Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Nicola Tesla Never Envisioned This

Is this the future of the automotive industry? Stay tuned.

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Monday, July 27, 2009

Think for Yourself

“The truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off.” —Gloria Steinem

Think for Yourself

Question everything. Question authority (I don’t care if it is an emergency, you can’t park there), question premises (the policeman is my friend), question advertizing (It’s waaay better than fast food . . ..), question the media (illegal drugs are destroying the country), question corporate influence (we need to destroy the environment so we can increase our profits), question politicians and the lobbyists who buy their favors (we can’t support a public health care option because it would destroy private insurance companies), question religion (Jesus is God), question the motives of all who claim the power to bend you to their will (we know what’s best for you).

Ask yourself if what the powers-that-be are telling you squares with the reality of what you see going on in the world around you. If their rhetoric doesn’t match up with your perceptions and experiences, there’s a high probability that they’re lying to you. Tune out the bullshit, trust your instincts, and don’t concern yourself about being politically correct. It’s not against the law (yet) to have a differing opinion.

Inspired by Hart Williams’ blog post on 22 April, I decided to include, at the end of every article I post to this blog, the following symbol:

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It’s my constant reminder to Frieddogleg’s readers to always ask the next question. Of course, the “ask the next question” symbol that Hart used to illustrate his “FISA — Asking The Next Question” article was probably generated in a high-end graphics program, whereas mine was rendered on my computer keyboard using the Trebuchet font in varying sizes so that everything more or less lines up. I took the liberty of adding a couple of embellishments, i.e. extra arrow points, to remind readers that there is never just one next question, and that the next question is often times followed by many more.

But don’t take my word for the importance of asking the next question. Hart’s late friend and mentor, the science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, originated the “ask the next question” symbol to illustrate an article he wrote for the June, 1967 issue of Cavalier magazine. In that article, Mr. Sturgeon concisely and succinctly tells us why human evolution depends on asking the next question.

You see, it’s not so much about asking questions until you get the answer you want as it is about asking enough of the right questions until you arrive at the truth.

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

News Flash!

“Marijuana is dangerous and has no medicinal benefit.”
— White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, at a Fresno, Calif., press conference yesterday.

If this is change I can believe in, why are the morons still in charge?

Fuck you, Gil! Marijuana is not dangerous, and it has numerous proven medicinal benefits. Volumes of information exist attesting to marijuana’s efficacy in treating many ailments, but you obviously haven’t been curious enough or sincere enough in your job to apprise yourself of the facts.

You’re either a fucking ignoramus or a fucking liar. One or the other. But you can change that; you can educate yourself on the subject, or you can start telling the truth. In the meantime, Gil, spare us any more of your ignorant, disingenuous bullshit. Resign your position, immediately.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

What Would a Ferengi Think?

As it turns out, a lot of the things I’ve never owned are things I didn’t need in the first place. A credit card. A cell phone. An iPod, Game Boy, BlackBerry, or PlayStation 3. A snow machine, a personal water craft, or an ATV. A Ferrari. All kinds of stuff. But foremost among them the credit card, because ownership of that little item would have made it too easy to acquire all the other stuff. Truly, credit cards are the bane of the American middle class.

A wise man (or maybe it was a wise-ass) once cautioned that the amount of a person’s possessions always increases to fill all of the space available for storing them, in turn creating a positive feedback loop and endless cycles of acquisition and expansion.

But, hey, don’t take my word for it. Check out George Carlin as he talks about stuff; his stuff, your stuff, my stuff, our stuff, everyone’s stuff:

George Carlin, “Stuff”

And Bill Hicks tells us who to blame:

Bill Hicks, “Marketing”

Two late, great comedians who clearly understood what it means to be a debt slave.

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Breathing Water in Shadow Country

Late last Wednesday afternoon, I finally finished writing my review of Breathing Water, a novel by Timothy Hallinan, and posted it online. With that belated accomplishment behind me, I fired off a brief e-mail to Tim to reassure him that the ARC he sent to me in early June had indeed fulfilled its purpose. A return e-mail from Tim graced my inbox on Thursday morning; his message said, in part:

“So THAT's why I became a writer. Reactions like this make it all worthwhile, even the days (weeks) when it's impossible to write a simple declarative sentence. Weeks like this one, in fact.”

