Monday, December 16, 2019

China's Path to Democracy

In the course of the collapse of the previous dynasty in China, progressives were chanting for Mr. Democracy and Mr. Science. They were led by students.

Here in the West, where we seem hell-bent on electing strong-man nationalistic demagogues in the place of leaders, we are easily horrified by China's new social credit score system. It's not all that hard to discover what is going on. As soon as the Internet escaped academia into the realm of Dot Com, our form of democracy was foredoomed.

I listened (for a clue) to Lester Holt, a mainstream anchor, interview Mark Zuckerberg. In case you don't know, Mark runs a really big advertising outfit. They track our social behaviors, trading on our "social" enthusiasms just like Google trades on our shopping and searching enthusiasms. Behind much of all that lurks a credit scoring system. It would seem that while China strives to develop a more comprehensive scoring system for its citizenry, we are content to allow utter opacity to an overall system controlled algorithmically on behalf of our oligarchs (cute and likable as they try to be).

President Xi is certainly a strong man, but hardly a demagogue. Chinese are raised in terror that they might have our particular brand of democracy, where we electioneer amateurs to lead us. Even when they become professional politicians, or perhaps especially then, our leadership governs by some playbook as though politics were a sport.

I suppose that, as Max Weber did once opine, we can't depart from our Protestant roots where money might stand in for good works and thus for grace. It seems that we've become all about money and not much else.

Now, I do actually believe that China is slouching toward a form of Democracy, and here is how it might look: In place of one person one vote, they will evolve toward a weighted voting system where a person's vote counts proportionately according to that person's social credit score. Furthermore, the voter will be allowed to spread his vote among candidates for a particular office.

For instance, I am zero percent Trump and maybe thirty percent to each of Sanders and Warren right now. That's to encourage them to form a single ticket, maybe. The rest might be doled out according to what happens with electability.

In China, they will all vote at the same instant and information about candidates will be gotten out in ways cut off from the marketplace. No ads. Let's hope they allow even criminals to vote - since no legal system is perfect - diluted by a low social-credit score, of course.

There remains a lot to work out. I don't know what the credit score of an eighteen-year old might be, but I suppose one might start one as soon as one starts a bank account. I'll have to ask an eighteen year old if they even know what a credit score is.

Perhaps in China, one will start life with a social-credit score of zero, and then begin tweaking it in high-school, or perhaps earlier; upon first encounter with the legal system. So, the youth vote might be diluted for a while, even while the college-educated vote might be amplified.

Of course China has a lot of work to do, mostly with regard to creating a solid legal system which is trusted by the people. They need more and better codes for all sorts of things.

We, on the other hand, seem bent on destroying what we have. That often happens in the name of new technologies which enable the atrocities of Uber, Air-B-n' B and their ilk which enable the concentration of wealth among the mega-yacht-riding crowds on the backs of gig-workers competing for pennies on the street left behind by the newly homeless. Just imagine how much local knowledge Walmart has destroyed; the wreckage of small store owners and their living-wage employees.

Hmmm. What if politicians' social-credit score were visible and not just their balance sheets. Clearly, the Donald would be worth about zero, but then he knows we only care about money. I guess Republican means love of money and knowledge about how to gain power. There sure isn't any ideology there, apart from those basics.

And that would be fine if our current economy weren't so hell-bent on destruction of the earth. We need a government! I'm afraid China will get there first. Well, I'm not so afraid. I'm hopeful! I also hope that we won't have utterly destroyed ours by then.

The world is confusing and so people naturally listen to bloviators on the Internet and while they're driving. There seems to be no shortage of people willing to say anything for an audience, and their seeming certainty must be comforting somehow, in an angry sort of way.

We should be suspicious of anyone who wants to be president, shouldn't we. Who could actually want such a job for good and honest reasons?

