Five Questions. A Bonus and then Some More.

A while back Barbara played a meme game where she answered 5 questions as did Mother Of Invention.

You are free to answer the 5 questions yourself. You can also ask me to give you 5 customized questions.

These are five questions Barbara asked of me:

(1) What advice do you have for your children and others of their age as they prepare to take our places in the world?

What a delightfully interesting question that irritates me. The irritant is as they prepare to take our places in the world. It is a mindset and mentality that I dislike and have always disliked (even when I was young). My children and others are already a part of this world; they are not being groomed to replace anyone or to fill someone's place.

It is the sort of thing that used to get me into arguments at church when I would fight for children and youth to be more involved rather than waiting on the sidelines observing and learning until they were ready to take their place in the community.

They are their own selves and need to be carefully nurtured to ensure they are true to themselves and to others.

My manifesto of aphorisms would go something like this:

You are not the future.
You are not the hope and promise of a better tomorrow.
You are the here. You are the now.
This is your world. This is my world.
This is our world. Let us journey together, for I have much to show and teach you before I must go.
Always treat people with respect and dignity because each person bears the mark of the Divine.
Be honest and just.
Whatever you do, make sure it enhances your dignity, the dignity of those around you, the dignity of your ancestors and your descendants.
Be the best person you can be, but do not begrudge those who are not as you.
Never esteem of value that which demeans, exploits or harms another.
If it is not true, don't say it; if it is not right, don't do it.
Be your own person and rejoice in who you are.
Leave another's wrongdoing where it lies. (Marcus Aurelius)

(2) What are the benefits and the difficulties of being married to someone from another country and a somewhat different cultural upbringing from yours?

I have absolutely no idea.

It is a question without meaning because I considered Sofia as a whole person and not simply one or two characteristics (besides, I am sure everyone performs due diligence before getting married and there aren't huge surprises looming. Right?).

(3)What would your perfect job be like?

Fun. Interesting. Fulfilling. The problem is that these do not describe a job, they describe the attributes of a job.

Fundamentally, I don't want a job - I want many jobs. Today I want to write, tomorrow I want to study and contrast the biological processes of horseshoe crabs and mammals. The following day I want to design a spacecraft to explore the Jupiter. Next week, I want to make a movie. And so forth. I don't have one interest, one passion, I want a little bit of everything. I want to be a generalist, a dilettante, a jack of all trades. The last thing I want is to be a specialist.

Unfortunately, our world is geared towards specialization. My friends who love their jobs are all specialists and narrowly focussed. I can't be.

I think this has to do with the way people approach life. They apply their specific knowledge and skills to solving problems - whether or not that is the right solution to the problem. It is like having a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. On the other hand, I seek solutions to problems. I look at the problem, study it, understand it and then apply what I believe is the best solution. Once a problem has been solved, then solving it again is merely to reapply the previous solution - and some people are content to do that.

In the 20 years I have been working, I have worked in two distinct fields: electronics and software development. My electronics work has covered: telecommunication systems, engine control panels for frigates, postal sorting machines and consumer electronics (primarily audio). My software work has covered medical monitoring and diagnostic software, shipboard communications systems software and passive IR detection / defense systems software. Some of my hobbies have been: model rocketry, chemistry, woodworking, home renovation, technical drawing, writing, gardening, solar experimenting, bicycling, walking / hiking, cryogenics, photography, stamp collecting (although, in this day of e-mail, collecting stamps is harder) and corresponding with penpals. Volunteer work includes: teaching catechism, ministering to shut-ins, being a lector and being a sacristan. In addition to taking my core course for electronics or computer science (whichever I was studying), I also took courses in linguistics, oceanography, theatre, children's literature, philosophy and biology.

Unlike most people who seem to have a passion for one or two things, I cannot say I have any passion. I like most things. It is easier for me to say what I dislike rather than saying what I am passionate about. Even in social / cultural things I might have a strong attraction to (say Star Trek, to pick something well known), it is the experience of it, not the immersion in it that interests me. I like it, but I don't have live it.

My diverse interests are not capricious. I do not pick it up, indulge in it and then drop it never to return. I never lose my interest in them. I always want to return to it, to examine some new facet or problem.

When I was asked what I want to do with my life, I always replied, "Play." Because that is exactly what I want to do. I am 41 and I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up (actually, I do, I want to do everything - but this doesn't go down well in our culture of specialization).

