Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Back from a brief hiatus from blogging to focus on other projects I’m back to fill your inboxes and thought-boxes with new blog updates. Today will just be a brief guide for my fellow Californians on how to conserve water. While this will be a short post it may be one of the most important things I post given that California is in its worse drought in 500 years. If it wasn’t bad enough it not appears to be getting worse. Things are so bad that the Governor and many cities are calling for voluntary rationing. The life or death question is – why the bloody hell hasn’t anyone made rationing mandatory? Hellooooo guys, worst drought ever, what about that isn’t scaring you into imposing mandatory rationing? My current city and hometown of San Francisco leads the state, using 49 gallons per person per day on average  versus 100.

1. If it is yellow leave it mellow, if it is brown flush it down. We probably all heard this as kids from environmentally conscious parents, I know I heard it enough were it became rote. I would imagine that is a result of growing up in California and dealing with near constant droughts all my life. We Californians should be used to drought conditions by now. This is a major one since your average toilet flush uses over 2.5 gallons of water and is flushed over 5 times a day. That’s over 12 gallons a day for most toilets.

2. Shower less. No really, shower less. If you currently shower daily, shower ever other day, if you already shower less often than daily cut back to less. I’m showering twice a week now and no one has said a peep, it’s amazing what deodorant and changing your shirt daily can do. At Burning Man I went a solid ten days without a shower, that is pretty close to my maximum limit in the dusty context of the Playa. No shower for ten days does not mean not bathing, you can do wonders wiping yourself down with baby wipes (even your hair). Showers account for 17% of residential water use. Most showers average 7-10 gallons a minute, but there are ways to reduce that. Think about that next time you extend that morning shower just because it ‘feels nice.’ BTW, despite that ten days of dusty no-showers I still consider myself a clean freak, just less OCD than I used to be.

3. Develop a system for washing dishes. I’m working on implementing a system in my house with a soaking tub to reuse water for soaking and minimize the use of new water for rinsing. Using cast iron is also immensely helpful since you hardly ever use water to clean cast iron.

4. Cook things that use less water. I love making soup, but soup is half water. Now is not the best time to be making soup if you can opt for cooking things that use less water. Rice and pasta are also pretty water intense. You can always use cooked in pasta water as grey-water for watering plants once it has cooled!

5. Use your grey water. Whenever possible find ways to reuse your water. One thing I often do is use the same water to rinse out multiple bottles to put in the recycling. Oh yea, did you know you’re supposed to wash out your recycling and not leave it filled with food remains? Common courtesy folks and it makes the somewhat inefficient recycling process slightly more cost effective. You can use any water without chemicals in it to water plants; I would not recommend using dish water unless you are using a totally biodegradable/organic/all natural soap. The food waste could be an issue, or compost?

6. Set up a rain capture system. There are various ways to do this but most are variants on a barrel design. You can even pull water out of thin air using a fog capture system, something I am considering for my home in San Francisco.

7. Let your lawn die. Just stop watering it, let it go fallow, then plough that crap under and make a garden. If you are going to use water to maintain plants at least make sure they are drought resistant plants or useful things like food-baring plants/herbs.

8. Stop washing your car. I don’t even have a car anymore so I stopped this years ago. Thankfully cleaning a bike is much more water efficient than washing a car too. At the least create a more efficient system to wash your car, efficiency is the name of the game.

9. Gamify saving water, especially with kids. I like to use gamification to turn mundane things into fun games I can play with myself and the world. One game I am big on right now is “how little water can I use today?” For children you can try rewarding them for positive behavior, such as praise for taking a shorter shower or remembering to leave yellow mellow. I leave the games up to the individual as only the individual will know what properly motivates them to right action.

10. Group showers? What happens in San Francisco stays in San Francisco…

[EDIT]11. Transform sewer water into drinking water. Yep, it’s possible and here is the DIY guide on how to make what you need to do it. I’m ready for the apocalypse.

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I’m back home on Californian soil under the warm winter suns of the West Coast. My first winter in Wisconsin wasn’t as bad as expected; really, it only got to negative 12, without wind chill. It looks like I dodged the polar vortex, but not completely. My flight out of Milwaukee was grounded due to the cold and that set off a chain of events that became a cusp event, where I could either fold up my deck and quit or I could rise to the occasion and shine. I shone on, like the crazy diamond I am.

