Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Get Organized, America

Perusing a few of my favorite websites and feeds for a worthy topic, I came across Just a Girl in Short Shorts Talking About Whatever - Fed Throws Up Hands & Wall Street Runs. In response I originally intended to leave a comment, but as usual I got carried away in my writing and decided it was becoming too long to just be a comment.

What my thoughts centralized around was that so few people even know what's going on outside the sphere of their own personal lives. I've been out of high school for half over two years and I'm starting to realize that this "world" or "society" that we all talked about in class was not quite the same as discussing Les Miserable or, unbearably boring as it was, The Scarlet Letter. No, this world around me has come into focus a substantial amount recently. Now, especially as the elections near and I actually take part in selecting a candidate to throw all of my support to (Ron Paul), I realize that what we need to do is maybe "cater" a little bit to people like my former self by taking part in the effort to spread truth and information in such a way that most people can come to understand.

People allow themselves to be blinded to things around them in favor of living out their own lives in ignorant bliss, or say they have too many problems in their own life to worry about it. Either way, it's irresponsible because it's enabling some pretty horrible things to come to be that our descendants will have to deal with. Though the economy is considered a pressing issue for this coming election, nobody really cares to talk about it. They'd rather watch news about celebrity gossip and tips for a healthier lifestyle that they're never going to follow. Never mind the fact that our economy is running out of anything useful to produce. Instead of some major export that does anybody any good, 70% of our economy is run by people buying lots of "toys" and other useless junk. Where does that leave us when the economy crashes? When jobs are scarce and pay cuts incurred around the nation, who's going to buy all of this garbage?

Many people realize that an out-sourced factory means that there are fewer jobs here in America. They may even take into account that this means we are sending these foreigners our money as well to provide the labor. What they don't realize is that every product we stop making here contributes to the increasing possibility that the US just might not last forever. When the economy's down and nobody's out spending the money we need to support our own country, what will we have to recover? If we had some major exports being made here, some products that were actually MANUFACTURED HERE and, maybe for a change, WORTH BUYING then we'd be able to buckle down, make some budget cuts (personally and nationally) and just focus on bringing the money in. Instead, things will probably just get exponentially worse.

The newer Bankruptcy laws are not helping like expected either. It seems as though expecting a person to pay back the loans and credit within five years is a just thing to do. It probably means lower payments then they'd already have. However, many people in this position got their homes at a low adjustable rate. These rates will definitely go up a lot in a very short time here. When these rates go up, it becomes less and less reasonable for a person to keep paying on their homes, their cars, AND their payments arranged when they filed for Bankruptcy. All in all, expect a lot of forclosures over the year 2008, and remember that each one of those is costing society money.

Then what about the oil that, as I've mentioned before, we could've been weening ourselves off of already for a few years? Prices are only going to go up, and that's more money flowing OUT of the country instead of IN. Instead of buying their oil, they could've been buying GM's EV1 models or a similar American product that actually held any value. Don't get me wrong though, it would definitely take a lot more than one product or one company.

As I write this, the national debt is at $9,173,759,902,852. Broken down, that means that each of us is essentially worth -$30,179.93. With everything that we don't make here, that number gets worse. Every barrel of oil we buy, every dollar we spend at war OVER THIS OIL THAT WE SHOULD ALREADY BE BREAKING FREE OF is another dollar/barrel closer to, quite possibly, the self-destruction of our nation.

At Immigration Counters, you can watch in real time the costs of illegals in our country. It's almost as scary to watch how quickly these numbers climb as it is to watch our debt climb. It's changing as I go so these numbers will in fact be MUCH different by the time anyone reads this, but here are some figures:

21,259,292 illegal immigrants in the US

$43,892,613,000+ wired to Mexico since 2006

$345,856,200,000+ wired to Latin America since 2001

$397,483,935,830 spent on social services for illegals

$14,913,529,435 spent on illegal children K-12

$1,485,070,305 spent on incarcerating illegals since 2001

10,268,034 jobs held by illegals here

To those humanitarians out there who think these people are no burden and deserve to be here as much as we do, here's some proof that they are in fact a huge burden. True, they deserve as good a life as the next guy, but not at the next guy's expense. Look at how they gather here in our country to fight for their "rights." If they gathered like that in their own countries, they could bring about some major reform. But, then, so could we to our own country if people learned to gather and fight in groups for the changes that need to happen.

