Lesson one

A while back I made a post about some recent changes in my “world view.” These statements were, by design, broad, and vague. They were meant to illicit interest and provoke thinking. Today I am going to delve a little deeper. I am going to tell you that we, as humans, are not fundamentally flawed as many believe. We simply have a flawed way of looking at the world and our place in it.

A while back, nobody knows for sure when, maybe around 8000 B.C. or the time of the beginning of the “agricultural revolution” people of our culture (see definition below) decided that it was better to take charge of their food supply by planting, harvesting, and storing their own food. By doing this they could more easily survive droughts and lean times because of their food reserves. The people of our culture soon began to have far more food than they needed to live and were able to settle down in one place and make a lot of babies as a result. Whenever the population started to get close to the food producing capacity of the farmed land, more land was put under cultivation. For thousands of years we went on like this, grow more food, increase in numbers, repeat. This sounds like a good way to live and we (all of us in our culture) know that it is. In fact, we know that it is not only a good way to live but indeed the right way to live. Whenever we encountered others living in a different way (i.e. herding, hunting/gathering, etc) we told them that they were living the wrong way and taught them how to cultivate the land so that they too can live the way humans are supposed to live and not like the animals live. Most saw that the agriculturalists were well fed and had large numbers so they willingly joined in this “revolution.” Those that chose not to were obviously fools or savages incapable of understanding “civilized” ways and so were overrun and destroyed. The thing is, however, that the “agricultural revolution” has not stopped. There are still remote regions with “backward” peoples who have yet to realize that they are living in an non-human, antiquated way. Our culture has strived to show them the right way or has pushed them into extinction in the trying. The result of our culture’s insistence that the way we are living is the one right way to live is an ever increasing global population with an ever decreasing level of bio-diversity. More and more of the world is being rendered nothing more than a human life-support system: lands under plow for our consumption, animal herds being raised for our foods and products, and the rest being polluted by our ever-increasing need to consume. As many as 200 species become extinct, every day to support our ways. As any ecologist will tell you, a diverse ecology is a strong ecology while an ecology that consists of only a few organisms (like say, humans, their crops, their herd animals, and the crops used to feed them) is a very fragile one. Diversity then, isn’t something that is nice, or something to be strived for because it is more interesting to have. No, diversity is essential to our survival as a species on this planet. The quicker we consume enough species on this planet, the sooner we will destroy ourselves. What is the name for our culture then? The Consumers, and it includes nearly every man, woman, and child on earth.

Much of these ideas came from my reading of Daniel Quinn’s books. For those interested in learning more of these types of ideas and views I encourage you to read Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. After that, read other books, and keep reading and thinking, and gradually change your actions, and the way you live. Become happier and more content, show others how to live. If reading isn’t your bag or if you would simply like to discuss some of the things I have written please write to me. Also, I am by no means done with this rant.

Its the little truths in life that make all the difference.

If you have never been, the Minnesota State Fair would probably seem like any other state or county fair or carnival you may have been to, only larger. But if you grew up near the fair, and had your parents bring you each year to gorge on deep fried things on sticks, you would know that it is oh so much more.

Sure to the uninitiated it seems like a crowded, sweaty, smelly place to drink cheap beer and grease-filled food. To those who know it however, and know all of its intricacies, it becomes a place that is crowded, sweaty, smelly, filled with cheap bear and greasy food, of course, but also a wondrous place teeming with toothless carnies calling out your manhood to entice you to “win yer lady” a sawdust-filled bear; a place to actually witness the last shred of dignity leave the bodies of countless aging rock & roll acts making a last ditch tour through the Midwest before finally drifting off where only the stories they tell their grandkids remind them of when they were once really hip, honest.

Sure you may not hold much interest in this year’s prize-winning sow or the latest in farming implements, but who can withstand the draw of thousands of drunk people stepping on your heels and spilling their favorite grain-derived beverage on your pants, not to mention the endless barrage of rhetoric from the multitudes of media outlets, political parties, and countless products vying for your collective, patronage, support, dollars, etc? Can you really ask for anything more?

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A lesson in economics for today’s investor. I bet a lot of dot comers wish they had that beer investment right about now.

Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!

I don’t trust people who’s musical tastes have stopped growing. I used to not trust people who I didn’t know or who offered me candy. Later I was wary of smokers thanks to the Jets, but later became mistrustful of the Jets, too. Now I mainly only mistrust politicians and people who talk about business strategy and synergy.

Oh yeah and I mistrust Microsoft, and organized religion, and the big media conglomerates that play all this crap on the radio. Radio? you say? What is radio? Well, kids, radio is something that, once upon a time, would seek out (or be sought out) musical talents for the purposes of providing entertainment to its listeners, attract more listeners, and ultimately make money via the advertisement dollars brought in by companies wishing to sell said listeners products and services. Not the noblest of professions but still nothing like the evil industry that it has become today.

