Saturday, November 21, 2015

It seemed so simple then, and UTOASN

The good news, the plank streak is continuing. 1:45 yesterday. Shorter today, but still over a minute, starting on some of the variations. Wouldn't want to get bored, of course.

The news I thought would be bad, turned out to be good, Friday early afternoon, was that my boss's boss walked into my office, shut the door, and asked if I had a minute. Whoops! For a moment I thought my time had come. Then it turns out his status had changed from transitioning out of the organization, to accepting an offer to stay in. He and my boss will be sorting out their roles and responsibilities. In other news, things go on as they are, till they change.

The ugly news is the traffic last night. I bailed out of work, thinking I would head over to Strides to buy another pair of the running shoes I have now. I like them, and I anticipate doing some indoor running this winter. Part way there I heard about a collision (a demonstration of driver incompetence, as I like to say) on Glenmore near 14th St.

No problem, I figured I would sneak out 38th and down Sifton. They didn't have the shoes, but called the other store, and they agreed to hold them for me. By the time I got out of the store the traffic was backed up everywhere, including the streets I was going to use to sneak out. Gridlock everywhere.

Eventually I got over to the aquatic store, with Siri trying to get me lost along the way. (Did I buy a skimpy Speedo swimsuit?) I bought a few more swim toys, and had a nice chat with the staff. Then I heard traffic had been closed northbound on Crowchild, and they were dumping traffic onto 33rd. Glad I wasn't there.

The sunset was beautiful, and I picked up the other shoes no problem. I was wondering how I could not know there was a Strides on Canyon Meadows, but they've only been open 6 months or so. Whew! I'm going to put an old set of white laces into those shoes so I can tell which are the indoor, and which are the outdoor. White, you know, purity?

I'm just dying to go for a run inside at Talisman. I will turn on iSmoothRun, of course, and I will post the map. That should be cool.

Michelle and I ran along the ridge with a beautiful unexpected view of the mountains. 8 K in a little over an hour, nice and easy, chatchatchat, stopping at turnaround to arrange coffee. We met up with Sue and Kevin and had a wonderful chat.

While running and chatting I was thinking about the unhappy state of the world in many ways, and how good we have it here and now. I'd seen a video about Syria, how it started with protests, then a civil war, then it got worse. Then worse again as more players joined the confusion.

Back in the day, such as what we call World War II (The winners of the war call it The Great Patriotic War), there was a limited number of enemies, with clearly defined borders and combatants (essentially everybody on the other side of the border, but still, that's clear). How nice it must be to have that clarity. Syria, and all the associated issues is such a mess it's hard to know where to begin to start making it better. So far, dropping bombs has not noticeably made things better, so maybe we should stop doing that.

But where I'm going with this is data. I'm a data driven kind of guy. To solve or mitigate the many very complicated problems facing us, we need all the data we can get. We need to massage it into information to build practical policies. We need to track outcomes, and build feedback loops so that we know what works and doesn't, and when to start changing what we're doing.

Just one of the problems is the faith based idiots mucking up the works. They believe the "End Times" are here, and there is no need to think about a future. They appear to believe their mission is helping to mess things up so their prophecy is fulfilled, and the Rapture happens, or Jesus returns, or something. Maybe it's aliens coming to take them away, and I could cheer for that one.

Faith is the opposite of data and information. Faith is creating problems, and doing nothing to help them get better. An example? Sure. Two of them. Christianity is rich in prophecy about the return of Jesus, starting from a few days after he died about 2000 years ago. Every few years someone rears up on their hind legs and says the date is x, usually a short time ahead. (send money, they say.) It hasn't happened yet, and I don't think it's ever going to happen. Deal with it. Let us deal with problems rationally.

The other is this peace on earth thing. If there is one thing all faiths have in common, it's that they pray for peace on earth. This time of year particularly you hear a lot of that. Now, look around. Do you see peace on earth? Locally yes. Not so much elsewhere. Why would that be? Here, we have good government, with a stable society governed by laws and mostly honest politicians. Even Harper, an extremist by Canadian standards, was honest, pragmatic, and fairly successful by world standards.

