Why not make love?

“What truth and joy is there in love that can be redone?” asks this girl from WW2 in the anime Natsu no Arashi. Your mileage may vary.  Some would ask “why not make love as much as possible in a world so lacking in love?”

I think that is a reasonable question, when you see life from a higher perspective. After all, the vast majority of adults have a fairly strong mating instinct. This is an intelligent design indeed because otherwise we would not have been born in the first place: There are so many other interesting things to do, that taking on the long and arduous process of raising a new generation would probably not find many volunteers if there was not an enticement to get started. So there is.

Now we know that fulfilling other people’s needs is generally considered a good thing by the world’s religions and philosophies.  Surely then when a man and a woman – or a sadist and a masochist, I guess – can give each other enormous amounts of pleasure by using their minds and bodies, few if any expenses required, it would be bordering on cruelty to not do it, right?  Certainly it should be considered a good deed, like feeding the hungry or giving the weary a bed to rest on, or visiting the lonely, or restoring dignity to the downtrodden.

And yet, when you read for instance Jesus’ list of good deeds that were done to him through doing them to other people (this is a really important point in its own right, but I have to skip it today, but let us say that this does not just apply to Jesus but to any Enlightened person, not that I’m saying Jesus was just some guy or anything) – Jesus goes “I was hungry and you fed me, I was naked and you clothed me” and so on, but there is a conspicuous absence of one phrase: “I was horny and you made love to me.” Why is this excluded?

The Catholic answer is probably that Jesus was never horny, so it would make no sense to include that in the list. But it is not just Jesus. All the great lights of history, the ones who created the world’s civilization, seem to have taken a dim view of fornication.

Scientists will tell you that marriage came into being so men could know which babies were theirs, and not throw them out with the bathwater. So the societies that did not have a system of exclusive mating rights would see rather few children survive, and be overrun by those who had such a system. Evolution in action, baby!  Of course, by “scientists” in this case I mean tenured nerds seeking to explain why they could not recognize a happy home if they saw one, much less create one.  To all right-thinking people there is a more obvious answer.

In mentally healthy people, making love creates an emotional bond. In fact, even the thought of making love to someone creates a one-sided emotional attachment, a fact that makes for hilarious anime but somewhat disturbing real-life headlines. Obviously then, if you make love to a random number of people who have very little else in common, you will experience a kind of emotional fragmentation. You will be pulled in different directions by the bonds (attachments) you have created.  This is going to be painful for all involved, but especially if you are the one true love of someone who is just one of a baker’s dozen to you.  This opens the gates of Hell, and I don’t necessarily mean only in the afterlife. There are also smaller infractions.

In light of  this, there are some who decide to live free of attachment, or attached only to the Lord or to Dharma or to Tao perhaps. Even if this means denying themselves and another some of the joys of earthly life, they believe it is worth it in order to maintain a joyful freedom to live a spiritual life here in this world. I respect that.

I am not one of them, though. I just happen to be moderately misshapen in body and soul, so that attempting to make love would not be a particularly pleasant experience for anyone involved.  I also happen to be particularly well suited for living alone: I enjoy solitude and can take pretty good care of myself.  So my opinions on this matter are not very intense.  Maybe they can still be of interest to some, though.

Recalibrating the sexometer

Being a teenage boy is living with the risk of acute embarrassment. But then it gets better – or does it?

This entry is not for children. Well, it may not destroy their innocent minds forever, but I’m not sure. It is about sex, after all.  Well, not how to have sex, more like how to not have sex. You’d think that would be the easiest thing in the world, at least for a man, but the life of numerous congressmen and preachers show us otherwise.

Anyway, for some reason a small number of us choose to not bind ourselves to the powerful instincts that encourage reproduction.  This is no small choice, for remember that we literally are the children of those who did reproduce (which means they had sex, and probably lots of it since it does not make children every time). And the same for their parents again, and their grandparents and so on back to the dawn of time, whether you count Adam or Amoeba as your ancestor. (OK, so amoeba don’t have sex, but your genes would still have around 800 million years of sex before they came to you.)

Apart from us certified weirdos, there is a much much larger number of people who try to not have physically intimate relationships with more than one person, whom they are married to or planning to marry in the near future.  I think that is a little different, but there may be some similarities some of the time, especially since the average man has a stronger sex drive than the average woman up to the age of around 35-40, and again when the woman reaches menopause.

OK, onward to my observations!

The young male body will not take celibacy lying down. It will go into a state of sexual readiness at improper times or even with no encouragement at all, seemingly just on a whim. Given the slightest encouragement, even if only in the mind, it will get overly excited.  At this point, most young men will take the matter in their own hands, as it were, to cause a release of the mating urge without an actual mate.  (This behavior is also seen in some caged animals.)  A few God-fearing souls dare not do this, but eventually their nightly dreams will show them the true power of their instincts in this regard as well.  So one way or another,  a certain balance is struck.

