Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Trouble and Success with Solar Panels on my Aliner RV Camper

Hey, I'm about to write something that might be actually useful! Can I do it? As you know, fictional reader, I have been bopping around the country in my little pop-up Aliner trailer. I was pulling it with a little VW Jetta wagon and now I have a somewhat heftier, and certainly higher ground-clearance Subaru Outback. There were too many stones-flying scrambles up steep dirt roads for my comfort with the front-wheel drive, plus one genuine and hilarious near-disaster that I'll describe another time (you're welcome!).

I put a lot of thought into various improvements to my rig, but the one I'm proudest of is my addition of solar panels. I get a lot of compliments. I've also heard some criticism that I wasn't meant to hear, suggesting that two 100 W panels is overkill for a single battery. Well, it is. I have a second battery installed inside the living space, and that's the start for some of the troubles I'd like to help you to avoid.

I bought my panels as a kit from Renogy, which seemed to be the most reasonable and well-documented. All told, the kit, including wiring and the charge controller, was about $130 and the second panel about $100 - all probably more now, since these have been in use for a couple of years. Things have gone great, and I've never even wondered about losing power, and that's with running my furnace off the grid for days at a time, and recharging lots of electronics or even watching TV/streaming - another mod I'm proud of.

So, to the issues - the final one of which I've only just now figured out (I hope)!

First off, my second battery is not identical to the first. I found a space indoors and read that I could install a "sealed" battery there without danger. I didn't want a battery bank, preferring instead to have the peace of mind of a second battery "in reserve." Plus I can segregate my power inverter to the battery charging from the solar panel, to leave the main house battery alone which can be really helpful when taking care of high amperage tasks, like running power tools, or my computer.

But I didn't realize a few things about the charge controller: first is that it has different profiles for different types of batteries, and so I had to switch the controller each time I switched the battery being charged, or so I thought. That may have introduced a few glitches.

Second, cheap solar charge controllers all seem to have an equalization phase, which boosts the voltage above the max to deliberately boil the electrolyte, which is apparently good for the longevity of the plates.

When the igniter board on my water heater fried, I had an inkling that it might have been the solar setup, but I couldn't quite figure out why. I scoured my work for bone-head configuration or shorts. Now I realize that my internal electrical system doesn't include this equalization phase in its charging profile, making plug-in a much safer way to treat a battery if you don't know when its voltage might rise and fry delicate electronics.

I remember using a cheap charger at home to float a charge on the RV battery during the winter, and then hearing the battery boiling, only to find that the charger was doing its equalization thing, which I don't think you really want during storage. That charger had no setting to disable that.

To be fair, the solar charge controller includes in its documentation the warning not to have ANY load on the battery while it's in equalization phase, and somewhat separately a warning that to do so may damage sensitive powered equipment (presumably like igniter boards). It all becomes clear in retrospect.

It's hard to find good information on this stuff. It's also hard to keep all the variables in mind. A look at the specs of the water heater igniter board indicated an upper limit for voltage that was far below the upper limit on the charging battery with the solar system, and so perhaps it fried while I randomly turned on the water heater while the solar panel was hyper-charging. Bought a new board and it soon fried. I was inhabiting the trailer during the day, as it was winter, but I couldn't connect the dots.

Trouble is that there is no indication on the controller about when it's in equalization phase. I installed a voltage readout (for about $.50), but that clouds the issue since the "boost phase" seems to pump up every morning to above the limits of at least those old fried igniter boards, and it's not so easy to distinguish between boost and equalization from voltage alone. (the on-board plug-in charger never seems to pump that high)

I solved the water heater igniter problem with a much more robust Dinosaur board which had a broader range of acceptable voltage (I've kept the old boards and will look for how to repair them - probably a single component needs to be replaced?).

Then a new issue cropped up out of nowhere. Apparently after aging out a little the internal battery started to bleed enough hydrogen to set off the propane alarm which is right beside it. Since the trace amounts of hydrogen seem to linger, and since I didn't understand that propane detectors detect most anything remotely flammable, and especially since when I did have a propane leak that I could actually smell it didn't go off, it was really tough to track down the issue. I guess my nose for the stink they put it propane is more sensitive than the detector??? Maybe pure hydrogen sets it off in much lower concentrations than propane needs. Yeah, that's probably it.

Interestingly, I had been charging the internal sealed battery while driving, supposing that the flooded battery outside the RV would be charging from the car and I'd have two topped-off batteries at the end of every day.

The propane alarm never went off.

But then I found that the external flooded battery, which was running the refrigerator, never quite kept up its charge from the car's charging system alone. I think there was just too much length of wire from car circuit to fridge, and the 10 Amp - 80 -120 Watt - or so draw over-offset the charging. It was when I decided to attach the house battery to the solar panels that the propane alarm started to go off, but only when the trailer was left sitting without me running anything and I'd reverted the solar panels to the internal sealed battery.

I still don't understand what's going on, but here's my theory: There are at least three chargers in my setup. One is the car, two is the internal power center of the trailer which charges when plugged into shore power, and three is the solar charger. It seems that a second charger prevents the solar controller from entering boost mode, since the battery voltage never drops far enough. Ditto the car charger. I had been worrying about charging profiles, which seem deceptively important on the solar controller where battery type can be selected. I should have just been worrying about voltage curves over time; neither the car charger or the on-board power center know anything about battery type, or if they do the car is tuned for starting batteries and the power center is tuned for deep cycle flooded (versus sealed) batteries.

I like having the solar panels connected to the house battery while driving since I don't have to worry about the fridge draining the car battery if I stop too long for lunch, a nap, a stroll or whatever (although that never happened before I "understood" so much. Ignorance is the best fix of all, for sure). I know I could install an automatic cutoff switch between trailer and car to preserve the car's battery, but one has to draw the line somewhere. . . ha!

Anyhow, my internal sealed battery is simply out of the equation now most of the time, reserved as a spare, and I tend only to charge it while stationary by using the solar charger. That pattern, or the aging of the battery, has led to the alarm going off, perhaps because the battery is always ready for boosting when I switch the solar panels over to it. The boost seems to keep going for some set time, need it or not, and so some hydrogen boils off through whatever pressure valve there is.

