Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Late Summer

No more tarps on the wood pile!
The starlings and blackbirds gather in flocks of ever increasing size these days, moving in magically synchronized clouds between our cricket-rich pastures and our barnyard oaks, where their constant singing livens up the mornings. Hummingbirds chase each other around the row of zinnias in the aging garden while goldfinches inspect the sagging sunflower heads. Mowing the orchard last week, I dodged a milkweed plant and noticed two monarch caterpillars happily munching away as I passed by. I accidentally hit our smaller pawpaw tree (the one which pollinated our first-ever pawpaws on the larger tree) with the mower.  Hopefully the stump can re-sprout!

It's been hot this summer. In the past we'd always been able to keep the house comfortable by opening the windows to let in the cool night air and closing them as the heat of the day began. Huge maples shade the house, and we were always able to keep it at least 10 degrees cooler than the outside air this way. This year, however, the night time lows haven't been living up to their name, and made that technique unworkable. So now I sit in a room with the AC blasting away, doing something I'd prided myself on doing without, and increasing my dependence upon the grid. Today is supposed to hit 89 degrees, but the humidity is forecast to put the heat index at over 95 degrees.  The horses don't stand panting with their tongues out as the cows would be, but they're covered with sweat as they stand in the barn to avoid the torment of monster sized horseflies.  We're both thankful that the weather hasn't allowed us to put up any hay recently.

For all the heat, I would normally expect our pastures to be brown and crispy as with most years in August when I reluctantly feed out the hay we've just put up. This year, however, we've had rain, and lots of it. I've been scanning the forecasts for a weather window to cut our hay, and haven't seen one for a month now. Without the cows to feed, I think we may actually be self sufficient in hay for the first time. Assuming I'm able to eventually cut what remains in the field, that is.  As an added bonus to all the rain, we've had a bumper crop of chanterelles and chicken of the woods mushrooms this year.

My health is much improved from earlier in the year, enabling me to catch up on delayed projects like the wood shed. It's essentially finished now, aside from some doors I need to put up before the snow flies. My best guess is now that the flu triggered a leaky gut, which lead to extreme food sensitivity and created the reactive arthritis symptoms. That's the problem I've been treating anyway, and I'm making slow but measured improvement. The "swollen thyroid", as I learned from a belated visit to the overbooked endocrinologist, isn't actually my thyroid, but is rather a thyroglossal cyst, and is basically just an annoying benign lump that will be most likely be surgically removed.

Sighting in a bow or rifle has been a neglected task since we moved here.  Shooting the bow meant putting out a few straw bales, trying to prop them up so they don't fall over, and then hauling them back to the barn (or more likely, letting them stay out in the rain to get ruined).  For the guns, I've been shooting into an old garbage can filled with wood chips and sand.  Both made for poor backstops, so I finally got around to setting up something a little more permanent.  Both are set up with locust posts and a tin roof made from barn leftovers. The archery backstop is basically a frame to hold and protect three straw bales. The rifle backstop is a wooden box filled with sand and lined with rubber to keep the sand from spilling out after shots put holes in the wood. I even thought to bury cobble sized stones every 10 yards down range as distance markers so that I won't have to pace out distances every time I shoot.

In the interest of getting things done without manufactured or purchased inputs, I decided that I wanted to learn how to make my own ink and write with a quill pen.  Fortunately, I live in a location where three essential ingredients are found:  turkeys, black walnuts, and cherry trees. Turkey flight feathers provide nice strong quills, black walnut husks make an excellent ink, and gum gathered from the trunk of cherry trees (when they're attacked by insects) thickens the ink.

Results thus far have been mixed, but I still enjoy working at it. The quills need to be soaked and then hardened in hot sand and cut just right, with the nib split so that the ink wicks all the way to the tip. The ink needs to be just the right viscosity, which is thicker than that used with metal nibs.  Sometimes it goes very well, and other times I have trouble getting enough ink on the quill without having it spill out, so I've been starting the freshly dipped quill on a piece of scrap paper until the ink flow seems about right.  Writing left-handed with a "hook" is a much greater impediment with this type of writing than it is with a ball-point pen, as I have to take great pains to ensure I don't smear the ink with my hand following the quill.

Whereas finding a turkey feather in the woods was a mild curiosity before, I now get quite excited about it. I don't think they'll really wear out so fast once I've got everything figured out, but at this stage I've been going through quite a few as I try different cutting techniques for shaping the nib.


