Thursday, December 8, 2011

Something completely different-

This was sent to my by my sister- a little random bit of sharing- and, hallelujah, it's one of those rare bits of pure joy and fun- and totally, utterly brilliant.

Or, just go to YouTube, if the quality here is iffy. My own version of Blogger, for some reason tends to cut off part of the side of the video when it's embedded. You'll want to see it all.

What a bunch of beautiful people. Good to know they're there, and I wish I had them for neighbors. When you think about it- the imagination shown here, in all the variations- and the ability of all these people to plug into the vision- is just plain breathtaking. The basic concept has been done before- but not with this kind of whole community participation, and enthusiasm!

Huge thanks to the Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat 5th Grade - Quinhagak, Alaska.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


It's been an unquiet month, or two, here south of Lake Wobegon. I won't inflict the list on you; just understand that Murphy with his infinitely expandable laws has been operating here daily.

Leaving everyone exhausted, of course. So, I read. I read anyway, all the time, as a way to distract my upper brain levels from the dire stuff all around. Typically I'll read for a half an hour before dropping off to sleep; if the book is engrossing, maybe an hour. Every once in a while I'll hit a book which is a disaster- I'll look up and discover it's 3 AM - and my sleep-wake cycle will be well and truly screwed for days. Last time that happened, it was Daughter of the Forest; in case you're looking. Wow, can that lady tell a story.

I love a good escape. But I also read stuff that is "good for me", on a regular basis. You know what? It's always good for me. Recently I picked up, purely by chance, The Hornet's Nest, by Jimmy Carter. I picked it up at the Salvation Army- because- it's a novel, by Jimmy Carter. He's an interesting, and certainly intelligent, man.

Ok; no danger of finding myself at 3 AM. But. It's an extraordinary book- with a perspective on history, and the paths of power, that likely could only come from someone who has served at the pinnacle. I see further now, I think. And that's something.

It impressed me to the extent that I made this comment today, over on The Automatic Earth, in response to a number of posts decrying the multiple vast injustices of the current world. Thinking it over, I decided to share it here, too.


It's a bit of a surprise to me, but reading Jimmy Carter's novel of the American Revolution, "The Hornet's Nest" has truly given me a clearer perspective.

I recommend it to students of human cultural evolution. Remember that his writing comes after his time serving at the top of the American power system, which certainly exposed him to as much reality as anyone can grasp.

His stories are based on autobiographies, journals, and contemporary sources, accumulated and filtered over 7 years; it's more a work of scholarship than fiction.

His description of the British economic power structure is, to me, literally identical to the structure we now have; with identical results. He also describes in detail the specific strategy of the financial elites of the time- to entice the native Americans into debt- to the point where the only way they could pay the debt was with their land. The entire trading operation was set up with this intention.

Corruption and incompetence were widespread. One of the early Rebel Governors of Georgia could easily have been the incarnation of Newt Gingrich. He documents civil chaos; atrocities committed by all sides, justice existing nowhere. I find myself pondering how he would have described the identical historical events if he'd been writing BEFORE his time as President. I suspect he might have glossed over the "rough spots", as partisan historians tend to do.

My point- the horrors we are seeing revealed world wide right now- are far, far, from new. Rather- we've been living in the fog of empire; willfully accepting the myths handed to us as children, and refusing to see and believe the worst. But the worst was always the reality; and has been- certainly since Rome- Greece- Egypt. And I have to fear, literally since Sumer was one mud hut and one tent. The probability is high that the hut owner held a mortgage on the tent- one he knew was unpayable.

If anyone has any desire to CHANGE this situation- you'll need the age-long perspective, to comprehend how deeply embedded it is in what we call "humanity".

It's not easy to contemplate. It's ugly to see. But. If you want to live in this world; Reality, however much of it you can grasp, is your only - only - friend.


Now- I did know, before reading The Hornet's Nest, that the patterns of power and wealth abuse were ancient. The phrase I've been promulgating, in fact, is "since Sumer was one mud hut and a tent." That evolved from my original "Since Babylon was two mud huts." What Jimmy Carter's book allowed me to see more clearly was that the culture of abuse we now suffer from - is literally unchanged from the abusive manipulations that incited the American Revolution. And the various English Civil Wars, and the French Revolution- and on, and on.

Historically those are always analyzed and taught as "political power struggles" - but in fact, they have all had underlying causes of land and wealth grabs by "The Owners", which increasingly left the common people with less and less. And the grabs have always been intentional, and brought about by- easy debt.

The fact that this is not new- but truly ancient, with the full force of that word- should change your thinking about what; if anything; should/can be done about it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Signs of intelligent life.

Well. One sign. Better than nothing.

If you're like me, you're getting desperate to find any sign of intelligent life on Earth these days. I'm not even going to recite the list of signs to the contrary, it really is depressing.

But I keep searching. One of the places I regularly search is the "Green Blogs" over on the NYT; they have a team of reporters who normally have not-stupid things to say about the world struggle to come to grips with the fact that Nature still exists, and we really do have to pay attention to that.

Today, alas, I was not impressed there, and left a rude comment in reply (which I'll be interested to see if they actually post... so far; nope.)

My rude comment:

“ 'What they point out is, hey — it’s not just temperature driving the change,” Dr. Van Buskirk said.'

"What an insight! By golly! It's just possible that living organisms, in multiple ecosystems, across continents, might, possibly, respond to more than ONE parameter at a time! Who'da thunk! 


