Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas


I used to really hate Christmas. It was always a time of extreme stress and difficult human dynamics compressed into a short time span. Now, finally, Christmas exists as the time I get to see good friends and hang out with family and friends. That said, the holidays are still exhausting, because often you only have a few scheduled hours to see people, you don't get to see very often. Those scheduled hours are all scheduled back to back and my ability to be fully present in them declines as the holiday goes on, leaving me sitting on a couch exhausted.


It has made me realize that in some way the holidays are what I thought real life would be. Seeing friends, hearing their stories and either commiserating or congratulating them on some new step in life. Instead, real life seems to be working, driving places, chores and bills and the holidays are an exception to that reality. So then I end up trying to squeeze real life into 4 short days and of course it is exhausting and somehow unfulfilling.


Of course the real answer is to be more present and aware during the rest of the year. Focus on what is being said in email and phone calls. Live life deliberately.


I am glad I no longer hate Christmas. That is progress. Now I only need to fix me the rest of the year:)


From David Foster Wallace:

By way of example, let's say it's an average adult day, and you get up in the morning, go to your challenging, white-collar, college-graduate job, and you work hard for eight or ten hours, and at the end of the day you're tired and somewhat stressed and all you want is to go home and have a good supper and maybe unwind for an hour, and then hit the sack early because, of course, you have to get up the next day and do it all again. But then you remember there's no food at home. You haven't had time to shop this week because of your challenging job, and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket. It's the end of the work day and the traffic is apt to be: very bad. So getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when you finally get there, the supermarket is very crowded, because of course it's the time of day when all the other people with jobs also try to squeeze in some grocery shopping. And the store is hideously lit and infused with soul-killing muzak or corporate pop and it's pretty much the last place you want to be but you can't just get in and quickly out; you have to wander all over the huge, over-lit store's confusing aisles to find the stuff you want and you have to manoeuvre your junky cart through all these other tired, hurried people with carts (et cetera, et cetera, cutting stuff out because this is a long ceremony) and eventually you get all your supper supplies, except now it turns out there aren't enough check-out lanes open even though it's the end-of-the-day rush. So the checkout line is incredibly long, which is stupid and infuriating. But you can't take your frustration out on the frantic lady working the register, who is overworked at a job whose daily tedium and meaninglessness surpasses the imagination of any of us here at a prestigious college.

But anyway, you finally get to the checkout line's front, and you pay for your food, and you get told to "Have a nice day" in a voice that is the absolute voice of death. Then you have to take your creepy, flimsy, plastic bags of groceries in your cart with the one crazy wheel that pulls maddeningly to the left, all the way out through the crowded, bumpy, littery parking lot, and then you have to drive all the way home through slow, heavy, SUV-intensive, rush-hour traffic, et cetera et cetera.


Everyone here has done this, of course. But it hasn't yet been part of you graduates' actual life routine, day after week after month after year.


But it will be. And many more dreary, annoying, seemingly meaningless routines besides. But that is not the point. The point is that petty, frustrating crap like this is exactly where the work of choosing is gonna come in. Because the traffic jams and crowded aisles and long checkout lines give me time to think, and if I don't make a conscious decision about how to think and what to pay attention to, I'm gonna be pissed and miserable every time I have to shop. Because my natural default setting is the certainty that situations like this are really all about me. About MY hungriness and MY fatigue and MY desire to just get home, and it's going to seem for all the world like everybody else is just in my way. And who are all these people in my way? And look at how repulsive most of them are, and how stupid and cow-like and dead-eyed and nonhuman they seem in the checkout line, or at how annoying and rude it is that people are talking loudly on cell phones in the middle of the line. And look at how deeply and personally unfair this is.


