Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Mother Jones reviews the wild side of environmentalists today. Highlighted is the Miss Earth Beauty pageant held in the Philippines. Contestants promote environmental awareness by planting trees and other earthy acts during the competition. STOP, WAIT! Why is this one of the headlines on MOTHER JONES, a source supposedly "in tune" with environmental issues, while the story of the coal slurry disaster in Tennessee is nowhere to be found? Water for millions of homes in the southeast U.S. is currently being poisoned because of an epic environmental catastrophe that began when an earthen retention wall holding in a 40 acre pond of sludge failed. The sludge consists of a chunky coal slurry laden with radioactive material and dissolved heavy metals. Though our collective attention span is ever diminishing, some stories need SUSTAINED ATTENTION. Like this tragedy in Tennessee that was presented to the media only yesterday, after a week of zero coverage. I hope the goddesses got your attention, now let us go back to Tennessee and meditate on the magnitude of such an event!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Tennessee's Katrina!!!

Utter Environmental Carnage!
Coal sludge spill in Tennessee, 100 times bigger than the Exxon Valdez spill! This happened one week ago and is only now receiving some media attention! Yell Fire Fire Fire!!! This story needs to be heard!!!
CNN's headline claims that the spill shames an agency. Stop pawning off the blame! Sure the agency played (or did not) play its role, but this shame is to be shared by the country as a whole. Again I say "listen to Larry" on the real cost of coal.
Hey politicians, does this LOOK like "CLEAN COAL" to you?

"Ghost Dance"

A Post from the Ghost...
Each date is filled with as many joys as sorrows. 118 years ago today, approximately 300 Oglala Lakota, including the Sioux Chief - Big Foot, were massacred at Wounded Knee in South Dakota, just south of the badlands. This firestorm marked the last major battle between the U.S. government and any Native American peoples. Though ephemeral spirit auras do not float in an ether surrounding us on this date, eye-witness accounts of the events that transpired at Wounded Knee have the power to tingle our collective nervous system more than a century later. This is the cause of Tom Paine's Ghost; to raise the consciousness through interactive memory, to rekindle the embers of the promise of America, and to renew our independence by engaging the citizenry.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Awareness awareness

Recently, I came across a website showing a tour of 80 optical illusions. Since then, I have been modestly obsessed with visual phenomena, being the moderate extremist that I am. This morning I received an email containing the following YouTube clip about awareness.

I really appreciate the multi-faceted message this video campaign is promoting and I felt obligated to help propagate it. This message hit a resonating chord with me from my exposure to the encounters of bicyclists with motorists and vice versa. Despite the serious nature of the video, I couldn't help myself from finding this video painfully funny I must confess. And then I thought WOW, awareness really does laugh in the face of reality! You know? Of course, the compulsive nature of YouTube beckoned me to peruse "related" videos. I found all the parodies of the awareness test laughable indeed. I also came across the following optical illusion.

Beyond optical, we have the capacity to convince ourselves of anything. This capacity can be projected upon the perception of others. Just try to be aware of this! Extend this idea to politics, to the media, to everything you have ever learned! Why does human nature gravitate towards habit and tend to fear change? Why do zombies love fireworks? If modern science concluded that the universe is completely holographic in nature could you believe this? Only by unlearning and realizing how much we don't know, can we peer through doorways to "knowledge." Question everything and when your world is turned upside down, give it a spin! Once you are swept away in an infinite universe you may just find that you are closer to home than ever before.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Free expression in a winter wonderland

Merry Christmas - from a secular progressive
Happy Holidays - from the department stores.

As the nights grow to the longest of the year in the northern hemisphere I come back to this film year after year and take away some new "positive magic." The right to speak freely also entails an obligation to listen freely. Progress is not achieved through ideological "wars" where one idea is diametrically opposed to another, where foes are demonized and enemy lines are not to be crossed. It comes through the raising of a common consciousness, a common sense.

A book of the same name has also affected me and perhaps made me more receptive to the message in this Jimmy Stewart classic. In the fall of 2007 a "young earth" physicist named Dr. D. Russell Humphreys spoke at Colorado State University. He spent two hours in front of a podium explaining that the observed rate at which helium atoms leaked from zirconium crystal collected from a salt mine in New Mexico indicated the earth was only about 10,000 years old. When I asked the man how humans could observe stars that were more than 10,000 light years away and sometimes even millions of light-years away his response was not scientific at all. He explained that during Genesis and the "great flood" God sped up the space-time continuum to bring the light beams to our eyeballs... After the seminar I left the auditorium in shock and disbelief that this man was paid to speak at a university, then I realized why it was worth it. In the lobby I was surrounded by the student group who invited him and engaged in a two hours long discussion about the age of earth and evolution. I described to them the progression of life as evidenced in the soft bodied fossils in the Burgess shale in British Columbia. I told them how this showcase of evolution and evolutionary timescales was eloquently described by Stephen Jay Gould in his award winning book "Wonderful Life." They had never heard of the Burgess shale and I think I piqued their interest and maybe a few students followed up on investigating this evidence on their own. Even though I was initially shocked that the university would allow such a seminar to be commissioned on campus I eventually realized the beauty of it all. The ensuing conversation between 20+ creationists and myself would never have taken place had this seminar not happened. Free speech is like white light, shining in all directions. Ideas like "life is a wonderful thing" have the power to reign in the poles in the culture wars, forcing us to acknowledge one another and move forward together.
Merry Christmas,
from TPG

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Return the House of Representatives to the People!?

435 "politicians" can NOT faithfully represent a population of 305,000,000 US citizens. This is the stance maintained by thirty-thousand.org. ThirtyThousand.org is a non-partisan and non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to representative democracy in the United States of America and argues that the number of representatives in the House must be increased substantially. I recommend that all US citizens read the short list of questions and arguments at the link above. ThirtyThousand.org introduces their arguments with respect to the intentions of the framers of the constitution and the bill of rights. While I am a proponent of understanding, learning from and considering the intentions of our founding fathers, I am also a proponent of progressive and dynamic government. It is impossible that our founding fathers could have foreseen all the issues that the United States of America has since and will yet come to face. Fortunately, our founding fathers had the foresight to bestow an inherent ability to amend the constitution upon the citizenry. The nature of viability and of life itself is that of change and of growth. That which becomes static and ceases to grow wanes towards death! Notwithstanding, the government of The United States of America. For this reason, I find the arguments and suggestions for improvement at ThirtyThousand.org stimulating. I would like to draw particular attention to the discussion of questions 6, 7, 9 and 10. The citizens of the United States of America should not and can not assume that any aspect of it's government does not necessitate improvement nor that any element is immutable!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Steve Chu, our new energy guru

I first encountered Dr. Steven Chu's visage on the internet last spring while preparing a presentation explaining optical trapping. Dr. Chu's work involving the manipulation of single atoms and molecules earned him the Nobel prize in physics in 1997. As a professor of molecular and cellular biology Dr. Chu has a uniquely biological perspective into the realm of alternative energies. This perspective is traditionally lacking in heavyweight energy politicians. His leadership skills, honed as director of the Lawrence Berkley National labs, also positions him well to take charge at the DOE. Despite all these positive aspects Dr. Chu has drawn fire from some blogs and news agencies for his involvement with negotiating the largest oil-company/academic-institution partnership in history. Mother Jones reports about the formation of "the $500 million Energy Biosciences Institute, to conduct biofuels research. The proposal sparked fierce opposition from faculty and students at the University of California-Berkeley, which will host the institute. Biology professor Ignacio Chapela called the partnership the 'coup de grace to the very idea of a university that can represent the best interest of the public.'"