That, to me, is the biggest problem. All of these issues would be irrelevant if people weren't so apathetic. Maybe apathetic is the wrong word. Many people care, they just don't prioritize the needs of the many above their own. I understand this in a lot of ways. Working as the factory worker under strict attendance policy, I wouldn't have left work for a rally to fight illegals or save the electric car at the risk of being unable to feed my wife, and soon my own child. The people who win and who make reforms are the people who can gather the largest organization of people. That's supposed to be one of the most important principles in America. Majority rules.

If you, like myself, come away from this blog with that "gotta get out and do something" feeling, go join an organization that shares your most passionate issues. For example, I'm a strong supporter of home schooling becuase I feel the education system of today is inadequate. People aren't honestly getting any smarter than they were before. If anything, the opposite is happening. I was watching "A Christmas Story" with my wife today, and I was blown away by the way Ralph's teacher was able to talk to the kids. Now, teachers talk down to the kids like they're all perpetually two years old. As a result, your average high school graduate speaks no better now than (s)he did by the end of elementary. I myself remember feeling like I was taking the EXACT SAME English class every year from seventh grade on. So, I got online and did a search for "Utah homeschool organization." From result #1 I'm off to a good start, Homeschool World: Utah Homeschool Organizations and Support Groups. Now, say I join and X proposal comes up threatening to take away my right to homeschool my children. If I belong to an organization, I have a good source to turn to to gather in large numbers and fight it. If I don't belong to an organization, I probably just sit there staring at the headline shaking my head and thinking, "Well that sucks."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Some More "Green" Power

As much as I enjoyed the political environment of my Government class in High School, I've always been more for the progression of science as an answer to society's problems, and what frustrates me on this topic in particular is that the science is OUT THERE now.

Technology #1: The Electric Car. Also read the Follow-Up to My Electric Car Post.

Technology #2: Solar Power. Coal power costs around $1 per watt. Your typical solar cell costs $3 per watt. Now, however, Nanosolar has created solar "panels" that are actually a thin coating that you lay on any sun-exposed surface. The grand total here: 30 cents per watt by eliminating many of the wasteful components in the production process. It's as easy as printing out a big roll of clean energy. Now imagine that your electric car charging station was run on this. That, or your house.

Technology #3: Wind power. Not the strongest source, no, but not something to rule out either. Current wind turbines have too much friction in the gearbox and other components. Shawn Frayne, a 28-year-old California inventor, came up with the "Windbelt." Instead of a huge mill spinning around, it uses a membrane fitted with magnets that vibrates in the wind, causing the magnets to oscillate between the metal coils. The device is currently around 20 times as efficient as the windmills we use currently.

With these technologies combined, I can't see how we'd ever have an energy crisis again. The only reason these things haven't come into effect at all is because of profits. Companies see a HUGE loss in profits by developing energy sources that virtually sustain themselves and have so few components.

Monday, December 10, 2007

First Trimester Bleeding

In honor of the uninformed, like myself (on this occasion), I'm going to spare anybody out there who just found out she was pregnant some potential trauma. To set the scene properly for just what an impact this had on us today, I'll mention that my wife had a miscarriage about a year ago. Today, less than a week after we found out she was pregnant again, we thought we had a repeat on our hands. She went into the bathroom and found she had a very small amount of bleeding going on. She mentioned having heard of something called First Trimester Bleeding, but didn't seem to believe that could be it. I'd never heard of it, and I assumed by her lack of confidence in it she didn't know as much about it as she (or I, really) should. I Googled it, and found some information.

Many women find within the first 12 or so weeks that they will bleed, and it does not by any means suggest that you are for sure going to miscarry. It should still be discussed with your doctor because it COULD happen, but it seems that doctors usually find the source of the problem to be safe and fixable. A lot of times, some of the cells at the mouth of the cervix cause the bleeding because of intercourse. This area's a bit sensitive, it seems. It could also be the result of infections, including anything from a yeast infection to an STD. Though, husbands/boyfriends/lovers out there, this doesn't mean she's been out cheating on you. Some of the potential infections behind this could in fact have been "dormant" in there for some time.

