Category Archives: News and Events

Nothing is guaranteed and everything is a gift

Take me back, ’cause just before I was spinning

Take me back, just before I got dizzy

Take me back, amazing what a minute can do

Just like you

(Dave Matthews: So Damn Lucky)

We go through life trudging heavy on solid ground until the day the Earth gives way and we find ourselves on a skid of ice, dark water below.  To take one last breath of fresh air…  To see the sun rise again with these eyes…  To tell my family one last time how much I love them…

The spirits of the departed call to us to honor them by celebrating their memory, what’s left of them in time.  We are the ones who living and yet asleep wallow in the grave, unaware of the earth falling around our heads.  Awake, the souls of those we cannot see smile down upon us, the unfortunate inhabitants of these bodies.  Open these old eyes and make them new again.

Moments of intense happiness and absolute sorrow punctuate long monotonous periods of toil and boredom we call living.  But you, you were alive.  Now we live and remember you.   We feel the coolness of the air on our skin, the warmth of the sun on our face, and the love for those we’ve lost alive in our hearts.  Live life today and take nothing for granted.  Nothing is guaranteed and everything is a gift.

Brian Eyles

You'll be missed Brian

Environmental Working Group list of cell phone radiation emissions

Where does your cell phone rank on the Environmental Working Group’s list of cell phone radiation emissions?  Find out, it could save your life.

Some tips from the EWG website:

1. BUY A LOW-RADIATION PHONE

Look up your phone on EWG’s buyer’s guide:www.ewg.org/cellphoneradiation/Get-a-Safer-Phone. (Your phone’s model number may be printed under your battery.) Consider replacing your phone with one that emits the lowest radiation possible and still meets your needs.

2. USE A HEADSET OR SPEAKER

Headsets emit much less radiation than phones. Choose either wired or wireless (experts are split on which version is safer): www.ewg.org/cellphoneradiation/Get-a-Headset. Some wireless headsets emit continuous, low-level radiation, so take yours off your ear when you’re not on a call. Using your phone in speaker mode also reduces radiation to the head.

cellphone earpieces

3. LISTEN MORE, TALK LESS

Your phone emits radiation when you talk or text, but not when you’re receiving messages. Listening more and talking less reduces your exposures.

4. HOLD PHONE AWAY FROM YOUR BODY

Hold the phone away from your torso when you’re talking (with headset or speaker), not against your ear, in a pocket, or on your belt where soft body tissues absorb radiation.

5. CHOOSE TEXTING OVER TALKING

Phones use less power (less radiation) to send text than voice. And unlike when you speak with the phone at your ear, texting keeps radiation away from your head.

cellphone text

6. POOR SIGNAL? STAY OFF THE PHONE

Fewer signal bars on your phone means that it emits more radiation to get the signal to the tower. Make and take calls when your phone has a strong signal.

7. LIMIT CHILDREN’S PHONE USE

Young children’s brains absorb twice the cell phone radiation as an adult’s. EWG joins health agencies in at least 6 countries in recommending limits for children’s phone use, such as for emergency situations only.

8. SKIP THE “RADIATION SHIELD”

Radiation shields such as antenna caps or keypad covers reduce the connection quality and force the phone to transmit at a higher power with higher radiation.

Tied to the tipping point

“When philosophy paints its grey in grey, one form of life has become old, and by means of grey it cannot be rejuvenated, but only known.  The owl of Minerva takes its flight only when the shades of night are gathering.” – (Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, 1821)

In this month’s issue of National Geographic Magazine, the cover story entitled “The Super Trees” by Joel Bourne describes the current trends in Redwood forest management.  With only approximately 5% of the old growth redwood forests remaining and under protection, the challenge is now to bring sustainable forest management back to  2nd or 3rd generation growth forests.

The tale of the redwood forests mirrors the tale of most of human resource management.  In a sad irony of human history, the story of earth’s largest trees is a microcosm of the drama still playing out across the globe.  If the current patterns continue we shall only recognize the error of our ways when, like the redwood forests, only a fraction of the world’s ecosystems remain.  Then, with the shades of night upon us, as a species, perhaps we will understand how to begin to restore in some way the planet we have destroyed.

