Comics on tablets?

An old acquaintance recently wrote about his experience with reading comics on the Nexus 7, the new 7″ tablet from Google and Asus. There was some discussion of the topic, and I bought a number of cheap comics to read on my own Galaxy Tab 7.7, which has the same screen resolution and only marginally larger screen.

The result is quite readable as long as I read a single page at a time. It has a problem with double pages – I have to zoom in and drag the picture to see all in a readable size. This is easy to do, but it does break the flow a little.

I kind of wish this technology had existed back in the time when I bought several times my own weight in comic books, back in the original Chaos Node. While I was never one of the true obsessed collectors – I just enjoyed reading the comics – there were many, many bags of comics that I carted off to the used-book store when I moved from there. And still there were several crates left. And when I moved again, I got rid of some more. And again. Now I have one cardboard crate worth of physical comics left, and if I live to move another time, there will probably be only a dozen books or so left.

If I had this technology, I could balance all those hundreds and hundreds of comics on two fingers. It would not have impacted moving at all, would not have taken up valuable space in my apartment. But on the other hand, I would not have been able to give them away and hope that some curious kid could enjoy them after me. So I guess all things have their price.

Speaking of price, even though I did not buy the newest comics (which are more expensive) and even bought some on sale, I just don’t find comic books worth paying for anymore. Well, obviously I did pay for them, but I bought them under doubt. I have more entertainment than I need. I don’t have unlimited time. To pay money to waste my time … well, I don’t feel like I need another way to do that right now. That part of my life is fading, like other parts have done before. I don’t really expect it to come back.

But there are worse things young people can do than read comics.  And there are worse ways to read them than on a 7″ tablet.

I bought mine from Comixology, which has an app that let me both buy them and display them. I can read them on several different devices at no extra cost. There are surely other ways as well, but I am not really going to study it any further than this, I think.


Intrusive visualizations

How is that not fascinating?

Do you sometimes see specific objects move in a specific way even when they are no longer there, even with your eyes open? For instance, a volleyball moving back and forth? And can you do nothing to make this appear or disappear, it just goes on for as long as it wills? That is what I mean by intrusive visualization. I suppose it is a sub-category of flashback, but I have never heard of anyone describing it the same way I have experienced it.

Some days ago I read about a just barely successful rescue operation where a young autistic man had gotten lost in the wilderness. The psychological expert of the rescue operation decided to search along the river (where they eventually found him) because autistic people are fascinated by running water. My reaction was pretty much: Neurotypicals are not fascinated by running water??

Some years ago, during a heavy rainfall, I stood for a good while and watched a small stream of rainwater erode sand and pebbles and move them downstream in that particular way running water will do. After I left, I began seeing intrusive visualizations of running water moving sand and pebbles. This lasted for a good while, I am not sure but an hour or two perhaps. The image of the water working with sand and pebbles appeared overlaid on my normal day vision, half transparent, neither blocking my view or the real world nor getting blocked by it. It was as if my brain was seeing through two different sets of eyes at the same time. I had no control of what I was seeing, although I could control how much I focused on it.

This was not my first time experiencing such intrusive visualizations. The previous time was after I had practiced hard at the computer game Black & White (which is, incidentally, not in black and white, but is an interactive course in being a small god in a fantasy world). Then I would watch characteristic movements from the game for more than a day. That is the only time I can remember it has lasted that long. Then again, I had practiced for quite a while too.

Before that, several years before I had an online journal, I had the same experience with volleyball. I could see the volleyball move back and forth in the trajectories typical of a certain style of hitting used for passing the ball between team mates. This was after I had been practicing volleyball for some length during the same day with friends.

Before that, I know I had the same experience when I practiced touch typing. I think this was in high school. If it happened during my childhood, I have forgotten it, but I have forgotten most of my childhood, except for things that had to do with sex. There was not a lot of that, luckily, but that means I have forgotten most of my childhood. So I don’t know whether I had intrusive visualizations then.

By “flashback”, I tend to imagine a very short experience where you feel you are actually in your past, having again an experience you had back then. Then the flashback ends and you are back in the present. This is not that. It lasts for typically more than half an hour, at least – I am not sure I have had any less than one hour, and one came off and on for more than one day. I am fully conscious of not being in the past. Only one and a half of my senses are involved – vision and kinesthetic. I am wide awake and have my usual personality, but I am also aware that I am watching a transparent visual hallucination that I have no control over, and that basically plays back (perhaps in a slightly idealized form) something from my recent past.

