Idiots.

I see a lot of quibbling on the internet and in letters to the editor about the current bushfire crisis. “It’s not really climate change that is the cause; the fires were started by youthful arsonists; by lightning”. Yeah, whatever.

How the fire starts is irrelevant, whether it was from a badly placed barbecue or a deliberately thrown Molotov cocktail matters not one whit. There have always been bushfires. Sometimes really bad ones. Some deliberate, some accidental, some natural. The point is that the conditions are now more and more such that once a fire starts, it’s increasingly, damnably hard to put out and spreads through the dry vegetation at an alarming pace that much of the wildlife and few humans on foot can outrun. The fires spread further and faster, and it is climate change that caused these conditions. Arguing against this scientifically established fact is not expressing an intelligent opinion, any more than maintaining that the sun, moon and stars all revolve around an earth placed squarely in the centre of the universe.

When science has established facts beyond doubt and has all the data necessary to prove it, there is room only for discussing the finer details of how globing warming may affect different geographies and circumstances. No way to say it is not really happening.

So I feel free to mock the deniers just as I would flat-earthers, creationists and iridologists. Because they are provably wrong. I don’t usually resort to the ad hominem because it is an admission of failure. However, I admit freely that I fail to understand how people don’t understand how science works.

Prove me wrong if you can. I’m willing to change my mind if the evidence is there. Lay it out.

Seer

He sits in the dark cave of his cabin, with curtained windows. He is surround by artefacts and nick-nacks collected over eighty nine years.

The only light in the room comes through the doorway where I am standing. It is late afternoon and the sky outside is heavily overcast. I can barely see him, seated in an ancient Lazyboy chair behind a coffee table piled with the detritus of a man who does not move about much.

I knocked twice on his open door. “How are doing mate?” I asked.

He has suffered several strokes. His speech is slow and slurred from myotonic dystrophy. But I could understand him clearly.

He looked at me with clouded eyes, as if he did not recognise me.

“I know why you have come” he said. “You are seeking something you can never regain”.

I sat down on a rickety chair. It creaked under my weight.

“You cannot put the smoke back into the cigarette” he said. As if to accentuate his point, he drew a long drag on a thin, hand rolled cigarette and blew a cloud of smoke into the air. He coughed for a few moments then continued.

“Every experience is a new one. Even if you are doing the same thing again. The Laws of Entropy and Enthalpy will ensure that nothing will ever be the same. If you go back, you will be disappointed until you accept that you must go forward. If you buy a boat, you may enjoy the pleasant experiences it will provide you, but you must understand these are not the experiences of your youthful memory. Those have been guilded by time and fondness until in your mind they are no longer anything like what you really experienced. Go forward. Enjoy new sensations.

The molecules of air the breeze blows to touch your face are all new to you, and you will probably never encounter any one of them again. They will go on to touch other faces, to combust in a cigarette or a bushfire, or perhaps to combine with metal as rust, or be inhaled by someone and incorporated in their body, to be released as something new in the crematorium. They carry no memory of you. You, however, can carry a memory of them. That is your task. To experience, enjoy, and remember.”

He took another drag on his fag and had another coughing fit.

His eyes cleared. He looked at me with surprise as I proffered him my offering.

“G’day! How’re ya doin’?”

“G’day to you, O wise one. I thought you might like some of this spaghetti Bolognese I made. It’s low salt. You may want to add some. ”.

I handed him a fork. He started to eat.

“But I’ve been thinking, I live on an island and I should buy a boat”.

“Nah, he said, a strand of spaghetti suspended from the corner of his mouth. “Don’t like boats, rocking and splashing. Don’t even like fishing. Can’t stand the smell. Until they are cooked, with chips”.

He sucked on his cigarette while still chewing Bolognese. When he coughed, a bit shot on to the coffee table. He wiped it up with his handkerchief.

The Seer had retired. The old man was dining.

The old man turned on his television with the remote, and leaned back to watch the football. He had forgotten I was there. He burped contentedly, drew on his smoke and coughed.

I left quietly. As I did, “Buy the boat” he said.

I don’t know which of him said that.

.38 Special

In the very early 70s when I was working as a leading hand at the Ceracrete Panel co. In Keeling Ave. one of my workmates invited me to his home for a meal one weekend. He got me terribly drunk, and I think he slipped me a Mickey in my drinks, because I don’t remember much after dinner. Apparently he drove me home. I assume his wife drove my car. My dad says I was really rude when they brought me home, and I went straight to bed, I remember nothing of the event after dinner.

However, I discovered next day I was the owner of a Smith & Wesson model 14 .38 Police Special with a four inch barrel, that I had apparently bought for $50. I knew nothing of its provenance, or how it came to be in the possession of the person from whom I apparently bought it. I don’t know how it was smuggled into New Zealand or whether it had been used in a crime.

All I know is I had in my hands a very illegal double action revolver with eight rounds of ammunition. I recall now that as a person in his early twenties, I thought, at first, this was pretty cool, though I did not ever carry it round tucked into the back of my pants. Not that cool, not that stupid. Even then.

Yes. I thought it was cool. Until the day I took it to the pine forest at Muriwai and tried it out, firing it at a tree. One shot. It scared the shit out of me. It was accurate, it was powerful, and it was fucking loud. The noise astounded me. The recoil shocked me. This was before I bought my (legal) .303 rifle. Until then I had only ever fired an air gun.

I did not know what to do. The enormity if what I had in my hand suddenly dawned on me. An illegal, lethal weapon that could send me to jail. And I had just discharged it for anyone to hear. I quickly skedaddled.

I took it home and hid it. Sorry Dad.

Fortunately, I had a friend who had a friend who was a legitimate gun collector. He took me to meet him, and that person agreed to take the revolver off my hands for the price I’d paid for it. Apparently it’s a classic. Collectible. How he accounted for it in his collection I know not, and care not. It was off my hands. That was all I cared about.

That is my pistol story. I’m drunk right now, or I wouldn’t be telling it.

The Facts About Bird Feeding.

Just the other day I was discussing this subject with my neighbour. He was horrified and concerned that I put food out for the birds. Never white bread, only small amounts of whole grain bread, mostly vegetable scraps such as lettuce leaves, carrot peel, tomato tops, and bean ends, and the occasional small scraps of meat and fat. Also, proprietary bird seed. Also corn cobs. I clean up anything not taken in a day.

I was really pleased to hear this podcast from the Australian Geographic Society, and to be validated by Australia’s expert on the subject. Even now, though millions of people feed wild birds in Australia, there is a lot of controversy on the subject.

Darryl Jones is a bird scientist who opened up the debate about bird feeding in Australia. He went from anti-bird-feeder to becoming a responsible voice for an activity a large number of Australians enjoy doing. He is also loves colourful Hawaiian shirts.

https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/darryl-jones-the-truth-about-bird-feeding/id1464668928?i=1000456529380

Stories

Dr. Steven Novella
Neurology, Yale University

Dr. Novella knew he was headed into the lion’s den when he accepted an invitation to go on the notorious Dr. Oz show, perhaps history’s most influential promoter of unscientific alternative medicine. He was there to represent science-based criticism of alternative medicine, and hoped to make the best of the opportunity the producers afforded him.

All signs were good until the cameras started rolling, and from that moment on, it was hopeless. Allowed only a few seconds to answer each of Dr. Oz’s questions, Dr. Novella did the best anyone could, but each of his points was followed up by counterpoints from:

• An alt-med doctor sitting beside him, given an unchallenged opportunity to refute each of Dr. Novella’s points;

• Other alt-med professionals stationed in the audience, also given chances to refute Novella’s points, with never a chance for him to counter; and

• Slick pre-produced taped segments blatantly misrepresenting alternative medicine as being backed by strong experimental evidence.

Even when they don’t quote mine or use the editor’s razor, the most motivated television producers still have plenty of tools in their arsenal to turn the tables against good science and promote nonsense.

Science Friction is a new documentary film that will expose these faux documentaries, and give the scientists a chance to clear the record. The film is being crowdfunded.

Skeptoid Media

https://sciencefriction.tv/stories/steve_novella.php

Non-Existential Angst

A foray into a new genre. I don’t know what it is.

Sometimes, when you are dead, you just don’t know it. Your mind continues to believe in your life, despite the irrefutable proof lying in a wreck on the roadside. You ignore the clues, carry on in a dazed trance, doing work that does not need doing, and which is never noticed. You raise imaginary dahlias and runner beans and children. You still believe in Love, Family, Friends. Hope. You believe in Truth and Balance and Justice. They are ideal, because they are not real. You take foolish risks for their sake, not realising it matters nought. For you have nothing to lose that is not already lost.

You edge sometimes towards an unwilling awareness of your sad condition, this seemingly human condition. When you do, you seek diversion. You lose yourself in fiction, for deep inside you know that only in the imagination is found the Happy Ending. Every book you think you read, is one you write yourself. Every movie you watch is no more than your own reimagining of all you missed while you were still alive. Your own mind sometimes produces that rare masterpiece, a dream so moving, so sweeping, with such an epic, tragic, sad or bitter-sweet finale, that you weep. You weep. You feel. Because despite being dead, on some unconscious level of your non-existential soul you are aware you have just realised the Truth.

Entropy rules. Decay. That is how you should know you are dead. There is no other condition.

And the only question for you, Zombie, is “When was it that you died?”

There, perversely, paradoxically, is your true immortality.

You were, you are, you shall be – always – nothing more – and nothing less – than a skin cell shed from the Universe as it searches for meaning.

© S.P. Nov, 2019
Another skin cell, shed from the Universe