Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Through A Different Lens....................... 10 Years Car-Free

Click on photo to enlarge - image © jim otterstrom 2007
headlight lens © Ford Motor Company 1937

Today marks our 10th Anniversary of living car-free.

By "car-free", I mean that Peggy and I haven't owned a car since January 31st of 1997.

But, we have found it necessary to rent cars on several occasions, particularly during the time our son was hospitalized and recuperating after his near fatal car-wreck in 2005.

Still, cars haven't been part of our daily lives for those 10 years.

When we owned a car, we drove somewhere around the national average of 12,000 miles per year. So, according to this 'An Inconvenient Truth' CO2 calculator, our personal carbon dioxide output has been reduced by nearly 6.5 tons per year.

That's 130,000 pounds of CO2 over the 10 year period!

But, we must also factor in the approximately 6 thousand miles we have driven during that time, which means we need to subtract 6,500 pounds from that 130,000, bringing our net infernal combustion pollution reduction down to 123,500 pounds for the decade. This means we reduced our personal CO2 output by nearly 87%!

123,500 POUNDS!!!

Talk about a diet, now, to me, that's something to celebrate!

Yet, in a world of 6 1/2 billion people, does it make any difference?

Not really. Not to anyone but Peggy and I, and a small minority of eco-centric types whom, according to the status quo, would be defined as part of the lunatic fringe.

To a planet that's been around for some 4 1/2 billion years, and seen millions of species come and go, does it make a difference?

None whatsoever, unless you happen to be one of those species who have come, but not yet gone.

In a vast Universe of countless galaxies, stars, and planets, does it make any difference?


...unless, by some miracle of chance, you have the good fortune to be currently alive and breathing oxygen upon the beautiful blue planet, Earth.

No, a few individual members of an entire culture which is addicted to conspicuous consumption and material gratification aren't going to make much of a difference, so why bother?

Well, that's a good question, and one I've asked myself many times.

Once you know that smoking cigarettes causes cancer do you continue smoking?

Many people do, and continue doing so, even when they're hooked up to an oxygen tank or permanently bedridden. I've seen people, whose vocal chords had been removed because of smoking related cancer, suck on cigarettes through a trachea valve.

That's what I call addiction, mental, emotional, and physical addiction.

Yet, this is supposedly a free country, and I would say that's their business, as long as I don't have to pay the associated medical bills.

So, what is the difference between a person who, through denial, apathy, illness, or self-loathing, commits suicide by ignoring their addictions, and someone who hastens the destruction of a planetary life support system through denial of their addiction and its consequences?

The only difference I see is that people who commit suicide through substance abuse are just hurting themselves, and those who care about them, where people who would poison an entire planet because they refuse to face their own addictions, are not only suicidal, but homicidal, genocidal, and biocidal as well.

Are we that oblivious to reality, and to our own responsibilities?

Do we just not give a damn, or do we feel too hopelessly addicted to our old habits? Or, are we just in denial that there is a real problem, and that each one of us is a big part of it?

Of the thousands of cars which drive past us every week, blowing exhaust in our faces as we walk around Big Bear, how many of the drivers ever think about what they're doing, or about our health, or the stench they're spewing into rarefied mountain air belonging to everybody?

Why is something like that legal?

Should it be legal for me to shit all over everyone and everything?

What's the difference?

Legal or not, it's most certainly immoral!

Todays' infernal combustion automobile is probably the worst of our addictions, because of the magnitude of its destructiveness, but our disease goes much deeper than that.

How often have you heard the term "for the benefit of mankind"?

Humankind, blinded by its own cleverness, and imagined self-importance, values each technology primarily for the benefits to mankind.

Wouldn't a species with the slightest bit of common sense, and some desire for long-term survival, assess technologies primarily on their benefits to all life on Earth and the long-term health of their ecosystem?

Isn't survival considered a benefit to mankind?

