UFO History and Other News

15 December 2017

I listened to an LRH lecture recently that I think is worth quoting at length:

But what about the society at large? Do you realize that if tomorrow an invasion of Earth were threatened by some other planet, that you wouldn’t have talk about international or inter-nation-al activity like war? Nobody would be worrying about war between Bulgaria and Fulgaria. Nobody would be worrying about war, because another game was sitting there. Everybody would get a lot smarter. The incidence of psychosis and neurosis would drop most alarmingly. See what I mean?

If all of a sudden some of these flying saucers that occasionally flick around here and cause the army so much upset —they found a couple of them crashed, you know, and they say “Eek!” They’ve got molecular sealing construction plates so you can’t find any seam and when you try to go into them with a torch, why, you get cohesion of its seams. And then they can’t get it open. And they take X—rays of the machinery through the metal, you know, to get pictures to find out what’s in there because obviously nobody…They’ve had lot of fun. Terrific amount of sport they’ve engaged in this way. They’ve found some of these things, but they haven’t found enough of them and it’s not comprehensible enough to really upset anybody.

If you had a saucer suddenly pull in over Chicago and say, “Your money or your life. People of Earth, we don’t come in peace…” At-at-at-at-at! Earth would mobilize. We’re not quite sure what it would mobilize, BB guns or something, but it would mobilize. And you certainly wouldn’t have any more international war.

But after you’ve got this interplanetary war going, what would you do then? I mean, that’s going and they’ve finally settled peace and we’ve got this particular end of the galaxy all straightened out. And war is sporadic and occasional, but we have a police force engaged.

I guess this system would have to go to war with another system in order to make enough fight. And then when that was all straightened out, then this galaxy would have to go to war with another galaxy in order to get it all straightened out. And I guess this universe, then, eventually would have to go to war with another universe to get it all straightened out.

Or instead of such a silly route, we could just get down to work and process the groups of people so that they would be willing to let others live and live themselves. Now, there really is no choice, in other fields, than these two. We either put Man into a condition where he can extrovert and play a game here on Earth as himself, as individuals and as groups, or we go off and find ourselves a hot saucer and go at—at-at—at-at—at! over Chicago. There’s these two solutions. There isn’t much other solution. Now, we have a saucer rescue squad ready…[laughter]

We have—all joking aside, I’m joking, you see. We have, actually, many ways we could prevent an atomic bombing occurring here on Earth—many ways. Atomic bombing, however, is not the sole enemy which we would face. Several things are definitely preventive in the direction of atomic fission, if they are done. And I told you the other day the wrong thing to do was nothing.

Several things could be done in this particular direction. The education of the peoples of Earth, however, is the first and foremost thing that should be done. And they might be taught that they can solve each other’s games, that they can play each other’s games, that there is somebody else alive here and that Earth can be an interesting place to be and that something can happen to these things which we today call civilization, that they can go on upwards. Somebody doesn’t have to blink ’em out.

Now, wherever we look across the world, we see that Man has very, very little hope that anything could be done about anything. The measure of a civilization would be the measure of the expectancy of win by the individuals or groups of that civilization. If they have an expectancy to win, they can play the game. If they have no expectancy of winning, they want to get out of the game and start another game or they start playing games with their thumbs behind their backs—which is goofiness.

LRH – from lecture “Pan-Determinism” of 31 Dec 1954.

He was talking to a crowd in Phoenix, Arizona. I was a few months old at the time, living in Berkeley, California. Steven Greer has told us that an engineer familiar with advanced technology development programs told him that they had successfully implemented a back-engineered anti-gravity propulsion system by about October of 1954 (when I was born).

How did LRH know that the military had been playing around with flying saucers? I don’t think he’s ever said. But he had lots of friends in interesting places.

Current Events

The information war continues between those who want to paint a picture of troubled normalcy and those who want the population to “wake up” for various different reasons.

We have very little data about what is really going on, but loads of good data revealing that we are being lied to on a regular basis. On subjects as diverse as spiritual realities, ET realities, basic physics, and what causes terrorism, the mainstream media outlets continue to lie and entertain, while the alternative media outlets tell a wide range of stories from the sublime to the ridiculous – but many much more factual than the mainstream stories.

There is a persistent expectation that the world’s population will receive another “wake-up call” before too long (such as LRH’s fancied space invasion – per insiders a scenario that has been seriously considered). But so far nothing seems to materialize. Every significant event that occurs has at least two slants given to it by different sources, keeping most of us in a state of mild confusion, if not worse.

My Projects

As of today I have joined the ranks of “poor” people who are paying for medical insurance programs with the assistance of the Federal Government. Until this year, I had no real idea that this is what “Obamacare” was really all about. It wasn’t about getting the U.S. population more healthy (which is what “health care” implies, doesn’t it?), but simply to get everyone insured, so that doctors, clinics, and hospitals would get paid for every single service they deliver – successful or not – regardless of the income level of the patient.

Beyond this basic fact lies other interesting details, such as what sorts of treatment must be covered by an “acceptable” insurance program and what treatments can be ignored. Basically, anything you get from a non-MD you’ll have to pay for yourself, regardless of how effective that treatment is. It’s just a way of protecting a professional monopoly. Even psychoactive drugs – some of the least effective, most damaging treatments on the market today – must be covered because they are prescribed by psychiatrists, who are MDs.

Another ongoing project has been to salvage whatever electronic junk that I brought with me from Pullman that seems appropriate to salvage, and throw away the rest. This project was started in Pullman, but continues here in Sacramento. I have built a little “Tower of Junk” containing all my favorite older projects that were previously dismantled. It’s a little 12-inch by 12-inch by 18-inch high box, and it’s now full, with most of the “junk” included in it up and running.

With that task out of the way, I can dive into my electronic art with both feet. The main list of projects involves light (Light Emitting Diode – LED) displays that react to various environmental factors. Getting environmental sounds included has been the biggest challenge, as building good microphone amplifiers is a bit of an art. But I have a test rig up and running, and the basic idea seems promising.

I also have a code-writing project restarted after a long hiatus. This is aimed to allow the user to inspect and search large amounts of data in ways that are visually interesting and informative. I am using my own electronic library (about 150,000 files) as the test data, as it is structured but highly diverse. This data is organized according to LRH’s dynamics, and I plan to use other Scientology basics in this software.

Scientology

I continue my study of the Basic Lectures. One of these is the one quoted above. That series ended with that lecture, so I have finished that series and will soon move onto another one.

The church downtown continues to put on various events. The most recent was in observance of Human Rights Day (10 December) and featured a presentation by a local Sikh human rights activist who has been working for many years to improve awareness of religious diversity – which is part of the Sikh teaching – in California. We also watched a documentary about the aftermath of the shootings at the Sikh temple near Milwaukee in 2012.

