch myself lying, if ever so slightly (some might call it exaggeration), about events in my life in order to make myself seem better. Everyone does, but when questioned on the veracity of the statement most will fulminate (or in my case I like to quickly admit my lies because I feel then it seems more like a joke and does not turn into a problem later).

Of course a lack of motivation for bettering your own situation can arise because one has become so inured to rejection that they feel as if nothing can be done to improve any further. This stage of life is where the field of psychology has been working so hard to fix and great strides have been taken towards this end. Look at all the various anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and hopefully soon the government will see the benefits of psychedelics for helping to restore a sense that you can improve your life and give the introspective insight into how to do that.

----- Part 2 coming soon -----

GRE words: Abscond, Fulminate, Inured, Perfidy, Reticent, Veracity

Time for the GRE

In order to study for the GRE I will be posting short (one or two paragraph) essays on various topics that I find interesting, semi-interesting, or infuriating. The way this is going to help me study is that I will be injecting GRE vocabulary words, probably in obscure references that will somehow allude to the topic of choice. Hopefully I will be able to create some interesting and/or intelligent for people to read. The first one will be posted shortly.

Update: My first GRE post ran a little longer than I had anticipated a posting would require in order to fit in 5 or more GRE words. Oh well. I'm still going along with it, maybe I'll get better at shortening the writing as well as being more articulate. All the words I use are taken from the The Princeton Review - Cracking the GRE 2005 edition and are boldfaced.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Hydrogen Fuel a False Promise? Not At All!

BoingBoing recently linked to an article from The New Atlantis about why using hydrogen as a fuel source is not feasible. The main argument against hydrogen is that it requires more energy to produce than that hydrogen will release upon oxidation (burning). Their secondary argument against hydrogen fuel is that in order for hydrogen to power a car for the same length trip as the average gasoline powered car now-a-days would require a much larger and more dangerous fuel tank. Both the arguments are true but they are definitely not good arguments as to why we should not focus scientific and economic efforts into producing hydrogen as a fuel source. The rest of this post will be a rebuttal to those two arguments from The New Atlantis.
1. Hydrogen requires more energy to produce than it can release. True. However, this is not really a problem. In China a new type of high temperature nuclear reactor, called a pebble-bed reactor, has been developed that uses uranium embedded in graphite balls to heat helium gas. The gas can heat up to about 1600 degrees Celsius without causing a meltdown. In fact due to the physics of expanding gas the nuclear reactor is meltdown safe. This alone is great from an environmentalist perspective: it will generate a huge amount of electrical energy without producing any carbon dioxide. The uranium fuel, once used up, is then embedded in a form of silicon and is safe for at least one million years, virtually 100% safe from leaking into any lakes or rivers as is the worry with previous nuclear power plants that use water vapor to drive the turbines instead of helium. The high temperature that the reactor reaches, along with the massive amount of electrical energy produced, can be used to produce hydrogen gas from water. The energy gained from these nuclear reactors would be more than enough to create a sustainable supply of hydrogen as well as producing electricity for cities and cars.
2. The tanks required to store hydrogen will be too massive and dangerous for conventional cars. This statement is true if the car is being powered solely with pure hydrogen. However, rechargeable battery power is getting better all the time and the amount of fuel necessary to power an electric/gas hybrid car is dropping. Organic polymer technology is also getting to the point that organo-synthetic casings will be light enough and cheap enough to hold pressurized hydrogen. Finally, the promise of solid hydrogen fuel is lessening the worry of the ultra-cold, high pressure, hydrogen fuel tanks altogether. In Seoul, South Korea, a physics group has found that they can get hydrogen to bind to titanium with no energy input and extract it back out with very little energy. This solid titanium-hydrogen combination does not need to be ultra-cold or under high pressure either, which will hopefully lead to safe compact solid-fuel hydrogen tanks.
Toyota last year put some hydrogen fuel-cell cars on the streets and because of a partnership between GM and Shell even more hydrogen fuel-cell cars will put on the roads in the next couple years along with new fueling stations. Hydrogen and nuclear power derived electricity is the future for cars and all energy in general, it's time the public and government took this more seriously in order to prevent global warming and also to prevent wars over resources as is the case with Iraq.

Some of my sources and further reading:
Platinum Today - Hydrogen binding to platinum for solid fuel.
Wired Magazine - Pebble-bed nuclear reactors.
BBC - General Motors and Shell partnership.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Heaven Exists! God Does Not. Photographic Evidence.

