Here Thar Be Monsters!

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31.5.16

Adventures In Acupuncture X

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Well, it's been a few years since I updated everyone on my adventures in controlling/curing Multiple Sclerosis.  If you'd like to catch up, just search the archives for "acupuncture" to find the last nine installments.

What brought this up was the fact that past articles have been getting some attention lately and reminded me that I should give folks whatever information I have accumulated over the past seven years to use and/or pass on to others similarly afflicted.

To briefly summarize, on 1 April 2009, at 4:39p, I had a sudden wave of powerful flu-like symptoms come over me, to where I barely had the energy to climbs a flight of stairs.  I lay down for a few minutes, hoping it would pass.  When I opened my eyes, everything was washed out, as if overexposed.  Overnight, the situation deteriorated into complete and profound blindness, not to mention an overwhelming feeling of exhaustion and other milder symptoms.  Keep in mind that in the previous 48 years, I had never had any indication that I might get struck with Multiple Sclerosis.

I spent the next week in the hospital getting mega-doses of prednisone, a rather powerful corticosteroid, to reduce swelling around the optic nerves.  I spent the next five weeks at home popping piles of pills (lovely alliteration that) and around week 3, my vision started to return a bit at a time, which was joyful, but the steroids were causing extremely painful burning in my legs, to the point where the slightest touch on my skin sent waves of pain throughout.

By the time I was weaned off the steroids, I had regained about 20% of my vision.  I went from being an award-winning director/cameraman/editor who could tell the difference between every single chip on a PMS color chart, to seeing the world as an Impressionist painting in gray-scale.  At this point, my right eye is nearly blind and my right ear screams most of the time.  My left eye and ear are a bit better.  I have also lost feeling in the middle three toes of both feet and my sense of balance is shot to hell.

So, in the last seven years, in addition to retasking my skills and talents, I have been seeking various treatments and possible cures for my condition, and sharing the experience with readers who might be able to help others with the information.

The series of articles began with my first experience with acupuncture.  My thinking was the since my optic nerves (and likely auditory as well) were literally dead in the centers, perhaps stimulating the nerves directly would offer some relief.

I underwent twice-a-week treatments of 15 minutes each for three months.  Each treatment involved inserting hair-thin needles in the various nerves of my face and head, including directly under my eye balls, which was a bit disconcerting.  The needles were then connected to a "thumper" that sent a mild electric pulse directly to the nerves.

This is actually not very painful when done right.  If the needle goes directly into the nerve, there is no pain and the pulse feels like someone tapping you.  If it goes into the muscle, it stings like a wasp and the pulse makes the muscle twitch rather painfully.

The net result was that I gained significant brightness at the end of each session, though not much clarity, and the effect faded over 48 hours.  I did, however, regain a significant amount of color vision, which has persisted now for seven years without fading.

There was some benefit for hearing and touch, as well, though it has slowly gone down over the years.  I should probably try another round of acupuncture to see if I can gain anything at this late stage.

Very long story short, over the past few years, I have had an increase of burning sensations in my toes and occasionally hot, stabbing pain at various nerve endings.  Additional problems included leg cramps and insomnia.  I had resigned myself to these issues as just part of the progression of the disease, until one day I stumbled across an article on magnesium deficiency.

Turns out every one of my complains are symptoms of magnesium deficiency.  I immediately started taking 200 mg twice a day (morning and evening).  Within two days, I began sleeping better, the leg cramps stopped and the burning, stabbing pains have gone down to much more tolerable levels.  After two weeks of steady intake, I have much more energy and better concentration thanks to better sleep.

Lesson Learned: don't accept anything as being incurable.  It may have nothing to do with other health issues, so always investigate possible cures.

Another ongoing experiment is the use of radio frequencies, as pioneered by Rife, Lakhovsky and Tesla.  One of our long-time readers and correspondents came to visit us two years ago, just as I was coming down with back-to-back typhus, amoebic dysentery and dengue fever.  Needless to say, I wasn't much company, but he was kind enough to make a "permanent loan" of two RF generator units from Russia.

I have been using them anywhere from two to five days a week, and have programmed them for various types of therapies.  I sadly cannot report any miraculous healings, but I can say that since I started using them, I haven't had so much as a head cold.  I have also noted a decrease in joint pain, a legacy of many injuries over the years, especially in my knees and wrists. I can't lay everything at the RF alter, since I have also been taking chondroitin and glucosamine for several years, but I do (subjectively) feel like there has been an improvement since using the RF generators.

I have done some research on a number of elements and minerals, as they pertain to treating MS.  I have focused on dietary sources, as I thinkthe natural minerals are more easily absorbed and effective than in supplements.  I have also found a number of suggestions for foods to avoid, which can be summed up in this article.  According to the list, I think the saturated fat warning is bullshit, because the problem is the fat layer around nerves that act as an insulator, and I won't stop eating steak for any reason.  I don't drink milk except in coffee.  I don't drink sodas, especially avoiding artificial sweeteners like the plague all my life.

One thing I have found, at least for me, is that I cannot eat cassava root.  This may not be an issue in North America and Europe, but in much of the rest of the world, it is as common as potatoes.  If I eat any amount of it, within 30 minutes my sight dims, I get a headache and muscles start twitching uncontrollably, which last for about 24 hours.  You'll need to do your own tests, but I won't touch the stuff with a 10-foot pole.

My final addition to the list, at least for now, is 75% or higher chocolate (aka-dark chocolate).  To many people, this is quite bitter, but I actually prefer this form of chocolate to the sweet, buttery confections.  Eating a few grams for me reduces the random aches and pains I've come to expect with MS, and produces a pleasant relaxed feeling.  I keep some next to the bed for sleepless nights and it generally helps quite a bit.

So that's it for now.  I am continuing my inquiries, especially into stem cell treatments.  I am rather excited by the reports of success in treating nerve damage, particularly to the optic nerve.  Should the opportunity arise to give it a try, I would find it very hard to resist at this point.  I would do just about anything to be able to drive a car and take decent photos again.

Head's up!

PS: I swear Drudge reads my blog.  Articles keep popping up shortly after my posts go live.  Take for instance this one on chocolate being the new party drug.  Not only that, but if you read down to the bottom, you find out that raw chocolate is high in magnesium.  Well slap me silly.  I had no idea...

30.5.16

Truth Be A Harsh Mistress

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If people not worshiping soldiers pisses you off, you may want to click away now.  I guarantee today's column will piss you off.

Today is Memorial Day in America.  It started in 1868, with an informal observation called Decoration Day to honor slain soldiers.  Of course, it was originally only for Union soldiers and pretty much spit on the graves of the Confederates who died in the same conflagration.

Every Memorial Day, my inbox(es) is stuffed with email reminding me to worship the fallen soldiers of the US, who died in the various wars that country has committed.  My father and uncles were all veterans of WW2, and I honor them.  My grandfathers were veterans of WW1, and I honor them.  But, when it comes to any war since WW2, I draw the line.  Why?
Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution, sometimes referred to as the War Powers Clause, vests in the Congress the power to declare war, in the following wording:
[The Congress shall have Power...] To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
That's why.  There has not been one single war declared by the US Congress since WW2.  Under the terms of the US Constitution, the adventures in Korea in the 50s, Vietnam in the 60s, and every single military intervention in the doings of sovereign countries since then have been illegal.  I don't care if you call them "police actions" or "military advisors," the result was lots of soldiers and materiel were expended in events that looked a whole hell of a lot like wars to me.  We even call them the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Grenada and Panama invasions, the various Desert Storm Wars, etc.

What's more, every US soldier said these words at some point:
"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed ...Jun 15, 2011
Therefore, every soldier who has fought on orders from the government of the US, has violated their oaths to "protect and defend the Constitution."

If all this isn't enough for you, then how about Article I, Section 8, Clause 12, of the US Constitution?
 The Congress shall have Power To ...raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years....
So, only Congress can declare war, and it hasn't done so since WW2 (you can argue all the subtleties you want-means nothing), the soldier's oath requires him or her to support and defend the Constitution, and right after the Constitution grants Congress war powers, it says that the US may not raise and support an army more than two years (no standing army).

Under the very terms of the Constitution soldiers are sworn to defend, every soldier that has been drafted or joined the US Armed Forces since WW2 has violated the Constitution and is a war criminal, as are all the presidents who have sent armed soldiers into sovereign countries to fight since Roosevelt and Truman.