Ah, remember when old Bill Gates (he's almost exactly my age, but sure looks a lot older now - I guess riches don't get you everything) raved on about how the Internet and tech generally was going to give us a friction-free market? What a hoot now when we spend nearly all our time trying to gauge how much we might be made a sucker by our endless and arduous calculations of value.

We might even be amazed when we discover something of good quality at a good price backed by honest people trying to make a living. So many are forced to sell their souls to take on some corporate ideology. You know, health-insurance providers, cell-phone giants, tech titans, those kinds of corporate people.

Trump is such a patently divisive "leader" with lousy instincts pandering to the basest in each of us. And yet we debate niceties and technicalities of the law and the constitution to provide cover for the obvious moral bankruptcy of the man. That's what we should impeach for. It's not about "administrative incompetence" which our founding fathers explicitly wrote out from impeachment as impeachment was described in our constitution. This is moral failure, plain and simple, administratively incompetent though Trump may be.

Bottom line for me is that absent Christianity (and it really is both absent and vacant in relation to its own erstwhile professions) we need some moral code that we can count on. We need to stop amplifying the voices and deeds of the sociopaths among us. We need to stop projecting our own deficiencies onto others (and wondering why they hate us in return).

Love is the only cosmic force worth comprehending. Our tail-chasing toward human abstraction from the muck of living by means of science and technology is backfiring miserably, no? I'm all for those pursuits, but not when guided by the anti-life force of money. I don't think we either must or should subvert what's working in our economy. Radical behaviors based on partial understanding, and especially based on ideological certainty, are always dangerous.

I like Bernie simply because he is who he is by proven track record. In that sense, he's as transparent as Trump, and likely could have beaten him for the same reasons Trump won. Were it not for the cynical and manipulative and apparently condescending calculus behind Hillary. Were it not for the way the Facebook amplified Putin-backed agitprop. Were it not for the general apathy about voting, especially among the young.

I'd like Bernie better if he were younger and didn't seem so eager to wrench the wheel of state in some new direction over the short-haul (which is all he's got now). I trust that he's been in government to know better than that, which is another reason to trust the man.

Well, that's about enough blathering from here. But mark my word on China's slow progress toward a better democracy than the one we seem hell-bent on selling down the river.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Hong Kong v. Tiananmen - Taking to the Streets

Of course these two captioned phenomena aren't opposed, except perhaps rhetorically, and then only for the purpose of drawing contrasts. Just for instance, Capo Xi's anti-corruption drive responds to many of the complaints which underlay the students' uprising in 1989. The students and middle-class rising up in Hong Kong seem to carry the same concerns we attributed to the students then occupying Tiananmen.

The analysis now is so much more sophisticated than it was then, which is to say that we've lost the moral clarity that Perry Link, for one, seems able to maintain. So many well-read and intelligent apologists now deride the ignorant protesters in Hong Kong, as though they fight in vain against history itself.

One thing that has definitely changed between now and then is how we get our news. As I write, plain new barriers are being erected in the way of my getting more elite reads beyond the working-class aggregations offered by all the major tech companies. It soon will seem as though only the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal will have the clout to charge the public what they are worth.

I'm not complaining about the cost of the news. I'm pretty sure that back when we did subscribe to magazines and the local paper we spent more in proportion than what we're being asked to dish out now. Hell, I can pay Apple $10 a month to get a whole pepper-pot of magazines, leaving only those like the three I advert to above to compete for my remaining dollars. Given that to buy an apple (I mean the kind you eat!) is no longer a non-decision for me, one problem is that it feels like I'm spending more than what used to feel like spending money. That was before the VCR and credit cards changed our spending habits for good (or ill!).

My complaint is that even as local news has been undermined (our Buffalo News seems to get most of its literate content now by contract with the New York Times) the analysis of news of global interest is becoming so much more sophisticated. Local becomes outlet for nasty screeds sometimes, while the cosmopolitan position just feels detached and for some diminutive audience of the socially privileged.