Here is photographic proof of the existence of Heaven, and as far as I can tell God did not create it. Instead hundreds of thousands of years of volcanic activity and evolution of life are responsible for the beautiful paradise that is Hawaii. Click on the photos below for a larger image, or go here for all of my flickr.com images of Oahu, including pictures of my family and I.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Favorites of 2006

In no particular order, they are:

Albums:

Gov't Mule: High and Mighty
Bob Dylan: Modern Times
The Wood Brothers: Ways Not to Lose
Ryan Montbleau Band: One Fine Color
Christina Aguilera: Back to Basics (smart, fresh)

(Only 5 albums! Please recommend others!)

Movies*:

The Departed
Casino Royale
Borat (come on, it's poignant and funny)
Thank You For Smoking
The Libertine
V for Vendetta
A Scanner Darkly
The Prestige

(*I still haven't seen Children of Men, Letters from Iwo Jima, Volver, Babel)

TV:

24 (my true favorite in this category)
Heroes (I'm hooked!)
Entourage ('nuff said)
Scrubs (the season that ended in Spring 2006 was pure greatness)
Lost (this may be the last season I watch it, though...)
Battlestar Galactica (not afraid to admit it)

(I started watching Season 1 of The Wire. I love it, so I'm guessing Season 4 would be on my list if I was caught-up.)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Things That Make You Go: Mmmm

There were three events that occurred in sequence on my way to lunch today that made me smile and remember that life is O.K. Two of the stories are very cliché Christmas-esc type events and one is just something that made me laugh so I thought, it being the Holidays and all, that I would share them with you. I am typically very pessimistic, and I tend to like stories that are in chronological order, so I will begin with the first event even though it is by far the least inspiring.

Honk. Hooonnnnnnkkkkkkk. An electrical company's mini van filled with three or four people merged lanes cutting off a construction worker and forcing him and his passenger to stay in the left lane, as well as giving them the urge to lay onto the horn so that all within hearing distance would know of the minivan's driver's mistake. The horn alone must not have sufficiently belabored the minivan and the construction workers must have felt as if they had been personally insulted so the passenger rolled down the window of the truck and started shouting obscenities. Of course the driver of the minivan could not hear what was being said so he rolled down his window.
"What?" He asked.
"You're ugly," was the response he got, although the traffic in the background made it difficult to hear.
"What?" The driver of the minivan asked again, either in complete disbelief that a grown man was yelling at him to tell him he was ugly or because he honestly didn't hear.
"You're UGLY!"


That was all I heard but it made me feel nice and warm on the inside. Seriously! I love seeing that kind of stuff. Things like that really make you understand how truly ridiculous the world is and all the little problems that people get angry about. And speaking of little tings:

Two midgets, little people, or dwarfs, (I don't really know the difference or what is PC these days) were walking hand in hand down the street having a good time and laughing with one-another.


Yes, this was a brief and passing moment but it was enough to make me feel good. These are people that are out of the norm. They were undoubtedly made fun of more than most while growing up and must have, I would think, felt somewhat aggrieved at their situation in life. Putting that aside the two of them found happiness in a world that makes finding happiness in typical life difficult and yet they managed with atypical statures, and hence lives. Props.

As I already mentioned, I am typically a pessimist, which is why when I observe something to be optimistic about it makes me very happy. Young children have this effect on me. They are so young that the entire world is one large ball of optimism and innocence to them. Seeing this makes me happy, and just after the dour traffic incident I was privileged enough to see a good-spirited moment with a very little girl.

A little girl in a pink jacket was holding her mom's hand while crossing Stuart street. On the other side of the street was a man selling news papers that were taken from a free newspaper bin. The man was asking for money from people walking by and the little girl's mom told her daughter to go give the man a five dollar bill. The girl waddled up to the man and gave him the money then turned around and ran back to her mom with a big smile on her face. Handing a needy man some money turned out to make this cute little girl incredibly happy. She did not, obviously, take the news paper because she was probably not old enough to even know the alphabet.


It is this sort of scene that gives me hope for humanity. Not much hope mind you, because I have seen, read about, and heard stories of the horrible capabilities of man, and I'm naturally inclined to pessimism, but some hope it did give.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Brain Drain

I'm going to pose a simple question without detailing possible scenarios. I'd like to hear what you all think about this.

Assuming that birth rates are dropping within industrialized countries and that the majority of innovation occurs within these countries, is it safe to say that there will be a drastic decrease in innovation in the coming future?

Let's try to predict where intellectual innovation will come from over the next 200 years or so.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Wacked Out War on Drugs

For many years I have been fighting to persuade people to agree with my perspective on the government’s “war on drugs”. Basically, I believe that all drugs should be legalized, with some restrictions. This belief arises not just from an urge to experience different states of mind myself but also economic and safety reasons as well.