This excessive sensitivity fades gradually as the years pass, but perhaps particularly from around the age of 35 or so.  (I guess this may vary – some people live their lives more slowly than others.) We find that we can hang out with women and not embarrass ourselves no matter what.  No matter where we look, our pulse does not race until we flip that mental switch.  We can look at women to admire them without desiring them. Paradise at last?

But how long was Adam in Paradise.  I suppose that varies from one Adam to another, and specifically I suspect the next change only happens to religious or very nearly religious people.  Basically it is an instance of the understanding that “I am not my body”.  While I have felt on this for a while, I did not get the right words to describe it until I read some of the books by Ryuho Okawa, founder of the “Happy Science” religious movement.  He compares our mind to a compass needle, and mentions various things that can get that compass needle to point in another direction than the way we intended.  So if I say that an attractive woman makes my compass needle move, it is a metaphor, not an euphemism, as it would have been when I was 18.

Another concept that he stresses is the difference between love that gives and “love” that takes.  (Japanese does in fact have two words for love, which I have seen explained like this: “Koi is always wanting, Ai is always giving.” This is again something I noticed several years ago (and which has cropped up in at least one of my unfinished novels):  When I look at someone, do I look with eyes that take or eyes that give?  People can often see this difference, even if we may look the same otherwise.

So this is the meaning of the title.  I think this is a voluntary thing, that most people probably don’t even think about, because they feel hidden in their flesh, much like one would feel hidden in wide, loose-fitting clothes.  As long as other people can’t see anything, we can do what we want.  But the flesh is temporary, but bad habits are forever, I suspect.  So I may not have all the time in the world to recalibrate, not only this sensitivity but many others, like anger and envy. Is it enough that nobody sees it, or that my blood pressure does not go up, or will I continue to judge myself (self-reflection) until the compass needle of my mind points steadily toward my highest aspiration?  Or die trying, most likely.

Excuses, excuses

Worked late today, we had a huge job with the stuff I actually can do, wasn’t home until around 22 (10PM).  There is another cold snap and I can’t even keep one room warm without blowing a fuse. The home office is the warmest place in the house, I think, and I’m typing this wearing my thick winter jacket.

I’ve tried to catch up a bit with my Sims 3 project, the Adoptacy.  But I seriously don’t have time for both my sims’ life and my own, as it turns out.  Much less the new beta test I am invited to (for another game).  I’d want to read more of the Happy Science books (still on second read of The Philosophy of Progress) and write some stuff of my own.  But I need to go to bed. Two hours awake at home is not much to write home about.  So I won’t.

I still haven’t put back on the weight I lost during the move.  It is not that much, I can live without it for the rest of my days if necessary, but I notice I am already more hungry than I used to.  If I eat, however, I can’t go to sleep for a while due to acid reflux.  (The medical condition, not the excellent but oh so short-lived web comic.)

This morning I dreamed about repairing the holes in the butt of a pair of jeans, only the jeans belonged to a woman I don’t know in real life – we were in yet another world, I guess – and, more importantly, she was wearing them at the time.  I don’t think this has any deeper meaning.  Earlier last week I sewed one of my old but good trousers that had ripped open in the crotch – why does it always have to be the crotch, it is not like it’s under extreme pressure or something – and the next day it ripped open right beside where I had sewn. Like millimeters away.  It’s one of the few trousers that really fits me too, even though it has lost a button and has a hole in at least one pocket.  (I lost a house key once I was wearing this one a few months ago.)

Can haz sleep nao plz?

Intel Atom, Windows 7, Ubuntu Linux, patience.

I am not sure when, where and how, but I somehow got the impression that the Intel Atom processor was a kind of cheap, energy-saving and slow processor.  Well, I was wrong about the “slow” part, although I suppose that depends on what you compare it with.  But the HP Mini 2 that I bought (“baby HP” as I think of it because of the tiny size) has an Intel Atom processor, and it is ridiculously fast both in Windows 7 and Ubuntu Linux.  I know this because I installed Ubuntu on it today. That was more of an adventure than I had expected.

I did not want to wipe out the fascinating new operating system from Microsoft, but on the other hand I don’t particularly want to have it running when I am online.  I mean, I already paid for it, and that is OK, I was curious after all.  But I have no intention to keep shelling out money for antivirus and related software to keep my computer from getting turned into a spamming zombie, not to mention the identity theft.  So I quickly looked to install Linux on it for use online.  (I tend to install ClamWin, a free antivirus from the highly reliable Sourceforge, on my Windows computers.  But it is the kind of tool that you use to actively scan your machine, or individual files, for viruses. It does not patrol the computer’s memory while you are online to stop any worms trying to crawl in.  (As a result, it does not slow down the machine either, but still, I prefer not having to worry about “badware” at all.)

