Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Accomplishment

Talents and accomplishment may reside anywhere; multi-talented people employed in one field have hobbies, passions and a sense of curiosity that can develop into substantial accomplishment. But such talents are often veiled & out of sight. One pathway for discovery is "crowdsourcing" (an open call for problem solving), but other systems for detection, utilization & reward should be devised. Let's utilize these resources!

Because academic publishing is a long and often tedious procedure, it does not accurately reflect the sum of progress in a research field. Researchers often follow lines of inquiry which never result in publications. This may be simply due to findings being judged uninteresting to the community or to the individual researcher. Perhaps the researcher, adequately understanding a phenomenon, wishes to direct his or her attention elsewhere. Little or no overt achievement may accrue. How might such work / interests be charted?

It is common to think of specialists or experts as being highly-capable in one or perhaps two fields. But while vocational expertise uses focused marketing in support of a concentration, actual expertise may span a range of fields, and perhaps dozens of subfields. Acknowledgment of wide-ranging talents might damage specialist reputation where the public perceives a lack of concentration, or where multiple achievements engender envy or uncomfortable self-reflection in surrounding individuals.

Universities are often considered validators of achievement, but it's tough to gain university credit for non-formal education. Most universities require that a person register as a student, pay large sums of money, and sit in a classroom for dozens or hundreds of hours; non-traditional education undercuts their trade. So-called "higher education" often wastes great amounts of critical time and resources. But after investing heavily in the university system, many graduates are unwilling to offer public criticism. (I've four university degrees, from good institutions in four different nations. In each case I learned a lot. But each program also had substantial weak points, and a lot of time was wasted. Maybe the greatest weakness was pedagogical: most professors are untrained in educational method, and students suffer tremendously).

I hope the Localversity system can help reveal and validate accomplishment among the general public, and put wider energies to good use. Write to me with ideas. Or donate funding toward Localversity's alternative approaches to a better world.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Blair rhymes with...

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is being discussed as a possible candidate for the first EU Council President. Assuming the Lisbon Treaty finally is properly ratified, it's unlikely he'll find much support - except perhaps among Brits who (to be rid of him) would like him sent-off to the continent.

Blair rhymes with guerre... We should never forget his slavish support for Bush-Cheney military adventurism & circumvention of international law. Better Tony Blair spend his days tramping around the British countryside, or trainspotting, or collecting classic back-issues of The Beano, rather than forcing himself on the rest of us. Thank you, but Tony Blair has done enough...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Not Black & White

U.S. President Barack Obama is a role model in many ways. It is great that many people are encouraged by his intelligence, his assorted skills, and his successes. Yet let's clarify that Obama is a multiracial person, as much Caucasian as Black. This interracial element highlights a key dynamic of sociology in America.

Via anti-miscegenation laws, many U.S. states outlawed marriage between people of different races, such as Obama's parents. When his parents married in 1961 in Hawaii, 22 of the 50 states outlawed such a marriage: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wyoming. (Another 8 states repealed such laws between 1948-61, while a further 11 repealed their anti-miscegenation laws in the 19th century).

The U.S. Supreme Court declared all such prohibitions illegal in 1967. But more than 40 years later, which states are relatively intolerant? In the 2008 election among the 22 "anti-miscegenation states" mentioned above, multiracial Barack Obama won just 35% of the electoral vote (80 of 231), but 93% of electoral votes elsewhere. Mixed race families elicit a different "racist attitude" than other families. Barack is a living symbol of hope.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Won Flu, Too Cuckoo

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently signaled a global pandemic level 6 for novel influenza A (H1N1), a viral illness spread mainly by person-to-person contact. Health authorities around the world are seriously concerned about its potential deadly impact. The 1918-19 influenza pandemic killed approx. 21 million people worldwide; we've much more mobility now - the virus might spread very quickly.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is liaising with state & local health officials to improve public safety & security. Because flu is transmitted through contact with infected people or their surroundings (animals can also harbor the virus), public education about hygiene can be critical. At this moment there is no available vaccine that offers immunity.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in promoting public education efforts, is sponsoring a contest (deadline 17 august 2009). U.S. residents age 14 or over who create an effective 15, 30 or 60 second video Public Service Announcement can win US$2500!
http://www.pandemicflu.gov/psa/index.html

Seems a great idea. Ten finalists will be selected by celebrity judges, one prize will be given, voted "by the YouTube community."

But wait.     This contest sucks in too many ways:
-- $2500 ain't much incentive for critical activity; when people start dying, the U.S. government will seem stupid cheapskates. In June the US Congress appropriated a special budget to combat this H1N1 flu: $7.7 billion ($7,700,000,000). So this contest is not a three-millionth of the special budget. Though public education & prevention is most cost-effective, most money seems to be aimed elsewhere - perhaps fancy P4 experimentation facilities or outbreak-response helicopters...
-- No message format is good for everybody; if ten or a hundred videos will save lives, sponsor many videos.
-- Money attracts people; a million dollar prize or $100,000 gets people excited and it's newsworthy, which spreads the message.
-- Open the contest more widely; why stupidly limit entries to residents of the USA & Puerto Rico?
-- It is unlikely a proper voting system by the YouTube community can be devised
-- On a scale of 1 to 10, this contest announcement by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (see video on link above) has an impact factor below 3; dreadful! Do these bureaucrats really care to keep us alive?

Ultimately: wash your hands regularly & carefully. Don't touch your mouth or nose. Assume public facilities are germ-infested. And Enjoy Life while you can!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Checks & Balances

When I was a schoolboy, we learned about three branches of American government, auditing & balancing each other: Executive, Legislative, Judiciary.

As I grew up, it became clear that the Legislature (U.S. Congress) is often blatantly undermined by the Executive branch, and that another key power, the Monetary branch (Federal Reserve) can do most anything.

We were not too young, not too foolish, to understand reality. What we were taught did not exist. We've been deceived.

Overstimulated?

The US economic stimulus package has been a failure. Both Bush & Obama's governments sought to prop-up a fundamentally rotted system. The "greed is good" philosophy is not good. Social Darwinism cannot create a comfortable system except for a small wealthy minority shielded from everyone else by security services.

That same banker & industrialist minority got taxpayer subsidy monies in the huge government stimulus package, though hundreds of millions of Americans (and 'guest' residents) cry "stimulate me!"

The USA must develop a new vision where people feel comfortable to invest in society. Too many Americans now feel estranged. Our communities are in tatters -- too many withdrawals, not enough deposits. Investments in community are a common wealth that's been violated by crooked politicians & business buddies, further drained by illegal immigrants. Society & community can be, and should be, more than an amalgam of accidentally overlapping greed.