Silence will fall when all questions are answered by the unthinking

It’s Saturday morning as I write this, in case you don’t know.

I hope you all had a momentous night.  I wouldn’t say that I had one, but I was awakened by pain again, which is not a rare occurrence.  I do take something for pain before I go to sleep, but I guess it wears off too quickly, even though the dosage period for Aleve (the “something” to which I refer) is 12 hours.  That’s a bit frustrating.  I also had reflux, which hasn’t happened in a while, but that’s a minor problem, and I think I know what caused it.

So, here I am, with less sleep this week than I think I’ve had since one November rotation in the ICU/CCU at Einstein/Weiler hospital during my medical residency.  That was the rotation during which, on one shift, I literally did not even sit down for nearly 36 hours.  It was very stressful, but at least I was doing some good in the world, and practicing my skills to do more good in the future.  That’s not the case now, and frankly, I’m not sure I could ever have the energy even to try to figure out some new way to do good.

Here’s a little aside:  When I wrote the phrase “even to try” just now, Google Docs underlined/noted it as possibly incorrect, as most word processors do nowadays.  But the thing is, it recommended that I change it to “to even try”!  That’s right, automatic grammar checkers are encouraging people to split infinitives*, instead of encouraging them not to do so.

I can be reasonable and nondogmatic and accepting about split infinitives‒they occasionally provide a cheap means of rhetorical emphasis that might require a full second or two of thought to achieve otherwise.  But ever since I started studying Spanish in high school and college and realized that there are many languages** in which it is impossible to split infinitives without actual tmesis, I’ve decided to try to avoid the practice.  In writing dialogue, of course, I’m quite happy to split infinitives, since people do that frequently in extemporaneous and casual speech.  But I try to leave it out of narration or nonfiction.

I’m sure I accidentally allow it to happen without even noticing at times.  Such are the fruits of living in a society that indulges in lazy grammar.  But between the fact that autocorrect keeps replacing “its” with “it’s” when the added “s” is possessive, and that it’s*** now suggesting that writers split infinitives, I’m leaning toward the conclusion that it’s time to pull out the Glaive of Silence and do a restart on the world.


Just wipe it all out, everything but the microbes, and see what happens next.  Because with bullshit shortcuts like ChatGPT and whatnot, humans are going to get lazier and lazier, and their thinking is going to get sloppier and sloppier.  And, of course, since these “deep learning” programs don’t actually learn deeply or understand at all, but are merely “trained” on oodles of brain droppings from across the internet and web to predict what sorts of words might follow a previous one, and what might be a typical response to particular queries, cyberspace is going to be flooded with recursive nonsense.

Future ChatGPT type programs will “learn” from, among other things, the garbage produced by prior chatbots and so on, with no way to discern what’s good, or what’s correct, or what’s reasonable or logical or true, only what’s common.  Then it will make those things more common by its own actions.  And while it might be interesting to see how such crap evolves as people use it more to avoid having to think and work themselves, there’s no path toward actual understanding.

Probably most people don’t think about how things work, and they don’t want to do so.  They just want to become the Eloi.  Who cares if they’re being eaten by Morlocks?  It’s worse than the Matrix.  People will become addicted/enslaved, to a system that can’t even know it’s enslaving them.  It’s worse than an idiocracy or a kleptocracy or an autocracy.

Imagine a world consisting solely of second-rate, “postmodern” literary and social theorists whose intellectual pursuits consist only of critiquing others of their ilk, in a cycle that never forces itself to make any contact with actual external reality, or with any actual literature, for that matter.  Then take that to the billionth power and turn it into the new, accidental paradigm of civilization.

How long can it survive?

Not long, I would wager.  But it can do a lot of damage before it goes.  So maybe we should do a reset.  Okay, maybe it’s not necessary to wipe out all multicellular life.  Maybe we should just eliminate civilization, but keep the history and scientific knowledge, so that when rebuilding, repeated mistakes can be avoided.

It would be like going back to the last “save” point when your character is killed in a video game; you can learn from what killed you last time.  It would be so much better than just being forced to continue the game without saving, and then, if you die near the end, just losing, without even the option to start over.

Maybe even that would be better than continuing to live indefinitely in a big “neural network” that doesn’t even actually understand itself, let alone anything else in the universe.

Wow, I didn’t expect to be writing about that when I started.  But I know what initiated it and why, and I didn’t just react to it randomly, but have thought about such matters before.  I even explored some of the issues in Son of Man, though not specifically those relating to chat bots and related civilizational tumors.

Son of man icon

I guess I get a bit grumpy from lack of sleep and depression, not to mention a week of persistent and horrible sensory overload that’s borne down upon…well, a person who is probably somewhere on the autism spectrum, and who has never been particularly amenable to loud noises and random conversations and chaos except when it serves actual purposes.

I don’t know how long or even if I will be able to tolerate much more.  Every camel’s back has a breaking point.

I already think I probably gave myself a mild concussion yesterday from banging my head repeatedly against a wall out of stress.  I’m not exaggerating; I got woozy and sleepy not long after that, and even felt a bit confused and spacey.  I still have a slight headache and just a mild degree of spaciness, even now.

I probably should avoid doing that too often.  Knowing my luck, I’d probably get debilitating brain damage with which I would then live for decades, rather than something that kills me on a relatively short time scale.  That would be ironic.

I need to find other, better reactions to my extreme stress, I guess.  But it usually needs to be something painful, whether psychologically or physically (or both), to do the job.  I’ve torn up drawings and paintings and music and the like in the past, but I don’t really have such easy targets nowadays.

Of course, it would be nice not to feel so tense and horrible that I have the‒sometimes irresistible‒urge to hurt my things or myself.  But I don’t know how that is ever going to happen.  The world only seem to grow less tolerable, not more, and whatever doesn’t kill a person often kills one slowly, with drawn out pain and suffering.

On that note…well, I hope you have a nice remainder of your weekend.  ^_^

*And to do so boldly, one might be inclined to think.

**Spanish is one of them but not the only one.

***This is a contraction, and that is when an apostrophe belongs between that “t” and that “s”.

The deep of night is crept upon our blog, and Nature must obey necessity.

Hello and good morning.  It’s Thursday, the 27th of April, the week after my son’s birthday, and I’m already in the office as I write this blog post‒because I never left the office last night.  It got to be late enough that, if I caught the next train, I probably wouldn’t have reached the house before nine, whether I took the bus(es) from the train station or walked.  That is what happened Monday night and Tuesday night.

Of course, If I’d had the bike at the train station I might have reached the house earlier, but I didn’t, and I don’t regret that.  Given that every time I ride that bike, it triggers a flare and a new (but not improved) alteration of my back and leg and foot pain, I think I’m going to keep it for “special occasions” or something like that, even though I’ll be paying for it for three or four more months or something like that.

Pretty pathetic, isn’t it?