I see that Back-stabbed Bernie has come up with a new bill to do wonderful things. I don't really expect congress to do much with it, but taxing employers for the social subsidies claimed by their underpaid employees sounds to me like an *excellent* idea. Wal-Mart is known for providing food-stamp applications to their new hires, because it knows they'll qualify on the wages they'll be making, thereby getting you and I to subsidize the Walton heirs. Yes, many businesses will likely fail if such a law is passed (oh no! No fast-food joints and less industrialized agriculture!? The horror!), but if they can't stand on their own two feet, they weren't really viable businesses now, were they?  Seems like a perfect way to Make America Great Again.

Monday, July 9, 2018


I don't have anything particularly insightful or entertaining with this update, unfortunately. Prepare yourself for some rambling contemplation. I suppose this blog is as much a tool for collecting and analyzing my own thoughts as much as anything else.

As I alluded to last fall, I've lost the drive which had propelled me for the last decade, namely my concern for climate change and what it's capable of. My hope to encourage and be part of changes which might assure some chance of a survivable biosphere no longer exists. It's become increasingly apparent that the cavalry isn't coming, and is in fact riding at full gallop in the wrong direction, to the cheering of millions of television imbibing, red-hatted Americans. The enemy is no longer pounding at the front gate, but has been invited inside the castle by people who are hoping for just a few more years of what they've come to view as "normal". God help us.

I've spent the last decade doing my imperfect best to preserve a future worth living, and have in fact risked my life to do so, as became quite apparent last fall. In the meantime, I've encountered very few who are similarly motivated, and untold numbers who prefer to ignore our problems. When you're surrounded by people who live only for the day, perhaps it's best to join them since their collective actions make our shared future quite questionable.  I still find it disheartening that most people cheer what I consider personal failures (I finally bought an AC unit, after a decade without), and bemoan the few stands I've managed to maintain (such as abstaining from air travel).

Hey, the climate has always changed, so changing it ourselves is nothing to worry about, eh? Do you think anyone has ever mentioned to these folks that significant climate change is what drives most extinction events (such as the one now in play)? Those who hold this sort of half-baked opinion also seem to often hold the idea that "technology will save us!".

If we're going to solve this problem with the same tools that created it, we'd better get crackin'!  Half the great-barrier reef died within the last two years. Sea life is in dramatic decline everywhere, as is terrestrial life.  Melt rates in the antarctic have tripled in the last decade. If technology "saves" us, what will be left when that finally happens? I suspect that David Buckel probably had a better grasp on this reality than most of us are willing to accept at this stage.

While I no longer feel driven to do much of anything these days, I do still have some long held interests, one of which has grown a bit now that I have some cow-free time on my hands.

I've long been fascinated with the mountain-man/fur-trade culture of the early 1800s. I remember being absolutely enthralled by the Grizzly Adams TV series, which came out when I was 5 years old. I read every biography from the period I could find in my elementary school library. Around age 10, my grandmother gifted me a copy of Mountain Man Crafts and Skills, and I was soon reproducing many of the projects it details. I used the information I gathered there to tan every hide from every deer I've ever shot, all of which I've kept for that "someday" inspired project. This interest subsided and took a back-seat to mountaineering, sailing, and farming, but always flickered somewhere in the back of my mind.

Now that I find myself in Michigan, where mountaineering and sailing aren't weekend possibilities (particularly when you have a farm and thus have no such thing as a weekend), this interest has risen again to the forefront. The purchase of a Pennsylvania style flintlock long-rifle gave it a focus I'd previously lacked.

Thus far, I've made much of what I need to go with the rifle, and had a blast doing it. The list to-date includes a powder horn, bullet flask, a turn-screw (that's the period name for a screwdriver), a shooting bag, shooting box, flint wallet, moccasins, casting my own round-balls, a powder measure, a hand-sewn shirt done to an 18th century pattern, and probably more that I've forgotten. One of the things I love about this is that plastic is strictly verboten.

I'm still not exactly sure where this is going. Some people take up re-enactment of specific events or eras, while others learn as much as possible about a particular individual from history and try to emulate them at living history events. Still others just like to play dress-up and do their own thing in the woods. At the moment, the latter sounds good to me, but who knows where this will go.  "Historical Trekking" -- using only equipment from the fur trade era -- sounds especially interesting to me, until I think of sleeping without a tent or sleeping bag while surrounded by clouds of mosquitoes.

Getting the flu back at the end of March precipitated a long chain of health events that continue to plague me, and have re-acquainted me with the shortcomings of our increasingly pathetic healthcare system in this country. Private, for profit health insurance and the pay-to-play political system that keeps it alive is a plague, and any politician who supports this status quo is effectively devoted to screwing each and every one of us for personal gain, imho.

