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The brightest lightning flash ever

2014-10-23T07:02:55+00:00

It was a gloomy, rainy night as I drove home from dinner. The clouds were low, phasing into contact with the ground as fog, and the main body of the cloud layer was only 100 meters up. The whole sky, from horizon to horizon, was hidden by a thick layer of cloud.

Then it turned into a thunderstorm. The whole world lit up with blinding bright light, so bright that it was like being inside a white ping-pong ball. I could not see anything outside the car windows. It lasted for a millisecond, and then the dark rain returned. The thunder came a few seconds later, indicating that the lightning bolt itself was about a kilometer above me. It had lit the entire cloud layer below it, which turned my world white.

It did that three more times before I got home. Each time, the white light was so blinding that it completely surrounded me and blotted out everything else as if it didn’t even exist.

I have never seen lightning like that before. It was beautiful. I hope I get to see it again someday, but I know the meteorological conditions will have to be just right.

Proof that iTunes users are stupid

2014-10-22T12:13:08+00:00

Now there’s statistical proof that iTunes users are stupid. Or more specifically, that Canadian iTunes users are stupid. Because enough of them downloaded an 8-second burst of white noise attributed to Taylor Swift to push it to the #1 spot on iTunes in Canada.

I think it’s hilarious. I wonder how many of them also tried the #AppleWave feature in the new iOS8? Probably most of them.

They’re switching him off today

2014-10-22T10:02:22+00:00

S, a relative’s roommate whom I know socially, is scheduled to die today.

Actually, S died Saturday night, after we had dinner together. He went to a street fair in a nearby city and drank heavily. Then he got on his motorcycle to come home.

Someone found him on the highway, a mile from his home, dead. He had drifted into a left turn lane which ended at a median. He hit the curb and was thrown from his motorcycle.

The emergency crew wasn’t sure how long S had been lying there, but they shocked him back to life and then airlifted him to a nearby hospital. Sadly, tests yesterday revealed that his brain function was essentially zero. His injuries were severe – every rib was broken, for example. So perhaps it’s best that he not recover from this accident. Even if his brain was intact, his body is severely broken.

S’s family arrives today from another state. They will say goodbye, and then they will switch him off and harvest the organs that are salvageable.

It’s so sad, because I saw him only hours before he died. He was jovial and sweet, as he always was. A genuinely nice human, as humans go. And he was young. Luckily he had no wife or children, so his death only leaves his parents and his friends bereft.

This, as irritatingly stupid people on television sometimes say, is a “teachable moment.”

  • Motorcycles are dangerous. A moment’s inattention can kill you, because you have no protection. Worse, a moment’s inattention on the part of another driver can kill you, because you have no protection.
  • Alcohol is dangerous. Anything that alters your perception or reflexes is dangerous.
  • Mixing motorcycles and alcohol is dangerous and also stupid.
  • In my experience here, I’ve observed that good people seem to die young. Evil people seem to live a very long time. Two theories apply here:
    • Reincarnation literature indicates a general consensus among those who have had Near Death Experiences (or who can recall past lives) that when your tasks in this life are complete, you leave. Often your departure is abrupt. This event seems to fit.
    • If Heaven and Hell are merely different planes of existence, there are people who suggest that this plane is actually Hell. Evil people belong here; good people get to leave early.

Death doesn’t touch me often, but this is the closest it’s come in a long time. I hope that his death influences his friends to get rid of their motorcycles, but most of them think they’re invincible, or that injuries and deaths only happen to other people. They will likely continue with their suicidal behavior.

Goodbye, S. It was nice to know you. I hope your smile and happy attitude continue, wherever you go.

“Selfie” and “A to Z”

2014-10-21T08:00:21+00:00

I’ve started watching two new shows.

Selfie” features Scottish actress Karen Gillian of “Dr. Who,” and John Cho of “Harold & Kumar,” “Sleepy Hollow” and “Star Trek.” It’s a modern rendition of “My Fair Lady,” right down to the names of the characters (Eliza and Henry), and follows Henry officially trying to teach Eliza how to be a better person, while she unofficially teaches him how to be a better person. It’s quite good so far and both leads are well-cast.

