April Showers Bring May Flowers…

12 May 2018

…at least, that’s how it works here in Sacramento.

jasmine bush

Jasmine bush growing in my backyard.


columbine flowers

Columbine in garden just down the street.


catalpa tree

Catalpa tree next to the school.


Dietes - African iris

African iris – genus Dietes – in a school parking lot.


bottlebrush flowers

Bottlebrush in parking lot of a suburban shopping center.


flowering tree

Flowering tree in the neighborhood.


evening primrose flowers

Evening primrose – genus Oenothera – spilling onto the sidewalk.


privet bush flowers

Privet bush in Howe Park.


honeysuckle flowers

Honeysuckle in Howe Park.


wild iris also known as flag

Wild iris – also known as Flag – in Howe Park.


lobelia flowers

Lobelia in native plants garden.


yarrow

Yarrow in native plants garden.


lupine flowers

Lupine. This is near the volunteer center at William B. Pond park.

These next three are the most profuse flowering plants in American River Parkway. You can find fields full of these plants. The major larger plant in these areas is the Elderberry – see previous post.

vetch flowers

Vetch photographed in Michigan in 1971.


cow parsnip flowers

Umbels of cow parsnip flowers.


yellow rocket flowers

Mustard family plant – probably yellow rocket.

The following plants can be found along the bike path in large quantities. They enjoy full sun, but will also grow in shady areas.

blackberry flower with bee

Blackberry flower being visited by a bee.


thistle flower

Thistle.


hawkweed

Hawkweed grows closer to the ground.


wild rose

Wild rose – not that common in the parkway.


california poppies

California poppies.

You may have to leave the bike path (as I did) to find these plants. They are better known as woodland wildflowers, and the bike path runs along the edge of the riparian (riverside) woodlands, but not so much through them.

st john's wort

St John’s wort.


mint

A less conspicuous mint.


mint-related plant

A mint-related plant favoring shady areas.


fleawort

The homely plantain, now called fleawort to reduce confusion with the banana. Genus Plantago.

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Traffic and Wild Fruits – Connected?

6 May 2018

Sometimes working things out requires physical models. In this case the results were equivocal. The problem was: If you wanted to design a road system that would not require traffic lights to handle intersecting flows, what would it look like? Well, you’d probably have to separate the traffic into two levels (not totally necessary, but more compact) At the intersections you’d have to route the crossing flows around each other.

In another system, all the streets would be one-way, and the direction would alternate every block. To get through a city (or neighborhood) you’d have to “wiggle” back and forth through the grid.

I got these ideas from two videos reporting on new designs for intersections that use fewer road signs and no traffic lights. The videos said these designs were working better (allowing a smoother flow of cars with fewer accidents) than traditional intersections. This seems to result from a combination of spatial and psychological factors.

Urban Design

This is just one small example of what some people are thinking about concerning the broader subject of urban design. Did I mention going to a meeting about a new light rail station in an earlier post? Same basic topic.

Urban Design is linked to Urban Planning, or Land Use Planning. Urban Design is considered the more embracive subject. Planning is more directly involved with political control.

San Francisco plaza

A view of San Francisco’s Vaillancourt Fountain, in a plaza near the old ferry terminal. This is from 1977. The fountain was installed in 1971.

In trying to find out more about what people involved with this subject are thinking and doing, I searched online using several search strings that I thought would be important to the subject. However, it seems most others did not consider most of those topics that important. Which is to say, I didn’t find a lot of helpful material.

Henry George and Garden Cities

I did run across the subject of Garden Cities. These were first proposed in England by one Ebenezer Howard, who, according to Wikipedia, was inspired by American writers Edward Bellamy (Looking Backward) and Henry George (Progress and Poverty). I have read both of those books!

Really only one (you can count more) garden city was ever constructed in England, named Letchworth. The historically recent push for sustainability in urban design has created renewed interest in the Garden City concept. This resulted in “The Letchworth Declaration” of 2014, put forward by a new Community Interest Company named New Garden Cities Alliance. The declaration upholds the values of Sir Howard, including in particular the idea that the land of the city should be held by the community in trust. This is very similar to Henry George’s vision. It totally changes the traditional rules regarding land ownership, but has a more favorable history in the UK than it does in the US.

Land Ownership

If a community is unable or unwilling to take ownership of its land and charge rent to those wishing to use that land, then a Garden City degrades into a nice-looking suburb, as has happened with most attempts to create such cities in other places, especially the US. This seems to be a fundamental problem in changing the way cities form, particularly in the US, but more conspicuously in most large cities in the developing world. In those cities, the landowners have refused to build any kind of housing for poorer people, and the poor who moved to the cities were forced to build their own “cities” according to their own rules. Thus the favelas of Rio de Janeiro are much more than just “slums” as we would think of them. In the US, the original slums were created when tenements built for immigrants or poorer workers were abandoned by their original communities and rented out to new waves of immigrants, and left to run down until land owners were forced to demolish them or cities were forced to replace them. In Rio the favelas were built by their occupants, and this remains the case to this day. In 2010, over 11 million people lived in favelas in Brazil. This is more than the entire population of New York City.

I thought that land ownership, land owners, and the decisions they make about how to use their urban land would be a major topic related to the subject of urban development, design, and planning. But most writers (after George) avoid the topic. Apparently the debate is considered closed. In the US at least, land owners have the right to decide how to use their land (as long as it is not overtly destructive) and can sell the deed to their land to anyone they want for any price they want.

portion of the Railyards property, Sacramento

The above-pictured land has stood vacant very near the downtown of Sacramento for about 20 years. It is currently owned by a local developer who promises to start building on it. However, the year 2017 came and went with no significant work done. Below is the same view from a slightly different perspective.

homeless tent overlooks the railyards

This tent has one of the nicest views in the entire city (campers are periodically removed from this site, but tend to get bothered less during the colder months). Why does this overpass exist? Because the city built it and another one in 2015 to connect the new development to downtown. And when the development finally gets built, the various community agencies that provide police, fire protection, sewage, water, garbage collection, electricity and gas will obligingly re-tool and expand into the area. But how will they recoup the costs associated with doing this? George said: Charge the owners rent. If the owners of this land had to pay Sacramento-sized rent on all this property, would they continue to leave it vacant? George hoped the answer would be, “No.” But apparently Georgism in the US has been canned for the duration…And the Railyards remain vacant.

Who decides how to use the land?

When you are a homesteader sitting on your 160 acres (the Railyards cover 240 acres) you get to decide where to put the well, the house, the chicken coup, the cow pasture, the corn field or whatever. Seems fair. But what if that land is in a city?

200 acres is enough land to host one or more companies employing thousands of people, the housing, schools, clinics, restaurants and parks for those people, and probably much more. You don’t have one user, you have thousands. And you don’t have one landowner, you have (maybe) hundreds. They all have to develop their land in a way that eventually fits together with everyone else. And they might be able to do it. But it’s a sure thing that various agents for the community (or its government) are going to be looking over their shoulders and trying to influence certain outcomes.

