A Report Inspired By Attending Dragon*Con

I had long been aware of Dragon*Con in the same vague sense that one is often away of annual cons that one has never attended however it was in 2011 that my desire to attend Dragon*Con was tweaked. The catalyst that tweaked my desire to attend Dragon*Con occurred at TAM in 2011. TAM is an annual conference ran by The James Randi Educational Foundation. The conference has been held in Las Vegas for several days in July the past few years. TAM was another of those conferences I had heard about but never attended. So in 2011 I attended TAM for the first time and had a great experience. TAM is a conference focused on the value of Science and Skepticism and how to detect and counter cognitive fallacies and woo-woo stuff such as psychics, ghosts and faith-healers. There were workshops on how psychic readings are done and how to critically investigate everything from big foot to ghosts. Several times I heard speakers or conversations where Dragon*Con was mentioned. I gathered that there was a strong presence of Skeptics at Dragon*Con and there was an entire programming track devoted to Skepticism with speakers such as Eugenie Scott from NCSE. This lead me to deciding to attend Dragon*Con in 2012 and thus skip needing to make the choice between Burning Man and Worldcon.

My previous time in Atlanta was about ten years ago on a business trip and all I had seen was the airport, a hotel on the outer edge of Atlanta and a computer server room where I was part of team installing some servers. I decided to arrive early and have at least an afternoon to see more of Atlanta. The con ran from Friday morning to noon Monday (Labor Day). My flight from SFO to Atlanta had at least three people headed for Dragon*Con; there may have been more but I could personally confirm three. By the time I checked into my hotel it was late in the Wednesday evening. The Atlanta rail system is called MARTA and has a terminal at the airport. The main con hotels had long been booked solid so I was staying in the Melia which is two MARTA stops past the stop near the Hyatt. Hint if you are going to be making more that a handful of trips on MARTA buy the 7 day pass. Second hint if you have a Clipper card which is used by many of the transit systems (BART, VTA, etc) in the San Francisco Bay Area do not get it near the MARTA card reader or the MARTA reader will think it is an MARTA card and your Clipper card might get corrupted. The Melia Hotel is conveniently located a block from a MARTA stop which is also a bus transfer point. Many other Dragon*Con attendees were staying at the Melia Hotel plus the Melia was a main hotel for Pride Weekend such as International Black Gay Pride. So the Melia was full and busy.

Thursday morning I got up and headed off to go through Dragon*Con registration since they had special Thursday morning hours for persons who had pre-registered. When I got to Sheraton the line was already out the door, down the sidewalk and around the corner. Since I had been in a similar long line at Fanime in San Jose a couple of months previously and it had taken 2 hours and 37 minutes to cycle through. However I was pleasantly surprised when the line moved and after a few minutes moved again. Much sooner that I expected I was in the hotel and then into the large room with the serpentine line which moved surprisingly quickly. I had my badge less than an hour later. One of the main reasons seemed to be the bar coded postcard system they used. When I had pre-registered months previously they had sent a blue postcard that said very plainly to bring the post card with you to registration. That post card had a bar code printed on it and when a person stepped one of the reg stations the staff person there scanned the post card and a label was printed on a label maker which the slapped on the Dragon*Con badge and the badge handed over. That was all they did. If you had a problem you went to the problem station. If you wanted to pickup a banquet ticket you first got your badge and then went to the station for other tickets. The reg station did not hand people their program books that was done in the next room. All the reg stations did was do reg badges; nothing more. And there were about 16 stations. There was no worrying about how to split by last name because any station could handle any pre-registration card. There was one person as traffic control so that at any time a reg station had one person being processed and two in queue waiting. It was very efficient.

After I had my badge and other items I got some lunch and then headed back to the hotel to drop things off. After dropping my things at the hotel I walked over to the bus transfer point and got a local bus which stops about a block from the Martin Luther King National Historical Site which has many fine displays and information about Dr. King and the Civil Rights struggle. Across the street is the King Center which has rooms with interesting displays related to Dr. King, Coretta Scott King, Mahatma Gandhi and Rosa Parks. Outside there was a long reflecting pool and what appeared to be a small chapel or meditation room at the end of the pool. But it was locked and appeared to have been converted to storage although this was most likely noticeable only to a inquisitive person such as me. Overall I rate the time spend at the various MLK sites as well worth the effort and I recommend it to others. Then I got the bus back to the hotel to get ready for the evening.

The Thursday evening event was not directly part of Dragon*Con but had many attendees who would be in town for Dragon*Con. The event was sponsored by the Atlanta area skeptics as a charity fund raiser for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. The theme was to be astronomy in honor of Jeff Medkeff who had died from cancer in 2008 and had been very involved in astronomy. The plan was to hold the event at a venue that served food and drink and had a place to set up some telescopes. The venue was good, the food was good and the beer was cold and reasonably priced and all served by a friendly and competent staff. The problem was that the sky was covered by clouds. The storm that disrupted the Republican convention was close enough to Atlanta to cause clouds, not rain just a lot of clouds. So no telescope viewing but they did use the internet to contact people in other places to view their computer linked telescopes and thus there were images of the moon displayed on a screen. Plus there were live performers including George Hrab as well as bloggers and writers well known in the Skeptic community. It was a great party but eventually I decided to leave and get some rest since I still had not totally made the time zone shift and I expected the morning would come subjectively very early.

So I departed and was going to grab a taxi back to my hotel. A large group of people had justed exited the bar next door and were filling both of the available taxis. So I decided to walk on and contemplate my options when after walking about 20 meters or so I came upon a young lady who appeared to be about 14 or 15 years old asking some random person on a bicycle how to get to the Sheraton. After the person on the bicycle said that he had no idea, I stepped up and asked if she was looking Dragon*Con registration at the Sheraton. She said yes and that she thought it was nearby since she had gotten off at a MARTA stop and walked this direction. I said no and that she was turned around 180 degrees however I knew where the Sheraton was since I had been there that morning. Since there were no more cabs around I suggested we just walk. So we walked back and she said she was going to volunteer at Dragon*Con and this was her first year attending. She needed to meet someone the Sheraton before midnight. So at 11:55PM I walked her to the proper intersection and pointed to the Sheraton across the street. She was happy and thankful and headed toward the Sheraton and I headed to MARTA so get back to my hotel for some much needed sleep because the con would be going in earnest in the morning.

