Current location: California
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 20,596
Current location: California
Member since: 2002
Number of posts: 20,596
I'm a very dangerous fellow when I don't know what I'm doing.
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... empire and oligarchy.
As a former science teacher I'm appalled that adolescents are chained to their seats by threats of punishment and failure as they are force-fed "facts" so they can pass bubble tests. The artists, authors, musicians, mathematicians and scientists who continue on to college and success seem to do so in spite of this rote training as adolescents, not because of it.
Self-discipline is obviously a required skill in any sort of education, but highly energetic adolescents really ought to be doing most of their geology and biology out in the field, their math and physics in robust well-equipped laboratories, and their art in messy well supplied studios.
Every field of human endeavor requires math, reading, and writing skills. Learning these skills ought to be encouraged by the natural curiosity of a child in whatever field of arts and sciences they are drawn to.
Actual physical accomplishment -- making things -- is an important part of the process. Building robots, painting pictures, writing and performing music, restoring wetlands, cooking, gardening... most anything.
I was a lucky kid. My parents are both artists who had day jobs that adequately supported their family. Our household was a very rich environment full of books and magazines, and plenty of interesting, unprogrammed things to do. I got decent grades in middle and high school, but I hated it so much I quit high school.
Curiously, of all my siblings, it's my sister and I, the two who quit high school, who went on to graduate from top-tier universities. Our other siblings went into business. Yes, they've made more money than us, but there were times they were extremely miserable too.
One of my siblings quit a high paying corporate executive position because the corporation was flying him all over North America but not leaving him any spare time to explore. They probably knew he'd be resigning when he started answering phone calls at two in the morning with, "Is anybody going to die? No? Call me in the morning." Sad to say, he probably got that from me and my wife. We both had jobs at the time where people could potentially die if we didn't leap right up out of bed. My wife still has a job like that. Our dogs freak out when she's on-call and her pager goes off. They can smell the stress.
My wife and I provided a rich environment for our own kids (minus most of the religious insanity I suffered as a kid) and they were straight-A students throughout high school, and accepted to excellent colleges. Our youngest will be graduating this year. But overall, I don't think their K-12 school education was optimal. But we did shield them from the worst of it, and thank goodness, schoolyard bullying is not tolerated the way it was when I was in school. No teacher or administrator ever told my kids to "man up," fight back, or that they were somehow attracting harassment and physical assaults. That happened to me almost every time I complained about bullying. All I really learned from it was not to complain and be invisible as I could. These "life-skills" were never beneficial to me, but possibly useful to a handful of soul-sucking and abusive employers I've suffered.
Posted by hunter | Mon Dec 15, 2014, 12:04 PM (0 replies)
Turns out it was just a guest pass.
Posted by hunter | Fri Dec 5, 2014, 03:31 PM (0 replies)
My parents had too many kids too fast, more than they could handle.
We were safe and protected, my mom can be a grizzly bear, but that wasn't always a good thing. The school administration was often afraid to call her whenever I was in trouble. She'd either tear into me if it was my fault, or tear into them. It was usually best if the school put me outside picking up garbage or doing my schoolwork in the library.
On bad school days, I'd simply leave. That was my pattern in middle and high school. If the school called my mom to tell them I was missing, she'd usually say something like "Oh, he'll be home for dinner," and I usually was.
I quit high school for college, was asked to leave college twice, but eventually graduated, and my parents never knew any of the details of that. It was much like the shrapnel I sometimes took in my experiments with rockets and explosives. My brother, one day, after picking shrapnel out of my backside, told my mom I'd fallen into the rose bush. I'm not sure she believed that, but I'm not sure she wanted to know more either.
That's not a good thing. My wife and I, with our own kids, tried to maintain a happy medium between the anarchy I grew up in, and "helicopter parent."
Two of my siblings left home at sixteen, not because of any neglect or abuse, but because they were already self-sufficient. The two of us who quit high school are university graduates with further postgraduate educations. My youngest sibling stayed in the family home through high school and junior college after my parents retired from their day jobs and left to become full time artists.
I've never wanted to be anything more than a hunter-gatherer, parent, storyteller, evolutionary biologist, and pyromaniac artist. My parents named me well and never tried to break my spirit.
Posted by hunter | Tue Dec 2, 2014, 12:49 PM (0 replies)
Any car at all.
I bought a new car once when I was young and foolish and poisoned by newly experienced testosterone floods. I won't do that again. I deeply resent how so-called adults in this society, those who do not live in urban areas with good public transportation, are expected to own and drive automobiles lest they be considered not fully functional human beings.
Not once in my life have I considered driving a car to be a valid "rite of passage" or privilege of adulthood. I'm a licensed driver and have been since I was sixteen but I don't usually carry my license with me. I've only been in one accident, when I was nineteen. It hurt bad, it was expensive, but I was insured and fully recovered.
