Man of Letters

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Der Ding An Sich

It really stuck in my craw. I remember standing there in front of the machine. It was a bizarre twenty-first-century machine still quaintly termed a Creel. My boss, the surrogate father of my room-mate and prep school buddy was telling me something I found hard to fathom.

Not that it was difficult. There is nothing difficult about machines. The chief difficulty is generally that they’re a tad dull. Doubly dull on days when you’ve awoken before the sunrise to drive from a one bedroom apartment, past listless trees and lumbering rigs, to a grey gravely yard next to a utilitarian affair termed a factory.

“You’re a man of letters.”

It really stuck in my craw. I’d asked for a guide. For a chance to study the inner workings. The simple buttony operation of the thing would stick better with such documentation. Yet instead of encouragement for my interest, I was called a man of letters.

It is odd for me, it is profoundly difficult, to keep from resenting soft suburban blindness. To deal with the oversimplified dichotomy of ‘this’ and ‘that’, and ‘thus’ and ‘so’ of the collegiate. I was not cradled there, I did not belong there, and I certainly despised being called soft by its tenderest tenants.

This whole essay is years in the making and the flame animating the long assembled kindling was sparked by ‘the most widely known man of letters.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson, yes finally I had an elegant way to broach the subject.

The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy contains that little phrase. I was there because Emerson is the great Ghost behind our present machine. For good or for ill.

I think good and ill a thing that’s at times difficult to fathom. Though not as difficult or impossible as my ‘post-modern’ (relativists)(sic) contemporaries would make it out to be.

Emerson thought the man of letters was incomplete. Like Aurelius, he thought that muttering over books overlong was unhealthy. I’d been conditioned from youth to agree with this assessment.

A far more recent writer by the name of Crichton had shaped the entirety of my ethos in the span of a paragraph. In a dime-store thriller called The Lost World, there was a passage lamenting the academics penchant to be maladapted. This need to be nerdy was sharply contrasted with the athletic achievements of some 20th century Noble luminary. I think it may have been Plank.

I was thin, and pale, and dark. I reveled in the hills, streams, and woods of the nation that adopted me. My father was a security guard who participated in martial arts tournaments. My mother worked in a gym in the basement of a looming thing in the metropolis of my birth. My father’s father was a gym instructor. My grandmother’s father was a geologist or economist for a geological survey studying some of the roughest country on Earth. So despite being thin and pale, and dark I had a physical pedigree and physical passions, as well as not the cheeriest of childhoods.

All these being reasons why I so thoroughly imbibed Crichton observation, and so thoroughly resented condescension from first world humble braggarts.

These sorts steal my time, steal their own time, and stymie this wondrous blooming thing called life with listless labeling.

This is why Emerson is so essential and misreading him so dangerous.

He is called the ‘most famous man of letters’ by that Encyclopedia for solid reason. He is both hapless signpost and robust director of the American way. A decent and dare I say lovely path when properly taken.

‘America is a poem’ and the magic of poetry is in its motion. Rhythmic meter is the same animus that Emerson promotes by suggesting that a man see no work as beneath him, so long as it is useful at the moment. He saw the enlightenment sought for by all the sages in all the ages as being possible to accrue from the most mundane of tasks, provided the proper spirit.

Logos and pathos, Apollo and Dionysus, in perfect concert that’s the ethos. At least that to me is the ethos Emerson was attempting to transmit.

Transcendentalism you see is not about escape but about embrace. Individuation and individualism are not about isolation but realization. The proper reading of individuation is not of setting apart but of standing together. Yes, we are together but we do not lean one against the other, each of us stands upon the same ground and we regard each other as one regards a magic mirror. In this realization, the mirror is a window into another world where we see ourselves in a different reality. This embrace is the kindest Agape and the richest kiss of Eros.

Of course, to use a cringy cliché this rose has many thorns and plucking it requires utmost caution.

“Rich man in a poor man’s clothes.” To borrow from Elliot as I will do forever is the prickle that I find most personally irksome. The humble braggart, the latte-swilling tough guy, the ‘dude with a stilted attitude learned from TV,’ the man who called me ‘man of letters.’

Why all this ire? Was it an insult or compliment? Was it both? I do not know but I do know that it is indicative of an improper digestion.

Emerson, unless I am mistaken would have resented the separation of the ‘gritty blue jeans realist’ from the ‘man of letters.’ In fact, I think that he found this very dichotomy to have a mortifying effect. It is the same dichotomy that Crichton and Aurelius address when they remark on the imbalances of certain characters. So, to be called ‘a man of letters’ by a hard-working dandy, seemed indicative of improper digestion of the massive cultural morsel, that the Transcendental school has set upon the American table.

I’m not exactly sure what they’re playing at. What they’re playing at with all that cocky grinning, armchair psychology, beards, and flannel… And I only point it out because I think it makes everyone miserable and a shot at diagnosis may perhaps be better than no diagnosis at all.

So, I Alexander Weir, formerly known as Alexander Vadimavich Vyborov, proclaim without pride, or shame, that I am as I have always been a man. Not a man of letters, not a tragedy, not a poet, not a laborer, painter, musician, or chief, but simply a man.

It is a worthy state.

Der Ding An Sich

TAP # 7 – Time Management in a Post Industrial Economy +

I give a brief description of an idealized day for an indie sorta guy or gal. I also discuss the need for a stronger emphasis on craftsmanship in arts as a vehicle for economy and SANITY. Thanks for stopping by.

 


More articles and stories coming in the next week.

TAP # 6 – ‘Blogs are Bogus’ – Art, Technology, and Prejudice (Vlog)


It’s really easy to take content creators for granted. It’s really hard to stay sufficiently confident as a content creator. The two are sides of the same coin that we should understand in order to overcome.

Smell The Bacon

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Francis Bacon (1561 – 1626)


Dedication
For Miss Birdie my very own Eliza…

Has everything been said?

A lot of people presented with a blank page are familiar with this question.

The answer is of course no.

But, let’s for just a moment imagine that the answer is yes. There is nothing new under the sun, all is vanity, and the Simpsons have in fact already done it, twice.

Well, writers would be out of a job wouldn’t they? In fact most professions that rise above agriculture and maintenance would be rendered moot. In short art, philosophy, and a good deal of science would simply die.

Well…Would they? I think not. And I think that’s a beautiful thing. Perhaps even the most beautiful and profound thing about existence.

Allow me to explain.

There is an art all its own in worthy repetition.

It’s an art that’s more recognizable in that trite mantra, “Say it in your own words.”

At its heart it is about comprehension and appreciation. Therein lies its beauty. Therein the solution to Solomon’s eternal ennui.

That solution being the very one the Ecclesiast presented. The solution being finding contentment in that which is. Not that which should be or which could be. Those twin gods of the novelty obsessed. (What devilry novelty is! Teasing and ever tormenting with promises never fulfilled.)

What is the end of mankind but to perceive and enjoy that which is? One needs no faith to appreciate this. It is a truth whose digestion is easy for skeptic and cleric alike.

The fact is, that which is, recurs. Not in exact facsimile but the general patterns are there, with enough fidelity to brand as recurrence.

So recur the things that must be said. Yet their flavor changes. Because those who say it are new. They are new parts assembled from the old, and in reciprocal fashion, these assemble old parts from the new. What a thing it is!

So there is no such thing as a bold new frontier. For what is a frontier, but a thing so ancient, as to be untouched by the novel foot called man?

Yes there is but one art. One sacred art. The art of cultivation. The tending of an eternal garden whose fruits, trees, and flowers blossom of their own accord.