I arrived at the Milwaukee airport around 5:15pm, a little over an hour before my 6:25pm flight. As always, I checked the flight board before I signed in and immediately I noticed something was wrong. My flight was grounded due to the cold. Cold they say, HAH, it was a pleasant 3 degrees, a warm evening! There is one final flight out to O’Hare at 7:29pm, but that wont get me to Chicago in time for my 8:18pm flight, the last of the night to SFO. The woman from United got me onto a Coach USA bus that supposedly would be at O’Hare around 7:20pm. This is doable, excellent. I got on the bus and the driver told me, much to my dismay, that the bus actually would get there at 7:40pm. That is less doable; O’Hare is ginormous and I still had to check a bag, get through security, and get to my gate.

The bus got there on-time and I was the first stop. I got my bag checked and was through security in under 5 minutes, a personal record. Normally I’d opt out of the radiation machine for the pat down, but since my plane had already been boarding for nearly 15 minutes I needed to hurry (and I was only sexually harassed a little bit by the TSA agent for it). With a 50-60 pound backpack on and a camera bag I managed to run over a quarter mile to my gate, through the throngs of O’Hare in only 5 minutes. I got to my gate to find that I left my boarding pass and ID at security. I tried to leave my bags at the gate so I could run faster but the gate agents refused. In hindsight, I fully understand why; it could have been a bomb for all they knew. Now it really felt “life-or-death,” if I missed this flight my bag still got to SFO and an unknown fate without me.

I put my pack back on and took off running. I ran all the way back to security with my heavy pack and exceedingly exhausted muscles, but I ran to the wrong security check. There were two and thankfully the TSA agent I talked to was very helpful pointing me in the right direction. As soon as I made it to the right security check I got my ID and began the long run back to Gate C10. Nearly a mile later, in about 15 minutes, I was feeling near death but I made my flight. “Water…now…please, I’m near death,” is what I managed to croak out with a raspy voice from a sputtering mouth to the flight attendant. Even near death and about to collapse one cannot forget ones manners. I got my water, collapsed into my seat and threw off my jacket into the vacant seats next to me. Victory was three seats to myself; freedom to move and stretch out, also another bottle of water delivered to my seat.

Moments like this are why I do parkour. I didn’t implement any specific maneuvers from parkour, but the physical training and the training of my perception that goes into it were crucial to get me to my seat on that plane. This is also why I did Tough Mudder last year, to know my limits. I had faced obstacles much greater than this, so I knew I could overcome it. That doesn’t mean I can slack off, if anything it means I know exactly how hard I need to push myself, no more and no less. It is important to know one’s limits and to respect them, yet also to push your limits in a way that is friendly to your body. Do not hate your body, respect it and appreciate it because it is all you have.

Hey readers, I’ve recently begun wondering if my blog might be too diverse in focus for my readership and I am debating limiting my focus on this blog and starting another one for other posts or possibly something else. As a person who has many focuses in life and does many things I wanted a blog that reflects that, but I worry people might feel spammed with posts that are not relevant to their interests (you are here for DIY but I just keep posting about politics, or vice versa).

Here is your chance and your place to tell me what you come here for and what you’d like to see more of. You can choose up to 3 options on the poll and even add your own options if I missed something.

If you’re a comic book fan you’re probably familiar with the DC comics group of supervillians called the Legion of Doom. That is not the Legion I am talking about. Lex Luther, Bizarro, and The Riddler didn’t start a grunge rock band.

The Legion of Doom is a duo of music producer Chad Blinman and Trevor Keith (frontman of punk band Face to Face). After Face to Face broke up in 2004, the Legion was formed as a way to experiment in new genre-redefining ways. Their first album, Incorporated, was a beautiful blend of hiphop, hardcore punk, emo, metal, and more into a magnificent synthesis of 14 mash-ups. This album has a bit of something for everyone, it has some upbeat songs, some downtempo songs, happy sad, light dark, and it transitions between all mediums with complete fluidity. It almost sounds as if the songs were written to be heard symbiotically rather than as distinct entities. For example, I don’t like Dashboard Confessional at all but my 2nd favorite mash on the CD, “The Quiet Screaming,” is half a Dashboard song, “Screaming Infidelities.” Check it out for yourself in this fan made music video.

