Weekend Walk 28 – Alresford to Winchester – The Itchen Way

I really enjoyed this walk yesterday through the Itchen Valley. Classic villages and a clear, fast river, with easy walking country. And a very unusual Victorian church in Itchen Stoke. I highly recommend the Itchen Valley to anyone.


In a new way

A seashore
Keyboards slowly, pipes
A resonant rumble
The sound of the sea with triangle jingles
The sea is replaced by deep bass, in and out, pulsing

Desolate shores, life forming
Crawling from the waters, adventuring upwards
Towards the sun and the light and the warmth
Away from the murky horrors of the sea
It is bound to

The earth is giving birth to the animals, the human people
Energy patterns, beautiful energy patterns
Tingles, jingles and shingle on the shore of the primeval soup
The thick soup is gurgling at me
Ready to spew forth all the misery and beauty it contains
A beat kicks in

Squelchy electric pulses, gentle synths up and down
A beat on a cymbal and perhaps a hand clap
A soundscape that is removed from the soup
It is man’s time, perhaps Eden
No trouble, but a sense of adventure building
The electro squelches are back

The human is wailing gently with the torture of it all
He is living the torture
It hasn’t got him
A voice: consciousness, intelligence, technology spreading in the biology
A xylophone reminds me of China
The singing expressing the soul

Music fading to frogs, water, birds
Matter is energy
Energy + intelligence = matter that allows consciousness
Which allows technology
Which is all the same thing, from the same source

This music is more dramatic
The drum kicks harder
The percussion more regular
Echoing in and out
A distorted drum building up to something
Electronic clashes rush round my mind
Up up up
Drum fills from nowhere

The whole background seems to fade
A woman’s voice I don’t understand
Perhaps an alien
She is beautiful
Wisdom is what you are, knowledge is what you know
And insects right through my head
On an echo of the wind

Entities made of mind
In a new way
In a new way!
Fucking excellent
Words in the realm of the machine
Are not things heard but things seen

Rain like snowflakes
Conceptuality flexes and coils
Alien voices, squelches
A piece of space-coloured gold
To drill holes through

Spinning in space
Watch what we are doing
Do what we are doing
Do it now
This is our destiny
This is what our ancestors struggled to give us

Fading now
No voices, just wind
Two sounds
One deeper
And a distorted loop
An electric helicopter

We tumble back through history
History compacted
Back to a single cell
Evolutionary crossroads
Acceleration and expanding consciousness
Where is the wisdom to control this?
We are in a unique position
Simultaneous senses on five levels

The wind and a synthesiser
We have our own feelings
Despite the world coming to an end
Electro bass short and squat
Bass line winds through the drum
And now the gap is raining

A computer from the future
There is no matter here
No rules exist
I welcome the future
Come to me
And let me be!
It is all going to change
Create community
Not imposed from above
Restrictions are self-imposed, from restrictions inherent in the system
See and understand them

A natural drum
A bird
A choir
Afro beat shuffling
Love is the law
Go into it and take a look
You may be surprised

Fire and breeze
Crackling, snapping wood
Return to the earth
The voices chanting
I am no one’s slave
I am no one’s master
I am sorry, Earth
I know what he means
Apologising on behalf of mankind

A new perspective

Scrap Book: 1973, Boundary House

Here we are! This is my father aged 29, working on the house my parents have recently bought, having moved from the suburbs north of London to a quiet, spacious Wiltshire village. It’s good to see him looking so fit and well. Next to dad is Peter and I’m at the front, aged 2. And there’s Pixie the cat, later to be killed by the hounds of the hunt. And there’s Peter’s tricycle. And what I’m guessing is a stone for getting on a horse. This was the good life, growing up in Broughton Gifford. I still wear T-shirts like this one.

Living on the ceiling

What is a debt ceiling?

As the name suggests, it’s an absolute limit on national debt. The UK doesn’t have one, though Budgets have to be approved by Parliament, but the US has had one since 1940, when it was set at a modest $49bn.

How high is the ceiling?

