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Random musings. Baked fresh daily, er whenever, in the Nifamatic.

Last Build Date: Tue, 06 Mar 2018 10:40:39 +0000


Dusting it off...

Sat, 09 Jan 2016 05:22:00 +0000

I went to check out my old blog posts and discovered that it redirects to a page of ads. Sad. So now I'm clicking around to see what, if anything, I can do about that...

Watch this video. Then go vote, dammit.

Tue, 04 Nov 2008 03:31:00 +0000

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I love Rachel Maddow. I love Barack Obama.

Fri, 31 Oct 2008 05:52:00 +0000

I love this interview:

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Here's the second part:

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Find your polling place

Sun, 26 Oct 2008 20:47:00 +0000

I'm not a fan, I'm a citizen

Sun, 26 Oct 2008 20:10:00 +0000

I sent a video created by to a friend the other day which I thought was pretty funny. She didn't find it very funny. She thought that "Obama fans" were becoming overzealous and "acting like the only sane and cool and acceptable view on earth is to support Obama and everyone else are idiots."Yup. That pretty much sums up my view!The video that started the discussion is designed for Obama supporters who for whatever reason may not make it to the polls. Here's a version I received, customized for me:I think this video is a brilliant tactic! Millions of new voters have registered to vote and it's critical that each one of them actually go out and cast a ballot. The 2000 and 2004 elections were very close--whether you believe that illegal voter suppression happened or not, the Florida and Ohio vote counts came down to just a few thousand ballots statewide--just a handful of votes per precinct. Thus, that one voter who meant to go vote but went and did the laundry instead, actually could have had an impact the election results. The video is designed to be somewhat of an antidote to the "my vote doesn't matter, it's just a drop in the bucket" mentality that has historically plagued the American electorate.As far as the zealotry of the Obama crowd, I for one think it's warranted. Not because Obama's so great but because this election is so important and the difference between the policies and tactics of the two sides are so great. I'm not alone in this opinion and it's not blind hero worship. Take a look at the generally sober New York Times. This is how they begin their endorsement of Obama:Hyperbole is the currency of presidential campaigns, but this year the nation's future truly hangs in the balance.This country and the world are in the throes of huge changes. The global economy and ecology are in crises. The economic crisis dominates the headlines, but the ecologic crisis is arguably even more important. Obama's policy position actually approaches solutions to both: green infrastructure building. It's not a complete solution, but it's a start. McCain proposes tax cuts for the wealthy, the same trickle down economics that have failed most of the country for the last 30 years, and "drill baby, drill." This is not a low stakes election. These candidates are not the standard tweedle dee and tweedle dum.I'm not a fan, I'm a citizen. I take citizenship seriously and I believe that it is my responsibility as a citizen, a patriot, and as a member of the human species to act in the best interest of my country and my planet. So, I get a bit excited about these things. If we don't act individually and collectively to change the direction of our nation and the world, our kids will not be better off than us, and our grandkids may witness the end of life as it has been known by the whole of human history. I'm not exaggerating. While grossly under reported, the mainstream press is reporting on occasion that climate change is happening even faster than most scientists predicted.Will Barack Obama save the planet? No. Not on his own. But John McCain's policies are virtually identical to George Bush's and you can see where that's gotten us. I think we could use a few more zealots. This shit is important.Oh, and by the way If the World Could Vote, I think we'd have a lot less to worry about in terms of the impact of a single ballot. It'd be a landslide![...]

Aya de Leon!

Sun, 19 Oct 2008 17:46:00 +0000

They jigginglin' baby!
Go 'head baby!

Go Aya!

Notes on a New Asian Century

Sun, 19 Oct 2008 17:21:00 +0000

Christine Loh is speaking now...

Here are my notes, assembled on the fly:

The right to development is non-negotiable. China is growing fast and it has the right to grow. Yes, it is a quarter of the world, but is only a quarter of the world. A great deal of the population is in poverty and those people want and deserve a higher, more modern standard of living.

