April 2021 - ?

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April 5-7. Fire in the Sky is about the psychology of exploring weird phenomena.

We seem to have a psychological block that prohibits us from entertaining a class of "strange ideas" outside some personal, identity-based window of acceptable thinking.... Conceptually, the block is related to, but notably different from, the Overton Window, which concerns socially-acceptable speech. Our focus here is not exactly what one can or cannot say for fear of social ostracism, though it likely does contribute to the phenomenon, but is rather what one can or cannot say for actual inability to conceive of a subject.

It's funny, because I'm the opposite. This is probably the one way that I want life to be harder. I'm hungry for stuff that stretches my ability to conceive it, so I've devoured the most challenging woo-woo books I can find, from Charles Fort's The Book of the Damned to Ted Holiday's The Goblin Universe to George Hansen's The Trickster and the Paranormal. My conclusion is that it's our world that's unusual. Reality is a roiling sea of first person perspectives, and we live on an island where the illusion of a third person reality becomes plausible, if you don't look too closely.

More weird stuff in this reddit thread: What's something creepy that happened years ago but to this day you can't figure out why it happened?

April 8. Long reddit comment about How actors talk about acting. Being believable is the bare minimum, and then there's stuff like understanding your character's motivation, disappearing into a role, "outside-in" technical stuff, and making interesting choices:

For example, actors seem to love Jeff Goldblum, Nic Cage, and John Malkovich. Even in something like Holy Man, or Rounders, or Wicker Man, where they're giving pretty much objectively bad performances, other actors sometimes love those performances. Choices come up a lot in conversations about these. It's just so amazing to see people who naturally make choices that we have to work towards.

My definition of creativity is making a choice that's unpredictable with foresight, and yet, in hindsight it seems inevitable. And as a writer, I respect small-scale surprises more than large-scale surprises. There's lots of bad popular entertainment, where they surprise you about which character is evil, but every character's emotional reaction to every little event is exactly what you expect.

April 20. For the holiday, I want to write about weed. Most people I know either never use it, or use it every day. Maybe my brain is different, but those would be my last two choices.

Lately I've been doing two or three sessions a day, and then taking two full days off. I might use it two days in a row, but if I go a third day, it just makes me feel numb, which is not what I want.

In no particular order, these are some of my favorite things to do while high:

1) Put on headphones, walk around outside, and pretend I'm the POV in a video. With the right song, and in the right place, this is absolute heaven. Lately my favorite song is New Yorker Cartoon by Jenny and Johnny. At the same time, I practice turning my attention to my physical senses. My goal, which I'm nowhere near, is to last a whole song without falling into my head.

2) Improvise on piano. Whenever I find a good chord, I'll use label paper and colored markers to show it on the keyboard, and then I'll keep my fingers on the colors and jam. For a while I've been practicing keeping my left hand doing the same thing while my right hand does increasingly complex stuff.

3) Write fiction. When I'm high, I get much better ideas, on everything from plot to how to put words together. The problem is that I think all my ideas are great, when some of them are dumb. To know the difference, I have to edit while sober. Oddly, blogging is almost the opposite. I get ideas high, draft posts sober, and then for major posts, I'll get high and do a style polish.

4) Explore emotions. Weed raises my emotional intelligence to nearly normal. People always say "listen to your heart," and I wish they had more precise instructions. It occurred to me, maybe I've been taking it too metaphorically. So I've been focusing a lot of attention on my literal blood-pumping muscle, and I noticed something. When I do my "expanding into pain" exercise, my heartbeats are sharper. Also, focusing on anything below the neck seems to settle my anxiety.

5) Strobe-enhanced CEV's. I close my eyes, turn my bike taillight to flashing, and point it at my eyelids. If I'm high enough, I'll see all kinds of crazy patterns, and can consciously navigate from one pattern to another. I told Leigh Ann, "I'm afraid this is too self-indulgent." She replied: "You're you!"

April 26. I've been thinking about virtual reality. So far, it's almost all head-based. Worlds are simulated for your eyes and your ears, and mainly navigated by your fingers. The most advanced VR can also interface your arms and legs.

But your arms and legs don't care what world they're in. They don't care if you're scrubbing the bathtub or slaying dragons. It's your brain that cares, and VR is pulling your arms and legs into worlds that the brain wants.

What about the rest of the body? When people talk about following the heart, or the gut, are they projecting the subconscious brain, or do those organs have their own intelligence? That's how primitive we are, that we still don't know the answer.

I think it will turn out that organs do have their own intelligence. This 2005 article, Organ Transplants and Cellular Memories, has a bunch of reports of personality changes after heart transplants.

Maybe in 2050, when you're playing Fallout 9, there will be a wire in your belly so you can get a gut feeling about whether to go into that building. If technology can do that, I'd rather get a wire in my amygdala to nullify unfounded fear. Or, the best case for virtual reality, is that in figuring out how to bring the whole body into an artificial world, we will discover how to finally bring it into the real world.

It's just like terraforming Mars. The science doesn't add up, but in the attempt, we'll come to appreciate how much easier and more valuable it is to re-terraform Earth.

May 3. The 'Capitalism is Broken' Economy. It's about how American employers are having trouble filling their crappy jobs:

Stick with me here, but what if people weren't lazy -- and instead, for the first time in a long time, were able to say no to exploitative working conditions and poverty-level wages? And what if business owners are scandalized, dismayed, frustrated, or bewildered by this scenario because their pre-pandemic business models were predicated on a steady stream of non-unionized labor with no other options? It's not the labor force that's breaking. It's the economic model.

I would explain it like this: Of the many reasons a person gets a job, two of the big ones are 1) to rise from poverty to wealth, and 2) to not fall from poverty to death. Now, with economic decline, and the rich bunkering up with their money, upward mobility is a lot harder. At the same time, through moral progress and upgrades to the safety net, falling from poverty to death is also harder.

More doom, a long speech transcript, How Tech Loses Out. The idea is, big companies now outsource everything. Tech companies have become intellectual property and finance companies, and they no longer employ anyone who knows how stuff actually works.

And at some point, the technical skills of the company become negative. And what does that mean? That your company knows so little about what it does that if you would ask a random person on the street for advice on the thing that your company makes, they are more likely to provide correct answers than the people that actually work for the company.

May 24. Soon, all good news will be local news:

Senegal architects ditch concrete for earth

Homeless Oaklanders have built a cob village

When One City Gave People Cash, They Went Out and Got Jobs

The Number of Cities With Municipal Broadband Has Jumped Over 450% in Two Years

Newark cops, with reform, didn't fire a single shot in 2020

Renton physician cuts health insurance out of the picture

May 27. I've been on the fence about whether COVID-19 came from nature or a lab, because I'm not a biologist studying the issue, so any opinion I had would have been based on social factors, not scientific. It's better to say nothing than to be right for the wrong reason. But as the social buzz dies down, and the evidence comes in, it's looking more like the virus escaped from a lab in Wuhan. Here's an article making that case, The origin of COVID.

May 31. Wading back into politics, the weirdest thing that's happened recently, was when Caitlyn Jenner, who's running for governor of California, said she didn't vote in the last election -- but then it turned out she was lying and did vote. Why would someone vote, and say they didn't vote?

I think Caitlyn Jenner is nutty enough to be in tune with the zeitgeist, in which voting is now uncool. Voting is for saps. If you really want to make a difference, the cool thing to do is have a violent revolution and install a charismatic leader.

To be fair, voting is really unsatisfying. Until you're in an election that's decided by one vote, your vote has never made a difference. I'm a serious supporter of random ballot voting, where for each candidate or measure, the election is decided by picking a single ballot at random. The best thing about random ballot voting is there's no incentive for tactical voting. So a no-bullshit no-charisma candidate has an actual chance of winning.

It's going to be hundreds of years, or thousands, before humans figure out a good large-scale political system. In the short term, I expect many of our half-assed democracies to be overwhelmed by a tide of authoritarian sentiment.

Something I learned from James C. Scott's book Against The Grain, is that human prehistory was politically very complex, and there were some groups that alternated seasonally between top-down and bottom-up systems. I think that's where the present authoritarian sentiment is coming from. We have something like an ancestral memory, in which, when the system has too much cruft, someone with a strong personality can come in and sweep it away. That probably works pretty well in a group of a hundred people who all know each other. But when it's a hundred million people, you get an insane dictator and piles of dead bodies.