Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.



Learning From the CEOs

. . . We all bought it, for nearly three decades. Somehow we managed to convince ourselves, across generations and income levels, that bad things only happened to other people—or if they did happen to us, it was our own fault. "Personal responsibility" was another way of saying "sorry about your trouble, but shit happens. . . . "

Never mind all the yammering about competition, merit, may the best man win: The reason top execs have done so well is that they looked out for one another. . . .

The lesson: Solidarity actually works. . . .


Did America Forget How to Make the H-Bomb?

. . . So how did America's three nuclear weapons design laboratories and four nuclear weapons manufacturing plants—the institutions collectively known as the nuclear weapons complex—simply forget how to make a crucial component of one of the military's most important warheads? "It seems like it was a case of ten-year-itis," says Phil Coyle, a former assistant secretary of defense who worked in the nuclear weapons complex for 33 years. "Ten years go by and people forget things that they used to know how to do."

"You have to keep people who know how to do these things and when people get too old or they retire you have to train new people to take their place," adds Coyle, now a senior adviser to the Center for Defense Information, a Washington think tank. But NNSA failed to do so, according to the GAO. The agency "kept few records of the process when [Fogbank] was made in the 1980s and almost all staff with expertise on production had retired or left the agency" by the 2000s. . . .


Do Biodegradable Plastics Really Work?

. . . What about biodegradable plastics? They're pretty neat: Microorganisms can convert biodegradable plastics into water, carbon dioxide, and biomass—with no nasty chemical leftovers. However, there is a lot of confusion surrounding these ecofriendlier plastics—some of it intentional. . . .

To make sure you're getting the real deal, look for products with the Biodegradable Products Institute logo, which means they've been certified to comply with strict scientific standards.

So what's the best way to get rid of biodegradable plastic? "The public thinks that biodegradability means 'If I throw it away, it will completely go away,'" says Narayan. "They don't even know what 'going away' means." Real biodegradable plastic should be sent to a commercial composting facility, where it will spend its final days being eaten by microbes. But here's the catch: In 2007, only 42 communities nationwide offered compost collection. (Seventeen were in California.) And though some biodegradable plastics can be recycled, no curbside recycling program will take them. So before you buy biodegradable plastics, make sure you can help them "go away" the right way.


Providers test the limits of access to Internet with new pricing systems

. . . Cable giant Time Warner recently toyed with essentially putting meters on its customers’ downloads. It abruptly backed off in the face of a revolt that was organized — where else? — on the Internet.

Still, the company shelved rather than killed the plan. Experts say that changes in the way people use the Internet — and the way some gorge on its endless cache of data — mean current pricing systems could go the way of your dial-up modem. . . .

Old-timers will remember when their dial-up AOL account billed them by the hour, monitoring connection time and adjusting charges accordingly. . . .


Going Dutch

. . . And in talking both with American expats and with experts in the Dutch system, I hear the same thing over and over: American perceptions of European-style social welfare are seriously skewed. The system in which I have embedded myself has its faults, some of them lampoonable. But does the cartoon image of it — encapsulated in the dread slur “socialism,” which is being lobbed in American political circles like a bomb — match reality? Is there, maybe, a significant upside that is worth exploring? . . .

There is another historical base to the Dutch social-welfare system, which curiously has been overlooked by American conservatives in their insistence on seeing such a system as a threat to their values. It is rooted in religion. “These were deeply religious people, who had a real commitment to looking after the poor,” Mak said of his ancestors. “They built orphanages and hospitals. The churches had a system of relief, which eventually was taken over by the state. So Americans should get over ‘socialism.’ This system developed not after Karl Marx, but after Martin Luther and Francis of Assisi. . . . ”

People have a matter-of-fact belief not in government — in my experience the Dutch complain about government as frequently as Americans do — but in society. As my Dutch teacher, Armelle Meijerink, said: “We look at the American system, and all the uninsured, and we can’t believe that a developed country chooses for that. . . . "


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