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A trip to the library by Jack on Tue Sep 29, 2009 5:36 pm
Sometimes, mundane changes illuminate underlying reality in a way no collection of numbers can.

Today, I drove down to the public library with several boxes of old magazines. The library can sell them for a pittance and add a small sum to their funding, and it gets the magazines off my hands. It's been about a year since I went there last.

I noticed several men standing around outside. It's 11 AM on a Tuesday, and 6 men - three individuals, one group of three - are hanging out. One looked to by fortyish, the others younger - mid to late twenties. They were just standing, doing nothing in particular. The group was talking between themselves. They were dressed in the modern urban costume of athletic shoes, dark t-shirts, and casual pants.

They didn't have the defeated look of the homeless about them, nor was there any tell-tale cart of junk. Oddly, they weren't inside the library, which had seating and other amenities. No, they were just watching the comings and goings. I was...

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Diocletian and Constantine - our future? by Jack on Wed Sep 30, 2009 11:05 pm
The growing complexity of society, along with the reduced returns produced by such complexity, has been considered by Dr. Joseph Tainter. He's produced a paper that gives pause.


In planning or preparing for the future, we face the challenge of first discerning the future. What might it hold? Let us consider the following quotation from the cited paper:

In the half-century from 235 to 284 the empire nearly came to an end. There were foreign and civil wars almost without interruption. The period witnessed 26 legitimate emperors and perhaps 50 usurpers. Cities were sacked and frontier provinces devastated. The empire shrank in the 260s to Italy, the Balkans, and North Africa. By prodigious effort the empire survived the crisis, but it emerged at the turn of the fourth century AD as a very different organization....

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What if things can only get worse by strider3700 on Sat Aug 08, 2009 2:19 am
I'm a fan of the tv show "Top Gear", every summer and winter I get 6 or 7 hours of people doing things I'll never be able to do driving cars I'll certainly never own, will almost certainly never touch and I probably won't even see in person. To me it's entertaining, the humor can be good and the editing is the best I ever see on TV.

Tonight I watched the 7th and last episode of the 13th series(season) which originally aired 5 days ago. It was all your standard top gear stuff until the last 4 minutes. They always end either with a final quick car review or the continuation of some challenge they are in, then a quick joke so the host can say they'll "end on that bombshell" and then credits.

Today was different.

It was a car review, but not like any other review I've ever seen them do. Here's the clip

As much as you may not...

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Publlic Lecture ~2 hours by wisconsin_cur on Sun Oct 18, 2009 1:03 pm
London School of Economic Lecture on the politics of peak oil (and climate change)

The Government of Uncertainty: how to follow the politics of oil
Speaker: Professor Tim Mitchell
Chair: Dr Sam Ashenden
This event was recorded on 15 October 2009 in Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building
This lecture explores the politics of oil and how we can seek to understand it, at a time when uncertainty is presenting new challenges to the claims of objective knowledge. Tim Mitchell is professor of Arab studies at Columbia University, New York. Sam Ashenden is managing editor of Economy and Society and senior lecturer in Sociology, Birkbeck College.


I have only listened to the first 30 minutes of this...

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Of loyalty and place by wisconsin_cur on Sun Jun 28, 2009 3:03 am
Wendell Berry has written at length regarding the colonization of rural areas by urban economic interests. Like any other colony, rural areas are stripped of their raw materials: their minerals, their soil, their best and brightest young people and sold finished products from the cities. In one of his essays Mr. Berry even complains memorably that even the pastors that are assigned to rural areas are interns who are just biding their time, waiting to get a better assignment in the city and, as such, are not really invested in the people they are called to serve today.

Even if they lack a liberation vocabulary to give voice to their frustration, the frustration of the colonized is felt in many rural areas. Upon successfully completing my first interrogation by neighbors when we moved to our current location they disclosed a disdain for the "big city millionaires" who build their McMansions near...

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