Friday, September 30, 2005

Luke The Physician

The Gospel of Luke describes what sounds like a radical and different form of Christianity than what many people would understand it to be today.

Love your enemies. 

If someone takes your coat, give them your shirt as well.

Give to everyone who begs from you.

Problem is there wasn't a different radical "form" of Christianity 2000 years ago, it's just been revised to fit what we are comfortable with.

Luke recorded what Jesus taught,

"But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked."

Source: Luke 6:27-35 (NRSV)

Luke the Physician - A Portrait

Recycle Camp

I received an invitation from Blue, the person who runs the recycle camp at Black Rock City, this morning. It's an offer to volunteer to crush aluminum cans and put them in bags. It sounds like it might be right up my alley.

They donate the proceeds to the Gerlach school so it's for a good cause.

I did a fair amount of free-lance recycling at Black Rock City this year. Walking/riding around the playa is like beachcombing, you can find a lot of shiny or otherwise interesting looking stuff...or just pieces of trash to pick up. I used the coolest items to decorate my bike and carried the rest away in my car.

I sort of wished I hadn't picked up that 2 1/2 gallon plastic kerosene bottle after it started to heat up and fill the car with the smell of kerosene. Luckily there was a specially designated dumpster in a small town not too far north where I could dispose of it.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Days in the Life... a journal in words and images... by Gerry Manacsa

Days in the Life is the journal of a young man born in Manilla, trained as an engineer who worked at NASA. He left his engineering job after finding a more rewarding path as an artist and designer.

I stumbled across his work because I was curious if anyone else had used the phrase

life under the fluorescents

to describe working in an office.

He has a picture "under the flourescents" as well as what appears to be maybe thousands of other shots in his journal. I only got to the intro and a few pictures but based on first impressions..

I'm giving Gerry my very rare

"Cool site of the day"


Entertaining TV Shows - Boston Legal and The Office

Boston Legal had it's season premiere last night. The writing, story lines and cast are all very good. William Shatner and James Spader in particular make the show; although the complete cast fits together well. The show has enough sub-plots to be interesting; weaving humor, sex and legal issues into a throughly entertaining hour show. I was really bummed out last year when the pulled Boston Legal from it's spot following Desperate Housewives.


The Office is my second choice for good entertaining TV so far this season.
The U.S. version of The Office is based on a BBC show of the same name. Steve Carrell the guy who plays the boss in The Office is the star of the movie The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005) which I have to see one of these days. The previews look funny.

The Office is uneven, although generally pretty funny and occasionally "oh my God" funny. Last nights episode about sexual harassment in the workplace had some scenes that moved beyond the usual TV blandness onto the edge of what mainstream TV shows might attempt for smart humor. The show works are a variety of levels, combining uncomfortable pauses made possible because there's no laugh track, and camera-work showing the expressions on the office workers faces, when Michael or Dwight say or do something idiotic, into an entertainingly dry look at life under the fluorescents.

After an H.R. mandated lecture and video on sexual harassment, Dwight, the misguided suck-up, asks the H.R. guy to describe various parts of the female anatomy to him. The bit is that Dwight knows nothing about women and thinks the H.R. representative's job is to educate him. He has just given them a lecture on sexual harassement, he must be the person to ask about sex in general?'s funny.

The other scene that tickled me was when the boss Michael is trying to make up for an insensitive comment about a woman being physically unattractive. He says she's attractive in a "grandmotherly" sort of way. She replies that they are the same age. He puts his arm around her and starts talking about how attractive he finds her (in front of the office staff) and then says, in his version of a compliment, that he's afraid of what might happen if he got too close to her. There's a pause and he says he's afraid he might get a "boner".

The looks on the office workers faces are classic. Confused, hurt,'s wonderful.

One other funny bit is where the boss Michael is trying to make a case for sexually inappropriate behaviour in the office. He tells one of the office workers that he can understand his fascination with young women in school clothes. He has that picture of a young woman in a school uniform beside his desk right? Michael says it turns him on a little too. The man tells Michael it's a picture of his daughter.

I could go on...but I recommend checking out either show for a little break.

IMDB has some Memorable Quotes from "The Office" (2005). A few samples -


Dwight Schrute: Someone forged medical information, and that's a felony.
Jim Halpert: OK, Whoa, alright 'cause that's a pretty intense accusation. How do you know that they're fake?
Dwight Schrute: [reading from a sheet] Uh, Leprosy, Flesh Eating Bacteria, Hot Dog Fingers, Government Created Killer Nano Robot Infection.

Jim Halpert
: Because right now, this is a job. If I advance any higher, this would be my career. And if this were my career, I'd have to throw myself in front of a train.

Michael Scott
: This is our receptionist, Pam. If you think she's cute now, you should have seen her a couple years ago.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Kite Aerial Photography by Scott Haefner

This is a cool picture.

That kite was up high.

The Equipment Index describes the equipment used for this kite aerial photography.

Nice combination of fun things - taking pictures, flying kites and some tech stuff.

You Are What You Are - And Just The Opposite

Without contrast, life, like your computer monitor or a painting or photograph, would be meaningless.

Living is an exercise in yin and yang, good and bad, light and dark, joy and pain...or maybe if you are really unlucky it's like a bowl of mushy lukewarm oatmeal (sorry my friend we have to play the hand we are dealt).

You can't have one without the other.

It's an interesting concept, sometimes a bit disturbing, such as when we see someone we think is all good do something bad. We like to criticize that person if they are a celebrity, politician or particularly a televangelist.

We can't stand we say.

The problem is we are all hypocrites to one degree or another. It's the degree and the context of our hyprocrisy that is interesting.

Mental health may be partly about recognizing the light and the dark natures of our personality. If I say I've never had a bad thought I'm either a liar or delusional. If it's the former at least I'm cognizant of the fact that I have some facets of my self that need attending to (like being a liar) before they get too out of control. If it's the latter and I'm not aware that I have bad mixed with the good...that can be scary and dangerous.

Clinical definitions for those people might be sociopath or psychopath, but I'm not really interested in the 1% of the population that might be considered psychopaths, as I am in the everyday Jack or Jane who doesn't have a diagnosis. I also tend to think that if we can label something, and therefore make it something that applies to someone else, then we don't have to contemplate our own lives, and you know what they say about the unexamined life.

A couple of quick anecdotes -

I worked for a farmer one summer who used to say "everyone has their vices." I think so. Maybe you don't smoke, drink or cuss but you like to pick your nose? and eat it. Or maybe you go to church regularly, sing the hymns and are quite saintlike..but you fight like crazy with the wife and kids on the way there. Maybe you like to spread gossip? Maybe you're a successful business man who beats his wife...a priest who abuses kids. Everyone has their vices. For my money I'll take someone with some obvious vices, that they recognize, over the holier than thou folks anyday.

