19 June 2010

Hello Again

I never shop at Walmart, except sometimes, in an emergency, because I am a very busy person, between 10 and 11 on a Saturday night.

Sometimes it’s because I have a plane ticket the next day, or Monday morning, for Frankfurt or Anchorage or Dallas or Houston or San Diego, and I need that one last thing—a pair of fairy wings, a little plush pup, a Toy Story poster, a Snow White purse, a 3-inch Anakin Skywalker, or some dark chocolate for the trip. Once I suddenly thought I should have a cheap gold wedding band to replace the one I had four times outgrown, but the “good jewelry counter” closed at 10, and I was bummed. (The clerk was there, futzing around, but she wouldn't even let me try one on.)

Tonight it was printer ink because of Father’s Day photos I had promised to print. I’m done with Iguana Inks. That color cartridge should have been good for a long time yet. Anyway, I was already out (double, maybe triple, entendre) … and this is some sort of Cosmic Balance, because I was on my way home from a delightful dinner at Blue Iguana in SLC with my dearest childhood friend … and all I had to do was sacrifice my two more-favored exits and get off on the Parkway and buzz in there. I actually had tried to go earlier, in Lindon on my way. But after 5 minutes in a 4 p.m. Saturday Walmart parking lot, I just took off. Good thing, because after all those lane closings and TWO accidents on I-15, it took me 2.5 hours to get to Salt Lake, and I was late.

But no putting it off now, so cheered by a lovely few hours with Kerry, and fortified by a beautiful counter-tenor aria from Xerxes (Harmonia, on FM 89.1), I found a spot not too many miles from the East doors, at only 9:55. Do they close at 10 or 11, I tried to remember, and a man my age with a smile told me at the entrance: “These doors will close in 5 minutes. You'll have to exit on the West.” That's fine. I had already picked the wrong lane 6 or 7 times on the way to Salt Lake. What’s-time-and-anyway-I-need-the-exercise.

I had chosen the East doors so that I could check the plants. In the moonlit plant section I limited myself to two blooming clematis and several pathetic basils (in soggy moldy peat pots) to replace things that died in this very strange spring we’ve had. (But who’s complaining! The best peas and roses in I can’t remember how long.) The only other person in the place was a woman my age checking out the Foxglove aisle. (Myself, I'm not tempted by Digitalis.)

Back inside, I cruised by Adult Nutrition to pick up some extra Ensure for Mom, and then took a long-cut to electronics so I could grab another $6.00 necklace for myself. I’ve started doing this whenever I’m in Walmart or Shopko. I buy a plant or two, if possible, and snag some triple-berry, extra-protein Ensure, just in case (you can't always find it), and almost always pick up some cheap (hypoallergenic) jewelry for myself. Good thing I don’t actually shop.

I found the printer cartridges, picked up two sets … WOW (remembering now why I like Iguana Inks so much). Two tiny girls in dirty cream-colored satin dresses trimmed with gold braid chased each other around the computer-bag display with silver star-wands, stopping awestruck before the Toy Story 3 trailer playing simultaneously on seven giant TVs. Their mother smiled. I took a call from Pat who was working on her Relief Society lesson and needed to borrow the boom box tomorrow morning to play a selection from Messiah. I realized that, as with Kerry, as always, with everyone, in a previous conversation I had listened too little and talked too much. I called Doug to check on the vegetables and juice situation for Sunday dinner. (He already had it covered.) I ambled into the picture-frame aisle and picked up a few 4 x 6's.

The check-stand lines were 10-deep each. As usual I was surrounded by people of whom I do not approve, dressed immodestly, with too many piercings and often tattoos, or with children up too late, buying frivolous things. A sevenish-year-old boy in a soccer shirt karate chopped his little brother into agony, and his father dealt with it patiently, consoled his wife who was consoling her injured son, and waved for me to go ahead of them in the line. Several people made eye contact and smiled as if I were a friend. I stepped in sticky chocolate ice cream on my way past the Sensationals, wondering how many more times I would be tempted to buy a promise to help me lose 45 pounds by the Fourth of July. Resisted this time, I’m pleased to say. Also resisted the Snickers Almond Dark.

