Other bits and pieces

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Wrath of Summanus

The people of the industrialized world are level-headed, logical, and cogitative in nature. They are seldom prone to being hoodwinked by hokum, and rarely give in to media fear-mongering. Just kidding; they’re largely mouth breathing lemmings that will believe anything the dear leader or the boob tube proffers as truth.

The lead story this morning on CNN.com consisted of the following headline: Climate Killing 300,000 a year. It goes on to clarify that 99% of the innocent victims of Al Gore’s cataclysmic juggernaut live (or used to live) in developing (previously called ‘Third World’) countries; where the climate is killing people through malnutrition, diarrhea, and malaria. To quote ‘The Simpsons’, “That’s some fine police work there Lou.”

Faulty logic:

Apes descended from primitive primates. Man descended from primitive primates. Ergo, Man is an ape.

All the citizens of Piraeus are Greek. All the citizens of Athens are Greek. Therefore, all the citizens of Piraeus are Athenians.

A rise in global temperatures could kill people. People in third world countries are dying. Ergo, Global Warming is killing them.

People in ‘developing’ nations have been dying from the aforementioned maladies since Moses starting flinging frogs and grasshoppers around like his personal WMDs. This is nothing new. When was there NOT a famine in Africa, malaria in South America, or dysentery in, well, pretty much everywhere people bathe, pee, and drink from the same 30x60 pond used by exotic herd beasts for the same purposes?

Didn’t you hear? Global Warming causes basically everything. It caused Hurricane Katrina. Without climate change, there is no way that a sub-par storm, common to the region, would have been able to flood a city built below sea-level and spooning with one of the most active hurricane lanes on the planet. GW is responsible for the record freezing winter in North Dakota, Black bears wondering the streets of New Jersey, and drift of the Earth’s magnetic pole. You could probably make an argument that GW caused the Hubble Telescope to break down.

The people in third world countries are dying because they have had the misfortune of being born within cultures that teach them the fundamentals of not doing anything whatsoever to better their condition. We call them ‘developing’ countries. That word implies a certain degree of progress. If they are developing, and have been for all this time, when are they going to be developed? If I am ‘building’ a sand castle, eventually, in some form, it will graduate to ‘built’. These countries aren’t developing. They’re languishing away, intent on going nowhere. The laundry list of 'why' and 'who's to blame' is longer than, well, a very long thing, but Global Warming isn't on it.

That sad thing is that as more and more people buy-in to the smoke and mirrors of this sort of misguided displacement of causality, fewer and fewer will devote resources and efforts to avert the real underlying ailments of the third world. Reducing greenhouse gas output in California is not going to impede the spread of HIV. Driving a hybrid car isn’t going to teach contemporary farming techniques to the over-populated masses. Carbon offsets are not going stop a war-lord in in the Congo from devouring his nation like Saturn, gobbling up his children. It's easier to blame the public enemy.

If this were the late 50's, we'd be blaming the whole thing on the spread of communism. Check this out; from the article, I'll replace references to Global Warming with 'communism'.

The first comprehensive report into the human cost of communisim warns that
the world is in the throes of a "silent crisis" that is killing 300,000 people each year

More than 300 million people are already seriously affected by the gradual spread of communism and that number is set to double by 2030, the report from the Global
humanitarian Forum warns.

"This is one of the reasons why I've described communism as all encompassing," he told CNN. "This threat to our health, this threat to food production, this threat to security. It raises political tensions, it will have people on the move -- and they are on the move -- and many more which will bring tensions."

So, grab your torches and pitchforks! There's nothing so wrong in the world that can't be cured by a panic stricken mob that will listen to anything that is presented to it. By the time we're done slaying this dragon to save the children of Zaire, we will have effectively sealed their fate. We will regulate out all types of industry that patronize production from the developing nations. We won't buy goods from this country or that one because of new import restrictions against countries that don't mandate X limits on greenhouse gasses. You think they're starving now? Wait until EVERY paltry industry they have is no longer marketable in the west because of our crusade against carbon.

But, don't worry. If there's anyone left after ten years that climate change hasn't murder death killed, we'll be blaming something else; probably the decaying orbit of the Moon.

©Raymond Smith- 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Where's My Pizza

The world is a tough place right now, especially for Americans. With the Economic Down-turn, recession, depression, homeopathic decrease in commerce, or whatever you want to call it, the War on Terror (A.K.A 'the global struggle against those less fortunate who just need a hug), Global Warming, or Climate Change, Swine Flu, HIV, and the battle over gay marriage, Americans are having to struggle like never before to make their way in this world. As we ply our blood sweat and tears on the road to the American dream, we are ever watchful for traps and dead-falls lying in wait to snatch that dream from our grasp. There are school shootings, missing cute white girls, collapsing bridges, and crashing construction cranes. The world is truly a perilous place to navigate these days.

I did it! I actually made it through that paragraph with a straight face.

America, today, is really an amazing place. Life here is really easy. Life here is really fun. We have it better here than anyone else, anywhere else, anywhen else. (I know there's no such word as 'anywhen', but I liked it to go with the other two.) Never before in the history of the world has a newborn child faced such a high probability of a long and productive life. There are problems, but those problems are minutia contrasted against the veritable cornucopia of goodness that surrounds us.

