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Category Archives: sociology

If you’d like a definition for the modern euphemism, food insecurity, or to really understand the feel of day-to-day poverty, and the desperation it engenders, read my Grandmother Johnson’s personal letters to her daughter, Carol, who left Upper Glade, West Virginia, to move to Akron, Ohio in 1953, the day she graduated high school to find a job at Goodyear. 

Virginia’s weekly letters tell a story about her struggle to hold her family together during years of joblessness. The UPPER GLADE LETTERS are poignant and warm, weary and heart breaking. Virginia DeVaughn Johnson’s determination is the only glue she had to hold the family together.

Whipped by an economy that had too few jobs, and a husband who was afraid to tiptoe into the world, a son who slowly was lost to her through schizophrenia, and my father, who she feared was a failure because he dreamed dreams that didn’t include working in a coal mine. The letters are a daily correspondence written by my Grandmother Virginia DeVaughn Johnson during the family’s often joblessness between 1953 – 1968. The letters characterize my childhood, and chronicle my father’s climb from poverty to the middle class.

Neither she nor my Grandfather were born to poverty, in fact he was born in a house locally known as the Johnson Mansion. A college stands now where that house stood. The land for the college was donated by the Johnson family. My grandmother was a writer, a poet, and a musician. Poverty engulfed them the same as it has many talented middle class people of the recent economic crisis.

My father, Hays Johnson, made it out of the grinding poverty. He, my mother and my brothers and sisters, built an impressive home from the ground up with their hands and sweat, and my parents income from both their jobs. All of his children became productive, well-respected members of their community. His sisters migrated to Ohio to jobs and husbands. My Grandmother died in that horrible lifestyle in 1972.

Now, once again, I’m watching as others quietly trudge along rationing their groceries so they can stay in a rented home, but this time migrating to a new state will probably not find new jobs for the mass of people who are out of work, and have run out of unemployment compensation. Some, especially the well-educated are leaving the nation. Brain-drain. Brain drain is catastrophic for any country.

Noam Chomsky tells us there is a class war against the poor and the poor has been redefined as the middle class, and is even encroaching on the upper middle classes. Those are fine sentiments that mean something to those who stand up against corporations, and laws that make us less well than well off, and those powers that encourage joblessness, but those words as true as they are do not get down to the floor, and scrub up the nittty-gritty, dirty bottom of the poverty of soul, heart and stomach of joblessness that degrades our humanity in a nation that has sponsored democracy with our ancestors blood, and sometimes personal financial ruination.

Poverty for black & white and all colors between isn’t lack of initiative. It is the result of skilled predators who are good at privatizing others wealth, and ignoring the betterment of the whole. It’s time it stopped. As I read my Grandmother’s letters again, I feel sickened at the waste that was her life. She may or may not have become famous but she could have lived her life, and died with some dignity, if there had been adequate jobs. Jobs wouldn’t have solved all the Johnson family problems, like a son’s schizophrenia, but it sure as hell would not have been hell on earth for her, the idealist.

EULOGY

June 29, 1910 – March 8, 1972

Virginia Devaughn Johnson, mother, poet, writer of philosophy and above all, companion and friend to those around her.

During her life she tended to the sick of body as well as those of spirit, asking nothing in return. She was a totally unselfish person.

Her life style was that of a lover of all things and activities. Matter not, they be eccentric, for her philosophy was: no human activity is alien to me, for I too am human.

She did not follow a particular religious doctrine but instead imparted her own wisdom to those who would accept it. Many did and they are here today, be what they be.

Hays Johnson

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20130422-DSC_0153Photo by saltypalette

BOOK REVIEW

Living energetically and working on a second and third career are within our reach, working and supporting ourselves into a late middle age — 80-100 — is nearly within our grasp, but we are not quite there yet. Medicine has a ways to go, especially medicine for the currently aged. Sometime in the next ten to twenty years this may change.

But, before it does, disparaging social security for those who will need to depend on it in the next few years by the well-heeled, who will not need it, is a bit cold, and a bit too fashionable. 

In his book Ageless Generation, author, Alex Zhavoronkov explores the current social thought about social security, and its negatives, and the economics of biomedicine and how it impacts longevity and worker productivity. It’s sometimes controversial, sometimes relevant.

The Ageless Generation  is a book about the business of biomedicine, not a book about the biomedicine of aging. Ageless is not so much about the latest advances in biomedicine, as it is about behavioral economics. The title seems to infer that managing to live a longer life through future biomedical advances is it’s main topic — instead, Zhavoronkov writes too often about money, and the cost senior citizens put upon society in general.

Zhavoronkov uses pejorative phrases like senior welfare, old age welfare, senior welfare programs, state welfare, when referring to programs for the retired. Citizens pay into social security – it’s incorrect to refer to social security as welfare. And to put it all in perspective, after the Federal Reserve misplaced nine trillion dollars, social security could have been replenished with a few trillion dollars that has disappeared.

