Here's my answer.
Many people need desperately to receive this message: I feel and think much as you do, care about many of the things you care about, although most people do not care about them. You are not alone.
This site grew (and grew!) out of an investigation into a disastrous investment in New Zealand forests. It has morphed into a reference site covering a variety of topics.
Sympathy would be appreciated for the difficulty in categorising the hundreds of articles this site contains - at least until I can migrate off FrontPage and start using something flexible enough to allow more real-time operations.
For example, when students visit prisons, take drugs, or have their values tested, where would these stories be filed? Where do I put animals found in Wellington? Information and technology professionals given preferential immigration status? Does an article about patriarchy belong in Politics, Society/Culture or Men?
You get the idea.
Below is a computer rendering of the "shape" of this website followed by a few words on the navigation structure. I add new items almost daily. Usually I stuff them in where they seem to relate best, which may make them difficult to find. (If they're important, I might put a link to it from the home page.) Suggestions for a better way to organise things would be gratefully received.
You may wonder why I would expect anyone to navigate through a site that appears to be made up primarily of reference articles. The articles together build a philosophical pastiche. Briefly, the points I've tried to make with this site are these:
- Animals fall on a continuum of awareness and intelligence. While humans have symbols, technology, tools, large brains, and language to set them apart, the "apart space" isn't quite as wide as most assume. All those traits are shared to some degree by animals. Animals remind me of aliens from outer space. Mostly we don't bother learning their "language" and culture. We just eat them (but hope aliens wouldn't do the same to us!).
- The web is moving toward more entertainment, less content. I can't stop it. To view much of the animation site requires plugins and a fast connection. That's life.
- The Art of Playing Cards is for entertainment, really - no message (except a couple of articles on shuffling which could be useful).
- Drug is an overused term that includes, at the margins, spices and medicines and even, under the rubric "enhancement technologies", hosts of other things, from bodybuilding to dieting to virtual realities. It is common to want to alter our mundane or painful reality from time to time. Less emotion and more of an enlightened overview is required to formulate policies. Music, art, drugs, games, et cetera can be used to stimulate or to deaden. Some people, at some times, need deadening. Less criticism/legal restrictions and more education/understanding is called for.
- Education is a misnomer - schools (most schools, anyhow) exist to train, to standardise, and to measure that standardisation. At best, they teach a student how to learn. At worst, they foster bullying and diminish self-esteem. In America, at least, patriotism is a primary goal ("my country is the best!"). There's more out there to learn than any school could ever teach. I'd advise you to skip the lower grades, spend a lot of time browsing the internet, get someone to show you how to do math and head straight for a community college at the age of 15 or so...
- Our environmental problems are divided into two main areas - natural problems including weather, infalling objects, water (quality, level, or displacement) and the sun; then there are unnatural problems which include pollution, overcrowding, and biological, chemical and nuclear terrorism/war/accidents. Some things are controlled by chance no matter how much we would wish otherwise. Understanding Human Nature better could help us to understand Mother Nature.
- Flying gets its own section. Don't ask me why. The page on jet belts seems to be the most popular.
- A familiarity with modern (since 1785 or so) European history - including European countries' important relationships with the rest of the world - helps to explain how the world ended up in the entanglements of today. History can be dry, so I've tried to include some of the more interesting bits.
- No matter how serious the topic, humour always helps (I try to change this from time to time, but you've probably already read them all anyway.) There are a few articles on what is funny and one on what is that odd thing called laughter.
- Immigration does more good than harm. Open borders and free trade would redistribute wealth - tough on some in the short term but better for humanity in the long run. Governments should exist to serve their constituents, not the other way around. Patriotism is a disease. The end.
- Information technology is a wonderful thing (after all, it allows me to communicate with YOU) but your only shot at privacy now lies in remaining more-or-less anonymous. If it matters. But inoculate yourselves against viruses! (Just like real life.)
- The only significant intelluctually entertaining message I have is about consciousness (u-m-m and maybe where streets got their names, a few good poems and an article about how bad - meaning "entertaining" - the news has gotten). Lots of IQ-type tests should convince you their value lies in being amusing - and that's really all.
- The collective lifestyle that emerges when a society's prime members have been crêche-raised is/will be very different than that which emerges when prime members were raised by Mother in a stable family. Just how different is now emerging. A "partnership" exists to mutually benefit the partners. Children need families. More mothers might stay home if ageism didn't curtail retired mothers' career prospects. And if people generally acknowledged that there is more to competently running a household than just raising children.