"ok, I'm pretty sure (ohpleasegod!) that Dr. Van B wasn't ever that silly. What I AM a little perplexed about is how a bit of "science reporting" in the NYT could even come close to suggesting that. 

Yes, I understand that Fox Views will report that way- but must we all be dragged down to nursery school level?"

Obnoxious of me, I realize. But. We do need to struggle to keep our intellectual socks pulled up at least part way.

So it was a great joy to me to find Gail Collins' column today. I've referenced her work here before, and can only recommend again; when you need, desperately, a little whiff of sanity, somewhere in the world, try Gail.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween ...

I've always loved Halloween, and am enjoying it again now through Smidgen. We grew some huge pumpkins this year, and I think we're going to wind up carving 6 or 7.

Good simple fun. Old traditions; always nice to keep them alive.

My big brother Lurk just sent me this, which is huge fun- these folks actually thought up something new for Halloween enthusiasts -

(Or go to YouTube if this player isn't behaving for you. )

I hadn't run into this thing before; but it strikes me as exactly the kind of prank/video that is likely to go viral, make people famous, and generate a lot of copy-cats.

So........... it yah wanna be reeeally creepy - the next stage in the trick would be to get a very bright kid to pretend to be a dummy- and just as they think they've got it figured out-

LEAP AT 'EM - and give them a good shriek. Now there would be some great video fodder.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

No, the economy isn't fixed.

In the spirit of trying to help folks understand what's hitting them; I'll share a metaphor that hit me, today, as I was attempting to respond to yet another bit of absolute nonsense in the mainstream media "financial chatter" pages.

So! The Eurozone leaders have reached an agreement! Hallelujah!! Hot Diggety! Man, now I can get some sleep; Happy Times Are Here Again!

I desperately need to find some more boggles, somewhere; I've gone through my entire supply at this point, the mind can't boggle any more; I've just used them all up. Here was my reply to one of the professional pundits, pontificating about "well, except for a few details" all is now, clearly, perfectly well.

"Nope. Fantasy is just not enough, anymore.

"Let's see if I can put this in terms the "econoastrologers" can actually understand.

"What they've just done is put more gasoline into the Automobile of Europe; which is stalled, engine dead, on the side of the road.

"Thing is; gasoline is not the problem. The problem: the engine has a cracked block; cracked wide open. It's broke- and dead; and all the gasoline in the world, will not fix it.

 Folks will hop back in the driver's seat; turn the key a few times- and the engine will not catch. Once again, they'll be out on the road trying to flag down help. But the engine block will remain cracked."

If you're reading all those financial sector headlines, and shaking your head a bit, mumbling to yourself; "but, that really doesn't make sense..." you're entirely correct.

It's the "Real Economy" that is truly broken. That's the phrase the econo-astrologers themselves use for it. Jobs? Work? Value creation? We ain't got none; can't see any in the pipeline, either; not here, not in Europe, not in China.

Eventually, the Real Economy has to pay ALL the bills for the debt; principle, and interest. And nobody has fixed it. The block is cracked; we're going to need a new engine- and nobody currently on the world radar has any clue of where to find one. And just maybe; there isn't one.

Quite possibly, that's why they avoid talking about the Real Economy. They have no idea what to say; and it's too depressing to dwell on. Bad for the markets, dude.

Oh, and incidentally, Big Oil is loudly announcing that they've siphoned another huge block of real money out of the Real Economy; $20 billion in the first quarter, just for Exxon and Shell. That'll help; as that money moves from Joe Lunchbox's savings into the stockholders' portfolios. And; of course, it's not Big Oil's fault; they just can't help it when prices go up.

Now if that doesn't cheer you up! I just don't know what will!!


Update; next day; CNN Money headline: European Rescue Sugar Rush Wears Off.

Fancy that. It's dawned on them that "this may not be enough." To succeed, there must be economic "growth" - and there is none, they know. So, are they now addressing the real problem? Don't be silly!

"Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi (Italy) has pledged to enact broad reforms to cut spending and boost economic competitiveness. But analysts say implementing those reforms could be difficult given the current political climate in Italy."

In our automotive metaphor, he's saying "We're going to install a new high efficiency fuel injector!"

You can put new wax on the car, too- but the cracked block is still not going to work.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


It's not like I have nothing else to think about; and I really prefer to not pass on depressing news these days. We all have enough of that.

But there was an event announced today which has been preying on my mind since I saw it; and which truly should not go unnoticed, unmarked.

We've lost another big animal. The "Javan" rhinoceros- which actually used to range from India and Burma throughout SE Asia- is now known to be extinct on the mainland, entirely. The last remaining Vietnamese rhino was poached.

For a long full story; a video from Vietnam is here. It works well at full screen. If you have children who can understand it, tolerate it, it would be great to share with them.

This is a bigger loss than the international press is recognizing, I'm pretty sure. The only remaining members of the species are the 50 or so in an isolated national park in Java. The island populations have been separated from the mainland animals for a very long time; while they were called just subspecies- I can guarantee they were genetically quite distinct.

The world is changing. Much of what we are losing is completely irreplaceable. The extinction of such a creature- so ancient- a species that has survived so many challenges over its existence- is sad beyond any words I can find.

I won't forget this day. But the truth is- the world has barely noticed; and this loss will change nothing about the way we do business. Maybe- time to boycott cashews. That seems to be the major factor in the loss of the rhinos' last Vietnamese forest. And- who knew? And what other species are vanishing, for a few luxury nuts, and a little money?

