Skip to main content

Human Foibles

I am on a short vacation with my wife.  We are staying in my daughter boyfriend's family summer house in Casadero, 9 miles west from Guerneville, CA.  It is a very nice house in the middle of a majestic redwood forest, separated by a long forest driveway from the road.

In the house, I find five white document boxes that hold an archive of old LA Times newspapers.  I open the first box and pick up at random the business section for LA Times dated May 21, 1992.  In it, my eyes lock immediately on a report bemoaning President Bush's handling of the Savings and Loans debacle, and how the government loan pools favor big S&Ls relative to ordinary people.  Then I see an article stating that people will never again look the same at investing into houses. (In May 1992, we were in the second year of a major housing slump.)   Does this sound familiar, or what?   Why have we forgotten?  I take it back: Why have most people forgotten? I have not forgotten, and this is my curse.

We are on the Blind Beach near Jenner.  The wide, dark coarse sand beach is empty, just us and a young family with a small boy and an even smaller girl.  The mother is maybe 25 years old and round.  She is dressed in a white tight tunic with black vertical stripes and tight black pants that make her large belly bulge like a flabby watermelon. The little girl starts running away from the ocean and into the empty beach.  Suddenly, we hear the young mother barking commands military-style: "Not so far, Emily! Stop!  We are going pee, Emily!  Follow me! Not this way!" And so on.  I am thinking: "Here is the second generation of the controlled, chauffeured everywhere, and vastly over-snacked young people.  The mother is brainwashing her daughter to be scared of walking ten feet on the sand and, perhaps, of any other spontaneous activity, just like her parents beat independence out of her."  How can such people think independently, and love and understand nature?
The Blind Beach photographed by me a day earlier from the north side of the Russian River.
On Public TV, Bill Moyers discusses the hollowing out of the middle class in San Jose, a city at the center of the Silicon Valley.  Without a doubt what happens in the Silicon Valley, changes the world and some people get fabulously rich.  But these people no longer manufacture wafers, chips and devices, and do not need highly qualified, well paid factory workers.  Actually they do not need much of any help, but they have so much cash that suddenly San Jose, Cupertino, etc. are too expensive for most people, and many families become homeless just one lost pay check later.  They interview an old, old homeless woman, who says that she is 54 and that she worked in a chip manufacturing factory when chips were still made in America. She is toothless and looks 80 or so.

Why do people believe that modulated electrons - translated into oodles of cash for the modulators - will bring prosperity to all?  How can Facebook enrich masses?  Facebook can make crowds jerk off in public, like in a never-ending high school reunion, but how can these people become rich through narcissistic gossip? Can they still talk to a living person, while gesticulating and maintaining eye contact?

Why can't I be like Amory Lovins, or Julian Simon , or Jeffrey Sachs, or some other politruk?  (In the Soviet nomenclature, "politruk" was an acronym for "political commander.") Why can't I sooth people and assure them of never-ending prosperity and happiness with never-ending population growth and wealth generation? Why can't I assure all that there will be no oil nor gas nor any other peak of anything, because human ingenuity and optimism will always win with nature?  Why do I have to be such a cold, unloving scientist? 

If I were a Julian Simon, some other very distinguished imbecile would write about me:
...The great human adventure has barely begun. The greenest thing we can do is innovate. The most sustainable thing we can do is change. The only limit is knowledge. Thank you Julian Simon for these insights...
Millions of people would read (no, not actively read, but only passively watch) and nod with warm approval.  But, no, I have to insist on the existence of the Second Law, irreversibility, mass conservation, energy conservation, zero net productivity of the Earth, and so many other idiotic things no one believes in anymore.

Instead of praise, I keep on hearing this song:
La, la, la, la!  I do-on't hear you!  La, la, la,la...
And what I hear serves me right.  


  1. Thank you Tad, for using "imbecile" to describe the imbecile you were referring too.

    We really are turning into adult-sized children.

    We now have the attention span of the average dog on a walk (sniff-sniff- SQUIRREL!). And those of us paying attention are being dragged through the gutter by the stupidest of mutts.

    I don't think there is anything anyone can do to change our course now.

