But Am I Choosing To Post This?

In preparation for the second season coming out, I recently re-watched HBO's Westworld. It is amazing. If you haven't seen it (and aren't turned off by the sex and violence) Find time. Make time. It's not only a show with superb production value but one that encourages its viewers to think. In a golden age of distracting eye candy (I'm looking at you, Marvel) it's refreshing to watch a show that expects its viewers to contemplate its implications. I go so far as to call it art.

 God damn it, Dan...

God damn it, Dan...

In particular, each time I watched it I thought about free will. About how much, really, we choose our actions. It's not the first time. There's an episode of NPR's Radiolab which discusses the issue. Here's an article from the NYT Magazine which tells of two sets of twin brothers who were switched at birth. It's a case that helps us better understand the interplay of nature and nurture: of what we get from our DNA, the 23 chromosomes from each parent, vs. what we get from our experiences. And, as with everything, these media informed my viewing of Westworld.

 Oh, for the love of... Now you're not even trying.

Oh, for the love of... Now you're not even trying.

It's a tricky question with no good answer. I choose to believe that free will is a comforting illusion. (See what I did there?) The thing is though, that we live in such a complex world that it's impossible to trace most effects to their root causes, So much of our experience is lodged in our subconscious. The environment a fetus is exposed to is proven to affect one's physical and mental well-being. Adults will treat a baby differently based on whether they think it's a boy or girl. Each culture leaves its own blueprint on everyone who grows up in it; consumption of insects is a great example. In most modernized cultures it's considered disgusting, while for billions of other people it's simply food. (To be fair though, western science is now considering insects as a way to feed our ever-expanding population. Hashtag #notallwhitepeople.)

And of course I'm not the first to consider the issue. I haven't studied the issue deeply, as many philosophers have. I haven't even studied those philosophers. Heck, the only reason I can remember some of their names is from that Monty Python song. Which brings us neatly back around to my original subject, entertainment! Yes, yes, I meant to do that....

skeptical-cat.jpeg

In addition to raising philosophical questions, it's just done well. M. Night Shyamalan ruined the word twist for me, but maybe JJ Abrams has rescued it. The twists on first viewing were well-executed and at least two of them felt like gut-punches. Yes there are multiple and no I won't spoil them. Upon second viewing I was able to enjoy the foreshadowing and story elements related to those twists. With at least the first season, the writers appear to have had the whole arc planned before one scene was shot. The lighting, camera angles, every aspect of film making I'm familiar with, just incredible. And with a 10-episode season, very tight and trim. I didn't see any filler — again, they knew what they were doing and where they were going.

So yeah. Watch it. Or don't. It's your choice. ...or is it?

I choose to see the beauty

Long-Belated Update

Hey, everyone! Through sheer strength of will I've pulled myself away from the Game-Which-Shall-Not-Be-Named long enough to give you some eye candy. Remember way back in March when I showed you what I was doing at the school gym? I have updates!

 That's what they're called when they're still on the tree, right?

That's what they're called when they're still on the tree, right?

Not only did I finish the gym, but the principal asked my bosses if I could paint a couple more walls.

So in this particular school, the main entry opens into a foyer with the front office then the main hallway which runs to your left and right. Directly ahead of you is the gym. (The falcon on the stage was already there. Credit to "Dorian," whoever they are.)

Then on either side of the gym are short hallways that lead back to the playground area. That's what the principal wanted painted. "Swooshes," he said, similar to what I'd done in the gym. I did the side with the boys' bathroom first.

So at that point I felt like I had swooshes down really well. I wanted to try something a bit different. I wanted to stretch myself. I asked him how much creative control I had over the project, and he told me, "Complete." Seriously. Exact quote.

Mwahahahaha.

As Penguin said in Batman Returns, "A lot of tape and a little patience make all the difference."

Pretty freakin' awesome, right? And then, dude. Dude. Dude. I got a letter. From the secretary. Dude.

 Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude.

Duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude.

How awesome is that? Never have I received any kind of document recognizing me and my accomplishments on the job. So not only did I have a blast doing this job, I got a phenomenal response telling me that I did it right and I made a difference.

And yes, I made copies which I gave to my supervisor and put on the workroom wall. The original is on my fridge at home.

I've often felt kind of pointless. I'm just one person out of 7.6 billion. Even as a straight white man in America I have no real influence on world events.

Except maybe I do. Maybe I make school a nicer place for someone to be. Maybe some kid gains a love of learning they otherwise wouldn't have had. Maybe that kid does amazing things, like learns and loves and helps the people around them. Maybe that kindness spreads like the ripples on a pond.

Maybe, to someone, I'm the one that matters. I'm the one that made that difference. Even if they never met me.


But Mostly Stellaris

Hey all. Sorry for the preposterous delay on this one. Lots of things have been going on and while I want to share with everyone, well, lots of things. So to make it manageable I’ll sum up here and then add the pretty pretty pictures that keep y’all coming back in later posts. 

First thing is that I wrapped up that big gym, and since I did cool stuff there the principal asked me to do a couple more swooshes in the hallways leading from the main entry to the cafeteria and playground. He gave me complete creative control and I ran with it. And when I finally finished that, he gave me an awesome letter of praise (which I have never received before). Also Girl Scout cookies, so apologies to my doctor for not meeting my weight loss goals.

Second thing is that I started this draft on April 12, almost exactly a month ago. Le sigh. I've lost a lot of the momentum I gained when I first got my meds sorted. I'm glad I jumped on the energy while I had it, but it also means that a good many of those projects I started are falling by the wayside. Which is too bad, but I need to manage the resources I have. I am glad to say that I remain largely ignorant of  politics and greater events in the world, and my mental and emotional health are all the better for it. Looks like Fearless Leader has tanked the Iran deal, so we can expect them to get their nuclear weapons program up and running PDQ. So, he has kept one of his campaign promises: I am definitely tired of all this "winning."

The main culprit behind my absence has been the computer game Stellaris. It hits a lot of my sweet spots and has sucked me in completely. Which, yay for loving things! But also I can't blog properly from my iPad which really sucks. So here I am, siting in front of the 42" flatscreen that serves as my monitor, using all my willpower to not click the icon leading to my galactic empire. (This time through I'm playing as a race I customized, the Felinoids. Yes you can play as cat-people. They are strong and clever, but sedentary and aloof.) It's great, you can do a lot to customize your faction depending on your playstyle preferences. I almost always jump on the research bandwagon in these kind of games so of course both the species and society I've chosen promote that.

I also burned through season 2 of Jessica Jones, I'm slowly working through the new Doctor Who series, and I have books to read, among them the mystery that JK Rowling penned as "Robert Galbraith." And they expect me to show up at work, too! It's just not fair.

So I guess that's my update. Yes, still alive. And breathing. Just giving in to my obsessions.

Dash It All! Drat And Bother!

I apologize for the harsh language, old bean, but this has thoroughly gotten my goat. Put me right in a dither.

You  may recall from my earlier missives that I've grown out my beard and moustaches to where they looked rather smashing indeed, if I dare say so myself. Well, on Friday, we had our biennial mask fit test.

 No, Stanley, not those masks.

No, Stanley, not those masks.

(Back to my normal voice) Since we work in buildings that might contain lead or asbestos, and sometimes spray lacquers, every two years we have to ensure that our filter mask is still a good fit. Which, while I'm glad our employers and OSHA care about our health, does put an end to some marvelous facial hair.

 MAAAAHVELOUS!

MAAAAHVELOUS!

So anyway, here is an actual photo of me in my new duds just before the deed was done:

 Just before? *pulls out notebook* Because according to your previous statement–

Just before? *pulls out notebook* Because according to your previous statement–

Okay, fine, a couple of nights before. My parents sent me some of Grandpa D's pipes. I had to get a shot of me begore the shave. And here's me after:

 Brave smile?

Brave smile?

And that's the last image of me you get until I've grown it out again like a proper gent.