Friday, September 30, 2005

Project Gasbuggy

A co-worker told me about this thing called Project Gasbuggy. You can search for information about it online pretty easily, but if you're too lazy to do that, I'll give you the gist of it. If you don't trust Google results, check out the last page of this .pdf from Sandia. Back in the 1960's, the government tried to find peacetime uses for nuclear weapons. After all, we had a lot of them and really weren't finding a lot of uses beyond turning them into interesting centerpieces. One of the ideas that they came up with was to try fracturing a gas well with a nuclear device. Thus, in 1967 they detonated a nuclear explosive 4227 feet down in a well about 55 miles east of Farmington. Suffice to say, you may be able to guess the success of this experiment based on how often you hear about that practice being used today. (Hint: not at all.) The fracturing achieved was not as much as had been hoped, plus the high cost of a nuclear explosive made the project economically unviable. One the problems and I'm sure there were many to choose from, is that the heat of the explosion turned much of the sandstone into glass rendering the formation far less permeable than desired. If you ever want to go there, there's a plaque that sits by the site to commemorate some excellent outside-the-box thinking that was unfortunately implemented.

Now that September is ending, does this portend to end of radio playtime for the Green Day song Wake Me Up When September Ends?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Unit cost

I think I have unrealistic expectations for consumer electronics. Despite the commoditization that occurs, I still expect products to fall to what can best be described as a tenth of their original price within a year or so. Case in point, I think a portable DVD player with a 7" screen should be sub-$100. Not just the occasional blue-light special sold out of some guy's trunk, but all the makes and models. Also, a 4 or 5 gigabyte MP3 player should be in that same price range too. The funny thing is that even if they were, I still wouldn't buy them. I just think they should be cheaper.

Actually, I would consider purchasing one or both of those items if I did substantially more traveling (read: flying), more so than I have in the last year. In fact, since summer of last year, I have taken at least 26 flights in eight distinctly different trips. There's something very entertaining about flying. I like the whole single serving-ness of everything, though I would like to know when that serving stopped including some sort of pretzel or nut-based snack on America West.

Speaking of cost, when I think about work, I am surprised by how cheaply we can do what it is we do. Due to the general upswing in oilfield service work there has been an increase in the prices service companies can charge for their services. This is nothing new and our CEO mentions it in this article. (I really only include the article to demonstrate that this pricing power we have is a matter of reasonably common knowledge and thus it's no great internal company secret. Frankly the article isn't especially suitable, but it suffices and I don't care to find a more suitable one with more suitable quotes.) Anyway, despite any increase in prices, when you consider what goes on to perform something as mundane sounding as a cement job, it seems like a steal. There's equipment like a high pressure pump, treating iron, cement head, cement transports, data acquisition dealies and materials like the cement itself and also manpower. A fair bit has to go into even the smallest job, but it still doesn't seem like much money that we charge. Oh, it's enough money that we charge, but I find it interesting to see how it's all been set-up to do the work at such a low incremental cost.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Are our mannerisms and affectations totally original and organic? We, at least the royal we, see youth emulating pop culture styles both in terms of dress and behavior and look down on such mindless parroting. (By the way, I was never a youth. I went straight from being a child to an adult a couple years ago.) But do we look down on this behavior for the lack of intellectualism for being so devoid of substance or the lack of originality for so blindly following trends. If it's the latter, then do we the educated, cultured, mildly high brow, and slightly elite suffer the exact same problem? After all, don't we copy our high brow thinking for the celebrities of the intelligentsia and do our own fair share of mindless parroting? Are the intellectual icons somehow more worthwhile to emulate because they don't use double negatives unless it's appropriate? I want to say it's the former and that pop culture really is devoid of substance and value or any true contribution to the world and that it is right, and in fact necessary, to look down on them. But maybe that's just what I was told by someone with PhD.

I lost a day at the beginning of the week. It must've been that ConocoPhillips meeting on Monday. I got home on Tuesday and thought it was still Monday.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Legacy and MMQB

Today at Sam's Club, the man in front of me was buying three five-pound blocks of mozzarella cheese, two five-pound bags of pepperoni, 16 pizza boxes, and a canister of crushed red pepper. You tell me what he does for a living. The people behind also seemed to be running a small business or stocking vending machines based on their own purchases. And then there's me, being very judicious about what I buy because a person living by oneself and a store like that is a strange combination.

