Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Beginning of My Atheism

(This is not an anti-religious rant. It's just what I consider a funny story). I clearly remember where my atheism started. I was about 8, and sitting in church with my mother (for some reason I was in the big people's church and not in Sunday school, as usual). I was thinking that I knew I couldn't always control my thoughts and that they would go places that weren't appropriate for church. And I knew that God knew everything and could do anything he wanted to, and so I was frightened; what if I thought something really bad that would make God mad? And it occurred to me, the ONE thought I must never think was (remember I was 8): "Poopy Jesus". And started thinking it over and over again. At which point I started looking around wildly wondering how many people knew the horrible thing I had just thought and whether lightning would come all the way down from the sky for me, or if it would start just below the ceiling and therefore not set fire to the church which was, after all, God's house.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Silliness of the "Double Taxation" Argument

Economic conservatives like to argue that capital gains, that is, income from investments, shouldn't be taxed because it amounts to "double taxation", that is, the person with the investments worked to earn that money, and it was taxed when he received it. The argument is baloney. Let's say you've saved a chunk of money, say $100,000, and now have that money invested in an interest-bearing account (this analogy also works for investments in stocks, etc). You are, indeed, taxed again, but only on any PROFITS that you have made from that investment. In other words, you are not taxed again on that initial $100,000, and in fact if you don't make any more money from it you won't be taxed on it. You are only taxed on any PROFITS you make off of the investment; this is self-evidently money that you have never had before; it is NEW money to you. So it makes no sense at all to say that you are being doubly-taxed on income from investments.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Me and Steve Jobs

No, I never met the man, but like so many of us he changed my life, several times in fact.

I've always been an Apple user (with a timeout in the mid-80s when the Mac became the Mac II and I couldn't come close to affording it, going with a Commodore Amiga instead).

True stories: 1) in the very late 70s I heard and fell in love with the Fairlight sampling synthesizer, as used on records (records!) by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. But I couldn't afford a $30,000 Australian computer/keyboard. The closest I could get was a keyboard/computer card combo for the Apple II called the Alpha Syntauri. It was a strange and clumsy system, and it didn't sound that good (it was 8-bit and sample length was limited to about 1 second), but it taught me so much about computers and sound. In fact, it forced me to learn about both in the GEEKIEST WAY POSSIBLE, and had me doing things like walking around making recordings of strange noises and then isolating single waveforms from a short samples, or building sounds additively by combining sine or more complex waves. And most of the time I'd just get something that sounded like a short in my audio cable. Fourier transforms anyone? Perhaps you'd like to play with a light-pen?

But ... having this machine allowed me to get my very first full time paying job in music, when I was hired to play keyboards(!) in Michigan's premier 60s cover band (my boss, Steve King, being almost as tech-obsessed as I was). And that job gave me the experience and $$ to record my first album. The rest is history (however obscure, it still happened in the past).

2) In the late 80s I realized I needed my nights free to work on and perform my own music, so I quit my cover band and pursued the profession of my fathers, that is, being a lawyer. But I thought I'd try such a seemingly-boring profession out before committing, so I got a paralegal certificate (this was when paralegals were a very new thing) and got a job as a legel secretary in a firm in Birmingham, Michigan. We were a group of legal secs that contracted work for various area lawyers. We used PCs running DOS; Windows 3.0 had just come out and I was very excited, I could actually fool programs like WordPerfect into running in a multitasking, graphical environment. But anyway ... I happened to impress one of the lawyers we did work for, and he was ramping up his Workers Comp practice and needed someone to work full time. So I went to work for Vern Leopold. Vern liked his computers (although he knew little about them) and decided to get the best, so he bought Macintoshes. He is still the only lawyer I've ever seen who maintained a Mac-based office. And those things were beautiful, elegant machines. I spent hours playing with the colors (up to 60K!) and writing form generation programs using Filemaker Pro. I finally realized that working with these wonderful machines was going to be my career, and since 1994 I've only done computer work.

So as you can see, without the work and integrity of Steve Jobs my life would have gone in a very different direction, at least twice. Tonight, I spent a couple of hours recording original music on my current Macbook Pro using the most elegant hardware and OS available, MacOSX, and now I'm writing this blog post on that machine.

Goodbye Steve. All my respect and admiration are yours, forever.


Monday, October 03, 2011

Presidents and TV

I'm getting kinda tired of people complaining that Presidents have to be TV stars. Of course they have to be TV stars; every Presidential candidate must work well on the media of the day. Lincoln made good "stump" speeches; that's how candidates connected to the greatest number of people in his day. FDR, Truman and Eisenhower were all great on the radio.

Let's look backwards a bit at people's ability to talk on TV: Obama = great; GW Bush = not great (but better than Kerry or Gore); Clinton = very good; GHW Bush = better than Dukakis, not as nearly as good as Clinton; Reagan = great; Jimmy Carter = better than Ford ; Nixon = started out terrible on TV, hired experts and got MUCH BETTER. Are we seeing a pattern here? The ability to connect to people on TV is extremely important, and before the Democrats nominate another Kerry or Gore or Dukakis, they really need to keep this in mind.