The bright young clerk was uncommonly cheerful and courteous; she brought her zapper around so I wouldn't have to lift my plants out of the cart, and she put the disintegrating basil pots carefully into plastic bags. Thinking of plastic bags, I had picked up a sage green sleeve thing (from the display by the Star magazine) into which to stuff more of mine. The other reason I go to Walmart is to recycle plastic bags, but I'd left them in the car, and anyway they have a recycle bin now at What Used to Be Albertsons.

On my way back from the (West) doors to my car, I crossed paths with a cheerful immodestly dressed couple with a couple of cheerful pajama-clad kids (Dora and Buzz). Rounding the end of Lane 7 I passed a mother, her arm around her chubby 12-year-old, who put his head on her shoulder for a sec. The mother smiled at me, and said Hi.

I packed up the Buick (I'm an old person now; I drive an old person's car) and returned the cart to its proper place, with at least two dozen of its fellows. The parking lot was still crammed. 10:54 p.m. I got in and rolled down all four windows. Beautiful summer parking-lot air. Fortunately, Harmonia hadn’t quite ended, and as I left the lot, all drivers uncommonly courteous, I picked up a stunning counter-tenor doing some Albinoni. I felt tired, and uncommonly happy.

By the time I got home (windows back up) Harmonia had ended, and I was almost my old common, judgmental, condescending, misanthropic self. For a while there, though, I had been better. Loving all humankind. And Walmart on Saturday night.

05 December 2009

Old Dog, New Tricks

Old Post from December 2009, removed (you'll soon see why), but then re-posted for certain reasons having to do with Blondie's having seen it during its brief existence while Mlemelymen did not. Look fast. (Not exactly possible.) It will disappear again soon.

Where have I been you ask? Read on, and you shall have your answer.

The moral of the following story—which it is important to state here, because no doubt this will be a long story, and I know everybody is particularly busy at this time of year and will want to know the moral even if having no time for the story—is that thanks to the Internet, ANYBODY can do ANYTHING. (So good news, Al. If that climate-change thing doesn’t work out, you always have this to fall back on.)

I know this from experience, and you can’t argue with experience. Yesterday, for reasons I won’t detail here because already this story is too long, I decided that the person who advised it was right and I HAD to have a second computer monitor so that I could get my work done more easily. I’m working 12-16 hours a day, six days a week, so you know that this was a crisis, a necessity, or I just wouldn’t have taken the time (I guessed it would take half an hour or so) to deal with it.

Step 1. Find an extra monitor around the house. (Which, according to the first online instructions I consult, is “easy,” because everybody has a couple extra monitors kicking around.) I find a good one left behind by my computer genius son-in-law … or wait, no … it was the one I got to set myself up away from the chaos in the study so that I could write my novels on my laptop (MacBook, also another story) that I got all hooked up with a full-sized remote keyboard and mouse and a printer thanks to a USB hub with a pretty blue light …. Rats. I forgot that THAT was the one I took. I’ll NEVER write that novel now! Stuvey’s monitor is hooked up to the e-Machine I reformatted and gave to Doug when I bought this piece-of-junk Systemax from Tiger Direct ….

Step 2. Unplug the monitor from all the stuff it’s hooked up to and bring it down to the study. For good measure, bring down the lighted USB hub and that weird-looking random cable with the plastic dealy still on one end. (Where did that come from? Did Stuvey leave it?)

Step 2b. Put the monitor on the floor in the study.

Step 2a. First make room on the floor with your right foot, so you can put the monitor down while you make room on the desk. Just throw stuff into one of the “to-be-filed” laundry baskets that form the structure of the study floor. Try to get most of the important work-related stuff into one conspicuous pile.

Step 2c. Position the two monitors on the desk in an attractive fashion, hiding as much of the junk behind them as possible.

Step 3. Go back to work on your single screen for awhile—check a couple European Court case topics, load a couple OSCE documents, check all four e-mail accounts, look at Facebook for a secbecause accessing the back of the PC is something you just can’t face at the moment.

Step 4. Go get something to eat. (This is not reverting. Approaching the back of the PC tower is very, very stressful.)

Step 5. Close all of your documents and turn off the computer.

