"Yeah, well, you know, that's just like, uh, your opinion, man."


07:21 Wednesday, 31 August 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 77.09°F Pressure: 1010hPa Humidity: 95% Wind: 5.75mph

I've been playing around with Shortcuts on the Mac and iOS, and I'm fairly encouraged. I feel as though I'm beginning to get the hang of this. One thing that has helped a lot has been Gary Rosenzweig's MacMost YouTube channel.

I've got one working that he demonstrated that will resize a photo and place some text on it. I need to integrate that with the AppleScript that creates a photo post here in the marmot.

From time to time, I come down with something that isn't the flu but involves a fairly significant amount of pain, fever and chills. Because I only have one kidney, I generally don't take NSAIDs for pain relief, but when I do I try to monitor how much I've taken. This is hard when you're not feeling well. You can alternate acetaminophen and an NSAID such that you're never more than three hours from a dose, but again, keeping track of the time can be challenging.

So I created a little Numbers spreadsheet and a shortcut that will add a new row with the time, and I pick the med from a list and that's a little shortcut that can live on my phone. I need to look at whether I can put it on my watch. If I wanted to be more clever, I could add a reminder creation for the next dose and what it should be.

And just because I was having fun playing with Shortcuts, I created a Travel Notes shortcut. It creates a new note with the date and time, the location and latitude and longitude, and the weather summary along with barometric pressure and relative humidity. Then it brings up a little dictation window where I can dictate my note. Might be something handy to preserve memories.

They all need some polish, but they're all working, which is more than I can say for most of my previous attempts at automation using AppleScript or Automator.

One thing I need to figure out how to do is format numbers returned from location and weather data. Lat & Long come back with about 8 digits of precision and I probably only need 2 or 3. Relative humidity comes back with just the number, no "%" character. Like I said, just polish.

End of August

06:12 Wednesday, 31 August 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 77.25°F Pressure: 1010hPa Humidity: 94% Wind: 6.91mph

I'll have to check the climate data from the National Weather Service, but I think this was possibly the most humid August on record.

Everyone complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.

More these days than ever, I suppose.

Speaking of which, we're flying up to Boston tomorrow for the weekend to attend the wedding of one of my late friend's daughters. Thinking about all the flooding that's been taking place here and in Pakistan, the rivers that are drying up in Europe, the persistent heat wave in China, I wonder if or when we're simply going to stop flying for things like weddings. I feel as though I'm doing something grossly irresponsible, perhaps even immoral; but I want to be there.

Life goes on. Even if "going on" is what's going to hasten its end.

I've been watching Five Days at Memorial on Apple TV+, and it's hard to take. Take away electricity and life simply isn't possible for many people living at the margins. How oblivious does one have to be to install the emergency power generators in the basement of a hospital sitting five feet below sea level?

Katrina was in 2005. Irma was in 2017, more than a decade later, and the news was that eleven people died in nursing homes due to no air conditioning. It was actually worse than that. A study showed that nursing home deaths rose 25% in the week following Irma, and were still 10% higher 30 days after the hurricane, for facilities that experienced some power loss.

Florida now requires emergency generators capable of supporting the air conditioning loads for nursing homes. Who is trained to operate or maintain those generators? I don't know. Presumably, they have that all figured out. Right?

Thinking about TFT

07:35 Sunday, 21 August 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 75.9°F Pressure: 1015hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 0mph

Just an aside about "tools for thought," a burgeoning attention-sump in some circles.

I seldom notice mention of the following:

A walk.

A shower.

A good night's sleep.

Introspection and reflection.

I don't know that we understand "thought" well enough to design tools to improve it.

But we do love our cleverness and the artifacts thereof. We can see those, and, more importantly, show them to others! We can talk about them, criticize them, modify them, endlessly.

Stick that in your graph and smoke it.

Net Power Producer

07:17 Sunday, 21 August 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 75.49°F Pressure: 1014hPa Humidity: 93% Wind: 0mph

Having restored communications to the Tesla Gateway, I'm able to see what we're producing and consuming from the rooftop array and the house loads.

