This is an untitled blog post…or IS it?

Okay, well, I’m back on the laptop again, today.  I think I did a decent job of gauging how long my post should be yesterday, despite using my phone to write it.  It did seem to take slightly longer to write the same number of words than it would have with the laptop.  It’s just easier to write faster when you’re using a (nearly) full-scale keyboard and more or less all of your fingers instead of your two thumbs to type.

Still, as I think I’ve noted before, I wrote a goodly part of my science fiction novel, Son of Man using a smartphone that was quite a bit smaller than the one I have now, and I think it turned out pretty well.  At least, the feedback I’ve gotten from the few people I know who have read it and who deigned to comment—one of whom has sadly died—was good.

Not much has changed since yesterday, though.  By which I mean I’m not sure why I’m bothering to keep doing this blog.  I don’t think it’s doing me much good.  As anyone reading regularly can probably tell, my mental health doesn’t seem to be improving at all despite the use of this unidirectional “talk therapy”.

I’m a creature of habit, though, so I’ll continue this until…well, until something stops me, or until I stop doing even this little bit of proactive stuff.  I’m sure that will leave the world no poorer.

The hurricane that’s approaching is not supposed to hit this part of Florida, but to make landfall along the central west coast, but it’s still been sloppy and rainy, and a bit windy, these past few days.  Sunday afternoon was sunny and clear, and I went for a long walk near the end of the day, but since then we’ve had wetness.  At least the modest windiness—which may have at least something peripheral to do with the hurricane—makes it feel less muggy.

It’s almost pleasant, and even has a slight autumnal feel to it.  It reminds me vaguely of the times in the year after school had started and as Halloween approached up north, when the leaves would begin changing—something that, alas, doesn’t really happen in south Florida—and you had to wear a light jacket against the breeze, but it wasn’t yet truly cold.

Of course, no jackets are required here in south Florida, unless you’re going to some high end club or restaurant, or unless you’re wearing one to keep off the rain.  But an umbrella works better against the rain here, in my experience, and it doesn’t leave you so sweaty.  However, if you’re riding a motorcycle, a good rain jacket is useful, and rain pants if you have them.  A good helmet is more than adequate to keep your head dry, and even keeps it warm in what passes for cold weather in south Florida*.

Here I go again, talking about the weather.  It’s rather pathetic, I know, I’m sorry.

I guess I could comment on political or scientific stories if you’d prefer.  I don’t know what happened with the NASA probe thing last night, the experiment to try to shift the orbit of an asteroid.  It’s a trial of concept, basically, to tease out the workings of the process of changing the long-term orbit of an asteroid, in case one ever appears to be headed for Earth.

The laws of motion and Newtonian gravity are more than adequate for us to tell well in advance where an object’s orbit will take it—if we know where the object is and how it’s moving—and what sort of change would make it no longer headed to intersect the Earth, if it were otherwise going to do so.  Given enough lead time, even a tiny nudge can be more than adequate to prevent collisions.

Of course, also given enough lead time, a tiny nudge and the same technology could alter the trajectory of a hitherto harmless asteroid and put it in a trajectory to hit the Earth.

Don’t think I haven’t thought about it.  Regrettably, I don’t have the resources to pull off such a scheme.  However, there are now at least a few people in the world who have their own private space programs, some capable of interplanetary travel.  I wouldn’t put it past Elon Musk to steer a modest asteroid toward Earth to cause just massive enough a catastrophe to support his point pushing for human colonization of other planets, as a sort of object lesson.

Okay, well, I don’t really think he would do that.  He has too much to lose, and it could be quite tricky to steer such an asteroid finely, so that it hit where on Earth you wanted it to hit.  But it might be a good way to unify the human race.  I’ve often thought that we need a real supervillain to bring the world together.  I would volunteer, but I don’t think humanity is worth the effort.  I’m more inclined just to steer a whopping BIG asteroid at Earth and do a planetary reset.

I wouldn’t do this for any ideological reason, and certainly not for any religious reason.  I believe the supernatural cannot exist by (my) definition**.  I just think it would be a good test, of sorts.  If humanity were able to come together to prevent the catastrophe, or to at least survive it and rebuild, they would have demonstrated their continuing worthiness.  And if not, well, then not.

Honestly, given the fact that life is more or less inevitably dominated by fear and pain***, I often veer toward anti-natalism, and even pro-mortalism (look them up).  Of course, given that I have children, and they are the most important two facts about the universe to me, by far, I can hardly be said to be a pure pro-mortalist or anti-natalist.  But then, I never claimed to be.

I don’t think it’s usually good to try to define oneself by any “ism”.  It’s vanishingly unlikely that any one given, finite ideology will have come up with reliable, complete, and final answers. regarding much of anything about life.  If it had, I suspect that fact would have become evident, if not obvious, by now.

Knowledge and deep understanding is gained incrementally, not revealed by some “authority”; the universe is extremely complex, at least on scales like the surface of the Earth at this stage of cosmic evolution.  We can’t expect any simple, easy-to-solve equation to describe even the eddies and whorls that take place when milk first begins mixing into coffee, and that’s more or less the stage of the universe we’re in right now (on a much bigger scale than a cup of coffee, obviously).

Okay, well, I don’t know how I got around to those subjects, but I guess that’s the sort of thing that can happen with stream-of-consciousness writing.  At least it wasn’t just a complete rehash of what I wrote yesterday.  Hopefully tomorrow will likewise not be a rehash.  Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow may creep on in this petty pace to the last syllable of recorded time (which record will eventually decay as time goes its interminable way), but each morrow will differ in its details, at least until all things are washed out by entropy.  It’ll be a while—on the mortal scale, anyway—before that happens cosmically.

Keep your eyes peeled and your ears pricked up, though.  It is coming.

Cloudy coffee


*To be fair, if you’re riding at 70+ miles per hour, even a low in the low fifties feels pretty darn cold, but that sort of weather won’t be back for months now, and goodness knows if I’ll ever ride again.

**By which I mean to say, even if there were such things as gods and demons and angels and spirits and so on, if they really existed, then they would in fact be part of nature, and would have a “lawful” existence of some type, and would therefore be natural.  Only imaginary things can be “supernatural”.

***I’m sure I’ve gone into this before.  It is essential for any successfully reproducing organism to have strong senses of pain and fear, to avoid danger and to avoid and seek to mitigate damage.  These must be more immediate and powerful—and potentially more enduring—than any sense of pleasure or joy.  All pleasure and joy must, by nature, be fleeting, or else an organism will not be driven to work to survive, to reproduce as often as feasible.  An organism that feels little to no fear or pain, and that experiences lasting and powerful joy from any given stimulus or circumstance, will live a blissful but short life, and will be outcompeted by fearful, aggressive, and pain-prone creatures.  It would not tend to leave many offspring, all other things being equal.

“Where is the Power that protects beauty from the decay of life?”

It’s Friday, now, something which many people in our culture celebrate, since they’re about to enter the weekend, in which they can spend time with family and/or friends, and at least not have to work.

I’m not sure whether I’ll have to work tomorrow or not; my coworker is supposedly coming to the office today for the first time after his surgery, but it may be too much to ask of him to work on Saturday as well.  In any case, I think tomorrow would have been one of my scheduled days, but I could easily be wrong about that, and it’s not worth my trouble to try to figure it out.  I haven’t been trying to keep track.  I honestly hoped for it to be a moot point by now.

As you might have noticed, I’m still here and writing my blog today, the day after September 22nd.  It’s disappointing, I know.  I’m disappointed, myself.  But I did at least do some walking yesterday; more than usual, I mean.  I walked a total of about six miles, which is a halfway decent amount, though nothing like my target.

