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Our Creepy Future

David Brooks, who when not banging out columns for the Times is writing a book about the brain, told us today at the Ideas Camp that brain researchers don't believe in free will. They're trying to figure out what causes "the illusion of free will." They believe this, Brooks said, because scans of the brain show that it makes decisions even before we're aware of what we've decided. It just feels like we're the ones in charge.

Brooks is surely correct when he says those who want to understand the brain "think they're closer than they are." And I'd venture that, at some level, there's no practical difference between "free will" and "the illusion of free will."

I am, for example, completely satisfied with my apparent free will. Perhaps it was not really my decision to go hiking today as those rumbling, dark clouds rolled across Aspen. Perhaps my brain made the call, and thus must take the blame for my subsequent soaking. But it sure felt like I was driving that bus. In a universe where most matter is inanimate, and where entropy is inviolable, and where our space probes are lucky to find ice and can only hope of someday finding something as exotic as liquid water, I'm happy with the illusion of sentience and willpower that my meat-brain is conjuring.

During the Q&A (and why are Q&As generally better than the prepared remarks?) someone asked Brooks what we ought to do, as a society, if someone invents a pill that can boost a person's IQ by 20 points. Brooks answered that such a pill might indeed be in offing, someday, but "somehow this creeps me out." It's too Frankenstein-like. But he added that he is skeptical about the ability of the political system to erect walls around such technology. He thinks we'll wind up going down that path.

So: Will the future be creepy? In some ways the creepy-world is already upon us. An audience member last night at the Barrett-Doerr talk volunteered that his teenage son is completely addicted to computer games. Kick him off the computer, he'll just go to someone else's house and play. Barrett didn't seem very concerned about it, but this is an issue that won't be going away, particularly when more and more people spend a large chunk of their time fiddling with virtual identities, such as with Second Life.

This afternoon, Walter Mossberg, the excellent technology columnist for the Wall Street Journal ("excellent" modifies "columnist," not "technology," for the record) said that the PC (desktops, laptops) has probably peaked, because companies can now pack the power of a PC into a handheld device -- specifically, smart phones. "The i-phone has changed the game," he said. "It has huge implications." The newest model of i-phones will be out in a matter of days, and will incite a flurry of new software applications.

The fundamental change here is that the i-phone is "on the grid," as Mossberg puts it. By that he means the Internet, though he thinks a sign of how primitive we are, technologically, is that we still talk about the Internet at all. In the future we will no more talk about the Internet than we talk about the electrical grid that powers our toaster. (No one ever says, "I'm going to go on the grid now and make some toast").

In the future, it will become second nature for people to be online all the time. People today will tell you that they're always online, but they don't mean it literally. A Blackberry can get you online, but the interface isn't as easy and supple as with an i-phone. Mossberg raised a question: "How do we have a life where there's room for contemplation?"

Even if you leave the gadget in your pocket, it'll be beckoning you to check your messages, check the news, check the weather.

The government's not going to tell people that they can only spend so many hours a day online. And it probably won't tell people they can't take pharmaceuticals that enhance their mental processing. But cultures can set down rules, norms, expectations, codes. And just as, culturally, we are trying to evolve to become more "green," more conscious about our impact on the planet, so too could we impose limits on what's technologically appropriate.

It doesn't require an act of Congress, just concerted societal action. Some gentle coercion here and there. Here's something I noticed just today: We've finally learned to turn off the cellphones during talks at conference and idea festivals. That's a wee bit of progress right there.


By Joel Achenbach  |  July 1, 2008; 7:31 PM ET
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Next: The Ute Trail


first one back to the future wins

Posted by: GREENWITHENVY | July 1, 2008 9:22 PM | Report abuse

oh my, i'm several kits behind.

Posted by: L.A. lurker | July 1, 2008 9:22 PM | Report abuse

Sorry about all the kits. But there's a lot going on here!

Posted by: Achenbach | July 1, 2008 9:29 PM | Report abuse

I do not doubt that there will be many things in the future that would make us emit a Phoebe-like "ew." This is one of the reasons I take some solace in a finite lifespan. By the time cybertronically enhanced coitus becomes the norm I will be too old to really care.

But overriding all technological developments are certain innate human characteristics. I mean, there is a reason the video phone never really caught on. Technology must still survive in the market, and the market is still driven by human needs.

So I am convinced that although technology may offer a plethora of new possibilities, not all will catch on. People will always have the freedom to reject that which they find too offensive.

Or at least display the illusion of doing so.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 1, 2008 9:40 PM | Report abuse

Lovely picture there, Joel. Are those foxglove? Or as some would put it, Digitalis on the hoof.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 1, 2008 9:44 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: dmd | July 1, 2008 9:46 PM | Report abuse

Looks like lupines to me, how lovely.

