Too Much Mowing

🌶️ take (for Iowa/the upper Midwest): If you mow enough to justify having a riding mower you’re mowing too much. Plant wildflowers or prairie grass and find something better to do with your life than maintain ridiculous amounts of unnatural lawn.

I once heard modern lawns called green concrete, and its a mental image that has stuck with me. Grass lawns are mostly lifeless zones with relatively little water absorbing capacity.

This thought could be inspired by going almost anywhere in Iowa in May, (or just by existing in a lot of suburban spaces too), but the thing that specifically made me feel like writing this thought out was this obscene example at an Iowa state park where I stayed overnight this week. Instead of being able to enjoy a a quite beautiful morning in the park and hear birdsong or, god forbid, nothing but the breeze I had the all to common experience of having to hear the drone of a lawnmower. I left the park before he was done, but from 7am to 11:30am this mower was busy doing pretty much nothing worthwhile. The grass wasn’t even long enough to make any noticeable difference.

Now if you have a sharp eye you might notice a clue in the photo that this happens to be a disc golf course as well, so you might think that justifies the mowing a bit. Maybe some, but as a disc golfer I will say, not nearly this amount of clearing is needed, nor desirable, and keeping it extra short like this is of no practical value for facilitating the game. Also worth noting, from being around this park when I was a kid, that this place was always mowed, long before they put the disc golf course in.

State park staff, employed by so called conservation organizations, should know better. The fact that they do not makes me lose hope a little bit, if I am being honest.

The peace ruining noise pollution in what has the opportunity to be a [even better] nature oasis amidst the monocrop desserts of Iowa is not the only downside. Imagine the direct costs of the many many person hours, the many many gallons of gasoline and oil and pesticide and herbicide and fertilizer, even the many worn out mowers from maintaining this space for the past however many decades. This is merely a microcosm of a much more widespread pattern, and yet all by itself is already such a phenomenal waste, and publicly funded one no less!

On the drive home I tried to Imagine when herds of bison and elk roamed the land instead of herds of lawn mowers.

Well, to end on a positive note; It was still a nice trip, and I enjoyed the park in spite of the mowing.


Hope For Some Positive Tipping Points

With climate change we often hear about tipping points in the negative sense; warming causes permafrost to melt releasing massive amounts of c02 and such. Of course not all tipping points are a bad thing, and this article got me thinking about positive tipping points.

The number I saw in there that blew my mind a little was that 40% of ocean shipping is just moving around fossil fuels.

And I thought about as that number comes down, which it must and will as more and more renewables are built out, the economies of scale that kept that amount of transport of fossil fuels cheap enough to justify start to fall apart, and it sort of causes a tipping point where moving oil and coal gets more and more expensive. Also at some threshold of demand reduction you hit a point where it multiplies in impact because not only do you not burn it, but you don’t move it, you don’t refine it, you don’t store it, you don’t go searching for more and build new deep ocean rigs, etc.

Then with rail transport in the US in particular, if all the trains moving coal  – we see a lot of these crossing Iowa, so maybe that skews my perception of how many of those exist – if those are out of the way, does passenger rail suddenly have a new opportunity on those lines? could this function to reduce demand for air, car, and long haul semis and does this becomes a tipping point for demand for the fuels those transport would have used? Given general disdain for trains in the US this is probably overly optimistic, but doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility either.

The article has some great links at the end that are all climate related too. Go read!

A characteristic that natural tipping points like glaciers and permafrost have which economic tipping points do not is they cannot be artificially suspended. On this note it worth pointing out that it seems coal for power generation crossed a tipping point a while ago, but something is not letting it “tip”. Inertia? Political corruption? Lack of awareness? I don’t know. Maybe it is in this report but in any case this blurb in the summary is :exploding_head:.

“99 percent of all U.S. coal plants (209 out of 210) are now more expensive to run than replacement by new local solar, wind, or energy storage.”