Friday morning came earlier than my body expected. I got up and did the usual morning things and caught MARTA to the con. At this point I should note that weeks prior to the con a smartphone app had been released which listed all of the events in all of the tracks and allowed each person to customize their own schedule even to the point of booking themselves to four or more events at the same time. And there were many items to consider.

Dragon*Con is a large event with attendance in the 50,000 plus range. I suspect that most readers of this report have either engaged in the game of Bumper Cars or have observed others engaged in that activity. Navigating the hallways at Dragon*Con is like a game of Bumper People; particularly at a couple of choke points. Dragon*Con utilizes much of the hotel space in central Atlanta in particular the Sheraton and three hotels which are connected the Hyatt, Mariott and Hilton. These hotels are connected by an enclosed walkway which allows moving from hotel to hotel without worrying about weather or crossing the street. These three hotels are located on a slope so to access the walkway one does need to utilize the escalators or stairs to get at the appropriate level.

Dragncon has many tracks. Many, many tracks. Everything from a track on Skepticism to a track related to computers and technology to a track on Star Wars. Interested in cosplay then there are panels on than. Interested in podcasting then their are panels on that. Interested in the latest SF and Fantasy novels then there will be publisher representatives to tell you about upcoming books. And that is only touching the surface. To get an indication see http://DragonCon.org/fan_tracks.php and look around. And speaking of tracks now is a good time to mention the Dragon*Con parade. This parade has contingents from the different tracks marching in downtown Atlanta. This is an event where many people from the community turn out several deep to watch the parade particularly families with children. You can see the information an Atlanta family site provided at http://www.atlantawithkid.com/family-guide-to-annual-dragoncon-parade-2012/ as an example There are many pictures and videos of the parade online so I will give one URL http://www.tor.com/blogs/2012/09/the-cosplay-of-dragoncon-2012-day-two-the-parade and everyone can google for the rest. The parade has about 3000 Dragon*Con attendees participating. I watched the parade from near where it began and from beginning to end was about an hour or so. For a great photo of people viewing the parade and a fine Dragon*Con report see: http://efanzines.com/SFSF/SFSF134.pdf

In addition to the various panels Dragon*Con had a number of larger events. One of those was a joint appearance of James Randi (already mentioned above) and Alice Cooper. Now one might ask why were the well known magician and skeptic James Randi and the famous (or Infamous) rocker Alice Cooper on stage together being interviewed. The answer is that years ago James Randi was part of the Billion Dollar Baby tour of Alice Cooper. And they had remained in touch and friends over the years. The interview was a great time for stories from Randi and Coop. And Coop gave the true story that he did not kill the chicken at the concert in Detroit. However at the time he let the rumor spread because it was such good publicity.

One difference from a Worldcon was a larger number of special guests who had acted in various TV or media productions. For some of these guests you who purchase a photo opportunity. In many cases you could buy autographed photos and most of them were on panels speaking about the shows in which they appeared. I am not generally interested too much in media however I decided to go to one panel listed as a Star Trek series mashup just to see what it was like. Several hundred people turned up to hear Michael Dorn (Worf, TNG DS9), Nichelle Nichols (Uhura, TOS) Connor Trinneer (Charles "Trip" Tucker, ENT) and Garrett Wang (Harry Kim VOY). Considering this was near the end of the con it went well.

Occasionally one hears a plaintive lament about the "Graying of Fandom"; my suggestion for anyone with that concern is go to Dragon*Con and look around. My observation was that the Dragon*Con attendees tend to be much younger than the typical Worldcon attendees. I am not the first one to make this observation and I doubt I will be the last. And others have listed the reasons so I will not attempt an exhaustive or even extensive list in this report. However I will note a couple of items. One is the cosplay. Cosplay is becoming an increasing large phenomena. I noticed at Dragon*Con many dealers selling non-book items such as superhero action figures, DVD/BluRay videos, costuming accessories, media star photos and photo opportunities compared to Worldcon.

There was an art show somewhat like a Worldcon art show with a few differences. One difference was that I saw a couple of instances where the artists was also a writer and was selling both copies of their books as well as artwork based on their stories. In one case I noticed an author selling used copies of her early works published by one of the regular publishers and then later works in the series being self published and selling both art prints as well as a large original oil painting based on the series.

There were so many dealers that they were split into multiple rooms. And the rooms were crowed with people and as least some appeared to be making purchases. At one point I thought I had visited every dealer room when I turned a corner and there was one more which was serendipitous since it was in that room that I found a DVD of the play The Book of Morman. I was glad to get it since I suspected that I would not get tickets for the play when it was in the San Francisco Bay Area. The dealer slots varied from a small space where one to authors were pushing the books to slightly larger for some small presses to very large muli-space areas crammed with collectible action figures, games, manga, videos, t-shirts and toys. And there were a few traditional book dealers. Unfortunately there was a booth hawking L. Ron Hubbard drivel and Writers of the Future. At least they were not offering free personality tests or trying to run an e-meter scan on the unsuspecting. At least not as far as I could see. However one never knows when one sees people who appear to me to be shills, fronts or smokescreens for Hubbard, Dianetics, Scientology or what other BS they are shoveling at the moment. But the rest of dealers areas were interesting.

And of course Dragon*con had an area for various organization and fan tables. The James Randi Educational Foundation and National Center for Science Education NCSE were just a couple of the tables I stopped by on multiple occasions. And since I had not packed enough shirts I was able to get a NCSE T-shirt; the new hip fashion.

The hotels were generally well prepared. In additional to their restaurants they had setup additional food sales stands selling burgers, sandwiches, chips, fruits and drinks. Also some pizza vendors set up stalls selling pizza either by the slice or the whole pie. One of the advantage of having Dragon*Con in the same city and hotels each year is that a lot of knowledge can be build up about crowd control, food services and event scheduling. Due to the size of the con the walkways were more crowded and thus not as conducive to spontaneous conversation. Some of this was alleviated by having most panel sessions being sixty minutes with a thirty minute break between sessions. This allowed some conversations to occur following panels without the need to immediately vacate the room for the next panel.

