Saturday Links of the Week: September 6, 2008

Socotra Island, “the most alien place on Earth”, photo by Jan Vandorpe. Photos on Dark Roasted Blend. Thanks to Our Descent  for the link.

Having Too Much Stuff: Beyond Rivalry reprises a post from JD Roth about all the problems that having stuff creates, but why it’s so hard to part with it. “We each have so many interests, and certain things — like books — keep us connected to those interests, or give us the illusion that they do. But they also clog up our lives and make us less efficient at doing what we are and what we want to do right now. It’s hard to let go of the things that we believe represent parts of ourselves, or we hope represent us. In many cases, these things represent who we were or wished to be at one time — not who we are right now.” And Ivor Tymchak goes further, saying our stuff, and our desire for it, actually controls us.

Not Caring About Our Children: Joe Bageant responds to an Australian writer’s astonishment at most Americans’ indifference to the plight of others. Teasers:

I wish I could at least call this denial. But if people are incapable of even perceiving the facts because of state conditioning, serving up the facts is useless. Which is why all that powerful truth out there on the net has no real effect. It exists outside our indoctrination’s reference framework. Therefore it does not exist. What exists is the system. The ward on which we all live and secretly fear Nurse Ratchett. But it is still the system and the U.S. is still a ward in which the citizen patients are carefully observed and managed to best result for the corporate state. Best result meaning economical producers and consumers for (allegedly) free market capitalism. And every patient and affinity group has a cherished unreality which allows them to live in denial. For instance, there is the cherished notion among liberal and left leaning Americans that all this is recent, and sprang up simply because George Bush was elected. I don’t think so friends. No one man can establish cruelty in 300 million people in eight years. He can only heighten it by squeezing the people harder, encouraging fear and alienation and coldness of spirit.

How much more time the American people can muddle along, the muddle slowly becoming an even more mindless slog toward the unthinkable? My guess is until we hit that economic and ecological wall we are careening toward. In which case we will start killing anybody in the way of arbitrary conquest of resources in the age of peak everything. Even people who understand what is coming are hedging their bets — as in, “Well, I won’t be around when it all comes down.” Or “I can make enough money to be in a safe place when the shit hits the fan.” Or simply “America right or wrong.”

Here Come the Unschoolers: PS Pirro describes the advantages that she and her children have obtained by virtue of allowing them to direct their own learning. More on unschooling for the uninitiated.

If You Do the Work, It Works:
Colleen waxes poetic about the struggle to find meaning and balance in our lives, to discover who we’re meant to be and what we’re meant to do.

Passages: I mentioned last weekend that several of the people I know are going through major changes in their lives, some of them gut-wrenching. Since then I’ve heard a dozen more, similar stories, and now I’m wondering whether September marks a significant season for such changes. It is as if the world catches its breath and takes stock in July and August, and then, when September comes, expels it forcefully and propels itself in a new direction. What happens often is that something not quite clear has precipitated a change, and initially it seems enlightening, delightful, until suddenly the forces behind the transformation surface and blow our lives apart.

UK Energy Flow

Where the Energy Goes, and Comes From: The UK government has produced a gorgeous image (see above) of that country’s sources, uses and losses of energy. I’ve showed a similar graphic by Lawrence Livermore Laboratory of US energy use on this blog before. Full size version here. Great visualizations. Thanks to The Oil Drum for the link.

Why Oil Price is So Volatile: Jeff Vail explains how supply and demand changes whipsaw oil prices in the short run, and why in the longer term the trend is much, much higher. Also, he explains, paradoxically, our attempts to forestall adjustment to this crisis will actually make it worse.

The Hamlet Economy: Also from Jeff, an explanation of how model Natural (Intentional) Communities might work, network together, and catch on. “It is also important to recognize that the implementation of this kind of hamlet-economy will, in most circumstances, require adaptation of an existing landscapeóin most cases a landscape that is not sustainable, that is hierarchal, and that is not compatible with human ontogeny. This introduces an artificiality, in the sense that the theoretical structure may be impacted by existing hierarchal infrastructure (like towns and highways). Perhaps the best way to circumvent this is to begin to ìplant the seedsî of a hamlet economy in existing rural areas, and then expand into prior towns and cities as they become non-viable.”

Test Your Knowledge of Living Local: Kate McMahon posts the 10-question local ecosystem knowledge self assessment from Deep Ecology:

  1. Trace the water you drink from precipitation to tap.
  2. How many days till the moon is full? (Plus or minus a couple of days.)
  3. Describe the soil around your home
  4. From what direction do winter storms generally come in your region?
  5. Where does your garbage go?
  6. How long is the growing season where you live?
  7. Name five resident birds and any migratory birds in your area.
  8. What primary geological event process influenced the land form where you live?
  9. From where you are reading this, point north.
  10. Were the stars out last night?

Arctic Melting Crosses Tipping Point: Sea ice levels have reached what climate scientists call their “death spiral”, and massive glacial melt, ocean current changes and sea level rises are next, and now virtually inevitable. Future generations will, justifiably, remember us as, more than anything else, the generation who did this to them, and to our world. “Researchers announced late on Tuesday that the five ice shelves along Ellesmere Island in the Far North, which are more than 4,000 years old, had shrunk by 23 percent this summer alone. The largest shelf is disintegrating and one of the smaller shelves, covering 19 square miles (55 square km), broke away entirely last month.” Thanks to Dale Asberry for the link.

Seven Personal Skills for Effective Collaboration: Shawn Callahan lists 7 things you need to know how to do to be an effective collaborator:

  1. How to apologise.
  2. How to advocate your point of view without harming your collaborator’s feelings.
  3. How to spot when a conversation gets emotional and then make it safe again to continue meaningful dialogue.
  4. How to listen and get into the shoes of your collaborator.
  5. How to define a mutual intent that will inspire action.
  6. How to tell and elicit stories.
  7. How to get things done so you have something to show for your collaboration.

