Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Using fun in order to change behavior for good!

Loved this video.

Notice how people not only walked up the stairs, but many of them added extra steps and even jumped around? How much wonderful exercise did this little experiment add? includes several other examples of making good behavior fun. I'm afraid the pleasure would be so short-lived that the fun would soon disappear. For example, the "deepest bin," designed to encourage people to throw trash where it belongs rather than on the ground:

Or the bottle bank arcade:

However, some other ideas, I think would offer long-lasting rewards. For example, the speed camera lottery:

What are you aware of that you could do that would make something truly good and useful--but less than compelling--to be more fun . . . so people would want to do it?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What does soda do to our bodies?

Dr. Joseph Mercola featured a video on his website Sunday that does a great job of explaining what happens to us when we drink soda pop:

Mercola then offers significant--and significantly useful--additional commentary . . . about soda, about its impact on our bodies, what the various common ingredients are and how they, specifically interact with our bodies, and more.

All of these things together lead him to conclude: "One of the simplest ways to radically improve your health: . . . quit drinking soda." . . . --Or, may I suggest, at least radically reduce your consumption since, as Mercola notes, "One . . . independent, peer-reviewed study published in the British medical journal The Lancet found that . . . for each additional daily serving of sugar-sweetened soft drink consumed during the nearly two-year study, the risk of obesity jumped by 60 percent!"
[S]oda clearly elevates your insulin levels, and elevated insulin levels are the foundation of most chronic disease. Not only does drinking just one soda per day increase your risk of diabetes by 85 percent, it also increases your risk of:

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Gout
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)

--From These 150 Calories Go Straight to Your Bulging Belly - at the Rate of 1 Pound per Week

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Japanese tsunami through the eyes of a Westerner who is living there . . .

One of my Facebook friends posted a link to this video:

. . . which led to a Facebook blog with further perspective on the disaster and more video, like this 1:29 clip from Japanese news:

I'm "just" astonished at the power of water to destroy things! And astonished, too, at how the water flows. As Sarita commented when she first saw the first video: "I thought there would be waves" . . . or a kind of wall of water. But, no, it seems as if there is a one-way river of water with these tsunamis (thinking back to what we saw when the tsunami hit Indonesia and Thailand six years ago).

More about book publishing, libraries, and the future of books . . .

Jamie LaRue graciously replied to my post yesterday and invited me to visit his blog.

If you didn't read his comment, I want to point out what he said about how libraries operate:
[F]irst, we treat commercial eBooks exactly like a paper book. That is, if we bought one copy, only one copy can be checked out at a time. If we buy two, two at a time. Technologically, of course, a file can be shared simultaneously. But libraries follow copyright, and pay for what we use.
That encouraged me greatly. It means there really is a potential for a long-term market in and to and through libraries. As long as they stick to that kind of high integrity model.

He made another comment, too, about my lack of understanding concerning what has happened in the music industry:
[T]he past two years saw a 55% decline of music publisher profits. People go directly to music sites, or iTunes, for individual songs. Musicians make their money performing these days, not selling CDs through publishers. Obviously, that's different from authors, many of whom just want to write, not give speeches. But the lesson is plain: start making it expensive and inconvenient for people to read, and they seek alternative sources for content.
With those comments, and his implicit invitation to visit his blog, I found his latest post: Your right to read is at risk and realized he is onto something big.

In that post, if you put two and two together, you realize that HarperCollins' policy is mild compared to many of its competitors:
Many publishers in the rapidly consolidating world of commercial publishing - among them giants Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster - won't sell eBooks to libraries at all. Why? Because they believe, falsely, that there's an opportunity to greatly boost their profits while reducing the availability of the product. Sell direct to the consumer, bypass the cooperative purchasing power of the library, and eliminate this whole business of people not paying for every single access.

Under this emerging model, the right of ownership disappears. You simply won't be able to own a book anymore. You will have to have the device, the communications plan, and the money to pay per view. It's like replacing home ownership with a rental -- where the owner has the ability to raise the rent whenever he feels like it. It replaces the DVD with an on-demand subscription. It eliminates booksales and heirloom gifts with corporate lockboxes.
And then he goes on to point out the huge role libraries play (or, certainly, have played until very recently) within the total marketing matrix:
All by itself, Douglas County Libraries has 2 million visitors a year, and another 2 million to our website. Almost all of those people are looking for books. We're just about to roll out exciting new ways to display e-Content, and make it more findable. Cut us out of that eco-system, and all you really accomplish is to make it more difficult for readers to find authors, and for authors to find an audience.

