is a good tool to squeeze the oil out of the buds. 5) The entire state of Montana is being gentrified.
September 15. Had a great time at the permaculture convergence. This was the third one I've been to, the most rural, and by far the most casual. I spent a lot of time napping and hanging out by the pond. If anyone I met there is checking out my blog, here's my top bar hive page, and a page about building a cobwood hut. Also, I didn't mention this at the convergence, but I will sell my land to a permaculturist for below market value.
A few things I learned: 1) Making cheese is easy, but making a particular kind of cheese is really hard. 2) Milk kefir has more probiotics than kombucha, which has more than water kefir or yogurt. 3) Agritrue is a new system for food producers to describe their practices in detail for consumers, which is better than the big agribusiness system of hiding the details of how they meet an increasingly meaningless organic certification. 4) If you're making cannabis edibles or salves, the OXO ricer is a good tool to squeeze the oil out of the buds.
More generally, I love hanging out in the country with no responsibilities. While permaculturists have many of the answers for how to improve society, we are nowhere near making the convergence experience permanent. Like Burning Man or Rainbow gatherings, it's a glimpse of a utopia that is hundreds of years in the future if it's even possible. Personally, rural living only makes me feel better for a few days, but I have not yet come to the end of lots of free time making me feel better, which is why I live in the city now.
. So he seems to be the better songwriter, but Colleen is my new favorite singer. She has an enormous range, and her voice has almost the same edge that Joanna Newsom had on The Milk-Eyed Mender, but wilder. Most of you will hate her, but if you're curious, start with her cover of
August 4. . The author looks at the origins of our concept of "drugs", and shows how the perceived difference between legal and illegal mind-altering substances has nothing to do with their effects, but emerged from a cultural fear of outsiders. So whatever drugs people on the fringe of society happen to use, are made illegal to keep them down. It occurs to me that marijuana legalization uses the same strategy as gay rights: before you can pass the laws, you have to spend decades working in popular culture to change the image of a group of people, from scary outsiders to harmless ordinary folks.. He speculates that robots will eventually be used by occupying powers for counterinsurgency, because people will take them more seriously than machines that don't mimic biology, and they'll be immune to the emotional breakdowns of human soldiers. So the people might eventually see the well-behaved robots as friends, and the fallible human guerrillas as enemies. Going back to the point above about changing images: humanity itself, in the eyes of humanity, is now an out-group, and high-tech management is the in-group. To reverse this, we need to draw attention to the failures of controlling technologies, and we also need more independent actions that are fun and helpful.
September 8. Busy this week, so I'm just purging my link queue with little or no comment. The terror and the bliss of sleep paralysis. "Sleep paralysis has tormented me since childhood. But now it's my portal to out-of-body travel and lucid dreams."Algorithm recovers speech from vibrations of potato-chip bag filmed through soundproof glass. That is, a good enough computer with a good enough camera can watch the bag vibrating from sounds in the room and figure out the sounds. Also related to hearing, Nerve implant retrains your brain to stop tinnitus. I predict that technologically assisted physical brain retraining will be a big thing in a few decades. Reddit comment from last month about how a well-organized consumers union could force Comcast to be responsible.
And some great life philosophy, Seneca on busyness and the art of living wide rather than living long:
Indeed the state of all who are preoccupied is wretched, but the most wretched are those who are toiling not even at their own preoccupations, but must regulate their sleep by another's, and their walk by another's pace, and obey orders in those freest of all things, loving and hating. If such people want to know how short their lives are, let them reflect how small a portion is their own.
September 5. As usual, by Friday I'm burned out on the Big Subjects. Leigh Ann and I have been watching Heroes, the 2006-2010 TV show. Everyone agrees that only season one is good, but I think even season one is poorly written, and was carried by great ideas which got used up. Also we've finally started watching Game of Thrones, and it's, eh, pretty good. Visually it's perfect, and there are some fun characters, but the big themes are family and loyalty/betrayal, both of which bore me. My favorite thing is how the world starts with zero magic and the magic gradually creeps back in.
On my favorite songs page, "Argyle Square" by Orphans & Vandals is currently sitting at number one (and I'm tempted to raise "Terra Firma" to number two). Aaron mentions that Bob Geldof had a similar sound back in 1990, in a few songs on his album Vegetarians of Love. Check out No Small Wonder and Thinking Voyager Two Type Things.
And here's a simple and oddly compelling song that I've been meaning to post for a while, John Matthias - Pre-Loved Vintage. I'm a sucker for polyrhythms and I'd like to put the bit from 2:28 to 2:51 on an endless loop.
September 3. One nice thing about the internet is that it's humbling. I used to think I was really smart, but now I can see that there are people out there who are much smarter, like Venkatesh Rao of Ribbonfarm, or reddit user Erinaceous, or Sister Y, who blogs at The View from Hell and Carcinization. And most recently (thanks Gabriel) a Finnish guy who calls himself VIznut and does a blog called Countercomplex.
In VIznut's August 5 post, The resource leak bug of our civilization, he starts out talking about how vast increases in computing power are being mostly wasted, and argues that the waste "is nothing utilitarian but a reflection of a more general, inherent wastefulness, that stems from the internal issues of contemporary human civilization."
