Tuesday, September 15, 2015


If you want wholesome food at wholesale prices delivered to your door for free, check out Thrive Market: http://go.thrv.me/SHhV

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

for the living

Well grey clouds wrapped round the town like elastic
Cars stood like toys made of Taiwanese plastic
The boy laughed at the spastic dancing around in the rain
While laundrettes cleaned clothes, high heals rub toes
Puddles splashed huddles of bus stop crows
Dressed in their suits and their boots well they all look the same

I took myself down to the cafe to find all the boys lost in books and crackling vinyl
And carved out a poem above the urinal that read
Don’t you cry for the lost
Smile for the living
Get what you need and give what you’re given
Life’s for the living so live it
Or you’re better off dead

While the evening pulled the moon out of it’s packet
Stars shone like buttons on an old man’s jacket
We needed a nail but we tacked it ’til it fell off the wall

While pigeons pecked trains, sparks flew like planes
The rain showed the rainbows in the oil stains
And we all had new iPhones but no one had no one to call

And I stumbled down to the stomach of the town
Where the widow takes memories to slowly drown
With a hand to the sky and a mist in her eye she said
Don’t you cry for the lost
Smile for the living
Get what you need and give what you’re given
Life’s for the living so live it
Or you’re better off dead

Well I’m sick of this town, this blind man’s forage
They take your dreams down and stick them in storage
You can have them back son when you’ve paid off your mortgage and loans
Oh hell with this place, I’ll go it my own way
I’ll stick out my thumb and I trudge down the highway
Someday someone must be going my way home

Till then I’ll make my bed from a disused car
With a mattress of leaves and a blanket of stars
And I’ll stitch the words into my heart with a needle and thread
Don’t you cry for the lost
Smile for the living
Get what you need and give what you’re given
You know life’s for the living so live it
Or you’re better off dead

Don’t you cry for the lost
Smile for the living
Get what you need and give what you’re given
Life’s for the living so live it
Or you’re better off dead

Friday, August 29, 2014


There are three great threats to our ephemeral comfort as rulers of this extraordinary planet. 

Climate change
Chemical saturation 

As I lounged on embarrassingly high thread count sheets in my climate-controlled hotel room freshly full of W room service summoned to my door with a mere phone call, after flying across the continent in a gravity-defying aluminum tube, sipping water from a plastic bottle containing tapwater filtered by coca cola and sold to me for more than the per-volume price of gasoline, I watched a tv show about the zombie apocalypse on my iPad with noise canceling headphones insulating me from the world outside both physically and mentally. There could be a blizzard / hurricane / drought outside, but I have glass and steel and climate control to protect me.

The plight of the main characters in my viewing choice, frantically seeking refuge from predators, lamenting their curse of civilization loss and genuinely considering suicide because "there is nothing left," while clearly a deliberate call for audience reflection, is at once effective and absurd. Not 100 years ago the vast majority of the human population, and even today the entirety of the animal kingdom (save household pets), considered those very circumstances simply to be life. Constant fear of predators, endless focus on security and the source of the next meal, no protection from disease or the misdeeds of others -- what are now points of conflict in apocalyptic scripts were so recently everyday reality for all of us. Refrigeration, vaccination, antiseptics, food supply chains, electricity, flight and automotive travel, instant communication, news networks -- all just a few generations old. 

Our collective obsession with comfort and convenience, as we descend Maslov's hierarchy of needs to ever-less important territory will inevitably be our undoing. Flying east from Seattle past Mt. Rainier and into the Cascades on a sunny spring day offering a view from the heavens, I'm struck by the percentage of windowshades pulled down in favor of the on-board entertainment system. 

Have we become so detached from our world that living without microwaves and Netflix constitutes rationale for suicide? 