High, by any standards. The current limit is $14.294 trillion, ie $14,294,000,000,000 – fourteen million million dollars. Even set against the largest economy in the world, it is still pretty impressive; approaching 100 per cent, the highest in America’s peacetime history.

When will America run out of money?

The US Treasury say that they will run out of money to pay their debts on 2 August. That is the date when book-keeping dodges run out and the train hits the buffers. An emergency, short-term fix could avert disaster, but for now the wrangling between the President and Congress continues.

Why can’t they agree?

President Obama is reluctant to cut social and health programmes. His Republican opponents in Congress, especially the “Tea Party” faction “nutters” according to our own Vince Cable refuse to countenance tax rises, because they would hurt the recovery. Most economists say both will be needed to fix the deficit in the short or long term.

What if the ceiling is hit?

First, the federal government’s spending will be limited to its cash flow – no more borrowing. Given that the tax revenues only provide for 60 per cent of government spending it implies a 40 per cent plus cut in government spending immediately – rather more draconian than even the British austerity programme. The US Treasury would have to decide which government employees get paid and which have to do without pay. The decision point would be $23bn in Social Security payments due on 3 August, not covered by tax revenues. Bad as that is, there is a second unpleasant consequence; that the US would have to tell those investors cashing in their bonds that it cannot honour them. Such a default would send shockwaves around financial markets.

What happens then?

No one knows, as, with the UK and a few others, the US has never run away on a debt not counting inflation.

via The US Debt Ceiling: Is America in danger of default? – Business Analysis & Features, Business – The Independent.

Iyengar Workshop with Sheila Haswell

Since Easter I have been attending classes in Winchester with a very good Iyengar yoga teacher, Sandy Bell. This has given me the opportunity to attend additional Iyengar workshops on weekends. The previous two have been for 3 hours in the morning but today’s was for 6 hours (with a 45 minute break).

The teacher was Sheila Haswell, who has 30 years of teaching experience in the Iyengar tradition. Like many Iyengar teachers, I found her to be on the stricter side, towards bossy, but with understanding and humour, and such a wealth of knowledge and insight as to the way the body works. I didn’t mind being ‘told off’ a few times about various posture details as it really helped bring awareness to what I was doing and what could change. There is always something to modify in asana, always some learning.

We worked through a number of standing poses in the morning, followed by some backbends. In the afternoon the focus was on seated forward bends. The emphasis of the workshop was ‘getting the direction correct’. We can practice for years without realising we have been going the wrong way in asana, under the strong influence of achieving the final posture. I learnt many valuable hints about the internal movement of the muscles, allowing a fuller pose with less effort and greater alignment.

Afterwards I felt relaxed and open, and again taller and more aligned. This was evidenced driving home, having to adjust the rear-view mirror higher. It’s now set to Iyengar Height.

Here’s a couple of photos of me being assisted by Sheila, watched by 30+ people!

United Nations are not

The persistent inability of the United Nations to forge international consensus on climate change issues was on display Wednesday, as Security Council members disagreed over whether they should address possible instability provoked by problems like rising sea levels or competition over water resources.

Western powers like the United States argued that the potential effects of climate change, including the mass migrations of populations, made it a crucial issue in terms of global peace and security. Russia and China, backed by much of the developing world, rejected the notion that the issue even belonged on the Security Council agenda.

With the major powers again at loggerheads, President Marcus Stephen of Nauru traveled the nearly 8,000 miles from his tiny Pacific island state to plead for action.

Speaking on behalf of some 14 island states vulnerable to disappearing or at least losing significant territory to rising sea levels, Mr. Stephen mused aloud about how the debate might differ if larger countries were affected.

“What if the pollution coming from our island nations was threatening the very existence of the major emitters?” he said. “What would be the nature of today’s debate under those circumstances?”

Countries threatened with extinction — already some residents have experimented with emigrating as higher and higher tides endanger their livelihoods — are tired of merely hearing sympathy for their plight, the president said.

