Archive | October, 2012

Laws don’t determine what’s right and wrong.

30 Oct

This November 5th some members of anonymous are planning on marching on Washington DC, possibly armed, to arrest the government. As noble as this idea is, in reality they’re going to be arrested the moment they put their hands on any members of the government. If they bring guns, people will be shot because all government authority ultimately rests on the shoulders of someone with a gun. What they’re attempting to do, overthrow the government, is illegal but it isn’t inherently wrong.

However, I feel that if you asked the common Joe/Jane on the street, anything illegal is wrong. I imagine their reasoning would be something as terse as “Well of course it’s wrong! It’s illegal. Things that are illegal are bad!”

Unfortunately, I feel a lot of people in our society have this mentality when it comes to laws. It extends from a view of morality instilled in us from childhood:

Mother and father say something is wrong, therefore it is wrong. Mother and father say it is wrong to break the law, therefore anything illegal is wrong.

The problem is that the law is not some perfect measure of good and bad. It’s written by other human beings, human beings who often have ulterior motives. Governments are living organisms, hive minds, composed of a plethora of smaller beings. All living organisms have a survival instinct. As such, one of the first things made illegal by any government is the overthrowing of that government.

There was a legal academy where I went to high school. Basically, it was some extra-curricular courses students could enroll in if they were interested in going to law school after high school. The idea was to give them foundational knowledge of the American legal system to help better prepare them for law school. The types of people who joined this legal academy were the type of people who loved to watch crime dramas on television, to read about crime mysteries in books, and enjoyed crime fighter comics like Batman and Judge Dredd.

I’ve noticed that later in life these type of people tend to be more conservative and had an obsession with crime and punishment. Their black and white view of right and wrong and over eagerness to punish perceived rule breakers always irritated me. They’re like some annoying self-righteous asshole kid on the school playground that always has to run and taddle on you, desperate for praise and recognition from the authority figure.

The big problem then becomes: What if the people writing the laws write unjust and wrong laws to protect their own misdeeds? What if the right thing is made illegal? Of course this happens all the time in real life. Coercive governments the world over write laws that protect their own interests and attempt to sanction their own crimes. Businesses with enough means bribe governments to write laws to manipulate the market and protect their own interests. It’s common practice.

So how do these crime and punishment types deal with this reality? They don’t. The compartmentalize it, ignore it, or rationalize it away with the just world hypothesis. Such complexities are not within their limited and comfortable range of comprehension.

And so this coming Monday those members of anonymous that march on Washington will experience the government’s monopoly on violence and will be branded criminals by the very people they’re trying to help. Never mind that their crime was trying to do the right thing.

The coverage of “Superstorm Sandy” is absurd.

29 Oct

So I drop off the face of the earth for a week as far as news is concerned and I come back to find people screaming their heads off about how the entire eastern seaboard is going to be destroyed like the Russians came over the arctic and carpet bombed it. Hurricane Sandy is a “superstorm”, a “frankenstorm”, “the biggest storm in US history.”

I checked out The Weather Channel’s website and found it plastered is large red panicky banners screaming words and phrases like “Alert!” “Action” “Devastation Imminent!” “NYC underwater!” “Threat!”

The even had a map of predicted power outages in ominous orange and red, with orange being “possibly” and red being “likely.” The power outages hadn’t even started yet at that point, but they weren’t letting the fact that the news hadn’t happened yet keep them from reporting it!

I turned everything off and went to the gym. While I was running I saw ET news was literally showing clips from the movie “The Day After Tomorrow” where NYC is destroyed. They were specifically showing clips of waves rushing through NYC 20-30 stories high, destroying everything.

This is fucking ridiculous. It was a category 1 storm, but now it’s only “post-tropical.” People are posting pictures of streets flooded (up to car doors) and broken glass/branches/roof tops missing. This happens all the time in hurricanes, but I think think there are two factors that are making people lose their goddamn minds over this:

1. It’s happening in a region that, until now, never gets hurricanes.

2. It’s affecting a lot of rich, white people.


If this type of bloodcurdling, screaming news titles deserve to be attached to a storm, they should have been attached to hurricane Katrina. That storm destroyed an entire city, killed almost 2,000 people, and cost $81Bn in damage. Much of the city still lay in ruins years after the fact. Yet nobody cares because it was a bunch of fucking black people. Now that the water is creeping up the side of the wallstreet broker’s lexus, “OMFG!!!! It’s a superstorm! It’s going to destroy everything!!!!1”

If hurricane Sandy is to deserve the hype people are giving it, it better absolutely level NYC like Godzilla. Otherwise this is just a bunch of over hyped bullshit.