Step 6. Take a deep breath. Unplug the Monster Cable from the Deskjet 6122 (still using a parallel port because there are never enough USB ports), because you know it’s too short to permit pulling the PC out of the compartment on the desk while it’s still attached.

Step 7. Get down on the floor and pull out the stupid tower, ripping all of the cords out of the back, power cord first.

Step 8. Notice that there doesn’t appear to be a place to plug in an extra monitor. There is an out thing next to the in thing where the monitor was plugged. Is this promising?

Step 9. Go find your laptop and look up “add second monitor” and “install additional monitor” and stuff like that.

Step 10. Discover that your piece-of-junk Systemax has onboard VGA. Learn what that means. Look at diagrams and photos of motherboards that you will later discover do not resemble your own.

Step 21. (intermediate steps deleted) Open the case and look in. No, not that side, stupid. That’s the back of the motherboard. The OTHER side. Find the can of air and blow out all the dust. Accidentally come across the container of screen wipes. Clean all the screens you can find.

Step 22. Locate the potential PCI-16 slot. It’s not orange, like the one in the picture (or like the extra memory slot you notice up there in the other corner), nor is it any of the other colors predicted. It’s just cream-colored, but it looks to be the right size.

Step 23. Give a sigh, because all of your favorite computer-repair places have closed down (things are so cheap now; everybody just replaces), and haul the PC out to the car, and head for town.

Step 24. While waiting in the traffic jam alongside the mall, ponder the options. Can’t bear the thought of Best Buy. What was that place by Outback Steak House where Alex Hall used to work? Gone, alas. And Circuit City is gone. That leaves Office Depot and Office Max. Depot. Then you can pick up the mauve, pink, and green yarn LaRue wants from JoAnn while you’re at it. More traffic, more traffic, more traffic. Ah! …. Oh! Office Depot is gone!!! [Find out later it has just moved over there by Best Buy.] Okay. Forget the yarn. Just get to Office Max. Nobody is ever in there. Might cost too much, but should be a snap.

Step 25. Get almost run down by a chick in a brand-new purple-gray Accord who doesn’t believe stopsigns are for rich people. Take the PC into Office Max.

Step 26. Locate a bright-looking sales person (male) because the only other sales person in sight is waiting on the only other customers in the store, a middle-aged couple trying to decide on the proper printer. Snort. If only MY problem were so simple …..

Step 27. Open the case to show the sales guy what you need, and discover that he knows absolutely nothing but helpfully says that you can bring anything back within 14 days even if you have opened it. Okay, so since there are only two video cards on the shelf, take the less expensive one. I know, Stuvey, I know. I wouldn’t be in this pickle in the first place if I’d learn to consult you first instead of just buying the cheapest, handiest thing that might do. But I’m in a hurry, and I don’t want to bother you. (That will come later when I’m REALLY in a mess.)

Step 28. While you’re at it, pick up the extra RAM (which you figure out by yourself, because the sales guy doesn’t even know where to look to see what you need and apparently has never heard of matching SIMS or DDR or .....). {Take a moment to reflect upon the good old days when you were learning the difference between RAM and ROM, when the DOS Prompt was a wonder to behold, when a kilobyte was GINORMOUS, and when you wrestled for hours with trying to get Prince of Persia and Tetris to work on Christmas morning before, again, ruining Christmas for Brother Burt by phoning for help.} (This was before Stuvey had any idea our family existed. And long long before I could possibly have imagined that Em would bring a computer genius into the family.)

Step 29. While you’re at it, get a DVI-A-to-SVGA Adapter, because you just might need it.

Step 30. Pick up two Snickers bars, the first time you have bought candy since successfully losing 50 pounds. (Oh, did I fail to mention that? Another subject for another blog.)

Skip, skip, skip. Abandon the second person and the separate listing of steps (up to about Step 99 by now). We’re in “cloud” mode.

Card installed, extra hole in the back of the computer tower taped shut because wrong one pried open first. Find a screw that works to hold card in place located in the 7th place I look. (Find a phillips-head screw driver, as ubiquitous as fingernail clippers in this house and as impossible to find when you need them.) Carefully reassemble the GeForce 8400 GS Arcade fx PCI Express (256 MB) Graphics Accelerator Card box, just in case. (Incidentally, this model does not appear at www.arcadefxusa.com, as I will discover later.)

