Hell on Earth

I haven’t written about the ongoing tragedy in Gaza in this blog for a couple of weeks, and things have certainly not improved.  Plenty of people are talking about it on facebook, I had to unfriend somebody just five minutes ago.  Actually, that was the 2nd person I unfriended today, but the first one’s transgression was much less serious.  She’d just written “O.K., people, some of you are tempting me to unfriend you” and I had no idea what she was talking about, so I went to her page and found out we really had nothing in common and I didn’t know her in real life, so there you go.

You want to unfriend?  I’ll make it easy for you.

But, back to the topic.  Israel is now killing large numbers of Palestinians every day, there’s no let up in sight, and there’s not a damned thing anybody can do about it.  The Israelis could do something about it, but they won’t.  Although Benjamin Netanyahu is now seen as a monster and a war criminal around the world, he has plenty of support inside Israel, like the guy I just unfriended.

The American government could probably do something about it.  If they were to stop sending military aid to Israel, it might make the Israeli government sit up and take notice.  If Obama were to withdraw our support for Israel at the U.N., a resolution of universal condemnation would be issued tomorrow, and that might make a difference.

For some reason, the U.S. is never going to do that.  I’m not really sure I understand. I used to think it was about the Jewish vote, or Jewish campaign contributions, but it can’t be that.  Any candidate who suggested cutting Israel off, at this point, would get support from at least 50% of American Jews.

So, there has to be something more.  Oil?  Israel doesn’t have any.  Military control of the Middle East?  Could be.  Dirty secrets?  We may never know.

My other question is, since no outside forces appear willing to step in and stop this slaughter, exactly how many does Israel plan to kill before they stop?

Whenever you ask them, they say “until Hamas stops shooting at us,” but that’s a short sighted view.  For every one they kill now, there are a dozen people who see it, friends and relatives who will never forget it.

5, 10, 20 years from now there will  be even more Palestinian terrorists than there are today.  The difference will be that  no one in the world will need to say “Why?”  This is why.

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The Future is Unwritten

The future is unwritten and therefore entirely down to us, fate and predestination are nonsense because they can only be measured after the fact, we look back at WWII and say, well, that was inevitable, but there was probably a point in the 1920s when it wasn’t.  future

It is entirely possible that the reason we have no firm proof of extraterrestrials visiting us is that there is a natural tendency for species to evolve to the point where they are capable of destroying themselves – which is about where we are now – and then to do so.  In other words, perhaps most species self-destruct before they make it out into space and start discovering other planets.

Still, a tendency is not 100% and it is easily within the realm of imaginability, i.e. not proscribed by the physical laws of the universe, for a species to continue to exist, and evolve, beyond that point.  I propose we set that as our goal: continued existence.

The way to do that is to put our smartest people to work figuring out a way to sustain our environment, prevent disastrous meteor strikes, come up with an emergency plan to survive (or prevent) supervolcanoes, earthquakes that measure 9+ on the Richter scale, and megatsunamis, save the honeybees, end eliminate poverty by giving everybody homes, sending all the children to excellent, high tech, modern schools which have an adequate number of teachers, build high speed trains that go around the world, and begin the colonization of space.

Then, once they’ve done so, to listen to them and implement the plan.

Will that eliminate war?  I believe it will.  Not because people will suddenly become nicer, less bloodthirsty, or less desirous of holding on to their pathetic, little piece of land which they believe, in their tiny little minds, is theirs by divine right, but once people are comfortable, well fed, and have a good chance of living into a comfortable and healthy old age, they are a lot less likely to want to risk their lives, even to kill people they really hate.

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Celebrity Gossip

Yesterday one of my friends, who is a serious Star Trek fan,  was up in arms because some people were saying bad things about William Shatner on Twitter, which I thought was rather a strange thing to get upset about.

Shatner’s legacy in TV history is assured, he still gets roles, he lives on a ranch and raises horses, he has millions of fans, and more money than he needs to wipe his butt.  I’m sure he can deal with a bit of hating from the haters.