Oh, and don’t forget kiddies, man-caused global warming is a liberal lie.

Alaska update 4

29 Oct

So I got up a few hours after making that last post, had breakfast, and checked out of my room. Before I did, I managed to snap a quick picture of the survivalist guy I was sharing a room with:

After packing everything into my car I decided to walk back down to the river to see if I could catch any wildlife on camera. To my delight I did.

I was walking along the beach and I saw a couple of bald eagles sitting in a tree. It took a little while but I was able to approach them and snap this picture. You can see he’s staring at me, watching what I’m doing. While I was taking pictures of the eagles I saw something move out the corner of my eye. It was a red fox! Even better, it didn’t seem to care that I was there taking pictures! It came right up to me, within 5 feet! The entire time I was stunned, just taking pictures of it.

After a little while he just turned around and went off in search of food. I wandered the beach a bit more then headed back to my car and started my 5 hour drive back to Fairbanks, but not before stopping to take a picture of the airstrip. (Air tourism of Denali park is Talkeetna’s big industry)


That drive down and up from Fairbanks to Talkeetna was one of my favorite part of the trip. I really love driving an blasting my music, but I was able to do it to the beautiful scenery of Alaska.

When I got back I checked into my old hostel again and waited for my friend, the lady I met on the plane when I missed my flight, to get off work. When she was off I called her and she invited me to come hangout with her and her boyfriend at a local bar just outside of Fairbanks. I got my gear and went out to meet them. It was really great to hang out with all the locals away from everything. They were even kind enough to buy me two beers and dinner! They’re really “pay it forward” type people, so next time I meet a traveler I’m going to buy them dinner and some beers.

I got back to the hostel around 9-10 at night and crawled into bed. My final night in Fairbanks was really cloudy, but nonetheless I told my friends to wake me if the lights came out. I ended up sleeping all night, not realizing I was that exhausted.

In the morning I went out and got some Christmas shopping/travel gifts taken care of. I found a really neat local artist outside of Fairbanks that my friends at the bar tipped me off too. It was a fun drive out there as well since her shop is in this small collection of houses in the woods.


When I returned from that I still had about two hours to kill before I needed to get to the airport for my plane home. I decided to drive one of my German friends out to this Large Animal Research Station, hoping to see some muskoxen. Good thing I did because the station was closed and she would have walked a really long way to get there. Instead we ended up just driving around the woods looking for animals and happened upon a moose, so the trip wasn’t a total loss.

Understandably I was not looking forward to getting back on the plane and heading home. I’m still trying to digest my whole trip. I’m not sure I really accomplished as much introspection as I wanted. I was too busy having a blast in a new location.

Now that I’m back at work everyone is asking me “how was your vacation?” That really irks me for some reason. I guess it’s that I don’t like the assumptions built into the idea of “vacation’ that they’re asking about. I know it’s an innocent enough question, but even my parents said “back to reality.”

Back to reality. The idea is built into the question “how was your vacation?”, the idea that constant work and toil is the reality, that a vacation is a short and rare break from this bleak reality.

That really depresses me. Is this notion of work/life balance really the pinnacle of all human development? I’m not saying that I reject the notion of work, some work can be pleasurable and a fulfilling part of life, but what I reject is this notion of a sort of forlorn submission to a life fated to bleak and dreary toil.

Oddly enough I find people here in the states get really defensive when you question this mentality of “work yourself to death in a grey office.” The US has the worst work/life balance of any industrialized country and I’d argue that our healthcare costs show it. But I’m really getting off topic here.

There has to be more to life then how we live here in the states. There has to be other ways of balancing work and exploration of the world around us. I know these other ways exist because I see people doing it. One of my favorite podcasts, The Indie Travel Podcast, is a couple that make their living traveling the world.

It’s just that the dreary work existence is familiar, it’s stable, it’s predictable  it’s safe, and so well meaning people defend it.

Alaska update 3

25 Oct

What a day. The past 48 hours have been insane. At the time of typing this I’m sitting in Talkeetna Alaska, 5 hours south of Fairbanks, 2.5 hours north of Anchorage, sipping hot chocolate. Where did I leave off? Oh, the hot springs. I’ll pick up there then.

(A little something extra: if you want to feel what I felt while taking these pictures, listen to this song while looking at them. At least it’s the track I was playing on repeat while writing this. It really capture the mood I’m in.)

