Wednesday, December 26, 2012

What The Oligarchy Fears Most

What is it that the rich and powerful fear the most?
They fear the loss of the tenuous hold they have on their wealth and power. 
...They fear the loss of thier income stream.  

Many among the super-rich think they're better than us. But the flip side of all that perceived intellectual superiority is the realization that there are people out there with better ideas. They know it. And it keeps them awake at night. 

Meet Nick Woodman, CEO and founder of GoPro – a company that sells a camera. Of course, not just any camera. This is a tiny digital video camera that has been ruggedized and designed to mount just about anywhere. Nick Woodman started his company from scratch in 2002 with a few thousand dollars. Nick Woodman is now a billionaire. He's sold that many cameras. 

Now consider Kodak – the most successful film company for decades. Now bankrupt – no longer in the photo business at all... Kodak had to see the digital camera age coming. They did. They sold digital cameras. But these were digital cameras just like everybody else's. With all of Kodak's money, people, and business degrees; they couldn't develop the next best thing. This is common. In fact, there are reasons for it.

With all the money Kodak was raking in selling film, nothing else looked profitable.
With all the employees Kodak had, no one thought of it, because they were all busy doing their assigned jobs.
With all the success Kodak had over the years, their management lost the will to take risks (even though, with all their education, they might have known better).
In other words; Kodak got fat and out of touch – and lost their edge.

Either way, Nick Woodman is a billionaire and Kodak is out of the photography business. And every big company knows they could be next. The truth is; many of them should be.

When any company ceases to provide it's customers with the most desirable goods or services, the market is justified in seeking another provider.

But that's not the capitalism we have.
We don't have a free market economy.
We don't have well regulated open markets.
That means we have the freedom to choose from what the monopolies have to offer – and it usually is just barely good enough – but that's OK, because it's expensive.

We have allowed the oligarchs to play whack-a-mole with better ideas.
They do this:

Competition is fundamentally necessary in capitalism. Without it, the market cannot adapt. Of course, that's exactly what oligarchs want. American capitalism rewards monopoly control. Monopolies maximize their profits by selling us federally subsidized - overpriced (and often dangerous) junk. And when our tools from them don't work, everything goes to pieces. But for a while, the oligarchs keep their income stream.

If nothing else, this is what we have to stop. The fate of all life on the planet is at stake.

I'm not exaggerating.

Think about it. Humanity's genetic advantage is that we are capable of instant change. We can adapt by changing our minds. We can learn. This is extraordinarily important. Humans can adapt without having to change our genetics.

Being human means being able to determine, and change, our own destiny.

But if we can't, for numerous underhanded reasons, change our minds; we can't utilize our genetic advantage. If we can't utilize our genetic advantages, we move to the front of the line for extinction. And it's likely we'll take a lot of other life forms with us. 

Oh... by the way, the Arctic Ice Cap just melted to its smallest size in recorded history this year. Nobody seems to be really shocked any more. We know what needs to be done. We know it can be done. We just haven't been able to get around to it yet.

Some people have. The Occupy Movement has peacefully tried to make a difference. And they got the expected mistreatmenttimes ten. This is a sign. This is a sign that the oligarchy is much more powerful than most of us ever imagined. And this is also a sign that they are very afraid...

Hey, it's our money they're taking. And if we ever found out... well, we might buy our stuff from some other monopolistic supplier

The oligarchy has used every trick in the book to keep us under their control. They have realized that all they have to do is control some of us – cast doubt in the minds of most of us – and ostracize the rest of us.

The oligarchy has realized that the more they squeeze the populous with absurd laws, the more the populous will call for smaller government. And the more pressure there is for freedom from restrictions, the more restrictions the oligarchy can avoid

Remember, when it comes right down to it; most of the time, those in power write the laws – for their own selfish benefit.

...But not always.

Their goal is to keep us making payments.
Our goal is to live a happy life.
There is bound to be conflict.
But ultimately, they can only dominate us if we let them.

Monday, December 24, 2012

What If The Whole World Were Like Haiti?

Have you ever noticed that Haiti sounds a lot like Hades?
Maybe this is prophecy.
What if some profit from the past had the insight to foresee that a nation which would suffer the fate of a man-made hell would have a name that sounded like Hades? Hey, maybe even the “s” at the end of the word Hades even implied multiple Haiti-s?

