Tom Petty, AM Radio, Heavy Metal, and Motivation

“If you ask me, you are both off the mark.  Last night was about two people ruled by very powerful superegos, tortured by them, who found a chance, however misguided, to break through and rediscover their ids together.  Call me an old softy, but that’s how I see it.” – Frasier

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The Boy and Pugsley dancing in the rain, which makes my id sing.

I’m not sure exactly when I first heard a Tom Petty song.  Where I grew up was media vacuum.  On TV, we had three channels, plus PBS® (Who watched PBS©?  Nobody.).  Unless it was nighttime, we only got two radio stations, and both of them were AM stations.  One played country music, so, for me it might as well not have exisited.  The other played a complicated mix of top 40 from four years previously, news, and an hour of mariachi music at lunchtime.  It signed off (shut down) at 11PM.

But at night . . . at night the mighty KOMA blasted out 50,000 watts of rock and roll at 1520 on the AM dial, the ionosphere conducted the signal hundreds of miles and back toward earth and over the mountains to my house.  It’s probable that I first heard Tom Petty on some cool summer night (down to 50 ˚F most summer nights).  Maybe it was “Don’t Do Me Like That.”

But Tom was always a bit older than I was, both in age and in the issues he raised in his musical themes.  Me?  I gravitated toward metal, mainly hairy metal, Ozzy™.  Mötley Crüe®.  The Scorpions©.  Despite the previous list, what I liked wasn’t all hair metal.  I liked “normal” music, too.

I ended up on a strange quest:  I’d heard a song, once, and I’d try to tell people what it sounded like, and say intelligent things like “it goes Da Da Dadum dadum de-da dum Ohh-Aiii-Uh . . . Uh.”  The record store clerk would nod knowingly, and point to a cassette or album.  It would turn out to be Judas Priest™.  Which I really, really liked.  Or Molly Hatchet©, which was kinda okay.   I would dutifully buy the tape or album, zip home (first on my ten speed, later in my pickup) and then listen to the album.  Normally, in the first song I would know if it was the same singer.  Always the answer was it wasn’t.  But these mistakes were beautiful – I can still remember sitting on the couch on a dim, overcast day, the clouds pregnant with snow that had yet to fall, blasting “The Hellion” and thinking . . . “okay, life is really cool.”

Imagine that this song played every time you entered a room.  I imagine Google® is working on that.

Again, none of them were the band I was looking for.  I think I spent $300 or so on every single album that featured leather, scantily clad females, and Spandex® that I could find.  For reference, I had all of these as either cassettes or albums.  Album cover copyrights belong to their respective corporate overlords.

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Funky font?   Check.  Picture that looks like something the disturbed kid drew in art class?  Check.

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Satan?  Check.  Priest in glasses being thrown into a pit of fire?  Check.

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Hmmm.  I don’t know about you, but something screams, John Wilder, BUY THIS ALBUM NOW!

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Spandex®?  Check.  Leather?  Check.  Canadian?  Check.  But . . . they’re dudes.  I bought this on cassette, so, thankfully, the picture was tiny.

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Swords?  Check.  Giant flying leathery chicken?  Check?  Leather . . . on a girl this time?  Check.

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Wow.  Just . . . wow.

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I never could figure out what sort of naughty thing they were supposed to be doing.  In the day.  At a drive in.  With both feet out the window.  Probably ripping the labels off of pillows?

Until . . . like Columbus I discovered what was already there (and broken up by the time I found them): Led Zeppelin.  True Fact:  Christopher Columbus first discovered Robert Plant picking onions in a Nevada prison camp, and introduced him to Jimmy Page at a ballet class, but would take no credit because he wanted Led Zeppelin to do disco music.

So, I listened again to Zeppelin. “Yeah, it might be that guy singing?”

It was.  It was this song:

This was the song.  Yay! 

But I’d have to special order the album, since they didn’t have Led Zeppelin III in stock.

Nope.  Too much commitment.

As you might have been able to tell by the artists and album covers above, my musical tastes were driven by my id.

If you don’t remember your Freud, he broke the brain into three bits:

  1. The Super Ego, which, like your dad, is for criticism and moralizing.
  2. The Ego, which is the organized human who lives on the main floor and deals with society in a realistic manner, and
  3. The Id, where all base instincts (Sex, PEZ® and Rock and Roll) live in the basement of your brain.

I listened to a lot of rock that was id driven.  And why not, I was working on a multi-decade winning streak.  Sad songs were for people who occasionally lost stuff.  But Tom Petty’s music was deeper.  It spoke to the conflict between the Super Ego and Ego, an intellectual and emotional conflict I really didn’t have.  I was riding high on year after year of success, slaying dragons and charging the castle.  Why would I question anything?  Party on, dudes!!

It wasn’t that Tom and I didn’t get along – he was no Bruce Springsteen or Johnny Depp, who are both dead to me.  They know why.

Really, it took life kicking me in the teeth more than once to move me from the normal reckless abandon that I attacked life with to a person who asks the kinds of questions that Tom Petty discusses in his songs.  I still recall having a conversation with The Mrs. when I began to realize that I liked Tom Petty:

Me:  “You know, the older I get, the more I understand Tom Petty.”

The Mrs., shaking her head, raising her voice a little:  “Can’t hear you . . . blow dryer on.”

But now Mr. Petty is speaking to me again – he died.

It’s not unusual for rock stars to die young – it’s like we pick an unstable, talented personality and then shove massive amounts of cash at them.  I’m just surprised that 90% of them aren’t dead by 30.  Just my luck that after the apocalypse the Twinkie®, the cockroach, and Johnny Depp will still be around.

But Tom Petty won’t be around, even though The Postman (movie) promised me that he would be.  His death hit me (oddly) harder than I’d anticipated.  He hadn’t been my life’s soundtrack, though I’d clearly been listening to him more recently.

He made it to 66.  According to the CDC, 83% of white non-Hispanics will make it to 67.  Only 1% of 66 year olds die.  If you make it to 66, your mean life expectancy is to make it to 86.  So, from this data, he died early.  But he didn’t look out of shape.  Far from it – he’d just finished a part of a concert tour comprised of 50 dates in five months, which can take a toll on 26 year olds, though I presume at 26 it’s the Jack Daniels® and late nights and not the (presumed) warm tea, oatmeal cookies and obligatory cellophane wrapped butterscotch hard candies that old people like that filled the Heartbreaker’s dressing room.

Though Mr. Petty was quite a bit older than me, I guess his death hit me like it did, because even at 66 it seemed he should be too young to die, just as his voice entered my soundtrack with a greater frequency and volume.  It makes me feel that much more mortal, and therefore more committed to getting into the best shape possible now so I can be in the 50% that make it to 82 years.

Tom Petty inspired millions in many ways – through emotional ups and downs.  He inspired artists everywhere that they could pick up a guitar and play and that their music would, like his, give them a slice of immortality.  And guys like me who want to keep runnin’ down our dreams.  I think this is the part where I get the dragon, right?

Thanks, Tom.

A Short Guide to Transhumanism and The Future of Society

“So it says here that you’re proficient in C++, code assembly for multiple processor architectures, and . . . that you are a cyborg?” – Silicon Valley

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What a Transhuman might see?  Or way too many filters?

