There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.
- A.J. Muste
One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.
- Mark Twain
(Cited by my beloved uncle Larry during a conversation about an article which attributed a greater death rate on the Titanic among Brits than Americans to the former's politeness & habit of queuing rather than just barging onto the lifeboats, but which seemed to bypass entirely the presence of more Americans in the upper travel classes, who survived in wildly disproportionate numbers compared to those in 3rd Class & steerage).
Recommended listening 2009
Here are some podcasts I've enjoyed recently:
- Ockham's Razor "Science and Technology in 1859" (Oct, 12, 2008)
Really interesting context for Charles Darwin's great work On the Origin of Species.
- 60-second Science "Solar-powered Sea Slug" (Dec. 1, 2008)
Tremendous potential in this animal - and giving me ideas for my next game of Spore! ;)
- 60-second Science "Warm Climates Make Longer Limbs" (Dec. 7, 2008)
Fascinating, and I like Karen Hopkin's cadence on "but how does a little heat make mice more leggy?"
Creativity & Skills
- Ockham's Razor "On Failing Successfully" (May 24, 2008)
The importance of making room for failed experiments in any effort for progress & success.
- Stephen Fry's Podgrams "Language" (Dec. 21, 2008)
Delicious! Better than a three-star meal. If you listen to only one of my recommendations here, this is the one.
- Wine Library TV "#509 - The Single Malt Episode" (July 25, 2008)
Fun to see Gary break out into new territory and Matt Mullenweg acquits himself well as scotch drinker ambassador.
Politics & Policy
- Ockham's Razor "Under the Hammer" (Oct. 26, 2008)
A fine example of the use of science fiction to discuss social issues.
- Science Talk "Who's Watching You: The Future of Privacy" (Sept. 8, 2008)
Great to have this extremely high-quality podcast focus on such an important topic. I recommend Scientific American in print and online.
- Point of Inquiry "Blasphemy" (Oct. 5, 2007)
Starting about the 10 minute mark when Alan Dershowitz comes on.
- Point of Inquiry "Ingersoll: The Most Famous Person You Have Never Heard Of" (Apr. 11, 2008)
The Ingersoll part begins at 14:32.
Information & Interface
- SALT - Seminars About Long-term Thinking "Making Digital Durable: What Time Does to Categories" (Nov. 14, 2005)
Clay Shirky speaking on an issue very pertinent to the challenge of the Long Now. (Not very good video from this early SALT talk is also available). This talk was very inspiring - in a light a fire under your ass because you'll be in trouble if you don't - to start moving my content forward as I migrate from computer to computer and digital tool to digital tool. Cheap & easy systems preserve better so, for example, I'm saving off the HTML pages for every page of my Flickrstream so I will have the great majority of my tags & comments from this tool which is so important to my life over the past few years.
"An honest God is the noblest work of man."
- Robert G. Ingersoll
"It's not like the Russian mob doesn't have 200 playstations."
Imbiber's Hundred 2009
On to the drinking version created by Darcy O'Neill... (as before, bold indicates that I've had it).
1. Manhattan Cocktail
2. Kopi Luwak (Weasel Coffee)
3. French / Swiss Absinthe
5. Gin Martini
7. Whole Milk
8. Tequila (100% Agave)
9. XO Cognac
11. Spring Water (directly from the spring)
12. Gin & Tonic
14. Westvleteren 12 (Yellow Cap) Trappist Ale
15. Chateau d’Yquem
17. Maraschino Liqueur
20. Grand Marnier
21. Mai Tai (original)
22. Ice Wine (Canadian)
23. Red Bull
24. Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
25. Bubble Tea
28. Islay Scotch
29. Pusser’s Navy Rum
30. Fernet Branca
31. Fresh Pressed Apple Cider
33. Australian Shiraz
34. Buckley’s Cough Syrup
35. Orange Bitters
36. Margarita (classic recipe)
37. Molasses & Milk
38. Chimay Blue
39. Wine of Pines (Tepache)
40. Green Tea
41. Daiginjo Sake [might have had this, but not certain]
42. Chai Tea
43. Vodka (chilled, straight)
45. Zombie (Beachcomber recipe)
46. Barley Wine
47. Brewed Chocolate (Xocolatl)
48. Pisco Sour
50. Speyside Single Malt
51. Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
52. Champagne (Vintage)
53. Rosé (French)
56. White Zinfandel (Blush)
57. Coconut Water
59. Cafe au Lait
60. Ice Tea
61. Pedro Ximenez Sherry
62. Vintage Port
63. Hot Chocolate
64. German Riesling
65. Pina Colada
66. El Dorado 15 Year Rum
68. Greek Wine
73. Rhum Agricole
74. Palm Wine
76. Ceylon Tea (High Grown)
77. Belgian Lambic
78. Mongolian Airag
79. Doogh, Lassi or Ayran
80. Sugarcane Juice
81. Ramos Gin Fizz
82. Singapore Sling
83. Mint Julep
84. Old Fashioned
86. Jenever (Holland Gin)
87. Chocolate Milkshake
88. Traditional Italian Barolo
90. Natural Sparkling Water
91. Cuban Rum
92. Asti Spumante
93. Irish Whiskey
94. Château Margaux
95. Two Buck Chuck
98. Rye Whiskey
99. German Weissbier
100. Daiquiri (classic)
Well, and see also my cocktail time set on Flickr. ;)
Diverse palate? 2009
My results on the Omnivore's Hundred. Bold means I've had it.