In America, we're moving from things to meaning because we already have things. Some people don't yet have things. Development is non-negotiable, but it isn't only material and can't be only about moving things around. So how do we engage in sustainable development and what does it mean? Many Chinese villages with no electricity. 90% of China has electricity (but it may not yet be affordable.) Distributed energy (solar and wind) is a must.

Water is also a primary concern. And the glaciers that supply water to all of IndoChina are at risk.

Freedom of political speech and enforcement of existing laws are still challenges.

US and China relations. We're the biggest emitters on the planet. The US is well-positioned--we're much further along on the development curve. China needs to do lots of basic things in the poorer regions of the country.

We need to redefine development, quality of life, and prosperity.

Ok, I'm done with note taking--I'm just going to listen.

Looking for answers...what can we do?

Sun, 19 Oct 2008 00:45:00 +0000

So what's the solution?

Basically, don't buy or use furniture.

At least furniture made in California. Or made to California standards. (See my previous post on toxic furniture.)

Ok, that's impossible.

Sandra Steingraber says early puberty doesn't only mean higher risk of cancer. Anxiety, suicide, depression, unintended pregnancy are also risks for early maturation of girls. Early maturing boys tends to accrue benefits like leadership and good grades. We have the longest childhood of any mammal. As young children we have a great deal of cognitive plasticity. We are designed to learn, particularly before puberty. Abstract thinking comes later, but mind body learning happens before puberty. So what does it mean for girls when childhoods are shortened? We're hijacking the well-being of our girls. Now toss some race and class on that little nugget. You get the picture, and yes, it's pretty depressing.

So what can consumers and producers actually do?

MBDC has a green chemical database which labels a long list of chemical inputs into industrial manufacturing with red, yellow, or green environmental rating. This Cradle to Cradle Design Protocol would be really useful if it were used broadly by furniture manufacturers. At the GSB, I worked with 3 classmates on a project to examine the impact of changing the chemical ingredients in a chair manufactured by Herman Miller. The bottom line of that study was that the switch to safer inpu saved the company money, fostered innovation, added to the marketability of the chair.

There's lots of information out there for consumers on this topic. It's pretty tough to avoid the toxic chemical ingredients, but at least we can educate ourselves.

Read Mark Shapiro's book Exposed to learn more.

Take a look this site, for a list of actions consumers can take:

Womens Health and Environment

Peggy Shepard of Columbia University has done some great work around environmental justice and the intersections of race and class and environmental toxicity. There are differential impacts on the accumulation of toxins and harms across race and class. Duh.

An audience member mentioned heavy metal chelation therapy as something to learn about if you've had a heavy metal exposure.

Basically, we have to change the rules.

More stuff that sucks

Sun, 19 Oct 2008 00:27:00 +0000

Asthma, brain cancer, autism, mental retardation, early onset puberty and more nasty things we don't want our kids to suffer from are on the rise.

The legally acceptable levels of lead and mercury have changed of the years. And, as the science gets better, we're learning that for some chemicals there is no safe threshold.

Here's some stuff that sucks that we should get out of economic circulation immediately:
  • Lindane
  • Mercury
  • PBDEs
  • bisphenol-A
Learn more here:
The Collaborative on Health and the Environment
The Institute for Children's Environmental Health

And now the lawyer...

Sun, 19 Oct 2008 00:14:00 +0000

The premise of the Toxic Substances Control Act is that most chemicals are safe.

  • Health and safety data are not required before a chemical goes on the market.
  • The burden of proof is on the government--they have to prove that a chemical is unsafe.

The science is beginning to show that most chemicals are unsafe. Chemicals are designed to do something. In fact, they are useful because they do something. They are reactive, not inert. So they probably do something when they interact with living systems.

The rules need to change:
  • Prove things are safe before they go on the market
  • Put the burden of proof on industry
Kid Safe Chemicals Act does both of these things and will be before Congress in 2009. The
Green Chemistry Initiative from California EPA is also a good thing. DTSC authorization is before the California legislature. It's a comprehensive approach rather than a chemical by chemical approach.

Yes we can and may it be so!

Furniture and Toxicity

Sun, 19 Oct 2008 00:02:00 +0000

Dr. Lipsett gave a talk which went something like this.

PBDEs are similar to PCBs and PBBs (which are banned) and dioxins.

