Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The "Not Authorized Message."

I need to explain something to avoid any misunderstandings.

When I closed my old blog years ago, I deleted it. In doing so ,I lost all the information it contained.

This time around, I want to keep access to that five years worth of blogging so I can refer to it if I want to.

As far as I know, the only way to do that is to limit access to "authors" rather than "public." I'm the only author.

So I'm not still doing the blog and just blocking people out.  Wanted to make that clear least people get the wrong idea.

I'll reset the blog to "public" so people can see this and then in about a month, I'll reset the access to "authors" again.

Sorry for any misunderstandings.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Self Sufficient Mountain Living Blog : July 2013- Sept 2018.

I'm essentially closing down the blog.  Instead of concentrating so much on what goes on off my land, I'm going to focus more on just enjoying life in general and the forest and mountains in particular.

I'll still be coming by to visit blogs I always read in the past.

I won't be doing any posts in the foreseeable future, but I am going to turn comment moderation back on , so people can get in touch with me if need be.  I won't be checking the blog very often though, so if your comment doesn't show up in a timely manner, it's not that it got lost (or at least, probably not) but just hasn't been released.

I can be reached at philipnolan1953@gmail.com.

I hope everybody who has been reading this is doing well, and I've sure enjoyed your comments, reading your blogs if you write them, and getting to know you.


Monday, September 3, 2018

A Short Hiatus. Will return in a bit.

Nothing wrong on this end. Just going to be out of the area for a little while.  Because I won't be moderating comments, I've disabled the comments function.  Otherwise, I'll have a bunch of not so nice comments on there from the people I usually delete. 😈

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Still here. The New Scientist. Catching up on Branco cartoons.

I'm still here, but we have been having a productive "family meeting" and that's been keeping me busy.  The kids head back to Nashville tonight, and I should be back to my normal routine by this coming Saturday.

In 2008, there was a good article in a magazine called "New Scientist."  I wanted to reprint it in the blog I had at the time, but they said I had to be subscriber. It was expensive, about $100 for a year long subscription, and I knew they rarely if ever published anything I was interested in.  Finally, I paid for a subscription. The article was that good.  Every few years, I reprint it here.  I don't know if New Scientist is still around, but this article and the one on a pandemic were well worth reading.

Why the demise of civilization may be inevitable

 Source:   New Scientist
Date:  April 2, 2008
Byline:  Debora MacKenzie

DOOMSDAY.  The end of civilization.  Literature and film abound with tales of plague, famine and wars which ravage the planet, leaving a few survivors scratching out a primitive existence amid the ruins. Every civilization in history has collapsed, after all. Why should ours be any different?

Doomsday scenarios typically feature a knockout blow: a massive asteroid, all-out nuclear war or a catastrophic pandemic (see "Will a pandemic bring down civilization?"). Yet there is another chilling possibility: what if the very nature of civilization means that ours, like all the others, is destined to collapse sooner or later?

A few researchers have been making such claims for years. Disturbingly, recent insights from fields such as complexity theory suggest that they are right. It appears that once a society develops beyond a certain level of complexity it becomes increasingly fragile. Eventually, it reaches a point at which even a relatively minor disturbance can bring everything crashing down.
Some say we have already reached this point, and that it is time to start thinking about how we might manage collapse. Others insist it is not yet too late, and that we can - we must - act now to keep disaster at bay.

Environmental mismanagement

History is not on our side. Think of Sumeria, of ancient Egypt and of the Maya. In his 2005 best-seller Collapse, Jared Diamond of the University of California, Los Angeles, blamed environmental mismanagement for the fall of the Mayan civilization and others, and warned that we might be heading the same way unless we choose to stop destroying our environmental support systems.
Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington DC agrees. He has long argued that governments must pay more attention to vital environmental resources. "It's not about saving the planet. It's about saving civilization," he says.

Others think our problems run deeper. From the moment our ancestors started to settle down and build cities, we have had to find solutions to the problems that success brings. "For the past 10,000 years, problem solving has produced increasing complexity in human societies," says Joseph Tainter, an archaeologist at Utah State University, Logan, and author of the 1988 book The Collapse of Complex Societies.

If crops fail because rain is patchy, build irrigation canals. When they silt up, organize dredging crews. When the bigger crop yields lead to a bigger population, build more canals. When there are too many for ad hoc repairs, install a management bureaucracy, and tax people to pay for it. When they complain, invent tax inspectors and a system to record the sums paid. That much the Sumerians knew.

