Category: Popular Posts

Altruism Is Ok, I Guess

It never ceases to amaze me how selfish people can be.

As someone who is genuinely magnanimous, it’s so far outside the realm of what I expect that it’s always a shock when it happens. That’s not to say I don’t notice when someone is a selfish jerk. It just takes me a little longer than some people.

I notice this happening all the time. People assume that I will pick up the slack, pick up the tab, pull their weight in addition to my own, do their work for them… and a lot of the time, they’re right. I abhor a vacuum. When I see something that needs to be taken care of, I just do it. I don’t look around wondering who’s going to take care of it. I don’t even give dirty looks to the person who should be doing it. I just get it done.

Sometimes it’s work. Sometimes it’s money. Sometimes it’s simply coordinating and making things happen. I was raised in a family that taught and lived responsibility. It doesn’t matter who made the mess, if you see it, clean it up. If someone is in need, help them. It isn’t about getting kudos or attention. And, it’s a good thing it’s not about attention, because what you find in life is that you never get kudos or attention for quietly taking care of things and making things happen.

Most people are so oblivious to the world around them they probably just assume that stuff is “taking care of itself” and that no one actually had to do anything.

I’ve written before that ‘altruism is for suckers.’ That’s true to a degree. Altruism, if you’re a selfish person, is truly only a good quality for someone else to possess. But altruism in and of itself is a good thing. If everyone were altruistic, the world would be a great place. But just because there are a bunch of selfish, lazy people who take advantage of altruism doesn’t mean that it’s still not worth it.

It would be hard to believe that selfish people really end up happy with themselves in the long run. In the end, it’s not about getting credit for your efforts, nor is it about helping others. Altruism makes you a better person, whether others know it or not.

An Inconvenient Arrogance

Human beings and “man-made” carbon dioxide emissions (including breathing) make up about 4% of the total carbon dioxide emissions on Earth. You can check my stats if you feel the need.

Assuming that the United States is responsible for 25% of that, then if the United States stopped manufacturing everything, and all stopped breathing tomorrow, the Earth would have about 1% less carbon dioxide emitted each year.

Did you know that only about 10% of the polar ice caps are melting, and the other 90% are actually getting bigger? You don’t hear that on the news, and you certainly don’t hear that from Al Gore, the biggest propagandist since Hitler.

I’m quite sure I’ve said on here before that if we mess up the Earth, the Earth will kill us… I have a lot more faith in our ecosystem than to think we could actually kill it. But the fact of the matter is, all this retarded talk about being “carbon neutral” and saving the Earth are must moronic. Today on talk radio, a stat was introduced that the Kyoto Accord, supposedly a huge international initiative to save the environment… well, it barely makes a dent in our 4%.

We in the United States who have trouble believing that a smokestack on a power plant is going to destroy the Earth are looked upon with disdain by the “enlightened” Europeans. However, the scientific community is sharply divided on whether global warming is even actually happening. A bunch of scientists say it is, and a bunch of scientists say it’s just a weather cycle (notably, the head of meteorology at MIT), and the Earth has been having cycles for thousands of years.

I’m not saying we should pollute and be retards without any thought of future generations. I’m a an advocate for promoting alternative fuels… but 99% of my desire to have a hydrogen car is the desire to be Middle East Neutral… not to be carbon neutral.

Al Gore says we should all be carbon neutral. So if we drive a pickup truck, we should plant trees and change our lightbulbs to make up the difference. Al Gore has a 20 bedroom mansion with an indoor heated pool. Al Gore flies to every event in a private jet. Al Gore, when asked how he could talk about being carbon neutral said, “Well, I changed all my light bulbs.”

To think we can destroy or save the environment with our relatively puny influence is one of the most arrogant things I can even fathom. Al Gore preaching about being carbon neutral when he’s consuming 100 times the fossil energy of the average American, that’s just plain hypocrisy.

Perhaps people will take note of his hypocrisy and he’ll end up ruining the efforts of ecojihadists everywhere. How inconvenient.

Incredipete

My Grandfather

Today I decided to post a more personal entry. I won’t use his real name, for the sake of anonymity.

