Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, but first I need more coffee.

Month: November 2010

Where has the year gone?

Personally 2010 has been a decent year. I picked up a few new clients and I’m staying busy. We’ve been in our new house for one year. Had a lot of work done but there’s still more to be done. All minor repairs. However, for the US and the world in general 2010 has been the suck. And 2011 is shaping up to be a disastrous year. I named 2010 The Year of Destruction back in May and it has lived up to it’s name. I’m going to go ahead and name 2011 The Year of Needless Suffering.

Multi-Site Conversion

The steps to convert a WordPress 3 site to a muti-site isn’t too difficult but there doesn’t seem to be a way to convert one back. You can if you use WP Database Backup. You export only the single site tables and then you import the backup into new WP single site setup. I’ll outline the details in a future post.

What do you do?

I walk the dog once or twice a day. I take him on a circular route that goes south on the street. Sidewalks are patchy afterthoughts in our neighborhood. They'll go for half a block stop then pick up again on the other side of the street. This street I'm on curves in into a Y intersection. It goes around with a church on the left and right. Anyway, At the base of the Y is a recently reopened Chinese buffet. Behind it is a dumpster.

This evening I crossed the street from one sidewalk to another and as a I approached the dumpster I heard a loud voice talking. I thought, oh, it's some guy, probably an employee, talking on his cell phone. I could barely see his head when the dog stopped to do his business. Dog finished and we continued. 

Normally I throw the bag in their dumpster but decided to be polite and go across the street and put in another dumpster. As I passed him it became clear he was a crazy homeless person digging and eating out of the dumpster. He wasn't dressed too badly, shorts, light jacket, backpack and baseball cap. And he was about my age. I decided to give him a few bucks. I don't do this very much and I rarely tell anyone I give money to the homeless. I don't do it for the praise. I'm really not that generous. Just trying to help out someone down on their luck. I pulled out a five and walked back to the guy.

He was chowing down. He was eating something with great relish. I don't know what. I didn't want to know what. I said hey could you use some cash. He turned and said sure. He pulled his hand away from his mouth. It was covered in goop. Both hands were covered in goop. He took the cash and said thanks. And went back to his meal.   

And as I walked away, all I could think about was my friends who voted for Republicans to put them back into power and how those friends constantly argue that we should give tax cuts for the rich. And now the Republicans are dead set on extending Bush's tax cuts for the rich. I thought we've already seen what happens. These past eight years, the rich got richer, the poor got poorer and the middle class is disappearing. What fucking planet do I live on? Did I enter some alternate evil universe? Here we are in the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression and we have these huge deficits and huge need to help Americans at the end of their ropes. And the Democrats are too cowardly to stand up to the Republicans. 

Why no one ever listens to Cassandra

November 2 was an avoidable disaster for America. The election resulted in reactionary and militant Republican takeover of the House of Representatives. Granted the effects won’t be felt for months yet, and, as disasters go, it pales in comparison to misery suffered by the peoples of Haiti after its devastating earthquake and of Pakistan after its disastrous floods this year, but the long term effects will be felt by the entire world. The immediate effect is America’s middle class will continue to be decimated. Why does this matter? I believe that a strong middle class has been the hallmark of modern America for the last 60 years. It really was delivering life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But this middle class is also very destructive to the global environment. If everyone lived like middle-class Americans we’d need 5 or 6 Earths to sustain them.

Now maybe it’s more faith than reality, but I believe in what Buckminster Fuller said that we can live with a high standard of living using resources more efficiently. Bucky’s credo was "doing more with less". For example, a fiber optic cable can replace thousands of bulky copper wires at a cheaper cost and carry vastly more data. The copper can then be re-purposed. The fiber optic is made out of glass which is made out of dirt-cheap abundant sand. Not everything can see that much of an improvement, but you get the idea. Land available for farming is finite. Intensive agriculture can increase the yields only so much but at a cost of ultimately degrading the land and making it unusable. Permaculture may be one way to save it. But I digress.

As the world population grows and demands placed upon the natural systems come under increasing stress, the US not only faces collapse so does the rest of our global civilization. Now, there are lessons to be learned from past cultures when they faced collapse. Jared Diamond wrote about this very thing in his same titled book. So I’m going to quote the last two paragraphs from Chapter 8: Norse Greenland’s End in Collapse:  How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005), pp. 275-276.These I believe are the most applicable to our current situation.

After almost 5 centuries the Norse who settled Greenland died out.  Yet the Inuit who lived in Greenland at the same time survived.  Jared Diamond examines a number of societies in his book.  Some of those societies chronicled did adapt to their changing environment and survive. Or rather they realized they were destroying the support systems of their own environment. If there is a lesson to be learned that applies to America today it is the fate of the Norse in Greenland.  The lesson fails if you don’t accept there is a climate problem, a water problem, a land problem, a general overuse of resources problem or that power and wealth concentrated in the hands of a few is a problem.  For those of us who do they’ll note the structural similarities between Norse society and American society today. Emphasis mine:

Finally, power in Norse Greenland was concentrated at the top, in the bands of the chiefs and clergy. They owned most of the land (including all the best farms), owned the boats, and controlled the trade with Europe. They chose to devote much of that trade to importing goods that brought prestige to them: luxury goods for the wealthiest households, vestments and jewelry for the clergy, and bells and stained glass for the churches. Among the uses to which they allocated their few boats were the Nordrsesta hunt, in order to acquire the luxury exports (such as ivory and polar bear hides) with which to pay for those imports. Chiefs had two motives for running large sheep herds that could damage the land by overgrazing: wool was Greenland’s other principal export with which to pay for imports and independent farmers on overgrazed land were more likely to be forced into tenancy, and thereby to become a chief’s followers in his competition with other chiefs. There were many innovations that might have improved the material conditions of the Norse, such as importing more iron and fewer luxuries, allocating more boat time to Markland journeys for obtaining iron and timber, and copying (from the Inuit) or inventing different boats and different hunting techniques. But those innovations could have threatened the power, prestige, and narrow interests of the chiefs.  In the tightly controlled, interdependent society of Norse Greenland, the chiefs were in a position to prevent others from trying out such innovations.

Thus, Norse society’s structure created a conflict between the short-term interests of those in power, and the long-term interests of the society as a whole. Much of what the chiefs an clergy valued proved eventually harmful to society. Yet the society’s values were at the root of its strength as well as of its weaknesses. The Greenland Norse did succeeded in creating a unique form of European society, and in surviving for 405 years as Europe’s most remote outpost. We modern Americans should not be too quick to brand them as failures, when their society survived in Greenland for longer than our English-speaking society has survived so far in North America. Ultimately, though, the chiefs found themselves without followers. The last right that they obtained for themselves was the privilege of being the last to starve.

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