The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle just disappeared from the blog. Sorry!

Friday, October 24, 2014

More On Humanity

The title is a pun, a play on words, but it has a lot to do with how I view the world. We aren't very bright... collectively, that is. A few of us are brilliant and we depend on these people to move civilization forward and to lead us.

I got to thinking about this after writing "I Sometimes Think About Important Stuff" because, well, it could be considered both important and stuff. I wanted to expand a bit about the word I possibly coined, "homocentricity", and what I mean by it. It is placing humans at the center of existence, the top of the evolutionary scale, and at one time the center of the universe. Yes, we once thought the earth was the center of the solar system and, since we knew pretty much nothing about galaxies or the universe, the center of the universe. After all, God made this world for mankind, did he not?

Well, we know now that we are but a tiny speck of rock and dirt and water in the humongous thing we call the universe. In fact, we have learned we are a tiny speck in our galaxy. We have yet to learn if we are unique in either our galaxy or in the universe. But we want to, don't we?

Not everyone believes that our planet is unimportant. Some of us seem to believe that the planet is a mere 6000 years old and the bible's story of its beginning is absolute and true. All that stuff about it being 5 billion years old and once populated by dinosaurs is scientific trickery or error. There is even a private museum in San Diego dedicated to that "young Earth" concept. I don't give much credence to that young Earth belief but a goodly number do. I don't wish to ridicule those who believe such. I don't wish to ridicule anyone really but sometimes I do so inadvertently.

I think that our religious heritage is behind that homocentricity I mentioned. That makes it hard to shake. I think science went along with it... adopted it, you might say... because of pressure from the religious hierarchy that wielded great power for most of civilization's existence. You want to avoid shouts of heresy? You want to avoid torture and forceful re-education? Incorporate the idea that we are unique and superior into science.

When I was a young child being taught/programmed to be a good and useful citizen, a teacher once talked about the dinosaurs and why they went extinct... At the time, the working theory was that the planet's climate had changed (an Ice Age) and the dinosaurs couldn't adapt. That theory has changed to the "a large meteor did it" theory. But I went looking into the age of the dinosaur and learned that it lasted millions of years before they went extinct. Humans, by contrast, had only been around several hundred thousand years according to the understanding at the time. I decided that the teacher was full of hooey and, extrapolating, I figured all teachers were not really experts on anything except possibly the subject they were teaching. Thereby setting me on a pattern of assuming authority was usually wong or misinformed. This did nothing for me in terms of scholastic achievement and possibly hurt my chances for greatness.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

What Is Time?

If time were not a moving thing
And I could make it stay
This hour of love we share would always be

There'd be no coming day
To shine a morning light
To make us realize our night is over

["It's Over" - Jimmie Rogers]

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day till eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

["Time In A Bottle" - Jim Croce]

Time, to me, is a river down which we all float. Caught in the current, we are at the mercy of that river. I was young when I first began to think about time, about the age I first was told about our world (reality) being a three dimensional one. I decided, just about that time, that it wasn't, that it was a four dimensional one and time was that fourth dimension. Think about it: we have height, width, and depth but nothing exists unless it exists for some amount of time. That time might only be a nano-second (or even less) but time must pass for we mere humans to perceive it.

We don't think much about it, though. Collectively, that is. I am sure physicists and many others do but not so much the average person. We are aware of time, of course, especially when we seem to be running out of it. When we are running late, for example, or as we grow old. And, occasionally, we contemplate the vagaries of time. You get into a traffic accident. If you had arrived at that point on the road, a few seconds later or a few seconds earlier, you might have not been involved except as a witness. A couple of miles an hour slower or faster might have saved you a lot of grief, or just spending a little less (or more) time getting into your car. Stretch those seconds into minutes and who knows?

A fatalist might think it wouldn't matter, that circumstances would wait for your arrival or happen earlier depending on when you arrived at the scene. But I am no fatalist. I do not think our lives are predestined, I think we have some control (call it "free will" if you like) over what happens to us but we cannot predict the future so we may as will not have that control.