Another time a boss of mine and I were at lunch. He said something like, "I smoked a cigarette once and never wanted to again...or maybe it was, "I never smoked a cigarette and never wanted to." I thought to myself, "you poor bastard, either you are so out of touch with the oddly beautiful addictive nature of nicotine or you're living a life that's as exciting as that bowl of lukewarm mushy oatmeal".

To each their own.

The "you are what you are and just the opposite" title is not a new thought, but it's an interesting one.

Whoever wrote this section of the Wikipedia article on Carl Jung said it better than I can:

The Shadow

"The shadow is an unconscious complex that is defined as the diametrical opposite of the conscious self, the ego. The shadow represents everything that the conscious person does not wish to acknowledge within themselves. For instance, someone who identifies as being kind has a shadow that is harsh or unkind. Conversely, an individual who is brutal has a kind shadow. The shadow of persons who are convinced that they are ugly appears to be beautiful.

The shadow is not necessarily good or bad. It simply counterbalances some of the one-sided dimensions of our personality. Jung emphasized the importance of being aware of shadow material and incorporating it into conscious awareness. Otherwise we project these attributes onto others.

Contemporary examples include religious zealots who project their own hatred onto other religions or groups, accusing them of the very thing that they are unable to accept within themselves. Another potent example of shadow projection is seeing in another person, with whom one is infatuated, good and wonderful qualities that one refuses to see in oneself.

The shadow in dreams is often represented by dark figures of the same gender as the dreamer, such as gangsters or prostitutes or beggars or liars."


It's good to be a little off balance.

Helps us to move literally and figuratively.

Walking is an exercise in falling and then catching yourself. I learned that from Laurie Anderson song "Walking and Falling".

Being off balance teaches us balance.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Root Soup, Red Rice, Chantrelles and Iced Coffee

Root soup

It's done now

I had a great day; going to the farmer's market, and local produce market, looking for ingredients for a root soup, and then cooking it.

I sauteed garlic, shallots and onion in a light olive oil. Added nutritional yeast and -

Small young finger potatoes
Orange Carrots
Yellow Carrots
Red Beets
Red and White Beets (the tie dyed beets in the picture)
Red Onion
Fresh Tomatoes
Two cans diced tomatoes
A little pepper sauce
Fresh sweet red pepper (not too much since this is a root soup)

After it had cooked for several hours I used a hand blender to blend it to a thick consistency, while still leaving some whole vegetables. I has a really good flavor and it's good for you. A good warming soup for the cold fall nights.

Plus, I got to use my big stockpot -

and I have root soup for a few days -


I was a little leary of using the red beets because I knew they would turn the whole soup red, so I cooked them separately and drained the water off. The red beets are pretty sweet, if you taste them alone (reminds me of a sugar beet). I cooked some brown rice in the red beet juice and topped it with a little sugar as a dessert. Not too bad...and the rice looked cool.


I ran across some really nice chanterelle mushrooms while I was looking for roots. Those are my favorite mushrooms today. They had pieces of the forest (pine needles, grass, dirt) stuck to them, to remind me where they came from. I'm not a cook who believes in "not washing mushrooms" though, so I rinsed the forest residue/dirt off.

I sauteed them in light olive oil flavored with a little garlic and shallot and served them on crunchy slices of toast.

Soooooo good.

Topped it off with a nice blended cold coffee drink.

Here's a picture of some Chantrelles at home in the forest I found at the Western Carolina University Helen Patton Environmental Research Center


Saturday, September 24, 2005

A Few September Pictures

The Katsura Tree Reminds Me It's Fall

Dandelion Experiment

Lot's of Toys Around Our House

Out For a Walk

Hello Stranger

Katsura 2

Thursday, September 22, 2005

It Seems Brand New To Me

I was surprised to learn the USS Belleau Wood LHA-3 is being decommissioned next month. I am a plank owner of that ship, having participated in the intial sea trials after it was built in Pascagoula, Mississippi in the 1970's. Sad to see it go.

Picture Source:

The picture above was taken during operations in the well deck. The ship has ballast tanks that allow it to sink into the water. This floods the well deck and allows the ship to offload or onload landing craft or other amphibious vehicles. The ship carries about 800 Navy crew members and 2000 Marines. It is used for carrying various small craft, helicopters and Harrier VTOL aircraft. It also has a large medical triage area intended to be used for treating casualties that may occur in the area it's operating in.

It was a great ship (not too pretty though, it looks like a giant floating bathtub).

I started my Navy days at San Diego for boot camp, was sent to Corry Field in Pensacola for training as a cryptologic technician (CT), then to the Great Lakes for more training and back to San Diego for deployment. I started my Navy stint as a CT, working with signal intelligence and various other highly classified systems and data.

Pensacola is a great place. I was in school with men and women from the Air Force, Marine and Army, which was interesting. I did well in training and was offered a chance to go to the Rand Corporation "Think Tank" in Washington D.C. on a special assignment / change of career.

As so often happens, other events superseded that offer and I ended up going to various electrical/electronic schools in the Navy and spent the majority of my time maintaining and troubleshooting various shipboard systems.

One of my first jobs was working in the battery shop (holy clothes), then the engine room (interesting), the motor shop, and finally the hydraulic shop. We got to work on a lot of different types of control systems. It was fun and very educational.

One thing about the Navy is they allow you to pretty much do what you are capable of and you get a chance to work on a lot of things that you would never get to in civilian life. I got to work on everything from water and sewage treatment plants, elevators (large and small), small boats, lighting, generators, constant tension winches, movie projectors, conveyer systems and a lot of cool stuff all over the ship from the very bottom to the top (it's about 14 below the main deck and seven above.)

One job I helped with was setting up sensors for early trials of the Harrier takeoffs (they can takeoff and land vertically but they don't always do that). It was really cool to get to hang around on the deck while they were doing that.

I had two especially memorable experiences -

One night we were conducting operations at sea with various aircraft in the air and small craft in the water. I was the maintenance electrician on duty and got a call to go to the bridge. When I got there the Captain told me they were having intermittent electrical dropouts on the bridge. This was a big deal considering the orchestration necessary to keep track of the helicopters, boats etc. They needed radar, radio, and lighting to keep the show going.

I traced the power problem to a loose fuse holder in a distribution panel. The challenge was I couldn't turn off ships power to that panel without jeapordizing the operations. The other challenge was that if I stuck a screwdriver in there and slipped I'd electrocute myself and maybe worse short out the panel and bring down the power system. It was a matter of tightening up a screw or two, so I put on some rubber gloves, while the Captain held a flashlight and got the job done. No sweat...hardly.