Car Dependency is a heavily subsidized by local taxes

Thinking about local taxes and private vehicles. A few points to expand upon

  • Registration fees and gas taxes are far to low
    • The current infrastructure maintenance burden is much to high given the revenue from these sources
    • Registration fees should be based on the burden the vehicle imposes on roads and society, so things like weight, size, utility, efficiency, loudness, etc. As is registration fees are primarily based on age or monetary value of the vehicle
      • the U in SUV supposedly stands for utility but these vehicles often have no more utility than a compact car while being a much larger danger and bigger burden on the environment. They should be heavily taxed. Large emotional support trucks too. They aren’t work trucks and everyone knows it.
  • Sales taxes on vehicles provide perverse incentives
    • New car sales taxes are a big revenue source for municipalities. This creates incentives for cities to enshrine car dependency and to measure local economic health by the sale of the very thing which guarantees to choke cities with traffic, pollution, and the need for subsidized parking
    • Trading an old inefficient behemoth for a newer much more efficient model is disincentivized by the current structure. Trading vehicles merely to get a better fit for current use should be encouraged, but with sales tax the way it is, it may not be worth it monetarily to trade for a economy commuter if your situation has changed and a work truck or minivan is no longer what you need on a regular basis.
    • Casinos and other institutions with known, clear negative affects on society are taxed in such a way that their proliferation is intentionally limited or offset – assuming lack of corruption of course – not so with cars. It is time to end the political favoritism towards car dealerships.
  • Public transit funding should come from private vehicle users until balance between public transit and private transit is achieved
    • Roads are public space that should primarily be for people not cars. If cars are going to displace the public they should foot the bill to enable the public to exist and transit safely again.
    • This would include protected bike lanes & free public transit. Think about it, If cars didn’t exist we wouldn’t need the protected bike lanes, and public transit ridership would be so high fares could be minimal or likely without the need to build and maintain insane amounts of infrastructure solely for cars it could be easily funded by all the state and local property taxes used currently to fund that along with the massively car oriented state DOTs.
    • obviously drivers will object, but one way to market it in a positive light would be to label it as a traffic reduction fee. The car infrastructure isn’t going anywhere in the short term, so essentially paying to move people into public transit or biking is going to reduce congestion which should make driving a fair bit more pleasant.

Pro Domestic Supply of Babies

“We will adopt your baby” signs have been setting me off.

The Handmaids Tale, scenario that people are throwing around as where we are headed is sadly already much more of a reality than a lot of people are aware of or willing to admit. But, don’t worry, not for well off white women.

“The domestic supply of infants” !!!

I was a bit surprised (but not that surprised) that this phrase was in the leaked SCOTUS ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, but I had real trouble believing it was still there in the final ruling. It was just so blatant! I thought they’d have the sense to take that out for sure. Nope!

Now, some people are going to think I am being dramatic. I am not.

Go read the story of Georgia Tann. Then really take a minute to wrestle with the question of how much of modern adoption agencies actually still have a business model based on the same principle. The primary “supply of infants” is poor, disadvantaged, under-educated parents who are encouraged or forced to surrender their children. This is not just domestic, of course, but international adoption has been a well that is drying up, or at least getting harder to tap into. So with adoption agencies, those children enter a system that extracts massive amounts of money from those eager to adopt. And how much of that money helps those kids or the biological parents, or supports the adoptive families. What’s your guess, really?

What about foster care, though? Well, as a former foster parent I have opinions, but suffice it to say that system is its own can of awful plenty of the time.

And why are we pretending even in the best of cases that adoption is some grand happily ever after. Statistically we know that is so far from the truth. Being separated from your bio parents is traumatic loss, inevitably, even if they were terrible, even if you were an infant! And on the other side, I don’t know which would be worse, having your kids taken from you, or having to decide to give up your child. Both have got to be absolutely gutting, even if on some practical levels it is a relief of a burden you can’t bear.

So to all the people saying it is time to step up and adopt, or foster. Well, maybe, but just go into this the with eyes open, and stop pretending this is some salve for this whole mess. It isn’t.

Finally, let me say this. It is rather well known some of the best ways to reduce unnecessary abortions, and to keep kids with their birth parents. It is not exactly easy stuff to execute, but it is pretty obvious stuff to work towards. Things like fighting poverty, improving social safety nets, including food, shelter, health and child care, improving education. Now, if instead of doing those things, you actively fight against those things especially in minority demographics AND you advocate for policies that are meant to help increase “the domestic supply of infants” – WTF I want to scream just typing that – then you are NOT pro-life. You are pro-livestock!

Soldiers Didn’t Sacrifice for Tax-payers

On Memorial Day we are meant to reflect on the sacrifice of soldiers. I have many thoughts, but here’s one that a wider audience might find more palatable.