PBDEs were in wide use in the 1980's and not since (?), but they've been doubling in human tissues every 3 to 5 years. (Ok, I'm totally unsure of this point. I'll circle back to it later.)

PBDE's are hormone disruptors. They're bad. And they aren't tested as carcinogens. California Technical Bulletin 117 requires the furniture pass a flame retardance test--the filler can't ignite after 12 seconds of open flame. Guess what. The flame retardant is toxic. And it bioaccumulates. In breast milk.

The amount of this stuff found in fat tissues of women in California were literally off the charts. Horrifying. The data compared California girls to girls in Ohio and they were 2 to 3 times as high. And about 200 times kids in Germany. Holy crap.

I'll finds some links to real data and add them here.

Toxics and Human Health

Sat, 18 Oct 2008 23:39:00 +0000

Vulnerable means being susceptible to physical injury or assault. The most vulnerable are children and the unborn. They aren't just small adults. They physiologically and culturally different. They lick stuff. They run around, and get winded. They'll touch anything and eat most things. And the science is beginning to show that today's babies will have shorter lifespans than today's adults. Obesity is a huge factor. Toxics include junk food!

Sandra Steingraber: Living Downstream, and Having Faith
Dr. Michael Lipsett: Air quality standards
Joe Booth: Legal Director of xxxx, and a biochemist
Elise Miller: Initiative for Children's Environmental Health

Is the average age of puberty for US girls declining? The earlier puberty starts, the higher the risk for breast cancer as an adult. Sandra Steingraber did a huge review of the literature and it's available on The answer, is yes. The 1970 median age for onset of breast development was 11.5 for breasts and menstruation at 12.8 years. Now it's 10 years old for white girls and 8.9 years for black girls. Menarche is about the same. Thus the start point s earlier and the pace of puberty (time til first ovulation) is slower. Estrogen without progesterone for a longer period of time is basically what happens.

Why? Obesity. Chubbier girls go into puberty sooner than lean girls. But lean girls are also going into puberty sooner than they used to. Why? Psycho-social stress is also a trigger. TV, breastfeeding in infancy? Chemical exposures? All are factors bt causility is still unclear. Chubby girls watch more TV and breastfed infants grow up leaner.

Neroendocrinology. The hypothalamus and GRH are at the heart of hormonal orchestration of sexual maturation. This process has to be elastic and maleable--lots of bodily and environmental signals are involved. Here's an interesting one: light at night, as in light from the TV screen my be impactful! Yikes!

The Design Charette

Sat, 18 Oct 2008 22:14:00 +0000 is all about branding the number 350 into the minds of people. Reminder: 350 is the number parts per million of CO2 which can exist in the atmosphere. Currently, to our peril, we're at 387. They're getting churches to ring 350 bells, ride 350 blocks on 350 bikes, and oodles of other stuff. Check out the site.

What are the ideas from the audience?

  • Plasma spark plug (look for it on Youtube) water-based tesla spark effect--like a steam engine
  • "Green at home" yard signs--make conservation visible
  • Give CFLs instead of bottles of wine when you visit folks
  • Price signals--low and middle class folks can't be made to b ear the burdening
  • Climate All-stars Conference
  • Solar Richmond
  • Measure T in Richmond--use oil company profits to create green jobs and clean energy
  • If People in Atlanta
  • Climate Interactive to teach people about climate the way it works and why to save it

What motivates you individually. Me? I want a green clean planet for my kids. Remember what motivates you, and get back to work! We can't compromise, so we have to create the political pressure to change local and global policy. We have no choice.

Presidents Climate Action Plan--David Orr

Sat, 18 Oct 2008 22:05:00 +0000

Orr and team outline what thenext president must do in the first 100 and first 1000 days of his administration. The first thing to do is push energy efficiency. The presidential powers in this regard are specific and enumerated. Somewhere. In the mean time, three things to note:

  1. The news will get worse before it gets better.
  2. Obama will need a constituency to push him to be something new (not move to the center.) We must be CITIZENS, perhaps for the first time.
  3. We have to battle for policy in Washington while we simultaneously make real and measurable change at the hyperlocal level.
This challenge is the heroic work of the human species. This is our finest hour.

Changing the Political Climate

Sat, 18 Oct 2008 21:52:00 +0000

Large scale climate initiatives. How can we make change happen fast enough?

The conversation will be in design charette format, with a panel of speakers:

David Orr, Oberlin University
Gilian Callwell, Liz Butler: 1SKY
Billy Parrish

One of the panelists just quoted my friend Holmes Hummel. "It's time to stop, drop, and roll." Take a look at the video below and go to

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Greg Watson: 12 degrees of freedom

Sat, 18 Oct 2008 19:04:00 +0000

Greg Watson discussed "Twelve Degrees of Freedom," Buckminster Fuller's concept that nature works omni-directionally and we always have twelve options at every choice point.

Linear thinking is not what Bucky was talking about. He was talking about whole systems wisdom:

  • Closed systems
  • Feedback loops
  • Synergy: emergent properties
  • Interconnectedness
  • Complementary
  • Cradle to cradle design. There is no "away" to throw anything

Bucky talked about the trimtab factor. Use leverage--a small trimtab turns a bigger rudder which turns a large ocea going vessel. Watson gave some really great examples of using trimtabs for social change. An early farmer's market in Massechusettes and the Dudley Street project which transformed a neighbor b using immenent domain (!) to allow community residents to rebuild their community with their own vision of sustainable development.

Then my battery died and I had to go analog. I'll transcribe my notes later later later.

Stop thinking. Do Something.

Sat, 18 Oct 2008 18:52:00 +0000

Here's the number you need to know. 350. 350 parts per million of CO2 is all we can tolerate as a planet. Currently we're at 387. This is an emergency. RIGHT NOW.

Take action:

Text : "INVITE" to 69866

Respond with your email address.

This is a test of the Bioneers Emergency Broadcast system.

Sign up and get Obama (or McCain, should he win), to go to Poland engage in global treaty-making to curb worldwide carbon emissions in December of 2009.

Hopefully David Orr will be in Obama's Cabinet

Sat, 18 Oct 2008 18:02:00 +0000

But just in case he's not, maybe Barack Obama is reading my blog!

The human condition is pretty funny, the way David Orr puts it initially, put then it starts to look pretty grim again. According to a source I can't cite, but David did, we have about 7 years to start the deflection of CO2 in the atmosphere downward. We've got to move quickly from 22 tons to 2 tons of CO2 per person in the United States.

It's all documented online. Mr. Obama, please read this today:

Mr. Future President, climate and energy policy are security, economy, health, and equity policy. We need a Green New Deal right now. If you and Congress start on January 20, 2009 and use your entire first term to green our infrastructure, you just might have time to save us from ourselves. Ask Van Jones if you're not sure how to get started.

A few things from David Orr to note:
  • Clean coal is bullshit.
  • Carbon sequestration is bullshit.
  • The best way to sequester carbon is to leave the coal underground!
  • Don't take the tops off of mountains, but windmills up there instead.
  • Nuclear power is a very expensive way to boil water. And it's ridiculously dangerous.
And Barack, you've been a lecturer in Constitutional Law, so you probably know this. The rights of posterity are protected by the Constitution. Maybe you could put a few advocates the seventh generation on the Supreme Court!

Oil shockwave?

Sat, 18 Oct 2008 17:55:00 +0000

Holy crap.

If scarcity is the model rather than abundance, things look pretty grim.

Read about a nightmare scenario in the paper of record.

I hope David Orr has something more uplifting to say!

Shark skin, butterflies, and biomimetic genius

Sat, 18 Oct 2008 16:36:00 +0000

"Quieting our human cleverness...respecting nature's guidance"

Janine Benyus is a brilliant scientist and evangelist of biomimetic and beautiful design ...and she just walked on stage with an iPhone. :)

Ok, back to the substance of things.

She notes that as the market falls, the old paradigm is falling. She was flying over Iceland (literally, in a plane) as it was going bankrupt. But she looked down from the window of the plane and saw an abundant land. Nature is abundant. Nature is abundance.

Western industrial culture is catching on and using the designs offered by nature. And the Biomimicry Guild is writing a new book listing 2100 great ways to mimic nature to solve some of the world's most pressing problems. Thank goodness! Here are just a few:

And so many more examples! Life is hugely abundant! We are not bankrupt yet!

How to be a biomimic:
  1. Quiet human cleverness.
  2. Listen to nature.
  3. Emulate nature.
  4. Say thank you. Save the habitats that inspire.
"Life's most innovative design is that it creates conditions conducive to life."

And there's a really awesome web site forthcoming from Benyus and E.O. Wilson: Check it out in November.

And tuck in your kiwi.

"Thank you for being well"

Sat, 18 Oct 2008 16:27:00 +0000

Chief Oren Lyons offered an opening blessing to the conference and reminded us of the value of unity, the power of the good minds, and that the Iroquois Nation's champion lacrosse team is really really good. He asked us to know who we are, know that we share blood, and know that we should vote for Obama.

Interim thoughts on thinking...

Sat, 18 Oct 2008 16:10:00 +0000

I'm waiting for the first speaker, Janine Benyus to take the stage...In the mean time, here are some thoughts on thinking that I thought the last time I came to Bioneers. Tell me what you think in the comments!First, a quote from my favorite book, to frame my comments: "The central insight of the Santiago Theory is the identification of cognition, the process of knowing, with the process of life. Cognition, according to Maturana and Varela, is the activity involved in the self-generation and self-perpetuation of living networks. In other words, cogintion is the very process of life. The organizing activity of living systems, at all levels of life, is mental activity. The interactions of a living organism--plant, animal, or human--with its environment are cognitive interactions. Thus life and cognition are inseparably connected. Mind--or more accurately, mental activity--is immanent in matter at all levels of life. This is a radical expansion of the concept of cognition and, implicitly, the concept of mind. In this view, cognition involves the entire process of life--including perception, emotion , and behavior--and does not neccessarily even require a brain or a nervous system." ---The Hidden Connections, Fritjof Capra, pg. 34 Of course I woke up thinking about this and I think that what Capra and those other guys are saying is that the fractal dimensions, form expressing function, in the structure of proteins, are an epistemology in their own right. A way knowing. One could argue that the mind is an emergent property of the brain, but why limit the nervous system to just the brain? My friend Falco, and I agree that the body knows more when the body is in motion. That is, we have conscious access to more information--"I'm hungry. I want to eat arugula with pecans, apple, and avocado"--when we're healthy, active and stimulating the entire body and not just the the brain.So, extend that out a bit. The mind is emergent of the entire body--the brain, central nervous system, the peripheral nervous system, the musculature, the bones, the breath, and even the environmental context of the breathing. Taking it further still, the mind emerges in non-human primates, mammals, and vertebrates clearly. All of these creatures have a demonstrable capacity to seek that which they need to survive and to "know" on some level or another how to get it. The also have a demonstrable capacity to suffer and I find it interesting that what I know of Western philosophy is that the moral ought is defined by the capacity to suffer rather than the capacity to survive and thrive. Hmmmm. Anyway, I think it's fairly easy to extend the mind to all motile creates. But what about the lettuce in my salad? Does it know? "If broccoli screams in the forest, but no one hears its cry...." I think that by broadening the definition of cognition, of knowing, to mean capacity to survive, thrive, live, grow, in a dynamic environment, then the anwer is yes, my lettuce knows and broccoli screams. And all life is an act of cognition. Capra goes on about self-generating and self perpetuating networks, you should definitely read the first four chapters of the Hidden Connections to get that.[...]

Live! From Bioneers!

Sat, 18 Oct 2008 15:54:00 +0000

I'm posting from the Main Tent of the Bioneers conference. I opted for the cheap seats so I'm sitting in front of a large screen where the action from the conference center is being projected. That puts you at least two levels of abstraction away from the action, but no matter, truth resonates.

On Sarah Palin and White Privilege

Mon, 15 Sep 2008 23:52:00 +0000

Tim Wise unpacks Sarah Palin's invisible knapsack of white privilege:

"White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay."

Check out the full post on