“Demonstrate it by formally recognizing that climate change is a threat to international peace and security,” Mr. Stephen said, comparing it to nuclear proliferation or terrorism given its potential to destabilize governments and create conflict. “Neither has ever led to the disappearance of an entire nation, though that is what we are confronted with today.”

via Climate Change Security Council Talks Deadlock – NYTimes.com.


A new series of studies released by Weed Science this month finds at least 21 weed species have become resistant to the popular herbicide glyphosate (sold as Monsanto’s Roundup), and a growing number survive multiple herbicides, so-called “super-weeds.” The same selection pressure creating bacteria resistant to multiple antibiotics is leading to the rapid evolution of plants that survive modern herbicides. If the trend continues, yields could drop and food costs climb as weeds grow more difficult to uproot.

“The herbicide resistance issue is becoming serious,” said journal editor, William K. Vencill, in a recent statement. “It is spreading out beyond where weed scientists have seen it before.” More than 11 million acres, up from just 2.4 million in 2007, are now infested with Roundup-resistant varieties. The herbicide, a relatively low-impact chemical since it biodegrades quickly, has ranked among the most popular for farmers since Monsanto introduced its genetically engineered Roundup Ready crops that are unaffected by the chemical, accounting for about 90 percent of the soybeans and 70 percent of the corn and cotton grown in the United States.

Even more worrisome is the steep (and unabated) climb in the number of weeds resistant to multiple types of herbicides. Super-strains of plants like pigweed–which grows three inches a day and is tough enough to damage farm machinery–have emerged, which may dramatically reduce the options for farmers to control them. The alternatives are usually more dangerous chemicals or plowing and mulching fields, undermining many of the environmental benefits biotech crops are supposed to offer. It’s “the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen,” claims Andrew Wargo III, president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts.

via Monsanto-Resistant Weeds Take Root, Raising Food Prices | Fast Company.

Mass psychosis in the US

Has America become a nation of psychotics? You would certainly think so, based on the explosion in the use of antipsychotic medications. In 2008, with over $14 billion in sales, antipsychotics became the single top-selling therapeutic class of prescription drugs in the United States, surpassing drugs used to treat high cholesterol and acid reflux.

Once upon a time, antipsychotics were reserved for a relatively small number of patients with hard-core psychiatric diagnoses – primarily schizophrenia and bipolar disorder – to treat such symptoms as delusions, hallucinations, or formal thought disorder. Today, it seems, everyone is taking antipsychotics. Parents are told that their unruly kids are in fact bipolar, and in need of anti-psychotics, while old people with dementia are dosed, in large numbers, with drugs once reserved largely for schizophrenics. Americans with symptoms ranging from chronic depression to anxiety to insomnia are now being prescribed anti-psychotics at rates that seem to indicate a national mass psychosis.

It is anything but a coincidence that the explosion in antipsychotic use coincides with the pharmaceutical industry’s development of a new class of medications known as “atypical antipsychotics.” Beginning with Zyprexa, Risperdal, and Seroquel in the 1990s, followed by Abilify in the early 2000s, these drugs were touted as being more effective than older antipsychotics like Haldol and Thorazine. More importantly, they lacked the most noxious side effects of the older drugs – in particular, the tremors and other motor control problems.

The atypical anti-psychotics were the bright new stars in the pharmaceutical industry’s roster of psychotropic drugs – costly, patented medications that made people feel and behave better without any shaking or drooling. Sales grew steadily, until by 2009 Seroquel and Abilify numbered fifth and sixth in annual drug sales, and prescriptions written for the top three atypical antipsychotics totaled more than 20 million. Suddenly, antipsychotics weren’t just for psychotics any more.

via Mass psychosis in the US – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.

Richard Alpert before Ram Dass

  • What is man to do next?
  • If you have vested interest in the ongoing game you are frightened by anything that might change.
  • The incredible assumption that society is the way it is and has always been that way.
  • If we could truly collaborate with our fellow man there is enough to go around.
  • Man has built a whole ethic about not having enough.
  • All wars are civil wars because all men are brothers.
  • We’ve been trained for individual differences to stand out.
  • Move from competitive to collaborative enterprise.
  • The ways we are different are learned; garbs we wear.
  • Panic that we would cease to exist.
  • Trust your nervous system.