Even if I’d caught an earlier train, I don’t think I would have had the energy to get back to the house from the train station, and had I reached the house, I don’t think I would’ve had the energy to come back to the office this morning.  I had sort of planned all along to stay here, because if I went back to the house, I didn’t think I’d be coming in today, and I wasn’t sure if I would be coming in ever again (if you know what I mean).  I guess maybe it was a kind of semi-conscious self-preservation thing, in a way.  But, of course, that can’t work forever.

It’s not a big deal if I stay one night in the office.  It’s not like it will produce a noticeable effect, outwardly.  I always wear one of 2 kinds of black shirts, the same kind of black pants (or trousers if you prefer), the same brand of black socks and one of three brands of black shoes.  Once you find something that’s comfortable for you, I say, you might as well wear that.

I prefer black because you don’t have to worry about matching anything; black goes with everything, particularly other black things.  It’s also a nice, outward representation of my character, my heart, my outlook, what have you.  And if I ever have to pass as a Sith Lord, I can do that.  I only wear black nowadays.  Even my underwear(!).

In any case, though, I don’t mean to stay at the office tonight, though if there were a shower here I might be tempted.  I feel very grimy and sticky, and that’s a particularly unpleasant feeling for me.  But it is dreary to have the daily ritual of going back to a place that feels no more like home than does the office or the train, and not much more like home than the bus, frankly.

Nothing feels like home, anymore.  The planet Earth doesn’t feel like home‒not that it ever really has, to be honest.

I find myself strangely envying my former coworker who just died.  That may seem insensitive, but it’s simply true.  He didn’t die instantly, with the initial heart attack, which sometimes happens.  He had a few weeks or more of being ill and having all other responsibilities taken away, and his family (and friends), aware of his ill health, got to come and be near him for one last time.  That might be nice.  I sometimes think that, if I were known to be dying of cancer (for instance), maybe my children would come and see me.

I don’t know what other sort of thing might engender that outcome, and I certainly don’t want to try to force my way into their lives.  They deserve autonomy and to be free from my odious self, who already screwed up everything in his own life, and caused them pain in the process.  But I would dearly love to spend time with them.

Of course, I do have a potentially terminal condition, and I don’t just mean “life itself” which is uniformly terminal as far as we can see.  I mean depression.  Depression has a direct lifetime mortality rate of about 15%, or at least that was the statistic the last time I checked.  That’s not counting the many things depression makes one more likely to have‒people with depression are more prone to various kinds of physical illnesses and to worse outcomes if they get those illnesses, and they are also more prone than others to drug and alcohol problems.

But I’m talking here about direct self-destruction: suicide, from the Latin “sui” meaning self, and the “cide” part that always means killing, as in fungicide, herbicide, insecticide, anthropocide, etc.  “Suicide” almost feels like it ought to be the opposite of “sui generis” but that’s not correct, and in fact they probably often go together, subjectively speaking.  Maybe it would be the opposite of “sui genesis”.  Could it also be called “sui exodus”?

Anyway, my point is that depression has mortality rates comparable to many cancers, but there are no Ronald McDonald houses for it (as far as I know).  It’s not a sexy/tragic/dramatic disorder worthy of Hallmark movies and that kind of twaddle.  It just sucks all around, because its very nature is to suck and to make everything in the universe feel like it sucks.  Maybe in this it’s like the very curvature of spacetime; tending to bend inward on itself and collapse, unless it is infused with a uniform, positive energy, in which case there will be a tendency to expand.

Believe me, I don’t have a uniform positive energy.  Maybe I used to, but my cosmological constant has long since quantum tunneled into a vacuum state so close to zero that it makes that of the universe, tiny as it is, appear flipping gargantuan.  I don’t know if I have a negative cosmological constant, which would make a kind of human anti de Sitter space.  Then I would collapse rapidly, which might be nice in and of itself.  Also, you could mathematically demonstrate the holographic principle on me using certain areas of string theory.

Maybe the state of suffering from depression is rather like being a human anti de Sitter space.  And the speed of collapse depends on how large the negative lambda is, but collapse is inevitable unless it changes signs.

Incidentally, it appears that people on the autism spectrum‒which I suspect I am, though I don’t have an “official”* diagnosis‒suffer from depression, including chronic depression AKA persistent depressive disorder AKA dysthymia (which I do have), at a significantly higher rate than the general population, are harder to treat, and also, if I recall, are more likely to commit suicide, and certainly to engage in self-harm.

I could have told you that.  Wait, I just did!

Okay, well, that’s more than enough for this Thursday.  I don’t know what I’ll do tomorrow or the next day.  I’m scheduled to work on those days, and I suppose I will, since I don’t like to inconvenience the people around me.  But as I told a coworker yesterday, I’ve been staying alive for quite a long time mainly just not to inconvenience other people, and there’s only so much longer I’m going to be able to do it.  I don’t have any other drive to stay alive; there is nothing to which I look forward.  I’m tired.  Sleeping on the floor in the office is no worse than sleeping at the house, but that’s not saying much at all.

Someday, perhaps soon, my sign off on a Thursday will be “TT” rather than TTFN, because I won’t expect to return.  But for now, the expression remains:


ads space ish

*It’s an odd notion, the “official” diagnosis of anything.  I mean, it’s useful for things like insurance and statistics and science, and certainly there is some value in the judgment of experts on such matters, but it is not something handed down from Mount Sinai (the medical school or the Ten Commandments place).  No one can speak ex cathedra on medical diagnoses, or on any fact of nature, frankly.  So don’t put too much stock in them**.

**Unless it’s good chicken stock.  Good chicken stock is tasty.

Voice-to-text is ill-advised for ready-to-publish blogging

What follows is an attempt to see if I can write a blog post using voice-to-text technology.  Paragraph.

Okay, “paragraph” doesn’t work; one has to start a new paragraph manually.  Anyway, I wanted to try to write on my phone today, but my thumbs still have not fully recovered from whatever dsmage caused them trouble previously.  Therefore, I am going to see how well I can initially “type” this out simply by speaking into the voice to text and then fixing up the incongruities and failures to make paragraphs when I edit it.  Return.

“Return” doesn’t work as a command, either.  Can I say “period” without it making a period?  Apparently, if I continue to the end of a sentence and the word period is in the middle, it does correct things eventually.

Today it’s raining, so I am going to be walking to the bus stop, taking the bus to the train station, the train to Deerfield, and taking a walk from Deerfield train station to the office.

I’m really not sure how good a technique this is for writing a blog post. It may have more in common with a podcast or personal reflection or what I call audio blogs then my typical blog post.  I don’t know how well it will come across but I will be editing it, so we’ll see.

I have just manually inserted a paragraph break then restarted the audio portion of the input.  We will see how that goes.  I’m going to have to be inserting a lot of punctuation and spacing after the initial draft.  It may not be worth it in the long run.  But it’s an interesting experiment for Monday morning when there if they’re already thunderstorms. (That should read, when there are already thunderstorms”).

I’m going to take a brief break now, because I haven’t yet left the house.  I want to give myself plenty of time so that I’m not going to wait at the bus stop any more than necessary.  It’s raining out, which is another reason I decided I wanted to try to write this on my phone.  I figured the phone is less vulnerable to the depredations of stray rain than the laptop is.


