Monthly Archives: June 2011

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

The review in Time mag writes that this is a retelling of heart of darkness.
A woman ethnobiologist has found a fertility drug, deep in the Amazon, and then goes feral.

She doesn’t respect indigenous healers, referring to their methods as “poorly recorded gossip handed down … from people who knew very little to people who know even less.”

And here I was today, thinking of what might make a good story idea. “The Honeybadger Diaries.”

Gold standard or competing currency?

A quote with no easy source:

When the same medium is used both as a store of value and as a medium of exchange, the result is an ineventable conflict between the interests of debters and savers.

In modern America, most people are both, with their savings equal to their debts, giving a net worth of zero.

The question on the title asks if the US should return to the gold standard OR allow a second gold-backed currency, which would be legal tender.

Tim Wu

Came up with the phrase net neutrality, consultant.

Starts with the story of a guy at Bell Labs, who invented magnetic recording. ATT squelched out because a survey showed that 2/3rd of phone calls were “indecent”. They were afraid that people would stop using the phone if they thought they were being recorded.

Will the internet stay free? reviews history of other communication breakthroughs, all of which end up with a monopoly.

Positives: internet was designed with freedom in mind.

Negatives: economic principles and human nature. Most people want the bell curve, no one likes dissenters.

He seemed strangely unprepared for the questions. Most seemed obvious given his talk, but there was no evidence that he had rehearsed answers. In many cases it didn’t even seem he had thought of the question.

He was carefully neutral on everything he said. Not strongly against anything. Not a boat rocker. Very concious that if he seemed anti business, or anti any one business, he would catch hell.

The New North– Laurence Smith 03/24/2011

His focus is on the arctic, which he sees as a developing region as it is supposed to hold a large portion of the world’s remaining undiscovered oil and gas.

The melting of the polar ice cap will make accessing these easier– but only in some ways. Melting ice opens up the ocean, but closes the ice roads built across the tundra.

Global trends he considers– urbanizing and growing and aging populations. The growing demand for electricity.


Article in Herald Trib on Amanda Hocking, who is the first major breakthrough author from self/e-publishing. She writes pulp fiction fantasy romance (her description, she has no pretension). The books take about a year to develop in her head and 4 weeks to write.

She studied books in bookstores to learn what worked, what sold. She priced her books low: under 3 bucks.She used Amazon and smashwords.

My idea: I want to write pop science books.

More from John Gray

Define progress as cumulative and irreversible change. This is clearly possible in science and technology, but he maintains it is not so in politics and ethics. Evidence: a US president condoning torture.


Inspiration comes from the Wired article on the angels share, which commented that fungus live in every environment, no matter how hostile or artificial.

Thesis: single celled or simple life can maintain more diversity than larger forms, with extreme minority variants able to maintain the barest existence up until they happen upon favorable environments, such as a whiskey warehouse.

The general theme of preserving a few outliers just in case. Most of the time they are not god for much, but every now and then they save the species/civilization.

The crazyness of the war on drugs

Right, how is it that a country founded on the pursuit of happiness is so focused on a war on drugs?

More Sustainability

John Gray RSA

More Sustainability. Doesn’t this sound good? Don’t you want it? Don’t you want more of it?

Expands on his philosophy that “volition, and hence morality, as an illusion, and portrays humanity as a ravenous species engaged in wiping out other forms of life. Gray writes that ‘humans … cannot destroy the Earth, but they can easily wreck the environment that sustains them” — from the Wikipedia article

Not every human culture has been built on capitalism. But is there another way?

What about science as the new magic

“The core of the belief in progress is that human values and goals converge in parallel with our increasing knowledge… Science made possible the technologies that powered the industrial revolution. In the twentieth century, these technologies were used to implement state terror and genocide on an unprecedented scale. Ethics and politics do not advance in line with the growth of knowledge — not even in the long run.”

Which reminds me of my earlier thoughts on The Lord of the Rings as the death song of the agrarian society. Harry Potter is the new king. I just noticed that HP has few animals, and even fewer nature references. Yes, tons of magical creatures, but there is such a strong urban basis. And, as I have remarked earlier, HP is strictly visual, while LOTR is auditory, a collection of the best folk tales and characters of 500 years of civilization.

Which brought me to wonder what the folk tales of the new world should be, when everything is in the grid.

Today is rainy.

And the song for the day. Landslide, by Fleetwood Mac, whose only good album (Rumors) was written as their marriages were falling apart. (ok, Tusk was also pretty good).

“Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail thru the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?”

see also Dreams
“Now here I go again, I see the crystal visions
I keep my visions to myself
It’s only me who wants to wrap around your dreams and
Have you any dreams you’d like to sell?
Dreams of Loneliness like a heartbeat, drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering
What you had
and what you lost
And what you had
Oh what you lost.

When the rain washes you clean you’ll know
You’ll know..”

Did I mention that it has been raining (and cold) for the last 2 weeeks?


A new word!

From the Wired article, “The Angel’s Share”:

Torula is a junk genus, now seen less as a proper taxonomical designation and more as a drawer that old-time researcher threw brownish black fungi into when they didn’t fit anywhere else.

Let’s make this a generic term– we need a catch-all box.

Torula is a yeast which is formally known as Candida utilis. Torula … preferring cellulose-rich substrates such as wood, leaf litter, and paper pulp. In several regions, people deliberately cultivate this yeast for industrial purposes, usually on a substrate of wood pulp which makes the yeast easy to extract.

This yeast can be used to provide dietary supplementation, especially in food for cats and dogs, where its high protein content is very useful. It is also used in the production of food for farmed fish and other food products. The slightly meaty flavor of this yeast, which lacks the bitterness many people associate with yeasts, causes some companies to use it as a flavor enhancer in some foods, especially packaged foods.