It's not like any of those folks couldn't read the Constitution.  Most Americans read it at least once in school, and if you are swearing an oath to defend it, you should probably read it again at least once.  In any case, every representative, officer and government employee who supported the various military adventures since WW2 are complicit in war crimes and treason.

Sorry if that seems harsh to you and you don't think your grandfather, father, brother, or son who served in the US military since WW2 is a criminal, but the facts speak for themselves.

So, when it comes to Memorial Day, I don't get all teary eyed and go around laying wreaths on soldiers' graves.  I don't honor those men and women who violated the founding document of the US government and their oaths.  I don't honor the people who can't read rather simple text that is widely available and has been since the founding of the country.

You can pick nits and get all patriotic and jump up and down about the sacrifices of these fine men and women, but none of it changes the nature of their crime.

Memorial Day is just another state-worshiping holiday that glorifies death in the name of a flag.  It's time for folks to extract themselves from the deep conditioning that has led them into blind obedience to symbols and not ideals.

I do honor those men and women who served in WW1 and WW2.  You did your duty under terms of the Constitution and your oath.  Thank you.

For the rest of the fallen, sorry for your empty (and illegal) sacrifice for the glory of empire.  Too bad you didn't stand up for what's right, not what's expedient.

28.5.16

Crops And Robbers

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You may not know it, and you certainly won't want to admit it, but you are a crop.

See, crops are put in fields in nice neat rows.  They are coddled and watered until they mature to a certain point and produce something useful.  The useful part is then harvested and the rest tossed out - plowed under to fertilize the next year's crop.

Sound familiar?  It should.  That is most likely the life you lead right now.

Think of your school years as being in the greenhouse nursery.  You are in a carefully controlled environment where your growth and development can be directed in the direction that the Farmers want.

Once having obtained the qualities that the Farmers want, and having weeded out the bad seeds, you are planted in the corporate plantation where you are guided and directed until you bear fruit.  At that point, you are harvested by turning you into a consumer and taxpayer.  All the Farmers line up and pluck your fruit until you get to old to bear any more.

At that point, you are cast away and eventually plowed under to fertilize future crops.

The worst part of all this is that you are required to pay for all of it.  Your parents pay for your early schooling, which is part of their harvesting.  Taxes, fees, books, and tuition is carefully plucked from their pockets to ensure their fruit bears fruit.  The same is done to you for your seed.

During the majority of your adult life, you are expected to buy things and pay taxes.  This is the life-long process of harvesting you.  The bloodsucking Farmers stand around waiting for you to throw fruit.  As soon as you do, they run off to slurp it down in disgusting orgiastic feasts.  As soon as they finish, they are back at your branches ready to pluck more of your succulent fruit.

Eventually, your bearing years come to a close.  The quality and quantity of your fruit falls below the Farmers' standards and they uproot you and place you in the composting pile that we generally call the old folks' home.

At that point, everything you were and had is recycled back into the System to keep the process going the next season.

The Farmers do almost nothing.  They supply the field that the fruit of past generations paid for.  They plant the seeds that past generations provided.  They take the fruit that you work so hard to produce.  Then they cast your used and withered carcass away to focus on new fruit.  You and Nature do all the work, they get all the fruit.

Rules and regulations are the furrows in our fields.  If we grow a bit wild, we are trimmed and pruned back into shape.  Those who go wild and grow outside the bounds are sprayed with Round-Up to rid the field of their unwanted wildness.

If you are a Farmer, this System works beautifully.  You put forth a little effort then sit back on the porch sipping lemonade and watching the fruit roll in.  If you are the Crop, it pretty much sucks.  You do all the work, get none of the benefits and no one ever says thanks for all your efforts.

In fact, what us Crops are getting now is a bunch of Farmers frantically mechanizing the System so that they can get all the fruit with no effort.  I mean, gosh!  Right now they have to water and weed and prune.  Suppose they could make machines that bore fruit without any effort whatsoever on their parts?  It was only a matter of time before the Farmers figured out how to get the fruit without the Crops.

So what are us Crops going to do now?  It is quite obvious that the Farmers are looking to replace us.  Are we going to march willingly to the compost pile once they no longer need us?  We really have some deep questions to ponder.

Think of us as all working for the same corporation - which is not far from reality.  We've noticed the "efficiency experts" milling around and rumors are coming out of HR that pink slips will be going out.  Do we fight?  Do we start looking for new jobs?  Are we proactive?  Or do we wait, hoping that it won't be our head on the chopping block?

One thing is for sure - us Crops would be a whole lot better off if we kept all the fruit we produced.

27.5.16

Truth In Advertising

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Earlier this week, there was a brief storm of controversy over a young woman named Krystal Lake, who worked (I use the simple past advisedly) at a Home Depot in New York state.  She had the unbridled audacity to make and wear a ball cap which read, "America Was Never Great."

Well, as you can imagine, especially in the current political environment in America right now, this set off a Twitter War of unrestrained jingoism and bashing that left the poor girl fearing for her life.

Yet, she posed a very good question, and one that still doesn't have a good answer, especially in the wake of how this girl was treated by the public at large.  Certainly, it wasn't free speech that made America great.

The question is, "When exactly was America great in the first place?"  I mean, after all, Donald Trump is having significant success running on a slogan of "Make American Great AGAIN."  It begs the question, for which the neither the candidate nor his supporters seem to have an answer.  It's one of those dangling assertions that everyone assumes is true, but no one can point to a specific fact that proves the case.

Was America great during the financial collapse and endless wars of the past two decades?  How about during the 1990s, when the husband of one presidential candidate was abusing White House interns with cigars?

Was America great during the 1980s, when greed took over the Western World?  Perhaps the hedonistic 1970s, when polyester leisure suits and all-night parties with piles of Bolivian Marching Powder were the rage?  Perhaps America was great during the 1960s, when a number of high-profile folks were murders and riots occurred at political conventions and the president of the country ordered henchmen to break into the opposition's headquarters?

The saccharine 50s?  The war-torn 40s?  The Depression 30s?  The 20s, decade of Robber Barons?  How about the 1800s, when the federal government licensed slave ships, committed genocide and a brutal and bloody internal war torn the country to pieces?

I guess there was a brief period when America was home to amazing inventors, entrepreneurs and small business owners, but it didn't take long for the regulators to step in and shut them down to protect the major corporations.

Yes, we are in search of that elusive moment when America was great the first time.

Oh sure, the country stepped into two world wars under false pretenses to come to the aid of a couple of "allies" that got themselves into wars they couldn't win because of pure stupidity, knowing that they could lure those war-like Americans to join in at some point.

I heard you earlier start to get upset when I said the US licenses slave ships.  Well, hate to break it to you, but not one single slave was brought to America under the Confederate flag.  All the slave ships where either British or US registry.

OK, I'll grant you that the US Constitution is pretty great, but to be great again would assume the country ever followed it in the first place.  Even the vaunted Thomas Jefferson violated that poor document with the Louisiana Purchase.  The Constitution would be great if anyone had ever paid attention to it.  Now it's just a dirty word and judges throw you in jail for contempt if you so much as breathe the word in court (I know...I've been one of them).

That very Constitution that is so great guarantees the freedom of speech, which poor Krystal Lake found out is not much protection.  When she expressed her thoughts, people began campaigns to get her fired from her job, called her all sorts of mean nasty names and even threatened her life on social media.

The behavior of Krystal's fellow citizens proved the very point she was making with her simple ball cap.  The things that made America great were ideals that have rarely been achieved (if ever).  Even the noted Mr. Jefferson wrote that all men were created equal, except perhaps the ones he owned.

Ms. Lake made a valid and profound point with her quiet statement.  America has an active fantasy life about its greatness, but there is a lot of room for improvement.

In defense of Ms. Lake, I would like the Trump campaign, and all his supporters that espouse his slogan, to please define for us what period of American history we should return to in order to be great again.

Perhaps dropping "again" from the slogan and campaigning on a platform of returning the country to Constitutional government would be more honest and appropriate, because I honestly can't think of a single period of time to which the country could return to be great again.

26.5.16

Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of...

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Liberalism went wrong when it started viewing rights as goody packages handed out by government like Halloween candy to favored voting/donor blocks.

Conservative went wrong when they started seeing business as nothing more than handing out advice with eye-popping price tags to up-and-coming Third World manufacturers.

Bernie Sanders is the ultimate expression of Liberalism.  He is a Socialist who believes that government should spend its entire time telling everyone how to live.