Incorporated was redefining not just genres but also to the entire music industry and method of doing business. Instead of selling a CD they gave it away. Yep, you heard that right, free. Though it was eventually released as a limited edition CD and is on iTunes, you can still find it all over the Internet for free and the band still encourages you to obtain it on P2P software, as I would. If an artist creates a work and wants that to be free it is wrong for anyone other than the artist to change their mind and charge money for that work. You may get the vibe I don’t like record labels much and you would be right.

The next major project they worked on together was composing the soundtrack to the independent philosophical/existential horror film, Eyes Front. I love independent movies and have seen my share of the stereotypical artsy over the top indie films, some were good many sucked. This was a good one, but somewhat hard to follow. Eyes Front wasn’t the first nor the only soundtrack the Legion made an appearance on. They have songs on the soundtracks for Las Vegas, Saw II, Saw III, Underworld EvolutionResident Evil Extinction, and more. Check out their downloads page for some free downloads of their music.

Many musicians and other artists might be baffled by this business model of investing lots of time into something you intend to give away, but it worked well for the Legion. I am a huge fan of this business model and thank the Legion for showing me that it can be a big success. The CD got them most popularity which guaranteed songs in movies and royalties from those songs, a constant revenue stream. The limited edition CD was effectively self-produced giving nearly all the profits directly to the artists themselves, instead of to a greedy money vampire (read as: record company). As a huge fan of the Legion, who wants to support them and all the artists I like any way I can I bought a CD. I viewed my purchase not as paying for the music, I already had that; I was buying the album art, I was buying a 1/3000th share in the Legion. I was incorporating myself into Incorporated and distinguishing myself as a fan from a listener. While I haven’t hear much of their new music I still listen to Incorporated on a regular basis.

I’ll leave you with the sage words of Sage Francis.

It was recently brought to my attention that science and truth have come under attack again by the forces of misinformation. The time has come to metaphorically strap on my battle armor and prepare to jump into the ring to defend Truth and Science one more time. Articles are floating around the Internet claiming that 98% of the Pacific Ocean’s floor are covered in dead animals, up from 1% the year before the Fukushima  Daiichi nuclear disaster.

Oh Gods no! Save the whales! Save the fishes! Save the shrimp! Or save your panic for things that matter because this is a fake emergency. It is as real as virtual reality; that is, as much as you believe it to be.

This is pretty similar to the last sensational headline I debunked about big butts making you smart and healthy. Just like before a few not-scientists and not-journalists took one very real and reasonable study then blew it out of proportion, twisted the context, and proceeded to run with it so far away no one could find the real story anymore. Too bad for them I am a good runner and better detective, like if Dick Tracy and Usain Bolt had a gayby.

My first thought after reading the original release is where the heck did anyone get those 1% and 98% numbers, that doesn’t seem to be found anywhere. The Monterey Bay Research Institute (MBARI) does a pretty good job debunking the rumors themselves last week, but that hasn’t stopped sensationalized misleading stories. To quote the MBARI researchers, “These stories are false and misleading. In addition, there is absolutely no connection between MBARI’s research findings and radiation from the Fukushima disaster.” Huh, that seems pretty clear, no room for error.

You may be thinking, “but what about that scary looking chart of the radiation spreading across the ocean?” That was the chart of the tsunami’s height, it had nothing to do with radiation. Another example of people taking something factual and twisting it for their own agenda.

Some articles also cite National Geographic as a source to substantiate their outlandish claims. After some digging I came across this blog post, and I found the source of that 1%/98% figure that keeps circling around, it would seem it originated here (not with MBARI’s actual data). This isn’t to say that figure is wrong, just unsubstantiated. The actual data seems to show these algae blooms happen pretty regularly and are needed for deep sea ecosystems to exist. The studies show that if anything man-made is the cause it is climate change, not Fukushima. What the research shows is that, if any recent event is to blame for these blooms, it is the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that happened in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Amusingly, many of the same articles that cite National Geographic and Carrie’s blog as a source (without links) seem to ignore the numerous articles National Geographic has published disproving the hoopla over Fukushima.