Okay, I’m at the bus stop now.  I’m a little worried about how traffic noise is going to affect this, but at least there’s not that much traffic at this hour.  It’s 5:00 in the morning, now.

I’m not sure what to discuss, since I’m doing this in a different way than I usually do.  I just cleared my throat, and it didn’t pick that up; that’s mildly interesting.  But it also didn’t pick up the first time that I attempted to speak that sentence after the throat clearing.  I had to backtrack manually, and then restart the sentence I had intended to speak.

I suppose the system has a propensity to miss hear, and to put the wrong words down, such as writing the words “miss” and then “here” instead of writing miss here…miss here…as in, to hear badly!  I can’t seem to say that word* in a way that makes it clear to voice-to-text technology what word I’m trying to produce.  That’s a bit annoying.

It does seem that when a car is driving by while I’m speaking it interferes with the function’s accuracy.  I suppose using this technology might be useful to improve one’s enunciation, at least.  After all, it can be quite frustrating when you have to backtrack manually and correct a computer-based error that doesn’t make much sense, so you might get in the habit of speaking very clearly.

I don’t know how many words I’ve spoken in this blog post yet.  It doesn’t seem very interesting to me, but then, most of my blog posts don’t seems terribly interesting to me anyway.

I’m not very good at judging what will be interesting to other people.  Many of the things that many people find interesting are utterly dull to me, and apparently many of the things that I find interesting are opaque to others.  I guess this explains my lifelong fondness for the Edgar Allan Poe poem alone.

I’m going to have to edit that last sentence so make it clear that the word “Alone” is the title of the poem.  There seems to be no easy way to cue the computer vocally that I’m trying to put quotation marks in.  Open quote quote quote.  Close quote.  See what I mean?  This is frankly more frustrating than I expected it to be.

There was a big flash of lightning just now but only distant and late following thunder.  So it was quite a long way away.  That was a random, interjected, spoken-aloud thought, but this sentence is not; it has been typed in later.

This technology is still far too stupid to be practically useful on a regular basis.  The time and effort put into editing and correcting it are going to be larger than the time and effort I probably usually use to break the whole thing.  To write the whole thing, I said.  Start to finish.

Maybe I should just stick to writing when I want to write, and if I wish to do audio, simply do an audio blog.  Right now there might be some trouble with that because of traffic noise, but that at least can either be edited out or recognized as background sounds, and I can resay something if it was scrambled up by a car.  That would just be part of the process.  It could even add color to an audio blog.

Anyway, life is frustrating.  For instance, the first thing the computer put in when I started “life is” was to end it with the word “good”, which sounds nothing like the word “frustrating”!  Then it kept writing “frustrated”.  I finally had to finish the sentence manually.

Enough of this nonsense.  This is an idea whose time has not yet come, or never was or will be.  Maybe speech is speech, and writing is writing, and never the tween shall meet.  Twain.

The voice-to-text can’t seem to recognize the word “Twain” except as a proper noun with a capital t as in Mark Twain.  But that name was a pseudonym based on an expression (supposedly) from navigating on the Mississippi River, and referred to a measured depth of two fathoms.  So when someone called out “mark twain” they meant the river at that point was two fathoms deep (12 feet).  It’s not quite full fathom five, as thy father lies‒I guess that might be “mark quint”.  Anyway, this is stupid.  But then again pretty much everything I do is stupid.  So what else is new?

I think I’m going to do a brief audio blog just to follow up on this. I may post it or leave it for my ears only.  Have a good day.

Voice stuffaltered


How would you pronounce an infinite sentence?

Well, it’s Saturday, April 1st, 2023, AD or CE, and I am writing a blog post today because I am working today.  You can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Well, you can say it, but it wouldn’t be true.  You can say almost anything, really.  There is a functionally limitless number of sentences that you can utter, and not all of them will be true.  It’s a vaguely interesting question whether the number of truthful sentences that can be uttered is as limitless as the number of sentences one can utter.  At first glance, it seems, one being a subset of the other, that it should not be the case, but when dealing with infinities, one has to be cautious—initial intuitions can be misleading.

If one restricts oneself to existing words or compound words, and one restricts oneself to sentences that follow standard grammatical rules, one can build a functionally limitless number of sentences simply by including compound sentences or nested phrases, like, “He knew that she knew that he knew that she knew that he was a pedantic idiot.”  That feels a bit like a cheat to me, but logically speaking, it can be done.

Of course, even if, in principle, the number of such possible sentences is infinite, there is a practical limit to the number of them one could possibly construct before the heat death of the universe—or, if the universe “ends” in some other way, before that happens.  This is part of why I wonder whether the number of truthful statements potentially constructible is actually as large—in practice, even if not in principle—as the total number of possible statements.

One could, in principle, construct sentences describing, to the degree possible, the quantum state of every describable aspect of all of accessible reality.  Of course, one could also just make up descriptions of quantum states that have nothing to do with our reality, but if Everett was right, or if the String landscape is right, or what have you, they might all be true somewhere, depending on how you define “some” and “where”.

But, of course, it’s trivially easier to describe quantum states in ways that are physically nonsensical, e.g. “The quantum state of that electron is blue with purple polka dots and smells like ripe bleu cheese”.  Or one can make impossible statements using more formal terminology, such as, “The precise location and momentum of this particular ‘particle’ are, at this precise moment: x and y, with no rounding of digits anywhere.”  As far as we know, that’s physically impossible.

It’s not as exciting as the physically impossible tale, “Bob accelerated his ordinary human body instantly from a standstill to the speed of light, at which speed he stayed long enough to go to the sun and back.  It was an incredible sixteen minutes, and everyone who watched him do it was amazed and thrilled.”

We know that can’t be true because, for one thing, nothing with “rest mass” can reach the speed of light at all—that would require an infinite amount of energy.  Also, if you’re going the speed of light, you can’t experience it, because for you, time ceases to pass.  Also, it’s questionable whether anyone could “see” you moving at that speed, and not just because you would become a black hole before you could ever achieve light speed.

Or would you?  I’ve tried to ask people who should know what would happen if a spaceship (for instance) was accelerated to close enough to the speed of light that, given length contraction and “relativistic mass” it compressed to a front-back length that was shorter than its Schwarzschild radius*, but I haven’t seen or received a reply about it.

This is one of the reasons I bought no fewer than two big textbooks on General Relativity; if I couldn’t get someone to give me the answer, I wanted to try to work it out.  I suspect that the fact that the length contraction is along one axis might make it a complicated situation for any large-scale object; maybe no one has done the mathematics on such questions, but that feels unlikely.

It also feels unlikely that I’ll find the time and discipline to work my way through the appropriate textbooks before I die.  There is background mathematics involved that I would need to master if I were to be able to apply the theory properly.

I don’t doubt that I’m capable of it; it’s not like playing professional basketball, where there are fundamental, physical limits to what someone my height (and age and athletic ability) could accomplish.  But there are so many things that interfere, and my time (and my will) is burned up daily upon matters of even more trivial character than all the pointless things I’ve already done in my life.