Ignacio Chapela is a vocal genetics professor at Berkley who gained authority in the anti-GMO movement with his studies on corn genes that had been modified by scientists found freely migrating into wild corn (tiosinte) in Mexico. He appears in the documentary the Future of Food describing his research and explaining his position on GMOs. Of course these criticisms should be investigated, but I must say, Steven Chu should not be written off as someone who is owned by the corporations! Of all the oil companies British Pertolium has been cited time and time again as the most environmentally conscious. The Sierra Club reports that BP is the least of all evils when it comes to filling your gas tank. A global approach to remediating climate change will require cooperation and regulation of the multinational companies not an all out boycott. A revolution from within the system is required to change the energy infrastructure of the United States. Even the giants can tell which way the wind blows. Besides, any scientist that can quote Faulkner can not be all bad.

I am using this post as an excuse to experiment with embedding a power point presentation. Below is the presentation explaining single molecule optical trapping using focused laser beams. The drawback is that you can not see the animations. If you have problems viewing the ppt please comment. We at TPG hope you like the recent header upgrade. Expect more upgrades over the coming weeks.
Optical Tweezersv2

Transparency Disclaimer: My sister in-law worked for BP for about 5 years in early 00's. She is an adamant environmentalist/conservationist/lover of nature and had nothing but good things to say about this company.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mr. O'Reilly's head explodes during conversation with intelligent woman.

"Everyone, all the crazies, come and comment."
~Megyn Kelly

In O'Reilly's head the atheist's message is "hateful" and therefore should be censored as violating the decorum standards set by the state of Washington. This is an Opinion. Celebrating the birth of a child conceived after a ghost impregnated a betrothed virgin could also be considered hateful. The wall of separations allows every single person the right to their opinion. Mr. O'Reilly toils to bring that wall down while reaping his fortune because of its very existence.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mayan Calendar 2012

Such a strange universe I find myself in today. Or is it the other way around? Oft confused as to which is being mirrored. Never mind that. Forget about all coincidence you should happen upon as well. What is intuition anyway? The other day I found myself sitting on a rock in the desert. No big deal really, except that I time traveled. Have you ever forgotten who you are and where you are? Even if just for a moment... perhaps you can't remember? I guess if you didn't remember that you forgot, well then you would not have forgotten in the first place. Crazy talk. Sitting there on this rock, I recalled something that died in me, years ago in another desert. Me. The linear concept of time existing independent of ourselves is a misleading fabrication. More accurately, we are time. Right then and there in the desert, I died again. Of course, I realized that the only reason I knew this death was because there was rebirth. Literally, not symbolically. Or wait, am I switched around again? Hmmm... I certainly knew this before. Within our lifetimes we will all die many times, in passage and in evolution, in change and in growth. Everything is manifest through cycles. Cycles within cycles, cycles begetting cycles. From the microscopic, to the outer reaches of the universe, we observe cycles.

This brings me to the Mesoamerican long count calendar (aka the Mayan calendar). Although NASA has predicted that an upcoming peak in the solar cycle "around" this time "could" have a "significant" impact on telecommunications, air traffic, power grids and GPS systems, 2012 doomsday prophecies are misconstrued. The Mayan calendar doesn't really end on December 21, 2012 as it is often said. It cycles! Just like the Gregorian calendar. Doomsday prophecy based on the Mayan calendar “ending” is equivalent to predicting the end of the world every December 31, based on the end the Gregorian calendar. The Mayan calender will reach on December 21, 2012. This will mark the end of the thirteenth b'ak'tun and the start of another series of b'ak'tuns (1 b'ak'tun = 144,000 days). Mayan culture is amazing and fascinating. Perhaps there are many lessons to be learned from the Maya. We have drifted very far from nature and its cyclic and renewable tendencies. We should view December 21, 2012 as a symbol of cyclic transformation and as a sign to realign ourselves with our planet and sustainable living practices!
 We should look towards 2012 with a mind to initiate cyclic transformation of ourselves and of all human action on earth.

The reiterated theme, cycling. Yes, we should all be thinking about riding bicycles, but I really mean to point to the nature of cycles or I mean the cycles of nature. Chapter 14 of the Tao Te Ching reads, "Approach it and you will not see a beginning; follow it and there will be no end."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Solzhenitsyn, Happiness, and the "Free" Market

"One should never direct people towards happiness, because happiness too is an idol of the market-place. One should direct them towards mutual affection. A beast gnawing at its prey can be happy too, but only human beings can feel affection for each other, and this is the highest achievement they can aspire to."
- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

This sentiment has been ringing in my ears since hearing it on the Writers Almanac this morning.
Can we not define happiness as the feeling affection for each other generates?
Liberty - Liberal - Sovereignty - Freedom - all defined as we go, why not happiness?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

John Milton and 400 candles

Happy Quadracentennial to John Milton, a champion of free expression and clarifier of self evident truths, born this day 9th December 1608. If Thomas Paine had authored a blog he may have called it "John Milton's Ghost." Enjoy an excerpt from Milton's "Lycidas" a woeful tale of a shepherd's friend drowned in the Irish sea which also predicts the demise of a corrupted clergy. The reading of these lines brings visions of artifacts from pre-christian times reaching up to earth with moss covered limbs to receive the dead in shrouded folds of forgotten history.

But O the heavy change, now thou art gon,
Now thou art gon, and never must return!
Thee Shepherd, thee the Woods, and desert Caves,
With wilde Thyme and the gadding Vine o'regrown,
And all their echoes mourn.
The Willows, and the Hazle Copses green,
Shall now no more be seen,
Fanning their joyous Leaves to thy soft layes.
As killing as the Canker to the Rose,
Or Taint-worm to the weanling Herds that graze,
Or Frost to Flowers, that their gay wardrop wear,
When first the White thorn blows;
Such, Lycidas, thy loss to Shepherds ear.

