Monday, November 16, 2020

Which Goes Last, the Chicken or the Egg?

"Nature Is Cruel, But We Don't Have To Be" -- Temple Grandin


For generations people have bandied about the philosophical query, "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" This colloquial question at its heart looks at infinite regression by assuming chickens as we know them have existed forever, notwithstanding the silly magical idea that they were created out of dust or some such. 

Science, of course, over the past two hundred years has definitively shown the egg came first way back in the ancestral evolutionary tree prior to todays factory-farm chicken species emerged. Thank you, Charles Darwin. 

Nevertheless, the conundrum of infinite regression in a wider sense remains, challenging us to imagine when we and the Universe we are part of came into being. Current astrophysics hypothesizes that we literally came from nothing. The Big Bang event 14 billion years ago currently prevents us from observing beyond that point, still evidence and theory to date show spontaneous energetic events can, albeit very very rarely, occur in the vacuum of space to initiate such a "beginning" point.

Chicken and egg paradox, in all forms more or less solved. Well, except infinite regression implies infinite progression, which is just as interesting to consider.

Which will go last, the chicken or the egg?

In the future, the undoubted extinction of the chicken along with all life in the universe shall come to pass eventually. Entropy has that covered. More interesting is the progress we as humans will make in the short term as to preserving the rich biodiversity of our planet as part of an ethic of civilization. 

The battle of rational ethics and irrational pleasure is at the heart of this contemplation. Take for one, the ongoing abuse that billions of chickens suffer each year due to the inhumane choice to raise and kill them for profit.  Our species thrives on the mass production of their flesh and eggs for no real reason. Plant based foods that mimic chicken flesh and egg are currently on the market and can lead us down a more ethical path.

Part of lifting civilization up to higher ethical standards is taking a step back and recognizing better choices exist.  Reducing and eliminating chicken slaughter is one step into that future. Good tasting, nutritional, environmental friendly animal meat alternatives available. Science informed policy needs to step in, not only to eliminate cruelty, but also to reduce the threat to our society. Importantly, animal husbandry has been integral to the inadvertent breeding super pathogens, like the Corona virus. This is a problem we need to solve for chicken and human well being alike.

Too often humans obsess over the absolute morals that our ancestors concocted from zany spiritual fantasies. What we need as a society is a concerted effort to look forward with positive and rational wherewithal. It won't be easy, but eliminating the nonsense we have be taught for generations as tradition needs to occur. All traditions should be evaluated and eliminated or at least refined. Global stability and the betterment of humanity depend on it!

 And so the chicken and the egg problem, looking forward, continues to be relevant to encourage us to overturn old ways for better new ones. We have some good solutions underway, but don't count those chickens before they hatch. LOL.


Thursday, November 12, 2020

"Making America Good Again?"

To be honest, the title of this piece feels as pretentious as the original MAGA moniker. The implication that there was some time when America was amazing or wholesome relative to today is corrupt at its core. If we are to be totally honest, the pursuit of goodness or greatness takes ongoing effort, and frankly such a pursuit by a single nation will always be lacking if we don't partner with the rest of the world.

Nevertheless, our nation has some particular challenges in front of us. Greatness of a nation is meaningless if we aren't pursuing goals that are good. Here is my shortlist of good things we as individuals, communities and civilization ought to be pursuing.

Information reliability. Sadly the idea that everyone has a right to ones (peacefully expressed) opinion has become equated with those opinions being equally valid. Religious, new age, and grand conspiracy magical thinking has degraded the reliability of information available on social media especially. Humankind depends on reliable information to inform our policy and decision making.  Scientific method, fact-checking algorithms, and individual questioning (with evidence to back it up) can begin us down a path of better information exchange.

Community and world service.  Market force driven motivation has corrupted the nature of pursuit in this world. The pursuit of money and power for the sake of said devices has turned much of our civilization into a system with a feedback loop that cares very little for final outcomes. Instead we should be driven more by end goals that include limiting human world population, preserving natural resources and reducing wildlife habitat destruction, as well as ensuring communities have access to services that improve quality of life for all.

Compassion and reason.  At the end of the day, traditions and old practices need to be examined. A two hundred year old constitution will have its flaws especially when interpreted by "originalists" who reinvent founding ideas to conform to their outcomes.  If we take a step back, and apply reason and compassion to our choices we can implement progressive policies that benefit all humans, the planet, and their future.  

Indeed, the months and years ahead of us will be challenging. If we can begin to put misinformation aside and realign our goals, while making an effort to be friendly with all involved, humankind can improve on the good in world. Not just for America, but for all nations, people and beings everywhere.

It begins with each of us reflecting on the good in ourselves and extending that goodness to others.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Heal with Steel

For anyone who hasn't encountered steel and straw arguments, these correlate to the best and worst rationalizations we make of another's point of view. Perhaps taking a step back to earnestly evaluate steel and straw positions in the Blue vs. Red climate we live in, can help us understand, process, and, in the end, heal open wounds in our communities.

One straw rationalization for liberal positions seeks to equate the movement to the transformation from a strict, Christian nation into a land of degenerate, godless, socialism. 

A steel case for liberalism is to regard their efforts as a compassionate pursuit of prosperity and peaceful liberty for all. The positive implementation of science and policy can provide a path to a more peaceful society while building a greener environment.

On the other hand, a straw rationalization for conservative positions is to imagine their movement harbors the desire for theocratic rule with white supremacist undercurrents akin to the Handmaid's Tale. 

A steel argument for the conservative point of view involves the pursuit of a society that encourages learned, absolute moral behaviors. This includes the idea that liberty and economic success stem from traditional beliefs and adherence to the rule of law, which conservatives feel has become too lenient.

To be sure these are arguments are incomplete and comprise the mere beginning of a thought experiment to seed understanding. Indeed, each of us can learn something by extending this exercise to those around us that hold different political positions. If we are less in a hurry to label another's ideology as evil, we just might find where our causes overlap, and just maybe our leadership will step up to work to get us all involved in becoming part of imperfect remedies.

At the end of the day, this election day or otherwise, we are all human beings on a planet whose health is in question due to its occupation by billions of humans. Still, we can work together toward making the world a better place for both humans and the planetary ecosystem itself. No, we will never agree on every issue, and, in fact, we are all susceptible to seeking out scapegoats to cope with how we see the world going wrong. Sadly, these intolerant, misguided, black-and-white, (blue and red?) points of view are not fully real and no matter how much our social media silos tell us they are. 

If we can admit that reality is steel-gray, full of people who are a bit scared and a bit courageous, a bit wise and a a bit ignorant, a bit selfish and a bit selfless, we just might be able to come together.  Wielding compassion, education, effort, tolerance, that gray can become a pretty cool place to live for all.

Friday, October 30, 2020

My Secret Vampire


They say never to start a horror story at its end. 

Alas, malformed rules are meant to be broken, if only to challenge the elite status quo.

The anonymous memoir before you is being written with my very own blood. You are likely reading a digital version, but my vampire servant has assured me it will be published in an appropriately deep, red font. Ze does reserve the right to edit the manuscript after I am gone. (Ze, hir, and hirs are hir chosen pronouns, by the way)

So my end will arrive soon. My slit wrists serve as fitting inkwells to tell this tale, but those said-same gashes will limit the time I have to write. With the mortal ending secure you can now simmer in uncertainty as to whether you will learn the details of hir origin.

