Monday, April 18, 2016

the case for an immediate switch to renewable fuels.





You will note the photo of the jeep and the solar ATV. Let us concentrate our thoughts on these 2 different types of transportation. It could be said that the Jeep is ready for about a 300 mile journey with it's tank full, and more of the fuel can be obtained [dirt cheap] almost anywhere that it can be driven. Detractors of plug in electric vehicles will suggest that the ATV has a relatively short range, is under powered, and that it's 'fuel' is much harder to replace after it runs out.

Look at the photo again. Right now, neither machine is in use. One is actually fueling up [very slowly], while the other is slowly leaking oil onto the ground, and venting the more volitile benzenes from it's fuel tank into the earths atmosphere. The fossil fuel is, in effect, slowly spoiling, while the plug in vehicle's 'fuel' is slowly leaking into the tank! It is earth's sun, after all, that is filling it up.

While it sometimes seems that the earth's sun is a pretty weak 'fuel', and that fossil fuel is easy to obtain, clean burning, and inexpensive, a closer inspection will reveal that conditions on earth have changed so that solid and liquids fuels should no longer be used within the atmosphere. If we will momentarily divert our genious for war and money-making into this endeavor, we will very quickly be getting about in a silent way, and harvesting as much free fuel from the sun as we [and our decedents] can ever use.

It is important to examine some of the ramifications of a switch to renewable fuels. We are constantly warned that any reduction in the use of grid power or fossil fuel would result in a drastic reduction in jobs, and a collapse in the economy. We have based our economy on the ever-expanding use of coal and natural gas and oil. We even plow the sky, back and forth, with giant metal birds that belch the burned oil into the most vulnerable layers of the upper atmosphere. How could any of this burning effect such a robust, HUGE planet? A planet whose surface is littered with volcanoes, that vent the same gasses that our machinery does?

I am here to tell you, [as a trained oilfield engineer], that decades of study of the the earths crust has not fostered in me a belief in the robustness of our ecosystem. It is the opposite. When ones job is to look deep into the earth, one gets the feeling that they are scooting about on melted rock, riding a very thin skateboard of non melted rock. When you take measurements, the temperature and pressure and chemical toxicity mount very very rapidly as you drill just a short distance down into the thin skin of non melted rock. It is a miracle that fresh water can exist near the surface. The deep holes that we drill into such a hot and toxic environment absurdly risky.

When you look at the big picture then, [including the atmosphere], it is sheer folly to bring flammable toxins to the surface. Burning them directly into the atmosphere is noisy and unpleasant, and we have already overcome the Earth's natural resistance to climate change. Additional burning will work directly against the well being of our children. No financial arguments make any sense. Money is our own concept, but I will attempt to guess the preference of unborn generations:

WE WOULD PREFER TO INHERIT GOOD WATER RATHER THAN MONEY. WE WOULD PREFER A CRUST THAT HAS VERY FEW DRILL HOLES IN IT. WE HOPE FOR AN ATMOSPHERE RICH IN OXYGEN AND LOW IN CARBON DIOXIDE AND HYDROCARBON EXHAUST. WE TRUST YOU TO REDUCE YOUR NUMBERS AND TO CONSERVE YOUR RESOURCES, SO THAT OUR LIVES WILL ALSO BE LONG AND FULFILLING. LEAVE US GREAT SCHOOLS, INSPIRING ART, AND A CAREFULLY THOUGHT OUT RENEWABLE INFRASTRUCTURE. PLEASE HOLD THE WEAPONS AND THE SECRET POLICE AND THE CONSTANT THREAT OF WAR.

In short, there are some arguments for leaving remaining fossil fuel stores in place. Now, we should look at plug-in vehicles and the renewable infrastructure itself. Are renewables just a kind of hoax, along with climate change?

Certainly, renewable energy has changed my life for the better. I switched from the electric grid and generators to photovoltaics some time ago. My little town goes dark pretty often, because we are at the end of a long, and faulty bit of the electric grid. By contrast, my home solar electric runs for years at a time. If the main system needs maintenance, i can rely on two back up systems. Now, i make my own heating and cooking and even some of my motor fuel! That feels pretty good. My choices, freely made, have reduced the number of fires and explosions in the world. I have replaced fires and explosions with little patches of ground that are deprived of sunlight and slightly cooler!

Finally, there is the diffuse nature of sunlight, and the problems with batteries. OK, sunlight is not really that weak! For example, enough sun falls on your house to power anything within reason that needs doing under that roof. Enough typically falls on your car to get you to and from work. Sun or wind are universally available on earth, as long as you make allowances for non-windy periods and night and winter. Only a tiny fraction of the surface needs to be shaded by panels to meet any foreseeable needs that we might have.

Batteries have improved drastically of late, and we should see further refinements quite soon. We are ramping up our production of fairly clean lithium ion batteries now, and these already allow huge travel distances and great performance. Smart neighborhood grids and the new batteries should make our future power systems robust and very efficient.

In summary; it is within our grasp to switch to renewable power almost overnight. We are smart, smart monkeys! The Earth will be cooler and more quiet. We will feel some comfort that we have prepared the way for our descendants in the best way that we could. Stated a different way: Even if you don't believe in God, is it a total waste of time to issue a very brief 'insurance prayer' just in case she exists? Climate change; the future of the energy infrastructure; and the general quality of life for all species on Earth concern us to the point where it might be reasonable to reduce our 'burning' voluntarily.

Einsteins very first paper, in 1905, named and described the photoelectric effect. The atom is described as a slightly more interesting little machine than we initially supposed! Light can strike an atom, and give it that much of a boost in energy. The light is gone then, and it's 'oomph' goes into raising one of the atom's electrons into a higher orbit. If the 'oomph' is great enough, the electron may be free to leave the atom, and to be shared along from atom to atom. It has been suggested that we are burning too much fossil fuel, and harming ourselves. Wouldn't it be a miracle to arrange some way to use these freely marching electrons? O wait..............

How to die happy [No bucket list needed or desired]

How to be a human that dies happy.

