I have been so busy writing books and taking care of my grandfather that I didn’t visit many parks or write many blog posts last year. Here are a few things I did do:
I discovered YouTube channels DrBecky and Cody’sLab:
Doctor Rebecca Smethurst is an astrophysicist who covers the latest news in cosmology, gets really excited about black holes, and sings.
Cody takes care of bees, chickens, extracts valuable metals from catalytic converters, plays with mercury, turns everything into charcoal, and is currently building a habitat to simulate Martian living.
In the meantime, I posted another article to LovesTampaBay.com, this one written by my mother about her visit to Sawgrass Lake Park.
I also saw a GIGANTIC beetle in the summer. It resembled a Japanese beetle, but was bigger than a June bug. Unfortunately, I got no pictures.
What I did get a picture of was the night sky when it was every color of the alphabet and then some. It is hard to see in the photo, but they are there.
Another day I went to check the temperature and found I was not the only one:
I made chili using leftover Lima beans:
Here are some other pictures:
I didn’t get out much in 2019, but that doesn’t mean nothing happened. My grandfather’s rhubarb plant put up flowers this year. First, it put up a very tall stem. Then buds formed. Then they flowered and before long became disk-shaped seeds.
There are also three types of lilacs on the property and a fourth type just over the hedge on the neighbor’s property. To my eyes, they had quite different shades, but the camera doesn’t pick this up well.
In March, I stumbled across the YouTube channel How To ADHD and now I wonder whether I have ADHD. I have long thought I might have some tendencies in that direction since I was easily distracted by noises or movements when I was in school, but I was never evaluated, and I finally decided that if I did have it, I had a very mild case. I never really thought about it again. What I have learned from watching the videos has made me consider the issue deeper. So much of it sounds just like me.
I used to doodle all over my math sheets and notebooks. At the time, I just thought I liked to doodle, but now I realize my mind refused to stay on one subject for long. In the absence of external distraction, I am distracted by my own thoughts. This same story is told by others who did the exact same thing!
During class reading time when we took turns reading out loud, I was never able to synchronize my reading rate with those around me. There was no way I could pay attention to the words on paper and follow the voice of someone stumbling over unfamiliar words at the same time. My natural reading rate was faster than everyone else’s and when it was my turn to read, I had to turn back a page to find where they all were. At the time, I thought my speedy reading comprehension just meant I was smarter than average, so I didn’t worry about it. It seemed stupid to force everyone to read together and I believed the slow readers must be having as hard a time keeping up as I was keeping down. Why not let everyone read at their natural pace? A very similar story is told by the host of How To ADHD.
I also remember that while I got perfect or near perfect scores on my tests without ever studying (just reading the textbook through once was good enough), I could not always finish my homework on time. After sitting in school all day, I was in no condition to spend any additional time on such things. When four of my teachers would assign homework on the same night – all due the next day – I burned out. One semester I got a D in math and an F in English in spite of getting As on my tests because I couldn’t finish my homework! I just thought I had less stamina than average; I didn’t realize all these symptoms were related.
While I might burn out from working long hours, I was always better than average in the short-term. I was quick to understand new, complex concepts. I was good in emergencies. I thrived at McDonald’s because every order was an emergency that had to be finished in ninety seconds or less. I was the most efficient employee they ever had. Yet when at home, I somehow never got around to working on my novel for fourteen years. This is exactly the behavior of those with ADHD. When a subject is interesting or urgent, they are able to “hyperfocus,” exceeding even those of normal attention.
I have also noticed that not all distractions are created equal. Sometimes distractions are distracting, but other times I need them so that I don’t get distracted by my own thoughts. This is also a sign of ADHD. I imagine this effect makes it hard to diagnose and could even bring up the question whether it is a real condition – but I’ll save those thoughts for another time. Many report needing to fidget with something while they work so they don’t get lost in their own minds. I fidget a lot. I find I often have to pace while thinking or else I can’t focus. Of course, fidgeting can also be interpreted as a symptom of Tourette’s, tardive dyskinesia, autism (stimming), or it can be culturally learned, so one has to be careful not to read too much into it.
I have also always had a hard time getting to sleep and tend to sleep more than the average person. This tends to be an ADHD symptom. I also start more projects than I finish and my father is the same way. ADHD has a strong genetic component, so now I think he might have a mild case too. I have also never been great at estimating time. This applies not only to estimating how much time has already elapsed, but to my predictions of how much time projects will take me. A day can feel like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day. This is also a symptom of ADHD. I had no idea that all these things were related!
At the core of the condition is something common to all mankind – the inability to focus on that which doesn’t interest us and doesn’t seem urgent – some just suffer from it more than others. ADHD is a spectrum. We all have a little bit of it. “Trying harder” does not work because one first has to have the mental focus on something to make a coherent choice to try anything. “Try harder” is something that can only apply to the body, not the mind.
One symptom that doesn’t fit me well is lack of emotional regulation. I’m generally pretty good at not getting emotional in the usual sense – although, one could of course explain my outward behavior as the sum of many emotions, such as the desire not to appear emotional, or the emotion of calmness canceling out my anger, fear, or excitement. Sometimes I feel like Spock from the original Star Trek. Vulcans actually have emotions far more intense than humans, but they ignore and suppress them through equally intense mental discipline, honoring only logic.
In any case, the channel gives much practical advice on how to manage tasks and schedules that should be useful to everyone – and everyone is at least a little bit ADHD sometimes.
Among other ideas, the host suggests keeping a “to-did” list alongside the to-do list, to remind you of what you have accomplished, keeping things interesting enough to keep going. She also suggests adding a scoring system and a set of rewards.
She suggests that if you can’t find a good way to start something, to simply start badly. Eventually, the stimulus should activate your brain enough to fix any problems you might have created in the beginning. I learned to do this years ago, but it still goes against my nature. I need more practice.
She suggests setting up routines of the same tasks in the same order so that finishing one provides the cue for the next. She also suggests taking regular rests. While many of my tasks are unique, one-time things that do not fit routines, and I am often interrupted, I can certainly take more, short rests instead of the few, long rests that I do now.
She suggests adding new tasks to the schedule incrementally only after we have mastered our current work load. This is something I know too well. I am terrible at estimating how much I can handle and tend to take on too much too soon.
Finally, she suggests breaking big tasks into smaller steps. I now realize that sometimes the reason I don’t start tasks I mean to do is because they seem overwhelming because I haven’t broken them into small enough steps. Granted, sometimes there is no way to do this, but usually there is.
With any luck, I will have twelve books ready to publish in 2024 – without resorting to medication.
The universe is a wild and fascinating place of wild physics, wild geology, wild chemistry, wild biology, and even wild psychology. Science often violates common sense.
I have written before on the rarity of common sense. Many people believe whatever they are told even if it violates everyday experience and basic science I have known since elementary school.
Rumors abound that the LHC might accidentally create a black hole that will destroy the world. It’s hard to see how. Gravity is proportional to mass and the LHC deals with only nanograms at a time. Any black hole would be tiny and tug with no more force than the matter it collapsed from. The danger of black holes comes from their small size allowing one to get closer to the center of gravity than one could an object of lower density, but since fundamental particles might be infinitesimal points (this is how they are treated in mainstream models, i.e. not string theory), they might already be black holes. I’m not worried.
One area full of wild claims is psychology. Psychologists jump to conclusions without data, assuming people secretly racist when the test results might simply show that people are aware that racism exists, or assuming young children can’t think symbolically when their behavior could equally be interpreted as play. Sometimes I think all psychologists are insane.
I am generally more understanding than the average person. I accept people who are shy because I recognize that I don’t always feel like being put on the spot either. I accept people who are emotional or have depression or mania, because I’ve had different emotions and moods before. I accept people with attention deficit disorder because I can sometimes be distracted too. I accept people with obsessive-compulsive disorder because I know what it’s like to settle into a comfortable routine only to have things change. I believe I understand both liberals and conservatives more than they understand each other because unlike the average person, I actually listen first before I close my mind. If there is one thing I have a hard time understanding, it is why some people have such a hard time understanding.
Still, I find some claims of handicap so ridiculous that I literally can’t believe them. They do not pass the test of common sense. I can only conclude that people with these conditions are faking it.
The Man Who Forgot How To Read:
I once read about a man who had a stroke and could no longer recognize objects by sight. He could see and navigate just fine, but he could not know what he was looking at until interacting with it using his other senses.
I don’t get it. If he couldn’t tell by looking at it whether a patch of color was a vertical wall or a horizontal golf course, how could he navigate? Is it possible he simply had difficulty putting words to things, but could recognize what they were just fine? But if that is the case, why could he no longer read? I don’t need to know the names of letters to tie them to sounds or tie words to meanings. Unless I have completely misunderstood, the mental condition described here is internally incoherent and inconsistent. Logic proves that it cannot be true.
I have also heard of people born with aphantasia who can see, navigate, and even recognize objects by sight, but do not store visual memories and are incapable of imagining visual stimuli. They record representations of three-dimensional spatial relationships as strings of words.
I don’t get it. Words alone cannot capture the meaning of a three-dimensional space without the spatial meanings of those words being previously known by demonstration. I can explain how to build a castle using only text by including words such as “angle” and “length,” but if one doesn’t already have an understanding of such concepts, no amount of words alone will ever teach them. To know what an angle is, is to think visually. To know what a length is, is to think visually.
I have also read about a woman who had a stroke and could no longer see motion. To fill cups without overflowing them, she had to draw marks on the sides. When the liquid was above a certain level, she stopped pouring.
I don’t get it. Why use visible marks when she could just as easily imagine one just below the top of the cup? It sounds like she was perfectly capable of seeing the liquid at one level and then later at another level – but seeing a difference in space over a difference in time IS seeing motion! Velocity equals displacement divided by time. What am I missing here?
I have heard of some people born with prosopagnosia who can easily recognize patterns in general, but cannot recognize faces.
What? This just raises too many questions. What qualifies as a face? What separates them from other patterns? Spiders have eyes and legs all over their cephalothoraxes. Do they have faces? Squid have eyes on the sides and move with their tentacles trailing behind, where the beak is hidden. Do they have faces? Do clocks have faces? Do mountains have faces? Doesn’t one already have to be fairly good at pattern recognition to know whether something is a face or not? What causes “faces” to then be shunted over into the dysfunctional part of the brain while “non-faces” are kept for further analysis? What happens if one sees such a realistic photo that for just a moment they recognize it as a real face and their brain stops processing it? Do they never realize that it is just a photo? If these people are really so good at recognizing other patterns, can they cure themselves simply by thinking of everything as a non-face?
After a particular type of stroke paralyzing the left side of the body, some people develop anosognosia. Thus, they are unable to see the left side of objects. This does not mean they see nothing in the left half of the visual field; it means that even objects completely contained in the right visual field will still be subdivided such that they do not perceive their left sides. Supposedly, they are completely unaware of the left side of anything, including themselves. They are known to eat only from the right side of plates, fail to see the pencil in their left shirt pocket when looking in a mirror, and get caught on doorframes when they forget about the existence of half their body!