The flu started a sinus infection.  Then my thyroid began to swell, followed shortly by a swollen knee (which I first assumed was related to my injury last fall), and then half of the other joints in my body (other knee, foot, wrist, jaw, hip...).  Doctors have thus far been useful only in what we've been able to rule out.

Over the last month, I've started the ultra-restrictive auto-immune diet with Rachel's assistance, which has cleared up some of the joint issues, but the knee and thyroid swelling remain. Lyme disease appears to be the most likely and least desirable culprit, though my test results aren't back yet, and the testing is plagued with a 50% false negative rate. While there's very little "normal" food I can eat (no grains, eggs, soy, nuts, dairy, legumes, nightshades, etc), I have made two pleasant discoveries.  Plantains -- when pureed into a dough -- can make a sort of flat bread which is delicious. Coconut manna, though expensive, is *fantastic*! I think I could eat a $10 jar of that every day.

Though the recent findings in France weren't positive, the bird life around our farm seems to be especially rich this year. Our maturing orchard attracts lots of birds, as does the osage-orange hedgerow and the trees around our home/garden/barn area. Song sparrows have taken up residence in the hedgerow.

In the absence of cows, I haven't kept up with mowing or grazing the pastures, so the meadowlarks which usually stop here briefly in the spring (they like to nest in tall grass) have stayed. We've got orioles hanging around with their especially beautiful songs. We're regaled every morning by a nearby house-wren, as well as something I'd previously referred to as an R2-D2 bird because of their never-ending song filled with pops, squeaks and whistles. One of our barn cats provided a specimen for me on the patio one day, so now I've positively identified the R2-D2 bird as a cat bird.  A chickadee has taken up residence in a hollowed out fencepost, and regularly sings to us as we walk past.  As with most years, we've always got a healthy population of tree and barn swallows. These continually swoop around the horses and I as we're working the hayfields, catching the insects we stir up. Bluebirds are around as always, and we have been regularly seeing a huge pileated woodpecker as well.


I came across a movie lately, which is both incredibly beautiful and heart wrenching at the same time. I hope you'll watch it not because you want to be saddened, but because you're strong enough to face reality and change the small part of it that you control. That's all anybody can ask of you. It's something to think about next time you're faced with the choice of purchasing anything made of or packaged in plastic. Here's a link to the trailer, and a link to the entire movie as well (which is entirely free).

While we typically assume that our plastic refuse doesn't cause a problem in the local landfill, we're not thinking far enough. Even with the best intentions, the plastic we use eventually makes its way into the natural world where it causes problems. A recent wind storm turned the forest immediately downwind of our local landfill into a plastic-bag wonderland. In poorer countries (10 asian rivers are thought to supply most of the plastic in the world's oceans), there is no such thing as garbage collection. For most pacific islanders (including those in US territories), garbage disposal still involves placing it on the beach at low tide. When hurricanes rip through the Caribbean, all the damaged plastic (i.e. fiberglass) boats are rounded up and simply dumped in deeper water, to say nothing of the terrestrial sources which end up in the same place after such unavoidable events.

My neighbors here throughout rural Michigan burn it, thereby contaminating the soil and waterways with dioxin (which you may be familiar with from the effects of agent orange) which will likely last for centuries if not millennia. Guess who's growing your food and doing this at the same time? 

 I watched untold quantities of plastic washed into Puget Sound as the Skagit river flooded homes and farms in the 90's. After every 4th of July, I picked it up by the bucket-full from spent fireworks that littered the beach along Puget Sound, where I worked as a junior park ranger in my teens. Events such as tsunamis, hurricanes, and tornadoes  release it into the ocean.  I suspect that wars are much the same. 

A walk along any river here in Michigan will reveal quantities of plastic  -- all destined for the Atlantic. Farm fields all around us simply plow it into their soil, because trash blown in from the roadside is too much work to pick up.  I find it in purchased hay. Even the wearing of synthetic clothes -- which release micro sized plastic particles into waterways with each washing (these regularly pass through water treatment plants) -- is a significant problem. Plastic particles, known to release endocrine-disrupting compounds, are now so common that they're found inside the flesh of fish and anything that eats them, and are even shown to be penetrating the brain/blood barrier and causing behavioral problems. When we've fully demonstrated to ourselves that we cannot handle a particular technology (whether that's plastics or nuclear energy), it's time to give it up. Are you pulling your load?

