The Deep State

These powerful beings connect endlessly and constantly. They are unseen but everpresent. Their resources are vast, and they draw strength from unfathomable sources, sometimes colonizing and deconstructing life, even as they burst forth elsewhere, seeking new territory. Their network can send information and materials across vast distances without arousing any suspicion. Their legacy is timeless, stretching across eons and encompassing the ends of the earth. Some say they can possess your mind, make you sick, or heal you. Those who understand them can benefit, and even live in harmony with them, but we all must respect them.

The mushrooms have some things to teach us.

If you’re not a mycologist, what you know as a mushroom may be limited to the brownish, whitish bulbs that can be purchased in a supermarket to be sauteed, stuffed with cheese or crab meat, or even grilled whole and placed on a bun in lieu of a burger. Yum. These morsels, however, represent only a small part of the underlying organism that produces them. Beneath, and powering the emergence of these delicacies is a vast network of mycelium, which can be imagined as roots. They spread through a growth medium, like the soil, a log, or even a living creature. There, they break down their surroundings and absorb the energy, in a manner resembling our own digestion. When they have had their fill and the conditions are right…

The spores must be released! Depending on where the organism deems appropriate, A mushroom emerges, and sends millions of tiny seeds that seek to colonize new areas. What is intriguing is how the network is able to transport the exact nutrients and resources needed to send these spores out into the world at the right place. Those who visualize these networks find that the connections between nodes and mycelium actually resemble our own brains. When I first understood their patterns, I too had ideas emerging and bursting forth.

My network has transported me to my present station, sending resources and support as necessary, and I have arrived in this moment feeling well taken care of, lucky, and loved. I want to bring the same to others. It is my dream that all humans feel this deep connectedness and through religion, spirituality, human contact, or passion erupt into countless particles of love, trust, and hope. Many of these spores will go nowhere, falling on barren soils, but they will be well received and appreciated by some, where they can establish a foothold, and someday send out more like themselves. The surrounding network provides aid. Perhaps each individual affected by these spores will come forth, and make themselves known to improving the world with our spread. Our combined network will be stronger than any one of us, and those given to the mission will reinforce those who need it at any given time, sending aid, prayers, resources, and power as needed. In this, I envision a growing team of individuals and families that will come together when needed to send forth more of the energy that helped us get where we are.

We will lace our way through society, nurturing, giving back, and enriching as we go. We take what is old and help return new life through our labors and natural processes. Transmutation, the upcyle, the dead made life… Whatever you want to call it, we will do it. Miracles, through understanding and belief.

These ideas are worth spreading because they come from an inspiration that regenerates and creates magic everywhere it connects. These ideas and actions will help change the world.

I have a number of silly names for this. Funguys. Mycofriends. Spore colony. All I know for sure right now is that I want to see who might be interested in joining a mutually supporting community, willing to shuttle around and help with each other’s projects, knowing that the stronger we make the network, the stronger we become ourselves. Interested? Does this idea have legs? Or are we reinventing the, uh, pseudopod? Who else can we bring in? The groundwork has already been laid.

Please Read and Advise – Here’s a statement I wrote for my application to a Human Factors program.

When I heard the explosion, I dropped to the ground. Shrapnel, gravel, and dirt began to fall around me, so I crawled under the nearest vehicle. The shockwave was powerful. I assumed our perimeter had been breached. I loaded my weapon. I hoped that the soldiers with the gear to respond assertively had the right information and that they were already on their way with a plan. I was anxious. Years earlier, when conducting touch-and-go practice landings at remote military airfield, I felt the same anxiety, and it was a similar set of hopes that I could enumerate – that other planes operating in the area would know I was there, and stay on flight paths that didn’t intersect in time and space with mine. When I have had to make decisions about what to do with my own resources, and what sort of insurance to purchase, or whether to form a series LLC or a sole-proprietorship, I’ve had the same feelings. It’s a set of concerns that virtually all humans share, and the questions that arise are always basically the same: Do I know what I need to know? Am I mentally and physically prepared to handle this set of circumstances? How can technology help me avoid catastrophe, and achieve a favorable outcome? Humans depend on our ability to respond appropriately, and that ability is deeply enhanced by the study of the human factor in any given circumstances. Thus, the study of human factors lies near to my heart, as my understanding of the discipline has certainly contributed to my survival in the past, and I believe it plays an integral role in our destiny as a species in the future.

