Cool date but nothing interesting happened outside of NASA posting 10 days early why the world didn’t end on December 21st…
The 2012 US election is over and the results are in. Being happy that Obama won, instantly I tweeted and wrote on Facebook that it feels good to get a decisive win. I mean 3.5 million more votes (52% popular vote) and a 62% win in electoral vote seems pretty decisive. For me growing up in a time where the memory of George W. Bush Jr losing the popular vote yet winning the election is still strong, this seems very decisive. However, for some reason I still keep hearing the analysis that this election has shown that the country is still divided. My initial thought was, of course the nation will always seem divided in a two-party system. It’s just a question of lack of choice. This is really emphasized by the fact that both candidates run from the middle, i.e. are not extreme in any direction. This prompted me to take a look at the historical numbers. Wikipedia has a couple of nice lists showing the historical results of the presidential elections at: Presidential elections by Electoral College margin and Presidential elections by popular vote margin. I was very surprised to see how divided we really are compared to the previous century. It feels like the United States has never recovered from the division created by the Bush-era. With the exception of the elections of Jimmy Carter in ’76, JFK in ’60 and Woodrow Wilson in ’16, the electorate has been nearly unanimous and a very healthy margin in the popular vote. The last long period of division of the American people when it comes to how the country should be run were in the election cycles directly after the civil war. However, looking at the numbers even this divided mindset seemed to go over fairly quickly.
The more I think about it the more I begin to think that this division is a question of identity, or rather lack thereof. The USA has always been a well-defined nation in terms of its values and belief system whether others liked it or not. However, now with candidates running from the middle and a political climate in which we are forced to “play nice” with the other developed nations, each party has no true “core values” and is representing a not so well-defined stance on a number of controversial issues. With an ever more diverse American population, I believe, there is an even greater need for a clear vision and value system that can be at least respected if not agreed with. The way candidates are running these days, there is no longer a line between Democrats and Republics just grey area. I agree with Obama’s stance on a number of issues and I understand that having elected a black president twice now is a statement maker globally. However, making a statement is not enough. If I could speak to Obama today I would challenge him to give the American people an identity that everyone could respect. One that will unify the country again and the Democratic party can move forward with during the elections to come thereby saving us from future “tea parties and Sarah Palins”.
So I was reading a story about global warming in the September issue of the Wired that really caught me off guard. The story was entitled Apocalypse Not by Matt Ridley. He begins by talking about why the world is not going to end at 11.11 on December 22nd 2012. In reality he doesn’t at all adress the claims presented by the Mayan calender theorists but makes the broader claim that all apocalyptic predicions will fail essentially on the basis of the human history of survival. He goes on discussing countless predicions that have obviously failed since we are still here. He suggests that regardless of that happens in the future our ability to intervene technologically and our record for survival as a species makes the possibility of any real catastrophe less land less likely. The curve ball comes when he draws a direct parallel between the end of the world based on the Mayan calender and global warming. He describes a wait and see approach in which we should innovate as problems arise and argues that “Humanity is a fast moving target”. While I can understand the sentiment that certain political policies such as mandating biofuels have created issues, I always thought that the Wired was a forward thinking magazine. Is it really forward thinking to imply that politics have no role in the “battle” against global warming? Is it forward thinking to suggest that changes incurred from global warming could very well benefit humanity?
I do agree that there has been a significant amount of “fear mongering” over the past couple of decades when it comes to pushing the issue of global warming. I also agree that technological innovation will be our salvation for future problems. However, I’m hard pressed to understand the implication that politics don’t have a role to play. For wide sweeping technological advancements to be able to make a difference, its political policies that can truly expedite that process.
Furthermore, the fact that this story was accompanied by another story, “In Oil We’ll Trust” by Peter Schwarz, in which they promote tehnological advancements in extracting oil and natural gas from shale gives me more reason to pause. The combination of these stories gives a surprisingly very Republican message that global warming is not the “enemy” its made out to be and that the future lies in innovation centered around the consumption of oil and not alternative energy sources. Just because technology seems that it will bring down the oil dependence that the US has on the Middle East doesn’t chance the circumstances around the impact that using oil has on the environment.
For me I took two things away from these articles. First, I was a bit disappointed in the not so liberal message despite the fact that from a purely fiscal perspective it made a lot of sense. Second, that I myself will be taking a closer look at this technology for extracting natural gas from shale and invest accordingly, lol.
Being a die hard NFL fan I couldn´t resist but put in my 2 cents on how things are going this season. First of all I´ll start with a prediction: My beloved Chicago Bears will go to the playoffs not as a wild card team and they will defeat the Green Bay Packers in their next meeting. Having said that I must add that there is far too much video review going on. Coming into week 3 of the season it feels like the games are almost 30 min longer on average and thats just waiting for the refs. While I understand the´re amateurs the new rules would have been in effect even if we had the normal refs (I think) and referee mistakes are part of the game. For me as a fan I just think all the extra focus on play reviews, errors in penalty administration and constant fighting between players really takes away from the game. I hope that the NFL can sort things out.