Where were ye Nymphs when the remorseless deep
Clos'd o're the head of your lov'd Lycidas?
For neither were ye playing on the steep,
Where your old Bards, the famous Druids ly,
Nor on the shaggy top of Mona high,
Nor yet where Deva spreads her wisard stream:
Ay me, I fondly dream!
Had ye bin there — for what could that have don?
What could the Muse her self that Orpheus bore,
The Muse her self, for her inchanting son
Whom Universal nature did lament,
When by the rout that made the hideous roar,
His goary visage down the stream was sent,
Down the swift Hebrus to the Lesbian shore.

For the entire poem and very helpful definitions and explanations of the text visit this site.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday Celebration - Hyperrealism

By Kristopher Hite

Free expression through sculpture. I wanted to write a tirade today about how much I loathe the work of Mark Rothko but instead decided to accentuate the positive with a tip of the hat to a relatively new realm of art - hyperrealism. My first encounter with this style was at an actual art gallery in Akron, Ohio. I turned around the corner after scratching my head in front of some post-modern canvas splats into a clean white-walled gallery where I was startled at the sight of a naked giant sitting in the corner. This was part of a traveling exhibit by the Australian sculptor Ron Mueck. He uses silicone and fiberglass along with paint and polyesters applied directly to cast molds of the human form. This creates an effect that surpasses reality in fooling the observer into thinking the piece has a heartbeat, bluish veins and all. By constructing the works on anomalous scales from the very large to the very small the impressive effects of these works are amplified. It was not shocking for me to learn that Mr. Mueck had worked with Jim Henson, specifically collaborating on The Labyrinth and the Story Teller series with John Hurt, as the later had a lasting impression on my imagination as a child. Trolling the web for the antithesis of Rothko I came across the works of another hyperrealist worth noting, especially considering the slant of her subject matter. Patricia Piccinini has a new exhibit at the Roslyn Oxley9 gallery in Sydney, Australia. Along with Mueck's brand of stark realism, she injects a healthy dose of organic philosophy into her sculptures. She forces the observer into an uncomfortable state while captivating attention with the painstaking detail. Her interest in the areas of bioethics and the environment show themselves to the observer through the human spirit buried within her monstrosities. Artists and artists like this seem to be ushering in an era of real post-post-modernism. Gone are the easy days of slapping some inky utensil around on a surface and asking the world to think about it. To do what these artists do a great deal of training and practice is necessary. This gives the artist's class a renewed respect as focused innovators rather than frizzled drug addicts, while still maintaining a radical voice in abstraction!

The work of Patricia Piccinini brings the philosophical/scientific ven diagram into focus. If we have the ability to do something new, should we? or would it result in something ghastly? This question was recently asked in Slate about cloning Neandretals and has been the topic of debate since the publication of Mary Shelly's Frankenstein. No one knows the answer, and if they think they do then our species should just stop thinking so hard and take our place in the geologic record. Jurassic Park was on television last week and all I could think about was how much respect I had lost for Michael Crichton when I read State of Fear. This book is a fictional account of envronmentalists/terrorists who attempt to fool the world into believing in global warming by orchestrating storms and laser induced sea level rising. I lost even more respect when I heard he met George w. Bush in 2005 to council him on the "greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people." When Jurassic Park came out in theaters I was too young to appreciate reading and I ate that movie up, every bit of it. The animatronics, the acting, the story, I loved it all. What I was not aware of was the ripples of philosophical fear a story like this would send through the consciousness of the general populous. "Scientists will destroy humanity with their insatiable fervor and lust for power and control over god's creation!" Michael Crichton may be in Mensa but he knows not what he does. He erodes the promise of the enlightenment and the general consensus that the United States was founded on. The idea that improvement of the human condition is perpetually possible. He would relegate us to a happy status quo where complacency is celebrated. A world where the scientific method is distrusted is a world where children can be denied vaccines and denied exposure to the education required for them to contribute to progress. Laws can not change the conscience of the people, but voices, keyboards, and pens can.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Proposition 8 - The Musical

Jack Black sings "Besides, your nation was built on separation of church and state." Read the letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to Danbury Baptists of Connecticut in 1802 that coins the phrase "wall of separation" providing a keystone for the supreme court when interpretting the establishment clause of the first amendment.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Sustainable Toys for Girls and Boys

In 1509 Leonardo Da Vinci constructed one of the first wind-up toys in recoded history, a moving lion made as a greeting muse for Louis XII. Taking an old idea and placing it in a newly appreciated context has helped Sprig, a toy company, launch a craze for their particular brand of children's toys. The toys light up and play back audio, but only when they are powered by the user through the action of the wheels. The little faceless people that come with the sets have little USB ports so they can "tell their story" when plugged in to any of the vehicles. The electricity is stored in capacitors to the delight of Dr. Faraday.

My question is; when will we see large scale toys that utilize capacitors for adults. I know that the pump action flashlight and other small scale hand crank electronic goods are out there, but I am talking about the stationary bikes that power whole cafés. Like the retro 80's Pepsi bar we were promised by Steven Spielberg in Back to the Future II. Where is all the human powered technology? While we are on the topic of human powered things, I want to describe a simple science experiment that had a big impact on how I look at compact fluorescent bulbs. I saw this on "little shop of physics" a show on public access cable here in Fort Collins with host Brian Jones, a physics professor at CSU. He was using a dual hand crank (think bike pedals) to charge a capacitor that then provided electricity to bulbs with decreasing Watt requirements. Beginning with the 150 watt bulb it took 30-45 seconds of rigorous cranking to get the bulb to flicker. As he moved down the line the 100W bulb took about 20 seconds and the 50W took 15. Then he switched the electrodes to a fluorescent bulb and ONE crank lit the bulb at full brightness for about 5 seconds. When you walk through your living room aglow in the middle of a long winter's night then think about all the people cranking it would take to power the old bulbs compared to the fluorescent, it makes the switch to CFL's mean something. Since I switched to these I have had a few stop working. This is not good as each bulb contains some mercury. The concern over mercury in these bulbs is a valid one, but if you live near a participating ACE hardware store you can recycle them there.

Disclosure statement:
I am not selling toys, I have no affiliation with Sprig Toys other than living in Fort Collins, CO where they are headquartered.

Read more about Sprig toys here, here, and here.

Different Drummer Workshop is another manufacturer of lead-free alternative toys beautiful in their simplicity.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Beer, and the Bucolic Beauty of Bruegel

The "winter landscape with a bird trap" painted in oils by Pieter Bruegel the Elder in 1565 testifies to what I consider immortality. Though the bones of Bruegel have long since returned to dust the preservation of his works allow his spirit to echo through recorded history. Along with digital record keeping the propagation and iteration of art will undoubtedly change forever as we are now passing into an age where social commentary will literally be attached to these echoes fully accessible to the curious observer. The following TED talk by Blaise Aguera y Arcas explains the attachment process and how social networks will add infinite detail to any object in the world with a story behind it. Imagine looking at the world through goggles that display any known history relating to that object.