Donald Trump is the ultimate expression of Conservatism.  He is a Fascist who thinks that corporations should spend all their time telling government what to do.

Hillary Clinton is...well, Hillary.  All she cares about is getting rich and wielding power.  She spent her career using her husband as a meat puppet.  Once she stepped out into the light, folks were horrified - and rightly so.

Europe has been facing more or less the same choices, with ultra right and left battling it out in Austia and (so-called) Neo-Fascists rising quickly in France and Germany, as people are artificially limited to two choices - right and left - when dealing with profound social and economic problems.

The problem here is that for the better part of a century, we have all been taught that there are only two solutions to every problem - government runs everything and business runs everything.  This results in a myopic view of solutions that have boxed in the social dialogue and prevented real change for the better.  As the old saying goes, when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

One of the most profound and Earth-shaking philosophical changes of the past 500 years has been ignored, for the most part.  We have been so indoctrinated by the Left/Right paradigm and the mercantilist interests that we have forgotten the one major movement that created Western domination of global political and economic discussions.

I'm referring, of course, to the Age of Enlightenment.  This is one of those things most of us (who were awake) learned about in high school and college, but it was glossed over like a minor bump in the road to Hell.  This period of history changed everything to the point that most educated people can't even conceive of a world that is pre-Enlightenment, yet we have forgotten most of its important precepts and have even started moving backwards along the socio-political spectrum.

This radical shift in Western philosophy produced prodigious minds such as Francis Bacon, Adam Smith, Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau.  It created constitutional governments, separation of church and state, REAL tolerance, and individual liberty.  It was the philosophical underpinning of the great revolutions of the 18th century and was the beginning of the end of slavery and equality under the Law.  It also was the first domino that led to the demise of Western monarchies (for the most part) and the rise of the democratic republic, where everyone had a say in government except when it came to certain unaLIENable rights that could never be abridged for any member of society.

Radical.  Wide-ranging.  Profound.  Fundamental.

This movement was to sweep the world in the next three centuries.  Where monarchs survived, they gave up significant power to elected bodies.  Slavery as an institution died, though it has remained underground due to religious permissiveness.  Enumerated rights have become core elements of governance.  And the inseparable tie between religion and government has slowly eroded through much of the world.

However, many of these ideas have become deeply corrupted.  The issue of rights, for instance, have been muddled, probably by design.  Entrenched interests don't give up control easily.

As modern Liberalism has shown, many people think that rights are handed out by governments as rewards for political favor.  These are not rights, these are permissions that can be revoked just as easily.  Thus, rights have become optional packages, like power seats and windows in cars, that can be purchased for loyalty and donations.  All sorts of special interests clamor for rights packages, claiming minority or abused status, forgetting that rights are inherent (under the Enlightened view) in every human by virtue of birth.  Hell, there are even useful idiots out there fighting for animal rights when we still haven't settled what they mean for humans, or which are unaLIENable.

Conservatives, on the other hand are more concerned with the rights of corporations than with human rights.  They would have organizations become "persons" and fight to protect corporate interests over the individual.  The result has been a subtle form of neo-slavery where humans are captured by a society set up to feed corporations with wage slaves and where the Boards and Executives enjoy unfettered immunity while the rest of us suffer.

What the world needs is a return to the original ideas and back off the ridiculous and unsustainable interpretations that have taken over the Enlightenment.  The problem is that this reversal requires education, and that has been usurped by both the Left and the Right, with the former pushing social agendas, and the latter pushing mercantilist agendas.

People talk a lot about dropping off the grid and getting out of the matrix without really realizing what it is and how to get out.  The secret is education.  Get yourself and your kids out of the indoctrination mills and return to real mental development.

Efforts, such as homeschooling are one major way to get out of the matrix.  A return to the classic liberal arts education (liberal in its true sense) is vital.  Nothing, though, will work when we ourselves are not educated.  You can't teach what you don't know.  This requires an effort.

Begin by turning off the teevee.  This is critical.  You don't need anything on it - at all.  There is almost nothing of value there.

With the extra time not sucked up by the propaganda machine, you can turn to sites like Gutenberg, where the collected works of Rousseau, Locke, Smith, and Bacon are absolutely free to download.  Then spend a couple of months reading the philosophical foundation of the world we really wanted and thought we were getting with the Western Civilization package deal.  Once you've done this, you will suddenly see what has gone wrong with our world, and exactly what we have to do to fix it.

You might want to spend some time over at the Mises Institute, as well.  A little time here will give you a free education in what is wrong with the global economy and how we can fix it, as well.

Now that you've got a free Master's education in global politics and economics, you can focus your efforts on rebuilding the world and educating the next generation in how to continue fixing Mommy and Daddy's mishandling of things.  It's never too late, at least as long as all the tools are free at your fingertips.

Be warned, though.  These are dangerous ideas.  The vested interests have invested 300 years trying to repair the damage done by the Enlightenment and they won't give up easily.  With a little effort and courage, though, we can complete the work of those great thinkers and doers, and finish the creation of a true New Golden Age for Mankind.

If you think this is an impossibly huge and unatainable goal, just look at the vast changes just a handful of radical thinkers and writers created just 300 years ago,  Things like real sustainability, real tolerance and real freedom are just a few books and a bit of effort away.  All you need to do first is find that little OFF switch on the teevee.


24.5.16

Surfing The Wave Of The Future

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Yes, I'm about to launch into one of my favorite pet peeves again.  Political Correctness.

Whoever came up with this pile of fetid nonsense should be the poster child for euthanasia.  Apparently, Western civilization has learned nothing from the Puritan and Victorian eras, not to mention the Inquisition, Prohibition and the Salem Witch Hunts.  This vile load of offal should be properly disposed of in a bio-hazardous bin and burned.  And if Donald Trump's "presumptive" nomination is any indication, a lot of other folks feel rather the same.

Frankly, the idea of ridding society of prejudices by prejudicing people against being prejudiced is jus so flipping absurd as to make one wonder just how low the average IQ of Western culture can go.

The thing is, people have always been and will always be prejudiced against something.  I hate beets in any form and will not sit at a table on which beets have been placed.  Nothing you say about the taste and nutritional value of beets will ever convince me that those nasty tubers are rightfully food.  Furthermore, nothing you do or say will ever force me to like, or even pretend to like, beets.  If the National Beet Council came to my door with torches and pitchforks, they could not tie me down and pry my jaw open to receive beets.  Fact of life.

That people feel prejudices against other people for even the lamest of reasons is fact.  It won't change, no matter how much you demonize the prejudice.  Oh sure, you can forbid them from saying anything about it, but it won't change the fact that they cross the street to avoid someone they perceive as a threat, no matter how irrational the feeling is.

I don't know about you, but if someone harbors an irrational hate of red hair or Irish ancestry, I would rather know about it than not.  It gives me a much clearer picture of which side of the room I want to stand on, or why someone is doing their level best to sabotage my career.  I can fight the monster I can see.

I suspect that Political Correctness is causing the massive increase in mental illness in the West.  People are depressed and profoundly confused because on the one hand they are told to freely express themselves, but on the other hand are told that 80% of what they want to express is verboten.  Talk about cognitive dissonance.

Back in the old days, a couple who felt strong mutual attraction only had to worry about finding a relatively private location to indulge their passions.  Now, by the time the obligatory interviews, examination of medical records, and political correctness check list, the passion is pretty much gone.  No wonder birth rates are falling.  And maybe that's the idea.

The whole "safe zone" molly-coddling thing astounds me.  The universities these days are no long a place to explore ideas, test theories and develop life-long curiosity.  Instead, they are places that cauterize intellectualism, foster infantilism, and encourage folks to take offense at the least provocations.

Reminds me of those kids who always went crying to momma if you looked cross-eyed at them.  We used to laugh at kids like those.  Now, it's not only Politically Incorrect to laugh at them, that kind of behavior is held up as the Ideal Western Citizen.

The net effect of Political Correctness has been to create an entire society of whiners with skin so thin you could cut it with a damp noodle.  Once upon a time, the ideal was a person who could stand up to criticism, who understood that not everyone in life is going to like them, and that being offended was just part of going about your business.  If something offended you, you simply avoided it, and if you couldn't avoid it, then the adult thing to do was brass it out.

I daresay the result of Political Correctness has been to make life far more uncomfortable than the occasional offense.  One spends far too much time worrying about whether someone could possibly take offence at a statement, and far too little time formulating interesting and stimulating statements.