I can find no documentation about how to track the equalization cycle which is supposed to happen every 28 days on my solar charge controller. My question is, does the calendar reset each time I swap battery types, or if the battery is disconnected? Am I always accelerating the cycle when I swap? That could explain things. But so could the simple triggering of boost voltage, which seems to happen each time a rested battery is reconnected to a charger.

I think I only need to worry about finding a voltage below what will cause the internal pressure of the sealed battery to exceed whatever the relief valve is set to. I know for sure that the el-cheapo solar charger pumps out uncomfortably high voltage, which my meter likely mis-overestimates since the charge is actually composed of pulses of the panel voltage to approximate a lower voltage, and which my meter may mis-read.

So, my solution is to purchase a second solar charge controller, to get one for each battery. The new one is an MPPT controller, and more expensive at $100 vs. $30, but it's supposed to be more efficient by regulating amperage rather than to just pulse full voltage as the cheaper PWM style does.  The main things is that it has a configurable profile and so I can disable equalization and or boosting altogether for the internal battery, as well as set the boost and float voltages.

So far that's done the trick! I'm still allowing it to boost in the morning to a lower set-voltage and I put the float down near where the on-board power panel is. No boil-off! And I consider much if not all of my theorizing to be validated.

I know that the on-board charger has the advantage and is designed around the notion that the battery will never be drawn down while plugged in (you can even disconnect it without the lights even flickering), though it will jump up a few tenths of a volt if something does draw it down (like my inverter, which is isolated from the house current).

The remaining unknowns are whether my first solar charge controller is somehow off-spec through wear or my fumbling. That might be why it started to overcharge the battery. But it does read pretty close to spec. I guess that solar setups assume near constant draw on the batteries before the house goes to sleep and so the charging voltage is set relatively high? And so the other unknown is whether I'm damaging the external battery by leaving it on the cheaper charger.

I do now have the new benefit of having re-configured my switch to swap the solar panels and not the batteries, which should be safer for the controller electronics, since they don't like being attached without a battery; the incoming voltage spikes, apparently, enough to fry the controller.

Plus I have the added benefit of just cutting off the solar panels altogether with the third position on my switch in case I'm plugged in.

I'm guessing I could have solved things by reverting to my old ways and/or making the internal battery the default house battery and keeping it off solar. I could also move the propane/CO detector away from the battery or vice versa, but then I would be placing things sub-optimally and making new holes, etc.

Way too much thinking, but perhaps it will help someone else who's facing similar conundrums. I'll document below the mods I've made in case you, fictional reader, may find them useful. I've spent so much time pondering this overall issue that I'd like to save the next person some time. None of the pieces fit together easily or quickly for me, but I think I may finally have a solid theory and I'm sticking to it!

There's lots of advice out there, but little enough explanation at a level to allow you to solve my own particular issue. Hardly anyone seems to get into it so deeply.


Pictures below

Friday, May 17, 2019

Why I Blog

I think blogging isn't really a thing anymore. It's been overrun by people trying to make money. Just more branding.

So this morning, because a friend was trying to get into Pynchon and I've read all of Pynchon and the two of us didn't know if he'd already died or not and so I looked it up on Wikipedia and not only hadn't he but he'd written a recent book which I immediately went to buy, feeling vaguely sheepish for not knowing, only to find that Amazon was helpfully reminding me that I already own it.

Sure enough I pull it up on my Kindle and find not only do I own it, but I've read it and apparently liked it, so I start all over again. There are plenty of books I've bought that I never did start, or started and dropped . . .

Not a shred of memory. Not one.

I used to think that reading novels was important because you came out (through?) as a different person, so maybe that's all it is. Like a river is never the same river and all. Except it seems a lot more likely that I'm just losing my memory, cause of age.

Except my memory always worked that way. Like I had to reconstruct the formulas before acing physics tests when I was whole lot younger. So maybe reading Pynchon changed me, but does that mean I should read him again?

Maybe I should just stop reading altogether, because I'm basically done. Which was, for instance, the reason I dropped Game of Thrones way back around the time this book came out, because liking it once was plenty and it seemed like an investment too big to like it over and over again, though I did watch Breaking Bad through. Be not proud.

But I was with someone. I called this Pynchon reader (well reader-wannabe at that moment, maybe he's different now) a friend, but fact is I have no friends. Nor want any. There is nobody in the world wants to listen to me (that I want to listen to) and have an actual conversation, back and forth. We put each other away is all.

Like I'm done with someone once I find out they're a practicing Mormon, for instance, since what else could there possibly be to say? Or if someone thinks that off-planet expansion is the only way to go, or that life is just about being happy. There are lots of finished people out there. It seems that's the way to be.

Fact is, there's only one sort of reading worth doing, and that's the kind that really does leave you with a different reality because once you know something you can't really un-know it. Though you can sure forget it. Which seems a subtly different thing, somehow.

So I blog to catch those things which I know. No, that's not it, since there's something I know that I'm trying to catch in writing, but I can't seem to do it. I blog to catch schemes that I occasionally come up with; strategies to catch someone - anyone's attention enough to tell what I know. Mostly I noodle these around in my head for a few days without finding the time or gumption instant to start and then once I have that I've forgotten what the strategy was. Then I have this nagging lag. As you can tell, I've never quite managed what I set about blogging to accomplish. I mean, no wonder people are mostly done with me too. Who wants to know what someone else is already certain of?

It's almost as if the writing actively destroys what it was on my mind. I hope you get a chuckle out of that, because who doesn't occasionally suffer that sort of delusion and then some schoolmarmish type says write it down and then I'll take a look at it and you're just left sputtering, as it were.

So, no, I don't blog to catch anything I already know, since most of what I talk about (I do try to make friends) is stuff I don't already know about. I blog to make it happen right during the blogging, so that I can be as surprised as you would be, gentle reader, in the discovery embodied right in the words their very selves.

And of course I peter out before that happens, ever.