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Revelations in Cutting Edge Lighting Technology

One of our beeswax candles made with stearic acid, showing a typical amount of dripping. Double this for a beeswax/tallow candle, and triple it for pure beeswax.
A few years back, the book Lights Out opened my eyes to the side effects of ubiquitous electric lighting. Much like any other animal or plant, the human body is quite sensitive to photo-period, which in large part controls the hormones that run our bodies. The ability to sleep, control your appetite, and even your immune function (particularly with relation to cancer) are all dependent upon the amount and type of lighting your body detects. With abundant electric light, televisions, computer monitors, and smartphones, there's little wonder why so many Americans are overweight, sleep deprived, diabetic, riddled with cancer, or beset with depression. Other factors undoubtedly play a role, but light clearly influences us in ways most have never considered.

Electric everything relies upon a grid fueled by fracked gas, mountaintop-removal coal, uranium (ever wonder why Trump was so hot to get rid of Bear's Ears Monument?), and a host of other nasties. Suffice it to say that electricity production has contaminated much of the planet now to the point where the biosphere is crumbling before our eyes, and our best chance for survival depends on getting rid of it wherever we can.

As the book explains, it's not necessary to sleep for 12 hours a day because you can't have electric lights on all the time, but it is important to average at least 9.5 hours of very low or no light. It's quite possible to exist on dimmer light than we're used to, and it benefits us considerably when we do.

My own lighting goals are 1) can be fueled from a homestead without purchased inputs, 2) provides usable quantities of light, 3) doesn't stink up the home or significantly damage the indoor air quality.

A center-draft, round-wick Rayo lamp
Oil lamps work well in the absence of electricity, but require significant quantities of kerosene (a fossil fuel), and give off quite a bit of heat (not always a plus). Their indoor emissions are also pretty nasty, and the kerosene is constantly evaporating into the home even when they're not in use. Their flame has a tendency to grow as they warm up, requiring constant supervision to adjust the wick during this period unless you want a house filled with soot.

With that said, in a non-electric environment, oil lamps do have a place. They can give off quite a bit of light, particularly the Aladdin mantle lamps (which are equivalent to a 30 watt bulb). The downside to these is that the light can be quite harsh, and the mantles are slightly radioactive, as well as being fragile and short lived.

Oil lamps do have some benefits over electric lights. Their light is typically much dimmer, and thus provides the benefits noted above. An overlooked benefit is that they're fairly expensive to operate. The downside to greater efficiency (as noted in Jevon's Paradox) means there's an upside to lower efficiency, which is clearly the case with this lighting option. You'll find that you keep one oil lamp burning with you as you move from room to room, instead of leaving multiple lights going throughout the house, and may very well use less energy as a result.

My preference in oil lamps is for the standard round-wick center-draft lamps of the sort historically produced by Bradley and Hubbard or Rayo. These produce plenty of light, with a softer appearance than the mantle lamps, and are cheaper and easier to maintain and keep well tuned.

Candles, though now relegated to purely decorative or "mood" uses nowadays in
Aladdin lamp with the chimney removed. It uses a burner nearly identical to the Rayo but with the addition of a mantle for increased light
most homes, deserve a second look. Though it's a significant change for anyone accustomed to electric lighting, the 13 lumens from a single candle can sufficiently light a room (particularly if the walls are painted white). It's enough to read by when placed close to your book, and doesn't appear to be enough to delay your sleep or encourage a late night snack.

I'm not a fan of paraffin candles, as paraffin is a coal derivative and thus has little to recommend it over oil lamps. I have a similar opinion of soy candles, which are effectively a product of Monsanto and Exxon. A homestead with a few beehives, however, can supply a significant amount of beeswax.  It makes an excellent lighting fuel, smells great, and is also useful for everything from treating leather to lubricating black-powder rifle patches.

Pure beeswax candles, as we've discovered, do have some shortcomings. Beeswax has a relatively low melting point, which causes the candles to dribble and make a mess. This melting can be reduced through addition of tallow in a 50/50 mix, but there will still be significant dripping. The addition of a small amount of stearic acid (as used in commercial candles) considerably reduces the dripping. It's relatively inexpensive and not much is needed, but it must be purchased. So far as I can tell, it cannot be easily produced at home, and I haven't found any substitutes.

Though we have yet to make our own wicks, I do think it would be relatively simple with the use of flax (aka linen), which we've grown in our garden. I see some candles are now sold with a wooden wick, which would also be worth experimenting with.

Our tin candle mold
We make our own candles in a mold, which seems much easier and faster than dipping them. Old style tin molds are readily available, and work well with a little practice. You'll find people recommending various sprays for helping to release the candles from the mold, but we've found something much simpler and cheaper that works better. Just take hot water from your tea-kettle and pour it over the outside of the mold. The candles will all but fall right out on their own.