Another time we were scheduled to depart for operations out of San Diego. The plan was to move offshore, flood the well deck and take on a full contingent of small craft (we didn't keep the well deck full of small craft in port). The cool thing about the Navy is things are "real". There were real small boats waiting for us to come and get them. Real people...real. Not like a desk job sometimes.

We were having problems with the door on the rear of the ship that had to be opened to allow the small craft to come in (it wouldn't open). That door weighed something around 200 tons and had a complex contol system that included motors, relays, safety locks and, limit switches (some of which would be submersed in salt water when we flooded the well deck, which was one of the reasons it was hard to maintain).

This is a picture of the rear of the ship with the door closed. You can see it's made of two pieces and can imagine the weight by considering the width and height of the ship.

One of our sister ships of the same class, had a similar problem of not being able to open the well deck door. The sailors working on the door had got it partially open, possibly by jury-rigging/bypassing safety locks, and then something happened causing the door to fall back closed...which literally bent the back end of the ship, sending it to dry dock for some expensive repairs.

My crew was responsible for getting the door open so we could deploy. I was a petty officer by this time and had a couple of other sailors working with me. We went through the schematics, working through the night, and figured out a way to get the door to open with the bad limit switches and all. It was very interesting. The control systems then were primarily large banks of relays that formed logic gates (AND or OR gates). We had an amazing amount of "spaghetti" (jumper wires) in those relay banks to get the dang thing open. It was EXCITING because of the size of the door and the fact we knew a lot of people were depending on us...we got the job done.

I was given the Stoker Award on that ship for exceptional performance and got my name on a plaque that stayed with the ship, which was quite an honor for me. I'm proud of that work.


I like to joke about my time in the Navy too.

I was the laundry petty officer in boot camp. That meant I got to sit on big bags of laundry and smoke cigarettes while waiting for the laundry truck. I missed small arms training because I was performing my laundry P.O. duties. I never got to touch a gun in the Navy, although after I got onboard ship, I was issued a knife license (we carried big pocket knives in sheathes that we used to cut the tape when disconnecting shore sort of a badge of honor).

I attribute my time in the Navy to my ability to (a) occasionaly fix a household appliance and (b) fold clothes very neatly (not that I do anymore...but that was a big part of boot camp).

I had some great times in the Navy, met some great people and have some stories...what more could you ask for?

For me being in the Navy was sort of like what they say about buying a boat...the two best days are the day you buy it and the day you sell it. My two best days were when I got onboard that ship and when I left, with a lot of good ones in between.

I'll miss the USS Belleau Wood.

More Bad News!!!!!!

Earlier this week I found out we ran out of cheap oil, asian chickens are just about ready to create a worldwide flu pandemic and now...

Someone stole the ruby slippers.

"It just goes to show's always something! If it's not one thing, it's another!"

Roseanne Roseannadanna


I've been thinking about the quote James Howard Kunstler attributes to Carl Jung, "people cannot stand too much reality".

I shouldn't take quotes secondhand. I can't find an attribution of that quote to Carl Jung. Not that he couldn't have said it, just that it's not good literary practice to take a second hand quote. I actually think that quote may belong to T.S. Eliot.

Aside from whoever made that statement, the idea that "people can't stand too much reality" is not surprising and not necessarily a bad thing.

Everyone needs a break from "reality" now and then, where they can step back from the quaqmire, regroup and then step back in.

Consider Mother Theresa, who lived a life in a very difficult "reality". I imagine with her deep faith she was able to step back from that reality by prayer or otherwise conversing with her God quite often. Her ability to transcend enabled her to stand the reality of where she was and effectively help many people in desparate need.

Even for those of us not so saintly, a break from reality can be refreshing and invigorating. You gotta figure out a way to take a break that doesn't break you, but even in my present teetotaling incarnation, sometimes I can't help but think Jimmy Buffett had a point in his song Hurricane Season...

Squalls out on the Gulfstream,
Big storms coming soon.
I passed out in my hammock,
God, I slept way past noon.
Stood up and tried to focus,
I hoped I wouldn't have to look far.
I knew I could use a Bloody Mary,
So I stumbled next door to the bar.

And now I must confess,
I could use some rest.
I can't run at this pace very long.
Yes, it's quite insane,
I think it hurts my brain.
But it cleans me out and then I can go on.


I think there is an innate human desire to alter one's state of consciousness, not necessarily by intoxicants, but one that could be expressed by creating or experiencing paintings, poetry, stories, cartoons, music, movies, plays, books. Not sure if we would have many of those beautiful things if we always had to live in the "real" world.

When it comes to the "hell in a handbasket" discussions - not too much reality for me please. I'll take mine with a side of humor, joy, absurdity or beauty thank you very much.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Sorry We Ate All The Cookies

When I was a kid growing up in Montana one of our neighbors, Blaze Dilulu, would convert old refrigerators to fish smokers. They might not have looked all that great sitting out in the back yard but they worked. Blaze Dilulu smoked some good fish in those days. Interesting that Blaze (his real name as far as I knew) was a firefighter; but I digress.

We may be able to take a lesson from Blaze when deciding what to do with our automobiles in the not too distant future.

Note: I'm still thinking that lawnmower engine conversion kit that turns our 12 miles per gallon gas guzzler into a 12 mile per hour fuel sipper isn't that bad an idea. You could drive it in a parade, or up and down main street to show off to your friends, and if you didn't live too far away still use it to pick up the kids at school; or for a quick, make that slow leisurely, trip to Walmart.


The End of Cheap Oil written by Colin J. Campbell and Jean Laherrere appeared in Scientific American Magazine in March of 1998.

Seven years later, James Howard Kunstler picks up the thread in this March 2005 article from Rolling Stone Magazine based on his book "The Long Emergency - Surviving the End of the Oil Age, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-first Century".

Quoting from the Kunstler article,

"Carl Jung, one of the fathers of psychology, famously remarked that "people cannot stand too much reality."

I recommend reading the articles. Not everyone of course would agree with James Kunstler's view of reality, but I'd read the article nonetheless. He is a sort of a combination writer performance artist who's goal is to shake people up.

One of his earlier books Geography of Nowhere is a rant/discussion of strip malls, architectural ugliness, dependence on automobiles, sprawl, surburbs and non-sustainable lifestyles. I only mention that because he has a desire to see these things change. His "we're going to hell in a handbasket approach to the oil shortage" may be colored somewhat by his desire to see some of the things cheap oil allowed (see above) go away.

I would think even very reasonable people can get something out of the 1998 Scientific American article, which is saying many of the same things, in a less inflammatory way.

Some combination of greed, optimism, self delusion and ignorance probably got us here. Maybe it's time to wake up the sleeping masses..or wait until gas is 6 bucks a gallon and a gallon of milk the same.

