Intelligence and Natural Selection

Another quick thought that rattles around in my head on occasion... have you ever considered that Intelligence is more likely to be naturally selected out than stupidity?

Think about it for a moment from the most simple perspective: having kids.

If you think about kids unemotionally, you quickly realize that kids are not always the smartest thing to do.  They're expensive, they take up an inordinant amount of your free time, they cause you lots of undue stress, they sap your energy that you would focus on work, your spouse, hobbies, etc.  What do they give back?  Again, speaking without emotion here, right?  The only thing they give back is the procreation and survival of your genes.

Yet, most of us eventually wind up having kids.  In fact we are so driven to the primary source of having children that it all but permeates our society.  What is this that I speak of?  Well, sex, duh.  We all want sex.  Want it bad.  Gotta have it.  To the point that beer companies flash boobies at us to sell us more beer (as if drinking more beer will get us more boobies... not), but it doesn't matter... we're so driven that somewhere deep down inside our brains something connects that Budweiser to an evening of the horizontal mambo and we're there, babay!  Pass me another beer!  Hey, weren't there supposed to actually be some chicks here on ladies night?  And no, Geoff doesn't count as a chick.  Yes I suppose he is kinda cute under a certain light.  <cough>  Aaaaaaaaaaanyway...

So we bang away, and sure we wear condoms, but the point is we're practicing making babies, no matter what we want to think about it.  We're driven to make more babies and spread those genes, and that's what we're playing at one way or another.

And yet, what do dumb people do? Well, they do dumb shit like sleep with lots of loose women not wearing condoms... or hell, they get sloshed on their booby beer and get their girlfriend (or wife) knocked up when they didn't intend to.  Hell really dumb people do it a few times before they learn.  The result?  More dumb people!  Dumb babies by the dozen!  Piles of them flooding the halls of our hospitals... and eventually voting booths.

What do smart people do?  Well, they see what all these dumb people go through and think "Jesus!  That looks like hell on earth.  Sure they're cute and all, but I ain't getting tied up in that crap.  I'm not having kids.  I'm getting my tubes tied now before I get booby-beer goggles one night and give old Matilda down in accounting one hell of a lay."  The result?  Less smart people!  All the really smart babies are, in fact, never born.

So now we're getting more and more dumb babies and less and less smart ones.  Ok, well in theory one dumb person can control a thousand or so smart people, maybe, right?  I'm not sure of the number, but I'm guessing it's a pretty big one.  So you figure all of the smart people will band together and sort of guide the larger less-intelligent populace to a course of direction that is more appropriate.  You know, like herding cows or sheep.

The problem is that the overwhelming strength of the dumb people winds up being more than smart people can bear up under because it isn't just about being smart, you have to be smart and be a leader of men.  That's a pretty rare combination and it requires a lot of very special things to line up.  So since we don't have tons of those, the dumb people over-run the smart people, and vote for Bush.  Now the dumb people have crowned their dumb person poster child as ruler of the free world, thus perpetuating the problem.  Then follows a conveyor belt of dumb legislation that...

Wait, I'm getting a bit off-course here.

But then, am I really?  Consider the way things have been going.  Consider those who voted for Bush and why.  Consider things like more than 50% of the populace still thinks that Saddam Huessein (sp?) was still directly connected to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  What does all of this say?  Consider why all the smart people don't rally together and vote for someone smart?  Consider that even if they all did vote for someone smart that the overwhelming and ever-increasing amount of dumb people would simply out-vote them?

There is enough here to suggest that intelligence simply isn't destined for long-term survival.  We will, in time, be as ants are now.  Each individual ant being a worthless expendable commodity, with a small number of defined duties assigned to a smal number of types of ants, and all will execute on their performed pre-destined function and no more.  They live, they operate their tasks oriented towards procreation, they die.

