Car synchronicity

The perhaps most charitable explanation: I may have been promoted to the league of major characters.  Somehow I don’t think we should overplay this possibility…

A lot of the driving people do is over short distances, especially in America, but also in suburban Norway.  I noticed this in the place I used to live before, because when I took a walk, it was not uncommon to see a car drive into a small side road. The same happened fairly regularly in the place I lived before there again.  You could see this happen twice or even three times over the course of a walk.

For this reason, I have paid notice to the fact that it seems to be rare here on Møll. Perhaps it is because each side road usually only leads to a farm or a couple houses, and perhaps it matters that country people are more used to walking over to the neighbor rather than driving. Whatever the reason, I usually see it once if at all during an hour’s walk to the shop and back.  That is a bit longer time than I used to walk where I lived before, but there are if anything fewer side roads and houses since this is countryside rather than suburb.

Today there was 10-13 cars driving on and off side roads, depending on whether you count the one that drove into one of the side roads and drove back out a minute later, and whether you count the bus that drove in to Møll Turbuss (Møll Tour Bus). Yes, that is an ongoing business, but I have never seen any actual bus drive into or out of the small business parking lot before.   In either case, it was on the upside of ten, against an average of about 0.5 most days.

If this had happened in a dream, I dare say my subconscious would have been trying really hard to get some point across.  But I hope to the Everliving God that my subconscious does not have the power to move my neighbors for a distance of a thousand yards (although the activity was noticeably higher closer to my home  now that I think about it 0_0)…

Synchronicity is often defined as “meaningful coincidences”, and I am sure these things were meaningful and coincidental for my neighbors. I mean, you have to get home from work, you have to go shopping, you more or less have to drive your kid to football or riding practice. But what is the meaning for me to suddenly watch a dozen of them doing it one after another? I have no idea.

Heaven help the IRS (dream)

One of the great things about sleeping in is the fantastic dreams. I mean fantastic in a most literal sense, as it certainly exceeds my fantasy sometimes. This morning was one of them.  And in color, too.

I dreamed that the Norwegian IRS had made a deal with Heaven. There was some religious organization involved, which in retrospect seems like a fusion of the Japanese new religion Happy Science and the originally Norwegian pious church Smith’s Friends. I dare say that in waking life none of them would have taken that fusion lying down. But it gets weirder.

Heaven had provided magical rings. Actually there were only a modest number of these, delivered by the aforementioned religious organization. But the good news is, any member of the IRS could simply pray for one, and the High Spirits of Heaven (angels and above, I guess) would grant the power to materialize a ring.  Once you had one of those, you simply put it on, and whenever there was any tax evasion (and, from the looks of it, some other evils as well) the ring would flare up with a bright blue light.

I am not sure what the blue light did other than flare up to various degrees. The dream changed to a depiction of massive Heavenly action against the criminals.  In the twilight, holy warriors of the IRS hunted down the culprits, and news reports came in from all over the country.  This was still ongoing when I woke up.

Ordered Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11

You think computers strain your eyes, you should see what they can do to wrists. Or vocal cords… Unless you use Dragon NaturallySpeaking speech recognition software from Nuance. has helpfully informed me in several mails over the last couple of weeks: Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 is coming! This may not be exciting news to you, but perhaps it ought to be. Among technologies available to the public, this is one of those that come closest to science fiction. Basically, you dictate to the computer or even give its orders by voice instead of keyboard and mouse.

For me, there is a more personal reason also. Back when my wrist hurt so much that I had to seriously consider whether I could continue working, Dragon NaturallySpeaking was one of the things that saved my health and my job. Possibly the most important thing, although more physical exercise also helped turn the tide.

Ironically, starting around that time I began to experience problems with my vocal cords. After many years of mostly silence, and a gradual change in lung function, I can no longer speak as much as I want. Luckily, the latest versions of Dragon NaturallySpeaking are able to take dictation even when I speak quite softly, more softly than I can do at work. In a manner of speaking, speaking to my computer is now better than speaking to a human.