Dragon*Con does have an opening ceremony and a closing ceremony however these were lightly attended compared to Worldcon in both absolute and relative terms. Dragon*Con also has a banquet and since it was my first Dragon*Con I decided to attend. The cost for a banquet ticket was sixty five dollars. The banquet attendance was I am guessing in the 200 to 300 range but it was difficult to tell from where I was sitting. The banquet started with a small group of musicians performing lovely classical music as people found a seat and socialized, a welcome change of ambiance. The food was good actually slightly better that most banquet food. A local politician did the usual politician speech. Awards were presented and Robert Picardo the holographic Doctor from ST:VOY performed and showed off his many skills. He is really very talented and entertaining.

The size of the events varied a seventy five person room to rooms set up to handle hundreds. For example the line to see James Randi and Alice Cooper started to form more that an hour prior to the event and went down the hall then out the side door and down the walkway to the sidewalk and then down the sidewalk. But everyone got in and there were extra seats just not up front.

One of the events I enjoyed was not on the official list. George Hrab had started telling some people that following his scheduled event at 11:00PM he would be performing on the piano in the hotel hallway. And after his scheduled event and after his assistant had concluded selling a few CDs he went out to the piano in the hotel hallway and performed the entire Dark Side of the Moon. Just him singing and accompanying himself on the piano and a crowd people standing and sitting and listening to a great performance. George Hrab has a podcast and you can hear part of his scheduled Dragon*Con event and the mis-communication about him possibly being the interviewer for the Randi and Coop event as well as him discussing playing Dark Side of the Moon at http://geologicpodcast.com/the-geologic-podcast-episode-279 And to hear about George having Poutine in Montreal try http://geologicpodcast.com/the-geologic-podcast-episode-281
Podcasting is becoming increasingly popular. In addition to en entire track on podcasting the popular Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast recorded an entire session before a live audience late one night at Dragon*Con. To listen to it http://www.theskepticsguide.org/archive/podcastinfo.aspx?mid=1&pid=373 And ranging even further afield you can read what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aka CDC had to say about Dragon*Con http://blogs.cdc.gov/publichealthmatters/2012/11/Dragon*Con-2012/

As Dragon*Con started to wind down on Monday I joined an eclectic mix of persons who had been attending many of the Skeptics panels for an impromptu Skeptics In The Pub gathering at a bar. We ate and drank and spoke of the fun we had and discussed flying back to our various homes. It was a fun end to an enjoyable weekend.

This report has only touched on small fraction of many aspects of Dragon*Con. Dragon*Con is big and seems to have covered almost all of the fannish bases plus more. In summary I will say that I really enjoyed Dragon*Con. It had a different vibe and higher energy than a lot of cons I have attended.   It might not be for everyone every year but I think most fans would enjoy attending it at least once.


Reflection on the 2012 election for POTUS

Here are some thoughts about the recent election for President of the United Status POTUS.  I will state once again I am not an Obama fan.  Also I am not a Romney fan.  However in reading the post election news something caught my attention and thus led me to write this post.

Judgement is demonstrated in many different ways and is demonstrated to the world in part by what choices are made and by how one perceives and acts on the news of the world. Judgement is one of the many factors need to demonstrate the competence for any high level executive position including the position of POTUS.

John McCain demonstrated a lack of competence by selecting Sarah Palin for the vice-presidential slot on the 2008 Republican ticket.  His judgement was flawed. McCain considered Sarah Palin to be qualified to be one heartbeat away from the position of POTUS; not a demonstration of judgement..  As much as I dislike many of the Obama policies I suspect that McCain would have been worse.

During the days following the recent election I started seeing reports about how Romney was 'shellshocked' at the loss.
What I want to know is how could Romney have been 'shellshocked' when the overwhelming signal from the polling was that Obama was in the lead?  This is not a case of being 'disappointed' at close loss.   'Shellshocked' means you truly expected to win without a doubt  but lost big.  But some might say 'It was not Romney's fault.  His advisers and pollsters mislead him.'  To which I reply 'One key responsibility of any executive is to pick top quality advisers and to be able to detect when they are spouting nonsense.'

Anyone could check the trend lines on
For the three weeks prior to the election the Obama trend was up and the Romney trend was down.  Anyone with a basic understanding of statistics should have seen that there was a lot of data pointing to an Obama victory.  If the internal Romney pollsters were saying something different then why did not Romney bring in a variety of statistics professors and professional pollsters to look at the internal Romney numbers.  So far I can find no evidence that this was done.  Anyone who claims any sort of management or executive competence should have seen this.  Not Romney; he was 'shellshocked'.  I am trying to be nice so I will simply say that I find Romney 'Incompetent for the office of POTUS'.

However it does bring to mind the someone with a distorted worldview who was POTUS for two terms; Bush/Cheney.  I list it this way since it was always unclear to me the extent to which Bush was a puppet and Cheney the puppet master.    Bush/Cheney serves as a perfect example of being unable to see beyond a narrow self-serving and inaccurate view of the world; perhaps self deluding would be an apt description.  Remember the special intelligence channels setup by Cheney; remember all of the nonsense about  a quick withdrawal from Iraq; remember the nonsense about the entire operation paying for itself via oil; remember the reports of Bush blathering on about Gog and Magog to French President Jacques Chirac in 2003; remember all of the lies.  Bush/Cheney was a disaster.  And we suffered through eight years of it.

So whenever I start feeling unhappy about Obama winning the election I can reflect that it might have been worse; it could have been Romney.


Election Notes

Tomorrow Nov 6 2012 is election day in the USA. I have decided to put some of my thoughts on this blog although for a long time I was considering just not blogging about the election because I find it so sad and disappointing.

During the early primaries I expressed my dissatisfaction with Ron Paul  http://blog.lightingonemorecandle.com/2011/12/ron-paul-for-potus-no.html
and some may wonder if I am advocating Gary Johnson. No not at this point. I am still undecided. I have a very high standard and right now I am not sure if Johnson measures up. The primary issue for me is reproductive rights. Since this a topic that Johnson might have changed his views on recently I am still investigating. As far as I am concerned anyone who says "well we will just throw questions about reproductive rights back to the individual states and let them enact the restrictions" is not a Libertarian. To save space I refer people back to my blog post on Ron Paul.