After writing about and thinking about the books I had read when I was younger, focusing yesterday specifically on Tolkien’s work, I nevertheless decided to go and start rereading Stephen R. Donaldson’s works, the ones I had read even more often than The Lord of the Rings by the time I had gone to college.  Somehow, I identified with Donaldson’s books much more than I did with Tolkien’s, though I think it’s clear that I love Tolkien’s work more.

But Thomas Covenant is definitely an anti-hero.  He’s no Frodo or Sam or Aragorn.  He defines himself by his disease (leprosy) because it is what he must keep in the forefront of his mind in order to prevent its progression.  Also, it’s what cost him his wife and child.  Then he gets brought to the Land, and he’s sure that he’s going insane, and that he can’t afford to let himself believe what’s happening, or he’s going to lose control of his life and his disease and truly go mad.

He does terrible things in the course of all this, but finally learns to find the center of the paradox of thinking that he’s dreaming and still believing in the Land, and ends up defeating Lord Foul.  I guess you would say, on the balance, he did much more good than evil.  But if you still hated him, I don’t think even he would have felt you were unjustified or wrong in it.  He doesn’t think of himself as any kind of hero, that’s for sure, and he doesn’t want other people to think that way, not least because it’s an overwhelming amount of pressure for any person but a narcissist to experience, which I suppose makes sense.

Anyway, when I first started reading Donaldson’s work, I remember feeling a weird kind of rebelliousness against the popularity of the first chronicles, and since the second chronicles had just started coming out, I began reading The Wounded Land, the first book of the second chronicles, before I had read the first.  It was an odd decision, and even I can’t quite recreate the mental state that led to it.  I don’t know if I wanted to get a head start or what exactly it was.  My friend Cindy had read, or was reading, the first chronicles and recommended them, if I recall, and maybe I wanted to get a head start on her?

That doesn’t feel quite right.

In any case, it wasn’t a terrible choice, because it gave me a sympathetic point of view with Linden Avery, the new co-hero of the second chronicles, who is a doctor who finds herself brought to the Land with Thomas Covenant this second time around, and she has no prior experience with it.  Also, The Wounded Land is one of the two best books in the whole series, from my point of view (the other one being The Power That Preserves, the last book of the first chronicles).

So, yesterday, I decided to start reading it again, and I got pretty far.  It’s as good, and as dark, as I remembered.  I have more awareness and familiarity with some of the things in it, like the fact that Linden is a doctor, but also with bitterness and loss and the like.  Somehow, though, I already felt connected with those parts of the books even when I was younger.  I don’t know why for sure.  Maybe it’s because I always felt like I was weird, even when I was exceptionally “successful”, in school and so on.

I certainly didn’t feel that I was like the other people around me; I’ve always felt like I was crazy in some way or other, and maybe that’s part of why I always was drawn to villains.  They were different, but they were powerful; people were afraid of them and didn’t want to mess with them if they could help it.  They were outsiders who worked to change the world to fit them, instead of having to change themselves to fit into it.

And Lord Foul was also the most eloquent villain I’d ever read, which appealed to my love of words.  He had curious turns of speech, though, saying things like, “Do you mislike the title I have given you?” to Thomas Covenant.  It’s almost as though English was not his first language, and he was putting words together in ways that made sense to him because they conveyed his ideas the way he wanted to convey them.  But he was also an actual character, unlike Sauron in LOTR, though he was only personally in the books for a few scenes, at the very beginning and the very end of both chronicles.

He’s also, as I mentioned yesterday, the purest villain, in that he simply hates all life and love, as it is put in the books.  It’s the core of his being, it’s the sum of his character.  It’s hard, at first, to understand how this might be so, how anything or person could simply be defined by hate that way.

Unlike with Tolkien, who has Morgoth and Sauron falling into evil and becoming hateful, it seems that Lord Foul was, in fact, fundamentally the dark side, or the dark counterpart, of the Creator of the Land.  He was cast into the Land when the Creator became enraged upon realizing that his “brother” or counterpart or dark side had tampered with the creation.  So Lord Foul is trapped in the Land, imprisoned with all the Creator’s stuff, unable to die, unable to escape except by destroying the “arch of time”, and so he hates everything about the Land and its world and everyone in it.  If he can’t get out, then he’s going to make the Creator suffer by hurting his creations, and ultimately by destroying them and escaping if he can.

I can sympathize more with that plight as time goes by.  I’ve certainly had many moments in which I feel that I literally hate everything and everyone in the world, the universe, and wish I could destroy all of it.  But, unlike Lord Foul, I don’t feel like I should do such a thing, that I have anything like the right to do such a thing, even though I tend toward nihilism.

But, of course, I can escape, unlike Lord Foul, if it comes to it, and it seems unfair to punish everything else just because I’m unhappy.  It might occasionally seem like it would be satisfying, but ultimately I’d feel it was unimpressive.  It would display a lack of self-control.  It would, in a way, be embarrassing, but I’d be embarrassed with myself more than in the eyes of anyone else.

It’s a weird state of mind (what a surprise).  But it’s one of the reasons I have no patience or sympathy with people who commit mass violence and the like, because—though I can certainly get inside the mindset that must have led them to want to destroy these people by whom they feel they can never feel accepted—I see it as a childish urge, the indulgence of a tantrum.  I have no respect for such lack of self-control, in others or in myself.  I find it more disgusting than I do the various other things that make me feel so outside and alien.  There is no excuse for it.

But Lord Foul’s situation is different, and anyway, he’s a fictional character.  Most of all, any good epic adventure needs a bad guy, the worse the better (so to speak) and he’s as bad as any I’ve read, while still being a real person in the books.  And I can sympathize with the Creator, too, who is clearly not some perfect, all-seeing, all-knowing being, but just an artist of sorts, who made something beautiful, and was frustrated that he couldn’t do so without there being evil within it.

Of course, there is also now a “last” Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, and I have read only a part of the first book of those, while I was away in Raiford, when only one or two of them had come out.  I think.  But now they’re all out, and I may, just possibly, skip back ahead to those to find out what happens.  I think, from hints I’ve gathered, that we get more understanding of the nature of Lord Foul, and the Creator, and all that in these books, which would be interesting.

Further bulletins as events warrant.  Assuming the Arch of Time doesn’t get broken in the meantime.  If it does, though, at least you’ll know that I was able to escape, and so it won’t be entirely sad.

[By the way, the title of this post is the first line of a song the Lords sing in the second book of the original Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever.]

Just Another Tuesday

It’s Tuesday morning again.  Another Tuesday.  This one is the 20th of September, in case anyone in the future is reading and wants to know what day this post was on, and is not reading this on the site proper, where the date is—I think—displayed above the post.  I’ll assume that anyone who cares about the date and is reading it today already knows what the date is, as well as the year.

There’s nothing really new to report, obviously.  As has been the case for a while now, I haven’t written any new fiction, haven’t done more than pick up a guitar, strum at it, and think about how shitty my playing sounds before putting it back down again.  Standard issue things to do, you know?

It continues to be dreary and rainy around here, though we have it easier than Puerto Rico, where the hurricane has knocked out power for the whole island.  That hurricane is not expected to head toward us at all, though it did just now really start to rain rather heavily.  The train stations are all covered though, so the rain doesn’t matter much unless it becomes quite windy, and right now there’s essentially no wind.