My grandfather, who was known by the nickname “Incredipete,” passed away two nights ago. I don’t want to dwell on the end, though. I’d rather talk about some of the good memories I have, and some of the things I learned from him.

He grew up here in Kansas City, and had quite a few experiences. He fought in World War II, a naval machinists mate on the USS Minneapolis in the Pacific. After the war, he worked for several companies, including Bendix who was working on components of nuclear weapons at the time. After becoming a certified manufacturing engineer, he served as president of the National Tool & Manufacturing Association and founded two successful businesses manufacturing high tech medical and aerospace products.

If you were to have asked him, I think he would have told you he was an inventor… and that’s what he truly enjoyed. He designed and engineered a medical device (sorry, no specifics – patent and contract restrictions) that has saved countless lives, likely millions, and is still in production to this day… in fact, over this past 8 months I’ve had the privilege of helping to manage his company making that very device.

During that time, he and my grandmother also worked as foster parents, taking special cases (drug addicted infants, abused children, etc.). Over 30 years of foster parenting, they had more than 400 foster children in their home, many for multiple years. They were chosen as the national foster family of the year in 1994, and were the Kansas state foster family of the year that same year.

What’s interesting is that as I remember back, those accomplishments, while impressive to me as an adult, aren’t what really sticks with me. I didn’t know the first thing about medical devices, aerospace, or manufacturing when I was a kid. What I did know was that my grandfather loved to teach me how to work with my hands. He had forgotten more about building, fixing, and “jerry-rigging” things than I’ll ever know.

When I was young, he came over and built a house in our back yard, for my sister and I to play in. We referred to it as a “playhouse” but that’s not really doing it justice. It was literally… a house. It was just smaller than the one we actually lived in. It was so big that the city actually gave us trouble about it. When I got older, I sheetrocked it and added electricity. It was quite the little accomplishment.

I also remember completely destroying the competition with my science projects. To give you an idea… my science project in 1989 was “Thermoelectric Cooling Applications” in which I developed (ok, he developed while I watched) a thermoelectric cooling helmet intended for the military. It was based on the Peltier Effect which basically means when a current is run through a ceramic plate, one side gets hot, and the other gets cold. You vent the heat and use the cold for the application, or vice versa. I got first place.

And you’ll find that technology built into personal “cooling” devices at Sharper Image. Yup… thermoelectric in action. We did it first. Just saying. Oh yeah, the military also uses the technology now… oh yeah, so does Nascar.

I remember him always fixing everything… there wasn’t anything he couldn’t fix. I once watched him install a new stove for my mom, and he sliced his arm on a sharp edge. That’s when he taught me the first lesson of home improvements…. “If you aren’t bleeding, you’re not fixing anything.” Even after his health started to decline, he was always looking for something to fix. He came to my housewarming party two years ago, and immediately found a defective hinge on my cabinet door, which he promptly fixed with his pocket knife and a fork. (And cut his hand, proving once again that if you aren’t bleeding, you aren’t fixing anything.)

His legacy could be inventing a device that has saved and is still saving countless lives. His legacy could be the hundreds of foster children he took in and cared for. I wonder to myself how many of those children appreciate the sacrifice my grandparents made to care for them. I wonder if people who have been saved from a painful death by his inventions ever stop to think about the fact that someone cared enough to create and build that device that saved them.

He didn’t expect any thanks for his contributions to making the world a better place. Maybe that’s what ultimately makes a person worthy of being thanked. Maybe he knew that…

Destiny or Chaos?

This post was a guest entry I wrote for a friend. I used to have a link to her site on my page, but someone decided to stalk her and she had to shut down. So here it is:

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I’ve often wondered how the universe really works… how God works… how the world works. Is there a plan? If so, can we influence the plan by our actions? Do good actions create good results invariably, or are the times that good follows good just a coincidence?

Science shows us that the part of our brain responsible for decision-making only fires with electrical activity AFTER we’ve already done something. Does this mean we’re simply acting based on chemical reactions in our brain and then just rationalizing after the fact?

Many churches teach predestination… Calvinism. God preset everything that was ever going to happen from the beginning. Those who go to Heaven are already chosen from the beginning of time, and those who choose to believe are merely the ones that God already predestined. They aren’t really choosing, they’re programmed to do what they’re doing.