These are in Java, captured by camera trap. Palm oil may be the biggest real threat there. It's in everything processed in the US, these days.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Peanut alert.

Really. If you eat peanut butter; stock up today.

A CNN Business story today details the coming peanut butter apocalypse. Last year at this time, the commodity price for a ton of US peanuts was around $750. Today; it's about $1,200.

The reason they give: severe drought and intense heat in the peanut belt last summer, so the crop is down some 13% from last year. Ok. Yes, climate change/climate chaos is upon us, and the economic impacts are already hitting us quite hard. I can easily understand why a 13% decrease in the crop would result in a ~40% increase in the price.

Soon after giving the cheery statistics, they go on to point out what a great opportunity this is for money changers to make a little more profit: Safe Havens; Gold, Yen, & Peanut Butter.

It is, of course, perfectly all right to make all the money you can, any way you can. It's your guaranteed right, actually. Never mind that peanut butter is often the last source of quality protein the poor can afford, and that it's a critical component of the new famine medications urgently needed in Haiti and Africa. Fascinating that the story praising the heroes of Haiti is covered by CNN also.

Here's the math on "investing" in food. Take peanuts, for an excellent example. World production is around 34 million metric tons. In the process of buying the crop from farmers, getting it to the people who process it, store it, and sell it to consumers, the peanuts change hands quite a few times. To facilitate that, and to let processors be certain they will have nuts to process next year, there is a "futures market"; where contracts to deliver peanuts at a certain time, say next July, are bought and sold.

Inside the peanut world, let's just say there are $50 billion worth of peanuts (a made up number with likely not relation to reality.) The peanut processors have, let us say, $40 billion in contracts on the books. Then- after that lovely article in CNN, a billionaire or two, from Argentina, Iraq, India, China- take their money out of oil, which is looking very risky; and use it instead to buy peanut futures. Now, let's say, there are $60 billion in the futures market- all chasing what used to be $50 billion worth of peanuts. The contracts are bought and sold daily- if you can sell the one you bought yesterday at $3/share, and you can sell it today for $3.10 a share- why wouldn't you? And here I am, with $500 million in my pocket I just took out of oil, and I need to buy peanuts- will I pay $3.15? Why yes, I will. The price is going to go up, yes? Everybody says so.

More money in a market, chasing a fixed quantity of commodity, will drive the price up. It's a law of physics that could have been written by Newton. The speculators doing this shriek, when you point at them, and swear they are providing a desperately needed service; more "liquidity" to the markets. It's a transparent self serving lie, of course; the markets functioned just fine a few years ago, when speculative money in those markets was legally restricted. But we believe a great many of those these days, one more won't hurt.

Guess who eventually pays the real money, to pay for all the profits? It's the end user, of course, that's the entire idea. In this case- it's the poor and starving. Literally; the starving.

Nice place we have here. So; better buy yours now. Of course.

It strikes me that getting speculators out of agricultural commodity markets would be a good thing to put on the list, for the Occupy Everything folks. The math is just really clear.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Political dialogue!

In the Polka Dot Gallows category. Today's cartoon strip from Brewster Rockit is the most intelligent commentary on current political processes I've seen; reaffirming my contention that our comedians and humorists are in fact today's actual great philosophers.

True, true, true, and yes, it hurts.

Monday, September 5, 2011

No, the problem isn't "jobs".

Ok, yes it is; but not the way everybody in the world thinks it is.

Happy Labor Day! Or as I tend to twist it around here, just for the fun of the confused looks it brings, as well as a way of pointing out the pointlessness of it: "Happy Labrador!"

I desperately need to be out laboring, at the moment, which is what Labor Day is always about for us. Ok, we might barbecue something at the end of the day; but it's harvest time for tree crops, and urgentish.

However, what I have to say here has been fomenting and fermenting in the back of my brain for a long time; and it seems ready to come out. And this is Labor Day; and we're all very unhappy about the fact there are no jobs anywhere; and none in sight down the pike, regardless of politicians braying that they will create lots of new jobs for everyone, as soon as they are elected. By waving their wands about and shouting "expelyourllamas!"

Part of my hesitance in writing this post stems from my awareness that the world will certainly not hear me; my time and effort is likely to be largely wasted. A few of you may hear, though- and who knows; perhaps that will be of some benefit.

The world desperately needs to learn this- but won't, until much chaos and pain has come.

The world does not need "jobs". The world needs people to have "livelihoods".

There. That simple. And something completely not on anyone's radar.

Somehow in the process of industrialization, "we" all accepted the concept that capital would provide "work" - "jobs", in various money making factories or other enterprises, and "workers" would make their livings there- as essentially interchangeable cogs. Exactly as Charlie Chaplin portrayed it. The myth we bought was- become a cog, with no particular skills, but willing to work at whatever is put in front of you- and all the world will prosper; and- you'll be taken care of in your old age, when you can no longer work. On a large enough scale, even highly skilled workers have become only cogs- and perceived as such, even by themselves.

Well, it turns out Big Capital was Just Kidding! about taking care of us in our old age. Now that they own 95% of everything it is possible to own, they're saying "What? Are you filthy communists?? Of course you were always supposed to be providing for your own old age! Why would you expect us to actually pay into your pension funds (never mind that's what we promised you...)?" Some of the Banks now are transferring "toxic assets" - i.e., assets on the books at prices triple what anyone will ever pay again- into their pension funds- listing them at the fantasy value. And saying "what a good boy am I."