At least I’m gaining back some time thanks to my new bicycle.  I am now troubled, though (as I always am when I have some structure outside of myself upon which I have chosen to rely) with worries about maintenance, such as:  What will happen if the tires go flat while I’m en route to the train station?  It’s not that such a thing would be an unsolvable problem; I’ve dealt with such occurrences before.  But I don’t want to deal with them.  Even having to think about them constitutes one more straw piled on the camel’s back, and I’ve been carrying too much straw for too long.  I’m tired.  I want to lie down and just stay that way.

At least I’m getting good exercise.  And now that the seat is fixed, the bicycle seems to be operating well.  I may need to edit (slightly) my scathing review of it on Amazon.  We’ll see.  I’m going to watch and wait a bit longer for any other problems that may arise before I do that.

In closing, I’ll grudgingly acknowledge the fact that it’s “April Fool’s Day” just to remind you that you are all fools…but that I am a fool as well.  So were Einstein and Newton and Socrates and Marcus Aurelius and the Buddha and Lao Tzu and Confucius and, well, everybody else.  As Einstein is credited with saying**, “There are two things that are infinite:  the universe and human stupidity.  And I’m not sure about the universe.”

Depending on what you mean by stupidity, that can be trivially true in the mathematical sense, i.e., the number of unknown things in the universe is infinite.  There are other uses of the word stupidity about which the statement might not be true.  For instance, there are those who define stupidity as doing something in ways that are less efficient than randomness, such as trying to get to the airport by repeatedly driving around the block from your house until your car wears out.  Moving randomly could at least eventually get you to the airport, whereas going in “circles” will never get you there, even with a car that lasts forever.

Enough!  I wrote “in closing” and I haven’t closed yet, so I’ll do that now.  Have a nice remainder of your weekend***.  I’ll be back writing on Monday, barring the unexpected.


*According to outside observers, that is.  For those on the spaceship, it would be the outside world that would constrict into an ever-narrower “tunnel” in the direction of travel.

**I think this attribution is a correct one, which is not reliably so with many quotes attributed to Einstein online.

***What’s the modulus of a weekend?

It’s inspiring stuff for an otherwise mundane journey.

I’m starting this blog post a bit later than I usually do—roughly an hour later—because, as I planned yesterday, I have walked from the house to the train station, which is about 4.8 miles, it turns out.  It took me almost exactly an hour and a half, which I guess is a decent pace, though I used to walk more quickly.

I suppose with enough training I shall improve.

Now I’m at the train station (not the one to which I take the bus, but the one from which I always used to set off), waiting for the very train I would have caught had I taken the bus to the train this morning.  So I won’t be arriving at the office any later than usual, but I may be tardy in my posting of this blog entry.

While I walked, I listened to The Fellowship of the Ring on Audible.  It’s a brilliant book to which to listen while walking any distance, because the characters are walking, themselves.  When I started, they were in the Prancing Pony, first meeting Strider (my namesake)*, and by the time I’d gotten to the train station, Frodo had just been stabbed on Weathertop and they were getting ready to repack the pony and head off the following morning.

It’s inspiring stuff for an otherwise mundane journey.

I’m not wearing my Timberland boots today.  I fear that part of the issue with them is that they don’t fit my feet quite snugly enough, and so I slide around a bit in them, and of course, that can lead to blistering.  I’m not sure why the fit is overlarge, though.  I’ve looked at the various reviews and whatnot of those boots, and people generally say that they are true to size, or else a bit small.

Whereas, for instance, the Under Armor shoes I had are actually a bit snug at my usual size, and a pair a half size up seem a more comfortable a fit around my toes.  New Balance walking shoes, such as the ones I’m wearing today, and more or less just right.

I’m leery of trying a pair of Timberlands a half size smaller, not least because they are not cheap.  Though, of course, Amazon does have a try-it-on thing you can do, but if you don’t want to keep a pair you have to send it back, and that’s annoying.  I can’t deal with crap like that anymore; it involves interacting with humans I don’t know and changing my schedule and my routines and all that other stuff, and it’s just not worth the effort.

Maybe I’ll figure something out.  Possibly just the walking itself will strengthen my feet, or alternatively will make them swell enough that they fit the boots snugly.  I will admit, after wearing the boots yesterday, they already feel much more comfortable than they did before, but I did not walk more than about three and a half miles yesterday, total.

I’d like to find something out that is more or less ideal, but there may be no such thing in the real world.  Reality is extremely complex, with all sorts of high order equations interacting with other high order equations all over the place.  It may well be that the possibility of finding something ideally suited in all aspects for any given purpose is functionally impossible.

This is one reason I dislike it when people use the word “perfect”, because in most cases it’s a notion that isn’t even well defined, let alone achievable.  Unless one sets clear and specific and precise criteria, judging anything or anyone to be perfect is just rhetoric, it’s not reason.  Powerful rhetoric can be enjoyable, like watching a boxing match or a martial arts movie, but it absolutely should not be allowed to sway one in important matters that bear on facts of reality or choices of morality.

Should we really let our politics, let alone our judgments of the facts of reality, be shaped by the words of someone who is—effectively—the best name-caller on the playground?  The difference between juvenile remarks—“Neener-neener,” “Your mama,” and “I’m rubber, you’re glue” for instance—and the words in most political discourse and debate is one of degree, not of type.

Imagine if Wiles’s proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem*** had consisted of him saying, “It’s true ‘cause I said it’s true, now what are you gonna do about it?  My grandma knows number theory better than you do.”  Or perhaps he could have invoked the seemingly more mature arguments:  “Of course, my political opponent would be skeptical of my proof, even though it’s obvious to anyone of intelligence that it’s correct.  The members of that party don’t want you to have the freedom brought by knowing that no three positive integers a, b, and c satisfy the equation an + bn = cn for any integer value of n greater than 2.  That’s because it threatens their power structure, and their special interest groups and wealthy lobbyists.  My proof may, like Fermat’s, be too big to fit in the margins of a letter, but believe me, my opponent’s brains, together with his genitals, are more than small enough to fit in such a space.”

Would that be a convincing mathematical argument?  Would it have anything at all to do with the truth of any proposition whatsoever?

Why do people both use and fall for such manipulations?  I know, I know, they’re just a bunch of tailless, nearly-hairless monkeys; why would you expect them to be more reasonable than baboons?  But it’s so frustrating mainly because nearly all of them appear to have the capacity to be rational, contrary to popular belief.

The very use of language itself requires syntax, grammar, logic, all applied at quite a sophisticated and often abstract level.  Almost all humans are capable of language starting at a young age.  They have the wherewithal to be truly reasonable and sharp-minded, almost all of them, with but a bit of effort.  This makes it all the more irritating when they don’t do so.

One doesn’t get angry at a starfish for having no curiosity about astronomy (despite what we call it), or a worm for not grasping quantum mechanics****.  And what does a sea squirt need with philosophy, especially once it’s achieved tenure?  But humans nearly all have the capacity for exceptional achievements.