Or, of course, if I'm in a more socially conscious liberal arts form of my default setting, I can spend time in the end-of-the-day traffic being disgusted about all the huge, stupid, lane-blocking SUV's and Hummers and V-12 pickup trucks, burning their wasteful, selfish, 40-gallon tanks of gas, and I can dwell on the fact that the patriotic or religious bumper-stickers always seem to be on the biggest, most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest [responding here to loud applause] (this is an example of how NOT to think, though) most disgustingly selfish vehicles, driven by the ugliest, most inconsiderate and aggressive drivers. And I can think about how our children's children will despise us for wasting all the future's fuel, and probably screwing up the climate, and how spoiled and stupid and selfish and disgusting we all are, and how modern consumer society just sucks, and so forth and so on.


You get the idea.


If I choose to think this way in a store and on the freeway, fine. Lots of us do. Except thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic that it doesn't have to be a choice. It is my natural default setting. It's the automatic way that I experience the boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I'm operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the centre of the world, and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world's priorities.


The thing is that, of course, there are totally different ways to think about these kinds of situations. In this traffic, all these vehicles stopped and idling in my way, it's not impossible that some of these people in SUV's have been in horrible auto accidents in the past, and now find driving so terrifying that their therapist has all but ordered them to get a huge, heavy SUV so they can feel safe enough to drive. Or that the Hummer that just cut me off is maybe being driven by a father whose little child is hurt or sick in the seat next to him, and he's trying to get this kid to the hospital, and he's in a bigger, more legitimate hurry than I am: it is actually I who am in HIS way.


Or I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket's checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, and that some of these people probably have harder, more tedious and painful lives than I do.


Again, please don't think that I'm giving you moral advice, or that I'm saying you are supposed to think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it. Because it's hard. It takes will and effort, and if you are like me, some days you won't be able to do it, or you just flat out won't want to.


But most days, if you're aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she's not usually like this. Maybe she's been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it's also not impossible. It just depends what you want to consider. If you're automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won't consider possibilities that aren't annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.


Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're gonna try to see it.


This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't. You get to decide what to worship.


Because here's something else that's weird but true: in the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And the compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing to worship--be it JC or Allah, be it YHWH or the Wiccan Mother Goddess, or the Four Noble Truths, or some inviolable set of ethical principles--is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough, never feel you have enough. It's the truth. Worship your body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly. And when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally grieve you. On one level, we all know this stuff already. It's been codified as myths, proverbs, clich├ęs, epigrams, parables; the skeleton of every great story. The whole trick is keeping the truth up front in daily consciousness.


Worship power, you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to numb you to your own fear. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart, you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. But the insidious thing about these forms of worship is not that they're evil or sinful, it's that they're unconscious. They are default settings.


They're the kind of worship you just gradually slip into, day after day, getting more and more selective about what you see and how you measure value without ever being fully aware that that's what you're doing.


And the so-called real world will not discourage you from operating on your default settings, because the so-called real world of men and money and power hums merrily along in a pool of fear and anger and frustration and craving and worship of self. Our own present culture has harnessed these forces in ways that have yielded extraordinary wealth and comfort and personal freedom. The freedom all to be lords of our tiny skull-sized kingdoms, alone at the centre of all creation. This kind of freedom has much to recommend it. But of course there are all different kinds of freedom, and the kind that is most precious you will not hear much talk about much in the great outside world of wanting and achieving.... The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day.


That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.


I know that this stuff probably doesn't sound fun and breezy or grandly inspirational the way a commencement speech is supposed to sound. What it is, as far as I can see, is the capital-T Truth, with a whole lot of rhetorical niceties stripped away. You are, of course, free to think of it whatever you wish. But please don't just dismiss it as just some finger-wagging Dr Laura sermon. None of this stuff is really about morality or religion or dogma or big fancy questions of life after death.


The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death.

It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over:


"This is water."

"This is water."