It is because of the role that psychology and human factors have played in my past that I wish to continue my studies formally. My study of aviation revealed that we can avert mishaps through the implementation of best practices gleaned from research. The intersection of advanced machinery and human performance has many secrets yet to be explored and I want to be a part of that. I am especially interested in the ways in which humans will interact with the emerging artificial intelligence beginning to leave the lab and populate our homes in the form of self-driving cars and Digital assistants in the future. The lessons I’ve learned through my experiences with unmanned aerial vehicles and the ways in which people interacted and perceived them can potentially extend to other walks of life, now that my time in the Air Force has concluded.

As I watch my two-year-old son grow, I cannot help but imagine the drastic changes that will undoubtedly occur during his lifetime. He may never have a chance to drive a car or fly on an airplane being directly controlled by a human being. He might encounter a computer that is, in all aspects, much smarter than he. He and his future may even be threatened by machines set upon destructive paths by their creators as an act of terrorism, or even war. This last possibility is of great concern to me, as a father and former intelligence officer. I am a firm believer that the best way to prepare for the future is to have a hand in creating it. I envision using my knowledge of psychology, human factors, geopolitics, and emerging technologies to work with teams of scientists, engineers, ethicists, civil servants, and inventors to ensure the future we are creating is a safe, just, and prosperous one. I imagine that after working in the private sector with established tech companies, I might one day help to write public policy, and eventually return to teach the next generation of designers.

Good design with respect to human factors can not only increase safety, but it is vital to the wellbeing of societies. Connecting people with technology, rather than isolating them, can help fill our basic need for belonging. Belonging and integrating are more important than ever, in an age of globalization and rapid movement of potentially disruptive ideas. Following some of the more radical ideas of futurist thinkers, perhaps good human factors design combined with some of the technologies that are just now emerging will be the key to helping humans stop worrying about our petty differences, and concentrate on fulfilling our other needs in magnanimous fashion. Indeed, if I knew that an artificial intelligence was keeping me safe on the road, I could spend much more time planning how to grow delicious heirloom tomatoes to share with my neighbors. But not yet.

The attack mentioned at the beginning of this statement could have been much worse. Analysis of the explosion revealed that an improvised explosive device had been attached to the exterior of a fuel truck, essentially creating a driving suicide bomb. The device, however, had been attached poorly, so when it detonated, it failed to cause a secondary explosion of the magnitude possible with that much combustible material. I read a report that stated, had the attack gone as planned, the blast wave would have caved in the structure where I worked at the time. I am grateful that, and here to write this because of a very human error in the construction of that bomb. It seems fitting that I pursue further education in human factors psychology to enhance the safety of others.

10 Minutes

I’ve only got 10 minutes.

So here it goes.

When you have 10 minutes, there’s no time for revision. There’s little time for prep. There’s just go.

Sit in front of the computer, or the problem, or the person you love, and use that whole 10 minutes. Think, just for a moment, because the rest of the time will be best used for creating. Creating connection, creating content. Albert Einstein once said that if he were given an hour to save the world, he would define the problem for 55 minutes and act for five. That’s a nice thought, and probably perpetrated by people who love to plan, but what if you get it remotely wrong? What if you start, and then realize you’re being ineffective? Where is the time for iteration?

So, I posit to you – don’t wait anymore. I’m going to live by this. Create. Touch your loved one and create connection. Type away! Type anything (that’s what I’m doing ). Getting started is the hardest part. Attack that problem! Watch it dissolve against your determination to begin, or resolve into something easier to tackle.  Observe and see what you learn. Keep an open mind. Be ready to switch gears, or tacts, or problems all together. But start. Just start. Go now. You’ve only got 10 minutes, and this took 5 to write.