Jay Forrester and other experts in System Dynamics have been talking about the conditions that got us here for fifty years or so. His students Dennis and Donella Meadows and others wrote about the Limits to Growth 35 years ago. Jimmy Carter was singing this song in the 70's but people didn't like to hear it. The WTO protesters were voicing concerns about some of the reasons for us being in this predicament five years ago...and yet here we are in 2005 - fat, dumb and happy (I'm speaking personally).

The peak of easily extractable oil is upon us, we are own the downside of that bell-curve and the ride may be a wild one.

Alternative energy sources are not developed to a point that would even come close to replacing petroleum.

Our planning (lack of planning) has made the problem, as one of my professors use to say - deliciously difficult.

(a) we sprawled out our cities and made people dependent on automobiles
(b) we covered up farmland with that sprawl
(c) we allowed agribusiness to destroy whatever small farms were left
(d) rather than rotating crops or resting soil, we depend on giant monocultural farms that are heavily dependent on petroleum based fertilizers and pesticides.
(e) our food supply system depends on petroleum for transportation of cheap food produced in distance places to other states or nations, for sale and consumption.
(f) we continued to build less and less fuel efficient cars, even after the 1973 warning shot aka "the oil crisis" when OPEC shut off the spigot for awhile.
(g) our Walmart model of consumption is predicated on cheap oil. Buying from the cheapest producer forces us to import products from distant places with cheap labor.
(h) we allowed our rail systems (one of the most efficient ways of transporting goods) to deteriorate.
(i) we made very little progress in improving mass transportation while continuing to allow unplanned living places that lack the basic infrastructure (schools, churches, stores, common green space, sidewalks, parks) that make a liveable community.
(j) we mass consumed as much as we could as fast as we could with little thought for recycling, reuse, downsizing, or otherwise addressing our affluenza.
(k) somehow we missed the point that the Chinese not only were coming out of their centuries long sleep but were quickly becoming a billion plus set of people who saw what we have and wanted a piece of it.


I'm not convinced it's too's never too late. We are a resourceful people. There will probably be some quality of life enhancements as we replan our society to use available non-renewable energy sources more wisely. Return of small local farms, appreciation for nature, decreased greenhouse gas, more livable communities and a general decline in our use of the Earth's resources.

If I was a young person I'd be thinking about the future when it comes to occupational, housing and transportation choices. I'm sure most young people do just that...walking, riding bikes, wanting to live near where the action is (in the city not the burbs), or maybe on a nice small mostly self-sustaining farm and understanding the - consume at any cost model is not going to go on forever.


On the lighter side.....

For us old fogey's though, Fran Lebowitz says it best in this little video clip, Sorry We Ate All The Cookies; as she says - we used all the oil, we will use all the social security money, took all the drugs and had all the sex...sorry there's none left for you ;-)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Jay Forrester - System Dynamics

Jay Forrester is a Nebraskan farm boy, inventor of RAM core memory, MIT professor and one of the pioneers of System Dynamics.

If I could give a thumbnail sketch/elevator explanation of System Dynamics, it's the thought that everything is connected, and those connections are nowhere near as simple as our intuition tells us.

People like Jay Forrester or Norbert Weiner, who originated System Dynamics theories, had backgrounds in control theory. They use feedback loop models to describe human and natural systems in an effort to allow us to better understand why things are the way they are and hopefully be able to effect them for the better.

Forrester uses the example of a simple first order feedback loop where you move your hand closer or further from a stove to control the heat reaching your hand. Our minds tend to tell us this is the way the world works - causes and effects are closely related in time and space.

Unfortunately for us as problem solvers, that isn't the way the systems we are interested in generally work.

The world, society, groups, cities, governments, schools, businesses all have feedback loops/control systems that are non-linear and complex with cause and effects not closely correlated in time or space.

The net result is that well meaning people muck up the works. They tinker with complex systems without having good models to help them understand the impact of their actions, often making the problem they are trying to solve worse.

I'm sure you can think of examples from your home, work or in government where this starts to make sense.

Maybe you want a really green lawn on your lakefront home. If you put phosphate rich fertilizer on the lawn it will turn green, but maybe the lake turns green too, which eventually kills off the fish and other wildlife and defeats the purpose for you living on the lake to begin with.

If you start to factor in the non-linear nature of complex system and the lag built in (which sometimes results in over correcting thinking there is no effect or no correcting thinking there is no problem) this gets really complicated and interesting quick.

Aviation control systems use the term "pilot induced oscillation", where a pilot "chases" a control input. Think of what it would be like, if when you steered your car, put on the brakes or the accelerator, there was a varying amount of time between your input and the desired response. This gives you an idea of how confusing complex systems can get to the person trying to understand cause and effect to effect some desired change.

This is just a little tiny piece of System Dynamics. Thoughtful people promote the introduction of the concepts of System Dynamics into primary, elementary and secondary schools with the hope that we can do better in the future than in our best layed plans of today.


One other thing on Jay Forrester's work that interested me currently is his discussion of "authoritarian cultures" as described in his paper "Learning through System Dynamics as Preparation for the 21st Century" and says this -

I believe that babies are born as innovative personalities. They want to explore, to understand, and to see how things work and how to master their environments. But our social processes work to stamp out exploration and questioning. The child is continually confronted with, “Do as you are told,” or Stop asking questions and just mind me,” or “Study this because it is good for you.” Repeated restraint of innovative inclinations gradually forces personalities into the authoritarian mold.

A system dynamics modeling curriculum, by letting students formulate the structure and policies causing behavior under study, will help preserve and rebuild the innovative outlook. Simulation emphasizes reasons for consequences. To be innovative, one must be willing to make mistakes while searching for reasons and improvement. Computer simulation modeling is a repeating process of trial and error. One learns that progress is made through exploration and by learning from mistakes. An authoritarian personality fears mistakes and does not try the unknown. An innovative personality knows that mistakes are stepping stones to better understanding.

Businesses are built on an authoritarian model to some degree or another, for better or worse someone is in charge. The problem as he points out is when that authority impedes innovation and creativity. There are still, and probably always will be, a number of middle or lower managers in corporate environments whose goal is not to foster or personally innovate or create (except possibly in closely defined bounds) but rather to do what someone tells them. To each their own.

"Do what I say and don't ask questions" is appropriate in some emergency situations of course. Having someone tell you what to do is also reassuring for people raised in a patriarchal society, since they are conditioned to having an all knowing father figure (boss, manager, minister, teacher) giving orders. I don't think it's good...just reassuring.

It's interesting to observe the willingness, or desire, to follow the leader between people who left an authoritian regime (be it a country, school, home, school) and someone who was happily raised and probably raises their family in the father (government, teacher, boss, manager) knows best mode.