The reviews I have read all agree that NaturallySpeaking 11 does not quite deserve its number: It is more like 10.5, there is nothing really revolutionary. The user interface has supposedly been improved, both visually and with new voice commands that are more intuitive to use. Accuracy is supposedly improved by 15%, and the program learns faster, both from the corrections you make and from ordinary use as it gets familiar with your vocabulary. This sounds like a good idea: version 10 has an unfortunate tendency to write “naked” instead of “native”, and sometimes also “breasts” in stead of “breath”. I like to think that would go away if it became familiar with my vocabulary!

There is also another practical reason why I would want the new version. The old one only works on one of my computers, the one that broke down in November and that I repaired again in February. The new version also works on 64 bits operating systems, including Vista and Windows 7. This should cover my needs for the next few years, if any, regardless of what happens to my old Windows XP computer.

This entry was dictated with Dragon NaturallySpeaking 10, so it isn’t all that bad. I hope to give you my personal experience with the new program sometime next month. In the meantime, you might want to save up money if you are interested and don’t live in Norway where even common people have plenty of money. And not only they, but even I. Or at least I can afford $100 to have my computer understand me better than a human…

Random headache

From this morning just before I went to work, I have had random stabs of pain from my upper right jaw toward my right eardrum. By “random” I mean they are not in sync with my heartbeat, my breath or any voluntary muscle movements.  For the most part they seem to happen a few times a minute, but after I came home from work there were a few hours where I did not feel them at all.

Apart from the randomness, the pain reminds me most of sinusitis. There does seem to be some pressure over my jaw and under my eye, which is usually a sinus thing.

Splendiferous worldbuilding

I cannot remember for sure whether I have written about this before, but I think maybe not. I wrote a couple short stories – well, one short story and one longer that I did not complete, as usual – set in this imaginary world.  But now I can’t find them, so it is probably some time ago.

The meta-setting of this imaginary universe is the planet I originally called Splendor. I will have to change that if I get back to it, because I later found an actual science fiction novel centered on a planet with that name. I am not sure what to use instead though.  It is a splendid place indeed.

The Splendorians – or Splendiferous as I said back then – are basically humans but larger than life.  This is partly literal:  They are about a third taller than humans, with a similar but slightly more slender build, but their heads are proportionally larger than ours. Not ridiculously so, but they could be told apart from humans at a glance by their more bulbous heads.  A young Splendorian is similar to a human, but they outgrow it, physically and not least mentally.

The Splendiferous technology is indistinguishable from magic. Automatons perform all menial tasks, and almost all adults spend almost all their time creating imaginary worlds and visiting the imaginary worlds of others. These worlds are made in a kind of virtual reality that is far, far ahead of ours. They are basically to our “sim” games what a spacecraft is to a stone-age log raft.

The visitor may personally immerse himself or herself in the imaginary world, or observe it through the experiences of one or more characters.

So basically it is a meta-narrative to construct multiple fantasy worlds that may be tied together, and that can incorporate religious or other elements that might be offensive if pretended to be real. Most notably polytheism, which is actually perfectly natural in worlds that accommodate several “players”. The actual visitors from Splendor would be the gods, or at least the main gods, organizing their own religions complete with different types of afterlives, blessings, curses etc. Of course, these would have to be on a comparable power level.

For instance, a “god” might offer his followers rapid reincarnation, retaining parts of their memories and skills. Your simulated person would still start as a helpless baby, but over the course of growing up would gradually remember their previous life, until as adults they got back 90% of their old memories. However, the other 10% would be gone forever.  The retrieved memories would include 90% of 90% of their second-last life and so on, so over the course of a few reincarnations their past would gradually fog out and be lost, and it would be completely random which parts were lost.

Another “god” might offer his followers various goodies in this life, like health and prosperity, but at the cost of complete loss of the soul at death.  And none of his blessings would be waterproof: No matter your health and youth, you could still be killed in a freak accident or by a dedicated enemy.  Still, it would appeal to impatient people.

A third “goddess” might offer people a very long (but not eternal) afterlife in a paradise, in exchange for following certain precepts in this life.  Of course, it would be kind of harder to convince people of this than the other two, so an annual holiday might be arranged to let the living and the dead meet up to inform each other of what they had done since last.

The “sims” of these imaginary worlds would have an artificially intelligence roughly similar to an Earth human, so would be the ones the readers of the stories would be likely to identify with.

Back on the “real” world of Splendor (by any name…) I had a rough outline of their culture.  Basically names are earned rather than just randomly given or taken.  You start with a short name made from a combination of the stem names of your parents.  (It is assumed that parentage is always known.  Splendorian lifespan is measured in millennia rather than decades, so they breed rarely.  In effect, every child is an only child, as their brother or sister may be a thousand years older or younger. Or at least 500, which is the time it takes to grow up.) Once you are old enough to choose a line of study, you would get your next syllable in your name, denoting your specialization. As an adult, you would earn more syllables through your work, which for the vast majority would be the creation of worlds.  An avid reviewer of other people’s worlds would also be able to earn syllables that way, and a few people by maintaining and improving technology in the “real” world.  But for the most part world creation would be your way to fame and a long name.  Each syllable would represent a certain type of accomplishment, kind of like a badge.

I would not be surprised if someone had come up with this already. That is how it often is.  Either before me, or in the time between my inventing it and telling the world of it.  And they probably did it better.  I still have two old stories, one on paper and one on a floppy, about teen boys who each study at a magical school in a stone castle but are called on by circumstance to save the world.  But frankly, Rowling did it better.  And that says something, given that I only read the first couple Harry Potter books before I got fed up…

So, giving these ideas away for free, it is probably approximately what they are worth!

Game review: Elemental

Screenshot from the game. The text of the review is mostly copied from my LiveJournal, where I have a couple friends who are into gaming.

I had a sickday yesterday (for unrelated reasons!) and spent some time with Stardock’s brand new game, Elemental: War of Magic. There was some serious patching first, and I got two new patches over the course of the day. From what I read online, Stardock may have intentionally released the game buggy and only provide patches for registered customers, to thwart pirates. The game has no conventional DRM.

The game plays like Master of Magic and Civilization III had a love child who is now grown up. (Let us just disregard that Master of Magic was the love child of Civilization I and Magic: The Gathering. That makes MoM the aunt of Civ3, I suppose…)

In-game help is a virtual tome, similar to the Civilipedia but in character for a magic game. The help for the user interface is pretty much absent (or well hidden) so there are still things that I can’t figure out even with the PDF manual. They are not essential though.

The game is probably not intended for the casual gamer. This makes sense since it is from Stardock. Even at Novice level, the easiest, by the time I was sure I had started on a peninsula, the nearest AI had already begun building outposts across the entry to the mainland, blocking me off. It had no hurry to expand in other directions.

The game is still not completely stable, but it autosaves, and load time is acceptable. Actually, I don’t mind the occasional crash as it provides an automatic break. Most people probably don’t think like that though.

Seems like a good catch, but overall I would rather not be sick on the first place, even if it means working instead of playing Elemental…

(I thought this may be of some interest since my website was originally named after a feature in Master of Magic, which this game is a successor to. Stardock even tried to buy out the original game, which has not been for sale for many years, but did not succeed. This game is similar, but not enough to excite lawyers, I think. As for me, well, I would probably not have named my website “” today, let us just say.  But more about that later, if ever.)

Somewhat somber day

It has been a somewhat somber day. Between the intimations of hellfire from the book mentioned yesterday, and the half-sickness today and yesterday, my mood was less upbeat than usual. Not saying this is a bad thing overall. I need to get back down on the ground sometimes, I think.

Body and soul are not easy to tell apart. So I am not sure that some of my sickness was not aggravated by the onslaught of doubt and guilt. It is also possible that my emotions were darker and seeing things in a worse light because of the signals from my body. Either or even both are possible.

I cannot even discount my getting up early in the morning to go to work. Well, early by my standards! I usually get up an hour later, and then spend another hour at home at my leisure, frequently writing in my journal or taking other notes, as this is the time of the day when my mind is working most clearly and I am feeling most at peace with myself.  Work changes that.  I love having a job, so I can do something back for the civilization that has helped me survive this far and given me so much. But the fact remains that I feel deeply insufficient for my job. There is very little I can do, and very much I can’t, and my attempts to expand my areas of expertise have been mostly unsuccessful, for reasons I probably am not even allowed to write about here.  I suspect I am harvesting the seeds I sowed during the many years when I disdained my work, thinking it a punishment and a kind of early retirement.