So what does National Geographic actually have to say on the topic? First off, yes there is a leak of contaminated water, and it is very very small. This leak has been known about since 2012 and has never been viewed as a threat to human health anywhere. According to National Geographic, most experts blame “ordinary movement of groundwater” for the continued leak. The radiation is spreading, but it will still take years to reach the West Coast and there is presently no public health risk from Fukushima for Californians (it is a different story for people in Fukushima prefecture). Finally, for those people worried about eating fish, many experts say that is an unnecessary precaution and you’re probably fine to eat fish. I’m the kind of person who advocates for people following their instincts, and if your body is saying no to seafood then you should listen to it. But, if you are not eating fish because you are worried about radiation then you are overreacting and I imagine the type of person who (like me) opts out of airport radiation machines. Even though I opt out I’m still eating fish. The reality of global fishing is that it already is a pretty dirty ocean out there and fish, like tuna, who can live as long as a person (fifty years), tend to accumulate massive amounts of radionuclides and toxins like mercury along the way. That means when you eat tuna you are now eating all that too (I still eat tuna), though last I heard most “tuna” Americans eat really isn’t tuna.

I am a bit concerned by reports that TEPCO and their subcontractors who managed the plant and the clean up may have covered up the extent of radiation exposure to workers. Any corporate or coverup concerns me, especially regarding the environment and human health. For what little RT news is worth, as Russia’s official news is horribly biased, RT news is reporting that radiation levels at the plant are at 8 times the Japanese governments accepted limits. Reading the various RT news stories very few seem to be substantiated by science, and even fewer provide outside links to studies they claim exist. I’m getting some serious red flags here about the truthiness of these articles.

If I see hope in something it is the ingenuity of the Japanese in embracing green technologies to clean up the nuclear spill. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers reports that Fukushima prefecture is creating a “Renewable Energy Village,” a garden of rapeseed underneath solar panels. Rapeseed has been shown to absorb radionuclides into their stalks leaving  the seeds untouched and usable for other purposes.

What Californians should really be concerned about is the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant which is being held up to lax safety standards and is BUILT ON A FAULT LINE. Or perhaps we should worry about the San Onofre Nuclear Plant that had 2/3 of its reactors permanently decommisioned  after a dangerous radiation leak was discovered. Or maybe we should be worried by the historically low rain levels we have had this year leading to California’s major reservoirs being obscenely low on water for mid-winter, expect water rationing come summer. Personally, I am more concerned with the real problems we know are in front of us that are sure to be issues, rather than rip my hair out stressing over fake news reports.

You may now be wondering, if 98% of the ocean floor is covered in ocean, what about that last two percent? Two words, mermaid  colonies. They breed like rabbits, the rabbits of the sea.

I’m a very sex positive person, which for me means embracing the full gamut of what sexuality can be. Sure, it might not all be for me, but I am not one to yuck anyone’s yum (but of course hard limits of legality must exist).

Talking about being sex positive, I am a huge supporter of birth control, and I don’t just mean the pill.The pill is wonderful, except it is pretty easy to mess it up by forgetting to take regularly and it has lots of side effects from the huge injection of hormones. IUD’s work better from my experience with partners using different methods, but they also have drawbacks. The main advantage to many IUDs is they are hormone-free, but if they aren’t inserted right or get jossled they may stop working (as happened to a former partner). There are also female condoms, diaphragms, and some weird mutated nicotine patch thing. Being male, my options are much more limited and haven’t improved much for about a century.

As a guy it is incumbent on you to have condoms if you expect to have sex. While some people love spermicide I avoid it like the plague out of a kindness to my partners. Spermicide has been shown to increase inflammation of vaginal tissue and increase the risk of transmitting HIV. Now, that increased risk of HIV transmission is only relevant if you are having sex with multiple partners and people are not getting regularly tested; if you are HIV free an increased risk of passing on HIV is a non-issue. According to recent estimates men make up 1/3 of US contraceptive use even though the only non-surgical options we have are condoms and spermicide. Most guys are not willing to consider a vasectomy a type of birth control.