“Modern” urban developments commonly go through years of design, planning, and approvals before the developers get the go-ahead. This isn’t the way it always was. I don’t think it is even known how the ancient cities of Europe, Asia and Africa were built. There was probably a central planner/designer, but this data seems to be lost. We know that many of these cities were rebuilt following wars, fires, floods and similar catastrophes. And not always with as pleasing results as in older times. Certainly, the majority of US cities could easily be described as “ugly.” Or as having a “disorganized” look about them. They certainly have not responded well to various economic/cultural/political changes in the past. When agriculture got mechanized, and more factories got built near urban transport hubs, were the cities ready for the inrush of new workers from the countryside? The stories I read point to the contrary. When old electric trains and trolleys were torn out and replaced with wide streets for cars, then freeways for cars, were the cities ready for that change? It seems not. And when the welfare system started dumping its failed cases into the streets of urban America, I don’t see that going very well, either.

Perhaps it is time to take a different approach to the problems that cities were built to solve.

Did cities “evolve” from rural settlements?

Students of ancient history seem to agree that something happened on Earth that led to the need for cities. Cities began developing in a big way around 3,500 BC. The city of Mohenjo-Daro in India, estimated to have been built about 4,000 years ago, is noted for its “urban planning” including some form of plumbing. It shared its layout pattern with several other sites occupied by that same civilization.

With historical scholarship as it stood in the early 1900s, historians and archeologists of those times had to assume that the humans who built and occupied those ancient cities somehow worked it all out, all by themselves. But with what we know now, there is no excuse for that theory to stand as the only one, or still very dominant one. It is much more likely that something more interesting than that was going on back then.

And in that possibility – probability – lies the key to a new approach. We have already developed part of that new approach: Computer design and simulation techniques. We still need the other part: An understanding and certainty on what we are doing on Earth, firmly supported by our own ability to recall similar situations in the past.

At this point in my own development, I’m not sure where such a certainty will lead us. The intention is that we “get it right” this time, or at least more right. We have an opportunity today that is close to unique in the history of the universe. We are now able to combine human compassion with the willingness to use advanced technologies. In our own written history, we have no obvious prior experience with a situation like this. But in our longer history, we have many such experiences. If we can humanize our technocracy so that self-destructive impulses don’t ruin our future on Earth, then we have a chance to bring something new to the table.

Of Fig trees and Freeways

Unripe fig cut open.

My fig sample.

This fig came from a tree growing underneath a freeway in Sacramento’s American River Parkway. I’ve never had a change to look inside an unripe fig before. Perhaps the figs there will be ripe in another month or so. But, what will happen to them?

flowering plum trees Seattle

Here is a lovely row of flowering plum trees near the Queen Anne area of Seattle. How do I know they are plum trees? Because every summer their fruit ripens and falls on the sidewalks, making a big mess. How many people could those plums feed if they were harvested? Same question could be asked about the figs under the freeway in Sacramento. I know the animals there don’t eat them all. Besides, the animals also have wild grapes, blackberries and goodness knows what other treats growing in their park. With a little effort, all these plants could also provide human food. Elderberry flowers are edible, and the fruit also has many uses. The park is full of elderberries.

elderberry bushes in sacramento park

Elderberry bushes heavy with berries.

People could also be growing plants like this in their suburban gardens. Some do, but they don’t harvest the fruit. At a house just down the street stands a fine lemon tree, still holding its (I am sure now less than edible) fruit from last year!

OK, so maybe it would be more efficient to have urban orchards (like they do in Village Homes in Davis) and hire someone to harvest the fruit and get it into the hands of people who want to eat it. So, let’s do it! All I know is, that if I get a chance, I’ll be enjoying some great figs, wild grapes, blackberries, almonds and goodness knows what else courtesy of my local park.

The point is, a lot of functions that get overlooked or forgotten could be integrated into urban life (at least in a town like Sacramento) if someone just became a little more aware of what is possible. We need people thinking about things like this, and those people should be people like us. We have a chance this time to get it right. Will we blow it?

People Like to Talk…and News

1 May 2018
family reunion people talking

A few examples from the Pritchard Family Reunion of summer 1980…

For some reason it struck me last night as it never really had before: People like to talk!

What was missing?

Several weeks ago I was riding on a bus, and I saw a small placard inviting me to “help us design the new Dos Rios light rail station!” They were having a meeting on 10 April, and I managed to attend. It was rather fun (we got to talk!). But what I was more intent on was: What’s wrong with modern society in general and my life in particular, and how do I fix it?

people talking at a family reunion

I have this whole writing project I’ve engaged on (which I swear no one reads – don’t worry about hurt feelings; not like I didn’t expect it…) which envisions a future where a lot of the big picture questions are getting solved. It involves Scientology. It involves Permaculture. But it also involves something else. I don’t have a good word for it, and I wasn’t sure I really understood it. In Africa they have a word for it: ubuntu. In the West what this usually translates to is “community.”

“Community”

Though the word technically derives from Latin for “common,” it just screams to be re-interpreted as “communicating in unity.”

I heard a lot about community at the transit station design workshop. In fact, I hear about this topic quite often regarding urban land use, and modern life in general. As far as I can tell, the whole concept starts with just giving people the opportunity to sit down together and talk.

I watch a lot of videos. Now my most favorite videos are the ones on Scientology TV. But why do I like these videos? Why do I keep downloading them or watching them on the internet? …Because they mostly consist of people talking. On the internet it’s usually called an “interview.” And in a lot of the new Scientology videos I’m watching, the people are also in an interview situation, but the questions from behind the camera are edited out. I recently saw a great one about an artist who makes chandeliers. Modern chandeliers; quite dazzling works of art, but also useful. And this man was just so animated in telling about how he came to this work, and what the work is like for him; it was delightful to watch him talk.

And yesterday I realized that’s what’s missing. Now, I’m not too unhappy because I find these videos and watch them. I even sit around sometimes and talk with the people I live with! When I’m traveling I often talk to fellow travelers. And when I go to these design meetings I also get a chance to talk. But I still don’t feel like I’m sufficiently in communication. After all, I’ve learned a lot about life and now I want to talk about it.

How must it be for other people? Even if they saw the placard in the bus and were interested, the meeting was scheduled on a Tuesday afternoon; most people work – they can’t make it to a meeting scheduled in the middle of the day. I love to go to such meetings, because I don’t like to travel alone at night. But what other chances are most people getting to sit around and talk?

Do they do this in schools? I don’t know. They didn’t do it that much when I was going to school; probably the best class I had for that was art class. We sometimes had “discussions” in English class, but is that the same as just sitting around talking?

my relatives at a reunion in 1980

The big time to talk at school and at work was lunch time. And lots of people took advantage of that when I was going to school, and I imagine still do. Same when I was working in places that had lunch rooms or Mess Halls. I have also seen many images of people gathering together in urban parks in the evening (weather permitting), or in various indoor venues. Do people still do this?

Suburban life has cut off two or more generations from the “community meeting place” that was common in cities in earlier times. Some still find such places, while others try to substitute radio or TV shows, or now internet activities. But I’ll tell you, downloading interviews and watching Scientology TV wouldn’t be nearly as fun for me if I weren’t forced to do it at my local Starbucks, where I can find enough connection bandwidth to stream larger files. In my recent travels I have visited several coffee shops, not in search of coffee (which I don’t drink) but in search of an internet connection. But I also found a relaxed environment where people can sit and talk. Imagine that!

