Monday, December 21, 2009

The Decline of Religion in the US

According to Pew Research the fastest growing religious affiliation in the US is "no religion". The percentage of unaffiliated Americans has risen from 7 percent to 16 percent in just one year. What's behind this shift?

Religion is a product. If you want to expand your market share, you have to deliver what your customers want. What do religious customers want? Answers. Answers that will actually help them in their daily lives. The old stand-by's still work: Treat others as you would have them treat you. Honesty is the best policy. However, you don't need religion to abide by those. Believing that a whale can swallow a man whole, or that spinning a wheel several times a day will bring you good fortune, hasn't produced a lot of measurable results.

The question then becomes, Do you really have to buy into a pre-packaged dogma to be a good person and live a fruitful life? More and more people are answering; No.

Some of the old traditions from major religions actually did make good sense and may have saved lives. Things like not eating pork, occasional fasting and those types of acts of faith have actually been proven to have health benefits. But now we have logical explanations for those benefits. Improperly cooked pork and eating too much don't kill you because they displease God, they're just not healthy.

If religion is going to make a comeback, they have to come up with a better pitch than the promise of heaven if you say enough Hail Mary's or Lord's prayers, or the threat of hell if you don't put enough dough in the collection basket. Religion is in dire need of some creative innovators. They need new ideas that produce real benefits for 21st century members. I'd give some examples, but I'm not going to do your homework for you. Try praying on it.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Diversity: What does it really mean?

I just caught a snippet of a commercial espousing the virtues of diversity and it occurred to me just how bass ackwards the whole concept has become.

Suppose you have three people in an office. One likes hard rock, one likes hip hop and one likes country music. Each hates the other two types of music. That's diversity. They may agree to tolerate the other types so that they may have their turn to select their music, but a general mish-mash of the three would satisfy nobody.

Everyone pretending to like everything is not diversity. It's conformity. Conformity breeds mediocrity. The pursuit of one's passion breeds excellence. You can't excel at anything if you adopt the mindset that everything is just as interesting as everything else.

Diversity in a society is a healthy thing. Allowing others to indulge their likes so long as they allow you to indulge yours is tolerance. A willingness to try new things is good. Being compelled to accept everything as equal in value is not.

Maintaining diversity doesn't require convincing everyone that everything is great. It just requires that everyone accept that you don't have to rid the world of something just because you don't like it. For example, if I live to be 5,000 years old, I will never understand why some people will pay $2,500 or even 25 cents to go see Barbara Striessand in concert. However, I don't feel compelled to put a stop to it, unless I were forced to attend such a concert in the name of some convoluted diversity training.

Diversity also means that you don't define someone by a single aspect of their character. I may get along great with a big country music fan in other areas that we agree on. Once I know a whole lot more about somebody, I can assess the pros and cons and determine the extent to which I can tolerate or enjoy their company.

Of course, diversity is often used in terms of race and sexual orientation. Disliking someone because of their ethnic make-up is stupid. Pretending to like someone because of their ethnic make-up is equally stupid. Hating someone, or denying them equal rights because they're gay is dumb. Expecting me to march in a parade in celebration of their gayness is just as dumb.

If you want to celebrate diversity, be yourself. Let others be themselves. If someone else being themselves is really getting under your skin, leave. If it's your house, ask them to leave. If you're in a situation where neither of you can leave and you can't come to some mutually acceptable accommodation, well, that's when diversity gets entertaining for the rest of us.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Are women getting a raw deal in the U.S.?

The discussion on the O'Rielly Factor, in the culture warriors segment, started out as whether or not conservative women were under attack in the media. Both women expanded on the idea and made the case that women in the U.S. of every political brand, face a tougher time than men in the way they are scrutinized and judged in general. I agree, but I think a good deal of it is self-imposed.

Before I get too far, please don't shoot the messenger. This is not how I believe things should be. It's how they are. When people attack or praise an individual, they do so in a manner that's optimized for that individual. In other words, they try to push your buttons. How do you get under a woman's skin? Criticize her clothes, her hair, her physical features. Professional women wear a wide variety of clothing in a rainbow of different colors from day to day and from person to person. Professional men generally wear the same uniform; slacks, shirt, jacket and tie. The big expression of individuality among men is the tie, and that's usually red, blue or yellow. There just isn't much to criticize.

Of course, I'm generalizing. But generally speaking men don't care much about their hair either. You're not going to traumatize the average guy by criticizing his doo in front of the whole office. Remarks about guys' weight and/or physical appearance don't carry nearly the impact that the same remarks about a woman would make.