In the US, marijuana is the largest cash crop, meaning it makes more money (~$25 billion per year) than any other plant grown and sold, including wheat (~$19 billion), tobacco, cotton, and corn. Why don’t we tax this huge pot of money, control its distribution, and save a whole hell of a lot of money spent on prisons, law enforcement (coast guard, boarder patrol, and police)?

Doctors have been using the dissociative drug Ketamine for a long time now to anesthetize patients. It has also been used as party drug because at slightly lower doses Ketamine can produce hallucinations and out of body experiences. Recently researchers have also found that at lower doses than those used at parties, Ketamine actually works incredibly well as an anti-depressant.

If other psychoactive drugs, such as LSD, Mescaline, or MDMA can also have such positive results should the government reschedule them as Schedule II drugs so that physicians and researchers can more easily purchase them for use in medical research? LSD and Mescaline have both been shown to help treat schizophrenia, alcoholism, and several other diseases and they are not addictive or cause any physical toxic effects.

What about the drugs that do cause addiction in some people and can be very damaging to their health and life? Well one thing that legalizing the drugs would do is put the drugs in the hands of people who know what they are doing with them. Pharmacists, if they were going to sell the drug, could be legally forced to maintain an online list of people who have purchased the drug and the date that it was purchased on, that way they would know not to sell to anyone who had purchased a dose of Heroine within the last week, or whatever arbitrary time is needed for the brain to recuperate from a dose of Heroine, from any pharmacist connected to the network. Pharmacists would also have to give sterile needles. The addictive nature of Heroine does not manifest itself until after multiple successive uses of it that cause a tolerance to build in the person using the drug. The tolerance is an indicator that the brain chemistry has been altered and there is now a dependence on the drug to maintain a normal state of mind and sensation, this is called addiction. If enough time is separated between each use then a tolerance never builds and the damaging effects on the brain are greatly reduced, if not altogether eliminated.

So in conclusion, the US could make billions of dollars by taxing drug sales, reducing the number of people in prisons, and by no longer wasting money trying to prevent the import of the drugs. Control on who used the drugs would be far greater, and therefore usage would be far safer, and new therapies for difficult to treat diseases and disorders could be researched. The is no good reason to make drugs illegal as far as I can see. Making drugs legal would make them easier to get but would also make them less dangerous and better information surrounding their use could be disseminated (D.A.R.E. would have to stop lying about the negative effects of use of marijuana, and other drugs).

Monday, November 27, 2006

Civil Unions

I think this is one of the most divisive issues facing the people of this country today. Gay marriage has been outlawed in 32 states, including Hawaii, where the denial of a marriage license to gay couples was ruled as unconstitutional in 1993. That state passed gay marriage legislation in 1998. Massachusetts is currently the only state to allow gay marriages, and their Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that this would only apply to residents. Vermont is the only state that allows Civil Unions, and Arizona recently rejected a same sex marriage measure. The only states that have not addressed the issue with any sort of statute or amendment to their constitutions are: Arizona, New York, New Mexico, New Jersey, Massachussetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The Federal government enacted the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996 (signed into law by President Clinton), which bars any same sex couple from the receipt of federal benefits. With an issue as volatile as same sex marriage, it is understandable that few solutions have been proposed.

It is with this wave of legislation, and in discussion with conservatives, that I believe I have an understanding of the real issue. The question I have been asking is whether or not the issue is purely religious, or is it out of a genuine desire to deny same sex couples equal benefits. The resounding answer has been that the only problem conservatives really have with gay marriage, is a religous one. Being an atheist, this is obviously hard for me to understand. What I have been trying to do, rather than stay the course (couldn't help myslef), is to find real solutions for the problems we are facing today. I think that if more people tried to do that, then we might actually start seeing change, and people could start to have faith in something more than their god, they could start having faith in their government.

With the same ferocity that religious groups fight the idea of gay marriage, homosexuals understandably reject the idea of civil unions. The thought that any American is denied a right is repugnant, but marriage isn't a civil right. If it were me, anything less than what another is offered, is unacceptable and discriminatory. This is what makes it so hard to understand how so many people in this country approve of bans on same sex marriage. How could anyone deny something as personal as marriage to another, after all, isn't what happens in the bedroom off limits to legislation? But what I've come to understand is that the right doesn't see marriage as something that CAN be offered to homosexuals. Their faith doesn't allow it, and so they can't understand the idea either.