This condition is really weird and it raises a lot of questions. At what level do they subdivide? Given two plates of beans, do they eat every bean on the right plate and none on the left? Or do they eat the beans from the right halves of both plates? Or do they cut each bean in half and eat only the right sides of each? If the beans are replaced with asparagus, is the stalk seen as a separate object from the crown, or is the entire shoot seen as a single object? Since any object can be arbitrarily subdivided into smaller objects all the way down to the limit of visual resolution, how can there be any consistency in what people see and how they behave? It is meaningless and random.
I have been told that those with autism are unable to form a “theory of mind” of themselves or others in order to predict human behavior, yet are average (or even above-average) when predicting other systems. Those with autism are good at computer programs or physics but not psychology. I have many of the same problems with this description of autism that I do with prosopagnosia.
What qualifies as a mind? Doesn’t one have to understand a phenomenon really well first before figuring out whether it is mind-based or not? Also, how is it possible not to know your own thinking when you’re the one doing the thinking? That’s crazy talk. Are all psychologists insane?
I literally can’t believe any of these conditions are true as described. Logic compels me to reject the notion. You might as well ask me to believe in square circles. There is no doubt in my mind that somebody is lying. I don’t have much patience for this nonsense.
Of course, many people would see me as an intolerant jerk. This brings me to consider another disorder: What if I have a mental condition that blocks me from imagining and accepting such things? After all, I have immense trouble trying to visualize complex motion in four or more dimensions. Most people find it hard to grasp the notion of non-Euclidean geometries, higher dimensions, and the “spin-node network” of quantum loop gravity theory. Some people can’t bring themselves to believe in aliens, ghosts, or God. If it is possible for those with anosognosia to be ignorant of their own ignorance, what might we be ignorant of? Higher dimensions? The Silence? Could we be surrounded by angels and demons who watch everything we do? Can I really trust my own logic? My logic says yes, but that’s exactly what I would expect my logic to say.
In any case, anyone who can entertain the idea that these people might be telling the truth should also be open to the idea that my condition is just as real. For the sake of fairness, anyone asking me to have patience with these people should also have patience with me for not having patience. I can’t help it.
Common Sense Not Common
Common Sense Often Wrong
Aspberger's Is The New Drapetomania
The Undiscovered Mind
Sometimes people remember things differently from others. Sometimes people remember things differently than the official record. I’ve had such experiences going back into the 1980s. It has been a running theme in my life. I’ve also observed others when they were surprised to see reality itself collapse around them. It is the most disconcerting experience there is. I even published a fiction book (The Spider, The Witch, And The Spaceship) about this exact phenomenon, calling it fifth-dimensional shift. Future stories on the same subject are already planned.
Here is the blurb: This is the story of a man named Nate who finds himself living in a psychiatric health care facility. He does not remember how he got there, but as he starts to remember things from his past life, he realizes that the universe has changed dramatically since he was young. A story of childhood nostalgia, sometimes comically illuminating the differing perceptions adults and children have of the world, The Spider, The Witch, And The Spaceship is also a journey through the memories of a man for clues as to the real reason he is where he is. Filled with tension between opposing claims of the ultimate reality, this is a novel that will keep the reader guessing until the end. Read more.
Very recently, I encountered a trending topic called the Mandela effect. It was first described when a woman reported that she was certain she had heard on the news that Nelson Mandela had died in jail in the nineties and was very surprised when he was later elected president of South Africa, alive and well. Since sharing her story, millions of others have reported the same experience, as well as numerous other cases of remembering things differently, such as the existence of movies that never existed or other celebrity deaths that never happened.
These people have discussed possible causes for this phenomenon, including blaming particle accelerators for causing them to somehow jump from one parallel universe to another. Many report only experiencing the phenomenon since 2012 and believe that something new is happening. That so many people are apparently noticing it for the first time is most likely a confirmation bias. They are looking for examples, even if only subconsciously. Similar situations happening to them in the past may have simply been explained away as their bad memory, or the assumption that it was the other person that was wrong.
While the alleged cause is very suspect, one cannot deny that the Mandela effect is a real phenomenon worthy of study. That so many people can be so certain of the same version of events both proven false and remembered differently by others says something truly profound about the universe, even if it only says something profound about human perception and memory. That is part of the universe, isn’t it?
Whatever the cause, before we can begin studying just what the Mandela Effect is, we first have to study what it isn’t:
Misheard Or Misread
Sometimes the reason our memories don’t match reality has nothing to do with fifth-dimensional shift or flawed recall. Sometimes the information was misheard or misread in the first place. Many Mandela effect examples have to do with lyrics of songs changing, but it has long been known that people mishear lyrics all the time and this was never thought of before as anything unusual. To see what I mean, just go to YouTube and search for “misheard lyrics.” You will be amused for hours. Setting words to music necessarily changes their pronunciation, leading to errors. That sounds are misinterpreted should surprise no one. In fact, some artists are known for being unclear.
Even in cases where a word sounds as crisp and clear as anything, people can still hear it differently. We all have different ears. This is how some people are able to hear the name “Laurel” while others hear “Yanny” on the same tape, even though Yanny and Laurel sound nothing alike. How much easier it is to hear “the neighborhood,” when Mr. Rogers says “this neighborhood.”
Vision can also be tricked. Several years ago, when I still worked at McDonald’s, they released a new burger called the Big’N’Tasty. Within days, customers began asking for it by name, even reading it off the menu, as the Big Nasty. I noticed that the prominent placing of the “N” and the small and off-level “T” made it very easy to misread. The situation soon got so bad that we all stopped bothering to correct people, allowing the misperception to persist. It would not surprise me if this became the next example of an alleged Mandela effect. The problem isn’t memory, but visual misperception.
Even in cases with a picture as crisp and clear as anything, people can still see it differently. We all have different eyes. This is how some poeple are able to see a blue-and-black dress while others see a white-and-gold dress. How much easier it is to miss that I misspelled “people” in the previous sentence or that Febreeze is actually spelled Febreze.
Before moving on, I should probably point out that people do not always see what they expect to see. Sometimes things jump out and get noticed precisely because they do not fit expectations. I also know people that seem to have great difficulty using context to fill in the gap in a sentence when they miss a word, even when what they claim they heard me say is almost exactly right (such as “nuclear bond” instead of “nuclear bomb”). This makes this a very complex phenomenon that cannot be explained away as quickly as the skeptics would like or confirmed as quickly as the believers would like.
Sometimes information is not forgotten as much as it is simply completely missed in the first place. It has long been known that humans are terrible at paying attention. When told to watch a video of a basketball game and count the number of times the ball changed hands, participants in one study never saw the man in the gorilla costume that walked through the middle of the game. While this represents an extreme case, none of us pay attention to all of our surroundings all the time. We focus on one thing at the expense of another. This sort of misdirection is exactly how magicians and pickpockets make a living. It has never been thought of as the Mandela effect before.
It is also possible to see patterns that aren’t there by missing all the counterexamples that would disprove it. In order to make sense of a messy and chaotic reality, historians necessarily impose a narrative on history, selecting only the relevant facts. Politicians cherry-pick only those examples that support their claims. Stereotypes exist when counterexamples are not noticed. One has to be careful that they aren’t missing the bigger picture.
Nobody Told Me
Other times we miss commonly-known things not for lack of attention, but because nobody told us, probably assuming we already knew. Some people call this the everybody-knows-it-but-nobody-thought-to-tell-me phenomenon.
This has happened to me many times before. Just imagine my shock in my late twenties when I learned for the first time that gypsies are a real, living people group and not a bunch of magical monsters in the same category as witches, fairies, vampires, zombies, and dragons. With all the stories out there of them cheating people with magic, selling cursed objects, and putting hexes on everybody, nobody thought for a moment to tell me that gypsies don’t actually do any of these things and might even be offended at the insinuation. Just imagine if there were stories of African-Americans flying around at night, drinking blood from sleeping white women. It would be called the most racist thing ever. We would never hear the end of it.
I don’t think this is something I would have forgotten. Nor does it prove that I have jumped universes. It just means that I was previously uninformed.
Other times, we are not only uninformed, but misinformed. Not one of us can know everything from personal observation. The majority of our knowledge comes from others, whether from friends and family, school teachers, books, or the news media.
Thinking that Nelson Mandela or Billy Graham had died and being surprised when they die “again” does not mean that one has false memories or that history has changed. It might mean the news got it wrong. They do that sometimes. It was because Alfred Nobel’s obituary was accidentally printed while he was still alive that he decided to start awarding the Nobel prizes, so he would not be known only for inventing dynamite. It happens.
People are misinformed about all kinds of things. Just go on YouTube and search for “ten things you think are true” or “ten things people believe about” and see how many videos pop up. There are whole YouTube shows and television shows devoted to this type of thing. It has never been thought of as the Mandela effect before. It’s just fake news.
I remember being taught that NAZI was an acronym, each letter standing for a different German word. I was even told at one point what the four words were, but I no longer remember. Now, I am told that it is merely an abbreviation for the first of the six words in their full name. I also remember being told that Earth day was always on April twentieth and that this was Hitler’s birthday (only later becoming associated with marijuana). Now, I am told that Earth day changes from year to year and that April twentieth is actually Stalin’s birthday. I just assume that somebody made a mistake in the chain of information transfer, not that I’m misremembering things or that history is changing.
Note: In doing my final, last-minute research for this post, I now hear that Earth day has always been April 22 and that this is Lenin's birthday.
I remember being taught that the great lakes (Superior, Huron, Michigan, Eerie, and Ontario) were the largest in the world, but there are lakes in Africa, Russia, and three lakes wholly in Canada that are bigger than some of them, while the Caspian Sea is bigger than all of them. It is probable that I either misheard or that my teacher misspoke, meaning to say that the great lakes are together the largest freshwater system in the world.
There are also examples of Bible verses supposedly altered. Isaiah never mentions the lion lying down with the lamb, though many people (including myself) remember it that way. The actual passage is as follows:
“In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard and the goat will be at peace. Calves and yearlings will be safe among lions, and a little child will lead them all.” – Isaiah 11:6
The lion is mentioned, but it is the wolf that lies down with the lamb. When I first heard of this Mandela effect, I assumed that Isaiah must say it elsewhere. Searching through the entire book, I also found this:
“The wolf and lamb will feed together. The lion will eat straw like the ox. Poisonous snakes will strike no more. In those days, no one will be hurt or destroyed on my holy mountain. I, the Lord, have spoken!” – Isaiah 64:25
There is still no phrase with the lion and lamb lying together, but I know I’ve heard it somewhere! What I (and so many others) are probably remembering is our pastors (or somebody else) misquoting it, not from our personal reading. Having already read the passage, we know what is being referred to when we hear the misquote, but can’t remember for certain whether the exact phrase is in there. When people begin to quote others who are quoting others who are quoting others, it isn’t long before the incorrect version is everywhere and so everyone knows it that way. It’s not that history changed or we remember incorrectly; it’s that we remember correctly something that was incorrect to begin with.
While this explanation does raise the question of why it is that “lion and lamb” caught on so much more than “wolf and lamb,” there is probably a good reason for that too. Perhaps it is because Jesus is referred to as both “the lion of Judah” and “the lamb of God.” This might have created an association in the mind making one version easier to recall than the other, but I really don’t know.
