And these external manners of lament are merely shadows to the unseen grief that blogs with silence in the tortured soul.

Hello, good morning, and again, Happy New Year.  It’s Thursday‒the first one in 2022‒and so it’s time for my first blog post of the year.

There’s really not much to report this week.  The pandemic continues‒and when I say this, I’m referring both to the literal one and to the pandemic of human stupidity.  The latter seems unassailable even in the face of the deaths of millions of people, more or less at random, due to an infectious disease against which science (and those who use it) has been providing astonishing and unprecedented weapons which many more millions (particularly in the US, it seems) eschew because of numerous examples of misguided, often magical-thinking nonsense fueled by that bane of QI contestants: General Ignorance.

The thing about ignorance in the modern age, especially in America, is that it’s frequently willful ignorance.  There’s no shame in being ignorant, per se.  There exist an infinite number of facts about which we all are and always will remain ignorant.  But, to use a perhaps tired metaphor, though the ocean of ignorance is endless, it is possible for us to expand the island of our personal and collective knowledge.

Lately, however, it feels as though most people in America would rather drown.  If this were a literal urge, I could sympathize with them*.  Unfortunately, it’s merely figurative and unrecognized, and it leads to appalling facts such as that the per capita number of deaths from Covid-19 in the US is more than three times the global per capita deaths number**.  This in a country that likes to imagine itself the greatest nation the world has ever known.  Unfortunately, although aspirational greatness‒the desire and the will to be and to achieve great things‒can motivate actual improvement, and sometimes even greatness, unfortunately, once you decide you just are great, without having to do any more personally to earn or maintain the designation, you’re at serious risk of going the way of the Roman Empire and countless other such self-satisfied civilizations.

Oh, well.  These things happen.

I have continued rereading Outlaw’s Mind as it is so far, but I’m not finished and so haven’t yet started writing anything new on it again.  It’s a good story, I think, and I enjoy reading it, but then again, I wrote it.  Who knows if anyone else will ever read it?  Much of the time‒a growing fraction thereof, in fact‒I don’t hope to live to complete it.  To be honest, I often didn’t hope to live to see 2022.  But here it is.

Oh, well.  These things, as I said, do happen.

I’ve been thinking a bit about the Bystander Effect, partly because of a book I recently read‒Rationality, by Steven Pinker‒and partly because of personal reflection.  For those unfamiliar, the Bystander Effect is that circumstance in which a person is ill or injured, or being attacked, or something along those lines, and there are many people around them who could, in principle, help them…and no one intervenes because of the diffusion of responsibility, though if there were merely one or two people nearby, they would likely do something.

The Internet and the Worldwide Web seem to be “places” where a person could surely, if they needed help, reach some person, somewhere, who could and would help them.  But it is, ironically, home to possibly the greatest instantiation of the Bystander Effect ever seen, for each individual knows that there are, potentially, millions of other bystanders, and what’s more, they are all effectively anonymous each to all or nearly all the others.  It’s a place where a person can be truly, abysmally alone despite being in the largest crowd that has ever existed.  It’s the ultimate example of somewhere one can shout, or even scream, at the top of one’s figurative lungs, all while surrounded by countless other people, and yet, no one seems to hear.

What’s the difference between billions of voices all talking without speaking and hearing without listening, and silence?  Silence is at least peaceful.

Where, oh where is Sailor Saturn when you need her?  Oh, yeah, right, she’s in a fictional universe.  What a pity.  Well, they say when you want something done to your satisfaction, you should do it yourself.

Anyway, let’s hope this coming year regresses to the mean a bit, assuming we’re measuring our mean of year quality using the last decade and a half (or better yet the Nineties).  Of course, taking in the whole span of human existence, during most of which life was proverbially nasty, brutish, and short, the overall mean quality of years is probably way below even this pandemic year.  So, maybe what’s happening now is not an outlier in the negative direction which general tendencies will tend to correct back upward, but rather this is the correction, and the progress of civilization has been the extraordinary, truly aberrant, outlier.  Maybe our success is not truly a sign of any real progress within human and civilizational character, and unless improvement is deliberately, persistently, and intelligently and rationally pursued, regression to the mean will happen.

The cosmic mean, by the way, is about six protons per cubic meter***, at a temperature of only roughly 2.7 degrees Kelvin above absolute zero, and it’s getting colder and less dense every instant, approaching absolute zero asymptotically.  It’s cold****, and it’s lonely*****, but at least it’s peaceful…and it’s silent.

TTFN

mouthless emoji


*And the deep ocean is a good place to be buried, all other things being equal, since it makes for an excellent carbon sink, especially if you’re interred near a subduction zone.

