2020 was a strange year. I hardly wrote or travelled, but I did spend a lot of time on YouTube and stumbled across some relatively unknown musical talent (at least in the US). One artist led to others showing up in my recommendations until I had listened to them all. Below are the top thirteen in ascending order of rating.
Faun: While I would never say any of their songs are among my favorites, there is a certain fairy-elf atmosphere to the sounds that would make them great movie background music. The video for Walpurgisnacht makes this clear. The language is German.
Gealdyr: Borrowing from Nordic and Celtic culture, Gealdyr sings mostly repetitive simple songs about nature, life, and death. It makes good background music. I like Kauna and Deyr Fe. The language is old Norse.
Sabine Hossenfelder: Theoretical physicist and professional pessimist of the direction science by day, Sabine has put together some decent lyrics and simple beats. The videos are clearly homemade, but the sound to my untrained ear is as good as anything else. I especially like When They Ask Us, This Is How I Pray, Theories Of Everything, and Ivory Tower. The language is (usually) English.
Isla Vista: This group sings of God and his love in a style reminiscent of Sam Smith or Marvin Gaye. Captured is a good example of this. The language is English.
Beabadoobee: Soft, sweet, quiet, cute, and pensive, Beabadoobee sings of ordinary things and extraordinary love. I like Coffee the most. Also good are Dance With Me, 1999, Ceilings, Everest, Art Class, and The Way I Spoke. The language is English.
Erutan: Erutan sings songs inspired by fairy tales and stuff. Tarts and The Willow Maid are good. The language is English.
The Hu: No, they aren’t The Who, but they are at least as good. Blending Mongolian throat singing with modern rock, they sing of the glory days of the Mongolian Empire. Yuve Yuve Yu, Wolf Totem, and Shoog Shoog are good songs. The language is (usually) Mongolian (of course).
Ella Roberts: Ella sings traditional folk songs from Ireland and Scotland. Her version of The Bonnie Banks Of Loch Lomond is amazing. The language is Scottish English.
Kati Ran: Her other songs don’t touch me much, but Suurin is a full-blast power song that can make anybody feel capable of anything – and I thought that even before I saw the translated lyrics. The end sounds like someone running for their lives. The video is awesome too. I never get tired of it. The language is Finnish.
Blackbriar: An excellent example of female-led metal, I really like I’d Rather Burn and Beautiful Delirium. Arms of The Ocean, Until Eternity, and Ready To Kill are okay too. The band is Dutch, but the language is English.
Rachel Rose Mitchell: Singing along to what can only be described as symphonic rock, Rachel sings songs powerful, sad, or sometimes a bit creepy. I really like Alice, which somehow makes me think of a character who has defeated every enemy in every battle and yet still lost things most people will never understand. I also really like Thorns, Something You Don’t Know, Carnival, The Ticketman, Lantern In The Night, Wither, River Run Red, Farewell Song, Glow In The Dark, The Hollow, Everything You Want, and Collateral. Just listen to the entire playlist. The language is English.
Oonagh: German pop sensation Oonagh is best known for her catchy songs inspired by Lord of The Rings, such as Orome, Eldamar, Silmaril, Numenor, Tolo Nan, Arien, Ainulindale, Yalume, and Gaa. The verses are in German, but the choruses are often in Tolkien Elvish. Even the videos are works of art and Oonagh’s bubbly personality and natural good looks put the frosting on the cake. She also sings many other good songs, such as Eine Neue Zeit and Zauberwald, and has even collaborated with Celtic Woman to create the fairy magic that is Tir Na Nog. The woman is the best thing to come out of Germany since Albert Einstein and puts even The Beatles to shame – and yet she’s still second on this list…
Eivor Palsdottr: Sometimes creepy, sometimes lovely, sometimes nostalgic, her music sometimes reminding me of Paul Simon, Ringo Star, or a James Bond intro, Eivor’s voice is always beautiful. Common themes include the ocean and lost love. My favorite songs include Surrender, Into The Mist, Rain, Far Away, True Love, Undo Your Mind, Green Garden, Let It Come, and I know. Most of her work has English and Faeroese versions. One song in which I think I actually prefer the Faeroese is Mjorkaflokar – not that there is an English version. Why isn’t she more popular?