Not that we don't need leaders who can be followers and vice versa. A true leader has to be able to think for themselves. Most of the leaders we have are taking, and regurgitating, direction rather than providing it. Their ability to lead depends on where they get their direction, what the motive, intelligence, foresight, of their personal brain trust is.

A good home lets kids think for themselves, question authority.

Father doesn't always know best for himself let alone you...think for yourself, do what you think is right. Speak up and act according to what you believe to be true/right/just.


Postscript: Urban Dynamics is another shorter paper that explains some of Jay Forrester's concepts.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The Redeeming Power of Love

I tend to try and stay away from promoting any particular religion but I think we suffer as a society if we can't learn from religious teachers. Not that you have to believe...just be open minded enough to see what other people may see and decide for yourself what fits your world view.

I start from the proposition that an educated person strives to learn from great books.

Regardless of your religious or spiritual bent there's some wonderful things to read in the Bible. You don't have to read the whole thing, believe or have faith that it's true. Take it with a grain of salt, bounce it against you own philosophy, take what you like.

If you don't like any of it at least you will have a better educational background that may help understand the Judeo/Christian background threaded through our society. I'd start with the New Testament and maybe the Old Testament Psalms and Proverbs. If you get too far into some parts of the bible, say the Book of Revelation for example, you probably need a guide which sort of spoils it for me. I like to read things that mean something to me (without someone having to tell me what they are supposed to mean).

Many non-Christians treat Jesus as a great historical teacher. If you just take a look at the New Testament with that perspective it can be educational and sometimes moving.

For example in the New Testament, Paul's letter to the Ephesians is beautifully written -

"Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God."

Paul lived in the first century and although referred to as an apostle, he was not a contemporary of Jesus. His birth name was Saul. He is also referred to as Saul of Tarsus or Saint Paul. He was born in Tarsus, an area in present day Turkey, in 3 A.D.

In the first part of his life he was generally an unholy terror, persecuting early Christians and having them thrown into prison. He had a revelation on the Road to Damascus so dramatic that he converted to Christianity and became a strong advocate of the teachings of Jesus.

After his conversion he was known as Paul and created some of the most loving words ever written, presented as a series of letters to various early congregations of Christians.

Paul story is one of

redemption and the redeeming power of love

In chapter 13 of his first letter to the people of Corinth he writes -


1: If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2: And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

3: If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

4: Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful;

5: it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;

6: it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.

7: Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8: Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

9: For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect;

10: but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.

11: When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

12: For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.

13: So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Source: Great


Speaking of Great Books, I took a Great Books class years ago at Eastern Montana College, to give me something to do at night while I was in cooking school during the day. For lack of better words, that class was great.

I highly recommend a Great Books discussion group/class to anyone who has an opportunity. It's one thing to read and think by yourself about great books...another thing altogether to do so with a group of people.

We didn't talk about Jesus in that class but we did talk about Leo Tolstoy, another Christian of interest when it comes to redemption. Leo was a rambling gambling wild man early on in life. He went through a period of severe depression and came out the other side with a different point of view. He evolved to became a pacifist, vegetarian, anarchist, Christian.

After his redemption he spent the rest of his life helping those who needed help by giving them food/money/shelter, developing comprehensive philosophical worldviews, and writing some of the greatest novels and short stories of all time. I'm not an expert on Tolstoy, having read only a few of his shorter works, but from what I have read I'd agree he's in the top ten or so as far as making us think.

He died at the age of 82 shortly after he had decided to abandon all his wealth and take up the life of a wandering ascetic.

Leo Tolstoy's book The Death of Ivan Ilych is a story of redemption. You may recognize the quote concerning the central character who it was said lived a life "most simple and most ordinary and therefore most terrible."

Ivan Ilych was a common man, educated at a school of law, who became a magistrate in the civil service. He had a fairly ordinary life, married, and was not particulary happy or unhappy. At the fairly young age of 45 he was diagnosed with inoperable, terminal, cancer and died after a fairly prolonged period of suffering. At the very very end of his life he has a revelation and is redeemed. I won't spoil the story for you...


Leo Tolstoy was a major influence on Mahatma Gandhi.

I like these quotes attributed to Gandhi,

"The only people on earth who do not see Christ and His teachings as nonviolent are Christians."

"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

"There are many causes I am prepared to die for but no causes I am prepared to kill for."

Source: The Story of My Experiments with Truth - Mahatma Gandhi


Wrapping this up I have to say it's surprising how "radical" Christianity in the form of Paul, Leo and Mahatma is. It may amaze some people (like me) that Christianity and Anarchism can be connected.

If someone says the word anarchist we tend to think wild eyed-Starbuck's-windowbreaking-bandana wearing-WTO protestor. Maybe that's just me that thinks that :-)

Some Christian Anarchists have ideas that ring true. For my money if thinkers like Henry David Thoreau, Soren Kierkagaard, Leo Tolstoy, Daniel Berrigan, and Thomas Merton saw some merit in these ideas, they are worth consideration.

The Catholic Worker Movement page has a nice summary of the philosophy of this particular form of Christian Anarchism and this page some history of the movement.

The things these guys are teaching are very radical, very dangerous.....

to governments, banks, businesses, warmakers and a lot of organized religions.

I love to hitch my wagon to the great ones though. The Christianity of the televangel or the politician is generally not my cup of tea. Anyone who proposes divisiveness, hate, violence, or killing as justified or a solution, would be well served to review what these thinkers have to say.



Redemption Song


and a very sad but courageous story about war

Paint or Draw Like Anybody

Anyone can paint, draw, sketch, or sculpt.

Not anyone will.

Children have no problem doing this, but for most adults the trip through school and road to adulthood forced any sense of being free to make art out of them.


Creativity is not encouraged in most schooling. Not all but most.

Adults are supposed to act like adults. No silly painting allowed.

Fear. Being afraid that what you create is not up to standards.

Cultural expectations. Some cultures expect students to regurgitate what the teacher's harder and a heck of lot more fun, to learn to "think" than to "repeat".


There are a 101 reasons why we need creative people in this world.

From the personal to the global.

One of the competitive advantages American's have had over some other cultures is our ability to create rather than copy.

A good way to foster your own creativity is to let go of those fears about not being good enough to create art and go for it.

Get a box of crayons, a watercolor set, pencils, clay or whatever you like and have fun. I think you will find that after awhile you open up to some playfulness you always had inside you which then leads to creative ideas. Who knows you might have the solution to problems on a personal, local or even global scale, locked inside you.

This creative for the sake of creativity, not creating art to display or sell; although not to say that might be an outcome for a few, it's not the main point.

Art as I'm using the word is a product of human creativity. That product may be "beautiful" or not. There is no requirement for beauty, since beauty is in the eye of the beholder, only that the work be creative. If the work makes the creator or viewer think outside the rut, that gets you bonus points.


