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I started reading Marcus Aurelius' Meditations (with a forward by Hays) and there's a few things I'd like to mention here about it that I find particularly interesting.

One, the entire work has a vein that goes through it which reminds me of Lao Tzu - I don't think that Aurelius could've read Lao Tzu - at least I doubt it - but the similarities are there. There's about 500-600 years between the two, so it *is* possible...I just don't recall ever reading or hearing that the Romans had translations of Chinese texts. This being said, I also feel that it's not surprising that there are similarities (and even some similarities with Nietzsche as well) because there's a very strong tendency among certain philosophical idealists, regardless of culture, to pursue a 'higher' kind of life; to be a superior human being.

Two, Aurelius was, at the time of writing Meditations anyway, fairly concerned with his own inevitable death. There's a great deal of self-assuring passages and suggestions for how *he* should stave off his fears and maintain his composure on his march to the same place we all march to.

Three, that Aurelius was not just some high-born who was guaranteed to be Emperor from birth - he was fairly high born in Roman society, but nobody could have predicted he would become emperor until well after a convoluted series of events including becoming adopted by an Emperor-to-be through appointment (and not bloodline.) The forward mentions that Meditations is fairly class-ignorant (it doesn't question class hierarchy) but it seems extremely unlikely that someone coming off as observant as Aurelius wouldn't have noticed some of the less sightly problems with a highly stratified society. My guess is that Aurelius knew nothing could be done of it - he was in politics for most of his life and recognized how many other people he'd have to win over to change anything significantly - and so he utilized his philosophical beliefs to better tolerate that way things were, however less-than-ideal they may be.

Four, that many of his beliefs, especially regarding personal conduct within the context of our all-too-short lives, seems to approximate my own. It's important to work on things that matter to us, and to do for others what we can - to try and improve the world, even on the most insignificant, small levels that most of us are equipped to engage with. There'd be little other purpose otherwise, I think.

Five, his recurring descriptions of the world as unchanging and temporary are visceral and unnerving in a way, because they so exactly describe our own time (and...probably always will.):

i. that everything has always been the same, and keeps
recurring, and it makes no difference whether you see
the same things recur in a hundred years or two hundred,
or in an infinite period;
ii. that the longest-lived and those who will die soonest
lose the same thing. The present is all that they can give
up, since that is all you have, and what you do not have,
you cannot lose.

32. The age of Vespasian, for example. People doing the
exact same things: marrying, raising children, getting sick,
dying, waging war, throwing parties, doing business,
farming, flattering, boasting, distrusting, plotting, hoping
others will die, complaining about their own lives, falling in
love, putting away money, seeking high office and power.

And that life they led is nowhere to be found.

Or the age of Trajan. The exact same things. And that life

Survey the records of other eras. And see how many others
gave their all and soon died and decomposed into the
elements that formed them.

music links
These are a handful of my favorite songs from Rammstein; I think I received their second (or third?) album many years ago (someone gifted it to me, as I recall, though I don't remember who oddly enough.)

In a mostly correct chronology of releases:



Deutschland (this is off of probably their final, and most recent, album.)

They are not virtuosos by any means, but their music has always been moving to me. Sonne the most of all (the end of Deutschland has a solo piano rendition of Sonne which is worth hearing on its own; *I* love it.)


Dementia and Psychiatric Medication

There appears to be a not-insignificant increase in dementia cases among people who took psychiatric medication (anti-depressants and anti-psychotics among others) for three years or more.

Who could have known messing with brain chemistry could have unforeseen consequences?


Extroversion/introversion are determined by genetics mostly afaik, and if they coincide with final build and testosterone levels (give or take due to developed athleticism) that doesn't mean that attractiveness/physicality are the *cause* of extroversion/introversion.

There's a lot of things that make me think of this paraphrased McKenna quote, 'the nature of the world is syntactical'. It seems fairly relevant here. Why exactly *is* everything treated as a dichotomy? Is it the *actual* nature of the world, or is it merely how humans parse it? Seems too simple to call something extroversion/introversion and use a handful of markers for determining where you fall on the bell curve. If there were 3 or 4 or 5 vectors for personality in this respect, would we even have a bell curve anymore?

Stupid Horoscope
Today was a bit of a rough day. Yesterday saw about 5" of rainfall in this area, and trees were coming down all over (alongside some flooding in Youngsville and near any streams.) Two very large white oaks fell across the road maybe a half mile from the house, and my father of course was right on top of that. Except these oaks were so large that there was no way he was going to handle it by himself, and they were also still alive.

We very rarely get green wood (which is exceptionally heavy prior to being split, and needs to dry for a good long while) but this one took the cake. The diameter of the trees was around 24", and if I had to take a guess, the weight of each 20" length piece was at least 150-250lbs.

The problem with lifting these bastards is that you can't do it with good form. The larger the tree, the more weight is distributed further and further away from your center of gravity, straining your back muscles and hamstrings. Lifting from the ground should always be done with the weight as close to your legs as possible...but the real world isn't ideal like a weight room.

To make a long story short, I pulled my back in a way I've not experienced before. I'm not sure if I crushed/herniated a disc and have radiating pain from that, or if it was simply the insertion point on my lattimus dorsi - I'm *hoping* it was my lat. I can't twist well, nor bend my back much. Getting up from a laying position is pretty painful, and so is standing up from a chair if my posture isn't absolutely perfect.