Usually installing Ubuntu is a snap. I have a CD lying around with a fairly recent version of the OS, and it will then bring itself up to date over the Internet once it is up and running.  However, the HP Mini 2 does not have a CD drive.  I suppose I could take it home and try with an external CD & DVD reader I have here, but even then it is uncertain whether it would work since you cannot boot from a device that is initialized long after boot time.

If I had thought of this beforehand, I could have prepared a bootable USB memory stick to do the same thing.  There is in fact a menu choice in Ubuntu for making such a tool (you still have to buy the memory key of course).   But I wasn’t at home and not patient enough to wait till next day. So I used Wubi Installer, a program that downloads Ubuntu (or any of its siblings in the *buntu family) and installs it under Windows.  The program uses Windows’ file system to reserve a chunk of the hard disk, then sets up Ubuntu within that.  Despite Wubi itself being run from Windows, and the whole Ubuntu package being deletable from Windows, it does use its own file system internally and when you reboot the machine you will get the choice between the two operating systems. So it is only during the install that you actually need Windows.

Wubi went through the routine easily enough, and asked me to reboot. I did.  A black screen came up when the machine started, with an underscore in the upper left corner.  This is widely considered a bad thing.  I waited for a while, but there was no sign of activity, so I forced the machine to shut down with the on/off switch.  It booted again, with the same paltry underscore and nothing underneath.

This is where my tiny shred of patience saved the day.  Instead of getting overly excited in a bad way (and risking physical damage to the computer, as might have happened if I had been much, much younger) I decided to unplug the mobile phone that was charging over the USB bus.  Started again with no USB connections whatsoever – and the computer continued the install of Ubuntu as if nothing had happened.

I must admit I had first thought the problem came from installing the wrong version of Ubuntu. I had left that to the installer to decide, and it installed the AMD 64-bits version. Surely, I thought, Intel is not AMD and Atom is not 64-bits.  I still think I was right on the first count, although the machine did not seem to care.  I was wrong on the second though.  This particular version of the Atom is in fact 64-bits, despite its small footprint, low price and low power consumption. What is the world coming to?

After complete installation, the computer rebooted again.  Unfortunately, it did not boot up in graphical mode (with X windows), but in pure text mode, asking for user name and password in white letters on a black screen. And then rejecting it.  I had in the meantime connected the Western Digital Passport USB-powered external hard disk.  Rebooting without it worked.

As usual, Linux is even faster than Windows, even with a new install.  Both of them are really, really fast though. Compared to my old HP laptops this one is ridiculously much faster, even though it only has 1 GB of RAM, twice as much as the last of the old ones.  This processor is really something.  Small, cool, low-power, and fast. In the good old days you could not have it all, but now you can.  And it will still be some time, it seems, till I need Ubuntu for the speed. Even Windows 7 is delightfully fast for non-gaming use.

So patience paid off eventually, what little I had of it.  But I think I will recommend starting with more patience and an USB stick.

And now, I severely need sleep. I am tired and cold and queasy and achy and came home at 10PM after cleaning in the old house.  But I got Ubuntu loaded on yet another machine and got a journal entry written, “so all in all it was a good day”.

Letting the Light in

Generally, light is considered a good thing. Here outside my little home, since invisible Light is a whole lot harder to photograph.

My (still unfinished!) Lightwielder stories are obviously fiction, but they do carry certain elements that I perceive as real.  More real, indeed, than our everyday rags and riches.  One of the central tenets is that the Light is not only unlimited, but more than unlimited.

Let me explain what I mean by that.  If the Light was limited, if it was scarce or in short supply, then Lightwielders would have to compete for it.  If there were two of them in the same area, one or both would find it harder to channel the Light.  If however the Light was unlimited, then you could pack together as many Lightwielders as the space allowed, and they would all be able to channel as easily as if they were all alone.

But the Light is not quite like that either.  Rather, as the fictional Book of Light says, “where two Sing, three are present”.  (Singing, or chanting as some of us might call it, is the common way of invoking the Light in my stories.  There are more general and more specific songs depending on what you want to achieve, and depending on your attunement.) When two Lightwielders are singing the same song, the Light is stronger than the sum of what they could channel alone.  Add more of them, and the effect grows stronger and stronger.  The Light flows stronger and more readily, like a fire when the burning logs are moved together. (And yeah, I’ve burned a lot of logs lately, thanks for asking.)