So yes, the hot springs. My new German friends and I, along with Kirk, a guy from Florida who just moved to Fairbanks, crammed into my little rental car and drove to the Chena Hot Springs about an hour east of Fairbanks. Our goal was to walk around a bit, see the ice sculpture museum, soak in the geothermal springs, and hopefully see the northern lights. Funny side fact, apparently there is a Japanese superstition that a child conceived under the northern lights will be born with extraordinary intellect. As such, Chena Hot Springs is a prime location for Japanese tourists, so much so that many of the signs are in Japanese and many of the staff are bilingual in English and Japanese.

When we arrived at the springs it was freezing. Well hell, everything was always freezing, but today it was a chill -12 degrees Fahrenheit. Nonetheless we donned our coats and went for a short 40 minute hike around the countryside.

(You can click on all the pics to see larger versions)

After that we came back, took a break in the lounge and waited for the next tour of the ice museum to kickoff. When we got in there it was pretty neat. The stuff that they carve out of pure ice is pretty amazing! The ice museum itself felt colder than outside, though it was actually a bit warmer. They have to keep it chilled to keep the sculptures from melting. They even have ice beds you can sleep on if you’d like, though you’ll need plenty of blankets.

After the tour we grabbed a bite to eat and then went swimming in the hot springs. I thought my top half would freeze the moment I was in the water, but the air all around was warm. The only chilly bit was getting in and out. Being a geothermal spa there was some trace gasses that gave the water a strange smell, and every now and then you had to catch your breath, but it was really beautiful in there. Unfortunately no lights while we were swimming.

After we dried off we had dinner and headed back to the hostel after it became clear the forecast for the lights looked bleak.

I was pretty tired and about to go to bed when I got a call from a guy I met on reddit who was a pretty big northern lights photographer. He told me that the lights were out right that moment, but that I’d have to go 20 miles out of town to see them. I rushed inside, told everyone, grabbed my gear, and we all piled in to my car again to go see them. My reddit contact then asked if we could pick him up so he could come. We were already packed, but I said sure anyways. He gave us his address and we drove to his house…or at least what we thought was his house. We ended up banging on the door of the wrong house. After about 10 minutes in the driveway I saw a light on with someone inside getting dressed and a little dog barking. It was at that point I got a text “Hey, where are you, I’m outside in my driveway.” We went to the wrong house. I quickly got back in the car and drove further down the street and found him. He piled in and off we went.

And finally, it happened. The whole point of me coming up here.

We drove to a little place called Cleary Summit, about 20 miles north of Fairbanks up on a hill. From there it was pretty dark and we could get good pictures of the lights. My new photography friend even had a nice DSLR camera that he let me use to take some pictures. (My camera worked too, but his was in a higher price range and so the pics were sharper)

After about half an hour of taking pictures everyone was freezing and wanted to go home. We piled back in the car and drove back into town. The next day was a little uneventful. The Germans and I drove around to some shops, got breakfast at The Cookie Jar, a bakery/restaurant, and then went to the Museum of the North where I saw this bear:

That night I was staying at some people’s home as a couchsurfer. (It’s a network where people host travelers for a night or so). Unfortunately two of my German friends were leaving town the next morning and so I gave them a hug and bid farewell. I drove over to my adopted family’s house for that night around dinner time. The couple taking me in were a school teacher and a school administrator. They were very nice and had an excited dog that loved to play. They had a nice room all set up for me and cooked me dinner.

Later that night my friend called again and said the lights were out. This time it would be just the two of us so we could stay longer and get some better shots. We went out to the same place as before, but drove a little further up the mountain to a ski resort that was closed. The display was technically pretty low, but breathtaking nonetheless.

It was amazing. I can’t really describe it. The light pulsated and moved like clouds across the sky. They actually look more grey in real life, since it’s hard to see color at night, but you can still see the faint green. The color really comes out on camera though. Along with the northern lights, the stars were breathtaking as well. Even with the naked eye I could see so many that I couldn’t see in South Carolina. There isn’t nearly the same amount of light pollution here as there is back home. Around 4am we headed back into town and I back to my new place for the night.

The couple I was staying with had to be at work by 7. They offered for me to stay and sleep as late as I wanted, but I felt weird about the idea of staying in someone’s home while they were gone. Instead I got up at 6 with them, and left at the same time they did. My plan for the day was to drive to Talkneeta. For some reason I thought it was 2-3 hours away. I figured I would get there before lunch, take a nap, then go about my day. Turns out it was 5 hours. Oh well. I got up anyways, with only 1.5 hours of sleep and started the drive. I actually wasn’t that tired. I was too excited to be tired. The landscape on the way over was amazing!

(Departing before light, off on a journey across the Alaskan mountains)

While driving down the highway I saw something big move out of the corner of my eye. I hit the breaks, turned the car around (there was nobody else on the road) and went back to the small road where I thought I saw something. Turns out I did.

After getting  photo op with some moose (who shortly after this ran away) I continued on my journey.

Eventually I arrived at Denali National Park. Unfortunately the park is closed this time of year, but I was still able to drive into it for a few miles.

I was stopping pretty frequently along my way to take pictures, so my 5 hour trip ended up taking around 7 hours. I pulled into Talkeetna mid afternoon and checked into my new hostel, the Roadhouse.

I was thinking I might have the entire room to myself, but another bed was booked by a rugged survivalist named Josh. I wish I had a picture, but I can’t think of a non-creepy way to get one. He’s tall, skinny, mid 30’s, mid-length unkempt beard, lazy eye, and smells like the creek that he apparently fell through the ice and into. (At least he said he fell through the ice) He seems like a nice enough guy, though at first glance people might think he’s an axe murderer. Apparently he lives out off the land around town here, building bridges out of fallen trees for his four-wheeler. He loves to talk about four-wheelers, or at least his quest to fix his broken one. Right now I think he’s asleep as I type this. I’ll have to quietly sneak back into my room afterwards.

Once I got to Talkeetna I went down to the river to have a look. It’s really beautiful and the ice on the beach are like shards of glass.

Here’s the place at night:

Oddly enough, I come 3500 miles away from South Carolina and what do I find in the inn? A Clemson flag.

Ok, that’s it for tonight. I’m going to get some sleep. Tomorrow (today) I’m going to explore around Talkeetna a bit more, drive back, and have a beer with the lady I met on the plane on Saturday.


Alaska update 2

22 Oct

So I finally caught my 2nd flight the other night. I was exhausted. I had been walking around in circles for several hours in the Seattle airport and ran out of things to do. Luckily this time I had a window seat so there would be room for me to lean against something. Missing my flight actually turned out to be kind of fortunate. The person who sat next to me was a really nice auto mechanic/teacher woman in her mid thirties. She and I spent almost the entire flight talking and she even bought me a beer. She gave me her contact info and said that if I ever need help around Fairbanks, or if I just want to come watch football and have some beers, to call her.

I landed in Fairbanks around 10:30 their time. Amazingly my bag was sitting there waiting for me. I checked in with the car company, got my keys, stepped outside and into the 7 degree weather. It wasn’t a blast of cold like I was expecting. In Las Vegas I got blasted with heat, like standing in front of an oven whenever I left the hotel. Here the cold just kind of sinks on you. I dragged my suitcase through the snow, the little wheels not doing much, and started wandering the parking lot looking for my car. When I found it I hoped in and waited for it to warm up a bit. All of the cars here have electrical cords hanging out of the front of them, for when the temperature is so low outside you need to plug your car in and warm the engine. (Though this is usually only for when it’s below 0)

My gps took me to the hostel where I was staying. I almost missed the turn off. For some reason up here my gps won’t auto reroute. I’m not sure if it’s a bad connection with the cellphone towers or what, but it will always just stay at “rerouting.” Upon entering the hostel I was greeted by two very loud and fat pug dogs. I said hello, paid the hostel owner, and went upstairs to bed.





It turns out that my hostel is full of several German backpacker women and a British guy. They’re all very nice and I’ve been getting to practice my German with them. I’ve really enjoyed staying in this hostel so far. Getting to meet and chat with foreign travelers is always a load of fun. The morning that I woke up I gathered my things and went to this place called “The Cookie Jar” for breakfast.


Afterwards I drove down to prospectors to pick up some thermal clothes. Also, it turns out Alaskans have a thing for letting their dogs drive.




After picking up some gear and breakfast I decided to drive around town and find a scenic outlook. I ended up going up to this cemetery on the top of a hill overlooking the town. The roads here can be really beautiful.





Earlier in the day I found a place in town that would let you go on a walk with their reindeer. I called them and asked if they had a tour I could tag along on and they said to stop by at 4pm.



They had this lovely dog, Candy, that really reminded me of my dogs, though a lot more well behaved and not afraid of giant reindeer.


In a funny twist of fate the tour I was tagging along on at 4pm turned out to be all the Germans at my hostel! I joined up with them and we got to take the reindeer on leashes through the forest.


