Monday, December 22, 2008


For those of you who haven't read Steven Strogatz's book Sync, I highly recommend it. I come at you guys with a lot of books and some of you read some of them, I thank you for that. On this recommendation though there is also a TED talks presentation by the author that you all simply must see. I will refrain from inserting a hyperlink but you can link from here to the TED site through my recommendations on the right.
I have been attempting to explain to myself why I am leaning more and more towards Socialism lately, and I suppose it is informative, though you are all free to disagree. People are very self interested, and self promoting these days. I'm not finding fault, just observing. Take my word for it, it is almost impossible to put the well being of "others" ahead of your own. If you neglect your own interests for too long you find it difficult to meet your responsibilities. If you take too little from the commons, especially if you go so far as to work on their behalf without hope of remuneration/compensation, you are feeding energy into a vacuum. There will always be those, scarred by circumstances, through no fault of their own, who take and take and take and spend a percentage of the profit ensuring they will always be able to do so. You could say the same thing about government bureaucracy, the bigger we make it, in hope of protection from the takers, the more powerfully it will protect it's "right to grow". Balance anyone? Compromise? No thanks, I'll just shift further away from center to compensate for those crazies (on the left/right, no matter). Well, I've always had this sense that my lot in life closely paralleled that of my country's role in the world. I almost feel like I should be paid to represent the "national average" in a survey. I could write more about that and convincingly elaborate but it would just bore you. No one person is an effective barometer in a country as complicatedly heterogeneous as this one. Merry Christmas and season's greetings everyone, lay off the worrying for a few days and just enjoy the chance to hang out with your loved ones.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Well if he were perfect he wouldn't be human.

You know guys, Monsanto gets a bad rap. I won't go into why I believe they are often misrepresented, or why the perverse American love for grassy lawns is far worse than our research of genetically modified crops, but it will suffice for me to say I will never buy a Monsanto T-shirt, but if one were given to me I would wear it under a sweater and not feel bad about it.
How are we to respond to the new picks for Interior and Agriculture? We applaud in the spirit of the old axiom, "keep your friends close but keep your enemies even closer". If we are expecting him to repeal the legislation forced through under bush (this is the only way to spell the contempt I feel) we need to support his political appointments that fall under the heading "olive branches". I say the man has done more to impress me with these two appointments than any other two taken together. Now if you believe all that, and it was spoken with some modicum of sincerity but then I reread it, I've got a few beach front properties in Bangladesh to sell you. And if you're not sad enough yet how about this?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Food for thought and American Gluttons (for Punishment or Nourishment?)

"Put another way, when we eat from the industrial-food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases." --- M. Pollan

Kudos Mr. Pollan both for your outstanding rhetoric and for your citizenship. When my mother decries the medical establishment's treatment of diabetics (she's a PRN with a diabetic son), I often retort sarcastically "The cure for diabetes is to grow and harvest your own food then eat it". I feel for her and for those with a genetic predisposition, but sometimes harsh words are necessary to draw attention to difficult situations. The question for the president is a complex one. Do we treat the causes of the health care crisis by addressing behaviour and mandating change? Do we continue to punish the poor and lower middle class with food that is causing their health to deteriorate? Do we continue to favour large farms over family farms with corrupt and outdated legislation sponsored by lobbyists and lawyers (I hate them by the way) who wouldn't know a turnip from a beet? Where do we begin to put our legislative foot down without stepping in cow/pig shit? Methane production on industrial farms is being treated as a marketable commodity. How is that an incentive for sustainable land use? Ethanol and corn syrup each have their own lobby along with advertising budgets, and yet, we already consume more corn than we can possibly justify nutritionally. Thank God for subsidies. The economy is failing because of its remarkable even unprecedented reliance on debt and we tell farmers debt is a way of life they must embrace if they want to raise children and send them to college. Where does this end? It does not, quite frankly I could go on but I am weeping and depressed. Good luck President Elect Obama. YOU ARE GOING TO NEED IT.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Weep, for the water is needed.

We have been reminded recently that there are too few miles between the borders of India and Pakistan. Hell, they practically overlap (see Kashmir at Wikipedia). I am of the opinion that the political and socioeconomic pressure cooker the British left to the world when they began dismantling their empire is whistling very, very loudly. Maybe we should check to see about lifting the lid. How, you ask. Well now, there's a good question.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are in the tumultuous process of carving out an identity that is less defined by American influence. American aid in the form of dollars and ordinance (some may argue that calling explosive metal devices aid is stretching the term but....) has long been the heart of a foreign policy program of insistent and deliberate destabilization. Has it been an attempt to stave of competition in tech and science sectors with burgeoning Indian and Chinese economies? Yes, but only in the sense that American Foreign Policy is never proactive but instead, REACTIONARY. I suppose this is why I am hoping against hope that Hillary has it in her to be the kind of Cabinet member wily Willy Seward was. Diplomacy and statesmanship are usually political virtues of those who have given up the hope of re-election (or in this case election period). You can quote me on that.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Being and Nothingness

There are still some mysterious phenomena that defy my understanding. That should not shock anyone. If anyone out there thinks that perhaps they can explain everything, I recommend brushing up on String Theory. After spending an inordinate and maybe excessive amount of time thinking about what I believe and why, I am actually further from a comprehensive ideology than I was before. That, also, should surprise no one. How is it possible that anyone thinks they have it figured out to the extent that they can tell anyone else definitively, the whole story? If you harbor uncertainty about the nature of the Universe, and if that uncertainty is peculiarly comforting to you, please speak up.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Gateway Drug?