Right All Along
Then there are the cases where we have been right all along and the fake news is what is being reported now. As the Mandela effect becomes more widely-known, trolls and hoaxers have started reporting untrue things as the current truth so that even those who remember it correctly will think history is changing. One video I saw reported that Fruit Loops had become Froot Loops, while another reported that Froot Loops had become Fruit Loops! I went to the store to check; it is Froot Loops. More than one video has reported Captain Picard to keep and carry a large crystal in eighty different episodes of Star Trek TNG. Only two scenes are ever shown in these videos and one of them I recognized and was able to find elsewhere on YouTube, sans crystal. Comments left below showed a mix of opinions. While some claimed that they just went back to watch and the crystal did not exist, others claimed that it did, and the majority believed the claims unquestioningly, some using this as further proof that history is changing, and others using it as further proof that people easily miss seeing things and have terrible memories. In this case, neither is true.
Temporal Changes And Spatial Changes
Sometimes things really do change and there is a record of it somewhere – even if you can’t find one easily and someone tells you it has always been the new way. Companies really do change their logos, the highway department really does change exit numbers, politicians change their positions on the issues, cultural mores evolve, big countries split into smaller ones, and smaller countries merge into big ones. It happens. You’re not crazy.
Other perceived changes might be regional, meaning you’ve moved to a new state or are hanging around a new circle of friends with different backgrounds. One thing I’ve observed in life is that most people assume everyone thinks just the way they do. We all live in tiny bubbles of isolation and are surprised the rare times our lives cross with those with different morals, slang, and ideas of common sense.
In elementary school, I was taught how to spell potatoe by remembering the mnemonic: pot-a-toe. The textbook we used had a little picture of a toe growing in a flowerpot. My sister was taught the same way and remembers the same textbook. Later in life, I was told this was wrong; potato does not end in e. Did my sister and I have a shared false memory? Were we from another universe? No, as it turns out, “potatoe” is a regional spelling variation often used in the New England region, though it seems to be rapidly going out of style now.
When I grew up, “wicked” was used as often as the word “cool.” In fact, they were almost always used together, as in “wicked cool.” Whoopie Pies were as universal as Twinkies. Moxie was as universal as Coke and Pepsi. That people from outside New England aren’t familiar with my slang or snack food doesn’t mean I come from a different universe. Some people say soda; some people say pop. Some people say crayfish; some people say crawfish. Others say crawdads. I was always told that while espresso was spelled “espresso,” it was still pronounced “expresso.” Only later did I find that this was the minority position. I never interpreted any of this as history change or bad memory.
Definitions are also a source of endless confusion and strife. Words I have used my entire life are suddenly misunderstood by people who are equally confusing to me. All across the internet, people debate the meaning of the word “ironic” and whether water is wet. All this means is that every generation learns language anew and that education is imperfect. This doesn’t mean the universe changed. It doesn’t prove fifth-dimensional shift.
Suggestion And Conflation
Once we have weeded out the vast majority of examples easily dismissed with mundane explanations, we start getting to the more interesting cases. Some of these can still be explained away as memory being influenced by suggestion or conflation.
Many years ago I saw a movie called Rush Hour, starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, but I rarely pay much attention to actor names. Some time after, I saw Dogma, starring Chris Rock. For a while, Chris Rock was everywhere on TV and Chris Tucker was nowhere to be seen. Since Both of them play similar types of characters with similar voices, mannerisms, and high-strung personalities, and since they look very similar and have very similar names, I got them mixed up. Years later, I was surprised to learn that it was not Chris Rock in Rush Hour, but some other guy I knew nothing about. In this case, the conflation hypothesis is so compelling that even the tiniest bit of uncertainty in my memory causes me accept I must have been wrong.
The same effect is probably in play when it comes to the non-existent Jiffy-brand peanut butter. Many people remember a brand of peanut butter called Jiffy, but do not remember Jif. I think the reason is almost obvious. Jif is not a regular word, whereas jiffy is a unit of time, and therefore more familiar to most people. The existence of oil-change chain Jiffy Lube and Jiffy-brand pancake batter reinforces this. Also, there are similar-sounding peanut butter brands Skippy and Teddy, thus causing people to associate words of the same structure with peanut products, reinforcing the mistake further.
Note: I remember Jif very well because I remember hearing the commercial catchphrase “Choosy moms choose Jif,” so this example does not pertain to me.
Then there is Darth Vader’s famous line, “No, I am your father,” which many people remember as “Luke, I am your father.” The reason for this also seems almost obvious. To make clear who is speaking outside the context of the movie, many people would have included the name “Luke.” Over the years, after hearing it so many times, people would conflate one quote for the other and “remember” the name in the original. Those individuals who watch the movie again might not even notice the discrepancy and mishear it just as they mishear lyrics.
Note: I remember hearing about this being an often-misquoted line since many years before the term “Mandela effect” was coined, so I was tipped off early. I also avoided being confused because I never realized that when I heard others say, “Luke, I am your father,” that they meant it to be an exact quote from the movie rather than merely saying something that Vader would say. After all, people these days parody Batman by attaching the word “justice” to everything, without ever meaning to make a direct quote.
It Never Made Sense
Sometimes people not only remember things a particular way, they also cite reasons why it must be that way, arguing that it makes no sense otherwise. While I am more inclined to believe someone with reason and logic on their side, I know from experience that the world does not always make sense.
It was only in my mid-twenties when I learned that most of the world’s population was lactose-intolerant (as adults). This made no sense to me. If it were true, then lactose intolerance should simply be called “normal” and what previously had no label should be called “lactose tolerance.” This is why I was at first skeptical of the new information.
It was only a few years ago when I heard that Easter and Passover were not going to fall in the same month. For my entire life, my understanding of the symbolic significance of Easter was that it happened at the end of Passover. Just as the angel of death passed over those houses in Egypt that had lamb’s blood on the doorframes, so to the wages of sin (death) would “pass over” those that had been washed by the blood of Jesus (a.k.a. the lamb of God). The “last supper” Jesus had with his disciples happened during Passover. Other holidays are celebrated on the day of the month the original events supposedly occurred, such as Christmas (always December 25) and Independence Day (always July 4). I believed that for Easter to take place on a different date from year to year meant it must be following a different calendar, and I had heard that the Jews use a lunar calendar, so it all kind of fit. As it turns out, holidays don’t have to make sense either.
Looney Tunes has always been Looney Tunes, not Looney Toons as many claim to remember it. The fact that Toons makes more sense than Tunes, since it is a cartoon and not a music program, means nothing. I remember it as Tunes so well because it struck me as so odd. I’m always noticing things that no one else does.
That the girl in the James Bond film Moonraker never had braces as many remember does not mean history is changing. That her sudden attachment to a stranger with metal teeth makes no sense cannot be used as evidence that it must have once been different. Movies don’t always make sense. Heck, even in the real world people do crazy things sometimes.
Whether we misunderstood or were mistaught, over the years a belief can be supported by other facts that only make it stronger. Other people who also misunderstood or were mistaught can back our belief up. This does not mean it was ever true. Rhode Island is not an island. Steely Dan is not one person. When we discover we were wrong, it does not mean fifth-dimensional shift, and it does not mean our memory is bad.
Finally, now that we have eliminated all that the Mandela effect is not, we can discuss what it is. There are times in my life that I have had a very strong memory of something that I was absolutely certain of, as well as corroborating memories that would have made no sense if the first memory were not correct, in ways not easily dismissed by any of the methods previously described. When told I am wrong, it can be very disconcerting, to say the least. It has happened to me and I have seen it happen to others.
When I was young, I disliked all melons. Watermelon, honeydew, and cantaloupe were all disgusting to me. I also didn’t like turnips, sweet potatoes, or Brussels sprouts. On the other hand, I liked eggplant, but it made my gums itch. I also liked spinach, but it made my teeth squeaky. All this was well known in my family since the earliest days. Recently, my father said something to the effect that he remembers that it was cantaloupe I liked except that it made my gums itchy. I corrected him, and he conceded he was not sure. Days later, he starts telling my grandmother the same thing. Afterwards I corrected him again, but this time he was absolutely certain and insisted that I was the one misremembering it. I would know! It’s my mouth! Worse still, he told my mother and she backed him up. Because I hate arguing, I dropped the whole thing, but I did later text my sister for an opinion. She backed me up. Only after I reported this to my parents did they begin to waver a bit in their certainty.
I used to work with a very difficult person. To explain what he was like to my coworkers, I made up a story as an example of the way he behaved and what my difficulty was. I made clear that the specific events never happened, but that they were representative of the types of things that he did on a regular basis. Some months later, my coworkers began citing my story as if it actually happened. Since I was the one who made it up, I remembered it not to be true, but they all now had false memories of actually witnessing the event! Even stranger, they remembered it slightly differently than I did, blaming me for the situation with the difficult person!
One time I entered my kitchen to find my sister eating the very last of the ice cream. “When did we get ice cream?” I asked. I had not had any of it and never knew it was in the house. My parents told me it had been in the house for several days. I opened the freezer. “Where was it?” I asked, expecting it to have been tucked away in a corner where I might not have noticed. Instead, they point to a spot right in front – a spot I know it could not have always been in since I had been in the freezer earlier that day for some sausage and could not have reached it without first picking the ice cream up and moving it out of my way. When they continued to insist it had always been there, I just dropped it. This incident was the first time I became aware that I had a reputation for missing information and not noticing things, but the truth is that others miss things at least as often as I do. At least, I remember others missing things as often.
Another time I was reading a science fiction book published in the thirties or forties. Coincidentally, it was about travelling to parallel timelines wherein history had run differently, including the migration and divergence of the various human races. The main character was of a race that did not exist in our universe and I remember the book describing him as resembling a Hispanic with red hair. I wasn’t clear on what exactly that meant, since Hispanics are so varied. I read through the entire book trying to picture the character as a Hispanic with red hair only because that was how I remembered the book describing him. Not one week after I finished reading the book did I hear on the news that the “Hispanic” designation was not invented until the seventies by the Richard Nixon administration (my father verifies this). I immediately remembered the book I had just finished reading was published long before that. Something didn’t add up. I went back to find my proof but it had vanished! I ended up rereading the first half of the book searching desperately for the word I knew to be there. It was not a word I would have made up myself. First, I don’t think in those terms; I tend to use sets of attributes to describe people rather than vague racial categories. Second, Hispanics are such a varied group that the term is nigh-meaningless when it comes to appearance. Third, the short description I did find in the book didn’t quite fit my idea of what a Hispanic was. Where did my memory come from?
Then there is the difference between the standard phone layout and the standard calculator layout. I remember both as being that of the standard phone layout. I make regular use of both and would definitely have noticed if they were different; I would have constantly hit the wrong buttons. Oddly, the ATM follows the phone layout, which is good since I remember my PIN as a shape rather than a number (It’s faster that way), even though my mind associates money and banking more with calculators than the phone. Wild.
