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Protests against Shell's plan for Arctic drilling have received global attention. From the actions of kayaktivists around Seattle to Shell's annual stockholder meeting, Shell has been receiving a lot of unwanted attention when it comes to the Arctic.

Over this holiday weekend, a protest at Shell's vessel Arctic Challenger made international news when activists climbed the anchor chain and refused to leave. Everyone will be happy to know that the last of the three, Chiara D'Angelo, came down safely this morning after three nights on the anchor chain.

One of the first dairies I ever posted on Daily Kos was titled "Pretty much the dumbest idea ever" and was about the proposed coal export terminal in our area (ship Wyoming and Montana coal to China?!?!?). At the time I didn't know a lot about the idea of offshore drilling the Arctic Ocean, which surely is a contender for the title.

When this much action is being taken to protect our climate and environment, a backlash is totally expected. But what's interesting is the specific type of response - Purity Test Trolling. While that's an annoying form of obfuscation, the fact that this is the main reponse of deniers is revealing. If the Purity Test is all they've got, they've got nothing.

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Activists have chained themselves to the anchor chain of Shell's drilling support ship Arctic Challenger in Bellingham Bay, WA, in a protest to raise awareness of the serious impacts of Shell's proposed oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean.

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Fri May 15, 2015 at 08:00 PM PDT

The Great Symmetry

by James Wells

My science fiction novel The Great Symmetry is now out in the world.

The intro has a brief description of the book, while the main diary has some philosophy and personal observations.

In the year 2304, seven great families of companies dominate commerce through all of known space.  The Seven Sisters compete fiercely for market position, while at the same time working together to maintain the True Story, a set of agreed facts and ideas that create the best environment for mutual prosperity.

When exoarcheologist Evan McElroy makes a discovery about the long-departed Versari race, he thinks he has found some great material to present at upcoming scientific conferences. But his sponsor, the Affirmatix Family of companies realizes that they can make tremendous gains if Evan's findings are kept completely secret. Step one of their plan is to kill Evan and the entire research team.

As Evan flees for his life, his trajectory awakens a long buried struggle. The Infoterrorists, who believe that all information and ideas are screaming to be free, have observed an uneasy truce with the Seven Sisters for decades. In a few places, such as the Untrusted Zone on the planet Kelter Four, the Infoterrorists have been allowed to live in accordance with their heretical beliefs, even while the Pax Commercia has tightened its grip on the rest of civilization.

Suddenly, the truce is over.

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There are no gatekeepers any more. Your opus can be free in the world, its fate determined by merit and your skill and level of effort getting the word out. You can do this.

Just be prepared to do the work required to make a quality book, and have the patience to wait until it is truly ready.

Here are some lessons from my adventure writing The Great Symmetry, a self-published science fiction novel that has already been bought by several dozen friends (and now even by some friends of friends). Perhaps it will do even better than that - we will just see.

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Humans are builders. It sets us apart from the Aardvarks, even if we'll never get in front of them in the encyclopedia. When a problem presents itself, we makes plans to build.

The notion of building as a core human activity is buried so deep in our consciousness, that it's emotionally pleasing to consider. To build is to be doing something constructive.

Constructive. Get it?

And so it may be with the massive challenges presented by global warming and ocean acidification that result from carbon pollution.

Can we build our way out of this one?

And if we try, how will decisions be made about who benefits, and who is harmed, by geoengineering efforts?

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Tue Apr 07, 2015 at 08:38 PM PDT

If Only I Had the Official T Shirt

by James Wells

As we were walking along the shore, we saw a seal coming ashore. It was one of those moments you hope for on a seaside day. There are still wonderful animals like this in the natural world, and every so often you get to see one. We have not destroyed everything quite yet.

The seal came ashore with obvious intention. It wanted to lay on the beach more than any vacationer. To warm up and rest, between bouts of strenuous activity in the ocean.

But as the seal made its way ashore, the frenzy began.
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Our hero needs to save the entire city from fiery destruction, and the only way to accomplish that is to push a trusting friend onto the tracks in front of the oncoming bomb trolley.

Good call?

In the conventional narrative arc of fiction, the answer is a resounding NO. Despicable acts, no matter how noble the avowed motive, are the road to ruin. In fact, a character's willingness to do such a deed is evidence of a moral failing - that person will fully deserve the fate that eventually arrives.

The ultimate despicable act is betrayal of a friend.

Simply committing violence, or even murder, doesn't rise to the same level of plot-line evil as betrayal. Dispatching those identified as enemies can be shown as heroic. Strangers or others - meh (as long as the hero didn't actively plan their demise). But sending a friend directly on to those tracks - can a character commit such an act
and still retain any tattered remnant of heroism?

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Sun Mar 22, 2015 at 11:31 AM PDT

Fending Off the Silent Killer

by James Wells

Just a pair of numbers, but they matter. They tell you that you're mortal, and that it's way past time to pay attention to all the things you know you should be doing to protect your health.

In this case, 150/100, give or take on any given day.

You have to decide, in the complete absence of observable symptoms, to change your life. Just because of some numbers.

And as you do this, you find out a whole lot about health, the food that you get sold, and yourself.

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Sun Mar 15, 2015 at 12:54 PM PDT

Click to Agree

by James Wells

You just clicked "I AGREE" to buy that item online. Quick - what did you just agree to?

Don't know? Doesn't matter - you're bound by the terms.

For illustration, let's look at the most egregious clickwrap term yet found. When you download software from Alchemy Mindworks, you agree to the following:

... if a user fails to register software downloaded through their web pages “a leather-winged demon of the night will tear itself, shrieking blood and fury, from the endless caverns of the nether world, hurl itself into the darkness with a thirst for blood on its slavering fangs and search the very threads of time for the throbbing of your heartbeat."
You may not have yet agreed to terms quite this bad - but who really knows? You didn't actually read any of them, did you?
Dr. Eric Murphy, in his laboratory, conducts research in basic behavioral processes, including classical and operant conditioning, behavioral pharmacology of drug abuse and the physiological psychology of animal learning and behavior.

These days, pretty much everyone will click "I AGREE" for some purchases, and in almost all cases, that causes us no problem. Oddly, that might be the most insidious issue of all.

We are being trained to agree to the terms in order to get the things we want, presaging the day when every purchase will require us to agree to terms we have not read - terms which may grow progressively more egregious over time, creating a net of obligation that could limit our freedom of action and expression far more than any of our country's laws ever have.

More glorious detail is below the orange object which must not be named.

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Sun Mar 08, 2015 at 10:43 AM PDT

Giving The Gift of Numeracy

by James Wells

It's been a couple of months. By now the kids in your life have either broken or become bored with the collection of electronics and other Chinese-made stuff that they wanted for Christmas.

For the rest of this year, what can you give to those kids that really matters? What will actually help their life in the years to come?

Here's an idea - you can help set them on the path to one of the most important life skills they can ever gain: real-world numeracy.

Numeracy is more than the ability to do math. Please follow below the orange algebraic operator for more on what it really is and why it matters so much.

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Wed Mar 04, 2015 at 07:07 PM PST

Glass Beaches

by James Wells

Waste from a dump pours out into the ocean. Debris and pollution enter the natural environment. Add fifty years or more.

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The first duty of any government executive, whether mayor, governor, or president, is to protect those in your care. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Rudi Giuliani failed miserably in this most basic duty.

The Giuliani administration deliberately ignored the safety of workers at the 9-11 site. The toll of those killed and sickened will never be fully known, but it continues to mount.

See this diary by Egberto Willies from earlier this morning, discussing the question of why, oh why, any rational person would ever listen to what this guy says about anything.
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