Memory SIM in, click. Close computer. Rip open the DVI Adapter (glad I picked that up) and attach it securely to the DVI port on the video card. Ignore the onboard VGA port and just attach both monitors with their VGA plugs to the video card, one into the VGA port and one into the Adapter. Reattach all the cords, including those external speakers that have been sitting on the desk plugged in place of the cord for original monitor's too-quiet-speaker. Push it all back into the compartment on the desk. Power up. Blink blink.

ONE monitor comes on.

Oh, I probably just need to install the drivers now. BUT my wireless mouse and keyboard are not responding! I know from experience that this is either a synching problem or a battery problem. I do all the synching maneuvers I can possibly figure out. Nothing. The batteries in the mouse are new. I look it up on my laptop and discover that I might have to choose a different USB port for the receiver, but I will NOT pull the PC out again! I try the other suggestions, moving thing around. I do a force re-boot. Nothing. Desperate, I change the batteries in the mouse, putting back in the ones I took out last time this happened. It works!! After a while the keyboard also works, and when later it stops, I just change the batteries. Apparently it isn’t new batteries these devices need, it’s just a change.

So now I can install the graphics card drivers. NVIDIA somethings or other. The instruction manual doesn’t match what happens on the screen, but close enough. Nothing changes, but now I have a couple more icons on the desktop. AND, I have no sound, though the speakers are on. (Did you know this? Internal Boards my contain "Lead" which may cause birth defects and other reproductive harm. Please wash your hands thoroughly after handling these products. I can't believe I forgot to do this .....)

I look at the backs of the monitors for sound cords, and I see that BOTH monitors have both DVI and VGA plug thingies. Only one has sound. I notice that the aforementioned mysterious cable is a DVI cable. So I take courage and pull the PC out of its cubicle again. Disconnect speakers, put the monitor’s speaker cable into the jack. Rearrange monitor cables. Nothing. Try again, with a different configuration. With adapter, without adapter. Both monitors in video card. One in card, other in onboard VGA. Vice versa. I finally learn just to leave the Monster Cable unhooked from the 6122 and permanently plugged into the parallel port. In all these maneuvers nothing changes except that sometimes one monitor comes on, sometimes the other.

Look it up again. Lots of discussion threads, conducted using English words interspersed with collections of capital letters among people who apparently understand (and enjoying insulting) one another. Something like this:

"Try TSFTX with UXOTSK only. Me with fine only not RFxUTP."

"This work only UXCTPSZ, dumb man. But you have problem if trying with DNSC>NBT+ or upsidedown read instruction."

Ah, I see.

Gameman42xg was helpful: “I had this problem and I just unplugged all the cables from both the monitors and the PC, waited 10 minutes, plugged everything in, and wham. Worked fine. I couldn’t believe it was that simple.”

It wasn’t. Eat the other Snickers Bar. Back to the discussion threads. I recognize one group of letters, NVIDIA. I have that! It needs to be uninstalled and reinstalled. That will fix it for sure. I do this. Nothing happens. I’m recalling that the earliest instruction I read ... 4.5 hours ago now ... about installing two monitors mentioned something about the potential need to disable the onboard VGA.

For this, I will need Stu. I phone. He says yes, that could be it, mentions BIOS, and my heart stops. You can do it, he says. He wonders about the make/model of my PC. I KNEW it.

“It says Systemax on the front.”

“So, you got the instruction manual?”

“Oh, probably. Maybe. Yeah. It’s probably in one of these laundry baskets here .... Shall I look for it?” (Please, please say no!)

“Yeah, that would be good. Meantime, I’ll see what I can find.”

I mention NVIDIA. “That could be it,” he says.

In the largest basket I find a bunch of computer stuff in a plastic bag. This is it! No. It’s from the e-Machine I gave to Doug. Defiantly I FILE the contents of the plastic bag, in the empty file labeled Computer in the desk drawer. (The desk I’m using now used to be upstairs in the bedroom where Doug works, but he didn’t like it, so I brought it down one day. It’s six feet wide, three feet deep, soft as a downy chick …. Sorry. I'm losing my mind.)