It should come as no surprise to those who know me that I've always resented the gov/media portrayal of Cannabis as a gateway drug. This is largely due to the observation that; all contemporary research points to the black market phenomenon (caused by government instituted prohibition) being, at least largely, responsible for exposure to Cannabis leading to concomitant exposure to Hallucinogens and harder drugs. Interestingly, the official stance of the government on drugs is war but the stance on religion is one of tolerance.
This disparity is disturbing in a free society purporting to uphold freedoms such as the right to worship without fear of persecution. In such a society, smoking pot is a freedom you would expect to be able to enjoy without fear of prosecution. Taken together, these two observations lead to an apparent paradox. At least for Islam and Christianity, our unwillingness to call attention to the ethical and philosophical disparities of the "soft-core" sects of practitioners is tantamount to condoning the fundamentalists. So one could argue that childhood indoctrination of the concept of faith and the parallel concept that others' faiths are unassailable in polite, politically correct society, are a prerequisite for the existence of fundamentalist cells of Evangelicals and Jihadists. If religion is the opiate of the masses, it is certainly a gateway drug. This particular gateway opens onto a path of coercion, dismissal of reason, terror, and subsequent societal collapse. Which gate would you rather your child open? Neither? Then you have your work cut out for you, at least here in America (Land of the semi-free and home of the occasionally courageous).

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I keep hearing people say that comparing theology and science is like comparing astrology and astronomy. These are people who are attempting to snub theology. I just don't get it. Even if religions around the world are only complex memes evolving in the context of complex cultural dynamics someone could still benefit from studying what they have in common and where they differ. That is comparative religion 101 and falls under the heading Theology. It is certainly just as valid as Anthropology and Psychology as a field of research and endeavor. Also, as far as I can tell, there are many branches of astrology and while some are clearly moronic others attempt to use some relatively powerful tools to test some relatively interesting hypotheses about human nature. It seems like saying that comparing apples and oranges is like comparing plums and potatoes.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A new Age of Reason

The South aside, Americans surprised me this election by choosing the right candidate in an overwhelming fashion. I've been underwhelmed by the behavior of some of my African -American Friends and colleagues, but oh well, they were overdue. Does the lame duck, that rat bast., realize he will go down in history as the single worst American president to serve two terms? Perhaps he does. We can hope.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Farming for Profit?

Ethanol is not the answer to offsetting carbon emissions and it may not even be an answer. If it turns out to be a balanced trade off of environmental damage from increased monoculture land use for a few million tons of CO2 emission eliminated then it will effectively be environmentally neutral much as the current non-carbon fiber hybrid vehicles with Li Ion batteries. Farmers will follow their bottom line to the grave regardless of their liberal/conservative political leanings and if consumer demand does not shift towards organic Produce and Protein then the increase in the world's middle class will result in clearcutting even in the industrialized nations. Agriculture is truly a double edged scythe and it is necessary to look long and hard at how sustainably it can be practiced in a world where global climate change, habitat fragmentation, and human housing encroachment, all continue to threaten wildlife and biodiversity. I am happy that we are at least talking about ways to lessen our ecological footprint as a nation of gluttons (for seemingly everything, including punishment), but we are far from reaching a sustainable status quo. Ethanol is two steps forward and three steps back.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

From Dminor to Gaugmented and back again in 30 days...

Jeff Lynne on you tube discussing how he wrote Livin' Thing raises the question about you tube content that we should all ask as soon as we realize we are checking you tube every day: Is there a rubric for grading you tube content that would add value to the content? The star rating system is too subjective, clearly, but what sort of system would be better? Any suggestions people? Peace, love, and recycle....

Monday, March 24, 2008

To smell or to stink, that is the question.

