Happy Summer Solstice (today at 10:07 UTC)!
And now the irony of the “Beginning of Summer” coinciding with the days starting to have less and less light. No sooner does summer begin when the system begins insuring its cyclic demise.
One tries not to take that as a statement of the human condition…
Where are all the aliens?
I’ve mentioned the Fermi Paradox here quite a number of times, but I’ve never made it the main topic of a post. Lately I’m becoming more and more convinced our world is facing a Great Filter, and that we may very well be seeing one answer to Mr. Fermi’s interesting paradox.
Which is a response to the Drake Equation, which I have made the topic of a post.
Essentially, the Drake Equation attempts to estimate the number of intelligent space-faring species in a galaxy and, by most accounts, comes up with a number noticeably larger than one. The Fermi Paradox says: Okay Mr. Drake… if so… where are all the aliens?
There’s really only one web comic I read anymore: xkcd. Randall Munroe continues to turn out thoughtful gems, and I really appreciate the ad-free nature of the site. I also find his What-If? series delightful; the first episode is one of my favorite interweb jewels!
But it’s his insight to the human condition and ability to nail a point with such brilliant brevity that I most relish. I value some of his comics as highly as I value favorite quotes; both are pithy petards against our myths and illusions.
And sometimes he even hoists my petard a bit!
So it’s been more than a year since my last post here. Because reasons; many reasons. One of them is that this is the 666th post on this blog, and that invokes my interests in symbolism, metaphor, and numerical shenanigans. Seems like I should “do” something in this one.
The Beast I’ve had in mind all year is that Obvious Monster a bunch of very angry, very stupid, and in some cases very evil, people connived (emphasis on “con”) into our POTUS. I’ve made my feelings very clear on that (in so many of my posts last year), so I’m not going to say (much) more in this one.
Instead, because it was a rich, full year, more of a personal recap.
What a god-awful, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year! For, oh, so many, many reasons:
My Minnesota Twins had the worst season in their franchise history (and now they will probably trade my favorite player, Brian Dozier); a whole bunch of people I cared about, or had some sort of ties to, died in 2016 (and many more I never knew and didn’t have ties to); there was that whole 2016 Presidential election thing (which was deeply awful on many counts, and who knows what will happen now); and let us not forget Syria or Flint, Michigan.
In fact, I’m not sure I can name one good thing about 2016. Except that, maybe, it’s finally over.
A different, more personal, anniversary… Looking back at the five years of this blog (or, for that matter, the many more years of this blogger), I can’t help but reflect on how man- and mice-plans go astray.
Case in point: Sidebands. Originally, as the name implies, meant as out-of-the-norm posts. True of the first few, but by #41 they’d become too inclusive, not much different from regular posts. The idea needed retooling; it was over a year before I posted #42. (And I added Brain Bubbles for minor-topic or very short posts.)
Since then, I’ve tried to restrict Sidebands to extremely technical topics. (For example, #59. I should have made that tesseract post #60, and today doubly wish I had.)
It’s one of those days you remember better than any birthday or wedding. Those were planned; these hit you suddenly, stunning your mind, breaking your heart. “The shuttle blew up!” “The Towers fell!”
The impact was even greater if you saw it happen in real-time. If you watched the shuttle launches. If you caught the breaking news before the second tower was hit. Saw the second plane, realized at that moment, “This is no accident!”
Even if you saw it after, you saw it; saw it as an attack.
When the world hits your eye like a nasty pig sty,… that’s not amore, that’s Weltschmerz (best English translation: “world pain”). It’s a term I’ve been meaning to post about for years, since it — or rather what it defines — lies at the heart of most of my Rant posts. (Yeah, this is another Drafts post I’m finally setting free.)
Fundamentally, it speaks to a disconnect or gulf between what one feels ought to be true in the world compared to what actually is true. Implicit in the term is a moral bias regarding the ought; it doesn’t, for example, apply to the gap between wishing you were rich while being poor.
It seems to me very much a word for our times.
The other day I saw in a New York Times article that Alvin Toffler had died last month. The article wasn’t really an obituary so much as about Future Shock, the book Toffler wrote back in 1970. If you’re around my age, you may remember him and the book; both were a bit of a big deal.
I hadn’t thought about that book since back then, but as the Times writer points out, “it seems clear that his diagnosis has largely panned out, with local and global crises arising daily from our collective inability to deal with ever-faster change.” Truer words! Even in 1970, the technological pace was starting to affect people in bad ways, and it certainly hasn’t gotten any better since.
The article really struck a chord! I’ve been thinking quite a lot lately — and have written a few posts — about the growing disconnect between people and their grasp of the technological modern world.