Descriptions of the Nondescript

Be Proud of China

I've been in Shanghai for four of the last eight weeks. I'm to return from my second trip in a few days. I've had some time to walk around by myself, to explore, and to meet a lot of people here.

I'm struck by how completely different this country is from the one we were told about when I was a kid in the 1970s. These people aren't oppressed, they're not sweating in stinking hovels, and they're definitely not living under Communist economic rule.

It's true there are vestiges of the old authoritarian ways. The Great Firewall of China supposedly "protects" them from evil foreign sexy web. Instead, its true purpose seems to be to help locally created companies thrive selling services like search and chat and social networking to Chinese consumers who eat that shit up like nobody I've ever seen.

Almost literally everyone has a smart phone, mostly either Apple or local manufacturers. And they use them 24x7 for every aspect of life. WeChat is ubiquitous in every day Life. It's like a combination of Facebook, Snapchat, Android/Apple Pay, and iMessage.

People don't use cash. They use WeChat to pay for their lunch, coffee (yes, there are Starbucks here), or to buy groceries. They meet and become friends on WeChat by scanning QRcodes with their phones. They use WeChat like business cards and contact lists and to hail a cab.

Shanghai is unbelievably impressive. This city went from 500k people in the 1990s to 25 million now. It's a modern and well planned city with functional freeways and a density that only Asian cities seem to be able to pull off. And at night the place is brilliant with every tall building (and they have a great many of those) covered in moving video or light shows. There must be trillions of LEDs in Shanghai. Even the ramps connecting the raised highways with surface streets are decorated with blue LEDs along their edges.

There's an excitement of possibilities here. The people of Shanghai appear to believe they're building the Jetsons future - to sell to the rest of the world of course. And they're justifiably proud of their accomplishments and those of their great country.

China is not just rising. China is risen. They deserve to be a great world superpower just as the US did in the 20th century. They're not without their flaws, certainly. But China is now in many ways what my own country was when I was young and no longer is - youthful, exuberant, and full of promise. I wish I could read and speak Mandarin.

Being Laid Off Draws a Hard Vacuum

I was laid off yesterday in a move that, as it was explained to me, was part of a "corporate restructuring". The company where I'd worked for the last sixteen years now has a bright new CEO (whom I like a lot, based on very little data) and is planning to move ahead in major new directions. They were moving some pieces around on the board, cleaning out a little bit of dead wood, retargeting their resources. Evidently they felt I was looking a little undernourished — and probably overpaid. I could argue they were absolutely wrong and insane to let someone of my calibre go, but that would be a supremely self-serving thing to do, wouldn't it?

I have to say that after walking a couple of miles from the office in the hot Seattle afternoon I found it pretty easy to get over being hurt and supremely pissed off. In fact, I saw, this might be one of the best things to happen to me in a long time, career-wise. To be honest (and I always try to be), I had been getting a little sedentary in my old job. Not in the ways that would lead to me actually being redundant or suitable to be laid off, mind you. But in my own mind. I was finding myself dreading each day whacking away at the same old problems, no matter how comfortable and familiar they'd become.

Today I set my course upon a new, hopefully happy trail. I'm hoping I'll find a way to pay my bills long before I have to start having to dip into my retirement savings to do so. We'll have to see how it turns out.

Evolution of Thought


Our brothers and sisters in Canada are moved to make a public statement of support and transformation. We are in desperate need of something like this in the USA.

We've moved from a values-driven, caring, compassionate society to one that is divided. This division can be traced back at least to political machinations begun in the 1960s that created a schism in our country where the very values that should bind us all are treated with disdain and are mocked - not by a small group of misguided and warped bigots in secret, but in public and with frequent agreement and affirmation. The very idea that "political correctness" could be mocked by people who claim as their heritage a Christian set of values is patently ludicrous, yet we see this as commonplace in daily conversations.

How did this happen? It's very clear how it was done. It began as a deliberate manipulation of the thoughts and minds of good, solid people to create in them a distrust and abhorrence of their neighbors and fellow countrymen - those upon whom we all inter-depend. Many have been led, slowly, gradually, without seeming to be led, toward a set of beliefs that would never have been thinkable when the process was begun years ago, but has become acceptable through this incremental evolution.