Live Long and Tinker is a relevent article, from today's MIT Technology Review, for those of us getting a little long in the tooth.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Harry Nilsson - Everybody's Talkin'

"Going where the weather suits my clothes."

I love Everybody's Talkin' and that line particularly.

It was a sad song in Midnight Cowboy with Ratso being sick on the Greyhound and all,

but still love the song and the images it invokes.

Life - Understanding and Controlling Risk

I feel sorry for completely risk-averse people.

They miss out on the joy of life.

To be alive is to expose yourself to risk. I could live a relatively safe life by killing myself slowly. That way you and I won't notice it so much when I die.

I can start by staying inside. Then I can control what I eat and drink and associate only with the safest people. I'll never drive fast, walk fast, run, jump, climb, drink, use a drug, smoke anything or eat anything smoked.

Not only will I wear a helmet when I ride my bike and fasten my seat belt in my car; I'll wear a helmet and fasten myself securely at all times. I'll just sit still and eat oatmeal. While I'm at it I'll move underground so I'll be safer in the event of some threat at ground level. Now that I'm underground and almost dead...


A little understanding of probability would go a long way to allaying people's fears. Afraid that you might get a disease from the public blood supply? Be a victim of a violent crime? Be attacked by a grizzly bear or a shark?

It all depends on the degree of risk you are willing to assume.

Here's a way to think about your chance of getting HIV from a blood transfusion -

Write the numbers 1 through 500,000 on individual pieces of paper. Throw them up in the air and spread them around the room. Think of a number between 1 and 500,000. Pick up a piece of paper with a number on it. If it's the number you thought of you are one lucky/unlucky son of a gun.

Your chances of getting HIV/AIDS from a unit (one pint) of blood are about 1 in 500,000. To be fair, the risks of contracting HIV, hepatitis C, hepatitis B or HTLV-1 from a blood transfusion is about one in 34,000 transfused units. You can write down numbers from 1 to 34,000 and repeat the experiment. You should try picking your number 3 or 4 times to simulate a transfusion of 3 or 4 pints of blood.

Source: InteliHealth: HIV / AIDS Features


Being a victim of a violent crime is much more likely than getting sick from a blood transfusion. For a woman the chances of rape are about 34 times as likely since there are about 1 reported rape per 1000 people in the U.S. in the 1990's.

In any given year, until the 1990's, about 50 people in 1000 were victims of some sort of violent crime including rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault. This is an interesting rate since it seems if we live 20 years we will all be victims of some sort of violent crime. Either that or some people are victims multiple times.

Not to blow this out of proportion but it's important to understand risk if you want to control it or keep it at a level you are comfortable with.

It's easy to see why being alone in dangerous areas, drinking or otherwise making yourself less able to recognize dangerous situations, putting yourself in the path of danger without controlling the risks is not smart. On a side note - it may not be so obvious but recognizing that road (or other) rage is something to stay away from. I'm guessing a fair number of those simple and aggravated assaults could have been avoided if one party would have opted out before it was too late.

Here's the good news on violent crime.

It isn't increasing.

This is really hard to fathom considering the concentration the mass media has on sensational crime reporting.

This graph is interesting because it shows how constant crime rates were. Unfortunately it's out of date. The interesting thing is crime rates have shown a sharp decline since this graph was created. In 2001 the violent crime rate was about 25 per 1000.

Interesting to think about why that might be. Some claim it's the tougher sentencing laws that result in higher incarceration rates and also a disincentive to people who "think" about the legal consequences before they assault someone. Other people say it's because the crack cocaine epidemic played out with the younger generation who watched mothers, fathers, neighborhoods, destroyed by crack cocaine; making the decision to stay away from crack. This paper prepared for the California Attorney General, sums up the questions about why there was a sharp decrease in crime in the late 90's.

One of the questions of course is what effect meta-amphetamine use will have on crime rates. On a side note - Meta-amphetamines or Methamphetamine has a long history. It was used/abused by the Japanese immediately after World War II, by the Nazis and U.S. forces during the war. It was commonly prescribed in the U.S. in the 1950's as a weight loss or "pep" pill. I think the point of that is that if a person could control their use of this highly addictive drug they wouldn't necessarily be on the road to hell...unfortunately that doesn't work a lot of the time. I'm not a big fan of DARE scare tactics but these pictures of the effects of meth on a woman over a 4 year period and of an addicts arm from the DEA are instructive.

Sources: Methamphetamine - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

BJS Technical Report - Displaying Violent Crime Trends - Violent crime rate in America continues steep decline


I won't go into the risk of being eaten by a grizzly or a shark.

I will say after the movie "Jaws" came out in the 70's I felt a bit of fear in pools or lakes. Totally irrational of course, but the point is we can get really scared about whatever we decide to focus our attention on.

Saturday Night Live took off on the national fear that Jaws started with the "Land Shark" skit which featured a shark who knocked on the door and said "candygram", then ate the people who answered the door. You would have to see it to get the humor. There's a video about the skit at 101 Most Unforgettable "SNL" Moments - Video Gallery.

It helps me to step back from the nightly news, T.V. talk shows, crime shows, T.V. in general, newspapers, scarey/violent movies and other media focused on the sensational and read and concentrate on some good stuff, some fun things, things to laugh about, beautiful things, check out what's going on outside my door in the real world.

Lot's of sunshine out there today. No sharks or grizzlies around..

I better get out and enjoy the day.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Live Rich - Live Poor

An alternate title might be -

"Saving Money versus Using Money"


"Living Richly or Living Poorly - You Choose"

It's easy to see people who save money, may have quite a bit saved and yet live poor or maybe more accurately live poorly.

How is that?

I used to know some people in a coffee club. A group of men who would get together at a local cafe to drink coffee, have a bite to eat and share conversation. They were businessmen, salesmen, attorneys, small business owners who had enough income to provide them with comfortable lifestyles.

One of them was maybe what we consider "rich". He had a lot more money than the others. He had saved and invested his money wisely. He was also so cheap he wouldn't pick up the tab for coffee. He worried about money - a lot. He focused on collecting money and had amassed quite a bit.

He was good at saving money but not good at using money, at least not when it came to using it for living or helping others. He was one unhappy camper, thinking about how he might lose his money took up most of his time. The other members of the group on the other hand used their time and money to enrich their lives and the lives of others. Simple things like going fishing (taking the time to go fishing), attending a play or musical performance, keeping up a vacation cottage, buying a boat, traveling, vacationing with their children and later in life helping them through school and donating time or money to schools and churches.


