Sunday, January 31, 2021

Outdoor Writing

Montezuma Well, in Yavapai County, Arizona


They say write what you know. I've been into outdoor sports since I was a tiny child. I've accumulate quite a bit of experience and knowledge of several outdoor sports, yet I still find myself struggling to write about adventure in the outdoors without researching topics in detail. I worry over accuracy, even though I'm writing fiction.

As an avid reader myself, I know how fast you can lose a reader with an inaccurate detail, if they are knowledgable on the topic. I still continue with it, trying to use detail only where necessary. You can also lose a reader by providing uninteresting details to someone with less interest in the topic than you. The safe middle ground seems to be to provide as little technical detail as possible, and stick to storytelling. That's my approach.

My new novel is growing at a snail's pace. I'm sitting at 3600 words right now, which is not much considering how long I've been working on it. But the problem is that I've been to 3600 twice, because I keep writing, find myself unhappy with what I've written, and throw it out.

It's moving forward like a glacier. It grows on snowy days, then shrinks during warm dry spells in between. Fortunately we are buried under a think blanket of snow here in Flagstaff right now. It's like planet Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back, and the sidewalks a like the rebel trenches in front of the hidden base. This allows time for writing.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Megasnow

Clearly the snow along the fence is even deeper. I have no idea how much I've gotten at my house over the last three days but upper 20s to 30 inches might be a reasonable guess. Or even more.

Flagstaff can go for weeks without any rain or snow, then when snow does arrive, it sometimes comes in quantity. Since I've lived here, we usually have gotten about one event per winter that I call megasnow, where we get 30 to 50 inches within about 3 or 4 days. It's been so dry for so long that I'm glad for it, even though I have pulled strange muscles shoveling. When you get a storm this big, it's necessary to remove snow more than once. If you just wait until you have 30 inches of snow sitting around, the job becomes really difficult to complete in a single session.

I've definitely got cabin fever, and can't wait to get out on a hike or run. I'll probably snowboard this weekend, but it isn't the same.



Friday, January 22, 2021

Food Container Stockholm Syndrome

Hillshire Farm brand packaging for cold cuts. They are perfect sandwich boxes, I assume by design, but also hold just about one meal worth of food of almost any type.


Not that I'm implying I'm hostage to my relationship, but when you get involved with someone, you start to be influenced by the practices and beliefs of the other party. It's a kind of Stockholm syndrome of the willing.

Since I've been a bachelor my entire life, I have this problem that cooking recipes for one is troublesome for complex dishes. Most of the recipes are intended to feed at least 4 people. My habit was to cook it and then try to eat up all the leftovers before they went bad. This often led to food being thrown out, because you get sick of it after a couple days.

My girlfriend prepares meals for her family for several days in advance on the weekend and then stores the leftovers for later, freezing if necessary. This requires a lot of food storage containers. Since they cost money, she repurposes original food packaging containers and has many of them.

I've adopted this practice and now find my cabinets and freezer full of repurposed containers. I especially like the Hillshire Farm "sandwich" boxes which they use to package their cold cuts. The photo is only a small portion of what I have.

Of course, this applies to other things as well, many more important than saving leftovers. For instance, I started going to my girlfriend's church. A year later I follow a bunch of Lutherans on Twitter that I do not know in real life. What other ways are we influenced by our relationships?

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Into the Multiverse

A microwave survey of the entire sky of the earth. This is a way of looking at the universe as we know it. By NASA - http://wmap.gsfc.nasa.gov/media/101080, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9624700

 

My official position is that the multiverse doesn't exist. This, I admit, is based upon the non-intuitive nature of the concept. I don't see any other universes around here, do you? 

That's a pedantic oversimplification, but it gets to the heart of my understanding of the universe. In my experience, natural processes are sometimes counterintuitive when you lack information. When you've learned enough, they make intuitive sense.

