choice

[estimated reading time 2 minutes]

(a poem about abortion and the idiocy that is sweeping the western world at the moment.)

once
when we were strong
they came for us
and drove wedges in places they did not belong
penetrated our ranks with division
tore us apart
until we had learned to eat each other
cannibalize our neighbors’ children
in times of continuous war
competition overriding our hope
insatiable lust drinking our enemies’ blood
until a sisterhood was no more than
disparate similarities
plagued by lines of fracture
and performed discontent
but that was
only once

now
we have lost ourselves
into a mire of our own creation
taken our freedom for granted
and institutionalized our tiny differences
as if they were all that defined us
rather than our humanity
and our bodies melting together
as a single spirit
divine feminine energy flowing through us
making us not simply whole
but a whole world of compassion
empathy with and without childbirth
yet that family
is not simply dysfunctional
but deceased
and it is a path of our own making
a place we walked willingly
to slaughter our present
to take away our own power
to lust for things
at the cost of people
seeking abundance in the face of scarcity
because our lives mattered
and none others did
we have built isolation
now

today
they come for us together
and we have forgotten how to live
a community of sisters
hands held in chains
and faces raised to the sun
not screaming
but shining in the dawn
a force for unity
rather than divided animals
squabbling and isolated
as they mount an army
locked together in brotherhood
waiting to fix its bayonets
and drive them through the floors
of our bodies
and thrust themselves
against our shattered lines
no longer sated by lust
but the conquest of war
its spoils not in gold
but blood and rape
their goals not treasure
but our liberty
and this is the battle
we must not lose
today

tomorrow
we will look back at this moment
and see ourselves in a different light
divided and weak
while we claim to be so strong
because that strength we see
is individual
not collective
and we are staged against an army
with no fractured divisions
no broken strength
nothing to take brother from brother
in its devotion to our subjugation
making us the objects of their desire
rather than the partners of their love
as love has died between them
as we have killed it between ourselves
so we must walk away from that future
and hold hands
not because we feel the same
but because we have everything to lose
stop tearing down the statues
our neighbors have built of themselves
but start worshiping at the tortured feet
once bound but now free
of feminine beauty
shining yet curiously secret
in its hidden power
if we can only awaken it
and stand with our hands
not simply held together
but embracing each other by the shoulders
a community become a wall
no shouting can tear down
we can look back on this moment
and say we were all one
a single force
where nothing can ever be taken from us
not by force
and not by our own complacency
or popularity driving our desires
we have a single chance
to be proud of our sisterhood
before it is too late
and today’s lost war
is simply a relic
we study
and cry over
like those first sips
after birth
of spilled milk
drowning us
tomorrow

not-quite-virgin birth

[estimated reading time 6 minutes]

with all the talk lately about the death of language — at least, the death of language as we know it — because nobody on the internet knows how to use english properly anymore, i thought it might be good to see the other side of that coin. the internet is where new language is born every day. but just because silly new words are being created by the makers on youtube and instacelebs on tiktok doesn’t mean that’s where this story begins. i think we need to look much more distantly into the past and explore the origins of a word you might not think of as either new or novel at all. online.

like many english words, online is a word that was created for a specific purpose that didn’t really exist before — and didn’t exist in any other language. if you’re not up on your history of english, english is a relatively-new language. it developed as the result of popular modifications to old german being fused with already-arcane court-french spoken by the upper-class members of english society at the time. the combination was a language with a mashup of french and german vocabulary, heavy on the french, with mostly-german grammar simplified to eliminate the majority of the complex relationship and case structure. because people were simply too uneducated to function with it anyway. french pronunciation was germanicized and spelling was somewhat-standardized, mostly relying on old spellings in either french or german. this created the disaster we now know of as modern english, though it’s gradually improving and becoming more streamlined. give it another century or two and it will be as advanced as modern mandarin chinese. i hope.

back to online, though. let’s talk about how the internet was born and why the word simply had to exist.

before the internet became a real thing, there was what was known as the “advanced research projects agency network” — arpanet for short. it connected military installations across america with a few select research universities and it was all the awesomes at once. we’ve skipped a step from the language perspective, though. network isn’t really a word that makes any sense out of context. but it’s not a computer term — at least it didn’t start that way.

we use nets to catch things. mostly fish. from the beginnings of the time of settled agriculture quite a few thousand years ago during the neolithic revolution (you know — when farming became a thing and people stopped following mammoth tracks and hunting wild cattle). you make a net by taking something loosely-approximating string and tying knots in it in a grid pattern. now you can get a fish to go in one side and not come out the other. i believe they call this dinner. i’m against killing things. passionately against it. so i don’t do this to fish. though i’m a fan of using this technique on disruptive humans, especially those of the anti-education, populist persuasion. but that’s another story.

the word “work” may strike you as having something to do with a job but in old times it actually didn’t carry that meaning at all. it had a significance far closer to the words “how” and “way”. it was how something was done. “woodwork” was how you worked with wood. it’s loosely-equivalent to the suffix “ware” now that gets tacked onto things like “lacquerware” or “silverware” as in “the form of”. so “network” meant anything that was connected in the manner of a net. simple. interconnectedness — if you don’t know the story of indra’s net, you should read it. it’s one of the basic principles of buddhist thought and logic. but again we are off-topic — something i’m rather known for.

back to arpanet. normal people couldn’t connect to it. actually, nobody could connect to it. it wasn’t a thing you joined. it was an infrastructure project. joining arpanet was like having your own onramp directly to the interstate from your living-room. so people didn’t have that. not to mention personal computers weren’t really a thing yet so there was nothing to “connect”, anyway. that came in time, though. when the first non-terminal personal computers like the ibm pc, the commodore pet and 64 and the apple ii started to get popular, people suddenly didn’t just have computers — they knew people who had computers. instead of talking like normal people on their rotary-dial phones and by throwing paper-airplanes (yes this was the seventies), they wanted their computers to talk. on the phone. like (you know) normal people, as if such a thing existed as the world woke into the eighties. i’m a child of the eighties if that wasn’t already obvious.

but computers — especially computers then — didn’t speak. they used binary to communicate. this binary information had to be converted to sound to go over the phone-lines. that process was called “modulation”. on one end, the computer modulated the information and it became sound — the squealing you heard on phone-lines if you were also a child of the eighties, i have no doubt. if you’re younger but still remember fax machines it’s probably much the same sound, though fax machines use a different kind of system to make it happen and it’s much more rudimentary. the computer on the other end demodulated the sound back into usable binary data. at first this was done using actual telephone handsets connected to boxes on the computers but those devices became standalone things plugged directly to the phone lines and we stopped calling them “modulator-demodulators” and shortened it to mo/dem — eventually modem. a new word was indeed born.

but it didn’t stop there. computers could talk directly to each other and that was great. then bulletin-board services (bbs) began to be common where a centralized computer collected information and others connected to it. it wasn’t just peer-to-peer but distributed and this was a huge step in the direction of what would eventually become the generalized internet. but again we’ve skipped something. a word. internet. that’s the “network of interconnected computers” or the “interconnected-network” or the … “inter-net”, for short. which became the internet, a single word. not just the birth of a new idea but a whole new way of looking at language. words that were once separate became joined then new words without their separation even being recognized. this is a process that’s happened in english (and other languages) for centuries (though not as long as you might think) but it’s been happening so fast in english the last few decades it often just goes straight from separate words through the mashup stage to the creation of a new word in a single leap and words jump out of youtube preformed — youtube, tiktok and instagram aren’t just social media giants. they’re newly-created words using this method. as are facebook and linkedin. but not twitter. that’s not just a stupid word. it’s a stupid idea. thankfully it’s gradually dying. let’s get back to language.

as the internet grew in popularity, more and more regular people wanted to connect to it. mostly for porn. but email and cat pictures were already rather popular. and other criminal things. not that cat pictures are criminal. but they’re like catnip. get you hooked and suddenly you’re pirating music and playing poker online and sharing… well, sharing those things you shouldn’t be sharing. which isn’t good.

how did they connect? they connected their modems (new word) to the phone-lines and connected to internet-service-providers (isp) where they piggybacked on hardwired connections to the distributed global network. it was actually relatively simple. still is, just scaled-up. the question, though, was whether you were connected. but if you asked someone “are you connected to the internet?” it was cumbersome, long and non-specific. they could take that to mean “now?” or “ever?”. and that’s not useful to anyone. the idea of being connected wasn’t “always-on” but “do you connect to the internet to do stuff?” — if the answer was “yes” you were “on the line”. you connected to the lines between the “nodes” of the international network using the “line” from your house to the phone company. so you were on two different kinds of line. “on-line”, you could say. or, in time, online.

now online means something a little less divergent, of course. because everyone’s there, connected all the time. and nobody really asks if you’re online anyway because the assumption is that you’re one of two things — connected to the internet or dead. and if you’re dead you’re probably not having much of a conversation about technology with anyone and the answer is even more obvious. if you’re talking about network connectivity in your mediumship experiences you may need something from your life i can’t provide in an article.

but i hope that’s somewhat useful in understanding both connectivity (in the vague and historically-nonspecific sense) and the birth of new words in modern english. thanks for taking the time to explore the past of language with me yet again.

where to begin a love affair with trees

[estimated reading time 8 minutes]

you’re passionate about designing and building things. that’s a great start. but you don’t have a workshop. or you’ve got a workshop and it’s full of things you don’t use and you’re ready to start again. here’s what the temptation looks like. you go on craigslist and facebook marketplace and start browsing for good deals. then you buy them and bring them home and you gradually build a collection of mediocre, outdated tools. but you’ve got a workshop and that’s a great place to start and you can build from there, right?

no.

that is definitely what some people will recommend you do but i have five reasons why this is an awful starting point.

  1. if you’re not experienced using and maintaining equipment, you’re going to have a nightmare getting the machines working and they’re not going to perform well.
  2. safety precautions on old tools range from nonexistent to brutally-inadequate.
  3. parts are often unavailable, custom or extremely expensive — and shipping parts across or into the country that are often made of steel or cast iron means you’ll be beating your head against a financial wall.
  4. even if you can get them to work, old tools are going to break simply because they’ve been used so much so testing them to make sure they’re in working condition doesn’t eliminate the fact that they’re quite possibly older than your parents.
  5. most importantly, you’re a woodworker. not a machinist or powertool restorer. if you want to be one of those things, be one of those things. and you can be that as well as a woodworker (rollie johnson over at fine woodworking magazine, this is you!). but if what flutters your fall leaves is creating things from wood you won’t be spending much time doing that while you try to get old junk to hold square and level. which it might. but it probably won’t.

of course, this is about powertools. the equation and balance is completely different for handtools where antique might be (and often is) the best option even for beginners, especially as supply-chain disasters hit major manufacturers and prices spiral through the roof. but let’s talk about a shop where you know you’re going to be producing things for sale because that’s what we do. this isn’t about a hobby. it’s not about playing with curls or bashing together stick-furniture to foist on your unsuspecting adult offspring. this is about building a shop that will pay for itself. as quickly as possible. and that means designing and building efficiently and with quality results. so how do you start when your budget doesn’t allow you to just go to the powertool dealer near you and order a whole workshop full of equipment?

well, you start small and smart and you don’t buy a workshop full of equipment. you buy a few well-considered powertools, some handtools and you work your way up without compromising or investing in soon-to-be-replaced excrement and antique-wannabe paperweights along the way. let’s briefly take a walk down that path.

a beginning small-scale production workshop is going to need what i call the holy-trinity-of-startup-tools. and you might be surprised what that list includes. actually, you might be more surprised by what that list doesn’t include. it doesn’t include a tablesaw. it also doesn’t include what i call “disposable tools”. i’m assuming you have a drill. cause everyone has a drill. a cordless one you picked up cheap at walmart twenty years ago is just fine. you need some bits for it in common sizes but honestly you can wait years before upgrading to a nice drill. you will someday dump that twenty-buck mess for something nice but wait until you’ve decided which battery platform you want to standardize on and just get whatever they make when it’s convenient and on-sale. the same goes for a sander. your inexpensive random-orbital will do everything you need. it’ll be annoying. but it’ll work and you’ve got it in the closet already.

the three tools are these.

  1. bandsaw
  2. thickness-planer
  3. handheld router (no, not trim-router — full-size with a half-inch collet)

let’s talk about why.

a tablesaw cuts straight lines very accurately. there’s no drift (unless you’re either stupid or incredibly unlucky). it does one thing well. it’s a specialized expert in straight things — you can think of it as the powertool equivalent of a homophobic conservative (you know, only into straight things but deeply devoted to that obsession). a jigsaw can cut curves but it’s messy. what you want is something in the middle. a saw that can cut straight lines mostly well — approximate is close enough for almost everything because you’ll be fine-tuning with a chisel or sander anyway. something that can do accurate curves. something that can resaw. that’s a bandsaw. it’s not perfect at anything but it’s the jack-of-all-trades of the powertool saw world. it’ll get you started.

now i know what the next question will be. what size bandsaw should you get? there are two possible answers to that. you want your bandsaw to be as big as possible and as accurate as possible. and those two things dramatically increase the price. so here’s the solution. sacrifice size for quality. get a small — yes, small — bandsaw. a fourteen-inch model. you’re going to upgrade it later when your shop becomes profitable enough to pay for it. but here’s the thing about a fourteen-inch bandsaw. it’s awesome. and it will do 95% of everything you need to do in a small shop. that other 5%? well, you’re just going to have to do that by hand. but the difference between a small bandsaw and even an inexpensive large one is literally thousands. it’s up to you. but i’d start with a nice, well-built small one and take it from there.

the other thing you’re probably wondering is the question every woodworking teacher gets asked constantly — should i buy a planer or a jointer first? there is only one answer to this question. it’s always the same answer. buy a planer. the jointer is unnecessary. you may actually never need a jointer. there are all kinds of ways to use your planer to joint boards. but there’s absolutely no way to use a jointer to plane to thickness and guarantee parallel faces or edges. it’s just that simple. if you are going to work without a thickness-planer, you have to do all your thicknessing and smoothing by hand. and that will simply make your workshop too slow to be functionally profitable. it will never pay for itself. if you want to make furniture, you need a planer. there’s no equivocation on that. you can play around and have fun without one. but it’ll be a case of spending money hand over fist for materials and tools that you’ll never be able to make pay for themselves.

the third thing on the list, though, is probably the one that confuses people the most at first. and that’s because you’ve likely been told all the wrong things about what a router is for. or perhaps even what a router-table is necessary to make happen with a router. you’ll eventually want a router-table. they’re amazing. but you can do almost everything without the table, especially if you build a nice large secondary base for your handheld (plunge) router. a router is the most multifunctional tool out there. it will edge. it will joint. it will allow you to produce things from templates and flush edges. and it will make cutting a lot of joinery an absolute breeze. if there’s one tool that really makes the difference between just barely doing things and doing them well, repeatable and easily, this is the tool. get a good plunge router. not an amazing one for thousands. a good one. makita makes a nice one. so does bosch. the dewalt is totally ok. porter-cable has one, too. just pick one and get it. again, you’ll upgrade it later but they’ll all satisfy your needs for the moment.

once you have those, you’re ready to get started, right?

well, no. not quite. you’ll need a few other basic things but they’re not powertools. they’re handtools — at least they’re mostly at least sort-of handtools.