The experience is not traumatic or scary, although it certainly weirds me out. I have assumed that my subconscious replays these movements in order to help consolidate a new skill. That was certainly the case the first times. But does this mean that my subconscious wants me to learn the skill of being a river and eroding sand? What does this say about me? Somehow, even if you believe in reincarnation, I really doubt I am the rebirth of a river!


Dragon 12 is coming!

Nuance Communications will once again show you the great power of science! Be happy, you!

And by Dragon, I mean Dragon NaturallySpeaking, the speech recognition software that not only takes dictation but lets you control pretty much any aspect of your personal computer. Well, as long as you use the most common software, at least. It lets you say things like “Search the web for Princess Bride” (which will, in all likelihood, be interpreted by any nearby humans as “Search the web for Russian brides”) and your favorite search engine will appear in your favorite browser with the requested information, at the speed of thought. Well, unless you have the newest computer like I have, it may be at the speed of very slow thought, but I never said otherwise, did I? ^_^

Dragon 12 is not actually out yet, it won’t be ready for download until August 9, but I have already pre-ordered it at half price as an existing customer. (And in Euro, even, which is already ridiculously cheap compared to my native currency, the Norwegian krone.) I would not take the chance of forgetting to order it while it is still cheap. Although it does not feel as I am going to forget it in less than two weeks, I probably will. The power of Now is strong in this one. Or it may be the first shadow of Alzheimer’s, the two are hard to tell apart.

In the meantime, I have Dragon 11, which is also pretty good. But while people who work at BBC may get 99% accuracy out of it, that is not the case for a foreigner to the English language such as I. So the 20% increased accuracy of Dragon 12 could be helpful. Other reviews of Dragon 11 indicate that the accuracy is more like 96% right out of the box and 98% a couple weeks later, improving rather slowly after that. Still not bad. I mean, 50 words is like a modest paragraph. Only getting one error in a paragraph is pretty good. If version 12 can improve on that with 20%, so much the better.

Of course, the errors you get with speech recognition are different from the classic typo. Typos usually consist of transposing two characters, or getting a character too much or too little. Speech recognition errors tend to replace one word or phrase with another, and with today’s highly advanced artificial intelligence, the replacement phrase will probably be grammatically correct. Mine likes to swap “they” for “I”, and is also particularly fond of the phrase “naked English speaker” (which I am not – I am not even a native English speaker).

By coincidence (if such a thing exists), I recently gave in and installed my version 11 on the portable computer. (I still don’t know when I’m going to fix the big desktop – probably not until the summer heat is over.) It works surprisingly well, considering that I no longer run it from a SSD. Hopefully the new version will be able to continue to use whatever data accumulates in the meantime. (Remember, the program gets better and better the more you use it.)

And hopefully I will still be around in August so I can give you an actual review of Dragon 12. Or you may want to buy it yourself. I don’t know how well it fares if children are screaming in the background, though.

Winning JulNoWriMo!

In the anime Moyashimon (and here Moyashimon Returns) the main character is able to see microbes. They appear to him as roughly marshmallow-sized – they are the floating bright things in this picture. Needless to say, people tend to not believe him at first…

My JulNoWriMo novel is not the one with spider-men and squirrel-girls, but something rather more realistic. And that is why it is harder to believe. That is as it should be: High fantasy lets us easily suspend our disbelief, because we know it will be back in full force as soon as we close the book. When we are reading something more realistic, we have to make more of an effort to keep it separate from our everyday reality. This is not so much of the problem if what we read goes along with what we think we already know. But much of what I write is in the borderlands between fact and fiction, or even between sanity and madness.

I was brought to think about this as I had a conversation with a former boss today. Or is it tomorrow? My memory gets a little fuzzy sometimes. Must be the Power of Now. Anyway, she’s not my boss anymore, but we still get along well. We talked a bit about vacation, and the fact that I take November off. (Evidently she never asked me about the reason for this back when she was my boss.) I told her about my writing, and she asked what kind of stories I wrote. And that was when I had to crystallize it. I have been writing for many years, and have dabbled in a number of genres. I still do. But over the last several years, I have noticed a theme in what I write. And it is that uncanny valley between sanity and insanity. The fact that some people can have experiences most don’t, and still remain sane somehow. Or are they?