**Based on the best numbers available to me.

***Which is about the atomic mass of lithium, interestingly enough.  Unfortunately, even if it were all, actually lithium, which is not the case, there wouldn’t be enough nearby to treat your bipolar disorder before you asphyxiate.

****But it probably wouldn’t feel very cold, because there’s no direct conduction of heat away from a warm surface like a human body.  Space is an excellent insulator; all your heat would only gradually be lost by radiation, contrary to what one sees in some movies when people like the Ebony Maw get sucked into space through holes in spaceship hulls.

*****But at least it’s not ironically lonely, like the “alone in a crowd” situation.

O heaven! that one might read the blog of fate, and see the revolution of the times.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, and so—as inevitable as death or at least as inevitable as taxes—it’s time for my weekly blog post.  This will be the last blog post of 2021 AD, a year many of us will not be sad to see the back of.  Indeed, you can see that I feel so strongly about this that I’m even willing to end a sentence with a preposition.

New Year happy

It’s New Year’s Eve eve today, if you will, though there is no such official holiday.  It’s not even an informal one like Devil’s Night, the night before Halloween*, itself an “Eve” holiday, though that’s often forgotten—and rightly so in my opinion, since Halloween is much more fun than most other holidays and certainly far more widely celebrated than All Hallows Day.

There’s nothing inherently special about New Year’s Day (or Eve).  It’s an arbitrarily chosen time for us to restart our calendar year because we have to do it some time.  It’s not like the solstice- and equinox-based celebrations I’ve discussed before, which have legitimate, astronomical bases and are objectively interesting moments in the Earth’s orbit.

New Year doesn’t even always happen at the same place in the planet’s orbit.  It can’t.  For one thing, it’s celebrated hourly for 24 hours over the course of that day, depending upon when midnight arrives in a given time zone.  This is a perfectly reasonable way to do things, of course, but it means that the holiday itself is smeared out along the planet’s orbital path even on a given year.  And, of course, since the orbital length is not an integer number of days**, the celebration of New Years smears out in another way over the course of time, to jump back a day every fourth year, but not on years that are multiples of a hundred, except YES on years that are multiples of four hundred (I think that was it), and so on with all the corrections used by the modernized Gregorian Calendar to try to keep the year reasonably aligned with the seasons and with the solstices and equinoxes mentioned above.

All of which is, of course, quite fascinating from a scientific and cultural point of view, but really, the holiday is about a chance for renewal, a symbolic rebirth or at least a new beginning, like starting a new iteration of a game, with the scoreboard is set back to zero, so it’s possible for anyone to win by the end.

I don’t know where people get these ideas.

Of course, we cannot literally start over, nor would most of us want to if we could, since almost everyone has made at least some progress that they wouldn’t care just to throw away.  Much of our identity in any given moment is dependent upon our memory of the past.  But it can be useful, and sometimes heartening, to embrace the notion of a restart point for at least some things in our lives, such as diet and exercise and other difficult habit-based situations.

I have been embracing something like that notion in that I’ve been rereading what I’d written so far of Outlaw’s Mind, to try to get back into the flow of the story.  The process has been slow, since I haven’t been reading very much every day—I’ve been very tired mentally and emotionally, and even physically, and just in general very discouraged.  I’ve not really been looking forward to even seeing the new year arrive, to be honest.  I have no good reason to think that it will entail anything other than continuing mental, social, physical, and emotional disintegration, which have been the hallmarks of my last nine or ten years at least, and have accelerated recently.

Still, I have been reading the story, without doing any editing, and I do enjoy it.  I usually enjoy reading my stories.  That makes one person.  So, I think it will be a useful exercise and will help me then to move forward with the story thereafter.  I’m feeling tempted again to try to write it out longhand when the time comes.  I have some lovely high-quality notebook paper to use for that now if I have the nerve.

I haven’t been thinking much about Changeling in a Shadow World this week, but that’s fine.  There’s only so much one can do prior to starting to write the thing, and I’m not going to start that before Outlaw’s Mind is done.  I had a couple of fun and rather silly ideas for short stories in the last week, which I jotted into the notebook app on my phone.  They are technically horror story ideas, but one at least is a sort of crude, dark-comedy type horror story idea.  I don’t know if I’ll ever write it, but it’s a fun notion, and involves a mutated and/or genetically engineered form of gonorrhea, among other things.  The other is a bit less sophomoric in character, but it’s quite a bit darker, too, at least in philosophical implications.  If those ever happen, you’ll be welcome to read them.

In the meantime, despite my apparent cynicism, I do in fact wish you all a very Happy New Year, both in terms of your celebration thereof, which I hope you’ll share with your beloved families and friends to the degree that you can do so safely, as well as in terms of the upcoming year.  I won’t quote John Lennon*** and say, “It can’t get no worse”, since it can always get worse, but I will say that, given human drive and persistence, and the fact that, contrary to some appearances, a great many very smart and disciplined and optimistic people are working to improve things at all levels, there are at least good odds that a lot of things are going to improve in the upcoming year.