In terms of the history of the Redwood forests Bourne tells the story of Charles Hurwitz who in 1985 with underwriting from Michael Milken, engineered a hostile takeover of Pacific Lumber.  As Bourne goes on to say:

“With Pacific Lumber, Hurwitz inherited roughly 70 percent of the remaining old redwoods in private hands. In his first meeting with the employees, the dark-suited businessman told them—in a now famous quote—that he believed in the golden rule: “He who has the gold, rules.” Hurwitz then proceeded to break up the company and sell its assets…  Most important for the redwoods, Hurwitz adopted a business model of clear-cutting, doubling—and some years even tripling—the annual amount of timber harvested from the company’s holdings, which eventually reached 210,000 acres.”

The application of this business model based on high yield and short term profit pitted loggers against those outraged by the company’s practices.  According to this model the leveraging of junk debt is used to acquire a company in order to extract every ounce of productivity at the expense of its capital resources.  This model functions to the point where the productive capacity of the company is unable to continue to service the acquiring party’s debt.  At this point the company collapses into bankruptcy, its capital siphoned off and exhausted.  The acquiring party then moves on to another “victim” repeating this process ad nauseam.  It’s not difficult to see how according to this model the incentive to sustain both the business and the resources was absent due to the inherent lack of a vested interest in the stable and long term growth of the company.

In 2008 Pacific Lumber ended up in federal bankruptcy court and is now known as the Humboldt Redwood Company, part of the Mendocino Redwood Company. Bourne’s article goes on to detail the efforts now being made on the part of responsible owners of the 2nd and 3rd generation Redwood forests to create a business model based on sustainable forest management.  This example illustrates classic issues with capitalism.  How can society foster the responsible application of capital to the profit of its owners, while at the same time regulating its use in order to maintain a secure and lasting social order?

Year after year, decade after decade we have continued along a path that the vast majority agrees is leading to systematic collapse.  The reliance on regulation of companies and industries whose products and by-products cause harm to individuals and society’s interests has proven to be counterproductive from a systematic perspective.  To maintain a system which regulates the same broken business model allows very profitable companies to pay symbolic fines and allows politicians to claim defense of the public good.  In the meantime business as usual continues, profits are made, and the capital resources of society as a whole are exhausted further and further.

We can see the same dynamic playing out in the debate on American health care, in the response to the financial crisis, and in the response global warming and mass extinction which is underway across the globe.  The question in each of these cases is do we have the collective will to choose to take preventative measures to at least slow the rate of decline, if not to solve the underlying causes in time to avoid the tipping point?  Or will we again claim ignorance and impotence in the eyes of future generations to the dialectic of history?

In each case entrenched opposition on both sides will vehemently defend their vested interests and fight any change to the current model.  The time however is almost past for us to have the ability to choose to move the old dichotomies.  Very shortly we will be faced with the ruin of both the current financial interests and remaining natural resources themselves.  We have the supposed luxury in economics to stave off systematic financial collapse through our ability to change the rules of the game in order to avoid ruin.  But unlike economic systems, ecological systems are not the products of human invention.  Once ecological degradation reaches the point of crisis we will be unable to stop it, and once that occurs the very foundation upon which our economies are based will collapse.

What is necessary is to reorganize the way we quantify natural resources in terms of economic units to better align our measures of economic value to those ecological significance.  The value or liability of a given resource must be able to be measured and quantified in the market place.  In this way standing forests, marshlands, prairie, etc.. could all have an economic value equal to their ecological value.  The current model of resources being economically null in value until such time as they are “harvested” or utilized and transformed into some derivative product builds into the system the incentive to pillage functioning ecosystems in the quest to create wealth and value.  By fundamentally reorganizing the way in which we quantify a given resource’s value in terms of its carbon impact, its ability to provide clean water and clean air, the economic incentive will be built in to not only preserve, but to restore and manage living biosystems.