I thought it might rain as I was headed toward the train station—not just because this is south Florida and it’s been raining every day, so why should it stop, but because I could see tall, pillar-like clouds looming, even in the night sky, lit by reflected urban lights below.  They look nifty, but the shape of them, and the updrafts that no doubt exist within them, cooling all that airborne water, make it all but inevitable that rain will fall.

And now, as if conjured, the wind arrives, and speckles of rain are appearing on the screen of my laptop.  At least it’s somewhat refreshing.  If it becomes too prominent, I may have to pause and put the computer away to protect it.  But if that happens, none of you will be able to tell unless I tell you about it.  Weird, huh?  Well, no, not really I guess.  I think that’s just me—I’m the weird thing here.

Anyway, the rain is already slacking off some, and there’s only the tiniest of breezes remaining.  Further bulletins as events warrant.

I suspect that nearly all the noteworthy events in my life have already passed, though.  There’s very little else to say, though that doesn’t seem to stop me from saying it.  I “talk” to all of you, because I seem incapable of talking to anyone else.  That’s my fault, not anyone else’s.  I’m a faulty mechanism, what can I say?  I’m faultier than San Andreas.  I’m buggier than the Amazon rainforest*.  I’m not a very good device.  Not to say that I don’t have some remarkable design features, but none of them are really specific to me; they’re standard in the model.  The ways in which I am not standard seem to be associated with problems, which I guess is often the case.

Or maybe that’s all just egotistical in its own way, even though it’s fundamentally a case of self-loathing.  It’s probably just as arrogant to think that one is exceptionally bad or imperfect as to think that one is exceptionally perfect or good.  But there are more ways to be imperfect than to be perfect.  At least, it seems like that would be the case, though frankly, I’m not even sure what it would mean for a person to be perfect, and I’m not sure that anyone else knows what it means when they say it, either.  People use the word without really thinking about it, though to be fair, I don’t hear people referring to other people as perfect very often, and good on them that they don’t, since I don’t think anyone is perfect by whatever standard you might choose**.

Well, the train just arrived, but like yesterday (which I didn’t mention then) whoever is driving it today stopped way “sooner” than any of the other drivers do, and so I had to follow the other people who hadn’t gotten up off their asses early to wait for it to arrive, as I had, because I try to plan ahead.  Also, someone is sitting in my usual seat, which makes me unreasonably frustrated.  I know I have no claim on any particular seat or anything, but I try to do my stuff consistently so there are fewer surprises with which to deal, but that doesn’t seem to work.

Here’s an aside, though.  This is one of the trains that’s running the automated PA announcement system, which tells you which station you’re approaching and reminds you to check for your belongings before you get up and leave.  Then it says, “Please watch your step while you’re exiting the doors.”

Am I the only person who finds that last sentence irritatingly a-sensical?  “Exiting the doors” seems to imply that you were, until that point, inside the doors!  But no one is inside the doors.  The doors are barely three-dimensional; no ordinary, human-scale organism could actually be inside the doors.  Passengers are inside the train cars, they exit through the doorways, they don’t exit the doors!

If the person who wrote and recorded that announcement—which has annoyed me since the first time I heard it—is out there, can you please just come and kill me?  You’re one of the things that makes this planet so intolerable, and it would be just as well if you could help me leave it, since I’m looking to do that anyway.

I want to say that I feel like I’m losing my mind, but the problem, if anything, is that my grasp of reality is too persistent and consistent.  My weakness, if you will, is my relative inability to delude myself.  I can see the chaos (in the mathematical and poetic senses) for what it is, as well as the infinite stupidity*** of everything out there.

It sometimes seems that I can literally feel the yawning emptiness of the cosmos, but I know that’s an illusion.  I’m no more capable of truly conceiving of the infinite than is any other finite being.  But it does sometimes seem that I can feel it, just vaguely, looming above me and above everything, as well as beneath me, since “above” is a relative measure, and we are surrounded in all directions by mostly empty space.  Sometimes that’s even comforting.  You know, like the song says, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

I don’t know what point I’m trying to make.  I don’t think there is a point, either to this post, or to anything else.  It’s just another post, just another Tuesday, just another meaningless instantiation of “atoms and the void”, to quote Democritus.

I wonder if that was his real name, “Democritus”?  It seems too coincidental to be what his parents named him.  I know “Plato” was a nickname; I’m not sure about Aristotle.

Oh, well, what does it matter?  He’s dead, and he’s been dead for a couple of thousand years.  I always knew he was smart****.


*Which I like better than the Microsoft rainforest or the Google rainforest.  Ha ha.

**Unless you choose some cheesy standard such as “perfect at being who you are”, but in that case, everyone is perfect, which is just another way of saying that no one is, so it adds nothing.

***No matter how large an intelligence is, as long as it’s not infinite, then its stupidity, or at least its ignorance, is always infinite.  I know, that’s probably an unreasonable standard against which to measure any intelligence or anything else, really, but I never claimed to be trying to be fair, just that I can recognize the endless abyss of lack that lies beyond the realms of anything finite that exists.

****Well, no I didn’t.  I haven’t existed always, for one thing; I’ve only been around for just shy of 53 years, though sometimes it feels like it’s been millennia.  Also, I hadn’t even heard of Democritus for the first ten years or so of my life, not until Carl Sagan talked about him in Cosmos.  So “I always knew” is just flagrantly inaccurate.  It’s a bit like how people say things like, “that email never came”.  I always want to say, “Never?  You waited until the end of time itself, and the email still hadn’t arrived?  I mean, never is a really long time.  If you wait an infinite amount of time, anything possible that can happen will have happened, so it seems truly impossible that the email never arrived.  EVERY email should have arrived if you waited long enough to legitimately use the word ‘never’.”  But I hold my tongue…usually.  It gets my fingers wet, though.

All talk is small—all facts are trivia

Well, it’s Monday morning again, now the 19th of September in 2022, and I’m again at the train station waiting for the train to bring me to work…though before I’m done with this post, I’m sure I’ll already be on the train.  I write pretty fast, but it’s rare that I finish the first draft of any blog post before the train arrives, unless it’s running quite late.

This is the last Monday of summer in 2022, for whatever that’s worth.  It’s still irritatingly hot here in south Florida, and more importantly, it’s muggy and has rained every day.  Yesterday morning there was an absolute torrent for a bit, then it slacked off for a while before sputtering on and off throughout the rest of the day and night.

Yes, I am writing about the weather.  I don’t know if that’s better or worse than talking to someone about the weather.  I’m not much good at small talk, so maybe writing about the weather is better.  It doesn’t make me feel stressed, at least.  Possibly there are people out there who wish that it did, so I wouldn’t write such things.  But, then again, unlike the case with small talk, there is no social pressure for anyone to have to read what I write, so it’s better, ethically, to write nonsense than to talk trivialities, because there’s no pressure on anyone else to go along with it or to respond in kind.

That is one of the issues with small talk, after all.  When someone starts talking to you about something in which you have no interest, or which you find irritating, there’s this weird social impetus at least to give a cursory listen to what they’re saying.  That’s a puzzling social dynamic, when you think about it.  Why do people feel pressure to interact with someone when that other person is not saying anything of interest?

But of course, people do feel that pressure, and so small talkers can impose themselves upon their…well, let’s call them their “victims” for lack of a better word, knowing that the victims will feel the urge to interact politely, even if they have no interest in the conversation.  The only people who would feel comfortable just ignoring the small talker are those who feel no moral or social obligations, who can just go off and ignore the first person with internal impunity, perhaps sadistically to initiate small talk with someone else, solely for the purpose of tormenting them, knowing that others feel the pressure to go along with it.

In other words, small talk rewards sociopaths.

