BB #69: Random Bubbles

Alas (and also alack), with all that’s been going on lately, my Artistic Muse has temporarily fled (she’s almost as prone to suddenly vanishing as her sister, Lady Luck). As such, I’m not feeling much inspiration towards posting right now.

But my Nine Year Blog Anniversary is nearly here, and I’m determined to publish post #1000 to celebrate it. Pulling that off requires three posts between now and then (not to mention figuring out what to write for post #1000).

So today I thought I’d take care of a bunch of random notes.

These are all from my collection of “seeds” — jotted ideas that caught my fancy and seemed capable of growing into a post. Metaphorically, to do that they need planting, watering, and nurturing. Some seem almost eager to grow.

Others sit waiting for… something. A few need fertilizing research on my part (and I’ve been putting off the effort). Others are so slight and small I’m not sure planting them is worthwhile.

Brain Bubbles posts were intended for the smaller seeds, although lately I’ve gotten into the habit of using them as collections of seeds. (I just can’t seem to get into short-form blogging. I don’t tweet. I’m not sure I understand the concept.)

In any event, here is another seed collection…

§ §

My post, Searle vs Gödel, sprang from thinking about implementing math via lookup rather than calculation (although at some level they can be seen as the same thing). Gödel popped into mind again because of a note I have about his application to rules and laws.

The intended post had the working title, Gödel and Protocol (although I also considered The Gödel Metaphor, since I meant to get into how common it is to apply the Incompleteness result inappropriately. It can work metaphorically, but it’s usually a category error to take it literally.

Then I got to thinking maybe it could apply to systems of laws, since those are formal systems. (It doesn’t, of course, because systems of laws are rarely, if ever, capable of arithmetic, and Gödel only applies to arithmetic systems.)

The seed came from when I was thinking about how philosophical moral platforms, such as consequentialism for example, work in some cases, but never in all cases. Or how Kant’s Categorical Imperative is great for isolated cases, but less useful for messy real-world cases.

The law, in general, needs a judicial system because no set of laws can cover all cases. Too few, or too broad, and they don’t cover enough. Too many, or too narrow, and they end up affecting the innocent, if not making life impossible.

So I wondered if maybe Gödelean Incompleteness had something to do with all that, and maybe it does metaphorically.

But not literally.

Even if they could do arithmetic, legal systems are almost never consistent — they contain contradictions (another reason for the judiciary). As such, they are doubly disqualified from Gödel.

§ §

[This one was a partial post in my Drafts folder for a couple of years, but it never really interested me enough to flesh out. I do like the seed, though.]

One of those modern phrases that I’ve never cared for is the oft stated quest to “find myself.” And, yes, I understand what’s really being said; it’s just that the phrasing always puzzled me. It’s not a phrase I can imagine using; it’s not how I see things.

My response to the phrase is to suggest — literally and figuratively — just looking in a mirror, because, boom, there you are. It requires being able to face what’s in the mirror, and maybe that’s the part that’s tough.

It may not be a case of finding yourself so much as being honest with yourself.

This ties in with the idea behind the Johari Window — which divides us into known and unknown parts.

What does it even mean to “find” yourself? In what way are you lost or out of view? Are you hiding somewhere?

Are you trying to find some “zone” (of what exactly)? There isn’t one.

Are you trying to find your “identity” (whatever “identity” is)? The thing is, especially these days, it’s your choice. Be who you want to be!

The problem with searching for yourself is that you’re looking outside, when (rather obviously, one would think) you are to be found inside.


On a somewhat related note: Identity politics. I don’t get it. (But that may be because I’m the social “default” — I don’t need an identity or representation because that identity and representation are everywhere.)

There is, however, a Yin-Yang tension for anyone who is not a native-born white male.

Women chart a course between their identity as a woman versus their identity as just a person. Many female science fiction writers have gone by just their initials (due to unfortunate sexism among SF fans). I didn’t even realize D.C. Fontana was a woman until I started getting behind the scenes of my beloved Star Trek.

People of color chart a course between their identity with their community versus the more generic identity that discards or minimizes that community.