The mainstream sees such events as “hate crimes” against minorities who are misunderstood, or confused with other groups (such as Sikhs being confused with Muslims). My Scientology training tells me that this is a very shallow explanation for such events. Whenever violence occurs the Third Party Law must be taken into account. This data has been around for 50 years, but most don’t know about it or don’t use it. That needs to change!

We have a Christmas party coming up, then a New Years event, which is always full of news.

And after that, the sun will start coming North again. Right now, it’s too cold with not enough daylight for my liking.

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Houses

7 December 2017

This post is to introduce a new category into this blog that may get some attention now and then. “Home and Garden” is meant to echo the vibe of the long-time and very popular magazine, Better Homes and Gardens. This has been the fourth best-selling magazine in America per Wikipedia and epitomizes the old American ideal of a privately-owned homestead for raising one’s family and enjoying one’s ample leisure hours.

As I haven’t been a part of that whole scene for most of my adult life, I have a hard time taking it seriously. But there are about 76 million owner-occupied homes in the United states (the statistic has been flat for over ten years), which is one house for every 4 and a half people or so. So it’s a pretty big deal in this country.

And now that I am winding down a bit, the idea of living in a house instead of a room or an apartment has resurfaced in my awareness. And so, this new category.

Permaculture

My discovery of Permaculture came out of my interest in food forests, which is one way that some suburbanites have made urban life more sustainable.

This lead to my interest in the work of Alosha Lynov, who has aligned himself with the work of Michael Tellinger (Contributionism, a moneyless society). They are both living in South Africa, and are into New Age ideas. But Alosha is from Russia. He is young and very gung-ho about Permaculture and building curvy houses out of special cements. He has made lots of videos, including some about his less-than-optimum financial situation. These videos show you how to clean your waste water, create catch basins on your land, and stuff like that. The pics below are from his commercial website.

domed house

A different style of house.

Alosha and Michael

Alosha Lynov and Michael Reynolds.

Michael Reynolds

Michael Reynolds is an architect who has developed a passive solar home design. Most of his designs are for single-story buildings. His emphasis is on reuse of waste for building materials. But his “earthship” design also makes effective use of passive heating and cooling techniques.

Thermal Mass

I had to study thermal mass for a project I’m working on. Certain materials can absorb and retain heat much better than others. Use of these materials inside buildings reduces temperature swings, putting less peak demand on heating and cooling systems. For best effect, the material must be in direct contact with the air in the room, or via a thermally conductive material, like a metal. It also helps for the mass to have contact with the ground. Most ground and soils have pretty good thermal mass. Water also has great thermal mass.

Think of an example of an early human house: A cave. That’s also an example of the use of thermal mass. “Rich” people of old could afford stone houses. Stone is a good building material when you want thermal mass. So are brick and concrete and other stone substitutes. The big problem with bricks and concrete is the energy required to produce them. Reynold’s earthships use dirt pounded into old tires, stacked like big bricks.

Interesting Sacramento House

This house has been listed for sale for some weeks now. It’s on Academy Way, which is north of downtown, but very near a light rail station. I went over to take some pictures of it recently.

house on Academy Way

House on Academy Way in Sacramento.

Note that is is faced with stone and brick. This sort of facing makes a house “look rich.” But if it doesn’t go all the way through to the inside of the house, it won’t contribute much to the thermal mass of the house (only to its mass!).

This is a largish house on a corner lot. It is listed for less than $200,000. Why hasn’t it sold? I can’t fully evaluate without knowing more about the house than is obvious from the outside. I know from observation and the listing that it needs maintenance. Depending on how deep one goes, this could cost a new owner anywhere from 10 to 50 thousand dollars. Thus, a house that looks new can be sold for that amount more than one that doesn’t. There is also the factor that this is not considered a desirable neighborhood. You’d think being close to a light rail station would increase the value of the property. But perhaps in some cases it has the opposite effect.

Permaculture and passive solar design are not happening things in Sacramento right now. But if we want to stay alive on this planet much longer, these ideas will need to become household words.

I plan to explore these topics further in the not-too-distant future.

Richard Stallman and Freedom

15 November 2017

Today (Wednesday, 15th Nov 2017) I went to see Richard Stallman give a presentation on Free Software.

He was being hosted by a California State project to re-write the Child Welfare website (including backend) using Free Software. Most of the attendees were state employees involved in the project. I was there because I had gotten an email about the event from the Free Software Foundation. Though rain clouds threatened, I went ahead and made the approximately 10 mile bike ride over to Natomas where the state government has a bunch of buildings in a nice industrial park.

Richard is about 1-1/2 years older than me. He was born in New York City (per Wikipedia) and acts like it. He became proficient in writing computer programs while in high school, and was working as a programmer even as he continued his education.

In his early years, he worked at MIT’s Artificial Intelligence laboratory, then funded largely through DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).

As software and computing became more popular, Richard noticed that most companies were keeping their code (the higher-language representation of the program) secret. He objected to this on the grounds that in a free society, code should be published like other forms of literature, so it could be studied and learned from.

He started integrating his ideas into a coherent ideology with the birth of the GNU project in 1983. The NU in GNU stands for “not Unix” which was meant to emphasize that the GNU system was all Free Software, though it functioned a lot like Unix. Beyond that, the gnu is a native name for the African wildebeest, which is used as the project’s mascot.

At the presentation today, Richard went through his basic philosophy about Free Software and gave some examples of how proprietary software has been used against the higher cause of freedom in society.

Is it really all about profit?

Richard thinks that the existence of non-free or anti-freedom software can be explained by profit motive. This has been a common argument from “progressive” circles concerning many political and economic weaknesses. I think this is not an intellectually rigorous explanation.

I don’t say that because I’m so smart. I am simply aware of research that points to other factors.

But I will say this about profit:
In a political-economic context, profit is seen as necessary in order to retain investors. Who would invest in an activity that couldn’t repay the investment, with interest? Beyond the fact that this itself is a weak argument, I also see it as unnecessarily complex.

What a business has to do first to pay a profit to shareholders is to have more income than expenses. But that is just common sense. In a world of machines – and biological entities are a type of machine – you need to put more energy into the system than you will get out as work. The remainder is waste energy, which is used by biology but “dumped” by most machine systems.

If you can make more than you spend, you can pay investors a profit. Or on the scale of a single human being, you can save for a child’s education, or for old age. And by the way, did you include raising a family in your list of expenses? So, we have pressures on the producers in an economy to “make a profit” whether it’s their stockholders or their children that they are responsible to.

I believe this basically evaporates the argument of “profit motive.”

Criminality

What we have left, though, is something very obvious that the “progressives” don’t talk much about: Criminality.

