What if the aliens value jerks?

PhotonQ-Iron Meteorite
Image by PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE via Flickr

I was reading some news story today about an article soon to be published in an allegedly peer-reviewed journal called Cosmology. I know nothing of the journal, having stayed in my safe areas of Chemistry and Education throughout my travels to the library. The news story goes on to say that a scientist who has been studying meteorites for years has found fossils of alien life forms that resemble bacteria.

They are opening the findings up to peer review and scrutiny before publishing. I’m interested, but incessantly Skeptycal. I’m going to read the article and see what I think. But just the brief glance got me thinking about the possibilities. At first glance the alien life form in one photo looks small and harmless. Of course, it is always overwhelming and wonderful to think about life on other planets.

What happens if those ancient, meteoric bacteria really did settle somewhere else safe and had enough time between further impacts to evolve into something intelligent. What if we meet them someday and find out they have different ideas than we do about what it means to be a jerk?

What happens if they have much more advanced technology than we do and they show up here and start treating the Earth like their zoo. I’m sure humans would be an interesting life form to study. They might even set up techie ray shields throughout the countries of the world to prevent us from interacting too much. They could feed us daily and study our primitive tendencies.

What happens next depends on their values. If they value sensory creativity, they would search for evidence of sculpture or music and isolate the “higher level creativity” specimens to keep a safe incipit catalogue. That might give me a good spot on the shelf. If they value language and communication, perhaps all of the peerless tweeters and bloggers of our time would be housed with the poets and songwriters.

If they value ‘survival of the fittest’ type theories, they might take videos of hunters and killers of our society and give them more food and freedom to hunt. Imagine a reality show that follows a serial killer through his daily life and documents all of the wonderful, creative ways that he subdues his prey. Maybe a competition to see who can kill the most people in the shortest time.

What if they value jerks? What if these aliens find it a highly valuable trait in their society to care nothing about anyone or anything but yourself. Would they nourish all of the selfish people of the world to protect those specimens from the evils and waste of thoughtfulness? Maybe anyone caught showing feelings would be submitted for electric shock treatment. If caring for others were a weakness in their society, where would they put the fences of the human zoo? Would they even need the fences?


What happened to the middle?

Middle Class Aspirations

I’m about 40. When I was a kid I didn’t understand how money worked, but I knew my dad worked a lot and my mom took care of the household. Now the word household can mean a lot of things.

She went to night school and graduated with a BA while working a part time job typing college papers. She was very good at punctuation, document layout, customer service, and selling.

I helped her type a bit. And I learned a ton about how to treat customers and how to earn money. She used this bit extra to do extra stuff with her kids, to pay for a second car, to throw birthday parties, and to go out to eat once in a while.

My dad had a good job as an associate professor at a community college. It brings in a decent income and he managed to maintain a few somewhat expensive hobbies as well as save for retirement.

I suppose this is middle class. One worker supporting a wife and four children in a three bedroom house. I found out sometime later what his take-home pay was and what the mortgage was on the house that was bought in 1971. Generally, the mortgage payment was about 5% to 10% of his take-home pay.

The other bills at the house left the total at 20%. This left about 80% of the money each month to plan for retirement and generally live a normal life.

As I sit here today, my rent is about 30% of my take-home pay and my other normal bills (not including cell phones and internet which I’m old enough to consider optional) take about another 50%. After I factor in student loan payments and groceries, I have no way of planning for retirement and many times we have to wait a week or so to buy groceries.

I never go out to the movies or to dinner. I don’t take trips. I don’t have my kids in any clubs or sports at this time. I don’t waste any money at all on frivolous activities. I turn down invitations to go out with friends so I can save money. I have no credit cards and I owe no credit card debt. I paid off all of my outstanding medical bills in the last few years.

