Saturday, June 03, 2017

"A second homeland..."

Well, at least Trump has succeed in uniting people. Nothing brings people together like a common enemy.

He has succeeded in energizing people; in convincing people that they can't just sit around assume everything will turn out OK. He has totally discredited the (popular but wrong and dangerous) belief that rich businessmen must be competent and intelligent and deserve their wealth and power.

I hope it will be enough....

I agree with the author of this Mary Sue article that it was totally inappropriate and horrible of Susan Sarandon (and others like her) to encourage people to allow Trump to win because that would energize people and "bring on the revolution" faster. That is a deadly gamble, and one that someone of her level of privilege has no business making -- considering that she's betting other people's lives, not her own. If Trump's incompetence leads to nuclear war and/or if our inaction leads to climate change becoming irreversible, it's today's kids who will be paying for that with their lives. Anyone who has led a long, full life and then went ahead and bet our kids' future on Trump should be deeply ashamed.

But since we're stuck in this mess, let's hope this new-found unity and purpose will be enough to get us out.

France's new president, Emmanuel Macron, just got a softball opportunity lobbed at him for his first big photo-op as president: the meeting with the G7 leaders, including Trump. Your mission is to meet with Trump and look good by contrast -- kinda hard to mess that one up. But he took that softball and hit it out of the park!

First Macron beat Trump at Trump's own stupid handshake game. Then he took a walk in a lovely flower garden with Trudeau, whom everybody loves -- prompting even some serious news outlets to cover the question of who's handsomer. Then he wrapped up by giving a forceful speech about how the Paris accords will go forward -- and not be watered down -- including this awesome special bit directed to the American people, in which he brazenly poaches America's smart people for France:

Apparently Macron figured out that nobody but nobody hates Trump like America's smart people hate him. 

It made especially good optics considering that many of Macron's political rivals were pushing to exit the EU. But the recent rottenness of the US and the UK makes Germany look like the most awesome best friend ever! (Points to Merkel for her courageous statement that Europe can't count on those guys anymore.)

So President Macron is off to a good start with people like me -- people who didn't know much about him, and only voted for him because he was the "not Le Pen" candidate. Yes, it was my first vote as a citizen of France, and now I'm feeling pretty good about it! (Though I assume he'll do something to piss me off soon enough, like Trudeau with those oil pipelines -- grrrr!)

I especially loved this part of Macron's address:
To all scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, responsible citizens who were disappointed by the decision of the President of the United States, I want to say that they will find in France a second homeland. I call on them, 'Come, and work here, with us, to work together on concrete solutions for our climate, our environment. I can assure you, France will not give up the fight.'
This part is personal to me because I left the US to settle in Europe and become a French citizen (though I am currently living in Switzerland, an adjacent, also awesome country). I also recently quit my job in educational software and took a new job in climate-change software -- specifically, I'm working with scientists and fellow engineers on software to compute the carbon footprints of different meals (for restaurants). 

Sure, I don't need to have the President of France give a speech welcoming me and affirming my personal life decisions, but, hey, it doesn't hurt! :D

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Last two puppet shows of 1990!!

Here are the last two in the series, "Three Silly People Save the Kingdom: And the one we made about us and our blue-and-pink castle-shaped puppet theater! This was probably the funnest summer job I've ever had. It's unfortunate that I didn't make videos of the shows from the other two years I did this...

Sunday, January 01, 2017

State of the me 2016-2017

Since 2011, I've been writing these yearly posts about where I'm at with my life and my goals. This year I've got a lot going on in my personal life -- in particular, I didn't quite finish part 1 of my comic as planned (there's still the difficult stretch from page 5.5 to page 9 remaining), but I got quite a lot done, and it looks good. But, unfortunately, my personal life has to take a backseat to the tragic state of the world that has arisen this past year.

Specifically, critical amounts of Arctic ice have melted, which means that the feedback loops for catastrophic runaway global warming have begun. The amount of methane frozen in the Arctic absolutely dwarfs the amount in the atmosphere right now. We are dangerously close to having an atmosphere that the ecosystems we rely on can't survive in (and from there, potentially an atmosphere that is too hot for humans to live in at all, even if they had something to eat, which they won't). We are very likely facing extinction within the next twenty years.

The one thing that could potentially halt this deadly course would be if the industrialised world were to recognise this for the international emergency that it is and drop everything to stop it. Unfortunately, the United States has just elected a facist monster who is reigniting the nuclear arms race by conducting foreign policy by posting nuclear threats on Twitter (not to mention defunding NASA's climate research and looking to increase fossil fuel extraction). As the increasing climate catastrophe causes more situations like Syria worldwide, it would take a genius of diplomacy to maintain any kind of global peace. As it is, we will likely be heading into WWIII at this critical moment, and then it's probably curtains for us.

Interestingly, when I mention this situation to friends, I've gotten reactions like, "Back in the 80's, people said acid rain would be a big problem," or "People said we'd run out of fresh water..." But none of these past scares are things that even had the potential to kill everyone. This one can, and if we don't stop it, it will. It's happening -- the global temperature rise is already off the charts.