With the added Mitsubishi mini-split air conditioner in the garage, we're still a net producer of power. We're less self-sufficient by a small amount, but we produce more power than we use and that surplus goes to the grid and replaces FPL utility-generated power, probably for our next-door neighbor, who still pays FPL for it.

Since installing the interface to the remote off-site fusion reactor that many call "the sun," we've added the plug-in hybrid RAV4 Prime and now the mini-split. The data is pretty clear that on days when production is low due to cloud cover, we're having to use utility power more often. Of the two additional loads, the RAV4 is by far the most significant.

We've had the RAV4 for a year now, so that data is pretty good. We've only had the mini-split for a week, but I can look at average daily loads and it's not significant overall.

I'll take a closer look at the end of the year, but it looks like we've gone from being about 95% self-sufficient to about 93% self-sufficient. That is, 5% of our power came from FPL before, now it may be as much as 7%. But we're sending more power to FPL than we're taking from it. FPL still makes money from us. They used to charge us about $8.95 a month to maintain the grid connection and the reversible meter. Now it's $25 a month, and it's not offset by our power "credit." But we don't really "pay" for the utility power we use.

I'd like to manage the house loads more closely to the system capabilities, thinking of the house as being a ship or space station or something. I think if we were more judicious about when we chose to charge the car, run the dryer, or the oven, and managed parasitic loads more carefully, we could approach 100% self-sufficiency. But the idea, I guess, is to have the convenience of utility power without the carbon footprint. You can just use power without thinking about it.

Which is kind of what got us into this mess.

But, better is the enemy of good enough.

12 Seconds of Silence

06:50 Sunday, 21 August 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 75.78°F Pressure: 1015hPa Humidity: 91% Wind: 0mph

Also finished this title yesterday, the dead tree edition. Also very recent, 2020, by Jamie Holmes.

I recently had a crown placed on one of my front teeth. As part of the preparation for that, I had these molds made of my teeth into which I placed some whitening agent, and I was to wear them for 30 minutes each day for a couple of weeks.

They weren't uncomfortable, but it wasn't an especially pleasant experience. The guidance was to wear them just before going to bed. So it became my practice to read for 30 minutes, from a paper book to avoid the blue light of an LCD interfering with my sleep. I don't know how much effect that had, I never sleep well, but it became a useful prompt to do some reading. One I've been observing even after having the crown installed.

Ostensibly about the creation of the proximity fuse in WW II, it's also the story of the creation of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. This would have been an interesting history to have read early in my navy career. When I was aboard BAINBRIDGE (CGN-25), APL people were coming aboard all the time with various projects. I recall one guy who had a Mac portable before there was such a thing, and it had a plasma display, which I'd never seen before.

Anyway, a good book about an important project that has largely faded from public memory. It could have used a better editor, I think. Holmes sometimes referred to ships as "boats", and made some other errors or artless constructions that a better editor would have caught. But who am I to judge? Hemingway?

The proximity fuse, or variable time fuse, which was a name selected to obscure its technical underpinnings, essentially defeated the V-1 assault on London. It later went on to be used to devastating effect as an anti-personnel munition at the Battle of the Bulge.

As an aside, I also recently watched Operation Crossbow, a movie from 1965 with George Peppard, Sophia Loren and other big names. Don't watch the trailer, the movie's better than the trailer. It deals with the V-weapons, albeit with great liberties; but the sets, production values and plot were good to very good. Some elements of the plot were very true, while others were pure fiction. It was better than I expected based on the trailer.

FDR at War (Digital Boxed Set)

06:40 Sunday, 21 August 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 75.92°F Pressure: 1015hPa Humidity: 91% Wind: 0mph

Finished this title yesterday. It's three books, The Mantle of Command, Commander in Chief, and War and Peace, by Nigel Hamilton. All three are very recent, 2014, 2016 and 2019, respectively, with the combined ebook dated 2020.

Loved it. It took longer to finish than I'd expected, interrupted by The Making of the Atomic Bomb, the trip to New York and other distractions.

To anyone who's interested in current events, FDR's legacy is still with us and this work offers a great deal of context.

Highly recommended.