The question, then, is how to avoid such a fate.
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You know, I've never been a real fan of panic.  When someone comes into my office and says "The servers are all down!  The websites are dead!  No one can get to their files!"  I go, "hoo... that's bad. <chuckle>" and get up and go find someone to deal with it.  Is it urgent?  Certainly.  We need to get right on it, but running around freaking out really doesn't accomplish much more than freaking other people out.

Here's a hint: freaked out people don't work well.  They run around, crashing into walls, causing mayhem.  Hell, usually freaked out people will break far more than they fix.

Here's another hint: it is possible to communicate urgency without causing panic.  It is also possible to act out of a sense or urgency without needing to be paniced.

Unfortunately, however, that's one of those things that fall within my "5th Degree of Complexity" thing... the stuff that's "hard" to do properly, and frankly the stuff that not that many people can handle.  This, however, is an entry for another day... back ot my panic thing.

Let's say you're going to engage in combat.  So consider for a moment which you would rather have:

1. The PANIC guy, who runs around screaming in alarm because bullets and mortars are flying.  He fires off shots randomly, probably manages to take out a couple of the people on your side, and maybe accidentally tosses a grenade into your munitions dump.


2. The CALM guy, who patiently lights up his stogey, suits up in body armor, steps calmly and grimly into the battlefield and unloads his chain gun into the enemy with a big grin on his face?

Me, I'd vote for the latter guy.

Oh and you also have to love how I just compared myself to like some crazy action movie hero. :)

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    contemplative contemplative


You know sometimes I sit and ponder how very "unreal" everyone around me feels.  I mean, I interact with people all day long every single day, but if I don't interact with them, they might as well not even exist.  This isn't a reflection on selfishness so much as the eternal cliche question of "If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, does it make a sound?"

The thing is that we all go through our lives each and every day, and there are billions of people who do not know that we even exist, and will never be affected by anything that we do.  By and large, our existence on this earth and our actions and lives goes completely unnoticed, like that stupid tree everyone talks about.

Then I hear my wife's voice on a recorded voicemail that our phone system sent to my computer, and I listen to it over and over again.  There is this person... another entity like myself, presumably real and not some fictitious representation from my imagination, saying something to me.  This person whom I have known for nearly two decades now.  Probably the only person whose voice is more imprinted in my brain than my mother's.

This voice is of someone who I have the most meaningul relationship with.  The voice of someone whose every thought, every emotion has an effect on my life.  The voice of someone who can instantly and undaunted, change the course of actions of almost any day.  The voice is infinitely recognizable, and yet outside of the time I hear it, it has no impact on me.  It is, merely, a voice.

Yet there's so much you can hear there... her being tired from taking care of the kids, her expectations of me coming home, traces of her youth still left, but then some huskier accents coming on as she ages, etc.  When I hear the voice it is attached to a very real and signifant person.  Somehow it feels like it's the only real thing about this person... after all, as long as I'm not touching this person, the only thing that is real about her is the vibrations of air that she is causing with her vocal chords.

But then I delete the recorded conversation and its gone... substanceless.  A distant memory that were something tragic to happen I know I would be able to hear the dim echoes of her voice in my head, but any substance that would make it more real... make her more real... would somehow be lost.  Like some kind of whisp of smoke drifting slowly in a air-tight room. 

What is real, really?  What are people, really?

I think this really is the crux of it.  Whether you want to be silly and go all Matrix-esque or not, or reality is defined by what our brain perceives, and human beings have a certain adaptability that (thank god) keeps us from remembering every single element of every interaction we have with everything around us.  That adaptability, however, also seems to leave us with a bit of a hollow shell of memories of things and people gone by, which in turn leaves me wondering if it ever really happened.  If that person ever really existed.

Presumably it did, and presumably they do... but then what if it never happened that I met them?  How much more substantial are they for actually being a part of my life rather than being some person I saw briefly once on a subway?  Or never saw at all?

I dunno, but...

I kinda thought that this sentence bore a bit of reflection:

"The point is, I do not believe this answer (below) is acceptable despite what I may or may not understand."

I got this in an email recently.  I'm not sure it needs specific comment beyond that.