In real life, there are actually many people who have “supernatural” experiences. They may see a ghost, or an angel, occasionally. They may know things they have never learned, like where some object is located or what someone is thinking. But unlike in superhero comics, these “powers” are usually just kicking in when you are thinking of something else. The more you concentrate on them, the more they fade away. So it is not only impossible to test in a scientific environment, but also mostly useless. Still, for some people this is a part of their life.

As my boss mentioned, we both grew up in villages on Norway’s west coast, where people had a more casual attitude to such things. There were generally a few people, either in this village or the next over, who could see things that others couldn’t. It was usually not a big deal. It was just part of life – life was less structured, less defined than it is now in the age of digital watches. If you are not just the same as everyone else, you know there is a diagnosis waiting for you.

I am descended from families where there were such occurrences from time to time, and I experienced various types of them in my own younger years, although fairly moderate stuff like telepathy and just “knowing things” that I could not possibly have learned. I did not trust myself to live in such a world, and prayed to my God to take it away from me. I also cut down on the emptiness meditation, although I have meditated more lightly over the years with no ill effects, quite the opposite.

Now we live in an age where even religion, which has been part of the normal sphere of life for most people since ancient times, is increasingly seen as some sort of brain malfunction. The more unusual personality types are almost entirely diagnosed and often medicated away, if the diagnosis itself is not enough to silence them. I believe that something important is lost in this process. And I try to restore it. That is the essence of my writing. To bring the fantastic back in a world that has become black and white and rectangular like a chess board, on which most of us are pawns.

So while I do write “high fantasy” occasionally, my home turf is really the urban fantasy, realistic fantasy or fantastic reality, the slightly supernatural, the magically spiritual, these kind of things.

The Japanese new religion Happy Science is a great boon to my writing (as it has been in some other ways too) exactly because it has a greatly expanded universe, where the physical is just a small corner of a much greater reality that is ever-present. Stray spirits drift around like shadows trying to live vicariously through people who don’t reflect on themselves. Angels and other high spirits watch over us, inspire us and try to help us in various ways. Ordinary people are reincarnations of others who have lived in strange and exotic civilizations going back to the age of the dinosaurs or before, many of them arrivals from other star systems in a distant past. Miracles are not only possible but to be expected, although you should always opt for avoiding the need for them through using wisdom if you can. It is a world that is vibrant with extraordinary dimensions and things just barely unseen. And yet, these people seem able to not only hold a job, but frequently become very successful in various corners of the Japanese society.

This summer’s 50 000 words of fiction (well, in a couple days it will be 50 000 words) are roughly inspired by that religion, but takes place on an alternate world that should be well outside their copyright. The name of the great Master is not mentioned (in fact, even I don’t know it) and it is not clear what deity he is supposed to be an incarnation of. But the Servants of Truth (the new religion in the story) live an extraordinary life, some of them more than others admittedly. The main character is one of the more extraordinary. Unlikely coincidences are more or less the rule, and occasionally he has visions or hears the voice of his Guardian Angel. But none of this sends him scurrying to the doctor. Rather, he finds in the Teachings of the Truth a framework where he can feel normal and healthy and even blessed with extraordinary gifts, in a situation where others would have bolted for an early disability pension. He lives a happy, harmonic and productive life, although he increasingly does so with members of the same faith.

In real life, of course, not all are so lucky. And not just lucky in finding a friendly sect. I mean, many of those who hear voices are hearing very angry voices telling them to kill or die, or berating them. Some who have visions have visions of blood and entrails and other horrors. So it is not always easy. But in many cases, I think borderline psychiatric cases could have taken a different turn if they had been accepted and put into a framework where you could use your unique abilities for good instead of being left alone with the voices in your head and heavy medication. Evidently I am not alone in thinking so.

In the Netherlands there is a movement to get people to talk back to the voices in their head. We are talking about people literally hearing voices here, not the internal voices or independent thoughts that authors like me have. Voices that can sometimes not be told apart from actual human voices outside you. These voices are often very aggressive, lambasting people and telling them that they should kill themselves. But when the Dutch patients talk back to them, firmly but respectfully, the voices change their tune. One voice, which had formerly wanted the patient to die, now wanted him to perform Buddhist prayers instead. The man compromised with the voice, reading some Buddhism each day and saying a prayer, and this satisfied the voice.