I think the best place for me would be as the head of an idea incubator company. Come up with solutions to problems. Work on problems that interest me. Hand of the finishing, wrapping up of loose ends, marketing and production to someone else.

(4)If you could change one thing that happened in your life, what would it be?

This is a difficult question because I cannot think of some definitive thing in my life that I would want changed. There is no question that with hindsight there are lots of things I might wish were different, but none of these are random out of the blue, totally unexpected tragic life altering events/setbacks. Changing any causal event would not be possible without changing its antecedent, consequently changing any one thing would really require changing the whole fabric of events all the way back to Adam and Eve.

(5)What is your motivation for Blogging?

Despite being very private, I have always wanted a more public presence. I have thought about being on the Internet since 1996. However, did nothing about it until 2005 when I discoveredIngrid had a blog. Sometimes it is just easier to follow what someone else has done. As I continue to blog and to encounter other bloggers, I find it to be a pretty good proxy for intimate chats in a café.

(Bonus) What will the world be like in 100 years?

Read Paris in the 20th Century by Jules Verne.

It is extremely difficult to imagine what will be in 100 years. Off the top of my head, I would say pretty much like it is today. People will continue to cluster along ideological lines and employ the force (whether armed aggression, economic sanctions, verbal diarrhea) to control / change / subdue others.

Technology will improve, but it will simply be refinements of what we already have. There is very little new in modern technology that hasn’t been known for the past 100 years or so - mostly it is a refinement of existing knowledge.

Average life expectancy in the developed world will probably increase another 10 years or so, making the average life expectancy around 90. Real life expectancy will be increased by perhaps as much as 6 months.

I suppose the Internet and other forms of ubiquitous and instant communications technology will eliminate many prejudices and barriers between people, but it will also foster increasingly zealous behaviour among those who feel their power base is threatened or who believe that the traditional ways were better.

I think that cell phones will become embedded. They will be implanted on the mastoid bone.

There will be no golden age of peaceful harmony and cooperation. People will continue to act against one another instead of with each other. Power and wealth will be sought by many but controlled by few.

Technology will continue to advance. People will be told that never has there been as Golden an age as they now live. Each generation will think the previous lived in some unimaginable dark age.

Grandparents will tell their kids how safe the neighbourhoods were. You didn't have to lock the door if you went outside.

I do not see flying cars. I do not see lunar or Martian colonies. There may be a scientific base on the moon, but it will be largely symbolic in the way the space station is.

Mother of Invention also participated in this and listed her own five questions for any takers (of which I have taken 3):

Any regrets in decisions you made in your life? What are they?

Do I have regrets? No. They are experiences and knowledge gained, a path not take, but I do not dwell in the past (except, possibly the TV programs I watch and books I read).

When younger, I was immortal. Time was limitless and my mortality was some distant event, there was no sense or need of urgency. Now, the shores of my mortality are clearly visible and fast approaching. How to chart my course, when all I know is to let the currents carry me?

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In probably the similar circumstances as now. Better off than the general populace, but still unfulfilled.

Although, in a optimistic mood, I would say that I am doing work I find fulfilling and enriching. A home on the side of a mountain overlooking a lake, with a workshop that is second to none.

If you could change anything about your childhood, what would it be?

What I would change is high school. I would eliminate it completely. I found it a waste of time. It seems structured to keeping young people out of society's way until they are old enough to be declared full citizens. It does not give the very thing needed, education, knowledge and nurturing as full members of society. We are locked away for 5 years. After our incarceration someone opens the door and says, "Welcome! New citizen."

MOI also asked me the following:

If you had to do things over again, what career would you choose and why?

The problem is that I have the benefit of hindsight and experience, so that colours how I perceive what I alternative I might have chosen. I have no regrets, so there is no turn I wish to undo, no burning anguish over a path not taken, romantic dream of an alternate reality

Experience and knowledge show me that workers are never truly free. They are drones, busily labouring away under the direction of a few. Yet, even those few are not free, they are driven by their own hunger. It doesn't matter if you are the aphid, the ant milking the aphid or the queen laying eggs.

That said (depressing and nihilistic as it may sound), I think I would choose the performing arts: theatre, television, film, and radio. Principally writing, but also performing.