Then there are the Berenstain Bears. I remember strongly always having trouble remembering how to spell the name. Was it Berenstein? Was it Berenstien? Was it Berenstine? Was it Berensteine? I had likely heard of similar names, such as Frankenstein or Einstein, but I had a very hard time remembering how to spell their names too, often writing Einstien or even Einstine. If the bears’ name had always ended in “stain” this would have been impossible. “Stain” is a word I was very familiar with and would have been noticed and remembered. I used to call my sister Kristen “Kristain” to imply that she was a gross mess (I was mean). Other people might be misremembering Berenstain as Berenstein because they heard it spoken on television more than they had read it and the memory of the assumption of spelling from the sound might be overriding the memory of actually reading it, but I never heard it on TV! I only had the books! I don’t even remember a television show! There is NO WAY it has ever been spelled Berenstain before!
These examples of the Mandela effect cannot be easily explained away like the majority can. Since I had the Berenstain books myself, it can’t be a case of fake news. It’s not likely I repeatedly misread the name over and over, since when I was trying to remember how to spell it I would have paid careful attention. I would not have simply seen what I expected to see because I had no expectations. There is no other family of anthropomorphic mammals with a similar name to conflate it with to confuse me. In addition, loads of other people agree with me that the name has changed!
I’m not the type to remember things poorly. I have a stronger memory than most, who are often surprised at what I retain. I always did well on school tests where I only had to regurgitate facts I had been told. I can multiply four-digit numbers in my head, which requires remembering what and where all the other digits are as I process one at a time. I am always tying connections between different memories, allowing me to reconstruct whatever escapes direct recall. I also tend to remember the sources of where I might have read something, including the side of the page it was on and what room I was in when I read it. This allows me to go back and evaluate the reliability of my source if the facts are ever questioned. While these powers have diminished slightly with age, they are still pretty good.
Even my weak memories are often right. After completing a very large order working at McDonald’s and clearing it off the screen, two more items were added, causing the whole thing to pop back up. I immediately saw what was new to the great surprise of my manager. Another time, I accidentally cleared an order off too quickly before I had read it. Before I attempted to dig into the computer memory for confirmation, I tried to focus on the image I had seen as a whole and then pick out the words. I was right!
I’m not the type to get fact and fiction confused, either. While my mind is full of fictions, whether things I have read or things I have written, I can always remember which memories are real from the “stamp” on them. Fantasies have a very different quality of feel to them, even when they are quite realistic fantasies. They get labeled differently. This is how I am able to remember whether some obscure marine invertebrate is actually a real animal that lives on Earth or whether I read about it in somebody’s speculative evolution project. I have NEVER mixed things up.
I embrace uncertainty. I’m not the type to jump to firm conclusions to ease the discomfort of not knowing. I am happy to admit when I don’t know something. My faith and my doubt exist side-by-side. While I too thought that Sally Field was Sally Fields, I’m really not sure. It’s easy to mix something like that up. I too thought that Pixy Stix were Pixie Sticks and Funyuns were Funions (others remember Pixie Stix and Funyons), but I don’t know. I remember teal being a yellow-green color, but I accepted my mother was right about it being a form of blue-green when I double-checked my crayon box. I’m not the type that feels certainty about everything, so it stands to reason that when I am certain about something, there must be a good reason for it.
I am also relatively immune to groupthink. I am always taking controversial positions and standing alone. Suggestion doesn’t affect me much. When I watch “ghost investigation” television shows, I am always struck by how completely unintelligible sounds that are probably just the house settling are heard as words by some people, who reinforce each other’s impression of which words they were while I still can’t hear it even when they replay the tape. I’m not totally immune to suggestion, but my resistance is pretty high.
If I were as open to suggestion as some people, I would fall for more of the alleged Mandela effect examples, but many of them do not apply to me. For me, “dilemma” has always been spelled “dilemma” and not “dilemna,” as some remember it. I remember all the continents always being exactly where they are on the map today. “The Thinker” has always had his hand on the chin. “Sex And The City” was never “Sex In The City.” I never even watched the show, but I vaguely remember an obscure event at the RNC many years ago when one of the Bush daughters told a joke about her grandmother (Barbara) thinking that sex and the city were things people did and not something people watched. For the joke to work, the word must have been “and.” The Mona Lisa was always known for her smile – though to be fair, it isn’t much of a smile. “We Are The Champions” never ended with “of the world.” Yes, I know it sounds like it should be there, but that it seemed conspicuously missing based on how the rest of the song goes is exactly why its absence was noticed and remembered by me.
It is clear that this is a real phenomenon not already described by known science. We either need some new psychology or some new physics or something. That cannot be denied. What is controversial is when people start assigning causes and drawing conclusions. Just because there is no physical evidence yet to convince others of the phenomenon makes it no less real to those who have experienced it themselves. That this has happened to me necessarily makes me less skeptical of others’ claims. I have never seen nor heard of either the movie Shazaam or the movie Kazaam, but those who remember watching both tell me that they have distinct memories of debating which was better, and thinking Kazaam was a rip-off of the earlier Shazaam while they were watching Kazaam for the first time.
Also, that this has happened to me makes me wonder whether some of those other examples easily dismissed might be valid after all. How many other things in my life can be explained in terms of the same phenomenon? When I am talking with someone and we suddenly find that we disagree on the subject of conversation, giving different context to my words and allowing for misinterpretation, is that the same thing? When people are suddenly mad at me for no reason and I never find out why, is that the same thing? That so many of these examples were able to escape my detection for so long makes me believe that this is only the tip of the iceberg. How many other things do I remember right now that are wrong?
Before we even begin to speculate on causes we would do well to remind ourselves of Occam’s razor: When confronted with two models that equally fit the evidence, preference should be shown to the one requiring the least number of new propositions. In other words, we should attempt as much as possible to explain the phenomenon within established science before resorting to brand-new theories. However, when this fails us, we would also do well to remember Sherlock’s maxim: When the impossible has been eliminated, whatever remains – however improbable – must be the truth.
There is no known natural mechanism that can cause certain small parts of the universe to change, along with paper and digital records to match, and some people’s memories but not those of others. The closest thing I can think of is quantum tunneling, but it doesn’t really work here. With quantum tunneling, there is always a non-zero probability of a particle formerly observed in one quantum state (such as location, excitation level, or direction of spin) being found in another. It means that individual protons might suddenly find themselves several nanometers away. With greatly diminishing amounts of probability, they may even find themselves several light years away, or all the protons in one atom might be found scattered all over the galaxy, or the entire atom might leap together to the new location intact, or an entire object of quintillions of atoms might leap across the universe intact. While it is possible for the ink molecules on every bag of Funions to change to read Funyuns, it is much much much much much more likely for just a single bag to change, or for the letters to change into something unintelligible, or for the bag to simply develop a hole or become radioactive. Since the synaptic connections between neurons responsible for memories take up very little mass, it is many times more likely for the brains of millions of people to quantum tunnel into a state with identical false memories than for all the bags to change. For all the company records to change along with the bags without all these more likely things happening requires additional explanation beyond simple quantum tunneling.
Ian McFadden of Surrey University might have brought us one step closer with his theory of quantum evolution. He proposes that systems as large as genes and the proteins they code for might remain in superposition long enough for them to tunnel into other states and that there exists a bias for these states to be biologically useful. To apply it to even larger systems, such as our snacks, it means that all Funyun bags remained in a superposition between Funion and Funyun, along with all the records until “observed,” and there is a bias for the letters to be legible. The problem with this is that such large systems have no way of staying in superposition for long without interacting with the environment in some way, requiring that they be in either one state or another. The only way out of this is for the environment (including billions of people) to also be part of an even larger superposition, lasting until somebody takes a “measurement.”
What is a measurement and what constitutes an observation? This is the biggest unsolved mystery of quantum mechanics. There are literally over a dozen interpretations of the data. Some suggest humans are somehow special, being more than a sum of atoms subject to the same laws as those they observe, and are uniquely able to collapse wave functions. Others suggest that wave functions collapse when the energy difference between two states becomes large enough to produce one graviton worth of gravitational radiation. Others suggest that we live side by side with other versions of ourselves making the same measurements with different values. None of this explains the Mandela effect or how it is that only some people see it and not others.
If on the other hand it is true that people can jump from one parallel universe/timeline to another, it raises the question what happened to the versions of themselves in the destination universe? Do they switch places? Does it cause a cascade across all timelines? Can bodies and other objects jump universes as easily as memories? What does this mean for the conservation of matter? Do sets of records ever jump universes, thus conflicting with other sets of records in the same way that human memories sometimes conflict with the memories of other humans?
If the universe can have multiple histories, with some parts of it failing to match other parts, could this explain why we find some evidence of a young Earth (polonium radiohaloes) and some evidence of an old earth (isochron dating)? Then again, could it be that the Earth simply popped into existence fully-formed?
Others suggest a conspiracy of either government agents or large branded companies. Is it possible that a world-wide conspiracy exists to change all the official records, including sneaking into people’s homes to remove their old Shazaam videos, controlling every company and government agency, and not one whistleblower has come forward? How is it even possible to coordinate that many millions of people? Does this mean that my family and coworkers are in on the game since we often disagree in our recollections? For what end? What purpose can it possibly serve? The conspiracy theories are the silliest of all!
While probably ninety percent or more of alleged Mandela effects can be explained within known psychology, some of them need a little more. Some suggest that people are just randomly certain sometimes and then construct elaborate false memories to alleviate the cognitive dissonance when shown wrong – but the only evidence of the memories being false is that they do not match the official records, which was already a given. By calling the phenomenon “false memories,” psychologists give it a name while explaining nothing. It proves nothing. How and why do false memories occur?
While it might make sense to consider other people to have false memories, this hypothesis is ultimately self-defeating and unscientific when applied to ourselves. It is unscientific because there is no way in principle for it to be tested. No matter the results of any experiment, we can never be sure by the time of publishing our conclusions that our memories of the results are still valid. If false memories can strike anyone with such certainty and clarity as to be undetectable, there is no way to do science of any kind at all. Everything must be doubted!
Doubting our own memories is completely self-defeating. To doubt our memories, we must also doubt our memories of the chain of reasoning that first caused us to doubt, meaning we might have been right all along after all! For the same reason, there is no purpose in doubting our senses or our ability to reason. It can serve no function.
If I really took this idea seriously, I could not finish writing this post. I could not be sure of what I had already written and what still needed to be said. I would question whether any of the examples I cite ever occurred or whether I’ve made up this whole phenomenon. I’d question whether I even have a blog to post to. If you really took the idea seriously, you could not be certain that this isn’t your blog and this isn’t something you wrote. You’d have no idea whether the world outside your office or bedroom really exists, whether there is anyone out there to share this with, whether you have a job to go to or where it is you work, whether you should put milk or laundry detergent on your cereal (Which one is it that does a body good, again?), or whether you have ever really met before that person you recognize as your spouse/sibling/friend. Mistrusting memory makes it impossible to function.
If the level of certainty and existence of corroborating memories are truly unrelated to the probability of being correct, then there is no point in being sure of anything before we make a decision. Why ever double-check our math if it makes us no more likely to be right? Why not build bridges with mismatched bolts, arrest the wrong suspects, and rush across the street without looking both ways? Seriously, why bother?
Since we can’t apply the theory to ourselves, we also cannot apply it to others. By opening the door to the possibility of others being affected, we must admit it could happen to us as well – unless we can come up with a theory as to how we alone are immune. For these reasons, the false memory hypothesis is completely illegitimate an answer – even if true. There is no way to study it. It’s a total non-starter.
