nature, rainbow, journey, road

Why I Supported Bernie Sanders in 2016

Why did I support Bernie Sanders for President in 2016?

1. Because of his spot on speech about democratic socialism in the USA, delivered at Georgetown University on 11/29/2015. --

I've been following Sanders efforts in the U.S. Senate for a number of years, especially in that he has most often been one of the few who has been voting the way I've hoped my senator would be voting.

Here's what I wrote on my public Facebook page today:

* Because every one of my students should be able to go to public college and university tuition free;
* because all of my students, and their parents, and families, and friends should be guaranteed free health care;
* because none of my students, or their family members, should be sent into wars/conflicts/overseas to fight for questionable reasons;
* because none of my students should have parents that are working 40 or 50 or 60 plus hours per week and still be under the poverty line;
* because when the market economy fails to provide enough jobs for former students, parents, and families (people that are willing to work) then it is the responsibility of the government to provide public works jobs to ensure full employment;
* because my students, their families, and my children deserve a habitable planet to live on.

I support Bernie Sanders for the next President of the U.S.A.

His message is clear, consistent, and inspiring. He is smart. He makes good choices. He seems to have some clue about the economy and how it works, and how the federal government needs to create jobs (when the capitalist economy can not or does not).

As of Thursday, February 25, 2016 I've made four donations to the Sanders campaign.
nature, rainbow, journey, road

To Future Aaron

I'm sitting in front of my newish 4k UHD tv, muted, waiting for the New Hampshire Republican Presidential debate to begin.

First off, I feel a bit sad that I'm not one of the candidates, that I'm not on stage either for this debate, or for a different debate. The fact that Marco Rubio is a year younger than me, and could, theoretically be elected President, well it makes me feel like I've not accomplished all that much in my life... I mean teaching is valued, but it is not really something for me... It is for income and security, but it does not really seem valuable or that I'm making a unique contribution that only I can make... There would be someone to replace me in that job if and when I leave that one.

I'm also a bit blue because I didn't have my calendar all up to date, so Kimberly planned to go to Chicago to visit my sister for a long weekend, and I didn't feel comfortable planning to go to the Track and Field conference in Lansing. Now, I don't know that I would have learned that much more there, but it would have been motivating and inspiring and a good team opportunity with my assistant coach (Mike) and partner female team coach (Jen). *sigh*

I'm also a little bit blue because I don't seem to be able to... I haven't really effectively encouraged my sons to love skiing... or to listen to my about skiing... so tomorrow, I hope at least they will have fun, but I'm concerned that they might not be happy, or win medals, of course I'd like to see them both in first place, but they don't practice as much as the other kids, and don't have nearly as many hours on the slopes.

I'm listening to Die Young by Kesha, to which I like the tune, but it also reminds me of fun time dancing, and why I don't go dancing at the moment (due to concerns about the healthy of my wife).

Now, the ...

Next Day, 7:03 p.m.

Some blue today as well, my first son, I've not been as effective of a coach / fan / supporter as I had hoped, or something. I dream of him being the best skier, finishing, you know, on the podium, with the medal or trophy, but he thinks of skiing, and racing, as a bit of a chore, I think. He says he skis parallel, but most of the time during free skiing, he does wedge, at least part of a wedge. So, we had a chat in the car about how the best racers always practice doing it the right way, even during the free runs.

Of course, there are lots of things that could add up to why he doesn't place in the very top. For example:

* Better gear - newer skis, better boots, speed suits, waxing and sharpening, better poles, guards, etc.
* More practice - we only practice with real practice, at most, 4 hours per week, which might be half or a third of what other kids practice

I often imagine living at or near a ski area and then he could ski constantly; or all the kids in the Rockies that live right there at a ski area, and that we could just go out and go skiing every day, and racing every day, and having fun on the slopes every day.

I'm curious, of his competitors, what do they do differently? Am I right, more practice, more gear, but also the positive, can do attitude as well, and that's what I should be able to instill in him, and I don't think I've done that very effectively, so that makes me feel a bit blue.

* More skiing next year, before winter break, Caberfae, Crystal Mountain
* eBay / Craigslist - speedsuit
* encourage wife to participate in skiing
* plan out-west ski vacation to mountains
* run a ski club at Page, even if I don't get anything out of it, Michael would meet kids that like to ski
* work on finding
nature, rainbow, journey, road

Fixing Michigan

The Flint water issue dominates newsfeeds, and enters the national presidential debates. Hundreds, thousands, perhaps millions of people point fingers at the one(s) to blame. Some, point their fingers at Michigan itself, the entire state. We, we Michiganders, are to blame.

While it seems uncomfortable to take on such blame, or even to consider if their is any truth to it, spending a few minutes thinking or writing about it might prove insightful or even useful.

Rather than list what is wrong, perhaps listing what should change, in our state, might be most useful

* Allow us to elect whoever we want, a.k.a., end the inherently un-democratic restriction of term limits. In our state, we've had numbers, dozens, perhaps hundreds of excellent people elected to our state legislature, and yet year after year, having the most experience, suddenly, we are no longer allowed to vote for them, and they are no longer allowed to serve. This results in an ongoing and constant stream of newbies to Lansing, and the loss of the knowledge of years of experience.

* Provide for state funding of candidates. Currently, donors (individuals and corporations), rich and small, have to be courted in order to run a winning campaign and to turn out the votes. Those elected, in turn, are naturally friendly, and quick to listen, to those donors, especially the big donors, who have helped them get their new job, and who may help them again in the future.


