Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
Friday, July 25, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
"I used to do the payroll for my brother in the 1950's in Colombia. He would get the money sometimes in the evening and I would drive the money, something like $20-30,000, out to towns far away, 2-3 hours. And back then it was very dangerous on the roads. Not political like today, but just bandits. And I would drive that truck full speed, never stopping for so much as a drink of water. He even gave me a pistol to take, but I dropped that it behind the seat. I was terrified of the thing! One time I drove something like four hours up into the mountains, and man I was thirsty at the end of it. I got to the town and I went in to the bar and I asked the bartender, 'Please, sir, could I have a cold beer?'
But there was another man there, a big montanero in a rana and a hat. And he said, "Oh no, you will have an agua ardiente! Bartender give the doctor an agua ardiente!" (They called me doctor because they thought I was the engineer like my brother. You know I was dressed very well.)
"Oh no sir," I said, "I’m very thirsty. I drove today all the way today from Medellin."
"You’ll have an agua ardiente with me!" he shouted. He was very drunk.
So I said, “OK, bartender, give me an agua ardiente!” and I slapped my hand on the bar.
And we said, “Salud!” and we drank. And then the big man in the rana said, “And now you will buy me an agua ardiente, just as a I bought you one.”
And I said to the bartender, “Two agua ardientes!” and we drank again.
“Now,” he said, “you can have your beer.” And I offered him to buy a beer, but he said no that he only drank the agua ardiente. And then I notice that the bartender was standing there with his fists clutched tight looking terrified. But I went back to the hotel.
The next day we went back to the bar, because usually the director would give out the money in a restaurant or bar and buy the men a drink. And the bartender he said to me excited, “You are the man who was here last night, no?”
And I said, “Yes, “and he said, “Oh doctor, I was so afraid for you. That man, he is one of the most dangerous men in this area. He’s killed like 5 policemen and I don’t know how many other men. And last night, when he asked you to drink with him, he had a gun under his rana pointed at you. If you had refused to drink with him he would have killed you.”
And I said to myself “Jesus Christ!” and I was weak with fear. A lot of men, especially like the engineers and professionals thought they were much higher than the common people and would have refused to drink with such a montanero and they would have said, “To hell with you!” when he asked them to drink. But I was not that kind of man. I was friendly to him and treated him well. But Jesus Christ when I thought about the gun underneath the rana . . . .
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Friday, July 18, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
Sunday, July 13, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
My father has long been fond of saying that human intelligence may not be a “survivable trait.”
The emissions from this weeks “G-8 Summit” of political leaders is pretty good evidence for pessimism. One the great challenges of our era is to recognize and address the fact that we’re changing the atmosphere of the planet in ways that will make it uninhabitable, if not for the species then at least for civilization.
There were four imaginable outcomes from the summit. First, and least likely, was a set of actual practices to not only slow down the ever-accelerating pace of carbon emission, but actually move toward reductions. The second possible outcome, and the one an optimist could have hoped for, would be to sound the alarm about how unprepared we are politically, socially, and technologically to deal with problem and to call for a global discussion of what genuinely needs to be done not just technologically, but politically. The third possible outcome, depressing but familiar, would have been an outright rejection of the notion that climate change is a defining problem of the age.
What we got was the fourth and worst of the scenarios. We got fine-sounding words that are designed to do absolutely nothing, except to destroy clarity and to defuse all popular push toward addressing the problem.
These failed leaders showed the dangerous and perhaps fatal bankruptcy of our political system, by kicking the can down the road. Even those politicians who personally may have hoped otherwise just helped put lipstick on this pig. The powers-that-be have now decided that they have neither the power nor the will to do anything but race headlong into an un-mappable process of global over-heating -- to create climatic change on a scale unprecedented in the Earth's long history as a complex biosphere.As individuals, humans can be capable of great intelligence, foresight and wisdom. As a species it seems clear we have the intelligence of a toxic lichen.
People trained in engineering or science deal with numbers and outcomes. Our lawyer friends are trained to look for precedents – data that supports their argument - while we are trained to derive the argument from the data . . . Plenty of lawyers go into politics [and] as a result politics tends to be framed by lawyer thinking, not engineer thinking. [snip] Politicians tend to inherently believe that the outcome of an event will depend on people’s perceptions and beliefs about that event. Politicians have very little experience with situations where objective reality is more important to outcome than the subjective perception of the reality.