As a member of the board of directors of the old and respected print publication In These Times (ITT), I have a front row seat observing media and social transformation.  As our society changes, so does its institutions.  In These Times, like many print businesses, is facing change.

Perhaps unique to this situation is that ITT is itself a publication that represents the forces of change, having represented a Left/Progressive perspective for several decades.

In These Times is transitioning to a board-of-editors format from a traditional paid-staff paradigm, forced into this alternative organizational and production structure by an unforgiving economic environment.  There is no irony here.  As a harbinger of change, ITT is changing.

Across the country, there is much talk of the 1930s both because our economy feels informed by what happened last time things were this bad, but also because it was in the 1930s that there was a powerful societal shift from corporate interests to the commons.  In the 1930s, that shift was characterized by hierarchical institutions championing positions that empowered those with almost no ability to help themselves.  The unions exhibited strength and vision.  The Democratic Party sometimes reflected this grass roots, “common man” perspective.…

Behemoth Google

July 7, 2009 | 1 Comment

Category: Society, Web

I’ve been a search engine optimization professional since 1999.  I get paid more for this than anything else I specifically know how to do.  It requires no tech savvy (I am technologically impaired) but primarily an awareness of pattern, the implication of those patterns as regards to strategy, and flexibility of behavior.

Muddling through how Google works for a decade, I’ve made discoveries, changed my behavior and watched the results.  Google responds to changes that optimizers make.  Optimizers modify their behaviors.  Over the years what I do to make possible high rankings for my clients, and my own sites, becomes more and more limited to what I believe Google will not penalize in the future.  Often, behavior that Google rewarded at one point in this evolution Google turned around and penalized at a later time.  Though I am very good at what I do, much continues to confuse me.  I have concluded that Google uses random variables in its algorithm to make its behavior less predictable.  That’s what I would do.  I continue to make discoveries regarding what works best, often by accident.  I notice a site doing particularly well, a site subject to some particular linking strategy, traffic pattern, …


July 6, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Society

I don’t watch much TV.  Maybe an hour a month at most.  On rare occasions, I watch a TV program on a rented CD, and then buy the year.  I watched the first three seasons of Lost on tape before losing interest.  I watched one season of Heroes before being turned off.  That’s pretty much all I’ve seen since the cancelling of Star Trek, A New Generation.

These days I check in on the blogs in the early morning, noting a number of TV excerpts on mostly political subjects.  So, I’m watching TV more now that the blogs are posting snatches of Fox at its extremes, John Stewart, various speeches, etc.

So, I’m getting a view of the Right via Left blogs that often post TV of Right Wing television and radio, Right media going after the Left and Left blogs.

I used to check in on the Right blogs directly, but now I visit only my brother-in-law’s site,, that takes Right economic/finance positions.  Craig is the chair of a university department in Economics and Finance, and he travels around the world to consult with corporations and trading institutions.  Craig’s specialty is derivatives.  He offers no apologies for the …

Still, I am muddling through the implications of mother and infant estrogen levels influencing the timing of testosterone surges similar to how a teenaged girl’s fat levels influence the timing of her reaching puberty.  I sometimes hear distant melodies of sense, not quite able to figure out the song.

My step-daughter Gwyn contracted juvenile diabetes when she was about 11.  She couldn’t keep fat on, and puberty was delayed.  Finally, she seemed to have achieved enough weight and her first menses arrived.  The whole family went out for supper in celebration.

All that time while she was trying to gain weight, she kept on growing taller.

I sometimes wonder if Gwyn’s effortless intelligence and astonishing facility with language is directly related to her delayed puberty and diabetes.  The brain continues to grow until puberty’s testosterone surges prune that growth.  Might a eunuch have a larger brain than a male with both testicles?  Would a male with one testicle have a larger brain than a male with two?

I had a childhood friend with a single testicle.  It descended only after he was born.  David had several Asperger’s features in his personality and a strangely large head.  He tested brilliant.  He …

There are days when I feel deeply out of touch with conventional wisdom and have to console myself that what I am engaged in is more art than science.  Right now is one of those times that I am experiencing a deep hole in my stomach that feels a lot like grief.  Regarding business and organizing for social change, I feel integrated into a larger network and feel supported for the work I do.  When it comes to evolutionary theorizing and my conjectures around the cause of autism, I have so few discussions with academics on specifics that the occasional positive regards that I am provided by an academic are difficult to connect to any particular insight or hypothesis that I’ve formed.  A problem is that the network of hypothesized relationships that I am calling “The Theory of Waves” involves many moving pieces built on several unorthodox assumptions.  It is difficult to have discussion around specifics.

