After the Fire

11 September 2018

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Redding is a town of about 100,000 people located in northern California on the Sacramento River. Near the end of July this year, a forest fire started west of the city, caused by sparks flying from a vehicle wheel scraping the pavement after its tire went flat. The fire entered the city – the first time this had happened, per some residents I spoke to – and destroyed about 1,000 homes. The fire was contained by the end of August.

I arrived in Redding for the first time on the 29th of July. I was with a group from my church volunteering our help as part of our disaster response program.

It is reported that 38,000 people were evacuated from their homes during this fire.  Those who could not find motels or friends to stay with went to one of several evacuation centers, one of which was set up at Shasta College.

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I spent most of the afternoon here sorting clothes that would be given out that evening. The organization in charge of that operation was the Salvation Army.

When I returned in early August, we hooked up with Bethel Church, a large Christian organization headquartered in Redding with several years of experience in disaster response work. They had teamed up with the Salvation Army to create a large distribution center for food, water and other necessities at their facility, and we helped them with that for several days. I took no pictures of that, though. I was there to work, not to observe. On Sunday the 5th of August we went to their church service. Visit their Facebook page for more data on their work, including a full video of that 5 Aug service.

The Incident Command Post (ICP)

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Our group also tries to help disaster response workers (in this case, fire fighters). However, we were not allowed into their command post, set up at a nearby fairgrounds, so only managed to hand out some cold water and Gatorade, talk to a few people, and wave to the guys coming and going in their trucks.

Ash-outs and smoke mask distribution

We had a lot of donated smoke masks and found various ways to distribute them. Meanwhile, some of us (myself included) helped with sifting through debris at burnt-down homes looking for valuables and mementos. I have no photos of this; we were usually prohibited from taking any in respect for the privacy of the home owners. However, you can see some photos and videos of those activities at Bethel’s Facebook page.

Ash-outs are somewhat physically demanding. They are done in Tyvek suits which make it very hot and sweaty work. They also result in contamination of clothing and skin with house ash. Though the amount of dangerous contaminants in this ash is debatable, it requires multiple changes of clothes and/or visits to the laundry to stay “clean.” This leads most to volunteer for just one ash-out a day, but we were doing two, one in the morning and one in the evening.

The smoke mask distribution was a lot less physically demanding.

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Especially after we got a temporary OK from Walmart to set up next to their store. We handed out hundreds of these masks.

Rising from the ashes

If my numbers are correct, about a third of the people in this region were affected by this fire. Yet a much smaller number actually lost their homes. I experienced, for the most part, a resilient people. Most knew the difference between living and life. The fire was an experience of living, but it did not threaten life itself. Most could see that. Most who were directly affected could see this as an opportunity to start afresh, or take a new direction in living. Many, of course, were not directly affected and thus were not so challenged.

The volunteer experience was new for me. Not only did I meet many Scientologists that I didn’t know, I met many other people, too. The constant interaction was a challenge for me, but probably the highlight of the experience. We only worked about 8 hours a day, and had our meals more or less cared for. So the big problem became filling the idle hours between knock-off time and sleep time. The younger guys all sat with their phones. I would try to use my computer, over a usually weak wi-fi connection, or do a bit of writing or some such. And I would think, sometimes, what if something like this happened to me? Not total death, but something close to it; loss of all one’s valuables. Potential financial ruin. Would I pull through OK? You might want to ask yourself that question, too.

 

 

 

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July 4th

4 July 2018

Sheep in the park!

parkway-sheep-20180704-50.jpg

There is a theory in permaculture that intensive (but not prolonged) grazing can improve open land much better than simply leaving it fallow. It appears this theory is being put to the test at the American River Parkway (area across from Cal Expo). This is one of two sheep pens very recently put up in the park, and there are a LOT of sheep here! They are still getting used to the bike riders.

After visiting these pens for several weekends in a row, I can add that many of the grazing animals being used in the park are actually goats. On my first visit, I found two different pens (also called paddocks) but since that time have only noticed one (they are being rotated through the area) on the river side of the bike trail which is full of goats.

Community Fair at Howe Park

I went up to Howe Park to volunteer at the Way To Happiness table. There was a little parade down through the neighborhood, and it ended up here. The setup was simple but attractive, and there was quite a crowd.

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The booths only stayed until noon. I think the organizers were expecting another HOT day, but the weather today was milder than usual.