Golden Retriever Stew? Why You Eat the Animals You Do

I wanted to understand the psychological mechanisms that allow us to carry out violence toward other beings, human and nonhuman, specifically as they pertained to meat eating. And what I discovered was that the very same psychological mechanisms that allow us to harm other humans enable us to harm nonhumans. Of course, people’s feelings about animals don’t exist in a vacuum, so I started analyzing the broader social system of which we’re all a part. That’s what led me to identify what I call “carnism.”

To help explain carnism, I often tell people this story: Imagine that you’re a guest at a dinner party and you’re eating a delicious beef stew. It’s so delicious, in fact, that you ask your host for the recipe. Flattered, she replies, “The secret is in the meat: You need to start out with three pounds of well-marinated golden retriever.” Your reaction to that story—the repulsion—is an example of carnism. Carnism is the invisible belief system that conditions us to eat certain animals. It’s a dominant system that’s institutionalized and structural in America and abroad. People tend to assume it’s only vegans and vegetarians who bring their beliefs to the dinner table. But the fact is that most people in America, for example, eat pigs and not dogs exactly because they do have a belief system; it’s just that their belief system has been invisible.

When you’re born into this dominant, carnistic culture, you inevitably absorb the system’s logic as your own. In other words, we learn to see the world through the lens of carnism. Carnism conditions us to disconnect psychologically and emotionally from the truth of our experience when we eat meat (and other animal products). It allows us to disconnect the meat on our plate from the living being it once was. When people sit down to a plate of beef stew, they’re not thinking about the cow that it came from. They’re not saying, “I’m eating a dead animal.” They’re saying, “I’m eating food,” and therefore they’re feeling no disgust. However, if that same person were fed a guinea pig or swan, they would likely not be able to help but envision a living being, and feel repulsed eating that animal.

via Carnism and Why You Eat the Animals You Do – Food – GOOD.

Weekend Walk 27 – Cheriton to Alresford – Itchen Way

After (most of) the South Downs Way and the Hangers Way, I’ve chosen the Itchen Way for my next long distance path. Yesterday we walked a short stage, from the source of the river south of Cheriton, to the southern edge of Alresford. At this stage the river is really just a shallow stream with rapid current, headed north. This is before it turns west then south in the Itchen Valley. The walk took us through Cheriton village and Tichborne Park.

14 States Suffering Under Drought

In Texas, where the drought is the worst, virtually no part of the state has been untouched. City dwellers and ranchers have been tormented by excessive heat and high winds. In the Southwest, wildfires are chewing through millions of acres.

Last month, the United States Department of Agriculture designated all 254 counties in Texas natural disaster areas, qualifying them for varying levels of federal relief. More than 30 percent of the state’s wheat fields might be lost, adding pressure to a crop in short supply globally.

Even if weather patterns shift and relief-giving rain comes, losses will surely head past $3 billion in Texas alone, state agricultural officials said.

Most troubling is that the drought, which could go down as one of the nation’s worst, has come on extra hot and extra early. It has its roots in 2010 and continued through the winter. The five months from this February to June, for example, were so dry that they shattered a Texas record set in 1917, said Don Conlee, the acting state climatologist.

Oklahoma has had only 28 percent of its normal summer rainfall, and the heat has blasted past 90 degrees for a month.

“We’ve had a two- or three-week start on what is likely to be a disastrous summer,” said Kevin Kloesel, director of the Oklahoma Climatological Survey.

The question, of course, becomes why. In a spring and summer in which weather news has been dominated by epic floods and tornadoes, it is hard to imagine that more than a quarter of the country is facing an equally daunting but very different kind of natural disaster.

via 14 States Suffering Under Drought – NYTimes.com.