03:36 Monday, 15 August 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 71.2°F Pressure: 1006hPa Humidity: 86% Wind: 0mph

Insomnia strikes again. But I have some ideas and if I don't write them down now, I'll forget them.

There's the meetup I attend, which alternates between Saturdays and Sundays every weekend, where we talk about Tinderbox, the application I'm using to record these thoughts.

The meeting often focuses on particular aspects of Tinderbox (for there are many) in addressing individual wishes for working with information. Michael Becker is a person who has mastered many of the capabilities of Tinderbox, and he's been using it to help refine his thinking on knowledge management.

Yesterday he was elaborating on what he termed the "three pillars of" something, I forget what exactly. But the three were "content", "structure" and "appearance." Appearance was a recent replacement for "design", because of some discussion about the differences between design and appearance.

I kind of understood where he was going, and where he was coming from, but it didn't feel right. It didn't resonate with me. I had to leave yesterday's meetup early to do a family virtual meeting, so I don't know exactly how things ended up.

But I've been "thinking" about this, or at least, this is what bubbled up as I tried to go back to sleep; and so I wanted to get this down.

I hate the word "content." It's sloppy, lazy, misleading, misinformed. Content is shit. Part of Michael's enthusiasm for his "three pillars" is the facility it brings to "repurposing your content." Oy!

I get that too, I know what he means. But "repurpose" is the wrong word as well, which is unsurprising because when you use one wrong word it often leads to using another. He wants to share his ideas, and be able to easily change or rearrange their presentation in order to facilitate their understanding by different audiences in different contexts. Reasonable wish.

The clue is in the word "structure." I know that what he means is how a document is arranged to convey an idea. But "content" is meaningless without "structure." Indeed, it is "structure" that forms, or, informs content. Without structure, there is no content, there is no information value in whatever you believe your "content" to be.

Structure is the arrangement of things. Letters in a word, subatomic particles in an atom, the chronological order of events, word order in sentences, language, media, light, darkness, shades of gray, what's in the frame, what's left out. Entropy is increasing, "structure" is a region of low entropy in which "information", the "difference that makes a difference" may be discerned.

Smarter people than me have already thought about this, I'm sure.

Structure is inherent in information, integral to it, without it, there is no "information," and if you don't pay attention to the structure, if you treat it as something separate, you either aren't getting the most "value" from your information, or you're misunderstanding the nature of the information itself.

And structure is tricky, because it's contingent. The world does not exist in the Platonic ideal of forms. One thing leads to another. There is no ideal platonic form of a chair, without knowing about upright bipeds who don't wish to stand on their feet all day.

Indeed, to the extent that "tools for thought" exist, their utility is in examining "structure."

We use "information" to shape ideas, test ideas. We perceive the world and we have ideas about it. To the extent that our perceptions have any "information," it's in the structure.

Thought, to the extent that it's not just a running commentary from an unreliable narrator residing between our ears, is about having ideas. We use information to test those ideas, to convey those thoughts, and we embed those ideas and thoughts in a structure, which is itself built on the structure of the information we use to try to illuminate our thoughts. The structure that was embedded in our consciousness by our culture, our education, our predispositions, interests and affinities.

What dimensions of structure do we privilege in our information? Which "points of view" do we consider most "meaningful"? Which dimensions are unavailable to us, because we don't speak the language? Can't relate to the experience? What parts of our ideas are unsupported, simply because we can't see what's missing?

What is "content"? What is the role of "truth" in "content"?

The map is not the territory.

Okay, back to bed.

In Lieu of Thinking (Or Taking Pictures)

05:02 Saturday, 13 August 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 74.48°F Pressure: 1012hPa Humidity: 94% Wind: 4.61mph

I feel like I'm having another "blinding glimpse of the obvious." It's something I've been peripherally aware of for many years; but I think it's taken until now to begin to crystalize into something I can articulate. Maybe I'm not there yet, given how hard it seems to get this post going.

So, let me just get this out there in whatever form, and maybe I can refine it into something move concrete.

To be clear, I observe all of this in myself, but it's only because I've seen it in others first. Introspection has its blind spots, I think.