This is the art of Eden.

It sings “I am continuance and I am not to be defined. I am to be enjoyed. To be loved.”

What manifold blossoms what manifold ways! You can sing, you can write, you can etch. You can love and you can direct.

When one is sated on such fruits why should she reach for the forbidden thing called ‘Define.’

Perhaps it was God’s end to make mankind because Godhood is over-rated. Perhaps there is a Hell and it is called Completeness. What Good would a Good Lord be if He doomed His creatures to such a Fate from the outset?

The art of worthy repetition occurred to me today when I came across a rendering of the thoughts of Francis Bacon.

The thing occurred as I am rereading the springboard for my current project, E.O. Wilson’s Consilience, The Unity of Knowledge.

‘Look at that!’ I said. That is precisely what I’ve been meaning to say and it was said so well four hundred years ago! What business have I prattling on? Dejection creeped upon me.

Till I realized: If I’ve just had my thoughts echoed from a distance of four centuries… why not become an echo?

Because it is a worthy thing that I wish to Magnify…

The Father of Induction saw fit to say that the mind,

“is not like a wax tablet. On a tablet you cannot write the new till you rub out the old; on the mind you cannot rub out the old except by writing in the new.”

What an altogether compact and lovely way to say everything that I have said above!

Yet, Bacon said much more that I have wished to say, and will echo here today.

He saw the importance of psychology. Saw it as being of utmost use for effective science and creativity. Even though the word had not been codified, he understood the value for getting a grasp on the mechanisms of mind. This is precisely what I have been stressing, and meaning to stress better, by positing that the first and foremost of lenses is perception itself. One that must be polished and studied with more caution than any other science.

Sir Francis Bacon also cautioned of the ‘idols of the mind.’ My, what a way to warn against those perils which have so vexed me to espy ahead, behind, and all around. What a fitting term is ‘idol’ for this idolatry! For taking living truths and turning them into wooden follies.

  • The first is the idol of the tribe. That thing that superimposes an artificial, constricting order, where there is a natural ‘chaos.’

  • The second is the idol of the cave, which is subjectivity. Personal prejudice falsely enshrined as objectivity.

  • The third is the idol of the marketplace, or of a marketers ability to sell a fantasy, through persuasion.

  • The fourth idol, and the one that I believe to be most dangerous of all today, is the idol of the theater! It is the most dangerous because the manufacturing of consent, and every other thing, is today done largely through entertainment; whether consciously or unconsciously. Our attitudes and beliefs, are molded by engaging all our senses in films, television and radio programs, and much else in the world of multimedia. We must be therefore sharply on guard, for what follies we may have unwittingly taken on board. For in such a world, such harboring of error, is exceedingly easy and common. Broad is the way, BROADWAY, to destruction indeed!

I am very glad to have stumbled upon Wilson’s book. An event that is now three years old. I am very glad that I have had the good sense to remember the book, to use it as a springboard, and most of all to give it a second reading. Yes, the repetition was as sweet as the first taste.

I am very glad that Wilson has done the indispensable work of making thick and hoary volumes accessible. I am glad that he has echoed ‘The Ionian Enchantment.’

I am glad to have heard that echo of Bacon, echoed by Wilson, and to echo it in turn.

This is how we must garden.

For truly, we are all but gardeners, upon the terraces of an eternal Eden.

Wake up and smell the Bacon!


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Forever Fluid – The Strange Case of Renewable Limits

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This is an updated version of a draft for the introduction to my upcoming book: Forever Fluid – The Strange Case of Renewable Limits. © (Originally titled: ‘It Moves You Know’)
I consider it copyrighted, as I plan to publish it, or a version of it as part of the aforementioned book. That doesn’t mean you can’t link or do whatever. Just that you can’t do it commercially and that I’d prefer to know about it.

This book is dedicated to Galina V.W., who twice the mother, raised her grandson as lovingly as she raised her son.

The Case for Care

How does one begin to care about water?  Water being a thing generally only thought about when you’re thirsty or need a wash. How does one begin to care about something that just falls from the sky? Care enough to write a book on it?

Sometimes life’s projects spring out of nowhere. That is until you take the trouble to track ‘em back to their source.

This particular endeavor may have started when Doctor Walter (Pseudonym), my HS Earth Science teacher, mentioned that water might become an issue in coming decades.

That idea sat in the back of my mind for years. Dormant and drowned out by all the usual business and distraction of being a young man. It wasn’t til I stumbled upon Consilience, The Unity of Knowledge, nearly a decade later, that I was reminded of the reality of limited resources.

Consilience isn’t an environmental book. It’s more one of those intellectual adventures. The sort that scientists set out on when facing the seductively beckoning sea of life’s mysteries. Consilience is biologist E.O. Wilson’s ‘all-in-one’ foray into the history of philosophy and science. It’s a highlighting of how this history reveals an inherent overlap, or ‘jumping together’ of knowledge from various disciplines. One that occurs in concert with his own insightful musings, on how such consilience may soon more fully occur. Though I disagree with much found in its pages, I’d highly recommend it as a fascinating read.

The work’s pertinent part for this particular project came at the end of the book. Which at one point discusses the vast expenditures of energy and resources necessary to sustain life today. Discovering the sheer amount of water involved is what triggered the memory of old Doctor Walter’s cautioning.

This recall and its attendant realizations are the reason for why I learned to care about water and why I wish to impart that care to readers of this book.

Care is often stigmatized by the twin burdens of trouble and responsibility. Yet care can also be fascinating. It can in fact be a great deal of fun. It can animate certain dormant sensibilities, that nourish and revitalize the spirit, and lead you to myriad adventures and discoveries.

Another natural consequence of care is of course cultivation. Care leads to the cultivation of spiritual, intellectual, and physical powers. Powers that are indispensable in the most precious and precarious sort of cultivation. A cultivation called agriculture and industry. Twin disciplines upon which all of our lives depend and which are in turn wholly dependent on water.

There will be much on this in coming chapters. For now I ask that you be so kind as to humor my penchant for introspection.

Catalyst

Lord, how our information increaseth. (Keith Waldrop. Transcendental Studies: A Trilogy)

I like to introspect. I find it to be an excellent exercise for developing strong creative and critical thinking faculties. These skills have always been essential. Perhaps it is a mistake to say that they are needed now more than ever. But, I’m going to say it.

I’m saying it because although the world is as complicated as it always was, we are more complicated than we have ever been before. The machinery and administration of our societies is vast, labyrinthine, and interdependent. For these reasons, and perhaps ‘just because we can,’ we developed the ability to communicate instantly across oceans and continents. As a result information bombards us at an unprecedented rate.

Lord, how our information increaseth. Indeed.

Our familiar manner of relating to one another, of interacting with the environment, and the ‘qualia’ of our institutions have all undergone drastic changes.

All of these things call for well developed faculties. It will take strength, wit, compassion, and resolve to continuously thrive in a world of 7.6 billion people, large hadron colliders, and dead zones. It will take introspection.

This is why I weave psychological, philosophical, and sociological analysis into a basket, that would already be complete, even if assembled from the barest essentials of science and reporting.

I would not be able to practice such a delicate art. The art called ‘integrative analysis’ without a healthy dose of introspection.

‘Integrative analysis’ is the multifaceted discipline foreshadowed by the catalyst for this work: E.O. Wilson’s Consilience. It is consilience.

Nowhere is it more necessary than today’s interdependent, overlapping, high speed world. A world that produces words like Biogeochemical.