The Power of Story: A PBS journalist’s commencement address explains why we are inclined to believe, and care about, stories, far more than the same information conveyed analytically. Thanks to Steve Remedios for the link.

Visualizing Mathematics: A brilliant set of short videos explain advanced geometry through stunning computer-generated graphics. Thanks to my colleague Greg Turko for the link.

Natural Enterprise french

Finding the Sweet Spot, En FranÁais: My friend J-S Bouchard has developed and applied a French language version of my three circles tool for finding the work you were meant to do (reproduced above). Thanks, J-S!

The Story of O: My publisher Chelsea Green is fighting back on YouTube after Barnes & Noble refused to stock their pro-Obama book.

In America, Organizing a Demonstration = Terrorism: Organizers of peaceful demonstrations against the RNC have been arrested in “pre-emptive” raids and charged with “conspiracy to commit riot in furtherance of terrorism”, a charge that could lead to 15 years in prison.

A Sickening Grievance Against Female Politicians: Broadsheet says all that needs to be said about Sarah Palin.

Learning About Learning: I’ve just enrolled in this Massive Open Online Course on connective learning. Still time to sign up. Thanks to five readers for telling me about this.

Rain Girl by Banksy

Just for Fun: The wry protest street art of Britain’s “Banksy” appears in the world’s hotspots (sample above from New Orleans).When you click the link, scroll right to see the full gallery. Thanks to Evelyn Rodriguez for the link.

Thoughts for the Week:

  • Protest sign carried by Iraq Veterans Against the War at the RNC: “You can’t win an occupation”
  • From Coelho’s The Alchemist, via Jen Lemen:
Why should I listen to my heart?

Because you will never again be able to keep it quiet. Even if you pretend not to have heard what it tells you, it will always be there inside of you, repeating to you what youíre thinking about life and about the world.

You mean I should listen, even if itís treasonous?

Treason is a blow that comes unexpectedly. If you know your heart well, it will never be able to do that to you. Because youíll know its dreams and wishes, and will know how to deal with them.

You will never be able to escape from your heart. So itís better to listen to what it has to say. That way, youíll never have to fear an unanticipated blow.

The boy continued to listen to his heart as they crossed the desert. He came to understand its dodges and tricks, and to accept it as it was. He lost his fear, and forgot about his need to go back to the oasis, because, one afternoon his heart told him it was happy.

  • Dick Jones, from Patteran Pages, on the start of a new school year: 
    • Iím sitting here in an empty house. Not a derelict one this time but my own warm, untidy much-loved home. Maisie is at nursery and Reuben and Rosie are at school. Itís Rosieís first day at school and, on delivery, she viewed the busy pre-school playground with large, solemn eyes. Within seconds of her arrival, fellow newbie Franzie gathered her up and, hand-in-hand, they ran off towards the play equipment.

      After the bell cleared the playground and coats were hung up, bags and belongings disposed and children passed into the custody of the classroom, I walked back to the car. The drive home through the lanes between the villages was a pensive one. Rosieís first day in full-time school and my first day out of it. Forty-one years ago, pretty much to the day, I stood before my first class and began to earn my first salary. Forty-one years on, my last salary cheque has been paid in and now I draw just a pension. Forty-one years ago I was a teacher and now I am ñ what…a civilian?

      But no great existential crisis is at hand as I sit here pondering. I am, as ever, resolutely, stubbornly, passionately and substantially me. The same deepest fears; the same most pressing needs; the same most aggravating shortcomings; the same most cherished hopes; the same most fierce convictions. For all the territory covered, all the memories stored and filed and all the lessons learned, the road, it seems, goes ever on.

  • Sam, at Bitterbrush
    • Can I relate it before sleepiness numbs me? Well, it was only this: I just unexpectedly–not “suddenly,” which implies a sort of violence, but quietly, like a kind of interior melting, slow and certain and plain and obvious and clear–had the feeling that my life has been wonderful. Wonderful. I have known a dozen kinds of love at a hundred intensities. The people I’ve touched and who have touched back. I’ve made babies and fed them with my body and watched them grow up and seen their babies and accomplishments–inexpressible joy. Great successes, great failures. I’ve known overwhelming rage and tremendous fear, blackest hate and the blinding-white nearness to a kind of God-level agape. The closeness of families and an aloneness so complete I went mad from it. Faith, betrayal–my own and others’. So many colors and intensities in the spectrum of human emotion.

      And it’s all good. Amazing, even. And, yeah, fading a little, finally. Remember, dammit.
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4 Responses to Saturday Links of the Week: September 6, 2008

  1. Dave Pollard says:

    Hmm…comments are all displaying as (0) zero — the counter of the blog comments server must be screwed up. Also, if anyone can look at the source code for this post and tell me why this column is displaying at fixed 900px when nothing in the post is over 500px wide, I’d be grateful. Thanks!

  2. Dave: That story about “stuff” is a real gift to me. Spookily I read it after making a pile of books to take to the charity shop. That pile will get bigger now!

  3. Jon Husband says:

    Interesting that in Shawn’s list “how to apologise” is first … no doubt that’s just random chance ;-) … or is it reflective of the North American / western stance about “being right”, which Alfie Kohn dissects nicely in “Punished By Rewards” ?

  4. Tor Hershman says:

    Socotra Island is really a groovin’ spot, visually speaking.Check my blog for another groovin’ site to sight.I read your blogging (from ’03, methinks) about the song “Little Lambs.”Of course, I use satire, of such situations, hence moi’s “The Little Bummer Boy.”Stay on groovin’ safari,Tor Hershman

Comments are closed.