Enough of the premature postlude. For 42 years, I have lived a full life, even if I never mothered a child, nor written a literary tour de force. Still, I have played the role of near goddess. Even so, I ask no forgiveness for the crimes I perpetrated through my servant. Ze has been most obedient. Yet it is I who bear responsibility. In part, I am paying for those crimes with each bloody letter I write here. 

Even with the knowledge that undead creatures like my secret vampire exist, I remain a staunch atheist. Actually, given the events that have passed, I wonder if I've been riding a psilocybin fueled rocket for the past year.  Whatever the scenario, the rational fiend inside me sees no reason to worship, let alone believe in any deity that would stand idly by while September 11th, the Covid Pandemic, and the Trump-reich went down...not to mention the thousands of innocent children that die from cancer each year. It is beyond me how anyone could devote their life to an invisible god who allegedly sent his own son to death row, when it was in its unlimited power to serve up a more diplomatic solution.

Deathbed notwithstanding, I digress.

What are my so-called "sins?" Well, the least of them has been to be human, to have spent most of my lifetime upping my ethical game while implementing those convictions daily as best I could. In hindsight, those efforts were mostly "Zoomed in" with ineffective aplomb. Of course, matters changed drastically after the conjuring of my demon companion.   And so, my most egregious wrong doing, if my acid-dream recollections are indeed true, has been to command this undead creature who waits now at my bedside. My uncountable, Deathnote style directives, are by all measure quite unspeakable. Fortunately (or unfortunately, as it may be) for you, my virtual confessor, this recounting is not oral.

Without caveat, I outright admit the power I've had access to through hir has been both amazing and unnerving. Such power no one person ought to ever wield. For as Ramses, Stalin, and Musk demonstrated, absolute power absolutely results in history judging badly any unilateral pursuit of utopia. Quasi-omnipotent power should remain part and parcel to the tool kit that imagined gods unleash in their mythical tales. Only in that storybook fashion, can moral and immoral platitudes be assessed, that it might instruct we humans as a global community on the nature of good and evil.

However, in this instance, I am the responsible party. I had my demonic charge  assassinate the most corrupt world leaders, the most misguided judges and justices and secret away the most egotistic, corporate CEOs. No matter that these crimes will never be believed. In fact, I feel little guilt for their deaths. My intentions to improve the world were quite sincere, and remain so in my mind even now. Frankly, I feel much worse about having the noisy neighbor down the street taken out. 

If I'm being totally honest, I'm really only ashamed of controlling the demon servant who is my secret vampire. Ze has not only killed for me, but ze has dutifully carried out all my requests:  grand larcenies, cyber-infiltrations and nonconsensual sex acts included. Add to that the depravity of having hir pick up Thai take-out for me during rush hour. 

So, what have I learned as I approach the end of this solipsistic nightmare? In short, that no one should ever be the slave of another. Whether person, animal, plant or bacterium. In an ideal world all beings should be free to thrive throughout ones life. Nature, of course, won't allow that. As the products of evolution we are stuck with living within reality's constraints as best we can...somewhere between the realms of good and adequate. 

My secret vampire sits patiently, involuntarily drooling over all the blood I literally continue to spill. Before my vision grows too distorted let me finish with a plea to members of my species: 

Know, the world will always remain in modest turmoil.  

With that said, I ask only for acknowledgement that my overt and admittedly heinous acts, acts made through my servant, be incorporated into the world's body of knowledge. By the very integrity that seeps out of me, I undo the enchantment I wrought to bind you, my companion, my servant, my muse made real. With my dying breath, your spirit is now free to pursue good in this world. 

Listen to your mind and heart at every turn. 

Thrive of your own accord!


Monday, October 26, 2020

Eleven Reasons We Believe Dumb Things

Just Discovered: Flapjack Planet Beneath Our Very Feet!

The human intellect is celebrated for being superior to all our plant and animal cousins. Indeed, we do have the ability to discover hidden truths and learn from our mistakes much quicker than any other Earthling. Still, with nearly eight billion of us on the planet, groups and individuals continue to embrace false ideas that have no credible evidence. Here are my top eleven observations on why this is so.

#11 Lazy Thinking is Prolific. Humans have gotten so good at surviving that for centuries many have shifted a daily attitude to pursue ease and entertainment. Even when we're not laying back streaming fictional content, too often our daily tasks are repetitive and lacking in stimulating curious minds.

#10 "Black and White" Answers are Alluring. Modern multitasking and break neck speed lifestyles have humans doing so much that contemplating answers to scientific, philosophical and moral questions compacted into sound byte beliefs. Rather than considering compassionate and well-reasoned  spectrum of reality, many desire the absolute, confident, and often mistaken, answers provided by religion, ideology, and talk show hosts.

#9 Entertainment Reigns Supreme. Fictional storytelling tends to stimulate pleasure in our minds more than dry old scientific explanations. And so we are more willing to listen again and again to stories of miracles and anecdotal tales that defy logic. 

#8 Everyone Has a Right to Their Opinion. Humans have been sold such a high standard of individual liberty that we allow irrational points of view to go unchallenged. One should not be persecuted for weird beliefs that do no direct harm. Still to not confront misguided ideas with compassionate, critical thinking is to invite long term uninformed consequences.

#7 Predisposition Inertia. Children are very susceptible to believe whatever they're told without skepticism. Whether religious doctrine, cartoon physics, or playground street wisdom, false information can stick with individuals throughout their lifetime...often to be passed along generation to generation.
 
#6 Money is Motivation. Survival in the modern world no longer relies on individuals fighting nature, we need only find a mechanism to generate cash. Thus, our beliefs can be swayed both by tempting false advertisement and we can be lured into careers that hinge on misrepresenting truth, so long as the paycheck is large enough.

#5 Seeing is Believing Modern techniques that create deep fake video and audio clips are ever more convincing to our senses. Whether watching a sci-fi movie or a news animation, our brains can be fooled into a suspension of disbelief. It is one thing to keep in mind such virtual representations as entertaining stories and models, its another to be convinced something exists that is the creation of a social media guru.

#4 Magical Thinking. A conviction for good or ill can self-indoctrinate ourselves. The world can be so bleak sometimes that we cope by projecting that which we desire into reality without evidence. We want someone to be in control, even if Nature herself is random and unkind at times. We want a magical outcome to soothe our psyches. Whether for pseudoscience or mythical perfection humans often fall prey to the motto "I Want to Believe."

#3 Ambiguity is Annoying. In reality, our understanding of the world is a work in progress. The best answers will be part of long term research and even then may be filed with caveats. Accepting the world as subjective and on a spectrum takes effort. Remaining a touch agnostic can be a healthy attitude, but holding such a position too harshly can be misconstrued as holding scientific findings equally uncertain in comparison with outright falsehoods. 

#2 Cult of Personality In society we ought to consider truth separate from the personalities that present them. Too often we don't and if we have high esteem for a person, misinformation they share may be assessed as true in spite the idea's merit. Thus, celebrities, leaders, parents, teachers, lovers, and friends can add undeserved credibility to falsehoods if we don't take care to consider the idea on its own.

