29 June 2013

Your Actions are (part of) Causing that Traffic Jam You're Stuck in*

*In the morning and evening of most large American cities (especially those surrounded by plenty of suburb), when everyone is driving their cars to their 9-5 jobs, there are simply too many vehicles on the highway for the lane capacity.  You get on the highway at the nearest entrance, and proceed to average 15mph the entire distance from your suburban home to the downtown city center where you work, frequently coming to a complete stop, never going more than 25mph at the most.

In that situation, traffic is going to go slow, no matter what.
That isn't the type of traffic jam I'm talking about.
There is also another type of traffic back up.  The kind that happens in moderate traffic.  Everyone slows down, sometimes even to a complete stop, and then a few hundred feet later, you are moving again at 50, 60, 70mph, as if nothing happened.
Sometimes this happens because there is the aftermath of a crash in the shoulder, or even across the divider on the opposite shoulder of the oncoming lane, and all the drivers feel it is very important for them to take a good look at it, because humans are just like that.  Other times its because someone is getting a traffic ticket, and, even though the cop is clearly busy at the moment, people imagine they are more likely to be caught speeding if the can see a police car.
But most often, these slow downs happen for no apparent reason at all.  You get to the front of it, and cars are accelerating just as suddenly as they slowed down.
Sometimes traffic pulses like this, fast - slow - fast - slow - fast - slow for miles.  In some places, not quite as dense as in the first example above, the daily commute does this pulse jam every single day.

28 June 2013

Trespassing in the Commune

I'm not much of one for ideology or party lines.
If I see an error in someone's thinking, I'm just as likely to mention it if I agree with their overall point as if I don't.  Trying to get people to see all sides of things tends to put me in the roll of Devil's Advocate, and so I have been accused of being a capitalist by communists, a communist by capitalists, a fan of Ayn Rand (HA!) by anarchists.

A few years ago I wrote some about illegal immigration:




You just might get the idea from those that I have some particular opinion on the issue.
But really, I was trying to point out what one side of the debate prefers to ignore.
That doesn't mean the issue is one-sided or simple.
The other side does just as good a job ignoring what it doesn't want to see.
Just like with the abortion debate, I mostly agree with the progressive side in practice, but I recognize that they are right for the wrong reasons, while in principal the conservative side at least gets the question right, even if they are mistaken about the answer.


Imagine a hippy commune, out in the country side.  A few hundred people live there together, they come up with house rules, they all do chores, everyone contributes to the property taxes and insurance costs of the land and building and to a communal maintenance and repair fund.  Lets say this particular commune works really well, they come up with a system to manage internal conflicts, they are reasonably self-sufficient, but everyone also has real jobs so they have cash for trading with the outside world.
Sooner or later people are going to have children, and a new generation will be raised there. 
Now and then some people will want to leave, and that's just fine.

17 June 2013

The Common Thread

I was at a party yesterday, and I was talking about who knows what, and, I guess maybe because I have an "educated" accent, or whatever, I really have no idea why, she commented that she was surprised I hadn't gone into some field of science.

And I mentioned that I had been expecting to in high school, I had interned in  microbiology and biotech labs, focused mainly on science classes in high school and college, got associate degrees in biology and earth science - but then, by random acts of fate, I had ended up doing semi-skilled manual labor which afforded me not only decent money, but an extremely flexible schedule and the ability to be my own boss. 
I said I still satiated that side of my mind with plenty of reading, and occasional writing.

She asked where I wrote, whether it was just for myself - basically just this blog, and given the size of it's readership, yeah, pretty much just for myself.
and what topics I wrote about, and I tried to think of all the various things I've covered.

She asked what they all have in common.

Nothing really, other than I find them interesting.  And I find of lot of things interesting.  The world is a vast and complicated place.  reality is fascinating.  I really can not comprehend how so many people can willingly specialize, focus on just one area of human knowledge, when there is just so much else out there.  I'm much more interested in understanding a little about everything than everything about a little.

So, yeah, my blog has no theme.
Probably why I will never be able to generate any significant readership.  People subscribe to stuff that focuses on what interests them, and mine doesn't focus on anything.

She insisted that there must be some angle where a common theme could be found.  She said that in what she did, there were always commonalities emerging, even when they weren't obvious at first.

We kept talking more, I elaborated slightly on a few posts, she suggested that maybe challenging preconceptions might  be a consistent thing, and then I realized, duh! it's right there in the header of the blog.