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2005-06-07 5:26 p.m.


This oil crash business seems to be getting discussed a lot more in a public forums, lately. That’s a good thing, I think. We really need to get our shit together if our society is to last much longer.

Anyway, WTF responded to my request for an explanation. Kind of. Either I don't understand her reasons for lying about her age or they're just a bit silly.

At first, she didn't apologize so much as launch into one of the most impressive and thorough verbal self-flagellations I've ever seen. I almost had to laugh, reading it. Going on like she killed my whole family or something. Damn, girl! Calm down! This is not a capital crime! It's not even a misdemeanor. You just lied about your age, which while weird and annoying, isn't exactly the unpardonable sin.

She seemed to be expecting me to cut her off immediately and completely, as, according to her, everyone does, eventually (and, according to her, it’s always her fault).

But I’m not quite that easy to get rid of.

So, I wrote her back and told her that it wasn’t a big deal, that I think she’s awesome and I’m certainly not going to end our friendship over this, but that I did want an explanation, a commitment to honesty in our future dealings, and an actual apology (without the self-excoriation). She responded with a series of impressive and exquisitely worded vows that left me feeling like I’d just taken on a retainer, like I need to find a sword somewhere so I can knight her. One thing I know about the wacky, both from experience and from observing my mother’s relationships (her closest pals all seem to be batshit insane): they make extraordinarily devoted friends.

So. I guess things are back to normal (?) between us now.

Today I played soccer with the middle school kids. Almost immediately upon entering the field I took a fantastic spill, and then had another one as I made a pathetic attempt to score. They were cracking up. But that’s kind of my job. Anytime I can get them to laugh, for whatever reason, I feel like I’ve accomplished something good. And if I start worrying about my masculine pride, I can console myself with the fact that I can beat most if not all of them at arm wrestling, and they know it.

I kind of like soccer, though. Other than a strong (if not exactly accurate) kick, I have close to zero skills for it, but I feel like I can get by pretty well in soccer on pure determination and competitive spirit, much more so than in other sports I suck at, like baseball or basketball.

Yesterday I was thinking it’s good to have crippling depression in your past. Or at least, I’m somehow glad it’s in mine. Once you’re out of it, life is more vivid, and good moods and pleasant experiences are suitably cherished, because you have an idea of how much worse things could be. The danger, of course, is that such depression can be a black hole from which no escape is possible. It certainly seems that way when you’re in the middle of it. And some people make me think that even if they had the opportunity to be happy, they wouldn’t take it. They’ve invested too much of themselves into their sadness to ever seriously consider giving it up. “To be that screwed up takes serious dedication.”

Incidentally, I read Bertrand Russell’s The Conquest of Happiness last fall. It was interesting in that while reading it I was constantly thinking, “Yes! That’s exactly what I finally decided!” And then it dawned on me: “Hey… I think I might be… not unhappy. Weird!”

Other good news: My employer’s going to let me take a course in translation and interpretation that involves a weeklong stint in Shiga Prefecture in September, which they will pay for. Nice.

Yesterday I also browsed the Hugo Award nominees. (If you’re curious as to what’s considered the best of the best in science fiction and fantasy right now, that’d be a good place to start.) I read both of the novellas by Charles Stross and quite enjoyed them. I don’t know that I’d want to write stuff like that myself, but I’m really happy that he did.

The first one I read was The Concrete Jungle, which is easy to describe. It’s a combination science fiction story, Lovecraftian horror tale, and British spy caper. I really enjoyed it, though it is a little dense. Sections on things such as the early 20th century experiments that fleshed out the empirical evidence for the concept that the energy resultant from a gorgon’s gaze is both a particle and a wave might not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but the cool spy weapons that information would allow you to build are perhaps a little more interesting.

Then there’s Elector, which was, frankly, mind-blowingly surreal. If you want to tackle that one, I’d recommend doing it with Wikipedia open in another window to help in deciphering some of the lingo. Or better yet, you could check out the author's guide. (Incidentally, the “serious dedication” quote above came from this story, and either inspired or contributed to that paragraph’s ruminations.) Some excerpts:

"Annette isn’t being very helpful, his mother is campaigning on an electoral platform calling for a vote to blow up the world, his grandfather is trying to convince him to entrust everything he holds dear to a rogue lobster, and the cat isn’t talking. And you thought you had problems?"

"Manfred used to be a flock of pigeons– literally, his exocortex dispersed among a passel of bird-brains, pecking at brightly colored facts, shitting semi-digested conclusions. Being human again feels inexplicably odd. Not only does he get shooting pains in his neck whenever he tries to look over his left shoulder with his right eye, but he’s lost the habit of spawning exocortical agents to go interrogate a database or bush robot or something, then report back to him. Instead, he keeps trying to fly off in all directions at once, which usually ends with him falling over."

"The pre-election campaign takes approximately three minutes and consumes more bandwidth than the sum of all terrestrial communications channels from prehistory to 2008. Approximately six million ghosts of Amber, individually tailored to fit the jib of the targeted audience, fork across the dark fiber meshwork underpinning all of the lilypad colonies, then out through ultrawideband mesh networks, instantiated in implants and floating dust motes to buttonhole the voters. Many of them fail to reach their audience, and many more hold fruitless discussions; about six actually decide they’ve diverged so far from their original that they constitute separate people and register for independent citizenship, two defect to the other side, and one elopes with a swarm of highly empathic modified African honeybees."

And those are the people living in societies that are still more or less comprehensible to more or less unaugmented humans. How wonderfully weird. I love it. While I did say I wouldn’t want to write stuff like this myself, I might qualify that by saying that while I don’t particularly admire his style, I would love to write shit as crazy as that.

Sometimes it seems like there’s only two possible options for the course of world history during the next fifty years or so: the aforementioned oil crash, where most everyone dies and those left are blasted back to the stone age, or The Singularity. I don’t find either possibility particularly reassuring. I suppose there’s a third possibility: Armageddon as envisaged by some religion or other. But such a thing probably wouldn’t be too different from a combination oil crash/singularity, at least as far as the details of the subjective experience go. Theories about how the oil crash will go down and about how the events leading up to Armageddon will unfold have a lot in common, and it’s interesting to note that The Singularity is jokingly referred to as “The Rapture for Nerds.”

I suppose it’s possible that we’ll switch over to an alternate energy source in time, while at the same time the pace of technological advancement will level off before things get too crazy. Somehow, re-reading that, it doesn’t seem very likely, though, does it?

How’s it going to end?

the center of the earth is the end of the world,