Rolling notes & ideas - - -
This page will carry notes and ideas that
are too short, or topical, to go on the Essays or Stories pages.
1. Memory @ Fault - Everyones' party nightmare
2. World Wide Web ? - No it isn't, not yet anyway
3. Mid-Life crisis - You, me and everyone else
4. Moon view - When we saw the world for the very first time
5. Nostalgia for now - How to put up with the present, maybe ?
6. Meet the Alien - Would we shake 'hands' or what ?
7. Where are they ? - They are already here is where.
Mantra (way of life)
Remember that the greatest love and
the greatest success involve taking the most risks.
When you lose in something, don't lose the lesson.
Remember the three R's: respect for yourself, respect for others, responsibility for your actions.
Don't let a little difference ruin a
When you realise you have been wrong, repair the error immediately.
Take some time to be alone each day.
Be open to change, but don't lose your
Remember that silence is sometimes the best answer.
Live a good and honourable life. When you are old, you will have that to be proud of.
An atmosphere of love is important at home.
Share your knowledge. It is a way of becoming immortal.
Be kind to the planet.
Once a year, visit a place you don't know.
Remember that not getting what you want when you want may be a great blessing.
Learn all the rules in order to know how to break them properly...
Remember that the deepest bond is when
the love between two people is greater
than their need for each other.
Judge your success by what you give up to achieve it.
Take on love and cooking with courageous abandon.
These words of
advice are sent with the Dalai Lama's best wishes.
They are meant to be shared with as many people as possible.
If you pass this mantra on to other people, your own life will be blessed.
Thanks for the memory.
Most people claim, and demonstrate, a poor memory for names. The party nightmare where two people you've known for decades meet and you've forgotten either or both names. Maybe a particular name is one you always have trouble remembering. But you can remember remembering it yesterday, so why not now when you need it?
Personally I've given up worrying, or at least taking full responsibility for the problem - There has to be a basic flaw in the software supplied if remembering remembering is possible, even while you're still forgetting!
The Internet - A WorldWide? Web.
I'm looking out of my window at the power and phone lines coming into the house, and thinking I don't believe this technology. That I can be linked to people all over the planet and exchange ideas and images through those fragile wires. I was ten years old before anything was launched into space and computers were enormous, power draining machines, that only a handful of people either understood or had access to, with the processing ability of a contemporary throwaway calculator.
But look at a world map of the net and it overlays exactly the areas of highest wealth and the societies of the first world - How can it reach the areas and people that most need information and education if we are to progress to a genuinely equitable and humane world?
There is a hidden revolution going on, with more and more women deciding for themselves that a limit of one or two children, who can grow up healthy and well educated, is right for themselves, the children and the future of the planet itself. If the net can supply the information and education, and a new way to trade materials and skills, how can those children and the disadvantaged majority get access to it? Can we afford another generation of physically and mentally underprivileged world citizens?
A simple idea - The best aid could be the supply of solar powered PC's to every village, community centre and health centre in the world. As Singapore plans to have all its' citizens online within the next generation why not make that the aim for a truly unified world community? Charities are already refurbishing old PC's with this aim in mind; their good example could be expanded on and taken up by first world Government agencies.
I believe there is an old and ingrained fear that educating and informing people is dangerous and unprofitable. So I will resort to an old Chinese proverb:
If you think ahead one year - Plant grain.
If you think ahead ten years - Plant a tree.
If you think ahead one hundred years - Educate the People.
Mid-Life Crisis ?
WIHIH? - What in hell is happening? Many people half my age, and some much older, seem to be asking the question. And I suspect a lot of others are avoiding it - Keeping busy and not wasting time on the unanswerable. But it's a fine time to be having what we call a crisis; nobody need feel left out or alone because so many believe it is happening to them and seem genuinely worried under their apparent amusement.
We like to believe that the present is unique, that no-one else has experienced the world in our way, and that many of our problems have no links to answers from the past. This may be a form of prejudice, even arrogance, but it has to be true that no previous generations have seen changes to human life, and the planet as a whole, as dramatic as those witnessed in the last fifty years.
It's been said that History is dead - I think we are only just at the start of it. If we compare human history to the growth of an individual we are probably just entering our teens. There's a long and bloody childhood behind us, that's also full of achievement and learning, and now we look forward to the really dangerous and exciting years. Only just self-aware, we are a potent mixture of desires, ambitions and fears.
We are about to leave home, terrified and elated by what may be ahead, to go out and find a place and a purpose. So it's not mid-life crisis, at the end of a tired old century / millenium, that is afflicting us but teenage angst. Do we head for a brilliant career at college, wind up, shooting up, under the arches, or just accept a job and a family and a continuation of life as it's always been? Whatever happens, it's certainly going to be interesting.
The moment when everyone, nearly everyone, first realised exactly where and how they were living was during the Christmas period of 1968. When the crew of Apollo 8, Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders, lit their main engine and powered out of earth orbit they were on their way not only to the moon but also to a major turning point in human history.
In only eleven years space technology had gone from the launch of Sputnik to a manned mission around the moon. This flight may be remembered as more important than the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969 - Because this was the first time that any living creature had moved away from the earth; and when the three men came around the moon, to see the earth rise, they were the first witnesses to look back and view the whole world from far outside, floating in the vast emptiness of space.