    I expect our population will continue to become more desperate, more distracted, and less competent at taking care of their own basic needs.

    Who is going to have to feed, water and change these people?

    I'm not doing it.

    I hope FEMA and Homeland Security are up to the task. Homeland Security should order 2 billion diapers to go along with their order for ammunition.

  2. What I see in your post is an emotionally driven view of motherhood and an unconscious comparison between your wife, your daughter and the beach lady and her daughter (none of whom I have personally met or know much about). No doubt you were thinking about how you raised your daughter to be more independent minded...which lead to her going to California to pursue a career in a field that would not only earn her lots of money and respect, would surround her with men who were also very wealthy and respected. Of course, being independent means also being free from the traditional views of marriage and family. I assume people from the OLD COUNTRY still follow the outdated notion of sex ONLY after marriage or definitely marriage after sex driven into them by some form of orthodox church. The women of your and your wife's day may have some kind of dowry of household items bestowed upon them by several generations. All those practical mementos representing the various household skills of sewing, cooking, decorating, etc. from a strong family tree helps them not to forget where they've come from and where they are headed, just like the old newspapers you find in a box in a forgotten part of a strange man's world. This man is someone you might be just now discovering things about like your "little girl" is investigating a long-term relationship with him. Having the parents over is definitely a serious step in their relationship. Because professionals forfeit having kids at an early and robust age for their careers, I can see how you would knock the young lady on the beach. However, she's doing everything she's supposed to be doing and none of it is morally questionable. However, what your daughter is doing is very wrong and unnatural and I think either she or you or your wife is going to become very disappointed in the future just like everyone who has chosen the alternative lifestyles. Trees are symbolic of a lot of things in our life one of which is moral integrity. So include as part of your hiatus, which is not really a true vacation with all the difficulties surrounding travel and sleeping in strange beds provoke, a duty to guide and protect the future of YOUR offspring. Maybe you'll have little puchkas running around your home and yard in Austin soon. Thanks.

  3. oh...and another thing comes to mind...
    Wouldn't it be an awfully boring and sad world if people ONLY expressed ideas or thoughts that would meet some other person's "approval".

    1. Interesting, Kountry Mouse. I do not quite know what to think about your comments, but thank you for being so intensely personal.

      The first thought that comes to my mind is that you belong to a different generation that thinks about themselves much more than I ever had a chance. I do not view the world in such personal terms, and I do not agree that people can babble incongruously and violate the laws of nature in their babble. But then I am old, do not watch TV, and do not partake in Facebook. So what do I know?

      We are so darn close to nature talking back to us in a very unpleasant way that I would let my grandchildren stray, just like I let my children.

      Finally, just to have this conversation between us requires a vast amount of exosomatic power flowing through you and me at all times. This too is about to change and it will be much more difficult for all of us to self-analyze.

  4. Kountry Mouse,

    Like Tad, I am mostly confused by your post. To be honest, I think there is a misunderstanding. I suspect you have only experienced this culture, and I suspect you have not studied other cultures, or human history. And that is the basis of the misunderstanding.

    "if people ONLY expressed ideas or thoughts that would meet some other person's "approval"."

    Having and expressing ill-conceived ideas is not the problem. The problem is sooooo many people share those same ill-conceived ideas and they do not let Facts (measurable data) alter their ill-conceived ideas.

    People can believe what they want, but that does not make it true.

    About the young lady on the beach: she is "right" to do as she does in this culture. And her behavior may appear normal to others who grew up in this culture.

    But, look at our history as a species, or look at parenting from other cultures (especially non-industrial cultures). To anyone outside this culture now or in the past that young lady's behavior would likely be considered neurotic (to put it kindly).

  5. "The mother is brainwashing her daughter to be scared of walking ten feet on the sand and, perhaps, of any other spontaneous activity, just like her parents beat independence out of her." How can such people think independently, and love and understand nature?"

    Yes, I knew it would be confusing because it's very hard to see with someone elses eyes and brain. So, in order for me to understand it I had to focus on the things I could relate to having not watched the T.V. show etc. I don't watch T.V. because of the mind numbing affects and emotional manipulations to desire things or people you don't need - it's very misleading.