I always had an interest in those areas. I greatly enjoyed the entire process of making a commercial and film in High School, I enjoyed immensely a theatre class I took in college (where we had to write a short play). I had fun with acting classes I took (though I am no actor). I like to read what I have written, often surprising myself when I look back at my words. I am told I am a good public speaker (though I need to smile more - okay, may just starting would be a good step). And I have been complemented on my reading skills.

This is my longest post ever. Beating my previously longest post by being about 50% longer.


I love your manifesto for children in #1..I agree and all these are fabulous to pass on to all of us, not just children.

For #2, some people might have found marrying someone from a different culture a wee bit challenging as in language barrier, distance and cost of going to visit with his/her family and perhaps some different world views and mindsets. You seem to have have none of these and it broadens and enriches your whole family.

#3 You are indeed a multi-faceted person who could probably do a lot of things. You sound like it would suit you more to keep at summer's all play and you can sign up for a different area every day. Too bad work can't really be like that. You sound totally sciency to me but then you see the arts stuff like writing, theatre, speaking, gardening, children's Lit...I wonder if sometimes, your approach to these types of interests is at all more scientific or analytical than say, my kind of out there imaginative funny approach?

#4 I'd probably change some childhood/youth development events like music/dancing/skating/swimming lessons.

#5 I like talking through blogging, but I'd prefer to do it at a cafe with really good java! I'm really social and quite dynamic/animated in real life so that's hard to see in writing sometimes....except I use exclamation marks a lot!

After going to see Dr. David Suzuki last week, it might be really different if we don't make some crucial decisions very soon! (I'm posting on this soon)

I would have tried to develop more knowledge and talents through courses and reading. I might have tried to get a regular teaching job sooner so I'd be retired by now. I sometimes wish I'd had had more experience with dating etc. and had ventured out to see the world to gain some independence.

I love your idea of a home on the mountain/lake! My dream is that only a small log home. Don't think that's in the cards in the 10 year plan..I'll be happy just to still be alive actually.(being a realist here not pessimistic...I can be grounded!)

I'm sorry high school failed you so badly..I loved mine and am going to REUNION TOMORROW!!!

I would like to see you act or teach/speak. I think you should get a good camera and try to do a short film! You might want to do this anyway to capture your kids.

Great post, Richard, and thanks for answering MY questions. I love the ending..true analytical style as to Length and percentages of post compared to others! I'd never even think of that!
Oh yeah, I think this is my longest comment on anyones but I forget how you do a word count on the computer!!
Richard said…
My length was a rough estimate. I simply opened both pages in same sized windows and srolled through them. My older post took 5 scrolls. My latest post took 8 scrolls. Some quick and sloppy math and I get 50% (I am pretty sure I am in the ballpark and much closer than an order of magnitude).

As for global warming, I have to confess to being a skeptic. I am old enough to remember all the dire predictions of global cooling back in the early 70s; how an ice age would beset us as soon as the year 2000. You can find a nice article in wikipedia about how this was all a mass hallucination.

I have no gripe with climate change. The term is a tautology. The climate is always changing.

My problem with global warming is that the long term geological evidence does not support it. Activists whip out graphs showing rising CO2 levels laid over rising temperature for the past 100 years and say, "Look the correlation is obvious."

The problem is that when we look at a larger time frame - the ice cores – there is a definite correlation between temperature and CO2. Except that temperature leads CO2 by a few centuries. In other words, it gets warmer first, then CO2 rises; it gets cooler first, then CO2 falls. None of the long term CO2 / temperature studies I have seen, show CO2 driving temperature.

I have no problem with being good and gentle to the earth. Using not abusing. No polluting and no looting. I want clean air, clean water, clean land. I want green spaces. But I want this because it is the right thing to do, not because I am being cajoled by frenzy whipping zealots (which is how I perceive the environmentalists). I used to like David Suzuki back in the 70s and early 80s, but since then he has changed into fear mongering ideologue. Yes, he can speak persuasively, but so could many other ideologues.
There used to be a way to do exact word cound but maybe that was just while in word.

