Saturday, October 01, 2011

The 99 Per Cent Solution: What Will It Precipitate?

A Message From the 1960s
Who knows where the Occupy Wall Street movement will go?
I know firsthand there is a lot of fear and anger among the vast majority of Americans who feel our nation slipping away, but it is hard to figure out where to focus those feelings.

I remember Billy Joel warning us decades ago of the collapse of American industry, as the jobs were shipped away, but most of my friends assumed that we'd be o.k., because we had education and technology - we'd work smarter not harder, and it would all work out. They wouldn't close down our white collar factories like they did Allentown:
Surely this couldn't happen to us!
"Well we're living here in Allentown
And they're closing all the factories down
Out in Bethlehem they're killing time
Filling out forms
Standing in line.

...Well we're waiting here in Allentown
For the Pennsylvania we never found
For the promises our teachers gave
If we worked hard
If we behaved.

So the graduations hang on the wall
But they never really helped us at all
No they never taught us what was real
Iron or coke,
Chromium steel.

And we're waiting here in Allentown.
But they've taken all the coal from the ground
And the union people crawled away.

Every child had a pretty good shot
To get at least as far as their old man got.
If something happened on the way to that place
They threw an American flag in our face, oh oh oh.

Well I'm living here in Allentown
And it's hard to keep a good man down.
But I won't be getting up today..."
Well, now that the manufacturing jobs have been exported, it turned out to be pretty easy to export the white collar jobs too. Our nation is rapidly changing from a First World Nation - which imports raw materials and exports finished goods - into a Third World Nation - which exports raw materials and imports finished goods. This is great news for our Aristocracy of Wealth, who enjoy being the 1% who own most everything, but not good news for the 99%, who have to get used to the prospect of living like a Chinese factory worker.
The Corporate-backed Tea Party tapped this rage for a while, and directed it against the enemies of the Aristocracy. This is a traditional tactic of aristocracies threatened by mass protests - turn one group of working people against another. The question yet to be answered is whether this will work in 2012. There is still a strong Know-Nothing group in America, happy to fight against their own economic interests so long as it means they aren't some sort of "liberal". And the Aristocracy is fantastically wealthy; America has a greater concentration of wealth than in any time in its history, and a far greater concentration than many contemporary Third World nations. As we saw in the Wisconsin recall elections, the Aristocracy is willing to spend money to keep power and as we see across our nation, it's willing to destroy democracy in the process by keeping people from voting.
These are interesting times, and I don't have any answers except that everyone should participate. Politics is how grown-up run our lives and, like doing the dishes and changing your car's oil, you have to do it - you can put it off for a while but sooner or later it has to be done.

Friday, September 30, 2011

QRpedia: Public Information In Translation!

Scan this on your smartphone
to learn about St. Ed's

A cheap way to enhance public information is to put those square scannable codes ("QR codes") here and there, for people with smart phones to scan, but you still have the problem of maintaining a web page of information, PLUS the problem that many people prefer different languages.
Enter it generates QR codes for you to post, that links you to Wikipedia articles in the language your phone prefers. Read how it works: or just give it a try!
Here is a code that pulls up the wikipedia article for Saint Edward State Park, which used to be my high school. When you scan it, presumably the article will come up in its English version if your phone, like mine, is set to English - but I'd love to have someone who prefers another language to try it and see if it serves a page in an appropriate language.
State park budgets are very tight, but QR codes may help provide information very economically.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Cellphone Camera As Parking Memory Aid

Today as I went to the VA Hospital for a blood draw for an Alzeihmer's study (for which I am a "healthy control", or so they assure me), I habitually took a picture of my car in the lot. It's a large lot, and I've never been very good at remembering where I park. Before the advent of cellphone cameras, I had tried always to park on the edge of the lot, so I could find my car simply by walking the circumference, but taking a quick photo is much more convenient.
This photo helped me locate my car,
but could have been more helpful...

The problem then becomes simply to match the background features in the photo with whatever I can see (... if I'm lucky, the spaces are numbered, but that's often neglected.)
Today's photo was too close, because although it helpfully showed a fence and a tree, it didn't really narrow the possible locations sufficiently.
... here my car is shown with horizon
features sufficient for swift location

A better shot would have been the second one. It shows my car and enough of the horizon that I can immediately pick out features to line up and locate my vehicle.
My memory is not unusually bad as a rule, but the use of a cellphone camera as assistive technology makes me just a little bit more effective. That little black brick is like a booster pack for my brain!