What Obama, Romney and Stein? Let us begin with Stein. Jill Stein is the Green Party candidate and while I do not support many of the Green Party positions at least Stein appears to be more honest than many politicians. I was not expecting much from Obama after he won four years ago and he has been worse than even I imagined; of course McCain and Palin would almost surely have been worse. The Romney campaign is a joke. I find his lack of honesty and his lack of integrity to be just sickening. The polls at this point seems to be leaning toward an Obama victory. If Obama does win the election it might be in no small part to Obama looking intelligent and honest when compared to Romney.
Update: Election day and things still look about the same.  Also fixed a typo.


Topics from Violence to Thinking to Race

I have been somewhat busy recently and not blogging as much as I had planned.  So I will now cover three items briefly.

First is the book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker.  This is a book which covers humans from pre-history to modern times.  As the title indicates Pinker thinks that overall human violence has declined.  And not just declined a small amount but has actually declined significantly.  Pinker gathers some impressive evidence.  Personally I am less persuaded by his discussion of pre-history however I find his discussion of the decline of violence in periods where we have good historical records much more convincing.  It is a book well worth reading.  Particularly if the first things that occur to you is that he can not be correct because of WWI and WWII and the death campaigns of Stalin and Mao.

Another tremendous book is Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman who is a Nobel prize winner (Economics).  Kahneman is a psychologist who has studied human cognitive biases and modes of thinking.  This is one of those books that when you finish you realize how important are the insights and begin to think that within a few years it will be difficult to call yourself an well read and knowledgeable person if you are not familiar with the ideas in this book.  It is that full of insights.  Read it.  In fact as much as I recommend Pinker I suggest reading Kahneman first.

The third item for this blog entry is the play Race.  I saw it at the San Jose Stage.  This is an extremely powerful play at many levels.  It deals with race.  You probably figured that out from the title.  But is more that just a feel good play about race.  This is a raw look at race and sex and the tangled mess of taboos, myths and hidden thoughts that surround them.  It is one of the best plays I have seen.  It is really that good.  The production by the Stage in San Jose was brilliant.  This is a play for mature people; not just mature in years but mature in emotion and intellect.  This play discusses rape and uses the n-word, c-word, f-word and other words that are not for the immature.  If you are mature then I most strongly recommend this play.


Salad Recipe

I have created a recipe for a salad and decided to put the information here in order to make it easier to provide the recipe to anyone one who asked such as this weekend a friend gave me three wonder cucumbers (Thanks Karen) and I said I was going to make a salad. This salad works well in hot weather and does not contain lettuce.  I am really tired of salads which are mostly lettuce so I have created a healthy salad that contains no lettuce but does contain both fruit and vegetables.  I have served this at Burning Man and at Ephemerisle and it seems to always be well received.

My recipe is as follows:
Main ingredients:
   cucumbers    (about 35-40% of volume)
   apples           (about 30% of volume)
   onions           (about 10% of volume)
   bell peppers  (about 20-25% of volume)
The above proportions can be varied according to taste.  Just clean and chop and mix in a big bowl.  I find that chopping things at about 1 to 2 cm in any dimension works well.
Available to be added as each individual wants
   balsamic vinegar
   olive oil
Or go wild with one or more of the following
   dried cranberries
   sesame seeds

The version above is vegan friendly.  For those who want fish I either prepare a batch with wood smoked salmon mixed in or just put the salmon on a platter and let people add their own.

About acceptance of LGBT relationships

I have been very busy the past couple of months and had not commented on several items that I had originally intended and I still might get to them eventually.  What I do want to bring to your attention is something that Greta Christina wrote recently.  Greta had an unfortunate incident in which she injured her knee.  The part of her blog post that I want to call to your attention is where she starts to thank people and in particular two groups; those who have does evidence based science so that our medical technology is better than in was in years past and those who have worked for LGBT rights.   It is this last point that Greta illustrates so well when she talks about how Ingrid was able to say "She's my wife" and everyone on the medical and emergency services understood and accepted the relationship.

As a straight white guy it is sometime difficult for me to articulate all of the nuances related to gender or race as compared to someone who has real live experience and can offer better explanations and expositions.  Our society is stronger and richer when we discard race and gender bigotry.

I strongly suggest reading Greta's blog entry:


I also recommend reading Greta's blog in general.  I do not always agree with all of Greta's position however when I disagree I find that she has articulated a position which makes me think deeply and seriously about my own positions.


Obama and same sex marriage

I have watched the Obama interview segment where he says that he is now OK with same sex marriage.  That his thinking has evolved.  And that is good.  However I was a bit surprised when he started talking about it being a state issue and not a Federal issue.  I would have thought that someone who had been a law professor would have at least discussed how the Loving case concerning marriage between persons of different races related to the same sex marriage issue.  I have mentioned the Loving case previously: http://blog.lightingonemorecandle.com/2012/01/loving-photos.html?zx=8c33a255864e86cc

For a short essay on my feeling about marriage and political philosophy:

Technical glitch on contact form

Recently there was a technical glitch on the contact form on my main website.  If you used that form to send me a message it might have been delivered mangled or not delivered at all so might be a good a idea to try again.  Sorry for the inconvenience.


Climate Change Science and Libertarian Philosophy

At times over the past few years I have heard or read someone making the assertion that denying Climate Change Science was either in some way part of or logically derived from Libertarian philosophy. I have decided to write a blog post explaining the situation.

The simple point is that the Libertarian philosophy has nothing to say about the accuracy of any aspect of Climate Change Science either in agreement or disagreement. There is no Libertarian position on Climate Change Science because the accuracy or inaccuracy of Climate Change Science is not a Libertarian issue just as there is not a Libertarian position on Punctuated Equilibrium or String Theory. Questions about Climate Change Science are properly addressed by persons who can apply specialized knowledge in the various branches of physics, chemistry and other fields to the study of the climate, oceans, etc.