Naturally, this leads me to a bit of an existential crisis. All my life, I had just assumed the human race would continue long past the end of my expected lifespan, and that I (and my husband and children) would all likely live to old age. Now it's looking possible, but decidedly unlikely.

Is life worth living if we have maybe only another ten years or so of things being more-or-less normal, and then another ten or so of war/starvation/terror, and then death? And not just for me, but for everyone and everything I have ever cared about? As a humanist, I would generally say that my life has meaning due to the positive impact I can have on others' lives and on society, but... it's kind of not the same if all others and society will all be dead too. Now as I look at all of the wonderful things I love about humanity and about life, I feel like I'm saying goodbye.

More than anything I hope we can solve these looming disasters. My deepest wish is that I'll be rereading these words in 2040 or 2050, looking back on how we made it through the critical moment and created a more sustainable society. Alternatively, it would be great if I were simply wrong and delusional -- I'd rather spend the rest of my days locked up in a mental hospital with my drawing tablet than have the situation be as dire as it appears to be.

I'm planning to write another few posts in the coming month or so, to discuss what we're up against, and what we have going for us that may allow us to survive this. I'm not going to sit back and wait for this to happen. We'll succeed in rolling back climate change or die trying...

Happy New Year. :'(

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Resistance is not futile (I hope)

Folks, we are in big trouble. Our current climate change reality is off-the-charts worse than the most dire predictions. With gigatons of methane melting in the arctic and going into the atmosphere, we are looking at a more than 10 degree increase in global temperature in the next ten years. Few ecosystems on Earth can survive that. Our species almost certainly can't.

Maybe if we were to mobilize 100% of all of our efforts, we can stop this, but it looks like we're throwing ourselves headlong into extinction, and soon. As the climate changes, agriculture will fail all over the world. The current situation in Syria is just a dress rehearsal. That will be everywhere in a few years. And instead of mobilizing to stop this, we will probably mobilize for war, and that will be the end of us.

Is there any hope? I hope there is! Massive cultivation of algae in the oceans might save us, but this and all other actions need to ramp up immediately. We need to get down to business on this like our lives depend on it, because they do.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Wishing Fish!!

Here's another puppet show I did with friends:

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Confessions of a former Nader voter: 2016 reflections

The US election of 2000 has been coming up a lot lately, so I think it's time to add a few remarks and updates to the lessons I learned and described earlier.

First off, I've heard people claim that the Naderites of 2000 simultaneously held two contradictory views:

  1. The candidates of the two major parties are too similar to each other to warrant supporting one over the other, and 
  2. A GWB presidency would be such a disaster that it would wake up and energize the populace to take to the streets and demand major changes.
This is not an accurate characterization. These two views were not widely held simultaneously. The first view was what was argued during the 2000 election and the second was a hope that started to develop about midway through GWB's first term.

Position #1 was specifically argued in the campaign literature that helped convince me. I recall sharing one article that talked about environmental protection legislation that passed under Nixon (or something like that), along with a bunch of other examples of positive/progressive legislation that had passed during recent Republican administrations, plus examples of bad stuff that during Democratic ones. It was quite the opposite of arguing that "A GWB presidency will destroy the country and bring on 'the revolution' sooner" -- it was more like "It's not going to make any difference, so let's vote for a new system."

And it made sense to me. They're politicians after all -- they have to compromise and reach across the aisle if they want to get anything done. So using my vote to protest the two-party stranglehold on the national debate didn't seem like an especially dangerous thing to do. (Particularly since -- as I said in the above-linked essays -- I sincerely didn't think GWB had any shot at winning.) 

The idea that Congress would explicitly, intentionally try to hamstring the president instead of trying to run the country is largely a new strategy for pandering to a constituency that hates Obama so profoundly that they'd rather see the country harm itself than see Obama succeed.

Once I saw how bad it was possible for a GWB to be, that's when I started hoping that people would get energized and motivated (as explained in my earlier essays). And to my horror, it didn't happen.

That's the most important lesson I learned from my experience voting for Nader. I think I was enough of an optimist to believe that once we hit rock-bottom, we'd start to pick ourselves back up. And sadly I learned that there is no rock bottom. No matter how incomprehensibly broken the US political system seems at any given point it can get worse.

GWB helped shape the new normal. When I was kid, torture was a war crime, period. Thanks to Bush/Cheney, whether/how to torture is just another campaign plank to be debated. Now we have Trump stating on television that he advocates deterring terrorists by killing their innocent family members, and it's not even considered his worst gaffe.

GWB dramatically expanded the electorate's tolerance for criminality and incompetence from the president. A huge portion of the electorate now thinks the president's job is just to be "the decider" -- picking among choices presented to him by his staff -- instead of having a thorough understanding of policies, issues, history, etc.

I'm not going to say that a protest vote is never appropriate. I abstained from voting in the previous presidential election because of Obama's human rights' record (specifically sending drones to assassinate people without any transparency or judicial oversight). But this is not the election for a protest vote. This isn't a choice between two basically-the-same bad choices. This is a choice between the status quo and suicide. The status quo is bad, but suicide is infinitely worse.

The fact that Trump is even considered a viable candidate is itself an illustration of the consequences of standing by and allowing a disaster presidency to happen.