Let's go back to the last post. I don't 'get' the president's commitment to the hurricane rebuilding efforts, but I do get his vision when it comes to Iraq. I at least understand the idea and the vision and the hope to change the whole Middle East and the willingness to continue the war for that purpose despite any currently low opinions or tarnished short-term legacy. This is his chance to change the world and leave a long term legacy. Rebuilding New Orleans isn't going to be any sort of legacy, because people don't remember things for going back to normal, or some semblance thereof. People remember change, not what it was like to go back to the store to buy groceries.

I'll admit that the entire New Orleans thing is a lot of Monday morning quarterbacking. The city was prepared to a point and the pumps and levees were designed to a point. But that point was exceeded by a low probability, though entirely plausible and perhaps expected, event. Part of me says this because California is prepared for an earthquake, to a point. Maybe one day, the mother of all quakes will come and everyone will Monday morning quarterback and say that the state should never have been built up along fault zones so much. It's not like the people and state did not prepare for earthquakes. We just won't know if we're prepared enough until it happens.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Why rebuild?

I'm still trying to decide what President Bush's motivation is for his recent pledge to rebuild the "great" (if that's what we want to delude ourselves with) city of New Orleans. Is this what he calls compassionate conservatism? Is it part of a legacy he wants to leave? Is there some sense of guilt going on deep inside of him? Is this some awkward caving-in to political pressure? If it's that last one, I'm not too sure there's much popular or political pressure for a rebuilt New Orleans outside the New Orleans area and perhaps the construction industry. (I'm sure KBR is chomping at the bit, along with every other politically connected construction company.) Besides, Bush doesn’t seem like the cave-in type. He's more the "steer the course" type until far later than most people would have cut their losses at. But hey, maybe that's what the rebuilding effort will be like.

If Bush really wanted to see things through in New Orleans, he'd be finishing the work of the hurricane and advocating scudding the remaining part of the city, not rebuilding, and helping people get jobs elsewhere. (There are jobs in Farmington and it probably smells better than New Orleans too, both past and present.) Then, he'd win over the environmentalists by turning the new reclaimed water area into a nice wetlands for species that can survive the sludge left in the city. Frankly, the city should never be rebuilt and the best thing that can happen now just might be to have Hurricane Rita hit the city. Then maybe, just maybe, people would get it. Get that the city is deeply flawed, topologically speaking, but also in many other ways as the preparation and response to Katrina revealed.

It will hurt a lot for people to leave and it will cost a lot too. But it'll hurt more later on when disaster strikes. Oh wait, it already did.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


The commoditization of technology. I can only assume that businesses have figured out most of what this post contains already but I made some scribbles and now I'm going to put this down so I can get it off my plate. Research and development, as its name implies, is about the creation new products and techniques. The only way to get a return on research and development spending is to create products with sufficient market capacity that money can be made while the product is still unique and cutting edge. Of course, the level of market capacity varies by product, but it tends to be fairly sizable when it comes to consumer electronics. That said, the fact that a product is unique and cutting edge is hardly a reason in of itself for ideal consumers to purchase an item.

Businesses where technological tools can help increase the productivity of their manufacturing operations and/or employees can benefit from spending on new technology. Sure, prices will drop later, but money can be saved now, so it makes sense to get BlackBerrys or some such product for employees. Individuals rarely encounter that same benefit from the purchase of a product. We don't save money by having the latest MP3 player now, but we buy them anyway even knowing prices will fall later.

When it comes to being some early adopter, people pay a premium for the status of being the first to have something. Consumer electronic R&D spending doesn't make sense in an ideal world. The commoditization of products all but guarantees that in a year generic products performing nearly identical functions will come out and be much cheaper than the first product that hits the market. This, that window of uniqueness is the best time for companies to make money with their new products. (Yes, word of mouth and reputation will help carry it later. In fact, those things are probably the major reasons why a product doesn't see it's prices slashed when imitators hit the market.) But we as consumers know the price will fall and that generics will come, but we buy anyway so we're not ideal consumers. However the benefit of that is that it does give companies an incentive to produce new products and keep the process rolling.

