Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘History’ Category


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OK, just couldn’t get into the police dog post. Maybe someday, maybe not. Discussion of the meme in question got a little heated in the Doug’s Darkworld Facebook group, and my tolerance for drama of any sort is reaching new lows. Life’s too short. So maybe a fun post. Puppies! Oh, wait, I don’t like puppies. They have sharp teeth and they smell funny. Worst of all, like some sort of reverse butterfly, they turn into dogs. Then they have sharp teeth, smell funny, and destroy any nearby furniture, walls, tools, appliances they can get their teeth into. Actually, whatevs, I don’t mind a good dog. If I ever live out in the forest again I might have a dog.

Moving right along, things haven’t gotten worse in the Middle East. Global Warming is getting worse. Things are getting ugly in Hong Kong. My attempts at baking are one for three. Yeah, not going to bake anymore, it’s clearly not my forte. Even the animals outside wouldn’t eat my last batch of attempted muffins. I looked up what happened in history October 2nd, not much hope there. An odd assortment of the usual calamities. In 1187 Salladin captured Jerusalem, which the Crusaders had held for 80 odd years. The Queen Mary chopped a Britsh Cruiser in half during World War Two.  One good Omen I suppose, The Twilight Zone premiered on October 2nd, 1959. And in 1996 an airliner crashed because a mechanic forgot to remove some duct tape. Usually duct tape fixes things, not this time.

Speaking of fixes, this weeks Skeptoid is about how to fix global warming. It is fixable, but like so many of humanity’s problems, fixing it would slightly inconvenience a handful of people who already have more money than they could spend in a hundred lifetimes. They won’t stand for that of course, and claim that them making slightly less obscene profits would wreck the economy. As a general rule anytime one hears “But it would wreck the economy!’ what is really being said is “But the super rich would have slightly less money!” The sad thing is that a lot of the people being exploited by the rich parrot the same tired argument. Sigh. Anyhow, read about it here without my ranting.

And when we’re not avoiding fixing a problem, there’s people actively making them worse. I’m thinking of the anti-vaxxers. The good Dr Novella makes a case for mandatory vaccinations for school kids. Why this even has to be debated is maddening. I remember the sixties and seventies, the only blatant science deniers were cranks. I don’t recall any major social movements completely at odds with established science. It’s not like there’s any doubts, measles caused nearly 3 million annual deaths in 1980. It’s lower than one hundred thousand now. And no, it wasn’t the widespread introduction of handi wipes, it was the MMR  vaccine. And that’s just one of many diseases vaccines radically reduced or even eliminated by vaccines.

Strange times indeed. So politics. IDK. Electoral politics get more like sportsball every day. Everyone gets really excited about their team, or obsessed even, but in the final analysis who wins the Super Bowl or the World Series doesn’t mean anything. So, I have no meaningful comments. And I’m actually going to some political stuff. Meetings. Things. I can’t even make an order in Starbucks, let alone describe what goes on in local electoral politics. Good people trying to make a difference, God bless em.

In the “You can’t make something foolproof because fools are so ingenious” file, people are trying to get their self driving cars to run them over. That’s up there with eating Tide pods, how the hell did I end up on this planet? Didn’t I have any other choices? But yes, at least one youtuber posted his attempts at running himself over. The whole self-driving feature is already a nightmare for insurance companies. Who is at fault when a driver summons their car and it hits someone? Lots of fun to be had. Lots of lawyers will get richer.

Lastly, a scientist has published a paper making the case that aliens are watching us. Seriously. This is because there is a tiny (about twenty known) population of asteroids called Near Earth Co-Orbital Objects. These little guys don’t orbit Earth, but they share the same orbit around the Sun. Dance partners with Earth so to speak. And physicist James Benford suggests they would be the perfect place to keep an eye on Earth from. He suggests we observe them closely looking for any kind of radiation, and scan them with radar to boot. And maybe send a probe? Why not?

Why not indeed. They are both very close to Earth, and at least as scientifically interesting as any other object orbiting the Sun. We find out new stuff every probe we send. And indeed China is actually planning a ten year mission that would not only include visiting 2016 HO3, the nearest of these asteroids, the mission also includes sample returns. Read about it all here. Personally I think the aliens, if they exist, are already here on Earth. And no, they didn’t teach us how to make pyramid shaped piles of rocks. Another post, someday.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Man enjoying view from beach. Credit: Wallpaper Abyss.)

