Sunday, October 30, 2011

Occupy Wall Street

I try not to have many political/social comments, mostly because it's something of a cesspool of negative thoughts, but I find OWS interesting, in that it doesn't seem to have a coherent message, or maybe it only seems so to some.

This isn't to say that everyone involved in it has the same idea of what OWS should accomplish, what its message should be, but there is some intelligence in not forcing that to happen. It's a complex intelligence that even though I might have dissatisfactions with the high-living economic world, it's not flavored by going through a foreclosure, unemployment, or various other disasters others are going through.

It's interesting to compare OWS to the Tea Party, as many have done, but the TP was long ago abducted by the rich to serve their needs. A Libertarian approach to things is great when you talk about not paying taxes, allowing anyone to make as much money as they possibly can, but it seems that strictly speaking, a true Libertarian would say that there is no reason to save the financial system, no reason to save the auto industry, anymore than we want to save someone from not having health insurance.

The message I think that OWS has to offer that needs to last is that it's time to temper the greed. It's time to not measure success based on how much money one can accumulate in the shortest amount of time. It's time to believe that, when you manage to benefit from wealth creation, that there is some payback to society for having a system that allows that to happen.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


There seems to be an increasing number of doctors carrying around iPads for various reasons, one being that they can connect to the hospital's system to get patient information. Our hospital has free wireless.

I carry around a laptop for the same reason, and while I have considered getting some sort of tablet, so far it doesn't make sense. There are a number of things I can do on the laptop that would not be feasible with a tablet. I have some custom software, like a database for example, that I would have to find some substitute for, and really don't want to bother.

The overriding issue, though, is that I have begun to see connectivity in the same way I saw TV some time ago: a great way to waste a lot of time, and realize hours later that you haven't seen anything worth remembering and have accomplished nothing.

This isn't some abstract mental exercise. It comes from having one or more computers running in my house so that I can as often as I want step up to and look up something, browse for random information on selected sites, check out blogs, or whatever. In the end it's not any more interesting, mostly less interesting than flipping through the hundreds of channels I could see on my cable TV, and I've already decided TV is mostly a waste of time. If I lived alone, I probably wouldn't have cable, and maybe not even a TV at all.

Here we are, in the 21st century, bombarded with uninteresting stuff, much of it propped up with advertising dollars to get us to go out and buy something we'll be unhappy with after purchase.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

eReadings 3

History of the Plague in London
Daniel Defoe

The first thing to realize about this book is its chronology. This is a "first person" narrative of the plague in late 17th century London, and if you check out the vagueness of Daniel Defoe's lifespan you realize he was at most a few years old during that time. His father is alleged to have kept some notes, perhaps a diary of the plague, so some have proposed that may have been in part the basis for this book. Others have suggested that Defoe used some other literary sources regarding the plague in other parts of Europe for his material.

So what you have is at best a second-person memoir, and when you consider the leeway one might see with a first-person memoir, at the outset you realize that there may be any number of distortions or exaggerations.

For a medical person, this is nonetheless an interesting book, showing as it does the profound effects on the infrastructure and the psyche of a large city faced with some medical epidemic for which no cure is known, yet a number of superstitions existed as to how to manage it, prevent it, most bordering on voodoo from a modern perspective.

Aside from the dubiousness of the factual information, this certainly seems more plausible than various movies about contagion we have seen. Some of the quite believable features are the accounts of people who took great precautions to avoid the plague only to succumb, and some who took none yet survived. Of course, there is ample evidence that taking unnecessary chances was generally a bad and fatal idea.

Will we ever face something like this again? The doomsayers predict it with regularity. If you ever wanted to think about coping with a very real disaster, this book is worth reading, and offers the safety of the distance of a few centuries when there was great ignorance about the cause of infectious diseases.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

eReadings 2

Howard's End
E M Forster
I had not seen either of the movies made from this story, so I had no idea what it was about. For the most part, it focuses on two reasonably well-to-do young sisters living in London, due to an inheritance from their father, so neither they nor their younger brother would ever consider working. Nonetheless, the setting of the story is pre-WWI, at a time when at least some women are getting ideas about getting the vote, and speaking their minds even in the company of men.

Howard's End is a place which figures pretty early in the story, then manages to fade to the background until near the end. Meanwhile there is an interesting weaving in and out of various characters, with untoward if not disastrous consequences for some of them.

I found the story line the best part of the book. It's perhaps expected that one might have trouble connecting to the thoughts of young women about that time, but it seemed there was something missing in their characterizations. There certainly was a effort to show them as quite unsettling to the gentlemen of the time. I certainly would recommend the book as well worth the read.