Now radio, after years and years of research into the music preferences of the American public, these media companies have found 2 things to be true (in general of course): 1. People like to have music chosen for them. It is simpler that way. 2. People will like a song after 10 exposures that they did not like after just 1 or 2. By combining these 2 facts (backed up by extensive research) we get what we have today: radio stations playing the same 30-50 songs (that all follow a specific format and are of certain styles) in heavy rotation, building a loyal following of “fans”. And after years and years of consolidation and mergers there are only like, 6 media companies that own *all* the radio stations in the country. What are we left with? Is all hope lost for those who would seek out good music? A few independent radio stations, the Web, and our friends’ collections, is all.

In its own small way GarageBand.com tries to correct some parts of this problem. GarageBand.com allows visitors to rank and review independent bands and provides these bands with money in some cases to produce and distribute their albums based upon these reviews. A neat idea if they don’t just become another label adding to the problem.

[Source: MPR: Marketplace]

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On another, wholly unrelated note, goodbye and good riddance.

Yeah that’s cool, but how fast will it run Quake?

In this month’s Wired there is a great article about quantum computing. For years now, I have yearned for computer makers to ditch the x86 architecture and start fresh without all that baggage. I never thought of such a change in architecture as anything more than a new kind of processing with the same types of parts. Mostly silicone, metal, plastics, and the like.

In the field of quantum computing the materials that are to be used are still way up in the air. But one of the most interesting methods of constructing such a computer is “…a system of electrons floating on the surface of superfluid helium at very low temperatures.” These electrons called quantum bits or qubits, in their lowest energy state represent 0 and in their first excited state represents 1. The system is cooled down to .01 Kelvin, where helium is the only substance that remains liquid.

Computers like this can do some very powerful computations with amazing results. The example they gave in the article was that if they could create an array of 333 of these electron size qubits they could perform simultaneous operations on every number between 1 and a googol (10100 which is a number considerably larger than the number of atoms in the universe). For today’s fastest supercomputers it would take several quadrillion years to do simple computations on the same range of numbers. Wow! How do they do this? In part it is due to the fact that a qubit doesn’t need to choose between 0 and 1; it can be both at once.

Homework:

Stanford, Berkeley, MIT, IBM NMR Quantum Computation Project
Center for Quantum Computation
Quantum Computation/Cryptography at Los Alamos
A Hitchhikers Guide to Quantum Computing

Status

I am off to Chicago

I am off to Chicago today for a Radiohead concert. I am really psyched up for it. While I am away I have a task for you. Please go and view this page and help me to decide on a t-shirt design for the upcoming Alt Text world tour. Be sure to give me any additional feedback on the shirts, too. Thanks all, I will post the results when I return and probably make a decision in a week or so as to which shirt designs I will have made.

Many people say racism is

Many people say racism is about how people are treated. If that is the case then I think I am alright as I don’t think I really treat people all that differently based upon their race (at least not in ways that matter much). What worries me, however, is the idea that racism is more in how we think. Unfortunately, I still think about people of color differently; here’s what I mean:

If I meet a black person, I always have a thought in my mind that I don’t want them to construe anything I do or say as being prejudicial. In my mind then, I am constantly aware that that person is black (at least until I know them well enough to forget that). I don’t like that nagging awareness. I don’t want it to matter and I don’t want my actions to be altered based upon those thoughts. This being the case, I tend to do things like smile at black people on the street more than I do to white people, or make a greater attempt to converse with people of color than I do with their white counterparts.

I don’t like these things about me. I feel tremendous guilt about being this way, but I don’t know how to combat these thoughts. This is not to say that I think I am abnormal in some way, because I feel that most “non-racist” people tend to have similar thoughts, although that could just be me projecting on the rest of the population.

I can at least feel good knowing that I care and I try, which is far more than I can say for the many ignorant hate mongers out there. One interesting thing about the link in the previous sentence is that it is the actual site of real short-wave radio show that is broadcast in over 50 countries. Their tagline “Bringing American-Style talk radio to 50 countries around the world!” could, perhaps, be modified slightly to be more accurate: “Bringing American-Style ignorance, insensitivity, and hate to 50 countries around the world!”

Um… I’m gonna need you to go ahead and come in tomorrow. Yeah.

Is it coincidence that ABCNews ran an article yesterday about the sometimes racially charged environment that we call America? Well, yes, but does its timeliness not underscore the fact that I have my pasty white fingers on the pulse of the nation? I think it may.

The article brings to light that some small gestures and comments can be construed as racist or at least insensitive to many. Here are some of the examples they gave: Long haired white women may unknowingly insult nearby black women as they can perceive the action as a slight on their own hair, or (as in the classic scene from Office Space) how reaching over and locking your car door when you see a black man at an upcoming intersection can be sending a clear message to him that he is to be feared.

The overarching question then, is are we too sensitive about race in this country? I think the answer to that depends upon the color of your skin. Whites may tend to say yes, however most lack the perspective to know what racial discrimination is even about. Blacks, Hispanics, and those of Asian decent experience discrimination and prejudices every day. The effects of all of those questions, fearful glances, and overt actions take their toll on a person and forever change them. Few white people (particularly white men) in America have experienced these types of feelings and so they may simply shrug off the cries of the minorities as them merely being angry or not letting go of the past; a past that, unfortunately for those being judged and put down, far too often mirrors their present.