What a great year!
Contrary to its name, Providence Coal-Fired Pizza is not in Providence. It is in East Greenwich. I visited in February of 2020 just in time for lunch.
Also contrary to its name, they don’t have pizza – or at least not pizza I’m used to. These are not your usual standby pizzas with tomatoe sauce and cheese, such as pepperoni or sausage, these are crazy pizzas made with steak, spinach, and vinaigrette dressing. I ordered one of these with extra mushrooms. It was very good.
One way they could improve is not to make the crusts so thin. Mine had soggy spots that broke open, spilling my mushrooms everywhere. I had to eat it with a fork – and anything eaten with a fork can’t possibly be pizza.
I also never saw any coal.
In 2010, I started a blog called The Understanding Project. I tried to promote productive conversations between those of different political ideologies by educating my readers about what people actually want instead of what their opponents accuse them of wanting. After three years, I had never been so frustrated with anything in my life. I gave up on politics to focus on writing, art, and forest rambles.
Now I’m bringing the blog back, but there will be some changes. I used to ask questions and invite people to educate me. It didn’t work. I’m no longer going to waste my time in conversation. The blog is now nothing more than a resource on using critical thinking to cut through news media BS.
I have no reason to think that I will convince anybody of anything, but something desperately needs to be done and I have no reason to think that violent retaliation or sacrificial love or any other tactic will work either. All options are on the table.
I’m speaking out in faith. If I were to win by destroying my enemies, I would still have lost because that’s not the type of world I want to live in. Only by convincing others with force of logic do I truly win. I have to try.
Points to ponder:
“To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.” – Thomas Paine
“Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again.’” – John 11:25
“Don’t be intimidated by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself.” – Philippians 1:28
“The Lord replied, ‘If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me. If you speak words that are worthy, you will be my spokesman. You are to influence them; do not let them influence you!’” – Jeremiah 15:19
Dan’s Law of Psychology: For every scientific study establishing the existence of a psychological phenomenon, there is an equal and opposite study refuting it.
I visited The Bike Stop Café in Narragansett, Rhode Island with my sisters in late December 2019. It is less of a café and more of a pizza shop. The stone oven is right near the door and you can watch them make the pizzas. We shared a chicken pizza that was very good. The walls are adorned with bicycles. I have no idea why. Every table is stocked with ten or more types of hot sauce from every company imaginable. There is also a bookshelf in the corner stocked with more. When I placed an almost invisible amount of a carrot-habanero-based sauce on my finger for tasting, I almost died. So, I put it on my French fries next.
My webhost is killing me. They have changed the way that photos are stored such that photos with the same names might replace each other – even if located in different elements on different pages on different websites. Oddly, it seems to have caused a cascade effect wherein photos with different names are also affected. Because of the way my phone and computer interface, very many of my photos have the same names and there was never a reason to change them before because I keep a separate folder for each post. I’m still getting a handle on how big of a problem it is, but it looks like I might have to reupload everything since 2018. In the meantime, expect the pictures to make absolutely no sense.
A lot happened in 2020. There was a virus, lockdowns, riots, political strife, massive corruption, news media coverups, and election fraud. People are frightened over the future. Many are totally hopeless. There are those that place their hope in the idea that the corruption is so clear now that surely the citizenry will wake up and fix it. Though there is some evidence of this, I am skeptical. Every time there is some scandal in the news, pundits say that this will finally be the issue that turns things around, but it never happens. Stupid people never learn. This has been going on my entire life.
Of course, I have been wrong before. Things could get better. We might be on the cusp of a new golden age. In situations like this, it helps to look for reasons to have hope. It helps to look for improvements if they do come. Not only is this important for our emotional health, but it gives us issues to focus our efforts on and thus create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Here is what to look for:
Though the coronavirus was very mild, the next virus might not be. Because of 2020, we will be ready for it. People will finally wash their hands as they should have been all along. Employers will be less likely to insist sick employees come to work. This sounds good.