But thankfully there is another option, a new method is being approved for use in America, Vasalgel. This is a gel product that is injected into the tubing of the vas deferens, similar to RISUG. Vasalgel is technically a surgery but it doesn’t permanently alter the body and in every phase of the study done so far is totally reversible. RISUG, the predecessor of Vasalgel, has been used without incident in India for over a decade but it still awaiting official approval. You may be wondering how it works, and unfortunately I cannot tell you because the exact mechanism is still not known. What is known is that it somehow negates the sperm before they ever become ejaculate and leave the penis, potentially annihilating HIV in the process. My main question now is, does one still ejaculate without any sperm, or once your sperm have been de-ionized?

Guys, if you are as interested in a hormone-free, condomless, reversible birth control that may also prevent the spread of HIV you should sign up on their email list and maybe donate some money. I’m signed up to be a human tester if they need it. I cannot wait for this to get FDA approval.

This year’s theme for Burning Man has been announced, and it is Caravansary. If you are like me then your first thought was probably, “what the hell is a caravansary?” Quickly followed by the realization that it is a very tricky to pronounce word. A caravansary is a type of walled inn with a large central courtyard that was built along the Silk Road to protect caravans at night from marauders. You can think of a caravansary as a man-made oasis; they offered the same level of protection in their stone walls that an oasis saw from the harsh climate of the desert itself. Caravansaries and the Silk Road were crucial to the flow of information as they served as meeting places for all sorts of people from every corner of the globe, the crossroads.

Now, if you are like me, you probably then realized that this theme doesn’t really add much to the event like previous themes have. Burning Man has had themes for art since 1998, but the art-theme area of the website gives no hint as to the purpose of these themes nor their goal. Perhaps I am off base in assuming the themes are meant to modulate the event to make it somewhat different every year. Sure, Burning Man is always totally different, yet always the same, but the theme offers participants a filter or locus through which to view the event, it points us in a direction and says “go.”

Past themes, like Green Man, Metropolis, Cargo Cult and American Dream have forced us to re-examine our relationships with the environment, our cities, ourselves, and likelihood of realizing the American Dream. While Burning Man is always a leave no trace event, thus environmentally conscious, Green Man took it to new levels with art pieces like Crude Awakening. This was a giant oil derrick which showed humanity’s worship of oil which ultimately erupted into a mushroom cloud of fire when nearly 3,000 pounds of propane and jet fuel were ignited at weeks end. While that might not sound terribly green it is equivalent to “the amount of energy consumed in the Bay Area in one minute” and since the Bay Area was on vacation that week at Burning Man I imagine it balanced out. So while past themes have provided direction to the event in addition to the existing matrix of Burning Man laid out in the Ten Principles, this years theme does not.

Let’s break down this year’s theme. A caravansary is an inn where people from all over the world would get together, drink, swap stories, and perhaps swap more than that in gifts, trade, and lovemaking. By default, in order to be at a caravansary, you were on a pilgrimage of sorts or you worked at the inn. If you have never been to Burning Man let me do a quite comparison for you. If you are at the Burn you are on a pilgrimage of sorts or you work for Burning Man/the Government (“the inn”). Burning Man itself is a caravansary protecting inhabitants from the harsh Black Rock Desert that surrounds, it is our oasis in time and space in a vast sea of dust. Within this grand caravansary there is arranged a smaller assortment of taverns, bars, inns, and lounges, nearly all having some sort of inner courtyard to offer weary travelers repose.

While I am rather underwhelmed by the theme, because it is basically saying “this years theme is Burning Man,” I am similarly impressed. I was forced to learn a new word and I’ve already had my consciousness expanded thanks to my initial opposition to the theme. Sometimes what sounds utterly moronic at first proves to be the best idea imaginable and Burning Man is a great place for testing the bounds of imagination and idiocy. I am also impressed by this year’s Burn because instead of placing the Man ever higher from the desert floor on huge structures, making him ever less ADA accessible, he is returning to the floor of the desert as a MASSIVE effigy.

So how is Burning Man a grand caravansary? And if it is what sort of folks go there on pilgrimage to trade ideas and craft a collective narrative?

Well, there are these kinds of people…

Burning Man – Fun for all ages, old and young.