Friday’s discussion of Ray Kurzweil’s (LINK) work on immortality was just part of a bigger picture:  it is one of the foundational principles of Transhumanism.  One definition of Transhumanism is the use of biology, information technology, nanotechnology, and cognitive enhancements to consciously and dramatically evolve humanity in a short period of time.  I know, I know, it sounds like a villain’s plot out of James Bond, but there are a dedicated group of people who are working to bring this about right now.

Transhumanists even have a magazine (LINK) called H+.  H+, for humanity plus, is also the abbreviation that is used by some for the movement to indicate Transhumanity.  And they’re working on achieving H+ now.  One of the more recent articles was referencing a study showing that planarian worms keep their memory after being frozen – something that might be important if you are researching how to bring yourself back after being frozen, like Kurzweil plans for after he dies, if he’s not immortal by then.

We talked about biology on Friday, and getting people to live forever (or a really long time) is part of the movement.  But it’s not just living longer, it’s also increasing life quality.  Inevitably, the idea of uploading a human consciousness (maybe after getting thawed out?) into a machine comes up, since human life is frail and we could build a robot body that’s tougher than a refrigerator, and faster than one of those shaky little Chihuahua dogs.  Having a cool steel body would allow you to be either a Prius® or a Corvette©, depending on if you liked the metric system or not.

But if you had your brain already uploaded into a machine, why bother at all with an actual body?

That’s a second possibility – just upload your consciousness and live in a hard drive.  Some folks, like me and Elon Musk consider it more than a little likely that we live inside a simulation right now.  My first post to discuss this idea was here (LINK) where it becomes the explanation for why we haven’t been contacted by aliens.  We’re either living in a simulation or we’re non-player characters in a very detailed video game.  At least you might be a non-player character, I know I’m real (not as sure about you).  Maybe it’s a multiplayer game?

The other frontier of study that is impacting Transhumanism is nanotechnology.  For about a year, everything was “nano” in every magazine, every news story.  It think that’s been replaced (for now) with “sustainable.”  But, outside of a cool techno band name, what does nano mean?  Roughly it speaks to structures between 0.000000001 meters and 0.0000001 meters in size.

“Nano” had its start when Dr. Richard Feynman put together a lecture that was titled, “There’s Plenty of Room at The Bottom.”  You can find it here (LINK).  In it, Feynman sets the stage for manipulation and eventual mechanization of really, really small machines.  In it he referenced biology as a template – we know that these small machines can exist at that scale, because cells exist and are functional at that scale.

Another place that H+ folks are working on is cognitive improvement – concepts on how to better improve the functioning of the human brain and make us smarter, either biologically, chemically, or through fusion with technology.  And not smart like “vodka Saturday night,” but really smart.  Chemical enhancement has gotten a majority of the attention when discussing the subject, but I would suggest that Google® has already provided a significant cognitive enhancement.  I recall having conversation in 1998 when The Mrs. and I were having an argument about something so important I don’t even recall the subject now.  My friend Matt looked at us and said, “Why are you arguing about a fact.  Look it up.”  After booting up the computer and connecting to the internet via a modem, one Hotbot.com search later, and we had a factual answer (this was before Google™ took the world by storm).  We haven’t had an argument over a searchable fact in years.

I argue that the most significant cognitive enhancement in human history so far has already occurred.  The Internet provides a massive amount of factual knowledge and computing power.  This power makes us all smarter, and gives as a much more of information far faster than at any point in history.

By nature, this vast variety of views makes us drift further apart as a nation.  When I was a kid, there were three networks, plus PBS.  Everybody in the seventh grade talked about the same show – we were all watching it – after all, Fonzie.  Cable existed, but it was mainly a way to get The Three Stooges©.  Now, it’s very rare to go in to work and be able to talk about a television show – I’ve got 200 channels, and I’m certain that nobody I work with is watching Escape from New York right now.  Given DVRs and on-demand, people might not even watch the same show in the same year as you.

On Friday I said that I thought that, even though the several aspects of immortality seemed to be pretty far off from a technical standpoint, I thought that there might be a way that some of the more crazy-sounding things might happen sooner than we’d think.

And there is – it’s called increasing returns.  Outside of standard medical science, which I think we can all agree is pretty stunted (LINK), there is a massive increase in technical knowledge going on.  If I can use an analogy – if you’ve ever done a really big jigsaw puzzle, it’s very slow to start with.  All the pieces fit with other pieces, but there are so many other pieces it’s difficult to find the connections.  But once a few connections start to go in, the picture starts to make more sense.  Eventually, as there are only a few pieces of puzzle left, they go very quickly.

And it’s been that way with technology throughout history.  Our knowledge as a species keeps growing over time – more links are made, and finally we solve one puzzle quickly.  We do run into physical and thermodynamic limits, like the total amount of energy one can get from a gallon of gasoline, or the amount of flavor that can be packed into a piece of Juicy Fruit®.

As we have more smart people on the planet now than ever before in history that can now pull information from the entire history of the world working on information system problems, we end up with far more than Uber – we’re near to having AI systems that that will be able to replicate most of the things that most thinking people do at work.  From truck drivers to managers to accountants.  A few key decision makers and people who do actual physical work that robots can’t do will be all that’s necessary to run a major corporation.  One corporation I was working at around 1999 got rid of hundreds of accountants – floors of a skyscraper were empty – not because business was bad, but because those people had all been replaced with accounting software, and purchasing software.

And this will increase with time, too.

The big idea of Transhumanism isn’t that we replace a bunch of accountants and purchasing managers – the big idea of Transhumanism is that we replace humanity with newly evolved Transhumans.  And there’s no fixed version of what the final, evolved version of us will be like.  It almost certainly will not look like us.  Beyond that, I’m not even sure what the viewpoint would be of 200+ IQ immortal cyborgs – what projects would they work on – how would they vote?  Would we even be able to communicate with them?  The final form of Transhumanity might be one where they instantly communicate, one to another.  They might look much more like Borg® than Boy Scouts.

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Bought a t-shirt with this on it for The Mrs. – she still wears it.  No one wants to be late for the Singularity!  (H+ Magazine)

Greg Bear wrote a great story (that he eventually turned into a novel) about combining intelligence plus cells using nanotech – the original short story can be found here (LINK).  The story describes increasing returns in a pretty unusual and chilling way.

We can’t know what the final form of Transhumanity will look like.  There is a mathematical definition that describes when mathematics and logic break down – like one divided by zero, or a black hole where gravity overpowers all other forces.  We call this a Singularity – and it’s clear that we cannot imagine what an all-powerful humanity would look like.  I just hope that they don’t get me in the freezer too late during the Singularity – I would hate to still be in the microwave when the Singularity hits.  That’s just bad form.

The Fermi Paradox, or, Is There Life In Other Fridges?

“Morty, there’s nothing dishonest about what we’re doing.  Now slap on these antennae.  These people need to think we’re aliens.” – Rick and Morty

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What an alien might look like.  Perhaps a bit too subtle in the orange suit?

“Where is everybody?”