Conservatives were well aware of this shift and its bad effects even in the early years. In a 1994 interview, by then retired Senator Barry Goldwater said, "When you say 'radical right' today, I think of these moneymaking ventures by fellows like Pat Robertson and others who are trying to take the Republican party and make a religious organization out of it. If that ever happens, kiss politics goodbye."

From Conservapedia:

In response to Moral Majority founder Jerry Falwell's opposition to the nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor to the Supreme Court, of which Falwell had said, "Every good Christian should be concerned", Goldwater retorted: "Every good Christian ought to kick Falwell right in the ass."

I find myself appalled and dismayed at the shocking lack of compassion and trust and respect we see routinely displayed in our media's coverage of the political system, everyday interactions between everyday people, and in the entertainment we all consume. We've sunk to new lows with each passing decade of my life, and we seem destined to continue to do so, slowly abolishing in our society the very values that made this country what it was and is no longer.

Our Founding Fathers would be instantly disgusted if they were to appear here and now and witness what we've done with their imperfect, and yet powerful and promising beginning. I wish I could somehow show the perspective I've been gradually acquiring to everyone. I believe it would show the stark, bitter contrast between what we all think we want and what many of us are working toward because of ideations perverted for short-term political gain that have gradually taken on a life of their own and as such may well destroy our society.

Space Will Save Us

[Future Earth]

It's not about wanting to go individually. It's about running out of ideas about how to expand the human race, running out of energy and resources, and generally needing a new frontier to expand into. We're stagnating as a civilization.

Space is full of things we need both for up there and down here: energy, metals, water, air, organics, heat, cold, vacuum, zero-G. We can bring a lot of new wealth to us down here and we do a lot up there that isn't easy here. But it's more important than resources.

We need a place for the wild wild west to play out over and over. We need to try new ideas in government and society. Down here it's too easy for these experiments to be swamped by external influences before anything useful is learned. People are too "comfortable" in the sense of "comfort zones". We need to shove a bunch of people into a new pool and make them swim or die, honestly. It's what we're FOR as a species, and it's what we're good at. We're wasting our intrinsic talents down here and we're wasting away because of it.

Think about this. The population is thousand times or a million times what it was in the time of the original discoverers of most of our basic understanding of government, society, the physical world, human discourse, law, mathematics, and many other subjects. We have, therefore, thousands or millions of geniuses to those eras' one. Why aren't we making fundamental progress on such things?

We're limited by our comfort zones. Capitalism, while powerful and definitely most of the reason we're all here and alive and eating and housed today, isn't the last word in solutions to the problems it was evolved to solve. Nor is democracy. Nor socialism, nor Christianity, nor Buddhism, nor Islam, nor American way of doing things, nor are lots of things.

Nobody is trying anymore. Because the cost of trying is just way too high. Natural selection, natural experimentation, evolution - they've all stopped in the world of ideas. That is, until there is a crisis or a war or a disaster. Then we might dabble a bit to fix what we think might have been the cause or recover from the devastation. But we don't have to fix things most of the time.

The Wonky Allotment

I have a friend who writes almost compulsively. I think she's motivated by the combination of her brilliant mind and an inability to be idle, despite constantly struggling with her health. Her writing is captivating, I'm sure you'll agree.

We're all a little like this a little of the time. Chiller keeps plugging along, despite the setbacks, slowly, surely. I feel a bit like this sometimes - albeit without the seriousness of her setbacks to really know what it feels like.

Maybe re-emergence is possible. It was for someone far more seriously ill than I've ever been. Thanks, Chiller.

A Positive Vision of the Future

"Hope over despair" indeed.

It's exhausting to see people I respect wasting their time arguing about whether global warming is caused by mankind, or even whether global warming is real. Or to hear them arguing about which religion has a better set of values for people to live by or which one is the one their country is based upon.

The fact is that if we want to survive and live happily and successfully in the long run we must stop such idiotic bickering and make some changes. Our population growth and our way of feeding, housing, energizing, and transporting that population is simply unsustainable in the long run - regardless of whether population stays the same or grows or even shrinks a little. We're absolutely doomed if we don't change our ways of living.

But I said this was a positive vision. Ahem.

The positive outlook for humanity is clear. We must reduce the impact on our environment made by the processes of human life even while we enhance the quality of that life. We're definitely making progress on both fronts.

Can we avoid Armageddon? Of course we can. Biblical and other religious and doomsayers' predictions have a consistent habit of proving to be completely wrong.

But we must change our ways. The article linked from the photo above has a lot of hope to offer for ways we can and will change.

Publishing by Unpublishing

The home-made cover for my first book.

I've decided to submit my book first book, Dying to Live Forever, to a "real" publisher. My marketing and sales skills and inclination to spend time doing those things are virtually nil. I want to have someone else who likes and has talents for these things actually work on them for me. And book publishers --- they're pretty good at these sorts of things, yano? At least I hope so.

My book will reappear when/if some publisher decides to become my publisher. If not, maybe I'll look at other options. In the meantime, which is, by the way, many months in the slow world of traditional publishing, my book will be unavailable.

Fortunately for everyone, the new version of the story will be much improved. I've made another pass through it and it's substantially better already - with having even been seen by a professional editor whose job it is to make books better (or suck less).

My second and third books are still in the pipeline, and this very morning I (re)started my work on the first of the ANGEL series of stories, going through it with a fine toothed comb looking for badness, building better character development into the story, finishing up scenes, etc.

Please, if you love me, or if you love science fiction by geeks and for geeks, stay tuned...

Where Sheep May Safely Graze

There definitely are absolute definitions of good and evil and most systems of belief are far from absolute about which they stand for. Look at the Spanish Inquisition for one example. Or Japanese internment camps. Or the American military involvement in Iraq beginning in the early years of this century. People have often been led by evil or wrong thinking men to do horrifying things in the name of religion or their country.

The tool used in each case is a population of unthinking sheep who will not think for themselves and who blindly follow someone who is charismatic and wrong. Tragedy inevitably results. Don't be a sheep.

War is cowardly

When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who From an unlikely source, this wisdom for all ages of humanity. War is stupid, wrong, and cowardly. War covers up for the failures of our world's leaders and those citizens who permit them to lead. War is an abomination created by humans because we're human. War is a reflection of our race's most serious flaw.

We, the Human Race, must mature, to outgrow our propensity for war.

Reflections on a life well lived

He was one of the best men I've ever known. He taught me to solder, to ride a bike, what to shout when a can of tomatoes falls on a bare toe, and how to be an actual man. A man who cares and believes in you, who builds you up by showing you how men should live by living that way himself.

My father was funny and smart. He had a great deep bass voice that could make anyone feel welcome or comfort them in difficult times. He was endlessly pragmatic, could do all of Heinlein's list of things a competent man should be able to do, and he was kind. He was not sentimental, but he was careful in the sense of being full of caring.

My dad lived just a few days short of 92 years, surviving the Great Depression, marriage to my wonderful mother, World War II, three smart assed teenagers, and more than thirty years of retirement after more than forty of work. He and my mom (both pictured above when they were just married) traveled around the country, marveling at autumn colors and streams and mountains for years until she lost herself in Dr. Alzheimer's namesake nightmare.

With a great deal of help from my sister, Dad cared for mom until she died six years ago. When she passed away he was 85. Caring for her nearly killed him too, I think, but he finished the job like he did everything: it needed doing and he simply did it.

A few years ago Dad met a delightful lady named Betty and they became very close friends, doing everything together. She passed away in July, and I think Dad simply realized he was ready to get off the ride.

My dad died last week at nearly the age of 92. He'd been in excellent health until Betty died, and then it all changed. The last few months have been hard for all of us and I think they were for him too.

But like he did everything, it had to be done, and he just did it.

We'll miss you Dad. I'm proud of you. I'll try to be as good a man as you showed me how to be.