Shared posts

03 Aug 21:42

Red hot nickel ball on floral foam - best reaction so far

by Mark Frauenfelder
Tertiarymatt

This was not at all what I expected. via A.Kachmar

The red hot nickel ball (RHNB) has been tested on a variety of materials. This video, which shows the RHNB causing a weird reaction in floral foam (which, incidentally, is a lot of fun to jab with your thumb), is the best RHNB video yet. rhnb

04 Aug 03:37

Metal is in such an amazing place right now. For serious.

Tertiarymatt

Run it back to the first track.
Seeing these guys next week. They are currently working on a full length, which I hope comes out soon.



Metal is in such an amazing place right now. For serious.

04 Aug 03:21

The Old Iron Dream

Tertiarymatt

An important bit of media history, perhaps, and only six bucks.

About The Old Iron Dream

Last year, the sci-fi world was roiled by a fight over virulently racist and sexist remarks made by author Ted Beale, including calling an African-American writer a “half-savage.” After a months-long battle, Beale was expelled from the Science Fiction Writers of America, a watershed in a cultural and generational conflict brewing for some time.

But Beale had his defenders, including some of the genre's influential elders, who slung out similar slurs as the fights continued. Around the same time, Orson Scott Card, of “Ender's Game” fame, attracted attention for his ongoing homophobia and paranoid racist fantasias about the President recruiting street gangs. For kickers, North Carolina's government appointed Card to a powerful board overseeing public broadcasting.

These public battles attracted no shortage of press coverage, much of it surprised at the depth of far-right extremism and bigotry in the world of possible tomorrows. For a genre supposedly focused on the future, it seemed like a major of part of the subculture had yet to even join the 20th century.

What the public was seeing, however, was just the tip of a very old, very influential iceberg. From its inception, American sci-fi has harbored a powerful far-right faction. These authors, usually men, include some of the genre's most famous figures, their uglier sentiments and negative influences often glossed over.

Sci-fi's popular history doesn't mention John Campbell's belief that race riots were caused by “genetic barbarians” or Robert Heinlein's fondness for robber barons and military rule. It remembers Larry Niven's creative alien worlds, not his advocacy of lying to immigrants to deny them healthcare. Jerry Pournelle is widely hailed as the dean of military sci-fi, his sympathies for fascists like Franco and Pinochet forgotten.

Rather than harmless eccentrics, the doyennes of the sci-fi far right advise the federal government, occupy important posts, head think-tanks and shape policy to this day. They've played a major role in creating an environment that, as shown in the case of Beale, can still make sci-fi hostile territory for women and people of color. Despite decades of courageous critical backlash within the genre, much of this impact and history remains unexposed.

The Old Iron Dream will drag this history out of the shadows, showing how sci-fi's far-right has shaped not just its genre, but the larger culture and politics of America. It's a turbulent, often horrifying story, ranging from coup plots and smear campaigns to shilling for Reagan's weapons boondoggles and denying climate change.

This will be an in-depth piece of long-form journalism, a no-holds-barred, no-punches-pulled look at the sci-fi far-right -- its major figures, its influence, and how the modern world has finally come calling for these would-be people of the future.

04 Aug 02:59

A Practical Utopian’s Guide to the Coming Collapse

Tertiarymatt

I often like Graeber, and I think this piece is very interesting.

b22_enos1crowd_308

What is a revolution? We used to think we knew. Revolutions were seizures of power by popular forces aiming to transform the very nature of the political, social, and economic system in the country in which the revolution took place, usually according to some visionary dream of a just society. Nowadays, we live in an age when, if rebel armies do come sweeping into a city, or mass uprisings overthrow a dictator, it’s unlikely to have any such implications; when profound social transformation does occur—as with, say, the rise of feminism—it’s likely to take an entirely different form. It’s not that revolutionary dreams aren’t out there. But contemporary revolutionaries rarely think they can bring them into being by some modern-day equivalent of storming the Bastille.

At moments like this, it generally pays to go back to the history one already knows and ask: Were revolutions ever really what we thought them to be? For me, the person who has asked this most effectively is the great world historian Immanuel Wallerstein. He argues that for the last quarter millennium or so, revolutions have consisted above all of planetwide transformations of political common sense.

Already by the time of the French Revolution, Wallerstein notes, there was a single world market, and increasingly a single world political system as well, dominated by the huge colonial empires. As a result, the storming of the Bastille in Paris could well end up having effects on Denmark, or even Egypt, just as profound as on France itself—in some cases, even more so. Hence he speaks of the “world revolution of 1789,” followed by the “world revolution of 1848,” which saw revolutions break out almost simultaneously in fifty countries, from Wallachia to Brazil. In no case did the revolutionaries succeed in taking power, but afterward, institutions inspired by the French Revolution—notably, universal systems of primary education—were put in place pretty much everywhere. Similarly, the Russian Revolution of 1917 was a world revolution ultimately responsible for the New Deal and European welfare states as much as for Soviet communism. The last in the series was the world revolution of 1968—which, much like 1848, broke out almost everywhere, from China to Mexico, seized power nowhere, but nonetheless changed everything. This was a revolution against state bureaucracies, and for the inseparability of personal and political liberation, whose most lasting legacy will likely be the birth of modern feminism.

Revolutions are thus planetary phenomena. But there is more. What they really do is transform basic assumptions about what politics is ultimately about. In the wake of a revolution, ideas that had been considered veritably lunatic fringe quickly become the accepted currency of debate. Before the French Revolution, the ideas that change is good, that government policy is the proper way to manage it, and that governments derive their authority from an entity called “the people” were considered the sorts of things one might hear from crackpots and demagogues, or at best a handful of freethinking intellectuals who spend their time debating in cafés. A generation later, even the stuffiest magistrates, priests, and headmasters had to at least pay lip service to these ideas. Before long, we had reached the situation we are in today: that it’s necessary to lay out the terms for anyone to even notice they are there. They’ve become common sense, the very grounds of political discussion.

A quarter of the American population is now engaged in “guard labor”—defending property, supervising work, or otherwise keeping their fellow Americans in line.

Until 1968, most world revolutions really just introduced practical refinements: an expanded franchise, universal primary education, the welfare state. The world revolution of 1968, in contrast—whether it took the form it did in China, of a revolt by students and young cadres supporting Mao’s call for a Cultural Revolution; or in Berkeley and New York, where it marked an alliance of students, dropouts, and cultural rebels; or even in Paris, where it was an alliance of students and workers—was a rebellion against bureaucracy, conformity, or anything that fettered the human imagination, a project for the revolutionizing of not just political or economic life, but every aspect of human existence. As a result, in most cases, the rebels didn’t even try to take over the apparatus of state; they saw that apparatus as itself the problem.

It’s fashionable nowadays to view the social movements of the late sixties as an embarrassing failure. A case can be made for that view. It’s certainly true that in the political sphere, the immediate beneficiary of any widespread change in political common sense—a prioritizing of ideals of individual liberty, imagination, and desire; a hatred of bureaucracy; and suspicions about the role of government—was the political Right. Above all, the movements of the sixties allowed for the mass revival of free market doctrines that had largely been abandoned since the nineteenth century. It’s no coincidence that the same generation who, as teenagers, made the Cultural Revolution in China was the one who, as forty-year-olds, presided over the introduction of capitalism. Since the eighties, “freedom” has come to mean “the market,” and “the market” has come to be seen as identical with capitalism—even, ironically, in places like China, which had known sophisticated markets for thousands of years, but rarely anything that could be described as capitalism.

The ironies are endless. While the new free market ideology has framed itself above all as a rejection of bureaucracy, it has, in fact, been responsible for the first administrative system that has operated on a planetary scale, with its endless layering of public and private bureaucracies: the IMF, World Bank, WTO, trade organizations, financial institutions, transnational corporations, NGOs. This is precisely the system that has imposed free market orthodoxy, and opened the world to financial pillage, under the watchful aegis of American arms. It only made sense that the first attempt to recreate a global revolutionary movement, the Global Justice Movement that peaked between 1998 and 2003, was effectively a rebellion against the rule of that very planetary bureaucracy.

Future Stop

In retrospect, though, I think that later historians will conclude that the legacy of the sixties revolution was deeper than we now imagine, and that the triumph of capitalist markets and their various planetary administrators and enforcers—which seemed so epochal and permanent in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991—was, in fact, far shallower.

I’ll take an obvious example. One often hears that antiwar protests in the late sixties and early seventies were ultimately failures, since they did not appreciably speed up the U.S. withdrawal from Indochina. But afterward, those controlling U.S. foreign policy were so anxious about being met with similar popular unrest—and even more, with unrest within the military itself, which was genuinely falling apart by the early seventies—that they refused to commit U.S. forces to any major ground conflict for almost thirty years. It took 9/11, an attack that led to thousands of civilian deaths on U.S. soil, to fully overcome the notorious “Vietnam syndrome”—and even then, the war planners made an almost obsessive effort to ensure the wars were effectively protest-proof. Propaganda was incessant, the media was brought on board, experts provided exact calculations on body bag counts (how many U.S. casualties it would take to stir mass opposition), and the rules of engagement were carefully written to keep the count below that.

The problem was that since those rules of engagement ensured that thousands of women, children, and old people would end up “collateral damage” in order to minimize deaths and injuries to U.S. soldiers, this meant that in Iraq and Afghanistan, intense hatred for the occupying forces would pretty much guarantee that the United States couldn’t obtain its military objectives. And remarkably, the war planners seemed to be aware of this. It didn’t matter. They considered it far more important to prevent effective opposition at home than to actually win the war. It’s as if American forces in Iraq were ultimately defeated by the ghost of Abbie Hoffman.

Clearly, an antiwar movement in the sixties that is still tying the hands of U.S. military planners in 2012 can hardly be considered a failure. But it raises an intriguing question: What happens when the creation of that sense of failure, of the complete ineffectiveness of political action against the system, becomes the chief objective of those in power?

b22_enos2head_308

Is it possible that this preemptive attitude toward social movements, the designing of wars and trade summits in such a way that preventing effective opposition is considered more of a priority than the success of the war or summit itself, really reflects a more general principle? What if those currently running the system, most of whom witnessed the unrest of the sixties firsthand as impressionable youngsters, are—consciously or unconsciously (and I suspect it’s more conscious than not)—obsessed by the prospect of revolutionary social movements once again challenging prevailing common sense?The thought first occurred to me when participating in the IMF actions in Washington, D.C., in 2002. Coming on the heels of 9/11, we were relatively few and ineffective, the number of police overwhelming. There was no sense that we could succeed in shutting down the meetings. Most of us left feeling vaguely depressed. It was only a few days later, when I talked to someone who had friends attending the meetings, that I learned we had in fact shut them down: the police had introduced such stringent security measures, canceling half the events, that most of the actual meetings had been carried out online. In other words, the government had decided it was more important for protesters to walk away feeling like failures than for the IMF meetings to take place. If you think about it, they afforded protesters extraordinary importance.