So here we are, millions of us; unemployed in Greenland; and essentially unemployable. A cog is a cog is a cog; and a cog in
The First World is much more expensive than a cog in the Third
World, these days. Following the Laws of Capital, and Quarterly
Reports, and Executive Bonuses, Capital has, of course, now
emigrated to the Third World- and is not coming back in any
foreseeable future. Being just a cog - in someone else's wheel - is
a death trap.
No, your nice shiny new Bachelors Degree In Whatever! does not entitle
you to cogship, anymore. Neither does your high school diploma, nor
your GED, nor the fact that you can get a certificate stating you are not
hemiplegic, paraplegic, or psychopathic.
What the world truly needs is a return to the model where people acquire
a "livelihood". Some kind of work, or skill- that creates something of
immediate value to the people around you; a way to "earn your keep" in
the community, for life. Actually, here on the farm, we really need a full
time "shepherd", and a full time "goose girl".
Not in style, yet; but soon, I think.

If you are trying to see a path forward, for yourself and your children-
look for a way to acquire a livelihood. Not a job.

Monday, August 29, 2011

I'm quite sure I'm uncertain.

Thanks for the kind comments on the last post; and thanks to Mary Ellen:

Anonymous mary ellen said...

Miss you Greenpa. Hope all is well with you and the beautiful girl.

I miss you guys, too. I've been struggling with a bad dose of "writer's block" for some time now; not the blog so much, but some professional writing I've promised to do and need to do. I've been trying to break that block, so all my available writing energy has been going there. To no real avail.

Many reasons. And it's not as easy to just whip off a blog post here as it used to be. The world has become even more uncertain. I could fill up the blog with lists of our woes, easily enough. But; really- I figure you guys have woes enough of your own, yes?
My Theory Of The Popularity Of Soap Opera is not so much the commonly cited "misery loves company", but that the great majority of folks can watch a soap and sigh in relief "at least my life isn't as screwed up as they are!" I could probably provide that sort of entertainment.
But it's kind of cheap relief. I would like to be able to offer something more substantive. And right now, between tornadoes, earthquakes, nuclear meltdowns, hurricanes, political chaos... etc.... it just gets hard to find, sometimes.

It's all pretty depressing, in fact. And neither you, nor I , need more depressing.

At my time of life, I've been through multiple episodes of depressing circumstances. When you find yourself becoming petrified by it all, one of the tools that can help pull your socks up is to remember - actively - there is good, and beautiful, stuff in the world, all the time. Then you make yourself notice it. That's the thing- when the burdens get really heavy, and the blows from the careless universe pile up- we stop seeing the good bits.

They're there, though. And in exactly that frame of mind, I looked up and out my window.

And this is what was right, immediately in front of me. Burning-bright in a spot of August sunlight, surrounded by the shadowed forest.

It's just two sprays of goldenrod, lost in the woods. I have fields full of the stuff. So much that I forget to look at it.

But I looked at this. And remembered. There is beauty to be seen. Pleasure to be taken, just for the look. If the "click for bigger" feature is working, you will find a wasp in the upper left corner; collecting nectar I'm pretty sure. Good to see one out doing simple work.

Of course the irony of having this natural gold, mine for the visual collection, occurred to me; with so much intense, fierce, fussing about the metallic kind now going on.

It's there. Free. Easy. Eternal. If you can remember: look for it.

I felt better, after noticing. And - two days later - it's still with me.

Hang in there, folks. We're all in this together.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Life intrudes.

I'm struggling with about 10 (literally) thorny problems here at the moment; some local, some much larger than that, all of them requiring my full brain- simultaneously. And it's hot.

So, of course, a great deal of my brain (and body) capacity is being devoted to just not exploding. Annoying the way that works.

Sitting at the computer, fingers clacking away on the keyboard as I crank out earth-shaking words the world desperately needs- Smidgen comes up the ladder and right up to me, obviously demanding attention. Using all available restraint, since interrupting me- while the keyboard is clacking- is something she knows is really, really, really going to cause trouble- I turn to her: and 100% of the brain shifts, dropping everything. There's a tear, and a wad of pink tissue paper she's holding to her mouth-

I'm a daddy. Just am. It's a fact; my kids are the most important thing in the world.

I look in her eyes, and it's clear she's not in dire distress.

"Is it your tooth?" I ask.

"Uh-huh. Look." And pulling the tissue away, there is the loose tooth she's been showing off for weeks- now protruding at a right angle - but very definitely still attached.

"Mom says you have to get it out."

Oh, really. Spice is passing the buck. And Smidgen is looking at me - like I will, of course, handle this.

At the speed of Google, my brain searches all - and I mean all- possible ways of weaseling out of this, and can find none that will not diminish me in Smidgen's eyes. Trapped.

My fingers don't look like useful tools here, the second incisor is tiny, tapering, and slippery; and the adjacent gums tender. Trying to grab and yank would have way too much trauma potential, for all involved.

Pliers? Oh, really not. My internal reference database on tooth extraction comes up with Mark Twain's amusing version from Tom Sawyer- the thread around the tooth, and a quick yank. If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly. I call for thread.

That, at least, Spice provides. Tying a slip-knot noose in thread is tricky enough, and takes 3 tries before I have one I trust to do the job. Like chopping the head off a chicken- this is not a job you want to have to do twice.