Though I suppose “exceptional” wouldn’t be the right word if everyone did it.

How did I get on this subject?  I don’t remember.  Anyway, that’s more than enough of a post for today, and as I write this last sentence, having arrived finally at the office (and having now walked just shy of six miles already), I still need to do my editing.  So I’ll call it good.  I don’t think I’m going to be working tomorrow.  It would be good, after my first day of longer walking, to have a day of relative rest.  Then, next week, I shall do my walking, about 12 miles, every day.  That’s not too bad for a start, but not as much as my eventual hope.

We’ll see what happens.

*That’s Aragorn, of course, but for those of you who have only seen the movies, you may not know that his name as king of Gondor, in the fullness of time, was Elessar Telcontar.  Elessar means “elfstone” and refers to the green gem given to Aragorn by Galadriel, whereas Telcontar means, more or less, “strider”**.

**If ever I were to assume a supervillain name of some kind, I might replace my current last name with “Melkor”, because it would lead to possibly the most egotistical concatenation of name meanings ever.  My first name, Robert, apparently means “bright fame” or “bright glory”.  My middle name, Eugene, of course means “true born” or “well born”, as in “eugenics”.  And my counterfactual last name, Melkor, would mean “He who arises in might”.  That’s a heckuva collection of names.  And, of course, I’m a doctor by training and by degree, so that just makes it all even mightier.  “I’m Robert Eugene Melkor, MD.  You can call me Dr. Melkor.  Bwa ha ha ha haaaa!”

***Which, to be fair, should be called Wiles’s Theorem.

****Though they are good at tunneling.  Ha ha.

A turn or two I’ll walk, to still my blogging mind

Hello and good morning to everyone reading this, even if you’re reading it in the afternoon, or the evening, or at night, or if you’re fundamentally not a morning person and so you never see mornings as “good” no matter what anyone says.  Don’t feel bad about that, if it is the case for you.  Even Gandalf expressed his skepticism about the greeting “Good morning,” as we see almost at the very beginning of The Hobbit.

Most greetings are bizarre things, or at least many of them are.  I particularly dislike greetings that involve questions, because I have lost my former hard-earned skill, such as it was, at treating them as the vacuous, ritualistic bird-calls that they are.

If, on a Monday morning, someone asks, “How was your weekend?” I can’t simply reply with a ritual, “It was great,” and then ask about theirs, whether I care about their weekend or not.  I actually have to stop and think about the question*.  Often, I’m sorry to say, I can only shrug and quote Bart Simpson, saying, “Meh.”  This is me trying to avoid being too negative.  But, of course, humans—or at least Americans—don’t want to hear that sort of thing.  I don’t quite know why.

Similarly, some people will ask the rather grammatically suspect question, “How are you doing?” usually with some dropped consonants or strange contractions.  My first instinct, which I almost always resist, is to respond with, “How am I doing what?”  Instead, I tend just to go for the puzzled look followed by a shrug and, again, “Meh.”

The foreshortened version of the earlier question is “How are you?”  It is if anything more bizarre.  It sounds like the beginning of a deep, philosophical discussion, related perhaps to the old “Why is there something rather than nothing?”  How am I?  Does that mean “How is it that I exist?” which seems to be what it means if you take it at face value?

It’s an interesting thing—to me, at least—to think about the same question but changing “How” to various other words such as who, what, where, and when.  The first three make straightforward sense, the last one is an intriguing question calling to my mind the notion that, in GR, there is no time that passes, merely an extra dimension to reality.

They are all better questions and make more sense than the “how” one.  Then, of course, we could take our cue from the improvised, hilarious line given by Drax in Avengers: Infinity War, and ask, “Why are you?”

Okay, let’s move on to other matters besides my steadily atrophying skill at dealing with small talk in anything but a literal (and annoyed) way.

Today is the final valid day for my current bus pass.  These passes are really quite good if you ride the bus more than a few times a week in Broward County.  Unlike the Tri Rail, which charges full price for each calendar month—even if you buy the pass in the last week of that month—the bus passes start ticking (so to speak) only when you first use them, and they expire a minute before midnight thirty-one days later.  That’s it.  Straightforward.  So if you buy a bus pass and “sit on it” for months, you still have 31 days of use once you first use it.

I like it.  It’s a good system.

That being said, I think that after this evening, when I use this pass for the last available time, I’m not going get a new one.  Instead, if I can summon the courage, I’m simply going to walk to and from the train station every day.  That’s slightly under five miles in each direction.  If I can pull that off, counting the walk from and to the station up at work, I’ll be walking eleven or twelve miles a day.

I really ought to be able to do that.  Endurance is not an issue.  I just have problems with still-healing blisters.  But I can’t coddle myself with respect to those.  My blisters are all that’s holding me back, and they are annoying, but I have to push through to the other side of that barrier, because I have a task before me that I want to accomplish.

It won’t be a particularly useful task for anyone but me, and there will no doubt be those who will think it’s not good for me either, but that isn’t really my concern.  I want to try.  As I always say, I don’t want to inconvenience people I care about, so I’m thinking of something that hopefully will minimize “me-related” problems for them, though adjustments will likely need to be made at some level.

At least the number of people close to me personally and physically is small—it’s zero if you’re looking at the combination of the two attributes.  Also, at least my idea shouldn’t be messy or locally problematic.  That’s one advantage, at least.  Or is it two?

I feel that I have to do something though.  I don’t think I can endure much longer with nothing meaningful in my life in any serious way.  My foundations (metaphorically speaking) are crumbling; you can see the cracks widening if you know where to look, and when they give—I keep trying not to let it give as long as I can—the failure will probably be abrupt and messy and will cause trouble for the neighbors, so to speak.  I’d really like to minimize that if I can.  I cause other people enough unpleasantness just by existing; I’d rather not make it worse.

Of course, I’d rather do good for other people, especially the ones I care about.  I’d rather try to relieve suffering and cause joy, or at least to entertain.  I like to make people smile if I can, but I’m not good at it, and I don’t smile very well myself anymore.

I used to practice smiling in the mirror all the time, to try to get it right, but I’ve kind of stopped bothering with that anymore.  My smiles are usually façades and charades, at least in recent years.

Anyway, my bus will be here soon.  I’ll try to keep you all posted, and I’ll probably write something tomorrow again, whether you like it or not.  Have a good day, if you can, but you don’t have to have a good morning if you don’t feel like it, no matter what I said at the beginning of the post.



*Lately I’ve considered simply replying, “It was about sixty hours long”, but I always forget to do that when the time comes.

No live creature can continue to exist at all if there is no reality

Well, it’s Friday morning, and for those of you with a typical* American work week, I’ll say a “TGIF” on your behalf, though as I said yesterday, I work tomorrow.

That’s an interesting combination of tenses, isn’t it?  I’ll say, I said, I work, tomorrow…most of the whole latter half of that sentence is a mishmash of inconsistent, time-related words, and yet, as far as I can tell, it makes sense.  Please let me know if I’m wrong about that.