Written by unitedcats

October 2, 2019 at 4:19 am

Posted in History, Science, SETI


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(Image credit: Thilo Parg / Wikimedia Commons, License: CC BY-SA 3.0)

A few days ago on Facebook I posted about the anniversary of the discovery of Ötzi in the Ötztal Alps. Those are the Alps between Austria and Italy. (Yes, that’s how he got his name.) Pictured above in all his reconstructed glory. He was discovered on 19 september, 1991. He is Europe’s oldest known natural mummy, over 5,000 years old. And a number of my Facebook readers had never heard of Ötzi, much to my amazement. Even better they thought his story was fascinating. And I thought, what a great topic for a blog!

So yes, nice couple out for a stroll in the Alps in 1991. They stumble across a body half frozen in the ice. They, and pretty much everyone else, figured it was some recent victim (as in years or decades old) of the dangers of travelling in the Alps. Such discoveries happen all the time. Fairly quickly it was realized Ötzi was older, much older than the usual crop of dead bodies found in the Alps. Thousands of years older in fact. I have followed Ötzi’s story from the beginning. What follows is partly from memory, partly from recent internet research. Enjoy.

So, he died about 5,250 years ago. At first it was thought some mishap had befallen him, or maybe just cold and exposure. Eventually though, it was determined to be murder most foul. OK, maybe a hunting accident, who knows. He had been struck in the back with an arrow, and bled out fairly quickly. Probably was murder though, his body had some other wounds indicating he had been in a fight or fights before his death. One study indicated that the blood of four different individuals was found on his weapons. No one was ever able to replicate the study though, so maybe not. The shot that killed Ötzi was a great shot, fired from considerably below him. Might explain why his killers didn’t get to his body and take his stuff.

And he had some great stuff, he was fully kitted out. Bow, arrows, knife, clothing, first aid kit, and niftiest of all, a copper axe. Yes, humans had started smelting and casting copper. Every copper axehead ever found was polished to a mirrored sheen, a labor intensive undertaking in the era before emery cloth. Thus the axe likely marked Ötzi as a high status or wealthy individual. Or a thief I suppose, “Shoot him, he’s got my axe!” Anyhow, a tremendous amount was learned from his possessions. One thing that stuck out for me in particular, there were over a dozen items made from wood. And every single item was made out of the exact type of wood best suited for the item in question. The same goes for the items made from animal hide. These people were plenty smart.

In some ways his stuff was the most important thing about him. This wasn’t some guy buried naked in a bog, or a body in a grave. This was a guy with all his possessions with him. In fact archeologists were so interested in that aspect that they went up and excavated everything around where Ötzi was found down to bedrock. And counted every seed, whatever. They got most of his hair and two of his fingernails doing this. Anyhow, here’s an article listing all his stuff with pictures.

Ötzi was about 45 at the time of his death. So he’d been around. Five foot three inches tall. Wiry, in good shape. Suffering from parasites and recurring bouts of a serious illness. Lots of tattoos, over fifty. All soot tattoos, just black lines. He is in fact the oldest known tattooed person. They may have been for medical pain relief or acupuncture type healing, as most of them were found on places like joints or his spine. His previous few meals were still in him, ibex, red deer, and chamois meat. Bread, roots, veges. His DNA shows he was lactose intolerant, so lactose tolerance was still not universal in Europe. They were also able to tell from his tooth enamel that he grew up about 50km south of where he was found, but later in life he moved to the region where he died. His bones also showed he spent a lot of time climbing up and down steep slopes, unusual for any era. So he might have been a mountain shepherd.

Whoever he was, Europe was a very different place then. There certainly were little villages, but no real towns as we would know them. It would have been mostly wilderness, though some agriculture had started.  There were dogs, but no cats yet where he lived. The bread Ötzi ate was apparently from cultivated grains. There had been standing stones and such in Europe, but Stonehenge was still centuries away.. Ötzi had likely never seen anything bigger than a wooden hut or hall. He might have heard tell though. The world’s very first cities were springing up in the Middle East, though the first pyramids were still centuries away.

Ötzi’s DNA shows he was most closely related to people who now live in Corsica and Sardinia. And interestingly enough scientists found 18 people currently living in the Alps who were descended from Ötzi, or a close male relative. His mother’s DNA didn’t live on, but his father’s did. Kind of wild knowing some of the people still living in the region are his direct descendants. Immortality in several ways. His DNA lives on, and countless millions of people know of him. It would have been very difficult to explain to him today’s world.

And no matter what we learn, we can only guess at who Ötzi was. His dreams, memories, fantasies, loves and all that made him human died with him on that cold mountain. We can only wonder. RIP Ötzi, long gone but not forgotten.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Otzi kitted out. Credit: The author Thilo Parg has licensed this file under license CC-BY-SA-3.0 to Wikimedia Commons. This means that a free, even commercial use is possible if the following conditions are met:

Online media:

Clearly legible indication of the author next to the picture: “Thilo Parg / Wikimedia Commons”

Readable license name next to the image: “License: CC BY-SA 3.0”)

Written by unitedcats

September 27, 2019 at 4:33 am


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September 11 2019. The 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Possibly the most written about event in history. At least in America, I wonder how much attention it gets in the rest of the world. Years of cultivating foreign friends has taught me a bit about the world. Two things I have learned so far. Most of the world has little interest in America and Americans, aside from superficial stuff like our movies and such. And that I know basically jack about most other countries. The older I get, the more I am impressed with how breathtakingly ignorant I am about most things. So I spend a lot of time in the library.

18 years ago. Time flies. People under 25 or so don’t even remember pre-9/11 America. There was still a facade of participatory democracy. There was still a reasonably robust antiwar movement. The USA hadn’t yet turned the Middle East into a morass of failed states and terrorist breeding grounds. Mandatory flag waving and anthem singing wasn’t required at every single public gathering and professional sporting event. The Internet was only 90% crap.

And facts mattered. At least a lot more than they do now. Conservatives and liberals still talked to each other, they hadn’t yet retreated into their respective parties’ fantasy worlds. Conspiracy theories were still fringe beliefs, not planks in major party platforms. Americans didn’t live in fear of immigrants, terrorists, Muslims, or school shooters. A college education didn’t require lifetime debt. And in many very measurable ways, the typical American was better off than they are now.

Finally 9/11 is fading into history, but the damage done by the Bush administrations cowardly and self-serving insane overreaction to 9/11 is with us still. Permanent endless wars, a national debt that’s almost incomprehensible. The erosion of our freedoms and the giant security state now monitoring us. Bush did claim Osama Bin Laden was attacking us because he was jealous of our freedoms. So I guess taking them away made sense. That’s what the image above alludes to.

In other words, 9/11 and America’s response to it are pretty depressing topics. I wish I had something positive to say. Wracking my brains here. A terrible crime, used to justify countless subsequent crimes. How does one find the silver lining in that? The 9/11 Truthers have been amusing I suppose. The conspiracy theory to end all conspiracy theories. Of course the amusement fades when one realizes just how divorced from logical thinking one has to be to imagine that thousands of Americans conspired to murder thousands of Americans for no reason whatsoever. And left exactly zero evidence of their crime.

God rest the souls of all who died that terrible day. I dreamt about it as it was happening, so was more than a little shocked when I turned on the TV. And God rest the souls of all who died as America lashed out in a quixotic crusade to rid the world of terror. And our 9/11 inspired wars are killing people to this day. The idea that war will end terror is about as dumb as people thinking World War One would end all war. As someone said back when America still had an antiwar movement, “Fighting for peace is like fucking for chastity.” Nowadays Americans are so shell shocked that our “leaders” in Washington don’t even bother to promise peace anymore.

So in summation, 9/11 was a terrible crime by a tiny extremist organization. It wasn’t an act of war, clash of civilizations, or an attack on the United States. The perpetrators should have been hunted down and brought to trial. The dead buried with respect, and we should have stayed calm and carried on. Kinda the opposite of how we reacted. And here we are 18 years later, and Al Qaeda is as strong as ever. Again, God rest the souls of all the 9/11 victims.

