We need an educated congress

I think this is a telling example of exactly why we need more people who understand science and fewer who merely have connections responsible for our legislation.

Posted under Opinions

This post was written by Marc
on July 6, 2006 at 6:52 am

Longevity and the Human Condition

I’m having a back-and-forth with one of my friends and thought I’d share some pieces of it for perusal and maybe some discussion.

One Hand: I’ve read from several sources that with a healthy lifestyle, it is actually natural and normal for human beings to reach the age of 120 (the people of Okanawa are a good example). But how practical would that be on a large scale? As long as the western world is polluting the air, water and food, eating processed food, not exercising, creating stress in the pursuit of status and material gain etc. the extension of human life will only be achievable artificially and where is the quality of life in that? What would be the point? Can people even afford to live to 100 and beyond? What would it do to our economy? I don’t know what the current situation is in the US, but the Canadian medical establishment is on the verge of collapse because the cost of medical care is so extravagently expensive. Add to that a large population of centenarians needing replacement body parts, organs etc., how is it possible to sustain? Certainly an interesting subject to ponder.

The Other Hand: I have to disagree that the artificiality you cite as being necessary to the extension of human life would be a bad thing. How natural are antibiotics? Or living inside of heated dwellings with clean running water?

I read an interesting article about a year or so ago where a fellow with “Doctors without Borders” was working with folks in very remote locations where “modern” life had not yet encroached. Very contrary to his expectations he found that valium was a popular drug being dispensed there. It seems that stress and anxiety was a normal part of life out there, at rates very comparable to what we first-worlders experience. The only difference being the foci of the problems.
I think we can all relate, look at how worked up children get over simple things. They have no taxes, no job obligations, yet their concerns and worries are as real to them as ours are to us. I would put it to you that folks are either anxious or they are not. It is part of the human condition and very likely always will be.

I agree with the considerations that you raise about increased longevity. But don’t forget we’ve already dealt with many of these issues before as the average lifespan has been steadily increasing decade by decade. It’s now just a question of degree. Other cultural shifts have just as much potential for messing up actuarial tables. One that comes to mind immediately are partners in lesbian couples that can now benefit from each other’s pension and health schemes. I see many rate-setters scrambling to come up with revisions to such plans to keep them viable in the light of such new reality.

I recall that, in the 70s, there were dire warnings that the planet would never be able to support X billion people and we’d all starve in the early 2000’s if not sooner. Technology has a brilliant way of putting the lie to such doomsaying and I suspect that is a trend that will only continue.

I have a fixed confidence that both human civilization and the biosphere are much more incredibly robust than we allow ourselves to conceive. There will always be tragedy and problems on a small scale, but the larger context will end up accommodating and even booning from the break with old patterns.

Posted under Opinions

This post was written by Marc
on July 4, 2006 at 11:50 am

Jeep Thoughts

I saw a picture of my old jeep pop up on my screensaver and thought I’d post a few pictures of it as a tribute. I only had the jeep for a couple of years, but I did enjoy it.

It also made me appreciate my Honda cars a lot more too! 🙂

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These are pictures of Mich and I on one of the North Georgia mountains on a fun weekend trip.

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Overly somber pose by me travelling through one of Georgia’s towns

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Wisteria hunting with Mich so she could take pictures. You don’t see her in any of these since she insisted on taking all the photos!

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Here we were out doing a “pre-jeeping” trip on Rich Mountain with a fellow called Jay Bird who was introducing us to a local jeeping club. Yes, that’s mud and water and yes, we had to keep our feet on the drain holes in the floorboard to keep the water from pouring in!

Posted under General

This post was written by Marc
on July 4, 2006 at 11:39 am

Red spot Junior meets The Great Red Spot on Jupiter

Don’t forget to point your telescope toward Jupiter in the latter part of July (originally July 4). Scientists tell us that the fairly new Red Spot “Junior” on Jupiter is catching up to the Great Red Spot and that the two will interact.

Nobody really knows what will happen but the last I heard is that “Junior” will very likely change color from red to white.

Talk about your perfect storm… Each of those spots is mulitiple times the size of our entire planet!!

Posted under Astronomy

This post was written by Marc
on July 2, 2006 at 5:14 pm

Local Area Connection icon mysteriously returns

As a quick followup, mysteriously my icon is back. I’m happy ’cause now I can quickly look at it if I think anything odd is happening and try to convince myself that I’m not the victim of a root kit exploit (thanks Sony BMG for putting *THAT* at the forefront of our collective consciousness).

I *did* just apply the latest of Microsoft’s Updates and rebooted. I wonder if that had anything to do with it?

Posted under Tech Stuff

This post was written by Marc
on July 1, 2006 at 5:52 pm

How fast is your Broadband connection?

These are the two resources I currently use for testing my broadband connection speed. This first one I was turned onto by Darrel Orpen and it is my current first choice: testmy.net. Look for their new “dual test” option to test first your download speed, then your upload speed in sequence. They even have a, not quite ready for primetime, automated test available if you register with them (for free) that is supposed to test your speeds periodically throughout the day so you can gather stats on whether you really are getting what you pay for. I tried it and it seems to work for a couple of hours and then simply stop working. I imagine it will be fine when they’ve had a chance to iron some of the kinks out.

The second one, which I’ve been using for years I found through broadbandreports.com (it *was* dslreports.com back when I first started using the site to see what might be available to me. You can see this from the fact that it’s URL is still the old name), and it’s the speakeasy.net speed test. I moved away from speakeasy since the upload test always seemed to take so long to load on my system.

As of this moment (Saturday July 1, 2006 – a long weekend so it’s a skewed result) my results through my Comcast ISP are:

Testmy.net:
Download :: 5998 Kbps or 6 Mbps (732 kB/s)
Upload :: 362 Kbps or 0.36 Mbps (44 kB/s)

Speakeasy:
Download Speed: 5872 kbps (734 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 352 kbps (44 KB/sec transfer rate)

Posted under Utils / Tools

This post was written by Marc
on July 1, 2006 at 5:38 pm