We have some affinity for an activity, something creative. We see others create things we that admire. More than just the creation, we admire the fact that they created it. They're just a person, like we are. We should be able to create something worthy of admiration too.

So, do we want to create something, or do we want to be admired?

I suspect that's the first disconnect. That, for many of us, the desire to create is secondary to a desire to be admired, that creation is the route to admiration.

For many years, I used to disclaim that I wasn't a "photographer," I was just a guy who likes to take pictures.

Superficially, that was true. I didn't make my living as a photographer, and saying I just liked to take pictures relieved me of any risk of being criticized for being a poor photographer, or, almost worse, an average one.

But there I was, posting pictures a lot, and often receiving praise from friends and acquaintances on social media. Of course, that didn't relieve the anxiety or insecurity. Still had to recite the disclaimer.

Many years ago, I used to keep up a fairly regular correspondence with an Australian, a writer and photographer named Jonathon Delacour. I admired his photography (and his writing), and his praise was most alarming. It was modest, he wasn't bullshitting me. He was just encouraging. We haven't corresponded in a long time now, I think it was last in 2014 or something. But I still think about Jonathon, every time I straighten a horizon. He told me never to do that, that was how I saw the image. But then, conventional critiques take up residence in your head, and now I'm always straightening my horizons. Don't get me started on converging verticals.

So there's this anxiety about creating, I think, that isn't about whether or not your pictures are shit, but whether or not you are.

Rather than confront that risk, we hide behind disclaimers, but also devote a hell of a lot of time and attention, to matters tangential to the thing we ostensibly love to do. We spend too much time thinking about our tools.

Part of this, I think, is cultural. We live in a capitalist, consumer society that is obsessed with competition and ranking things. But I think it's only part. We're burdened with an abundance of choices, which acts as a kind of attractive nuisance. We also covet stuff, mostly the stuff other people have. And social media is nothing if not a gallery for showing off our stuff.

I'm fortunate, or unfortunate perhaps, enough to be able to have many of the things I coveted. I have a ridiculous number of cameras. I'm sure there are many people equally or more ridiculous, but that doesn't get me off the hook. After a certain point, having so many tools itself becomes an impediment. It takes some cognitive effort to pick just one from a number of very similar devices. There have been times when I didn't bring a camera along on a walk or something because I couldn't make up my mind if I wanted a telephoto zoom or a prime!

As an aside, I just bought a used Olympus PEN E-PL6. It's a decent little camera, but it's not much different from my E-PL7. It's less capable in many ways. But it's red. So red. It wasn't until after I'd bought it that I noticed that the black E-PL6 has red accents around the lens mount and the shutter button. Looks sharp! I've got to pay for this AC going in the garage, and the insulation in the attic, or I'd have that coming in now too. But I would not bet against having a black E-PL6 on my shelf of too many cameras before the year is out. We'll see.

Anyway, people spend a lot of time not doing the thing they ostensibly love to do; instead doing something related, but less risky. Just go the the Digital Photography Review forums and visit the Micro Four Thirds forum. It's filled with anxious, would-be photographers with anxiety about their skill and their small sensor size. I, of course, among them. Though I don't post much, mostly lurk.

Which brings me to a similar phenomenon in the tools for thought space, or personal knowledge management.

The thing that got me into "personal computing" forty years ago wasn't video games or some desire to "compute" anything, it was seeing text or graphics on a TV screen that didn't come from a "studio." I suppose it has something to do with being especially attuned to visual stimuli, itself perhaps because of TV, that I coveted having a personal computer to put my own text and graphics on a TV screen!

My introduction to computers was a traumatic experience. Two 5 credit hour Ds in Calculus with Computers in my plebe year at USNA. I was not a natural either for programming or calculus. So you'd think I'd want as little to do with computers as possible. But I volunteered at USNA's campus FM radio station, WRNV. One of my jobs was to type in the playlists that we sent to the record companies, which was our end of the deal for getting promotional albums. (Which I got to take back to my room and play for my friends.)

But we entered those playlists on some kind of database, which I don't recall anymore, but I used a Tektronics video terminal to do it! That was some very science fiction stuff right there. Calculus with Computers was really calculus with a mainframe by way of a teletype in a noisy, hot little soundproof booth! Ugh.

