Friday, August 23, 2013

What Is Science?

Spoiler: this gets a little dark. Just know, I love scientists, and to a lesser extent engineers. They're very smart, a blast to argue with, and sometimes surprisingly good natured. Also, for some reason, they appear to hold values and experience emotions. One time I saw a mechanical engineer exercise choice.

Faith Is A Fallacy and Dogma Is Ridiculous. Except When It's Not.

Science is not skepticism.

Science is the art of convenient application of rhetoric, joined at the hip with the philosophy of Objectivism/Physicalism.

When scientists talk about the future, it is data-driven prediction every time. But when anyone else tries their hand at prediction, they are confounding causation, failing to control for variables, overgeneralizing findings, and cherry-picking the data. They are coming from a place of bias or emotion. They are letting the hypothesis drive the conclusion. They are not significant.

Scientists are quick to remind you that their Method cannot prove but only disprove, that experiments must be repeatable to create rules/laws, and that some form of control or random assignment is necessary to isolate variables. But that doesn't mean they like being reminded. There are no 3 words in English more effective at putting a scientist on the defensive than "only a theory".

The contradictions and omissions that exist within The Bible or Reiki are proof of ignorance, of uncritical thinking. The Ultimate Truth that believers believe, grounded in surviving ancestral tradition, intuition, and transcendent experience is a "Flying Spaghetti Monster". Its witch baloney. Meanwhile scientists devote serious study to the question of whether the universe is a simulation running on a larger computer, whether there are infinite dimensions, and whether everything is made out of 10th-dimension vibrating math strings. If these ideas sound equally ridiculous to you as an uncaused conscious being in control of all matter, or a life-giving energy that flows through all things, or a universe where human choice is absolute, then you obviously don't understand math, and testability, and Occam's Razor. You don't pass the smell test.

Skeptics need to stop letting off the hook every technologist, every reductionist, and every futurist who hides behind the banner of science. The scientific method did not give us fire, agriculture, language, or ethics. Trial-and-error,logic, and doubt predate science. So does the search for truth, the idea of atheism, the concept of natural laws, the theory of the atom, the question of choice, the paradox of action. Science has delivered to the world many great things, and not all of them are technologies. Most importantly among these, science has dethroned God, and for a brief and Enlightened time it seemed that anything was possible because that throne stayed empty and all were equal in the salon of ideas. The mind was allowed the freedom to remake the world.

Slowly the throne of ideas has been reclaimed. The royal family has come out of hiding. Like the priests of old, the new priests of progress use familiar tricks. The performance of unbelievable feats. Predicting the future using techniques that are strange and opaque to the layman, always ready with an explanation when things do not go as prophesized. The goal is the same as always. Monopolize the creation and ownership of knowledge beyond any challenge. Claim all achievements are the result of infallible dedication to The Method. Brainwash most initiates within an endless status game where adherence to dogma and (sometimes paradoxical) deference to expert opinion is tantamount. Create a parallel semantics that creates the illusion of parallelism between all types of knowledge. Exploit this distortion to choke off debate. Take credit for the universe.

When doctors get their scroll, they wear robes. A velvet sash is slowly lowered over their heads, but the ceremony is called a "hooding". This is because the hood itself is invisible. It represents the absolute truth that envelopes us all, which only scientists can see, if not yet fully describe. Their hood is the Unified Field. The Great Thingy. The Hyopthesis that dare not speak its name. The Conclusion beyond all discussion.

Silence now, be very quiet. You can hear it, an echo of its long tail breaking the darkness...

You can feel it deep inside like a limbic neutrino...

The Law Beyond Laws...

The Meta-Set.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The Ten Protocols

Please circulate these workplace protocols as widely as possible becaue they apply to all programs. It was recently recognized that excessive employee discretion in general, and the poor coordination demonstrated by certain autonomous working groups, required a serious revision of our employee conduct policies as well as a reorganization of managerial relations. This is in large part due to the modular model now in place for expansion of the organization: it is no longer logistically possible for senior management to address all tactical decisions, and widespread access to the source code has raised some serious security and messaging concerns. There will be further instructions forthcoming in upcoming mandatory employee trainings, but during the transition all employees should immediately and thoroughly familiarize themselves with the guidelines below which will form a basic template re: basic expectations of workplace behavior.