Like I would like to have the nerve to be attractive. But my conviction is that I'd only ever look like I was trying to be attractive and clueless about the nuance that might make me so. So, it's not quite as though I try not to be, but is nearly so. Might as well be. Schlump beats fake cool every time, Earnest!

Like, the things (is it only a thing?) I know don't rub off on anyplace else. Just because I know something important doesn't mean I have the best take on politics or parenting or anything else. But I still do rather resent it when someone might be willing to talk with me about politics and then end conversation when I challenge their settled points of view on more important matters.

As I've said, that's because our goal is to be finished, to have made something of ourselves, even if in our own minds, and so maybe none of us that aren't finished can really have any friends, and so they (we) have to blog is all. On the off-chance . . .

I mean I only really want just one reader. It would be such relief!

There is only one choice any of us has in life. And even that one is not about right or wrong. It's about turning off or leaving on emotion. I mean in that sense I honor even Mormons in the breach. Since they must feel actual love for that God construct created by some earthly horse-thief. Who only wants to control women's' bodies in the end. Agriculture by another name.

So I read this essay by a Mormon about how every unwanted pregnancy is created by some man's irresponsible ejaculation, and I wanted to agree with it, because sure, men are the problem all around. I tried to find a contact and I did, and I wanted to write, but not publicly, since I didn't want to be disclosing my abortions like that, but then why do it here?

So, yeah, I've had abortions, multiple, but they were (both) co-conspiracies between lovers neither of whom wanted a pregnancy and both of whom were well-informed and diligent beyond the suggestions for birth control in the aforementioned essay. And then there's Mom who was an early proponent of 'family planning.' The best laid plans and all.

It would be nice if the world were neat. Only true believers think it could ever be so. Pin it on someone and then at least their life will be ruined and not yours, right? Me too? Aren't famous people always suspect?

So I agree with the essay's every point. Just not with its conclusion. History has none, so why should we? Oh, yeah, right, it's that patriarchy thing. Being right. Shall I psychologize this Mormon bitch's elder-envy?

I shouldn't say bitch. I'd probably like her well enough, even though she is an internet self-branding maven. I mean, talk about capitulation to the Man. You need to read a little McKenzie Wark, or whatever she calls herself now that she's a woman. What's the gender of the name McKenzie and why does the New School catalog say Ken? I can't wait for my lovely fluid niece to go there! Vicarious pleasure being what life on the planet is all about now, right? Sex is so yesterday of the sort I once did like.

Getting off is the problem, lady! (of the planet, I mean)

So, yes, I would say that each of us as a life implicates all the rest of the cosmos in our very being. Even without that consideration we do embody lots more complexity than whatever the physicists can catalog 'out there.' Our very Earth, withal, presents much more interest than cosmic forever which we can't even reach in principle. I want no life beyond my very boundaries, whether sanctioned by religion or some techno-fantasy. In that I am right. Right I am.

Because to do so would deny my very existence here and now.

The End


Really, that's just too glib, like the guy who's taking over the book I'm translating from Chinese, who wants to replace the author's labors with showing off how much English he knows and then it all just becomes not worth reading. It still makes me mad, since they have no patience for my care-taking. It's not really a book. It's a translation from Chinese slam-writing, where everyone wants to see it now as it's happening live just in case something wonderful happens. Lost in translation . . . read it and see if you can even tell the difference . . .

So I'm live, but not in competition. I think the author of that book is wealthy, or maybe like the winners of those reality TV talent competitions, only if he can convert to signing with some label. I've signed away anything beyond my six bucks an hour, since that's pretty cheap (negative, really!) tuition for improving my Chinese.


Would that we even cared that much about reading and writing. Well, mark my words, Chinese will become the written language for the planet. I'm right and I don't care if I'm the only one to say so!

Back to the point. I am the "product" as it were, of accident. And as Paul Verilio and his acolyte Benjamin Bratton would tell you, all technology provides new fields for accident. Now we all know that evolution operates on that principle and still and yet we do seem to believe that it is the purpose of technology to remove us from accident viz Ray Kurtzweil which is to say that we shall replace the accidents of nature with and by our own and somehow rationality will reign supreme as the culminator of whimsy or something like that.


What matters is that we care and not that we do the right thing. At some point, when you're making money, say, you stop caring. You've let the viral life-force of money take over your life, and you can and will and do rationalize it as though it were partaking in some kind of law of physics, Which it is, but that hardly removes you from the realm of choice.

So I celebrate myself for caring even though I don't do anything. Well, except for blogging. I know perfectly well that this makes me really really boring, and In McKenzie Wark's terms unfuckable which is truly a pity, though it might only be that age thing anymore, so why should I care. I have always left the cool stuff for others to pursue. You all have so much more juice than I do!

You can't escape evolution since you are it, no matter how much anxiety you may have that you are more powerful than you are. At some point the machinery is creating us and we simply don't care anymore. As it was in the beginning, and we shall collectively have reached eternity.


(because we couldn't have cared less)

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Happy New Year Essay on Agency

I have only very recently read Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto. It’s hard to read. I’d pretty much been avoiding it because I haven’t believed that anyone seeming to champion our brave new digital future could be worth reading. Boy, was I wrong.

There is plenty of information up here on this blog about why I might avoid writing that announces itself that way. I have long since decided - on the basis of youthful epiphany really - where I stand on (what feel to me to be) the absurdities of AI/digital intelligence. In brief, it’s the either/or nature of digital, and the gap that hides between digital machinery and our lived existence. What’s hidden is that we aren’t really separable from all else in the cosmos, while digital is. And our connections go well beyond what can be measured and quantified. So any digital simulacrum can’t be real. Digital reality is logic fully abstracted from any substrate. There is only yes and no.

I’ve long since given up on any definitive determination about whether my youthful epiphany was genuine or the random synapse firing of psychotic detachment from reality. I mean the epiphany has continued to make sense to me, but I have yet successfully to communicate it to a single other soul. And so I must remain agnostic as to its truth value; that epiphany of mine.