So, it's definitely something you should mention to your doctor because even if it is something that could prove malicious to your baby, he just may be able to get the problem out of there before it does any harm.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Follow-Up to My Electric Car Post

I'd also like to note that beyond the horrible actions of General Motors to prevent the electric car from ever having a chance, certain California legislations also allowed it to happen. I've just stumbled upon an outlook on how the federal government should handle the protection of the environment and thus encourage the production of such cars, taken straight from Ron Paul's web page Ron Paul on The Environment:

"In a free market, no one is allowed to pollute his neighbor's land, air, or water. If your property is being damaged, you have every right to sue the polluter, and government should protect that right. After paying damages, the polluter's production and sale costs rise, making it unprofitable to continue doing business the same way. Currently, preemptive regulations and pay-to-pollute schemes favor those wealthy enough to perform the regulatory tap dance, while those who own the polluted land rarely receive a quick or just resolution to their problems."

The California legislation that first led to the development of a pretty good variety of electric cars from several different manufacturers stated that if a manufacturer wished to continue selling cars in California X% of their cars must be zero-emission vehicles. That "X" value was meant to steadily climb over the years and would've been incredibly helpful in changing the way society drives and breaking us of oil if California hadn't caved to the car-makers and taken down the law.

What if it were suddenly in the hands of the people, as it should be? If you could make the case that this manufacturer or that was polluting your land and impeding on your ability to function outside the confines of your own home, you could sue them. Fear of this might just have the power to bring back the electric car. I'm not typically in support of the ridiculous law suits we have today, but to bring an end to people fighting and dying for a waning resource, I'd say it's worth it. If the Federal Government was able to sue California for the zero-emission laws, we too should be given the power and government aid to sue those responsible for smog alert days that keep us trapped indoors.

Who Killed the Electric Car?

I highly recommend that everybody watch the movie "Who Killed the Electric Car?" The fact that anybody can be as corrupt as those responsible for the destruction of the EV1 and other electric cars is sickening. We had in the EV1 and electric car that, if given the best batteries of it's time (NiMH), could've made up to 140 miles per charge. If this model had not been obliterated and were given the lithium ion batteries of today, as demonstrated by Alan Cocconi in the T-zero, it could have made 300 miles per charge.

The following rant has a few "spoilers" as far as information contained in the documentary, so if you don't want to watch it but want the gist of it, read on. If you're going to watch it, then just go do it now. If you have digital cable it's On Demand as of my writing this under Premium Channels, then Encore.

To everyone out there: boycott General Motors, and don't put all your faith in this hope of hydrogen fuel cells. They're not going to be all they're cracked up to be. Once the trillion or so known barrels worth of oil out there in the world are gone, gas companies will then become providers of all the hydrogen we would fill our cars with, and then what? prices would be just as bad as gasoline. The costs of building the fueling infrastructure would be insane. As for the electric car, it would be next to nothing in comparison. Your work-place could provide a simple plug-in in the parking lot, and various charging station/parking lots would spring up allowing even further mileage per charge. Many of these could be powered by all the wind and solar power, and even those that were still powered by coal power plants and others would be better than the oil we depend on now.

People die every day for this oil that's just going to run out anyway. Why, when we already have an alternative that would satisfy most needs of everybody? let's even suppose you DO need to go beyond the range of your electric car, if we had a few models of hybrids out there, we'd probably have plenty of domestic oil to meet those needs for quite some time until further developments of battery technology and solar panels allow the car to run as long as you can.

Why did this car disappear you ask? Think of all the components present in your combustion engine right now. Car manufacturers would no longer profit from installing each and every one of those components. Then, think of how many of those components will be replaced throughout the life of the car. The electric car requires only a tire rotation and wiper fluid every 5000 miles. Nothing more.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Baby Grace

In Texas, two parents were put in jail on charges of beating their 2-year-old daughter to death for refusing to say "please" and "yes sir." Baby Grace is the name being currently used while police identify the body found on and uninhabited island in Galveston's West Bay. It is expected by police and a woman named Sheryl Sawyers that the child was in fact Riley Ann Sawyers (Sheryl Sawyers' granddaughter). Sheryl recognized artist sketches on the news when the body was found and tipped police.