Consider the two statements: 'I was talking to someone who said they were a Libertarian and they said that String Theory is true' and 'I was talking to someone who said they were a Libertarian and they said that String Theory is false'. Neither of these statements tell us anything about the Libertarian philosophy because there is no way to derive a position about whether String Theory is true or false from Libertarian philosophy. And anyone who claims that they can derive a position on either String Theory or Climate Change Science from the Libertarian philosophy is just misguided. The Libertarian philosophy is not engaged in doing physics, chemistry or similar matters rather it uses their outputs. The Libertarian Philosophy deals with issues of liberty and human interaction. So no matter what institute, politician or random person starts on about how the Libertarian philosophy leads to positions about Climate Change Science they can just be considered as mistaken and uninformed.

Now it is possible for someone to ask that even though a position either denying or affirming the current state of Climate Change Science can not be derived from Libertarian Philosophy what opinions do Libertarians hold? That is difficult to answer for many reasons not the least of which is even agreeing on who is and who is not a Libertarian. For example I am a Libertarian but I am not a member of the Libertarian Party and I am not a Ron Paul supporter. As far as I know there has been no well developed credible polling to determine the opinions of well informed Libertarians on Climate Change Science or String Theory or any similar issue probably because as I said these are not Libertarian issues and possibly because Libertarians are a difficult to sample group. Certainly Climate Change Science has greater potential consequences for humans on this planet so it would be a more important poll than String Theory. However I did find based on my personal observations on a Libertarian email list most on the list who stated an opinion tended to accept the current Climate Change Science. How much this limited sample generalizes I do not know.

However this still leaves the question of why does this confusion arise. I do not have a complete explanation but I have a couple of observations which when linked together might explain part of the situation. The first observation is that there are a bunch of people claiming to be Libertarian when they are not and this is particularly bothersome because often these people have only a shallow and often incorrect knowledge of Libertarian philosophy. Queue the Dunning–Kruger effect because these people often tend to be vocal. It is often difficult to easily distinguish between those you are merely uniformed and those who are being deliberately deceptive. However both my experience and my desire is that what is being observed is a lack of knowledge rather than a lack of honesty.

The second observation is that unfortunaly science issues have been and continue to be politicized often by those who see a particular scientific development as a convenient way to advance a political position or as a threat to a political position. In either case it is inappropriate. For example it is inappropriate to proclaim that climate change science is correct because of a political position desiring a particular type of government control of the energy industry. And it is equally inappropriate to proclaim that Climate Change Science is incorrect because a political position of wanting a different type of control over the energy industry. Unfortunately when one side of a political disagreement attempts to take the accuracy or inaccuracy of some science question out of the science arena and into the political arena then the temptation is for the other side of the argument to respond in kind. T think that perhaps this is part but certainly not all of what we are seeing now.

The obvious extension of point above is that questions of the accuracy or inaccuracy of any part of Climate Change Science should not be considered as deriving from any political philosophy. Science and political philosophy are distinct endeavors; political philosophy might utilize the knowledge generated by science but it does not determine that knowledge.  And of course science is not always perfect but it is more likely to be self-correcting if politics is kept out of the process.

At this point the reader might be wondering why end with the point about science and political philosophy instead of starting with a discussion of science and political philosophy as a general point and then noting that Libertarian philosophy is a particular case of political philosophy. One reason I took the approach that I did was that I felt it might be more engaging for the reader to start with the specific rather than the general case.

Readers will notice that I have used the term Climate Change Science rather than the more common term Climate Change. The reason for this is that I wanted to very specifically distinguish between the science question of what is happening "Climate Change Science" and the policy recommendations and responses which I refer to as "Climate Change Response Policy". These are two different activities. Certainly "Climate Change Response Policy" will use the knowledge generated by "Climate Change Science" but "Climate Change Response Policy" will also utilize anthropology, sociology, business, economics, all of the other appropriate scholarly fields and yes this is where political philosophy is included.


Rock and Roll history and the FBI

This comment is based on my reaction to an article in BBC Online Newsmagazine
 about the March 21, 1952 concert in Cleveland Ohio.  Considered to be the first Rock and Roll concert by historians it went horribly wrong when tickets for a later event were not printed correctly and many people showed up at an already full concert.  The article is an interesting read just for its historical value however what caught me attention were a couple of items about Alan Freed who was a co-organiser of the event.

A few years later Alan Freed had his nationally ABC television network show cancelled because a black performer (Frankie Lymon) danced with a white young lady on stage which offended some Southern affiliates.  Just one more reminder that racism in one part of a country can have negative consequences for the rest.  It is good that the USA has progressed beyond that level of racism however it is important to remember that there are still many areas for improvement.  And not only with racism but also there is much room for improvement on gender,  LGBT and related issues.

And for absolutely no good reason the FBI ran by J. Edgar Hoover had Alan Freed under surveillance.  According to the article is was because the FBI deemed the records that Freed played to be a threat.  A threat to what? J. Edgar Hoover was more of a threat to a diverse and interesting culture and to basic human liberty.  Whether it was tracking Dr. King or tracking people in the entrainment industry it is clear that Hoover and his minions in the FBI engaged in actions that can be described as vile and despicable.   Perhaps a good reminder should be sent to the FBI and the rest of the government by having an policy that any building owned or controlled by any government agency which is named after or commemorates  J. Edgar Hoover  should be renamed. 


Notes about the Potlatch Panel on Collapse Fiction

As I mentioned previously I was invited to be part of a panel discussing Collapse Fiction at the Potlatch SF Convention held recently in Seattle.  I made some preparatory notes about collapse fiction and I am updating it with some specific comments about various works: http://blog.lightingonemorecandle.com/2012/02/considering-sf-societal-collapse-and.html

Prior to the start of the panel I placed a small audio in my shirt pocket for several reasons; first that I a record of actions or emails or other commitments; second it is often good to listen to yourself in order to improve your presentation skills and thirdly just in case I said worth following up on later this would keep track of it.  I had expected the recorder to primarily pick up my voice and I was not intending to record the entire panel.  I felt the panel was very successful and I was really glad I was able to be on the panel.

