Well, maybe not.

I’m back in AFib again.  Made it about 3 weeks before I went back into an irregular rhythm, so they are putting me on new drugs and talking about cardioversion (the big jolt) again.

So, whoever had me for 3 weeks before I went back into AFib and had to get more treatment can collect their winnings.

Symptoms suck– it feels like I’ve been punched in the stomach all the time because the edema is causing my abdomen to retain water–weirdest thing, just my abdomen (but at least I’m not getting “Fred Flintstone feet”). The nurse asked me if I felt bloated the other day, and I had to remind her that men don’t get bloated.

Swine before Pearls

If we get the leader we deserve, we can start calling him “President Trump” right now.

We are a world entirely plagued by form over substance: there is nothing more worthless than a marketing campaign. Why? Because it’s all about sizzle and not steak. We are dedicating more and more energy to being less and less– soon we will disappear up our own asses.

We can’t go to the moon or Mars, or even build a decent bridge; but boy, can we build a pretty “app”. And we can get people to “get” it for the latest iShit(tm) device, too!

All last night during the Broncos game (my one and only sports vice), I kept hearing about the “NBC app”. For Christsake, now we not only have a hollow shit-fer-brains TV network, we have an app to “follow” it.

I hope someone comes up with an “it’s time to wipe your ass” app, or there are going to be a lot of people out there who will forget to.

As you may know, I love Frank Zappa. He has a song that takes up a whole album side (remember album sides? No? Embryo!), it’s called “Gregory Peckary”. The (anti-)hero of the tune (G.P.) works for “Big Swifty and Associates, Trend Mongers”.  “…and what might you ask, is a Trend Monger? A Trend Monger is someone who dreams up a trend. Like ‘The Twist’ or ‘Flower Power’…” and then uses clever devices to make people identify with it.

We are stuck in Trend high gear, folks. There’s no there there, or here here or anywhere. Everywhere is nowhere. Everything is nothing. Nothing is everything. And substance is a bore.

Zen has won and we are the prize. Our nothingness has become the pinnacle of our society.

Which brings us back to election 2016.

It’s either about nothing at all or something entirely imaginary. Donald Trump believes that immigrants (or muslaimiacs!) are our biggest problem, while Ben Carson believes that our biggest problem is that we need to get ready for the apocalypse. Ted Cruz thinks our biggest problem is liberals. Rand Paul thinks our biggest problem is that not enough people identify with a book of fiction he masturbates to (Atlas Shrugged, if you don’t follow Mr. Paul). Jeb Bush believes that it’s his turn.

So, let’s sum up the fantasies:

  • Illegal immigrants who do the shit jobs Americans are too good to do and send all the cash home to their families are coming here just to have anchor babies so they can take over America!
  • No wait! Jebus is coming back and we need to be ready for his divine judgment!
  • No wait! Liberals just want to make us all homosexuals and take away our gunz!
  • No wait! The free market as described by this really bad writer of fiction is under attack by “takers”!
  • No wait! My dickhead brother was president, which means I’m next!
  • No wait! <insert made-up fantasy here>

After all, believing in nothing or something non-existent is easy while believing in something, in anything, that is real is the hardest thing there is. And half our voting population believes this shit.

We are doomed.

I (obviously) made it.

The Cardioversion therapy I underwent was a success. It looks like I will be around for a while to continue to pump out more (largely ignored and pointless) drivel.

Whoever picked “he makes it” in the pool can collect their winnings. Those who picked “strokes out” do not have to pay out yet, I still need to climb on a bicycle and try to get back in shape; but anyone who had money on “kicks the bucket” need to admit defeat and cough up their bets. Goons will be dispatched to collect on welchers.

I believe you believe that

I say that a lot when someone stridently believes something to be true, but has not convinced me of the fact. It is an affirmation of their belief to end the argument insofar as their conviction is obvious; but that does not mean what they say is true.

The statement is by no means meant to construe that I give any credence whatsoever to what they are saying; but that I am tired of listening to the person’s assertion of fact without proof. Essentially, it also means that I don’t (yet) completely discount what you are saying, but require more proof.