I never really got into cologne, perfume, or fragrance of any sort for that matter, until I discovered incense and essential oils in college. Nag Champa was a real turning point in my sensory education and even candles are now appreciated for the depth they give decor, intentional or accidental, planned or spontaneous. I cannot say why I neglected smell, but to some extent it must be that I grew up in the woods where the smell of nature is constantly shifting through a range of muted hues and textures from slight to insignificant. Smell was ever-present but somewhat subdued and noticed only for its absence or intrusion until my education had truly begun. I am exploring this parallel only because of a recent coincidence.
Weeks ago I was asked to participate in a survey run by anonymous Marketeers (the Musketeers have been replaced in contemporary society by these new heroes of the republic, defenders of our ideals). These Marketeers asked me to try a fragrance and evaluate its efficacy and value and fill out a form at the end of the trial to inform their efforts to reach the right market with their advertising. I went along out of curiosity and to get free cologne. At or around the same time I began reading two books that had been on my list of "Fiction you really must read" as suggested by persons whose opinions I trust. As we have recently been discussing the holographic nature of human experience (see Wikkying below) you may understand my astonishment at the content of one of the titles, the one I read second, coincidentally; "Jitterbug Perfume". This is to recommend the book and the author Tom Robbins to all readers and to ascertain the commonality of this kind of experience. I think this happens to all of us all the time but I don't know, perhaps I am an anomaly. The book also addresses this topic for any who are interested.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Is there a verb for what I do when I look up one thing on Wikipedia and end up following an internal link to another wiki-page and another and another...... and are there any academics studying the six degrees of wikipedia separation? I went from ELO to Fretonia today in 9 pages and learned a lot along the way. Actually, I believe there were more like 15 separate pages involved, but one thread of them was a brief exploration of Dhani Harrisson's existence, about which, I ascertained very little in all honesty. I would be very interested in hearing more about this if anyone is studying it. I have long been interested in phenomenon like this and I am certain I'm not alone. Is it possible to write a Wikipedia page about "Wikkying" and subsequently enjoy the amazement of people who come across it while "Wikkying" and are elevated to a transcendent state of consciousness as a result? That is sort of like taking pictures of prominent architectural elements in your apartment, framing them, and then hanging them near that particular element, preferably in a variety of distinct frames. I have only seen this done well once but the effect was astonishing. Anyway, keep a peeled eye and an open mind and let me know if you need assistance. Hollis.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Should Developed Countries be allowed to mandate environmental policy in third world countries?

This is an incredibly loaded question beginning with the assertion that developed countries owe their "success" to destructive environmental practices. To assert that some first world economies owe their leverage on the global economy to non-sustainable environmental resource exploitation is essentially to accuse the citizens of those countries of either ignorance, and thus apathy, or complicity. The issue is simply not that black and white. Geopolitical forces, Weather patterns, Historical time-lines, and availability of accurate information, all play roles in determining whether a resource is used responsibly or abused prodigiously by any culture or government. To draw a line of causality from resource exploitation to continued cultural advances, economic parity, infrastructure development, or even spread of democracy/free trade etc., is a formidable topic for a dissertation, a herculean topic for a political debate or discussion.

If our goal is to develop incentives that will lead to the pursuit and practice of sustainable resource consumption it seems that, at the very least, it would be extremely reasonable to begin in the third world where any economic stimuli would be as much a factor in the efficacy of the incentives as their inherent environmental worth. It also seems that in almost every successful case of intervention on behalf of the commons by a public group or an individual there has been some element of economic incentive. Would that it were untrue of humanity that we require immediate and obvious incentive, but alas, foresight has never been our strong suit as is evinced by our current predicament. While it seems lamentable, using this to our advantage seems very reasonable and easier to do if it occurs first as an honest attempt to stabilize and develop the economies of the third world.
If we see it as legislating a specific environmental course for our inferiors it will be doomed to fail both because of the reprehensibility of that sentiment and because of the errors of judgment that underpin it. If, on the other hand, it is viewed as aid to instigate positive and sustainable practice and reform in the third world in order to level the playing field then it is both more likely to succeed, and a more honest approximation of the truth that we are all intimately bound up in this regardless of political or religious affiliations. I am essentially arguing that it is better to approach increasing sustainability in agriculture and community at the grassroots level where the immediate benefits are rapidly and plainly visible and then shaming the first world into following suit. That may seem distasteful but it seems it will work, and the stakes are to massive to take the high road here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Thoughts on the Human Condition

After Reading John Dobson's "Advaita Vedanta and Modern Science" I thought our situation is something like that of a turtle seeking a bite of the seemingly tasty bright apple he sees every night. He sees it everywhere below him in the water. However, whenever he approaches, it moves away and if he reaches it, the water shimmers with waves he creates with his vain attempts at tasting and the apple vanishes. The turtle desires the very bright white apple and he is certain someone eats it a little bit every night as it seems to have been bitten or gnawed on. He is certain that one bite will cure his incessant craving for the big apple and relieve the only source of displeasure in his life. If only he could turn over and look up at the moon but he is biologically prohibited from such maneuvering except right before he is eaten by the panther.
Progress is as much away from our point of origin as towards our destination. Knowledge and discrimination set the direction of our movement and either renunciation or desire pull the road by beneath us. I want it to be easy but it is not. I want it to be inevitable, perhaps it is, but not in an intelligible time frame.