Reviewing the audio I found that not only had it picked up my voice but also much of the other comments from the other panelists as well as some of the audience.  The audio quality is terrible but just good enough after listening to it multiple time in some sections 4 or 5 times I think I have been able to put together a set of notes covering some of the high points of the hour long session.  In general the notes are in order although in a couple of cases when a comment is specific to a previous comment I have placed following rather than out of sequence.  I have made my best effort for accuracy and have in a couple of cases used three question marks (???) to indicate uncertainty.   In some cases I was able to identify the speaker but in many cases I was unsure so to avoid incorrect attributions I have decided not to identify any speakers.  And to answer the obvious question: Do I plan to post the audio?  No the quality is very poor so it is really not worthwhile plus I do not know what Potlatch 21 has in place regarding publication of recordings.

It should be obvious but I will make it explicit: These are just my best effort to record the comments, questions and general discussions for that one hour in Seattle.  I am not claiming they are accurate.  They do not necessarily represent my views.  They are here with no promises and no guarantees.


Many collapse fiction novels do not deal with all of the aftermath issues

Consider how collapse fiction talks about our fears
Is our current society made artificially stable by violence on individuals
but not providing communitarian functions?

How do societies improve on societies as rebuilt?
How is improvement envisioned?

One person mentioned being more interested in an incipient utopia rather than a dystopia.

How does recovery conflict with individual liberties?

Buckminster Fuller book Enough To Go Around

Contrast of endogenous and exogenous impacts.

Contrast with Earth Abides with speaker did not like, felt that Canticle for L
was more hopeful book

What were forces used in rebuilding such as religion, gender roles, military force,
looking toward the stars,  etc

In some novels such as Lucifer's Hammer they protagonists get knocked down, bounce, roll, get back up and start rebuilding.

Comment that in one of the Lois McMaster Bujold the society was not based on what we would consider democracy because the people said they had tried that and did not like it.

Many collapse books gloss over the painful transition period, one work with does deal with this is the book Level 7 by  Mordecai Roshwald.

Issue of how much we have already used resources.
One solution is to live next to a dump for relatively easy supply of metals such as aluminum in beverage cans.

Some narratives start with an assmption about evolution and change that might no be correct particularly as related to social organization with might not support everyone to the extent desired. Is the way that these narratives sell a particular vision of who to rebuild normal?  Just like Hollywood tries to sell a particular concept of romance we need to ask if it was normal would they really need to sell it.

Even rebuilding stories such as in series such as the John Varley Severn Worlds series or Anne McCafferies Pern Series have a nonsustainable 'just keep extracting resources' senario

Some political revolution narratives are the other side of the collapse narrative consider the Suzy McKee Charnas Holdfast series or the Timmel Duchamp Marq'ssan Cycle series.

Some collapse novels have an element of manifest destiny that we can just leave garbage behind.  Humorours interjection: Only if there is a cute robot to recycle it.

How do you draw the boundary of the society and what comes after the collapse?  Is there a continuity or not.  For example Charles Stross novel Saturn's Children in which the biological carbon based humans have died out but the non-carbon based lifeforms have much of the same memetic and cultural heritage.

Some books mentioned about people making their way with different approaches
Parable of The Sower by Octabia Butler
Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

Farnhams Freehold by Heinlein depicts a future based on race relation resentment
At the time people building fallout shelters
Heinlein says you can not keep all genetic eggs in one basket
There are issues with the ruler in the future being depicted as a dark skinned black man who is cannablistic and who wants to have non concentual sex with the white women from the past

Sharing Knive by Bujold
Andre Norton Star Rangers books

Need to consider how we use resources recycable such as aluminum versus use it once such as petroleum.
Don't expect to get rich mining the astrodes due to advances microbiolgical mining on earth mine talings
So in case a collapse starts it is important to protect microbiological labs and knowledge

Nonfiction book Collapse by Diamond

???Dorothy Dunnett in the book ??? used the image of "collapsed like an overtaxed weightlifter"

The second chapter of "The Highway Men" by Ken MacLeod is a very gripping depiction of how through mistaken assumptions and a rush to war a couple of simple misunderstandings can lead to war.

Hierarchy of levels for society analogous to the Maslow Heirarchy for individuals. A society can have a collapse at the memetic and intellectual culture level.  This leads us to consider the opening lines of Howl by Allen Ginsberg which depict Ginsberg's conserns about destruction of the best minds of a generation.  Yet there were those who viewed this work of Ginsberg along with other works and social commentators such as Lenny Bruce as being a sign of and contributing to social collapse.  Issues of perspective and context.

In a collapse books preserved as opposed to electronics which is an issue for ebooks.

Book "Wolf and Iron"
What about when you have resources but not information
Sometimes information is inplicit in a physical object related to usage and construction

Kurt Vonnegut novels depict three types of collapse
  Player Piano - Societal issues
  Cat's Cradel - End of the world
  The Sirens of Titan - About Rebuilding

Interest in societal collapse literature in English speaking world due to the teaching about fall of roman empire.  For some in the so called "third world" there is the experience of colonialism.  Some third world narratives might read like Science Fiction.  Consider novels about the African Holocaust.
Example the novel Two Thousand Seasons by Ayi Kwei Armah

Roman republic was used as a model for the forming of repubic of the USA so the Roman republic falsly has weight; such as the fall of Roman Empire not analogous to USA

Consider that an electrical generator was redeveloped early in Canticle For Leibowitz

If there is an Intersteller civilization and there is a collapse with lose of interstller communication to what levels would the society fall and then rebuild

It takes only one and half generation to lose knowledge ie organic farming

In reading 1491 we see Catholic monks buring natives books and artifacts so that there would not be a rebuilding.

We already have data recovery, equipment and knowledge issue with computers now.  Recovering images from old tapes is an issue.

Novels about rebuilding in terms communitarianism
 various books by Kim Stanley Robinson
 The Gate to Women's Country by Tepper
 Holdfast series including Walk To the End of World by Charnas
 Women on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy
Contrast with Lucifer's Hammer which rebuilds as before
Issue with looking for a society which works for everyone is that human nature is human nature.