Zhavoronkov’s book is more like a slant view of our social history written by someone who echoes his personal bias rather than actual history. Nevertheless, renowned theoreticians in the field of longevity wrote blurbs for The Ageless Generation; so he does have professional gravitas.

Zhavoronkov writes about compliance or conformity to a health regimen, overseen by an employer. He talks about getting “compliance” from the middle aged worker. Compliance is similar to the happy theory of government just now, or the “nudge” tactic, which is behavioral economics, that for instance, nudges the middle aged worker to do the right thing, the thing which is economical in the long run for a company or government, and as a side affect may be good for the worker.

Zhavoronkov seemed to be saying that doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and the corporations have nearly all the answers to our upcoming aging problems, and everything will be okay if workers just do as they say  —  perhaps  go along or lose their jobs or their promotion? The worker of the future may need to ask do I trust my health in the hands of my employer, which might be Walmart or Verizon or any corporation for that matter?

Do these ideas empower the aging or aged person – empower them because it’s a human impulse, a good thing to do, is it an idea that will increase their happiness, health and well being. Or is the customer of the health policy a distant vision, removed from the picture where only the economics become important.

Most of what we believe about aging and health will be turned over within a very few years, much of what researchers think now most likely will not be true even in five years if indeed Moore’s law works for longevity medicine. So, what if compliance amounts to bad health advice or advice that cannot realistically be achieved?

What if the all-knowing experts are wrong? Someone will always know what is best for you; if you will just let them, they will make better decisions than you or so they believe. Problem is, you, the aging person is the one who has to live with those health decisions that look a lot like they are cookie-cutter shaped, meant for the masses not customized for an individual and their personal DNA structure. What if the experts are wrong?

Zhavoronkov seems to be saying that he, the expert, has seen the future and knows what is best. He seems to make these financial and health decisions about seniors from his apartments in Moscow and Los Angeles, which sounds like a lofty financial position to make decisions that affect the mass of less wealthy seniors.

Zhavoronkov did discuss the proton therapy machine, an interesting treatment for cancer. The proton machine is not widely available. Apparently, it’s very effective. It “treats cancer with a thin beam of protons with an accuracy of less than 1 mm, or the width of a pencil lead,” which might be a mind saving treatment for someone with an inoperable brain tumor or breast cancer.

The proton machine requires a cyclotron the size of a football field. “As a result, there are only 13 such machines in the United States, so there is a long waiting list for patients to utilize proton beam therapy.” A website for the National Assoc. for Proton Therapy says, “The patient feels nothing during treatment. The minimized normal-tissue injury results in the potential for fewer effects following treatment, such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.”A lot was lost in translation. The proton therapy information was buried in paragraphs of political thought.

 

bluegreen underwater

Life at the Speed of Light

Sitting here in a cushy chair staring at a screen for half-a-day, reading whatever I want to read, I get a little philosophical, and that’s not difficult to do when I read geneticist, Craig Ventor’s book that attempts to answer the big question “What is Life? I start from disorganized ignorance, and get off the track from there to politics.

I start out wanting to understand words and concepts from Craig Ventor’s recent book ” Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life, a good read by the way about how he lead his team to create synthetic life.

I highlight phrases and terms that I want to know more about like resistivity or resistance in current flowing through an object as it applies to life, and a periodic, repeating pattern or DNA, and then I come across a phrase asking “what is life, that discusses the Erwin Schrödinger “lecture to the thermodynamics of life.”

In defining life, it seems Schrödinger was unhappy associating human beings with low entropy, so he created a new rule for humans, and perpared lectures about it. The 2013 book,  Life at the Speed of Life  by J. Craig Venter, is an attempt to answer the question that Schrödinger asked in his 1944 book that influenced so many future scientists, “What is Life.”

This pastiche takes me to another search that turns up The Natural Order of Things, which has  a nice twist, wherein, Matt Ridley says that “Darwinian selection explains the appearance of seemingly ‘designed’ complexity throughout the world — not just in biology but in the economy, technology and the arts.” And, where at some point he famously says, “living beings are eddies in the stream of entropy.”

And of course I couldn’t stop there, so I applied it to politics. And the question I asked myself, are democracy and freedom, then, an expected and persistent eddy in the stream of entropy or a fluke?

Political eddies in the stream of entropy

Is then Democracy an eddy in the stream of entropy, like a living being? Democracy and freedom almost seem a fluke at times. Democracy, however, continues to persist despite the obstacle flows, rocks and boulders, if you will. It does not seem to get swallowed up in low entropy; instead it has evolved quite nicely over the centuries, regardless of our impatience or the blood spilled.

And how about resistivity in Democracy? Do some groups, cultures, people’s possess more resistivity than others? Is it due to education, or education and hard fought battles for independence? And I’m not suggesting American exceptionalism for America is without equivocation a melting pot of the world, and rationally cannot claim exclusivity since we originate from the rest of the world population.