Whatever is happening, the best way to deal with it is probably the same. Just go with the flow. Deal with the world as it is rather than as it should be. Don’t let the past control the future. Do you remember struggling with addiction yesterday? Maybe in this universe you never had an addiction! Start over. You remember always struggling with finances? Maybe in this universe you are both lucky and hard-working! Don’t give up! Frustrated with the political situation? Remember that no matter how bad it gets, it can still change for the better, just as no matter how good it gets it can still change for the worse.
Remember, the wisest man is the one who knows he knows nothing.
For more information, visit DebunkingMandelaEffects.com
Common Sense Often Wrong
Everything I Know Is Wrong
Models And Reality
The Spider, The Witch, And The Spaceship
I’ve been learning a lot lately. Data points that were gradually building up for years have finally reached critical mass, resulting in a new world view. I am almost continually surprised by hearing things I had never heard before that one would think were important to mention.
Nobody Tells Me Anything
History: How is it that with my ability to soak up trivia like a sponge, and my interest in space exploration, that I don’t remember hearing about the five other moon landings that happened after the first? With all those telling the story of how the USA won the space race, those lamenting the fact that we no longer maintain a shuttle and never went back to the moon, those who suggest that the whole trip was faked, and those who debunk such suggestions, I find it extremely shocking that not one of them mentioned any subsequent trips!
Biology: I almost can’t believe that with my interest in biology and all the things I have read, that I have never until recently heard that some mammals have penis bones and that most have penis spines! I do remember hearing on TV many years ago that cats had penis spines, but I was led to believe that they were unique! How did I not know something so basic about mammals?
Ever since a very young age I had always been told that the reason insects (and other arthropods) never got very big compared to vertebrates was because exoskeletons were inherently inferior to endoskeletons. Insects any bigger than those giant rainforest beetles would collapse under their own weight, while vertebrates could be as big as dinosaurs or bigger (none of this applies underwater, where buoyancy cancels gravity). When I was much older, I discovered that vertebrate lungs were much more efficient than the trachea of insects, the “book lungs” of arachnids, and the gills of land crabs. Larger insects require higher oxygen levels. During the Devonian and Carboniferous, when oxygen levels were higher, dragonflies reached wingspans of more than a meter, while millipedes reached three meters long! These days, absolutely nobody mentions the structural limitations of insects. It’s all about oxygen. How did I not know something so basic about insects?
Physics: I can’t believe that with all the books and magazine articles I have read on the subject, just how many aspects of particle physics I was unaware of. Particle physics is incredibly complex and much of the details are incomprehensible to those outside the field, but I thought I had a pretty decent overview of how matter worked. Suddenly, I am hearing of things that are more than details:
Quantum Mechanics is based on the idea that all matter is actually waves that only manifest as particles with actual locations in order to interact with other waves/particles. The locations of these particles are probabilistic – the probability of finding one being the square of the amplitude of the wave, and that at any moment there is a non-zero probability of finding the particle elsewhere – or so I thought. Now I am told that observing the particle “resets” it, adding to the time it needs to transition into a different quantum state (such as location) in accordance with the quantum Zeno effect. I am also told that the probability is not the square of the amplitude, but the sum of the squares of the “real” and “imaginary” parts of the wave function – the imaginary wave being just slightly out of phase with the real one.
Another big part of quantum mechanics is that energy comes in discrete units such that electron orbitals are separated from each other by gaps of non-existence. It is impossible for any electron to be found in these gaps because there exists no partial energy to get them there. I have been told that if energy were continuous it would mean that electrons would simply spiral into the nucleus while continually radiating. The idea of discrete orbitals came from Neils Bohr’s atomic model based on the ideas already described by Max Planck and Albert Einstein. Last year I heard for the first time that while lower orbitals are indeed discrete, some of the higher ones are continuous. That’s kind of a big thing not to mention – especially since it may be the link between the quantum microscopic world and the seemingly-classical macroscopic world.
I was also told for the first time that the weak nuclear force only interacts with “left-handed” particles, which is the idea behind the proposed “sterile neutrino.” The theory is that “right-handed” neutrinos could exist that are impossible to detect because they do not interact with the weak nuclear force. That’s kind of a big thing not to mention when telling me that all neutrinos spin one way!
These are the things nobody bothered to tell me. Then there are the things I was taught wrong:
Everything I've Been Taught Is Wrong
Air: Ever since a very young age I had always been taught that meteors heat up due to air resistance – the same thing that holds back airplanes and race cars – and that air resistance is nothing more than friction. In recent years I have been told that what heats up meteors is almost certainly the compression of air in front of them rather than friction with the sides. This makes much more sense and I’m surprised I didn’t think of it myself before, but I’m even more surprised that for so many decades nobody else thought of it either.
Ever since a very young age I had always been told that airplane wings generated lift by being curved, forcing air to move faster over the top than the bottom, creating negative pressure that pulled the wing upwards. No mention of qualifications or controversy was ever mentioned. Now I am told that the real answer is several interwoven factors together and that lift could never be generated by any of them alone.
Water: Ever since a very young age I had always been taught that water makes our skin wrinkly due to turgor pressure brought on by osmosis. The higher concentration of ions inside our cells relative to outside causes moisture to seep in. High school biology reinforced this idea. Now I am hearing from multiple sources that it is thought that our skin muscles contract, giving our skin greater surface area and therefore better gripping power in a wet environment.
Electricity: Ever since a very young age I had always been told that lightning did not come down from the clouds (a common myth based on the fact that lightning only appears when clouds are present), but upward from the Earth. Later I was told that some aspects of the process moved upwards while others moved downwards. Later I was told exactly how lightning worked step-by-step and I don’t recall any part of it moving upwards at all – only downwards. Later I was told that it actually moves upwards but only looks to move downwards due to an optical illusion – but I have never perceived lightning to move at all. To my eyes, it simply exists all along its path in an instant. I don’t know what to think now.
Ever since a very young age I have known of nuclear fusion: It’s what keeps the sun shining. The first astronomy book I ever had gave the following story: Temperature and pressure in the sun’s core drive protons (hydrogen nuclei) together against their mutual electrostatic repulsion. When two protons come together like this, one of them “somehow” becomes a neutron. When there are enough proton-neutron pairs bouncing around, two of them would then be forced together to become a helium nucleus.
Years later, I read another book, mentioning that it was not expected to be hot enough in the center of the sun for outright fusion, so the process required carbon catalysts. Hydrogen would fuse with carbon to produce nitrogen, which would then fuse with more hydrogen to make oxygen, which would then undergo alpha-decay and spit out helium, becoming carbon and restarting the cycle. Electron capture events turned protons into neutrons somewhere along the way.
This story has even come up in the origins debates, with some asking: Since the big bang only produced hydrogen, helium, and negligible amounts of lithium, where did the carbon come from to jump-start hydrogen fusion in the first generation of stars? Since then, every explanation of fusion I have encountered invokes the idea of quantum tunneling to bring protons together that otherwise shouldn’t be.
It was only in adulthood that I heard about Hawking radiation: It was described by saying that pairs of particles – one partner with positive mass and the other with negative mass – pop in and out of the vacuum all the time. When this happens on the edge of an event horizon, they can become separated. For reasons never clear to me, the negative mass particle has a greater chance of falling in while the positive mass particle escapes. In any case, the end result is that the black hole gets lighter while particles escape from its surface.
Later, another explanation surfaced: It was said that since position and momentum cannot both be known with precision, any particle known to be inside the black hole might have enough momentum to escape, and any particle known to have low momentum might already be outside the black hole.
Only recently have I been given the explanation that the event horizon essentially casts a shadow blocking the omnipresent vacuum fluctuation waves, in a manner akin to the Casimir effect. I still don’t totally get it.
I am also told that serious physicists frown on the idea of negative mass and do not accept that pairs of particles could pop out of the vacuum, one with positive mass and on with negative mass, since this would allow an infinite amount of stuff to enter existence every moment – even though I have read in multiple books that this is exactly how some cosmologists have suggested the big bang happened!
Everything Else: I’ve recently been told that tides don’t work the way I was taught, that particle chirality is not the same as particle helicity, that porcupines do sort-of shoot their quills after all (by wagging their tails and flinging them), that margarine isn’t made of what I thought it was, and several different conflicting accounts of how the legend of Atlantis originated. At this point, I’m thinking that I have to go back to first grade and learn everything over. I can’t trust anything.
Everything You've Been Taught Is Wrong
At the same time I’ve been learning just how badly I’ve been mistaught, I have also learned just how badly others have been mistaught. Their stories are much like mine.
Blue Skies: I was always taught that the sky was blue because shorter wavelengths of light from the sun scattered in all directions and thus entered our eyes from around the sun after refracting through the air. Red wavelengths of light followed straighter paths and could penetrate more air, which is why the sun appears redder at sunrise or sunset when the light has to pass through more atmosphere to reach us. Apparently, this is still considered true.
I was extremely shocked to hear that some people report being taught as children (even going so far to assume that all children are taught the same) that the sky is blue because it reflects the sea. Why isn’t the sky brown over the deserts then? Only once have I ever heard such an absurd explanation – and that was from a woman who told me all kinds of nutty things, such as the difference between mammals and animals being that mammals live in the water and animals live on land. I confirmed from her that she believed starfish were mammals and wolves were not. Crazy!
Seasons: I have also heard people claiming that the Earth is cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer because the Earth is farther from the sun in winter and closer in summer. How do they explain that winter in one hemisphere is summer in the other then? How do they explain that the sun never changes apparent size, as it would if we were moving toward or away from it? How do they explain the seasonal change in day length and the changing arc the sun makes across the sky?
I was always taught from the youngest age that the tilt of Earth’s axis caused sunlight to be spread over a larger area in one hemisphere and a smaller area in the opposite hemisphere, causing winter on one side and summer on the other. I am shocked that not everyone knows this.
Everything Else: I have also heard people claiming they were always taught that cars keep us safe from lightning because of the rubber tires on the ground, not from the Faraday-cage properties of the metal roof and sides as I was told.
I have heard people claim they were taught that a hierarchy existed to evolution, with organisms always striving toward more complex forms, finally reaching humans, rather than organisms simply adapting in unpredictable ways to whatever environment they happen to be in, even if it means getting simpler, as in the case of echinoderms (“simple” and “complex” are poorly defined concepts anyways).
I have heard people claim that they were always taught that humans use only ten percent of their brains, hinting at untapped potential or even a sixth sense, rather than less than ten percent of brain cells firing at any given moment - all of them firing at once destroying the possibility of any coherent thought or motion and being almost the definition of a seizure.
I have also heard people claiming they were taught that Jupiter’s red spot is a volcano, rather than a storm on a planet with no solid surface!
Who is teaching kids this garbage? No wonder we have so many scientifically illiterate adults!
I Give Up: I can’t tell who the crackpots are anymore. When even well-respected scientists propose that we likely live in a simulation, that all matter might be conscious, that white holes (requiring negative mass) are real, or really wild ideas like top-down cosmology, I start seriously wondering about reincarnation, telepathy, astrology, and whether the Earth is actually flat.
Remember, the wisest man is the one who knows he knows nothing.
