The least significant digit of democracy

Come November 8th, if all you’ve done is vote, you’ve done the least significant thing in democracy.

It turns out that democracy is a contact sport. Voting for someone to represent you, especially in the American system of voting, constitutes little more than an affirmation of choices a long list of other people made for you.

Let’s start with the process of voting itself. It is governed by a whole host of laws and regulations you likely had nothing to do with. Someone else determined where you vote, how you vote, and if your vote counts.

And then there’s the matter of what you’re voting for. By the time you punch that chad or push that touch screen, someone else determined who would run, whose runs would get funded, who became the front-runners, and if you didn’t vote in the primary, who is on the ballot.

So, then, how much does your vote count in the face of all that?

I am not saying voting does not matter at all, because it certainly does. Voting is a basic process of democracy. But just as watering a plant is not the only thing that keeps it alive–it needs good soil, enough sunlight, the right kind of nutrients, and a host of other things–so too voting is not the only thing that makes for a successful democracy.

I grant you that one person, by themselves, will have a hard time influencing the process, but that fact makes participation more important, not less. By participating, you can band together with like-minded people, and as your group grows, your influence grows.

And with that influence, voting day becomes far more significant, because you were part of the system that determines the outcome of all the things I have mentioned and so much more.

If, therefore, you want your vote to count the most, make November 8th a beginning rather than an end. Get out there and participate in the whole process instead of just the least significant part.


Posted in Nations, Political Freedoms, Politics, Quid Facis, United States, World Watch | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Random thoughts from a wandering mind: You’re so angry, you probably think this post is about you…

(With apologies to Carly Simon…)

So, here it goes: everybody is offended these days and it’s likely nobody who doesn’t already agree with you cares.

I’m guilty of it. So are you. So is almost everyone, especially if you are any kind of user of social media. We’re all angry and we’re not going to take it anymore.

Except, yes we are.

There’s a curious thing about offendedness in the current era. For the most part, people are angry and they’re doing things because of their anger. The problem is that most of the things they’re doing don’t end up doing anything about the things they’re angry about.

Instead, their efforts come down to various measures of passive-aggressive uses of force to compel others into doing things their way without making much attempt at all to convince those who may disagree of their point of view. These are, at best, hollow and Pyrrhic victories that sow the seeds of future discord and backlash.

And so we’ve entered an era of hurling insults, casting stones, passing laws, and generally brutalizing one another without any real effect.

Well, any real effect except one: the perception things are getting worse is a direct result of this nonsensical process.

This is not to say there are not real reasons to be concerned about the state of the world or to even be angry about that state. Rather, it is to call into question the way we are dealing with it. The preponderance of evidence is that the problems are real but that our responses to them are ineffective.

History shows us many things, and one of the things it shows us most is that anger and force rarely accomplish the things they set out to in the long run. What most effectively changes the course of events is dialog and compromise. What makes things better is the active attempt to make things better.

Until we set aside our angry offendedness and start looking at how we’re going to actually fix the things we find wrong with society and the world, all we are going to end up with is more angry offendedness.

The irony is that your choice of action will be defined by how you respond to this post, even if I never know what it is. Is this post about you?


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Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater: Taming a tangled wilderness

We’re unusually free with sharing our successes and failures here at Innisfree on the Stillwater, a fact that is intentional and purposeful rather than naive and dramatic. You see, our desire, along with giving people access to quality, sustainably grown food is also to help educate the vast majority of people who don’t understand what it takes to grow their food exactly what it takes to grow their food.

In addition to some thinking we’re arrogant for having such a goal, one of the classic responses we get, especially to failures, is that we don’t know what we’re doing. The irony, to a point, is that these critics are right, but for entirely the wrong reasons.

As it turns out, we don’t know what we’re doing because the knowledge of what we’re trying to do, in many cases, has been almost entirely lost, sometimes intentionally. Over the past several decades, there has been a radical revolution in agriculture almost unheard of since the invention of agriculture itself, and often not always for the better. This revolution has happened so quickly that the knowledge got lost before it got written down.