Not too long ago I was at a professional sporting event and had a good view of the owners box. The owner was sitting by himself looking quite unhappy and least to me. How weird that is to "own" the team, have a ton of money and have to sit by yourself. Maybe whoever he invited just didn't show up that night. I'd think he would know a lot of people in the stadium he could invite into his box point is I wouldn't automatically assume the guys driving the fancy cars in fancy suits have any more happiness than you or me.


My viewpoints on money and material things, are colored of course by my perspective -

I have a personal understanding of the disconnect between money and happiness from my childhood. Big houses don't make people happy.

I believe that God will look out for me. I don't believe I have the power to know what will happen to me in the next 20 or 30 years or for that matter the next 20 or 30 minutes. I understand that what we think is going to happen may be completely turned upside down in an instant ala hurricane Katrina, the loss of a loved one or discovery of a terminal illness. Any plans I make have to work for me in the possible scenario of loss of material things, my own life and loved ones. I can't wait for tomorrow to start my life.

I've been around enough entrepenurial people to understand that using money is critical if you want to make money.

I've been around enough people who grabbed the gusto from life to know that worrying about money (or anything else) is not going to help. Let it flow let it go. It will work out...

I have an abundance mentality. I think there is enough to go around. If I can give or buy you a drink or lunch or dinner I will. My family and friends are the same.


Having an abundance mentality doesn't mean that you think there is an unlimited supply of material goods or money at hand. Rather that there are enough non-material things; love, care, attention, sprituality. In addition there are enough critical material things; money, food, clothing, shelter, to go around. A person living in a hut in India may very well have an abundance mentality and be perfectly happy...because they have enough, and understand that a heck of a lot better than we do in our materialistic world view. I'm not talking about the extremely poor who don't have the basics of life, the lowest level of needs on Maslow's hierarchy of needs - food, shelter and appropriate clothing.

Image Source: Maslow's hierarchy of needs - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

It's interesting to consider the hierarchy of needs on Maslow's pyramid. The only one that has to do with money/material things is at the bottom. You need money to obtain food, shelter and clothing. Once you start to move up the pyramid, to self-actualization, the needs for Safety, Love/Belonging, and Esteem have little to do with material things. Not to say they are totally unrelated.

You can find some connection between the higher levels and material things. One example would be to consider being poor and living in a dangerous neighborhood making it impossible to feel safe.

You could also make an argument for an inverse relationship between the higher levels of the pyramid and material wealth. You're more likely to get car-jacked in a BMW than a Pinto. Love/Belonging might be harder to find for people who are so busy with careers and gathering of material things than for people living a simpler life. If your esteem involves keeping up with the neighbors purchases it's a tough road in the good old U.S.A. land of the giant shopping mall.

If you have spent time with people we consider "poor" I think you might buy in to the latter argument that money can't buy you safety, self-esteem, love, happiness, a life or a personality.


Some time ago I was riding in a nice vehicle owned by a woman I know. One of her coworkers (who had essentially the same income as my friend) asked her how she could afford such a vehicle? She told her she had taken out a loan.

You have two people with similar incomes. One driving a junky old car that tended to break down the other a nice big vehicle she could use for her own and her family's pleasure. No problem if you like to drive and fix old cars when they break down as some of us do. It is a problem if you are driving an old beater car not by choice but because you think you are forced to ie. you are too cheap to buy a new or better car, complain about how unreliable the car is and more importantly if you are bitter or envious of others because of you have an old car.

Here we have two people with similar incomes; one who lived poorly when it came not only to transportation, but also food, housing and clothing, and another who didn't. The one who lived poorly envious of the other, but still in their own mind superior for not having any debt.

I'm not suggesting anyone over extend their credit, only that money be used rather than amassed solely for a rainy day that may never come. People who are sucessful at business understand this concept. People who are able to travel, take vacations, help others, provide their children with computers, education, books, experiences that cost money...understand this.

Investing for the future doesn't necessarily mean investing money with the hope of amassing more money. I would be less concerned about having a perfectly planned retirement than I would be if I got to retirement and figured out I never had a life. I'd like to invest money so in the future I can have interesting stories to tell my grandkids. I'd also like to invest money on my kids futures via education so they can be active vital contributing members of society...rather than saving up a nest egg for me to use when I'm too damn old to enjoy it.


If no one borrowed money Detroit would have gone out of business long ago. For the most part we wouldn't have homes, farms, or businesses since those all depend on credit at some time or another.

Assume you were very careful with your money. You keep it tightly held while your children grow up. Need a video camera to record a birthday or a vacation? Better wait until video cameras get to the price you think is "best". Maybe your children would benefit from having a computer when they are four, five, six, seven, eight, nine....years old. You decide to wait for that computer or video camera to get to the price you think is "best". The problem is they never get to a best price. The price continues to go down and you can easily end up with a lot of missed irreplaceable opportunities.

It's better to do things than have things (unless we are talking about having memories).

Saving money is wise. Using money even wiser.

Friday, September 16, 2005

What Makes Dandelions Close at Night?

Nobody knows, they just do.

Somebody knows but it's a mysterious process nonetheless. I picked a few small dandelions and brought them into an office, lit by fluorescent lights. This office has a few small windows far away from where the flowers were so they couldn't be detecting the sunlight.

About 6 pm the dandelions closed up for the night. The next morning they opened up again.

During the day we put a cup over them to keep out the light and they stayed open. I took the cup off after 6 pm and they closed up about an hour later.


what makes dandelions close at night?

I've seen mention of temperature, sunlight, and rain causing dandelions to close. None of these apply to the artificially lit, temperature controlled cube world I had them in.

I think it's some sort of chemical clock.

Lyrics That Get Stuck In Your Head

Probably not the best set of lyrics to get stuck on, but I couldn't get Phil Collin's I Don't Care Anymore out of my head last week.

Speaking of lyrics, Every Grain of Sand by Bob Dylan is resonating with me right now. Not as catchy as "I don't care anymore" but interesting nonetheless.

Jury Duty

I was selected for jury duty this week and spent Monday and Tuesday at the courthouse. The first day I was potential juror number 9. The defendent was granted a continuance so that put the kibosh on my chance to adjust the scales of justice in that trial. On Tuesday I got further along in the process. I was potential juror number 37 out of 40.

I got to observe the jury selection process which was fascinating. Not as fascinating as Runaway Jury but still pretty darn interesting.

The case was interesting as well; an attorney charged with assaulting a court marshal during a hearing involving his divorce and child custody (the attorney specialized in divorce and custody issues). The attorney was representing himself. I learned later his case has been a year long saga in various courts with various judges and prosecutors, over a 4th degree assault charge.

The newspaper report of the incident said the attorney was asked to leave the divorce/custody hearing because he was being disruptive. In the process of being escorted out by the court officer he ended up in some sort of a struggle/shoving match and was maced by the court officer. That was apparently the end of it, until he decided the next day to file a police report and threaten to sue the county for 1.5 million dollars. At that point he was charged with 3rd degree assault, a felony, for alledgedly hitting the marshal with his elbow. At some point in the legal process the charge was reduced to 4th degree assault, a gross misdemeanor.

The jury pool included amongst other people, a special federal investigator and an attorney who had interesting things to say to the defendent. The attorney told the defendent essentially that he thought he was foolish to defend himself and that he was wasting taxpayer money and court time. The special federal investigator had some interesting comments about recording facts and also a non-deferential attitude towards the attorneys differing from most of the regular citizens there.

The defense and prosecution have the right to dismiss jurors for cause (an obvious or maybe not so obvious potential for bias/prejudice) or for no-cause (there's something about the juror they don't think would help their case). Both the attorney and the federal investigator were dismissed by the defendent. They got through about 23 people before they arrived at a 12 person jury.

I was amazed at the size of this piece of the criminal justice system. There were over 200 potential jurors called for duty in the Superior Court that Monday. Snohomish County has fourteen Superior Court Judges and 4 court commissioners (licensed attorneys appointed by the judges to hear certain cases). Add to that the clerks, administrators, defense and district attorneys and we're talking big.

The introduction to jury service video was narrated by none other than Perry Mason aka Raymond Burr. I grew up watching Perry Mason and have been a fan of Judge Wapner's People's Court, Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, etc., so I was disappointed a bit that I wasn't actually able to sit through the trial. Maybe next time.

I'm not so sure I'd be a good juror anyway. In a trial you are only to consider the facts presented. I'd like to know every fact possible, by talking to people involved, reading everything I could find, considering precedents and then decide for myself what is pertinent (or as they say on TV court shows - admissible as evidence). Making those decisions on admissibility is the judge's job - unfortunately for me, they were looking for jurors rather than judges on the day I was there.

Raymond Burr said in the video that the justice system necessarily moves at a slow pace. Considering the consequences of the decisions it makes sense that we wouldn't want to rush to justice. Tough to reconcile the desire for slow careful justice with our right to a speedy trial and the overcrowding of the court system (primarily due to arrests for non-violent drug offenses).

Considering over 200 regular citizens, numerous judges, attorneys, police officers, clerks were hard at work on Monday in the Superior Court system it's interesting to consider how society's resources are being allocated to serve justice. What keeps our courts and prison systems busy? I'm sure you know the answer but here's a few interesting factoids on the failed drug war and the costs to society of incarcerating non-violent offenders -

Ralph Nader asked George Bush to grant clemency to the incarcerated non-violent drug offenders in his campaign bid of 2004 making the point that if George had been treated the same as regular folks arrested for using cocaine he “probably would not have gone on to have the career you have had.” Nader's request for clemency letter was similar to a letter signed by 400 clergy members sent to President "I didn't inhale" Clinton during his term in office in 2000.

More than half of the federal prison population consists of prisoners convicted of drug offenses. The statistics show these are non-violent low-level crimes e.g. street dealers or personal possession cases.

California and New York spend more incarcerating people than they do on higher education.

The U.S. nonviolent prisoner population is larger than the combined populations of Wyoming and Alaska.

The U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration of any country in the world with 701 per 100,000 people (Russia is second at 606 per 100,000). Compare this with the U.K. which has 141 per 100,000 (which still places the U.K. highest of the European Union Countries).

Human Rights Watch concluded, "Drug control policies bear primary responsibility for the quadrupling of the national prison population since 1980 and a soaring incarceration rate, the highest among western democracies.... No functioning democracy has ever governed itself with as large a percentage of its adults incarcerated as the United States."


Poor Prescription: The Costs of Imprisoning Drug Offenders in the United States

Nader Urges Bush to Grant Clemency for Non-Violent Drug Offenders

Drug War Facts: Drug Offenders In The Corrections System — Prisons, Jails and Probation

Postscript -

The questioning process used to select jurors to determine if you have prior knowledge of the case, personal interests, or feelings that might cause you to be biased is called voir dire, which means "to speak the truth."

I'm sure people want to "speak the truth" but I don't think many were. The attorneys keep asking if you will be unbiased, consider only the facts and be impartial. People say yes, yes, yes...I'm fair, unbiased and totally without prejudice.

I beg to differ. We all climb the Ladder of Inference quickly, we all have biases and prejudices and to state otherwise means you are either not telling the truth or not self-aware. Personally I would have convicted the guy based on a five minute observation except for the fact that I have personal biases causing me to question any general theory that law enforcement always acts out of concern for the public "good". The tension between those two bias might have kept me listening to what he said vs. what the state was trying to prove for awhile, except I didn't really like the look of the assistant DA ;-)

I remember years ago making an observation in the L.A. County courthouse, while observing the police and the prisoners interact, that the police seemed to be closer in thought/habit to some of the bad-guy type prisoners than to me. A prisoner and a police officer were "joking" about the prisoner assaulting his wife. It was like they were old buddies talking about a fishing trip. The policeman knew the prisoner from prior convictions. I'm not sure how police who associate with bad guys all day keep from having it rub off, must be tough.

They (police/guards) would beat you up in the L.A. County jail, and on the way there, just for the hell of it. I saw a black man that had been beaten to the point (while restrained) that he couldn't walk and they had to wheel him out in a wheelchair. If you can stay out of the L.A. County jail that's probably best. Let's make that any jail.

I guess for my two cents worth I'd like to see attorneys, courts and regular people devote their time to protecting people who can't protect themselves. Instead of arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating non-violent drug offenders I'd like to see our energies devoted to protecting a child who needs help, victims of crime, a prisoner being abused or anyone else who can't afford, isn't aware enough, or for some other reason can't use the legal system to look out for themselves. When you think about a case like this it makes you think how utterly our system fails some of those least able to protect themselves. I can't hate the sinner even in this one. Joseph Duncan was in his own sad/sick way a victim. He should never have been allowed to be on the street...killing him only shows that we failed as a society.


Saturday, September 10, 2005

The History of Concrete - Hydraulic Cement

The History of Concrete from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Hydraulic cement is a very useful material for patching water leaks in concrete since it can harden underwater.

I learned from the History of Concrete that in 1793, "John Smeaton found that the calcination of limestone containing clay gave a lime which hardened under water (hydraulic lime). He used hydraulic lime to rebuild Eddystone Lighthouse in Cornwall, England which he had been commissioned to build in 1756, but had to first invent a material that would not be affected by water."

Crash - The Movie

Crash is a very interesting movie about prejudice. Good acting, interesting story lines and some beautiful cinematography. It will make you think and give you something to talk about with those who watch it with you.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Good Day at Black Rock

I got back from the desert early Monday morning after driving all night from Alturas California.

I'm working on Good Day at Black Rock to document parts of the trip.