Technology, not so much (she says as she types into a computer and presses the send button).

Posted by: slyness | July 1, 2008 9:53 PM | Report abuse

Interesting article in newsweek about Appalachia

I especially like this line
"In a close election come November, the difference between President McCain and President Obama could come down to me and my people: a bunch of ornery, racist, coal-minin', banjo-pickin', Scots-Irish hillbillies clinging to our guns and religion on the side of some Godforsaken, moonshine-soaked ridge in West Virginia. "

And I haven't had any moonshine since yesterday.....I think

Posted by: greenwithenvy | July 1, 2008 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Joel, do moderators make an announcement about turning off cellphones? That's the norm in meetings I go to, these days. Personally, I appreciate the reminder. When I forget and the phone rings, I'm always terribly embarrassed.

And it annoys the heck out of me to wait for someone I'm doing business with, to get a phone call and leave me standing there. It seems so rude.

Posted by: slyness | July 1, 2008 9:58 PM | Report abuse

You know, some of us *still* do not own cell phones. We enjoy getting lost sometimes. We find the anxiety that comes from wondering if you are at the right restaurant but being unable to call oddly stimulating.

And a long walk is much more relaxing without fear of interruption.

Few of us are so important that the world cannot survive for a few hours without our constant input. And few things in the world are so crucial to us that we cannot wait a few hours to learn of them.

I mean, the bunnies who are hopping around me right now have never let technology steal the joy of the moment from them.

And they seem pretty cool with that.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 1, 2008 10:00 PM | Report abuse

Joel! Don't be sorry! Fascinating stuff.

Posted by: Kim | July 1, 2008 10:02 PM | Report abuse

So is Brooks the one responsible for the very recent article in the NYT about the neural nets of the brain being like a subway map? I tried to post to the last Kit with the link to that article I just mentioned embedded in the post, but it flew into the vapor. So, what got Brooks interested in the human brain and current research-- a different tack for him, no? Now, I'm tired and getting sleepy.

Lupines or Texas bluebonnets--huge there in Aspen.

Exciting Kits. I think we can handle two, three, or four per day.

Posted by: Loomis | July 1, 2008 10:02 PM | Report abuse

Ah, lupines, you mean like blue bonnets. I think you may be right. Whatever the name, they are pretty.

Posted by: RD Padouk | July 1, 2008 10:05 PM | Report abuse

Wow, hard to keep up today, but it's great. Love the pictures, especially the lupines.

dmd, you'll have to go to the McCartney concert in my place. The fact that you don't like Beatles music is no excuse!

My brain is mush. Got *2* calls on on my work cell phone which I am ignoring till I'm back on duty in the morning.

Posted by: mostlylurking | July 1, 2008 10:20 PM | Report abuse

2nd graf from the end:

"so too could we can"

has an extra word in there somewhere.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 1, 2008 10:20 PM | Report abuse

Wow. Lots to think about. Are you telling us we're spending too much time on the Boodle? Nah... I didn't think so. [hold on.. gotta check my iPhone for tomorrow's weather]

Some of us even boodle in person. Take this gang tonight, for example... in living VIDEO...

Posted by: TBG | July 1, 2008 10:38 PM | Report abuse

Are those lupines? Were you anywhere near the Lupine Express? [apologies to... well.. you know who you are!]

Posted by: TBG | July 1, 2008 10:44 PM | Report abuse

Lupines, definitely.

Back from all the child-squiring. Hello to all. Welcome to Maggie back from such travels. Rib check because GWE asked:
still tender at the bone but I can breathe so much better now. Maggie can report on her ribbi-ness.

Sleepy, but must report that a lapin colony is underway in my front yard. Alert RD about these wild cottontails. Lapins among the lupines, but alas these do not grow well in our south..

Posted by: College Parkian | July 1, 2008 11:22 PM | Report abuse

I don't see what's wrong with a drug that would make us smarter. We've been voluntarily taking drugs that make us dumber for centuries.

Posted by: yellojkt | July 1, 2008 11:23 PM | Report abuse

That's some fine video of tonight's BPH, TBG. Thanks for posting that.

Meant to post on the last Kit that I was aware of Dr. Greene's new book, and in fact had been invited to preorder it. Several SF writers have explored the idea of flying close to - or even into - a black hole. Some have even used the idea that relative time slows dramatically the nearer one is to the singularity (naked or not) as a plot device to allow people, aliens, and even enitre civilizations as a Fortress Against Spacetime (in other words, time would seem to almost stand still close to a black hole, so one could theoretically spend a limited amount of time near one, while thousands, millions, or even billions of years passed on Earth, for example). A cool idea.