I am not a scholar on this. I only offer this speculation up as something to think about.

And of course, I'm not saying that Haiti is Hell. But we all know that Haiti has been through hell.

Apparently the Judeo-Christian version of the word “Hades” originally meant something like mass grave.

(Approximately 70,000 Haitians died in the 2010 earthquake.)

...In a recent post, I offered up the possibility that Hell is not a place so much as a time – and that our accumulated behavior could create Hell (or Heaven) right here on Earth.

Quite likely humanity's greatest fear is that we destroy so much of the Environment that the whole world becomes like the worst of Haiti – everywhere... Could someone with Nostradamus-like prophesy have foreseen that?

I don't know.
But what I do suspect is that you can't blame Hell on God – if we make it ourselves.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Barefoot" Running In The Snow!!!

My latest creation: A cleated minimalist sandal with waterproof sock – combination that can run on packed or shallow snow.

I just got back from the initial test run of my Winter Barefoot Running System. Yeah... I call it a system :) The acronym? WBRS – pronounced “wubbers.”

...I think I just realized I now like running better in the Winter than in the Summer. There aren't as many sharp rocks! In fact, running on packed snow on WBRS feels like running on the beach – barefoot!

So, how do my WBRS work, you ask. Quite well... I wore three layers of socks. My first layer was a pair of Injinji toe socks. I just like the way they feel. With them on, I'll never get a blister between my toes, and most important; they counter the pressure from the socks that go on over my toe socks. Admittedly, this isn't much pressure. They're only socks. But the outward pressure of the socks between my toes counters the inward pressure of the outer socks. This provides me with a neutral, barefoot, feeling. The second sock layer was a mid-hi REI wool hiking sock, kind of thick. And the outer sock was a calve-height SealSkinz waterproof sock.

My sandal design is similar to the distance running Tarahumara Indian huarache sandals, but these strap over the top of the foot. Since no company makes a waterproof sock with a slot for the tie to go next to the big toe, I had to make a sandal similar to the Unshoe Pah Tempe.

What I did different was to cut the sole slightly wider in places to accommodate screws that could function as cleats. I used 5/8” countersunk screws on a 10mm sole... They worked! I didn't slip much on packed snow (a freshly plowed dirt road).

Admittedly, I haven't tried them on ice yet. But if there are issues I can always use different length screws – or install more screws. Presently, I only feel the screws when I stand on something firm, like concrete. The screws must bend the sole a little. If this becomes a problem, I can always take the screws out. (The screws haven't come undone, so I haven't glued them in.)

I did one more thing different from the Unshoe design. I added protection for the 3/4” nylon straps on the sides and the bottom of the sandal. I used strips of bicycle inner tube, taped on, so that they can be easily replaced. Electrical tape works just fine – so far.

Overall, I'm very happy. Some snow does accumulate between the sandal and my foot, but I can always clear that with a brush of a finger. However, if I do leave the snow there, it doesn't seem to bother me any more than running over rocks in the Summer – and eventually it clears itself out.

So, not only can I now “barefoot” run in the Winter – I can use this system as an approach shoe when I go backcountry skiing. At lower elevations, where there isn't much snow, I can wear my sandals and socks and carry my telemark boots in my pack. Which means that with this “barefoot” system, I only have to carry one pair of heavy boots.

I already love my WBRS. I just have to remember to carry spare socks – especially waterproof socks – just in case the ones I'm wearing leak. This is only a minor inconvenience, especially when you consider two pairs of WBRS are still much lighter than one pair of snow boots.

There is some (sort of) bad news, however. I only intend to make these shoes for myself. So, you're on your own. But that's a good thing. If you make these shoes yourself, you can make them to fit your feet exactly.

You can get the sole at Luna Sandals. And you can get the strapping and the rest of the materials at most hardware stores. I used carpet thread.

...OK, OK; if you just don't have the time, I wouldn't be surprised if the people at Unshoe would custom make them for you. 

And one more thing; the cleats are an open source design.  

Apparently there are a few people who run literally barefoot in the snow. I'm impressed. But I'm also a little concerned. Our ancestors evolved to run barefoot out on the savanas, not in the snow. There may be a serious risk of frostbite. Not necessarily while running. But if you have to stop... especially out in the backcountry (where there isn't anyone around to rescue your barefoot carcass), you could be in a world of hurt.