The lockdowns should have made everyone understand the terror of loneliness such that they begin to do something about it in a way they never have before. People will reach out to those on the margins instead of ignoring them or blaming them for their problems as they have been doing.
The squabble that ensued over the decision to close the borders and the way the Democrats had to reverse their positions so dramatically in less than two weeks should have eroded any credibility they might have still had and ended the debate once and for all whether we need to regulate our borders and who comes through them. Let’s hope that in keeping out viruses, we can also keep out drug dealers, terrorists, and human traffickers.
The riots in the cities and the subsequent rush to buy guns should have ended the gun debate for good as well. More people owning guns should mean more people feeling comfortable allowing others to own guns. The more guns people have, the less of a problem future rioters will be.
The riots in the cities also drove many to move out of the cities. The shifting demographics means fewer people in urban areas represented by Democrats. Districts will be redrawn to give the Republicans an advantage. While leaving any party in power long enough attracts corruption, in the short-term any loss for the Democrats is a win for America.
At the same time, the behavior of the police, both in selectively enforcing lockdowns and taking sides during the riots, should have by now made clear to so-called conservatives that the police are no different than any other part of the government. It has frustrated me for years that those who claim to be against “big government” have such a blind spot when it comes to the police. Look to see if this changes.
The temporary homeschooling that some parents had to do during lockdown should have demonstrated that such a thing is possible and given them an example to follow should they ever want to pull their children out of school in the future. That other parents had to bring the words of the teachers right into their home also made it clear what their children were being taught and exposed some of the propaganda our schools have engaged in. Let’s hope there is both an increase in homeschooling and additional pressure put on our public schools.
Finally, let’s hope that the troubles of this world will start making people yearn for another. Hopeless people are ripe for the hope of the Gospels. Let’s hope for a revival. Then we’ll be able to recognize it when God does act.
Considering what has been going on recently, I thought it was important that I say something: Two things can be true at the same time. This is a theme that runs through my life. I am often caught between two positions or two factions that are both right and both wrong – and so everyone hates me. This is especially true in the current war between the police and Black Lives Matter.
Anyone who actually watches the news already knows that the cops are jerks. It isn’t simply the ratio of bad cops to good cops, which is debatable; the problem is much deeper than that.
To illustrate what I mean, I need a few examples. It is entirely possible that I have been misinformed on the details of these events, but that isn’t important because I’m only using them to explain principles as you shall see in a moment.
The first event occurred in New Hampshire. I heard that in attempting to arrest a suspect at a gas station, the police threw flash-bang grenades at his vehicle. I know that if I was suddenly surrounded by explosions and fast-moving armed people shouting at me, I would assume that I was under attack by those wishing me harm and would have nothing to lose by fighting back. In this situation, as everyone should have predicted, the suspect shot back at the police, forcing police to return fire, who killed him and his girlfriend and somehow missed hitting the baby in the back seat and everyone in the surrounding neighborhood. If they had simply cut off his exits and invited himself to surrender, things might have gone differently.
I have also heard of many cases, such as the recent one in Kentucky, of cops storming into houses with guns drawn and the homeowners being charged with attempted murder for firing at the cops. Common sense dictates that even if the intruders identify themselves as cops, this is likely to be missed in the chaos. Common sense dictates that these could also be fake cops since it has happened before that imposters have robbed people. Common sense dictates that these could be crooked cops sent by an organized crime syndicate or a government-turned-tyrannical, since those things have also happened before. No-knock warrants terrorize even law-abiding citizens, since it has happened before that police had the wrong house and they have been known to cover up their mistakes with lies. When police put people into a legitimate self-defense situation, no one should ever be charged with a crime for killing them.
Note: There are probably rare times that it is worth the risk to do these things, and I’m not saying that the cops should necessarily always be charged. All I’m saying is that the accused must not have resisting arrest, assault, murder, or attempted murder added to their charges, since it is possible none would have happened if the police had acted differently.