* Consider a new model for decision making in Michigan, a 21st century model. With rapid transportation and electronic communication, perhaps the model of a very large number of people, electing one person, to represent them in Lansing, for two or four years, perhaps that is an outdated model of decision making. What other models of democracy could be effective within a population of 10 million.

Related Reading
nature, rainbow, journey, road

The Three Mes

I had the strangest thing happen to me over the weekend. You would never guess, and you would never believe me, but this is what happened all the same.

On Saturday, I woke up a bit late, around about 8:00 a.m., which was late for me. My wife and sons were out of town to visit her parents for the weekend. I planned on doing some work at home, maybe watching a movie or two, and just hanging out a bit.

So, I went to the dinning room to have my breakfast cereal, and as I was just coming around the corner, I saw someone sitting at the table. I was quite freaked out, that is for sure. I edged backwards, but then, I heard a voice saying "Hello, it's just you and you out here. Come on out and I'll explain."

I peeked into the dining room, and you won't believe what I saw... It was me, sitting at the table, and then, it was me again. There were two me's sitting at the table.

"Yes, I know this is confusing," said one me, "but we are just you. Think of it as time travel, I guess."

I stood still, not really knowing what to thing, there were two people who looked just like me sitting in my living room. But, one of them was silent, not doing much of anything, and the other seemed to be quite animated.

"Okay. Suppose I believe that you are me, and this is some sort of time travel thing," I said.

"Oh, yes, I know. But here we are. And there you are. And this is the three of us, all in the same place at the same time. I didn't believe it either at first. You are wondering why he isn't saying anything, and I suppose I can tell you about him first," said the vocal one.

"Well, that would help a bit, because, even though I don't believe in time travel, at least I understand the idea. But, I'm not sure why there is two of me, and he... well... he doesn't seem quite right," I said.

The quiet one just sat there, his eyes looking right at me, following me perfectly with his eyes, but saying nothing.

"We are all the same person. You are the one who gets bounced back in time, he is the one that is bouncing back, and I'm the one that is going back forward again.", the vocal one said.

"What?" I asked, as I sat down at the table with them.

"Okay, I'll explain it, and that will make it easier for you... At least it did for me. Funny, it's like I've memorized what I said to you... Anyway, let me explain," he said.

"You see, in a little while, while we are all sitting here, you will move over and sit in this chair, where he is sitting. When you do, you will bounce back. Which is to say, that you will move backward in time. You will still be here, of course, in the room, and in the chair, but you will see everything go in reverse, just like if you were rewinding a video. The odd thing about it is that, well, you will hear him say some things, but they will all be in reverse. You can record them with your phone, and use that play in reverse app to hear what he said, but you will be hearing them before he said them... from his perspective anyway."

I looked at the two of them. The silent one smiled, and I smiled back. Well, at least that was what I thought had happened.

"You see what happened there," said the vocal one, "we saw him smile, and then you smiled back... but from his perspective, he saw YOU smile first, and then he smiled in return... Or you could say that WE smiled in return... It's all us, you know."

I stared at the both of them, looking from one, to the other. The vocal one seemed quite relaxed. The quiet one, not so much.

"Can I touch him?" I asked.

"Yes, you did... I mean, you will... and nothing bad happenzed," replied the vocal one.

I reached out my arm to touch the quiet one. As I touched his shoulder, I felt something very strange. It was like touching air, or touching rock, or something in between. I had touched the skin on his hand, but it didn't give way, or relax, or anything. I tried pressing hard, but it was as if his hand was made of steel, but had no feel to it. It was as if my finger just stopped moving, blocked by an invisible force.

"What the...???" I asked as I drew back my hand.

"I don't know for sure, but I didn't feel you touching me either... I mean, when I was him, that is," the vocal me said.

"Can I touch you without a problem?" I asked.

"Do you think that we'll explode in some matter-antimatter... you know, explosion?" he asked.

"Well... I guess I don't understand. If we are all the same matter, and the same energy, then how can we be three... I mean, how can I be three places at the same time?" I asked.

"I don't know," he replied, "I only know what's happened to me, and since I've been you, and I've been him, and I've already seen what happens when you become him, and everything in between, I guess none of it surprises me, and it certainly shouldn't because I already told you that, when I was you."

I just looked at them both again for a minute. Here I was, sitting at the table with two more of me. It was the three mes.

"How long until I become him?" I asked, nodding toward the quiet one.

"A while yet," the vocal me replied.

"But, how would you really know. What if I never went to sit down where he was? I could decide not to."

"Well, no, that's not exactly right. I think I might have mis-spoke earlier. It is he, this one, who sits down where you are sitting...", he said.

"What?!? How can he sit down on me?! He's solid as a rock?!", I said.

"Yes, well, what I mean to say is that it looks to you, well, to both of us, as if he sits down on you... but it is actually you getting up from the table when it happens," he replied.

"You mean when I get up from the table, that is when I become him?" I asked.

"Yes, that it exactly right," he replied.

I looked at them both again. This just didn't make any sense.

"You are thinking that this just doesn't make any sense," said the vocal me. "That is perfectly fine, and it seems like some unbelievable science fiction, but trust me, it has happened to me already, it is happening to him, and it will happen to you."

"So, I guess that I am the one who makes the choice, right?" I said.

"Yes, you do... just like I did," he said.

"So you know everything that I'm going to say?" I asked.