For this, and for many other reasons, we should abolish it.  Also, it makes people like me feel ridiculously awkward, because for me, conversation is something that generally serves a purpose, one related to the subject of the conversation, so engaging in small talk is rather like watching an old-school television tuned to an empty channel and trying to discern what the meaning behind the static might be.

At least a percent or so of that crackling and hissing and “snow” comes from the cosmic microwave background, the leftover heat from the early universe, last propagated when the current cosmos was about 300,000 years old and it finally got cool enough for electrons and protons to bond into atoms, so photons could finally fly freely through space without hitting a stray charged particle every few instants and being scattered.  That’s an interesting fact, unlike most things to do with small talk.

Although, in a sense, the cosmic microwave background and what it implies or that of which it records the evidence, is not much more significant than the weather is.  In fact, on any given day, it’s probably far less crucial than the weather.  It can be useful to know whether to bring an umbrella with one (I always do, anyway), or whether one should bring a jacket (rarely necessary in south Florida in September), or if there’s a hurricane threatening*.

So, if small talk is a way of spreading seemingly trivial, but potentially consequential, bits of information from one person to another, to try to keep the whole group, or “flange”, in a state of preparedness, I guess that could be a good thing.  That is, it would be a good thing if you think it’s a good thing for groups of humans to be mutually connected and better prepared to protect themselves and each other from the elements.

Most days, there are at least a few moments when I would much prefer for a massive storm to come up and blow them all away.  But don’t be misled into thinking that I’m just a misanthrope.  I don’t think other animals, or plants, or fungi (or microbes) are any finer or more innocent or sweet or lovable than humans.  They aren’t.  Indeed, nature does not select for sweetness except as a means to an end.  A baby is sweet and cute because that fact manipulates the nervous system of adults to protect it and care for it.

All life manipulates and exploits and preys on other life in one way or another.  Even photosynthetic organisms compete with other such organisms for light, trying to out-produce and out-reproduce the organisms around them.  Nature, red in tooth and claw has been said to unnecessarily focus on violence as a description of the world, but in fact, it’s overly narrow.  Nature could be accurately described as red in tooth and claw and leaf and branch and fur and feather and shell and stem, and so on.

Even cooperation strategies are mainly ways of forming gangs to outcompete other gangs.  What’s more, they are all vulnerable to the defection of any member of their group—thus the horror of cancer, as individual cells in a body lose their inhibitions and start to reproduce without check, temporarily succeeding but eventually destroying the organism.

So, though there’s nothing inherently evil or wrong with life, from some moral point of view—since morality doesn’t have any meaning without life in the first place—there’s nothing particularly moral or good about life, either.  Life likes life, as a general tendency, and tends to make excuses for itself, which it would, and fair play to it, but it’s just a highly localized, complex epiphenomenon (or set of epiphenomena) that for all we know exists only on the surface of the Earth.

It may legitimately be true that we cannot rule out life existing elsewhere in the cosmos, and it may seem terribly unlikely that the only life in the universe is on Earth, but it’s very tricky to try to extrapolate probability from one solitary instance of a phenomenon.  It’s a pretty undisputable fact that nearly everything we can see in the universe is not hospitable to life as we know it.

Maybe the answer to the Fermi problem is that there is no sign of life outside of Earth because there is no life outside the Earth, and all that one would ever hear, if one were to listen to the cosmos forever, is static.  Not even small talk.  Life on Earth could be the true aberration, an abomination of sorts…except, of course, nature doesn’t do abominations, nature just does whatever it does.

I don’t know what point I’m trying to make with all this.  Maybe there is no point.  Maybe that, in fact, is the point.  Maybe I shouldn’t lament or bemoan small talk, because all talk is small talk when you get right down to it, and every fact is trivia, and all of history is just a “poof” of a random sound taking place in a wasteland…a pebble dislodged by the wind and rolling down a sand dune to rest a little lower than it had been, but without any purpose, without any goal, without any inherent or external meaning.

Anyway, what I’m really trying to get at is, the weather sure has been crappy lately, hasn’t it?


*As far as I know, there isn’t.  Not in the Atlantic, at least, not one that’s going to head toward Florida.  But I haven’t checked the hurricane center since Friday or Saturday, when there was just a tropical storm that was never going to hit us here unless something truly weird happened.

Surprisingly (for me) positive thoughts on a Saturday morning

[Note:  At the bottom of the post, below the footnotes, I’m including a thought that occurred to me between the initial writing and the final editing of this post, but which doesn’t directly relate to the post itself.]

Well, it’s Saturday morning (the 17th of September, a nice prime number), and I’m waiting at the station for the first train of the day, because I woke up before my alarm again and there was no point trying to go back to sleep.  I’m working again today, and I may be working again next Saturday as well, since I don’t know how long the coworker with whom I split Saturdays will be out with his recovery from surgery.

I can’t begrudge him the time off—surgery is no small thing, even if it was “minimally invasive”, to say nothing of the problem that required surgery.  I’ve had major surgery myself, open-heart when I was 18 and back surgery when I was about 35 (hopefully I won’t have another when I’m 53!).  I don’t remember how long my own laminectomy and fusion left me hobbled, because at the time I was already on temporary disability because of the injury, but it wasn’t a minor inconvenience.

That whole process contributed to the eventual catastrophic collapse of the life I had built, partly because I technically have “failed back surgery syndrome”, which means that, despite my back surgery, I still have chronic pain.  I think the term “failed” is a bit uncharitable, though, because my pain was reduced, it just didn’t come close to going away completely.  It’s there every day, and it has been for about 20 years (for those of you doing the math, I had the pain a good three years or so before I had the surgery, and I am currently 52).

Speaking of the collapse of my previous life, and the loss of so many things that were important to me, I sent an email to my son not long ago—I might have mentioned this previously—to the email address he had used the thank me for his last birthday present.  It was basically a long apology for all the things I screwed up with him (and his sister), and a reminder that I love him and always will, and of course that I miss him.  I didn’t know if he even regularly checks that email, so I asked his sister to let him know I had sent it.  He apparently does, and he’s seen it.

I don’t know what he thinks about it, since he hasn’t replied so far.  I don’t know if he ever will.  That’s up to him, which I guess is obvious.  What I mean is, that it wouldn’t be fair or right for me to expect, let alone demand, a reply from him.  I at least know that, if he wants to know what his father has been thinking and doing for the last quite some time, he can always come to this blog and read it.  I don’t know what he would think if he did that, but it is whatever it is.

I’ve always felt—at least, for as long as I’ve seriously thought about such things—that it’s important to remember that children don’t belong to their parents.  Parents belong to their children.  This is so for good, sound, biological reasons, and also for deep moral ones.  A parent can make the decision to have a child—or well, two parents can make that decision.  The child literally has no say in the matter, for the child does not even exist when the decision is made.  They cannot be held morally accountable for anything to do with that decision, and they cannot incur any obligation because of it.  Of course, good parenting and good socialization can mean that a child will be naturally grateful to the parents, and that’s nice when it happens, but it isn’t required.  It cannot, ethically, be required.  It cannot, in good conscience, be demanded.

That reminds me tangentially of the concept creep problem our culture has with the terms, “respect” and with “self-esteem”.  People cannot demand respect.  Respect is in the eye of the beholder.  Courtesy is presumptively expectable, since simple politeness is the lubricant of civilization, but respect can only be freely given if it is to be of any value at all.

Likewise with self-esteem.  It doesn’t make sense to encourage people to have just a general, free-form, positive self-image based on nothing; that leads to narcissism and all the problems it entails.  One should not feel “proud” merely of the fact that one exists.