We have grossly overpopulated the planet through the invention and use of technologies which supposedly benefit mankind. Yet it is becoming clearer every day that those very technologies may soon render our planet uninhabitable for those who would breathe oxygen, including the mankind they allegedly benefit.

And, once again, we turn to the technologies of an obsolete social & economic model---to the proponents of a failing civilization---for so-called clean car technology, alternative fuels, and renewable energy sources, so the worlds 6 1/2 billion people can, by 2041, become 9 billion (see chart here).

Contemporary wisdom as seen through the dominant lens:

For the good of mankind, all 6 1/2 billion of us, we will find solutions.

The global economy will not fail because our technology will find ways around nature's limits.

I wonder what percentage of the world population ever considers the consequences we face if this ever-expanding global economy of 6 1/2 billion people doesn't fail until our ecosystem does?

Can we even imagine the collapse of our entire civilization, the complete die-off of the human species, a total extinction of life on the planet, or an Earth that more resembles Mars?

Are we aware that the entire world is now embroiled in resource wars over oil, water, minerals, fish & game stocks, and arable land?

Have we paid attention to the fact that huge tracts of land recently used for growing food, or sustaining wildlife, are now being converted to growing crops for ethanol based fuels, or, that more than 50% of the pollution an automobile generates during its lifetime is produced during the manufacturing processes, or that we are in the midst of the 6th great extinction period in the history of our planet, and that habitat loss due to human expansion, industrialism, climate change, pollution, and resource extraction is causing those extinctions (I recently read that 13% of Americans have never heard of Global Warming)? READ THE LATEST CLIMATE CHANGE NEWS HERE (added 2/2/2007).

As the diversity of life on our planet diminishes, as the atmosphere deteriorates, and the pollution of our air, water, and soil increases exponentially, as world fisheries are depleted, and soil erosion claims more & more acres of farmland, how do we respond?

For the good of mankind---to provide jobs, housing, schools, and to accommodate more resource extraction in support of the teeming hoards---we build ever more subdivisions, shopping centers, and freeways.


We've bumped up against something and the ship seems to be listing a bit. But this is the "unsinkable" Titanic, a marvel of modern technology, and besides, the band is still playing, many of the passengers are still dancing, and the crew in charge says there's really nothing to worry about.


Anyone who has seen Walt Disney's Fantasia will remember the Sorcerer's Apprentice, whose ineptness with technological wizardry, and Mickey Mouse tomfoolery, backfired when his creations ran amok, swarming uncontrollably with their own single-minded purpose.


And unfortunately, like Mickey, we're desperately hoping that the wizard wakes up soon to save our sorry butts.

Only this is no cartoon, unless you believe what you see on television.

Much like the prism design of the headlight lens above, from a 1937 Ford---which aims light in a prescribed direction, for a relatively short distance---our vision today of what lies ahead is mostly defined for us by the corporate media propaganda machine of the dominant culture, and designed to focus our attention on economically specific, anthropocentric, elitist solutions. READ HERE HOW A CONSERVATIVE AMERICAN THINK-TANK IS WORKING TO PUT THIER OWN SPIN ON TODAY'S BEST CLIMATE CHANGE SCIENCE (added 2/2/2007).

I try to contemplate the future through a different lens than the one offered by those who would rule the world solely for the benefit of mankind.

Through this alternate lens (I might call it a full-spectrum lens), which is focused upon the Laws Of Nature and the needs of all living things, it becomes more obvious that there will very likely be zero automobiles in the not too distant future of planet Earth---bio-fueled, hybrid, hydrogen or otherwise.

But the clarity of Nature's lens is where I also find reasons to hope that life itself---with or without Homo-sapiens---might continue to evolve and flourish on Earth, regardless of the arrogant selfishness of todays' dominant species! (HERE'S AN ARTICLE ABOUT THE PROSPECTS OF LIFE ON EARTH (updated 2/2/2007).

And, like I've said before, hope is more powerful than despair.