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Constructive activities

Alas, it has been forever since I last posted. Life has gotten overwhelmingly hectic and complicated. I chaperoned a BAGLY dance last night, which felt good but also had the effect of reminding me of just how much adolescence sucks ass. On the upside, I also went to my first woodworking class, which was kind of awesome. I highly doubt that I will ever be a master craftsman, but it felt cool to actually use power tools and get over how scary they sound.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Constructive Ideas

I have been thinking in terms of activities that I can do now to lower my carbon footprint (getting off of airplanes was a huge leap in that direction) and improve the quality of my food supply. I am thinking that it will be crucial in any food constrained situation to know how to preserve food that you grow during harvest season. I found this:

NOFA/Mass is a community including farmers, gardeners, landscapers and consumers working to educate members and the general public about the benefits of local organic systems based on complete cycles, natural materials, and minimal waste for the health of individual beings, communities and the living planet.


So I am going to start incorporating into my schedule efforts to learn real skills that help the environment and help me feel like I am contributing to possible alternatives rather than just being complicit in the problems. Other items on the list: woodworking, sewing and possibly refurbishment.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

New Direction

So I spent a week on a third world beach and came back to my beautiful home, good friends, family and proper soap. I also realized that the daily onslaught of the end is near news is too overwhelming to digest and not really helpful. So for a little while, I am going to try a new direction. I am going to post the best ideas that our out there on how to change the direction we are going. Links to books and articles of people who are thinking through possibilities for the future. I hope you enjoy. Here are some starters.

In effect, deep-down we all want to be told what to do, and to be part of a cause or movement which is greater than ourselves. This could be the Armed Forces, an organized religion, a political party, a global corporation, a Central State or one of its many fiefdoms.

Do we cling so tightly to these ideologically appealing, quasi-religious failed ideas because we fear not having any replacement ideas? Or do we cling to these failed ideas because we fear the decline of the Power Elites and the Empire? Or are we suffering from a grand failure of imagination, as I have suggested here before? Questioning "Progress" and the Poverty of our Imagination (June 11, 2010) .

Points one and three are related (and point two is a product of fatally identifying our well-being with the interests of our oppressors, i.e. Dow Jones = "our economic health"). Our fear of not having replacement ideas (and not knowing how they may work in advance) is cutting off our imagination. Without the fear and with a dose of analysis and creativity, many of the innovative ideas are really pretty obvious. They just require a kind of dynamic work and thinking ethic that most people are not prepared to make at this point (at least until they are forced into it, which is coming soon).

We need to have some guideposts in place about what CANNOT work and what CAN. The "cannot" is taken care of by rigorous observation and effort over mere convenient and lazy wish. The "can" is taken care of by creativity, initiative, and perhaps most importantly a new ethic for living which sees challenge as desirable, spontaneous communal commitment and innovation as fun and fulfilling, and social well-being as the point of individual effort rather than personal aggrandizement.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The system is broken

Sometimes you sit in your house with the electricity running, clean water coming through the pipes, food in the refrigerator and think how fcuked up can it really be? Really fcuked up is the answer.

Berry writes in “The Peace of Wild Things”:

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

You fcuking a**holes

Seriously?

The Dutch fall into the first group. Three days after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began on April 20, the Netherlands offered the U.S. government ships equipped to handle a major spill, one much larger than the BP spill that then appeared to be underway. "Our system can handle 400 cubic metres per hour," Weird Koops, the chairman of Spill Response Group Holland, told Radio Netherlands Worldwide, giving each Dutch ship more cleanup capacity than all the ships that the U.S. was then employing in the Gulf to combat the spill.

To protect against the possibility that its equipment wouldn't capture all the oil gushing from the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, the Dutch also offered to prepare for the U.S. a contingency plan to protect Louisiana's marshlands with sand barriers. One Dutch research institute specializing in deltas, coastal areas and rivers, in fact, developed a strategy to begin building 60-mile-long sand dikes within three weeks.

The Dutch know how to handle maritime emergencies. In the event of an oil spill, The Netherlands government, which owns its own ships and high-tech skimmers, gives an oil company 12 hours to demonstrate it has the spill in hand. If the company shows signs of unpreparedness, the government dispatches its own ships at the oil company's expense. "If there's a country that's experienced with building dikes and managing water, it's the Netherlands," says Geert Visser, the Dutch consul general in Houston.