As I alluded to last week, the move from LP album to CD was a similar savings for music publishers, and resulted in a similar grab for money. The result? Consumers rejected the whole system, and went direct, eliminating the middle man, and finding new distribution channels.

Public libraries in the 21st century are busy community hubs. Librarians are active and passionate lovers of literature, of music, of movies. We're even crazy about technology. Librarians will remain relevant and engaged in the acquisition, organization, and provision of public access to creative content. We're good at it. We will survive.

Will the big publishers? When they're reluctant to sell to some of their best customers, to the detriment of their own content creators?
As Lorin commented in reply to LaRue's post:
The giant [publisher]s will [soon, very soon!] simply become irrelevant.
They are shooting themselves in the foot by destroying their biggest (free; no; in fact, paying!) marketers.

It's as if the music publishers were to start viewing radio stations as the "enemy": after all, they are playing songs not just "once," nor, even, 26 times (HarperCollins' new limit for how often a single e-book may be checked out of a library), but they are playing songs tens and hundreds of thousands and even millions of times with every broadcast.

But it was that very radio play that made the modern commercial recording industry possible. It was through radio that most of us (of my generation, anyway!) ever learned that certain songs existed . . . so we could fall in love with them, buy them, and make them hits.

Well, finally, there is this, just posted this morning:
[A]t the Douglas County Libraries [for which LaRue is head librarian], over a third of our checkouts are children’s books. It isn’t uncommon to see mothers and a gaggle of giggling preschoolers tumble out the door with as many as 40 books at a time. Often, that's the haul from a visit that happens every week.
It’s hard not to feel good about that. Families that come to the library together not only spend quality time in each other’s company, they also establish a habit of literacy. Students in Douglas County schools tend to do very well academically. Surely part of the explanation is that many Douglas County children are ready to read long before they get to kindergarten. Libraries help make communities smarter.

What about those families who bring their children to the library? Are they really going to have an eBook reader for each child? Are they really willing to buy 40 books a week, 52 weeks a year?

If our goal is literate kids, the library – and its role as a cost-effective distributor of literature, music, and movies - will have a role for a long time.
Amen! It is many years since our kids were of that age when we would make the family trip to the library and check out dozens of books at a time. But LaRue's description is apt. And his logic impeccable. At least from all that I can see.

I think he is convincing me. And I am deeply grieved at the thoughtless path the major publishers are following.

How soon, do you think, before they will begin to see their revenues fall--and they will blame it all on "pirates" and the "digital revolution," but never realize how they have done much of the damage to themselves?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The future of publishing for libraries

Jamie LaRue, the head librarian for our county library system writes a regular column in our local paper. His latest captured Sarita's and my attention:
You own nothing

Publishing company HarperCollins announced Feb. 25 that its already restrictive "license" for library "purchases" of ebooks had become even more onerous. Henceforth, an ebook sold by them to libraries can only be checked out 26 times. Then libraries have to "buy" it again.
To be honest, I saw the newly instated policy and thought, "Makes sense to me." I mean, how often can a regular library book be checked out before it is falling apart and needs to be replaced? Print books don't last forever.

Moreover--and I don't know how this works for libraries--it strikes me that printed books can't be loaned out multiple times at once. Are libraries able to lend their "one" copy of an ebook multiple times at once? If so, that will kill book sales.

But then I read on:
It might be useful to step back and talk about how things work now. Douglas County Libraries now spends more than $3.3 million a year to buy a sample of the intellectual content of our culture. That's books, movies, and music.

For most books, we get close to a 50 percent discount. Why a discount? Because we are volume purchasers. Across the United States, libraries account for about 10 percent of all book sales. For children's books, it's more than 40 percent of sales.

Libraries also have another effect: we help authors find readers. A handful of authors will sell all their copies. But for most writers, the problem is getting passed around often enough to start to make a name for themselves.

Then people are more likely to buy one book, and watch for the next one.

What do we do with the books we buy? We talk them up, for one thing. Then we make them available to the public, regardless of age, income, or education.

Libraries make it possible for everyone, for anyone, to find out what's going on the world.

As I discussed in a previous column, physical books take up space, and library space is limited, so we also have to get rid of a lot of books. That process, called weeding, shoves even more books into people's homes. Books often have a second, third, and fourth life, moving through church and thrift stores at heavily discounted prices.

So is this system of library purchase and resale good for authors? Yes. It increases the likelihood that someone will discover them.