- Men are in charge. Patriarchy is inevitable. (So are obsessions with thinness, youth, wealth.) Life will never be fair and is seldom rational. Gender differences are real. Get used to it.
- Governments (controlled by money and politics) have a life cycle just like any other dynamic process. When they get old and warped, they should eventually be replaced. But it's never done cleanly. Control your debt. I also have a page listing every country in the world according to various (conflicting) sources (who is the arbiter for what constitutes a "country" anyway?) - and many of the countries link to a page with a related article.
- Every country - that is, every region of the globe - has beauty and novelty (even - gasp! - New Jersey) and is worthy of regard and respect. It matters less where you live than with whom - and under what sort of rules and conditions.
- The world is filled with oddities - you can't have a fabric without edges. Some edges are leading, some are trailing. Sometimes the whole thing wrinkles... (This covers topics from treehouses to twins to tattoos to toilets - too much to mention.)
- Fear won't help you avoid ageing and death; rather, that fear can keep you from fully living. My personal take is: a dead body isn't a person any longer - and need not be "respected." I'm all for rendering them. For those who aren't, choose: funerals, jerky, popsicles, fertiliser, ashes, stuffing, orbit or dust...
- Every picture tells a story. Some of these I took, and others are great - or funny - or illustrative...
- Use reason, not force, whenever possible. This applies to raising children and to rehabilitating prisoners. If you must kill - whether humans or animals - do it as painlessly as possible for your own benefit as well as for theirs.
- No relationship runs smoothly forever. Spend time/attention on yours and understand that a good relationship, like any other investment, has short-term costs and long-term payoffs. Invest wisely and don't churn your capital. (Also a funny article on roommates and a strange one on reunions setting off sex urges...)
- Science is a knowledge base. Religion covers everything else. There is no effective cap on what there is to be learned. Don't overspecialise if you can help it. Learn something new every day. Ditto contemplating/producing beauty (internal or external). My personal advice: exercise your physical body daily as well. Lots of stuff on bacteria, the brain and the cosmos (small, medium, large?). And a weird article on how two embryos can fuse so that only one person is born...
- Social and personal values may be relative in degree but exist (like beauty) in spite of the fact that they don't always confer an advantage in the short term. Appreciate life but don't fear death. What's the point? Listen to music.
- Bio-weapons put terrorist capabilities into anyone's hands. We must address the causes of violence (exclusion, unequal resource distribution) and not just the results. Casualties are casualties, no matter which side of the world they're on.
- Wellington could be the most beautiful city in the world. If you don't believe me, come see.
- We probably spend more time working than doing anything else. Like relationships, our jobs are investments of our time. Is the payback sufficient? Are we spread too thin? Are improvements possible?
- Spend some time producing feedback. Otherwise, your existence is relatively invisible. (For example, you could send me an email and tell me what you think of this site... We had a message board but it wasn't very friendly so virtually no one used it. Then it filled up with spam. It's gone now...
Spider web with puffballs: Topics are on the right. The forestry trust section points straight down from the burst on the left.
Source: A self-referential view of this site produced October 2001
If you'd like to bypass the forest-related pages, you can go directly to the Topics Table of Contents or to the first reference page which happens to be in the section on Animals and covers Spiders and Snakes.
For index pages with lots of thumbnail pictures and clips, to see all of them, click on the first picture or article, then click the "Next" button at the bottom of the page until "Up" becomes the rightmost button. Pressing "Up" then (or anytime) will take you back to the most recent index page. Then pressing "Next" on that page will move you to the next topic and thence through the site.
Some pages have hyperlinks to related pages you may wish to read right then. Most will be accessed through the navigation system eventually, anyway. A very few require being clicked on right then to see, but those pages will state that clearly. If you arrive at a page by clicking on a hyperlink on something other than one of the table of contents pages, clicking your Back button will allow you to resume your navigation of the section unless I got tricky and opened it in a new window - then, just close that window to continue.
Alternatively, you can jump around from hyperlink to hyperlink, navigating the site later looking for links that have not been read, if any, (visible by their colour) and follow them then if you're so inclined. (This will take time. Lots. There are about 1,500 pages altogether.) You can also go to the Search page, type in a keyword, and see what turns up.
Later, if you like, you can view the Complete Table of Contents, a computer-generated list of all the article in this web, to see what you've missed.