I wonder if commoditization will happen to information. While major search players dominate the market now, will generic brand search companies be able to nearly mimic the results of a company like Google in the future? I suppose that possibility is one of the drivers of Google's push into so many other aspects of the internet services world and its creation of new and enhancement of existing ones. Part of that explores new markets, but part of it does what consumer electronic manufacturers have learned from manufacturers and retailers before them. And that is how to use brand loyalty, familiarity, and convenience to keep customers coming back for more. If a company can be a single stop place for all manner of services then it becomes so much more convenient for someone to go there for everything. Witness Wal-Mart super-centers. So will Google one day be a portal for all manner of anything one would want to do one the internet? I'm sure they'd like that very much. But I wonder if it'll happen without their now vaunted search capabilities if the ability to search and sort information becomes commoditized as well.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Going home

I'll be landing in San Jose tomorrow morning and leaving again Sunday evening. The trash has been taken out, the dishes washed, the floors vacuumed, the bags packed. It's time for a drive. (And then a flight. When I tell people at work I'm going home for the weekend, I have to explain that I'm flying because they don't seem to realize that it is a 16 hour drive.) Inspire me California, the only place I really call home.

After hearing it on the radio the other day, I've rediscovered a song I used to listen to from time to time in college. And that song is Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? by Paula Cole. I really like it, though people who are familiar with my general tenor may find that a bit odd. Then again, peoples' musical tastes are so often not what you might expect of them. Like suburban kids who listen to hip-hop. Who would've guessed?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Tell me...

Tell me something, beautiful.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


This place is so ridiculous sometimes. I don't mean work specifically, though some work-related events make me say this. I've written a bit on government lately. For the most part, government is not the most efficient vehicle at getting things done. Now imagine something even worse, from an efficiency standpoint, and that is tribal government.

All of our trucks, both the DOT-registered ones and the pick-ups have papers in them for entering and crossing through the various states and tribal lands. Making sense so far, right? Good. Now, there's one tribe that requires work permits for individual workers working on tribal land which, as you might be sensing the tenor of where this post is going, is pretty ridiculous. For starters, apparently this has been the policy for about a yea, but no one knew about it nor was it enforced until very recently. In order to get these permits that expire every year, you must take your driver's license to Dulce, which isn't exactly what one would call nearby to Farmington which is where nearly every service company in the region is based out of, and fill out some mundane form so that they can issue you a card to be allowed to work on their land. Without said card, it's a $5000 fine and you'll end up in jail, which is what happened to a rig crew yesterday. Oh, and then the rig was confiscated too. Ridiculous enough?

So whatever are we doing to get around this matter? Well, our safety guy got some temporary permits last week by going down there and explaining the situation and the impracticality of jumping through their hoops. Of course, he had to get thee by 10:30 AM that day because they needed to close their office so that they could celebrate some kid's birthday. Check. Check two is that their office normally closes at 3:00 PM, a very demanding job no doubt. Our safety guy did enough explaining for them to issue us permits without everyone going down there in person, but they needed a photo of our driver's license and a digital copy of a photo of us (to put on the card). So he went down there today to pick them up for all the field personnel (this includes me) and they had given him some of them when 3:00 PM struck. At that point, he was ushered out event though it would have taken just a couple more minutes to hand him the rest of the cards. Oh, and those temporary permits from last week were apparently more temporary than we imagined, because we were told they're no good anymore because we should've gotten the cards by now. Wonderfully ridiculous.

Oh, but we were going to go do a job down there tomorrow, which we're still doing because enough people have permits that a crew can be cobbled together myself included. Lucky me. If they tribal police are making 'random' stops again, I'll hold my tongue even though I have plenty of choice words. Who would've guessed?

Saturday, September 10, 2005


People are drawn to spectacle and natural disasters make for excellent spectacle. It's as if the one-off-ness of a disaster like Hurricane Katrina excites people and it can sometimes inspire them to do a lot of good work and seize it as a chance to start anew. In the same fashion of appealing to peoples' taste for disaster, the media is also drawn to big spectacles. That's the problem with long droughts. They aren't sexy like hurricanes and floods and more shocking events, but their impact can be just as damaging as any natural disaster. What's the media going to show you? A field of dried grass? You'd be almost literally watching the grass grow, but in this case it's not growing.

This hurricane should open peoples' eyes to what a real crisis is and what real problems are. None of this quarter/mid-life, wine-sipping, significance, existentialist crisis stuff. We, the collective we of most of the people I knew while growing up, should be so lucky to have the choices we have and to ability to do nearly anything we want with our lives. And yet too many people with all those options bemoan them like a curse, like it's a burden to have choices. Maybe it is, but it's far preferable than having none. There's no disaster in having choices. The only disaster would be to freeze up so badly that you can't make a choice until a real disaster comes.

