Category : environment

The fact that no group of disaffected Washington insiders have even attempted to form a centrist third party is, in itself, a pretty strong argument that all the insiders already know the game is rigged. There’s no chance of a moderate third party gaining significant support anymore. The time was ripe, even just a few years ago, but as this article about the decline of the Blue Dog Democrats — the conservative wing of the Democratic party — points out, voters are voting out moderates.

There is an element of irony to this; the Blue Dog’s centrism was directly responsible for the toning down of some of the most progressive aspects of the original House version of the Affordable Care Act (AKA healthcare reform) and the elimination of the “public option.” Republican and moderate voters rewarded their centrism by voting them out. Despite some of these members’ popularity, the Democratic brand in their districts had been too tainted.

As the first commenter on the above article mentions, the same is true of moderate Republicans. Moderates on both sides of the aisle are being ostracized by their parties and shunned by voters (partially as the result of decreased financial support from the party apparatus, which means less TV ads).

Cast out of their jobs and their respective parties these wandering politicians and their staff would no doubt commiserate at the bar and start unifying into a cohesive new political force, right?

Wrong. There has been no serious attempt at centrist third party and it’s really suspicious that there has not been one. The idea is so obvious that you have to wonder if the insiders are afraid of something. Instead of the natural fractioning and reassembly of a multi-party system we are watching the two parties get more extreme and less able to agree on anything (except their mutual preference for a two-party system), so it leaves us with a completely deadlocked Congress. Voters on both sides thought the solution to the financial crisis was to swing the ship of state to their side, but in the end we just kept going straight. The so-called “super-committee” set up to shave trillions off our debt failed, just as it was designed to do. The rocky shoreline is now dead-ahead.

Who can turn this ship? Obama? No, he has no real power. With a completely deadlocked Congress the president is rather impotent. Any radical solutions on Obama’s part will be crushed with fervor by the right and with meekness by the paid-for left. The number of uncorrupt, intelligent and generally decent congress-critters probably numbers less than 100. The other 435+ will simply outvote the patriots and the zombie system will continue on its merry way towards the threatening shoals.

I wrote earlier that the chance of forming a third party to rebut the extremism of both parties is now zero. That’s for two reasons: First, the jagged shores are too close and second, the Occupy Wall Street has already claimed the political center and simultaneously radicalized it.

I must admit, I’m delighted by the movement’s acceptance by the mainstream population. Around 70% approve of or don’t mind the protesters nationally and 87% of New Yorkers are okay with their branch of Occupy Together. That’s a fantastic number for a protest group, and the weasel-faced party apparatchiks in Washington have surely taken notice by now. There must be a barely-controlled sense of panic in their hearts as they notice that OWS is out-polling Obama, either party, Congress (which recently came in at a laughable 9% approval rate) or basically any other institution like journalism, banks or the Supreme Court.

Despite the general perception that Occupy Wall Street is a leftist group, most of the people actually camping out are political independents. That means they either don’t vote because they think it’s rigged or they vote mostly third party and for the occasional mainstream politician who has won their support. Barack Obama was that candidate in 2008; can he be the one again in 2012? Things look doubtful, but Obama has wisely positioned himself near the group that is, essentially, more popular than he is. Will that lead to a more radical campaign platform, even one featuring bold, but practical solutions to the problems we face?

Anything is possible, but the conventional wisdom says … what? What does the conventional wisdom say we should do in a time like this?

There isn’t any “conventional” wisdom for these unconventional times. And any attempt at forming a moderate coalition will be crushed by the two-party apparatus — the only time they work in unison is when the two party system is threatened.

Humanity is facing a triple crisis: The most powerful nation is politically deadlocked and fading fast, the world’s economy is deeply sick and appears to be close to slipping into a coma from which it can never fully return, and the planet’s environment is calling out in pain and metamorphosing at an alarming rate. We are changing, but into what?

Maybe we should take a look at the birth-place of civilization as we contemplate its demise. In Egypt, there is hope.

First Egypt united to overthrew their rancid dictator in-all-but-name Hosni Mubarak, and now they have wisely and quickly sniffed out Field Marshal Tantawi’s attempts to subvert the transition to democracy by grabbing more power for the military. The people are back in Tahrir Square, protesting and dying for their freedom. It is heartening to see such a brave stand for democracy in Egypt, something we haven’t seen in America in a long, long time. But the Occupy Wall Street movement is borrowing the energy and idealism of the people of Egypt — and Syria and Tunisia and Yemen and even Israel! There are tent cities springing up all over the tiny state as its economy is squeezed by the global crunch.

We are in global revolution territory, folks.

The Occupy Together website shows just how global the movement really is. There are activities happening on every continent. There’s even an Occupy Antactica. Seriously.