My mother’s DNA is European and American Indian. My father’s DNA is European and African. Our last ancestor from another continent left Amsterdam in the 1500s and Ireland around 1700. We are American born, yet our cells are citizens of the world.

If I go back thousands of years I am from Haplogroups U and R, some of the oldest peoples who started with a journey from the Caucasus Mountains and a Siberian steppes, carrying a smidgen of Neanderthal in their DNA. Geographically I’m an American, but as an eddy in the stream of entropy I’ve recombined many times over, picking up a half-dozen origins of ethnicity, and so have the whole of Americans.

Seeing ourselves as eddies in the political stream

Is the DNA of freedom and democracy encoded in all our blood? *Halliburton drilling states that a difference exists between rocks filled with hydrocarbons, which are poor conductors of electricity compared with those filled with salty formation water. Are we a different kind of rock? Do we have what it takes to resist entropy of democracy.

I think we do. And for most of America’s history, internally, with the exception of the American Civil War, mostly we’ve achieved it with intelligent resistance such as that of Martin Luther King Civil Rights movement and the Women’s suffrage movement in the last century. It is my belief that an expanding world democracy as well as American Democracy, is enduring just as sure as DNA because it is encoded within us, in the dignity of each and every one of us.

 Footnote

*[Resistivity is the ability of a substance to impede the flow of an electrical current. This is a very important rock property in formation evaluation as it helps to differentiate between formations filled with salty waters (good conductors of electricity) and those filled with hydrocarbons (poor conductors of electricity). Hence, a difference in resistivity exists between rocks filled with hydrocarbons and those filled with formation water. Resistivity and porosity measurements are used to obtain values of water saturation to help evaluate producibility of the formation.]

Warmstrip 

A family friend, then twenty-three-years old, finds she has the Parkinson’s gene. She calls me, and is upset, and asks me what it means. I have no idea at the time what to say to her or how to say it to make her feel better. The following is our conversation that day, describing what it is like to find out at twenty-three that you are genetically predisposed to develop the devastating disease, Parkinson’s. Lee found out after testing with 23andme genetic testing company.  (This story is a re-post from Allvoices, from last year. Lee, of course, is not her real name).

 

I’VE GOT THE PARKINSON’S GENE!

I am Italian. I really am Italian!

You kiddin’? No one doubted it but you. I mean look at you there’s no doubt.

Born in Jersey, big brown eyes, gorgeous thick layers of dark hair, and perfect skin, Lee’s mother was adopted, and she knew little of her origin other than she came from Italy as a small girl.

After all the laughter and chit-chat over the phone with my daughter about the fun things, a pause.

Mom, she says she’s at risk for Parkinson’s.

I’ll let you talk to Mom.

I’ve got the Parkinson gene.

I held the phone a second. Blindsided by this one. I fumbled out a sentence about how she had sixty years before she worried about Parkinson’s, and how either stem cell or gene therapy would cure it before then. I wanted to say something soothing, something wise – something her mother might have said – it came out awkward. No one I knew had had Parkinson’s.

Lee’s going to be marrying into our family, she’s twenty-three. After I took my DNA test at  23andme she wanted to take one, too. She said she wanted to have kids, and she thought she should have them early because she said her family didn’t live long. Odd, for a young woman to think that way I thought at the time; I would never have, but then I’m goal-less. She isn’t.

For Lee it wasn’t a simple decision that she was making as a very young woman. She was on the fast track with a full scholarship working towards a degree in chemical engineering. She talked about how she’d love to get into MIT. She’d been accepted to several choice colleges with scholarships.

We forgot about Parkinson’s for a while then she sent me an email.

  • >>>Are there any really early symptoms of Parkinson’s? Ones that develop in your 20s? I’ve done a little research but its very unclear.
  • >>>I think maintenance of this disease is what you are after. You may never get the disease, but I think even if you don’t get full scale Parkinson’s it will affect you, and from what I’ve seen it starts early, it just isn’t recognized early, because the body is young enough to fight it off or maybe repair itself. What they are finding now is that diseases are not just all go or all stop, but are partially expressed or maybe even minimally expressed depending on (protein folding) (?).
  • Also, glutamate is another part of the puzzle. There are toxins made in the brain that attack brain cells. Starting young is a must. This disease starts when you are born I am guessing, and progresses on an individual basis. I’m also guessing that if you figure out how it is personally geared to your body, you have a really good chance of pushing the disease further down the road, and not damaging your brain until either genetic cures or something comes from the SergeyBrin and Michael J. Fox research.
  • >>>So theoretically if I have it, my brain is already deteriorating? That explains a lot haha.
  • >>>I think that even if you don’t get Parkinson’s it will affect you slightly.
  • >>>Oh, you think that my brain is deteriorating?
  • >>>Oh, remove foot from mouth. Was never known for my diplomacy. Sorry.

