Off the Keyboard of RE
Published on the Doomstead Diner on August 31, 2012
A Diner Archive Article
Discuss this article around the Kitchen Sink of the Diner
Today I am 55 Years Old.
There will be no Birthday Party for me, no Presents anymore. Only my Mom still sent me Birthday Cards in these last years, but she passed into the Great Beyond last year. I don’t have any children to remember my Birthday. Now each year just is marked by the August 31st Date which comes and goes, and I reflect on my Life in the Age of Oil during these days.
55 seems more Significant than most of the recent ones since the Big 5-0. Mostly because of that Numerical Duplication of Numbers I suppose, a little like 666. Also though because it pretty much represents 1/2 Century of Sentience here where I really was aware of the world around me. I’ll write another one of these articles if I make it to 66 years, 6 Months, 6 weeks, 6 days, 6 Hours, 6 Minutes and 6 seconds old, if the Internet is still up and running and I am still walking the earth at that time and not entombed at GITMO being Waterboarded. LOL.
I do remember a few snippets of things from when I was 3-4 years old, I remember crashing my Tricycle into the back wall of the below ground Garage in our Brownstone in Hell’s Kitchen, riding down the ramp with No Brakes on a Tricycle. I remember getting locked in to my Parent’s Bedroom when I tried to “fix” the door lock putting hardware in to an open slot not connected to anything. I remember being enamored of Bozo the Clown in Cartoons on TV, but when mom got tickets to the Bozo the Clown TV Show and I met the Human Bozo greeting kids on the line to get into the Studio, I was scared to death of him and started crying and Mom hadda take me home. $15 Tickets in 1960s money, 6 month Advance Ticket Purchase, pretty big deal there.
I don’t remember how I learned to read during this time, though I know I did because I was reading before my first day in Kindergarten. I think it was from Picture Books my mom bought and my sister read to me at first, not sure though. Still I was not reading anything of greater import than “Run, Spot, Run” at the time. LOL.
The real WAKE UP CALL in Sentience though came for me on November 22, 1963. Recognize the date? That was of course the day JFK was Gunned down in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald and who knows who else. The WORLD STOPPED that day, they brough a Radio into the classroom, and everyone was Mourning. When I got home from school, the Images were all over the B&W TV Set we had, with poor little John-John Kennedy standing bravely by Widow-Garbed Jacqueline Bouvier aka “Jackie” Kennedy later Jackie Onassis. I identified with John-John, he was just about precisely my age at the time of course. I was actually 6 by then not 5, so the 55 identification of my Wake Up Call to reality exactly 1/2 Century later isn’t precise here. Close enough though.
We were by then living in Brasil of course, not the FSofA, as I covered in Pump Up the Volume a little while back. Brasil was essentially a Paradise for me, I learned Portuguese quickly because that is the age your linguistic brain is most flexible, and I quickly was translating for my Mom who never really learned it. We lived a block off of Ipanema Beach, and I loved to body surf and became a very strong swimmer. We had memberships to Private Clubs that the Banking, Military and State Department class ran and had access to; my best friend Timmy was son of the Ambassador to Brasil. One of the Clubs had a full set of Diving Boards and Platforms right up to a full 10 meter platform I decided I hadda jump off of, I guess I was 7 by then. My Mom let me do it, but ONLY if I would wear a Life Preserver Vest before jumping. About the stupidest thing you can do really. Why?
Well, soon as you hit the water, the bouyancy of the life preserver is pushing UP, whicle Gravity and Acceleration are taking you DOWN. If you make the sad mistake of having your Tongue between your teeth when this happens, BLAM you chomp down on your tongue and in my case pratically bite it off. BLOOD EVERYWHERE! Think a scene from Jaws. Tongue hanging by a thread (fortunately I had a pretty large Gap between my two Front Teeth at the time), gotta get it sewed back in. I remember that one pretty well. LOL. On the good side, mom never made me wear a Life Preserver again after that, and I got pretty good at diving off the Platform before we left Brasil.
Anyhow, I messed around with a lot of sports during this time, Futbol (soccer) with the Favela Boys as well as the Swimming and Diving, great fun all around there. I was however already an incipient Nerd and Voracious Reader. I consumed the entire Hardy Boys, Tom Swift and Nancy Drew Series of books during these years, along with reading my Dad’s Subscription Magazines of Popular Mechanics, Pop Science and Scientific American. My sister was 7 years older than me, and I started looking at her Math Textbooks and doing the problems in them. I got very good at Science and Math concepts during this period. All seemed quite entertaining to me at the time. It had some unfortunate consequences though after we returned to the FSofA.