Other churches teach the importance of free will, that God granted to all people from the beginning. Although God knows what’s going to happen, because he’s all-knowing, He doesn’t influence decisions or free will. People choose to do whatever they want, and if that happens to affect some third party, so be it. God won’t interfere in free will.

These two concepts are completely at odds, yet both are taught in mainstream Christian denominations. Both can’t be right. Perhaps neither are right…

If the bad decisions of other people exercising their free will causes some kind of pain or suffering to someone, doesn’t that influence the decisions of the injured party? Is this God interfering, or is it random interactions of poor decisions?

Why do bad things happen to good people? Are there really good people? If bad things happen to good people by design, what’s the motivation to be a good person? Is Heaven the motivation? If so, are we saved by faith or by grace… or by good works? If we’re saved by faith or grace, what’s to prevent a person from living a life of utter depravity, and then repenting in the moments before death?

From my own life, I’ve formed opinions on all of these questions. I was taught to believe certain ways, but life has changed many of those beliefs. Here’s where I stand right now: I believe that God is all-knowing, and knows exactly what every person is going to choose to do. I also believe that God granted humans free will. For Him to interfere with free will would be to destroy the value of faith, because we’d be nothing more than robots.

I also believe that on Earth, chaos reigns supreme. I don’t believe it’s because God is absentee, or doesn’t care, or is a sadist… all popular opinions. Chaos reigns because people who have free will often choose to go down the wrong path. Their bad decisions affect people who are good… a child killed by a drunk driver… did the child deserve it? No. Did they have a choice? No.

But people’s bad decisions also affect people who are bad… a serial killer killed by a drunk driver… did the serial killer deserve it? Yes.

It’s all random interactions of people making decisions…good and bad… which creates the chaos we all see every day.

So if bad things are equally as likely to happen to good people as bad, what’s the motivation to be good? The Golden Rule only works if everyone follows it. Aside from “rewards in Heaven,” I struggle to find an answer to that question.

Altruism is for Suckers

Sometimes I think I’m a bad person. Not because I think I’m dumb. All standard measures would say I’m above average in the noggin department. Not because I’m selfish. Not many people can keep up with me in the generosity department. Not because I’m a jerk. If I was a jerk, I wouldn’t have ended up so many different lady’s “girlfriend” or “best friend.” Jerks always end up getting the girl… in the biblical sense. Not me.

I’ve noticed over the course of my life that most of my friends eventually drift away (or leave abruptly for whatever reason). It’s probably typical. Now, I’m not going to sit here and say I necessarily miss all of them. I’d certainly never claim that I didn’t cause or at least contribute to the problems. However, as a giving person, I tend to give people more chances when they screw up. Sometimes many more than wisdom would dictate.

But I must not be normal, because in almost every case where I’ve screwed up, I’ve not been given a second chance. There is one notable exception… a girl who I stopped talking to for all the wrong reasons, who ended up giving me a chance when I finally stopped being dumb. She knows who she is, and for that reason I hold her in very high esteem. I’d go so far as to say she’s my best friend. (assuming we put the girlfriend into a category of her own) Even though I hadn’t been very stellar to her, she was the one person there when I was at the end of my rope.

So yes, have I experience what it means to have someone still care about me after a screwup? Yes. But once in a lifetime is not a very good success ratio.

In a lot of cases though, people drifted through no fault of my own. I would attempt to keep up contact, I hadn’t ever given them a reason to go. They just decided I was a waste of time. I literally had a friend several years ago who said the following: “I can’t be your friend anymore because we like each other too much.” What the heck does that even mean? Does it mean she “like” liked me and I just didn’t notice? Who knows. Who even cares? It’s been long enough that I really don’t care. I don’t think I’d spit on her if she was on fire.

Eventually you just have to acknowledge that most people care 100% only about themselves. Most people will always choose what they want over what they know you want.

I think that means that altruism is the trait of a foolish optimist… a sucker. If 99% of the people in the world care solely about themselves, there’s no way to beat them… all you can do is look out for numero uno.

I’m not saying. I’m just saying.