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The FeuerThoughts blog offers the meandering thoughts from the brain and fingers of Steven Feuerstein. Me. Let's see...I am known primarily for my writings and trainings on the Oracle PL/SQL language, having written ten books on the topic. I am also involved with the Refuser Solidarity Network (www.refusersolidary.net), which supports the Israeli refuser movement. For even more of me, check out www.stevenfeuerstein.comSteven Feuersteinhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/16619706770920320550noreply@blogger.comBlogger373125
Updated: 17 hours 19 min ago

Eli and the Runaway Diaper now available!

Sun, 2014-09-14 09:12

In 2013, the big sensation in (my) children's publishing was the release of Vivian Vulture and the Cleanup Culture.

In 2014, the honor goes to Eli and the Runaway Diaper.
It's a book about a diaper that gets tired of the day in day out grind of covering Eli's bottom (the names have been changed to protect the innocent). It decides that it's time to look around for a new and hopefully better (more appreciative) bottom.

Eli is initially dismayed, but happy to join the diaper on its quest, so off they go on a grand adventure!

Illustrated by Robert Melegari, it's a fun, light-hearted journey to self-discovery and self-improvement.

You can order it on Amazon,  Createspace, and so on. But if you order it from me, I will sign it and ship it off to you, all for the list price of $12.99.
Categories: Development

Flipping Herman Millers

Mon, 2014-08-25 12:44
I was one of those dot.com boom excitables who decided that he must own a Herman Miller Aeron chair in order to be super cool and incredibly productive while I blogged and tweeted (well, I don't think there was Twitter back then) and so forth.

Soon after I got the chair, I realized that I really didn't like it very much at all. It didn't seem to provide support in the right places, didn't make it easy to avoid slouching....it wasn't the desk chair for me.
[My chair of choice, for years now, is the Swopper.]
Tried to get my son interested. Nope.
Tried to get my wife interested. Nope.
Moved it to the garage. 
Finally decided to offer it up on Craigslist nice and cheap to make it go away. Posted the ad for $200 and within minutes had someone lined up. He lived in St. Louis, but his dad lived nearby, and he told me when picking up the chair:
His son has built up a business "flipping" Aeron chairs. Buy them cheap, buy lots of parts, fix 'em up, and spin 'em back out into the market. 
Who knew?
What a remarkable system is capitalism. Sure, it's not nice. It's not fair. It's played a key role in the destruction of our planet as humans suck out the "natural resources" to make all the stuff that consumers want to buy. 
But capitalism is a very organic way of organizing an economy. 
Oh and this same chair-flipping fellow also does a wholesale business in ugly Christmas sweaters.
Finger on the pulse of a nation.
Categories: Development

July 1, 1858: Co-discovery of Evolution by Natural Selection

Tue, 2014-07-01 11:51
On this day in 1858, members of the Linnaean Society of London listened to the reading of a composite paper, with two authors, announcing the discovery of evolution by natural selection.
One author you've probably heard of: Charles Darwin
The other? Famous in his time, but in the 20th and 21st centuries largely forgotten: Alfred Russel Wallace.
Darwin was a Big Data scientist, spending 20 years after his trip to the Galapagos gathering data from his own experiments and from botanists around the world, to make his theory unassailable. Wallace was a field naturalist, studying species and variation, up close and very personal.
Both ended up in the same place at roughly the same time, driven by the inescapable conclusion from these three facts:
1. More organisms are born than can survive (for their full "normal" lifespan). 2. Like father like son: we inherit characteristics from our parents3. NOT like father like son: each offspring varies in some way from its parents.
So who/what survives to reproduce and pass on its genes? Or rather, who dies and why? You can die purely by accident. You are the biggest, strongest lion. Nothing can beat you. But a tree falls on you. Dead and gone.
Or you can survive because you have an advantage, however slight, that another in your species lacks. Your beak is slightly more narrow and lets you get at all the nuts on the tree. Your legs are slightly longer so you can avoid the tiger. And so on, everything sorting out how to eat, how to survive long enough to reproduce, from bacteria to coral to fish to mammals.
And with each passing generation, the mutations that help you survive get passed along, and so we (humans and everyone, everything) change - sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly. But change we do. 
With this announcement on July 1, 1858, humans now had a way of understanding how the world works without having to fall back on some unknowable god or gods. And we have also been able to build on Wallace's and Darwin's insight to now understand, perhaps too well, how life works on our planet, and how similar we are to so many other species.
Which means - to my way of thinking - that we no longer have any excuses, we humans, for our ongoing devastation and depletion of our world and our co-inhabitants.
In a more rational world, in which humans shared their planet with everything around them, instead of consuming everything in sight, July 1 would be an international day of celebration.
Well, at least I posted a note on my blog! Plus I will go outside later and cut back invasives, to help native trees grow.
How will you celebrate International Evolution Day?
Here are some links to information about evolution, about the way these two men got to the point of announcing their discoveries, and more.
You will read in some of these articles about Wallace being "robbed" of his just fame and recognition; I must tell you that Wallace, in his own words and the way he lived his life, was gracious and generous in spirit. He always saw Darwin as the one who fully elaborated the theory, making its acceptance so instantly widespread across Europe. He did not seem the least bit jealous.
And Wallace was, in many ways, a far more interesting human being than Darwin. I encourage to check out his autobiography, My Life, as a way of being introduced to one of my heroes.
http://www.wired.com/2011/07/0701darwin-wallace-linnaean-society-london/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_selection

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/natural-selection--it-takes-two-darwins-rival-alfred-russel-wallace-recognised-at-last-8458765.html
Categories: Development

A terribly oblivious ultra-rich man

Mon, 2014-06-16 08:48
Steve Ballmer is a terribly oblivious ultra-rich man.