Shortly after enrolling in the 4th Grade and enrolling in a Public Skule in the NY Shity Schools system, I took my first Standardized IOWA Test. OOPS I got EVERYTHING right on the test. LOL. This is not supposed to happen, the tests are designed so that the typical student of the Grade Level being tested should only get half the questions correct, and if you get more than around 70% of them correct, the test isn’t valid really. According to the test, I was reading at College Level and the Math was off the scale of the test. So they let me have a go at the SAT in the 4th Grade. As I recall I scored an 1100, pretty good for HS students. So, I was IDENTIFIED. Then began the NIGHTMARE of 3 years of Lab Rat experiments and endless Testing with the Shrinks as an “Intellectually Gifted Child” aka IGC. Every Saturday for 3 years. It did not end until I finally said NO MORE when I was around 13 or so. I had it by then.
Anyhow, this still got me into Stuyvesant HS, the magnet school for Science and Math prodigies being run by the NY Shity school system of the era. There I hung out with other first class nerds like Eric Lander and Francis Barany, while at the SAME time doing the Pirate Radio thing with my friend Randy from Brasil, and twice a year flying to Oz to hang with Dad the Pigman as part of the Divorce agreement. It was needless to say a very confusing time for me overall.
Applying to College when I was 15, I had very poor advice all around, I should have followed a close friend of mine and gone for the 6 year Bio-Med program being run by the City University of NY at that time. Cheap subsidized education and you came out with an M.D. at the end of it. I was advised though to make all my Aps to Ivy League Skules. Nobody was taking into account my Dad wasn’t going to finance the Education. I got a 1600 on my SATs this go round and was pretty much a shoe in everywhere. Of the 5 College Aps I filled out, the only one which was not Ivy league was to the Air Force Academy. I thought being a Jet Pilot or Astronaut would be REALLY COOL. Plus, a Freeby Education there on the taxpayer dime. The other 4 apps were to Harvard, Yale, Columbia and MIT. (MIT isn’t precisely Ivy League, but it is in the same Elite University clique).
The only REJECTION I got was from the Air Force Academy, and it wasn’t because I wasn’t academically or physically qualified, I was a couple of standard deviations above the mean in both areas at the time. The reason was because at the time of enrollment for my first class, I would still have been 16, and 17 was the Minimum to enroll in the Military Academies at that time.
This pissed me off, so I wrote a letter to the admissions commitee after receiving my rejection letter lambasting them for taking less qualified applicants just because they were going to be at least 17 and I wasn’t (only by a MONTH or so also!). It was some pretty good Napalm. 😀 LOL.
About a week later I got a phone call from the PENTAGON! LOL. The letter had somehow made its way from the Air Force Academy admissions commitee over to Headquarters, and some General had been given the task of making a decision on whether to Wave the 17 Rule or not. What I got from him in this Phone Call was that he had gone over it with the Military Lawyers, and there just was no way they could do this short of an Act of Congress, so he suggested I take the year off and reapply the following year. I probably should have taken that suggestion also for some other reasons I will discuss in another RE History post, but it will make this article even more rambling then it already is.
After that followed my years at Columbia, one of those Ivory Tower Ivy league institutions where the various members of the Ruling Class get “educated”. Columbia was the cheapest for me to go to since I could live at home and Commute via Subway, which I did for the first year until I was earning enough in Work Study to afford the Dorms, and after that a shared Apartment over Barney Cannon’s Bar on 108th Street with two other Wild & Crazy dudes. I went with what I was good at, Science and Math and floated around between the Physics, Chem, Bio and Math departments, settling mostly into the Basement of Havermeyer Hall in my Freshman Year as an “Elf”, my first Work-Study job. See, by this time my Dad the Pigman and I were no longer on Speaking Terms, and even though relatively speaking an Ivy League education was not as expensive as it is now, I still was pretty short of cash to pay for it. I had a couple of Scholarships, National Merit Scholarship from the PSAT, a Spelling Bee Scholarship I won early on as a 6th Grader and a Scholarship from the National Branch of the Unitarian Church, which I was dedicated into as an Infant. I was the top Graduating Unitarian Student of that class in the FSofA. All together though, these Scholarships only covered about 1/2 of the Tuition, then there was still the Room & Board and Books. I took out some Federally Insured College Loans to make up the difference, and Columbia guaranteed me some kind of Work-Study job. They did not issue Academic Scholarships themselves.
