11:52 Thursday, 29 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 90.86°F Pressure: 1012hPa Humidity: 58% Wind: 8.05mph
Our wireless, remote, off-site fusion reactor power solution went live on May 12, 2020. We have 7KW of rooftop solar and two Tesla Powerwalls. Since then, we've been 91% self-sufficient in our electricity needs, with 10MWh of net positive energy production overall. (We've generated 10MWh more electricity than the house has consumed since we installed the system.) The 9% of energy drawn from the grid since installation is due to cloudy weather, high demand or some combination thereof.
Overall, I'm pleased with how our system was designed in terms of production and storage. In a perfect world, I'd like to be 100% self-sufficient; but that would require additional capacity (and cost). "Perfect is the enemy of the good."
Since we installed the system, we've added a plug-in hybrid vehicle (RAV4 Prime), and a mini-split heat pump to cool the garage. We're still doing pretty well with production exceeding demand, but it's a smaller margin today than compared with the lifetime totals.
At some point, six or seven years from now, I anticipate we'll be buying a fully electric vehicle, which will place greater demands on the system. It's hard to quantify that, though I suppose I could use our gas consumption as a surrogate. I haven't done a deep dive into how Toyota calculates lifetime fuel consumption, or if indeed it does at all. There's a report on the dash that gives our effective mpg, but I suspect that resets with every fill-up. The last figure I saw was 73mpg.
Our choice to live in Nocatee has placed a high demand on personal transportation. There is no public transit anywhere nearby, though light rail that would run between St. Augustine and Jacksonville with a stop in Nocatee is rumored to be on the horizon. For day-to-day stuff, we're well served by the RAV4's 43 mile EV range. But to go to Jacksonville, we're hitting the tank on the way home every time.
In any event, at least in Florida, it's become clear to me that our vehicles are our greatest energy consumption devices, gas or electric. The house is a fraction of what the car uses, how small a fraction depends on how much driving we do. If we were commuting to work every day, it'd be tiny.
So I'm planning on up-sizing the power system when we get an EV. I spoke to one of the company techs some time ago, and it's possible to simply add to the array. By the time we do this, the Powerwalls should still be near 80% of their rated capacity. So unless there's some big economic incentive to replace them outright, I'll be looking to just add additional battery capacity.
With hurricanes and climate change, and a political climate that is increasingly hostile, this may be all somewhat uncertain, but I think it's wise to plan ahead. So I'm setting up an account now to hopefully save enough to pay cash when the time comes, rather than borrow again. We'll only be a few years from paying off the mortgage by then, so a loan won't be out of the question, but I'd rather not.
Looking at other ways to reduce consumption, I think I'll also be buying a heat-pump dryer. The dryer is a huge energy demand, and it'll be about 10 years old then, so about the time we'd probably be thinking about replacing it anyway. Likewise with the HVAC system overall. Ten years isn't necessarily "end of life" for a heat-pump, but Florida is a harsh environment.
I'm hopeful/optimistic about significant gains battery technology performance and pricing; and more modest gains in HVAC, though our developer-installed system is the minimum to meet building code, so we might make some significant gains there. We've already installed an induction range, and I expect that'll last for several years past this overall upgrade.
I'll be in my early to mid 70s by then, so it'll likely be the last "home improvement" project I'll have to undertake, though there's probably a roof replacement in there somewhere as well. I hope to try to minimize my overall "footprint" in my last years on this planet, short of becoming an ascetic. I recognize the sunk costs of resource extraction, manufacture and transportation kind of stretch out any ROI in terms of karma, but "You do your best, the rest isn't up to you."
Oh, almost forgot. This meditation was inspired by this.
06:35 Wednesday, 28 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 79.05°F Pressure: 1008hPa Humidity: 91% Wind: 5.75mph
A few years ago, I participated in something called the Northeast Florida Regional Leadership Academy, a program sponsored by an organization called the Northeast Florida Regional Council, an artifact of a time when Florida was actually a leader in managed development.
Anyway, once a month the class would attend a seminar hosted in one of the seven counties making up the region. I enjoyed it, I learned a lot. I think there should be more efforts like that, offered to more people, but whatever.
Anyway, the session in Flagler County, the one just south of me here in St Johns County, was held at Princess Place, which I'd never even heard of before. It's basically an Adirondack lodge built in 1887 on Pellicer Creek. Rich people, ya know?
I loved the place and figured Mitzi would enjoy seeing it. When we drove down to Kennedy Space Center earlier this month, I was reminded of it again as we passed it headed south on I-95. We have a friend who lives in St. Augustine Beach who we don't see often enough, and I mentioned we should make plans to pick her up and visit Princess Place.
So that's what we did last Saturday. Picked up Mary, had a nice lunch and headed south. It's not that far from here, it was only 25 minutes from where we had lunch. The lodge is only open for tours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and there's only one tour at 2:00PM, so we timed everything around that. We got there early enough to walk around the place a bit before the tour started.
Enjoyed the tour, drove a little around the preserve where they now have some cabins you can rent. Headed back up to St. Augustine Beach and had ice cream at some new place. One of those fancy places that doesn't have many flavors you expect, but a lot of weird ones. The chocolate brownie was very good.
It was at the tail end of that weather pattern that delivered severe thunderstorms with alarming regularity, and we managed to get everything done before one started. A very pleasant day, altogether.
Cumberland Island has more of that sort of thing if you're interested in how the rich vacationed or wintered in the southeast in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But Princess Place is a little gem anyway.
Thinking Out Loud
06:02 Wednesday, 28 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 79.07°F Pressure: 1008hPa Humidity: 91% Wind: 4.61mph
We've reached that time of the year when it's warmer outside first thing in the morning than it is in the house. Even more so these days, since I've started lowering the thermostat to 75°F when we go to bed to help facilitate sleep. (It seems to help somewhat, more for Mitzi than for me.)
This just means we're actively cooling the interior 24 hours a day now, and there is no time of day when stepping outside isn't something of an unpleasant experience resembling stepping into a sauna, one that has biting flies and mosquitoes and can give you skin cancer.
Florida, in other words.
It also means that my camera lenses will fog when I go out, until they warm up above the dew point, which is 77°F at the moment, while it is still 75°F in the house.
I'm thinking about how much "news" I consume. One of the things I didn't enjoy about Twitter was the constant stream of "alarming" messages. It's possible to replicate that experience in Mastodon, although somewhat diminished simply by virtue of the fact that I "follow" fewer people; and also by the fact that I spend less time on Mastodon. Less "engaged."
It seems I've filled that time with other digital media, like RSS feeds and Apple News.
In terms of RSS, the Miami Herald has a pretty good RSS feed of their news coverage. Which isn't necessarily what I'm looking for either. Much of their coverage includes wire reports of horrible things going on in other states. Murders, car wrecks, babies left in hot cars, dogs killing people. A ridiculous number of stories about lottery winners.
It's probably not essential for me to be aware of all these things, but I can't see a way to filter them out. I don't usually click through to the entire story, but the headline and the first couple of lines in the RSS item are usually enough to give you that sense of alarm.
Apple News is algorithmic in an intrusive way. Bookmark an article you want to refer to later, and next thing you know, you're getting those kinds of stories all the time. Dopamine, for instance.
Plus, I subscribe to Apple News+, which means I'm paying for this service. Well, I've blocked Fox News, the NY Times and CNN. Rather than simply not show stories from those outlets, the layout, although it is algorithm-driven to be personalized for me, always includes a big, ugly square that says in large letters, "You blocked this channel," like an accusation.
