Most of these blog entries deserve an entire chapter. I have boiled them down to the basics to make them more approachable, and perhaps more inviting. My hope is that some of these serve as the basis for thought or discussion; that readers fill in the details for themselves according to their own experiences and impressions.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Like steel

Instead of all this, why couldn’t we be something that lives forever, like a piece of steel, say? They just go on and on, never changing…probably don’t have any emotional problems; they just are, and they can be satisfied with themselves because they’re doing a job, doing it well, and will for, oh, maybe hundreds of years without change. Sounds pretty nice. Smooth, and stable. No daily ups-and-downs. No torture, like we have. Of course, they may have their own time-scale, like maybe a day to us doesn’t nearly mean the same to them. And I guess they do have a rusty or molten death waiting for them eventually. Or maybe…maybe their time-scale is really long, and they think their lives are really short! What a gyp. And of course the scenery never changes, although that’d be ok if you were part of a nice bridge. Who knows what they’re up to? Maybe their time-scale is so stretched out, the first piece of steel ever made has yet to form any thought at all. Maybe that would be the best. It’s the thinking that hurts. We’re so proud of our big brains…who needs it? Wouldn’t you rather be your dog, any day? But the non-thinking piece of steel…I think that’s got it all over us. Just be something, be of use, be part of the big picture, have a useful function. Well, wait a second…isn’t that what we’re trying to do in the first place? Be something, fit into the big picture, be useful? Yeah…oh, to simply be steel.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A beautiful phrase

I’ve just read an article in the May 2, 2011 issue of The New Yorker($) here  written by Rivka Galchen, and it contains such a beautiful phrase that I had to pass it on in admiration. It is an article about quantum computing, and it’s a terrific article about the current state of the field, and also about one of the premier theorists.

It contains these words:

“A ten per cent chance of an atom decaying is not arbitrary at all, but rather refers to the certainty that the atom will decay in ten per cent of the universes branched from that point. (This being science, there’s the glory of nuanced dissent around the precise meaning of each descriptive term, from “chance” to “branching” to “universe.”)”
                                                                            - Rivka Galchen

The glory of nuanced dissent. 
I laughed out loud, I was so delighted by that; if I wasn’t holding the magazine I would’ve clapped my hands like a three-year-old. It’s so concise, it’s just beautiful. Here’s what it would sound like if I was the one talking, and wanted to convey as much:

“The theory mentions the ten percent chance of decay across universes, but you know what scientists do with a statement like that…first they have to define all the terms, and since they all have their own backgrounds and experiences in which they formed their own precise definitions, they have to argue every little fine point about what means what, and how this affects that, and how it was used in this famous paper 200 years ago, and while these guys are boring everyone else in the room you realize that they’re having the best time ever, because they LOVE these discussions; it’s the best part. And only after everything’s defined do they even start in on the theory, and what it means and how it relates…yada, yada.”

But, no; just “the glory of nuanced dissent.” That’s all a real writer needs.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lost love

I can sit here alone and listen to Barber Adagio in tears, thinking of the beautiful curves of her hips, in her skimpy underwear, and imagine kneeling there with my arms around her hips and kissing whatever I can, just pressing my face against her and closing my eyes and wishing it would never ever end, and then opening my eyes right away to see everything I can so I can remember it all forever. Maybe this is the memory, the snapshot, that comes to mind at my end, as I breathe my final few times, and the snow falls silently outside in the trees. It’s all that matters; to love, to have and to hold; to give completely, eagerly, hungrily, to become one with her, and have your creation stand as testimony to the two of you and who you were. One must have this great love. I must have this great love.

There are worn sayings about ‘the love of a good woman’ and references to its ever-presence as a background note…but I believe it’s the melody, it’s the entire substance of the symphony you write. Children and family, of course…but they are on the foundation of the two of you. I have never seen the importance of a woman to a man’s life be given its due. Maybe it will come to the fore, before the age of enlightenment that started in the ‘60s comes to an end. I know I must love somebody, and be loved back, before I’m fit to step out into society. I have no purpose on my own; that part of me does not exist. There are no cures or salves for lack of ambition or for needing encouragement. For me, a great love comes first, and perhaps only; what I do to make our lives possible thereafter is immaterial to me.

Friday, April 29, 2011


We live in a world that’s dominated by the importance of appearance, and naturally, at the pinnacle of that ideal, we have our reverence of  the current crop of “super” models, who’ve been chosen solely for their looks.

There are two things wrong with this picture.

One, the actual rational fact is that looks are not as important as they’re currently made out to be. The cosmetics and fashion industries are huge, and between them they have for many years repeated the same message over and over, almost exclusively to women,”You need to look your best. We can help you. We can make you pretty, and then your life will be better.” I don’t think I’m overstating it. That’s been the message all along, and it’s everywhere all the time, and at this point it’s part of our culture.