As I am “musing” in this article I will opine on why the “progressives” have this problem. My theory – and not just mine, nor my origination particularly – is that an approach to life commonly referred to as “psychology” has infiltrated its way into American life, and the “progressive” movement in particular. It is not that there is something wrong with the study of the mind. It is only that the history of this particular brand of psychology we are seeing on Earth suggests it was financed and supported, if not actually created, by persons who wished to develop a sort of intellectual framework, or propaganda mechanism, that would serve to explain or justify “bad” behavior anywhere from mildly rude to morally reprehensible.

What has arisen from this effort is a jumble of loosely-related ideas, including concepts like Moral Relativism, and Situational Ethics. The bulk of these concepts are confused and under-developed, but when paired up with Psychology as our best attempt to understand human thought and behavior, they can establish a basis to justify almost any action, no matter how evil.

In short, the criminal – especially one in government or business – has a problem: How can I harm those around me while maintaining my supposedly legitimate position in society? And I am saying that one answer he has reached for was: Use Psychology.

In this wise, a criminal is explained as a person in a “bad” situation, or someone who was brought up wrong. In a company it could be someone being forced to make a profit, resulting in his making very bad choices. The answer is to be kind to everybody and make sure everyone has enough to eat, spend etc. This argument is warm and fuzzy, but I think demonstrably unworkable.

If the criminal is really a type of personality, like the psychopath of classic psychiatry (now called “psychodynamic theory”), then being kind to him will not change his behavior. He has a compulsive urge to harm secretly. Thus, my theory that modern “psychology” was produced by and for criminals, as it fails miserably to solve the problem of crime (when it addresses it directly at all).

Modern “psychology” totally ignores past lives and their influence on present-life behavior, even though this has been the most productive research avenue during the previous century that yielded new understandings about human behavior.

Self-correction?

A very major segment of the people I have been exposed to who are out there communicating ideas seem to believe that to make a person aware of a sub-standard behavior will lead to correction.

I don’t know why this idea remains so strong in people, as I see almost no support for it in the extreme cases where self-correction has been most needed and most lacking.

One example of this type of thinking is gun control. What gun control advocates seem to be saying is that if we make certain types of guns illegal or difficult to obtain, a person who wishes he could go out and blow everybody’s head off will become aware that this is wrong behavior and self-correct into some more acceptable approach. This idea is totally ridiculous.

Yet a progressive-oriented person like Richard Stallman, as fine and upstanding as his ideas are, thinks that if we just make Free Software more popular, those using anti-free software will eventually self-correct and see the error of their ways. If that were to really happen, purveyors of anti-free software might give in, simply on the basis that they could no longer sell their products to anyone. But what I am suggesting is that the criminals among them would not self-correct. They would just find alternative methods to perform criminal acts and protect their secrets.

What anti-free is really all about

Mr. Stallman, as well as many on the “right” who argue for more freedom, are not aware of the research I am aware of, I am quite sure. And while I may not be able to explain that research with total clarity here, I do think it is worth our while to at least be aware of it.

LRH began to speak of it in the 1950s, and continued to mention it now and again into the 1960’s. His famous training lecture “The Free Being” dates from 1963.

A free being is a being that doesn’t need a body to operate through. And such beings, unfortunately, have a history of acting somewhat inconsiderately towards people walking around in bodies. The free being didn’t realize these people were basically the same order of being as he was, except trapped in their bodies. So these societies of beings in bodies learned how to trap free beings. They saw it as a survival point. Aptitude in this activity was something to be proud of. And the free beings of this universe finally all became trapped in bodies, like everyone else, and being “free” the way free beings were became totally unacceptable. This was hammered into the populations by their managers as a primary rule of life! Free beings had caused them so many problems; nobody stopped to think that they might be spiritual brothers.

But there were always some in every society who insisted on working to be “more free.” Were these the ones who used to be free, their memories of past happy days leaking through the various mental trapping mechanisms? Perhaps. But what was important was that those societies couldn’t tolerate such people. And they would go out on programs to scoop them up and dump them someplace where they could do no harm to anyone, like Earth.

It seems this dumping operation was rather hit-and-miss. Perhaps it was carried out mostly as a PR campaign to impress populations. Because we sure have a jumble of different personalities and approaches on this planet now!

The point is that “psychology” never figured all this out. The ideas and methodologies that did figure it out have been around for over 50 years. They were rejected by psychology. Why? Probably because they could lead to greater freedom! But also because psychology was being influenced by criminals, who are extremely afraid of freedom. Not just mentally dull about it; VERY afraid of it. A free being – though it has some historic outpoints – can also see through any secret, rendering a criminal helpless. This may be the bigger reason that criminals are involved in anti-free technologies, software being just one of them.

It was good to see Richard Stallman. I had heard a lot about him over the years. His heart is in a good place, but I don’t think his solutions will get society where he’d like it to go. He needs to understand it better first. Anti-free is more deeply entrenched in the minds of men – and particularly managers – than he realizes. The solutions exist at a deeper level than he is currently aware of. That they exist in any form at all is a minor miracle.

Motors Demo

25 October 2017

motors-demo-20171025-2-cropped

I don’t use motors much in my projects, but they are everywhere now on our very mechanical world. So I am always running into them, and had a bunch set aside mostly from tearing down old printers. I have been particularly interested in stepper motors, as I had read about them a long time ago, and they are used a lot in industry.

Stepper Motors

This isn’t going to be a huge technical article, but: Stepper motors are used for positioning in all sorts of equipment, computer printers just being one example. They are designed to be moved an exact rotational amount (by counting the step signals sent to the motor) and to hold that position while energized.

The ordinary stepper motor is driven by two overlapping signals, as mentioned in my recent post about SerDes design. Finding new data about how these motors are driven inspired me to take another shot at creating a working driver. My previous attempt, based on sine waves amplified by audio amps, had not been successful.

Design by Numbers

Here is a rear view of my project, with numbers added to match the discussion below:

motors-demo-20171025-4-cropped-annotated

  1. AC terminals and connectors. I like to run my projects off AC-powered supplies. I get them cheap from thrift stores. Usually they are “wall warts” or otherwise portable / external power supplies, and I remove the plastic cover and use the board inside. Sometimes I keep half the cover if it helps for mounting purposes.The funny thing about all modern power supplies is that the first thing they do is convert your AC power to DC. Then they step down the DC (about 120V in the US, about twice that in many other places) to the power supply voltage. Most of these modules provide good regulation, because that’s built into the controller electronics, and it helps protect people and equipment.
  2. I stacked the two power supplies I used. The top one runs my control electronics. Most of it is 5V, but I also have some 12V relays.
  3. I used a 9 volt 3-1/2 amp module to run the motors. These are a little hard to find, so when I run across one I grab it for later use. 5V supplies are ubiquitous, as they are used now for phone chargers (phones generally have 4V batteries). But other voltages and power levels can be more scarce.
  4. Next in line is a board that monitors the motor supply for voltage and current output. You can buy panel meters with these features built in, but I built my own, as it’s not too hard. It then feeds generic panel meters. The hardest part to get right on this board was the current shunt. I used a bunch of SMT (surface mount) resistors in parallel.
  5. The motor driver module was purchased online from China. This particular one had some problems, and I basically had to repair it before I could use it. That sometimes happens with cheap stuff from China. They had installed the wrong part to function as a 5V auxiliary supply. It was supposed to be a fixed-voltage part and an adjustable-voltage part was installed. So I had to lift the adjustment pin off the board and add some components to get my 5V output.One of the drivers was also poorly soldered, so I went over the solder joints and added more solder as needed.