Biogeochemical should have been the watchword of the 20th century. The passage of chemicals between living things and the environment is a cycle that requires rapt attention. Perhaps if such attention was given there would have been yet more geniuses and poets. There is much to unpack in the latter statement. For the purpose of the introduction I will simply say: Preventing illness and death is why we must strive to make Biogeochemical the watchword of the 21st century.

The very nature of the word is multifaceted. It is a testament to the increasing complexity of living in a universe that is inherently, unfathomably intricate. It is why I practice and stress the need for developing a strong capacity for integrative analysis.

I think it worth mentioning that good analysis requires hard work and resolve. Neither hard work nor resolve are possible if you fall into the trendy nihilism that’s still somewhat in vogue. This nihilism has at its core a bizarre sort of overdeveloped minimalism. It is a bastardization of utilitarianism. One that has kept me, and I dare wager a good deal of others; from accessing the energy, resources, and will necessary to fight the good fight.

It is in the interest of providing an example of how this mindset plays out and is resolved that I offer the next passage. I do so in the hopes that it will produce more authors, more cultivators, more passion.

Fortuitous

It was recalling Doctor Walter’s words as I was reading Wilson’s work that led to this present volume.

This recall came at a fortuitous time. That is if you consider the creation of a book fortuitous. I was looking for something to do. I knew that I had to do something. I’d spent too much time looking and studying and not enough time doing. I weighed the merits of various enterprises and remembered that I’d always intended to write.

While, you’re welcome to disagree with my self-assessmsent. Writing is something I consider myself good at. Words and ideas come with ease and coherency. Something more the result of having a love of reading instilled in me early than any inherent braininess.

The fact that writing came naturally, the idea that books didn’t have utility in the same way an algorithm does, and the saturation of the writing market; are some of the reasons I viewed a writing career dimly.

I needed to get a ‘real job’ and build ‘real skills.’ Not do something that was ‘easy’ and fun. I bounced about from odd-job to odd-job, attempting to teach myself computer programming, because things have to have ‘utility’ you know.

Rediscovering the water issue was a fortuitous catalyst. It was an issue that my skill could shake a stick at. Even better it was an issue that had utility.

How does writing solve issues? Well, it doesn’t but it may help along the process. (The very fact that I feel the need to say this is testament to the trendy utilitarian nihilism mentioned last section.)

Part of solving a problem is having a good grasp of it and that only comes from thinking. Writing being formalized thinking seems perfect for the job. While I may not solve anything per se, I can serve as a signpost for professionals and laypeople alike.

The Flavor

Many readers pore through the introduction to see if a book is up their alley. They’re always trying to get a taste for the flavor of it. To see if they like it.

I’ll flat out save you the time and give you a taste.

It is true. Every book has a flavor. This book is no different. It will take you on a journey through the fascinating intersections defined by the axis resource known as water. It will be both a lesson and a story.

This is my first non-fiction book. It is narrative journalism. According to thebalance.com narrative journalism is:

“An immersive style of storytelling, narrative journalism is used to captivate readers by drawing them into a story with greater detail than is found in traditional news stories. It is a popular format for magazines such as the New Yorker and can difficult to define and write.”

I love stories, I love finding things out, and I dig a challenge. So this medium seems exactly up my alley.

I don’t think that any of the above traits are special. They’re up everybody’s alley. There’s a lot of joy to be had in reading a hard-won story about the real world. It’s a joy that’s on par with creating the story. One that I was delighted to experience as I did the background research necessary to launch this project.

The works of Alex Prud’ homme, Fred Pearce, and Jacques Leslie. Works like The Ripple Effect, When The Rivers Run Dry, and Deep Water are all superb examples of narrative journalism.

This book is written in a similar vein.

A Little Extra

Since the New Yorker was mentioned, I’d like to suggest that my readers whet their appetite for narrative journalism, by reading The Lost City of Z by David Grann. It is free to access on their website.

The spirit of exploration is one that I’ve always held in high regard. A flame that needs stoking, in a world that believes it’s been mapped and mounted, like some hapless gossamer butterfly in a Victorian collection.

It is in the interest of rekindling such time-honored passions, that I began writing a jungle adventure inspired by all the Doyle, Crichton, and Lovecraft I pored over in my adolescence. (Of course Alan Watts and Terrence McKenna played a role as well.) Researching for The Sketch of Sam Monroe (estimated completion: 1st Quarter, 2019 ) led me to Grann’s article. It is a worthy read.

If you dig jungle books, and aren’t too uncomfortable with salty language, and psychedelic silliness, please check out the intro and first couple of chapters on my website: fractaljournal.com.

I believe that jungles are useful metaphors for getting to grips with things and for kindling the spirit of exploration.

Getting a grip on the water issue is a jungle in its own right.

Time to set up base-camp!


© [Alexander V. Weir] and [fractaljournal.com], [2017]. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to [Alexander V. Weir] and [fractaljournal.com] with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Defense of Journalism

There is some salty language briefly. It is included because it is how some people talk. Skip it if you’re offended. There’s lots of content here.

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Edward R. Murrow

Don’t Be Defensive

I’m always going to remember sitting in my techie friends small office bedroom, on the big medicine ball, serving as the only available guest chair. There was no bed. Simply a hammock and two high powered PCs. I’m always going to remember it because it’s damned quirky.

I’ve been meaning to learn Java since I found out about it around 2007. I didn’t have the knack for it, but I’m stubborn, so I still have that goal on the back-burner to this very day, a full decade later.

I’ve made some modest progress, over the last couple of years towards that end. I’m a writer so I’m a narrative guy (Learn through/Thrive on: stories), so careful reading, and lots of web queries on background info were my go to.

Slowly but surely, through lots of notes on the free tutorial provided by HWS, and Niemeyer & Leuck’s: Learning Java; I’ve been able to absorb enough basic principles to where I don’t feel completely lost, as I feed bad code into NetBeans.

It was my geeky reading habits, and the opportunity to exchange off-color jokes that found me in the strange little blue room.

We were having a discussion on the strengths and weaknesses of various programming languages.

There was a stack of programming manuals on the desk. I asked about C++ and the book. And then somehow, the conversation turned to the creator of the language, and author of that particular volume: Bjarne Stroustrup.

O he’s a little bitch.”

I thought this odd.

“That book…it’s …he’s just…”

I really didn’t have a comment. But not for any nobler reason than sheer ignorance.

“He’s just such a defensive little bitch.”

“How so?”

“It’s just he goes on and on…just complaining…he’s almost whiny…like I can’t stand it. You shouldn’t have to explain why something is good, he just comes off as super insecure, it’s a pain in the ass to read.”

“Well,” I said as my writer’s sympathy kicked into high gear, “critics are assholes, often dishonest assholes, dishonest partisan assholes, and I bet a buncha C Nazis were giving him hell, I don’t think addressing criticisms and misunderstandings is defensive.”

“Eh…yeah…but the way he does it. It’s just…cringy. You should just make something so good that you don’t have to explain why it’s good.”

“Yeah, but what if ya did, and a buncha schmendricks picked it apart, and just painted a totally inaccurate picture of it…”

“Yeah, I get that, but it’s just not as good of a book as it could have been if he wasn’t so fuckin’ whiny. And like…you should make something so good…that no one can say shit about it. Period.”