As usual, the politicians are way behind the people. I’m not sure how much time is left before the 3 major crises’ Rubicons are reached, but somebody needs to do something before it’s too late. I don’t expect the current economic system to survive 2012. It might not even survive 2011 with the way things look in Europe. Every major economy is running on fumes, even China’s. We now stare down the precipice of complete and total collapse.

The powerlessness of Obama’s office notwithstanding, it is still an important center of symbolism in America. If he can find a way to tap into the Occupy Wall Street anger to effect real change in Washington it could be the trigger that’s needed to unleash the new world. The old economic system has to die, and politics-as-usual has to find a new normal. Then we can clean up this planet, unleash the hidden technologies suppressed by the oily elite and begin our journey into a Star Trek-esque future instead of a Terminator-esque future. Until the kidney-stone that is the global elite is removed from its obstructive position there will be little to no positive change on this world. To that end we must unify, occupy and reclaim the sword of liberty.

So rejoice, for the spirit of democracy still flows through the people. That is enough for me to sleep a little sounder at night, even as Late-Stage American Capitalism approaches the End-Stage. I hope there is a solution waiting in the wings (and I think there is), because this was is teetering on the edge. When it falls, Occupy Wall Street will only get more powerful. So you might as well occupy the future now.

They walk among us. Normal people, like you or me. But inside the corners of their ratty little minds they carry a dark, hideous secret: They own a leaf blower.

I know, I know. It’s easy to hate them, like SUV drivers, sweet sixteen psycho-princesses and those happy-slapping chavs who run around hitting unsuspecting people and filming it. But owning a leaf blower does not make you a shitty person. A crappy one, yes. But not shitty.

It’s not the individuals who own leaf blowers who concern me; it’s the whole problem of Leaf Blower Culture that keeps me up at night (that, and the noise). This is not to say the leaf blower wielders are innocent however. It is their weakness that ruins things for the rest of us. But what flaw in our collective psyche allowed it get to this point?

The Human Flaw
The skull-rattling noise of leaf blowers is the real reason that people use them, I suspect. Far from being the biggest flaw, it’s actually what attracts these weak, pitiful souls to it, desperately wanting to make some impact in the world, wrongly or rightly.

Backpack leaf blowerAlthough commercial grade leaf blowers are spendy at around $500, a small consumer version can cost as little as 40 bucks (plus gas). Like SUVs, the relatively cheap price combined with the vibrant feeling of pure mechanical power gives consumers a drunken sense of maniacal glee.

A few hours after the purchase you can find many people softly, sickly laughing as they swirl the leaf blower around like a bloated magical wand, causing a small wind storm along with an incredible cacophonous noise heard blocks away. Screaming over the monstrous din, they dance through the lawn with their mechanical version of Voldemort’s wand spewing forth a steady stream of devilish noise and blustery fury. Somewhere deep in their gollum-like mind the voice of a mad-man rings loudly in their hollow hearts:

“HAHA!! Yes!! I am making those leaves flee before me! I am invincible with my precious blower! Cower before me, you stupid leaves! I’ll blow you clear across the lawn! MUAAHAHAHAHAAAAAA!!!!!”

He is no longer a balding and pot-bellied middle-aged suburban dad. He is Leafmancer the Majestic, master of all who cross his path. Dare ye to speak to him over the bilious noise of his quivering instrument of power? Nay, he will not hear your pleas. He does not concern himself with such trifles as your feelings. “Back off, before I blow you off!” he hisses in an inaudible whisper.

A Cost/Benefit Ratio Forrest Gump Could Deduce
This simple device encapsulates everything that is wrong with American culture from a social, environmental and technological standpoint. Let’s look at what a leaf blower does and it’s advantages versus disadvantages.

A leaf blower is basically a reverse vacuum cleaner. It blows instead of sucks. But what goal does it accomplish, what societal need does it address?

It replaces a rake.

That’s it. As far as I know, there is no other common use for a leaf blower than the function that is easily accomplished by the common rake, which can be purchased at hardware store for 20 bucks and requires no fuel or maintenance and operates nearly silently.

The leaf blower does its job extremely poorly — and it does so very loudly — yet people still flock to this useless, feeble technology.