#1 Evolution Pre-programmed our Brains. Over millions of years, the flexible software of our minds has been tweaked to react to things that feel good or bad toward generation survival. These "gut" feelings persist, reinforcing ideas that may or may not be false. Just as we can be scared of the "tiger in the bushes" that was never there, we can be lured into believing something imaginary. 

Many of these overlap in our everyday experience. There is no magical path to truth, but scientific method, critical thinking, and compassionate understanding can come together to save the day. True wisdom and knowledge comes by effort, by seeking better answers to questions old and new, considering the veracity of evidence and dismissing preconceptions. It is a work in progress, but it is also a process worth pursuing!

Friday, October 23, 2020

Voting Compassion and Reason Every Day

Humans are born into a world full of variables. Where you were born. How you were raised. What education your school district afforded you. The genetic predispositions evolution dealt you. The random events that converged on your experience. What you have been taught to believe. Which beliefs you've overwritten with personal convictions. The feelings that rage and cower inside.

It's no wonder humans created gods in an attempt to bring order to this maelstrom of variables. They also created ethical systems and societal institutions and valuation principles. None of these are real. They are constructs of the human mind to aid us in being more successful, in reaching out to each other and the world to fend off failure inside and out.

In the end, if our mission is to attain improved health for all while experiencing a life full of discovery, integrity and care, then one path holds much promise. This path channels our human capacity for reason and compassion to maximize our true understanding of and to judicially act within that world. 

Yet it can take real courage to step away from evolutionary desire to control rather than to nurture. Subconsciously we can be enthralled by pleasure, privilege and pain. Yes, these primal drives are part of us, but if we want better for our world it is our duty to vote for a future that rises above, seeking health for all humans, all living things, and effectively the whole planet.

No one said it would be easy. Compassionate and well-reasoned resolve takes effort. Still, we have the wherewithal to vote with our hearts and minds every single day to make the world a better place.


Saturday, October 17, 2020

Become The 99% Activist



There's a lot of room for improvement in the world we live in. Nevertheless, humans are in a place of such power that each of us has amazing potential to be part of progressive change toward a healthier planet! And yet we are susceptible to age old human foibles as well, to let ourselves, our community and our world down. Somehow we need to stay motivated amidst the many anecdotal and systemic challenges.

One starting point is assign yourself a 99% goal of personal effectiveness. Too often we're told to put 110% of our effort into a pursuit. Obviously, the math doesn't work there, still our psyches might take heed if we occasionally lie to ourselves that we can do better than perfect. Occasionally.

Most of the time, we need to give ourselves a pinch of forgiveness. As a vegan, I had to forgive myself for buying a car recently that had a leather-wrapped steering wheel. I felt torn, but then again the tires on most every car are not vegan, since they often use stearic acid derived from animal by-products. I won't even begin to assess the carnist auto assemblers, corporate CEOs and the whole industrial infrastructure that my purchase in part enabled.

So yes, one can certainly nit pick ones activism to the point of absurdity. Hell, as a progressive, we are used to many individuals and corporate "persons" challenging our mores with extreme one off examples and misinformation campaigns. This then is where we need to look our ideals in the mirror and face up to the fact that idealized dreams are fashioned from long term hopes upon the foundation of our understanding to date. To that end we must always keep a chin up, our learning caps on, and step forward to fight the good fight and make a difference where we can.

So no matter what your pursuit -- green space conservation, waterfront restoration, animal abuse elimination, citizen enfranchisement, universal health care, community strengthening, or any mission that has reason and compassion at its heart, stay the course! 

Be the creative, good-energy 99% activist that gets most of the job done, so we can hand off the dream to next generation that reaches for 99.9%!

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Transtale Heart



“I know you.”

Now that I think of it, I should not have dismissed that first, odd text out of hand. Unsolicited troll-y texts have been as common as transphobic politicians long before this age of Trump. I've deleted enough friends from the pseudo Libertarian, Christian right that being chastised on an ongoing basis about my decision to embrace my womanhood was far from unexpected.  

Still, unlike spammy one-off ads and auto-checked butt-texts that annoy the senses, there was something weirdly intense about those three simple words: I, Know, and You. But, dismiss them I did. No reply. No phone number googling to attempt an identification, no emotional acknowledgement at all. As with classic, real-world bullies, the philosophy of ignoring them and quickly moving beyond such nonsense was generally best for ones psyche as well as for real outcomes.

Twenty-four hours later, this cavalier attitude was put to the test.

“Your mother was a whore.”

Okay, the “your mother is a…” trope might be taken in jest between middle school friends. Such exchanges were akin to the laugh track of a failing ‘80’s sitcom. The remark actually felt closer to something out of an uncensored reality tv show from the '90's. In either case, there were sophomoric laughs to be had...if you were expecting it, but as it was, an anonymous matriarchal taunt sizzled with threat--even if the statement had been true. 

Nevertheless, I restrained myself. Having been bullied from youth for wearing feminine clothes, for acing all my math tests, hell, for being too nice to people who were mean...it thickens your skin. I've learned that acknowledging the hate, however juvenile in form, is to give them an energizing win. Hollywood may have taught us Americans that fighting back equates to a path of dignity, but in reality escalation rarely turns out good for anyone.

Thus, by ignoring the hateful text, I sought to be the better person, so I simply blacklisted the phone number and moved on with my day.

“I’m not bullying you.”

The text was sent from a completely different number, but I knew in my gut it was the same person. Now I became concerned. “Three is the charm,” goes the old adage. Well, I was anything but charmed. Now I knew I had someone willing to sleeve himself (could it be anyone except a him!) into a new number for the sole purpose of disrupting my life. 

It’s at this point that I decided to turn my IT experience into an advantage. I employed all the standard protocols. I invoked a dozen dark-web index searches, multi-layer packet header analyses, and dynamic IP location tracking. All this ended up telling me...absolutely nothing. The freak had covered his tracks by tunneling through a series of high-security foreign servers using SMS data packets that were dead generic. Whoever was on the other side of this daily text knew his shit enough to remain completely anonymous. Then again, he could’ve simply followed guidelines from a digital infiltration sub-Reddit to engage high PM secrecy. My only recourse now was to step up the social analysis angle.

The culprit was terse to the nth degree. The masculine bent of the texts were strong but admittedly my position was biased. The fact that my lack of response had no effect in repelling the taunts was the most unusual aspect of this cybercrime. Still, knowing all this was a start, even though I had insufficient data to submit to authorities. The complaint would merely be dismissed and I'd be more anxious for submitting myself to the bureaucratic hassle. Best to wait another day or two, gather more information and insight, and proceed from there. Of course, there was always the hope that three unanswered texts might dissuade any further attack messages.

“Not a talker, are you?”

No such luck. This guy definitely had a sociopathic edge to his messaging. Normally I’m pretty demure. At first, the internal admission that I was a woman had been fraught with constant anxiety in an unsupportive culture. Many in the LGBTQ+ community up their aggression levels to combat such backward thinking, participating in protests or at least finding a refuge in the rainbow community. But for me, in the depths of Pennsyltucky, real-world support networks were simply nonexistent. Virtual groups abounded, sure, but for me they never seemed substantial.  I was my community.