The fact is, you look the way you look, unless you’re so obsessed or insecure that you’ll spend thousands of dollars for surgery on your face. Look, some people are born looking (what we call) attractive, and some aren’t. That’s the way it is; big deal. It’s just chance, and you had nothing to do with it. You can keep yourself clean and well-groomed, and that should be enough…and in many people’s eyes, that is enough. That much of your appearance is in your control. At the same time, the person you are, the way you conduct and present yourself, is completely in your control. On this, I yield to Oscar Wilde:
One’s past is what one is. It is the only way by which people should be judged.”
Oscar Wilde (1854–1900)

So in a perfect world, which this ain’t…you are what you do, not what you look like. And we all know perfectly wonderful people who are not gorgeous. Most of us call them “best friends.” It’s what’s inside…

Now the second thing wrong with this picture is the unfortunate elevation of the models themselves to a position of apparent importance. They could hardly be less important. They won the genetic lottery, is the way some people put it, and I like that description a lot. They just happen to look right for the time they’re in; if you look back through history or even just over the last few decades you’ll see that the ideal of beauty has changed over time. And of course it will change again. But if you have the right look for the right time…then you’re the flavor-of-the-month, or of-the-year, or whatever you get away with. These models have a face that some company has chosen to use as part of its own public face; they represent the company in advertising, and sometimes through personal appearances. They are not paid to talk. Probably the opposite is true; they are paid NOT to talk. They are paid to stand where they’re told, and have their face. Somehow, to MY great amusement anyway, models will try to make this sound like a difficult job. Oh, I’m sorry…it is not. Would you switch jobs with them? You’re damn right. We all would. (I should warn you, though…one poor girl said that once when they were shooting in Hawaii it got windy as the sun went down, and she got chilly. You might not want to put up with crap like that.)

How do models get away with the haughty prima donna attitudes? If anything, they should be the most grateful people on Earth, shouldn’t they? You cannot be luckier than they are. Born lucky. They get paid a lot, and they do nothing.

As a culture, sounds like we’ve gotten pretty confused. It wasn’t long ago that Albert Einstein was a national hero for his intelligence and his achievements. His opinions were sought, and heeded. Nowadays, in his place, we have…embarassment, in the form of the poorly scripted and directed “reality” players who celebrate the undisciplined and selfish behavior of teenagers while masquerading as young adults with thoughts and dreams of their own.
It’s an embarassing time to be an American.

Friday, April 22, 2011

A dummy’s introduction to auto racing

This entry is a near copy of something I posted recently to a discussion. It’s mostly basic stuff, and I figured I could get some more mileage out of it here… ;-)

1. NASCAR is a show, first and foremost…and at the same time it’s a race. It’s entertainment, it’s for the fans. So yeah, they throw a yellow caution flag now and then to bunch up the cars, to keep it interesting…of course they do.

2. NASCAR runs simple cars and relatively simple technology; that’s OK. The cars are understandable and relatable to the fans. It’s just an entertainment formula that works. And there is no ‘best’ racing series, either. They’re just different. Watch what you like, and don’t be insulted by the rest. They all serve some segment of race fans, and they all serve different advertisers in particular ways.

3. Every series has at least some world-class drivers…there are special talents everywhere. But no, there’s no fair way to compare them because switching cars requires too much specialized learning about the nuances of each particular car. It does not mean that Driver X suddenly forgot to drive if he goes to a new series and looks lost for awhile. Just accept that the great ones are all up there together at a special level; they’re in the club. And relax.

Orange holes in back window are insert points for suspension adjustment tools
4. You Need To Know if you don’t already: racing is about tires, and how well you use them. All racing is. Surprising fact, critical to understanding car set-up: when you “put a car on the scales”, meaning put a scale under each corner, you can and likely will get 4 different weights. Yes, the weight of the car at each of the 4 corners is different…and it’s adjustable! And that’s the deal (ver-r-ry simplified) in getting a car to work best at whatever course you’re on, because a tire with more weight on it works better; it is less likely to lose traction and begin to slide. And the weight is then managed by springs and shocks, affected by downforce, elevation changes as they happen, #laps on the tire, etc…in NASCAR especially there are adjustments at every stop, and they are reported on during the broadcast, and you can see cars get better, or worse, at each stop. When you get hooked into that level of detail, it gets pretty interesting to watch a race. There are whole books written about how to approach setting up a car; just take away from this that there are many variables and they are interdependent, and it’s difficult.

5. Forgive me for so much NASCAR, but they get dumped on the most…I was in fact up at 3am for live F1 Malaysia, I’ve  raced and won some FF1600, so actually roadracing is my first love.

6. The perfect set-up is almost impossible to hit on because you’re dealing with what’s called a non-linear equation. Or in terms I understand, it’s like the Whack-A-Mole game, where you knock one thing down and another one pops up. For a rough example: you can change tire pressures and the car goes faster but then maybe tire wear gets real bad; switch it back and change the ‘weight jacker’ at the left rear, the car is slower, we need to try some air back into the right rear; now it feels like the car doesn’t transfer enough weight to the right rear, we need to change the Panhard bar adjustment, etc…sort of chasing your tail, but with decades worth of experience and notes, and college-graduate engineers on staff, all trying to find a balance of all the changeable factors to make the car fast. Then you’re the fastest car out there for 10 laps, and clouds move in for the rest of the day. Track temp drops 15 degrees. Start over.