That these mistakes sometimes happen isn’t the real problem. We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people and things are bound to go wrong sometimes. The problem is that other cops, their supervisors, and their allies support these types of actions. I even heard Brandon Tatum, former cop, say on Dave Rubin’s show, The Rubin Report, that cops need to enter unknown situations with their weapons drawn for their own safety. That’s insane! By the same logic, I should point my gun at the police during routine traffic stops just in case they get out of hand. “Keep your hands where I can see them and no sudden movements,” I should say. Somehow, I don’t think it would end well for either of us.
Idiocy doesn’t even begin to describe it. There can only be one explanation: Brandon Tatum is a very evil man. I’m through messing around pretending that all ideologies are equally valid. The gloves are off. If you advocate for the police to be allowed to do these things you are evil incarnate. It isn’t just that a minority of fringe wackos like Tatum support these ideas. The problem is widespread. Even people I know support them.
People also tell me that I must always do whatever an officer says and sort it out later in court if it was wrong, but this is completely unreasonable. I can’t be unkilled or uninjured later in court. I can’t get my moment of indignity back later in court. It isn’t “resisting arrest” if I am rushed and grabbed without warning or explanation and I instinctively pull away. It isn’t “disobeying a lawful order” if the order is so preposterous that I assume I must have misunderstood and seek clarification first. Yet there are those that blame anyone who does not immediately follow orders and place zero blame on the one giving the orders.
Deaf people cannot always understand orders. Mute people cannot always answer questions. Blind people sometimes bump into officers. Autistic people are highly sensitive to touch and sometimes misinterpret social cues. Schizophrenics are sometimes paranoid and nervous. Claustrophobic people might not want to be cuffed and placed in a vehicle. Cops should be trained how to deal with these people, but it seems many cops don’t even have the basic social skills of a kindergartener.
The problem isn’t just “police brutality.” It’s all the lies and minor injustices done. It’s false traffic tickets. It’s that the judicial branch is often biased in favor of the police. I have no idea how to behave around police. The news tells me there are imposters out there, so I should never give out my license or anything with my address on it to anyone I can’t verify has a right to it. At the same time, lawyers tell me to never utter a word to cops because they can twist my words around to make me look guilty, or claim I slurred my words in order to accuse me of intoxication, but how can I verify their identity without talking to them? At the same time, advice is circulating that if I have a gun on me, the very first thing I need to do before anything else is announce this (by talking) and allow the (possibly fake) cop to disarm and search me so I don’t get shot. There is literally no way to win. There is no way to stay out of trouble.
Lawyers tell me that I have a right under the first, fourth, and fifth amendments not to answer questions or volunteer information about what weapons I might be carrying, yet I have heard countless anecdotes of people “remaining silent” who were detained, arrested, and even ordered out of vehicles they were not driving for failure to identify. I was taught in school that America is a nation of laws and it is laws we are to obey, not the whims of government agents, yet as an adult I am told that police have huge leeway in managing emergency situations and that any disputes must be handled later in the rigged courts or at the ballot box where I am repeatedly outvoted – and this is assuming the ballots were counted fairly.
Police have also abused me and people I know. When I checked up on an old friend I was very concerned about, those around her started harassing me. I considered reporting them to the police but wasn’t sure their behavior quite rose to that level. While I thought it over, she went to the police first and accused me of harassing her! Without ever reaching out to me to get the whole story, the police chose their side and actively constructed lies to hurt me. They searched completely unrelated public posts of mine, construed them as veiled threats against her, and showed them to her, knowing perfectly well at the time how mentally unstable and paranoid she was already. I could no longer report that I was harassed to the police because they had already chosen sides and I believed they would use any words I spoke against me. The court did not allow me to make a defense and the judge ruled against me even though what the police falsely claimed happened didn’t even fit the legal definition of harassment in that state.
Furthermore, when I complained to the police chief, they brought charges against me again – claiming that my complaint was a roundabout way to contact my accuser in violation of the court order. The entire department is corrupt!