If it truly is a religious issue, then I believe I can offer a solution. Marriage is a religious instituion. It was founded within organized religion, and is mired with its rituals and rules. At some point along the way, the institution became one recognized as a secular one. It offers us tax incentives, and has an entire court devoted to it. The concept of family itself is only granted by someone holding a license, who is married someone else with a license. I can certainly understand why incentives are offered to families. The median household income in the United States hovers around $50,000. The keyword being household. If families are to ever make it, and if children are going to get the opportunities they deserve in order to become useful, productive members of our society, then we owe it to them to help in any way we can. However, the presence of children is not what defines a family, just as Marriage doesn't. So I offer this. Remove government from marriage altogether. If it is a religious institution, then let it be. No more licenses, no more state sanctioned marriage. Let the church marry who they believe can be, or should be, and everyone else can obtain a civil union, whether it is a man and a woman, a man and a man, etc. If benefits are not an issue, then extend them to everyone, whether that is a product of a marriage or a civil union. If the Church chooses not to marry homosexuals, then maybe that should be a clue as to what they should believe, but they would be on equal ground with everyone else who obtains a civil union. No person should feel like they are less than another in this country, and it's unfortunate that their are institutions like organized religion that preach this everyday. I'm hopeful that one day I will live in a country where no person is discriminated against by this government.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Why rush legislation?

So the Democrats took Congress. As expected, the lame duck, Republican-controlled 109th Congress is scrambling to get in last-minute judge appointments and legislation. Pelosi has the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress planned out. The rush is on to dazzle voters with fresh ideas and fast action. So, what is it we want to see moving forward? Do we want an end to corruption, as many voters indicated in exit polls? Do we want to see a lot of legislation passed as quickly as possible, catering to every whim on the national radar? I think what we can all agree on is that we need compromise. I’d rather see Congressional leadership take the time to develop majority legislation – something that can bring people together. Sadly, politics has turned to picking battles to fight versus finding solutions and reaching compromise. The Bush administration will most likely sign legislation increasing the minimum wage. Will the same be said for stem cell research. Is that the battle that will be fought? We must put an end to steamrolling legislation through Congress simply because we have a slim majority and begin to develop relationships with those on the other side of the aisle. Voters want to see progress. Voters want to see improvement.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Welcom Ian

Ian is the newest admin to help work on This Life and Time so pay close attention to see how his posts are sure to add another level interest and open the doors to relevant discussion. We now have three intelligent and intriguing editors for this blog and I am extremely excited to see where this will lead and how new discussions will develop.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Electoral College is neither Educated or Elected

I have been intrigued by the Electoral College, mostly because of the result of the 2000 election, one of four instances whereby a President was elected in the United States, without receiving a majority of the popular vote. Even as I sat in disbelief, watching the elections unfold, I could not bring myself to understand this system. As I’ve researched it, I’ve found out the underlying reason why I would have hesitated to spend the time and effort figuring this baffling system out. It doesn’t make any sense, and that’s why nobody knows how it works!

The idea that we are a nation who elects their leader is engrained in every American’s psyche. It is something we present to the world as a system to live by, and countless have died for it. It is an idea so entangled within our social fabric, that it is a complete mystery as to how 300 million Americans could all not know that it is a complete illusion. Even more astounding, is the incorrect assumption that each person’s vote is equal. Consider this, if only one person in California voted in the 2008 election, then whomever that person voted for, would receive 55 of the 270 electoral votes necessary for a majority. That means one person’s vote could in theory count for 20% of that majority. Granted this is an extreme case, but it reveals the potential flaws in the system. A more practical approach is to look at the more populous States vs. the great void that is the interior of this country. Consider this; Alaska, Deleware, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia, carry the same number of Electoral Votes as Florida, but only have 1/3 of the population combined. Therefore, a resident of Florida counts for only 1/3 of that of one of these States.

Below is some more information about the Electoral College. I was interested to know that when you vote for President, your vote actually is going towards an Elector, who is chosen by the parties. 85 times in our Country’s history, an elector has refused to vote as was determined by the populace. These “Faithless Electors” further show just how ridiculous this system is. The idea of Democracy is something I myself hold dear, and I’m disappointed to find out it is nothing more than just that, an idea, that has yet to be practiced in the United States. Any system that has 3 Amendments defining it, and still can’t accomplish the goal, needs to be eliminated.

How many electoral votes does each state have?
AL: 9AK: 3AZ: 8AR: 6CA: 54CO: 8CT: 8DE: 3DC: 3FL: 25
GA: 13HI: 4ID: 4IL: 22IN: 12IA: 7KS: 6KY: 8LA: 9ME: 4
MD: 10MA: 12MI: 18MN: 10MS: 7MO: 11MT: 3NE: 5NV: 4NH: 4
NJ: 15NM: 5NY: 33NC: 14ND: 3OH: 21OK: 8OR: 7PA: 23RI: 4
SC: 8SD: 3TN: 11TX: 32UT: 5VT: 3VA: 13WA: 11WV: 5WI: 11
WY: 3