Men don't face this type of criticism because it's simply not that effective against them. They face different types of attacks. If you want to denigrate a man, you call him a wimp, say he's not good with money, or with women. More generally, you imply that he is not in control of his own destiny or area of responsibility.

If women don't want to be subjected to superficial judgments, it's up to women to place less emphasis on it. "Society" doesn't tell women how to dress or what to look like. For the most part, other women and gay men do. If you don't want to take their direction, just stop. As long as you seek the approval of the fashion Nazi's, you are at their mercy. Superficial attacks can't hurt you without your full cooperation.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

From health care to slavery

One thing I've found very discouraging amid the uprising of some of the citizenry against government bailouts and takeovers is that many still don't seem to grasp the core issue. As they protest one bunch of programs, they express a different wish-list of other things the government should do in terms of directing the behavior of individuals and markets. We're on our way to hell in a handbasket and most people are concerned about the brand of the handbasket.

Consider this; if you make well above average earnings, you're already working about half the time for government when you add up all the various taxes and fees. If you make average wages or lower, you're not a threat to the game plan. Most of your earnings are going to subsistence. You don't have the time or the resources to do much more than maintain, maybe a bit of recreation, but nothing that would constitute game-changing activity.

Many of the very wealthy are working with our top government officials to create their own little Utopia. As they're "feeling your pain", being very compassionate, "fighting for the little guy", they're traveling the world with their entourages attending various conferences, forums, summits, think-tanks, staying at the finest of hotels, enjoying the finest of foods, wanting for nothing and taking several "well-deserved" vacations every year.

It didn't come about with the Obama administration. It's been in development for decades. First one divides people into interest groups, highlights everything negative, convinces folks that nobody "deserves" any misfortune or misery in their lives and that it's up to the government to eliminate it. At the same time, demanding relief for yourself is very selfish. Your concern should always be for "others" (everyone except you). So while your personal quality of life may be on the decline, it would be horrible of you to bring that up when so many others will obviously be helped by all the lofty new public assistance programs, safety regulations and planet-saving policies.

All this has come about in a democracy. The people have successfully been sold on the idea that security and mere survival are more important than individual freedom. We voted for this. We are creating a far better world...for the less than one percent of the people who happen to be in charge. The rest of us are increasingly becoming worker ants; expendable labor providers. Government's takeover of health care is the final nail in freedom's coffin. We have tasked the government with taking care of us. If you have kids, you know that with dependence comes submission. "As long as your under my roof....". We're about to get everything we demanded. All it will cost us is our selves. Congratulations.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Presidential down-time

It hadn't occurred to me before, but when I heard Bill O'Rielly once again defending this President and Presidents past for taking recreational time, it really hit home that these guys really don't work that hard.

I had been in agreement, not having given it much thought. After all, he's the President of the United States. That's a very demanding job right? Then I thought about when the last time was that I had 3 free hours to go golfing, take in a show, play some hoops. I took the family on a weekend trip to visit my son in Kansas recently. That was our first family "vacation" in 20+ years. There's no time during the week and rarely a weekend that I don't put in a few hours at the shop. But that only takes away from time I need to spend working around the house and getting other things done.

The top dogs in Washington D.C. seem to have a tremendous amount of down time. When they are working, they aren't exactly shoveling coal. It's mostly speaking, strategizing about how best to manipulate the rest of us and delegating any real work to their extensive staff.

They don't have to sweat things like mortgage payments or grocery bills and all this "down-time" is in addition to the many vacations they take every year. When they retire, which can be as little as 8 years into their career, it gets even better!

All in all, I'd say it's a pretty sweet gig.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Incredible Shrinking Universe?

I'm going to get all sciencey again for a few minutes. I just watched an episode of the Universe series on Discovery channel. It never ceases to amaze me how so many geniuses can often miss the coolest implications of their own conclusions.

Okay, here's the Cliff Notes version: Galaxies come together in clusters, over time the clusters cluster into super-clusters. Eventually, they merge into one big super-galaxy, but the various super-galaxies continue to move away from each other so that, in umpteen bajillion years or so, if you were in our supergalaxy and had no record of the past, as far as you could tell our supergalaxy would be the entire universe. You would not be able to detect the others. They would be too far away.