Throwing Spears and Self Improvement

Last summer, a close friend of mine came to visit. We went in the yard, lit stuff on fire, drank some beer, and looked around. I’m not sure where we got the idea, but the fence posts I had left over from the chicken fencing project were a bit like spears, so we started throwing them. We were not very good at it. But we got better. He had to continue on his way, but several days later, a composite handled, steel tipped vicious looking spear arrived in the mail. This thing just screams “badass.” I saw it, and I wanted to stab any and everything with it. It’s thoughts like those that make me feel like a pretty terrible adult, because I should know better. But I don’t. I threw it, and was even worse at throwing it. So I practiced. And practiced. I mean, throwing a spear might be an important skill in some post-apocalyptic future, or even tomorrow. Who knows when you’ll need to throw a spear? Might as well get good. So I watched some videos, and continued to improve. I also taught my wife to throw it. I got a video of her successfully lodging it in the target.

Now, when I have people over, sometimes I get the feeling that they’d like to throw a spear, so I offer. Usually I’m right. These would be spear throwers are usually pretty terrble when they start. I don’t let them know how much I had to practice – I just the spear once to “show them” how it’s done, then hand it over and watch them struggle. Sometimes they give up. Sometimes, they continue to throw, tweaking their technique every so slightly, and begin to get better and better. I learn about people by the way they handle frustration. Watching this process gives me a very clear idea about how these folks will handle other forms of adversity in their lives. Do they throw up their hands and walk away? Do they coach themselves into doing better? Do they ask for advice? What kind of concentration are they willing to put into improvement? This exercise reminds me that what one person has learned, anyone can learn.

I have been coming across many unexpected situations lately, many of which have been incredibly frustrating and resource consuming. This is one reason I haven’t been writing more. Some of these situations include being threatened with a lawsuit (non-spear related), finding a load bearing wall in  my house had been almost completely eaten by termites, not being able to get power turned on to said house because of antiquated wiring, having plumbing leaks, my dog developing a skin condition, and navigating the Veteran’s Affairs health system. It’s easy to get stressed out when encountering unexpected problems. I haven’t been mentally prepared for almost any of these situations, and I found myself wanting to throw in the towel, and walk away. But I cannot. People are counting on me to do what I have said I would do. I love these people, and I cannot let them down. I will not let them down, if I can help it. And I can help it. If I can throw a spear, I can get smart on landlord-tenant law. I can invest in professional attorney help and become familiar with legal conflict resolution. I can improve my construction skills and repair a wall. I can research and run electrical wire. I can do some veterinary work. I make the VA work for me. As much as I feel resistant to fixing plumbing because it’s a messy business, I can do that too. I can get better, and get good enough to successfully take anything life throws at me.

And I can throw too, and hit the targets I’ve set for myself. I will.

Where is my mind?

Pixies reference in full effect. Here’s why I haven’t posted for a long time: building a new thing takes a lot of energy (psychological? psychic? mental? (wo)man power? who knows… but I’ve been tired)

BLUF (but not really) so rather: Bottom line after the preamble or BLAP (highly discouraged by most report formats, as are my use of vulgarity and colloquialism): My friends and I are starting a new community.

BLAM! That doesn’t actually stand for anything, as far as I know. It’s just supposed to be an exciting noise, that gets you attention. Although, if I didn’t have it already, what the hell are you doing reading this far?

Communities need people in them (duh?). We want the right people. As I tell my classes, though, sharing your “Why” is difficult. I truly believe that words don’t do service to a person’s why: you must witness, and feel it in person. Here’s my best “why” for this next project, and I will happily expand upon it as requested.

Gig opportunity for: individual, couple, or even a family, who wants to increase their self reliance by living with a foot off the grid, growing high-quality food, and cultivating relationships with their neighbors.
My name is Scott Church, and I’m a Permaculturist with a penchant for propagating community. I’m in Montgomery, Alabama, and I would like the help of like minded people who want access to some land, tools, and resources, but also want to live close to town. I’m currently residing in a 7×14 utility trailer that I’ve outfitted with solar panels, the capacity to collect and filter rain water, and a detachable greenhouse. I run a small business providing more traditional housing to folks who are visiting Montgomery, and I’m looking to share what I’ve built with somebody who can help me with the operation.
Pay: ~$500/month, some form of housing*, utilities paid, fast internet, land use, access to greenhouse, lots of free-range, pastured chicken eggs
Requirements: experience with Permaculture, DIY project knowledge (or willingness to learn/try), interpersonal and communication skills, can-do attitude.
Assisting in this operation means being available to meet incoming guests, accommodating needs such as performing or coordinating rapid house repairs, cleaning up after guests have left, and, of course, not just maintaining but improving the garden and food forrest on the 1.3 total acres.
*Currently, I am looking for what kind of housing you, my operations manager will have. I am putting this ad out before I decide on precisely what I will provide because I want input from those who might live there before I start to procure something. Current options on the table are RV, trailer, up-cycled shed, tent, or anything you might want my help to build on the property.
If this note has caught your attention and you think you (or you and yours) might be a good fit, send me an email or PM telling me a bit about your background and describing your vision or goals for the next year or so. I’ll follow up as soon as I can to establish an dialogue and answer any questions your might have.