Feeling the Healing

Rather than some sort of commentary or opinion, this is just a little blurb about me and my goings-on.  More of an actual journal entry, I guess.

So I've basically spent the past 6 years in general hell.  Bush was voted in, my company started to go down the tubes, we bought a house that was way more expensive that we could really afford, my first child was born and my wife stopped working to take care of kids, etc.  Lots of personal problems ensued due to increased stress from work, children and finances.

I was laid off from Genuity in 2003 after a good 2.5 years of basically just waiting for the axe to fall, and was out of work for a while.  The whole situation was absolutely terrifying.  I knew we couldn't afford to live in our house as it was, and for the first time ever not having any income and with no real hope of my wife making enough to cover my now awol salary was just... well, terrifying.  I think I said that, but no word sums it up better.

You don't know financial fear until you're sitting in your house New England in February, and you hear the heat turn on and you actually go into a bit of a panic attack because you know that the heat gently warming your home is spending dollars that you absolutely do not have to spend.  When you sit there realizing that you are burning money that you do not have to keep your family alive.  Yeah, my wife thinks I'm melodramatic and over the top, but then she wasn't the one who had to go find a job, really so her perspective is a bit different.  In my house I have the more "traditional" bread-winner role, and my wife doesn't have my earning power, so it puts a lot of pressure on me.

And that's what it all was... pressure.  Seriously a lot of it.  I, of course, had never been through any of that before, so it was like carrying around a whale on my back all the time.  It was really tough.  Looking back now, I know it's not quite as big of a deal as I thought it was, but I still understand why I felt that way.


So I managed to land a job at a large consulting firm, and that was basically hell on wheels from day 1.  This was a rough company to start working at if you already have experience somewhere else.  If you don't fit the model, you will have some real issues real fast.  What's more is it is political as hell, and the guy who inherited my division did not like me.  Not a good situation.  So... more stress.  It was also a full-time travelling job to boot, which put more stress on the family and home.

So I needed to get out of there, so I took up a job with another company as a Director of IT.  Local company, too, so I was very excited.  However, I realized within a week of being there that I had made a serious mistake.  They were already throwing me under a bus for a project that hadn't been completed for two years before I got there, all of the staff in my organization had quit except for one really hostile guy who broke more than he fixed, and the organization had 8 managers in 7 years... yeah, I was #8.  Not good.  I lasted there just over a year before they "laid me off"... about a month before Christmas.

So here I was again... laid off and listening to the heat.

Oh and I also have to point out that we moved into a house which was neat, but totally inappropriate for us in every way.  Loud, not cozy, unpleasant, and in a town that absolutely sucked in every possible way, and was surrounded by towns that sucked worse.  Bad.  More stress.

All during this period of six years I was just not myself.  I mean I've always had a bit of an edge, but I was just... bitchy.  I would snap relatively easily, I took things really personally, I got angry at people for absolutely the stupidest things, etc.  I was really grouchy with my kids (granted, my kids are tough, but still...), I got pissy with my wife very easily, etc.  My friends basically had to watch what they said and what they did around me for fear that I would just kinda go off the deep end. 

I knew it was happening, but I just couldn't entirely control it.  Most of the time the best I could do was keep an eye out for things that would get me, do the best I could to say to the person "Ok, look, I need to back out of this situation before I get angry" and do so, but people usually respond to that with "What is your problem?!!?" which of course is a bad idea.  (No they weren't being that harsh, but of course I perceived it that way!) 

I really tried to do the best I could to keep it in check, but there were times I was amazed that I hadn't just driven my car into a tree and been done.  It was really as bad as I could ever imagine, and even though I knew damned well it could just get so so SO much worse, knowing that really doesn't ease the pain much.

But as this writing implies, something has changed.

In fact, pretty much everything.