While they commented on the possibility that future sentients might not be aware of the real size and scope of the universe, they seemed to miss the distinct possibility, or extreme probability, that neither do we. Especially given the recent discovery that our universe seems to be getting pulled toward something ultra massive beyond the cosmic horizon.

Why would one assume that we are at the beginning of such a cycle? It seems more logical that what we know as the universe was once part of something much larger and that when our neighborhood becomes this "supergalaxy" it too will separate into clusters which will go their own ways.

No need for panic though. For one thing the time spans involved are unimaginably long and for another, there really is no limit to how small a universe can get. Everything is relative.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Big Bang Blown to Bits?

A study released in 2008 revealed what appears to be a movement of galaxy clusters toward a point beyond the visible universe. The phenomenon has been dubbed Dark Flow.

Side note: whenever cosmologists come across data that doesn't jive with currently held theory, they simply put the word "dark" in front of it and attribute to it whatever mysterious properties they need to, to make the math work. Hence we have "dark matter", "dark energy" and now "dark flow". These mysterious entities save the scientific community from having to reevaluate their basic premises.

The Dark Flow seems to be converging on some kind of object or force that is over 46 billion light years away. This seems to present a problem for the Big Bang theory of the beginning of everything. If the universe is only 14 billion years old, and nothing in it can surpass the speed of light, how can there be a massive object 46 billion light years away?

Another problem: none of our physics takes into account any input from gigantic objects outside the known universe. If it's acting on one group of galaxy clusters, it's affecting everything in what Douglas Adams called "the general mish mash". And if there's one, there's a good chance there's a lot more. What other forces, objects, energy could be entering and affecting our system that we've been totally unaware of?

Scientists should be excited about this find. When a good scientist sees everything they thought was true thrown into disarray, they see a chance to dispense with a falsehood and acquire truth; a great trade! Yet, I haven't seen any blockbuster headlines about this, just a short story in Popular Science and a few posts on the web.

Hopefully, this will finally break down some mental blocks within the cosmology and physics worlds. The purpose of science is not to defend currently accepted formulas and theories through the use of mental gymnastics. It's to learn the truth. How about setting aside the 11 dimension approach, just for a while, and taking a close, objective look at what's actually going on. Even Einstein said, "If you can't explain it to a 12 year old, you're probably wrong." or words to that effect.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ted Kennedy's death; the week the world stood still

For the past 72 hours and for who knows how much longer, the news media has focused almost exclusively on the death of Senator Ted Kennedy. Even when they bring up another subject, it's only to somehow connect the topic to the Senator's passing. How will it effect the health care debate, the auto industry, the price of rice in China?

I didn't know Ted Kennedy. I'll take the word of those who did that he was a fantastic human being. I didn't like his politics and I've never been into celebrity worship, so all this attention seems very odd to me. Even FOX News, not exactly a liberal media outlet, has been on 24 hour Kennedy watch.

The discussion about his replacement in the Senate is not fostering questions like "Who could best deal with Massachusetts' failed medical insurance program?" or "Who can fix the budget mess?" or more generally "Who is best qualified to find solutions in a crisis situation?". Rather, the speculation is more about which Kennedy would be willing to take the job. Who can perpetuate the air of majesty that surrounds the Kennedy phenomenon? If that's what Massachusetts wants, so be it. It just seems very bizarre.

I caught a few minutes of the memorial service on two separate occasions. Both times, the speaker was an aide or friend, not a professional performer, yet they told tales of breaking into song whenever they got together with the Senator. This seemed perfectly normal to them, in fact, they demonstrated by belting out one of their favorite tunes. Personally, I was reminded of Larry Hagman's interview on a night time talk TV show, where he related that he and whoever happened to be hanging out at the mansion at any given time, would often hold impromptu parades on the beach for no reason. It's not bad behavior, but it seems indicative of someone who lives in a world very detached from that of most of us. It seems a bit creepy to me and would not prompt me to want either individual in charge of anything that might in any way have a significant impact on my life.

The fact that the major media outlets are assigning far more importance to the passing of a 77 year old man who was in poor health, than I assign to it myself just points out how very different I perceive the world around me as compared to those who think they are providing me with useful information. If I'm the only one that feels this way, the major media outlets have nothing to worry about. However, if a lot of other people see the situation as a bunch of aristocrats emoting for the cameras, opportunity is knocking for their replacements.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Are we negotiating with terrorists?

The Obama administration has decided to re-investigate the "enhanced interrogation" techniques used by the CIA in obtaining information from terrorists like those involved in the planning of the 9/11 attacks. The question is, why?