It would explain a lot. In most of the world, the last thirty years has come to be known as the age of neoliberalism—one dominated by a revival of the long-since-abandoned nineteenth-century creed that held that free markets and human freedom in general were ultimately the same thing. Neoliberalism has always been wracked by a central paradox. It declares that economic imperatives are to take priority over all others. Politics itself is just a matter of creating the conditions for growing the economy by allowing the magic of the marketplace to do its work. All other hopes and dreams—of equality, of security—are to be sacrificed for the primary goal of economic productivity. But global economic performance over the last thirty years has been decidedly mediocre. With one or two spectacular exceptions (notably China, which significantly ignored most neoliberal prescriptions), growth rates have been far below what they were in the days of the old-fashioned, state-directed, welfare-state-oriented capitalism of the fifties, sixties, and even seventies. By its own standards, then, the project was already a colossal failure even before the 2008 collapse.

If, on the other hand, we stop taking world leaders at their word and instead think of neoliberalism as a political project, it suddenly looks spectacularly effective. The politicians, CEOs, trade bureaucrats, and so forth who regularly meet at summits like Davos or the G20 may have done a miserable job in creating a world capitalist economy that meets the needs of a majority of the world’s inhabitants (let alone produces hope, happiness, security, or meaning), but they have succeeded magnificently in convincing the world that capitalism—and not just capitalism, but exactly the financialized, semifeudal capitalism we happen to have right now—is the only viable economic system. If you think about it, this is a remarkable accomplishment.

Debt cancellation would make the perfect revolutionary demand.

How did they pull it off? The preemptive attitude toward social movements is clearly a part of it; under no conditions can alternatives, or anyone proposing alternatives, be seen to experience success. This helps explain the almost unimaginable investment in “security systems” of one sort or another: the fact that the United States, which lacks any major rival, spends more on its military and intelligence than it did during the Cold War, along with the almost dazzling accumulation of private security agencies, intelligence agencies, militarized police, guards, and mercenaries. Then there are the propaganda organs, including a massive media industry that did not even exist before the sixties, celebrating police. Mostly these systems do not so much attack dissidents directly as contribute to a pervasive climate of fear, jingoistic conformity, life insecurity, and simple despair that makes any thought of changing the world seem an idle fantasy. Yet these security systems are also extremely expensive. Some economists estimate that a quarter of the American population is now engaged in “guard labor” of one sort or another—defending property, supervising work, or otherwise keeping their fellow Americans in line. Economically, most of this disciplinary apparatus is pure deadweight.

In fact, most of the economic innovations of the last thirty years make more sense politically than economically. Eliminating guaranteed life employment for precarious contracts doesn’t really create a more effective workforce, but it is extraordinarily effective in destroying unions and otherwise depoliticizing labor. The same can be said of endlessly increasing working hours. No one has much time for political activity if they’re working sixty-hour weeks.

It does often seem that, whenever there is a choice between one option that makes capitalism seem the only possible economic system, and another that would actually make capitalism a more viable economic system, neoliberalism means always choosing the former. The combined result is a relentless campaign against the human imagination. Or, to be more precise: imagination, desire, individual creativity, all those things that were to be liberated in the last great world revolution, were to be contained strictly in the domain of consumerism, or perhaps in the virtual realities of the Internet. In all other realms they were to be strictly banished. We are talking about the murdering of dreams, the imposition of an apparatus of hopelessness, designed to squelch any sense of an alternative future. Yet as a result of putting virtually all their efforts in one political basket, we are left in the bizarre situation of watching the capitalist system crumbling before our very eyes, at just the moment everyone had finally concluded no other system would be possible.

Work It Out, Slow It Down

Normally, when you challenge the conventional wisdom—that the current economic and political system is the only possible one—the first reaction you are likely to get is a demand for a detailed architectural blueprint of how an alternative system would work, down to the nature of its financial instruments, energy supplies, and policies of sewer maintenance. Next, you are likely to be asked for a detailed program of how this system will be brought into existence. Historically, this is ridiculous. When has social change ever happened according to someone’s blueprint? It’s not as if a small circle of visionaries in Renaissance Florence conceived of something they called “capitalism,” figured out the details of how the stock exchange and factories would someday work, and then put in place a program to bring their visions into reality. In fact, the idea is so absurd we might well ask ourselves how it ever occurred to us to imagine this is how change happens to begin.

This is not to say there’s anything wrong with utopian visions. Or even blueprints. They just need to be kept in their place. The theorist Michael Albert has worked out a detailed plan for how a modern economy could run without money on a democratic, participatory basis. I think this is an important achievement—not because I think that exact model could ever be instituted, in exactly the form in which he describes it, but because it makes it impossible to say that such a thing is inconceivable. Still, such models can be only thought experiments. We cannot really conceive of the problems that will arise when we start trying to build a free society. What now seem likely to be the thorniest problems might not be problems at all; others that never even occurred to us might prove devilishly difficult. There are innumerable X-factors.

The most obvious is technology. This is the reason it’s so absurd to imagine activists in Renaissance Italy coming up with a model for a stock exchange and factories—what happened was based on all sorts of technologies that they couldn’t have anticipated, but which in part only emerged because society began to move in the direction that it did. This might explain, for instance, why so many of the more compelling visions of an anarchist society have been produced by science fiction writers (Ursula K. Le Guin, Starhawk, Kim Stanley Robinson). In fiction, you are at least admitting the technological aspect is guesswork.

Myself, I am less interested in deciding what sort of economic system we should have in a free society than in creating the means by which people can make such decisions for themselves. What might a revolution in common sense actually look like? I don’t know, but I can think of any number of pieces of conventional wisdom that surely need challenging if we are to create any sort of viable free society. I’ve already explored one—the nature of money and debt—in some detail in a recent book. I even suggested a debt jubilee, a general cancellation, in part just to bring home that money is really just a human product, a set of promises, that by its nature can always be renegotiated.

b22_enos3work_308

What would remain is the kind of work only human beings will ever be able to do: those forms of caring and helping labor that are at the very center of the crisis that brought about Occupy Wall Street to begin with. What would happen if we stopped acting as if the primordial form of work is laboring at a production line, or wheat field, or iron foundry, or even in an office cubicle, and instead started from a mother, a teacher, or a caregiver? We might be forced to conclude that the real business of human life is not contributing toward something called “the economy” (a concept that didn’t even exist three hundred years ago), but the fact that we are all, and have always been, projects of mutual creation.Labor, similarly, should be renegotiated. Submitting oneself to labor discipline—supervision, control, even the self-control of the ambitious self-employed—does not make one a better person. In most really important ways, it probably makes one worse. To undergo it is a misfortune that at best is sometimes necessary. Yet it’s only when we reject the idea that such labor is virtuous in itself that we can start to ask what is virtuous about labor. To which the answer is obvious. Labor is virtuous if it helps others. A renegotiated definition of productivity should make it easier to reimagine the very nature of what work is, since, among other things, it will mean that technological development will be redirected less toward creating ever more consumer products and ever more disciplined labor, and more toward eliminating those forms of labor entirely.

It’s as if American forces in Iraq were ultimately defeated by the ghost of Abbie Hoffman.

At the moment, probably the most pressing need is simply to slow down the engines of productivity. This might seem a strange thing to say—our knee-jerk reaction to every crisis is to assume the solution is for everyone to work even more, though of course, this kind of reaction is really precisely the problem—but if you consider the overall state of the world, the conclusion becomes obvious. We seem to be facing two insoluble problems. On the one hand, we have witnessed an endless series of global debt crises, which have grown only more and more severe since the seventies, to the point where the overall burden of debt—sovereign, municipal, corporate, personal—is obviously unsustainable. On the other, we have an ecological crisis, a galloping process of climate change that is threatening to throw the entire planet into drought, floods, chaos, starvation, and war. The two might seem unrelated. But ultimately they are the same. What is debt, after all, but the promise of future productivity? Saying that global debt levels keep rising is simply another way of saying that, as a collectivity, human beings are promising each other to produce an even greater volume of goods and services in the future than they are creating now. But even current levels are clearly unsustainable. They are precisely what’s destroying the planet, at an ever-increasing pace.

Even those running the system are reluctantly beginning to conclude that some kind of mass debt cancellation—some kind of jubilee—is inevitable. The real political struggle is going to be over the form that it takes. Well, isn’t the obvious thing to address both problems simultaneously? Why not a planetary debt cancellation, as broad as practically possible, followed by a mass reduction in working hours: a four-hour day, perhaps, or a guaranteed five-month vacation? This might not only save the planet but also (since it’s not like everyone would just be sitting around in their newfound hours of freedom) begin to change our basic conceptions of what value-creating labor might actually be.

Occupy was surely right not to make demands, but if I were to have to formulate one, that would be it. After all, this would be an attack on the dominant ideology at its very strongest points. The morality of debt and the morality of work are the most powerful ideological weapons in the hands of those running the current system. That’s why they cling to them even as they are effectively destroying everything else. It’s also why debt cancellation would make the perfect revolutionary demand.

All this might still seem very distant. At the moment, the planet might seem poised more for a series of unprecedented catastrophes than for the kind of broad moral and political transformation that would open the way to such a world. But if we are going to have any chance of heading off those catastrophes, we’re going to have to change our accustomed ways of thinking. And as the events of 2011 reveal, the age of revolutions is by no means over. The human imagination stubbornly refuses to die. And the moment any significant number of people simultaneously shake off the shackles that have been placed on that collective imagination, even our most deeply inculcated assumptions about what is and is not politically possible have been known to crumble overnight.

03 Aug 01:35

RIP I'm Sorry

Tertiarymatt

I look forward to what replaces Yelling Bird.




Ads by Project Wonderful! Your ad could be here, right now.

I am tired of Yelling Bird comics so there will be NO MORE OF THEM, goodbye you shitty bird

04 Aug 00:59

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Food Waste (HBO)

Tertiarymatt

Yuppo.

Producers, sellers, and consumers waste tons of food. John Oliver discusses the shocking amount of food we don’t eat. Connect with Last Week Tonight online.....
03 Aug 02:47

Listen/purchase: ARCHIVIST by Archivist Interesting record. 

Tertiarymatt

This is a pretty solid record, I reckon. It's a concept album, where-in a sole conscious survivor of humanity's ruination of the Earth documents the escape of a tiny handful of people (in stasis or cryo-sleep or what have you) on a ship to someplace else. It's post-rocky, heavy, while still being dreamy and melodic, with some shouty-not-quite-black vocals.



Listen/purchase: ARCHIVIST by Archivist

Interesting record. 

03 Aug 05:01

Passing the Torch

by Ian
Tertiarymatt

An age-old question.

Passing the Torch

03 Aug 02:21

(via Morphine - At Your Service (CD 1) (Full Album) - YouTube)

Tertiarymatt

Something I need to pick up. If you're not familiar with this band, well, check it out. So tremendous.

02 Aug 22:56

Hitchhiking Robot That Relied on Kindness of Strangers...

Tertiarymatt

This makes me really remarkably angry in a way that is a bit difficult to explain. I guess all I can say is: have a look at America. via ThePrettiestOne

01 Aug 09:00

Physics Week in Review: August 1, 2015

Tertiarymatt

Worth clicking thru for the graphene piece, at the least.