In many ways society is already testing a beta-version of these "goggles" with the rise of you tube and other video sharing sites. The interface is the only cumbersome part. When a person sees a sculpture in a city square the vast information relating to that sculpture is entombed in libraries and brains throughout the planet. In the present day the "user" has to take the initiative to look up all those historical tales that give the piece a context on their own. What if all that information automatically displayed in your mind's eye just by glancing at an object? This would make going into a thrift store like having a microscopic assessor from the "antiques road show" sitting on your shoulder. The next step will be to bypass this information selection process and simply attach the relevant video/audio/smell-o-vision to the content on a users radar.
Of course, no person should be denied the privilege of an unadulterated view of cultural objects, but choosing to experience this type of contextual depth could speed general education exponentially. I use Bruegel as an example of the tagging process because, as the northern hemisphere is swinging away from the sun into the frosted part of the year, these winterscapes remind me that people have hustled and bustled and thrived through the cold for all of history. Viewing and thinking about this work on a blog in 2008 makes me realize that universally accessible collaboration across centuries is possible now even while we continue to learn how to collaborate in real time. In my mind, Bruegel = Belgium = Beer. During the summer of 2004 as I spent two weeks in Leuven, Belgium I became increasingly fascinated by the tome of culture Bruegel's simple recording of folk life in 16th century Flanders represented. Here were people from nearly 400 years ago alive in front of my eyes. There were many other historical pieces of art to which I wish I had added digital anecdotes as a family friend explained them and lead the tour of Leuven the home city of Inbev-Anheuser-Busch (then called Interbrew.) I was also entrenched in the Flemish appreciation for brewing good beer. Today the theme of collaboration and beer seemed to be jumping out at me. As the Rock Mountain Collegian student newspaper proclaimed their approval of an ingeniously sustainable green business initiative undertaken by Fort Collins' own New Belgium Brewing Company. The initiative involves collaborating with Seattle-based Elysian Brewing Company by sharing one anothers equipment in order to brew each other's ales and save the cost of shipping the final product the 1,000 miles between the two market hubs. An elegant amber collaboration I might say so myself. While reading this article I was immediate taken back to a table at the choice city deli where I had shared a bottle of Signiture Ale with the same friend who had so enriched my experience in Belgium. This was a brewmasters collboration bewteen the Port Brewing Company of San Marcos California and De 'Proef' Brouwerij of Lochristi-Hijfte, Belgium. The Signature Ale was Belgian-American Collaboration and drinking it with great friends from Belgium made the idea of an otherwise forgettable beverage affect me. So in some way all these thoughts are on the same plane; Bruegel, Belgium, Beer, and all mean collaboration. And here I have giving three increasingly concentrated stories of beer co-operativity and each on the terms designated by their size. Large: InBev and Anheuser-Busch - Corporate takeover. Medium - New Belgium Brewing Company and Elysian Brewing Company co-operation. Small - Port Brewing Company and De 'Proef' Brouwerij - colaboration. The latter extolled virtue is at the center of Tom Paine's Ghost.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Billboards Stir Spirits in Denver

The Colorado Coalition of Reason has begun an ad campaign to bring together atheists and agnostics to the chagrin of the faithful. In his column for the Rocky Mountain News Bill Johnson outlines some of the hate-filled responses self-proclaimed Christians have hurled at the billboard's backers. In Just eight words on a billboard Johnson explains the absurdity of the controversy by evenhandedly laying out the argument that calling for a coalition of atheists is no different and no less protected under the constitution than calling for a coalition of Christians.

This reminds me of another news story from Washington, DC where an ad campaign by the American Humanist Association postures "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake." Their reason for the doing this at this time of year is "there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion."

I have been reading Markos Moulistas Zúniga's (the founder of the Daily Kos) Taking on the System lately. Beginning on Page 87 Zúniga describes one battle in the culture wars; the secularist "War on Christmas." He takes the reader through a brief history of this so-called war on the Yuletide holiday but eventually brushes the whole thing off as a concoction of Bill O'Reilly and others like him to boost their bad ratings during the holiday news lull. The secularist is, in Zúniga's eyes, a made up villain crafted by the right so they have someone or something to rally against. "O'Reilly knew that the enemy didn't have to exist to rally the troops, whip up interest, and -incidentally, of course- stoke his ratings" reports Markos.

I am an agnostic and I love Christmas and everything about it. The family, the traveling, the snowflakes, the presents the trees, wreaths, holly, and all the glorious smells. I even love all the beautiful music about the little 8 pound 6 oz. baby Jesus. All of it is warm wonderful and enlivening to the spirit. So in a way Markos is right there is not a mass war on Christmas, but what does exist is a culture war, and part of that is a war on ignorance. On accepting things on blind faith, on not realizing that the celebration that we call Christmas goes much further back than the year 0. It goes back to the science of the earth. To the timing of the longest nights of the year in the northern hemisphere where civilizations blossomed. A time when a celebration of light and love was necessary to keep our collective mental status positive and bright. The war on Christmas could be better characterized as a healthy debate on understanding the culture that we so lovingly practice and making it better through that understanding. Happy Holidays to all and may there be peace on earth.

Though terror still grips our planet as we saw this week, in a way, I am glad to see responses like this as I do firmly believe that a "war on terror" is on oxymoron. "India at this moment has to contain any reactive violence from the fundamentalist Hindus, which is very likely and possible. So India has to condemn that by not blaming local Muslims. They have to identify the exact groups." said Dr. Deepak Chopra in an interview with Larry King.