In sharp contrast to Dutch preparedness before the fact and the Dutch instinct to dive into action once an emergency becomes apparent, witness the American reaction to the Dutch offer of help. The U.S. government responded with "Thanks but no thanks," remarked Visser, despite BP's desire to bring in the Dutch equipment and despite the no-lose nature of the Dutch offer --the Dutch government offered the use of its equipment at no charge. Even after the U.S. refused, the Dutch kept their vessels on standby, hoping the Americans would come round. By May 5, the U.S. had not come round. To the contrary, the U.S. had also turned down offers of help from 12 other governments, most of them with superior expertise and equipment --unlike the U.S., Europe has robust fleets of Oil Spill Response Vessels that sail circles around their make-shift U.S. counterparts.



Read more: http://www.financialpost.com/Avertible+catastrophe/3203808/story.html#ixzz0sTETX3FC

Read more: http://www.financialpost.com/Avertible+catastrophe/3203808/story.html#ixzz0sTEEFAgL

Sunday, June 13, 2010

There is no answer

Now it appears there is a possibility that the well is compromised beneath the sea floor and that there are already leaks coming from disparate locations on the sea bed. We are going to kill the planet, not just for us but for all living creatures.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Fcuk, we are killing the bees

They set up a controlled experiment in Punjab earlier this year comparing the behaviour and productivity of bees in two hives – one fitted with two mobile telephones which were powered on for two fifteen minute sessions per day for three months. The other had dummy models installed.

After three months the researchers recorded a dramatic decline in the size of the hive fitted with the mobile phon, a significant reduction in the number of eggs laid by the queen bee. The bees also stopped producing honey.

The queen bee in the "mobile" hive produced fewer than half of those created by her counterpart in the normal hive.

They also found a dramatic decline in the number of worker bees returning to the hive after collecting pollen. Because of this the amount of nectar produced in the hive also shrank.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Oil Volcano

I had been trying to avoid the oil volcano story because it is so overwhelmingly depressing and demonstrative of human suicidal tendencies that I am deeply uncomfortable with....and then you see a news bit that makes you say, well hell we are so idiotic we deserve an extinction event.

And see this. BP has refused to let independent scientists inspect the site so that they could estimate the rate of the oil leak.

BP’s next plan is to try to seal the leak using heavy drilling fluids and then cement:

BP likely will try to shut down the well completely late this week using a technique called “top kill,” BP Chief Operating Officer Doug Suttles said at a news conference Monday.

The process involves pumping heavy drilling fluids through two 3-inch lines into the blowout preventer that sits on top of the Macondo wellhead a mile underwater. This would first restrict the flow of oil from the well, which then could be sealed permanently with cement.


Um why weren't we doing that from the beginning?

Friday, April 30, 2010

34 and counting

Another birthday passes and my mind checks its internal gauges for insight into the state of its union. Mental, physical, emotional. The goal is healthy balance. The goal is quality of life. The goal is to feel acutely and correctly the experience as it happens and to learn from what has gone before.

That has not always been the goal. Once upon a time the goal was a good story, didn't necessarily care how the yarn was crafted, just that the finished product was a compelling tapestry I would be proud of. I wanted to be 80 on the veranda chuckling to myself about how it all played out.

It is definitely interesting. Hopefully I will chuckle, but I forgot to imagine what it would feel like on the way through,so the way through feels unfamiliar far more frequently than I would like. I thought interesting meant adventure and intrigue. I wasn't smart enough to realize that you don't get to just observe life and tell it as a tale when you are older. You have to live life and life will change your parts around, alter your context and understanding and you have to convince yourself that you know who "you" are both before and after the shifting. Oh, and the shifting, the subtle persistent, pervasive shifting is far harder to grasp than the big earthquakes. You remember the earthquakes. You remember what was before and you can see what is after, but the shifting offers no such reference and no conclusion. So I realized that and I changed the goals and I try to recognize this as what life is so that it might be easier to embrace. Love is a powerful thing, but it is a powerful thing and as with all powerful things, it should be approached with respect for its power.