"Yes, I certainly do, because I already said everything that you are going to say, and already heard everything you are going to hear," he said. "You will be very interested to know that you also choose when to go forward in time."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"I mean, that this fellow right here, this backwards in time fellow, you see, he is you... and what you do, and what I did, was that we sat there for a good long time, just like he is doing right now, and watching everything in reverse, which was quite fascinating really, and after you go back into the bedroom and fall back asleep, he will still be sitting here.... But when he gets up, that's when time starts going forward for him again."

I looked at him, puzzling something out...

"You are wondering how long you chose to sit there, and why not get up right now, but in fact, you didn't, because you were afraid what would happen if you tried to do anything different then what you had already seen happen," he said.

"But aren't you in the same boat," I asked. "I mean, you did hear everything that I'm saying right now... I mean, *sigh*, you heard everything that you are saying now... right? You already heard everything that you are saying to me right now."

"Yes, that is true. I heard myself saying this, and now, here I sit saying it all again... It is very much like a deja-vu, really," he replied.

"But that doesn't make any sense," I said. "Why are you saying the same things now that you hear yourself saying earlier? Doesn't that make you feel like you are just a pawn or something? Do you have any choice?"

"Well, this is pretty exciting as it is, just talking to you, and the fact that I'm saying exactly what I heard earlier is really quite a bit more interesting to me than saying something that I don't expect, or that you don't expect, and in fact, I do say something that you don't expect in a moment, and then I guess I'll be saying it too," he said.

The silent me suddenly wiped his eyes, and started making a choking sound, which turned in to a laughing sound, which sounded very, very weird in reverse.

Then the vocal me started to chuckle and then laughing and then belly laughing, and then laughing hysterically, like out of control laughing.

I didn't know exactly what was going on, so I just sat and watched until the backward me stopped laughing, and then the forward me stopped laughing as well. They both were just looking at me again.

"Why are you just looking at me now?" I asked, "...and what were you just laughing at?"

"I was laughing at the fact that I was so confused when I had started laughing, I mean... When I was you, looking over here, and he started to laugh, and then I started to laugh, and I didn't know what was going on, and then I asked 'Why are you just looking at me now?', and when I was going backward in time, I heard the me laughing, and I remembered how funny it was, and then I started laughing, but I was the one going in reverse... and from my perspective it is all very funny," he smiled.

"I don't know that I understand," I said.

"And that is part of what makes it all funny, because I was thinking of when I said that, too, and that made it all the funnier, and that's why I started to laughing the second time, now that I'm the 'talkative one'," he said.

"This is really confusing," I said.

"Don't worry, you will get through it, trust me," he said.

"You've seen the whole thing, haven't you?" I asked.

"Well, not the WHOLE thing," he said. "I mean, I haven't seen what happens after you get up from the table."

"When do I get up from the table?" I asked.

"I don't know exactly. I don't seem to remember a whole lot of conversation between us after this, but I also wasn't in view of a clock when I was sitting there, and I know that you don't see a clock because there is none within view, and that you lose all interest in the question once you get up, and start going in reverse," he said.

"I can't even take a picture, can I?", I asked?

"Well, you can't, or at least, you didn't, but I did... Or, I should say that, I know that I will; because I already saw myself doing that," he said.

"Why didn't you tell me the time then?" I asked. "You must have know by then."

"I don't know why I don't tell you the time," he said, "but what really impressed you is what happens next..."

At this moment, he reached in his pocket and brought out a phone. It looked exactly like my phone. He passed it over to me and said, "Take a look at the camera roll."

I took the phone, opened the camera roll, and was a bit dumbfounded. First, there was a picture of me peeking around the corner and looking at the backwards me. It was just a bit of my head in the picture, but since I recognized my ear and my cheek. The picture before that was of me hugging me, a selfie of sorts, and this must have been before I woke up. Then, the one before that was me sleeping in my bed. The time on the phone for that one was 7:57a.m., which must have been just before I woke up. Scrolling back one more, it was me in the car... although, I don't recall having taken any pictures in the car since our vacation over the summer.

"Did you go somewhere?" I asked, looking a bit confused.

"Yes, you will, and I did, and that's why we took that picture," he said.

"Where did you go?" I asked.

"Well, I was going to go get a lottery ticket, but then after thinking about it, I remembered that the lotto numbers weren't revealed until later, after you get up from the chair," he said.

"Why don't I just wait to get up?" I asked. "I mean, if I wait long enough, and if you get on the computer, or I get on the computer, and we see the results, then... why didn't that work?"

"Check the lotto times on your phone," he said.

I checked, and it said the drawing was at 7:30 p.m. on Monday.

"You are reading that it ended at 7 p.m.," he said, "and thinking that there is no way you are going to sit there until Monday evening."

"So why did you even say that you were thinking about getting a lottery ticket?" I asked.

"Well, I went to the store to see if there was anything that I could buy, that I would find the number later, but I didn't find anything. I didn't buy the scratch tickets or anything like that," he said.

"But didn't you already know that?" I asked.

"Trust, but verify," he said.

"Wait, but why would you need to verify anything if you already heard it, said it, and watched it in reverse?" I asked.

"I don't know, but you know as well as I do that we always verify things, and apparently, that habit isn't something that absolute believe seems to change."

"Well, what else did you do?"

"Oh, well, a few other things," he said. "You will know soon enough."

"But why don't you just tell me now?" I asked.

"I didn't tell you know, and you will understand why after you do those 'few other things'." he said.

"This is crazy," I said. "I don't believe it."

"You don't have to believe something for it to be true," he said.

"Wait, won't I see him getting up from this seat?" I asked.

