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"In 1960, poet, artist, and beatnik Brion Gysin invented the Dreammachine, a hypnotic light device with the power to induce hallucinations. The Dreammachine enthralled mystics and freethinkers everywhere, with William Burroughs claiming that it could, “storm the citadels of enlightenment.” Nik Sheehan’s riveting documentary explores the life of Brion Gysin and his quest to transform human consciousness. With interviews from some of the counter-culture’s most eccentric icons- from Iggy Pop to singer Marianne Faithfull- FLicKeR is a fascinating exploration of the age-old search for the boundaries of reality."

Wilderness Survival Tips

It's that time of year again when the weather gets warmer, people pack their backpacks and head for the great outdoors. This is also a good time for a refresh on the basics of survival in the wilderness. No one wants to become a casualty or the subject for a post on Hiker Hell.

  • Always check the weather of the area you're going to before you leave.
  • Make sure you pack emergency gear.
  • Take a map, a compass, cellphone and/or a GPS with you.
  • Be sure to let people know where you're going and when you'll be back.
  • Stay with your group, and carry a whistle/ bell for keeping predatory animals away and for signaling your group if you get lost.
  • If hiking into bear country don't take any sugary snacks with you. Bears can smell it from far away.

The Rule of Threes:
You cannot live more than:
3 minutes without air
3 hours without shelter
3 days without water
3 weeks without food
3 months without companionship
(Flashing a mirror or waving a light stick in threes is a distress signal.)


Wilderness Survival

Backpacker: Survival 101

Wilderness survival skills for safe wilderness travel

Backcountry Survival 101

Wilderness Survival: Building a Survival Kit

Wilderness Navigation Overview via the American Alpine Institute

Weekend music

It was a long, busy holiday weekend filled with friends and family. Saw a couple of great bands Friday night. Doppler Shift, a funk/jazz band who opened for Lamajamal, who play music they describe as "gypsy surf music". The crowd was as eclectic as the music and they put on a great show. If you live in the Chicago area or if they come to your town be sure and check them out.


Thought For The Day

"Perspective- Use it or lose it. If you turned to this page, you’re forgetting that what is going on around you is not reality. Think about that."

-Richard Bach from "Illusions"

Links For 4/6/09

Flutter is Twitter taken to the next level. Th glsss r hlrs!

"An international drug company made a hit list of doctors who had to be "neutralised" or discredited because they criticised the anti-arthritis drug the pharmaceutical giant produced. Staff at US company Merck &Co emailed each other about the list of doctors - mainly researchers and academics - who had been negative about the drug Vioxx or Merck and a recommended course of action. The email, which came out in the Federal Court in Melbourne yesterday as part of a class action against the drug company, included the words "neutralise", "neutralised" or "discredit" against some of the doctors' names.

It is also alleged the company used intimidation tactics against critical researchers, including dropping hints it would stop funding to institutions and claims it interfered with academic appointments."We may need to seek them out and destroy them where they live," a Merck employee wrote, according to an email excerpt read to the court by Julian Burnside QC, acting for the plaintiff."

("Vioxx maker Merck and Co drew up doctor hit list" via The Australian)

"This post contains 2 recorded talks from Eric Rodenbeck, founder and creative director of Stamen Design, the visualization design lab known for projects like Trulia Hindsight, Digg Labs, SFMOMA ArtScope and Flickr Clock.

The first talk is titled "Information Visualization is a Medium". Information visualization is becoming more than a set of tools and technologies and techniques to understand large datasets. It is emerging as a medium in its own right, with a wide range of expressive potential. Eric Rodenbeck provides an overview of the studio's recent projects, and insight into the studio's working process. This talk was given last year at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference 2008 in San Diego. The second talk is titled "Mapping Now: Dynamic Realtime Maps and Other Pictures", and is basically the last part of the previous talk without the speedy fast-forwarding."