Is that good for society? Absolutely. Literacy is better than illiteracy.

Is it good for libraries? You bet. Literacy is our primary product.

Is it good for publishers? Guaranteed multi-million dollar purchases, year after year, coupled with a free marketing force to grow audiences for their books?

HarperCollins doesn't think so.

Here's how the ebook market is shaping up for libraries.

1. We can't buy an ebook at all. We rent it, and the file doesn't even live on our own servers. It remains in the cloud, usually very poorly integrated into our catalogs. That means that people have to look in multiple places for content, which is less convenient.

2. The library price for ebooks, rather than being half retail cost because we are volume purchasers, is often twice the retail cost. Publishers say, but libraries let lots of people read them! We let lots of people read paper books, too, and you can't tell me that hosting a file is anywhere near as expensive as printing and distributing a physical item. Publishers want a much higher price (a 100 percent increase) for a product that is much cheaper to produce.

3. When a book is no longer popular, libraries can't resell or give away things they don't own. That means no more booksale income for the library, and no more cheap copies of reasonably current ideas for the public.

4. Under the HarperCollins scheme some books may disappear altogether. Each title will have a metered use. Want it again? Well, publishers often take books off the market for a while. And publishers may not survive.

5. Some ebooks, such as those from Amazon, are device-dependent. If you, as a consumer, buy one from Amazon, the license says you can only read it on a Kindle. What happens when your Kindle dies? Well, you either buy another Kindle, if there is one, or start building your library all over again. It's like having to buy another copy of a CD for every player you own. . . .

We need both sides of the story. I can see LaRue's points. But I think there are some things to be said on the publishers' side, too.

Again, I need to know a bit more about the way the licenses work, BUT, it strikes me that, right now, with printed books . . .
  • Books with library bindings don't cost 100% more, but they do regularly cost at least 25% more than "regular" books. (Now, most books that libraries purchase are "regularly" bound. Paperbacks, for instance. But, still.)
  • Most books libraries purchase are checked out only very infrequently. (Therefore, to charge libraries extra, because they are libraries, means they will pay a premium for a whole lot of books that will be used only slightly (if at all) more frequently than their privately-owned peers.) However,
  • Bestsellers may be checked out hundreds of times.
  • To meet the demand of patrons for bestsellers, libraries will purchase multiple copies, sometimes many dozens of copies (depending on the books' popularity). However,
  • Even with multiple copies in a library system, patrons may have to wait weeks or months before a copy is available for their use. --Is there any such limitation on how many "copies" of a single "rented" version of an ebook may be checked out at one time? --Obviously from a technological perspective, there is no reason for a limit. But if a publisher is not permitted to put some kinds of limits in place, they and their authors will destroy a major source of purchase pressure. . . .
I must say that I am deeply disturbed by the concept of rented-only copies of intellectual property being stored solely on servers owned by the publishers. The concerns LaRue raises in his first point are rather scary, to say the least! It is nice to have libraries where long out-of-print books are held deep within their bowels. I have done a fair bit of inter-library borrowing in order to find such ancient volumes.

In a digital-only, publisher-sponsored-only environment, that kind of research may definitely disappear!


LaRue concludes:
The way things are shaping up, publishers will try to make it impossible to own a book. They want to monetize the transmission of ideas, to the detriment of author and reader alike.

It's the same strategy championed by music publishers. And we know how well that worked out.
Actually, no, I don't know how well that turned out.

Your thoughts?

Monday, March 14, 2011

Okay. I'm beginning to repent . . .

Just shy of a month ago, I posted a . . . highly skeptical query about MooLaLa.

They finally began sending coupons a little over a week ago.

I've been astonished at the things they have been offering.

I was out-of-town over the weekend, so I was unable to post here about the offer that came across on Friday. (Sorry. My screen capture software didn't do a great job of keeping the picture clear!):

I was thrilled to see it is still available as of this morning -- until sometime early tomorrow morning. I imagine some of my readers might be interested in this deal (if not others that they have been featuring). Look at this!

Options [from Mixbook] range from a softcover, 6x4-inch mini-landscape book to the hardcover, 11x14-inch coffee-table option, which may come in handy for memories of last year's reunion of twenty-second cousins ($6.99 for the former, $49.99 for the latter). These photo books are printed using bookstore-quality, glossy pages, ideal for archiving. Each book is priced for 20 pages, and more pages may be purchased.
Sounds like a great deal to me!

So no one--or very few of us--will get rich off of MooLaLa. Their offers themselves could be worthwhile.