"Well, not exactly," he said. "You see, 'getting up' wasn't entirely accurate. I actually push you out of the chair, and you fall on to the floor, which is where you will see him laying."

"Why?" I asked.

"That is what I do when I see him laying on the floor next to you. I push you down on him, and you become him... and then later become me," he said.

At that very moment, a lot of noise started coming from the silent one, who was shaking his fist at the vocal one, and making louder and louder noises. He was clearly quite upset, which is how I was starting to feel. Then, he got down on the floor and crawled backward, next to my chair, and laid down in a weird position. From the other side, I felt a hard shove, and I fell to the floor.

That was quite upsetting for me, and I crawled to a seat and started yelling at the other me, the vocal me, who had slipped back in his seat before I even got off the ground. Boy, I must be pretty speedy, and I stopped yelling and raising my fist when I started to see that everything was moving in reverse. Opposite me, out the window, behind the older me, was a window, and I could see the raindrops falling up... up... I could see the raindrops on the deck railing shooting out of the railing, and up into the air. It was very strange. The other two of me were having a conversation, in reverse, which was quite strange to watch. It was fascinating, really. At one point, the future me was laughing, and then I started to laugh as well, because his laughing in reverse just sounded hilarious.

A while later, the past me touched me on the hand, but I didn't feel it. It was quite weird. In fact, I couldn't feel anything at all on my skin. And, I was thinking to myself, again, that no one would believe this, because it just didn't make any sense at all.

The past me got up, and had a number of very odd expressions on his face, as he said some things in reverse, and walked backward into the bedroom. A moment earlier... or later I guess... the future me took a picture of the two of us together, and then walked backwards into the bedroom to take a picture, and then walked backwards down the stairs, and out to the garage. I heard the car start, and then driving away, although it didn't sound quite right.

So, there I was, the raindrops shooting out of the deck, and up into the sky, as the sky got darker and darker, and time past backwards. That was the oddest feeling I'd ever had, and it made no sense to be at all, not in the least bit. I could hear a clock ticking in a very strange way, probably one of those that I insisted not be in the bedroom, because I hear them when I'm trying to go to sleep, and insist that they are not in the bedroom.

I knew that I'd be getting up from the table before morning... I mean before sunset... I mean, I had went to the bedroom around 11 p.m., and had been in the dining room, and there was no on there. I wasn't sure if getting up would make me go in forward or not. Eventually, I saw the car come back into the drive way, and the future me came back in the house (very quietly), and walked backwards and sat down on my lap, just as I was getting up to go to the car.

What happened during the time when I was away from the house is a tale for another time. Needless to say, that it is none of anyone's business, and I'm not going to write it down here, or anywhere else for that matter, and now I understand why my phone rang three times in the middle of the night that Saturday morning, before I woke up, and found had the experience of the three of me at the dining room table.
nature, rainbow, journey, road

The Failure of Almost

Almost everyone has a device.

Almost everyone has Internet access.

Almost everyone can afford to attend.

One might say, "Don't let perfect be the enemy of almost."

After all...

If almost everyone could eat lunch, that would be enough.

If almost all the rural kids were provided busing, that would be okay.

If almost all the kids had pencils for the test, at least most could do it.

If the teacher helped almost all the students to learn to read, at least those were helped.

If almost all the students were scheduled Language Arts this year, then maybe the rest could double up next year.

If very few experience bullying, then it is almost non-existant.

There are some places where "almost", "most", and "few" are not sufficient, acceptable, or ethical.

Schools are one of these places.
nature, rainbow, journey, road

Difficulty in the face of Normal


Things can get difficult.

As a person in my mid-40s, I've seen and experienced difficulty. Some in my life. Some in the life of my friends and family. Some in the life of my students. Some from afar, from news, media and reading.

When things do get difficult, I often remember what normal is.

For a long time, several decades, I thought I knew what normal was. Normal was what was around us all the time. Normal was what I saw, and what I ate, and what I heard, and what I experienced.

In a personal quest to understand everything, I stumbled upon a number of clues which led me to learn that what I thought was normal was not normal at all, but only commonplace. That I had grown up, that we had all grown up, in a civilization that was anything but normal, and so our experiences were anything but normal as well.


There were a number of milestones in this life quest of mine, and I'll share a few:

* Learning that meat and animal products were the results of suffering and torture. I had a clue to this after reading "The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair in high school, but it was not until I read "Animal Liberation" by Peter Singer, that I learned the facts about factory farms, and how this civilization treats animals raised in captivity. Believing I was directly contributing to this system through my purchases and consumption, I stopped participating. I stopped buying animal products and I stopped consuming animal products. I became suddenly aware and interested in where my money was going, and what it was supporting.

* Figuring out how rising gasoline prices would impact my students and their families, especially those "low income" families. This led to learning about peak oil, the moment that oil extraction, globally, begins its inevitable permanent decline, and how that would impact the U.S. economy and civilization itself. This concerned me so much, that I spent years sharing this information with anyone who would listen, and learning a great deal about money, economics, and yes, this civilization as well.

* How this civilization is consuming (for lack of a clearer term) the living Earth and changing it, the climate, the surface, the oceans, and life itself. Eventually, I developed a mental model of how civilization itself was like an organism (a super organism, a "social organism) which consumed matter and energy, and for which energy is the master resource, which is always sought, and which fuels the ongoing consumption.

These might not be in order, and they certainly will not be abundantly clear in so few words, but there was a period there, roughly a decade, where my entire conception of life, difficulty, and normal changed.

During this time, the most important learning was about normal.