A similar tension exists for people of nationality. Does one hold to cultural values from the place of origin, or assimilate into the generic culture. The question is much harder for some than for others. (I couldn’t possibly care less about my Norwegian cultural heritage, and I wouldn’t touch lutefisk with a ten-foot pole.)

This is a topic I’d like to explore further, but as a white male born in the 1950s, I’m not sure anything I have to say is relevant or on point. Simply put, WTF do I know?

§ §

Along with “finding myself” are two other very human phrases that I have a hard time with. These bother me because I hate saying anything I don’t think is true. These things seem like lies to me.

The first: “Anything is possible!” No, not even close. Even acknowledging that “anything” doesn’t literally mean “anything,” it’s still one of those meaningless bullshit phrases people use when they can’t think of anything cogent to say.

The second: “It’ll all be okay!” This one is a real problem for me, because I fully understand that everyone understands it’s meaningless bullshit used to apply comfort to someone who is hurting.

But I really hate lying, and very often the situations that call for the phrase are situations where the last thing I believe is that it’ll be okay. Seriously, the words almost choke me.

But what else can you say?

§ §

Recently I posted about my annoyance with headlines proclaiming that “Fans Flip Out Over _____” or the mirror version, “Fans Are Thrilled About _____” As if anyone cared. (That’s actually what pisses me off: that so many do care, that it’s worthy of a news headline.)

I’ll add headlines that proclaim some actor either “Admits” or “Reveals” some supposedly juicy nugget. Except it’s almost always utter bullshit; almost always some passing comment they made that doesn’t come close to “admitting” or “revealing” anything but just “saying” something.

But “Admitting” and “Revealing” make clickbait, so that’s what we get. That’s what we’ve sunk to. I’ve learned to just ignore those articles.

There’s one more that I’ve realized has become a clickbait cliche: X Just Gave One-Million Users Reason To Y I’ve seen that one quite a few times recently.

“X” is, variously Google, Microsoft, Apple, Android, or GMail (to name a handful). “Y” is usually “Quit” or “Switch” or “Worry” or something along those lines.

What I wanna know is why it’s always one-million users.

(Sometimes I wonder why I even bother reading the news.)


I have a related note about the conflation of serious journalism and blogging.

I’ve noticed for a while now that many blogs have become serious contributors whereas many more formal journalistic outlets have become more casual and blog-like. (And does everything need a comment section?)

The language of serious journalism seems to have become much less formal (note to serious journalists: I get to use “fuck” — you don’t), and some online content is surprisingly bad in terms of grammar and spelling considering the source.

It makes me wonder if modern online culture has killed serious journalism. Do people even know what it is anymore?

I’ve always wished journalism lived by a simple question: What would Edward R. Murrow do?

§ §

As long as I’m venting minor irritations, and with the full appreciation of how English is a dynamic and evolving language, I have to complain about another conflation.

When you publish a blog post, it is just that: A post. It is not a blog!

The blog is the whole collection of posts, pages, and whatever else (image galleries, menus, etc). The term comes from web log — originally a kind of online diary.

Got it?

Don’t make me tell you this again.

(Seriously. Among the cognoscenti saying one just wrote a blog is like saying one just ate a restaurant. It grates on the ear.)

§ §

In closing, if anyone wants to buy me an anniversary present, I’m looking for one of those underwater note boards scuba divers use.

I keep having ideas while in the shower, and I equally keep forgetting them by the time I’m out and dry. (Swiss cheese brain.) I’ve lost a couple really good ones lately.

Stay posting on your blogs, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

13 responses to “BB #69: Random Bubbles

  • Wyrd Smythe

    The temperature was 73 degrees on my morning walk, but so was the dew point. Ugh! And then some. It was more like swimming than walking. 😓🚶🏼‍♂️

    [Post #997 and counting!]

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    Our low was 76, but as I write this, it’s 90 outside. My walking right now is back and forth across the house (while listening to a podcast).

    When I have trouble finding inspiration for blogging, I seek out writing prompts. Although it seems like those have become harder to find lately unless I want to vent about politics or the virus.

    I take “finding myself” as someone figuring out what they really want. At its best, it’s an admission that our minds are often opaque to ourselves.