When Timothy McVeigh killed hundreds of Americans including children in Oklahoma City no one claimed that all Roman Catholics were terrorists just because he was one. I acknowledge that radical Islam is more widespread than radical Christianity, but Islamic terrorists should be treated the same as the David Koresh's and Timothy McVeigh's of the world, with the arm of Justice, not a backlash of hate for their religion.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cuba in the Obama Era

Will republicans join democrats in a few years on the beaches of Cuba sipping piña coladas purchased with funds from their high yield green-washed portfolios? Only time will tell. At the risk of sounding pro-Cuba and therefore pro-communist I want to pose a reasonable question. Why in 2008 with the cold war nearly 20 years behind us does the United States maintain a trade embargo on this beautiful neighbor of ours? My grandmother used to tell us about her parent's jaunts to Havana and their glowing tales of fun and relaxation on this largest of the Caribbean islands. My great-grandfather was a Swedish immigrant and self-made man. A lumber mill owner and contractor who powered his mill with the waters of the Chadakoin river in Jamestown, New York. He was an entrepreneur who epitomized a real world version of the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" kind of person the Bill O'Riely's and Sean Hannity's of the world love to fantasize about through their plumped jowls. Despite this apparent dyed in the wool republican persona my great-grandfather loved Cuba and two generations later tales of his adventures there still bounce around in my head. Cuba is an island we could literally build a bridge to and yet the United States maintains trade barriers because they are communists? What about China? We sure like spending money we borrow from them to buy goods they make. Why not spend China's money on the beaches of Cuba? I understand that there may be severe human rights violations inside the Cuban boarders and that the people of Cuba may not have the same brand of freedom that we think we have in the United States but as the early 20th century supreme court justice Louis Brandeis once said "Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” referring to the benefits of openness and transparency. If things are really that bad in Cuba shouldn't Americans want to see it for themselves and "love thy neighbor?" My question remains; is there any good reason for maintaining the embargo? If you think the answer is, No, how can we help speed along the reconciliation process?

Prospects seem good.

Some of the expectations Cubans have of our new leader.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Somali Pirates

Piracy be relevant t` th` world we live in... both historically an` currently b`lieve `t or nay. When I began t` hear reports about Somali Sea dogs, I couldna help but think o` them featured in Th` Life Aquatic, LOL. "Do th` interns get glocks? Nay, they be havin` t` share one." :-) This inspired me t` write a seafarin` hearty song on me poetry blog :-) O` course, i couldna a done this without a th` use o` th` online english t` pirate translation software. Check 't ou' an' be havin' some fun wi' 't if yer into this sort o' thin' :-)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Flood is Coming

A deluge of internet use is about to hit the United States in the coming months. While the world was watching the election the FCC set in motion a chain reaction that will open the floodgates of high speed internet access. It has been repeatedly pointed out recently that the US is trailing other developed countries in terms of high speed internet access per inhabitant also called broadband penetration. However, if technology is quick enough on the uptake this lag should be overcome in the near future. When I was a child our family had television reception only through the "antenna." We received ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS. That was it. All the remaining channels were white fuzz. On November 4th 2008 the FCC voted to open these so called "white spaces" for high speed internet access nationwide! What does this mean? It means watch out because Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, AT&T, and the lots of communications big wigs are going to be acting like grumbling giants having their precious' taken from them. I don't know if these large telecom companies will have a head start in offering internet service through the giant wireless towers once designated solely for television signals. What I do know is that people will finally be able to simply purchase internet access alone. Gone will be the days of getting swindled into paying for basic cable or a phone line just because one wants internet access. This will bring the web to more households than ever before. Whole counties will become like coffeehouse "hot spots." Accompanying this flood of access will be a flood of usage and this will hopefully end any bureaucratic opacity the Bush administration has held onto for the last eight years. The CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, discusses with Ariana Huffington what increased internet use has done for politics and will continue to do to keep government honest. The age of citizen-fact-checkers is upon us. May we all stay skeptical and do our homework.

Amy Goodman at Democracy Now had the wherewithal to report on this momentous vote by the FCC despite being drowned-out by the signal to noise ratio of this year's historic election. She talks here with Timothy Karr of the media reform group Free Press.

Friday, November 21, 2008

When 'Buy Local' Means Inside Your Country

Small businesses have always been the backbone of America's economy and will save today's economy by using the opportunities only America can provide. Warren Buffet has said and it is well known that "ultimately the value of the stock market can only reflect the output of the economy." More broadly, the wealth of a nation depends most on its ability to produce. As mega-corporations such as Walmart and Nike increasingly import their good and use cheap foreign labor to produce their goods, we have seen a slow seeping of America's money into the banks of other countries. This scenario mirrors that of a lake whose flow out is greater than its flow in, eventually it dries up.

A stark example of this theory is the big three automakers: Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler. The auto-companies have shut down plant after plant in America while opening new plants in Mexico and other 'cheap labor' countries. Many Americans have found themselves looking for a new job due to these job exports. I will never forget the story i heard of a 19-year old college kid training a forty three year man to run a cash register at a sporting goods store because his job had been sent overseas. And many middle class American's find themselves in this situation. According to the US Census Bureau, 70% of America's economy comes from the non-goods producing sector (the service industry). As we replace our goods-producing jobs with service jobs more and more American money is finding its way into the hands of other countries, while the American middle class is making less money to spend on goods. It will be very difficult for America to thrive on a purely service industry based economy as foreign businesses get better at insurance, professional consultation, and banking. America must start producing more to keep cash in America.

Small businesses are the answer for keeping America's manifest destiny intact. Companies like AIG, Walmart, and GM all started small and got big because they were the best and brightest. As some of the mega-corporations succumb to the diseases of greed and mismanagement it is time for new companies to rise from the ground and inject capital into America once again. This will happen because small companies rely on and employ the American worker. This symbiotic relationship puts cash in the pockets of the American middle class, cash that it has historically been known to spend. The big question is, can the little guy win the fight in a room full of giants?

Small companies have an uphill battle to climb against the multi-national corporations who have the deep pockets to spend money on R and D and marketing. Also, a theme now of big companies has been to buyout, rather than compete with, the smaller companies. Despite this fact I will keep my faith in David with his slingshot against Goliath. Small business must prevail to save the American economy. I will support the local smaller guy to keep my dollar in America.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thomas Paine - the Face of Sustainable Living!

The time is now upon all communities and each of us individually, to enact sustainable living practices. Establishing and promoting sustainable living is no longer a task for future generations, it is our current task. There are many faces of sustainable living. The new symbolic face of sustainable living will be Thomas Paine's! Check out how the Lewes pound will promote and raise awareness for sustainable living. Many of the aspects and prospects of sustainable living have been and will continue to be covered and discussed within the pages of this weblog.

Here I would like to touch briefly upon the local produce arm of sustainable living. Markets featuring local produce and other local goods are an integral part of many small communities and cultures, yet this concept has been abandoned in many modern communities. Supporting locally grown produce greatly reduces energy consumption, as food does not need to be shipped as far, it also strengthens communities and has many intangible values. The "100-mile market" concept is feasible for large modern cities. Often times the only critical piece missing is initiative! Check out this Ontario Project. What I like best about the homepage photo is the skyscrappers in the background. If you don't think this is possible in your community, think again! Check out what urban gardeners in Detriot are doing (Go to Day 9, Red State Roadtrip). If this doesn't inspire you to push for a project in your community then perhaps nothing will. Grassroots sustainable living projects are sprouting up in more and more communities. Green is NOT a buzzword, it is NOT the latest trend, it is the culture of our future! Initiate projects in your community, encourage new and ongoing projects, get involved and lend support! Via la revolutiones!