For this, the prime source were the few books of Daniel Quinn, also an educator, who wrote these books with the desire of helping people who were facing difficulty; and more generally, to help the great number of people to understand what normal is, and what normal is not.

Quinn's key works are Ishmael, the Story of B, and My Ishmael; which form an educational trilogy, and illuminate how this civilization is different from anything that came before, and was anything but normal.

Let's consider these ideas for a moment.


Humans evolved on this planet, along and among all the other living things here, for millions of years. Millions and millions. Here we are now, along with all the other living things that are here now, and we are all the ones that were "successful". An unbroken line can be traced from every one of us, back in time, through our ancestors, to the very first living thing(s). We are all here because our ancestors were successful, at every step of the way. Those living things that were not successful? They are extinct. For whatever reason, those lines ended. Perhaps whatever mutation, or adaptation, that occurred in each of those animals made it well suited for something, but when there was a change in the climate, this was actually a disadvantage.

For humans, our ancestors, our nth great grandparents, lived and evolved in small communities (bands, groups, tribes, etc.) and lived our lives in these small communities. Over millions of years, there were mutations, adaptations, changes both in humans physiology and culture, changes which provided them with advantages that made them successful, year after year after year. In fact, there are still communities in the world that live very successful way. They are few. They are the uncontacted peoples, primarily of New Guinea and the Amazon.

For humans who did not have these physiological or cultural changes, they were not successful, and eventually they died out.

Some time, about 10,000 years ago, totalitarian agriculture developed, and that led to the birth of this civilization.

Amongst the many differences, and perhaps the key difference, between the way our ancestors lived before this civilization, and now as part of this civilization, are these:

Eating. When our ancestors ate, they just reached out a hand, grabbed some food, and ate it. They might walk around a bit to see what looked the most edible and tasty, and then they grabbed it and ate it. They might go around as a group, and find some food, and eat it. They might even go out as a group, find some food, eat some, and bring some back to their families and friends. What they never did was to lock up the food, or try to sell the food, or to deny anyone food, or grow much food, or to store massive quantities of food, or to prevent others (including non-human animals) from enjoying the food that was growing.

In this civilization, this is a defining difference. Here, all the food is grown by civilization, shipped, stored, and sold. Where grown, it is "owned", which means that by force, others will be prevented from getting any, and this even includes non-human animals. And, it is not just grown, but the land is literally conquered in order to grow only food for this civilization, and none others. There are mono-crops, and factory farms, and an entire system of distribution that ensures that everyone that has "money" can get some.

Normal is not this. Humans did not evolve for millions of years in civilization. In fact, the physiological evolution which has occurred in humans in the last 10,000 years has been minimal at best. Before that, millions of years, millions and millions, of living as one with the world and the rest of the community of life, and living in communities, which ate together, lived together, shared together, played together, and experienced the world together.

This is normal AND this is what makes us happy. Happiness, of course, is emotion, and emotion is chemical, and chemical is due to evolution. We evolved in small communities, and we were happy. Another way to say that is that animals that enjoy the company of their species are successful because of the mutual advantage of living together. Those human offshoots that might have enjoyed solitude more than community, so much so that they went off to live alone, well, they did not survive.

That was normal. That still is normal. We are physiologically the same as our ancestors, and what made them happy, it also makes us happy.


Contrast this to life our families evolved as part of for millions of years, to what we now experience as commonplace.

* Spending much of our time indoors. Not just indoors, but isolated from the moving air, the sun, the plants, the odors.

* Sitting down, and staying quiet, for not just minutes, but tens of minutes, for hours.

* Interacting with people who we have not known since birth. Not just one or two, but dozens, or hundreds. Being together with dozens or hundreds of strangers for hours and hours and hours upon hours.

* Eating off a plate, in a building, food unidentifiable from its plant or animal origin, mixed together, mashed, fried, pulverized, colored, flavored, sterilized, chemicalized...

* Sitting still and staring at a flat screen, perhaps wiggling our fingers a bit, tapping or twisting, sitting, sitting, sitting, staring, staring, staring...

As a parent of two young children, I think of how their life, especially at school, is anything but normal. They are stuck, in a single room, for most of the day, with a number of other children, of almost exactly the same age, who are very, very restricted in what they are allowed to do, and have a very regimented plan for the day, day after day, and if they do not conform, are given some artificial consequence designed to make them conform.

Yes, this is commonplace, but that does not make it normal.


Some do seem to enjoy this. As a student myself, I did seem to enjoy school, but what I enjoyed about school were tiny bits of school, the bits that were in common with what my ancestors might have enjoyed.

I enjoyed being with my friends, who I would talk and joke with, and who I'd been with for years. (I came from a very small school.) I enjoyed doing something well, for myself. Figuring something out. Seeing my friends. Being listened to by them. Hearing interesting stories. Trying new things, experiments. Thinking interesting thoughts.

And all of this despite the building, and the civilization, not because of it. Notice, I did not mention how much I enjoyed sitting all day, or looking at a blackboard, or reading stale textbooks, etc. I enjoyed the things that anyone would enjoy, despite the not-normal, but commonplace, context.

As the most studious in my class, the things to be enjoyed, I was able to find enough of them to make going to school okay, and sometimes enjoyable on the whole, and I certainly did mostly what I was expected to do in school. For my classmates, some of them at least, their enjoyment level was possibly less, and I suspect in some cases, much less. And, for other students, going to other schools, especially large schools where one knew only a few, if any, other people in the classroom, the enjoyment, I imagine, might be much less, and in fact the opposite, but downright depressing, stressful, tedious, etc.