Somewhere else I have six or seven files named Computer that have stuff in them … like instructions for Prince of Persia … but who knows where they are. After a few minutes of pouring papers back and forth between laundry baskets, spreading a few on the floor, I give up and go online. (MacBook good for something after all!)

My TigerDirect order history shows everything back to the Year 2000, but not this PC. It CAN’T BE! I know it's there! Finally I figure out that the items are shown individually and that what looks like a whole order isn’t. This involves scrolling. I can do that. I find the Systemax, find the description online, and shoot the link to Stuvey, who’s ahead of me but needs the serial number. Even better, I have already scrolled down and found the instruction manual. I shoot the link for the manual back to Stu and start examining it.

I find the following info in an important-looking gray box: “Note: System default is to disable the onboard VGA when you insert a PCI-e graph card, in order to optimize the system performance.” Then it tells you what to do to override this. So the problem could be the reverse of what I thought. I need to enable, not disable. I'm good at this. I try to call Stu, but he has apparently decided to take Em out for a sans-bun Carl’s Jr. or something.

I decide to try it on my own.

But first I need to print these instructions. Some of the pages have blue BIOS screens with red stuff I might need, so I decide to print in color. Nothing. Oh wait! The Monster Cable! Plug it, print.

The first instruction says to remember to disconnect the power cable before installing the PCI card and gives a series of tips for finding the slot. I take care not to scream in frustration.

After checking Facebook for a few minutes for diversion, I re-boot and hit the DEL key. I enter the BIOS, with fear and trembling. It's a weird world behind the Window. A world where I don't belong. Moreover, the instructions from the manual don’t match what’s on the screen. I take a deep breath. It will have to be close enough. I go for it, enabling the onboard VGA. There is then some question about sharing and bridges. The instructions do not mention this, but I think, why not? Sharing and bridges are both good things. Save. Exit. Power down.

Pull out the PC (unplug the Monster Cable). Make sure one monitor is attached to the onboard VGA, the other to the DVI port of the graphics card. The adapter is useless. I try to find the packaging, but it’s ripped to bits. I locate most of the bits and reassemble them. No use. Twenty bucks down the drain. For that I could’ve bought the better graphics card. Move on.

Power on. Progress! One monitor goes on. And the other one flashes “Out of Range” before blinking off! This is hopeful. Monitor 2 is ALIVE! I look up "Out of Range" and find a promising set of instructions and print them out. (Not in color.)

Energized, I’m poised to follow the instructions, but things are once again not quite as the instructions say they should be. I do my best approximation. The tabs I need aren’t there, but I eventually come to a screen that mentions PCI and conflicts and interrupts. I know about conflicts from the old SCUSI-chain days. (I used to move pins and rearrange cables, stuff I only figured out for a minute and then forgot.) This could be it. “Bridge” is in there, too. Maybe that sharing thing wasn’t such a good idea. I just wish these instructions were more ….. for WINDOWS ME????!!!!! Who the heck uses Windows ME? Did Windows ME ever really exist??? I notice a pale gray link under the title of the document I’m consulting: “Visit the Windows XP Solution Center.”

Back to the Internet, because I am smart enough to have bought a computer with an XP downgrade (Vista is lurking here somewhere, but nowhere I’m looking), which is why I have the lousy Systemax in the first place. Find the web page, click on the XP link …. But apparently the only XP users who have experienced this problem are gamers who communicate in those collections of capital letters (consonants only) interspersed with insults, and nothing seems to apply to my situation at all.

Gamers? Wait. I recall a little message that pops up every time I start my computer about gaming mode being disabled. Maybe that’s it! I look up gaming mode and what it does and cannot understand it. I reconfigure my network (guessing as I go). I tinker with the Windows firewall and the AVG firewall. I turn on gaming mode. I do a bunch more stuff, like uninstalling and re-installing NVIDIA (the older overwriting the newer, what the heck). I sit and stare. I wait. I tell Doug to go to the reception and tell them I’m sick, because I AM!!! He comes back and says the reception is tomorrow night.

During the course of all this I try Stu from time to time, but no answer. It IS Friday night. And, unlike me, my Stuvey has a life.