During the last week I’ve gone into full reading mode and have burned through 4 books and am in the middle of 3 others. This being on top of everything else that I have on my plate. One of the books was Born to Run by Christopher McDougal. The story telling was a bit chaotic but still captivating once you get past all the talk about love and passion will somehow prevent running injuries… It was interesting to read about how our (humans) evolutionary advantage was to be able to run long distances which allowed us to do persistence hunting; that is to literally run our prey (deer, antelope, etc.) to death. He touches on the current insane 80% injury rate to runners and primarily attributes it to the modern day running shoe which has altered our running technique and weakened the muscles in our feet. So really it’s a bit of a round about way of promoting the barefoot running style or running in minimalistic shoes. In any normal situation someone talking about running around barefoot and becoming a vegan would land on deaf ears with me. What do you think I’m some sort of hippy? However being that I myself have been training and writing about my road to a triathlon and have turned to barefoot running with remarkable results in an effort to avoid continued knee problems, I’m a true believer. I mean for 10 years no matter how much I trained slowly or did physical therapy running ended promptly in injury. Now I run every day and even sometimes twice a day and feel nothing in my joints. Though there was no clarification on why they were promoting being a vegan in this book when our running nature was used for hunting meat… So for those of you suffering chronic running injuries or spending a fortune on running shoes I advise you to give this one a read. Though for me, I’m still a long ways away from giving up on a good filet mignon.
Check out my latest thoughts on my new barefoot running shoes: Merrell Flux Gloves http://www.luisguilamo.se/?p=131
So I was inspired by a story done by Mythbusters. They provided a number of cool tech projects for the “geeky” parent (I prefer tech savvy parent) to do with your kids. I was partial to building a hovercraft, though a leaf blower technically isn’t something that everyone just has lying around in the garage ready to be reappropriated. I was a little surprised they didn’t add an “anti-gravity” machine as they had a pretty cool episode on this as well. However, it got me thinking about what projects I did when I was younger. Being a late bloomer in the tech world (not until blowing out my knees forcing me out of sports) I did more “practical” projects such as creating my own digital cable receiver or an autonomous toy car that could drive around rooms without running into walls or furniture. These types of things are a bit too advanced for my four year old though (maybe). There are always the basic things of dissecting stuff but I want to connect it to something that he is really interested in. So I’m thinking more along the lines of creating a solar powered battery charger since he’s always reminding me to charge the iPad and asking how that works. What other cool projects are just a few radio shack parts away? Any good sites with lots of projects with designs that actually work?
So I was reading this story about the next biggest thing in legal battles related to online copyright issues; 3D printing. I still remember 10 years ago my professor had a 3D printer and I had a hard time really imagining how useful this could be in the everyday home. Could a 3D printer really become as common place as the printer / scanner / fax combo? Being that I am still yet to own or even use one I admit that I am still having a pretty hard time grasping the need for one of these things even if they can be found for a measly $1000 and are rapidly dropping in price. The reference point used was Warhammer figurines, people creating their own or recreating designs for existing ones then posting the designs for everyone ion the net to print. Just like in the film and music industry the company was quick to issue take down notices of these designs. While I can see the problem in this, I’m having a hard time to see this being as big an issue as pirating films and music. I guess my difficulty lies with the fact that I have no real understanding of the quality of the end product produced by these 3D printers. I mean, for instance, is it safe to allow your kids to put the end product in their mouths (or maybe I should say any less safe than existing plastic toys)? Then maybe I could see every parent owning one of these and just having their own little toy factory pumping out toy parts and doing self-assembly. I’m also curious about the cost of the start material and the reusability of the already produced items. What else could the average “Joe” uses a 3D printer for other than toys, being that they are limited by the production material? Could it ever even really be cost effective enough to pump out Legos? Or will this item remain tech geek office decor?
So the last couple of summers I’ve been trying my hand at the classical father son activity of fishing. “Luckily” my summer house is right on a rather large lake so it’s not such a great effort to walk 20 meters down to the water. I write lucky in quotes because this lake seems to be fairly difficult to fish, at least for me. Mankind has been fishing for thousands of years and yet in two summers my sons and I have caught two measly perches, one of which was caught by my four year old. I know that there are plenty of fish as I see my neighbor coming home regularly with pikes the size of my leg. I remember when I was a boy grabbing the cheapest fishing rod you can find, digging up some worms and going to fish at the nearest lake with my friends and… success! Not here apparently. So I find myself reading fishing magazines trying to get tips on what setups we should be using. I’ve gotten a couple of tips from my neighbor though none of which have been successful. I’m determined to conquer this challenge but until then I drew this picture to explain to my sons why we haven’t caught much…