It is eerily similar to the teachings of Happy Science, in which stray spirits are just unhappy souls who have gone to Hell due to their ignorance, anger and greed. The living can help free them from Hell by living a Light-filled life. Buddhist prayers would be right up there with the things you would offer a malevolent voice in your head in order to help free it from Hell. (I am not convinced it is that easy to get our of Hell, but what do I know, I have only been there while alive, which is I guess more like a preview.)

So anyway, I don’t want to make light of people who are in great suffering because of unusual things happening in their head. There certainly are many who are seriously sick and need help. But I also don’t want people to experience unnecessary suffering because society is super fast to brand them as crazy, when they have experiences that are within the range a human mind can handle. And human minds can be amazingly elastic. I am quietly trying to encourage that, even in my non-fiction.

But if my interest in these matters can help me win JulNoWriMo, I don’t mind that either. ^_^


Return to Oktagonien

Summoning a hero from a faraway world

When all else fails, summon some random person from Earth, they are always so awesome…

So as I mentioned in my previous post, I listened to this song, The Call, performed by Regina Spektor, and a story started to grow in my head. And that story took me back to the imaginary world of Oktagonien, which I wrote about last November, during the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). As regular readers will know, I take NaNoWriMo off each year to dabble in writery.

At first, I was somewhat unsure whether this would be a reboot or a sequel, but it pretty quickly became a sequel. Evidently the previous hero at some point left Oktagonien for good, and the Book found its way to a new high-school boy.

There is actually a reason why I pick 17-18 year old boys as my protagonists so often. Well, three reasons, since in this part of the world that is where they most frequently lose their virginity. Boys will consistently lie about this from around the age of 15, so those who are still virgins by this time tend to be pretty desperate. It is the time when the male sex drive reaches its top, almost two decades earlier than the female. -_- Intelligent design, huh? Well, I suppose it may have come in handy in the Stone Age, when most men died young.

The other reason is that 18 is the “normal” time when young men first manifest schizophrenia. Or so I’ve been told, and it seems so to my limited experience with them. So this lets me keep both the main character and the reader guessing as to whether we’re actually seeing a magical world or just another sad psychiatric case.

Finally, there is a lot of anime about high school boys and girls, which I can use for inspiration. Although in this case, the lands (and furries) of Oktagonien are a lot more like Skyrim than Dog Days. And it is not like I have not written about sexy squirrel girls before. “Lesbian squirrels” used to be a running joke for a while, years before one appeared in Dog Days’ Dash. (The current, second season.)

Now, the squirrels. In my original Oktagonien story, Timelands, there were three races of cuddly furries: The dog people of Dogland (the western continent), the cat people of Catagonia (eastern continent, connected by a narrow land bridge), and the rodent people of Mousinana (the southern subcontinent). Together, their lands constituted the Empire as we knew it. In the northern lands and the mountains lived the spider people, an elder race which had immigrated to the continent in historical times and had originally raided and enslaved the furries. They were well-behaved citizens in Timelands, although the other races were still wary around them.

In the new story, the snake people from the eastern Serpent Isle have rediscovered ancient magics used for seafaring and navigation. Or perhaps they have invented new ones, but the general belief is that they have found them – such things were common in the Golden Age. They have become their world’s counterpart of the Vikings, raiding the nearest continent, which happens to be Catagonia. As the Empire fortifies its coastal towns, the snakes stir up rebellion by giving a group of malcontent spider-men access to their communication magic (seemingly on a similar level to two-way radio). Using this, the young and rash spiders overthrow their Elder Council. Due to the spiders’ alienation from the three other races, it is entirely too easy for the rebels to gain the upper hand and launch an ethnic war against the three younger races.

However when ships from Serpent Isle manage to make their way all the way around the two continents, they happen upon the Western Isles, which is populated by squirrel people. These capture a snake vessel and are able to copy their navigation magic (probably a simple compass), but not their communication device. Being already excellent shipbuilders, the squirrels combine their own skill with what they can learn from the captured craft, and create the best ships since the Golden Age. They come over to the mainland and soon ally with the other furries against the double invasion. So that’s why we have a party of a warrior dog, a mage cat, a ninja mouse and an alchemist squirrel, plus the new Emperor. (That’s what humans are called in Oktagonien.)