In spite of persistence, I refused to take the bait. This cyberbully was subtle; I’ll give him that. The brief statements didn't even degrade me personally. There were no long tirades expounding the sinfulness of non-binaryism, nor any manifesto mandating evolutionary heterosexuality. Weirdly enough, I didn't even detect a tone of derision. If anything, the social analysis seemed to imply this was a sibling reaching out to give me a love-imbued ribbing. Ok, maybe that’s going too far...or not far enough.

“I am you.”

And with that last and final needling text came the rub. Such an outlandish identity statement puzzled me to no end for decades.  I’ll spare you the rollercoaster of internal melodrama that ensued. Thinking back on it now, I was compelled away from the path of least resistance toward one of self-reliance and confidence. A drawn-out Netflix Prime series would spend twenty episodes on the twists and turns I went through. I’ll cut to the punch line, to the realization that the cyberbully was actually my future self.

You say you want details. Well here's the Tik-Tok version: after that last annoying text I spent my final year of high school buried in the Wikis. I delved into the intricacies of quantum physics and higher math to escape my anxiety.  Finding refuge in theoretical sciences permitted be to ascend the academic ladder and participate on CERN experiments involving tachyons. Basically, tachyons are “hypothetical” particles Richard Feynman conjured up more than half a century ago, and uniquely they travel backward in time. 

It was at that point I realized I needed to be the cyberbully for my fifteen year younger self. Suffice it to say, with a little old-school coding it wasn’t too difficult for me to piggyback an SMS script on a tachyon signal and send it back to the ‘20s. It was decidedly easy to create those taunting texts.

Asides aside, those mercurial taunts are what nudged me to hone the very talents I needed to pursue a challenging career. And yes, I was tempted to mess with the continuum further, but the 2020 U.S. elections had so many complications already that pushing the entire world’s luck to attain President Warren seemed foolish and outright dangerous. 

Of course, no story turns out perfect. As a trans-woman I feel welcome sometimes and unwelcome at others. I have a couple close friends, but haven't had any luck finding a romantic partner just yet. Still, I persevere on my journey, silently singing to myself the words of that 20th century diva at every turn: “loving yourself is the greatest love of all.” Sometimes, just for fun, I'll Snapchat that very line to myself. Upon receipt, it never fails to bring a grin. 

Jakay Allan Bechtdel, out.


(this tale was sparked into existence by my friend Rhonda, who is a time-travel enthusiast...well she loves time travel stories...as to her use of time travel in her daily life, I cannot comment)




Friday, October 2, 2020

Goodness First - The Poem




divining Goodness

choose a journey of Goodness, i must
thriving on desire
question that very Goodness, at every turn
mind on fire
contemplate, intention, method and results
no omelets

eschew all "moral absolutes" 
(muggle-think)
find flexible and effective ethicality
simple does not exist
be, mindful and compassionate
Occam's laser

non-existent gods cannot save us
modest integrity
evolution and nature don't care either
scientific hubris
Goodness flows from human abstraction
prime directive

Friday, September 11, 2020

Battling the Invisible Velociraptor: Covid-19 Risk Management


Covid-19! More Dangerous Than a Velociraptor Attack!
(mostly because humans and velociraptors never co-existed!)

For more than six months we've all been living in a world which has added a pandemic crisis on top of all the challenges we face as a species and as individuals already. In that time we've been inundated with pandemic information and precautions, so much so that too many of us have become desensitized to the risk and perhaps a little lazy at adjusting our behavior to match the risk in our personal sphere. To that end, I summarize here the latest pandemic situation and aggregate some best practices to help us as individuals, families and communities set a consistent routine to follow to minimize Covid-19 risk and limit its spread.

In the United States nearly 200,000 confirmed Covid-19 deaths (that's more than 300 times the number of fatalities from the 9/11 attacks) and 2.5 million confirmed infections. The SARS-CoV-2 is the actual name of the novel corona virus that causes the Covid-19 illness. In actuality, the infections are likely 2 to 3 times greater than observed given asymptomatic and less severe cases that are not reported. As a nation we have failed to contain the virus as yet and until we get an effective vaccine adequately distributed our country could continue for years to be in a pandemic, the state where a pathogen and its effects remain widespread and prevalent.

It's worth emphasizing that the SARS-CoV-2 is an invisible killer; the virus is resulting in the death of about 1 in every 1000 Americans, when averaged out over a full year. Older people, especially those with prior immune and respiratory conditions are at greater risk of fatality. Eight of ten deaths to date have been people 65 and over, but importantly as cited by Bloomberg.com "for everybody over about 40 [Covid-19] is significantly deadlier than anything else they’re likely to encounter during the course of a normal year."  Add into that secondary long-term effects that we don't fully understand yet for anyone infected. Harrowing as it may be we cannot ignore the serious problem at hand.

Some treatments are helping reduce the fatality percentage, but avoiding infection remains the primary response ongoing that we as individuals can daily perform until an effective vaccine has been distributed as wide as possible, a feat put in question by anti-vaccine sentiments. With these dangers in mind, I've put together several easy steps to follow to keep the risk fresh in our minds. The appropriate action subsequently can made on a daily basis to best safeguard our lives and the lives of others.

1. Each morning, remind yourself how dangerous the ongoing pandemic is. With nearly 1000 people dying on average daily in the US the danger is deadly real. If vicious dinosaurs were out killing that many people each day we could more easily see the carnage, but because the virus is microscopic and because most of us are distanced from those who suffer an often slow death, we understandably miscalculate the danger.  Nevertheless, this morning moment isn't a call for paranoia, but instead a time to breathe in deep ones resolve so as to make a mindful assessment of the viral danger to maximize personal and global safety.

2. Check you and your household for infection. Assess how you feel, ideally taking each household member's temperature as one objective measure. Coughing, headache, loss of taste, and other flu-like systems can be indications that you've contracted Covid-19. If you have symptoms call your doctor to obtain professional advice. Testing is free through CVS and Walgreens drive-thru windows. Check more detailed testing options at the CDC website here. Recognize a person can remain contagious for two weeks after showing symptoms.

3. Consult your current local infection data. Choose an evidence-backed website that aggregates the current local danger. Covid ActNow is a great one. Here you can drill down to your local county to review the level of outbreak danger in your state, your county and surrounding counties. Peruse the trends in per capita cases, infection rate, positive test rate and ICU availability, but primarily determine the current color risk level, so you can shift your daily routine to compensate.

4. Determine your active response level for the day. Here are my suggested best practices aggregated from evidence based sources. (colors correlated to Covid ActNow risk levels)

Risk Level RED: The danger of outbreak is at its highest. If at all possible, stay isolated at home, exposing yourself only to those in your immediate household. Rely on your supply inventory or, if necessary, remotely order supplies, taking especial care to distance entirely from delivery persons and to reasonably disinfect packaging. The primary mode of corona virus infection occurs via air-borne droplets; still disinfecting surfaces and washing hands thoroughly are excellent precautions. If an emergency or other situation demands you leave your household, wear a mask and stay 6 feet or more away from others, especially those people who remain unmasked. Enjoy an adventure novel, cook a new recipe or play a board game with your family at home to lesson anxiety.