But apart from this very noticeable effect, there is said to be a weaker non-local effect.  There is a saying, I believe it to be a commentary and not a direct quote from the Book of Light:  “If everyone was a Servant, all the world would be bright” and also, “If everyone was a Servant, every Servant could raise the dead.”   The Lightwielders believe that every time someone channels the Light into the world, it becomes slightly easier for everyone else.  This is a bit similar to the belief in morphic resonance, although more specific.

It should be obvious to those who know me that I hold similar beliefs.  The difference is that the Lightwielder stories take place in an imaginary group of worlds in which spiritual effects take a clear physical form.  In the normal world, this is not the case.  Most people don’t actually see light shine from someone who lives an extremely honest life of blessing and giving.  Some people claim to see this light (author Ryuho Okawa among them) but it should be clear that this is a visualization that comes from inside the observer, not a physical light made of photons that can be caught on film.  But people who have a reasonably unhurt soul are easily able to grasp the mental picture and agree that this is a good way to describe such a person.  For this reason, saints – not only in Christianity but also their counterparts in other religions – have long been portrayed with a halo or aura of light radiating from them.  If you were to portray such people with for instance leaves or brown threads protruding from them, it would not at all be obvious and probably disgust the onlooker, but the image of light radiating from a person is immediately easy to understand.

OK, I really ought to go back to writing those stories, shouldn’t I?  But the point I’m making today is non-fiction, or at least I certainly believe so.  I believe that there is a “Light”, for lack of a better word, outside time and space, but present everywhere and at all times.  Humans, probably no one else, can let this light in.  The purpose of most religious practice would be to find those cracks in the cosmic eggshell where the light can be seen, even if only as weakly as a twinkling star, and then pry the crack open, letting in more and more light.  You could also say that we are together in a huge dark room, and whenever someone opens their little window to the sunshine, the whole room becomes a little brighter.

Thus I posit that if one’s religious practice causes the world to become a darker place (in the long run, I mean), it needs a critical review. I don’t really have any grand revelations about the Dark Night of the Soul, but I am pretty sure that if one causes a Dark Night for everyone around, it is time for a re-think. “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” (1. John 1:5).  Your religion or life philosophy may vary, but hopefully not in that regard.

Windows has some catching up to do

This old laptop is actually running a lot more programs at the same time than it looks like. It has four workspaces (virtual screens), three of which are active with a number of programs each. Then again, it is running Ubuntu Linux, not Microsoft Windows. Oh, and there’s an USB memory key and a 2 TB external harddisk tucked away behind it…

I am impressed by Windows 7, but already Ubuntu Linux is ahead in some ways, and it can be hard for Microsoft to catch up. On the other hand, there are ways in which Windows is better. If I were to say it in few words, Ubuntu is better for grandmothers and teenagers, Windows for those inbetween.

Ubuntu Linux is the most popular of several user-friendly variants of the free operating system. It is free not only as in free speech but also in the sense that you don’t pay for it. Just download it off the net or copy it from a friend or get it in the mail. (Not sure if you have to pay postage.) And it really is Grandma-friendly, if a computer can ever be that.

The program installs itself after some pretty simple questions, like what language you prefer and what timezone you will use it in. If there already is Windows or MacOS on the computer, you can choose whether to keep these, and whether you want to decide how much space to give each of them or if you will let the installer decide.

The computer has a couple start menus in the upper left corner (although you can drag the task bar elsewhere – I have mine at the bottom like I did in Windows). There are a number of useful programs installed already, like web browser and media player and text processor and spreadsheet. (Seriously, who uses spreadsheets unless their boss tells them to?) There are even small games. But the really nuclear feature that blows Windows out of the ring is the Add Programs feature. You want some more? Just open the Ubuntu Software Center, pick categories (or search if you have an idea of what you want, like “chess” or “Bible” or whatever grandmothers do these days). Once you find something interesting, you can read a blurb about it, and if you want it, just click. The software installs itself and will show up in the start menu in the correct category.

It does not stop there. Add hardware? By all means.  Plug in a printer, a camera, an MP3 player – pretty much anything that uses USB or Firewire and some things that don’t. It is very rare that you have to use the CD that comes in the box, the one marked “Windows”. Especially if you are online, but often if you are not, Ubuntu will just tell you what you have installed and that’s that. No whining that Oh Noes This Was Not Certified For Our Newest Brand Of Windows. Rather it just works. There are a few things that truly do need Windows to work, because they were made that way, but these are generally way outside the Grandma range. And for each passing month people are adding new stuff to the system.

That’s another part. Even more than Windows, Linux has a heap of downloads. It is rarely a day that there is not a small colored arrow in the task bar, hinting that new updates are ready. In case Grandma does not take the hint, a text box may appear the first time. You have to give your passwords to install those though, so if we’re talking about a great-grandmother she may be a bit nervous about doing that. You should visit occasionally. That said, unlike Windows you will not be forced to restart the system. (You should do this twice a year or so, when there is a major update to a new and better version. But there is no need to do it for daily updates.)