For months, I wondered if the next step was for them to claim I violated the no-contact order so they could drag me out of bed in the middle of the night. They had already lied once, why not again? I worried over everything I posted online, thinking it could be construed as a threat. I wanted to be a writer. How could I ever promote my fiction books or my non-fiction blogs safely? Since what happened to me was so lawless and so detached from truth, I fully expected that if I submitted to arrest, the cops might beat me or kill me in custody and then claim I started the fight. Why would I ever submit to arrest? What do I have to gain? What do I lose by fighting back? Considering that I had reason at the time to believe my ex-friend was suicidal as well as paranoid, and the court system had already failed me, it would not have been unreasonable to go full vigilante after these cops and stop them by any means necessary. I would be doing the world a favor.
For years the story has been burning to get out of me, but I held back from going to the national press only because I didn’t want to hurt my ex-friend who is as much victim as perpetrator. I have also been told by well-meaning but misguided individuals that any public mention of the incident will only invite further abuse and also prevent anyone from hiring me because hiring managers and the public at large are predisposed to believe the police and predisposed to believe women. So be it. I refuse to work for cowards who won’t stand up for truth. You don’t deserve me.
People are now saying “defund the police,” “abolish the police,” and “abolish the courts.” It sounds crazy – and it is – but they have a point. If you lived in a city with cops so corrupt that if you called them for help with an intruder you were as likely as not to be mistaken for the intruder, or as likely as not charged with an unrelated crime, or as likely as not to just have them not show up (this has happened to people I know), you might think you were better off abolishing the police and taking your chances with the criminals. What loss is there if they don’t even show up half the time?
Some people say we should reform the police rather than get rid of them entirely. I agree, but people have been screaming for reform for years. The system and its countless clueless allies have resisted change. You can’t blame people for wanting to tear it all down. Maybe recent events will be a catalyst for reform. I hope so, but it could also be used as an excuse for police to crack down harder.
There is nobody in the country who hates the cops more than I do. Nobody has more reason to be angry than I. The protestors and I have the same enemy. The problem is: I’m the wrong color.
Why are so many black people so stupid to think they are the only ones with problems? Don’t the lives of the homeless matter? Don’t the lives of ex-cons matter? Don’t the lives of the unborn matter? If you have a job (or at least had one before COVID-19 hit), you are doing better than I am right now. If you have your own room and your own bed, you are doing better than I am right now. If you have more than one friend, and those friends live in the same state as you, you are doing better than I am right now. If you have ever had a girlfriend or boyfriend in your entire life, you are doing much better than I have ever done.
I’ve been bullied and treated as different my entire life. I’ve been a victim of prejudice for being male, for being Christian, for being single, and treated rudely many times for reasons mysterious to me. For all I know, it might have been for being white. I once lost my home and thousands of dollars in investment because of a crooked judge. I’ve been charged with a pretend crime by crooked cops. Twice patrol cars have slowed down while passing me as if I was being profiled somehow. I’ve been robbed at gunpoint. I’ve been fired from jobs twice for no fault of my own. When I was a child, my father was passed over for a job because of affirmative action, fired from another job over a false charge of sexual harassment, and evicted without mercy for being one day late on rent. Where is my white privilege?
I know that many if not most black people have things very tough, caught between failing schools, limited economic opportunities, drug problems, gang warfare, and corrupt police. I sympathize. I’d like to help, but we can’t work together so long as your loudest voices perpetuate an us versus them mentality. Black Lives Matter has made all white people the enemy.
Black Lives Matter is a black supremacist group and I can prove it: On more than one occasion, their leadership has prematurely taken sides in high-profile shooting cases before all the facts were in and solely because of race. They held a rally where whites were told not to attend. They have waged a war of words on their own allies who agree and sympathize when they innocently state in support that all lives matter. The only explanation for this can be that the Black Lives Matter leadership believes that only black lives matter. They should change their name to Only Black Lives Matter.
By bringing race into it, Black Lives Matter clouds the issue and prevents unity. One prone to conspiratorial thinking might think they are working with the cops. That some police have started kneeling to them isn’t helping. That in many cities rioters were released while those merely defending themselves from being beaten or killed by them were charged isn’t helping either. Our legal system is completely arbitrary at this point. Either way, so long as Black Lives Matter dominates the conversation, I can’t help you.