It is a foolish assumption on our part today that we consider the basic elements upon which our societies and economies are based as given to us from either God or from Nature.  While quantifying the natural world in terms of economic value will be opposed by both classical economics and by traditional ecology, a synthesis of two zero-sum gain problems to create a win-win solution is at the heart of the issue.  It is a question of universal significance as to whether humanity can finally learn from its past and apply those lessons to the present. Can we as a species reach a synthesis with the planet without having the harsh logic of history force change upon us, or will history’s dialectic again force humanity’s hand into reacting to catastrophe?

Redwoods Owl

Redwoods Owl

Letters from an Islamic Front

Letters from an Islamic Front
The following letters I share with you after almost 12 years and on the 8th anniversary of the 09/11/2001 terrorist attacks.   In late 1997, as a study away student at the American University in Cairo, we found ourselves riding a wave of terrorism which was not to crash upon the shores of New York and Washington for another 4 years.  This is part of the story…
On September 19th, 1997 explosions could be heard in our classrooms near Tahrir square.  From the roof of the university we could see the commotion and the smoke.  As I made my way via taxi from school and through the rotary traffic by the museum, a burnt black and shattered bus was still smoking. A bus load of German tourists had been machine gunned and firebombed just outside the Egyptian Museum moments before.  Back at the dormitories across the bridge in Zamaleck we sat around in various states of shock, disbelief, and panic.  A fellow student came back that evening white as a ghost.  He was at the dorms at the time and had heard of the attack.  As an aspiring journalist he took a taxi to the square and with his camera pushed his way toward the bus.  The way he told it, his voice trembling as he made it to the front of the police barricade he pulled out his school ID and picture which he kept on a chain and shouted Time Magazine, Time Magazine!” and was quickly ushered under the ropes.  He entered the bus to a stench of burnt flesh and corpses of the recently dead before him.  He took photos of the scene however after nights of sleepless nightmares he destroyed the photos and turned down offers of thousands for their purchase.
On November 17th 1997, a week before we were to travel down to the valley of the kings
in Luxor, a group self-proclaimed “The Battalion of Havoc and Destruction” carried out a massacre outside the Hapsetup temple.   Shortly after, I obtained a copy from a fellow student of U.S. embassy translations of two letters left at the scene.  Reading these letters in our dorm rooms shortly after the attack, we wondered out loud what references such as the “regime in the Scaffolds” might mean; Whether the repetition of the certain phrases had some meaning;  whether the mention of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the so called “blind sheikh” had special meaning as he was in prison in New York for the bombing of the World Trade Center on Feb. 26 1993.
We wondered at that time what the these letters could possibly forshaddow.  On the crystal clear morning of September 11th, 2001  I stood watching the second plane hit the World Trade Center from televisions in the John Hancock Towers in Boston from where it was said the plane’s had taken off.  The following letters and my experiences in Egypt four years before flooded immediately back to mind.  Latter, I questioned why if a group of students with so little prior knowledge could see four years ago that there was some terrible attack being planned, why couldn’t the United Stated Intelligence services connect the dots and prevent this.  Little did I know that the same group of Egyptian terrorists had joined a larger network of Al Qaeda in order to make good on their promise to “undermine the economy of every atheistic and profligate regime that has diverted from God’s sound law… destroy its establishments… burn its entity; and… bring down with God’s might its foundation.”
The following is the full transcripts of the two letters with Embassy commentary:
1) Subject:  “The Islamic Group in Egypt” leaflet found at the sight of Luxor terrorist attack.  Egyptian State security sources have given Embassy a copy of a leaflet found at the site of the terrorist attack at the Hatshepsut temple in Luxor November 17 (1997).  According to the leaflet, the “Islamic Group in Egypt” (IG) claims responsibility for the attack.  Mustafa Hamza, mentioned at the beginning of the leaflet is one of the IG leaders living outside Egypt.  Informal Embassy translation of the leaflet follows: Begin text:
“There is no God but God
Mohammed is the prophet of God.
The Islamic Group in Egypt.
The Battalion of Havoc and
Destruction responds to the call and
Submits an apology.
Here we are, Mustafa Hamza.  Here we are at your service s a strong leader of Al-Muja Heddin.  Here we are at your service, and here we are at your service, and here we are at your service.  We, the Muslims in the Egyptian Armed forces have responded to the call and followed your command.  Your command is always obeyed.  Our souls are a sacrifice for this great religion.  We will revenge our brothers who were killed by the regime in the Scaffolds.  We will undermine the economy of every atheistic and profligate regime that has diverted from God’s sound law.  We will destroy its establishments; we will burn its entity; and we will bring down with God’s might its foundation.  (A grave in) the depth of the earth is better for us than its surface, if we live to see our sister’s lying in prisons and our brothers and families in police stations.  We here see our sanctities desecrated, and our honor violated, and disloyal rulers oppressing us.  What life is this?  Yes, death is better for us.  Yes, our patience has run thin.  Yes, our patience has run thin.
We will not let an atheist desecrate our land and spread atrocity and vice.  We had warned all foreigners against coming to Egypt, but they are people who do not listen.  They thought the police would protect them while the police themselves are the one’s who need protection.  We have sworn not to leave this spot of Egyptian territory until we have cleansed it from desecration or until we have met God as martyrs.  We apologize to our leaders for not being able to accomplish the first mission.  We dedicate our happiness with the victory to our great martyr and apprentice engineer Samir Abil Maati who died of despotic torture after being arrested on his way to his battalion at Luxor Airport.  Let everyone know that the revenge for our martyr brothers, foremost of whom is Dr. Yasir Fathy Fawwaz, is not like any revenge, and we will see who is quicker than us in execution.  God is greater, and power be to God.  His prophet, and the Believers.  The Battalion of Havoc and Destruction.”
2) Subject:  Second “Islamic Group in Egypt” Leaflet found at Site of Luxor terrorist Attack.  Embassy obtained a copy of the second leaflet found at the site of the terrorist attack at the Hatshepsut temple in Luxor on November 17 (1997).  Embassy sources said the leaflet was stuffed into one of the corpses at the murder scene.  According to the leaflet, the “Islamic Group in Egypt” warns foreign tourists against visiting Egypt and demands the US and the west to release Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman from detention” Informal Embassy translation of the Leaflet follows:
“In the name of God, The Merciful, The Compassionate The Last Warning The Battalion of Havoc and destruction warns all foreign tourists against coming onto Egypt, and demands the United States and the atheistic west to release Dr. Omar Abdel Rahman, the Imam and reverend preacher of Muslims, from detention, otherwise the consequences will be grave.”