It’s not something to take for granted, since it will always be easier to destroy than to create, but those smart, creative optimists are pretty frikking impressive sometimes.  The James Webb telescope is out there now, in its position in the Lagrange point, and it’s steadily working toward eventually giving us the deepest, most amazing views of the cosmos we’ve yet had.  And there’s nothing arbitrary about that.

TTFN

New Year


*Celebrated by some people in the region in which I grew up by setting random fires.

**Not a whole number of days, I guess, would be more precise.  An integer number might imply that it would be possible for an orbit to last a negative number of days, there being as many negative integers as positive ones, and it’s hard to see how that would make any sense at all.  I suppose one might imagine a science fiction story—perhaps involving The Doctor—in which a planet’s orbit around its sun carries its inhabitants backward in time instead of forward.  For them, the End of the World would indeed be predictable—the birth of their solar system and ultimately of the universe itself.

***In his backup lyric from the song It’s Getting Better All the Time.

And meteors fright the fixèd stars of heaven. The pale-faced moon looks bloggy on the earth

Konnichiwa and ohaiyou gozaimasu.  It’s Thursday again, and so it’s time for my weekly blog post.

I don’t really have much to report this week.  Of course, Hanukkah is over, and I hope those of you who observed it had a nice time and got to spend a few celebratory moments with family and/or friends.  Now we have a bit of a watchful peace, so to speak, before the arrival of Christmas and New Year.  I think there are other holidays in there as well, but I don’t know nearly as much about them as the others, and I’m not going to try to pretend that I do.

It all really centers around the coming Winter Solstice*, which even people a long time ago realized was the turning point of the year, when days started getting longer again after shortening for the previous six months.  This seemed like a sensible cause to celebrate.  Also, it was probably good just to try to keep everyone’s spirits up as much as possible, especially for those who lived relatively far north, where many Christmas decorations and customs take origin.

And, of course, for anyone who is seasonally affected, the knowledge that daylight will soon start increasing might provide some modest comfort, though given the lag time in both the onset and the regression of seasonal mood disorders, the turnaround for such people** probably won’t be noticeable for quite a while, assuming they survive.

I wonder if anyone has done a statistical study charting the average mood course of such people across the months.  Presumably, it would be in a sinusoidal pattern, but offset from the sinusoidal pattern of the changing of the length of days.  For someone who is in the throes of the worst of seasonal affective disorder—perhaps complicating other mood disorders—it might be at least some comfort to know that the fact that their mood doesn’t turn around right when the day changes is normal, and to have at least an estimate or a forecast for when the average sufferer tends to notice improvement.  Or maybe that’s just my kind of mindset, and most people wouldn’t really care.

My work on Outlaw’s Mind has been proceeding decently this week—about five thousand words in the last four writing days, though I did not write on Saturday or Sunday.  I just finished a horrifying and possibly frightening dream sequence which presages more momentous things to come.  These will start, perhaps, to make the main character wonder if the matters that trouble him really are merely in his mind, or if they have some reality of their own.  Whether he’ll ever know the truth is not yet clear.  At least my enthusiasm for the story has mostly recovered, and I look forward to its development.

I haven’t done any handwritten work on anything, though my clipboard with notebook paper sits always nearby during the workday.  That’s okay.  I don’t really want to get sidetracked from my main project, not unless I feel the strong urge to write more than one piece.  If I didn’t have a day job, maybe I would do that, but such a job I have and need, so that’s a moot point.  Of course, the argument could be quite convincingly made that all points are moot points.  But there can be interest and intellectual engagement even in moot points, after all.

While walking into a convenience store early this morning, I saw an unusually prominent meteor streak down the sky, much brighter and longer than most that I’ve seen, with a flame trail that also seemed to last longer than the vast majority do.  It was quite striking*** and remarkable.  Despite its relative duration, though, it came and went in a second only, perhaps only a pebble or smaller, burning up upon entering the atmosphere, such as has been used by songwriters and other artists, quite aptly, as a metaphor for any individual life.

But on the Planck scale, of course, the process of a meteor entering and burning up in the atmosphere contains a ridiculous number of moments, and an indescribable number of interactions between uncountably many elementary particles.  A human life is vastly greater still, astonishingly and mind-bogglingly complex and intricate.  And on a logarithmic scale, from the Planck time on up, a typical human lifespan is nearly as long as the life of our universe so far.