Yes we've become soft. That's inevitable. But we need not lose our connection to life -- the force that enables out consciousness, not the series of petty annoyances and responsibilities we concoct in suburbia. Life is the breathing, feeling, looking, walking, hearing, digesting, surviving beat of participating in being a creature. It's not the pursuit of the range rover, 6,000 sq ft house, trip to the dry cleaner, soccer practice, and yoga. It's your lungs expanding in your chest. It's adrenaline coursing through your body.

In so many ways, we have conquered life. Most North Americans move through their daily existence without any fear of predators, calamity, or finding their next meal. The needs that haunt 99% of life on this planet are simply covered by modern civilization, but that may -- nay will -- become our undoing. 

It's just math. New, terrifying diseases are statistical certainties. The more people we make, the more likely it becomes that one of them will become the petrie dish that cultivates something apocalyptic. It's unlikely that any one person would be that host, but if it's a 1/6,000,000,000 chance, then it's already happened. I read in an airport recently that there are more people alive today than in the combined history of the species. 

It's obvious from the sky. Fly over the US and witness the scarring. Witness how we've carved our initials into the very face of the planet, paving it, taming it, at once making it both more and less hospitable. 

Thousands of people talk about ecological balance. It's a great idea, but it just isn't possible with 6B of us. We've crossed the tipping point. The chemicals of convenience -- a fun, fancy term for the byproducts of our civilized lives like CO2, mercury runoff, sulfur dioxide, PCBs, BPA, -- will continue to accumulate in our food supply, our environment, and our very own tissue until supersaturation. The compound effects of all of them cannot be calculated or understood in finite detail, but they will continue, cumulative and irreversible. Genetic mutation, allergic sensitivity, and outright system failure will accelerate beyond even the striking levels of 2014. 

Our brains are built for survival. The very instincts that helped us survive 200 years ago -- competitiveness, achievement of greater luxury and station than peers, relentless accumulation, pursuit of convenience, stockpiling of food and shelter and warmth -- were essentially Darwinian mandates in a life focused on bracing against a stiff, cold wind, dodging predators, and competing for a suitable mate. Those same instincts will be our doom.

The problem is that our mastery of those things has outpaced our brains' adaptation. 200 years ago, that primal instinct that drove us to build the best house to protect against the elements, hunt and gather efficiently to protect against the winter and starvation, control our environment to eliminate predators, and compete with our peers to breed and continue the species kept us alive. Those same instincts today don't translate well in a life in which those threats cease to exist. Those instincts today manifest in a bigger SUV built from metals carved from the earth and melted from ore, coated with skins torn from animals and tanned with toxic chemicals synthesized in city-sized refineries, non-degradable rubbers and plastics harvested from rain forests and petroleum reserves at unimaginable environmental cost, and powered by ancient fluids pulled from the sea and desert floor, transported across virgin landscapes, and brought to the surface by injecting toxic slurry into the groundwater and fracturing the very ground beneath our feet. Thirst for those fluids leads to war, which leads to development of new weapons requiring more chemicals and more destruction, and endless strife that pits us against each other.

We just aren't built to be this smart. We are designed as fundamentally selfish creatures to help our own survival, but now that such survival is all but assured for ever-expanding life expectancies, that design is starting to turn on itself. We don't know what to do with our energies, so we create a world in which our strawberries grow from genetically modified seeds, get doused in chemicals, wrapped in plastic, and shipped 6,000 miles so we can burn 3 gallons of fuel to drive a 4,000 pound hunk of lamb-skin-wrapped steel across town to the climate controlled Whole Foods because they have the "freshest" berries rather than bending down and picking one from our own backyard. 

Despite the irony of the term, it's our very nature that will eventually doom us. I don't know there is much we can do beyond waiting for the next thing, and adapting to our new condition, but in the meantime, we should steel ourselves against the inevitable challenges that will evolve to replace the ones we've solved. Rising sea levels, climate change, more allergies, increased autism rates, more traffic, more war, food shortages, new diseases spreading at alarming rates. And less beauty.