The following letters I share with you after almost 12 years and on the 8th anniversary of the 09/11/2001 terrorist attacks.   In late 1997, as a study away student at the American University in Cairo, we found ourselves riding a wave of terrorism which was not to crash upon the shores of New York and Washington for another 4 years.  This is part of the story…

On September 19th, 1997 explosions could be heard in our classrooms near Tahrir square.  From the roof of the university we could see the commotion and the smoke.  As I made my way via taxi from school and through the rotary traffic by the museum, a burnt black and shattered bus was still smoking. A bus load of German tourists had been machine gunned and firebombed just outside the Egyptian Museum moments before.  Back at the dormitories across the bridge in Zamalek we sat around in various states of shock, disbelief, and panic.  A fellow student came back that evening white as a ghost and described what he had saw.   He was at the dorms at the time and had heard of the attack.  As an aspiring journalist he took a taxi to the square and with his camera pushed his way toward the bus.  The way he told it with his voice trembling,  he made his way to the front of the police barricade and pulled out his school ID and picture which he kept on a chain and shouted “Time Magazine, Time Magazine!” and was quickly ushered past the officers.   He entered  to a stench of burnt flesh emenating from the corpses of the recently dead melted into the seats of the bus before him.  He took photos of the scene, however after nightmares and sleepless nights he destroyed the photos after turning down offers of thousands of dollars for their purchase.