Whether you are black, Hispanic, Native American, or whatever, renouncing Black Lives Matter (and Antifa) is the first step you have to take if we are ever going to fix this. Making enemies of the white majority is a sure way to get crushed. Remember, there are white supremacists out there too. Black Lives Matter is the best recruiting tool they have.
There are people now saying that white silence is violence. While not strictly true, they have a point. I think we do wrong not to speak against evil when we see it. This is why I’ve been speaking out my whole life against cops, government in general, and partisans that would pointlessly divide us along racial, religious, or even sexual lines. I’ve written books. I’ve written blogs. I’ve invited anyone who will listen to talk politics, but nobody listens and some of them tell me I have white privilege and thus have nothing to say worth listening to. What difference does it make if I stay silent?
Universities that try to protect their students from hearing controversial opinions do them a great disservice. One might be able to make the case that children should be shielded from certain ideas, but university students are adults!
If you are old enough to vote, you are old enough to discuss public policy. If you are old enough that no one should stop you from viewing pornography of your choice, then you are old enough that no one should stop you from listening to political opinions of your choice. If you are old enough to own a gun or join the military or police force, you had better damn well be mature enough to peacefully negotiate with those you disagree with. If you are old enough to be trusted with driving a car or raising children of your own, you are old enough to trust to fill out a ballot. It is time for university students to choose: Are you adults or children?
Nudge coffee butter is what it sounds like: a mixture of vegetable oil, sugar, and finely ground coffee beans that you can spread on toast like Nutella. It’s not bad, but I don’t think I’ll buy it again. I prefer sunflower butter or cashew butter. Almond butter and peanut butter are good too.
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:
Patriotism and treason have no meaning when a country is at war with itself.
Somewhere on the back way connecting South Kingstown and North Kingstown is the entrance to Tripond park. I stopped my car there in late September of 2019. I only found one pond, so I wonder if there is more to the park that has been hidden from me.
The path enters the woods and runs alongside a pond, but it is nearly impossible to see through the thick vegetation. A short way in, the trail splits. I took the right way.
This path winds crazily back and forth across mud and brooks. I have never seen so many wooden footbridges. The vegetation was thick and it was dark under the trees. The only animal I saw was a lone squirrel. Finally, the path terminated on the side of a quiet road without a building in sight.
Retracing my steps, I returned to the split and took the left way. This path took me all the way around the pond back to where I started.
There wasn’t much to see but roots.
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.
It takes no effort to be smart. To take the default position, the straightforward interpretation, and the obvious conclusion takes no effort at all. Anyone can be smart. It takes a true genius to be a fool. The multiple layers of pretzel logic some people construct in order to argue a point must be exhausting.
I visited Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge in southern Rhode Island in late August 2019 and I think it was the wrong time of year. What flowers were still around were dry and broken. Everything seemed tired and in disrepair. Even the spider webs were full of holes...
The trail south from the parking lot splits in two and I took the western branch first. After passing a field of tall grass, it becomes a regular wooded trail for a while. Everything was overgrown with vines. I even saw a few raspberries. Eventually the trail leads down a narrow peninsula surrounded by opaque, green-grey water. This is where a steady breeze picked up. Looking out across the pond, I could see the ocean just on the other side of the narrow strip of land around it. Beyond this it was so hazy that I could not tell where the ocean met the sky.
At the end of this trail is a deck and telescope. I watched the gulls, red-breasted mergansers, and other birds that frequent the pond. I also took a peek at the human houses among the trees just outside the preserve. Of course, I didn’t care about any of those things. What I really wanted to know was whether I could aim the telescope at the sun and use it to burn a hole in the deck! Alas, it was noontime and I could not point the telescope high enough. Darn!
Returning the way I came, I then took the connector trail over to the east side of the park. This is where there is another deck and telescope. On the way I saw a rabbit:
Past the eastern deck, the trail continues right into the water. I had hoped to explore there, but my way was guarded by a monster:
After this, I returned to the parking lot. On the way I encountered a couple of decks on the border of a pond filled with lily pads. Oddly, one of the decks was not easily accessible. There is no path to it and a fence blocks the way. The other deck is well shaded and home to a very sneaky chipmunk. When I turned around to leave, I saw it scurry away from its spot right behind me.