    In terms of identity, I’m mostly in the same boat. But as you note, I think we’re lucky in that society doesn’t put us into an identity, as it does for most other groups. The closest I ever feel to the identity issue is when someone puts forth some Christian principle as some truism we all agree with. Although I don’t keep it a secret, in the south it’s still not prudent to wave around one’s non-belief. I imagine it as a very pale imitation of what a black person experiences when they see a Confederate flag or a school named after Robert E. Lee. And of course, unlike the black person, I can just keep quiet.

    On the “It’ll be okay” thing, I’m somewhat the same way. I’m more likely to use it if there’s at least some possibility that it will actually be okay, but otherwise I’m more likely to ask if there’s anything I can do to help, or just say something like, “I’m here with you.”

    When it comes to serious journalism, my only hope is they’re more careful about their sources than most of what comes out of social media.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      It’s 87 outside right now (20 minutes past noon) with a dew point of 74, so the humidity is actually down to 79%. It was 97% during my walk (I could see the air), but at least the Sun wasn’t blasting me. (These days I try to get my walk in between 6 and 7 AM.)

      I don’t lack for ideas to write about (got lots of those). The inspiration I’m lacking right now is the will to bother. As you say, politics and the virus are the elephants in the room that everyone is talking about. I may take a brief break after the anniversary post. I’ve been posting a lot lately and could use a break.

      On the “it’ll be okay” thing I agree. Ever since I first saw the TOS episode “The City on the Edge of Forever” I’ve remembered Kirk telling Edith Keeler about the most important three words: “Let me help.”

      As an aside, Dorothy Fontana is an uncredited co-writer on that script, so there’s a double tie-in to the post. 😀

      Good point about serious journalism and sources. One does hope that remains true!

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        94 here now with a heat index of 106. The yard guys are currently here doing their thing. Times like this, I’m very happy to be paying for this service.

        You do post a lot. I don’t know how you do it. My posting frequency varies from 1-2 a week, and my posts are smaller. In my first year of blogging, I posted daily (sometimes 2-3 times a day), but that pace led to frequent burnout. I know I have to push myself at least a little bit, or I end up with the blogging winter. But it’s a balancing act. And I fret all the time whether I’ll think of something else to write about.

        If I recall my Star Trek lore, “The City on the Edge of Forever” was originally a Harlan Ellison story, and subsequently rewritten by several people, which caused Ellison to throw one of his famous tantrums and ask his name to be taken off. After he was convinced to keep his name on it, everyone else agreed not to be credited so Star Trek would benefit from being associated with Ellison. Ironic for one of the most awarded episodes of the whole franchise.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        We only got up to 93, and the dew point is still down in the low 70s, so not great, but not actually all that bad. I live in a condo, so the lawn stuff is part of the price (so is snow shoveling), and, yes, it is very, very nice! (Although I never really minded cutting the grass. I like being outside.)

        “I don’t know how you do it.”

        Heh. I’m a wordy opinionated bastard! Always have been. 😀

        I think the corvid thing has something to do with it. I’m used to going out more, and this isolation business has been kind of boring.

        (Just got back from a really delicious lunch with a friend. Ever heard of a “Juicy Lucy”? It’s a craft burger stuffed with… well, whatever the chef dreams up. Supposedly a Minnesota invention. I just had the Beer Cheese Lucy: Stuffed with creamy beer cheese sauce and served on a pretzel bun. Topped with bacon, bistro sauce, haystack onions, and a slice of habanero jack. And some Garlic Parmesan Fries along with a tasty local brew, Surley Grapefruit Supreme. Now I need a nap! But the point is, I am so glad places are open for service again! I’ve really missed dining out.)

        “And I fret all the time whether I’ll think of something else to write about.”

        Do you ever feel restricted by topic matter? My blog violates what’s supposed to be a key rule about picking a topic to focus on. Given the generally low “success” of my blog, I suppose that rule is well-taken. But it does allow me to post anything that strikes my fancy, which I consider a win.

        Still, the field of consciousness research is constantly evolving and very wide and deep, so my guess is you’ll always have a source of inspiration. Fret not! 🙂

        “If I recall my Star Trek lore,”

        And you do. Ellison is certainly a writer of note, but I just recently read a collection of his stories (I have no mouth and I must scream) and was… underwhelmed.