Folding graphene like origami, the physics of how cereal gets soggy, and left-handed W bosons are among this week's highlights.

-- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
22 Jul 17:02

Cut Spike 3.0

by David Driscoll
Tertiarymatt

This is also very tempting.

Batch three is here. Outside of Nebraska, you'll only find it at K&L.

My notes: When I first tasted the Cut Spike whiskey, I thought it was simply the best American single malt out there; a true revelation for the domestic category. However, as I'm now tasting the newest batch from the Nebraskan producer, I'm realizing that the whiskey is starting to morph into something very particular and unique to the brand. That classic creaminess is still very pervasive, but for the second time in a row there's a pronounced note of pine that soon mutates into ginger and Asian spices before quickly turning back into rich vanilla and oak on the finish; smoothly seeping its way into my taste buds as that last little sip goes down. What we're starting to witness here is the development of a house style--a flavor that defines this distillery. It's very exciting, and it's becoming infectious.

Kyle’s notes: With this being only their third release, the anticipation of what is in the bottle was very high: a chance to try and flesh out exactly what is the house style that the good distillers at Cut Spike bring to the table. This bottling does a great job of solidifying them in my mind as one of the highest quality single malt producers in the States. This whisky is incredibly vibrant and fresh without tasting young or harsh. The nose is lifted with bright notes of candied ginger and Douglas fir, a sense of promised vanilla sweetness wafts in at the end. In the mouth there is sweetness, orange marmalade, a hint of clove for spice, and then the same vanilla cream from last batch that really adds roundness to the palate.

David OG just got his bottle today, so he’ll chime in later. You’re going to want one, so you might as well just get it out of the way now.

Cut Spike Nebraska Single Malt Whisky $59.99 - At first we couldn't believe our mouths. We knew that Cut Spike single malt had just taken Double Gold honors at the 2014 San Francisco Spirits competition (the highest possible honor), so obviously other people thought it was good, too. But after tasting so many mediocre American attempts at single malt whisky, we had become accustomed to the idea that the Scottish style of distillation would never be recreated here at home. There would be spin-offs, and experimental grasps at greatness, but that supple, malty profile would simply be something we needed to import from abroad. Then the folks at Cut Spike sent us a sample of their two year old Nebraskan single malt whisky made from 100% malted barley on a pot still crafted in Rothes, Scotland. Fermented at the brewery next door to Cut Spike in La Vista, the malt was matured for two years in new American oak with varying levels of char. The result is an incredible hybrid: soft, barley and vanilla-laden whisky that tastes somewhat like your standard Scottish single malt, but has its own unique character simultaneously. It's the kind of whisky that you taste once and enjoy, but then the next day suddenly crave intensely. It impresses you instantly, yet doesn't really reveal its full character until weeks later. The new oak blurs seamlessly into the malty mouthfeel, adding a richness on the finish normally not tasted in standard Scottish selections. Cut Spike is a major accomplishment for American distillation, pure and simple.

-David Driscoll

28 Jul 20:41

Whiskey Lover's Cognac

by David Driscoll
Tertiarymatt

I'd be quite interested to try this, I think.

A customer recently asked me in an email whether we had what I might refer to as a "whisky lover's Cognac". His goal was simple: he likes whiskey, he wants to try Cognac; which Cognac would be the best fit for a whiskey drinker?

What I ended up writing back was a prescription to try one of our new Armagnacs, explaining that the spice and the intensity of the Gascogne brandies are far more tailored to today's single malt or Bourbon fan. Cognac is often a spirit more suited for today's, well...Cognac consumer. They're blended to be smooth, soft, and seamless, rather than expressive and explosive. Most whiskey drinkers are searching for originality and individuality. They want to understand what makes each whiskey unique, so they look for different flavors and explanations as to why they exist. With Cognac, it's often about airbrushing away anything out of the ordinary in favor of the mainstream desire. It's about absolute harmony rather than artistic integrity. Not that one can't enjoy both sides of the spectrum (because I most definitely do), but rather that a Cognac bottle wouldn't be the first thing I reached for to put into the hands of a self-described Bourbon or single malt drinker.  But then I walked by the shelf today and I saw the 1996 Giboin Fins Bois Cognac that we just recently reloaded on. Actually....

Francois Giboin is an interesting guy. He's definitely not looking for uniformity and equality in his Cognacs (but I think he does sympathize with communism, so go figure). Unlike all other producers we deal with directly, Giboin is not located in the Grand Champagne or Petit Champagne; but rather in the Fins Bois—a region not known for producing a particularly fine spirit. But it was exactly because of that pre-conceived belief (that all the best Cognacs come from Grand Champagne) that we wanted to meet someone in the outer reaches of the Charentes who was actually bottling their own stuff. If Fins Bois was considered to be automatically inferior to the Champagne districts of Cognac, we wanted to at least know it for ourselves.

What I love about Giboin is that he's proud of his locale, so much so that he tells you all about it on the back label. There's a map of the six main crus, a sign that shows you his position, and an description of the property complete with family history. We liked him right off the bat. He definitely understood what we were looking for: a unique expression of flavor and place.

So we dug around Giboin's cellar and discovered the lovely little 1996 vintage, from which this most-recent batch was bottled in April of 2015. Still an 18 year old spirit, the earthy and leathery flavors, intermixed with the caramel and richness from the oak, make it one of the most rustic Cognacs I've ever tasted. Whereas almost all other Cognacs I've tasted showcase fruit and/or sweetness, you get neither on display in the Giboin. The nose is all caramel and vanilla, but it all instantly fades on the palate which brings forth a heavy dose of leather, savory spices, earth. It's a Cognac that is decidedly un-Cognac-like.

Whether it's for whiskey drinkers, I don't know. But if I had to pick one Cognac to put in a whiskey lover's hands, this is the one I'd pick. 

-David Driscoll

31 Jul 16:57

D2D Interview: Sam Neill

by David Driscoll

As far back as I can remember, I've loved watching scary movies. I was the kid at the video store who wandered into the horror section and obsessed over the covers of the VHS tapes, while his parents sat patiently waiting in the Disney section, hoping for a more appropriate selection. You might say that, in addition to the consumption of wine and spirits, the ingestion of cinematic terror and gore makes up what's left of my free time. That's why, when our New Zealand wine buyer Ryan Woodhouse told me that we might getting a tiny allocation of Sam Neill's pinot noir, I did a double-take. "You mean the actor Sam Neill?" I asked, my eyes ablaze in response. This was a dream come true. While most people know Sam from his world-famous appearances in Jurassic Park and The Piano, horror-fanatics like myself relish his roles in genre classics like The Omen: Final Conflict, In the Mouth of Madness, and Event Horizon. I must have watched In the Mouth of Madness, an eerie John Carpenter classic from the mid-90s that ran completely under the radar, at least fifty times during high school. "You're telling me Sam Neill makes pinot noir?" I asked Ryan in shock.

"Not just pinot noir; really good pinot noir," he answered.

Ryan reached under his desk and grabbed me a sample of the Two Paddocks pinot noir and poured me a glass. Apparently Sam and his local importer had just dropped by the store to taste the staff on the wines while I was away, and Ryan had saved a bit of the bottle for future tasting. It turns out that when Sam returned home to New Zealand to live in Central Otago, he had brought the Burgundy bug back with him. Living in London for many years, drinking the fine wines of the Cote d'Or had taken its toll on the actor, and he wound up moving right smack in the middle of the most distinctive pinot noir soil in the Southern Hemisphere. In 1993, he planted a few acres of vines nearby and founded Two Paddocks Winery, hoping to create a few hundred cases of delicious red wine for his own consumption. Over twenty years later, he's parcelling out small allocations of his coveted cuvee to fine wine retailers like K&L all over the world.

"So you're telling me that I could talk to Sam Neill about Burgundy and horror movies?" I asked Ryan with a huge smile.

"I think he'd be game," he replied with a grin.

In this edition of Drinking to Drink, we talk about the powerful effects of great Burgundy on the human psyche, being recognized as the antichrist by horror buffs, and how John Carpenter never eats anything but breakfast food from the diner. Previous editions of the D2D series can be found by clicking here, or by visiting the archive in the right hand margin of this page.

David: Have you always been into wine, or was this an interest that took hold later in life?

Sam: My family actually had a wine and spirits business for 150 years, so my roots are in alcohol. When I grew up there was always wine on the table at dinner. As far as my interest in good wine, that probably didn’t start until I was around thirty. Before that it was just plain alcohol, I think (laughs). Pretty much any alcohol would do. I think it coincided with me becoming more successful in my career as an actor, which meant I had a little more money in my pocket and I could afford to drink things that were less damaging, and more rewarding.

David: I didn’t realize you came from a family booze business. What did your parents do exactly?

Sam: Neill and Company imported wines and spirits from overseas to New Zealand; primarily from France and from Scotland. It was primarily whisky, brandy, and table wine. They were also general merchants, but their principle business was wine and spirits. They had very good connections in Bordeaux, and they had very a good-selling whisky. But people in those days weren’t particularly interested in wine in New Zealand, so it was pretty unusual to see a bottle of wine on the table. 

David: But that was normal for you.

Sam: It was normal in our house, yes. 

David: Did you reject that growing up, or did you embrace it? Did you see enjoying alcohol as something your parents did that you wanted to get away from possibly, or were you learning about it from a young age?

Sam: By the time I left home—which was as soon as I possibly could because I wanted to be independent—I was impoverished. At that point, I drank whatever I could afford mostly.

David: How old were you when you left?

Sam: I was about nine or ten. I went to boarding school, and then the university. The last time I really lived at home I was quite young, so when I started drinking I was at school, I’m ashamed to say (laughs). But I’ve never been a heavy drinker. I’ve never been in danger of being an alcoholic, I don’t think. 

David: Where were you in your acting career when you started taking more of an appreciation in wine?

Sam: It was probably about the time I got to London. I did the third of The Omen films and I was beginning to earn some decent money. James Mason, who was a great friend and a mentor to me and who loved good food and wine, took me to some excellent restaurants where I ate like I had never eaten before; and drank wines that I had never ever imagined. One of those dinners was extremely memorable because we had Burgundy, and I had never heard of it. I didn’t know what it was, but it was one of those light bulb moments, you know? I was on the road to Damascus. 

David: I’ve been there. What was the wine, do you remember? Do you remember what stood out for you?

Sam: I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it at the time, but I had never drank anything like it. I wanted to understand it and to know more about it. I’d like to think it was a Gevrey-Chambertin, but I couldn’t swear to it. It had all these things that I had never tasted in life before. It had integration, depth, complexity, and a long finish—all things that I take as required these days! But I had never experienced them before that.

David: And what happened from there? You started looking for more wines like that?

Sam aboard the spaceship Event Horizon

Sam: Then I found myself living in London and there was a great wine shop down the road where they knew I was interested in Burgundy, so they would recommend things each time I came in. I started to learn my way around the region. I wasn’t on to it right away, however, I was sort of confused by the Côte d’Or. I thought it might be a place where you’d put your Bordeaux on a beach. It sounded like somewhere a lot sunnier than Burgundy. So it took me a while, and I still have quite a lot to learn about Burgundy, to be honest.

