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September 2008

I want to change the look of this blog.

Part of the reason i haven't been posting as much as i'd like recently is that i'm kind of unhappy with the appearance of my blog - in particular the colour scheme and how narrow the column of text appears on the screen (this is especially noticeable on "widescreen" monitors).

A cursory look around suggests that the narrowness is something inherent to Blogger templates, which probably can't be fixed except by moving to a different blog hosting service, which i think would be a bit of a big task right now (copy and pasting all my posts over, trying to decide which older ones are worth preserving and which aren't, learning how to use features all over again...)

The colour scheme, however, is easy to change, but the question is... to what? One reason that i'm not happy with it as it is is that a couple of friends with visual impairments have told me that they find white text on a dark background difficult and "dazzling" to read, however i've heard the same said about the opposite colour scheme (dark text on light), and one reason i picked white-on-black was because i was told that was the *easiest* to read for people with some types of visual impairment... so i'm not quite sure what's best in accessibility terms (i'm guessing that it might well be different for different types of visual impairment - and that other impairments, eg. dyslexia or sensory integration difficulties might come into play)...

So... this is where i ask the people who read this blog: what do you think of its layout and colour scheme? If you would find it more attractive or more readable with a different one, what colours or other changes (eg font, text size, organisation of sidebars) would you prefer?

(I also want to somewhat re-arrange my link lists, maybe changing or combining some categories, maybe removing some blogs that haven't been posted to in a long time. If i don't link to you but you think i might want to, or would like me to, now's probably a good time to let me know of your (blog's) existence...)

Please respond even if you read this blog but don't often comment (or indeed have never commented), because i know there are a few people who read but who i haven't noticed commenting. (It would also be good to find out how many people, apart from the few who comment, actually do read this blog...)

Note: this doesn't mean that i will actually make these changes any time soon - it can take me a very long time to a) make these kind of decisions, and b) carry them out...

to the barricades 2008-09-30 07:49:00

Robert Dreyfuss - Verdict on Obama: Mealymouthed, Pathetic

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Peeling the Onion: What’s Behind the Financial Mess?

Sharon Astyk has peeled back the layers of the current economic collapse... an excellent essay worth checking out.:
What is reducing the amount of productive work accomplished, and moving the money increasingly only into a few pockets?  It is the high price of food.  And what is the root cause of the high price of food?  Well, the single biggest factor, according to a number of studies, including the UN studies, has been the move to food based biofuels.  So if we peel back the onion one more layer, what we find is that one of the major factors slowing the economy has been, well, oil.  The rush to biofuels is a response to tightening oil supplies and rising costs, and the aggregate effect has been to push up food prices all over the world, while doing pretty much nothing to increase energy security, reduce greenhouse gasses or do much of anything else useful.

I’m no economist, and I don’t pretend to be.  But I wonder, when we peel back the layers of the onion later, and look at the history of this Depression, I wonder if we’ll see that in fact, what happened was that we squeezed out the lifeblood of the very thing we’d built our economy upon - new workers/consumers who could be counted on to grow the economy outwards and upwards.  We could have forseen this - but we chose not to - we chose, as we struggled to keep our lifestyle intact on the backs of the world’s poor, not to see that we stand on their backs, and it is people…all the way down.  In killing them, we killed ourselves. It may be that besides the tragedy of starving millions of poor people, we may also have brought down our own system, simply because we did not see, did not realize that the poor matter more to us than we like to admit.

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The Greatest Looting Operation in History

As of now we all know that the bailout did not pass though it could still happen. Chris Martenson on the government bailout:The Greatest Looting Operation in History:
Here we must face the hard truth that merely transferring the failed loans from the insolvent banks to an insolvent nation will do nothing but forestall the problem until a slightly later date (when it will be larger and more severe, by the way). The fact that both candidates for president are openly supporting the bailout says that reality has not yet penetrated the inner beltway.

So the first challenge will be recognizing that it really is not possible for an insolvent nation to bail out an insolvent financial system by borrowing more money. This is an absurd notion, and in total it really is no more and no less complicated than that. One cannot solve a crisis rooted in debt by issuing more debt.

