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This is from Kim Stanley Robinson's Sixty Days and Counting

The Bank guy was going on about differential costs, "and that's why it's going to be oil for the next twenty, thirty, maybe even fifty years," he concluded. "None of the alternatives are competitive."

Charlie's pencil tip snapped. "Competitive for what?" he demanded.

He had not spoken until that point, and now the edge in his voice stopped the discussion. Everyone was staring at him. He stared back at the World Bank guys.

"Damage from carbon dioxide emission costs about $35 a ton, but in your model no one pays it. The carbon that British Petroleum burns per year, by sale and operation, runs up a damage bill of fifty billion dollars. BP reported a profit of twenty billion, so actually it't thirty billion in the red, every year. Shell reported a profit of twenty-three billion, but if you added the damage cost it would be eight billion in the red. These companies should be bankrupt. You support their exteriorizing of costs, so your accounting is bullshit. You're helping to bring on the biggest catastrophe in human history. If the oil companies burn the five hundred gigatons of carbon that you are describing as inevitable because of your financial shell games, then two-thirds of the species on the planet wil be endangered, including humans. But you keep talking about fiscal discipline and competitive edges in profit differentials. It's the stupidest head-in-the-sand response possible."

The World Bank guys flinched at this. "Well," one of them said, "we don't see it that way."

Charlie said, "That's the trouble. You see it the way the banking industry sees it, and they make money by manipulating money irrespective of effects in the real world. You've spent a trillion dollars of American taxpayers' money over the lifetime of the Bank, and there's nothing to show for it. You go into poor countries and force them to sell their assets to foreign investors and to switch from subsistence agriculture to cash crops, then when the prices of those crops collapse you call this nicely competitive on the world market. The local populations starve and you then insist on austerity measures even though your actions have shattered their economy. You order them to cut into their social services so they can pay off their debts to you and to your financial community investors, and you devalue their real assets and then buy them on the cheap and sell them elsewhere for more. The assets of that country have been strip-mined and now belong to international finance. That's your idea of development. You were intended to be the Marshall Plan, and instead you've been the United Fruit Company."
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Even better, go look at the full-size version

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Came across this image a while ago in some random context.

There are a lot of things that I really like about it. It's an industrial setting, which is a positive for me. It's also an unusual space, a place that most people don't normally see, so that's also a positive. It has a worn and weathered quality that I also appreciate.

The framing of it is reminiscent of Richard Diebenkorn (whose birthday was today, I learned earlier). It also has a flatness that makes it more graphic than representational.

Even the color of it is surprisingly nice, and I'm not first and foremost a color person, but I don't think this would work as well in black and white. Desaturated it in GIMP and it doesn't work nearly as well.
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Reading the rest of Kim Stanley Robinson's 40-50-60 trilogy right now. It's slow going, especially since I read "Forty Signs of Rain" a while ago; these aren't quite page-turners, so it took some persistence to get back into it. But I'm halfway through "Sixty Days and Counting" now, so I think I'll finish it all.

This following bit is from "Fifty Degrees Below," (pp 21-46) and is an interesting, though idealized, rant. But there's nothing wrong with ideals and aspirations. Robinson has written similar pieces elsewhere that make similar suggestions. So, while this is from a work of fiction, the ideas behind it are still worth sharing and worth thinking about.

"Contract with Our Children"

1. protection of the biosphere:
Sustainable uses; clean technologies; carbon balance; climate homeostasis.

2. protection of human welfare:
Universal housing, clothing, shelter, clean water, health care, education, reproductive rights. 

3. full employment:
Current economy defines 5.4% unemployment as optimum for desired “wage-pressure balance,” treating labor (people) as a commodity and using a supply/demand pricing model. Five percent in U.S.A. = approx. fifteen million people. At the same time there is important work not being done.

If government-insured full employment reduced “wage-pressure,” forcing a rise in minimum wages from the private sector, this would help pull millions out of poverty, decrease their government dependence and social service costs, and inject and cycle their larger incomes back into the economy. 

