I skipped Friday Notes last month, and almost skipped it this month. To some extent that’s due to the note pile getting smaller, but the larger share of it is the exhaustion and ennui I’ve been feeling all year. My posts-per-month count has been noticeably down since April.
Over the 110 months of this blog (which doesn’t count 2017, the year I took off), the average is 10 posts per month, but in the previous two years it’s 14, so I do seem off my feed lately. OTOH, only 74 posts in 2018 (my lowest year), and I’m at 96 now, so there’s that.
In any event, here’s another edition of FN.
I’ve said this before; no doubt I’ll say it again: I really don’t like touchscreens. Years now of using them have made that pretty clear.
There is convenience in pocket computing, yes, but apps with a touch interface are so inadequate compared to what I’m used to. There’s no fine control, and forget about typing (let alone editing).
I’ve been especially aggravated trying to highlight text in books. It’s hard to get the text I want. The finger is a blunt instrument. And for some reason, it never seems to want to include the final period.
The lack of feedback is annoying, too. App designers aren’t always good at providing immediate visual or audible indication. Sometimes I’m not sure the app saw my touch or not. Sometimes they don’t, so I’m never sure. (The YouTube iOS app seems especially prone to ignoring touches.)
Sometimes when I’m idle I play that simple game, 2048, and I’ve messed up my chances a bunch of times by accidentally swiping because my finger was too close. That’s the other thing that drives me crazy about touchscreens — all the accidental activations. I moved the phone app to a second screen so I wouldn’t accidentally butt-dial.
And they’re always dirty.
There are many words, positive and negative, that sum up some aspect of how I react to life. Fascination is one of the positive ones. Hope is another. On the Yin side, I’d have to say a key one is disappointment.
I’m very disappointed we don’t act better. I know we can; there’s no question we’re capable of it. I see signs of it all the time. Our literature and art are filled with examples. And I see lots of people who do know how to act, but, as a friend of mine likes to say (with an implicit headshake), “Some people’s children!”
Anyway I got to thinking about, as a dystopic science fiction location, “The City of Dis” — dismay, disappointment, disenchantment, dissatisfaction, disgust, disgrace, disinterest, disaster, disease,… All dis bad stuff! Could fit in an allegorical or cyberpunk context.
But it sounded really familiar, like something Philip K. Dick had already written. In fact it goes back a bit further than that. The City of Dis is from the 1320 blockbuster bestseller, The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. No wonder it sounded so familiar.
It would still make an awesome allegorical science fiction location. Blade Runner sort of thing, which is why it seems PKD must have used it, but a brief search only found Dante references (and a Boston rock band).
Sometimes I’m so slow. Every time I showered, I vaguely shook my head at the two large tags on the washcloth I use. It was a lot of tag for a washcloth.
Finally the lightbulb went on. Duh. Cut the tags off, dummy.
So now there’s fraying threads where the tags were. It gives me something else to shake my head at.
I think I may have been brainwashed by those tags that loudly tell you not to remove them under penalty of law! Somehow I never trusted the fine print that said it was okay for me to remove them.
Two movies I saw recently and recommend. (Neither inspire me towards their own blog post, but I enjoyed them.)
Flight (2012), starring Denzel Washington, directed by Robert Zemeckis. I’ve wanted to see this ever since I saw the trailers for it, but it never came around on the cable channels. Recently it showed up on Hulu.
It would be stretch to call it an anti-hero story, because Washington’s Captain “Whip” Whitaker is neither hero nor role model. Except for that time he saved a planeload of people despite being legally drunk sustained with cocaine.
It’s a masterful performance by Washington and worth seeing for it.
Bill & Ted Face the Music (2020), starring (of course) Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter. This is the third in the Bill & Ted series, and it comes after a 29 year gap. The first two were in 1989 and 1991. They’re all great goofy fun.
In the new one Bill & Ted are indeed much older, and they’ve failed to write the world-uniting song they were supposed to. In consequence, both their musical career and marriages are crashing. And so is time and space.
So they set off for the future to get the song from their future selves. (It doesn’t go well with their future selves.) Along the way they collect Jimi Hendrix, a young Louis Armstrong, Mozart, and Ling Lun, to play in their band. In the end, it’s their daughters — very close fallen apples — who save reality (and kinda steal the show).
A good serious time travel story is tough. Time travel is fundamentally an incoherent concept, so comedies are often the best genre for such stories (e.g. Back to the Future). The machines are fantasy anyway, so some stories don’t bother (e.g. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court). For something far more serious, Kindred, Octavia Butler’s “grin fantasy” (and her most popular work).
Speaking of time, especially after reading Lee Smolin’s book, I think views of time fall into three+ categories:
- Motor — time is fundamental; a source of change
- Ratchet — time is an arrow insuring forward movement
- Consequence — time emerges from something else
- none of the above
I’m down for #1, and I know many support some version of #3. The second one isn’t as common. It’s something of a spin on #3, but posits time as something (other than entropy) that prevents physics going backwards. It is related to the view that entropy is time’s arrow. (Some versions of #3 posit that entropy is the source of time.)
Not going into any of that, I just like the triplet: Motor, Ratchet, Consequence.
I will say that Einstein’s notion of spacetime might have misled us a bit. We tend now to think of time as another dimension, but it’s really not. Reality works as if it were — it’s a very useful approximation — but time is quite distinct from the physical dimensions.
For one thing, we can’t change how we move in it. Our personal clock always ticks at one second per second. We certainly can’t stop or go backwards. Special Relativity does let us skip ahead relative to slower moving objects, but that’s just a shortcut nature allows. “I’ll speed up and meet you later!”
I think the spacetime interval itself singles out time from space:
The minus sign indicates that the time dimension is different. (The delta, Δ, just means change in. The ct gives us meters/second times seconds. The seconds cancel out leaving meters, which makes the time dimension a spatial one.)
There is a variation that puts minus signs in front of the spatial dimensions and a plus sign in front of the time dimension. The math is the same, up to a sign, and either way time is different from space.
Sometimes the interval is written:
And the ict–squared turns the i into -1, providing the minus sign. But it also brands time as an imaginary dimension, so again time is different from space.
Once spacetime is broken back into space and time, we’re free to accept time as fundamental (if we choose) and still have space be emergent (which is Smolin’s program).
Quite some time ago I wrote (and I paraphrase here):
The Theist problem: It might be false.
The Atheist problem: It might be true.
I think these are important and obvious truths, even for believers on either side. (I’m generally opposed to certitude, to gnosticism — I’m a decisive Agnostic.)
Anything not proven may be wrong.
Anything not disproven may be right.
And again I think these are important obvious truths. (Proving is harder than disproving, which is why falsification is a cornerstone of science. It’s really hard to prove something is true.)
I’ll end with the same topic I started with, my post count:
The year isn’t over, but the count is definitely down. (2017 is like a missing tooth.) I think this century is getting to me.
Stay timely (and tag-free), my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.