School, the way it is done here and now, is not normal even if it is commonplace.

How did people evolve to learn? By experiencing things first hand, of course, in youth, surrounded by other youth, and parents, and all experiencing things together. Through exploration of the world. Through going out with the olders and seeing what they were doing, and trying if for oneself. Interacting with others, of all ages, and learning from them. Spending, and enjoying, lots of time together, and lots of time of just play, and joking around, and chasing, and being rambunctious.

For students, now-a-days, school can be difficult. Bullying. Lessons that are boring, or too hard, or irrelevant. Classrooms that are visually sterile. Days which are repetitive, and run on a clock. Movement which is restricted and monitored. Being stuck together, all day, with strangers. Teenagers, moving every hour to a new and equally sterile room, with new sterile seats, and new strangers. Trying to understand about oneself, and life, in this "environment" is difficult at best.

For students, now-a-days, home can be difficult. Bullying. Chores that are boring, or too hard, or irrelevant. Rooms that are devoid of life or nature. Days which seem the same, and run by a clock, often one that seems broken. Movement which is restricted and monitored. Being stuck together, with a very small, a very very small number of people, who are isolated from those in the neighboring houses, and in fact, might never even interact with the neighbors. Teenagers whose only connection to one another might be through a screen, in tiny squiggles and wiggles, or flat images of unnatural places. Trying to understand about oneself, and life, in THIS "environment" is also difficult, at best.

Normal vs. Commonplace

Why can't you be normal?

Because nothing around you is normal.

Your life is not normal.

The life of those around you is not normal.

The "environment" you find yourself in is not normal.

Just because it is common, does not make it normal; or natural; or desirable; or okay; or right; or acceptable.

Everyday, people struggle because they think they are not normal, that something is wrong, that they aren't enjoying what other people enjoy, or that they are sad, or depressed, or they struggle, but they don't understand why.

Living in this civilization is the opposite of normal. It is no surprise that it is a struggle, and difficult, and depressing, and frustrating, and painful.

And thinking about this civilization, and what it is doing to the world, to the living planet, and all the species, and communities, and life upon it; that can be frustrating, and confusing, and infuriating as well.

It is not surprising that people turn inward, or to the few things that they enjoy, or for which they find relief, when everything seems to be confused, and to make no sense, and to be unfair.

The thoughts of "why me" and "is this all there is" are not uncommon, in this civilization.

This civilization is not normal, and so our lives in it can not be normal.

When things get difficult, remember what normal is.

The way people lived and evolved for millions of years, that is normal.

Nothing in this civilization is normal.

Don't confuse normal with commonplace.

This is how I make sense of things I experience, because without that perspective and worldview, everything can be difficult and a mass of confusion.

We live lives that are not normal, in a civilization that is not normal.

How I Live Now

So, given that, what I do is, to try to get normal back into my life, as much as I can

I plan time with people I know, my friends, my family, my children.

I eat real food. Fruits, and veggies, and plants that I can identify as plants and parts of plants.

I get outside, and look at the sky, and the grass, and the trees, and the clouds, and everything that moves and stays still.

I enjoy the things that all animals enjoy, like playing, and running, and tumbling, and jumping (dancing), and watching others going about their lives.

I try to rest, sleep, and not worry about the craziness of my day, or of civilization, or any of the craziness at all.

I think about things, in my own way, and write about them, or create around them.

I learn about whatever I want to learn about, whenever I have a moment to learn about it.

I take everything in this civilization with a grain of salt, and compare it to what normal really is, and then realize that the reason why something isn't working is because there is probably no way to make it work.

I enjoy the things that I know I enjoy, I try to understand what about them I enjoy, and I seek more of that.

It may not be a commonplace life, and I may not think commonplace thoughts, or do all commonplace things, but it is as close to normal as I can get. :-)


Daniel Quinn shared his observations and insights through Ishmael, The Story of B, and My Ishmael. He noticed the struggle people were having, living as part of this civilization, and wrote these works about how things got to be this way. I was so appreciative and curious about his seemingly unique perspective, that I did something I'd never done; I set up a meeting with him, bought a plane ticket to Texas, and spent three days talking with him, on camera, about the content of his books and about these sorts of ideas and beliefs. I came away feeling supported, and refreshed, and confident. Later, I published a session of that conversation to YouTube, so that others could learn as well. While I would not expect all who read those books to experience them in the same way, I certainly recommend them to anyone who asks. :-)
nature, rainbow, journey, road

Boyhood & My Life

Inspiration comes from many places, from nature, from art, from thought.

Watching "Boyhood" by Richard Linklater, director of the Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight, inspires me to put capture a few thoughts about life, my life, my family's life, living in this civilization, and living in this universe.

For those unfamiliar, Richard, along with Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette, filmed Boyhood over 12 years, about 3-days per year, starting with two 7 or 8 year old actors, a boy Ellar Coltrane, and Richard's daughter Lorelei. The first frame, Ellar, playing Mason Jr., laying on the grass at his school, staring upwards, thinking, watching the clouds go by. The last frame, Ellar staring forwards, sitting next to his new friend, a potential romantic interest. In between, scenes from his families life, one scene for each year.