But I must agree with Haraway. She pushes the man/machine connection way back before digital machinery, but also manages to envision a ton of hope for all good things post-digital! Like doing away with gender bias for starters. That excites me. Too!

So now I’m fixated more on agency. For instance, Natalie Jermijenko, whose work I admire, uses agency as shorthand for what she’s about. I feel no dissent in her audiences, and so I keep my mouth shut, but am I alone in my misgivings?

What we call agency starts with random in my cosmology. An irrational impulse precedes the rational choice, and choice becomes rationalization. Full Stop. There’s lots of neurological research to support this conclusion.

Some are bothered by the apparent lack of conscious agency entailed by this insight. I’m not. I have found in it connectedness to the cosmic other. I distinguish random from meaningless, along with my Chinese cousins. Consciously unknowable is not the same as meaningless.

There are limits to mind’s reach, and so I am happy to leave many of my own decisions to random processes. NOT my driving and healthcare decisions, for God’s sake! But my reading decisions, say. Why prefigure what you’re going to read by what you already know? How can you learn that way? Of course, I do quickly discard anything that’s not well-written or sensible. I’m (mostly) not stupid.

Well, in my life and family now I am trapped by lack of agency. After receiving a modest inheritance upon my father’s death - by modest, I mean it’s equal to about two years of my earning power, and I’m at least three years from a decidedly modest retirement possibility - I’d felt that I’ve been working away for others and never for myself. Ultimately, I was working for The Man, of course, but my daughters are grown and way more competent about managing their lives than I am mine, and I felt responsible to do something with and about my considerable endowments. I decided to retire from an economy premised on little choice for those who aren't rich. Even then, they seem to have bypassed choice altogether, trapped in the joys money brings and blind to what it does to those who lack choice.

Of course I find myself on the far end of competency of a sudden, due to age; which lent a sudden urgency to the exercise of agency, not so much because the end is near as because my grasp on what I spent so long attaining is growing ever weaker.

So, my local dilemma is that I have friends and family who are considerably better off than I am. They often surprise me with their generosity. But just as often, I am lured, as it were, into socializing above my (non) pay-grade, and then stuck with the bill and resentment. Invitations never seem couched in any understanding of my limitations. Or at least I don’t find it. That’s likely because they see me exercising choice they don’t feel thy have. I often hear wistful sighs about how nice it would be to inherit money. That is despite my decidedly modest life-style (a term I detest, life-style, but there you go!)

If you're not seeing irony in all this, then you're not reading well. I know how packed I am with social capital. I know that I'm well within the one percenters of agency on the planet. And yet I feel robbed of it by my financial betters, who place the onus on me to affirm our friendship by my ready acceptance of something I nearly always would very much love to do.

I wish I had the choice to decline without any implication of declining offers of friendship. In other words, I think the onus on them is to clarify (make an offer to host or not) and not on me to ask. I think it's awkward to ask if I will have to pay, since that's the same as asking them to pay for me, really.

This is all fine until things get a little tricky. Like what if someone offers me something that is so far beyond my life-style and so attractive that I would loathe to refuse it. Especially when to do so would be to disappoint the one making the offer. A matter of not wanting to be in "debt" for me, but maybe something more for those who lack agency in general.

Without going into a long disquisition into the social harm of the outsized income distribution we are reintroducing to our once more democratic polity, I would like to suggest that to retain the agency of delighting someone can sometimes rob that person of agency they require. I mean everyone knows the feeling of not wanting to destroy someone else's delight at a gift you'd really prefer not to have gotten. Especially Christmas lately, where all those I know and love have everything that they could possibly want or need. Sheesh!

And that includes me! No matter how much I may appreciate offers of things I cannot buy myself, I am happy with my choice to opt out from a consumerist culture that is wrecking the planet. And when I say "the planet," I mean that web of connections which conditions my pre-agency whimsy. I need the substrate of natural contingency to feel any agency at all. Otherwise, might as well let the AI make ALL the decisions.

That's my point. Human agency requires letting go of intelligence, since that isn't how we exercise agency anyhow (just NOT for driving, OK?) but it also requires that there be more than an artificial decision tree.

Intelligence conditions decisions by exclusion most likely. But it doesn't hardly ever make the decisions.

In other words, agency means letting go of some prerogatives while it requires the agency of some inhuman other. That thing which the religionists destroy by naming the patriarchal other their men require.

Sorry, just had to get that final dig in.

So anyhow, like any tools, of course there is no inherent evil to digital tools. But they do seem to seduce us away from agency, rendering invisible all sorts of choices that are made for us. At the current moment, those choices mostly guide our purchasing decisions.

And speaking of purchasing, that's where we've always relinquished agency in our measuring of want against need. Our seeking now for lowest price against all sorts of externalities not billed may constitute a kind of abdication of moral choice. Especially when one of the externalities not billed is our own purchasing decisions, which are owned elsewhere to enormous profit for the vectorialist owners, not of the means of production now, but rather of the decision trees for consumption.

They read my mind before I do. Damn!

Am I looking for a cosmic universal moral code? Indeed I am, and I make so bold as to suggest that such a thing is far more likely than the discovery of some universal code for natural law. I posit merely a direction for life's evolution, no different, essentially, from time's direction.

Time-keeping is apparently tough to locate in the brain, or so I learned by watching an interesting documentary cued up on Delta airlines. In the physical world, time is more accurately measurable than any other constant, they say. And so where is the connection between mind and matter. It would seem to be a matter for some social accord.

Time's direction seems as arbitrary - a conspiracy of everything - as does existence generally. Our social keeping of time may be as dependent on machines as anything else about us. It certainly does seem to have been a hallmark - in lock-step really - of our recent technological advances. And that fact gets so easily overlooked when folks claim whiz-bang amazement at how fast we've exploded in our advance and "understanding."

A simple moral code expresses direction toward or away from love. By abdication, we are and have been moving in a deadly direction, toward destruction of our living substrate. What could be more immoral than that?

Celebrants of progress express what amounts to faith that we will continue our ameliorative breakthroughs to include even remedy for our own predations on the planet. That reduces our current responsibility to just keep on keeping on, and damn the harm we cause along our way. Because our descendants will resolve our shortcomings (just as they will inherit our debts).

I find that hard to distinguish from just not caring at all. Or in other words, we've lost our moral code. That's not to blame the scientists. It's to blame the sellouts. Well, that and the religionists, who mostly say abdicate your responsibility to my formulation for God. Morally, I don't see any distinction from abdication to the truth we think we'll find someday by means of the scientific method.

But, as I said hereinabove, a moral code is discernible in the cosmos. We're just not looking for it. We're looking to absolve ourselves of responsibility, not to find it!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Reading Harvey Weinstein Deleuze Between the Lines of Other Narratives

Reading Deleuze is hard. It's hard to make the words cohere, as he tries to de-interiorize his self, which predates the selfie, which maybe he foreshadows. We've all gone mad to save ourselves from de-interiorization, staring at identical devices, making identical faces. It's hard to make the writing a body without organs without somehow personalizing the author, just in the way that so many post-modernist post-feminist post-patriarchal scholars do by believing that they can reference him by name and title. I would have a hard time short-handing him like that. My memory is not good enough.

I still want to know what a written word is. It's not a tool. A pencil is a tool, useless without the ground of paper or something like it. A keyboard is a tool, now useless without computing power and some medium for storage and then transmission. Nevermind that the written word is not a tool, it's become almost entirely disembodied since there is no longer any physical implication with the writer. Who could have just spoken it, and never formed the words.

I can't read Deleuze. Not that it doesn't make sense, but that it does. It would be easier if I could ascertain that it doesn't make any sense. It would be really easy if he just created a freaking narrative, already.

So I had to divert myself. I'd come off of reading The Jasmine Wars which just left me cranky. So it was either go watch Blade Runner, or indulge the new Dan Brown novel. I chose the latter.

Apart from the evident fact that authors are now enterprises, maybe even approaching cinema in scope of hired guns, I think I made the right choice. It was a fun and absorbing read. I feel relieved of the obligation to do anything useful when there are so many who are so much better than I could ever be.

Yes, well, I do wish that I could write an absorbing narrative. I wish that I could have been a scholar - that I had that kind of precise memory and cataloging ability. I wish that I had been an engineer. But here I am, leaving behind finally a tattered career and still lost in an endless quest for the energy to compose something useful on my way out. I don't know what form it should take.

In the end, Brown's new novel, Origin, was pretty solidly middle-brow. He caught the focus of most of us who are barely holding on to the state of knowledge as conveyed by whatever media we can endure. We have our own "theories," and Brown responsibly and reliably brings focus to them. He doesn't let us down - he gives us a plausible scenario without resorting to any authorial tricks. He's inventive with his characters and with the institutions he describes, but most amazingly the final reveal is plausible not only in the narrative, but in real life. I suspect he may find himself with an embarrassment of adherents of a sort. He gives focus to the media narratives which we only barely grasp. Thanks!

The novel is meta in other words, hinting that the scale and scope of his readership (among others, he thanks a virtual army of translators, perhaps pulling off the same globalism of release that Apple now does) maybe enabling him to do what his protagonist does; get the world thinking in some semblance of the same direction. He must have gotten a lot of people talking.

But a lot more will watch Blade Runner, and the new Star Wars, descended though it has into the Wonderful World of Walt, an entity to which Brown tips his hat more than a few times. A constructed world so much better than the one nature would leave us to without our technologies.

I have to come off myself. I mean I still read critically as though I have something more penetrating to say, maybe more penetrating even than what Deleuze is writing. But that's just ego, right? That's what I tell myself. The world doesn't need yet another one of us telling it like it is. Hat's off to those who do it so much better!

Just now as I write, fellow Buffalonian Harvey Weinstein is being piled on by all the right-thinking people of the world. Far be it from me to defend him, but it's hard not to think he's taking the hit as a kind of Voodoo proxy for our president. It's hard not to think that his basic crime is being wealthy and ugly, his behavior being no worse than many people of closer acquaintance who would do disgusting and illegal things if they could get away with it. I mean few of us are as handsome as the Donald.

He lives in the world Hugh Hefner created, and now indulged in by all the Ivy Leaguers if you are to believe the media. Beautiful people of privilege indulge the lowest urges simply because they can, and too bad really for the women not hot enough and the men now powerful enough by proxy of wealth. Women who compete on the basis of body heat, and who might not complain if my other fellow Buffalonian George Clooney were to let them come on to him.

George nor silent Brad wouldn't have had to beg and deploy power (Weinstein's taped coercions were more pathetic sounding than scary - you would have to be in a position to lose something to be scared) to get himself laid. Forgive me if I empathize with the sleazeball who promoted bands as the Harvey and Corky of my youth. The mudpit in which he wrestled was always known as such.

There's just a bit of disingenuousness in the pile-on. Don't we all construct personal narratives of absolution, even if at the expense of some convenient other who presents himself? I suppose that Donald Trump should watch out, since his will come faster and more furious when it does, though I do note that he has more restraint in this case than do so many of the liberal-types with whom Harvey Weinstein was always more closely identified. I only hope that I will never be so quick to cast stones, even at the Donald.

Well, the trouble for me with reading Deleuze is that he affords the same insight and clarity which a glancing lifelong intersection with Chinese culture has. Deconstructing power, but for some purpose other from empowering the selfie-self. Deconstructing power has to include re-embedding the interiorized and mystical self within the continuum of ever-evolving nature. And that means to discover an ontology of accident, which Darwin did for sure. But which our constructed world would shelter us from.

The transhumanist future of Dan Brown's fictional cosmos negates the ground - the ecological niche - within which mankind might continue to evolve. The ugly and not just the poor. Who will we all want to look like when we have the choice? Will we become as indistinguishable as iPhones without their bling? Will our narratives all fuse?

It is nice to be able to stand outside the fray and watch it roll together toward conclusion. I do believe my juices flow more by reading than they do by immersion in 3D surround sound, but they both tend in the same direction.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The End of the F***ing World

So, I'm wandering around the country with a living space the size of an outhouse, in which I do everything *except* what I would do in an outhouse.  I have almost no time, since I face a daily high quota of slave-wage Chinese translation which almost, but not quite, keeps me going. Beats working for Amazon (other than the pay) and being stuck in one place with all the other losers. 

I like the whole arrangement, apart from being isolated and alone at a time when the world is coming apart at the seams. I mean, I like being isolated and alone in general, since the alternative takes a lot out of me and hasn't had such good results overall. And I like doing the Chinese translation because I get this glimmer every once in a while that I might actually climb inside the language. I mean like when I watched a Netflix recently called Bright staring the profound oral poet Will Smith, whose language no way no how could be deciphered by any Chinese person. I'm not black, so I guess he wasn't talking black, since I understood his every utterance, but it was sheer poetry, damn the grammar!

Anyhow, point being that I've been at a State Park in South Carolina which miraculously has WiFi, which depending on the weather and humidity I can sometimes use, like now. And the real miracle is that I can sometimes hook up with Netflix late at night, perhaps after others are off the net and onto their portable satellite dishes.

I caught this youth-focused series called the End of the F***cking world (which is also how I'm required to translate such words from Chinese, so no sweat with that), which would no way be my particular cup of tea, but I'm on a pretty big tear of random, so what the hell?

A psychopath kid - by which I mean he likes to kill cats and dogs for fun - decides its time to kill a person, and hooks up (not that way yet - since the anticipation is what drives the series) with a fuck-it-all girl who is stunningly open about all those sexual things that are strangely utterly absent from what makes the story work.

And it hits me that as with Scheherazade of the thousand and one nights, she's fascinating this psychopath kid away from doing the dirty deed whose thought bubble is constantly flashed in front of you.  And by means of the same free association which makes it easy to understand Will Smith while a the same time making it hard to translate into English what I get perfectly well in Chinese, I'm reminded that psychopaths are standard issue as princes, so what's the big deal about Trump?  Same old same old really.

It clearly helps that this Netflix was derived from a graphic novel.

Then I catch this brilliant post on Quora by this self styled World Traveller Robin Daverman (see what the Internet does to a person? But I've sworn off Facebook, as all good citizenry must!), which I will quote from.  She was responding to the question, "Are Chinese communists the best capitalists? Is Communist China the most capitalist country in the world?"

Robin Daverman, World traveler

Are Chinese communists the best capitalists? Is Communist China the most capitalist country in the world? 
Yes and no. 
They are not capitalist in the sense that they explicitly reject the idea that Money should have the final say. Just because you have money doesn’t mean that math and physics doesn’t apply to you anymore, LOL! Ditto for the laws of economics and social science. So money is strictly kept out of politics, and the policy decisions are not made by those who can afford the most expensive lobbyists or the most expensive lawyers. Instead, almost all policies decisions have to be tested through a 20-year experiment cycle like the FDA.
They are also the best capitalists in the sense that they have a really good understanding of the laws of finance, economy and free market. So good, that they managed to build the best mouse-trap for the global capital. 
. . . They view capitalism not as a religion, but as a dispassionate tool for social engineering.
There you have it! Except somehow I'd still rather live here, and if China uses capitalism as a tool for dispassionate social engineering, then why is their social science so utterly devoid of science, or did I just answer my own question?

Anyhow, despite putting the lie to my claim to have no time, I also read this great New Yorker piece on how Estonia has solved all those things that make a guy like me crazy (like renewing life-saving drug prescriptions while on the move), by the simple expedient of an unhackable national identity token, and a block-chain constructed of all your personal data that you actually still own yourself (instead of ceding ownership to Facebook and the credit agencies) such that you can vote, and revise your vote, and get your prescriptions anywhere, and not necessarily let every doctor know about your pyschic breakdown. Even the courts are caught up there, according to this article.

But our religion prevents us from being pinned to an identity that the dread government might use against us.

Now I'm no big fan of blockchain money, since on the one hand it uses up so many freaking computing cycles to "mine" it, and on the other because it innately privileges the jet-set which is already privileged, but along with being less afraid of universal ids than you might be, I'm also less afraid of so-called "fiat currency," especially if the government denominator is prohibited from arbitrary coinage by the nature of the block-chain.

I had a point to all this when I started.

I guess my point is that we have the chance to take ownership back now of that thing that it's taken me so long to detach from; our country.  I don't mean the place about which you might build a wall, which the tech of Estonia has rendered obsolete. I mean that thing worth believing in that might be able to knit diverse peoples together rather than to force them into hoarding their own.

Not only is Trump a boorish wannabe prince, but he inhabits and stands for the same retro world that Scheherazade lived in.  Why in the world do we elect people who have so little imagination, never mind so little actual understanding??

At this time when it's never been more secure and effortless to be alive, out deep set sense that something is very wrong keeps getting coopted into fear of terrorists or global warming and other things we can't do anything about by those same people who live lavish lifestyles at our basic expense.

Something is very wrong, of course, and we know we can't go on this way for much longer.

Ford and Kavanaugh

I started writing on this blog eons ago, and named it according to my premonition that our shared narrative would have to change. A shared narrative is the designed result of the scientific method, and it has been my conviction for the whole of my adult life that this brave new shared narrative infused by science came a cropper at about the time that quantum physics went mainstream.

I remember the terror of being out in public, naked. I've since learned, of course, that no-one is paying any attention. I write with some abandon, and then, well, it just doesn't seem worth it anymore.

My problem remains simple; that I don't have anything complete to say. I'm still in process, and unfortunately I'm getting a little old for that posture. But I'm not finished yet.

Like many of us, I did struggle a bit to find some truth in the stated positions and memories of Ford and Kavanaugh these last few days. Does the world really remain so naive about the fallibility of memory? I know that each time I pronounce some amazing happenstance in my life past and present, I am called out for a fraud. Some of the time I'm embarrassed to find they're right. I did exaggerate, or substitute or conflate for the sake of interest mostly. Perhaps sometimes to make myself look better, and sometimes to prevent looking so bad.

As any newspaper person would tell you, the story matters more than the truth. Anyone who's ever been interviewed for a story knows that very well.

But we also know very well that traumatic or otherwise emotionally stimulating memories are the ones that remain the most accurate over time.

However easy it might be for me to imagine that Ford swapped in Kavanaugh for someone else, it is that hard for me to imagine that she did not suffer what she said she did. A famous person, and a person who represents detested values, would make the trauma more real. And I think reality is important for anyone who suffers something that won't be believed, or will be belittled, or which causes more pain in the revelation than the pain caused by keeping silent. The relativity of pain doesn't make it disappear.

It's just as easy for me to imagine that Kavanaugh has cleansed his mind of those things which might make him too distasteful to those who admire him, which apparently includes himself. For me, it is sufficient to know that he has never repudiated the Church, and that he still apparently identifies with it.

I grew up in what was once the most Catholic city on the planet (according to the Buffalo News, once upon a time), and nearly all my Catholic friends have repudiated their faith in favor of something more in process. At the church I grew up in, we called that "More Light," as in mankind cannot yet know God's mind, and that we should, in the interim, behave in ways most compassionate and least certain. The particular issue at the time was homosexuality in the pulpit, but it could apply in endless different ways.

My lapsed Catholic friends are angry with the institution of the Church for having failed to protect those most innocent among us - children - from the most culpable possible perpetrators; exponents of God's word.

So, in the end, my problem with Kavanaugh is that he seems to believe that he is called upon to be and to have been perfect. My problem is that he seems to want us to see him as better than he is.

He doesn't seem like a particularly bad person, but he does seem to have jettisoned any desire to be better. By repudiating his own past as though not only didn't it happen, but that had it happened he could not be as good a man as he claims to be. In doing that, he pretty much validates the notion that he should be accountable now for what he did then, as though he were finished at 17, with no more room to grow.

At best, he wants his sins to remain secret and private. At worst, he doesn't believe in any kind of aspirational identity. There is but one model, and there is but one chance to fit it. Character for him, seems to be determined at or by birth. Somehow, no-one encouraged him to own up to his shortcomings and to try to make them better.

How could he not apply the same standards in a court of law? He must believe that there is one set mode for being good, and that people are either bad or good. Evidently, he would consider being female and being gay lapses from the good. I think that's why he's being put forward.

So, I may be disagreeing with his opposition in a way. They seem bent on uncovering the truth in exactly the same way that he is. He's already told plenty of what Catholics call 'white lies,' to keep his image from straying in the direction of boorish. Those are documented.

The truth which wants exposure is not whether he was or wasn't the guilty party for Ford's abuse. The truth which wants exposure, and the one against which he has already been proven guilty, is whether or not he feels that he was finished before he even started. If, in other words, he feels that there is nothing more for him to learn, and no improvements to be made in his own behavior, then he should be disqualified, no matter his convictions, political or otherwise.

That may make me an unreconstructed progressive liberal, who would nix the validity of any and all conservatives. Neither woman not black, I can hear the sexism and racism in every statement he makes. Attacks against character are not the moral equivalent of rape. Especially when they are proven, as they already have been in this case.

We are informed by our tools, starting, perhaps, with language. The informed mind cannot be as it was. When we stop being informed, we are, rightly, called tools. It has been a mistake to suppose that we could remain separate from the tools we create, and a bigger one to suppose that our tools beyond language don't inform us in the same way.

As approximately half the world understands, Kavanaugh is a tool. He is some kind of victim only against his apparently fiercely defended right to hold whatever lofty position he aspires to. Even as he fails to own up to character flaws, he would like the rest of us to accept his choir boy definition of decency. That brand of decency is incapable of any perspective on the patriarchy of religion and any notion that women aren't the playthings of men.

Quantum Quora

I'm going to try this again. It's important, but I have to say at the outset that I've been trying for over 40 years. I doubt I'll succeed this time. There are so many distractions. I'll start with those.

I have so many devices, all obsolete, but some running the latest OS, albeit slowly. I don't understand why Microsoft doesn't move beyond the utterly wrong assumption about the interchangeability of mouse and touch. I get what Apple meant by their touchbar, an apparently unpopular move in the right direction, and I find tablets needlessly clumsy.

Long ago there was this youtube about an intuitive interface, all touch, and I wondered then why it hadn't been adapted universally. And I really really don't understand why all the news apps give you interesting glimpses at yesterday's news that you can't nohow get back to, before loading the news of today. It messes with my mind.

I guess I figure we're stuck on metaphors of vision which fit themselves to a screen, along with metaphors of alphabet and numbers which fit themselves to keyboards. Or in other words, the devices won't change until we finally grow out of cars and packaged food and ultimately capitalism itself. OK, I'm not even going to try for the logic in that one. But I just know it's there!

But speaking of universal, that's what I aim to rant on and about. Every once in a while, I take glimpses at news about quantum physics, never very hopefully and now very desultorily. But today again I have a hook for hanging my point on right here. It ends in a paradox, which I just don't find very paradoxical. It's my common sense.

And anyhow, paradox is just the end of sense and you always get there sooner or later, so why do we ever think we have to get beyond it. But for the fun of it.

The one I started with was the Twin Paradox, but this new thought experiment works just as well. You end up finding otherwise connected individuals at the macro-level inhabiting non-commensurate universes because of quantum fallout. Some crazy things like the so-called "many universes" theory get way more play than mine does, and mine's not even crazy.

Apart from quantum physics, my inputs come from classical Chinese poetry (lets call it differences in metaphorical usage for short-hand), evolution and epigenetics in particular, literary theory about metaphor, philosophy of language, philosophical theory about metaphor, and probably quite a few more.

I'm no expert at any of the list, but at their intersection I may or must have some cutting edge advancement. Maybe.

So, let's start with evolution, where a non-academic debate keeps lingering about any direction away or toward complexity, entropy, and the position of humans in the whole mess. Mostly, I think, well-informed evolutionary scientists eschew any (Abrahamic religion descended) notion that we are at the pinnacle of some sort of chain. That we are much differentiated from the general soup of life, nor especially that we are moving away from the competition in any way or shape or form. That we might become or even imagine.