If you'd heard Suzuki, you'd have heard a bit of a different message besides the fear thing. From a purely simple mathematical equation....Our resources land, air, water, are absolutely fixed...never will grow, but if our use of them grows exponentially as is happening in our endeavour to have more "stuff",this will not balace out and we will soon not have enough resources to sustain life. He was mostly on about what we can do now to start helping the situation from getting worse. The 10 things you can start by doing, "The Nature Challenge" at E.G., One was same as CBC had on yesterday about cattle being large contribitors of methane gas through belching and passing gas and excrement, so if we could all have 1 day a week with meatless meals, that'd help.
Anyway, I'll post it probably Mon.
Richard said…
MOI: don't get me wrong. I am very much in favour of responsible stewardship of this planet and it resources - likely a consequence of being raised by parents who grew up in post-way Poland, where scarcity was the norm.

However, I have grave problems the way the message is being presented. I do not believe the dire claims of the environmentalists. To me, they are irresponsible fear mongering.

You are likely referring to one of Suzuki's favourite analogies, "Imagine a bacteria in a test tube that divides every minute. When the test tube is half empty, how much time does the bacterial culture have before running out of resources? One minute. Now, suppose the find three more test tubes with suitable growth media. This is 3 times more then they have ever had in alltheir history. How much time will it buy them? Two minutes."

The problem with raising alarm about exponential growth is that an exponential curve is usually an S-curve. It starts off slow, then there is a period of rapid growth, finally it slows down (flattens).

We could take the analogy of a baby's growth. If we studied the growth of a baby from birth until 3 months, we would come to the conclusion that the child gains about 1Kg of weight per month and 3.5cm of length per month. Extrapolating this to the kid's 5th birthday, we conclude the child will weigh 65Kg and be 260cm tall. Clearly, this is alarming and something should be done to curb growth. The reality is that the growth will naturally slow down.

As for the earth having finite resources ... erm ... well the whole universe is finite. However, a number of resources are reusable (metals, glass, water). Other resources are self renewing (as long as we have the sun) - such as food.

Granted, fossil fuels are of limited supply. There are limited sources of easily accessible fresh water. However, rain is fresh water and is constantly renewing.

Getting back to growth. Part of the rapid population growth is primarily due to increased life expectancy. Previously, life expectancy was 40 or less. Now it has doubled to 80 or so. The result? Instant doubling of population. If we look at Europe (which has the greatest population density), we see that growth has slowed down. When we look at China and India, population growths are slowing. I would venture that when population densities start approaching 300 persons per square kilometer, population starts to slow down (the Netherlands is over 450 persons per sq. km. - they are also the world's third largest agricultural exporter). People often point to Africa as needing to slow its growth to curb poverty. The problem with Africa is that it is seriously under populated. Of course, there are exceptions to this: Canada, Australia and to some degree the U.S. have low population growth and high standard of living, despite not having high population densities.

Yeah, I know, my ideas certainly leave me standing alone.
Everyone has their own angle on even the facts and how they are to be interpreted. I'm sure as a top-notch intelligent geneticist and environmentalist,Suzuki has come across your exact thoughts in others and I wonder what he would say in his own defence? I'd think he'd have plenty of documented stats to counter your points. I just can't imagine with all he's read and done, how he can not know the truth and what possible reason he'd have for misleading us. If he agrees he's fear mongering and still thinks it's necessary no matter how tasteless it seems to some others,then maybe we should have fear..maybe there's a lot more to be scared about that we can even understand. Then, I say, do it however just so long as you get us to change quickly.
Richard said…
I would doubt it because he is ideologically motivated. I do not believe he is deliberately misleading people. I believe his convictions lead him to interpret things in a certain way. Consequently, he will reject information that does not support his position. We all do this. It is a mental shorthand which keeps us from being overwhelmed with information. We accept information which supports or strengthens our position, and reject information that contradicts or questions it.

I simply disagree with the conclusions of most environmentalists, not the need for environmentalism.

While the source of information is important (let's face it Suzuki has far more credibility than I do). A credible source does not mean the information is correct (even if a seeming majority believe so). Prior to 1971 or 1972 women were barred from running in the Boston Marathon because it was well known that women were physically incapable of surviving a marathon. In the past, it was also well known that women were too mentally feeble to receive much learning. At the end of the 19th century papers written by distinguished scientists showed that it was impossible for heavier than air craft to fly. Copernicus did not want to publish his paper on heliocentricity because he was afraid of being pilloried by the scientists of the time. For more than 30 years we were told that cholesterol was bad and we should eliminate it in favour of healthy vegetable fats (like margarine). Thirty years later, we discover that hydrogenated margarine is a source of trans-fats which are significantly worse for health that cholesterol. How much heart disease is directly attributable to eating "healthier" over the past 30 years?