I am feeling insecure.

A deep premise of my work is that heterochronic theory (which includes neoteny and its opposite, acceleration) informs both human conditions characterized by maturational delay (autism and Asperger’s) and contemporary social transformation (democratic horizontalization and the Internet).  The influence of …

Brain Journey

July 3, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Auto-Biography

Well, on Monday Marcia and I sat down with the brain surgeon.  The aneurysm in the second MRA was not larger than the test from six months ago.  It is truly staggering that the Evanston clinic used a different calibration protocol than the Chicago office, resulting in a large enough size difference that the chances for a rupture in any given year was off by almost an order of 10.

Regardless, with a worst case scenario of a 50/50 chance of rupture in the next 20 years (there was an even far worse prognosis by another surgeon), I’ve decided to have the operation sometime this summer.

First, the surgeon will conduct a rather surreal test where they run a balloon up my neck, diverting the activity of the left carotid artery while running blood vessel submarine telescopes up my arteries, through my groin.  They’ll take videos of my aneurysm while monkeying with the carotid artery, which includes shutting it off.  They’ll follow that with more brain scans with radioactive markers.

All this will occur while I’m fully awake with so I can provide information on the effects of the procedure, responding to questions while they examine the video.

With the …

“But effective clitoral stimulation, though intensely pleasurable, does not necessarily occur during sexual intercourse.  Female pleasure, far more than male pleasure, is a function of erotic learning and cultural expectations.  Among human societies the most advanced orgasmically are purported to be the women of Mangaia, a southern Cook Island in central Polynesia.  Mangaian females reach orgasm two or three times during intercourse.  Upon entering puberty at thirteen or fourteen years of age, Mangaian boys go through a series of initiation rites into adulthood.  Part of the initiation includes being instructed in methods of stimulating women to maximum sexual pleasure.  Indeed, Mangaian women are expected to attain orgasm during intercourse each time; if not, the Mangaian man who fails to please her loses his status in the island’s society.  Two weeks after a manhood initiation ritual involving penile mutilation, an experienced older woman begins to practice boys in the arts of conferring female sexual pleasure.  According to their ethnographer, D.S. Marshall, Mangaians probably know more about female anatomy than most European physicians.  The Mangaians, with no semblance of a Puritan heritage, do not consider female sexual pleasure an indulgence.  They consider it a necessity.  High cultural expectations for female orgasm have …


July 1, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Biology, Society

For a while four years ago I was tracking the growth of the phrase “intelligent design” in Google to get an idea of how fast the concept, using those particular words, was attracting attention.

“intelligent design” 8/25/04 Google 174,000
“intelligent design” 9/28/04 Google 201,000
“intelligent design” 3/18/05 Google 671,000
“intelligent design” 7/4/05 Google 940,000

I recently revisited the phrase, discovering it had jumped to 6,400,000.

Clearly, it’s a concept that is acquiring a following or at least a lot of attention.

Though this blog spends a lot of time discussing human evolution theory and the repercussions of differences in theories, I spend little time focusing on the fundamentalist Christian battle to have Jewish origin myths integrated into science classes.  Stephen J. Gould’s work in this area was superb.  Richard Dawkins’ lectures on the subject make me cringe.  Ken Wilber has written a lot regarding the differences in world views between fundamentalist Christians and agnostic/atheist scientists.  In my opinion, it takes a spiritual relativist like Ken Wilber to make sense of the differences between Christian fundamentalists and natural selection evolutionary psychologist fundamentalists, both seeming to have difficulty embracing multiple paradigm perspectives.

