Thinkin’ about Trucks

In the world prior to COVID-19, I was sitting in our pickup truck while my husband made a much-needed dump delivery. As he emptied the junk from the bed, the cab swayed back and forth. I tried really hard to breathe through my mouth to avoid that dumpy stench. To pass the time, I thought about how I always feel when I sit in a truck.

Small. Foreign. Extremely not male.

I’ve been in trucks more than a time or two, but not so much as to make myself at home in them. I always feel kind of ill at ease in these behemoths. Climbing into them is a challenge. They’re usually dirty inside and out, and when I’m riding in one, I always seem to be going somewhere I don’t routinely go. A dump. A repo yard. A junkyard. A lumberyard. (Yards, in general, seem to attract trucks, don’t they?)

I’ve bounced down many an unpaved back road in a truck. I’ve hauled things. Moved things. Picked up things. Towed things. Delivered things. Every time I’m in a truck, it seems, I’m about to do something that I don’t find particularly fun. It will be dirty, sweaty, potentially painful and unpleasant, and quite likely long overdue. Either that, or I’m about to go somewhere I couldn’t normally go. Someplace rocky or steep or rugged or muddy.

Trucks often look like they’re about to fall apart, but at the same time they feel like the most reliable things on earth. That’s quite the contradiction. One thing’s for certain, though. I always feel like I’m about to get ‘er done when I’m in a truck.

Yes, indeed. And for some reason my Southern accent tends to come to the surface. I start to use words like “chores”. I start droppin’ my g’s.

I’m always ever-so-grateful to have use of a truck, because whatever it is I’m doing could not be done without one. And I know I’m utterly dependent upon the good will of its owner. That can sometimes be awkward. I’m sure truck owners get rather sick of being asked for favors.

No one has ever loaned me their truck. I’ve been told more than once that I wouldn’t be able to drive a truck or start a truck or stop a truck. I’ve always found that supremely insulting, and sexist, but I’m also secretly relieved, because I really don’t want to be bothered. I can’t imagine putting myself in one of those smelly, noisy, rattling things if I didn’t have to.

Love them or hate them, though, trucks sure can come in handy. That, and they always make me want to take a shower after interacting with them. Most cars don’t do that. So there you have it. Trucks promote hygiene.

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Spare Me Posthumanity

I was reading up on Transhumanism because I thought it would make an interesting blog topic. Mind officially blown. I decided that it’s way too intense and complicated for it to be broken down into one of my random musings. (In other words, I am feeling too lazy to make the effort.)

But within that topic I came across the idea of Posthumanism, and it made me muse, indeed. The website whatistranshumanism.org describes it like this:

“Many transhumanists wish to follow life paths which would, sooner or later, require growing into posthuman persons: they yearn to reach intellectual heights as far above any current human genius as humans are above other primates; to be resistant to disease and impervious to aging; to have unlimited youth and vigor; to exercise control over their own desires, moods, and mental states; to be able to avoid feeling tired, hateful, or irritated about petty things; to have an increased capacity for pleasure, love, artistic appreciation, and serenity; to experience novel states of consciousness that current human brains cannot access. It seems likely that the simple fact of living an indefinitely long, healthy, active life would take anyone to posthumanity if they went on accumulating memories, skills, and intelligence.

“Posthumans could be completely synthetic artificial intelligences, or they could be enhanced uploads, or they could be the result of making many smaller but cumulatively profound augmentations to a biological human. The latter alternative would probably require either the redesign of the human organism using advanced nanotechnology or its radical enhancement using some combination of technologies such as genetic engineering, psycho pharmacology, anti-aging therapies, neural interfaces, advanced information management tools, memory enhancing drugs, wearable computers, and cognitive techniques.

“It is difficult for us to imagine what it would be like to be a posthuman person. Posthumans may have experiences and concerns that we cannot fathom, thoughts that cannot fit into the three-pound lumps of neural tissue that we use for thinking. Some posthumans may find it advantageous to jettison their bodies altogether and live as information patterns on vast super-fast computer networks. Their minds may be not only more powerful than ours but may also employ different cognitive architectures or include new sensory modalities that enable greater participation in their virtual reality settings. Posthuman minds might be able to share memories and experiences directly, greatly increasing the efficiency, quality, and modes in which posthumans could communicate with each other. The boundaries between posthuman minds may not be as sharply defined as those between humans.”

Okay, so is anyone else a little freaked out by this concept? Yes, it would be nice to have an enhanced capacity for learning, and who wouldn’t want a little extra vigor? But I really don’t want to live forever. I think that would become tedious and depressing. If I couldn’t count on an expiration date, I’d take everything for granted and not appreciate or value anything. I would procrastinate even more than I already do. Nothing would be precious. It would all feel inevitable.

I wouldn’t mind not feeling “tired, hateful, or irritated about petty things,” but I’m not so sure I’d want to be able to control my desires or mental state completely. Everything would become predictable. There’d be no surprises and nothing to get excited about. What would be the point?