David: I think we all do. How did it work out for you, living in London, while working in the American film industry? Did that make it more difficult?

Sam: My career became more Euro-centric rather than American-centric, I guess. I think looking back the majority of my career has been either in Europe or Australia. I might have done more work in the states if I had been based out of Los Angeles, but I ended up in London and enjoyed myself; met a girl, all that usual stuff (laughs).

David: That’s great you were able to do it that way. I often wish I could live in London and still keep my job at K&L. That would be my dream! Maybe that’s why as an actor you have one of the most interesting and eclectic careers. You’ve been in huge blockbusters like Jurassic Park—which is now big again—and you’ve also made quite a career in horror. You’re in two of my all-time favorite horror movies: In the Mouth of Madness and Event Horizon. At the time, for me, those were movies I watched on repeat, over and over. In fact, the original name of my band in high school was “Sutter Cane” after Jürgen Prochnow’s character in that film. I was obsessed with John Carpenter back then. What was it like working with him, by the way?

Sam: I like John a lot. I actually did another film with him as well: Memoirs of an Invisible Man. We got on very well. There’s something about people who make horror films and films that are rather violent: they’re always the mildest, kindest, quietest people you could meet. John’s a bit like that. He’s the last person you would expect to be the horror master.

David: Did you ever get to have a drink with him?

Sam: I honestly can’t remember John drinking at all. He only eats breakfast; that’s all he eats. He will not go to fancy restaurants; he hates them. He just likes diner food, basically. He likes bacon, eggs, and muffins—that kind of stuff. That’s all he eats. He doesn’t have any interest in good food (laughs). 

David: Would you say that most actors like to drink though?

Sam: Pretty much most people I’ve worked with are interested in both food and wine. One thing we can say fairly about actors is that—as a generalization—they’re really good company, they’re usually very funny people, and they like to go out and have a good time. In both things that I do—acting and making wine—the most important thing is the people you’re with. The people who are involved with you in the same crazy project. Wine has certainly been like that for me. All these things like terroir, root stock, climate, and viticulture—all these things are important—but the most important component to the making of wine is the people. The most important component of a film or television project is the people. In both, I think I’m very lucky to have found myself with some of the best people you can imagine.

David: You’ve been involved with Two Paddocks—your wine project—since 1993. This is around Jurassic Park time. How did you get involved with growing pinot noir in Central Otago? What was the motivation?

Sam: As I was saying earlier, I had become more interested in pinot noir, and then I found that it could be grown successfully in Central Otago, which is where I live. It seemed too crazy of a coincidence that not only was it possible to live in the best place in the world, but also to produce the best wine in the world there. It seemed like a no-brainer. I had a little spare cash in my back pocket and I started with only a few humble acres in a very unlikely spot. Four years later we had our first vintage—in 1997—and we realized that this unlikely spot was the sweet spot. I thought this is probably enough, I’ll just leave it at that. I think we were producing in those days something like 600 cases a year, and that seemed to be plenty; more than I could drink. 

David: Were you selling it outside of New Zealand, or was this a local thing with friends and family?

Sam: We got up to about 800 cases before we started going strong. After that it was like I had been bitten by a big bug. In 1998, having seen those results, I found another sweet spot at the other end of the region, and I thought, “I want to double production,” so I planted another five acres. Now it’s four vineyards, so what started as a very tiny project has become a little less tiny. We’re always going to be very limited in our production, and we allocate our wine very sparingly. I think we’re probably up to about 8,000 cases a year, and—of that—there’s probably only 1500 that are from our premium wines. Those are the ones we direct towards you guys—towards K&L. 

Sam being restrained from the mouth of madness.

David: Other than the fact that it’s your project, what’s your favorite part about your wine? What’s most enthralling?

Sam: I don’t pretend to be in any way some kind of an expert. I know a lot more than I used to—when we started I knew nothing at all about winemaking. But my principle directive to the people who work with me is: I’m interested in restraint. I’m not at all interested in big, loud-mouthed, new world styles. While we don’t suppress that exuberance in the fruit, we do use restraint in the vineyard, as well as in the winery. What’s been very pleasing to me is that we produce what I think is subtle, profound, and beautiful wine, and it’s nice when other people agree with me on that (laughs). That gives me great pleasure.

David: It’s clear from talking to you, and having tasted the wines, that you have a real passion for wine and for wines of real delicacy and nuance—like Burgundian wines, for example. Do you find that being a celebrity ever hinders that message? Like wine retailers don’t take the project as seriously because you’re a famous actor?

Sam: I think that’s always going to happen, so that’s the first elephant I shoot when I walk into the room. It’s also easily done because—first of all—I’ve never really been a celebrity. You don’t see me in magazines, my life is private, my family lives an obscure and private life, and I think it’s evident to people in the wine world that I’m not just putting my name on a label. This is something that I’ve been committed to for twenty-three years; that I started from scratch. I’m still the lieutenant at the head of my own little army. 

David: Right, you were involved with Two Paddocks before people even knew wine was being made in New Zealand, let alone world-class wine. I think with the work that Ryan (Woodhouse) is doing, and the work that growers like yourself are doing, to bring these wines to a new audience, for the first time ever you’re seeing Burgundy drinkers crossover and accept what’s going on down there. I know that’s been the case for me—personally speaking. And it’s a clear answer: it’s because it tastes better. As a wine geek you know these heralded vineyard names—Richebourg, Echezeaux, Chassagne-Montrachet—that have so much romanticism to them. But when I do side-by-side tastings these days and I evaluate purely on flavor, I’m finding that some of the best pinot noirs in our store are coming from New Zealand. Not just good wines, but some of the best wines in the world.

Sam: And put the price-points up against each other. It’s interesting how that works out (laughs).

David: Right! The prices are almost too good to be believed sometimes. It’s almost difficult to explain to customers because they think you’re under-selling them; like the wines can’t be world-class if they only cost $20 or $30. But we convert them eventually. All they need to do is try a bottle.

Sam: Well, we appreciate the missionary work. 

David: It’s hard fought! (laughs)

Sam: You’re bringing light to somewhere where there was only darkness before.

David: Speaking of darkness, does everyone who meets you have to make an Omen reference, or a joke about you being the antichrist?

Sam: No, this is probably the first one I’ve had in about three months.

David: (laughs) That’s still pretty recent! It’s funny because you’re in all kinds of other great movies that are not scary and that are serious and well-acted films—like The Piano or The Hunt for Red October—all these critically-acclaimed movies where your acting is on full display.

The Two Paddocks estate in Central Otago

Sam: I’m in a show on Netflix right now called Peaky Blinders, have you seen that?

David: I just started yesterday! With Cillian Murphy. Although I only got about fifteen minutes in before I had to turn it off and run a quick errand. 

Sam: I’m pretty scary in that.

David: I haven’t made it to you yet. I just saw him trot into town on the horse, and then my phone rang.

Sam: Persist for another couple of minutes and then I turn up. I think you’ll be very afraid. 

David: I’m still afraid of Event Horizon! My wife can’t even look at that film anymore because it had such an impact on us. I was high school when that came out and I’ll always remember the scene when they get the black hole footage to work and you see what happened on board this ship as they went through the porthole. We all screamed and closed our eyes. Your horror roles were so impressionable for me in my youth. It’s been really cool to be able to talk with you about two of my biggest interests.

Sam: It’s been a long time since I’ve seen those movies, but I think you’ll definitely enjoy Peaky Blinders. It’s a very cool show.

David: Who’s someone you would want to have a drink with if you could choose anyone—living or deceased?

Sam: I think Robert Mitchum was the coolest man who was ever in the movies. I’d like to have met him.

David: How appropriate as he was also in two very scary films: Cape Fear and Night of the Hunter.  Which one do you think he was scarier in?

Sam: I liked him in everything that he did. There was something about him that was just beyond cool. I would have liked to have looked at that cool up close and seen what it was.​

------------------------

If you are indeed interested in obtaining some of Sam's incredible Two Paddocks wines, we have a very limited supply available on special order below. Less than 50 cases of each wine came into the United States this year, so we're talking extremely limited:

2013 Two Paddocks "The First Paddock" Pinot Noir Central Otago $74.99 - Winemaker's Notes: Sourced from the first twenty-five rows of Clone 5, which was planted in Gibbston at The First Paddock vineyard in 1993. Hand harvested and sorted then a 50% whole bunch indigenous ferment in a dedicated First Paddock French oak cuve. Matured in 30% new French oak with the balance in older wood for an extended 14 months of barrel maturation. Bramble, underbrush, black fruit and spicy aromatics, followed by a mineral infused palate. Ethereal in nature with great mid palate density and drive.

2012 Two Paddocks Estate Pinot Noir Central Otago $49.99 - Two Paddocks flagship Pinot Noir - an estate grown, barrel selection from the three small Neill family vineyards in Central Otago. These vineyards are high-density planted in a range of clonal material and intensively "man-handled" with most vineyard practices carried out by hand. In 2012, this wine was 100% Alexandra fruit from the Redbank and Alex Paddocks sites. Again, each block and clone was picked and fermented separately, with the final blending taking place prior to bottling. Redcurrant, spice and wild black exotic fruit aromatics followed by a strongly driven wine showing great texture and elegance."

2014 Two Paddocks Estate Riesling Central Otago $34.99 - Winemaker's Notes: Two Paddocks Riesling is an estate grown single block selection made from fruit grown at Two Paddocks’ Redbank Vineyard situated in Earnscleugh, Central Otago. As in the vineyard, this wine was handcrafted using traditional methods and bottled early to ensure all the integrity and vitality of the wine was preserved. The soils in this block are well draining schist loam and the vines tend to thrive. Additionally the typically extreme diurnal temperatures experienced in Alexandra (Earnscleugh) between day and night are responsible for both metabolising acidity and retaining an intense flavour profile - all this really means is that we feel a drier wine style is both possible and appropriate. This wine displays pink grapefruit, freshly squeezed limes and spicy loquat aromatics.  There is a taut mineral tension feel on the palate, elegant textural weight and very long persistence.

To learn more about Two Paddocks Winery click here.

-David Driscoll 

31 Jul 09:00

Clarity Is Job One

by Christopher Wright
Tertiarymatt

A THING MAY HAVE OCCURRED

30 Jul 16:42

"Count-Up" Is More Accurate

by Christopher Wright
13 Jul 19:16

Form Vs Essence

by Brad
Tertiarymatt

#SamHarrisiswrong beat

My friend Gesshin Greenwood wrote a great article in the current issue of Buddhadharma magazine. It’s the cover story! Do you know how many times I’ve gotten the cover story in one of the Buddhist magazines? Let me go through my files and count. OK. Here you go… never. Not once. But am I bitter? NO! Because I am above all bitterness! I am that f—ing enlightened!

Anyway. Whatever.

Gesshin’s story is all about whether one can strip away the cultural forms of Buddhism and get to its real essence. Regular readers will know that this is one of my favorite pet themes.

