“To bear in mind constantly that all of this has happened before. And will happen again—the same plot from beginning to end, the identical staging. Produce them in your mind, as you know them from experience or from history: the court of Hadrian, of Antoninus. The courts of Philip, Alexander, Croesus. All just the same. Only the people are different.”

– Marcus Aurelius, concerning the Antonine Plague in the second century AD.

It is the different people that’s the issue, though, isn’t it? Because certainly this is not the end of the world or the end of humanity. The Antonine Plague killed between 10 and 18 million people, at a time when the population of the world was about 125 million. Today there are 7.6 billion. Most of us will survive. Will I be one of them? Will you, or your older or more vulnerable loved ones? 

Aurelius was Roman emperor and in the past day there have been over 475 deaths in Italy alone. In the past few days, the rate of infections and deaths has spiked worldwide. This was predicted. Now we’re afraid. What can we do? 

I’m a typical introvert; at least, a little more toward that end of the spectrum. Not much for larger groups and crowds, generally. You’ll never hear me say, “Let’s go to Vegas, Baby!” But one thing I know about myself is that, as much as I normally expend energy around other people and recharge in solitude, in times of crisis I like to be with others. I feel the urge to be together and work together. When the Thomas Fire came, and then the mudslide and the outages and road closures, I drew strength from others. It was like my introvert poles temporarily switched. Now, frankly, I would like hugs.I would like to be able to hug my friends and neighbors, shake hands with strangers. A Grateful Dead show would be awesome. And I’m looking forward to that future, someday. In the meantime, we have to find other ways to be kind and love each other, and take care of each other so we can live on, to the bright morning of once-again hugs.  

So how do we get through this? Together, apart. We have to stay apart to do this together. John Green said this so beautifully on YouTube last night, and I’ll like that below. 

Whoever you are, I love you. From here at my desk, alone in my condo on the west coast of California, please know that. And I would embrace you if I could. We have to get through this together. If you have one of those who thinks your separation doesn’t matter, or that anyone can afford to be defiant in the face of this disease, please rethink. Please be kind. You don’t want to kill your parents or grandparents. Get away from other people to break the chain of infection. Please be kind to each other. Do the hard things, the brave things, the loving things and remember


When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives might be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

The Internet is Forever

I read on a couple of blogs that UC Davis paid people to try to expunge the Net of all traces of the pepper spray incident that happened there in 2011. This seems ridiculously futile to me, but I like to play. So lest we forget, here are a couple of links to posts I wrote on another blog, on the day of that brutality.

Students Attacked by Cops at Davis

  • November 19, 2011

Open Letter to the Chancellor of UC Davis

  • November 19, 2011

“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”
― George Orwell, 1984

Captain’s Blog Stardate 20110727


"Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small, unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea."*

As a little kid I imagined future technology: cars without steering wheels, computers that spoke with us out of thin air. Humans would be different, all the same basic size and shape, carrying little communicators and wearing comfortable clothes.

Well, I was partly right. We’re getting the communicator thing down so well that I even the Sci-Fi writers of my youth didn’t imagine their power and ubiquity. And I don’t think the touchless, voice-controlled computer is very far off. (Our cell phones have voice commands, but they’re more reactive than interactive. Like the government.) We still have to steer the car, though Google is working on a Driverless Car right now; in fact, it already works for their engineers. I don’t think clothes have really changed very much.

I got one thing about future tech very wrong: I imagined that future being farther away that it turned out to be. I imagined the new world without me or you still in it. I thought the world of my childhood – in terms of our tools and toys – would be basically the same in my middle age, that technology would advance more slowly. I – we – would be long gone before cars looked like this.

2009 Cadillac Converj Concept

That’s a 2012 Cadillac. Click to enlarge.

They say that one sign of intelligence is the ability to hold two contradictory concepts in the mind at one type time, and accept them both as possibly valid. So I give you a couple of concepts to ponder: A typewriter and an Apple iPad. (The latter, you’ll notice is just a screen with keys, no keyboard at all.)

royal ipad 

Click to enlarge.