In any case, work did nothing to lift my spirit.  My digestion and my freezing did improve over time though, especially after a five minute nap in my office chair.  Wonderful inventions these high-backed chairs, for us elderly employees. ^_^  Better than coffee.

In any case, I find myself somewhat more pensive. I feel it should reflect more on myself and not run so fast ahead of myself on my spiritual tourist trip. I have said this before, that I do not consider myself a spiritual teacher, but more like a spiritual tourist sending postcards from a place I have not really lived. Perhaps I should send less of those before I really understand what’s going on?

But realistically, if my health improves again or even just stabilizes, it is overwhelmingly likely that you once again will find me hopping and skipping among the exciting things, whether those of this world or of the next. “Somber” is not the best description of my average mood.

“The Soul After Death”

The unbearably bright Light of Heaven. This picture is, ironically, from the Happy Science anime The Laws of Eternity. A similar episode is recounted in the book I review, but the feelings the book inspire in me are completely different.

I recently bought the book The Soul After Death by Fr. Seraphim Rose, an Eastern Orthodox cleric. The book is written as a reaction to the spate of Near Death Experiences which reached media a few decades ago. These experiences were generally positive:  People were first confused to see their body from above, but soon found out that they could move about, and then a great Light appeared, filled with love and forgiveness and even sometimes humor, encouraging them to reflect on their life and what was really important to them. Deceased relatives and friends might make a brief appearance, and sometimes short journeys to a (usually pleasant) Elsewhere, before they had to (or chose to) return to their body.

Rose is not impressed. He compares this to the extensive Orthodox lore of after-death, and concludes that the NDEs are at best ignorance, but most likely demonic influence. The ethereal world around us is not positive or neutral, but utterly fallen and teeming with demons, who will masquerade as anything or anyone to convince people to turn their back on Orthodoxy, which alone can save them, and then only if you dedicate yourself to it without reservation for the rest of your life.

I think Fr. Rose has many good points, including some of his main points. People (that would be me) are too superficial and too easily convinced that eternal life is easy to get and Hell is almost unattainable except perhaps by Hitler and the like. The Bible certainly can be read as saying the opposite. And most of the messages from the supposed afterlife are inane and banal. True. I am not a big fan of New Age spirituality myself.  That is not the problem.

The problem is the overwhelming onslaught of darkness that radiates from the pages of the book.  About halfway through, when I frankly gave up, even I was starting to wonder if I have been misled by demons from my youth, if the loving Presence that has encouraged me to look hard at the evil in myself and distance myself from it, to understand and implicitly forgive others, that this Presence that has been essential to my life for decades now must surely be a demon. After all, God’s angels (much less God himself) would not have anything to do with people who are not Orthodox and following the proper Orthodox path of asceticism.

No, I don’t think so.  The effect of this book, whatever its intent, was one of despair, bitterness, doubt and darkness.  I shudder to think of this book falling into the hand of someone suffering from depression.  It projected a vision of a world where God has been defeated by Satan, basically.  Content to get away with a few elite souls, God simply watches passively as demons do whatever they want with pagans and most Christians alike, encouraging the evil and deceiving the good, with only a token resistance from Heaven.

I don’t really think that is what he meant to say. And perhaps the book ends on a more uplifting note. But for me, right now, I can’t go on reading it in good conscience, because I feel it makes it harder for me to love God and my fellow humans.   I don’t want to think of God as some petulant demiurge who sees his creation go haywire and reacts with anger and then resignation as it goes to Hell. Or like a constructor who has built a magnificent house which then catches fire and he stands outside, watching as the house burns down with most of his children still inside. There is something horrifying and twisted about this vision of a world abandoned to insane spirits of the netherworld.  I cannot believe this was how the book was intended, but that was what I took away from it. And I cannot guarantee that other readers will fare better, though I sincerely hope so.

I should probably watch some Happy Science to get back my belief in God and the future.

The few who know

I did not even know there was chestnut cream on top of Mont Blanc! What is my head filled with?

I am not even talking about esoteric knowledge here, just plain ordinary things that people supposedly learn in high school:  Does radar use sound waves, do antibiotics cure a common cold? Obviously if you ask 1000 coins about this, you will get about 500 yes and 500 no. If you ask a large number of Americans the same, you will get about 55%, usually but not necessarily of the right answer.

55% may sound a decent number.  If 55% of adult Americans know that radar uses radio waves (electromagnetic waves), then high school teachers may still be able to pat themselves on the back. But unfortunately, it is not so well. Remember how we got almost the same result from flipping a coin? Well, not exactly the same result.  We need to find a number that, together with half of the rest, produces 55%.  Or, for the people who don’t think like normal people, X+(100-X)/2=55.  In any case, we find that if 10% of the population actually know the answer, and half of the other 90% are right by pure luck, this gives the result shown in real life.

This also holds true for more complex equations. For instance, there recently was a study showing that 18% of polled Americans thought President Obama was a Muslim, while half did not know. That leaves about a third knowing that he is officially a Christian.  (There was, as you may remember, quite some controversy about the pastor of the church he used to attend, one Reverend Jeremiah Wright.) So, it is obvious that the “Don’t know” fraction should be larger, but should it be larger by 18%?  No, according to our coin toss theory, it should be larger by about 36%.  If the 18% who got it wrong had bad luck, then there would also be 18% with good luck, as it were, leaving only about 15% actually knowing the professed religion of their president.

(Arguably this may be a good thing, since the US officially has a separation between church and state. But as an expression of the overwhelming ignorance of publicly known facts, as a part of a great pattern of “Don’t know, don’t care as long as I can’t eat it or have sex with it”, it is somewhat more sinister.)

How did it end up like that? Well, as I recently wrote, people are stupid and crazy as part of a long-standing tradition going back as far as we can follow. There has been some pressure on some people to be smart and sane, but not many. For most, it was good enough to till the soil and don’t stand out from the crowd.

Contrary to appearances, modern journalism is not actually trying to fix the problem, but make money off it. If you look objectively at the “news”, you will find that much of it is actually more like pornography, except with Wrath instead of Lust.  Or sometimes both.  But the point is, it aims to excite rather than inform, much less elevate to a higher perspective.

Let me take an example that has made the rounds in social media lately. Evidently a large American retail chain has given a generous donation to a political group that supports a candidate who opposes gay marriage. Outrage abounds.

Now, it so happens that in the US (but not everywhere else) the politicians who oppose gay marriage are generally those who promote business-friendly legislation as well. The history of this goes well beyond the bounds of this essay. The businessmen probably did not even consider that anyone would think they had an opinion on gay marriage. Why should they? It is rare even in the countries where it has been legal for years, and it does not drastically alter the shopping habits of those involved. It is highly unlikely that a supermarket chain would be able to notice the tiniest blip on their bottom line in any case.

But “business donates to business-friendly politician” is not a headline suited to create outrage. And outrage is what people want, so that’s what they get.  The fact is that the journalists and their readers are both immersing themselves in hellish thoughts and creating suffering for themselves. But at least it is exciting. People love that. They would rather suffer than be bored.  How a human can be bored while still having all its limbs and senses is something we will never know, we who write online journals.  If we had the capacity for boredom, we would not have the capacity for writing, and the other way around.

And there you have it: The people who create opinions are somewhere in the range of 1-10% of the population, depending on how generous your definition. It is not a long shot that these are the same people who know random unnecessary things. And write about them.

Paying bills

Something prosaic for a change. ^_^ It is the time of the month for paying bills. Actually I have paid some already, but now the big ones.

Last month I had more bills than income. That is rather disconcerting. I mean, I did not even have any left-over bills from the moving anymore, there were just so many bills showing up at the same time. Luckily bills don’t generally take me by surprise, although there are a couple that I don’t remember exactly when to expect.  Anyway, the month before had a massive influx of money, which I was not idiotic enough to spend just because it was there, so there was no worry. But it is not a situation I like to experience.

I’ve finally gotten rid of the recurring bills for the landline (which I did not bring with me when I moved) and the wireless broadband for the laptop (I now use the wireless broadband in the mobile phone when needed rather than having two subscriptions).

So anyway, I am not in a pinch. I can continue to buy the occasional book. (The one that came from Amazon this week is “The Soul After Death” by Fr. Seraphim Rose. More on that later, I suppose, if I get to it before the book’s contents are needed.)  I just can’t continue to buy new computers several times a year.  Luckily I have enough for a while. ^_^