My only credit burden, and it is quite a burden, is the student loans still dragging behind me attached to a noose around my neck. Eight years of college, they told me, would be well worth the investment. I’m finding that it is mostly true since I doubt I’d be making what I am now without it. But student loans have gotten as bad as credit cards and mortgage fraud, it seems, and it isn’t only the modest 5% ish interest I was promised.

I’m a single parent with a good job in education, just like my dad had, but somehow things have changed drastically and the cost of living has become ridiculous compared to what it was 30 years ago.

I know some will tell me that a good chunk of it is that I live in California, where taxes and fees are among the highest in the nation. Yes, I have to agree, the stranglehold of the failed system in this state is fierce, but even accounting for  differences between this zoo and my much more competent and affordable home state of Texas, the difference is striking.

Where did the middle class go? I thought I was headed that way. I’ve been in my career for 10 years. I work hard. I’ve won awards. I’m one of the best at what I do. How come I can’t afford a barbecue pit or the steaks to put on it?

Egypt … really?

egypt_pyramidsSo I’m curious about the recent Egypt situation. I’ve heard that Egypt has been our (the US) partner for many years. It is a wonderful tourist destination. Personally, I have longed to visit the pyramids for 30 years.

So now the media is trying to convince me that Egypt has been a horrible axis of tyranny all of my life. I don’t follow world events closely, so this came as a surprise to me. I see the stories on the science channel and nat-geo and they never mention anything about the horrible atrocities committed by the billionaire geriatric dictator.

Suddenly, thousands of people are revolting and the army is on their side. How could this be happening! How could hundreds of thousands of people be so unhappy – enough to risk death or prison by defying the evil regime – and all I’ve ever heard is how wonderful the desert is at preserving archaeological relics.

It always seems very strange to me when something this huge, something involving thousands or people, happens so quickly.

Of course, this isn’t my question. The answer to this one is simple. It’s just that I don’t follow world events and have little interest in politics most of the time. In fact, as I write this, I’m watching reruns of America’s Next Top Model. So it’s not surprising that I know little about the political landscape of a country in north Africa.

My question is: why is it only news when the people revolt against many years of terror. Why wasn’t the horrible mistreatment common knowledge or at least a national news story in the US during the last 30 years? Why is it only on the news now that the people are doing something about it?

I had a roommate for over a year who grew up in Egypt. He speaks Egyptian at home. He watches Egyptian slapstick sitcoms that he has recorded on old VHS tapes. He lived in Egypt until he was near 20. He told me stories about going to school in Egypt as a youngster.

One of the main things that stood out to me were his recollection that every teacher in Egypt has a favorite “stick” to hit students with. Students who cant afford to pay the teachers for ‘tutoring’ after school get no education and get hit more often.

It sounded like a horror to me that only students with money to pay for the extortion ‘tutoring’ sessions would be allowed to proceed undamaged.

I wonder why this wasn’t a news story. I wonder why it still isn’t a news story now. What are the schools like for Egyptian children? Does anyone else know? All I have is one first hand account from a witness, but I believe him. He described a dungeon with ongoing torture, manipulation, and terror.

Why is the media or the US government choosing to make this ‘revolt’ the main news story now? Why are they targeting me to hear this now? What are these guys up to that they need me to suddenly be against the Egyptian government instead of picturing them as a staunch ally, which is how they have painted Egypt in the media for most of my life?

Why do I need to dislike Egypt at this point in history for someone’s plan to work out?

The beginning is a good place to start.

I’ve heard that if you want better answers, you need to ask better questions. I’m very skeptical about the information that gets to me passively. In this amazing age of information, sitting by absorbing the sludge that is targeted at me is more frightening than learning nothing at all.

Introverts are not natural publishers by a long shot, and I tend to keep my questions to myself and brood over them late at night. But maybe it would be fun to post a few online and see what other thoughtful souls have to say.

So … while I learn how to operate this wordpress blog, this will serve as my introduction to the world. I don’t know what to expect from this. I’m not sure if anyone besides me will even read this. Maybe I will learn something new today … that’s always my goal.