The soldiers who died probably had many motivations, a diverse list of what ideal or who made their sacrifice worth it to them. Still, I doubt any of them died for “tax payers”! Yet, if you listen to the rhetoric of a lot of modern politicians (right or left) these are the entities of primary concern. Not citizens, not children, wives, and mothers, not the elderly, the disabled, the downtrodden, just “tax-payers”.

This country has some lofty ideals of being for all of us, at least in writing, and I am pretty sure those types of ideals and the types of people who don’t really fit into under the label of “tax-payer” are what most of those soldiers thought they were fighting for, so maybe we should be way less okay with politicians who diminish their sacrifice by reducing who this country is for down to “tax-payers”.

Social Media Musings

“Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result — my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.” – Wynn Bruce

A couple days ago this man set himself on fire in front of the Supreme Court building. Initially there was very little anything about it in the mainstream media, and what did exist failed to emphasize – if they even mentioned – this was an act of climate activism.

In the movie “Don’t Look Up” I feel one aspect they got pretty right was the role of major media outlets. The movie didn’t really get into the ‘why’ of it as that is a much harder question, but i felt they had their finger on the what/how anyway. So what is the why? Frankly I am not sure, if I had to guess it is something like complicitness mixed with a bizarre apathy on top of a either a profound ignorance of the moral role of journalism in society or a deep corruption stemming from their late stage capitalist dependent business model .

I think a lot of us sense this, even if we wouldn’t articulate it in those sorts of terms, and social media, and platforms like YouTube and podcasts etc have filled a gap for a lot of people to at least supplement the information we get from the world. To let us bypass the largely corporate controlled channels and sort of democratically decide what we feel is important or worth knowing about. But, these forums and platforms haven’t proven especially robust to abuse, corruption, misinformation, or inappropriate censorship either.

Another billionaire moving to take over one of the better – i wouldn’t say great – platforms that in effect function as a public forum doesn’t bode well in my mind. Twitter limited political adds, and showed willingness to ban notable people – to little to late thought it may have been – so they have taken better steps than many others, but Musk most likely would be aiming to undo a lot of that.

So, now what, back to Facebook? Was OrangeMan right, will his shit social network be vindicated?

Well, at least for me, no.

Rather, I have been putting more energy back into things like this blog. Microblogging has its place, but plain ol blogs are good too and IMO have been getting neglected in favor of things like twitter threads more than they should have, I for one plan to re-curate my RSS feed reader, and do a bit more reading there.

I have been finding sources, journalists, channels, and platforms that are worth supporting financially and pitching in towards their funding via Patreon and OpenCollective

I am sharing what I am doing with you, dear reader. I guess that is something.

For social media itself there are very promising alternatives. Decentralized/federated options exist and are viable, but mostly under utilized. NextCloud, Mastodon, PeerTube, Element/Matrix, and so on. Ironically one of the most concise cases for Mastodon was made on the ol bird app very recently.

Similarly to this blog, this isn’t something all new to me I have had a Mastodon account for years now, and have played around with Element, and Nextcloud too, but now is certainly as good a time as any to renew my push in a good direction. Find me over on Mastodon via

Loop pedal power

Decided I want to learn to use a looper pedal with my guitar more. I have a simple one built in to my multi effects pedal already, but it is pretty limited, and it also forgets anything I record as soon as I turn it off.

A little research online seemed to indicate the Donner Circle Looper was a good option and I was able to get a good deal on one on Mercari which has become one of my go to markets in my quest to avoid Amazon, but that is another topic…

Problem was it doesn’t come with a power adapter, and I don’t have a pedal board already setup with power supply, so I needed one. I have saved a small collection of wall warts (a term for power adapter blocks that I thought was more common) but I didn’t seem to have one that would fit, or so I thought at first.

Apparently a good portion of foot pedals have a negative center pin, but all the ones I could find had a positive center. Asked a friend if he had any and he suggested just flipping the connection. And of course that would work! Not sure why I hadn’t thought of that.

Said friend has a good workbench setup for electronics stuff and lives just few minutes away, so I took my part over and we did the minor surgery and everything worked!

Yay for friends, repurposing stuff, and fun music equipment!

Quick notes on the foot pedal itself: it’s pretty good. Worth what I paid for it for sure. The drum loops are much better than the ones I have on my multi effects pedal, and there are a lot of them! The dual input and outputs work well. While it’s a nice feature to have distinct instrument outputs I do wish I could put the drum loop out one and my own recorded loops out the other, as it is drums always go out both channels. Being able to have many saved loops is awesome. Only being able to actively play one at a time is limiting. You can overdub on given any slot and even undo overdubs, but only one slot can be looped at a time, so complex layers and compositions aren’t as easy of an option as I was expecting

The double edged sword of economic censorship

This got some traction on social media and I had thoughts sort of all over the place…

“You are required by western propaganda to treat these as fundamentally different. Indeed, huge numbers of people in the West denounce the former while applauding the latter.”