I am a programmer, so I get to say it a lot when someone says “this is why that code is broken” or “that code you wrote does not work.”

I also get to use it with my conservative friends and other people, like climate-change-deniers, who make wild assertions with no proof, like “global warming is just a conspiracy by the communist Chinese to get us to slow our economic development.” If that was their plan, all I can say is: too late– we lost economic supremacy when Walmart, the outlet for all unnecessary junk made in China became the one place to shop for rednecks.

Next time, get the extended warranty

I’m 54 and I have AFib. I’ve been clocking in at about 130 beats a minute. No heart disease, no clogged arteries, just bad rhythm. What can I say? I’m a white guy.

Today, I’m going in to have my heart more or less jump-started. There is about a 1 in 30 chance of stroke (another way that life is like golf– fewer strokes is better), because the atrium of my heart is fluttering and not really pushing a lot of blood out to the ventricles, so it tends to collect, get old and gooey. That means blood thinners, which I’ve been on for the last month or so.

Breathing feels weird. I can’t get enough air in my lungs, or that’s how it feels– like my lungs are about half the capacity they usually are. That’s because the atrium (which draws blood from the lungs) is not working well. It makes putting on a T-shirt feel like I’ve run the mile.

I’m a pretty active person, so the inability to basically walk around without turning into a wheeze-factory is driving me bonkers. I am not allowed to exert myself. Not allowed. Usually my doctors are very pleased with my activity, now they warn against it. Great, just great.

Hopefully, I’ll be on the mend by tomorrow, either that or living in a basket doing a passable Marcel Marceau.

Almost forgot: this is my bother Steve’s 56 birthday today (11/30). Happy birthday, Steve!

Lock your doors! It’s zucchini season again!

Someone left one of the vile things on my doorstep 2 weeks ago. With a ribbon on it, no less.  And just today, there was another waiting in my mailbox when I got home from work.

My wife’s response when I told her about our newest special delivery? “Goddamn it!” (Another clue that I married the right woman).

How can we end this scourge, this plague of zucchininess?

What the fuck am I supposed to do with them? What kind of twisted mind believes that leaving a zucchini is a good idea? Why, it’s an incitement to do violence!

In some cultures, leaving a zucchini at someone’s home is considered a curse. Look it up!

And just look at the results: zucchini bread, zucchini-based cakes, succotash! Who knows what kind of monstrous recipe these sick bastards will come up with? Zucchini wine? Zucchini goulash? Zucchini beer?

Protect yourself now. Hide if you must. Just 2 months in a well-defended bunker with clear lines of fire in all directions may mean the difference between a life of fulfillment and one inundated with zucchini.

Perspective

What we are is perspective, and little more (and you know that can’t be bad, yeah, yeah, yeah…)

We are allotted a certain amount of time. There is a popular modern myth that about 200 years ago a man aged 40 was old. This is entirely untrue. The average age up until about 150 years ago was 40 years. This does not mean that 40 years of age was old, but that an awful lot of children died, pulling the average age downward.

My grandparents had 14 children, they lost their first 2, leaving the infant and child mortality for their children at 14% from 1925 to 1950, the years over which my grandmother had children. When those two girls whom my father, the 7th born child never even knew, died the national infant mortality rate was about 15%.  Now, go back 100 years before that and consider that 4 in 10 children (40%) died before they reached their 10th birthday. Imagine 1 in seven children dying before their 10th birthday by 1937, or 4 in 10 before 1860.

Throughout history, if you were lucky enough to reach your 20th birthday, your chances of reaching your 80th were damned good–over 60%. According to the oft inaccurate; but frequently quoted bible, the time allotted man (and woman although she is often ignored in the narrative except as a doormat) was 4 score (80) years. That number has hardly changed at all in the history of our marginally noble species. It’s not much more than 80 years now, there are just a hell of a lot more of us reaching it.

We live in a brief bubble of time in which we enact our petty desires and perceive the results in the limited scope of the time given us– those 80 years. We are pretty much incapable of imagining time spans much larger than that.