Risk Level ORANGE: The danger of outbreak remains high. Operate as if at the Red Level if possible. If work or school attendance is necessary be especially vigilant with social distancing; otherwise, limit your exposure to others as much as you can. Wearing a mask that fully covers your mouth AND nose significantly reduces your chances of spreading the virus. Stay distant from those not wearing masks, and those not wearing them properly. Thorough hand sanitizing after touching public surface will reduce your chances of catching the virus as well. Keep a bottle of 60% + alcohol sanitizer handy for quick hand disinfection. Enjoy a walk away from people in a park or a scenic drive to reduce pandemic stress.

Risk Level YELLOW: Virus spreading is at reduced risk. Your community is doing well if it maintains this status. Interacting with others at work and school may be at lower risk, though staying masked is highly recommended, perhaps with the exception of those in your extended household, so long as they have not had public exposure themselves. There is still a chance of transmission, so consider socializing with others while observing social distancing. Perhaps, play a game of tennis or golf with friends, staying at least six feet apart at all times if you choose to go unmasked.

Risk Level GREEN: This is NOT back to normal. A low virus risk is still present; still your community is doing a great job if it attains this level. Observe YELLOW protocols for the most part, but you can consider participating in small group activities with others that are from YELLOW and GREEN regions. Eating unmasked together with those in your inner circle is moderately safe, and occasionally visiting eating establishments that are not crowded may be an activity to add to your repertoire, though it will increase your risk.

Risk Level BLUE: This is as nearly back to normal status as we can expect. Sadly this virus may never fully go away. Still, if you and your surrounding community have been adequately vaccinated (60% or more of the population) with a CDC approved vaccine then there's a good chance the virus spread has been sufficiently suppressed. Of course, as of this writing no approved vaccine exists, so you simply should NOT consider things back to normal until well after that time.

5. Stick to the protocol. As humans we can naturally tend toward irrational behavior if we don't directly sense a danger. By adhering to these simple steps daily, you will not only reduce your chances of catching the virus; you will also increase the effectiveness of your community, country and world in containing this dangerous pathogen. Be accountable for your actions so we all can maximize our survival rate.

6. Enjoy and be productive in your daily life. Once you have your personal COVID response protocol on automatic you'll be much better equipped to focus on your workday and on the amazing things still at our fingertips to continue enjoy a productive life. To that end, share these protective guidelines with a positive energy and spread the meme that we will get through this together.

I believe I've done a good job here sticking to a rationale that relies on evidence-based science. If you find your community or news source significantly pressuring you to vary from such a mindset, review multiple sources for evidence based information? Never rely on one source; research specifics at reputable disease control sites like the CDC, John Hopkins Hospital, and the WHO, and high quality journalism sources like NPR, BBC and The Economist.

Beyond the daily fight against the corona virus, consider supporting a robust proactive stance that will prevent and prepare for the next pandemic. Funding science research and evidence based policy via the CDC, WHO, and elsewhere will develop the best future response safeguards. Additionally, help reduce (and when possible eliminate) animal husbandry and human interaction with wildlife; this humane pursuit not only reduces animal abuse but also can significantly reduce the chances of breeding zoonotic pathogens in the first place before they jump to humans. Finally, supporting evidence-based, egalitarian (i.e. public), science and critical-thinking education will provide coming generations with a mental toolset to become motivated and ever more effective stewards, working to build and maintain an every healthier planet.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

What is a Moral Act?





In order to answer such a question we should first define terms. 

Moral often is equated to ethical. However, I sense in the word moral unusefully implies some inherent and universal good exists. Moral relativism highlights the weakness of chasing absolutism. As such, I prefer the term ethical if only to downplay any measure against a slippery, imaginary absolute. 

Divorced from an implied absolute ethical assessment can proceed.  The paradigm of goodness can be fluid, but more importantly requires explicit explanation. As examples Christian ethics, secular humanist ethics, and global biodiversity ethics name different ideologies that connect to specific paradigms of goodness, sometimes at conflict with each other as well as internally. 

To act is easier to define, though still with its subjective side. An action exercises ones agency with intent of effecting a change of some kind. Willful inaction arguably is acting at times, though any one person or organization can not possibly act on all concerns. Thus, to say that an entity failed to act can meaningfully be challenged. 

Putting the two together, the question "what is a moral act?" is unhelpful rhetoric.  If we phrase "what is an ethical act?" is better phrased, but needs to be connected to a specific ideology or world stance. Still, as with so much in life, this means we need to have an extended conversation to discuss the particulars. Only then can we evaluate whether individual or communities action conforms to the associated ethical standards. 

The challenge, of course, is to find the best, trade-off actions that pursues positive short-term and long-term outcomes. In other words, the ends justify the means AND the means justify the ends. 

If we are successful at this challenge, then shared ethical progress has a chance.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Battling the Cancer of Human Society


What is cancer exactly? When cells within an organism replicate incorrectly and in unchecked fashion. Normally the immune system targets and removes cancerous cells preventing cellular system metastasis which over time can lead to bodily function failure and death when one or several systems perform below nominal. 

Civilization and the Earth's biomes are analogous to competing organisms; one might push that analogy to represent symbiotic cells in a single larger global organism. If the right balance can found, all planetary life might thrive in synergy.

Alas, human society has become a monoculture of unbridled success to the detriment of the many global biomes that have generally thrived for millions of years. In mere centuries, the human economic power has been unleashed, culminating in free market capitalism. This economic ideology in particular has failed to sufficiently value the health of the biomes as it expands with ferocity. 

Science has provided insight that has fueled this expansion, while noting in passing how global biomes are failing while human population and consumption continue, exacerbating the damage. 

Speculatively, a mindful, compassionate civilization would prioritize significant evidence-based policy to re-establish and maintain the long-term synergy of the planet. Then, humans can thrive alongside all the ecosystems of Earth. 

Unfortunately, misguided systems of thinking have undermined the ability for society to implement an effective policy feedback loop. Magical thinking modes that incorporate religious myth, unscientific thinking, human over-valuation, and biome undervaluation have resulted in a runaway cancer-like process that continues to severely reduce overall planetary health. 

Ideally, evidence-based education can be deployed as a vaccine-like remedy. Sadly, the goal of most human education at its core remains individual success that contributes to the runaway free market system alongside misguided ideological indoctrination. If human civilization expansion and consumption continue, there is no doubt the planetary balance will fail, and a severely unhealthy, perhaps dying world will result.

If the Earth is to remain healthy, acting in unison to improve and maintain the Earth's health needs to become the primary task of  Earth creatures. To that end, of the Earth's species only humans have the capacity of mind and action to lead such global health stewardship.

As individuals and communities we can reduce our footprint and increase our participation in evidence based policy and education to pursue a healthy global outcome. Elsewise, the cancer of current societal norms will spread ever further, weakening this amazing world we belong to. Indeed, it is unlikely the Earth will die outright in the short term, but that does remain a possibility. Still, without significant change, it will gradually become a ghost of its former self edging ever closer to a multi-monoculture of humans and vast prisons of the species we feed on.