A widely-publicized study from 2008 in the British Medical Journal reported that happiness in social networks may spread from person to person.[10] Researchers followed nearly 5000 individuals for 20 years in the long-standing Framingham Heart Study and found clusters of happiness and unhappiness that spread up to 3 degrees of separation on average. Happiness tended to spread through close relationships like friends, siblings, spouses, and next-door neighbors, and the researchers reported that happiness spread more consistently than unhappiness through the network. Moreover, the structure of the social network appeared to have an impact on happiness, as people who were very central (with many friends and friends of friends) were significantly more likely to be happy than those on the periphery of the network. Overall, the results suggest that happiness might spread through a population like a virus.[11][12]

Monday, April 12, 2010

hmmm...water wars anyone?

Now, as drought-stricken California weighs whether to give private companies more control in managing its scarce water supplies, a new lawsuit claiming the Resnicks violated utilities law by making money from a vast, taxpayer-funded underground reservoir is causing a stir in the state Capitol.

"Water is a public resource, owned by the people," said Democratic Assemblyman Jared Huffman of San Rafael. "We shouldn't be giving away public funds to private sector interests, let alone choosing winners and losers in the business world."

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Updates

The below is a post from October 2009. I was searching for something in my mails and blog and came upon this. I am on vacation (at home) right now attempting to find some sort of balance. I found this and realized I could at least assess my progress based on my objectives before the current exhaustion set in. So here is my score:
1. Nope
2. Indeed, I am consistently growing in my contributions to the community and feel hopeful that these efforts will lead to a more permanent commitment.
3. Success. I am currently worrying on rugs and art work in a place I found that I love with someone I love.
4. Fail, although improvements are occurring.
5. Subjective, not sure, likely fail.

Does that constitute progress?
As I come into yet another holiday season, I struggle with what I did with the last year of my life. SO..this year I am publishing an assignment list that I can either check off or give myself a fail at next year. Same time.

1. Make a list of 50 things that I want out of life. Get input on possibilities from coterie.
2. Explore opportunities for expending energy on making a concrete difference.
3. Make a home for myself. A real, permanent home.
4. Meditate consistently.
5. Improve schedule management.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Botox provides a teachable moment

They found that there was no change in the time needed to understand the happy sentences, which aligned with their hypotheses, since the Botox did not prevent the participants from smiling. But the subjects did take slightly but significantly more time to read the angry and sad sentences after Botox treatment. These data suggest that preventing the participants from frowning actually made it harder for them to interpret sadness and anger.

The scientist believe that by preventing frowns in their participants, they have blocked a feedback pathway between the brain and the face. Under normal circumstances, the brain sends the signal to frown, and in turn, once the face frowns, it sends signals back which reaffirm or enhance the brain's interpretation. Without the feedback, the brain gets a little confused or simply doesn't process the depth of the emotion as well.

I have to say that I find the implications of this to be impressive. Not only does this say that altering the faces ability to make an expression impacts your brain's ability to appropriately process the data, it strongly implies that our brain is reliant on our bodies to interpret. Sadness is not just serotonin uptake, sadness exists because the face tells the brain to uptake some serotonin. So our bodies are part and parcel of our brain. There was an author on the Daily Show, I can't remember his name, but he spoke to the blind side of neuroscience research. That analyzing and studying everything from a framework where the brain is just a processor of external stimuli fails to account for both what our brain projects into our environment and how a responding environment reacts to a projecting brain. Essentially, you can not reduce the system to its parts and gain true insight, you must try to see the whole system. We as a species seem particularly lacking in our ability to see the whole system and gain insight therein.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Not sure how I feel about this...

but it is fascinating to see it detailed out:

Human Rights begin at home. Clean up own backyard China urges U.S.

China's Information Office of the State Council published a report titled "The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2009"yesterday. The full text of China's State Council assessment of U.S. human rights violations as published in Xinhuanews follow:

There are several sections to it, but this was one was particularly disturbing.