5 guys with leaf blowers

To really drive this home, and be fair to leaf blowers, I will now list the advantages and disadvantages of this machine:

Leaf blower pros:

  • Slightly faster? Maybe, but I’ve seen workmen accomplish virtually nothing in an hour’s time, like a retarded monkey pushing around a box of sand
  • Some can suck up and mulch the leaves, but most people don’t have or use this functionality; the device is technically referred to as a “blower vac” in this capacity
  • Although they ostensibly reduce human energy output, using high-powered machines is somewhat difficult and still makes you sweaty. I don’t see many grannies using them

Leaf blower cons:

  • Loud as a fucking airplane
  • Expensive compared with a rake
  • Requires continual purchase of costly fossil fuels
  • Causes air pollution and leaves the stench of gasoline
  • Creates huge plumes of dust & debris, some of which can lodge themselves in your eye
  • Not as good at creating leaf piles as a rake
  • Heavier than a rake
  • Bulkier than a rake
  • Has moving parts and requires regular maintenance such as:
    • Cleaning or replacing the filters
    • Replacing the spark plugs
    • Cleaning the fan blades
    • Cleaning the air intake
    • etc. etc.
  • Doesn’t work without a fuel source yet still requires human control/power
  • If you’re using a leaf blower, you’re pissing off everybody around you

Meanwhile, a rake just fucking works. (Plus, it can be used to sneak up and attack people using leaf blowers.)

Leaf blower mouth

A Cultural Sickness that Reveals Our World’s Rotten Soul
Our world teeters on the edge of economic, environmental collapse and I’m worried about leaf blowers? Well yes, because if we think leaf blowers are a good idea then I weep for our noisy, pointless future. Why does our culture accept and use these technologically gimmicky bullshit tools when perfectly acceptable old-school tools exist? Is it sheer laziness or a delirious lust for auditory power? I’m afraid our leaf blower addiction reveals far more about our society than we would ever want to grok.

Corporate priorities tend to distort things. In recent years the idea that there’s a technological solution to every problem has been driven into the corporate drone’s head. He knows all his competitors are using leaf blowers. He thinks that a rake looks low-tech and that customers are more impressed with technology than simplicity. He expects a lawn care service company to show up with a trailer full of gas-powered goodies, all of which make an unholy racket. It’s part of our cultural expectations at this point: If you’re not making a shitload of noise, are you really doing anything?

Blame it on our Genes
Our monkey brains are helpless before the lure of shiny, noisy tools. If this is the best we can do, perhaps the world would be better off without us. Dolphins don’t have leaf blowers. When they enslave us, they will say it’s for our own good and they might actually be right. That’s what scares me. Still, rakes sit lonely and dust-covered in millions of garages, wondering, like some jilted lover, what it did to push us into the arms of that supercharged demon-mistress next to it. Will America remember the simple, subtle beauty of the common garden rake before it’s too late?

We could certainly use the exercise.

This is one cultural deficiency I can’t blame solely on the Oligarchy (although our elite-encouraged oil addiction is a contributing factor). It’s our own stupid lust for power that led us to this point. If we keep this up I’m gonna start cheering for the goddamn lizard people. Bring on the brainless zombies (armed with leaf blowers, of course).

C’mon, folks: Evolve already!

A Future Fraught with Free Leaves
I’m not the first person to complain about this plague; leaf blowers are illegal in several cities and people have bitched about them for decades. Yet, here we are in 2011 and they’re still fucking here.

The most ironic part is that leaves will win this battle in the end. Leaves will be blowing freely long after humanity has slit its own throat and withered, gurgling and gasping, into the heedless sands of history.

Are leaves such a horrible infestation that they must be removed from our urban green spaces? What about the incredible amount of noise and air pollution that is being added to the atmosphere in their place? We are truly a sick culture if we think this is an acceptable trade-off. I will risk the fucking leaves, thank you very much. Maybe our feral, wretched descendants will use them as currency.

The guy who invented the rake must be rolling in his fucking grave. He’s just lucky he can’t hear it when they blow the leaves off his gravestone.

Somebody pinch me. This sounds like a shitty Johnny Depp movie (to be fair, the first one was good).

First, let me say that I don’t condone the taking of hostages (unless it’s an underrated Kevin Spacey and Samuel L. Jackson movie) and some of these pirates are clearly assholes.

But a large portion of them are fishermen who got sick and tired of seeing European vessels dumping toxic waste in Somalian waters. Johann Hari wrote a great short article on the piracy issue entitled You Are Being Lied to About Pirates. Here’s an excerpt:

In 1991, the government of Somalia – in the Horn of Africa – collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since – and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country’s food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas.

Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.

This is an environmental war.

Apparently Europe and America feel they have not raped the African continent enough and are engaging in a propaganda war against the “pirates” in order to justify continued presence in the area and as a convenient distraction from the foundering economy.

Just a reminder: Do not believe the mainstream media, especially when they get whipped into a frenzy like they are now. When the media is all aligned on an issue you can bet they’re wrong or lying. The pirates scare is Class A bullshit and should be treated as such. If we had more journalists like Hari this wouldn’t be a problem, but most will breathlessly recount whatever government officials tell them.

Dig deeper. There’s more to this story than the corporate media will ever report.