His offer of $2B for the Los Angeles Clippers is so ridiculously outsized and unjustified, plus it so richly rewards Sterling for, um, for saying something in private.

[Interesting to consider how in the US, land of free speech, this nasty brutish fellow is being punished -well he was being punished before Ballmer rewarded him - for his private thoughts. That's pretty awful when you think about it.]
Anyway back to Ballmer. His offer is so absurd that it becomes patently obvious to everyone that he has so much money it's simply no big deal for him to throw $2B on the table to unambiguously cinch the deal. 
The aristocracy in France did quite well, too, until they forgot that they were supposed to pretend at lesat a little bit that everyone else weren't virtually slaves for them. But when they got too flagrant, they paid, oh how they paid.
And here in the 21st century, in what is supposedly and still formally a democracy, with citizens supposedly being equal under the law, you really don't want to draw attention to your beyond obscene wealth.

Bad move, Ballmer. If I were a fellow billionaire, I'd get in touch and tell him to tone it down. 
Categories: Development

The closer you look....

Mon, 2014-06-16 08:45
In the last couple of years, I have shifted my attention away from the human condition (wars here and there, cool new gadgets, etc.) to the non-human condition: the natural world of trees, water, creatures large and small, the process of evolution.

Along the way, I have been reminded that what you pay the most attention to is what your brain spends the most time thinking about (at least the parts of my brain that "I" am "conscious" of). So I need to be careful about what I pay attention to (one reason that I have stopped watching television almost completely). 
And spending ten plus hours a week outdoors, in the woods, cutting back invasives and rescuing trees, has reinforced this to me:
With living things, the more I watch and more closely I watch (and smell and taste), the more amazed I am by the wonders of life. And the more alive I feel,
With manufactured things, it is just the opposite.
The more closely I look at something made by humans, the more sterile, dead and energy-sucking it appears. And the more I watch (or smell or taste), the more deadened I feel.
Perhaps this is not such a big surprise, since everything that humans make is dead, and built upon the deaths of many creatures. Sorry if that sounds like such a downer, but I believe it is simply a statement of fact.
Anyway, no need to feel down. Just go outside, into the trees, into a field, away from things we make, take a deep breath, feel the sun on your face....and you will feel much better.
Categories: Development

Do animals have souls?

Thu, 2014-05-29 08:04
OK, first of all, don't tell me your answer to this question. That would make the rest of this post seem a bit rude.

Here is one of the dumbest questions I can ever imagine a person asking, much less answering:
Do animals have souls?
How utterly ridiculous.
No one knows what a soul is. No one knows what it looks like, what it means, whether or not it really exists.
Furthermore, we certainly have no idea - please allow me to repeat that because I think it is so fundamental to accept this as fact: we have no idea at all - of what is going on inside an animal’s head. Clearly, a whole lot is going on, if you take the time to pay attention to animals and think about what it takes to do what they do. But many of the things humans blithely state as fact regarding animals, such as “They don’t know the difference between right and wrong.” is fundamentally meaningless because we simply cannot know what is going on inside another creature’s mind. We just make the assumption that they are really super different from us in all the ways that matter - to us.
We are intelligent, moral, sentient. We are smart and they are dumb, brute animals. We are conscious, we have history, philosophy, nuclear power. What do animals have? Nothing!
Oh really? How do we know what animals have? Or even what “have” means to a butterfly or a snake or a black bear? Again, we really have no idea whatsoever what animals have, what they want, or how they would feel about killing others just to make themselves comfortable (something that we humans do every second of every day).
So we make the most self-serving assumption imaginable. We simply outright declare that other creatures have no souls, are not sentient. They are food or threat or benign, but they are not like us.
We will continue to reject the evidence of our senses, the clear demonstrations of sentience, of complex social structures, in other animals. That way we don’t have to feel bad about enslaving them and killing them. Think for just a moment about how smart pigs are, and then think about pig farms in which tens of thousands of these poor creatures live short miserable lives - brought into this world for the very purpose of slaughtering them for bacon. And then later a dam bursts and an entire town is swamped with pig feces from the refuse lake at the farm. Go, humans, go!
I sure am glad there wasn’t and isn’t a species of creature on this planet that's three times our size, extremely powerful and licking its lips at the prospect of a nicely smoked human torso. 
We do not know what goes on inside a pig’s head, but it sure seems like they can feel and express terror. 
So, yes, humans will keep on keeping on, keep on consuming, reproducing, and assuming. But that doesn't mean we can’t try to recover a shred, a mere shred, of our individual dignity by at least acknowledging what we are doing, and taking at least one step, no matter how small to help heal our planet and our co-inhabitants.
We can start by acknowledging, accepting, that the thing that we believe makes us unique and special among all living things is simply an unknowable assumption we make. It is an arbitrary, self-serving action - and brings into question the very idea that humans can be considered moral creatures. 
Categories: Development