Why wait for disaster to make a change? What about kaizen, the Japanese principle of continuous improvement. Always be getting better instead of waiting for some momentous event to force a change. Give yourself a challenge to rise to if you need life to be harder, to be more of struggle, to feel more real.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Random observations

Nothing so great and politically-themed as the last several posts for today. Instead, I have a gaggle of random events and observations.

Due to its topographically challenged nature, the parking lot at work flooded after about an hour of hard and continuous rain. Simply put, an 18 inch pipe cannot handle the run-off of the yard which is several acres. (The pipe was not clogged, at least not on our end.) Plus, the business next door with a similarly sized yard has nearly all of its water run into ours. Suffice to say, some people will be finding the interior of their cars to be a bit damper than when they left them. Lesson learned, park on higher ground. While I did not take any pictures, a couple did and if I get my hands on any of them, I'll be glad to post them. Declaration by the district manager: "Farmington is now an offshore location."

My computer froze up for what was basically the first time ever a couple days ago. Normally, I'd think nothing of it because computers lock-up sometimes and that's that. But yesterday, my cell phone wouldn't get any service and when I called my service provider for answers, I was told the network was having problems in Farmington. Whatever the problems, they were resolved in a couple hours, but the chronological proximity to my laptop's problem must surely be a sign of something sinister afoot.

Best I can tell, people like to buy things for the sake of having them more than the sake of utilizing them. There's some powerful draw in buying some nice, shiny, new thing and marveling at its smooth surfaces and nice colors and new item smell. And of course the satisfaction in showing it off to others as if their envy alone will boost your happiness. Actually, it seems to do just that for many people. But buying things is a very temporary and short-lived feeling and usually leads to very little long-term satisfaction. Maybe I'm projecting too much of my own tastes onto how I think others should feel, but I'm generally most pleased with the things I don't buy, rather than what I do buy. Spending your money now certainly does not lead to wealth building, or even long term financial security. (I thought I had written on this before, but I can't find when so here goes.) Possessions do not build wealth. Assets build wealth. And if the price of something can reasonably end with .99 then it probably is not an asset.

When I look around at what I have and mentally sort things into what I use versus what I don't, most of the things I don't use were not actually purchased by me. I have very specific interests and needs that only I can suitably address. This is why I always find gifts really strange and awkward. Yes, the thought is nice, but it is largely undermined by the actual purchase. How ironic.

I remarked on this about two years ago, but whatever happened to the Outkast song called Bombs Over Baghdad? It's radio play time took a conspicuous nosedive n April of 2003 for some reason. I wonder why. It's a good party and dance song, not that I'm into either of those.

There's someone at work who uses the word 'pop' to describe what I would call 'soda'. He's from North Dakota. There's someone else who really likes Dr. Pepper. He's from Alabama. I believe I can extend these observations to successfully characterize the tendencies of large portions of the country now.

The triple score round in Family Feud basically renders the previous two rounds pointless. It does not make it entirely pointless, but it does so statistically more often than it should. See, the rounds in the show are scored single, single, double, triple and the first family to 300 wins. Well, all things being equal, one family or another should win the first three rounds one in four times (not one in eight). If they win the first three rounds, they've almost certainly reached 300. However, the triple score round is needed on far more than 75% of the shows. Why is this? There's a television that's almost always on in dispatch at work. This is how I know this. Perhaps I should start watching religiously, but then I might stop getting work done.

Monday, September 05, 2005

The market's limits

In my mishmash of readings in the last week, I came across a couple of pieces (that I now cannot find) extolling the power of the free market as a restorative force after a disaster. I too like the power of the market in response to a crisis, but not with my whole heart. Several pieces have rightly made the point that destruction and the subsequent spending to rebuild what was lost does not help the economy. While they may help certain industries and stores, natural (and unnatural) disasters do not result in a net gain for the economy. Additionally, they certainly do not improve quality of life.

Part of the argument that I can't quite stomach is the assumption that in a supply crunch where prices rise, those most able to afford the higher prices are therefore those who are most deserving of the product. An obvious enough example is the recent spike in gas prices in the last week as production and refinery shut-downs have limited the supply in large parts of the country. Just because you can afford higher prices doesn't mean you deserve the product, it simply means you are most valuable to whomever is selling the product. In my mind, the market values short term factors more than long term ones. It is very poor at recognizing value that does not yield an immediate payoff. What comes to mind is the value of teaching, at nearly any level. Viewed as increasingly essential to the development of an educated populace, teachers are not paid especially well in comparison to what many of them could be making given their varying levels of qualifications. Is this a sign that teachers are not recognized for their long-term value? Or is it more to do with the fact that the majority of teachers work for the government in government-run schools and that a dose of free-market education system would cure those problems?