Floating Oceanic Garbage Island

Here’s the most disturbing thing you’ll see today:

Good job, humans. We’ve created a whole new continent! Unfortunately, it’s composed entirely of trash.

The vast expanse of debris – in effect the world’s largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting “soup” stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan.

Charles Moore, an American oceanographer who discovered the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” or “trash vortex”, believes that about 100 million tons of flotsam are circulating in the region. Marcus Eriksen, a research director of the US-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which Mr Moore founded, said yesterday: “The original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States.”

Is there somewhere I can turn in my humanity? Maybe I could trade it for something less destructive and become an elephant or something.

Oh wait, then I’ll be hunted down for my ivory and left for dead. Nevermind. Guess I’m human for the duration.

I’m not worried, though. This problem will eventually solve itself.

Human beings are parasites. We leech nurishment from the Earth and give nothing back (except more destruction). But like most parasites eventually do, we have gone too far and now we’re killing the host… and ultimately ourselves.

On the plus side, this floating island of garbage might make a great tourist attraction for any space aliens who want to tour an Earth museum after we’re gone.

I wonder if they’ll sell plastic souvenir coke bottles.

I like to learn a thing or two every day, and today I learned a very interesting thing indeed.

Many people know that alcohol can be used as fuel for cars and farm equipment. It’s popular today in the guise of ethanol, but ethanol is largely a red herring. Ethanol is a ghost of what could have been had the Prohibition movement not killed alcohol fuel in its infancy.

Most people are not aware that Henry Ford’s Model T came in a variation that allowed the driver to switch the carburetor to run the engine on farm-made ethyl acohol [sic]. This allowed the operator to stop at local farms (equipped with stills) to refuel his/her car during long trips through the backcountry. After all- the gas station wasn’t exactly as ubiquitous in those days, as it is now. The Standard Oil Company and its industrialist-founder John D. Rockefeller wasn’t too happy with this arrangement. After all, Rockefeller’s company had a virtual monoploly on gasoline at this time in our nation’s development.

It kind of makes me wonder why we’re fighting an illegal war over oil in the desert, thousands of miles away, when we could probably retrofit our cars to run on domestically produced alcohol fuels (which does not have to be corn-based like ethanol).

Like William Randolph Hearst’s campaign against cannabis (marijuana), Rockefeller’s campaign against alcohol was ultimately successful… for him. Hearst and Rockefeller’s respective campaigns were horrible crimes perpetrated against America, the environment and truth, but both men were personally enriched through their scheming.

Since the late 1800′s there had been a growing Alcohol Temperance Movement developing among reformers. Rockefeller saw an opportunity in this. It is well-documented that local efforts to curb alcohol consumption were expanded to the national level when high-profile figures like Rockefeller joined in the anti-alcohol efforts. Was he so concerned with the social problems that abuse of alcohol was said to cause?

No… John D. Rockefeller was not concerned with family dynamics in the working classes. But he was influential in changing the goals of the movement from temperance to prohibition. As we know, his contribution to the outlawing of the production and sale of alcohol was successful. Of course, Rockefeller and the oil companies reaped tremendous profits as a result. Remember that the period covered by the 18th Amendment (1919-1933) coincided with the huge rise in the sale and operation of automobiles. America was on the move, and all of these cars were now operated solely on gasoline. By the time that the 21st Amendment was passed, ending the prohibition of alcohol, the standard was already set and worked completely in the favor of the Rockefeller family.

While this is an excellent example of a conspiracy against the American people that is both provable and successful, there is one problem with calling it a conspiracy: Conspiracies require illegal acts, and lying to the American people is not necessarily illegal. Unethical, yes, but unless you were personally slandered there’s no chance of legal recourse against such conspiratorial campaigns.

In the end, this is an example of how rich men can ride roughshod over the Constitution and the democratic process and there’s not a damn thing anybody can do about it.

Disclosure is needed.

More and more people are waking up to the fact that we are not alone in the universe. Personally, I think a lot of problems on this planet could be solved if we just recognized that there is other (more) intelligent life out there. For one thing, the knowledge of extra-terrestrial life would lead us to some feelings of embarrassment about the stupid shit we’re doing to our planet and each other. I’m thinking of war, environmental degradation, political arrogance and conspicuous consumption, amongst many other problems.

I mean, it’s humiliating enough that the Bush/Cheney cabal is bleeding liberty away (somebody make a photoshopped pic of Bush waterboarding Lady Liberty please), but if we knew aliens were watching the whole thing unfold maybe we’d say, “You know, maybe we should ask the aliens for help. Maybe they know what to do about the dichotomy between security and liberty.” Maybe that’s why they’re being kept underwraps. Maybe the powers that be don’t like the message they bring.