Brooks' thoughts about free will as an illusion are interesting. When I consider his thinking in the context of quantum physics and theories like the Many-Worlds Hypothesis (remember this guest Kit?),

I'm forced to consider that both the multiverse and our own brains have arrayed themselves against us in an Ouroborousian chicken-and-egg scenario: No matter what I've pre-decided to do about about anything, some version of me in some 'verse somewhere is doing it, and following some predeterimined subsequent decision tree's path.

If I've already decided, how much probability is there for us to execute and explore? Is there really complete and utter determinism internally (from our minds) and externally (from MWI-style quantum mechanics)? Do our brains take subconscious cues from the information waves that constitute the Higgs Ocean, and simply follow those instructions, or do our brains create and modify some of those waves?

Now, for another glass of port before I give myself a big headache.


Posted by: bc | July 1, 2008 11:31 PM | Report abuse

They're lupines. Lupinus is a taxonomically messy genus in the Rockies. Of course, given the groomed nature of the site, they might have come from a packet of Thompson & Morgan seeds.

Texas blue bonnets are lupines, annual ones.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | July 1, 2008 11:33 PM | Report abuse

SCC: I'm tired. "...even enitre civilizations to use as a hidey-hole or a Fortress Against Spacetime."


Posted by: bc | July 1, 2008 11:42 PM | Report abuse

Great post, Joel. And picture. So much food for thought.

Forgot to menton that hiking in the summer in the high country is better done before noon. How do you think Moses got his white hair? He climbed that mountain in the afternoon during the summer. :-)

Posted by: eidrib | July 1, 2008 11:44 PM | Report abuse

Here's a big idea, that someone else thought of. Infect yourself with hookworms to suppress allergies.

Scientist David Pritchard suggests that perhaps a cushy boondoggle in Aspen is not the best place to be looking for big ideas-
"Sitting in the jungle for long periods gives you time to think," he noted. "And this led to the idea that worm burdens of tolerable intensity could be beneficial under some circumstances."

Posted by: frostbitten | July 1, 2008 11:45 PM | Report abuse

Wow, away from the 'puter all day and return to multi-kits and BPH video. Next thing you know we'll have live boodling direct from a BPH. Can't wait until October, but I need to be careful about wishing our all too brief summer away.

Spent the day co-presenting a robotics workshop to 4-H staff. "Not just cows," is their new motto.
Wilbrodog-check your local paper for the Llama show announcement. They'll be doing an obstacle course. Llama agility competition who knew?

Time to call it a night. Toodles boodle and sweet dreams.

Posted by: frostbitten | July 1, 2008 11:55 PM | Report abuse

Hey, nice video of the BPH, too. I do want to attend a BPH one of these years. It takes a bit of courage, you know. We all hide behind our Second Life, as Joel referred to our electronic existence.

Posted by: eidrib | July 2, 2008 12:08 AM | Report abuse

My brain may be deterministic, but at least the data part started out pretty empty and I think I'm the one who's done most of the subsequent programming and cataloguing over all these years.

Posted by: LTL-CA | July 2, 2008 1:06 AM | Report abuse

Llamas, oh boy! Are they... nice animals?

Wilbrod here:
I think cows are important, Frostbitten, but if they can cover engineering and agriculture together, they'll be doing wonders for today's youth.

Joel, is an iPhone accessible to the deaf and/or blind? By the way, what are all those big thinkers doing about the issue of universal design and improving overall productivity?

A person can have a very high IQ but still be unable to work due to short-term memory loss and neurological impairments. A "smart pill" might just make the person all the more aware of their limitations, or even trigger more damage. A "brain-heal" pill for short-term memory loss and executive function would provoke far more demand, but would probably be difficult to design.

As for the attitude of free will not existing, I don't think that is borne out by the facts. Life radiates and adapts to all niches, and that requires continual stochasticity, not stasis. And therein is the essence of free will.

Just because our decisions do not originate within our conscious awareness does not mean they do not arise from free will.

It merely means that the ego serves as a humble anamanuensis as the unconscious issues its ukases.

Now, I shall go forth to enjoy the anamneses of my unconsciousness by indulging in some REM sleep, as commanded by the fading activity in my reticular formation.

Big words, if not big thoughts at this hour. Maybe that would suffice, Joel, if you get stumped?

Posted by: Wilbrodog | July 2, 2008 1:26 AM | Report abuse

Cool video TBG! Thanks for sharing. Wish I could go to a BPH. One of the things on my bucket list. That and to see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade from a posh, warm NYC hotel room with a great view of the balloons.