That’s the simple question that Enrico Fermi asked at lunch in 1950 at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.  Everybody laughed, because on the walk to lunch, these eminent physicists (Edward Teller, father of the hydrogen bomb was one) had been talking about UFOs, and his comment a half hour later seemed to capture the idea that all of them had.  To my knowledge, none of these eminent men (except for Teller) lived in Mom’s basement or wore tinfoil underwear to bed, so it was a serious question asked by seriously smart dudes:

Where are the aliens?

Eventually this question became the foundation for what’s known today as the “Fermi Paradox.”  Stated simply, the Fermi Paradox says:

  1. The galaxy has been around for billions of years so,
  2. It’s unlikely that we’re the first civilization,
  3. A civilization should be able to move across a galaxy in millions of years, so
  4. Why don’t we hear them or see them? Why aren’t they in our solar system?  Is the food that bad here?

Thankfully, a large number of people (some of whom also live in their Mom’s basement) have spent a lot of time thinking about this.  Per Wikipedia (LINK), here are the best answers:

  • Extraterrestrial life is rare or non-existent: This is the first explanation.  But it’s lame.  Really lame.  Everywhere we look in interstellar space, we see signs of chemicals that are clearly precursors to life.  And life showed up pretty quickly on Earth, and perhaps even earlier on Mars.  I don’t buy this one.  If you’ve seen the inside of my fridge, you know that life is everywhere.
  • No other intelligent species have arisen: I have to give this one a possibility.  As far as we know, intelligent, tool making life has existed only for 0.01% of the lifetime of the planet.  That’s not a lot of time.  Could it be that intelligence beyond a certain point actually results in an evolutionary disadvantage?  Maybe all the intelligent lizard-people were eaten by Tyrannosaurus Rex while arguing that the means of production should be shared by all dinosaurs, and that T. Rex was a greedy member of the 1%?

From XKCD.

  •  Intelligent alien species lack advanced technology: I can see lots of ways this could be.  A planet with low metal content so no circuits.  It’s pretty hard to build a bamboo radio telescope that works.  For that you also need kelp, and an electric eel.
  • It is the nature of intelligent life to destroy itself: Are you talkin’ to me?  Hmm?  Well, I’m the only one here.  I thought so.  I looked up the main causes of death in the world in 2015.  People killing people was not in the top 10.  So, while it might be fun to beat up on yourself and on how bad humanity is, that’s simply not the case.  Mankind rocks.
  • It is the nature of intelligent life to destroy others:   With a sample size of zero, it’s hard to say one way or another.  Even a small number of alien species bent on destruction of all other species would be significant.  But wouldn’t we have seen a sign of that, like a big moon gun shooting at us?
  • Periodic extinction by natural events: It’s undeniable that happens here on Earth.   There have been five mass extinctions, with the most recent being 65,000,000 years ago, which is longer than many people live, so you might not remember it.  It’s the one that killed all the dinosaurs, remember them?
  • Inflation hypothesis and the youngness argument: This one is bogus.  Even the author (Future Nobel Prize Winner Dr. Alan Guth) argues that in his paper (LINK).  I don’t suggest you read it, since he gives away all the spoilers in the Abstract.  The relevant quote about the Fermi Paradox is:

Thus, if we know only that we are living in a pocket universe that satisfies Eq. (12), it is extremely improbable that it also satisfies Eq. (13). We would conclude, therefore, that it is extraordinarily improbable that there is a civilization in our pocket universe that is at least 1 second more advanced than we are. Perhaps this argument explains why SETI has not found any signals from alien civilizations, but I find it more plausible that it is merely a symptom that the synchronous gauge probability distribution is not the right one.

Translation:  This result makes no sense.

  • Intelligent civilizations are too far apart in space or time: Yes, but they can cross the entire galaxy in a few million years.  Unless no civilization ever does this, we should see something.  An interstellar Outback® or Jimmie Johns™ on Mars.  Something.  I’m calling this unlikely.
  • It is too expensive to spread physically throughout the galaxy:   Time is on your side, and something like a self-replicating robot could easily get through the galaxy in a million years and spend time creating “My Robot Went to Cygnus X-1 and Only Got Me This Lousy T-Shirt” t-shirts for the inevitable tourist trade.  This is nearly within our ability, so, unlikely.
  • Human beings have not listened long enough: This is a good point.  We’ve only been able to listen for the last 80 years or so, and most of the time we weren’t listening.  Unless the aliens bought commercial air time during the Super Bowl®, they could have been broadcasting instructions on how to build an interstellar drive for a space ship or how to make creamy PEZ® and we would never have heard.
  • We are not listening properly: My first grade teacher accused me of this.  In writing.  On my report card.  “Johnny likes to talk and can’t sit still.”  That’s because I was a boy, silly.  That’s on the warning label, along with the bruises, cuts, and torn jeans.  But back to aliens.  We listen on the radio spectrum, mostly.  And mostly on a particular spectrum, as defined by the Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute’s website (below).  What if that’s just a convenient place to look, and not the one aliens have settled on?  What if they use lasers, or the even more potent laser/shark method?  What if they text?  What if they use fundamentally different timescales (much slower or faster)?  This is likely, in my opinion.

For interstellar communication, a particular range of radio frequencies, “microwaves” from 1 GHz to 10 GHz, are particularly good choices.  At lower frequencies our galaxy emits prodigious amounts of radio waves creating a loud background of noise.  At higher frequencies the Earth’s atmosphere, and presumably the atmosphere of other Earth-like planets, absorbs and emits broad ranges of radio frequencies.  The result is a quiet “Microwave Window” through which efficient radio communication is possible.

From XKCD

  • Civilizations broadcast detectable radio signals only for a brief period of time: This was (kinda) my theory in 2000 when I emailed Frank Drake (LINK) and asked him – (his equation-The Drake Equation-is used to estimate the number of civilizations communicating in the galaxy).  In short, my hypothesis was that civilizations must have sufficient excess energy to spend the time and effort to broadcast to space and to listen for signals from space, and that having that excess energy from (like us) hydrocarbons like oil and natural gas and coal only last for a while.  And fusion is hard, and fission has waste problems.  A related post of mine is here (LINK).  Drake responded, and, sadly, that email account is no longer or I’d quote the response.  In one word, his answer was, “maybe.”  The other concept is that civilizations are “noisy” for a while until they learn to move on from high powered radio to lots of smaller low-power radios.  Earth has gotten a lot quieter since the 1970’s.

From XKCD

  •  They tend to isolate themselves: It could be that the alien species are all introverts that like spending time in their room listening to music, or standing in the corner at a party until they sneak out and go home and hit the Playstation®.
  • They are too alien: Aliens might be so different than us that we cannot mutually communicate – ever.  It would be like meeting a civilization composed entirely of ex-wives (or ex-husbands, your choice).  Hey, maybe that was why they called it the eX-Files®?
  • Everyone is listening, no one is transmitting: Like us.  We’re not actively sending signals out, or at least not very often.  If someone did hear us, they’d look back to see if there was a signal, and they wouldn’t find a thing.
  • Earth is deliberately not contacted (zoo): We’re like the hippos in the zoo.  People look, but you’re not supposed to disturb the display.  Oh, look what happens when you throw a hurricane at them!  Silly people!  Possible, but seems like a lot of work.
  • Earth is purposely isolated (prank): Let’s take a civilization, and make it look like nothing’s going on outside their solar system (snicker).  And let’s magic marker their face.  Seems very unlikely, and way too much effort.
  • It is dangerous to communicate: Maybe everybody looks out and says . . . “Where is everyone?”  Since there’s no good answer, they assume everyone before them got smashed by . . . something out there.  So, they shut up.  Maybe?  It’s what Hawking is suggesting as our best strategy now.
  • The Simulation Theory: We live in a simulation, and they didn’t program in any aliens.  Very possible.  Our current level of technology could almost produce a realistic simulation, so it’s not too far off to expect that another million years of tech advancement would produce not only SuperUber with cabs that all driven by clones of NFL® legend Howie Long, but the ability to live your entire life in your Mom’s basement in a virtual reality.  And we’re all non-player characters.
  • They are here undetected: They’re sneaky, and are all over, like tourists, and we just don’t know it.  Some silly Prime Directive or something.  I believe this is unlikely, because Kirk always ignored the Prime Directive whenever it was even remotely convenient.
  • They are here unacknowledged: This is the true X-Files® X-Planation.  Government knows.  SETI™ knows.  Nobody will tell us.  This is one of the most popular with the tinfoil-wearing basement dwellers.  It’s solidly possible.  Blue Oyster Cult certainly thinks so:

1980’s at its best:  men in black, bad special effects, girls in furs, weird beards, and Flight 19 references.

What about . . . we are the aliens?  If you look at life . . . it’s got great computational power.  It’s got amazing resiliency to everything from meteor bombardment to super volcanos.  It has amazing memory storage capacity (think the amount of info in DNA alone).  It’s complex, but resilient.  Perhaps the galaxy has been seeded, with us and the things that live in my fridge.  And we’re the replicating critters that are supposed to send copies out into the cosmos.

When we manage to get out of Mom’s basement.

 

Superpowers, Stress, Ben Franklin’s Nails

“I’m not stressed beyond the stress induced by telling you how stressed I am.” – House

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The Boy took this selfie.  Not sure what he was upset about.  Maybe it was the stock market? 

I think too much.  I know, I know, it hurts.  The Mrs. tells me I should just relax and not think so much.  But perhaps my superpower is that I think about the future, so to not think about the future would be like Superman® not flying or Aquaman™ not . . . talking to fish, or whatever it is that he does.

To me, the future is a set of probabilities, branching at intervals.  And what I can do is imagine branches from decisions in the past reaching into the future, starting at the single, solid limb of now, and moving forward, getting smaller, as larger probabilities stay thicker, but smaller possibilities branch out into tiny limbs.

The tiny limbs are real, though, and they represent things that can happen based upon both the choices made today as well as some element of chance (either random or not).

As we’ve discussed in the past, Taleb taught us that all probabilities and all risks aren’t equal (LINK).  And Seneca said it’s always easier for things to come crashing down than to hold them together (LINK).

 

But we are active in creating our future.  I can place myself (mentally) in that future to understand what that situation looks like.  I can imagine a future where I cooked a cherry pie.  I can then map it out and see what I can do now to make a better then.  Like buy whipped cream for the top.  And I can imagine a future where we’ve all forgotten about Warrant:

Is it wrong that sometimes I sing the lyrics “She’s a hairy guy?”  I swear this isn’t about Jenner.

My Superpower is a little like chess, but with more showering than the last chess tournament I was in.  Also, the variables are not as well-known as chess, but in most cases I’ve done really well with at work and at life with this ability, though I cannot yet hover or make adamantium claws spring out from my knuckles, which would be even better superpowers than fish-talking.

But when we finally get to a decision point, most of the time it’s like coming home to a place I’d already been on my imaginary branch so I’m generally not surprised.

One advantage to this power is that I look at the risks around me on a regular basis and try to figure out ways around them, measures that mitigate them, or better yet, insurance that I can get that allows someone else to take the risk (insurance is not always an Allstate® product, sometimes it’s a contract where somebody else owns a risk, which can often be gotten for asking).

Of the things I do at work (besides being snarky and obscure), this is probably the best one.  Way better than my coffee consumption skill, though I’ve been told that’s legendary.

And frankly, I like the pressure when the ball is in my hand and I have the ability to think, to perform and to achieve.  I like the odds on me performing well, because I think like this:

 Diz ſagent uns die wîſen, ein nagel behalt ein îſen, ein îſen ein ros, ein ros ein man, ein man ein burc, der ſtrîten kan.

-Freidank (Which is a dude’s name.) via Wikipedia

I know, a knee-slapper, right?

The English version of that is:

The wise tell us that a nail keeps a shoe, a shoe a horse, a horse a man, a man a castle, that can fight. – Now a translated Freidank, still via Wikipedia

And, know that Freidank lived in 1230 A.D., long before Ben Franklin collected a version in his book “The Way to Wealth” that most of us are more familiar with:

For the want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For the want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For the want of a horse the rider was lost,
For the want of a rider the battle was lost,
For the want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe-nail.

Thinking this way is stressful, but not the bad kind of stress, but rather the excitement, the exhilaration of having a real problem, a meaningful problem to be solved.  Are there exciting challenges?  Sure!  Are there horrible, frustrating setbacks?  Also, sure.  But when everything comes together and we light up the cigars to celebrate, it more than makes up for anything “stressful” along the way.

A Stanford® professor (LINK) has been doing research and agrees.  “Good” stress is . . . not bad for you, and, in fact, may help you perform at your peak.  It’s a challenge.

That same article noted that stress was bad mainly if you thought it was bad.  If you thought it was okay, exciting, just a challenge?  It tended to not have the bad long-term consequences we associated with stress: the heart attacks, the stress hormones, the late night peanut butter and tuna sandwiches, etc.

But for me, the downside of this thinking was still this thinking.

I can see bad things.

My job (in many cases) has been literally looking at the worst case and pulling back from there.  I once looked at tornado frequency in the Midwest, and made a half-hearted attempt to quantify the likelihood of civil war changing our government (this was only for about six months of my career, but it was an interesting six months).  Since that was my job and I got paid to do it, it tended to bleed over into home life, so I thought about worst case scenarios even when I was off the clock, and related them to myself and my family.  The upside?  The last time we needed duct tape, paracord, a socket set, and a knife on a family trip (this really happened) we had it in the emergency kit in the trunk.  I only wish I had packed the goatskin – we could have used that.

So I think.  It used to be worst at night when I was ready to go to sleep.  The possibilities would branch out and I would end up going down decision/probability trees (of my own personal life) and, being night and all, often end up in some dark places.  I’d start with, say, needing to pay the mortgage, and then end up penniless and panhandling to pay for new shingles after a storm that never happened.  Yeah.  Silly.  Now I play the radio so other people think and I can listen – it distracts me so I don’t end up on paranoid rabbit trails.

The downside of this is that thinking down chains of causation, I used to build up a big amount of worry in a hurry about personal stuff.  It’s not that I’m scared of the future, it’s that the future can be so uncertain – understanding that a risk exists doesn’t tell you very much about the risk.  For that, experience and mathematics are key, but we’ll have that on a Monday post some week.

One thing leads to another, and I ended up with?  Stress.

Not the good kind.  I’d worry about aspects of my future that were difficult to control.  Research indicates that the key to removal of stress in life is having control.  In psychological speak, believing that most outcomes depend on things that you can do and control is called an “internal locus of control” and is just a fancy way to show that you like having the ball in your hands on a 4th and five with 30 seconds left on the clock.  You believe you control your own outcomes.

So I turned parts of that into challenges.  I challenged myself to have enough money so that I didn’t have to worry about next week’s mortgage, or even next year’s mortgage.  I took my money stress and put it in my hands, and thankfully had the opportunities to make sufficient money that I’m not scared about tomorrow.  I did my best to take what was a (bad) stress and turn it into a good pressure to achieve.

Tough times along the way?  Yeah.  But way more wins than losses.

I think that’s why it’s exhilarating to quit a job – it’s the ultimate demonstration of control when you can move to a situation where you think you’ll be happier.

I think that (in part) is what Jordan Peterson means (LINK) when he says “clean your room” – take control of some facet of your own life so that you feel you’re able to fix your own situation before you burn out.

I’ve switched from being fixated at looking down long dark halls and now I see the light coming in from the side rooms.  And I like to think that I take some time to play there – because on a long enough timeline, all of our mortality rates are 1.0.

And I’m committed to taking control and ownership of my issues.  Like Mark Twain said, “Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.”  And, as I noted on an earlier post, that’s at least part of what keeps me writing.  I’m taking control, taking the garbage out, and making sure I have enough nails.

Somebody might need that horse after all.  Better yet?

Let’s saddle up Ben.

For heaven’s sake, if you’re really stressed out, go see a doctor, not an Internet humorist!

Jordan Peterson, Success, Bruce Campbell, and Roman Emperors

Discovery Channel© has Shark Week™, and at Wilder, Wealthy and Wise® we are lucky enough to have Dr. Jordan Peterson Week©.  This is the third of three posts on Dr. Jordan Peterson – his website is here (LINK). My first post on Dr. Peterson can be found here (LINK), and the second post here (LINK).

 

“Jamie, how many 29 year old record company presidents operate out of their mom’s trailers? Know what I’m sayin’?”- J-Roc’s Mom, “Trailer Park Boys

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Oil Tank Dennis Quaid (playing Sam Houston) knows a little bit about Oil Tank success, starting his own Oil Tank country and all.

I had intended on just doing three posts this year on Dr. Peterson, but will probably do updates from time to time, since his ideas are stone-cold interesting and I think I could do six weeks of posts on those ideas without repeating myself, but if I did that we’d just have to hand over the reins to Jordan, and I own the domain name, and I don’t think he’d share the revenues.

Elon Musk almost always has something going on, too.

Monthly updates about these guys?  We’ll see.

(By the way, Elon, GOOD JOB dumping Amber Heard, she’s really not worth a Prius®, dude.  I’m telling you – she is trouble and likely a Terminator® sent by James Cameron from the future to mess with your Mars (LINK) plan.  You dodged a bullet!!!)

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Now a 100,000% better with no Amber Heard. (image, Wikipedia)

But this is Wealthy Wednesday, and Dr. Peterson has a lot to say about success (and, it seems, almost everything else), which is reasonable given the unreasonable amount of success that he’s had, especially recently.

Today we’re going back to those forty points that Peterson laid out on Quora (LINK) in response to the question “What are the most valuable things everyone should know?”  In the analysis on Truth last post (LINK), Dr. Peterson had 16 out of 40 points that related in some way to Truth (I know, we could quibble, was it 15 or 17, but why quibble, since we’re friends?).  Are there any of the 40 points that speak to success?

Yes.  Dr. Peterson speaks on things I consider to be huge when it comes to a deep, meaningful success that combines significance with economic success.  I mean, why would you want a Justin Bieber-level success if you could have success that mattered, like Bruce Campbell?

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A perfect gift for any occasion!

Peterson has several videos on YouTube® that directly tackle important personal development points that lead to success:  fear (and how to overcome it), the importance of having a routine, where to find the freshest and plumpest Pez®, and how success leads to even more success.  I encourage you to watch the videos.

But going back to the 40 points.  Many relate to behaviors (behaviours in Canada, eh) that lead to success.  These are quoted below (bold) with Dr. Peterson’s gracious permission.  My commentary follows.

  • Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient. – There is always the opportunity to do things just for the moment, but when you work on what matters? That leads to long term success and value.  This means that, no, eating only appetizers doesn’t make a good dinner.  You need cake, too.
  • If you have to choose, be the one who does things, instead of the one who is seen to do things.   Do them so you how to do them.  Do them because they are meaningful.  Do them because it’s right.  Doing them just to be seen?  Yeah, we wedgied that guy in High School.  That’s the worst kind of smarmy dude.
  • Pay attention. Sorry, dozed off.  Oh, yeah.  People notice when you take them seriously, when what they say matters to you.  If you’re not present in the moment, those that are will notice.  And you’ll miss important things.  “Hang on, honey, I have to tell Google that they should lower their price to $750,000.  They want a million bucks!  Stupid college kids.”  (Yes, that really happened, and he did not get the deal.)
  • Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you need to know. Listen to them hard enough so that they will share it with you. There is an implied Trustworthiness in this statement.  Be worthy of their trust.  Realize that Truth is not where you look, it’s where you find it.
  • Be careful who you share good news with. Bad bosses get jealous, and even good people get jealous.  Similarly, don’t appear too good to your boss.  A boss that’s intimidated by you is not generally a rational boss.  If you have to make that calculation, beware.  Likewise, sometimes your friends get a bit tired of hearing of an endless sea of victory.  Be real to them.
  • Be careful who you share bad news with. People who don’t like you (or to whom you just represent a tool) can use that news against you.  Similarly?  Don’t share your weaknesses.  Hey, Clark Kent – your boss does NOT need to know that you’re nearsighted and break out in hives every time you’re near a little kryptonite©.  Also, your bad news might be insignificant compared to someone else’s bad news.  Your very worst day might be better than the best day of the person you’re talking too.  “Oh, my, and the caviar was nearly off!  I made do, however,” won’t go too far if the other person can barely afford to pay their chauffer and their private pilot.
  • Make at least one thing better every single place you go. The right people generally appreciate this.  They see it, and it’s obvious.  If they don’t see it?  You know, deep inside, it was the right thing.  A guy was working really hard on making a concrete footer smooth.  I pulled aside his great-great-grandboss.  “You know that’s going to be buried, right?  I’m good if it’s a bit rough.  Heck, it’s really even better if the concrete is rough.  More friction.”  Boss’s response?  “It’s his work.  The man has pride in it.  I’ll let him own it.”  What a good answer.
  • Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that. How many days do you want to spend being the you that isn’t the best you?  The first step is imagining.  Once you’re there, Von Mises (LINK) will take over.  If you see a better you, a path to get there, and believe that your action can take you there?  Nothing can stop you.  Unless you told your boss about the whole kryptonite® thing.
  • Do not allow yourself to become arrogant or resentful. Good things will happen to you during your career.  Bad things will happen to you during your career.  People will step on you (if they can) to elevate themselves over you.  You’ll forget the contributions of great team members.  Focus on this:  You’re never as good as people think, or as bad.  You have had amazing help through your life.  “Don’t spend time hating the situation.  The situation doesn’t care.” (Marcus Aurelius, probably)

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Unknown Sculptor, Pierre-Selim (Self-photographed) [CC BY-SA 3.0]

Why is it that when I wear a toga to work that they think I’m a little off?  Marcus rocked his!

  • Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens. This implies that you’re going to get rid of the fear of failure.  If you try, really hard, and fail, what will happen?  Mainly, nobody notices, except you.  And you get stronger.  It has been my experience that the harder I work at something, the better I get.  And sometimes I achieve results that are beyond anything I ever could have expected.  And other things fail, but I learn a little bit more each time.
  • Maintain your connections with people. Outside of graffiti artists, The Mrs., and Keanu Reeves, most of us don’t work alone.  Most of us depend on others to make us better, make us stronger.  There’s a natural pull for certain people (introverts and those under stress) to pull back, mainly when they need other people the most.
  • Do not carelessly denigrate social institutions or artistic achievement. The stupid form you just filled out?  Yeah, somebody had to design it, and they had a reason.  See if you can make the form better, after understanding why it even exists.
  • Nothing well done is insignificant. There is the possibility of beauty in the most mundane and base of tasks – cleaning a microwave oven can be significant, especially when it’s done well.  I can show you the fulfillment you will get from cleaning a microwave.  See you at my house on Saturday?  Only a minimal charge for this lesson.  (H/T M. Twain)
  • Dress like the person you want to be. True enough.  Some days I’m Homer Simpson.  I would just love to be involved in those wacky adventures!  Danger point:  If you work at a construction company and dress like an investment banker you will be mocked.
  • Be precise in your speech. Meaning is important, and certain people follow only concrete statements.  Precision in a concrete fashion is especially important to them – their brains don’t understand exaggeration for effect.  Likewise, when someone asks you a yes or no question?  Answer yes or no before you explain the answer.  They might not care why.  And precision in speech leads to truth.
  • Stand up straight with your shoulders back. Posture feeds directly into mindset and emotion, and in guys pumps testosterone up when done right.  Standing tall and strong like a superhero, hands on hips?  Yeah, you’ll feel like a superhero, and being a superhero is a great way to get important things done.  Especially if “things” is slicing up people with metal claws.
  • Don’t avoid something frightening if it stands in your way — and don’t do unnecessarily dangerous things. Bosses hate fear and like courage (good bosses).  They also understand risk.  They like it when you take appropriate
  • Notice that opportunity lurks where responsibility has been abdicated. There will be times when you will see something undone.  Do it.  It will be noticed.
  • Be grateful in spite of your suffering. Nobody likes a whiner or wants to spend time with a whiner.  Nobody wants to hear a whiner whine except his enemy.  Everyone suffers.  To repeat myself, your worst day is better than someone’s best day.  Act like it.

Dr. Peterson is doing more than writing about success, he’s quarterbacked creation of a software suite called “Self Authoring,” (LINK).  Note that I am not as of this writing date getting paid if you sign up.  I’ll let you know if that changes.

The concept behind Self Authoring is to work through issues – fix yourself – by revisiting and writing about events in the past that were particularly difficult for you or in some way may be holding you back.  Additionally, there’s a focus on writing a future as well to create a meaningful goal or set of goals to work for, sort of an anti-nihilism pill.

Bill Gates probably doesn’t need this.  Those who are able to be pretty clear of their past and are able to perform at a high level already based on solid future goals are probably not the target market, though Dr. Peterson did say that one driving factor in designing and creating this tool was from requests by companies for ways to help their high performing employees perform on an even higher level.

When people write about their painful past, people experience long term positive impacts (compared to a control group).  Likewise, another group constructed and wrote about their future, and had similar impacts (when compared to the control group).  I have theories about everything, but I wonder if confronting past trauma made them braver?  I wonder if it allowed them to really examine what happened in context and they were able to trace the impacts to their present state?

In the end, Self Authoring is consistent with Peterson’s maxim – you have to fix yourself.

I wonder if that’s part of the mission of this blog?  I know that Orthodixie (LINK) (another blogger from my past, an Orthodox Priest with a Carolina accent, and no, I’m not making that up) and I would talk about how blogging let us mentally, “take out the trash,” and how much better we felt after we’d gotten something out on paper, even something unrelated to the things that were bothering us.  I’ll probably give the Self Authoring program a try.  I’ll let you know how it works out . . . but get yourself a Priest as a drinking buddy if you can.  It always amused The Mrs. when I engaged him in theological debate after wine.

Me, I’m still cleaning on my room, making it a little better each day.  I know that The Mrs. is very much looking forward to me being done with that.

Dr. Jordan Peterson, Truth, and Even More Truth

This is the second of three posts on Dr. Jordan Peterson – his website is here (LINK). My first post on Dr. Peterson can be found here (LINK).  The third post can be found here (LINK).

“J-Roc raps about gangsters and guns, pimps and hos and Compton.  The guy’s not from Compton.  He’s a white kid from a trailer park.  He should rap about what he really knows which is living in his mom’s trailer eating peanut butter sandwiches.” – Trailer Park Boys

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When I think that society is too complicated, I then remember that I couldn’t even take this picture without the help of the millions of elven technicians that live in my camera.  Then I cry.

As a reminder, Dr. Peterson is a psychologist that teaches at the University of Toronto, but don’t hold that against him:  he seems to be one of the good Canadians at this point, though a bit fixated.

On what is Peterson fixated?  Dr. Peterson seems to be obsessed, and not with Pez® or Japanese tentacle pudding cups like a normal man.  No, Peterson is obsessed with the truth.  Earlier this year in response to a question on Quora, (LINK): “What are the most valuable things everyone should know?” Dr. Peterson didn’t come back with a 250 page book priced at $43.50 (I’m talkin’ about you, Dr. Tainter (LINK)) but rather a fairly simple 40 item list.  I’d suggest you go over and read it – it’s not bad.  My list would be different, but you’ll have to wait for a new post for my list – this post is all about Peterson.

I’ve often heard it said, if you want to know who someone is, just ask them.  I was reading an article on the web where these psychiatrists were attempting to figure out a test to give people to determine if they had narcissistic personality disorder.  The best test they’d yet determined was to ask them, “Are you a narcissist?”

Narcissists seem pretty proud answering, “Yes, I am!  Because I’m so awesome!”

Nice.  So, with that in mind, let’s listen to Dr. Peterson.

Dr. Peterson’s first rule is:

Tell the truth. 

Simple.  I think we all learn to lie about stuff as soon as we learn about consequences.  We all start out as horrible liars, since being three years old doesn’t exactly pop us to the top of the “able to make up good, convincing lies” chart unless your parents are very, very stupid.

After playing with lies, if we are very, very, lucky we learn that lies are really, really bad.

I’ll tell you my story, because I’m just enough of a narcissist to think you might be interested.  Because I’m that interesting.

I’ve been divorced, and can attest that divorces are very expensive because they’re worth every penny.  My first wife and I didn’t have personalities that really matched very well.  To top that, neither one of us was very good at telling the truth to each other – it was like a US-USSR arms race where, instead of stockpiles of nuclear weapons, our Cold War involved an ongoing series of falsehoods aimed at one another.  She was relieved to move out.  I was relieved when she moved out and was replaced by Boris Yeltsin (for a short time).  It took tanks and a promise of vodka to get Boris out of the house long enough to change the locks.

Regardless, I could see the impact that lies and distrust had made in my life, and I made a personal vow that, no matter what I did in the future, I would always tell anyone in a future relationship the Truth.  No lies.   And I have told the Truth, regardless of the outcome to The Mrs. since we met.  One time I called home, late, while I was still at work.  I whispered into the mouthpiece, “Can’t come home right now.  Governor of the state is in the office right next to mine, surrounded by news media, talking to my boss.”

The Mrs. only reply was, “Okay.  See you when you get here.”

By this time, we’d been married almost eight years, so, based on my constantly telling the Truth during that time, plus during every interaction before we got married, I think I could have called up and said, “Honey, been picked up by a UFO, and they have Elvis and we’re going out for ribs and beer.  Be back before 11pm.”

This may or may not be what happened to me.

She might have believed that was what was really happening, but she would certainly have believed that I thought it was the Truth.

And this has paid off during my entire relationship with The Mrs., in dividends, though certainly she knows better than to ask my opinion on anything where she doesn’t really want a True answer.  Has it caused friction?  Very rarely.  It did today, because I told her my opinion, and was told (essentially) that she didn’t want that right now.  Sometimes Truth is not what we want.

But in every case, it has led to harmony and trust.  If you have a partner who always tells you the Truth, you know you have someone who is on your team, always.

But back to Dr. Peterson.

In response to the Question on Quora, he listed 40 points.  By my count, 16 of them (40%!) dealt directly with Truth.

Here they are, quoted with permission, with my commentary:

  • Tell the truth. Discussed above.  The core of Dr. Peterson’s points.
  • Do not do things that you hate. If I were to quote Shakespeare, I’d quote Hamlet here: “To thine own self be true.”  Oh, I guess I just did.  This is Truth to self.  Your hate (if everything else is set right) will be based on the dissonance of what you’re doing and your best self.  You’re avoiding Truth by doing things you hate.
  • Act so that you can tell the truth about how you act. Directly related to the above, the idea of having to tell someone, Truthfully, what you did prevents you from doing things you would be ashamed of.  Which would include eating a whole bag of Ruffles®, unless it saved an orphan in some way.
  • Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient. Again, this is more “Truth to self.”  As my coach in high school said, “Wilder, when you cheat on those pushups, you’re just cheating yourself.”  I kid.  I never cheated on pushups in high school.  I cheated on squat-thrusts.  But, when cheat yourself from the Truth of the meaningful, you end up with the never ending squat thrusts of the expedient.
  • If you have to choose, be the one who does things, instead of the one who is seen to do things. I had a boss who was always seen doing things.  In reality, he mainly was responsible for ensuring we had a constant Internet connection, mainly by surfing for things that amused him.  But if there was a way to be seen by his boss doing the “right” thing?  He would move faster than a miniature poodle on a porkchop to get in the credit zone.  I’m pretty sure he’s never been happy, especially since his strategy is to always look good, but he has none of the skills to create great outcomes.  My corollary:  Do things, and be seen doing them.  You can have both.  But never stop doing things.
  • Imagine who you could be, and then aim single-mindedly at that. Again, the theme of being Truthful to oneself continues.  But this is aimed at being Truthful to the long term you.  If you cheat that you, you’ll always have regrets, and probably termites, too.
  • Try to make one room in your house as beautiful as possible. “Who says that fictions only and false hair become a verse?  Is there in truth no beauty?”  Okay, I stole that from the poem “Jordan (I)” by George Herbert, 1593-1633.  And that’s creepy, because I only learned the poem’s name or author tonight – to me it was just the title of a sub-par Star Trek episode (the one where Spock goes temporarily blind).  But outside of the creepy factor of researching a poem to find that it has the same name as the person you’re writing about, beauty is truth, and truth is beauty.  The elegance of pure math.  The sudden discovery of a True thing.  The Wilder corollary to this one:  ugly things around your house steal your energy.  Fix them.
  • Work as hard as you possibly can on at least one thing and see what happens. Again, Truth to self.  I have seen people with amazing skills and talents just stop on their way upward – because they are afraid to fail.  I’ve done that myself, until a very visionary leader told me, after I’d explained what he wanted was hard to do, “Wilder, just do it.”  Nine times out of ten when he told me that, I achieved it.  The tenth?  He got fired.  But he got a severance package worth about $1.4 million.
  • Do not carelessly denigrate social institutions or artistic achievement. There is truth in beauty.  There is also truth in the stable social constructs that have created wealth, peace, and Pez® for thousands of years.  Tear them down?  It’s easy.  But can you tear them down and put up something even better?  Probably not.  Can you make them better?
  • Make friends with people who want the best for you. Again, Truth is your primary commodity here.  Friends who want the best for and from you will tell you the Truth.  Others won’t.  One time I saw the head of operations for a company walk down the hall with about three feet of toilet paper trailing behind his waistband, top center behind, like a big, white, fluffy skunk tail.  Nobody else saw him.  I didn’t tell him when he walked out of his office, somewhat flushed and embarrassed.  He made small talk until he realized I wasn’t going to say, “Hey, saw your toilet paper tail and I’m going to tell everybody!”  And I didn’t tell the office.  He was a nice guy.
  • Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world. How is it possible that you have the answer to world peace, and there’s a towel on the floor in your room?  Or your son hates you?    Thought so.  Fix the things around you so you understand the Truth required to fix the world about you.  I’m still working on cleaning my room, so, my advice is suspect.
  • Be precise in your speech. Precision in speech means . . . you say exactly what you say you mean.  Which is?    The Truth.  And if you go back to Orwell, removing words, or making them mean things they don’t removes the ability to even make certain arguments through language, so at some point the Truth isn’t even possible to utter anymore.
  • Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them.  By not teaching Truth to your children you cripple them to find Truth on their own. And finding Truth by yourself is harder than finding a clean spot on Johnny Depp’s sink.  As smart as your children might be, they are not wise, and need you to guide them through Truth so they might find Wisdom, and through Wisdom enough money to pay for your retirement home some future day.
  • Do not hide unwanted things in the fog. We try to hide Truth from ourselves every day.  We look in the mirror and manage to not see what anyone else in the world can plainly see.  While there is no reason that you have to tell the world your deepest regrets, you should at least be able to see them and understand that they are True.
  • Read something written by someone great. Great people write Truth, that’s why what they write is great.  The more profound the Truth, generally, the simpler.  But a great writer can, in 200 pages, take you on a journey that wraps you around and through a path where you walk to Truth.
  • Remember that what you do not yet know is more important than what you already know. As much as we search for the Truth, we learn more every day.

Here is a Peterson theme:  Truth in a Post-Modernist context is always relative and always the product of the culture that created it.  It ceases to be objective Truth, and becomes a relative truth.  From the points above, you might predict that Peterson would reject Post-Modernism because it denies the very existence of Truth.  And you would be right.

The battle lines are set: Modernism vs. Post-Modernism and the very existence of Truth.

