Thursday, December 31, 2009

Fox News Versus Time Warner Cable

Fox News wants Time Warner Cable to pay $1 per subscriber for its content.

On this particular issue, and possibly no other, I'm on the side of Fox. Fox News is little more than the propaganda organ for the Republican party, but on the other hand, I'm not a big fan of cable companies, either. They enjoy near-monopolies in most markets and charge outrageous fees while shortchanging the content providers. I would like to see cable companies get the squeeze and stop intruding into areas where they lack competence, such as the Internet and VOIP. Leave VOIP to experts like Vonage. When cable companies venture outside their core competence, customers are the ones who suffer.

I subscribed to Charter cable and received abominable Internet service. I didn't know how bad it was until I switched to AT&T and experienced 99.99% reliability for the first time. Over the eight years that I was subscribed to Charter, they made one substantial investment in the service. They installed a device beside each house to filter the television signal from the Internet signal, so that subscribers like myself could no longer pick up both television and Internet, but were compelled to subscribe to each of the services separately. My Internet became unavailable while their technicians were working and remained unavailable for many days afterward. No one notified me. This was just another in a long series of rude interruptions from Charter. I was grateful, because it made my decision to cancel their services an easy one. I remember going for a entire week without service, because of an unexplained technical difficulty. No adjustments were ever made to my bill for the dozens of unannounced outages, although the CSR's at the help desk would always promise to adjust my bill to reflect the downtime. They lied.

Every two weeks, Charter still sends me marketing fliers in the mail offering me "television, VOIP, and Internet for $69.99 a month." Their fliers are deposited in the trashcan without being opened. I received an email from a Charter Representative once, in response to a blog post of mine, that recommended that I log onto the Charter web site and provide my address so that they won't mail me fliers anymore. Why should I take time out of my day to do that? I do not care whether Charter wastes its money mailing fliers to me. Maybe it helps the Postal Service, which seems to be struggling financially these days, according to media reports. I like the Postal Service, because they provide a useful service in a reliable fashion at a modest price.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Fascist Regime in Iran

Although peace is the preferred state, pacifism cannot succeed in areas where evil is running rampant, dedicated to oppression and killing. Based upon media reports that I have read, Iran has become a kind of Hell where the authorities advocate and practice murder, rape, violence, and every other tool of tyranny. By their actions, the hardliners have proved themselves bloodthirsty villains. They do not believe in freedom of speech and do not place any value upon popular elections. They are intent upon ruling through violence and the fear that violence instills. This is the very definition of evil.

Due to the paranoid psychology of the dictatorship, the regime has become devoted to promoting evil, both at home and abroad. However, many people feel that life has no meaning if it serves evil. It would be glorious to die for the cause of freedom in Iran, while destroying the maximum number of evil mercenaries who serve the dictatorship. There could be no higher purpose to the life of a human being than to work towards the overthrow of an evil dictatorship.

When I feel in need of inspiration, I like to view videos of the protests in Iran, where moral right confronts moral evil. The martyrs of the opposition are heroes of all of humankind and should be recorded in the history books alongside other heroes and martyrs throughout the ages from every culture. The brave young people of Iran show us by their example that heroism has not perished with the modern age, but remains alive and well.

It is my hope that, if necessary, the opposition in Iran acquires military weapons and meets bullet for bullet and bomb for bomb. The proper goal for anyone with a sense of ethics is to destroy both the regime and the conscienceless villains that support it, so that they do not pass on their wicked traits to future generations. It has become clear that those who once did evil in the name of the Shah, now do similar and worse deeds in the name of Khameini and his puppet, the vile Ahmadinejad.

The crimes that the regime commits today against its own people serves as a reliable guide to what it will do to the West, once it develops nuclear weapons. Unlike Iraq, Iran is the real deal when it comes to nukes.

Hugo Chavez of Venzuela revealed himself to be both a fool and a hypocrite when he welcomed Ahmadinejad to his country and congratulated him on his reelection. I was disgusted by that display of ignorance and resolved there and then that Chavez was a villain. Having aligned himself with absolute evil, Chavez has zero credibility to invest on any other issues.

It is a pity that Chavez has become something of a hero in some quarters. He is more interested in personal power and ego gratification than he is in justice and truth. The United States is the favorite boogeyman of Chavez, who expects us to invade at any moment, and tells his countrymen to be vigilant against the Yankee aggressor.

My country may not be perfect in every respect, but it is better than some other countries, such as Iran and China, which rule with the rifle, the prison, the hangman and the torturer. If Chavez could just look beyond the shadow of the United States for one minute, he might see the world as it really is, in all its complexity and shades of gray, rather than his paranoid anti-American construction of the world.

I realize that the U.S. erred in supporting the Shah back in the 1960's and '70's, but that is water under the bridge. Nothing can be done about that now. I think most Americans today would agree that support for certain right-wing dictators around the globe during the Cold War (and after) was a mistake. My country was obsessed with the threat of Communism at the time. Conservative and unethical politicians had control over American foreign policy. They decided that supporting an S.O.B. like the Shah and the tyrant in Viet Nam was OK, because he was "our" S.O.B. But that was over thirty years ago.

Today, I think most Americans would be happy to see a democratic Iran, even if it did not ally itself with the U.S. We would welcome a free Iran, which would contribute more to the world in the way of science, industry, film, and literature. There are many areas in which the U.S. and Iran could cooperate out of mutual interest. Americans do not hate the Iranian people, but sympathize with them, and hope that they succeed in reforming and moderating their government. It is safe to assume that a free Iran would be less hostile and more cooperative, because the common interest of most people is peace and prosperity. Everyone, at heart, wants peace. As long as the governments of the world will allow peace to happen, it will flourish due to the common desire of all human beings.

The real enemies of humankind are not other human beings, but disease, poverty, ignorance, pollution, and fascism. It is possible to work toward optimal solutions for all of the problems that confront the human race as a whole. War is not necessary or inevitable, as some people fear. War is, however, a prominent feature in history books. But that is in the past, as a lesson and a warning to everyone. The future can be different. We just have to believe that peace will work. But this does not mean giving in to evil-doers that are willing to kill in order to get their way.

Uganda's First Impression

I knew next to nothing about Uganda before the news broke about their new fascist law, which mandates the death penalty for gays. Now my impression of Uganda is negative. I wonder how many millions of others all over the world feel the same way. It is unlikely any positive stories will cover Uganda in the near future. Many appealing choices compete for foreigners' vacations, investments, and philanthropy. With words of hate, Uganda has rendered itself a less desirable option. The unwise actions of certain Ugandan politicians will haunt their country for years to come.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hopes for the Future

Assuming there is a future, a civilized one not much worse than the present, I have several items on my wish list:

1. A cheaper, more efficient, and non-polluting replacement for fossil fuels to reduce global warming and pollution. Many fascist regimes devote their oil money toward evil ends, such as war, oppression of their own people, and terrorism. Their level of morality is low, while their income is high. The primary focus of scientific research should be to replace fossil fuels as an energy source.

2. An end to the wars, and the flourishing of peace everywhere, so that the competing tribes can communicate without the interference of violence, which interrupts communication and creates an atmosphere of paranoia and hostility. This goal may be the most difficult to accomplish. But it is possible. In the past, there was more war, not less. Today, the wars are limited in scope.

3. An overthrow of the fascist regime in Iran, which seems bent upon the brutalization of its own people. Iran is an important nation with great potential. Change should come from within, though, not from without. The intervention of outside powers has proved counter-productive in the past.

4. Socialized medicine in America, so that the cost of health care declines, while reaching the poor, who need medicine as much or even more than the affluent. If other countries such as Cuba and Mexico can do it, then surely the United States can.

5. Legal civil unions for gays in America. It is a measure that has no costs, but has many benefits for society as a whole. Assimilation of minorities is the way to make society more cohesive. Many gays want to be seamless members of the community. Today, gays must devote their energies and resources to coping with a variety of injustices that afflict them on a personal level, rather than working upon other social issues. If society is to receive the full measure of their talents, it must recognize their personal relationships.

6. An end to the prohibition of marijuana. It is safer than alcohol. Prohibition laws are designed to make marijuana users felons, unemployed, unemployable, alienated, isolated, imprisoned, traumatized, brutalized, and dead. The laws create far more harm than the substance.

7. The replacement of the menu of fast-food restaurants with healthier choices that have higher amounts of vitamins and fiber, and lower amounts of fat, salt, and sugar. Good food can be healthy, tasty, and popular. The only reason fast food restaurants have not tried good food yet is due to stodginess.

8. A reduction in the use of cars, and an increase in pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Physical exercise has many benefits, both psychological and physical. Too many people dread using their feet. But feet want to be used. It is their function.

9. An end to the "Don't Ask / Don't Tell" policy in the U.S. military that results in the discharge of gay service members through no fault of their own other than honesty.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Favorite Celebs

Among celebrities on television, I like Jon Stewart, Graham Norton, Kathy Griffin, and Catherine Tate. I cannot imagine how they do what they do. I don't envy them at all. I wouldn't want to do their jobs. But they are entertaining to watch.

The gay community is lucky that Graham Norton is around. He's an out gay man with his own talk show, which is rare to say the least and a refreshing change from the hetero-hosted talk shows, which used to have a monopoly. I like his hilarious, witty, vulgar, juvenile show, which definitely has a camp flavor. Graham gets great guests from all over the English-speaking world, including Catherine Tate, which I think was a pretty big "get". His guests are always entertainers--comedians, musicians, performers that pose as musicians, directors, and film stars.

Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" (Comedy Central) has the best talk show on television, covering contemporary news from a humorous angle, often sarcastic and witty. I've never seen anyone as good as he is. His material is really the best. And he has a big heart as well. Jon is an inspiration to us all, on many levels: ethical, humorous, philosophical, political and strategic. Whenever he challenges the nitwits on FOX, he comes out on top every time, which isn't too surprising, all things considered.

Kathy Griffin is someone I never thought I would see on television: a declared atheist, moreover a female one, and a hilarious comedienne as well. She makes me laugh. I really like her. She works hard at annoying the rich and famous.

Catherine Tate is versatile as an actress. She has so much talent that it feels like a gift just to be able to watch her perform. My American friends like her. Television executives should sign her for an American television show. She makes me think as well as laugh. Her humor is universal in appeal, making commentary about the human condition. She appeared on season 6, episode 10 of the Graham Norton show, where she seemed by far the most likable of the three guests, which included 50 Cent and David Carr*.

I detected a subtext of tension between 50 Cent and Graham. I was not impressed by my first glimpse of the rapper. After listening to him perform, I do not see how it is possible that he should have sold so much music. It is a strange thing indeed. Consumers are paying for an image to which they aspire, which is often the case in the music biz.

An Exchange of Secrets

This is a continuation of the previous post.

These are the secrets that were shared on a fateful night in a deserted city street, sitting in her car waiting for the light to change from red to green. She confided in me about being beaten so badly by her ex-girlfriend that the police were called. I am not sure why some people choose to live in this way with an abusive lover, but they do for whatever reasons. It was difficult for me to understand, then and now. I was willing to shelter her from all of that, but not everyone wants to be sheltered. Some are drawn to the flame. I cannot explain this behavior. It is foreign to me. Perhaps her orientation was exclusively homosexual, but it begs the question of why she ever got involved with me in the first place. Was my function to impress her friends? Or was she just testing the waters to see what life was like on the other side of the fence? She had seemed enthusiastic while we were doing all of the sexual things that she wanted us to do. If it was all just acting, then she was a good actress.

After her confession, I told her not to worry, that I was bisexual, too. We were at a stoplight, and the light turned green, but she did not press the gas. She stared at me in disbelief, waiting for the punchline. But the joke was cosmic in nature, played by God upon us both. I reminded her that she needed to move the car or else a patrolman would pull us over. She needed to be reminded several times before she pressed the gas.

We had a good laugh over the situation, and the night ended well, or so I thought. The next day (I found out later), she confided in her ex, who promoted the suspicion that I was infected with the HIV virus and had infected her out of malice. She chose to believe her ex. After she had brooded over the situation for the better part of a day, she called me up with accusations. I had never heard her so angry before. I don't remember whether she called me a murderer or not, but that was the implication. I knew this might be the last time she ever spoke to me, so I told her what I had been waiting for the right time to tell her, that I loved her. She didn't believe me.

I offered to get tested along with her at the local clinic, but it was not good enough, because she was afraid someone might have recognized her there. She arranged for us to get tested at a clinic sixty miles away. I offered to drive, but she insisted upon going in separate cars. She felt terrified by the needle and the nurse's questions. I consoled her, but we did not touch. Of course I was not infected and neither was she. Once she got a clean bill of health, she called to let me know and thanked me for my cooperation. Then she ceased all communication with me forever.

We never saw each other again until thirteen years later, when we passed each other on a bridge. She and her female companion were on bicycles, and I was on foot. She said not a word to me, nor did she make any gesture. But I knew that she knew who I was. She had mirrored sunglasses on, but began blinking violently, as from a nervous tic. She aborted her trip across the bridge and came back the other way, while her companion complained. As she passed me a second time, still she said nothing. I did not say anything either. Sometimes silence is best, after all.

Long ago, I built in my imagination a palace of gold where she reigned as Queen. She destroyed the beautiful illusion of love that I created in my mind. All my plans came to naught. It is just as well that it ended. I know that now. I don't think she understood anything of what I felt for her. She craved the scent of a woman. It is okay by me. I just wish it had ended in a better manner, without the paranoia.

Later I found another, who is far better to me than she ever was. He is kinder, more thoughtful, more skilled, more beautiful, and much wiser. I made a good life with him, and together we have built a splendid palace where we reign as Kings.

Romantic Love

Writers cultivate the meme of romantic love, which is an unrealistic expectation that by finding just the right person and winning them over, happiness will become permanent. The meme is best expressed in movies like "Impromptu" or "The Princess and the Warrior," both of which I have watched many times over.

Finding the right person is not easy. Sometimes we think we have found the right person, but are mistaken. Young men look for physical beauty, which is superficial, and neglect to consider more important traits, such as kindness. There are beautiful people in the world whose beauty is skin-deep. Inside, they are selfish and lazy, having learned that they can receive rewards without earning them.

Women are aware of the male preference for physical beauty and take pains to make themselves seem more attractive. None of this effort will assist the longevity or the quality of a long-term relationship. It is superficial. It will help in establishing a relationship, but no more. The same trait, physical beauty, that attracts a man will also lure him away to others who possess it in a novel configuration.

Even if we do find the right person, winning anyone over is a more difficult task by far. Attraction must be mutual, an unpleasant fact that leads people with a sub-par appearance to consign themselves to lives of solitude. Many people are alone who need not be. They have much to offer a partner, such as loyalty, affection, and friendship. There are many other forms of love of greater value than romantic love. Also, the media dwells upon sex because it sells copy, but sex is a small component of a relationship. Only form a relationship with a trustworthy and kind person. Any other relationship will be marked by discord and unhappiness in the end.

As a boy, I listened to songs from groups like Led Zeppelin, Styx, the Scorpions ("Still Lovin' You"), David Bowie ("China Girl"), and countless others that describe a blind, superficial, romantic love based upon physical desire and unrealistic expectations. I used to play these songs over and over again. I could never get enough of them. They described a version of reality that I had never experienced before, but had great appeal to me. I had a hunger for that kind of experience.

Romantic love took firm hold of my imagination. Maybe it was because I was focused upon scholastic achievement. My heart yearned for drama to relieve the tedium of academic study. I was forever falling in love with people that had little to offer besides stunning looks. None of these crushes led to a relationship of any depth or meaning. They were just learning experiences at best. I often assumed that my crushes were profound and spiritual. I wrote hundreds of pages about the objects of my affection, analyzing every facet of their being and of mine. Decades later, when I went to inspect this prose with cold blood, I recognized much of it was drivel, of no value to me or to anybody, no better than the lyrics to the songs that we hear on the radio. I realized that I had been deluded. What I had written was false in many respects. The songs I had been listening to on the radio, over and over again, had infiltrated my psyche, encoding viral memes into my thought processes. I had believed the song lyrics and aspired to follow them. It was like a false religion.

Romantic love is a strange drug with soaring highs and crashing lows. I think it is just as the Ancient Greeks said, a kind of madness. For me, the worst case was with a girlfriend in college. We knew each other for a brief time, but in those few weeks, much happened. My intentions were serious, but hers were not. There was drama in her life that she concealed from me until the end, when all was revealed late at night, in the middle of a deserted city street, in a bewildering explosion of confessions. Her deep, dark secret, as she viewed it, was that she had an ex-girlfriend, a much older and abusive ex-girlfriend, who still wanted her. I did not mind, because I had my own secrets, which I revealed to her in full for the sake of reciprocity. Candor occurs naturally when one is in love. I do not regret telling her what I did, even though she used it as a justification for ending everything between us. Nothing good can come of lies. She showed the measure of her worth through her actions. All is just as it should be.

One always remembers the highs, because they are without compare over the course of a lifetime. The highs occurred when my beloved gave me a token of affection, such as a kiss. Opium pales in comparison to the brain's indigenous substances, which are produced in abundance under the right conditions. I remember pleasure so intense that I expected to be incinerated. My hands grew as warm as when I had had the flu. Reality transformed into paradise. Everything was imbued with new meaning. Nothing was random anymore. God became real and was taking a hand in my life for the first time. I would have married her in an instant. These are some of the thoughts I had at the time.
She drove us in her car. The summer sun poured through the windows. Her eyes were the color of sapphires. I asked her why she was smiling. She said she didn’t know. I offered her my hand, which she accepted, her fingers intertwining with mine. She remarked upon the warmth of my hand and asked whether I had a fever. I said I didn’t know. When her eyes were focused on the road, I made an adjustment. She said, “What are you doing?” “Nothing.” “Tell me.” “Sunlight has this effect on me.” I felt embarrassed until I perceived her thought and then I wasn’t. Time slowed down as she took matters in hand. She drove another five miles before the end. Marked were her hand, her chest, the gear lever, and the dashboard. She laughed at the abundance. Kissing her hand, I made an offer that was declined. I closed my eyes. Sometimes I opened them just to see my dream looking back at me and smiling.
The moments that I were with her were stored in memory. Later, I would turn them over and over in my mind, looking for meanings, trying to understand as much as I could about the experience. When she told me things or showed me things, I remembered them all. Even today, I can recall with precision many details that are no longer of any importance to anyone. The information has remained through a process similar to imprinting. I used to think things like this happened for a reason, but now I think that accidents happen for no reason at all. Much more is random than we would like to believe. There may be a design, but it is of a general nature, and many details are left to chance.