    The woman is a mother and being protective of her vulnerable daughter and training her to rely on her superior viewpoint (foreseeing calamity). I don't believe children should be allowed to experience pain in order to learn what not to do. She also knew her daughter and her habits and what she needed at the pee or that she was going to test the limits. I've noticed a lot of mothers are too lazy to go get their children or keep up with them and often yell without thinking about it. Excuse her for ruining your peaceful nature excursion. It's obviously been a very long time since you've had small children.

    I have experienced another culture as a young 7,8 year old in Spain and was practically adopted by my host family who thought my mother was neglectful for leaving me when I was sick with a bad cough. Mom did not have time to get me any medication and I was treated with a home remedy that worked immediately. I found the Euro cultures spoil their children and expose them to more sexualized content than the American puritanical social/media structure. Americans approached sex scientifically in school. Europeans approach sexual issues emotionally with some oversight by the churches and extended family. However, we all have sex the same ways and eventually we all figure that out regardless of our puritanical or romantic upbringing. People pair up and have sex in order to procreate. Thankfully, we don't have to have kids to be happy and contented in a romantic relationship. However, to deny the nature of things and insist on living in an unnatural way (birth control, no authority figure, competing sexes, no limits, constant debates about how things should be, etc.) does not lead to peace and tranquility and this is more than evident in our confused "modern" culture as represented by people who come out of the university structure. Kunstler just did a podcast mentioning how confused the Harvard Architectural/Art classes are about ideology...the end of the world...etc. and this translates into their design of cities, how they dress and how they relate to people.
    I appreciate you talking to him, too, and being so open about the corruption in TX where I have lived most my life.

    There's all kinds of foibles but I thought I'd point out the more serious flaws of our society starting with someone close to you, your daughter. All issues in society start in the home and how families and patriarchs/matriarchs deal with problems which eventually affects everyone in the neighborhood.

    Thanks again.

  6. Dear Kountry Mouse,

    Since I am an academic teacher, I am aware and encourage different viewpoints. But I often underestimate how deeply we are influenced by our assorted articles of faith, also called “pre-analytic visions.”

    In my post, I was as far from sexual education of our children as it gets. I was on to something more basic. What I failed to appreciate is how much excessive flows of energy are built into our thinking and life styles.

    So let me step back. When my younger sister and I were children and teenagers, we were essentially on our own from 7 am until 4 pm. Our parents, both chemical engineers, worked in research institutes, and there was no money for someone to supervise us. So I walked to and from school, and used public transportation, since I had been less than seven years of age. I attended several schools and the longest distance from home was about 4 miles one way.

    Those trips were not danger-free, and in seventh grade I witnessed my friend, who tried to jump into a running street car, being cut in half right in front of me. He miscalculated and fell in between two cars. His parents were friends of my family. Occasionally, we would be threatened by the various groups of boys, especially in city parks, which we adored. My still asymmetric nose is the result of one such after-school encounter in 10th grade.

    So let me recap my youth: I spent eleven years without parental supervision during the day, started smoking cigarettes in high school, drank booze in high school, and had many wonderful, warm and very sexy girlfriends in high school. Now I will add to the horror these admissions must have caused: In high school, I usually attended classes Mon-Wed, and was absent Thu-Sat. I was an A+ student, and the teachers would examine me very thoroughly and often on what I knew in their respective subject areas. I never disappointed them, but Thursdays, say, also served as the wild party days in the apartments and houses devoid of parents.

    On Fridays and Saturdays, I would study – alone - physics, chemistry, math, biology and botany, all from undergraduate and graduate texts my father supplied, as well as history and languages. I also would read voraciously. My father had hundreds of American and British classics in English and I read them all. How many high school students here can say, they red most of Steinbeck, all of my favorite Hemingway, a lot of Faulkner, Dos Passos, and almost all James Bonds and Agatha Christies?

    Because of my extra-curricular activities, I essentially accrued ½ of all time in high school as unexcused absences. It took very wise teachers and parents to see that I was not going to go bad because of it, and let me be free. Now imagine skipping two unexcused days in the high security prisons they call high schools here.