This conversation went on for a while, it is one that I’ve committed to memory, as it’s indicative of a certain attitude that needs addressing. It is an attitude that I find to be common among techies, medical professionals, and business-people. It’s a certain overdeveloped minimalism that breeds error, haughtiness, and hypocrisy.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words’

My friend isn’t stupid. The idea that you can create something that’s unassailably good, was just a result of the hyperbolic way we talk. If such a thing as perfection existed, I think that human beings would still find ways to fault it.

What I found staggering about my conversation is that, there was that element of ‘you shouldn’t have to explain things.’

It’s a very Fordian sentiment. In fact I think that Henry Ford once said ‘Don’t Complain, Don’t Explain.’ (Or maybe it was his grandson.) It’s a very assembly-line sort of hyper-utilitarian thinking.

Its cousin is: ‘Actions speak louder than words.’

Well, to be sure, running off a cliff is a very loud action. But nonetheless, methinks you’d much prefer, even the briefest word of warning over your brave action.

A large chunk of what I do is explain things. It’s a significant part of how I intend to make my bread and butter. So, you can see why my jimmies have been rankled enough to produce an entire article, combating this utilitarian philistinism.

That is precisely what I’m doing by the way: combating. I am by no means being defensive. This is an offense. To war!

You see, you self absorbed, day to day, little worker bee drone constantly banging into my garden window with cries of: ‘Talk is cheap!’ No… you’re not as noble as my little honey farmers.

You’re the little aberration of the industrial revolution known as a Morlock, you’ve kidnapped my comically aryan Eloi wench, and I’m the Time Traveler about to dash out your brains.

Why Can’t Americans Teach Their Children How To Think?

I’m as tired of trendy anti-Americanism as any other former Colbert fan. Yet still… Prematurely jaded, know it all, get to the chase utilitarianism is very much an American problem. To be more accurate it is an Anglo problem.

We Englishmen (And yes…Vinny, Morty, and Vlad you’re Englishmen too. Language is culture I’m afraid.) share a common history. We were the most successful children of the Industrial Revolution. It along with the limey penchant for sarcasm, snark, and preening are why sloth and self absorption are at such spectacular heights.

This is why even in the presence of nearly universal education, access to unprecedented amounts of food and shelter (for a spectacular number of folks), and more free time then ever we are still Eliza Doolittle.

GON!

I bet you don’t know what I’m referring to do you?

GON!

What is Pygmalion or it’s back to $7.25/hr, you harridan!

GON!

I bet you haven’t even seen the film, much less bothered with Shaw.

GON!

Back to the gutter with you wretched urchin!

To be honest, I’m not terribly bothered if you aren’t familiar with a very camp movie, about a very old play. It’s just that GON! Is the sound I hear when someone questions the value of thinking.

Imagine a cockney girl trying to say ‘Go On.’ I believe they’re called ‘chavs’ these days. Think of ‘GON!’ Resonating through little piggy, upturned, English noses. Imagine the vocal fry and shudder.

Ghaughowwn!

GON! Is the fizzy pop you get when you bottle provincial arrogance, hot air, and sloth. It’s stupid and proud of it!

What’s up with water. Why should I care?”

GON!

I don’t have time to read. I focus on the important things!”

GON!

I’m an educated man.”

GON!

Well the expert panel said…”

GON!

Talk is cheap.”

GON!

What’s the bottom-line?”

GON!

I really could go on, but in the interest of you hearing something more substantive then my colorful kvetching, I shan’t.

Do Complain, Do Explain

Sorry Henry, old chap, but I must be so decidedly contrarian as to turn your phrase on its head. In fact I’m considering making it the motto of The Fractal Journal. I do believe that America was founded on complaints against out of touch toffs. And I’m willing to bet, that you’d be very eager to have your lawyer, be able to explain, in exquisite detail, that the model-T patent is yours alone.

Absolutely everything requires an explanation. It may not always have to be verbal, but there will always be some sequence of information that an organism is aware of, and comprehends. Comprehending is really silent reading or explaining of a situation to yourself.

The Zen statement: ‘That is a rock,’ is only Zen and profound because the Zen practitioner has trained himself, to allow the universe to explain itself to him.

This is why I find it entirely bizarre, that people are almost proud of their sparse vocabularies, their short attention spans, and their disinterest.

Ennui is only sexy when experienced by young French women. If you aren’t a twenty something bombshell painting in Paris just stop it. You’re bloody annoying.

 

Why be proud of handicapping your capacity to be human? It is the greatest gift of mankind to be able to perceive, explore, and take joy in knowing.

 

Why do we instruct writers to dumb things down for readers? Rather than instruct readers to aspire to possess a more nimble mind and vocabulary?

Explaining and comprehending takes time… and we have to go before the mall closes!

Pity.

Explanations are so very intrinsic to being. They are such interesting things. What is a song or symphony but an explanation of the unspeakable?

I think it may be easier to convince you that explanations are worthy things. It may be harder-going promoting the merits of complaints. No one likes a complainer.

Actually, it’s quite easy. Disdain for those who complain is silly. Complaints are simply the explanation for why something is wrong. When you are criticizing someone, merely on the grounds that they are complaining, you are complaining about complaining. How deliciously self defeating.

SO WHAT IN THE SOLEMN HELL DOES ANY OF THIS HAVE TO DO WITH JOURNALISM?”

I can just hear the Engineers and MBA’s seething. Yes, see he has no utility! There’s no bottom line. This article doesn’t do anything. It’s just pretty fluff.

Well, my hypothetical pedants, for all your mechanical brilliance, and shrewd sensibilities you’ve failed to grasp that this entire article is a machine with shrewd purpose, built stringently to spec.

In the span of a mere five pages, ‘I’ve been a traveler of both time and space,’ exposing the liabilities and structural defects, that have led to the decay and disdain of journalism, through the power of the mighty literary device. (Several literary devices TBH. But ‘mighty literary devices’ sounds daft.)

Journalism has value. This is because journalism, when done properly, is simply an interesting way to tell the truth. Telling the truth in an interesting way has intrinsic value. It has intrinsic value because the truth not only sets us free but allows us to: invent, to build accurate models, and cultivate effective strategies and behaviors for surviving, and getting the hell along.

That’s precisely what I’ve done here. I’ve covered a current trend in public sentiment and explained why it’s destructive. I’ve done so in a way that is much more entertaining than if I had merely created a bullet point list, with links to various studies, on the correlation between IQ and vocabulary, and journalism’s role in keeping businesses and governments accountable.

“Ah!” Cry the number crunchers, “But that is where you’re wrong. We’d be much more interested in seeing those!”

Ok,

Sure, it showed a correlation of verbal intelligence and IQ but verbal intelligence is still intelligence. You need to understand things to be intelligent.

Hmm, that last site reeks of GeoCities, but apparently the source is valid. Better link:

These are real world examples of how journalism positively effected society.

This last link is a detailed analysis of the various effects and complications of journalism and media on society and perception.

Happy?

Liars. You don’t want to read that. Especially the highly sciency pubmed study. Because it’s boring. And not only that but it disagrees with your Weltanschauung. The only thing people hate more than being bored, is being bored as it slowly dawns on them, that their beloved ‘science’ (Science is great. ‘science’ isn’t.) is against them.

Total vocabulary has the highest correlation (0.8) with overall IQ of any individual measure of intelligence.

Stings don’t it? Knowing that word wise people are just as intelligent as number savvy ‘hard nosed realists.’ It’s almost like reality has a qualitative as well as quantitative aspect. Whodda thunk it?

Finding important topics, getting an accurate grasp on them, and then presenting them in an interesting light is an art and science, that I am delighted to participate in and champion.