One last time (before I decide to slit my throat) I do a reboot. I can not tell you for sure what's hooked up back there. The DVI cable from one monitor (into the graphics card), and the VGA cable from the other into either the graphics card or the onboard VGA, and I'm not going to pull the thing out again to look, and no, I didn't take careful notes. I don't care if my experience could possibly benefit others. In fact, I'm sure it could NOT, in any specific way, and anyway I don't speak "thread-talk."

BUT ... suddenly, I can’t possibly say why, both monitors are on! From how far away could my shouts of joy be heard?? (I REJECT your suggestion that my non-life is pathetic.)

It’s wonderful. I can put the documents and the lists on one screen, and the websites to which I must load them (and from which I must find them) on the other. In celebration I work long into the night, accomplishing much. The only problem is that I have to move around a lot more, because I work without my glasses, one monitor being just the right distance. But two monitors is like the organ or piano bench—I’m moving all around trying to see (which is better than trying to aim my progressive lenses) … but never mind. I have a rolling desk chair and a somewhat flexible back.

Six-point-five hours after I began, I report the matter to Stu, who is now back from wherever wonderful and distracting place he has been, and he congratulates me. “I was stumped,” he types. My heart swells with pride. Never mind that had he been here, the thing would have been accomplished in a trice. (What is a trice? I just typed that without thinking. Must look it up. ) Never mind that had I consulted him in the first place I never would have purchased the @#!*& Systemax. Never mind that what has stumped him is basically my stupidity. What matters at the moment is the second, deep moral of this story: What genius can not conquer, bumbling determination sometimes can. (Never mind the logical fallacies lacing that comment.)

Third moral of the story: In all you do, be patient. Because machines are people, too. …. Wait. No. Sorry. I mean ….

Hm. Now just who is going to get an unpackaged DVI-A-to-SVGA Adapter in his stocking for Christmas, I wonder.

24 March 2009

After All

Long ago I discovered that my decision not to major in molecular biophysics after all was important for two basic reasons. The reason I gave (that I wanted to date chemistry and physics majors and they wouldn't ask out the competition) had some validity back then in the late '60s. But the real reasons were these:

1. I would have flunked out.
2. My penchant for engaging in pseudo-scientific speculative theology would have been thwarted.

For example, back when we first heard about neutrinos, we couldn't get many of the real physicists to get too deep into the "these are the particles of spirit" discussions. True, true, real scientists have subsequently called the Higgs boson the "God Particle," but they don't mean God in the sense that I do. They're just joking. People make jokes about what they don't understand. Leon Lederman (see his 1993 book, The God Particle) wins Nobel Prizes in physics and jokes about God. I pray, study scripture, go to Church every week, hold a temple recommend, and make jokes about physics.

Here's one: It could just be that the universe is not homogeneous after all. It could be that we don't need dark energy to explain an apparently expanding universe. It could just be that we are special after all, privileged observers living in special universe surrounded by a cosmic void. In other words, we live in a place, a particular topos. And not at its center. That would be ... oh, let's just call it something funky like ... Kolob.

Actually, that wasn't really a joke. If you want to read jokes, bad puns, and other signs of nervous self-consciousness, take a look at the April 2009 Scientific American article "Does Dark Energy Really Exist." And then for something really useful skip back to the article about saving honeybees which will lead you to plant flowers and let your dandelions grow. And then you can whip forward to page 70 where you encounter the amazing possibility of green lasers, the actual color, not the socially correct state of being. (I hadn't known there was a problem with this, but now that I do, I'm glad to know it will soon be solved.)

Or go outside and breathe in the Happy Spring! That's what I think I'll do right now!

Wait! I just thought of a joke after all. How does an environmentalist (not naming any names here) respond when you point out that his big car, luxury home, penchant for airplane travel, and other contributions to his substantial carbon footprint might seem hypocritical? (Drum roll .....) "It's not easy being green."

Okay. Not funny. I'd better give it up for this morning and just go prune the roses.

04 March 2009

Einstein Is an Icon

The ratio of ordinary matter to dark matter to dark energy in the universe is calculated at 5:23:72. Why, no one knows. It's not a pretty sequence. Except that this ratio seems to mean we're here. Otherwise not.