Somewhere within all the tech aggregators for our daily reads, there may be a divide between the horrific (and opaque) curation by Facebook "likes," and whatever it is that determines the spread of each day's New York Times. In between, many of us are growing weary of being gamed by our internet habits to present us with those articles we are most likely to like.

So, one thing which distinguishes me from my betters in knowledge regarding China is that they all seem to accept that something like our current world order will persist into the indeterminate future. The many well-informed apologists for China point out how thoroughly the West is being out-played. We are hamstrung by our troglodyte beliefs in an over-simplistic definition for capitalism, and our fantasy presumptions about the moral and historical superiority of the American form of democracy.

The trouble with the American form of democracy is that it gave us Donald Trump, et al., which is surely also relata-ble to the ways our news is curated. William Taylor channeling the voice of Walter Cronkite just reminds us how is is that Donald Trump's avatar from the Apprentice took over reality about who belongs in the Oval office.

Once again, there is a divide between the cosmopolitans and the country rubes, since those who matured in the orbit of New York and Gary Trudeau have always known who Donald Trump was: the grim confidence man dreamed up by the likes of Mark Twain and Herman Melville. At least I have moral clarity about that, of the sort I don't have about the demonstrations and now seeming rioting in Hong Kong.

Of course, the Big Difference is that back in 1989, I and perhaps all of us were certain that the world was about to change, and it did! That was exciting! We weren't so much thinking about what was wrong with our future as about what was wrong with our present. Starting in China, or so it seemed to me, all sorts of walls were coming down and it felt like the world was opening up.

Now, it feels like the whole world is jaded, and there is a crushing certainty that nothing will ever change up against our seeming certainty that suddenly everything will. Climate change and rising oceans, medicine-resistant super bugs, species extinction, cyber-wars, strong-man nationalistic politics and those railing against the youth of Hong Kong all seem to be on the side of the beneficiaries of our historically localized - in time, not in space - technological global regime. Haven't those billionaires figured out that they can't take their mega-yachts with them?

So, what am I waiting for? I guess it seems to me that Hong Kong is not enough to fight for. I would fight for the world and Hong Kong just feels to me like a lost cause in the same way it does to all those China apologists who see wisdom in the ways that China is managing her ascendance. I mean I see their point, I just don't see any sustainable futures there. I'm looking for something akin to the American revolution for the Twenty First Century. And it has to happen soon!

I confess that I do take some comfort in the evident fact that billionaires are no different than the rest of us. They want toys and amusements as we all do to pass what time we have here on earth (as though there were anywhere else!) and to keep their enthusiasms focused against terminal  depression in this post-holy world.

The billionaires choose yachts and multiple mansions where the only difference between the Trumpsters and the never-Trumpsters is motorized versus non-motorized sport utility vehicles. This seems to have some relation to body-image which must be related to identification with earth and authenticity. Authenticity after all is the only thing that's left of Christian soul, post-Christianity. I mean the Christians have all apparently made their peace with soul-less recreation-vehicle capitalism.

I'm guessing that Tattoos - the branding of the self - and e-bikes might bring us all together in just the way that Teslas seem to. Ha! But really. But.

Well, OK, so I just bought an e-bike, because I can ride comfortably up steep hills and for a long time while still getting great exercise. I feel guilty about it. I sure couldn't afford it, even though I got it at a steep discount from lightly used rental stock. Of all the stupid things, I rationalized it based on the current cost of motor and battery, getting me the bike for not much more than that. Mostly I hate the political stamp it gives me. Where?

Meanwhile, the Democrats mounted a masterful inquiry into Donald Trump, and it would seem the Republicans just simply don't care. This is highly disturbing. That, finally, is why I MUST be on the side of the youth in Hong Kong, no matter what the hidden, overly analytical reasons may be for what actually motivates them. I have been stripped of my cynicism. Things have gotten serious.