The parade was modest – no marching bands – but included some nice old cars (popular in Pullman, too) such as the one shown below.

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Bike path fruits and nuts

As I returned on the bike path through the Parkway, I stopped to check the fig trees. They are dropping a lot of unripe fruit. The problem seems to be that fig trees really need water, and we’ve had no rain for at least a month. The fruit turn soft and pulpy, and tend to fall off, though they are still green and inedible.

The blackberries were doing better. The first fruit are beginning to ripen now, and it looks life a full crop.

The almonds at the city end of the path (near the Diamond facility) are also ripening and are now edible, though not fully ripe.

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Happy Fourth!

Other Spiritual Practices

28 June 2018

Almost ten years ago, in the spring of 2009, I had the opportunity to begin exploring the internet, and to post my findings and reflections on this blog. I decided to connect back up with a community that seemed to be aware of the magnitude of the situation here on Earth, and were seeking answers. I intended to make them aware of LRH materials that might assist them in their work.

In all those ensuing years, not one contact I have made has expressed a sincere interest in LRH materials or what my church is doing to get them into use in society. In fact, I found the community strewn with false data and lies concerning this work, and a few individuals even openly hostile. Furthermore, this community advocates spiritual practices that fall short of achieving their stated goals.

Though some of their data is informative, and pertinent to handling the situation on this planet, their continued lack of interest in more effective solutions leads me to conclude that their goals have been perverted or are not sincerely stated.

Thus, I have decided to end my communication with that community, and discontinue recommending their data to others.

Furthermore, I will be going through past blog posts and deleting them or editing them according to the above statement. If you should run across anything written by me that seems to violate the intention of the above statement, I would appreciate being notified so that I can handle it.

This post may be amended or edited in the future, but I believe the basic intention is stated clearly enough, and I do not expect that to change.

Conversation Of Our Generation

5 June 2018

About a year ago, a young man named Nick Jamell started a blog ConversationOfOurGeneration.com in an attempt to cut through the lack of clear thinking and responsible debate that he saw occurring across the internet and in public life on matters of social importance.

He was recently interviewed by Jack Spirko (at The Survival Podcast, which caught my attention because it deals with Permaculture), and he seemed like a sincere guy who really wanted to see some changes made on this planet. I offered to write a “guest blog” for him, and he graciously agreed to publish it (linked above).

I wrote a piece entitled “My Paradigm Shift Experience” which tried to convey in just a few words the depth of change a person may experience as he shifts from merely studying and discussing the human situation to becoming involved with a group that is actually doing something about it.

I might note that this shift started for me by reading a real book and interacting face-to-face with real people who were involved with the movement we all know as Scientology. I don’t know if an experience like that can be duplicated on the internet. But as this internet is now the place where so many of us connect, I hope that for many people that experience can at least start here.

Woopee!

27 May 2018

california-poppy-20180527-1

The native wildflowers I planted from seed maybe 2 months ago are beginning to bloom! Above, a California Poppy of course.

And below, a view of my little plot, with the other flowering plant, a Desert Bluebell (Phacelia), also in view.

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I am very proud of my little flower garden. It is a terrible place for plants to grow; a few inches of soil on top of a cement driveway! And in full sunlight for most of the day. But the weeds that could stand those harsh conditions were an eyesore, so the guy who runs the house tore them out, and left the soil bare. He let me plant some flower seeds and tend the plot while they germinated.

I was adding water almost every evening and weeding almost every morning. I pulled out anything that looked like grass and left in place everything else. I also put down mulch made from broken-up leaves from the yard. Finally the new plants began to assert themselves. And now they are big enough to begin blooming.

Who knows what will happen to this plot as the summer progresses. With such a thin layer of soil, it is under constant threat from the grasses and other weeds that are so much more tolerant of that condition.

Plus a beautiful garden flower that opened the week before…

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This beautiful dark iris makes an appearance every year, I am told. This shot is an “artistic” view, too close to even make out the shape of the flower. But the amazing thing about the iris is the three small inner flower parts contrasted to the three outer parts, much larger.

2 June update – nice!

flower patch california poppies

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.

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 chance 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. But why do I like them so much? Probably because they mostly consist of people talking. On the internet it’s usually called an “interview.” 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.

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 real people! 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, watching interview videos 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 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.

Today we 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 today we can handle dramatization. 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.

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. And we know now 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 know of no other book that does what this book does, 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 in forwarding this data 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?