We finally managed to find a house back in our favorite town, and a house very much to our liking, and move into it.  It's also cheaper than our old house and because we made good money on the old place, our mortgage is quite doable.  It's in a way better town with better schools, shorter commutes to most workplaces, better resources, etc.  Hell, even my wife is no longer driving 40 minutes each way to get our kids back and forth to preschool- now it's 5 mins each way.  (Yes, we changed schools but also moved closer to both of the schools we were dealing with)

At literally the very same time I landed a new job with a new company.  I picked a less aggressive career goal and chose a good place to work, and it's panning out.  They seem to like me a lot and really appreciate what I have to say and what I have to offer.  I don't worry about work when I'm not here, and when I am here people listen to me and respect what I have to say.  I'm contributing again... finally.  Hell, they even pay for my cell phone bill and have reasonable benefits.  Go figure.  My last place wouldn't even buy me a chair to keep from hurting my back.  (I'm not whining here, it was really bad.)

So yeah, I'm just kinda feeling the stress melt away.  There is still residual material left, and our credit card bill isn't all paid off quite yet (we had slipped deep into debt due to the other house sucking us dry), but it's all good.  I can see the financial pain melt away like so much ice after a long harsh winter... and in fact, this is what made me think to write this.  I was driving in to work this morning and the air was warming up... going to be nearly 70 today, and I just breathed in deeply and it was like every time I did it just melted away more of that harsh cold ice that has built up over so many years.

I feel so bad for what people around me have had to endure for the past 5-6 years.   I appreciate those who put up with it.  I only hope they, at least in some small part, know that it wasn't entirely me they were seeing.  I hope I can start to put back some positive energy into these relationships to give back some of what I've probably scored away over these years.  My kids, my wife, my friends.  Particularly my kids, though.  

But again... a new day.  A new, sunny, cozy, relaxing day.

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Loyalty un-American

Did you know that May 1 is Loyalty Day?

In summary, the general idea here is we should be loyal to the USA.

What is loyalty anyway?  To me, loyalty had always meant a feeling of allegience and devotion that would generally transcend and/or ignore various levels of transgression on the part of the one we are loyal to.  If I'm loyal to you and you tick me off, I'll probably still stand by your side and defend you to the masses, right?

However, doesn't that seem a little weird?  I mean it's basically saying we should be loyal to what the USA is, despite anything that we may feel about it.  I mean that seems fine in principle, I suppose, but what if the USA starts doing really bad things to its populace?  I'm sure the ruling powers that be wouldn't pick a time at which they would say "Ok, you don't have to be loyal anymore."

And if we, as a populace, thought loyalty was a generally good idea, then why did we revolt against the ruling English crown two hundred and some-odd years ago?  Wouldn't loyalty have been considered an admirable quality by King George III?  My rash assumption would be "yes".

And yet, here we go, us crazy disloyal upstarts... ripping up the country by its roots and toppling it over on top of the bewildered benevolent monarch, as if to say "screw you, we're taking our ball and we're going home!"

So I guess my question is, if disloyalty was ok then, how is not ok now?  Mind you, I'm not suggesting that anything is bad enough that we need to incite a revolution and start turning the the harbor into a big pot of brewed tea or anything, but shouldn't we be a little frustrated with current affairs and transcend our feelings of loyalty enough to at least strongly question them?

Or should we just stand up and rail against those who would criticize our country and just say "Look!  Shuddup!  This is the USA, and it's great the way it is!  Leave it alone or I'll pop you one in the eye!"

Well, I guess many people in this country would say that, and I guess I think that's horrible.

The interesting thing is that those people would call me un-American for thinking thusly, and yet I think more clearly that it is they who are so.
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    contemplative contemplative

We're just screwed.

So global warming has suddenly become the new fad.  I'm not entirely sure why it clicked, but I believe there was recently some report that came out that had some disparaging things to say, combined with people watching The Day After or whatever the hell that movie was, and then for whatever reason the media is reporting more on bad storms.  Poof!  Instant doom terror!

Well, whatever the reason, fine... global warming.  Sounds bad, I suppose, right?  Ice caps melting and all that?  Turn my inland home into waterfront property and all that.  Bad, right?