Permaculture is Leadership

For students of Leadership, the study of Permaculture is an extremely complimentary pursuit.

Most recent and poignant leadership thought focuses on servant leadership – as Simon Sinek says, “Leaders who get the most from their people are leaders who care the most about their people.” Sinek’s (pronounced Sin-ek) approach to leadership is predicated on the idea that people need to feel inspired by a vision, or a nearly intangible “why” before they are ready to be moved to action. This means learning about your people, and what they need. This means people-care.

People care is a central tenet of Permaculture. People care, animal care, and earth care are what make many Permaculturists tick. We realize that without a healthy environment, which we can promote through responsible and holistic land-management practices, there can be no true people care. What good does it do to to provide for a human’s needs, and provide care, if you are participating in a system that is fundamentally destroying the environment for their children, or if the sustenance you are giving them comes at the cost of losing future fertility? So, real leadership is also helping people to realize how they fit into the web of life, and how they can help perpetuate abundance for themselves, as well as their descendants.

We protect our own, and in turn, others watch our back. That is the essence of what makes humans so successful. Alone, we can accomplish little. I tried to move sections of a downed tree into the back of my truck this past weekend. I got exactly two rounds of pine before I decided I’d rather have a healthy back than several more potential seats for my backyard gathering area. Had I a friend to help, however, I am certain we could have harvested much more. Had I a group, with the understanding that we’d all like places to sit in the future (and some fuel for a fire around which we might sit), we could have made use of the entire motherland. It is the power of teamwork that helps a group to survive against the odds, and to work with resources in a way that will benefit the entire group – and even allow us to thrive.

Realizing that, as the sum total of humanity, we are one giant tribe who all need the same basic things – clean water, nutrient-dense foods, safe shelter, community, and the ability to realize our own potential, we will also realize that we need work together to take care of each other, our planet, and interact with nature respectfully. That, friends, is Permaculture. Permaculture is leadership.

Space War!!! And, Writing Journals

Part of the leadership training I help provide to mid-grade Air Force and other budding leaders is a lesson on introspection. In the course of this class, we discuss the importance of knowing one’s self, and techniques that can be used to increase self-knowledge. Introspection isn’t easy, but it’s highly necessary, especially in any position where a leader might encounter uncomfortable and unpredictable situations. In such endeavors, the only thing a person might be able to control is their own person, and their reactions to what chaos is happening around them. While you may never know how you’ll feel when the shit hits the fan (a disconcerting notion), through self study you improve your ability to observe changes in yourself, and thus your ability to self-correct away from a dangerous or exacerbating decision.

Journaling, the recording of personal thoughts, is a time-tested tool in the pursuit of gaining insight. We don’t mandate prayer, meditation, living in a cabin in the woods for a year, or any of the other techniques that arise in the discussion, but we do ask for each student to write at least twice a week, and submit those journals. I make a covenant with my students: since I’ll be reading their inner-most thoughts, they get to read mine as well. I allow one free-write journal, but I use the other one as a tool to further learning, especially on topics about which we have to cut the discussion short (there are only so many useful hours in a classroom). This means, I write the same journals as my students, and I offer to let them read mine if they ask. Usually they don’t, but I’m always ready if they do.