The Basement of Havermeyer Hall was a fun place for Nerds, we all hung out there together and had Blackboard contests and messed around with every chemical known to man, you could order up anything really as an Elf. The Elf “Job” was to mix up Standard Solutions of various reagents used to teach Freshman Chem and Organic Chem, but nobody ever checked what you put on the Order List. By my second year once I got into Orgo (my best subject), I got into synthesizing LSD not from Ergot as is the most common sysnthesis but from Psylocibin I was growing over in the Bio Lab. 🙂 I also blew up my lab station and nearly got fired for that one. I was nitrating Toluene in what I thought was a “safe” manner, but it wasn’t quite like I pieced it out on paper. Even a small amount of Tri-Nitro Toluene (TNT) is pretty damaging when it goes off unfortunately. Fortunately on the other hand, the Head of the Lab Elfs at the time Miles was pretty sympathetic and he just gave me a stern warning at that time. I escaped with only a few minor lacerations from the flying glassware. LOL. I did not get my job there renewed the following year though. I got moved over to doing research on Radioimmunoassays at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, as I guess they figured I would be LESS dangerous working with Radioactive material than Organic Explosives. LOL. On the plus side, this paid better than Elf Work.
Thus went the Early Years of RE’s Life in the Age of Oil, A Certified Brainiac by the Shrinks getting Educated along the way pretty well in Math and the Sciences, but only marginally well in History and the Social Science,s though at Columbia we were forced at the time to take a 2-year long course of Liberal Arts Core Curriculum called “Contemporary Civilizations” and “Humanities”. In CC, you got to read all the Great Philosophers, starting out with Plato and his Wall Shadows and moving forward in History basically from there, with the focus mainly on 16th-19th Century Western philosophers like Machiavelli, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Adam Smith, Karl Marx etc. In said course you did not get anything of Eastern Philosophy, if you were interested in that stuff you had to take elective courses in the Asian Studies department. You weren’t FORCED to take it, and if like me your courseload was maxed out with all the basic science courses and math courses, you just didn’t have time for that. You DEFINITELY got no education in ANY department about Native American culture, Polynesian Culture or Oz Aboriginal Culture, although I at least got some grasp of Paleolithic life since I took a couple of Anthropology courses in my Junior and Senior years. Even so, these courses never really addressed the Philosophy of such cultures, just their means of survival. As I recall now, my Freshman Year courseload looked like this:
Contemporary Civilizations I&II- 4 Credits
Calculus III-IV (I did AP Calc in HS so skipped Calc I-II in Freshman year) – 3 credits
Inorganic Chem I & II – 3 Credits
Chem Lab- 1 Credit (for an ungodly number of hours spent in the lab)
Physics with Calculus version-3 Credits
Biology 1&2- 3 Credits
Spanish 1&2 (foreign language requirement)-3 Credits
20 Credits! Normal courseload is around 15-18 Credits for full time Semester based University education. Sophomore year was basically the same, with Hum subbing for CC, Differential and Partial Differential Equations subbing for Calc, Orgo for Chem, Biochem and Cell Biology for Bio and Comp Sci (FORTRAN and BASIC programming) for Physics.So I really didn’t have time to study much else, at least in terms of “official” study anyhow. My Illuminati Spawn Girlfriend of the time was a Polyglot Languages major who read Greek and Latin, so I got some post-coital information from her. Notwithstanding that additional education, I left college with a brain chock full of science and math knowledge, but really only a smattering of knowledge or understanding about the progress of human history. Certainly gained no understanding of the role of Money in society or how it is created either. Although I didn’t take Economics in College, I know also the students in that department learned nothing of this either. In fact, it was a source of great Entertainment for the Geeks in the Basement of Havermeyer Hall to make fun of the Economics department students and mess with their Bogus Math. In an Economics math argument, anytime something doesn’t work right you add a Fudge Factor. LOL. So we would smoke some dope, drink some 95% Ethanol diluted with OJ or Jolt-Cola (all the Sugar and TWICE the Caffeine!), and then hit the blackboard creating new Economics “proofs” loaded with a variety of Fudge Factors like MsubR (Mistake Rate) and NsubC (Nonsense Constant). LOL. This is HILARIOUS stuff to do for a math nerd when you are smoking dope and shit-faced drunk! Sadly I think some of those weed inspired drunken “proofs” actually made it BACK to the Economics department and got used years later on Wall Street. LOL.