4. Individual ownership of the majority of the surplus value of one’s labor.
People create by their work an economic value beyond what it costs to pay them and provide their means of production. This averages $66,000 per year for American workers, a surplus now legally belonging to owners/stockholders.

American workers therefore receive between a fifth and a third of the actual value of their work. The rest goes to owners.

A minimum share of 51% of the surplus value of one’s work should be returned to one, this value to be measured by objective and transparent accounting as defined by law. 

3. and 4. combined would tend to promote the greatest good for the greatest number, by distributing the wealth more equitably among those who have created it.

5. Reduction of military spending:
Match U.S. military expenditures to the average of other nations; this would halve the military budget, freeing over two hundred billion dollars a year.

More generally, all national militaries should be integrated in an international agreement upholding nonviolent conflict resolution. (Using black helicopters of course.)

Disproportionate size of US military and arms industry a waste of resources. Doubling since September 11, 2001 resembles panic response or attempt at global hegemony. Results undermine goals outlined in the foundational axioms. 

6. Population stabilization:
Human population stabilized at some level to be determined by carrying capacity studies and foundational axioms. Best results here so far have resulted from increase in women’s rights and education, also a goal in itself, thus a powerful positive feedback loop with chance for results within a single generation.

Context/ultimate goal: Permaculture

A scientifically informed government should lead the way in the invention of a culture which is sustainable perpetually. This is the only normative bequest to the generations to come. It is not adaptive to heavily damage the biosphere when our own offspring and all the generations to follow will need it, like we do, in order to survive. If reproductive success is defined as life’s goal, as it is in evolutionary theory, then stealing from descendants is maladaptive.

Protection of the environment, therefore, along with restoration of landscapes and biodiversity, should become one of the principle goals of the economy. Government must lead the way in investigating potential climate-altering strategies to mitigate current problems and eventually establish a balance that can be maintained in perpetuity.
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Imagine doing a Tom Kundig-style 'gizmo' for an operable building component (like the crank to open the window from the Chicken Point Cabin - see below), but instead of just having an exposed mechanism, add to that using the oddly shaped and improbable gears from "Quilty1987" from BoingBoing. That could be quite something.

links & references:
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I read almost exactly half of "Surface Detail," Iain M. Banks' latest Culture novel while I was traveling to take care of my brother's affairs. And it was, in part, almost eerily appropriate:

"There had always been specialist sub-divisions within the organisational behemoth that was Contact. Special Circumstances was only the most obvious and, uniquely, it had been formally separate almost since its inception; largely because it sometimes did the sort of things the people who were proud to be part of Contact would have been horrified to have been remotely associated with.

"As time had passed though, especially over the last half-thousand years or so, Contact itself had seen fit to introduce various re -organisations and rationalisations which had resulted in the creation of three other specialist divisions, of which the Quietudinal Service was one.

"The Quietudinal Service – Quietus, as it was usually called – dealt with the dead....

"Relatively small in terms of ships and personnel, Quietus could nevertheless call on whole catalogued suites of dead but preserved experts and expert systems – not all of which were even pan-human in origin – to help them deal with such matters, bringing them back from their fun-filled retirement or out of suspended animation, where they had left instructions that they were ready to be revived if they could be of use when circumstances required.

"Slanged as “Probate” by some of those in SC, Quietus had links with Special Circumstances, but regarded itself as a more specialised service than its much older and larger sibling utility. Most of the humans within Quietus regarded any links with SC as deplorable in essence and only very occasionally necessary, if ever. Some just plain looked down on Special Circumstances. Theirs, they felt, was a higher, more refined calling and their demeanour, behaviour, appearance and even dress reflected this.