I'm not planning to build an underground bunker, stock it with canned goods, ammunition, and board games, but I'm starting to get why some do. So back to my no-foam, non-fat latte in the paper cup with the ring of corrugated cardboard to protect by moisturized and manicured fingers from the near boiling liquid inside paid for with my rare-metals-containing smartphone connected to some data center via radio-waves and strands of glass buried in the ground as I now sit in a pleather chair atop a synthetic carpet with rubber backing to protect my delicate, leather-clad feet and wool-adorned back from the stiffness of the underlying steel and concrete construction of this particular airport where I will re-enter the magic aluminum tube to spirit away at 500 mph at 35000 feet while burning a swimming-pool's worth of Jet-A and creating a couple tons of CO2 so I can drive my steel/leather/plastic machine back across 30 miles of asphalt to my brick, gypsum, wood, rubber, copper, and fiberglass house filled with plastics and metals and chemicals but also filled with the love of my family for whose simplest comfort and protection I would happily pollute the planet, out-compete my fellow man, and continue to play my part in our unstoppable march "forward." 


1. Everyone -- and I do mean everyone -- needs to stop blowing stuff up. Period.
2. 9-year olds shouldn't shoot Uzis. 
3. Ebola is terrifying
4. ISIS/ISIL is terrifying
5. I rather like the idea that the police have bigger guns than the bad guys. I do wish they would use them more appropriately, however. 
6. I prefer my president to be deliberative about war -- even if that means the collective video-game curiosity of the citizenry isn't satisfied quite quickly enough. 

That's it. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Good and Bad

Why some companies can do great things while others...

Google announced the purchase of 407 Megawatts of wind power from MidAmerican Energy (a Berkshire Hathaway company). Likewise, they've invested heavily in both wind and solar around North America. To date, they've poured more than $1,000,000,000 (with a "B") into renewable energy, not to mention their $2B Nest purchase which will inevitably evolve to a demand response / efficiency powerhouse. 

They didn't have to. They could have acquired cheaper power to drive their data centers. -- power derived from Coal and Oil and Natural Gas -- but they didn't. They chose the more expensive version because it is just better for the world (and their brand).

I guess that's why some companies are bad companies, most companies are good companies, but every now and then there comes a truly great company: a human endeavor with a mission to make things better for everyone. 

Gives one hope. 

That and they have a really good search engine. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Why is this a debate?

We know that vaccines just plain work for their intended purpose (80% efficacy for Chicken Pox, right around 100% for the others, including elimination of truly awful diseases like Polio). So what's the other side of the debate that drives all the heat and emotion? 

It's my understanding that the autism question has been asked and answered as not related by repeated studies since the initial falsified study. The toxicity of the preservatives has been studied by WHO, FDA, and Institute of Medicine and found to not pose a safety risk, and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) rates have continued to rise since use of the suspected culprit (thiomersal / thimerosal) ceased. We know the Wakefield/Lancet/McCarthy thing has been refuted a few times now. We know that an army of acronyms have subsequently searched for a connection and found none.

I reviewed the side effects for MMR/MMRV, DTaP, Polio, Meningococcal, Varicella, and a couple others at the CDC's website, and I didn't see one that outweighed either statistically or otherwise, the benefit of not contracting the target ailment. So while I can appreciate the fear of the unknown in anything, including vaccines, I have trouble seeing how the benefit of 100% protection against highly contagious and life-threatening diseases that pose individual AND public safety risk wouldn't every time outweigh the possibility that there is some as yet unidentified problem with the prevention mechanism. 

Am I missing the other side completely? Is there another dimension of risk that the collective health establishment is hiding from us beyond the listed side effects? I'm asking about this in the context of today, after the understandable concerns from 10-15 years ago have been studied and addressed. I'm asking why there is a Measles outbreak in Canada, where that disease was eradicated 20 years ago. I'm asking why we're hearing of Mumps cases in the US where it was eradicated years ago. I get why we're hearing of Polio in war-torn countries like Iraq and Syria where basic medical care took a back seat to dodging artillery, but Measles in Vancouver where MMR is free? 

