House of What?
This blog, which nobody actually reads, has been around awhile by now, and…well gee, I guess there’s no subtle way of saying this. People are reading it. They’re following it loyally, even monitoring it for new posts. So the question has naturally arisen from that readership, why does it persist in calling itself “the blog that nobody reads”? Yeah, subtitles can be cool. Superman is the “Man of Steel,” and Hooters is “Delightfully Tacky, Yet Unrefined.” But what’s up with a subtitle that is starkly at odds with the truth?
And what’s going on with that name? House of Erato- What? Who?
Here it is, the long-awaited FAQ that explains all. However, it’s a Bill Clinton flavor of “all” — it depends on the meaning of the word “all.” Unlike our 42nd President, however, I’m not going to deliberately lie to you and then send my cronies out to appear on Sunday morning talk shows, intoning that the lie was okay because it was never your business to begin with. I’m taking the initiative in telling you, so it’s automatically your business, and it’s true.
1. Who Are You?
I’m just a guy. An ordinary guy. I’ll be forty years old this summer. Proud single dad of the eight-year-old boy all parents would wish was theirs, if their heads were screwed on straight. I grew up in Washington State, up in Bellingham (which used to be somewhat “out in the sticks,” now it’s a raging metropolis).
I’m an Information Technology guy. That is what I do. I really haven’t been able to convince anyone to hire me into anything else, anyhow. Lately, the activity on the blog has been climbing a little because I’ve been on sabbatical, and I’m still on a sabbatical. That’s out of my hands at the moment.
I got a high school education while I was living in Bellingham, left for Seattle very soon after that, knocked around there for a few years while Starbuck’s was still in its infancy. At 25, with my “starter” marriage a figment of history and my personal finances in a hopeless mess, I took a job clear across the country in Detroit, where I stayed for a year. I was farmed out from there to help with coding a large document system that had to do with the government of California. So here I am. The California state government contract got delivered. I did this job, I did that job. I dated this woman, I dated that woman. Years have passed. I got a woman pregnant. I got another woman, somehow, to move close to me so we could share a life together. These are serious commitments. So if you brought home a new puppy when I got my first assignment to move to California, you would have had to euthanize it so it could escape the aches and pains of old age by now. It’s a dog’s life — entire life. I’m still here. I’m not leaving.
I’ve been in the Sacramento area for fourteen years now, most of my adult life. I have my complaints. But the place does kind of grow on ya. I don’t think of myself as “stuck,” because I’m of the view that none of us are really doing anything that matters worth a damn next to parenting. And there are much worse places to be. I’m thankful.
That’s really all there is to tell. I’m not educated. I’m not rich or powerful. A lot of the time, with regard to my own destiny, my judgment hasn’t even been that good. I have exerted roughly the same amount of control over that destiny, as a pinball exerts over its direction as it tumbles through a machine. And, to the kind soul who wrote in a couple of days ago asking, no, I’m not a professional writer and have never been that. What I am, is a bit of a klutz. If some folks within our society are going to be hollowed-out and made into mere shells of the thinking men & women they were designed by God to be, I’m a great candidate to let someone else do my thinking for me.
But I refuse to do this, and you should too. By the time you’re done with this FAQ, you’ll understand why.
2. Are You Pushing Republicans?
No, actually I disagree with Republicans about all kinds of things. I am registered to vote as a Republican, but as far as I’m concerned you can register and vote however you want. To the extent that I’m interested in your personal business, which isn’t much at all, it’s far more important to me that what you do makes sense to you than that it meets with my approval.
3. How Do You Disagree With Republicans?
Like I said, I disagree about “all kinds of things.” I could make a very long list, if I choose to include the very troubling issues as well as the trifling ones. Since the object of the exercise here is to simply give you an impression of my leanings, I will limit the selection to three:
I’m not in favor of closing the border altogether, but to be honest, I’d like to have a high-profile, national-issue-type discussion about going that far. It’s worth considering. I’m not comfortable with having that option ruled out so quickly, so absolutely, with so little deliberation. Having commerce across a border is a privilege, which a nation confers upon itself once it has met the responsibility of regulating that border. America, at this point, should look at rescinding that privilege from itself because we haven’t met the responsibility we owe to ourselves. Republicans oppose that policy, which is fine with me, by avoiding that debate altogether — which is not fine with me at all.
4. Are You A Libertarian?
Absolutely not. I view the states as being absolutely, unquestionably authorized to impose penalties for consumption of controlled substances. They can outlaw things willy-nilly, so long as a majority of voters in that state choose to do so. Outlaw wheatgrass. Outlaw milk. Should they elect to do so, and you don’t like it, go to another state.
Because if a majority of voters are in favor of such a law, even though the law is “nonsensical,” who is to say that it is nonsensical? If you think you have a rational answer to that question, no matter what it is, you are inflicting an assault upon the constitutional authority of those state residents to govern themselves. Who’s going to overrule the law, the federal government? Sure it’s done, but the letter of the Constitution strictly forbids it (I join the libertarians in this particular viewpoint). Another state? The principles embraced by the United Nations, or the constitution of some foreign country? Congress? It’s all poppycock. It’s up to the voters of that state, and they can outlaw whatever they want unless the law is utterly, irreconciliably incompatible with the U.S. Constitution. And in determining that, the constitutionality of the law enjoys benefit-of-doubt, and the assertion that the constitution has been violated, labors under an absolute burden-of-proof.
I disagree with the Libertarian position on the War on Terror. The Federal Government is empowered, and obligated, to protect us. The forces deployed overseas, so far as I know belong precisely where they are. I wish they were sent there a lot sooner. Pre-emptive strikes are not incompatible with what I see in the Constitution or any other applicable document. As a practical matter, it’s awfully difficult to offer any plan for the national defense with an impressive potential for success, that simultaneously forsakes the option of pre-emption. You don’t see anybody offering one. For that reason, I see Libertarians as just barely more trustworthy of our nation’s defense strategies and mechanisms, compared to the Democrats. Whoah, that’s harsh. But it’s accurate, in my opinion.
5. Are You A Conservative?
I don’t think so. In fact, if I could pronounce just one single, solitary problem with what’s going on in the country and the world today — just one — I would say the problem we need to work on solving, is that people don’t truly think for themselves anymore. I’m not that old, but in my lifetime that wasn’t thought of as a conservative principle, it was a liberal one. So by that definition, it’s more accurate to call me a liberal.
6. A Liberal? How Can You Call Yourself Liberal?
I just told you. I want people to think for themselves. I don’t really care if they agree with me or not…although, to be honest, I get a sense of assurance that people are “on the ball” when they agree with me, just as anyone else does.
But if assurance was a good thing all of the time, we’d all still be curled up in little balls in our mommas’ tummies. Assurance is for kids. I’m actually more interested when people disagree, if they can show they’re doing their own thinking, and perhaps know something I don’t.
Let’s get philosophical and zen-like for a moment. Think of a vast wheat field on a windy day. Wheat as far as the eye can see, blowing back and forth. That’s beautiful. What makes it beautiful? Independence makes it beautiful. Each stalk does what it wants to do, unbeholden to the next stalk over in any way, shape or form. The stalks tend to be the same height, because they are commonly affected by the last harvest, and the nutrients in the soil, and the irrigation; but at the same time each stalk is as tall as it wants to be. They tend to lean in the same direction at a given moment, because the wind acts on all of them; but at the same time each stalk leans as it will.
So when you look at several acres of this stuff, you find the stalks do not lean all in the same direction. From that, you can literally see the wind if you look at enough grain. That’s one of the things that makes it beautiful. Like the song: “amber waves of grain.” If the stalks were to lean in all different directions somehow, with Stalk One leaning to the east and Stalk Two, next to it, leaning to the west, as if the entire field had been trampled by bulls or something — that would be an awful mess. If you were to, somehow, “shellac” the stalks all together throughout all those acres, perhaps connect those millions of wheat stalks to one lever so you could make them all lean in the same direction at the same time, that would no longer be beautiful. It would be ugly.
I think I’m a liberal because I promote what nature promotes, in that wheat field. Each person thinks and does what makes sense to them. They end up doing more-or-less the same thing; they are acted upon by similar forces, and they are alike in the behavior they show when they respond to those forces. Orthodox political parties in our society today, tend to favor the lever-and-magic-shellac approach, because it makes the masses easier to control. The unorthodox parties tend to favor the hodge-podge, let’s-all-stick-out-in-different-directions approach. I disapprove of magic-shellac, and I disapprove of hodge-podge anarchy even more. The advocates of anarchy want to control when people are controlled, and when people are not. Just as the wheat field, when an acre or two have been trampled, and the wheat stalks stick out in different directions, no longer structurally capable of reacting to the wind. Looks terrible.