Well, wait a minute... is it?  I guess the people in Boston and LA will be fairly screwed, but if I suddenly get waterfront property, that's not all bad is it?  Hmm... interesting.  'course now there is this element of new deserts possibly forming... well, that seems kind of bad, but then there's also reports of growing seasons expanding and new produces being available in new areas because of the increase in temp.  Hmm..

But anyway, let's just kind of accept for purposes of this rambling point that these things are, in summary, bad.  Let's move on from there.

So, what then?

Well, reduce greenhouse gasses of course.  That's been in our face for quite some time now... at least 20 years worth that I am aware of, which probably means its been known for at least 20 years before that.

Ok, so good, so let's start focusing on some alternatives.  How about biodiesel?  Perfect!  That reduces the greenhouse gasses by burning processed crop materials into fuels that our cars use.

But wait... shit, corn suddenly got kinda expensive.  Oh noes!  Cows eat corn?  Is that why our beef prices are suddenly starting to go up?  Now what?  Well, obviously, we need to make corn cheaper so we need to start specializing in it and mass-producing it.  But wait... in order to specialize, we must centralize, and therefore there is more shipping... shipping burns more fuel, thus depricating the benefit of doing it this way to begin with!  Ack!

Ok, ok ok... I know...

What we need to do is bring our needs to a more localized community.  In fact, we need to create small cells of people who work/eat/live all in the same small area.  They get all their needs from what surrounds them, and if they can't do it, they just kinda deal.  Now we're being very efficient in small groups and our output of gasses is quite low.  Relatively less waste as well.  You know, kinda like a small self-sustaining farm or farm community.

But gee, that seems kinda stifling, doesn't it?

Well, maybe we'll just make a quick trip across the state for the day to visit a cultural gathering and share thoughts and ideas.  And oh hey, they have some lovely food here... man, I wonder how we could arrange to get some of this stuff where we are.  Oh hey, look, they don't have wheat here... I wonder if they would be interested in establishing some kind of trade?  You know, we could probably schedule it on a regular basis to make the process more efficient.



Human beings are pre-programmed to self-destruction of our race, and the only saving possibility is that they expand beyond the confines of Earth space so that they can continue to massively alter other worlds in their insatiable desire to expand.  Note I didn't say "destroy" here, but that's a discussion for another day.

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    anxious anxious

Effort vs. Reward

So there are a number of things that come along that have that compelling "potential for spectacular success".  You know the "Hey do all this stuff and if you get noticed, it could mean lifetime of doing that which you've always dreamed and money beyond your wildest dreams doing it!" kind of stuff.

Needless to say, most of this crap doesn't pan out in any real way, and you usually wind up burning quite a few cycles trying to accomplish it.  However, even knowing this, passing up on one of thes opportunities can be a really painful and upsetting experience because- well, what if it did work or would have worked and you just passed it up so you can spend time color correcting some pictures?!?!


Except that right now my focus in life is on quality, not quantity.  I'm not worried about having the best of everything, so much as trying to make sure I get the best out of the things that I have.  If I have 12 gigs worth of pictures to color correct, maybe I should do that vs. worrying about whether or not I have the latest DSLR. (drool drool)

And yes, of course I want it... duh.  But what does it cost me to get that?  Both literally and figuratively.  In many cases, quite a bit.

So at least at the moment, my frame of mind in handling these things can be summed up as follows (and I post this here more as a reminder to me than anything):

"I am very interested in doing the XXX thing.  However, there are a backlog of other things that I want to attend to now that preclude my committing more energy into what could very well be a dead end.  So I stand available if they want to try me out, and I'll do a spectacular job for them if they do.  Beyond that, I'll refocus on this when I feel I am ready to do so and accept the potentially unfortunate implications of doing so."

Back to color correcting my pictures..
...and writing that article...
...and painting that hallway...
...and hanging with the kids...
...and spending some time with the wife...
...and lounging at the pool...
...and and and..
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    calm calm