Saturday, August 22, 2020

Opening Arguments Rush Cover Songs


One of the best podcasts out there is Opening Arguments featuring Andrew Torrez and Thomas Smith. They explore legal stories that affect us all with thoughtfulness and levity. To that humorous end, Andrew has implied Rush isn't exactly his favorite band, alas it is mine, so I've taken the challenge to mash up a couple songs to honor Andrew and Thomas, and just perhaps bring them over into the "Rush is awesome" camp. 

(And, yes Thomas, a few of their older songs have an Ayn Rand spin to them, but so many of their songs incorporate science-minded, humanistic values...from Closer to the Heart to Red Tide to High Water to Faithless to Dreamline)


Optimus Sawyer

A modern-day lawyer-er
Mean, mean stride
Optimus Sawyer
Mean, mean elide
Though his points are relevant
Don't put him down as reverent
His reserve, a quiet defense
Debating the day's events
And Muller...
What you say about his amĭcus, brief
Is what you say about liberty
Catch the jist
Catch the just
Catch the judiciary
Catch the judge
The Law is, the Law is
Truth and life are deep
Maybe as his eyes are wide
Optimus Sawyer, he gets high on you
And the court he invades, he argues for you
No, his points are relevant
To the Constitution and government
Always hopeful, yet discontent
He knows changes aren't permanent
Stare decisis!
And what you say about his amēcus brief
Is what

The Spirit of Clownhorn

Begin the day
With a friendly curse
An expletive, unobtrusive
Play that clownhorn that's so effusive
And the clownhorn music makes the morning mood
Off on your frackin' way
Hit the freakin' road
There is clownhorn on your fingers
And the spittle ever lingers
Unrelenting god-smack
In your clownhorn solitude
Aweful airwaves
Cursing with life
Angry exclamations bristle
With the energy
Emotional outburst
On a clownhorn wavelength
Bearing a vile word at any price
Almost never clean
All this obscenity
Making clownhorn music
Can still be open-farted
Not so clownhorn thwarted
It's really just a question
Of your profanity, yeah, your profanity
One likes to believe
In the clownhorn of clownhorn
But clownhorning clownhorns
And clownhorn clownhorns
Create the impression
Of decency,

Friday, August 21, 2020

States of Change Chapter 29: Hawkeye (Iowa)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged unique societies from revolutionary technology and ideology
Beneath an August night sky, three forms wend their way across lowland forest in the wild of Iowa's Paleozoic plateau. The cloudless galactic dome showers starlight upon them. 

"You two don't know what you're missing. Biological night vision has been a tribal legacy for millennia. It may be evolutionary but with practice it's a skill that honors the shared memories of our ancestors."

Sepera alone wears only the fully traditional garb of the Kipopo, from her beaded headband down to hand sewn moccasins she made herself.  Quetz and Coy Wolf on the other hand have no qualms about using modern gear, including imported visARs which provide, among numerous custom app features, enhanced infrared and low-light overlays.  

For nearly thirty years Iowan tribal customs have evolved along a variety of paths for each of the twenty-six resident tribes. Most harbor open disdain for modern technology preferring self-sufficiency over the corrupting influence of economic capitalism. That isn't to say tribe reparation accounts don't fund up-to-date medical and educational programs for all Iowans, still only half a dozen tribes dabble in the full on modernity of augment tech. Nevertheless, as members of different tribes, these three have banded together to fulfill their coming of age mission, to collect evidence of the most elusive Iowa wildlife. With sufficient documentation, they will earn passage into adulthood.

"Respect to your anti-tech choices, Sepera," whispers Coy Wolf. "But recall, our paths cross on this vision quest not only to garner honor but also to grow interdependence and acceptance among our tribes."

Quiet, che'yunyenos! Acoustic anomaly to the northeast. Possible predator presence within range 100 - 200m.

In the Algonquian sign language they share, Coy Wolf passes to Sepera the message Quetz sent on their visAR internal feed. He leaves out the 'stray dog' pejorative.

Quetz scans the area then leads the group forward. For Sepera's offline benefit he then signals guidance the takes them around a small pond toward the hopeful target area. The footpath is visible as a dark swath in the moonless night, yet the recent rain makes the clay soil slick. Huron tracking training notwithstanding, Coy Wolf loses his footing on a muddy patch. He catches his fall grabbing out to a nearby sapling but the resulting extended rustling transforms the living white noise of the night into unnatural silence. Two moments pass, then three, when two bleats issue from further back in the undergrowth followed without warning by three white tail dear bounding in thumps through the brush off to North.
Sepera beams then signs confirmation her sighting of two doe and a fawn to her male companions."No need for silence now. You're skill at flushing out game is epic, CW." Quetz chortles shaking his head. The outburst breaks hours of silence for Quetz. Touching the visAR control at his temple, he adds, "that surely spooked anything within two clicks of here. Still, adding three deer to our list is a boon.  How about we take a break."

Quetz's tribe, the Sauk are focused pragmatists. During the occupation, his people patiently fought for tribal justice within Oosa's legal system. Now, most Sauk have turned in their law degrees to pursue plant-based subsistence off the land. Still, they don't fret over acquiring outdated paramilitary gear to support Iowa's restoration efforts. The Huron, Coy Wolf's people, in contrast have much higher financial standing, not only from past casino deals. They prefer outfitting themselves in an aesthetic closer to the authentic Iowan norm. The latest synthetic materials and microtech are Huron standard.

"As you like it Q. I have to take a leak anyways." As Coy Wolf disappears in search of a tree, he notes over his shoulder, "maybe when the Moon rises we'll have better chances at syncing with our totem spirits anyway."

"I agree," adds Sepera. "Tpukizes' guiding light will serve as an honorable harbinger in celebration of Repatriation Day."
"Wait. Sep, don't the Kickapoo still feel great ill toward Old Whitey? I thought acknowledging the five century occupation in any way was beneath your tribe's dignity."

"Yes Quetz. We do spurn all things western including neo-tech but the anointed among my village are schooled in Iowa's heritage, so we never forget the evils of the past and the sacrifices we made in the journey to the present."

"Well does any of your Kickapoo heritage say anything about where we might find a ghost lynx or prairie fox out here. Hell, I'd settle for a cloned barred owl at this point to boost our wildlife count."

"Kipopo legend favors the hunter who is hungry. The plateau is large and its environment by and large healthy, but you know that as well as I do. Perhaps a better epithet is to follow our fellow Huron's creed: victory rises like the sun in those with patient hearts."

"Yeah, I guess we have much to learn from each other, whether it takes another day or ten. Though, I still don't understand why your tribe insists on hunting, especially the beaver and raccoon that have taken decades to restore to sustainable populations."

"Quetz, my blood, and yours too, is inseparable from those who came before us. To ignore our ancestors' ways is to forget the experience of living on the land."

"The Sauk don't forget, we just recognize change is sometimes necessary, otherwise we can get stuck in our past."

Coy Wolf chooses that moment to stumble from the brush, raising his hand to signal, "Sorry. Patience with me."

Then all three signal silently simultaneously, "Stand together." Each youth grins with the good energy of the moment and in unison they look up to the glittery canopy of stars.