It seems there are few pluralists in the battle between …


June 30, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Auto-Biography

There are lots of unresolved riddles circulating around the various patterns that I sift through while looking for relationships that suggest how human evolution unfolds.  Actually, it’s more like sifting through patterns or relationships feeling for answers, waiting for a “thunk” experience when the tumblers all line up.  Often, I sense an answer is sitting waiting, and I wander in a particular direction; it sometimes takes me weeks to get there.  Sometimes the solution leaps upon me, and I had no idea it was hiding.  I’m only half aware I carried a riddle seeking answers.  The surprise can occur while writing.  I can start an essay and somewhere over the course of the piece a connection is made that was not there even one sentence before my fingers were typing out the insight.  At other times, an unraveling can occur while I’m involved in an unrelated, pleasant kinesthetic experience such as taking a bath or sitting on the toilet.

Joseph Chilton Pearce wrote a book, The Crack in the Cosmic Egg, that is the closest thing I know of that explores how insight or the “ah ha” experience occurs.  I often find myself as fascinated by the process of …

“I have found the midsagittal area of the corpus callosum to be larger in mixed and left handers, referred to as non-consistent-right-handers (nonCRH), than among CRH subjects (Witelson, 1985).  Hand preference is a rough index of the pattern of brain organization.  Left handers (by various definitions) have a higher prevalence of atypical right-hemisphere representation of speech and language functions than do right handers and, in general, show a greater degree of bihemispheric representation of verbal and spatial skills (for review, see Bryden, 1988).”  (Witelson, S. F. (1991) Neural sexual mosaicism:  Sexual differentiation of the human temporo-parietal region for functional asymmetry.  Psychoneuroendocrinology 16: 139)

There seems to me to be tantalizing answers to riddles in human evolution in the various papers discussing corpus callosum structure in different kinds of human beings.  There are papers that support the conclusion that larger corpus callosums, or corpus callosums with larger sections, appear in left-handed people, women, those with two cerebral hemispheres that are the same size, musicians, the autistic and those that stutter.

“Theoretical speculation in humans (S. F Witelson,  Psychoneuroendocrinology 16 (1991) 131-153) and empirical findings in animals (R. H. Fitch, P. E. Cowell, L. M. Schrott, V. H. Denenberg, Int. J. Dev. …

It does not seem like a good idea to invest in that which you wish to see fail.  Such mixed feelings are not useful when it comes to money.

The American Left is filled with incongruities and the occasional hypocrisy that comprise any large movement or social group.  Made up of dozens of subgroups, the American Left can’t be said to hold too many positions that are universal among its followers.  One of those controversial positions, a position not often discussed, is the relationship between that section of the Left seeking profound systemic economic transformation and the Left that has a 401(k), IRA or other investments.  Often, a single person may seek both deep economic evolution and profits from investments.

One-half of such a person roots for the destruction of the Dow; the other half desperately seeks the stock market’s return to health.

I have more than a few friends that seek a sustainable, environmentally sound world economy that cares for the starving and makes health care available to all.  With the United States absorbing 25% of the world’s nonrenewable resources, deep systemic transformation needs to be characterized by an end of business as we know it.  Clearly, this has …

In the February 27, 2009, issue of Science on page 1164 begins an article on Chinese government attempts to adjust the male/female birth ratio.  At this time, there are 120 boys born for every 100 girls.  Female foeticide has replaced female infanticide as the technique best designed to dispose of unwanted females.  Still, many baby girls are not taken to the doctor when they grow ill.  There are still quasilegal ways to dispose of children.

I hypothesize that female infanticide and foeticide are patrifocal societal tools used to maintain a patrifocal frame.  Males that don’t fit the male patrifocal ideal don’t achieve a wife and don’t pass on ideal genes.  Maintaining a high male/female birth ratio goes a long way toward encouraging long-term patrifocal societal stability.

“Bao and Li are one of four couples in their 600-person village to have espoused uxorilocal marriage, or living with the wife’s family.  Couples in some regions have opted for this lifestyle throughout Chinese history, but the practice is typically stigmatized.  By rewarding daring couples with land and public praise, Care for Girls aims to remove the stigma.  Bao says it worked:  “People don’t discriminate against you now.”  (Science, p. 1164)

The …

There was a fascinating study I read several years ago that sampled the genes of children and their parents across working, middle and upper classes in the UK, looking for variations in the degree those women had made cuckolds of their husbands.  In other words, what percentage of families had children from fathers other than the father the children thought was theirs?