There are two sides to the idiotic passion, the highs and the lows, and I soon discovered the latter. Romantic love is often one-sided. One partner may offer all, while the other offers only a portion of themselves on a temporary basis. Some look for a relationship, while others are just having fun. I think she felt flattered to be with me. I was handsome. She liked to show me off to her friends. But that was all. "Love" is a loaded word. Don't shoot that gun until the target is ready. I shot too soon. If love is not felt in the other, then they shrink from the intensity of the emotion. Sometimes, the other may not love themselves, and they wonder what is wrong with you, that you love them.

My sweet dream was destroyed as fast as it had been formed. I think she made her decision with too much haste, but it does not matter now. The door has been locked shut. After that experience, I began to view romantic love as a hard drug like heroin. I can't say I never fell again. I did fall, a couple of times, but it was never as intense. I observed with a kind of relief the decline in the intensity of my feelings. Wisdom replaced foolishness at last. At last I have a partner that loves me in the same measure that I love him, someone that I can trust and that can trust me in the same measure.

Today, I think romantic love, the unrealistic and idealistic variety, is overrated, but then I am older now, and older people often think so. Affection, compassion, honesty, kindness, and intimacy are more important. Romantic love seems brittle to me. It breaks upon the rocks of hard reality. But it remains popular, judging by the subjects that pop stars sing about and writers write about. Young people have an appetite for it, and where there is demand, supply will follow.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Cure for Envy

Some people dream of becoming a celebrity and enjoying the advantages of fame, wealth and leisure. However, out of a population of billions, only a select few can join the glitterati. To earn admittance into the elite club, one must have either one or a combination of traits such as talent, luck, looks, self-promotion, or connections. Early on, I dismissed any notion of my becoming a famous athlete or actor, because I lack talent for those professions. However, I never gave up wanting to become a famous writer. My talent may be modest. I don't know. It is difficult for me to judge, and it is natural to have hope.

This evening, I read excerpts from the journals of a successful American gay writer from the 1970s. Although he may not enjoy much name recognition today, he earned enough to support himself through his writing, and I think some of his books may be found in any public library of a substantial size.

Anytime a person publishes excerpts from their journal, the flattering passages will be distilled to a high concentration, giving the impression of a fantasy life beyond the reach of most of us. The depressing and mundane will be excised, making it appear that their life was far superior to our own. Envy can take hold of the reader.

He dropped such golden lines as "one million copies of my books are in print," which fell upon my head like a brick. Another passage read, "present at the party were..." (a list of prominent authors, editors, and artists followed). He records casual sex and shared marijuana highs with beautiful people as though they were commonplace, everyday occurrences. He attended fabulous parties where he befriended some of the leading gay intellectuals of the day.

I felt an unusual emotion, like sadness, and wondered why I should be feeling sad. Then I understood it was envy I was feeling. I seldom feel envy. But in the case of a gay writer, who unlike me was published and able to support himself with his writing--yes, I suppose that I would have liked to trade places. Very much so.

I had to put the book down. I felt embarrassed to feel such a base emotion as envy. All things considered, I have had a pretty good life. I should not be envious of someone else. Plenty of people have had less luck than me. What about them? I should consider their lives, rather than just the lives of those who seem better off.

The cure for envy strolled into the room on four legs. I wondered if my cat ever wanted to be like me, as I wanted to be like the prominent author. I have a more interesting life than my cat. I can drive a car, use a computer, and host dinner parties. My cat can do none of these things. The difference between my cat and me is even greater than the difference between me and any successful writer.

But my cat does not care. It is content. It does not want to be like me, as far as I can tell. I admire that attitude. It is my cat I should envy, for being above the petty emotion of envy. My cat lacks the reasoning power to compare and contrast the advantages of my life with its own lot. This is why it does not feel envy.

Animals can teach us lessons as well as reinforce old lessons. I was reminded tonight that human intelligence has drawbacks. Intelligence introduces errors into our thinking. Envy is one such error. Observing the cat teaches me to discard the errors that arise because of intelligence, which is often a mixed blessing in human beings.

I suspect that a famous writer looks to greater writers such as Mark Twain or Shakespeare, and compares his lot to theirs, and feels envy as well. Unless, that is, he has a cat, and makes the same kind of observations that I have made.

Merry Christmas

There are atheists who won't wish a Merry Christmas on principle, but I'm not one of them. I interpret Christmas in my own manner. The holidays mean different things to different people. To me, Christmas is a time of warmth and fellowship, of inclusiveness and getting back together with distant members of the family. The religious aspect is of less significance than the cultural aspect. I see no reason to dismiss such a long-standing holiday that predates the world's most popular religion. Every year, I have a wreath, a Christmas tree, presents, and I like to hear Christmas music, whether religious or secular. It brings to mind good feelings and good memories.

I don't mind speaking about God and Jesus, though I try to avoid it, because these terms mean different things to different people. To say that not everyone agrees on the definitions would be an understatement. Also, plenty of people are leery of proselytization, as am I, because I have had Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons knock on my door many a time. They like to speak about God and Jesus, but they mean something much different than what I have in mind.

To me, God and Jesus are symbols of something greater. I believe in the greater, which I take to be universal goodness. I remember being taught in Sunday School at a very young age that God is Love, which may be the best explanation I have ever heard. When we feel love for ourselves and for others, then we come closest to God, or so it seems to me. Love, affection, friendship or a simple regard, if it is mutual, results in the greatest benefits and good feelings, whereas other schemes, like animosity, bring negative consequences and negative feelings. In my opinion, the greater the simplicity to religion, the better. All that needs to be said concerning religion is that God is Love. Those three words really say it all. Anything else seems unnecessary.

My current hypothesis regarding God and Creation is also unnecessary, but I like it because it seems right somehow. It is pure speculation. I have an idea that the Universe is One. We perceive one another in terms of individuality, but it is due to the limitations of our senses and our awareness. Everything is connected in a spiritual sense. It is difficult to explain except in mystical terms, because the details are unknown. I call my idea a hypothesis, because it is unproven. I should not say, this is the way things are, but rather, this is my opinion, based upon what I have observed. I think God encompasses all things and is interchangeable with the Universe. I think that the Universe, which encompasses all things, has a certain personality. It is creative. It wants to produce great and good works, and the more elaborate, the better. It is ambitious and plays with its power, which is beyond comprehension. The power is vast. We see little of it, but what we do see is awesome.

I have written about this hypothesis concerning Oneness before on this blog. I used to wonder whether any small part of it was original with me, but somehow I doubted whether it was, because I seem to have heard similar ideas before. A good rule of thumb is that no idea is original. We all borrow ideas from other sources, usually the dead. If we cannot name the source, we think it was generated by our imagination. But I wonder sometimes whether imagination really exists. Maybe all we ever do is imitate and elaborate upon our imitations. A month ago, I was in a thrift store when I encountered an old book about Marcus Aurelius. It turns out that he believed much the same as I do, or at least that was my impression after reading a brief description of his philosophy.

My understanding of contemporary scientific thinking concerning creation is that all things were once combined into a single mass known as a singularity. This mass exploded or expanded into many separate stars. From stardust derived planets and other celestial bodies. On an unknown number of the planets, at least one to our certain knowledge, unicellular life came into being. From unicellular life, sentient beings evolved. From sentient beings evolved reasoning beings, such as humans and certain other animal species such as cats, dogs, dolphin, and monkeys. All of the beautiful and fascinating objects are here for a time, but they will be destroyed later, because they are all just temporary manifestations of the One. And what is the one? Is it a singularity, such as existed before the Big Bang? Or is it more than that?

I think the end and the beginning are not points on a line, but points on a circle, which means that the end of the Universe leads back to a new beginning. How many times has the Universe been destroyed, only to create itself once again? Maybe 1,023 times. Maybe only once. Maybe a billion times. Maybe things were different last time. Or maybe the same things happened in exactly the same fashion.

In terms of the stories that are in the Bible, I would consider myself still to be an atheist, because the miracles appear to be allegories written in only some cases by wise men, but in other cases by men who were not very wise at all. I do believe in a historical Jesus, but believe that he was an ordinary man, an eloquent skeptic of the established order. His arrest and execution were unjust and motivated by petty politics. Many other skeptics have been martyred throughout human history. People in power tend to be jealous of their power and paranoid about perceived threats. Jesus should have been installed as the Roman Emperor. There, he could have done the most good, certainly more good than dead.

If Jesus came back to Earth and ran for President, and if he were the same man as represented by the Gospels, then I would work for his campaign and help raise money. I'd help with the computers. I'd make phone calls. But I doubt Jesus would sink to cold-calling, like telemarketers do. I wonder whether he would be popular. I think he would have many surprising observations to make.

In my younger days, I used to be an outspoken atheist, because I grew up surrounded by outspoken conservatives. I am reminded of Newton's Third Law, in which every action has an equal and opposite reaction. As I've gotten older and moved to different parts of the country, I have encountered Christians of a moderate persuasion. I understand that there are a great many good people who serve under the banner of Christ. They do not permit evil to latch hold of their hearts. To judge the entire faith by the words and actions of a few would be unfair, just as atheists should not be judged by the words and actions of a few.

Merry Christmas to all the Christians, the atheists, the Muslims, the Jews, and everyone else. I can't list every creed, because it would take forever. A better expression might be, "Happy Holidays," because that is non-denominational. But I like the sound of "Merry Christmas," and it is after all that time of the year.