But there do linger these atavistic senses that we somehow should and must take over the planet and evolution to save us from ourselves, as it were, and to give life a living chance. That, to me, is just simply nuts!

On the face of it, I find the notion that our intelligence can be somehow superior to the millions of years of complexity implied by the evolution (is it billions?) which got us here to be nuts as well. And my personal nightmare is that humans end up in charge. Can't end well. Those genetically CRISPR'd babes in China are just the tip of that iceberg. I'm glad we're still somewhat appalled.

We imagine a self as the unintended consequence of overreach. The horror!  But I may not be as scared of that as you are. I haven't found real choice in all that much about my life, no matter what choices were made before I took over.

But CRISPR or not, we are not even close to making that collective decision, and I rather suspect we won't have the chance. An edge keeps tipping closer, and we seem on the wrong side of the evolutionary pressures which got us life. We seem to be going over the edge as a species, and seem intent on taking the planet with us.

I don't mean that dogmatically. It's just a sense.

But the thing that blew my mind so many years ago might yet provide some clue. I keep hoping to blow some other mind with it, that thing, but seem to veer off the traceable path no matter where I start from and so people just stop listening. Too many mental taboos broken is how I see it. But that must just be my own mental taboo against accepting any conventional wisdom.

My resolution - that thing that blew my mind - has been to find emotion as part of the universal structure of the cosmos. This differentiates it from common usage, where - let's say in the Abrahamic religionist traditions again - emotions only emerge after a certain level of complexity, and in some interpretations only in humans. So we get emotion and intelligence to set us off from all else.

Along with Aristotle, I don't identify my intelligence as much with my brain as I do with language, that social extension of my being. My brain the instrument which requires language to play.

Needless to say, artificial intelligence is devoid of emotion, just simply because emotion hasn't generally been included in definitions for intelligence. I suppose I must say here toward the outset that I am very attracted to Julian Jaynes' notion that consciousness descends from the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, to form the most diminutive instance of dialogic intelligence which is to say intelligence mediated by language.

So, in the particular or particulate or wave-function cosmos of the standard model of physics, there are these forces, all supposed to be mediated by bosons (???) which are the force carrying "particles" and then there is the temptation to suppose that there can be some complete description of the physical cosmos somewhere down the road. Or rather a complete description of what is physically possible. In any case, someday soon we will be able to describe all the forces and all the physical interactions, which is to say reality apart from the mind or apart from consciousness, in case those are the same thing.

But of course in my cosmic meanderings, along with emotion, mind itself is eternally present, cosmically constant, and necessary for completeness. Which is to say that mind is not separable from physical reality.

Emotion is then the prognostication of physical implication between and among bodies in motion, in the absence of any force. Absent force, the thingy things of reality have no implication with one another at all. They must exist in separate cosmoses, which might (I have no way to comment on that) conform to one or many of the many universes hypotheses.

Prognostication of that sort must, of course, inhere in mind, since it can't be a part of the physical world.

OK, so the path is broken, since I've already descended into language indistinguishable from punning, which is to say that I find all of this very funny somehow, but still serious for that.

So mind is severable from what we (seem to) mean by intelligence and emotion, which are more caught up in the post-bicameral-breakdown selfie-self, which has personality, nationality, ethnicity, familial and genetic relations and so-forth. The mind I speak of is disembodied, but not prior to embodiment any more than there can be some first particle or wave or what-you-will. But mind is not severable from the cosmic emotion that I'm speaking of.

Mind and cosmic emotion interrelate in ways similar to particles and wave functions. I don't think I'm writing either metaphorically or precisely. It's more of a resonance. Emotions move the mind in the way that forces move things around in the cosmos.

To get it out of the way, yes, that might mean that there is a kind of direction to evolution in the sense that sexual couplings may involve or engage emotive attraction, otherwise indistinguishable from chance encounter, and that these may condition survival in ways obvious (mother's love) and not so much so (random processes just don't seem any more emotive than AI).

Please note that I see no need to posit God (as some analog to the selfie-self), nor have the Chinese for the most part down through their history. But I am compelled to suppose that however intelligent or soulfully emotional we may find ourselves, it amounts to the equivalent of nothing up against the complexity implied by the many interactions across billions of years (I think that time-scale is more correct here than millions) of evolution and life in the cosmos.

I guess that's why I think we aren't and never will be ready to be in charge. We can't wreck evolution. We can't even interfere with it. We are in it, just as we are in Gaia, because that's the meaning of the term. Apart from nature is as oxymoronic as it gets.

So, I'm not trying to describe mind, and I'm not trying to describe emotion. These are definitions, which seem to work all up and down the stack as far as I can tell. It doesn't change much, but it does conveniently relieve any anxiety about finding the rock bottom to real, or explanations (descriptions?) for life and everything. The quest to go beyond the standard theory to something like completeness becomes subsumed in definitions for infinite regression, and loses lots of impetus - if not interest - right away.

And the big bonus is that we can become creative (again?) and not just slaves to our current definitions for what's human, what's intelligent, and what's art and so on and so forth ad infinitum. We can make choices again as actual choices and not suppose some imperative somewhere somehow.

I mean it works for me, but I can't make inroads apparently up against what seems to be working for everyone else. That would include such things as immortality, reincarnation, literal heaven and hell and all sorts of techno-utopia/dystopia take-your-pick. I guess you can tell by now that I'm not hankering for thingie-things any more than I'm concerned with my selfie-self, though I AM at least as concerned as you are with creature comforts and a nice bit of security. I just happen to find the conventional arrangements as we find them now a bit on the terroristic side, and playing too many favorites for the lucky and powerful side for my comfort, creature or otherwise.

I mean, let's call this queer science. It's just as rigorous as the straight kind, but not so, well, um, patriarchal. You don't have to play by the terms of the powerful to have the right to know. Ho Ho!

Merry Christmas in advance of it.