While the earlier Emperors have come to Oktagonien on their own, this one is the first to be summoned. This has its own complexities, although I have not written much about that yet. So that’s where the song comes in. “You’ll come back when they call you – no need to say goodbye.”  Evidently the previous Emperor was the one who came up with the idea of the summoning, but for some reason the furry “temporary” rulers who took care of the Empire while he was gone, never thought it was a good idea to have him summoned or let anyone else ever know that it was possible… until the snakes and spiders are overrunning the empire and OMG we’re all gonna die!!!11 At which point 2000 years have passed, which translates into 2 years in the real world, and the Book is back in the library, waiting for some other inexperienced teen to take it home…

“I’ll come back when you call me – no need to say goodbye.” Heh.

Music, recently

Girl singing

Female vocals is one of those things Pandora has learned to give me. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

Music is not a big part of my life. By contemporary standards it probably never was – a lot of people seem to be really into music and consider it an important part of their life. Some have music running almost all the time, but this may be to drown the sound of the voices in their head (or heart). With me, it is more like the voices are already singing, so I don’t need exterior music. I know I played a lot more before, but it has tapered off gradually. I am not sure when and how this began.

But sometimes I have bouts of listening to music anyway. It could be to flush out an earworm, or to set the mood for a particular piece of writing. Music is great for setting moods. Often then my listening is playing the same song over and over several times, sometimes for hours.

As such, I appreciate the music streaming service Spotify. It lets me listen to a dozen different versions of Carrickfergus without having to buy a dozen CDs where I’d listen to only one of the tracks, and then put them in a plastic bag for the next 20 years. That’s not quite what I did before, but pretty close. There were many CDs that I bought for only one or two tracks. I have thrown away almost all my CDs now, as previously reported, keeping the Japanese but ridding myself of the American and European. I hope one day I will be able to stream Japanese (and preferably also Thai) music. Until then, there is YouTube.

Oh, and I am not kidding about Carrickfergus. It is not an exact representation of how I feel personally, obviously! But the nostalgia is very beautiful to me. I particularly love the version by Orla Fallon. Her beautiful voice soothes the pain in the lyrics. If you have Spotify, you can hear it here.

That was actually the version I discovered when listening to my Enya station on Pandora once. Pandora is far superior when it comes to find good songs for me. It seems that all the other “radio” style streaming services (where you can’t pick your own songs) uses association by crowdsourcing: “People who liked X, also liked Y”. This probably works fine for most humans, who are not very unique. But I am no longer like that. As Confucius said: “By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart.” That is to say, very different. As you can see, that has certainly happened to me. My tastes are, as they say these days, eclectic. Pandora instead uses qualities of the actual song: The type of harmonies, vocals, degrees of variation in pitch or loudness, speed. Therefore, since my brain is pretty much the same from day to day, I am likely to like the same type of music. (Although bad lyrics can ruin it and good lyrics can make it fantastic.)


Another song I discovered in the exact same way, listening to Pandora, has also seen a lot of playing over the last few days. As it happens, it is also kind of sad, or perhaps that is just in my mind. The lyrics certainly seem very optimistic, but there is just something about it that tells me “that is not how it actually ended”. Probably because the song supposedly was from the end of the movie Prince Caspian. Yes, The Call by Regina Spektor. Here it is on Spotify. Or you could watch it illegally on YouTube, I guess.

When I heard this song, I immediately thought not of Prince Caspian but of Dog Days, the anime I mentioned recently. It is about a boy who is summoned as a hero to a magical world where people have animal traits (dogs in the country he arrives in, thus the title). After he has become good friends (and perhaps a little more) with several of the people there, it is discovered that once he returns to Earth, he can never come back. In the end, however, a way is found around this because of his extraordinary generosity, that caused him to give away various of his belongings before leaving.

But as I listened to the song repeatedly, it grew into a story of its own, with only the most tangential similarity to Dog Days. The story turned out to be my second novel about Oktagonien, the imaginary “niece world” from last year’s NaNoWriMo. Well, I actually only wrote a few thousand words of it, since 1) I am writing a very different novel for JulNoWriMo, and 2) the squirrel was too sexy. (Don’t think too much about that.)

Anyway, that’s some of my music recently. It probably says something profound about me. Although I don’t feel as sad as these songs. That would be pretty sad, I guess. But they are still beautiful.


Randomness and democracy

Should not the superior man rule the masses, rather than the other way around? But it rarely is that simple, and I hope I shall show why.