Well, I didn't go as many places as I wanted, but it was still an interesting year. My grandfather had me trim the hedge, which is how I found all kinds of new insect friends. At different times, I saw a caterpillar, a dragonfly, and a praying mantis. In the flower garden was another dragonfly.
I also found evidence of other potential friends.
There are so many wonders around us that are hidden unless we cut things open. Trimming the hedge is how I discovered that yellow wood really does exist.
One day I saw patches of frost in the grass - even though it was late July. The ground below was black. What is that stuff? Mold? It was gone days later.
Another day I discovered a patch of wild mint on the edge of the yard. At first, it smelled and tasted exactly like basil before it matured and became mintier. I put it on my noodles.
The neighbor's yard developed several gigantic growths of fungi in a matter of only four days! I photographed the first to come up from the south and north and then again at the end of the four days when it had matured.
Then I saw a bunch of other stuff:
Even when I stay inside I see interesting things. This intruder was resting on the screen of the guest room window:
This one was in a gas station:
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!!!
I have so much I want to accomplish, but I can’t seem to prioritize. Thus, nothing is ever finished. Every time I make a schedule and tell myself to focus on one thing, my mind refuses to cooperate, wandering away into every other aspect of my life. It won’t stay on one subject long enough. Lately, I’ve even started to think all my projects are equally important, making it even harder to settle down. I have so many distractions.
On top of this, I also have slumps lasting for weeks wherein I am inexplicably tired, both physically and mentally. I can force myself to follow a routine, but I can’t force myself to be creative; creativity doesn’t work that way. I have time, but I don’t use it for anything productive. I don’t even read.
The Life Of Nate: Since 1993 I have wanted more than anything else to write a science fiction adventure series about a man named Nate. I now have accumulated more than six hundred story ideas, and while each one would make a good novel, I have decided that the best thing to do is to write them as a collection of short stories spanning three books called The Champion Trilogy. This is still a lot of work. The biggest problem is coming up with endings that are satisfying and realistic yet surprising and twisty. Sometimes I just don’t see a way out of Nate’s predicaments.
This project is important not only because it is close to my heart and is the life I always wanted to have, but because many of the concepts I illustrate are unheard of anywhere else. Nate not only encounters interesting biology and technology, but downright weird physics, math, philosophy, culture, psychology, and more, while surviving largely by his wits. The stories are too good to keep from the world.
Champion Of The Galaxy: While I am still writing Nate’s later years of life, I thought I would begin publishing sample stories to a blog one-at-a-time. ChampionOfTheGalaxy.com is important because it will help me build up a fan base for when the books are ready to be published. It has also been fun to work on.
I also thought the stories would be best paired with cover art – what I imagine the covers would look like if the stories were ever turned into full novels. This way, the stories would take the form of a webcomic.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t been working out. I haven’t been keeping up on the stories, drawing has turned out to be more time-consuming than I thought, and I continually wonder whether the drawings are good enough (even though I have seen other webcomic authors who are very successful with inferior drawings). Then just recently, I read through my work and decided that almost all the early stories need to be rewritten and they need to be longer. Everything is now on hold.
Flora And Fauna Series: Another of my great loves is exobiology. I keep having new ideas all the time. I have long wanted to write a series of books featuring alien plants, animals, and microbes in the same style as Wayne Barlowe’s Expedition. I have plans for about thirty distinct ecosystems. Each world would be a separate book. A simple plot would tie together the diagrams and descriptions, which would be drawn in my distinct style and the cover art would be the same. This series should be easier to write than The Champion Trilogy and it could keep me busy indefinitely as I create new worlds. I simply can’t decide which series is more important to me, so I have been working on both.
Flora And Fauna Blog: Since there are many other exobiology creators out there and I have always wanted to encourage the growth of this genre so I can collect the books, I have started a blog at FloraAndFaunaOfTheUniverse.com to promote the work of others. The secondary purpose of the blog will eventually be to promote my own work too. Unfortunately, nobody currently seems interested in writing guest posts or publishing books for me to review. Because I have nothing to post right now, no time is set aside in my schedule for this blog.
Book Promotion: On top of this, I already have three books published that feature my character Nate. I’m not sure how to promote them and now I am having second thoughts about some of them. Based on what will tentatively be the 111th story, The Spider, The Witch, And The Spaceship is perfect. I love everything about it. Based on the 1st and 2nd stories, Terror Of The Fun Sponge and The Gorilla With Twenty-Four Heads are branding nightmares. Are they part of a separate series? If I continue calling it The Nathaniel Series, how does that fit with ChampionOfTheGalaxy? How do they fit with The Champion Trilogy? I think their existence will confuse people. The relationships between the books and blogs are not obvious and hard to explain.
Furthermore, the first two books feature the time of Nate’s childhood, and are therefore of a very different style that could set up false expectations for the others. They also feature plants and animals I would very much like to use in the Flora And Fauna series. They also use cover art very similar in style to what I want to use for the Flora And Fauna series, possibly adding further confusion. I’m thinking of pulling them off the market. Modified excerpts may be released as short stories in the future, but I really want to get rid of them. Advice?
Philosophy: I also have a book in the works covering the intersection of politics, morality, spirituality, math, and physics. I know I’m not anybody special, but I think I have a unique insight worth looking into. The real-world concepts also complement some concepts found in the stories from Nate’s later life and vice versa in such a way that they help to explain each other. While it is not absolutely necessary, I think the book is important enough to keep writing.
Living With Gramps: As if I didn’t have enough to do already, my parents want me to journal my time living with my grandfather. They believe our interactions and antics are rich fodder for comedy that will sell and will also be a good biography for the family. I couldn’t say no.
WayOutLife: This blog is the most time-consuming of all. First, I have to leave the house to visit a park. Then I have to write about my visit. Then I have to edit what I’ve written and upload my pictures. Then I have to post it all to my blog, along with my musings and observations (many of which are already written), and I have to go through and fix the paragraph spacing and hypertext the links. Each of these three steps can take a whole day, sometimes longer if I’m interrupted.
Yet, I can’t bear to give up on it. Writing about my adventures reminds me how good my life is when everything seems to be going wrong. Writing down my musings helps me to stay positive and faithful to what matters. Writing down the bad stuff helps me detach and put things in perspective. The blog might help others, but mostly I write it for me.
The Understanding Project: I stopped writing my old political blog in 2016, but looking over it now I think a few things could be stated better. I’d like to clear out the junk and while I’m at it add a few new ideas I’ve had since. The blog supplements some arguments I make in my 2011 book, The Nutcase Across The Street, so it is important to maintain and keep relevant.
Product Reviews: In the meantime, I’m not making any money. When I look at others who seem to be wildly successful from doing almost nothing, I wonder why I can’t do the same. I see people who post only one or two videos a month to YouTube and in less than four years have over a million subscribers. Sometimes they have one or two helpful tutorials for some skill they’ve developed, but most of what they do is talk about themselves. Some of these people are more interesting than others, but I am more interesting than all of them! My father and I are working on some ideas of certain products I could review so I could make money as an Amazon affiliate. I’m not yet going to tell you what kind, but you will be the first to know if I do end up doing this.
Patreon: I am no longer maintaining my Patreon page. I never did get anyone to sign up and I think producing extra goodies for paying fans would have been too hard. The reason I left is that the website continues to be very glitchy. I cut the company some slack at first because they were growing so fast, but I thought by now they would have solved the problems. I had trouble separating free content from paid content, trouble contacting tech support, and now I can’t even log in to cancel my account. A great idea has been killed by bad execution.
Stuff: Adding to all this is that I have chores around the house. I do the laundry, make dinner, wash dishes, balance the checkbook, drive my grandfather to appointments, read the newspaper and the bible to him, cut his hair, help him cut his nails, buy groceries, trim the hedges, and a bunch of lesser things that seem to keep popping up and each takes longer than it should. I also have roughly thirty books to read and another thirty I would like to buy when I have the money. There also exists a need for rest and unstructured time so that creativity can flourish. I have additional ideas for short stories that do not fit with either Nate or exobiology. I have already drastically cut back my play time on FaceBook, Twitter, DeviantArt, and the conceptual evolution forum, but it seems I just started watching more YouTube to compensate. I also have to eat and sleep and it takes me a long time to get to sleep. I have too much to do, yet over and over I find myself doing nothing. Nothing is what I spend the most time doing.
I have too many projects.
I love flowers!!! All these plants were photographed around Rhode Island in August or September of 2018.
I am still seeing flowers pop up around the yard and around town. Unfortunately, I cannot stop my car just anywhere to take pictures of all of them. These are only a fraction of the total. All these photos were taken in July of 2018.
No, that’s not a flower. Dan, we talked about this.
It started in March. Flowers began popping through the lawn here and there. Then in April flowers were everywhere! Even the neighbors had them. The lawn was full of dandelions and violets. Then it was mowed and up came the buttercups and clover. The trees were suddenly ablaze like slow-motion fireworks. Some flowers only lasted a day. Others lasted a week or longer. Some came in gradually. Others were nonexistent one minute and existed in hordes just two hours later. Every other day in April, May, and June there was something new as first one bush and then another lit up. I could not gather what I considered a good photograph of all of them, so I have posted only the best.
I keep thinking we are lucky that the creator decided to place flowering plants on at least one planet. When I see a plant covered in them I think that at least one thing in the world is going right.
Um…Those aren’t flowers. Technically, they aren’t even plants; they’re protists.
Also not flowers. Flowers don’t move. Dan, you know better.
Beauty is largely a matter of perspective. Most people can appreciate a healthy forest or meadow full of tall trees, lush greenery, and vibrant flowers, but consider it an imperfection when one dead tree blemishes what would have been a fantastic landscape scene. However, beauty can be found by zooming in. Close to a dead tree, one can see it has become a home for insects, bacteria, and fungi. Mushrooms and molds make beautiful mini-forests themselves. Death is a part of life. Seasonal cessation and renewal makes life more interesting. It’s all a matter of perspective.
A scene full of dead trees can look good, but one dead tree among many live ones stands out as if it does not belong – especially if it leans at an odd angle or has a glaring asymmetry to its remaining limbs. It has to do with balance. In cases such as this, I find it helpful to imagine myself observing from very far above, seeing the dying, broken, and diseased parts of the forest scattered about artistically. I find the balance and the beauty by zooming out.
It is not only the natural world that holds beauty. Cities can be beautiful. Close-up, cities look to me haphazardly thrown together and unbalanced. Buildings of different shapes are mixed in among cranes and telephone wires. Lanes and road signs are often painted in ways that don’t make sense. They are polluted and ugly. Zoom-out, however, and they start to look like alien forests. Instead of growing through cellular division the way maples, pines, and oaks do, skyscrapers are pieced together from smaller bits by hard-working humans and machines – similar to the way proteins are built in ribosomes by RNA and other proteins. The process is just as interesting.
Lots of people hate finding litter in the forest. I’m not necessarily a fan either, but the existence of litter is evidence of previous use by Homo sapiens, one of the most interesting species on the planet. Other animals mark their environment by chewing on trees and damming up streams, building hives or nests, digging burrows, leaving footprints, or leaving behind the remains of their last meal. Digestion is fascinating and our beautiful world would not be the same without it. One has to expect its byproducts. In the same way, one has to expect the byproducts of human civilization. If litter still bothers you, do what I do and imagine each piece as an alien sea creature. See what ideas you can come up with.