TOTAL: 538

The Electoral College Today
* Each state is allocated a number of Electors equal to the number of its U.S. Representatives plus its two senators (in CA the total electoral votes is 54).
* The political parties of each state submit a list of individuals pledged to their candidates for president that is equal in number to the number of electoral votes for the state to the State’s chief election official (in CA it is the Secretary of State). Each party determines its own way of choosing its electors.
* Members of the Congress or employees of the Federal government are prohibited from serving as Electors.
* After the parties hold their caucuses and the states hold their primaries, the major parties nominate their candidate for the Office of President. The names are then submitted to the state’s chief election official (in CA, the Secretary of State) as they will appear on the general election ballot.
* On the Tuesday following the first Monday of the month of November, registered voters in each state cast their ballots for the Office of President and Vice President.
* Whichever presidential candidate gets the most popular votes in a State wins all of the Electors for that state except for the states of Maine and Nebraska which award electoral votes proportionately.
* On the Monday following the second Wednesday of December, each state’s electors meet in their respective state and cast their electoral votes (one for President and one for Vice President).
* Each Elector must cast at least one of their two votes (see above) for a person outside of their state in order to prevent the election of a president and vice president from the same state (however, the presidential and vice presidential candidates choose each other as running-mates and are on the same ticket in the popular vote).
* The electoral votes are sealed and sent to the President of the U.S. Senate and are read aloud to both Houses of Congress on January 6.
* The candidate with the most electoral votes, provided there is an absolute majority (over one half of the total vote) is declared president.
* If no one candidate receives an absolute majority of electoral votes the U.S. House of Representatives selects the President from the top three vote-getters.
* On January 20, at noon, the elected president and vice president are sworn into office.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Million Dollar Ideas

I'm tired of getting up at 8am to go to work. I want to be able to do whatever I want whenever I want, but in order to do that I need a lot of money and in order to get a lot of money I have to work. So I've been trying to come up with some ideas on how to limit the amount of work and maximize the amount of money I make. Here is a short list of some, potential, million dollar ideas I have:

1. Sell t-shirts with 3D stereograms printed on them, like Magic Eye posters, where if you cross your eyes and stare at it long enough a 3D image of breasts pops out. Each shirt: $15. Only need to sell 66,666 of them to make a million bucks, and I'm sure there would be a demand much larger than that for such a sweet shirt. Okay, this one might not make me a millionaire but I would love to see that shirt on a girl some day.

2. Culturing autologous keratinocyte stem cells isolated from plucked hairs of the temporal region to be injected back into the scalp to regrow hair for alopecia and burn victims. The cells can also be used for skin grafts. This is a person by person procedure, similar to plastic surgery only non-invasive and no surgical procedures would need to be done only plucking hairs and small intradermal injections of cells. Price per person: $5000. So 200 people would need to be treated before $1,000,000 was made. To cover the cost of setting up a lab to culture the cells and an office to perform the injections about 220 people would need to be treated. Seems easy enough. That would be 1 person per day so in less than one year I could have $1,000,000. There are roughly 6 billion people in the world, 3 billion are men, 2.25 billion men go bald by age 80, 1.5 billion by age 40, 750 million by age 30. A large fraction of women begin to lose hair later in life also. So lets say I was able to treat two people per day working 200 days per year I could have $10 million in 5 years. Not bad. The down side: I would have to hire an MD and the the FDA would have to okay the procedure which takes years and plenty of clinical trials, and requires money. I could, however, do this from my garage easily, black market style, and charge $7000 instead.

3. Create a comedy cartoon where the characters are derived from images of funny graffiti and drawings found while walking the streets of the greater Boston area. There is already Snowman and Freddy and I'm sure in the days to come I will find a lot more.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Welcome Jeremy

I just recently added Jeremy (aka Jerems) as another admin for This Life And Time. Hopefully with his addition and the soon to be addition of Ian we will have more consistent posts, and a larger readership (anything more than one person per month will be an improvement). As always I hope anyone that reads this site will comment on their posts so that we can get good discussions going...plus it makes a writer feel to good to know that they have readers.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Halloween Pictures


From top left to bottom right:
1. Ben, Jeremy, me, and Ari; Gangster, Carl (from Aqua Teen Hunger Force), Che Guevara, Hermione (Harry Potter).
2. Ari, Paula, Heather, Jeremy, Ian, Lisa, Ben; Paula was a witch, Ian was a Vietnam vet, and Lisa was Snow White.
3. Andrew Rossa, Beatrice aka Bea. I don't remember what they were.
4. Ben, Paula.
5. Ian.
6. Heather.
7. Jeremy.
8. Hui fai, Jeremy, Danny; Hui Fai was Princess Toadstool and Danny was Mario.