So far, I've found them to be rather different from what I've been seeing from Groupon.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Conversation overheard . . .

A Sonlight mom who makes herself known as Xzavan posted this story last week. I asked her for permission to reprint it here, which she granted. (Thank you, Xzavan!)
We were driving yesterday [with the kids]. Our SUV is set up so it's [my husband and me] in the front, the two oldest children in the bucket seats in the middle and the two youngest and their car seats in the back. [The youngest] often talk to each other as we are driving along.

4 year old: (grabbing a bag of snacks) Um, these are good. How many calories are in these? (asked in an official, I really need to know, I am going to do something with this information tone of voice).

3 year old: Um, about 14. (In a very authoritative, I know all the answers about this kind of voice).

4 year old: That's not a lot of calories. I can eat it. (Pops one in his mouth). I can eat more calories than you can, because if you eat too many calories, it makes you fat and I am "skinnybones." (His nickname given to him because you can literally count the child's ribs, he is just about 5 and weighs 27 pounds).

Continuing: You can't eat that many calories because you are not as skinny as I am. (said in a typical toddler telling the facts straight out, not mean way. You know, the kind of voice that they say "mom, that person is fat" in the grocery store.)

3 year old: I am not fat.

4 year old: No, you are not fat. But, if you eat too many calories, you get fat. You don't want to get too fat, because then you get sick.

3 year old: I'll just eat a little bit.

4 year old: Ok. You have to bite it and chew it up good. That way, when you swallow, it goes down your "soft gus" and hits your stomach good.

3 year old: (chewing and swallowing with caution) Yeah, cuz in your stomach, it gets all mashed up.

4 year old: Yep, and it mixes up with all the ancids. Ancids make the food go to the blood. you gotta chew it up really tiny, so that it gets into all the right places, and then the blood will take it all over the body, and your body can use it to make you really strong to kick a ball.

3 year old: No it doesn't. It goes to the "ah-testings."

4 year old: Oh, yeah, it goes to the "ah-testings" and the ah-testings squash it all up. They take out all the bad stuff. You gotta get rid of the bad stuff. But, then it goes to the blood. It's gotta go to the blood or else you can't kick the ball good. You'll be too weak.

3 year old: I know (in a tone of voice that conveys she does indeed know all there is to know on the subject).

4 year old: And the blood takes it to the brain, and you get super-smart, but you gotta eat good things because bad things don't make you smart.

3 year old: I'm smart. I can count to 100. One . . .

4 year old: Two . . .

3 year old: Three . . .

. . . and off to about 110, where they get bored and stop.

But our digestion conversation [or "teaching," the basis for these children's conversation that happened last week,] was about 5 months ago.
Ah! Homeschooling! I love it!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Evolution of language . . .

I was reading Exodus 9 this morning. It's part of the story of the plagues in Egypt:
Then the LORD said to Moses, "Stretch out your hand toward heaven, so that there may be hail in all the land of Egypt, on man and beast and every plant of the field, in the land of Egypt." Then Moses stretched out his staff toward heaven, and the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth. And the LORD rained hail upon the land of Egypt. There was hail and fire flashing continually in the midst of the hail, very heavy hail, such as had never been in all the land of Egypt since it became a nation. - (Exodus 9:22-23 ESV)
" . . . [A]nd the LORD sent thunder and hail, and fire ran down to the earth"?!? And the "fire [was] flashing continually in the midst of the hail"?!?


I know one finds references to lightning elsewhere in the Bible. But why not here?

I did a search, on BlueLetterBible, for "lightning." It doesn't appear until Exodus 20. That's the first reference to lightning. In the entire Bible.

Does this have something to do with the development of language?

Strange that an event only a few months or years earlier would be written up with a totally different word ('esh as opposed to lappiyd).

Interesting. (At least, I think it is.)

Monday, March 07, 2011


I have been seeing articles about bedbugs for the last year and a half or so. Last September when our family visited the portion of the family that lives in Virginia, at least one group thought that they had become infested with bedbugs while in the motel where we were staying. That definitely got our attention!

Yesterday I picked up a magazine whose cover story was about bedbugs. Title: Bug Bedlam. I thought it included a bunch of worthwhile information, much of which I had not seen before.

First thing that caught my eye: Denver's bedbug infestation may be one of the worst in the U.S. According to Orkin, Denver is No. 4, behind only Chicago and the Ohio cities of Columbus and Cincinnati. Terminix ranked us "only" No. 6 in the country based on the volume of calls to its offices.