I wouldn't want to be in a predicament where I have to run, barefoot in the snow, no matter how badly I'm injured. If you just have to try literal (bare) barefoot running in the snow, start out with short runs and stay near places where you can flag down help or call for quick help. Or... you can carry a spare pair of insulated boots - but then you might as well wear them and take them off when you feet get sore - which is what most everyone does anyway


Monday, December 10, 2012

What if Hell is actually a place in time?

We haven't found Heaven in the heavens and nobody really expects to find Hell at the center of the Earth. So, where are they? Maybe "where" is not the right question. Maybe the right question is; when are they?

Heaven and Hell could be metaphors for our possible futures here on Earth. In fact, the accounts of Heaven and Hell appear to be lessons on the consequences of our actions. Herein lies a overlooked positive potential influence on our behavior. What if Heaven and Hell are reminders of our significant power to influence the future? 


Maybe we have been selfishly focusing on our own personal lives (and afterlives) so much that we have missed the big picture. Maybe the “life after death” in this world (that we have been ignoring) is the lives of future generations.

It would only make sense that we not endeavor to kill people in the future. Remember; “thou shall not kill.” ...If we emit poisons into the Environment (that we know will eventually kill people) isn't that committing a sin? And it appears that some religious organizations are beginning to take notice.

It may be that the greatest potential positive influences of religion on humanity could be to get us to consider the long-term consequences of our actions – and to focus on maximizing happiness instead of quick profits. There is definitely a need... now... to do some well thought out evaluating (and planning) for what we really want. Our religions have the moral responsibility to take high ground on this (even if it means lower tithes for a while). And everyone who is a member of a religious organization needs to be working towards improving their religious organization's focus – even if it means fundamental change.

What our society needs to focus on now is finding the best, happiest, healthiest, most sustainable path for us and future generations to follow. What our religious organizations need to do is teach that path. But this isn't quite happening. Or at least it isn't happening fast enough to avoid a future Hell on Earth. My wish is that our religious leaders be more open to looking forward, without limiting themselves by the overpowering constraints of the ancient documents of the past. If there is a God, he (obviously) gave us minds to think with. And (obviously) we make the best decisions with the most up to date information. All I ask is that we think clearly, plan wisely, and act responsibly.

...In my humble opinion; only the lazy just pray. (That would essentially be; defining your goals, and then sitting back and waiting for them to come to you.) Instead of just relying solely on prayer for salvation, maybe humanity needs to build our salvation (our ark). Doesn't it say somewhere that God helps those who help themselves? Isn't there something about following a path of righteousness? There's a time to think and a time to act. The thinking comes first. But sooner or later we have to act.

Humanity's situation is now different from what it has ever been before. And every new day is an opportunity to re-evaluate what righteousness is. It only makes sense that we need to adjust what we perceive good behavior to be – based upon what tools we have now.

One of our most effective tools for re-evaluation (of the consequences of our actions) is our capacity to predict the future – better than we have in the past – because we are now closer to it...

Imagine if, sometime after we die; the Earth becomes a man-made-hell because of our actions now? Wouldn't that make us sinners? Wouldn't realizing that destructive potential make us more responsible? ...Wouldn't it at least make us more aware of our actions?
No ancient text gives us clear guidelines on how to deal with the consequences of our new technologies. We have to decide what the righteous path is.


Most everyone is familiar with the Terminator movies. They depict a future that has gone horribly wrong for humanity. (The movie Screamers also deserves a mention.) These films depict a future where our own robotic "tools" turn against us. In the Terminator scenario, the artificial intelligence develops its own evil intents. But in the Screamers scenario, rebels build the robotic tools of destruction that self-innovate to catastrophic proportions. Either way, humanity sows the seeds of our own hyper-violent destruction.

Most everyone is also familiar with the Isaac Asimov novel (and movie) I, Robot. Written in the 1940's, it highlights three laws of robotics. The very first law, at the top of the list is:
  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

And here we are now; totally ignoring that advice, and training our most advanced drones to kill people. Our drone development is playing directly into the Terminator/Screamers scenario. And we can't just vote to stop America from building drone weapons. Anybody can do it. Worldwide, dozens of designs have already been built. Some by people we call terrorists. Likely, someday soon, no one will be safe from drones. 