A student who cannot seem to master math well should not necessarily feel proud of his or her math skills, though if that student has worked hard to learn as much as they can learn, they should feel proud about that!  And that person almost certainly has other strengths and abilities that they can feel good about, and of which they should feel proud.

Hard work is worthy of esteem, and thus of self-esteem.  But I don’t need to esteem my own ability to play basketball, for instance, and I shouldn’t, because I’m terrible at basketball.  On the other hand, I write reasonably well, and I write a lot.  I also have good skills at general mathematics and science, and I am deeply curious about the way the universe works, and have learned a lot about what people know about how it works, and how that knowledge has been gained.  I should feel good about that, at least.  I certainly enjoy it.

“Pride” in general is a tricky concept.  Its legitimacy depends on how one uses it, and what one means by it.  None of us made ourselves, obviously; we operate according to the laws of nature*, and we are shaped by our nature—our genes and other physical factors—and our experience, our background, our society, our upbringing, our education, and so on.  And in a sense, all of these things are also part of “our” nature.

A person may have the tenacity to work hard and improve themselves from an otherwise unpromising-seeming background, but even then, they did not create that tenacity—it was their luck, or their blessing, however you want to characterize it, that they had it.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Use the assets you have to their best effect.

You can’t use assets you don’t have, after all.  It would be much easier, for instance, for me to get to work in the morning if I could teleport, or even if I could fly.  But I cannot, and there are no reasonable technological solutions to that lack right now, so I just don’t have that ability.  It would be the height of silliness for me to feel proud of myself for my ability to fly, since I cannot.  But I’m glad of my ability to learn and use the public transportation system in south Florida, and I’m grateful that it exists; I admire the people who put it into place, and I esteem the people who keep it running every day.

Maybe gratitude is a better notion and virtue than pride or self-esteem.  I know some religious systems place an emphasis on it, and I think that’s far from a bad thing.  It’s good to be grateful for the inherent and learned abilities that you have, and it makes sense to instantiate that gratitude by using those gifts to the best of your ability.  Otherwise, it’s not very impressive gratitude.

It’s the converse** of the situation in which a person apologizes for something, but keeps up the behavior that led to the apology.  That’s not much of an apology.  I often find myself saying to people, “I don’t need your apology, I want you not to do the thing you’re apologizing for.  If you apologize but keep doing the same thing, the apology is useless, and even insulting.”

Okay, I use words to that effect, adjusted to match the situation.  I hope you get the idea.

These are my thoughts for this Saturday morning, such as they are.  I hope most of you are looking forward to an enjoyable weekend, hopefully with some time spent with family and/or friends.  Be grateful for them, certainly, if you have them around.  No one is guaranteed to have them, and even if there were such a guarantee, with whom would you lodge the complaint if the guarantee were not met?  Feel good about the things you are good at, and feel grateful for the good things you have in the world, and show your esteem and gratitude by doing the best you can with both.

Those are good words, I think, and I’m astonished that I am the one who actually just wrote them.  The trick will be to live up to them!


*And of Nature’s God, if you believe in God, to paraphrase the Declaration of Independence.

**Or maybe the obverse—I’ve never yet been able to get those concepts clearly differentiated in my head.  Neither term may actually be the correct one, come to think of it.

[As noted above, here is my thought below the footnotes:  Is it ever possible for any kind of mind, whether natural or artificial, instantiated in hardware or software or both, to be complex enough to accurately model its own workings in detail?  As it becomes more complex, modeling its own function will also become more complex.  I suspect that this complexity will increase more quickly than the ability of the increasingly complex mind to parse it.]

Nothing to say but “What a day, how’s your boy been?”

Okay…I’m going to hopefully keep it relatively short today.  That should, in principle, be easier than writing a long post, but in practice, for me, it can be a challenge.  We shall see, I suppose.

When I first woke up today, I thought it was September 20th though I’m not at all sure why.  It’s not, though; it’s the 16th.  That’s just in case you weren’t sure, also.

I’m very tired and feeling pretty poorly this morning, but I have to go to work, and I’m going to have to go to work tomorrow, too, unless I’m very mistaken.  I don’t quite understand how it is that people at the office don’t realize how worn down I am.  I feel as if I’m dropping bits of flesh as I walk, like a cheesy, movie zombie, but apparently I don’t look much different than usual, based on the way everyone acts.

It’s probably my fault.  I tend just to keep going, day after day, without much personal complaint.  I mean, I complain about the way people in office do things, when they cut corners, or don’t follow the general, promulgated guidelines and whatnot, but I don’t often complain about myself.  I do complain a bit, like about the fact that I feel tired, that I don’t want to have to stay late and everything, because I’m always the last one out no matter what, but maybe people just see that as the way I am.

Again, as I’m sure I’ve run the topic into the ground already, I apparently have the trait of alexithymia, a difficulty recognizing, or being able to characterize, one’s own emotions.  I’m not sure how I feel about that*.  Anyway, I guess I have a pretty deadpan face no matter what, and even when I say that I don’t feel very well, or don’t feel great, people just sort of “Oh, that’s too bad” kind of thing, and then everyone just goes about their business.  I think I need to work on being more melodramatic.

Maybe it’s just that I’m always negative.  Anything’s possible in this world.  I don’t tend to be the world’s biggest optimist.  I know, that’s unbelievable, right?  I’m also never sarcastic.

Anyway, there’s just not much more to say about it.  I’m much more tired than usual, but I’m going to have to work tomorrow anyway, unless I’m very surprised, and then after having Sunday off to do my laundry, I’ll have to work Monday.  Hopefully whatever I have right now will turn into pneumonia and kill me soon, or something like that.  It would not be a tragedy.  It’s not like I’m likely to do anything more that’s useful with my life.

I wish I could just make myself lie down on the floor in the office at every full stop, but my tendency toward insomnia makes it difficult for me even to rest during the day when I’m worn out.  Or maybe that’s unrelated to my nocturnal insomnia.  I don’t know.  It’s difficult to tease these things out, and it’s not like I have anyone else helping me with it.  You people (the ones reading) are the main ones I share things with, but it’s not quite the same as having someone around who sees me from moment to moment or even from day to day.

Last night I had a hard time falling asleep, but I did sleep through to my alarm this morning after I finally dropped off.  I haven’t heard my alarm in weeks, so that was kind of surprising**.  I took half a Benadryl last night when I went to bed, because I really wanted to be able to sleep.  It seems to have worked as far as that goes, but I feel a bit groggy now, and still just physically wiped out.

Mentally, it’s hard to tell.  I feel like I’m not very alert or clear-headed, but I seem able to do my normal things in the morning so far.  Meaning, for instance, when I check my keys and wallet and all the stuff that I have in my pockets, and which I check again every time I move from one spot to another to make sure I still have everything, they’re all there, and—obviously—I’m remembering to check them.  Which is better than forgetting, certainly, though it would be nice, upon occasion, to be able to feel confident that, yes, I did remember them, and to remember that I remembered them, so I don’t have to keep checking over and over and over throughout the day until the moment I go to bed at night, or at least until I get dressed for bed.  But I always have to keep checking myself; I don’t seem to have that sense of personal certainty that so many people give the impression that they have.

Then again, most people seem to feel sure about a great many things that they cannot actually be sure about, and if I had to choose between the two states, I’d rather be the way I am, with no tendency toward easy certainty about epistemologically uncertain things.  I don’t admire overconfidence or dogmatism.  I think they are responsible for a great many of the ills of civilization—people who think they know how things ought to be and how other people ought to behave and what’s really behind everything.  This is my repeated point in reframing the X-files poster statement into, “I don’t want to believe.  I want to be convinced by evidence and reason.”

