Post #300: A Year in Review

I wrote my first post on this blog in July, 2007, and in the following year wrote almost 300 short posts related to economics, religion, and politics in the United States.  In that time, this blog has received tens of thousands of views.  It’s a modest number, but considering the small amount of time I spend maintaining the site and a complete lack of advertising and marketing, it’s not unexpected.  The most popular posts have remained fairly consistent and can be found in the “Top Posts” sidebar.

I have been wondering whether I would consider this blog to be “successful”, but I don’t think there’s a clear answer.  I originally started writing as an attempt at catharsis.  Seeing the state of American politics, religion, and a general disdain for rational thought was more than I could bear in silence.  It was (and is) difficult to find people with whom I can speak on a rational and intellectual level.  Yet, I had to do so, even if only for my own sanity.  I thought about questions like, how could I justify sitting idly by when the worst administration in the history of the U.S. escaped from accountability?  What would I tell kids and future generations that would be bound to ask?  Had I never received a single page view on the site, by that measure, I might still have considered it to be useful.  In any case, this would be a good time to thank those of you who have visited the site and those of you have commented.  Hopefully, there will be more to come in the future…

The Pursuit of [too much] Happiness?

CNN Money recently posted an article that I found to be fairly interesting.  The studies (and debate) over achieving happiness seem to continue, but there’s some new evidence covered in the article, Want to be rich? Don’t get too happy.  The idea is that, while humans tend to want to achieve the “ultimate” level satisfaction with life, that’s not necessarily a good goal.  From the article:

Why is it better to be happy but not euphoric? Diener’s take is that happy – but not too happy – people are strivers. They’re interested in making the sorts of changes necessary to get ahead in life, including engaging in competition (not always a happy pursuit), obtaining more education and changing their behavior when what they’re doing now isn’t working. The 10s, on the other hand, are too complacent to adjust enough.

“When you compare moderate optimists with extreme ones, one of the biggest areas of difference is in self-control,” says David Robinson, a lead researcher on the Duke study. The extreme optimists overspent. They accumulated debt. They didn’t save. They were more likely to be day-traders. On the other hand, moderate optimists, recognizing the possibility of a run of bad luck, saved more than extreme optimists did.

To me, it sounds like this research sheds some light on the unbridled greed we tend to see in the United States.  The Bush Administration is probably the prime example, with the manufacturing of war and the selling of our nation to private interests and foreign powers.  We also have a long history of abuses, of which Enron certainly must be included.  Most of the people responsible for these transgressions are rich (ridiculously rich, if there ever were such a thing).  Yet, they seem all too ready to compromise their morality (not to mention laws) to get more money and power.  If only we would all get off of the happiness “treadmill” and settle for less-than-perfect…

Measuring the World

UniverscaleThis isn’t strictly related to politics or the topic of this blog, but I recently ran across a very useful web site from Nikon.  The site is Universcale and it provides a Flash-based interactive demonstration that allows users to navigate through various levels of magnitude to compare the sizes of things.  The site’s introduction explains it well:

We are able to view all entities, from the microworld to the universe, from a single perspective. By setting them up against a scale, we are able to compare and understand things which cannot be physically compared.

Today, using the electron microscope and astronomical telescope, we can see the objects which we have not been aware of its existence before. Are you able to fathom, or even roughly grasp, these sizes?

See our Universcale and experience the sizes of various objects.

I would love to see something like this for comparing dollar amounts of, say, United States expenditures.  In past posts, I have linked to static images that do a pretty good job of helping us visualize spending (see The 2008 Budget Poster).  But wouldn’t it be great to be able to zoom in on the cost of attacking Iraq and to be able to compare that with our spending on education, law enforcement, and healthcare?  If anyone’s aware of any such site, please post it in the comments.

About this Blog

While there’s no specific agenda for this blog, I created it to express thoughts and ideas for which I don’t seem to have another outlet. The hope is to encourage discussion and to get other perspectives on topics that range from technology to politics and religion. I encourage you to participate in providing your feedback!

P.S. While I have other blogs and information on the Internet, I have decided to keep this blog private and anonymous for now.