March 2. Sarah Harrison: The WikiLeaks Editor Who Helped Hide Edward Snowden. I was about to call this "inspiring", but that implies that you might be inspired to do something similar, when the real message is how much of an exceptional person you have to be, how much you have to sacrifice, and how much you have to risk, to even have a chance of making a positive difference in the world that anyone other than your friends will notice.
A week ago I had a visitor, Kurtis, who was traveling from central Canada to a permaculture conference in San Diego. One question he asked me was about how ordinary people can best engage the political system. I've become cynical on this issue. The system is now so resistant to change that I think the average person might as well give up on "making a difference" in the popular sense. Even running for city council requires more charisma and energy than most of us have.
Of course there are still lots of little things you can do to make a slightly better world that you can see yourself. Every fall I spread several truckloads of leaves all over my yard, and this morning the backyard was full of robins picking worms and bugs out of the leaves.
Also I'm getting a strange effect that doesn't seem to be happening to anyone else. Back when I vaped every two weeks, or before that when I ate brownies a few times a year, the high would be completely gone after about 12 hours. But since I've been vaping every four days, I have a permanent body high. You know when you're dozing in the morning and your whole body feels so good that you just want to lie there for hours? I feel like that all the time! If I were sick in bed, this would be a miracle. But if I need to do any kind of physical work, it's a big obstacle. So I'm going to cut back and see what happens. I'm hoping it turns out to be some purely coincidental medical condition, because then I have no reason to cut back on weed, and a medical excuse to be lazy.
February 27. If you want to make sense of the new FCC net neutrality regulations, that link goes to a Hacker News comment thread on the subject. Basically the new rules are good but half-assed, and there are two reforms that would be much better: to use antitrust laws to break up the Comcast and Time Warner monopolies into many small companies that would have to compete, or to allow "last mile unbundling", where any company can tap into the cable going to your house and offer a better deal.
Fun article, How Crazy Am I to Think I Know Where MH370 Is? It's by an expert on the vanished airliner, who gradually developed a really good conspiracy theory: that Russian agents hijacked the plane, spoofed the BFO data to make the satellites think it was going a different way, and flew it to a remote airbase in Kazakhstan. Details include an unlikely combination of factors that made that particular plane hackable, and an airbase built for self-landing planes with mysterious earthworks at the right time, and of the right size, to hide the plane. At the end the author questions his own sanity for believing something no one else believes.
Some happy news: Abandoned Walmart is Now America's Largest 1-Floor Library.
And a personal update on marijuana. Three weeks ago I mentioned that I haven't noticed any qualitative difference in the highs from different strains, and some readers said this is because vaporizers don't go hot enough to extract CBD. This is a popular belief among people who smoke, and it might be true of some cheap vaporizers, but any good one is hot enough. If you do a search for "vaporize CBD" you will find many discussions of how to tweak the temperature to get the different components. Typically you would use a lower temperature early in the day to get the energizing THC, and a higher temperature at night to get the "couchlock" CBD. According to this article, Vaporizer Temperatures for Cannabis, the only active ingredient that boils above vaporizer temperatures is quercetin -- so I wonder if it would help to take quercetin supplements before vaping.
Also I'm getting a strange effect that doesn't seem to be happening to anyone else. Back when I vaped every two weeks, or before that when I ate brownies a few times a year, the high would be completely gone after about 12 hours. But since I've been vaping every four days, I have a permanent body high. You know when you're dozing in the morning and your whole body feels so good that you just want to lie there for hours? I feel like that all the time! If I were sick in bed, this would be a miracle. But if I need to do any kind of physical work, it's a big obstacle. So I'm going to cut back and see what happens. I'm hoping it turns out to be some unrelated medical condition, because then I have no reason to cut back on weed, and a medical excuse to be lazy.
with honey. I've been gradually squeezing the combs and I'll probably end up with more than three gallons, in addition to about two gallons that I had already. So with a lifetime supply of honey, and $90 to buy a new package of bees, I think I'll leave the empty this year and there's a small chance that a swarm will move in.
February 25. I was going to write about something else today but I just got two emails in five minutes about this crowdfunded honey tap for beehives. I've been reading about this for weeks, and it's probably a useful new option for some beekeepers, but I can think of some reasons to be skeptical:
1) How does it fit with beehive ecology? Maybe having a weird plastic thing in the hive all the time is worse for bees than having a beekeeper open it up a few times a year. And most beekeepers will still want to get into hives for reasons other than taking honey.
2) To make sure the bees use the combs for honey and not for pollen and brood, they're going to have to use a queen excluder. That link goes to a basic description of how queen excluders work and some ways they're bad for bees.
3) No matter what combs are being used for, they get dirty with millions of tiny bee footprints, so there has to be a way to take this thing apart and clean it.
4) It's not that bad to harvest honey the old fashioned way. As a top bar beekeeper I never have to lift boxes or use expensive extractors -- I just open the hive, pull out some frames of honey, squish a few bees putting the bars back, throw the combs in a bucket, squeeze them in a wine press, and then spend a long time cleaning up. Also I get lots of valuable wax.