Another thing, if you don’t download the updates, you won’t get virus and worms and Trojans and keyloggers and spybots and adbots. If one particular brand of Linux becomes extremely popular, perhaps someone will write this kind of malware for it, but currently there is none, and the system is built up in such a way that the user does not have root access anyway, so it is limited what a virus can do. Theory aside, the fact as of today is that you just don’t get virus and stuff like that if you use Linux. Even if you don’t update. And on top of that, Canonical (the people who made Ubuntu) don’t take remote control of your computer and restart it in the middle of the night like Microsoft sometimes does if you leave it on.  To be a bit harsh, I say that it is sometimes hard to see the difference between virus and Windows, since they both suddenly start doing strange things on your computer without you touching it. Not so with Ubuntu Linux. It does its job and gets out of the way.

Unlike Windows, Ubuntu does not get slower as the months pass. Well, it may get slower over the years as you upgrade to new versions with even more features. But if you just run the same version, it won’t get slower as the hard disk fills up. This is because it uses another file system. (You can choose to format disks with FAT or NTFS, but Grandma sure won’t do that.) There is no need to defragment the hard disk, and you also don’t need to clean the Registry because it does not work that way. Even if Ubuntu had not been faster from the start (which it is), it would have been much faster after a year or two when Windows starts to slow down noticeably.


Now for the teenagers. Well, it is not literally restricted to teenagers. Anyone who has a lot of time on their hands and no pressing obligation, which means both teenagers and single college students… Anyway, if you have the time to go “under the hood” and tune up the operating system of your computer, Linux is the way to go. You can basically make your own operating system, bit by bit. Of course, this means typing a lot, most of it lines starting with “sudo”. But there you have it. Real computer geeks would not be satisfied with clicking a mouse anyway.

Let’s say, for instance, that you have an old laptop with a slow hard disk and only 256 MB memory, but it just happens to have a free USB 2.0 port. (I guess it must have been fairly early with USB 2, or perhaps it just was late with the low memory. Anyway, you are in luck.) So you rummage in your computer gizmo grab bag, or even go out and buy a fast USB memory key. The faster the better: Speed is more important than capacity here.

Once you have found a small memory stick, you plug it in and open it from the desktop to see what name it is given in the /media/ folder. You open a terminal window and go to that folder. Then you create a file there, making sure it is not larger than the actual capacity of the USB drive. For instance, sudo dd if=/dev/zero of=swapfile1 bs=1024 count=4194304 will create a 4 GB file (1024 * 4096) with blocks of 1KB initialized as zero. Obviously if your drive is only 4GB, you will want to pick a lower number so you don’t get an error message instead of a swap file. Make sure you really are in the folder of the USB drive or you will create it on the slower hard disk – if there is room there.

Once the computer has chewed its way through creating this file, you make it into a swapfile with the command sudo mkswap swapfile1 (you should get some message to confirm that this has happened.) Then finally you can start using it with the command sudo swapon -p 3 swapfile1 where -p is the code for “priority” and you can use basically any positive number afterwards. If you have more than one swapfile, the one with the highest -p will go first, then when it is full the next will get a go. You may want to run swapon -s afterwards to see statistics of use, but if you have lights on your USB key they should start blinking pretty soon when you start working again.

You may want to save the command sudo swapon -p 3 swapfile1 to a file with the .sh file extension, which you can run if you have to reboot the computer for some reason. Perhaps you already have a file with commonly used commands that you run on such occasions. If not, let us assume you just name the file “swapit.sh”, in which case you just run sh swapit.sh next morning or whenever. Of course, if you include the command in a file that lies in another folder, you must have given the path to the filename in the shell file, like this: sudo swapon -p 3 /media/MyUSBkeyName/swapfile1 (where the name will vary depending on a lot of things). Let’s just hope it stays constant from one day to the next. Then again, unless you are used to Windows, you probably don’t reboot your computer every day. It is probably busy downloading unspeakably secret stuff all night, if you are the aforementioned high school or college student.

Of course you could make the whole USB drive into a swap partition and edit the /etc/fstab file to set it up as swap at startup time. But this was just a demo, which incidentally works, and gives you 4GB (or whatever) of slow memory in addition to the 256 MB of fast memory. (Flash memory is rather slow to write to, but it excels at small random reads, which is what happens when you actually use the swapped memory, since you never know which part you are going to use. Especially not if you are a teenager.)

This in contrast to Windows XP, where you do it graphically:  Open Control Panel, System, and set the virtual memory page file to the desired size and location, reboot (because nothing happens without reboot, you know) and then watch as nothing happens, because the page swap file is created before the USB key is initialized… Shame, but at least you don’t need to use four-letter words like sudo on your road to failure.