Diminishing returns

There is, however, a price to be paid. Every extra layer of organization imposes a cost in terms of energy, the common currency of all human efforts, from building canals to educating scribes. And increasing complexity, Tainter realized, produces diminishing returns. The extra food produced by each extra hour of labor - or joule of energy invested per farmed hectare - diminishes as that investment mounts. We see the same thing today in a declining number of patents per dollar invested in research as that research investment mounts. This law of diminishing returns appears everywhere, Tainter says.

To keep growing, societies must keep solving problems as they arise. Yet each problem solved means more complexity. Success generates a larger population, more kinds of specialists, more resources to manage, more information to juggle - and, ultimately, less  bang for your buck.

Eventually, says Tainter, the point is reached when all the energy and resources available to a society are required just to maintain its existing level of complexity. Then when the climate changes or barbarians invade, overstretched institutions break down and civil order collapses. What emerges is a less complex society, which is organised on a smaller scale or has been taken over by another group.
Tainter sees diminishing returns as the underlying reason for the collapse of all ancient civilizations, from the early Chinese dynasties to the Greek city state of Mycenae. These civilizations relied on the solar energy that could be harvested from food, fodder and wood, and from wind. When this had been stretched to its limit, things fell apart.

An ineluctable process

Western industrial civilization has become bigger and more complex than any before it by exploiting new sources of energy, notably coal and oil, but these are limited. There are increasing signs of diminishing returns: the energy required to get each new joule of oil is mounting and although global food production is still increasing, constant innovation is needed to cope with environmental degradation and evolving pests and diseases - the yield boosts per unit of investment in innovation are shrinking. "Since problems are inevitable," Tainter warns, "this process is in part ineluctable."
Is Tainter right? An analysis of complex systems has led Yaneer Bar-Yam, head of the New England Complex Systems Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to the same conclusion that Tainter reached from studying history. Social organizations become steadily more complex as they are required to deal both with environmental problems and with challenges from neighboring societies that are also becoming more complex, Bar-Yam says. This eventually leads to a fundamental shift in the way the society is organized.

"To run a hierarchy, managers cannot be less complex than the system they are managing," Bar-Yam says. As complexity increases, societies add ever more layers of management but, ultimately in a hierarchy, one individual has to try and get their head around the whole thing, and this starts to become impossible. At that point, hierarchies give way to networks in which decision-making is distributed. We are at this point.

This shift to decentralized networks has led to a widespread belief that modern society is more resilient than the old hierarchical systems. "I don't foresee a collapse in society because of increased complexity," says futurologist and industry consultant Ray Hammond. "Our strength is in our highly distributed decision making." This, he says, makes modern western societies more resilient than those like the old Soviet Union, in which decision making was centralized.

Increasing connectedness

Things are not that simple, says Thomas Homer-Dixon, a political scientist at the University of Toronto, Canada, and author of the 2006 book The Upside of Down. "Initially, increasing connectedness and diversity helps: if one village has a crop failure, it can get food from another village that didn't."

As connections increase, though, networked systems become increasingly tightly coupled. This means the impacts of failures can propagate: the more closely those two villages come to depend on each other, the more both will suffer if either has a problem. "Complexity leads to higher vulnerability in some ways," says Bar-Yam. "This is not widely understood."
The reason is that as networks become ever tighter, they start to transmit shocks rather than absorb them. "The intricate networks that tightly connect us together - and move people, materials, information, money and energy - amplify and transmit any shock," says Homer-Dixon. "A financial crisis, a terrorist attack or a disease outbreak has almost instant destabilizing effects, from one side of the world to the other."

For instance, in 2003 large areas of North America and Europe suffered blackouts when apparently insignificant nodes of their respective electricity grids failed. And this year China suffered a similar blackout after heavy snow hit power lines. Tightly coupled networks like these create the potential for propagating failure across many critical industries, says Charles Perrow of Yale University, a leading authority on industrial accidents and disasters.

Credit crunch

Perrow says interconnectedness in the global production system has now reached the point where "a breakdown anywhere increasingly means a breakdown everywhere". This is especially true of the world's financial systems, where the coupling is very tight. "Now we have a debt crisis with the biggest player, the US. The consequences could be enormous."

"A networked society behaves like a multicellular organism," says Bar-Yam, "random damage is like lopping a chunk off a sheep." Whether or not the sheep survives depends on which chunk is lost. And while we are pretty sure which chunks a sheep needs, it isn't clear - it may not even be predictable - which chunks of our densely networked civilization are critical, until it's too late.