Across all UK classes, ~20 percent of children were living in families with fathers that were not their own.

On a show called Radio Lab, available by blog cast, there was a story that described a boy’s genotype being compared to his mother’s with the discovery that the boy’s mother was not really his mother.  After confirming that there had been no hospital mix-up (the boy was directly related to his dad), it was discovered that the mother was actually a two-person hybrid, a chimera.  In the womb, two embryos had somehow merged.  The boy was a direct descendant of some parts of the mother’s body, but not other parts.  The boy was not descended from the parts that had been the mother’s uterine sister.

A feature of rare aboriginal societies is that there are children that don’t …

I have been told by others, particularly by author David Brin with some annoyance, that my bias toward the matrifocal frame weighs down what I am trying to communicate.  At those moments you feel most perturbed by how I’ve said something, do tell me so my turns of phrase don’t turn stomachs.  I’d rather communicate than indoctrinate.

I write about 90 days before posts appear.  In a couple weeks [a couple months ago], posts start to emerge that begin with the observation of a possible erroneous connection, that both Hopi and Trobriand Islanders have languages with not much more than the present tense and both are matrifocal.  Two cases a pattern does not make.  That the Hopi are mostly present tense is contested.  The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (that language informs culture with language structure guiding culture values) is considered disproved by many, but I’m thinking there might be a connection between language, ancient matrifocal society, primary process and autism.

A premise in that long piece, “Introduction to the Theory of Waves,” is that matrifocal societies will evidence diseases and conditions associated with autism in modern society.  I’m starting to think that premise may be wrong.  The particular way that …

Halting the Parade

June 24, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Society

At some point, our society is going to understand that a system that enhances the creation and maintenance of a wealthy elite is not good for the social system or the planet.  It’s looking like this revelation will be coming to America.  I’m suspecting this will not be until a massive number of formerly middle-class people sit staring at others with protected wealth.

This revelation carries potential for harm.  The realization that congregating wealth in the hands of the few necessarily creates inequalities will likely result not in a step-by-step, goal-oriented plan to destratify society but instead a blame-infused toppling of structure, potentially denying many access to resources.

Our corporate-controlled media are realizing that blaming rich people sells.  There is hesitancy to blame the system.  Perhaps this reflects an intuition built from observing the collapse of aristocracies when the system, not individuals, was blamed.  Instead, elements of the media are choosing to assign blame to individuals–the bad apple paradigm–so as to maintain the cadence of the consumer/producer parade.

The musicians will stop playing the march music.  The media pundits and anchors will change their tune.  I’d like them to play dance music.  The parade will come to a halt.  Blame …

In Seattle seeing family in March, I noticed American Indian and Asian populations, both with epicanthic folds.  The epicanthis fold is considered a neotenous feature because all humans exhibit this in the womb.  Many are born with the feature and lose it as they grow older.

As noted in previous pieces (see, people with Down syndrome display the fold.  People with Down syndrome exhibit a host of neotenous features.

What strikes me is the possibility that epicanthis folds might offer a signal for social structure anomalies.  This seems a stretch because Asian societies are largely patrifocal, negating the feature’s correlation with matrifocal societies.  Still, it would be interesting to know the variety of cultures around the world that display this feature.

I’ve discussed the two different kinds of neotenous societies, the Scandinavian and Asian paradigms.  The two kinds of societies display two different clusters of neotenous characteristics.  Scandinavians show blond hair, blue eyes, light skin, lanky builds and egalitarian societies.  Asians display light skin, childlike, fragile features, short height and the epicanthic folds.

One society matrifocal at its foundation, the other society patrifocal.

The tentative resolution of this conflict was discussed in the series of posts noted here

Marcia noticed it before I did.  In deep thought, seeking answers to difficult problems, I tap out intricate percussive patterns by clicking my fingernails or by tapping my fingers, often to subtle swaying of my body.  I think thoughts by making music, percussive music, tying together the different mental threads.  I seek assimilation of the feelings in my body, the sounds that those feelings make and the words in my mind representing ideas mating to create unique progeny solutions.

My son, Elia, noticed that he and I both unconsciously, constantly, tap out on the steering wheel percussive riffs that seem to reflect unconscious mental activity.  Marcia has noticed how often he and I engage in evidently unconscious rhythm patterning.  She’ll observe us both quietly standing and tapping fingers to a hidden dance, occasionally both of us listening to the same invisible tempo, unaware that we’re both moving to an identical flow.