Thanks Jeremy for the first and last picture.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Enraged By Spin

Vice President Dick Cheney was interviewed on Fox news today saying, basically, that the brutal insurgent attacks in Iraq lately are happening because the insurgents want to sway the elections in favor of the Democrats. Not because they want an end to western lifestyle, not because they are fundamentalist Muslim extremists that want to end the freedom to worship under any religion other than Islam, not because of their hatred of US dominance over most of the world and its meddling with other governments, but because the insurgents want the democrats to win in the elections on the 7th of November! Of course! Now it all makes sense. I am constantly being overwhelmed by a mixed feeling of fear, anger, and amazement that Americans elected power hungry idiots to run our country.
CAVUTO: Do you suspect that these insurgent attacks are timed to influence our midterm elections?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: That's my belief. I think they are, very, very cognizant of our schedule, if you will. They also -- you've got to remember what the strategy is of the terrorists. They specifically can't beat us in a stand-up fight. They never have. But whether it's al Qaeda or the other elements that are active in Iraq, they are betting on the proposition they can break the will of the American people. They think we won't have the stomach for the fight long-term.
...
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: [The insurgents] know that the way they win is if they can, in fact, force America to withdraw on the basis that we aren't going to stay and finish the job, their basic proposition that they can break the will of the American people. Story

Well I might be inclined to believe him if the will of the American people was in favor of staying in Iraq indefinitely but unfortunately for him the will of the American people is a plurality of 37% for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq (poll data). Now there are, of course, Americans that want us to "stay the course" in Iraq so I guess what Cheney meant was the insurgents are trying to break the will of the people that have been brainwashed by Fox News and the Republican party into believing that the Iraq war is somehow doing good for the people of Iraq, that staying there is helping them form a stable democracy, that by being in Iraq we are somehow making the US safer from terrorist attacks. Well, I just hope the American people are smarter than that and go to vote on Nov. 7th for a democrat or even an independent (as long the independent candidate is against the war and for pulling our troops out as soon as humanly possible) but not for a Republican.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The Strange Rantings of An Angry Mad Man

I opened Word this morning and the program asked me if I wanted to recover some automatically saved data. I clicked Yes and I'm I glad I did because I found this little amount of text that I had written while drunk a few nights ago. It is the beginning to a novel that I wanted to call The Strange Rantings of An Angry Mad Man. This is all that was recovered but I like how it sounds:
Circling beyond the esoteric bounds of the event horizon I collapsed into my own hole. I was bored. The hole was my mind.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Hilarious Street Paper

I found a page of torn out spiral bound notebook paper lying on the ground on the way home from work today and when I looked down I thought it looked like a strange encrypted message but it turned out to be far more awesome than that: It is partly a rhyme, I think, and partly a little kids story for class. It is in the style of handwriting from a 2nd grader or 4th, or 5th I have no idea how young the kid's handwriting looks but it looks and sounds very juvenile. I will scan a copy of it tomorrow so you know I am not making this up but for your immediate viewing pleasure I have copied the writing down as best as I could understand it:

I Want to Be Older

"I want to Be Older, O ya how old Do you want to Be
Some Balls my self shoting 21 I see
can see it in my eyes Rad when I was
a little kid my mom said I had
to get some"

-----

Said Stink, knock-ing on her door.
"Cant" said Judy. "Too much rain."
"What?"
"Never mind. Just go to school without me."
"Mom, Judy's sipping school!" Stink yelled.
Mom came into Judy's room. "Judy honey what's wrong?"
"I'm sick of rain," she whispered to mouse.
"Sick whats wrong what hurts," asked mom.
"My head, for one thing. From all that noisy rain."
"You have a headache yes. And a sore throat. And a fever. And a stiff neck. That's from sleeping with the diction-ary under your pillow," said test Stink.
To ace your spelling
Yes hi
Stuck out her cherry Ames-cough-drop tongue at Stink. Mom felt Judy's head.
"You don't seem to have a fever. Faker," said Stink.
"Come back in five minutes said Judy. "I'll have a fever by then."
"Faker, faker, faker," said Stink. If only she had...

That is the end of the story unfortunately so we will never get to know what happens but I'll postulate that Judy was actually faking being sick.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Update 3: Bridge Over Charles River Painting

Below is the latest work I have accomplished on my Bridge Over Charles River painting. The photo is a little blurry but you can still see the most obvious changes. Or can you? I don't know if what I have changed is obvious at all, but it did take me a long time to do.