    The board uses a part that has been around for a long time (LM298). It is designed to drive stepper motors. It has four logic-level inputs (plus enable) and four power outputs. It can work up to 48V. I had planned to add a second higher-voltage motor driver supply to the project, but all the motors worked fine with 9V, so I left it out.

    You have to feed the driver the correct signals, and I made two more boards to do that. One board provides the four steps needed to generate the “quadrature” drive pattern and a pulse-width-modulated (PWM) signal to vary the amount of drive. The other board converts these signals to those needed to feed to the driver board.

  6. Another board just gets all the connections right.
  7. I used a four-position rotary switch to select between four different motors. Only one is a stepper motor. The ordinary DC motors are very easy to power on; you just apply power. You can modify their speed somewhat by changing the drive voltage or using a PWM signal which essentially does the same thing. I used one driver IC on the driver board to power the DC motors. I paired up the four drivers to make two. I can run the load in forward, reverse or braking mode.
  8. Here are the front panel controls for stepper speed, PWM, and forward – brake – reverse.
  9. Cheap panel meters from China indicate the drive voltage and total current being used. They have a nice auto-ranging feature which makes them usable up to about 50 volts input. Their electronics run on 5 volts. These digital meters only have three decimal places, but that was enough for this application.

Closing Comments

The biggest problem with motors is having them stall out due to mechanical overload, which can ruin both the motor and the drive electronics. As these motors are running no-load, that’s not a problem. You can grab the motor shaft with your fingers if you want to, and see what mechanical loading does to the current draw. But for real use, the electronics should include overcurrent protection to turn the power off if the motor stalls. Many industrial motor drivers also monitor motor temperature, which is another way to tell that something is going wrong with your motor.

I am very happy that I was finally able to get my stepper motor to run (both forwards and reverse!) and at a variety of different speeds. It turns out steppers are a bit sensitive to what speed you drive them at. Try to go too fast and they just won’t run. Go too slow and they use too much power (though there are ways around this). Most steppers have an optimum speed, and in most applications, you will see them operated at a constant speed, or maybe two, high and low (like in a scanner).

The driver module was designed for robotics hobbyists. It’s a neat design, but not well-documented. I had to look up the datasheets for the various parts used to get details. This is par for the course in hobby electronics.

It rains!

20 October 2017

I never thought I’d do a post just on account of some rain.
But per the records I’ve been able to find, it hasn’t rained in Sacramento since April. That’s six months with no rain! I didn’t even notice any foggy mornings.

But last night, as the weather guys predicted, we heard the soft pitter-patter of rain drops on the roof and in the yard. And this morning it was wet outside.

roses after a rain

Of course, people and other biological forms survive under conditions like this because of ground water and stored water upstream behind dams. Our garden stayed well-watered. Those who decided to continue the water conservation effort got very dry and brown lawns. However, most trees and even bushes did OK because of water in the soil.

We could leave even more water in the soil if we didn’t flush roof runoff into the drain system, but flushed it onto the soil instead. (That’s the permaculture way.)

When I took a photo of droplets in an old web under our pine tree, I found something interesting. Can you tell from the photo?

old web under pine tree

There is also sap (what amber is made out of) falling out of the tree and collecting on this web. The one darker blob is really obvious. This sap is quite messy. I got some on my fingers; it’s hard to get off.

In search of a better SerDes

17 October 2017

Oh no! Another dry technical article! True, true. Just pass it by if you’re not interested.

Serdes sounds like a Greek word, but it isn’t really. There are some people with the name Serdes, but it is uncommon. I learned it as an engineering acronym thus (lightly edited):

A Serializer/Deserializer (SerDes) – usually pronounced “sir-deez” – is a pair of functional blocks commonly used in high speed communications to compensate for limited input/output. These blocks convert data between serial data and parallel interfaces in each direction. The term “SerDes” generically refers to interfaces used in various technologies and applications. The primary use of a SerDes is to provide data transmission over a single/differential line in order to minimize the number of I/O pins and interconnects.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SerDes

Electronic Art

I am trying to work out some cool things to do with LED arrays that would respond to environmental or observer inputs. There are many pieces to such a system. This includes the possibility that the display itself may be some distance from the electronics that collects the input signals and decides what the display should do. The same way a computer monitor can be separate from the computer. And in this case, the two are connected with a cable.

Some of us remember the old printer cables. They were thick, had up to 25 separate wires in them, and couldn’t be much longer than 15 feet. I could probably use such a cable in my projects. But that’s a lot of bulk, and it comes with many limitations. Those cables connected a parallel port on the computer to a parallel port on the printer. There were usually 8 data lines plus a bunch of handshaking signals to make it so the computer would not send data faster than the printer could print it out. If you wanted to get a lot of data back from the printer, you could add another 8 data lines going in the opposite direction.

8 bits can encode into 256 different numbers (0 to 255). That’s enough for an alphabet – both upper and lower case – and a bunch of other symbols. Each symbol has a number “code” that stands for that symbol. Both ends of the line have to use the same code system.

An 8 bit parallel system could go pretty fast; millions of symbols per second. But try pushing parallel data through a long cable that fast and you will quickly run into problems. You would need to shield the cable so external signals won’t interfere with it, and so it won’t radiate signals into external equipment. And the wires in the cable, when they get quite long, resist fast signals going through them in at least three different ways (resistance, inductance and capacitance). So if you want to send data fast through a long cable, you have a whole hardware design challenge on your hands.

SerDes concept

Illustration of the SerDes concept. Original graphic by Grégoire Surrel – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

The solutions to these problems usually involve reducing the number of wires carrying signals (ideally just one pair would be enough) and creating special hardware interfaces that alter the signals so that they will make it through the cable successfully, even though the cable presents various barriers to proper transmission.

A standard solution for many years was the “RS-232” serial cable. In this system the signal is amplified to make it more resistant to interference and cable attenuation. And the signal is “serialized” so it only has to use one pair of wires. That means each symbol of 7 or 8 bits would be transmitted as a sequence of bits that would have to be reassembled into 7 or 8 parallel bits at the receiving end. That was an early SerDes system. But we didn’t call it that in the old days. The acronym only came into wide use after the internet and its various forms of information exchange came into wide use. The term commonly refers to high speed data transmissions, but the basic concepts are the same regardless of data rate. My projects use quite low data rates just to make sure I don’t run into too many design problems and can use cheap parts.