So candles can be messy, which is why I've found that antique candle-holders with a wide-dish base are perfect for collecting melted wax (which can be melted down into new candles). My favorite type has a knob on the side which makes removing the old candle stump a simple task. With these, you just wait until the candle has burned down far enough to warm the metal base (usually brass), at which point the candle stump slides up easily and is replaced with a fresh candle. These bases all seem to be antique, from the era when candles were standard equipment in any home.  They're all over Ebay.

Back in the day when I was an involuntary churchgoer, I remember seeing metal "caps" on the top of some of the candles. Just another way for the church to impress the peasants with fancy finery, I thought. I was wrong! These metal caps are called "candle followers", and do serve a useful purpose. They're quite effective at controlling drips, as it turns out. On our beeswax-stearic acid candles, they've completely eliminated dripping. I haven't tested it yet, but I suspect that they may even work with pure beeswax candles, or even beeswax/tallow candles, which would both eliminate the need for stearic acid as well as allow us to significantly extend our beeswax supplies (tallow is easy to produce if you have any sheep, deer, or cows to butcher).

The one shortcoming of candles which remained is that of snuffing. The typical user nowadays just blows out a candle, which leaves a smoldering wick that gives off smoke for a minute, filling a room with stinky partially burned hydrocarbons. Blow a little too hard and you'll spray wax all over too.

Bell style snuffer
Another thing I remember from church is the bell-type candle snuffer on a stick. I bought a small version of that, which eliminates the need to blow a candle out. It worked to put out the flame, but the candle still smoldered. I wasn't impressed.

Scissor style snuffer
Next in line was one of the scissor-type snuffers, often referred to as a wick trimmer.  This worked much better, and did in fact eliminate the smoldering. The downside was that it got waxy, and needs a place to be stored where it won't get wax on everything. Eventually, it needs to be cleaned up. These aren't sharpened as scissors are;  they merely squeeze the wick between the dull blades and push any crumbly end into the cavity atop one of the blades.

My favorite candle holder, with the cone-type snuffer that stores on the handle, also showing one of our candle followers.  Note the lack of drips!
Finally, I think I've found the best candle snuffer, which came with (not surprisingly) on a pair of antique push-up candle holders purchased on Ebay for $8 each. This little cone-type snuffer is similar to the bell-on-a-stick snuffer I tried earlier, but with one important difference -- you can leave it on top of the candle. This allows it to not only snuff the flame, but to contain the smoke from any smoldering wick. It's just as effective as the scissor type snuffer, but is less prone to wax-buildup and easier to store. When it does get a little wax built up on the inside, just hold it over the candle flame for a few seconds and it'll drip out into the candle.

For future experiments, we'll try making up some pure beeswax candles and see if the follower eliminates drips on those. Another thing I'd like to try is a "rush light". These are relatively fast burning (about 15 minutes), made by soaking the foamy-pith of a rush stem with tallow. While I suspect that a candle is still nicer, they seem as if they would be easier to make, particularly if you don't have beeswax.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Our Little Frankenstein Problem

I think we're all aware of tobacco companies such as RJ Reynolds, and their history of pretending that their product was perfectly harmless when anyone with an IQ above 50 could clearly see that it was not.  More recently, fossil fuel corporations have told us there's no such thing as climate change, that it isn't man-made, that we'll adapt to it, that the climate has always changed so we can't and shouldn't do a thing about it.

As was clearly demonstrated in the movie "The Corporation", large publicly owned corporate entities lack many human traits (such as empathy) which effectively cause them to function as a psychopath (and in fact, they meet the clinical definition of a psychopath). This is largely due to their legal design, which places maximization of shareholder return as the primary objective. The fact that we've given such entities legal personhood, and allowed them unlimited "free speech" through the supreme court Citizens United decision essentially sealed our fate at their hands.

The construct of public corporations invites socio and psychopaths (which together comprise about 5% of our population) into their executive ranks, as demonstrated below. In fact, criminal psychologist Robert Hare has said, you’re four times more likely to find a psychopath at the top of the corporate ladder than you are walking around the janitor’s office.”

This behavior can clearly be seen in the actions of both Turing and Mylan Pharmaceuticals, both of whom had recently decided to raise prices on very old but important drugs (by 5,500% in the case of Turing). Hey -- want to live? What's it worth to you? Neither you nor I would do that to someone in need, because we're not psychopaths. But a corporation would, and does exactly that on a regular basis.

As Ian Welsh points out, such actions do in fact kill people, but they're not illegal (in large part because corporations now write our laws).  One gentleman, who pleaded for donations to help him afford his required insulin, is now dead.  From 2003 to 2013, insulin prices tripled.

