If you were starting to like this guy…

Max, November 30, 2016 

…here’s the antidote:

I made it almost halfway before something started coming up from my stomach so I declined to finish it.

Cool idea!

Max,  

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Germany is building the world’s first wind turbines with built-in hydroelectric batteries

Wind blows. Water falls. But for the first time, one is now powering the other. Engineers in Germany are storing water for hydroelectricity inside wind turbines allowing the towers act like massive batteries once the wind stops blowing. It’s the first major example of the two technologies being physically integrated to supply reliable renewable energy.

I think there’s a bit of water in and around some of those places that voted for Trump. Maybe a better use of it than for water cannons to spray on protesters in sub-zero weather?

Bronze age thinker found in Israel

Max, November 27, 2016 

Humans have been kind of weird for a long time.

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Bizarre 3,800-Year-Old ‘Thinking Man’ Statue Found in Israel

This jumped out at me for a couple of reasons. One, I just love archaeology and ancient history and this is a pretty remarkable find displaying exquisite craftsmanship. More interesting to me, though, is the visions it conjures of life in the times in which it was made.

3800 years ago would place this in a region that would become known as Canaan, a loose confederacy of city states under control of the Amorite kings. The best known of these was Hammurabi of Babylon, but this would have been just before or immediately after he took power relatively far off to the east. He was still laying low for a while to avoid the wrath of the powerful kings of Assyria who were nearing the end of their first period of dominance.

It was a fairly cosmopolitan era, as the manufacture of bronze tools and weapons required an extensive trading network, the raw materials being copper which was mostly found on the island of Cypress and tin which had to come all the way from what is now Afghanistan. The specific locality was along the eastern Mediterranean coast between Egypt and Syria near modern Tel Aviv.

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Egypt was a strong influence in the area, but the Middle Kingdom was coming to an end and they were starting to have major internal problems. It was probably an exciting time with the native culture beginning to come to fruition as the invaders from North and South were in relative retreat.

A fascinating thing happened about this time of great importance to humanity’s destiny. An alphabetic script known as the Proto-Sinaic was being developed which some think was the earliest ancestor of the Phoenician alphabet from which Greek was eventually derived. Up until then there were only two types of writing known; hieroglyphic picture writing in Egypt and wedge shaped cuneiform in the rest of the Near East. Here’s an example:

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According to the caption, the translation includes something like “to the lady.” The romantic in me wants really bad for this to be a very special message accompanying this amazing piece of art a wealthy and highly imaginative resident of the area may have presented to his beloved. Unfortunately, as the name implies, the script came from far away in the southern Sinai peninsula so was unlikely to be known in this region, but who knows? Maybe the dude had good connections. Fun to imagine.

Reaching the rust belt

Max, November 26, 2016 

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They didn’t want affordable college and “jobs of the future”. They want a theme park of white male privilege and 1940s technologies.

I just snipped the above from a random comment thread. It may be a little presumptuous and somewhat caustic, but it hints at the core problem that led to the recent tragedy of electing a dangerous demagogue to run the country. I’ve been pondering this problem for the past couple of weeks now, and wondering what can possibly change this mentality and begin to solve the problem. My concern is that we may be on the forefront of a huge paradigm shift that could result in more similar tragedies before we come out on the other side in a more hopeful future (see the preceding post for context).

I’m not so sure that the bulk of Trump voters are consciously desiring a theme park of white male privilege and I bet many of them really do appreciate smart phones and big screen TVs among other benefits of modern technology. What they are conscious of, however, is diminishing status as their identities as being valued members of society, the noble working class creating cars, extracting valued resources from the ground, etc., is vanishing before their eyes, and with it their priveged economic standing. The recent immigrants and lower classes are gaining on them and in some cases passing them by and they don’t see any hint of a reversion to the norm. That’s because there’s a new norm coming and they are not being educated about it and how it can ultimately benefit them and their children to embrace it.

In the immediate aftermath, I was mostly just angry and following the impulse to blame them for the catastrophe without searching for reasons. “Fuck Trump voters” was a pretty good summary of the way I felt about it for a while. It seemed shocking that anyone could be so ignorant as to vote for the sociopath without sharing his core racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, or at least accepting it as the price for a chance at ending the pattern of societal irrelevance they were facing. Now I look at it more through the lens of low information voters being misled by a media funded by an avaricious oligarchy with a strong vested interest in electing the candidate who could be counted on to defend their ability to stand on top of the disgruntled masses duping them with false promises of better times to come. It seems the real challenge is how to get a more accurate message to these people informing them of a real route to future prosperity through the benefits of modern technology and finding some role they can play in making it happen.