Windows Vista is even simpler: It won’t start on 256 MB. But on a larger system, it can use fast USB memory to cache various files, speeding up the system response on computers with slow hard disks and low memory (low by Vista standards, like 1 GB and such). Actually, this “readyboost” feature was what made me think of it. But a teenager does not need to think: Doing crazy things is its own reward.


I expect Windows to keep its dominance in the workplace though. There is a lot of “legacy” software out there, which nobody wants to write from scratch again. In fact, in many cases the people who wrote it are dead or retired (or fired after a merger long ago) so you would have to think the whole thing anew. Until Linux runs all kinds of Windows software better than Windows (instead of just some of it), there won’t be much change there.

Windows also has a strong position in gaming. While some games written for Windows also run under Linux (such as City of Heroes) and even may run faster, other titles don’t run at all (such as The Sims 2 and The Sims 3.) In many cases the reason is as prosaic as copy protection that uses the Windows Registry or even undocumented Windows features.

With a free operating system now being neck to neck with the rather expensive Windows and MacOS, it may only be a question of time before free games also reach the same level as their commercial counterparts. But they aren’t there yet, so if I live, I am likely to own a machine with Windows 8 someday. After that, it’s anybody’s guess. Pretty soon, Ubuntu Linux may not just be a better operating system than Windows, but also a better Windows than Windows. Wait and see.

Teeth and laptops, again

Long-time readers may remember that I seem to have discovered a cause and effect that is hard for science to explain.   Using the formula of a well known Internet meme, I have summed it up like this:  “Each time you buy a laptop, God kills a tooth.”  This has held true at least three times in a row:  I bought a laptop computer, and one of my teeth broke or came loose.  (Although two of the times it was an artificial tooth, of which I have two or three, I think.)

Well, we are about to find out whether it is a rule without exception, because I not only bought a new laptop today, I also went to the dentist.  Actually, I went to the dentist first.  This was a routine checkup that I have twice a year.  The dentist did not find any holes this time (yay!), although the still took some money for the time and the x-rays.   When I returned to my workplace, however, my laptop was broken.  Well, not literally broken to pieces, but it was not a laptop anymore.  The screen now showed 6 small pictures instead of one large.  It was not merely a driver issue either:  I got this picture already in GRUB (the loader where you choose which operating system to run) and even when booting straight from a CD.  So at the very least something was wrong in the BIOS (basic input/output system) or mechanically somewhere on the path from the computer to the screen.  I don’t know, I don’t do that machine-near work anymore and haven’t for many years.  The problem is solved by plugging it into an external monitor, but alas, that was not what I used it for.

So we have the opposite situation of the normal.  The laptop breaks, but the tooth is good as new! Obviously something was telling me, “Good job with those teeth! Go buy yourself a new laptop.”  God does not admit to having said that, but said, approximately “You’ll probably try to do it anyway.”  Which I did, of course.  So now we just have to see what happens to my teeth.

Besides getting a new actually portable computer, I was particularly interesting in trying out Windows 7 while it lasts.  I hear they have started work on Windows 8 already.  Of course, I am used to Ubuntu Linux, which comes with a new version twice a year, but those are free.  A new Windows version is quite an event, despite the relatively short shelf life of Windows Vista.  Windows 7 is supposed to be much better.  Well, what do you know, it is.  After the lengthy process of setting up the computer, it was quite responsive despite its low-energy processor and only 1 GB of RAM.  (Of course, five years ago 1GB was a lot of RAM and had to be ordered separately.)

A small disappointment was that it rejected my 4GB USB memory stick for use with ReadyBoost. It was not good enough, I was told.  (It was good enough for Vista, in its time.)  I guess with the new, faster and sleeker operating system you need faster accessories to add anything useful.

The lack of an internal CD drive means I cannot just install Ubuntu from the CD I used on the other machine, I will have to prepare a USB key instead.  But for the first days, I hope to use Windows 7 and see how good it really is.  I am sure I could find something to mock it for eventually. But it sure beats Vista, very much so.

The computer incidentally came with a 250 GB hard disk, despite its rather low specs otherwise. This surprised me, but will surely come in handy if I am to have two operating systems on it. In any case, I expect this to be my last laptop with rotating hard disk instead of SSD (solid state disk, flash disk).  SSD is more expensive by far, but the difference is shrinking,  it is faster on reading small files and it uses less power.  It seems like an obvious part of the next generation of laptop. Although I probably won’t be seeing any of those for a while, because this time I bought a Hewlett Packard.  I love HP and HP loves me, it seems:  My HP computers just keep going on and on, year after year, until they are just too slow even with Linux. That can take a while. If this one lasts as long as the one on the table beside me at home, there will certainly be many changes before I need another.  It came with Windows XP, and now we have Windows 7.  I wonder how long Microsoft can keep up with the competition – Linux in particular is improving at a ferocious speed – but Windows 7 is definitely a decent buy.  If you can do it without breaking any teeth, at least…

Changed or painted?