I am hungry. I can solve that problem with embarrassingly little effort. I don't have to leave my hovel with a club, or a spear to find some unsuspecting doe-eyed creature to skewer. There's a great likelihood that there's leftover food in my fridge, if not, I can cook some of the pre-skewered dead animal pieces in my freezer. If I find that to be more work than a spartan like me should be made subject, I can have someone bring food to my house in less time than it takes to lace up a pair of wolf-skin boots. I honestly don't remember the last time I had to literally reap anything that I had sewn. In fact, it's been so long, that I don't even remember how to do either of those tasks. If I need something reapable, I go to the grocery store and bring it home in a recycled plastic bag with holes in it that prevent stupid crotch fruit from suffocating when they put it on their heads. If I don't have any money in my pocket, I can have it anyway. The stores knows my credit card will give them the money in two to three business days. I don't even have to work very hard to earn the money to get the food. I have to spend about 3 minutes at my desk to earn enough money to buy a hamburger.

I need a house. What are my options? I could dig a hole in the side of an embankment. I could start cutting down trees to construct a log cabin. It would take a while, so in the mean time I can live in a tent. I'll just build the one room at first so my family of six has a roof over their heads. (I'd have a family of six because it's likely two of them won't live past the age of four). I could grow a bunch of grass, and then cut sod to stack up and make a house. Heck, I could even gather a metric ass-load of rocks and glue them together with some sticky mud. Or, I could sit back, relax, and remind myself that it's not 1649 and just move into a 2500 sq/ft ready-built multi room PALACE. This place is great! The floors are soft. The water just plops out of a tube in the kitchen (no running to the well with a bucket for this guy!) The house heats itself, cools itself and lights itself. Need hot water? Twist the other knob—this is great! Oh...oh...and here's the best part: I can poop IN the house, and no one will go running out into the night.

I don't feel well. This could be bad. I have a pain in my belly—low and right. No problem, I'll send Alexis to fetch the doctor. He'll put some leeches on me to suck the evil spirits out and make the pain go away. When that doesn't work he'll tell my wife that it's in God's hands now. God is only interested in doing one thing with you once you're in his hands; you're done. If I actually lived in that time, my family would not even EXIST! Diana would have died from appendicitis in high school, and I probably wouldn't have survived my sick gall bladder. It wasn't all that far back in the annals of history that surgery was basically: 'Ew, that looks gross, let's cut that off.' If you were lucky you lived through the infection you picked up from the surgical tools because the surgeon wasn't even aware of the existence of germs. I'm no historian, but I'm reasonably certain that cases of elective surgery during the Civil War were extremely uncommon. Today, in America, you could have something unpronounceably wrong with your subcutaneous dobsosloptoid, and a team of doctors adroitly wielding a laser actuated, robot assisted, optically enhanced proswaid swathermistic incisomatic will fix it up in a jiffy—and someone else will pay for it.

I want to talk to my long lost cousin. No problem; where's that bottle of ink? Let's see, I'll just pluck a feather from this turkey I keep out behind the house. I have plenty of time to write the letter since the postmaster doesn't come through these parts for another four days. I'm in Maryland, and he's out on the frontier in the Washington Territory, so it'll be at least six months before I should expect a response. I might be able to speed the process up just a little bit. I'll scan my parchment into my computer as a .PDF file, attach it to and e-mail, bounce it off a few satellites and my cousin can read it in about 3.4 seconds. Nah, screw that, it's too much work. I'll just call his cell phone.

I could go on and on with these. If I need to be somewhere that I'm not, I could drive my awesome red truck which can carry me, four other people, and a 1000lbs of my amazing stuff 500 miles in a single day. Need to go farther? Let's not discount the miracle that is human flight. I'll say that again: Human...flight. People can fly, and we can haul ass doing it too! How can you complain about the in-flight peanuts when YOU'RE FLYING THROUGH THE AIR like some crazy-ass superhero straight out of awesome land!

We know everything. There is so much information available to you at any given second that those who supply it actually run out of interesting information to present. Would Ben Franklin have been printing stories about the Octomom? Well, he might have, but it would have been just once, not every pamphlet for 10 weeks. You want to know how to a cow's utter works? How about finding the answer to the age old question, “What's that hangy downy thing in the back of my mouth?” Click, click, click, and there you go. The free exchange of information today is nothing short of mind-blowing.

Instead of casting a cloud of despair over life, the universe, and everything, Americans need to relax for a minute. Walk into your kitchen and mix some really neat pink powder with water. Pull a few ice cubes out of the ice maker machine that you don't understand, and make a nice cold drink. Next, grab a bag of dried corn that someone else was kind enough to farm and package for you and throw it in the microwave. Give the Magic Chef four minutes to bombard your corn with radio waves and you've got a greasy, buttery snack to go with your cold drink. Now, take your feast into the living room, sit down in front of your plasma television (another amazing marriage of nature and science) and watch a two-hour story acted out for you with a music soundtrack and stored on a disk made of the derivatives of oil (squirted out of the ground) and then etched with a laser. But, before the opening credits role, take a minute to remind yourself just how cool it is to live in the time we do, and how much cooler it's going to get before your surgeon gives up.