Just omit those sources from the presentation, Apple.
I'm thinking about how I can manage that. Maybe just look at it once a day, between 1800 and 1900, like we used to get the TV news. Get it off the home screen and bury it somewhere a few screens back.
All I know is I'm reading too much news, and it's not making me better informed, it's making me ill. So, I'm thinking about that.
Out loud, it seems.
Bluebird With a Case of the Mondays
08:44 Monday, 26 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 79.23°F Pressure: 1011hPa Humidity: 78% Wind: 8.05mph
I feel ya, bird.
07:15 Saturday, 24 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 72.91°F Pressure: 1012hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 5.75mph
Found a new blog I like via Mastodon. This is one of the redeeming features of social media, that it can surface people who are thoughtful and interesting in a way that more "mainstream" (Whatever that means today. Corporate?) channels can't.
I can't reconstruct the complete sequence, but I believe I saw someone I follow repost or reply to Jeff Atwood (@firstname.lastname@example.org). I think I followed Jeff on Twitter, the avatar and handle looked familiar. Anyway, clicked on his profile and checked his posts and gave him a follow.
A lot to digest there, but I'm looking forward to catching up.
07:01 Saturday, 24 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 72.73°F Pressure: 1011hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 4.61mph
Finished Collateral last night. It's only four episodes. More polemical than procedural. Ambiguous ending, requiring you to guess how it turned out for some of the characters. The clues aren't encouraging.
I'm sympathetic. I think it's worth a watch, but it's a bit of a slog.
05:24 Thursday, 22 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 69.71°F Pressure: 1009hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 8.05mph
I did see the Delta 4 Heavy, about two minutes after launch. Bright orange dot in the sky. Took some shots, but really very little to see. Didn't set up for a live composite, "long exposure" image because of the rain. It was only visible for about 20 seconds or so, in a layer of clear air I guess below the clouds.
04:33 Thursday, 22 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 75.24°F Pressure: 1006hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 8.05mph
There used to be a news clipping service for the U.S. government, or maybe just the military, called the Early Bird. It was fax'ed to whoever and then copied and distributed. I wonder if that's still a thing in the digital era.
Anyway, woke up and couldn't go back to sleep. Decided to see if ULA's Delta 4 Heavy went up and found out it's scheduled for launch at 0518. I probably can't see it from here because of cloud cover. It's been raining every morning for the past few days. But I've got the launch coverage going in a tab. I'll pop out and take a look if it goes up.
The map project is still alive, though it threatens to become an atlas. Still feels foolish more often than not. This normally would be an ideal time to work on it, but I'm in the foolish mode at the moment.
Watched the season finale of High Desert last night. Seemed like a more satisfactory episode than many of the previous ones. Perhaps because the pace kept me from dwelling on the sadness. Do I want another season? Not sure.
Started watching Netflix' The Diplomat and that's entertaining. Kind of like Madame Secretary meets The West Wing in Downton Abbey. Absurd and frenetic, but it's entertaining and London photographs well.
Also started watching the limited series Collateral, and that just seems depressing. I think we're being beaten over the head and shoulders about migrants, which seems unnecessary these days. Or at least, it doesn't seem to do any good. To wit: A missing submersible filled with ultra-wealthy thrill-seekers rallies extraordinary rescue efforts and news coverage, while 800 migrants drowning off Greece would be totally invisible were it not for the absurdity of rescuing rich people.
We'll probably never know the names of many of the migrants who drowned, but I'm just a mouse-click away from getting the bios on each of the morons who got on that sub. They won't have "funerals," they'll have "celebrations of life." "They died doing what they loved best." Living their "best lives."
Meanwhile, the migrants will remain anonymous, likely not even receive funerals, and died just trying to get a better life.
So it goes.
"No matter where you go, there you are." And drama follows.
Meta, (née Facebook) has plans to roll out a product that uses ActivityPub and the "fediverse" is all "a-twitter." (Heh.) Jesus, this stuff just keeps repeating itself. The internet sucks.
Future historians, should civilization endure at a level that permits the study of history, will have a hard time pinning down the "worst invention ever," the automobile, the internet or "smart" phones. Capitalism might be a winner. Forgot about that one for a moment.
(You can see why this is not a good moment to be working on a guide to "going placidly amidst the noise and haste.")
DP Review is only "mostly dead," which means it's "partly alive," and has met it's Miracle Max, so the forum fights can continue. The "gear" aspect of photography has finally left me. If dopamine mediates desire rather than pleasure, it's not inducing any bouts of GAS (gear acquisition syndrome) in me as I glance at photography news, which all seems boring and repetitive.
I watched a comparison of the 15" MacBook Air with the 14" MacBook Pro and spent a few minutes yesterday looking at Apple's refurb store. Noticed that I was feeling some pangs of irrational desire and closed the tab. Suspect that may return, but for the moment I managed to escape. My 13" MacBook Pro is mostly used in the recliner. I don't need "moar power" in the recliner.
My next new Mac will likely be an M3 iMac of some kind, or an M3 MacBook Pro with some external monitor. Go back to the arrangement I had before 2019, where I only had one computer, the 13" MBP Retina.
Okay, let's see if they light this candle. Hope you have a good day.
07:56 Tuesday, 20 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 71.56°F Pressure: 1007hPa Humidity: 91% Wind: 13.8mph
We watched Dungeons and Dragons, Honor Among Thieves last night. I guess Hasbro is trying to use its IP to build a movie franchise. I have no opinion on that. But the movie was entertaining. Just enough sly winks to make you feel like you're in on it without turning it into a farce.
Monday night we watched Maggie Moore(s), which was entertaining, though I think difficult to pin down. Dark comedy? Not great cinéma, but you can watch it and not feel like you were cheated out of your time.
In series TV, I stumbled on Deadloch on Prime and it's hysterical. Apparently it's in its first run, because you can't stream the whole thing yet. If it sounds appealing, wait a few weeks so you can binge watch it. It's a bit rude, crude and absurd but it makes me laugh more than any show about a serial killer should. My only complaint is they speak Aussie so fast, and over each other, that the subtitles blow by quicker than I can read them.
We've been watching High Desert on Apple TV+ and I'm ambivalent about it. I don't like any of the characters, but I find it's just fascinating watching Roseanna Arquette. She is what keeps me watching the show. It feels more sad than funny. Maybe it's supposed to?
Finally, we watched Take Care of Maya on Netflix yesterday afternoon. It's a documentary and I'd encourage anyone to watch it, and read some of the coverage about the case. It's tragic and infuriating; and while the things it's documenting don't exclusively happen in Florida, it's so very Florida.
You'll need to watch something else after, hence D&D above.
10:51 Monday, 19 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 87.03°F Pressure: 1010hPa Humidity: 68% Wind: 9.22mph
Shot this yesterday morning. This morning I'm making sure the script still works, and I remember how to do this...
Early indications are that it does, and I do.
07:35 Monday, 19 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 75.72°F Pressure: 1009hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 1.99mph
I've mentioned that I've noticed that I become much more self-conscious in the afternoon, that I'm able to work on "squishy" things early in the morning, less likely to get in my own way.
Another way of looking at that is that I become more self-judgmental (Emphasis on the mental?) as the day wears on. And that kind of revealed that what I'm really doing is being more judgmental overall.
So that was the topic my interior monologue on this morning's walk, minus a short break to photograph an osprey. (Unremarkable photo, but it was there, so...)