One distinguishing characteristic of me is that I question everything. I don't care who the source of information is, I question what I am told. I look for potential holes and alternate explanations. I think for myself - even if that makes me seem like a crank.

For example, pick up almost any study on vegetarian diets and the pretty much all say that vegetarian diets are healthier than non-vegetarian diets. How many of those studies tell you the ideological bias of the researcher? Is the scientist a Hindu or a Seventh Day Adventist (both strong proponents of vegetarianism)? How about the study itself, does it make a proper study of diet? The answer is no. Most studies will carefully select vegetarians based on those adhering to a proper balanced vegetarian diet (eliminating those who claim to be vegetarian because they eliminate meat from their plate or vegetarians who eat chicken and fish). These are then compared against a sample of the general population. Lo and behold! Vegetarians are healthier. However, this is not because of the vegetarian diet. It because the vegetarians consciously live healthier life styles. To be a strict vegetarian, eating a balanced diet, you have to be conscious about what you eat. Such a person is also more likely to be conscious about exercising as well, not overeating, not smoking, etc ... Now take the average person, who might eat a big bag of chips for lunch with a diet cola, smoke, have a hamburger and fries for dinner and sit in front of the TV with a couple of beers as he watches the game. Tell me how the study is going to turn out? Now, suppose as the control group, you take a person who eats a balanced omnivorous diet, exercises and actively cares about their health. Studies like this (which are almost as rare as hen's teeth), show no benefit from a vegetation diet.
Steve Yang said…
I too am interested in solar, especially PV systems performance.
I would like to exchange notes with you sometimes on solar instrumenta- tion, or whatever on solar.

I do believe that CO2 causes temperature to rise, and that human activities are the causes of this rise in CO2. Has 'green house' effect be disproved?
busybee said…
Hi Richard,
Very interesting and complicated answers to very simple questions... I wouldn't have answered them the way u did. :)

One thing we have in common is found in #3. It's something I have to overcome, otherwise no employer will hire me. Thank God that my current job allows me to do a varieties of tasks everyday which fully utilizes my time and my attention. :)
Richard said…
steve: There is no question that CO2 is a greenhouse gas (so it methane, nitrous oxide, water vapour and ozone). CO2 absorbs IR radiation in the 2.7, 4.3 and 15 micro-metre wavelengths.

Most of my solar experimentation was in making things hot or burning them. I have a large (50 inch) Fresnel lens (you can get one out of a projection TV). So I made various solar ovens using parabolic reflectors or concentrating lenses.

Photovoltaics are pretty cool, but fairly low efficiency. They also have a limited life (about 20 years - whatever that means). The silicon degrades over time; faster if you heat it up by using a solar concentrator.

Did you know that you can also use a LED or glass body diode (like a 1n914) as a phtovoltaic cell? You don't get a whole lot of power out of it because of the small die size, but you can get something.

You can also try experimenting with organic solar cells. Many plant pigments, when sandwiched between conducting panes of glass (coated with titanium dioxide), will generate electricity. These have severely limited life expectancy as the pigment breaks down quite rapidly.

I think a better future for solar energy is to use organic photovoltaics (plants) to extract energy. I recall some research being done to create algae that produce hydrogen as a byproduct of photosynthesis. This might also go some way towards reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

One last thought on atmospheric CO2 levels is that I believe, based on the Beers-Lambert law, that IR absorption by a gas in the atmosphere is logarithmic, not linear with concentration. This means that to get a double IR absorption, you need to increase CO2 concentration 10 fold. However, I am not sure of this, I may be misunderstanding how the law works. By way of simple analogy, if I add a drop of red food colouring to a glass of water, the water will absorb non-red light. If I add two drops of red food colouring, does it absorb twice as much non-red light? I don’t think so. However, as I said, this is something I am not sure about, so I might mention it, but I certainly don't use it as an argument. My principle argument is that historical records show CO2 lags temperature.

Thanks for dropping by and commenting!

bee: take your turn at answering them or ask me for 5 personalized questions. Are my answers complicated? Hmmm ... I always thought I was a pretty simple person - other people are complicated.
busybee said…
ok, i will answer them during my 2 weeks retreat.... stay tuned.:D
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