Previous edits:


I'll try and get a better picture of the most recent update tonight.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

An E-mail To FOX News

I read an article on FOXNews.com dealing with Bill Clinton's interview with Chris Wallace on Fox. I was slightly appaled by the article so I decided I would write a letter to the author, John Gibson, to tell him what I thought. I really hope he replies, but my guess is he will not, or if he does it will be a short and sweet answer like: "Welcome to the GOP!". Here is the article and below is the e-mail I sent:
Dear John Gibson,

You are of course right about this political war between the parties, it is already a bare-knuckles brawl. I think this political fighting will lead to a lot of misinformation from both parties as people get riled up due to subtle, or not-so-subtle, attacks on their dignity, morals, previous accomplishments or lack there of, by reporters. And I think you are doing just that with your article "Clinton Camp Comes Out Swinging", but you have turned on Hillary Clinton instead of discrediting Bill Clinton's interview. Here is the same quote by Hillary Clinton from your article:

"I'm certain, if my husband and his national security team had been shown a classified report entitled, 'Bin Laden Determined To Attack Inside the United States' he would have taken it more seriously than history suggests it was taken by our current president and his national security team."

"Well, he was shown that," was your response.

There is no contradiction here. Essentially what Hillary Clinton said was that if Bill Clinton was shown a report (which apparently he was) about Bin Laden's intentions to attack the US then history will show that he did take the threat seriously and more so than President Bush did in the short eight months after his election. That is it. There is no need for her to "correct the record and apologize for misstating the facts", she just gave her opinion on what she thinks history will say in the future. Your article shows your allegiance to FOX news and for loyalty you deserve some credit, however you appear, in this article, to have "just come out slugging" exactly the type of tactic, that you seemingly despise, of the Clinton campaigns. Talk about "blame, scapegoat and divert": you diverted from Bill Clinton's interview to Hillary Clinton's speech defending her husband, then blamed her for incorrectly stating the facts (of which she did not state any), then used Barbra Boxer, Jane Skinner, and Lanny Davis as scapegoats for the misinformation presented by FOX news. It is this type of reporting that got Bill Clinton so mad in the first place. Do you not see the hypocrisy in your own statements, or is this your own cleaver way of trying excite the republican party?

Andrew


And that's my word, biyotch...Werd. (That's my attempt at humor, you have to see John Gibson's signiture sign-off to understand it, but I'm guessing even then it will not make you laugh).

Friday, September 01, 2006

Heroism

In the past there were war heroes; Men that could ride their horse valiantly through battle, hack off the head's of their enemies, and return back to their adoring family and community. Now a day there are no war heroes, apart from the caring eye's of a veteran's children. There are heroes, though, and here is a list of my personal heroes right now and a description of why, or a link to why, I think they should be everyone's heroes.

Jon Stewart – The Daily Show has provided the most intelligent criticism of government, media, and society, and has covered it hilariously. He blends entertainment and news in an intellectual and comedic way and has opened people’s eyes to the hypocrisy of the Bush administration. Jon Stewart also went on Crossfire and destroyed the idea that Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala (but mostly Tucker Carlson) were a legitimate news source they try to present themselves as such. Video Link.

Steven Colbert – Very similar reason to Jon Stewart but went one step further and used his faux-conservative personality from the show The Colbert Report to lambaste the president to his face at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Video Link.

Keith Olbermann - He is my most recent hero because of an on air commentary/rant against Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's speech to the American Legion. Rumsfeld's speech was partly about dissent against the Bush administration's actions in Iraq. Rumsfeld told the audience that critics of the Iraq War "have still not learned history's lessons." The lessons in history he is referring to are those dealing with Nazi Fascism. Keith Olberman's commentary rebuking Rumsfeld's speech was very poignant and should be seen by as many people as possible. Here is the Link to the video.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Started Painting Again

It has been a while since I last worked on my painting of the bridge over the Charles River. Well I had about an hour and a half to work on it tonight finally and here is the result. The photo was a bit dark because my room doesn't have very good lighting so see if you can see the difference between this version the first photo. Click on the images below to enlarge them.


If you couldn't tell the difference: shadows shifted, got covered up and still need to be added, and bricks and some detail was added to the bridge. Not much difference really but more pictures should be posted soon because I have my paints all set up finally after my recent move out to Central Sq.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Wu-Tang Jazzy Remix

BoingBoing.net pointed me to this incredible mash-up of old-time jazz and Wu Tang hip-hop. Incredible. It was created by DJ BC, from here in Boston and after hearing it I am now dedicated to going to a club where he is spinning. Here is the link to his site containing a few mp3s and if you want the entire album (and if you are anything like me you will) then you can get all of the files via torrents.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

DRM and Apple's iTunes

Okay I've heard a lot of complaints about DRM and most of them I agree with; It limits accessability to others, to yourself (you can't load the song on any other player), and it limits competition (again because you can't load it on any other player). But I have to ask myself this question: how has it effected me? The answer is that it hasn't. I do not buy music from iTunes. I steal it, I rip it from CD, or go out and listen to the band play. The last example doesn't work too well for bands that are no longer around but the idea is the same: if you do not like the Apple Store use something else that gives you MP3s and not DRM encoded AAC files or support the band directly. It is really easy and luckily the iPod lets us load non-DRM encoded MP3s.