I got to take one on a leash for a bit, but he really wanted to go back to his mom who stayed behind in the pen and ended up butting me with his antlers and running off through the forest. The guide said it was fine, that they all know their way back home. Sure enough when we got back to their house he was hanging out eating grass next to his mother.

The guide, Jane, has a beautiful home in the woods up here in Fairbanks. I was thinking to myself “Man, it would be great to just live here and have hot chocolate.” Funny enough, after the tour she took us into her home and we had hot chocolate and cookies by a wood burning stove. It was a great evening.


Today we’re going to all go out to Chena hot springs to try and see the northern lights over the water. Right now though I’m going to go get some breakfast.

Alaska Update 1

20 Oct

I spent most of yesterday packing all my gear. I created a super checklist of everything I could imagine needing and crossed it off as I went. I also wrapped just about everything in individual zip lock bags for easy sorting. It’s a really useful trick. This way everything is together and you can even shrink wrap it sorta by sitting on the bag and pushing all the air out. Oh, and Loki helped.



It was a friend’s birthday yesterday and so I met up with them for a quick birthday dinner. I had most of my packing done and figured that if I was tired I could just sleep on the plane. Well I got home around midnight and so I only got three hours of sleep.

I made a playlist of songs to listen to over the trip before I went to bed and I wanted this one for takeoff. There’s a great part in the song that just sounds like an airplane climbing up into the sky. (Skip to 3:35)

Anyways, I woke up, grabbed my things, and went to the airport. The world takes on a strange and different quality when you’re driving to leave somewhere in the dark to board a plane. Everything becomes more ephemeral. The roads and street lamps begin to blend in with any other road and street lamp in the world and thus your location on the ground loses its importance. They might as well be the roads or streetlamps of any other place. You’re about to get on a plane, a portal where the rest of the world is swallowed into oblivion by the distance.

Ready to go.

I got to the airport and had to go through one of those body scanners. I hated it, and there are probably naked pictures of me on the internet now, but there really wasn’t anything I could do. Making a scene at 4am in the airport over the loss of my civil liberties would not have accomplished anything other than to possibly ruin my day. So I continued on, silently. My first flight from Columbia to Atlanta was very short, only 40 minutes. There was nobody next to me so I could spread out. I landed in Atlanta and had no trouble finding my gate and boarding the next plane.

The flight from Atlanta to Seattle was not to be as nice as the one from Atlanta. I had the dreaded middle row seat, you know, the one with a large person on both your left and your right, with nowhere to lean, no space to stretch out. I sat hunched over for the entire flight. Worst still, I found out that my game client didn’t download a computer game I was expecting it to, so I didn’t have that as an escape, and I had forgotten the CD for my other backup game. There was no escaping the uncomfortable flight or making it go by faster.

Odd side note, I was surfing the on screen menus and found an ad for homeopathic cream. I never new Delta was into pushing scam products like this to passengers.


(I also thought it a little sexist that the flight attendant button was a woman, but I’m one of those rabid feminists, so what do I know) But I survive and I make it to Seattle. I stopped in a burger restaurant in my terminal and had lunch. The cool thing about Seattle is that the announcements are in English and Japanese. Apparently this place is a big hub for travel from Japan, so much so that they even have the signs in Japanese.

I had a two hour layover here in Seattle and so I got on my computer and ran internet to it from my phone so I could skype with my girlfriend. While talking to her I realized there was nobody at my gate.

I looked at my ticket and it was the right location, but there was this tiny asterisk saying that the locations are subject to change. Panicked, I ran to check the sign and sure enough, they moved my flight to a gate on the other side of the airport….and it left in 2 minutes.

I got there in 5 minutes, all out of breath, having taken several flights of stairs and trains. No luck. It was sitting there at the gate, but the door was closed.

And so now I’m sitting here in Seattle for another SEVEN  THREE (four down) HOURS.


The night is fucked. I was originally going to get into Fairbanks at 4pm. I won’t get their till 11pm. I needed to pick up winter clothes from Prospectors, but they won’t be open by then, so I’m going to have to wait until 11am the next day. I’ll probably wake people up when I check into the hostel at midnight.

My nerves have finally calmed down a bit, but now I’m worried about losing my bag. It will have gotten to Fairbanks several hours before I did. I’m going to get in really late and have to run to get my bag and my car and to the hostel before it closes.

On the plus side I did download Civilization III from my game client in the time I’ve been sitting here. I’m glad I have unlimited data. Airport internet isn’t free and I’ve used a solid 2GBs of data through my phone today.

I also like to imagine that the flight I missed was packed full of screaming babies, and that this new flight will have peace and quiet and martinis.