("Eric Rodenbeck (Stamen): Information Visualization is a Medium" via Information Aesthetics)

"Making mistakes is as human as breathing. But if that’s true, why are most of us so unwilling to admit it? Maybe that unwillingness is itself one of our many little quirks, “design” flaws leading us to make decisions that in retrospect seem ridiculous, miss plain-as-day details right before our eyes, and comfortably consider ourselves well above average. Pulitzer Prize winning author Joe Hallinan wanted to reach the root of our error-prone natures, and to get there he delved into psychology, neuroscience, marketing, sports, geography, finance and economics. That trip led him to discover that we humans are as efficient as we are mistake-ridden; born pattern-finders that routinely stumble over the most obvious details. He recently took a few minutes to discuss his latest book and a few of his findings with Neuronarrative."

("You, Me and Our Mistakes Make Three: An Interview with Author Joe Hallinan" via Neuronarritive)

"Look around you. On the train platform, at the bus stop, in the car pool lane: these days someone there is probably faking it, maintaining a job routine without having a job to go to.The Wall Street type in suspenders, with his bulging briefcase; the woman in pearls, thumbing her BlackBerry; the builder in his work boots and tool belt — they could all be headed for the same coffee shop, or bar, for the day.

“I have a new client, a laid-off lawyer, who’s commuting in every day — to his Starbucks,” said Robert C. Chope, a professor of counseling at San Francisco State University and president of the employment division of the American Counseling Association. “He gets dressed up, meets with colleagues, networks; he calls it his Western White House. I have encouraged him to keep his routine.” To the extent that it sustains good habits and reflects personal pride, they say, this kind of play-acting can be an extremely effective social strategy, especially in uncertain times.The fine art of keeping up appearances may seem shallow and deceitful, the very embodiment of denial. But many psychologists beg to differ."
("When All You Have Left Is Your Pride" via The New York Times)

This video pretty much sums it up.

Whistleblower's Rights?

"The below has been edited entirely by deletion, mostly by the removal of sections  (e.g.,  on Free Silver) which are not relevant today and which seem unlikely to become relevant in the future.

[Note: If you think the below is irrelevant at this point in time, you should still check back in again every year or two.]

'Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench. The people are demoralized.The newspapers are largely subsidized, homes covered with mortgages, labor impoverished, and the land concentrating in the hands of capitalists.The urban workmen are denied the right to organize for self-protection, imported pauperized labor beats down their wages, a hireling standing army, unrecognized by our laws, is established to shoot them down, and they are rapidly degenerating into ["European" = terrible] conditions. The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few, unprecedented in the history of mankind; and the possessors of those, in turn, despise the republic and endanger liberty. From the same prolific womb of governmental injustice we breed the two great classes—tramps and millionaires.

The national power to create money is appropriated to enrich bondholders; a vast public debt payable in legal tender currency has been funded into bonds, thereby adding millions to the burdens of the people. A vast conspiracy against mankind has been organized, and it is rapidly taking possession of the world. If not met and overthrown at once it the establishment of an absolute despotism."

("Ignatius Donnelly's Preamble to the 1892 Omaha Platform of the People's Party" via Trollblog)

There's a petition on Public Citizen to designate a part of the stimulus for whistleblower rights. I had a problem signing it and I needed to ask myself why.

 It's not just the federal workers who need protection. Anyone working for a company that finds instances of fraud and corruption needs protection. This should be across the board, and should go without saying. Corporate corruption plays a big part in this economic mess.

 The whistleblower rights that are in place now are a joke. For every whistleblower that's had their voice heard there are thousands whose voice was either ignored, or had their voice silenced by the corrupt in power. I've followed several cases that went to court and the majority of these cases were won by the company or dismissed for “lack of evidence”. In the meantime many of the whistleblower(s) lives had been ruined.

