Share If You Agree

A teddy bear sniffs a flower and attempts to manipulate you
I apologize if this is too controversial.



If you were sitting in your living room and then a space rock crashed through the roof, through the ceiling, and bonked you on the head, would your heart swell with pride about your skill at attracting meteorites?

Would you be jealous if it happened to someone next door?


The Shaman and the Light

“I have discovered something important about burns,” said the shaman.

“Good!” exclaimed the chieftain. “Since the last full moon, three of our best hunters have been badly burned.”

“This I know,” said the shaman. “In addition, I have discovered that one should never, ever cook meat by holding it in your hand, then holding your hand inside the fire.”

“What?” said the chieftain. “Everybody already knows that!”

“No,” replied the shaman. “Many of us stumble into that knowledge, but not everybody. I have discovered the magical principle and stated it clearly. Now we can tell people about it before they hurt themselves. Do you see?”

“I see now,” said the chieftain, “and I bow to your wisdom.”

“Apology accepted,” said the shaman. “This is why I am the shaman and you are just the chieftain.”

“That's true. Okay, I can call the tribe together. You can tell them what you discovered about burning. I can have them ready at noon today.”

“Not at noon. We will meet after sunset.”

“Is there some important spiritual reason for that?”

“Yes. I have a painful redness on my shoulders, and on the back of my neck. Obviously, one of the gods is angry at me. And for some reason the Sun God makes it hurt even worse.”

“Perhaps the gods are jealous of your insight about fire and burning and other magical things.”

“You are correct. After all, we now know nearly everything.”


A Guru-some Reality

I built up this edifice
so tough it could not crack.
It took years to make it tough
No way I'm going back.

Even I can't spot a flaw;
it's clear as black and white.
Reinforce our certainty
I got the details right.

Bask now in my confidence,
rejoice in what I've made.
Pay to learn, you stupid ass,
and share in this charade!


Credit Where Due

With cancer, arthritis, a blood clot and so on,
I'm stuck with a certain reliance.
My faith, at the moment, is taken in pill form;
my prayer, for now, is "Thank Science!"



... cyclic thinking goes around
and 'round 'n' 'round and back around
returning thence unto the start
it then begins to think again
but noticing it's wrapped around
it looks ahead and looks behind
in seeking to deduce the means
by which it leaves that endless loop
which doesn't help it since the loop
is built of ever smaller loops;
those wheels in wheels, and wheels on wheels
and wheels with wheels, rotating 'round ...

Yet in the middle, there's a gap —
a lack of axle — oddly blank.
This you spot by purest fluke,
catch a glimpse, then think some more
and 'round and 'round it goes again
but does it stop? How could it know?



As a Canadian who has been living in the USA for 6 years, it seems to me that this country's politics can best be described as carefully orchestrated hysteria. This isn't what I'm used to, but “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Therefore, I am considering the creation of my own political information clearinghouse to help the people here understand just how wrong they are about things that matter, and why they should start seeing the world precisely as I do. After all, I know stuff. I've even read some books.

Without further ado, I introduce my new organization:

Concerned Patriotic People of the Great American National Family Taking Action for Truth and Personal Liberty in Defense of Healthy Informed Reform

CPPGANFTATPLDHIR does not, as yet, have a clear platform. However, it is pretty much guaranteed that it will score well on search engines. And that's half the battle. (The other half, I've been told, is “knowing,” but I don't need to hear that.)

Our initial stance is that some people need to stop pretending they are thinking for themselves. They also need to stop substituting emotion for information. In addition, it might help if they realize that people who disagree with them are (probably) not dark minions of evil.

I should also mention God and Jesus, just to make sure that this article is more accessible (read: findable) to people who might be curious about the new organization. Okay, so that's done.

Oh, and don't forget to support our troops in one way or another.

If you would like to open a chapter of CPPGANFTATPLDHIR in your area, feel free to do so. However, when there's a schism between our chapters (and there will be, you heretic!) you'll have to stop using the name. Of course, the schism might occur because I changed my beliefs, or got caught in a compromising situation with a goat, but that's your problem (and the goat's, I guess).

Our first order of business is to find out why the spell-checkers on most browsers flag CPPGANFTATPLDHIR as a spelling error. This is persecution and it must be stopped — now! Also, taxes are too high. And sometimes my neighbor's car partially blocks my driveway. All this is persecution and it must be stopped — now!

There is work to be done, fellow citizen or resident alien! Let's roll up our sleeves, assuming we have sleeves, and get to work setting right what is wrong (as we see it) and making sure that people live in peace and harmony (as we see it).

If you do not see the total, utter, undeniable necessity of this, well, this is persecution and it must be stopped — now!


Review of Castleville (Zynga Facebook Game)

This article isn't about the usual sort of thing I write about in this blog, but I just uninstalled Castleville and as a former game designer I wanted to comment upon it.

Castleville is, in many ways, quite cleverly designed. It's a happy, sappy time with no real threats. It has charming characters, cute animals, amusing villains. If you have time, you can soak up hours each day arranging and rearranging your kingdom's buildings and landscape. In this regard it's pleasant and inoffensive.


The game is clearly designed to make money for Zynga, the company that designed Castleville. That's fine on the face of it, since I never expected them to do it out of the goodness of their hearts. But if you want to play for free, as the game tempts you to do, forget it. There will be a cost. Either you will be forced to pay real-world money to buy “crowns,” or you will pester your friends endlessly. The game is set up so that you either give them actual money or you advertise for them. There is no way to simply play by yourself.

Believe me, I tried. I spent about two months seeking a way to play more-or-less solo, and without paying any money. There are some very sophisticated games (such as Anarchy Online, as just one example) that only mildly penalize you for not paying in any way. Yes, you can get extras if you pay more than nothing, but the game experience is still complete and satisfying when played free.

Castleville, on the other hand, will pollute your Facebook timeline. It will continually default to informing all your friends (not just your Castleville neighbors) with news of your trivial accomplishments and needs. Yes, you can manually delete these messages from your Facebook timeline, but since your Castleville friends also place messages there this turns into a dull daily chore.

You can opt to not place many of these messages on your Facebook timeline, but this makes it impossible to complete key quests in the game. Eventually you will arrive at a point where progress is blocked because every avenue of exploration requires the completion of a quest that requires you to splatter Castleville messages all over your Facebook timeline.

I have uninstalled Castleville. I don't mind a game posting the occasional message on my timeline, but when it does so to the point that it starts to obscure everything else, well, it starts to look like my entire life revolves around playing a game.

I salute Zynga for the cheerful, fun, silly aspects of their game. The designers (game, systems, graphic and otherwise) did a marvelous job! But they were clearly told to make the game profitable without regard to how much it dominated the player's Facebook existence. And in the long run, that's not a game I care to play.

When I uninstalled it, I gave it 2 stars out of 5. I'd like to have given it more, to show my respect to the designers. I'd give them 5 out of 5. But the implementation of the business model dragged it down to 2 stars.

Castleville currently has something like 7 million “likes” on Facebook. My little review won't hurt them. But if you're considering playing it, consider also how it will take over your timeline. Is that really the message you want to send to others?


Your Inner Ape

Note: A video version of this article is available on YouTube.


In this blog I frequently refer to humans as animals. Well, we are, aren't we? We evolved from apes, and those apes evolved from so-called “lower” animals. Intellectually most of us know this, but it's not a close and personal reality to us. It's a mental play-thing, not an ongoing, obvious fact of existence.

If you do indeed accept our animal nature, then let's also recall that evolution created humans by a process of accretion. Single cells accreted other cells to become multi-cellular organisms. As complexity increased, certain cells became specialized.

Skipping ahead a few million years, we see that our mighty human brains are layered, in a manner akin to archaeological strata, showing the path we took to become the particular animals we now are. Thus, as many readers of this blog will know, we have an ancient “reptile brain” and we have a more recent neo-cortex in a higher layer. (That's the part that lets us think that we're so awesomely awesome.)

Somewhere in all those layers and modules are the bits that we share with the apes. These are the bases of what I call our primate nature. Inside every one of us are the vestiges of our ape forebears. To put it another way: if an ape can do it, we can do it. An ape can find a banana, recognize it as such, peel it, eat it, and later on crap some of it out. So can we. 

It's said that we share 98% of our DNA with certain “lower” primates. So there's quite a lot of ape in us! And that ape does not have our human tendency to define itself by the memes it has absorbed. 


The ape in you or me does not “know” (or think, or believe) that reality is but an illusion and that we could be living in The Matrix, or might be a brain in a vat, or high-falutin' notions like that. It's all quite real to the ape.

It's all illusion, eh? That's what mystics, sages and philosophers have reminded us, and I will not say they're wrong. However, you normally cannot stick your hand in scalding water without flinching or recoiling. Perhaps with training you could acquire an unnatural calm about it, but when we put all that philosophizing and training aside it appears that the inner ape's reaction is the “correct” one. 

The ape does not ask questions about how “real” it is, nor does it care, nor does it exert any energy in finding out, though of course the ape inside the average human is constantly being called upon to expend tremendous energy due to actions of the thinking part of its brain, which induces distress reactions with its cogitations. The ape never evolved an innate defense against this thought-induced stress — how could it have done so in the brief millenia since we became civilized? 

Nonetheless, when the inner ape stops reading articles like this one and gets some decent physical exercise it can obtain a measure of harmony. In such cases the brain returns a large portion of its attention back to the ancient ape, which can get adequate satisfaction with even simple activities, such as rhythmic walking for challenging lengths of time.

This is, to the ape part, quite a good time, and it finds therein a satisfaction that the thinking part never knows. That's because the thinking part is intensely interested in what it shall later be, or was, or might be, or could have been. Meanwhile the ape part merely connects to that which is (as far as it can tell) real. It can simply enjoy, or commune with, that which is, without the domesticated human's habitual grind of resistance. (To put it another way: that which makes us so awesome can also make us miserable.)