It’s important to remember that not all high-ranking officials want to be a party to this coverup, though. One such group is putting their reputations on the line to call for disclosure and a real investigation.

An international panel of two dozen former pilots and government officials called on the U.S. government on Monday to reopen its generation-old UFO investigation as a matter of safety and security given continuing reports about flying discs, glowing spheres and other strange sightings.

“Especially after the attacks of 9/11, it is no longer satisfactory to ignore radar returns … which cannot be associated with performances of existing aircraft and helicopters,” they said in a statement released at a news conference.

The panelists from seven countries, including former senior military officers, said they had each seen a UFO or conducted an official investigation into UFO phenomena.

The subject of UFOs grabbed the spotlight in the U.S. presidential race last month when [Dennis] Kucinich, a member of Congress from Ohio, said during a televised debate with other Democratic candidates that he had seen one.

Former presidents Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter are both reported to have claimed UFO sightings.

Everybody in this group probably already knows that we’ve made contact. It’s just less nutjob-y to call for an investigation. As for me, I’ve never seen a UFO, never met an alien, and never had anything shoved up my ass. I can just tell. You know what I mean? Probably not, so let me explain: I can tell not only that ETs exists, but that the government knows about them and has in fact made contact with them, simply by monitoring the government’s behavior.

It’s simple: the U.S. government has approached UFO investigation in a secretive, yet lackadaisical manner. The secretive part makes sense, since, under the respective political milieus of the last 60 years, the UFOs could be (and most likely were, from the U.S. government’s perspective) threats from our Communist or Terrorist adversaries. So it makes perfect sense to be reticent about speaking to the public on the matter. However, the lazy, half-assed attitude the government took towards actually investigating these phenomenon belies their obsession with secrecy. In fact, many UFO sighters have noted that the government was more concerned with shutting them up than actually finding out what happened.

This leaves us with two possibilities. One is the ET theory, the other is the “secret project theory.” This theory states that the government has been behind the UFOs from the beginning. This theory has strong supporting circumstantial evidence since the government has been known to work on secret projects (from the Manhatten Project to the stealth bomber) and the military had to explore any option to get a leg up on the Soviets.

However, this theory has several holes. One, the technology is far beyond what we have even today. And this technology would have to have been available in 1947. Another problem with the secret project theory is that the UFOs seem to want to be discovered. What else can explain The Phoenix Lights? Why would the government make vastly more dull coverup work for themselves when they could test the secret craft over deserted land instead of a major metropolitan area, home to 1.5 million people? It just doesn’t make sense unless you start using conspiratorial contortions far more convoluted than the idea that there’s life out there. I heard a good one today: Somebody suggested the Phoenix Lights were a secret government project involving nuclear-powered stealth blimps!

Oh, I should note that former Arizona governor Fife Symington is a member of the group agitating for disclosure I mentioned earlier. He had this to say about the event:

I’m a pilot and I know just about every machine that flies. It was bigger than anything that I’ve ever seen. It remains a great mystery. Other people saw it, responsible people. I don’t know why people would ridicule it.

It was enormous and inexplicable. Who knows where it came from? A lot of people saw it, and I saw it too. It was dramatic. And it couldn’t have been flares because it was too symmetrical. It had a geometric outline, a constant shape.

“I don’t know why people would ridicule it.”

I do. Ridicule is a very effective weapon if your aim is to affect a coverup. Heck, ridicule is probably your best bet, besides threats. If you organize an effective campaign of ridicule then the victim spends more time trying to defend his reputation than talking about what he saw, and then it has the dual purpose of preemptively ridiculing all other similar claims by association.

It must be stated clearly: Ridicule is not a logical argument. It is an ad hominem attack and is thus a fallacious argument. Attack arguments, not people. Now, anybody who disagrees with my assessment is free to say so, but simply ridiculing me is not an effective argument. It might be effective in that it makes people agree with you (for fear of being ridiculed if they don’t), but it does nothing to bolster your argument. In fact, it makes you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about.

I wish I didn’t need to make the above statement, but I’ve been on the internet far too long to believe otherwise.

Anyway, I want to address the idea that the alien life is highly improbable. For one thing, so is our very existence, but here we are. For another, there are billions upon billions of stars
out there. We’re finding extrasolar planets at an amazing rate. It’s not unfair to say the universe is probably swarming with planets, many of them habitable by carbon-based lifeforms. But we must already remember that there’s no guarantee that extra-terrestrial life would be anything like us.

I think the whole question is summed up nicely by this excellent comment on digg (yes, I’m surprised too):

Believing alien life exists does not necessarily require seeing, and it certainly doesn’t require faith. It’s just a matter of deduction, probability, and simple reasoning.