What amazes me is that it is clearly explicable in our world that there are objective facts that are True, yet in a Post-Modernist viewpoint, nope, not so.  Therein lies the ultimate fight between Peterson and Post-Modernism – Peterson is on the side of Truth, and his opponents deny that Truth even exists.

There are too many points, too many places where Truth is not the relative product of a culture to even begin to argue that truth doesn’t exist.  (If you must have an example:  there is a force we call gravity that causes mass to clump together.  Truth.  Gravity is not a social construct.  There are cultural Truths as well, but I’m not going to open that can of worms with this post.)

So, I’ll allow that the narcissistic side of my personality is pretty sure that you’ve enjoyed this, but the Truthful side knows that you did.

As for me?  I’m with Dr. Peterson.  Go with the Truth.  It’s a winner.

Eclipse, Game of Thrones, Chili’s Restaurant

“Or we could stare at an eclipse while screaming at it!” – Upright Citizens Brigade

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This picture of the Sun’s corona is courtesy of The Boy, the number 8, and the letter W.

Like millions of other Americans within a short drive, The Boy, Pugsley and I piled into the Wildermobile and headed for destiny.  (For the record, millions of Americans didn’t pile into my car.  They got into their own cars.)

Actually, it was a Marriott© instead of destiny, but I hear those things can be related.  This was no ordinary Marriott®, rather it was one strategically placed within 90 minutes or so of the Path of the Great American Eclipse, which would snatch from us, momentarily, the Suns Life Giving Yet Deadly rays.

We had packed our Solar Viewing Glasses, which we had gotten for free a week earlier at our local library.  “We” is really The Boy, who I had to threaten with the immediate torture of being pulled from the Matrix through restriction of his use of any device invented since 1907 should he not comply.  “Later” seemed to be built into his answer.  Take away his Tweeter® or his BookFace©?  Yeah, that would be like amputating a limb.

A week out at the library?  Plenty of eclipse glasses were freely available.  Three days out?  None.  Again, people do NOT plan.  It seems like that when it’s bright and sunny out, even when they know that winter’s coming, they don’t put up extra food or even minor emergency preparations.  After you’re observed people long enough, you learn that most of them . . . don’t learn.  (But not you, dear reader, who likely have an IQ high enough to give a normal person a nosebleed due to altitude sickness.)

The Mrs. was skeptical when I tried to get hotel reservations a scant week before, but Marriott gleefully set up the reservation.  Originally, she was going to accompany us, but the day before we were to leave for the hotel, we took a nap, and she slept through the time when she was supposed to take the dogs to the kennel for boarding.  The Mrs. sighed . . . happily.  I’m not sure she was at all excited about an eight hour trip into the deepest uninhabited part of Upper-Lower Midwestia just to not see the Sun.

The Boy, Pugsley and I planned (prior to leaving) on when and how we were going to leave on our great adventure.

My plan was that I wanted to get there so I had about 90 minutes to eat dinner prior to Game of Thrones (spoiler – Ned gets decapitated at the end of season one).  Pugsley, however, had configured some sort of alternate reality that involved us getting there at 3pm.  The Boy bought into this alternate reality and stubbornly wore his backpack starting two hours before I started packing.

Keep in mind, The Boy is nearly 17.

I think both The Boy and Pugsley were excited.  The Boy was even more excited when I tossed him the keys.  He drove us from Stately Wilder Manor to dinner, and then to our hotel.  My daughter, Alia S. Featherbottom (nee Wilder) was going to meet us, but forgot we were coming as she fell into a pit of Dungeons and Dragons®.

Now, as a general note, we don’t let Pugsley (12) watch Game of Thrones.  The reason for this should be obvious to anyone who has watched the show.  Tonight?  Single hotel room?  He sat and watched Galaxy Quest with headphones on.  Although The Mrs. and I normally sit and watch the show together, in this case she and I texted back and forth during the episodes.  Here is an example exchange:

The Mrs.:  “There’s more walking in this episode than in The Lord of the Rings.”

Me:  “At least they’re not singing.”

After that I poured my heart and soul into (yet another) post about how stupid NASA is (LINK), but even I am beginning to feel a bit guilty – picking on NASA is a lot like hitting a kitten.  The Boy helped by doing my thermodynamics calculations.

I had carefully selected our site.  It was about fifteen miles from the nearest town, and it was on a nice corner where the line of totality exactly passed over.  It was perfect.  The only problem?

Clouds.  They were everywhere.  I pulled out my cellphone and had the path of the totality map up.  On another cellphone I had the cloud cover map.  I reviewed first one phone and then the other, cross referencing one map to the other, sort of like Columbus if he was having trouble getting 3G on the Santa Maria like I was out in the cornfields.  At least he had WIFI when the Pinta hit Hispaniola, right?

Plotting one map against the other while The Boy drove, I made a decision.  The GPS said to turn right.  I told The Boy, “Turn left.”

With that, we moved off plan.  We had gone rogue, chasing bits of blue sky.

We navigated farther west, and soon, bluer patches of clear sky were NOT obscuring the Sun.  We were getting closer . . . finally we stopped in a small town park.

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We pulled into position about 40 minutes before the eclipse.

The park was filled with nice, friendly people.  Which makes sense.  These are the type of people who are intellectually curious, and were patient enough to drive hours to a small town for a two minute eclipse.  These weren’t troublemakers.

The eclipse itself was sublime.  The Sun was a fat crescent, a slim crescent, and then it was gone.  There were some light clouds, but they weren’t a major eclipse of the eclipse.  We had chosen our site very well.

My biggest personal surprise about the eclipse was that it didn’t go completely dark – I guess I had expected that.  Venus was very visible in the sky, but the clouds surrounding us (35 miles away) were still lit by the Sun, and that lighting left me feeling like I was under the world’s largest sunshade, which I guess that I was.

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My picture of the Sun’s Corona.  I prefer Negra Modelo myself.

It had been an oppressively hot and humid day.  The temperature dropped a bit during the eclipse, and that brought out thick clouds as the water vapor in the air condensed out.  We got in The Wildermobile and The Boy started driving us towards home.  The worst traffic jam we saw took place at a T intersection about 30 miles south of totality, and it was about a mile of politely and patiently driven cars that took us about ten extra minutes to get through.  The traffic apocalypse foretold by Nostradamus did not emerge.

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The above fiberglass squirrels were all over this town, and every squirrel I saw was painted differently, but all of them had eclipse glasses on.  Who says Midwesterners don’t know how to party?

The Boy drove us back down to a Chili’s® restaurant 90 miles south of totality.  It looked like it was closed, with zero cars in the parking lot.  I jumped out to check the door, it was open, and they were open.  We ordered food, and the waitress said that there had only been one table that had been there for lunch.  Apparently, your willingness to eat at Chili’s™ is some sort of predictor for you to go to see an eclipse.

The Boy drove home, and I slept most of the way.

Most of the way.

On the way back I mused on the events of the day – we had seen a solar eclipse – our first total solar eclipse, and I was reminded of something I heard Tony Robbins say:  “Money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy experience.”

I guess my takeaway is:  “Being nice doesn’t get you Eclipse Viewing Glasses, but angry threats do.”