The bug: Our mainstream economic system is oriented towards maximal production and growth. This effectively means that participants are forced to maximize their portions of the cake in order to stay in the game. It is therefore necessary to insert useless and even harmful "tumor material" in one's own economical portion in order to avoid losing one's position. This produces an ever-growing global parasite fungus that manifests as things like black boxes, planned obsolescence and artificial creation of needs.
Wow, Ivan Illich lives! Then he goes into more detail about "black boxes". Ground-level processes that humans used to do on their own, are automated into modules, which are stuck together with other modules into bigger modules. In theory this makes life easier but really it makes life less meaningful:
People who have a paid job, for example, can be regarded as modules that try to fulfill a set of requirements in order to remain acceptable pieces of the system. When using the money, they can be regarded as modules that consume services produced by other modules. What happens beyond the interface is considered irrelevant, and this irrelevance is a major source of alienation. Compare someone who grows and chops their own wood for heating to someone who works in forest industry and buys burnwood with the paycheck. In the former case, it is easier to get genuinely interested by all the aspects of forests and wood because they directly affect one's life. In the latter case, fulfilling the unit requirements is enough.
So what can we do about this? VIznut suggests that hackers build popular movements of making useful tools and art "with low-complexity computer and electronic systems." I never would have thought of that, but I still don't see it happening. What I see instead is more and more useful stuff (from programming to wood-chopping) being automated, as more people turn their attention to virtual worlds designed to seem more meaningful than reality ever could. And when we finally get burned out at the farthest limits of artificial superstimuli, then we must either go back to painful unrewarding reality or go extinct, and one of those will be much easier.
Or, before we get too far on that path, reality will catch up to us in the form of the collapse of the global economy: Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we're nearing collapse. I still see no evidence for a technological collapse, but maybe we'll have no time for Minecraft version 27 because we'll be too busy foraging bugs and tree cambium -- or building low-tech drones to fight the high-tech drones of occupying armies.
September 1. Today, some content from readers. Anne has been sending out big emails about ebola, and I've decided not to go deeply into that subject, but I'll summarize her most interesting point: that the greatest danger of ebola is not that people will get sick and die, but that fear of the disease will enable extreme repression the name of quarantine. A month ago a long-time reader made a good blog post, which only last week showed up on the subreddit when it escaped reddit's overzealous spam filters. It's called Mass Trolling In The Arena, The Way Great Civilizations End Up In The Ditch Of History, and it draws some connections between ancient gladiatorial games and contemporary internet-based cruelty. And Gene, an accomplished guitar player, sent me a long email on the subject of motivation, with some ideas I've never seen before. Condensed excerpt:
To master any truly difficult skill it's not enough to just want it; you have to be obsessed. If you have to force yourself to pick it up you're screwed; if you have to force yourself to put it down you know you're on the right track. You told me that the only thing you've ever had to force yourself to stop was video games. Ask yourself: why exactly are video games so addictive? Of course it's because of the constant reward system. Every thirty seconds you get a reward of some kind. The next question is: how can I duplicate this experience in other areas? When I was learning to play, I always broke any challenge down into it's smallest possible chunks. A fast lick might seem impossible taken as a whole, but how difficult is it to play the first three notes? If I play those three notes over and over for ten minutes, always keeping it down to a tempo at which I can play it correctly at all times, will I be able to work them up to performance tempo in those ten minutes? Assuming you haven't chosen something way beyond your level, the answer is probably yes! By doing it this way, you're creating a lot of very small, quick successes for yourself. If you set yourself a goal to bring those first three notes up to performance tempo and you succeed in just a few minutes, the flush of success releases endorphins in the brain. If you continue to duplicate that experience every few minutes you get addicted to practicing. Talent is an intuitive grasp of rapid learning. Fortunately you don't really need that intuitive understanding... that's what a teacher is for! Unfortunately most teachers haven't analyzed their own formative years sufficiently to understand the ingredients of their own success as players. I have consistently found that students who listen to me and practice as I described above will progress ten times faster than anyone else. It's also true that these are the students who become obsessed. I've believed for years that they listened to me and practiced in this way because they were obsessed, but since I've come to believe that I had cause and effect confused. They become obsessed because they practice this way!
August 29. Some light stuff for the weekend. If you can't choose wisely, pick at random. The article explains why filtering out bad reasons can be more valuable than listening for good reasons, and there are some stories about how tribal cultures get advantages from randomness, and some suggestions for our own society. I seriously believe they should decide elections by picking a ballot at random (one for each race or issue). Over time, this would reflect the will of the people, and there would zero incentive for tactical voting.
The non-diet diet: the case for eating whatever you want. Well, it's not that simple, or we would all eat ice cream and chips. It's an idea that's been around for a while called "intuitive eating", and it takes some practice to listen to your body in just the right way. I sort of do this already, and it seems like it would be easy to experiment on yourself, but hard to prove that it works for any other person.
The color of every photo on the internet blended together is orange, and the best thing is, nobody knows why!
Finally, I've done a lot of work lately on my favorite songs page, including numbering my top ten, making special sections for instrumentals and radio hits, and mostly bunching multiple songs by the same artist.