27 February 2006

Beautiful imagery of decay


via Brett Tribble and mefi

26 February 2006

Country Music poh-try

A poor girl wants to marry,
and a rich girl wants to flirt.
A rich boy goes to college,
and a poor boy goes to work.

-- Charlie Daniels band, from "A long-haired country boy"

24 February 2006

VW Advertising

Volkswagen has sure done a lot of great ads over the years.

And now they have more: http://www.leftlanenews.com/2006/02/22/vw-strikes-again-un-pimp-my-ride-videos/

19 February 2006

Snow On Tam

Our hiking group decided to head up Mt. Tam today to try and catch some snow... we were successful beyond our wildest expectations! Here's a sample, catch them all at http://www.flutterby.com/archives/photo.cgi?id=elph0158.

13 February 2006

sf haiku

everyone is
easily spiritual
sunrise ocean beach

05 February 2006

Ants and Turn-of-the-Century Thinking

This morning I was reading Kwaidan by Lafcadio Hearn. I saw the movie version of Kwaidan a few years ago, and have also seen a lot of references to Hearn as one of the first interpreters of Japanese culture in English. It's definitely a neat collection of Japanese ghost stories.

However, the last essay in the book is about Ants, and sheds light both on Hearns' wide erudition and on the thought processes of turn-of-the-century thinkers. In addition to being a journalist and writer on Japanese culture, Hearn was very current in the scientific ideas of his day. In particular, in this essay he expands on some theories by Spencer to the effect that ants represents a more evolved form of social evolution than humans, because the sexual function of workers and warriors is cut off in gestation. Spencer believed this is what enabled them to function selflessly for the good of the colony without concern for their own reproductive ends.

Spencer believed humanity was, over time, evolving more and more sophisticated social mechanisms, and saw ant social organization as a kind of prototype of this. Thus Hearn says, "... it should not appear improbable that a more highly evolved humanity would cheerfully sacrifice a large proportion of its sex-life for the common weal, particularly in view of certain advantages to be gained."

What I thought fascinating about these passages is how they showed that even widely educated, open-minded men of the turn of the century had no ability to dissociate sex and reproduction. They clearly saw that an ever-increasing human population presented a tremendous, and in the limit insurmountable, challenge. Since they saw reproduction as an unavoidable consequence of sex, they were forced to contemplate re-engineering the race as the way out of the challenge.

Growing up as I have in the era when the Pill was known and condoms were cheap, I've always seen that there are ways to achieve "certain advantages" (i.e., not growing the population) without the wholesale abandonment of a sex life Hearn and Spencer were suggesting. These widely-read individuals were able to think about re-engineering humanity in the womb -- but not to imagine that sex and reproduction would be separable choices.

Yet, the change Hearn and Spencer were seeing as desirable -- zero population growth -- has been achieved in the first world, and in our children's lifetime will almost certainly be achieved globally. And perhaps even more surprisingly, as with ants, much of it has been accomplished by physiological manipulation implemented via diet -- the Pill. Maybe ants were more of a prototype than we care to think.