My first reflection is how children grow up so quickly, and how it is really only in retrospect that we see that, and we think back about "oh, why didn't I do this; or, oh, why didn't I do that". I love spending time with my two sons (4 and 7 years old), and when I'm away from them, I often think how much I wish I was just with them at that moment. Oddly, when we're together, my level of motivation is not as high as I imagine it should be, so instead of going for a hike, I send them out to play on their own. It seems like a contradiction, which I can certainly spend some time rationalizing, or which I can instead ponder, as if I were an outside agent, a viewer, looking in.

Ellar and Mason are different. Ellar was written to attend college. Mason is not (yet) attending. Intriguingly, since the film was just released this year, and Ellar is not a big name child actor, he is just now getting recognized for his Mason character, and is coming to grips both with the film, and with what it means to play himself in the film, but at the same time, to play the made up character Mason. Toward the bottom of this article is a video interview featuring Ellar, Ethan and Patricia about coming to grips with this unique film experience, and how it is impacting them all.

I imagine creating such a film with my sons and sister's kids. How fun would that be, to take one long weekend a year to play, and to make a film, not about ourselves, but about our visions of ourselves. I think that, for Richard, it may be his favorite film because he gets to watch Lorelei growing up during it, as probably will his family, and Ellar's family. Now-a-days we can capture, and I do capture, tons of photos and videos of our kids as they grow up, but many of those moments are very normal; the birthday parties, the first days of schools, the holidays. How often do we stop to savor the "moments between the moments", as this film puts it, the talks in the car on the way home, the dinner table conversations, the solitary first drive to college.

After walking through the Chicago Art Institute yesterday, I thought about how, with our phones, we have the capability of all being great personal artists. We can take pictures, record sound, capture video, write down our thoughts.

What moments would I record from the past day?

* The post-timeout talk with my 7 year old, where we talked about him asking for me permission, me saying "no", and him doing it anyway... and my reassurance that I loved him so much, and loved being his dad, and how he was awesome.
* Practicing shooting baskets together, adjusting the seat on his bike, pushing them around and around on the tire swing
* Lifting up my 4-year old, hugging him, carrying him around, telling him how he is so important to me.
* Getting up at night to help my kids to the bathroom, and the little chats we have, and then tucking them back into bed with their too-small yet comfy blankets

Wouldn't it be interesting to have Richard, invisible Richard, follow us around and film these moments, and the moments between those bigger moments.

Life is not about the theme park; it is about what happens despite the theme park.

Which means to me: life isn't about the things that we schedule in our lives, the gymnastics camp, the playground trip, going to school, but the things that happen despite of that.

After all, even though we exist and are part of this civilization and these activities and scheduled things, we are still human, human animals, animals, and exist simultaneously with civilization and despite it. We did not evolve, along with all other life here on Earth, because of civilization, but despite it.

In the very few places where humans still live as part of the world, and apart from this civilization, the children still run and play and jump and interact with their parents, and they learn first and foremost from the people interacting with the natural world around them, and with them as children. This is how humans evolved into this animal we now are, as part of community, learning from that community, about how to live in this world and as part of the culture we are a part of. This is the "normal" that I think of, and the "right" that I think of. What is normal for the kids to do? To be doing? What is the right thing to do with them? What is the right thing for them to be doing?

From this film one can vaguely glimpse the essence of this real "normal" hidden under what this civilization and mother culture tell us is "normal" and "right".

Perhaps this is the last film I should watch, ever. After all, at some point, every one of us will be done watching films. Why not now? :-) How many more hours of my life do I want to allow into my heart and mind to modified and shaped by civilization? Wouldn't writing, drawing, photographing, videoing, creating, playing and interacting be a much more pleasurable and true pursuit.

Mason Jr. asks Mason Sr. (Ethan) what is the meaning and purpose of life. I remember when I a pledge at my fraternity Triangle at the University of Michigan. I was 19, almost 20, and we were assigned to interview all the fraternity brothers, so that we could get to know them. We wrote up our own list of questions, with some suggestions from our pledge manual. One of my own was: "What is the meaning of life?" And, through out my life, I've pondered this, and my answer has grown and changed over these 20 or 30 years that I've been thinking about it. I like Mason Sr.'s answer, that he doesn't know, he's just doing the best he can.

And like the film, this writing does not necessarily have a big studio formula, with a 1st, 2nd, 3rd Act, with rising action, climax, falling action. But, it does feel good just to write, and to see where my thoughts might take me.

During most of this writing, I've looped this song, which plays at during the film credits: "Deep Blue" by Arcade Fire. Normally, I don't listen to the story of lyrics, just words and phrases. One part speaks to me.

Put the cellphone down for a while
In the night there is something wild
Can you hear it breathing?
And hey
Put the laptop down for a while
In the night there is something wild
I feel it, it's leaving me

I did exactly that, putting down the cell phone yesterday, so I could attend to what was going on; and I continued to leave it off this morning so I could do some writing. And, in a few moments, I'm going to put the laptop down, and go outside and perhaps see something wild, and true, and look forward to my kids coming home from gymnastics camp.


Arcade Fire Music/Video/Performance -- music only -- live on stage
nature, rainbow, journey, road

Oh, How Little I Know - a.k.a. - Musing on Collapseniks & Crash on Demand

I'll share some thoughts on the big question: What will I do?

This is the big question after all. We ask ourselves it all the time. Perhaps we phrase it slightly differently, for whatever reason, but this is really what it all comes down to: What will I do?

Last month, one person wrote and shared something a bit unexpected: permaculturist David Holmgren wrote a piece which seeks to convince others to attempt to collapse (or perhaps at least slow) Civilization.

I empathize with that feeling.

The chill outside from this winter, seemingly a result of Civilization's alteration of the global climate, begs the question: Is it time for something better? Or at least, something different?