Most people understand the idea of a bucket list, which includes the experiences that a person wants to have before their life ends. This idea seems foreign and forced to me. It reminds me of the way that some folks wait until the very last moment to do a thing that they must do. I have always been the opposite kind of person, who does the needed things at the very beggining of the 'due' period.

That is why I addressed my lifes goals very early on, even before i was a teen. When, at age 16, my childhood did not seem to be going well, I forged my parents name on a motorcycle title, and departed the east coast once and for all. Driving west felt correct to me, and I took some care to avoid a traffic stop where my learners permit would come into question.

I was frightened, but far more worried about wasting my life in a region where i did not belong, and doing pointless deeds that were merely expected of me. I recognize that people are driven through their lives by various fears, and later by the compulsion to reproduce. It is not so much that they make incorrect decisions about their lives. It seems like the ship of their life has no captain at all, and floats about at the mercy of winds and tides.

To continue with the analogy, the ship has no destination, and the only steering is to avoid dangers that are very near the prow. These unpiloted ships drift about, directed by greed and fear and community concensus. At the end of their seaworthy days, moments before a particular ship sinks to the bottom of the sea, the captain is finally tempted to point the prow in a direction and stick to it.

Although the mention of death is emotionally catchy, this essay is not really about death. It is about using timing and strength and trickery to balance the fear and greed. There is no religious component to the argument, because, it seems to me that religion most ofen serves to further constrain ones behavior. Instead, I will offer the only real evidence that i have, which are anecdotes from my own life.

Fear of death is overcome to do my first dangerous rock climb.

I started rock climbing later in life, and persued it with my typical single minded zeal. Being slender and somewhat feeble, i knew that genetics alone was not going to power me to the pinacle of climbing accomplishment. So, i purposely sought out the best climbers on earth. I noticed that some of the very strongest climbers would climb tall rock and ice faces with no rope.

I tried some short ones, and was able to do every one by overcoming brief bursts of fear. My first long unroped climb was the east buttress of El Capitan. It is on the right side of the wall, and it's most difficult move is a traverse to the right on small holds. The 'crux' is at an awkward height for an unroped human. At perhaps 60 meters up the wall, it is high enough that a fall can not turn out well, but low enough on El Capitan that the ground is real looking and 'present'.

In addition, quite a few difficult moves occur below the crux, so that retreat is not very attractive. Climbing down is really no harder than climbing up, but the participant spends much of their time looking in the direction of a possible fall to find the foot holds. This can bring on vertigo and dizziness, which will hinder the process. I remember that i was singing a silly popular song about falling, falling, falling as i approached the crux. When i reached it, the look of the moves froze me in place. I felt that there was a good chance that my little song would come true. I thought about starting down, but was disgusted with the idea of being that pathetic guy who fails at everything in life.

After a while, the anger and revulsion at being so pathetic overcame my fear. Basically, i preferred to be dead than to give up any chance of a real life while paralyzed with fear. I headed right across the small holds, finding that i could insert my arm through a sling that was hanging from a piton during the hardest single move. I would not place weight on it, but would have more than one try if I slipped. I got it on the first try, and it felt remarkably easy! It was apparent that the fear had made the holds look smaller and further apart. I still had a few hours of easier climbing to reach the top of El Capitan, but it seemed that i had passed a kind of threshold, and it was easy to remain relaxed. Later, i was to learn some mental tricks that would often reduce the fear and thereby, make the act of climbing unroped much less suicidal.

Getting over a seemingly insurmountable difficulty with leading very hard routes.

After about 10 years of concentrating my efforts on climbing, I realized that no more improvement was happening. When i attempted to lead a very hard route, a terrible conversation would begin in my brain. The cross talk took 99% of my attention, and sapped my confidence. I would always fail, and fall safetly onto the rope. Where was this cross talk coming from?

I meditated on this question for some time, and decided to travel back east and try to make 'friends' with my parents. Perhaps, it was guilt for running away from home, and for depriving my projenitors with the closure that they deserved. I arranged the trip, and carried it off with my charactoristic mixed results. When i arrived back in the west, I set out to climb 'burning in hell'. It was far too steep for my feeble frame, and the holds were simply too far apart to reach! to my delight, i found that the mental conversation had ceased, and i could, at last, concentrate on pulling myself up the rock.

None the less, i continued to fail miserably. In searching for the flaw, i quickly discounted the physical side. I was not a genetically gifted climber, but was highly trained and free of injury. I looked around me, and saw many young climbers attempting to excell. It was thought at the time that lots of pre climb meditation was needed, along with all kinds of shouting and good energy from the onlookers. So, i tried the opposite things. I ceased the pre climb meditations. Instead of practicing the moves in the air, or bragging and beating on my chest, i started bringing a chess set, and found a partner that liked to play games in between our attempts.

There was a huge difference! We would be playing chess, and suddenly, i would glance up at the drastically overhanging wall and notice that no one was climbing. I would hop up and tie into the rope, drag my slippers on in seconds, and begin to climb. My belayer would remain silent, and ask any other onlookers to refrain from the customary yelling. I started to reach the crux of 'burning'. But, being the warmest part of the summer, I would be too hot by then to make a huge reach while pulling myself to the right with my toe under the roof. Obviously, one more ingredient was needed.


One day, i encoutered a large 'possee' from Boulder Colorado in the cave. They were trying 'burning' also, and were attempting to overcome the heat by resting in the shade, and then spraying the climber with cool water just before they began. There was plenty of chest beating and yelling. None of it was working for them, but it gave me an idea for an empiracle experiment. So, seeing that the route was empty, i broke off a chess game, and went out into the hot sun. i began to run up and down hills, and do jumping jacks. I came back into the cave breathing hard and dripping with sweat, and tied myself to the rope. After asking for quiet, i quickly reached the top of burning without any difficulty. furthermore, i could always do it fairly easily after that!

How weed helped me to do Pumparama

So now, i had the basic ingredients to do short, hard routes consistently. I could do long easy routes with no rope, but was still having trouble with routes that are both long and hard. I was in Rifle, Colorado, trying to do the second ascent of a long, very steep route called Pumparama. i decided to quit smoking weed for the season, to see if that was sapping my endurance.

i got good at the lower difficulties, so that i was reaching the final tiring headwall, where i would melt off of fairly easy moves. With some disapointment, I watched the 2nd and 3rd ascents occur while i continued to fall near the top. In the autumn, i finally gave up, and a few superb guys from Oregon offered to help me to retrieve my equipment from the route. Since my quest was over, i could now smoke weed, and we kicked the hacky sack and got really stoned below the wall. The wall was so steep that the only way to get the quick draws off of the bolts was for one person to lead it, and then another person could remove them while climbing the route with a rope from above.

Those guys were smart, and knew more about the issue than i did. So, they convinced me to bring the rope up there myself, even if i had to hang on every bolt. When i started, i heard them begin to say calming things in a conversational volume. They were the opposite of battle cries, and i was disconnected from any expectations of success. Of course, i made the top easily without getting tired at all! I mean, there was never a moment of doubt. Again, I had succeeded because i was willing to experiment. However, in this case, the experiment was to stop consuming a drug that could never be of use to an elite athelete.

To elaborate further, i had quit canabis at an earlier age, and then visited the eye doctor to find that i had the glaucoma that runs through my family. So, quitting canabis for the summer probably lost me a bit of sight around the edges of my visual field. If there is a lesson, it is that there is no magic bullet that leads to triumph and success.

After these experiments, i began to ignore all of the folk wisdom of climbing. I ceased with any kind of special diet or silly sport snacks. As the climbers turned from street people to affluent office workers, i became a object of ridicule; with my ancient ropes, course manners and ripped blue jeans. But, once i had realized that climbing was just a part of ordinary life, i did much, much better. I would feast on boiled eggs and baked potatoes while the others ate power bars and 5 dollar bags of spiced tuna. I learned what to say to the office workers so that they would not yell at me while i was climbing. I learned to choose partners very carefully. One could often find a Norwegian or an American mechanic or farmer to climb with. i learned to hide from the crowds of weekend warriors, and to camp and climb with others that 'lived' climbing.

I repaired climbing shoes out of my truck, so I had no need to travel to a city to obtain income. There was no sense of security, and litterally no safety net at all. There was something else besides sucurity and safety. And here is the catch.... it seems that the safety is illusury. Just like there is no way to get fat enough to live out the rest of your life without eating food again. There is no way to get ones bank account fat enough so that one is 'really' safe. Human safety is not in obesity or wealth. Indeed, it is the opposite! Safety is in avoiding extremes of poverty, illness and injury, and healing from these conditions faster than new misfortunes arrive. It is not so important to entirely avoid hunger, extreme behavior, or risk. Life is like a big machine, with inputs like food and information, and ouputs like poop and behavior [and even new machines!].

Ones machine does not run in outer space. It is emersed in a sea of other machines. That is the complicated and important part. It is the interactions between the machines that is 'seen' by the universe. One's inner struggle takes place largely in secret. There is already a concept of the 'good deed', but 'good deeds' are not strange abberations of behavior motivated by a supreme being upon nearly senseless single cell organisms. 'Good Deeds' are the way that cells of some kind of extended body cooperate to maintain life. Death will be assured if the cells of this proposed body loose all contact with one another, and each cell behaves as if it were alone in a harsh and dangerous environment.

I do not suggest that anti-biotics, bombs, guns and tall walls are of no use in this system. If the universe were like that, there would be only red blood cells needed in the circulatory system, and no need for militaristic [and potentially harmful] white blood cells. How does one deal with situations where love will not work? This question is to be answered in another essay, as this writing is about maintaining a healthful ballence between two extremes. Here are some strange tips for getting older:

All of your friends will die. As tempting as it is to pick one or two humans, and consider them to be all of humanity, this approach may lead to a series of balloon popping events. Eventually, one may just give up the drivers seat after enough of these deflating events. I am pretty sure that I have seen this happen to many humans. As I look around, I see a kind of deep communication between humans that is not easily explained by Physics. As mentioned, I believe that this somewhat unseen 'bobbing of sparks' in the huge darkness is the real business of humans. Avoiding unbearable regret can be as simple as remembering the sparks while wallowing in the earthly mire.

Later, you will not remember the times of total comfort. It will be the times of rapid personal growth that stay sharp and clear in the memory. As long as the growing outpaces the dying, well, that is called 'life'. This should slightly redefine the meaning of 'safety'. I mean, sometimes, a person's way to see beyond themselves is to run really, really far, or to try a dangerous activity. So, there are grades of foolhardyness, that range from attempting to fly from a tall building, to trying a friendship with a human that is not exactly 'inside the box' of comfort. Being too 'safe' can itself be a kind of danger!

So, what is the summary of this essay? Do I suggest that everyone quit their job, and start bungie jumping and hitch hiking about? Well, if you are frozen in place, and no longer growing, some kind of shake up might be in order. But, I am not suggesting that one pilots ones own ship by constantly making random course corrections. One picks far off gails, and heads in that direction. If the ship is not making headway with the sails how they are now, the sails are reconfigured. Although one makes one's own choices, one stays on the radio with the other captains who are out there, themselves making choices in the dark and briney deep.












 



Saturday, June 27, 2015

Legal suicide and it's implications

There are 5 US states that allow a person who is suffering physical pain to end their lives at the time that they choose. They receive a lethal dose of a medication that they can take when the joy of living is overshadowed by their body's suffering.

I read the story of Brittany Maynard, Whose entire family moved to Oregon to take advantage of the legality of Doctor assisted suicide there.  You can read about it here:

washigton post article

There are some side issues that are worth exploring. For one, there are the problems that have cropped up with our Capitol punishment. Manufacturers of drugs do not want their brand used for executions, so we have been torturing convicts slowly to death while the families of the victims watch in horror. there are several ways to fix this, but they require an open mind. For one, they could be put into the same legal category as Brittany, and issued a similar dose to take within a certain time window to avoid an hour of choking to death in front of strangers. The popularity of assisted suicide suggests that some people are more comfortable choosing their own time, instead of experiencing a long, painful, and undignified decline.

Heroine could also be used, and the inmates who chose that somewhat attractive method could work themselves up to a lethal dose within a given time limit. Death row would be quite a different place in that case, with inmates issued syringes and seized drugs of known purity. I sure don't mind if they have a little bit of pleasure during their punishment, instead of the horror that we have been reading about in the media.
If they persisted in getting high without a lethal OverDose, they could then be compelled in the normal way.

There are inmates that maintain their innocence, and hope for a pardon until the last moment. But, there are convicts who do not relish the years of waiting in a cage. Aside from ridiculous religious arguments, there is no reason to require such persons to suffer like that.  Waiting for some officers to strap them down, and inject a non lethal dose of the incorrect drug into them is most likely more cruel than allowing the guilty party to choose the time in a somewhat dignified way. I can only imagine that it would save the executioners some stress and mental illness as well.

Another issue is mental anguish. One can not [at present] be assisted in their suicide efforts while suffering purely mental anguish. There is every chance that such suffering will end. The mood could lift, or the unpleasant situation could end. There is some question whether a mentally anguished person is qualified to judge when to quit this realm. In any case, it is not a terminal physical illness. Perhaps normal aging could be considered a terminal illness, and a person who is elderly might prefer to move on instead of living a life that is no longer rewarding.

There is the question 'is mental pain real'? To this I would reply that all pain is mental, whether it be caused by nerves signaling the brain, or, is born within the brain. There is the issue of the 'loved ones' of the sufferer, who sometimes feel that there is no reason at all for the unhappy human to depart before the heart stops of it's own accord. These questions can be debated legally and morally, but i would simply point out some practical matters.

People do commit suicide. Sadly, sometimes they take others with them, as in the case of suicide bombers, and those that drive into things with their car. Males often do it with a pistol, and i imagine that this is not pleasant for the loved ones. Sometimes it does not work, leaving the person worse off then they were before. When you think of the methods, you realize that many of them do injure others mentally or physically.

there is no up side to keeping suicide illegal, or refusing to assist those that have certainly decided on the act. Why force a suicidal person to commit a crime? does that seem like a great deterrent to one who will soon be dead anyway? Helping the depressed person to plan it out provides a chance for counseling, and an opportunity for the loved ones to have their say. It is easy to trot out faith based answers to this, and of course, they do not have to make any sense.

But, practically speaking, is there any real reason to force people who are qualified to make the decision perform the act in secrecy and utter isolation? I can think of one, and it is similar to the last minute pardon argument for assisting capitol punishment. Unassisted Illegal Suicide is hit and miss. The man might jerk the pistol at the last moment, and the woman might take the wrong number of pills or be discovered in time. If they have not converted themselves into a vegetable, they could go on to solve their issues and live a great life.

This leads directly to thoughts of the fake suicides, that are really cries for help. Legalizing suicide for the general public would at least remove the ambiguity. Folks who are committed, [and have already received professional help] could just take the pill, surrounded by loved ones if desired. All others would immediately be seen as showy cries for attention or help. It is possible that the number would decline, and that more people would receive the help and attention that they need without the fake attempt. This would eliminate some of the fake attempts that prove successful.

Again, here are some of the benefits of legalizing suicide:

A reduction in second hand deaths or permanent mental damage to witnesses of messy suicides.

A reduction in population, with the people who do not wish to stay here being allowed to depart legally.

A more pleasant experience for the dissatisfied person.

A better experience for those that would like a chance to discourage the act, or would like to offer support during the last moments.

a possible reduction in the number of suicides by reducing the number of fake suicides that succeed.

another possible reduction in numbers from the approval process, where a trained professional would caution against spur of the moment decisions, and offer other solutions.


I would offer this final thought experiment: In many parts of the US, a competent person may carry a deadly weapon, and use it when their life is being threatened. So, it seems that this person knows [at a moments notice] when to kill another person. Can they not be trusted to figure out when they would like to kill their own person, and leave this very crowded planet? Is a carefully premeditated killing of ones self not within the rights of that same person? The question is asked without reference to a person's religion. Our laws are not made to conform to the dogma of a particular religion. They are intended to form the boundaries of what a human may do and may not do within the border.

The End,
Alf





Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Colorado Ugly

Why are people in Colorado mean?
There are a number of reasons why colorado folks are less friendly than other Americans. First, I would like to describe the problem, and show that I am not the only one who believes this [from reddit.com]:


I'm trying to like Colorado but I don't. (self.Colorado)
submitted 1 year ago by the_iceman_shruggeth
I have been living in Colorado for about 8 or 9 months now, and as much as I love the sunshine, the mountains, the snowboarding, the hiking, etc., I am just miserable here. The people here are some of the rudest, if not the rudest, I've ever come across, and I don't understand it. I've tried so hard to make friends, but no one will even talk to me outside of being drunk at a bar. I went to a very strange, pretentious art school in Chicago, so I'm pretty used to pretentious douchebags, but here, it's above and beyond what I've experienced. Denver is literally the only place where I've walked up to people, introduced myself, and had them look me up and down, turn around, and ignore me. And this is at events, not at nightclubs or anything like that. I'm a fairly attractive lady who smiles a lot, so I don't understand what is wrong. Why is everyone so mean here? What should I do to make friends?(I am trying to get work elsewhere but my circumstances leave me stranded here. Most Coloradans respond with a "please move" (which is a fucked up thing to say) if you don't like the state, but I really can't.)
End of excerp.


    I will not list more, but there are a wealth of these kind of reactions to the state with the green licence plates. I lived in Telluride from 1978 - 1986, and returned for visits until about 1995.
    After i began to be mistreated by the newer residents, and stopped visiting, I wondered how the condition had come about. I researched the history of the state, and found that it had been settled by miners. The California gold rush had started first. In California, the gold could be found in elemental form in streams, and then traced upstream to a vein. It was typically mined out of hillsides with large hydrolic operations. Such operations were large, cooperative efforts, that resulted in the freeing of many slaves, and the forming of long lasting partnerships.
    So, finding the gold vein was of little use to the loan prospector with his mule. He could dig up or pan a little of it near the surface, but exploitation of a large vein was to be done by a community. The gold in Colorado was a different story. It was discovered after the California gold, and attracted miners that had failed in the earlier gold rush. Exploitation required hard rock mining, and sadly, the gold could not be freed from the resulting ore by means of a stream of water. It was frustrating for prospectors and miners alike, as they could dig the ore with explosives and machinery that was already available, but were unable to the free the gold from the ore for further shipment. it was not economic to ship the ore elsewhere for processing, and new, large scale technology was needed. It was really not profitable to find a great vein, unless you could protect your find, and sell it to someone from out of state who had the funding to bring in giant stamp mills to crush the rocks, and to devise new processes for freeing the elemental gold using very hazardous chemicals like arsenic. Thus, new words for invented for the sort of behaviors that worked for preserving 'your' find: backstabbing and dry gulching.
    The areas where miners could live in Colorado were drastically different from the rolling hills where the minerals were found in California. Large mountains cut with tight valleys necessitated awkward makeshift towns with all kinds of sanitary and land issues. The miners were not freeing elemental gold from the sides of gentle valleys to sell on their own. They were working for a wealthy company that was often based elsewhere, and were exploited and even beaten and killed by hired thugs when they tried to get better pay. The tight living conditions meant that the native American residents of the valleys needed to be forced out rather harshly. This can be seen as the start of the forceful real estate mentality.
    It is reasonable to assume that behavioral shaping that occurred over 100 years ago could still affect modern people? I believe that it is. People do not leave all at once, to be replaced with all new people that are friendly and unaffected. Residents who leave are replaced piecemeal, more like cells in the body. The except at the start of this article is from a new, hopeful person who is being retrained reluctantly. If she stays, she can grow a spiky exterior, or become a sort of amazing, anomalous Bodhisattva who can remain, unaffected among less evolved souls. I know some of these shining examples, and worship them myself!
    It is interesting that the mining magnates have, to some extent, just been replaced by a different kind of well moneyed exploiter. The land disputes have not ceased with increased population pressure. And, the type of people who dream of moving to Colorado are under the same kind of economic pressure to relocate. Starry-eyed new Coloradans are met in overcrowded valleys by less recent arrivals who are not so welcoming. The Colorado born often do not defend their real estate as violently as 'natives' that have arrived from 'Back East' within the last decade or 2. It might be similar to 'hazing' at a fraternity, where the students hazed last year are well motivated to haze new arrivals.
    There has got to be more to it! There must be a selection process, and it would likely work in 2 directions. In one direction, new arrivals feel comfortable there, and decide to stay if they are compatible with the Colorado mindset. It is obvious that the often smiling young lady would have bounced out of there quickly were she not trapped in some committing situation. She would leave too quickly to contribute her smiles and social skills to the community. A person who felt immediately at home in Colorado would be unlikely to change the community mindset. In the other direction, what will become of ms. smiles if she stays? Is it possible that she will overcompensate, like a recovering alcoholic behaves around alcohol?  That is what i would guess.
    In this case, we would have a self perpetuating cloud of meanness. I live on the edge of it, and it is blatantly obvious to us here. Don't get me wrong, this rant maniac of an author is about the meanest, nastiest curmudgeon of them all!
    PS... This post is not open to aggressive comments from young Colorado males. We are tired of your mean attempts to dominate the internet with foul language and threats. Should you write something that has content and and shows your even temper, it will remain here for years, and I will reply respectfully. Thank you for reading!



Monday, October 6, 2014

Horse-Less Carriage?

why do people behave like they are not animals on a planet?

Being a rant about the misuse of machinery.

motorized locomotion.

I only understand the situation in the United States, so i will write about that country. The possession and frequent use of certain machines bring the American to real full citizenship. Those machines are the firearm, the motorized vehicle, and the cell phone. It is interesting that 2 of these machines operate by burning an extremely toxic material into the atmosphere. Even though the flammable material is purchased by the 'citizen', neither the citizen or her culture will acknowledge the material once it is burned. This denial is a smaller cause of the disconnected behavior, but this is a behavioral rant rather than an ecological one.

I am not excusing myself from this suite of behavioral problems. In fact, I would say that my life and well being are ruled by them. I have been an avid gun owner, but had to give them up to get the super - imposed targets off of every person or creature that appeared in my visual field. You did not read incorrectly. I am stating that while I carried a gun, every living thing had a target painted on him or her or it. I would suggest that that is how weapons work. If you are able to completely forget that you bear the arm, then you do not really have it with you. Good dogs see targets on peoples faces where they will lick. Bad dogs see the location on each neck where their teeth will rend. After the teeth fall out, even the bad dog feels differently.

When I got my first firearm, I was amazed that from that moment on, I had the ability to quickly kill about 30 deer or people or tin cans. That feeling wore off, and for the next decades I felt a vague sense of security, and a certain pride that I could be trusted with this instrument. At around the age of 52, I realized that the firearms were preventing me from making an important step in my life. I reluctantly began to sell these flingers of lead. Sure enough, the targets began to disappear, and my ability to empathise with people and animals increased dramatically. Some readers are smirking now, and thinking 'what a fool to pull his own "teeth" out'! Others are happy that another individual had joined the ranks of actual humans.

This is also not a gun rant. It is about the mental changes that a human feels when they make frequent use of a device. I am glad that I went through this 'military' stage, and would not change my history to that of a life-long pacifist. I live in a culture that is violent, and extremely stratified. I know that i am here to learn and grow, rather than to ignore my surroundings, stare at my own navel, and be super happy no matter what is happening around me. For example, 12 years ago i obtained a job with Haliburton. If i had to pay taxes that would be used to maim people who had never harmed me personally, i felt more comfortable being on the maiming end of the stick. I would explore for oil in Iraq, and help my culture to steal the resources of another land. Iraq's surviving inhabitants would shell my living and work areas, and try to capture me and remove my head in front of a camera. I chickened out 2 blocks from the Hallibuton shop where i would begin training. I am not sure where I would be now had i continued on that strange and forceful path.

Now, we are moving on to the horseless carriage, or the motorized vehicle. Our paths are nearly all paved in the United States. We sit in long lines of idling cars, often on the same 'ground' where our for-bearers struggled slowly along on muddy and rutted wagon tracks. We cross rivers effortlessly on massive bridges near where those stalwart persons swam across with their teams. And, we have substituted diesel and gasoline exhaust fumes for horse farts. It seems that we are way, way better off; right?

That is an interesting question, and, since i switch back and forth from motorized to human powered transportation methods, i can begin to see the changes in my own mind. When i am pedaling around, the vehicles seem noisy and smelly and faintly evil. The people inside of the shiny metal shells seem obese and forceful and faintly evil. When I drive, the other cars are my tribe, and i compete with them in a friendly way to get safely where I 'need' to go. The bicycles are a pretty bad annoyance, and I resent them for getting in my way. I compete with them in an unfair and unfriendly way, and will scare them to assert my 'rights'. They are the crappy poor people that can not be troubled to invest in a great car, and a lake full of fossil fuel. I am 'getting things done', while they are just getting in the way. I resent the smirky smile of pleasure that they display simply because they are operating a fuel-less form of horseless carriage.

The modern car is quite inside, and can easily be heated or cooled to a comfortable temperature. Even in city traffic, it insulates the driver from their surroundings. It can convert the Homo sapien into something slightly different. Do you feel it when you get into your wonderful space ship? It is safe to behave very impolitely, and do things that would not seem that great outside of the ship. Similar to ones internet personality, ones driving personality is thought to be a separate entity, subject to different rules of behavior. Outside of a bullet or an collision, there is no way that other motorists can provide useful feedback on vehicular behavior. the abysmal behavior is free to bleed over into the other portions of ones life.

Many vehicles are used in large cities. Even though city dwellers often imagine that their form of life is low stress, and far more fruitful and fulfilling than rural life, this does not seem to [in fact] be the case. At least from the rural perspective, these city dwellers seem to sacrificing their quality of life [and their safety] for cash. As in the climate change disaster, city dwellers will fight tooth and nail to deny this. They are living in the best possible place, with it's mix of great jobs and advanced schools and important events. So what if traffic sounds and sirens have to replace silence. No big deal if the cops that they see have their hand on the butt of a gun rather than the brim of their cap. Likewise with crimes. Sure, their car is vandalized sometimes, and their home is sometimes broken into. Some city folk even seem proud of the amount of crime and stress that they have experienced while remaining a totally awesome person.

My point is: That they are being affected by the stress. Each person has a way to bleed it off. Some have attack dogs and guns. Some misbehave in their car or on the internet. Some try to do it by hating gay people or democrats or women who have abortions. Some transfer the stress directly to family members or friends. All of these stress reduction methods have one thing in common: Personal stress is transferred to society at large.  It is clearly an endless cycle. Just like love, meanness does not really go away once it is shared. It is a bit like the folks that you see blowing the same leaves or dust back and forth between their yards. The leaves do not really go away permanently, but there is a feeling of 'gettin her done'.

What can a person do to avoid becoming this frankenstein monster, who constantly causes harm and pain to others with their cell phone and car and gun? I will make some suggestions, even though every one of them will make some people angry. I suggest that people try being alone in very quite surroundings. I am thinking wilderness trail rather than sensory deprivation tank. Birds and trees will help more than barking dogs and people chatting into cell phones. Once in a while, get onto a bike if you able to balance and pedal. Experiment with solar energy, and make some changes to reduce the amount of harm that you do to the planet. Make some attempt to see the godlike qualities that are contained in people that are quite different than you. It is not possible to hate random people without harming yourself and your loved ones. You do not have to bear your throat to a desperate person, or give someone in need the contents of your wallet. Things might just start to mushroom in a good direction if you just changed a few middle fingers to waves, or let a few cars by rather than cutting in impolitely.

I am suggesting real behavior changes because the mechanism that i often see is the signing of petitions, and the donation of guilt money to 'non profit' companies. One can retake the US government from the corporations by clicking things on the internet. Nor can one advance by pressuring ones facebook friends to buy some 'green' product. Each person can change a tiny bit themselves, wasting no effort on these fruitless methods of assuaging guilt. Personally, I take a bicycle when i need a go a litte ways, and a train when the trip is long. I have divested of any fossil fuel connections that i am aware of. I no longer stock explosive cartridges intended to drive lead into living flesh. Much as I once loved guns and fast cars and huge, scary dogs, i have given up on them. If you are a normal person, you are now thinking up reasons why none of this baloney applies to you. Perhaps, you have kids, and will do anything, no matter how harmful to you or others, to advantage them. More blowing leaves back and forth. I do not have kids, but it seems that we can not make the world awesome by locking up a certain percentage of the drug addicts, or beating up enough gay persons, or depriving people of reproductive or other rights based on some pecking order that you perceive.

On the other hand, people are accustomed to terrible behavior nowadays, and they will be amazed when you smile at them, or give them a quick hand with something. If you have kids, they will see this, and start to think that this generous and awesome behavior is normal. There may be some mental tricks that will come in handy. Religion and family ties and love of country are intended to block out the normal love that we would feel for others, and to deprive them of full human status that normally prevents one from causing them harm. It might be possible to extend your 'family' so that more people become full humans. If you can include enough people, there will be less pain to pass around. Less pain will come back. Let us do away with this ritualized abuse that we heap upon each other, and deal only with the real problems of aging, disease, nutrition, education, etc.

Please comment on this if you have a mind to. I will delete a comment that is all abuse and curses, but will leave any intelligent comment that is not hurtful or abusive to me personally. It can be the opposite viewpoint, so long as you phrase it as if i were a member of your family who has gone astray.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

On carbon guilt

i was disturbed by a recent article that I read about anti tar sands protests in Canada. Some people were going to 'get mobile', and travel around in a gasoline powered vehicle to protest this form of energy production in many different locations. Why would some form of protest, that I basically agree with, be disturbing?

Those folks do not think that their own behavior matters. They will each purchase hundreds of gallons of the very product that they pretend to disdain. Driving a motor vehicle to distant hydrocarbon protest events gives the exact wrong and hypocritical message . It says: "produce lots more oil, in any way that you can. Even our feeble protests require lots of your awesome juice!"

And they are indeed feeble efforts, if they require no physical effort or change of consumption habits on the part of the 'protesters' It is so obvious to everyone that these folks are guilty about their own carbon footprint, but unwilling to change it.

