Friday, April 13, 2018

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A Better Day, though still cold.

Today was a pretty nice day. The sun actually was out most of the time. I got a lot of historian work done in the morning and then walked Lucy three miles. After lunch I took a nap, then went out and started cutting down and cutting up some trees that had started blowing over during the last storm and were leaning towards the mobile home. After doing that I used the blade on the weed whip to cut short the weeds and multi-flora rosebushes growing where the trees had fallen and chainsawed the stumps off close to the ground.

There is still a lot to do, but it looks a lot better. I do NOT really want a bigger lawn to mow, but do want to get the dying trees cut back away from the Mobile Home.

By the time I finished it was getting late and I still wanted to wash the car, so I put the tools away and ran out the hose and washed the dirt and salt off the car. I found the water filter had been leaking, so replaced that as well. The Jeep also needs washing, but that is for tomorrow!

Sat down and watched the news, a big mistake. It looks like we are getting involved in a major war for no reason. Does anyone think today? Why would Assad use chemical weapons – he is winning and wants us out of there. Trump just announced we were leaving and a couple of days later this happens, so we are now getting more involved. Nothing suspicious here at all!!! There is no proof Assad did it, (incidentally I am not an Assad fan), and others there have chemical weapons, too, but rather than investigate and find out the truth first we are preparing to launch missiles and Russia is preparing to respond. I would think people would have learned from the Iraq WMD propaganda, but no, we have to risk all out nuclear war in a place we can’t win long term and have no national interest at stake.

Guess I’ll spend the evening reading.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Will Young People Change the World?