1. Venison [yum]
2. Nettle tea [at least I'm pretty sure I've had this]
3. Huevos rancheros [yum]
4. Steak tartare [yum]
5. Crocodile [eh. Didn't wow me.]
6. Black pudding [Bleh; wouldn't want it again]
7. Cheese fondue [yum]
8. Carp [eh.]
9. Borscht [nice from time to time]
10. Baba ghanoush [ha! Just had some for lunch]
11. Calamari [yum]
12. Pho [I'm pho neutral]
13. PB&J sandwich [yum]
14. Aloo gobi [yum]
15. Hot dog from a street cart [when it's what I want - rarely, but it occurs - there's nothing better]
17. Black truffle [we have some black truffle salt in the house even]
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes [blackberry, rhubarb, apple, come to mind immediately]
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes [oh hell yes, yum!]
22. Fresh wild berries [picked yourself for extra yum]
23. Foie gras [delicious!]
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese [yes, but wouldn't want it ever again; like eating a gardening glove plus cognitive repugnance]
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche [not my favorite dessert but not bad]
28. Oysters [one every now and then is plenty for me]
29. Baklava [good, from time to time]
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas [frequently]
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl [a rare but tasty treat]
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut [tasty!]
35. Root beer float [of course! I grew up in A&W country]
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea [in Cornwall no less!]
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O [yes, even cocktail geeks have had this]
39. Gumbo [in New Orleans even]
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects [I am trying to remember what I had that met this requirement. Some kind of candied thing in my anthropology major undergrad days, I think. Grasshopper? I'm sure I've done something in this area, maybe more than once.]
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel [unagi maki for lunch frequently]
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin [still not fond of it, but trying to broaden my palate here]
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi [yum]
54. Paneer [yum]
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal [I feel like I MUST have had this at some point, but the number of times is exceedingly small and it's been decades]
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV [don't like beer, so I'm guessing probably not here]
60. Carob chips [yeah, but why?]
62. Sweetbreads [ugh]
66. Frogs’ legs [don't remember the context, but I know I've tasted frog, perhaps on the same occasion as crocodile]
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake [yum]
68. Haggis [pretty sure about this one, but possibly too young to appreciate it, if appreciate it I can]
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho [delicious]
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe [strong but pleasing quirky flavor]
74. Gjetost, or brunost [ditto]
75. Roadkill [changed after my mother reminded me that my first taste of venison was probably an accident victim]
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail [I'll just eat my garlic butter straight, thanks]
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini [never a huge champagne fan]
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
89. Horse [don't think I have anyhow]
90. Criollo chocolate
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
So, what have I got left? Incredibly stinky cheese (16), incredibly hot peppers (26), a tasty Italian dipping sauce (30), smoking (36), incredibly hot curry (43), goat's milk (44, which I'm surprised not to have had but don't recall), poisonous fish (46), high-alcohol content beer (58), Canadian comfort food (59), some sort of chalk dust (63), German street food (64), incredibly stinky fruit (65), pig guts (70), little crepes with fish eggs on 'em (72), roadkill (75), Chinese white spirits (76), a mind-blowing restaurant experience (84), something a little more wild than rabbit (86), hi ho Silver (89), incredibly rare & expensive chocolate (90), flowery chili paste (93), a lobster-based heart attack on a plate (97), and rare & expensive coffee.
I'm thinking I'd be happy about having 10 of these and then not feeling any pressure to be a completist.
Living glocally 2009
I read Bruce Sterling's The Last Viridian Note before spending most of two weeks away from home and it feels even more true & appealing to me now.
Rather than "thinking globally and acting locally," as in the old futurist theme, I now live and think glocally. I once had a stable, settled life within a single city, state and nation. Nowadays, I divide my time between three different polities: the United States, the European Union and the Balkans. With various junkets elsewhere.