As an eccentric mostly harmless white guy I can get away with challenging "papers please" fascism. I know my driver's license number, my car insurance card is in my glove box, and the picture downloaded onto any modern patrol car's computer looks like me and matches the name and address on the insurance card.
The thirty year old piece of shit car I drive is a form of protest. I mock the shiny new Lexus or Mercedes. The only thing I wash and polish on the outside of my car are the windows and mirrors. My car has lichen growing on it, like a rock in the wilderness, or the tiles on the roof of my house..
This Thanksgiving I drove hundreds of miles to my brother's house for the holiday, and then Saturday to the memorial service of a childhood friend. It would have been a much nicer visit for me if I'd been able to sleep on a train, especially for the trip back. I was burned out on life but not quite a danger to myself or others on the highway, well more functional than drunk/distracted-by-smart-phone/sleepy/horny/blasting-heavy-metal/little-kids-screaming/air-conditioning-on-high-in-my-face/distracted-by-work-stress levels of typical automobile driver irresponsibility.
But I was still hurting, relying on pain and my fuck-it-all mental state of mind to keep me driving home in 100% plus driver awareness. I even saw a bald eagle on an insulated-top-wire power pole in San Ardo. That was cool. That's why the insulation is on that line, for the eagles and the condors. In the bad old days bald or golden eagles and California condors would spread their wings and be electrocuted. Good people fixed that.
But when I got home, safe from automobile driver danger, I got really, really, angry. My childhood friend, not in an entirely direct way, was killed by our automobile culture. He was severely injured in a transportation industry accident directly related to our automobile culture. He was something of a wizard with coastal construction, often highway construction, on sand and other unstable ground. As a consequence of the accident his driving skills were impaired . Later he wrecked his personal automobile and lost his ability to drive and driver's license entirely. From there it was a downhill spiral of angry self-isolation, pain-killers, and alcohol.
For any number of reasons, from the perspective of individual humans to the entire earth's natural environment, the automobile culture needs to die. We humans can kill it (with extreme prejudice) or wait for Mother Nature to do it by far uglier means.
Posted by hunter | Mon Dec 1, 2014, 05:26 PM (1 replies)
Years ago, before I had my shit together enough to play well with others and understand some basic rules of society, I was body surfing naked in the moonlight, sometime past midnight.
Some concerned citizen probably thought I was suicidal and trying to drown myself, so they called the police. I always look suicidal in heavier surf, with or without a board. A true danger to myself and others. That's partly why I was out there at night, nobody wanted me around in the sunlight.
Anyways, I came out of the surf and was looking for my clothes on the beach when the police arrived. In the moonlight a pile of clothes and a blue backpack look remarkably similar to piles of washed up kelp.
Fortunately it was a community where the police were tolerant of a few eccentric citizens, and not long past the age of streaking and other frivolous nudity.
With the assistance of a police flashlight we found my stuff, I put on my clothes, and got a free ride home.
Posted by hunter | Wed Nov 12, 2014, 06:19 PM (1 replies)
For every corporate foray into GMO foods I'd like to see publicly and privately funded efforts, magnitudes greater, to preserve heirloom genetic combinations and to create new Free and Open Source varieties of fruits, grains, nuts, and vegetables. A development process that works for computer software ought to work for potatoes too.
Imagine if there was a non-patented, non GMO potato, that competed favorably with this potato, and could be further developed by farmers to suit their local environments and practices. The world would be a wealthier place.
Monoculture of patented food varieties creates vast deserts lacking in biodiversity. That's bad.
Posted by hunter | Sat Nov 8, 2014, 12:25 PM (4 replies)
Anyone who thinks I'd be better off without meds is welcome to take me in for the experiment. All I require is an internet connection, some plain food (rice and beans will do; I'll find or grow any other food I need) and somewhere to sleep. For all I care it could be a shack in your backyard and a pile of clean rags.
I'm always ready to reestablish a reputation with some local community as an off-my-meds eccentric but mostly harmless dumpster-diving semi-homeless guy. I may be living in your shack (or not) at various times, or hours, but I might also disappear for weeks at a time and if you are any kind of compassionate person you will wonder if I am dead or held against my will somewhere. Probably not, I'm just wandering, oblivious to clocks and calendars.
My grandfather was a similar sort but his obsessions and compulsions were useful to the Army Air Force during the Second World War, and later the space program including the Apollo Project. (My own obsessions are rarely useful, not in this society.) My grandfather's doctors prescribed amphetamines. He lived 90+ years, so drug abuse obviously wasn't a problem.
It would be interesting to know a little more about him but mental health issues were kept deeply in the closet in past days. Intriguingly, mathematician Paul Erdős used amphetamines too. (That drug has no appeal to me at all. Blechhhhhh.)
