Thursday, February 19

Giant Panda Live @ Castaways Tonight

For those of you who live in the I-town area, I strongly encourage you to come check out Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad (GPGDS) tonight at Castaways (9pm). For more about GPGDS and to hear some tracks - check out the side bar or the music player at the bottom of the page.

Taking advantage of the opportunity

Yesterday I finally got around to reading an article from the Feb. 1 NYT Magazine called “The Big Fix,” which outlined how the stimulus bill should be used. It was actually good timing because yesterday I also read the detailed outline of the stimulus package that was signed by President Obama on Tuesday.

I was struck by how closely the stimulus package adheres to the plan put forth in the article: that the bill should be used to fix problems that have been festering due to lack of political will to change them (among other reasons) – particularly in the areas of healthcare, research, education, and infrastructure – and that careful attention must be paid to finding a balance between short-term investments with immediate returns and long-term investments for the future.

Here are some snippets from the article:
Washington won’t merely be given the task of pulling the economy out of the immediate crisis. It will also have to figure out how to put the American economy on a more sustainable path — to help it achieve fast, broadly shared growth and do so without the benefit of a bubble. Obama said as much in his inauguration speech when he pledged to overhaul Washington’s approach to education, health care, science and infrastructure, all in an effort to “lay a new foundation for growth.”
“You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Emanuel said. “What I mean by that is that it’s an opportunity to do things you could not do before.”

“Things we had postponed for too long, that were long term, are now immediate and must be dealt with,” Emanuel said in November…the fact that the economy appears to be mired in its worst recession in a generation may well allow the administration to confront problems that have festered for years.

…a moment when there are millions of people who are unemployed, when the federal government can borrow money over the long term at under 3 percent and when we face long-run fiscal problems is also a moment of great opportunity to make investments in the future of the country that have lagged for a long time.

As a country we have been spending too much on the present and not enough on the future. We have been consuming rather than investing. We’re suffering from investment-deficit disorder.
According to the article, spending on future investments such as healthcare, infrastructure, and future technologies has dropped from 7% of the national GDP to 4% GDP in the last 50 years, and private industry doesn’t spend much because the benefits are often societal rather than financial - and when they are financial, often only a fraction is returned to the investor.

Here are some highlights from the stimulus outline:
*Over $30 billion to transform the nation’s energy transmission, distribution, and production systems by allowing for a smarter and better grid and focusing investment in renewable technology
*$17.7 billion for transit and rail to reduce traffic congestion and gas consumption.
*$16.5 billion to modernize federal and other public infrastructure with investments that lead to long term energy cost savings
*$15 billion for science facilities, research, and instrumentation
*$7.2 billion to expand broadband internet access so businesses in rural and other underserved areas can link up to the global economy
*$5 billion to weatherize modest-income homes

It’s a harder idea to sell, but If we’re serious about stimulating green innovations, it’s going to have to be done. This is what the article had to say:
Various analyses of Obama’s cap-and-trade plan…suggest that after it is fully implemented, it would cost less than 1 percent of gross domestic product a year, or about $100 billion in today’s terms. That cost is entirely manageable. But it’s still a cost.

Or perhaps we should think of it as an investment. Like so much in the economy, our energy policy has been geared toward the short term. Inexpensive energy made daily life easier and less expensive for all of us. Building a green economy, on the other hand, will require some sacrifice. In the end, that sacrifice should pay a handsome return in the form of icecaps that don’t melt and droughts that don’t happen — events with costs of their own. Over time, the direct economic costs of a new energy policy may also fall. A cap-and-trade program will create incentives for the private sector to invest in alternative energy, which will lead to innovations and lower prices. Some of the new clean-energy spending, meanwhile, really will replace money now flowing overseas and create jobs here.

But all those benefits will come later. The costs will come sooner, which is a big reason we do not already have a green economy — or an investment economy.
We've got a long road ahead, but it's good to know we finally have someone at the reins who makes rational decisions that are based on scientific facts and are for the greater good.

Tuesday, February 17

The Solution to Our Economic Problems

This is pure comedy, so if you're looking for a serious solution - sorry!

Monday, February 16


I have to say, I'm a sucker for random comedy - and this is about as random as it gets:

But there's nothing we can do about it...

Tamino, in a recent post on his/her blog Open Mind titled "The Audacity of Hope," gave this great response to the ridiculous sentiment:

...I have a message for every nay-sayer and advocate of “there’s nothing we can do about it.” I refuse to resign. I do not accept the inevitability of failure. But the way I feel right now, it takes a lot of audacity to be hopeful.

I accept that global warming is going to be a lot of pain for a lot of people. But I will allow my intellect to overrule my anger because it knows that what we do does make a difference. The more we change for the better, the better the future will be. Although the future is not likely to be good, there’s no excuse for not doing what we can to prevent its being worse.

If you don’t want to do anything about global warming … get the hell out of the way of those of us who do.

And we're not just talking about climate change, this is a universal truth that applies to everything. One person CAN make a difference, and every little bit helps!

Malicious Intent

We’ve all had professors we thought were mean, but was it their intention? Here’s proof that at least one professor (not from Cornell, in case you were wondering) intentionally alienates students when teaching evolution to those who believe in creationism:
I make an explicit statement on day one that creationism would not be mentioned ever in this classroom. Then, for the rest of the semester, I mention creationism, always as an aside, always snarkily, always with disdain, always with humor, so an increasingly large number of students join in with uproarious laughter at the expense of the increasingly smaller and smaller number of "out" creationist. In other words, I invoke the ugly Weapon of Mass Destruction known as peer pressure.
When I first read this I actually laughed out loud – but it’s really not that funny when I think about it. I mean, that's not cool.

And on the topic of teaching evolution, there are better (and probably more effective) ways to deal with the issue. In my humble opinion, this is the best way to deal with students who are hesitant to believe in evolution because it conflicts with their belief in creationism: just make it fit. In other words, don’t try to undermine their religion, simply point out that most of the Bible is not meant to be taken literally. Many scientists who retain their faith are able to reconcile the conflict between creationism and evolution by interpreting each day of the creation as a period in time rather than a strict 24-hour day. Easy solution. No one gets hurt.