More practical: Telltale signs of an infestation include
  • blood spots on sheets,
  • tiny black dots of fecal matter clustered on the edges of mattresses,
  • piles of translucent skins that the bedbugs shed like snakes,
  • white eggs the size of dust specks, and, of course,
  • bedbugs themselves, which are brownish-red, flat, and about as big as an apple seed.
Nowadays, exterminators get rid of bed bugs by cooking them. "[B]edbugs can't withstand temperatures above 120 degrees. So instead of using chemicals, none of which are 100 percent effective, companies have begun offering to essentially turn bug-ridden apartments into ovens and bake the bedbugs to death."

"It only takes one minute at 122 degrees for a bedbug to die," says Chris Covington, co-owner of BedBug Blasters, a Denver area company that specializes in eradicating the pests.
He says [he and his wife] decided to start BedBug Blasters after realizing that the heaters they use [in one of their other businesses] to dry out flooded structures were the same ones being used to kill bedbugs through heat treatment.

And to make sure all the bugs are obliterated, the BedBug Blasters crew will walk their new bedbug-sniffing dog, Bugsy [!!!!--JAH], through a treated apartment two days later.

Bedbug-sniffing dogs?!?


The National Entomology Scent Detection Canine Academy in Florida trains detection dogs--which are "98 percent accurate at finding live bedbugs, according to a 2008 study by the University of Florida."

A few other factoids to know about bedbugs:
  • Bedbugs survive on blood. They eat blood. Period. Blood of humans, blood of animals, it doesn't matter. But they seem to prefer human blood more.
  • In order to get their meals without you knowing, they inject you with a numbing agent, then go to work.
  • Bedbugs are "not known to transmit disease," so "their biggest downside may be the ick factor" . . . and the major discomfort their bites can cause after the fact.
  • A bedbug can survive for an entire year without a blood meal.
  • "They're . . . quick and efficient reproducers: A female can lay up to 500 eggs in her lifetime. That's why pest-control operators often say that a bedbug infestation is defined as one pregnant female."
  • "Bedbugs are easily spread. Though they can't fly or jump, they're excellent hitchhikers. 'You could sit on a public bus and get bedbugs.'"
  • Though it requires no license (at least not in Colorado) to provide the heat treatment to kill bedbugs, it costs a lot more to kill them via heat than with pesticides.

Oh. Just for the fun of it, maybe you want to read about Bob Hancock, a professor who specializes in bedbugs. His story begins in the third paragraph of p. 5 in the online version of the article.

The article concludes:
"They're amazing insects," Hancock coos. "They cause a lot of problems for a lot of people -- and I don't want them in my bed, necessarily -- but I think they're awesome."

Unfortunately for the bedbug, he may be the only one.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Video of final shuttle launch . . . from 30,000 feet up

Pretty amazing! Shot last Thursday.

And that is the end of an era. . . .

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Does Bernanke trust his own policies? Should we?

I saw this by Sean Hyman of World Currency Watch:
As you know, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Barack Obama now have us on the hook for $14.1 trillion.

That’s a National Debt of $178,413 for every man, woman and child… enough to send every 18-year-old in the WORLD to Harvard University for four years, with nearly $9 trillion left over!

But what most Americans don’t realize is . . .

Ben Bernanke . . . the man who literally controls the United States’ money supply . . . has accumulated $50,000 to $100,000 in Canadian government bonds.

When I first heard of this, I was shocked. But then I thought . . .

Can you honestly blame him?

Under his tenure, the dollar has LOST 16% of its spending power.

So, has Bernanke been quietly abandoning the greenback? That’s what my research indicates.


Gets me thinking more of us really ought to be listening to and supporting Ron Paul in his campaign to audit the Fed . . . and probably place some of our money, too--assuming we have any long-term funds for saving--in other currencies as well . . . or maybe even in precious metals.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Energy self-sufficiency and externalities

This post was inspired by three inputs.

1. A couple of weeks ago--just a week and a half after we returned from southeast Asia--Sarita and I went out to Virginia to visit our daughter and son-in-law and listen to a man who has been pursuing a practical life philosophy of (what I have learned is called) Permaculture.

I actually first heard Mark Shepard back in early December when I attended the Acres USA 2010 Conference in Indianapolis. He advocated an approach to agriculture that resonated with me. Being somewhat of a marketer/editor, I proposed a slight reordering of the four words that captured my attention and offered him an acronym for how he summarizes his philosophy.