I’m still very tired from the fiascos with the trains Wednesday, and from sleeping on the floor in the office Wednesday night.  Nevertheless, on the way back to the house yesterday, I got an early enough train that I decided to walk back from the train station, despite being tired.  So, between Wednesday morning and Thursday evening I walked a total of about nine miles, and the athletic tape I put on the blister on my right foot seems to have done a good job at protecting it.

I did then pick at the blister a bit as I was lying down last night, and I might have irritated it some, since it’s slightly sore now.  That might just be from the longish walk back from the train last night.  Or, of course, it could be both.  There could even be unrecognized influences causing soreness.  Occam’s Razor pushes against that last bit—I’m unaware of any possible other causes so far, and I have potential known causes that can explain what I find and feel—but it doesn’t give any direction to the choice between the other two things or their combination.


I work tomorrow, as I said before, so I should write a blog post then.  I don’t know what I’m going to write about, but then again, I have no idea what I’m going to write about today, and yet I’ve already written some 360 words.

I think I’ve noted previously how this writing about nothing that nevertheless goes on and on seems almost related to the more ordinary thing called “small talk”, when people get together and discuss things that are of no consequence, really, and which are not planned in advance.  I gather that small talk serves some manner of social cohesion building, an interaction for the sake of interacting, done verbally in humans, since largely hairless house apes no longer need to pick Arthropoda from each other’s fur.

Small talk seems at some level essentially to consist of people saying to each other, “I’m a person you know and are socially bonded with, and you are a person I know and am socially bonded with.  We are part of the same community or tribe, at least at some level.”  I guess that’s useful, and even powerful, in an ultra-social species like humans.

Heck, even scientists and mathematicians get together at conferences**, or hang out together at lunch time.  Apart from this being a social bonding thing, it probably really helps to trigger and stimulate new ideas, as separate minds throw their thoughts into interactions with other minds, coming from varying points of view, triggering new thoughts and new insights that a single brain could not as easily produce.

Of course, reading (and listening to podcasts and audiobooks, and watching videos) can also bring on such new thoughts and ideas, sometimes in slightly deeper ways.  But there is no mutual, “real time” give and take, which can in the right circumstances lead to a seemingly near-miraculous bootstrapping of ideas.  Just imagine what the conversations were like when Gödel and Einstein hung out and went for walks together in Princeton!

Meanwhile, Robert Elessar, not sane, stood by himself against his blogs, holding darkness within.

Ha ha, that’s just me having a bit of fun with a slight paraphrase of part of the first paragraph (also part of the last paragraph) of The Haunting of Hill House.  (That’s also what’s happening in the blog title and in one of the footnotes.)

That has to be one of the best openings to a book this side of “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”***  And, of course, ““No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as mortal as his own…” from The War of the Worlds.  Or a more recent favorite: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit,” from a book the title of which escapes me****.  Oh, well…call me Ishmael, if you must.

I don’t think I really have much more to write today, though something else may occur to me.  This has very much been a blog about nothing, but then again, that’s probably a decent metaphor for the very universe itself.  A lot seems to go on, at various levels, but there doesn’t seem to be any central theme or topic or subject, unless you count the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

Even if you don’t count that, though, it still applies.  That’s the way of “reality”—it doesn’t depend on your awareness, or on anyone’s awareness.  Indeed, all such awareness is but a tiny little portion of reality itself.  Reality is that which exists whether you believe in it or not.  If you have doubts about that, just consider what happens to people who die sudden, unexpected deaths, as from a surprise bomb attack or similar.  Not knowing that bombs exist or that an attack was coming would not protect against them.

Ask the dinosaurs.  Oh, wait, you can’t.  They’re all gone*******.

See what I mean?  Have a nice day.

asteroid hit

*Is it really typical anymore?  I wonder what percentage of American workers overall actually work Monday through Friday nowadays.

**And even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.  See below (in the main body, not in the footnotes) for the source of that line.

***Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.  Surely the very title of that book, as well as its first sentence, would put it on the chopping block in the minds of the puritanical thought police of modern offense mongering.

****It doesn’t really escape me, of course.  It’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, obviously*****.

*****Seriously, I know it’s not.  I doubt there’s any book I’ve read more often than The Hobbit, if only because there have been quite a few times when I’ve started The Lord of the Rings and ended up stopping not long after the battle of Helm’s Deep, which is one of my favorite parts.  The early Frodo/Sam/Gollum stuff  in the latter part of The Two Towers is sometimes a lot to slog through.

*******Except for birds, of course, which really are descended from therapod dinosaurs and are, in a very real sense, extant dinosaurs.  I’m picking nits with my own words—figuratively, at least, since I do not engage in mutual grooming with any other primates if I can help it—but that’s fine with me.

Words, and spice, and a futile device…that’s what this blog post is made of

Well, it’s Friday again, and so tomorrow is Saturday, in the system by which we name our days.

The days themselves don’t know or care about what we call them, anymore than all the various plants and animals and fungi in the world care—as far as anyone can tell—what we call them.  Our names of things are solely for our convenience, to make communication easier and more streamlined—paintbrush handles of thought, as I think Eliezer Yudkowsky described them.

But, of course, having finite minds, as surely do all creatures, we tend to get so used to thinking of things by their names that we think the names and the things are interconnected in and of themselves, and even that the names have inherent power.  This is akin to all the old magical ideas that knowing someone’s or something’s true name gives you power over them in some mystical fashion.  It’s also related to our (depressingly) current notions of names or other words being capable of causing actual, physical harm, and being taboo—even words that are basically innocuous.

I can certainly understand why people might want to avoid using a term that’s been almost exclusively associated with historical injustice, oppression, and literal violence; that’s just a matter of trying to be polite, as far as I can see, and politeness is rarely a bad thing, as long as people don’t get too carried away.  But the tendency of humans to get hung up on some mystical (and fictional) power of names often becomes a problem, and is the error of thought which required the creation of the formerly popular and very important corrective, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

That’s very true—unless you’re dealing with Paul Atreides or some other Bene Gesserit person.  Alas, those are fictional beings.  I say “alas” not because I think that it’s too bad that we don’t have the Bene Gesserit and so on, but because it would be great if there really were people/creatures like the Guild Navigators, with the ability to fold space thanks to long exposure to the spice mélange.  That would be tremendously useful for space travel, obviously.  In our world, though, “He who controls the spice controls the universe” just refers to KFC and Colonel Sanders’s secret original recipe for fried chicken, which is tasty, but is not going to get us interstellar travel, at least not anytime soon.

Similarly, as far as we know, in our particular brane-world, there are no orcterlolets, with their ability to manipulate space directly (no spice needed).  And if Simon Belmont is real in our universe, he’s keeping his knowledge and abilities quiet, probably wisely*.

Anyway, coming back to the subject of the day and days, I hope you all are going to have a good weekend, and that you get some time off from work and so on.  I’m going to work tomorrow, unless some highly unusual situation develops, and so I will be writing a blog post tomorrow.