Of course, even the 5 percent of the universe that is theoretically discernible is a mystery. We live our lives in a Newtonian sham, an apparent world, playing by rules that make sense, rules that work, but are illusions. The Truth about the Universe, say those who know best, does not make sense, does not yield to Human Reason, which (reason) is a mere artifact anyway, a product of Truth at work over an incomprehensible amount of "Time," which is also an artifact and may or may not have an "Arrow."

In all fairness, I could observe that even theologians disagree about Time's Arrow (Is God in or out of time?), so I mean no disrespect to science here. I have the profoundest respect for those who dare face the dark, who delve into mystery, using anything they've got to try to find more.

So anyway, some 95 percent of the universe is unknown, perhaps unknowable. (I'm not even talking about the four levels of parallel universes or the eleven dimensions of string/ M/ whatever Grand Unification Theory is going down at the moment.) Mathematics says it ... the Dark Stuff ... must be there, to secure the existence of the 5 percent that actually is there. So, what we can (theoretically) perceive tells us that what we can't perceive (except theoretically) must exist. We can accept this, especially if we're religious. (Parallel universes are easy, too. If there can be actual but unperceived dinosaurs in my living room, as I heard last night on the Science Channel, why not my ancestors, and Enoch, Enos, Moroni, and Mary?)

Even the non-religious (in the belief-in-God sense) have learned to take the news that Actual Reality is not accessible, finally, to the senses. Just like the Virtual (by the mysterious virtue of which you are reading this blog), the Actual may be reflected in the Apparent ... but all the same it is Non-Sense, apprehensible only by our faith in mathematical formulae and metaphors created by people such as Albert Einstein. Except now it would appear that Einstein, like Newton, was wrong.

No one in the ordinary world will ever believe it, though, because Einstein is an icon. To the popular mind, Albert Einstein is the smartest person who ever lived. He could not be wrong, even if we have never been able to understand what he was talking about. Of course, people must have thought that about Isaac Newton, too. Or would have, if the media had been invented back then. (Isaac, like Albert, had terrific hair.)

So anyway it would seem that after a hundred years of our trying to comprehend and accept length contraction, time dilation, and other tricks of the uniform speed of light, at least secure in Einstein's conviction that the universe is local (action-at-distance isn't really happening), we are about to be turned once more upon our metaphorical heads. We have come to accept the conflict between Special Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. They can't both be true, but they are, so just leave them as truths independent in their own spheres on opposite ends of the size spectrum, and don't ask questions. (Sort of like what "traditional Christians" say we're supposed to do about what came out of Nicea in 325 A.D.)

But all of a sudden it appears that those irksome manifestations of non-locality, those pesky notions of quantum "entanglement" that Einstein tried mightily to eschew (using relativity to brush away simultaneity) are about to do him in.

How can this be?? If Einstein is wrong, the world falls apart.

It's not all bad news, though. According to a couple of university professors, David Albert and Rivka Galchen, writing in conclusion to their article "A Quantum Threat to Special Relativity" in the March 2009 Scientific American: "The diminished guru may very well have been wrong just where we thought he was right and right just where we thought he was wrong. We may, in fact, see the universe through a glass not quite so darkly as has too long been insisted."

Okay. Though it does not explain the authors' lame choice of a passive-voice ending here, I can only attribute the existence of this biblical reference to the fact that one of the authors is an adjunct assistant professor in the writing division in the School of Arts at the institution (Columbia) where her co-author is Professor of Philosophy. (Note, these are not physicists, but they are pretty smart.) It is quite artsy to wrap up a cutting-edge science article with a New Testament allusion. And I do appreciate the efforts of Scientific American in recent years to dumb itself down to my level. But, really, one does expect more precision. Because of course the "glass" of I Corinthians 13:12 is not the kind you see through; it's the kind that reflects.

Physicist Brian Greene of string-theory (science not music) fame, an expert in the Arrow of Time, suggested in one of his books ... it was Fabric of the Cosmos, I think ... that we all might better understand quantum weirdness (or even M Theory) if we just tried really, really hard. Okay, I try. So since I struggle mightily with their metaphors, I’m just thinking that David and Rivka might have tried a little harder with mine. Anyway, with the Apostle Paul’s.