Anyway, that turned into a fascination with computers that lasted for almost forty years. I'm less fascinated with them today. I'm actually more interested in the history of computing than its future, which looks pretty grim, I think.

What has remained is an interest in kind of doing what I'm doing right now. Putting my own words on a screen, soon to be accessible to anyone with a web browser. Not that they're likely to be of interest or utility to many. Or anyone.

And I'm still interested in all the different ways we can put those words (and images) on our screens.

But I'm not so sure about their utility as an aid to thinking. I mean, I've heard writing is a way for some people to see what they think, and maybe that's kind of what I'm doing here. Especially given the opening to this post.

Thinking is hard. It's risky. It's much easier to spend time searching for the right tool, arguing about the utility of back-links, or the virtues of markdown. I have anxiety because here I am, over sixty-five years old and I haven't created my own personal knowledge graph! How do I know what I know? ("The map is not the territory.")

Oh, the depths of my epistemological and ontological despair!

Anyway, we should probably all be taking more pictures and doing our own thinking. Admiration? I guess we all just want to be loved. Don't have to be an artist or a genius to deserve that. And you probably get what you give. So there's that.

Another blinding glimpse of the obvious.

Another Necessary Adjustment

10:02 Wednesday, 10 August 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 85.53°F Pressure: 1018hPa Humidity: 80% Wind: 8.05mph

The HVAC contractor called yesterday, said they didn't have the Mitsubishi split system they'd quoted to me, and assured me was, in stock. Six to eight weeks. Supply chain. COVID. Whatever.

But they did have the next higher-performance unit in stock. 18 SEER, 9.9 EER. So we negotiated a bit and I'm getting that installed on Monday. Basically split the difference between the original quoted price, and what it would have been with the better unit.

EER is a more relevant measure of performance for cooling than SEER. The 16 SEER unit was a 9 EER. So the next step up is 10% more efficient than the lowest cost unit. Theoretically, I should need about 10% less overall energy to do whatever cooling I'm going to do in the garage.

This is useful to me from the standpoint that I'll be less likely to "run out" of our own, locally generated power, and more likely to remain a modest net energy source.

Overall, we make more power than we use, the excess is sent to FPL and they credit us for that amount. It's not a lot, because they won't let you put more on your roof than you're likely to need.

On those days when we've had a lot of cloud cover, or high demand, and the batteries are flat, we'll draw power from the grid. We don't end up paying for that power because of the credits we've earned. The last time I looked at the data, we were a net positive. They'll never "pay" us for the excess energy we provide to the grid, and I think the credit expires with some periodicity, so it generally works out to FPL's favor. Plus they now charge us $25 a month just for the grid connection, exclusive of any energy credit.

Since we installed the system, we've added the RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid, which is a big load. And now we're adding the garage AC. I put a Level 2 charger in the garage (essentially a 220v circuit), which charges the car in 5.5 hours from flat, versus 11 hours on 110v AC. If we're clever, which we sometimes aren't, we wait to recharge the car until about 0900 as the solar production begins ramping up and we can power the house, recharge the car and still recharge the batteries, albeit without sending as much or any power to FPL.

All in all, a happy ending. Installation is scheduled for Monday. Peak Florida, an air-conditioned garage.

Simple Enough

08:56 Wednesday, 10 August 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 81.18°F Pressure: 1018hPa Humidity: 94% Wind: 3.44mph

How does one manage "knowledge?"

PKM is a TLA for "personal knowledge management."

What is "personal knowledge"? Is it "knowledge" that one manages "personally"? Or is it "knowledge" about one's person? I suspect it's the former. In fact, I'm certain of it, I'm just being a smart-ass.

Why are we using the word "knowledge" now? Didn't we once have PIMs? "Personal information managers". A Palm Pilot, a Newton, that sort of thing? Is "knowledge" a more privileged word than "information"? Does it require a different form of "management"?

I suspect it's just a form of ego-inflation. "Information" is a commodity. "Knowledge" is scarce, valuable. Anyone can find "information." Seeking "knowledge" is a mission.

