Questions and Rants
"I have always looked upon decay as being just as wonderful and rich an expression of life as growth." - Henry Miller
I consider myself an amateur scholar. Prior to getting involved in business systems, I bounced through a series of liberal arts majors and minors - Russian and East European Studies, History, Asian Studies, and Anthropology, finally timing out and getting the BA in Anthropology/Asian Studies.
Up until this point, I have mostly been an observer and consumer of others'' insights. My proclivities are more secretarial and librarian than originating. Many of my interests are associated with questions of work.
I have been on the fringes of geekdom since high school in the late 1970s and early 1980s. My father was an electrical engineer, and so we had various cool gadgets near the bleeding edge around the house (such as the IBM-PC that was purchased in 1981). High school friends had TRS-80s, another friend from high school was one of the last to learn programming languages in a punch-card environment. Most of them are still in the geek world, though I constantly struggle to maintain my position anywhere near that fringe. I am very interested in issues of craftsmanship, collectivism and gift economies, the growth of outsourcing, and societal collapse in virtual worlds. I spent a few years deeply involved in text-based virtual worlds. Where do old geeks go should they choose to "die" online? I am also interested in the evolution of project management and how software gets developed as a social activity. Certainly the open source movement is of interest, but I am even more interested in why large projects that were successfully done in the 1950s and 1960s seem to fail so often today? For instance attempts to update the air traffic control system (after $2.6 billion spent between 1981 and 1994 Advanced Automation System cancelled) and the IRS (1997 Tax modernization effort cancelled after $4 billion spent).
I have been on the fringes of the online activism movement, working intensely for a few years in the motherhood movement. I remain interested in how societies recognize some activities as "work" and others as "hobbies". Our society seems to consider the raising of children more of a hobby than legitimate work... as the authors of Glass Ceilings & 100 Hour Couples noted - we treat the question of raising children and caring for aging or sick family members as synonymous with having pets. What is work? And what is behind our insistence that care is not work? As the online video Mother The Job demonstrates, "the job of making a home for a child and developing his or her capabilities is often thought of as ''doing nothing''". Private cost. Public gain. Judith Stadtman Tucker did a wonderful summary of this in her article The care conundrum. My own career trajectory has reflected this, with my current strategy of maximizing the earning potential of part time work by patching together self-created entrepreneurial service businesses in bodywork and geek assistance.
I have been on the fringes of the peak oil community, permaculture and green politics. I am very interested in the question of "collapse of empires", and wonder if in some respects the successor societies are more humane for their citizens than the apparently deeply stratified high empire societies that collapsed. My viewpoint is rather nebulous and questioning about this, rather than fixed. I am very curious about what seemed to be good progress towards solutions to environmental and resource problems in the 1970s which stopped abruptly in the 1980s and then reversed. Why did the communes and back to the land movement seem to stop? Is the urban homesteading movement today a resurgence of that? What''s really going on? I am interested in the evolution of household technology and was for many years peripherally involved in a living history group called the Society for Creative Anachronism. I am not convinced that manual skills remain permanently obsolete - sometimes they become useful again depending on the fortunes of the greater society. I am interested in the strains of creative disruption and obsolescence on brittle societies, and the concept of cost accounting, taxation and economic indicators as part of the software "code" underlying modern "developed" societies. What kind of damage are we doing and have we done by writing our "code" to make labor seem expensive (in the midst of surplus) and resources seem cheap or free (in the midst of growing scarcity). How long will it take for reality to successfully burst through this alternative story?
My own experience with watching family members interact with our medical-industrial system, and having been underfoot during my mother's career as a nurse and then a hospital administrator in the 1980's, has fueled an interest in health care alternatives. I wrote my undergraduate honor's thesis on how doctors would react to medical expert systems. My mother's ultimately unsuccessful struggle against ALS (Lou Gehrig''s disease) was part of the inspiration behind my work today as a massage therapist. I am very interested in village healers and if there can be anything to learn from the experiments of cooperation between traditional healers and western medicine in some corners of the "developing" world, in order to improve our unsustainably expensive and inhumane "health care" system in the US. People interacting with this system are encouraged to approach from a position of profound disempowerment. People in this culture often do not take ownership for their own health, but seem to want to be able to acquire it from some party on the outside, as if health were a commodity. The systems people work within pressure people into this. Work is not structured to allow people the time to prepare nutritious food, or to exercise sufficiently. As Charles Leadbeater writes in WeThink, perhaps a bit harshly, "The hospital-based health system with its heavy fixed costs for buildings and professional staff, is being clogged up by people with conditions that need to be prevented, managed and treated at home or in the community. Our hospital systems will become unclogged and health will improve in the long run only if patients become participants, producers of their own health, looking after themselves more effectively and relying on doctors less". Beyond my professional involvement with musculoskeletal pain disorders, I am interested in issues of hormone disruption and cancer. The explosion of cancer in our society seems to have lessons beyond unhealthy lifestyles and environmental degradation. Other things we struggle with, such as car culture and sprawl, look uncomfortably cancer-like. Is empire itself better understood viewed through the lens of cancer? Or is our understanding of that disease and our approach to "fighting" it what it is because we live in a late empire society?
I have been on the fringes of the development of alternative religions such as neopaganism since the early 1980s. With the intersection of my interest in things medieval and renaissance, I got led into the history of Tarot and early 20th century alternative reality engineering societies (such as the Golden Dawn). I have had two articles published in actual deadtree books, as well as having written quite a number of reviews and webpages online.
These days, my spirituality is relatively formless, and found outside of books or rituals. My bodywork is my spirituality. As Gina Loree' Marks writes, "Choosing this profession has the potential to give you much more than a job. Much more than a career. It becomes, as the Buddha talks about, Right Livelihood: a trade that not only refrains from hurting other living things, but one in which you are dedicated to their healing and well-being. You develop a sense of compassion and empathy for the suffering of others. You become aware of your own suffering and find a path by which to heal it so you can be of greater service, and regain your own sense of wholeness."
During my adult life so far, I have not been able to fully indulge my impulse toward mobility and nomadism. Perhaps this is something that will need to wait until retirement. Ten years of living full-time in an RV and touring the US from one corner to another did my parents quite well. I got a start towards motorcycle tourism before parenthood temporarily short-circuited it. In the meantime, much of my travel has been armchair, though I do have part of my heart in Japan and other parts in Arizona and Florida.
I have had a personal page on the web since about 1994. As my interests wax and wane, I have left little pages behind, debris of my shifting dilettantism. Most of the links you could click on from this page lead to pages decorated in the style of late-1990''s web design, the last time I focused on my personal website. Perhaps I will someday fix those up.