River of Science News
There are many science blogs published by independent scientists and science reporters. Someone got the idea of aggregating them into one place. Then one of the “suits” of the aggregator got a bright idea for making a lot of money and “sold” a blog that they would feature to Pepsi. And Pepsi scientists could write whatever they wanted. I have not seen the site, but I see enough press releases–and I remember the outpouring of “science” from tobacco companies in the 80s that purported to say that tobacco smoke was not harmful. I’ve now seen releases from food companies, fast food purveyors and the like trying to downplay the role of sugar and saturated fat in the poor health of the people in this country hiding behind “science.”
This action, by the way, is always a temptation for sales people in media. Let’s just give advertisers a venue to write something that looks like journalism–make them happy and hopefully they’ll buy more ads. The problem with this attitude is that it is very short term thinking. Once you lose credibility with readers, then those advertisers will leave anyway.
In the case of the science blog, Dave Winer has written the script and opml for a “river of science news” aggregator to solve that problem. You can try it here. Hope it works out. I already subscribe to some of the sites. I hope to discover additional sources of good information.
Set No Goals
I’ve been through the “self-help” gurus of the 80s and 90s. Set goals. Make them specific, measurable, detailed. I did that some. Then I noticed that some goals were always on the list, but I never worked on them. I found a book that I have since lost track of entitled something like Stop Setting Goals and Start Accomplishing Things. Over the years, I’ve redefined the goal process to something more akin to envisioning the type of person I want to be doing the types of things I enjoy doing.
Leo writing at Zen Habits tackles the “no goal” idea. Thoughtful reading.
Catching up on some Gillmor Gang conversations this week, I listened to a rant from Michael Arrington (the guy who started TechCrunch, and who everyone in Silicon Valley seems to regard as a jerk). In almost one breath, he extolled being a Republican (which I take it to mean from the context believing that government should stay out of “my” business) and complaining about the US government being unable to stop the oil spill in the Gulf. What?? Just how many engineers skilled in deep water drilling and piping does the US government employ? I’m betting on a number asymptotic to zero. I’m still amazed by people who on the one hand want limited government, but on the other still expect it to solve all their problems.
Let’s be consistent. If you want less government so that you don’t have to pay so many taxes, then be prepared to give up something–maybe lots of things. I’m also tired of hearing people say that the budget could be fixed by taking away money from other people (not me). It won’t work until either the economy grows rapidly or we all agree to take hits on stuff that benefits us. If you think that will happen, read The Federalist Papers–essays from the intellectual forebearers of our government. They didn’t think it would happen. That’s why they designed things the way they did.
This is similar to the people springing up all over the place to get bright ideas on how to fix the problem. I worked in product development for a number of years. Had lots of people come to me with bright ideas. I also see many as an editor of a technical journal. Most, if not all, of the bright ideas still need lots of engineering (and sometimes marketing). Ideas are good, but they’re cheap. I respect people who do the work.
Health science is anything but settled. For example, there is severe disagreement over saturated fats; to give contrary evidence, the Pacific Islanders who use a lot of coconut oil (highly saturated) don’t have the heart health problems common in the US.
Government spending could be cut significantly without adverse effects. Maybe Ohio is different, but government spending in CA has been going up higher than population growth and the inflation rate for at least a decade, but I certainly haven’t see any wonderful new benefits (OK, the state workers have…). And, I’m still trying to figure out what going from $160 billion to $1,600 billion budget deficits at the federal level has done for me or anybody else I know.