Finally, I made it back. The entire outing took from 12:00 to 2:30. Only once did any flies bother me and that was near the brook passing under the connector path. Yet, somehow during my brief transit they left me with dozens of bites.
Highlights: On the ground I saw red galls and green galls. I saw an apple tree. I saw a lot of tiny, green dragonflies. Most notable, I saw a black-winged damselfly fly backwards in a jumpy sort of way that reminded me of how scallops swim. Show off!
Best Highlights: On the way back, I stopped at Dunkin Donuts, ate a Boston cream donut, drank a coffee milk, and sat in the lobby watching traffic through the window. This was the best part of the trip.
This is a poem I wrote in 2019. I imagine it to the tune of If I Had A Million Dollars by Bare Naked Ladies.
You know I love you and I’d do anything for you and I’d buy you anything and I’d give you everything I have. In fact, I wrote a song about it and I’ll sing it to you right now.
If I went to market (If you went to market)
I would buy you a fat pig (But not a real fat pig; that’s gross)
And if I came home again (And if you came home again)
I’d go jiggity-jig jiggity-jig (Jiggity-jiggity-jig)
And this little piggy went to market (And this little piggy stayed home)
And this little piggy had roast beef (And this little piggy had none)
And this little piggy cried wee-wee-wee-wee-wee (All the way home)
(I thought this was a song about all the stuff you were going to buy me.)
It was, but I forgot. I’ll do better next verse.
If I was named Jack Horner (You’d be teased in high school)
Then I’d eat a Christmas pie (But not a whole pie at once; that’s gross)
And if I found in it a plum (A fat, juicy plum for me?)
I’d say what a good boy am I (What a meanie!)
I once heard a cat play a fiddle (You said you saw a cow jump over the moon)
I once heard a dog laugh (You said you saw a dish run away with a spoon)
I think I finally understand it all now (You’re insane)
(What was in that Christmas pie anyways? Mushrooms?)
No, I think it was just plums and magic reindeer meat.
(That explains it.)
If I was named Peter Piper (You’d still be teased in high school)
I’d pick a peck of pickled peppers – for you (You know I’ve always liked pickled peppers!)
And if I was named Peter Piper (Your initials would be pee-pee)
A peck of pickled peppers is what I’d pick (A peck of pickled peppers is what you’d pick – for me)
And if I was an old woman (Then I’d guess you’d live in a shoe)
And if I slept under a haystack (Then I guess you’d be little boy blue)
And if I sang this song to you on our wedding night (You’d be weird)
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.
One thing I have observed in life and an idea I have been repeatedly exposed to is that one’s social environment has at least as much to do with one’s behavior as one’s innate nature. Sociologists suggest that putting people in jail might be a less effective way to prevent criminality than making sure people grow up in a healthy home environment, have plenty of legal opportunities for advancement, and are kept away from the influence of those who are already criminals. There are even those that have suggested that labeling someone as deviant in some way can cause that person to internalize and even embrace the label, becoming set in their deviant ways, and that if we instead cast their past behavior as an aberration from an otherwise clean record this would be less likely. This is called role theory.
I know that there are times I have been tempted to be rude since all my efforts to be polite were getting me nowhere and I was being accused of being rude anyways. I figured there was no loss to my reputation if I became what they said I was. Social environment matters a lot. I’ll recount three examples from my life:
One: When two of my coworkers failed to get along, management stuck me in the middle of them since I seemed to get along with almost anyone. However, because I was now in the middle, I had to interact with two troublemakers while each of them only had to interact with one of me. Thus, I was in twice as much conflict. Management soon forgot why I was put there in the first place and started seeing me as the problem.
Two: One of my coworkers often stood in the corner when there was nothing to do. I noticed that my other coworkers simply assumed he was lazy and would not help. Whenever a task appeared, they would do it themselves, grumbling all the time about the guy in the corner. When multiple tasks appeared, they simply worked harder. In contrast, when I was alone with him and something needed to be done, I simply left half-finished items near him. He was slow to respond, but soon enough he stepped in to help without being asked. He didn’t see a point in working when others were handling things so well and he couldn’t easily insert himself into the fray.
Three: I also notice that I joke less when there is someone else in the group to fill that role. The class clown is not always the same person; it is merely the funniest person in the class. How talkative or reserved I am changes greatly depending on who I am with. In school, I used to think I was introverted until I discovered that I could be quite extroverted in the workplace. The venue makes a big difference.
Instead of being quick to judge, maybe we should take note of the situation others are in and walk a mile in their shoes.
When was the last time you were labeled as something you weren’t?
English is an often-inadequate language. One word can mean so many different things. This is especially true with the word “fair.”
According to some, an economic situation is fair so long as the participants are equal under the law. The laws are to be followed by all without exception. Those equally guilty are punished equally. The innocent are left unpunished. Each individual has the same amount of representation, the same rights, and their testimony counts the same in court. Everyone is equally taxed and equally regulated regardless of who they are. Everyone is kept safe as much as possible from theft, vandalism, extortion, and fraud.
According to others, being equally free from interference in our economic activities is not enough. We must also be free from the consequences of the freedom others have to govern their activities. To be fair, there must be no monopolies or collusion. Those institutions that do better shall not take advantage of their new status to undersell their competitors only to raise prices later. Sellers must not use their freedom to sell to whom they want to discriminate against those of certain races or creeds. Buyers must not use their freedom to shop where they want to do the same. Enforcing this kind of fairness necessarily diminishes the first kind.
According to others, it is not enough that we all be free of discrimination and collusion. We must all have the same starting point. No matter the economic means of our parents, we must receive the same education and be given the same amount of seed money. We must also be served the same level of health care throughout our lives so that we differ only in our competence and work ethic. Since the seed money and cost of education must come from someplace, in practice it means that the state discriminates against the most productive members of society by interfering in their economic activities. Enforcing this kind of fairness necessarily diminishes the first two kinds.
According to still others, none of this is enough. Fairness only exists when all outcomes are equal. Those who work hard, those who are lazy, those who are intellectually gifted, those who are mentally retarded, those who follow all the rules, those who actively fight against the system, and all those in between are guaranteed the same wage. That doesn’t sound fair at all.
Finally, “fair” can also mean a carnival. This is the best kind of fair.
YouTube channel NileRed is great for three things: First, it shows in detail how to extract various substances, such as getting gold from computer scrap or piperine from pepper. Second, it shows in detail how to synthesize various substances, such as making Tylenol from aspirin or turning paper into plastic. Third, it provides hours of entertainment as the host plays with aluminum and mercury, sodium and mercury, thiocyanate and mercury, color-changing liquids, grows lead crystals, and drops stuff in acid. He also includes the times that things go wrong, such as the time he attempted to make a ferrofluid. Who knew recreational chemistry was so much fun?
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
One thing I have observed in life and conversation is that many people are confused about the difference between wants and needs. They do not seem to realize that those words only retain distinct meanings within narrow contexts wherein all the actors already have broad agreement over which is which. The terminology cannot simply be carried over to new conversations.
In the general case, all needs are need-fors. A need must have an object. For example, one might need a bridge for crossing a river. One might question whether they truly need to cross the river, and whether they might find other means of traversing it (e.g. a boat), but this does not make the need invalid. If it were so, then no need could pass this test. Even in the extreme case of having needs for living (e.g. air, water, food) where no substitutes will suffice, one could always ask whether one truly needs to live.
All needs are wants and all wants are needs. Wanting a set of roller blades on one’s birthday can also be equally thought of as a needing a set of roller blades for going roller blading, or needing a present for preventing disappointment.
The difference between wanting and needing is only one of relative importance. There is no strict line between them. The terms only make sense when there is a large gulf of importance between two sets of desired conditions. In those rare situations, the less important conditions are called wants and the more important conditions called needs.
So don’t tell me I don’t need cake!
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.