How to Lyft oneself Uber a growing population of frogs and pipe dreams

I’m writing at the train station in Hollywood (Florida, that is) this morning, and then on the train itself, because I decided to take a Lyft to the station before even starting to write.  I used one yesterday morning, but only after the initial draft of the blog post had been written.  I just feel too worn down from this URI to want to bother with the bus, and in fact, if not for the Lyft, I might not have gone in to work yesterday or today.  Thankfully, I should have this weekend completely off, since it is my coworker’s second weekend, making up for the two weekends I took in a row.

Further bulletins as events warrant.

I have to admit, I find those ride apps—Uber and Lyft—rather useful.  I’m not going to make a habit of using them; that would just end up being way too expensive.  But it is nice to have the convenience when I’m not feeling well.  I wish I had tried them before, about three or four weeks ago, because I had been thinking about going to see Guardians of the Galaxy 3 in the theater, but my bike tire had gone flat and I was having trouble with my back whenever I rode it, in any case.  I was feeling pretty discouraged that weekend, and ended up just saying to heck with it, but if I’d been familiar with Uber or Lyft, I might have used one.

You may ask why I couldn’t just go see the movie this weekend, but that urge has more or less passed.  Also, I’ve gone back on a more restrictive food regimen, so I wouldn’t be able to eat popcorn, which was something I anticipated if I went to the theater.  Now I wouldn’t eat any, and that would remove a large part of my enjoyment of the theater, a part which might have overbalanced the discomfort of being alone in a theater surrounded by so many people.  As it is, now, since my initial urge to see the film soon (largely due to the presence of Adam Warlock) has more or less passed, I’ll probably just wait for it to come to Disney+.

It would be nice if I had a good enough metabolism and/or had been able to maintain better fitness habits over time (my back injury/surgery/failure to completely recover has gotten in the way of that a lot).  Then, I wouldn’t have needed to worry about eating popcorn.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid I need to minimize such things not merely for long-term health—about which I have little concern, since in the long term I expect to be dead—but about moment to moment health.  As someone who already feels pretty bad psychologically a lot of the time, I don’t need the added physical weariness and discomfort that comes almost immediately if I eat the wrong things nowadays.

On a more positive note:  I saw a frog (possibly two frogs) this morning.  Indeed, one of them hopped into my room as I was returning from taking out the garbage, and I had to usher it back out as carefully as I could.  This may not seem like much of an event, but it’s nice to me.

Back when I was little, and we used to come to Florida to visit my mother’s parents, after many big rains there would be oodles of frogs and toads out.  We would sometimes try to catch them, and if we did, they would pee in our hands, which was both gross and hilarious when I was a young child, though I imagine it was terrifying for the poor amphibian, which probably thought it was about to be eaten.

Also, when we first moved down to Florida—that’s my now-ex-wife and my then-few-month-old son and I—when we first stopped in a motel in central Florida for the night, it was raining and there was a veritable biblical inundation of frogs of various sizes.  The motel didn’t have those flap things at the bottoms of the doors, and smaller frogs actually came into the room through the gap.  That didn’t bother us.  We thought it was funny and kind of cool to be moving to such a place.

Well, my son probably had no thoughts about it one way or the other.

However, over the intervening years, frog numbers appear to have drastically reduced.  I am under the impression that there was some form of blight or other that hit many frog populations worldwide, though I don’t recall the source of that impression.  In any case, something seemed to have happened to the frogs in Florida, because for many years now, even after a significant rain, there have been none to be seen.

For all I know, the frog I saw this morning may be the last I will ever see in south Florida—though I thought I saw another one as I rolled the garbage out, hopping to get away from me—but I would like for them to be making a comeback.  I am a fan of most insectivores, especially ones that eat things like mosquitoes and flies and—during swarming times—termites.  Of course, there are various lizards and birds that also eat such things, but they don’t seem to be as assertive about their jobs as the frogs and toads are.

Anyway, that’s all a lot of silliness.  It’s an okay way to end the week, though.  Maybe I’ll play a little guitar if I get to the office early enough.  I did a tiny bit of strumming yesterday, when I had some morning free time, though I didn’t know The Man Who Sold the World well enough to be able to appreciate fully the chord progressions as I played them.  They definitely had the David Bowie flair for interesting changes and sounds.

I have not thought about a tune for my dreary little poem from the other day, nor even reread it.  Maybe it would be funny to give it a jaunty, happy, major key tune of some kind.  As I think I’ve said before, I enjoy irony.

Probably nothing will come of it.  It’s not as though I’ve done any more work on the song of which I did a demo on YouTube—I had called it Mercury Lamp based on the inspiration for the song, but I think now I would call it Hollow Doll.  And though I like the tune and stuff for Come Back Again, the trial arrangement and mixing/recording I did was blurry and muddled, and I think it could use some lead guitar.

Again, though, this is all a collection of pipe dreams—or guitar dreams, I guess, though “pipes” can refer to someone’s voice, and I do sing on the songs, so maybe the original term is okay.  Come to think of it, A Collection of Pipe Dreams* might be a good name for an album.  It could be a follow-up to a first album called Iterations of Zero after the title of my other, now more or less unused, blog.

I must be sicker than I thought to be entertaining such things.  Well, it’s a bit of fun to imagine them, at least.

I hope you all have a good first weekend of June.

*Or even A Collection of Guitar Dreams

When we shall hear the rain and wind blog dark December?

Hello and good morning, everyone.

It’s not only Thursday—and thus time for my “weekly” blog post, which goes back to when I was writing this blog only one day of the week and working on fiction every other morning.  It’s also the first day of June in 2023 (and thus, inescapably, also the first Thursday of June).  So, we begin a new month.

Before the end of this month, we will have the Solstice—the summer one in the northern hemisphere and the winter one in the southern hemisphere.  After that, officially, the season either of summer or of winter will begin, and the days, having reached either a maximum or minimum of the sine curve of their “daylight” length, will begin to head in the other direction.

Of course, the change will be very gradual at first, since the derivative of a sine curve—its rate of change—is a cosine curve, and where a sine is either at a maximum or a minimum, the cosine is at zero, albeit only instantaneously.  It’s at the equinox that the rate of change hits a maximum (or, technically it could also be a minimum, but when we’re discussing absolute rates of change, a minimum and a maximum are interchangeable, |x| being a positive number at any time, and all).  Anyway, that’s enough of that minimal review of the rates of change of seasons and the nature of sine curves and cosine curves.

Sines and cosines are well-behaved curves, at least.  Tangents and secants and so on are not so well-behaved, at least if by “well-behaved” you mean, “staying between a specified range of the y-axis instead of tending towards infinity in multiple places on that axis”.  Of course, a sine or cosine do go to infinity in both directions on the x-axis, come to think of it.  I don’t think I’ve considered it quite the way ever before.

Wow, talk about going off on a tangent*.

Anyway, not much else is new currently, not that I was just discussing anything new other than my new way of looking at the infinities of sine curves and, of course, the new month, which isn’t really all that new when you get right down to it.  Is June named for Jupiter (i.e. Juno)?  I should look that up.

…Okay, I did, and reminded myself that Juno was the Roman name for the goddess equivalent to Hera, the wife of Zeus/Jupiter, so it’s indirectly related to Jupiter, not directly.  That was an embarrassing mix-up of names and ideas in my head.  Good thing I didn’t write it down and publish it for everyone to see!

Of course, July and August are named after Julius Caesar and Caesar Augustus (née Octavian).  Then we have months that used to be named for their ordinal place in the calendar:  September (7), October (8), November (9), December (10), but I guess they all got shifted over two spaces at some point after they were originally named, though I don’t recall quite when and why that happened, and that isn’t something in which I’m interested enough right now to look it up.

I don’t know why I’m writing about this sort of stuff today.  I’m just following whatever random—or at least stochastic—impulse occurs based on the preceding thought or statement or whatever.  It’s not as though there’s any reason for me to do anything different.

I had a brief moment or two of “inspiration” yesterday evening, during which, on the train heading back to the house, I wrote a poem/song lyrics on the notepad function of my smartphone.  Having been written by me, it’s a very gloomy sort of poem/song, and I don’t have even an inkling of a melody for it.  I just felt a bit of a dip in my mood, even relative to baseline, and decided to express that the way I sometimes used to do.  That’s how I wrote what turned into the lyrics of my song Come Back Again, and something related to it was responsible for Catechism and Breaking Me Down, though the latter two were semi-deliberately written as song lyrics from the start.

A little later, I was watching someone on YouTube reacting to the “unplugged” performance of a few Nirvana songs, and I decided to look up the chords to Come As You Are; I downloaded a PDF of those.  It’s not a very complicated song, but it sounds quite good.  Kurt Cobain had a way of writing melodies that were unlike anything just about anyone else ever wrote.  Though, I also like his/their performance of The Man Who Sold The World, which is originally a David Bowie song.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard Bowie’s version of it, though.  I should have looked up the chords to that; maybe I will today.

But, of course, the odds of me ever doing anything with such chords, let alone writing a tune to and making a new song of my own seem vanishingly small.  Right now—by which I mean “now in general” not “now this very moment”—I’m just meandering through each day rather thoughtlessly, certainly pointlessly, with no goal or aspiration or anything of the sort.  There isn’t any point to anything I do.

I do really miss my kids.  I miss everyone else, too—my old friends, my immediate and more distant family, living and dead, all those people—but especially my kids.  I’m very lonely, but I’m also very socially withdrawn and incapable/incompetent.  I don’t think it’s at all possible for me to seek out and meet with or connect with anyone, new or old, in the world—except for my kids.

If they wanted to meet with me, I would do it.  I don’t even think it would be a struggle.  As far as everyone and everything else goes, though…well, I’ve lost my communication/connection hardware and software or whatever, or maybe I just didn’t get the updates, and so my system is hopelessly outdated, and when I even think about such things, the application crashes.

That’s a pretty weird couple of metaphors.

Anyway, I’m not capable of reaching out to people, other than through here, even when I want to do it.  I’m also not capable of trying to take care of myself (medically, psychologically, whatever), or take care of any other proactive business of life.  Life isn’t my domain anymore, I think.  Nevertheless, I can’t be darkly cool and quote the Bhagavad Gita like Oppenheimer:  “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”  It would probably be more appropriate for me to say something like, “I am become Drizzle, the dampener of spirits.”

That was sort of the subject of the poem/song I wrote yesterday.  But most people don’t like to drink watered-down spirits—though I do, sometimes.  I also like watered down soda, I’ve come to realize.  Go figure.

Anyway, that’s enough of all that.  I think it’s time to head off to go to the train, thence to the office.  If I get there early enough, maybe I’ll play some guitar.  I doubt it.


sine and cosinetwistedanddistorted


No dust – not even in the wind – but we’ve got ashes

It’s Friday morning as I write this, in case you’re reading this on a day other than the day it’s posted, or published, or whatever the best term is (if “best” even has any real meaning here).  I expect to be posting tomorrow, since I work tomorrow.  And then, luckily for all of you who can’t get enough of my blog posts*, I will also be working the following Saturday, and thus probably posting then.

You see, the coworker with whom I share some of my responsibilities at work is going away to visit family this weekend (he has a few-months-old daughter who has to make the rounds) and so he couldn’t take this weekend for me in exchange for the following Saturday, when his daughter is getting baptized.  He’s also going to be out of the office Monday and Tuesday and probably at least part of Wednesday, all my most overloaded days as it is.  So, expect me to be rather stressed out during that time.

More so than usual, I mean.

I keep hoping for my increased stress to lead to some catastrophic health collapse‒pneumonia, stroke, heart attack, hemorrhage, something‒to take it all out of my hands, but so far I have had no such luck.

I didn’t get back to the house until well after 9 last night, because the bus just didn’t show.  Instead of trying to use Uber or Lyft, about both of which I still feel reluctant, I just walked.  At least that way I got some exercise.  It didn’t make my back and hip and side pain any worse at the time, but it also didn’t prevent that pain from waking me up at a bit before 2 this morning, unable to fall back to sleep thereafter.

I’m still taking Saint John’s Wort, though it’s certainly not helping my pain or optimism, so far, and I can’t tell if it’s affecting my affect**.  I’m trying to breathe better, mainly through my nose, and work on the rest of my breathing and mouth posture and whatnot.  I don’t know how much difference that all makes, if any, but it’s something for me to do with my energy, such as it is.

Oh, I hadn’t mentioned yesterday, but the day before yesterday we blew past another potential palindromic recording number.  We were coming right toward it, but then we had no deals for a few hours and by the time we had another, the recording numbers had passed the palindrome***.  It looks as though the universe just isn’t going to go out of its way to tell me to stay.

I think that’s not the sort of thing the universe does.  People sometimes tell you that they want you to stay, and that’s very nice of them…but does it really constitute an adequate reason to stay alive, being told that you matter‒in some abstract sense, I guess‒to someone?  What if you don’t matter to yourself, or if you matter in the worst possible way?  What if you “antimatter” to yourself, so to speak?  It’s one thing for other people not to want me to die, but they don’t have to be around me 24/7.  Trust me, it gets old.

You can kind of tell that, can’t you?

I half expect that, someday soon, I will have a healthcare crisis‒perhaps a ruptured aortic aneurysm or summat‒just as a verification is being done, and as I lie dying, I’ll ask what the verification number is…and it will be a palindromic number!  At least that would be funny and ironic.  I could die laughing, or at least smiling, saying, “Good one, universe.  You really got me there.”  I would honestly find that hilarious.

I don’t know, I guess I have an unusual sense of humor.

I did play on the guitar just a bit, yesterday.  I’ve recently become mildly obsessed with the David Bowie song, Ashes to Ashes, which I’ve been aware of since I was maybe 11 or 12 years old, but hadn’t fully appreciated.  I really like the rhythm and the shift in melody from section to section, and the patterns of overlapping four step repetitions of three chords in the intro and outro and everything.

So, I looked up the guitar chords for it and realized that‒as was the case for A Space Oddity‒Bowie didn’t even need to use any esoteric chords to make a brilliant progression and melody structure.  Hell, there’s only one barre chord in the song, and it’s used once in the first half and once in the second.

I also surprised myself by being able to sing the song just fine at first try.  It’s been months, I think, since I sang anything, and I expected my voice to be weak, but maybe the resting time did it good.  It got kind of beat up by Covid for a while, which was evident in a few of my song/videos.  And maybe the walking and biking and the newly started breathing stuff is helping.

Anyway, if I maintain my interest, I may even record a video of me playing and singing it‒there are some fun backup things in the song, and some doubling and mild harmonies that could be fun to dub in after the initial recording, too.  If I do it, I’m going to try to do a sort of stereo recording if I can, with the cell phone recorder for mainly the guitar, and the condenser USB mic for mainly the voice.  We’ll see.  As I said, I’m going to be very busy and stressed in the next few weeks, and that’s potentially going to derail everything.

Further bulletins on that as events warrant.  In the meantime, I guess I’ll embed the official video (which is quite…unusual, and was apparently, at the time, the most expensive video that had yet been made) for Ashes to Ashes, for your delectation.

Until tomorrow, assuming it arrives, please take care of yourselves.

*If there really are such people, they should probably seek medical help, but perhaps I’m not being fair.

**Ha ha.

***Not to be mistaken for passing the dutchie.

A bland post but with some good music shared along the way

I’ll start by saying, Happy Cinco de Mayo!

cinco dance

I forgot yesterday was Star Wars day, and I don’t want to miss two such things in a row.

I guess, given that it’s Friday, it might be a nice night to have a margarita, or some other tequila-based beverage, if you indulge in alcohol.  But don’t drink and drive, of course.  That’s just playing Russian Roulette with the gun pointed at other people as well as yourself and your loved ones.  If you do drink and drive, certainly if you do it very often, it might be ethical (but not legal, and for good reasons) for someone else to kill you in self-defense, or in the general defense of innocents.  I don’t recommend it, but it would be understandable.

I’m not writing this at the train station today, nor am I writing on the laptop computer.  I am writing this‒to start, anyway‒on my phone, from the house, because I’m taking the bus to the train today.

Yesterday, after only 2 days of riding the bike to and from the train station (one and a half, really), my back and legs and entire left side up to my shoulder were in severe pain all throughout the day, which didn’t help my baseline grumpiness at work.  Well, it helped the grumpiness, I guess you could say; at least, it enhanced or increased it.  But I felt like crap overall.

So, given that, I’m not going to ride my bike today, and I don’t think I’ll ride it tomorrow, which means I doubt that I’ll be going to the movies, since the distance to the nearest theater is longer than the distance to the train station, albeit not by much.  But if the latter causes me so much pain, I’d rather avoid the former.

I don’t think I want to walk to the theater, either.  I haven’t been walking long distances for several weeks, what with weather and trying to use the bike and so on, so I worry that I might exacerbate things, like blisters and joint pain and so on.  Anyway, an eight mile walk is likely to take more than two hours each way.  That’s chewing up a big chunk of a day to see a movie by myself.  Not that I tend to do anything more useful or entertaining otherwise.

I suppose I could activate either the Uber or Lyft app, both of which I downloaded the other day after the bus was 35 minutes late.  But I’ve never used either one before, and I’m leery of getting in a car with a stranger who doesn’t have an official “chauffeur’s” license and a local (also licensed and regulated) company behind them.  That may be silly of me, but it is what it is.  Maybe I’ll work out the public transportation route to the best movie theater.

Or maybe I should just nix the idea of going to the theater at all and just watch the movie on Disney+ when it gets there, assuming I am still alive by then.  As far as I know, it’s hard to watch movies when one is not alive, but there are counterbalancing compensations, the most prominent one being the lack of pain and another being a lack of sadness/loneliness/depression.  These things are not to be taken lightly.  Escaping from them can be strongly appealing, especially when there are few counterbalancing consolations.

Speaking of not being alive, it was quite sad (though not tragic, since he was 84) when, earlier this week, Gordon Lightfoot died.  I may have mentioned this here before, but his song, If You Could Read My Mind is among my favorites; it came out when I was young, and I’ve always thought it was beautiful.

In fact, I did a rhythm guitar “cover” of it, with me singing.  I’ll embed the video for that here, just in case you’re interested, and then‒to get the taste of my playing and singing out of your mouth‒I’ll embed a video of the real, original song by the man himself.

I only ask, out of kindness, for you not to listen to my version too soon after his, if you do it in that order.  You wouldn’t have Phoebe Buffay try to follow Yo Yo Ma on stage at Carnegie Hall, right?

So, here’s my version:

And here’s the way it’s supposed to sound:

He did a lot of other good stuff, too, of course.  No less an artist than Bob Dylan said that, whenever he heard a Gordon Lightfoot song, he wished it would go on forever.  I wouldn’t go quite that all-out, myself; I don’t think there are even any Radiohead, Pink Floyd*, or Beatles songs I wish would go on forever.

Now, Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto…that could be the background music for the world and I wouldn’t quickly get tired of it.  Or Dvorak’s “New World” symphony would be good, too.

And of course, on the flip side, my own songs, like Breaking Me Down and Like and Share at about six minutes, go on longer than anyone probably wants them to go.  I guess my song writing is a bit like my novel writing‒once I get going, I tend to go on and on, because momentum, or inertia, or whatever, makes it so that I have little capacity or urge to stop.

Ironically, though, I don’t really have much more to say right now.  My leg and back and side and hip hurt a bit less than yesterday, but they do hurt quite a bit, still, and I need to leave soon to go to the bus stop, because I don’t think I’ll be walking as fast as usual.

It’s been a relatively bland blog post, but there are various songs to which I will have linked, to which you can listen if you like.  Most of them are by real, excellent, professional musicians, and have stood the test of decades or longer.  Those ones, at least, are worth a listen.

I won’t be doing a post tomorrow, because I don’t work tomorrow, and hopefully I’ll have rested enough that my pain goes back to baseline.  Have a good weekend if you’re at all able.  And if you see the new Marvel movie, feel free to let me know what you think of it.

*Though Echoes, which is the entire B-side of their album Meddle, goes on for a long time, and it’s not unpleasant.  And then there’s Shine On You Crazy Diamond, the opening and closing parts of the album Wish You Were Here.  

Get up get over and turn the tape off

Well, it’s a shitty, shitty day today already.  I realize that’s redundant, of course.  I could simply say that it’s a day today.  They’re all pretty shitty a lot of the time, which is a phrase, at least, that sort of rhymes.  Pretty shitty is kind of pretty; one could use it in a ditty.

That’s enough of that nonsense.

I awoke very early, even for me, with worsening pain than usual in my right lower back and hip, radiating down into my foot and calf, with spasm and tenderness in most of the muscles.  I’d had a decent pain day the day before—which I guess would be yesterday, duh—partly because I took larger than normal doses of naproxen, in addition to aspirin and acetaminophen, and as always I was trying some behavioral interventions such as those with which I constantly experiment.

But I think I was lured into a false sense of security; probably the relative decrease in pain was as much a random fluctuation as anything else.  Also, I realized by the end of the day that I had started to develop edema—accumulation of fluid, that is—in my legs, especially the right one.  I suspect that’s partly due to the effects of the high-dose NSAIDs and other meds on my kidneys’ clearance functions.  So, last night I held off on the naproxen.

While trying to massage out some of my pain, I noted that my son, to whom I had sent an email a few weeks ago, had replied at last to that apologetic note.  But though his email was polite and kind, he basically said that he didn’t want to pursue any relationship with me, at least for the time being, and that he hoped I would respect that.  I can do so, of course; if I didn’t have to have a relationship with me, I wouldn’t do it, either.  He even said he didn’t hold what had happened, what with my arrest and time in prison, against me, which is nice, and that he had fond memories of me and of his childhood with me.  He’s a good person, he works hard and is smart, and all that, like his sister.  I want him to be happy, and I would never try to force my presence on him.  I’m just not built that way.  So, that’s that.  Not a great thing for me, but probably the wise choice for him.

I did record the video I mentioned yesterday, and I already started editing it, which is basically just removing long pauses and umms and coughs and the like.  If I finish and upload it today, I’ll share it as part of the post for tomorrow—I’m scheduled to work—and you’ll be able to see and watch it if you wish.  In case you do, I’ll add now the request that most YouTubers give (which I neglected to do during the recording) which is please, if you’re so inclined, like the video, share it if you’re willing, subscribe if you’re interested, and do please feel free to comment.  All those requests apply here as well, though I guess most of my readers are already subscribed, now that I think about it.

And here I am, at the office already and writing this, quite a bit earlier than I usually arrive, because there was no point just lying around in my room and watching random YouTube videos, some about science, some of British comedy panel shows, and occasionally some about autism/Asperger’s.

It’s the last day of September in 2022, and tomorrow begins the month of October—the month of my birthday, and of Halloween (my favorite holiday), though honestly, right now, I couldn’t give a shit about either one.  Next week is both Yom Kippur and my father’s birthday (I think they’re both on the same day this year, though I may be off on that).

I wish I could see my father, and my mother, but of course, they have both “passed on” as the euphemism goes.  I’m afraid I was probably a very disappointing son for them, not least because I had seemed so promising.  I’ve basically let down all the people who are most important to me in life, regularly and consistently.  Consistency is good, I guess, as far as it goes.  I just wish I had a drug or alcohol problem to hang it all on, so that I could have hope of conquering the problem and receiving minor accolades for the success, a la the famous Christian parable of the prodigal son*, or just succumb to an overdose or something if not.

Unfortunately, my problems are basically internal and inherent.  I’m just not very good at humaning, it turns out, if you’ll pardon me for using the au courant contrivance of turning a noun into a seeming gerund of a verb, as in the expression “adulting”.  Adulting, by the way, does not get a red squiggly underline in MS Word, but humaning does.  I guess that means I really did just make it up.

I’ve been trying to do it all my life, of course, and I have put a lot of effort into it.  But my return on investment has gone deeply in the negative, I’m afraid, though that’s only if you discount the fact of my two children.  Anything I went through up until they were born was repaid at an unimaginable rate, so I can’t complain about that.  But that’s all past, now, and they are alive and well, and they’re doing their thing and living their lives and that’s good, that’s outstanding.

I wish I could have been there to witness more of it.  But if wishes were horses, we’d all be waist-deep in horseshit.  Which we may be in a metaphorical sense—more than waist-deep, I would say—but obviously that’s not literal.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for today, and it’s nearly all I’ve got, period, full stop.  I don’t see how I can possibly go on much longer.  I hate the world, I hate my life, but most of all, I hate myself.  I’ve got to find a way to escape.

Which word makes me think of the Radiohead song, Weird Fishes/Arpeggi.  Here, I’ll embed some version of it in “video” form below, so those of you who are interested can listen.  It’s a beautiful song.

*Which I’ve always hated as a clear case of injustice and even cruelty.

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks…yadda, yadda, yadda

Well, it’s Wednesday morning, and it’s sloppy and wet, but the trains are running on time and so is most everything else here in southeast Florida, though the wind is a bit irritating.  Because of it, I was only able to write that first sentence while at the train station, then I had to close up the laptop to protect it from water damage, even though the train stations have roofs.

I’m sure it was a sensible decision for them to make the Tri-rail stations basically open-air with only an overhead covering.  This is south Florida, where it’s rarely so cold that heating is an issue, but on days like today—when it’s wet and windy because a hurricane is approaching the other side of the state*—I do curse the decision.  But I only curse it half-heartedly, because I can’t in good conscience really hold it against someone for doing something efficient and long-term sensible.

There are almost no courses of action, even ones that are clearly the best choices in the long term, that don’t have occasional drawbacks.  Life is complicated.  The universe is complicated, at least if you look at it very closely.  Actually, I guess you don’t have to look all that closely.

I thought about not riding the train today, but I couldn’t justify it.  The Tri-rail is running, and at a normal schedule, so I could hardly give myself an excuse for slacking off in any way.  Also, given the weather, there are a certain percentage of other people who will not go to work today, and that means the trains will be less crowded than usual—which, so far, mine is—and that’s kind of nice.  It’s not as though one gets any kind of extra service, since there is no “service”, but there’s less worry about not getting one’s usual seat, and it’s just generally less crowded.  I don’t know if this will be the case on the way home, but it is right now.

I was weirdly pleased to have a reason to get out my rain jacket, which is designed to be worn while riding on a motorcycle, and so is quite snug and water-repellant.  I don’t wear it much anymore.  I came close to wearing my long, black duster, which is also quite good against the rain (contrary to its name).  But the duster is cloth, and it’s heavier, so it’s likely to have been hotter to wear.  It is a very nifty coat, though, and I’m slightly sad that I don’t get to use it more often.

I got a slightly better sleep last night than the night before—maybe as much as four hours, though not continuous.  There were no issues with power or with cable, but then again, I didn’t honestly expect any.  This is south Florida.  The state and its utilities are far from beyond criticism, but rainy, windy weather—yeah, they’re pretty well used to handling that.

It’s a bit like Houghton, Michigan, which is on the upper peninsula of the upper peninsula of Michigan, and is where Michigan Tech is located.  They get absurd amounts of snow and cold every year, jutting as they do out into Lake Superior, but I’m told that Michigan Tech never closes for snowy weather, despite a reputed more than 16 feet of snowfall every year on average.

I can only imagine what would happen if any significant snow fell down here in the Miami area.  If any snow at all fell, it would be remarkable, but if it was a lot, well, it would be stunning in many ways.  One thing it would also be would be a problem for heating, since, basically, houses down here don’t have furnaces of any kind.  There are a few days early in most years where that actually becomes an issue, and it honestly gets too cold at night.  This is made worse by the fact that many of us don’t really have extra-warm blankets or the like.

And, again, here I am “talking about the weather” like the absolute cretin that I am.  I suppose that it can be excused a bit, given that there’s a hurricane passing near, but I’m embarrassed.  Still, embarrassment is a fairly normal state for me.  I’m almost always tense and anxious and uptight.

Twice in my life, while I was still a teen, I was given Valium, the actual name-brand pharmaceutical, for medical procedures—once for a heart catheterization, once when I had my wisdom teeth taken out.  I remember feeling ever so remarkably at ease and comfortable, even with my mouth full of gauze and blood, or with a wire going into my femoral artery and snaking up to my heart.  I wondered—and still wonder—if this is how some people feel all the time, or more of the time.  I basically have never felt anything like that way except on those two occasions.

I almost hit on the hygienist at the dentist’s office after my procedure.  I didn’t, but the fact that I even had the urge and would have been able to do it if I had so chosen is so unlike me that it’s astonishing.  And while I was having my catheterization, apparently the catheter bumped against some part of the conduction system of my heart and I had a very powerful double-beat, one so strong I could literally feel it up into my neck.  The cardiologist was plainly mortified and apologized sincerely, but I just smiled and said, “That was cool!”

This is how I knew I must never, ever get a prescription for Valium, despite chronic anxiety and stress.  It would simply be too easy for me to become psychologically dependent on it, for one thing, and for another, I know it would inevitably have diminishing returns, and stopping it would then make me feel worse than before.  That would be a true, ironic Hell.  No, thank you!

Drugs in general seem to affect me differently than most people, which may be a good thing.  I took opioids for chronic pain for some time, and they definitely worked to help the pain, but never for as long as hoped, and the side-effects were trouble, so eventually I had to wean myself off them, though not without some regret for the worsening pain.

I also do enjoy a rare alcoholic beverage—someone as tense as I am would be prone to, wouldn’t he?  However, I tend to feel rather unpleasant almost immediately after, and since my back problem, I’ve noticed that alcohol intake makes my pain flare up afterwards.

And I think I’ve mentioned the time I tried a hit of a friend’s marijuana hoping it would help my pain, but instead it left me vomiting for about two hours (and still in pain, though I was at least distracted).  THC is supposed to suppress nausea most of the time, for most people.  I really am alien, it seems.  At least, I’m atypical.

I will admit that mindfulness meditation does help my tension and anxiety in the short-term, but it seems to make my dysthymia and depression worse.  Maybe being too aware of my own thought processes makes me realize how unlikeable I really am, I don’t know.  It’s weird, but apparently there is some literature about Vipassana not being too useful for actual depression, though it may decrease the risk of relapse in people who are in remission.  I’m not up to date on the latest research, but it does disappoint me, because I’m fairly natural at meditation and self-hypnosis and the like.

Anyway, that’s enough for today, I think.  I’m getting close to my stop, and that seems like a good indicator that I should stop writing.  No, not for good—don’t get your hopes up—but for today, anyway.  I’m also, by the way, going to try to stop commenting at all on other people’s blogs and websites, after something that happened yesterday.  Apparently, I give minor offense or am rude, even when I certainly don’t mean to be, and then I feel both stressed and mortified as well as angry about being misunderstood.  Oh well.  Life is hard, but there are alternatives.  At least there’s one.  It becomes more enticing by the day.

*I added this footnote later to note that, as I walked from the train to the office, the clouds overhead were all moving consistently and rapidly west-northwest, which seems to indicate, if my reasoning is correct, that the center of the hurricane is still southwest of here, probably out in Gulf of Mexico for the moment, though I haven’t checked the reports yet this morning.

[Added note:  Since there’s a hurricane a-blowing, I decided to embed my cover of the Radiohead song “How to Disappear Completely” below, because the third verse includes the words, “Fireworks and blown speakers, strobe lights and hurricanes.”  I’ll also embed the original below that; it’s one of Radiohead’s most beautiful songs.]

We’ve been trying to reach you, Rob

Guten Morgen, bonjour, buenos días, ohaiyou gozaimasu, and good morning.  It’s Wednesday, at 10 to five, and I’m already on the train, because despite being sick, I still couldn’t sleep, and if anything, I awakened sooner than usual.

Yes, I am still sick—it’s rare that anyone really, actually, gets over a respiratory infection in 24 hours, after all—but I also still have to go to work.  That’s particularly true on Wednesdays, when I have to do the office payroll in addition to my other, regular duties.  It’s not a dirty job, but nevertheless, someone has to do it.

I feel even less that I have a topic to write about today than I did yesterday, but as regular readers will know, that never stops me from writing.  It’s a bit analogous, I suppose, to the jocular saying that one should never let facts get in the way of a good story.  So:  never let lack of a subject stop you from writing a blog post.  Goodness knows most pundits and politicians and even most journalists nowadays don’t let lack of subject matter stop them from writing or speaking at length.

Still, my energy feels unusually low today, even for me.  Maybe I should write about how unreasonable it is in our culture that we demand of ourselves that we go to work even when we’re ill, thus increasing the chance that other people will become ill, and probably reducing overall productivity of the workforce and decreasing the overall quality of life for everyone.  As if we needed to push that down lower than it already is.

But I suppose that subject has been addressed innumerable times in many ways by many other people.  If you need it discussed beyond a few words to trigger the thought, I’m not sure what world you’re occupying.  Perhaps your life is so satisfying that you don’t even comprehend how anyone could be less than happy.  More likely, you’re so worn down and resigned—dare I say, fatalistic—that you don’t even recognize, let alone consider, the possibility that things could improve.

I feel you.

So, what should I write about?  Or should I try to write about anything at all?  Should I just start spewing random sentences in question form, as though initiating a Socratic dialogue?  Would there be any benefit to that?  If so, what would it be?

I’m not good at small talk in general, and I’ve gotten worse at it over time, as my socialization has diminished.

I did very briefly pick my guitar up yesterday, because I had watched a video of someone reacting to the Radiohead song Knives Out, for which I had learned the lead guitar part some time ago, and I wanted to see if I could still do it.  I couldn’t do it from memory—I needed to get out the tabs—but it wasn’t too bad.  And while I had that out, I quickly fiddled (so to speak) through part of the lead from Big Log, by Robert Plant, and a bit of Wish You Were Here, and then the chords from One Headlight and A Space Oddity.  I made a video of me playing and singing the latter a while back, which I guess I’ll embed below as a space filler.

Then someone noticed that I was playing—I usually only play when no one else is around—and so I put the guitar away.  Anyway, I wanted to watch a reaction to the Radiohead song Lift that I noticed on the YouTube list, and the chords for that involve a B add…ninth, I think*, that gives me a terrible hand cramp to try to reach, so I wasn’t going to try to play along.  And listening to that song, and the reaction, made me want to cry, so I had to stop all that.

So that’s it.  I actually did get out the black Strat at the office, or picked it up and turned on the amp, since it’s always sort of “out”.  But who knows if I’ll ever play it again?  I wouldn’t be surprised if I don’t.  It’s like picking up your kids—there will be a moment when you pick up your child in your arms for the final time, and you will never pick them up again after that, and odds are, you won’t even realize that it is the final time when it happens.  You’ll just never happen to pick them up again.  Likewise, there will be a last time that you hug or even see each of the people you love, and then one of you will be lost to the other, or both will be, for the rest of time.  So don’t take those things for granted, okay?

That’s about all I’ve got for the time being.  Hope you have a good day.

*Yes, that’s what it was.

Paper bags get wet on rainy Mondays

Well, this wouldn’t be a good day for Karen Carpenter—at least if the lyrics of one of her songs accurately described her feelings—because it’s a Monday, and it’s raining.  Since both of those things, according to the song, always got her down, then the combination of the two seems likely to have done so doubly.

Unless, that is, the combination follows the rules of multiplication rather than addition.  Adding two negatives produces a more negative outcome, but multiplying them together turns the product positive.  Maybe then the combination of a rainy day that’s also a Monday would have boosted her spirits.  I think she could have used a boost.

As for me, well, rainy days don’t tend to get me down particularly.  They don’t necessarily cheer me up, either, though sometimes I enjoy them.  Right now, the rain is here either as a consequence of or as part of the cause of a slight drop in temperature, which is nice, because it’s been quite hot and muggy with little to no respite for quite some time.

You’d almost think I lived in south Florida.

And as for Mondays, well, even when growing up I never had a big dislike of Mondays, and that’s not my only divergence from Bob Geldoff.  I certainly didn’t dread school; I was always a pretty good student, and school was where I had my friends.

Also, I have usually preferred to have a purpose of some kind, so whether it was school or work, I never particularly disliked getting up and going in to either one.  I like having a schedule, with things to do and a place to be at a particular time.  If anything, weekends sometimes make me feel a bit lost, at least when I don’t have any family structure or any reason to do anything in particular.  I just loaf around feeling rudderless.

Of course, this weekend, I definitely welcomed the rest.  As I think I mentioned, all last week I was fighting a virus, and didn’t get a chance to take a day off, so I needed the break.  As it turns out, I had to go briefly into the office on Saturday morning, because the other person with whom I alternate Saturdays had lost his keys, and our boss was already well on his way to Key West*, so he was much farther away that I was.  It happens; I wasn’t too upset about it, but I really didn’t feel very well.

Honestly, I’m still not really feeling very well, physically, though I certainly feel better than I did on Saturday, when I was tired and grumpy and a bit out of breath.  Now I’m just a bit out of breath, and a bit tired; but I don’t feel particularly grumpy.

Give it time, it’s early in the day.

I even brought my book of all Radiohead song chords to the house over the weekend, just in case I got the urge, during that time in which I was supposed to be undisturbed, to play guitar.  I did not, of course—I could have told myself I wouldn’t—but then again, I wasn’t actually undisturbed, but rather got no fewer than four surprise impositions on my time and space.  But I don’t want to dwell too much on those, or I will get grumpy.

I’m really just physically, mentally, and emotionally fatigued, I think, and it’s not something I enjoy.  I certainly don’t get any kind of secondary gain from it, unless it’s the secondary “gain” of fulfillment of my self-hatred, since I can’t really socialize very well anymore, I don’t have the sort of personality that makes people want to spend time with me—I also don’t enjoy doing things such as most people seem to enjoy—and I frankly don’t even want to take the chance of trying to get involved with other people, since I have an almost 100% track record of alienating those closest to me, the people I love, and on whom I rely, the most.

Maybe Tennyson was an idiot, or at least simple-minded, when he said that it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.  Or maybe he was thinking more along the lines of someone like Voldemort, who was incapable of love and lived a life of misery, making other people suffer, before dooming himself to an eternity of pain.  That really doesn’t sound so good.

Shakespeare was a bit more on the money with Hamlet’s inclusion of the “pangs of despis’d love” as one of the things a person wouldn’t willingly bear if they could avoid it.  And then there’s Fiona Apple, who in her song, Paper Bag notes that “Hunger hurts, but starving works when it costs too much to love.”

Not that poetry (or song) automatically has any access to truth, even if it’s beautiful.  Just because someone can put words together nicely, in ways that catch people’s attention and appeal to their cognitive biases doesn’t mean that those words actually bear any deep wisdom.  As witness:  “If the glove does not fit, you must acquit.”

That’s the problem with rhetoric, as opposed to dispassionate argument.  Often it “persuades” people because of the clever manipulation of the foibles of the human psyche, forged as it was in the savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa over the course of a million to a hundred thousand years, depending on when you start your cutoff.  People can embrace non-sequiturs and internal contradictions without giving them much notice, if they trigger the right emotion or have a catchy beat or sound or structure.

This is why, unlike Mulder from The X-files, I don’t want to believe.  I want to be convinced by evidence and argument…preferably the dispassionate kind.  Passion is nice to feel, but when considering someone’s attempt to persuade you, it should be a warning sign, in them or in you or in both.  Being passionate doesn’t guarantee that you’re not right, but even if you are, it may mean you’re right for bad reasons, and it doesn’t help your chances of getting things right.  Passion is a decent servant but an unreliable master.

no belief

Maybe I worry about such things too much.  Though even the words “too much” carry assumptions that, for the most part, people don’t notice or try to pick apart.  Too much for what purpose, by what standards, according to whom, for what reason?  If this much is too much, how does one determine how much would be just right?  How much would be too little?  What would be the good and bad consequences of any of these states, and would they be different depending on external conditions?

Probably I’m overthinking it.  But what do you want from me on a rainy Monday?

*How ironic.  Well, not, not really ironic.  But it is an amusing coincidence of words.

If Tuesday afternoon is never-ending, Wednesday morning ITSELF can never come.

It’s Tuesday again, just like it was last week on this day, and I’m still doing my “daily”* blog posts, since I don’t have any desire either to write fiction or even to play any guitar.  This is at least a quasi-productive way for me to use time that I would have used to write fiction, at least until the Second Law of Thermodynamics claims me at long last, and I rush—all oblivious—into its cold but comforting embrace…to poeticize idiotically a simple fact of physics and mathematics.

Tuesdays often make me think of the Beatles song, Lady Madonna, because for me, one of the most memorable lines of that song is “Tuesday afternoon is never-ending”.  This is particularly pertinent when things are slow at work in the afternoon, though I don’t think most other people regard dull days at the office in terms of songs, like I often do.  This being me, I tend to focus on dark and/or negative songs and lyrics, or at least melancholy** ones.

I rarely think of Thursdays in terms of my stockings needing mending, at least.

The notion that Tuesday afternoon is never-ending raises an almost Zeno’s Paradox type notion.  If Tuesday afternoon really were never-ending, then Wednesday would never arrive, so there would never be another day.  Although, despite it always being Tuesday afternoon, if people could nevertheless still move and act and do things, it would be useful to break time into manageable chunks for the purposes of scheduling, planning, working, sleeping, and so on.  Also, it’s never Tuesday afternoon everyplace on Earth at once, so if Tuesday afternoon in Britain were to be never-ending, then Tuesday morning in the US, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, etc. would be never-ending, and Tuesday evening for most of Europe, and of course, Tuesday night into Wednesday morning for places east of that, right up to the international date line.

And, of course, if the Earth had stopped spinning—assuming it had done so without the numerous catastrophic effects this would otherwise entail (watch this lovely video by Vsauce to see some of these discussed)—the weather patterns on Earth would be permanently changed and made horrific.

Depending on whether Earth became the equivalent of tidally locked on the sun, or if it had just stopped rotating, it would either have a permanent sun-facing side, or it would have a day as long as its year.  Then again, even a year-long day is not literally never-ending, so I guess it would be the “tidally locked” situation.  Before long, the Prime Meridian would become a very hot strip of Earth indeed!  And the International Date Line would become extremely cold.

It is tangentially interesting to think about—having mentioned Zeno’s Paradox earlier—the notion of continuously divisible time.  If time (or distance, as in Zeno’s original paradox) were infinitely divisible, à la the real number line, it would seem that one could never experience the passage of time because before you could get to Tuesday evening you would have to go halfway through Tuesday afternoon…and before you got halfway, you’d need to get a quarter of the way…and before that you’d need to get an eighth of the way…and so on.  If things are infinitely divisible, or so says the “paradox”, you should never be able to get anywhere, either in space or time, because no matter how arbitrarily close you choose two points in space to be, or two points in time, or two numbers on a number line, there are an uncountable infinity of points in between.

Calculus, of course, deals with this issue by means of taking limits as distances go to zero, and the like; it handles instantaneous and continuous rates of change quite nicely, thank you very much, while still rigorously defining functions in terms both accurate and useful.  As for reality itself, it seems to side-step the issue entirely by making space and time, in practice, not infinitely divisible at all.

The minimum distance that makes any physical sense is the Planck length, and the minimum time is the Planck time.  To say you’ve traveled half a Planck length, or that something lasted half a Planck time, is apparently saying something that has no meaning in the real world.

Of course, the Planck length and time are REALLY small:  1.6 x 10-35 meters and about 10-43 seconds.  So, we cannot directly measure either of them with current technology, anyway.  Not even close.  But they are real things, when it comes to quantum mechanics, with real, verifiable physical implications that have been tested and confirmed with tremendous accuracy and applicability.

One does tend to wonder, though, about spacetime itself.  According to General Relativity, gravity is not a force in the sense that electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces are forces but is instead a manifestation of the curvature of spacetime, leading objects in it to attempt to follow the closest thing to a straight line (a geodesic) in a curved, “flexible” four-dimensional structure, in the way one has to follow a great circle on the surface of the Earth to pick the “straightest” possible path between two points on the surface of a spheroid.  This really matters for airplanes, and even for ships.

But is space itself infinitely divisible?  GR*** treats it as such, but GR conflicts with Quantum Mechanics at places of small size and high mass, producing senseless results (so I’m told…I haven’t done the figuring myself, regrettably).  Spacetime certainly seems to be able to expand indefinitely, as it has done since at least what we call the Big Bang, and it continues to do so at an increasing rate even as we speak, so to speak.  That’s trivial to conceive of with things like continuous variables, real numbers, things with uncountable infinities between any two points.  Just multiply everything by two, say, and all the numbers are twice as big, and just as uncountably infinite.

But if space is discontinuous, in some sense, as implied by presumed quantum gravity, how does the expansion manifest?  Does more space pop into existence between two regions formerly separated by a mere Planck length?  We know that if you try to separate two quarks that are bound to each other, the strong force between them becomes so intense that new, formerly virtual, quarks pop into actual being between them****.  Is this what happens with spacetime itself?  As intervals get stretched, do new nuggets of spacetime appear?

We know that it’s possible to produce new, positive energy in spacetime, balanced by the “negative” energy of gravity, so there is no local violation of conservation principles*****.  Maybe spacetime spontaneously generates more spacetime, using the force of the cosmological constant, or its equivalent, to create these new bits of spacetime as it goes along.  It seems plausible, given what we know about the finite divisibility of things we’re able to confirm experimentally, and at least little bits of spacetime seem much less energetic on a per-unit basis than things like quarks or even electrons and neutrinos.

Infinite divisibility may work quite nicely in mathematics—indeed, it does—but it may not be plausible in the real, physical world.  Spacetime is real, and if it expands, then that expansion must happen at some level and be describable in principle.

None of which changes the fact that Lady Madonna is an awesome song.

*I put “scare” quotes around that, because technically, it’s not a true daily function, since even if I continue doing it for a long time, I don’t expect to write on Sundays, and probably roughly not every other Saturday, since I won’t be going to work, and I write this during my commute.

**“Melancholy” has become a rather soft kind of negativity in modern parlance, but I wonder how people would feel if they considered when using the word that it comes from the old concept of “black bile”, one of the supposed four “humours”.

***General Relativity.

****Not a violation of Conservation of Energy…they get their substance from the energy you applied trying to separate them.

*****Again, alas, I have not done the specific math myself, but the concept is straightforward and logical.  One can similarly create a new positive electric charge as long as one creates a balancing negative charge at the same time.  It happens in nuclear decay all time.

Some Practice Recordings

Last Friday (the 10th) I was feeling pretty under the weather, and in the morning, before work, I could barely get any writing done.  So I decided to record myself playing several songs that I like to mess around on, so I could listen to myself afterward for presumed self-improvement.  It’s good to be able to hear when the chords don’t sound good, and of course, when one’s singing is off-key or just doesn’t sound very good.  It’s most irritating to when it’s just a little off, by like an eighth of a step, and I think, “How did I not hear myself doing that?”

Anyway, I thought I’d share the recordings here, flubs, pitchiness, and all, as a curiosity, and to see if anyone has any recommendations about ones of which I should work on doing a video/cover.  I did some cleaning up of background noise, added some reverb, and did a bit of compression, just to make it all a little easier to listen for those who are interested.

Only two of them (Julia and Here Comes the Sun) were played from memory, though I know Fake Plastic Trees by heart, and I screwed up more by following the chords in the book than I probably would have if I’d just trusted myself.  Go figure.

Julia (I needed to increase to gain on the guitar for this one):

Fake Plastic Trees (by Radiohead):

Desperado (by Eagles):

Here Comes the Sun:

Here, There, and Everywhere (by the Beatles):

Just the Way You Are (by Billy Joel, but with no piano here):

Karma Police (by Radiohead):

Lucky (by Radiohead…NOT to be confused with “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk…two VERY different songs!):

and last but not least,

You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away (by the Beatles):

That’s all for now.  I don’t know why I didn’t do “One Headlight” which I also know by heart.  Maybe I’ll save that for another time or just do it as a video.

I hope you enjoy, at least a little, if you listen.  At the very least, it’s probably slightly amusing to hear me get ticked when I make a mistake.