you need a workbench. it doesn’t have to be three meters long or anything. but you need a stable work surface. you’re going to be cutting joinery and that means you need a place to use a chisel. which brings us to chisels. you’ll need some of those, too. a small set of relatively-inexpensive chisels will be a great place to start. the narex ones have ridiculous handles but they’re totally ok. now you need a way to sharpen them. so get a set of diamond stones (coarse, fine, very fine) and that’ll get you through it. get a mallet (or build one) — if this costs more than five bucks you’re doing it wrong. once you have all that out of the way, you need a couple of saws. i recommend a dozuki and a rough kataba. the dozuki will let you cut fine, accurate joinery. the kataba will be for rough dimensioning. the other thing you need is a basic handplane. an old stanley jack is great. or a modern brand. get a cheap one. you’re not aiming for smooth and perfect. you’ll use it for basic rough flattening. if you spend more than fifty bucks, you’ve overshot the runway. and you might get away with half that. then there are a few other extras.

you need clamps. lots of clamps. no, not a hundred. but a couple of dozen cheap clamps won’t go astray for fairly small projects like bookshelves and coffee-tables. they don’t have to be brand-name (bessey and jet make awesome clamps but they’re simply not worth the money) — get the cheapest large clamps you can that put lots of pressure on a board. some small (18-24”) and a few larger (36”+) are a good investment and you can never have too many. then you need a way to measure things. a good metal ruler won’t break the bank and that’s enough. and some 0.5mm mechanical pencils to mark with. don’t use a knife. i have many reasons for saying that and i’ve written extensively about why marking gauges and knives and all those tools are simply a waste of time if you are serious about doing this — they are toys people find fun to play with but you simply don’t need them and they often cause far more trouble than improvement. now you’re ready to start building.

well, sort of, at least. you need some protective gear like face-masks but we’ve all got loads of those around the last few years, right? safety-goggles are a must. and wear clothing that’s not too loose or you could get it caught in a machine and that would be … unpleasant.

that’s the beginning, though, of your basic love-affair with woodworking.

if you’re curious where to go from there, i have a simple roadmap that i can describe in a single paragraph. once you start producing things and getting paid for turning trees into crafts, your first significant upgrade is adding a tablesaw. a real tablesaw. with a cabinet. when you can afford it, get that. until that point, keep waiting. then get a router-table and a trim-router. a table with a good-quality lift like the rockler or kreg or jessem because without a lift it’s just a handheld router with a big base and you’ve already got one of those. why a trim-router? you already have a big router. stick that in the table. now you need a little one for the detailed handheld work. no need to get a second big router. i suggest the next thing you seriously consider at this point isn’t what you might think. you’re expecting me to say a jointer. or maybe a sander. and those are great tools to get. but i’d say the next step is to get a small cnc to quickly surface and template and batch-produce parts. you’re running a small growing business at this point, right? you need to improve your efficiency and accuracy as much as possible. i highly recommend looking at the avidcnc devices. you’ll never look back once you start using one of those things to produce your templates and it will take your craft to the next level. then you probably want to look at a jointer. but again don’t get a little jointer. if you can afford an 8”, get that. if you can’t, wait until you can. there’s no point getting a small one and selling it. you’ll never get the money back. segmented cutters are nice, too. but honestly they’re probably not worth it on the jointer like they are on the planer unless you’re flush with cash at this point cause they really shove the price up. a drum-sander is excellent but you probably want a spindle-sander first. at some point, though, it’ll save you a lot of time (and money) to have both. then you can take a serious look at whether to upgrade the original tools. a bigger, more powerful bandsaw and planer. a drill-press for more accuracy in a lot of tasks. and don’t forget the dust-collector to replace your veritable old shopvac. but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. this isn’t where you start. this is where you end up once things are going well. assuming you still like your choice of side-gig. or gig. cause at this point you might well be doing it for not just your bonus but your salary.

anyway, that’s the starting-point. and i’m sure others will have differing views on this. but this is my answer to the almost-age-old question of how to get started. bandsaw, planer, router, some hand-tools, a few basic power things you already have, a little space to work in, a bench and your desire to design and build things. ready to begin?

passion

[estimated reading time 2 minutes]

i rise with the dawn and shift the stones away from my eyes revealing the brightness of a life i thought just moments ago stolen by their night

i look down and touch the holes driven through my spirit by the nails of hatred and passion not healed or forgotten but no longer in focus

i stand as an infant lamb crawling from its manger at first light shaky on my newly-woken feet but gathering strength with each footstep i take

as i emerge from my nighttime tomb and push back the blankets of the morning mist i breathe not the air but taste the sunshine seeming to radiate from my face

i step out onto the mountain and catch my breath at the heaven of beauty alive around me in each note or birdsong i swallow as my eyes adjust to the reflections

the trees shimmer just at the edge of my vision as i follow the dove as it’s feet leave the branch without a moment of ripple and it pushes the boundaries between this world and the land of clouds and echoed spirits

i inhale the calm around me not for a second in stillness but the constant unhurried motion of the spirit flowing through the rocks and leaves scurrying in tiny paws and thundering in the distance in hooves barely seeming to break yet peaceful in their endless cycles in search of grass

my feet take me down the mountain path to the waiting eyes of humans fresh from their own cocoons and my voice splits the world of nature and civilization with a simple word of greeting shared in return by the startled crowds on the streets below

you believed morning would come and we would wake into it but you couldn’t be sure

yet here we are in the light not only of a new day but the treasure of moments devoted to nothing more than creating themselves as gifts arising from nothingness

you have risen with me

jesus’ prayers

[estimated reading time 3 minutes]

in honor of the easter celebrations sweeping the world this weekend, here are five new translations of jesus’ prayer, often oddly called “the lord’s prayer”, from the christian bible, the book of matthew. if you have found the traditional version of this prayer rather awkward — which most traditional liturgy tends to be for a bunch of reasons — these might connect more with your modern spirit.

1

you who gave me life
source of all i am
perfect energy
speak your light through me
so i may shine with your presence
as i become one with your new dawn
and walk in your footsteps
rather than my own

build me as a home
for your love
craft me as an echo of your truth
stretch out and mold me
with your compassionate fingers
so i may taste your essence
with each drop of water and mouthful of bread
i place against my tongue
giving you thanks
that i may wake into another sunrise

see my secrets
lost in the past but for your eyes
frozen in my memory
wipe me clean with your pure dreams
as i turn my eyes from those around me
shivering in shame yet
suddenly disappeared and beautiful
as you open my eyes to their peace

and free me from what i crave
shake my eyes from lust
and fracture my grasp
so i may let what tempts me
fall away
leaving me with breath
and space to fill with hope
liberated from fleeting desires
and painful thoughts

your power flows in my body and mind
yet in your image it tastes like calm
a song sung endlessly
to renew each life i touch
as you live through each moment of me

2

voice of living breathe
speaking purity from within
as each cell mirrors your face
i kneel at your feet
as i hear the echoes of your words

speak through me
and teach me your love
a life of compassion here on earth
a society of love in your image

feed my spirit with your understanding
as i taste the darkness
let it fill me with the sound of your light
wake in me unconditional peace
ripped from the jaws of desire and retribution
break the cycle of retribution
and show me the path to abundant calm
unclench my grasping fingers
as my palms mirror the touch of your peace

live me as a model of happiness
in the awakened sound of tranquility
reverberating endlessly in a lost world

3

wild voice of endless compassion
i kneel at your feet
and raise my eyes
at the sound of your peace
flowing through the ages
to craft a new peace in me
a mirror of your love
in endless memories of life

feed me with your wisdom
as my days swirl
in cycles of violence and hate
satisfy me with equanimity
as i accept this moment
and speak love
where once payback
was the endless ritual of truth

call out my failures
and strip me of my biases
steal my heart’s longings
and dry my tears from loss
as you turn my face
to the abundance of nature
and teach me to satisfy myself
as a mirror of your endless peace
tranquil in the world as it is
giving without seeking a return

thank you

you are the purity of love
wrapped endlessly through all i see
unending cycles of peace
within me
flowing out into the world

4

echo of spring rain
who gave me life
in that first moment and this
see yourself through my eyes
and taste compassion on my lips
as i sense you in each instant
and feel your love
radiating waves of hope
in the image of a new society

satisfy my longings with tranquility
and pacify my desperation
focus my restless energy
and walk me to the edge of comfort
where i see others’ faces
as mirrors of your dreams
shining lights in the darkness
i once believed they inhabited

shatter my desires
as each footstep
leads me to your peace

touch acceptance
and break my hold on objects
collected with gold
filled with lust
as i leave them behind
and replace them with your words

listen with my ears
to the ripples of your whispered calm
floating through the leaves of the forest
within my spirit
as i taste the calm of your endless waters
flowing through my life

5

love within each moment
promise of a hidden future
echoing peace like ocean waves
unstoppable in your relentless acceptance
speak endless truth through me
as i lose myself in you
reborn in a world
built as mirrors of your dreams
no longer the earth of suffering
but limitless compassion
become human

place your words on my tongue
with each passing sunrise
and let me speak in the voice of thankfulness
for the life that gives me hope
to walk paths no longer plagued with hate
giving me the wisdom to see your face
in each tree and river and life i touch
as they flow past me
and smile with your voice

whisper in my ears
to comfort the child still lost
in the wilderness of desire

teach me the steps
leading to tranquility
mirroring the lessons
you implant in each child
forgotten as the world works its dark magic
to ensnare hearts with its empty promises
reborn again with each footprint left on the earth
as i turn my face to see you
in the shimmering mist

teach me the tomorrow you dream of
the beauty of your love
and your limitless peace

i am yours

a timeline of responsibility

[estimated reading time 8 minutes]

much of the modern internet was created by a simple piece of legislation – the american “communications decency act”, specifically section 230 where it says “no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider”. if you’re not a lawyer (which i’m certainly not), this has a very simple meaning. facebook, instagram, twitter and their social-media siblings can allow people to put whatever content they like on the internet and they’re not responsible. ever. they can’t be charged with a crime even if what’s posted there is criminal.

of course, this has built the internet, allowing people to share information without the companies enabling that sharing to take legal responsibility for it. and that’s generally a good thing because being able to share photographs and videos and messages is exactly what made the internet the single communications platform people rely on for everything from their meetings to their birthdays to their intimate affairs. the internet is all things to all people. but it’s not safe.

the next section of that law goes on to say any company that removes information that’s offensive or illegal is protected from the people who put it there in the first place and that’s definitely a start on what we now call “content moderation” but it’s very weak. it doesn’t mean they have to remove things that are problematic. it just means they can if they want to and not get in trouble for it.

many people (mark stoller, for example, one of the best-known critics of the law) have written calling for it to be eliminated. sadly, if it is, the internet as a platform for social media will simply stop existing. well, not quite. if the law stops existing and is replaced by another guaranteeing freedom from prosecution for the views of users on public platforms, it will continue. but without those protections facebook and instagram will open themselves to persecution with every post shared and simply won’t be able to exist — and people won’t post if they know each thing they submit has to be moderated before it goes live because that won’t allow instant-sharing, the whole reason the internet has become ubiquitous. delays aren’t part of people’s understanding of how technology works.

so we’re at an impasse, right? keep the protection and companies can allow hate speech, racism, discrimination and even calls to violence, not to mention intentional and harmful misinformation (trump, johnson and putin, i’m looking at you!) to continue to expand exponentially as automated writing tools and modification engines flood the protective walls of social media empires. remove the protection and suffocate the internet by starving it of its lifeblood — its continuous source of new material that makes it a place for young people to continue to spend every waking moment obsessively consuming its clickbait and conspiracies.

well, no. and this is the case for two completely different reasons but their combination may paint a way forward if the weak and mindless american leadership can contemplate action for a change to try to improve things. (given their lack of willingness to actively engage in protecting the ukraine out of either disinterest or racism, which i’m not quite sure or perhaps a combination, is unlikely and this is quite sad.) the first is that this is an american law and something else is working in a much larger population base already. the second is that the whole concept has ignored the idea of time — the internet used to be a permanent publication platform and in some ways still is but in more ways than ever it’s all about what’s happening right now, in this moment. this law comes from a time and understanding of the internet like a collection of books. the internet has become a never-ending stream of broadcast and that’s not the same thing.

first, though, let’s take a short trip east. you probably know wechat and its little brother weebo but tencent video and douban may be new to you. there are just as many massive social media platforms in china, though, as there are in all the western countries, which isn’t surprising because there’s as much population in china as in europe and the americas combined. and where there are people living modern lives there’s internet, social media and the question of responsibility.

while europe has realistically been able to ignore this problem completely (we know how the uk would answer the question, given that its government is so anti-education and anti-knowledge, though how the divided populations of france, germany and the scandinavian countries would see the issue is potentially more nuanced though irrelevant given the complete lack of serious media players in any of them), the american answer has provided the groundwork in the west because that’s where the companies live and have to be regulated. the approach the chinese government has taken to regulating information is much less black-and-white than its american counterpart — an oddity if you know much about chinese law, where strictness and public responsibility tend to be far more emphasized in favor of protecting the general public.

the simple answer, though, is this. people are much more responsible for the content they create. this has been somewhat overlooked in the mess in the west. the idea has been that either the company publishing it (facebook, instagram, twitter…) is responsible or nobody is. but that’s leaving out the person who made it in the first place. there is certainly a tradition in the west of “free speech”. but that free speech is a massive problem. while i don’t support the idea of free speech in general, this is a very specific case of it where it’s even more difficult to justify than elsewhere. because the internet isn’t a private room where everyone should certainly be allowed to talk without restriction. it’s a public stage. and we have laws, not to mention social guidelines, about what you’re allowed to say in front of a massive audience without it being considered reprehensible, dangerous and, in many cases, inciting violence and hate.

the chinese approach has been mostly to consider anything posted on the internet a public statement and judged things like misinformation and hate speech not on the basis of free individual interaction but by the same laws that would apply to any other distributed publication like a newspaper or book — spread hate, disinformation or offensive material and you will be prosecuted. this is the first step the west needs to take to deal with such things as misinformation about politics and health crises (antivax people, you can have a choice either of getting a shot or being shot but you have to choose one and choose it now).

it would also be a significant portion of the solution to deepfake (not just pornography but all deepfake) by making all individual creators legally responsible for the existence of artificial and misleading images and text and making such creation and existence illegal with the application of fines and jail — if the existence of an artificially-created photograph of a person without their consent was enough to put its creator behind bars for a decade, their proliferation would quickly come to an end.

second, though, is something a little more subtle. while american politics and laws are not known for their subtlety, this might be a case where a new leaf has to be not just turned over but rebuilt from the roots. we can stop thinking of the internet as a single thing — a mass-distribution platform — and start imagining it as two parallel streams — one of a flow of information and the other as a permanent publication repository. in other words, the internet is a public forum and a public library but not both indistinguishably at the same time. yes, as i said, this is subtle and nuanced.

as a public forum, people could continue to be able to interact whether in private discussions or in the public sphere with relatively little moderation. they would still have to be held accountable for what they say in the context of “if this was written in a newspaper article distributed around the world in print, would it be considered acceptable”. but that would realistically not be a huge limitation and it is perfectly reasonable to hold adults interacting accountable for the words they write and speak. if we can’t be responsible for our actions, we cease to be humans, don’t we? this is where instant-access social media, for example, would continue to thrive.