Ah, well.  Reason is something I have in abundance about some things, but in which I am very poor regarding how best to manage myself, emotionally and in general.  I’m too tired to bother trying to manage myself, anyway.  I’m not worth very much effort, even from myself.  I need just to let it go.

And, as you can see, I didn’t end up writing a very short blog post after all.  I feel as though a therapist is now telling me “That’s all the time we have today,” as has happened to me before in therapy.  I have the unfortunate tendency to drone on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on and on…

You get the idea, right?  Anyway, I expect, assuming I’m right that I’m going to have to work tomorrow, that I’ll be writing a post then.  If I don’t, either it means that work was cancelled, at least for me—maybe my coworker will return from his back surgery with miraculous rapidity—or that I’ve succumbed to severe enough illness that I won’t be able to make it in or to write, or that I’ve died.  That sounds kind of nice.


*Ha ha.

**It’s the Beatles song Good Morning, Good Morning, which is a perfect morning alarm.  It even begins with a rooster crowing!

Demonstrandum in the middle of nowhere

Good morning, everyone.  It’s Tuesday, the 13th of September, and I’m coming down with something again.  Meaning I think I have some upper respiratory virus, because I started getting mild chills overnight, and a low-grade elevation of my temperature, and my throat has that sore, itchy, irritated feeling that comes with fighting a virus.

I’m assuming it’s a virus—well, not truly assuming; I’m drawing a tentative conclusion based on experience and knowledge.  It doesn’t seem like a bacterial infection, those tend to be more localized, and I don’t think it’s a fungus, since those are rather rare and occur only in specific circumstances…and I’ve never heard of a prion disease that presents in this fashion.  Whereas I’ve had many iterations of “colds” throughout my life, and this feels a lot like most of them.

It doesn’t seem like Covid, but I suppose it could be one of the later variants, tempered down by my already-exposed immune system.  In any case, although I must go to work—that’s why I’m writing this blog post today—I am masking even more thoroughly than usual.

It’s remarkable that the wearing of masks was resisted so much by so many crybaby wusses in America.  People in east Asia have been regularly wearing masks when they get a cold since long before the first SARS virus.  It’s simple courtesy to recognize that, though you may have to go to work because there are people and things depending on you, it’s good to take some minor precautions to decrease the risk of spreading your sickness to the people around you.

I understand the spirit of independence, and I am glad to live in a country where the more common saying is, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” rather than “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down”.  But it’s not independence or free spiritedness to refuse to take simple, easy precautions to reduce the chance of you spreading a disease to your fellow Americans (as the case may be).  That’s just being a spoiled and entitled ass-wipe.  And the only good thing to do with ass-wipes is to flush them down the toilet.

Anyway, that wasn’t what I was going to write about today.  Actually, I didn’t have anything specific in mind to write about today, which is why I know that wasn’t what I meant to write about today.  Logic.  If there exists no class of things: [Topics considered to write about on Tuesday, September 13th, 2022, AD] then {the inexplicable and inexcusable refusal to use masks when ill} cannot be a member of that class.  Quantum Electro Dynamics*.

Ah, Logic.  Ah, Reason.  Ah, Evidence and Argument.  How I pine for you in the human world.  Of course, I don’t hold it against anyone that they have emotions, even strong ones.  It’s not like people designed themselves, after all, and emotions exist for good, sound biological reasons.  They are the drives, the utility functions, of organismal behavior.  And they served humans well in the ancestral environment, else humans wouldn’t be around.

But reasoning minds have achieved much more; they are much more versatile and powerful, and modern civilization is largely due to their work, though motivated by those underlying emotions and their various, often-conflicting, utility functions.

But you’ve got to tame your elephant, to borrow Jonathan Haidt’s metaphor.  Otherwise it’ll run rampant and trample everything, and it won’t get you anywhere you really want to go, except perhaps by luck.  Train it.  Maintain discipline.  Reward it when it’s good and correct it when it’s not.  Don’t just be the rider of your older brain, be the pilot, be the driver.  It requires effort, obviously, but I think it’s probably worth it.

In other words, what I’m saying is, don’t trust your emotions to guide you—they’re not reliable.  Listen to them, notice them, but don’t trust them.  They developed to help make quick decisions about hunting and gathering, avoiding lions and hyenas, and interacting with a tribe of maybe forty or fifty people at a time.

Every complex animal in the world has emotions of some kind; anyone who doubts that is simply in denial.  Only humans (among species native to the planet) have human-type brains, with big, complex frontal lobes and complex, symbolic language with syntax and grammar and logic and all that jazz (sometimes literally).

But those brains are powerful—again, see Jonathan Haidt’s metaphor of the elephant and the rider.  If they are not managed, they can be horrifically destructive.  And if you get a herd of unmanaged elephant-brains** or brain-elephants, they can do a terrific amount of harm, especially if they’re armed with modern technology (most of which was not made or designed by people with no control over their personal elephants, but is nevertheless available now to the billions of people who could not have made it, and who don’t bother even trying to steer).

Anyway, this has all been meandering and peculiar, I guess.  As I said, I’m a bit under the weather.  It’s annoying to be in south Florida and to be both sweaty and chilly.  I wish I could just lie in bed somewhere, maybe have some Jell-O or something.

I must be feeling sick.  I don’t particularly like Jell-O.  But it is easy on the throat.

I wish I didn’t have to go to work today.  Though it’s not a wish I would waste on a genie if I found a magic lamp.  I’d probably ask for some kind of special, personal powers that I could use to achieve world peace…through my absolute dominion over everyone and everything!  Bwa-ha-haaaa!!

Again, anyway…that’s enough silliness.  I’m really not going anywhere with anything today.  I just wish I could rest for the day, but I can’t, so tough luck.  A person has to do what a person must do; willingly accepted duty, and a reasonable sense of honor, and a general sense of courtesy should guide one in one’s actions, if one wishes to be other than merely a jumped-up monkey throwing feces…or an idiot protesting against a simple health precaution, pretending to take a stand on principle when one is actually simply throwing a tantrum because one doesn’t want to do something sensible and healthful, like take a nap.

Naps are good.  So are masks in the right circumstances.


*Q.E.D. in other words—quod erat demonstrandum, “what was to be demonstrated”.  That’s my little nerdy joke, playing on the earlier nerdy “joke” that was the naming of quantum electrodynamics by physicists, shortening it to QED, because why would you not?

**The elephant is a metaphor of a powerful beast carrying around the conscious mind.  I am not implying that elephants themselves are destructive by nature, though of course, they can be.

Add title – stir until smooth

Whew.  You would think that after a day off, I would be more wide-awake this Monday morning.  However, you would be wrong if you thought that.  It’s not as if I did anything that drained my energy yesterday.  I did my laundry, for what that’s worth.  I watched some fan-reactions to Doctor Who episodes by the Gallifrey Gals, which is fun, but it’s not exactly draining, and I’d seen them before.  I didn’t even watch any golf or football, nor did I even play any PS4-based golf myself, which I sometimes do on the weekend.  I just lolled about.  The only words I even spoke to other people were in 7-11 when I got some food, and a passing “Hola” in response to the same from my new housemate when she was outside, and I was on my way to said 7-11.

I am tired.  Physically, I mean.  I feel that hitherto, Mondays have been the days in which I often write longer posts about more disparate subject matter than during the rest of the week, and I had guessed that was because of having a day off the day before.  Today, however, I don’t think I’m going to be doing that.  In fact, I can’t really think of an interesting topic.