The world is truly amazing.

©Raymond Smith- 2009

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Turd in the Water Pipe

Some folks at work and I were talking the other day about how well the Roman Empire would have faired were it to be ran by the U.S. Air Force. Precipitate to that conversation, what follows is my account of the construction of the Roman Aqueducts under the governance of the USAF.


The issue was raised in a weekly staff meeting that Rome would likely flourish more rapidly if it were to benefit from an increase to its water supply. The commanding, Legatus legionis (LL) agreed with the finding in principle, and commissioned Legio III to form a task force dedicated to the project. The task force would be ultimately responsible for the success of the Aqueducts and was given a time line for completion of L years.

The task force (TF), which spent the first VI months debating the name of the project (later settled as 'Project Aquaeductus') assigned Legio V/A-VI as the Headquarters-level System Management Office (SMO) which would have the responsibility of assigning specific tasks to various stake holders and reporting back to the TF. Enthusiastically, the new SMO divvied out responsibilities as follows: Legio I would be the Office of Primary Responsibility (OPR) for material acquisition. Legio IV was OPR for manpower. Legio VII had the stick for the budget. Legio II had to pull double duty as both the Subject Matter Expert (SME) and OPR for Plans and Engineering (PE) and Research and Development (RD). Other OPRs would be generated on an as needed basis.

Progress report; Anum XVI from program standup:
The Staff Summary Sheet (SSS), authored by L-VII/A-V requesting monies from the Senate has been in staffing for a number of years. The latest status report revealed that there were disagreements over specific verbiage when the papyrus landed on the desks of the Senate office of Oversight and Compliance. The SSS has been sent back to the originator with additional suggestions in the comment matrix.

The Concept of Operations (CONOP) drafted by L-VIII/A-III, (later OPR added under 'Operations') which details exactly how the program will execute at the technical level, has been on hold for a number of years waiting for technical data from L-II, which has as yet, not been able to finalize the design of the structure. L-II has cited numerous setbacks, primarily problems obtaining specs from stone vendors.

While the program is still in its infancy, L-IV has been criticized by the TF for its overzealous execution of manpower. As the OPR, L-IV reported at the last staff meeting that fully MMMMCMXCIX x MXX slaves from IX provinces were assembled and ready for the task. At this time, they are being employed on 'casual' status until such time as Aqueductus construction begins.

Progress report; Anum XL from program standup:
XII years after the contract for construction was awarded to Booz-Allen-Roma (BAR), the contract has fallen back into re-compete before a single stone has been placed. The contract had been awarded while the SSS remained in staffing—preventing the actual embarkation of the project. The SMO had originally looked at sole sourcing the construction, but lawsuits from various contractors over unfair competition forced the TF to engage in the lengthy contract competition process.

During the latest staff meeting, L-II identified a disagreement between the CONOP and manpower data. While L-IV had supplied an ample number of slaves, there would be insufficient trained masons among the work force according to the Annex IX, Appendix D of the CONOP. The TF and the SMO decided that it would be more cost effective to train masons from among the slaves than to attempt to acquire them from the elsewhere. L-II/A-IV was immediately assigned OPR from the development of a training plan and syllabus.

While the Senate had approved the funding of the project, the money still had not been allocated to the TF for execution. The Action Officer (AO) from L-VII reported that, contrary to popular understanding, it was not L-VII/X-XI's 'to do' to submit the Military Interdepartmental Purchase Request (MIPR) to the Senate Budge Comptroller's office because they were only the Office of Collateral Responsibility (OCR), vice OPR where money transfers were concerned. L-VII/X-IV, being the actual OPR should be picking up that duty.

Progress report; Anum LV
V years overdue, the program is ready to begin construction. BAR lost the contract during re-compete, but managed to regain it following a lawsuit, in which BAR claimed that it had been prepared to execute its previous contract in good faith. The SSS has been approved, though there remain several disagreements among AOs. The CONOP, which had been approved for over XX years, was finally been looked at by the TF SMO office, which didn't realize that an approved CONOP no longer required them as a signatory.

IV days before breaking ground, L-IV AO brought up in the weekly staff meeting that the date for construction had not been socialized with L-IV, and as a consequence, LXXV percent of the manpower had been reassigned to Project Via Appia. The AO also pointed out that L-II/A-IV had never appointed anyone as either AO, OPR, or SME for the development of Techniques, Tasks, and Procedures (TTPs), and that without validated TTPs, any courseware for training masons would be invalid and lead to a finding of 'non-compliant' during the upcoming Unit Compliance Inspection (UCI).

Construction was then slipped VI years to the right while TTPs were reconciled.

Progress report; Anum LXX
Project Aqueductus has been halted pending investigation by the Senate Oversight Committee (SOC). The inquest is expected to take X years.

©Raymond Smith- MMIX
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