as a public library, however, far more moderation would not simply be permitted and protected if companies wished to do it but absolutely required. a law could be introduced to add the publisher to the list of those accountable in the legal and public sense for the content on their platforms — not immediately but after a time. for example, a law stating that social media publishers like facebook were responsible for all content published on their platform to public groups after twenty-four hours and to limited groups after seventy-two hours would mean they could continue to allow freely-posted information with only the creator taking responsibility for it for the first day (if public) or three (if to a smaller group) before their moderating team had to also be liable for it. it would give them time to remove it if it violated regulations about what is safe, true and appropriate without stifling the simultaneity of modern internet life. of course, this wouldn’t remove the individual creator from responsibility and that brings us to the third piece of this (yes, i know i said there were only two but this is actually a requirement of both so whether it’s a third is up to you to decide) — identity.

i have very strong beliefs about personal identity on the internet but a softer version would actually make both these solutions possible and a combined resolution to much of the problem of hate and disinformation on the internet. first, though, the complete and thorough answer before we look at how it could be solved without going that far, though i believe we eventually should continue down that path to the end.

i believe all information shared on the internet should have a name behind it. not a company name, not a pseudonym, not an organization. a name of a real person whose identity has been verified either by a government or a government-regulated private entity (facebook, for example, could have a department responsible for identity-checking its users). this would mean that each individual would have a single voice and be held accountable, not just legally but in the world of public awareness and opinion, for their actions. this may sound extreme but think about what the internet is. it’s like live television of the days before the internet. imagine in the sixties or seventies the idea of people getting on a live television news broadcast but neither the television network nor the viewers having any idea who the person is. why is this suddenly accepted today? not only does nobody know if you’re a dog on the internet, as the meme suggests, they don’t know if you exist at all or how many theoretical people you exist as — are you a bot? do you represent yourself or others? this must end or truth will simply cease to exist as time goes on.

that being said — and i’m certain the survival of our species and society depend on individuals being held accountable for what they say and create — it’s possible to implement both pieces of the solution we’ve been talking about today without walking that road to its inevitable end at the moment. don’t misunderstand — i am talking about eliminating anonymity and that’s fundamentally necessary for the internet to ever be a safe place. but it is possible to do this in a far-less-public way to get the first piece of the results to function in terms of social media responsibility.

while i believe it is necessary in the long-run for everyone to be responsible, liable and accountable publicly to everyone, perhaps all we need at the moment is for them to be accountable in the governmental sense — legally. what that would mean in practice is that they would have to be identifiable to the publication platform and that this information would be continuously-accessible by the government of the company where the platform existed and the government where the individual creator was at the time of creation but not to the general public. let’s think about this as an example. let’s say someone in germany posts on facebook. facebook would have to know who they are — not who they say they are but their real, passport-validated identity. that information would be attached to each of their posts but not shared on the site. the american government (home of facebook) and the german government (home of the act of creation and posting) would know who the person was. the person would then be held responsible for anything they shared (which should mean everything is ok because almost all content is perfectly fine — we’re only talking about hate speech and misinformation and other illegal content being restricted, not the general free flow of conversation). after a period of days, facebook would also be responsible but the creator would continue to be held accountable for it, too. what this would do is pave the way for the elimination of misinformation, artificial content and hate speech without being nearly as damaging to the social media companies as total responsibility for content or as weak as the current protective legal framework.

what this means is that, despite many voices arguing the opposite, there is a clear path out of this that doesn’t perpetuate the cycle of hate and harm but doesn’t destroy the basis for the internet and its fundamental free-flow of information. i hope you have gotten something out of this path of thoughts today. thank you so much for lending me your eyes and minds for a few minutes.

post-traumatic reflections

[estimated reading time 7 minutes]

in the aftermath of the latest shooting incident in brooklyn, it may be time to think yet again about gun violence and what should be done about it. i will begin this by admitting that i am not a gentle-solution proponent to any problem. i believe in extreme measures to eliminate difficulties in society and many of those methods are not welcomed by those in the west. that doesn’t mean they won’t work. it just means they won’t be popular, which is why they tend not to be implemented in north-american or european cities. but let’s take a look at the issue anyway.

there is a frequently-quoted statement — “guns don’t kill people — people do” — which is far more revealing than it appears at first glance. it seems to take the responsibility away from the weapon and put it in the hands of the person using it. and that appears very sensible. so let’s apply that to other concepts of public safety. heroin doesn’t kill people — people taking it kill themselves. so, of course, we should eliminate controls on drugs. cars don’t kill people — people kill each other with them. so there should be no automotive safety or traffic regulations, either. holes don’t kill people — people stepping into them are committing suicide. so there’s no need for such problematic regulations that make sidewalks safe because it’s people’s own fault if they hurt themselves by stepping into open access holes or trip and fall into the road in front of busses and taxis.

while this may sound rather extreme — or to some like a free and fair utopian society, especially if you have been indulging in those aforementioned drugs — it is the same argument.

guns have a single purpose. to kill (or at least to seriously injure but i think we can think of this as the same purpose rather than two different ones, right?). i am well-aware there is a tradition of shooting and owning weapons, especially guns, in some countries. and i am even more thoroughly aware there are other ways to cause injury and death.

but we have accepted restrictions all over the world on many of these far-less-deadly items, even those with other, potentially-positive purposes.

many drugs are dangerous so our governments have regulated their sale and distribution, banning many of the most potentially-lethal like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamines. while some people believe their criminalization is a problem (including me in many instances), what is far more universally-accepted is that the are a scourge on human society and should be eliminated. what many people on the right or in the uneducated critical group tend to ignore is that there is little disagreement about the idea that these drugs should be eradicated from our streets and towns — the disagreement is about how to do it most effectively while causing the least harm to people in general, not about the desired result of as few drugs as possible being used recreationally. one of the most significant advances in chinese history was the general elimination of opium, something that took millennia of ineffectual regulation followed by drastic measures after the people’s republic was proclaimed that were finally successful, paving the way for a modern and successful society — while this isn’t the only example in history, it provides an excellent case study in the shift possible when dominant street drugs are eliminated from common usage.

many chemicals are dangerous so these are also regulated. try to buy the ingredients for a bomb in large quantities, even when those ingredients have non-explosive uses, and you will quickly see there is significant control in most parts of the world. high-nitrate fertilizer is necessary for modern agriculture but even something as benign as that, as it is a component in many fuel-triggered bombs, is not just a simple matter of driving your truck to a dealer and picking it up. there are regulations and controls and tracking. but we all still manage to get our corn and potatoes while avoiding our libraries and schools randomly exploding.

cars are extremely dangerous weapons — in fact, there are many cases where they have been classified as deadly weapons used in terrorist attacks, especially in recent decades. whether through neglect in construction (how many brake-failure scandals have there been in the last thirty years?) or bad driving, which i am certain you have witnessed many times causing near-miss fatal accidents, or intentional misuse, cars, with all their incredible positive impacts on a more mobile and connected society, are some of the most possibly-deadly things out there. and we use them every day all over the world. but this is where the connection is so important to make. they are useful.

so is fertilizer. as are many other industrial chemicals like high-concentration solvents and even in certain cases explosives and toxic compounds. and drugs are vital for modern medicine, often the same drugs people use for recreational, self-damaging purposes inducing addition and destroying bodies, lives, families and our society — morphine, percocet, valium, to name only a few.

so we may not be able to eliminate the drug problem by banning all addictive substances, though we have certainly tried to eliminate the most dangerous of them — heroin, for example, is an extremely-effective painkiller but its use even in hospitals is more dangerous than its benefits outweigh. and there are very, very few people who oppose their elimination, even given the disagreements on how to accomplish it. ask a hundred people on the street if they think it would be good if everyone could easily acquire heroin or meth and i don’t think you’ll get many who say it is wherever you happen to be. and i think we have some nasty names for those who do.