There are there sorts of people too…

Sometimes a dance floor at Burning Man just looks like a forest of fuzzy coats and furry top hats. This can be both wonderful and very disorienting if high on drugs.

And yes, they’re out there too…the infamous sparkleponies.

A wild herd of sparkleponies have appeared. Not always female, know a sparklepony by their sass, ass, and magical ability to vanish whenever it is time to do work.

Burning Man is representative and inclusive of everyone, including the aforementioned stereotypes of sparkleponies, people wearing furry coats, and naked old people; honestly, they make the event what it is, God bless the sparkleponies and shirtcockers. Past the usual stereotypes and tropes, Burning Man has a lot of techies. Hordes. It’s like SF moved to the desert for a week. The Burning Man census reveals this to be true, showing that over a third of participants still come from northern California, mostly the Bay Area. Most participants identify as being white/not a person of color; the question has been asked in different ways in different years yielding different results.

There also are retired army generals, like former NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark, who was hanging out at this last Burn in conversation with John Perry Barlow (an EFF founder and Grateful Dead lyricist) and Larry Harvey (the main co-founder of Burning Man and its informal mayor). It sounds like the start of a joke; a Dead-Head,  a retired General, and the founder of Burning Man all walk into bar to sit down for a drink. It would be funny if it wasn’t real and didn’t have major significance. The usual belief is that Burning Man is only a place for the fuzzy hats and that clean-cut Good-Ol’ Boys would scarcely want to go let alone be accepted there. Only he did want to go there, no one is forced to be there other than the police and Burning Man staff who provide the crucial infrastructure to keep the event functional and safe. Not only did General Clark go to the Burn he also was accepted and given a rather warm welcome.

Everyone knows that world-class DJs are at the Burn every year, such as Junkie XL, Paul Oakenfold, Beats Antique, and The Crystal Method, but many people don’t realize that non-electronic artists also go to Burning Man, they just aren’t performing yet. P Diddy was sighted around this last Burn as well, sporting a stylish pink parasol. Hopefully P Diddy will join the vast legion of performers who gift their crafts to Black Rock City every year. As previously stated there are hordes of techies at Burning Man, this includes the God-child of all techies, Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg is not alone, he is joined by the whole cast of The Social Network, including the identical Winklevoss Twins and Dustin Moshkovitz. Moshkovitz wrote a great piece about why the presence of techies and plug and play camps should be embraced rather than spurned. I still have mixed feelings about plug and play camps, but much of the bad taste has been cleansed from my palate. Some people need a very sterile environment in order to enjoy the Burn, sometimes for valid medical reasons; who is any one person to deny them that experience? I’m not that guy and I don’t care to meet him.

Mostly you find lots of people like me. We dress however the hell we please regardless of where we are; I wore a three piece suit many days this last Burn, then other days I looked like a “steampunk hobo wizard” to quote a friend. People like me do work, often more than our fair share because we recognize that without someone doing work Burning Man doesn’t happen. People like me are kind of artists, maybe writers, often wearing many hats at different times filling many different roles in camps and in life. We’ll gift you things at the Burn unprompted and without any expectation of return, the way any true gift should be given.

The only people who are not welcome are asshats like Krug champagne who either cannot read, can’t be bothered to read the rules, or worse of all read the rules and think they are exempt from them. Burning Man makes it very clear that you are not to exploit the event for marketing or promotional reasons; this isn’t your photo-op to make your brand seem edgy. Krug thought it would be in the Burner ethos to have a huge invite-only champagne party out on the Playa, exclusively to take promotional photos. They then felt it would be neighborly to leave the place trashed; isn’t that one of the Ten Principles? Oh wait no, it’s not “leave it trashed,” it is leave no trace. Way to go asshats. Some Burners did come by to help clean the mess up, but it wasn’t their mess and that really wasn’t fair to them, but then when is life ever really fair? Burning Man often teaches us, sometimes brutally, that life is not fair (see the yearly ticketing melee).