As a child, my irrational hate of beets meant that I would refuse to touch my dinner and went to be hungry if there were beets on my plate.  As an adult, I discretely ignore them aside, or in the worst case, eat them in order to make the host happy.  I certainly won't whine to momma and run to my safe zone.

In the good old days, polite and civilized adults didn't seek to offend anyone, and woudl reserve certain comments for the proper settings.  What we are and will continue to see for some time is the same thing that happened at the end of the Puritan and Victorian eras - a complete pendulum swing to the opposite side.  When normal human behavior is banned by society, it builds until it explodes with a violent move towards the banned behavior.

Perpare yourself if you are easily offended.  The Anti-Correctness movement is only beginning.

But know this: I won't eat beets!

23.5.16

Far Side Into The Toilet

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I told myself I was going to avoid the whole Tranny Toilet Trap, but I can't help it.  When I see this level of absurdity, I can't keep my mouth shut, or in this case, my fingers folded.

What set me off was this story of a Colorado woman that shot a tranny who followed her into the restroom.  Oh sure, the story's a bit more complex than that, but the gist is that the issue had gotten to the point that people are making up stories to fire up passions on both sides of the bench.

Just to launch this topic, let me say that it is in no way like the civil rights movements.  People who are discriminated against because of something they can't change is a real issue and deserves attention.  People who seek attention by changing something is a non-issue.

One of the many things that irritate me concerning this non-story is the misappropriation of words.  When I see the word "transgender," it's like fingernails scraping a blackboard.  There is no such thing as a "transgender" person, never has been, and likely won't be in the foreseeable future.  Until someone can demonstrate that they have changed from having two X chromosomes, to having an X and a Y, then there is no such thing as transgender.

Among humans, roughly 1.7% are considered "intersex," meaning they are born with some blending of XX and XY chromosomes.  These folks, once known as "hermaphrodites," may have what appear to be genitals of both male and female, though there are no recorded cases where both are functional.

This has led some to speculate that there are in fact five genders, though this is rather ridiculous, since sexual reproduction requires two opposite genders and won't occur otherwise.  In very rare cases where people have XXY chromosomes, called Klinefelter Syndrome, they are usually sterile and often suffer from lifelong health problems.  Even as such, these folks generally appear to be male.

What all this boils down to is that there is no such thing as a true hermaphrodite among humans.  Everyone who is sexually functional, is either male or female.  Surgery can rearrange the drapery so that it looks like something else, but this does not change the chromosomes, nor does it allow someone to reproduce as the opposite gender (in fact most become sterile).

In my profession, I have been around a LOT of male and female impersonators and transsexuals.  I have seen some amazing approximations on both sides of the spectrum.  I've seen a hundred ways to hide various bumps and bulges that would fool their own mothers.  But there are three things that cannot be altered by surgery: the "adam's apple," the second/fourth fingers and the pelvis.

The adam's apple, that lump on the larynx formed in males during puberty, can be hidden and even reduced a bit by hormone treatment, but it never goes away.  It alters certain qualities of the voice, such as making it deeper in males, that cannot be changed.  I've heard some great attempts, including in singers who sound for all the world like women, until you analyze the recorded wave-forms.  There are certain tones and harmonics present in the male voice that can never be disguised.

The 'finger test' surfaced last year when stories of Michelle Obama being a male made the rounds on the internet.  I have never met Michelle, so I can't speak to the truth of these stories, but the 'finger test' is quite real.  In men, the burst of testosterone around 9 to 16 weeks of gestation causes the index finger to stop growing.  Thus, in men the second/index finger is shorter than the fourth/ring finger.  In my experience, this test is no fail.  I have met dozens of transsexuals who have dared me to detect them and I have not yet failed, even with fabled Thailand girlie-boys.

The final test, though a bit more difficult to perform, is as infallible as the finger test.  The pelvis is completely different between male and female.  It can be disguised and hidden, but never altered.  Without killing and dismembering someone, the difference can be felt.  In males, the femur or thigh bone fits into its socket in a line front to rear.  In females, the socket is aligned side to side.  The overall effect is that it makes women's hips appear wider, but also affects one's center of gravity and range of movement.  This makes males better at running, jumping and climbing, while females are better at carrying loads and dancing.

All of this is by way of arguing that, in the main, there are only two genders and regardless of how many cuts and pricks (offhanded pun) one receives, DNA does not lie.  No one can ever be transgendered, though with a sharp knife, one can certainly be transsexualized.

The net result of this long-winded diatribe is that six months ago, no one gave a holy goddam who used what bathroom.  Now the topic is dominating international news feeds.  Here in Indonesia, it is very common to have unisex bathrooms.  There's a high-tech device in common use here that makes this possible - it's called a damn lock.  Well, OK, just a lock, I added the "damn" part.

There is no reason why anyone cannot use any toilet, provided there is a modicum of privacy that includes a stall with good walls and a lock on the door.  The only reason this has become an issue in the US is because in the name of freakin' "security," bathroom stalls have been reduced to little more than a couple of sheets of very small paper with door gaps that a herd of buffalo could run through.

There's a reason why British English calls bathrooms "closets."  It's because the stalls are little private rooms with locks on the doors, like a closet.  If the US still respected people's privacy, there would be no issue about who uses which toilets.  You could easily have a large room full of closets with a communal sink and what would be the bloody difference?  But, since the US is increasingly adapting its culture and public facilities to aid and abet sexual predators, I can certainly understand why women don't want GENETIC males wandering into their sacred haunts.

That, and having men around kinda kills the fun of the "we-pee," where women discuss all sorts of bizarre things while going about in flocks.  I'm hardly sympathetic to this issue.

In any event, back in the old days, men and women who cross-dressed usually kept their proclivities at home.  If they ventured out, part of the thrill was to see if they could fool the general public.  In most cased, no one really gave a good goddam.

However, in the age of mini cameras, really strange sex practices and a general permissiveness for all things perverted and just plain weird, I can understand why women would want to preserve the sanctity of the toilet.  In fact, I'm thinking of starting a movement called the Brotherhood of the Bowl to keep women passing as men out of our restrooms.  It will require a finger scanner and a hip check at the door.

What all this boils down to is a bunch of people screaming for attention in a world that has glamorized narcissism and self-aggrandizement.  People have come to crave the spotlight so much that they are competing to out-strange everyone else, and then demand "equal rights."

Got news for these folks: rights, by their very definition, apply to all people equally.  But, rights are amended by social decorum and the rights of others.  Within your home, you are monarch and have every right to go about your business as you see fit.  In public, other folks have the right not to be disturbed by your disturbances.  Social graces have developed over centuries to make everyone comfortable in public.  It is a small sacrifice for a cross-dresser or post-surgical transsexual to use the bathroom of their genetic gender, but it is a major sacrifice to force others to allow their privacy and comfort to be violated.

There is literally no end to this road.  Despite many folks thinking there is a natural limit to this silliness, there isn't.  It will continue until the majority have grown severely tired of the invasions on decorum and the pendulum will swing the other way, to the point of drastic and tragic backlash.

Society works because we all adhere to certain common rules of behavior that we can all live with.  There is no burning need for transsexuals and transvestites to use the toilets of the opposite gender.  This is not even remotely like protecting people from racial discrimination.


21.5.16

GUEST WRITER - Functional Alcoholism: How Much Is Too Much

READER NOTE: Today we offer the work of Guest Writer Gemma Hunt, a freelance writer who has gone full bore on trying to make a living at this.  Our fingers are crossed!  Please welcome Gemma and don't hesitate to offer comments below.  Also, don't forget our new Reader Survey below.  Enjoy!
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Functional Alcoholism: How Much Is Too Much by Gemma Hunt


We all have an idea in our minds about what an alcoholic is like. They’re depressive, irrational, sometimes violent. They glare, rage, and bunch their fists, or they slump in corners with slack jaws and staring eyes. They slur incomprehensible sentences while clutching the neck of some dubious liqor brand in a white-knuckled grip. Their livers are shot to hell, their facial veins are broken, and their lives are ruined. Alcohol has taken everything from them, alcohol is all they have left, and nothing can make them abandon alcohol.