In what would seem to be a good thing, Martin Shkreli (the former head of Turing Pharmaceuticals) was recently indicted and will spend 7 years in prison. However -- his conviction isn't for his clearly deadly behavior -- but is instead for securities fraud. Screwing and killing regular people, as it turns out, is a-okay and perfectly legal. Screwing rich people out of their money is not.  Heather Bresch, the equally abhorrent head of Mylan, who only killed normal people, is not going to jail.

So sociopaths do bad things. Psychopaths do bad things. Is that really news? Probably not.

The problem is not that we have people with these serious and dangerous mental disorders.  The problem is that we've allowed them to rule us, in large part because of the greed that each and every one of us possess.  What's worse is that this will likely lead to our demise.

Corporations not only express a lack of empathy for others, but in fact display a lack of concern for their own well being, at least in the long term. I see this regularly in our mainstream media, where the demonization of much weaker "enemies" (Russia, Iran, North Korea, Eastasia, etc) seems to be at an ever increasing crescendo.  I find it ironic that we now accuse Russia of "election meddling" (of which I have yet to see any substantial evidence) when the US has been the poster boy of such activity for decades.  Mossadegh? PinochetEcuador? Hell, we even advertised the fact that we screwed with Russia's elections on the cover of TIME magazine! Yes, even supposedly independent, publicly owned NPR is in on the gig, and regularly refers to Russia's "meddling" as established fact.

Despite promising the Russians that we would not expand NATO to their borders, we've done exactly that. Not only that, but we're arming their border countries with loads of US weapons (hey, more shareholder return!). We even have an artillery division within range of Russia's 2nd largest city (St. Petersburg). Most any American who regularly watches television would think that they're the ones threatening us. It's so pathetic that it's laughable, only it's not a laughing matter.

This push for demonization of weaker countries is meant to increase fear, which increases the already unprecedented theft of cash from our wallets to those of military contractors (currently the majority of the federal budget, and nearly exceeding the military spending of every other country on the planet combined). (Ever wonder why American infrastructure is falling to pieces? I have an idea!) It also greases the skids to war, which seems a-okay to an America that no longer has a memory of what war is like. The latest corporate puppet to occupy our whitehouse even wants to make nuclear weapons more usable. Fantastic!

Because it drives shareholder return and stock prices, many corporations *love* war spending. They well remember what happened as we went in to Iraq under dubya, and did their best through media outlets to convince us of the merit of more war (GE -- one of the world's largest military contractors -- was the majority owner of NBC, where they beat the drums of war as loudly as possible). They've purchased our media and used it to make us hate other countries. They have no problem with such a war becoming nuclear, because corporations are not human.

Our little Frankenstein creation has run amok, and it's time to put it back where it belongs. Fortunately, it has an achilles heel - the stock market.

Friday, March 2, 2018

The Tortoise and the Hare

Working off the winter fat:  Jake and Jasper pulling logs out of the woods
We can never do merely one thing. -- Garrett James Hardin

Here in the heart of the Church of Technology, it goes without saying that all (well... most, anyway) technology is a good thing.

Take, for instance, the tractor.  It is, in large part (along with Mexicans, that is), what has freed the majority of us to give up the horrid drudgery of farming. The tractor has given us the freedom to enjoy our modern industrial lifestyle, where we spend our days buzzing around in little metal boxes on wheels (cousin to the venerable tractor) so that we can stare at screens in climate conditioned comfort. Could our ancestors have imagined a more perfect existence?

And most importantly, the tractor allows us to grow more food.  It would be pure blasphemy to suggest otherwise, of course.

There's little doubt that I and my team of horses would soon lose out on a plowing competition, even if we were up against our own little 1952 Ferguson TO-30. Just imagine how poorly we'd fare against John Deere's biggest, baddest, six hundred and twenty horsepower behemoth.

The horses and I would be happy to get an acre plowed in a day. The John Deere...? I'm not really sure. Lesser tractors can handle 150 acres in a day. 200 acres? Maybe 250 acres?

Now, let's extend the competition out a bit. Not just a day, a week, or even a month. Let's run the competition for a thousand years (we'll have to pretend that plowing is beneficial, but bear with me).

Based upon current trends, we can safely assume that the tractor's fuel will last for perhaps one century. It will emit many tons of CO2, among other gasses and particulates which are less fun to breathe. The manufacturing process will spread mercury throughout the environment, and likely other chemicals as well. Some of these are likely to accumulate in the environment and operator, rendering him sterile, just as we're seeing happen throughout the industrialized world. The accumulation of CO2 in the atmosphere ultimately renders the farmland sterile as well, as droughts, storms, and crop failure move from the exception to the norm. Soil heating and drying (from increased CO2) cause the remaining organic matter to oxidize into the atmosphere as well.