Some (Many? All?) spiritual traditions or religions emphasize something along the lines of "letting go" of judgment. "Judge not, lest ye be judged..." But what does that mean?
We're embodied beings, so we have visceral reactions to things before we've even formed a cognitive reaction to them. In fact, I believe that we often tend to reason backward from our feelings, if for no other reason than to rationalize or explain our feelings to ourselves.
So, short of uploading our minds into a disembodied machine, we're stuck with feelings that tend to precede our thoughts, so there's no "letting go" of that. And it does have value, your "gut" often knows things sooner than your mind.
I recalled a few things that help with that. The first relates to paying attention to what you're feeling. This particular intervention relates more to rumination, when you're feeling bad and stuck in some negative self-talk, "stinkin' thinkin'."
The idea there is that you identify the feeling. Embarrassment, shame, guilt, anger, loneliness, sadness, etc.
Then you figure out what you're believing that's helping to engender that feeling. Because the system is bi-directional. Feelings lead to thoughts, and the same thing works in the opposite direction. Certain cognitive efforts can lead to the expression of neuropeptides that result in a feeling within the body. Tight chest, flushing, anticipation, excitement etc.
So you examine the belief behind the feeling. "Nobody likes me." "I'm a loser, I screw everything up." "I'm fat, nobody will ever want me." Whatever it is. (Parenthetically, it's probably also wise to examine positive feelings, though they're generally not as immediately problematic.)
It's tough to look at those those thoughts, and maybe even tougher to really interrogate them. "Is this true?" And here you would examine those all-encompassing, extreme beliefs that contain words like "nobody," "everybody," "always," "never," because those are usually pretty easy to disprove.
If the belief is not true, the idea is "let it go," which is kind of hard to explain. What has happened is that you've interrupted the self-reinforcing negative feedback, "processed" the feeling with thought, and so the attendant feeling fades. Your brain isn't causing the same expression of certain kinds of neuropeptides that bind to certain receptors in the body that induce the feeling.
If the idea is true, then you consider what action you can take to do something about it. Again, this cognitive effort interrupts the negative feedback, and the feeling diminishes. The action itself isn't as immediately important as the idea of action. You "feel" better.
So that's kind of a self-care intervention when you're being judgmental about yourself.
What about when you're being judgmental about others?
This is trickier, because we reward being judgmental about others. And we can't escape forming judgments, and many judgments are valid and useful. If that guy seems sketchy, yeah, you probably shouldn't get in his car alone with him. Your body knows things before your mind does.
Put us on something like social media, and it's game on! Your judgments, that is to say, opinions, are validated by likes and shares. Positive attention. Yeah! Let's get some more of that!
And so you're at risk of getting stuck in this mode, judging others, which isn't necessarily helpful to anyone, others or yourself.
I think this is the thing that was really kind of eating away at me on Twitter. I could see what I was doing, and I wasn't happy about it. Now, somewhat by way of being kind to myself, I did try to be somewhat mindful about it. I sometimes thought twice about a quote-tweet that I could have posted that included a "sick burn," a hot take that I was pretty sure would get me a few likes and re-tweets. And I often didn't "like" or re-tweet a tweet that I thought was just too reflexively negative.
But overall, it was too easy. And like the article the other day about dopamine mediating desire more than pleasure or reward, I wasn't necessarily experiencing pleasure as I went about it. Especially because it didn't make any difference with regard to the issue I was opining about. It was feckless. But I sure wanted to do it.
There's another part of that social media aspect, but it also relates to our overall interaction with information, or "news," even outside of social networks, and that is the matter of arousal. We see something we're outraged about, we share it. Others see what we share, experience outrage and like it or share it. That's probably more than half of what I was seeing. Stuff people were outraged about, or thought were urgent and need to be shared.
That interior experience of outrage and urgency comes to feel normal, becomes the state we try to maintain, homeostasis.
All of which seems to contribute to something of a reactive amygdala. Now, the usual disclaimers apply. I'm an authority on nothing, I make all this shit up. Do your own thinking.
But it seems we become kind of hyper-vigilant, primed to look for "bad" behavior, in anyone not in our "in-group." Then you get the "ratio" effect, the mob-like reactions that pile on to certain people or tweets. Which doesn't help anything, but we approve of it anyway. We call attention to the "ratio" as validation of our feelings or opinions, and the unworthiness of the person being "ratio'ed."
Not helpful. To anyone. But we are addicted to it. Same stuff happens in Mastodon as on Twitter, although Mastodon has some features intended to minimize that. "Ratio" isn't rewarded on Mastodon, but can be the emphasis on outrage.
"No matter where you go, there you are." B. Banzai
So, how to heal the reactive amygdala?
I think there are two things, which are quite related under the heading of "mindfulness."
I recall when I had a regular meditation practice that I was much less reactive overall. I experienced more what I believe is called "equanimity." I think that sleep has an effect similar to meditation, although we all know people who are irritable in the morning. And I kind of am, actually. Especially if I don't sleep well. But it seems more sensitive to external stimuli, I'm not really beating myself up in the morning. That usually comes later in the day.
So there's the old joke about the master telling the pupil to meditate an hour every morning, and the pupil says, "I don't have time to meditate an hour every morning!"
The master says, "In that case, you must meditate for two hours every morning!"
And I have been beating myself up every day about not meditating in the morning. So I really need to figure out what's going on there.
Anyway, sleep and meditation seem to have some effect at dialing down the sensitivity of the amygdala, making it less reactive.
The other part is more directly related to mindfulness, and that is just paying attention to what you're feeling. In meditation, thoughts arise because that's what brains do, you observe them and don't engage, either with judgment or following them.
During the day, feelings arise, you notice them and don't engage. Because they pass.
Feelings pass. You're seldom wrong for having feelings, it's acting on them that can get you in trouble. This is the road rage rule. "Let it go."
The other key part is not to place yourself in an environment where those feelings are easily aroused. Like social media. Or watching the news, regardless of what flavor you prefer.
Okay, we're way, way past the tl;dr limit, and I need to get going. This is just me, figuring my shit out. Maybe it gives you an idea or something to think about. (Who am I kidding? Nobody reads this far.) Just remember, I make all this shit up. You have to do your own thinking. And work. Because none of this happens without effort of some kind.
The Shape of Things
10:01 Sunday, 18 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 80.74°F Pressure: 1008hPa Humidity: 78% Wind: 1.01mph
A note about shapes.
But first, a caution. You should never look to the marmot for tips about Tinderbox. I know just enough to be dangerous. Maybe not even that much. There are other places for that kind of help.
A correspondent has suggested that a particular construction in the previous post may be somewhat misleading.
"Oval notes are meant to denote "action" or "practice," something you do (or don't do)."
Notes in Map View may have a number of different shapes, a baker's dozen in the pick list. You can use a shape however you wish, it means whatever you wish it to mean; though you may want to record what it means in a note, because you may return to the project and wonder what it was you were trying to convey. I speak from experience.
The default shape is a rectangle. There are any number of ways to have the shape of a note in Map View be determined automatically or programmatically. I'm just assigning them manually as I'm trying to figure this out.
I did a little work this morning, and it definitely is the most productive time to approach it. Not a lot of work, but one thing I did do was to change the name of the file. The original effort, started in 2016, was Memento Mori. After seeing Jerry's Brain in action, I started this project as Dave's Brain.
My correspondent makes a good point about the subjective meaning of words, and the unintended consequences of careless language.
The file is by no means my "brain," nor are the contents exclusively "Dave's." It's a map. A map to perhaps help find a way to "be."