Posted by: Aloha | July 2, 2008 1:38 AM | Report abuse

dbG & slyness, thanks for the itch tips.

Nice video, TBG. Looks like everyone had a great time.

I woke up and found I am a couple of kits behind. They are interest kits, though. I have no big or small ideas, but it would be really nice if someone's big ideas would take away my headaches.

Very nice flowers. Calms the mind.

Posted by: rainforest | July 2, 2008 3:07 AM | Report abuse

Lupines, like "...hyacinths that feed the soul."

Posted by: Shiloh | July 2, 2008 5:22 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle.

Not a lot to report on this morning. Seven years after we launched it, the war in Afghanistan is not doing well: we had the worst casualties since it began last month. Nice job those experts in the Bush White House have done, running that war. My disgust, my contempt, know no bounds.

Hank Steuver wrote an appreciation of magazine editor Clay Felker -- only it doesn't seem very, well, "appreciative," to me. See what you think:

Let's see, what else: we have lax security over our nuclear weapons. Glad those weak-kneed, lax-security-type Democrats aren't running things.

SUVs are in trouble. Awwwwwwwwwww.

The Justice Dept. isn't prosecuting whistleblower cases (which are skyrocketing): I'm shocked to hear it. Who'd have thought? THIS Justice Dept.? Surely you jest.

600 Starbucks closing. Good. Only 15,626 to go. I like the coffee better at Mr. Donut, the price is right, and they make a swell dutch-crumb donut. Sorry, Joel.

There's famine in Ethiopia and Somalia. Wonder how that happened.

In the month-long salmonella probe, investigators are still looking for tomato. Some are beginning to think they've arrested the wrong fruit. So to speak. (It might have been Col. Mustardseed in the Conservatory with the candlestick.)

OK, it's Wednesday. Two down, one and three-quarters to go. Cassandra, think we can drag our weary bones through a couple more days?

Posted by: Anonymous | July 2, 2008 6:02 AM | Report abuse

G'morning, Mudge, you make it sound like life is such a burden.

Thanks for sharing the video, TBG, I'm looking forward to the pictures.

All quiet here. The archeologist boyfriend of Second Dottir is visiting on his way home from a dig in Mississippi and they are coming to dinner, so I must rouse myself and go to the grocery store in a bit.

Carry on.

Posted by: slyness | July 2, 2008 7:11 AM | Report abuse

g'morning boodle. Lovely cool morning here with a forecast of "sunny and highs near 70." That's my kind of summer day. Big morning today waiting for the appliance repair guy. He did not sound encouraging when I described the impaired dryer symptoms. I do not want to spend July 4th appliance shopping, but it may come to that. If it's not one thing, it's another.

Posted by: frostbitten | July 2, 2008 7:42 AM | Report abuse

Good morning Boogles,

Totally rehabed from Lurkomania after attending BPH. Got home in time to critique a novel in progress that will give Koonz a run for his money. The writer is Bush (not the guy in the WH).

Posted by: Alexey Braguine | July 2, 2008 7:52 AM | Report abuse

A hot and humid good morning. When I drink iced coffee for breakfast I know it's oppressive. This is a very long four-day week. Looking forward to a combined late Mother's day and both daughters' birthdays lunch on Saturday. It will be good for #2 to get out to someplace fun instead of PT and doctor appointments.

Nice video TBG, and looking forward to the pics. Also anticipating the Big Boodle BPH in October. I can't believe I'm going to meet so many of my imaginary friends.

Posted by: Bad Sneakers | July 2, 2008 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Great video TBG.

The Idea conference sounds a little like summer camp for grownups. You get a bunch of people sitting around talking to each other, and pretty soon someone is going to get some ideas. At camp, those ideas are usually silly and occasionally involve pain.

So Joel, just keep the kits coming. It will be just like all the letters we didn't get from our kids while they were away at camp, only smarter and more grownup.

Posted by: dr | July 2, 2008 8:50 AM | Report abuse

The downside of all that computer time or connectivity or couch- or chair-potatohood? What happens when brain trumps brawn? Really unfit kits and possibly childhood diabetes--today's lead story on A1 in our paper:

AUSTIN -- Results of a physical fitness study of Texas schoolchildren released Tuesday stoked fears that today's students are seriously out of shape.

The assessment of 2.6 million children this spring, touted as the largest ever conducted, shows roughly 30 percent of third-graders passed the fitness test. Of the 12th-graders, fewer than 10 percent made passing marks.

Posted by: Loomis | July 2, 2008 9:16 AM | Report abuse

Morning all! *extra waves from NukeSpouse and a not-quite-awake NukeSpawn*

Yes, pictures were had, and shall be posted post-haste.