The Universe (“God”, if you will) is a narcissist. Our lives, our pitiful and paltry 80 years, are an attempt of the universe to grok itself. The universe needs and desires a mirror by which it can understand and perceive itself– there is an intelligence at work here; but we can little understand it except for its reasonably intelligent desire to understand itself, which all intelligent beings possess.

That self-examining entity the universe uses the only vehicle available to it: other intelligences (us) and our selfishness, our desires, our occasional charity, our loves and hates, passions and slovenly indulgences to see itself. We are the mirror.

The Great Mambo Chicken and the Transhuman Condition“, a treatise on life extension, is among the worst books ever written (along with that pile of absolute shit “Atlas Shrugged” and its abridged version “The Fountainhead” by Ayn(us) Rand). In it, the author describes the scientific process of transferring our thoughts to a machine, so that we can live forever. Its premise is that we can live far beyond our 80 years– even forever if we so choose, by transferring our memories and wishes to other hardware than our meat bodies.

The premise of its dim-witted author is that if we can be a machine intelligence, we can “back ourselves up” and if the machine our intelligence “runs” on goes bonk, we can restore our last backup on a new machine and rumble boldly on.

But let’s look at that a moment. Why would I consider such a notion idiotic? Well, the thing that makes up “You” or “Me” is more than just our collected memories and experiences– a program for playback. We are the machine, too. We are part and parcel with the hardware.

So, let’s consider a more popular representation of what makes up You or Me. Think about the TV series “Star Trek”. Maybe you don’t like the series, it may not be your thing, but you’ve probably heard of it and are likely familiar with some of the devices used in the show– the phaser, automatically opening doors, warp engines, and of course, the transporter.

The transporter is something that takes a person who stands in it, breaks them down into an energy pattern that represents them  as information, transmits the energy pattern to a target destination and then reassembles their body in that distant location.

Consider the premise that when a person’ (person-prime) is “broken down” for transport, they die– it is part of the disassembly process. That “incarnation” or bundle of perceptions that was person’ before transporting is killed as part of the dis-assembly process (you gotta break a few eggs to make an omelette).

After transport when the energy signature taken from person’ is reassembled, the entity that occupies the resulting physical body is not really the same, it is a replicant– call them person” (person double-prime). That reassembled person” has all the memories of person’, will behave in an identical manner, will believe (because of their memories) that they are person’, but person’ is dead.

Furthermore, there is no way that person” can ever be proven to not be person’. If the transporter is ever invented, and this situation is acceptable to you, be my guest, jump right in. You go first. “You” will be killed and someone who looks and acts like you, has the same wishes and desires as you– the whole shebang. That replicant will take your place and do what you wanted, but it won’t be YOU. They’ll fuck your wife or husband, love your kids, go about their business, but they are the start of a new vector.

That’s my theory.

Who knows? At the quantum level, it may actually be You who are brought back, but there is no way to know if what is You survived transportation. It can neither be proved nor disproved that you body is occupied by you or a newly-spawned entity that for all practical purposes to the outside world appears to be you. You might have died or you might not have. Like I said, you first, buddy.

And now I will use a spooky word because I have no other word that fits: Soul. You are your memories and abilities, all the “state” that represents your learning, desires, all of that. But there is something else– the animus that moves you: your will, your “soul”, that spark of energy that moves your meat puppet through each day.

So back to the Mambo Chicken. The supposition here is much simpler than the transporter. A doctor will slowly probe your brain, gathering your thoughts, your memories, your desires and how you feel and “encode” this information as data. This copy will be saved to be “booted up” on a more reliable piece of hardware than the human body.

In the Mambo Chicken book, the process is destructive, in that your brain will necessarily be destroyed to gather the data (remember: broken eggs => omelettes).  It may not be necessary to destroy the brain to get the data, but there are complications (some of them legal) if you are not discontinued in the meat existence. One of the difficulties is that you would periodically have to go back and be brain probed.