"When we do the analysis, almost any part is critical if you lose enough of it," says Bar-Yam. "Now that we can ask questions of such systems in more sophisticated ways, we are discovering that they can be very vulnerable. That means civilization is very vulnerable."

So what can we do? "The key issue is really whether we respond successfully in the face of the new vulnerabilities we have," Bar-Yam says. That means making sure our "global sheep" does not get injured in the first place - something that may be hard to guarantee as the climate shifts and the world's fuel and mineral resources dwindle.

Tightly coupled system

Scientists in other fields are also warning that complex systems are prone to collapse. Similar ideas have emerged from the study of natural cycles in ecosystems, based on the work of ecologist Buzz Holling, now at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Some ecosystems become steadily more complex over time: as a patch of new forest grows and matures, specialist species may replace more generalist species, biomass builds up and the trees, beetles and bacteria form an increasingly rigid and ever more tightly coupled system.

"It becomes an extremely efficient system for remaining constant in the face of the normal range of conditions," says Homer-Dixon. But unusual conditions - an insect outbreak, fire or drought - can trigger dramatic changes as the impact cascades through the system. The end result may be the collapse of the old ecosystem and its replacement by a newer, simpler one.

Globalization is resulting in the same tight coupling and fine-tuning of our systems to a narrow range of conditions, he says. Redundancy is being systematically eliminated as companies maximize profits. Some products are produced by only one factory worldwide. Financially, it makes sense, as mass production maximizes efficiency. Unfortunately, it also minimizes resilience. "We need to be more selective about increasing the connectivity and speed of our critical systems," says Homer-Dixon. "Sometimes the costs outweigh the benefits."

Is there an alternative? Could we heed these warnings and start carefully climbing back down the complexity ladder? Tainter knows of only one civilization that managed to decline but not fall. "After the Byzantine empire lost most of its territory to the Arabs, they simplified their entire society. Cities mostly disappeared, literacy and numeracy declined, their economy became less monetized, and they switched from professional army to peasant militia."

Staving off collapse

Pulling off the same trick will be harder for our more advanced society. Nevertheless, Homer-Dixon thinks we should be taking action now. "First, we need to encourage distributed and decentralized production of vital goods like energy and food," he says. "Second, we need to remember that slack isn't always waste. A manufacturing company with a large inventory may lose some money on warehousing, but it can keep running even if its suppliers are temporarily out of action."

The electricity industry in the US has already started identifying hubs in the grid with no redundancy available and is putting some back in, Homer-Dixon points out. Governments could encourage other sectors to follow suit. The trouble is that in a world of fierce competition, private companies will always increase efficiency unless governments subsidize inefficiency in the public interest.

Homer-Dixon doubts we can stave off collapse completely. He points to what he calls "tectonic" stresses that will shove our rigid, tightly coupled system outside the range of conditions it is becoming ever more finely tuned to. These include population growth, the growing divide between the  world's rich and poor, financial instability, weapons proliferation, disappearing forests and fisheries, and climate change. In imposing new complex solutions we will run into the problem of diminishing returns - just as we are running out of cheap and plentiful energy.

"This is the fundamental challenge humankind faces. We need to allow for the healthy breakdown in natural function in our societies in a way that doesn't produce catastrophic collapse, but instead leads to healthy renewal," Homer-Dixon says. This is what happens in forests, which are a patchy mix of old growth and newer areas created by disease or fire. If the ecosystem in one patch collapses, it is recolonized and renewed by younger forest elsewhere. We must allow partial breakdown here and there, followed by renewal, he says, rather than trying so hard to avert breakdown by increasing complexity that any resulting crisis is actually worse.

Tipping points

Lester Brown thinks we are fast running out of time. "The world can no longer afford to waste a day. We need a Great Mobilization, as we had in wartime," he says. "There has been tremendous progress in just the past few years. For the first time, I am starting to see how an alternative economy might emerge. But it's now a race between tipping points - which will come first, a switch to sustainable technology, or collapse?"

Tainter is not convinced that even new technology will save civilization in the long run. "I sometimes think of this as a 'faith-based' approach to the future," he says. Even a society reinvigorated by cheap new energy sources will eventually face the problem of diminishing returns once more. Innovation itself might be subject to diminishing returns, or perhaps absolute limits.

Studies of the way cities grow by Luis Bettencourt of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico, support this idea. His team's work suggests that an ever-faster rate of innovation is required to keep cities growing and prevent stagnation or collapse, and in the long run this cannot be sustainable.