There was a point in my life when I practiced sensory acuity.  I was training to become a practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.  I remember sitting in the back of a bus headed down Broadway in winter Chicago.  I placed myself in a trance while observing the shoulders of maybe …

I have an old compulsion.  It’s not clear when it emerged.  This constant urge is characterized by my seeking ways to make two or more things not obviously connected, connected, in as few steps as possible.

In high school, I wrote papers that sought to integrate subjects or themes at best only tangentially related.  In chemistry, I wrote a piece on motorcycle engine engineering.  In English, I penned a short play using characters from three books I was supposed to be writing a book report on.  I sought to push the boundaries of what intuitively seemed related.  My teachers criticized me for a seeming inability to follow directions and write a paper on a single subject.

I remember creating a drawing in art class with a middle-class man’s head on a T-Rex body, and I titled it “Alfred K. Prufrock.”  That drawing summarized what I was seeking, a way to integrate opposites so the world made sense.

I longed for a world that revealed integration.  Seeking relief from anguish and self-recrimination, I often dissociated to a degree that allowed a matching of opposites in my imagination that refused to ally themselves in my emotions.

I felt torn.  I sought unification.…

The Serpent

June 20, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Unconscious

It happens that the thing we seek may be so close by, so a part of ourselves, that we cannot see it.  Still, there are other ways to perceive the world.

Among the aboriginal Australians, there are myths of serpent spirits that can vary from a few inches to the length of the Milky Way.  In the latter case, the serpent has grown so large that its relevance may seem to wane, and we forget that we form a part of it and we forget it’s even there.  To be aware of something, it helps if you have to have enough distance from it to identify its boundaries, if boundaries exist.  Still, achieving distance is not the only way of gaining perspective.

Verbal, symbolic language use and exponential brain-size increases are two qualities closely associated with the idiosyncrasy of being human.  Noting how we are different from other species, we see there is controversy when it comes to agreeing on the processes by which these unique characteristics evolved.  It is difficult getting distance when exploring issues of consciousness.  If you are exploring the nature of thought itself, it becomes seemingly impossible to discern the Milky Way-sized serpent from the self; …


June 19, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Auto-Biography

I think I was in seventh grade when I remember thinking to myself that it seemed that my immediate circle of friends and I were unusually entertained by jokes having to do with crap, poop, farting and the various bathroom evacuation processes.  Paul, my best friend, and I seemed particularly amused by crap jokes.  Paul recently died of Parkinson’s.  It was maybe five years ago that I realized that Paul had Asperger’s.

I did not have Asperger’s, though I was definitely maturational delayed.  Still, a number of my friends were very smart, very strange and immature for their age.  It wasn’t until after SAT and other exams were taken that I discovered that several in my group of friends were not just smart, but scary smart.  Several tested highest in New Trier High School, one of the highest testing schools in the country.  There was more than one candidate for Asperger’s among the folks I knew.

Not fitting into that class of super smart folks, I’d grown up focused on comic books, reading hardly anything else until sixth grade.  My father was a talented athlete.  My focus was baseball.  I was terrible at baseball.  Nevertheless, I had a passion for …


June 18, 2009 | 6 Comments

Category: Causes of Autism, Estrogen, Ontogeny

OK.  Several possible estrogen-related connections have emerged in the last few days.

First, if estrogen is a trigger in teenaged girls for entering puberty, thus beginning the testosterone surges that freeze brain growth, and it is also true for males (a stretch) that estrogen levels trigger pubertal timing, might this also apply to male and female infant/toddler testosterone-surge synapse pruning that results in asymmetric cerebral lateralization?  If so, might infant/toddler estrogen levels be instrumental in causing autism, low estrogen resulting in delayed growth?

Second, noting the seeming connection between estrogen’s focus on the young and the exhibition of maternal behavior along with estrogen’s focus on very specific features in a mate (thus driving the emergence of unique male species traits), is it true that species that engage in female sexual selection are also species where the mother exhibits maternal behavior?  An implication is that K vs. r strategies might compel female choice and changes in the exhibition of male behaviors.