Does the Dalai Lama condone human sacrifice?

Disclaimer: After extensive research on this claim I have found no evidence of human sacrifice practiced or condoned by the current Dalai Lama. However, this claim was used in an attempt to convince me that Tibet is better off because of Chinese rule. The image to the right appeared in this week's issue of Nature, and reminded me of a debate I once had and all the memories of this most grueling disagreement came flooding back.

This article speaks of the Dalai Lama's desire and enthusiasm for interaction between Buddhists and scientists. Proponents of this type of scientific/spiritual collaboration make the point that, unlike western religions, Buddhism is unencumbered by an anthropomorphic deity in the sky and actually embraces empiricism over blind faith. An argument is made; in order to accomplish the "greatest good" an alleviation of human suffering is needed, a goal which Buddhism and science share.

The argument that I had surrounding the motives of the current Dalai Lama, the content of his character, and the nature of his religion began in part because of my blindly fervent defense of this man and the religion for which he stands. This argument is pertinent to the Dalai Lama's apparent interest in science because it took place inside a laboratory. My antagonist consistently claimed that the people of Tibet are wholly better off because of the occupation and that Chinese rule had made the more barbaric practices of “lamaism” (as he called Tibetan Buddhism) illegal. He went so far as to claim that the lamas (the high priests that surround the Dali Lama) had practiced human sacrifice up until the 1950’s.

Before I begin the explanation of the conclusions that followed I would like to preface the discussion with the introduction to Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason.

"I put the following work under your protection. It contains my opinion upon religion. You will do me the justice to remember, that I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it. The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall."

-Thomas Paine

Understanding why my friend held the opinion he did about the Dalai Lama required that I listen intensely to what he had to say precisely because it was so different than my own. The argument between he and I remained civil but lasted for 3 months after he had sent me an e-mail (I found the text on the web here) with the claims of human sacrifice backed by scholarly references. One such claim specifically accuses one of the high priests of Tibetan Buddhism or Gelug lama of making a large loaf of bread called a "torma" out of the following ingredients.

Torma (cake) made of buckwheat and blood;
1.) Five different sorts of meat, including human flesh;
2.) The skull of a child of an incestuous relationship, filled with blood and mustard seeds;
3.) The skin of a boy;
4.) A bowl of human brain in blood;
5.) A lamp filled with human fat with a wick made of human hair;
6.) And a dough like mixture of gall, brain, blood and human entrails.
In the same text it accuses the lamas of sacrificing their own subjects as recently as 1950.

"In AD1950 summer the Gelug lama made a huge torma of roughly three-yard high, claiming that the powerful demon Kshetrapala was invocated and sealed in it. They burnt it outside Lhasa town and bluffed Tibetans into believing that the demon as well as his accomplices was released to destroy the deity behind PLA, which was claimed to be a 'nine-headed Chinese demon'."

My initial instinct was to laugh at these accusations as Chinese propaganda, but I wanted to be as thorough as possible in the investigation. I inter-library loaned these references. Some came from obscure private libraries at Harvard. The only evidence I could find in all my research was reference to ancient Tibetan texts describing human sacrifice as part of the old "bon" mongolian traditions that mixed with Buddhism in the 1300s (de Nebesky-Wojkowitz, Rene: Oracles and demons of Tibet, the cult and Iconography of the Tibetan protective deities, Katmandu 1993). I found no modern evidence for human sacrifice in Tibetan Buddhism anytime close to 1950. My mentor stuck to his ideas though and we agreed to disagree, but I did learn that Tibet was not the Shangri-La that it is normally portrayed as in western media. However, the Dalai Lama has demonstrated that he is setting an example for the other religious leaders of the world both by appearing in this week's issue of Nature with a pipette in his hand and by being quoted as saying "Should science prove some Buddhist concept wrong, then Buddhism will have to change." Reestablishing the tarnished reputation of science will help our world emerge from the land of make-believe it seems to be now inhabiting.

A Microcosm of Communism in China

A Peace Corps volunteer in Guizhou (贵州), China shares his story of a first hand encounter with the Chinese government and its control over the press. Specifically, Dustin Ooley describes the government manipulating water supply to the school where he works in a blog post entitled Water Monopoly! (or Where is Teddy Roosevelt When People Need Him?). Particularly pertinent to TPG is the role that the reporter played, or in fact did not play in this scene. A resounding illustration of the functional role of an unfettered press in a democracy.

Cheers to Dustin for the composition and Phil for the heads up.

The culture wars hinge on reinforcing stereotypes. One popular stereotype is that liberals are communists, socialists, marxists, and what have you. Well, my friends, I would consider myself a liberal thinker but this story scares me. The issues that unify us will help end the culture wars and the most paramount of these issues is outlined in the first amendment. Liberty and justice for all requires free speech and a free press whether you are liberal or conservative.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Magnetic Island by ISABEL HOWLETT

In the spirit of celebrating the propagation of art and creativity across the web, I would like to draw attention to the inspiring work of Isabel Howlett. I appreciate Isabel's work for its often earthy-organic feeling and its seemingly biological influence.  The abstract piece above, loaded with delicious, juicy niblets and absolutely exploding with vibrant energy, effectively arouses the imagination while enticing an apatite for curious adventure. Magnetic Island of Queensland Australia must be a truly glorious landscape! Check out Isabel's paintings at her website www.isabelhowlett.co.uk.

Art Church

The Church of Beethoven in Albuquerque, New Mexico is described by NPR here.

"I have struggled so long in the arts. It's like you're crying in the wilderness. You're saying, 'Look at all this incredible music that really isn't getting out there to the extent that it should.'"
-Felix Wurman

He says he wants this idea to spread with Churches of Mozart, Chopin, Bach, Schubert, and Rachmaninoff. But why limit the idea to music and why call it a church. Gatherings celebrating music, writing, and visual arts of secular content could be the next step in the interconnectedness of the web manifesting in the real world.

This story reminded me of an article I read in Time magazine entitled "Sunday school for atheists." My favorite tidbit from this story was the description of the children singing songs like "I'm Unique and Unrepeatable, set to the tune of Ten Little Indians." Though I don't think organizations like these should be advertised as "for atheists only." Thomas Paine believed in one God just not any of the stories written about God over human history. A forum for people who want to socialize their children without having to sign up and take oaths to a code of beliefs should be more widely available in our United States under its metaphorical banner of FREEDOM.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Religious Displays on Public Land. Where do you stand?

The Supreme Court of the United States consists of nine justices, two of whom were appointed by a single democrat (Bill Clinton), while the remaining were appointed by republicans (Gerald Ford, Ronald Regan, George Herbert Walker Bush, and George W. Bush). Today these justices questioned both sides in a case about privately funded religious displays on public land. A small religious group in Pleasant Grove, Utah known as the Summum church (founded in 1975) requested that the city display a three foot granite slab outlining its core principles, the "Seven Aphorisms" right next to a monument listing the Ten Commandments that has stood on this public park since it was donated by eagle scouts in 1971.