My hope might actually evolve into optimism if I saw the faintest hint that individual human beings, in huge numbers, were willing to address their own addictions to destructive technology.

I still have plenty of addictions of my own, like hot-running water, indoor plumbing, electricity, refrigeration, music, photography, the internet, beer, wine, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

And I'll be working on some of those...

...but I'm already way over the automobile, and the stupid-ass television, which is nothing more than a brainwashing advertising platform for this whole conspicuously consumptive life-threatening mess.

An 86.7% reduction in our fossil-fuel burning?

123,500 fewer pounds of CO2?

Insignificant, maybe...

...but it's our small contribution to the future, to your future.

It's one simple thing we can do, and it feels good.

It feels right!

Love & Peace

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State Of The #&%*@$?! Union

Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom
I was feeling so patriotic after reading Dubya's 'State Of The Union Address' that I could hardly contain myself, so I decided to fly America's true colors today.
I move that we recommend this more appropriate re-design of Old Glory depicted on my T-shirt be adopted as the official flag of The Corporate States Of Amerika.
Excuse me while I go vomit, King George!
The only thing more disgusting than the state of this union is The State Of The World!
Even a good cup of tea can't get the bad taste out of my mouth, maybe a shot or two of Tequila will do the trick...
Pardon my smart-ass smirk but the gang-bangers in Washington get my cranky mischievous dander up...
You can be a Patriot too! Get your own Corporate States Of Amerika shirt here.
Yesterday evening our friend Jane, in Texas, e-mailed me the following list of quotes on "Political Wisdom".
Political wisdom! Now there's an oxymoron!!
1. Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself.............Mark Twain
2. I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle...........Winston Churchill
3. A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.............George Bernard Shaw
4. A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money............G. Gordon Liddy
5. Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner...........James Bovard
6. Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries............. Douglas Casey
7. Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys...............P. J. O'Rourke
8. Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else..........Frederic Bastiat
9. Government's view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it......Ronald Reagan
10. I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts..............Will Rogers
11. The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin........Mark Twain
And I'll add this one.
12. The difference between the two parties is the difference between syphillis and gonorrhea..........Rita Mae Brown
Thanks Jane!
It helps to find a little humor in all this crap.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

My Friends Flicker...

Click on photos to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom
The gorgeously cloaked Northern (Red-Shafted) Flicker (Colaptus auratus cafer)!!!
This western variant of the Northern Flicker is one of the most common birds in Big Bear Valley, residing here year 'round. The male is the one in the lower photo with the handsome red mustache (malar), but the lovely female isn't hard on the eyes either.
They aren't called "red-shafted" because of the mustache though. That designation comes from the color of the feathers lining their wings and tail, which are red or orange in the western variety, and yellow in the "yellow-shafted" northern and eastern form (the male and female of the Yellow-Shafted form have a red crescent on the back of the head and the male has a black mustache).
In the deserts of Arizona, California, and Baja California, there is another variety known as the Gilded Flicker which has the head of a Red-Shafted (no red-crescent and a red mustache on the males) and the body of a Yellow-Shafted (yellow feathers lining the wings and tail).
I've posted pictures of Red-Shafted Flickers previously but these two were hanging around the birdbaths and suet cages today, begging to be photographed, and I was more than happy to oblige.

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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Getting A New Computer Bugs Me!

Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom
Where have I been all year?
Our old & slow 1999 computer was locking up on a daily basis, I was losing e-mail by the box loads, and the poor thing could barely play a CD anymore, much less a video or DVD.
Over the years I added all the RAM it could support, replaced the original 8 GB hard drive with a 20 GB drive, installed a USB 2 PCI card, CD/DVD burners, a second internal drive, card reader hubs, and two external 80 GB USB 2 hard drives until finally all the slots and ports were full and the antique 486MHz Pentium III just couldn't keep up anymore.
So, on January 3rd, UPS delivered a fast new computer (2.40 GHz dual processor) to our doorstep, and then I spent several days adding a Firewire PCI card, 2 Gigs of Ram (in addition to the 2 Gigs which came installed), a 3.5" bay hub 13 in 1 card reader, a Firewire 3.5" bay hub, a second external USB CD/DVD burner, the two 80 GB USB drives scavenged from the old system, and I still have a second 250 GB internal hard drive to install.
Then it was time to transfer files and programs.
After a few more days of saving files from the old machine to disks, and then, realizing that I didn't have a clue about how to move my essential programs into the new one, I broke down and called my computer geek buddy Tom. He came over to help me out last night and now I finally have enough stuff transferred so that I can blog again.
It's truly a love/hate thing with me and computers...
I love the creativity enabled by them, the access and democratic openness (for the time-being) of the internet, and I even rather enjoy installing hardware (it reminds me of working on cars in my younger days---without the grease).
However, installing and learning software is another thing entirely.
I hate the installation and registration processes, the steep learning curve of a good in-depth program, and, especially the complicated marketing, monitoring, security, copyright protection & surveillance schemes of corporations like Microsoft, Adobe, Apple and Symantec, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera...
But I'm hooked* on the damned things just like I was on the automobile in previous decades and that bugs me!
So, right now I'm going to play with our new toy, err..., I mean do some work with our new tool!
* The radical Luddite in me is highly critical of dependence on such contraptions!

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Monday, January 01, 2007

The Art Of Tea, In A Brand New Year...

Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom
Peggy and I are enjoying a quiet peaceful first day of 2007.
Our second pot of green tea, 'China Tips', is steeping in the pot.
We're listening to music from an entire century as the iPod shuffles through random play, selecting tunes from our own ROBINHOOD RADIO© collection of 12,000+ carefully chosen songs*, while Peggy and I work on our new TOP SECRET project.
We can't tell you about it, or show pictures yet, because it's a surprise for loved ones who visit the blog, but as soon as it's finished and delivered I'll post the photos.
But I did post a picture of Peggy's new teapot. The lid on her other one was broken just before Christmas, which spurred me on to find her another one. So now she has two, because I managed to glue the top to the old one back together.
Much of my morning was spent cleaning the above tea kettle, which only had a light sheen of splattered grease on it, before I seriously burned it on the other day after boiling all the water away, while I was blogging. Maybe now the pot will stop callin' the kettle black!
Last night was mellow too, highlighted by Peggy's way delicious home-made Turkey soup. We burned a Bayberry Candle throughout the evening, shared a great bottle of 2002 Pinot Noir (a timely gift from our friends, Mark & Deb**), and then I practiced on the guitar while Peggy read.
We were asleep by 9 o'clock but Dallas jumped up on the bed just before midnight, frightened, as the revelers started cutting loose, so we were awake for the big moment.
Home Sweet Home...
*I'm unrepentant in my lifetime addiction to recorded music, having been a collector of records, tapes, and CDs since I was 11 years old, so our iPod is programmed with 50 years worth of my favorite tunes, a good percentage of them recorded well before my time, and from many diverse cultures. For me, music is the sweetest of all languages, and, although I can fully feel the emotion in it, I'm not very fluent in my practice of music (unless I'm dancing to it with the insrument that is my body). Too much listening and not enough playing is my diagnosis.
**Mark brought over the bottle of wine on Sunday afternoon (New Years Eve) when I was still in the midst of a 2-day battle with leaking faucets in our bathtub/shower. I spent an aggravating Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday trying to stop a stubborn leak that was trickling down the inside wall of the tub enclosure and soaking the floor. Finally, after not being able to find new valves locally to replace our well worn 37 year-old plumber's antiques, and after replacing all the washers twice, then all the packing and the brass seats (one of those twice because of bad threads), I got the leak stopped, and the water turned back on. Just in time to enjoy our New Years Eve.
Why does this stuff always seem to happen on week-ends or during the holidays when hardware stores have short hours?
Thanks Mark & Deb, we both found the Pinot Noir to be exceptional!

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