Of course, on the scale of the expected “lifespan” of a supermassive black hole****, the duration of time since the Big Bang is as vanishingly evanescent as the light of any meteor…or the light of, say, a spark rising from a burning log in a fireplace around which a family might sit, sipping warm beverages and warding off the winter cold.  It’s all a matter of scale and perspective.  Compared to eternity, any finite length of time is unreasonably close to and all but indistinguishable from zero.

I hope you’re all making the most of it, as best you can.

TTFN

meteor


*In the northern hemisphere, of course.  In the southern hemisphere, the Summer Solstice approaches, and if most civilizations had taken root in that southern realm, I suppose we might have most of our big deal holidays around the end of June and might even start our new year around that time.  And indeed, what is now south might be our “north”.

**He says this as though it is merely theoretical, or as though it’s a clinical assessment of other people, having no personal bearing on him.  He also refers to himself in third person.

***Though it almost certainly did not strike the ground.

****For instance.

As imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the blogger’s pen turns them to shape

Hello and good morning.  As usual, it’s Thursday—well, that’s only usual on one day of the week, but since this is that day of the week, it’s usual on this day—and so it’s time for my weekly blog post.

I’m feeling pretty exhausted today, partly because of a temporary change in work schedule that’s throwing my mental functions into a minor tailspin, and partly because of frustration associated with trying to get feedback and do useful research about my neurophysiology through the advice or input of people with expertise in the matter.  Some of the fault is mine—I have a hard time forcing myself to initiate or undertake most interactions, including contacting and setting up some form of new relationship with a new therapist…or doing therapy at all.

I also get distracted—and I suspect that some of the people I’ve tried to contact have done so as well—by the ongoing issue of my dysthymia/depression, which is certainly troubling, but which is an old companions of mine and unlikely to improve.  But there’s only so much one can get from YouTube videos and reading, whether it’s technical literature or works aimed at laypeople.  And I have a terribly difficult time even contemplating joining online support or discussion groups (or “in person” ones, which seem even more intimidating and disruptive).  I may be stuck.  I feel stuck.  I could really use some help—of various kinds—but the very prospect of seeking it is too daunting and confusing, and it is further hindered by the fact that I feel, deep down, that I don’t really deserve any help of any kind.

On the other hand, work on In the Shade is proceeding reasonably well, as it has been for some time.  I’m doing a nice job trimming it down, at least as far as raw numbers go.  I hope it improves the story; it would be a shame if it made it worse.  In any case, though, I’m more than halfway through the overall editing process, and that’s a good thing.

A thought popped into my head this morning that has popped in many times before, and I’m tempted to send emails or similar to the likes of Brian Greene just to see if he can clarify anything about it.  But I would feel quite cheeky and rather obnoxious to trouble him, even if I could find a way to send him a query.

Roughly and briefly, the thought is related to the ideas of “M Theory”*—which encompasses more “traditional” string theory as I understand it—and the notion that our entire three-dimensional universe might be a “brane” embedded in a higher-dimensional “bulk”, and that we can only experience the three dimensional universe in which we live because we—all the force-carrying particles and matter particles of which we are made—are trapped within the brane, possibly because they are composed of open-ended “strings”.  However—again, if I understand correctly based on the reading I’ve done—the graviton, the hypothetical force-carrying boson of the gravitational force, would be a closed string, and could, if there are branes and a bulk and so on, travel between branes.  The hypothesis has been put forward that this might be part of the reason gravity seems so weak; it is not as narrowly confined dimensionally as the other forces, and so spreads out to a greater degree.

I played with some of these ideas very indirectly in The Chasm and the Collision.

Anyway, my thought was that, perhaps, this could provide the explanation for the apparent existence of “dark matter” which is proposed as the presence of a large amount of mass in the universe that doesn’t interact much with “normal” matter, or with light, but which has gravitational effects measurable in the speed of rotation of galaxies and of the interactions of galactic clusters and so on, and which, based on those various measures, would be about five times as abundant as “normal” matter.  But no one has been able, so far, to detect the presence of any such dark matter particles, which would be presumed to interact at least occasionally with normal matter in some way.

It’s proposed as possible in M Theory that there could be other parallel “three-branes” in the bulk, “next to” ours in higher-dimensional space, analogous to planes or pages that float, aligned but not touching, in three-dimensional space.  If most fermions and bosons are stuck in their branes but gravitons can more or less freely pass between them, and if parallel branes came into existence—in their current states, anyway—roughly at the same time, so to speak, then as those universes expanded and evolved, with initial quantum fluctuations leading to increasing clumping of matter, leading to galaxies, stars, etc., they would have influenced each other’s clumping, and so a galaxy in one brane might well tend to be “near” or roughly lined up with, a galaxy in nearby branes, and so on.  If so, and if gravity can, at least to some degree, pass between branes, then the vector components of such gravity that happens to align with the nearby branes’ dimensions might well be felt as an “extra” gravitational force without any source in detectable matter.