The Mindfulness™ movement takes the stance that yes, we can strip away the forms of Buddhism and toss them aside while only dealing with the important essentials. Sam Harris says, “Most people who teach mindfulness are still in the religion business. If you are declaring yourself a Buddhist you are part of the problem of religious sectarianism that has needlessly shattered our world. And I think we have to get out of the religion business.”

In her article, Gesshin gives us her teacher’s metaphor of Buddhism as wheel where the essence is at the center and the forms are at the rim. The wheel can’t move forward without its rim. She also talks about this common image of “stripping away” the forms of Buddhism to find the naked truth inside and says maybe we should get to know each other a little better before we get naked.

The way I see the history of Buddhism is that our man Siddhartha or Gautama, the historical Buddha, tried out various religious approaches to the problem of what life was and how to live it and found them wanting. So he looked deeply within himself and found another way. He also found that rituals are very useful in making what is merely intellectual into something that involves the body as well as the mind. When you wear a special costume, you tend to embody the spirit of that costume. When you put on a bunny outfit you feel like a bunny. When you put on Buddhist robes you feel like embodying the essence of Buddhism.

Sam Harris also says, “It just so happens Buddhism almost uniquely has given us a language and a methodology to do this (turn consciousness upon itself and thereby discover truth) that is really well designed for export into secular culture because you can get to the core truths of Buddhism — the truth of selflessness, the ceaseless impermanence of mental phenomena, the intrinsic unsatisfactoriness of experience. These features of our minds can be fully tested and understood without believing in anything on insufficient evidence. So it’s true to say that despite all the spooky metaphysics and unjustified claims of Buddhism you can get to the core of it without any faith claim and without being intellectually dishonest.”

Now here he is not talking just about trashing the bowing and incense lighting and chanting and funny clothes and haircuts. He’s saying we can also dump pretty much all of what my teacher called “Buddhist philosophy” too. I don’t feel like either of these is a very good idea, because if you do so it’s like trying to reinvent physics because you don’t like Einstein’s ideas about mustache grooming or Stephen Hawking’s preference for the far inferior Star Trek: The Next Generation over the much better Star Trek: The Original Series.

It’s true that people hear talk about karma or the Four Noble Truths or the Buddhist Precepts, or hear ideas about rebirth and about Bodhisattvas who can offer us help although they are either long dead people or entirely made up beings; they hear those things and assume they are spooky metaphysics or unjustified claims that must be accepted on faith. Unfortunately sometimes Buddhism really is taught that mistaken way. In his book Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist Stephen Batchelor says that’s how Tibetan Buddhism was presented to him, as a set of untestable doctrines that must be believed.

That’s the wrong way to understand Buddhist philosophy.

The right way to understand all that stuff is like this. For thousands of years across a variety of cultures, people who meditate have tried to put their experiences into words that they hoped others who did not meditate would get. Because our entire way of understanding life, the universe, and everything is fundamentally wrong, these teachers were forced to speak in metaphors. But all of the best Buddhist teachers said this quite explicitly. Quoting the historical Buddha, Dogen said, “Our Highest Ancestor in India, Shakyamuni Buddha, once said, ‘The snowcapped Himalayas are a metaphor for the great nirvana.’ When he uses the term ‘snow-capped Himalayas’, he is using the actual snowcapped Himalayas as a metaphor, just as when he uses the term ‘great nirvana’, he is using the actual great nirvana as a metaphor.” So even “great nirvana” is just as much of a metaphor as “snow-capped Himalayas.” This is only a single example. There are thousands more throughout all of Buddhist philosophy.

What these teachers have left for us is far too often treated as if it is Holy Scripture. But it’s not. Like all supposed “Holy Scripture” it is the words of people like us trying to convey an experience that is, in some ways, holy but also very human. As Chung-La said, “Before Buddhas were enlightened they were the same as we. Enlightened people of today are exactly as those of old.” If we learn to read the words of ancient Buddhist teachers in that spirit, we no longer see them as doctrines that must be accepted on faith alone but as attempts to tell us about an experience that is not easy to put in words.

It’s a kind of cultural arrogance to think that we can figure out what’s truly important in Buddhism better than the people who’ve been practicing it for centuries. I myself spent years believing that I understood Buddhism much better than those stuffy old Buddhists of ancient Asia. So I get it. But I never really understood what the forms of Buddhism actually were until I started doing them, and I never really understood what the so-called “doctrines” of Buddhism were until I actually started working with them.

So maybe try working with the tradition a little bit before you dismiss it all as useless baggage.

UPCOMING EVENTS

August 14-16, 2015 Munich, Germany 3 DAY ZEN RETREAT

August 19, 2015 Munich, Germany LECTURE

August 24-29, 2015 Felsentor, Switzerland 5-DAY RETREAT AT STIFTUNG FELSENTOR 

August 30-September 4, 2015 Holzkirchen, Germany 5-DAY RETREAT AT BENEDIKTUSHOF MONASTERY

September 4, 2015 Hamburg, Germany LECTURE

September 6, 2015 Hamburg, Germany ZEN DAY

September 10-13, 2015 Finland 4-DAY RETREAT

September 16-19, 20015 Hebden Bridge, England 4-DAY RETREAT

September 20, 2015 London, England THE ART OF SITTING DOWN & SHUTTING UP

September 21-25, 2015 Belfast, Northern Ireland SPECIFIC DATES TO BE DETERMINED

September 26-27, 2015 Glastonbury, England 2-DAY RETREAT

October 26-27 Cincinnati, Ohio Concert:Nova

November 6-8, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY RETREAT

April 23, 2016 Long Island, New York Molloy College “Spring Awakening 2016”

ONGOING EVENTS

Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. All are welcome!

Every Saturday at 9:30 there’s zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. All are welcome!

Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website, dsla.info

* * *

The form and essence of my economic life is your donations. I appreciate your on-going support!

28 Jul 22:53

No Moods, Ads or Cutesy Fucking Icons (Re-reloaded)

Tertiarymatt

Well, this is a thing, right here.

For decades now, I have been haunted by the grainy, black-and-white x-ray of a human skull.

It is alive but empty, with a cavernous fluid-filled space where the brain should be. A thin layer of brain tissue lines that cavity like an amniotic sac. The image hails from a 1980 review article in Science: Roger Lewin, the author, reports that the patient in question had “virtually no brain”. But that’s not what scared me; hydrocephalus is nothing new, and it takes more to creep out this ex-biologist than a picture of Ventricles Gone Wild.

The stuff of nightmares. (From Oliviera et al 2012)

The stuff of nightmares. (From Oliviera et al 2012)

What scared me was the fact that this virtually brain-free patient had an IQ of 126.

He had a first-class honors degree in mathematics. He presented normally along all social and cognitive axes. He didn’t even realize there was anything wrong with him until he went to the doctor for some unrelated malady, only to be referred to a specialist because his head seemed a bit too large.

It happens occasionally. Someone grows up to become a construction worker or a schoolteacher, before learning that they should have been a rutabaga instead. Lewin’s paper reports that one out of ten hydrocephalus cases are so extreme that cerebrospinal fluid fills 95% of the cranium. Anyone whose brain fits into the remaining 5% should be nothing short of vegetative; yet apparently, fully half have IQs over 100. (Why, here’s another example from 2007; and yet another. Let’s call them VBNs, or “Virtual No-Brainers”)

The paper is titled “Is Your Brain Really Necessary?”, and it seems to contradict pretty much everything we think we know about neurobiology. This Forsdyke guy over in Biological Theory argues that such cases open the possibility that the brain might utilize some kind of extracorporeal storage, which sounds awfully woo both to me and to the anonymous neuroskeptic over at Discovery.com; but even Neuroskeptic, while dismissing Forsdyke’s wilder speculations, doesn’t really argue with the neurological facts on the ground. (I myself haven’t yet had a chance to more than glance at the Forsdyke paper, which might warrant its own post if it turns out to be sufficiently substantive. If not, I’ll probably just pretend it is and incorporate it into Omniscience.)

On a somewhat less peer-reviewed note, VNBs also get routinely trotted out by religious nut jobs who cite them as evidence that a God-given soul must be doing all those things the uppity scientists keep attributing to the brain. Every now and then I see them linking to an off-hand reference I made way back in 2007 (apparently rifters.com is the only place to find Lewin’s paper online without having to pay a wall) and I roll my eyes.

And yet, 126 IQ. Virtually no brain. In my darkest moments of doubt, I wondered if they might be right.

So on and off for the past twenty years, I’ve lain awake at night wondering how a brain the size of a poodle’s could kick my ass at advanced mathematics. I’ve wondered if these miracle freaks might actually have the same brain mass as the rest of us, but squeezed into a smaller, high-density volume by the pressure of all that cerebrospinal fluid (apparently the answer is: no). While I was writing Blindsight— having learned that cortical modules in the brains of autistic savants are relatively underconnected, forcing each to become more efficient— I wondered if some kind of network-isolation effect might be in play.

Now, it turns out the answer to that is: Maybe.

Three decades after Lewin’s paper, we have “Revisiting hydrocephalus as a model to study brain resilience” by de Oliviera et al. (actually published in 2012, although I didn’t read it until last spring). It’s a “Mini Review Article”: only four pages, no new methodologies or original findings— just a bit of background, a hypothesis, a brief “Discussion” and a conclusion calling for further research. In fact, it’s not so much a review as a challenge to the neuro community to get off its ass and study this fascinating phenomenon— so that soon, hopefully, there’ll be enough new research out there warrant a real review.

The authors advocate research into “Computational models such as the small-world and scale-free network”— networks whose nodes are clustered into highly-interconnected “cliques”, while the cliques themselves are more sparsely connected one to another. De Oliviera et al suggest that they hold the secret to the resilience of the hydrocephalic brain. Such networks result in “higher dynamical complexity, lower wiring costs, and resilience to tissue insults.” This also seems reminiscent of those isolated hyper-efficient modules of autistic savants, which is unlikely to be a coincidence: networks from social to genetic to neural have all been described as “small-world”. (You might wonder— as I did— why de Oliviera et al. would credit such networks for the normal intelligence of some hydrocephalics when the same configuration is presumably ubiquitous in vegetative and normal brains as well. I can only assume they meant to suggest that small-world networking is especially well-developed among high-functioning hydrocephalics.) (In all honesty, it’s not the best-written paper I’ve ever read. Which seems to be kind of a trend on the ‘crawl lately.)

The point, though, is that under the right conditions, brain damage may paradoxically result in brain enhancement. Small-world, scale-free networking— focused, intensified, overclockedmight turbocharge a fragment of a brain into acting like the whole thing.

Can you imagine what would happen if we applied that trick to a normal brain?

If you’ve read Echopraxia, you’ll remember the Bicameral Order: the way they used tailored cancer genes to build extra connections in their brains, the way they linked whole brains together into a hive mind that could rewrite the laws of physics in an afternoon. It was mostly bullshit, of course: neurological speculation, stretched eight unpredictable decades into the future for the sake of a story.

But maybe the reality is simpler than the fiction. Maybe you don’t have to tweak genes or interface brains with computers to make the next great leap in cognitive evolution. Right now, right here in the real world, the cognitive function of brain tissue can be boosted— without engineering, without augmentation— by literal orders of magnitude. All it takes, apparently, is the right kind of stress. And if the neuroscience community heeds de Oliviera et al‘s clarion call, we may soon know how to apply that stress to order. The singularity might be a lot closer than we think.