And now here in Iowa a tornado watch. Well, now I’m both depressed and nervous. At least I live close to downtown, so I will hear the tornado alarm if it goes off. On the plus side, we’re finally getting some rain. The lake is down a foot or so, the lawn rolled over and died of thirst last week. And dry soil makes treasure hunting impossible. I know, I know, white peoples’ problems. A future blog post.

Hope everyone is having a good week.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: The Twin Towers in NYC shortly after the planes struck. Credit: A federal National Park Service employee took this photo as part of their official duties, and thus it is Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

September 11, 2019 at 4:05 am


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Some dates in history, nothing happened. Most though there are a number of things to choose from. In the first week of September in 1666 the Great Fire of London was raging. It’s a story with some interesting tidbits. I think I will write a dedicated post to it on Friday. Or not, one can never tell with these things. Maybe there will be some new shocking current event to write about. Or I could just make one up. “Nun Machine Guns Choir in Dispute Over How to Spell Arpeggio.” We’ll find out Friday I suppose.

More recently, on September 4 1886, Geronimo and his band of warriors finally surrendered to the US army. Him and his men had been more or less continuously fighting Mexico and the US for decades. All pretty ugly, especially the war between the Mexicans and the Apache. A lot of massacres on both sides. Against the Americans, he was mostly wanted for cattle rustling and “escaping” from the reservation. At one point near the end about a third of the US Army was hunting for him, 20,000 guys looking for a few dozen Indians. Whose big crime at that point was cattle rustling and leaving their reservation? Overreactions to minor threats on the frontier is a hallmark of imperialism. Just saying.

Once Geronimo and his men  surrendered, they were treated as prisoners of war. They were never allowed to return to Arizona. They were however taken out and about, IE the US government paraded Geronimo around at various events to show off the US. A tradition going back to at least the Romans. In his case, he got to make some nice pocket money. He’d sell pictures of himself, bows and arrows. Even his hat. Geronimo wrote an autobiography, which I am now putting at the top of my reading list. An interesting life indeed, the changes he saw. On his deathbed it’s reported that he regretted surrendering, who knows.

So he’s in the picture above. One of my favourite photographs of all time. Taken in the spring of 1886, it’s Geronimo and his men. I’ve probably posted and talked about it before. Cest la vie. It’s the only known photograph of a Native American military force operating in the field against the United States. These guys were at war with the US. Fun times.

Back to the here and now, I found out that Bernie Sanders wants to phase out nuclear power plants. I must admit I find that dismaying. There’s a huge problem with phasing out nuclear power plants, since they provide about 20% of the nation’s electricity, what do they get replaced by? Solar and wind can’t really take up the slack, since they can’t vary their power output on demand. Instead, exactly as is happening in Germany and Japan, they will get replaced with coal burning plants. The exact opposite of what we need to do. Nuclear power has its issues, but it is much safer and greener than burning oil and coal. And it has negligible carbon emissions, which is kind of an emergency species goal right now.

So I wonder if Mr Sander’s opposition is sincere, or his he only pandering to his base. The good Doctor Novella goes into the politics of nuclear power in his last post. Not surprisingly, Republicans are far more pro-nuclear than Democrats. I’m not sure what to think about it all. I guess I need to do more research. I’ve changed my mind before, it’s painful but the alternative is worse.

Lastly, FLICC. A new concept to me, or at least stuff I already knew in pieces, put together in a coherent package. Fairly new algorithm, 21st century. It’s a list of the big things to use to flag science denial. F is fake experts. L is logical fallacies. I is impossible expectations. IE, science can never be 100% sure of anything, and nothing is 100% safe, so one can point to the exceptions and claim they invalidate the science. C is cherry picking. And the last C is conspiracy theories. The more of these that show up in an article, the more likely it is science denying garbage. Not surprising, when both science and logic refute your position, stuff like this is all that’s left. Alas tens of millions of people listen to CNN and Rush Limbaugh, and fall for it every time. The FLICC article here.