I considered making an announcement that, okay, I’m not going to be writing about my distress anymore, about how I could really use some help if anyone has the wherewithal, otherwise I’m sure I’m going to die soon, because I’ve said it already, over and over, and no one is coming to help, and it’s just getting boring, and continues to be frustrating.  Well, I don’t think I’m going to make any “official” policy statement along those lines right now, because I don’t like to make promises (or threats) about such things, since I honestly usually don’t know how my moment-to-moment decisions might change.

I will just say that I’m veering along those lines.  I would dearly love it if anyone out there were able to help me, and had the inclination, since I don’t appear able to help myself, but I don’t think there’s any such person out there, and I doubt it would be worth anyone’s while, anyway.  What would be the point?  How could anyone gain at all, in any way, by helping something like me not to die?  There’s probably even a secret addendum to the Hippocratic Oath that specifies that, as part of the ethos of doing no harm, it’s better not to help people like me, since to keep me around is, by the nature of my being, a net harm to the world.

I don’t really think there is such a hidden bit to the Hippocratic Oath, by the way.  I’m sort of joking.  I know, it’s not very funny.

I’ve said before that I wish I had a drug problem or an alcohol problem, because those would rapidly become impossible to ignore, and there are more readily available resources for people dealing with those.  But I just don’t seem prone to such things.  One of my biggest problems, ironically, is that I’m able to keep moving forward in many different situations—not necessarily well, but to survive and remain superficially stable—for a long time.  I’m able to survive, even if only by the proverbial skin of my teeth, well past any point where there’s any good reason for me to do so, and I’m able to do it without causing undue drain on society, so to speak.

It’s really annoying.

I suppose there are probably a lot of people who, if they thought about it, are in a similar situation.  There’s the old quote—I don’t recall who said it—about how most men live lives of quiet desperation (and I assume it referred also to women).  I think it probably describes a great many people in the world, people scrambling every day to get by, to survive, to avoid overt disease and injury, with the goal simply of getting to the next day to do the same thing.

Now, for people who have family and friends with whom to spend time, I’d say that daily effort is almost certainly worth it.  There may be no real external meaning to life or the universe, but being with one’s friends and those one loves in general surely makes such considerations not very important.

For people who have issues socializing and who cannot be with the people they love—because those whom they love don’t necessarily want to be with them—it can be a real grind.  It’s hard to take a speculative approach to it, with the idea that if one just waits long enough or keeps trying, keeps going, their loved ones will come back to them, or they’ll meet new people they’re able to be close to, or something like that.  It feels too much like a person at a casino who keeps playing because they imagine that, sometime in the future, if they just keep playing, they’re going to hit a huge streak of luck, or someone who keeps playing the lottery expecting that, someday, they’ll win it big.

The odds are not with you.  If simple perseverance would guarantee eventually coming out ahead, then the casinos and the lottery would not be in business; they would have long ago gone bankrupt.  In the long run, on average, the house wins…and it wins well enough that it’s not really even a near thing.

Ah, well, it’s all pretty absurd, so expecting or hoping for lives that are deeply rational from an objective point of view is probably too much to ask, at least as a starting point.  Maybe that could be a civilizational aspiration, to strive to make a world where most people can live rewarding, satisfying lives in which they can pursue useful and meaningful projects and be with people they love and who love them.  It’s probably not happening to most people most of the time right now, but I don’t think the laws of physics forbid it from coming to pass.

It’s entirely possible that, overall, for most of the world, better days really are coming.  But I don’t think it’s the case for me.  My stake is almost spent, and I don’t think I’m even going to have any chips to cash out when I stop playing.  I guess that’s the way it goes.  In the end, everyone breaks even.

The time is out of joint : O cursed spite, that ever I was blogg’d to set it right!

Hello and good morning, everyone reading this.  It’s Thursday again, and time for my more traditional, weekly blog post, that I’ve maintained for some years, unlike the daily one I’ve been doing in recent months.  I’m not sure how long I’ve been doing the daily one, now, to be honest.  It feels both like a short time—in that I can sort of remember the sense of when I started doing it and stopped writing fiction and stopped playing guitar—but also a long time in the sense that it’s difficult to feel the memory of it ever having been otherwise than it is right now.

All things can feel eternal sometimes.

Speaking of writing fiction, last Saturday I wrote a post in which I reminded people of the YouTube “videos” of me reading the first nine chapters of The Chasm and the Collision, as well as three, I think, of my short stories.  I don’t know if anyone has listened at all, but if you have, I would greatly appreciate any feedback you might have to offer, and if you’re interested in having me read any more.

Anyway, because I posted about it, I decided to reread that book, and I’m not quite halfway through the reread—I’ve been interspersing it with reading the latest Richard Dawkins book, Flights of Fancy, and then I’m reading Emmy Noether’s Wonderful Theorem, which I got after mentioning her earlier this week.  I think CatC has stood the test of time, at least for me.  I don’t feel too uncomfortable recommending it as a family-friendly book, a “fantasy” adventure for the young and the not-so-young alike.  I don’t know if it’s my favorite of my books or not, but I like it.

I like most of my stories, really, which is good, because it’s hard to tell if many other people even read them.  If anyone has read any of my books, having bought them from Amazon, I’d really appreciate if you’d rate them.  I’m not asking you to write a review—I know that can be a pain—but you can give it a star rating with only the click of a mouse or the tap of a finger.

I try to remember at least to rate every book that I read, but only once I’ve finished them.  That probably biases my ratings toward the higher end of the scale, since if I dislike a book enough, I’m not going to finish it.  But, really, I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book that I’d give one star, not even Swan Song, which I did not finish.  Somebody worked for a long time writing each and every one of those books, and the mental effort is not small.

Also, if there was a book so bad (to me) that it would be likely to give it one star, I think I’d recognize ahead of time that it wasn’t something I was going to like, and just wouldn’t buy it.  But, if you have read any of my books and think they only are worth one star, then by crikey, rate them one star.

I kind of wish I felt like writing, because both Outlaw’s Mind and The Dark Fairy and the Desperado are well begun, and I like both stories.  I’m a bit more attached to the former, partly because I’ve been working on it longer (though DFandD as a story idea is quite a bit older).  If anyone would be interested, I could post at least the beginning bits of the latter story here, like I did with Outlaw’s Mind, so you can see how it is, but I haven’t edited it at all (except the quick reread of the previous day’s work before writing on any given day), so it may be quite raw.

Seriously, though, I doubt there’s anyone interested in any of it.  I don’t know why I’m wasting my time.

Not that there’s anything else to do with my time but waste it.  I certainly have nothing useful to do.  Every day I feel like I want to slice my own skin off, or beat myself around all my major joints with a hammer, or maybe just break and burn everything I own.  Yesterday, at a frustrating moment, I honestly came perilously close to smashing the guitar I have at work, but instead I was able to take some of my stress out by just snapping a pen in my hands.  It was a good snap; it broke into four apparent pieces, one of which I haven’t found.  I guess it went flying.

Sometimes several times a day, on web searches and on my phone browser and in my contacts, I keep looking at the site and the numbers of the suicide prevention hotline.  But I can’t bring myself to use it, not after what happened to me last time I did.  I really don’t want to be handcuffed or locked up again, not ever.  I tried very hard all my life to do and be good and to do “right”, or at least not to do “wrong”, to live a life where I wouldn’t have such things happen to me, and yet they did anyway, and I lost everything I had that I hadn’t already lost.  I don’t want a repeat of that.  It’s not fun.