Also a lot squishier.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if things turned out to be that easy?

28 Jul 19:56

Heavy Metal Yoga Is a Thing

Tertiarymatt

#DoomHippieActivities

Heavy Metal Yoga Is a Thing

It's a Tuesday night and I am sitting on a yoga mat in the back of a former grocery store in Pittsburgh, spreading my legs as far as they can go. I reflexively turn to see how the woman next to me is managing her dragonfly pose when I realize I can barely see her. The room is lit only by two tin can-shaped-and-sized lights sitting in corners they offer about as much illumination as a pair of Yankee jar candles. Kimee Massie, the heavily tattooed instructor, comes over to help me put a foam block under my ass. It gives me some leverage and I feel a greater stretch in my inner thighs, but I still look over again to see how far the woman on the neighboring mat has gotten. I squint and make out the words on her t-shirt: "Fuck This. I'm Going Skateboarding."

Meanwhile, there is a dark, droning sound coming out of the stereo. Imagine the hiss that is omnipresent in David Lynch's Eraserhead overlapped by the slow diddling of an autistic noise-rock guitarist. It's oddly comforting in its non-invasiveness and consistency and I remember to inhale deeply.

See also: Interview: David Lynch on Creativity, Meditation, and Collective Experience (But Nothing on That New Sparklehorse / Danger Mouse Collaboration)

This is Black Yoga, a take on the ancient Indian practice/frequent girlfriend bonding ritual for those who "get bored with the sound of birds and waterfalls," says Kimee, who concocted the class with her husband Scott (vocalist of a thrash band called Storm King). The room is dark, the new-age talk kept to a minimum, and the soundtrack a mix of trip-hop, industrial rock and doom metal.

"I don't think of it as better or worse than your typical yoga class--just different, for a different crowd," says Kimee (who also teaches more a traditional class at a suburban health spa).

The Massies--a definitively alt couple who are both covered from neck to toe in black clothing and tattoo ink-- hit on the idea during Kimee's second year as an instructor. They were on a road trip and wondered if there was a play list for a yoga class somewhere in the massive collection of CDs from dark, commercially unnoticed alt-rock subgenres they brought along.

Scott, who is used to shifting through the work of fringe bands as the head of a small label called the Innervenus Music Collective, compiled the first few mix CDs, with selections from the likes of Earth, Dark Space, Sunn O))) and two bands whose names indicated they were formed just for a project like this: Om and Dark Buddha Rising.

All are bands from the darker, more ambient fringes of heavy metal, but Scott says, "It's not so much about finding the right kind of bands as it is the right kind of songs. Every band we like has that one obscure song that could work. I put the mellowest song from Type O Negative on one these CDs."

Mellowness is actually an important factor for Black Yoga (sometimes stylized as Black Yo)))ga in honor of Sunn O))), the standard bearers of doom rock). The songs must share a few traits with the warm mood music and sitar jam sessions more common in yoga studio stereos: They have to be atmospheric and non-intrusive. Kimee doesn't want anything rhythmic or loud enough to distract students from their poses.

"I think people see the flyers and assume we are head-banging to Sepultura and calling it yoga," says Scott. "That is definitely not the case."

Still, they have attracted a slew of punk and metal musicians to their twice-weekly classes (held on Tuesdays in a brick storefront that was once a mom-and-pop grocery and now hosts a weekend holistic mini-mall and on Wednesdays in the back of a printing shop). On the night I went, I spotted what was obvious a de-spiked Mohawk in the crowd. The Massies say the classes often have an even male-female ratio. This one was more like one man for every two women, which by yoga standards is still a sausage party. (Most yoga classes have the male-female ratio of a Stephanie Meyer book signing.)

Kimee says one reason she flips the light switch is to create a nonjudgmental environment for a crowd that might not live and breathe fitness--to defuse the aspect of yoga class that has become like the gym, a show-off spot for gorgeous people in tights (though the lighting is still enough to make out her poses as she leads).

Heavy Metal Yoga Is a Thing

My hour of Black Yoga also made me realize how seldom in other classes I listened to the instructor. Instead, I followed the students around me. Yoga in the dark provides a solid link from teacher to pupil. My only reliable cues were Kimee's commands of "bend your right knee" or "hands in heart position."

But of course, the truly unique feature of the class was the soundtrack, which is a pleasant relief from some of the more bullshitty aspects of yoga.

Yoga asks you to embrace peace and serenity, not just for 90 minutes but as a pervading, self-cultivated outlook, a message bolstered by chanting-and-nature-sounds playlists. I always valued yoga as a low-impact workout that made me feel really, really good -- a perfect mix of self-massage and endorphin release -- but I'm too cynical for the more meditative part of it. Whenever the stick-figure woman at the front of the class launches into a Maharishi routine, I find myself tuning out and glancing at the perfect apricot-shaped asses around me. At best, yoga it offers me a break from my life as an impoverished millennial with an instable freelance career and intimacy issues, not a solution to it.

See also: Nitty Scott MC Talks Psychedelic Pizza and Meditating Weed Rappers

Peace and serenity are not what doom metal, the central genre of Scott's playlists, are about. Bands like Earth and Sunn O))) relay the opposite: a feeling of strife, anxiety and occasionally eminent death. I listened to their hissing static and lumbering guitar as I moved through poses, and I felt like I wasn't being asked to part with my stress and angst. The sound of trepidation was right there on the stereo -- but it was small, manageable and came in a predictable rhythm, and I was still able to work towards something as I experienced it.

Maybe for cynics and hard asses attracted to metal that's a more honest and appealing message than that of birds and waterfalls.

A Black Yoga Playlist: 
New Risen Throne - "Orbiting Gates"
 Sunn O))) - "Orakulum"
 Genocide Organ - "Their Mighty Slaughter"
 Wolves in the Throne Room - "Dia Artio" 
Mustard Gas and Roses - "IV" 
Ulver - "Theme 03"
 Earth - "Raiford (The Felon Wind)" 
Bunk Data - "Angelus Rector"

The 25 Creepiest Heavy Metal Album Covers Our Favorite Online Resources for Metal Knowledge How Not To Write About Female Musicians: A Handy Guide

Follow @soundofthecity

22 Jul 19:52

Why I Don’t Do Psychedelic Drugs

by Brad
Tertiarymatt

Many of these objections are, I think, kind of uniformed, weak-sauce add-ons to objection number one. Ironically, for some people a meditation practice is potentially as dangerous as taking drugs, and having proper set, setting, and a sitter matter tremendously for safe meditation as well. This is why people are constantly saying "find a teacher, find a teacher".

MDMA is a truly potent and impressive compound that can radically alter people's lives for the better, though (as are LSD and psilocybin). It has huge promise in treating things like PTSD.

EcstacyMollyPills350A couple days ago I participated in a webinar about Buddhism and Psychedelics presided over by Allan Badiner, author of the book Zig Zag Zen.

At the end of the discussion Mr. Badiner referenced something I’d said earlier. I was talking about my previous experiences with LSD. The fourth and final time I took it, I had an incredibly bad trip that scared the bejesus out of me. After our session was over he told me that maybe I wasn’t doing psychedelics anymore just because I was scared of them. He said that if I were to try any again I ought to do MDMA (aka Ecstasy, Molly, “E”, etc.). He said it had opened his heart and made him more compassionate.

So I thought about it, and I asked myself why I do not do psychedelics. Can I answer that question and not just give a knee-jerk reaction? Because if I just said it’s because of Buddha’s Fifth Precept against using intoxicants, aren’t I just like someone who says, “The Bible said it, I believe it, that settles it”?

So here’s why I don’t do psychedelics. Not why you shouldn’t. Why I don’t.

Number One, they scare me. The last time I tripped was an epic nightmare. You can read all about it in my book Hardcore Zen. I spent most of that night in abject terror on a drug I desperately wanted out of my system with no choice but to wait until it wore off. I also lost my concept of time, so even though I understood that I’d be OK again in a few hours, I could not figure out what an hour was to save my life. The concept was still available to my brain, but I could not make any sense of it. So for all I knew I was going to stay high and terrified forever.

But that’s not the only reason I don’t do those drugs. I spent a few minutes after the webinar was over just letting my mind roll over the possibility of getting ahold of some MDMA and trying it out for myself to see what actually happens. Then I realized a few things.

For one thing, I wouldn’t trust any so-called “MDMA” I might be able to get in Los Angeles no matter what the source claimed. At best, it would be something cooked up by some dodgy chemist in a basement mixing up stuff to sell to high school kids. I would not be able to fool myself into believing that the major market for this drug is responsible adults engaged in safe consciousness exploration in controlled environments.

Bull shit. If you’re making MDMA — or LSD, or growing ‘shrooms, etc. — your target market isn’t a handful of people using that suff as a sacrament for religious purposes. Your target market is kids who wanna party. I don’t want to support the people who supply that market or put anything they make into my body.

You might be inclined to counter that by asking if I examine the entire manufacturing and distribution chain of everything I purchase to determine if it was sourced ethically. Obviously the answer is “No.” But that’s irrelevant. I may not be certain whether or not underpaid children in a sweatshop in Malaysia made my shoes, but I do know for certain that any MDMA or other psychedelic drug I might purchase comes from a highly unethical source.

I also don’t want to incapacitate myself for an indeterminate length of time and require someone to babysit me. Because that’s what all the “set and setting” crap that people who are into drug-based consciousness exploration talk about really means. It means someone sober has got to be around to make sure I don’t hurt myself. Who am I to demand someone look after me like I’m a child?

And what about all this stuff where people say MDMA or other such substances made them more compassionate? Does this mean that now that the ravers of the 90s are adults we live in a kinder, gentler world where everybody’s nice because they all learned real compassion from listening to techno music while high on Molly? I don’t see it. Plus, I hung around a bunch of young MDMA fans on a few occasions recently. They were no more compassionate than anyone else I ever met, in fact they were kind of jerks to each other.

Real compassion is a skill. It’s not just a big warm fuzzy feeling in your “heart space.” It’s knowing what to do with that feeling. It’s knowing when it’s appropriate to get all huggy and when it’s not. Because sometimes a hug is the least compassionate response. And sometimes being all warm and cuddly is a way to run away from what really needs to be done.

Also, one of the best reasons not to do those drugs is staring every single user right in the face every single time they use it. After our conversation Allan Badiner very kindly and in the interest of being helpful sent me an email detailing how to use MDMA properly if I ever wanted to try it out. It involved taking a large dose of Vitamin C first, along with magnesium and amino acid supplements both before and after the MDMA. And, of course, the proper “set and setting” which includes the aforementioned babysitter.

The fact that I’d need to do so much preparation indicates to me that maybe I’d be doing something that’s kind of dangerous and probably not actually good for me.

As a Buddhist I would also have to do a lot of mental gymnastics to try to convince myself it was proper behavior. For example, apparently a lot of folks into Buddhist-based drug-induced consciousness exploration like to say that the Fifth Precept was actually specifically about alcohol and can be extended to other supposedly “consciousness restricting” drugs but does not apply to “consciousness expanding” drugs.