I don't know what the right name is yet, but for now it's called Being a Map.
Recalling, of course, that "the map is not the territory."
07:21 Saturday, 17 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 74.37°F Pressure: 1009hPa Humidity: 86% Wind: 5.75mph
Sometimes I get stuck trying to think of a clever title when I have at least a vague notion of what I'm going to post. For the moment, "untitled" will do.
The mapping project remains valuable, although progress has been very slow, which is to say, "little."
I get distracted as I go looking for information about Tinderbox in the forum. I read lengthy threads like this one, and then I get a case of the yips, or maybe "imposter syndrome."
I'm just not that smart. I mean, I think I'm pretty smart. Or I used to be, maybe not so much anymore. Who am I kidding? Maybe I never was.
On the map is a note shaped like an oval. Oval notes are meant to denote "action" or "practice," something you do (or don't do). The one I'm thinking of says "Don't compare yourself to others."
So, the exercise remains useful anyway.
I think I've also learned that if I'm going to make any progress, I'm going to have to work on this thing first thing in the morning. As the day goes on, I get more self-conscious, over-thinking everything, which just engenders doubt, which is a form of drag.
This morning is a bit of a loss. Perhaps as a way of ignoring the project, I decided to install the iOS 17 beta on my phone.
I'm late for my walk, but the sky has been threatening rain and I was hoping for better light.
I'll try again tomorrow.
One Think Leads to Another
06:23 Thursday, 15 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 71.96°F Pressure: 1011hPa Humidity: 81% Wind: 8.05mph
I was reading something yesterday, which, for a moment just now, I couldn't recall. Instantly, I thought of Jerry's Brain, and something like "This would never happen if I had Jerry's Brain." And now I'm irritated that I even know about Jerry's Brain, because I don't want my experience of my memory and its fallibilities to be forever associated with someone's digital scrapbook. Ugh.
But, happily, I did recall what I was doing, after I had that jarring little interruption. I was reading about Ridley Scott making a Gladiator sequel. It had been in the news recently due to an accident on set during a stunt scene, and I was surprised to learn there even was a planned sequel. Plus, right around the time I was feeling irritated, I realized I could check my browser history and figure it out.
One of the pieces on the sequel mentioned that Nick Cave had written an early treatment that kind of intrigued Scott, but got squashed when Russel Crowe said, "Don't like it, mate."
But that led to reading more linked things about Cave, which led to me buying two documentary films, One More Time, With Feeling and This Much I Know To Be True. I was watching the first, but still unaware of the circumstances of his son's death, so I made the mistake of checking Wikipedia.
I learned what I wanted to learn, but read some other extraneous crap that the folks who do that sort of thing thought was important to mention, got pissed off and stopped the film and turned on the news.
Well, the good thing about feelings, which is one of the points on the map I'm wrestling with, is they pass.
Knowing that some of the sort of people who edit Wikipedia have agendas and cherry-pick, I decided I wanted to know more about what Nick Cave thought, so I visited his blog. The first entry I clicked was answering a question about why he was performing at the coronation. I liked (feelings, they're everywhere) his answer, even though I kind of liked the question!
So I was relieved that it wasn't instantly apparent I'd made a mistake.
I should back up and also mention that a book, Faith, Hope and Carnage, is being promoted on the home page of his web site, and I ended up buying that. So I was probably primed to like what I read, but even so, I still think it was a good answer.
The second thing I clicked on is the basis for this post. I'll let you read it, but here's the quote that got me:
"It reminded me that none of us are ever really in control of our lives and that all we have is each other. I extend my love with the simple wish that I could do more. My thoughts and prayers are with you."
Another point on my struggling map is, "All we ever really have are moments to live, and each other." The idea is that anything we think we have can be taken away from us at any time. And any moment could be our last. Eventually, one will.
And so that statement, unsurprisingly perhaps, resonated deeply.
At first I was going to just post it on Mastodon, but then I figured it was too much for that kind of post. It belonged in the marmot.
I've been a lightweight Nick Cave fan since about 2007-ish. I may become a bigger fan after getting to explore some of his other work. But I like much of what I've seen and heard so far, Wikipedia notwithstanding.
11:39 Wednesday, 14 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 86.27°F Pressure: 1009hPa Humidity: 70% Wind: 13.8mph
Today is Flag Day. Coincidentally, it is the day, in 1945, Capt. Miller saved Private Ryan.
Which is just movie.
The Cartographer's Dilemma
07:38 Wednesday, 14 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 73.36°F Pressure: 1009hPa Humidity: 93% Wind: 5.75mph
This "mind map" idea, to use the various map views of Tinderbox to depict many of the things that I've learned, has been an interesting exercise. I'm reminded of what I think was something attributed to Poul Anderson, "There is no problem, no matter how complicated, that when looked at exactly the right way, does not become a thousand times more complicated."
Last time I mentioned this, I was thinking about how to orient the various ideas on the canvas. So I was moving things around, somewhat in the general vein of what I described, "self" in the center, "others" toward the outer edge, the "field of time" in between.
As I was doing this, I noticed that the notes really depicted different kinds of ideas, and so I looked for a way to depict each kind. I settled on shapes, using the default rectangle, a lozenge shape, and an oval. There are probably more kinds of ideas, but for now, three has been helpful.
Then I thought about perhaps using color to depict some aspect of an idea. This led to a bit of a rabbit hole on the psychological role of color. I haven't made any firm choices in that regard yet.
Yesterday was a bit of a loss as I spent a couple of hours running to the airport and back, and I get fairly unproductive in the afternoon. I watched some YouTube videos on using Tinderbox maps, and got some useful information but nothing that felt particularly inspiring.
I figured I'd spend some time on it this morning, when I'm generally more productive, less self-conscious about what I'm doing. So on my walk this morning, I thought about the map and got a little uncomfortable, not to say "discouraged."
Maps are problematic in many ways, because they can be misleading. World maps have problems with projection, which leads to relative depictions of size wildly out of proportion to reality. And we associate various unrelated values with size. There's the matter of "privilege," in which "up" seems to be a privileged dimension over "down," what's on "top" versus what's on the "bottom."
Then it occurred to me that putting ideas related to the "self" (subjective) in the center, reinforced the unconscious bias that each of us is the "center" of our personal universe, which is exactly the sort of unhelpful notion from which the "map" is supposed to lead the user away. It biases how we perceive the words and actions of others, in ways that can be erroneous or misleading. ("That guy cut me off!" No he didn't, he just changed lanes. He wasn't thinking about you at all. We could go into a long digression on this, suffice to say, players in the huddle at a football game aren't all talking about you.)
I thought I could flip that orientation, and place ideas about the self on the outer portions of the map, which suggests that our subjective perceptions are contained within our conscious awareness. That felt good, seemed to make more sense and might be more helpful or useful, assuming this thing has any utility whatsoever, apart from a thought exercise for me.
Then I thought about whether the "field of time" still made sense as an in-between zone. All "action" ideas belong in the field of time, because time is an essential element of action. I think the idea still works; but it did make my mind wander off (the map?) into how to depict attention, that faculty of consciousness that apprehends our "reality."
Attention can move through space and time, can get "stuck," and is always inherently related to self (subjective). The undisciplined use of attention, unconscious, habituated or hijacked, can be problematic. I started wondering how I could depict that graphically. Which made me think that animation might be helpful in that circumstance, that kind of animation isn't within the otherwise enormous set of tools Tinderbox offers.