A new outlook, but is it not the same person looking out?

I have previously mentioned how I felt different here in Riverview than I did in the previous house.  But then I have only been here for a few days.  It is hard to say which of the changes are permanent, and which come from being uprooted and taken out of the “everyday” state of mind.

It is possible to paint over a rotten wall or a rusted car and hide the bad stuff somewhat for a time.  But this does not really change anything.  The rot and the rust keep doing their work. So I will not just automatically rejoice when I seem to have a fit of spirituality here.  It could be just from being around a man of prayer and good deeds for two days.  It could be just from a glimpse of how much money and time I have wasted on hobbies that now mean nothing or nearly nothing to me.  I could be just from being reminded that everything in this world is temporary, that the things we took for given are certain to change and leave us, or we them.

Is there anything I can do to wake up now that I am half awake?  Is there any way to secure my gain before it slips through my fingers again?  For it is obvious that if we take anything with us when we leave, it is not of this realm.  And eternity is hard to deny when you have seen it so many times.   It could certainly be an illusion, but so could the world.

I am not so much thinking “how can I know” but rather “how can I act on what I know”.  How can I avoid being fooled again and again the same way I was in the past.  I spent a small fortune (by my personal standards at  least) on CDs, another small fortune on computer games, another small fortune on clothes, another on comics and light fantasy /science fiction novels.  I still have remnants of all these things with me, even after having pruned them over and over. Like karma, they follow me around, remind me of my past stupidity, and force the question: Is there perhaps a current stupidity of the same size but invisible because I still live in it?

Another possibility is of course that my seeming change of mind is somewhat real. Perhaps it is because I am currently on my second reading of The Philosophy of Progress – after all, according to the product description on Amazon.com, “By repeatedly reading this book you will experience this extraordinary feeling that your soul is making great progress.”  As I said last time I quoted this, there may be a difference between making great progress and feeling that one is making great progress. (Although feeling that you should have made much more progress is probably a fairly reliable sign of actual progress.)

I picked up the small leaflet by Elias Aslaksen the other night, in Norwegian “MÃ¥ten Ã¥ ta det pÃ¥”  (the way to take it), where he explains the path to happiness in a few pages, lucidly and intensely.  Nothing other people do or say can decide my happiness or unhappiness, only the way I react to those things, and the way I conduct my own life. I may feel bad for them if they do something wrong, but there is no reason why this should make me do something wrong too.  After all, what I do is my responsibility.

This small tract made an enormous impact on me when I was about 15, and my life changed direction completely and never quite went back.  Actually I continued to act as if other people could move my mouth and my hands, because I forgot myself over and over. I still find the compass needle of my mind swinging like crazy because of other people, but there is a slowly growing space inside where I have the chance to correct myself before I derail.  Perhaps if I had read that leaflet over and over when I was 15, my soul would have continued to make progress until today?  Well, I guess in some ways it has, but wow.  It is very much like the movements of a badly drunk man.  I guess you could call it “staggering progress”… It is truly humbling (or should I say humiliating) to have wandered for 35 years and come back and see how much I truly had, if I had been able to see it.  But of course these 35 years may have been the only way to show me that, and even now I wonder if I can hold on to it.

Whatever can help me increase that space, that bubble of expanded Now between impulse and action, I want more of it.  As long as I still have time to play The Sims, right?  Right?

The umbrella effect

It does not look like an umbrella, but I can explain…

As I start writing this in the evening, it is -2.5C outside the neighbor’s house.  I know this because the neighbor has a thermometer that broadcasts its measurement.  And I know this again because I have a thermometer in two parts, probably the same model, which does the same.  The part that was meant to be outside, I placed in the bedroom instead.  Much to my surprise, the temperature in my bedroom stubbornly stayed well below the freezing point, except it did not feel that way and when I went and looked at the thermometer it showed plus grades.  (Each part has its own LCD display, just in case you want to look at it directly.)  So I changed the channel and continued to get the freezing temperature on the old channel.  Evidently my base station picked up a signal from outside that overrode the signal that had passed through a few walls, so it is probably my nearest neighbor.  Even so, it is a couple good stone throws away, so it was a bit of a surprise.