No. Sorry. The precept is not against alcohol or drugs. It’s for sobriety. It’s not saying “don’t get drunk.” It’s saying “stay sober.” There is a difference.

Besides, “consciousness expanding” drugs were well known and widely used in India in Buddha’s time for spiritual exploration. There is no evidence the early Buddhists used them at all. The whole argument is so full of holes I couldn’t possibly accept it on any terms.

More to the point, if I have to do a lot of mental gymnastics to justify any action, that is a clue that the action itself is problematic and probably ought to be avoided.

So that’s why you won’t see me at any raves any time soon. Besides, I hate techno music.

UPCOMING EVENTS

August 14-16, 2015 Munich, Germany 3 DAY ZEN RETREAT

August 19, 2015 Munich, Germany LECTURE

August 24-29, 2015 Felsentor, Switzerland 5-DAY RETREAT AT STIFTUNG FELSENTOR 

August 30-September 4, 2015 Holzkirchen, Germany 5-DAY RETREAT AT BENEDIKTUSHOF MONASTERY

September 4, 2015 Hamburg, Germany LECTURE

September 6, 2015 Hamburg, Germany ZEN DAY

September 10-13, 2015 Finland 4-DAY RETREAT

September 16-19, 20015 Hebden Bridge, England 4-DAY RETREAT

September 20, 2015 London, England THE ART OF SITTING DOWN & SHUTTING UP

September 21-25, 2015 Belfast, Northern Ireland SPECIFIC DATES TO BE DETERMINED

September 26-27, 2015 Glastonbury, England 2-DAY RETREAT

October 26-27 Cincinnati, Ohio Concert:Nova

November 6-8, 2015 Mt. Baldy, CA 3-DAY RETREAT

April 23, 2016 Long Island, New York Molloy College “Spring Awakening 2016”

ONGOING EVENTS

Every Monday at 8pm there’s zazen at Silverlake Yoga Studio 2 located at 2810 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039. All are welcome!

Every Saturday at 9:30 there’s zazen at the Veteran’s Memorial Complex located at 4117 Overland Blvd., Culver City, CA 90230. All are welcome!

Plenty more info is available on the Dogen Sangha Los Angeles website, dsla.info

* * *

If you send a donation it will not be spent on Molly. I appreciate your on-going support!

27 Jul 22:07

Current status.(via wikimedia commons)



Current status.

(via wikimedia commons)

27 Jul 15:27

Sticking to the Script

by Christopher Wright
Tertiarymatt

Helpdesk returns.

22 Jul 02:02

sweetteascience: urbpan: wheremyfeetfall: sarahmckayart: Semp...

Tertiarymatt

TARDIGRADE



sweetteascience:

urbpan:

wheremyfeetfall:

sarahmckayart:

Semper minimum ursi #waterbear #tardigrade

LOL

Need this on a tshirt

Absolutely motivational.  Also, where is this t-shirt?

24 Jul 02:09

Some bands I am considering going and seeing. Levels and Year of the Cobra seem most interesting, I...

Tertiarymatt

So, went to this last night. A quick Doom Hippie Review:

Skunk Rider opened. They were okay. Missed the initial part of their set, but while they weren't bad players and kept good time, didn't fuck up, etc, they had no real groove. And the guitar player had some rather Tufnelesque moments of wheedling.

Levels was next, and they went hard, and were remarkably danceable for a lightly mathy band. This was apparently the last show for their current drummer. I dug their set a lot.

Year of the Cobra played next. This is a two piece bass & drums band that I think are a married couple. I had already spoken to Amy before the show. They were also pretty solid, though Amy had severe gear issues (eventually revealed to be her pedalboard power supply cutting out) that kept interrupting their songs. She took it with extremely good grace, and ended up trying not to laugh while singing about wizards. They seem to be really nice people, and remind me a bit of Rosalind (if she were slightly taller, played bass, and didn't sing as well), and Capt. Bunker (if he were a skinny straight-edge looking drummer).

Last up were Lords of Beacon House, which are an interesting power trio from LA. The guitar player came up in a battle jacket, while the bass player and vocalist would be best described as "Rock n' Roll Sex Jesus, circa 1968". And their drummer looked like Simon Pegg crossed with Kirk Hammett' hair (and who also never looked at the crowd). They were heavier live than their record, and quite good. If a little disappointed with turn out and the low-key nature of a Seattle crowd.

Some bands I am considering going and seeing.

Levels and Year of the Cobra seem most interesting, I think.

24 Jul 00:59

Things that are true, but not much fun: one in an infinite series

Tertiarymatt

I'm kind of having a shitty week, in some respects.

There is a very accomplished, awesome, activist scientist on OkCupid (and OKC claims we are mad compatible) that I have messaged. I am very confident that we even know at least one person in common. 

I am also very confident she is never going to message me back. 

This is an idea I have to get comfortable with, even though it is really depressing. 

24 Jul 01:08

becausebirds: A perfect duet. This young individual is very...

Tertiarymatt

click for vid



becausebirds:

A perfect duet.

This young individual is very entertaining.

23 Jul 18:12

How I overwintered ten out of ten

Tertiarymatt

Rusty on over-wintering her bees.

I have been thinking about this post for about a month, but I didn’t dare write it until spring was here for sure. But on Thursday, when a fur-coated bumble bee alighted on the patio and a bee fly examined my shoe lace, I knew I could call it.

To be more specific, I went into September with nine Langstroths, one top-bar, and three nucs. Today, with April just a breath away, I still have nine Langstroths, one top-bar, and two nucs. Not only are my colonies still alive, they are bursting at the seams. Bees are pouring through the entrances and climbing up the walls. I am elated.

Those of you who have read my blog for a while know that “overwintering” is my main honey bee interest. I usually manage to overwinter 60-80 percent of my hives. But this year I decided to “pull out all the stops.” I tried everything I could think of to help the bees make it through the winter.

The result, of course, is no controlled experiment or repeatable design. In fact, there are so many variables it would strain the organizational capacity of Excel. So all I can do is tell you what I did and why.

Before reviewing my steps, I’ll give you a quick overview of my local climate. In one of my very first posts on this blog I wrote that “all the challenges are local” and I still believe that. Beekeeping is not performed in a vacuum, and your local climate plays an immense role in the life of your bees.

I live in western Washington in the middle of the Puget trough. The word “trough” reminds me of water, and that pretty much sums it up. It rains nearly constantly in the nine-month period from September through June. It doesn’t add up to a lot—annual averages are about 51 inches—but it rains a little bit all the time. The three-month period of July, August, and September is hot and dry, dry, dry. No rain. Zilch. Nada. Everything is crisp.

Although I live at 47°N latitude, I am in USDA hardiness zone 8, which means it doesn’t get very cold in the winter. It dips down in the teens and twenties, but doesn’t stay very long. We get snow in the lowlands, but only two or three times per year. The average winter day is 40°F and raining.

So here are the steps I took to overwinter my bees, beginning in June 2010.

• By June 30, all honey supers were off my hives.

Comment: I live adjacent to a 91,650-acre state forest and the only farm crop in the immediate area is hay. So my bees forage almost exclusively on spring-flowering trees and roadside weeds. By the time the hot dry months arrive, there is almost no forage to be had. Whatever honey I get accumulates from April until June.

• During June I collected enough swarm cells to begin four nucs.

Comment: I wanted to carry one or two extra queens into the winter in case one of my colonies went queenless. So I started four nucs with swarm cells. Three of these produced viable queens. By fall I had three healthy nucs “just in case” something went wrong with one of my colonies.

• In August I treated for mites.

Comment: First off, I never use any conventional pesticides in my hives. However, if mites are a problem I use one of the all-natural products made from thymol (an essential oil of thyme) or formic acid (an organic acid.) Unlike conventional pesticides, these are difficult and time-consuming to use.

This year I used ApiLife Var (a thymol product) which requires multiple applications over the course of three weeks. Honey supers cannot be in place. But it is the timing of treatments that is important for overwintering.

The thymol and formic acid treatments should be used when little brood is present—so later is better. But you want to treat summer bees for mites, not winter bees*—so earlier is better. You have to make a judgment call. In this case, I set aside August for mite assault.

*In case I lost you here, summer bees live an average of 4-6 weeks. Winter bees can live many months—all the way into the following spring. If you treat for mites after the winter bees are born, it is too late to protect them from viruses carried by mites. In other words, a late mite treatment will still kill the mites, but only after the viruses have been transmitted to the winter bees. This way, you have gained very little. You need to kill mites in the summer bees so the hive is relatively free of viruses when the winter bees are born.

• In September, I checked the hives for honey stores. Any hives that appeared to be short on honey were given some extra frames reserved from the harvest in June, or given sugar syrup mixed with Honey-B-Healthy, or both.

• Entrances were reduced on all hives to protect them from robbing and yellow jackets.

• All Varroa drawers were removed from the screened bottoms to provide maximum ventilation.

• The slatted racks remained in place in the Langstroth hives all winter long.

Comment: I consider slatted racks basic equipment in Langstroth-style hives, so I never remove them in any season. In summer they provide a place to hang out during hot muggy days, and the queen tends to lay eggs further down on the brood frames–apparently because this area is no longer near the “front door.”

In a traditional winter hive with the Varroa drawer in place, the slatted rack adds an insulating layer of air between the brood nest and the Varroa drawer. This will not exist in the same way with the Varroa drawers pulled out. However, during cold snaps (see “weather forecasts” below) –or other times when the Varroa drawers are in place–the slatted racks again provide a “dead air” space that helps to keep the bees a few degrees warmer.

• Each hive was topped with a quilt box outfitted with four ventilation holes and filled with wood chips.

Comment: Of all the changes I made, this one had the most visible result. In prior years I always had condensation dripping down on the bees from the inner cover. This year none of that moisture reached the bees. They were dry and happy all winter long.

Originally I had anticipated having to change the wood chips every couple of weeks. As it turned out I never changed the wood chips. The ventilation holes seemed to play a big part in preventing the chips from getting soggy. About one-inch of the two-inches of wood chips got wet in each hive.

In my opinion, the combination of more ventilation and less moisture accumulation were the two most-important changes I made to the hives.

• As always, I checked my hives every day or two. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular except for fallen trees or bear damage. Usually I just walked by each hive and flicked the dead bees off the landing board.

• It was on one of these routine checks that luck played a big part in this year’s success. On December 15, just as I was about to flick a dead bee off of hive #2, I realized it was the queen. Darn! I knocked on the hive and it was loud and robust. I examined the queen: she looked freshly dead. So I put one of my nucs in a deep brood box and, using a slit piece of newspaper, combined it with hive #2.

Comment: I still haven’t opened this hive except to add feed. But when I get near it I can hear it roar like a caged lion. Luck definitely played a role here, but pre-planning gave me the queen I needed to keep the colony alive.

• I paid attention to the weather forecasts all winter long. Three times the temperatures dropped into the twenties for an extended period (more than a day or two). In each of these three cases, I inserted the Varroa drawers under nine of the hives and put both the nucs and the top-bar hive in the garden shed.