You may not exactly be a saint when it comes to booze. You definitely drink more than the recommended amount. But you’re not an alcoholic, no sirree! And nor is your friend Dave, even though he regularly gets paralytic when you hit the bars together. He may be a mess during the night, but he emerges the next day in a clean suit, with a rueful little smile on his face, and goes to his nice, stable job before returning home to his nice, stable family. Nope, neither of you fit the ‘alcoholic’ stereotype! But this doesn’t mean that you’re safe. Plenty of people don’t realise that they are actually alcoholics, purely because stereotypes tell them that they aren’t. ‘Functional alcoholism’ is a bigger problem than many realize - and it could be closer to home than you think.

What Is Alcoholism?

The definition of an ‘addiction’ is a tricky one. It has a biological component, certainly - addiction causes certain neurological phenomena which cause things like cravings. But these do not develop in isolation. Most alcoholics have pre-existing psychological or lifestyle-related issues which provoke or promote drinking in the first place - and it is here, before the neurological symptoms really kick in - that alcoholism begins.

Many psychologists state that an ‘addiction’ forms when a substance or behavior becomes so compulsive that the need for it begins to damage the sufferer - emotionally, physically, socially, or financially. A high-functioning alcoholic may not feel that their alcohol consumption is having too much of a negative impact on their lives - and they may even be right. How, then, do we know if someone is a ‘functional alcoholic’?

What Is Functional Alcoholism?

Because we think of alcoholics as people completely unable to exert any kind of rational control over their lives, we may have great difficulty in believing that someone who holds down a job, a mortgage, has a great family life etc etc can possibly be an alcoholic. However, it is more than possible. What is more, because of all the support systems in place (money, family, career and so forth), the condition of a functional alcoholic may progress into extremes before people begin to notice. Needless to say, this is appalling for the sufferer’s health - too much alcohol over a prolonged period of time will subject you to a whole spate of nasty, painful, and gory health conditions which can and frequently do kill.

So, a functional alcoholic is someone who has an alcohol problem yet still manages to maintain their ‘normal’ life. Is that all their is to it? Well, sort of, but going deeper into these people’s lives can be revealing - and rather a shock for many. Functional alcoholics don’t tend to regularly get obliterated on booze. Instead, they’ll drink a bit more than they should when out with friends, round off the evening with one more glass of wine than was necessary, make excuses to themselves to have an alcoholic drink with their lunch, that kind of thing. It’s a little bit here, a little bit there - combining to make a lot, but not enough to get them into horrendous states (or not usually, anyway).

Nonetheless, it’s all doing damage. Furthermore, the income and support available to a functional alcoholic in many ways enables them. Because there is (usually) enough spare money to buy alcohol without having to sacrifice anything else in order to do so, the scale of the dependence never becomes as clear as it does for those in more desperate circumstances. Denial is a big problem for functional alcoholics - and this denial means that a lot of families every year are shocked to learn that their apparently stable loved one has died of alcoholic liver failure, or has an alcohol-related disease.

How Much Is Too Much?

So how much IS too much? How much must one drink in order to develop an alcohol problem? Well, there is no rule of thumb. Some people are more prone to addiction than others, and some will develop health, social, emotional, and economic problems related to alcohol faster than others. It all depends upon your personal circumstances. However, if you’re finding yourself making excuses to drink, wishing that other people would hurry up with their drinks so that you can refill your glass, bringing more booze than is strictly necessary along to parties (to ensure that you do not run out), drinking in secret, making excuses to drink, and wondering if you’re drinking too much - you’re probably drinking too much. US recommendations warn that people should not exceed 14 units per week of alcohol. That’s just over a bottle of wine. Not much, but if you’re going over this significantly on a regular basis, it may be time to step back and reassess.

20.5.16

The Joke's On Us

Wanna hear something funny?  Get this:
"The two principal abiogenic petroleum hypotheses, the deep gas hypothesis of Thomas Gold and the deep abiotic petroleum hypothesis, have been scientifically discredited and are obsolete.[1]"
Isn't that hilarious?  Don't get it?  Read this, then:
"According to new Cassini data, Saturns largest moon, Titan, has “hundreds” times more liquid hydrocarbons than all the liquid fossil fuel deposits on Earth." 
See the joke? Oh sheesh, OK I'll explain it, then.

'Scientists' say that abiogenic hydrocarbons on Earth are a silly idea and everyone knows they all come from decaying plants and animals (fossil fuel), while in the very same breath saying that Titan (way out by Saturn) is swimming in hydrocarbons, but doesn't have life.

Either Titan is covered in life, or Earth's oil and gas comes from abiogenic processes.  Can't have both, boys and girls.  Since NASA and ESA swear up and down that Titan doesn't have life, then one must assume that Earth has an abiogenic oil and gas source.

Why is this important?

Well, for decades now, we've been told that M. King Hubbert's Peak Oil is upon us.  At any moment, the wells will run dry and modern civilization will collapse and we're going to need all the solar and wind farms we can get our hands on...oh, and don't forget those nasty nuclear reactors, too.  PANIC people!  We;re doomed!

Yet, way out there in the frozen wastes of our Solar System is this moon - about half the size of Earth - with lakes, oceans, rivers, clouds, and rain all made of hydrocarbons.

Furthermore, why is everyone in a terrible heat to get rid of carbon dioxide producing technology if the hydrocarbons will run out soon?  Seems to me like the problem will fix itself, regardless of what humans do.

To go on quoting NASA:
"Titan is a planet-sized hydrocarbon factory. Instead of water, vast quantities of organic chemicals rain down on the moon’s surface, pooling in huge reservoirs of liquid methane and ethane. Solid carbon-based molecules are also present in the dune region around the equator, dwarfing Earth’s total coal supplies."
So let me just get this straight.  On Earth, all hydrocarbons come from rotting dinosaurs and any suggestion otherwise is a silly conspiracy theory that has been thoroughly discredited.  BUT, on Titan, the entire moon is a giant coal and gas factory practically spewing hydrocarbons without any apparent dinosaurs in the photos.  Seems to me that the way we burn the stuff, we would have run out of dinosaur juice a long time ago.

Further evidence for abiotic oil comes from exploration of the Universe.  The Horse Head nebula on Orion's Belt is basically a massive puff of hydrocarbon smoke.  Other nebulae around the galaxy and beyond show similar quantities of hydrocarbons.  In other words, unless there are herds of space dinosaurs, the idea of fossil fuels is dead and buried.

The Russians were among the first to seriously explore the idea of abiotic oil.  Under the Soviet system, researchers began developing the theory as it was proposed by Mendeleev, the inventor of the periodic chart.  They went so far as to drill the world's deepest well, the Kola Superdeep Borehole, that reached roughly eight miles into the crust from 1970 to 1989.  Please note that this hole is around 70 degrees north, as that will become important in a moment.

I don't know about you, but a 19-year commitment sounds pretty serious.  I know very few marriages that have lasted that long.

It's important to realize that most of the large oil fields are found beneath very old impermeable layers of rock.  These layers are far too old to reasonably have formed after the dinosaurs, thus it is hard to imagine a process that could drag all those carcasses down into the melting pot.

It's also important to note that the largest oil fields on Earth are found around highly active geological areas, where the crust is cracked and fractured allowing fluids from the crust-mantle interface to seep upwards.

Finally, one should note that in the past couple of decades, new exploration has focused intensely on the Arctic Circle, with Alaska and the North Sea opening up in the 1970s, while a low-level war for drilling rights is currently on-going between the three main powers with borders above the Circle: the US, Russia and Canada.

Now pardon me for pointing this out, but does it make sense that so much attention would be focused above 70 degrees north?  I mean, how many dinosaurs do you reckon lived up there?  Much less forests and other biomass generators.  And why has Russia, the one country that took abiotic oil seriously and drilled the deepest well on Earth, suddenly emerged as a global energy capital?

The answer is simple: electricity.

The Earth is part of a massive and powerful Solar electrical circuit.  Of the inner rocky planets, Earth's magnetic field is massive by comparison.  That field sucks in energy at the north pole and spits it out at the south pole.  And were is all this new interest in new oil being focused?

Oh yeah, above 70 degrees north.  And the Russians have already laid a claim to the entire North Pole for mineral rights.  Oh, and that Kola borehole?  Oh right, 70 degrees north.  And who is the fastest emerging energy giant?  Right again!  Russia.  And who started working in earnest on abiotic oil decades ago?  Gold Star!  Russia.

