36 Alien Civilizations?

This is a pretty interesting article on the likelihood of contactable, intelligent life. The article, a summary from the full report in the Astrophysical Journal, suggests that there are 36 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy capable of communicating with others, today. And the likely furthest distance to the nearest one is 17,000 light years away. By comparison, the Orion Nebula is 1,300 light years away, Alpha Centauri is the nearest star to our Sun at 4 light years, the Andromeda galaxy is 2.5 million light years away, and our entire galaxy is 100,000 light years from end-to-end. Note that this estimate of 36 is just for our galaxy and there are an estimated 100 – 200 billion galaxies in the universe.

One of the keys is the word “today”. Civilizations come and go, and there’s plenty of time for more of them to have existed previously. The report also asserts that, while it is a speculative theory, alien life would have similarities in appearance to life on Earth and that we wouldn’t be super shocked by seeing them.

One Big Trend in K-12 Education with Nexbooks

A few years ago, I wrote a glowing review of a book called “In Defense of the American Teen” by Ryan Teves.  Fast forward to today, and Ryan has started a company, Nexbooks, dedicated to fixing at least ONE of the issues he brought up: kids do better when allowed to learn things that interest them.

We all remember the choices of electives we were given … choir, band, shop, a language, and maybe a couple more.  A little has changed, but school districts, already under fiscal pressure, still do not offer a wide range of electives.  In the meantime, kids are spending countless hours learning what they WANT to learn via YouTube.  Martial arts, drums, wealth-building, fixing a car … the options are nearly limitless.

What if kids could follow their passions, but as part of a school curriculum, following standardized methodologies, but in a format they prefer?  Well, Nexbooks is building a library of video-based, self-paced, internet-enabled courses, complete with a self-grading capability.  So those school districts don’t have to hire a hundred specialists to offer a hundred electives.  Or those home-school parents can offer things they themselves have no expertise in.  When I talk about this with my friends, they all slap their foreheads and say “why didn’t I think of that”?  Well Ryan and his team at Nexbooks are doing it.  Bravo.

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Trump’s coronavirus propaganda

In a recent article in the Atlantic, McKay Coppins calls out President Cheeto-head’s disinformation campaign, designed to hide the number of people he’s responsible for killing.  He points out that on February 28, Donald Trump stood before a crowd of supporters in South Carolina and told them to pay no attention to the growing warnings of a coronavirus outbreak in America. The press was “in hysteria mode,” the president said. The Democrats were playing politics. This new virus was nothing compared with the seasonal flu—and anyone who said otherwise was just trying to hurt him. “This is their new hoax,” Trump proclaimed.  Six weeks later, the coronavirus has killed more than 25,000 Americans, the U.S. economy has been crippled—and Trump is recasting himself as a pandemic prophet.  More recently, Trump said “I knew it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”  “I knew everything,” he reiterated a couple of weeks later. Asked to assess his response to the virus, he says, “I’d rate it at 10.”  Whoa.  I’d encourage you to look at what Taiwan did and when they did it.  Surely, it shows that we have a 2nd rate federal government and a train wreck of a chief executive.

RIP John Prine

I have nothing profound to write; my sadness leaves me without energy.  But I can’t let this great man’s passing without writing something.  If you are not a fan of John Prine’s music, it’s because you haven’t heard it.  But it’s never too late.  Many have published a list of his best, but I prefer this Billboard list.  If you want to start somewhere, his Sweet Revenge album is my fave.  Or find “Hello in There”, “Grandpa was a Carpenter”, “Please Don’t Bury Me” and Bonnie Raitt’s rendition of “Angel from Montgomery”.  If you don’t laugh and cry at John’s songs, you don’t have a heart.

I have to thank and offer sympathy to those people who were John’s friends and family.  Thank you for helping make his life rich.  He made the world a better place; how many of us can say that.

John Prine in Saratoga

I last saw John in 2016 at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga. Photo by JBahn.