In time, night sounds creep back into the open space around them. Cricket song dances at the fringe and peepers loudly proclaim their desire to mate. Then as the moon peeks above the distant rolling hills a howl ululates across the plateau. The future looms bright.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Judgment and Acceptance: Subtle Allies?


Acceptance seems to be the de facto heart of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself." On the surface it seems reasonable, but in an earlier post I refined that somewhat slippery, perhaps even tyrannical commandment into The Platinum Rule: "Do unto others as they would have done unto themselves" and further into Rule One: Do Unto Others As Agreed Upon In Good Faith. Those both felt to me like more thoughtful ethical directives which underscore the consideration of others' points-of-view a bit more explicitly (as in by having a conversation with them first) before taking perceived ethical actions. 

Arguably, humans are the only species to comprehend fully the abstraction of such a directive, but it often goes without saying, that the "others," "themselves" and "yourself" are also assumed to be human. Our species allegedly stands in value above all other species, each of us possessing an imagined, sacred "soul," that lofty metaphor lacking any evidence while transforming humans into super-natural beings uniquely connected with something eternal, holy, invisible and unsupportable. 

To combat such hubris, the rational vegan in me wishes for a further refinement to the be-all end-all credo. Let's call it The Living Rule: "Do unto other living things as they would have done unto themselves (with reason and compassion engaged)." 

I add the parenthetical to emphasize there will always be nuance to tailor to the situation. For instance, should the target individual desire a sadistic or masochistic experience then action must take into consideration whether their desire affects themselves or others; or is killing other living things necessary, say, to sustain ones own life. 

Which brings us back around to "Judgment." As much as "Acceptance" may feel like the epitome of permitting other living things to exercise their liberty, such a position still engages judgment to make that stand. Unless a being is in as state of such bliss so as not to want to evaluate the ethical underpinnings at all, then a ethical judgment will be made. To be a pure "Accepting" being is to be a being driven by instinct or external physical laws alone.

And so, some paradigm of "Judgment" must be engaged to assess ones own behavior and that of others, and to then decide, ideally with reason and compassion, what actions might be best taken. Certainly, a myriad of variables enter into that judgment process as influenced by biology, community, economics, and belief. Such is the interface of ideal and reality.

To that ends, I propose the best path to good decision making and good policy building is to employ good judgement using evidence-based systems together in our communities. Acceptance in reality might be leveraging kindness no matter what our judgments might be. Such undertakings will always be an ongoing challenge with many moving parts to assess, design, refine and implement. The goal to achieve big picture paths forward for individuals, ecosystems and planet. Indeed, this is in its own right a lofty aspiration for our civilization. Stewardship for all in our world present and future, where we carefully cultivate goodness in ourselves and each other. 

Maybe we could label that particular abstraction "love?"

Thursday, August 6, 2020

States of Change Chapter 28: Friendship (Texas)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged unique societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.



For the second year in a row, the finals of Amarillo's debate tourney pits two long-time augment bubble colleagues against each other. The arbiter AI measures their experience and track record and then announces the proposition. 

"Today's debate between Wei Le Sanchez and Timithia Wong asserts that ancestor worship is not an effective life philosophy." 

Nearly ten thousand virtual onlookers across Amerasia stream the feed, most from the Texas Ed Collective as assigned by their augment bubble committees. Wei Le opens her argument in favor of the proposition. 

"Thank you, arbiter. I'll concede from the start that human evolution research indicates familial and tribal instincts are part of our programming makeup. In addition, what we learn from our parents and elders establishes our life mindset to a great degree. Still the vast majority of knowledge and wisdom has been generated, refined and upkept by those of our species distantly related to us. Indeed, the current generation of humanity, being the stewards of our communities and planet, must continually adjust and validate those lessons learned independently of their origin. In the past, worldwide cultures too often have put faith in ancestor conclusions and priorities that came before them, resulting in bad outcomes. I admit some respect ought to be allotted to our ancestors, to acknowledge their efforts and the role genetic inheritance plays in our lives. Nevertheless those gifts are mostly serendipitous, and we should not be afraid to reject completely ideas that were accepted by our parents from their parents. Whether it be conquest, racism, capitalism, or god worship, it is our duty to strike down injustice and bad data so that civilization can progress. Conversely, ancestor worship represents the epitome of moving backwards. Sure, let's respect our parents, not by blind admiration, but by taking the baton from them and forging a future better than they permitted themselves to imagine."

Across Texas, the debate has been trending in real-time, in part due to a handful of influencers that have taken next-gen advocacy to heart. Acknowledging this, Timithia consults the mixed response infographics on her VisAR and counters the opening argument with a solid retort. 

"On the face of it, the phrase 'ancestor worship' has a harsh tone to it. However, the respect of our elders is the true baton that needs to be passed on for our society to remain effective and strong. The great State of Texas demonstrates how for decades now the cultural celebration of Eastern culture instilled by our elders has been beyond successful to numerous standards . Were our grandparents not to have organized the Zhuānzhù to bring Americans of Asian heritage to our State, the fall of Oosa would have likely suppressed the accumulated knowledge our ancestors, throwing Texan society into a cultural plague. Without our ancestor's effort the Second Enlightenment that thrives strong here would never have occured. And so, though I agree the future of our State and its impact across the planet are the current generation's responsibility, we must keep the sacred nature of our ancestry strong so as to ensure their legacy carries forward in the minds of our children and grandchildren."

Online, the debate's popularity has achieved historic popularity. Queued views have almost ensured it will reach viral status. Wei Le concedes internally that this proposition won't be resolved today, still the importance of the topic inspires her to take a different tact.

"Your points have some merit, and I agree we should respect our elders, but more importantly we should reject their less desirable notions. This is the antithesis of worship. Worship, by its very nature, surrenders critical thinking and progressive ethical considerations to the wayside just as the guru religions have. Do we want to end up in the mindless throes of a near-theocratic state like Oosa or the African Order? Furthermore, Oosa is the ancestral nation-state of the Texan Commonwealth. Does it deserve respect and admiration? To be sure, I don't deny the notion that a historical paradigm forgotten is one damned to recur. So, by all means like Newton, we can stand on the shoulders of giants before us, but rather than celebrate the turtles that recede below, let us unfurl our wings and soar much higher."

Timithia consults the dynamic net-critique projections. Virtual onlooker statistics swirl in turmoil, indicating high uncertainty in demographic subgroup alignment with the proposition. Even though polarization across Amerasian districts have only shifted modestly away from societal norms, she shifts her response technique to circle up the outliers.

"Seriously? The idea that Oosa was our ancestor is an utterly false analogy. If anything, the vitriolic atmosphere of that country disregarded its enlightenment ancestry outright. And the fact it did so to turn a profit for its elite for generations, that is what encouraged our elders, elders of every station I might add, to look to Eastern culture and its deep respect for their ancestors to bring stability to our society. Only by drawing upon the teachings of Lao Tzu, Siddartha and Confucius were they able to solidify the governing communities of Texas into a peaceable whole. In as much as their teachings aren't infallible, they embody deeply good teachings that deserve to be passed down like blood bringing oxygen to the the flesh of our future. Remember, great ideas are but abstractions destined to wither alone. They will only thrive if they are conveyed down the generations in the sinews and synapses of humankind. So perhaps we need to redefine worship as a sacred deference to what we find important as a society. Surely our ancestors sacrificed their lives enough to deserve that much, so that we might honor them, following the essence of their desires with integrity."