The market's love of short term value exposes it to unscrupulous people and that is most visibly seen in the major corporate scandals of the last several years. Enron, WorldCom, whatever, pick your poison. The free market does not understand what ethics are if they cannot be quantified with a dollar sign. And people without ethics can use that to their advantage. After all, the market is not some amorphous entity. Ultimately, it is made up of discrete individuals and not all of them are good and decent people by the common understanding of those terms. Sure, the market catches people selling a bad product eventually, but the long-term effects of something can never be known in advance. Only years after the transaction has taken place is the full value or lack thereof realized.

One last thought on this matter has to do with mandatory evacuations. The market would scoff at such a thing because people can make their own choices. And people do, for the mandatory evacuation of New Orleans was hardly enforced, at least not at the very beginning. But if you guess wrong and don't evacuate and need to be rescued, is the market going to rescue you? Last time I checked, there was no insurance covering helicopter evacuations. So, is the market going to rescue those who can pay the most first and let those with no money die? Or is the vaunted market going to realize that while it may loathe the government, there are certain things that need to be done because they don't make money.

Don't get me wrong because I like the open market, its creative power, its ability to respond to consumer needs, its flexibility and adaptability. But there is a role for government, preferably a limited one, but a role nonetheless.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

More hurricane commentary

I have a great deal to say about Hurricane Katrina, especially as I take in its aftermath and read countless news and opinion pieces on the constantly developing situation. Hindsight is actually not 20/20, but it certainly is much better than foresight. Nonetheless, the existence of severe planning shortfalls both on how to prepare for such a disaster and how to respond to it once it has happened should have been self-evident to anyone remotely responsible for the welfare of the city of New Orleans and the greater area. But kicking these various civic leaders while they're down doesn't do much good except to fill oneself with some lordly sense of know-it-all-ism. And as much I enjoy that, it still doesn't do any good.

I won't pretend to be familiar with the particulars of the New Orleans water management system or the state of Louisiana's hurricane response plans or the chain of command that exists in the various levels of government for responding to an emergency such as this one. Thus, I may be way off with some of my comments, but I think they stand on their own pretty well.

Local planning, starting with Mayor Nagin of New Orleans and whatever cadre of city commissioners he surrounds himself with was terrible. This is your city. Therefore, this is your responsibility. Yes, only to a point, but a great deal of planning is best done at the local level where the local needs are best understood so don't expect someone to hold your hand when the going gets tough. Why aren't the supplies to repair damaged levees kept nearby in parts of the city the lie above the prevailing water level? Why aren't helicopters on a stand-by type of lease ready to be mobilized? Why isn't the total loss of landline communications foreseen when everything could potentially be underwater? Where are you satellite phones, your back-up generators, your fuel reserves to power pumping stations in a crisis? Where is the planning for evacuating and/or rescuing those who refused to leave because this isn't the first time people have stayed either by choice or by lack of means to leave? By the way, Mr. Mayor, those buses you want so badly appear to be where you left them. And it didn't have to be a hurricane that broke the levees. If we're going to be so homeland security-centric, it could have been terrorists wanting to submerge a half million person city. Is this all only obvious in hindsight? No.

Much of that loss of local level planning capability stems from a false expectation that it will be taken care of by the federal government. The federal government's weakness in this whole matter has not been so much in the response, but in giving the appearance that people should expect a capable response. (Any capable response by FEMA is severely dampened when it is folded under triplicate layers of bureaucracy in the Department of Homeland Security.) This isn't about appearances given a week ago before the storm hit. It's about a culture of dependency and misplaced expectations in what the government should be doing for people. A lot of that starts several decades ago with flood insurance and it being offered by the federal government. By having an entity with no vested interest in making money through the sale of insurance, there is no market-induced premium for living in a high-risk area, especially one that can suffer so severely if flooded due its topologically-challenged nature. Ultimately, imbalanced assessment of risk due to the government's non-market presence warps the perception of how costly and dangerous living in a particular area is. In the end, entire portions of the gulf southeastern coasts get underwritten at ultimately my expense. Thus, a city like New Orleans can exist in 10-day ago condition waiting for the event that will force the rest of us to underwrite the cost of it's shaky foundations.

I'd like to save a potentially long spiel on the free market and its power at preparing for and responding to a crisis for some other day, perhaps as soon as tomorrow while it's still topically relevant. For now, I'll say that while I do like much that the free market has to offer, it has its own shortcomings in how to value animate assets.