7 and last. Winged cars are solidly planted in high-speed turns, with the wings pushing down and all, which allows them to corner at high speeds. That’s part of the beauty of their show; those things fly. In fact, doesn’t (F1 car designer) Adrian Newey have a background in planes, or aerodynamics? Well, lest you think the stock car fellows are just tooling around in circles, actually these guys are often in a 4-wheel drift at 175-190 mph, if and when they really push for a couple laps, and you know that ain’t easy. It’s Sunday, but it’s no Sunday drive (sorry, couldn’t resist).

If point #4 (or anything else) grabbed your interest and you want to know more, just paying attention all the way through a race will give you a great intro, because the broadcast is dominated by talk of changing conditions and changes to car setups. This is a good thing. There are lots of books that cover it too, and when I think of 2-3 that I think are good ones to recommend, I’ll highlight them in a future entry.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Midlife crisis; a theory

In my world of parallells and comparisons...well, here’s another one.

As anyone who knows internal combustion engines really well will tell you, there is an odd but true phenomenon that is often witnessed in the final seconds or minutes of an engine’s life; it suddenly runs better and smoother and stronger than it ever has, puts out fantastic race-winning power (if that’s what your engine’s doing) and stays like that for an unpredictable but short time until it physically blows up. Something breaks, and pieces scatter. I don’t know if there’s a good explanation for this out there, but I guarantee you this is a real thing.

And it struck me that when you describe that effect, that looks a lot like when a guy reaches the point in his physiological schedule where his testosterone is about to drop from, say, a useful level, to what inevitably, and horribly, feels like a useless level. And that ‘useless’ hits hard. I don’t think you can overstate the magnitude of that event in a man’s life. He’s about to lose a major part of his self-esteem.

So maybe there’s something in the male brain, probably all the way down in there in the original, primal part, where the most basic instincts are, that triggers a final attempt at procreation before the ability is gone. This is just a dumb theory of my own, based on what I know and on what looks to me like common sense, so I have no authors or articles to cite, but I’ll bet there’s stuff out there that sounds like this. The drive to procreate pops up here and there as a primal instinct, and generally looks exactly this out-of-place in our society, but it’s easy to see how necessary it was back when we struggled for survival as a species.

So, maybe it’s a last gasp. And, of course, maybe it’s not this at all. But you need a theory that reaches across the male population and affects nearly all of them, regardless of personality type, or status, or any number of things; it just hits men, period.

I’ll be watching to see how this plays out. Maybe it won’t hold up, or maybe it’ll grow as I learn and see more. It’s a theory.

Friday, April 15, 2011

My Princess

So I saw this little scene in a TV ad: They show some young beauty onscreen, and a guy’s voiceover, obviously to her, is ”You are so beautiful and delicate and wonderful, I want to give you the kind of life you deserve.”  OK, standard fare; guys, we’ve all felt that way at some point, because we think of our special woman as some kind of princess, we want the whole world to treat her as carefully and lovingly as we do. I think we’re wired to exalt our mates that way…history is loaded with stories of what men in power have done for the loves of their life. Do you know how big the Taj Mahal is? Huge; almost 35,000 sq ft. So we’ll say stuff like this now and again, and MEAN IT. The female reaction in the room to that TV ad was “What about the rest of us? So what if we’re not beautiful enough? What do we deserve, then?“
I sure didn’t expect that. So many things hit me at once…like, these women don’t think they’re beautiful? And how was I unaware that women don’t think they’re beautiful? And they are beautiful; I thought they knew that! I thought the ad was about them, but they didn’t! To my eye, women always act like they’re beautiful, and I’ve always thought they all were. Is that why they fuss over hair and makeup so much while we men are always saying you don’t need it? ‘Cause you don’t need it. All women are beautiful, and as a guy I’ll venture to say we’re all crazy about every one of you. So is this why every time I said I think you’re the most beautiful woman in the world you just rolled your eyes and brushed it off? You thought I was lying? You thought I was trying to talk you into something? That’s mean, and that’s really sad. I meant it every time, and I still mean it every time. You are my princess, and like every other guy, I want to have my princess. I need you there to be the focus of some part of my life, I need you there so I can make you happy, I need you there so sometimes I can look over at you in the middle of a crowd of people and think to myself, “That’s my girl. That’s my partner. I make her happy, and I make her laugh.” And as for worrying about how you look, well, sure, when you’re in your best dress and  done up just right in killer mode, hell yeah, you’re breathtaking…but for my 
money, the sexiest and most beautiful you’ll ever look is when you open your eyes in the morning, after a night of lust and love, and your hair’s a mess all over the pillow and your nighty or shirt or whatever is all rumply and sideways and half off, and we look at each other and smile in a plain and simple expression of love and unity that says a thousand wonderful and perfect things; two hearts talking directly where words would surely fall short.  You don’t have to go to great lengths, or any lengths, to “make yourself beautiful,” because you are beautiful; you’re a woman.  And I want to give you the life you deserve, princess, so put on this tiara and let’s get going. You’re making us late for the movie.