Hope everyone had a good Labor Day holiday. There ended up being a party here. An introvert’s nightmare, a house full of friendly strangers. After enough beer I finally ventured forth and joined in the festivities . Parties here always involve the cat escaping and leading a merry chase through the neighborhood. They got the cat back, then locked me outside by mistake. All’s well that ends well though, they let me back inside, and I had a good time.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Photo by C. S. Fly of Geronimo and his warriors, taken before the surrender to Gen. Crook, March 27, 1886, in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico. Fly’s photographs are the only known images of Indian combatants still in the field who had not yet surrendered to the United States. Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

September 4, 2019 at 3:40 am


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I was working on an informative post about Labor Day, but got bogged down on the details. Then I decided I wanted to spend my Labor Day weekend seriously doing nothing. I need the vacation time, my life gets too wound up and complicated. Almost as if I’m doing it to myself, go figure. So no chores, no lists, no obligatory posts. Just relaxing, playing games, hanging out with friends, watching a movie. And now, writing an extemporaneous Labor Day post because I want to! Stream of consciousness time. And of course it involves beer, does it even have to be mentioned? Just not as much beer as was my habit. (No nun jokes please.)

<Deleted polemic about the dangers of day drinking.>

Living in my little town is like living in a jigsaw puzzle image. I did a lot of jigsaw puzzles as a kid. This is a nice bonus. I also loved dioramas when I was a kid. One of the best parts of museums. Now that I’m a grown-up (There are no adults,) I realize everything outside my front door is just one big walk-in diorama. One giant Willoughby. It’s very nice. Lots to look at, and great sunsets. I’ll get some pictures. Or in simple terms, I walk out my door and am still amazed at how cool reality is. And how privileged I am to be living here.

Oh, yeah, saw the Godzilla movie, 43rd remake, I dunno? Part of the something something comic universe. I’m turning into Grampa Simpsons in front of my own horrified eyes. The movie was a C+ movie. Giant monsters fighting, the fate of the Earth at stake. Edgy because, people died! Not very edgy in other words. Another movie that will sink quietly into the morass of forgettable movies that comprise modern Hollywood movie making. Bloop.

So, moving on, modern mass media began about a hundred years ago. 1920 or so was when radio stations started their thing. There were newspapers and telegraphs before then, but this was the time when anyone could get near a radio and hear the news of the world. And advertising. And propaganda. A century is a significant milestone in a way. Pretty much means that people who can remember what is was like before the modern age of mass media are dead. The pre mass media period of human history is now, well, history. This means something. From some perspective at least.

Speaking of history, on this day in history, 2 Sept 31 AD, near 2,000 years ago Octavius (aka Caesar Augustus,) defeats Cleopatra and Mark Antony in a decisive naval battle off the coast of Greece. The Battle of Actium.  It was the final end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of a string of Roman emperors lasting for more than a thousand years.

There were actually two guys commonly named Caesar, so it’s confusing. The first guy, Julius Caesar, was the one who defeated the Gauls, then marched on Rome and declared himself emperor, thus ending the Roman Republic. He was then stabbed to death by a group of conspiring Senators who sought to restore the republic. Alas, turns out Julius was really popular, and the assasination didn’t have the result they hoped for. Worse, Julius had named his 18 year old cousin Octavius as his heir. No one really took Octavius seriously as he was basically a kid. Turns out this kid inherited Julius’ name, popularity, immense wealth, and political acumen.  And thus in a decade long combination of politics and battle, culminating in the Battle of Actium above, he became Caesar Augustus. The divine Emperor of the Roman Empire.

Back on Earth, I think I ate the best sandwich of my life. It was a Turkey Sub, from The Other Place. Only found in Kansas and Iowa. Muhahaha, too bad coastal elites. :P The secret ingredient is bacon. Kinda a metaphor for the privileged life in America, it’s so tasty, who cares about CAFO hog farms, there’s none near me. And underpaid labor. Can’t a man enjoy the benefits of slavery without being judged? Yes, I’m being facetious. Sort of.

Speaking of men, there was a straight pride march? Give me a break. Isn’t ruling the effing planet enough, now they have to brag about it? Even more embarrassing, apparently it was mostly an incel parade. Incels, for those that want to know, are “involuntary celibates.” Yes, men who can’t get laid, but think it’s because the women of the world are messed up. Dudes, if you can’t get laid, it’s because you’re an immature creep and women pick up on it.

Lastly, I had not one, but two epiphanies last week. Lots to write about there. Enjoy labor Day celebrations. Despite the setbacks of the last thirty years, the working class in America is still better off than they were before the rise of the modern labor movement. The image above is child labor, surprisingly common before 1920 or so. These were oyster shuckers, and like millions of other children, worked long hours six days a week under horrible conditions. Let’s keep child labor in history, shall we?

Have a great week everyone!

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Child labor around 1920, oyster shuckers. Credit: Lewis Hine, an interesting career. Public Domain under US copyright law.)

Written by unitedcats

September 2, 2019 at 7:18 am

Posted in Business, History, Personal


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Maybe I should rename it Doug’s Cynical World. I do have hope for the species, in that I think extinction is unlikely. And there are good people in the world. And that’s about as far as it goes in modern America. I posted this story in my last post. People for the most part have no clue how easy it is to manipulate people. And with science being brought to bear (Yes, I have recommended this book before, read it and weep) on the issue, advertisers and political entities can shape people’s thoughts and even memories like never before. And few if any of these entities have the health, welfare, and betterment of humankind as their mission.

I did some volunteer work for the Bernie campaign, but I gave up on it. I like what he has to say, he has plenty of enthusiastic followers, but the same applied to Obama and Clinton. Both of whom moved the Dems even further away from their working class roots. And the Bernie campaign seems to be designed by coastal liberals, which means doomed to fail in the midwest. My current guess is that Bernie will be tapped for the VP slot, since the Dems have to have his followers if they want to ensure a victory over Trump. And then he can be safely sidelined, since the VP’s only job is to be a cheerleader for the POTUS. This assumes the DNC wants to win the 2020 election, which is far from clear to me.

105 years ago today the Battle of Tannenberg was raging. It was between Russia and Germany as Russia invaded Germany in the early days of World War One. It was an epic German victory, an entire Russian army was surrounded and destroyed with near 200,000 killed or captured. The German losses were trivial. Hindenburg was the big hero on the German side, going on to to play a big role in post war German politics. There is some doubt as to how much of the credit should go to him, but that’s a moot point by now. I mention it as an example of a crushing victory that was then overshadowed by subsequent battles, and pretty quickly all but forgotten. The Battle of Chancellorsville and the Battle of Stamford Bridge being two other good examples. Food for future blog posts.

World War One is officially history now by the way. About 65,000,000 served during the war, the last one died in 2012. The last one who saw combat in 2011. The last who served in the trenches in 2009. Tens of millions of people, locked in a life and death struggle. For many of them it was the defining event of their lives. For about ten million of them, it was the end of their lives. The War to End All Wars. And ultimately all for nothing, it was just the prelude to an even greater war. If that’s not depressing to think about, I don’t know what is.

In current world news, the Amazon basin is on fire. Well, Brazil’s new president did run on increasing agriculture and decreasing environmental protections. A politician who keeps his word, how did that happen? Oh, wait, a politician who keeps his promises to big business, never mind. It’s an environmental catastrophe, but at least it’s not depleting the world’s oxygen supply as many claim. I’d be upset, but that’s what they want. The whole freaking human race is an environmental catastrophe, this is just another float in the parade. There will be outrage for a week or two, then on to the next outrage. With both ruling parties of the US* determined to ignore environmental issues, nothing will be done until it’s way too late.

In America, schools are now being built with mass shootings in mind. My mind, formerly boggled, reels uncontrollably. We have failed as a people. On the plus side, 10,000 years and three dark ages from now, archeologists studying the ruins of early 21st century America will discover we started fortifying our schools about 2020. It will be the enigma of the age, numerous theories, each more clever than the last, will endeavour to explain why we did so. None will even come close to the truth. Our culture is sick.

Here in Iowa, fall is in the air. Some say it’s going to be a bad winter. Iowans complain about how cold their winters are a lot. Not sure why, it’s basically a Southern Ontario winter. IE the tropics of snowy winters. I’ll survive it, or not. If the former, more blogging! I really am working on the second installment of ‘Falling.’ If not, well, as Mark Twain said:

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

Have a great weekend everyone!