The mother, Kimberly Trenor (19) was living with her husband in Texas. Her husband, Royce Zeigler (24), had ordered that the child be spanked with a belt for not acting the way he expected. Trenor complied with this but Riley still wasn't following his rules. Zeigler then took it upon himself to further punish the child.

Riley's parents are currently in jail on pending charges of tampering with evidence and injury of a child. Their bail is $350,000. Bail should not be an option for these people. They should be put through the full extent of their sentence, when the sentence actually comes. I expect it should turn out to be a clear-cut case. From what I understand, Trenor is admitting to beating Riley with a belt and holding her head under water as punishment, then helping to hide the body when she died. I don't think that Zeigler has come out and confessed any involvement. I know they initially claimed that Child Protective Services had taken Riley and provided false documentation for support.

Zeigler's lawyer has said that Trenor's story did not quite fit. "She is placing all the blame on Royce, but I think that once the facts come to light, once the timeline's established and the evidence is combed through ... I think her credibility is gonna become a big issue."

I read the affidavit and Trenor's statements, which held all of the information pertaining to the death of Baby Grace. On October 29, a plastic box containing 3 black plastic bags had washed up, and the police were called to inspect its contents. When Sgt. Michael Barry arrived, he found a child's body in the bags. The cause of death was three fractures in the skull. On July 24, Zeigler had taken the day off to try to get Riley "under control." When belt whipping and holding her head under water wasn't getting him the results he wanted, Trenor says he proceeded to lift Riley by her hair and throw her across the room. This caused Riley to hit her head on the tile floor.

In Trenor's statement, she said she suggested they call an ambulence, but Zeigler feared repercussions and instead gave Riley over-the-counter pain killers. Riley, however, stopped breathing. They both went out and bought the plastic container, concrete mix, shovels, and some other supplies. The body was not thrown straight into the Galveston Causeway, but kept first in a storage unit for two months or so.

"Baby Grace" was the name given to the body during DNA testing on October 31, then on November 7 Zeigler's mother reported to police that the sketches she'd seen on TV might have been her granddaughter, who she had not seen in months.

I find myself a lot more disturbed reading about stories involving child abuse than probably any other subject. The act of hurting a child in some way is something that I can never wrap my head around. I realize that people who do such things are messed up in a lot of ways, and I recognize that as being why I can't imagine wanting to ever bring a little kid into harm's way. I read another story where a mother in Texas tried to burn her children to death, and she received a life sentence. I feel that this is an appropriate sentence not so much for the sake of what an abuser "deserves" to go through so much as to protect other children from potential harm. Since it takes a disturbed person to hurt a child, who's to say when it's appropriate to let the person be around their own or anybody else's children? Who knows what could trigger them to hurt somebody, regardless of the kind of therapy they go through? I hate to be so absolute about most issues, but I don't know of anything that can damage a human being more than abusing them as a child.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Mike Judge Success

I watched Idiocracy today, and as I've mentioned education a few times already it should be no surprise I loved the movie. As I feel people are already a lot like the movie shows the future, I'm only more convinced that home schooling will be the only way for me.

For those unaware, Idiocracy (starring Luke Wilson) is about an average guy in the military who's task is to be put to sleep for a year to test some new hibernation chambers made to preserve valuable soldiers for when America needs them most. Disaster strikes (of course) so he wakes up 500 years in the future. While he was asleep, the intelligent people of the world all waited to have children until they could no longer reproduce whereas the, we'll call them "less intelligent," have reproduced like rabbits. As a result, the future is not the society of sophisticated and hyper-intelligent people that your normal sci-fi movies depict.

So, if you like movies that make you feel like you're not the only one out there who's sick of how stupid people around you can be, this is definitely a must-see.

Attention Potential iPod Buyers!