In principle, in the ideal world, actions have predictable consequences. Eat right and exercise regularly, and you will live a long and healthy life. Study hard, work conscientiously, live frugally, and you will become rich eventually. Things like that.

But the world we live in down here on Earth, what most people call the real world, is not quite like that. There is an element of randomness, at least as seen from the human perspective. So many principles are active at the same time, many of which are outside of our control, that the simple cause and effect we look for is broken up. We cannot predict the future, much less create it. All we can do is increase the chances of a certain outcome. We cannot ensure it, cannot guarantee it.

Well, jumping from bridges works much as expected, but if you are walking along the road, loose cargo from a truck may hit you and kill you anyway, as happened to a guy not far from here. All our plans, all our hopes, not to say our dreams, are subject to uncertainty. The more complex the chain of cause and effect, and the longer it takes, the more randomness overtakes it.


We are all aware of this on the outside, that is to say, what the world does to us. We know there is a random element in what happens to us. But there is another randomness that we generally disregard. This is the randomness inside, the randomness of what we think, feel, say and do. This internal randomness is more or less unofficial, and with good reason.

While randomness from the outside occurs pretty much equally to all of us, randomness from inside varies from person to person. This is problematic.

Some people are just principled. If they decide to not eat snacks, they don’t change their mind when they pass between long shelves of snacks in the supermarket. If they decide to not drink, they don’t change their mind if everyone around them drinks. If they have decided on monogamy, they don’t change their mind when approached by someone extremely attractive. If there is randomness within them, it seems to be weeded out before it even reaches the surface.

On the other extreme, we have the extremely spontaneous people. They want to graduate with honors too, but when they drop by the store for some bread, they somehow end up with beer instead. They want to do well in the job interview tomorrow, but end up playing World of Warcraft till 5 in the morning and oversleeping the whole thing. They may be fun to be around, but not so much when the bills come due.

Even if we follow a course of action firmly, randomness from outside means we can only raise the odds in our favor. But if randomness already intrudes between our aspirations and our actions, we can hardly even raise the odds at all. If what we do is random, what happens to us will be even more random.


Based on all this, one may be tempted to reconsider the whole general emancipation thing. You know, the whole thing about letting pretty much everyone vote.

Some states actually don’t let convicted felons vote, and this is a pretty good test of impulsiveness – if you are less impulsive, you probably either don’t commit the crime, or you wait until you can do so without getting caught. But not all people have the same impulses. Why let fat people vote? People with STDs? You can invent endless such tests until you and your friends are the only people left who can vote. Wouldn’t this be a good idea? For the good of all, I mean…

Probably not. To understand this, we should take a look at how people become principled in the first place.

Some people may be born to be principled and strong-willed. Perhaps it is genetic, unless you believe that it lies in the human spirit and each person is given a certain amount of this trait before being sent down to Earth.

Some people may have been raised to become principled. I can’t think of anyone, but this could be because we lack a control group. We don’t know how the kids would have grown up if they had been allowed to run free.

But there is a path for the adult who wants to become less random. It consists on having a living interest in the higher principles, as found in higher religions and philosophies. Those who think of the Eternal Laws  frequently, who meditate on them when alone, who ask about them and seek the companies of those who follow them, these people tend to gradually become drawn toward these Principles, and in time become more principled themselves. It may take its sweet time, depending on their starting position, but that is the trend. That is the direction in which they move, out of chaos and onto a steadier path.

You may think that having an over-representation of these people among the voters would be a great idea. I don’t entirely disagree, but there is something you need to know about these people. Beyond a certain point, there is a tendency that their kingdom is no longer of this world. In short, they may not feel very strongly about politics. If we have greatly reduced the number of other people who can vote, we may end up with mostly political fanatics, who are principled because of their monomaniacal devotion to some (probably unrealistic) cause or dream. These people tend to not understand ordinary people as easily as do those who have been one. They also tend to not consider other people’s lives very important compared to The Cause.

Having general emancipation introduces a great deal of randomness, and thereby inertia, into the political process. This is bad when it impedes rapid progress toward the better, but it is great when it impedes rapid descent into pure madness, which is historically rather likely. After Caesar and Augustus there is sure to come a Nero and a Caligula and a long parade of self-serving or outright insane people. This is why, as Winston Churchill pointed out, democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried.