    As you can see, lots of latitude, thousands of books, no TV at home, and wise, permissive parents resulted in an academic teacher (me) and a Ph.D. eye-surgeon (my sister).

    But at the core of all of that was a general lack of energy and earning power that would allow everyone to be chauffeured and closely supervised. And, yes, sex was as popular then as it is now.

  7. “Why can't I assure all that there will be no oil nor gas nor any other peak of anything, because human ingenuity and optimism will always win with nature?“ Your message is the most important one there is as it describes the greatest challenge known to humanity alas it contradicts what John Michael Greer would call the “myth of progress”. Do not relent or lose hope there are some of us who can see beyond the shale oil hype & that understand the systemic risk that this poses to the system. There will be no policy changes at the top, but localism offers a glimmer of salvation to the wise.


  8. Wow!
    Please Kountry Mouse, go on… I like where you’re leading us [the incognito audience here] and Professor Patzek and Nottier.

    Anyway, I just printed this entry and can’t wait to read it tonight.

    And many thanks to all—but especially to the professor—in creating this ‘outstanding’ venue.

  9. Thanks for that, Tad! Your sister wasn't mentioned in the essay and her being a female would definitely make a difference in perspective especially when it comes to sexual promiscuity and experimentation. I refer to Obama's recent order to allow women of all ages access to Plan B - morning after pill. There's A LOT of energy being diverted to the procreative process whether we want it to be or not...whether it's convenient or not...because God has put that energy potential in us.
    I've lived part of what you've lived and part of what is considered the average suburban lifestyle. I don't think it's fair to take a sliver here or there of the human experience and build a case around it. I think most people have a variety of living experiences throughout their development in this country and others for various reasons. I think it's been designed this way because of the advent of automobiles for primarily ADULT conveniences.
    It was inconvenient for the woman on the beach to monitor her daughter from 10 yards away because she couldn't get at her if something happened. Most parents want their children to be somewhere they can get to in a short time in case of a crisis or a change in plans. When you're talking about 7 year olds then you're including school bussing. Because of the layout of huge suburbs the kids still have to walk a long way before they get to their house. The less time they spend not being at a specific place at a specific time is crucial in case of a PROBLEM. Wouldn't you say societie's problems have gotten more and more severe since you were 7?

    Then they are more or less unsupervised for 2 hours in front of a television or in a neighbor's backyard. I never thought until now the cruelty of a group of peers would be preferred over our loving parents and teachers protection from sexual predators, drug dealers, kidnappers,etc. Thanks Professor!

    1. Tad

      Any general thoughts on the following

  10. Correction: The cruelty and misguidance of a group of peers would be preferred over our loving authoritative figures protection...

  11. In my reply to Kountry Mouse, I said “Now imagine skipping two unexcused days in the high security prisons they call high schools here.” Probably no one took this statement seriously. So here are excerpts from two recent press reports on this subject.

    The Texas Tribune, “Lawmakers Take on Texas Truancy Laws,” by MAURICE CHAMMAH, published: April 27, 2013: In Texas, a student who misses 10 days of school within six months, or three days within four weeks, can be charged with failure to attend school, a Class C misdemeanor under the state’s Education Code, or with a juvenile offense under the Family Code. Parents can be charged. If reported by the school district to a municipal or county court, they can face fines of up to $500 and be arrested if they fail to appear before a judge.

    A report by the advocacy group Texas Appleseed found that in 2012, at least 112,000 truancy cases were processed in Texas by nonjuvenile courts. Some school officials say the threats of fines and arrests are necessary in cases where students would otherwise skip class and their parents would not stop them.

    These students “may be left with a criminal conviction that can have lasting consequences or pose barriers to future educational opportunities, military service or job prospects,” Deborah Fowler, Texas Appleseed’s deputy director, wrote in the report. She argued that incremental sanctions — which try to keep students in school before punishing them — are more effective.

    The New York Times,” Civil Rights Complaint Filed in Texas Truancy Cases,” by MOTOKO RICH, published: June 12, 2013: … The complaint, filed Wednesday by Texas Appleseed, the National Center for Youth Law and Disability Rights Texas — all nonprofit law centers — said that the truancy courts in Dallas County had prosecuted more than 36,000 students in four school districts, more than any other Texas county.