If there are multiple branes in parallel to each other—or perhaps even a limitless stack of them, so to speak—depending on their separation and the degree to which gravity can pass between them, the net effect might well be enough to generate the phenomena we measure as evidence of “dark matter”.  If one were only thinking of, say, a four-dimensional space between the three-branes (with other dimensions curled up small), the force of gravity between matter in them would presumably fall off at a rate of one over the distance cubed, but if there were multiple branes in parallel, and again, if the distance were right and the properties correct, then I don’t see why it couldn’t accumulate to give a net effect greater, on large enough scales, than the apparent impact of gravitating mass within a given brane.

Unfortunately, my math skills are not presently up to the task of even doing a “back of the envelope” calculation about how that might work, though I have tried from time to time.  I also don’t know much of the technical details about string theory/M Theory.  And, of course, the whole theoretical framework is troubled by difficulty creating measurable predictions, at least with current technology.  But…if such parallel branes could in fact account for “dark matter”, they would, if correct, predict that there would be no measurable dark matter particles.  Ever.  And so, of course, the longer we go without being able to find one, the more our Bayesian probability might edge toward the correctness of at least some version of M Theory.  Of course, if dark matter particles are found and have characteristics that explain the phenomena we see, then that would at least disprove my notion, if not all of M Theory.

It’s likely that such a notion is already ruled out by some specifics details that I just don’t know—which must of course be almost all the specifics of M Theory.

Maybe some day I’ll work up the courage to forward some version of this to someone like Brian Greene, or maybe Lisa Randall or Leonard Susskind**.  But probably not.  I have a hard enough time mustering the nerve to talk to anyone regarding my own neurological and psychological health.  And, in any case, those people have enough on their minds.  And I have books to write.  And—unfortunately—miles to go before I sleep.

In the meantime, I hope you all stay well and do your best to take care of yourselves and of those who matter to you—and also, while you’re at it, do your best to avoid causing problems for other people.

TTFN

more branes


*Which is, of course, speculative to say the least, but which is certainly intellectually interesting, and which could, in principle, be a description of the deeper physics of our universe.

**These are the three physicists from whose popular works I’ve learned most of what I “know” about such matters.  I first encountered string theory and M Theory in Stephen Hawking’s book, The Universe in a Nutshell, but alas, no one can get any messages to him anymore—or, at least, we can’t get any messages back.

So we profess ourselves to be the slaves of chance, and flies of every wind that blogs

Hello.  Good morning.  It’s Thursday—the first one in March of 2021—and so, of course, it’s time for another of my weekly blog posts.

As is often the case, I have no specific plan about what to write today; it’s very much going to be stream-of-consciousness.  I expect this post will be relatively short, therefore, but I’ve often been wrong in this expectation previously.  We shall see.  Indeed, you can probably already see, since you’re reading the completed product, while I—the writer—will only see it as it takes form, at least in the initial draft.

First, and most important to me, work on The Vagabond continues steadily, and I’m well over halfway through the final edit.  One of the great tragic moments in the book has just occurred, and things are looking very dark indeed for our heroes.  Hopefully, they will find a way to overcome this setback, or one will be provided for them.  You shall have to wait and see, though in a reversal of the situation mentioned above regarding the length of this blog post, I happen already to know the outcome, while the reader can only bite his or her nails* and read on anxiously (when they finally have the published book, that is).

Little new has happened in my personal life otherwise, which is pretty much the way my personal life goes…such as it is.  As usual, I find many of the various deeds of humanity, both globally and locally—down, even, to the people in the office with whom I work—to be often terribly disheartening and discouraging.

Not that things are all bad; obviously that’s not the case.  But the second law of thermodynamics seems always to insist upon making its presence known, and thus it is always easier for things to fall apart than for new things to be built or even for existing things to be maintained.  This is the condition of the universe itself, though ironically it is also the very force that allows life to exist, and which drives all positive process we see.

Were entropy a general constant—as the laws of physics seem strongly to imply that it eventually will be—there would be no change whatsoever, at least no change of any significance.  Life could not exist in a state of pure and total thermal equilibrium, even though its existence is entirely dependent upon the universal mathematical and physical tendency for things to move toward that equilibrium.  This is the curious irony—which might seem paradoxical, though it is not—of the existence of complexity and life.

I think I got the following descriptive and analogous image from Sean Carroll, of a coffee cup with milk being added; it is only during the mixing process when eddies and whirls, clouds and vortices, unpredictable chaotic forms can appear.  It’s only while the drink is mixing that anything interesting, in that sense, occurs.  Once the coffee is well stirred, nothing more of interest will happen**.