You see, Tim frequently alludes to his struggles with writer’s block, an affliction that affects most writers (with the possible exceptions of Dean Koontz and Stephen King) at one time or another during their careers. I, too, struggle with writer’s block—usually on a daily basis—and I tend to regard any day that I’m able to add at least a single finished paragraph to whatever project I happen to be working on to be a highly productive day.

Unfortunately, when it came to writing my Breathing Water review, I couldn’t attain even that low standard. Having written more than two dozen reviews—none of which took longer than two or three days to write—I reasonably expected this one to emerge in a comparable time frame. But it just. Wasn’t. Gonna. Happen.

But let me begin at the beginning. When the Breathing Water ARC arrived at my door, on June 3rd, I was about a 100 pages into the second of two books I’d checked out of the local library a couple of weeks earlier, and I needed to finish it before starting another. Five days after its arrival I began reading Breathing Water, which I finished reading six days later. In the meantime, I’d returned the borrowed books to the library and checked out two more.

For me, the problem with having an unread book on hand (and no other reading in progress) is that I can’t wait to start reading it. As soon as I closed the covers on Breathing Water, I immediately launched into reading Shadow Country, a huge, rambling novel (892 pages), by Peter Matthiessen, about the fictional E.J. Watson’s life in the Florida Everglades during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And that’s when things really started to bog down.

Instead of banging out the review when plot and characters were still fresh in my mind, I procrastinated. And, as I became mired ever deeper in Shadow Country’s complexities of plot and character, my memories of the sequence of events in Breathing Water became hopelessly scrambled. When I was finally ready to start writing the review, I discovered I wasn’t ready to write the review; no way was I going to write a coherent review based on a quicksand foundation of fading memories. My only solution was to read Breathing Water a second time.

It proved to be a wise decision. A second reading not only refreshed my memory of Breathing Water, it restored my enthusiasm for the story and gave me a new appreciation of Tim’s writing skills. Even minor details that had somehow escaped my attention in the first go round took on new meaning and greater importance. Take Breathing Water’s opening sentence*, for instance:

“The man behind the desk is a dim shape framed in blinding light, a god emerging from the brilliance of infinity.”

Powerful imagery born of pure genius. The first time I read those words I thought, oh, that’s good, Tim. The second time I read those words I thought, oh, now that’s just absofuckinglutely brilliant. Compare Breathing Water’s opening sentence with another great and memorable opening sentence, this from Stephen King’s The Gunslinger (first book in The Dark Tower series):

“The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.”

To my mind, these are two of the best story openings ever written; they’re the kinds of story openings whose raw energy draw in readers and help to create legions of fans for the authors who write them. And when such powerful, well written openings are backed up by equally powerful, well written stories, the results are—more often than not—spectacular.

Stephen King already knows this.

So does Timothy Hallinan.

*The Breathing Water ARC is an unedited, pre-publication version of the story, so I can’t say with absolute certainty that this beginning will make the final cut. What I can say with absolute certainty is that if it doesn’t make the final cut, Tim has an idiot for an editor.

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Que Sera, Sarah

The good news out of the north is that Sarah is resigning her position as Alaska’s governor, effective in late July. While Alaskan wolves cheer her decision, much speculation ripples over, around and through the Intertubes as to why; she’s quitting so that she can make a run for the Presidency in 2012; she’s quitting in order to avoid a huge scandal (this is the one I’m betting on). But, who cares? Either way, it’s all good.

Lest you think that she has the critical thinking skills necessary to lead anything more significant than a Founder’s Day parade, consider this gem from Sarah Palin’s speech announcing her resignation:

“. . . the world needs more ‘Trigs’, not fewer.”

Huh? In a world that’s already heavily overpopulated, we need more babies? And more of those babies should be afflicted with Down syndrome? What are you thinking?

You’re wrong, Sarah! And I have a hunch that it’s not your heart a fair number of Alaskans want, but your head. On a pike. In the town square. At noon, tomorrow.

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Oregon: Home of Legal Hemp?