I here consider all Morlocks slain and the merits of journalism thoroughly upheld. Offensively!


Financial Journalist Mark Melin gives examples of journalism’s positive impacts on the Keiser Report: the relevant discussion starts at minute 22.

A Big To Do – Turning Ideas into Actions for The Indie Set

 

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Ever have a really great idea for a book, article, film, business or joke? Did you ever actually put it out there? Or was it more just casual conversation with friends, lot’s of dog-eared, half-finished manuscripts, and a vague sense of: ‘I’m gonna do that, someday.’

Or, are you absolutely dead-set on never experiencing that sinking feeling again? That feeling you get when you stroll by a book, see a YouTube channel, or hear some road comic cashing in ‘ON YOUR IDEA!’ Ya snooze ya lose. Stings don’t it?

I might be able to help.

This article is about how to take that passionate pile of ideas, insights, and creativity and make them actionable. It is designed to help people in any career or stage of life be more creative (and perhaps make a career of it) starting today.

The following is a list that will help us do just that.

1) Know your worth.

2) Know when you are working.

3) Organize, Organize, Organize

4) Keep good records of fits, starts, failures, and successes

5) Network, Network, Network

6) Be Businesslike (Keep Yourself Accountable/Stop dreading Excel.)

7) Know your idea. Know the supporting ideas behind your idea.

8) Seek role models  who have already done what you’re attempting to do. Use them as a metric. But not too rigidly.

9) Don’t let people with overdeveloped minimalism (Misers like Engineers and Stock Brokers) discourage you.

10) Stay fit. Eat right. And get proper rest (Sleep, Downtime, etc.)

Some folks might think that the above is prioritized all wrong. They might be right, but I’m going to explain my reasoning and why I think it’s sound. So if you’re an engineer or stock broker, who already has a bad taste in their mouth, relax we’ll build to spec and get to the bottom line soon enough.


# 1 Fit To Task

First, knowing your worth is #1 because people are terrible at it. They generally seem to either overestimate or underestimate their value. This is because ‘fit to task’ isn’t a common enough part of our vernacular.

How fit for your goal or idea are you? How fit for your job are you? Good self-assessment is tricky but you only get good at it through practice.

So, ask yourself those two questions right now.

If you’re a barista who’s fantastic at their job and enjoys exchanging quips with coworkers, interacting with customers, and delivering quality service, then you’re a great barista. You’re fit for your job.

After you get home reeking of overpriced lattes, do you pull out a guitar and surprise yourself with the inventive licks, that seem to spring out of nowhere? Are you more fit for music than being the dude or dudette, who makes corporate America a bit ‘jiterrier’ round the eight am commute?

This is a taste of the flavor of the sorts of thought process that you need to spend some serious time mulling over.


# 2 Your Job is a Habit

You know that you’re working when you hand that triple frappwhatever to the dude who’s obviously never learned to tie his tie right.

But playing that killer riff doesn’t feel like work. Even practicing scales doesn’t seem like work. You hesitate to tell people that you’re a musician or in extreme cases even that you play the guitar. You aren’t Jimmy Page so why bother respecting yourself or dignifying your time?

That’s just goofy. Because what you have is a skill. Given even a mediocre capacity: you’ve worked to develop something. Greatness has to start somewhere and that somewhere is usually mediocre.

A favorite Mozart quote of mine is:

“People make a mistake who think that my art has come easily to me. Nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not studied over and over.”

While Mozart certainly possessed a knack for music I think that he probably wasn’t MOZART the moment he was born. This quote is testament to the fact that he worked very hard to develop his musical skills. An ethic and habit which I think was far more instrumental and admirable in his popularity and success than any lazy, quasi-magical, ‘he’s a genius’ explanation.

Cheesy 80’s movies aside, Amadeus worked hard and knew when he was working. Many of us only know when we’re working when we expect a paycheck. It’s an understandable albeit destructive illusion.

It’s one that’s easy to make because typically ‘day jobs’ give you very obvious ‘work tells.’ The paycheck being the biggest one.

‘Work tells’ are things like ‘the lattes made,’ ‘the customers got the scone.’ They are also physical markers like certain flavors of fatigue.

During my recent super brief stint hawking Satellite subscriptions for a small marketing firm, at big box stores; my right pinky toe would scream, after eight hours of standing on linoleum, in discount wingtips.

Generally with everything ‘worky’ there’s always a slight sense of hunger and self-denial. When I was a creel operator, I knew that I’d worked because I’d be covered in fiberglass, my hands would have some sorta gear grease on them, and at least once or twice a week I’d be tired and hungry but would ask the boss for over-time. Over-time is almost as obvious of a work tell as that paycheck.

Despite ‘artsy careers’ having less clearly defined ‘work tells’ then ‘day jobs,’ the biggest barrier of taking them seriously and calling them work are psychological.

Who the hell cares about your guitar playing? Nobody wants to buy your scribblings! They want you to make lattes, delicious artery clogging, thigh busting, road rage inducing lattes! That’s what they’ll actually pay for you cheeky git!

That is until you stop thinking that way and actually make an album.

BIG INSIDER ADVERTISING SECRET People often buy things just because they can and the things look semi-palatable.

Making your album, writing your book, or drawing up a business plan, and attracting investors will have its own tells. Some more obvious than others. For instance I know that I’ve worked after I have written an article or chapter. Generally when this is done I’m a tad stiff and my muscles are a bit achy from tension. The little hand on my green wall clock has also usually passed at least two different numbers.

Being more creative, and especially making a career out of your creativity, is going to require you to work. That means making a habit of working.

Speaking of knowing when you’re working through ‘work-tells.’ Another good one is that work is a habit.

Did you know that your day job is a habit?

A habit is just simply something you do on a regular basis for whatever reason. So the fact that you wake up every morning, shower, go over sales pitches, make some coffee, put on an ill fitting suit, and drive to a discount office by the lake, is a fact that’s a habit.

What if instead you made your habit waking up, showering, mentally preparing a list of writing topics, having your morning coffee, putting on a tie, and stepping out of your bedroom into your home office?

What if instead of getting the sale, meeting a fiberglass quota, or making sure that the woman from Munich has her Schnitzel you write a rough draft, review it, find it unsatisfactory, do two hours of research, revise it, and after proofreading for the third or fourth time submit it to a publisher or post it to your website?

I’ll tell ya what if: Ya worked.


# 3 File Don’t Pile

So now that you know what you’re worth, and you’re willing to work hard to make sure that you’re worth more than you were, you want to do this as efficiently as possible. This means organizing.

You need to:

  • Know What You Need To Do
  • Break Down The Steps To Do It

The way you do this will depend on your field.

In my case I know that I need to make headway on my books, my online magazine ‘The Fractal Journal,’ and make my best effort to finish at least a chapter, or at least one rough draft article, every working day.

When I broke down the steps to doing this. I found that what worked best was to approximate a workable theses, for the article or chapter topic, within the first five minutes of sitting down to work.

Then I’d sketch out a brief bullet point outline (unless I’m writing fiction or my nonfiction has a narrativy introduction). I then write out the article, or chapter, leaving myself notes, on information I’m unsure of or don’t know, research it, come back and fill in the blanks.  Finally, I proofread it, and BAM it either gets posted or filed, to be sent out as a query to a publisher once the book or story is finished.

You could stop here if all you wanted was to be creative, but if you want to be creative for a living, then obviously you are going to need to make money.

Stay tuned! There’s more on the business side of this coming up.