Much of physics is like this. I've always shared Einstein's skepticism about uncertainty. For the same reason, I dislike the multiverse being impossible to observe or measure directly. It seems a very convenient fact for theoretical physicists that we can't possibly confirm their calculations in the real world. As far as we know, if the multiverse exists, there is no way to cross from one universe to another to make direct observations.

Nonetheless, there have been a few times that I had dreams that seem to cross the multiverse. In the dream, I am aware I slumber and dream, but when I try to wake myself, I wake up in the wrong universe. The bedroom looks wrong. Furniture is in the wrong place. Doors are present where before there were none. There are people present that I do not know.

I conclude I'm still asleep and try to wake myself again, only for the process to repeat. It's as if I'm waking in the wrong universe out of the infinite possibilities of the multiverse. This can happen several times before I wake in the correct universe. These dreams unnerve me a little. I feel trapped in sleep, or even lost in a maze of universes, and must try to find my way back to the correct one.

Maybe the multiverse is real?

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

New Trail

New trail under I-17, part of the Flagstaff Urban Trail System (FUTS). Not that scenic but there are some meadows and pine forests to walk through, and some interesting flood control structures. Or ride a bicycle.
The trail emerges from Fort Tuthill County Park to cross under Beaulah Blvd.


When new trail is constructed anywhere nearby, I find it difficult to resist the urge to explore it. This particular segment of new trail was not spectacular, but since it is new, it was worth visiting. It will also provide a safe way for me to ride my bicycle to the other side of the interstate without risking being run over on the busy routes where I had to share the road with heavy traffic in the past. It also goes under a busy frontage road. I'm glad to have it.

Anyway, it's always worth going somewhere new.

There won't be any new trail for a while though:



Saturday, January 16, 2021

Civil War II

By Thure de Thulstrup - website of the Old Print Shop, New York City, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6728114


Lex Fridman: Are we headed toward a civil war?

A week or two ago I watched Lex Fridman interview Eric Weinstein, and Lex asked if Eric thought we would have another civil war. Weinstein replied that he believes we are already in a revolution. Historians often don't label the start of a war or give it a name until much after the fact.

I think yes, we are in a low grade civil war. It started the day George Floyd was killed by a policeman and has only escalated since. Both sides have become increasingly strident and their activities have become increasingly "direct." City centers and business districts have been burned, police officers have been assassinated, and the Capitol building has been ransacked in an apparent attempt to overthrow Congress and overturn an election. Now the capital city is occupied by tens of thousands of soldiers.

It's a war, Civil War II.

Power is about to be transferred to the Democratic Party, so they control the military, and therefore have the upper hand. But they have a problem in that the military is fundamentally conservative, like over 80% by most estimates, and the Democrats show every sign of instituting policies that are sure to infuriate the conservative part of American society. They have already signaled the intention to disarm their political opponents with very strict gun control laws and purge the military of right-wing conservatives. I expect them to also try to purge the civil service.

In my opinion, the Democrats do not have sufficient mandate from the voters to do these things, nor are they likely to accomplish anything other than provoke even stronger resentment and violent resistance, but they are treating all criticism as sedition right now. They certainly aren't listening to moderate voices.

There may be no battles with tanks rolling across the countryside, but I think we can expect talk of secession to increase very soon. My guess is that a flashpoint will blaze up at the next mid-term elections in 2022. If Republicans are not able to regain at least one branch of Congress, it's going to be "game on" for the break-up of the country.

Jack of All Trades

By Enoch Lau - Own work (photo), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1586330

 . . . master of none.

I have too many hobbies and interests. I probably have too many college degrees. I try to be too many people at once.

Unfortunately this is a habit I formed early and it has influenced my career. Although I have generally been successful, I think I would be farther if I had specialized in a particular area and stuck with it longer. Within the field of Healthcare Information Technology, I can work on many different types of systems and data. I can solve a wide variety of problems, implement diverse systems, etc. But I don't have very high skill in any one area.

There are a few people smart enough to take on several disciplines and be high achievers in all of them, but these people are truly rare. Not everyone can be an Elon Musk or Francis Bacon (or Roger Bacon). One bit of advice I might have for young workers at the beginning of their career is to focus on one thing and become a true expert in the field. This might serve you better.

On the other hand, you need to be able to deal with change. But it isn't necessarily something you should choose later in life. It's good to change early, more difficult to change later.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Mid-Century Modern

This ugly thing.
Photo By George Nelson - Brooklyn Museum, No restrictions, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33497765


I grew up in a world of mid-century modern furniture design, albeit near the end of the period. I liked it ok when I was a kid but I don't see why it needed to come back. I think the Millennials and post-Millennials see it as "vintage" or classic. To me it looks like cheapness and evokes an era of inferior plastics and adhesives. The post-WWII era featured a lot of experimentation with materials and as a consequence furniture delaminated, colors faded, and fell apart. I suppose the early experimentation was worthwhile but I find it a forgettable design trend. Yet people who were never born when it was in use "remember" it, and now it sells.

I like simplicity in design, but mostly with natural materials, or with more elegant lines. The simple plastic and metal structure and details of mid-century modernism typically look either utilitarian, or simply cheap to me.

There is no accounting for taste.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Saguaro

Saguaro, the symbol of the American Desert Southwest.


I enjoy hiking in the lower Sonoran Desert at least once a year, which means during the winter. People who live there can get up very early in the summer and hike before sunrise up until an hour or two after sunrise without getting cooked to death. Living in Flagstaff, I must settle for the 4 months of the year when the temperatures are reasonable.

Usually the Sonoran Desert is brimming with life in winter, but we've been in an extended drought, and I'm amazed anything still lives. I hiked on the Black Canyon Trail to enjoy the saguaro cacti and the Agua Fria River. It was nice right along the river, but most of the rest of the desert was drier and more brown than usual. There were few wildflowers, no bees, no tarantula hawk wasps, just a few birds flitting around, a lot of dry grass, and some cows. How do they even browse on such a landscape? It's depressing. I hope for more precipitation soon.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Ransack

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse


I was working from home the other day and turned on NPR to listen to whatever was on and found out that a giant mob had overrun the police and rushed into the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. I expected something like this at some point, but it didn't reduce the sense of shock.

I have to admit I laughed at the ridiculousness of it, especially when I saw the photos of middle aged grandpas and guys wearing dead animals on their heads roaming around in the Senate chamber and offices. It wasn't really funny though. Four people died in a lost cause. It was a senseless, yet also distinctively American moment in history.

As the late election approached, I thought there were three likely outcomes possible, two of them bad, and only one with stability. A Trump victory would have brought immediate street violence to every town and city in America. A Biden victory with the Republicans retaining a slim majority would have enabled balance of power and would have been stable, though probably unproductive. We are living the third possibility, a Biden win with a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, which has already brought a different type of violence. This is only the beginning of our troubles.

Biden is a mainstream liberal, and except for silly behavior at times, is relatively moderate compared to others in his party. The problem is, that the Democratic Party has been radicalized right down to the grass roots, and he's in his upper 70s and I doubt he can restrain them. They will very quickly attempt legislative initiatives that will be intolerable to the heavily armed, conservative segment of our society.

Any amount of trouble you can imagine will come of this. Right wingers already ransacked the Capitol and sent Congress fleeing to a secure location, and this is only the beginning. We are really in for it. 

Stay safe, friends.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Novelization

A late December snowstorm provided decent skiing conditions. I enjoyed having a few days off work.


I began work on my new novel over the last couple of days, no composition completed but researched and built accumulation of ideas and memories. I plan to tap into real life events to create scenes and circumstances. I will also use real places, though probably under pseudonyms. The plot will be fictional, but some of the details will be the novelization of real events.

I got the Moderna vaccine the other day and it feels like I'm a different person. This effect, I assume, is purely psychological and not really a physiological effect of the vaccine itself. On the other hand, it is experimental technology. I took it willingly. It isn't the first time I took a risk, nor do I consider it the biggest risk I've ever taken.

It's time to start planning more travel to accumulate more memories and places to use.