Think for a moment of the things you accept as true without the benefit of having seen them with your own eyes. You very likely accept the fact that not all life on Earth has been discovered. Although you have no tangible proof of that, you have an intuitive understanding of mathematical probability and an idea of what the limitations on exploration are. You probably accept as true that there are more stars in the Universe than there are grains of sand on Earth, but in reality, no one’s ever really counted them. We see far off galaxies, most too far for our satellites to define, and we just assume they’re composed of hundreds of billions of stars, just like our Milky Way is (never counted those either). It’s a sound assumption, for sure. But an assumption nonetheless. What I’m trying to convince you of is that mathematical probability can be just as strong a proof as observation, which is itself limited by perception.

Now, what do we know about life that might help us get a better grasp on the alien question? Well, for starters, we know there’s life on Earth. We’re not exactly sure how it came about, but most of us are convinced it wasn’t by way of magic. We believe it had much, if not everything to do with the composition and solar proximity of our planet. We know that each Earthly life-form adapts to its respective environment, and we suspect they evolve in order to better compete with their rivals. We know our world has at times been uninhabited, inhabited, uninhabited, and inhabited again. We know there are great extinctions and new births. And we know, eventually, our planet will die.

There is not one single aspect of our planet, that makes life as we know it possible — i.e. vulcanism, atmosphere, water, carbon, etc. — that we have not yet detected on another planet. I’m talking about the basic ingredients, not the recipe. So we have to ask ourselves two questions: Are these the only ingredients to life?, and, is our particular recipe for life the only one capable of rising in a solar oven? If we presume both to be the case, we must then ask a third question: In a Universe of at least 100 billion galaxies (each with some 200 billion stars), and tens of trillions of planets; what are the likely odds of a recipe similar to ours repeating itself? For that matter, what are the odds of Venus’ recipe repeating itself? What are the odds for that of Jupiter, or that of Mars? How about Mercury? Is Neptune a one per galaxy anomaly? Are all planets in the Universe unique?

If you’re like me, you’re likely to conclude that the odds of our “recipe” type repeating itself are just as good as those of any other planet. But, whether or not alien life has come upon Earth can be debated. I’m personally convinced that it has. But I don’t believe that that topic can be seriously broached without more people first coming to terms with the all-too-probable existence of life outside our own world.

Indeed, the possibility of life outside our world is more than just a possibility. I would go so far as to say it’s probable. But some people seem oddly reluctant to acknowledge the logic above.

Remember when I said that the U.S. government has taken a lazy approach to investigating the UFO phenomenon?

The former governor says the incident remains unsolved, and deserves an official investigation. The U.S. government has never acknowledged that something was in the sky that night.

Former Phoenix city councilwoman Frances Barwood, now living in the Prescott area, was the only elected official to launch a public investigation in 1997, but she said people stonewalled her at every turn. Barwood spoke with more than 700 witnesses. “The government never interviewed even one,” she says.

That pretty much says it all.

I wonder this every day around noon.

You see, I work in a fairly ritzy office building, but sometimes I start to hallucinate and think that I work at a hockey rink. Despite the fact that it is about 90 degrees outside at this very moment I am shivering cold. I have goosebumps and I’m rubbing myself for warmth. Hang on, before my fingers freeze off, let me put on a fleece pullover I keep in my office for this very reason.

Okay, that’s a bit better. But I’m still pissed off that I have wear winter clothing inside during the summer. Can somebody tell me who decided office buildings should be kept at refrigerator temperatures in summer? I would like to shove that person into a walk-in freezer and lock the door.

Confession time: I am a skinny person. I have a runner’s build (I had it before I started running) and I generally loathe the cold and winter. I’m shivering and uncomfortable all the time during the winter, and if I thought it would be reasonable, I’d crank the heat at my place to 80 degrees in January. However, the point is that I don’t! I put on extra layers of clothing and work out or play drums to keep warm and get the blood flowing. I understand some people hate the heat and think 82 degrees is unbearably warm, but at this point I don’t fucking care. I suffer all winter, why should I have to freeze all summer, too?! It doesn’t make any sense!

From a global warming perspective, the people who set the temp at 70 or 71 degrees in the summer are basically lighting our atmosphere on fire. Long-term, this obsession with air conditioning is totally counterproductive. You like it cool? Then don’t turn the damn AC on, because every time you do you burn more coal and spew more CO2 into the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide causes the planet’s temperature to rise.

Personally, I can go outside on a 90 degree day like today and feel totally comfortable as long as the humidity is not too high. The body naturally acclimates itself to the seasons, so my suggestion to set the thermostat at 80 or 82 degrees in the summer is not that crazy. If your body is sweating profusely at 80 degrees, the sad truth is that you’re probably too fat.