Sacred Economics

From the introduction to the book: Sacred Economics, by Charles Eisenstein

A transformation from profanity to sacredness in money-something so deep a part of our identity, something so central to the workings of the world-would have profound effects indeed. But what does it mean for money, or anything else for that matter, to be sacred? It is in a crucial sense the opposite of what sacred has come to mean. For several thousand years, the concepts of sacred, holy, and divine have referred increasingly to something separate from nature, the world, and the flesh. Three or four thousand years ago the gods began a migration from the lakes, forests, rivers, and mountains into the sky, becoming the imperial overlords of nature rather than its essence. As divinity separated from nature, so also it became unholy to involve oneself too deeply in the affairs of the world. The human being changed from a living embodied soul into its profane envelope, a mere receptacle of spirit, culminating in the Cartesian mote of consciousness observing the world but not participating in it, and the Newtonian watchmaker-God doing the same. To be divine was to be supernatural, nonmaterial. If God participated in the world at all, it was through miracles-divine intercessions violating or superseding nature’s laws.

Paradoxically, this separate, abstract thing called spirit is supposed to be what animates the world. Ask the religious person what changes when a person dies, and she will say the soul has left the body. Ask her who makes the rain fall and the wind blow, and she will say it is God. To be sure, Galileo and Newton appeared to have removed God from these everyday workings of the world, explaining it instead as the clockwork of a vast machine of impersonal force and mass, but even they still needed the Clockmaker to wind it up in the beginning, to imbue the universe with the potential energy that has run it ever since. This conception is still with us today as the Big Bang, a primordial event that is the source of the “negative entropy” that allows movement and life. In any case, our culture’s notion of spirit is that of something separate and nonworldly, that yet can miraculously intervene in material affairs, and that even animates and directs them in some mysterious way.

It is hugely ironic and hugely significant that the one thing on the planet most closely resembling the forgoing conception of the divine is money. It is an invisible, immortal force that surrounds and steers all things, omnipotent and limitless, an “invisible hand” that, it is said, makes the world go ’round. Yet, money today is an abstraction, at most symbols on a piece of paper but usually mere bits in a computer. It exists in a realm far removed from materiality. In that realm, it is exempt from nature’s most important laws, for it does not decay and return to the soil as all other things do, but is rather preserved, changeless, in its vaults and computer files, even growing with time thanks to interest. It bears the properties of eternal preservation and everlasting increase, both of which are profoundly unnatural. The natural substance that comes closest to these properties is gold, which does not rust, tarnish, or decay. Early on, gold was therefore used both as money and as a metaphor for the divine soul, that which is incorruptible and changeless.

Money’s divine property of abstraction, of disconnection from the real world of things, reached its extreme in the early years of the twenty-first century as the financial economy lost its mooring in the real economy and took on a life of its own. The vast fortunes of Wall Street were unconnected to any material production, seeming to exist in a separate realm.

Looking down from Olympian heights, the financiers called themselves “masters of the universe,” channeling the power of the god they served to bring fortune or ruin upon the masses, to literally move mountains, raze forests, change the course of rivers, cause the rise and fall of nations. But money soon proved to be a capricious god. As I write these words, it seems that the increasingly frantic rituals that the financial priesthood uses to placate the god Money are in vain. Like the clergy of a dying religion, they exhort their followers to greater sacrifices while blaming their misfortunes either on sin (greedy bankers, irresponsible consumers) or on the mysterious whims of God (the financial markets). But some are already blaming the priests themselves.

via Sacred Economics: Introduction | Reality Sandwich.

Lyric of the Day: Taxi Cab – Vampire Weekend

The only thing I don’t like is the title of the song. Everything else – music, lyrics, playing, singing – superb!

Traveling around
Sure of myself
Sure of it now
But you were standing there so close to me
Like the future was supposed to be
In the aisles of the grocery
And the blocks uptown

I remember
Remember well
But if I’d forgotten
Could you tell?

In the shadow of your first attack
I was questioning and looking back
You said, “Baby we don’t speak of that”
Like a real aristocrat

Compound to compound
Lazy and safe
Wanted to leave it
Wanted to wait
When the Taxi door was open wide
I pretended I was horrified
By the uniform and gloves outside
Of the courtyard gate

You’re not a victim
But neither am I
Nostalgic for garbage
Desperate for time
I could blame it on your mother’s hair
Or the colors that your father wears
But I know that I was never fair
You were always fine

Traveling around
Sure of myself
Sure of it now
But you were standing there so close to me
Like the future was supposed to be
In the aisles of the grocery
And the blocks uptown

I remember
Remember well
But if I’d forgotten
Could you tell?

