Saturday, August 25, 2012

Reaching out on marriage

Maybe progressives should reach out to Mormons and propose a Religious Freedom in Marriage Act legalizing both same-sex and plural marriage. Would some of them get behind it? It seems they've largely distanced themselves from that part of their faith, in an effort to be more accepted by the rest of americans and the world, but I'm sure some number of them would love to be open about their families or expand the ones they have. And there are other faiths and sects that could get behind it as well.

Does anyone know of a list of faiths, sects, denominations, congregations, etc. that welcome same-sex and/or plural marriages? I think such a list could help make the case that this is in fact an issue of religious freedom.

In the case of plural marriage, I think it would be a reasonable restriction to require the consent of all current spouses for someone to marry another. Maybe require all current spouses to sign the license. (Would other witnesses be required? I'm inclined to say yes, but I suppose all the licensing details would be left to the states.)

Follow up: It would be tempting to try to get an endorsement for this from Clint Eastwood, since with his support for same-sex marriage and work in Paint Your Wagon he'd be a natural, but in light of recent events I think he's a bit too risky.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Birth Control Coverage - Missing The Point on Religious Freedom

There is a very important point about the controversial decision to require that employees, even working for religious organizations, receive coverage for birth control.

Many opponents criticize it as trampling on religious freedom, when it actually does nothing of the sort. What it does is prioritize the religious freedom of the individual over that of the organization. To do the opposite would actually endanger the freedom of religion we hold so dear in this country.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Voting & Legislative Reform Ideas: Weighted Ballots & Conditional Automatic Repeal

Weighted Ballots
First let me say this: this idea will never work.

Second let me say this: I'd like to be proven wrong.

Here's the idea...

  1. Somehow track what and who a voter has voted for in the past.
  2. Objectively measure how well the winners that voter has voted for have worked out.
  3. Weight the value of that voter's current vote accordingly.
Ideally, the weighting would reflect the voter's votes on similar issues and in similar circumstances more than dissimilar.

The difficulties are fairly obvious. There's the privacy issue of tracking votes, and the big hairy problem of coming up with sufficient agreement on an objective measure of past winning votes' outcomes. Vote tracking is the big issue. It would be simple to do, but the secret ballot is an important institution, its primary and critical-to-freedom purpose being to prevent people from being coerced into voting one way or another. As for the performance measuring, I may have another idea that could maybe possibly serve as a partial/proxy measure well enough for some cases.

Anyway, if someone can solve the privacy issue, that would be swell.

Conditional Automatic Repeal
Okay, now this one may never happen, but it could maybe work.

Here's the idea...

Pass a constitutional amendment (it would have to be, I think) to the effect that...
  1. Any act (or referendum, hereafter referred to as an "act") must include measurable intended goals for the act, to be reached within a stated time frame, possibly including negative effects to be avoided.
  2. If the goals are not met or unwanted effects occur within the time given, the act is automatically repealed.
  3. The legislative body may then override the automatic repeal as it might for an executive veto, with the same vote margin requirement.
  4. The legislative body is, of course, free to repeal the act at any time as normal, so if it becomes obvious that an act is not working they don't have to wait for the auto-repeal.
I think this would maybe help reduce the hyperbole surrounding much of the big legislation that gets passed, by forcing a bill's proponents to make clear enforceable claims about what it will actually accomplish. If the act doesn't do what they say it will do, it's out, unless a supermajority then agrees that we're still better off with the legislation than without. I think it could help reduce bundling of unrelated issues in single bills. I think it could also give voters a tool for measuring the candidates in an election.

It could also serve as a measure for the weighted ballot scheme mentioned above. It would only apply to referendums and such, with the voter's weighting determined by the auto-repeal track record of their winning votes. (I suppose it could also serve as a measure for votes for office as well, with the weight flowing from the legislative votes of the people the voter has gotten into office.) That still leaves the vote-tracking privacy issue, of course.
Again, this one would be difficult to get passed. Too many legislators know too well that there are things they vote for that, while helping a few folks, don't otherwise work as advertised. I'd still like to see this debated.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Air Swimmers - Now this is just too cool

My father sent me a link to this video for a couple of fish and shark shaped balloons with attached remote-controlled moving tail fins and ballast. You can actually make these things swim through the air by remote control. You have to see the video to believe it.

They have two versions available: shark and clownfish.

Man, I wish I'd come up with this.

Friday, July 15, 2011

On Instructional Videos

There seems to be a trend these days in instructions on the web: videos.

Videos? Really? Ugh!

I don't know about you, but usually when I look for instructions on how to do something I either just need to find out what tools or utilities I need to use to do it, or to refer to the instructions as I go through the task. Videos are good for neither; you can't effectively skim a video for the important parts, or go through it at your own pace as your task progresses.

Seriously, people, I really don't have the time, and in any case don't want, to slog through your introductions or sit through your "um"s and "uh"s just to find out what to use to get my blog fed to a facebook page. Save the videos for tasks, or parts of tasks, where that kind of demonstration of technique or effect is useful. And add good old text and graphics to your toolbox along with that video hammer; it ain't all nails out there.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Finger Factor

Just wondering: has the recent proliferation of touch screen devices had any impact on the popularity of messy finger foods?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Land of Painted Caves - Finally

The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M Auel
Well it's finally coming out, nine years after the previous book, "The Shelters of Stone". I started reading the series back in the late 1980s, if I recall correctly, when my mother and I were staying with my grandparents after my grandfather had a heart attack. They lived in a small town and the biggest selection of science fiction available was in Wal Mart.

I've always been more into hard science fiction, but after reading the novelization of Back To The Future I was willing to branch out a little. I bought the first three books in a paperback boxed set.

It's not a bad series. The author, Jean Auel, has reportedly done lots of research into actual prehistoric sites and artifacts, working them into her stories. No doubt some of the ideas included in the earlier books in the series have been displaced by subsequent research over the past three decades, but that is understandable; Arthur C. Clarke had similar issues with his Space Odyssey books. What's harder to swallow is the concentration of human innovations within the lives of the two main characters: animal domestication, tool invention, etc. But for a (Pre-)historical fiction one can easily suspend disbelief in this convergence enough to enjoy it. What's more off-putting is the apparent psychic phenomena and the practically Lamarckian race memory portrayed in the Neanderthals. If one approaches it as just being the characters' interpretations of drug-induced halucinations, it becomes tolerable enough to not get in the way of an otherwise interesting story.

I subsequently bought & read the next two books in hardcover, the first while in college, and the second after getting married and moving over 1000 miles away.

I've read the first three chapters of the new book at the Random House web site, and it looks to be setting up a few external and internal conflicts, and possibly a love triangle but that may be a red herring. There doesn't seem to be much in the way of lengthy re-exposition, thankfully, so if you haven't read the previous books there's a lot that won't make sense to you.

I've added it to my wish list. See all Jean M Auel's books, including several translations.