Glenn Greenwald

It’s an important point to contemplate for sure. The power to restrict the freedom to do economic transactions is a big deal, as that freedom underpins so many others, but to imply all such exercises of that power are fundamentally equivalent is also a mistake. The motivation matters a lot, and to sort of imply that government should never use this tool is – well, beside being unrealistic – may leave governments and society notably susceptible to the tyranny of the few, or especially the tyranny of the wealthy.

This twitter thread articulates a similar line of reasoning re the Canada situation, but I think makes a similar conclusion as Glenn that these actions in the headlines are fundamentally the same. I think the thread makes a lot of good points but I also think it gets a bit myopic

Then there is the Ukraine situation and sanctions. The whole SWIFT thing, and how Russians may be tempted to end around that with cryptocurrencies… My prediction is that when the Russians aren’t meaningfully able to avoid sanctions with crypto that may open a lot of (willfully blind) eyes. We’ll see I guess.

@Dhh had a take that was I think was similarly — not great …

So economic censorship is definitely a double edged sword. Maintaining the availability of cash as a means of economic transaction is an important check on that. Crypto *might* also fill that rile someday, but not in most of its current permutations that I know of mostly because most crypto currencies don’t actually meet the criteria of money

If you want to nerd out on money and a with a lot of debunking of bad modern mythology around it this blog/newsletter is really good, and has a nice intro post

Vote Dilution

In 1912 Iowa had 11 Districts, and 11 US Representatives in the US Legislature
Plus 2 Senators makes an electoral collage vote count of 13 with a population of ~2.25 million1.

In 2022 Iowa will have 4 Districts, and 4 Reps. An electoral college vote count of 6. And a population of ~3.2 million2.

Do you see the problem?! Just by population growth within Iowa itself your voting power as an Iowan to elect your congressional representatives has been reduced by between 1/3 and 1/2. AND because the rest of the country has grown more than Iowa our representatives voting power within congress has ALSO been reduced by about 2/3. AND because where we live has also shifted “urban” voters influence have diminished even more4!

The power of your vote is diminishing, even more-so if you live in a city! None of this is the fault of minorities, or women voting, it is a result of our representative democracy not adjusting to a growing population a shifting demographic! 435 members in the “peoples house” is way to small! Especially in large states with not so large populations, such as Iowa. It leaves us with districts that are way to large. Overly large districts are very susceptible to favoring rural citizens over urban citizens, gerrymandering, and the influence of big money donors3. and it shifts the compromising balance the electoral college was intended to serve into a tool for minority rule.

Voter suppression is a really real thing, and there should absolutely be federal rules to combat that very undemocratic activity at the state levels, but voter dilution is also very undemocratic, and isn’t being talked about enough. If we can’t get a vote on voter suppression issues – the voting rights act that should have been a top priority for democrats early in Biden’s, but tenure is effectively dead at this point I think – we should at least raise awareness that increasing the size of the house is pretty damn important.

  1. in 1912 only maybe ~750,000 were eligible to vote. Women’s suffrage happened in 1920, and higher percentage of kids back then – population has shifted older since advent of antibiotics etc. If we just assume as many women would have voted as men we could have a voter turnout of double that of the actual number 492,356. so roughly 1 million
  2. of whom maybe 2.5 million are eligible to vote – I had trouble finding this number… and in 2020 less than 1.7 million actually voted
  3. you need a lot more money and time to campaign to so many people spread out in a large district. travel costs go up, obviously, but it also tends to force a reliance on mass media ads
  4. in 1910 census ~30% of Iowa was “urban”. In 2010 it was 64% and probably up a bit more in 2020. The classification of Iowa as a rural state is, both true and misleading.
  5. The senate was meant to be a check on more dense/less agricultural/urban states overriding the less dense/more agricultural/rural states, NOT CONGRESS! and even senate wasn’t intended to favor rural population states as with such a severe distortion as it does today. The founders did not anticipate a few REALLY large states in the west. The size of the senate has grown by less than 4x since while the population grew by almost 100x.