My advice: Do not worry about this fuel intensive form of hand waving. You can converse with energy companies at your local pump. Forgoing an optional trip, or replacing a combustion engine with an electric one says 'produce less oil'. Driving to a fuel protest might make you feel warm and fuzzy, but it says to the drillers 'We need more'.

Are you thinking "What I do makes so little difference!", then you are playing right into their hands. If you create the need, then someone will step up to the plate and bring your harmful material to the surface. You might be able to block it's production from your immediate area, causing an upward spike in its production elsewhere.

It is funny to me how we Americans surround our homes with tall fences, and drive huge military looking vehicles, and waste lots of energy to assuage our own guilt. It seems that we are 'helping our children' when we try to climb to the top of the heap on our neighbors backs.

So, i will beg you. Waste not your time clicking your mouse on petitions, searching for fuel spills to whine about, and driving over to protests. Change your behavior. Even if you cant afford it, put some solar panels up. Even if you cant really stand to wait for it to charge, add an electric car to your household. Make a lot of your own energy, and help your neighbors to do this too. More guns and bullets can not save you and your children. The state of War and climate collapse are like a huge slider switch. You can actually nudge this switch with your own actions!

Monday, April 22, 2013

The 'posse' in modern climbing


posse:
Originally, a group of people (especially in the Old West) banded together for purposes of law enforcement (and harassing Indians). From 'posse comitatus', Latin for "power of the county". Posse Comitatus is also the name of various white supremacist organizations that have appeared in the US over the years.
example:
He's got the posse after him because he killed a man.

now:
your crew, your hommies, a group of friends, people who may or may not have your back.
example:
me an' my posse gonna hang tonite.

Among climbers, a posse is a group of friends that climb together. The large, forceful posses that you see are almost always from a place [like Boulder] that has far more climbers than climbs. It appears to be a sort of gang structure that assists it's members.

Sadly, the climbing posse almost always injures non members.. What we see at the cliff, and at the camping area, is aggressive pack behavior, with little regard for smaller, weaker groups. There are late night parties after every other camper is asleep, and the seizure ['locking down'] of entire cliffs and camping areas. While the individual members act civil, or even downright friendly, the posse acts to drive off others and seize territory. Sometimes aggressive dogs or dog packs are involved.

The mean dog thing does not seem to be consciously examined by the posse members themselves. I have been told that a given dog does not like men with hats, or that a given dog is a shrewd judge of character, and is just doing his or her job! The pets have picked up on the aggressive, proprietary attitude of the owners, and efforts to quiet them really serve to drive them to new heights of aggression. They do not actually speak English, and respond to the owners irritated tones rather than the false content of the shouted sentences.

It is fitting to compare a posse to an urban gang. Both are designed to control a precious resource that is desired by all. The gang 'locks down' a profitable crime method like drug sales, and provides personal protection for the individual members. The resource for a climbing posse is access to busy cliffs during peak hours. The analogue of personal protection is protection and enhancement of ones reputation. A friendly interpretation is that membership in the posse helps the world to realize that the members are some of the strongest, most skilled and multiply talented humans on earth. A cynical interpretation is that posse members drive off competitors so that they can lie to the outside world about their routine accomplishments. Many of us have seen the resulting cycle of tantrums leading to forgiveness and contrition. Every failed lead or bouldering attempt must be presented as an error by God, where a ridiculously talented individual is cheated of his or her rightful place in the athletic world.

Strong posses in an area make membership almost mandatory. In addition to access to the cliffs, they control scarce potential mates, the mechanisms of climbing notoriety, and thus, access to 'free' climbing gear and sponsorship money. [I used the word 'thus', to make my infantile argument seem scholarly!] Climbing magazines are published in places where the posse system is strongest, so members are richly represented. A climber who has decided to become famous will be rewarded by moving to Boulder, and joining a strong posse. There is a curious side affect that I have noticed. A small minority in these areas resist posse membership. These are strong individuals, that are driven from within themselves, and require no assistance to obtain mates or fame or support. This is what is really required to be a climber, so there is this spin off of renaissance individuals who are forged and driven off by the posse system. It is a treat to meet and climb with them, even though they hail from the legendary areas of climbing fame.

We are left with the question: Is there any alternative to this system of aggressive posses? It can seem pretty hopeless, when you arrive at a climbing venue to find the resources controlled by the largest and least friendly groups. They are amazingly disturbing, and can not easily be disturbed. For instance, a large posse can show up late at night to an area of dispersed camping, and push in between any 2 small parties. There is no way for sleeping individuals to discourage them. Likewise at the cliff. A huge posse can show up late in the morning, totally hung over from their night of disturbing quieter campers, and dominate the cliff until it gets dark once more. As individuals, they would be fairly pliable, but as a group they do not behave like humans at all. Their behavior is forged in a painful crucible, where a dramatic scene that is uncomfortable for an individual climber is entertaining to their group.

I do have an answer. In my decades of observation, i have noted that the very strongest climbers, [possessing internal reservoirs of personal integrity and sportsmanship], are not part of this less evolved system. It is always the weak that band together to use force of numbers and questionable tactics to replace inner strength. If your goal is to 'recreate' yourself in the outdoors, then aggressive pets, posse membership, and name dropping will obscure your goal. Physical strength, and admirable fortitude comes from within a quiet, non-aggressive person who can feel the earth. It can never be taken by force. Rock climbing is a dance, rather than a battle. Despite faked victories, climbing 'warriors' will fail, and 'dancers' will eventually succeed.

It is worthwhile to leave your own barking dog at home, and go out of your way to climb with other dancers. Refusing to defend some fragment of public land, join no posse, and worship not their names. It takes some effort to climbing talk and name dropping around the campfire. But, it is REALLY not necessary to spend the night securing climbing partners and specific climbs.  One can use the time to explore the [often] surprising mental equipment of one's camp-mates. At the crag, An emperor with no clothes requires a lot of very loyal subjects. A well behaved climber can appear alone with whatever is in their pack, and no planning of any kind!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

The rise of predatory climbing groups

The rise of predatory climbing groups


What is a predatory climbing group?