We must take to the streets! The time is short. Now.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Watching Impeachment

The events surrounding Watergate were riveting in my youth. I grew up in a well-off suburban family where Dad went full-off the default Republican bandwagon, joined an organization called Common Cause and vocally supported busing that would include the suburbs. Those were tumultuous times, and Buffalo was an epicenter for aspects of those times.

I remember meeting my uncle at the Buffalo airport when he returned from Vietnam. He was a West Pointer some years ahead of William Taylor, who served in Vietnam in some very tough times. His older brother was also a West Pointer. I'm not certain what privilege they shared, but both were rather blond, handsome, and extremely upright.

I had the vaguest sense of these matters, even though I was politically active in my high school; that only meant that I was willing to speak out on some things about which I had marginal knowledge. I had a girlfriend whose parents were lefty intellectuals, and they were glued to what was happening on TV and so I had at least a clue. In my house, television "rotted the brain," in pure analogy to the way that soda pop rotted the gut. Both were banned in my house, and that was the extent of the reasons given.

But I do remember the helicopters lifting off from Saigon and I do remember Nixon's wave as he was boarding his departure helicopter; I remember stories from my uncle about fragging, and his scramble to toss a grenade out from the officers' mess; from my father about shitting on the beach in the Philippines as it was being strafed by the Japanese; finding a severed leg in an outhouse that stank worse than the outhouse would have; being evacuated for having wiped his ass with some kind of poison ivy which became a life-endangering and certainly debilitating injury. He was evacuated to Hawaii and then returned to the front.

Both Dad and uncles on the mastiff side were sober types, honorable to the point of fault, and both stopped talking about their experiences in their wars by the time I got old enough to understand them. It's as easy to imagine Dad staring down the strafing Japanese as it is to imagine my uncles' sacrifices. Dad would not commit the indignity of stopping mid-shit or leaving his ass un-wiped. He gave away his beer and cigarette rations to those he drove up to the hilltop to indulge in Filipino tent-cities of comfort women, keeping the truck running just in case. That image is indelibly seared into my brain; rows and rows of pup tents with candlelit glows from each, and lines of GIs outside them.

Anyhow, I did recognize both William Taylor and George Kent as members of my family. I differ starkly with their brand of patriotism, since they evidently still do believe in an American that never did really exist as far as I can tell. My America propped up dictators in South America and the Middle East and can't let go of constant vilification of China and Russia in just the way that my uncle never could let go of their dangers - or of Jane Fonda - even after the fall of the Berlin Wall and Deng Xiaoping.

The dangers of the strongman politics of Russia and China are real - don't get me wrong. But there may be a greater danger in turning those countries into some kind of meme while we ignore the dangers of strongman politics at home.

I started to think that maybe my Fox News uncle was right as I watched the opening of the public impeachment hearings yesterday.  During one of the breaks Reince Priebus was trotting out his arguments as to why the impeachment is a travesty. He seemed to be saying that Trump can't be impeached on the basis of any of his actions, and that the Democrats could only investigate his state of mind. My image was that we were conducting some kind of invasion of privacy, and that we have no right to investigate the President's thought processes or the secret processes of his (supposed) deliberation.

How ironic, right? Whatever is in his mind is surely a hot mess, and there ain't no deliberating there. Thank goodness the Democrats had the presence of collective mind to remind everyone that attempted murder is still a crime, even though the intended victim may not have died.

But Priebus did remind us all that Trump was elected precisely because he 'raised his middle finger to D.C.' So, is he like Ai Weiwei now? Has the presidency become performance art, and we are testing how far our cherished American freedoms can be stretched? Is Trump just glorying in the Buffalo-based exoneration of Larry Flynt? Even Howard Stern would be an improvement in the White House.

I'm guessing that the Republicans are making a different calculus than the one we think they make. They are more like highly paid football stars than anything else. Even football stars can be articulate when interviewed for the camera. Nobody would expect them to be making any real contributions to society in return for their pay and glory, though we do hold them to higher standards than we do our president.