In case you couldn’t tell, I’ve been using my laptop all this week to write, and it’s definitely helping my thumbs, though they are not fully recovered yet.  I will say, even I am struck by how much faster and more eloquently I “speak” when typing than in any other fashion, including actual speech, as far as I can see.  As you may know, I’ve tried to work on doing “audio blogs”, since more people seem to like to listen and to watch things than to read—see yesterday’s post for my lament about that fact—but it’s not nearly as natural to me.  I did find it gratifying to read aloud my last post from Iterations of Zero, which I turned into a “video” on YouTube and embedded here, but that’s as much because I really was trying to get that message out…yet again, perhaps for the last time, after so many, repeated failures.

Apparently, I’m not very good at making myself clear.  Then again, the reason for that, and the emphasis on that reason, was a big part of the point of that last IoZ blog post and the fact that I read it aloud and shared it in different format.  I’m probably wasting my time, though.  Even if someone actually gets the point I’m trying to make, why on Earth would anyone act on it?  Why would anyone even try to save the prisoner in my thought experiment?

Let him die, I say.  He’s a worthless little piece of shit, anyway.  I hate him.

With that, I’ll wrap up this rather bizarre and somewhat short Friday blog post.  I didn’t have any agenda going in, and I think I’ve achieved that agenda nicely, and in fewer words than I usually take to do it.  If you’re spending the weekend with family and/or friends, please do your best to appreciate your time with them.  Make the most of it.  Don’t take them for granted.  Take nothing for granted.  The universe only makes one promise to everyone—and we can’t even be completely, mathematically, epistemically certain of that one.


*The immediately preceding few sentences were references to my “fantasy” adventure book, The Chasm and the Collision, in case anyone was confused more by them than by references to Dune.  To learn more about what those references mean, you should buy and read my book!  Heck, buy them all!  They will change your life, I promise you…at the very least in the sense that you will own several more books than you had owned previously.  That’s technically a change, right?

They have blogged at a great feast of languages, and stolen the scraps.

Hello and good morning.

It’s Thursday, so I’m writing my traditional blog post, which I used to write between writing fiction (or editing it) on every other working day of the week.  I suppose it’s possible that now I’m still writing my daily blog between writing fiction, but if so, it’s a very long between, and I see no hint of a far end of that break, at least not one that involves me starting to write fiction again.

Practically no one—perhaps literally no one—has shown any real interest in that possibility, nor is anyone outside my family really reading any of my fiction.  Perhaps few people read fiction at all anymore.  I do have to wonder, how many of the people who buy even the big best-selling fiction works actually read them?

I recall back when Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time was a huge best-seller* that many people just bought it to have it on their coffee table or book shelf, as a social status symbol, just as they might wear Nike shoes or drive a particular make and model of car, or frequent a particular restaurant where they could be seen with other people who were going there to be seen.  They were peacocking, so to speak—it wasn’t just males, of course, because humans have different social structures than birds as a general rule.  But the status, hierarchy, and symbolic drives are all quite reminiscent.  One could say similar things about Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel.

Hell, back in the day, there were probably oodles of people who had sets of high-quality encyclopedias on their bookshelves, that they never used or expected to use.  This is a true shame, because I can tell you that just picking a random volume of an old-school encyclopedia and thumbing one’s way through it, stopping and reading when one encounters something interesting, can be quite a wonderful experience, and lets one learn about things one might never have thought to explore.  Wikipedia does have a sort of “random article” feature, but it’s just not the same.

Anyway, that was a bit of a tangent.  The point I’m making is that I think almost no one reads at all, or at least few people read anything longer than a few hundred words at a time**.  People seem to prefer to watch people speaking in order to get their news, which is far less efficient than reading actual words, which are a comparatively concise and precise means of conveying information.

There are some things for which video is especially well-suited, of course.  Conveying complex scientific ideas can be boosted tremendously with high-quality animation of concepts, especially in physics.  Also, of course, explorations of the natural world as undertaken by the likes of David Attenborough can be used to give people a more direct exposure to things they never would have been able to see for themselves.

But still, words have their power, the written word especially (or so I think).  When you come down to it, every aspect of the internet runs on written words—computer programs and commands—which convey literal, step-by-step instructions from one place to another about what pixel to put where and when, how and when and with what power to vibrate a computer’s speaker, and of course, what ASCII or similar character to call up and put where on what screen.

It happens very fast, of course, but it happens that way.  The very reason video signals can be so high-fidelity but low power—phone signals as well—is that they are transmitted as languages, with redundancy and error-correction implicitly (and deliberately) built in, so that even when part of a signal is lost, the rest can “easily” be reconstructed.

I put “easily” in scare quotes because while it happens readily once everything is set up, it took some of the most brilliant minds ever in the world to figure out how that sort of thing works and what to do to make use of it, and others to figure out how to bring it to the available use of so many of the billions of humans worldwide.

Meanwhile, most of those humans don’t think about the exquisite and astonishing machinery involved in their smartphones, or their “smart” TVs, or their GPS (which requires Special and General Relativity to function!).  Most people use their phones as distractions and—perhaps primarily—as yet another instance of peacocking, of status demonstration.  How else can one explain the push to buy the latest iteration of the latest smartphone, when one hasn’t even taken full advantage of the features of the phone one currently has?

Humans very rarely seem actually to think for themselves.  I’d say almost all of them do it some of the time—occasionally—and some few of them do it much of the time.  But that last population is vanishingly small.  Yet they, I suspect, are the ones who drive most advances in most fields, and produce the improvement of science and technology and art and society.  What a shame that they’re usually just making precious ceramic sculptures to be tossed about by troglodytes.

Oh, well.  Obviously I’m not in an upbeat and optimistic frame of mind today, if ever I am.  And it’s because of facts and thoughts such as these that I think I’m not writing this blog between writing fiction but rather after having written all the fiction I’m going to write in my life.  That’s okay, I suppose.  It doesn’t actually matter much to much of anyone, anyway.

It’s just as well, I guess.  The one person I met at work who actually talked to me about the substance and the ideas in one of my books—Son of Man, in this case—was also a person who died of a drug overdose not long afterward.  It wasn’t the fault of my book; he had a drug problem already.  But he was smart and curious, and he actually read the book and thought about it and asked me questions related to it, and debated points with me.  That was kind of cool.  Small wonder that he died a self-inflicted death; he was too much a kindred spirit to me.  What else could one expect?

So, with that in mind, I—who, regrettably, cannot seem to develop a life-threatening addiction to drugs or alcohol—don’t expect to do much more creative shit in my life.  I could be wrong, of course; I make no claims to absolute epistemic certainty about anything.  I’m not even entirely convinced by cogito ergo sum argument.  I can vaguely conceive of the possibility of myself being a figment of someone else’s dreams, albeit someone with a very vivid (if somewhat dreary) imagination.  Of course, in a sense, an imagined being, if the imagined nature of that being is instantiated in the imagining of independent thought, does exist.  So I guess Descartes’s conclusion, in sum, was still correct as far as it went.