The country's police frequently impose violence on the people. Chicago Defender reported on July 8, 2009 that a total of 315 police officers in New York were subject to internal supervision due to unrestrained use of violence during law enforcement. The figure was only 210 in 2007. Over the past two years, the number of New York police officers under review for garnering too many complaints was up 50 percent (http://www.chicagodefender.com). According to a New York Police Department firearms discharge report released on Nov. 17, 2009, the city' s police fired 588 bullets in 2007, killing 10 people, and 354 bullets in 2008, killing 13 people (http://gothamist.com, November 17, 2009). On September 3, 2009, a student of the San Jose State University was hit repeatedly by four San Jose police officers with batons and a Taser gun for more than ten times (http://www.mercurynews.com, October 27, 2009). On September 22, 2009, a Chinese student in Eugene, Oregon was beaten by a local police officer for no reason (The Oregonian, October 23, 2009, http://blog.oregonlive.com). According to the Amnesty International, in the first ten months of 2009, police officers in the U.S. killed 45 people due to unrestrained use of Taser guns. The youngest of the victims was only 15. From 2001 to October, 2009, 389 people died of Taser guns used by police officers (http://theduckshoot.com).


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oh Walmart, can you really change?

The program, which Walmart calls Heritage Agriculture, will encourage farms within a day’s drive of one of its warehouses to grow crops that now take days to arrive in trucks from states like Florida and California. In many cases the crops once flourished in the places where Walmart is encouraging their revival, but vanished because of Big Agriculture competition.

Ron McCormick, the senior director of local and sustainable sourcing for Walmart, told me that about three years ago he came upon pictures from the 1920s of thriving apple orchards in Rogers, Arkansas, eight miles from the company’s headquarters. Apples were once shipped from northwest Arkansas by railroad to St. Louis and Chicago. After Washington state and California took over the apple market, hardly any orchards remained. Cabbage, greens, and melons were also once staples of the local farming economy. But for decades, Arkansas’s cash crops have been tomatoes and grapes. A new initiative could diversify crops and give consumers fresher produce.

As with most Walmart programs, the clear impetus is to claim a share of consumer spending: first for organics, now for locally grown food. But buying local food is often harder than buying organic. The obstacles for both small farm and big store are many: how much a relatively small farmer can grow and how reliably, given short growing seasons; how to charge a competitive price when the farmer’s expenses are so much higher than those of industrial farms; and how to get produce from farm to warehouse.

Walmart knows all this, and knows that various nonprofit agricultural and university networks are trying to solve the same problems. In considering how to build on existing programs (and investments), Walmart talked with the local branch of the Environmental Defense Fund, which opened near the company’s Arkansas headquarters when Walmart started to look serious about green efforts, and with the Applied Sustainability Center at the University of Arkansas. The center (of which the Walmart Foundation is a chief funder) is part of a national partnership called Agile Agriculture, which includes universities such as Drake and the University of New Hampshire and nonprofits like the American Farmland Trust.* To get more locally grown produce into grocery stores and restaurants, the partnership is centralizing and streamlining distribution for farms with limited growing seasons, limited production, and limited transportation resources.

Walmart says it wants to revive local economies and communities that lost out when agriculture became centralized in large states. (The heirloom varieties beloved by foodies lost out at the same time, but so far they’re not a focus of Walmart’s program.) This would be something like bringing the once-flourishing silk and wool trades back to my hometown of Rockville, Connecticut. It’s not something you expect from Walmart, which is better known for destroying local economies than for rebuilding them.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Terror