But however he does his signalling, Trump has let those Republicans know that he will keep the oxygen sucked out from the news media to the extent that no attention will be paid to their looting of the republic. Those Republican political stars can carry that out in the name of those ideologies that they do seem truly to believe in; though who could really tell the states of their collective hive-mind?

There might be a kind of honor to that behavior, or there could be if they did hold actual ideological beliefs. We cheer our football stars, and at least in Buffalo sometimes honor them even more in the breach when they kick the ball wide right, say. I used to think that Lindsey Graham had some integrity. Now he's shown himself to be a looter like the rest of them, and shill to the power of money. I can only guess. Too bad, so sad.

We might wish that Bernie Sanders could be as good a stooge for the media to bring in socialism under the radar. But alas, his is a different brand of integrity. Imagine in this world of Googling if what you see were really what you get!

It was notable to me how few Republicans actually questioned the witnesses. Jim Jordan was pulled in for his attack-dog style of unabashed inquisition, lacking any rapport or history with the committee. Most Republican members seemed happy to "yield" their precious minutes to a very few attack dogs; were there even more than three on day one? The Democrats all seemed happy to have their own personal moment of vilification. Rhetorically at least, the contest was pure Democratic rout. But in this age of Twitter, rhetoric clearly counts for naught.

So why was I so rapt? I mean, I really want to know. I watch plenty of movies and fall asleep during some. I try to spend my days reading and writing, but that can be exhausting. I have sleep trouble and so I often black out during the day with a book or a computer in my hands. But yesterday I was glued to the screen. What was playing out there had the clear ring of history, and it was reminiscent of what was happening in my youth. Whither the republic?

Two events from my youth were far more important to me than Vietnam or Watergate. One was the death of Lake Erie above whose cliffs and clean broad beaches I was raised. The other was the discovery when I transitioned from bicycle to motorcycle that every hamlet in upstate New York was being homogenized by franchise chains. These two were the same thing in my mind, and I've been waiting for some grand awakening to that horror ever since. Now it seems that we've passed the point of no return.

The America I still do imagine distributes wealth and knowledge by distributing ownership and responsibility back to local shop-owners, manufacturers and job creators and away from  those sitting on top of the wealth pumps of technology. Yikes, I guess that makes me be leaning Right! WTF!

So, while it won't seem so from what I'm writing here, I wasn't taking sides in the hearings. I wasn't a spectator for the competitive sport of two-party politics. That's not what kept my attention. I kept trying to glimpse what country was in the making there, and how it might differ from the one we have. Last time, we got a dystopian America of greed. No matter how nice its been living on its inside as a white male, our impact on the planet has been decidedly disastrous. We deserve to be hated, and at least Trump has given us that.

The Democrats were fighting for what seemed for all the world to be a return to Republican values: Decent celebration of capitalism and a strong military. All the Republicans have left is the value of wealth for the few. It's hard to find vision anywhere.

After day two of the pubic inquiry there is some new hope, with Trump caught on a call saying just what the Democrats claimed he was saying behind closed doors. It's easier now to imagine Giuliani joining Roger Stone in jail, right alongside those he once put there (there is rough justice in that) and one begins to see an America post-Trump. Surely his behavior can't stand.

But what America do we wish to reinvent? Will it be the one represented by the true believers in patriotism who work the foreign services? They do sometimes seem more concerned about what Trump is doing to undermine our power than they do about what we might become.

There seem to be two classes of up and coming young people; the one is masculinist focused on the ejaculatory glory of bringing some technical unicorn to the magic billion-dollar mark. These are the dangerous class, the arrogant believers in a manifest destiny for technology no matter what it does to the social fabric. The other class is feminist and personified in A.O.C., perhaps. They might look askance, as I do, at military-style honor even while such behaviors run in my very own bloodline.

No coincidence that Trump chooses the day of his greatest embarrassment to exonerate several soldiers who have dishonored the military. Never even bothering to think about it, Trump accepts the conspiracy minded bloviation of Fox News as actual reality. He likes that plot line, I guess. I like it myself, but there has been zero evidence of any Rambo-style heroics from Trump, except perhaps on his own behalf. There is no honor of any sort at all there.

The dangers we face are not those personified by Trump but those arrayed behind his taking office. We have been in the throes of the rotted brains of TV addicts since the election of Howdy Doody Reagan at least. Channeling the voice of Walter Cronkite as William Taylor did plays only to us oldsters. If we don't take hold of our technologies for the public good, there can be no hope for either a return to the greatness we once thought our Republic to promise, nor to anything remotely representing of and by and for the people.

That makes me very very sad.

But! (he says with raised finger, and not the middle one)

As that cheerleader Steven Pinker might say, all of our dangerous technology has brought about positive change in the aggregate. It seems that the proliferation of images and massive trade and intercourse across the oceans might indeed have tempered our lust to create and then vilify some other. Our collective wanting on various Black Fridays and Singles Days is at the very least a vital force which might yet be diverted to something worthwhile.

I remain optimistic that this merely decades long fever will pass and a more healthy humanity will prevail. For the moment I am grateful for Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi.

Monday, November 11, 2019

F*ck STEM!

Even the mainstream media writes, f*ck so I guess I can too, right? As are a lot of people, or so I imagine, I am disgusted by this bandwagon promoting STEM for women. I happen to know people inside both academia and the domain described by ST*M who are nearly as disgusted as I am, but let's dissect this a bit, shall we?

First and quite obviously is the embedded pig-in-a-poke bargain that if girls - and later women - behave more like men do, then they will be able to share the C-ring more better. Plenty of people call that bullshit what it is, especially when the tech is being pandered to the underclass. As though there is something about the orthogonal logical thinking of STEM which can reveal the true meritocratic underpinnings of humanity which don't obey the laws of power.

Just be more like men, girls, just be more like men.

Next, of course, is the assumption that tech is our future. I just re-read Fowles The Magus, not really expecting much. Indeed it didn't disappoint, not being nearly so compelling as it was in my youth, but the one thing the author says that still resonates is that his worst nightmare was mankind knowing everything. Tech builds in that assumption, as in we can problem-solve to eternity.

I live in proximity to someone who rode the tech wave to wealth and who deploys logic like a weapon, as though he had no choice because the harm was built-in to the algorithm, with which no person of sound mind might disagree. Conveniently leaving go the choices made in the concoction of the algorithm in the first place. But if one has a powerful knack for logic, there's almost nothing any interlocutor might do to rescue himself from loss of any argument. Indeed you are smarter than I am and I can't find a way to prove that false. I lose energy for sparring at the very least.

There is a power-play indelible to the inner workings of the tech industry which still manages to be invisible on the outside. Well, it's familiar enough to anyone who suffers the fascism of corporate America inside the workplace, I guess. But it's more prevalent in patriarchal tech. The boss assumes the attitude of  'prove it to me,' leaving the penalties of being wrong to every underling.

I happen to be an extremely good problem solver, proven in various workplaces, but only recently have I discovered my own assumption that my abilities have been based on something like a command of logic. Not so! But who would ever dare to say "trust me" in the face of profit-line demands given the problem-solving methods I deploy. Let m explain:

I always work within the constraints of resources - time and money mostly - and never in the realm of what-if? Without practically limitless resources, 'what-if' is practically worthless. I have no infinity of choice, of tools, of top brands, of hiring. So I let my mind wander until, as happens often enough to make it a kind of wonder, a solution will show itself from my environment. This gives me a kind of joy, making good with found objects and emergent technique. I often kick myself for not seeing the obvious when I'm caught up in some logical trap of knowing where I should be looking. I'm always dazzled by the invisibility of what's staring me in the face.

This not-logic that I deploy, or if it is logic, then  it's the self-same apologetics our ego uses when it rationalizes choice that our mind already made for us. This is all apparently proven by neurological studies, which show our decisions made before we are conscious of them.

I know, of course, that my brain covers a lot more ground than my conscious mind does, and so letting go might simply be letting my brain do a better job of sorting before I get in my own way, as it were. But that's only a different way to say that my brain is closer to the ground in which I exist than my conscious self is.

I recently re-read Donna Haraway's Cyborg Manifesto and will have to read it many times more before I can understand it, because it still does seem to me to incorporate the nightmare of tech taking over the world. Like we should be able to make ourselves whatever we want to be in celebration of the mighty (conscious) individual so as never to be caught in what chance granted us. I get the celebration of difference, but tend more in the direction of social rather than individual solutions or resolutions. More tolerance and more mutual-aid trumps techno-triumph every time for me, but I guess I'm just old fashioned that way. I'll read it and her other stuff over and over until I get it, since I do recognize excitement there. But it remains harder for me to read than to read ancient Chinese.

Part of my excitement is that the manifesto comes from a woman, and I do suspect that she would agree with me about STEM. Even our economy depends as much or more on "creatives" than on logical problem-solvers, and I say that even as I hate the term "creative" as a noun almost worse than STEM. Yeah, sure as an afterthought one might insert an A to get STEaM, sneaking in something not quite orthogonal. But to me, who doesn't draw or sing or dance so good, the term "creative" is like a bludgeon about what I'm not. Just like car mechanics used to feel to many females of the species who wanted to get into it but were barred.

So the predominantly masculine nature of the tech workforce can't be fixed because baked into the workings of tech is a mindset that needs to be undermined, not celebrated. Not everything can be fixed. Sometimes one has to let go.

Hell, I'll go so far as to claim that letting go is communing with the future. That's how evolution works, where chance is chance until it makes us, and then there's some stubborn determiNancy to the process. We can't quite seem to embrace the notion that accident got us mankind, in the same way that we can't quite embrace the notion - we scintillate between the poles - that evolution is more powerful than our apparent and anxiety-provoking conviction that we've replaced evolution with conscious trans-human change. Some might even call it improvement. Progress. It's own kind of inevitable Manifest Destiny.

But that's all variations on projected immortality. No more can we celebrate our own demise than we can that of the species, and so we enact a kind of 'bring it on' mass suicide like a kid driving a Boxter into thin air, as just happens to have just happened.

Even though I problem-solve in the highly masculine domains of tech and machinery, I do believe I follow a feminine process. That might even be the cause of some embarrassment, and so I try to hide it by post-hoc logical rationalizations for my choices, in just the way that pride for my intelligence works. I do a pretty good imitation of a man most of the time. But I do have lots of pussy envy. I think it's the emotion thing.

But see, I've committed the very masculine act of putting emotion among the basic forces of physics, and still waste my life trying to get one single other human being to see it there. I come to that conclusion by way of physics, yes, but also by way of classical Chinese poetics and philosophy and apparently by way of stuff I've been stuck with since birth. As in there's something very wrong with that boy, maybe, although just as I fake being a man pretty well, I seem to fake intelligence. Sometimes people even mistake me for someone who knows what he's talking about, thought that's generally because of my strident efforts to pass. It sucks to be thought an idiot! And so I mostly remain silent to preserve a modicum of doubt. Except here in my innermost thoughts where I can be so invisible.

Very much unlike canonical scientific discoveries, mine is truly meaningless without being shared. Well, I suppose that's true of scientific discovery too, but the proof is always logical - and demonstrable! - and the discoveries - despite our canonical presumptions about individual genius - are always grounded in a shared understanding. An esoteric discourse. That guarantees that once explicated logically, there will be others to understand the discovery and make it real. (It is still terribly difficult for me to credit Einstein's discoveries with the short course from there - while Henry Adams was still alive, fer Chrissakes - to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.) Emotion has been eradicated for seeming ever from the cosmos, or so we desperately hope and sometimes even pray.

