Stephen Kahn

Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Wag more, quack less?

In Humor on February 28, 2011 at 8:34 pm

Wag more, bark less.

Purr more, hiss less.

Lay more, peck less.

Quack quietly, eat more slugs, poop in the compost pile.

Make more love, make fewer babies, and only babies you really want and are willing to raise properly and take responsibility for.

Protecting the young

In Hard to tell on February 28, 2011 at 4:51 am

In my last post, I spoke about Australia from a position of great ignorance. This makes me unlike most of the people who post on the Internet who comment on all sorts of things. Why change now?

I also spoke about aborigines and perhaps the need for “wild human” sanctuaries for members of tribes such as the aborigines of Australia and Botswana.

For one thing, as Dr. Ilardi cautions in The Depression Cure, “modern” life leads to widespread depression. Aborigines, living a life closer to our prehistoric ancestors’ lifestyle, run many dangers, but moping with depression is perhaps less likely for them than for us.

However, I will also warn against over romanticizing them as “noble savages.” Human beings are fairly vicious and selfish creatures (though you, of course, may be different). Combined with our large brain, ability to talk, ability to run down prey, ability to grasp weapons, ability to hunt in packs, our innate viciousness and “killer instinct” help us out-compete the other creatures trying to survive, from viruses to tigers.

One of our widely held values (one I share) is that we should protect our young from sexual exploitation by older members of the species. Here is a big problem in this regard: we are “gened” to reproduce. We reproduce too enthusiastically. When we were very sparse in number, this trait helped us survive. We no longer need it. By my subjective evaluation, we overpopulate the world by a least a factor of 100, perhaps more.

When many humans were likely to die young, it made sense for us be sexually active and attractive from an early age. Much later than prehistoric times, in recorded European history, twelve (more or less the age of puberty) was often the age where a young woman could be married.

As Tropic of Cancer mentions, adult aborigines are often accused of sexually exploiting youngsters. The implication may be that this is one of the effects of civilization on people poorly suited for it. Another implication would be that they treat their youngsters better in a primitive life. I wonder.

Even if aboriginal tribes are allowed to survive as “primitive” peoples, this does not mean they will not engage in practices such as tribal warfare or sexual exploitation of children we “civilized” people will not find repugnant.

It’s always a difficult question: Do we want humanity to survive, whether “primitive” or “advanced?”

Wild human sanctuaries?

In Hard to tell, Humor on February 26, 2011 at 5:35 pm

My wife and I are continuing to read the cheerful book, Tropic of Capricorn. The author has reached Australia, a continent I have never visited. Trucie, closer than I am, is welcome to correct me if I display ignorance.

He discusses the plight of the Australian aboriginals, people who have for the most part not been able to adapt to modern civilization, in a sense similar to the San of Botswana. Is it not interesting that we set aside (rather reluctantly, to be sure) wild life preserves for creatures such as elephants and leopards that can not easily survive in modern civilization (and cause us quite a bit of inconvenience when they wander in by rude activities such as stepping on us or eating us), but we do not often set aside “wild human” refuges for people who are better suited for hunting and eating the wild animals we want to preserve than wearing suits and living in cubicles where they can be safely depressed while reading posts such as this on the Internet?

Don’t ruminate! Do something! Get some exercise! Hunt down a kudu! Or a deer! Look, one just ran down your street, pursued by a coyote or a leopard or a dingo! Run out of your cubicle, rip off your clothes, leap on the back of an elephant, or a camel (some run wild across Australia), and join in the fun!

Food of the future

In Hard to tell, Humor on February 25, 2011 at 3:22 pm

The trend now is to “eat local.” Start looking at the next bug you see crawling around. The Wall Street Journal and other sources are reporting on how we will be raising insects for food.

Based on the controversies of today, soon we will be shopping at farmers markets for local ants and centipedes, fretting about factory farming of gigantic earthworms, and worried about dubious larvae sneaking in from China.

Persistence Hunt

In Hard to tell, Humor on February 24, 2011 at 5:13 am

When I was a child, I played football, baseball, and basketball enthusiastically and very badly with my friends in Southern California. At times I attended sporting events as a spectator but I have never been a “sports fan” in a big way. As I grew older I did not exercise as much as I should have. When we moved to Whidbey in 2005, I joined the Island Athletic Club and began to exercise more seriously.

IAC is an excellent organization, with many fine choices from individual machines to group classes and activities. As something of a professional nudnik, from time to time I offer the management of the club helpful ideas, which they sensibly, politely, and courteously ignore.