On November 17th 1997, a week before we were to travel down to the valley of the kings in Luxor, a group self-proclaimed “The Battalion of Havoc and Destruction” carried out a massacre outside the Hapshetsut temple.   Shortly after, I obtained a copy from a fellow student of U.S. embassy translations of two letters left at the scene.  Reading these letters in our dorm rooms shortly after the attack, we wondered out loud to each other what references such as the “regime in the Scaffolds” might mean;  Whether the repetition of the certain phrases had some meaning;  Whether the mention of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the so called “blind sheikh” had special meaning as he was in prison in New York for the bombing of the World Trade Center on Feb. 26 1993.

We could not know at that time what the these letters were to forshaddow.  On the crystal clear morning of September 11th, 2001  I stood watching the second plane hit the World Trade Center from televisions in the John Hancock Tower in Boston from where it was said the plane’s had taken off.  The following letters, and my experiences in Egypt four years before flooded back to mind.  Latter I questioned why, if a group of students with so little prior knowledge could see four years ago that there was some terrible attack being planned couldn’t the United Stated Intelligence services connect the dots and prevent this?   Little did I know that the same group of Egyptian terrorists had become part of  a larger network of Al Qaeda in order to make good on their promise to “undermine the economy of every atheistic and profligate regime … destroy its establishments… burn its entity;  and… bring down with God’s might its foundation.”

The following is the full transcripts of the two letters with Embassy commentary:

1) Subject:  “The Islamic Group in Egypt” leaflet found at the sight of Luxor terrorist attack.  Egyptian State security sources have given Embassy a copy of a leaflet found at the site of the terrorist attack at the Hatshepsut temple in Luxor November 17 (1997).  According to the leaflet, the “Islamic Group in Egypt” (IG) claims responsibility for the attack.  Mustafa Hamza, mentioned at the beginning of the leaflet is one of the IG leaders living outside Egypt.  Informal Embassy translation of the leaflet follows: Begin text:

“There is no God but God

Mohammed is the prophet of God.

The Islamic Group in Egypt.

The Battalion of Havoc and

Destruction responds to the call and

Submits an apology.

Here we are, Mustafa Hamza.  Here we are at your service s a strong leader of Al-Muja Heddin.  Here we are at your service, and here we are at your service, and here we are at your service.  We, the Muslims in the Egyptian Armed forces have responded to the call and followed your command.  Your command is always obeyed.  Our souls are a sacrifice for this great religion.  We will revenge our brothers who were killed by the regime in the Scaffolds.  We will undermine the economy of every atheistic and profligate regime that has diverted from God’s sound law.  We will destroy its establishments; we will burn its entity; and we will bring down with God’s might its foundation.  (A grave in) the depth of the earth is better for us than its surface, if we live to see our sister’s lying in prisons and our brothers and families in police stations.  We here see our sanctities desecrated, and our honor violated, and disloyal rulers oppressing us.  What life is this?  Yes, death is better for us.  Yes, our patience has run thin.  Yes, our patience has run thin.

We will not let an atheist desecrate our land and spread atrocity and vice.  We had warned all foreigners against coming to Egypt, but they are people who do not listen.  They thought the police would protect them while the police themselves are the one’s who need protection.  We have sworn not to leave this spot of Egyptian territory until we have cleansed it from desecration or until we have met God as martyrs.  We apologize to our leaders for not being able to accomplish the first mission.  We dedicate our happiness with the victory to our great martyr and apprentice engineer Samir Abil Maati who died of despotic torture after being arrested on his way to his battalion at Luxor Airport.  Let everyone know that the revenge for our martyr brothers, foremost of whom is Dr. Yasir Fathy Fawwaz, is not like any revenge, and we will see who is quicker than us in execution.  God is greater, and power be to God.  His prophet, and the Believers.  The Battalion of Havoc and Destruction.”