But each note (idea) has an associated text field that can be put to good use. The question is how to depict the idea of attention on the map. Belongs to "self," but is intrinsically linked to time and can perform a convincing illusion of time-travel through memory and imagination. (Memory and imagination can elicit feelings, which gives them some aspects of present reality, although they have no genuine existence.)
So maybe include an "arrow of time" in the "time zone" ("Twilight Zone?")? Clockwise or anti-clockwise? Clockwise, of course! So memory resides in the anti-clockwise field, while imagination resides in the clockwise field.
Anyway, the walk ended about that time. It's muggy again in Florida, so I'm sitting here in the office drying out under the ceiling fan. I'll go make my breakfast and try to let my subconscious ponder this some more, then see if I can do anything useful. I thought I could put something together in a few days that I could show off at the meetup, but that seems unlikely now.
Which suggests some thoughts on motivation and sustained attention, and the power of intention.
Well, I'm hungry. We'll see how it goes.
Dopamine: Still a Hell of a Neuropeptide
13:47 Tuesday, 13 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 91.96°F Pressure: 1008hPa Humidity: 55% Wind: 10.36mph
In the weird way things sometimes go, I posted my thoughts on Tinderbox and The Brain yesterday, and this piece appeared on NPR.
So, in terms of "rewards," dopamine doesn't play a role in "liking" an activity or behavior; but it does mediate desire for an activity or behavior. Which kind of makes sense. I didn't like much of my experience on Twitter, but I did want to do it. And desire is the source of all suffering. (Usual disclaimers apply.)
I don't think this more complete understanding of the role of dopamine seriously alters my "thinking" on how our biology interacts with our technology to shape our behavior.
But I did laugh when I saw the piece!
Saving Private Ryan Again
05:44 Tuesday, 13 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 75.69°F Pressure: 1007hPa Humidity: 88% Wind: 5.75mph
I watched Saving Private Ryan again last night. The movie came out in 1998, but I didn't see it until 2003, which I know because I wrote about it in Groundhog Day. Groundhog Day has been offline since 2009, I think. But I still have the Tinderbox file I wrote it in.
Anyway, I made it nearly through the movie and kept wondering why I thought I could never watch it again. Then I got to the end and got punched in the gut again.
Damn you, Spielberg!
Back in May I mentioned that I might watch it again, along with Joe vs. The Volcano, Cast Away, and A Man Called Otto. Haven't watched the other three again, but I guess D-Day was on my mind because a little metal model of that C-47, the Tico Belle, sits on my desk now.
In each of those three movies, Hanks' character fails in an attempt to end his life; yet each finds a new reason to go on living. A meaning. In each movie, the character is leading an inauthentic life, one which doesn't proceed from the character's own center, instead being buffeted along by the uncaring vicissitudes of life and the illusions or misguided beliefs that frame them in his internal experience. (Been there, done that.)
In Ryan, Hanks' character, Captain Miller, wants to live. Wants to return home to his wife, and her love. There's a line he says to Reiben, after talking about getting Ryan and getting closer to going home. "I just know that every man I kill, the farther away from home I feel."
In that same speech, Miller wonders if he's changed so much that his wife will even recognize him.
"Changed so much." Personal transformation. Denial, bargaining, anger, depression, acceptance. Saving Ryan is part of a bargain. Ryan doesn't want to be saved. Ryan wants to stay with his unit, the only brothers he has left. This transformation has been ongoing throughout his experience in combat. His hand shakes. His men ask him, repeatedly, "You all right, captain?"
He's not all right. It's an impossible situation. Why not just bonk Ryan on the head, tie him up and carry him out? Because he knows what the rest of that unit will face. Because he knows there's no guarantee of even getting Ryan out if they tried something like that. There's no guarantee of any of them getting out, even if they left Ryan's unit at the bridge.
Or who they would ultimately be, even if they did?
Sergeant Horvath suggests "We might look back on this and decide that saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we were able to pull out of this whole godawful, shitty mess. Like you said, Captain, maybe we do that, we all earn the right to go home."
So is Horvath Krishna to Miller's Arjuna? That hadn't occurred to me in 2003, it does today.
Okay, just got back from my walk and I'm up against the clock. Mitzi's coming home and I have to go to the airport, so let's wrap this up. These aren't carefully drafted, considered, edited and posted. Nope, this is pretty much stream of consciousness.
Ya gets what ya pays for.
Anyway, I wondered if Miller was being unfair when he spoke to Ryan in his dying words, "Earn it." I'm still not sure, but I don't think so. Clearly, it was a burden Ryan had to bear his entire life.
"Earn it." Make it mean something.
I loved how Ryan asked his wife. "Am I good man? Have I lived a good life?" An aching question, surrounded by the dead who cannot answer. And I'm reminded of Neo and Trinity and her faith in him, because love is faith in action.
"Now get up."
Of course, it's just a movie. It wasn't even a "true story," but kind of based on some actual events.
But those rows of crosses and Stars of David are really there. And they should speak to us today, in their silent voices, "Make it mean something."
And we should ask ourselves, "Are we good people? Are we living a good life?"
And as we consider the answer, we should think about Nazi swastikas appearing outside Disneyland.
Who will answer for us? Who will have faith in us? Who will love us and tell us to "Get up."?
I don't know.
Dopamine Is a Hell of a Neuropeptide
07:33 Monday, 12 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 73.42°F Pressure: 1009hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 6.91mph
Someone's going to say dopamine isn't a neuropeptide. Whatever, close enough. We're not dispensing medical advice here. (I think it is though.)
I write about Tinderbox from time to time, and I write in Tinderbox all the time. And I've been doing that for maybe over 20 years now? A long time anyway.
There's something about Tinderbox that attracts me to it, even though I don't use one tenth of its capabilities, and probably don't even fully understand those. But it was love at first sight, and I'm still plugging away at it. (And paying for the updates.)
Well, Tinderbox is an application that is among a class of applications regarded as tools for thought. That idea has been around for a long time, perhaps getting its earliest most concrete expression in Doug Engelbart's Mother of All Demos. Some would say Vannevar Bush's As We May Think piece from July 1945 in The Atlantic deserves pride of place as the first modern conceptualization. I don't care. There's probably some obscure thinker/writer we've never heard of who thought of it first. Engelbart and Bush are two we remember best.
Tools for thought is enjoying something of a renaissance, not to say "fad," at the moment. It's the new hotness, which is cool because it attracts a lot of attention and energy and so some new ideas turn up that are worth thinking about.
Each weekend, I participate in a Zoom meetup of Tinderbox users, which usually includes the developer, Mark Bernstein; a super-user, Michael Becker; and the person with perhaps the deepest knowledge of Tinderbox other than Mark Bernstein, Mark Anderson. (Mark A. writes and maintains A Tinderbox Reference, which is what I've linked to in his name.) There are many regular attendees and we've all gotten to know a little about one another over the months, and it's a nice social event and often helpful in understanding Tinderbox.
From time to time we have a guest presenter from among the tools for thought community. Last Saturday, we had Jerry Michalski of Jerry's Brain. Jerry has been using an app called The Brain for 25 years, and has accumulated a repository of more that 500,000 "thoughts" (The name for the fundamental unit of The Brain. In Tinderbox, the fundamental unit is a "note.")
Here's the Tinderbox forum entry for last Saturday's meetup, and the link to the video is posted there along with many other worthwhile links to things that came up in the course of the discussion.
With all that as preamble, let me say I found the whole thing very stimulating. That is, I had a visceral reaction to what I was hearing and observing.