The stakes are high. Historically, collapse always led to a fall in population. "Today's population levels depend on fossil fuels and industrial agriculture," says Tainter. "Take those away and there would be a reduction in the Earth's population that is too gruesome to think about."

If industrialized civilization does fall, the urban masses - half the world's population - will be most vulnerable. Much of our hard-won knowledge could be lost, too. "The people with the least to lose are subsistence farmers," Bar-Yam observes, and for some who survive, conditions might actually improve. Perhaps the meek really will inherit the Earth.

From New Scientist magazine, 02 April 2008, page 32-35

Branco Cartoons:

Thought for the Day:

Sunday, August 26, 2018

John McCain is dead. Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents, and Survivors book, Concealed Carry .. Someone stole my package at the gate.

Extinctus amabitur idem

John McCain is dead.  It's better for conservatives that he's gone.  He was a good guy when he was younger, but after he lost the election for President to Barack Hussein in 2008,  he soured. When President Trump was elected, McCain went completely mad, and he never forgave President Trump for doing what he had failed to do.  He did a lot of damage in his final years as a Senator, but the brain tumors that killed him were probably effecting his mind at that point.  Unlike the death of Ted Kennedy, which gave me nothing but joy, I feel a little sorry about McCain. He wasn't always an idiot.

That's him on the lower right. As I think most people know, he was shot down over North Vietnam and held captive there for years. No one has ever said his behavior during that period was not exemplary.

So, whereever he is, if he's anywhere, I'm sure he's better off than he was in the last years of his life. And if he's nowhere, then it's no worse than going to sleep at night.

Vicki's Post:

I've been reading this blog for a long time. The author is a down to earth person, an individual who always makes the best of things and continues to march.  This particular post was close to home for me, because now we're dealing with the same issues. I wanted to give people who don't know her blog a chance to read it.

Vicki's Reply to a Comment

link above goes to the post.

Worth Five Dollars:

  You can get a copy of this book, either the Kindle digital version, or the paperback, from Amazon. It only costs $5.00.

A lot of people think that you had to have served in the military during a major conflict to be eligible for VA benefits, but that's not true.

We've been in so many undeclared wars since 1953, that it's entirely possible you are eligible for some benefits and don't even know it.

The VA and the U.S. government in general don't advertise what benefits are out there, or make any attempt at all to let Veterans know if they are eligible. So the burden is on the individual to do the research.

You can also download the PDF file for absolutely free from the web page below.

 Federal Benefits for Veterans, Dependents, and Survivors

                link to a pdf version of the book is above:

Concealed Carry a growing practice in America. I wonder why that might be?

Meanwhile, deep in the forest:

The kids are coming in tonight.  They won't be leaving Nashville until about four this afternoon, and it's a four hour drive.

My wife has been changing the linens in the bedrooms.  I asked her why, because they were just here a month ago. She says you always put fresh linen when people are coming to visit. I pointed out we did that after we left, so why do it again.  Because that's what you do.........

For the first time in 32 years ( we moved here on August 22,1986)  I've had a package stolen from my  gate.

I had a BudK order ,  a number of knives for my storeroom, that was delivered on Friday. But, it wasn't there at the gate when I went to look for it.

Saturday I went to the post office.  When a package is delivered and scanned, their computer captures the data and they can print an air photo showing the exact location the package was delivered. I had expected to find out it was inadvertently delivered to the wrong address, but it wasn't. The air photo showed it was delivered at my gate. Note...I apparently confused some folks here. I don't mean the post office TOOK an air photo of the delivery. I mean their computer has air photos of the entire county. They can print a section of the air photo with a little way mark symbol that shows where the delivery scan was made, and give it to you.

So, someone came down that old county road, which is just dirt, and when they saw the package at the gate, they stole it. Seems like things just get worse up here.  I can't think who would have done that. Most of the "ethnics" don't travel out of town, because they don't have cars. None of the locals would do that, and very few Atlanta people would go out into the woods on that rough road. I don't know if BudK insures the packages, but I will call them on Monday and find out.

The post office people told me this is happening a lot now, and not just to them but to Fedex and UPS. First I had heard of that. They suggested I get a post office box at the P.O. and have my mail delivered there. Seems that people are stealing things out of mailboxes now too.  I don't know if I will do that, as a post office box is expensive and I'd have to drive into town to get my mail.

Thought for the day:

A little music: