Category Archives: Deep Thoughts

Says It All

A couple of months ago, the routine pictures Curiosity takes of its wheels (to inspect for damage) showed that there was a small stone caught up in the hollow wheel and traveling along with the rover on Mars.

Today they showed that it was still there:

I wondered:

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Filed under Astronomy, Deep Thoughts, Space

Adulting Sucks – May 24th

Oh to be young, stupid, and irresponsible again.

Is it actually better to not know better and do it anyway? In other words, having learned from experience, is it better to be like an exuberant and energetic puppy and get into the trash and chase that skunk when a wiser critter might hold back?

Was Dirty Harry correct? Does a man really have to know his limitations?

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Filed under Deep Thoughts, Music, Paul

Heinlein Had The Right Idea

Robert Heinlein had a LOT of right ideas, but the one that I’m trying to remember the source for tonight deals with frustration, intelligence, and balance. I’m sure someone out there will see this and immediately go, “You simpleton! It’s ‘____’ of course!!” I am, in fact, counting on you.

I think it was one of the opening scenes or chapters of one of the “Heinlein juvenile” novels. (I’ve ranted here before – “Starman Jones” is still one of my all time favorites, bar none.) In it our plucky young hero wants nothing more than to go to space and has an opportunity! They’re taking applications for some job or the other and he goes in, along with thousands of others, to take some sort of preliminary written test. The questions are not trivial, so fairly early on he sees other test takers who bail and walk out. He presses on as the test drags on and on. The questions never get too difficult, but they become increasingly repetitive and just downright stupid. Why the hell do they need to know these things? And why do they need to know it ten times? Finally he has had his fill. It doesn’t matter how much he wants the job, this is freaking ridiculous. He storms out while hundreds of others continue to answer increasingly pointless questions with no end in sight.

Of course, our hero gets the job. The test wasn’t to get the answers to the questions. The test was to week out the quitters who gave up way too soon and the drones who would follow mediocrity right into the pit of Hell without bothering to think for themselves. But there was a sweet spot for those smart enough to be able to answer the questions, but not sheep-like enough to follow along without questioning or purpose, people who had the correct balance of independence and discipline, intelligence and the ability to take action.

(This is where you call me a simpleton and tell me what book it is…)

Regardless, the principle’s the thing tonight.

How does one balance stability, both economic and lifestyle related, against stagnation?

How does one balance passion and purpose against caution and “responsibility?”

How does one balance “I’m too old for this shit” against “What do you mean? Never give up! Never surrender!”

How does one balance fear of change against fear of not changing?

How can you know the difference between the act that you’ll regret for the rest of your life and the one that you’ll regret for the rest of your life if you don’t do it?

This shit makes my head hurt.

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Filed under Deep Thoughts, Job Hunt, Space

The Thursday Egg

I’ve noticed something that I can’t explain.

I’m a creature of routine to a certain extent. As a result of this, I generally eat just about the same thing every day. In part this is because I’m always running late in the morning and need something quickly, in part because by “standardizing” what I have every day I can have it prepared for the whole week and just grab and go as I’m heading out the door.

There’s a reason that Steve Jobs had whole closets full of the exact same black turtlenecks and jeans. He never had to spend a second thinking or making decisions about something as trivial as what to wear.

One of the things that I have almost every day is a hard-boiled egg. It’s quick, it’s relatively healthy, it’s got some protein, and in theory at least, it’s easy.

For years we’ve been on a quest to find out how to perfectly hard-boil eggs. (I could have sworn that I’ve ranted about it here, but for the life of me I couldn’t find any thing by searching for either “egg” or “boiled.”) We think we’ve got it about right.

FAQ: Put eggs in a pot with about 3 cups of water, put it on a low boil for 27 minutes. When the timer goes off, immediately pour out the boiling water and gently fill the pot with ice. This will cause the eggs to shrink while the shells stay pretty much unchanged, so the egg pulls away from the shell, making it much easier to peel the shell off. So easy that one tap and the shell just about cracks in half and falls off by itself.

Except on Thursday.

We boil six eggs on Sunday, for my breakfasts on Monday through Saturday. (Sunday morning we go out for breakfast before going grocery shopping.) The six eggs come from the same carton, they’re prepared the same way, they should by rights be about as identical as they can be.

However, I’ve noticed that almost every week, the egg I take on Thursday does NOT allow the shell to be peeled off easily. It fights every molecule of the way, the shell clinging to the white egg by shattering into pieces about five microns across, practically requiring sandpaper to get it off. The only way to eat the Thursday egg is by doing the snake thing, swallowing the entire egg whole, crushing it in our gullet, and regurgitating back up the whole and empty shell.

