GreenasSky A gambol in the goodies by Sloan Nota

Amazing Grace

map, US legal gay marriage

This Map Shows How Gay Marriage Spread Across the US. via


My mother’s family was actively American.  Example: a few of us kept an Underground Railroad safe house for escaping slaves in the Civil War. I say a few because my then-teenaged great-grandmother helped her father hide escapees in the barn while her mother stayed in the house and refused. Heritage is tricky. This is a skimpy list, suffice it to say that red, white and blue ran in my veins.

I grew older, along came Vietnam, Watergate, and my criminalization for using a substance no worse than alcohol or cigarettes — both of these legal and subsidized by the nation of my birth.

(To clarify, never caught but well imprinted with the zeitgeist paranoia.)

For years the red-white-blue in my veins alternated with a murky low-chroma mix.  George W. wrote the book on murk.  But my mother was alive  long enough to see Obama win.  My gratitude for that happenstance beats strong to this day.


my great-grandmother

The alert and wry visage of my great-grandmother

Yesterday I caught up with Obama’s Charleston eulogy.  Although my mother was agnostic, her favorite song  was Amazing Grace.  President Obama’s eulogy was a speech for the ages, nuanced and blunt — it would have filled her, as it did me, with Yes. As recent days have done, a growing wave of  national open-heartedness pushes back against the haters.

Gay marriage rights.  Like most Americans I didn’t get there at first, but the more LGBT people came out, damn there they were. Funny, fickle, politically committed, shy and retiring, smart, dirt stupid — they were remarkably human like me.  Why should I get excited about which portions of skin they chose for intimacy?  That smeary veil fell from my eyes like like pond scum flushed with spring water.  I deeply love my friends and some of them are LGBT.  (Big hugs of glee to you, my a-little-bit-different friends.)

The New York Times has quickly posted these articles: As Left Wins Culture Battles, G.O.P. Gains Opportunity to Pivot for 2016 and Next Fight for Gay Rights: Bias in Jobs and Housing.  Is this news or is churning up readers?  Wait a decent interval, a respectful interval, and give human hearts space to celebrate.

Yet the NYT also carried this:

 "Gay is not enough anymore"

John Waters, “Gay is not enough anymore”. via New York Times.

John Waters, the film director and patron saint of the American marginal, warned graduates to heed the shift in a recent commencement speech at the Rhode Island School of Design. “Refuse to isolate yourself. Separatism is for losers,” he said, adding, “Gay is not enough anymore.”


If Waters were to talk about the Confederate flag he might likewise point out, “The Confederacy is not enough anymore.”  The Civil War is so yesterday.  This is the 21st century and Americans — yea, all global humanity — face huge challenges.  We need all brains on deck, we need to focus on Now.  “Refuse to isolate yourself. Separatism is for losers.”

And the Charlestown terrorist attack has maybe opened a door to gun sense.  Oh please, my country, let the majority rule.  Most of us don’t need semi-automatic guns in our grocery stores.  Or carried around in children’s parks.  Or paraded through zoos full of animals with sense enough to play down their weapons until they face a threat.

And wonderfully, Pope Francis — that strong and big-hearted man — released his Climate Change Encyclical also in this month of June, 2015.  Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound.


Categories history, words, literature | 2 Comments

Stone Tools & New Tools

The first stone tools were made by animals 1.1 million years before those animals evolved to be early humans.  They could well have looked like this reconstruction of an Australopithecus.  Distinctly not human but a possible author of clever stone implements.

Australopithicuc afarensis via Wikipedia

Australopithicuc afarensis via Wikipedia

The Lake Turkana story is that archaeologists in Kenya took a wrong turn and ended up somewhere they’d never been.  Among them was local goatherd and fossil hunter Sammy Lokorodi. He spotted the first stone tool.  A man who had lived with local rocks and had a feel for their native forms.  The accompanying archaeologists then set up a properly marked and measured dig.  An effective partnership of skills.

Regarding this newly discovered 3.3 million year old archaeological site the journal Nature writes:

Human evolutionary scholars have long supposed that the earliest stone tools were made by the genus Homo… New fieldwork in West Turkana, Kenya, has identified evidence of much earlier hominin technological behaviour. …a developing understanding of stone’s fracture properties, combined core reduction with battering activities…

pre-human tool making.    via BBC news

pre-human tool making. via BBC news

We don’t yet know enough about early hominid culture. Did they build? Did they speak?  The well-posted signs of “this trait is human” drop away like dry leaves. What are we? What can we claim?

Well, we built Rome.  We didn’t invent tool use — but we designed and engineered Rome.  The essence of humans hides there in that gap.