# 4 What Gets Measured Gets Done

You need to keep a record, a portfolio, of your work. Basically think of this as a Bohemian version of a CV. It may literally become your resume. (Of course just like with your real resume, you might need to pretty it up, and not include that drunken attempt at impressionist painting you did when you were 22).

What’s more important then having something to show potential clients is having something to show to yourself.

You can’t gain very effective insight into what you need to improve, if you keep throwing away all the stuff that makes you cringe. You don’t have to display it prominently but you should by all means keep it.

You should especially keep your research notes, NetBeans code snippets, brain storming links, stray lyrics and bars, and various sketches. preferably according to date.

I’d go so far as to even suggest you start writing a journal that describes how and why you are doing things before, during, and after you are doing them. This will eventually become a gold mine, definitely figuratively, and potentially financially as well. All of this is also fantastic fun, once you get the swing of it, and ‘see the opportunity.’

There’s an old business slogan that says: What Gets Measured Gets Done. I think that it’s more or less accurate. In order to start measuring your progress as an Indie artist or entrepreneur you need to have something to measure.

Keep your stuff.


# 5 Network, Network, Network

Artists, and entrepreneurs, and those who want to be them often over-romanticize things. They often over-romanticize themselves. Generally, I’ve found that most people who are artists or writers have an over-developed sense of individualism.

This is not necessarily a bad thing but it can hold you back.

We’re social creatures we need other people.

Part of the reasons that you make art, music, or want to run a succesful enterprise is to help make others happy. You’re a people pleaser. Stings a bit doesn’t it? Well let it and then realize that it’s not such a terrible thing.

Part of the reason that you hold yourself up to a certain artistic, or ethical standard is that you’ve seen it before, and it made you happy. It made you want to participate in it.

Well, you want people to participate in your work. So get social.

This has to go far beyond just making posts on Facebook, Minds, Twitter, Gab, or YouTube. You need to learn to network. That means being able to realize what you can do for others and what they can do for you.

Networking is about building partnerships. You’re going to want partnerships. Even if they aren’t actual business partnerships. You’re going to want other people who can assess your work, who can keep you motivated, and who stir your creativity.

For instance if you’re learning computer programming, then hang around with others that are learning to code, or are freshly minted coders. If a full-on programmer has the patience for you then hang around with them. Such an approach helps to keep energy, and spirits high, and if done properly can foster healthy competitiveness and a ‘work chemistry’ that could take you to some spectacular places.

You need to learn when and how to tell people about who you are and what you do. You need to do this confidently. Effective networking is an art and science that comes with experience. The best way to get experience is to just start. So go forth!


# 6 Put On A Tie!

Artists, writers, entrepreneurs, and other hipsters are a catty bunch, that arch their backs when anything conventional even dares to peek around the corner.

There’s nothing more mundane or conventional than business. Thinking like a businessman is unsavory even for entrepreneurs these days.

Fact of the matter is that if you don’t want to be dude bumming beers at happy hour, and crashing on people’s couches as you figure out your ‘vision,’ then you’re going to have to start thinking about money.

Chances are high that you’re not going to maintain very much creative output if you feel like and are kind of a mooch. The same thing applies if you’re forcing yourself to work, low paying jobs, that you hate, to make yourself a little less of a mooch.

Wouldn’t all this be better if you were the guy able to help all the other moochers while actually achieving your ‘vision?’

You’d be King of the Hipsters.

Image result for gavin mcinnes

Current Hipster King - Begging a Dethroning

But money is the root of all evil!

Is it?

Is the pursuit of money less ethical than the pursuit of your ‘vision’ at the expense of other people’s money?

Remember, all that money is, is the representation of products and services. Service and products take time to do and create. So every time someone pitches in to help you out financially they’re in essence giving you their time.

Don’t be a time vampire. (If you know a time vampire, the cure is offering them a job, helping them find a job, or telling them to make a business plan.)

We’re all mortal and can’t afford to waste time or its little green representation: money. Don’t overcompensate by becoming a miser or sink into a pit of self-hatred because you’re bad at making money. Misers are miserable and solvency is a difficult thing these days even if you’re working a 9-5. The only thing you need to do is have an attitude shift and keep crackin’.

The trick that I’m trying to get you to learn to do here is to: Buy yourself time with the things you love to do.

This means thinking of yourself as a business.

So, right now if you are planning to become a musician, writer, or pottery maker then you are a small business.

You should figure out how much money you need to live on and operate. This is the baseline number for what you need to make. You then must figure out a way to meet an effort to profit ratio.

Meaning that, you should know that activity XYZ, will be making or contributing to making you $XYZ on a regular basis.

Patreon, Etsy, and others are great ways to generate some passive income. While patrons are probably the most pleasant way to make a living as an artist, you definitely want to have more than one revenue stream. Your patrons are also subject to the whims of fate, and economy, and may not always be able to financially support you, even if they want to.

So you need to find out about things like taxes, copyright laws, and the art of negotiating contracts and deals. Maybe so far as to even join your local chamber of commerce.

You’re going to need to learn how to market yourself and your products. You need to learn what freebies to offer to entice clients or get you gigs, how much the market charges for what you do, and then how to ask for more. (When your worth starts to merit it.)

The first and foremost thing is to take yourself seriously. Put on a tie. That’s what I do even though I’m only walking from one room to another.

It’s a psychological trick that says: Look buddy you have a production schedule! You wanna take this noose off your neck? You wanna go hiking and grab a brew? Well! Finish up by seven! Then you’re green.

My personal experience is that taking the extra steps to look and feel professional, helps me stay focused, and productive. I’ve heard stories of people who do great things in their hoodies and pajamas, and while I think its possible, I haven’t met any. I’d also wager that they may have done more, and gotten there faster, if they took themselves a bit more seriously.

Having production quotas like a chapter every two or four hours, along side with clearcut financial goals, and the marketing ken to meet those is as good of a recipe for Indie success as you’re going to get.

It’s serious business.


# 7 Know Your Idea

You’re now an executive.

You perform executive functions. However, you can’t execute what you don’t believe in and you can’t believe in what you don’t know. This is why its essential to really know what you’re about.

You have to go beyond just merely calling yourself a musician, writer, or entrepreneur.

You have to be niche specific, and almost compulsively knowledgable in your field

(Or make your own field).

It also means knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing at every moment of any given day.

This will help you gain competence, be more confident, and network more efficiently.

What does knowing what and why you’re doing something look like?

Well, for instance despite everything that I said above about making money being a priority. I’m writing this article (and have been for the past three hours) for absolutely free.

Pro bono. Qui Bono?

It’s a win, win, win.

You benefit because you get a free article, WordPress benefits because I pay them the very fair price of $100 or so bucks, a year to host my site; and I benefit because I’m getting practice and providing a marketable example of my work.

I know exactly what I’m doing, for exactly how long, for exactly which reasons, and am aware of the risks and benefits.

I could run you through a detailed cost/benefit analysis of throwing out freebies as a writer but you’d be bored to tears.

What I’ll do instead, is give you a brief rundown of how I came up with my vision, and how I’m working to make it actionable.

Basically I’m interested in everything, my natural proclivity and passion is language and writing, I enjoy systematizing and finding things out.

Very vague set of ideas and skills in the above sentence right?

Sure.

So I narrowed it down, to wanting to maybe publish a book, or write some articles that would intrigue people; and serve as practice, edification, and potentially revenue for myself.

Then I thought how exactly am I going to do this? This question eventually led to a series of realizations, and ‘coincidences,’ that helped me come up with my idea for ‘The Fractal Journal.’

