Sunday, October 6, 2019

The Resolution

Well, so I seem to have solved my tiny-house problems, but my theory remains foggy. I vaguely picture that, over time, the pressure relief valve in my inside sealed (VLRA or valve-regulated lead-acid) battery weakened, and that I therefore could have solved the issue with a new battery. But that would have been on top of no theory and would have, perhaps, just kicked the can down the road and multiplied the cost over time. Or the charge controller was faulty and was pumping out too much voltage. Either way, the new charge controller seems to have fixed things.

As I was crossing the country to winter for my second time in Oregon I finally did feel some clarity about the country. One gets so worn down by the mindless support for Trump in the flyover states, but I certainly don't feel alienated from those people. I find them nice, interesting, engaging and utterly detached from the reality of life in the cosmopolitan cities. Which makes people closer to, well, life.

And of course, during my dreamy drift though the hinterlands, I form my political theories. It bothers me that the last-standing party of reason (well, it may be a stretch, but at least the Democrats make a little room for reason) feels its own need to pander to its own base. Of course I agree with positions to the extent that they are more radical and lefty than any that I hear elsewhere, but it is frustrating that the Democratic candidates are coalescing around a platform guaranteed to inflame those who continue to support Trump. That can only exacerbate the Trumpsters' sense of not being heard, and of being condescended to.

And that all just pushes the poles and worsens our sick political condition. We obviously aren't going to go from zero to single payer in a heartbeat. Look what happened to Obama, who had a ton of political capital. We won't become an instant green economy either without changes to the political process.

Why won't our party system let at least some players lay their foundation on making fundamental changes to the processes? We might even be able to agree on some of those. We can't change a thing until we get the money out of politics, and that would be plenty for a first term in office. Stake modest positions everywhere else. Why do politicians always get trapped in staking their claim to some ultimate and therefore ideological position?

Perhaps we could even agree on gentle changes to our regulatory infrastructure. I'd start with healthcare, where we might agree that there should be a single price for insured and uninsured, no negotiation allowed for the big and money-driven health insurance companies. Then let's take the (often traumatized and sometimes unconscious) recipient of healthcare away from accountability to be an expert on the healthcare finance system. Let that be the responsibility of the providers who do it every day.

Of course we'd have to be sure that insurance will pay for any and all emergency care regardless of the venue.

In other words, why must we always allow accountability to land on the weakest and least able to handle it? The uninsured. The underemployed. The under-resourced. The only answer I can come up with is that we do it because we can. Which means we really have no heart.

We could start working on things like environmental regulation that makes sense and doesn't send in Patagonia-wearing do-gooders in to tell farmers and ranchers how to steward their resources. Whatever they're doing is nothing compared to what all we gizmo toting environmentalists do. I mean life-cycle energy and likely carbon and pollution footprint for ANY car is within a margin of error. Prius or Tesla shouldn't lend you any do-gooder glow fer chrissakes!

We have to learn how to talk again. Look, I agree with utterly everything Elizabeth Warren wants to do, but I'd like to hear her talk more about the process to bring the whole country along to her direction. She won't get there in one term, any more than Barack Obama could nudge the needle during his two.

And now we have the nightmare that Biden has been effectively removed from the race by the body slams Trump feels enabled to deliver from the corner impeachment has pushed him into. Truth, remember, has no value post-Facebook, where the manipulation of our purchasing decisions has penetrated through to the very core of our belief structures. It's all optics.

For generations we have elected "I'm not a leader, but I play one on TV" style Republicans who have mastered the arts of power concentration in the interests of the one percent (off the gullibility of the masses and their social prejudices). And we've enthusiastically rid ourselves of truth in advertising rules, protections against monopoly, and balanced objective media regulation because we think that the only measurable harm can be cost-to-consumer.

Tech has assured that we live in a world of incredibly falling prices (at the expense of atomic-grade concentration of the only capital which counts, which is intellectual capital. The rest of us are drones.)

Biden's insider optics are bad, as are Bernie's health optics. Help!

Well still, as I crossed the country and felt the glory of the freedom we have to be ourselves still, I did form a vague theory and a diagnosis (when I wasn't thrilling to my musing about how to tweak my tiny house to perfection). We have to recognize that money has now become a life-force. It used to be a medium for exchange of goods and services, but in the age of service for free on the basis of  occult manipulations of our desires by means of technology, money is no longer transparently what it once was.

Somewhere among these pages I've written of the fascinating toxoplasma virus which uses mouse-brains as its vector. Mice are programmed to fear cats, but the virus (is it a prion? no it's a protozoa) re-programs mouse brains to love cats (as it apparently might do to humans, whose females are at least warned away from cat-litters when they are pregnant, since the harmless-to-humans germ is less harmless to infants) so that the virus can more easily travel from mouse to cat where it may truly and fully blossom (it's only able to reproduce in domestic cats).

Well, I'm supposing that money has now recently become a life-form and that it infects our brains so that we feel only desire for those certain kinds of pleasure which assist money in it's aggregation and concentration. No matter our belief structure, we can't escape this, since we need to drive cars and buy housing and furnish it. There is not much difference between the inside of a cable-TV provider and a crack house in case you've ever been poor enough to have to visit either.

I believe that this re-construing of the structure and function of money can explain the bizarre homeostasis of our political economy, and I'm not sure that anything else can do that. Money is the only life-force that would want that. We are effectively prevented from ever making any changes that would upset that homeostasis, even at the cost to our collective survival as a species.

Well, I don't know. I think that once we acquired written language we ceased to be subject to Darwinian evolution that is limited to gene-transmission. It's the culture, stupid. The one we have is surely on the brink of extinction; an extinction on which will ride much human suffering.

And why should I feel so desperate about this? We all must die, after all.

But I do, I suppose because the posture of remove from the corrupted world has been pretty much erased as a possibility, unless you really really want to go feral, as some very few people apparently do. Me, I like craft beer, food delivered on top of health standards and hot showers. I mean I really do like those things. A lot. And so I'd like to see us re-invigorate a prophylaxis against money infection. That would be a starter for survival.

The end-game would be for Facebook (the structure of it) to be taken over by the newly re-integrated-into-the-governmental-structure US Postal Service. Ditto Google, whose monopoly power is built upon the utter impossibility for a second entity to replicate the entire internet in near real-time the way they do. I'm doubting even the NSA.

We should implement block-chain, not for money but for all of our personal information. I don't mind fiat currency so long as we have a functioning government, which we seem no longer to have (it ain't dead yet though, as my friend says about me when I'm drooling over a red mustang - or the blond driving it). I do mind enterprises trading in my very enthusiasms.

* * *

But really why spend so much angst on trying to fix a political system? In the end, I can't really even fix my tiny house. The amount of knowledge and vigilance required to keep batteries and the systems they attach to optimal is stunning. In a compact system like an RV, a solar charge controller which includes an automatic equalization phase is almost guaranteed to harm electronics. That's the only thing I'm mad about, since I wasted a lot of money frying my water heater igniter board to find that out. There should be a more clear warning, right?

Now let's see, should I get a little generator so I can run my A/C off the grid. It's a lot cheaper than a bank of lithium ion batteries. I wonder which does more harm to the environment? Yep, it always comes down to the money, honey. It's way cheaper to get and operate a generator. What? Skip the A/C? Have you experienced the extremes of global warming, stupid?  Sheesh!

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!