Again, an awkward, unsatisfying answer for her, from me. So, I dug into Parkinson’s research, an unfamiliar area, to get answers for me and for her.

I was surprised to learn the positive things about Parkinson’s. It’s not your grandma’s disease anymore. In 2011, researchers are putting a new spin on an old syndrome.

  • After testing many drugs, the team found that phenylbutyrate could activate DJ-1 and keep dopamine neurons from dying. Next, they put the drug in the drinking water of mice genetically programmed to get Parkinson’s disease as they aged.
  • Aging mice receiving the drug were able to move normally, had no decline in mental function, and their brains did not accumulate the protein that causes Parkinson’s. By contrast, older animals that did not get the drug saw a steady decline in their ability to move as their brains were damaged by abnormal proteins. (Drug trials on Parkinson patients began in 2009)
  • Source: Drug Stops Parkinson’s in Mice, Human Trials Begin – ResearchersPublished by:Steven J Hendrikson 17th Mar 2011 | bySteven J Hendriks

The next ten years truly may truly be revolutionary in brain medicine. Neural cells from the most complex organ on earth are now grown from skin cells where they can be stressed and observed. Never before have living brain cells been so accessible. It’s an exciting time if you are researching Parkinson’s disease.

As I researched further, I was surprised by what I thought was a cut-and-dried disease, narrow in scope, treated easily with L-dopa, and a disease that one out of two older people will get eventually. A disease that Michael J. Fox has, that’s relatively rare in younger adults, but he looks fine (?) He’s wickedly funny, and talented – except now, when I see his performance on the “Good Wife,” and then read about his trials with this disease, his performance is more than impressive.

I was surprised to find a website for “Young People with Parkinson’s SA” that has links for young women who want to get pregnant who have Parkinson’s, reassuring them that they can have children. Richelle from Australia says, “I am a 22 year old who was given the title of a Parkinson’s sufferer at the age of 17. I decided there wasn’t enough information out there for people my age…” Australia’s second leading disease is Parkinson’s, and many younger Australians have Parkinson’s, more so than in the US. http://youngparkinson.wordpress.com/

I was surprised to learn that Parkinson’s is a syndrome. Syndromes are almost impossible to pin down or diagnose or cure. I was surprised to learn the energy it takes to live with it, the many forms it takes, how some people have any where from level one to level five stage symptoms and these can vary from hour to hour, depending on medication. And onset can range from juvenile to octogenarian.

I was surprised to learn that Nebraska is the king of Parkinson’s in the US. The Nebraska Chapter of American Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, says, “The world’s highest prevalence of Parkinson’s Disease of any region is in Nebraska, U.S.A. with 329.3 people per 100,000 population.” “The Amish, Nebraska, the area around the ferromanganese plants in Breccia (Italy) have rates of 407 per 1000, and the Parsi of Mumbai (India), have the highest rates with 328.3 per 1000 Parkinson’s in the world.” Agricultural states, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa known as the “Heartland Hub” have the highest rates for the US.

I was surprised to learn that southern Italy is home to Parkinson’s through the Contursi family. Jill Marjama-Lyons, MD, says “Perhaps the most famous family with inherited Parkinson’s disease is the Contursi family…in which sixty members of the same family over five generations were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.”

Most of all I was surprised to learn from Jill Marjama-Lyons’ and Mary Shomon’s book What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Parkinson’s Disease. Holistic program for Optimal Wellness that early diagnosis is very important. The disease is around at least 10 years, sometimes twenty years in submarine mode before a diagnosis is made. “The dopamine cells that die off in Parkinson’s disease are in such a small area of the brain” that a CT scan or MRI “of the brain is not able to show these microscopic changes, and most patient’s with Parkinson’s disease will have normal scans.”

During this time, 60-80% of the dopamine neurons will be killed before motor symptoms become evident. This time of submerged stealth may be a time for intervention. The earlier it is diagnosed the better the management of it.

There may be neuroprotective agents that might minimize brain neuron loss until a cure is indeed found like taking large doses of COQ10, and antioxidants to clean up the free radicals, maybe coffee and exercise, and much more that can be found in the book  What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Parkinson’s Disease. Holistic Program for Optimal Wellness

So, if you’re in your twenties, like Lee, and any of the five Parkinson genes discovered so far are yours, they might just be medically “actionable” or correctable, in the sense that you are an individual, and your body may be healthier than others, you have time on your side. You can make better decisions based on what new things you know about Parkinson’s research. You can comb the Internet, read research, read books written for and by those who have gone before you. You can ” Save Your Own Life” as Marie Savard, MD says in her book to patients.

You can choose not to live near farmlands with the pesticides like rotenone , and you can choose what you eat, what you don’t eat (wheat), and take antioxidants to forestall motor loss in your brain. You can do Pilates and Yoga or dance, any exercise that actively engages your mind at the same time as your body, you can take yourself out of stressful situations, and manage anger, rather than suppress anger, and put good things into your life that naturally trigger dopamine instead of gobble it up and plug your brain with Lewy bodies.