"Quietus ships added the letters OAQS – for On Active Quietudinal Service – to their names while they were so employed, and usually took on a monochrome outer guise, either pure shining white in appearance or glossily black. They even moved quietly, adjusting the configuration of their engine fields to produce the minimum amount of disturbance both on the sub-universal energy grid and the 3D skein of real space. Normal Culture ships either went for maximum efficiency or the always popular let’s-see-whatwe-can-squeeze-out-of-these-babies approach. "
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My Brother's Dead and My Dog Is Dying

After Archifest, the month has rapidly accelerated downhill. My brother died suddenly and unexpectedly. I'm still trying to deal with that. If you're a friend whose contact with me is just through LJ, contact me privately if you need more information.

The dog was sick a few weeks ago, and then while I was away, his symptoms returned. Ultrasound with the vet revealed that he has numerous tumors inside him. He's 11 years old, or so (we adopted him from a rescue group when he was around 5, but we don't know precisely). That's about the same age our previous corgi was (also a rescue dog) when he died, right before Halloween 7 years ago. Corgis can live longer than that, but 11-12 is not unexpected for a corgi lifespan. (I've seen ranges given of 10-15, 11-14, and 12-13; seems like they're narrowing in on it.)

We're not sure how long he has, but it's probably going to be sooner rather than later.

So that's why I'm not saying much else.

I'll be back in a while.
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Over the years, I've built a couple of lamps using EMT (metal conduit), electrical boxes, plain ceramic socket, and assorted fittings and pieces. The first one I built when I was out in LA, and was a tall-ish (maybe 4' tall) reading light kind of fixture. (I'm not sure whatever happened to it, but I don't think it came back from the West Coast.) The most recent one (out in the garage these days, I think) was a shorter (maybe 15" tall) desk lamp that I've had around for years.

So it was surprising to see these "junkbot lamps" on BoingBoing a few days ago. These are a whole lot more character-oriented than my pieces, and these look like they've been painted, instead of embracing the random beauty of galvanized metal. Still, there's a strong connection in terms of the palette of shapes and pieces.

Recently, I've been thinking about going back and making a few more of these pieces of my own. I'm pretty much over the use of incandescent bulbs anymore, but bare-bulb CFL isn't very nice, either. I'd like to figure out how to be able to set these up as LED fixtures, though I don't want to rely on current screw-base LED lights (which are mostly awful, and likewise unsuited for exposed applications. Maybe with a Plumen bulb?

Plumens are supposed to be available in the US sometime soon. They are shipping the first ones in Europe and the UK this fall, and they are "coming soon" for the rest of the world.

Without a socket, it could be interesting to try some things with LED engines, and build a more directional lamp, rather than a general illuminator. I just need to get some pieces and experiment a bit.
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George R R Martin (grrm) posted a clip of the Game of Thrones trailer:


It's going to be a series on HBO in 2011. I don't have cable, so I'm not going to get to see it directly, but maybe I can find someone who has HBO and find a way to watch it.
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via: BoingBoing

(Post title is a reference to #cultureships thread running on Twitter earlier today. That was one of a few I posted, along with GSV Business in Front, Party in Back; ROU One In the Yarbles; GOU Do Not Look Directly into Laser Beam With Remaining Eye. (Iain M Banks has a new Culture novel coming out next month)
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Something about this house is really compelling to me. It's more something that appeals to my 80s (or maybe even 70s) self than something I find interesting in my current thoughts about architecture and design. Still, something about it is compelling.

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(This is an incomplete draft that was lost.)

We had our more-or-less annual pilgrimage to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula at the end of June, and came back to the States on Canada Day (July 1, if you were going to look it up). That turned out to be a mistake, but otherwise, it was a great trip. We went to several of our usual haunts in Tobermory and around the area. We hiked a little bit of the Bruce Trail and went out to Flowerpot Island. And we did all of this with my inlaws along on the trip.

T on the rock at Flowerpot Island

Since madgallica's parents were along we had to convoy in two vehicles. But that meant that we could shift kids around, and that stopped a lot of the squabbling and poking at each other. Also, they brought along their two kayaks, and, in addition to the other things, we also did a couple days of kayaking out in the harbor by the cottage. N went out by himself, and T went out as a passenger with grandpa.
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Recent reads include Robert Charles Wilson's Julian Comstock and Cory Doctorow's Makers. And, right now, I'm reading Guy Gavriel Kay's latest, Under Heaven (which, I also heard, was on someone's summer reading list on NPR last week).

