Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year!

Well all I can say about 2009 is, "Thank Cthulhu that is finally over." Not that the year has been completely negative, but it has certainly been more negative than positive.

On the plus side, I finally finished my bachelors degree after starting it in September 1982 while Ronald Reagan was in his first term, and a IBM PC 5150 with 64KB of RAM and a single 5 1/4" 360KB floppy drive sold for slightly north of $3,000. The degree I ended up with is a very different one than I started out working on, and the stops in between have been, um, varied. I think it goes something like Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Music, Accounting, CIS, and ending at the crap-tastic Management. But it's something, I guess, and represents something very rare for me; actually finishing something I started. We'll see over the next few weeks just how much good it is. So far, all it's done is earn me the label "Over-Qualified."

Another item in the plus column is that while we were laid off, we managed to get in a short trip to Maui. Now generally, when people get laid off, getting on a jet and traipsing around Maui isn't the first thing on the to-do list. But we had already booked and paid for the trip and it was mostly non-refundable anyway and we figured that it would be a while before we would be able to have a real vacation, so what the heck. I'm glad we did it; we got to see a really cool place and chill out after a very stressful start to 2009.

And the last good thing from 2009 was the time we spent in Michigan. We were able to attend my niece's wedding in August and my Dad's family reunion that we hadn't been to in several years. But our biggest accomplishment was all the work we were able to do on Debbie's mom's house. We didn't get nearly everything done we wanted to, but I think we at least got things down to a manageable list that can be done piecemeal during visits to Michigan next summer. At a minimum, we finally finished some of the basement work that was started in 1992.

The negatives from 2009 are mostly related to employment. This year I made less money than in any year since I was 11 years old. And yes, that bugs the hell out of me. Combined with Debbie getting laid off on April 15th and not finding another job until November 30th, this is also the least money we've made in the 21 years we've been married and the first time we have both been unemployed at the same time. To make matters worse, nearly every company we've tried to get a job from has been taking full advantage of the current high unemployment to act the part of total douche bag. It's one thing to be unemployed, but to be repeatedly treated like something smelly that someone tracked in on their shoes just sucks. Karma, baby; karma.

"Liberalism is a philosophy of consolation for the West as it commits suicide." James Burnham

We have a president and congress that seem determined to prove James Burnham a prophet. Obama is the worst possible combination of arrogance and n00bishness and thus far a failure by any measure. Unfortunately, we are stuck with him for three more years and he will likely get credit for whatever recovery we have during that time no matter how weak or short-lived that recovery proves to be. The Democratic "leadership" in Congress is earning the "ravening wolves" appellation first given to it by Carter, while completing the transition from republic to spoils system.

Meanwhile we continue to pour blood and treasure into the sands of Middle East for no known benefit while starving every feasible alternative energy source in the name of fiscal responsibility. Think how many "trouble spots" where we maintain a "military presence" that we could tell to go piss up a rope if we exported energy instead of importing it? How much more stable would our economy be? As a nation we used to know that abundant energy + freedom = prosperity, but now all the intelligentsia seem to desire is to destroy the middle class in the name of saving polar bears and penguins, while steadfastly refusing to make any changes in their lifestyle that would indicate they actually believe any of the bullshit they shovel. And God help anyone who dare oppose them or even point out their growing hypocrisy.

So that's 2009. What's ahead for 2010?

Climatgate seems to have bolstered the natural immune system called "the scientific method" and at a minimum has called into question the wisdom of beggaring the only economy capable of producing a solution, assuming there even is a problem. And yes, there are huge geopolitical, ecological and economic reasons for moving past a fossil-fuel-powered society; anthropogenic global warming just doesn't happen to be one of them. Maybe 2010 will see actual progress in understanding how the climate works for real (which would be enormously beneficial) instead of the make believe world of climate models that can only turn out politically correct results. The other possibility is that the politicians posing as scientists choose to go down swinging. The collateral damage from that would be severe and wide-spread.

As I mentioned previously, we're stuck with The Obama for 2010, but given the venom aimed at him from the wacky left part of the political spectrum, he seems to be figuring out what every president figures out; it is impossible for a president to do anything outside of a very narrow centrist track. Not that enormous damage isn't being done to the republic, but as hard as it may be to believe, it could be worse. Unfortunately, that "very narrow centrist track" is still on the road to hell; it's just the slow lane instead of the express lane Obama seemed determined to put us in at the beginning of 2009. No political system in human history has endured and we hardly seem destined to play the lead role in The End of History. It is possible for a political system to collapse in a benign way, just not probable. We seem doomed to live in interesting times.

I do expect things to pick up economically in 2010, both nationally and personally. Certainly not in a sustainable fashion; the overall trend for the middle class for several decades has been downward and that will continue, meaning bad years will outnumber good ones. I just expect next year to be one of the good ones for us and for the nation. Debbie is in a solid position with benefits and I have a number of options I can work at starting next week and continuing through January that should help build the emergency fund back up to where it needs to be.

We will probably stay here in New Hampshire for all of 2010 unless something really big breaks down in Florida or Texas before that. As much as we hate it, we can survive a couple winters and it will give us time to explore a part of the country we have never been in before and visit family we don't get to see very often. We will ultimately wind up someplace south of the snow line again, but we're content if not happy with where we are right now.

Computers and the internet will continue to become more ubiquitous than they already are. We now have Pournelle's pocket computers which have several orders of magnitude more capability than the original IBM PC and will only continue to improve as Moore's Law marches on. On December 31, 2019, we will tell funny stories about those ridiculously bulky underpowered iPhones and Droids that everyone thought were so bleeding edge back in 2009. Mobile high-speed internet will continue to change how we do everything and we will adapt while completely failing to realize just how profound the shift is. Think back to the PC you had (if you had one) on December 31, 1999, how you connected to the internet (if you connected to the internet), and what you did once you were there.

I expect us to lose at least one of the Mars rovers in 2010. Spirit seems well and truly stuck and it may not survive the Martian winter. And while Spirit has grabbed all the headlines, Opportunity is hardly without problems of its own. Both are way past warranty and can go at any time. 2010 may be the year that data from the surface of Mars ends.

2010 will also see the end of human access to space in the United States. NASA insists it is just a temporary halt as they continue to design the shuttle replacement. Maybe it will be. Maybe not. I'd put the odds at 50/50 at this point and that's probably being optimistic. The bright spot is that private companies seem determined to pursue an operations-driven approach to humans in space similar to the airline industry. And China seems determined to make humans in space a point of national identity. There is no law that says that English will be spoken at the first permanent moon base. Forty years ago that seemed to be a given.

And just to wrap this up before the ball drops, we have this via Craig:

Happy New Year!!

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