Lee was born into an era that will be the fastest changes in medicine in over a century. She may be the first generation to never know what it is like to live with Parkinson’s disease. She has a lot of reasons to be optimistic. And, if I were to give one bit of advice to Lee, or anyone who has the same DNA results, I’d say read  What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Parkinson’s Disease. A Holistic Program for Optimal Wellness. It is a wealth of knowledge about Parkinson’s disease written by a physician who deeply cares for Parkinson’s patient’s lives.

 

sled

Size 2 inches x 1 inch.

Geo Art Cache

‘A series of geocache trails created by artists.  Geo Art Caches are being hidden  . . . for you to find! IN A NUTSHELL: Geocaching is like treasure hunting with a GPS.’

NEW RELEASEImage

 

This guy’s book will cost 0.1 Bitcoin or approx. 2700 ripples if you care to convert your hoard to Bitcoin, which is about $11.64 (amirite or amiwrong?) When the book debuts on Amazon June 3, 2013,  it will cost $4.99 on Whisper net. It’s available pre-order on Amazon, only.

If anyone orders this book would you please let me know how easy (difficult) it was to buy the first book w/ Bitcoin.

BIOGRAPHY

CHOOSING YOURSELF by James Altucher, James Altucher is an American hedge fund manager, entrepreneur, and author. He has founded or cofounded over 20 companies, including Reset Inc. and StockPickr. Wikipedia

Found “Choose Yourself” review in a BUSINESS INSIDER story.

ALTUCHER QUOTE

I’ve made money, I’ve lost money. I’ve lost my home/family/friends. I’ve made some of the above back. I’ve gotten really lucky. Several times. With determination I’ll make it stick, and I think you will also.

 

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BURNING THE PAGE: THE EBOOK REVOLUTION AND THE FUTURE OF READING. It shows us how magic came to be. It tells the story about a modern day sorcerer, Jason Merkoski, who spent his life working on the “front lines of the ebook revolution.”

Like FAHRENHEIT 451 the page was burnt, destroyed in the most anarchic invention in the twenty-first century, the Kindle book. To save the page it was deconstructed from atoms, and resurrected to bits.

From paper to zeros and ones. From print to Kindle, and later from bits to bits, conceived on a screen and published onscreen. James Merkoski and the Amazon team quietly changed our lives, and changed a world-wide paradigm that’s been the thread woven into our daily life for centuries – the bound book.

It’s a narrative about the Kindle-dot-com – Amazon, about “Google, Jeff Bezos, and the ghost of Gutenberg. It’s a true story of the eBook revolution—what eBooks are and what they mean for you and me, for our future, and for reading itself,” but mostly it’s the intimate memoir of an inventor entwined w/ the memoir of the Gutenberg invention, the book from beginning to present.

It’s a love letter written to the book as we’ve known it and an elegy to it’s passing. It’s an imaginative glimpse into the new technology that has revolutionized reading and writing books; it is the socialization of books.

Digital books were available before the Kindle; only the Kindle caused a revolution in reading. Before that digital texts were the province of disparate publishers of history books, technical manuals, and fiction books, mostly from established writers like Stephen King. eBook publishing was reserved for the few forward thinkers, sometimes self-publishers, the techno-savvy who, early on, published eBooks in the digital space as a PDF file, a file both awkward and serviceable. The personal Kindle reader, and app, and the flexible-format MOBI file revolutionized eBooks.

The Kindle incarnation proved it could almost displace the much-loved book bound in leather, paper, and cloth with distinct smells and feels, and an almost living presence to bibliophiles. It begrudgingly won us over.

Burning the Page carries forward this astounding history that has happened right under our noses, in writing, story, and a style that begets “pastness, presentness, and futureness, joined by association” tying all these concepts together. It’s a complex style that works as best I can describe it.

Amazon Kindle books have breached the “third digital revolution” described by Neil Gershenfeld, “in which matter and information merge”, where things are turned into bits and bits are turned into things. James Merkoski captured a Gutenberg moment in his book just as one epoch is ending and another beginning. Book lovers and Technosociofiles will not want to miss this one.

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Daily Beast made an interesting point in a story about the Tsarnaev brothers. “For all the different labels that get attached to it—terrorism, serial killing, ethnic war—much of mass violence is actually one big thing: the attempt by a small group of nihilistic and idiosyncratic individuals to murder, indiscriminately, a great many more.” Every American Muslim’s Fear

In other words, this urge to “murder, indiscriminately,” that played out in the Boston Marathon bombing might be less political, and more the act of one or more garden variety psychopaths, who’ve found absolution through the “book of the guilty” by attaching themselves to to an ideology, terrorism.

It’s too common for caring people to look for THE reason when an unfathomable, mass murder occurs, but maybe because we know how to care, we’re overlooking the basic cause of the problem, the reason a teenager and his older brother became enthralled with extremist philosophy.