 There was one particular case I followed in which a whistleblower lost his business, his wife left him and he lost everything. When he posted about his situation on various law blogs he was often dismissed as a nut, and had trolls from the company he was fighting following him around trying to ruin his reputation and silence him. He's still vocal and out there, and he has my complete admiration for that. He already lost everything, so he has nothing to lose.

 When someone blows the whistle, how do they know the person on the other end isn't corrupt themselves? We hear plenty about corruption in government (see the petition), so how does one know if someone on the other end of  a government agency like the Treasury or the SEC isn't corrupt themselves? When someone brought this up on a blog a few months ago the response was chilling and spot on. “There are some who are above the law”.
“Protection” for whistleblowers?
Yeah, right...

(ETA: "Illusions of whistleblower protection" By Brian Martin)

Surviving Quicksand

I had a dream the other night that I was hiking through a very green and dense jungle. As my friends and I were cutting through some brush (yeah, it was that thick), I suddenly fell in a hole of quicksand. (It's a fallacy that quicksand will suck someone entirely in. In the dream it was quicksand from one of those B-horror flicks that does suck you in.) I fell in waist deep before my friends lifted me out. When I got back on solid ground, I started wiping off my now ruined clothes when one of the team asked if I wanted to change into something dry. I answered “Huh?! I don't care about my clothes right now, dammit. I'M ALIVE! Woo hoo!"

After being pulled from the quicksand, I thanked my friends, and kept chopping through the jungle in my dirty clothes. Knowing that eventually I'd change into something dry. At that moment it was more important to keep going. The lesson here was that it's always good to have an alternative plan in case the path your walking is blocked by an unexpected hole of quicksand. Symbolically, this dream is becoming a nightmare reality for a lot of people right now. Many have lost their jobs, their healthcare, their homes, and their entire life savings, and would consider themselves lucky to have a support system and an extra pair of clothes to help them out. For some the quicksand has sucked everything from them including the desire for any knowledge in how to get out of it.

There's information overload on the web which is now overrun with articles on how to update your resume, improve your skills and job hunt. Numerous psychology sites are posting on how to find your strengths, and strengthen your weaknesses. How to think positive and overcome fear. How to deal with anger and how to let go. Etcetera ad infinitum. Psychologists say that the biggest changes occur in a time of crisis. Both good and bad.

On the other end of the spectrum there's the mainstream media bombarding us with the horrors of the bad economy, corruption and crime.  Daily stories of people completely losing it and killing their families, a bunch of strangers, and themselves fill the media. Pictures of white collar criminals cover the front page. For every one caught there are thousands more who got away. Personally, I don't think these things are happening any more than usual. I think that the media is just reporting it more because of the current socio-economic climate.

Learning to survive materialistically with less may be much easier than dealing with the psychological adjustments that come with it. It's not just the overindulgent who lived beyond their means who are struggling. Those who lived within their means and worked hard to invest and save are struggling with much more than a loss of property. They're struggling with a loss of connection, community and identity. Years spent at the same job. Gone. Years spent in the same house and community. Gone. The local stores they used to shop at. Gone. Banks closed. Schools closed. Hospitals closed. It's an identity crisis of epic proportions.

When you're sinking in quicksand from "B-movie land", that's when you remember what's really important. For me it was my support system, the Earth, and gratefulness. It was also having extra sets of clothes (skills) to change into if needed, and a good machete to cut through the jungle. Time to wash off the sand, change clothes, and clear a path. And this time I'm bringing an updated map and a GPS.


Instead of an obligatory "Welcome to The Jungle" video, here's a little levity with a link to Weird Al.

"How Quicksand Works" via How Stuff Works.
"Human Responses to Change" via Eos Life-Work Resource Centre

Links For 4/3/09

"The latest post at PsyBlog discusses a classic study on multitasking, in which two participants were reportedly taught to read and write at the same time. From the post:
Professor Elizabeth Spelke and colleagues at Cornell University wanted to know whether we can really divide our conscious attention between two demanding tasks, like reading and writing. To find out they recruited two participants willing to put in 29 hours of practice over a 6 week period: Diane and John were their volunteers . Before the training Diane and John’s normal reading and comprehension rates were measured, so it could be compared with post-training. Then Spelke and colleagues set about their three-phase training regime.