My Christmas wish is this. I hope that the vision of Jesus can be realized, which is that the human race should evolve into a benevolent and cooperative body of people, rather than a fragmented world of competing tribes as it is today. Cooperation will bring the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people. I am not sure whether it will be possible. I don't know whether it will happen or not. But it seems necessary, due to the unique threats to civilization brought about by modern technology.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Cause is also the Solution

The real answer to global warming lies not in laws, but in technology. The cause of the problem is also the solution. Money should be invested, not upon bribing evil dictatorships to do what is right, but upon scientific research to develop energy sources that do not emit greenhouse gases.

The obvious non-polluting energy source for humankind hangs over our heads. Many educated observers scoff at solar energy, because they evaluate only the low-yielding solar panels of the present, which are primitive. A better method of harnessing the Sun is to use nature's example, chlorophyll, which is efficient. Microorganisms can be modified to produce electricity in a direct or indirect manner, such as by extracting hydrogen from water. Microorganisms can be adapted to clean the atmosphere of undesired pollutants. The beauty of organisms is that they are self-replicating and self-maintaining. Just as we now derive energy from dead things, in the future, we will derive energy from the living.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Three Great Fears

My fears for the future of the human race concern three possibilities:
  1. Fascism that cannot be overthrown. With so many technological tools in the hands of government and/or corporations, it seems possible to install long-lasting authoritarian states. Many people feel that if they serve a great power that is bigger than themselves, they are doing right, without bothering to evaluate the aims and methods of the power. This is where there is the potential for great evil.
  2. Global warming that mars the planet, causing environmental catastrophes that cannot be easily remedied.
  3. Nuclear war. Even a small one would have traumatic effects. Think of all the work of so many generations being lost in an instant.

All of these fears have their origin in technology. I think it would have been better if technology had remained at the level of the Ancient Roman civilization, at least until the ethical sense had become better developed. Today, there are people behind the wheel of a large automobile who have no business being there. There are people who carry guns that should not, because they have a desire to inspire fear in others. There are people that are using telephones to harass and abuse others, such as so-called collection agencies and telemarketers. There are people, as well as governments, that use computers to spy upon others. There is something of vital importance missing in their brains. They understand how to use tools, but not how to behave in an ethical manner. The ethical faculty remains much the same as it was thousands of years ago.

The minimum standard for ethics should be not to harm others. If everyone followed this maxim, there should be peace everywhere, solidarity, and efficiency. There would not be much need for debate. Instead of bitter disputes, there would be collegial discussions that focused upon a dry and technical cost/benefit analysis. Problems could be solved, instead of new problems being created all the time. Solutions that have been found not to work could be abandoned, and new solutions chosen in their stead. All too often, ethics must do battle with corruption. There are vested interests that prefer things to stay the same, because an easy profit has been found.

I'm not sure what the answer is. Religion has been tried, but does not work. Reason can be used to similar ill effect, because reason depends upon facts, and sometimes facts are disguised falsehoods. A proper legal system has many advantages, because fear of the law keeps many people who lack ethics from doing harm to others. However, the law is only as good as the lawmakers. Injustice and corruption become entrenched in the law, so that the law itself is evil and harms good people.

The only thing that has not been tried yet is eugenics, but that too may prove to be a mixed blessing. What some consider ideal may prove later to not always be so, and what some consider inferior may yet have hidden advantages. Even so, I believe eugenics to be the most perfect potential solution to the problem of evil in the world, provided it is used by the good and the wise. If eugenics were ever to be employed by evil-doers, then it will become the greatest fear of all, outstripping the three in my list above. I am afraid of China, because it is likely to become the greatest world power, yet has a very undeveloped sense of ethics. It is not China's behavior toward the United States that worries me, but rather its behavior toward its own citizens.

The primary goal of any eugenics program should be to instill a superb conscience, so that people care about the well-being of others as well as their own well-being. If everyone were born with this trait, then prisons would be unnecessary, and the police could be disbanded. I'm sure they wouldn't mind, considering that no-one would be committing any crimes, not even the government, other than through negligence or incompetence. Even in those cases, eugenics could answer by creating a smarter race. The military could be disbanded, as well, and here again, I'm sure the army wouldn't mind, given that there would be no more wars. I suppose alternative occupations could be found in agriculture, art, literature, research, and medicine. Mankind could focus its energies upon the exploration of outer space and the perfection of himself, rather than wasting so much energy upon pointless in-fighting with other human beings.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Is Autism on the Rise?

Can we conclude from this article that autism is on the rise in the United States? The CDC claims that almost 1% of all American children are autistic because of a "mysterious cause."

To put this recent claim into perspective, a few weeks ago, the CDC also claimed that 1 out of 6 Americans have been infected by the Swine Flu, which does not at all jibe with my experience or that of my friends or family. If 1 out of 6 Americans have had swine flu, I would like to know where they are hiding out. Maybe in the CDC headquarters?

Once again, a statistic is being quoted in the media as though it were fact. Without knowing how the data was farmed, the statistic is without value to a reader. I am given a brief summary of the findings, and asked to accept it on face value because it came from an authority that supposedly knows more than everybody else. If that were so, then the CDC would have cured disease by now.

I would like to have read specific details about how the research was conducted, including how the numbers were crunched, by whom, and for what reasons. CDC's claim is that 2,757 out of 307,790 of a certain group have autism. Is the latter number the total number of "American citizens," or "immigrants, tourists, and American citizens" in the age group? Is the group the actual population, or is it merely considered representative of the actual population? The numbers may be based upon people who present to a medical provider. Out of 307,790 children that visit a doctor, 2,757 may have autism. What about the many others who never visit a doctor, or only visit on rare occasions? Was this numerous population of untreated children accounted for?

The data is based upon reports coming from just eleven sites. Could it be possible that parents of autistic children are migrating to urban areas where the CDC is headquartered in order to receive better treatment? Is it possible that populations that might not have been counted in the past are being counted today?

Assumptions make all the difference. I can take the same numbers, interpret them in a different manner, and claim that 99% of all American children are autistic or that .00001% of all American children are autistic. 90% of all Americans don't believe statistics, because 76% have discovered that statistics are 80% misinterpreted, 67% misleading, and 83% exaggerated in order to prove a point.

The media has a bad habit of pressing the panic button to sell copy. No wonder that so many people are skeptical of global warming, an important issue which suffers from "the boy who cried wolf" syndrome. I do not believe most of the things that I read in the media. Paranoia is rampant, because the media wants people to be afraid, because they will keep reading that way. Every writer fears boring a reader, first and foremost. Extreme exceptions are reported, instead of the mild and moderate generalities. Things are never as bad as the media makes them out to be.

More funds should be devoted to researching the potential causes and treatments of autism and other medical issues. Medical and scientific research represents a better use of scarce resources than foreign military engagements, in which billions of dollars are spent with little or nothing to show for it. Because conservative politicians have held the balance of power for so long in Washington, D.C., the government is focused more upon punishing than upon helping people who need help.

Friday, December 18, 2009


Life is like a game of chess. As a player, one develops strategies for dealing with specific situations. Our strategies are in continual need of repair and refinement. As we get older, our strategies tend to get better, but only because we are improving them all the time.

No one likes to make mistakes, but they are valuable. Every person who wants to become wise must be willing to make their fair share of mistakes. Every wise person was once a fool. It was being a fool that taught them to be wise. Learn from mistakes. Learn from enemies, as well. Enemies are the most vivid representations of mistakes.

Enemies become so because they are flawed in their minds. Something is wrong in their psychology, making them want to harm others. Enemies are examples of what we do not want to become, ever. Look inside yourself and seek that which you share in common with your enemy and root it out, because it is unworthy.

The best lessons in life are obtained not from friends, but from enemies, which is cheaper, because we need show them no gratitude at all. Take from them wisdom and give them nothing in return.

Learning to deal with enemies helps to avoid all sorts of unpleasant scenarios. I like to reflect upon individuals who did me wrong, because it helps to avoid ineffective strategies in the future. Anger or sadness interfere with learning and are not useful emotions. Avoid these irrational states through whatever means are at your disposal. With dispassion, it is possible to identify weaknesses and resolve to correct them in the future, while identifying and accentuating strengths. Thinking in cold blood is the only effective manner to make practical improvements.

When I was growing up, I was taught to avoid violence, but the bullies practiced it, because it was what they knew. In order to resist a bully, of course it helps to become stronger. Exercise helps, as does practice in fighting, but these are not always practical for smaller individuals on short notice. Physical training helps in the long term, but not in a single year, and some will never become as strong as the bullies. Macho types suppose that a weight set and a punching bag are the answer for everyone.

In ninth grade, we had to sit in an assigned seating order in the required Physical Education class. If a student was found outside of the assigned seating order, detentions would follow. A bully sat behind me, and to this day I remember his face, his name, and the sound of his voice. We had to face forward, because that was one of the stupid rules that our P.E. teacher had. This bully often hit me while my back was turned. He formed his fist with the middle finger's middle joint protruding, so that it felt like a stick stabbing into my kidneys. He liked to boast about scoring a "kidney shot" that left bruises that lasted through the week. Although I was his favorite, he liked to spread the suffering around, and beat others as well, even a karate student who lifted weights and all that jazz.

He was all too willing to fight, but I was not, because it was against the rules, and rules were important to me. I was afraid, not just of him, but of what I might do if I ever let myself go. I was afraid of the consequences afterward. Many people have such fears, when they are confronted with unexpected violence. It was a form of torture that persisted for months, and I will carry the memory to my grave. The P.E. teacher was a stupid redneck. I complained many times, but he was not even willing to change the assigned seating order. He gave me a detention when I complained, because in his view, I was pestering him. Sometimes I wonder whether he is enjoying his retirement, and whether he should be.