I don't think many Americans are outraged that the masterminds of the September attacks may have been sleep deprived, water-boarded, or even had their lives or their families lives threatened in a bluff to obtain information about more attacks. Obviously the administration is not responding to some big public outcry. So what's going on?

Is it possible that the administration has some kind of line of communication to the terrorist hierarchy? Is this part of some deal to avoid future attacks? Is the administration relying on the good word or Al Qaida for our security? Naaaa, there must be some rational explanation for their behavior. I hope it comes to light soon.

Monday, August 24, 2009

There's no such thing as nothing

Space, time and matter continue to amaze scientific minds. Space and time in particular. Where did space come from? Where did time come from? What existed before time began?

The mystic nature of these questions is based in a flawed perspective. The answer could be stated "It just doesn't matter" because without matter, the other two don't exist. To make this case I have to include in the term "matter" as used here, all types of particles, energy and radiation; anything that is not space or time.

Conceptually speaking, you can't have no apples until you have at least the concept of an apple. Concepts are things. You can't have no thing before you have a thing.

Time is a description of the relative motion of things. Even a single thing requires energy, which means something, no matter how small, is in motion relative to something else. No things = No time. The only place no thing can exist is in no time. We don't live there. Never have, never will.

Space is a description of a volume. To have volume it must envelope something. Otherwise, it's not space, it's just a point. Even a point needs some context. No thing = No space.

Space/Time is not some mysterious rubber sheet-like entity. It's just the relative motion of objects in a given area.

Space and time are characteristics of matter. Separating them from the physical is like pondering the meaning of inside and outside with no container as a reference. They are positions relative to nothing. Totally meaningless.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Could the information explosion erode the power of spin and celebrity?

Some have said that journalism is dead or dying because it has become saturated with the opinions of the broadcasters. While that's not a value added situation at present, it could very well evolve into one as the number of broadcasters explodes.

Take the case of Susan Boyle. She was an unknown, solitary woman living a very modest lifestyle. Then she sang in front of a worldwide audience and instantly became a star. She was not groomed, she didn't choose the right stage name, she didn't "pay her dues". In other words, the content providers didn't create her, they found her. How many more Susan Boyles are out there?

What if you didn't have to be a billionaire, or even wealthy to create and broadcast commercial quality information? What if sites like YouTube, MySpace, Blogger, Facebook and other free venues, allowed talent and wisdom to bypass the gatekeepers? As more individuals command the attention of more people, politicians and hollywood stars would garner less of it. They'd have to make every appearance count.

In such an environment, an aspiring politician couldn't afford to be vague and leave him or herself lots of "outs". If spin doctors couldn't count on speaking to millions of people, every day, they'd have to be more concise and more precise. There would be more than a handful of reports on any particular issue, there would be countless volumes of information from countless sources, and people wouldn't be married to any one of them.

Holding people's attention would require more than a contract renewal with the network. One would have to be consistently good to maintain a career.

For content providers this could mean a lot more short term or piece-meal contracts with producers. When you have an enormous number of suppliers to choose from, tying up your broadcast time and resources on exclusive committments makes sense in only rare cases. There will be premium content providers that can command lucrative broadcast contracts, even among the freebies, but they'd have to do better than "Big Brother 12" or "Rock of Love".

This is not necessarily bad for producers either. You wouldn't be contractually obligated to be productive at any particular time, or for any particular duration, beyond one project at a time. Currently, artists are pressed to produce x number of albums over a time span. What if that doesn't happen to sync up with their artistic metabolism? We get "contract filler" instead of their best work.

We are a short time away from going from 150 cable channels to thousands of internet channels of the same or higher broadcast quality. We are just as close to being able to carry all that content around in our pockets. It may not be a year, or even five years, but likely within 10 years. There is a tremendous amount of talent in the world that has never caught the attention of the tiny number of gatekeepers between the individuals and the rest of the world. Not only will the gates be thrown open, the whole wall will come down. It may sound like "Tower of Babel" in the short run, but it's a good thing in the long run.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The End of Days

You've probably heard scientists speculate that the most crucial point in the development of an intelligent society, universally speaking, is just after they learn to split the atom. They gather that a great many of them learn to release great amounts of energy before they learn how to properly control it and hedge against disaster. This would lead to the extinction of such societies.