    I have been climbing since 1971. Group sizes were small, as there was almost no “climbing scene”. Usually, a group was one to four persons with one or zero pets. There was no such thing as a waiting line for a route. The 'rack' was machine nuts on string, crude nuts, clanking hexs, and a few pins. The rope was not stretchy, and it was belayed around the waist with leather gloves. The shoes were not sticky, and worked no better than tight tennis shoes. Leading was not much safer than soloing, so climbing was a matter of convincing your most suicidal friend to bring the rope up to an anchor.

    Climbers were more like hikers, with small incomes, and old cars. There was no internet, guidebooks, or climbing gyms. In short, no one would understand or care about what climbs you did. That has changed. Climbing is now dominated by office workers with higher incomes and very little time. Climber's habits are formed indoors, or at outdoor venues that are crowded and unpleasant. In this modern pressure cooker, it is advantageous to be aggressive, loud and numerous at the cliff. Dangerous pets also help to 'lock down' a given crag. The same is true at the camping area.

    Thus, the activity has 'evolved'. Good sportsmanship and consideration may be good for ones soul, but a large predatory group gets the finest campsite and the best routes. In the age of climbing blogs and sponsorships, a little 'cheating' is rewarded. There are no impartial judges to decide if a hard route has really been done in good style. So, a gang-like group structure helps it's members to get notoriety and free stuff. It is not so cool to brag about yourself, but it is not uncommon to hear people taking turns bragging about each other around the camp fire.

What can to done to reverse this sad trend?


    There must be a way to reward individuals or groups that are considerate and use great sportsmanship. And, the control should ideally come from within the climbing community. I have decided to attempt a film to address these issues. While British climbing flicks celebrate sportsmanship, bravery, and quiet love of the outdoors, the American variety seem to celebrate the opposite qualities. Watchers learn to have tantrums, yell loudly with each move, and form larger, more aggressive groups. Only the 'best' climbers are showcased, easily doing the very hardest routes. My offering will showcase folks in small, non aggressive groups 'recreating' their bodies and personalities in peaceful settings.

    The success of last year's short film 'A  desert life ' [vimeo.com] gives me hope. It was shot by Austin Sidiak, with me [Alf Randell] as the subject. The eight minute documentary shows a dirty and somewhat pathetic hermit, who camps and climbs in a party of one. I believe that my stoic nature and love of the desert comes through. People watched it in great numbers on line, and many outdoor sites linked to it. A portion of it was shown on national TV.

    The members of predatory groups can be influenced. Even though they were educated in a factory-like system, and live in swarming cities, they will learn to take their exercise in smaller and less aggressive groups. They will begin to value sportsmanship and quiet strength. Climbers will leave their irritating pets at home, tell the truth about their accomplishments, and loose interest in products and sponsored big-names.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

the falacy of insurance

Insurance seems like a good thing under a shallow inspection. One makes small payments over time, to receive a potentially large payment in time of need. Self insuring is close to ideal. The self insured company or individual puts money aside in case they have a car wreck, health problem, or fire. There is freedom to use this single fund for any emergency, and coverage does not cease with a missed payment. Of course, one does have to put the money aside.

Commercial insurance falls short of idealized self insurance in several ways. The most obvious shortfall is the overhead. Salaries for insurance workers and company profits must come right out of the emergency fund. In the big picture, the insured support a vast community of parasitic workers who do not fix cars or staff hospitals or rebuild houses. Some of these are paid to fight insurance fraud, which does not exist among the self insured. Others are paid to reduce or deny valid payments. The industry is arranged so the house always wins. So, buying insurance instead of putting money aside is like "investing" in lottery tickets or Las Vegas gambling.

Fraud is built into insurance. Insured car repairs and medical procedures cost far more than cash transactions. In many cases, the 'deductible' amount paid by the 'insured' is similar to the cash price for the service. I am not too sure how the 'coverage' helps. Insurance companies are very good at delaying and reducing payments to providers, forcing them to wildly inflate prices.

Behavior is affected on both sides of the service industry. The insured, having given up part of their responsibility, are less careful. They drive more recklessly, build homes that are likely to be destroyed, and take health risks. Once the damage is done, the insured rebuild their home in the same flood plane, get all kinds of expensive and incorrect medical procedures, and make other foolish choices that they would not make 'with their own money. Insurance fraud is more accepted in our culture than child molestation or murder, so the less scrupulous burn down their own house, give away items that are reported stolen, or cause traffic accidents to defraud insurance companies. This erosion of integrity and responsibility wastes money and weakens us as people.

Insurance companies limit the behaviors of individuals and companies. These limits are rarely good. Absurd medical procedures are done, activities and business ventures are forbidden, and small business is stopped or impeded. In the case of mandatory insurance, statisticians are given the effective ability to pass laws. These defacto laws are meant to maximize profit, and often degrade our lives. When a type of insurance is ruled as mandatory, a vast edifice of un-needed overhead and fraud is built. Freedom and choice are further limited, and more of our wealth is traded for a [partly] false sense of security.

As dwindling resources meet population increase, we arrive at the season of re-evaluation. Inefficient structures, including wasteful governments and predatory corporations can be replaced with more efficient entities. Gambling with ones health, safety and life via commercial insurance are likely to be revealed as wasteful and senseless. It is amazing that many different types of insurance are not already classed as deceitful financial products. It is as if we 'Modern' home Sapiens despise doing real work. We prefer to press buttons and fatten like food animals in sterile 'offices', while selling each other worthless documents that promise 'security' and 'safety'.

Real safety is found by accepting risk and responsibility. Rather than paying out almost all of ones income to banking shysters with their loans, insurances and false promises, the responsible person might live entirely within their means, and put aside a reasonable fund for emergencies. All this must be pretty amusing to the folks who know me. What could a destitute hermit know about economics or responsibility? Well, sometimes a system can be studied more objectively from the outside.

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About Me

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I am a fine art photographer and filmmaker. Lately, I have been doing panoramic images of the Canyonlands area, and printing them using archival materials. These large images are placed in work cubicles and homes, and can sometimes briefly transport the viewer to a contemplative location.