Here's how it works.  The Earth sucks in charged particles at the North Pole by virtue of the Sun's energy output and focused by the magnetic field lines.  Those charged particles plow through the Earth's interior, where heat, pressure and plasma interact with carbon, hydrogen and other handy elements that are part of the planet's construction.

This electo-magnetic chemistry lab produces, among many other things, hydrocarbons that float up until they hit the crust-mantle boundary, where they gather until they find a crack in the curst and rise even further until they meet impenetrable rock layers and pool.

Interestingly, recent evidence from the Cassini spacecraft at Saturn has shown powerful hot spots near the north and south poles that correspond to the location of Titan and show where the energetic loop of energy streams out of the planet, through the moon, and back to the planet again, just like the Earth-Sun circuit.

And what does Titan have in abundance?  Bingo!  Lots and lots of hydrocarbons.

I suspect that the Russians have figured out the secret and can predict where oil will be found.  They are rushing to lay claim to possibly massive fields while the US/EU 'scientists' are busy strutting around telling everyone how the abiogenic oil theory is dead on arrival.  Someone must be getting suspicious, though (or knows the truth but ain't tellin'), because all the sudden there's a lot of dust-ups down at the claim-filing office at the UN.

For all we peons know, all this carbon tax rubbish may be because of this knowledge.

In any case, my bet is that Mercury, Venus and Mars don't have much, if any, oil, since they don't have appreciable magnetic fields.  Jupiter's moon Ganymede is nearly black, though, and interestingly has received lots of intense study in the 'scientific' community.  Why, with what we know right now, the Universe is likely awash in oil, gas and coal.  Gobs upon gobs of it.

This story is far from over, and Earth's 0.04% atmospheric CO2 may be directly related to this electro-magnetic dynamo removing it from circulation.  In fact, our burning of "fossil" fuels may actually be completing a re-circulation process that would otherwise strip the CO2 out of the air and starve the planet's plant life to death.

Makes your head spin, doesn't it?

19.5.16

A Magnetic Personality

My earlier column positing a fundamental clash between the natural state of nationalism and the artificial overlay called statism elicited a number of reader responses, calling me an idiot (which I don't deny) and a genius (with which I wholly agree), and I see no contradiction between the two.

One email, from our faithful reader Mr. P in Thailand, asked me to expand on my statement that humans are imprinted with the local electro-magnetic field at the place of their birth.  Since this is an area that captures my imagination and one that I have studied a bit, I thought it would be fun to explore this concept in greater depth.

Bear with me on this, as it will require some background explanation and a lot of links to external studies and articles.  Though the concept has been around for a while, some new studies are shedding light on the mechanism in the brain responsible for this phenomenon.

That the Earth has a magnetic field is not disputed.  All life here depends on that field to redirect radiation from space in order to survive.  Nor is there a dispute that electricity and magnetism are connected.  You probably performed a simple experiment in school that proves it.  You wrapped a nail with wire and attached it to a battery, making the nail magnetic.  There is even a more entertaining experiment.  Take a long extension cord and snake it back and forth under high-tension power lines, and plug something in to the socket.  Notice how you get electricity without any visible input (electric companies discourage this practice as they are not in the business of free energy).

What is in dispute is exactly how the Earth generates a magnetic field.  Though 'scientists' will state emphatically that there is a liquid iron dynamo at the planet's core, they cannot explain satisfactorily exactly how this system works.  However, it is a fundamental law of physics that if you have a magnetic field, then you have electricity somewhere in the system, no matter how much 'scientists' want to deny this fact in planetary scales.

Suffice it to say that there is a massive electro-magnetic circuit between the Sun and Earth.  NASA and a number of researchers in recent years have observed Birkland currents both between the Earth and Sun, and in Earth's atmosphere and plasma sheath.  In fact, the existence of a plasma sheath implies an electric discharge somewhere in the system.  The reader is encouraged to explore the given links for themselves.  We are on to other topics.

Recently, researchers discovered that homing pigeons had an actual gland located in their beaks that could sense electro-magnetic fields.  When they are born, the birds are imprinted with the local field and the organ can direct them back to it if they are removed to a different location.  This is the reason that homing pigeons have been used for centuries as a form of organic airmail delivery service.

Other studies have looked for magneto-receptors in the brains and bodies of various animals.  

All that being said, is there any evidence that humans sense magnetic fields?  We know that magnetism can be induced in the body and recorded in MRIs.  There is growing evidence that many people are hypersensitive to electro=magnetic radiation.  There's even evidence that bones in the nose are magnetically sensitive.  This last one would seem to correlate to the sensors found in pigeon beaks..  But can magnetic fields imprint on humans?

There is growing evidence that humans can sense magnetic fields.  One study found that students with strong magnets strapped to their heads were far less able to determine direction and distance.

All of this suggests that humans are just as sensitive to electromagnetics as other species with documented abilities.  At this point, though, we are forced to enter the realm of speculation and anecdotes.

I can find no conclusive studies showing that humans imprint with the specific location of their birth.  However, there are piles of evidence showing that rocks and trees imprint with the magnetic field of there specific location.

Human bones start to solidify as soon as one is born, and as they do, it is entirely possible that the local magnetic field could imprint on them.  The primary element in our bones is calcium, which is a metal and certain oxides of calcium are naturally magnetic, as well.

It stands to reason that if we are affected by magnetic fields, have bones that are magneto-sensitive and studies have shown reduced ability to navigate and increased reason over religious impulses when subjected to strong magnetic fields, then our brains (if not entire bodies) would record the extant fields the moment we separate from our mothers.

It would go a long way to explaining why we defend our homes.  It certainly explains how we instinctively know how to get home and why we feel homesick.  

Of course, there are many other cues, such as familiarity, proximity to family and friends, sun angles, and all the various gizmos for hunting locations available now.  But it bears testing.  Try devising a test of your personal abilities sometime.  Could be both fun and educational.

All of this brings up one last point.  It is a fact that Earth's magnetic field is weakening and moving rather quickly.  In fact, the poles are approaching each other somewhere over Indonesia, by strange coincidence.  Pole reversals have happened many times in geologic history and we seem to be heading that direction now.  Since it has never happened in recorded history, no one is sure how life on Earth will react.  It seems certain that migratory animals will have trouble.  Insects, such as bees, that use magnetic fields may show decline.  Some researchers have tried to connect pole reversals and various mass extinctions on Earth.

The effect on humans will be interesting to see.  Might it cause entire populations to experience depression?  Feelings of disorientation?  Agitation?  Panic?

Honestly, the studies are not conclusive and until recently, no one took the issue seriously.  Speculating, a weakening magnetic field combined with increased cosmic radiation may be playing a major part in the current global insanity and the rise of nationalism, as I described in the article linked at top.

Awareness of the situation is a first step to recognizing changes in your character and personality, and those of others, as well.  If you have the ability to influence research grants, why not explore this overlooked area, since almost anything you discover would be new?

Some things are certain: every location on the face of the Earth has a unique electro-magnetic signature.  We are all only born once and call only one place home, and most fiercely defend that place and desire to return there when away.  And many insects and animals, including humans, are sensitive to magnetic fields.  Based on the information at hand, it is safe to say we experience some influence from electro-magnetic fields at some level in our brains and bodies.  Finally, given the lack of in-depth research, it is safe to assume that we know little about how these fields affect us, or how we react to them.

Wouldn't it be interesting if we describe charismatic people as having magnetic personalities and members of the opposite sex having magnetic attraction, because at some level, we are aware of a force acting on our psyches?

Opposites attract!

18.5.16

Tales Of A Misanthrope

The Big Durian.  J-town,  Jak-dehli.  The Nightmare.

I really hate big cities.  I've listened for hours to people waxing on about the Big Apple, and London, and Paris, and Los Angeles, but having been to all of them and lived in some of them, they all suck.

I hate living piled up on top of other people.  I hate only being able to see a sliver of sky through the concrete.  I hate neighbors banging on my walls.  I hate fighting for parking spaces.

In short, I'm a misanthrope.

Jakarta has little to nothing to recommend it.  Compared to my home town of Houston, Jakarta has a third of the real estate with four times the people (Houston: 2,2 million on 628 sq miles; Jakarta: 10 million on 256 sq miles).  The population density here is incredible by any standard I've known before.  There is no need for mass surveillance here, since there is literally no place you can stand that doesn't have 20 people looking at you.