He said he tries to follow a policy of STUN: Sheer, Total, Utter Neglect. Once he has planted a perennial tree, shrub or bush, he wants it to survive on its own with minimal or, preferably, no further inputs or involvement on his or anyone else's part . . . except to harvest whatever crop it may produce.

Two months before I attended his lecture, I had mentioned to an apple tree nurseryman that that was my goal and he told me it was impossible. "John," he wrote to me, "farming, especially fruit-farming, requires heavy investment of oneself--commitment to the task and to the lifestyle. In all my years, I have known of only two operations that depended on 'part-time staff' that were successful. Growing fruit [successfully] requires attention throughout the year -- spraying, pruning, mowing, marketing, etc."

And here was Mark telling me how he has sought--at massive personal sacrifice, I might add!--to break that cycle.

I imagine I will say more about Mark, his philosophy, and, most importantly, his practice, in days to come.

What I want to mention here is his pursuit of energy and water independence. He and his wife have been living off-grid for 23-some years--8 years on their homesteads in Alaska, and for the last 15 years on a farm in Wisconsin. Last year, for the first time, in order to meet government requirements for a food processing plant they wanted to build on their farm, they hooked up the food processing plant to the grid. But for their own use, in their home, they work off of solar and wind energy. And, I imagine--though we didn't discuss it--some wood burning as well.

As I say, that was a couple of weeks ago.

2. About four days ago, a friend of ours, knowing of our interest in and movement toward a more "natural," farm-oriented life, gave us a copy of a special Mother Earth News Guide to Country Skills.

Inside, there was a fascinating/disturbing story called "Choosing Renewable Energy" by a couple who determined to make their home in Ontario, Canada, energy self-sufficient.

I was stunned by a couple of the things they said. Especially what he said about a significant mistake they made--he made--when they first started down the path.

"[M]y focus was on generating our own electricity at least partly because I was interested in the technologies," he said.
I resisted advice that the first thing we should do is analyze our electrical consumption, a task I found boring and unrewarding. I wanted to be the builder of an exotic system, not a parsimonious bean-counter with clipboard and calculator. This urge to obsess about electrical generating equipment rather than first changing our energy patterns was a mistake.

I console myself with the knowledge that it is a near-universal trait of home energy newbies. Any solar and wind power dealer will tell you that the first task with new clients is to talk them out of their preconceived and wildly incorrect impressions about living with renewables.

His wife explains:
Conventional energy is ever-present, so easy and relatively cheap as to render it almost invisible. It takes no more effort than flipping a switch, spinning a dial or turning an ignition key. The upshot is that energy use has remained a largely unexamined activity in our everyday lives.
By contrast, when this couple switched to renewable energy, they found themselves
spending a lot of time thinking about energy, which seems to be the way of life for most renewable energy users. We check meters, adjust our tasks to the available energy and negotiate with each other whose task is more worthy of the power.

And then this last item.

3. Last night I began watching A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash.

Early in the film--about five minutes in--one of the interviewees comments,
One barrel of oil, the refined product of which--42 gallons of gasoline--you can buy for a little over $100, will produce as much energy, as much work, as you will get from 12 people working all year for you.
Put another way, by another interviewee:
It would take an average man, performing physical labor for 25,000 hours, to produce the amount of energy that is contained in that one barrel of oil. That barrel of oil, if it is pulled out of the ground in Iraq, can be pulled out of the ground for $1. You invest $1 and you get back 25,000 hours of human labor! That energy source is so dense, it's essentially free energy.
Yeah. That's the way it appears. Except it's clearly not.

There are massive "external costs" or "externalities," as economists like to call them.

Conclusion. The problem with most modern agriculture--and all annual agriculture, according to Mark Shepard--is the externalities. Societies throughout history have consistently ignored them . . . to their own eventual destruction.

Look at all the great civilizations of the past, Shepard urges us. Take a look at the hulks of the great civilizations of Mesopotamia, North Africa, the Mediterranean. You see these remains of massive buildings sitting in the midst of deserts. Perhaps those hulks should serve as warnings to us.

Those buildings used to sit in the midst of the most verdant, fruitful places on earth.

What happened?

The soils became depleted. They became salted. They could no longer support the intensive agriculture that had been placed upon them. Why? Because no one was counting the full costs.

The same is happening today.

And it just struck me: What the couple in the Mother Earth News Guide to Country Skills say makes perfect sense. As a society, we need to begin spending a lot more time thinking about our food and energy. We need to begin "checking our meters," adjust our tasks and eating habits to match the real requirements, the real costs, internal and external, short- and long-term.