Determined Thoughts

Rene Descartes

I think, I think.

A bit more than three years ago I began this blog intending to write about matters of existence and consciousness (and science and computing). Since then I’ve tried on other hats, stories from my past and present, opinions and views about society, even the occasional post above movies or TV. But those meatier topics — the ones the blog is named for — still attract me.

There are three problems, though. Firstly, other sites specialize in that sort of thing and do it very well. Secondly, they aren’t topics that attract visitors — my meaty posts get even fewer reads than my less weighty posts. And thirdly, I may not be as good as explaining things as I would like to be.

That said, sometimes I just can’t  help myself, so here we go again.

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Women are Local; Men are Global

Candy CornI was going to write about something completely different. Specifically: religion, spirituality, atheism, morality and ethics, faith and unbelief… that sort of thing. I like one day of the week to be different from the rest — a Sabbath, so to speak. For cultural and personal reasons (and pragmatic reasons — many businesses take today off) Sunday seems an appropriate day. I’ve got Sci-Fi Saturday; I suppose you could call it Sermon Sunday or something.

But when I sat down to write, something else came out. I thought I’d better grab it and stick it onto the blog wall before it ran away and, due to its youth and naiveté, ran afoul of Unpleasant Business. The thing about letting your mind drift is that you can never be sure where it’ll come ashore. In this case, mental notes about a possible future post morphed into… Well, you’ll just have to see for yourself.

And, yes, you have to look below the fold — no cheating!

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Berman’s Vulcans

Spock IDICIt’s hard to remember exactly, but I think I first noticed it back in the days of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It’s even possible it really started in the earlier series, Star Trek: The Next Generation. By the time of the final series, Star Trek: Enterprise, it was definitely a thing, and by then it went way too far.

In the original Star Trek series, Gene Roddenberry gave us Vulcans. They were, in many ways, better than humans. They lived longer, they were stronger and smarter, and — crucially — they were, in some ways, wiser than us. Rick Berman, Roddenberry’s heir apparent, re-wrote that vision to make them conniving, lying, self-interested bastards. In other words, he made them more human.

My question here is: Why did our heroes turn into such assholes?

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Royals v. Giants

I interrupt your regularly scheduled blog for a special announcement: The Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants are going to World Series!

Royals v Giants

Given that these are both Wildcard teams that fought their way through a do-or-die Wildcard game, a League Division Series and a League Championship series, it’s kind of double-plus cool!

[Those looking for more of the previous two posts, can read this older post about the Mike Judge movie, Idiocracy. Be assured I will resume the topic anon.]

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“No Serviceable Parts Inside”

no serviceable partsLast time I wrote about willful ignorance as one good definition of stupidity. This time, I want to explore some ideas about why there seems a growing amount of it in modern society. Of course that necessitates first addressing the question: Is there a growing amount of it? I believe the answer is yes, but I also believe a lot of the reason for it is the growing complexity of society.

There was a time when a clever person could fix their washing machine or their car. Our machines were fairly simple then: a motor, a few hoses, some wires and belts. It wasn’t hard to figure out. A clever person with experience and tools could even fix their radio or TV. Replacing a burned out “tube” was a common household activity.

Now our machines bear the warning: “No User Serviceable Parts Inside”

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“People Are Stupid!”

stupid pillsThe title above is deliberately a little inflammatory, but people who know me, and people who read this blog, may — not without reason — think this is a common sentiment of mine. And it sort of is, but it’s actually a code for something much more intricate and involved. Last time I wrote about Leon Wieseltier, whose ten-word critique of modern society blew me away, especially his central clause: “Not enough critical thinking.”

This time I’d like to explore — or at least begin exploring — exactly what (to me) the phrase, “People are stupid!” really means. There are some key distinctions to be made. For example, I don’t think people are more, or less, stupid than they’ve ever been; our brains haven’t changed in many thousands of years.

And let’s face it, we all take a Stupid Pill now and then.

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Leon Wieseltier

Leon WieseltierSometimes you encounter someone who seems to really hit the nail on the head in terms of how they see the world. The brilliance of these moments is that — especially if you tend to be a social outlier — you’re given the gift of knowing you’re not alone. There are people who not only see the world as you do, but see it even more clearly and intelligently than you ever could.

Leon Wieseltier appeared on The Colbert Report last Tuesday (Oct 7), and I was so blown away by his words that I kept rewinding and rewinding so I could write it all down and record here what he said.

I was especially impressed by his ten-word critique of modern society!

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Dog Tales: Games

SamanthaLast time I gave you the final chapter in the Story of Samantha — the repose of her ashes. Two years ago, I gave you an early chapter, the Tale of the Perfect Day (in part, a tale of a tail). This time, somewhat like a (long-delayed) wake, I’m going to share some random memories from The Life of Sam.

Actually, she was Samantha II. The first Samantha was a puppy I shared with a roommate. That Sam died very young when she lost in an attempt to take down  a passing bus. My roommate, who’d left the gate open, was utterly devastated. We buried her beneath a stand of Joshua trees far out in the Mojave Desert.

The puppy, that is; not my roommate.

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Sam’s Final Walk

trail leavesThe autumn leaves that litter the trail crunch beneath my feet, and dozens of flying insects — grasshoppers I think — flee the oncoming giant tromping through their domain. The late morning sky is a lovely cerulean broken only by lonely scattered cloud wisps. The October air is crisp — like a chilled white wine — dry, bracing, invigorating. I am given a perfect fall day to accomplish my task.

The trees that surround me, mostly oak and linden, a few scattered elms, give way to pines. Now the trail is covered in long pine needles and pine cones. Large birds — falcons perhaps — watch my passing with avian alarm. A brave one flies directly overhead to get a closer look at the encroaching human.

I’m seeking the “Cathedral of Pines,” the place I’ve chosen for Sam’s final rest.

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Autumn Frost!

autumn leavesI’ve been trying to re-synch my clock to a more normal daylight cycle. All my life I’ve been a “night crawler.” My very first official job involved a retail position, but we worked outdoors. I noticed how, no matter how tired I was, once the sun fell, I got a fresh breath of wind. And even at my advanced age, staying up all night is easy (and so is napping all afternoon).

My (ex-)wife used to say I must have vampire blood in me. It’s true I do like to bite necks, but so far I have drawn only moans, no blood. It may be more that I’ve always identified with the idea, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Life is filled with so many interesting things, who wants to waste time sleeping? And for all my life, five hours seems to do me just fine.

But the point here is that I’ve been trying to become more of a day person.

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