Discovering Goldman

17 Oct

Have you ever had a bunch of ill formed thoughts floating around in your head? You have a general feeling of what you’re trying to get at, but you don’t know how to put it all together and articulate it. It’s extremely limiting and frustrating  Have you ever felt stuck like this only to discover someone else who had the same ideas, but who was able to solidify your thoughts and eloquently express them? It’s an amazing and exciting feeling, like coming up from under the water and gasping for breath.

I had this experience yesterday when I stumbled across an essay by Emma Goldman. I had been aware of her loosely and recently subscribed to a podcast Audio Anarchy. My interest in anarchy as a political philosophy has been growing for some time. I guess one of the things that got me curious about anarchy in the first place was just how socially maligned it is. I’m just naturally curious about anything the rest of society seems to reject in a knee-jerk fashion and without much thought. I think that’s also what got me interested in investigating atheism years ago.

I had a rough idea of what anarchism was before discovering Goldman, but nothing substantial. I knew that it meant freedom from coercion  and that most people incorrectly believe it is synonymous with chaos and violence.

The particular essay I discovered was “Anarchism: What it really stands for.” The Audio Anarchism podcast was reading it in two parts and I was really blown away.

For a while now I’ve had this loose idea revolving around how society seems to be moving people towards something akin to farm animals. I’m reminded of the scene from the Matrix where Morpheus explains to Neo how people have been turned into batteries.


I don’t think we’re anything like the batteries analogy, but I feel that in our society there is this general trend towards farming our productivity.

Get married, buy the house, the minivan, have kids, go to your job, go to church, keep your head down, watch football, consume corporate media, talk about American Idol, take one vacation every 20 years, work like a dutiful cog. All this is aimed at keeping you in a neat little box with the illusion of freedom and choice.

In her essay Goldman references Ouida who says:

“the State only aims at instilling those qualities in its public by which its demands are obeyed, and its exchequer is filled. Its highest attainment is the reduction of mankind to clockwork. In its atmosphere all those finer and more delicate liberties, which require treatment and spacious expansion, inevitably dry up and perish. The State requires a taxpaying machine in which there is no hitch, an exchequer in which there is never a deficit, and a public, monotonous, obedient, colorless, spiritless, moving humbly like a flock of sheep along a straight high road between two walls.”

Goldman, in this same essay, also touches on the feelings of disillusionment, the impossibility of change, that led me to stop paying attention to our current political system:

It may be claimed that men of integrity would not become corrupt in the political grinding mill. Perhaps not; but such men would be absolutely helpless to exert the slightest influence in behalf of labor, as indeed has been shown in numerous instances. The State is the economic master of its servants. Good men, if such there be, would either remain true to their political faith and lose their economic support, or they would cling to their economic master and be utterly unable to do the slightest good. The political arena leaves one no alternative, one must either be a dunce or a rogue.

There are lots of other nice nuggets in that article, and I look forward to reading more from her, but I’ll leave you with her nice summation of what Anarchism stands for:

Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government. Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations.

Expedition: Alaska

16 Oct

It’s on. I’m doing it. My flight departs Columbia Metropolitan Airport at 5:49am this Saturday. I’m going to Alaska.

14 hours, 3,500 miles, 1 goal:

I originally was going to try and cram it all into a 3-4 day weekend. Not anymore. I took a week off work to give me the time I need to explore the area and have a better chance of seeing the aurora.  My exact plans are not finalized yet and I kind of like it that way. I really want the ability to change my plans on a whim. I rented a car with unlimited miles for that exact reason. If I decide I want to go to Anchorage 6 hours away to see something amazing, I’ll do it. I put out a couchsurfing request to see if I could stay with anybody, but I haven’t heard back yet. If that fails I’ll just find a hostel. All I need is a power outlet, heat, and a warm shower.  I’m in the process of putting together a travel folder with places I’d like to see during the day time and places to go filming at night. I also need to add contingency plans in case something falls through. I’m extremely excited about this, it’s practically all I’ve been thinking about this week.

I still have to pack. I know some people hate packing for trips, but I love it. It’s like picking out specialized gear in Oregon Trail, which actually isn’t too bad of an analogy given that I’m trekking into the Alaskan interior in October. I plan on writing up an entire blog post on my gear and what I’m taking. I just have to assemble everything. I also am going to try and write a blog post for each day that I’m up there, covering what I did that day and how it went. Right now one of the biggest obstacles I foresee is the need to sleep. I’m not going to want to sleep. I’ll be staying up till the wee hours of the morning hoping to catch the aurora, and then wanting to spend the day exploring the countryside.