Because èσόπτρου, translated as "glass" in 1611, would nowadays be rendered "mirror," and the poetry of "darkly" might be reduced to "cloudy" or "obscure." The Apostle Paul was not talking about failure to see more clearly through a nighttime window into the quantum reality of the universe or anything else "outside." He was describing a present inability to see ourselves as we really are, a problem that will be cleared up when we behold our Redeemer face to face and in perfect reflection see and know ourselves as we are seen and known by Him.

Of course, what we will know then will be the Meaning of the Universe. Or the Multiverse. Whether there be four dimensions or eleven. When we know as we are known. And then we will know for certain what Einstein knew all along (though David and Rivka say it's an "overquoted concern"): that God does not play dice. Einstein is still right about that, regardless of how un-special his relativity shall become.

No. Not dice. But perhaps God does play ... strings? (My poor heart?)

In any event, in spite of my little slip of the tongue during story time last week, I'm quite certain Jesus is not bored! As Einstein no doubt now knows perfectly well.

28 February 2009

Divine Ennui?

I was reading bedtime stories to my grandson last night when the strangest thing happened. We were ending with a passage from My First Book of Mormon Stories, the charming little section about Samuel the Lamanite. This is what I read (in spite of what was actually written upon the page):

"Some of the people believed him (Samuel) and were very happy that Jesus would soon be bored."

"Why are you laughing so much, Grandma?" were pretty much the next words spoken.

I'm afraid I have no idea.

18 February 2009

Out of curiosity ....

  • Blue skies? or
  • Stormy Weather?

Which do you prefer, and why?

05 February 2009

Gut Feeling

As everyone knows, the Ancient Greeks thought with their heads and felt with their hearts. This makes sense, sense being a Greek invention. The Ancient Hebrews, on the other hand, thought with their hearts (Proverbs 23:7) and felt with their … entrails … their "bowels," which could “yearn,” be “moved with compassion,” and be “filled with charity.”

We Enlightened Western Judeo-Christian folks, of course, do all of the above.

Now the modern technical term for bowels is … I know you’re thinking intestines, colon, something along those lines, but it’s actually ... “gut.”

And wait! There’s more.

I’m thinking of this today because of an article PLMP sent me as we were considering the benefits of kefir-drinking. It’s from the writer of “The World’s Most Popular Natural Health Newsletter,” one Dr. Mercola. Even though the article is called “Gut Bacteria Mix Predicts Obesity” and contains a lot of guilt-inducing information about antibiotics and the proper feeding of infants and children, I shall wrench myself away from my fatness and guilt obsessions for a moment (except have you heard about the “infectobesity" theory?) to focus on something else in this article:

Did you know that your gut is your “second brain,” containing something like 100,000 neurons, about the same number as your actual first brain?!? So when you’re upset, you “know” it by the neurological disturbance we call “butterflies in the stomach,” or by other sorts of intestinal disturbance that some of us know only too well.

It gets even more interesting: More than 95 percent of your serotonin is made not in your brain but in your gut!

Ponder this. (Wherever you do your pondering.) The neurotransmitter responsible for regulating my sense of well being, that stuff an insufficient amount of which leaves me feeling anxious and sad, is cooked up somewhere along my alimentary canal!

I just don’t know what … if even where! … to think about this. (If you think with your gut, you feel with your … hands?)

This has very important implications for me personally. For years I have been saying (in a justifiably proud sort of way) that I personally cured my depression through a “scrupulous mental hygiene” that unburdened the pitiful amount of serotonin performing herculean functions in my bizarre, befuddled brain. Little did I know that it might not have been the intense mental effort of head (and heart?) that did it. It just might have been all that Fiber Cleanse Sister Rhee sold me, which left my colon a lean, clean, serotonin machine!

WARNING! The author suggests that you obtain appropriate third-party verification from peer-reviewed sources before accepting any facts, assertions, or even metaphors found in this post. Switch your Google default to Google Scholar, and remember that you will not be permitted to cite Wikipedia in your final paper …. Oh, wait, sorry. Slipped into the wrong persona there.