In the shadow of your first attack
I was questioning and looking back
You were standing on another track
Like a real aristocrat


Once Greece goes…

The economic crisis in Greece is the most important thing to have happened in Europe since the Balkan wars. That isn’t because Greece is economically central to the European order: at barely 3 per cent of Eurozone GDP, the Greek economy could vanish without trace and scarcely be missed by anyone else. The dangers posed by the imminent Greek default are all to do with how it happens.

I speak of the Greek default as a sure thing because it is: the markets are pricing Greek government debt as if it has already defaulted. This in itself is a huge deal, because the euro was built on the assumption that no country in it would ever default, and as a result there is no precedent and, more important still, no mechanism for what is about to happen. The prospective default could come in any one of several different flavours. From everybody’s perspective, the best of them would be what is known as a ‘voluntary rollover’. In that scenario, the institutions that are owed money by the Greek government will swallow heavily and, when their loan is due to be repaid, will permit their borrowings to be rolled over into another long loan. There is a gun-to-the-side-of-the-head aspect to this ‘voluntary’ deal, since the relevant institutions are under enormous governmental pressure to comply and are also faced with the fact that if they say no, they will have triggered a proper default, which means their loans will plummet in value and they’ll end up worse off. The deal on offer is: lend us more money, or lose most of the money you’ve already lent.

This is, at the moment, the best-case scenario and the current plan A. It reflects the failure of the original plan A, which involved lending the government of George Papandreou €110 billion in May last year in return for a promise to cut government spending and increase tax revenue, both by unprecedented amounts. The joint European Central Bank-EU-IMF loan was necessary because, in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, Greece was exposed as having an economy based on phoney data and cheap credit. The cheap credit had now dried up, and Greece was faced by the simplest and worst economic predicament of any government: it couldn’t pay its debts.

via LRB · John Lanchester · Once Greece goes….

Global Warming and the Science of Extreme Weather

Extreme floods, prolonged droughts, searing heat waves, massive rainstorms and the like don’t just seem like they’ve become the new normal in the last few years—they have become more common, according to data collected by reinsurance company Munich Re see Part 1 of this series. But has this increase resulted from human-caused climate change or just from natural climatic variations? After all, recorded floods and droughts go back to the earliest days of mankind, before coal, oil and natural gas made the modern industrial world possible.Until recently scientists had only been able to say that more extreme weather is “consistent” with climate change caused by greenhouse gases that humans are emitting into the atmosphere. Now, however, they can begin to say that the odds of having extreme weather have increased because of human-caused atmospheric changes—and that many individual events would not have happened in the same way without global warming. The reason: The signal of climate change is finally emerging from the “noise”—the huge amount of natural variability in weather.Scientists compare the normal variation in weather with rolls of the dice. Adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere loads the dice, increasing odds of such extreme weather events. It’s not just that the weather dice are altered, however. As Steve Sherwood, co-director of the Climate Change Research Center at the University of New South Wales in Australia, puts it, “it is more like painting an extra spot on each face of one of the dice, so that it goes from 2 to 7 instead of 1 to 6. This increases the odds of rolling 11 or 12, but also makes it possible to roll 13.”Why? Basic physics is at work: The planet has already warmed roughly 1 degree Celsius since preindustrial times, thanks to CO2and other greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. And for every 1-degree C 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit rise in temperature, the amount of moisture that the atmosphere can contain rises by 7 percent, explains Peter Stott, head of climate monitoring and attribution at the U.K. Met Office’s Hadley Center for Climate Change. “That’s quite dramatic,” he says. In some places, the increase has been much larger. Data gathered by Gene Takle, professor of meteorology at Iowa State University in Ames, show a 13 percent rise in summer moisture over the past 50 years in the state capital, Des Moines.

via Global Warming and the Science of Extreme Weather: Scientific American.