Why we don’t trust our elected officials

It’s no secret why Americans don’t trust our politicians, and like them less than cockroaches.  This New York Times article explains how the $2 trillion stimulus relief bill just passed includes a provision that’s likely to give a $170 billion tax break to the top 1% of taxpayers.  Specifically, real estate speculators like Donald Trump and his henchman Jared Kushner.  Even without this giveaway, we subsidize the ultra-rich.  Portions of Trump’s 1995 tax return published by The Times showed nearly $916 million in losses, which could have permitted him to avoid paying any federal income taxes for almost two decades.  This new rule is judged to be the 2nd biggest tax giveaway in the $2 trillion legislation.

RIP Clayton Christensen

Professor Christensen passed on Jan 23, 2020 at age 67.  I note his passing in this blog because his insight helped me to become a better marketer, a more useful employee, and helped me to see that “common wisdom” is often not useful.  Along with gurus like Seth Godin, Al Reis, and Geoffrey Moore, Professor Christensen provided guidance for actual strategic marketing thinking.  This NY Times byline says it well: “He broke ground with his assertion that the factors that helped the best companies succeed were also the reasons some of those same companies failed.”  He was an inspiration and I cannot recommend his books “The Innovators Dilemma” and “The Innovators Solution” more highly.

The James Bahn sandwich

This is a recommendation for one of Ike’s sandwiches, #339, the James Bahn.  No kidding. It’s got Steak, Cucumbers, Sriracha, Jalapenos, and Pepper Jack cheese.  Other sandwiches include the Michael Jordan, Joe Montana, and Steve Jobs.  Their ENTIRE menu has 400 sandwiches, and any given Ike’s may only list a dozen, so you have to ask for it.jamesbahn#339 James Bahn sandwich

Color-correct Underwater Photos

What can you do with underwater photos which usually have an extreme blue/aqua color cast?  I’ve futzed around with many techniques, then stumbled onto this simple advice today.  In a nutshell, you use “image” “adjustments” “match color” “neutralize”, then use levels to boost colors, in Photoshop.  I have some really old (1989) jpeg scans from 35mm film and this did a remarkable job.  These Convict Tangs were aqua colored in the original photo.

Tangs89

 

 

 

Retirement & Volunteering – woo-hoo!

If you think retirement could be boring, you haven’t thought enough about volunteering.  It’s been a year since my last W2 paycheck, and there hasn’t been a day I have been bored.sleepingBesides retirement making more time for my many hobbies and naps, I sort of fell into volunteering.  I say “fell into” because during my working years, I rarely spent any time with volunteer organizations.  I had a job!  It seems obvious, but if you’re retired, you’ve probably got some things going for you that’d make volunteering fun and worthwhile.  You have time; you have skills; you have interests; and people need help.  Also, if you’re doing something, you’re less likely to drive your spouse nuts.

I’ll use my own experience as an example; maybe it’ll provide some inspiration.  I’ve been hiking for 40 years and always marveled at how well the trails in N. Cal are maintained.  It seems that volunteers do most of the maintaining.  I wanted to pay back the world for all the great hiking, and so I volunteered at a local county park.  One morning a week a team of volunteers grab their tools and work on the trails.  Since raising my hand, other opportunities at the park came up.  Website and marketing work was needed, and I have that background.  Visitor center docents are needed, and I like to meet with and talk with “outdoor” people who are having fun.  And so on.  Just at this one park, there are all kinds of opportunities to help out.  And I’m learning a ton about the local flora, fauna, and natural history. Tomorrow, I’ll install a door closer on a porta-potty, but it’s not always that glamorous.

One thing you’ll probably notice from your volunteering … people will constantly thank you.  That feels good.  And you get karma points.  So, find a place that combines what you’re good at with what you like, and never be bored again.  Or go to one of the many websites that can help you make a match.  And thanks in advance for volunteering!