Smidgen, who cries when mean people break toys in cartoons, is a rock in any real crisis; she stands steady and trusts me to do the right thing. Hard to explain how much that matters.

I manage, with huge fat fingers, to slip the thread around what I think is the right place on the miniscule slippery bit of ivory; snug the noose up, and while chatting with Smidgen like we're not quite ready to do this yet, my hind brain pulls the trigger, surprising both Smidgen and I, and the yank happens...

No tooth. What? Did the noose slip off? Tooth fly across the room? I'm going to have to do this again??

Surprise, the thread noose just snipped through the tiny remaining bit of gum tissue, and the tooth, now out, is still there, slightly stuck to her lower lip. Got it.

All the trauma, imaginary in any case, is over, now it's all pure fun.

I wouldn't be surprised if this photo comes back to haunt her, in her teenage years. What you have here is a very goofy-looking kid, with swimming-pool hair, and a nice new gap in the teeth. It is pretty distorted by the "close-up-clown-nose" effect of the camera. I assure you, this is a child who has repeatedly drawn "what a beautiful little girl!" comments from total strangers. No, really. Hard to tell here, I have to admit- though as daddy, I can still see the beautiful little girl while looking at the Huck Finn Grin.

Off she goes.

And for today- I'm a success.

That'll keep me going a while.

(ps. If you wanna see the beautiful version; here's one.)

And some GOOD oddball science...

Coming hard on the heels of Silly Science, here is a totally simple-minded little experiment- which turns out to be brilliant; and I'd have to predict a classic demonstration for all students of physics, mathematics, and music, for eons to come:

This one was built at Harvard; and in the very best scientific tradition, they do not take the credit for it:

"Our apparatus was built from a design published by Richard Berg {Am J Phys 59(2), 186-187 (1991)} at the University of Maryland. He claims their version is copied from one at Moscow State University and they claim to have seen it first in the US, so we don't know who made one first. The apparatus we have was designed and built by Nils Sorensen."

And it came to me via email from my brother, who spends way too much time wandering the ether... :-)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Trivial. Maybe.

I'm not really a fan of "scientist bashing"- ridiculing various research reports because they seem foolish. In a huge number of cases, work that seems trivial to the casual observer may actually have some real merit, when viewed by a specialist. I've even gone on record here as bashing the bashers- Proxmire's "Golden Fleece Awards" being an egregious example of anti-intellectual pandering (in the comments here.)

But! Sometimes stuff really is silly. This one just escapes me- and there is a real significant question it raises - when do we "know" something?

Researchers in the UK have spent a considerable amount of time, effort, and money- to discover that- wearing 50 lbs of steel armor will make you more tired than not wearing it.

In the formal abstract for the research, they state: "How much wearing armour affected Medieval soldiers' locomotor energetics and biomechanics is unknown."

And end up with "Our findings can predict age-associated decline in Medieval soldiers' physical performance, and have potential implications in understanding the outcomes of past European military battles." Translation: old soldiers have a hard time carrying lots of steel, and maybe gasping for breath could have affected their performance."

I have to tell you- I really think "we", as in scholars interested in the field - "knew" that before the treadmill tests.

But there are a growing number of researchers who actually believe that if something is not published in a journal they recognize, then in fact we do NOT know it.

It may seem trivial- but I think it may not be. How do we decide what is in our joint pool of "true" information?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

So speaking of the weather...

Ran into this one today. We're still feeling miffed at Ma Nature for the tornado hit, followed a week later by heavy straight-line winds that knocked down a few more trees, including some quite valuable ones.

So, with weather on the mind, I took a look when the teaser about a "Phoenix haboob" popped up. Haboob being an Arabic derived word for a big duststorm.

This is a fabulous video. Particularly if you're in an apocalyptic mind frame. I recommend full screen.

The Phoenix Haboob of July 5th, 2011 from Mike Olbinski on Vimeo.

I've always considered there were many reasons not to live in Phoenix (lack of water, for example) - but this pretty much makes it certain I'll not be moving there. :-)

Apparently these things are not exactly uncommon there- it's just not featured on any of their tourist info or Chamber of Commerce hand outs.

Friday, June 24, 2011

I have the answer.

No, really. :-)

So, the Republicans have managed to bring all lawmaking and government in the USA to a crashing halt, yes? Government by blackmail. Set up some phony "moral imperative", in our case, "no taxing the rich", and sit down in the middle of the road, announcing that you will never never be moved from your moral high ground.

Not only is the USA about to go into a government shut down; since no budget is going to be passed. And maybe a sovereign default. But my own state of Minnesota is in the identical place; Democrat governor, Republican legislature; absolute stalemate.

The thing is, the Republicans are all gleeful, since they've discovered the power of "just say no". Like all 12 year-olds, they are having huge fun. And the grown-ups in the situation, whoever they may be, are just really struggling to find any kind of a handle. Alas, corporal punishment of 12 year old Congressmen is probably not an option.

So, it occurred to me. What do you DO, when your kid climbs up a 40 foot tall tree, and refuses to come down?

There's the answer, staring us in the face. You tell the kid- "ok, fine. Stay up there! Have fun!" And you leave.

So; the Republicans think it's grown up to walk out on negotiations?

Fine. They want to run the country?


All Democrats- whenever a Republican says "no, we need to do it THIS way" - your BEST option is to smile and say "Fine! You're in charge! Go do exactly what you want!"