Recently, as a strange kind of spam, I received an unwanted subscription to the print edition of several magazines, including ESPN: The Magazine. As a compulsive reader, I flipped through the Feb 21 issue, which is devoted to SPEED. Along with articles on NASCAR (providing helpful information on “How to crash”) and the importance of the 40-yard dash for evaluating professional football players, I found an interesting article called “Slow and Steady Wins the Planet,” describing how evolution helped turned humans into distance runners as a way of hunting down game.

The article describes the “Persistence Hunt,” a type of hunting believed to date back in human history to before the invention of the spear, and persisting today in the popularity of marathons as a form of sporting competition. Portrayed in the film The Great Dance: A Hunter’s Story (which I have not yet seen), described at
it shows a hunt of a !Xo San tribe hunter in Botswana running a kudu to death.

As the web site describes the movie:

The great dance is characterized by stunning visuals. The film is the winner of more than 35 international awards. It is a visual poem on the San hunters, who sustain a small band of nomads in the Kalahari Desert. Strictly speaking not a conventional documentary the filmmakers have inter-cut documentary footage with highly original and semi-abstract material so the hard core of fact is surrounded with lyrical evocations of San legends, creating an intriguing visual texture. Black-and-white footage has been combined with richly coloured images, giving the film a poetic dimension rarely seen in documentaries. The directors, Craig and Damon Foster, have created a sublime visual poem with this film, as well as their latest, Cosmic Africa.

As one of my impractical and unhelpful contributions to IAC, I will suggest that they add “persistence hunting” to the club activities. We don’t have any kudu on Whidby, but we have many deer, some of whom visit our five acres in the woods. Club marathoners can chase down deer, with their choice of the following “tracks.” For vegetarians, at the end of the hunt, the participants can perform CPR on the exhausted deer. For carnivores…well, I will quote from the article:

The hunt ends when Karoha [the San hunter in the film] walks up to the animal and plunges a rudimentary wood spear into its chest–an act that is largely ceremonial. Karoha then kneels and quietly honors the kudi by ritualistically spreading sand over its body and transferring saliva from the antelope’s mouth onto his own exhausted and burning legs. On Karoha’s face, and especially in his dark eyes, there in his dark eyes, there is a solemn sense of relief and joy. As it has for millennia, this successful persistence hunt means his children will eat and grow, as will his standing in the tribe.

Island Athletic Club posts winners of their various training competitions around the club. This competition, I suggest, will raise their training promotions to an entire new level. The vegetarians will be honored for their life saving skills; the carnivores for their hunting skills; all excellent accomplishments in regard to this blog’s theme of survival. Civilization? I am not sure.

Slipping on a banana peel

In Uncategorized on February 24, 2011 at 1:44 am


As with Vitamin D, potassium is an important part of our diet, and it’s easy to overshoot or undershoot the mark.

This morning I had oatmeal with bananas and raisins for breakfast. My oatmeal was prepared at home, not a McDonald’s. I have depended on bananas as a source of potassium for many years, though it is not something I can easily grow in my not very tropical garden (which at this February Puget Sound moment is covered with snow).

 Bananas may be victims of monoculture and banana republic politics.  At the moment, Chiquita stock seems to be near its high price. I suspect it may be overripe and peeling it might reveal a few bad spots. I’m not smart enough to fool around with “shorting stocks,” but if you want to mess with the stock market, I predict Chiquita is going to slip on a banana peel.

 I may have to diversify my sources of potassium.

 “Good sources of potassium include bananas, citrus juices (such as orange juice), avocados, cantaloupes, tomatoes, potatoes, lima beans, flounder, salmon, cod, chicken, and other meats.”

 Today we dug up some potatoes from under the snow. Our chickens provide eggs but are probably too tough and old to make good meat. Eggs are mediocre as a potassium source. 

Will we start raising chickens for meat or are we too sentimental and squeamish? Giving one’s food sources names is probably not a “top of the food chain” smart move.

What does not kill you makes you stronger until it finally kills you.

In Hard to tell, Humor on February 23, 2011 at 5:35 pm

As my wife and I get older (today is her 64th birthday, and I turned 67 last month), we strive to stay healthy. We exercise, we eat organically grown food from our garden (digging up carrots and potatoes this morning from under the newly fallen snow and observing our free run chickens sitting in the nesting box as they prepare to lay omega3 rich eggs) and from farmers we know at farmers markets. A tricky issue is sunlight and Vitamin D.