Maybe all this could be done with some sort of brain scan device, but regardless, this copy of your brains state is a snapshot– if you go on living, you’ll gather more information that will have to be backed up sometime before you physically die.

Sooner or later, you croak. Or if you made the big leap and are already running on “the new non-meat hardware” and it (as all devices do) goes belly up, your last recorded backup state can be dumped onto a new machine and started up. But it’s not really you. Each new “boot” from a backup is a new incarnation; but it’s not like waking up in the morning– it’s still the same you that went to sleep last night when you wake up.

Each crash is another death, each boot on new hardware a new birth (albeit starting from a state other than from-scratch as a baby does). It is a new animus at work, a new soul, if you will (or won’t), but it ain’t YOU.

If a backup of a person’s state is not really that person, it’s not really extending your life when it’s booted up on another device. After all, how could a backup of your intellect be you? It could be booted up on two separate devices, after all, that each claim to be the person who was backed up and that the other is an impostor.

“Two men say they’re Jesus. One of them must be wrong.”

So, would you be happy with that condition? Your memories and desires go on, but YOU don’t. If you are satisfied with this outcome, you’re going to like the future– or not because either way YOU won’t be around to enjoy it.

 

 

The Death Penalty

The recent conviction of the Aurora Theater shootings, James Holmes, has brought up the issue of capital punishment again here in Colorado. (Note: this article was started  before Mr. Holmes was sentenced to several life terms and not execution).

I am not a vengeful man. I do get angry and I do feel hatred, and I direct them at those who have wronged me and whom I believe deserve it for that reason, but I don’t believe in revenge. Definitely not at the societal level.

I am, however, pro death penalty.

The death penalty is not punishment. Punishment is used to instruct those who receive it, in response to their own bad behavior, in order to condition or train them, hopefully with a healthy dose of positive reinforcement to reward them for good behavior. As far as execution is concerned, there is hardly anything the resulting corpse can have learned from the process, so it serves no purpose as punishment.

But I am still for the death penalty, just as I am for shooting a rabid dog in my neighborhood if one is on the rampage– there is no other cure for the malady capital crime inflicts on society.

I don’t enjoy or celebrate the practice, any more than I would cheer putting down a sick animal. The state should never participate in vengeful bloodthirstiness. Further death does not serve the victims, it’s even sad that it had to come to this: the elimination of a creature we had thought was human, but failed humanity and therefore had to be “put down.”

If you enjoy the death penalty; if you pump your fist in the air and say “yeah, we got him” when someone is executed, you are sick. Seek help. This is not a football game– it’s someone dying at the hands of every person in our society, and it is sad that it is necessary. Find your kicks elsewhere, there are none here for any rational person.

My youngest son Josh once asked me if there were monsters. I told him that yes there were, but they looked like people. Those deserving of capital punishment demonstrate sufficient monstrosity to no longer qualify as human. Something in them is so fundamentally broken that there is, as yet, no cure for them, nothing that can make them human.

To me, capital punishment is a shameful, but necessary elimination of a problem. How do we dispose of a person who, through their willful commission of a severely heinous crime, have proven themselves no longer human? Should we lock them up for the rest of their lived? Is that a kindness or in actuality more cruel?

By a life sentence, we are admitting the person is irredeemable with no chance of absolution. Should we lock such a person in a cage and, furthermore, bear the cost of keeping such a person alive?

Someone who deserves capital punishment must be convicted of a crime no human being would commit. The burden of proof must be overwhelming.

Regardless of my support for the death penalty, we must be extremely careful in dispensing it. Too many people whom were likely innocent have been claimed by it. So many that Illinois no longer applies it. Certainly in Texas where many people (I’m talking about you, Rick Perry) revel joyfully in executions as though they are something to be celebrated and where more are carried out than in any other state there must have been innocent victims of the practice. For a person to be put down in such a manner, there must be no doubt that

James Holmes did not receive the death penalty. I had hoped he would. He is guilty of a terrible crime and has thereby proved his unfitness as a human being. There is no place left for him among humanity; so we will throw him into the refuse pile that is our correctional system “forever.” I see no benefit in his languishing in a cell for him or us.