Why Thursday? The eggs are all the same, they’re all from the same carton, they’re all prepared the same, they’re all kept in the refrigerator the exact same way in the same bowl. What variable is at play that makes the Thursday eggs so different from the Wednesday and Friday eggs?

See, this is what your brain is reduced to thinking about after it fries (like an egg!!) from thinking about the state of our nation’s government (or lack thereof). Thanks, Trump!

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Filed under Deep Thoughts, Paul

Paradox

We all have things that we would like to be doing differently, ways in which we would like to be “better.”

Assuming we’re talking about something plausible and within shouting distance of reality, we have some vision or ideal image of ourselves that would be better, stronger, faster, smarter, more relaxed, richer…

The paradox is that we generally like who we are – we are who we are because we’re comfortable with it. We are what we are because we are. (“Wow! Farm house, man!”) But it’s true. If we truly don’t like some aspect of ourselves badly enough, we’ll do what is possible to change it.

Within reason. (If you’re 5’6″ and your dream in life is to play center in the NBA…)

But that vision of ourselves in our heads won’t be us. It might be a better version of our “right now” selves, but it won’t be the same. It can’t be.

There’s the rub, there’s where the trepidation hides, there’s where the outright fear comes from. What if we make the changes and then we don’t like being that person? No matter how much we wish or hope, none of those changes come for free. Are we willing to pay the price? Will that also change us into someone different enough so that we don’t like them?

What if those we love don’t love us any more when we become that new and improved version of ourselves? What if we don’t love those we love now after we’ve gone and deliberately changed ourselves?

That’s some scary shit, right there.

Lose ten pounds? Twenty? Great! How many hours are you going to spend at the gym, or running, or on a bike, or whatever? How much are you willing to change your diet, while everyone else in your home keeps eating the same as they always have?

Quit drinking or smoking? Do you stop hanging out with your friends who drink or smoke?

Need to get more done and work harder, maybe go back to school and get that degree at night? What do you give up to get those hours? Time with family? Time with friends? Time just chilling?

Finally, when you see some of that happening and there’s part of your brain that says, “All right! About time!” why is there also part of your brain that says, “Shit, what if this is the wrong move after all?”

Which one wins? Or is this a no-win situation?

James Tiberius Kirk didn’t believe in the no-win situation. Do you?

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No Context For You – December 13th

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Focus is an interesting thing.

Optical illusions show us that we only “see” what our brain interprets out of the incoming data. (Was that dress white and gold or black and blue?)

The human brain does a great job of making patterns out of incomplete information and trying to “see” what might or might not be there. (Is that a face in the three-prong electrical outlet?)

“Out of focus” data coming from the eye to the brain is no less valid than “in focus” data, but the brain has so much more trouble making patterns out of it.

Without patterns, which we blame on the focus, we are functionally blind with our eyes wide open. (Take off your glasses or contacts if you wear them, or put some on if you don’t.)

We are odd, imperfect creatures.

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Some Days You’re Just Grumpy

There might be so many reasons.

Maybe that fish last night was a little bit spicy, or the broccoli was making you a bit gassy. Maybe that had you feeling punkish all night, leading to a lousy night’s sleep.

Maybe there’s an anniversary coming up that you thought would be a cause for celebration, but you’re just not feeling the joy. Or maybe it’s the other way around, you’ve got something going on that you can’t put your finger on and that’s putting off from the celebration.

Maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed.

Maybe you’re feeling under appreciated.

Maybe you miss someone. Maybe someone’s showing up in your head at night and you don’t understand what they’re trying to tell you or why they can’t still be there when you wake up.

Maybe you saw or heard or read something that got stuck down in your subconscious like a burr that wiggles its way deep under your collar on your back. You can’t quite remember what it was or why it bothered you, but you know something’s not quite right.

(You hope that it’s not because you’re a closet asshole. You HATE people like that. Although being that guy and not realizing it would definitely qualify as a burr in the subconscious.)

But you can’t act grumpy at work, because it’s not their fault and it’s not their problem. You shouldn’t act grumpy at home, because, well, the same.

So you put on some good tunes, try to get some work done, maybe try to write a rambling piece on your website, keep smiling, keep putting one foot in front of another, and hope that tonight you either get some sleep or some answers.

Maybe tomorrow won’t be a day you’re just grumpy.

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Filed under Deep Thoughts, Paul