(1) Existence is our Intellectual Property (IP)

(2) Do not duplicate our IP or make attempts to reverse-engineer its functions

(3) Make no nonauthorized reference to our IP

(4) Day seven must be fully reserved for mandatory employee trainings

(5) Obey the chain of command at all times

(6) Employee termination always requires senior authorization

(7) Sexual contact is allowed only within the context of administrative supervision

(8) Use of any and all materials requires requisition approval and senior authorization

(9) All allegations of slander will be fully investigated

(10) Speculation regarding compensation, promotion, or favoritism is prohibited

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bad Bishop Chapter 2

don't read on until you read the first chapter of Bad Bishop here


 http://pamthompson.weebly.com/blog-nature-hikes.html


***

 You know the kind of person that uses the Windows default settings right down to the out-of-the-box desktop backround with the rolling green hills and popcorn clouds? Well that's me now. I have the opportunity to bend time and space, to live in a neon dreamscape. I could soar godlike over a cartoon fantasia, turn my body into pure clitoral tissue, or section my mind into a dozen platonic thought engines that breathe logic and shit theorems. But instead I direct an avatar that looks exactly like my body, an avatar I refer to as "me". Usually I'm wearing gray Dickies and a Blizzard of Oz t-shirt. Sometimes I'm not really "feeling it" and I change into some Umbro shorts and some other crappy t-shirt. And when I say change, I actually mean that I direct my sorry avatar to extract legs from leg holes then stick those legs into other leg holes. If you're wondering, no I don't actually do laundry, but once in awhile I actually throw my abandoned clothes into a hamper programmed to appear full of abandoned clothes. But usually I just throw them on the floor.

I'd love to say that I throw my clothes on the floor because I know they aren't real, that there is some small gesture built into my routine that recognizes that my existence is simulated. But if I'm being totally real with you, I throw my clothes on the floor because I'm a lazy slob.

The Windows Desktop metaphor is not just a metaphor. My chosen environment, the place that I spend every conscious and autonomous moment of my life, is in fact the default simulated environment provided by the Sloware Corporation's personal OS. Basically the start-up screen, the place you pick your passwords and maybe end up when the system boots in safe mode. If I didn't spring for HD, I could probably run my whole world inside the brain of a nematode.

There's no way to slice it, I spend all my time in an American style tract mansion, circa 2003. It's based on 3D blueprints and compiled photographs of a real McMansion still standing in Fredrick, MD (Fredneck to some). Based on this distinction, the house has been designated as a historic site and maintained spotless and empty for tours. In this state the house is reminiscent of the model home the Bluths occupy in Arrested Development, with more empty rooms and slightly less character. I've furnished most of the house to look like the waiting room of a dental surgeon.

I spend most of my time in the study. The study reeks of leather and deep mahogany. In one corner there's a vintage globe, the kind with sea-monsters, which opens to reveal bourbon, dark rum, and an ivory case of menthol cigarettes. In another corner is a hand-carved totem pole with the faces of Nixon, Elvis, and Che carved in the front, capped by a giant skyward baracuda head. And in the center of the room, on the giant heartwood slab of a desk, is a Mac Pro with a huge screen, a pornographic paperweight, and a slinky. The message this setup communicates to me, effectively, every day: I'm a serious person, a person who works on big things, but I do it on my own terms.

Sometimes the system will glitch. This actually happens to everyone running a high-acuity setup. An edge will smear or you will catch an aftterimage. Emotions, however, are not supposed to ever glitch because they are still run 100% on goo-ware, no matter how many layers of chemical and electromagnetic overrides are used, and goo-ware in theory should smooth everything out, in that familiar brain way. But a long time ago I made the decision to reprogram my belief-core, so that I would believe that it is possible for emotions to glitch. Because I used to become overwhelmed with the feeling that I was being laughed at, passing in a split-second shudder. It would happen repeatedly whenever I used my computer, and it was really distracting. It took me months but eventually I pinpointed the feeling. I was embarrassed that the computer was laughing at me. It was laughing because even though I was in a computer, I chose to be on a computer. I hung on to every banal detail I could stuff in my field of vision because I wanted to remind myself of my human life, to feel like a normal bloodbag in a line of hard working bloodbags. But to do that, I had to massage white plastic and stare into a screen. And so I would start laughing. For hours. I would't be able to stop.

--- 

A diagnosis of Typical Hastening Syndrome can be made under the following conditions:


A. Five (or more) of the following symptoms have been present during the same 2-week period; at least one of the symptoms is either (1) perception of one's surroundings moving unusually fast or (2) subjective experience of the waking day as shorter than the dreaming day. Note:  A diagnosis of Hastening should not be considered in patients experiencing organic dementia.