I can’t help but feel that one of the brothers is a psychopath. Or maybe both, but the one who seems the most pleased to perpetrate this act on the crowd he’s passing through, and the one who gives the appearance that he could pass Hare’s checklist for psychopathy, wearing the “mask of sanity“, is the baby brother.

Salon published “The Depressive and the Psychopath: At last we know why the Columbine killers did it” by Dave Cullen. There are many parallels between these two tragedies. The Salon story draws the surprising conclusion that the depressed Klebold did not lead the seemingly normal Eric Harris in the murders, as it appeared, but Harris, the psychopath lead Klebold.

Cullen writes, “He [Eric Harris] was sweet-faced and well-spoken. Adults, and even some other kids, described him as “nice.” But Harris was cold, calculating, and homicidal. “Klebold was hurting inside while Harris wanted to hurt people,” Fuselier says. Harris was not merely a troubled kid, the psychiatrists say, he was a psychopath.”

In reading the many stories on the Boston Marathon attack, generally Tamerlan is deemed leading his younger brother astray. But much like the Columbine killer’s profiles I believe the older Tamerlan was the depressive, religious brother, and Dzhokhar was the one who had the confidence to carry out their audacious plan. It could be that Dzhokhar played Harris the psychopath to Tamerlan (Klebold) the depressive; Dzhokhar kept Tamerlan focused and calm. Tamerlan kept Dzhokhar energized with his know how in inventing explosive devices.

The Tsarnaev brothers’ actions reflect something akin to school shooters, even though one of them was in his late twenties. They reflect a combined fantasy: an egocentric, self-serving wish for devastating, international notoriety, duplicity on a grand scale, and the completion of a homicidal urge against all those they hold in contempt, which is everyone except for the two of them.

Many similarities exist between these two sets of killers. Both chose guns and explosives to carry out their plans and schemes. The Columbine killers chose the United States as the backdrop for their drama, the Tsarnaev brothers chose the entire world for their staged drama.

Like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev were “gunning for devastating infamy on the historical scale.” On the surface their violent Tsarnaev acts look like they might be connected to a larger cause, which most likely will be true, but to what extent I would not predict.

Psychopathy is found across all ethnicity. Psychopathy is a trait that’s found in all religions: Muslim, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, name one. It’s found in CEO’s, doctors, lawyers, ministers. It’s found in men especially, women to a lesser degree. Psychopaths make up about four percent of the population.

I’m not sure what the Tsarnaev brothers saw during their childhood that would make them so disaffected from those they shared everyday life with, but I’m guessing it was bad. Genetics affect the DNA endowed psychopath profoundly if early childhood is harsh. It will be interesting to see what psychological profile is decided upon for the Tsarnaev brothers. I believe that the younger brother had many possible futures but with the same tragedy that extreme psychopathy brings.

stories that matter

THE EMERGENCE OF NOVEL IDEAS. Below is a blurb from the new site MATTER, which will introduce you to a journalism subscription concept that I’m excited about. It features emerging ideas on the fringe of our knowledge. If you’re like me you like to read magazine length, in depth stories about science, technology and the future. If you’re like me sometimes you like to listen to these stories or parts of them while you’re doing something else. Now you can. If you would like to download science journalism the length of a novelette to your Kindle or reader, you can. Read DO NO HARM, Why do some people want to cut off a perfectly healthy limb? Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID). for your introduction to MATTER, a Kickstarter project that consolidated MEDIUM and MATTER.

Stories that MATTER


MATTER is the new home for in-depth writing about the ideas that are shaping our future. We publish a single piece of extraordinary long-form journalism every month, from tales of corporate misdeeds and untold environmental scandals to stories of radical new scientific ideas and the people behind them.

We also think it’s crucial to find smarter ways to fund this kind of journalism. That’s why we’re building a community of readers, contributors and supporters who agree. For just 99c each month you can be part of it too.

Sign up today, and you’ll get:

• Access to all of our stories, including each month’s new release and our archive.
• Audio versions of every story, so you can listen on the go.
• E-book editions to read on your Kindle, iPad or Nook.
• The MATTER newsletter full of amazing links and tips from great writers.
• Editorial Board membership, so you can help shape the topics we cover.
• Exclusive Q&A sessions with the authors and editors of every story.And it’s easy to change your mind: you can cancel your Membership at any time with a single click.

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Bit Coin fascinates me not because it is a get-rich-scheme or a convenient way to buy weed off the grid, which I don’t smoke, but don’t mind if anyone else does, or because I’m a Libertarian with gold on hand, I’m not. Bit Coins are the perfect storm heading our way, and the perfect opportunity.

Bit Coins or Bit currencies are the tip of the “Fat Tail.” Fat tails “are events that appear highly unlikely to occur but that are earth-moving when they do.” Bit coin is the Cat 5 hurricane coming to you and me in the next five to ten years. It could be your best friend or your worst enemy depending on how world wide acceptance shakes out.