Even civilizations-gone-bad can hold some beauty. I’m no fan of apartheid or communism, but their existence shows the myriad forms that human society can take and still function. I like to think of civilizations and ideologies as competing and evolving just like colonies in a petri dish. Just because my own ideology compels me to fight such things, doesn’t mean I can’t find some enjoyment in learning about them.
Anything real has beauty and all truth is beautiful. What of fiction? I love to think of all the different forms reality can take but probably doesn’t, whether they are serious scientific theories or ridiculous situations from fantasy novels (or comedy skits). Even if none of these things ever happen in the real world, they are still able to be held in the mind and encoded by the brain somehow. They leave their marks on our existence. Thoughts are part of reality and every bit a legitimate subject of study. Psychology is interesting, too.
Besides, how do we know this world isn’t just a dream we are having where the current rules exclude such things as remote viewing, time travel paradoxes, and curses of bad luck? There is no way to know for sure that we aren’t asleep right now. We can only experience things through our minds, so it is only our minds and our thoughts that we can be sure are real. It doesn’t sadden me too much that my comics are fiction, because in at least one sense they are just as real as anything else.
I still struggle with some things, however. When I am unable to write, or go exploring, or rest long enough to collect my thoughts, I can’t always see the beauty in the variety of things. When I feel better, I see that these times of up and down are an unavoidable consequence of progress. Beauty is everywhere, even in the inability to see it. Life is never static; only death is. Unfortunately, this explanation only partly satisfies, and when I am down, nothing can satisfy me. I still have more to grow.
Valentines From God
Finding Adventure Close To Home
How To Find Interesting Things
How To Find Things Interesting
What To Do When There Is Nowhere Left To Go
Thoughts On Play
Thoughts On The Natural And Artificial Worlds
Thoughts On Thought
Life is an adventure. Life is magical. I often find fun and intrigue in mundane things by using my creativity to imagine alternate explanations for everyday phenomena. Could what appear to be mere coincidences actually be proof of a plot to replace world leaders with alien clones? This is the most common way I come up with my science fiction stories. While there is nothing wrong with this, the real world is interesting too.
I often like to think of natural places as full of mysterious fields of energy that can be tapped into with the right knowledge to perform interesting shows. I’m not wrong! Natural places are full of gravity, magnetism, and electric gradients! Trillions of neutrinos pass through our bodies every second. Individual particles maintain spooky connections through quantum entanglement. Ripples in the electromagnetic field are all around us. Those with the right knowledge and equipment can send and receive radio waves to communicate long distances. Under the right circumstances, there can be spontaneous discharges called lightning. None of these phenomena are fully understood. Even so, does knowing how magic works make it any less magic?
I often like to think of normal rocks as having strange properties making them react with other substances in unexpected ways. Maybe they do! Chemistry is relatively well understood, but there is still room for surprises. Perhaps if mixed with just the right solution in just the right concentration at just the right temperature at just the right pressure something will happen that is not obvious.
I often like to think of the parks I explore as islands in a large sea. By using my magical powers/artifacts and standing in the right spot, I can grasp onto the mysterious currents of energy that will bring me through the air or water to the next island. This is almost what happens! I use a machine called a car to follow the roads. Some roads have higher speed limits than others, and they intersect each other in complex ways. Does being made of matter make the roads less interesting? Would my mysterious currents of energy be any less interesting if beings made of the same energy interacted with them as if they were solid? What is matter made of anyway? Does requiring stops for fuel to power my magical artifact make my car less interesting? Does the fact that the roads were built by a race of intelligent beings make them less interesting? Does the fact that off-road travel is also possible make the roads less interesting? Of course, in the real world we also have real islands and there are real ocean currents, not to mention the trade winds and the jet stream, so I don’t have to dream.
Other times I like to think of the parks I visit as whole planets. Does being small make the parks less interesting? Realistically, I don’t think I could ever stand to explore a whole planet. It would take too long before I got bored with it and wanted to move on. It would be too different from continent to continent to really get a feel for what it was like that made it different from other planets. Swamp planets and desert planets I understand. A single planet with deserts, swamps, jungles, tundra, oceans, plains, mountains, farms, and cities is just too much! It would take a lifetime to explore it! In order to hold knowledge in our finite minds, understand it, and enjoy it, it must be simplified by cleaning up the details that don’t fit our narrative. This is why I break the Earth down into manageable parks (and other places) with nothing in between as if they were planets separated by empty space.
I often like to think of trails as following mysterious flows of energy that prevent plant growth, but this is not too far from the truth either. I know that they are maintained by the actions of humans (and sometimes other animals), but does understanding how the phenomenon works make it any less interesting? Why were those paths chosen to begin with, anyway? Human psychology is still very mysterious.
What really causes fairy rings? No, they aren’t gateways to other worlds, but the world inside is different than the world outside. The world inside is dominated by a mysterious force called fungi, and nobody really knows how living cells function.
I also often like to think of animals as having a secret language of their own in which they exchange profound truths that we can’t understand. How do we know they don’t? We can never be sure of the full meaning another human brings to the same words that mean so much to us. Animal sounds could be much the same for them. Animals have senses and forms of knowledge we do not, trail scents and electrolocation being only some of the examples we are aware of. What about the examples we have yet to discover? What of the examples that animals deliberately keep secret from us? Could animals and angels be one and the same?
We already live in a fantasy world.
Related posts: Miracles Happen Every Day, Finding Adventure Close To Home, How To Find Interesting Things
You don’t have to tell me: I know there is less than a one percent chance we are even remotely compatible. I know there is a less than one percent chance you are available. I know there is less than a 0.01 percent chance you will respond. I also know that 99 percent of people in this culture view moving from being complete strangers to being friends to possibly romantic partners in only one day as extremely creepy (or at least inappropriate). This is how I have thought of it when those in the other one percent have pushed me faster than I wanted to go. I also know that being asked out by someone you don’t like is annoying and embarrassing. Therefore, out of respect for others I have traditionally restricted my invitations only to those that I have a genuine basis for thinking would be interested. This requires knowing them pretty well first – which requires a lot of time. I never ask out strangers.
Unfortunately, this policy has kept my pool of candidates very small. In the past thirty-six years, I have asked out exactly four women. The first three turned me down. The fourth initially said yes but then seemed to lose interest. Needless to say, this has led to times of excruciating loneliness. In recent years I have begun to think that I cannot be the only one. There must be women out there somewhere waiting forever to be asked out by someone, but I never do it. For their sakes as much as mine I must take the chance; it isn’t just about me. I’m the most interesting person I know and I love to learn about other interesting people. It is unfair to everyone not to make such an opportunity known. I have no idea if we would work out, but for anyone with a face like yours and with what I’ve already seen of your personality, I had to know for sure. I had to give you the chance. Come exploring with me!
Suppose you live on an island. On this island live 49 women, 49 men, and you. Suppose each inhabitant of the island is in an exclusive romantic relationship except you. There is absolutely no one left for you to date. Everyone you meet is already taken. Suppose then that you find out that most of the inhabitants have changed partners over the years. They are never single for long but jump from one exclusive relationship to the next in a very short time – too short for news to reach you before it is too late. You then realize it is not your ineptitude at finding suitable partners that has kept you single your whole life, but the uncanny ability of other singles to find each other before they find you. Suppose also that you then discover that the way they are able to do this is by cheating. Even while committed to one partner, they are on the lookout, sending out feelers to see who might be available soon. They get put on unofficial waiting lists for if they should ever find themselves free. Some start actually dating their next partner before breaking up with the previous one.
What do you do? You know that you would be a better partner than most and you know you would never cheat on anyone, yet nobody seeks you out and you have nobody left to seek out. Should you be single forever? None of these people are officially married. Some of them have only been together a short time. Some of them may be close to breaking free any day; you have no way of knowing. Under these circumstances is it really wrong to do what literally everyone else does by requesting people to leave those they are already dating in order to date you?
This is similar to the situation I find myself in. I can count the number of single women I’ve met on one hand. One I was literally on my way to ask out only to learn from my best friend that he had asked her out the day before. He already had a girlfriend, but unknown to me had broken up with her four days prior. Another was swept up in similar fashion at the last minute by someone she knew at school. Several women told me they didn’t know if they had a boyfriend or not – meaning things were rocky at the time. I thought it best to make sure things were really over rather than try to destroy what was in those cases a de facto marriage while they were still trying to work things out. Several guys have told me they met their wives while they still had boyfriends to compete with. In thirty-six years I’ve been on only one date (and I’m not sure it even counts) in part because I respect monogamy. No one else does.
Nobody ever just dates around to get to know multiple people before making a decision. They do not ask each other on dates one-at-a-time. They ask to be a regular boyfriend or girlfriend. Those extremely rare times that someone remains unattached, they are told they are “playing the field,” “using people,” and “afraid of commitment.”
I like people. I especially like girl people. They are interesting objects of study when they aren’t getting after me for petty things. I’d like to meet more people to get to know them, but they are already taken and have no time left over for me. I never get the chance to even learn about anyone to find out if we should date. I never get the chance to find out if we have any common interests or aspirations. I have nothing to base attraction on except looks. What should I do?
Here’s a better question: What are you doing Saturday, beautiful?
It was in fifth grade that I first thought I wanted to be an author. We were assigned to write a short story for class. I wrote a disorganized account of a detective hiking through the jungle to watch some natives involved in a mysterious religious ritual. I never finished, but I think it was supposed to have eventually been found out to be part of a cyborg plot to invade Earth.
In sixth grade I met my friend Ryan at the bus stop. We acted out scenes from Star Trek mostly. Soon, I was at his house six days a week coming up with and playing out ideas for a television series we called Dan And Ryan’s Adventures. The characters were based loosely on us. Unlike other children who wanted to be Ghostbusters or Ninja Turtles, I always wanted to be me – except with superpowers. I knew that before we could ever worry about acting, directing, props, sets, or camera angles, I first needed to write the scripts, but writing was much more tedious than playing. Instead, I made longer and longer lists of our ideas without writing any of them out. As I grew older and learned more speculative science, the ideas became ever more sophisticated and we strived to be groundbreaking.
By the time I had graduated high school, Ryan had moved away and I had fallen in love with the written word. There is just something magically satisfying about capturing in mere words the action and images of a scene. I enjoyed repeatedly going over my rough drafts and refining them into perfection. I gave up on the television series idea and decided to write a series of novels. I had settled on calling it The Way Out Series. It had a triple meaning. It dealt with events “way out” in deep space where there was often only one “way out” from danger and my characters were “way out” of their minds. I was unaware at the time that there had already been a Way Out science fiction series in the sixties. I made my first real effort to write in 2000. The first episode was to have been called Inside Metha. It would cover how the two main characters, Dan and Ryan, first met.
Unfortunately, I could not finish. Between work and school I did not have much time. I was mentally exhausted and could not focus. I kept having writers’ block and I did not trust that I could think my characters out of situations that I put them in. I needed to put them in danger, but also have them survive in a way that didn’t seem too unrealistic. I kept trying to plan everything out ahead and outline in too much detail, becoming frustrated when things didn’t work out. As the years passed I continued having new story ideas until I had hundreds. How was I ever to finish writing the entire series in a natural lifetime? I kept changing my mind which episode I should start the series with and what should be backstory. I had numerous ideas for Dan that took place before and after his adventures with Ryan, making Ryan less important, and the character Dan was becoming less and less like me anyways. Eventually Dan became Nate.