Anyway!  It may be -2.5C now, but it was -12C in the morning.  And who can my neighbor thank for that shift?  Today in my lunch break I went and bought yet another space heater.  Because as Wikipedia correctly points out, air-to-air heat pumps are less effective than plain space heaters when you have freezing temperatures outside.  This is because it takes a lot of energy to extract the little heat from the freezing air, but also because you frequently need to stop and defrost the outside unit so it doesn’t get covered in ice.  (Even cold air holds some water that is deposited as ice when it is cooled even further.)  The frequent periods of defrosting outside were felt inside as rapidly dropping temperature, especially at my feet.  Even with thick socks, it became quite unpleasant to sit in the home office.  And it was chilly enough that even my fingers grew cold. Not to mention having to wear an outer jacket inside.

Now that I have the space heaters, temperatures are up almost to the freezing point outside and I don’t actually need it.  But that is the umbrella effect for you. If you don’t bring an umbrella, it rains. If you bring an umbrella, the sun comes out.  Obviously it is better to have an umbrella and sun, even if you look stupid.  The real problem is that you forget your umbrella in town.  But that is unlikely to happen with the space heater.

A short shower

Is it really only enough for less than a minute?

This morning, it was only -4C outside, that is to say, four centigrades below freezing. This turned out to be enough that the hotwater pipe to my shower had melted during the night.  I now had hot water in the shower!  For a few seconds.  By the time I was actually inside, the water was barely even lukewarm and it went downhill from that.  OK, perhaps this was to be expected when I had the faucets dripping all night.  So I turned them off, what with it being so mild and all, and went to work.

I was rather late at work for a number of reasons.  First off, the low quality of sleep is catching up with me.  I still woke up at 7, and spent half an hour with LifeFlow 2, the 2Hz brainwave entrainment track.  As can be expected, I slept most of the time.  Actually that may be just as well, since I am mostly using this for the health benefits rather than as meditation.  It will be many years, if ever, before I can naturally meditate during deep dreamless sleep.  But the track is definitely working even when I sleep.  Usually when I sleep in the morning (and this holds for most people) I dream a lot.  The proportion of REM sleep increases over the course of the night, and the long bouts of intense dreams in the morning are actually exhausting.  (Although they probably fulfill important psychological functions, since people who are “starved” of REM sleep go a bit crazy.)

Anyway, when I put my headphones on at 7, I don’t dream even if I fall asleep.  I saw some kind of picture in my mind’s eye early on this time, but once the entrainment took fully hold, there was simply a kind of inner silence, which is ironic since it is created by sound. Still, I was horribly tired even after 30 minutes this was, so I gave up on the first bus and spent 40 more minutes with the delta wave entrainment.  I was STILL tired, but once I got up I felt fine.  I did another 20 minutes or so on the bus.  I don’t think a relative newbie should do more delta than that in a day, seriously.  After all, people my age probably spend only an hour or so in slow-wave sleep naturally.

So anyway, I went to the second bus, but didn’t manage to stop it.  Perhaps because I was standing together with a flock of garbage can.  Today is garbage day here, and the next is two weeks from now.  Not that I could have delivered any of my garbage today even if I had the foresight to sort it and put it in the bin:  The road was still full of snow drifts, to the point that it was pure guesswork where there had actually been a road, except for a few spots.  I had managed to spade a path through the snow this morning, but these garbage cans are more than twice that wide.  So that was out.  But the neighbors, whose roads are cleared more frequently, had their bins there, taking up nearly the whole bus stop. The bus did not even slow down even though I stood there with my bus card.

So I took the next bus again, but it was not in the city until close to lunch.  Conversely, I worked two hours later in the afternoon.  Then I went to Nodeland, shoveled a path to that house as well (luckily much, much shorter) and cleared the steps, then a path to take the garbage cans to the half-open shed where they normally stand.  Yes, garbage cans seem to weigh heavily on me today.  I put back a rug I had briefly borrowed, and took with me home the bathroom scales and the content of the physical mailbox.  The post office should start sending my mail to my new address by the end of the week.  I was a bit delayed because their online service claimed my address did not match my postal number.  (Kind of like a zip code, for those in the former colonies.) My neighbors have this number though, so I think it is right.  Plus I already get mail to that address in my new mailbox.

I came home around 22 (10PM) and took a warm shower. It lasted almost a minute. OK, perhaps not quite that long.  But almost certainly half a minute at least, I think.  With no dripping faucets. Is the hot water tank really that small?  That just doesn’t seem right. Anyway, by now the temperature outside had dropped to -10C, and is still falling. So it’s either dripping or freezing for the water again.  I could use the wisdom of Solomon now.

But right now, I think wisdom is going to bed.  We have a video meeting early tomorrow, and I can’t reasonably expect to suddenly have perfect sleep quality after just a couple nights. The train, after all, is still not racing past.  Plus, I have a randomly (?) occurring pain in my right side from time to time today, which may wake me up if it continues into the night.

But that which does not kill us, gives us something to write about!  Are you soon fed up with these slices of life now?