A good time was had as well! 'Twas a grand reunion with Dreamer, and we welcomed Alexey into the maelstrom. Glad to see he survived. :-)

And mo got a scarf!

NukeSpawn was just tickled at her reception and the good advice she recieved. NO, she was NOT told to run away from home, TYVM. Although I think someone mentioned "child labor laws" at some point. ;-)

*off-to-the-photo-editor-and-uploading-site-even-though-I-should-be-enjoying-a-truly-marvelous-morning-oh-waitaminit-I-can-laptop-OUTSIDE-joy-joy-joy-oop-don't-strain-that-back-again Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 2, 2008 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, we did live-BPH-Boodling from Calgary (or, well, TBG did and passed around her laptop).

We need a new barrier to break! Underwater boodling?

Posted by: dbG | July 2, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

bc, your last post reminds me of a SciFi show I liked a lot: Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda

Trance Gemini is just about my all time favorite alien.

Posted by: omni | July 2, 2008 9:50 AM | Report abuse

OK folks, here's the photographic proof to go along with TBG's video...

And if anyone has additional pics, just e-mail 'em and I'll add them.

Posted by: Scottynuke | July 2, 2008 10:05 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the pictures, Snuke.


Wish I coulda been there.

Posted by: slyness | July 2, 2008 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Whaddya mean -- *will* the future be creepy? Isn't it creepy enough as it is right now? You want more of this?


Posted by: firsttimeblogger | July 2, 2008 10:14 AM | Report abuse

While Idea Camp is a Summer Day Camp, I'd suggest that a BPH is more like a Play Date.

Mudge, please stop eating those chunky bits in the sandbox. There *are* cats around here.

As far as the future being creepy and proof that it already is, consider how modern medicine can see inside us or analyze various samples to determine if there's a physical problem, tell the sex of an unborn child, clone animals, repair terrible injuries, treat infections, disesases, and even cancers that in the recent past would be fatal if not utterly debilitating.

Imagine a classical witch using a person's hair for "magical" purposes (which in our case might be sample required for chemical or DNA analysis)... and you can imagine what the Man in Joel's Basement would think of *that*.

Then there's access to 'net information and content that allows us to communciate with others almost anywhere, to know what's happening on the other side of the world or even far in the past (and sometimes hear the voices of the dead), just by knowing what questions to ask and how to ask them. All you have to do is know the right Google incantations and have the right crystal ball (e.g. an iPhone).

Didn't AC Clarke or someone say that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic?

People were burned at the stake as witches for a lot less than what I describe above, weren't they?

Having said that, yes - the future's creepy. But in many respects, the past was too.


Posted by: bc | July 2, 2008 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Keep the kits coming! The idea of an "Idea Festival" sounds too cool to miss out on.


Posted by: maria | July 2, 2008 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Calling all Foodies:

I got 4/10. I only actually knew two. I bet you can all guess which two I knew.

Posted by: omni | July 2, 2008 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Howdy! I agree the present is already creepy enough, if you're inclined to think of it that way. I don't expect the future will un-creep. This reminds me of a book I'm reading called "The Traveler" by John Twelve Hawks or something like that. It has been on our shelves for a while and I finally picked it up. It is a pretty interesting thriller; the idea is that all the Grid and Net references we so take for granted are part of the Vast Machine and those of us who partake are citizens or drones. Uncomfortably accurate, some days.

To my embarrassment I got 6/10 on the quiz. I guessed on all but one. I thought it would be about food!

I admit to a lingering disappointment with the Kit. Given the tantalizing title I hoped it would include snakes. Or at least lizards.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 2, 2008 11:11 AM | Report abuse

Lotsa creepy things in the world, bc.

Good point of you to remind that human nature has its share of creepiness too for reasons ENTIRELY unrelated to olive oil used in gladiator dressing instead of salad dressing.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 2, 2008 11:17 AM | Report abuse

Yan Can Cook! Remember that? I got 6/10. Not all the guesses were wrong, but there were maybe 4 that I absolutely knew.

Great pictures, Scotty. Mine weren't so good. The camera fools people into thinking the photo's already been taken so there are lots of pics of folks turning away.

It was lots of fun last night seeing Dreamer again, meeting Alexey and Don from I-270 for the first time. We've got some interesting boodlers here, folks.

Posted by: TBG | July 2, 2008 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Glad Alexey liked his first BPH. I've pretty much never been to a bad BPH.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 2, 2008 11:25 AM | Report abuse

MANY THANKS to TBG and Scottynuke for immortalizing the BPH. I am VERY jealous, but I'm glad you all had a great time.

omni, I got two right answers on your quiz, proving both that I don't have the food channel and I know nada about cooking. Now, eating? That I know.

What's creepy? The fact that my cell phone will soon be able to give away my precise location while it simultaneously gives me a fatal brain tumor. I just love technology.

One thing before I'm done. How about putting a GPS locater chip in the iPod? That way, my daughters can FIND theirs!

Back to the figurative treadmill. Tah!

Posted by: CowTown | July 2, 2008 11:29 AM | Report abuse

6/10, which was pretty good, considering how many I guessed at.

Does that mean you're not going to post any photos, TBG? ;-(

Posted by: slyness | July 2, 2008 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Belated Happy Canada Day to neighbors up North...

Posted by: omni | July 2, 2008 11:52 AM | Report abuse

8/10 and knew I didn't know the 2 I missed. So much for complex guessing theories with multiple choice questions.

Still waiting for the appliance repair guy, but my 11:00AM appointment called to cancel so I am free to wait a while longer. Waiting is not so rough when you have a big bucket o' plants from a friend's garden to put in the ground. She even took my outgoing mail to drop off at the PO since I'm stuck at home.

Posted by: frostbitten | July 2, 2008 12:03 PM | Report abuse

3/10 on the quiz. Guessed on all of them. I r smrt.

TBG, S'nuke nice vid and pics of the BPH thanks for sharing. Looks like everyone had a good time.

Posted by: Kerric | July 2, 2008 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Unfotrunately, Scottynuke's pic site is blocked by the corporate firewall here, so I won't be able to see them until later.

Much later as it turns out: I'm heading down to the Rock & Roll Hotel tonight after work to catch a rock show featuring a couple of interesting bands...

Wilbrod, thanks for pointing out that I'm not creepy. And for noting the fact that olive oil *is not now and never was* solely for salads. Those who grew up with those big gallon tins of olive oil in the house know that for a fact.

Heck, I can't even make spaghetti without olive oil.


Posted by: bc | July 2, 2008 12:26 PM | Report abuse

7/10, with some well-informed guesses.

Frosti, how odd you mention waiting for the appliance guy. He just left (no repair, but agrees the device is broke), and since I didn't see a Harrier sitting in the road, I don't think he's going to be at your place anytime soon. Plant away.


Posted by: Scottynuke | July 2, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I've heard of private sales of Harriers.

Man, I've wanted one for a long, long time.

On the other hand, the magic of such a contrivance would be long gone when you stood at the pump, filling the fuel tanks on that thing...

Who doesn't love the idea of VTOL jet aircraft? [Except for the guys who do road maintenence. Could you imagine what street parking one of those repeatedly in the same spot would do to blacktop? Oy.]


Posted by: bc | July 2, 2008 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Whereas I must slowly educate my parents on the concept that olive oil indeed is a good butter substitute. We all have our sandals to walk in.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 2, 2008 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Freewill is that feature of "man" given him by God. So this article blatently says there is no God. If "man" can't tell the difference between the real freewill and the artificial brand; then man has no way out of this upholstered sewer we call Earth. Upon his death "Man" is either in Hell or is non-existant since there is nothing after death..... Sort of a Scientific Kommunist Edict. Seems this writer has a history and belief system which might be a little off.

Posted by: john smith | July 2, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Freewill is that feature of "man" given him by God. So this article blatently says there is no God. If "man" can't tell the difference between the real freewill and the artificial brand; then man has no way out of this upholstered sewer we call Earth. Upon his death "Man" is either in Hell or is non-existant since there is nothing after death..... Sort of a Scientific Kommunist Edict. Seems this writer has a history and belief system which might be a little off.

Posted by: john smith | July 2, 2008 1:22 PM | Report abuse

7/10. Knew 6 and got one good guess right.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 2, 2008 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for dropping in, John. How's Pocahontas doing these days? Don't see her around much anymore.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 2, 2008 1:32 PM | Report abuse

9/10 on the quiz, and I've never seen the food channel, she says proudly.

Posted by: Maggie O'D | July 2, 2008 1:41 PM | Report abuse

The repair guy has come and gone-no harrier just a truck with 2 refrigerators in the bed. $25 later I have a work around, but I'm sworn to secrecy about that by the appliance repair dude code of ethics. With smaller than normal loads it should last until a more opportune time to buy a new dryer-like August when Mr. F is here to help me wrestle the old one onto the truck for disposal.

Off to see how the city underlings have been running amok in my absence.

Posted by: frostbitten | July 2, 2008 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Olive oil is the answer to winter skin. Add one/half cup to your bath water. Soak. WIPE TUB OUT WITH WHISK detergent. Otherwise, someone you love might fall in the bath.

Not typing much because sitting squishes the ribs and diaphram: hurts like the dickens and prevents breathing. I need the Thomas Jefferson desk arrangment.

Lurking lots. The lupin picture puts me in mind of Barbara Cooney's excellent children's book

Miss Rumphius. Cover here:

Cooney also illustrated
Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran

Both books work for adults too, as the best children's books are want to do.

Posted by: College Parkian | July 2, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

7/10 on the Foodies quiz.

Posted by: Moose | July 2, 2008 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Interesting, a troll who doesn't even read who said what... and doesn't know his theology all too well.

The catholic doctrine is that man has free will, which is pretty much accepted by most protestant sects that actually have decent theology.

However, the Calvinists didn't exactly believe in free well-- look up the doctrine of predeterminism, and they apparently believed in God anyway.

Other than the fact that communism tends to embrace atheism (see Marx's quote that
"religion as the opiate of people", not believing in free will isn't necessarily automatically communist.

So again... how's Pocohontas doing?

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 2, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Moose! Long time, no see.

CP.. Roxaboxen is my daughter's favorite childhood book. I love it. The first time I read it to her she was about 2 1/2 or 3 years old and she cried; it's not a sad story... just emotional. I knew then that she understood what books can do.. where they can take you and how they can make you feel.

She wants to visit Yuma, Arizona, where there is a Roxaboxen Park...

Posted by: TBG | July 2, 2008 2:02 PM | Report abuse

john smith, you may want to reread the blog item a little more closely. The writer is presenting the ideas of an author, David Brooks, and theories that some brain researchers conducting scientific research are exploring.

Achenbach suggests that he belives he actually *has* free will, be it an illusion or not. So where does this piece "blatently [sic] says there is no God"? I don't see it, john.

As far as your other assertions, I believe that there is a substantial difference between faith and scientific fact. Your assertion that "Freewill is that feature of "man" given him by God." seems to me to be a statement of faith, as I have not seen any results of scientific resarch offered by you or anyone else to support that claim.

Faith seems to me to be belief based on spirituality, feeling, and emotion as a means of explaining what we see and feel.

I think science is belief based on experimentation and information gatherered as a result of research and logical constructions of empirical thinking.

Two completely different ways of thinking, and two different results.

I think there's room for both within all of us, and that there's no good reason to confuse the two.

Personally I find your 1:22 comment somewhat Chicken Littlesque, and if you want to come here and be critical of what you find, that's OK, but please stick to the facts, and remember your opinions and beliefs are just that. Your faith is no one's fact except your own. Please respect us by considering that before you post comments here, and jumping to unfounded conclusions in order to support some personal agenda will not help you make your case a convincing one.


Posted by: bc | July 2, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Amazing. I had a Roxaboxen childhood, but we called it The Dirtpile.

As charming, really,but named by one of my four brothers.

Had to watch out for rattlesnakes. But, so worth it! I wish for each child in the world for now and forever to have a Roxaboxen childhood.

Posted by: College Parkian | July 2, 2008 2:05 PM | Report abuse

This Boodle never ceases to amaze me. Now I find that many Boodlers have read one of my favorite books, Roxaboxen. This on top of the Douglas Adams, Monty Python, Frank Zappa, and other obscure cultural and literary references. Get out of my mind!

Posted by: CowTown | July 2, 2008 2:13 PM | Report abuse

Since there is a slight food theme to the boodle, I give you the positive healing power of mushrooms.

Posted by: dmd | July 2, 2008 2:17 PM | Report abuse

CowTown, my thoughts exactly about the boodle-brain convergence.

Scary-cool. Wacky-weird.

And, one/tenth bizarro.

Posted by: College Parkian | July 2, 2008 2:22 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, bc, for reminding john smith that the Kit is merely reporting events and ideas of others at the Big Idea Roundup and Hootenanny. Joel himself neither endorsed Brooks's Idea nor drew conclusions about divinty from it. Even when blogging, he are a reporter.

And I agree with Joel that I prefer to believe I engage in free will, or the robust illusion thereof, and that at some point there may be no difference between the two.

I look forward to seeing what Big Brain Joel lassoes next.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 2, 2008 2:30 PM | Report abuse

I've been married 25 years. Free will? Bwahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

I wish.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 2, 2008 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, you didn't exercise your free will when you decided to marry your wife?

Posted by: slyness | July 2, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, so


is the maniacal laughter of submission, while


is the maniacal laughter of victory?

Got it.

Posted by: College Parkian | July 2, 2008 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Once upon a time, I was permitted to think I had a modicum of free will in such matters, slyness. Over the years I have seen (or been shown) the error of my ways.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 2, 2008 2:49 PM | Report abuse

I DID say the "robust illusion" of free will, Mudge.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 2, 2008 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm reading "Identical strangers" about two identical twins who found each other. Many things are very similar, but their lifestyles when they met were not.

'Tis food for thought when you're debating free will.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 2, 2008 3:03 PM | Report abuse

All our behavior has a cause, but not all of it has a reason. (my opinion)

"Man is not a rational animal; he is a rationalizing animal." (One of my favorite quotes; Wikipedia says it's from Robert Heinlein--so much the better.)

Posted by: kbertocci | July 2, 2008 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Sounds Heinleinie enough, kbert.


Posted by: DLD | July 2, 2008 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Thinking of (lack) of free will, the Colombian government announced that it rescued several high-profile hostages of FARC insurgents. For Colombians, this has to be a big deal.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | July 2, 2008 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Kit topic makes me think of Richard Feinman, a hero of mine. Also, for some reason makes me think of
baton twirlers and other sequined gals.

Feinman liked show girls.

What ever happened to baton twirling?

Kind of miss that spangled flair to sports, etc.

Posted by: College Parkian | July 2, 2008 4:23 PM | Report abuse

CP, here in the land of football, the marching band with accompanying twirlers and flag corps is alive and well. Sadly, in my many years here, I never made it to a football game, so I never saw the glorious half-time show. I should have joined my 80,000 closest friends at the game at least once, if only for the spectacle. Missed opportunities...

Posted by: bia | July 2, 2008 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Folks here still twirl batons, college parkian.

My law school roommate could twirl fire.

Posted by: Ivansmom | July 2, 2008 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Free will always confuses me, as all the big decisions seem to come at a price.

Posted by: LostInThought | July 2, 2008 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Looks like a big day in Colombia. It took a while to connect to the web version of El Tiempo, the Bogota newspaper. All they're displaying is an "extra" with the story, video, and a brief report on reaction from Betancourt's family in France.

Wonderful to see that sort of reaction.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | July 2, 2008 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Frosty, this one's for you. (Yoki, there's a Calgary reference 3/4 of the way down.) I can't remember if I posted this before or not. If I'm repeating I apologize.

Baton twirlers... *big sigh* oh the memories...

Posted by: Curmudgeon | July 2, 2008 5:22 PM | Report abuse

hey! were'd everybody go?

similar to wilbrod's identical twin thing - how about "inheriting" hobbies, habits and/or behavior from a parent that they didn't grow up with? i didn't grow up with my father and met him later in life and found that we have a lot of the same habits and behaviors... creepy that!

Posted by: mo | July 2, 2008 6:41 PM | Report abuse

I thought Free Will was a song by Rush?
Then there was Free Willy 1-7.

I saw 2 interesting vehicles on my way into work. The Weiner mobile flew by me again and then I saw a Thing with classic plates on it.It has been 20+ years since I saw a Thing. It was in the slow lane going very slowly.I think their top speed is 55 and that is in nuetral going down Pikes Peak with 4 sumu wrestlers in it.

Also heard "walk of life" which always reminded me of Error

Back to your regular programming

Posted by: greenwithenvy | July 2, 2008 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Mo, is he a compulsive hugger? That I bet you don't share with him.

The funny thing is when you grow up with people who are just like you, you don't get too creeped out by the similarities... most of the time, you're working on making yourself Different with a capital D.

Anybody who's from a huge family can affirm that some similar looks and mannerisms and even overlap in taste just puts a fig leaf on some huge personality differences.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 2, 2008 7:03 PM | Report abuse

Ooops! I came here under cthe impression it involved a discussion of the concept, 'free will'. Bye.

Although I at least now better understand why so many used to fail basic Philosophy I, and why (in this age of everyone must 'pass') that Philosophy Departments are having such a difficult time enrolling competent students.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 2, 2008 7:14 PM | Report abuse

new kit

but posting this might just have been done because my brain decided to do it and not because I did?

i wonder, are we artificially bifurcating the self? (take that philosophy 101)

Posted by: uva yankee | July 2, 2008 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Ah yes. What is trolling about free will without a feeble misguided insult of people who TEACH and tutor philosophy?

I believe that trolls have the free will to re-read more carefully and restrain their initial emotional reactions before trolling, and this is not merely the deficiency of education nor mental wiring.

In short, we are all capable of acting more maturely than we sometimes act, including signing our posts.

That said, I'm not arguing free will with somebody who can't even read the original article properly.

Posted by: Wilbrod | July 2, 2008 8:17 PM | Report abuse

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