I wonder, how many of you have contemplated that paradox of time travel: If you traveled back in time, say 100 years, and killed your grandfather before your father was born... would you cease to exist immediately? If so, then you could not have traveled back in time and killed your grandfather and, therefore, you would not exist. It came to me when I first heard that one that it would be silly to even contemplate killing one's grandfather at all. Maybe by accident but certainly not with intent. But any change you made in the past would eventually alter the future in some way. The further back in time, the greater the impact on the future.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Situational Awareness

 I was driving home from running a few errands and observing the driving habits of a few people as I did so. I'm nosy, ok? It occurred to me that much of the driving experience has been taken away by gadgets and automation.

When I was younger and had received my first traffic citation (for running a stop sign... which I did not do), I ended up in something called Traffic School. I was told by the instructor (a Sheriff's Deputy) that the two worst inventions for cars were AC and the radio. The AC meant you could leave the windows closed (thereby cutting off outside noise) and the radio masked any noise that might have leaked in. I wonder what he would have thought of the gadgets available for modern cars?

As young drivers, my peers and I hated automatic transmissions; called `em "slushboxes" and worse. I thought they took much of the "feel" out of driving a car. Now, of course, I love the darn things... you get lazy in your later years.

But look at the array of options available these days, lane warnings, proximity alerts, and rear-view cameras. And, of course, we are moving toward driverless vehicles: just put in your destination and sit back. As I watched people pay no attention to the vehicles behind (and, sometimes, alongside) them, I wondered if the new gadgets would make things even worse. Perhaps not, perhaps they are needed because it is clear that drivers are not attentive.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Government Sucks... Obviously

A Saturday Special

I was reading this last Thursday morning and a thought came to mind. Some morning thoughts don't last or make much sense even at the time but this one seemed to. One of the things Stossel wrote was:

The Constitution's limits on government power helped create the most free and prosperous country on earth.

I must take issue with that. It could have helped but I think we could (probably would) have turned out just as powerful and prosperous if we had become a dictatorship. I know, not orthodoxy. But what's the point of having a brain if one cannot think "outside the box", as they say? In the past few millennia there have been many great and prosperous countries. Greece, Egypt, Persia, Rome, Russia (under the tsars), France, England, India, and many more. None of them were as as free but they still managed to become great and prosperous nations that built huge empires.

One thing that I think is important to remember as citizens is that government always tries to assume more power and that, I think, is what Stossel is really complaining about in this piece. That we have relatively greater freedom than most countries today, or pretty much any in the past, is not truly relevant to attaining greatness or prosperity. We were not all that powerful and prosperous until late in our history. We were pretty much ignored by the rest of the world. Understandably so, I think. We had to go through a period of expansion and consolidation of our own before we could expand beyond our own borders.

The issue I think is important today is: How much of our individual freedom are we willing to cede in order to remain great and, possibly, prosperous?

Friday, October 17, 2014

I Sometimes Think About Important Stuff

... in addition to the silliness that crops up in my brain. You might recall that I once described humans as parasites. Well, I haven't changed my mind about that. I did, however, run into this which doesn't confirm (or deny) my premise but which concentrates on our collective, let's call it, homocentricity. By that, I mean we place ourselves at the top of the evolutionary scale.

The author makes a compelling, and quite obvious, argument that the only reason to place us at the top is because we made the ladder in the first place. That is, we humans are the only ones who seemingly know or care about evolution. I called the author "Captain Obvious" for positing that. He is right that each species (extant or extinct) is pretty much unique in its approach to life and that this should tell us we are not unique among all fauna. We just think we are and we teach that to our children so that they, too, will believe it.

But what about my positing that we are simply another parasitical species? I think we are. And I also think we aren't anymore intentional in doing harm to our host than any other parasites. Yet, we do cause harm. One of the harms we have done is cause the extinction of a number of species. Nature has us beat on that, however, having wiped out huge numbers of species in various ways, sometimes relatively quickly and sometimes over huge spans of time. But never mercifully. In fact, humans might be the only species to actually care about the extinction of any animals.

Of course, that might just be because we seem to be the only animals to have a capacity to care about anything. Other animals might care about something beyond personal survival but how would we know?