To be a good writer you need consistent practice, which requires feedback. To be a published writer, you need to convince people to publish your stuff, you need to stand out from the crowd. Basically you need to demonstrate value.

‘The Fractal Journal,’ I realized, meets these business goals, even though these goals were a vague afterthought, to the desire of creating a valuable product.

As I said above: I am interested in everything.

I like to write fiction, poetry, nonfiction, to make videos, to discuss what I can grasp of philosophy and science, and to play instruments. I also love instantly deploying my skills as a writer.

The Fractal Journal is something that I call ‘integrative journalism.’

It looks at the world through various angles. and iteratively posits insights and possible solutions. As well as provides commentary and models through fiction and op-eds. It’s a one stop shop for long reads and snippets alike. It is a way to keep my skills sharp, while gaining expertise through research in my areas of interest; as it acts to promote the various books that I’m writing.

The final part of knowing your product is knowing that it has value.

A lot of artists and indie sorts don’t feel like their work has the same sort of utility, as say, a tire. Fortunately we don’t live in a purely utilitarian world, or society. Furthermore, art, literature, philosophy, and your hipster microbrewery idea: all have utility that far outshines the tire’s.

The tire you see took a lot of talking, a lot of culture, a lot of confluence of factors to create. Art, literature,and philosophy are highly efficient engines for idea generation, and the creation of societies stable enough to produce the tire. They’re also a great deal of fun and smell nice.

I know that ‘The Fractal Journal’ has value because it has potential to grow into a job-creating business. I know that ‘The Fractal Journal’ has value because prevention is worth a pound of cure, knowledge is preferable to ignorance, and appreciating the world’s grand intricacies is a sacred duty.

Yes, you need to be that assertive about your vision.

Passion is the best way to know your product, idea, or service.


# 8 Role Models

I’m writing a book about water.

That means that I’ve added some new role models to my list of luminaries.

Folks like Alex Prud’homme, Fred Pearce, and Jacques Leslie. These narrative journalists give me ideas and inspiration for how to go about writing my own book.

Despite looking to these writers as examples, I don’t at all plan to follow in their footsteps. They’re guides and signposts.

To provide an example of differentiation: they’re print based veteran journalists just barely dipping their toes into the digital marketplace.

While I consider writing to be my passion (and my bread and butter) I also think of myself as a business man. The Fractal Journal is a small media business that provides marketing for my books and products.

The role models that I use for this aspect of what I’m doing are folks like Tim Pool, Joe Rogan, and Steven Crowder.

I suggest that you pick and choose in a similarly flexible way in order to form your own ‘mental council.’


# 9 Haters Gonna Hate

Artists, writers, and even most entrepreneurs tend to be an introspective bunch. Engineers and stockbrokers aren’t. I kid.

But really, there are certain professionals, that you might find it difficult to get along with. This is why I stress that you know your ideas inside and out, and develop an almost cocky confidence in your product. There’s nothing that hurts more than having an intelligent person you respect throw snippy little darts at your balloon.

It’s important to realize that these are just that: snippy little darts. Darts that are a not tossed about haphazardly by a person who is blinded by the habits of their profession and temperament.

Engineers and stock brokers might make some essential tools, and lots of cash, but they can also become addicted to reductionism. In their pursuit of efficiency, specs, and bottom lines, they can forgot that reductionism is just another method.

Don’t let people burst your bubble just because they’re smart and competent. Only let your bubble burst if it’s a legitimately bad idea. Something that you won’t know unless you have the strength, honesty, and confidence to think critically.

Don’t let haters destroy your critical thinking abilities.


# 10 Stay fit, Eat Right, and Get Adequate Rest

I can’t stress this enough. Everyone should be doing these things.

But Writers, programmers, and musicians really need to focus on these things. That’s because not only is writing, programming, and music a more or less sedentary pursuit; but both popular culture, and the subculture of each of these professions, can be a tad self-destructive.

Writers often get portrayed as Merlot chuugging depressives, programmers are unkempt greasy chips and soda addicted geekazoids, and musicians are drug crazed sex fiends.

While stereotypes do contain small kernels of truth… that doesn’t mean that you need to adopt the bad habits of professionals in your field. Even if those professionals are talented and incredibly succesful. Monkey see, monkey do, is for monkeys, and you’re a man.

So stay fit, eat right, and get adequate rest. These basic, almost boring dictums, will keep you productive and creative.

You might think you get more out of ‘winging it,’ or burning the midnight oil, or getting loaded. But if you’ve ever written anything while you were stoned, or utterly exhausted, or drunk you know that it tends to be rubbish. And if any ‘alchemical magic’ did occur, it was only possible to cobble together in your more lucid moments.

I know from experience the incredible yields of energy and clarity that hiking and weightlifting provide. Getting the right proteins, fats, and carbs requisite to keep your brain and body humming along is indispensable for the Indie set. Getting adequate rest can’t be overstated because you need to consolidate memories. Consolidated memories are what skills and symphonies are made of.


I drew some of my ideas from Six-Figure Freelancing by Kelly James-Enger. Check out her book for more in depth business advice.

Meta Mining

Image result for mine


I was reviewing my latest Audity Podcast.

I paused at the part where I talked about the USGS study from 2010.

I paused because I realized that study happened almost eight years ago.

Just a couple of years shy of a decade.

I thought about all that had happened to me since 2010. All that had happened in the world.

All the changes in pace and technology and experience.

I noticed, as I noticed this, that the video was paused at a bend in the river.

I thought what a perfect metaphor for the nature of life; to eternally spring out of sight, into view, and disappear somewhere behind your pupils, till you repaint it over new bends.

2010 was the past, which was familiar but now obscured by a bend that I’d already passed. The present shoreline was very much now, it had the feeling of ‘nowness,’ of that ‘pesent-hood’ that makes itself apparent through the twin teasing of past and future.

I though to myself as I realized all this and as I am writing this now: How very odd that such a perfect confluence would occur.

Such overlay of mundane information to form this multifaceted impression.

Most fortuitous. Most uncanny. How information integrates in the Meta Mine of Multimedia.

Even in the modern.

Water ROI – Psychology, Environment, and Technology (PET)

Image result for efficient water industry

This article is part four of a series.

There is a dangerous delusion in the developed world. It is the delusion that we’ve engineered ourselves out of need. Technology seems to bolster recklessness. When you’re several generations removed from thirst and hunger you tend to believe in endless bounty.

The problem with this blissful nostrum is that there is no such thing as endless bounty. Though we are adept at overcoming limits we are still defined by limits. Perhaps our de facto faith in invincibility is due to the boundary breaking nature of our ingenuity.

This is not a Luddite screed. In fact I feel that technology is as natural and necessary as a meadow of lilacs. However not everything natural is good and lilacs are prone to wilting. Lilacs also grow out of the soil which is in essence a vast graveyard of former lilacs and assorted critters. Technology may be as captivating and integral to life as a lilac field, but the boundaries that were broken, sprang out of beds of deadly error and arduous strain.

Every modern marvel that helps us forget the perilous business of being a creature on earth was hard-won. Take the case of Newtown Creek which is a textbook example of a phenomenon known as ‘Legacy Pollution.’

As the United States and countries the world over were industrializing they were undergoing an unprecedented process. Unprecedented processes have by their very nature unforseen consequences. One unforseen consequence in Newtown Creek was the contamination of the surrounding watershed with various industrial solvents. Solvents that at the time weren’t yet known to be as catastrophic for life as they are. Solvents that cause exotic cancers and environmental degradation . Solvents that are the legacy of early industrialization. Hence the name ‘Legacy Pollutants.’