By the way, all my bees died last fall. I knew they were gone at the first snowfall when there was not a melted spot on top of the hive from their heat. Last week I opened the hive and there were fewer than a hundred dead bees inside, which is classic colony collapse disorder. But they left the hive packed with honey. I've been gradually squeezing the combs and I'll probably end up with more than three gallons, in addition to about two gallons that I had already. So with a lifetime supply of honey, and $90 to buy a new package, I don't plan to get more bees this year, but I'll leave the hives out in case a swarm finds them and wants to move in.
February 23. The last Monday of every month is Finger Pointing Day, because it's fun to be negative but not all the time. Let's talk about America's education system. This reddit thread features two long comments by vengeance_pigeon, arguing that the education system is all about money and social control rather than making people smarter.Morality and the Idea of Progress in Silicon Valley. I love how there's a concise summary at the top:
Silicon Valley's amorality problem arises from the blind faith many place in progress. The narrative of progress provides moral cover to the tech industry and lulls people into thinking they no longer need to exercise moral judgment.
How we created a generation of unsophisticated, picky eaters. This high-bandwidth article argues that human appreciation of food is being degraded by busy parents giving their kids bland processed food designed to appeal to kids, instead of making them eat adult food.Wasp Without a Sting is not about genetically engineered insects. It's about the total lameness of Bob Hope.How "Clean" Was Sold to America with Fake Science. Our idea of personal hygiene is historically absurd and was invented by ad agencies in the 20th century to sell us products. Personally I don't use deodorant, mouthwash, or shampoo, but I do floss every day.
February 20. For the weekend, three happy ecology links and more music. How to Grow a Forest Really, Really Fast is about some people who have figured out how to greatly accelerate the rate at which forests grow back, and they even have some money behind them.Sea Level Change Adaptation Strategy is a highly speculative plan for how people in Florida could build mounds of earth that will turn into food forest islands after the oceans rise.
Life is Flourishing in the Iron Curtain's Death Zone is a looong article about how the strip that used to separate East and West Germany is being turned into a green belt.
A week ago I asked for music in "the grey area between metal and folk." Thanks Ethan, Veren, Tracy, Quincy, Elliot, Hartley, and Erik for recommending stuff. A lot of it was black metal, and I enjoy black metal guitars but can't get into the abrasive vocals. In the last week I've listened to Agalloch, Alda, Angels of Light, Black Math Horseman, Drudkh, Fauna, Finntroll, Giant Squid, Giles Corey, Keiji Hano, Mount Eerie, Neurosis, Pallbearer, Peste Noire, Skumring, Solstafir, Thou, and Ulver. Rose Kemp, an actual folk artist who shifted to metal, is closest to what I was looking for. I found Conifer the most musically interesting for their unique blend of metal and post-rock. And my all-around favorite is Windhand, just really good doom metal with great vocals.
Musical taste is hard to explain. I can use words to tell a story about what I like and don't like, but the actual judgment is made on a deeper than rational level. When I really like something, it feels like my whole consciousness is resonating like a tuning fork exposed to the perfect frequency. The best experience is when I hear something new and it doesn't sound great yet, but it sounds strange in a way that I know will sound great if I keep listening, so it's like growing a new sense.
His third idea is about the motivations of foreign fighters: that the reason Muslims in Belgium and France and England are hundreds of times more likely to go fight for ISIS, is that they're acting out those nations' colonialist cultures. But a reader from Belgium says they do not have the colonialist culture that Brecher claims, and even if they did, Muslim communities in Europe are much less assimilated than in America and they wouldn't pick up their host nations' cultures anyway. Maybe the simpler explanation is that Muslims in rich countries can afford plane tickets.
February 19. I usually take Thursday off but I've decided that the War Nerd was wrong about Belgium and just edited yesterday's post to reflect that.
His third idea is about the motivations of foreign fighters: that the reason Muslims in Belgium and France and England are hundreds of times more likely to go fight for ISIS, is that they're acting out those nations' colonialist cultures. But a reader from Belgium says Brecher is full of shit, they have no colonialist culture ("Congo was something we were saddled with") and even if they did, Muslim communities in Europe are much less assimilated than in America and they wouldn't pick up their host nations' cultures anyway. Maybe the simpler explanation is that Muslims in rich countries can afford plane tickets.
. It's about people posting silly, mildly offensive stuff on social media and becoming objects of high-tech witch hunts. I think all of us have done something more offensive than these people got in trouble for, but here and there, almost at random, the wrath of millions will suddenly descend on one person. I think the participants in these shaming frenzies have the same deep motivation as European jihadis: their lives have no meaning and they want to make a difference in the world. They're craving a scarce commodity in the human zoo: to feel powerful.
Anyway, Brecher (real name John Dolan) goes on to knock down an idea that almost no one actually believes, that ISIS are oppressed victims. He says they're like the old American KKK: