More Good News

A month ago I shared some good news with implications to Humankind’s future. It probably does not represent an ELE (we all learned what that stands for in 1998’s Deep Impact.) But it would set back a few retirement accounts and render a few others obsolete. Turns out we have more to look forward to.

Deep Frozen Arctic Microbes Are Waking Up

In summary, global warming is melting the permafrost and releasing old microbes into the global ecosystem that we may or may not be ready for.

The important thing about global warming isn’t whether Humankind is causing it. We probably are, but given Humankind’s millennia-old passion for believing in things that a) the experts claim to be true and b) will punish us for being sinful in some way or other, mixed with the politicized oversimplification of scientific consensus, I’m not very concerned about that detail. Even if we can stop causing it, that won’t be for several decades yet. The important thing is that it’s happening.

Thus, microbes are being released that have lain dormant for hundreds if not thousands of years. They adapt when they thaw out, because that’s what life does. They flow with icemelt into the oceans. First thought that comes to mind?

An unintentional microbe war such as the one that wiped out the people of North and South America when Europeans arrived isn’t going to happen again. Humans travel about too much for that. We all share an ecosystem as far as immunity goes. But this recent pandemic has reminded us that we’re still susceptible to viruses that humanity in general is not used to. They just cross species lines to initially get to people rather than oceans. From there it becomes another epidemiological prairie fire (SARS, HIV, etc).

This current pandemic, popularly known as Covid19 etc but specifically SARS-CoV-2, may or may not go away (personally I think it won’t entirely), but something worse is bound to emerge from the Arctic ice, and may have already.

By the pricking of my thumbs
Something wicked this way comes

Friends? What?

I just used Venmo for the first time in more than a year. The experience reminded me I have 37 “friends”. Why the ever-loving FUCK do I have “Venmo friends”? And who are these people?

Oh, right. They’re Facebook friends. I guess they represent the intersection between Facebook friends and Venmo users at the time I signed up. Fair enough.

But these are people who, with perhaps one or two exceptions, I am unlikely to interact with in any way for the rest of my life (unless, perhaps, very perhaps, I undeactivate my Facebook account). Even if I see them every day, what’s the point of having them? As “Venmo friends”, I mean. What is that FOR?

“Adding friends is an important part of the Venmo experience,” says the corporate propaganda.

I think not. I just had the Venmo experience and sent money. Friendship had nothing to do with it. And look! When you log in you see a list of transactions that involve your Venmo friends. Bobby paid Sally. Sally paid Fred. Fred paid Hippolyte. Who the FUCK cares? Good Lowered.

(This post brought to you by the fact of twelve hour days back to back an hour’s drive away and the resultant punchiness. At least I get to drive police cars.)

In Which I Accept That I’m Shirking

At work, I’m taking a break because things are confusing. You might ask why they are confusing and advise I address solving that, instead of doing this. But it has to do with psychological layers I don’t care to disassemble right now. The immediate result is I can’t remember the technical details I worked with a year ago, and find myself re-investigating issues I surely solved back then. Today it’s about some things that surround the charge cycles of lithium ion batteries, but it could be about anything. Can’t deal. So.

I spent the weekend down in L.A. with my sons. Fabulous time. The weather was cold and windy. The company was warm and windy. I kept checking the news on my phone in ghoulish fascination with the continuing meltdown in the White House and among its resident shit-stain’s angry minions. There’s something about a slow-motion train wreck.

A neato sciency place

Saturday was the best. We drove around looking at a few L.A. things that I’d never seen before: Griffith Observatory, Sunset Blvd, “The Original Farmers Market”, and the big Christmased-up “chic mall” (so sez Google) next to it. But before that, as we drove through one of the country’s bluest counties’ hipsterest neighborhoods (Silver Lake and Los Feliz, if you must know), the announcement of the mainstream media’s selection of our next President rolled through the hills and streets to the accompaniment of honking horns, Pride flags (and American ones) waving, hilarious ad hoc signs, and celebratory crowds large and small. It was like the locals had won the Super Bowl but without the vandalism.

No one is surprised that this indecisive loss has set Trump to crashing about like a deranged octopus with a bag of hammers. He’s never accomplished anything in his life without bullying, stealing (essentially), or wearing his enemies down with vast crowds of lawyers. The idea of losing the greatest prize in existence fair and square is entirely foreign to him. He just can’t grasp it, and he certainly can’t accept it. I’m more concerned though with a) the fact that he very nearly won, b) the litigious precedence he is setting, c) the passionate delusions he is inspiring that for many will be permanent, d) the damage this does to the American people’s confidence in our democratic processes (coincidentally, or not, a major aim of our greatest adversaries), and e) his apparent intent to subject the United States to the very real dangers of a hurried and uncooperative transfer of power. Wow, I didn’t know my barest summary would have five parts, but, yeah, fuck ‘im.

I could write more about better things, such as Sunday’s lone walk down North Figueroa to buy a burrito and look at the neighborhoods (similar to the nabe I grew up in, houses built around 1925), or Mondays’ drive home where the San Emigdio Mountains were dusted with the season’s first snow, but eh. I’ve shirked enough to go ahead and skedaddle. I’m living alone now, you know. Got epic reorganizing to do.

In Witch I Go All Halloweenie

26 Witch Movies to Watch This Halloween 2020 - Best Witch Movies

Every year at Halloween some news channel does a segment on witches. Visits some witch somewhere, repeats the fact they are not “evil,” has them talk about herbal healing, about fundamental points of honor and integrity, and other surprising and newsworthy elements of paganism. In time we’re told that paganism and witchery are growing in popularity, especially among the young, which I don’t doubt, given the shitty mainstream religious examples they’ve grown up with. It is then followed by a segment on some upcoming Disneyish movie about witches of some sort, some show or other where the witches were amusing and safe but till stereotyped.

See the trend? At first, for centuries we mistrusted and hated Jews. They were too Other. Then the movies came along and the image began to change. Fewer lies, more entertainment, and for a little bit though the stereotypes were amplified there were also made less threatening. Over time the stereotypes became less acceptable, even if they were benign, until now you would be a fool to employ those stereotypes in your books and screenplays. Same token, you’d be a fool to use stereotypes of Blacks or Asians or Latinx. It still seems safe to make fun of East Indians, but that won’t last. Certain types of white people. Gays (La Cage aux Folles is still hilarious, I don’t care what you say). The list goes on but is getting shorter. Someday we’ll find we actually respect everyone. Imagine that.

What makes witches any different? Nothing. If we can’t and shouldn’t demonize, stereotype, or make fun of Catholics or Mormons or Pentacostals (and we shouldn’t, however much they ask for it), then eventually society will realize we shouldn’t demonize, stereotype, or make fun of witches either. I’m not saying right now whether this is right or wrong. I’m just predicting that someday all those movies about evil or hilariously inept witches are going to go the way of depictions of the hook-nosed Jew or that version of Dumbo with the song about red men. You just won’t find them on the main streaming channels anymore.

Which is fine with me. Halloween needs to change anyway. Children going around to collect refined sugars and high-fructose corn syrup packed into “chocolate” is a dumb twentieth-centuryism. Used to be Halloween was only noticed by people who lived by their religious calendars. Then it became a time to extort folks for treats lest you play a “trick” on them, which was in turn kiddified. But that’s what the Christmas season used to be, especially Boxing Day (you don’t think the landlords gave away boxes of food just because they were nice, do you?). In the Middle Ages, Christmas was a time to costume up and cross-dress and get crazy before it was banned and then brought back and kiddified too. Well, that doesn’t describe Christmas anymore, but it’s apparently a fundamental need and has shifted to Halloween, slut-nurses and ghouls with cleavage and all.

I guess I don’t mind depictions of witches, I just like them in short skirts and garters.

Good News For Once

We know the old normal will not return. Even if an effective vaccine for Covid-19 miraculously appears and as miraculously is disseminated across the world, and even if the crazies who claim the pandemic is a hoax designed to make us all agree to have needles stuck in our arms for the injection of mind-control devices go ahead and take it anyway so they don’t reinfect the rest of us, we won’t go back to anything like what we had before. Those days, whatever they were, are over. The ways we do a lot of things — work, go to restaurants, hold meetings — have been adjusted and they won’t just readjust when we get the all clear. Add to that the ongoing civil unrest on social fractures created by combinations of irresponsible policing, left-wing opportunism, racist white fear, and the politicians and news media who exploit and worsen these things for their own purposes, and to THAT the ever-increasing global economic disruptions created by globalization and fake news on the internet, and global climate change (which no one denies is real, the only debate is what if anything Mankind has done to cause it and what if anything Mankind can do to mitigate it) and the raging fires and intensifying storms that follow, ongoing losses of wildlife and wild habitats that keep the global ecosystem in balance, increasing wealth disparity and the huge problems of civil war and mass migration and social unrest this causes, oh man the list goes on and on …

In sum, things are going to keep getting shittier. Like a person who enters middle age thinking for a brief golden moment he has finally stabilized his life, we’re entering a mid-life crisis that doesn’t look like anything anyone expected, and we have to go through it, and the better and more stable times that will follow might take years, decades, or centuries to get to. Buckle your seat belts. This pandemic is just the beginning.

THAT all said, I’m happy to report on some good news. It seems that an asteroid named 99942 Apophis has acquired Yarkovsky acceleration and with it a significant probability of smashing into the Earth in the year 2068.

In Which I Ramble and Finally Get Around to Master Nicholas

When I deactivated my Facebook account it was exactly a month before my best friend noticed. I’m thinking no one else noticed either. So much for ego. But I should say my second best friend. The lady who is moving out is my best friend, and I am hers. He can take the honored second place, having been the Best Man at my wedding and a close friend since we were seven.

I quit Facebook because the way my brain was wired has always created challenges in areas of impulse control and discrimination. These things can be learned, but a left-hander can’t really learn to be right-handed, or a fish learn to be a bear. Added to some other factors, it became clear Facebook, which has no true value, had become not just a distraction but an addiction, and that quitting completely was a major step to let myself move forward with things that do have value.

There’s no doubt Facebook allows you to enjoy the weird shit your friends find and share, one of its few positive qualities. Quitting means not only that you miss that, but that you have nowhere to share the weird shit you find for yourself. Unless, of course, you keep a blog.

Conversations here and in another space led me to look up Ascended Masters. I started out so I’d spell St Germain correctly, and then looked up Jesus Christ, and then read on to see how tightly bound Mother Mary is to Kuan Yin. My research was limited to a single website because I don’t really care about all that except as elements of the culture emerging around me, but it was interesting reading even though (another feature of my peculiar wiring) I had to skim through it. (Maybe that’s not so peculiar but the fact remains I’ve never done well with instruction manuals or textbooks and have gotten by mostly on a talent for making connections and figuring shit out during tests.) So it was by a series of followed links that I found something unexpected.

Nikolai Alexandrovich Romanov, aka Tsar Nicholas II, the last of the Russian Monarchs, was himself an Ascended Master. Read all about it!

The Mahatma transitioned by the Bolsheviks

We should never underestimate the human talent for making connections, inventing them where they serve a purpose, and coming up with stories of god-like grandeur and complexity to serve whatever the purpose might be. This isn’t to say old Nick wasn’t an Ascended Master. If anyone was, why not Saint Nicholas the Passion-Bearer? It was a worthy enough incarnation, just as St Germain‘s last incarnation as Voltaire’s “Wonderman,” the Comte de Saint Germain (d. 1784), was worthy enough as well. Why not? What do I know? Still. With all the stories, whether about religion or history or the rantings of politicians, I doubt any of us live in the world we think we do.

In Which I Take a Fork in the Road

If you come to a fork in the road, take it.
             — Yogi Berra, the Sage of Baseball

We met at a BDSM meetup. We were each just looking for a quick hookup, but it turned out neither of us was into BDSM. She had been invited by friends and thought she wanted someone to abuse, and I had been invited by friends who knew I needed to get out into the world. I liked her for the usual first-glance reasons — firm tits and high intelligence — and she liked me when I mentioned an interest in tantra. She didn’t really want to abuse anyone anyway.

Twenty three months later, she moved in with me. Seven months after that, she’s moving away and out of town. We will load the truck with her stuff and drive it away this coming Saturday.

Those thirty months were life-changing for both of us. We both grew in ways we needed to grow and could not have without our unique abilities to hold space for one another. Thanks to that growth, we’ve been able to recognize how we need to take our own next steps, and that we can love each other and ourselves enough not only to allow it to happen but to support each other in taking it.

Put briefly, she needs to get out of the city and back into a small town and restart her calling as a spiritual teacher and healer, and I need to live alone. She put her calling on hold for a while in order to work on herself and deal with some serious issues — you can only heal others so much when you need healing yourself. I had spent my life depending on my relationships with women to give myself meaning, ultimately to my own detriment as I defined those relationships (with one wonderful exception) by subconsciously sacrificing my wants to a “greater good”. But it wasn’t a greater good at all, it was just a way to avoid being alone and to mask my self-hatred.

Well, I’m ready to have some self-regard and try the hard way and the only way to quit being emotionally dependent on someone else, and she’s ready to try the hard way and the only way to get on her own feet on her own terms. It’s rather beautiful, actually. It just defies certain kinds of logic. And it teaches us, among many other things, that loss is in fact a myth. We tell ourselves we’re losing something, or we fear losing something, throughout our lives. But we really don’t lose anything. Our relationship with whatever it is undergoes a transition, unavoidably so as change is constant, and what we call loss is just our fear of change and unwillingness to consciously deal with it. We are not losing one another, or our relationship. We’re allowing it to transition so that we can each do what we need to do, rather than hang onto it until resentment and/or other feelings develop as a consequence of having lovingly prevented one another from moving forward.

So, change is not only in the wind, it’s howling in like a gale off the sea. More anon.

Hotel California Dunsmuir

“It’s kind of weird that we’re the only guests,” I said. That wasn’t the only thing that was weird.

We were in the allegedly famous Upside Down Hotel. We were in a town where the Sacramento River carves a channel through the Klamath Mountains and all hillsides are steep. Thus the 1st floor was at street level, and the hotel’s four floors went down instead of up. A sign on the stairs pointed down to the 2nd floor, from there down to the 3rd, and then down to the 4th near the train tracks. The bottom-floor lobby was no longer used except as storage, with its arched doorway locked and windows heavy with cobwebs. Dunsmuir has been a passenger stop and train yard since the Central Pacific came through in the 1880s but there aren’t many passenger trains anymore. Freight trains came through every few hours, though, grinding slowly up the grade, day and night. I never tired of the sound.

The hotel is attempting to become a destination but redevelopment capital appears to be scarce. Our room was the Orient Express Room. It was loaded with furnishings gathered at thrift stores with an eye towards a mixed Orientalism. I saw no one when I took a walk through the hallways on all the floors. Seven doors had signs for themed rooms – Mark Twain, Hemingway, Jane Austen, etc. Some of the other doors were open. Some of them were missing. I walked into these dark rooms with my phone’s torch app on, saw mostly junk piled up. Old furniture, dusty pictures in frames, broken bits and pieces from building restoration.

“You shouldn’t be snooping around like that,” she said.

“Probably not but there was no one there,” I said, “and I was curious.”

A lot of kitchen and bathroom fixtures were missing, tiles were broken, ceiling lights hung on their wires. One room had shower tiling in the corner next to where the kitchen stove had been. It had the look of a sagging residential hotel being slowly transformed – very slowly.

“How do you know the other rooms weren’t occupied,” she said. “I’ve heard footsteps, smelled someone cooking.”

“It was completely silent,” I said. “I didn’t hear or smell anything.”

“But maybe you’re right,” I said. “Maybe there are people in those rooms. This is, after all, the Hotel California.”

Besides no evidence of other guests we saw three staff, but there was never more than one there at the same time, sometimes none. Out on the street looking for dinner we recognized a young gal running by, called to her, and she very cheerfully agreed to get us a coffee pot (and towels and soap and toilet paper). When we got back, what she’d left on the bed looked more like a fancy electric tea-strainer, but we were game. Sometimes young people just have to be boujee. But the boujee coffee pot didn’t work at six the next morning. My coffee-loving (i.e. caffeine addicted) companion was livid, especially since the earliest you could get coffee in this small town was eight thirty. But somehow we survived and made it to check out, and were even able to leave. I would go back, try another room, listen again to the music of the railroad. I would also, just in case, bring everything I need. And a stronger flashlight.

From the 1st down to the 4th floor
Once a lobby, now a closet
View from the roof out the front — the theater is also the Masonic Temple
View from the roof out the back — the tank still says Southern Pacific, though the Union Pacific took them over in 1996
Hasn’t gone up in flames yet but everyone knows someday it will.

It Occurs To Me

My Goodreads page says I am reading six books. This is not strictly true — I’m currently reading only two — but there is no way for me to indicate I have put a book on pause. There should be, because it’s weird and strange to finish reading every book you start. No one does that. But then, maybe it’s also weird and strange to leave a book in the “Reading” list for months and years that I haven’t committed to going back to.

In the order I started reading them:

Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl was published in 1861 and caused a great stir for its sometimes brutal description of the institution that inspired the nascent Civil War. I found a copy in a used bookstore and snatched it up for my informal research. It’s an enthralling tale but something interrupted me, I have no idea what, and it’s long since been returned to the shelf. I’ll remember to go back and start over before too terribly long.

Marriage and Lasting Relationships With Asperger’s Syndrome was purchased by my ladyfriend / companion / partner (none of the available terms are satisfactory) during a phase in which she did some research to see if I’m really the impatient narcissistic asshole I can come across as. I had shared a comment my wife had dropped years and years ago after she had done some work with autistic children. My companion ran with it and became convinced. This book (I’m reading it veeery slowly because it’s a little too much like a textbook) and other books and articles have helped our relationship a lot and myself too. What’s interesting is I see very similar traits in my father, who I think was worse, and my brother, who I think is not as bad. Not so much in my sons, thankfully. (And yes, all this could have nothing to do with Aspergers, and just be about being afflicted with scientist-engineer-brain, but whatever.)

Analog Circuit Design: Art, Science, and Personalities is a great anthology of articles by various luminaries in the pre-digital electronics world that I enjoy reading but that is easily set aside for books of more immediate interest, e.g. history and fiction. I’m drawn to it as it represents a career direction I would wish I had taken were I single-minded on electronic engineering and never wound up at a place like Intel. Though I know more about analog design than your average computer engineer, I’m no real expert. I’ve never read it all the way through. It too is like a textbook, just a more interesting one.

William Tecumseh Sherman: Gold Rush Banker is an absolute treasure I found one night at Powell Books in Portland, OR. It was published in 1969 and never reprinted. Not exactly a best-seller. But it’s had an enormous impact on my most significant WIP, and made me perhaps a better expert on the economy of San Francisco and Northern California in the year 1855 than perhaps any other rank amateur historical novelist you’re likely to run into. History has been kinder to Sherman than many people believe he deserves, but he was a man of his time, and he did pretty much invent modern warfare. He also deliberately had the buffalo driven near extinction in order to starve the Plains Indians. He plays a minor role in my work because, well, he was there, so how could he not?

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is Stephen King’s highly regarded master class on storytelling. I’ve read it before but never entered it into Goodreads so I just did that. Even on the third read I’m learning a lot. It’s also as fun to read as his other work.

It Occurs To Me That I Am America: New Stories and Art was found at a used bookstore last weekend where I was looking for a volume of short stories. Soon as I saw it, it was the obvious choice. It’s not that I’m looking for stories explicitly by and about the less represented, but I am very interested in what they have to say, and it was new enough (2017) I wanted to see what I could learn about more modern writing styles. Turns out, not much. You just have to find and use your own voice. But it did take me away from King (actually I’m reading them more or less simultaneously). And it validates the main thing that King says about writing.

It occurs to me, in other words, that I need to be reading and writing more.

Pluto’s Cave

We drove north from the town of Mount Shasta and into the high desert just before sunrise. Took this highway, then that, turned off onto a dirt road, snaked along another mile or two. The trailhead (where the sign said “NO CAMPING” among other things) held five vehicles, water bottles and beer cans strewn around. One was a hippie van typical of those parts, some forty-year-old conversion with faded paint and rotting sealant and bare feet poking out the side door. Another was a little pickup with a little camper shell sheltering a little ugly dog that wheezed menacingly at us. We collected our things and hoofed it down the trail.

The ground was all ancient broken lava, and stunted pine trees that made a living in the cracks. We walked the sand trails between weeds and little trees and hard uneven rocks. Behind me, the two women talked.

“Do you know the story of Pluto’s Cave?”

“Uh uh.”

“Have you heard of Telos?”

“Uh uh.”

So far as my bad ears could follow, the Lemurians and the Atlanteans were sent to Earth to help humans ascend to the next level of consciousness. But Earth is a fucked up place. The job was really hard. The Lemurians and Atlanteans (who are their descendants) had a falling out. War ensued. I think the Atlanteans lost. The Lemurians meanwhile had had enough of this shit and went underground.

“Some believe,” I heard behind me, “that they built a great city named Telos, and that it is underneath Mount Shasta. They blocked up most of the entrances. But Pluto’s Cave is an entrance that still exists.”

There are stories about people meeting Lemurians around Mt Shasta. Some of them disappeared, never to be seen again. But some didn’t, and so there is lore about their appearance etc. I leave the research up to the reader.

About a mile in we stopped at a great hole in the ground, a cave-in of the desert floor. This is the entrance to Pluto’s Cave.

The women went off to do the things they do in the high-vibrational lands around Mount Shasta. This mountain is the root chakra of Earth, according to belief. Other chakras include Glastonbury, Uluru (Ayers’ Rock), the Great Pyramid at Giza, etc. So it’s a sacred place. But I like caves, and I went exploring.

The cave is basically a lava tube that has collapsed in a few places. The remainder has lasted an unusually long 190,000 years because, being in the rain shadow of the Siskiyous, there’s little water or erosion. Once you clamber over the rocks in the several places where there has been collapse, the floor and the walls are completely smooth. They’re also marked with graffiti and the smell of urine because people are awesome.

I continued on, the tunnel lit well enough by daylight from the next collapse. I could imagine the first non-native explorers, who found it in 1863, being fairly impressed with it, but they didn’t have my advantage of having read H. P. Lovecraft as a teenager. I listened and, you know, tried to feel the energies. But really, all it was was tunnel.

Pluto’s Cave isn’t the entire complex, but just the final tube that you reach after passing several openings. It’s completely silent and Stygian in its depths. I let my eyes adjust and went into the dark. The ceiling was about fifty feet above. There was no indication that the tunnel did anything but go on and on.

Since my people did not plan to stay long, and all I had for illumination was the torch app on my smartphone, I didn’t get very far. I turned around when it started to look like a turned ankle would be both likely and out of shouting distance. I have read it goes in about a mile. I have been told no one really knows how far it goes and that it is very dangerous without angelic protection. I have the intention of bringing good lights and good shoes some day and seeing what there is to see, down there in the dark.