Third, might it be the case that estrogen, predating testosterone, is somehow responsible for early proliferation of life on earth insofar as estrogen is associated with creation, discrimination and focus on the young?

In the old religions, there is a …

“Well, we could get stoned before we decorate the tree.”

My wife, Marcia, had just spoken words the rest of us had not expected to hear.

The kids, 18 and 17 (boy and girl), had, before this comment, been communicating a respectful dismay with slack shoulders, shallow breaths and averted eyes.  They, of course, would rather be doing anything (with friends) than trim the tree.  I’d already concluded that silent, passionless cooperation was the most that my wife and I could hope for.  But Marcia’s words had ignited sudden, deep inhalations and bouncy demeanors in the two teens.

“OK,” I said, and I smiled.

With a giddy, awed reverence the kids indicated that purchasing and decorating the tree would be a special day for them.  Then they noted how horribly expensive marijuana was now compared to when Marcia and I were familiar with the prices.  I handed them a 20.

It’d been over 20 years since I had last smoked pot.  I’d been drunk twice in that same period–the last time at Easter supper three years ago.  This occurred because a massive toothache, untouched by medication, had condemned all my attention to my mouth and there were no dentists on …

When I turned 50

June 16, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Auto-Biography

I’ve never had a hard time being playful, exactly.  I’m not exactly sure.  I don’t create much time for the opportunity to play.  I work a lot.  And, I guess, I take myself too seriously.

For example, there are things I’m ashamed to admit to myself about myself.  That it mattered that I turned 50 six years ago was such a thing.  The last week before the event–the event was a party my wife convinced me to accept–was filled with a succession of occasions for anxiety.

Like the line of mourners that file by the bereaved family, an orchestral spectrum of neurotic, middle-aged, Jewish male symptoms gathered and nurtured over a 30-year adult life–one by one–paid respects as the days counted down to the zero hour.  Three hours before midnight, a anxiety attack cheerfully assailed me.  I was convinced I was having appendicitis while simultaneously aware of the high predictability of my having this anxiety attack–the finale to a Mahler symphony of a week’s worth of abdominal percussion and a host of other somatic idiosyncratic experiences.  To list the instrumentation of this work would sound to my ears like dinner with grandma when I was a boy.  I’ll spare you …


June 15, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Society

It has been estimated that as human beings culturally evolved over the last 50,000 years or so, radical changes occurred very early in that process.  The river of culture’s evolution began deep and wide.  Many of these changes have been hypothesized to have occurred in relation to language.  It is difficult to discuss cultural evolution without discussing language and its effects.  Here I want to focus on one specific current or manifestation of these changes, community size.

Six years ago I reached 50 years old, the first of my friends from high school and earlier to reach that milestone.  I then noticed in my character the tenacious hold of a specific feature, a characteristic familiar to me my whole adult life, but a feature that then seemed anachronistic or out of place.  I am referring to a deep craving for recognition–the seeking of achievement followed by accolades.  I’d always been driven by my imagining the rewards of affirmation following success.  As the years unfurled, this craving looked more and more like the exhibition of a wound, as opposed to just being part of the baggage of being male or a male member of this culture.  Nevertheless, it is a wound …

Jesus and the Aliens

June 13, 2009 | 2 Comments

Category: Auto-Biography

My wife’s ex-brother-in-law believes that he is an alien from outer space.  I am told that he likes to discuss this at family events, making small talk seem even tinier.  Confusing the metaphor with the thing represented is not uncommon in our culture.  Perhaps this is what makes the crazy people so irritable–that it’s so obvious that the “sane” are also closet nuts, taking seriously the oddest things.  Still, it feels to me like passing a wreck on the interstate when I pass time with someone deeply into psychosis, where the metaphor and thing represented have merged.

My mother used to live with a woman who believed that she was Jesus Christ.  Both were living in a mental hospital at the time.  My mother met many fascinating people in the mental hospital.  When she was being a mother–between hospital stays–I think she was bored and intimidated by the sane people.  I suspect she only truly became comfortable with me when as a teen I became intimate with altered states.  Perhaps my mom felt most understood by those whose identities were most in flux, who felt at least slightly paranoid and suspicious of society and culture.

After three years of college–having …