I think there's another crucial point, that has nothing to do with atom splitting, that occurs before then. One that we've already crossed. The more communal a society becomes, the less "survival of the fittest" goes on. After all, we'd be pretty cold-hearted beasts if we allowed people to suffer and/or die, if we could prevent it. But it goes beyond just keeping people alive. We lower the bar in education, to make it more fair. We insist on equal opportunity for all, regardless of ability. We attempt to "level the playing field" economically by taking from the rich and giving to the poor. We elect people to high office based on how nice they are and what logo they sport, rather than any kind of competence for the job they seek. Fierce competition is frowned upon because it makes the losers feel bad. Striving for excellence has been replaced with striving for order and mere survival.

There are already signs that this has lead to the dumbing down of the population as a whole. We accept as fact, just about anything the media's favorite go-to experts put in front of us. We have the ability to transfer thousands of generations of knowledge to and fro at a moments notice, but we're too busy watching cat videos to be bothered. We actually believe that spending more than twice what the government takes in and borrowing 8 times revenue, will lead to a robust economy. It must be true. The experts told us so. We take steps to make our most common energy source more expensive because it's leading to catastrophic global warming, as the average global temperature drops. We stuff ourselves with carbs because the food pyramid says to, while we scratch our heads at the "obesity epidemic" and the increased rates of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. We see images, provided by Hubble, of what look to be galactic offspring of larger, older galaxies, but the differing "red shift" tells us that they must be billions of light-years apart. Who you gonna believe? The theory or your own lying eyes?

As we continue to accommodate the lowest common denominator, the species will get increasingly stupid. This may well result in our own self-destruction due to nuclear annihilation, but it wont be because we knew too much.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

We Don't Need Another Hero

Thoughts on the Tea Party movement

For years, a certain constituency of Americans has been vastly under-served and under-represented. While they may disagree on a number of issues, the members of this constituency agree on a few fundamental things. One is that massive government debt will be a severe burden on future generations and that it is immoral to attempt to improve our short-term circumstances by knowingly jeopardizing our children and grandchildren. Another, related idea is that it is not the role of government to shield us from the consequences of misfortune or poor judgment, but to uphold our rights as we sort it out ourselves. It's a constituency that believes government's role in the life of the individual should be limited, as should it's budget. Issues thus far not involved in this coalition include abortion, gay rights, global warming and other hotly contested subjects that are left for another venue and another group.

This constituency has been left asking "Who will champion our cause? Where's the next Ronald Reagan? Who will defend our position?" Well, on April 15th 2009, they stopped asking and started defending themselves.

The problem with putting your fate in the hands of a political party is that they are really not sets of ideas, they are infrastructures for accomplishing a task; winning elections. As a party, they don't promote a limited scope of ideas or single issues, they adopt a number of issues and positions based partly on commonly held beliefs and partly on political expediency.

The Republican Party has spoken up for limited government and fiscal discipline, but has not lived up to the hype. Also, people who believe in capitalism, limited government and fiscal restraint, but don't tow the party line on other issues are ostracized. The same dynamic takes place in the Democrat party. You have to buy the whole package.

Whether you're liberal or conservative; capitalist, socialist or communist, you have to admire a group that refused to give up when a leader failed to emerge. The followers have become the leaders. This is in clear evidence as conservative politicians and pundits are now falling all over themselves trying to connect themselves to this movement.

I would caution members of this coalition not to allow it to get hijacked by a political party or to try to expand it to cover more issues. This is a unique movement of individuals promoting a specific set of ideas upon which they agree. At stake is whether future generations will work for the state or the state will work for them. Other issues can wait for another day, another rally, a different coalition, a different movement. No one who believes in ensuring the freedom of our descendants need be excluded because they also believe in something else. If we protect and respect each others individuality, we can work everything else out in time.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Obama's new Afghanistan strategy

President Obama today announced his new strategy for dealing with Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Al Quaida.

As someone who has not been a big fan of the administration to date, I must say I didn't hear anything, policy-wise, that I didn't like.

The President is continuing to increase troop levels, with an emphasis on training. The goal is to build up and train the Afghan army and police until they are ready to handle their own security. There will also be funds provided by the U.S. for things like schools and infrastructure for Afghanistan. I do believe in the strategy of "give them something to lose." when it's done correctly. Mr. Obama also stated that the U.S, Afghanistan and Pakistan will engage in continuing talks and strategy sessions regarding security as well as economics and long term stability. He emphasized the need for civilian efforts as well, saying we need an "army" of agriculture specialists and engineers to not only erradicate the poppy production that fuels terrorist funding, but to find viable, alternative cash crops. This is something I have suggested in my own blogs in the past.