The 400-year-old Westphalian System doesn't approve of my lifestyle, although it's increasingly common, especially among people half my age. It's stressful to live glocally. Not that I myself feel stressed by this. As long as I've got broadband, I'm perfectly at ease with the fact that my position on the planet's surface is arbitrary. It's the nation-state system that is visibly stressed by these changes – it's freaking out over currency flows, migration through airports, offshoring, and similar phenomena.
I know that, by the cultural standards of the 20th century, my newfangled glocal lifestyle ought to bother me. I ought to feel deracinated, and I should suffer from culture shock, and I should stoically endure the mournful silence and exile of a writer torn from the kindly matrix of his national culture. A traditional story.
However, I've been at this life for years now; I really tried; the traditional regret is just not happening. Clearly the existence of the net has obliterated many former operational difficulties.
Furthermore, my sensibility no longer operates in that 20th-century framework. That's become an archaic way to feel, and I just can't get there from here.
Living on the entire planet at once is no longer a major challenge. It's got its practical drawbacks, but I'm much more perturbed about contemporary indignities such as airport terrorspaces, ATM surchanges and the open banditry of cellphone roaming. This is what's troublesome. The rest of it, I'm rather at ease about. Unless I'm physically restrained by some bureaucracy, I don't think I'm going to stop this glocally nomadic life. I live on the Earth. The Earth is a planet. This fact is okay. I am living in truth.
Fantastic excellent stuff; I'd be linking to this great piece of writing based on that alone, but then he goes on to say:
You need to re-think your relationship to material possessions in terms of things that occupy your time. The things that are physically closest to you. Time and space.
In earlier, less technically advanced eras, this approach would have been far-fetched. Material goods were inherently difficult to produce, find, and ship. They were rare and precious. They were closely associated with social prestige. Without important material signifiers such as wedding china, family silver, portraits, a coach-house, a trousseau and so forth, you were advertising your lack of substance to your neighbors. If you failed to surround yourself with a thick material barrier, you were inviting social abuse and possible police suspicion. So it made pragmatic sense to cling to heirlooms, renew all major purchases promptly, and visibly keep up with the Joneses.
That era is dying. It's not only dying, but the assumptions behind that form of material culture are very dangerous. These objects can no longer protect you from want, from humiliation – in fact they are causes of humiliation, as anyone with a McMansion crammed with Chinese-made goods and an unsellable SUV has now learned at great cost.
Furthermore, many of these objects can damage you personally. The hours you waste stumbling over your piled debris, picking, washing, storing, re-storing, those are hours and spaces that you will never get back in a mortal lifetime. Basically, you have to curate these goods: heat them, cool them, protect them from humidity and vermin. Every moment you devote to them is lost to your children, your friends, your society, yourself.
It's not bad to own fine things that you like. What you need are things that you GENUINELY like. Things that you cherish, that enhance your existence in the world. The rest is dross.
Do not "economize." Please. That is not the point. The economy is clearly insane. Even its champions are terrified by it now. It's melting the North Pole. So "economization" is not your friend. Cheapness can be value-less. Voluntary simplicity is, furthermore, boring. Less can become too much work.
The items that you use incessantly, the items you employ every day, the normal, boring goods that don't seem luxurious or romantic: these are the critical ones. They are truly central. The everyday object is the monarch of all objects. It's in your time most, it's in your space most. It is "where it is at," and it is "what is going on."
It takes a while to get this through your head, because it's the opposite of the legendry of shopping. However: the things that you use every day should be the best-designed things you can get. For instance, you cannot possibly spend too much money on a bed – (assuming you have a regular bed, which in point of fact I do not). You're spending a third of your lifetime in a bed. Your bed might be sagging, ugly, groaning and infested with dust mites, because you are used to that situation and cannot see it. That calamity might escape your conscious notice. See it. Replace it.
Sell – even give away– anything you never use. Fancy ball gowns, tuxedos, beautiful shoes wrapped in bubblepak that you never wear, useless Christmas gifts from well-meaning relatives, junk that you inherited. Sell that stuff. Take the money, get a real bed. Get radically improved everyday things.
The same goes for a working chair. Notice it. Take action. Bad chairs can seriously injure you from repetitive stresses. Get a decent ergonomic chair. Someone may accuse you of "indulging yourself" because you possess a chair that functions properly. This guy is a reactionary. He is useless to futurity. Listen carefully to whatever else he says, and do the opposite. You will benefit greatly.
Such good thinking. Very inspiring to me and I hope to others. So, what are you going to get rid of this week? And what gets upgraded?
There's more good stuff in this piece of Sterling's fun writing, so go read it and enjoy.
flight home 2009
Depart: LON / HEATHROW 10:25 AM
Arrive: SAN FRANCISCO 1:33 PM
We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Years Day.
--Edith Lovejoy Pierce
Lazy Bear dinner 2009
Food by David Barzelay. Photos by Joe Gratz.