We still have a problem with pollution and environmental degradation. It is less severe and thus less noticeable. It is something that most of us only take note of when something like the Flint, Michigan event occurs. Though in a way the possibility of taking our resources and technologies for granted is arguably an impressive hallmark of our success, we must never forget that it is a delusion.

We must never forget that it is a delusion because like all delusions it is inherently dangerous. When we forget all the effort that went into maintaining the sanitation, food supply, and luxury that we currently enjoy we are in danger of ‘prosethetic addiction.’

A prosthetic is in this case a technological solution to an environmental issue. Not a bad thing in and of itself. The problem enters in when we get ‘prosthetic addiction’ which is something that is akin to constantly patching a leaky boat with ever dwindling amounts of plaster rather than taking the thing to a dry-dock. ‘Prosthetic Addiciton’ occurs when we think that solutions to pressing problems are quick and easy.

It is the result of a glib acquaintance with history. When you have the luxury of sitting in class to learn about history centuries can become sentences. A paragraph on legacy pollution (something that’s not common core AFAIK) will be a fleeting firing of neurons.

It’s just a few sentences. It’s hard to feel the health lost, the rivers destroyed, and the untold amount of energy that went into damage control in just a few sentences. Even if you do feel it, the feeling soon passes to be replaced by the immediacy of living.

You think about your job, your family, your friends, whether or not you’ll get to play pool Monday night, or if the cute brunette is single. These sorts of thoughts like hunger come unbidden. They are an inescapable part of the bric-a-brac of being human. No one should ever be shamed for them.

Though it may not be shameful to have a glib impression of history, to assume that Elon Musk et al will solve our problems, it is the nonetheless harmful. We should strive to overcome it. We should strive to be informed and aware of the things like water that we all depend upon. We should not outsource these things whole-sale to ‘experts.’

Historical glibness and hero leaning are the chief pillars of ‘prosthetic addiction.’ The cure to the addiction is ever greater attention from ever greater numbers of people. An attention that especially in the democratic republic that is the United States should be vigorously promoted as an implied duty of citizenship.

The first step to dispelling the illusion that all is more or less well, and that the answers to the few problems that remain are just around the corner, is to get some perspective on the limits of resources and good ol’ yankee ingenuity.

The focus in this series is water. Water is a renewable resource. One whose bounty is often overstated. It falls from the sky, sits in vast reserves beneath our feet, and takes up most of the surface of the earth. Why worry?

Well, for one only 3% of the water on earth is fresh and an even smaller percentage of that is readily accessible. Interestingly this comparatively miniscule amount of available water is still large enough to leave us with the aforementioned delusions.

Delusions that become more and more dangerous, as there are more and more people, using more and more resources.

I am a staunch anti-Malthusian. I do not subscribe to misanthropy or the notion that it is impossible for large populations to live well. I do however firmly believe that as more people and industrialization require more resources we must pay more attention to resource use.

That small precious supply of available freshwater that we have, may be renewabl, but is certainly not infinite. If we squander and pollute it the amount of energy and resources that we will have to expend, to do damage control, will have a vast ripple effect in everything from economy to agriculture.

This is not to mention the health and life of people and animals that will be lost from thirst and disease.

A huge cataclysmic environmental catastrophe on a global scale isn’t likely. The very idea itself reeks of the sort of alarmism that turns people off of environmental issues. It is not what concerns me.

What concerns me is lots of little disasters especially ones that are avoidable. Such small disasters like the Newtown Creek incidence alluded to earlier can in aggregate lead to quite a pickle. From conflict over water rights to higher food prices the cost of ignoring these ‘paper-cuts’ can become exorbitant.

As I pointed out in the last article it is fortunate that our steps towards a more efficient use of water seem to have been rewarded. Despite population growth since the eighties our water use has more or less stayed the same.

This happy news is due to advance in technologies and best-practice strategies. Though these technologies and practices have been efficacious we can and must do better.

Needs and populations are increasing and what is adequate now will not be adequate later.

While the technologies and practices currently employed are wonderful they are rather pedestrian fixes.

Many of these fixes have hidden costs. As with all worthy pursuits and processes there are no easy answers. Reviewing water efficiency progress is the best cure for ‘prosthetic addiction’ and its attendant delusions.

Some of the fixes are as dull as making pipes and containers less prone to leaking. Others are as common sense as reusing water for industrial purposes. (http://www.twdb.texas.gov/publications/brochures/conservation/doc/Industrialbrochure-final.pdf)

I am still researching and am sure that I’ll find more interesting examples and stories of responsible water use but I doubt that they’re going to be too terribly exciting. The fact that I have to overcome what I call the ‘boredom barrier,’ doesn’t mean that these aren’t vital pursuits; but does help to highlight why we have difficulty paying sustained attention to ‘mundane’ issues, no matter how important they are.

We may have come a long way since the 80’s but Las Vegas is a city in the desert. The water for this Oasis like many similar southwestern cities has to come from somewhere. This use-case has a litany of side effects that are economic, agricultural, and political.

Clearly there is still a lot of work to be done.

ROI – The Water We Spend

Aerial photo of Beaver Valley Power Station in Pennsylvania, showing evaporation from the large cooling towers.
This article is part three of a series.

“People don’t have any idea that when they flip their light switches on or their air conditioner, there’s huge amounts of water involved,” said Neil Carman, director of the clean air program for the Texas Chapter of the Sierra Club.


Water is behind absolutely everything we do. Let’s begin this story back home. How does our domestic water use break down?

Pie chart of our water use

According to the EPA the average family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day. If you look at the pie chart above (which comes from their website) you can see that we use this water for worthy goals.

Sanitation cannot be overstated. It is what makes life bearable. As such I deem this to be a good ROI for water spending. Though I would stress that we must strive to carry out these use-cases more efficiently.

Efficient use of resources at home is laudable. But we shouldn’t sink into the comforting fantasy that small changes at home will make a big difference for water conservation. The illusion of control that we get from being ‘good people’ is, like most illusions, detrimental.

Even if everybody followed the most stringent conservatism in their domestic water use it wouldn’t begin to make a dent in our ‘water debt’ (To be explained). This is because the biggest water hogs are irrigation and Thermoelectric power.

US Freshwater Withdrawals Chart

As you can see from the above graph almost half of all freshwater withdrawals in 2010 were for Thermoelectric power. Irrigation is the second largest water hog at 32%.

Power and food are essentials. It is a good return on investment to spend water on these things. As with domestic use we must be more efficient here. The efficiencies that we improve in these two areas will have a far greater impact on making sure that we have plenty of fresh water available for the future.

The good news is that we do seem to have had a positive impact on water use.

Bar showing showing trends in fresh surface-water use, 1950 to 2010

What the above graph tells us is that there is a relationship between water use and population.

According to this graph water use peaked in 1980. It has since that time remained more or less steady. Though population growth continued along with a greater need for irrigation and industry, total water use has not risen. This seems to suggest that we’ve become more efficient at using water.

While I don’t doubt that greater efficiency in water use has contributed to this pleasant steadiness, I can’t help but think that offshoring a good chunk of our industry may also play a role. (As of the writing of this article I don’t have the exact data but I feel the possibility is worth mentioning.)

Now that you have some idea as to how we use water it’s time to get a bit more in-depth. The next article in this series will delve into the technologies and practices that have allowed us to get more out of water since the 1980’s.


Sources