I just recently had another iPod crap out on me, so please for your own sakes DON'T BUY these worthless things. My old 20 GB iPod wouldn't load past the apple icon and I couldn't re-format it no matter how many tricks I attempted from the internet, my old 512 MB shuffle started jumping into random PARTS of the song as opposed to random songs, then my newer 1 GB shuffle (the ones that clip on to things) won't turn on or register on my computer at all. Now, I've never personally used a Zune either, but I hear they're not a whole lot better.

My advice would be the Creative Zen player. Not only do they get really good ratings for reliability and durability, but if you're just out looking for the cheapest player, a 4 Gig Zen costs only $94 whereas the iPod Nano of equal storage costs $134 and the Zune reaches up to $149! If you want higher end models, from around 30 GB and up, the Zen's start to cost a little bit more, but personally I feel that once I'm spending over $100 anyway, I should probably spend a little bit more up front to ensure that the investment lasts. This is especially true after losing 3 iPods (2 were gifts. I wouldn't have kept buying them in the first place...)

Cure for Cancer Powers Engines

Be ready to add John Kanzius to the list of accidental inventors who changed the way society operates. While working to cure cancer using radio frequencies, he accidentally set flame to a beaker full of salt water. If any of you have tried (I myself have not) I'm sure you found that salt water is not the most flammable substance around. They haven't quite figured out why this happens, they only know it's some dynamic between the salt and the radio frequencies (it doesn't work in pure water). They've even gone so far as to power a small engine with it just to see if it could be a feasible power source, and so far it looks promising.

There are a lot of different options coming out in modern science to try and break us away from our oil dependency. Just open up any given Popular Science or Popular Mechanics magazine and I can almost guarantee you there's at least one article in there about some up-and-coming technology to replace oil. Electric cars, floating magnetic railways, flat wind generators that oscillate a magnet back and forth within a copper wire as opposed to a traditional windmill style, it seems to me that the problem isn't that we don't have any new ideas for energy sources, but rather that there are so many other ways that it's hard to channel enough money and resources into one particular idea.

Here's a video demonstration of the potential future engine:

Science Cookies

The time since my last blog has been spent finding a cure for the Midnight Munchies, and in that time my focus was pulled first to a very attractive plate full of chocolate chip cookies. What could be better? I snatch one up, shove half of it into my mouth, and just about gag. It was still pretty fresh, and it had been covered in the few hours since its conception, so what went wrong?

The blame ultimately comes down on a good friend of mine from high school. He came by for the Halloween party thrown by my wife and I, and as requested he brought some contributions. Now, the particular drink he brought over was of very, very high alcohol percentage, and may or may not have been home-made by a family friend of his. I use such vague allusions because, well, it may or may not have actually been a legal drink for him to possess. Anyway, it smelled as though it were a part of some child prodigy's science project. Ever the gentleman, he left it behind for us. A couple of days later, complaints are floating around the house of some smell in the fridge. What's worse, the smell is soaking into all of our food. It didn't really get to me right off because I have a knack for ignoring such unpleasantries, but tonight was the final straw. There has to be a solution to this! My wife has been keeping a fresh supply of baking soda in there since the drink was removed, but it's not really doing the job like she says it does.

My frustrated research tells me this: baking soda, while it does have some neutralizing effect on the odors (the pH of baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is mildly basic which neutralizes acids that cause the odors), very little actual surface area of baking soda gets exposed to the fridge and what does gets kind of crusted over by the vapors floating around. Useless.

Unfortunately, much as I hate to leave you all in a state of anti-climax, the only other solution I can find is a canister of activated charcoal. If there's another answer out there, it's just not quite urgent enough to devote any more time to the matter tonight.

Today's Color: Orange

Just for kicks and giggles, I wandered over tonight to the Department of Homeland Security homepage. The current threat level today is (you guessed it!): Orange.

"Only small amounts of liquids, aerosols and gels are allowed in carry-on baggage. See the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website for up-to-date information on items permitted and prohibited on airlines."

Translation: "Attention all terrorists: Perhaps today's not so much your day. If you'd like to try anyway, the TSA website tells you that your best hope of a carry-on weapon is a corkscrew, screwdriver or other tool shorter than 7 inches, or a pair of scissors."