Of course, in principle, it is possible for a stirred cup of coffee to unmix spontaneously and separate again into milk and coffee, thence to remix once more.  However, even on so small a scale as a cup of coffee, given the number of molecules involved and the vastly greater number of possible mixed compared to unmixed states, it’s going to take a very long time for that to happen.  Don’t hold your breath.

In fact, though I haven’t worked the specific numbers, I nevertheless feel quite confident that for the coffee cup spontaneously to unmix would take a time vastly greater than the present age of our universe.  The Earth—and any coffee cups resting upon it—will long since have been incinerated by the swelling, dying sun before any such unmixing could happen.  Taking the cup away into interstellar space would only freeze it, significantly slowing any possible unmixing process.  And, of course, coffee left out in the open tends to dry up as the water in it evaporates, and on a far shorter time scale.

Anyway, who’s going to mix and stir a cup of coffee only to leave it sit and wait for the process to reverse itself by random chance?  I don’t know about you, but if I have a nice cup of newly poured and stirred coffee, I tend to start drinking it pretty quickly.

And, also anyway, on time scales such as those involved in local reversal of entropy by spontaneous molecular motion, an astonishing number of events will have happened on the human scale.  Measured in terms of information exchange, it may be that the process of human time is literally speeding up, as computers and the internet and other means of global communication and computation fundamentally accelerate the rate of what’s happening in civilization, though the pace and duration of biological human life does not change nearly as much.

Measured in “flop time”***, as it were, the pace of events really has been, and is, accelerating.  The rate of that acceleration seems unlikely to continue indefinitely, but even if the growth curve levels off somewhat, more “things” can happen in a current decade—let alone a century—than happened throughout most of the first hundred millennia of human existence, at least from the human point of view, which is the only one we have right now.

So, though things do fall apart, and the center indeed cannot hold, it is not merely anarchy that is loosed upon the world.  As Darwin put it, during the process of entropic mixing, when all the interesting stuff happens, and driven by that mixing and that tendency toward increasing entropy, “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been and are being evolved.”  If only he knew how beautiful and how wonderful and how unpredictable those forms are and may someday be, I think he would have been even more awed than he was.

See, I’m not a complete downer.  At least not all the time.

Well, this post is not much shorter than usual, if at all, but I think I will call things to a close here.  I hope you are all as well as you can be, and are being careful of yourselves and each other, and staying as safe and as healthy as you can.

TTFN

Cloudy coffee


*Or someone else’s if they’re very close friends.

**I’m not counting the drinking part just now.  As far as I know, there’s no one waiting to drink the universe once it’s well mixed and cool enough not to burn the lips and tongue…though that’s an interesting notion.

***I recorded an audio blog about this concept but I haven’t yet posted it to Iterations of Zero.  My apologies.

I could be bounded in a nutshell, and blog myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.

Hello, good morning, and welcome to another Thursday, and thus another edition of my weekly blog.

If I ever become the absolute ruler of the entire human world, I think I might change the name of this day in the English-speaking world from Thursday to Blogsday.  After all, what does this day of the week have to do with the Norse god Thor?  Not much, as far as I can see.  It’s merely an artefact of the past, no more relevant for modern life than the human appendix, though less problematic.  This name change would, of course, be arbitrary in a sense—certainly it would be biased, and would mean little to any who did not write or at least read blogs on Thursdays—but it seems unlikely to cause anyone harm.

Arthur Dent, from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, might even find “Blogsday” refreshing.  He never could get the hang of Thursdays.  Perhaps the name change would give him at least a psychological sense that things were better, and in his case, that could be quite potent.  After all, this is the man who learned how to fly by developing the knack for throwing himself at the ground and missing.  His mindset seems to have impressive consequences.

Of course, those in nations or cultures in which Thor matters could continue to call the day Thursday; I’m not a cruel tyrant, at least not in that way.  And if there are cultures where the days of the week are named sensibly (similar to the modern Japanese way of naming months, which translate roughly as “Month 1, Month 2, Month 3, etc.”), I would be more than delighted for them to continue to use those names.

And, as should go without saying, whatever people call the days of the week in the privacy of their own homes, as consenting adults, is entirely their business.

It seems unlikely, though, that I will ever become lord and master of all humanity, and this is probably a good thing—it certainly is for some humans, I can assure you of that.  But it’s amusing to think about, at least for me, and since I’m the one writing, I can do what I want.  Here in this blog, I am lord and master, at least as much as anyone is of anything, which is not much at all.  Even Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar, and Alexander the Great were never really lords and masters of much.  As witness:  they are all dead, and they have been for quite some time.  We see no evidence that this is likely to change.

Of course, in a universe of infinite spatial expanse with a maximum number of possible quantum states in any given region, there are no doubt places where those three individuals are still* alive—if that’s possible in principle, anyway, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be—and where they are at least still relatively in charge of their local area.  But that mastery is at least spatially limited, for they are as subject to the laws of physics as everything else is.

Anyway, enough thought experiments for the moment.

It’s been a reasonably productive week, and I’m quite pleased to be able to tell you that I am now on the final run-through of The Vagabond.  I just began it yesterday, so it will be a bit of time before I’m done, and then will come layout and so forth.  I’m still hoping to be able to find that old drawing of mine that I want to use as the basis for the cover.  If I can’t find it, I’ll have to try to reconstruct it in one form or another.  In any case, it’s highly unlikely that the book will be out before the end of February.  It may well be available sometime in March, but I’m not certain.

I’ve been playing around some more with my new microphones, and I’ve recorded several versions of both the guitar parts and the vocals for my “bad covers” of Julia and Blackbird, but I’m not quite satisfied with them.  I think it may be that my voice still has a bit of raspiness left over from Covid.  That didn’t stop me from doing my “bad cover” of Nude, but that song involves a lot of reverb and keyboard sounds and so forth, so I wasn’t as bothered, though my falsetto at the beginning and the end was not as good as I could make it if I recorded it now.

Oh, well, somewhere off in the distant reaches of the universe—if space is infinite—there are an infinite number of versions of me who recorded it both later and better.  But they aren’t particularly useful to me, here.

I also played around this week just recording myself practicing and singing, including doing a quick “demo” of my long-neglected original song Mercury Lamp, hoping to use that process to light a fire** in me about that work.  I also recorded myself playing and singing Karma Police, Polyethylene Parts 1 and 2, Pigs on the Wing Parts 1 and 2, and even Street Spirit (Fade Out), of the guitar part for the latter of which I’m beginning to feel just slightly proud.  One thing I’ve learned through doing this is that, with a metronome going and with my awareness of being recorded, I get very self-conscious, and I don’t play or sing as well as I usually do.  I doubt that this is unusual, but it’s good to learn it about myself, and I plan to do my best to work past it.

I’m tempted to upload some of the audio from those recordings here to my blog, especially the ones for Street Spirit and for Mercury Lamp, but I will hold off for now.  The thought of other people hearing them is both amusing and mortifying, but it’s useful for me to listen, so I can hear all the things I’m screwing up and—hopefully—improve upon them.  I’m also learning the best software to use to record these sessions, given the limitations of my computers.  Audacity, it turns out, is prone to losing data when recording (on my machines, at least) because it’s a big program and records everything as stereo, even though there’s only one mic.  This apparently leads to it getting gummed up after its recorded for a bit, and it can be quite frustrating to have sung and played something only for it to tell you “data has been lost at the indicated locations”.  Of course, those are always the places where I sang and played everything perfectly.

Not really.  But I do get terribly frustrated.

Anyway, that’s just toys and games and self-indulgence.  Writing is what I’m really about, and writing is what I’m doing now.  I haven’t done any Iterations of Zero this week, though maybe—just maybe—I’ll end up posting some of my rough recordings there for fun.  In the meantime, look forward to The Vagabond, and then both to Outlaw’s Mind and to Dr. Elessar’s Cabinet of Curiosities, which will include my long-lost story House Guest.

I honestly feel that, once The Vagabond and House Guest are out there in the world, it will be fine if I die.  Sure, it would be nice to recreate Ends of the Maelstrom, and to do Dark Fairy and the Desperado, and Changeling in a Shadow World, and to write the two remaining books in the saga of Mark Red, in case anyone wants to know what becomes of him, and so on.  But all that is asking quite a lot from the universe, and the prospect of doing them doesn’t feel like adequate motivation, let alone justification, for continuing to bear fardels and to grunt and sweat under a very weary life.

In any case, as the song says, “the losing card I’ll someday lay”, no matter what, unless this is one of those rarefied regions of the multiverse in which I will happen to live forever***.  In this universe, my kids are alive and in reasonably good health, and they’re out there somewhere living promising lives—though I never get to see them—and I’ve written several books, and even learned some guitar and recorded some songs.  And my lost works The Vagabond and House Guest have been found and will almost certainly soon be published.  It seems churlish to consider asking for anything more.

Well…except that I do ask that all of you do your best to stay safe and healthy, and I hope you have as a good a week, and as good a life, as you can.

TTFN

Hat for Vagabond

This is the sort of hat the Vagabond wears; he does NOT wear it to look good.


*Ignoring the fact that, given Special and General Relativity, the notion of simultaneity across such distances is incoherent.

**Pun not originally intended but embraced when realized.

***Now that’s a horror story!

So in the world. ‘Tis furnished well with blogs

wow

Good morning!  Welcome to yet another blog post, since this is yet another Thursday.  They do seem to keep coming and coming, don’t they?  Thursdays, I mean.  Thursdays have been going on for a lot longer than blog posts have been, and they’re likely to continue long after my blog posts have stopped.