I spend an inordinate amount of time on planes and an even greater time in transit. I end up being an observer of people having real lives more than I get to have a real life. The other result of this life job is having significant limbo time to read. I tend to read novels, but given the length of the flight and my general level of energy, I will also read magazines. Today on the way to Nashville, I read The New Yorker and then Harpers Magazine both liberal, elitist fare. They were interesting until I got to this.:
According to the NCIS documents, each prisoner had fashioned a noose from torn sheets and T-shirts and tied it to the top of his cell’s eight-foot-high steel-mesh wall. Each prisoner was able somehow to bind his own hands, and, in at least one case, his own feet, then stuff more rags deep down into his own throat. We are then asked to believe that each prisoner, even as he was choking on those rags, climbed up on his washbasin, slipped his head through the noose, tightened it, and leapt from the washbasin to hang until he asphyxiated. The NCIS report also proposes that the three prisoners, who were held in non-adjoining cells, carried out each of these actions almost simultaneously.
I have no idea what to do with that. I keep reading it, thinking that it will change. There is no way adults put that in a report and thought it would be believable. They are better at covering shit up than this right? We don't seriously have the most expensive military industrial complex ever convened unable to come up with a more plausible story for prisoner deaths than that? It gets worse, further reporting indicates that all three of these men plus one other that died shortly after them were all victims of wrong place wrong time and were shortly to be released.

So I sit in my fugue state contemplating the fact that my government is killing people for no apparent reason and then doing an embarrassingly bad job of covering it up and wonder what in the hell are we supposed to do? I have to imagine that there are a lot of people who will read the article and feel horror (if they aren't already too cynical), and while its lovely that decent people feel horror, it hardly does a lot about it. You could try to protest, but they got plans for that as well. Writing letters to the editor of newspapers that are hardly read any more seems unlikely to generate a revolution.

So I sit and keep re-reading an account of my democratically elected but apparently deeply corrupt government committing murder and wonder what it is I am supposed to do. Because clearly it is the general silence of average people that enables this to occur. There is no viable outlet for outrage. Which of course means that you must accept that they can do it to you as well and your family and loved ones will be able to do nothing. Nothing.




Wednesday, February 10, 2010

hibernation

As storms pound the coast and February marches on, I feel as if my body has gone into hibernation. I read stuff that normally would have amazed me and my response is muted, quiet. I wonder if I have made the progress I meant to make, but even with that currently feel as if it will figure itself out regardless of whether or not I analyse it. I hope this is hibernation and not me giving up on things in general.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

not so noble reason

you consume data you have no interest in before speaking to the crowd? The crowd's disapproval would have been swift and brutal otherwise. Excellent ROI.

Monday, January 11, 2010

On a Jet plane

Wherever you go, there you are, so they say. Where are you when on a plane reading material on the how the military industrial complex needs to consolidate its organizational management after consuming an issue of adbusters magazine and barely processing a holiday season of family, friends and their (and my) unknowably fascinating interior landscapes?


The recommendation of mindful therapists everywhere is that you need to aware of the present moment in order move forward in a conscious and conscientious manner. So do I assume a limitation of my mind's capacity that I am sitting here absorbing the data necessary to speak knowingly in front of the next crowd, without having access to an understanding of why I expound this effort other than economic autonomy? A concept which seemed elemental until I was faced with an economic crisis that confirmed my worst suspicions about the numbers on the sheet being a whole lotta bullshit and self sufficiency became an acknowledged defense mechanism against the vulnerability inherent in being part of my community.


My efforts at mindfulness awareness have shown me that my desire for an unwritten narrative were naive at best and utterly missing the point at worst. Just live your life. Mind you with this new perspective I only manage to design a new goal of being able to tell the youth I am invested in the memo I'm convinced I never got, only the more the life goes on I realize I got far better memos than most and had built in advantages that were inaccessible to me at the time. So gratitude would seem to be the appropriate response and there is gratitude, but still I swim in frustration that I cannot wholly perceive the fabric that I exist within.


So the future stands still while the present is infinite. My high school year book quote "It's all just a game, we all just wanna be loved" stands as a comforting indicator that even then, despite my cynicism, I saw a reason, a purpose for the effort required to live life well however one defines it. So in this moment I will seek comfort in the belief that I have loved well and am well loved. All I need is all I got.