What else? A system of courts and mostly honest hard working police. Corporations working in a stable framework of laws that make it harder to engage in a race for the bottom in an orgy of corporate greed. A lack of gun toting nuts that think they are the "good guy". A medical system that helps cure or mitigate many conditions that used to be the scourge of humanity, and still are where such a system can't operate, or the anti-vaccine idiots are left to run free. Why is there less peace elsewhere? I'd submit for discussion that there is too much faith.

Canada used to have a civil service that was the envy of the world. In a relatively non-partisan way it provided data to the government of the day, and we've built ourselves a pretty good world. The key is data, and people that can organize and make sense of ever more complex data. It isn't just storing it in databases, or even spitting out the canned reports. No, we need people that can think about the various reams of data, and organize it in different ways to make sense of it for various issues. Then we need politicians to act on that, changing public policy to achieve the goals we set for ourselves.

So, a fairly simple thing, in the great scheme of things. Bringing 25,000 Syrian refugees to Canada in the dead of winter. I cry "Shame on you! to the people that say we should close our doors out of fear. Even what little I've read of the refugee vetting process as it is now, seems cumbersome and slow, and some people want to make it even harder. Let's get a grip, people. If someone wants to come to Canada and do bad things, it's easy enough to do. Emulating a refugee is making the problem far more difficult, from a bad guy perspective.

Now lets get complicated. Climate change. Holy doodle, the issues never stop! Here in Alberta we get most of our electricity from burning coal. That's horrible stuff, even with the best scrubbing technologies we want to afford. You still have to deal with the ash. Ok, so how do we stop burning coal? Even retrofitting the plants to natural gas, which is tres cheap right now, isn't easy, and we're still burning a fossil fuel, albeit a cleaner one.

One of the concerns is an economic one. How do we account for the sunk costs of building and operating those plants? They were built according to the regulations of the day, and have been periodically updated as the regulations have changed, but these things can't happen overnight. But how much time do you allow? If you regulate the industry out of business, how do you compensate the people that invested in what was a legal enterprise?

Then we get into renewable energy, the whole wind and solar thing, and perhaps others. I disagree with the people that say it isn't economic now, therefore it will never be economic. I disagree with those who say that we can't do it because the wind doesn't blow every day, or the sun is behind clouds, and that will shut off all the lights. Bah! There are technologies of power storage, and that industry is advancing in leaps and bounds, and will continue to do so.

There are lots of moving parts here, and we need to let the smart people work on it. I've read that half of the smartest people that have ever lived are alive now. Let's give them the data. Let's let people fold, spindle, and arrange the data. Let's look at the facts that emerge, and act on them. Enough of making things up, or pretending they are the way you want them to be. Enough of letting corporations manipulate affairs so they continue to make a profit, just because they have been. Let's grow up and deal with the world as it is.

Oh, and UTOASN?
Runners will know this. I had a lovely run, but there was a minor distraction, what with the impact running has on the guts. As soon as I got home, I had to deal with an Urgent Task of a Solitary Nature. At least this is a simple task, free of complexities here. In other parts of the world, it is much more difficult, and dealing with the corresponding flows from many people is an urgent and ongoing problem. We know how to solve it, yet can't seem to.

Let's get that sorted out, so we stop that source of pollution. That gets us into supplying everybody with clean drinking water, which will cut down on disease. This should give us lots of experience solving problems of moderate complexity and build confidence in dealing with more complex problems. Let's be about it.


  1. Have you read Sapiens? You should. It might make you rethink your definition of "faith". Our social, economic and political system is built on thousands of myths that are little more than articles of faith - including human rights, money, and nations. The book has its shortcomings but it's thought-provoking all the same.

  2. It was lovely to see you and Michelle on Saturday. We should do that again! Bring cat pictures and we shall discuss the state of the world :)


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