If a victim complains to the authorities, such as teachers, the principal, and parents, and if the authorities continue to permit violence to occur, turning a blind eye to it, then a message is being sent to both the bully and the victim. The bully sees this as encouragement to continue his abuse. The victim must interpret the message in a different manner. It is encouragement to resist through any means possible. Suffering brings contempt of life, which in turn bestows the gift of courage. The rules of the day may be disregarded. Ancient rules apply instead. Do what is necessary and do it with precision.

The bullies of high school served later in life as case examples, which helped me to identify new specimens as I encountered them. A bully craves schadenfreuden to fill the void inside their soul. In my early years, bullies were drawn to me. It is just the same with lions and wildebeest. I learned to be a wily wildebeest. Where I saw effective strategies, I tried to adopt them. Where I saw ineffective strategies, I remembered to avoid them. Clues are all around us. We only have to watch and listen.

When I encountered similar bullies out at work, they did not find me to be such an easy mark. I did not adopt the same flawed strategies that had been tried before without success. Over the years, I made modifications to my algorithm. Bullies would ply their dark art, because it is all that they know to do, but I never gave them any satisfaction, and ensured that there were tangible costs associated with antagonizing me. I watched many of them fail at everything to which they set their hand. Bullies fail in the end, because they cannot expect any help from others, and they tend not to be intelligent in the first place. The real victim is the bully, who makes unnecessary enemies, even turning upon their own friends and family in the end.

Variation #1 on the Perfect Breakfast

Sometimes, friends want to take me out to a greasy spoon like Waffle Tyrant, but that is not a good way to start the day. I prefer to start the day right.

My breakfast never varies in three essential ingredients: oatmeal, a tablespoon of ground flaxseed, and water. To this, I add the following, all from Trader Joe's:

  • Thompson's Seedless California Raisins
  • Dry Roasted & Unsalted Almonds
  • Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips

Almonds may be replaced by hazelnuts, walnut bits, peanuts, sunflower seeds, or pistachios, depending upon what's on sale. It does not matter whether nuts are raw or dry roasted, but I try to avoid oil-roasted nuts. Oil diminishes flavor while increasing saturated fats. I'm not opposed to salt, but people suffering from hypertension should be. Raisins are interchangeable with prunes, which are tastier, or dried apricots. Sometimes I omit the chocolate chips. They should be a treat, not a habit.

Like most breakfasts, this lacks vitamins, so I pop a cheap little vitamin-candy and a fish oil capsule and wash it all down with tea.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Alcohol, the King of the Party

At the last dinner party, my friends brought me beer, wine, and liqueur. Alcohol is the ubiquitous social drug in our society. It is difficult to avoid, because so many people use it, even the good and the wise. The accessories, such as the bottles and glasses, are appealing and sensual. In recent years, scientists have contributed to the promotion of alcohol, making claims of benefits, such as antioxidants and resveratrol in wine, although numerous other substances besides wine contain antioxidants, and grape skins, peanut skins, and blueberries contain resveratrol.

When I was a young man, alcohol bestowed a pleasant glow, similar to being in love. Around my early thirties, that pleasure diminished. Today, the waste products of fungi don't make me a fun guy. My brain's pleasure center has changed the lock, and alcohol's key no longer fits. Alcohol brings lethargy, irritability, arthritic pain, and stomach discomfort. I have ten bottles of what used to be my favorite beer sitting in my refrigerator, waiting for the next drinking guest. I don't imagine they will be waiting for long. I will be glad to see them go.

In my late thirties, I revisited my old friend, marijuana, which is free of alcohol's physical consequences. Marijuana is not as sociable these days, because people fear the consequences of a urinalysis test that might cost them their career. In the current legal environment, parents can even lose custody of their children over such a small matter. The legal environment has crowned alcohol the king of the party, but he is a corrupt monarch who abuses his subjects. If pot were king, and alcohol the outcast, then the nation would profit from the savings in medical costs alone.

My policy concerning substances has evolved into something like this: workaday sobriety, a single glass of wine at parties, and pot while on vacation. My favorite place to get high is San Francisco, because it is unnecessary to drive, the setting is beautiful, and the laws are lenient. I walk everywhere, and when my companions feel exhausted, we take the trolley. I never feel tired in San Francisco. The city hums with an energetic vibe. I like to spend my money there, because my proverb is, "Spend your money where your heart is, and you can't go far wrong." San Francisco has a good history, which is still unfolding. Other cities would do well to follow in its footsteps. My favorite places to walk are Chinatown, the Wharf, Telegraph Hill, and the Farmer's Market, where I pick up cherries, olives, bananas, fresh bread, and coffee. Sometimes I walk across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. A ferry carries weary travelers back to SF.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Logical Error

Pop quiz!

Can you identify the logical error in the following sentence?
He stood stock still, arched his back in order to appear taller, puffed out his chest, pointed a finger at me, and with a tone of command, shouted, “Shut-up! Be still!”
Logical errors are more subtle than spelling or grammatical errors and cannot be detected by any word processor on the market today, because they require a higher level of reasoning.

If you believe that the logical error involves the subject standing stock still, then you are correct. Once the subject has been committed to standing stock still, he may think, but should remain otherwise motionless until the next sentence or better yet, the next paragraph. Arching his back after a comma is too soon. Why have the subject stand stock still in the first place? It stands out as a contradictory detail. I made that mistake in this story, slept on it, but then had an uneasy feeling that something was wrong and woke up this morning determined to fix it.

Additional problems in the story involve the matter-of-fact descriptions of the characters, such as "young black female," or "middle-aged man," descriptions that sound like they were made by an observant but unimaginative detective. I haven't gotten around to correcting those problems yet. The goal was to record an idea. Refinement can wait for later. I don't feel enough motivation to bother with much refinement, since I'm tossing these things onto the Net for nothing. But a logical error is a different matter. It sinks the ship. I want my vessels to float. They don't need to be pretty, but they should float. I can apply a paint job later.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Can of Soup

I remember at the age of nineteen, when I worked as a stocker in a grocery store, a middle-aged man’s adult daughter (more likely his lover) dropped a can of soup on my head. She apologized with a smile that belied the apology, but the man just laughed aloud and said, “Good shot! Two points! Let’s see if you can hit him again!” Incensed, I insulted him. He insulted me and challenged me to a fight. I accepted his challenge, and he arranged to meet me after my shift to decide our differences through combat. I went about my work, resigned to meet my destiny in two more hours.

I should not have been, but I was surprised when the man thought better of fisticuffs with a stock boy. While I was busy bagging groceries at a check-out line, he complained to a police officer in the store. I tried to give my side of the story, but before I had uttered a dozen words, the officer transformed into battle mode. He arched his back in order to appear taller, puffed out his chest, pointed a finger at me, and with a tone of command, shouted, “Shut-up! Be still!” He didn’t say anything else, but waited. It would have been comical if I had not been involved.

A young black female cashier whispered, “Just do as he says. Don’t say nothing.” She was offering wisdom obtained from experience, and I did just as she instructed, making a mental note to thank her later, because wisdom is in short supply in this world. Nothing more was said, so I resumed bagging groceries. I do not remember what came after, whether the officer spoke with the man or not, but in any event, the officer left without another word to me.

The man, displeased at the lack of justice in the world, then complained to my manager, which resulted in a “write-up” being placed on my personnel file. My manager felt neutral about the whole affair, but was required by company policy to write about the incident, just as I am doing now, because I am rather proud of it.

When I got off work, I bicycled home many miles alone. Expecting ambush, I took shortcuts and routes where cars could not follow. My senses were keen for my enemy. I was ready for anything, but was left in peace to continue on with my existence as a stock boy. As for the “write-up,” nothing came of that either, because I quit soon after. It was not that incident that caused me to quit, but another one a few months later.

An assistant manager put his face right next to mine and called me a blind fool, while flecking droplets of saliva across my face, for not arranging an aisle in the precise manner that he wanted it arranged. He had not told me before how he wanted it arranged, and my mind-reading was not so well-developed at the age of nineteen. Many years after I quit, after I had graduated from college with the highest honors and was employed as a computer programmer earning twice his salary, I entered his store with a friend to purchase toothpaste. He followed me the whole time, watching every move I made in a state of paranoia, but did not approach me. As I checked out my small purchase, he berated the security guard for laziness. The security guard did not understand why he was being berated, but I did. The assistant manager was absolutely convinced that I had gotten away with shoplifting something. It was not my responsibility to disabuse him of that notion, because he had not asked me. I burst out laughing, loud enough for all of the cashiers to hear me. His face turned red, but he said nothing. He did not even turn to look in my direction, but stormed off to his office to review the hidden cameras' video footage.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Peace Sign better for me than an asterisk.

My blog's template is based upon 565, which I liked better than all the other freebies offered by Blogger. However, the number "565" was strewn all over the template. To everyone except the designer, "565" has no meaning, symbolic or otherwise, except as the number that arrives after 564 and before 566. Also, in the upper left corner, there was an equally random asterisk.

I spent my Sunday afternoon eliminating those annoyances and redesigning the template to be in accord with my design values. "565" is history. The asterisk was replaced by a peace sign. I also reorganized the topics with the goal of simplicity and conciseness. Some topics have been folded into broader topics. "Computers," for instance, encompasses internet browsers, windows, and troubleshooting computer hardware. I also reworded the blog description, which used to be a mouthful: "Everything you ever wanted to know about life, technology and the world around you (but were afraid to ask)," which was borrowed from the 1969 book, "Everything you ever wanted to know about Sex (but were afraid to ask)." "Everything..." was meant as a joke. My new description, "A little bit of this, that and the other," is more concise and better reflects the blog's nature, although it could fit most blogs. For this blog, a description is unnecessary, because the topic list serves as an adequate description all by itself. I may get rid of the description altogether next time I do housecleaning.

Modifying templates is not for the faint of heart. I feel comfortable with HTML, but was unacquainted with Blogger's template language. XML? I have no idea. Trial-and-error was my teacher. Once I got immersed, things became easier, particularly with the assistance of Color Cop and ACDSee. I've tested the blog on the Chrome and Firefox browser, but don't have IE, so I won't bother with that for the time being.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

On the Use of Torture to Obtain Information

I just finished watching a documentary called "Torture: America's Dirty Business," created by Channel 4 (UK). The illegal detentions and torture conducted during the Bush/Cheney years were abhorrent.

War is one thing, but torture is another. It is true that war causes more suffering to more people than torture. War is often evil, as well. But in the case of torture, the moral dilemma is clear and striking. In war, some things are necessary, but there is no necessity to torture a prisoner. There are no belligerents in a secure prison. A prisoner is powerless to resist. He cannot harm anyone. During the period of a prisoner's confinement, the State is responsible for his care. It is wicked for the State to inflict pain and suffering upon a helpless prisoner. This is not the way to gain support and influence people. Those who cannot see why torture is evil have a difficulty in grasping the difference between right and wrong.

The powers of the West cannot sink to the level of their enemies. We have a higher standard of conduct than those that we battle. When our enemies commit evil, it marks them for what they are. There is a spiritual cost to committing evil, and the cost is very high indeed. "Winning at any cost" is a bad business, because so many costs are hidden and difficult to appreciate. Torture one person, and a hundred new enemies are made, and some of these enemies might have been our allies, or at the very least remained neutral, if we had kept to the path of righteousness. Without a strict code of ethics, the distinction between who is good and who is evil is diminished. The torturer loses the support of good people by committing torture. It is more valuable to retain the good opinion of good people than to seek short-term gain through underhanded means.

From a practical standpoint (if such a consideration is even worth discussing), torture is an ineffective method of obtaining information. A person undergoing torture will say anything at all that their captor wants to hear. But that fine point pales in comparison to the ethical question.

I am pleased that Obama has reaffirmed America's opposition to human rights abuses. Foreigners should be aware that the majority of Americans disapprove of the abuses that were allowed to occur under the Bush/Cheney Administration. Such abuses proved counter-productive to American interests in every way imaginable.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Love Marmite

Derived from yeast and loaded with B vitamins, Marmite is a salty black spread that is popular in the UK. I became acquainted with Marmite through a similar product known as Vegemite, which is popular in Australia. Many Americans such as myself were introduced to Vegemite by the 1981 hit song "Down Under" by Men At Work, in which the singer mentions being given a Vegemite sandwich. I don't believe I ever actually tried Vegemite. I started researching it online and soon discovered a competing product named Marmite.

Marmite seems more nutritious than Vegemite, because Marmite has vitamin B-12, which is difficult to obtain in diet except through meat and dairy. I think the "Vege-" in "Vegemite" is meant to boast of its purer vegetable base. Marmite, despite claiming to be 100% vegetarian, may derive its B12 from animal sources, which is all right by me, as I'm an omnivore*. As for the New Zealand version of Marmite, I'm dissuaded by reports that it is sweeter and less flavorful. The more flavor, the better, as far as I'm concerned. Another selling point for me is that the UK version of Marmite is gluten-free. Gluten seems to cause my partner migraine headaches, so I try to avoid purchasing foods that contain it. About .5 to 1 per cent of the U.S. population suffer from a similar wheat allergy.

Both Marmite and Vegemite are difficult to obtain in the U.S., but it is not impossible. I made an order with some friends who were traveling to the city, and they bought three 120g jars of Marmite for me from one of the gourmet stores. Yum and double yum! For a quick snack, nothing's better than a slice of whole grain toast slathered with "black gold." Peanut butter is fine and dandy, but Marmite's the thing if you have a craving for savory food. I suggest buying as big a jar as possible, because the bigger jars have a cheaper per-gram price, and nothing's sadder than reaching the end of a jar of Marmite.

* Marmite's source of B-12, which is not found in yeast extract, is undisclosed on the packaging. If I were a vegetarian, I wouldn't trust tags like "100% vegetarian."

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

How to Ace a Test

My recent exam was challenging, though I slew worse dragons in my time. The questions varied in difficulty. Some were easy, but others were ferocious, fire-breathing monsters. I had feared that being out of practice for so long would tell against me, but my old skills are undiminished. I scored in the ninety-ninth percentile. It was a pleasant surprise.

Over the years, I have developed an effective strategy concerning tests. I will share as much as I can here. I will begin with general recommendations and then proceed to specific studying and test-taking skills.

An interest in how things work--the how and why--helps enormously in every aspect of life. Without intellectual curiosity, one would be at a severe disadvantage regardless of occupation. Above all else, be humble. Not knowing something is no reason for shame, but represents an opportunity instead. I respect those who know something I do not, and like them even better if they are willing to share their knowledge with me. Those who are unwilling to share knowledge are like misers. They may lack a certain sense of social responsibility. I have known senior computer programmers who horded their secrets, out of concern for job security. I was a senior computer programmer as well, and I shared my secrets with anyone who asked, because my confidence was based upon my competence, not my knowledge. Knowledge is for sharing, not hording. But some view the workplace in a Darwinian light, rather than a team where cooperation can be of mutual benefit.

A student will face many tests in school and they will determine his success or failure. It is important to use an effective strategy for studying and for test-taking. Here is mine. Make of it what you will. I approach an important test with the utmost gravity, like an upcoming battle where I am the general. I accept implicitly that the test is fair and the professor, teacher or testing organization is fair. Usually, in my experience, they are. All accountability is mine alone. The buck stops here. The possibilities are life (pass) or death (fail). Either alternative lies within my grasp. If I feel like I cannot pass an exam, then I avoid it. A wise general chooses his battles. War is serious business. Never wage war unprepared. Defeat demoralizes. Success invigorates and leads to future success. When necessary, retreat. When prepared, engage.

The more time you have to prepare, the better. If the test-giver permits the option of postponing a test, and if you feel like you need more time to prepare, then take advantage of the offer. Never be in a hurry to get the test over with. Failing to make the necessary score is a tactical defeat, which is bad for the morale of your troops.

There is no getting around studying, which consists of memorization and practice. The higher the quality of your studying material, the better. In my case, I had an adequate study guide, not the best, but adequate. I focused upon my weak areas and crammed. Memorization is absolutely required in order to pass the vast majority of tests. I read important passages over and over, day after day, until I knew what they said without reading them, which is the final goal. If you can place your hand over a page, and without looking at it, recite the relevant facts, then and only then have you learned. If you examine the page and discover you missed a few details, focus upon those details until they, too, are mastered.

There is a balancing act involved with studying. Don't overdo it, or you may risk burnout. One reaches a certain point of saturation, after which one encounters the point of diminishing returns. The brain requires a break. Ideally, the break involves a catnap. In sleep, the mind processes the information which has been absorbed during the day. Irrelevant information is discarded, while important facts, like what you are studying, are assimilated. For this reason, you must attach grave importance to the study material, and possess a keen desire to have it inside your mind. The desire is half the battle.

I call the desire to succeed the will to power. "The will to power will overpower" can even be expressed as a formula: will^power (will / power). Some employ this philosophy to improper ends, such as domination over others. The proper end is competence and performance. The idea is to perform to the utmost, not to be a cutthroat. Right-wingers see things differently, with their enthusiasm for social Darwinism.

Give yourself moderate rewards for studying, such as video games or favorite foods, but avoid all inebriating substances. Strict sobriety is my rule, at least while preparing for a test. Exercise relieves stress in an effective manner. Walking is best to stimulate circulation, which feeds the brain, but I like to do push-ups as well.

Good nutrition (in particular, all of the B vitamins--I love Marmite) assists brain functioning. Eat well and often. Never allow hunger or any other discomfort to interfere with studying. In fact, nothing must interfere with studying, not even the social demands of friends. Prior to a test, one should enter monastic mode. Social engagements serve as a distraction. Your focus must remain upon crunching logic and memorizing vast amounts of data. Friends can wait. You will obtain better friends as a successful test-taker than as a failure. Besides, real friends will respect your dedication and discipline in making sacrifices in order to perform well. Those friends who do not understand the necessity are unworthy.

In the week prior to the test, all decisions should be evaluated in light of whether they will help or hinder test performance. Get adequate sleep. If the test begins at 8:00 AM, then in the week prior, wake up by 6 AM every morning, and perform timed practice tests at 8:00 AM. It is crucial to be fully awake, alert and in optimum physical condition the moment the test begins.

A moderate level of caffeine--say, a cup of tea--is all right, but too much will hinder test performance. If you are addicted to caffeine, you had better take your usual dose in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Leave nothing to chance. If #2 pencils are required, bring five, already sharpened and ready to work. Research everything that will be necessary for the test: photo identification, money, or extra layers of clothing (if the test room is cold). Is there any danger of a traffic jam delaying your arrival to the test center? Give yourself plenty of time to arrive. If you get there too early, you can always remain in the car napping. That's right, napping. In the moments just prior to a test, napping is a better option than studying, because stamina is crucial, particularly for a lengthy test. If you spend too much time studying right before a test, your brain is likely to suffer fatigue, leading to careless mistakes. I have taken tests that last many hours, and stamina is important on such tests. Time pressure results in careless mistakes, if your energy levels are low.

The goal of a test-maker is to deceive the test-taker by placing choices on the test that will exploit a test-taker's uncertainty and gullibility. You must accept that the test-maker is a great liar. He is not your friend, but your enemy. He places choices on the test that seem appealing, but are false. You will defeat him for several reasons. First, your studying has prepared you. Second, you are confident, because you have studied, and you know that you know the answers. Third, you hold the test-maker in contempt. Why? Because it is very difficult, if not impossible to deceive you. You have practiced so many times on different practice tests that you have grown wise in the ways of the test-makers.

In cases where you know the answer, make your choice, and then double-check it to make sure that no other choice fits. Sometimes, there is a certain degree of correctness among two answers; one may seem to fit the context of a question, but the other really does fit in every way. After you have double-checked, move on. I am not in favor of double-checking at the end of a section, because the questions are cold by that time. I like to complete a question for good while it is warm and fresh in the mind. I don't like to go back and double-guess. That is a bad habit to get into, because first hunches are more often correct.

In cases where you do not know the answer, eliminate as many choices as possible, and then guess from among the remaining choices. If you can narrow down the selection to two choices, then you have a fifty per cent chance of choosing right. Here again, make your choice, double-check it, and move on.

Even where you feel uncertain, a vestige of factual information may exist somewhere in the memory--maybe from many years ago, maybe from a television show you saw when you were a child. In such a case, the brain selects the right answer immediately. You may feel doubt over whether you are right. But something in your gut seems to favor one answer. Go with it. Trust your instinct. Your memories may not be very strong, leading to doubt and confusion. You may feel tempted to second-guess yourself. Don't. Always favor your initial hunch unless you have a powerful reason to believe it was mistaken. You may smell a trap placed there by the test-maker. One of the choices may sound similar to something you have heard or seen before, but upon reflection, you understand it is actually quite different. In that case, avoid it.

Beware of wasting time, especially on the math questions. Take shortcuts. Rather than working out a problem in its entirety, I often guesstimate the correct answer. I may say, "oh, that should result in an amount of about so-and-so." Then I survey the choices. If there is a choice that approximates my estimation, and if the other choices are far from it, then there is no need for me to do anymore work. I make my choice and move on. Much time and energy can be saved this way. Conserve your resources for the really difficult problems, where the choices are too close to permit estimation. Work smarter, not harder. In this way, you are at less risk of running out of time.

Always answer every question. Leave nothing blank. Don't be demoralized by difficult questions, because it is likely that other people will have difficulty with them as well. You do not need to make a perfect score. You only have to do better than a certain percentage of the others. My perfectionist tendency led me to conclude that I had bombed the exam, because some of the questions were extremely challenging. Some of the material had not been covered at all in my study guide. On some questions, I was guessing without the benefit of eliminating any of the answers. Even so, I scored very high, because scores are computed relative to others, not relative to perfection.

It is good to have adrenaline flowing during a test. Some people complain of test anxiety. You should want to have anxiety. Don't fight it. Own it. You should be nervous. If you aren't, then you may not be viewing the test with sufficient respect and seriousness. Nervousness is always good, when engaging in high intensity intellectual competition. Serenity is for later, when you pass the test with flying colors. Remember: it is war. You must prevail.

Adrenaline helps with speed, accuracy, alertness, and general energy levels. However, adrenaline brings with it certain disadvantages. A calmer state is better for tackling complicated math problems. If you have learned to be efficient at test-taking, you will conserve time and energy for the tough problems and breeze past the easy ones. You must be able to slow down, think things through, and be calm and patient with the more difficult problems. Use the extra energy wisely. Don't allow all the energy to lead you into hasty and incorrect decisions.

Sometimes it is possible to take breaks during a long exam. During the test, once the brain is primed and the adrenaline is flowing, my advice is to just go straight through with a minimum of breaks. There is a real danger of fatigue from adrenaline, if the test-taking is prolonged by frequent interruptions. A break should be taken only to use the bathroom or get water or caffeine.

Those are some of the habits I have picked up over the years that have proven beneficial. The main thing is to be focused upon success. Different people may have different opinions about what works for them. But all have one thing in common, a focus upon the final result. Smaller details, such as recreation, relaxation, or socialization, must be held subservient to the overriding imperative, to do well at school.

I have not known many people to succeed who are not willing to study. But studying should not be unpleasant. If it is, then something is wrong. Studying is most efficient if it is approached with a positive attitude. Approach it as a game, a challenge, a contest. Let it be less like work and more like play.

Now I will not argue with anyone over the observation that memorization is less important than creativity, ethics, empathy, and other important traits. But memorization remains important. The ability to absorb vast amounts of facts assists in every profession under the sun. Even a prostitute will benefit from a good memory. Making good decisions requires factual information. Without facts, people rely upon prejudice and whim and are often wrong. Many mental abilities can be cultivated and enhanced through exercise, and studying is excellent exercise. Without exercise, the intellectual faculties decay. The brain fossilizes, which is a sad fate for a human being.

The anxiety and nervousness generated by a test are detrimental and unpleasant feelings, but this is intended. A test measures how well you cope with such negative feelings, giving an indication of how well you will perform when you assume the heavy responsibilities of a real job. School is a cakewalk compared to the work environment, where millions of dollars or even a human life may be at stake. A test sorts out who can cope best with such stress. Tests may seem unfair, because they are unpleasant, but what is a fair measurement of student competence? No better system has been devised to my knowledge. Tests are fair enough, as long as everyone is given a test of similar complexity and permitted adequate time and study materials to prepare.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Which If the Following...

I've been taking practice tests all week. In the "Reading Comprehension" section, a brief article on aromatherapy was given, followed by several questions to test reading comprehension, such as this lovely little jewel:

"Which if the following is a likely reason why some people choose aromatherapy as a type of treatment?"

If, indeed. If only test-takers could grade test-makers. And remember: 60 divided by 12 is 50%. And there are a thousand centimeters in a meter. I've been learning all kinds of wonderful things.


For a long time I have been in favor of vitamins, because I have imagined that they cause an increase in energy levels. But I want a moderate dose, not a mega-dose. My geology professor in college used to chew a tablet with 1500% the U.S. RDA of Vitamin C every day in order to bolster his immune system, until his dentist observed that the enamel of his molars was wearing away at an unanticipated rate for his age. In the case of vitamin A, too much of it is known to be toxic. Would you like to experience problems urinating? Too much calcium causes kidney stones. Too much iron causes problems as well, and the list goes on and on. For now, I purchase kids' vitamins, because their lower dosages offer less risk of toxicity. Besides, kids' vitamins taste better. Each morning, I take a chewable lion, tiger, bear, or elephant, a capsule of fish oil with omega-3 fatty acids, and prepare a quick breakfast of oatmeal.

Sometimes I forget to take my vitamin, and I don't notice any difference in the way I feel. Perhaps the vitamin fad is a bunch of nonsense after all. It may even be a harmful fad. Are we poisoning ourselves with toxic doses of vitamins and minerals? A great experiment has been unleashed upon an unsuspecting society by hucksters looking to make a profit.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


While grading a self-test today, I discovered the following errors in the answers.

1. Express 60/12 as a percentage.

(A) 0.5%
(B) 5%
(C) 50%
(D) 500%

The answer key said (C).

2. How many centimeters are in 56 meters?

(A) 56
(B) 560
(C) 5,600
(D) 56,000

The answer key said (D).

I am not sure what sort of boneheads are working as proofreaders at the publishing company these days, but factual information is difficult to come by even in mainstream newspapers, TV shows and magazines. A recent news article in "The Week" claimed that 60% of Americans feel like Sarah Palin is misrepresented by the media. That sounded odd, and I wondered whether it might be so until I saw the byline: Fox News.

Freedom Is...

Freedom is when you can tell Mrs. Grundy to go fly a kite.

I believe that's a quote from R.A. Heinlein, from the Notebooks of Lazarus Long.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The African

I was checking out at Trader Joe's today, when I saw the cashier had left an open box of cookies for customers. I seldom pass up freebies. They were black chocolate cookies in the shape of stars, encrusted with tiny white sugar balls and simply delicious.

The cashier was a big black man with an accent that I couldn't place--either Carribean or African. He was most pleasant, the kind of person you would want to get to know better. After I paid for my groceries, I praised the cookies and asked how much they were. He said he'd find out. They were only $4 for a pound, so I bought a box, even though I don't usually make impulse purchases. As he rang me up, he spoke in a manner that was like a song. "There will be stars in your future, stars in your life tonight..." I interpreted that as a kind of mystic blessing. It was worth $4 just to hear his rich and melodious voice again. I suspect he could sell just about anything to anyone. I wonder whether there was a hidden joke--or even a hidden spell--in the particular choice of product.

The cookies are great. I'm having a second helping now. I love Trader Joe's. Always a good time. Always good prices and good food.

Monday, November 30, 2009

List of Gay Films

Wikipedia offers a great big list of gay-themed films here.

I find the list useful when searching for something new to watch, although I've begun to prefer shows that retain the same cast of characters. Recommended TV shows are Noah's Arc, Beautiful People, Queer as Folk (British and American version), Little Britain, Little Britain USA, and the first two seasons of Torchwood (the show went south in the third season, R.I.P.) Also worth a try is anything with Kathy Griffin and the Graham Norton Show. Peep Show occasionally works a gay theme into the plot as well, although none of the characters are gay.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Fiscal Conservatism Awakens

When the wars began, the Wall Street Journal rolled over in its sleep. Hundreds of billions of dollars flew away. The final cost we may never know. When Obama tried to pass health care reform, the Wall Street Journal transformed overnight into an advocate of fiscal conservatism. The idea of poor people receiving medical care from the government must be quite alarming to their constituency.

I'm Still Amazed

In 1976, California's sodomy law was repealed. Imagine. It used to be illegal for two males to be together. It was considered a prerogative of law enforcement to interpose itself in the bedroom of two consenting adults.

By the present time, 2009, the electorate has progressed so far as to be willing to debate the idea of enshrining gay marriage into law. I never expected such a possibility to arise. Even though gay marriage has suffered many defeats at the voting booth, the margin of defeat in many cases is not all that bad.

A long road has been traveled in a political and ideological sense. I can remember when newspapers printed lies about us with impunity. I used to wonder how journalists and newspaper editors could be so ignorant after graduating from college. Apparently they were all just afraid to write anything different from what had been written before. Fear of change seems to be universal. Demonstrating that change is not always bad--that's half the battle. I think the visibility of gay people was essential in overcoming prejudices.

It is reassuring to observe so many steps made in the direction of understanding. Society remains concerned with ethics and efficiency. No human lives are considered insignificant. Society expects each member to perform to their maximum potential and shows an interest in integrating each member to the best of his or her abilities. This is a better scenario than gay males growing up assuming that they are already social rejects, candidates for drug addiction, crime, prostitution or suicide. Rather than such unpleasant outcomes, a brighter future is suggested. Most of the gay men I have known have had professional careers and many have had monogamous partners. I would call this a step in the right direction, toward stability and happiness.

For society as a whole, increased overall efficiency is the significance of gay rights. Instead of a certain percentage of individuals growing up thinking that they are worthless or inferior, they can grow up with a better semblance of normality. Such a development serves to turn back the hands of the Doomsday Clock.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Tale of Two Clinics

In my town, there were once two clinics. One was devoted to counseling poor pregnant women in the hopes that they put their offspring up for adoption instead of having an abortion. It is in a nice section of town in a quaint old house and is staffed by three or four counselors.

Another clinic was devoted to distributing medicine and medical advice to people infected with the HIV virus. It was located on a remote stretch of highway in a trailer and served by one nurse.

Guess which one shut down due to lack of funding?

The AIDS clinic was really a life-saver. I know, because I used to drive an AIDS patient to the clinic to pick up his meds. It was ill-funded even while operational. Sometimes the meds were unavailable due to lack of supply. The nurse on staff (there was only one nurse) had no recourse. Many HIV patients go on unscheduled vacations from their medicine due to lack of funding. All the price breaks announced by Big Pharma are only for the benefit of people in Africa, not for Americans.

By the way, the building that once housed the AIDS clinic has been transformed into a headquarters for the local Republican party.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Favorite Living Celebrity

There is at least one living celebrity that I would like to know, assuming I had a magic wish granted to me by a genii: Ian McKellen, the actor who played Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings. I don't really know much about the Shakespearean actor, other than he is one of the few out gay men in Hollywood and has had a great career. That he played Macbeth implies depth and profundity, which no doubt came in useful during his LOTR gig.

Gandalf is one of my favorite characters of all time. I can't but think of him as a role model for what I would like to become, if I could. The magic helps, naturally, but he is always saying wise things that speak to the heart.

Tolkien was a great writer. I don't know why literary critics put him down, but perhaps it is because they come from an academic environment, where the analytical faculties are favored to the exclusion of all else. They judge literature using left-brain criteria. Such critics miss the point of art. They would be better off as proofreaders. Being a good critic means knowing the human animal--what he is and what he can be. There must be a bias favoring writers that really get it, whether or not their prose conforms in every respect to established conventions. An analyst concerns himself with details, but the details of the parts are inferior to the sum of the whole. Critics need to get off their high horse once in a while. Just because something is wildly popular does not make it bad.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Water on the Moon

This is the best news I've read all year. Scientists have discovered water on the Moon. The Moon is better equipped to support life than it at first appeared.

If we ruin this planet, a handful of us may find a second chance on a smaller satellite orbiting around the Sun. There may be enough water to sustain a small village.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Why Blog?

The blog receives few comments, which sometimes concerns me. Does my writing do me any credit? Am I making any sense at all? Such doubts may occur to other bloggers as well. But if a blog only receives ten hits per day, with most of these being click-and-go, then one can't expect much feedback.

Why should someone bother reading an unpublished amateur, when there are best-selling luminaries online, offering their thoughts in many cases for free? I don't know. If the quest for readership were all that mattered, then no one would bother blogging. There are heavy hitters servicing just about every conceivable niche. When I visit Border's, I'm overwhelmed by the many different books and writers that I've never even heard of before. I haven't enough remaining time in my life to read all the books, even if the inventory never changed. This is the golden age of literature. Books are plentiful, cheap, well-constructed, proofread until nearly perfect, and can even be ordered online without ever leaving one's home.

I view my blog as a public journal for recording my thoughts, ideas and opinions. It is safer than a word processor, because if my computer ever dies, the articles remain secure in the cloud. In my day, I have seen many a hard drive crash and be irrecoverable. Besides, my thoughts may be useful or at least amusing to others. Who am I to assume otherwise? In the case of a certain cult classic game, there are obvious reasons for players to read igor's little insights. I can't imagine playing that game without my trusty regen.bat, which protects against sudden death.

The blog is more for me than anyone else. I like reading my own material, because I tend to agree with myself. No big surprise there. My blog is my favorite blog of all. I'd rather write on it or read it than watch my favorite show. Since February, the blog has really cut into my television watching. I have a massive backlog of shows I have been meaning to watch. This is the golden age of television, as well, although not television news.

Writing is both therapeutic and an effective exercise of the mental faculties, which slide toward decay in a world of canned entertainment. Whenever someone feels troubled over an issue, they should write about it. Reviewing one's own writing can be instructive, like looking into a mirror. I am aware of at least some of my faults, if not all. I also see some good qualities, which is why I continue.

However, when writing, exercise caution concerning negative events or emotions. For instance, many political writers indulge their spleen to excess. Their hatred is tribal in nature and does not seem grounded in reality. For instance, Limbaugh and Coulter are forever going on about liberals. They do not know what they are talking about. Theirs is non-productive writing. Perhaps they make a great deal of money through their writing. Money is not as important as ethics. I would not trade places with either of them for all the money in the world.

Be careful with the digging up of old bones, such as conflicts, infatuations, or traumas of the past. Sometimes it is best to leave old bones undisturbed in their grave, particularly if one has moved on. By thinking about a subject, one gives it energy. Monsters can rise from their slumber to haunt us once again. Deny them your power. Rather than brood, focus instead upon the present.

However, some of us are reflective by nature and seem to have no choice but to analyze events in the past in the hopes of arriving at a better understanding. There may be instances when one chooses to travel into subterranean caverns in search of self-knowledge. It is a dangerous journey, with fell creatures lurking in the shadows. Here there be dragons. But such an expedition can prove cathartic. Old memories can serve as an instruction, maybe even a useful one, for myself and others. I will only be around for so long. After I am gone from this earth, the only record I leave behind may be stories. They needed to be birthed. I carried them to term and placed them in a nest somewhere out in the world. Then I returned to the sea.

By writing a story, I transcend it. The beast is dissected, with every part labeled. It is pinned down, framed and hung upon a wall. Thereafter, its power over me diminishes. If this is the attitude that a writer takes, then excavations of old bones can be constructive rather than destructive.

Avoid alcohol, the bane of all writers, because in the long run it inspires melancholy thoughts. For an inhibited, reserved writer, booze may seem like just the thing. A friend of mind refers to it as mental lubrication. I have not found it to be helpful at all. As for marijuana, it relaxes the analytical faculties, reducing the quality of prose. Reading, in particular, becomes far more challenging. I doubt marijuana would be of much use to a writer, unless he suffers from writer's block. If therapy is the main goal, rather than prose quality, then marijuana may be of benefit.

For my part, I prefer sobriety when writing or reading. The only drug that I have found useful for intellectual work of any kind is caffeine in the form of coffee, chocolate, or tea. Some writers swear by nicotine, which is supposed to improve concentration, although I have never observed any such benefit. However, if nicotine seems beneficial, then I would suggest absorbing it through a patch, rather than smoking, or else using a vaporizer on unprocessed, cured tobacco. The tobacco in most cigarettes has harmful additives, and combustion renders tobacco more carcinogenic. The goal would be to maximize the benefit and minimize the harm. However, you could easily become addicted to nicotine, which is one of the most addictive substances known to man. This is the main reason that I avoid it.

Sharing one's thoughts with others is not a bad idea, because there is a slim possibility that your output may be of benefit to others. However, I must add with reluctance a warning. On today's Internet, everything is traceable, archives are kept forever, lawsuits are becoming more common, and government oversight of private power is insufficient. A private individual of modest means should consider the many benefits of remaining as anonymous as possible. Of course, there is no such thing as total anonymity, but there is such a thing as "good enough" anonymity. Even at the cost of clarity, it may be prudent to refrain from mentioning keywords such as names and places, at least until such things are rendered irrelevant by the inexorable march of time. There are exceptions, such as a wealthy writer with a lawyer on retainer. It is all right to be the knight in shining armor, if you can afford the suit and horse. Otherwise, remain in the forest among the trees, dressed in green.
techlorebyigor is my personal journal for ideas & opinions