Compared to the Hugo winning Spin, Wilson's Julian Comstock was somewhat disappointing, but then, so was Axis, the sequel to Spin. For me, where Julian Comstock broke down was in its casting of the 22nd Century as a mirror of the 19th. Maybe it started out as an 'alternate history' novel, where America expanded from equator to pole and coast to coast. There were some mentions of the past technologies and an awareness of the Secular Ancients, but the technology and the setting for Julian Comstock were far too close to the 19th century. History may repeat itself, but not with such fidelity and discarding all the developments that came later.

Other reviews have been more positive, and I didn't dislike it; it's just that Julian Comstock didn't connect with me as much as Spin did.

Makers was really enjoyable. It wasn't quite as galvanizing as Little Brother, which really grabbed me, and almost made me want to go back and be 14 all over again. But Makers has some interesting things to say about the culture of making things. And, just below the surface, Doctorow seems to imagine a world where enormous Cornell box amusement rides are a pinnacle of civilization.

There's a fundamental belief in Disney that Cory has always had that, I have to admit, just doesn't connect with me. I've been to both the Florida and the California Disney attractions (though years and years ago), but what I remember most was how much I liked all the streams and running water through the landscape. The rides were overhyped and underwhelming. Maybe it's because my parents weren't inclined to indulge us with merchandise, but I just don't get excited about Disney. The Mouse always seemed lame and stupid, compared to interesting cartoon characters like the Warner Brothers' crew. And now, with all the copyfights, I'm even less a fan of the rodent king.

So, for me, the Ride that Doctorow envisions in Makers never connects. The magic of the Ride remains suggested and hinted, but never directly explained. That's appropriate, since explaining it would kill it. But it seems to presuppose a vein of experience that I don't share.

One of the characters had this pronouncement, which caught my attention, as you might imagine: "I don't find much attractive about human settlement, though. If it needs to be there, it should just be invisible as possible. We fundamentally live in ugly boxes, and efforts to make them pretty never do anything for me except call attention to how ugly they are. I kinda wish that everything was built to disappear as much as possible so we could concentrate on the loveliness of the world." -- pp 296-7
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A set of Twitter posts from Chairman Bruce:

- 9-11, Enron, Iraq, Katrina, mortgage crisis, bailout, euro crisis, climate crisis, oil spill -- we're led by liars and sleepwalkers

- Every major event that hits us is a fake, a fraud, a provocation, a panic or an organized denial -- never anything we foresaw or averted

- We're way past the point of rationally managing events and into a business and politics of "lemming retention"

- *And I'm not even angry -- I'm saving my temper for the endless, ugly, Soviet-style ordeal of watching the Gulf Coast drown in tar
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I'm being more intermittent with LJ, so I've probably missed a few things. I was trying to go back through recent stuff, and couldn't get past the last 100 friends posts. Stuff here is a collection of odds & ends I haven't posted elsewhere. I'd like to find some kind of aggregator that shared my different posts all in one common location.

Right now, the best aggregator of my output is probably Twitter (@cornellbox). Posts for EcoGeek, Inhabitat, and Greenovation often get noted there when they are posted. I also try to tweet when the EcoGeek Newsletter gets sent out. Posts to my own blog (which include a fair number of reposts of those articles), get automatically posted on Twitter by WordPress (as well as to Facebook, at least for now - I'm also looking forward to a FB-killer, either Diaspora or something else).

There is also a site with a whole bunch of other apps and options I've been checking out, but haven't really had the time to explore enough to make a switch yet. Just realized that I have some new options now that I'm doing much of my daily computing under Ubuntu.

Other stuff:

Paolo Bacigalupi (The Windup Girl*) really likes Howard Tayler's (Schlock Mercenary) boots.