Poul Anderson Orion Shall Rise
Story by Ursula Le Guin   Solitude

What about time length of a few thousand years
  The Last and First Men by Stapledon
  Foundation Trilogy by Asimov
  Time Machine by Wells

To rebuild appears to be a human drive.  What about narratives where it is not possible to rebuild.
  We who are about to by Joanna Russ   we are about to

Book Directive 51 by John Barnes
World War Z by Max Brooks
The Greatwinter Trilogy by Sean McMullen

Sherwood Smith series about advancing glaciers narrowing temperate zone

Narratives tend to be about individuals so that constrains the narrative to about 100 years and what survives us is culture

What collapse fiction has been written recently beside the Hunger Games books
 Directive 51 by John Barnes
 Paulo Bacigalupi
 Scott Westerfeld
 The Highway Man by Ken MacLeod
 Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor

Comment about scene in We Who are About To
where a man comments to a woman about having babies to continue civilization and the woman says No.  Civilization will continue just fine out there.

Stories by Janet Kagan

Theme of collapse fiction; what have we lost; what can we regain

The idea that something is going to happen and we have no control might lead us to not consider sustainable models.  There is the aphorism: No single drop of water feels the blame for the flood.

The Last Letter by Fiona Lehn

In rebuilding a society that is kinder and more sustainable and which will work and continue to work you need to have someone at the elbow of those doing the rebuilding to protect from those who want to grab power.  Again and again we see that those with power tend not to give it up.


Considering SF, Societal Collapse and Rebuilding

I have been asked to be part of a panel on "Collapse Fiction" at the SF (Science Fiction) Potlatch convention in Seattle on February 24-26, 2012.


The description of the panel from the program is:
A Canticle for Leibowitz isn't the only book about societal collapse and rebuilding. Join us for a discussion of other books with similar themes. What other authors have done it well? How is collapse fiction changing as the threats to modern society evolve, from nuclear annihilation in the 1950s to the ecological and political threats of today?

Being asked to participate on this panel started me thinking of ways to delineate Collapse Fiction and thus this short and most likely incomplete set of questions, issues and categories came to be written as an aid for me in thinking about "Collapse Fiction". I expect to add to and modify this post quite a bit up to the Potlatch convention and following.

Now on to thinking about fiction and collapse.

While the individual types and degrees of social behavior can vary from person to person we list humans are social creatures. I propose for this discussion of societal collapse we consider a simple division of Societal features:
  - Interpersonal norms - Trust, honesty and benevolence
  - Intellectual - knowledge, technology, science
  - Identity - cultural mythology, arts, literature
  - Infrastructure - markets, communications
  - Physical needs - health, food, water
These are not strictly Hierarchical however I feel there are relationships and support (and overlap) between levels. In particular if the Physical needs are seriously compromised then that contributes to a more rapid breakdown and a difficulty in rebuilding. This has an impact on story structure for example if a marauding army comes through and confiscates the grain is there enough seed grain for the next planting?

And it is useful to contrast these with the classic Maslow Hierarchy of Needs
 - Self-Actualization
 - Esteem
 - Belongingness and Love
 - Safety
 - Physiological
The implication is not that there is a correspondence between elements of the two lists but rather that it is useful to distinguish the elements as a way to example various fictional works.

Too often I think the issue is constructed as two phased - collapse and then rebuild (Down then Up) a V shaped model.  I prefer a more U shaped three phase model of collapse, stabilization, rebuild and that in each of these phases there is a survival component; quite probably with some overlap. Of course each of these phases will not be smooth and linear but rather each will likely be bumpy and non-linear.  And of course the slope of the sides of the U are important thus it might be thought of as more of a bowl than a U.

Further we need to realize that the rate of change both during collapse and rebuilding is an important consideration. It raises the question when does simple societal change become so rapid that it becomes societal collapse? And at what point going down the collapse slope it is reasonable to say that there as been a Collapse. This raises the issue of collapse as a Process and collapse as a Condition. For example consider towns and cities which have fallen from their former glory and are now half abandoned?

This of course leads us to consider the systems boundary issue?  What defines the society under consideration?  Is it a town, a river valley, a provincial area, a federal government, a cultural subgroup, an ethnicity or all humans? And are the factors endogenous (from within the system) or exogenous (from outside the system)? And how can a society change within a novel as still be considered the same society or is the novel about transformation or perhaps the novel is about multiple societies and cultural traditions merging.

There is also the question of perspective when one person sees collapse and another sees positive transformation. This can be the case particularly when consideration the cultural and institutional features; for example a set of religious beliefs and institutions which for some have been the primary defining characteristics of a society might be dying off as modern secular Enlightenment views take hold. Thus the same change can be viewed as either collapse or as rebuilding.

To the above we can add the Journalism 4 Ws and an H and adapt them to a typical SF Collapse and Rebuild novel
who - characters in a social setting
what - one or more of collapse, survival, rebuild
where - setting both location and temporal
why - agent or force of nature
how - weapons, climate, famine, disease

Within this conceptual framework in mind I will consider various works and how they fit.

The first novel I would like to mention is Pulling Through by Dean Ing published by Ace Science Fiction in 1983. As many novels between roughly 1950 and 1990 the thing which brings about sudden change is a nuclear war. The system boundary for this novel is northern California primarily in the greater San Francisco Bay area. The exogenous factor that starts the collapse is nuclear weapons hitting San Francisco and other areas. The narrative revolves around Harve Rackham who is a bounty hunter, the young fugitive woman he has just picked up and Harv's sister and her family from the Silicon Valley. Much of the book is involved with the survival of the collapse stage; that is how do you stay alive in the hours, days and weeks following a nuclear exchange. The end of the novel covers some of the stabilization period up through the beginning of the rebuild or as it is labeled in the novel Doomsday plus 176. The original paperback edition has a an end section discussing many of the survival issues as well as plans for a homebuilt radiation detector. This novel along with other stories about the same main character are collected into a single ebook called The Rackham Files which is available from Baen Books but unfortunately the end sections are not included. However the plans for the fallout meter are available for free online:
Thus Pulling Through is an example of a collapse novel with an exogenous impact doing massive damage to health and infrastructure with the survival during the collapse as well as the sustaining and rebuilding being due in large part to endogenous resources such as stocking supplies, planning ahead and the personal human resources of ingenuity and perseverance.