    Last night I had a dream. I was sitting on a panel of ordinary folks drawn in off the streets to discuss the school shootings and the ongoing reaction to them. The discussion was being televised. It was impressive. Unlike most debates today, the participants weren’t purposefully chosen to further an agenda, there was no mud slinging and personal attacks, and everyone felt comfortable propounding their real views. The discussion was intelligent and facts were presented rather than feelings.
     The overwhelming number talked about the need for gun control, attacked the NRA, and a lesser number were for increasing school security. All (except myself) talked only about new laws and more government as the solution, none really seemed to have even thought about why the problem has surfaced and grown in this generation even though guns are much more strictly controlled than in my time and government is much more intrusive. I started formulating my response, then woke up.
    So I decided to actually write down my views and post them on my blog. Here goes.
     Let me first state that I do NOT support school shootings. I have grandchildren in school. My main issue in not supporting more gun control is that of supporting the Constitution, not gun ownership per se, secondarily that it is a waste of time and resources that will change nothing except criminalize ordinary folks who disagree with twisting and ignoring the Constitution. Actually amending the Constitution would be the proper path to take. However, gun control is not the topic of this essay and I will not get into it further.
    The news media is reporting continually and obsessively on the large rallies and marches of students against gun violence. The idea is that young people will finally get politically active and get out to vote, supporting the liberal agenda in the process. There are some problems with this idea, especially in the long term.
    I came of age in the late 1960’s, when youth far outnumbered older people. We, too, had our big issue – Vietnam. Certainly not all young people opposed the war – many served. But to listen to the talking heads in the newsrooms, the great majority were opposed to not only Vietnam, but war in general, and were going to change the world and bring about peace. The protests got larger, they also turned violent as those “opposed to violence” resorted to it. Eventually the politicians were forced to negotiate a face-saving “withdrawal” from the war.
    Did the world change? There was a brief period of peace, then the USA was back to war - over oil. This time the politicians had learned enough, and technology progressed enough, to end the draft and go to an all-volunteer military, thus short-circuiting any protests – the success of which strategy also illustrated that the original protests weren’t about the issue of war, but about “me” having to interrupt my career, change “my” plans, and put “my” life on the line.
    War? The 1960’s youth won a short term goal, but made no long term difference whatever. Today we have troops and bases all over the globe, and are constantly at war in one place or another. We have never been closer to a nuclear Armageddon.
    Environment?  This was the other big issue of the day. The youth brought about some changes. Rivers were cleaned up, air pollution reduced, fuel economy improved – in the developed countries. But their naiveté about who was going to pay for those things and how led to an exodus of heavy industry (and paying jobs) to Asia. Which, of course, was the same as simply moving the pollution to Asia, much of which is now drowning in smog and other pollution. We cleaned up our air and water by polluting someone else’s. And, of course, some of that pollution makes it back across the Pacific and affects us. We all live on the same planet.
    So what did the youth of the 1960’s really change? Well, they did introduce sex, drugs, and rock and roll – none of which did anything much to improve quality of life for the average American. As paying jobs left the USA due to over-regulation and high costs, women flooded into the workforce to help their families survive – therefore keeping wages down (supply and demand!) and eventually making life even more difficult.
    There are still aging hippies who have never given up the causes, but most vanished into the corporate world they allegedly despised, becoming businessmen, bankers, stockbrokers, entertainers, soldiers, and even the most despised career – politicians!
    So why couldn’t we change the world?
    One reason is the same then and now. Most youth were and are not progressives but reactionaries. Before you blow a gasket let me explain. Think of a railroad siding. A train is parked on it waiting for the express to pass on the main line. Someone has to throw the switch so the speeding train passes the stationary train safely. The progressive switchman would have studied the schedule, paid attention to what was going on, and would go out ahead of time, throw the switch, and lock it into place before the express arrives. The reactionary switchman would have partied all night, would have no idea what train was where, would fall asleep at the switch, wake up when the train thunders by on its way to a head-on on the siding, and run after it on foot trying to get it to stop. Basically it is the difference between leading, controlling the situation before it gets out of hand; or being unaware and unprepared and reacting to it after it takes place in an ineffectual way.
    Today’s youth may know all sorts of irrelevancies, like what color underwear their favorite actress wears and who she is sleeping with, but are ignorant of history, how governments work, economics,  the Constitution, etc., and what they think they know is merely what they have been told – they seldom do any independent research, thinking, or fact-checking. They “change the station when the news comes on”, so have little idea of what is going on unless it suddenly impacts them directly.
    Another reason why youth will have little lasting effect this time is that there are so few of them compared to the 1960’s. My generation was the peak of the baby boom. This generation is part of the baby bust. Older people are becoming the largest segment of the population and will remain there for at least a generation. Fertility is declining worldwide. Youth will not be a dominant factor anywhere for the foreseeable future. Remember “family discounts” and child friendly vacations? Few youth do today. Today it is “senior discounts” and child-free vacations. If we, with our huge numbers, changed the world very little, why would today’s sparse youth population do any better?
    We had our unifying folk and rock musicians, poets, and writers that sang and wrote about the causes and kept the causes alive and going. Today’s youth have none of that.
     Once the news media came around, the causes went nationwide as most people watched or listened to the same newscasters, who tried to be unbiased or at least made a pretense of it. People today simply are increasingly ignoring the media as being biased and corrupt. There is no investigative reporting – they simply parrot what government spokespersons tell them. The propaganda is so blatant that any semi-educated person can see through it. They bore people to death by repeating the same allegations every night as if they were proven facts.
    Today’s youth have the Web, but little else. The Internet is momentary, of little lasting value. It decreases people’s attention span, rather than lengthening it. People choose to see and hear only what agrees with their own predetermined beliefs, so wrongly assume that everyone who matters agrees with them. 
    And the last, and greatest reason nothing will change is ignorance of human nature. Most of my generation went to church at least occasionally and heard that human nature was basically corrupted and bent on evil. Today’s youth are told over and over, and unquestioningly believe, that people are basically good. Good people couldn’t manipulate, lie, cheat, steal, and kill so it is said they “just made a mistake”.  Good people couldn’t be at fault for their “mistakes”, so someone or something else must be blamed. In this case that is guns and the NRA. Logically, of course, that is nonsense. The USA has been flooded with firearms since it was established. You used to be able to buy them mail order for a few bucks from the Sears catalog. Yet mass shootings are largely a recent phenomena. Therefore, logically something else besides firearms must be at fault. Look at a similar issue logically. If eating beans gives you gas, does outlawing drinking alcohol solve the problem? If you want to solve a problem, you have to determine the real cause and then take action to deal with it. What is the real cause or causes?
    One recognized cause is bullying, which is still rampant and ineffectually dealt with. The female-promoted solution of just turning your back and walking away will get you taken down from behind and encourage the bully. The only effective solution is to flatten the bully. Ideally, the school administration should do that (not literally) in one way or another before the person being bullied tries to! If the school loses the championship, that is just too bad.
    Another cause is the huge size of schools today, where many students just get lost in the crowd. Some will try to get attention any way they can. Bigger is not better.
    A third, which is obvious but few want to hear, is the abandonment of religion. If there are no absolutes, nothing can be right or wrong. If you will never have to answer to God (any god) for what you say and do, why not do just what you want? Contrary to the oft-posted comment that people don’t need God, they all know what is right and wrong without him, there is no universally recognized “code” of what is right and wrong worldwide – especially apart from religions.
    Unfortunately, we have passed from the “age of reason” into the “age of emotion”. How we feel is what is important, not the facts or the truth. In spite of the obvious ineffectiveness of existing gun laws, and failure to enforce those, we “feel” that more gun regulation will solve the problem. It is a simple solution we can rush into blindly and “get something done”, rather than taking the time to think things through and address the real problems. Stopping excusing people for evil behavior would help. So would really clamping down on bullying – no sports or extra-curricular activities for bullies. Get tough - bring back the reform schools if necessary. Stop centralizing schools and start breaking them up. In fact, today’s public education system was based on the factory system of the Industrial Revolution, which business has long abandoned now. We now produce smaller quantities of individualized products, and can change what is produced quickly, in smaller facilities. 3D printing will eventually allow us to create products at home. Education needs to move on from “mass production” to small specialized schools, and local and home schooling assisted by the Internet.
    We also need to make sure children get religious education so they know what each and all major religions believe, and when old enough can get specialized education in whichever they choose. My generation used to get released time for religious classes, allowed by the courts, until they centralized the schools away from the villages and churches and refused to bus the kids to the classes or allow them to walk.
    Probably a few more laws will be passed, which will comfort everyone with an illusion of security. The only effect they will have is inconveniencing and criminalizing the ordinary gun owner. Laws rushed through in haste are always bad laws – take the “Patriot” Act for example. Any real “patriot” of the 1770’s would oppose such a law, by force if necessary. The very recent budget bill President Trump signed (after saying he wouldn’t) is another example. Thousands of pages no one read before voting on it. So who wrote it? Likely lobbyists who will profit from it. Trillions more debt. In the end, you won’t have to worry about school shootings, as when the house-of-cards economy comes crashing down, they will probably be closing.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Monday, March 05, 2018

