The Energy

Of all the people visiting the coffee shop, one regular routinely negatively affects me. Her close proximity feels like angry energy brushing up against me. She fractures my concentration in multiple ways.

I can notice and rationalize many concrete reasons for this – her smell, her noise, she talks on her cell phone while sitting at the table (which irrationally irks me) – but I’ve sincerely concluded that her energy disturbs my energy, and not in a pleasant way. Whenever she’s at the next table, I feel forced to cut my writing short and leave. It doesn’t happen often, but today is such a day.

Thinking

Tucker, one of the household cats, has a sweet quiet nature that hides multiple insecurities. He’s needy and anxious, shadowing my activities, sleeping on the desk beside me, seeking my lap. His other dominant trait is that he’s a fighter. He loves attacking and fighting other cats. They know this and avoid him but he’ll seek them out. So I end up segregating them. He often ends up locked up in the office. He has food, water, a litter box and windows. It’s a warm and cozy space, and the primary place my wife and I spend our time. Yet, he wants out.

He wants out because he has other places he enjoys sleeping in the other rooms, but he also wants out because he knows the others are out there. I frequently talk to him about all this as I pet him, explaining that I don’t blame him, because this is his nature. While explaining this to him two days ago, I experienced an epiphany about the part of the novel I was writing. It was a eureka moment.

I couldn’t help but think of this yesterday. I subscribe to Delancey Place. They post excerpts of non-fiction books. The featured book was 1666: Plague, War and Hellfire’ by Rebecca Rideal. The book excerpt was about Newton and his thinking on gravity, along with the apple falling from the tree to the ground.

“Whatever he was contemplating as he sat under the apple tree on this autumnal day was brought to a sudden halt when, above him, a stem holding one of the plump apples strained and snapped. The speckled red fruit thumped to the ground and, in a flash, Newton had a groundbreaking epiphany. It became clear to him that the fruit had been drawn to the ground because gravitation worked to pull things together and hold everything onto the Earth, and that its gravitation must extend beyond the sky, into space, and to the moon itself. Following where Galileo and Kepler had led, and Einstein would later follow, in 1666, Newton had started:

‘… to think of gravity extending to the orb of the Moon … and deduced that the forces which keep the Planets in their Orbs must be reciprocally as the squares of their distances from the centres about which they revolve …'”

Chuckling, I compared my contemplation with Newton’s. Mine pale by magnitudes, of course, but I love the natural comparison and realization about how our minds work to evolve insights and furnish ideas. So cool.

Change, Resistance, and Complacency

Writing science fiction, one area I end up studying and contemplating is change. I was happy to come across this Harvard Business Review (Walter Frick) interview with Tyler Cowen. Cowen’s newest book, ‘The Complacent Class’addresses how America has become complacent and averse to change in recent years.

I’ve watched this develop. NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard – was the rallying chorus to battle many new construction suggestions. Property values and appearances take precedence over more pragmatic uses of land, usually in the name of property values, especially when one small set who don’t live in the area will benefit to the detriment of those living in the area and fighting the action.

Yet, we can see the concrete results in places like Oroville Dam. Oroville Dam was headline news during some of February as record rains struck parts of California. The dam’s spillway was opened but damage caused it to be closed. With water rising behind the dam, the emergency spillway was employed but the visibly fast erosion taking place concerned many. Fears that the dam was going to collapse caused mass evacuation. Many area residents were pissed because the water behind that dam in their back yard benefited others living hundreds of miles away.

Almost as an extension of NIMBY, Homeowners Associations (HOAs), have developed to protect individual neighborhoods and developments here in southern Oregon. A large part of that is the agreement to establish a new development is centered around having an open green space, or mini-park, as part of the development. That park, and the attendant common areas, need a management focus. Hence, the HOA is used. To protect property values, the HOA restricts changes and uses. Home owners are limited to what they can plant; fruit and vegetable gardens are generally off-limits, frustrating people who want to grow their own produce. Some common interest developments address this by creating a community garden.

So, from the economic and social ramification of residing in America in the early twenty-first century, to watching and thinking about politics, to imagining our future, Cowen’s book entices me.

______________________________________________________________

HBR: And all this is happening during a time when we see a lot of change in technology, particularly in IT and machine learning, and, potentially, artificial intelligence. How does that progress fit with your thesis?

Well, there is a lot of change, but it’s concentrated in some areas. Look at a classic 20th-century notion of progress: how quickly you can move through physical space. That hasn’t gotten faster for a long time. Planes are not faster. With cars, there’s more traffic. It’s actually harder to get around, and that makes the physical world less dynamic. It’s harder to build things in the United States.

The thing that’s much easier to do is sit at home and have all of life come to you. You speak to your Alexa or your Echo, and you have things be ordered. You use the internet. You watch on Netflix. It’s made us all much more homebodies, feeling we don’t need to change things, more comfortable in our consumption patterns. And obviously that has big private gains, or people wouldn’t be doing it. But there’s nonetheless a collective effect that I think is worrying when our physical and geographic spaces become less dynamic, less mobile, less intermixed. And that’s the America we’re seeing today.

Read the entire short, engaging interview at HBR.

 

On This Day

On this day in 1990, the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird set record. Flying over the continental United States, the aircraft averaged 2,144.8 MPH, and required one hour and four minutes to travel from Los Angeles, California, to Washington, D.C.

The aircraft has since been retired, and they’re no longer flown.

 

Today’s Theme Music

My wife reminded me of this one. It came out waaaayyyy back in the 1960s. That seems like three lifetimes to some, and yesterday to others. It’s like the day before yesterday to me.

The Isley Brothers wrote it, but this cover, by The Human Beinz, is the one I know. The Human Beinz release made it to the Top 10 in 1968. My wife called it the ‘no-no’ song. Its real title is ‘Nobody But Me’, but listening to the lyrics, it’s easy to understand her confusion. They sing no thirty-four times in a row. Featuring a fast, jaunty beat with lively bass, the words and melody are easy to learn. My little sister likely doesn’t recall this, but I used to sing this song to her; it amused me as a twelve-year-old jerk to sing, “No, no, no, no no, no no,” to a toddler.

The song streams well on a wintry March walk.

 

 

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