It wasn’t until after college when I went out to work on Wall Street as a Risk Analyst that I began to get some grasp of this stuff, but not even much there really because I was basically being used as a Human Computer to crunch a lot of numbers on a few dozen companies at any given time and make some projections for their MsubR and NsubC. LOL. Which I think I did pretty well, considering at the time we didn’t even have basic Spreadsheet Programs like Lotus (the predecessor to Excel which the Big Gorilla ripped off) to work with, I hadda do it all on reams of Graph Paper using an early Scientific Calculator from Hewlett-Packard. The IT departments of the time were filled with Mainframe Computers from IBM and NCR programmed with Punch Cards, and they were basically just big data storage mediums and tallying systems for the bazillion Transactions done each day by the TBTF Banks. The Market itself was still running old fashioned Tickers and most of the trading was done physically on the floor of the NYSE. HFT Trading Algorithms were still years away at this time.
Regardless of what sort of numbers I came up with though, it was about 50-50 as to whether what I suggested was a “Good Risk” would be invested in and what I saw as a “Bad Risk” was not invested in. I discovered the whole game was POLITICAL, and that the Pump & Dump scheme was pursued on a regular basis. There was HUGE amounts of Collusion here, at any Lunch in one of the local Wall Street area overpriced restaurants the upper level managers of 3 or 4 different Investment Banks would all be at the same table passing around information all the time. Over a half dozen or so Martinis or 50 year old Glenfidditch Single Malt Scotch Whisky, everyone would leave the table and then all together proceed to drop $Millions$ in afternoon trading while still Six Sheets to the Wind on some of the dumbest and most risky ivestments you could dream possible. Anyone who believes there has been a “Free Market” EVER is completely NUTS, Deluded, or someone who has benefitted from perpetuating this MYTH. It did not exist in the late 70s early 80s when I was on Wall Street, and I can assure you it did not exist in the 50s and 60s when my Dad the Pigman was making Bad Loans to South American countries either. You can be quite sure it did not exist when Thomas Edison and Henry Ford set up their Electric Grid and Carz Production Lines, and it sure as HELL did not exist when the Robber Barrons were laying Railroad track across the FSofA in the 1800s on the backs of Slave Laborers from China and Ireland. All of this has been manipulated over time to the benefit of the folks at the top running the show here. “Free Market Capitalism” is complete MYTHOLOGY, it never existed at any time in any place.
Anyhow, I got sick of all this shit after a couple of years and dropped out of it, thus the reason I lived the rest of my life as a generally Middle Class Working Man sorta guy instead of becoming one of the Masters of the Universe. I just wasn’t cut out for that; I particularly hated wearing a Suit and Tie also. LOL.
At the same time, even though I learned quickly enough how CORRUPT the whole game was, I still did not reflect on how the money came to be CREATED in the first place, or the collusion between Goobermint and the TBTF banks in directing how the money in society flowed out and who had access to it. This understanding did not come until many years later, when in the aftermath of the failure of Bear Stearns I started reading up on all the information I had missed out on getting a typical “good education” in the Age of Oil.
In fact, if you go back to that time period, unless you absolutely LIVED at the New York Public Library Main Branch or haunted the Stacks of Low Library at Columbia, it was probably pretty close to impossible to find out about any of this stuff. The advent of the Internet is what has made it possible for MANY people now to have caught up on it, and there are more all the time of course. The fact the system is collapsing on itself motivates ever more people to understand the whys and wherefores, so now in 2012 it is not uncommon at all to run into MANY websites where the Commentariat all discusses the “Empire” and where Da Fed is roundly criticized as a vehicle for the Rich to stay Rich (and in fact get richer) while the Poor get Poorer. EVERYBODY KNOWS!
Here on my 55th Birthday, EVERYBODY KNOWS. Well, not really, only the “Everybodies” who haunt all these Blogs and Forums where such things are discussed on a Daily Basis, which represents a remarkably SMALL percentage of the population even in developed countries where practically everybody now has an Apple I-Phone with a 24/7 connection to the internet. MOST of the people in these countries spend their Internet Time either Tweeting each other moaning about their impending Divorce or Shopping on Ebay or Surfing the Net for Pornography, they do NOT participate on Websites analysing the collapse of Industrial Civilization. In 3rd world countries where most people have a hard time just working up $2/day to feed themselves and their kids, they definitely have little understanding of how all this came to pass, they just know they are Hurting and they gotta get RID of whoever the Local Leader is that they perceive as being at Fault for the problems they have.
