“In the republic of mediocrity, genius is dangerous.” –Robert Green Ingersoll
Recently I watched the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?” Though no ONE entity was singled out as the murderer, it was evident that the car companies, in collusion with the gas and oil industry were mostly to blame. GM designed and produced viable electric cars that were found to be extremely satisfactory to those few people who were lucky enough to be allowed to lease and drive them. They were called EV 1. If you haven’t seen this documentary, I recommend it. In a period of about five years, GM went from making a viable electric car for which demand was building to collecting them all and sending them to the scrap yards.
The Chevrolet EV 1
After watching this movie, my husband and I recalled two other movies, both of which were fiction, but told similar stories. Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988) and Flash of Genius (2008) were two films about inventors that were crushed by the automobile industry, sometimes with the help of government. In Tucker, a man reinvented the automobile with visionary safety features and a stylish design. Before he could even get the car on the market, the SEC shut him down, for all intents and purposes. Tucker was brought to trial and eventually found Not Guilty of charges of fraud and misuse of funds. In Flash, a man invents a motor that will allow windshield wipers to run intermittently and the invention is stolen by Ford Motor Company. After years of fighting Ford in court, the inventor, Bob Kearns, was finally vindicated and received a settlement. Both of these films were based on actual events.
Thinking about both of these stories also brought to mind the arrest of John DeLorean in 1982. DeLorean, in case you don’t know or recall, was an automobile engineer responsible for developing the Pontiac GTO and the Pontiac Firebird. He left GM to start his own car company in 1973. The DeLorean Motor Company produced a single vehicle, the DMC 12, before the company went bankrupt. Though DeLorean was struggling, the bankruptcy became fait accompli when the Federal Government entrapped John DeLorean in a drug sting in 1982. Though it took years, DeLorean cleared his name in the end.
All of this made me wonder if any new company can be successful in this sort of climate. Growing up I was taught that if you worked hard and applied yourself, our society would reward your ingenuity. It appears as though our corporations have gotten so powerful that they use governmental agencies to squash ingenuity and steal it. The case I make here is based on the automotive industry, but I wonder if there are other stories like this from other industries.
And I wonder if America is doomed to a future of institutionalized mediocrity enforced by governmental agencies to maintain the status quo for powerful corporate interests.
I also see mediocrity rewarded daily in businesses in this country. I have spoken with co-workers at length and everyone has a story of their own and many of their relatives have also spoken of how mediocrity is rewarded and ingenuity is crushed. I wonder how many of you here have your own stories? Perhaps we as Americans should start to compile these stories in order to get a better grip on the magnitude of the problem.
It is the second-lightest element in the Universe, has the lowest boiling-point of any gas and is commonly used through the world to inflate party balloons. MRI scanners are cooled by the gas in liquid form, and anti-terrorist authorities rely on helium for their radiation monitors, liquid helium is critical for cooling infrared detectors, nuclear reactors and the machinery of wind tunnels. The space industry uses it in sensitive satellite equipment and spacecraft, and NASA uses helium in huge quantities to purge the potentially explosive fuel from its rockets.
Helium is also a non-renewable resource and the world’s reserves of the precious gas are about to run out, a shortage that is likely to have far-reaching repercussions. There is no way of manufacturing it artificially.
Congress passed a law in 1996 stipulating that the US National Helium Reserve, which is kept in a disused underground gas field near Amarillo, Texas – by far the biggest store of helium in the world – must all be sold off by 2015.
Read more here.
Ain’t technology grand! We have so many new tools at our disposal that it’s a wonder that we were able to survive in years past without all the electronics and computers and all the various software programs that save us from ourselves.
There was a time that I knew how to type – on a manual typewriter nonetheless – and was a reasonably competent speller and I didn’t need a bunch of help with my grammar.
Today, I take photographs with an instrument that is far more advanced than any camera I have ever used and is far more advanced than even the computers I used in years past.
I used to be a fairly decent photographer with my Minolta X-700 and an array of lenses and I could develop and print my work in the darkroom.
Today, I use a recently purchased Canon EOS 7D that can auto-adjust, auto-focus, auto-expose, film video with audio and do flips and tricks that took me years to learn with my previous cameras. I can print professional quality photos with my Photoshop software and my eight color Canon Pixma Pro 9000 Mark II printer right here in my little office. I have a “smart” light meter, a “smart” strobe lighting system and a “smart” remote. I can even send photos from my “smart” camera to my “smart” phone.
All of my toys are smarter than me.
So, exactly when did I forget how to spell?
I am so old that I actually have a real dictionary lying around here somewhere – probably packed away in one of the boxes of old stuff that I don’t need but won’t throw away.
These days, I just type away, waiting for the red underline to appear and tell me that I misspelled a word. Then, right click and the popup gives me the correct spelling, provided that I didn’t screw up so badly that even the computer has no idea what I meant.
Ain’t technology grand?
Or is it?
William Stephenson Clark
Did you know this well-known, reliable blue drop box is becoming an endangered species? Across the country, stalwart blue “collection boxes” are disappearing. In the past 20 years, 200,000 mailboxes have vanished from city streets, rural routes and suburban neighborhoods — more than the 175,000 that remain, according to an article in The Washington Post.
The U.S. Postal Service says it removes “underperforming” mailboxes — those that collect fewer than 25 pieces of mail a day — after a week-long “density test.” Snail mail is a dying enterprise because Americans increasingly pay bills online, send Evites for parties and text or give a quick call on a cellphone rather than write a letter.
The situation is so dire that the Postal Service, which is projecting a $6 billion shortfall by the end of September despite a recent postage rate increase, will go to Congress this month to seek emergency relief, looking to cut home mail delivery from six days a week to five.
“We’re like air,” said Postal Service spokeswoman Deborah Yackley. “People just take it for granted that we’re always going to be there. Well, if you want to keep your collection box, would you mail a letter, please!”
Do you write letters to anyone? Do you still write out checks to pay your bills and post them? Do you think we’ll see an end to snail mail?