*No need for a link about Trump, who has abandoned all efforts to mitigate Global Warming and is rolling back environmental protections wherever he can.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Green Sky. Reminds me of an alternate reality I briefly visited once. Credit: Arnaud M. Used without permission, but he’s not a professional, and from what I can find he just wants people to share and enjoy his work.)

Written by unitedcats

August 30, 2019 at 2:43 am


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I have first hand experience with The Airplane Game. Don’t Google it yet. This was in the late 1980s. Ancient history to anyone born after 1985 or so. The pre-Simpsons era. (Eventually our dates will be BS or PS, Before Simpsons or Post Simpsons.) A friend was involved and invited me to a meeting. What the hell, I was curious what it was all about. And it was a big pot luck, who knows, maybe a way to meet interesting women.

So, nice suburban home in El Cerrito. We all ate in the yard, lots of nice people, great food, great fun. Then we retire to the living room, two people were running the show. A cute bubbly high energy woman, and a black fellow wearing Africanesque clothes. First they asked the crowd like three times if “Anyone was a reporter or worked for law enforcement.” Showmanship basically since, guess what, neither reporters nor cops are required to identify themselves under circumstances like this.

Then they launched into their presentation. And a lovely presentation it was. Lots of slides about Africa. And Africans. And how it was a cultural tradition in Africa for friends to pool their money for a friend to start a business. It brought tears to my eyes. OK, no, it didn’t. It certainly made a favorable impression though, because let’s face it, this is not a cultural tradition in America. The country that brought us the “Me Decade” and “Greed is Good.” So we’re all feeling positive and inspired. A big part of the crowd were witchy nature loving lesbians, the pitch was clearly tailored to the crowd.

Then, the various “captains” retire to different rooms. And my friend, who was a captain, used a chalkboard to show her “passengers” and potential passengers how it all worked. And to my dismay, she sketched a classic pyramid scheme:

Basically the captain recruits two friends, as the two co-pilots, then they recruit four people to act as crew. Then eight passengers. Everyone pays to join of course. When all eight “seats” are full, the plane splits in two and the captain finally gets paid. Hundreds to thousands of dollars. Then the two co-pilots become captains, and each set out to find eight more patsies. And patsies is the word. The vast majority of the people who buy in never get paid. Pyramid schemes are illegal in America and elsewhere because they are scams.

This scheme pretty obviously had essentially zero similarity to the African stuff in the presentation. I wasn’t particularly tempted to buy a seat. First of all, I knew it was a scam. Secondly, I knew that if had gotten down to trying to recruit me, who had no money and knew it was a scam, that the pool of patsies was just about exhausted. I went to two more much smaller and more desperate meetings before the whole thing fizzled out. Didn’t meet any interesting women either.

So, the question is, why do people fall for stuff like this? Why was my friend involved? In point of fact I found out some years later that her involvement was a key factor in her lover leaving her. Mostly I think it was she was just naive and wanted to make some easy money. I suspect that’s the case for most of the people involved. The prospect of easy money, naivety, and rationalizing that no one is forced to sign on.

The Dashiki Guy and Bubbly Lady, yeah, con artists. Criminals preying on the naivety and greed of the average Jill. There’s a school of thought that people have no one but themselves to blame if they get conned out of money. That’s the preschool level of morality. An adult knows there are huge numbers of people who for one reason or another are very vulnerable to scams. And while society obviously can’t prevent people from falling for them, it can at least try to minimize the harm. This is why usury laws exist. Why pyramid schemes are illegal. Why professional (the house takes a cut) gambling is illegal. Why lotteries are illegal. It’s called civilization, protecting the vulnerable from those who would harm them.

Note the US fails on all of these but the pyramid schemes, and even those are OK if you turn it into multi-level marketing. I’m not optimistic about the direction America is heading, who would ever have guessed? And this latest post from the good Doctor Novella is even more distressing. Fake news can create fake memories! And you better believe the powers that be are exploiting it to the hilt.

Yeah, we’re doomed.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image 1: Pyramid house in Clear Lake, Iowa. Credit: Ken Ratcliff. Some rights reserved, used legally under a Creative Commons License.

Image 2: “Airplane Game” pyramid scheme. Credit: Wikipedia User:Stannard. Released into Public Domain by the creator.)

Written by unitedcats

August 28, 2019 at 3:52 am