Until that moment we mostly agreed that the earth orbited the sun, one star in a galaxy, as a planet of known size and mass, but no-one had been out there and actually seen it. No consciousness carried that experience as a genuine memory - The crucial difference between knowing a thing, and experiencing it with full understanding.
Nostalgia for the Present.
Why not visit the M25 Heritage Centre next weekend, or join the Save Our Pylons campaign? Either one should be available sometime in the next few years; fifty at the most. Electricity pylons are already the subject of enthusiasts' photos and logbooks.
When you are tired of the rush and crush try this as a simple thought experiment - Imagine you are viewing the present from some unspecified point in the future; that the unbearably new and strange is now the old and quaint. Think about how romantic it must seem to live on the surface of a planet at the mercy of weather, natural forces and the night. And observe that the world, however damaged it may appear to be, is still a vast and growing thing; everywhere and everything still immersed in and involved with plants, animals and microscopic organisms that go and grow pretty much where they will despite our continuous and widespread attempts at control.
Look at any disused rail track, roadway or industrial site and reflect on how fast, even within human timescales, the plants and wildlife have started to reclaim and colonise the territory. Consider the effects of the ice sheets which stretched far down into temperate latitudes until geologically recent times and the fact that functioning ecosystems followed their retreat as fast as the ice was melting.
We have done some desperate damage to this planet in a very short time but it has survived much worse in the past from impacts, volcanism and climate changes. Life is a lot tougher than perhaps we like to think; ask any farmer who clears and maintains land for ongoing use.
In an incredibly short time, in planetary terms, we have gone from the ability to exploit and destroy to an ability to understand and restore. The process can only accelerate - As imaginary future historians observing the present we can all think and act towards it enveloping the whole world.
What would an alien look like, assuming one made the effort to come all this way to see us? A blob, all eyes and tentacles, lots of legs, no legs, or some sort of machine? Would we know what we were looking at?
Answering from a design viewpoint, I believe that our visiting alien would be much more like us than unlike us. This assumes that the alien's technology was almost exactly at the same level as ours - Any intelligent species, with a developed technology, will almost certainly walk upright, have binocular vision, and upper limbs with hands and opposable thumbs. It will have evolved on land, against gravity, and have hands, eyes and speech as primary adaptations to it's home environment.
If the octopus, with eyes similar to ours but evolved from different tissues, had found a way to smelt metals underwater it may have developed a technology. But you need to be on land, in air, to really lift and lever things around to make permanent changes - And also to get a clear view of where it is that you live, what is over the next hill and how the planet moves through space.
I'm arguing here for convergent evolution - Design problems will have similar solutions anywhere in the universe. If you want to move large amounts of material, on the surface of a planet, you probably need a bulldozer. And a machine to push earth will be a bulldozer regardless of who, or what, designed it. And the hands that built it will be remarkably similar to ours, because that is the optimum design for gripping and manipulating materials and tools.
So our alien will stand and walk and talk and look around just like we do. Unless it's a bit more advanced than us, which it would be to have got here at all, but that's another story.
More Alien thoughts.
It seems inconceivable that in a galaxy of 100 billion stars, and a universe of 50 billion galaxies there has only ever been this one planet with surface conditions suitable for the development of life. And then intelligence. If life survives long enough to produce multi-cellular plants and animals, and then at least one species with consciousness, on only a tiny percentage of suitable planets, then many technically advanced civilisations should still have developed.
So the question of where they are, why we’ve not detected their presence or their broadcast signals, is very puzzling. Perhaps we are the first. Someone has to be. That is highly unlikely, given the age of the Universe, but it is still possible. Perhaps all the civilisations within range of our instruments destroyed themselves long before we could sense them. A million year gap between us is no time at all and we’ve only been broadcasting ourselves for just over a century.
If the aliens of popular mythology exist, why would they come all this way and then crash. Or interfere with cattle. Or abduct people and mess with their organs and memories. They may have a very weird, and alien, sense of humour. They may crash deliberately for some reason or purpose that we can’t guess. They may not be very good at maintenance. In that case it’s a miracle they got here at all.
We are on the verge of a quantum leap in our own ability to manipulate matter and tissue. Sometime between fifty and five hundred years from now we will be semi-immortal magicians; living in nanotech or genetically modified bodies and controlling all the resources of the solar system. Then we can think about moving out; moving on and exploring the whole galaxy if we choose to.
So our visitors, if they exist are likely to have a technology that is at least five hundred years ahead. Is it likely that they will arrive in silver hubcaps with no brakes? Or muck about frightening the horses in the night? Nanotech would be the norm for them. If they wanted to survey this planet they would stand off, out of sight, and send in intelligent probes. A mothership need be no larger than one foot across – Probes can be anything they find useful; a mosquito, a seagull, a rock, a human being. All constructed from local materials, with a seed of instructions and a massive data store.
Would it be possible to block broadcast signals from their home planet ? Why not a simple shield, outside the solar system, that sits between their radio source/s and Earth ? Any species capable of travelling across a galaxy could surely hide their existence from us if they chose to.
A serious study of our planet would be as non-invasive as possible; there would no point if we were aware of the process. So if they exist, and assuming they’re interested, they are already here. Hidden in the crowd, absolutely undetectable, and hopefully just gathering information.