I can't imagine a fiercer revenge.

Since they've brought it all to a halt anyway- and are blaming the adults who keep trying to make things work-

Let them run it. All. You wanna guess how well that will work out? A whole bunch of really bad things are about to happen, economically. We all know that. Whoever is nominally "in charge" will, of course, be blamed for it - any and all realities in the case notwithstanding. So; why not let the Republicans take all that nice responsibility?

It's the best possible way to insure 100% Democratic legislatures voted in, next election.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Polka Dot Gallows! - 6/23/11

I have started new posts several times in the past weeks- and never managed to get them finished to the point where they were ready to put up. Too many interruptions from the Universe, which seems sometimes to be looking to change its name to the OmniPerverse.

Besides that big storm which tracked all across our county, which tossed oak branches through the potty house roof, and which incidentally turned out to be a genuine tornado- we're having a very cool, soaking wet year so far. Making most of the processes on any farm slow and difficult; when not impossible.

The other reason for not finishing the posts- they're serious ones; and I really want to do them right, and well. Still working there.

Meanwhile. When I bump into some news that is just mind-bogglingly mind boggling, I do get the urge to share. The Polka Dot Gallows concept is related to the German phrase for mordant humor, often called "dark" humor in English. They call it "galgenhumor", literally "gallows humor". I figured as long as so much of our humor these days is coming from the gallows- we might as well go ahead and make the gallows a fun place. Hence my polka dots.

As you might guess, today's Polka Dot Gallows entries are from Japan. So much of the news there has just been purely horrifying, that I figure a little lightening up will be useful.

You'll be glad to know that Japan is now Safe To Visit! We know for sure!

Our Primary Source of Truth And Expertise has proclaimed it. Lady Gaga. Of course.

"Pop singer Lady Gaga has assured the world that Japan is safe to visit following the March 11th earthquake and nuclear accident."

Thank goodness, we can relax at last. If you find it a bit peculiar that the Japanese government is relying on pop singers for public relations expertise, you may want to consider Item Two for the Polka Dot Gallows today:

If you're wondering if Homer Simpson is actually in charge of nuclear power oversight in Japan, wonder no more. They've fired him; and replaced him with The Three Stooges. (And yes, you're correct, they're dead.)

See, Tepco has installed a nifty new "American made" filtering system, so they can filter out some of the incredibly radioactive crud in the water in their basements, and then, maybe, reuse that water to "cool" the corium still melting its way through their reactor floors.

Except, after several days; the nifty new filters are not working.

They think, today, they may have finally figured out why.

Basically - they hadn't turned it on. That was the "American built" system. Just incidentally, for more fun, they add "The test-run was interrupted on Tuesday after a pump to send water into French-made decontamination equipment stopped, also due to the wrong setting of a valve."

So we're in good hands, folks. Lady Gaga and The Three Stooges.

Hopefully there's someone a little more adept in charge in Nebraska right now. They're close enough to us that I am, in fact, worried. Although the Nuclear Regulatory Commission now has 6 people on site, instead of the normal 2; and are putting out press releases that they've "made extensive preparations" - I have yet to see any statement that the cooling systems of these plants were designed to run under water, with no electricity.

And do remember how forthcoming all the world governments have been, and the power companies, and the press, with information about malfunctioning reactors.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

More unhappy stuff from Japan.

I know we don't need more depressing news. This bit seems to be in imminent danger of disappearing, however, so-

Japanese Public Television reported this morning that the suicide rate in Japan was up 18% in May. 3 hours later- the story has vanished from their news feed; though my saved link still worked. Here it is:

Suicides top 3,000 in May
More than 3,200 people killed themselves in Japan last month, exceeding the 3,000 mark for the first time in 2 years.

The National Police Agency says the number of suicides totaled 3,281 in May, up 499, or 18 percent, from a year earlier.

By prefecture, Tokyo topped the list with 325 suicides, followed by 210 in Kanagawa and 206 in Osaka.

In areas hit by the March 11th earthquake and tsunami, Fukushima saw an increase of 19 suicides to 68. The figure for Miyagi was unchanged at 50 while Iwate saw a decline of 3 to 32.

Until March, suicides had been on the decline since last year. The government had stepped up prevention measures, including opening numerous counseling counters.

After the disaster in March, however, the figure increased for the next 2 months.

The police agency says it does not know whether the disaster is related to the increase. It says it will make detailed analyses of individual cases in cooperation with the Cabinet Office and other ministries.
Wednesday, June 08, 2011 09:46 +0900 (JST)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Education for the future.

This is not fun. Nobody wants to still be thinking about leaking reactors. But; you really, really, need to know this.

This news release comes today from the official Japanese Public Television station, NHK.

I'm going to simply include all of it here, since there is a very high probability that in a few days, you won't be able to find the information easily; or perhaps not at all.

Gov't didn't release radiation data after accident

The Japanese government has expressed regret for not disclosing some important results of the radiation monitoring conducted near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant soon after the accident.

The central and Fukushima prefectural governments collected the data to determine evacuation measures as well as food and water restrictions for residents.

A reading on March 12th, one day after the massive earthquake and tsunami hit the plant, shows that radioactive tellurium was detected 7 kilometers away. Tellurium is produced during the melting of nuclear fuel.

Three hours before the data was collected, the government expanded the radius of the evacuation area around the plant from 3 kilometers to 10 kilometers.

But the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency reported at a news conference several hours later that the nuclear fuel was intact.