Arms buildups such as this follow an inevitable trend. Humanity builds tools to kill each other. We develop more and more effective tools. And eventually, these tools become too dangerous to use. We've seen this with chemical and nuclear weapons. Eventually, we become too good at killing each other. And yet ironically, many people are still looking for the next big bad killing machines. It appears we've found them in Terminator drones. But this time, the development of these tools is out of our control. No one will be able to turn them all off.

It only makes sense that some people would predict that if we don't figure out a way to stop wars, eventually we will invent the tool that will result in Hell on Earth.

...Or then again, maybe we already have.
Our “Hell on Earth tools” don't have to kill us all directly – and instantly.
All they have to do is make things worse – and there be a lot of them.
And all these “tools” have to be... is perceived as indispensable.

Corporations are tools also – “tools” for making money. And like all tools, there are consequences for using them. I shouldn't have to tell you how our “tools” are trashing the planet. One might even argue that these corporate “tools” have developed hyper-efficient super powers of turning everything of any real value into money. Sounds great for now, but in the long term, the consequences of world-wide exploitation will be horrific.


The fossil fuel industry provides us with the fuel to run our civilization. But the industry has long outlived the accumulating consequences of mining and burning fossil fuels. We are altering our atmosphere and poisoning ourselves.

It is likely that a third of all disease is caused or exacerbated by man-made chemicals. And what does the chemical industry do about it? They manipulate our regulators – not to regulate – to keep our money flowing in – at any cost (to us). And what does the fossil fuel industry do about it? They manipulate us into believing that millions of us burning poisons has no significant effect. And what to we do about it? We keep right on burning fossil fuels we know are changing the climate and using chemicals we know cause disease.

The most frightening realization is; we can't turn these corporate “tools” off, no matter how dangerous they are – because we believe we need the services and products they provide.

Have we been conned by the monopolistic providers of our own tools?

Consider this:

  • We think we need money. But what we really need are food, clothing, shelter, health, and love – in a environment sustainable indefinitely. Ironically, the process of the accumulation of money often reduces, degrades, or destroys what we really need.
  • We ignore better options and better designs because we don't see advertisements for them – or companies buy up the patents or overregulate to keep anyone else from utilizing better designs than their profitable ones.
  • We believe that renewable energy (etc.) is more expensive – but we don't consider the externalities; the costs to our health, the climate, and the environment when we calculate the bottom line.
  • On top of it all; we buy the biggest gas powered (artificial) “muscle” cars we can ever imagine wanting – for the longest trip we could ever imagine taking – and then manically drive them around (filled with stuff we don't really need) to places we could have ridden a bike to. (Of course, we have the same attitude about homes.) 

It appears that our biggest mistakes in life most often involve the misuse and poor design of our tools. We waste. We pollute. We impoverish. We kill. Because that's what we've made our tools do.

The next two Laws of Robotics (in Isaac Asimov's I, Robot) are applicable for all of our tools, business structures, and economic systems:

  1. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  2. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

Our systems aren't doing that. Our systems actually compel us to do wrong sometimes. In fact, you may have noticed our corporations, political parties, countries, and even religions have taken on their own artificial “lives” – and are sometimes more concerned about protecting their own existence than ours. Moreover, when these organizations do obey orders, they ignore the vast majority of us – at our expense.

One could even claim that our systems have already consumed us and now we exist as merely organs of a planet sized super-organism that is obsessively maximizing profits above all... and consequently hell-bent on self-destruction.

Of course, organizations are only people. But these organizations are often organized to essentially force those who make decisions to choose what's best for the organization over the employees, humanity, or even life on Earth.

But we know this...
and for the most part, we feel powerless to stop it.

These unruly systems are our inventions, and at least for now, some humans control them.

The key is to take responsible control over our destiny.

We need to plan for the future.
We need to plan far beyond the next quarterly report.
We want to create something more like Heaven than Hell.
We need to design a civilization that does not reward preparing for and committing war.
We need to design a society that rewards sustainable behavior.
And we really should develop belief systems that truly reinforce walking the path of righteousness.

This is our duty.
This is our mission.
And as far as future generations are concerned; if we fail, we will be committing mortal sins of utter ignorance.

Besides... following a path of righteousness beats creating your own Hell