Long years in prison with no chance of release won’t teach him anything, at least not so that he can be released and practice any lessons he’s learned. In fact, if you are into cruelty, maybe you should glad he didn’t get the death penalty.

Would I have celebrated or cheered had he been executed? No. I would have mourned his passing instead– his death would have been a sad but necessary waste of someone who could have been human; but was instead broken. Now he will be placed on a shelf like a malfunctioning appliance, never to be repaired– just stored.

Mensa for Dummies

Everybody is a snob about something.

For some people it’s sports, maybe music, their politics, their product loyalties (now that’s pitiful); but snobbery is ubiquitous.

I used to be a member of Mensa. I am no longer because I refuse to pay dues. I qualify, but I don’t inhale. Who would want to?

I quit in a huff a few years ago telling them to go to hell in an email which I still wish I had a copy of. I have no idea what happened to it– lost among the stuff we lose all the time shuffling the things we have about.

Essentially, I left because of vanity. I hate vanity, but for a group of so-called intellectuals, that was all they had to offer: a chance to be vain.

Mensa has a store where they have coffee mugs showing your superiority (if you are a member), where you can get bumper stickers, bookmarks, probably even dildos for all I know, emblazoned with the Mensa symbol:

download

The website has a lot of links for working with “Gifted Children” also. I guess the crop of snobbery has to be perpetuated. I was hoping there would be links to help tutor kids that maybe weren’t so “gifted”, that maybe needed extra help, maybe some confidence building. No such luck.

We gifted have to stick together.

I used to attend Mensa meetings when I lived in Dallas. There were definitely the snobs there, but there also were some fine people who just said “fuck it” to all the snobbery. A couple by the name Janette and Richard come to mind. They had the best attitude of anyone I ever met, which could be summed up by: “All right! Extra brain cells! Let’s destroy them!”

Somewhere I still have an invite to the “KumonIwannalaya luau” they held in 1987. They lived in Richardson. They roasted a pig in a pit they dug in their front yard (much to the obvious chagrin of their neighbors)– there was no room in the back, it was filled fence to fence with a pool. Porky rose from the pit promptly at 7:00. The drinks were free and plentiful. The guest list was confined to  a lot of fun people, Mensans and non-Mensans– not that you could really tell the difference after a few drinks.

One of the activities they planned involved dropping a group of attendees far too inebriated to drive themselves at a nearby (3 miles away) office park after dark. Never fear, each participant had a flashlight and their own golf ball and club. The rules were simple: whoever was able to make it back to Jan and Rich’s place and hit their ball through the window to their bedroom (around back) landing closest to Jan’s loafer won. What still remains unclear.

Take as many strokes as you like, try not to break anything, try to keep your drink from spilling all over the place (Richard will be out with the truck delivering refills), try to be as clear as possible when explaining to the friendly officers why you are out along a major boulevard with a golf club after dark on a summer night alarming motorists, and most of all, try to have a good time.

In a state with (at that time) an open container law, walking around on a Saturday with a drink was acceptable if not expected, even in Richardson. The golf clubs were another matter. Fortunately no one was jailed.

There was also “The Rock and Roll SIG”. A special interest group where the attendees got loaded and listened to all the deep tracks from albums that never got any airplay. I owe a lot of my taste in music to those folks. There was not a lot of snobbery there, just good music, the snobs were not welcome and did not stay long.

I attended only one Mensa meeting after moving back to Colorado, with my brother and future wife. It was like attending a congregation of the greek gods (“poor mortals, I feel so sorry for, and superior to them”). Everyone seemed to be focused lording their intellect, every conversation could be summed up as looking down on society in general as those poor dumb slobs who did not appreciate all this intelligence or trying to discern where then belonged in the smarts pecking order.

Assholes.

Where I work I saw one of those vanity ovoids that jerkoffs who run marathons have on their cars (usually with 26.2 for “I run full” or 13.1 for “I run half” marathons) to make themselves feel superior for running, only this one was inside the Mensa symbol with the ovoid containing “140.3”. Encoded for those “in the know” it essentially said, “my IQ is 140.3, neener-neener-neener.”