My great HOPE for the Internet was that it could be a place where the Everybodies who DO know what is going on here could get together and begin to reach a consensus and DO something about it. In my early years of participation on the PeakOil.com Forum I was very hyped on this idea, until sadly of course I got BANNED from Peak Oil for not following the general Group Think of that website. Undeterred, I jumped around through several other Collapse based Forums, most notably Market Ticker run by Karl Denninger and then The Burning Platform run by Jim Quinn. Again after a while I got BANNED from both those Forums.
Still unflagging in my HOPES, I holed up on the Yahoo Groups in my Reverse Engineering Yahoo Group, where I collected a few other Misfits from a few other websites, and we pleasantly for the most part analyzed Industrial Civilization Collapse. Wasn’t reaching many people of course, since I kept the Group PRIVATE/Members ONLY. Still, we sorta reached a consensus there, and then eventually due to some CENSORSHIP issues Incoming from Yahoo Bots, my good friend Peter the Tech Wizard who set up the Diner here suggested we get ourselves off of Yahoo and head back out into the great wide Internet World of Collapse Blogging to present our ideas on how to cope with these problems, and hopefully, Save As Many As You Can.
Has this Adventure brought Consensus though? Not at all, in fact even on the fairly straightforward idea of trying to mend some fences with The Burning Platform I could not get consensus here on the Diner, where I am the Chief Admin AND “Owner” of the site! So here I am after leading a pretty eclectic Life in the Age of Oil; after 4 years of writing pretty much non-stop about the issues of collapse; after getting up Online close to the most PERFECT Blog/Forum you could have in its technical set-up; STILL unable to generate consensus and still unable to really get the MESSAGE out to all but a very tiny subset of the population as a whole. So here on my 55th Birthday, I am not a Happy Puppy at all, in fact I am a very DISAPPOINTED Puppy. So much time spent on this, now seems to me all like time spent Pissing in the Wind.
I always thought I had Endless Energy to keep pursuing this, no matter the obstacles, no matter the Trolls, no matter the Napalm. I’ve seen them all, the Goobermint Trolls, the Industry Shills, the Nazis and the Kapitalista Ideologues and the Napalm Artists also. I can deal with all of them, NO PROBLEMO there! LOL. Anybody who thinks they can Troll with me or out Napalm me is in for a rude awakening. I keyboard very fast, endless cultural metaphors jumbled into my head to wield in a War of Words, plenty-o-education and the Google Search Engine available, IQ 3 standard deviations off the mean on the UPSIDE and I don’t have a wife or kids to worry about my time spent in internet battles. That is a LOT of Firepower in an Internet Debate, and you gotta be pretty good to stand up to it. I’ve met a few who could over the years also, and I do enjoy those battles the most. I’m a FIGHTER, not a PEACENIK. It is a Binary for me. If you are With Me, let us find Consensus and Work Together. If you are Against Me, I will do my best to squash your ideas like a BUG. I do not tolerate Nazis, I won’t make Compromises with them, but I will always confront them and face them down. Met MANY on the pages of Peak Oil, Market Ticker and TBP. I’ll go the full 9 yards and pull out ALL the stops when confronted with such scumbag ideas. I’ll rev up the rhetoric and rev up the keyboard fingers and go Thermonuclear if need be. Done it MANY times already, and can do it again. Good vs. Evil in the Battle for All the Marbles. That is How I See It.
What I cannot deal with though is watching as others I felt were COMMITTED to the same idea I am drop off the map and who do not stay with me in this fight. Each and every person I brought into Reverse Engineering is a person of great value to me, who I spent many hours with discussing things, and when they leave, a Piece of Me goes with them. I can only lose so many Pieces of Me before there is NO MORE of Me left to give here. They leave for their own reasons, mostly I do not know what they are precisely, though I often blame myself for it when they do. Regardless of the reason or whether it is my responsibility though, they still do leave sometimes, and it pains me every time it happens. It sucks some of the life out of me.
Like the world which surrounds us, I am about OUTTA GAS now. Outta ENERGY for this stuff. If the Cold Fusion Cavalry or Renewable Energy for Bloggers doesn’t come riding in over the Hill here pretty soon, RE is DONE. 55 years old, 4 years of non-stop writing on collapse, Peripheral Artery Disease taking my legs out from under me, my Final Trip to the Great Beyond now well within sight, I just don’t have anything left now. If I cannot build the Doomstead Diner and bring more people together to develop a good coherent means to at least handle what appears to be an oncoming extreme Die Off event for Homo Sapiens, then I am just Pissing in the Wind. Writing to no purpose other than to exorcise my own demons, which I really can never do until I cross the Great Divide.
That’s how It Goes. Everybody Knows.