Also, honestly, I feel like I don’t have any right to ask for anyone’s help or to use any public resources (or private resources) to help me, though I need it desperately.  I don’t have anything to offer in return.  I don’t really think I’m worth saving, and I don’t think anyone else really thinks I am either.  It’s certainly unlikely that anyone will pine for me when I’m gone.

Well, that’s enough of that.  At least, for what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s going to go on for much longer.  I’m barely getting through each day, frankly.  But the days do seem to last for such a long time.  That’s that subjectively confusing sense of duration I mentioned earlier.

I do hope that all of you are doing okay, and that you’re in the company of friends and loved ones, and that you enjoy doing things with them, even boring, everyday things.  Hold onto that shit.  Seriously.  Nothing else is as important.  Probably.  Though, what would I know?

TTFN

[Apologies, but there is no picture today.]

Tangents of tangents of tangents, oh my!

It’s Wednesday, the middle of the week based on our usual reckoning of things.  Welcome.

Of course, the universe at large doesn’t give any preference to days of the week, or months, or whatever.  Days, per se, are more or less natural units of time, as are years.  Both are related to regular, physical phenomena in the solar system*.  Now, one could argue that since the moon’s orbit around the Earth is roughly twenty-eight days, that seven days in a week is a sort of natural division, since 28 divided by 4 is seven.  That’s not an unreasonable thought, but it is derivative, unlike the measure of a year or a day.

Of course, rather irritatingly, the days don’t evenly divide into the years, nor do the months (orbits of the moon, which itself isn’t quite an even number of days), which means we have to do all sorts of mucking about with the number of days in months to get a reasonable number of them per year, and only one of them has 28 days, but even that changes every 4 years, except every hundred years when it’s 28 again, except every thousand years when it’s 29 again, and so on.  And then, of course, we have to add and subtract “leap seconds” on an irregular basis to adjust things to keep them consistent, lest the seasons creep steadily in one direction or the other relative to the calendar as the years pass, even as the times of day and night also shift.

If the period of the moon’s orbit around the Earth divided evenly into the orbit of the Earth around the sun; and the length of days on Earth** also evenly divided into the orbit of the Earth around the sun; and if those divided evenly, say, into the orbits of the sun around the center of the Milky Way; and then if the second, as we decided it, turned out to be some round number of oscillations of a cesium atom being pumped by a particular wavelength of light—say 9 billion exactly, when measuring a previously decided interval of one sixtieth of one sixtieth of one twenty-fourth of a day…that would all be quite a collection of coincidences!  That would make me start wondering if the whole thing was designed by someone.  As it is, though, it looks very much like it just all kind of happened, with no inherent direction or purpose or goal.  Which makes more sense of most of human history and the natural world than the alternative does.

It would also be quite a coincidence if, for instance, pi turned out to be 3.141618110112114…or some other regular pattern alone those lines.  Especially if some similar pattern of interest showed up when it was measured using other number bases, like base 2, base 16, whatever.  That would be something.  Or imagine if pi were an exact integer.  Of course it’s hard even to imagine what it could possibly be that could make the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter into an integer, how that could actually be achieved, since the number pi is something born of what appears to be fundamental geometry, constrained by internal logical and physical consistency.

Anyway, the universe looks very much like, as I said yesterday, a spontaneously self-assembled system.  For all we know, it’s just a collection of quantum building blocks of some kind that fall together in a bunch of spin-networks, if that was the right term, to form spacetime that acts like General Relativity when there are enough of them***.

And, maybe the other quantum fields are just emergent phenomena that develop as part of the properties of these conglomerated spin-networks, and the net result of their gross uniformity leads them to mutual repulsion, and then—rather like quarks being forcefully separated leading to formation of new quarks if you could do it, which you can’t—when spin-networks are stretched apart, they simply generate new, connecting networks in between, out of the energy from the tension of their repulsion.  Thus, spacetime can expand forever, generating new space-time as it does, and perhaps the other quantum fields, again, are mere epiphenomena that arise when enough spacetime exists.  And everything else, as we can already tell, is a bunch of epiphenomena overlying, or produced by, that.

Here’s a question that just occurred to me:  If spacetime can be continuously created by stretching of the preexisting network, in response to “dark energy” or “inflaton field” or whatever one might call it, popping little new nuggets of spin networks or whatever spacetime is made of into existence, can it, on the other end of things, be made to disappear?  Can quantum spacetime be unmade as readily as it is made?  I don’t think it would have to happen, say, in the “singularity” at the center of a black hole.  I can see that as potentially being a thin and narrow “tube” of spacetime stretching off and continuing to grow but only in one direction, like the function 1/|x| as it approaches zero, with a finite “volume” perhaps, but an infinite “surface area” that can keep growing indefinitely if spacetime really can just keep reforming itself.  Though maybe, if the chunks are of finite size, the tube can never narrow past some certain minimal “circumference”.  I wonder what the implications of that could be.

But can spacetime ever un-form?  Quarks that could be formed from, for instance, stretching the gluon field between two of them could, in principle, “un-form” if they encountered an anti-quark of the proper character.  They can even decay, I think.  But they wouldn’t simply disappear, they would convert into, presumably, some pair of high-energy photons, and maybe something else, too.  But spacetime itself doesn’t always obey the straightforward law of conservation of energy/mass, as GR has already shown.  Conservation of energy is a property of things within spacetime, and is born of the mathematical symmetry of time translation, as per Emmy Noether’s**** Theorem.  It doesn’t necessarily apply to spacetime itself.  So under what circumstances, if any, could it simply spontaneously disappear, and what affects would that have?

Well, that’s something I’m not going to figure out right here right now, I’m afraid.  But, boy, have I gone off on some tangents!  It’s rather like a moon or a planet suddenly released from the gravitational embrace of that which it orbits, to go off into eternity like a rock from a King David-style sling.  Or like the derivative of any continuous function, or the derivatives of derivative of derivatives, “most” of which end up settling out at some constant, if memory serves (but not the exponential function, ex!).

All this is, apparently, just what happens when one cannot stay asleep after three in the morning and so gets up very early and waits for the first train on Wednesday morning.  One thing leads to another, but with no inherent direction or purpose or goal.  Things just happen.

That sounds familiar.


*The rotation of the Earth and its orbit around the sun, in case you didn’t already know.

**Of course, there are different ways to define a day.  There’s a solar day, which—if memory serves—describes the time it takes for the Earth to turn until the same longitude line (so to speak) is facing the sun, which, because of the motion of the Earth in its orbit, is going to be slightly longer than a sidereal day, which—again, if memory serves—describes when the same longitude line returns to its place relative to the distant, “fixed” stars.  Of course, the stars themselves are not truly fixed, but their angular location changes so slowly that that’s an adjustment that doesn’t have to be made often.  I think there are other day measures, but they aren’t popping into my head right now.

***I realize that this is very loosely a description of loop quantum gravity, and that one prediction of one form of that model predicts that light speed even through a vacuum varies ever so slightly by frequency—and that our best measurements of light from distant quasars and the like seem to disconfirm that prediction.  But I don’t think the jury is completely in on that question.  And maybe that specific form of LQG is not quite correct, or the difference is smaller than expected.  I don’t know the subject well enough to opine.

****Look her up.  Einstein called her a mathematical genius.  Hilbert invited her to teach in the University of Göttingen (fighting against the powers that be that didn’t want a woman professor).  She should be a household name.  Her face should be on currency.  She should be bigger than every TikTok “influencer” combined.  That she is not should bring every human shame.