Monday, April 23, 2007

Orwell, Bradbury, and Huxley Built a Better World

Who didn’t have queasy dreams after reading 1984, Fahrenheit 451 and Brave New World? The horror of living in that kind of totalitarian environment pales, however, in comparison to the visions of the newest gurus on the global warming hustle. Yep, I’m talking about those two middle-aged beauties in the bio-diesel bus who are flaunting their scientific credentials, oops, make that media popularity by touring the country lamenting the heat wave that’s coming. Sheryl Crow and Laurie David, both lacking any sort of technical expertise, are roaming the hinterland and pitching to the mushy minds of the college age population their view of the “Inconvenient Truth.”

These musings come directly and without filtering from the two bimbo’s blog:

Biodiesel Bus Blog

Last week we heard Ms Crow lamenting the climate change that she personally has viewed in her lifetime at her favorite beaches. That’s right! In just twenty short years of observations, none of which are accompanied by scientifically compiled data, she has noted a significant increase in temperatures! I could point out to Ms Crow that women her age occasionally sense a higher temperature than ambient due to hormonal rather than climatic change, but that might be viewed as sexist.

More critically, it would be good to note that global warming is a function of single-digit degree changes over centuries, not generally notable to individuals in a lifetime. But, I doubt such details would have significant impact.

Now, the dynamic duo seeks a broader attack on the problems. Going directly to the source of greenhouse gas emissions, they now seek a toilet paper limit per application. I’m wondering if they envision some sort of program similar to the carbon credit system to allow them to possibly trade their rate of usage with the restraint of some other cultures in terms of personal hygiene techniques. Bidet users could reap a lot of credits by foregoing TP consumption and in return get to drive larger vehicles or maybe fly their private jets more. Yep, another opportunity for trade.

But, if Crow and David have their way, how will this “one square is more than fair” dictate be enforced. You know that if there is a demand for this sort of activism to fight the temperature fairies, there will also be scoff-laws who piddle and poop without regard to the damage they are doing to the environment. That will necessitate an army of Toilet Police to enforce the rationing.

We’re looking at a world of time-controlled TP dispensers. We’ve got the technology. If we can master the 1.6 liter flush and the limited dispensing paper towel roll, we can certainly apply the same social consciousness to the TP issue.

I’m envisioning a seat-to-roll interconnect with a pressure switch on contact that then unlocks the dispenser for a limited release. The technology that detects smoking in airliner bathrooms might help to detect seat bouncers who would try to get multiple dispersions. Attempts to circumvent the system would result in alarms and flashing lights, probably with an associated stall lockdown.

There would be significant manpower requirements to certify equipment, monitor bathroom effluent and confirm that residuals of incomplete jobs were not detrimental to public health. This might be a simultaneous economic boon in terms of reducing unemployment, creating new technologies and maybe even have a lateral benefit in boosting bloomer production for replacements.

There are bugs to be worked out here, but we can do it if we all take a swipe at the problem.

Yet, I sometimes think that maybe we are having our leg pulled here. Or, possibly the dynamic duo have been wearing their thongs too tight and underestimate the magnitude of the job they are facing.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Let’s Roll Redux

Who can’t, hasn’t, shouldn’t, wouldn’t or didn’t already comment on the Virginia Tech tragedy? I mean besides me.

It has evolved almost the way one could predict while sitting in an isolation booth. There have been the stupid media filler pieces with the incessant inanities coming from reporters and interviewers who somehow think they are “probing” for new insights and information. Nope, they aren’t.

There has been the expected hand-wringing. “What could we have done?” “Why did this happen?” “When will we do something about guns in this country?” “Couldn’t we have helped this poor, young man?” It’s all whimpering over spilt milk. Can I revert momentarily to the cliché about it not being guns that kill people? Sorry, but it’s true.

What we have here is failure of leadership in America. What we have here is lack of initiative from people who should be responsible. What we have is inculcation of cowardice in several generations of Americans. Virginia Tech is simply an extension ad absurdum of the sort of “leading” we are seeing in the legislature of the US. This is Harry Reid thinking applied with a broad brush. Poor Harry can’t see a thing worth supporting, so he declares the “war is lost” and seems blissfully unaware that we only lose if we say we have, not while our brave men and women are in harm’s way on our behalf.