Now when I see someone, particularly someone younger, staring into their mobile device, I understand it this way: They are looking for someone to talk with.

And when I write on this blog or my other ones, I am doing much the same thing. I actually communicate with a few other people who have blogs. They write back, either on email or in the comments. It’s fun.

Making time to talk

But in too many environments, interactions like this just don’t seem to happen much. Some bus or train stops have no benches, or the benches don’t face each other, or they are out in the sun or the wind or the rain, so no one will use them. At work, of course, people are busy. They don’t have time to talk, except about work. Well, that’s OK, people have to work. But do you realize that futurists once predicted that technology advances in the workplace would give us all more free time (shorter work days) while still earning a good living? I think that could still happen. But obviously, there’s someone out there who doesn’t want people to get into better communication. We should realize that’s a situation, and just not agree with it. Communication is too important to be ignored when it needs to happen.

In other news…

girl reading Way To Happiness

This girl is also in communication. In this case, with the author of the book she is reading. Reading is a little one-sided, but it’s the best communication method most authors have been able to come up with.

I shot these photos last weekend at “Kid’s Day” in Rancho Cordova. I’m glad I went and volunteered at one of our booths. Lots of good relaxed communication took place. Some people were uptight about our anti-drug message. But all the kids liked it!

Earlier last week I volunteered at a Way To Happiness booth at “Jail Expo” in the Sacramento Convention Center. We met all sorts of interesting people, including a woman who had raised four foster kids. She really wanted to talk about her experience doing that. Well, she got her chance. My photo, however, is just a general scene from our booth.

I won’t try to cover current events, except to make the observation: Things would probably be going better if people would just sit down and talk. They should realize that there is someone out there that doesn’t want us to get to know each other better and make friends with each other. Well, we should just recognize that and go ahead and make friends anyway.

Installing Linux on an HP Stream 11

25 April 2018

linux mint desktop

The Stream series of portable computers from Hewlett-Packard (HP) are low-cost and rather bare bones devices for connecting to the internet.

I have a Stream 7 which is a tablet and runs Windows 8 (the first version of Windows that introduced various features to desktops that formerly were only used on portable devices like smartphones). And I have a Stream 11 which is a small notebook that has just a little more disk space than it needs to run its OS (operating system) which was Windows 10.

One day while sitting somewhere (probably my church’s café), I got a message that the computer needed to install a security update, but did not have enough disk space to do so. I was not able to reduce the unused space on the disk to the point where the update could be done. What could I do about this?

One alternative would have been to get a bigger disk. I could do this by purchasing a little gizmo called a “Micro SD” card. These are basically thumb drives in a special package designed to be installed more or less permanently in a host device, like a digital camera. They aren’t very expensive; it was an option.

But, I don’t like Microsoft products (like Windows) that much, and am always trying to find excuses to replace them with something else. The “ultimate” anti-Microsoft operating system is Richard Stallman’s GNU/Linux. Loaded onto “free” hardware (no proprietary firmware or hardware-related software – drivers) it creates a totally free computer system. I usually settle for a compromise. The HP hardware is no way totally “free” and I believe there is some proprietary software associated with reading some media files I use that are very popular. So I decided to try Linux Mint. Mint is a Linux distro that is meant to look and behave almost exactly like Windows. The rationale is that if Linux can attract Windows users, they might never go back to Windows. A full install of Mint would require maybe 10GB of disk space, whereas Windows 10 was taking around 20GB.

The UEFI

The Stream 11, like most recent computers, uses the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) on its motherboard, instead of a Basic Input/Output System (BIOS). The UEFI is implemented with much more modern hardware, and supports stricter security protections. In fact, a manufacturer can use UEFI settings – if it wants to – to limit its motherboard to just one type of operating system.

Thus, updating recent hardware from Windows to Linux can be chancy. Will it work?

Getting a Linux disk

These days the standard way to obtain a Linux install disk is to download the disk “image” (a huge file showing exactly what the final disk should look like) and then burning it to a DVD-ROM on your own DVD drive. The HP Stream has no optical drives. So I had to obtain the image (.ISO) file then burn it to disk on a computer that does have an optical drive. Then I had to get out my portable DVD ROM reader, put the DVD in there, and connect it to the HP Stream. And then I had to get the HP Stream to boot from the attached drive instead of the installed boot partition. This is done by pressing the ESCAPE key when powering up the Stream and selecting the appropriate items from the text-based menu that appears.

escape key

Install

Like most recent versions of Linux, Mint detected the presence of the UEFI and presented me with a variety of special options to deal with it. I needed to install proprietary hardware drivers, and this can be a potential problem for the UEFI (per on-screen instructions) but did not seem to be a problem in this case.

Then I had to decide whether Windows would co-exist with Linux or be totally replaced. In this case, I wanted total replacement. The installer reported to me what disk partitions it was going to create over the old ones and then started the process. The whole thing went rather smoothly.

On reboot, I feared the worst, as the UEFI presented a screen telling me it could not find the operating system (Windows).

But all I had to do was press ESCAPE again, and there after F9…

startup menu

…were a list of boot options that included the new Linux.

UEFI boot options

So: The installer was unable to erase the fact that Windows was the expected default OS on this machine. But it was able to tell the UEFI that a new OS had been installed. Like most Linux distributions, software called “grub” is used as the boot manager. Here is the options screen it displays:

Linux Mint

linux mint password screen

Linux Mint is a very nice OS. It is based on the very popular Ubuntu, but has a special desktop environment that makes it look almost the same as Windows 7. It has an Update Manager just like Windows, and also a software installer called Software Manager. My browser needed immediate updating in order to run videos properly, and now everything runs smoothly. As I only use the Stream to watch the Scientology TV channel and download files occasionally, the OS will never get a full test on this machine. But at least the bulk of Windows 10 and the programs that came with it is gone.

Marijuana

8 April 2018
wild hemp Iowa farm

Relatives inspect a wild hemp plant, found on a farm in Iowa during a family reunion, summer 1980.

Yesterday I attended an event concerning marijuana use in California. The event was sponsored by my church and featured Bishop Ron Allen as the speaker. Dr. Allen is a long-time opponent of teenage drug use, and an ex-addict himself. The group attending was very small. There was only one person present who had a problem with a person she was close to and needed those kinds of answers. The rest of us were concerned with how best to counter the effects of legalization in California, and in particular in the Black communities. The church has developed an education program called Truth About Drugs which is operated by the Foundation for a Drug Free World. Bishop Allen has a more faith-based approach, but uses the Truth About Drugs materials. He has started his own group, called the International Faith Based Coalition. Its mission is to get effective drug education programs into all churches and being delivered to all young people.

But on that Saturday afternoon, with the eight or ten others that shared the room, Bishop Allen was mostly worried. He had come to realize that some of the government agencies that you’d expect to want to prevent drug use were instead pushing for legalization, supposedly due to the potential revenues from excise taxes. He found that they were buying into spurious and dishonest claims being made by pro-drug groups. And he recognized that the “black market” selling marijuana to minors continued to grow, with their costs now reduced due to legalization. He was also troubled by the continued problems in the black communities in dealing with drugs, crime and violence. He warned that the current focus on white-on-black violence was avoiding the more painful and prevalent issue of black-on-black violence, and of the broader problem of violence and war in human society. “All lives matter!” he said. And he repeated this many times.