In the meantime, I developed other interests, such as art, travel, and politics. I kept various blogs. I somehow wrote The Nutcase Across The Street (politics/current affairs) in six weeks in 2010, later publishing it in 2011. It was only in 2012 that I made a breakthrough with my science fiction. I don’t fully understand what happened myself, but part of it was that I gave up trying to run my life and trusted God to lead me wherever, including what to write. I started writing The Spider, The Witch, And The Spaceship (science fiction). I now had the ability to write but not enough time. Fortunately, God also arranged for me to get fired mysteriously without cause in 2013. At last I had the time. I published in 2014.
I immediately began to think of what to do with all my extra ideas to make them marketable. I had received much feedback over the years that my stories were too complex and too weird to ever be accepted by anybody. This is why I originally decided to focus on Nate’s early life (then called Nathaniel). Nate’s childhood stories were simpler. I aimed to create a style emulating both Calvin And Hobbes and Star Trek, both highly popular among adults. I thought I had a winning combination. Instead, I received much feedback that no adult would ever want to read about children that talked and acted like children, yet no child would ever understand the science references (both real and fictional) I included. If my series had taken off, I would have kept going with it. Because it did not, I reevaluated what it was I really wanted to do for myself and decided that while I enjoyed writing in that style, it was not where my heart was. I had also tried becoming an artist and selling my drawings of alien creatures. While I received many compliments, I also ran into many obstacles in promotion and securing venues. If my art had taken off, I would have continued with it. Because it did not, I reevaluated what it was I really wanted to do for myself and decided that even though I enjoyed drawing, it was not where my heart was.
Around the same time, I came up with an overall plot arc to Nate’s life that tied all the hundreds of stories together. I thought it would be nice if I could actually publish all of my ideas while I was still alive. Finally I hit upon the idea of a trilogy of books, each containing 212 microchapters. Each microchapter would be a quick summary of one story from Nate’s life. I called it The Champion Trilogy. I was doubtful that anybody else would want to read such a thing, but the more I thought about it the more I knew I had to finish it before I could do anything else. This is what I really wanted to do.
In Champion Of The Galaxy, Nate finds that evil is everywhere he visits and starts to think of himself as a hero. He protects the innocent while battling criminal masterminds, alien monsters, space storms, military robots, and dimensional paradoxes, but for most of his life he is incredibly lonely. Finally, he meets Derek and they become best friends. In Champion Of The Universe, the challenges Nate and Derek face become ever bigger and more complicated. They learn to rely on each other more and more. In Champion Of Heaven, Nate slowly rises in power to control the mathematical underpinnings of reality itself in order to banish evil completely, but just as victory seems within his grasp, everything unravels. He loses his throne, his friends, his powers, and begins to lose his mind. After many years of grasping for every last sliver of hope, he collapses from emotional exhaustion. It is then that a mysterious entity rescues him and says, “You don’t have to be champion of the universe anymore. I am champion of the universe.”
After 636 stories, who knows? I very well might keep Nate going.
I finally found a roundabout way to get videos from my phone into my PC and onto the blog. Enjoy!
First off, I believe that sexual harassment of women is a very serious, very widespread, and very real problem. It often doesn’t get the attention it deserves. I find most of the stories perfectly believable. I have heard the way the guys talk about women when they aren’t around. I continually receive advice to impose myself on them, pestering and pressuring them in order to have my needs met. There are a lot of creeps out there. I don’t deny that there are those taking advantage of the MeToo movement for political purposes, but the message would not resonate with so many if there were not more than a little truth to it.
Thing is, the phenomenon cannot be fully understood without also understanding the larger context that people in general are jerks to each other. Most people are selfish and rude much of the time. I’ve been sexually harassed by women. I’ve been sexually harassed by men (gay and straight). I’ve been sexually harassed by both coworkers and management. I’ve been groped, fondled, slapped, belittled, asked very personal questions, and told many things I never wanted to know. I know what it’s like. I’ve also been harassed in ways that I took as only annoying, but others told me was actually sexual in nature. I’ve been bullied. I’ve been falsely accused of bullying. I’ve also been falsely accused of sexual harassment – more than once – and this is an equally serious, equally widespread, and equally real problem. Women protest that they are rarely believed when they report bad behavior, but in my experience they are believed far too much. The truth is that some women use the threat of false accusations just as some men use the threat of poor job evaluation scores or poor grades. In some places, women already have a lot of power. Taking their word for it without evidence not only harms men and thwarts truth and justice, but in the long run it harms women as well.
Widespread harassment by men has made women crazy. They are so used to inappropriate behavior that they start to see it when it isn’t even there. Some become so sensitive that it is impossible to compliment them, flirt with them, or ask them on a date without them thinking that more is coming whether they reciprocate or not. It is impossible to even strike up a friendly conversation without them thinking you are hitting on them. You’d think they’d find it flattering to have some attention for a change, but instead they find it very unnerving. I’ve heard the way women talk about other guys when they aren’t there. I also once knew a lady who hid out in back of her bookstore because a customer had left and then came back later wearing nicer clothes. He did nothing more than ask for her number, but this was considered creepy enough for her to flee. Last I heard, she is still single.
It is this oversensitivity that creates hostile environments where men are afraid to speak their affections. Those men that are careful to take things very slow and respectfully watch for subtle signals find opportunities slip by over and over. Introducing the idea of romance always involves abruptly (and rudely) changing the subject. I’m thirty-five now and I’ve been on exactly one date – and I only managed to get it because for once I deliberately pushed things instead of waiting on the natural progression. I still wonder whether we might have had a second date if I had tried harder, but it goes against my nature too much. I would rather have a partner that sticks with me out of affection than manipulation.
When the bad men make women crazy, and the crazy women drive away the bad men and good men both, it leaves many women single for a very long time. I hear them complain when they can’t find a boyfriend and I have even heard (from women) that they like to be pursued. For some, the chase is part of the fun. Some even advise others to play hard-to-get. Women who are too easy are derided as sluts. Even in the twenty-first century, many women think it improper for them to initiate romance. They never ask the guy out; they simply wait for him to ask. Then there are those women who in a moment of nervousness might send out signals of disinterest and regret it later, hoping for a second chance and thinking that any guy who really liked them would try again. No can mean no, but it can also mean not now. The end effect is that millions of men and women live alone, unable to connect with each other. With so many of both sexes so deprived, some become tempted to use unethical means to get what they want, bringing us right back to the beginning.
In conclusion, our dating system is fundamentally broken. There is no love in it. The bad behavior of a few has ruined it for everyone else.
I learned a new word recently: bombogenesis, the process by which a storm rapidly intensifies. Rhode Island (which is not an island) was recently hit by one of these storms, which brought a lot of snow and even more wind. When I went out to pick up the newspaper (which some fool had actually taken the effort to deliver), I found I could not face north at all without cold, wet, pointy bits of ice continually slamming into my eyes at speeds in excess of forty miles per hour. The next day, there were some pretty intense drifts. Snow depth ranged from practically zero inches up to six feet. The area around the house was clear, but the wind curled around it and dumped a lot of snow on our southern-facing porch.
I haven’t been travelling much lately because I am taking care of my grandfather now that my grandmother has died. I am continuing to write my science fiction book and my philosophy book, but have not taken any time to draw. I am also still conflicted with which direction to take some of my other fiction ideas. In the meantime, I have decided to go ahead and publish more of my musings and observations on the blog in spite of having no true adventures to pair them with. I had wanted this blog to be about travel, but my thoughts are part of my life too. My life is in a slow season. I am also having some baffling computer problems I have to keep working around, so this delays blogging still further.
Southern Rhode Island must be the cemetery capitol of the world. I see a tiny one outside a Rite-Aid, another tucked behind a Burger King, one at the edge of a field, a big one just down the road from where I’m staying, and then I read a story in the local paper about all the cemeteries in the next town, including the one where my grandfather’s parents are buried. We went to go see them and some people my grandfather went to school with. It was an uneventful trip.
The newspaper article on cemeteries was more interesting. It mentioned a mass grave where a scorned traveler had his revenge by burning down a house with dozens inside. It mentioned two women who were rumored to be vampires, possibly because they had frozen solid during the winter and had not decayed come springtime when the ground had thawed enough to bury them. It also mentioned a single, unmarked grave outside a cemetery that took some sleuthing to find out who was there.
New England seems to have a lot of “layers” to it. New developments are built, new neighbors move in, roads are changed, trees grow up, and spots that used to be locally famous become inaccessible and are forgotten. My grandfather speaks of a “split” stone that one can walk through. It is still in the woods somewhere, but surrounded by homes. I’ve also read about a nearby boulder that pivoted atop another to make deep booming sounds heard long distances. Many families used to dump trash such as bottles or old frying pans on their own property. These spots hold a wealth of archaeological data. They have since been covered over and the original families are long gone, but my grandfather still remembers where some of them were.
Life has a way of taking funny twists. I still have no money for my New England road trip, but I am moving to Rhode Island where I will be within driving distance of many places I want to visit. My grandparents have aged to the point that they need a little assistance, so I am moving in with them (my dream house). I won’t be able to take long trips, but I should still be able to get out once in a while. I will post as I am able. Due to my work load and some inexplicable internet problems, I will also be taking a hiatus from FloraAndFaunaOfTheUniverse and ChampionOfTheGalaxy.
Unfortunately, this means I can no longer write for LovesTampaBay. Below are all the places I wrote about in 2017:
Parks And Museums
Food And Drink
People And Businesses
I also wrote a load of stories for LovesTampaBay in 2016. Check them out.
Written By Others
I'm not the only one writing for LovesTampaBay. Here are all the posts from 2017 written by others:
My Last Pictures From Florida:
This is the backyard after the hurricane:
Someone cut a bottlebrush tree, letting me see its pink wood:
This is the same tree three days later:
Here are some animals:
Sometimes I feel like there is nowhere left on Earth to discover. The days of Columbus and Magellan are over. Satellites photograph every square meter. The ocean floor might not be fully mapped, but from what is already known it is not likely to have much that is exceptionally interesting. It is also too hostile an environment for me to really enjoy myself there. This is when I remind myself that:
It also bothers me that so many areas are restricted – whether by government or by private entities. I figure everyone is entitled keep me from their backyard, but when hundreds of acres of wilderness are marked with no-trespassing signs, there is a severe problem. What purpose do I have on this Earth if not to explore? How can I explore when so much land was stolen away from me before I was even born?
Some areas are closed for ecological reasons, but they are only closed to humans – not other animals. This is discrimination! Some areas are open to the public but only for a fee. You have to pay to camp, dock, or even park your car! More and more humans are dumped into smaller and smaller spaces together but sometimes I just need to get away from people to relax and recharge. State parks are great places, but they often have rules against firearms, hunting, collecting, campfires, walking off trail, and alcohol. I wish I didn’t have to deal with people and their rules. Columbus and Magellan just went where they pleased. This is when I remind myself that:
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.