The RS-232 standard could probably work for me, but I wanted to try another more modern data transmission standard, TIA-485. (RS = Recommended Standard, as published by the EIA, Electronics Industries Alliance, but now taken over by the TIA, Telecommunications Industry Association). This standard uses two wires for each signal plus a third wire used as a ground (zero volts) reference. The signal is transmitted in an attenuated form, differentially. That means a “zero” would be transmitted by putting maybe 3-1/2 volts on one wire and 1 volt on the other. And a “one” would be transmitted by reversing those. Smaller signals in a cable create less external interference and are easier to pass through longer cable lengths.

I have a connector that is used for MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) that has five pins, which means it can carry two differential serial signals (or 4 RS-232 signals) plus a ground reference wire. I wanted to use this connector and a 5-wire cable, but there was one problem:

SerDes Timing

Just as in the old parallel printer cables, where handshaking signals were necessary to tell the printer when a symbol to print was put onto the connecting cable, and tell the computer when the printer was busy, serial systems also need a way of at least telling the receiver when the transmitted data is good, how fast it is going, and when an entire symbol has been sent. This requires, minimum, clock and end-of-symbol signals for data rate and data synchronization. In the RS-232 system, the data rate had to be set at both ends in advance. And the end-of-symbol signal was coded into the data stream. It takes a computer to figure out how to decode this data stream, but if you send all three signals separately, you don’t need any computing at the receiving end. Deserialization can be done with one piece of hardware called a shift register.

But I can’t transmit three signals over a five-wire TIA-485 cable, only two. So I thought I’d figure out how to combine the three signals into two so that my system could work with the hardware I have. I devised a rather simple system to do this, and built an initial working system several years ago for my “Christmas” project (Christmas because it used strings of holiday lights for the visual display). Recently I have built two more systems that use this method.

Glitches

I like to re-design systems each time I build them. This is partly because I might not have the same parts available that I used in an earlier design. Or it might be just to explore different ways the problem could be solved. All the heavy work in my SerDes system is on the transmitting site. The receiver is very easy to make. And for this transmitter design I wanted to use counters to run ICs (integrated circuits, now often known as “chips”) called multiplexers. You put parallel data on the 8 inputs of a multiplexer, then tell it which input to put on the output using a counter. And if the counter repeats a regular pattern (as most do) then the parallel data at the inputs will come out of the output in a predictable serial sequence. And so you have achieved serialization.

In my first design I was getting “glitches” at the outputs of some of my multiplexers. This is because I was using “ripple” counters. In this type of counter, the counting outputs don’t all change at exactly the same time. They might be a little off (usually much less than a microsecond, but that’s enough time to cause trouble). In other words, when changing from count 1 to count 2 for instance, the ones bit has to change from one to zero, while the twos bit has to change from zero to one. If the twos bit lagged a little, both outputs might be zero for a split second, telling the multiplexer to go to the wrong input. Such glitches can be filtered out, which is what I did in the first design. But in the second design I decided to try a different counting scheme, where only one counting bit would change at any one time. This should make counting glitches impossible (it does). But it means the count is no longer in number sequence. In other words to do this with a 4-count pattern, you have to use the pattern 0-2-3-1 (or 0-1-3-2) to get a glitchless count. This different sequence is not a problem when using a multiplexer, though it is more confusing to design if you are used to using ripple counters that count 0-1-2-3 (etc.).

I looked at the waveforms associated with this kind of counting, and they were just two square waves offset by one count. I found a PDF online that describes how to implement this kind of counter. It’s called a “quadrature” counter, and it’s pretty simple to do. Getting a similar sequence of 8 is a little more tricky, but basically just interleaves a quadrature signal with a square wave. I built my second system this way and it works fine (though I had to scratch my head a bit to get the input sequence right, as it is sensitive to the place value given to the various counting signals).

quadrature waveform illustration

A four-count pattern implemented using a quadrature counter.

What form should the data take?

So I now have a hardware system that can be used with either 2 TIA-485 signals over quite long distances (if the cables are made well) or with 4 RS-232 signals (but not the RS-232 encoding system). The RS-232 version is much easier to build, but does have distance and speed limitations compared to the TIA-485 system.

The original intention of the system was to enable transmission of 8-bit-wide signals that would be used to control an array of LEDs. But it could also be used to transmit serial control streams of any bit length. This means a wide variety of displays could be controlled, as long as they didn’t have to change at a very fast rate. In other words, we’re not talking about full-motion video, like TV, but that’s not the sort of display I’m working with. My average display contains less than 100 LEDs, while a modern TV screen contains millions.

I have also tried transmitting analog data using digital serial techniques by using pulse-width encoding, which is very simple to implement in hardware. This gives me the option of using digital data transmission instead of long analog signal lines. This may come in handy in some of my projects.

To the Stars

13 October 2017

In 1950 L. Ron Hubbard wrote a short novel for John W. Campbell’s Astounding Science Fiction entitled “To the Stars.”

The story was in the Space Opera genre and concerned the exploits of the spaceship Hound of Heaven which was rigged to travel near light speeds. For every hop the crew made around the universe, the people on the ground aged 100 years or more, leading to some very difficult circumstances.

In 2004 there was an attempt to turn the story into a film. The book was re-released (first released as a book in 1954) and Chic Corea recorded an album of the same name with some very kick-ass (and difficult to play) music on it.

“To the Stars” is a well-used phrase in the world today, but this article concerns the newest appearance of the term that I am aware of. Here is a screenshot of the new website related to this development:

to the stars home page

Tom DeLonge is a rock musician and UFO researcher born in California about 41 years ago.

He had considerable success with his band Blink-182 but by 2015 had become preoccupied with his other work and left the band. He released an album entitled To the Stars shortly thereafter. He also formed an independent publishing company of the same name.

Two days ago, DeLonge recorded and released a video announcing his latest venture: To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science. This venture is incorporated as a Public Benefit Corporation. It is for-profit but committed to serving the public good.

The venture’s mission, as stated on its website is:

To The Stars Academy strives to be a powerful vehicle for change by creating a consortium among science, aerospace and entertainment that will work collectively to allow gifted researchers the freedom to explore exotic science and technologies with the infrastructure and resources to rapidly transition them to products that can change the world.

They are focusing on science, aerospace and entertainment.
Subjects to be researched include: consciousness, telepathy and Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. They want to independently develop an “electrogravitic” propulsion system. And they want to produce feature films, as well as many other media forms.

The core group of this venture is comprised of:

  • Tom DeLonge, President.
  • Jim Semivan, VP Operations. Jim is retired CIA.
  • Hal Puthoff, VP Science and Technology. Hal is a laser scientist who was involved in Remote Viewing research in the 1970s.
  • Steve Justice, Director Aerospace Division. Steve worked at Lockheed’s Skunk Works for 31 years.
  • Luis Elizondo, Director of Global Security and Special Programs. Luis is a former U.S. intelligence officer. He was trained in microbiology and related fields and holds several patents.
  • Chris Mellon, National Security Affairs Advisor. Mr. Mellon has a varied government and private background including intelligence work and investing. He did his MA at Yale.

Consultants include: Dr. Garry Nolan, Genetics Technology; Dr. Paul Rapp, Brain Function and Consciousness; Dr. Norm Kahn, National Security and Program Management; Dr. Colm Kelleher, Biotechnologies; Dr. Adele Gilpin, Biomedicine and Law (licensed attorney).

Highlights of the 11 October video include:

In Mr. Mellon’s opening remarks, he told the story of a 2004 (14 November) encounter that the USS Nimitz had with a UFO. Our planes were unable to follow this craft. It did not communicate with the ship in any way, but was simply visible in the sky (and on radar) for some time.

Luis Elizondo remarked:

…by far the most interesting effort I was involved with was the topic of advanced aerial threats. For nearly the last decade, I ran a sensitive aerospace threat identification program focusing on unidentified aerial technologies. It was in this position I learned that the phenomenon is indeed real.

…We are also planning to provide never before released footage from real U.S. government systems, not blurry amateur photos but real data and real videos. And we’re inviting our government colleagues and friends in Defense to participate regularly with their own findings.

Steve Justice announced:

…one of the things I want to do is figure out what those technologies are in this observed vehicle and I want to build that.

I think this is a remarkable development in this whole field. It may seem limited to some, but they are obviously trying to creat something that will work with the general public, not just a few UFO nuts.

Friday the 13th

On this date in 1307 the king of France had hundreds of Knights Templar arrested, and later killed many of them and disbanded their organization in France. He had borrowed heavily from them and could not repay the loans. Here is an example of a senior government official – unable or unwilling to properly govern – committing crimes simply to protect his position and his own interests. That king died only 7 years later, at the age of 46.

That he acted on Friday the 13th may have been an attempt to lend supernatural legitimacy to his crime. However, the idea that Fridays that occur on the 13th day of the month are unlucky is not mentioned in any contemporaneous literature (per those who study such things). The thought does not seem to appear in literature until the late 1800s, a period during which many Europeans were reacquainting themselves with the original Asian origins of many of the world’s religious and spiritual systems of thought.

Bike Trip East

12 October 2017

I took this trip on the 24th of September. Got busy and almost forgot to write about it!

yellow asters

These hardy yellow asters thrive in an otherwise very dry landscape.

I have taken the American River Bikeway (also known by other names) west into Sacramento many times, but never east, so that’s what I decided to do one recent Sunday.

wild growing grapes

Here is another plant that grows in dry areas. But the fruit needs shade.

I have already written about the plants that grow along the river, but I never tire of photographing them – always hoping for a better shot than the last one. The jimsonweed with its huge white whorled flowers is always interesting to take pictures of.

jimsonweed

The trail east (towards Folsom) goes through drier land than that found downriver. And at one point the soil becomes almost 100 percent large gravel. This is a deposit from an ancient glacier, as far as geologists can tell. The stones are very worn and rounded. You will see these boulders in gardens; there is so much of it around here.

There is also an area of cliffs upriver. I took some pictures, but they didn’t seem very exciting and I didn’t really want to go on about geology, as it’s not my subject. There are also some really fancy houses up on top of those cliffs (other side of river). The views from up there must be pretty darned good.

Meanwhile, down on the trail a little group riding horses pass by. Horses are allowed along most of this trail, but they have their own paths they are supposed to follow, so they won’t interfere too much with the bike riders. These paths weave in and out along the river bank, sometimes using the bike path shoulder. This time of year you can often tell if there are horses ahead because their passing stirs up dust.

horse riders

Egret

egret by the trail

About a week before I made this trip, I saw a very large bird – probably a blue heron – land on the roof of a nearby house. It reminded me of seeing large birds following the creeks of Pullman down to wintering grounds closer to the big rivers, where it stays warmer and the water doesn’t freeze over.

But the fish eaters in this region don’t need to migrate. It never freezes here. Yet these birds do move around, and I am sure they are joined by more birds that summer at higher elevations were it does freeze in the winter. So there was one, one day, standing on a rooftop in Sacramento.

And then on this trip I saw this bird, an egret, by the trail. Myself and another photographer got pretty close to it before it took off. She had a fast camera and said she got a picture of it flying. It is really quite a large bird so seeing it in flight close to the ground is quite dramatic. My attempt to photograph it in flight captured only blue sky.

Lilacs

An another subject, there is the question of the “California Lilac.” Someone decided to call a bushy tree that somewhat resembles the traditional Lilac of the northwest, midwest and east coast by this name. The Lilac we are used to in “temperate” areas originates in the Mediterranean region (or Asia) and is in the Olive Family and rather closely related to the Privet (which does grow in the Sacramento area).

northern lilac flowers

Real lilacs are in genus Syringa

However, the plant found in drier climates named after the Lilac is in the Buckthorn Family, which has a somewhat unusual flower structure. Many of these species are native to California and are seen all over the place, including in many yards and urban plantings. They can be white, pink, violet (purple). A have seen plants that seemed to have totally red flowers, but those were perhaps a different plant, as Ceanothus flower colors apparently don’t include red. In gardens they do appear much like traditional Lilacs. However, the larger plants remind me a lot of mountain-ash (rowan). This particular specimen was hanging over a fence and getting dried out, but the shot shows its flower very well, with its showy frilled petals seated atop rather long slender stems. This plant was probably bred to have flowers this showy.

california lilac flower

California “lilac” is in genus Ceanothus.

Electronics Design Case Study – ADSR

23 September 2017

ADSR module homemade

This is a technical article and if you have no particular interest in electronics design feel free to skip it. It will get into some terminology that won’t all be explained in the text…

Music Synthesis

My interest in synthesizers goes back to my early days studying electronics. I always wanted to make my own synth.

But by 1983, MIDI had come out, and I was in the Sea Org.

MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. Musical instruments were an early target for embedded controllers (software-controlled electronic circuits) for many reasons. This ended (mostly) the era when synthesizers were controlled by analog (continuous) signals. Voltage sources were terrible when it came to keeping all the electronic instruments in an ensemble in tune with each other. So tuning was an obvious feature to turn over to the digital world, where crystal-controlled oscillators could stabilize pitch to within a few parts in a million.

The advent of digital signal processing meant things like voltage-controlled filters and unusual effects like ring modulation could be implemented with algorithms instead of hardware.