After reading these aphorisms my initial thought was that the guy who came up with this religion (Corky Ra) took some physics classes in college, smoked some pot and made up this mixture of Gnostic Christianity and ancient Egyptian faiths (including the practice of mummification). Consequently, Corky is also the proprietor of the first federally bonded winery in the state of Utah where he brews "Nectar publications" an alcoholic holy drink for use in "meditation" by the parishioners of Summum. I would say Mr. Ra is on par with Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and L. Ron Hubbard as an up-and-coming American profit (I may have spelled that wrong). It occurred to me that many of the "aphorisms" are summed up by the Taoist yin and yang symbol representing a balance of opposites. I wonder if this case would have made it to the Supreme Court had a religious group wanted to erect a monument without words such as a giant yin yang.

While I initially thought that monuments like this on public lands should not be defended by the Supreme Court because this would mean that government is supporting specific religions I understand that this case is about equal representation in a public forum which has traditionally been upheld by the Supreme Court. This "public forum equality precedent" was set in 2005 when the Supreme Court approved the ten commandments on display within some public forums but not in others. The unapproved display was in Kentucky where the court pointed out that the ten commandments stood alone and were promoting a single religion, whereas the ten commandments carved in stone at the state capital building in Austin, Texas were permissible under the establishment clause of the constitution because in this instance the display was not blatantly promoting one religion over another. In the context of other markers throughout the capital grounds it was ruled that the ten commandments in Austin fit into an atmosphere of secular education about legal history or a public forum.

This 2005 precedent is coming back to haunt the justices this year with the case of Pleasant Grove v. Summum. It can be argued that the posting of these "aphorisms" next to the commandments would legitimize the commandments being there in the first place because it would say "hey, the government can allow religious displays as long as all those religions that want to be represented are represented equally and without preference."

I, like the Supreme Court, am torn on this case. On the one hand I do believe in maintaining freedom of speech even in the most obscure cases, but the conservationist in me does not want to see public green spaces littered with monuments to Zeus, Thor, Christ, or Ra. I do like art in public spaces and maybe these religious tenets can be considered as art. But in this context I do not think city governments have to erect any and all monuments or pieces of art offered to them, but if cities decide to start allowing some religious monuments to go up then they need to open the forum to any religion that wants to erect similar monuments.

During the winter of 2005 I was living in Fort Collin, CO and a local Rabbi wanted to place a menorah that he and his temple were sponsoring on public property near a Christmas tree for the eight days of Chanukah. The city of Fort Collins refused his request and this eventually became a nationally visible news story. My interpretation of this case is that the city of Fort Collins was preferentially allowing holiday displays that aligned with the beliefs of the majority of the city, while ostracizing a smaller religious sect. I felt that the constitutional rights of the Rabbi and his congregation were infringed on. In the case of the Summon religion and their granite slab I feel like the only fair thing to do is tell the city of Pleasant Grove to either remove all religious writings from the public land or allow those tasteful and aesthetically pleasing views of other religions to be erected as monuments of equal size and equal real estate value (we don't want to see the aphorisms of Summum on our way into the latrine). The city still has the right to refuse in this instance but has to be an equal opportunity censor.

I would not want the ten commandments or the aphorisms of Summon to greet me when I enter rocky mountain national park or any national park for that matter so I support the right of local governing bodies to say no to proposed plaques etc. but if a refusal is granted in one instance of a religious monument then there can be no religious monuments. It has to be equal exposure or none at all. This removes the potential appearance of government endorsement of religion.
Read more here here and here

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


It only took a little over 200 years since this place was built.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Joe Scarborough says F*** YOU live on the air!

Way to go Joe the pundit!

Man arrested for stealing communion wafers

A 33 year old man was arrested in Jensen Beach, Florida at the St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church for attempting to steal the body of Christ (in the form of wafers). Enraged parishioners prevented the man from leaving the church and called the police after they watched him try to gank a handful of those delicious communion wafers.

John Samuel Ricci is still in jail on $2,000 bond. This guy was obviously starving or why would he want to steal these dried-up cardboard cakes? And what happened to the lesson in proverb 16:19 "Better it is to be of a lowly spirit with the poor, than to divide the spoil with the proud." if you can call communion wafers spoils. Mr. Ricci was charged with two counts of simple battery, theft and disruption of a religious assembly. If I walked into a catholic church and wanted to place all the parishioners under citizen's arrest for cannibalism would I be charged with disruption of a religious assembly? Trespassing maybe.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A New Birth of Freedom: The Inaugural Theme

Bill Moyers asked during a joint interview with professors Eric Foner and Patricia Williams what they thought about the purported theme of Barack Obama's upcoming inaugural address "A New Birth of Freedom." Here are the responses beginning with Eric Foner the DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University.
"I think President Bush, in an odd sort of way, has devalued the concept of freedom by the cynical and militaristic way he has employed it. Freedom meant invading another place and giving them freedom, whether they wanted our freedom or not. But I think Obama has a great opportunity to rekindle all other ideas of freedom which have existed in our history. Freedom as economic security, freedom as a sort of sense of dignity and empowerment for people who maybe have lacked that in the past, freedom as a collective sense of the society becoming freer, not just individuals"
Patricia Williams the James L. Dohr Professor of Law at Columbia Law School followed up with these thoughts
"I think freedom has been really collapsed or restrained to a kind of arch libertarianism, which is deeply economic. So freedom is really a free market. I mean, it's sort of been conflated with the free market, which is not to say that it doesn't have something to do with the free market.

But the other larger constitutional definition of freedom is dependent upon things like due process. It is dependent upon the amendments to the Constitution. And those have been given very short shrift in recent years. And so the re-acquaintance with our Bill of Rights as a foundation of freedom without a price tag of freedom as a notion of the beloved community is something that I think hopefully we'll see more of."

In and interview I saw a few years ago a reporter asked 10 Americans in a grocery store what they thought America was fighting for in Iraq. Out of those questioned 8 of the 10 responded with one word - freedom. Of all the underlying themes in American history this one goes back to the meetings at Independence hall and was paramount in the frontal lobes of Franklin, Jefferson, Sherman, Livingston, and Adams. And yet, like the word "God" the word "freedom" can be hijacked and used as a brand, as it was so effectively to rouse emotion and allegiance to nefarious or misguided causes, and to manifest the designs of architects of war, as evidenced in the grocery store responses above. In my mind there is no greater threat to "freedom" as defined by our framers as "the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants without hindrance or restraint" than the the culture of fear promulgated by the Patriot Act. As Patricia Williams points out the constitutional definition of freedom is dependent on the maintenance of due process and habeas corpus. Though neither candidate spoke of freedom very much during the campaign process Barack did mention over and over his desire to "turn the page" and begin "writing a new chapter in American history" I hope that people will latch on to the narrative of freedom and that American consciousness will be raised to realize the broader more encompassing definition of this evolving meme.

to Obama's first radio address as President-elect.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The reason Obama won.