I think we should be skeptical about this current PKM fad. I think it's a bubble. It's inflating a certain type of software and the reputations of certain individuals who think they have their hands on something that can help them in some way unrelated to managing "knowledge."

If you ask me, and nobody does, which is fine, I don't think we need better tools or techniques to "manage knowledge." Information, yes.

Then there's the "tools for thought" (TFT) bubble. Can a tool help you think? Yes, I suppose it can, insofar as it can augment working memory, which is a finite cognitive resource. They can also augment long-term memory, but I'm not sure that's really a "tool." Is a bucket a tool? I guess if you stand on it, maybe.

In The Making of the Atomic Bomb, Rhodes described Fermi watching the instruments monitoring the reactivity of his atomic pile, and he would use a slide rule to help him confirm that the behavior of the pile was conforming to the theory.

Is that "thought"? Maybe.

I suspect the "thought" occurred long before, and this was all just behavior.

The thinking occurred as a result of experiments, where physicists tried to imagine (think about) what might explain the things they were observing.

Are experiments tools for thought? A tool is something that has a function. Is the function of a tool for thought just to give us something to think about?

I don't know. I'm just thinking out loud.

But people do get infatuated with their tools, their insights, their processes and habits.

I don't know. I'm an authority on nothing. I make all this shit up. You're encouraged to do your own thinking.

With whatever tools you that make you happy.

Necessary Adjustments

05:01 Monday, 8 August 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 76.12°F Pressure: 1015hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 1.01mph

I seemed to sleep better in New York. I don't know why. I wasn't fond of the bed in the lake house, the mattress seemed to be concave. But I think I slept better.

Anyway, insomnia has its uses.

I've been riding my bike every morning for the last week or so, trying to get back into a routine. Previously, I'd ride after taking a walk. This meant it was later in the morning, sometime between 0730 and 0800. There's a lot of traffic at that hour.

So I started riding the bike first, about 0530. That gets me back in time to start my walk before the sun is up. It's been working well. I saw an Atlas rocket launch last week just as I was about to get home, that was pretty cool. And I can get an idea of what the sunrise might look like, so I put the drone up a couple of times before I went for walk.

But every time I rode, I'd remember that I needed to adjust the handlebars. And every time I finished riding, I'd forget about it. Mostly because I was soaked with sweat, and interested in getting in the house to cool off a bit and have some water.

Well, lying awake this morning, I figured I'd get up and go out in the garage and just adjust the damn handlebars. So I did. Adjusted the seat too. I think I'll be more comfortable this morning.

The garage is fricking hot in the summer. I had the door open and two fans going and I was still sweating like crazy. That shouldn't be the case much longer. I've gone ahead and contracted to have the garage air conditioned.

I insulated the door last summer, and it's helped a bit. I need to insulate the ceiling, but I figured I'd wait until after they'd installed the AC unit so the electrician wouldn't be crawling through all that fiberglass or whatever. I'll take care of that after they finish.

The guy on the architectural review committee that approved our application said he'd done his. He said the only thing he didn't like was that his car windows fogged up every morning when he pulled out.

Well, that won't be a problem for me! He's cooling the garage too much, below the dew point. That may cause a problem for his tools eventually, because every time he opens the door all the cold air slides out and the very humid air replaces it, causing condensation on everything it touches.

I don't want to expend too much energy on cooling a space that we don't live in. I just need to make it less hot. So I'll probably set the thermostat for 80°F at first and see how that feels and how much energy it takes. Adjust upward from there, if necessary. The house thermostat is at 77°F, and I don't need the garage as cool as the house.

If I'm working in the garage, like this morning, I'll keep the door shut and turn the AC down a bit. I can work out on the elliptical/stair stepper thing I've got in there too. It was 86°F in the garage, 76°F outside and even with the door open and two fans running, the garage only cooled down to 85°F while I was out there. And then stepping back into the house actually felt cold. As I'm writing this, the ceiling fan is on.

Which brings me to just about the time I need to roll out. So I'll post this, turn off the fan and go for a ride. Weather suggests chance of drizzle. We'll see.

Thanks for dropping by. Hope you have a good day!

The Bomb

09:49 Saturday, 6 August 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 84.99°F Pressure: 1022hPa Humidity: 80% Wind: 6.91mph

I finished reading The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes this week. Today happens to be the 77th anniversary of the first use of the "A-Bomb" on Hiroshima.

It's a good book. Maybe a great book. It left me feeling uncomfortable. Conflicted.

The story of the development of the bomb was fascinating, sometimes exciting. For much of the book, I was amazed by the ingenuity and intelligence of the people involved. I was astonished by the level of effort the federal government was able to bring to create sufficient quantities of enriched uranium and plutonium to build the bombs.

The book is also a really great introduction into the history and development of nuclear physics, and how the physicists doing the work and making the discoveries viewed the knowledge they were revealing.

Those parts of the book were wonderful.

Rhodes goes on to describe the use of the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It's unsparing.

Whatever feelings of respect or admiration or awe I had up to that point were dispelled by the graphic descriptions of almost literally "unthinkable" horror. Unthinkable, until then I suppose.

Of the accounts of the survivors, the ones that really stood out to me were about how they didn't associate the event with the war at first. Many people, gravely injured, surrounded by horror, simply thought the world had ended, and that they were the only ones left alive. There was simply no context for what they'd experienced.

I suppose there really still isn't.

Some may wish to draw some relative comparisons in horror or inhumanity by comparing the use of atomic weapons with the deliberate fire-bombing of cities. I don't think there's any useful comparison, really. Yes, fire-bombing of civilian population centers with hundreds of thousands of innocent people killed is horrific. An obscenity.

I think the use of nuclear weapons is altogether different. I don't think you can simply say "dead is dead," "murder is murder." I think it's on the same level as the Holocaust, though I suppose that would be subject to violent disagreement from some. We were the "good guys," after all.

Well, we were the victors, anyway. So we get to settle the accounts.

Something to think about.

I encourage anyone to read the book.

Dear Brutus

05:32 Monday, 1 August 2022
Current Wx: Temp: 75.43°F Pressure: 1017hPa Humidity: 94% Wind: 6.91mph

There's a lot being written these days about the survival of American democracy, prompted by the events of January 6th, the rise of white christian nationalism and a seeming desire for a form of authoritarianism in government.

All good reasons, I think.

There are various ideas about the remedy. Eliminate the Electoral College. Andrew Yang is forming a third party. Abolish the filibuster. Campaign finance reform. Greater regulation of social media or "Big Data."

I suppose they all have their merits, but I don't think they'll be enough.

Something more fundamental needs to change, and I don't see how that's going to happen.

As this post's title alludes, the problem isn't in our institutions or rules and regulations, it's in our character.

Now, this criticism plays into the hands of the religious fundamentalists of whatever variety, so it's a bit dangerous as well. Religion is subject to the same failures of human frailty as any other institution, as has been repeatedly demonstrated, often to great horror.

And let's not delude ourselves too much. "American democracy" has never been as admirable or virtuous as we'd like to believe. Even those politicians and elected officials who may claim some amount of legitimate virtue or admirable character in public life were complicated individuals with weaknesses and personal and public failings in abundance.

What may be different today is that we've abandoned even the pretense of caring about exhibiting "good character." In our frustration with everything, we're ready for all our champions to be their own worst versions of themselves. We seem to be demanding it.

Which is perhaps our own worst version of ourselves.

There's something about power and money that brings out the the weakness or the worst in many people, and yet compels them to seek it.

I don't know how you fix that. You can't shame it out of them. About the best you can hope to do is identify those who are the worst or the weakest, and keep them as far away from power as possible.

I feel like I need to digress here and point out that all "power" is an illusion. It is, but as illusions go, it's one of the most powerful, if that's not a tautology.

If there's any hope, it has to be with the kids. But we're a poor example for them. I'm afraid they'll just grow up to be new versions of us.

If there were only one thing I could change, it'd be this fixation on zero-sum thinking, on "winning" and "losing." The narrative that anything less than total success is total failure. It's the accelerant that's driving this fire out of control.

Maybe we can change that.

I don't know.