A key idea, which I'll mention, or reiterate, is that Civilization is a living thing, with all that this implies. For some, this concept might seem obvious, and for others, ridiculous, but reality is reality.

Living things absorb energy and matter, rearrange these things in more complex patterns, and develop the quality of being self perpetuating. Now, I'm sure there are better explanations, and definitions, and I'm sure others have written some -- but that is something for a different work, at (mostly) a different time.

One can think of Civilization as a Person. By civilization, I mean all of the people, and all of the things built by people and machines, that work together to keep everything moving and flowing.

If there were a people, a small number, or a large number, who attempted to hasten the collapse of this civilization (all civilizations collapse and die eventually, as do all other living things), let's call it a euthanasia of sorts, then civilization will do everything possible to continue.

For example, one way to really test the system would be to organize a bank run. The timing would be important, to get the maximum publicity: perhaps something that was going to be televised anyway, a parade perhaps. And, it would take a fair number of people. Some would create the bank run by withdrawing all the cash from the bank. Of course, most branches have very little cash on hand, and some smaller branches have much less than others. There is probably one day of the week that is the lowest cash-on-hand day of the week, and probably the same could be said for a particular day of the month. Internet and/or phone could be used to create a flash bank run mob in numerous banks around the world, simultaneously, or one after another. The point being, that there are exceptional moments in time and space that would be optimum for attempting to initiate a bank run.

I suppose it might work. Some system of Civilization might be fragile enough to fail. And in fact, organisms die not when an entire system dies, but when a single organ dies, typically because of a lack or over abundance of a single something. A heart attack, for example, is a result of a lack of a single thing, oxygen, carried by red blood cells, too few of which can make it to the gasping cells beyond the clogged arteries.

What would Civilization do, in response to this threat of sorts?

Well, some have seen this here and there, with bank runs in Europe, and in failing countries, and in electronic bank runs in the markets. There are mechanisms that would come into play. There would be closings, and press reports, and calming words, and if necessary, people would speak, and the communication of stability would spread to calm the fears.

The most important thing, for the continued survival of Civilization, would be that the food kept getting to where it was consumed, because is long as that happens, as long as people can get food, and be fed, these people of civilization (myself included), then we'll probably keep on participating.

The food distribution system depends on a number of things: good transportation system, energized by a working fuel distribution network with ample retailers, and a function money or credit system, and, of course, with a smooth supply of the fuel itself. There are many vulnerabilities here, which brings to mind the battles in Iraq in recent memory, and how one side attacked the infrastructure, the command and control, and the power stations, and the refineries, and the oil wells (once to burn, and once to secure).

Holgren's piece, I suspect, did not call for a by-all-means-necessary, "this is a war between "the life of Civilization" and "the life of the living planet Earth as we know it".

It's interesting food for thought. Perhaps I'll write a dystopian film screenplay about a brilliant and sensitive community of humans, almost all, members of Civilization, who turn against the very creature they are part of, and become a terminal condition which robs Civilization of its life; but leads to new green grass, and a happier tomorrow. I think that films already been aired, the book already written, and how I'd have to add a sex scene from the hottest movies stars to get green lit.

Until then: What will you do? ,,, and ... Who will you do it with?

nature, rainbow, journey, road

Civilization - The Social Organism

We are part of a single, massive, civilization. Each of us is like a single cell in a massive and multi-cellular organism.

Just as a multi-cellular organism has billions of cells, this civilization consists of billions of humans.

In multi-cellular organisms, cells differ in two major ways. First, they are located in different places in the organism, which means that some are closer to the surface or outside environment, and others are farther away. The second way is that the cells are actually different from one another. In humans, there are about 200 recognized different kinds of cells, each serving a very specific purpose.

Just as cells differentiate, starting with the single cell of the zygote following fertilization, so do humans differentiate, starting from newborns which are (for the most part) identical, to adult members of civilization.

In organisms, cells differentiate, forming tissues, organs, and systems. These work together to ensure that the organism survives. In general, cells transport and transform energy and/or matter.

Organisms, and civilizations, die.

All organisms in the past have died. All organisms currently living will die. All past civilizations have died. This civilization will die as well.

What leads to death? Typically, the death of a group of cells leads to death. It could be cells in the heart, or cells in the brain, or blood cells. The reason for cell death is because the environment changes in some way: too much or too little of something. For heart attacks, it is due to too little oxygen. Then, the heart can stop working, and then the blood stops moving, and then the entire body runs out of oxygen, causing the death of the entire body.

Civilizations die for the same types of reason. An essential system breaks down. That system fails due to the failure of the most critical organ of that system. That organ fails due to a breakdown of part of
nature, rainbow, journey, road

Configuring Updates: Stage 3 of 3 - infinite loop or stuck or freezes or won't boot

Today, I installed a wireless network card in my computer. This is the first time it has had network access in a year or more. The computer is used almost exclusively for editing video.

After the wireless network card was working, I installed a second video card. And after that, a USB3 card.

Before I had a chance to test out the USB3 card, and see that it had the best driver installed, my computer came up with this message, and would only go into a reboot loop: Configuring Updates: Stage 3 of 3.

My operating system is Windows Vista 64 bit.

After attempting many things, including removing all of the cards, unplugging a second hard drive, trying to do a system repair point, booting from a Windows Vista disk, pressing F2 and F12 at startup, etc. I finally searched the Internet and found that the offending file was pending.xml and just renaming it would allow the system to boot completely. Here are the links: