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Archive for the ‘Pseudo-Philosophical Ponderings’ Category

Abigail,
As it is Christmas season, you may be wondering, “Daddy, who is Santa and why does he bring people presents on Jesus’ birthday?” This is a good question. Recall, on your birthday, people bring YOU presents – it’s not like the Easter Bunny delivers candies to the elderly when it’s your birthday. So why does Santa do it at Jesus’ birthday? Is Jesus OK with it? Is Santa Jesus?

First off, let’s get one thing straight. Santa Claus is not Jesus Christ. They have some similarities though, and Santa knows Jesus. Both of them were born, both of them died, and both of them live on in the hearts of men, women, boys and girls. While Jesus rose from the dead and is still alive the same way he has always been alive, Santa lives in a different way.

Santa Claus is the new name for a man named Saint Nicholas, who lived in Turkey (the country, not the sandwich) a very long time ago, back when Turkey was part of the Roman Empire. He loved God and loved Jesus, and felt that giving people secret presents was a good way to show others that love. Jesus thought that this was a nice idea; after all, Jesus gives gifts to people that have done nothing to deserve them too. While Jesus’ gift is the biggest gift of all, eternal life, Santa gives littler gifts, gifts that you can hold and play with, or wear and play in. Jesus loves illustrations and parables. Santa is like a large, jolly parable in a red suit, giving gifts to the nice boys and girls, despite the fact that all are naughty and fall short of the high standards of true nice. Santa is like grace, if only grace rode a sleigh and ate far too many cookies.

So, how does it all work? Well, when St. Nick (that’s what his friends call him) died, he went to the heavenly registrar’s office and was given a few options for the jobs that he could fill in Heaven: gardener, roofer, lumberjack, poet. They were great jobs, but what he REALLY wanted to do, was to keep giving presents to boys and girls. He thought to himself, “When I was an imperfect man, I could give presents to a hundred children in my town. Now that I’m reborn with a perfected body, I should be able to give presents to all the children in the whole wide world!” As I mentioned before, Jesus thought this was a good idea. St. Nick was so happy to hear this that he decided to celebrate the yearly event on Jesus’ birthday.

There was a problem though: the people still living on Earth didn’t know when Jesus’ birthday was. You might think, “Come on, they didn’t know the most important person ever to live’s birthday??” Yup. They didn’t know it. Remember, Jesus wasn’t famous for almost 30 years after he was born. He was born in a manger, for crying out loud. His parents knew days and weeks and months based on the Jewish calendar, and most people on Earth were using a whole different calendar by this time. Everyone forgot, like when you don’t play with a toy for a month and it stays stuck behind the couch until you move.

Finally, someone decided to re-use a holiday called Saturnalia as Jesus’ birthday. This sent shivers down St. Nick’s spine. Saturnalia was at the end of December. Almost all the people in the world, particularly at that time, lived north of the equator. You see, in December, it is winter in the northern hemisphere. This is because of the way the earth is tilted with respect to its orbit around the Sun.

But that’s neither here nor there. The point is St. Nick was going to get cold when he delivered all those presents. Very cold. So cold that he decided that there was no way he could do it unless he lived someplace that was cold all year round so that he could get used to the chill. This was actually convenient, as Jesus thought it was prudent for Santa to stay away from people during the rest of the year. Jesus knows people, you see. People will steal, they’ll pillage, they’ll do all manner of sinful things. It was best for St. Nick to keep out of sight. The North Pole was just the place.

There was another condition on his new employment. He still had relatives on earth. He didn’t want his friends and family to know that he was doing the presents, so he had to come up with a new name. He decided on Santa Claus, because his first elves all came from a place that would eventually become Holland. They had strange accents, and used to mess up his real name all the time. He finally just started calling himself what they were calling him by mistake. It stuck.

So, by a few dozen years after he started, Santa Claus was all set up on the North Pole. He had elves to make toys – mostly swords and baby dolls at first, but eventually everything up to micro-electronics. The big companies, you see, waive their patents for Santa, since it is fantastic marketing to have one of your products seen in a sleigh. He had some major logistical challenges when getting started as well. Back then, there were no airplanes, no trains, no cars, and barely even any roads. Horses found the North Pole to be far too cold. He thought about riding polar bears, but they would get too hot in certain parts of the world, and they occasionally eat children, which is particularly inappropriate during the Christmas season. Really, the only option was reindeer driven sleighs. He requested an allocation of supersonic magic dust which was delivered within two business days by an armored vehicle. He was all ready to go, but no one knew that he was coming.

He started it out as a secret, then, dropping a toy here, a book there, some sweets in a shoe (that’s what people called candy in the old days), tasty meat and so on. People were confused, but grateful. Soon, they started to realize that all of this stuff was showing up on the same day, December 25th, Jesus’ birthday. Even more confused, they set up guards to watch. Nobody could see Santa though, at least not anyone who was too tall to ride the rides at the amusement park. Only kids could see him at first, because believing is seeing.

People sometimes say that seeing is believing. But this is all backwards, especially when it comes to Santa Claus. In order to see him, you have to know that he’s there, and look based on that assumption. Me, I saw him a lot of times when I was a kid. I saw his sleigh in the sky when we were driving home from Grandma’s house some years. I heard him on the roof. Once, he even knocked over something in my room in the middle of the night! See, Santa, though quick, is not very graceful. It’s all those sweets (candy), and the fact that he only gets one really good workout a year, on Christmas Eve.

Anyway, since I saw him when I was a kid, I can still see him. In fact, your mother and I interviewed with one of his elves, Henry, right before you were born. It’s standard procedure for Santa to consult with parents before a baby’s first Christmas. Even though Santa’s a nice guy, he’s only around one day out of the year. Some large elves make believe they’re Santa in malls and such, something which Santa is fine with: this is also great marketing. Your parents are around all the time, so we make the rules and Santa is completely fine with that. In fact, he uses our rules when determining whether you’re naughty or nice. So, you better be good for goodness sake. And good is defined by this guy, right here, Little Pea. Don’t you forget that!

We told Santa to only bring you one or two presents each year. I know, I know – but think about it little baby. You have all you need already, right? We have a little house! A bunch of presents wouldn’t fit! So, when Jesus’ birthday comes around, you get a couple presents from Mom and Dad, and a couple from Santa Claus. Occasionally, an elf or a reindeer, or even Mrs. Claus (they met in Iceland when he was on his way to the North Pole – it’s a whole different story) will send you a little present.

One thing is very important to remember. Some kids get a lot of presents from Santa, and it’s a good thing because if they didn’t, the economy would collapse. Some get very few, and we set aside some of your presents to help bring holiday cheer to those less fortunate every year. For you, you must understand that you can be happy with what you’ve got; a little or a lot. Stuff isn’t what makes you happy, and presents aren’t what makes Christmas special. It is the bigger things like family and love, friends and fellowship, mystery and holiness, and most of all Jesus that make Christmas special.

One last thing…not everyone believes in Santa Claus. Some folks can’t even see him when he’s right in front of them, dancing a jig. They think it’s silly (though they don’t complain about the presents) and there are even some people who think that you shouldn’t believe in Santa either. It’s possible to live your life without believing in anything, or believing certain things so much that there’s no space for other things. Maybe one day your relationship with Santa will become a bit more complicated than it is now, and maybe you’ll start to see him a different way, but just remember: there’s mystery, magic, and miracle in this world. Whether it’s Santa and elves or not, doesn’t much matter. There’s more to life than what you can see with your eyes and hear with your ears. Believing is what makes life worth living.

So, Abigail, this year on Christmas Eve, keep your eyes on the sky. Listen for bells. Look for a jolly man in a red suit. It’s possible you’ll catch a glimpse, or even a smile and a wink if you’re lucky. Enjoy these simple, happy times. You’re only young once, and sometimes, it’s harder for old people to believe the way that you can. When you meet such people, give them a wink and a smile. Maybe, if they’re lucky, they’ll see Santa Claus too someday.

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SK

“I have just returned from a party of which I was the life and soul; wit poured from my lips, everyone laughed and admired me – but I went away – and the dash should be as long as the earth’s orbit———and wanted to shoot myself.”

It’s been too long since I last read Kierkegaard.

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I have little spare mental energy to write things most of the time, so when I have an idea for a post, I make an appointment in Outlook for it. Then Outlook nags me for weeks, as I kick the reminder 8 hours into the future over and over again. I do the same thing with Outlook at work for any number of chores, but I’m not here to talk about Microsoft Outlook.

My most recent pending topic has been about the predictability of nature and in how that impacts God’s sovereignty. This is a topic with obvious ramifications to both Christians and non-Christians alike, though oppositely obvious.

Hurricane Sandy came ashore after being predicted roughly 9 days before landfall. The models were sniffing at the solution that ended up occurring for a week – a preposterously long time and, as an aside, a marvelous job. The timing of this prediction doesn’t really matter. We understand nature to work in a certain way and make predictions based on this. It is, then, a deterministic system. Given more perfect knowledge, more accurate predictions can be made.

Such systems occur all throughout science. Exactly what should happen most often does happen given a set of well understood initial conditions. There are some exceptions to this of course. There used to be more exceptions. As time passes and our understanding of our environment increases, there are fewer and fewer unexpected results.

For centuries, people, not so much theologians, but regular people, have assigned to God the unexplained. Natural events of unexplained origins, are assigned divine cause. The idea that God has authority over all things is called sovereignty. I’ve been thinking about exactly when this sovereignty has to take place to have its effect recently. In a very real sense, God did not have to control where Hurricane Sandy went. We, with our computer models, knew where it would go, just based on the physical dynamics of the atmospheric system. There was no needs for divine steering of anything. Sure, two weeks out we didn’t know where it would go. If we had more data, better models and faster computers, would we? What if we were able to push it to three or four weeks? At some point, God barely fits into the system – in the limiting case, he’d have to perturb the young universe in such a precise manner that 13 billion years later, Hurricane Sandy would interact with a blocking high pressure system and slam into the New Jersey coast – everything else could be predicted. Once set in motion, it was not to be stopped. (pardon my passive voice)

To the atheist, this is all painfully obvious. It’s because there is no God, and all divine manipulation that we perceive is our own layer of interpretation on top of perfectly reasonable outcomes driven by an initial set of conditions. For the Christian, the opposite is true. Yes these things happen, but they happen to us for a reason, specifically to steer us to some greater trust or faith, some deeper understanding and some more transcendent experience of LIFE, real life. They happen for ANY reason – a plausible reason can be generated for any outcome in hindsight. This worldview could, if abused (or possibly, if allowed to reach its own conclusions), support the abolition of science in favor of the comfort of faith.

To do so would be dishonest. The world is not as simple as that. It does wheel through the universe under the control of knowable laws and forces. If there is a God who is somehow sovereign in the universe, he must operate through the determined courses of predictive science.

Now, I happen to believe that God can intervene within this system, though it certainly doesn’t seem that he does so on a macro sense very often. I may have less answers now that I did in the past, but I do know that the sun will rise and then set tomorrow. I could even tell you the times. But I still can’t explain to you why I find it beautiful. Somewhere in there, there’s truth.

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People do not, generally speaking, keep things because they believe that they will use them again. People keep things because they remind them of their past. Things root people – they prove and validate their existence; they provide a map, a trail, sign posts. Whatever I am now, this is who I was or who I could have been before I was. Time passes, but the past is fixed and immutable.

To some, the thought of an unchangeable past is a millstone about their necks. To others, it is a reminder of dream dashed, hopes left unfulfilled. In either case, there is a steady consistency to the past; it is yours and can never be taken.

I went home to Goshen for about 30 hours on Monday and Tuesday. The water having subsided, I helped move several tons of saturated furniture and assorted boxes – decades of the past, submerged, ruined, erased. Some of it was mine, some my brother’s, some my mothers, but most my father’s.

On one hand, the past is already dead and gone. You can never return to it, you might watch it in hindsight as an observer, but you may never again live in it. On the other, the past is encapsulated in the present. The past lives forever in the person, scribed permanently across time and space, locked and frozen into every scare or line on the brow. The past already happened, died, and decomposed into the present. Physical things might remind one of the past, but they themselves do not own it. The past was not thrown away with the couch and mattress; so long as there is a future, there will always be the past, feeding and anchoring the present.

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I get about 10 hits a day. It’s pretty sad. Of course, who wants to read the same week old entry over and over again? Especially now that AE’s gone.

Anyway, in brief, Jen and I spent the weekend in Buffalo on an unexpected funeral induced vacation. I only talked to my Grandfather-in-law once…he seemed like a pretty funny guy. By the time I met him, words were a scarce resource in his economy. In our conversation, he wasted none on causes less noble than saying some dry, witty remark. He was also a bronze star and purple heart recipient, having fought in the Philippines during WWII. Though it was a funeral, we had a great time – I like her family a lot, they’re a fun bunch of people. And like always, whenever I see a military funeral, I regret not going to West Point. I’ve inquired about how late in life one can enlist. I at least want to go through basic training so that I can show young people that I’m tougher than them, kids these days with their cell phones and twitter and video games. I shake my fist at you. Bah humbug.

My train of thought derailed a little while back. My apologies.

Meanwhile, these pictures are fascinating. Contrary to popular belief, people were not monochromatic 100 years ago. It kind of screws with your brain, you even visualize the world in the terms that you’ve been made to perceive it…but really, black and white film was a limitation of technology, not an artifact of reality. No one 100 years ago, when looking upon a black and white photo, would develop the subconscious impression that the world was really gray – after all, they looked around and knew better. For us, our technology allows us to capture our world essentially as we see it (albeit with less dimensions, for the time being at least), so we never had to negotiate this dissonance between what we see in pictures and what we experience in reality. It makes us less capable at understanding the limitations of the past, as our brain doesn’t automatically translate the blacks to colors.

This presumably happens everywhere; we develop preconceived notions based on our limited ability to understand a situation, then store away that simplified construct in our subconscious, unaware (autonomously at least) that it’s merely a shadow of reality. I could probably think about this for a while…but I have to go to bed.

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I was thinking about it in the bathroom stall at work a couple of days ago. I should have been in the Army – I’ve said that enough times now that it’s probably true. Long ago, I thought that I’d need about 4 lives to accomplish what I wanted to do. In one I’d do what I’m doing, in another, I’d stick with the academic route, and in the other two I’d be a military guy, Air Force and Army. The thought of these multiple life scenarios got me thinking about reincarnation, not so much because I believe it in, but more because I find it to be logically inconsistent.

So, if there’s reincarnation, why don’t more people know what they used to be? Sure, some think they do, but even they don’t think they’re just a continuation of the same consciousness. I, meanwhile, am yesterday’s person plus today. My recollection meaningfully connects what used to be my conscious self to what currently is. It is this continuation of being that defines me (and you for that matter) – I am the collection of my thoughts, feelings, dreams and experiences.

Let’s say I was a WWII airman in my last life – who isn’t after all? I remember Sully and Hank, my name was Tommy and we crashed into a glacier and were entombed in ice. How is that useful again? It’s not like I, me, yesterday’s person one day further along, have had the opportunity to build 22000 days worth of experiences on a previous foundation. Those people think they were something else in another life. Even if they were, it’s useless – they don’t get to reap the benefit of living more than once. Without the accumulated set of experiences, that previous life is no more you than some old photograph – two dimensional, frozen in time.

Understandably, this transitioned to the idea of losing one’s memory in some brain malfunction. If my collective sum of experiences were deleted, the old me would no longer exist. I am what I have been, not what I could have been or wanted to be, but what I have been. People try to reinvent themselves by moving to where nobody knows who you once were…but you still do, and you’re still you. If you lost your mind though, then you’d be nobody. You’d disconnect from your past, start new, be different, under no obligation to be who you are, whatever that once was. Of course, you’d still be old and your achilles’ would still be busted. But you can’t deny it’d be interesting to blow it all up and start it all over.

How old is too old to do that, do you think?

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Where there’s conflict for me it has rarely been, “is it my fault, or is it your fault?” It’s always my fault. My pertinent questions are “is it entirely my fault? do I need to start implementing damage control measures?” Once you’ve caused as many problems as I have, you stop wondering if someone else is to blame and just assume that you are.

In a way this is a positive. I rarely feel affronted by others, most of the time I assume conflict resolution is something that I have to do to make someone else feel better, as surely it’s my fault. Most of the time I was at fault with women, and women, as you might be aware, are never wrong.

That’s the cultural claim, at least. We, mankind, must avoid womankind’s whimsy and wrath, because we are always wrong and they are always right. Conditioned as I was by this cultural assumption, I was surprised when a girl/female/lady friend of mine recounted a recent conflict with someone by echoing my common refrain – of course it was my fault, it’s always my fault, I mess everything up.

As with most things, there’s a fine line between a healthy perspective of ones negative tendencies and an unhealthy self-loathing. Yes, you, me, everyone, even those who are too blind to see their real selves through their mythological self-conceptions, are bad people. We mess everything up. Our natural human tendency is to sow discord. Attribute it to whatever you want – maybe it’s original sin, maybe it’s survival of the fittest, but we constantly strive to elevate ourselves, our glory, our genome above our neighbors. It’s good to hold open the constant possibility that one might be wrong…because we probably are.

The problem comes in when you wrap your identity into being this bad person. Let me introduce myself. I’m Eric. I’m the guy that messes everything up. I can’t help myself, I’ll mess you up too, steer clear, watch out, I’m secretly scheming of ways to screw up the next thing too. We start to use our corrupt nature as an excuse, start to think we are resigned to our fallen fate, we’ll rot and fall under the weightiness of our own evil. Inevitability is an expedient to the continued future decay of your soul.

And it’s true, the whole world is still mired in its corruption, groaning under the stress of its brokenness. It shivers and cities shut down, it spasms and they fall, it heaves and they disintegrate. Year after year more broken people do more broken things, year after year people get sick and die. One day it will be better, one day we will be redeemed from ourselves, but in the meanwhile, deep down we have a new nature. We are now defined by something other than our intrinsic corruption.

Because of this some day it might not be my fault. You will be the first to know. Don’t hold your breath.

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I think that RC Sproul Jr was reading Romans 9:7 literally when he claimed that the one commonality between Christians worldwide was that we were all children of Abraham. He could have dropped down another level to Isaac. I personally have no moral requirement to read that literally, though if Abraham existed (which I do happen to take at face value), all but a handful of purebred aboriginals would be able to trace their lineage through him. I can’t find it anywhere, but I have read somewhere that some arbitrarily high percentage of mankind (Caucasian mankind maybe – you’ll find that I don’t know what I’m talking about here) is somehow related to Napoleon. Trees branch exponentially.

But my Y chromosome came from my father. It’s the same one he got from his father, and his father before him. Women can make no such claims of lineage. I have one Y, and it came from my father.

As a man, I can know with certainty where I got half of my genetic material from. Probably not Napoleon – ’tis too direct a pathway.

Unfortunately, I knew only my father and grandfather. I get the stories mixed up, though I think my great grandfather jumped ship from a German navy vessel while at port in NY before WWI. At least I think I’ve heard that. One generation further and I have no idea. There is no way to find out either.

Imagine one could see a documentary on the life of his paternal great grandfather. And his father, and his father’s great grandfather. I would never get tired of watching it – a thousand generations of falling in love, going to war, working at the mill, laughing with his friends, naming the stars, hunting for food, fashioning tools; were they good men? Brave men? Men of God? Men of might? Smart? Did they treat people well? Were they tyrants or murderers or petty thieves? Did they dream of the future? What did they see?

I’ve never thought of my great grandchild 13 times removed. I don’t know that one will exist; I don’t know that anything of this world will exist 500 years hence.

We can unravel the genome to find predispositions for cancers and immunities to chicken pox. I’d like to unravel the genes to find a 30 minute documentary about my great grandfather’s great grandfather.

But, alas, I cannot dredge the past. I couldn’t even come up with a 3 page paper on my own grandfather. Would my great grandson even care to read mine? It is only my future that I can write, and that only by observing it as it happens.

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My watch keeps track of time on two different counters. The idea, one presumes, is that I could commute back and forth to Chicago and shift my watch by an hour without having to reset anything. I suppose it’s useful.

Unfortunately, T1 was correct and T2 was 2 minutes slow. The watch loses about 30 second a month, and, while the two times were identical a few months ago, T1 had been resynced to atomic time recently, while T2 had not been.

If you lean on the watch, it’ll change times. There is no obvious identifier that this had happened. It did happen to me recently, however. Sometime over break, when time only needs to be accurate to every 5 minutes. I didn’t have my normal clocks around to provide my web of temporal accuracy, and my mother has time zones throughout the house so I wasn’t about to get an honest opinion from the Goshen clocks anyway.

Sometimes was not sitting well with me all day Monday. I was just a tiny bit off on everything – misaligned to reality…by roughly two minutes. It was an unconscious nagging. Finally, I stopped my Tuesday AM meeting midstream, took over the computer and went to time.gov to figure out what the hell was going on. My internal chronometer has accuracy of better than 2 minutes, and an “out of sync” flag was set in my brain. It is now cleared. The world makes more sense.

Time is a tricky thing. The universe, as I mentioned recently is causal. Try to clap in a stadium – it’s impossible to sync the entire stadium up as people are at different points and sound takes a noticable time to travel between them. Start in your bedroom and set out to sync all of your clocks to 7:32 AM. The first one is correct. Radiating outward, the clocks become progressively slower – Greenwich Mean Time might indicate that you should be 7:34 AM when the last one is set to 7:32 AM.

Later, as you walk from the bedroom to the kitchen, time stands still. When you walk from the kitchen to the bedroom, time moves at twice its normal speed. Time, then, is relative – walking from point A to point B is the only objective reality. If you stop talking about walking and start thinking about light’s flight, all the sudden you’re grasping some of the core principles of modern physics.

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In my profession, the concept of pulling signals, meaningful pieces of information, out of the cacophony of useless slop is central. Radar is just that – looking for the specific signals you’re interested in when there are thousands of tiny blips, real and imaginary, getting in the way. No matter how convoluted the collection process, nor how complex the processing software, nothing can compete with the human mind in this endeavor. The brain pulls signals from noise constantly – the world would make no sense if it didn’t. The world still makes no sense though it does.

I live an 11 minute run from a trailhead into Patapsco State Park. Since I have been running again casually, I have been searching for loops that can be completed in the woods while not overwhelming my meager maximum distance rules. The only one that I have found involves a trail made by mountain bikers for mountain bikers. It is a windy, sloppy trail, full of down trees and stacked logs. Too technical for many bikers, it is largely unmaintained and difficult to trace through the blanket of freshly fallen leaves, especially at twilight when I’m normally out there.

There is always a tension, running down that trail. It curves relentlessly – one must keep his eyes ahead to know when he needs to swing around a tree or take some sudden cut up a hill. It requires an integration of several tenths of a second to yank the vague path through the woods out from the various non-coherent piles of leaves strewn uniformly throughout. And yet those tenths are precious. The trail is perilous, with roots and rocks spiking through the carpet, nearly unobservable. Running consists of constant integration of one’s environment. Eyes down, look for imminent danger, eyes up, find the trail; down, track, up, search. High priority signals that could break one’s ankle, long look signals that are need to guide one’s path. Accumulate signals, find patterns.

There are some people who think that woolly bears, and other natural cues, can predict the winter better than modern technology. Traditional long term predictions are impossible from a weather model perspective – a pseudo-chaotic system can only be extrapolated so far before it becomes meaningless. Scientists rely on certain key gauges; water temperature, air pressure trends, wind patterns, solar activity, etc and, based on those, make predictions. These predictions, as well as the manual ones made by individuals, rely on analogs. Feed parameters into a historical dataset and see what previous years had similar starting points. Track the ending point, shift based on how differences in inputs led to differences in behaviors based on other analogs, and you have a long term forecast.

Woolly bears don’t run super computers. Historical analogs are built into the DNA of animals – the wind blows like that, some animals react one way, others react another. Some survive, some don’t. Advantageous instinctual behavioral patterns lead to increased reproductive viability, eventually to a preponderance of woolly bears that turn more black when the winter is going to be harsh. A large sample population of woolly bears (not individual colonies, which can vary) may have predictive power – thousands of years of analogs have culled their genome to include useful traits triggered in applicable situations. We have less than 100 years of reliable weather data. But still, given inputs, certain outputs are dictated. Analogs can reduce the variables that need to be considered when pulling signals from noise. Some variables are meaningless. Others are vital.

A friend buys into the Myers Briggs model of personality prediction. I, like a lions share of the population, scored as an INTJ several years ago. I think this is a crock, one with no predictive power. I took it again, thinking things have changed in my head. In two different evaluations, I still came back INTJ. One said slightly, moderately, moderately, distinctly for the four traits respectively. The other gave numbers; 60%, 56%, 66%, 89%. Lara is something different. Joining her are Bill Clinton, Hitler, and Abraham Lincoln.

For individual cases, the personality profile is useless – Hitler, Lara, and Lincoln are all of the same ilk, for instance. However, given a massive population, trends can evolve. Only in the presence of heavily processed statistics can a signal be pulled from a noisy, unpredictable sample.

Statistics are not deterministic. Reality is a fuzzy ball of potential solutions, bound by parameters which we can rarely influence and only occasionally define. Even if it is a system driven by an invisible hand, we cannot often guess his will for specific events with any reliability. The best we have is the accumulation of patterns, the use of historical analogs (otherwise known as “experience”), and an incomplete and unreliable images of how something should be given what it seems to be. If we can’t model the weather for more than three days at a time, how can we hope to model the capricious whimsy of mankind?

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It is extremely common for me to set my watch timer, both at work and home. Sometimes it’s a reminder – my watch will start beeping seemingly out of the blue and I’ll have to piece together what it is I was supposed to remember. Most of the time that’s something like “take the recyclables out”. Other times it gives me an instant deadline. Today, after poking into a meeting and being told I could come back in a half hour, I set the watch for 26:00. I don’t even look at it most of the time. I arrived back with 8 seconds to spare.

During that 26 minutes, it didn’t matter what time of day it was. It didn’t matter the day of the week. It didn’t even matter what year it was. I could have been 24 or 64, decades younger or older. It didn’t matter. Time is a relative quantity, a local quantity. Time exists because cause and effect exist. My entire universe was synced up to a 26:00 timer. Nothing else mattered.

Time is not a thing. Yes, there is a locally absolute time here on earth. It is related to the decay of cesium. Maybe the rotational rate of a pulsar.

It is completely arbitrary. Why should my day be predicated by the decay rate of some obscure element? Or the rotation of the earth around its axis? Or the rotation of the planet around the sun? Or, if we lived a lot longer, the rotation of the sun around the galactic center?

Time is a local phenomenon. It only makes sense in a causal universe. One thing happens, and another thing follows it. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that someone quantified the spaces in between. It lets me compare it to other similar periods of time, however ineffectively. A year is a long ass amount of time. A year ago, I was…sheesh, that was only a year? Two years ago, plus three months, I was running 90 mile weeks. It’s been that long already?

A decade, a year, and a few days ago we won the state meet. Thirteen years and two weeks ago I was writing on my computer at home “I will make states, I will make states” in every font that Word Perfect had. Two decades ago I was reading Pachycephalosaurus in Miss Lyons class.

If time is based only on cause and effect, its passage only can occur when the effects come to pass. But what if those events lay in an uncertain future? How do you move forward? How do you grow up? How does time pass? It will be a year from some unknown day in the future. How long is that? My clock is broken. I can’t live from event to event and that is my problem. I look to a future that I can’t see over the horizon, while all the other timers in my life count hopelessly toward nothing in particular. You can’t live for effects, especially ones that don’t even exist yet. The clock will tick, and I will be one second closer to the end of my existence on this planet. There’s no time to lose. Causes don’t have effects until the effects happen. Before then they are just causes. That arbitrary tick of the clock is the only effect.

A series of events, heralded by an endless accumulation of ticks of a clock. I remember the past but can’t see the future – therefore time is moving forward. Time points from event, to event, to event. And then one day you die, unfulfilled. And what happens to time? Does cesium decay in heaven?

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Wait just one second. I’ve seen that tree before. I know this road. I’ve been here – I know where this goes! I know where it ends! I’ve been playing this game forever and a day; I’m quite certain I can’t win at it. It’s the definition of insanity you know, doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

Today at work a co-worker told me he was going to work on his house. He had nothing else to do, so he was going to put molding in various unnecessary places. Are our lives really so pointless that all we can do is hang molding, trying to stay busy until we finally can die? That’s a silly existence, is it not?

It’s also not the only one.

I spent my entire running career going in circles. Who says that is a bad thing? I rather enjoy it.

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There were so many tangents at Bible study tonight that I can’t recall what context brought it about, but I used Schrodinger’s Cat as a metaphor for whatever it was we were talking about. In my explanation, I fused the explanation of it with spooky action at a distance, but the principle is the same. In quantum mechanics, things do not have concrete states until you make a measure of something. Prior, the physics of the very small involves probability distributions – the particle is neither here nor there, it is only in a fuzzy probability location representing both/all locations.

Schrodinger’s Cat is a thought experiment whereby a real thing, a cat, is kept in a chamber with poisonous gas. The gas will be released if a certain atom decays. This decay is another one of those fuzzy things – if we don’t observe it, it hasn’t happened. It hasn’t not happened either. It remains undefined.

So…is the cat then alive or not alive? Has the decay occurred, if so it’s dead. Has it not occurred, then it is alive. The cat’s existence has now been smeared across two states, the cat himself straddling the living and the dead in some paradoxical way. The point of this thought experiment was to show the lunacy of following these esoteric theories to their logical conclusions.

The metaphorical point, however, is that the mere action of measuring/observing/investigating something necessarily reduces the possible states associated with it. I wrote about this last year in what was apparentlyBess’s favorite post. It harkens back to Shakespeare’s Hamlet – It is neither good nor bad, but that thinking makes it so. Until something is classified, it is not one or the other. Vague, nebulous, undefined, at all times all things. And then you say, “fine, I’ll bite,” and whoosh, all the sudden it’s not so complicated, not so interesting. It just is what it is and nothing more.

The point of this thought experiment remains the same as that of Schrodinger’s Cat. The thing recently scrutinized was what it was all along. The cat was dead or it was alive. It’s a property of you, namely your knowledge of the situation, that has changed.

It’s not the cat’s fault that it’s not a infinite smear of all things at all times.

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Like a good reformed theologian, I subscribe to Table Talk from Ligonier Ministries. I actually signed up for a 3 year subscription. It was very economical, and it isn’t my intention to change appreciably between now and 2 and a half years from now. I also need to compensate for being only 70% reformed, but that’s neither here nor there.

The August issue focuses on Atheism as it manifests itself in the 21st century, discussing the views of Dawkins and his eminently forgettable pop-religious friends. They, of course, present it in a much more respectable manner, then attempt to burst the uber-zoologist/theologian’s bubble by poking at holes in the non-god theory. Hardly something that can be done in a two page article.

They rightly pointed out that the biological approach has no answer for the question “Why are we here?” They present it as a problem in the non-god thesis.

If I’m scoring the debate, I give the evangelicals zero credit for that point. If there is no god, the question “why are we here?” is meaningless. They are under no obligation to provide humankind with an answer for that question, simply because the question implies the conclusion. It’s circular any way you cut it, and not a necessary in a secular discussion.

On one hand, if there is a reason why we are here, then the question makes sense. I can’t conceive of an answer that doesn’t involve a higher power, though I’m open to whatever you have for me. The “why” is either about god, and any generic god will do, or about us. If the answer to the why loops back in on the one asking the question (to love one another, to make mankind better, to blah blah, whatever), then it is entirely circular. Human are here to love one another – uhh, why should we? If there is a reasonable answer to the why, it must somehow involve a god.

An atheist might answer that we are here to perpetuate the species. This is the biological answer to why everything exists – continued survival. But this doesn’t answer the question about why. It discusses the activities, not the causes. I eat and sleep as activities, not as some existential cause for consciousness. They should throw out the question, and ignore the philosophical ramifications – it doesn’t apply to them, and any answer they try to give will be lacking.

In fact, I hope it goes on the next humanist/atheist best seller. “You exist for no reason, but don’t worry, there’s no reason why you should exist for any reason.” I wonder how well that would be embraced by the popular masses? When push comes to shove, people think that things happen for a reason. Even if they don’t say it, they think that THEY exist for a reason. Get rid of religion, and you exist for no reason.

Tell you what. I’ll try to gather the evangelical ranks. We’ll stop rubbing your noses in your lack of answer to that question. In return, when you draft the Ten Commandments of the Modern Atheist, I expect to see “Thou shalt exist for no reason, and be comfortable with the philosophical ramifications.” in bold letters. And I am interested to see what a utopian new humanity looks like with that assumption taken a priori.

Remember: ideas have consequences.

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I found a new ab workout last night. By four in the morning, when I tried to move my legs or reposition in bed, I thought I was going to rip my stomach in half – it was that effective. I was so proud of my clever masochism, because, damnit, it was going to make me strong as an ox. The plan was to be sufficiently thicker than my borderline All-American brother so as to counteract some of his ridiculous endurance while hauling ass through the Alps. I have a gimpy achilles; I can’t train to get in real shape. The thinking was that if I could support the packs better, I’d be able to distribute the fatigue more efficiently over my frame, negating some of his advantage. He, of course, thinks that I’m an idiot for being so competitive about everything – but the goal wasn’t to win, it was to not be a liability. “Don’t be a liability” is scrawled violently on my white board. Beneath it, a detailed plan of how I’m going to chisel a stronger frame from stone for our adventure to the mountains. The plan, not the first of its kind either, stretched to mid July.

It replaced another plan that had stretched into September.

Then, a half hour later, we finally admitted to ourselves that our trip would be too much of a logistical challenge this year.

I took an existentialism class in college. I love Soren Kierkegaard, and the worst part about the Julia experiment was that she kept it for toilet paper when she got lost in the woods. I am consistently intrigued by existential concepts, favoring SK especially, but deep down I am not an existentialist.

It’s easy to tell the difference. When I eat jellybeans, I don’t pick the one that I want to eat. I eat them such that I always have the same number of each remaining. My course of action for any present moment is focused directly on the future, never on the present.

My brother didn’t understand why I would want to put my physical will to the test for a meaningless trip. I explained to him that it is very difficult to live without a goal. I have nothing to bombard with the blunt force of my raw will. I can’t race. I needed to have a goal for something even if that was holding my own up a few mountains with an elite athlete. Now, I have a goal for nothing. Sure, I have a bunch of plans, I have many intentions for the future, a few things that I’m looking forward to, sure.

But when I’m tired, when I’m lethargic, why should I persevere? Why do the extra mile? Why do the last set? Why drop the pace – even if I could, to what end? Horses training for the Derby have a purpose; hamsters on wheels are insane.

If there is anything I’ve learned in the last many months, it’s that my goals do not correlate to the whimsy of the universe. No God, no cosmic bath of electrons, no wind through the trees is under any obligation to honor my plans. So, why do I still make 6 month projections when I can’t guarantee the next three minutes? Because it gives an illusion that I am in control of my life.

Existentialism is right on one thing: we can’t grasp one second of the future in our hands. We can only hope to ply our trades in one moment of time. This one. This one. This one. Tick, Tick, Tick.

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Today, in one of my (4) meetings, we were discussing status – a popular topic in my industry. Despite having over a year worth of work, our schedule only went for a couple more months. Our de facto group lead pointed out, “Well, this schedule’s only until the end of June and then…”

600 years ago, a goodly number of people believed that they could only sail a certain distance to the west before cascading off the end of the world. The world was bounded in physical space to them – in their minds, it was much easier to conceive of a world that abruptly halted at the edge of existence than one that wrapped around on itself in a cosmic lump.

We have a very different logical understanding of our surroundings now. Mankind is a race of the steady state – things will remain, we assume, as they have always been. Travel west, and can you keep traveling west indefinitely. Shoot a beam of light and into the cosmos it races inexorably. Get to the end of June, and you need to make the schedule another few months in advance.

But really, what is it that has convinced us of this reality? Is our previous continued existence a guarantee of our future continued existence? Should time’s arrow always fly straight ahead? Why should it fly at all? Even our concept of history has proven us wrong over and over again – Black Swans drive human experience, even though they are, by definition, unexpected. Why should reality be any different? Why should there be a tomorrow? Just because yesterday’s tomorrow has come to be doesn’t require that today’s tomorrow do the same.

As it stands, I’ll probably update the schedule soon anyway. We are bound by the existence which we find ourselves in, and in this current world the sun also rises. But it needn’t.

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Forgetting, for the time being, the repugnance of a pregnant “man”, I have a couple of other issues with this video.

First, there’s a fantastic sound bite of a “man on the street” (“woman on the street” would have a different implication) saying that she hopes more men would give it a try. You see, that’s going to be kind of hard. This particular “man” has a vagina/uterus/ovaries. I’m pretty sure those are instrumental in getting pregnant.

I’m also pretty sure those are instrumental in determining one’s gender. Biologically speaking, if you have a uterus, you’re a woman. I’m not sure if a fetus could gestate in a ureter. It certainly doesn’t sound pleasant – it would shut up womankind once and for all at least. “Yeah, trying carrying an 8 pound baby for 9 months in a millimeter wide canal! Your back hurts, cry me a river, I haven’t taken a leak in 39 weeks!”

Of course, this brings up another question: is that manish looking woman who think she’s a man, really a man? Is it one’s perception of reality that defines reality? If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Now that I listen to the BBC on the way home from work, I am infinitely more cultured. Not cultured enough to be able to ascertain the background of a story that I started listening to three quarters of the way through (I don’t know where this happened, or to whom it happened), but cultured enough to get the crux of the matter.

There is a place where sometime 20+ years ago, the ruling ethnicity stole babies from their enthic minority parents (who were, to add injury to insult, murdered in the process). Apparently these two ethnicities look physically similar, because the children grew up not knowing their roots. For 20+ years, they were upper crust majority members.

So, then, what defines a person as a person? Is it the combined experiences of their entire life, or is it their genetic chemistry?

You see, I’d tend to say that the woman is still a woman, even if she has lived her life thinking she was properly a man.

But I’d also say that the child reared in her new society is a member of that society, and not the society she is genetically affliated with.

There’s a logical inconsistency there. In fact, as I try to put myself in a moral liberal’s shoes, I think that I’d reverse my assertions, being logically inconsistent on the other side.

So which way is it? As we stand, I’d say I’m wrong both ways.

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I’m about two posts away from needing a category exclusively for personal hygiene. This evening was one of those weekend nights where I…go to Wegmans. Now, granted, Wegmans is the greatest supermarket on the planet, better, even, than SuperFresh, but normally I wouldn’t brag about being there on a Saturday night. No, normally I’d have an embarrassed non-verbal exchange with the floor manager and move on. But today I was addressing a personal hygiene concern, namely dry, itchy skin on my back where I can’t reach it. Among other things, but that was high on my list.

No more than three minutes into my shopping trip, I stood facing a line-up of incomprehensible cleaning products. After deciding on Aveeno, because I used to take baths in it when I had chicken pocks (both times) and it was disgusting, I was face to face with this thing. And I almost bought one too. But I picked it up, held it momentarily, and tossed it back in disgust; “Are you serious?” I said to myself.

No, I went to the dish washing section instead. Now, if this doesn’t exfoliate, I don’t know what will.

Manlier Sponge
And now a story.

A year and a half ago, I applied for a job that required elevated clearance. I was summarily dismissed from the investigation process halfway through. Interested in enumerating some of my faults, I requested the information on my file via the Freedom of Information Act.

Nothing happened for 18 months. And then today I got a 50 page packet in the mail. About 43 pages of it was photocopies of all the crap they made me fill out, but the rest was fascinating, you know, if you like reading about me, which I do. Included was my psychological evaluation. If this is the reality of my existence, I see no reason why I shouldn’t make it public – after all, it’s plain enough to see. I am, apparently, what I am.

I remember the interview well – it was non-eventful, even pleasant. I had scored somewhat high on the 300 question psych exam. By “high” I don’t mean that I got a 94% for awesomeness either, it was more of a “elevated for craziness” sort of high. But not that high, it was something of an averagely aberrant set of numbers.

“Mr. Furst,” it reads, “is a 25-year-old man who looks his chronological age.” Why, thank you. “He was tall and lanky.” I was? Did that change? OK, don’t see where you’re going with this, but yeah, I guess tall and lanky does the trick. “He presented as dysphoric, cynical, and socially withdrawn.” Hey now! Time to bust out the dictionary. Fidgety; no surprises here. Though to be honest, I had hoped that my perpetual motion wasn’t, you know, third sentence sort of material. Lest I develop a big head, I suppose the chronologically correct compliment had to be followed by something to bring me back down to earth.

Or, as it would turn out, fourth pages of something to bring me back down to earth.

In conclusion, I came up as a veritable cornucopia of mild deviations from standard human psychological states. I have the possibility for mood swings, for instance, a stunner if you’ve read this website for more than two weeks in a row. Mild depression – well, you have to swing to something. A grab-bag of personality traits ranging from narcissistic to obsessive compulsive to controlling to cynical. Newsflash. And, in general, I suppose that I’m a “moderate to high risk for future impaired functioning” and the like. Hasn’t really happened yet, this hypothetical impaired functioning, but heck, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I will always be poised. I try to make believe (and apparently fail), but I am no machine.

It’s all more or less accurate, with a couple of exceptions. Like the part where it says that I have difficulty standing up for myself – not really true. Like right here, for instance, as it relates to that sentence.

While it’s perhaps disconcerting that the federal government thinks me “only minimally to moderately reliable in [my] self-report” (and we’ll see how well I hang on to what I need to keep my job in six months when that’s reevaluated for that!), I’m not eager to let it keep me up at night a second time. I already failed at all this 18 months ago, heck, I almost ran away to graduate school because of it, no need to revisit what I already knew.

I am how I am because that’s just how I was made. I didn’t choose it, but I wouldn’t trade it either. I had hoped that a 15 minute interview wouldn’t tell a trained eye that I am multiply (muhl-tuh-plee) deficient, but guess what, we live in a deficient world. One is only vulnerable when he’s afraid of what people will find out about him; weaknesses are only weaknesses if they make you weaker. The goal shouldn’t be to hide what you are. The goal is to use what you have, whatever that may be, to glorify God as best you can.

That and exfoliation.

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I’m back on Glucosamine/Chondroitin, which I postulate led to a dramatic increase in dream rate a few months back. I have had dreams the first two nights after starting to take it again, and I happened upon one that I can share last night.

It involved Captain Picard/me. I think we were essentially the same person, or perhaps he metaphorically represented me. I’ve always considered Stephen to be more Picard-like than I – I’m more of a Sisko guy myself, on the spectrum of Star Trek commanders. All of that aside, he/I were captured and held in a prison somewhere. Eventually the captors said that all we (the singular we, sometimes I was identically him, sometimes I was outside of him watching him as though he were me. We were never two separate/autonomous entities, but there was a duplicity anyway) needed to do for our freedom was leave. Go ahead, you’re free to go.

Outside the cell opened into a huge, deep cavern with hundreds of corridors/rooms hewn into the canyon walls. It was subterranean, but well lit. People could be seen milling past the openings at a variety of levels. You could never see the people next to you though, at least only barely.

A large man provided the explanation why we were in this arrangement. He popped his head out of our opening, craining to see the orifices to his right. I don’t know why he wanted to directly, but the implication was that it was a right of his freedom to know everything around him. Unfortunately, it was the right of someone’s freedom to give him a kick in the butt. Our captors smiled as he was dashed beneath the crags below, joining the pile of severed body parts strewn about the walls.

“Yes, you can have your freedom,” they smirked. It seemed to me that this was the quickest way they could get rid of us, by letting us revel in our entitlement.

Does everyone else’s dreams transition as mine do? Some fragments of the setting of the previous dream, completely different plot? Immediately after or before I was still a captive, in a sense, though in a room not a cell. It was understood to be the same place as Picard/I was before, but the plot was completely different. That happens every time, dreams blend into other dreams. There is a metaphorical link between every thread of thought with every other one.

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Human experience is a series of punctuated equilibria. Months pass as you float aimlessly through life. You think nothing, feel nothing, you barely live, numb, vaguely contented, perhaps imprisoned, all the while aware that life exists; it does, it must.

At rare intervals the clouds open. Various manifestations yield the same end result, something I have termed ‘angst’. It is angst, or whatever you like to call it, that spurs change. Roused from a slumber, alert and aware, wholly uncomfortable, occasionally ecstatic and all together different you forge into the unknown, driven by something that makes your status quo uninhabitable.

Yes, for a variety of reasons I have had my share of angst of late. It seems like a negative word, it’s not. I take it to mean heightened consciousness, an awareness to different stimuli, a gathering of understanding about something accompanied by an associated loss of understanding about something else. Perhaps it’s like drilling for oil in ones soul, painful yes, and the geyser that results ruins the view for miles. But in the end, a new equilibrium is met, a balance perhaps is achieved. And you have thousands of gallons of unprocessed crude, black gold, just waiting to be synthesized into something useful, something necessary.

I have learned a few things from my recent eruption. I’m not sure that any of them have reached the position of core philosophies, as captured on the back half of my index card collection. Not yet, and they might even be foolish. But here’s what I learned. I haven’t figured out what it means yet, fragments, a puzzle piece, some all black and a whole bunch of them shaped like squares.

1) “Someday never comes” is a Credence Clearwater Revival song. Some Fogarty’s father left him, some day he’d understand why. When he then left his own son he told him the same thing. The catch is that this “someday” is a pie in the sky, there is no day when things will make sense, not here, someday never comes. For the last few months I’ve been telling myself that everything will make sense. Next week. 10 days from now I’ll know much better. Well guess what. It’s ten days after. I don’t know any more than before, I know less. The passage of time does not reveal answers, not in this life. Nothing makes sense, nothing is whole, nothing is untainted and nothing is guaranteed.

2) Mankind is broken. We, as a species, are sickly. Forgetting the religious undercurrent (which explains all of this neatly, and even offers a final solution), it doesn’t take much to see that most of the world has gone mad. We value horrendous things. We strive for all varieties of perversions. We manipulate, we medicate – we don’t deal with the problems that we ourselves cause because we can’t. Nothing is pure in the human experience, because humans are fallen, sullied people. Happiness breeds depression in some, mortification projects a sort of pleasure in others. Families collapse, society decays, toddlers are murdered by their parents and we wag our fingers while lapping up the stories and glorifying the video games that teach that behavior. Human society is a never ending battle against entropy, slow decay, slow destruction. We spread our brokenness to each other like a plague.

3) Nothing is guaranteed. I’ve been shaken up by the race at nationals. Stephen’s class was one of destiny. Awesome guys, guys that got along well, worked hard, had dreams, had goals, had a mission, had one last chance. And failed. I don’t understand it. Story books don’t end like this. You mean that everything I’ve ever been taught about happy endings is a load of crap? There’s always next year doesn’t work in the last year. Someday never comes. And yet we still, as a broken society, clamoring for more stuff to herald Christ’s birth, have a sense of personal entitlement. We expect that the story has a happy ending for us, and if we can’t find it naturally, we force our way to it at the expense of everyone around us. I can tell you this: in this life, nothing is guaranteed. Christian theology won’t save you here – or, it will save you…but not here. This life offers no promises. Pursuit of happiness, sure, pursue it if you want. There’s no reason why you should necessarily find it. And when you do, when that last piece of the puzzle, the one that was supposed to make you satisfied, does come around, you learn that you need more, it’s not finished. Next week you’ll have it all together. No you won’t. You might not even be alive next week.

4) So then what does one do? My refrain for the past month has been “every day, the best that you can.” Over and over again. Over and over. Every day, just do what you can, every day. No negative footprint, just do your best. Help someone, try not to hurt anyone. Just every day, every day, the best that you can do. What else can you do? In this world, you can only do the best you can. You can strive all your life for the perfection available to you, learning how to gracefully fail, learning how to pick yourself up. But the failing is an inexorable part of the human experience and you can’t make it go away. Every day, the best you can. Every day, one at a time. Just breath.

5) The uncertainty principle, as meta physics, has left many a scientist cold and confused. But life runs by the uncertainty principle as well. The more you know about one aspect of life, the less you know about another. It has been an odd dynamic, to have had an intimate, though tumultuous, relationship with God while having a tumultuous, though intimate relationship with mankind as a whole. I don’t understand it. All I know is that the more that I understand of one thing, the less that I understand of something else. This is why you’ll never be better off next week then this week. This is why you can only strive for a positive mark. Do the best you can, because God only knows how this all is supposed to fit together.

6) God doesn’t want your assent. He wants your service. He wants you to be an agent of love, orderly love, mending broken lives, slaying chaos slowly with how you live. This is true. This is biblical. We miss this too often, the intellectual religious elite. We do the best we can mentally, and we neglect everything else. The more we understand theology, the less we understand society. I don’t understand how it all fits together. And I can’t. That’s why it’s just every day, the best you can do. And for Christ’s sake, literally, that needs to be an outward process.

7) I learned that it doesn’t matter if my pens match. I have another log book. I have three pens of different colors. Two are ink-ish, and the other is a bic pen. I don’t know. I just know that I don’t have to match them. Not with the world like this. You see, the problem is that I, and you too probably, try to make up for the world’s uncertainty by making ourselves and our environs as deterministic as possible. We do what we do, regardless of if we want to, regardless of if we know why. I was in that dance class. I didn’t like it. I went anyway because I don’t stop doing things because I don’t like them. That’s wonderful for tempo runs, but why should I subject myself to dance class against my will? Because I am compulsively in control of myself, that’s why. But I don’t have to be. The pens don’t have to match each other. I can use different pens if I don’t have the ones I normally use. I can forget some things some times. How can I control the world if I can’t control myself? Why should I try? That is a pathology, control. Trying to control too much, when nothing and no one fits in a box.

It’s not the end of the world, losing control. The world is uncertain anyway. Everyone else is just as broken as I. It doesn’t matter much in the long run, so long as you do the best you can, every day. Because you might not be here next week, and if you are, there’s no reason why next week should be any better than this week, time doesn’t heal wounds, it just makes newer ones hurt worse than the older ones. Nothing is guaranteed to you, and like it or not, you’re not entitled to anything. Every day, just the best you can. That’s your lot in life. That’s my only destiny, continued existence, just continue. One day at a time.

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The first time one investigates the rumble strips on the side of the highway while motionless is always an eye opening experience in perspective. As you whiz past at 65 mph, they seem narrow and deep. That’s not really the case. Each depression is really a foot wide. The depth is almost insignificant. Changing your frame of view entirely changes the properties of the objects being examined.

Often times, these indentations fill with a half inch of water. This morning, as the sun rose over southbound 195, the strip on the left hand side of the road was filled with water. Were I standing on the highway, I’d see the reflection of trees, a hill, a sunrise, a smattering of clouds – but I wasn’t, I was moving. It doesn’t feel real, like frames in an old movie flashing past the eyes. Or images as in a dream; snap, snap, snap, snap, fusing together to create a picture reel, a flip book of reality, discretized though coherent.

I’ve read, and validated, that the human mind can process language so long as the first and last letters of a word are in the correct location. The letters in between can be jumbled and the mind will still process the word, almost without pause. This morning I watched the sunrise through a two foot wide row of water, one foot at a time and I lost little of the grandeur. It makes you wonder what is necessary, what is essential.

Life is a series of discrete events that intermingle to a cohesive whole.

The mind doesn’t process two things simultaneously. I wonder what would happen if, instead of a flat surface of water balanced by gravity, I had a set of 1 foot wide mirrors, collectively cocked a few degrees left. I imagine I’d still get an image – why wouldn’t I, it’s just a few degrees. I still have the angle above the horizon. Then, instead of having one set of mirrors separated by strips of nothing, I had a second set of mirrors, pointed a few degrees right. Independently each would cast their picture reel into my brain – I’d understand the whole picture with half the images. But when they’re both present? Then what does my mind do? Do we interweave stimuli if they are not simultaneous, but also not independent?

I think this is how it works in every day life. I am about to work for however many straight hours, work will shine into my head one strip of light at a time, while all varieties of other images stream in at evenly spaced intervals, casting an image of something entirely different. Something bigger, maybe. The question is whether or not it’s a pile of unassociated nothing, or a coherent image.

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Today in Radar Class, the teacher mistakenly had a two equations superimposed on top of each other on the same slide.

My new computer has a dual core processor. It can handle two independent tasks simultaneously, be they independent of or in parallel with each other. I decided it was time for humankind to split its brain and process different tasks at the same time. Now, I am, on occasion, the master of multi-tasking. Several of you know that I fold laundry and talk on the phone at the same time. There are multiple things of that variety that people do simultaneously. I’m talking about processing two entirely divergent stimuli and synthesizing both. Two lectures at once, independent of each other, and both incorporated at full capacity. After work, I will eat dinner, watch SportCenter and read Sports Illustrated at the same time. But I still only do one at each moment, I just swap between the tasks with granularity on the time scale of seconds. Doing each effectively, as though the other two were not present, that’s where the human mind needs to go.

I scribbled notes on this as I listened about integrator noise response, as I worked on this week’s homework, as I grappled for shelter to bulwark myself against the monsterous flood of uncertainity cascading through my mind. It’s not that we don’t do two things at once now. We just don’t do them independently. To quote, they are “tainted” by each other.

Meanwhile, my phone message LED at work is flash continuously, for no good reason. It reminds me of Poe’s Tell Tale Heart. I can’t decide if it’s the eye or the beating heart though. It’s definitely the Alan Parson’s Project version of the story, whatever the case.

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Last year’s Thrall trip yielded a bumper crop of old books, including ‘The Selected Letters of John Keats’. I don’t know John Keats from Jon Arbuckle. And I had no intention to read this entire volume, especially the introduction which would have given me some context. I did, however, take a shining to his love letters to a young Fanny Brawne. I skipped toward the end. He was dying of consumption, whatever that actually is. She would walk past his window, and he’d pine after her dolefully, then write her a letter telling her as much. He’d burn himself ulcers worrying about her, devote every waking minute to the contemplation of her wondrous beauty, all the while wasting away in a sequestered room, with but parting glances at the object of his unwavering devotion.

I couldn’t help but notice what a miserable existence his was. He dreamed of the opportunity to hold her once more, but dreaded seeing her as her visage stoked the flames of his desire that could do nothing but burn themselves out in his pitiable sickly soul. He daily attempted to convince himself that he was feeling better, that he would see her soon, that she should wait, oh please God, just wait!

And she did. And he died. Why would anyone subject himself to that? I can see no biological reason why we should be bound by such brutally raw unadulterated emotion. No amount of desire, no intensity of feeling could change one cold, unavoidable fact: he was dying.

I’m no scholar, nor do I know anything about John Keats. I do know that he didn’t write directly to dear Fanny Brawne in the last month of his life. He wrote her mother, and spoke of his devotion once more. His last letter was to trusted friend, Charles Brown. He was weak and moribund as he scribed his final words:
“I can scarcely bid you good-bye, even in a letter. I always made an awkward bow. God Bless you! John Keats.”
And thus it ended.

Do not mix love with death – poor John Keats may have been emotionally alive, but he was not happy. It makes you wonder if any of it’s worth it.

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I spent several hours Saturday morning tearing a roof off someone’s house.  When you own only brown casual shoes and worn out running shoes, roofs can be surprisingly slippery, especially when a fine layer of dust is generated from the debris.  I skidded enough times to temporarily sound the alarm, but it wasn’t really a big deal.  I’m not, in general, afraid of heights.  Besides, it was maybe 12 feet to the ground (in many spots), what’s the worst that could happen?

What I am afraid of, as evidenced by my dream last night, is vertical ladders of significant length.  I was tasked with climbing a series of ladders to take data measurements on some elevated train tracks.  The dream ended, but the semi-conscious thought of letting go and plummeting backwards remained for a few seconds.

I don’t have much of a death wish, but vertical ladders bother me.  So do houses with guns.  Running alongside fast moving traffic (or better yet an effing freight train) wears on me too.

Many decisions are reversible.  For instance, when one misses an exit on a highway, he does not need to backup on the shoulder.  He does not.  Don’t do it.  There’s always a second chance when it comes to roads, even of the second chance is 20 miles away.  There is a category of decisions, however, that are irreversible.  One need only let go of that ladder one time, and he will never have the opportunity to do it again.  It is not that I fear developing a momentary loathing of my continued existence – I fear the temporary suspension of rational thought.

Most decisions are automatic.  Even semi-autonomous functions can be altered when one thinks about them excessively.  Last week, I had to punch in a code to a new door.  It’s the same code I use on a handful of other doors several times a day.  As I walked to the new one, I started trying to figure out what the code was – I couldn’t.  It was in my fingers, not my conscious brain.  I got to the door and couldn’t get in.  Later, I went back out, without thinking, and entered it correctly.

Maybe that doesn’t register with people.  Sit here and listen to yourself breath.  How many breaths a minute do you take?  Count them.  I guarantee that the answer you get is not equal to the total number of breaths an unseen observer just watched you take in the previous minute.  By examining an automatic process, it became influenced by your observation.  It was not an unbiased measurement, your subjective reality impacted it in a way that you yourself cannot disentangle.

Still, most times the conscious monitoring of one’s breathing does not lead to passing out in a heap due to lack of oxygen.  We general make sensible decisions when we override our automatic functions.  I have yet to step in front of an 18 wheeler when running along side a 55 mph country road.

But I could.  It doesn’t take much.  It takes one, “aww, what the hell, I always avoid traffic,” moment, and that’s it.  It takes one “I’m going to let go of this rung,” and that’s the end.  One irrational moment with a gun and you or someone else is no longer alive.  For high stakes decisions, momentary lapses in reasons have drastic impacts.

It gets even worse when mind altering chemicals, such as alcohol, are involved.  Driving drunk wouldn’t happen if ones internal logic circuits were functioning.  But, the very decision making abilities that makes one a poor driver while intoxicated renders one less capable of making intelligent decisions.  I suppose the driving example is convolved; the fact that reason is broken leads to the decision that allows one to do something that is impacted drastically by additional broken reason.  Take something like sex, then.  Not a bad thing when you’re thinking straight (unlike driving drunk, which is impossible to do while thinking straight), but when you’re drunk, all the sudden you have a kid.  Maybe you’re lucky and you just have inconvenient drama (a low stakes reprecussion); it’s the high stakes problems that get people in trouble.  One high stakes lapse ruins a life.

Since I had the dream, I’ve been tinkering with the idea of high stakes decision mitigation.  You can’t suspend rational thought with a gun if you can’t find one.  You can’t jump in front of a truck when you’re running on a trails.  Maybe that’s why it’s so much more relaxing for me – I swapped a low probability, high stakes ramification (namely, lunging in front of a car) for a medium probability, low stakes result (namely twisting my ankle).  And for the love of God, stay off vertical ladders.  At least with normal ladders your center of gravity takes you into the rungs instead of backwards to your doom.

One half a second, one half a second, one need only lose control of his mind for one half a second and everything changes.  The more one commandeers autonomous tasks by conscious thought, the more likely it becomes.  Hell, it happened like 4 times in my semi-conscious dream state before I sat up, drank some water and reset my mind.  It’s not a pleasant prospect.

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I have a voice recorder in my car. I’ve thought of its existence three times. The first time was driving north on Route 1 out of Raleigh early last year – sick of writing ideas on scraps of paper while driving, I decided that rambling semi-coherently into a recorder would be a more manageable option. One must remain productive while wasting hours in his car after all. Thinking this to be a revolutionary idea (I normally think of things to write about when I don’t have other things to think about, which often occurs while I drive for large expanses of time), I had my mother mail me her old one.

I have now used it twice. Once was during my second trip to Raleigh last year, while on Route 1. The second one was yesterday, right after I got on to Route 1 (again) headed toward Raleigh.

The problem is not that the voice recorder is a bad idea at other times. It’s not that I don’t think of things in the car except for when I’m headed to the dirty south – I do, I just scribble them onto scraps of paper on my steering wheel. The problem is that I forget that the recorder exists.

My brain, and probably yours too, is not organized the way that we structure our computers. At work, certain files are placed in folders associated with certain concepts or projects. If my mind worked like this the “dealing with dangling thoughts for later transcription” container would include the recorder. It doesn’t, because the recorder didn’t exist when the idea of transcribing ideas was first burned into my neural network. As best I can tell, the only folder that includes the recorder is my Route 1 in North Carolina folder. By the way, I hope some time soon that particular folder also includes the concept of avoiding said Route in all circumstances not involving the middle of the night.

Something similar happened this morning, when I couldn’t recall one of my father’s 1972 stories on demand for my favorite bigwhoop lurker, whose contact information I do not possess but could use immediately. One would think I would have a folder for asinine father tales. He is, after all, a gifted story teller. And he’s full of useless stories. You’d think I’d have his entire dossier for instant recall. Instead, the only one that came to mind was his “Night Before the Big Race Against North Carolina When They Tried to Get Him Drunk” story. A classic (when he tells it, I’m not personally invested in it so I tell it poorly), but not from 1972. I drew a blank on 1972, but had extraneous results for North Carolina.

In theory, I’d want to harness my memory in such a way that it does what I want it to do when I want it to do it. As I think about it though, that denies me a fundamental aspect of living in my mind. I don’t want to know what’s going to come out next. I don’t want to be able to behave as I should on demand. If you include sleeping (where one’s dreams can be quite telling and/or interesting), one spends three quarters of his life with only himself.

As with many things, this reverts back to one of my pet philosophies. It’s not particularly profound, nor is it in any way novel (which must, by now, be the next word of the week, given my penchant for dropping it everywhere these last few days), but it will still be one of the top-three items on my “white board o truth” when I finally get one for Christmas. Not only does everyone else occupy a fuzzy probability cloud of possible actions, traits, and mind sets, eluding our capacity to perfectly quantify them, but so too are we random variables even to ourselves. That we are not deterministic makes even our pervasive solitude worth living. No man is an island. It’s worse than that. Not only do we not exist external to the influences of others, but we can’t even isolate ourselves from our own unknowns. A world where one truly did “know thyself” would get dreadfully boring quickly.

Addendum:
Not to spoil the mood or anything, but when does Sports Gal, Sports Guy Bill Simmons’ hilarious wife, get a bigger space than the little block on the side of his column? She’s hilarious. She’s consistently hilarious too. She needs to write a book. Bill Simmons needs to give her the keys.

Steve has no Flavor Ice. I’m dying here.

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Over the last few weeks, I’ve been reading books for other people. Previously, I read Daniel Quinn’s Ishmael so that I’d understand some family a little better. That link will take you to my review on the afore mentioned Good Reads.

Next, I just finished Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian for a guy at work. He wanted to talk about it (and we will). He hoped to see it mentioned on this site. Well, here’s my review from the other site, take it or leave it.

“There are two ways to evaluate a book, as far as my unlearned mind can concoct at the moment. Stylish literary flourishes sometimes cloud our judgment when it comes to evaluating the plot itself, which is, after all, the reason why the book exists.

This book is well written. If I’m a 11th grader, and I need to do a book report, I’m drooling over the blatant symbolism dripping from each page. The scene is set admirably, though the repetitive nature of our brave hero’s wanderings (at least it’s with symbolic reason) lead to a paucity in novel adjectives by the 13th desert crossing. There are only so many ways one can say that it’s hot, dry and and empty. And dry. Boy, that sun sure is strong. I’m there, I’m with you, all right, it sucks around here, phew, the sun’s really beating down today. And there are a lot of bones. Dead things abound, OK, I get it.

Then there’s the story line. Explain to me again why I’m interested in the wanton marauding of a band of depraved demons? So, we enjoy the dashing of infants into rocks because of the supposed literary merits of the work? We can bash/splatter/expose brains of whatever, happen upon crucified corpses, and ignore any modicum of human decency because the book is about something deeper? But, you say (and without quotes you say it), that’s what it was like. Oh yeah? It was like that? Says who? Why do you want to believe that it was like that? As bad as humankind is, our reality is not that despicable, though our souls may be. Why do we have to play follow the leader behind our impish pied piper, pretending an enlightened understanding of some grandiose truth, while all we really do is sate our own personal blood lusts? I wonder.

By the way, if neglecting quotation marks somehow makes the book classier, why not just go all out and remove spaces between words. You better believe I won’t be speed reading the repetitive descriptions of how tired everyone is if there aren’t any spaces. Why stop there, periods are for two bit hacks too. You’re not a real author until you slaughter a few hundred non-innocents (nay, no one is innocent) while neglecting a basic courtesy to the reader.

Who knows, I don’t speak Spanish, maybe I’m just missing the point entirely. How do you say “flayed skin” in Spanish?”

Have you ever noticed that your mind drifts toward whatever state of being you consistently expose it to? You read about evil, your thoughts focus on evil. You drench yourself in pseudo-philosophical jibber jabber, and all the sudden your mind floats in that trough of useless thought. I’m cynical by nature, I’m skeptical by nature, and I’m disturbed enough already, I don’t need anyone else’s help. The question is, what attitudes do I need to reinforce in my life? The answer? Not those.

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I have a small reading list, provided by well wishers with hopes of broadening my intellectual horizons. I have no problems with such endeavors – knowledge, by my estimation, is never intrinsically bad, thought is never completely useless. I recently finished “The Black Swan”, a book which launches a frenzied attack against the normal distribution and, hence, our ability to predict. I’ve moved into a book called “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn.

I have a little better understanding about a conversation that I had a few weeks ago now. I thought I was having a religious discussion – I wasn’t (or I was, but we shouldn’t have been). The book, through the first 113 pages at least, is a-religious. Fine by me, I think about theological matters too much for my poor brain anyway – it’s nice to be able to engage in a fair fight against a fallacious philosophy occasionally.

Here’s the basic premise: Telepathic gorilla engages in dialog with disillusioned human. As silly as the telepathic gorilla idea is, it’s necessary to the author for three reasons thus far. One, the gorilla is a biological entity, but not a human. Two, the gorilla is an expert on “captivity,” and we, unbeknowst to us, are captive to a cultural story that dictates how we perceive the world and our place in it. I can deal with this idea. I’ve heard it before, I don’t exactly buy it, but I can understand it’s underpinings. I’ll hit the 3rd in a minute.

In fact, thus far Quinn has supported his statements admirably. He uses the conversation between his dim-witted human foible and the enlightened ape as a vector to promote his philosophical agenda. We, embarrassed along with our less than sharp species-mate, are subtly brow beaten by this gorilla, err, how about “outsider”? It doesn’t matter that he’s a telepathic gorilla, except for when we have to change our terminology when we make our ad hominem attacks against him. Another clever decision on the author’s part – why should an outsider have to deal with the realities of human experience, being that he’s not himself human. Throw away the rules, it would advise us.

But that’s not what Ishmael the telepathic gorilla wants us to do thus far. He wants us to adopt a rule (it seems, remember, I’m on page 113). There is a law of gravity, a law of aerodynamics, a law of whatever and also a law of nature. He accuses us of being like Taleb’s thanksgiving turkey in The Black Swan (can I call it “The BS”?), we draw conclusions that our world consists of steady food and comfortable living, when it reality we just haven’t experienced that one day when we become dinner yet. We, as prideful humans who carry an ethnocentric (not between ethnicities, but between species) understanding of our place in the Lion King’s circle of life.

He seems to be suggesting that flight has something to do with the law of gravity. When we fly, we overcome the law of gravity, in some freeing way. But if you’ve ever been on a plane, that’s not true. You’re not floating. Gravity is exactly the same as it is on the ground, you’re just in the air. You have another law that supersedes the law of gravity as it relates to our relative position to the ground, namely the laws of aerodynamics. In the same fashion, I am positioned to argue that the laws of nature, which he’s going to manipulate to justify all kinds of wild stuff I assume, are superseded equally valid laws of human society. The law of nature may be overarching (as the law of gravity is still supreme in space, for instance), but it’s not lord and ruler of us when we engage in conscious thought within society.

Quinn needs the gorilla to be outside of the human species, his third major requirement on the character. As a natural being, but not a human being, he is able to throw out human laws as irrelevant to the ape. As biological as we humans are, gorillas, in reality, do not talk, do not reason with each other, and do not have defined ethics – just because they do in Quinn’s world doesn’t mean that we can make the leap to apply their rules to us indiscriminately, not without also applying ours. 113 pages in and this is the whole that Quinn better fill if he wants to present me with a cogent argument moving forward.

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A brief look at Hurricane Felix this morning revealed that it would be a Cat4 hurricane within the next 24 hours. Yet the models didn’t say so, so neither did those over whom the models reign. And speaking of models, take a look at the monster hurricane the Canadian model has running up the Cheasepeake by next Sunday (hit “FWD”, and there’s a good chance the next run that comes out will no longer show it). But guess what, that probably won’t happen either.

Actually, I said the Cheasepeake thing for dramatic effect. Even though the model only goes through 6 days, it shows a trough digging in, prepared to yank that nasty storm out to sea on day 7. That trough probably won’t exist as shown either. But in the Canadian model’s fantasy world it’s there. Maybe we can find some other fantasy world where the hurricane ravages downtown Baltimore – that might be interesting to write about.

Prognostication is almost a waste of time. I wrote a schedule for myself Tuesday morning at work. It included pending work for four different projects, and it was laid out so that I could get them all done by this coming Thursday. I was putting the finishing touches on my battle plan when I got the email telling me that my priorities were changed and I had to go work on something else. I could use the exact same schedule this week, but what’s the point, it’ll just change again.

Predicting things, then, falls into my ever growing list of occupations that have no particular value. I’ve long since decided that much of humanity is employed in an elaborate welfare system. We create work for ourselves that doesn’t need to be done, thus providing us with an income (money’s another arbitrary concept, no?) that we can use to keep ourselves from stealing from other people and causing societal problems. Prediction, unlike the work for the highway department that requires little more than leaning on a rake, is a high paid occupation – it’s for the intelligensia. We need money too, and infrastructure repairs are below us. Truth is, though, the guy with the rake will be right only a handful of percent of the time less than the best forecaster.

What, then, should we do? We could all be missionaries to the other people doing essentially meaningless work in other countries, thus validating our existence in the vast ant farm of creation. That’s probably the right answer, we might as well do what we’re put here to do, as opposed to whatever meaningless task we generate for ourselves to stave off boredom until our cells degenerate unto death. Maybe we should devote our lives to the improvement of the standard of living of everyone else who is deceiving themselves into thinking that being alive accomplishes something. Or perhaps it’s the dissemination of our genes prominently into our species gene pool, or maybe the quest for a greater, transcendant consciousness, an understanding of the what and why. That could be it, I’d like to jump to the next tier of understanding, though I imagine I’d probably learn that the view from tier two is very similar to the view from tier one, just a little higher.

Eh, I really just wanted to write about the massive hurricane set to roar up the Bay next week; if the Canadian’s get their way at least. Then, perhaps, we’ll know for certain if the government has a secret tropical cyclone suppression technology, which it certainly seemed like with Katrina. Maybe that’s it – fiddling with the rules of our existence. That could be a viable thing to do with oneself. But I’m bored and I’ve gotten sidetracked. I’ll let you know if any credible model consensus is reached about the next storm of the century.

Addendum:
Felix is getting freaky down there – it’s pressure isn’t particularly low and the center had higher winds then a clean eye should have, but the atmospheric turbulence and winds were so violent that the hurricane hunter had to abort it’s last mission into the eye wall. If the hurricane follows the path that the GFS and GFDL are showing (at 9 PM EST), then it will kill 5,000-10,000 people in Central America. That said, ramping to Cat5 intensity is like surging in a world class 5K. You only really get one chance up there. Given the creepy specs on the storm so far (934 mb and 165 mph winds – that’s kind of odd), I’m guessing it has strengthening to do before it has it’s inevitable eyewall replacement cycle. My official intensity forecast is 180 mph 12 hours from now, followed by a drop down to 135, then a reintensification to 150 mph by Tuesday night when it starts to interact with land. Yes, ironic given the mother post of this addendum. Anyway, keep your eyes on this one folks.

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It probably surprises few that a mid-twenty something person such as myself would be faced with an existential dilemma (especially since I write about this about once every 5 months). Truth be told, I’d rather be faced with such philosophical upheavals than to not be – I feel that numb contentment forebodes far worse underlying pathologies than the occasional (or constant) battles with the curse of consciousness.

This afternoon I sat down and started writing unrelated sentences on a piece of blank paper, attached to a clipboard. The clipboard is important, I never use a clipboard unless I’m doing something worthy of such a dignified container. Eventually I came down to two questions: What do I want to do, and who do I want to be?

They’re not really questions with answers, so I thought the best I could do was start writing down lists of what I do now and who I am now. The “do” list was brief. If a group of ten of my friends were to sit down together and come up with a list of all things that Eric Furst does (my various modes of existence, if you will), they’d probably only come up with 8-10 serious ones. Probably 20 or 30 ridiculous ones, but my activities can be easily distilled to the core subset. Then, however, came the “Who am I?” list. One hundred contradictory and paradoxical adjectives and small phrases later, I decided that whatever I am, I’m not that because of any conscious set of instructions from my brain. I am not in control of it.

A half hour later, as I sat on the couch reading my book (The Black Swan), on the very first page of the day I stumbled upon “Indeed, many severe psychological disorders accompany the feeling of loss of control of – being able to make sense of – one’s environment.” As I sat there, amused by the coincidence and its implied, though not necessitated, conclusion, I began gazing at the TV. Which was off.

Our TV, you probably don’t remember, is a window to the outside world. Outside someone was mowing their lawn. I watched them in the TV, wondering who it was. I thought that perhaps I should turn around and look out the window. But, I continued, then I’d be reducing the countless possibilities into one truth, a truth that was sure to be disappointing compared to what I imagined. As I sat, eyes glazed, pondering the truths of the world through the lens of a television that wasn’t even on, I was struck by my mind’s capacity to create its own version of reality, when really there is only one true reality that exists. Perhaps more interesting is the concept of not wanting to know that one truth, as it means the destruction of the myriad truths of our own creation.

Eventually I turned around and looked out the window. The person I saw mowing her lawn was a flag waving gently in the breeze. The mower was somewhere off frame.

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I grilled some bacon wrapped scallops today. You start the bacon early (since it takes longer), then eventually pull them out, wrap the scallops and toss them back on the grill. I accompanied mine with butter and olive oil, as I continued my “Summer of Aluminum Foil.” I do that, learn in segments. Photography for me is a series of discrete jumps in knowledge. Maybe one month it’s aperture, then ISO, then using the histogram (parallelism lacking, sorry).

Anyway, I had 7 scallops. I probably could have eaten them all, but I required that Adam have some, to the point where I fetched him from upstairs to make him consume them. Apparently, my delectable scallops don’t count unless I have a witness to them. Who would believe me if I showed up somewhere lauding my own scallops. No one would. It’s like soliciting an opinion on me from my mom. Sure, she might be the most qualified to have one, but she’s the least trustworthy.

The problem is in vested interest. I have vested interest in making my scallops sound spectacular (they weren’t spectacular either, the bacon was overpowering). My mother’s opinion is clouded by her emotional investment. Emotional bias clouds judgment, ergo we should not believe those opinions.

But when it comes down to it, the world pivots on emotionally induced decisions. After all, half of humanity is female. And the other half are male, I guess. Why shouldn’t emotion, then, be an overriding consideration in formulating opinions on something? If you want your ideas to match the real world, you need to bath them in the same juices that we as humans marinate in our entire natural lives.

I suppose this is a departure from previous statements of mine. I’m now into a book whose very concept is fascinating to me – you can expect additional thought for a little while at least. I tend to add these core philosophies discretely, as I do cooking specialties and camera tricks.

My bathroom book, meanwhile, is “Extreme Weather” and from that you can expect more dreams like last night’s, when I was surprised to walk outside to witness a tornado barreling toward the G-low from Whitfield/Edmonson. The scallops might not have been spectacular, but for a pre-3AM dream, that one was amazing. There were really only 4 or 5 frames, but the images were photo quality. Gorgeous, powerful.

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I have written about flying at night before. I’m not sure if I can accurately portray how mesmerizing flying is for me. On the east coast, every parcel of land has some story. I don’t think the same is true for the west. Or, if it is, the stories appear greatly simplified. There is so much space, so much possibility for every permutation of human experience, and it is that possibility that makes me sick to my stomach. I want to know what it all means, I want to know what it’s all for, but I can’t fathom it.

As one flies out of San Fransisco there is a ridge beyond which civilization immediately ceases. Yet even there can be found hundreds of miles of intersecting dirt trials or roads, weaving along the ridge tops, snaking to the valleys. Occasionally, every few miles at least, there are structures. I don’t know what kind of structures. They might be houses. People living 15 miles from anything – not like Goshen where you have to drive 6 miles from a grocery store, I mean 15 miles from the nearest paved road. What is life like there? Why? It’s so dry, so sparse. But..it’s strangely alluring.

Before the midwest, where the endless square grids are completely full of enormous farms, you start to enter a region where the circular farms reign. I have decided that something about the climate of the area makes giant circles more practical for irrigation. Whatever the case, there is a region where you see a circle only once every few miles. It doesn’t even look like roads go there. Whose farms are these? Who tends them? What is it like?

When you go further, to the midwest, while the agricultural use is almost 100%, you still have nothing but space. Sure, there’s corn there, or wheat, who knows what (what is it?), but there’s one solitary farmhouse, then a few miles of land. What is life like in that farmhouse? There isn’t a Wal Mart for miles. It’s perfectly flat. The sun beats down, and things grow, but what do the people do?

The possibilities, infinite possibilities. I have a hard time justifying the maintenance of one specific form of life for so long. There are so many permutations of the human experience, even in just this country. I don’t know how to handle it. As we flew between Chicago and Baltimore last night after sunset (I recognized the Windy City from overhead), we passed a sprinkling of lights. For a moment, I didn’t know if I was looking at the ground or the heavens. Constellations of humanity’s presence, even in these remote areas, illuminated the ground. Though it was late and I was tired, I got my bearings back. Recognizing which way was up was not, however, a superior experience. I let, no forced, my mind to drift back to a world where those lights were in the sky, stars that I had never seen before, clusters of unknown thousands of worlds, glowing, flickering in the cosmos. It was infinite.

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Grandma and Grandpa’s wasn’t my favorite place to go when I was a child. Every week during the summer, I’d spend at least 3 days there, probably 12 hours a week on average, sometimes much more. The food was less than delectable – with the exception of Strawberry Rhubarb pie of course. Grandma would overcook eggs over easy and put them on burnt toast. Or maybe dry out a thin flank of beef. And put it on burnt toast. Sure, there were apple juice sippy cups, but I wasn’t really a fan of apple juice either. Most often I just ate graham-crackers (another non-favorite), made belive that Cracker Jacks were delicious and sucked on freezer burned ice cubes that tasted like the last ice age.

Days at the Furst’s Warwick residence meant one of two things most times: boredom or manual labor. My brother and I, being young boys, invented countless games involving darts, a tennis ball, the putter, really, whatever ancient random crap that we could find in the garage. Or, we’d spend hours in the Grandparent’s huge pine tree, which was sort of like the maple that we’d hang out in at Murray Ave, only about a thousand times more disgusting – I’d be coated in pine tar and ants for days. It wasn’t nearly as disgusting as Grandpa’s dog, Kelly, who, supposedly born of aliens, was nothing if not hairy and gross. She’d howl, no, howl is too complimentary, she’d moan at the fire house horn every day at noon (or near noon, I don’t think it was automated), as Stephen and I whipped a tennis ball against the wall or sat in the crab apple tree – less sticky than the pine tree though with more wasps.

The other option was labor. For the longest time, it was vacuuming the floor. First, of course, you had to dump a bunch of baking soda on the carpet. Grandma would get that started for you sometimes. Then you’d suck it up as the fumes spread through the air in a hazy cloud of toxins and dog hair. Not until college did I deal with carpet’s like Grandma’s. You never took off your socks, as the floor felt like twice used double plush paint rollers between your toes. I got an envelope a few days ago. Among other scribbles, and along with a receipt for $3 grass seed from 1991, there was a note on an account. “You were always a good boy and vacuumed the floor. Thank you, Grandma,” it said. It probably contained the change that Grandma kept when she had to break a quarter to pay for the cleaning. I think that my parents, acting as labor lawyers, negotiated the 25 cent minimum wage when I was about 8. By the time I was 14, I was working for a flat rate of $20. I might wash three windows, $20. Or perhaps it was spend three days spraying sealant on 600 square feet of insect infested retainer wall in the broiling August sun. $20. I think the 30-35 bags of half frozen leaves after Thanksgiving break were gratis, sort of like Grandma cashing in her bonus card for the rest of the year’s work.

Don’t get me wrong, washing windows was no picnic, even compared to sweeping the garage floor (not dirt off the garage floor, we’d actually hose down the garage and sweep up a layer of the floor). Windex for windows? No. Try ammonia and newspaper. Even if she had Windex, I couldn’t use it, because luke warm ammonia and newspaper looked better in the end. Sure, I lost 6% of my brain cells every time I dangled from the ladder mopping dirt, spider webs and paint chips (probably lead, knowing my luck) from the crevices of her window sills with a poisoness chemical, but it was $20, and I otherwise somehow was obliged to do it.

Stephen eventually inherited my job of hacking the poor ewe bushes down to their woody nubs. That was Grandpa’s job, since it required power tools, until I was maybe 14. Retiring age, mind you, is about 20. For the last few years of Grandma’s life, I was exempt of labor. I should go take a nap, she’d suggest, I work too hard. Just like my father. Let Stephen do it. Maybe my mother could bake us a cake.

By the time I hit mandatory retirement, I had gained a new appreciation for the Grandparents Furst. For all of the boredom, we gained ingenuity. For all of the labor, we built character. They, the grandparents, were real people to the end. I mentioned when I stumbled my way through Grandma’s eulogy that she was a consummate human being, complete with imperfections. Grandpa was the same way. But they were like me, they were my people – there’s really no denying it. If I ever grow up, I’ll send my kids outside to play in the trees, maybe I’ll give them a tennis ball and tell them to go figure something out. I won’t complain when I hear something thwacking against the roof 1000 straight times 5 minutes later. If they don’t like it, I’m sure there’s some dirt that needs sweeping – in the yard. Or maybe it’s time for them to dangle from the edge of the deck to refill the squirrel proof electric bird feeder. There are some ants somewhere that need to be manually eliminated, I’m certain. Whatever the case, they’ll learn how to amuse themselves, and they’ll learn how to earn an honest living. One quarter at a time.

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Lets say, for a moment, that you’re a twenty-something megalomaniac of above average competence and ambition in the 21st century. As a patrician in Roman times, from say 100 BC to 400 AD, your path was clear – hone your skills in combat (for what else were you doing as a child), rise through the ranks of your peers and attain your status as a noteworthy general in an outlying region. Defeat some barbarians, gain the adoration of your legions, usurp the republic/empire and submit yourself to early assassination, though as the ruler of the civilized world.

In the medieval times you take over some band of soldiers and find your fortune in some pious manifestation of your avarice. In the renaissance, you command a ship to mysterious lands of legend. Even in the 19th and 20th centuries you can get caught up on some side of an epic good v. evil battle, finding meaning in the vanquishing of evil and/or good.

In the future, you’re some variety of space cowboy. Excelling as some flavor of officer or masquerading as an interstellar fighter pilot – either way you’re on the frontier, in space, exploring the unknown realms of the universe. What could be better? A power trip on behalf of all of mankind and morbid fanscination of the unknown to boot.

Ideally, the limiting factor of one’s ascension is only his intrinsic potential. In the days of yesteryear and yore, the fusion of drive, ambition, and talent propelled strapping young lads inexorably toward their glass ceilings or unfortunate demises.

In a time of disillusion, when nothing matters more than anything else, when the courts of public opinion convene long before the trials have even started it is nearly impossible to be noteworthy at anything of grand import without being carefully deceitful from birth. It is not virtue or skill that distinguishes one from another. It is the careful presentation of vague virtue and specious skill, the deft manipulation of the millions of similiarly ambiguous masses; those are the attributes favored by current society.

Equilibrium breeds decay and decay is self-perpetuating. In a world of balance, where everything is already in its place (for better or worse), nothing but the slavish protection of shallow contentment is important to the people. Such people eventually long for the past, forget what got them to where they are, and succumb to the irresistible will of those things passionate and new. To buttress or seige, to renew or restart, to glue or fracture? Or to do nothing? These are the questions for this age. And I don’t know the answer.

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I spoke with 8 different people in my 4 hours of visits on Friday. They asked many of the same questions.

I hate answering the same question the same way twice, even if it is to different people. I refuse to reuse witticisms, even if there is no possible chance that the two audiences will ever out me. I feel like that’s the sort of thing that contrived, fraudulent people do – stockpile canned replies and regurgitate them whenever they are needed. Ever watch a presidential debate?

That’s not to say that I don’t recall facts similarly, after all, the truth is as it is. I just don’t like presenting it the same way twice. As you can imagine, after answering “why are you doing this?” 6 times, I started to run out of ways to phrase it.

When this happens, I tend to get exasperated and increasingly catty. I managed to forestall this tendency on Friday, thankfully. What I came up with might have been the best answer to the question, all told.

It was something along the lines of, “I have continued to train myself in things that I like to do – the physics, the applied math – these are things that I am interested in. This is why I didn’t study software engineering even though it was more useful for work. As I see it, you keep doing what you want to do, and eventually you have stockpiled the sort of skills that you can use to do something that you would be happy doing for the rest of your life. I think this fuses my skills and interests better than anything else.”

I wish that I had said what I thought of in the car on the way back from Lewisburg this afternoon. It might not surprise people that I spend my car rides re-evaluating notable conversations and exchanges that happen throughout the day, mostly criticizing myself, even constructively occasionally.

I decided that an analogy worked, also unsurprisingly. When I run in the woods, I make similar decisions. The choices I make (typically I make the loop longer whenever possible) lead me in the directions that I go. They are not entirely deterministic, but they have a probability distribution associated with them – that is (id est) I am more likely to make some decisions over others. These tendencies guide me down paths that lead me to where I, in particular, want to be. In fact, I am so predictable in those decisions that when I play the “decide which way someone like me would go in this situation and then do the opposite” game while running, sometimes I find new trails in the same woods that I have run in a hundred times.

The point is my path is determined by my natural inclinations. Just as the way that I am guides my feet when I run, the way that I am will lead me through life. Why am I the way that I am? Because.

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Now, not all information is profitable for application in your life. Most of it is meaningless and a lot of it is misleading, whether intentionally or otherwise. Regardless, I have always believed strongly that information, when filtered through the lens of truth, is almost never bad. If your lens is clear and focused, no object on the other side will be able to change its transmission characteristics. For those who believe that there is an absolute truth, that truth is also immutable. The more you look at with it, the better understanding you will have about the world around you.

That’s not to say that people’s conceptions of truth don’t change over time. None of us, myself certainly included, have it polished perfectly – I for one have been focusing on tending to my farsightedness for a decade. Interacting with people, reading various opinions on anything, or studying scientific principles will only sharpen the image.

There’s almost nothing not worth reading, except maybe the Book of Mormon, but we can all agree on that. Don’t take that to mean that I’m going to read some 3000 page Hindu text, there’s a law of diminishing return in there somewhere. Or that I want to read the novel that AE was editing last year, that is a waste of brain cells. But it does mean that when I get a 60 page quote book called “Native American Wisdom” for Christmas, I will put it in my bathroom and slowly peruse it for a couple of weeks. I did something similar with “The Spiritual Teaching of Marcus Aurelius” recently, but he is just a overly powerful pseudo-religious hack, along the same lines as Constantine, Charlemange, and Napoleon, only prior to when such demogogues called themselves “christians.”

Anyway, I love Native American thought. Love it. Those guys got the shaft, hardcore. Now, obviously they tell one side of the story, neglecting their own often overboard cruelty, but this particular book doesn’t play the finger pointing game, it just documents some common thought patterns of Native Americans. I wish it were possible to live the way that they lived. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Not when there are a billion mouths to feed, if I had to make a completely uninformed guess, without agriculture of note (or the wheel for that matter), the entire planet could probably only sustain a couple hundred million people under their system. Furthermore, those who embrace the back to nature kick don’t seem to mind when products of scientific and industrial thought keep their infants from dieing and extend their lives by a few decades. Their way of life made way for our way of life; the two could not coexist.

Ideally, we gather up the technology, and then when some plague culls the population to a few million, we start chasing buffaloes around again like we should be only with MRI machines and penicillin. Or, less destructive to the majority of humanity, we develop the ability to send spaceships faster than light and then populate the cosmos with outpost colonies where the principles of respect for nature are upheld. We can even skip the scalping. Really, how obnoxious is it that we can’t send anything even vaguely close to the speed of light? That pisses me off once every three weeks.

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Recently, when noting how silly it was that thousands of Penn State fans would spend hundreds of dollars to drive hundreds of miles to be in the vicinity of their game against Notre Dame, even though they didn’t actually have tickets, I was rebuked with a whithering “ummm, how can you NOT do that” sort of response. This, like most everything, got me to thinking. I am not an actual sports fan. I have teams that I follow more than other teams, teams which I identify with consistently, and even teams that I occasionally loathe. But I don’t really care that much. I like watching sports, but I don’t need to. I can almost never sit still through an entire game, especially if I’m not running. I would never drop several hundred dollars to watch sports. It’s just silly to me.

But I can see the appeal. People identify personally with their teams. And it’s a win-win situation. The hard work is done by proxy. The man on the couch barely needs to lift a finger. He is afforded an opportunity for the passionate embrace of something without actually putting in the effort to attain that thing for himself. It’s not that the player and the potato aren’t linked; the player has determination, driver, passion, sacrifice and dedication. The potato has passion and dedication. They go hand in hand. Why wouldn’t America embrace sports? Of course it makes sense to hang ones hat on the success and failure of a regionally significant capitalist enterprise, duh. It has all the perks of accomplishing one’s own goals without actually having to make any or carry them out.

So I was pondering this about 15 minutes ago [note, this was written on Saturday night, but my blog backend went down] when I silently muttered, “yeah, someone else’s sacrifice is imputed onto us while we get to sit on our asses and enjoy the benefits.”

Well, even though I wasn’t thinking in that direction at the time, it didn’t take long for me to see the obvious connection to my particular theology. None of us go to the Cross, but all of us, should we choose to root for the home team, get the benefits. Sure, we don’t get the gatorade dumped on our backs as we sit at the right hand of the father, but we can write fan mail and one day, when we die, get sideline tickets. Shoot, it’s Christianity in a nutshell right there, sports fans! Just as we direct our brain waves to guide a spiraling ball into the outstretched hands of a diving receiver, we “lift up our hearts and voices” to the spirit in the sky. A tidy system indeed.

So if you haven’t bought your Christ jersey yet, it’s 4th and long, 6 seconds to go – so heave up that hail mary, full of grace.

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In the movie “Signs,” each of the characters’ personality foibles are exploited within minutes of each other in the climactic scene. To the preacher whose faith had been wavering for a large part of the movie, seeing seemingly disconnected and asinine traits fuse into their personal salvation is enough to send his mind spinning into a euphoric realization – God’s sovereignty, his personal control over events, is layered, profound and infinitely complex. The “things happen for a reason” cliche becomes a reality as the tapestry that is his family’s life is displayed prominently on the wall in the den, even if only for a moment.

I have long held a controversial and insulting opinion about Christianity. It is a psychological chicken and egg paradox, one with ramifications that are not easily dismissed. Rarely do you see the beautiful, the affluent, the well-adjusted, the “chosen ones”, the “golden boys” in the church. You see those who are rejected by their peers and uncomfortable in the world. You have various flavors of victims, an assortment of acne riddled, disproportioned and awkward – those who cannot gain full acceptance from men grope for it from a source that must love them.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some who meet the world’s approval in and of themselves. Oftentimes these are the converts from later in life, or the future apostates, those who fall away. I’m not so much interested in them.

Yesterday, as I was driving away from Raleigh, I got to thinking. I never did fit into the society that college people typically live in. I can’t carouse, I am incapable of being wanton; even if I met external standards I would not be able to fill the expectations. And maybe I do, I’m a scholar, a state champion, all conference, responsible, Mr. Everything in all ways that I can control. But it doesn’t matter, it is not the way that I am. I cannot follow the rules that other people follow, and I have always considered it as a deficiency.

And so I made a choice. I began to use a crutch, embraced the “opiate of the masses,” began to adhere to the system that most closely matched my intrinsic leanings. At least, it seems like that – I can’t unravel my motivations, my actions, and whatever external calling might meld them together. I began to wonder, well, not began, I’ve wondered this for years and years, do I believe that I believe because if I didn’t my failures would be lain bare with no excuse, no recourse, just me sucking at life?

But the ends justify the means. Why am I the way that I am? So that I would make the choices that I’ve made. Predestination makes for stormy theological waters. It seems to strip us of our will, to guide our reality and cheapen the events for those who believe in it. I’m beginning to think that our conception of the idea is misinformed. My life is a path through the woods. To one side is a cliff, the other a raging river. If I walk forward, I walk the way that I have walked. The decisions that I make, the choices that present themselves, all the forks, all the detours, guide my path down the same trail. In a sense, if I choose to move forward, I choose to take the path that I have taken.

In Christianity, it is the not the vector that is important so much as the disease. We begin afflicted by our ignorance, and we end with a malignant growth, an otherworldly tumor that we can neither remove nor negotiate. It stands opposed to our earthly humanity, but intermeshed with our very existence. How it gets there is immaterial. In the end, it is that foreign outcropping which will justify – in the end, we will be entirely overcome by that which we obtain when our own defenses are at their weakest. Christianity is unapologetic about it gains adherents. It is for those whose immune systems have been compromised by the failings of their human nature, what is so difficult for the most of us is realizing that we need to have this sickness – that our weakness is our strength.

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A word popped into my head this weekend. Words of the week are typical for me, except this isn’t a word. I don’t remember what it meant, but it was reminded of it as I slept in my brother’s room.

Actually, before I mention the words, my mother has a habit of opening windows throughout the house during the day. When I was a kid, tearing through the house looking for open windows as the rains came was a favorite pasttime. We almost invariably left one or two open (especially when we, in mimickery of mother, were the ones to open them in the first place), and a soggy window sill resulted. For Sunday evening at least, the rain didn’t come. My brother’s bed is oriented such that the window is directly next to your head. I reached to close the blind before going to bed but then paused and left it open. I haven’t slept next to an open window that I could see out of for somewhere between 10 and 15 years. But for the first 10 or 15 years of my life, I did almost every night. The rememberance of the way the night air feels in the summer; the way the trees, bugs, and creatures harmonize in the moonlight; and the way the stars glimmer on the horizon – it was almost overpowering. I have not had such an intense desire to be 8 years old again in a long time: to love baseball, to be mystified by Venus all summer long, to watch the sun set from my bedroom window, to imagine what world’s existed in every house on the street. I was left in awe by the simple beauty of an open window. It was almost more than I could take, but I left it open the remainder of the night. It reminds me a song. “Remember the Day” by Pink Floyd. Look it up.

Anyway, the word was buchresnatchel. It was of my brother’s creation, along the same lines as Bip, Duv, and Kinker. Now, Bip came about naturally, from his inability to pronounce “Eric” – “Er-ip” to Er-bip” and then to simply Bip. He called me Bip until he was about 12 and I was near 16. I, in response, coined “Duv”, pronounced “Doove.” I don’t think it had any etymology, I think it came from thin air because I hated Bip for the longest time. I don’t know where Kinker came from either, but that was apparently my last name. Bip Kinker. That’s what he called me. Then one day, almost over night, Stephen became far too cool for all of that – to this day I don’t quite understand how that happened so quickly. He stopped flapping his fake wings and everything. It was like Adam and Eve in the garden suddenly realizing they were naked, and end of innocence and a beginning of self-consciousness.

Boo-kerr-snah-tchel, it had a usage, but I can’t even conceive of what it was. It might simply have been a filler – something that you say when you want to say a complicated erudite word. Like “erudite” only without meaning. A little kid’s way to be as smart as any Oxford grad. Who knows. I guess Stephen might.

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I tend to optimize my car for my use. After all, I am typically the only in it. I close off vents so that the air blows stronger on me, I adjust the seat precisely to my standards, I leave items on the backseat for easy access, that sort of thing. I also lock my rear windows so that only I can control them from the front.

Now, there’s no reason why I’d need to do that – invisible children rarely roll down the window and try to escape while I’m driving down the highway. If anything, it’s a harmless little power trip – just a little reminder that it’s my car and my rules. Seat belts are similar, when you’re in my car, you wear a seatbelt. That’s for your own good, but it’s a power trip nonetheless.

This weekend, my parents and brother came down to visit. Since I knew the lay of the land (sort of), we drove my car everywhere. At some point my father, who was in the backseat because my “little” brother takes up 3 hectares of vertical space, requested permission to control his rear window. I granted him this, because he was nice enough to play catch with me for 10 years. I warned him, however, “You better behave back there – remember, it is a privilege, not a right.”

As is often the case, I decided it would be fun to inflate my pithy throw-away statement into a personal pet philosophy. The more I thought about it, the more I decided that a large portion of mankind is confused about what things are granted to them as a free allotment (or “by grace” would be a more theological tenable phrase), and what things are their inalienable rights. False entitlement is one of the more annoying traits that one can possess. I’d almost go so far as to say that one could do well in his life to consider nothing to be a given, and everything to be a gift.

Meanwhile, tomorrow it will become official that I will not be running for the next two months or so. My experimental run on my mangled achilles went roughly as expected – it still hurt every single step I took despite 5 days for convalescence. After braving the horrendous, oppressive heat for the last month, banking hundreds of miles while seeing a daily swing of 8-10 pounds as I shed and regained every ounce of energy in my body, I did not run this week and will continue to not run for the most pleasant two months of the year. But who says that it is my right to have that as my daily catharsis? It’s a privilege, not a right.

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I’ve subconsciously known this for a while, God knows I’ve been told often enough, but this morning I realized that AT&T and Singular can join together to deliver the world that matters the most: mine! As I drove through the parking lot at work, I spent 15 seconds or so thinking about this. My world means the most? More than yours? How can this be true? Clearly, my world must mean the most to me. But yet you deliver it, how nice of you. What did I have prior to this speedy delivery? Someone else’s world on loan?

That must be an exciting day, when your brand new customized world is beamed in via satellite. Please Mr. AT&T, can you and Mr. Singular please send me a world that includes fulfillment? I thirst for a spiritual reawakening and I think a camera phone is just what the doctor ordered. I’d love to have a family some day, sooner than later (before I run out of Q-Tips preferably), and if integrated business solutions can bring me a wife and kids, then I’m ready to integrate. As we know, my world is of utmost importance because it’s all about me, me baby, me; I want it all, and I want it imMEdiately.

It must be hard to work for AT&T and/or Singular; always working on other people’s worlds, never building your own. I bet that’s the most popular retirement party gift for those who tirelessly work to deliver the worlds of others: a brand new world, tailor made for YOU, so that you can focus on the only world that really matters prior to death – yours. Really, the more I think about it, the more I am grateful for those who work tirelessly and thanklessly for the advancement of all things Eric Furst. I will urge congress to repeal that nasty anti-trust thing that decimated our personal savior AT&T in the early 80s. Just imagine how spectacular my world could be if we brought all the Baby Bells back into the service of me. My world would never be the same.

Addendum
In other news, Doomsday Bastardi believes that there is a chance for a repeat of the bizarre “landcane” phenomenon from a few years ago. I had no idea this happened – good thing David Lee Roth categorized it for posterity’s sake.

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