Now it's time for the rant of the day. Have you sent your thoughts and prayers to the victims of Hurricane Katrina yet? Well, you better hurry, because the longer you wait, the longer you delay that sense of self-satisfaction of pretending to help without actually helping. I'm sure the token afterthought you're paying them is helping them a whole lot down on the ground there. At least it lets you sleep better at night. Isn't it incredibly egotistical to think your thoughts and prayers will help anyone? As if a higher being (God, supposedly) is going to hear you prayers and then decide that he really ought to spare a few more lives. Are you so powerful that you deign to think you control your god and who lives and who dies? Really now, stop sending your thoughts and prayers and start thinking about how to either really help or really learn from this.

Same goes for the President's presence on the ground. How does that help anyone except divert resources and energy away from people who really need it? Oh, it shows he cares? That still doesn't help anyone who really needs the help. And I hope the President isn't concerned with whether or not people think he cares or not. He should be concerned with the most efficient resolution (whatever it ends up being) of the situation.

Saturday, September 03, 2005


I feel like there's a need to say something about Hurricane Katrina. For all there is to say and all that's happening, there's certainly ample room for social commentary. However, all the people who get paid and plenty of others that don't are taking up enough space as is with their commentaries. I will say that this tragedy and the response to it reveal a great deal about this country's hubris in certain areas and the way we confront socio-economic differences. Additionally, it speaks to what people expect government to do for them versus what people can do for themselves.

Friday, September 02, 2005

New mirrored blog

This is my new mirrored blog. Anyone can post comments in it so please feel free to do so. Also, if I make references to previous posts and photos, those are elsewhere and I am not linking to that site for reasons of my own. Now, onto the post.

That last post ended rather abruptly as I was under some perverse sense of obligation to post it by midnight for the sake of intellectual honesty. My secret obsessive/compulsive behavior has a lot of influence. Ironically enough, this post is being posted retroactively a day late.

My prior post is a great launching point for essays worth of thought and perhaps some shameless commercialism as well. After all, Asimov parlayed the principle idea into six books. In those books, the predictability of the future was contingent on two main tenets: that the populace whose future was being predicted not be aware of the predictions and that there were a lot of them. In the books it was 25 million inhabited worlds each with an average of 4 billion people which would make for 100 quadrillion people. That's just a wee bit more than we've got right now. Also, a select group did know the predictions and it was their job to make sure they came to fruition. While the future was being generally predicted, they were controlling the key decisions every step of the way. But at least they knew the outcome of their decisions.

This is all fictional anyway. It doesn't speak all that much as to whether or not we would be able to do it. However, one of the main implications of the large numbers of people condition is that individuals become irrelevant. In fact, entire worlds only matter as data points in a model with 25 million of them. With so many people, there is still individual free will (whatever you consider that to be) because it is the averaged out behavior of the masses that is being predicted. Can you conceive of a world where individuals don't matter? Our 20th century history seems to be filled with iconic individuals, especially those surrounding World War II. Just as important, do you want to live in a world where individuals don't matter, where they can't be world changers. And what would that imply about the socio-political environment? After thinking about it a little bit, I get a terrible sense that such a world would bear too striking a resemblance to Orwell's 1984 or some similarly ultra state-controlled existence. There, individuals would not matter not as a mathematical consequence, but because they were made to not matter.

What of our past great individuals. If you're actually here reading this, I'd like to assume you have the capacity to consider the idea on your own for each person and ask yourself if that person's rise was truly a great individual setting forth a strikingly bold and original vision. Or was his rise a matter of properly sensing the pulse of the people and then riding a movement that he was able to feed and in turn feed off of. What came first, the chicken or the egg? When you consider the situation, it's somewhat analogous to that. Does significance stem from individuals who inspire and lead people or do people find and carry prominent individuals?

Interestingly enough, we may find our very love of individuality is what makes us impossible to truly predict, from a political standpoint. However, we are becomingly increasingly more capable of modeling and predicting certain things, especially when it comes to where technology will be in 1, 5, 10, 50 years. Same goes for certain aspects of economic forecasting and even larger social trends like population growth.

In a totally unrelated note, keeps putting this item in my Gold Box. I'm not sure what in my past purchases makes their system think I want such an item. Does anyone else think such an items is an incredibly tacky upper-middle class piece of kitsch that represents the total lack of class and style that people who don't know how to handle money buy? Just wondering.