Archive for the “General” Category

The real criminals in the Tarek Mehanna case –

A very good Sentencing Statement. It  should not surprise us that we Americans forget the ideals that founded our country and that we have become what we  revolted against over 200 years ago. It seems to happen to most nations.


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I have been reading David Graeber’s Debt: the first 5,000 years and find it very interesting. The initial question posed is “Surely one has to pay one’s debts.” And from there Graeber looks back 5,000 years from an anthropologist’s point of view at debt, credit, money and economies.

I learned many variations on ‘accepted truths’ . Economists like to start the history of economics with the early human societies developing barter, then money, then credit. Adam Smith in Wealth of Nations started this paradigm and it has been repeated by the following generations. This is used to establish a ‘natural order’ of economics. Yet, the anthropologist finds that early societies built their economies on a credit based  exchange of commodities. Before credit it may have been favor based exchanges. And with credit comes debt and some manner of quantifying debt. It doesn’t have to be money; it may be tokens or tallies or other symbolic measures.

Eventually money, coinage, is developed – apparently simultaneously in Greece, India and China. Not only are states able to demand their taxes in coin, they can use the coin to pay their armies rather than provision them with commodities out of their treasuries.  This puts the coinage into the general population which lets them pay their taxes.

The philosophers start discussing the abstracts concept of symbols and reality, since money isn’t really real, virtual materialism.

Religions grow and start to collect and hoard the coins and start preaching different concepts of sin and debt and obligation and guilt.  Somehow they are all tied together. Different religions approach debt in different ways.  Do you owe a debt to your forebears for being there? Do you owe a debt to your parents or your community just for being there? Do you owe a debt incurred by your parents? Unto how many generations?

There are discussions of human economies and commercial economies. Contrast the unique value of an individual with the anonymous  value of a hunk of metal.

There is some exploration of the nature of the relationship between debtor and creditor. As long as is debt one can not be equal to the creditor. Even more interesting is the situation where a debt paid in full implies the two are equal and that just will not do. Then societal rules can be stretched, twisted and strained to prevent the equality from happening.

One item I found interesting was the relationship of the Chinese need for silver – to keep its coinage system working since they didn’t want to use paper money – to  the European invasion of the Americas.  And there is the oft-repeated theme of armies enslaving people to work in the mines to get the mineral wealth to pay the armies. Seems to have happened quite a bit once they decided to start paying armies in coin.

A market involves using money to go from one commodity to another. Money is just an intermediary. With capitalism, money is used to make money. Money makes money through interest and debt. This is an ever spiraling growth of that will collapse on itself and probably take society with it. Graeber’s discussion of the last 40 years is very interesting and gives me pause as to what we might experience over the next 30-40 years.  Given 5,000 years of history bearing down on us, I don’t think we can be agile enough to avoid a heavy shock.

Graeber shows that throughout history, human societies rebel against onerous debt. They have a Grand Jubilee and reset the meter. I don’t know if I want to see it happen or not.

I highly recommend Debt: the first 5,000 years for a thoughtful read.


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▶ Yosemite HD on Vimeo: Couch Mode.


I have got to get back there one of these days.

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Colorado Sees Worst Snow Drought Since Early 1980s, Foreshadowing Water Shortages And Potential Wildfires | ThinkProgress.

Looks like we are in for a fun summer! or is that looking too far ahead?

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Tintin | The Adventures of Tintin.

I saw the Tintin movie last week and was reminded of fond childhood memories.

I was reading Tintin 50 years ago at my friend’s house and we had to ask my friend’s father to translate them from the French (he had been raised in France).

The movie seemed to combine three different books for the overall plotline and used characters from other other books.  So many of the images leapt to life . The portraits in the opening shot were old familiar characters. Thomson and Thompson were there. In the opening credits there was the rocket to the moon (and many other cameos but that one jumped out at me). No Professor Calculus though; I suppose you have to sacrifice something for the cinema.  The prize scene was watching Snowy drag the dinosaur bone through the desert and everyone else completely oblivious to it. I remember that from long, long ago.

As for the movie, I thought it captured the spirit of Hergé very well, it was fun, not too dark, and it took you on adventures around the world. Steven Spielberg is a pretty good director, he captured his subject well. I thought the sword fight at the end, with dueling cranes, was a bit over the top, but I didn’t see it in 3D. I hadn’t been reading any of the pre-release hype, so it surprised me in the credits to see Peter Jackson as second unit director.

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Oh, the Places You’ll Go at Burning Man! – YouTube.

via boing-boing

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Frex – Fares & Tickets.

I was just wondering what it would take to commute to Denver.  Just in case…

I worked out that a 75 mile trip in a car that gets 30 mpg (which is a bit more than my PT Cruiser gets, but it is the 2011 CAFE standard) would run me about $8.75 per trip (2.5 gallons @ $3.50 a gallon).  Looking at the FREX prices and adding in that someone else will be driving, using the bus is a very affordable option. And since I would be leaving from the Monument stop, it is even a better deal.  The main problem would be if I had to go somewhere far away from the FREX route.  But I think Denver has a pretty comprehensive local transit system.

And with free wi-fi on the Bus, I can stay connected if I decide not to sleep.

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Because I like liked “Red Dwarf”, “Dead Like You” and “Buffy” Netflix is suggesting “Coupling”, the UK version. I don’t think their suggestion algorithm works well.

I have seen “Coupling” and it is another one of those ensemble sitcoms in which characters compete to do the most embarrassing thing in 30 or 40 minutes.  Even if the show has great writers, I do not subject myself to that level of ‘comedy’ regularly.

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Chiron Beta Prime – YouTube.

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Boing Boing Charitable Giving Guide, 2011 edition – Boing Boing.


A good list of charities to consider. Some of them I already support and there are a few new ones of interest to look into.

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