Anyways, just wanted to announce that expedition Alaska is a go. I’m thrilled and can’t wait till takeoff. More to follow.


Man arrested for plot to firebomb churches

12 Oct

Last week Gregory A. Weiler II was arrested in Miami, Oklahoma for plotting to firebomb multiple churches in the surrounding area. Police found 52 Molotov cocktails in the man’s home. Weiler kept a journal and one of his entries read “Self-promote for the next 4 years while beginning list of goals written out in Oklahoma having to do with destroying and removing church buildings from US a tiny bit at a time, setting foundation for years to follow.”

So far that’s all we know.

We don’t know his motive. We don’t know his religious affiliation.

But the fact that we don’t know any of this won’t matter to people who will jump on the chance to go “Aha!!! Evil atheists trying to burn churches!!!1”

Weiler might not even be an atheist. We simply don’t know. What he does appear to be is crazy. According to Weiler’s cousin, his parents committed suicide, he suffers from drug addiction, and he has a history of mental illness. (All of which people are sure to claim stems from his atheism)

Let’s talk about crazy for a moment. There are crazy people out there in the world that do things for crazy people reasons. Unfortunately sometimes these crazy people are aligned with ideologies also held by non-crazy people. When a crazy person linked with an ideology does something horrible, it then makes all the other non-crazy people connected to that ideology look bad as well.

Proponents of said ideology will always point to the crazy person and say “they did this because they were crazy, not because of our ideology,” whereas opponents of the ideology will claim they did it precisely because of the ideology.

I think it really depends on the situation and the individual. There are situations when sane people do horrible things because of ideology and when crazy people do horrible things just because they’re crazy. Someone is not simply just “crazy” because they do something horrible. To write off every act of violence in the name of an ideology as simply the work of a crazy person is overly simplistic.

Timothy McVeigh, the deadliest domestic terrorist prior to 9/11, was not crazy. He was calm and had rational reasons for wanting to kill people. In his case it was in retaliation for the government’s crackdown on the religious cult at Waco, TX.

The 9/11 hijackers were not crazy either. Many of them were college educated and had rational reasons for attacking the US; primarily a combination of religious and political, like McVeigh.

It’s really up to a trained psychologist to examine an individual to determine if they are crazy, but most people, especially those in the media, don’t want to wait for that. It’s much easier, quicker, exciting to just write the person off as crazy or driven by ideology and then make wild assumptions and accusations from there.

The speed and impetuousness at which people point fingers at atheists whenever anyone possibly connected with the ideology does something wrong paints a picture of the situation for atheists in the US.

We’re in the situation of having to be perfect all the time, every time, constantly having to prove ourselves against a hostile population. It doesn’t matter that we make up 16% of the population but less than 1% of the prison population. It doesn’t matter that many atheists are philanthropists, leading scientists, and performers. It really doesn’t matter what good things atheists do for the country. The rest of the population is hostile to us and the moment someone seemingly linked with our ideology missteps all our accomplishments are washed away and ignored.

It’s the same situation any under-represented minority has to go through. Women breaking into the workplace for the first time had to prove themselves by being perfect all of the time. Blacks had to do the same thing. Regardless of the group, the pattern is the same:

Unreasonable, impossible, and unfair expectations followed by only scorn and disgust when any member of the group in question fails in the slightest. Eventually you overcome them through persistence, but the temptation to say “fuck you” and give in to all their stereotypes out of spite is always there.

Personally I’m inclined to just tell the critics of atheists to go fuck themselves, but I’m not planning on sticking around here anyways, so it’s not really fair to the atheists who do have to try and make a life in this place. Unfortunately there are just some people who you can’t win with. It doesn’t matter how nobly you live, they’ll always despise you.  Trying to please them is futile.


It’s never a “good time” to travel.

4 Oct

I’m extremely frustrated right now.

There is and endless supply of movies and books out there with the theme of “Follow your dreams! Ignore others and do your own thing!” yet all this is just platitudinal dribble. It’s extremely hard to do that in real life. What’s harder still is when the thing trying to hold you back is well meaning people such as family and friends. Almost none of my friends/family are enthusiastic about my plans to leave the country. They’ll grudgingly wish me luck, but none of them are excited about it like I am. It really hurts to be the only one passionate about something and to have to constantly endure the people in your life either showing no interest or going as far as to shoot you down. The resistance is like trying to walk through water and it takes every ounce of your effort not to give in and stop fighting for what you want.