The list of acceptable items is a nice thing to have available, but I don't think to many (if any) other nations use a "Threat Level" system like we do, or at least if they do it's not so readily available to everybody. Why would I take issue with this? Obviously it could change on a day to day basis, so all a potential bomber or hijacker has to do is check the threat level on the DHS website everyday until the threat level (and therefore the security procedures) reaches it's lowest point, making his job as easy as possible. Why tell them whether or not there are going to be special checks at the airport?

A "Smart" Veto

I just read a little headline that made my day. On Monday, November 19, Mr. Bush vetoed a proposed bill that would have provided $271 million dollars for education technology and added $1.2 billion to career and technical education. I realize we can't have every budget proposal approved, but don't career-specific schools seem pretty important? How many people go into these schools after they graduate high school instead of going to college? While I myself aim for college, it's no surprise to me that many people would rather skip all the "fluff" (aka generals) that they'd have to take and just focus on their career path. I believe in getting a broad education that covers many different areas, but it's not for everybody.

Back to the bill, on this same day, a $471 billion defense budget was approved. Yes, defense is also incredibly important, but as I don't feel it's going the right way either I think they could have spared just a little bit of that to put toward education. To me, $272 million just doesn't seem like anything at all compared to $471 billion. When is education going to become as important to people as it should be?

Maye defense wouldn't be the best thing to take this money out of, who's to say. However, how many ridiculous services does the government provide that it could do away with? If the government was less involved with day-to-day life providing this aide and that aide to everybody and maybe devote it all to more important things, we could afford better education.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Thoughts on Theology

Religion was a huge issue between myself and my wife in our early relationship because she was from a Mormon family. She herself was "one foot out the door" but she still went through major bouts of confusion and indecision. As far as I could tell, she wanted to leave but she was afraid to do so without feeling like she'd found the "real answer." Naturally, this led her to become very frustrated when arguing with me because my ultimate answer in my personal life is there is no answer in life. I can't see what happens after we die, and I don't believe anyone else can either. Why, then, should I place faith and devote my valuable time in life to some person who claims to have some understanding of the afterlife? Lots of people have claimed this in the past, and their religions are all dead and/or dying. What makes Christianity any different? For me to say that I'm happy focusing on life rather than spirituality, it really threw my wife off. She couldn't grasp the concept of not caring whether or not Jesus was real.

So, she read all the information available online (particular the infamous ex-mo discussion board) and eventually came to terms with the fact that a religion which is constantly changing its teachings to suit the changing ideals of the world around them couldn't be the one true church. After all, shouldn't THE TRUTH remain constant? So, in short, she sent in her letter and removed her name from the church records.

Even then, she went through times of fear over whether or not what she'd done would in fact condemn her eternal spirit to damnation, but then she rethinks every reason that freed her from (in my personal opinion) one of the most oppressive churches of our time and realizes also that worshiping some "perfect being" for doing a good job doesn't make much sense anyway. What kind of accomplishment is that, really? If you're perfect, of course you'll do it right. Not to mention, what kind of perfect being would condemn an imperfect being for making a mistake, especially when they were fumbling in the dark? Last of all, why model yourself and your life after someone who was so very possibly made up or greatly exaggerated when there are so many great examples in life? Mother Teresa herself never claimed to be in direct contact with Jesus, she just did things because it suited her image of a good human being and what she wanted to be.

Blessing in Disguise?

This past Wednesday, I was laid off from my job as an electrician with Cache Valley Electric. Mostly, I welcomed the break and the opportunity to devote my time to finding a career that I feel better suited for. I had already applied for a job at ARUP (medical lab) working graveyards, 10 hour shifts, 7 on 7 off. Who'd complain about a week-long weekend? I could work seven days straight for that. Anyway, the pay's a little less than I got as a "sparky" but it's worth it for the awesome tuition reimbursement (they're part of the University of Utah) and the money I'll save car-pooling with my wife and mom (who already work there).

Just today, I got a phone interview for the job and she said she'd get back to me on which positions I could personally interview for. Here's hoping.