Voltage-controlled amplitude, however, is so straightforward in the hardware realm that it remains somewhat popular. A basic part of synthesizing a real-world note or sound is approximating its amplitude envelope. This envelope has long been analyzed by acoustics engineers into four parts: Attack; Decay; Sustain and Release. If you play a note on a stringed instrument you can easily see each of these parts in action. How hard and fast you hit (or pluck) the string determines the initial attack and to some extent how that attack decays. Then if you don’t damp the string it will continue to ring until it is damped or played over. This is sustain. And when it is damped, the sound will die out, which is the release phase.

There are many many possible ways to imitate this amplitude envelope with electronics. The most common methods use parts that I had run out of (1 Meg-ohm potentiometers) so I decided to try an alternative design of my own creation.

Design Requirements

Most traditional ADSRs take a “gate” signal from a keyboard which tells the electronics how long the key is being held down (“note on” in MIDI). My electronic art projects use sensors, not keyboards, so I couldn’t rely on a gate signal to determine how much sustain the sound would have. I also kind of wanted a circuit that could be adapted so that each part of the envelope could be controlled by a separate sensor. That means it couldn’t just use pots, like the super-simple designs do. I also wanted to try straight-line segments rather than the traditional curved segments you get using just resistors and capacitors, even though this is less “realistic” for decay slopes.

I had a front panel I was reusing from an earlier project, and originally loaded it with just three pots – all that seemed to fit – which is two less than you need to control the five main parameters of the envelope. But I thought I could skip setting a sustain level, and use one pot to control both decay and release slopes. This panel had to fit into a eurorack-style chassis I had put together earlier, with power coming in the front.

The unit was also to include the voltage-controlled amplifiers, using an IC I had never worked with before.

First Try

I decided to use an op amp integrator at the core of the design, as it would give straight-line slopes and could be dependably controlled. However, I wasn’t sure how to set up my 100K pots to imitate a wider range of resistance. I used three comparators and a couple of flip-flops to detect voltage levels and turn the various slopes on and off.

Mounted at the bottom of the front panel was a backplane board that has become standard in most of my designs. Circuit boards then plug into this backplane, which ideally handles all the interconnects. Front panel parts that could not be mounted directly on the backplane board would be wired down to the backplane using jumpers.

I made the envelope generator board first and then the VCA board. The VCA datasheet was confusing at first, but by wiring an actual circuit I was able to figure out what was going on. This VCA could accept a wide range of control voltages (0 to 30 roughly), but they were referenced to the negative voltage rail! So I needed both an amplifier and offset for my envelope, as it would go from 0 to 5V only, my standard range for control voltages. I realized at this point that I would need a sound source to test this with, and it would also be nice to monitor the envelope waveform on an analog meter. I then spent about a day creating an oscillator and a meter for these purposes.

An incomplete design with too many questions about “will it work this way?” resulted in my running out of room on my envelope module. To solve this I piggybacked an extra module onto the main one. I got some sort of envelope out of this design, but the pots worked only over an extremely narrow range of their total rotation. I had to decide whether to stick with these pots and basic design, or start over.

Second Try

I looked around at what my alternatives were. I had a nice set of six quite small 5K pots from an old piece of audio equipment. They would all fit into the panel if I drilled new holes for them. So I decided to go for it. Five of these pots went onto a new backplane board. I modified this board to hold circuitry and figured the majority of my new design would fit on this board, with the rest put on a new plug-in module on the original backplane.

Now that I was beginning to recognize that this was a challenging project, I went to a build a section and test it approach to my work. 5K pots could only yield 1:100 output variations (comparable to using a 1Meg pot in series with a 10K resistor) by using the turn-on “knee” of transistors to stretch out the transfer curve. I have used this before so didn’t bother to work it out in complete detail, or plot the curves graphically, but below gives you a graphical idea of what I’m referring to:

transistor turn-on graph

Using a curve found on the internet, note that a 0.1 change in input voltage produces a ten-fold change in output current. Extend this input range a little more and you can squeeze out a 1:100 input/output ratio, or even more.

I built my current sources and sinks using discrete transistors. This gives worse consistency and stability than using matched pairs or some specialized IC, but usable for my purposes. I built one and tested it. I gave me a range of 50 to roughly 1500 microamps. This was good enough. I put the rest on the board, then added a dual timer (LM556) and some inverters and connected it up to run continuously (astable mode). I powered up and checked with my oscilloscope. This part of the design worked fine. The timers have two comparators and a flip-flop inside each of them, so this decreased my parts count.

I thought that I could get the timers to stop after just one cycle using some sort of edge detection scheme. But it didn’t work. I was using two timers so that the attack-decay and sustain-release cycles were separate and could be put in sequence. But my difficulties in making the circuit cycle just once and stop caused me to rethink this approach.

The next day I rewired the timers for one-shot (monostable mode) operation. Now the timers could be triggered by my sensor, fire – producing the envelope waveforms – and would then stop, waiting for a new trigger. I used two control flip-flops with NAND gates (CD4093B) to lock out new trigger signals until the current envelope had finished. I really needed only one flip-flop, but the package (CD4013B) has two in it, so I used one for each of the timers.

Next I had to get all the analog levels of the envelope right. I put this circuitry on the new module board. I only needed 8 wires to connect the new envelope module to this analog module. It has six opamps and a comparator. The comparator detects when the envelope signal goes to zero, and resets the flip-flops so they can allow in another trigger signal. This circuit wasn’t working at first. What was wrong? The envelope waveforms were only going down to 0.5 volts, not to ground. I had the comparator set below this, so it was never firing. I was powering my envelope generator with only ground and +12V. The current sinks (set up as mirrors for my current sources) could only pull the load capacitors down to 1/2 a volt. I compensated for this by adding some offset to my summing opamp. I set the output to go a little below ground so the comparator would for sure fire. I had to find a missing wire on the envelope board before I got the unit totally working. It’s not perfect, but it now works as it was designed to work, and will serve it purpose in helping me develop electronic art that uses sounds.

Answers to Drugs

22 September 2017

Yesterday I attended a public information session concerning the increasing use of marijuana and other drugs. This session was organized by Bishop Ron Allen who heads the International Faith Based Coalition. This is an anti-drug-abuse group. (Not an anti-drug group, though.) He had this session video-taped for use in his outreach work.

Two of the presenters were with the Colorado National Marijuana Initiative. They were there representing the President’s Office of National Drug Control Policy.

From official websites:

A component of the Executive Office of the President, ONDCP was created by the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 [which extended an act by the same name passed 2 years earlier]. The ONDCP Director is the principal advisor to the President on drug control issues. ONDCP coordinates the drug control activities and related funding of 16 Federal Departments and Agencies.

ONDCP also administers two grant programs: the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) and Drug-Free Communities (DFC).

The High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) program, created by Congress with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, provides assistance to Federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in areas determined to be critical drug-trafficking regions of the United States.

