As I write this, it's roughly a week before my 40th birthday. I'm sitting in a hospital waiting room tapping away on Windbringer while Lyssa undergoes surgery to remove a cataract from her left (and only working) eye.* When this post goes live on the day of my actual 40th birthday, more things will undoubtedly have happened. I don't know how much time I'm going to have in the next few days, so I guess I'd best take advantage of the spare time I have due to how busy I've been lately.
A lot's happened in this past year that I'm still trying to wrap my head around. My grandfather died. Somebody I knew but wasn't terribly close to committed suicide. I've been in the hospital and laid up at home a couple of times with strict "Sit on your ass and read comic books while you heal" orders (which, as you've probably already guessed, got boring pretty fast). Our landlord has begun the process of selling the house we're presently renting, which has introduced no small amount of uncertainty into the short-term future.
Not too long ago I came to a jarring realization: I graduated from college fifteen years ago. A decade and a half. The means by which I ordinarily measure time has begun to slip in usefulness. Hacker cons? I'm now at the point of picking and choosing which ones I go to, and I've lost my patience with the really big ones. Anime? The stories have gotten progressively less interesting as years pass and, I haven't been to a proper anime con for many years (mostly because I'm old enough to be a parent of just about everybody there). I definitely don't have the patience to keep up with everything anymore, case in point, Bleach (which is apparently giving Finnegan's Wake a run for its money). I burned out on information security years ago but somehow I keep getting pulled back into the field, so I'm going to stay that particular course until I work my way into something else to do. I'm even burned out on music and clubbing, due to the fact that I've skipped no small number of concerts and club nights in the past year just because... well... I'd rather stay at home and read, go to bed much earlier than usual, get up way earlier than usual on the weekends, and get stuff done. I know I'm not the oldest person who goes to Death Guild but I suppose I have slightly different priorities these days. The Zero State's got some wacky shit going on right now, but I don't have the compute cycles to dedicate to helping this time around.
Spice World came out 21 years ago. I never saw the movie and I don't have much interest in made-to-order bands (I'll take the The Monkees any day, at least they looked like they were having fun with their act) but it was one of those media dealies that you couldn't escape unless you went completely off the grid, in the middle of the ocean or something. It's a movie old enough to drink. We're now seeing third and fourth generation hackers at cons, which is certainly not a bad thing. InSoc's Hack, pretty much the soundtrack to my life came out in 1990. 28 years ago. Floodland by the Sisters came out three years before that and is old enough to be dating material. Those are pretty big chunks of life to consider, at least how I measure time.
It's also getting harder to control my metabolism and I'm losing the war on male pattern hair loss. I've been working out four or five times a week for over a year and not making a whole lot of headway insofar as losing weight is concerned (but I'm enjoying the increased strength and flexibility). I've also made the unfortunate discovery that I'm allergic to rogaine because, after a couple of weeks of use it left my scalp so irritated that I was scratching gouges into my skin while I was asleep and waking up with blood on my pillowcase. My body seems to be doing okay otherwise, I guess, but my vanity's taken a broadside hit. I guess I need to wait for better access to certain stem cell therapies. Or, you know, just deal with it, like so many other things in life.
in the past year or so, I've realized that I'm much more interested in doing interesting things with the stuff I've learned than trying to pack as many new things as possible into my head. That's why I've been spending so much time hacking on this, that, and the other thing, I want to do something with stuff and not just learn about it. I think it's one of the reasons that I've grown so fond of teaching whenever I have the opportunity, I like to share a little of the knowledge I've picked up over the years. There's little sense in hoarding knowledge. There's a lot more sense in leaving something for other people to use.
I've been told that, on the whole, life gets better in the long run. I've always taken that admonition with a couple of grains of salt. I can't help but feel a horrible kind of fascination watching the world burn around me. The same kind of fascination that comes from watching what actually happens during a hip replacement operation (please don't search for video footage unless you have a strong stomach). We have actual fucking Nazis running for office in Illinois and elsewhere in the United States this year. Nazis are working jackboot-in-glove with police to hunt down anti-racists. Politicians have discarded any pretense of even pretending they care about anything other than maintaining the stream of campaign donations. Not only are lies the official word from on high - and not even particularly good lies - but people are willfully choosing to believe them rather than evidence presented to them. I wonder if Anton LeVay was right.
I couldn't make any of this up if I tried. In point of fact, Charles Stross lamented this a year or two ago at a book signing in San Francisco. While writing his last few novels his editor kept kicking drafts back, asking him to rewrite parts to be even more absurd because real life kept turning his prose into... well... rough drafts of real life.
Things are both speeding up and destabilizing seriously enough (note: those are just the mass shootings in the US since 1 January 2018) that I'm taking steps to put my affairs in order, just in case. While I'm not planning on dying anytime soon, and I'm pretty sure I can get another century out of this body if I take more drastic steps in the near future, I'm also not getting any younger and the laws of physics are rarely one's friends. As MC Hawking so astutely observed in Entropy, "You can't win, you can't break even, you can't leave the game." So, I'm setting things up for the long run for my family under the assumption that they're at a lot less risk than I am presently, and have a better shot of not, well, getting shot without at least some forwarning. Backup plans, artificial intelligence be thy name. Strangely, accepting that some jagoff might decide to kill me because they think I need to be murdered to make a point or something has made me less paranoid, not more paranoid. There's only so much one can do, so many backup plans one can make, so many contingencies to lay that, at some point, all you can really do is say "Fuck it" and go for a walk. I think I've put off that controlled mid-life crisis long enough, so it's time to get this show on the road.
As a transhumanist I'm probably going to take some shit for "talking like a Deathist." Whatever. The thing about most transhumanist thought is that it presupposes that some of these technologies will ever come to pass (I refer to physical and cognitive rejuvenation), and if they do any of us will actually have access to it. Everybody wants to live forever, but very few people are in the lab working on it. So, as part of my dealing with the fucked up, violent stuff happening in the United States right now I've been catching up on my reading. I just finished Timothy Leary's final work, Design for Dying, and I hope that if I lose this body I handle the experience with as much aplomb and W/will that Leary did. It also makes me think of my grandfather, and I think it's fair to say that the book's is helping me come to terms with his death. Also, to get a little perspective one of me found an unexpected Wikipedia page, a timeline of the far future. I highly recommend it. It's good for making you think on a much larger scale than most people are accustomed to. I'm also long overdue for a re-read of the Liber AL to keep myself on track.
I don't have any particularly poignant or uplifting music videos or playlists to link to this year, simply because so little music has really grabbed me in any memorable way in 2017. I don't know why that is. Provisionally, I'm going to say it's burnout and leave it at that. This is, I am given to understand, not uncommon for this stage of life. Everybody changes as they get older, but I don't think anybody ever warned me that I'd outright get bored with some things. A big part of my identity is that I'm interested in so very many things, but that number always seemed to grow, not shrink. It's distressing. I have, at present, almost three dozen albums on Windbringer purchased in the last year that I've yet to listen to.
I think it's time to come up with something new.
* The surgery was a success. She has notably better than 20/20 vision in her functional eye now, trading off for needing reading glasses at arm's length now.