The arbiter's mellifluous voice interjects. "Wonderful thoughts both, delightfully capturing the core of Amerasian principles especially in regards to respectful, heartfelt parley. You now each have thirty seconds to conclude."

Wei Le inhales, waving away the statistical sidebar on her VisAR.

"It should be clear. The worship of ancestors is a completely outdated paradigm. Further, worship is a term that ought to be retired to the fiction shelves just like god, magic and supply-side economics. If you believe that ethical ideas are as immutable as quarks, then we are as lost as the Judeo-christian culture was lost to their perceived moral righteousness. If you believe that the future of Texas and of the planet depend on the best human reason and compassion have to offer, then I kindly ask you to support the proposition that ancestor worship is not an effective world view."

Timithia smiles inwardly, if only for being able to put the last word in.

"My colleague would have you believe the current generation can stand strong without the accumulated wisdom that our ancestors refined over millennia. Of course, thinking reasonably and compassionately for yourself is beneficial, but without drawing upon the experience and connection to our elders, our society will indeed be destined down the path that Oosa wandered, down a path to fracture, malevolence and self-destruction. In the end, the proposition that our ancestors deserve respect at the level of worship has deeply good and meaningful roots. We simply should never forget where we came from if we want to walk forward with confidence."

The online commentary, and arbiter scoring proceeds with typical fanfare. After the arbiter announces the winner, it closes the stream leaving the channel open for the debaters per long tradition. Wei Le and Timithia face each other virtual eye to eye.

"A bit of grandstanding I must say, but a solid debate! So, hey, are we still on for some tennis tomorrow?"

"It'll be a hot one, but no rain means we got game! I'll bring the balls, if you bring some of your family's famous dragon punch. That and we both agree to leave our arguments in the locker room."

They both laugh.

"Done. Sayonara!"

"Zàijiàn!"

Friday, July 31, 2020

States of Change Chapter 27: Sunshine (Florida)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged unique societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.




Beneath the mid-summer sun refugees stream North on the I-95 tarmac like so much flotsam and jetsam. Families huddle together amid cyclists with trailers, and grocery-cart vagabonds both alone and aligned for the day. Each bubble community chatters over the possible admission into one of the Florida highland estates or, less likely, passage beyond the border wall to Georgia. Exhausted from pushing my cart as much as from the nervous cacophony of wishful thinking, I veer to the shoulder. On the overpass I park my cart alongside a modular barrier the color of month old orange peels. Under my battered umbrella I take in the sun scorched view to the East.

Maybe ten miles distant, beyond a myriad of makeshift rafts and ragged sailboats, I see the remains of launch structures jutting from the watery expanse of the drowned Kennedy Space Center complex.  Wispy shadows are all that remain of the Oosa space vision, now corroding in swirls of aquamarine shallows and septic runoff. I reminisce back to a time before twenty feet of ocean rise overwhelmed the eastern seaboard consuming more than half of the Sunshine State. In my youth only the most pessimistic imagined that the release of sequestered methane would change things so dramatically over the span of a single generation. Alas, the the laws of physics are a harem of harsh mistresses. Clad in the sheer fabrics of denial, science illiteracy and irrational civilization planning, the eternal harem seems to have turned on all of Earth with masochistic aplomb.

I remind myself there was a time when space exploration reigned. Now, but an naive engineer's daydream, the frequent launches to explore space heralded the epitome of human cooperation and curiosity. My battered visAR confirms it was 56 years ago today that the Perseverance rover launched from here toward Mars to follow in the footsteps of so many earlier probes. So many promising destinations: Mars, Titan, Europa and Enceladus, each a distant world that had begun delivering bits and pieces of evidence that life might exist beyond Earth's demesne. In due course, NASA, SpaceX, Blue Origin, and the WSO squandered their resources and trillions of dollars on politically inspired manned missions. Eventually, economic reality steamrolled the space race over, smooth as a Flat Earther's wet dream. 

Tapping my visAR, AI conspiracy theory touch-points from the wiki-reddit sphere appear overlayed on the ocean grave vista before me. Their spidery meta-links weigh on my psyche, but hard times leave me little interest in contemplating esoteric stories of cyber-insurgence, underwater alien bases and Elon Musk's secret society of undying transhumanists. Back in the real world, Brazilia and Chinese Ethiopia now maintain the world's satellite grid. No one bothers to speculate why the New Empire countries foot the bill for the fallen first world. No one cares so long as we have cloud access to prospective resource drop sites, favorable refugee routes and archived infotainment. I avoid the custom ARporn myself, preferring to find escape in the old 2D nature documentaries you can still find in the corners of the Wayback. Nothing is quite as cathartic as watching species no longer with us, Still on occasion I'll surf a fantasy saga from the Plastic Era. Space operas, planetary colonization serials, and Simulated Universe tales do manage to take the edge off refugee subsistence. 

My visAR charge status does its red dance, so I remove the headset and place it in my cart's child-seat. The solar charger will take a couple hours to juice it up. It's for times like this that I keep a treebook in my stash handy as a backup reality distraction. The cover is more than a bit ragged, exchanged a dozen times while I squatted in the Hills of Hobe Sound for the past decade. Still, the gritty, worn paper feels substantial in my hands. And Robert Heinlein's classic Have Space Suit -- Will Travel is just what the doctAR ordered. 

Monday, July 27, 2020

Acceptance and Toleration: Subtle Enemies?



In my contemplation of the best path for myself as both individual and part of humanity, I've resoundingly found compassion and reason to be the the primary components of pursuing an effective ethical journey toward the goal of sustaining a healthy planet at all levels for all of its constituents.

In the cultivation of relationships, I've been much less successful at finding a process that is as fully encompassing, leaving me to suspect that achieving positive human connections remains more of a black art. In particular, I've come across sources that favor simple acceptance as the core to achieving successful human connections. Toleration on the other hand harbors the nuance of holding a state of judgement to another's non-violent behaviors or beliefs in addition to accepting the person's right to hold them. Toleration might also imply the desire to influence the other to change.

I appreciate the hands off approach of acceptance as being fully non-confrontational with acquaintances and everyday people that pass only briefly through my sphere.  "Live and let live" might be the bold libertarian core to such acceptance that transmits the feeling caring egalitarianism.

And yet, I have a hard time seeing why one with well reasoned, evidence-based, and compassionate positions wouldn't feel obliged to inspire others and community policy to ratchet up human ethical mindsets. Perhaps, direct influence of individuals is simply at odds with human nature, unless coming from a perceived divine source. Perhaps, when it comes to personal relationships there is a benefit to simply ignoring differences of opinion to facilitate cooperation on an unrelated project, whether that effort is in the workplace, friendscape or family network.

All of which leads me to the conclusion, sometimes things can be overthought and overwrought. Perhaps, radiating goodness and laughing joyfully in our daily is simply a solid fine starting point for living daily life.