I've heard the arguments about skipping childhood vaccinations being a "personal choice." I've heard the arguments that the anti-vaccine community should be left alone as they intend no harm to anyone.  

The problem is the logic. It's not just a personal choice -- that decision affects other people. There are people who cannot get vaccines either because their immune systems are compromised or because they are simply too young (most doctors won't give MMR until a child is at least 12 months old). Those vulnerable groups count on others to be inoculated to create herd immunity / inoculation by proxy. 

The problem I have with the "well-intended" argument is that nobody of sound mind has the "intent" to do harm with communicable disease. Whether one group "intends" to harm the other is scientifically irrelevant. Intent isn't a vector, and lack of intent isn't an inoculation. I can intend to not give my next cold to my wife, but that intent and $2.50 will get me a cup of coffee and nothing more. 

I can find statistics on the efficacy of MMR and company. The numbers tell a story for me. I am still open to understanding the other side of the debate, but I'd like to see some numbers. I have trouble with nebulous assertions around unknown risk of undefined nature when compared to published facts (admittedly sourced through google, so feel free to correct). On the Pro-MMR side, let's just take the first "M" where I have seen: Near 100% immunity against a disease with a 90% infection rate and a 0.3% mortality rate in the US, closer to 20-30% in developing world. On the Anti-MMR side, I saw one citation of life-threatening reactions in <0.0001% of vaccinations. That's a .27% bad-outcome chance vs. a 0.0001% bad-outcome chance. No contest.

We all agree that the preservatives of 15 years ago have been both removed and shown as non-toxic and that the ASD connection is a fallacy, so that's not an issue and will be no longer discussed. 

There are also less severe reactions to both the disease and the vaccine that should be considered. For example, 1-in-6 (18%) chance of fever after vaccine vs 1-in-1 (100%) chance of fever after infection. 1-in-20 (5%) chance of mild rash after vaccine, 1-in-1 (100%) chance of rash after infection. 1-in-3000 (0.033%) chance of single-event seizure after vaccine, vs 1-in-20 (5%) chance of pneumonia after infection and 1-in-1000 (0.1%) chance of encephalitis (which can cause convulsions, brain damage, etc.). Are there other numbers I'm not considering?

With those types of numbers, the only case in which a parent would feel better off skipping vaccines is if they somehow believed their child was more likely to be the 1 in 100,000 than to be 1 in 2,700, and while math skills aren't what they used to be in North America, I still have a hard time believing there are too many parents who would make that mistake.  


Some comments on business news today

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin signed SB 1456 allowing Utilities in Oklahoma to request to add a surcharge to utility bills for customers who opt for Distributed Generation like rooftop solar panels, local generators, or even personal wind turbines. 

In a society where we continually wrestle with the environmental and geopolitical impacts of our current energy strategy -- Hydraulic Fracturing, Air & Water Pollution from Coal and Oil, Fukushima recovery, Climate Change, Foreign Oil, the Oil Sands extraction drama -- and the high costs of changing course -- lost jobs, higher prices, shareholder returns -- why would we burden a promising yet nascent alternative approach to energy with an additional cost just as it has become economical enough to attain market success? It's one step forward and two steps back. 

I understand the utilities need to update their transmission and other facilities to deal with DG and net metering and all the associated complexities. I understand that the economics of their original rate cases didn't account for Distributed Generation so they need to make up for that, but even in the monopolistic, hyper-regulated world of the utilities industry, at some point regulators and politicians need to stop overtly obstructing innovation in favor of protecting the IOU shareholders. 

Darwinian economics must take over at some point, and giving the utilities a way to generate revenue from someone else's product that customers purchase specifically to avoid sending money to the utility in the first place is just plain backwards and defeats the principles of a market economy. 

SB 1456 effectively states that if you as a customer find a way to save $20/month on your electric bill through DG, then we are going to have you pay some of that savings back to the electric utility because they didn't plan for the possibility that you might not use enough of their electricity. What's next, charging customers for turning off their lights?