Friday, April 27, 2007

Eco-Living in the Burbs had a recent article about HOA nazis that I found rather amusing - there are some local developments that come to mind when they are discussing the aversion to hanging out laundry. Saving power to dry clothes? How gauche! It's not like our garden produces enough for us to live on, and it's not like we have solar panels, but we do compost, we do garden, and we do hang out laundry - Colorado is well-suited to that. I don't care if our neighbors find it gauche or think that we are white trash for doing so - it makes ecological sense and our wash also can get done faster, and there is nothing in my HOA to forbid it.

As an aside: the last time I can remember seeing someone else hanging out wash was on a train trip about a month ago between Philly and Harrisburg - specifically, when passing through Lancaster, the place of my birth, you could see farmhouse after farmhouse hanging out wash. And that's in PA, which is much more humid, and much less sunny on average. Frankly, I think Coloradans are leaving a lot of money on the table by not trying to harness the sun to at least dry their clothes.

Anyway, the idea that aesthetics (and perceptions about "property values") can trump truly long-term planning for sustainable living just hearkens back to some sort of mythical 1950's suburban paradise that never did exist, anyway. Some of these covenants specifically rule out composting, for example. And vegetable gardens! Sorry, that's just crazy and irresponsible.

One comment as a result of this article evokes what pops into my mind:

I have a mental image of the masses living in these regulated subdivisions, huddled in their 3,000 sq ft homes trying to keep warm in the dark during power failures(no solar/wind power of course- how tacky), gnawing on their manicured lawns (calorie content of tulips?), wearing smelly dirty clothing(clothes lines are so lower-class), with their 3 car garage filled with the SUV's they cannot fuel......

Of course, Colorado does have a dash of sanity in its laws. Even the most draconian of places like Highlands Ranch cannot stop someone from having solar power, at least. I'm not sure about wind, though, and laws like this really ought to be at the federal level, too. Also in those comments was one from Israel in which the commenter notes that putting certain things into new houses is instead required there. Sounds a lot more forward-looking than the morons running some suburbs here...

However, Colorado does have one extremely backward law - the law against rainwater barrels. Gaiam sells such devices - you can put them under a downspout to divert water into and then hook garden hoses up to. Those are illegal in Colorado. I imagine if water becomes enough of problem, that might be repealed. I'd imagine before that happens, lawns might be made optional instead of required in some 'burbs, and maybe even illegal.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Leary vs. Freud

So I was reading a book by Leary during my lunch at work, and some guy stopped by to ask what I was reading. I oblige the question by flipping the book closed and show the cover. The guy is like "Leary?!! You mean the druggie guy?". Rather than comment about the interesting characterization he chose, I rolled with it and just said it was one and the same. He moseyed on, probably thinking I'm a "druggie" as well.

I guess I'm not exactly a "mainstream" guy if that's not already patently obvious from this blog...but the reaction of this person I found very interesting, and it made me wonder how and why some people get characterizations such as "druggie" when a term like that for someone such as Leary is so obviously limiting and, well, ignorant. I guess William S. Burroughs would get the same narrow characterization from the mainstream, as well.

Sure, he quite literally did what could only be called proselytizing for psychedelics in particular LSD. But that's not the sum total of the man, not by far. Giving Leary a characterization like this is like labeling Freud a "cokehead" or a "druggie" for his use of, and advocacy for, cocaine and stopping at that narrow characterization.

While pondering this, I recently subbed to Boing Boing's Get Illuminated podcast, and the first podcast talks about Leary (with Rushkoff). The fact that the man is still being talked about today shows that he's not merely some "druggie".

I have not (yet) read biographies of either Freud or Leary, but I suspect even an overview of the two would give me a clear picture of why one is still okay to discuss in polite circles (without getting into the details, anyway) while the other seems to get the dismissive label. I wonder if it's more the time they advocated drug use, if it's the type of drug they advocated, or the challenge that they may or may not have posed to authority. I know Leary wrote and spoke directly against authority, but then so did Ben Franklin, so what is it about Leary that made him so dangerous (enough to have Nixon call him out on that)?

Having ALSO just finished reading a biography on Edward L. Bernays (who just happens to be the nephew of Freud), I also wonder about the power of propaganda and just how this might have been used against the likes of Leary to achieve that characterization.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The site was another site StumbleUpon overturned for me.

I find this idea very intriguing - I've always been annoyed over the two extreme opinions that can be found on learning in this country. One is the over-veneration some have for official routes of learning. On the other hand, there is the thinking that leads to some denigrating people who have "book smarts" (vs. "street smarts", usually, with the assumption always being, of course, that the person holding forth with this argument is street smart. Usually, the real motivation for this argument seems to be jealousy.). My problem with the over-veneration of institutional learning is that many with degrees don't learn that much during school to start with, and almost consciously make a decision to stop any and all learning immediately after. This is a broad generalization of course, but there is a strong anti-intellectual streak in this country, and learning is considered even more especially "geeky" if conducted outside the context of a university. One will often hear the phrase "getting a life" when anyone is trying to learn or gain a skill outside the socially-accepted norm of university, unless it directly relates to a profit motive. The other, very real, danger is that someone with too much institutional learning can be a total ass.

The trick, then, seems to be to avoid being an anti-intellectual knuckle-dragger AND to avoid being an elitist jerk about the degrees or knowledge or skills one has gained.