According to that, then, there is no good reason for anyone to be anything but a “liberal.” I’m a liberal in the sense that it’s liberal to be an American. As, once upon a time, it was.
7. Who Was Eratosthenes?
Eratosthenes of Cyrene was the administrator of the Library in Alexandria who died at the beginning of the second century B.C. He earned the dubious nickname of “Beta” by being second-best in a lot of scientific/philosophical pursuits. Nevertheless, he did manage to achieve several expansions of the pool of mankind’s knowledge; he conceived the Sieve of Eratosthenes, and he came up with a remarkably accurate way of determining the size of the earth. This is very seldom discussed, and it’s even more of a rarity to discuss exactly how he did it. That particular experiment has enormous value and meaning to the blog you’re reading now, and it’s impossible to achieve a good understanding of what this blog endeavors to do, without understanding that experiment.
In a nutshell, here is what he did. He noticed that during the summer solistice, there was a water well where at high noon, the sun illuminated everything all the way down to the bottom. The nature of water wells, of course, is that they must be perfectly vertical, so this was a precise way of confirming the sun was directly overhead.
Eratosthenes wrote a lot of stuff that has been lost, and it appears that among the things we have no way of finding out, is the exact method by which he synchronized time in what was done next. But it really doesn’t matter very much. Somehow, probably by employing an assistant, he made an observation simultaneously between two wells, one in Alexandria and one in Syene. (Contrary to popular belief, the “Cyrene” that was the administrator’s home-town, is different from the “Syene” that was the location of one of the wells.) According to scientific nomenclature, then, there was a “control” well in Syene — in which the sunbeam was perfectly vertical — and a “test” well in Alexandria — in which it was not. Eratosthenes, at the right moment, took a reading of the angle of the sun, relative to the shaft of the test well.
From this angle, and the physical distance between the two wells, he was able to determine the circumference of the earth. With, as the ensuing centuries would attest, an accuracy that was…absolutely breathtaking.
We can learn a lot of lessons about the stuff Eratosthenes did, but we can learn particularly valuable lessons from this specific experiment.
When people argue about politics nowadays, I see them frequently ignoring those lessons.
8. Lessons? Like What?
This is what could be called object-oriented thinking. You can’t pursue it, without keeping in mind the class of each thing that is being observed, so as to determine how each cognition can be and should be evaluated. To those who observe arguing as something ethereal and not object-oriented — just a lot of “stuff” — this is an impossible exercise. So the lesson is when you recognize something, know exactly what it is you are recognizing.
When we argue about laws and how to change them, or policies and how to form them, for the most part our cognitions fall into three abstract categories:
Facts. Things that are beyond reasonable dispute. When we argue amongst ourselves, facts need not be proven; they can be a meta-facts, things that might possibly be incorrect, but that both sides accept as the truth, disagreeing only about what is to be thought about them.
Inferences. Postulations about the state of affairs, usually derived from facts. Inferences need not be unprovable to be inferences; they can be meta-inferences, things that might be proven with resources not presently available, that might also be proven, or made somehow compelling, by an alternative means through some kind of logical pursuit. Things To Do. Actions (or cessation of existing actions) usually based on inferences. The two sides must disagree about this, while agreeing on the facts. That is what justifies the arguing. Without an agreement on facts, and disagreement about the thing-to-do, there is no reason to be arguing.