The National Marijuana Initiative (NMI) is one of three national initiatives within the HIDTA program.

Other presenters

Another presenter was with the California Dept. of Justice Advanced Training Center.

The first presenter, who did not sit on the panel, was the ED of Omni Youth Programs, a non-profit, non-governmental “agency” operating in Sacramento County. She is college-trained with a background in both traditional and non-traditional therapies. She is assisted at Omni by a trained Family Therapist.

She explained to the audience that Omni’s approach to drug abuse is to target correlated factors such as child and family violence. These factors are linked to drug abuse (alcohol abuse in particular) by many studies (I assume mostly done by sociologists). These factors are addressed through group training programs. Omni trains the trainers who then go out and train groups. If this training is like other methods I have heard about, it focuses on changing “undesirable” behaviors into more desirable ones. We can assume that this work is moderately beneficial, but it uses technologies that can also be applied to more sinister forms of social control, and involves no real therapy on a personal level. Measures of the effectiveness of this work were not stressed in her short talk, but the website indicates positive results in 6- and 12-month follow-up studies.

Criminalize it

The federal approach to the drug problem is to criminalize drug production (where possible), trafficking, and use. About half of all Federal prisoners are there on drug trafficking charges. This is about 100,000 people. There are only about 250 people in federal prisons for possession only, but in state prisons there are roughly 50,000 more. There were roughly 160,000 drug traffickers in state prisons in recent years.

These figures must not include many major in-country producers, as drug production figures show no sign of heading downwards. However, many of these drugs, even Meth and LSD, have significant non-US sources, and most illegal drugs are majorly produced outside of the US.

The law-based approach to drug abuse control gives a lot of people a lot of things to do, but gives no particular sign of being effective. As is the case with most lawmaking, anti-drug laws are on the books because they are demanded by popular opinion, or give the government the feeling they are “doing something,” not because they are effective at dealing with social problems.

The federal people at this event argued for a continued legal and regulatory approach to the problem, bolstered by information campaigns, which have shown some effectiveness.

If marketing is effective, why bother with criminalization?

My take would be to trash the legal approach and continue the information campaigns. This might seem hypocritical to some, but passing laws about things just doesn’t seem to work. Private corporations, which have no direct ability to make law (though they do lobby abundantly, per all reports), have grown strong on marketing alone. Marketing and propaganda can breath life into a failed idea or kill a successful one. I think the effectiveness of marketing stems from its stress on giving people reasons to do things rather than reasons to stop doing things. Starting remains more popular than stopping in this society and probably always will. The stoppers are doomed to a minority status, even if they gain control of government or industry for a time. One of the greatest paradoxes we live with today has been our success at starting wars. Wars have always been seen primarily as stops because of their destructive results, but we have become convinced that they have “constructive” purposes in society, so they are now broadly supported (at least in the US).

That wars are constructive is of course a lie. So what we have in the US is a situation where the public is being lied to broadly and believing most of it. This is a sad situation, and is the road to a totally out-ethics (self-destructive) nation, which we are rapidly becoming. Drug use is a part of this greater overall picture.

Hubbard’s approach

What LRH has discovered about drug use is summarized in the informational booklet, “Answers to Drugs.” This booklet is part of both the Volunteer Ministers program and the Scientology Online Courses program.

Hubbard believed that the only way to ultimately solve the huge social issues of our times was to take individuals and bring them up to a point where they would become willing and able to take effective actions at a social level. He saw no way to accomplish this only at the level of the group. Individuals were the building blocks of all groups, so individuals are the target of Hubbard’s work. Scientology organizations are dedicated to handling individuals. However, when individuals get to the point where they feel ready to take action on the group level, they may do so through several programs sponsored by church members, but designed to operate independently of church organizations:

Narconon handles the drug abuse problem by operating rehabilitation facilities across the planet.

The Truth About Drugs program backs up this work with drug education materials and activities.

United for Human Rights seeks to empower victims of criminal abuses by informing them of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Way to Happiness program distributes a secular moral code across the planet in about 100 languages.

That booklet is also used by Criminon, which is a criminal rehabilitation program.

Applied Scholastics seeks to improve study skills, as laid out in LRH’s Study Technology, through its international teacher training center and in schools across the planet.

Hubbard College of Administration similarly teaches Hubbard’s management technology.

The Volunteer Ministers are organized to assist in disaster relief, often working alongside the Red Cross and government groups. Volunteer Ministers can also get trained in all facets of Scientology so they can help friends, neighbors and strangers more effectively.

And the Citizens Commission on Human Rights seeks to put ethics in on the psychiatrist-lead mental health system.

Here are some excerpts from the Answers to Drugs booklet used to train Volunteer Ministers and anyone else interested in this subject:

The hard, solid fact is that until now there has been no effective psychotherapy in broad practice. The result is a drug-dependent population.

Drug addiction has been shrugged off by psychiatry as “unimportant” and the social problem of drug-taking has received no attention from psychiatrists–rather the contrary, since they themselves introduced and popularized LSD. And many are pushers.

Drugs essentially are poisons.

The mind is not a brain.

You can see from this short selection that Scientologists face real challenges in convincing non-Scientologists who have been educated in other “solutions” that our approaches are worth taking a hard look at. They are going to have to change some of their basic stable data about the problem and about society at large.

Drugs and Psychotherapy

The connection between drugs and psychotherapy might not be apparent to some, so let me clarify: People seek therapy usually due to experiencing some “mental problem.” They quite often don’t make this move until they are acutely suffering. Traditionally the therapist talks to the person (now often called “talk therapy”) in the hopes of giving the person some helpful realizations. This sort of therapy is no longer popular; it is not covered by many forms of medical insurance, and it takes a lot of time. So if the talk therapy doesn’t work or is unavailable, drugs are resorted to. Usually some drug can be found that will alleviate the symptoms. It will do nothing about the underlying cause. That means that drugs can “hook” people, because the symptoms return if drug use stops.

So we see drug use as a result of ineffective psychotherapies, as well as lack of access to any therapy other than drugs. Drugs are seen by beginning users as therapeutic, and in the past have often been sold that way. For instance, laudanum – a strong opioid drug – started as a pain relief medicine. So did the modern forms of opium, morphine (still used), heroin and cocaine. To that list add “legitimate” drugs prescribed by psychiatrists, and we see that whole profession falling into the pit of hiding symptoms behind a drug fog, rather than treating root cause. And: As long as they continue to believe that the mind is the brain – a widely disproved misconception – they will continue to fail in their assigned role in society, if they even care what that is.

The result of the failure of psychotherapy to deliver relief where it is most desired has resulted in the current drug situation. The only real solution is to start providing a psychotherapy (or whatever you choose to call it) that really works.

None of the panelists at the event I attended suggested this.