All things said and done, I love Burning Man as much as ever and would love to make it back out there this year, though I worry about the chance of that given massive medical bills. People complain every year about the theme, how it’s not like it used to be, and how it used to be free, etc. Nope, it’s not how it used to be, no one is driving over tents in the night or shooting guns in city limits. Nope, it isn’t free either, but there are bathrooms provided and other services (an awesome medical system with 3 major locations in the city). Burning Man used to embrace anarchy more than it does today, now it is radical self expression that is embraced. I prefer what it is today, a temporary experiment in city building and the world’s largest living art museum/gallery, and I for one love being part of that grand social experiment in the most famed caravansary of our time.

You all may remember my post about Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and how they direly needing funding to further fight against America’s failed drug laws after a major grant didn’t come through. I have good news and then even better news.

The good news is  their IndieGoGo campaign was a complete success and they met their $100,000 goal. The better news was they received an update on the grant and they will be receiving the $100,000 grant as well. This means they are now way ahead in the game in a major election year and have a much stronger position to influence the direction of policy for years to come.

I just wanted to let you know that the campaign was a huge success and personally thank you for helping. I know I was worried when they only had 24 hours to raise $10,000, but they did it and did even more than that. As an SSDP alumni myself I am glad to give back to them and help this great nonprofit continue to be rock stars.

I was part of a student group while at San Jose State getting my bachelors in politics called Students for Sensible Drug Policy. Schools not Prisons is their very appropriate slogan. SSDP is an international organization ran by students for the benefits of everyone, though largely focused on campus policies like passing Good Samaritan policies across the US. These Good Samaritan policies have become a central piece of drug policy reform because they make sense and save lives. In areas without a Good Samaritan policy in effect, if a 20 year old ODs on alcohol in their dorm at school there are strong punitive measures in place to punish anyone who would call 911 to save their life. If 911 is called that 21 year old may face being thrown out of school, any dorm-mate over 21 risks jail-time for assisting the corruption of a minor even if they didn’t provide the booze, in fact everyone present can potentially be found guilty of something. This means usually ODs aren’t called in and people die who shouldn’t, these are 100% preventable deaths and Good Samaritan policies are a way to do that.

As awesome as Good Samaritan policies are that isn’t the point of this blog and I don’t mean to belabor that point because SSDP does tons of amazing things. You know how cannabis was legalized in Colorado? That was us, not totally but we sure helped a ton and a former advocacy director for the campaign, Betty Aldworth, is about to be SSDP’s new executive director. The Colorado success built upon SSDP’s experience supporting the Prop 19 campaign in California two years prior, which was a valuable learning process for all involved even though we only got 46% of the vote.

The point of  this blog is one of charity. This great organization, who has tirelessly worked to improve human rights by ending the drug war, needs our help. SSDP depends in part on government funding and a $100,000 grant they rely on did not come through this year leaving a huge hole in their budget. I am already giving to them monthly and about to donate even more. I encourage all of you to join me in giving to this organization with an impressive track record for success.

Please go to their Indiegogo page to donate and consider becoming a monthly donor like myself.

 

Continuing where yesterday’s blog leftoff, here are some famous examples of stories, myths, historical and religious figures who conform to the archetype of the Hero’s Journey.

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT: The first 6 are all historical/religious but then I go on to movies/books and I’d hate to ruin a plot for you without warning you first.  Specifically, I discuss Stranger In A Strange Land, The Lord Of The Rings, and Fullmetal Alchemist.

Heracles with Cerberus.

1. Hercules/Heracles – Hercules is the Roman adaptation of the Greek hero Heracles, son of the god Zeus and a mortal woman, making him a demi-god. Heracles is most known for twelve trials he had to endure, one of which was going to the underworld to capture Hades three headed dog Cerberus. Going to the underworld of Hades is a figurative death Heracles passes through in order to best his labors and recover his sanity while achieving immortality. The purpose was not becoming immortal, that was merely a side perk, the main goal was atoning for slaughtering his children after he was driven mad by Hera.

Baby Achilles takes a bath in the River Styx.

2. Achilles – Another Greek hero, Achilles was also demigod like Hercules. Instead of being immortal like Heracles, Achilles was invulnerable to harm everywhere on his body other than his heel, creating the metaphor Achilles heel. His mother baptized him in the river Styx, the river of the underworld, which granted him immunity to harm everywhere except his heel, where she held him. Ultimately he died in the Trojan War, that grand battle to bring home the beautiful Helen of Troy to her native Sparta. Many warriors fought in this battle, some died; the cunning Odysseus, both Ajax the Great and Ajax the Lesser to name a few of the best known. Of all the many heroes mentioned in Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey, the only one better known than Achilles is Odysseus himself who is a main character in both books. Achilles has gained eternal glory through his death for himself but more importantly for Greece.