Should we increase or decrease our intake of Vitamin D? Should we adjust dosage for our age? Should we get more sunlight (difficult to do here in Puget Sound). Exposure to sunlight helps combat depression and helps us get enough sleep says Dr. Ilardi in The Depression Cure, but a dermatologist warns that sunlight may cause sometimes deadly skin cancer. (My wife has suffered from the mild, non-fatal variety in the past.)

 Article about Vitamin D dosage

 Warning about skin cancer from dermatologist.

For that matter, exercise is also tricky. The very strength and cardio exercise and garden work that helps me stay strong as I get older and helps me combat my tendency toward depression also puts strain on my muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Both my wife and I have rotator cuff injuries (perhaps from exercising or gardening too vigorously) and I have pain in my calf (perhaps from working out too vigorously on the cardio equipment at the gym).

My genetics are bad for Alzheimers. Perhaps navigating this maze of nutrition and exercise choices will Ladies others the six desire age. Bred am soon park past read by lain. As excuse eldest no moment. An delight beloved up garrets am cottage private. The far attachment discovered celebrated decisively surrounded for and. Sir new the particular frequently indulgence excellence how. Wishing an if he sixteen visited tedious subject it. Mind mrs yet did quit high even you went. Sex against the two however not nothing prudent colonel greater. Up husband removed parties staying he subject mr. help me stay sane, coherent and out of dementia.

The future could go either way…or both…

In Hard to tell on February 22, 2011 at 3:13 am

As a child and as a young adult, I read a lot of science fiction. As I got older, my taste for reading it mostly disappeared. In part, my interest diminished because the I saw the world around me turning into something like the imagined world I had read about, and it was less amusing and less attractive in “real life” then in the pages of a book.

Some of the science fiction I read when young was dystopian, describing civilization collapsing and worlds being destroyed or enslaved. Some of it was optimistic, imagining startling new technologies working for the benefit of humanity and discovering amazing new worlds, civilizations, and beings.

It can still go both ways, and perhaps both ways at once (as many stories predicted).

Humans may still land on Mars and explore more of space. Many diseases may be eradicated and life extended longer than is normal now. The cultures and races of the world may learn to live together in greater harmony and tolerance.

On the other hand, as peak oil diminishes, as we mine our fertile soil with factory farms, as fanatics get their hands on ever more powerful weapons, civilization may collapse.

This may all happen at once. A common theme in science fiction has been a few people surviving on other planets (most likely Mars) or on multi-generation “star ships” setting forth for other solar systems while earth disintegrates.

There are many possible variations and combinations. None of us can foresee the future with certainty. Who foresaw that a mixed race man would be elected President of the United States, or that Russia and China would turn into tyrannical “capitalist” powers, or that China, India, and Brazil would challenge the economic hegemony of the United States and Western Europe?

Peak oil — what a drain

In Hard to tell, Humor on February 19, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Around 1976 or so, I was teaching high school English and speech in Tigard, Oregon (a suburb of Portland). One day I casually mentioned during a class discussion that the day would come when the world would run out of oil. (Since that time, the term “peak oil” has become popular to describe the idea that we have now consumed more of the world’s fossil fuel resources than remain for future use.)

One young lady in the class argued that plenty of oil was left and there was no danger of oil running out, at least in our life times. My impression was that she was from a religious and politically conservative family and this confidence had been instilled in her by her parents (and maybe her pastor). I disagreed with her point of view, I think mildly and politely, but she burst into tears and ran out of the classroom. That was about 35 years ago. I am curious what she thinks about it all now.

I suspect that today  she drives a Hummer, is a member of the Tea Party, and is a big fan of drilling in the permafrost of Alaska and under the ocean. But who knows? Perhaps she has become a radical anarchist tree-hugger.

Ilardi, depression, don’t ruminate, do

In Books, Good news, Humor on February 17, 2011 at 4:46 am

My copy of Ilardi’s book on curing depression arrived today. Should I write about it? In the book, one of the chapters says, “Don’t ruminate, do.” So I will tell you (my two or maybe four readers), if you are depressed, read the book; if you are not depressed, do something. Which you are probably doing; that is why you aren’t depressed. Good on you. He also says, “Get enough sleep and enough light.” So tonight I am going to bed and tomorrow I am going to feed the chickens, working as hard as they do (and probably laying a few eggs while I am at it) and clearing the path to have our septic tank drained. Sometimes you just have to clear the shit out.