There are a number of objections to this study, all discussed at PsyBlog (the most obvious being that two people is not a legitimate sample size). The one that’s most relevant to the current debate on this topic is this: Diane and John were learning to switch their attention from one task to the other very quickly, not focus on both at the same time."

("Can We Really Multitask?" via Neuronarritive)

"Twitter has officially become the next big thing in terms of Internet social phenomena, so I can't resist writing about it... just like everyone else. Understanding the psychology of Twitter as a case study helps innovators learn how to better predict and even invent emerging white space market opportunities. And so, this is an exploration into the existential psychology of and underlying meaning - and meaninglessness - of Twitter, to understand its meteoric rise in the Internet world."

("Understanding the Psychology of Twitter" via Psychology Today)

(Related: "Elgin hospital first in state to Twitter surgery" via The Daily Herald)

“What do you think about the four horsemen?” It's a question I often get asked, quite understandably, since I wrote the Very Short Introduction to atheism. That book provides no answer, because it came out before Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens unleashed their apocalypse. But surely I must have an opinion on the biggest phenomenon in popular atheism since Bertrand Russell? Well I do, but it comes with one huge caveat: I have not read any of their books. That does not, however, disqualify me from having an opinion about them. Let me defend both apparently intellectually disreputable confessions.

Not reading The God Delusion, God is Not Great, Breaking the Spell and The End of Faith is perfectly reasonable. Why on earth would I devote precious reading hours to books which largely tell me what I already believe? These books are surely mainly for agnostics and open-minded believers. In fact, I think atheists who have read these books have more of a responsibility to account for their actions than I do my inaction. As the posters on the sides of British buses rather simplistically put it, “There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” God's non-existence is a fact atheists live with, not something that they should obsessively read about.

But if I haven't read these books, surely I should have no opinion about them? I think you’d be less sure of this if you had read How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read by Pierre Bayard (or even not read it). In any case, my opinions are not so much about these books as the general tone and direction the new atheism they represent has adopted. This is not a function of what exactly these books say, but of how they are perceived, and the kind of comments the four horsemen make in newspaper articles and interviews. All this, I think, has been unhelpful in many ways. In short, the new atheism gets atheism wrong, gets religion wrong, and is counterproductive."

("The New Atheist Movement is Destructive" via Fritanke.no. h/t: TDG)

(Counterpoint- "Atheists should be allowed to argue their point" via Fritanke.no. Metafilter discussion here)

"Why is Science Important" via SF Signal

"You may have seen this already, but just in case: Evan Schnittman is head of global business development at the Oxford University Press, and he sure knows how to make the first post on a new blog punch hard. In his inaugural piece, he explains why the success of consumer ebooks would collapse the publishing “Ponzi scheme”. I’d advise reading the whole thing for a very honest warts-and-all explanation of the economics involved, but the money-shot is right at the end:

And therein lies the dilemma… how does the publishing industry fund the creation, editing, design, production, marketing, e-warehousing, and sales of ebooks, if the income isn’t there? How do ebooks cover the huge advances needed to buy books if we cannot generate the cash, especially at their extremely low, discounted prices, cover the advances that an entire industry has come to require? The answer is that ebooks, alone, cannot."

("Why ebooks must fail" via Futurismic)

Ken Nordine and Word Jazz

Buried under the pile of ZBS' Jack Flanders tapes were recordings of Ken Nordine's show on WBEZ called “Word Jazz”. For those unfamiliar, Ken Nordine has been putting poetry to music and sound for a long time. His voice is recognizable because he's done many voiceovers for commercials. He also has a YouTube channel that has trippy videos that go along with his word jazz. The man is 88 and still going strong. Here are a few videos of his. Enjoy!