UPDATE:  2012-03-03
The panel was a success.  I have some notes at
What I am adding here are comments about specific works. Some of these i mentioned during the panel.

Title: Saturn's Children
Author: Charles Stross

Collapse of human society by humans not reproducing. Human society ends however robot society goes and flourished. If we consider the larger social system to include human society as a subsystem or social subgroup then perhaps we can view this as a partial collapse (aka decline) with a sustaining period and a rebuilding in a new form. If the meme set continues is the gene set that important. Just as we are overcoming prejudise based on race and gender do we also want to over come prejudise based on substrate.

Title: The Higway Men
Author: Ken MacLoed

This short work is after a major war has started. The second chatper is only about 5 pages long and it alone is worth the price if it makes people stop and think about how simple events can get misunderstood and lead to serious problems.

Title: Little Brother
Author: Cory Doctorow

The impact is composed of two events; first one exogenous which is terrorists blowing up the Bay Bridge and second one being the heavy handed, irrational, out of control response by the Department of Homeland Security which can be considered as either endogenous or exogenoous depending on the boundary. lhe sustaining and rebuilding are partially based on knowledge and skills acquired prior to the impact event as well as the actions of the main protaganist and his friends and accomplists so this can be considered as a endogenous rebuilding.

Title: Fire on the Mountain
Author: Terry Bisson

This work is structured as an alternative history retrospective in which the raid on the armory at Harpers Ferry is successful leading to a slave upgrising and war culminatiing in the creation of a new socialist country Nova Africa. Thus we have a an collapse particularly from the slave owning class. The war is won by the group lead by John Brown and Harriet Tubman which grows from the small number of the ferry raid to a large army with the abolistionists, free blacks and runaway slaves joining the ranks. From the perspective of the slave owners this is a societal collapse however ever the perspective of others it can be viewed as the first steps of rebuilding from a society long in collapse.

Title: Howl
Author: Allen Ginsburg

The first fourteen words of Howl set the scene of the author seeing collapse at a culture level impacting society as well as the "best minds". What is interesting is that another part of the society did not recognize the situation as a collapse in Ginsburgs terms; on the contrary this segment of society saw the works of Ginsburg and others such as Lenny Bruce, Jack Kerouac as causing a social degradation. Thus we see an interesting question of perspective.


Some link gathering

I will often click on a link in a browser because it is something that I expect to want to look at later when I hope to have more time. Occasionally these links and other documents to which they point form interesting and unusual juxtapositions. And I cover a few of these juxtapositions here.

Glenn Greeenwald has an article on the attack drones from the USA targeting those who might be rescuers and/or mourners:

Additional discussion at:

Killing children and any helpful bystanders who come to the aid of injured people is not a really good way to gain the good will of people around the world and to encourage the social connections which help develop a better society.

I think that having a well educated populace with knowledge of social sciences, arts, physical and biological sciences is an aid in developing a rich and more tolerant social environment. So what was the results of the actions of the government of the USA in Iraq both prior to and after the invasion? According this article it has not been good:

And we all remember Obama getting the Peace Prize. Well it looks like there are now some concerns that Prize has not always been justified or was too political.

And in an interesting development we see that PFC Bradley Manning has been nominated:

All of this might lead to a serious and public discussion about the Peace Prize, who gets it and why. If that conversation has a difficult time starting with those who award the Prize then perhaps a way to jumpstart the discussion is to ask them to consider if Manning is more deserving of the prize than Obama.


On orientation, choice, nature, same-sex marriage and government

Recently Cynthia Nixon (star of various TV, movie and stage productions including Sex and the City) made some remarks about being gay or straight and the question of if it was was choice or not. Nixon said that her current situation in a gay relationship was a choice. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/22/magazine/cynthia-nixon-wit.html

Instead of the question of whether being gay a choice or are people born with a specific orientation; I want to focus on a higher order question: what does it matter in the same-sex marriage discussion?

It is probably worth noting that given the extent of human variation in so many areas there is likely no single answer. It is an interesting question to help understand humans just as understanding being introvert or extrovert. But it touches the issue of how are lesbians and gay persons are treated socially and legally in our society and the history related to that is very sad. One of the ways that people fought for same-sex marriage was to compare sexual orientation to race and claim that the same logic that defeated the legal restrictions on inter-racial marriage meant that legal restrictions on same-sex marriage should also be eliminated. However if sexual orientation is a choice is this argument still valid?

I think that is the wrong question. The proper question is should the government be involved with same-sex marriage one way or the other? The answer is No. What we need is to get the government out of marriage; same-sex, opposite-sex or whatever. I wrote about this a couple of years ago http://www.alf.org/marriagemoulton.php


Loving Photos

In 1967 the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) had the case of Loving versus the state of Virginia concerning the Virginia anti-miscegenation law. The SCOTUS ruling that the law was unconstitutional was important because Richard Perry Loving and Mildred Loving faced prison time which would have been bad both for them as well as their children. I almost left off the prior sentences because I assumed that everyone would know about the Loving case however I decided to include just in case someone had forgotten. Now to the point of this post; you can see an interesting set of photos about the Loving family at:
based on the exhibit at the International Center of Photography http://www.icp.org/

This is just one more reminder about why the government needs to stop defining marriage and since I have written on this elsewhere I will just provide a link:

And this should serve as a cautionary reminder that the misguided opinion that in the hierarchy of government (city, county, state/provincial, federal) that individual liberty is necessary better served at a lower level. This opinion is demonstrably false. The situation is complex and nuanced which makes simplistic formulas and slogans not only inaccurate but detrimental to the quest for liberty.

So take a look at the photos for a visual reminder of a historic case.


Concerning SOPA and PIPA

Today is January 19, 2012 and a lot of blogs are either providing information about SOPA and PIPA or going black.  I have decided that the best approach for this small blog is to go the informational route.

There are several good informational sources such as https://www.eff.org/.

I have already contacted the Congressperson from the Congressional district in which I reside as well as both Senators.  If you do not know the names and contact info for these persons you can find assistance at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:CongressLookup.

Hopefully SOPA and PIPA will be stopped.