Four years ago, I sent the following open letter to Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski and various others among Oregon's elected and/or appointed public officials:

Consumers and producers alike will more readily accept any plan or method used to reduce, limit, or otherwise control greenhouse gas emissions if it can be shown to have multiple uses, provide multiple benefits and generate multiple income streams. One such methodology involves the use of cannabis hemp, which appears to be the best single approach to minimizing greenhouse gas emissions. But, as ludicrous as it is ironic, it’s illegal to grow the one plant that could do the most to save the planet from global warming. Am I the only one to think we have our priorities wrong?

Growing cannabis in a natural environment is a straightforward process requiring no herbicides and few, if any, pesticides. The only soil requirements relate to pH, plant nutrient levels, moisture availability and drainage.

Farmers choosing to grow cannabis could benefit in numerous ways. Because it restores the soil in which it’s grown rather than depleting it, cannabis makes an excellent rotation crop, allowing farmers to avoid “fallow field” syndrome. 100% of arable land could be planted every year. Due to cannabis hemp’s many uses and the fact that virtually no part of a hemp plant is wasted, it’s unlikely that cannabis would ever be subject to market price fluctuations. Annual farm income and profitability would rise accordingly.

Cannabis hemp is a perfect vehicle for biological sequestration because it produces more biomass, in less time, than any other multiple-use plant capable of growing in the Northern Hemisphere. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bulletin No. 404, issued in 1916, reported that one acre of land planted in hemp would produce 4.1 times more cellulose, over 20 years, than an equal amount of land planted in trees.

Legalized cannabis could revitalize Oregon’s economy by creating new industries, or recreating old ones. Paper, plastics, textiles, biomass fuels, food, medicine, building and construction materials and protective coatings and finishes are just some of the products that can be made from cannabis. There are thousands of others. New industries would help alleviate Oregon’s chronic unemployment problem, and bring in new tax revenues to help fund education and health care.

Oregon’s colleges and universities could research new uses for cannabis hemp, and develop new, energy-efficient technologies for producing cannabis-based products. Solar stills capable of producing fuel-grade alcohol in commercial quantities would be particularly useful, as would small-scale versions suitable for home use. Private industry would find profitability in developing and manufacturing hemp harvesting and processing machinery. As demand for hemp and hemp-based products spreads across the nation and around the world, new markets are sure to open.

Biomass fuels, particularly alcohol (ethanol and methanol) and biodiesel made from cannabis could be processed on-site, where the hemp is grown, or at other nearby processor locations to serve local communities, thereby reducing fuel transportation costs. Alcohol fuels are exceptionally clean burning, leaving behind only carbon dioxide and water as combustion byproducts. As a result, alcohol-fueled engines last longer, require less maintenance and fewer oil changes than do their gasoline-fueled counterparts.

Cannabis hemp uses fewer chemicals during its growth cycle, and fewer chemicals during paper manufacturing processes, meaning that the saved chemicals aren’t introduced into the environment. Additionally, fabrics made from hemp are stronger, warmer, more absorbent and more durable than are fabrics made from cotton. Hemp fabrics can be recycled into paper at the end of their life cycles, and hemp paper can be recycled many more times than can wood pulp paper, which translates into less energy used in manufacturing processes, and less toxic pollution entering the environment.

In any event, Oregon should explore every avenue and pursue every means possible in its quest to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and halt global warming. Any action taken that also reduces or eliminates other types of environmental pollution is to be commended, and encouraged.

Oregon is at a crossroads, of sorts. Our state can seize the initiative and lead the country in curbing greenhouse gas emissions and combating global warming, or it can follow the lead of others whose methods and decisions may be less wise or less effective. Oregon has a unique opportunity to create for itself a sustainable culture based on a sustainable economy. Oregon has the chance to become the world’s poster child for environmental sanity, and I urge Oregon’s leaders not to forfeit this opportunity, nor to squander it.


Phil Hanson

While I'm neither naive enough nor vain enough to believe my letter played any part in influencing Oregon House members to pass HB 676 on Monday, I do see passage of the bill as vindication; it's nice to know that I was ahead of the curve on this one.

And, although Oregon doesn’t lead the pack on the hemp legalization issue, we Oregonians can take a small measure of solace in the fact that Oregon is positioned much closer to the front of the pack than it is to the rear.

When sanity returns, healing begins.

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