Of course, on a cosmic level, the very notion of dividing time into days, each representing roughly a revolution of the Earth on its axis, is highly local and arbitrary.  The naming of days—such as naming one of a continuously repeated seven after a Norse thunder god known to most people nowadays as a character played by Chris Hemsworth—is even more local and arbitrary.

One “day” on Jupiter is only ten hours long, despite the fact that Jupiter’s diameter is ten times as great as the Earth’s.  This rapid revolution contributes to some truly amazing weather patterns on that planet.  A “day” on the moon, on the other hand, is about twenty-eight Earth days long…and there’s no weather there at all.

A day on Mercury, named after the wing-footed messenger god of Greek mythology, is almost sixty Earth days long.  And all these variations are just a few of the ones represented within our solar system, itself a tiny, tiny pixel in our galaxy (a “day” of which is a quarter billion Earth years long), which is in turn just a tiny, tiny splotch among hundreds of billions to about a trillion galaxies in the observable universe.  And that, of course, is only a chunk—miniscule to infinitesimal—of a much larger region of spacetime that seems likely to be infinite.

But don’t worry.  Your personal, day-to-day concerns still really matter.  Sure, they do.

Okay, sorry about that bit of sarcasm.  I’m pretending to be more cynical than I really am.  Your individual, day-to-day concerns do matter, in the only way that anything can matter:  they matter to you.  Meaning, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.  This is good, and can be highly life-affirming, unless you’re one of the unlucky people who feels that they themselves don’t matter, even to themselves.  For such people, the crushing weight of reality can feel at once both infinitely oppressive and at the same time very much worthy of a “meh.”  As a person who writes horror stories, among other things, I can honestly say that this is real horror.

Some horror fiction expresses a sense of being lost and trapped in a hostile and very large universe, which cares about us only as irritating insects, and seeks to crush us as such.  A similar notion is occasionally (metaphorically) invoked even by such science educators as Neil deGrasse Tyson, who has been heard to speak of “all the ways the universe wants to kill us,” or words to that effect.  But of course, this is a highly narcissistic misinterpretation of reality, used only as a figure of speech by Tyson (in order to emphasize certain points) and as a plot conceit for horror.  If the universe really “wanted” to kill us, we would be dead.  Instantly.

The real horror, from the reflexively hubristic, human point of view, is that the universe doesn’t give a tiny little rat’s ass about us.  As far as we know, the only place in the universe that’s even capable of caring about anything at all is in the minds of humans…and perhaps other sentient creatures.  As far as we know, only here on Earth (and in low Earth orbit) does caring exist at all.  Now, depending on the likelihood first of the origin of life, then of multicellular life, then of intelligent life, there may be many other such islands of caring in the universe, and if the universe is infinite in size, simple math reveals that there must be an infinite number of such islands.  But it’s equally simple to see that there is a proportionally larger infinity of places where there’s nothing that cares about anything.  This is far from the worst way things could be.  If there really were a Crimson King, or a Morgoth, or an Azathoth and Nyarlathotep and Cthulhu* out there, we would be in for a much rougher time than we actually experience.

Of course, as physicist and pioneer of quantum computation David Deutsch argues beautifully in his book The Beginning of Infinity, we humans—and our descendants, whether biological or technological or both—have the potential really to become significant on a cosmic scale.  As he also points out, there is no guarantee that we will do so, but there appears to be nothing in the laws of nature that prevents it.  It’s up to us** to decide.

That cosmic importance or lack thereof, however, does not and cannot change what is happening right here, right now, and which seems for the moment so inescapably important:  That it is Thursday, and that I am writing this blog post…and, of course, consequently, that you are reading it.  Nothing can ever actually be more important than “now,” because “now,” ultimately, is all we ever experience.

And now, I leave you with a brief update:  Unanimity proceeds well, shrinking as I edit it much more slowly than it grew as I wrote it, like a volcanic island having sprung forth to be subsequently eroded in the middle of a vast sea of strained and overused similes.  It’s got quite a ways to go before it’s a lush, tropical setting that you’d want to put on your vacation itinerary, but it’s getting there.  If you do visit, I won’t guarantee that it will be a uniformly happy trip—some very bad things indeed do lurk there—but at least it should be interesting.

TTFN


*A curious side-note:  of these three examples of entities from H. P. Lovecraft’s worlds, only Cthulhu appears well-known enough not to be marked for correction by Microsoft Word’s spell-checker.

**And of course, to our continued luck in avoiding cosmic catastrophes that are, for the moment, utterly beyond our power to prevent or avoid.