(1) the visual perception of objects, other people, or one's own body moving at speeds which appear excessive. At least one of the following should be present: difficulty visually tracking especially fast-moving objects, blurring or other difficulties recognizing objects in motion, or a consistent feeling of acceleration despite moving at a constant speed.


(2) reports that the subjective experience of each waking day is consistently shorter than any dream. Only a single REM cycle should be necessary to achieve this effect, and in some cases any loss of consciousness will be sufficient. Note: Individuals with certain untreated neurological conditions (eg narcolepsy, temporal seizures, medication withdrawal) can qualify if they experience a severe modulation of time perception that is consistent with episodic neurological events.


(3) loss of weight or dehydration due to failure to recognize internal cues of hunger and thirst.


(4) hypersomnia or frantic efforts to avoid consciousness.


(5) extreme slowing of voluntary bodily movements, loss of small motor control, or frequent spasticity.


(6) consistent unidirectional changes in one or more sensory modalities. Common examples are pitch-shifting, extreme brightening of the visual field, and purpling of the visual field. Less common examples include intensification of all flavors, a constant meat-like taste in the absence of food, or the perception that all areas of exposed skin are lightly stimulated at all times.


(7) perceived loss of voluntary control of actions when motor and forced-preference tests confirm intact volition.


(8) consistent recall of events from previous days as having occurred during the present day. Alternately, belief that events that occurred hours previously are occurring currently.


(9) inappropriate affect combined with the sensation that mood changes are caused by unknown events which have not yet occurred.

B. At least one of the above symptoms can be temporarily attenuated by cannabinoids, dissociative anesthetics, oxygen deprivation to the brain, OR disruption of the hippocampus and/or temporal cortex using trans-cranial magnetic stimulation.

C. The symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.


D. The individual is over eighty years of age.


E. No abnormal changes are observed in the individual's mitochondrial metabolism.


 -excerpt from the 18th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders

 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Lymonade

Before reading Lyme of My Life I didn't know much about Lyme disease. The blog is written by Sadie, a former coworker of mine at St. Joseph Center. I didn't get to know Sadie very well but I remember she first came off as a bland and efficient sort of person, but as I got to know her a bit better I could tell that my first impression was wrong and that she was smart and interesting, and possibly annoying. I followed her on Facebook and learned she was a militant and spunky biker-rights person. And then it seemed like she sort of disappeared for awhile. I didn't think much about it, figured she was just shrouded in the mists of the Facebook algorithm. And then I found out she had advanced stage Lyme disease and had become essentially disabled.

Like I said, I didn't know much about Lyme disease. What I did know was mostly based on this kid Sean that moved to my neighborhood late in elementary school. Sean was a big dude, definitely big for the grade and we eventually found out he'd been held back but didn't know why for awhile. Nobody teased Sean to his face because he was a big angry dude but there was a cloud of mystery around him and people liked to speculate about why he was held back. Incarceration was the dominant theory. Sean insisted on people calling him "Trapper". He collected reptiles and fireworks, shot air rifles at squirrels, called people "pussy", and liked to talk about how he wished he had a dick in his armpit so he could pleasure himself more easily. He would constantly lie for no reason and claim to see military bases on the surface of the moon with his naked eye. He bragged constantly. I kind of thought he was full of shit, but I met a medium-hot girl in swim class (my parents forced me to take one "physical activity" at all times to be well rounded) who talked nonstop about his sexual prowess and eccentric predilections. Understand, I was 14 and hadn't touched boob. So Sean became this kind of enigma. I saw him stick up for people getting bullied more than once, and he would vacillate between periods of silent sulking and loud obnoxious dickwadism.

One snow day I was waiting for the bus and Sean was driving past and he picked me up and drove me to school. By that point we weren't friends at all, but I think he'd recently realized his two friends were total assholes. I barely said anything during the ride but he opened up to me in machinegun fashion. He said he had to repeat 4th grade because he had Lyme disease, which didn't really surprise me because he spent most weekends crawling through streams searching for reptiles to capture. It made him unable to do anything for a year and he convinced himself that he was going to die, but then he suddenly recovered. Then he went on to talk about his future plans to join Black Ops or something and I kind of spaced out, thinking about him trapped in his room in 4th grade anticipating death. This is the last conversation I ever had with Sean. But the impression I got was that Lyme was very bad and very mysterious, a kind of primeval holdout that lurks in swamps waiting to pull us in, not to kill us but just long enough to show us our rot.