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Categories: Politics
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amusing chinese phrase of the day

I was having dinner with some friends of mine the other day, and they’re all chinese exchange students. We were talking about sushi in Vancouver, since the sushi is quite good here (supposedly some of the best, outside japan). My friends asked me what the “green stuff” was called, but when i said “wasabi” they all laughed. It turns out that, unbeknownst to me, “wasabi” sounds a lot like “wo sha bi”, except maybe said with a bit of a southern chinese accent, “wo sa bi”. In chinese, this is “我傻逼” which is something like “i’m an asshole”, or maybe “i’m fucking stupid”. I really have to start learning all these words they never taught us in school!

My current favourite study method is reading Mario Puzo’s The Godfather. I checked out both the english version of the novel, and the chinese translation, which both happened to be at the local library when i was there. I read as much as i can of the chinese version, and then flip over to the english one when i get stuck. I’m getting all sorts of interesting vocabulary this way, and i don’t have to endure the tedium of flipping through the dictionary to get it. I’m eager to find out how they translate things like “sleep with the fishes” ;)

Ride hard, ride free

Human Iterations 2008-09-29 11:16:00

(No Gods, No Masters, No Gravity Wells)

to the barricades 2008-09-27 01:27:00

"State Rep. John LaBruzzo says the government should consider cash incentives for poor people to undergo reproductive sterilization, because society is careening toward a day when persons on public assistance outnumber taxpayers and the economy collapses." (link)

Garden and Harvest Update

I've been enjoying a continuous stream of tomatoes, yellow squash, lettuce, arugula and cucumbers since early August. I've also had a few zucchini but not nearly as many as I would have liked. The same goes for bell peppers... I've gotten a few of those, maybe 10 or so but not as many as I would hope for. I've also been getting a good bit of basil for pesto and will be drying some too. Today I harvested black-eye peas, probably a half pound or so. My first attempt with those and a bit of an experiment planted very late so I'm very happy to get a crop. Next year I'll definitely be planting them again but in much greater number and much earlier. I've also harvesting a small handful of potatoes, also an experiment. Many, many more of those will be planted next year.

I've also been foraging a couple of handfuls of kinda ripe Autumn Olive berries and eating them fresh every day for the past week. They are getting sweeter and are probably about ripe now... very tastey indeed! I may try to harvest a bucket of them for preserves or maybe pancake syrup.

Comfrey!!! I was disappointed that the packet of seeds (12 or so seeds) I planted only produced one plant but that one plant did very well this summer. A couple weeks back I harvested about half the leaves and put them in a bucket of water which yielded a nice, stinky bucket of tea which I've just applied to the remaining garden plants. Waiting to let it go to seed and then will harvest the remaining leaves. I'll definitely be putting in comfrey clusters around the kitchen garden and forest gardens. A great plant!!

I'd have to say that I'm fairly happy with the garden given the lack of prep time and lateness of planting. I'm very happy with the results of the straw/cardboard sheet mulching. I should have a great compost pile (or 2 or 3) this fall and lots of leaves left over for more sheet mulching. Combined with the addition of chickens and many more comfrey plants next year I think we're on our way to improved soil fertility.

Gas/oil used? Not much. We used the tiller for maybe 20 minutes and against my better judgement. I thought it would help us get the soil quickly loosened up for the tomatoes. Lots of rocks! I've never used a tiller until this year and I've confirmed that as a good decision. I finished the job by hand with a pitch fork and was much happier with the results. All future garden space will be prepared in advance using sheet mulch.

Cardboard and straw certainly require energy to obtain and the straw costs money. Most trips to get those ingredients involved the need to get other supplies as well so at least they were not special trips. Next year I'd like to try replacing all or part of the straw layer with leaves though I I'm not sure how well that will work out. Leaves are not so neat and tend to move around. I may use leaves as the bulk of cover and then a much thinner layer of straw on top just to tidy it up and keep the leaves in place. We'll see.

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Human Iterations 2008-09-26 10:24:00

Sorry for the delay. Had to get it legally vetted and then sit out the usual hand wringing. Part 2: Organizing focuses at length on the WC, informants and internal dynamics while Part 3: Tactics dissects the week’s street battles, response times, etc….

Continue reading at Human Iterations …

Chapter Fifteen Excerpts: Peer Production and the Crisis of Value

Sometime in the next few weeks, I expect to have drafts of the last two chapters of my organization theory manuscript, Fifteen and Sixteen, online. From there, it will simply be a matter of working through the backlog of reading to fill in the gaps in…

Continue reading at Mutualist Blog: Free Market Anti-Capitalism …