Ebola

The press is causing everyone to panic about the Ebola virus.  It’s terrible for the victims of course, and they have my sympathy.  What I am about to say isn’t to suggest that their suffering is not terrible, and I wish those suffering from it a recovery, and my condolences go to the families of those who have succumbed to it.

But–the press needs to get a grip.  Ebola is actually less communicable than the flu, or mumps, or other diseases that have been going around.  I’m not a medical expert, but everything I read says you will know if you were in contact with someone who could have communicated the virus.

It’s a terrible thing.  I wish the CDC had done a better job of handling it.  But the U.S. press is acting as if we are all about to die. In general, I’d say that panicking is not really a great response to a given problem.

Categories: The Media Tags: ,

I have been doing less with more.

I was thinking today about some of the great thinkers in history, and how the vast majority of the great minds had so little access to information compared to the average person in the present day.

It’s sort of sad when you think about it.  Take any great thinker from history, and then think about the logistics required for him or her to get the level of education they received.  They had to go to school, study, get books from libraries–if they were available at all.  If you were reading and you found a word you didn’t know, you had to go find a dictionary and hope you could find it in there. Not to mention that the mundane day-to-day tasks also took longer and were more difficult.  And yet, there were people thinking deep philosophical thoughts, inventing new technologies, writing great books, founding nations, etc. etc.

Compare them to me: I have almost instantaneous access to all the recorded knowledge in human history via the internet, I can have it translated instantly if need be, and I can do it while sitting at my desk.  On paper, I should probably be more well-educated and accomplished than the entire population of the world in the 1600s.  But I’m not.  If somebody from past times came to the present, they’d be appalled by how little I’d done with the wealth of resources I have.

Suppose John Locke had been able to access the internet.  He probably would have invented the perfect system of government in 10 minutes, if he kept up his past rate of productivity. How many times over could the great economic minds have solved the U.S. economic crisis in the time I spent watching cat videos?

I feel like an under-achiever, I guess is what I’m saying.

The spam comments are developing rudimentary intelligence.

And they’re not friendly:

you should explaine to me you actually could not merely start using a wikipedia web-site to prove a point……

That was on this post. Admittedly, that post doesn’t quote Wikipedia, but I have quite a few posts that do.  So there is some context in which this could possibly make sense.  And it’s even written in something resembling correct English.  It certainly would pass muster among the lowest rung of non-spam YouTube comments.

I, for one, do not welcome our new spam comment overlords.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

“By The Waters of Babylon”

I read the story “By the Waters of Babylon” by Stephen Vincent Benét (the same guy who wrote “The Devil and Daniel Webster“) It is a good, Twilight Zone-like sort of story–if you don’t want it spoiled, go read it before you click the “read more” button below.

Read more…

The Last Night of Stargazing in a Distant Desert

Into the cold above he gazes,

Watching with a mournful eye

Where the fearful star of G’NURREMAHD blazes.

 

Through the centuries uncounted

The mighty orb has seethed and roiled

All whilst a sense of doom has mounted.

 

For all pervasive is its yellow glare;

And even in the night, the far horizon glimmers

With dismal rays a-dancing there.

 

The Watcher shivers in the chill

Of the Autumn starwind crying across

The crest of Charnel Hill

 

Carefully he burns his lamp

For the warmth, rather than the light–

And in the desert makes his camp.

 

O, vengeful Abbott of the Abyss!

Wherefore display this cosmic spectacle

If only to shatter unto nothingness?

 

Categories: Poetry Tags:

Should we keep watching football?

It’s the question on every fan’s mind, what with the slew of arrests and allegations against players for all sorts of atrocious crimes, coupled with the already-known health effects of the game.

Personally, I’m still going to watch it.  It was shameful that the league only suspended Ray Rice for two games, but now that they have fixed that, it seems that some kind of progress is being made.  I don’t blame people who choose to boycott the league but, as I’ve blogged about before, I’ve gotten used to enjoying performances and work by people who were really awful human beings. “Hate the Sinner, Enjoy the Sinner’s Work”, I guess.

It’s not the same, though–it’s tough watching guys who are real scumbags. I think almost every team has at least one guy who has committed some crime.

The problem is, if we assume that it’s the popularity–and thus profitability–of the sport that makes some players feel so arrogant and spoiled that they think they’re above the law, then following some new sport instead will just make those people the same way. There’s really no part of the entertainment industry that’s free from criminals.

I have no doubt that soon–maybe in the next decade–football’s popularity will start to wane.  We’ve just been through the “golden age” of football over the past 15 years, and so a decline is inevitable. As I’ve said before, it will probably be replaced by virtual sports.

Categories: football, My Opinion, sports Tags: ,

(Virtual) Paradise Lost

Shamus Young had a good post about the history of the internet. It introduced me to a phrase I’d never heard before, describing when the internet came to be how it is now, full of trolls and imbeciles. It’s from someone named Dave Fischer, who said: “September 1993 will go down in net.history as the September that never ended.”

What did he mean by that? Young explains that prior to ’93:

September was a big deal for the internet back in those days. As you can imagine, etiquette was important in a world where there were no moderators and everyone was on the honor system. Every September a flood of college freshmen would be given internet access for the first time in their lives. Then they would blunder online and make a mess of things by posting things to the wrong place, or typing in all caps, or failing to read the FAQ…. So every September was this chaotic time where the net had to assimilate a few thousand newcomers all at once, and it usually took about a month for things to calm down again.

It’s funny to read about the internet as a civilized place where ideas could be discussed in a thoughtful manner.  I came later to the internet, so I feel like somebody in a post-apocalyptic setting reading about the lost Golden Age before the great collapse.

Still, there are pockets of intelligent discourse–I like to think of this blog as one of them. Shamus’s is another (although he manages that by banning any talk of religion or politics.) But it’s funny to think that there was a time when it wasn’t a problem trying to find sites where people could have discussions without sinking into a Topix-like morass of name-calling.

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