The pain is mostly situated near the insertion point on my lat, between my spine and my left side. I can take an educated guess and say that if it were a vertebrae problem, I'd have radiating pain on both sides. I hope anyway. Edit: Think it's probably erector spinae, or serratus anterior, on the left side.

I pulled my back on the first load; we got four more after that. This was a four hour project. Little bit more work than I signed up for.

When I finally got around to reading the paper, at about 6pm, my horoscope for the day said, in fewer words, "beware of greedy people." Horoscopes are stupid, but that one is just a little too accurate in this case. I'd probably feel a lot better right now if I didn't have to lift 32 150-250lb pieces into a trailer *after* straining my back.

At any rate, happy Solstice. I made a camp fire out in the field an hour before nightfall and waited for the stars to come out, as I like to do when the weather is good and the seasons change. I'm the only person I know here who celebrates them, so it's a solitary endeavor, but I feel like it's important nonetheless.

Gut Reactions

Apparently Greenpeace gatecrashed a conservative dinner party in the UK. There's a video floating around of what Mark Field did to a young woman who was among the greenpeace protesters, and I'm not ashamed to say that if I had been in the room and saw it happening, my immediate reaction would have been to knock Mark Field out in as brutal a fashion as possible. Of course, I would never *be* at a conservative dinner party, nor would anyone who's anything like me.

What's most concerning about the video is the fact that nobody stands up to defuse his heavy handed approach, not one.

I read the opposing side of the argument and Mark Field's response, which goes along the lines of 'there was no security and I was afraid she was armed' but I'm not sure I believe it fully - if there's 40 greenpeace protesters at your event, they are inside the event, and you are concerned someone - or all of them - are armed, one would imagine the most prudent action would be to cancel the event and get people out of harms way.

No, this almost certainly was simply an asshole plutocrat who figured he could physically stop a protestor from making a statement, and ruining his neo-fascist dinner party. Hopefully the assault charges succeed.

As a final thought, one wonders how well armed one could be while wearing a form-fitting red dress.

$247 million for chaplains in schools, $2.8 for mental health: What’s wrong with this picture?


I never thought I'd see the day that I think a different first world country has worse priorities than the United States, but here it is.

A meme of sorts
1. Beekeeping

I know absolutely *nothing* about beekeeping. There was one beekeeper in Tidioute (he passed within the past couple years iirc) who placed a few hives in our field many years ago - I don't remember if they did well or not, but I do know he never brought the hives back in future years.

From general news exposure (and being a little more up-to-date than some on climate change and related collapse phenomena) I do know that it *appears* honey bees are not doing so well as a whole; but I have also read that 'honey bees' as we know them were not native to the United States. They're not the only pollinators, and I don't think the US is in serious danger should they disappear completely from this continent.

I think beekeeping would be a neat thing to get into; not really sure I have the proper environment to do it, but it is something I've considered in the past. One might even make a little extra money (or simply harvest some quality honey) without too much expense.

2. World War 1

The only thing I really know about World War I is that it started over the (attempted?) assassination of a very important figure (who's name and nation escapes me - edit: Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria) and that it was the first war in which legitimate chemical warfare was waged. Of course no one is supposed to use chemical warfare anymore - but we still use depleted uranium ammunition even, as well as certain other borderline chemical agents, including white phosphorous.

Based on some cursory reading, the Germans surrendered in 1918, and within a little over two decades, they started World War II. Seems almost impossible to me that a nation who *surrendered* after a major world war could build itself back up in only two decades and become a force that came extremely close to conquering an entire continent (possibly the world) within a matter of years. It's impressive and terrifying - one wouldn't think it should be reasonably possible, especially for a nation that does not have immense natural resources at its disposal.

3. Japanese art

I suppose I should load up wikipedia and look at traditional Japanese art, but there is at least one form I'm familiar with, and that's anime. I've always loved it. I grew up watching Sailor Moon *on rental VHS, because we only had 5 antenna channels* and through middle school found myself consuming every season of Dragon Ball Z as well as a number of others in my late teens - Blue Gender (kinda like Starship Troopers), FLCL (AKA Furi Kuri, a fantastical coming of age story about a little boy who meets a rambunctious female alien) and more. Gundam Wing and Mobile Suit Gundam I also watched, though I never felt the character development was very good - I just had an affinity for giant, nuclear powered robots thanks to Battletech, likely. There were many others...off the top of my head, Akira (the original movie) as well as Ghost in the Shell feature highly among them.

Anime is an art form all to itself. I never really felt that the fact it was *animated* took away from it, though I think many in the western world look down on it as being meant for kids. It certainly isn't (always), but to each their own.

It bears mentioning that there's a recent western movie that did fairly well based off a Japanese manga - "Edge of Tomorrow" with Tom Cruise. Had they done that movie, frame for frame, animated, with the same voice actors, it would've been *great*. Still love the movie, don't get me wrong, but it's a shining example of the amazing ideas that come out of Japanese artists and writers. If you haven't seen it, it's a must-see.

(no subject)
When I was young there were beatniks. Hippies. Punks. Gangsters. Now you're a hacktivist. Which I would probably be if I was 20. Shuttin' down MasterCard. But there's no look to that lifestyle! Besides just wearing a bad outfit with bad posture. Has WikiLeaks caused a look? No! I'm mad about that. If your kid comes out of the bedroom and says he just shut down the government, it seems to me he should at least have an outfit for that."

- John Waters on the sorry style of today's rebels (Wall Street Journal)