December 31, 2007

Thinking out loud about the state of things

Lots of thoughts about lots of subjects, all mingled together and running through my mind; that's the reason this blog is named Randomblings from Rich. When I first started this blog, I looked up the word Randomblings on the web, and Google assured me that the word was not in use. Since then, others have used or re-invented the word, and it shows up in other web writings, at least as far as Google is concerned. I'll never know if the others who use the word came up with it themselves or if they were exposed to my blog at some point. It's just interesting to see that the word get used.

For Christmas, my wife got me a Border's gift card. With it, I bought The Feynman Lectures on Physics. Even with the 20% off coupon that I used, it looks like I overpaid. I saved $20, but apparently I could have saved 37% (see link) ordering it from Amazon. Of course, I'd have had to wait for it in the mail, or paid to have it rapidly shipped (and still wouldn't have it this morning). This train of thought leads me to the discussion of 'gotta-have-it-now' consumerism that has been discussed again here recently. Tabling that, I've already starting reading Volume I. Before buying it, even, I picked up Six Easy Pieces at the local library, which contains at least the first few chapters of the lectures. After reading the first 2 chapters, I knew I wanted the whole lecture series. Part of my resolutions for next year is to finish a few whole books, and I think I'm going to try to get all the way through Volume I at a minimum.

Was thinking about computing this morning (and I actually wanted to pick up Feynman's Lectures on Computation as well.) It seems to me that we have vast amounts of computational resources in this country that are seriously underutilized. We have huge amounts of computational power at our fingertips, and what are the most oft used applications: entertainment? Whatever happened to the hard sciences? Whatever happened to America's lead in the space race, and our technology lead in the 1960s? I'm just thinking out loud, and I can't even get to the point of what I wanted to say, other than I think we're spinning our wheels a great deal. We could develop so much more than we do. We could solve many problems with the amount of resources that we have, but we don't seem to be very efficient at it.

Plastic. I just threw away two plastic cup lids because they didn't fit my cup, but can't be reused by the next customer in line at McDonalds (my normal breakfast place seems to be closed today - excuse the fast food). What a waste. I've actually been making an effort to reuse the plastic forks/knives I get from my usual restaurant. (The fork is right here, did I throw away the knife?) Yesterday I read in an article that humans have created an island of garbage in the Pacific that has a larger surface area than Great Britain. How horrendous is that? Couldn't we collect this mess of plastic and press it into Trex or some other building material and give it to the homeless to build shelter? We haven't completely run out of land in the United States. There's thousands of acres of unbuilt land out there, and it's reasonably inexpensive. As a society, we're terribly wasteful. Of course, our capitalist ways of life further propagate our inability to do anything about it. I, for one, am not willing to give up my day job and my security to go build homes for the homeless. It would be nice if I could land a job like that, though.

As a society, though, we don't fund the things that we need to fund. We spend an awful lot of money on war, public policy. Individually, we spend increasing amounts of money on entertainment, but we don't spend much money on social issues and 'the good of the many'.

Ok, brain's empty. I've dumped enough for now.

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