Jesus Christ, Superstar!

3. Jesus – Jesus Christ was potentially a real person who lived in ancient Mesopotamia, born in 1 anno domini (AD). There is much dispute over whether Jesus was real or is myth, and the belief that he is the son of God. I believe he was a real man, likely not a pale Anglo white man. He was a religious philosopher of sorts and also had a stripe for politics, this won him few friends with the Romans who just loved crucifixion. Jesus preached a new way of doing things and shook things up in the social order which annoyed those in power. Jesus is said to be the son of God, the product of a miraculous birth, sent to earth to be killed to man’s sins, only to be reborn and go to Heaven. The story of Jesus is a perfect telling of the major steps in the Hero’s Journey.

Buddha under the Bodhi Tree.

4. Buddha – Buddha was a real flesh and blood man before attaining enlightenment, a prince from the Himalayan foothills named Siddhārtha Gautama. Unlike Jesus, there is no dispute about his existence, merely differences in opinion on the nature of his divinity and enlightenment. Buddha means “enlightened one,” and contrary to the beliefs of some there is not one Buddha but countless. Anyone can become a Buddha, an enlightened one, given the right environmental factors. For Siddhārtha, he needed to meditate under the sacred fig tree, now called a Bodhi tree in honor of the enlightenment achieved beneath its boughs, like a religious Sir Isaac Newton. Buddha does not physically die during his Hero’s Journey, but his ego is allowed to die. The death of the ego is a central to many Buddhist sects and The Buddha was the first to demonstrate how this can be done and why it is desirable. That was The Buddha’s glory.

President John F. Kennedy

5. John F. Kennedy – President John F. Kennedy was America’s youngest President until Obama, our first non-Protestant President, and a brilliant statesman/playboy. He was a real American hero on many levels who did a lot to advance civil rights and was an early advocate for wave-powered electricity, just to same some of his glorious exploits. He was tragically assassinated during his first term.

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr

6. Martin Luther King Jr. – Like JFK, Martin Luther King was assassinated for shaking up the present day politics. MLK and Malcolm X both occupied crucial roles in the civil rights movement, aided in a political capacity from JFK. Martin Luther King was a preacher who was instrumental to the success of the American civil rights movement, most known for his legendary I Have A Dream speech.

Rodin’s “”Caryatid Fallen Under her Stone,” a central piece of the allegory in the book, and an allegory for Mike himself.

7. Michael Valentine Smith – Mike is the main character in Stranger In A Strange Land, perhaps the most famous novel by Robert Heinlein. Mike is about as blatant a Jesus allegory as one can be without the Church coming after them for copyright infringement. A Muslim character even eludes to him being The Prophet reborn. While one can read a Jesus allegory in Stranger there is much more to the story than that. In the end of the book, Mike is martyred, not on a cross but in his own way and that is his death on the Hero’s Journey. But as anyone who has truly grokked the book knows Mike cannot really die, no one ever really dies as long as something has grokked them.

Gandalf, The Grey

8. Gandalf – In the Lord of the Rings there are several heroes who die but the one who best embodies the Hero’s Journey is the wizard Gandalf the Grey. Gandalf fights the Balrog in Morea and in the process is killed only to be reborn as the more powerful Gandalf The White. His death empowers him to further glory along his Hero’s Journey. Other heroes also die along the way, physical deaths, spiritual deaths, and perhaps even some deaths of ego.

Ed and Alphonse Elric.

9. Alphonse Elric/Edward Elric – In the anime Full Metal Alchemist both brothers experience various deaths along their journey, in both series and in the movie as well. Alphonse actually dies before the series even begins but his soul is brought back to the living world at the expense of his brother’s arm which is Ed’s first death, from there it continues until you wonder how either character keeps sane. Before all of that, the death that portends all others is that of their mother, her death is the catalyst that literally makes our heroes into the men they are destined to become.