Let me back up a bit and say that we knew Jerry had agreed to join the meetup, so I'd spent some time looking at Jerry's Brain, and downloaded The Brain and played with it a bit. I will say that I was pretty impressed with both the application itself and Jerry's long-term experiment with it. But I did conclude that The Brain wasn't for me. Partly because of the price and partly because of the cognitive cost of learning a new app.
So, back to my reaction.
If you watch the video, at some point I ask Jerry what he's learned from that vast collection of thoughts. I shared that I collect a lot of stuff in Instapaper, bookmarks, and so on, and I'm often frustrated that I don't seem to get anything from it. I thought about his 500K thoughts and the 100K images I have in my Photos library and the dismay it often brings me. I asked him if, using a brain metaphor, if he had a practice of synaptic pruning, to kind of make his brain more usable in terms of insight.
Again, an aside, if you haven't watched the video or looked at Jerry's Brain or The Brain, what it does is that it allows a very quick and easy way to capture a brief "thought" and associate it with another "thought." In my experience, it's in these associations that we often find what I think of as "insight."
So I mentioned doing a bunch of reading many years ago, and associating Elizabeth Kubler Ross's five stages of grief with Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey. Though I don't think I managed to get it out, the insight I believed I found was that all personal transformation (hero's journey) involves loss (of the former self) and therefore a process of grieving. It illuminated many things I was experiencing in my life.
Well, I didn't articulate the question well enough I guess, because Jerry quickly showed the facility with which he could instantly recall his "thoughts" on Joseph Campbell, to include a critical review of his work for omitting women, which, of course. Joseph Campbell was a card-carrying member of the patriarchy and a bit of a racist and anti-semite too, whose job was to mansplain mythology to women at a women's college! (I once disagreed with AKMA about this, but I'm now persuaded he was correct. As a kind and generous person, he hasn't held it against me!) But Campbell still had some pretty good ideas.
What I didn't hear was how these associations have informed his life, his knowledge. What he has is a very, very impressive facility for memory recall, which I suppose can be an aid to thinking. I remember a lot of things imperfectly, like who said them or perhaps the exact construction, but I recall, I think, the idea.
What I think I was observing, because this was, of necessity a limited interaction, was a behavior shaped by the tool. That is, The Brain rewards the user with a very attractive, dynamic, colorful visual display of what are purportedly "one's own thoughts." Except most of what I was seeing wasn't "thought" but perhaps "data."
Yes, someone wrote a book critical of Joseph Campbell, Joseph Campbell is popular because of the PBS series with Bill Moyers, and his best-selling books; so having a contrarian or critical view may be a value-added proposition. But how has that informed anything that Jerry thinks? About Joseph Campbell, or Joseph Campbell's thought or work?
To return what I think I was observing, (Because, I'm not certain, this is an impression; not because I'm trying to be clever about tools for thought or The Brain or the brain. Which long-time readers will know I'm inclined to do from time to time.) is a person genuinely enjoying showing what he could do. He has an audience, he's receiving attention, he has a skill or a facility or a tool that allows him to do some things that most people can't do, and he's receiving positive attention, rewards, for showing that.
What it seemed like to me, is that the tool has kind of trapped Jerry into this habituated behavior. Even as he was interacting with us, he was recording thoughts. And, to be fair, habits are good things, unless they're not. What is the objective with collecting all these thoughts (photographs)? What is the intention? I saw no evidence of any.
Wanting to dig a little deeper, just to see if I could easily discover some evidence that would disprove my impression, or further illuminate it, I spent some more time in Jerry's Brain. It's a huge brain, so it's possible I simply missed the thoughts I was looking for. I went to the "My" node and looked at "My beliefs." Seemed pretty thin to me. Looked at some other thoughts related to the "My" node and didn't get any better evidence of insight.
There was a conference in August 2022 about tools for thinking. On this page, you'll see kind of a record of it by Kevin Marks, with an embedded video. It's six hours long, so I kind of skimmed around in it until I spotted Jerry and Howard Rheingold. It starts at about the 2:05 mark, because there's a lack of audio problem before then. It gets sorted out. Prior to that, there's a slide that says "Product Demo," but it isn't clear to me that the session is intended to be a product demo of The Brain. Maybe it is, which might alter my view somewhat, but I don't think it's intended to be a demo of The Brain.
If you watch that presentation, you'll see Jerry at a podium with a laptop, with Howard on the big screen behind him. They eventually sort out the sound problem. Early in the presentation, Jerry mentions something along the lines, "Eventually we'll go split-screen," nearly instantly they did, and there was Jerry's brain, with Howard shrunk to half his former size.
I watched the video at full resolution, my impression is that if I were in that audience, I would not be able to read what Jerry was entering in his brain. Not just because of the size of the text, but because of the dynamic nature of the display. So, what was the "focus" of the presentation? Who or what should the audience have given their attention to? Was it "Howard Rheingold, co-starring Jerry's Brain?"
Now, this isn't an offense of some kind. It's just interesting. Jerry is continuing to use his brain as Howard is speaking, recalling "relevant" points and recording other ones. I used scare quotes deliberately, because while the "thoughts" Jerry recalled with such facility, hardly seemed to be of some significant added value to Howard's thought as he was presenting it to the audience.
And Jerry is aware that he's receiving attention from the audience. He's performing up there. At one point, he even interrupts or speaks over Howard (at roughly 2:31:16), responding to some reaction in the audience to something he's doing, saying, "Hey, it's how I take notes!" Which I had to listen to twice because it was hard to make out over what Howard was saying, which was similarly garbled.
This is not to pick on Jerry. I seem to be acutely sensitive to how our dopamine reward system gets hijacked by our technology, partly because my departure from Twitter and that addictive behavior, and partly because of reading at least a part of Stolen Focus. I suppose one could also take the view that I'm "projecting" onto Jerry, but I don't think so or I wouldn't be writing this interminable post.
So, to the point! (Finally.)
I had a visceral response to Jerry's presentation at the meetup. A feeling. I tried to examine the feeling, see if it was true or had some genuine basis, external to moi. (My feelings are my problem. Well, they're mine, anyway.) I considered what it "meant" for me.
I must re-emphasize that I found The Brain very attractive. I genuinely enjoyed the facility with which it could record "thoughts" and make associations between them. I was amazed by Jerry's brain, though I was also confounded by it. What is the point?
We are embodied beings. Knowledge isn't merely the recall of memory. It has a visceral component, it's a feeling, an experience. Dr. Antonio Damasio might call it a "somatic representation." I didn't remember how to spell Dr. Damasio's name. I didn't have a "brain" to recall it for me; but I had the World Wide Web, so I just entered my best guess into Safari. Problem solved. Knowledge isn't simply the recall of memory. Memory informs knowledge, and is an essential part of it, but it's not sufficient by itself.
But I confess I do feel a strong affinity for that dynamic map. In a previous meetup, I'd asked Mark Bernstein if the hyperbolic map view might replicate much of what is going on in The Brain? I'm not certain that it can.
But serendipity awaits. Jerry's Brain made me think about intention. I associated The Brain's native map view with Tinderbox's map view. (I work in outline view almost exclusively. I tend to think hierarchically or categorically.) I wanted (desire) the rewards of experiencing my thoughts in a map view.
But how? For what? What was I going to map? What is my intention?
Much of our thinking occurs unconsciously, and the thoughts emerge to conscious awareness at some point by some process I don't think we understand. Often, or nearly always, accompanied by some sort of feeling.
And I'm feeling very excited. (Dopamine is a hell of a neurotransmitter.)