Who would have thought that in a short time we would type without buttons or keys, and publish without paper? But if you sent out today to buy either a 1937 Royal desk typewriter or an Apple iPad, which would be easier to find? And easier to use? I’ve used a Royal typewriter and it was hard to make it work! People who did it for a living were called typists. It was a hard job for low pay and it no longer exists in the world, as far as I know.

Do any companies still have people who do word processing – transcribing dictation? I don’t know. That was common in the 1980s and into the 1990s. Guys like me would dictate memos, letters, etc., with recorders, then take the little tapes to be transcribed. Then we got our work back printed on thinly pressed slices of tree.

Which reminds me of one Fail in the future tech that’s here so far: The paperless office we were promised 15 or 20 years ago. I’ve been trying to accomplish it for years but I can’t get other people to cooperate. I guess that can be a rant for another day.

I guess one of the most compelling ways in which computer technology has changed our lives so far is that anyone who wants to do it can be a writer and a publisher. For example, you’re looking at a page of a digital periodical, an occasional publication for which I do the writing and publish using a free medium. And over the years, Metaphor has been read over 20,000 times. That’s right, over twenty thousand deliveries. Not too shabby for a little blog with one frequently complacent writer, no paper, no costs, no charges, no advertising, and a very passive delivery system. And anyone can do it.

What do you suppose would have been required for Benjamin Franklin to put his Poor Richard’s Almanac into the hands of 20,000 citizens? A lot of money, time and effort. A lot of trees, too.

So here we are, the same bunch of primates who thought push button phones, the TV remote and the CB radio were pretty cool. And we’re blogging and using VOIP and feeling thankful that the VCR went the way of the Dodo before we had to take an adult ed class to program that sunofabitch.

It occurs to me, though, that it’s all teetering on a house of cards. I have a copy of Leaves of Grass that was printed before the Great Depression, and it survived on shelf somewhere because no special system was required to sustain its existence there. Not so with the Great Terra of Infinite Terabytes of human thought that we now have suspended around the planet in vast server farms and countless hard drives. All of that requires an economy to keep it going. What would it take to make all the stuff we know as modern life online just go blip and disappear? Not much. 

planetoftheapesendingIf Congress and the President fail to keep the lights of our tenuous, practically fictional economy burning next week, how far is it from default of the US to all the whirring drives of the Internet falling silent and blank? I mean we’re talking chain reaction, global economic meltdown, am I wrong?

I worry more about things like that, than whether Google+ is better than Facebook; more about America without Social Security and Medicare than about keyboards without keys.

New prime directive: the cloud must be sustained.


*Quote: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

Wild Bill

James Butler “Wild Bill” Hickok, famous gunfighter and gambler, was only 39 years old when he died in Deadwood SD, in 1876. He was shot in the back of the head in a cowardly attack, and died holding aces and eights.

I find it interesting, because in the movies he’s generally been portrayed quite a bit older. As here, by Keith Carradine, in Deadwood.

Carradine is 59, but he can still wear his guns, is my point.

future history

So I was reading Eckhart Tolle tonight: “Usually, the future is a replica of the past,” which in our present context is a rather disturbing prospect. The past is, in pertinent part, a long line of madmen who lead their hapless tribes and countries into senseless bloody conflict, and it has never solved a thing or served a reasonable purpose, and it’s still going on. At least, that’s the way I read history.

This gave me an idea: history!

We have, perhaps for the first time ever, a chance to really effect how history records what is going on. We have the technology to create a viable grassroots record. We can write it ourselves, and make it much harder for Big Brother to claim “Oceana has always been at war with Eastasia.

So here’s a start:

Bush’s Legacy: The President Who Cried Wolf. This is a special comment by Keith Olbermann. We should save this, and everything else we see that captures the truth, and keep it moving around the net. Create a repository of the truth.

Speaking of which, check out