Comment: My husband convinced me the hives would stay a lot warmer with the bottom drawers in, so in very cold weather I gave them a little help. This compromises ventilation, however, so as soon as the temperatures got back into the 30s, I removed the drawers again.

The nucs were small, so I put them in the shed which is about ten degrees warmer than the outside. The rest of the time they were outside, stacked with double-screen boards between each.

I coddled the top-bar hive because it was a July swarm that moved in by itself, and it couldn’t possibly have had a lot of stores. So, when the nucs went inside, the top-bar hive went in as well. But it, too, came out as soon as the temperature climbed above freezing.

• Right around the end of December, I added a feeder rim to each hive. I placed it just above the top brood box, but underneath the quilt box. I added sugar patties to each hive during January and February.

• In mid-February I began adding pollen substitute to the sugar patties. I continued feeding pollen-enriched patties until now.

Now that it is spring and my hives are boiling over with bees, I’m already worried about swarming. Wouldn’t you know it? If you succeed at one thing, you’ve got to worry about something else.

Rusty
HoneyBeeSuite

23 Jul 03:09

How Fair Housing Will Turn Liberal Cities Conservative

Tertiarymatt

History suggests that wealthy white people are not going to share their space.

Thomas B. Edsall posed an indecent question in a Wednesday column in The New York Times.

“Can Republicans turn the Supreme Court and [U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development] decisions and the renewed drive to integrate residential housing into a wedge issue to weaken Democratic allegiance?”

No, that’s not the question. That question is practically rhetorical. By the time that HUD released its final rule on the Fair Housing Act—a 377-page tome on homes titled Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing—the spittle was already flying fast and furious. National Review’s Stanley Kurtz wrote that the new ruling “gives the federal government a lever to re-engineer nearly every American neighborhood.”

There’s no doubt that Republicans want to work the Supreme Court’s decision on disparate impact. Rather, the indecent question Edsall asks is whether fair housing will make Stanley Kurtzes out of liberals. Now that white communities are required to make room for poor and minority households, will white liberals in those communities continue to vote with the Democratic Party?

Even ruder: Will the prospect of black neighbors turn liberals into conservatives?

The conservative policies that will win over liberal white homeowners won’t mention race or class directly. But they will restrict the density that makes sense for affordable housing.

Of course, it isn’t a rude question at all. It’s a real-keeping question. The history of the U.S. details how white homeowners have used every tool at their disposal to enforce racial segregation—explicitly and implicitly, legally and illegally—in nearly every American neighborhood. Edsall’s perceptive question is simply in tune with the history of housing.  

Edsall points to Westchester County in New York for evidence that Republicans can pick up seats in white liberal jurisdictions by exploiting fear and hate. (The same fear and hate that Kurtz demonstrates in his piece—which is perceptive, too, in its own way.) There in predominantly Democratic-voting Westchester County, a Republican, Robert Astorino, won the seat for county executive, in 2009 and then again 2013. He won by the largest margins in the dozens of white communities where his Democratic predecessor had approved the construction of some 750 units of affordable housing.

For now, all Edsall can say for certain is that the new rulings from HUD and SCOTUS may mean even larger margins for Astorino the next time around. But Edsall is onto something so much larger. Affirmative rulings on fair housing may prompt a new era of There Goes the Neighborhood–ism. And thanks to broad shifts in demographics, fair housing could affect the pH balance of major metro areas over the long term.

What follows are some sketches to show how justice in housing could erode the Democratic advantage in cities, a prospect that should give pause to partisans on both sides.

Cities are growing richer—and that wealth isn’t trickling down

“Across the 50 largest cities, households in the 95th percentile of income earned 11.6 times as much as households at the 20th percentile,” reads a Brookings Institution report on cities and inequality from March. Their report finds a larger inequality gap in cities than in the nation overall.

In 12 of the 50 largest cities, the rich (households in the 95th percentile for income) grew a great deal richer between 2012 and 2013. In 11 of those 50 cities, poorer households (20th percentile) made big gains over the same stretch. But there was very little overlap: Only in Jacksonville, Florida, and Houston, Texas, did both rich and poor households make gains. And in most cities (31 of 50), lower-income households were worse off in 2013 than they were in 2007.

(Brookings Institution)

Rents are rising, but you knew that already. Soaring rents plus soaring incomes at the top in growing cities means a larger and larger disparity gap for affordable housing to bridge. In light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, we’re talking about building low-income housing in affluent neighborhoods that are growing richer and richer.

The culture wars are over(ish)

Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion for Obergefell v. Hodges didn’t declare a formal end to hostilities between liberals and conservatives on social issues. But with the argument over same-sex marriage off the table for good—an issue that galvanized liberals and one that more than a few conservatives have hoped to shelve for years—there’s that much less daylight between Democrats and Republicans on culture.

Of course there are other issues that will continue to divide left and right. Transgender rights, for example. But as LGBTQ advocates fear, success in the effort to secure same-sex marriage rights may lead many allies and activists to declare victory and go home. Elsewhere, the sweeping surrender on Confederate symbols suggests that the next culture wars will look different than today’s.

This is all to say that, while immigration or religious freedom or #TeamTaylor vs #TeamKaty will continue to divide people, the configurations of these skirmishes and their salience in down-ticket elections could change.

Liberal in the streets, NIMBY in the sheets

If Republicans can counter the narrative that they hate gay people, black people, poor people, women people, migrant people, etc., then they may find a way in with liberal white homeowners who vocally support tolerance—but very much do not want to live near black people or poor people.

This is a tough sell, today: Donald Trump is winning the GOP field right now on an anti-Mexican platform. Presumably, however, that won’t always be the case. Liberals may never trust Republicans when it comes to elections for the person who appoints seats on the Supreme Court. When it comes to zoning and housing decisions, though, liberal white homeowners may find themselves less allergic to the Republican Party going forward.

The struggle has shifted to zoning, where owners have the edge

Take a look at Astorino’s state of the county address from Westchester County back in 2013. “Let me say this loud and clear: There is absolutely no place for discrimination in our county,” he says. “The biggest and really the only issue going forward is zoning.”

He adds: “Washington bureaucrats, who you will never see or meet, want the power to determine who will live where and how each neighborhood will look. What’s at stake is the fundamental right of our cities, towns, and villages to plan and zone for themselves.”

Two years later, Astorino 2015 state of the county address echoes many of the same themes. It details the county’s ongoing struggle with HUD about enforcing the original 2009 fair-housing settlement—the one that required the affordable housing to be built in the first place:

From the day I took office, I made it very clear that my administration would fulfill the county’s obligations under the settlement. Like it or not, the law is the law. The rule of law is what binds us together as Americans.

But I also made it clear I would not allow unelected bureaucrats at HUD to create new obligations for the county that were never agreed upon in the settlement.  

Throughout, Astorino speaks of his commitment to affordable housing. He notes with pride the county’s diversity. He delivers part of his address in Spanish. And year after year, he pledges to protect the county’s exclusionary zoning against federal efforts to expand affordable housing.

NIMBYism is never about race, except when it is

It’s hard enough to build new market-rate housing in the cities that need housing most. In Washington, D.C., the zoning commission just decreased the maximum height on “pop-up” additions and construction in the parts of the city growing most rapidly. Homeowners in D.C. say that they want to protect the character of their neighborhood and the quality of construction during this boom time.

Even at the most granular level, NIMBYism can take the form of an entitled localism that sounds positive. A hyperlocal petition started by a condo-owner to keep a 7-Eleven out of a nearby storefront is a crypto-case of There Goes the Neighborhood–ism.

The arguments and policies that will win over liberal white homeowners will not mention race or class directly (the way they surfaced in McKinney, Texas). But the policies will have the effect of restricting the density that makes sense for affordable housing or the amenities favored by low-income populations.

In The Wall Street Journal, Jason L. Riley, a Manhattan Institute senior fellow, writes that HUD is compelling communities such as Westchester County to “construct cheap housing units in wealthy, predominantly white neighborhoods and then actively recruit poor minorities to move in.”

Expect white homeowners to zero in on the “cheap housing” aspect of this question. In the new There Goes the Neighborhood–ism, the focus will be on homeowners’ zoning rights—meaning policies that keep housing elite and expensive.

#Not all liberal white homeowners

First of all, there won’t be as many white homeowners in the future, in a manner of speaking. The Urban Institute developed a nifty interactive mapping tool that shows population projections between now and 2030 across 740 U.S. commuting zones. Even assuming only modest population growth, the white share of the population will fall everywhere as the nation grows more and more diverse.

From left: Population change for white, black, and Hispanic communities, 2010–2030. Dark blue indicates growth of up to 40 percent, while dark red indicates decline of up to 40 percent. See the interactive tool for greater detail. (Urban Institute)

Second, at least a few municipalities are bound to recognize that homeowners do not have their city’s best interests at heart by radically restricting zoning.

Seattle, for example, is rolling out a dramatic and progressive new housing policy in a bid to promote justice in housing. The panel tasked with coming up with the policy acknowledged up front that single-family zoning is the product of race- and class-oriented discrimination. That panel—and now, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray—recommends changing all of the Seattle residential area zoned for single-family housing to low-density zoning that will accommodate more and more affordable housing.

Seattle’s next mayoral election in 2017 ought to be a test of what liberal white homeowners there think of justice in housing—not just statutorily legal integration, but really breaking down barriers to diverse, affordable housing in wealthy neighborhoods.

“At the local level, the Obama administration drove Westchester into the arms of the Republicans,” writes Kurtz. “The same thing could happen nationally, at every political level.”

Of course Kurtz neglects to mention that white supremacy is inflecting these gains, but no matter. He’s right. Fair housing is coming, slowly but certainly. Racism isn’t going away so soon.

20 Jul 15:23

A song for anyone with attractive friends

by Andrea Romano
Tertiarymatt

Pretty much the case. via A.Kach.

Musician_hot_friends
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Having hot friends can be a real drag.

YouTube musician Nikola in the Pond has a ton of attractive friends and while she loves all of them, it can be a little difficult relating to their lives. Luckily she has a healthy sense of self-deprecating humor to get through the day.

Also, there's wine.

More about Youtube, Viral Videos, Videos, Musician, and Funny
20 Jul 22:04

A Unique Elliptical Pool Table and ‘Loop’ Game Designed by a Mathematician

by Glen Tickle
Tertiarymatt

This looks like great fun, actually. It'd be really interesting to build tables of different eccentricities. Via. A. Kach.

In a recent episode of Numberphile, mathematician Alex Bellos demonstrates his custom-built elliptical pool table. The table can be used to demonstrate some interesting mathematical properties. In particular, it can be used to demonstrate elliptical focus points. When the ball is shot from the complementary focus point from the hole it should always go in, regardless of the direction of the shot.

Because a traditional game of pool would be impossible to play on the table, Bellos also invented a game called “loop” which uses the table and four balls to make the most out of the table’s unique properties.

Bellos explains additional details of the table itself and the game of loop in separate Numberphile videos.

loop table 2

loop table 1

photos via Loop