Peruvian shamans for Obama!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hail the glorious victory of president elect Barak Obama!

The future is bright indeed! It will be interesting to watch 2008 come to a close as a blood-red sun sets on a dark era in American history with a new, refreshing sun approaching on the horizon. I would like to remind all those who have become so involved in American politics this election that the political process is a continuum and sees no beginning nor end. Your political voice is not defined by your vote alone. I eagerly await the announcement of more detailed policies on many of the important issues facing this country under Barak Obama's administration and I will continue to vocalize my opinions and engage in thoughtful discussion in diverse forums.

In the meantime, as a lame-duck congress considers more economic stimulus plans, "toobtof" implications and application of the 700 billion dollar rescue plan that will impact Obama's administration in many ways... I would like to bring forth the Mollusk!

Vampyroteuthis Infernalis is an amazing and fascinating deep-sea dweller! Check out this YouTube clip if you're into bizarre creatures. "There are just three things that stir the mollusk from the sand... the waking of all creatures that live on the land!" :-)

Dow Drops as Scared White People Sell Off

The Dow Jones Industrial average dropped 486 points today. Predictable to say the least as scared wealthy white people privately made their fears known to the world behind computer screens clicking sell sell sell. "Hoard your riches the black man wants to raise the capital gains tax!!! the sky is falling!!!" they say to themselves in a chorus of silent fear. I bet this will continue through the middle of winter and the world will suffer for their greed. But at some point a few of these old time crusties are going to realize they can double down and start pumping their assets back into the renewable infrastructure boom and the market will emerge with new muscle. The sad part is that old time blue chips like Ford and GM are probably not going to exist as we know them in 12 months if this trend continues. At the grocery store last week there was a notice in the cookie aisle that mothers/archway had completely shut down and would not be making their frosted animal cookies, rocky-road, peanut butter, or any of their staples anymore. After 92 years they are closing up shop. This won't be the last of the traditions we loose in the coming months but we shouldn't get too upset. Change requires a walk through the valley of despair. Now is the time to try on some metaphorical hiking boots.

A World Leader

"As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, 'We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.' And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too."
-Barack Obama

John McCain is a great man plagued by George W. Bush.

While we are on the Topic of Abraham Lincoln I thought I would share these thoughts from one of the most prolific Lincoln historians of our time Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

E Pluribus Unum

Redemption from perdition.
I said to my friends tonight I felt like a swell of art a swell of expression would ensue if what is happening now happened.
The Leviathan that is the United States is forever changed!

If you read this I give you an internet hug.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Obama's Grandmother Passed Away.

May her spirit shine through her grandson tomorrow!

In this context I am using the word spirit in a literal rather than a supernatural sense. The word spirit is derived from the Latin word for breath. Whenever I think of the word spirit I think of my own grandmother and all the positive impressions she made on me with her words and actions.
Margaret Atwood explains how the word "spirit" is at the core of Christianity in the following interview with Bill Moyers. She makes a great point here at about 1 minute 28 seconds in about how the oral tradition moves from individual to individual.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Nature endorses Barack Obama

The editorial board of the highly respected scienctific journal Nature have made public their endorsement of the junior senator from Illinois. It appears this is the first time Nature has officially endorsed any political candidate.

The crux of this anomaly came in this resounding bit of text.

"The core values of science are those of open debate within a free society that have come down to us from the Enlightenment in many forms, not the least of which is the constitution of the United States."

In light of Governor Sarah Palin's recent vocalizations regarding constitutional interpretation I can understand why these editor's have chosen to endorse her opponent.

Palin on amendment 1

"If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations," Palin told AM talk radio host Chris Plante, "then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media."

By this interpretation of the constitution all political candidates should be immune to media criticism? How do we keep discussions about Sarah Palin objective when objectivity itself is what is at stake?

I felt embarrassed for the Governor when I heard this today.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Biochemistry of Halloween: Installment 1

By Kristopher Hite

"A Candle in the Dark"

Teeth lengthened by receding gums glow in the shaded valleys of the Carpathian basin. The genetic milieu of the Visigoths, Huns, Carpians, and Slavic peoples have swirled over centuries as granite crags pushed populations into shallow gene pools. A ghoulish thing of legend emerged from Transylvania and has since soaked literature and pop-culture with a reddish froth. Science and medicine have given us reason not to fear for our necks in a story that is truly stranger than fiction...

The glowing teeth mentioned earlier occur because of an accumulation of light sensitive molecules called porphyrins in victims of a rare genetic disease. Porphyria affects one of the steps in heme production. A heme is the chemical group that holds iron atoms in their proper position in hemoglobin (the protein of blood). The name "porphyria" came from the Greek words for purple and pigment. Victims of this disease have an uncanny similarity to historical descriptions of vampires and phenotypes of this disease have been suggested as possible explanation for the origin of vampire legends.

Mal-formed porphyrin molecules accumulate in affected people's skin and teeth. When activated by light these molecules activate oxygen molecules into destructive radicals that can wreak havoc on surrounding tissue. When exposed to light individuals appear to be burned with caustic lesions left on their skin. Enter: Nosferatu's pale countenance shrieking in terror as the sun rises.

Though no blood-lust is reported by sufferers some historians speculate that drinking the blood of animals may have been attempted as a folk remedy in treating the disease. It has since been proven that the heme molecule is in fact robust enough to survive digestion indicating that replenishing mal-formed blood molecules by drinking blood may indeed help those that happen to exhibit anemia in conjunction with porphyria. When watching vampire movies the whole garlic premise never made any sense to me. Why couldn't you use mushrooms, or cinnamon, or toothbrushes to scare away vampires? What was it about garlic. With the Porphyria hypothesis in mind it makes sense however. Garlic has vasso-dilator chemicals and is reported to exacerbate the affects of porphyria. Sufferers may have learned to avoid it indeed!

In the genetically secluded valleys of Transylvania it is not hard to imagine disorders like these occurring more than expected in a diverse population. Before the renaissance and the spread of the scientific revolution a vampire myth may have grown from accounts of these individuals with their glowing long teeth, aversion to sun and garlic, and maybe even sucking blood in the night!

Thanks Nick for your help with this!!! stay tuned for the next installment of the Biochemistry of Halloween when we talk about Haitian Zombies!