The result has been tragic, from loss of crop diversity so severe that entire annual crops are now entirely clones to animals so closely bred for specific genetics that they die from eating food they’re supposed to be able to eat, along with a population now so far removed from the realities of what it actually takes to feed them that this all seems normal to them.

We don’t know what we’re doing because we’re on the frontier trying to create a bulwark against the threats these kinds of changes represent. We understand we’re not going to overturn or replace those realities, but we also know some level of that knowledge must be salvaged or rediscovered or the potential for disaster is real and imminent.

So yes, we admit our ignorance, not as a condemnation of ourselves, but as a bellwether of the risks we all face. We do this because we desperately want to learn before it’s too late and for others to understand the risks we all face.

Perhaps that makes us arrogant, but the fact is that explorers and discoverers have always had to be to succeed at what they’re trying to do. We accept that aspersion and the challenge it represents because the task must be done.


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Art: First impression: The 3Doodler Start

As as long-time 3Doodler user1, I was intrigued by their announcement of the Start, and decided to get in on this release by buying one for myself and my niece. I ordered the Super Mega Pack and the Eco-Plastics Top Up for each of us.

[See image gallery at]

The Super Mega Pack arrived a couple of weeks ago, and I was finally able to really put the pen through its paces today. Overall, my first impression is that I’m impressed by the overall quality and design, though like any similar tool, there are gripes. I’ve provided, in no particular order, my initial thoughts below:

  • The pen is very light and, though it is made predominately of plastic, it doesn’t feel cheap to me.
  • I like that it is battery powered, but it kind of irritated me that it did not come with a USB wall wart as part of the package. I ended up having to provide one of my own to make sure my niece had one. It’s not a deal breaker, but given how cheap they are, I’m not sure how not including one saved that much money.
  • The charge lasts a good long while. I’ve run an entire package of plastic through mine and haven’t had to recharge.
  • The plastic is a lot like PLA to me, though it seems to cool slower and warp more than either PLA or ABS. The fact that it stays soft for so long means it can be worked with for longer, but it also means you have to be careful about working with pieces you want to be square or flat until it has completely cooled.
  • The plastic is also somewhat adhesive like PLA, which makes connecting pieces together easy, but can make finding a drawing surface a pain. So far, I’ve used my goto blue painter’s tape, but I’ve noticed after drawing several pieces it starts to not want to release the tape.
  • The controls are straightforward. Tap the button once to run the motor. Tap it again to stop it. Tap it twice to reverse. Tap it once to stop it.
  • I haven’t used any of the silicon molds that came with the set yet, so I have nothing to report about them.

Overall, I think the Start is aptly named and will be a good 3d pen for anyone wanting to get started in freehand 3d printing or for someone who doesn’t want to spend a lot of money on a more advanced pen.


  1. While I’ve used both the original and 2.0 versions of the 3Doodler, I haven’t done as much useful with them as I would like, and I haven’t reviewed either one of them.

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Thoughts from Innisfree on the Stillwater: A state of mind

For me, the biggest downside of farming is that my health doesn’t always agree with it, mostly in the form of sometimes debilitating allergies. People often ask me why I keep doing it knowing that I will periodically subject myself to such suffering, and my most often answer is that it’s just a temporary state.

For example, for the past few days, I’ve been doing hay. It turns out that whoever coined the term “hay fever” wasn’t kidding, and as is the case nearly every year, right now I feel like I’m coming down with the flu. I know a lot of people would consider such a reaction to the task to be a deal breaker, but what I discovered a long time ago is knowing this will last, at most, a couple of days, gives me the willpower both to inflict it on myself and to endure it while it lasts.

What I’ve discovered as a result is that hay fever is kind of a metaphor for farming and that farming is a kind of metaphor for life. Sure, sometimes the process sucks, but the fact is the work needs done, somebody has to do it, and the results are usually worth even a little suffering to get there.

So it is and so it goes, pardon me while I wipe my nose.


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