9. Why Do You Call Yourself “The Blog That Nobody Reads”?
Lots of reasons. The half-dozen most important:
a. Humility: I have a blog. That doesn’t make me more correct about things, or even for that matter smarter, than someone who doesn’t have a blog, or even someone who’s never heard of a “blog.” My blog started out as a way to make notes on things, and record hyperlinks supporting those notes, on the web where I could get to the information from any location. It was never really even designed, as a primary objective, to be read. People are reading my blog now. I notice other people, who are watched by lots and lots of people and know they’re being watched by lots and lots of people, gradually swing around to the supposition that they are smart because of this, and therefore don’t need to research the opinions they have. Hey, look at all the people watching me, I must be right. I don’t want to fall into that trap.
b. Arrogance: There are millions of blogs out there, only a tiny portion of which are actually read by anybody. It is hubris to call one’s blog “THE blog that nobody reads.” And that hubris has a useful purpose…
c. Making “Internet Cops” Look Like What They Are: …I have come to learn that the Internet is crawling with self-appointed “cops.” These people will write in with something that can only be called “rude,” since of course their purpose is to coerce, and they’ve chosen a forum that can do nothing more than simply express, so they rely on a harsh demeanor to bridge the gap between expression and coercion. When these people see me writing something with which they disagree, they regard this as a mission. Something MUST BE DONE. I have to be silenced, or I have to be humiliated, or I have to be browbeaten into retracting what I said. This is another thing that is silly. As it happens, I like to make silly things look like the silly things that they are, and chafe at the invitation to make silly things look reasonable; it’s just my way. What can be sillier than an activist agitated into action, determined to sanitize contraband remarks on a blog that…………nobody anywhere is actually reading?
I really like that tactic. For one thing, the hostile Internet Cops never seem to argue the point that my blog is unread or unreadable — they agree, pretty enthusiastically. So back to the original question, if nobody’s reading the blog, why is it important to fix it? Well, there’s no good answer for that, and that kind of helps to make the point, to a third-person anyway, if not to the assailant.
d. Marketing: It’s always better to write something interesting than something that isn’t. I can be an attention whore like anyone else. That’s why I use strange, arcane phrases on this blog that you aren’t likely to see anywhere else. I use President Bush’s inadvertent slip-up during the debates, “innernets,” as if it’s a serious word (usually with the scare quotes, though). When I say things are crazy, I often say they are “wombat rabies bollywonkers crazy,” even if the subject at hand has very little to do with wombats or rabies. It’s a calling card. It’s kind of like Jules from Pulp Fiction quoting “Ezekiel 25:17.” Just some crazy stuff you can say that has often-useless, but occasionally-ironic, appeal.
Well you know, there’s a certain appeal to the readers, when they go fishing in the spot nobody’s discovered yet. Now when I’m sitting where you are sitting right now, randomly flipping through blogs, this is something that has appeal to me. The “fishing” analogy covers it nicely. Who cares about something everybody else is looking at? I’ll find out about that later, anyway. The blog is strongly related, conceptually, with an experiment involving a water well. So the fishing analogy works that way, too.
e. Un-Marketing: There are people out there who are repelled by the notion that they’ll be looking at something nobody else is looking at, and will actually stop reading a blog because of that. This is a bugaboo that plagues our society today, although there are many more of those. You know what? Good. I don’t want to communicate with those people. I don’t want to labor under the burden of cleaning up my work, so that this personality type will find it more palatable. To my way of thinking, if you’re disenchanted from reading stuff “nobody reads,” you’re probably disenchanted from considering ideas that “weren’t already in your head.” If that’s the case, you’re not my intended audience anyway. Shoo!
f. To Stick To My Knitting: This has something to do with “humility” (a., above). For the past handful of years, we have had some people who already get a fair amount of attention, saying some things that bear only casual relationships to what a reasonable person would call “The Truth” in order to get more attention. It would be an extravagant and unproductive use of space to start listing these things, I only wish to make the point that, appearances being any indication, some of these people have abandoned any pretense of trying to re-assert established facts or to vouch for inferences they find somehow reasonable. To get the attention has become the mission. This is a seductive temptation that beckons to us all.
Here’s an example. We have a lot of people, a majority of people I would venture to say, essentially saying “we attacked Saddam Hussein even though he was no threat to us” (America). The disagreement that lingers, seems to be about whether this was a legal decision to make, or whether it was illegal, perhaps even impeachable and/or criminal. But “everyone agrees” Saddam Hussein was no threat to America.
Well, I’m in the minority. This is an example where I can say one thing to get more traffic on my blog, or I can say a different thing to adhere to the more logical pursuit of reasoned inferences derived from established facts. Nobody, anywhere, is saying “a logical pursuit of reasoned inferences derived from established facts, says that Saddam Hussein was no threat to us.” No one is saying that — unless — they are losing track, accidentally or deliberately, of the meaning of words like “logical,” “inferences,” “facts,” and “threat.”
Because that asshole was a threat. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.
We handle facts and inferences correctly here — or at least, we try to, and if we fail we ‘fess up about it. We can do it differently, in order to get attention, like Howard Dean did during the campaign a couple years ago — someone asked him what he thought about theories the Government knew about 9-11 ahead-of-time, and instead of disagreeing outright he said it was worth looking into, thereby implying he thought it was, well, worth looking into.
That’s attention-whoring at the expense of what is reasonable. It is lending your credibility to the support of cock-and-bull theories upon which you wouldn’t bet your dried, crusty nasal debris, let alone your left testicle, for the sake of a few more pairs of eyes-and-ears pointed your way. We don’t do that here and we won’t do that here. And to make sure we don’t, we call ourselves “the blog that nobody reads.”
10. Bugaboos Plaguing Our Society! Wow! What Bugaboos Are Those?
a. The Bugaboo Of Popularity: This is what our parents used to call “peer pressure” back when we were in the sixth-to-twelfth grades. Now that we’re grown up and the job falls to us to describe ourselves, we call it “word of mouth marketing” or something to that effect. Someone at work watches a television show, so you start watching that show. Someone else finds out the two of your are watching it, so they start watching it too. That’s good. It’s the essence of open-mindedness to say “well, I’ll give it a try; why not?”
The problem comes up when the line is crossed between entertainment and what we call “news.” Before you know it, just because John Stewart hosts a fresh, topical, entertaining program — he’s telling millions of people what to think. That’s a problem (see answer to #8).
b. The Bugaboo Of Plutocracy: The above has to do with people who end up in a position of telling large numbers of people what to think, without regard to anybody’s original intent. There are other people who are designated to tell people what their opinions are supposed to be. We don’t actually describe their jobs that way, because if anyone heard that they’d be horrified. But these people show, by their actions, that they interpret the jobs they hold as having this purpose — or else their employers do.
Hollywood: I put Hollywood in this category because they have been putting themselves in this category. Don’t ask me why they do it. They just do it. Me, I don’t think being an actor has an awful lot to do with telling people what to think or how to think, but that’s how a lot of these celebrities have chosen to re-define their jobs. There’s a lot of money at stake, since actors today are paid much more than, say, court jesters were in Europe during the thirteenth century when they were doing exactly the same thing, and for that, called “fools.” So I guess Hollywood actors don’t really need that money when it comes from the pockets of people who have different opinions. Academia: Science has been engaging in a bunch of ugly habits lately. I’ve already adequately covered how this works, I think. It says “we are the scientists and we think this is so, now unless you’re a scientist, go away.” That’s an entirely valid scientific exercise when the subject of discussion is a fact. Not when it’s an opinion. Lately, science has been doing this with opinions. Well, that isn’t really what we call “science.” Elected Representatives: Hard as it may be to believe, it’s emerged that we have an interesting debate going on in this country. Some people think we, the voters, tell our elected representatives what to promote and what to oppose, and if they go a different way, we get rid of them provided we have the votes to do so. Others think it’s up to the representatives to tell the electorate what should be promoted versus what should be opposed. There is no rational explanation to favor the latter model over the former, except that this model makes the job of representation a little easier…and when we are assigned jobs and we start doing them, we’re wired to find ways to make that job easier. So they end up telling us what to think. Anchor-People: Through their own ignorance of the difference between a fact and an opinion, or their refusal to clarify it before setting out on their missions as anchor-people (come to think of it, why should they), the familiar faces on our cable/network news shows have been telling people what to think. This is unavoidable. If facts & opinions are all dumped into the same stewpot, and it’s your job to give people facts — hello? This is a situation that has been developing for awhile. “Objectivity” has become a myth. Completely. The only time the newspeople champion objectivity anymore, is when they’re paying it lip-service, insisting against the evidence that they’re objective.
c. The Bugaboo Of The Zeitgeist: Let me state, for the record, that I don’t like that word. I’ve been known to use some big words, and some arcane words, even some words chosen deliberately to get the audience to make a run for the dictionary. Zeitgeist, on the other hand, enjoys insufficient recognition to make communication even possible, or, to be more accurate about it, efficient. You can’t use the Z-word, without making it extremely likely that the subject will soon be changed to the Z-word itself.
I’m not going to do a Linda Chavez or an Ann Coulter or a George Will, and just throw the word out, implicitly expecting you already know it. If you’re learning about it for the first time, which is likely, I’ll define it for you. I’ll even tell you how to pronounce it: it rhymes with “Bite Sliced.” It is the defining set of prevailing viewpoints for a given locality and/or era.
I’m offended by the notion that there should even be such a thing as a “zeitgeist.” I like vanilla ice cream better than fancy ice cream, I find Seinfeld to be incredibly boring, and I hate tomatoes…I don’t need some zeitgeist to tell me my tastes should be different.
Neither should anybody else.
But today, that’s the way a lot of people “think.” By the Zeitgeist Bugaboo. There’s a reason why, which brings me to…
d. The Bugaboo Of Comfort: I’ve already addressed how technology has a blinding effect. Let’s explore this further by taking it to the extreme: You’re a caveman, you’re looking for food, if you go one direction you’ll find something lower on the food chain than you — if you go another direction, you’ll encounter something higher. Take one path, you may eat, take the other, you may be eaten.
Now at that exact moment, you’re going to be a rocket scientist in the practice of observing empirical facts, forming reasoned inferences based on those facts, and deciding upon things-to-do based on those inferences. People in our society, today, have a tough time doing this. Their continuing survival is rarely dependent on their ability to do this, since we no longer live in an eat-or-be-eaten world, so the ability has come to atrophy. Just like the bottoms of our feet are a lot more tender than the bottom of a caveman’s feet, we’re losing our ability to arrive at reasoned inferences based on establish facts.
But we still think we’re smarter because we’re a later model, our backs are straighter and our foreheads are bigger.
That’s arrogance. There is danger in that.
e. The Bugaboo Of Consistency: Thing I Know #2 is that for every man who maintains his opinion because of preponderance of evidence, nine more maintain theirs simply because they’re already on record and want to stay consistent. Thing I Know #23 is that a man might be willing to bet a nickel on his opinion, but you can often quickly increase this to ten dollars simply by arguing with him. Both of these are true; I know they are, because I’m all finished figuring out they’re true. They’re things I know. They demonstrate a problem with the way most of us go about thinking things. We place priority on the objective of not-changing-our-minds, an objective that rightfully doesn’t merit any priority at all.
11. What’s The Deal With Hooters And The War On Terror?
I really don’t know…you’ll have to ask the people who react to those two things the way they do.
The September 11 attacks. That awful day. Somehow, when people think about this and comment about it, the vast majority of the time, the crap that comes out of their mouths makes very little or no sense. Keep your eyes peeled, watch what’s going on, and listen to people. You’ll see that I’m right.
Evil men attacked us, with malice of forethought. They died, but they were recruited, trained, equipped and subsidized by other evil men who are still alive. People describe the September 11 attacks, and they describe it like a weather phenomenon. They assign more culpability to the Hurricane Katrina disaster than to the September 11 attacks. There was no malice of forethought with Katrina. Just incompetence. The September 11 attacks were just those…attacks.
As for Hooters waitresses and other beautiful young ladies in skimpy outfits, it’s the same thing. Very little of what anybody has to say about the subject, makes any sense.
I’m not sure what skimpy waitress costumes have to do with innocent people showing up for work on time, and for that innocent act being forced to choose between an agonizing death by burning jet fuel, and a nosedive off a hundred-story skyscraper. But those two subjects, are to common sense and clean-headed thinking, what napalm is to a snowball. Don’t ask me why. It is something that is simply so. I’m just like Eratosthenes peeking into a well here, and I don’t know what it means yet.
12. This Can’t Be The End Of Your FAQ! I Have More Questions!
You have to wait for the next FAQ. If this drives you wombat-rabies-bollywonkers crazy, you can always reach me by e-mail.
There’s nothing more to be said, except to express sincere thanks to the kind folks who read some of the commentary and then take the time to actually write about it, whether their remarks are supportive, critical, or both. This blog is meant to be a monologue, but a dialogue is always better.
And to those of you who silently read without saying anything, you deserve congratulations too. The point has already been made that a larger audience does nothing to make an argument any more solid, so you don’t get credit for that. But hey, you have good taste.