and we may not be able to eliminate the problems of explosives, terrorism and toxic contamination of the environment by simply making all dangerous chemicals illegal, as much as many environmentalists and pacifists (yes, i am both of those) believe that would be a good step — i am not one of those fools who thinks this is either possible or feasible. but we have tight controls on them and these should certainly be strengthened in the service of keeping our children and communities safe from both intentional harm and environmental damage.

perhaps even more strikingly, we can’t eliminate all road death. but we have incredibly-stringent regulations about car design and construction — if you think designing a car that will conform to the literal millions of pages of litigation about safety is easy, talk to someone working in the automotive industry and i guarantee you they will tell you the hardest part of producing a car has nothing to do with materials or engineering or construction but making sure the thing is allowed to be driven legally on public roads. we make people get driving licenses and take them away if people are driving dangerously. we have more and more aggressive regulations about speed, distraction and safety equipment usage in vehicles and are getting closer and closer with every passing year to automated, self-controlled vehicles to eliminate human failure in the driving world.

yet given all these things we still allow guns, which have only one purpose and no potential positive secondary impacts on society, to circulate freely. and i’m not speaking specifically as an american (which i’m not) or criticizing the united states (which, again, i am not). this is a global problem and anyone looking at the united states from elsewhere saying “this is a problem in america because america has a gun culture and we don’t” has obviously not thought very carefully about the problem or travelled very widely. there are significant quantities of firearms-related deaths and injuries in many countries. it may be easy to look at a comparison between the united states and the netherlands or japan and say the difference is cultural and to a certain degree it may be. but there are gun deaths all across europe. there are vastly more throughout africa and south america. gun availability in asia is far more limited, not just because of regulation but simple logistics and asian cultures tend to be far less gun-friendly and that helps. but this is a significant planet-wide problem, not a result of rampant american freedom-obsession, though that is a problem here and in many other issues.

i believe in the abolition of the military everywhere but that is not the argument here. if we keep military forces and criminal services like the police, the most practical way to mitigate (no, not eliminate but significantly reduce) gun violence is to restrict gun possession (not purchasing, possession) to those currently engaged in those enterprises. i am not saying you must be in the police or military to own a weapon. i am saying no private individual should be permitted to own or possess a gun at any point. that they should be owned only by governments and distributed at the beginning of service times and shifts to those who are authorized to use them and immediately returned. no off-duty police carrying weapons. no army personnel on leave with sidearms. yes, guns have purposes in military and law-enforcement settings. but these purposes do not extend beyond them.

declaring guns completely illegal but without criminalizing their presence would allow their elimination on the streets without filling prisons. if someone has a gun, it would be taken by the police or military immediately. those who resist would certainly face criminal charges but if they simply gave them up it would get the weapons off the streets without creating nearly the backlash from the community incarceration would. the other thing about this is that criminalization of possession would have an outsized impact on marginalized communities, something it is important to do whatever is possible to avoid while not compromising public safety.

guns don’t kill people. but people use them for that purpose. we don’t allow people to wander the streets providing heroin and coke. we don’t allow distribution of dangerous chemicals to those who wish to do harm with them. we don’t allow people to drive without restrictions in vehicles without safety equipment and certifications. we must start treating guns like what they are — enablers of death and nothing more. we don’t just need to get them out of the hands of those who wish to do harm with them. we need to eliminate them from our streets completely because their presence makes possible things that their absence would, in the overwhelming majority of cases, prevent. yes, people will still be killed. and yes people will still be killed by guns. but if we could save just one innocent child in a school or one baby in a stroller on the subway — even just one — is that not worth the extreme effort to try to solve the problem?

no solution is perfect. we can’t fix the world like this. but we can do our best. hiding our heads in the sand and pretending tradition is more important than public safety or freedom is more important than keeping innocent children alive and safe in schools is a declaration of war against the most basic human values of preservation of life and progress, making the next generation’s experience of the world better than ours.

i have no illusions about the way the world works. every day i see more examples of people willing to fight and die and hurt because of their emotions and desires, greed and lust. but perhaps we can all get behind an idea that will keep our children, our infants, our families and all those we love safe. perhaps not. but i invite you to try. thanks for taking the time to explore this issue with me.

the only time is now

[estimated reading time 8 minutes]

when things go wrong in my life, the most common phrase i hear is “it’ll be ok”. i suspect the same is true in yours. comfort often comes with the certainty, often misplaced but just as often correct, that the future will be better than the present. the other piece that usually accompanies this is the other side of the temporal coin – “you’ve had this happen over and over and it’s always been ok”. the past is a predictor of the future. in other words, dice have memory. that what happened in the past will continue to happen. post hoc ergo procter hoc. after therefore because.

and those things, i am told, are extremely comforting to non-autistics. and, perhaps, to some autistics, too. the story i am telling here is not universal. like all things in autism, there are general rules, things that apply to the majority but not everyone. there is nothing in autism that functions as a catch-all except this – autistics live in worlds of extremes. for us there is no “little painful” or “gentle sensation”. there’s sensation and it feels like nothing or everything. there is no moderate, no middle, no between two points. there’s extreme. for some, that extreme is that you feel nothing. this is what leads to the common autistic presentation of disinterest, social disconnection and separation from the world. it’s often read as lack of emotion. that’s not what it is but it can certainly appear that way. lack of emotion is something else, though that’s common, too.

the other extreme is feeling everything. feeling it so much it hurts. every movement, breath of air moving, fabric, word spoken or read, touch against objects, textures, tastes, smells. they’re all excruciating, extreme, painful to the point of torture. the intent doesn’t matter. even pleasant scents trigger extreme sensory reactions, often flashbacks and obsessive memories, too. tastes and smells are often the strongest triggers but this certainly varies from person to person.

the one constant, however, is that autistics only feel things in extremes. too much or too little. we don’t understand the concept of enough. it doesn’t exist in our lives.

the other thing that almost functions as a constant in autism is the lack of decision-making ability. that’s not quite as universal, though. autistics generally only make decisions in two ways — we let things happen and the decision is made by default or we wait until the decision has to be made out of pure desperation and the decision is then made without thought or consideration, even if there’s been a huge amount of time spent obsessing over it. whether it’s the right choice is irrelevant. it’s just whatever choice comes to mind when there’s absolutely no time left to make it. then it’s over. which brings me to the issue of time, the real idea of interest today. and that’s not a universal, either. but it’s common enough to talk about and be relevant to some, if not most, autistics.

i should probably qualify that. i mean it’s relevant and common among what i tend to refer to as “connected autistics”. there was once a notion of “high-functioning autism” that was based on the idea that some autistics lead normal daily lives while others can’t. that’s an odd distinction because it doesn’t describe the pain that accompanies autistic life every second of the day. but autism is really two completely different disorders with very different impacts on daily life but with the same trigger – extreme sensory perception. that’s the linking factor.

those who are “connected” to the world are those who can communicate and participate in daily life in a way those who are “disconnected” can’t. this is usually a question of what is seen as “intelligence”. that’s not actually what it is. it’s got a lot more to do with communicative language but that, too, is a subject for another day. the simple result is that some autistics function in human society by speaking and listening, having conversations, usually conversations they don’t want to have with those who are irrelevant to them simply because of the need of society to constantly impose itself on their lives. then there are those who can’t have conversations, usually because they don’t speak and often don’t seem to understand what they hear, either. these are “disconnected autistics” and what i write generally has little to do with that group, though the underlying cause is much the same and, i expect, what i have to say about time likely applies to them, too. but it’s hard to tell for obvious reasons.

time, though, is difficult for the subgroup of connected autistics i refer to as “present autistics” or “presents”. in disclosure, i am a member of this group and nearly all autistics i have communicated with are similarly but it’s not universal.

presents live, as the name implies, in the present. of course, all humans live in the present. that seems like a truly useless statement. but it means something different for us. if you are a non-autistic, you live in a world constructed of expectations based on the past but most of what you are doing in your life is about constructing a future. that future is extremely important to you. you are prepared to suffer now for a better future. actually, that’s the entire basis for most common world religions — present suffering and self-denial in exchange for an eternity of (in christianity) blissful coexistence with deities or (in islam) the reward of physical pleasure or (in hinduism) escape from a world of pain, etc. autistics tend not to be very religious. religions are built for non-autistics who have a future-and-past understanding of time. let’s explore that.

time is a (potentially-infinite) continuum. we live in the present but we are the aftereffect of our past decisions and what we do now creates the future. that’s not a belief system. it’s simply how the physics of time works.

but if you’re a present, only one of those periods matters at all. the past has disappeared. people who talk about the past are speaking of something that has only theoretical importance. talking about what happened yesterday or last year is only as relevant to us as what happened in antiquity or the middle ages. it might be absolutely fascinating from an academic, detached perspective. but it has no emotional content or functional relevance to us. we are conceptually confused by things like prison. what a person did yesterday is causing them to be locked in a room today. but what they did yesterday is over. it happened yesterday. why is that relevant to their current physical state?

the story of the grasshopper and the ant has always struck me as an odd moral lesson. i’m sure you know the story. the ant arduously struggles to build a storage area and fill it with food for the coming winter while the grasshopper plays all day and relaxes. you know what’s coming. the winter hits and the ant is happy and ends up taking pity on the regretful grasshopper who has learned their lesson. this is often given as a morality tale to tell people they have to think about the future. and that’s fine. but the real lesson is that you have to learn from history and make detailed plans. and that’s not a problem for autistics. even presents. we do ritual. we do preparation and anticipation. we do expectations. what we don’t do is function in a way where they matter.

i know. that’s confusing. so let’s imagine i’m the grasshopper. the ant tells me i have to prepare for the winter and i don’t listen. so i am starving in the winter and i learn my lesson. i should have listened to the ant. thanks, ant. i’ll do it better next time. so the next summer is full of preparation for the winter. why am i doing it? because now it’s the programmed ritual for summer. am i particularly interested in the winter? no. thinking about having enough to eat? no. it’s because this is what i do in the summer. this is my present task. it’s what i do every day not because of the future, simply because it’s what i’ve been assigned to do. why i’m doing it makes no difference.

i once had a conversation with my father. he wanted me to change a particular behavior. no problem. he had done a huge amount of research, it seemed, into the dangers of what i was currently doing and it could cause problems. and he shared his reasons for asking me. that’s fine but i was confused by it. i was disposing of something in the toilet and he wanted me to dispose of it differently. why was i confused? because i didn’t understand plumbing? well, i don’t. but that’s got nothing to do with it. i was confused because he was explaining to me a potential future scenario that was disastrous. and he was explaining his reason for asking me like the justification was relevant. and that seems to be how non-autistics or even autistic non-presents think about things. but all he needed to do was say “can you do this for me?” and that was enough. not just that it was enough, though, which is perhaps even more confusing. all those reasons were irrelevant to me. i don’t care about the future. it doesn’t matter. prevent disaster in the future? not something i ever think about. for me, the future is an unimaginable nightmare. yes, unimaginable. i imagine future nightmare scenarios constantly. they are my constant obsession. i am, however, absolutely certain the future will be some nightmare i haven’t imagined. literally unimaginable.

what does this really mean in practice, though? it means the past doesn’t matter and the future is irrelevant until it happens.

let’s look at an example. i am in constant and extreme physical pain particularly in my stomach. it constantly feels like i am going to be sick. i hope this can be fixed but i have been fighting with the medical world for literal decades about this and it has only gotten worse so i have no expectation of it being corrected. i will likely someday die with this having gotten so bad it physically kills me my triggering a stroke. but that’s not the point for the moment. i feel sick all the time. especially after i eat or drink. drink in particular. water is my arch-nemesis. yes, water. the source of all life. you see my problem, i’m sure. necessary but excruciating.

anyway, i drink water and feel overwhelming nauseated. which is predictable, though the degree of pain is hard to quantify before it happens as it’s not always the same.

so i am sitting in bed literally writhing in pain and i am told “you’ll be ok”. i’m not sure why that matters. i am in pain now. i am unable to sit still, rocking back and forth because the pain is so severe i can’t breathe. the sensations are incredible. what difference does how i will feel in an hour or tomorrow or next week make? for others, i am told it is comforting. to me it is irrelevant. it simply doesn’t matter whether i will be ok. i have no doubt i will be. but that’s not comforting in the slightest. it’s like having a broken arm and being told by the doctor i’ll be able to catch a ball next year. ok, doctor, that’s great but i wasn’t curious and it hurts now. i can’t move it now. that matters. next year hasn’t happened yet and the ball is of no relevance to the situation. yet they always say things like that when you break your arm, don’t they?

when this is obviously not comforting, the next line of attack on the problem is usually “you’ve drunk water before and it’s never made you sick so it won’t this time”. yes, i know this is an attempt at rationalization and logic as a way out. “you’ll be ok” is a belief. it’s a hope for the future based on an opinion and it’s probably sensible but it’s an emotional projection. and that’s usually what people need to feel better. “it’s been ok before and this time is no different” is a stronger statement to reinforce it. that there’s not just a belief of things being ok but a guarantee based on past performance and logical progressions.

but this is no more significant for me. dice have no memory, remember. it’s what every gambler is supposed to learn, few do and more forget every time they think about making bets. usually stupid bets. the cards i got today don’t determine what i’ll get tomorrow. the number i rolled last don’t decide the next ones. and life is far more like dice than physics or chemistry. what happened last time i had a glass of water doesn’t determine what happens next time. sadly. it might make it likely or not. but that’s statistics. it doesn’t guarantee. and the only thing that really matters in these cases of logic is a guarantee.

but even a guarantee doesn’t much matter to us presents. because the whole point is that tomorrow is irrelevant. actually, ten minutes from now is irrelevant. what i need is for things to be better now. because better later doesn’t take away the pain, sensations, obsessions, thoughts, dreams, whatever i’m experiencing.

anyway, this isn’t about how to fix a problem. it’s just a description of a huge difference between presents and non-presents and, to a large extent, autistics and non-autistics. i hope it’s been enlightening. or useful. or simply interesting. thanks for reading. you’ve spent your present with me and, as that’s all that matters, i am grateful for your eyes.

sun tzu in ukrainian?

[estimated reading time 3 minutes]

there are three types of battle. you can win. you can walk away. or you can be an idiot. that’s not my viewpoint in particular, though i agree with it. it’s one of the most significant advances in military thought of the past five-thousand years. you’ll find it as one of the basic principles of sun tzu’s art of war. where you won’t find it, however, is in the thought processes of the modern west. and this is sad. because it is leading to the meaningless death of hundreds, thousands, perhaps eventually millions of innocent people. in the second world war, ignoring this basic principle of survival was the main reason so many people died. and now i look at the news every day and see blatant stupidity reigning again. i never thought of the ukrainian people as being particularly unintelligent. and i’m sure they’re not. so why has ukraine turned into a country of blithering idiocy in the face of russian invasion? and why has the western world lost its senses and decided to support them in their foolishness?

in a word, heroism. they say the world needs more heroes. but the world doesn’t need any such thing. the world needs more saviors. and more cowards. to be a hero in the classical sense, you generally have to have been two things. successful and dead. it’s an odd combination. but the idea is that you have saved a bunch of innocent people around you by sacrificing your life. when they talk about heroes in modern war, though, they mean something completely different. what is being done in the ukraine isn’t heroic in the least.

fighting a battle you can’t win isn’t brave. it’s unintelligent. and if you think a ukrainian popular force of hastily-constructed street gangs and the remnants of a minimal military with light weapons can hold off an all-out assault by one of the most powerful militaries in the world you haven’t just been drinking but chasing the dragon. so president zelenskyy is one of two things. either he’s too stupid to realize he’s already lost the war or he’s unwilling to save his people by surrendering so no more of them have to die. i’m not sure which it is.

but it would be nice if he would simply step aside and do the smart thing. no, invasion isn’t right. the consummate murder of ukrainians is a war crime and russia, specifically its leadership, should be punished for it. but there is no need for more civilians to die. if a bully walks up to you, pulls out a knife and demands your purse, you give it to them then report it to the police. unless you’re a blithering moron, you don’t fight back. you just let it happen and deal with the consequences later. because your life isn’t worth losing for it.

dear people of the ukraine, walk away from the fight. it’s better to live under russian occupation than let your children die. because russia isn’t going to back down. the result will be the same with one exception — more dead innocent ukrainian civilians. you’re fighting for no purpose except to kill more of your people. your leadership is wrong. peace is good. war is bad for everyone. and you can’t possibly win.

someone needs to translate sun tzu into ukrainian. then personally deliver it to the mock-heroic leadership committing its civilians to unnecessary death. i cry for the people dying for nothing being applauded by the world for “bravery”, just another word for mindless self-sacrifice with no impact on the outcome.

it makes me sad. i suspect it makes you sad, too. dead children. dead children for nothing. think about that for a minute. thank you.

ukraine needs yoda

[estimated reading time 6 minutes]

do or do not. there is no try.

it’s the most famous line from star wars with the potential exception of “luke, i am your father”. but what does it mean and what does that have to do with the current situation in ukraine, russian aggression and desire for empire overflowing into a population being decimated by modern weapons and crusader mentality?

everything.

let’s review the situation. vladimir putin wants to be a combination of a medieval tsar and joseph stalin. and with the nuclear arsenal still floating around in russia from when it was the soviet union, a time when it really did matter in international relations in real rather than just military situations, he’s in a position to make that happen if he’s not stopped. so a few years ago russia annexed crimea. yes, it was historically russian territory. or at least historically soviet territory, much like ukraine. and by that metric so is a good portion of northern asia and eastern europe. including some of what is now germany, practically-speaking.

nobody cared enough to fight back in any meaningful way so he got that territory realistically for free. he’s done the same thing now with ukraine, pretending to be the savior of ukranian separatists and using their desire to break from the rest of the country as a reason to invade and practically annex ukraine as a russian province (or protectorate, as if there’s a difference). and he’s encountering a small amount of military resistance and it’s being exaggerated in the west and ignored within russia but the result is the same. it’s a meaningless resistance and the country will soon be in russian hands. shakily but completely.

maybe.

why maybe? because someone might actually stop him. but somehow i find that suggestion rather hopeless. let’s take a look at who could actually have a real impact on the russian invasion. the united states and china. i mean, this isn’t a military secret. this is common knowledge. there are three huge militaries in the modern world – china, the united states and russia. russia’s has really fallen apart in a lot of ways but its nuclear arsenal and sheer volume makes it significant. yes, south korea has a significant military for its size but it’s unlikely they’re going to be facing off against the new russian empire any time soon unless they have no choice. so that leaves the world’s policing in the hands of the two superpowers. so do they have any intentions of intervening.

first, let’s look at china because that’s the fairly simple answer. does china want to get involved in a fight that has little to do with them? likely no. if they jump in and start fighting russia on behalf of the ukranians, it will be a huge shift in foreign policy. why would they do that? realistically, the only justification for it would be to absorb russia as an extended northern population area for chinese population. and would the rest of the world actually accept that? while i think that is exactly what should happen for many reasons (that i’ve written about quite extensively before), i suspect it would be even more unpopular than what russia is currently doing in ukraine and china doesn’t want any more unjustified hatred from the rest of the world. it has plenty already. not to mention there’s no love for china in ukraine and they would be painfully ungrateful in the same way the rest of the west has treated china. it is a country that has pretty-much created the modern trade economy and supported the development of the technological revolution for a decade and if you look chinese and walk down a street anywhere in the west you’re likely to get your head beaten in. endemic racism is bad. and it’s everywhere. but it’s especially in the west because there it’s not just a viewpoint but a viewpoint attached to a fist. so china’s probably out of this one unless things start to get atomic.

which leaves the united states. and this is where yoda comes in.

western countries have been talking a lot about sanctions against russia. and monetary decisions like the temporary removal of russia from the swift network. what is the real impact of those things on russia? actually, unlike what some people are saying, the impact of sanctions is very minimal on the russian economy. what it does have a huge impact on is the russian people. what the west has managed to do with these sanctions and to some degree with the banking decisions is to create a huge amount of suffering for average russisan citizens and increase support in russia for the war by making the west look aggressive and willing to hurt civilians. which is what’s happening. if you have literally billions of dollars (or hundreds of billions as the case may actually be), how much does it really matter if you lose some of it? half of it? most of it? well, as long as you have enough to keep fighting, you may now be in a position where you have absolutely nothing to lose. and that’s a very scary place to put someone with control of nuclear weapons and a general willingness to attack other countries.

nato has said, to summarize, that it will fight against russia if it invades a nato member. which is code for “we don’t care if you’re not white and western but if you are we’ll jump in”.

what’s happening here is that russia is playing the role of the playground bully. and why do bullies generally not get away with what they want to do in the playground if it’s in front of a school? because the teacher comes in and breaks up the fight, usually by physically forcing the bully to back down. if it’s on the street in the middle of the night, a bully almost always wins. and the only time they don’t is when the victim is physically stronger or manages to run away. ukraine doesn’t have the force to fight russia. they know it, you know it and everyone else, including russia, knows it. i don’t think anyone is entertaining the delusion that ukraine can win this fight alone.

in this analogy, then, who is the teacher? like i said, either china or the united states.

so instead of talking about sanctions and banking, they need to make a clear decision on something, which i think has been made long ago but never really admitted to. sanctions can bankrupt a national economy. in time. but ukraine doesn’t have time. and russia has a lot of economic momentum so it is a question of years rather than days, which is likely all the ukraine has left, perhaps weeks, before a complete fall and full russian occupation begins. either the united states needs to step up and be the world’s playground supervisor or not. but if they’re not going to they need to stop pretending they care. do or do not.

but talking about it is hypocritical. let me be clear. i think we should as good world citizens stand up for the people of ukraine and stop this war. i believe it is our duty as powerful nations to ensure peace with not just the threat of violence but the application when necessary of it against bullies. but i think if we’re not going to do it we should admit we’re leaving these people on their own and tell them they have no choice but to give up. if they can’t win, why die? go home, become part of russia. because that’s the end result that’s coming. it makes me very sad. i’m a pacifist. a conscious objector. i’m anti-war in every possible way. i believe very strongly all militaries should be eliminated and we should live without borders or national leaders. but at the moment we have nations. we have leaders. and we have militaries. but i really have to ask one question. if the united states is going to justify having a military, isn’t this exactly the reason it exists – to save others from the aggression and violence of other nations?

by the way, this has nothing to do with whether ukraine should be part of russia. i don’t care either way, honestly. my only concern is that at the moment innocent ukranians are suffering and dying. little children on the streets shivering in the cold and perishing from exposure to the elements. that has to stop. and i don’t care who controls the country. i suspect those children don’t, either. if you think freedom is worth fighting for, you go and die for it. i won’t. but if you ask a child they’ll tell you something very simple. they want a safe place to live and they don’t much care who’s in charge. so let’s just… stop fighting and keep the children alive?

so please stand up and protect or sit down and shut up. thank you.

thank you for reading. your eyes have done me a great honor today.