2) Subject:  Second “Islamic Group in Egypt” Leaflet found at Site of Luxor terrorist Attack.  Embassy obtained a copy of the second leaflet found at the site of the terrorist attack at the Hatshepsut temple in Luxor on November 17 (1997).  Embassy sources said the leaflet was stuffed into one of the corpses at the murder scene.  According to the leaflet, the “Islamic Group in Egypt” warns foreign tourists against visiting Egypt and demands the US and the west to release Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman from detention” Informal Embassy translation of the Leaflet follows:

“In the name of God, The Merciful, The Compassionate The Last Warning The Battalion of Havoc and destruction warns all foreign tourists against coming onto Egypt, and demands the United States and the atheistic west to release Dr. Omar Abdel Rahman, the Imam and reverend preacher of Muslims, from detention, otherwise the consequences will be grave.”

Omar Abdel-Rahman

Omar Abdel-Rahman

‘Massive’ ancient wall uncovered in Jerusalem

According to CNN.com a 3,700 year old wall made of 4 to 5 ton boulders has been found in the City of David in Jerusalem.  The wall is thought to have been built by the Canaanites as a fortification to connect a fortress on top of a nearby hill to a water source which is still in use today.  The Canaanites controlled the eastern shore of the Mediterranean in the 4th millennium B.C.   At this time even the Egyptians were just forming their first cities.  It would be another thousand years before the Egyptians would construct the great pyramid at Giza.

Did the engineering of great structures originate in Cana’an as fortifications and then evolve into the symbolic form of the pyramid?  As with the pyramids, no-one today could use such large material without modern machinery. How’d they do it?

The wall is built of enormous boulders, confounding archaeologists as to how ancient peoples built it.

The wall is built of enormous boulders, confounding archaeologists as to how ancient peoples built it.


The Human Family Tree

Airing August 30th at 9pm on the National Geographic Channel, “The Human Family Tree” traces the work of Spencer Wells, National Geographic, and IBM’s Genographic Project in piecing together the history of human migration through the study of DNA samples from diverse populations alive today:

“The Genographic Project focuses on the Y chromosome in males, which is handed down intact from father to son, and on mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which a mother passes to her offspring. Over generations, small, harmless mutations accumulate on these two snippets of DNA; to Wells and other scientists these genetic markers constitute a history book. As ancient human populations migrated out of Africa, splitting off from each other and entering new lands, they accumulated different patterns of markers that reflect that history. Each individual today retains such a pattern.”

As the below map illustrates, all humans alive today descended from a population from East Africa a mere 200,000 years ago.  Considering that the Universe is thought to be 14 billion years old, that the Earth itself is approximately 4.5 billion years old, that mammals are 200 million years old, that the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago; 200,00 years is a moment in time in the evolution of the Earth.

The races which some people think are so intrinsic to the diversity of humanity only developed as humans migrated to Europe and Asia 50,000 to 20,000 years ago.  The religions which some people believe are so central to their identity are even younger, simply a few thousand years old at most.  Even the nations and states which we wage war against one another for are just barely a few hundred years old in most cases.

Our lives of a few decades upon this Earth we live in earnest hopes for some permanence to endure.  As said in Ecclesiastes “All is vanity.  What profit has a man of all his labor which he takes under the sun?  One generation passes away, and another generation comes, but the Earth abides forever”

But what of this life, of this human race, of this Earth, and of this Universe?  All our vanities, our emotions, our thoughts, and our memories shall pass in time.  My hope is to keep the daily ups and downs in perspective and to enjoy what time we have and be thankful.

From Africa to Astoria by Way of Everywhere

"From Africa to Astoria by Way of Everywhere"


Welcome to the underworld

In between the belief that the world’s myths are pure imagination on the one hand and literal truths describing an other-worldly existence there is this:

Cave Complex Allegedly Found Under Giza Pyramids

Rossella Lorenzi, Discovery News

Aug. 13, 2009 — An enormous system of caves, chambers and tunnels lies hidden beneath the Pyramids of Giza, according to a British explorer who claims to have found the lost underworld of the pharaohs.

Giza Cave

Giza Cave