Bit currency is an emergent electronic payment system similar to Pay-Pal, which is an over simplistic way towards explaining it but about the best I can do. It’s an electronic money system whereby we all could become merchants. It’s a system where a few law abiding entrepreneurs now pay for a pizza or buy a WordPress site or sell yard sale items without a credit card or without cash. It’s a money-medium that’s convenient for not-so law-abiding people to buy and sell items, or move money they don’t want traced. It’s a money system without bill collectors. It’s permanent; you can’t get your money back. All sales are final.

Speculators are drawn to it. It has a future. It’s security is okay — that is until you cash out your cyber bits in exchange for dollars. That’s a crack in the system right now. There are robbers waiting to take your money when you cash out. It helps if you’re tech savvy. And, oh yea, speculators may try to crash the currency so they can buy it back from you when the price drops like it recently did. Or you may lose your encrypted back up file or accidentally wipe it out, and your Bit coins are gone. Yet, this nascent system is the tail end of the hurricane.

Since it’s an emergent system, it’s also similar to a snowflake or a termite cathedral or DNA replication or Wolfram’s computations where a pattern begins simply but generates complex designs over replication. Like DNA something pleasing might come from it like a baby or like the termite cathedral something not altogether likable. Emergent systems like Bit Coin don’t emerge in a vacuum, they bring other systems to the forefront with them, hence complexity.

Eric Schmidt, Googleplex person, says that by 2020 the entire world will be online. If so, we will want to buy and sell from our neighbors, which will include the entire world, which will require other emergent systems as helpers. If that’s so, a fairly secure Bit currency is going to be necessary, a stronger Maker culture will most likely be put in place, and a faster transportation system might have evolved.

We’ll need a world wide communication system to propel the buying and selling, and making, and a same day world wide system for delivery of concrete goods, and a maybe an unsettling shift in government. But like termites when disturbed governments are self-organizing, and seem to fare well after turmoil, coming back stronger and we should hope, more democratized.

A fairly secure Bit currency: Fairly secure but not absolutely secure Bit currency with a fast connection, and maybe free phones, is all that’s keeping us from buying instant art from an African artist in Timbuktu or hand knit wool socks from North Korea (well maybe more). The network doesn’t need to be absolutely secure, just secure enough. If products were cheap enough that I could afford to lose money on a small percentage of my purchases or sales, then it would would work as a currency. If we accepted a small loss it could work. It might be called fuzzy accounting for Bit currency instead of bank or credit card accounting where each penny is accounted for, and an over-priced transaction fee is charged.

A healthy Maker culture: Couple Bit currency/micro payments with a home or community based, Maker printer, and an artist living in Timbuktu, Africa, could send me her sculpture plan, created in her village, or the North Korean, homemaker could send me his sock design created in his village, ready to print anywhere in the world on a Maker printer in any suitable medium, be it yarn, wood, plastic, or steel. Or if the fat tail is really fat, and imaginative, those original North Korean socks could be delivered same day by a transport fueled with a NASA UW fusion rocket recently proposed to reach Mars within 30 days. Far fetched, maybe, but … I’m still waiting for my robot.

So, why should Bit currency matter to you and me? Bit currency is an emerging technology that’s going to revolutionize commerce. It may not stay in the present form but mutate into something we haven’t anticipated yet. Whatever it is when Bit Coin was unleashed it was like going through a gate that had a one way spring, there is no going back — Bit currency is here, and it’s a reality. Oh, yea, there are going to be Bit currency billionaires made just like railroad moguls and oil barons. Wouldn’t you like to be one of them.

burningpageOh, am I bad. Embarrassed myself on the last post about the Twitter Feed. Took the time to sign into twitter — @technosociofile. Now I get that the “Burning The Page” twitter site for Jason Merkoski’s book tweeted twice for me, attractive tweets advertising the released book in my Twitter account, Technosociofile. Where the account revoked came from is a mystery, but all is good, cause I now “get it.” I get why Twitter is awesome and why it’s a good resource for stories. Took me long enough. Sincerely, LMAO. Chalk up my ignorance to my ongoing digital literacy.

Somehow during a phone conversation I wandered into Nick Bilton’s Twitter feed. He writes Bits column for the New York Times. While I’m talking and clicking I tweeted that I’d read the first chapter of Burning the Page. Twitter message pops up goes something like your account has been revoked. Oh, well, big deal. It took me just a second after my phone conversation ended to see I had interrupted Bilton’s conversation tweeting about a book he may or may not review. Am I an unintentional spammer or just damn rude? Burning The Page: The eBook revolution and the future of reading is already on the Huffington Post this morning. Nick if you read this, sorry ’bout that.