This week, I asked my class to consider the implications of a war in space, through the lens of their own lives. “Imagining you are at your home station, what would you do if a war broke out in space tomorrow?” Many of their jobs require them to use space based assets on the regular, but I wanted them to imagine the personal impact of such an event. I usually ask my classes to imagine at least one post-apocalyptic scenario, whether it is their actions on a 3rd day without power, the detonation of an EMP device in the atmosphere over the USA, the zombie apocalypse, or the realization that the earth is actually flat – and I frequently get very imaginative answers. My answer to these questions doesn’t change much, despite the varied scenarios. Here it is.

I start with my family. I explain to them that things are never going to be the same, but that it’s going to be ok. We are going to have to be patient with each other, and ourselves, because the paradigm has fundamentally shifted. We are going to keep our heads, and make good choices. We are going to survive. This means not only sticking together ourselves, but banding together with other people – it’s what humans do.

Assuming the car won’t start, and we don’t have a pre-existing, self sustaining community nearby, we are going to have to start one ourselves. So, I go to the neighbors. I talk to all of them individually, and explain that I can help them through the times ahead, because I’ve been developing skills that may come in handy now. I can help them purify water. I can teach them how to plant food, help it grow, and preserve it. I can show them basic defense skills. I have experience with off-the-grid living arrangements. I can help people come together, and use teamwork to overcome difficult situations. I invite them to a meeting later on to talk with other neighbors about how we are going to handle this situation as a group.

We have our meeting mid day, or whenever the weather is best. I’ll have it at my place. During the gathering, we introduce members of the neighborhood to those they haven’t yet met. We discuss our various useful skills, and any relevant experience we have. We’ll need carpenters, gardeners, teachers, childcare providers, cooks, and lots of willing hands to get us going as a community. We take stock of what we already have, in the way of materials, tools that will work, weapons, and fixtures that may come in useful (greenhouses, pools, cellars, fields, etc). We leave with an understanding of our neighbors, and a plan to increase our survival ability.

Work begins the next day, as we fortify our community, liberating as much available labor as possible by leaving the cooking and  childcare in the hands of a capable few, and dispatching a small look-out party to patrol, and make contact with anyone we haven’t yet found who may need help.

We have lots to do – soil to prep, houses to retrofit, wood to gather, water purification systems to build, sanitation systems to modify, and esprit de corps to improve. If we stick together, we can do it, as people always have.

A Vision of a Few Years from Now

You are waking up with the sun, a bit earlier than usual. Your partner is sleeping nearby. It’s a Spring morning, and while you know the weather is still a bit brisk, you step out of bed onto a still-warm floor. Just outside your bedroom is the kitchen. You add a few sticks to the embers in the stove, which ensures the hydronic floor will be toasty when your partner gets up too. You pour some freshly filtered water into a kettle, and place it on the stove’s hotplate to prepare your morning beverage of choice.

While the water heats up, you have a few minutes to close your eyes again, and hear the sound of birdsong faintly through the thick walls of your abode. When you open them, you notice the sun is coming through your window at a less direct angle than last week. You use some of the chilled milk delivered last night for your beverage, and reflect: yes, Spring is coming. Soon, with the arrival of warmer weather, your home will no longer receive so many beams through the window, as your living roof absorbs the majority of the heat poured down from the skies. You’ll stay cool this summer, but for now, you need a coat to go outside, so you grab it and step out the door.

Right outside your front door is a glassed in room. A drop of condensation falls from the ceiling into the pond as you pass by, and fish scatter to the corners of their habitat. Soon, there will be enough sun to power on the pump, and the sounds of trickling water flowing through rocks and past roots will fill this atrium. Grabbing a bowl of sprouts from a tray, you put on your coat as you exit this space, into the morning chill.

Dew glistens on your herbs, and the smells of lemon balm, rosemary, sage, mint, and thyme waft up to you as you make your way through your front yard. A chicken clucks at your rustling, as you make your way toward the coop. The chickens are helping you get ready for Spring, too. You lift the roof on the nesting box and see three eggs, brown, turquoise, and pink. You put them in your pocket. The sprouts you brought from the greenhouse go into the coop, and a few hungry chickens descend on them, scratching through the earth with their claws as they hungrily peck at the activated seeds. Tomorrow, you’ll move the coop a bit further, and where the chickens have been, you’ll be able to introduce some lettuce, kale, and maybe even a few squash seeds. Your neighbors say it’s likely not to freeze again this year.