I will leave you with another image. Imagine a large and densely packed flock of sheep. You and some other human are at different places in this sea of woolly randomness. If that other person is a friend, you should be able to move toward each other, albeit slowly, and eventually meet. The sheep were an impediment, but not fatally so. But if it is someone you want to avoid, the sheep is as much a hindrance to him as to you, and Light willing he will never catch up with you.

In this way, randomness will eventually yield to persistence, it just takes time and cooperation among those who share a goal. But it gives those who don’t share a goal, time to oppose each other. The strength of democracy is its inertia, which it derives from the randomness of the majority. It makes a liability into a benefit.

I feel stupid

"You are not intending to screw up things again, are you?"

No, I am not intending to screw things up, but that doesn’t mean it may not happen.

One of the surest signs that you are making progress in your inner life is when you can look at something you said five years ago and think “How stupid I was back then!” -This is something spiritual teachers across religions and continents agree on.

But what if you look at the stupid things you did five years ago, and think they are stupid, and still do them? I am not sure what to call that.

I wish I had something better to write about at this age than anime. And in fact I do have such better things, but I dare not write about them, because of the great responsibility.

“We must say all the words that should be spoken, before they are lost forever” says Chris de Burgh, and my heart agrees.

“For each unnecessary word a human speaks, they shall make account on Judgment Day” says Jesus Christ, and my heart agrees.

Between these I try to live and write.


When the Web was fairly new, there were no blogs. But there were people like me, hand-coding our journals using HTML in Notepad. Back then, people would read my journal, since there wasn’t much else to read. Now there are blogs everywhere, and social networks like Facebook where you can read what people ate for dinner and look at pictures of their babies and their cats. I can’t compete with that.

So now that I have something to say, I have no one to say it to, nor the confidence to say it, since I know more about all the things I don’t know. Most people don’t even know that they don’t know, of course, thus their confidence. (The Dunning-Kruger effect.)


A little fun with anime

I just want to share the fun I've had lately! With bacteria!

I just want to share the fun I’ve had lately – including this anime, Moyashimon Returns.

I don’t spend all my time reading tomes of ancient wisdom. (Actually very little of my time, it is just particularly conductive to writing.) This time, something entirely different!

While I won’t call myself an otaku, I’ve watched my share of anime over the last decade or so. These Japanese cartoons are far more varied than cartoons here in the west, which are mostly for kids. In Japan they are an important part of youth culture, but many adults also enjoy them.

Still, I have felt for some time that the quality of Japanese anime was in terminal decline. Not the technical quality, which has benefited from bringing together handcrafted style and computer animation. Rather, I have felt that the content has more and more become extreme, in a desperate attempt to avoid boredom by going further and further. The breaking of taboos has left any pretense of art and become a competition. For those of us who don’t watch anime to be shocked, there seemed to be less and less to watch for each season. To be honest, I was OK with that – I already have plenty to spend my time on.

But this season saw the return of Moyashimon, one of my all-time favorites. This is a college-level edutainment series, featuring a bunch of college freshmen and the bacteria with which they live. Yes, bacteria, and yeast as well. The main character is a boy with the ability to see and talk with bacteria. They appear to him as roughly similar to marshmallows in size and consistency, with a big head shaped roughly like their real shape under the microscope, but more cute and cuddly. None of the others can see the bacteria, but most of his friends know that he can. The microbes also provide running commentary and humorous punchlines. The series teaches about various forms of fermentation and other useful roles of bacteria in our lives, in between the antics of the human cast.

Exactly how weird is it? Feel free to watch the Moyashimon Returns ending song on YouTube (until the takedown notice arrives, I guess). It is safe for work, unless your workplace requires sanity.


If tales of agriculture are not your major, what about history? One of the most famous periods in Japanese history is the civil wars era where Oda Nabunaga eventually did most of the work to unify Japan, although he died before the process was finished. This “ambition of Oda Nabunaga” is a familiar topic to Japanese, but perhaps less so in the modern age. But this summer a strange new anime has appeared: “The Ambition of Oda Nabuna”, which is a recast of the history of that era, but with cute girls instead of the various warlords. This is sure to renew interest in history among the male viewers! Hopefully it will not feature the enormous massacres on civilians which mar the reputation of the historical Oda Nabunaga.