So, yes, the tractor makes a most impressive showing, for the short term. But it does not increase food production. Over the long term, in fact, it will result in significantly less food production than the lowly horse, or even a simple peasant with a digging stick.  Like most technology, it's a trade, and not necessarily a good one.

The tractor, of course, is just one example of many. The automobile will ultimately result in less human travel, for the same reasons that the tractor will ultimately result in less food production. The washing machine will result in fewer clothes washed. Computers (like the one I'm typing on), will result in less information shared between people.

How many other examples can you think of?  Are there technologies which provide a net benefit?

Thursday, February 22, 2018


Not that I was going out on much of a limb when 95% of school shooters are shown to be on psychoactive meds, but it's now confirmed that the Florida shooter was also taking them (like the shooter at Virginia Tech, the "Joker" shooter at the Colorado theater, the boys at Columbine High, and so on...). Ron Paul has noted this fact in his latest column, which is worth a read.

Yes, the presence of high capacity weapons enables such shooters to do more damage, but the fact that anyone *wants* to kill people at random is the root of the problem. Gun bans leave a populace unable to defend itself against criminals or over-reaching governments, which is why they are still unacceptable to most Americans. I also find it interesting that the media outlets who are currently focusing on gun-bans are the ones which are also most beholden to the interests of the 1%. Do they perhaps sense the possibility of a popular revolt, and want to preemptively disarm the common rabble? There are numerous historical precedents for this very thing.

I've had a co-worker who failed to show up one morning, and was found in her driveway with her throat slashed. One neighbor across the street from my old residence had another (drug addled) neighbor insist that they let him into their home to "use the phone", at which point the druggie smashed in their front door and came after them (this happened two houses away from a policeman's residence). They used a firearm to defend themselves, successfully. Another neighbor, upon finding an intruder in their garage, called 911. The state patrol took 45 minutes to respond. Yet another neighbor died after struggling with an intruder in his home. Another time, I noticed a car slowly creep down our road, turn off their headlights (at night) and pull into an elderly neighbor's driveway. Who knows what they were up to, but they fled when they noticed my approach. Yes the need may be a rarity, but the ability to protect those around you is important. Would you be okay with a ban on seat belts if they were also being used for nefarious purposes?

Anything short of a complete ban will not get rid of events like school shootings, and would undoubtedly encourage the use of other weaponry (explosives, swords, chemicals, etc) where the will exists -- and psychoactive meds are clearly generating the will or extreme indifference required. I don't remember it being widely reported, but this student managed to stab 20 people at his Pennsylvania high school with steak knives before being subdued. He was, of course, also on psychoactive meds.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

The Great Pharmaceutical Phucking

The great British Empire apparently lacked the tools for effective propaganda, as Americans revolted against them for far less than we're currently being subjected to at the hands of our corporate oligarchy.

Wherever you look these days, we're being SCREWED.

A fine example is the latest school shooting in Florida.  Guns, though regularly fingered in the mass media as the culprit (how many firearm advertisements do you see on TV vs pharmaceutical ads?), have been a part of American culture from the very beginning. Events such as this school shooting are relatively recent, however. Something changed, and that is the introduction of SSRI anti-depressants and the widespread medication of America which, strangely enough, corresponds with the introduction of mass shootings.

I'm going out on a limb here, as I have with other mass shootings before the actual medication details come out, but I'm usually proven right. Here's a website that maintains a running tally of SSRI related shootings, stabbings, suicides, and other wonderful side effects. You won't hear about them on TV, because all the pharmaceutical ads don't leave enough time for the "news" anchors to discuss this fact.  I suppose it's also possible that the television networks don't want to bite the hand that feeds them (a lot!).

The recent school shooter in Florida suffered the death of his mother in November.  A sad event for sure, but one worth medicating? I'm willing to bet that his physician (likely influenced by pharmaceutical cash) thought so. Perhaps the video above should end with "Ask your doctor if Zoloft is right for you!"