And do I really want to risk augmentation? Too much could go wrong. Not only that, but would I want to live in such a superior state that I could no longer relate to humanity? I would hate to view people as mere primates. And while I might be able to communicate more effectively with my fellow posthumans, I would cease to be able to communicate with anyone else, and that would be tragic. And I genuinely believe that the most valuable sign of intelligence is the ability to get your point across to anyone, regardless of their IQ.

And then there’s the fact that certain people, if given these enhanced powers, would not use them for good. And because they would be so far ahead of us mere mortals, there would be little, if anything, we could do about it. That scares me.

While I can’t predict the future, and I’m sure that there are things around the corner that I can’t even begin to imagine, one thing is for certain: I wouldn’t want to meet a posthuman in a dark alley, or anywhere else.

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Plants Are to Humans as Humans Are To…

I just read an article that completely blew my mind. It was pure speculation, yes, but it certainly made me think. Entitled “Is Physical Law an Alien Intelligence?” it discussed how advanced technology, as posited by Arthur C. Clarke, would seem like magic to a less advanced civilization.

It made me think of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain. Of course a 19th century man, if sent back to the time of King Arthur, would seem magical to many. Any time you have advanced knowledge, you’ll be a source of fascination to those who do not.

But the article above takes it even further. What if the technology is so advanced that we can’t see it or conceive of it at all? What if there’s actually intelligent life out there that’s so developed that it manipulates the universe in ways we’ve yet to explain, but have been actively confused by?

As I mulled over this article it made me wonder how beings like that would perceive us. Maybe we’re so primitive that they don’t see us either. I thought about that as I watered my tomato plants.

Do tomato plants know when they’re being watered? Do they know what the source of this water is? Can they distinguish water from my hose from water that comes from the sky? Do they care?

The fact is, I don’t understand tomato plants. I don’t know what makes them tick. I don’t comprehend a living thing that can’t focus outward, or for that matter, focus at all.

But as speculative as that article is, it made me think about how arrogant we humans are, believing that we’re at the top of some pyramid, and that all life must be somehow inferior to our own. It’s just as likely that that’s not the case.

It’s rather unsettling, though, thinking that in the cosmic scheme of things, I could very well be your basic tomato plant. It sure makes me think twice about the tomatoes in my salad.

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Traveling with Tab

I once went camping in Europe and the people setting up the tent next to me pulled out of their van, I swear to God, a TV, a wooden fixed-leg table with matching upholstered chairs, an electric stove and oven combo, a rotating fan, and a futon.

Seriously? What’s the point of tent camping if you’re going to bring your whole house with you? I think we as a species have gotten very soft.

I am imagining rich people from the Elizabethan era packing all the comforts of home in gigantic trunks and piling them onto the roof of their coaches as they flitted from one mansion to the next.

Nowadays that’s all of us (except for the part about the mansions).

Don’t agree with me? Come on. Who among us hasn’t seen someone go into a full-blown panic if he or she doesn’t have access to a smart phone? Lest we forget, for the better part of human history, those things weren’t a necessity.

Years ago I was traveling overseas with someone who had never been out of the country before. He insisted he was going to bring eight 6-packs of Tab with him, because that was all he would drink. It took a lot to convince him that the hassle of lugging all that soda from pillar to post would not be worth the thirst it might quench. I finally got him to see reason, but he did insist on eating at McDonalds in foreign countries for as long as I knew him. I was appalled.

We all have our gadgets and tchotchkes. We love our satin neck pillows and our squatty potties and our hair straighteners and all manner of technology. We insist upon different shoes for every occasion and Little Mermaid DVDs to appease our children. We are awash in lotions and unguents and supplements and sprays. We pack 14 shirts for a 3 day trip, because you just never know.

We no longer know how to rough it. We want what we want when we want it. Is it any wonder that airlines now charge a premium if you exceed your luggage weight limit? Otherwise some of us would want to bring our favorite recliners.

I urge you to experience the joy of traveling light. If there’s something you require in a foreign country and you can’t obtain it there, you might ask yourself how an entire country has managed to survive without that thing. And the pursuit of that item might even be one of your more memorable travel experiences. Anything that makes you actually interact with the natives can only enrich your trip.

Remember, people survived for centuries without a hair straightener. It’s a nice luxury, but it’s still a luxury.

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Gratitude Alarm

I don’t have a smart phone. In fact, my phone is just about as stupid as they come in this modern world. But hey, it only costs me about 5 bucks a month, so as far as I’m concerned, that makes me pretty darned smart.

Living in this state of self-imposed technological deprivation, I know nothing about apps. There may already be an app for this, but if not, there really should be. I would call this app the “gratitude alarm”. It would instruct your phone to set off a gentle alarm at random, completely unanticipated times throughout your day. The alarm would remind you to stop what you’re doing and look about you, and really appreciate your place in the now.

Too often, we forget to do this. Sometimes you need to just enjoy the sensation of the sun on your face. Don’t take your current experience for granted. Be grateful for the people you are having lunch with, and for the food on your plate. Embrace the experience of that crowded subway, as it’s taking you where you want to go. Appreciate the fact that you have a job when so many others do not. Admire that flowering “weed” that you might have otherwise overlooked.