A very bloodless war story is “Dog Days”, which appears with a second season this summer. In the original story, a young school boy from Japan is summoned as a hero to a magical world, where his quick wits and gymnastic skills let him successfully defend his new homeland in war. The wars of that world, however, are completely ceremonial: The defeated soldiers don’t die or even get seriously wounded, instead they are converted to “furballs” for a while, unable to fight. All people in the magical kingdoms are furries: People with animal ears and tails. The country defended by Cinque is populated by dog people, and the ruling princess is addicted to being petted. 0_0 Other kingdoms are ruled by big cats, bunnies, squirrels etc in human form. It is all very cute and colorful, and the battles are beautifully animated.

In the second season, the hero returns but brings with him two girls: A rival gymnast who ends up joining another kingdom, and an ordinary and rather scaredy-cat classmate who seems to have a crush on him. By all accounts she is going to turn into a hero of a third nation, although how that transformation is going to happen remains to be seen. I look forward to it. I believe I may have mentioned the original Dog Days under the name “The Cutest War”. I am no big fan of war myself, but the colorful mock battles of Dog Days are a welcome break from the escalation of gore and mayhem in so many recent anime which I cannot recommend or even want to watch for myself.


So that’s my summer anime this year. You can watch English translations of anime several places on the Net, but I prefer Crunchyroll, which is a legal anime streaming site that contributes (a little) to the anime industry. It is quite affordable as well, at least by first world standards.

“Lifefruit for elders”

Sim Eating lifefruit

My self-sim eating a lifefruit. There is a deeper meaning to this, if you want there to be.

There is a reason I have categorized this entry as both “games” and “philosophy”. This happens occasionally with me, and you may be curious as to how that happens.

In the computer game The Sims 3, there is a plant called Lifefruit. It is a narrow bush that produces two fruits every few days (depending on the quality and care). When an adult eats one fruit, they become one day younger. Since the default lifespan for a sim is something like 80 days, that’s a pretty big deal. It is particularly the fertile years that could need an extension – teen age is unnaturally long but the adult years are short if you want more than a couple kids, not to mention a career. (In recent updates of the game, you can set the length of individual age groups, which helps with this problem.)

Sims with the “Good” trait can receive lifetime happiness by donating to good causes, and one of the causes I have supported the most is “Lifefruit for elders”. It just seemed like the right thing to do, you know?

Sims with a high gardening skill (level 7 and up) can grow this plant from special seeds that can be found occasionally. It can not be bought. Once in a blue moon you will get a request from an elderly sim (one of the computer-controlled ones) who feels that they are nearing the end of their life, and wants to buy a lifefruit from you. They pay handsomely for it and their your relationship with them goes way up. For as long as it lasts…

I’ve played the game off and on since it came out, but only just recently did I actually play an elder with a lifefruit garden. It turns out that once you have passed the age marker from adult to elder, lifefruit no longer has any effect. The exception is toward the end of your years as an elder – it will then age you several days, taking you to the brink of death.


From this we can learn that meaning well is not the same as doing well, although it usually helps. Sometimes you need knowledge and wisdom along with your love. In real life there is no lifefruit, of course, but it is still possible to donate to causes which may do more harm than good, or at least considerable harm along with their good. NGOs (non-government organizations) are some of the most obscure groups on the planet, frequently being tax-exempt and having no audits and a leadership based on the leaders choosing people they like for the highest positions, including the next leaders. Where your money ends up is generally pretty foggy. And even when the intentions of all involved are pure, we know that meddling in cultures strikingly different form your own can have disastrous side effects.


Another lesson from the lifefruit is that you cannot always save up something for later. There are things that belong in one life phase but not in another. It is a well known fact that people often have grand plans for traveling the world when they retire; but when they actually do so, many no longer have the health and the energy and the people with whom they wanted to travel. What once was the dream of their life may end up a nightmare and may even, in a few cases, be the end of them.

On a thankfully much smaller level, I have mentioned before that since 2005 I can no longer eat fatty foods except in tiny quantities: For instance, chocolate about the size of my thumb in one workday. If I had known this in my younger years, you can bet that I would have eaten more chocolate. Well, even more chocolate, I mean. (While not quite as potent as the imaginary lifefruit, chocolate has many health benefits – it increases fat burning and makes exercise more effective, balances sex hormones, improves mood, and contains antioxidants that supposedly reduce the risk of cancer slightly and slows aging.)  So dear younger reader: Eat your chocolate while you can, with a grateful heart.