Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pesticide Drift in the Central Valley, CA

Read this excellent article from the recent Orion magazine on environmental justice issues associated with pesticide drift in the Central Valley of California.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pun Pun Teaser Video

My friend Lisa is the producer of this totally sick online documentary show called - tngnt ("tangent"). She filmed a bunch at Pun Pun last winter and is making a show about the farm and all the cool stuff that goes on there.

Check out the teaser/preview she's posted on tngnt while the full-length program is in the works.

Super cool!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Super interesting article from Atlantic Monthly on the effect the internet has on our thinking processes.

I can say from personal experience that access to internet has a dramatic influence on the way I do research and thereby affects my intellectual habits. My mud hut in Thailand is a 2.5 hr bike ride to the nearest reliable, fast internet connection in Chiang Mai. So I typically save up all my internet work for weekly or fortnightly "power sessions" in my favorite internet cafe just inside the walls of the Old City.

In my hut on the farm, I write emails into Word docs which I later will cut and paste into gmail. I read all my downloaded articles in pdf, taking notes and making a list of references from these articles to chase down next time I'm hooked into the 'net.

As I cycle in to Chiang Mai, I have plenty of time to casually mull over my internet to-do list. I get into town, treat myself to a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, and then power-up on the 'net for several hours, sending emails I've written, saving incoming emails to answer later, and gathering the journal articles specified in my literature review.

In a day where most people in the West are more highly ensconced in "connectivity" than ever before - reading and answering emails on cell phones and blackberries, "texting" friends and co-workers back-and-forth at a frenetic pace, tapping wireless signals at home, in workplaces, in cafes, libraries, pubs and airports - my lack of connectivity, or rather the "inconvenience" I endure in obtaining web access actually presents some distinct advantages.

For example, my 'net "power sessions" are super efficient. That is to say, I spend basically no time farting around surfing the web, reading random articles, blogs and wikipedia pages, perusing You Tube videos, streaming news reports, looking up odd facts about Voltaire, etc. When I have unlimited access - "total connectivity" - I tend to waste a lot of time on junk like that. It's mildly entertaining, perhaps a little bit informative, but really not at all productive. With a time-and-web-access-restricted power session, I am on-task for the duration and so my productivity is through the roof compared to the average US office worker.

Also, if I have unlimited web access I am free to fire off email responses - often better classified as "reactions" - at will. Downloading my mail in order to read and respond later - over a period of a few days or a couple of weeks when I can take my time - engenders me to produce much more thoughtful and considerate responses. Thus the lack of connectivity permits a clarity in thought and communication that doesn't have time to arise during the instantaneous first-reaction period when I've just read an incoming email.

After more time and consideration, I write better emails - emails that respond to the actual intent of the sender and not the often erroneous first impressions - and I write emails that address all necessary topics - thus I don't have to send multiple follow up emails mentioning all the things I forgot in the first instant, appending an overlooked attachment, etc.

So I agree - unlimited web access, or the ability to plug our brains directly into the "information superhighway" over a high-speed connection any time of day or night, from a desktop, laptop, phone, PDA, or any other Blue Tooth enabled device, has its drawbacks. While the lack of "connectivity" of my adobe hut on the farm in rural northern Thailand may have its occasional drawbacks, on balance the benefits of time and space for contemplation and clarity of thought, as well as the very non-frenetic psychic environment, far outweigh the downsides. So maybe Google is making me stupid at a slightly slower rate than your average super-connected techo-geek.

Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency

Bush Tours America To Survey Damage Caused By His Disastrous Presidency