All Lives Matter!

In embracing this concept, Bishop Allen to some extent turns away from teachings that require unwavering devotion to a deity but instead see deity in all people. Another way of stating this belief or awareness is: “What you do in life matters.” In other words, if an individual makes good choices, the effects of this will be felt by many others around him, and perhaps even improve the general environment. Conversely, if an individual makes poor choices, similar ripple effects will occur. This awareness is very similar to the awareness of connectedness that many who pay attention to the spiritual side of life acquire. This contrasts with the separateness that is implied or expressed in the popular pursuit of material advantage. Thus, Bishop Allen is confronted by a conundrum (puzzling problem) that has confounded the best thinkers of the ages.

Drugs

The Foundation for a Drug Free World pushes the message that all drugs are poisons. Biologically-created poisons are known as toxins. Toxin is a back-formation from toxic which comes from a Greek word for the poison used on arrows. The word “intoxicated” shares this root meaning. We start from this as our stable datum concerning drugs. If an overdose of something can kill you, then it is a drug. Otherwise, it is merely food, or a food-like substance, like vitamins. Certain drugs are also known as narcotics, the Greek root of that word meaning “numb.”

Because pain relief can be medically useful, the worlds of medicine and narcotics have become crossed – and have been so for a very long time. This should be understood as a problem of biology. However, the mind, and the mental effects of drugs, go beyond biology. This is the difficult point that many reach when trying to understand drugs, as many persons of this world don’t recognize the existence of any living thing beyond the realm of biology. In this they are most certainly mistaken.

Because pain and confusion can exist in the mind independent of the state of the body, the subject of drugs also crosses over into the realm of the spirit. This is one reason why churches are quite rightly involved and concerned. They can see this clearly; particularly those like Bishop Allen, who have been through the experience of addiction.

Addiction

Can physical and mental addiction be separated? Researchers say, “yes.” Spiritual people are not so sure.

A web article published by rehabs.com states:

In many ways, physical and psychological [addiction] are identical in that they activate similar brain regions.

The difference involves what happens when a person is deprived of the drug. Do they experience simple mental torture, or actual physical withdrawal symptoms (plus the mental torture)? That’s the difference. So we are talking about a difference of degree. One argument made about marijuana is that it is not physically addictive. But it is mentally addictive. Some call mental addiction “dependency.”

Imagine, if you can, that you have the body of a robot. Your body works on electricity which is supplied by some sort of power pack that is designed to run for years. You have been taken out on a long space tour, and you miss your robot buddies back on the home planet. You are sad about this, as you see no way of returning to your friends. You discover that when your smell sensors are overwhelmed by the presence of certain solvents (such as alcohol) in your environment, you forget about your lost friends, and switch to a different line of thought. So, to relieve your sadness, you seek out such solvents, and hover over them. You, a robot, have started on your path towards addiction. With a machine body, you could never get physically addicted to anything; you don’t eat or drink! Here on Earth your problem would be classified as psychological addiction, or dependence.

An addicted robot? OK, perhaps a little far-fetched. But I wanted to stress the mental component of addiction and by extension, the spiritual component. In the end, it is the spiritual being who is addicted. And this is backed up by numbers: The most effective drug rehab program is Narconon, and that program addresses the being, not just the body (detox). Though withdrawal can kill a body, it is mental attachment, not physical attachment, that drives addiction.

Medicine versus Salvation

It has been the hope of Ron Hubbard, from the beginning of his work, that medicine, science, and spirituality could someday be harmonized into an overarching theory and practice that would handle any human condition.

However, it appears that medicine, as an institution (“trade union” as LRH has called it) has come to see spiritual practices as a threat. In this we see that some “doctors” have walked away from the ideals of medicine and into some other realm, which could – frankly – be labeled as criminal. This is an unhappy circumstance, as most practicing doctors would not agree with this. They still want to make their patients permanently better, and they haven’t given up hope about this. Those currently in control, however, seem to have different ideas.

Ron came to understand this to be a “dramatization.” A compulsion to display non-optimum conduct for reasons that have been totally buried and seem to be totally lost. But Ron’s Tech can handle dramatizations. It works on many drug addicts. It could also work on many doctors.

Meanwhile, though, we have a problem. Organized medicine is opposed to many health-giving therapies because they aren’t medical! They have been pushing an anti-spiritual, anti-religion message for decades, only recently slightly relenting in the face of the overwhelming popularity of some of the simpler non-medical practices, such as meditation and acupuncture.

Whole industries have been built up that take advantage of various human weaknesses and conditions. So now we have business people and bankers also being lured into the criminal attitude that a sick population is better for business than would be a healthy population.

The Role of Government: Decriminalization versus Legalization

I have expounded in other places about the problem that government has with crime. It is summed up in the phrase: “If you can’t beat them, join them.” This is considered to be sound political advice. However, it contains a connotation of deceit, in that you could remain an enemy of a group while pretending to join it, and thus operate within the group as a traitor.

I have proposed – and this is not a new idea – that many people in government, if not whole governments, have been taken over by criminal interests because the criminals appeared stronger than the honest people they victimize. They are certainly not spiritually stronger, but in the physical universe – especially if given superior physical weapons – criminals can appear to be the stronger force.

This has been and will continue to be a problem for beings who want to do right. The most workable strategy has been to use spiritual strength to one’s advantage. Scientology adds the discovery that you can actually improve, or rehabilitate, the spiritual strength of someone if they decide to stay honest. Thus what we see playing out here on Earth – in really just its beginning stages – is an attempt by honest beings to recover control over the institutions of Earth, fought against by criminals using technologies of an increasingly devious and destructive nature.

These technologies very much include Bernay’s approach to marketing and public relations, which involves taking advantage of human psychological weaknesses.

So you have a situation on the planet now where the economy has stagnated and in some sectors collapsed. Governments, which depend on healthy economies for their own existence, become desperate for funds to continue providing the public services that the population expects from them. And so they become open to arguments that law enforcement costs would reduce and tax revenues could increase by legalizing (but taxing) activities that have become popular in the culture, but were previously seen as illegal. While some governments have only reduced criminal penalties for some acts (such as possession of marijuana – decriminalization) in the hopes of increased revenues from fines, others have opted for legalization for adults, as has been done with cigarettes and alcohol, expecting, we presume, even better economic outcomes.

The situation is further confused by the fact that centralized legal systems have never served the population well, and so popular sentiment is often in favor of fewer prohibitions. From the viewpoint of an honest citizen, this is a justifiable position. Laws are routinely used selectively on the population, enforced on persons that are dissidents or rivals, and not enforced on friends and family. There is also a significant and undeniable legacy of false and forced imprisonment across the planet and down through the ages, used by governments to prolong the reign of leaders or cabals who have outlasted their tenure of popular support. It is a common criminal practice, sometimes referred to as a “frame-up.”