    The students, some as young as 12, were prosecuted as adults, the complaint said, and not given any legal counsel. The complaint said that the districts — Dallas, Garland, Mesquite and Richardson — are violating the students’ civil rights and that the truancy courts violate the students’ right to due process.

    “You have the adults pushing kids into this court system that could ultimately lead to them being locked up for very, very minor behavior,” said Michael Harris, a senior lawyer at the National Center for Youth Law.

  12. Oh yes, I caught that statement and completely agree because that's what my 9th year in Junior High was Western Hills, Ft. Worth. There were 4 VPs patrolling the hallways at all times with walkie talkies. We not ONLY were mandated to attend academic classes, SPIRIT HOUR was forced on us too, which is a bunch of kids dancing and cheering on in the auditorium who are all involved with sports.
    The reason for the severity has nothing to do with the betterment of society and discipline, obviously, but to scare people into submitting to a system that is based exclusively on profit. For every kid in the classroom the district gets so much money. No kids, no money. Our professor will probably know exactly how much per head. And sports has become so important as part of the curriculum because it also rakes in the dough. This critique does not mean I'm for truancy. It means I'm for a balanced view of teaching and if everyone had parents like Tad's who ENCOURAGED self study/reading and not JUST playing around...the world would be a brighter and better place to inhabit. That's the kind of "spirit" I'm looking for, an uplifting spirit with a view of people as human beings with individual needs and potential - not just dollar signs.


Post a Comment

I would like to learn what you are thinking about my posts and encourage you to share

Popular posts from this blog

Green New Deal III - How to transit from fossil energy to renewables?

In Part I, I showed how most people have little understanding of the complex issues of global power transition from fossil fuels to renewables, and may jump to false and dangerous conclusions colored green by ignorance.  In Part II, I demonstrated that if humans continue to outdo rabbits in procreation, no energy transition strategy will ever succeed and the entire planet will become a miserable, Mordor-like dump with most nature extinct.

Here I will sketch the gargantuan scale of nonrenewable resources necessary to make the "Green New Deal" plausible.  Some of these resources are already depleted or miners cannot produce them fast enough to keep you happy.  Thus, you will not be pleased with what you read, but I am not alone. And by the depleted resources I mean not only the rich ores, easy oil and natural gas, but also the tropical and boreal forests, tundra, the Midwestern soil disappearing fast into the Gulf of Mexico in exchange for the "renewable" (not!) corn…

A brief story of the human future

Here at KAUST, we had three good rains in the last ten days. I just finished my 18 km bike ride and inhaled the vibrant shades of green of all leaves and the efervescent colors of flowers. The mangroves along the coast are growing vigorously, and today they were a bouquet of seledines reflected by the crystal clear water. It is peace where I live. Things could not be better.

Why then am I so worried? First this legal disclaimer: I am no Tralfamadorian.  I do not have the ability to experience reality in four dimensions; cannot access past, present, and future; and am unable to perceive any instant of time at will. Tralfamadorians are able to see the entire timeline of the universe, they know the exact time and place of the universe's annihilation caused by an unfortunate Tralfamadorian experiment, but are powerless to prevent the inevitable. Because they believe that when a living being dies, she continues to live in other times and places, their well-known response to death is, &…

All is well on our planet Earth, isn't it?

Please don't act with surprise when I say this: The global climate change is real; global warming is accelerating, especially in the northern hemisphere; and the positive feedbacks that will further exacerbate human condition are kicking in with vengeance.  I am stating the scientifically obvious, but I have not made it clear yet just how bad this climate change will be for us humans. For millennia, we have relied on the "free" environmental services that are going away.  These life-giving services are clean air to breathe, fertile soil, mild temperatures, healthy forests and savannas, healthy rivers, lakes, seas and oceans, sufficient rain, full aquifers, clean drinking water, and ample snowpacks.  When you are in China, in the Middle East, or in Central Valley in California, most or all of these services are either damaged or gone.

Let's fast forward to a recent article under this promising title: Climate report understates threat. This article was written by Dr.…