The government also failed to disclose the high radiation levels in weeds 30 to 50 kilometers from the plant. On March 15th, 123 million becquerels of radioactive iodine-131 per kilogram were detected 38 kilometers northeast of the plant.

The nuclear safety agency says it deeply regrets not releasing the data.

Professor Yasuyuki Muramatsu of Gakushuin University says radioactive iodine has a high effect on children. He says that if the data had been released earlier, more measures could have been taken to protect them from exposure.
Saturday, June 04, 2011 15:27 +0900 (JST)


There is hardly any comment needed; but I'll summarize. Yes, the Japanese government- and ours- knew; for certain; that a reactor had melted down completely; and exploded- one day after the tsunami-quake. That's the only way to get tellurium seven kilometers away. Nothing else could possibly have been responsible.

And- 123 MILLION becquerels of radio Iodine per kilo????? 38 kilometers NW? That's a number you only expect to find INSIDE a reactor core.

And- just like in all the disaster movies- they elected to NOT TELL THE PUBLIC. And the other world governments; with scientists all advising, and seeing what was going on from satellites I do assure you- went right along with it. Gosh, we don't want to scare anyone. Even though their kids are now playing in the spewed out guts of a nuclear reactor.

Apparently though, they believe in "Trickle Down Truth" - because they are quietly telling us now, and oh, yes, gosh, they are sorry about that.

You are really, really, going to want to remember this example in the future.

No "conspiracy theory" delusions here; just the hot, melted facts.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The THWASPCO Takes A Hit-

Part of the reason for my being a little quiet here; we got nailed by severe thunderstorm winds a bit more than a week ago. Like really severe; at first we were wondering if it was a tornado that hit.

I was inside the Little House with Smidgen, watching it come; no warnings severe enough to send us down into the cellar. It was really, really, impressive. Saw some big trees bending- double. Then they broke.

We've been spending a lot of time cleaning up; all the paths and roads in the woods have major trees down on them. And it keeps raining too, have you noticed?
One of the major hits- a couple of big oak branches came down right on top of the THWASPCO (That's "Three Hole Wind And Sun Powered Composting Outhouse" for any uninitiated.) That's Smidgen, walking down into the tangle right after the storm, investigating the damage with me.

It got clobbered. There was a big (5" thick) oak branch poking right through the roof; and even a 2 foot long section of 4" thick branch right inside on the floor- after having made its own hole in the roof on the way in. There are these hazards to living right in the woods. We knew it. In 30+ years, though, this is the first time we've had a building damaged by trees.

A new roof for the outhouse was not on the list of chores we'd been looking at; and also not in the budget.

But it's on the "urgent" chores list now, and budget too, whether there's money or not ("not" would be a good bet.)

Why the Universe feels it has to constantly be testing our resilience, I do not know. But it sometimes seems to be the Universe's favorite pastime.

Before the storm, we were wealthy. We had a permanent place for our poo. No worries; it goes there, rain or shine or snow, and it works.

Then, suddenly we were without a pot.

Well, without a roof for our pot, anyway. The basic structure was not damaged; we'll need new translucent fiberglas roofing (which, at 30 years, actually needed replacing anyway) and I think a purlin or two got cracked, but that's all.

With all the "spring rush" going on- wet soils like everywhere else slowing it all down- I'm guessing we'll be looking like a blue-tarp refugee camp for a while; maybe until autumn. We'll have to scare up a few dollars- and harder, a few days worth of time to get it done.

I mean, really, Universe. Was that necessary?


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Yep. Zombies.

Got your attention, huh? :-)

Weird, but effective. I was thinking of titling this post "Finally: A Federal Agency That Knows How To Communicate!" - but then I figured, why not follow their lead?

The Federal Centers For Disease Control And Prevention, the CDC as it's known, has put out a highly popular and well twittered post on "Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse."

And with considerable éclat and humor, they go through the various prepper actions any household should be familiar with, in order to be truly ready, when the flesh-eating zombies take over.

They do make it clear fairly early on that no, they don't really believe in zombies; but in fact the list of preparedness items applies perfectly well to disasters like, oh, floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns, and hurricanes.

If you think about it- the fact that my scrounging around for any kind of positive news to post about here, since we're fed fat with disasters and who needs more depressing stuff today; and this was the best thing I could come up with- kind of tells the tale, huh?

Hang in there.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal what??

My favorite of the various responses to the Royal Hoo Hah:

Or, for a full page view via Tom TDB's Facebook process; click here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Fukushima info.

I've been avoiding posting info and discussion on the nuclear power plant meltdowns in Japan for three reasons; 1) the available information has been awfully crappy; 2) there's tons of discussion elsewhere for those who want it, and 3) it's depressing as hell, and who needs that right now.

But; Nicole Foss over on The Automatic Earth posted a link today that I think you really have to see. This guy provides the hardest information available; analysed by an unquestioned expert from inside the nuclear power industry; in a very clear and calm way.

The expert is Arnold Gundersen. Just a bit of his info: "A former nuclear industry senior vice president, he earned his Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in nuclear engineering, holds a nuclear safety patent, and was a licensed reactor operator. During his nuclear industry career, Arnie managed and coordinated projects at 70-nuclear power plants around the country. " More résumé stuff here.

He's been making videos for general information since the disaster started. But this one startled me; with critical information - which we are not hearing. Yes; it's worse than they're telling us; still. Watch, and listen. Then pass this on. Personally; I find it criminal that our own government is not telling us what they know; manifestly; they are not.