This is a touchy subject, so I’ll try to be kind, but I am getting fed up. It’s one thing to be fat on your own time, but when it starts affecting me that’s where I draw the line. If you are sweating like a pig while sitting in the office and using a mouse, it’s probably time to lose some weight.

Clearly, it doesn’t help matters that I sit all day and stare at a computer screen. I’m sure if I were doing hard physical labor the 72 degree air would be bliss. But if construction workers can construct buildings in this heat why can’t you sit on your ass, in the shade and deal with a temp of 80 degrees? I don’t think I’m being unreasonable, fellow office drones, but please let me know if I am.

Making matters worse, I swear the building temp is dropped a few degrees from 12 to 2 pm. Why? I think it’s to counteract the after-lunch sleepiness that afflicts many workers (but which is actually a sign of sleep deprivation — hell even the unemployed are sleep deprived in 2007). Gotta squeeze every last bit of productivity out of those serfs, right? Even if it’s at the expense of the environment and their health.

Humans are so fucking stupid it blows my mind. Our planet is going down like the Titanic and we’re not even re-arranging the deck chairs. In fact, we’re not doing anything. We’re sitting on our fat asses trying to figure out a way to get even more comfortable when it should be clear that we have only moments to live.

At this point, our dwindling time left on Earth is my only consolation.

Without power…. again

Once again I am without power. I’m writing this from work, just to update the blog, ’cause it might be awhile. This time I can see what the problem is: My neighbor’s telephone/power pole was snapped in half and fell on one of his trees. The whole thing is just fucked. The powerlines going to my house are sagging so low I could almost jump rope with them.

So, for the second time this month I am trying to survice without power. It was the same thing as last time; a powerful storm came through at 3 am and the first thing it did was knock out my juice. My sweet, sweet electricity. Oh how I miss it.

I guess I’m lucky I didn’t have more wind damage since there were 70 mph winds reported (it was 80 last time I think). Lots of my neighbors lost trees or at least huge branches. The whole ‘hood looks like a warzone, with leaves and branches scattered everywhere. I half-expected to see radioactive zombies wandering the street in search of brains.

So I guess Mother Nature hates me or something. I’d better buy a generator before the next storm. That, and a shotgun for the zombies.

Protests for impeachment or ending the war or whatever are pretty crazy, fun things. I quite enjoy them, as one might enjoy going to the fair, but many people resent the weird characters and huge floats depicting Rumsfeld feeling up Lady Liberty or whatever. I think they use the carnival atmosphere to break through peoples’ consciousness. Nothing even gets through to people unless it’s bright and colorful and flashing and preferrably on TV.

But maybe the old circus tricks aren’t working anymore and we need new ideas. I like the idea of a “formal tone” concept, to take the opposite approach, but we could still have fun with it. We should all get dressed up in our finest suits and go around with big signs saying:

“We respectfully disagree with the conduct and character of the Iraq War and wish to discuss remedies for said tragic happenstance!”

“I wish to express that President Bush’s position on the War in Iraq is incongruent with my own!”

“Please bring the Iraq War to and end as quickly and deliberately as possible within the framework mutually decided upon by Congress and the President.”

“We respectfully demand a full scientific appraisal of the Earth’s climate and any changes we must make as a society to combat any unwanted developments as the result of global climate change!”

“As a citizen of the United States of America I hearby express my utmost concern for the constitutional well-being of this country, which I believe can only be remanded to the people after holding the present office-holder of the presidency to account (through the process of impeachment) for serious charges concerning his willful disregard of his oath of office.”

“His Honor the Vice President has given ample evidence of fealty to a dark lord known as Baal the Destroyer. His sworn oath to the constitution of these states lays utterly despoiled by malice and deception and so he must be impeached forthwith!”

We’ve gotta find some bigger signs…

Thorium to solve world's energy crisis?

TreeHugger.com seems to think so:

According to a news release this past week Professor Egil Lillestol has been trying to convince Norway that a nuclear reactor based on thorium would be a viable solution to the worlds growing energy demands without the environmental impact of coal, or the hazards of traditional nuclear energy. Is he onto something? Read on to see the gory details.

From the article:

  • There is no danger of a melt-down like the Chernobyl reactor
  • It produces minimal radioactive waste
  • It can burn Plutonium waste from traditional nuclear reactors with additional energy output
  • It is not suitable for the production of weapon grade materials
  • The energy contained in one kilogram of Thorium equals that of four thousand tons of coal
  • The global Thorium reserves could cover the world’s energy needs for thousands of years

That sounds pretty fucking sweet. And maybe a little bit too good to be true. What’s the catch? Well, I suppose that it’s still nuclear power, so the dangers inherent in that are still a factor, but we’ve gotten a bit better at managing it recently. We haven’t had a Chernobyl or a 3-Mile Island in, what, two decades? That’s pretty good… I guess.