Burning The Page” is a great name for a book, especially if it’s by Jason Merkoski, book innovator who worked on the Kindle team to bring us eBooks on reading devices. So, far I’ve read the first chapter, and it’s yellow with highlights on “far off futuristic ideas.” I got sidetracked though. Merkoski added a hyperlink to Twitter for gifts like a digitally-autographed cover for his book. Ooh, proper good, and wicked keen idea his, this Reading 2.0.

Only thing is I’m antisocial, and resist Twitter. I’m a novice. Technosociofile has a slightly used account, so much so that Twitter sends me an email saying it’s good to see you, it’s been sometime since you joined in the conversation. But Merkoski’s autograph lured me to Twitter.

Bilton’s feed is the only Twitter Feed that I follow. He gets the futuristic stuff right in his column. I read his referrals. I am embarrassed to say as a Technosociofile that a social network that’s as widespread as Twitter is pointless to me. I’m such a privacy freak that I break out in hives near Facebook, and like fellow techie-paranoids, I wipe out my last web info with the Google tool that asks if I want to erase it from the beginning of time. If I had more time I’d spend it tearing down my system and rebuilding it again, not Twittering.

What Twitter does give me is long form journalism in the form of Bilton’s excellent Tweets. So, I’ll pursue the in-depth stories through my email alerts for Bilton’s Tweets where I don’t sign on, and refresh that which should not be refreshed — Tweets. In the meantime, I’m anxious to get to chapter two of “Burning The Page.”

HACKING YOUR EDUCATION: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will

HACKING YOUR EDUCATION: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will

REVIEW: Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will


Dale Stephens says he wants to teach you how to navigate the Kafkaesque educational bureaucracy. If you are twenty-something buy this book, or if you are fifteen, and thinking about going to college read this book. If you feel helpless to find a job in this economy this book will have something concrete you can try like his “52 cups of coffee” focused networking, which isn’t anything new until Stephens tells his story, and why you should do the same.

In fact, the book was so full of new strategies and new ideas it wore me out reading about them. This isn’t your parent’s self-help book. This is real world stuff. If you can’t afford college, definitely read Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will.

Stephens talks about education like someone treading lightly through a mine field gingerly avoiding the financial education trap. He says that “there is a bubble in education and it is on the brink of bursting.” I agree.

Stephens says that “Universities do not train you for the real world: they exist to make money”; that an “MBA program is worthless”; that “schools can only teach what is settled”; that it “takes years for knowledge to become a part of formal curriculum.” And by then the expiration date on your education is stale.

Dale Stephens offers a path for the upcoming generation to get an education that is relevant, and not stale, and debt free, or at least less so that of those recent graduates who’ve spent a fortune on their masters degree, and work in the service industry when they graduate. He calls it UnSchooling or UnCollege.

UnSchooling is an educational philosophy that values learning over schooling. Dale Stephens says you need to “stop giving a s*** about grades and start building things.” He says ” Project-based learning is a style teaching in which students define problems they are interested in and then solve them with guidance from their teacher.” He talks about collaborative work groups instead of competition, creating a website and a personal portfolio, and networking with people who are interested in the same things you are interested in. He says make something.

Stephens says “hiring managers want to see experience. He says business has changed but education hasn’t kept up. He wants college age people to take their life into their own hands rather than handing it over to an institution that is trying it’s best to keep up in a fast moving century.

Stephens persuaded his parents to allow him to drop out of school in the fifth grade to school himself. It seems to have worked. He dropped into college then dropped out, again, forming a group to school himself. He founded UnCollege for non-traditional higher education. Stephens says he “agreed to write a book, never having written more than twelve pages.” The book is well-written. It’s more than readable, it’s enjoyable.

If Hacking Your Education . . . had a shortcoming it is that the book is ahead of it’s time. Degrees are still the currency that is valued, too often. The educational system is in flux. This might be the last decade for traditional education, but it is, yet, here. And, yes, Universities are a business first, but some are there to teach, to put the maker ideas into the curriculum.

Stephens probably had more financial and family resources available than a lot students heading for college, but he talks about strategies that work whether a learner has resources or not. He’s ingenious in his own life, and wants to teach others how to be ingenious. He asks for help from a friend or relative who works at Google, and gets a foot in a door he’s after. Too many will not have an uncle or friend of a friend at Google, or network connection in a high profile firm, but even that might surprise the ingenious student who buys 52 cups of coffee.

Saltypalette coins Technosociofile in Urban Dictionary.

Saltypalette coins Technosociofile in Urban Dictionary.

Technosociofile

Subspecies of nerd primarily interested in digital technology and the social implications and applications in a wired world. (Abbreviated TSF) A technosciofile may fall on a spectrum anywhere from “techie” to “socio.” May have issues with authority.

Type of benign hacktivist. Not exactly white-hat but not exactly malicious either. Some may seek notoriety.

“Just because you steal Wifi to watch Colbert, it doesn’t make you a technosciofile.”

“You may be a technosociofile if… you’re fascinated by Anonymous and paranoid about the FBI.”