There are few things more fun than changing a wheel bearing outdoors in the snow

There are few things more fun than changing a wheel bearing outdoors in the snow, except maybe having to crawl under the car while the melt water runs onto you!
At least it only took a couple of hours this time. This Focus eats more wheel bearings than any car I have ever had. And this one was installed and torqued correctly when installed a year or two ago.

The bearings also have to be pressed in and out. I did two last year. This is the first for this year.

A Shameless Promotion of my Nephew's Website!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Archives

Today after taking the grandson to pre-school I charged and set up the laptop to start taking inventory of the Town Archives. Took it to the W.C. Town Hall in Cambridge and began inventorying. It took awhile, but I got through 14 boxes, which is good because I am a two-fingered typist! After getting the information down in a table, I went home and used the information to create barcodes for the boxes, printed them out, and my wife and I went back to the Town Hall and put the barcodes on the boxes. Only 14 out of a couple hundred (I am not sure exactly how many there are), but it is a start!

Time to put out the trash and then go after the grandson.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Very Warm Day and a Road Trip

Yesterday the weather was unusually warm and pleasant for February, so my wife and I decided to go on a road trip and look at Cohoes Falls, which we had never been to. We went down Rt. 67 to Valley Falls, down the back roads to Melrose, down Oil Mill Hill and across to Waterford and down to Cohoes. We had a bit of trouble finding the falls, and eventually had to ask directions!

The Park was closed, but we met a couple of women who also wanted to see the falls and they said there was a lookout back the way we had come, so we followed them and got a nice view of the falls. The water was really high. Unfortunately, sumacs had been allowed to grow all along the lookout, so getting a decent photo was very hard. The one below was taken with my wide angle lens.

We came back up the river and crossed into Clifton Park. As our daughter and son-in-law were only 5 miles away, we stopped in and had a pleasant visit. Saw our grand-daughter and great-grand-daughter also. Eventually we got home but went out again to visit another daughter and son-in-law in the evening.

It was a very nice day and it was good to get out and visit. Today it has gotten cold and is snowing again! Below is a panorama I put together from two photos taken with the stock lens, but I had to stitch it by hand and it isn't too good.