Neighborhoods here are crammed full of people.  The average lot size is about what the average Houstonian has for a garage.  Three of my four walls are shared with other houses.  I'm lucky in that my house is a double-wide with three floors, so I actually have a little space inside.  The average bedroom in Jakarta can accommodate a queen-sized bed and a side table, with just enough space left over to open the door part way.

A normal Jakarta neighborhood has one main street with dozens of gang, or alleyways running off of it in every direction.  Most of the gang are just wide enough to allow a car through, so if you are lucky enough to have the space, you can park your car on your front porch.  There are no yards, though some people turn their roofs into small gardens.

Most houses here have an area that acts a lot like a chimney.  It runs from the kitchen to the roof and allows air to circulate.  There is no such thing as central A/C, and heating is completely pointless.  Those who have A/C use small units that only cool one room, usually the bedroom.  Kitchens are tiny by Houston standards, barely big enough for one person, and the refrigerator is usually in the combination living/dining area.

Houston, being practically brand new by global standards, is laid out on a grid, with freeways running roughly north/south and east/west, and a series of ring roads to service outlying areas.

Jakarta, being over 2,000 years old, is laid out like a box of Christmas light strings with right angles only occurring by the wildest of accidents.  There are no straight lines and you can't even come home by the same route you use to go to work. There are something like 40 million registered vehicles in Jakarta, with a population of only 10 million.  If you want to know where they are all parked, just look at the roads on any given day.  They are parked on the freeways and major arteries all over town.

According to this article, the average speed in 2013 was 16 kph.  I'm here to tell you that if you ever get over 10 kph, then it's 3am on Sunday morning.  By 3:04am, you're back in the traffic jam once again.  I live just 13 km/7 miles from my office, and a really good day means only 1 hour travel time.

When my wife and I went to Houston over the Christmas holidays, we arrived about 4pm on a Wednesday.  Driving home, my brother complained about the traffic.  He was rather perplexed by our hysterical laughter.  He was frustrated by not being able to break 65 kph/40 mph.  I can't recall ever going that fast in Jakarta.

A lot of people ask me what I think of Indonesia.  I have to be honest.  I hate Jakarta, but I love the country.  The city is hot, dirty, crowded, and has almost nothing interesting to do.  There's no symphony or ballet.  There's an occasional culture and arts festival, but the damn things are way over-priced and half the damn city shows up, so you spend most of your time dodging people.  It's a special form of insanity to live here.

Why don't I get out?  Well, easier said than done.  Jakarta is where the work is, for the most part, which is why there are 12 million people in the city on any given business day.  There are roughly 38,000 people per square mile here.  That's more than double Mexico City!  In fact, it's about equal to Mexico City, Tokyo and Beijing combined!  (At least according to Wikipedia)

It's a real experience living here, especially for someone like me who grew up with nothing but space and who, for the most part, hates people - especially a lot of them in a small space.

No worries, though.  That's why we have the mountain house.  Once a month, or more, we bug out and get to where the air is fresh and there is space to walk in and a yard to garden in.

Oh sure, there are worse places.  Karachi or Mumbai come to mind.

I shouldn't complain though.  I make a decent living here and have a pretty good standard of living with a very low cost of living.  Doesn't change my feelings about people, though.  And mind you, I'm not talking about individuals.  I love individuals.  Individuals are great!  I'm talking about herds, mobs, sardine cans full of people.  Alone, people are great.  In piles, people suck.

The funny thing about Jakarta is that almost no one here is from Jakarta.  Pretty much the entire population of the city moved here for work, and if they had a choice, they move out just as fast.

There is, however, one time of year that Jakarta is really quite pleasant.  At the end of Ramadhan, there is a one-week holiday called Lebaran, during which nearly the entire population of Jakarta goes home.  During that week, you can actually go out and lie down on the freeway and get a decent sleep before a car comes along.  It is truly amazing.  You can get from one side of the city to the other in minutes, rather than hours.  There are no lines anywhere.  It is quiet and air quality improves several hundred percent.

The only problem with this holiday is that every single resident of Jakarta goes to the mountains and fills my refuge with screaming kids, traffic jams and karaoke at 7 o'clock in the morning.

I hate people.

17.5.16

Booze, Cigs And Alphabets

St. Hunter of the Hallucination
There are a great many folks in my circles who call themselves writers, but who don't/won't/can't write.  They affect an aura of "the writer," but when pressed, cannot point to any particular body of work.  However, they are more than willing to launch pot shots at those who do produce.  I call this the "coach" effect.

Don't know if you've ever heard the ditty, but it goes like this: Those who can, do.  Those who can't, teach.  And those who can't teach, coach.  I happen to think teaching is an honorable profession, but the point is taken.

In my world, we call directors 'frustrated actors.'  People with no talent at all, or who can't succeed in the industry, we refer to as 'critics.'  Most professions have similar references - failed lawyers are clerks, failed doctors are nurses, etc.

Failed writers, though, don't have many options.  It is a very lonely and isolated profession.  There are no assistants or clerks, there is only one person sitting at a table banging out strings of words that he or she hopes someone else will read.  In a world where reading is increasingly rare, the task becomes even more odious, as the positive feedback decreases exponentially.  If, however, you know someone who claims to be a writer, yet has a busy social life, they are lying.

Writing, with rare exceptions, requires vast amounts of solitude and concentration.  For me, it further includes copious amounts of alcohol, cheese and nicotine.  I need something to keep me at the desk, after all.

The rare exceptions include things like technical and corporate writing.  In these cases, there are committees of non-writers sitting around discussing "voicing" and broad topics with little connection to actual writing.  In the end, though, it is still one person sitting at the computer banging out strings of words and getting lots of negative feedback, because hey, everyone's a critic and like bellybuttons, everyone's got an opinion - they just don't want to write them is all.

Writing is a compulsion that comes with certain personality quirks.  A writer has to enjoy solitude.  I spend probably eight to ten hours a day writing, of which this blog is about one and a half.  It requires a lot of discipline to force myself to sit and write.  My natural inclination is to find anything - trimming my nails, scraping mold off the wall - to distract me from actually banging out strings of words.  Most of the real writers I know feel the same way.  As one person put it, writing is the closest a man will come to giving birth.

The only thing worse than writing is editing, which is why good editors are like gold in this business.

In writing, there are basically two forms - personal and work for hire.  Personal, like this blog, is something I do both as a form of discipline and practice, and for entertainment.  A work for hire is generally a thankless effort, other than the pittance that trickles into the bank account.  Most of what I do for hire little resembles the final published product.  I can spot crumbs of my original work, but for the most part, it has been tweaked and twaddled to death by the time it hits publication.  Considering the thought and research that goes into a work for hire, it rarely seems worth the effort in the end.

I mean, no one commissions a painting, then touches it up before hanging it on the wall, right?  So why do people feel obliged to alter someone's words?  Maybe it's just too easy.  No bushes to clean afterward.

And speaking of painters, at least they occassionally work with naked models. I have tried for years to convince my wife that a naked model would greatly improve my work - as yet to no avail.  If you notice a sudden leap in the quality of my work, though, you'll know what happened...

To say writing is a compulsion is a literal description.  I began writing in grade school.  I won several local, state and national contests.  I've written scripts for various projects that have won awards.  I've seen my work published in all sorts of ways.  But good, bad or indifferent, I cannot stop writing even if I wanted to.  I have to write.  It is the way I express myself.  My letters home run 15-20 pages.  I can't write an email without a minimum of six or seven paragraphs.  When I read, I think about how I could have done better, or how I'd like to do something that well.  I can't read an article or book for pleasure - I am always analyzing style, technique and turn of phrase.

It's an obscession.

One trademark of a real writer is the idea bin.  All writers have one, though the form may differ.  I carry a pen and a notebook everywhere I go.  When I have an idea or see something I like, I write it down and toss it in the idea bin.  I have stacks and stacks of notes: favorite metaphors, witty turns of phrase, thoughts to expand, thoughts that will never get expanded.  It comes from high school, when I would take my notebook to the mall or other public place and just observe people.  I still do that.  I make notes about interesting characters and personalities that would be fun in a novel.

Another characteristic of real writers is the work in progress folder.  I currently have six novels and a dozen scripts in progress.  When I finish this article (for publication sometime during the coming week), I will then turn to one of the other projects for which I have some burning ideas to set down.  In the process of doing that, I may have a great idea for one of the other projects, and pop that one open, as well.  By the end of the day, I have at least four different files open and in progress.

There are two things a writer fears most: the beginning and the end.  The middle is easy.  Just keep banging out strings.  But how to capture the reader's imagination at the open?  That crucial first paragraph sets the tone and hooks the reader.  There are millions of bad openings, but only a handful of great ones.  "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."  "Call me Ismael."  "The magician’s underwear has just been found in a cardboard suitcase floating in a stagnant pond on the outskirts of Miami."

Just as soul-bending and painful is how to end the damn thing.

16.5.16

Triumph Of Chaos

Do you live in a nation?  A state?  A nation-state?

If you are not sure, then you can be forgiven, since the terms are rarely defined or even discussed these days.  And frankly, most of the political turmoil in the world today can be traced directly to efforts to dissolve the nation-state in favor of a kind of war-lord system governed by the UN (or whatever succeeds it).

To get to the heart of what is driving global madness, we need to first define some terms.  A 'nation' is an organic entity defined by language, culture, names, and other aspects of people's lives.  A 'state' is a political entity defined by lines on a map, taxation, legal systems, and so forth.  'Mercantilism' is an economic system that seeks to protect a nation's trading interests through the use of legal, military and regulatory means.  How they all fit together will become clear in a moment.

On the island of Java, where I live, there used to be a number of nations broadly defined as Javanese and Sundanese.  The Javanese primarily inhabited the lowlands, while the Sunda stayed mostly in the mountains, with a fuzzy dividing line between the east and west of the island.  These nations were distinguished by language, culture and cuisine.  Javanese and Sundanese are distinct dialects with many sub-dialects.  Culturally, one of the most obvious is the patterns of batik (printed cloth) that distinguished one region from another, but there are also physical and architectural differences.  On the plate, the Javanese prefer spice to the Sundanese preference for bitter flavors.

Over the top of these nations is a political entity called the Republic of Indonesia, which is a modern state, with all the bureaucratic trappings of other republics.  This political entity uses the Indonesian language, which is wholly distinct from both Javanese and Sundanese, and the state identifies itself with a flag, anthem and other symbols of the modern state.

The driving force that unified the two nations under the state was mercantilism, the mutual interest of both groups to protect their business interests and promote those interests through the use of common regulations, a legal system for disputes and a military to project force on outside challengers.

The modern nation-state arose in the 1400s in Europe, primarily in Venice, Genoa and other Italian city-states.  The distinct cultures formed naturally through familial ties and language/culture.  In order to reduce friction between the powerful trading families and focus on expanding business, they created a system of laws and regulations to level the home playing field.  They then built, for the time, mighty militaries to protect their ships and caravans from raiders and ensure safe delivery of goods and the more important return of money.

Over time, nations, states and mercantilism combined with cartography and the ability to define boundaries and borders and record them on maps and negotiate them with other entities to create the modern nation-state.  A fine example of a nation-state is Switzerland.  It is actually three nations - Italy, Germany and France - combined under a political system defined by boundaries to protect its business interests through mercantilism.  The inhabitants speak different languages and enjoy different native cultures (nation), but share a single government and military (state) symbolized by a common flag, anthem and other such things.

For the better part of 600 years, the nation-state has grown to cover most of the globe and has defined how we humans interact with each other.  Legal system compete to offer the most fair and secure environments for business, while the militaries go to war to protect and expand markets.  It is something we are all used to and hardly ever think about any more.  In fact, maps have hardly changed for decades now and we are generally shocked when extreme events rewrite boundaries, such as the fall of the Soviet Union.

Though the whole thing is rather chaotic, it has been relatively stable and allowed complex legal systems to develop that control activities within and between the various nation-states.  However, a major shift has been underway for the better part of the 20th century and into the 21st century.  Powerful interests have been trying to dissolve the nation-state in favor of a global system of laws and regulations, with a global military to protect trade.  The first step was the League of Nations after WW1, with the United Nations springing from its ashes in the wake of WW2.

Multi-national corporations have been a major driving force behind the effort to end the nation-state.  There are obvious advantages to conforming one's business to a single set of rules and regulations, rather than having to manage and maneuver through piles of legal hassle in every country where one does business.  The International Standards Organization (ISO) and HDTV (replacing NTSC, PAL and SECAM) are prime examples of this effort.

Imagine McDonald's, with outlets and franchises in most of the nation-states on Earth.  Employment laws, food and sanitation regulations, environmental laws, taxation schemes, and much more apply in every location and are radically different place to place.  It would be so much easier for them if there were a single set of global rules, a single taxing scheme and other standardization.

It would also be nice if there were a single military that protected business interests in every jurisdiction and on the high seas.

McDonald's is only one of thousands of multi-national corporations, and nearly all of them have a vital interest in conforming global business environments to a single standard.  Thus, the ongoing push to end the nation-state.

All of this is being led, of course, by banking and finance, which is the nucleus around which business orbits and the heart of mercantilism for centuries.  The test grounds for this unified system is the European Union and the United States.  They are both a hodge-podge of nations that are being forced, with varying degrees of success, to synchronize into single states.

The EU is the latest effort and one that is a bit clearer for our purposes than the US.  The EU is dozens of very distinct nations with roughly 20 states overlaying them.  Over the past 30 years or so, there has been a major effort to centralize banking and government, issue a single currency, erase borders, converge militaries.  And if Grexit and Brexit are any sign, it is failing miserably.

In fact, people like Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump and Chiang Kai-shek, who are prominent nationists, are often ridiculed and berated by corporate interests because nationalism is anathema to the state and mercantile interests.  They have been vilified, fairly or not, because their efforts undermine the centuries-long effort to champion political systems over natural ones in the interest of commercialism and profit.

To understand the current global chaos and honestly assess whether a particular leader is really wrong, or is just being castigated for being a naturalist/nationalist, one needs to understand the distinction at the root of the problem.

We are facing a massive clash of entrenched interests - a clash of civilizations, if you will.  On the one hand are those promoting nationalism, which is to say the natural and organic organization of human beings.  On the other hand are the statists/mercantilists who promote business interests and profits over the interests of individuals.  Who is right or wrong in this argument is a subjective decision.

My view is that nationalism is a natural function of life.  We are all imprinted with the location and culture of our birth.  There is only one "home," though there may be many "houses."  People, no matter how much we attempt to modify it, will always desire the "home" to which they were born.  Everything else will always be foreign.  This comes from two things: the natural imprinting of the electro-magnitic field of a given location at birth, and the mother tongue, which carries one's culture with it (culture and language are inseparable).

Like homing pigeons, we all have an innate desire to return to the place where we were born.  How strong that desire and how much one is susceptible to it varies, but it is always there.  Part of that most basic motivation is the desire to keep that "home" in some sort of pristine or original condition, a kind of defense mechanism that makes us fight for the sanctity and sovereignty of our birthplaces.

The other part of this equation - language - is even more deeply rooted.  Though I speak a number of languages, and I am fluent in four of them, English is always my default.  It is the language of my thoughts and it molds my worldview.  I can no more change that that I can change my brain.  It is the language that carries culture, and culture that influences language.  One can never be divorced from the other.

Thus, we see globally a fundamental clash between what humans are and what we feel, against what we have created.  Political and economic sciences have been separated from the most fundamental aspects of what it means to be human.  Despite centuries of education and social manipulation, the statist/mercantilist interests cannot remove these most basic impulses from humanity.  Efforts to genetically manipulate the organism may one day succeed, but I am skeptical.

In the real world, though, there are the Donald Trumps on the nationalist side - though I think he runs solely on instinct.  On the other side are the "globalists," whose efforts are, as we saw above, to synchronize a global system of laws, regulations and militaries to protect business and profits.  They are fundamentally opposed ideologies and can no more mix than oil and water.  They are mutually exclusive.

So when you see the Trumps and the Putins vilified in the corporate media, or people railing on about racial, globalist or religious ideals, at the heart of it is a clash of worldviews, a weltanschauungskrieg, or "war of philosophies."

I, for one, believe that the nationalists will win.  Beneath the rhetoric is a deep human truth that cannot be changed.  The statist/mercantilist effort seeks to replace what humans feel with an abstract ideology that must be learned - it is not installed at birth.  It is akin to a computer's BIOS and OS.  They can work together or clash, but when they clash, nothing will work.

I suspect the harder the statists push, the more the nationalists will resist until the whole thing collapses, or one side gives up, and I don't see that happening.  It is the proverbial rock and a hard spot, or in scientific terms, the irresistible force meeting the the unyielding object.

This will not end pretty.