* link is to Paolo's website, but it's down right now as I post this.

I'm amused by ATT's mailing campaign to try to get us to sign up for services with them. We got an envelope that was printed in what was supposed to look like a handwritten font addressed to "Valued Michigan Resident" (presumably some ad-toad's concatenation of Valued Customer (except we aren't customers) and Michigan Resident). Inside was a one page flyer that was printed to look like a 2nd or 3rd generation photocopy, instead of like a cleanly printed ad, simple black and white page which was "marked up" in blue ink to look like someone had made a copy of something and sent it to us. It's laughably bizarre to me. Maybe it works for them.

We're under siege with cottonwood fluff. Our neighbor has a huge cottonwood tree, and so it's all over our yard right now. When there's enough of it on the ground, it can be a source of pyro-amusement, though. Another neighbor showed us that you can put a lighter to a patch of it, and it burns off quickly, with a flame front that travels like a line of gunpowder in a cartoon. On the other hand, it will set fire to a broom that is sitting in its midst (not that I would have firsthand knowledge of this).

Our in-sink garbage disposer hasn't been working for nearly the last year. I finally got around to taking it out of the sink yesterday. More importantly, I put in new drain basket and piping to make it a simple, disposerless sink. We keep a compost pile in our side yard, and are pretty good about keeping much of the junk out of our sink, although we have had periodic drain problems. (I think that a lot of that dates back to before we owned the house; our problems have been less frequent over the past few years.)
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I cannot go without remarking on seeing these recently on Dezeen.

"German brand Tecta have put into production a series of storage boxes on sticks originally designed by the late British architect Alison Smithson in 1988."

I don't really care for the "on-a-stick" bit, but I think these do capture a bit of the spirit of Joseph Cornell (and the use of bird images in populating the samples for photography is absolutely crucial, as well.

Several more images at the site if you want to look through.
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Look what fell out of the "Captain Tomorrow" Crackerjack box:

from Beyond the Beyond

It's got a certain amount of retro-cool, which I have to admit I really like aesthetically. But at the same time, I find it laughable (though, like Chairman Bruce, I too fear the day when "I might well meet some husky kid in uniform wearing one of these, and there would be no doubt that he could kick my ass.")

I like what J P Barlow said: "We have the wrong model for computer security. We need to be emulating biological immune strategies not military defense."
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I wrote something of a rant against greenwash PR that seems to reach a crescendo for Earth Day every year.  It was intended for EcoGeek, but didn't run there.  I posted it on the p s proefrock architecture blog, and ended up with a huge spike in my readership, at least for that moment.

Since I've been identified as a green writer, I am on a bunch of PR lists. Sometimes I do get interesting things, and I have found some of it useful; I can't consign it all to spam.

But there are lots of instances when some clueless PR flack gets hold of someone's 'green' list to send out hte great news about their client's fantastic work. Except it's usually anything but. I suppose, in some instances, they think that what's being done really is significant. I can see an office drone being really impressed at a few of these things.

I'm probably going to have some of my articles (stuff I'm writing for Greenovation, most likely) picked up by a company for their blog. Of course, they aren't going to pay me; it's not that important. I should be honored that they deign to give me some of their precious space, I guess.

Maybe I have another rant brewing...
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The model of interaction with the iPad is to be a "consumer," what William Gibson memorably described as "something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It's covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth... no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote."

via: BoingBoing

Cory Doctorow makes a strong, solid case against the iPad and points out why it is not a transformative device. And really, the article is much less about the iPad, good or bad, and much more about what is good and strong about Maker culture and information sharing, and why control and lockdown and design aimed at consumers is to be avoided.
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"It was a shocking thing to say and I knew it was a shocking thing to say. But no one has the right to live without being shocked. No one has the right to spend their life without being offended. Nobody has to read this book. Nobody has to pick it up. Nobody has to open it. And if you open it and read it, you don't have to like it. And if you read it and you dislike it, you don't have to remain silent about it. You can write to me, you can complain about it, you can write to the publisher, you can write to the papers, you can write your own book. You can do all those things, but there your rights stop. No one has the right to stop me writing this book. No one has the right to stop it being published, or bought, or sold or read. That's all I have to say on that subject." -- Philip Pullman

via: BoingBoing
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I'm finding it much easier to keep up with LJ after the big pruning I did, now that I'm not trying to use it as an RSS reader. tlatoani hoped I would keep something about my writing on LJ, instead of moving everything to the business blog, and there may be a couple other readers of mine here, so here are links to some recent articles of mine:




