Category Archives: Writing

Washer/Dryer Woes

Appearing soon at my place!

Monday is laundry day — a rare bit of regularity in my retired life. Faithful readers (all three of you) will recall I had a bit of electrical excitement last fall. (That’s been fine ever since, and I’m happy to have the new smoke detectors. I had no idea they are only good for about ten years. Their tiny radioactive source wears out eventually.)

I’ve known for months I needed a new clothes washer and a new clothes dryer. For one thing, they came with the place, so they’re at least 16 years old. More to the point, the dryer was taking two hours to get clothes completely dry, and the agitator in the washing machine was broken — it only worked with extremely light loads.

Yesterday, it died a definite death.

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Determined Causality

The ideas of free will, causality, and determinism, often factor into discussions about religion, morality, society, consciousness, or life in general. The first and last of these ideas seem at odds; if the world is strictly determined, there can be no free will.

But we are confronted with the appearance of free will — choices we make appear to affect the future. Even choosing not to make choices seems to affect our future. If reality is just a ride on fixed rails, then all that choosing must be a trick our brains play.

These questions are central to lives, but answers have remained elusive, in part from differing views of what the key ideas even mean.

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Local Brews

Since high school, I’ve wondered if the USA is just too big to ever make sense. How is it possible to govern a nation that ranges from Bangor to Baton Rouge and from Richmond to Redmond. Finding a political center to such a diverse group of people seems a daunting task.

As our nation grew, so did business, and now we have businesses “too big to fail” because their failure would wreck us. Our capitalistic approach to business seems based on unchecked obsessive growth. Bigger is always better!

The rise (or perhaps return) of local beer brewing offers an interesting lesson in how it’s possible some things should stay small and local.

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Frosted Roads

I’m far from being a literary expert and even further from knowing anything about poetry (but, of course, I know what I like). That said, there are some poems I’ve picked up along the way and cherished. I’ve posted here about three of them: Desiderata, Invictus, and To His Coy Mistress. These poems all have foundational roles in my worldview.

Yet, surprisingly, I haven’t yet written about the most foundational of them all: The Road Not Taken, by the great American poet, Robert Frost. In my youth, a friend once whined at me, “You go out of your way to be different, don’t you!” Yes. Yes, I do. Just like the poem says to.

Except it doesn’t. It doesn’t say that at all.

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Simple Probabilities

I’ve written before about Drake’s Equation and the Fermi Paradox. The former suggests the possibility of lots of alien life. The latter asks okay, so where the heck are they? Given that the universe just started, it’s possible we’re simply the first. Maybe the crowd comes later. (Maybe we create the crowd!)

Recently, one of my favorite YouTube channels, PBS Space Time, began a series of videos about this. The first one (see below) talks about the Rare Earth Hypothesis, a topic that has long fascinated me.

The synchronicity in this is that I’d just had a thought about basic probability and how it applies to our being here…

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Time and Thermodynamics

There is something about the articles that Ethan Siegel writes for Forbes that don’t grab me. It might be that I’m not in the target demographic — he often writes about stuff I explored long ago. I keep an eye on him, though, because sometimes he comes up with a taste treat for me.

Such as his article today, No, Thermodynamics Does Not Explain Our Perceived Arrow Of Time. I jumped on it because the title declares something I think many have backwards: the idea that time arises from entropy or change. Quite to the contrary, I think entropy and change are consequences of time (plus physics).

Siegel makes an interesting argument I hadn’t considered before.

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NCIS: On Very Thin Ice

Maybe it’s expecting too much that a TV series remain in your heart for 17 seasons. I still enjoy The Simpsons (starting its 31st season) and South Park (starting its 23rd season), but both the cartoon format and the nature of those shows gives them a lot of latitude in exploring new ideas while remaining true to the show.

A drama, like NCIS, which I’ve rated as my favorite TV show for well over a decade, is more restricted. It’s harder for a drama to find new ground while remaining true to its nature. That can lead to stagnation, viewer fatigue, or, in some cases, “jumping the shark.”

Which is all to say I’m very disappointed in NCIS, season 17.

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Bummer in the Dell

If I went with longer titles, I might have called this post Why I’ll Never Buy Another Dell Computer! Or I could have gone for the much shorter Dell Sucks! But I can’t resist a good pun or play on wyrds, so Bummer it is.

About a year ago I replaced my aging Sony Vaio laptop with a Dell XPS 15. The Sony taught me some hard lessons about buying a laptop online, one of them being “you’ll be sorry if you buy a Sony” — it had many annoyances, not the least of which was the wireless never worked. And it had a literal bug in it! The Dell is better in many ways, but,… well,…

Dell you disappoint me. Let me count the ways…

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Apollo 11 and Us

We dream of soaring…

Sunday night I watched the new Apollo 11 documentary by Todd Miller. At first, I was really into the show. When the Apollo 11 mission happened I was just starting high school and had been a big fan of the space program going back to Project Mercury. Watching a Saturn V lift off has always induced a profound sense of awe in me.

But I was increasingly struck by how white it all was. And male, but really, really white. That diluted the joy I was feeling with some deep regrets about how we act still today over what are basically paint jobs and some minor accessories.

Given where we find ourselves these days, 50 years hasn’t brought as much progress as it should have. We’re still really stupid about paint jobs.

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Verizon Sucks!

Trapped in the past!

I should have known better. From where I sit, Verizon has always had something of a stench I couldn’t quite identify. There was just something about that company that rubbed me the wrong way.

Now I realize it’s because they’re a bunch of fucking assholes who don’t give two shits about their customers. And, based on my horrible, terrible, very bad experience with them (never again, never again), don’t give two shits about new customers. And I’m beginning to think all technology companies, perhaps all companies, no longer even pretend to care about their customers.

This seems just one more way we’ve seriously lost our way culturally.

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