The figures I've seen suggest that these medications are implicated in 95% of all school shootings.  For those who weren't interested in clicking on the link, here's a (very) brief example of the events and their associated medication:

  • Eric Harris age 17 (first on Zoloft then Luvox) and Dylan Klebold aged 18 (Columbine school shooting in Littleton, Colorado), killed 12 students and 1 teacher, and wounded 23 others, before killing themselves. Klebold's medical records have never been made available to the public.
  • Jeff Weise, age 16, had been prescribed 60 mg/day of Prozac (three times the average starting dose for adults!) when he shot his grandfather, his grandfather's girlfriend and many fellow students at Red Lake, Minnesota. He then shot himself. 10 dead, 12 wounded.
  • Cory Baadsgaard, age 16, Wahluke (Washington state) High School, was on Paxil (which caused him to have hallucinations) when he took a rifle to his high school and held 23 classmates hostage. He has no memory of the event.
  • Chris Fetters, age 13, killed his favorite aunt while taking Prozac.
  • Christopher Pittman, age 12, murdered both his grandparents while taking Zoloft.
  • Mathew Miller, age 13, hung himself in his bedroom closet after taking Zoloft for 6 days.
  • Kip Kinkel, age 15, (on Prozac and Ritalin) shot his parents while they slept then went to school and opened fire killing 2 classmates and injuring 22 shortly after beginning Prozac treatment.
  • Luke Woodham, age 16 (Prozac) killed his mother and then killed two students, wounding six others.
  • A boy in Pocatello, ID (Zoloft) in 1998 had a Zoloft-induced seizure that caused an armed stand off at his school.
  • Michael Carneal (Ritalin), age 14, opened fire on students at a high school prayer meeting in West Paducah, Kentucky. Three teenagers were killed, five others were wounded..
  • A young man in Huntsville, Alabama (Ritalin) went psychotic chopping up his parents with an ax and also killing one sibling and almost murdering another.
  • Andrew Golden, age 11, (Ritalin) and Mitchell Johnson, aged 14, (Ritalin) shot 15 people, killing four students, one teacher, and wounding 10 others.
  • TJ Solomon, age 15, (Ritalin) high school student in Conyers, Georgia opened fire on and wounded six of his class mates.

I've had doctors prescribe medications for me ($400/month for a proton pump inhibitor) which I'm now certain were prescribed precisely because the doctor was receiving kickbacks. Friends in the medical field confirmed that the kickbacks are in fact real, enormous (often exceeding $100k/year per doctor), and unknown to most of the patients. Thus, your doctor has something in common with your congressional representatives.

When I later googled the doctor whom I'm speaking of, I found him as the featured speaker at numerous pharmaceutical promotion events.  Read this article, and you'll understand exactly why.  When I expressed concerns about the medication, he quickly dismissed them (they're now widely known and supported by numerous studies), and re-iterated his only concern was that I could afford the medication.

Yes, it's no secret that people with problems are being medicated, and such people would perhaps commit acts of violence with or without the medications. However, the frequency and magnitude of such acts is far greater since the introduction of these medications. There are specific side effects often noted in patients receiving SSRIs, such as a feeling of detachment from society, and the viewing of other people as objects. The Columbine shooters were noted as having drawn pictures of other students without faces -- which is apparently a common trait of people on these medications.

The great Pharmaceutical Phucking is quite real here at home. A family member recently went to fill a regular prescription. One refill is now $650! In other countries, where the government is not beholden to lobbyists, the same medication is about $25. Yes, America is truly the land of opportunity (if you're a corporate criminal or corrupt politician)!

Ever wonder why we simply can't seem to solve the "Opioid Crisis"

If your favorite politician has not sworn off all corporate cash (ala Bernie Sanders), they either are or will soon be corrupt, no matter how sweet and agreeable their words. Fred (corr)Upt(i)on, my own congressional representative, comes to mind, and appears to be a poster-child of pharmaceutical lobbying corruption. It should not be surprising to anyone that our government is now, demonstrably, not a democracy. Do you think that our schools are now teaching students that we're an oligarchy (which is precisely what we are, based upon scientific observation and fact)?

Pharmaceutical corporations are of course just the tip of the iceberg. Defense contractors have a long and sordid history of screwing taxpayers via our corrupt "elected" representatives. Did you ever wonder how Russia, a country with an economy the size of Spain's, has suddenly become a dire threat to the United States? Ditto for North Korea, who is clinging to their nuclear program in mortal fear. Perhaps Kim Jong Un watched the video of Ghadaffi after he decided to give up his WMD program at the US's urging.  My god -- just look at all the danger out there!  We need more F-35s, pronto!

With their trojan "populist" candidate Trump, the corporate coup is complete. Any law that keeps you healthy (environmental regulations) or safe (nuclear non-proliferation agreements), or keeps America beautiful (regulations on offshore drilling) is now being dismantled wherever it impacts the ability of corporations to rape and pillage our fellow citizens and the lands we all own.  This coup was in large part enabled by corporate democrats, who used their own illegal tactics to screw Sanders in the primary (if you voted in the open California primary, and aren't specifically registered as a democrat, your ballot was not counted!)

My ancestors revolted against the British government and their corporate accomplices over far less than you and I are now being subjected to. But then again, they didn't watch TV, which makes perfect sense.