I don’t know.  I’m tired.  If someone is dreaming me, I wish they would have a better dream.  Maybe I wish they would wake up.  Presumably I wouldn’t know that the dream that I was in ended when it ended, anymore than any of us would know if the vacuum state of the universe tunneled to a lower energy level and wiped out everything preceding it, because the wave front of the phase change would progress at the speed of light, which would mean that the first hint of its existence for anyone would be their instantaneous obliteration, faster than they could even potentially know it was happening.

Swift, painless, without the possibility of fear because fear cannot move faster than light—it’s not too bad a way for the universe to go.  To read more about it, please look into The End of the Everything (Astrophysically Speaking), by­­­­­­­ Katie Mack***.  It’s an excellent book, and quite fun.  Buy it even if you’re just going to put it on your coffee table to impress the Joneses.  At least the author would get a bit of money.  And some day, you or someone in your family might accidentally pick it up and learn something.  There are worse accidents than that!



*Admittedly, that is nonfiction, but it serves my point more generally.

**Though, to my surprise, on the train this morning I saw no fewer than three people actually, actively reading paperback books.  Perhaps I’m too pessimistic.  That would surprise almost no one.

***You need not worry about the possibility of such a phase change much.  It’s far from certain that it even could happen, and even if it can, the best science indicates that it’s vanishingly unlikely over anything like the current lifespan of the universe.  Dr. Mack explains it far better than I could.

Brief thoughts on candy, carbon, communication, and a shared “video”

Well, it’s Wednesday, the day after Valentine’s Day.  I know it’s not technically the Ides of February or anything—at least I think I know that—but there ought to be an official day for the day after Valentine’s Day, some equivalent of Boxing Day after Christmas.  Maybe we could call it Barfing Day; that might be both fun and appropriate.

I was thinking that yesterday would have been an excellent day for me to have a heart attack.  It seems an appropriate potentially fatal healthcare crisis to have on a day when everyone is sharing “heart-shaped”* treats, many if not all of which are not great for the coronary arteries.  However, though I did in fact find myself once sprinting to beat a light and then later sprinting to catch a bus—one can’t get much more cliché than that when it comes to myocardial infarctions—I felt not a hint of chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, or what have you.  Disappointing.  And the only nausea I felt was that sort of subjective nausea that isn’t a true physical feeling, but which is a projection of disgust over the very silly and stupid things people say and do.

This queasiness was not in response to Valentine’s Day activities!  Don’t get me wrong.  I thought Barfing Day was a good follow-up day because eating too many sweets in one day can lead to GI upset.  For the most part, I think it’s nice that people express love, romantic and/or otherwise, to those important to them.  It may be frustrating that it’s such a ritualized, scheduled expression of love, but unfortunately, if it were not for such rituals, it’s probable that many people would never make or think of any such expression at all.

Sometimes, it seems, humans need rituals to make them realize their own feelings, and perhaps even to confront their own feelings.  This can apply to bad feelings as well as to good, as when, on the approach to a holiday such as Valentine’s Day, someone realizes that the person with whom they are currently linked is someone with whom they don’t really feel that strong a bond.  Hopefully such a realization occurs before too much has been invested in a relationship.

I suppose the need to act in recognition of such a fact can sometimes lead to a stereotypical Valentine’s Day breakup, which is harsh, but perhaps better than the alternative of a long, unpleasant relationship with increasing acrimony and emotional (if not physical) abuse.  Maybe I’m wrong.  I don’t know; I’m making this up as I go.

In distant parallel to the above, I sometimes think that maybe we should lace all Valentine’s Day candies with hormone blockers or something along those lines to diminish the sex drive of those who eat them.  Surely, anything that can be done to decrease the breeding of new humans is probably going to be a benefit for the rest of the planet, and evolution just isn’t likely to get to that solution on its own.

On second thought, that may actually be a foolish notion.  Honestly, I’d worry more about people if they didn’t have any children, because the nurturing of children is one of the most potent triggers and encouragers of love—not to mention forethought—in humans.  As I think Fagin said in the musical Oliver, I think I’d better think it out again.

Anyway, that’s all for you guys to worry about.  I’m giving up on it, and with any luck, none of what humans do will have any impact on me, other than perhaps to alter slightly the rate of decay of my corpse.  Though it would be useful, I think—and as I’ve written before—to enact a policy, or even a tradition, of storing the bodies of the deceased in deep ocean subduction zones, to get them out of the carbon cycle.

Cremation seems like a terrible idea; it just gives everyone one last lunge to increase their individual carbon footprint!

It probably doesn’t make much difference, though, honestly.  Such minor sequestering and the like on local, individual level is unlikely to accumulate into anything of significance to the global atmosphere.  I think it will only be the development of new science, technologies, and processes that will engineer out the excess carbon from the atmosphere, perhaps using some adjusted and enhanced equivalent of photosynthesis on an industrial scale (among other thing).  After all, photosynthesis takes carbon dioxide and water—potent greenhouse gases—from the atmosphere and ultimately converts them into carbohydrates and fats and such.  These can then be sequestered, if necessary, or converted to bioplastics, and biofuels, to use for things we currently do with fossil fuels.

The local energy for those processes can be derived from the products of the photosynthesis (ultimately from the sun) and so on, so that even when not truly “carbon-negative” it will be at worst “carbon-neutral”.

Of course, it’s stupid to be carbon neutral as a matter of personal, aesthetic judgment.  Carbon is the backbone of life as we know it, and probably will be for most if not all other life in the universe, if there is any.

I know, in these matters, “carbon” is just a shorthand for greenhouse gas reduction and whatnot, but I wonder how many people really think about that when they use the term, especially when one considers that water vapor, which is more potent than CO2  as a greenhouse gas, has no carbon in it at all, and methane, which is also more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, has only one carbon atom for every four hydrogen atoms.  And a molecule of methane burns to make one molecule of CO2 and two molecules of water.

If more people were more scientifically literate and careful in their thought, a great many of our problems would probably be diminished, so my biggest local lament here is that many of the more vocal activists on all sides may refer to things like carbon and economics and communication and the like without even really thinking about the words they are saying.  Such words in such cases aren’t tools of communication, but are, as Eliezer Yudkowsky notes, just soldiers going into battle.  What a horrible bastardization of the greatest invention of the human species.

In closing, I just want to let you know that I recorded myself reading aloud the last blog post I made on my alternate blog Iterations of Zero, and I’ve turned it into a video to put on YouTube.  I’ve embed it here, below.  It’s only three minutes long, and some of that is a lead-in moment of silence.

You can read it or listen, whatever you like, but I hope if you “watch” it you’ll give it a “thumbs up” on YouTube.

It’s a brief discussion of a thought experiment or story of a person trapped in a peculiar prison and trying to send messages for help without alerting the jailer, but it’s not as simple as it seems, and it’s not actually fiction.


*And they are truly sort of heart-shaped, especially if you look at the interior shape of a heart.