The most recent way in which I’ve run into this resistance is in regards to a trip I’m planning to Alaska.

One of the things I’ve wanted to see for a very long time is the Aurora Borealis, the northern lights. I want to see them before I leave North America in a few months. Trying to get from the southern hemisphere back to the northern hemisphere, to a location high enough in longitude to have a decent chance of seeing them would be a massive pain in the ass, extremely expensive, and completely out of any direction I’d normally be going. I have a much better shot of making my dream come true while I’m at least on the same continent as where I’m trying to fly to.

Not surprisingly, I get just about nothing but reasons why I shouldn’t go. There are always reasons not to do something. I feel that most people waste their entire lives away because of all the reasons they invent for themselves not to experience things. Job commitments, social commitments, soccer practice, errands, fear of the unknown, fear of the work and effort to plan something out, the list goes on. Point is, you can always find some reason not to travel.

That’s what I’m getting right now from friends and family, reasons not to just pick up and go to Alaska. I think that when I describe to them what I’m planning on doing, they naturally (and subconsciously) imagine themselves doing what I’m describing and decide it’s not for them. Based off of that they then tell me all the reasons why they wouldn’t do it. But that’s the thing. They aren’t doing it. I am. I’m not asking them to come. I’m not asking them to leave their obligations and go with me. Their objections to why they wouldn’t want to do something are invalid because I’m not them!

Right now the most important thing in my life is freedom and the possibility it brings. I need to always at least have the possibility of just picking up and leaving, otherwise I feel trapped. I might not always act on that possibility, but it’s extremely comforting to me to have it there. It might mean that I won’t ever own a big house, or drive a luxury car, or have a true career, but in my eyes those items are prisons. Anything that holds you in place and removes the possibility of spontaneous travel is a prison. You might disagree and think I’m silly, but hey, don’t worry! If you’re happy with your car, your house, and your career then more power to you. I want people to be happy. It’s just that what you’re doing isn’t for me. I don’t want to spend vast majority of my one shot at existence in an office building trying to pay off a mortgage.  I’d rather see and experience as much of this planet as possible before I die.

In regards to my trip to Alaska, my parents are well meaning but they’re frustratingly off the mark. My mother worries about everything and is uncomfortable with me flying to the other side of the continent, to a place I’ve never been before, to go out and do things all on my own. She seems to have forgotten that I’ve done this several times before, and in other countries to boot! I’m not a teenager, I’m perfectly capable of handling myself in foreign situations. Perfect example: I did a study abroad in the North of England a few summers ago. I had never been to that part of the UK before and there were plenty of places outside of my immediate city that I wanted to visit. Not only was I able to adapt perfectly well to my new surroundings, I even researched, arranged, and went on several excursions to neighboring parts of the country, often involving train and bus transfers. This stuff doesn’t bother me, I enjoy it.

Yet my mother would prefer that I take a guided tour with a group. I’ve looked at ten different groups and they all lead you around by the nose from one location to another all while making sure you’re fed, safe, and warm like cattle. That’s not what I want. I don’t want the restrictions of having other people plan everything for me. I don’t want the disconnect that comes from being safely quarantined from the real world, and I sure as hell don’t want to pay extra for it. Those tours are best aimed at elderly retired couples or rich business people who are generally aloof and too busy/uncomfortable with planning things on the fly.

My father has been trying to help look at flights, but has told me that he thinks I should just wait and try to do this another time, that I shouldn’t take off work, and that the plane tickets are just going to get more expensive the closer I book to my departure date. The last bit is true, but I don’t really have a choice.

Going up to Alaska to see the Aurora depends entirely on the weather, both space and terrestrial. There needs to be an adequate level of solar activity in order to produce the aurora. At the same time it needs to be clear enough outside to see it in the first place. If both types of weather don’t line up, there’s no point in going. Being that this is the case, I can’t book a flight 2 weeks in advance without knowing if the weather will cooperate. I need to wait till the week of to see if what probability I’m looking at. I really am itching to go this month because October is statistically the 2nd most active month in the year for Auroras. I was going to go earlier, but then I got my job and couldn’t take off the first week of work. If I don’t go this month and shoot instead for the first weekend in November, I’ll miss my mother’s birthday. If I wait till work lets out for fall break (I work in a school) then I’ll miss Thanksgiving. It’s the same problem as there’s never a good time to go on a diet because there’s always a holiday, or birthday party, or something right around the corner. There’s never a “good time” to travel. Weather permitting, I’m going to try and stick to my guns and go.