But how realistic is this plan? And who stands to gain/lose from it?

Happy Solstice! That makes today the first day of winter, and the shortest day of the year for those of us in the northern hemisphere. Basically, we get like 3 minutes of daylight. Okay, it’s more like 7 hours, but it’s still not very much.

Here I am in Minnesota on December 21st. I look out the window this morning and what do I see? Snow falling gently on the trees? Uh… nope. No, I looked out the window and saw raindrops falling on my porch. It’s fucking raining as I type this!!

I’ve lived in and around Minnesota for most of my life and I’ve never seen anything like this. Last night I went for a walk and it was almost 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside. Un-fucking-believeable. When I was a kid we would get fuckloads of snow. It would snow all the time. We hardly ever had a brown Christmas. Usually, a white Thanksgiving was far more likely. But these last couple of years have been really weird. I mean, we had 50 degree weather for several days straight in February a few years ago. Normally, it’s probably closer to 10 or 20 degrees. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

It wasn’t so long ago that I was looking into ways to send myself into hibernation mode. I would love to be able to fall asleep in November and wake up some time in late March. That would be just fine with me (although I think I would have to get up to piss a couple times).

Now it turns out that bears in Spain aren’t even bothering to hibernate any more. The weather just doesn’t get that cold. The autumn was so warm in the Netherlands that many flowering plants could still be found in bloom in December.

This is beyond freak seasonal anomalies. This has been going on for years, and it’s getting worse. Our climate is experiencing fundamental changes; it’s being altered somehow, and the changes appear to be accelerating. I don’t think we can afford to listen to the climate change skeptics anymore. If they’re right, we will have wasted a few bucks. If they’re wrong we may have doomed our civilization. Which is the prudent choice?

Don’t ask me the lead the movement, though. I’m lovin’ this shit. Man, it could be a hundred degrees all winter and that would be fine with me; I fucking hate the cold!! And I curse the foul 23.5 degree tilt of the earth’s axis that gives us the seasons! Still, maybe we should, I dunno, cut back on the CO2 emissions until we figure out if the planet finally heating up is a good thing.

Resurrecting the Electric Car

Despite oil industry efforts to kill the electric car, it looks like the inevitable will finally happen once the forces of capitalism are firmly lined up behind it. In what sounds a little too good to be true, a company is claiming that their electric car will get you 500 miles for 9 bucks. Can these guys deliver? Well, they’ve got Business 2.0 along for the ride:

Forget hybrids and hydrogen-powered vehicles. EEStor, a stealth company in Cedar Park, Texas, is working on an “energy storage” device that could finally give the internal combustion engine a run for its money — and begin saving us from our oil addiction. “To call it a battery discredits it,” says Ian Clifford, the CEO of Toronto-based electric car company Feel Good Cars, which plans to incorporate EEStor’s technology in vehicles by 2008.

EEStor’s device is not technically a battery because no chemicals are involved. In fact, it contains no hazardous materials whatsoever. Yet it acts like a battery in that it stores electricity. If it works as it’s supposed to, it will charge up in five minutes and provide enough energy to drive 500 miles on about $9 worth of electricity. At today’s gas prices, covering that distance can cost $60 or more; the EEStor device would power a car for the equivalent of about 45 cents a gallon.

And we mean power a car. “A four-passenger sedan will drive like a Ferrari,” Clifford predicts. In contrast, his first electric car, the Zenn, which debuted in August and is powered by a more conventional battery, can’t go much faster than a moped and takes hours to charge.

The cost of the engine itself depends on how much energy it can store; an EEStor-powered engine with a range roughly equivalent to that of a gasoline-powered car would cost about $5,200. That’s a slight premium over the cost of the gas engine and the other parts the device would replace — the gas tank, exhaust system, and drivetrain. But getting rid of the need to buy gas should more than make up for the extra cost of an EEStor-powered car.

Sounds too good to be true, right? But technology is always advancing, even when it appears to be standing still — as in the case of combustion engines, which haven’t gotten much more efficient in the last 20 years. The oil companies are really only succeeding in prolonging their reign for a few more years while simultaneously ensuring their eventual obsolescence. Once the electric/hydrogen/whatever technology matures it will be a no-brainer to switch away from oil-based engines. Would you rather pay $3.50 a gallon or 50 cents a gallon? I’ll take the cheaper and more environmentally friendly option, thanks. It could’ve been a hard decision, but with hybrids and a retardedly obvious cost/benefit ratio, alternative fuel sources are poised to take off, leaving oil companies in the dust.

So, uh, why are we fighting a war for oil in the desert again?