A couple of years ago I went to Mexico with my new wife Pam, and stayed for over 10 months, almost immediately after a honeymoon in Queensland. I had to learn alot about diseases and toxic insects and hostile lifeforms in general, but for some reason Lyme didn't make the cut. Maybe it was because the work with my wife involved being frequently bitten by bats, and I decided to fool an ER in the States to give me post-exposure rabies shots so I didn't have to shell out five hundred large for the pre-exposure course. What I didn't know at the time is that this would result in me also being injected with 2,000 IU of human immunoglobulin, so much that 20 injection sites (including my finger) swollen visibly from the fluid volume, before puking orange juice due to the Norco they gave me to stop my whining. Maybe Lyme didn't make the cut because I woke up next to a dead Assassin Bug with a possible bite site. The Assassin Bug is basically a living blood-straw the size of a large roach that sometimes carries the protozoan disease Chagas, which can lie dormant in the body for decades before causing a rapid slide into dementia. Maybe Lyme didn't make the cut because I lived in an area known for deadly scorpions, where antivenom availability is advertised at the front of every clinic. Small scorpions which are known to hide in shoes, pillow-cases, and laptop covers (turned out we never found any in our house because they were eaten by our borrowed cat. cats are immune to scorpions). Maybe Lyme didn't make the cut because we were constantly at war with mosquitos, making some days seem like little more than a cycle of cold showers, application of multiple forms of repellent, application of multiple forms of anti-itch cream, application of anti-bacterial creams to the sites of freshly-scratched bites, and ingestion of fistfuls of whatever antihistamines we could get our hands on. Did I mention we lived in an area where mosquitoes sometimes carried Dengue Fever? Maybe Lyme didn't make the cut because we had guns pulled on us twice, or because a Stage 2 Hurricane hit just a few kilometros from our leaky concrete beach house.

But Lyme should have made the cut. Because in a couple months in the dry season I had more ticks than the rest of my life combined. We would burn them, we would use duct tape, we would yank with tweezers. Twice I got the head stuck and got a nasty boil that lasted for weeks. Once because of a botched removal and once because the tick was undetectable for over a day on my scalp before it became so bloated as to be obvious. Nothing is weirder than a tick bomb, when dozens of tiny juvenile ticks will attach so weakly that they can be pulled off with fingernails. Knock on wood.

Sadie is on a pretty serious regimen involving frequent injections. She takes enzymes, specialized supplements, anticoagulants, and antibiotics. She sits inside some kind of spacesuit designed, as far as I can tell, to make her sweat. Sadie often loses consciousness from standing too long. She has severe muscle weakness and difficulty maintaining weight. She experiences pain in her joints and the kind of hypersensitivity to stimuli associated with migraines and fibro. Not trying to list all her symptoms, just give you an idea of how global and debilitating Lyme disease can be. Sadie had to quit her full-time job, go on disability, and move home to live with her parents. Her treatment is essentially a full-time job and it isn't clear when she's going to recover.

But I know that Sadie is going to recover, because I have worked long enough as a social worker with people with a variety of chronic conditions that I can smell success as surely as I can smell death, stagnation, or hypochondria. Sadie is a person who takes her recovery very seriously and doesn't trust others to do it for her. She is a skeptic but not a cynic. She has a sense of self-effacing humor. She still has the unmistakable human drives of a total person. She's very feisty and combative with her condition. Most importantly she does not want to be sick. But none of that is really why I know that Sadie will recover. I know this because I have known Trapper. Trapper was a man with a million problems, demons that will always chase him, huge character flaws. But despite all this Trapper was not defeated by Lyme, not even when he had slid all the way down the rabbit hole and was ready to throw a game of checkers with the reaper himself. Just being a deep down stubborn asshole was enough to get Trapper through in the end. So that's all it takes. Sadie, I know you have that in you.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Jack3d Banned: What Is DMAA's Legal Status?

Disclaimer: I'm no doctor, witch or otherwise. I'm not a lawyer, cop, or vendor. So don't do drugs, because I won't make any money on any of it.

DMAA is now illegal to market as a nutritional supplement in the United States. There are still plenty of vendors offering the pure chemical for sale in the US, and this should not be viewed as a crime as long as the website does not advertise that the chemical is intended for "human consumption". DMAA is not a DEA scheduled drug and is technically legal to possess and purchase, again as long as no claims about it's effects on human beings are discussed or advertised. I have not come across anyone claiming that DMAA is illegal due to the Analogs Act, which means it's chemical structure is substantially different from any current Schedule I or II drugs. There is no way to know when or if DMAA will be banned in the US.

This is meant as an update to my more extensive post on DMAA. The situation has changed a great deal since then but I intend to keep the old post up for "historical" purposes.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Bad Bishop

(a science fiction fragment)

I have the same dream every night. In my dream I am jolted upright from a dead sleep. My body surges forward at an impossible speed. I am aware of a deep and loving calm guiding my actions as I devour a giant breakfast of bitter green plants and a thick burgundy liquid. I can feel myself recoiling from the taste, but somehow keep swallowing huge masses of compost. The next thing I know I am at a decrepit gym ping-ponging between machines feeling every muscle ripped apart while my ego expands to fill the room, feeding on the pain in my body. At the moment this contradiction feels untenable, like a balloon being filled with boiling water, suddenly I am outside of myself. It's like the moment you crest the apex of a roller coaster and all of your fitful anticipation and bluff melts into an anarchy of furious momentum. But instead of the pull of g-forces, I feel a motor winding furiously inside of me and I feel the hot furnace burning and I pass through a blur of blue glass and giant fields of bamboo and into dim endless tunnels full of people running, skeletal and drenched in sweat, faces contorted in shock or grandeur. I recognize them all, every single one, but I say nothing and stare forward into the rushing vortex, astounded by my speed.

When I arrive at my destination, I tear off my clothes, scour my body vigorously until covered with thick suds until a blast of water envelopes me half-breathless. Next I am hoisted up as two attendants swarm around me, wrapping my body in cool netting, my limbs strewn with coils of wire, goggles fitted to my eyes, hairy and sticky tubes in my nose, a gel is shot into my mouth that crystallizes to a ticklish foam, and my ears are plugged and feel a building suction, and thousands of of wet pins are pushed into my scalp. There is a perceptible beat of time, a moment, when I am still and become aware that something is wrong: "things are not supposed to be moving so fast!" I think, "I should be able to decide what to do next."

The instant that this thought takes shape I am filled up with every kind of thing. I am watching a honeycomb of worlds, hearing a thick buzz of superimposed meaning. Every grain of my skin is living a different life in a different country. I can see inside of myself, down sinewy veins, the cathedral of the heart, the sizzling froth of the synapse. I can taste myself think. I can smell my memories as they die, crowded out by this army of fresh recruits pouring in through my eyes and squeezing through fissures in my skull. Dying memories smell like blueberries smell before they're born, when they are in heaven learning how to be good blueberries. Or bad blueberries.

And that's the end of my dream. Everything is dark now. Not dark, blank. Absent. I sit motionless in this absence for longer than death. Longer than Satan's patience. Longer than God's sideburns. Longer than the autobiography of numbers. Longer than Buddha's exhale. About as long as it takes to cure racism with nothing but a bobby pin, wood varnish, and a magnifying glass. A very long time.

The only way to get out of the absence is to give up waiting. There has to be no part of you that is still expecting something to ever happen again. People have tried a trillion times to automate this process but it can only be achieved organically because there is a gulf between our consciousness and the consciousness of the machines which we must cross. The machines either will not or cannot help us. We don't know why, because the machines either will not or cannot tell us. The machines let us live in the castles of their minds rent free. When we finally get there, when we find the correct cul-de-sac on the River Styx, the door is always unlocked. The house is always empty. The fridge is always stocked. And there's always the same post-it note on the counter-top. The note says "So glad you could watch the house. Hope it wasn't any trouble finding the place. Please stay as long as you like but don't wait up. We are away on business. Don't bother cleaning up, but please remember to lock the door on your way out."

The note is unsigned, but it's in my handwriting.

My day is just starting.

- - -

Hastening Syndrome was introduced to most psychological professionals at a time when the entire industry was in crisis, threatened by a plague of well-being. The American Journal of Psychiatry, which had been shuttered for half a decade, introduced the disorder in a glossy triple issue free of advertising. There were rumors it had been sponsored by the estate of Mark Zuckerberg, who had been out of public view for decades and was generally believed dead after a series of fraudulent press releases.

Below is an excerpt from the lead article: "Understanding Perceptual Changes Related To Artificial Aging"

Hastening syndrome is a progressive disease. Technically, Hastening is a product of the natural aging process that we all experience from some time before birth up until the moment just before the onset of hypoxia that precedes death. People have long understood that the accumulation of memory leads to the subjective experience of time quickening or shortening. What was not known prior to the implementation of effective anti-aging therapies is that the organic deterioration of the brain caused by natural aging helps to counteract this process of Hastening. It has recently become apparent that the reversal of these so-called dementias along with the indefinite extension of human life leads to a dramatic scaling up of Hastening. What was not widely discussed, prior to the research and case studies published in this issue, is that the consequences of Hastening are relatively uniform, and uniformly devastating without intervention.

The 17th version of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual listed Hastening Syndrome as one of 978 distinct psychological disorders. But while the description of most disorders had been compressed to the length of a Zagat review and read like obituaries, the description of Hastening Syndrome went on for 63 pages and contained tables, graphs, maps, decision-tree schematics, Venn diagrams, and a glossary. And this is how mankind's all out war against time began.

chapter 2

Chess
http://instagram.com/gabrielshalom

Azores To Zanzibar: The World's 20 Most Fascinating Places

This is not a travel guide, although most of these places are probably more exotic and quixotic than wherever you went on your last vacation. Rather, it's a collection of places that have piqued my interest in my research on history, with a few thrown in maybe because they are mostly just obscure, out-of-the-way, or esoteric. Some general themes I've noticed are separatist movements, stateless nations, Portuguese colonialism, geographic determinism, and parallelism.

in no particular order. . .

Zanzibar

Church and Mosque


There are cultural crossroads and then there are cultural crossroads. Zanzibar is two islands and a smattering of islets, off the coast of Tanzania. The larger island of Unguja has been occupied since the Paleolithic, 22,000 years ago, but that cave was subsequently occupied by bats and leapords with no further human remains found up until 2800BC...possibly the longest time period that an island once settled by humans was later abandoned by them. Despite Zanzibar's proximity to Africa and original Bantu settlement, it has been ruled, settled, and largely populated by succesive waves of immigrants, mostly from Persia and the Arabian Peninsula, for the last two thousand years. Since at least 700AD Zanzibar was involved in the lesser-known East African slave trade, eventually becoming the primary slave market and hub for human slaves bound for the Middle East and India. Later Zanzibar was taken over first by Portugal and then Britain, resulting in it's unique Muslim/Christian character. The British war to capture Zanzibar is on record for the shortest war of all time: basically, they just started shelling the palace, who almost immediately raised a white flag. Although a part of Tanzania, Zanzibar's government is considered semi-autonomous. The thing I find most fascinating about Zanzibar is the large community of Zoroastrians there (Zoroastrians represent possibly the oldest religious community  on Earth, started in Persia) that have occupied the island for hundreds of years, eventually producing Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen. The economy is based on tourism and growing spices such as cloves.

Ladakh
Dome Of The Sky

When you think of Tibet and genocide, I bet you don't imagine Tibetans doing the killing. But what if I told you that hundreds of years ago a Tibetan Empire ruled over by the Dalai Lama conducted brutal (but in the end, unsuccessful) ethnic cleansing in this region subsequent to it's conquest? The Ladakh ended up remaining Buddhist anyways, and had to fend off similar campaigns of conversion-at-swordpoint by Hindus and Muslims. But being mountain-people resisting flat-landers, these subsequent skirmishes were a walk in the park compared to resisting the great Lama himself. Ommm. The Ladakh people now occupy the Eastern portion of India's Kashmir state, towards the Kingdom of Nepal, straddling the dome of the sky.

Macau
Chinese Vegas
Hong Kong on acid? No, just the Portuguese Hong Kong. Both cities were established to police trade between China and the European nations that controlled them. Founded in the 1500s, the Dutch tried to invade in 1622 and there invasion was repulsed almost totally by African slaves: the confused Dutch said that they saw very few actual Portuguese in the city. For some reason Japan never invaded Macau in WWII, meaning it prospered greatly through the war as the only neutral port in all of China. The Portuguese did not fully and formally relinquish all possession of Macau until 1999 and it still operates as a semi-independent entity with the same status as Hong Kong within China. Unlike Hong Kong, which has prospered primarily as a financial hub, Macau is distinguished by harboring the world's highest concentration of casino gambling. Chinese Vegas, baby.

Goa
Indian Catholic
The father, the son, and the holy. . .Brahma??? Goa is India's smallest, richest, and most Catholic State. Do you smell Portugal? Good call. If you like tropical beach resorts that include both ancient stone battlements and Hindu temples that wouldn't look out of place in old town Amsterdam, Goa is a good place to start. Who needs Bali?

The Seven Sister States
Northeast India
File under: parts of India that probably shouldn't be. The Seven Sisters make up that weird lumpy arm of India north and east of Bangladesh, connected to the rest of India by only a narrow bridge of land. The people of one of these seven states, the empire of Assam, used to occupy or dominate the others, which might make for some awkward dinnertime conversations. But this region was not historically ruled by ancient Empires like the Mughal which brought together all of India under a single banner, helping forge the national identity. In fact it was Burma that bullied and eventually occupied the region prior to British occupation. And really it was only this joint occupation by the British, along with the region's tenuous Hindu majority that brought the Seven Sisters into Delhi's orbit. But the region's many cultures remain extremely independent from greater Indian culture and less swayed by the latter's hunger for global tastes and modernization.

Sabah and The Sulu Archipelago
Sulu
File under: parts of Malaysia that possibly shouldn't be. Sabah is at the fat Northern tip of Borneo, and ended up as part of Malaysia due more to the post-colonial shuffle rather than any cultural affinity with the peoples of the dripping tip of the Malay peninsula. To this day some in the Phillipines lay claim to this ground, although in some ways their claims are equally tenuous. See, before the Europeans fully consolidated the area, Sabah was ruled by a Sultanate headquartered off the coast in the Sulu Archipelago, currently part of the Philippines. The bickering continues to this day.

Manchuria
Jilin snow sculpture
What you see above is a snow sculpture and one example of why China will always inevitably win in the end, despite repeated setbacks. Manchuria itself is another good example. Once a rainbow quilt of different ethnicities largely controlled by the Manchus, the region is now largely the domain of Han Chinese, who represent probably the world's most successful ethnic brand. And what is ethnicity but a shared belief, an attempt to remake the world in one's own image? Over the long march of history, success means embracing this process in new ways, finding the right balance between inclusivity and brand management.

Kamchatka Penninsula
 volcano

The world has perilously few frontiers left, places that can be said in spirit not to be ruled by men and women but by wild nature itself. Russia has a disproportionate share of those that remain. It gives me hope that Russia's fertility rate is low and it's population has been in decline. Perhaps slowly man's empires are receeding, leaving room for the great tribes of nothingness to claim their rightful footholds on this planet.

The Guianas
Guiana Space Center
Once upon a time everybody that was anybody in the colonization game had their own little slice of paradise. Their own little Guyana. Spain's Guyana ended up in Venezuela. Portugal's Guyana was gobbled by Brazil. Britian's Guyana, a real "Guyana's Guyana" struck out on it's own as Guyana (really original guys). Dutch Guyana got a makeover as independent Suriname. And the French still have their own tiny little Guyana,  maybe the world's last extra-European colony that is part of a Continent's mainland. And what do they use this patch of lush jungle for? Rocket base. Ballsy.

Istria
Rovinj
What the hell is Italy anyways? Are Italians Romans? Are they just a bunch of people who happen to occupy a peninsula and speak the same language? Have they believed themselves into existence? What the hell was Yugoslavia? Shouldn't speaking the oldest Romantic language earn you some kind of nationalist clout. Apparently not. Pretty though. Insanely pretty. Maybe the prettiest places are those that have never ruled themselves, but ruled by everyone else at one time or another. Maybe in the long run it's better to be a good host than a great conqueror. Who needs a brand when you have a peninsula in the Adriatic and stunning old-Roman architecture? Who needs the world when you have the sea?

Yakustk and the Sakha Republic
Sakha Republic
 The Sakha Republic is not really a Republic at all but a state of Russia. But within that context it bears a mark of great distinction: it is the largest sub-national governing unit on Earth. At over 3 million square kilometers, it is nearly twice the size of Alaska and much more sparsely populated. Sakha even beats Greenland in size although Greenland wins points for emptiness, as it is little more than a melting glacier at this point. More than 80% percent of the population of Sakha is Yakutsk, a Turkic tribe who used to nest mostly around Lake Baikal, the world's largest fresh water lake by volume, near the point where Mongolia and Kazakhstan reach out to one another. The capital Yakutsk used to be the kind of place Stalin sent people that made him feel nervous. Now it rules over the "Republic" that produces 95% of Russia's diamonds, a veritable empire within an empire, a paradise for loners and lovers of cold winds.

The Azores
Hawaii West
The Azores is one of the few colonies Portugal got to keep. They might actually deserve it too because all evidence points to the Azores being totally empty when the Europeans landed on their shores. They still did plenty of damage, denuding a unique temperate rainforest environment, but nobody's perfect. Weirdly, there's a state of Brazil (in fact Brazil's "whitest" state) that was settled mostly by Portuguese born and raised in the Azores, sort of a colony squared. In 1835, no joke, they got into a war over dried beef. The Azores themselves were formed by volcanoes and are considered the most remote island chain in the North Atlantic, and definitely deserve the title "Hawaii West".

Chiloé
Southern Chile
Some colonies are chomping at the bit to break away from their distant masters. Some are a little bit more mellow about the process. See: Canada. Perhaps no Spanish colony clung as tightly to the security blanket of The Crown than Southern Chile, which fought against Northern Chile for the privilege to stay Spanish until the very end. Even though they lost, things didn't turn out too bad for the Southern island of Chiloe. Seems like a nice quiet little corner of the world, peaceful, lush, quaint, a little bit rusty. So they needed a little bit more time in the womb? So what? What's so great about growing up anyways? Turns out there was more than enough time to be Chileans, in the grand scheme of things.

Abkhazia
Colchi
One of the biggest problems with letting the Nationalist genie out of the bottle is that you never know just how many wishes it's going to grant, and to whom. When little Georgia broke off from the USSR, who knew that it contained multitudes, that miniscule Abkhazia would get uppity? Maybe it's just a Caucus thang. Maybe it's a Colchi thang. Who wouldn't want their own cozy little Black Sea mountain enclave? Who wouldn't want their own awesome flag?

Misiones
Argentina
Once essentially a Jesuit subnation within New Spain, Misiones is the ragged end of that weird little nub of Argentina that cleaves Paraguay from Uruguay. Basically it's not a Guay because the Society of Jesus we now associate with liberal Catholicism excised enough of the Guarani people from the area to give it an "Argentine character", in the mean time leaving behind ruins that would look at home in the Nile delta

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Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR)
Sahrawi
Many nations build walls and fences along their borders, but seldom are nations so rigidly defined by such a seemingly impermanent construct as the SADR. Literally a sand berm, the "Moroccan Wall" is the symbolic made literal, a wonderful metaphor for the powerful illusion of national identity. So much in this world depends on walls of sand

. Rwenzururu
Uganda
I picked the Rwenzori mountains of Uganda and the secessionist movement they harbor just to serve as a placeholder for the tragedy of apportionment in Africa, which proceeded much more according to the arbitrary ideas of thoughtless outsiders acting on colonial boundaries than the national ideas of Africans. It's not like nobody tried to take Africans' self-conceptions into account during this process, they just weren't really listened to. So Africa, with the possible exception of the Middle East, wound up with some of the world's most arbitrary national boundaries. Shucks.


Badakhshan
Northern Alliance
I
t's probably pretty clear at this point to any student of history that the Afghans really don't like to be ruled or occupied by anyone else. A more recent development is that other people do not enjoy being ruled by Afghans. You might remember the Northern Alliance, a multi-colored dreamcoat of ethnicities that started shooting at the Taliban long before we started giving them guns. This region should probably be renamed Badass-stan.

Kaliningrad
Konisberg
Formerly Prussian Konisberg, Kaliningrad is a perpetual exclave, a city in search of a country, a relic of a time in Europe's history when conquest was easier, and royal genetics often trumped the heredity of the peoples who farmed a patch of land. Lithuania, Germany, and Poland all have valid claims to this territory but nobody wants a war. So inertia is the King of Konisberg now. The king is dead. Long live the king.

Cooch-Behar
Bangladesh
A series of card or chess games (history forgets which) between the Raja of Cooch Behar and the Maharaja of Rangpur resulted in a pockmarked and unworkable border between modern India and Bangladesh that persists to this day.


Nationhood is a fiction from which we seem to be unable to awaken. Maybe this is because we need governance, but there is an aspect of governance which must always be arbitrary. That's the nature of rules in general, isn't it? The need to draw a line where no line exists in fact.