The drug warriors always claim drug use is the cause of problems when it's usually the other way around. Sure people can slide down the slippery slope of addiction and abuse, but for the most part drugs are very useful for many sorts of chronic health problems including mental illness.
Nevertheless I think our culture could reduce drug use by being less cruel to people who are different in some way and by treating addiction as an ordinary public health problem.
Robin Williams was taking these meds to keep himself out of some unimaginably terrible mental state. The odds are these drugs didn't put him there, they were simply not working, the same way an antibiotic might not work against some infections, or a few aspirins might not effectively treat some sorts of pain.
Posted by hunter | Sat Nov 8, 2014, 12:02 PM (0 replies)
Free shade and "fuel" for employee and customer vehicles, all in one.
It's already reality in some places. My own community has a few solar parking lots.
Nobody should have to buy fuel to drive to work or go out shopping.
I'd personally prefer a world where legs either natural or electrically powered artificial were the dominant form of transportation. Nevertheless, electric scooters, motorcycles, and automobiles are still much preferable to the stinky fossil fueled machines most of us now drive.
Example of electric legs:
Similar machines have also been built as exo-skeletons for people suffering paralysis.
Ordinary walking (even for those whose natural legs don't work or are lost), solar powered rail and bus and doorstep self driving car transportation, and very comfortable high technology sailing ships... these are my utopia.
Posted by hunter | Mon Nov 3, 2014, 07:12 PM (2 replies)
Don't need to explain that.
A health care provider asking for a hug and a drink and a laugh when they get off work on a dead baby day isn't asking too much.
And yes, some sorts of health care professionals are simply assholes (the cold surgeon stereotype...) but maybe if they weren't thick-skinned assholes they wouldn't be able to do their jobs. I'd want a heart surgeon who is a good mechanic. His bedside manner wouldn't matter so much if it didn't interfere with his work.
On the other hand, I once had personal work experiences with a heart transplant surgeon who was such a humongous asshole it did interfere with his work because nobody wanted to work with him. He eventually got fired for his abusive behavior toward other hospital staff, especially women. My supervisor had us all documenting his bad behavior.
I used to work closely with transplant techs. OMG, in a relaxed break room setting they were a clique of Addams Family Gothic. Some of them even dressed the part in subtle ways. I think I understand... removing usable body parts from brain dead people who are still warm... I cannot imagine doing that. But that's what they do to save the lives of others who still have a chance of survival. Underneath the thick black body armor the transplant techs were among the kindest, most gentle, altruistic people I've ever met.
I'm not in the medical professions any more, maybe I'm too sensitive for that, but I have immediate family who still are. I prefer computers. If something goes horribly wrong you can halt the system and revert to previous images for as long as fixing the problem takes. Human beings, so far as we know, don't have backup copies.
Posted by hunter | Mon Oct 20, 2014, 02:48 PM (0 replies)
Too many people want language to be their reality.
Telling stories is so much easier for us than collecting the data and doing the math.
Storytelling languages often get confusing because words are often created and applied to natural phenomena and objects before they are understood.
An example would be the assertion that electrons have a "negative" charge. It doesn't matter much to the math, but the storytelling language implies that the common "ground" of one's automobile is a sink for electrons, not a source. Yet the "negative" ground is actually the electron "source" using hydraulic analogies of electric current, and these storytelling hydraulic analogies themselves have their own limitations. Comparing the electrons in a copper wire to water in a pipe introduces some very serious misconceptions about the nature of electromagnetism.
As a kid I built a relay computer, all "Direct Current," conceptually easy, right? DAMN that machine gave me some nasty shocks, as bad as anything I'd gotten playing with AC powered vacuum tube equipment.
How?, I wondered. With the relay machine disconnected I could touch both terminals of the DC power supply and feel nothing. But at finer levels of understanding one recognizes that all circuits are Alternating Current. In the case of an older flashlight, two "D" cells, a switch, and an incandescent bulb, the AC effects are negligible. As soon as a circuit gets more complicated, they are not.
The first transatlantic telephone cable was a horribly expensive failure because the "scientific" stories it's designers and financiers believed did not reflect reality.
In higher education undoing these misconceptions caused by rote memorization of "facts" expressed in the languages of storytelling is often more difficult than teaching a more accurate representation of reality in the languages of math and science.
If I was teaching astronomy to younger kids, I'd start with the visible planets, hopefully in a clear dark nighttime sky setting with a few planets visible. And then I'd build up from that observational foundation. A kid sitting in a classroom who has simply memorized the names of the "nine planets in our solar system" doesn't really know anything. It's just words.
Posted by hunter | Mon Oct 20, 2014, 12:15 PM (0 replies)