The thinking part cannot see what the ape part sees; the thinking part knows about things but is never fully  present to anything but its mental models. The ape part — our primate nature — is exactly when and where it is, to the extent that it has no when and where; it simply is when and where it is. There is no question about when, or where; there is just what is.

Thoughts might arise about what may be, but these are in the thinking part. Primate nature remains with what apparently is.  


You might find it interesting to find a correspondence between the views expressed above — which are phrased in terms of evolution — and the views expressed by ancient mystics who knew nothing about evolution. You may find that it's all part of the same message, in different guises.


This Is Not Inevitable

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
-  From the song Imagine by John Lennon


Can you imagine a different world? Truly different?

I'm not talking about replacing the current people in charge with a different pack of apes. I'm talking about things being really different. I'm not talking about a changing of the guard; I'm talking about systemic change.

You might say: Why ask such a question? Has the author of this blog decided to save the world with a new prescription for happiness? No, no, nothing like that. I'm suggesting we examine how we (you, me, almost everybody) accept certain things — memetic things, that is — without realizing that they're human constructs that just happened to evolve into place, and are by no means the inevitable product of sentience.

Okay, so let's think about a really different world. Get ready. Get set. Imagine!


What if copyright, trademark and patent protection didn't exist? What if the sole treasure a company could hold was the satisfaction of its customers? It seems obvious that without copyright we wouldn't have the big film, music, and book companies that currently exist. And proponents of such companies will tell you that in such a world there would be no movies, no music, no books. We need those giant corporations (or so they'd claim).

Is that true? Of course not. Without copyright protection media would still be produced, though in much smaller numbers and for much more compelling reasons. Some such works might even speak the truth.


Without patent protection, a company would have to compete based on its low cost of production, or by making a better (but more expensive) product. In other words, the same old market forces would prevail. The main difference would be that new companies would start with the same box of toys that established companies have. Proponents of such companies will tell you: Innovation will suffer!

Is that true? Why, yes, it is! Certain kinds of innovation would suffer and these advances would have to be supported in some other fashion. On the flip side, certain kinds of innovation would hugely benefit, as artificial barriers to product development would disappear. (Have you ever reviewed some of the crazy patents people have taken out on dead-obvious concepts? This is particularly noticeable when it comes to software patents.)


I don't know how we could get rid of trademarks, which seem to serve some useful functions. I suppose we'd need an alternative path for verifying the provenance of a particular product.

We pretty much have to do that anyway, since a grey market producer can easily slap a trademarked logo onto an inferior product. In recent news we've heard that some scoundrels are selling a fake version of a useful anti-cancer drug named Avastin™ . Since this is being used on my cancer, I made sure to ask if the hospital is being diligent about their sources. It seems that, at least in this case, a trademark doesn't help nearly as much as people paying careful attention to sources.

Similar issues have arisen with spare parts for aircraft. Lives have been lost because sub-standard parts were represented as the real thing. So trademarks do not automatically confer protection. Their existence is not an inevitable result of sentience.


Heck, while we're tossing things out the window, let's also get rid of ownership. It makes no objective sense to say somebody owns anything. All that means is that people are exercising an agreed-upon degree of control upon something. That's what ownership actually is. And you know what? It isn't inherently nasty, as long as it's understood to be an understanding. Alas, people who own things end up treating ownership like an alteration in reality itself. Let's keep the understanding and ditch the illusion.

A similar mistake occurs with money, which is not intrinsically nasty. Money is a neutral tracker that doesn't care if it accounts for the fortunes of a worthy charity or the dollar bill in a selfish miser's vault. It's not the tool that's at fault; it's the way it's used. 


Okay, you can breathe, now. The crazy man is finished ranting.

It seems that in just a few short paragraphs I've undermined all of Western Civilization. Does that make me insane? Dangerous? Should I be re-educated to free me of these nutty notions? 

Some would argue thus. They cannot imagine the world evolving another system, or if they can imagine it they fantasize that it would inevitably be far worse than at present. They have far too much invested (monetarily or emotionally) in the current way of things to entertain alternatives. 

I am not saying that we must change the way things currently operate. Well, yes, I do happen to think that, but that's neither here nor there. I'm just some idiot with a blog. I don't have a plan to re-make the world. 

The actual point I'm attempting to make is that there are many institutions of modern civilization that we take to be inevitable. But they're not. If we can see our tendency to tacitly accept or even believe in that inevitability, we can gain some insight into our tendency to believe in imaginary realities in general. 

It's easy to see that  (for example) another person's religion is constructed and subjective rather than pre-existing and objective. But what about the humdrum, mundane stuff of our daily lives? How much of that is mere construct?


Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
-  From the song Imagine by John Lennon


Tick Talk Sproing

Significant insight alights in my head
I peer at it carefully, turn it around
Examine it this way and scrutinize that
Full disassembly to get to its core

Grabbing it firmly I twist it apart
Pieces of truth, scattered shards of  “Aha!”
Then, only then, I recall once again
Insights evaporate as they arrived

Years of existing provided a glimpse
Clarity shone with a transient glint
Then with the best of intentions I smashed
Eager to know why my pocket watch ticks