Gundersen Postulates Unit 3 Explosion May Have Been Prompt Criticality in Fuel Pool from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.

The highlights for me: there have been "pieces of fuel rods" - found

up to TWO MILES away from the power plant.

Uranium, Plutonium, and Americium-have been captured

out of the air- in the continental USA.

And while Arnie won't say so quite yet; I don't see any

"alternative hypothesis"to the one that says there was a

small atomic explosion in the spent fuel pool at #3.

That's what "criticality" means. Enough uranium got pushed together

to start a chain reaction. When that happens outside a nuclear bomb,

the explosion quickly blows the uranium apart, and the reaction

stops. Most of the difficulty in building a good big bomb is

figuring out how to hold the uranium/plutonium together long

enough for a "good" energy yield.

If you're in the mood for more real information on all this;

the NYT has a good one up, about internal management

practices in the Japanese nuclear industry (and ours.)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

See; wasn't kidding.

We got clobbered with an even heavier snow two days after the last post. Now, 4 days later still; the snow is gone, and the daffodils, which looked pretty flat for a while- are on their way back.

This is a time-lapse movie; 1 frame every 5 minutes, for about the middle 6 hours of the day-

First upload I tried didn't work; we'll see if this does- ah; barely. Wow, really lousy quality!
But, you can see it. I may try to get a better version up; but - I've already tried 4 different ways.

It takes time for the daffs to come back. They're not finished with the recovery process. But- in another day or so, you'll never know the snow ever happened.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

It always snows on the daffodils.

(click for bigger)

Except; it doesn't, anymore. I used to be fond of reciting that line; "it always snows on the daffodils" - as yet another bit of spring tonic. When we first moved here, and for the next 15 years, this was really true. It was a standard part of the progress of seasons, along with the "January thaw". You could count on it; snow would melt, mostly in March; April would arrive with a few surviving drifts still around, flowers would emerge- and then; cold-snap, and a really good snowstorm.

The human fondness for discussing, and complaining, about the weather has long fascinated me. It must serve a function, somehow, and yet 98% of these conversations are totally obvious (nice day, isn't it!) or demonstrably of zero utility (gosh I hate rainy days!). And yet we repeat them eternally, to the point where someone who does not make weather comments may be perceived as slightly odd, somehow. (That would be me.)

The seasonal progressions have their own litany, all amusingly futile to the outside observer. Dissection is almost certainly equally futile, but I can't help picking at it when my salesgirl, in Minnesota, says "oh, I really hate snow...". Somehow, it seems to me that our energies could be put to better use. :-)

So, I was always fond of the snow on the daffodils. It always gave me the chance to make the superior observation that of course it snowed on the daffodils, it always snowed on the daffodils, it always had snowed on the daffodils and always would snow on the daffodils - so-- why not just relax and enjoy it. Since it's going to be melted and gone by tomorrow anyway?

Then about 15 years ago, it quit snowing on the daffodils. I felt bereft.

So you can imagine my joy today.


Part of the joy is knowing, from all the years of watching, that the daffodils are totally up for it. Sure, they're closed, and bent down, and look like they're being squashed; but in fact it's all part of their normal repertoire, and in two days they'll be all straightened up, wide open, and as cheerful as they ever are.

Part of it, too, is the inevitable feeling- if they can take it- so can we.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Iceland Launches New "Piece Corps"

Iceland today has announced that they are sending aid to both the European Union and the USA, in the form of a new "Piece Corps".

Finding themselves with hundreds of unemployed well educated and reasonably well behaved youth, it dawned on them that Iceland is uniquely well placed to be providing desperately needed help and advice to other countries suffering from financial collapse.

Icelandic couch-potato youngsters have by now watched countless hours of financial pundits explaining what happened to them, and having nothing better to do, and wanting to "getoffadisrock" as they say in Icelandic; they have proven eager to volunteer for this new humanitarian adventure.

"Look", Ingrid Ingridsdottir explained, "We've, like, survived it. And when we read the financial news coming out of the ashes of the European Union, and from behind the barricades at the US Federal Reserve - any one of us obviously has a much clearer idea of what's actually going on than any of those dimdims. We just hate to see them suffer."

Starting in mid-April, flotillas of geo-thermal powered kayaks will begin carrying hundreds of eager, blond, idealistic semi-virgin volunteers to the financial centers of the Big 8. The first group is expected to reach New York by April 22, and a second wave is being launched to arrive in Washington DC just a few days later. London and Belfast are on the list, but dates are uncertain.

The volunteers heading for Washington include a second kind of Piece Corps volunteer; engineering students. "As everyone knows, Iceland is the center of the world for real geo-thermal power development." said Ingridsdatsun Ingridsdottirdottirson. "We've been monitoring the thermal signatures of the entire Earth for some years now. The satellite data is absolutely clear; somewhere in the vicinity of Washington DC there is a new volcano erupting. The signature is much hotter than Kilauea in Hawai'i. True, all we can see so far is the immense atmospheric upwellings from the heated air; but that much hot air has to mean a real geothermal source someplace. With our Icelandic expertise, we're sure we can find the source, and tap it. Judging from the satellite data, there's enough energy there to power the entire USA for the entire foreseeable future- no nukes needed."

The entire world wishes these modern saints good luck.

And- I don't know how I missed this when it first came out; but it's an appropriate follow-up to everything else.