From another direction we share 98% of our genes with modern chimpanzees.  Another gap, and the same one: between nearly human and true human.   We are so close to chimps, but.

Only 2% of our genes diverge.  But one lalapalooza of a 2%.


Think, an elephant grabs a tree branch to knock down fruit higher up and is rewarded with a treat.  It neither examines nor keeps the branch which only needed to be long-enough and sturdy-enough, once.  The tree made the branch.  Our Lake Turkana hominids however taught themselves which type of rock made a good cutting edge, which made a good hammer.  They shaped and kept the stones with clear uses in mind.  This is the difference between tool use and tool making.  A sea change.

It’s hard for us moderns to grasp how slowly technological innovation trickled at first.  Here are 2.6 million years of progress:

2.6 million years of stone tool evolution

2.6 million years of stone tool evolution. Above: Oldowan chopper, Acheulian hand axe. Below: Clovis point, Bolen Projectile Point. via The Evolution of Stone Tools &

Human evolutionary scholars have long supposed that the earliest stone tools were made by the genus Homo… New fieldwork in West Turkana, Kenya, has identified evidence of much earlier hominin technological behaviour. …a developing understanding of stone’s fracture properties, combined core reduction with battering activities…     via 3.3-million-year-old stone tools from Lomekwi 3, West Turkana, Kenya.  Nature521,310–315

At the same time the brain is evolving too.  Cognitive abilities increase.  These newer animals have to learn how to use the new reach of their developing brains and the growing dexterity of their hands. The concept of toolmaking was itself a necessary breakthrough.

The Lake Turkana finds were reported in the May 21, 2015 edition of the journal Nature — less than 2 months before this writing.  Among the reports in that same issue:

  • Vortices and robobees.
  • Squeezed ions in two places at once.
  • Magnetic alloys break the rules.
  • The crystallography of correlated disorder.

And Nature reports new science every week.

Humans built Rome because they could formulate ever more complex problems. At the rate of discovery we’re now accustomed to, can you picture what 2.6 million years more of snowballing knowledge would lead to?  We can no more imagine that far out than the being who crafted the Acheulian hand axe above could have foreseen animatronics singing “Yankee Doodle” at Disneyland today.


Earlier posts that may be of interest:

Categories history, specific Pinterest boards, technology | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

The Cure for Greed

The international Human Genome Project took less than 20 years from first funding proposal to its announced completion. Now the United States and the European Union are each hoping to map the human brain — as I understand it a la Google Maps, satellite view down through neighborhood shots, which cars in which driveways, who needs a new roof.  Humanity is learning to quest together with breathtaking chutzpah.

But who decides what to quest after? Scientists. Nation-leading politicians. Fellow citizens, I’m putting my two cents in here. Bigger, brasher, more seismic than the above.

How about an international initiative to understand and neutralize greed in the human race? Why study poverty when we could be studying the cause? We’ve got enough to provide every planetary human a comfortable lifestyle. Just not Lamborghinis all around.

Sebastião Salgado - Gold Mine

Sebastião Salgado – Gold Mine, Serra Pelada, Brazil,1986. via arivercalledtime.

  • The actual Sebastao Salgado photo above stretches far to both sides, a sea of toil.
  • Men living like slaves are laden with gold ore — to gold-leaf a faraway statehouse dome.
  • How high those ladders reach, filled ceaselessly with brutalized men.

This is what greed looks like.  We’re moving in on robots and artificial intelligence and it never occurs to us to tackle this?  At least to make an effort, try.  The united will of nations focused on solving greed.

Imagine what the Kochs’ would spend to kill that. Eisenhower’s Military-Industrial Complex: how much cash would flow to stop humanity from locating a cure for greed?  If we all had access to the same amounts who would the Kochs’ be? How would they stack up in our esteem?

There is a thing (or was) in the US called a Grand Challenge in science and technology. Among the topics deemed worthy: Computational fluid dynamics for the design of hypersonic aircraft, efficient automobile bodies, and extremely quiet submarines.  Plasma dynamics for fusion energy technology and for safe and efficient military technology.

Or how about an initiative to understand and neutralize hate?  We don’t have to hate each other.  Except it seems we do.  There was a time in Sweden when, on a designated day, everyone switched to driving in the right lane.  Sure, fenders got bent but it was a leap Swedes took together.  A jump into the anti-intuitive, the weird, when out-dated muscle memories had to rewire and what was obvious changed.


This is a reposting of my recent blogpost Greed.  Hoping the new title gains the topic a wider audience.  My apologies for any confusions.

Categories history, technology, the Future | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

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Sloan Nota, Green as Sky blog top

Sloan Nota, Green as Sky blog top

Green as Sky blog by Sloan Nota


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