It'll be interesting to see who can capitalize on Internet exposure in the future, although Obama does that quite well too.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Colin Powell

I wonder why Colin Powell never ran for President? I'll bet the Bush administration left a really bad taste in his mouth. And I mean that metaphor in the meanest possible sense ...

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


Very interesting article about quantum effects on the macro level in the June Scientific American. Some of the possibilities are very interesting: bird migration might be a quantum effect; photosynthesis might achieve it's near perfect efficiency due to quantum entanglement. Most interesting: gravity itself might not be a "force" in the sense that electromagnetism and the strong force are, but might be an emergent property of quantum mechanics at the macro (universe) level.

A mind is never happier than when it's blown.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Beautiful evening in Mérida

It's just lovely in Mérida tonight. It was scorching hot and humid most of the day. El and I took a bus tour around the city, and got off the bus at the anthropology museum. We walked back from there, after which I retired to the mini-pool. El then went for another long walk to the grocery store (in 100+ degree weather). This completely wiped her out and she fell dead asleep at 9 PM, leaving me to enjoy the cool night breezes as I type this note out on the veranda. I think it's a veranda. Anyway, it reminds me of those evenings after Michigan summer days; warm and pleasantly humid. I think our hominid ancestors developed in weather like this. It just feels.... Comfortable. And right.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me!

You know, I was planning to feel kind of bad about being 50, but I'm still mobile, I'm losing weight, I'm married to a hot, smart lady 10 years younger than I am (and I love all my in-laws), I've made over 50K a year since 1997, I've made 3 decent pop albums all by myself and been involved in at least 3 more with friends, my condo has a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, I'm a MENSA member, I have at least 9 children, and I'm throwing a grand party for myself, my wife, her brother and my sister in law today at which I will be dancing to a live 70s soul and funk band and wearing a kilt.


Thursday, April 07, 2011

An Open Letter to Al Gore regarding Global Warming

Mr. Vice President:

First off, I'd like to thank you for all your selfless efforts to deal with climate change issues. (I'd also like to personally thank you for your early support of the Internet; I think it will go down as the most important thing that happened in the 20th Century).

That said ...

I understand from reading the recent book Super Freakonomics that, when asked what you thought about ideas from scientists about who want to take positive action against global warming (such as ideas from Nathan Myrvold's think tank about harnessing sulphur pollution from coal burning power plants and putting it into the upper atmosphere) you reacted with an unequivocal "no", based entirely on your extreme discomfort at the thought of putting more "pollutants" into the atmosphere.

Mr. Vice President, in my opinion, you cannot both believe that global warming is the most important problem facing the planet AND dismiss scientific methods of dealing with it offhand like that. If global warming is a problem (and I know it is) and if you think it is affecting us even now (and it is) then you must be open to any possible method of dealing with it. Pollution reduction and efficiency in power generation are very important, and in the long run they almost certainly must be our best defense against global warming, but any number of things may happen to prevent action on them from being successful in the short term, and in fact, they already are unsuccessful in the sort term. Ask the polar bears.

If you and your organizations are going to be the voice of reason (and not just the voice of the "Greens"), then you must deal with the situation as it is ... we could, with (relatively) very small amounts of money and time, start to deal with global warming in any number of ways with science; using these methods might very well give us the time to do the right thing in the long run without losing too much more precious wildlife and real estate. Are you the voice of reason, Mr. Vice President? Or are you only the voice of one very long and expensive (and possibly politically undoable) method of dealing with the problem?

Sorry to bring out the cliches yet again, but the polar bears need our help now, not 20 years from now. The low-lying islands in the Pacific need help now. Cities (especially poor ones) on the oceans need help NOW. Mr. Vice President, please use your mind and not just your emotions, and put some real thought into this. We have scientifiic methods to deal with this problem RIGHT NOW; can we afford to ignore them through simple distaste?

Hugh Caley
Albany, CA

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

A translation of George Harrison's "Something"

I have a hot chick;
she shakes it and she's classy.

I don't need another lover at the moment
and she knows it.

Will it become more than lust? No idea.

Those slutty dresses are hot, guess we'll
stay together for a while.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Zombie Zen

Zombie Zen: "If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him and eat him."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Mission of Honor

Mission of Honor (Honor Harrington, #12)Mission of Honor by David Weber

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a sucker for space opera, from E.E. "Doc" Smith's "Lensman" series, to the very weird "Night's Dawn Trilogy" series by Peter F. Hamilton. David Weber's "Honorverse" books are very much in that vein; larger than life heroic characters, space battles, kind of "pulpy" writing. I don't think anyone does the space battle thing better. If you like this sort of thing then you will really enjoy this entire series; with 12 books it has provided me with a lot of pleasure.

View all my reviews