That police departments continue to work with churches and the Foundation for a Drug Free world in anti-drug education programs and other forms of community outreach attests to the basic goodness and decency of people – particularly those who have pledged to work for the public good – but not in all instances, unfortunately, can the same be said for their political leaders or funding sources.

In the face of this morass of ethical and moral confusion at the leadership level, the question of whether or not to legalize becomes irrelevant. Leadership must first decide to unconfuse itself and start to lead for real. Leaders in government could then begin to serve their communities in some useful way, and would rise up out of the criminal situation where so many of them currently find themselves.

A vision based on reality

In the real world, for ages past and for ages to come (I hope), people will do what they decide to do. Yes, laws can serve as guidelines towards the better path. But they can never replace the resolution of a being to pursue his choice, no matter what. Thus, a “legal system” based on guilt and punishment will never fulfill its purpose of improving conditions, but will tend to worsen conditions. Only a legal system based on education and real understanding could hope to do that. Where beings lose hope that they could ever attain their ideals, the improvement of conditions becomes impossible. Thus, absent a general improvement in the population on the subject of happiness, a general improvement of the human condition on Earth (or anywhere else for that matter) will not occur.

Thus, this vision starts with The Way to Happiness. I wish there were other choices I could recommend; I know of none that do the work of this book, without once mentioning God, heaven, or scriptures. We need a universal moral guide, and this is the only one I am aware of that exists on Earth. In it are our stable data, the foundation on which a better society may be built.

Next, groups need purposes to survive as groups. Put otherwise, they need games, goals, visions of the future to work toward. The lowest common denominator purpose on Earth has been war. That has to change…but not necessarily that much. How do you turn a game from something destructive for the larger group, to something constructive? There are two main ways: 1) Construct the game in ways that allow the defeated rival to survive and play again, as in sports. 2) Pick a rival that is external to the group, either physically or conceptually. Thus, “fighting human aberration” becomes a playable game if it doesn’t actually destroy human life, but only strives to remove the self-imposed barriers to a fuller life experience. In the hands of psychiatry, “mental health” became a criminal game. But it doesn’t have to be. With effective mental technologies, it is a game very much worth playing, and winning.

In this vision of the future, what does government and law look like, and how can we move in that direction from our current scene? Would marijuana be an “illegal drug” in that new world?

If we start with The Way to Happiness as our foundation, then we can imagine that law, to the extent that it was necessary and desirable, would parallel the Precepts. Take Care of Yourself. Be Temperate. Be Industrious. If someone was abusing marijuana, they would have problems in some of these areas. And their community would be organized to assist them to change their ways. If they got into Ethics trouble, say for missing work, they might be assigned a Condition. If they could not get out of that Condition, an investigation might be undertaken to determine if that person had criminal ties or tendencies. If so, further handlings would be recommended. If those handlings did not result in turning the individual around, a justice procedure might result in the person being placed on a list of persons with unhandled drug dependencies, limiting the sorts of employment and assistance that would be available to them. They’d have a hard time in life. Would they go to jail? Possibly not. Would they be given opportunities to detox and get rehabilitated? Probably so. It would be in the community’s interest to turn such people around, so the community might even help pay the cost of such services. Or maybe the addict would be billed for the cost, and expected to repay after he got cleaned up.

What we can do right now is push The Way to Happiness into use. All the police organizations of the country of Colombia know this book! They used it to help create a truce with the FARC rebels. In Los Angeles it has been used to reduce gang violence, with similar results in Denver and many other cities.

Even the Ethics technology has made some inroads into society, and should be promoted as an adjunct to the criminal justice system. Third Party Investigations have been mentioned as useful in conflict resolution work in Los Angeles, and deserve much wider recognition and use.

These are both educative technologies, and that’s what the planet needs right now. Some reach for it. Others know they need it, but are afraid to ask. You can often get cooperation just by assuming that you will.

That’s the way – briefly stated – to run a community, a city, a state, a planet. Care about everyone. Make sure they know and understand their moral and ethical choices, then let people get on with it, and see what happens. The curbing of crime and of criminals is an important aspect in such a world. It simply has to be done in an honest and humane manner, with the application of as much effective mental and spiritual technology as seems practical. Earth, after all, is not the end of our problems. Even now, as many more than do should realize, other worlds – worlds many of us once participated in – are knocking on our doors, inviting us to learn and play their age-old games of commerce and war. Do we meet those invitations with the moral compass of our ancestors, or with The Way to Happiness? What we decide in the next few years could make a big difference over a long stretch of our future.

As for pot and drug addiction: I’m sure glad I didn’t have to worry about that this lifetime. Was there an anti-drug education program in my school when I was growing up? Yes! Will such programs save everyone? No, but one saved me. Can I get an amen?

Death of a Cultural Hero

5 April 2018

portrait of Martin Luther King
On yesterday’s date 50 years ago (1968) Martin Luther King was shot while standing on a balcony outside his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee. He died later that day.

A story was invented and widely published about how this death came about. However, it was incorrect.

A man named William Pepper, who was a friend of King at the time, a writer, and later became a lawyer, worked for the following almost-50 years to unravel a more accurate story. The only remaining major piece missing is true motive.

Pepper published his last book on the subject in the summer of 2016. About 17 years earlier, a jury had found government complicity in the murder in a civil trial that ended in late 1999. Have you heard this story? Has any major news media made a point of correcting themselves on this subject? No? So, they are complicit, too.

The Truer Story in Brief

King was shot by a Memphis police sharpshooter with a completely different rifle from the one that was found across the street in a “bundle” and reported to be the murder weapon.

James Earl Ray was not on site at the time of the shooting, but was the named fall guy and picked up later while traveling through the UK. Earlier, he had been smuggled out of prison, with the prison warden paid off to look the other way. He was contacted and given money and instructions through an intermediary who was nominally just a criminal.

Coordination of the operation has been linked to the FBI, or at least its director, J. Edgar Hoover, and at least one of his top people. Hoover has been linked to several similar incidents, and to a mysterious group supposedly created to deal with the ET problem, the Majority Intelligence Committee (MAJIC).

According to a nurse at the hospital where King was taken after the shooting, he was still alive when the head of neurosurgery entered the emergency room with two men in suits, ordered everyone else to leave, then suffocated King with a pillow.

Motive?

It is known that Hoover hated King and many other activists who were trying to steer the country back onto a more open and honest trajectory after the huge deceptions and atrocities it had been part of during and subsequent to World War 2.

It is also known that various craft crashed in New Mexico in 1947 and seemed to contain ET beings. Thus, the security structure of the planet now had a new problem on its hands, and a new secret to keep hidden from the general public.

Furthermore, there is some testimony from various persons who could be called “whistleblowers” (if they aren’t nuts or intentional disinfo) that the various modern military engagements that the US has been involved with (such as Vietnam) served as cover for ET-related operations.

King had come out against the Vietnam War a year (to the day) before his death. So this position, in combination with his general popularity and effectiveness in restoring civil rights in the South, has been cited as a possible motivation to have him killed.

Of course, each individual or group that was involved in the plot was given a motivation and story line that fit their viewpoint and need to know. That “higher concerns” may have figured into this murder – as has also been theorized about JFK and RFK – does not mean that any of those intimately involved with those plots had any awareness of those concerns.

The need for a higher level of spiritual ability

These acts – the wars, the assassinations – were not caused by mere petty human foibles like greed or jealousy. These acts came about because the people involved in managing the planet, their respective countries, and other organizations, didn’t know what else to do. They had insufficient knowledge to make more ethical decisions. And that knowledge can only be received and well-handled in the context of higher spiritual ability. If you know you are an immortal spiritual being, and that everyone around you are that same type of being, you are going to think and act differently than if you believe that we are all just animals. Spiritual ability is a key aspect to becoming aware of and being willing to act on this higher knowledge.

That’s why I don’t rail about “truth and justice.” It won’t be enough to expose the true perpetrators of these crimes and “bring them to justice.” That won’t handle any of the most important problems we face on this planet. Only a higher level of knowledge and spiritual ability could handle those problems. So that’s what I advocate.

Arduino Drives 7-segment LED Display

23 March 2018
7-segment LED display

A standard 4-digit display. I fiddled with the image to make it look lit up.

7-segment Displays

This type of LED (Light Emitting Diode) display has been around for a long time, and you can still find them in many devices. For most applications they have been replaced with LCDs which use less power and are more versatile. But if all you need to do is display numbers, and you have some old parts around that you want to use, then you might be interested in putting one of these things into a “modern” project, such as one using an Arduino (programmable microcontroller).

Pin Count

The simplest Arduino has only 20 pins that can be used for digital I/O (inputs/outputs). A 7-segment display requires 8 pins to drive the segments (if you want to use the decimal point) and a pin for every digit. For 4 digits, that’s 12 pins. For 8 digits, that’s 16 pins. That doesn’t leave many pins for other functions in your project. But, you might not need many other pins.

There are ways to reduce pin count. One way is to use ICs (integrated circuits) that will take a binary number at the input, say from 0 (B0000) to 9 (B1001) and output the appropriate pattern to the segments to display those numerals. You can also use a simpler encoder to run the digits; 3 (binary) lines in, 8 lines (or digits) out. That means you could operate an 8-digit display using only 7 Arduino pins.

Drive Current

An older LED, like you find in these displays, requires at least 5ma (milli-amps) of current to look reasonably bright. Most are rated for 20ma. These arrays are actually scanned (only one digit on at a time), so it helps to make them look brighter if you drive them with more current than the LEDs would need if they stayed on all the time. However, unless you can find a special IC to do your decoding, one specifically designed to drive LED arrays at those current levels, most ICs won’t be able to do the job. The average CMOS (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) IC that hobbyists use is only rated for about 2ma output current.

However, the Arduino itself is rated for about 20mA output. So the Arduino pins can run the LED segments unassisted. I use transistor arrays to run the digits. They take about 1ma in and can output up to 500ma or so. However, these drive transistors invert the input signal (in high, out low), so to drive the digits requires a signal of opposite polarity to what you would use if you weren’t using the transistors.

Existing Solutions

Most – but not all – of these factors are taken into account by an Arduino code add-on (called a library) named “SevSeg” (for “seven segments”). What it does not take into account is using encoder ICs to lower the pin count. My design uses an encoder to select the digits, but runs the segments directly from the Arduino. So, I could not use the library that had already been written for this purpose.

My Own Solution

I am writing this because I thought I could come up with something relatively simple that would do the job, but I wasn’t sure.

The basic cycle of action is fairly straightforward:

  1. Set up the 8 segment drivers to be high or low depending which segments you need on or off to display the desired numeral (or other pattern) for the first digit.
  2. Select that digit by outputting the binary number corresponding to that digit’s hardware position. (Say, B000, three low lines for binary zero, “digit zero.”)
  3. Keep that pattern on for a little while (a milli-second maybe), then switch to the pattern for the next digit.
  4. Repeat this process for each digit, until all have been lit, then repeat the entire cycle as long as you want the display to show something.

I used what is sometimes referred to as a “brute force” method to select the digits. For each digit, I just tell the Arduino which lines to make high and which lines to make low. It’s only 3 lines, so not that hard to do it that way. Those lines will stay that way until I tell the Arduino to change them, so it’s just three commands for each digit. Pretty easy.

I could have done the same for the segments, but I was hoping for a simpler solution. I found one by using a built-in Arduino function (built into the code writing system, not the microcontroller!). This function is one of several that treat a number as a string of binary bits. They are called the “bit functions.” The one I used is called “bitRead().” You give this function almost any number and it can tell you whether there is a “1” or a “0” in any of the places in its binary form. For example, the number 255 is binary “11111111.” All its places are ones. The number 254, one less, is B11111110. There’s a zero at the end instead of a one. So bitRead(254,0) would return zero, while bitRead(254,1) would return 1. As is customary in most of these programming languages, lists of things usually start with “item 0” instead of “item 1” as most of us would assume. So, if you want the first item in the list you have to ask for “0” and if you want the 8th item you ask for “7”. Seems weird but you get used to it after a while.

For the eight segments on an LED display (including the decimal point) there are 256 possible different patterns, each represented by a number from 0 to 255. So I just had to figure out which numbers would produce the correct patterns to display numerals 0 to 9 on the display, then put those numbers in a list, with their position in the list corresponding to the numeral they represented. Then to display that numeral, I would just have to use bitRead() on the number selected from the list, going through each of the 8 binary places, and matching up each place with the pin I used for that segment (another list) and I would have the entire pattern properly outputted.

For my hardware, I wasn’t using the decimal point, and the list I came up with was: {63,6,91,79,102,109,125,7,127,111} for numerals 0 to 9. The numeral 8 has all seven segments on, so would be 127 (B1111111) in almost any system using this idea. The other numbers could change if the wiring of pins to segments was different than the one I used.

Note on touch screen styluses

I’ve been playing around with my touch screen devices, an iPod Touch and an HP Stream tablet. They both have “capacitive” screens and therefore require a conductive rubber stylus if you don’t want to use your fingers. I found a nice ballpoint pen downtown that uses the “eraser” as a stylus tip, and two children’s styluses at Walmart. I like to use the styluses instead of fingers, and hope to locate a drawing program for my tablet before too long.

styluses for touch screens

A New Leaf

20 February 2018
fruit tree shoot

Springtime in Seattle, 2012.

In English we have an expression “turn over a new leaf” which means to make a new start. It literally refers to a page in a book, but of course this meaning of leaf is closely related to the one illustrated above.

As has already been mentioned in the previous post, my desire to build a new relationship with my church led me to the realization that my public-facing communications could use a change of context.

The Situation

Early this lifetime I came to a conclusion that I hope most can agree on: There is a situation on this planet. Situation is here defined as a major departure from the ideal scene.

In my younger years (the early 1960s) I was under the impression that we as a nation (the U.S.A.), if not the entire planet, were working towards an ideal scene. Here it is as expressed in one of our founding documents:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Then near the end of 1963 a duly elected – and rather popular – President was shot to death in public during a parade while he was visiting a city in Texas. A new administration took over from that man, which resulted in our country becoming very deeply involved in Vietnam, a war Kennedy hoped could be kept under control using only Special Forces troops. As more and more of our men died there, our involvement in the war in Vietnam became more and more unpopular, and was finally ended. The “Communists” then won the war, because they were more sensible rulers than those left in power by earlier colonizers and other outside interests.

Our government had immensely failed in effecting our “safety and happiness.” That failure was so obvious, it’s almost as if it was planned; and it may well have been.

To this day, there are huge holes in our understanding of what was really going on during the first half of the 20th century. And those holes only increased in size when we tried to look at and understand more recent events.

Scientology

One person – with his group – was working to fill those holes with data that might actually be helpful to people. However, his communication line to the public was cut by mass media outlets controlled by men allied with psychiatry, which opposed this man and what he was teaching. This is known data, not supposition.

So an office in the Church created its own communication line to the public, and called it Freedom Magazine. Many of the first articles in that magazine were penned by L. Ron Hubbard himself. He wanted the general public to begin to notice the connection between what psychiatry (as a movement) was doing and saying across the planet and what was happening to us here in the U.S. Some did. Freedom Mag’s message, though, did not reach me until years later.

In the early 1980s I finally learned that the psychiatry or “Mental Health” movement was being pushed forward by men who shared certain personality traits than most of us would recognize as insane or psychotic. Furthermore, as anti-Scientologists they definitely qualified as Suppressive Persons.

It was our challenge, then, (in the political sphere) to somehow remove those people from the communication lines of the planet. In the early years, those lines consisted mostly of English-language newspapers. Later those lines became dominated by radio and television. And now, since the the 1990s or so, we also have the internet which now feeds into a vast network of mobile “smart” phones.

These communication networks are not evil in themselves, but the persistent attempts by persons of criminal intent to dominate those lines has drastically reduced their usability (and believability) to the point that many people – including many Scientologists – will not use those lines for anything other than gathering the most mundane forms of information, or commercial uses like shopping and banking.

The Search for Reliable Information

I didn’t get on the internet in any big way until 2009. Wikipedia was already very well-developed by that time and had become the de facto source of information about almost anything. However, on topics where facts or intentions are hotly contested, the “establishment” position tends to win out on Wikipedia, on TED, on all the major news sites, or any site attempting to present reliable information. This goes for almost any topic other than the most mundane (weather forecasts?) or boring (electronics and coding?).

What I did at that time was to start my own blog. There I would present and compare data from multiple sources in the hopes of giving readers a more insightful view of things than what was being fed to them by the mainstream sources.

This activity had two main problems: 1) nobody read it, and 2) too many of my non-church data sources were questionable or salted with anti-Scientology sentiments. I was trying to demonstrate to my readers that there existed certain basic phenomena of life that were widely agreed on and widely researched. Yet I kept falling over enemy data that had been insinuated into many of my “alternative” sources. Many involved in that work were only too eager to believe that Scientology was just another con game that could be dismissed and not taken seriously.

The Church, for its part, decided to buy an entire studio complex in Hollywood – a location I am very familiar with that used to house a local Public Television station – and set up its own content generation facilities and media channels. This project is on the verge of launching as I write.

My own response is to revise my site to make it more resource-oriented and less discussion-oriented. I am also beginning a project to connect to like-minded bloggers.

Technical Limitations

The internet was created to provide its initial users (mostly data scientists in academia and the military-industrial complex) with faster data sharing capabilities, which data might include – in the case of the military – strategic and actionable data of a confidential nature.

Some of the earliest websites looked basically like search windows and were used to find scientific papers and other technical information, somewhat on the order of a giant library.

Additionally, any services that earlier used telex lines were obvious candidates for switching over to the internet. This included news feeds, stock tickers, and private messaging of course.

But it was not long before commerce was being conducted over the internet, and this use quickly became the dominant use. About 1/2 of all internet websites today are .com sites. And this means that what most website designers are trying to do is maximize traffic. Today, social networking is widely understood as a way to give commercial sites access to a lot of potential customers. The sharing of useful information on the internet, its original educational use, has been buried under all the subsequent traffic; a development that should have been quite predictable.

The blog is a sort of personal news feed service. It presents your posts in reverse chrono order, most recent on top, like the news. “Free” blogs are used – often blatantly – for advertising, and so are “free” e-mail and social media accounts.

About two-thirds (68%) of internet users disapprove of search engines and websites tracking their online behavior for the purpose of ad targeting.
– Pew Research, 13 March 2012.

While internet shopping is very popular compared to using the internet to seek useful data or advice (except as it concerns which product to buy), many people use the internet for that purpose or assume that it can be used that way. This group especially includes young people in school. I know it also includes all sorts of engineers and other “geek” types.

People want good data, but the internet concentrates on giving them news, blogs, ads and messages commonly associated with entertainment or commerce, not associated with making smart decisions.

Thus if I want to use my blog to help people make smarter decisions in their lives, I must realize that this is not what my blog was designed to do, and I am going to need to compensate for that.

The changes I will be making in the site reflect that realization.

The Lands

8 February 2018

dead trees along american river
…This being background data on a new writing project and WordPress site…here…

Scientology in the context of the New Age

For years I had been following various “New Age” personalities and “alternative” websites with the hope that a familiarity with their subjects matter would assist my purpose of influencing them to expand their areas of awareness to include Scientology. Not Scientology as an organization necessarily, but certainly Scientology as a subject.

This strategy has not yielded fruit. I was – very loosely speaking – a member of this “community” before I got involved in Scientology. However, the “community” appears to more closely resemble a house of cards.

During the age of industrialization, followed by an age of computerization which is what I grew up in, many of us have been disturbed about how things have been going. Blacks now have civil rights, yet they are incarcerated at a rate of 10% or more (depending on their age) versus 2% (roughly) for whites. (This is from Pew Research, 2013). And that is a marked increase over the years 1960 to 2010. Loan money for college tuition and housing purchase has become more and more available, yet real wealth continues to concentrate amongst a tiny minority of the population. The old futurists told us technology advances would make life easier, but instead it has become more hectic and (for many) more stressful. We fought wars to “make the world safe for democracy,” but instead seem to have become one of the world’s most vicious warmongers.

Many of us who saw these problems were also presented with various alternative paths for handling them that seemed more or less promising. There was the “drop out” path, famously expressed by the psychologist Timothy Leary. Behind that whole movement – we have since learned – were individuals from the CIA, and perhaps other oddball agencies. They seemed particularly interested in testing LSD on the population. Another offering – made by many, and interestingly including Leary’s Harvard associate Ram Dass – was to meditate. Of course meditation is just the most obvious aspect of an array of teachings loosely based on Hindu and Buddhist ideas and amplified by various Europeans and Americans dabbling into the realms of spiritualism, channelling, etc. Another path offered was to “solve it with technology.” Perhaps the epitome of this idea today is “Transhumanism,” the concept that technology might at some point make the human body passé. And then there was Scientology.

When I was a teenager, “New Age” ideas were getting quite a bit of exposure, but not with that label. The choice of this particular term by more modern writers is most likely an expediency; it is simple and sounds catchy. However, Theosophist Alice Bailey used this expression in at least two book titles, as did many other and diverse writers of earlier times. According to Wikipedia, the movement as we know it now started in the UK in the 1970s. Again, rumors of CIA interest in these ideas and the personalities that promote them do not abate.

In those days, the media was more involved with New Age topics than they are today. You could hear reports on NPR about “magic” healers in the Philippines. In 1972 NBC aired an edited version of the 1970 German film “Chariots of the Gods” about theories of ancient ET visitations, based on a book by Erich von Däniken. The TV sitcom “My Favorite Martian” had already enjoyed a long run from 1963 to 1966. It was followed later by “Mork and Mindy,” with spooky shows like “Time Tunnel” and “Bewitched” filling in between.

The New Age mixed allusions to modern scientific discoveries and ET visitation with an Eastern-style spiritual approach to come up with a narrative that captured the attention of many young people of those years who might have otherwise found more effective avenues (such as Scientology) for acting on their outrage over the crime, war and pollution which continued to plague their “modern” world.

I was peripherally involved in several groups: The Henry George School promoted the work of a late 1800s intellectual who also had interests in spiritualism. Planetary Citizens – led by visionary Donald F. Keys – told us about channelled messages that could save our planet. Planet Drum Foundation – an ecology education group promoting the ideas of devolutionist Peter Berg – used memes from aboriginal cultures mixed with the concept of “bioregionalism.”

A commonality among all these groups was some attempt to interweave politics with spiritual knowledge and values – the most basic being long-term (as opposed to short-term, one lifetime) concepts of ethics. The realization that after death one will return to continue living on this planet is considered crucial to appreciating the validity of longer-term ethical principles. However, these groups largely failed in their goals because they had no way to bring about this fundamental realization. Scientology does have ways to do this. However, in developing those processes, Hubbard came to understand that a much fuller recovery of spiritual abilities would be needed to enable people to confront the task of cleaning up Earth, to say nothing of all the other inhabited planets.

I remain a Scientologist because I agree with Ron’s conclusions, and because we have an organization that could achieve our vision of a planet free of war, crime and insanity…and after that, other planets.

Adverse Reactions

As mentioned earlier, I wanted to get some of the New Agers I had run across to at least look in the direction of L. Ron Hubbard’s work. But they don’t seem to want to. This is a clear sign that someone has been actively working to frighten them off. The movement is well aware that there have been campaigns (often blamed on CIA or similar operatives) to sow divisiveness in the community. If we can take that as a given, then we can only assume that those efforts have included badmouthing Scientology. As these efforts are obvious on the internet, they must come from somewhere. And those persons could be imagined to be interested in seeing that New Agers don’t connect up with Scientology, just as they are obviously interested in keeping away the general public.

Thus, my colleagues at the church have suggested that I might be happier if I were less connected to the New Age world and more connected to some activity involving less outside interference from secret antagonists. One idea I had was to greatly increase my writing output. It’s a low-cost activity that I am familiar with.

Inspirations from odd places

I had recently been exposed to a film story called “Blade Runner 4049.” Though I found the story overly complex, its vision of our future is not that unusual in contemporary fiction. I particularly recall from the movie an area called “San Diego” that had become a huge dump and salvage yard for the Los Angeles metropolis. The piles of junk went on for miles and miles in all directions. It was also pointed out that there were no living trees in the environment. It was noted that at a “rebel” outpost, a dead tree had been kept standing using steel cables.

The Blade Runner story is a “loose adaptation” of a story by writer Philip K. Dick. Philip is considered an important science fiction writer. Born in 1928, he was influenced by the somewhat older sci-fi writers of the pulp days, such as Hubbard and Heinlein, but also the “beat” writers like Jack Kerouac. He died at only 53 under circumstances that remain poorly understood. He was a drug user, that is for sure.

In Dick’s book, the dystopia evident on the West Coast was brought about by war. In the movie this is not mentioned, except for a reference to a “high radiation” area near Las Vegas. In both stories, androids apparently designed for robotic tasks (I don’t believe it) acquire their own sense of humanity and wish to have equal rights with humans and an end to the control programming. Science fiction writers who have gone down this road seem to be of a mind that something like this could happen. They don’t try to understand why. The difference for me is that I now know why. The design and manufacture of human-like androids would be seen as a dangerous and stupid activity by anyone who understood the likely spiritual outcome of it. The androids in the film, called “replicants,” would be even more susceptible to this problem, as they are almost totally biological.

Bicycling downtown through the riverside park, I noticed a large stand of dead trees that has always been there, but seemed unusually gloomy with no spring foliage to offset the grayness. And I thought, “this is the Land of the Dead Trees.” And so I began to formulate the starting point of a story.

I am incapable – even if I wanted to – of writing an ordinary fiction story. I have been exposed to too much actuality that is much stranger than most “fiction” written these days. The trick would be to start with how things are now and somehow show how the situation could be improved.

That leads to Edward Bellamy’s “Looking Backward” which employed a similar technique. But I have no use for his time traveler. I can simply assume a viewpoint of some future time and “look back” to now.

phto with added effects

The photo above with two effects added to it: “oil” and “sepia.”

Museum Day

3 February 2018

fruit tree blooming

I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that here in the middle of California Spring would start a little earlier than it does in Pullman, or Seattle. But this is the beginning of February, and the fruit trees are blooming and it’s over 70 degrees outside, and I am a little bit surprised.

On top of that, today is “Museum Day” in Sacramento. (I’ve never heard of anything like that before!) On Museum Day many museums in this area forego their usual admission price and just let anyone who walks in look at their exhibits. Well, I thought I’d take advantage of this day, so I decided to go back to the Aerospace Museum of California out near the old McClellan Air Force Base, which I visited when I was here last summer. It’s not my favorite museum, but there’s lots of cool planes there, I used to be into model planes, and I like to collect photos of planes, so it seemed like an ideal opportunity for me. It’s also not too far from where I am living, so I could ride my bicycle out to it.

I was a little surprised, also, that so many others also took advantage of this day. The place was very crowded.

crowds at the museum

Outside in the “yard” there was almost a festival, or carnival, atmosphere. Kids waiting to look into plane cockpits, or sitting eating “Hawaiian Ice” or asking their parents questions about these huge machines. I got lots of photos.

outside in the plane yard

If you are actually interested in plane engines (they have a ton of plane engines), planes, jets, flight trainers, cockpit instrumentation or similar, this is a great museum to visit. I suggest you wait for a more normal day, though, and go ahead and pay the $15 admission.

I personally find the excitement in advanced weapons delivery systems a bit disturbing. It is similar to our fascination with action movies and in general lives filled with tragedy. That this is par for the course on this planet should be understood by now (if not very understandable), but I am glad to know, from a personal point of view, that it is more understandable now than it once was.

A bit of magic in this day

Here’s an image that seems to convey the spirit of this Museum Day here in Sacramento. I shot a picture of a helicopter I had toured, and when I reviewed my photos I found this image of a boy jumping in excitement. Per his shadow, both his feet are in the air in this image. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I dream of lifting off the ground and just flying around wherever I want to go with my feet just a few inches off the surface. So this image has a little magic in it, as far as I’m concerned.

boy jumping

The bees were out today, too. A good sign.

Bee on a fruit tree flower

A happy bee makes a happy life.