It also looks like I'm not going to be writing for JetsonGreen any more, unfortunately. Preston saw that I had started writing for Inhabitat, and seems to think it's a conflict of interest. We never had any kind of an agreement or a restriction about writing for other blogs. I'm disappointed to be losing that opportunity, but it's his blog and he can run it however he thinks is best.

I see the two blogs as occupying different niches. Both Inhabitat and JetsonGreen both cover a lot of green building, and there may be an overlap of readership, but to my mind they are no more in competition with each other than John Scalzi is with Tobias Buckell. They are complimentary to one another, not an either/or choice at all. In fact, like the SF authors, I see it as building on one another. As with SF, I want more green content than any one outlet can provide, so I appreciate having multiple sources. As a writer, I have different kinds of things I'm interested in writing about, and it's good to have multiple outlets for all of that.

Inhabitat wants particularly short, pithy articles. JetsonGreen has always been the place where I've felt longer pieces have their place. To my mind, the longer, more analytical pieces I've done for JetsonGreen don't really have anyplace else in the mix of blogs I write for. Maybe that kind of article will just be something I do for psproefrock from now on. Or I may see if there's someplace else for that kind of thing.

Unrelated to that, I also was in touch with the editors of WorkShifting about writing for them about coworking. This isn't even a paid writing assignment; I'm just interested in the topic. But, on Friday, I saw that they had a coworking article written by someone else. So I don't know if they are going to run my piece as well (although it is in many ways just a shorter version of the other article; I was planning to discuss the aspects of coworking on a more ongoing basis, so I was less concerned about completely covering the topic in a single post). So I'm not sure what's up with that, or if that is going to go forward or not.
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Haven't posted anything by Bruce Schneier for a while, so here's a quote from the latest CRYPTO-GRAM for consideration:

"On the face of it, Joseph Stack flying a private plane into the Austin, TX IRS office is no different than Nidal Hasan shooting up Ft. Hood: a lone extremist nutcase. If one is a terrorist and the other is a criminal, the difference is more political or religious than anything else.

Personally, I wouldn't call either a terrorist. Nor would I call Amy Bishop, who opened fire on her department after she was denied tenure, a terrorist.

I consider both Theodore Kaczynski (the Unabomber) and Bruce Ivins (the anthrax mailer) to be terrorists, but John Muhammad and Lee Malvo (the DC snipers) to be criminals. Clearly there is a grey area.

Muhammad and Malvo are an interesting case. By my understanding of the term, I would say that they were terrorists in that they were seeking to cause terror (and did so fairly effectively, you must say). Perhaps they were purer terrorists than the WTC and Pentagon attackers who, to some extent, saw their victims as a legitimate enemy and who believed there was some greater justification for their attacks. Despite the definition, I think Muhammad and Malvo were also criminals, and dealing with them in the criminal justice system was entirely appropriate.

More than anything, I think this presents a good example of a "boundary maintenance" issue as described in catastrophe theory (Catastrophe is not necessarily bad in this case; I think the indication is more toward sudden and unexpected or unpredictable). As people struggle to define things as part of one category or the other, things eventually reach a point of collapse, or catastrophe, where the whole system breaks down. At that point, perhaps a new category arises, or an entirely new system replaces the old one.

What we're calling terrorist most of the time is something that falls outside the older definitions of criminal or military, though it has feet in both camps. Rather than trying to force it into an old classification, we ought to be developing new modes and new approaches to deal with it.
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