I suspect that if people were to use this app for just a few weeks, they’d see a shift in their attitude for the better. After a while, the app would no longer be needed. An attitude of gratitude can become a delightful habit if you let it.

For now, pretend this blog post is your alarm. Stop right now. Look around. Be grateful.

alarm

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Words I Didn’t Know 20 Years Ago

I’m sick of focusing on all things political and dwelling upon the handbasket in which the world seems to be going to hell. Aren’t you? But it’s hard to keep the subject of change out of the front rooms of my cluttered mind, so I decided to think about the many things that either didn’t exist or hadn’t been named 20 years ago. I came up with quite a list.

  • Blog/Vlog/Podcast—It’s ironic that I should be blogging about this, but there you have it. We certainly have a lot more ways to get our point across than we once did.
  • Restless Leg Syndrome—I think a lot of syndromes get identified and named simply so that drug companies can sell us pills for them. I’m not saying that this malady shouldn’t be taken seriously. I’m just wondering where it was before the drug commercials told us all about it.
  • Hashtag—We used to just call that thing a “pound sign”. I still have to stop myself from calling it that. Why did we have to come up with another term? It’s the same number of syllables.
  • Fibromyalgia—I used to manage a medical library, and I remember the first day I heard this word, because I got no less than 15 inquiries about it on that day, when I had never heard of it in my life the day before. It’s like it was Athena, being born fully formed out of the head of Zeus. Or something.
  • World Wide Web—Yes, grasshopper, life was livable before the internet.
  • Emoticons and Emojis—We still managed to express ourselves without these nifty little devices. Now I can’t get through the day without encountering one, even if I have to stop and think for a minute to be able to tell them apart.
  • Tilapia—Another Zeus birth thing—one day I had never heard of this fish, and the next it was every freakin’ where. Many consider this a trash fish, but now it’s served in restaurants. I shudder to think what we’ll be eating once we’ve run through all the trash fish. (“Soylent Green is people” just popped into my head.)
  • Texting—I must confess I only acquired this skill an embarrassingly short time ago. Now I do it all the time, and think I’m the shit because of it.
  • LGBTQ—It’s not that this wasn’t a thing, and hasn’t been a thing since the dawn of mankind. It’s just that we didn’t used to have an acronym for it.
  • Credit Card Swipe Machines—Zeus birth thing number three. I was shopping one day, and every single store I went into had them, when none of them had them the day before. I had to be taught how to use it by the first cashier. And now, ironically, they’re about to go the way of the Dodo bird. Pretty soon you’ll only see chip readers. What’ll they think of next?
  • Drone—This word used to only mean a male honeybee or someone who spoke in a monotonous way. Can you imagine? It’s a different world.

Suddenly I’m feeling really, really old.

hashtag

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Thirsty for Knowledge?

My God, why isn’t everybody doing this? There are lectures out there by experts, on every subject in the known universe, and they’re FREE. They’re called TED talks, which stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. And I’ve yet to come across one that wasn’t a pleasure to watch.

Who needs higher education? You can learn everything you need to know while playing FreeCell on your laptop. When I think of how people have sacrificed everything for education, how knowledge is, theoretically, power, and how money is so often the impediment to advancement, I want to scream TEEEEEED!

I’ll be watching you. I’ll know if you’ve clicked through to the link above. So what’s it going to be? Ignorance or enlightenment? Come on, people! Join me as I sip from the font of all human erudition!

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This is what you get when you type “font” into Google Images, thus proving that Google is NOT the font of all knowledge.

Smoke Signals

The thing I hate most about my living situation is that I can’t get a freakin’ cell phone signal inside my house. If I need to make a long distance call (my land line doesn’t have long distance), I have to walk out to the street. This is not fun during a downpour or an emergency.

If I fall and can’t get up and can’t get to my laptop to fire off an e-mail or an instant message, I’m screwed. That’s ironic. We are at an age when technology should be making us ever more powerful, but in some situations it makes us increasingly helpless. For as long as homo sapiens have roamed the earth, we’ve been coming up with ways to communicate, hundreds of ways, in fact, but for the most part, these methods have been lost to us. Think about it. Can you personally communicate by any of these methods with any manner of ease?

  • Semaphore
  • Ham Radio
  • CB Radio
  • Sign language
  • Esperanto
  • Smoke Signals
  • Cryptography
  • Skywriting
  • Oral history
  • Troubadour
  • Telegram
  • Morse Code
  • Signal mirrors
  • Drum Signals
  • Hieroglyphs
  • Yodeling
  • Petroglyphs
  • Pictographs
  • Earth Figures
  • Carrier Pigeon
  • Marathon runners
  • Graffiti
  • Signal Fires
  • Pony Express
  • Coded Spirituals
  • Messages in a Bottle
  • Satellite Phone
  • Maori Hakka
  • Interpretive Dance

It’s kind of embarrassing. With all these options at our disposal, why am I sitting here in my house, cursing my luck for not being able to get a cell phone signal? My ancestors would laugh at me.

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