I'm either criminally lazy or just simply don't have the chops, but I can't seem to express what I'm talking about in a way that someone else might follow. I do have an easier time finding interlocutors in China, though I suspect that has more to do with the reading-in they must do to follow what I'm trying to say. A kind of generosity offered to a foreigner; one who they still feel holds some privilege over them and perhaps something like superior Yale-baked knowledge. Yale is a kind of mecca for educated Chinese. Go figure! I hated the place for its privileging of the privileged, mocked now in the fake news, even so.

But still, I find the language congenial enough that I'm making my attempt in Chinese, which is so deuced hard that the attempt may belie my worries about how lazy I might be. At the moment I'm hung up on translating a passage from The Story of the Stone. It's too damned hard for me! But fact is that Chinese - the literary tradition - doesn't bake in all of the pitfalls of English. I'm talking about individualism, Godism, objectivity, creation and creativity, beginnings and endings, a direction to history and lots more. It's just easier to talk about in Chinese, damn it!

We are living, I declare, in a default universe where our defaults are invisible because we have no way to get beyond them. We know science won't solve all our problems but it's our default. We know - even provably so - that logic can't get to the bottom of what causes people to agree or disagree, but it remains our default. Zuckerberg sits in the same seat as Truman did and Trump does and will feel just as detached from the enormity of his destructions. They are our defaults. The default ever shall be death; of at least this much I can be certain.

So how does recognition that emotion is a cosmic force change the default? Yes indeed that is my burden to tell, and I have no demonstrable experimental result to prove anything by our default methodologies.

So f*ck it! Right? Nah, it'll come to me, I know it will. Once upon a time . . .

. . . there was this emoton. It had no mass, no valence, no spin, indeed no measurable qualities at all, nor did it move, really. It was no gauge-boson, or at least not the ordinary kind. Indeed, it existed only in the mind. The cosmic mind, if you will, which is no-wise the same thing as the personalized mind of God. Both were there in the beginning, were there any beginning but for a story, and the exchange of emotons did indeed not so much cause a force as predict an impingement. We're still in the realm of mind here and not so much of matter. But the impingement is of thingy things, the forces among which are mediated by gauge bosons, I think maybe, and which are implicated in ways mostly physical until once gets into the realm of quanta where implication may stretch to eternity, or so we hope for the sake of our privacy, ironically enough. The Chinese got there first. Of course.

Meanwhile, until impingement, there may be no forces as bodies move toward or away from one another. Just prediction. In some mind or other. The motion indeed is no motion at all but emotion. Otherwise, there would be forces between them - those bodies - by very definition.

Gravity at the least would be there, which remains so elusive. For all that they might be real, gravitons feel as elusive as those emotons I speak of. They may only be inferred and their measurement as much an artifact of its construction as the detection of any apparatus. Or so it would seem to me. But what do I know? Not much! I seem to inhabit a discourse community of one, which is precisely as impossible as the detection of said emoton.

Which all naturally means that alien life, so called, has been with us all along. We just don't feel it. It is so very far away in space and therefore, by definition now, time. But, I do declare, there is a window into our futures just as there is a window - however unreliable - into our past by way of history and telescopic insights. It must be felt and can't be known and whether asteroid to destroy us in our climate-denial idiocy, or full embrace of cosmic love (I should say with), we would have to open ourselves to it and not hang on so much to what we are or want to be. As it was in the beginning. Amen. It is our holding on to what we are or project to be that is our undoing. Duh! For sure, money is no measure of the man. Money is the efficient cause of machine mind, emotion-free and not implicated in any crime. I'd better shut up right there. Sheesh. Watching too much Bill Gates and Jamie Dimon on TV. Simpletons.

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

SOLD to Loving new owner!!

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!