Apple created a new market for music and I think musicians are relatively happy about it. Any start-up producer, or band, with a buisness license can get a song on iTunes and promote it to a new audience that would not have been there strictly with peer-to-peer file sharing or CD sales. In fact I now use iTunes to listen to 30 seconds of a new artist's song that I wouldn't have heard otherwise, and if it sounds remotely interesting to me I will then go and download it via a P2P network. If I really like the band I will go and buy the CD (never will I buy anything from Apple's iTunes Music Store, or for that matter any other store that sells DRM encoded MP3 files). I am happy, however, for Apple for being so successful with this market and I hope they continue to be so, so long as it doesn't ever impede upon my ability or avidity to get new music.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Future of Humanity

On Yahoo Answers a few days ago professor Stephen Hawking (the physicist that developed the equations for the understanding of blackhole radiation, and well known for his book A Brief History of Time) posed the question: How can the human race survive the next hundred years? Specifically he states, in a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?

I have decided to delve into this question and discuss my personal predictions for the future of humanity.

In the short run the world must be most worried about nuclear war. How would a nuclear war begin? Say North Korea launched one of their Taepodong-2 long-range missiles carrying a 15 kiloton nuclear warhead (I do not know if that is possible but let's speculate that it is) at Anchorage Alaska, the closest major US city that the missile could hit. If the missile detonated the nuclear warhead during the day there would be around 260,000 deaths instantaneously. Nuclear fall-out could contaminate the air and water all the way down to Oregon and possibly as far out as Chicago depending on wind conditions.

The USA might immediately retaliate by detonating several 1-15 megaton nuclear devices (100 times more powerful than North Korea’s) over North Korea, wiping out most if not all of what would now be the former North Korea. Another option that the US could take that would be less destructive, but essentially produce the same political result, would be to release thousands of smaller non-nuclear missiles to destroy all potential nuclear sites and all of Pyongyang. While hundreds of thousands of lives would be lost and at least one nuclear weapon used, this would not be all out nuclear war. Even China and Russia who sympathize with North Korea would not even for one second think of retaliating against the US with more nuclear warfare.

Nuclear war will not happen within the US, Western Europe, Russia, China, or any industrialized democratic nation. Of course China is not governed by democracy so it is possible that a leader of China in the future will pose a threat to the world by provoking another Cold War situation with the US, but I doubt that will happen.

If Iran were to develop nuclear weapons then it is possible a nuclear war between Israel, Iran and other Arab states could happen. I highly doubt that it would though because of UN backing of Israel and the fact that Pakistan and India have already shown that they are fully capable of not initiating nuclear war against one another even in times of war or turmoil (to use India and Pakistan as an example for Middle Eastern and Arab states).

Terrorism is another possible route for nuclear devastation. If a terror organization got a hold of a small nuclear device then that could be catastrophic but, again, it would not end in all out nuclear war. Terrorism is a nuisance and often tragic but the result is not the extermination of the human race.

Political unrest, though I’m not sure I would call it in “chaos”, is existent, especially anti-US sentiment towards our foreign policies dealing with Iraq (which I believe to be very justified) but no other nation has the power and desire to destroy the US or, for that matter, start a nuclear war with any other country (of course excluding Iran and Israel).

Hawking mentions political and social chaos but I’m not sure there is really that much difference between the two so I will skip a discussion about stresses in societies and how that leads to political turmoil.

Environmental issues threaten our (meaning humanity’s) way of life more than any other issue we face today. Global warming will raise sea levels, cause extremely violent storms, form deserts from forest, and inhospitable jungle from dry land. But human life will continue. We may not thrive as we do today but we will not cease to be either. Of course those changes I mention won’t happen within 100 years they will happen within 300-1000 years so in the short run we don’t have too much to worry about. That is not to say we shouldn’t change how we behave now because it is possible to prevent many of the disasters that global warming will cause.

-- Addition to original post:

Of course on second thought 100 years is a long time and the stability of the world, eventhough I see it as getting more and more stable with time, could very easily drastically change. A major change in the stability of a region typically occures when the socio-economic conditions are eroded. Look at Palestine, it's people are poor, live in squalor, and are heavily armed and hence there is constant fighting. Look at Haiti. Look at Darfur in the Sudan. I can not forsee a situation where the US might be plauged with a complete loss of stability, even with a terrorist, or oherwise, bombing of Washington DC and the complete obliteration of the leadership of the US. The military would still be present and it would take control until a new leadership could be put into place. But, again, 100 years is a long time. Who knows.