Here's a relevant piece that predates the tragedy:

On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs

Let’s look at a few things that have been uncovered at VTU:

Two people are murdered on campus in a dorm and it is reported a 7:15 AM. The shooter is on the loose. The reaction of the administration is to call a meeting and discuss courses of action! Two hours pass and their choice is to send out an email asking people to be on the lookout for someone who looks suspicious! C’mon, give me a break. This is a 2600 acre campus with its own security force. Why not immediately, like at 7:20, start setting up a perimeter to close off the campus, cancel morning classes, secure all buildings, begin door-to-door canvassing and search while advising all persons in the area to lock their doors and stay inside?

No, they send out an email asking people to kind of keep an eye out for something unusual. Business goes on as usual. No courage or decisiveness from the administration.

Or, how about that episode in which the disturbed Mr. Cho signs into his new class as “?” and then refuses to respond when asked to do as all of the other students and introduce himself. I’ve taught at much smaller colleges for about ten years now and there has always been a policy that classes are not open to persons who are not registered. Obviously there was no “?” registered, so why didn’t that teacher ask this sullen individual to leave the classroom? No courage or responsibility from the teacher.

Then how about the stalking and threatening episode? Why didn’t the victims press charges? Much easier to simply roll-over and avoid further inconvenience. No courage from these two.

And what about the psychiatric evaluation that diagnosed the shooter as a danger to himself and others? With that report in hand, a bit of courage from the doctors could have pursued a course of commitment. The judge who over-ruled the medical recommendation lacked courage to do what was right. But, even so, once the psychological report is in hand a courageous administration could disenroll a student who has been identified as a danger. And, a resident alien identified as a danger to himself and others could reasonably be deported. No courage from doctors, judges, admin or immigration.

What do the students do? When the shooting starts they crawl under their desks and wait to die. These are college students, young, healthy, agile and supposedly intelligent. A single individual walks from room to room in the building shooting methodically, stopping to reload and then continuing. When does an intelligent person analyze the situation and decide that doing nothing results in inevitable death while doing something provides at least the possibility of survival? Very little courage from the students here. But, that’s what we teach these days, isn’t it?

How about that SWAT team? Lots of video of them deployed in all of their really cool gear, guns and helmets. There was a great video loop I watched on Fox News with Bubba suiting up then returning to the hood of his “unit” and recovering his Starbuck’s venti latte. Notice how many casualties the tactical team took in attempting to save the students who were waiting to die? How does NONE sound? Not much courage, aggressiveness or initiative in that operation.

Of course we could throw in the inverse courage component of the university administration which vetoed the idea of weapons or concealed carry on campus a few months ago. We should be able see very clearly how effective that kind of ruling can be in terms of making folks feel more secure. Unfortunately FEELING secure isn’t as important as actually BEING secure. No courage here either.

But, there’s a bright spot and it is very illustrative. There’s the professor, a guest lecturer and an elderly man from Europe. A Jew who lived through the Holocaust in Nazi Romania. He knew that sitting still and waiting to die was not a good option. He died while blocking the door and enabling his students to escape through the classroom windows.

And, in class yesterday, I asked my students what they thought of the tragedy. After the usual expressions of sadness and sympathy we talked about what to do. My kids aren’t in a prestigious East Coast university, they are in a small town regional college and have a lot of the toughness of the North Texas country in which they live. They acknowledged that they couldn’t wait for the police to save them.

Then a couple of the young women noted that swarming the attacker would be a good option. One of those on an athletic scholarship suggested she could pick up and toss her arm-chair desk at the assailant. Another realized that the room was filled with suitable projectiles—books, backpacks, purses, cell-phones, etc. Under a barrage of thrown items, the attacker could be overcome. Some might suffer injury or even death, but they wouldn’t wait passively for the grim reaper. Maybe Todd Beamer was smiling in his heaven.

I like these kids.