And there’s a neighbor now! Living this close to your friends certainly has its benefits, as he’s been up longer than you, and you are starting to smell something delicious for breakfast, coming from the direction of his house. He invites you to eat, and you discuss last night’s music over your meal. Laughter, and the realization you both probably want to take it easy tonight – maybe just fire up the hot tub. For now, the weather is nice, and getting better. He’ll help you open the gate to let the sheep into their next field, and make sure the new lamb stays with her mother.

Looks like it’s going to be a good day.

The Holidays are not Sustainable

Skip this post if you’ve sworn off negativity, like some pure Christmas Jedi, but if you’re like many people I know, you sometimes (frequently) struggle when this time of year rolls around. We want to get in the spirit, feel festive, reach out, be generous, stay positive – but things seem to get in the way, and make it even harder to do that in December than during other times of the year. Even though it’s supposed to be a season for giving, everybody seems to want something. Shopping malls want your business. The people around he malls want your parking spot.* Manufacturers want you to buy their products. Various religions want you to celebrate their version of the holidays, or remember their particular “reason of the season.” Certain souls have some unique message to share with you (perhaps I am one), or a particular group that needs you to think of or pray for them. Family wants you to travel to where they are. Some of your family just wants you to drink spiked eggnog with them. I like those family members best (but you’re still not getting anything for Christmas – more on that later). Your neighbors probably want you to take this damn fruitcake off their hands, and maybe that IS giving, but, just so you know, that confectionary burden is going straight to my chickens if you send it my way. On second thought, if you’re going to send me anything, definitely send a fruit cake. It’s easily dealt with.

During the past two days, I helped take two sacks of toys that my son doesn’t play with as much to two families who wanted to use them. That was better than throwing them out for sure, but I wondered at how much effort and energy went into the toy production in the first place, and then I decided not to think about it, and just try to get into the spirit of the season. So I opened up a new toy from a relative, and breathed a sigh of relief: no batteries. However, many of the toys we still have require (and came with) batteries, which need to be replaced frequently. With all the power that’s been spent on whirling my son’s toys around, playing digitized music, and flashing lights, I can’t help thinking I could have supplied flashlights to many victims of the Nepal earthquake earlier this year. I didn’t buy these toys, and I’m very happy for my son that so many love him so much, and have the ability to try to enhance his life by sending us things. However, I am resisting thinking about how many resources are being poured into somehow making these holidays happier. It brings joy to my heart to watch him delight in the activity of these devices, but the thought that torments me is, as we try to educate, entertain, and care for our children, how short sighted are we being? To address only the tip of the (probably melting) iceberg: buying and discarding all these batteries, which I’m pretty sure are made with potent chemicals that cannot be easily re-integrated to the earth, cannot be a good way to provide a better future for our kids. 

I just threw away a 40 gallon trash bag stuffed with glossy, shiny paper, metallic strings and bows, plastic packaging, and lots and lots of cardboard. I have no idea what will happen to it now, but I know my worms can’t eat it without being poisoned, I shouldn’t compost it, and if I burn it I’ll have to scrub my chimney out even more next year. This is frustrating. 

I fully recognize that I’m having First World Problems here, but maybe because so many of us have these problems, and concentrate our energy on dealing with them, we are making things worse for the rest of the world. I think the plastic from these toys will probably end up in the ocean somewhere. The acid from the batteries will get shipped to a different continent and put in a landfill there, poisoning the land for the people around it, who are quite possibly much more dependent on the fertility of their own land to feed themselves than we are in America. The smog from the manufacturing plants that made all these “goods” for us in the first place is so thick it’s getting packed into bricks and put on display. (

 I don’t want my holiday cheer with a side of misery, but I also don’t know how to opt out of the rampant buy stuff-package it-ship it-throw it away cycle without becoming self-righteous and bringing those around me down, with my thoughts of trading ecological well-being and social justice for a really sweet fake (or real) Christmas tree.

I don’t want to bring anybody down, but I don’t see how I can avoid participation in all this lunacy without directly affronting the beliefs and enjoyment of those around me. I’ll settle for writing this, for now.

*I’ve avoided malls since 2012 for reasons that are entirely selfish myself – they now make me physically and psychologically uncomfortable.