Bloom's  ex-wife Miranda Kerr

Bloom’s ex-wife Miranda Kerr

Her (my facebook friend) position was that “celebrities are people, too, they have feelings,” but I’m not sympathetic.  If being a celebrity, with all the gossip and malicious backbiting that it brings,  is intolerable,  the simple solution is to stop being a celebrity.  Stop making movies,    don’t put out an album for a year or two, and the press will stop taking your picture.

It’s  part of a celebrity’s job to give the more small minded among us, such as myself, something interesting to talk about, because nobody really cares what their friends had for breakfast, and even the most passionate cat lover must be sick of all the cat pictures by now.

There are limits, of course.  We don’t need to mention Drew Barrymore’s sister’s death, except to say RIP.  That’s just sad.  I really like Drew Barrymore, and didn’t even know she had a sister.

On the other hand, Justin Bieber getting punched (sort of – some say he missed) by Orlando Bloom is just pure entertainment.  According to one report, Justin had said “I slept with your wife,” and there have been plenty of rumors in Hollywood that he did, and it’s also suspected that maybe Bloom has (had?)a thing going on with Selena Gomez, but hey…it’s kind  of a closed community, most celebrities sleep with other celebrities, and Bieber, Bloom, Gomez and Miranda Kerr are all young, good looking, and can sleep with whoever they like.

I’m not  much of an Orlando Bloom fan, either.  I liked Legolas in the book, but the films were just one 3 film, 9 hour long battle scene and Gimli got most of the best lines. So, I’d have been just as entertained if Bieber had been the puncher and Bloom the punchee.

Certainly, I don’t feel bad about  my voyeuristic pleasure.  The incident won’t hurt either of their careers one bit.

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The Constantly Receding Peak of Evolution

I just reread last night’s blog and realized that not only didn’t I wind  up saying what I intended to say, but what I did say didn’t really amount to much.  Perhaps that’s because I only use 10% of my brain and, at 11:30 p.m. after another brutally hot, stifling dense summer day, considerably less.

Allow me to try again.peak

Nature, i.e. all the energy and matter which makes up the universe, plus the physical laws that govern their inter-reactions, is not terribly efficient.  The vast majority of existence is empty space.  Matter is only a matter of tiny points here and there.  Of that matter, only a  tiny percent has the magic property of life.  Of all that living matter, only a teeny-tiny percent has enough self-awareness to be called intelligent.  (grass  is not intelligent.  fungi are not intelligent.)

So, inefficiency all around.  Human beings tend to think, because we are the dominant species of this planet, that we are at the peak of evolution.  We are not even close.  We could be smarter either by using a greater portion of our brains or by evolving bigger  brains.

We could  also become more intelligent by designing  better brains, and linking ours to them.

Or, we could become more intelligent overnight, instantly, just by deciding not to be so pro-actively stupid.  I’m not holding my breath, but it could happen.

Our eyes do  not  see as sharply at a distance as the Eagle’s, nor as well at night as a cats, but soon, blind people will be fitted with replacement eyes that do just that.  Also, we have external eyes in the form of telescopes, microscopes and google glasses.  All that information gets fed back into the hive mind, so we are still evolving.

Dogs have a sharper sense of smell,  but we understand pheromones, and have invented perfume.  Cheetahs, and even horses, are faster, but not if the person is in a car.

So, we are not at the peak of evolution.  That’s O.K.  That’s a good thing.  That means there is still some of the mountain to climb.  And it’s just going to get more and more interesting the higher we get.

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I’ve read a couple of articles recently questioning something we thought was known, the idea that we only use 10% of our brains, and I wonder how they know?  First of all, any sample size for an experiment that is short of 7 billion is going to give inconclusive results because some people might use more, some considerably less.

Are the teabaggers only using 5%, or were they that dumb to start with?  My feeling is it doesn’t matter too much because 10% of a lot is still a lot, but 10% of a little is damned near nothing at all, and that is half the population.  Sometimes, I wonder how society can function as well as it does.

I’m sure there must be a range.  We are so different from each other in so many different ways that it seems impossible we should be consistent in this.

For instance.  It has long been said that people need 8 hours of sleep every night.  I average about 6, and I usually manage to get through the day without hallucinations or sudden tantrums.  Some people might need 10.  It’s O.K.   We can all get along.

I saw another study recently that said that 80% of our DNA is just junk.  I believe that, too.  Nature, and the law of natural selection, doesn’t have to be efficient – just effective.  There is redundancy and overkill all over the place.

The vast majority of the universe is empty space.

Whether we use 10% of our brain, or 20% of a 50% less intelligent brain, is an interesting question for scientists, but it doesn’t change anything.  We are as smart as we are, we are at the stage of evolution we are at, and the only thing that is certain is that it won’t remain exactly the same.

Nothing  ever does.

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Back From the Cottage

Back from two days at the cottage and it’ll probably be a few months before I go up there again.  On the one hand, it really is spectacularly beautiful.  We spent a great deal of time outdooors, I picked a lot of blackberries, the last of the red currants and, down by the pond, an orange yellow fruit which seems to be some kind of plum.kotelsko

There are long views,  views that give you the idea you are looking at a whole region, the sides of hills just below the line where they would be considered mountains, and there is a checkerboard design across them.  Light green fields of grass interspersed with darker green forests.

But, damn, it wears me out.  Everybody is speaking Czech, so it sounds like a non-stop shouting and bitching session, an acrimonious town hall meeting, even though I know it’s nothing of the sort.  Not fun.

It was kind of fun when I was in the pool with the kids, mine plus 2 nephiws and a niece, the oldest of whom is 7.  they want  me to throw them and spin them around and climb on my back and hold me under water.  Kind of fun, but it got out of control sometimes.  Wore me out.

Last night we did a fun thing.  Mad up a treasure hunt for the kids (the treasure was a bag of potato chips), and left clues and hid it behind a cross (grave? I don’t know.  It says 1896, but there is no name on it) I put a sheet over my head to play ghost and waited behind.  My niece Natalka was scared to death and crying but little Adam, who is 4 I think, said “Oh, it’s only Willie,” lifted up the sheet and punched me in the crotch.

Everybody except me thought this was extremely amusing.

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The Dream Machine

We are headed off to the cottage in a few minutes, I wanted to weasel out of it and just stay home and write, I feel I’m finally making a bit of progress on my novel, but it’s my Mother-in-Law’s birthday so I’ve got no choice in the matter.

Therefore, I’m going to bang out this blog now, and be done.  Somebody posted this on my facebook page this morning and my first thought was ‘cute cartoon,’ which I suspect was the intent, but my second thought was ‘Wow! what an ingenious invention that would be, and actually will be, soon, because scientists are getting better and better at brain mapping and computer nerds are getting better and better at making connections, handicapped people can move cursors just by thinking about it for instance.’

My 3rd thought was ‘this is an important invention on the way to the singularity.’  Then I started to write my response to it and, as I often do, I decided to write my response in the form of a short rhyme, because nobody else does that.  Actually, I imagine that in all of the vastness of facebook, there must be a few other people here and there doing that, but I haven’t met them yet.

As is common, when I’m writing a rhyme, the words that come out show me a different way of thinking about the subject.  My first reaction is to say, no, no, no, that is not what I meant to say but then I look at them again and think  ‘well, maybe it’s not what I intended to say, but it’s true, and therefore valid, and deserves to be part of the conversation.

I wrote:

This will be designed and built some day, we’ll put it to the test

and then our dreams won’t give us any rest

And that is true, the purpose of dreams is to let the brain relax, to filter the images, to keep us from going insane from sensory overload.  So, while this might be a brilliant invention, drawing us one step closer to the singularity and the next step of evolution after humankind, it could also result, short term, in massive depression, insanity, suicides and murders galore.

There’s a book in there somewhere.

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