He seemed to have a real grasp on the danger posed by instability in the region and of the clear and present danger posed by Al Quaida and its allies. That was refreshing to hear.

The one thing that was a bit annoying about the presentation was the multiple referrals to Afghanistan being "denied the resources necessary due to the war in Iraq." Mr. Obama has won the election. He's the President. It's okay to acknowledge that we actually accomplished something good in Iraq and it wasn't a complete waste. Oh well, that's just politics. History wont pay much heed to snide remarks in the long run, just results.

I do like the strategy that was laid out today. Let's hope the execution is as good as the plan.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

SNL News - No Joke, Feb 7, 2009

There was a lot going on in D.C. this week. The debate raged over the stimulus package and some key Obama nominations went down in flames. You'd expect the writers on Saturday Night Live would have some great material for the SNL News segment at the President's expense.

Here's what they came up with: Seth Myers reports that two Obama nominees had to withdraw because of tax problems and President Obama says "I screwed up." The punch line from Myers? "That was your screw up? This guy broke the world" (picture of George W. Bush).

They couldn't bring themselves to lampoon our Glorious Leader. Instead, they tried to make him feel better. These are strange days indeed. Particularly at NBC, where an entire network has become a cheerleader for a political agenda. We're used to comedians and news outlets being cynical of, suspicious of and sometimes even hostile toward our politicians. I've never seen anything like the partnership that seems to have been reached between NBC and this White House.

It's sad to see the poison has spread to otherwise talented comedians. If praising the powers that be in the highest of terms were funny, I'd say go for it. It's not. It's pathetic.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Is Yellowstone about to blow its top?

Photo by Austin Post, courtesy of USGS

Scientists are puzzled by the recent spurt of seismic activity in Yellowstone. Swarms of tremors in the park are not that unusual, but the number and proximity of this event definitely is.

James Pethokoukis did a Splunk search and discovered that during the entire decade of the 80's there were 128 Yellowstone area tremors measuring 2.5 or greater on the Richter scale. There have been 30 in the past four days centered under and around Yellowstone Lake alone, some measuring as high as 3.8. The number of 2.5 or higher tremors in the Yellowstone Lake area for the entire decade of the 80's was 4. I did post a comment on the article asking the author why he did not include data from the 90's. I haven't got an answer to that one yet.

The AP reports: "Several hundred quakes centered under the northern end of Yellowstone Lake have now occurred since Dec. 26. No damage has been reported. Earthquake swarms happen fairly often in Yellowstone. But scientists say it's unusual for so many earthquakes to happen over several days. Yellowstone lies mostly in northwestern Wyoming and is the caldera of a volcano that last erupted 70,000 years ago. Scientists have not concluded what is causing the earthquakes."

From "Scientists wonder if the shaking might presage a larger event. This month's swarm is the most intense in this area for some years, scientists said. It is centered on the east side of the Yellowstone caldera, a giant basin created in a colossal eruption some 620,000 years ago. Researchers have long predicted that the Yellowstone supervolcano will eventually erupt again, with devastating consequences for much of the United States. Half the country could be covered in ash up to 3 feet (1 meter) deep, one study predicts. But those same researchers say nothing suggests such an eruption is imminent. They point out, however, that Yellowstone seems to blow its top about every 600,000 years."

The Yellowstone Volcano Observatory is a bit more conservative: "The December 2008 earthquake sequence is the most intense in this area for some years. No damage has been reported within Yellowstone National Park, nor would any be expected from earthquakes of this size. The swarm is in a region of historical earthquake activity and is close to areas of Yellowstone famous hydrothermal activity. Similar earthquake swarms have occurred in the past in Yellowstone without triggering steam explosions or volcanic activity. Nevertheless, there is some potential for hydrothermal explosions and earthquakes may continue or increase in magnitude. There is a much lower potential for related volcanic activity."

This story may not have stirred my interest so much had it not been for the 2005 BBC/Discovery Channel docudrama, "Supervolcano Caldera". Being in Colorado, I'm not close enough for a super-eruption to kill me instantly, but not far enough away to avoid eventually freezing to death, starving to death or at best, living the rest of my life in desperate squalor. Still, it might be better than living through the constant drip, drip, drip of ever increasing socialism.

This will likely turn out to be just a seismic oddity that will be of great interest to scientists in years to come. Still, for the rest of us, it's worth keeping an eye on for now.