What a fuckwad. I can use that phrase, because it’s arabic for “douche-bag”.

Is that all there is to intellect? Just looking down your nose at “the intellectually inferior”. No wonder so many brainiacs had the shit kicked out of them throughout childhood by anyone with a lick of athletic ability.

I guess being smart doesn’t prevent you from being childish.

It seems silly to me for this to be the case, though. If you’re so smart, can’t you put it to good use? Can’t you try to do something good with all that “superior intellect”? I mean, who can change the world by being a good skier? Maybe you can teach kids or endorse good causes if you are good enough at it, but what the fuck good is having a brain if you don’t do anything with it other than brag?

The Future is a Place You Won’t be in for Long.

And that’s OK.

It’s scary, but it’s true.

That great philosopher “The Amazing Criswell” once said: “The future is the place where we will be spending the rest of our lives.” Unfortunately, there’s not much time left in our lives. Your lifetime will seem like a summer’s vacation when it’s over. Even Jesus wanted just a little more time. Did he get it? No.

But what about that remaining time? How should you fill it?

Let’s take a little test. There are just two questions both of which can be answered only with yes or no, so it won’t take long:

  1. Do you have children? It does not matter whether they are yours by birth, adoption or marriage.
  2. Are you over the age of 40?

If you answered ‘yes’ to either of these questions, it’s not your world anymore. The future does not belong to you, and you should behave appropriately. It belongs to those people who answered ‘no’ to both questions.

Those people are children– at least in spirit. They are ready and willing to embrace the future and the new things it brings. They have not abdicated their futures to their offspring (yet), and they are in the first half, the learning, expanding and enjoying half of their lives. To them, the end seems a long way off.

Many people, most of them old, have come to the conclusion that it’s not their world anymore on their own, maybe not directly, but they suspect it in their hearts. A lot of them are bitter. Some of them get very angry– they want the future to belong to them and they would really like it to be the same or similar to the past they’ve known.

These people are resentful of the young. They dislike new things– new music, new shows, new ideas. “New” is a bad word to them, a frightening word that holds no promise, only threat.

I have friends who have become crotchety, and are very proud of it. I have trouble being around them anymore. They find gay marriage threatening somehow, in ways they can’t articulate; but the recent decision by the SCOTUS is not for them– it’s for the future they won’t occupy, at least not for very long.

They watch Fox News because they find something that reinforces their fears oddly comforting (I have no idea why): “you’re goddamned right you better be afraid! Here’s more stuff to scare the shit out of you that should not bother you at all! Here is a group or a person who will make a good target for your fear and anger, despise them!”

They have become spiteful and hateful, spouting strange “facts” that have no basis in reality– easily disproven if their minds were open to reason; but they sadly are not. To them, I have been ‘turned’. They also seem to be very “in-your-face” about their beliefs, almost proud of being uninformed and belligerent at any attempt to enlighten them.

I had always hoped that people would grow wiser with age, less easily deluded, less gullible, more difficult to convince of falsity, more open to reason. I find among my peers and older people that the opposite is true.

Global warming, for instance.

The difference between my friends’ stance on man’s contribution to global warming and mine is that I hope they are correct, because it may already be too late to do anything about it. They had better be right at this point, they’ve claimed there was nothing wrong all the way through the time we could have been doing something about it. They honestly can’t accept global warming because it threatens not their children or the future of our planet, but because it threatens their world view.

How crazy is that? The threat is not to the future or the world, but to their belief system and therefore has to be denied. And that’s just global warming– the same holds true with every other progressive thought that comes their way: civil rights, income inequality, systemic racism, healthcare– you name it. Real threats are nothing compared to imagined ones.

Doctor Who (yeah, I’m quoting Doctor Who– get over it) said in the episode “The Brain of Morbius” that death was the price we pay for progress. Think of it, if the old did not die they would constantly wish to preserve an idealized past, fighting any progress away from it.

There is no place in the future for the old, and the foolish old especially.

Thank god for that.