Don't get me wrong - I have a degree. I just don't view it as my only education - or the end of it. That's partly why I read so damn much. But as the article currently on the home page of the site suggests, there are many other routes to learning. Some of them are much more immersive and experiential. Some of these suggestions remind me a bit of some of RAW's suggestions, and which partly drove me to take my family out and learn snowboarding last year. Learning how to do something can be very fun AND educational, and it's not always about having your nose in a book, or sitting in front of a computer. This year, I hope to learn how to refine my current (nearly nonexistent) golf game.

The folks writing some pieces over at selfmadescholar seem to have found a way down this middle path. They've done a better job at expressing some things that I absolutely agree with AND they've done an excellent job of indexing absolutely FREE courses and categorizing them. Very nicely done. Of course, one of the providers of such courses are to be expected, such as MIT OpenCourseware.

Some of this site also reminds me why I like some of what I listened to/watched from The Teaching Company. While their materials are not free, what I've been exposed to was of good quality, and you may find of some their stuff at the library.


Hard to believe we've lost Vonnegut, too. In the past few years, we've lost three authors that ranked very high in my personal list, anyway: Hunter S. Thompson, Robert Anton Wilson, and now Kurt Vonnegut. Well, at least we can honor him by repeating his favorite joke here:

"Kurt is up in heaven now".

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A cool timeline on YTMND

Found this via StumbleUpon: a very cool timeline of the future...makes all the differences we have on this little blue marble look really quite silly.

Uncanny the sort of cool stuff StumbleUpon will find for you once you train it for a little bit.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Misplaced Anger - Imus

Jesus. So they were able to get Imus yanked from MSNBC simulcast...I have to admit I haven't really followed this (non)story, but it's for things like this that I could never get 100% behind liberals. This Soviet-style show trial of Imus is just so disgusting. I've never listened to the guy, and it sounds like this set of comments along with past ones are outrageous, but all the anger, hand-wringing and hyperbole over this? Honestly, give me a break. Just turn the damn show off if you don't like it. The political correctness crowd always makes me want to vomit. People like Bush and his buddies on Fox and Rush and his many imitators can repeat disinformation served up as talking points ad infinitum, but someone makes some random comment that may be racist, that's when the picketing and the boycotts start. Sheesh. The whole thing just makes me embarrassed to hold so many other liberal views. I think so many liberals have abandoned their principles on this PC issue - it's perfectly okay to disagree with what someone says, and yet still tolerate that speech but that's what makes this country so great.

If liberals want something to get angry about, get real and get angry over something that has serious substance. Where's all the outrage over Bush lying about wiretaps and Iraq? Where's all the outrage over Gonzales condoning torture? How about some outrage over disinfo with the mainstream media itself?

I'm watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann as I write this, and witnessing Jesse Jackson going on and on in self-righteousness and it makes me want to vomit. Why does one group only have a handful of people that supposedly speak for them? Who the hell elected these guys, and why does the media genuflect in front of them over such asinine "issues"? Just about every time I've glanced over at CNN this whole week I've seen Imus or Al Sharpton on the screen. It's almost as if we aren't in Iraq, or that people aren't trying to lie us into yet another war, this time with Iran.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Rest of the Trilogy

So I watched the rest of the revenge trilogy that Oldboy is a part of. More great cinema, although I didn't like them nearly as much as Oldboy. What is great about all three is the ambiguity. It's very hard to find that amount of ambiguity in mainstream films. In the case of these movies, you are left thinking about the stories and characters long after the movie credits roll. By ambiguity, I mean that in the world of these movies, there are no black and white, you're-either-with-us-or-you're-against-us type of characters. Everyone is flawed, everyone comes across as sympathetic - just like the real world.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


This was another Amazon recommendation, and I'm glad I watched this one. The library had it, so I had nothing to lose but time.

This movie was so riveting I had to wait a few hours (had some stuff to take care of) and re-watch it. Some of it was way too visceral for me - such as the sushi bar scene and one of the first scenes where a bad guy gets his due. Ouch.

It also has one of the coolest bad-guy sidekicks I've seen since a Bond movie.

I can totally understand why Quentin Tarantino is such a fan, and I had the same experience another commenter on imdb/amazon had: after a few minutes, you forget you're reading subtitles vs. hearing it in English.

I just checked the other two in the "trilogy" out of the library and I will watch them soon. I hope they are even half as good.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007 - Excellent Idea

I have to wonder if this isn't a disruptive technology - to the classic model of printing, that is. Let me recount my experience with it. I've known about Lulu for years, but have never really had the occasion to use it (as a publisher or a consumer).

But - I ran into a book that is out of print, and all used copies are ridiculously priced - the specific book is On Lisp, by Paul Graham, and used copies run as low as $200 to about $400. That's insane, especially for a paperback on technology, even if it is supposed to be one of the better texts covering Lisp. I happened to know (and it's mentioned in the comments) that this book happens to be released on PDF by the author. So I go download that. But this is a long book, and I find myself getting very restless very quickly trying to read a book on the screen. So I kick around the idea of asking Paul if he'd be open to letting me publish it on Lulu. Then I think I should look around on there first to see if it's already there - and sure enough, On Lisp is already there.

Shipped, the book came to less than 1/10th the cost of a used copy of the book. And the printed PDF was nicely bound, IMHO. Way less than the cost of having Kinko's do it, too. The interesting thing, and why I think it may be disruptive, is that it's printed on demand. The author/publisher doesn't have to eat all the cost printing a huge run upfront. I suppose that can be bit of a put-off for those that want their books NOW, but hey, it's being ordered on-line anyway. They seem pretty flexible as they also sell PDFs online, as well.

Do I think this will change the entire business of books? No way. I imagine that it will continue in the current fashion for the big blockbusters. But for self-publishers of off-beat topics or out of print books that have been reclaimed by the author, I see a changing landscape.

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