Maybe the American ideal of freedom and decentralized power is the key. Clean power technologies are much more capable of being decentralized, but they are still too expensive for the middle class to reap the benefits. For now, a reasonably well-off person can start building a self-reliant lifestyle with solar panels and electric transport, but rural folks in the heartland can’t see that happening in their lifetimes. The truth is that it is coming sooner than they think but no one is telling them that. The Republicans are selling an impossible dream of prospering through the old paradigm. How can we sell a much more achievable prosperity in the new? It seems that should be an easier task as time goes by, but what can be done to accelerate that transition? We need a new vision for the American heartland, showing the beleaguered middle class how cool it’s going to be for them in a very short time, if they will just throw off the hopeless desire to return to the ways of old.

The end of jobs

Max, November 25, 2016 

Fuck work

The author makes a case that has been increasingly obvious to me for quite a while now. There’s no point in everyone having a job. Productivity, which drives standard of living, is no longer based on everyone working hard. It’s more and more based on automation and artificial intelligence, and this trend will only continue to accelerate. He makes a good point that this is very hard for people to understand, especially in a culture rooted in the idea that your work defines your character.

It seems the irony is that we’re on the brink of utopia and everyone is horrified by the prospect.

Zoltan!

Max, November 24, 2016 

The most interesting presidential candidate in some time. I don’t agree with everything he says, but I am so glad to see him getting the word out about the incredibly exciting future that is on our doorstep. This 20-something min interview is a really good quick summary of what drives him and where he thinks we’re headed.

Jamming at Filbert St

Max, November 21, 2016 

A little context. It had been years since I bothered to perform at one of Motya’s parties. Life got in the way I suppose, but it also felt like it just wasn’t my crowd. Almost everyone at these parties is Russian or Ukrainian born and they all speak fluent English, but I somehow got the feeling there was a screen between my music and the audience that had something to do with language.

So I had a crazy idea. Take a couple well-known Russian rock songs by a band named Аквариум (Aquarium) and learn to sing them in Russian. It took a few months of practice and a lot of help from my collaborator on guitar, a Russian guy named Lyosha who I’d enjoyed playing with in the past. I figured maybe they’d pay a little closer attention if I sang in their mother tongue. Little did I know how much fun I’d have and how effective it could be. We played both Russian songs first and the audience was actually singing along with me. It was a thrill. After a short break I took on the real challenge. An original song I’d written in English translated into Russian, and an old Jupiter Sheep classic that I’d never imagined I would have the nerve to try singing myself.

I forgot to turn on the video for the first song, but I heard somebody else got it and will send it to me. The second song was probably the best. Небо Становится Ближе (The Sky is Getting Closer), a very poetic and philosophical song rooted in the subversive, pre-revolutionary time it was written. Next thing I’d like to try is to re-write it in an English idiom, because it’s musically a great song. I’ll post it soon.

BTW – that unusual sound you might hear on the tracks is a bowed saw. I had no idea it would be there. A guy named Igor just pulled one out and started jamming with us. Cool.

Here’s the other one (probably best performance all around):

Perspective

Max, November 20, 2016 

There are bigger things than an election.

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Bad Astronomy with the details.

A somewhat different picture

Max,  

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This is Ian Bremmer again. He just gave the keynote speech today at the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) Summit in Peru – substituting for Obama who cancelled late. I don’t do Facebook so have no idea how to embed this but clicking on the picture should take you to the video.

Mr. Bremmer is cautiously optimistic about a Trump presidency in some ways, but is my no means a supporter. He’s an economic and geopolitical realist with a lot of knowledge of how the world works and quite strong opinions about where it’s heading. He thinks the main difference with Trump is that he will blow off multilateralism and try to engage unilaterally with the players on the world stage. This might actually work in some cases – but for who is the question. It’s worth watching to the end but it is a lot to digest. His response to the last question was the most fascinating to me. He likened what just happened in America to the perspective of a Palestinian with a rock. After seeing all the powers that be talking about peace talks for decades, the frustration mounts to the point that you just want to pick up a rock and throw it at someone. He claims that’s what 60 million Americans just did. He says that they voted as an act of defiance to what was not working for them economically under Obama. It will be necessary for Trump to satisfy them in some way, and if his efforts fail, he will likely take us on a path more along the lines of the “Dark Days Coming” essay posted before this one.

It might be worse than we think

Max, November 19, 2016 

…or can even imagine.

We’re heading into dark times. This is how to be your own light in the Age of Trump

Having studied authoritarian states for over a decade, I would never exaggerate the severity of the threat we now face. But an American kleptocracy is exactly where president-elect Trump and his backers are taking us. That’s why I have a favor to ask you, my fellow Americans.

One of the scariest essays I’ve ever read. Hard to believe we’ve reached such a point.

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