On January 16, 2016 I created a Tinderbox file called Memento Mori. I last opened it on October 24, 2021. I don't have The Brain to help me remember that, I certainly couldn't recall that; but I do have Mac's Finder, and I know how to use it.
Memento Mori is a document I began for my kids. I wanted to record for them many, if not all, of the things I've learned in this life. The important ones anyway. The one's that helped me have a better experience of my life. The experience of a good life. Because that was not always the case, and those lessons literally saved my life.
It's an outline, because I work in outline view. But this kind of knowledge doesn't lend itself well to hierarchical thinking. I never got very far with it, there was too much friction. Some friction is good, too much is painful. You know what I mean.
It's a map!
Yep, it's a friggin' map! Why? Because we all get a little lost along the way! I got very excited. All the boldface and italics and exclamation points are intended to invoke a feeling of excitement. We are embodied beings, and we share our feelings.
Yesterday I sat in front of a blank Tinderbox map view and just started putting down "thoughts." You could call them aphorisms. Lessons. Points of view. Attitudes. Just whatever came into my head, one thought prompting another. It wasn't long before I had over a hundred, which is about as many as I can fit on my 27" screen.
In Tinderbox, wise users learn to avoid premature formalization. Can lead to disappointment. Since I mainly work in two mostly static outlines, I've never really had to consider formalization before, but now I do.
I'm going to be duplicating this file in its current state, and then work on the duplicate. When I reach a certain point, I'll duplicate the file again to preserve that state, and then work on the duplicate. That way, if I find I've driven into a blind alley, I'll be able to get back quickly to where I started.
Yesterday, after I'd just done this free-form, free-association insertion of ideas, I started moving them around a bit. Kind of grouping the ones that seemed like they belonged together.
Now, how about this? Apple Vision Pro is near the top of the stack, last-in-first-out (LIFO) in my recent memory. What's that about? Spatial computing. What's a map? A spatial representation, granted, only two dimensions. But we have something like 2.5 dimensions in Tinderbox where a note in a map can contain a map!
So I began to think about where these ideas belong on a map. There are ideas that relate to self and ideas that relate to other. There are ideas for which time is the driving element. So I'm thinking of organizing these thoughts concentrically, with self in the center, the field of time in the next ring, and other(s) in the outer ring. I'm not sure exactly how that's going to work, but it feels good.
But these ideas also have an element of polarity, of duality, so maybe the left and right side represent opposite poles. Then there are ideas that are firmly grounded in earthly physics, biology, sociology. Grounded. And there are ideas that are more metaphysical, spiritual. So there's a vertical element to the map.
So, for now, I'm going to kind of move these ideas around into some kind of spatial representation.
That's before I get into linking, which is one of the features I'm not very familiar with in Tinderbox, so I want to tread cautiously here.
And I wonder about attributes, and what they might afford the map. Or other views.
All in all, I'm very excited.
Excitement is a feeling. And all feelings pass. But if you can get some momentum, some immediate rewards, if it's challenging, but just challenging enough, you can find the motivation to keep going.
Tinderbox is an app that rewards intention.
One of the little thoughts, or aphorisms I put down is, Intention is a super-power.
We'll see how it goes...
06:08 Monday, 12 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 72.1°F Pressure: 1006hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 3.44mph
An update on some things I've been watching.
The Silo continues to be interesting/entertaining. Another onion layer revealed last week.
It seems espionage series are enjoying renewed attention. I watched The Recruit, and Treason. I enjoyed Treason more. Less of the "good old ultra-violence," and more genuine tension. Treason earned mixed reviews, but I think it's better than many of the critics thought. Some complaints about the leading man casting, but it was fine by me. I liked that it was only five episodes.
The Recruit has been renewed for another "season." It's much better than Citadel, and I really liked Max; but it's another one of those series like Jack Ryan that just goes over the top on the "action." It's better than Jack Ryan, by the way. At least, I think it is.
Speaking of which, "the final season" of Jack Ryan drops at the end of the month. Trailers look meh.
I am looking forward to season 3 of Slow Horses.
I've watched the first two episodes of the three(?)-part Arnold Schwarzengger biography. Cautiously suggest it's better than I expected. Sly Stallone looks awful, btw. Part 3 includes his political career, which I'm less interested it, but I'll watch it for completeness.
Last night I rented Blackberry, which was dubbed a "comedy." I don't know where they got that from. Pretty good business drama. Not much funny about it.
I cancelled my Max subscription. I think what I'll do if things like House of the Dragon return is wait until the whole series has been streamed, then subscribe for a month and binge it along with any other special attractions, then stop the subscription. I have no interest in paying for whatever Discovery is shoveling out. I expect if that catches on, they'll make it an annual-plan, in which case, no.
Haven't finished reading Stolen Focus. Got distracted.
09:22 Saturday, 10 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 77.67°F Pressure: 1009hPa Humidity: 84% Wind: 12.66mph
I watched the WWDC thing, ("State of the Union"? "Keynote"? I don't know. The one with Tim Cook and all the videos and the "one more thing.")
Apple has been something of a lightning rod ever since it became an "overnight success." It draws scrutiny and sharp opinions no matter what it does. And there's just something perverse about human nature that causes people to want to hope for successful people or entities to fail, regardless of what they're doing.
I'm not the Apple fanboy I once was, but I do believe that some corporations are more humane, more ethical, than others. That doesn't mean they're perfect, never inhumane, or never unethical; just that if I had to choose between Google, say, or Apple, I'd pick Apple every time.
I think there are unintended, undesirable consequences of our hyper-connected, always online selves. I think the automobile is the worst invention of all time. I think the smart phone has a very good chance of taking its place. I think Apple has at least some self-awareness in that regard. Not enough, perhaps, but it's a corporation with shareholders in a capitalist culture. Short of just voluntarily going out of business, I don't know what people expect.
As regards Apple Vision Pro, I don't think anyone would be smart betting against Apple. I'm impressed by the device. Like everyone else, I'm not sure what I would use it for, but I want one. Same as I did when I bought an Apple ][+ in 1982 or '81, I can never remember.
$3500? Big deal. My iMac, which I bought in 2019 and spec'ed to last me seven years, cost $3700. Yeah, I'm "well-heeled." My iMac will receive it's last OS update with Sonoma, so I'm not sure it's going to technically "last" seven years. I'm sure it'll work for many more years after that, and hopefully Apple will offer security updates for at least a few years. But the price wasn't shocking to me. I hadn't been following the rumor mill, and as Mitzi and I watched the presentation, our guesstimates tended northward. I was guessing $7999 before the big reveal at $3500, so I was impressed.
AR/VR devices are happening. It's not as though the marketplace is going to just collectively decide, "Nah, don't think so." At least, not yet and not for several more years.
If it is going to decide, shouldn't the best possible products make it to market to inform that decision? And what if Samsung or Google built a device almost as good as Apple's, or better? Only, they knew they had something they wanted very badly in that eye-tracking data? At least Apple is putting stake in the ground and letting the market know that this type of information may be valuable, but it should be private.
I'm happy to see Apple enter this space, and move the debate forward. I don't think anyone knows, yet, what this thing may turn out to be. Personally, I'd like to be able to experience far away places without having to fly there.
I saw someone post something about it being a "jackpot" device. A toy for the well-heeled to have a better experience in a degraded world. Well, the world is degrading just fine on its own. And the well-heeled will always have a better experience.
I say kudos to Apple for bringing this thing to market. I'll almost certainly buy one. Will it be a wise purchase? Probably not. The wisest thing I could probably do would be to save all my money and leave it to my kids so they'll have a better chance to survive in a degraded world. And I may choose to do that at some point.
But I'm not there yet.
09:14 Saturday, 10 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 77.67°F Pressure: 1009hPa Humidity: 84% Wind: 12.66mph
I've been a client or patient of Mayo Clinic's Community Internal Medicine department for over twenty years. I haven't been seen since before COVID because, well, COVID. But I had been corresponding with my care team about vaccinations and so on.
Well, I figured it was probably about time to get seen, check how my kidney is doing, get my hide inspected for suspicious moles or lesions and so on. Went to schedule an appointment and discovered I've been dis-enrolled.
With no notice. No warning. Nothing.
Many phone calls, lots of wasted time on hold. It turns out I'm too old. You see, Mayo no longer offers primary care to Medicare patients, Tricare for Life or not.
Very disappointing. Perhaps more so because of the gratuitous telephone messaging about putting "patient care first" while waiting on hold and not receiving a return phone call when one was promised.
So now I have to figure out a primary care solution. Or I can just go without periodic testing and wait until I develop something catastrophic and go to emergency room like most of the rest of America, I guess.
Don't get old, boys and girls. It'll kill ya.
Nothing personal. Just a business decision.
08:18 Saturday, 10 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 74.19°F Pressure: 1008hPa Humidity: 92% Wind: 3mph
It's been a while.
We went to Kennedy Space Center last weekend for my birthday. Mitzi had made reservations for a lengthy bus tour of the launch complex, so we had to be there by 1100. I was surprised a bit by the amount of traffic heading into the complex, and grateful for a last-minute Apple Maps update that took us by another route and likely improved our position in the line.
After hustling through security and the ticket gate, stopping by the restrooms (line at the women's because, of course) and finding the bus tour we discovered our tour had been cancelled. Briefly, when Mitzi booked the tour, SpaceX wasn't scheduled to launch on the 3rd. Later, I learned that there was a launch scheduled that day, and we wondered if they'd stop the bus so we could get out and watch. We were certain they would.
Well, they didn't have to. Any time there's a launch scheduled, the only bus that runs is the one that takes you out to the Saturn V exhibit. Mitzi had questions about refunds, but we didn't get those answered until we left the park and stopped by guest services. Because she booked the tour through AAA, she still hasn't been refunded, but she's confident she will.
As it happened, the launch was scrubbed.
I was surprised that Kennedy Space Center is mostly like a theme park these days. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but it certainly wasn't what I expected. Lots of lines and attractions, lots of people too. I'd say it's great for kids.
I did enjoy it though. The Saturn V exhibit is nearly identical to the one in Huntsville, Alabama. Worth visiting, even if you've seen it before. You get to touch a lunar rock, I passed. It's more like a pebble, and has been touched by thousands of people. I'm sure they have to replace it periodically due to wear.
The difference between Huntsville and KSC is the entrance, which has an attraction that Huntsville doesn't. You queue up in a room that shows slides of 60s cultural icons, then a short film about Kennedy's goal to send men to the moon in a decade. Then you're ushered into a small amphitheater, which has the launch control consoles from the actual Saturn program at the front. Videos play on three screens above it, while audio from the the Apollo 11 mission is played and the consoles light up in sequence with the events, culminating in the display of the liftoff on the three screens accompanied by a very loud soundtrack. It was pretty cool.
The highlight of the visit was the Atlantis exhibit, which is very well done. Same sort of procedure as the Saturn exhibit, although there is no amphitheater, you're standing the whole time and the line was rather lengthy.
I was disappointed that the buses that run out to the Saturn exhibit were all diesel, though there is a large solar farm at the center. I don't think it generates enough power to run the visitors' attractions, but it's fairly substantial. Outside of the base, you may pass rather a significant FPL facility. (Not solar. I'm just commenting because I suspect KSC has rather large power requirements with cryogenic cooling and so on.)
We were staying at a kind of boutique hotel in Cocoa Beach and by then of course we knew SpaceX was doing a StarLink launch on the 4th. We went up on the deck at oh-dark-thirty only to learn it had been delayed. We returned about 0815 and got to see it go up. I only brought a 150mm lens, which was an error.
I thought we'd see the launch on the 3rd from the Space Center, and I knew I'd want to be taking a lot of photos so I debated between carrying the 12-100mm/f4, which is a very sharp but somewhat heavy "pro" lens, or my 14-150mm/f4-f5.6 zoom. I wasn't going to wear the Cotton Carrier G3, so I wanted something light. I removed the RRS tripod plate, mounted the 14-150 and used my sling, thinking I'd be seated much of the time on the bus tour so I wouldn't have any back issues.
I brought along the 12-40 as a backup lens in case the 14-150 failed (It's more than a decade old, a "super-zoom" with internal ribbon cables. It hasn't failed yet, but it had been my most-used lens, so I'm not certain it'll be there when I need it.)
In hindsight, since we were going by car, I should have just loaded my bigger bag with a larger assortment of lenses. I needed something much wider than 12mm on Monday, and 150mm didn't serve me as well as 300mm might have, or 400mm.
As to witnessing a launch from Cocoa Beach, very cool. You can definitely hear it, though several seconds after it actually launches. We did not hear a sonic boom, which was unusual according to the landscaper we spoke to. Perhaps due to atmospheric conditions, I don't know. Visually, it was of course more impressive than what we're used to over 100 miles north, but it was the sound that really made the experience. I can barely imagine what it must have been like when a Saturn V when up, or a Space Shuttle. The SLS is likely equally as impressive.
On the way down, we saw a billboard for a warbird museum, and we looked it up while we were staying at the beach. It's the Valiant Air Command, and they have a large collection of military aircraft, many of which are restored to flying condition. It's in Titusville and well worth visiting if you're in the area. Admission is a bit steep, perhaps, at $22.00, but they do some remarkable work.
The highlight of that visit was the Tico Belle, a WW II C-47 that flew three missions on D-Day, two airborne paratrooper drops and a glider tow. It also flew in nearly every operation subsequent to that, including the Battle of the Bulge and Operation Market Garden (A Bridge Too Far). Later it participated in the Berlin air lift. Then it was transferred to Denmark where it became the official aircraft of the king and queen of Denmark. It was eventually returned to the Air Force and finally ended up with Valiant Air Command.
It still flies today, and participated in relief operations to the Bahamas following a recent hurricane. It's been restored to its D-Day configuration, except a toilet that was installed in the tail for the king and queen is still there. Not sure it's "fit for a king," but it's there. We were able to go aboard and look around.
Of course, we did this on the 6th of June, so I was feeling kind of gooey during the whole thing.
We headed home after that, stopping at Buc-ee's for chopped brisket sandwiches. I watched the WWDC presentation on my phone as we neared home, but that's another post.
Anyway, that's the weekend update.
So Long, Ted Lasso
07:23 Thursday, 1 June 2023
Current Wx: Temp: 74.21°F Pressure: 1009hPa Humidity: 86% Wind: 9.22mph
Enjoyed the series finale of Ted Lasso. Seems like they left enough hooks for another season sans Ted, though I don't know if that would be a good thing or not.
I love the series, the characters. I'm glad I was introduced to so many talented actors. I know I'll miss looking forward to new episodes, but I also know I'll enjoy re-watching it many more times.
It'd be cool if Trent Crimm's book, The Richmond Way, was a real book. I hope it is. Seems like an opportunity.