        Maybe I’m turning into an old fuddy duddy, but I’m increasingly disenchanted with experimental science fiction. Give me a decent narrative and spare me the dream-like, vision-like, babble. I’m sure it has literary merit up the wahzoo, but… I just don’t care. It’s too much effort to read.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Wow. That burger sounds good. Luckily I just ate, or I’d be climbing in the car to find something.

        Well, I’m an opinionated bigmouth myself, and I actually don’t feel restricted by topic. I veer into things like science fiction, history, philosophy, science, or general societal topics all the time. I could write about consciousness constantly, but I worry about iterating too much over the same topics and feel the need to mix things up. Maybe I’m just worrying too much about it.

        On Ellison, I actually don’t think I’ve ever read anything he wrote, but I’ve read a lot about his stories. None of the descriptions ever sounded like anything I actually wanted to read.

        I’m with you on experimental fiction. Give me sympathetic characters with interesting challenges and interesting ideas, and I’m in good shape. I read fiction to be entertained, not to have a research project. (Although admittedly, since reading about writing fiction, every story I read essentially is a research project, but only one I’ll continue if I’m entertained.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “Maybe I’m just worrying too much about it.”

        I suspect that anyone who creates has that worry on some level. For me it sometimes manifests as thinking I’ve written about all the things I really want to write about and starting to repeat myself, but as I think we’ve talked about before, sometimes repeating is okay, and often we have a new perspective on old topics.

        I suppose we should just have faith in our own creativity, but that’s exactly the worry creative people have. What if the magic juice runs out!

        “None of the descriptions ever sounded like anything I actually wanted to read.”

        He tends to be dark, gloomy, and tortured. I’d hate to be inside that guy’s head. What got to me fairly quickly was the utter lack of joy in his writing.

        The Expanse, in contrast and for example, has joy. There’s joy in the relationship between Jim and Naomi. Amos, for all his history, is a joyful character, and so is Alex. (Quite disturbing to read about the allegations against that actor. Damn it!)

        For all that life can suck, the counterbalance is the joy.

        “Give me sympathetic characters with interesting challenges and interesting ideas, and I’m in good shape.”

        Exactly. You and me, both, dude.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Definitely there’s nothing wrong with repeating, particularly on something we haven’t covered in a while. It’s rare for anyone to mine my archives anyway.

        Now that you mention it, a lot of Ellison’s stuff did sound like horror. (His most famous story, I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, sounds pretty horrific. I’m not really much of a fan of horror. I don’t mind having some horror mixed into a story. (The Asher book I’m reading has its share, as do the Expanse books, but I still enjoy them.) But generally I find straight horror unappealing.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I have a handful of older posts that keep getting hits, but otherwise likewise. (I could probably even get away with just republishing old posts.)

        Most of the stories in that Ellison collection are similar in tone and style to I Have No Mouth. Another (in that collection) that gave him major writing cred was “Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman, which is less horrific, but still has Ellison’s weird approach to narrative.

        He apparently did better with TV scripts, and did a fair number of them (including one co-written with JMS for Bab5Objects in Motion).

  • Writer’s Lift Wednesday #20 – ArmedWithCoffee

    […] (3) Some of us possess random thought seeds and others of us have farmers’ markets waiting to happen, i.e. Wyrd Smythe […]

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Whew, another swampy smarmy soupy walk through 95+% humidity. If I’d known the clouds were rolling in (and reducing the sunlight), I could have held off until the temp went up and the dew point down. Humidity was around 87% and dropping by the time I got home.

    “It’s all about the timing, baby!”

    [Now to see about cranking out post #998…]

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Man, the weather continues to suck. Mornings have dew points just a degree or two below the air temp, so humidity is nearly 100%, and the sun is still pretty high after 6 AM, so it’s nasty.

    The humidity is better later, just because the air temps get up to the 90s while the dew points are in the 70s, which is still awful, but the humidity drops to around 70% so the air isn’t so soupy. OTOH, the sun is high in the sky and blasting with all its summer might, so forget a brisk power walk.

    But at least there’s no breeze to cool you off. 😰🥵🥴

    Can’t last forever. This much moisture in the air has to rain out. (With any luck, spectacularly: I love a good thunderstorm!)

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