A to Z” features Ben Feldman (Andrew) and Cristin Milioti (Zelda) as two young professionals who fall in love. It’s very current with its cultural references to dating apps and the Internet, which means it won’t seem very fresh if it makes it into syndication and people try to watch it ten years from now. It’s sweet and enjoyable, but also includes an unhealthy dose of liberal propaganda with every episode. (Episode 1: driving identical Prius cars, and a rant against marriage and families (and implicitly, corporations) in the first minute of the show; Episode 2: everyone in the office making out, including some prominently-featured homosexual couples; Episode 3: a major plot point is Zelda’s marriage fraud, which is a felony punishable by 5 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, and would result in Zelda being disbarred or never even qualifying as a lawyer.) It’s nice to hear Katey Segal (“Married with Children,” “Sons of Anarchy” and “Futurama”) narrating the show.

Both shows are fun to watch while “The Last Ship” is on hiatus. We’ll see whether either show annoys me to the point where I stop watching. It’s a low bar, and most shows (like “Sleepy Hollow”) cross it by season 2. But we’ll see.

Stage 4 brain cancer, part 5

2014-10-20T06:11:25+00:00

We saw our friend who’s dying of stage 4 brain cancer. He is doing poorly. Long-term steroid use damages the liver and kidneys, so his doctors tapered off his steroids, which apparently were responsible for his doing well over the summer. Now he is bedridden again. His wife doubts he will see the New Year.

We had a nice conversation with him. He was lucid and cracking jokes. It was difficult for me to reconcile the image of the pale hairless blob in the bed with the tall vigorous man I knew him to be.

Every time we see him might be the last time. So we left on a positive note. I tickled his feet.

She was embarrassed to show me her “Fifty Shades of Grey”

2014-10-15T14:56:48+00:00

At the car rental desk, the young agent (who reminded me of Hispanic actress Eva Mendes) mentioned that she was looking forward to reading her book this weekend. I asked her what she was reading.

She smiled secretively. “I don’t know if I should show you,” she said in a low voice.

I smiled and said, “Why?” She pulled out her book. It was one of the “Fifty Shades of Grey” books, I’m not sure which one.

We laughed together.

“I know,” she said, putting it away again. “it’s ‘mommy porn.’ And I’m not even a mom.”

“It does seem to be a popular series among the women I know,” I reassured her. I have never read any of the books, because I’m not interested. Fellow aliens have glanced through them and expressed revulsion, and their critiques were sufficient to satisfy my curiosity. “I hear the books are fun,” I said convincingly.

“They’re very good,” she sighed, fluttering her eyelashes.

“I’m sure,” I agreed. Our conversation then turned to something else.

It seems that every woman I know has these books in their home. Some of those women would classify themselves as man-hating feminists. So if the subject of the series is Bondage, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism (BDSM) between women and men, I’m unclear why those women would be interested in it, unless they are hypocrites. I don’t really care, though. Their psychological issues are not my problem.

I did happen to see the 2013 television program, “Inside the Fifty Shades,” however. It features sex workers who specialize in BDSM, talking about their experiences and their work. Listening to their stories made me realize just how varied the human mind can be in the stimulation that it enjoys. But it also makes me realize that one would have to be deeply vested in their corporeal body to enjoy such forms of stimulation.

I’m not. The body I wear right now is a tool, a vehicle, and a relatively frail, damaged one at that. I use it to move and observe things around me on this planet. There’s really no point to activities which could damage the vehicle or infect it with a disease.

And if I damage or destroy my vehicle before my mission here is complete, I may not be assigned another one very soon. One must treat with respect the equipment they are given for their mission.

So, I think it’s amusing, the types of abuse with which some of the natives here use for entertainment.

I think I’ll stick to music.

No one will remember me and that’s okay

2014-10-14T21:08:58+00:00

I was reading about the Mexican Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, which of course is actually three days, not one. Apparently one of the purposes of the event is to remember the dead, reminisce about them, and tell amusing anecdotes about them. I think it’s just another type of ancestor worship. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. The holiday dates back 3,000 years to the Zapotecs and similar tribes. But Martians have no use for ancestor worship, since clones have no ancestors as such, just stem cell lines and batches.

It’s sweet that living people would want to remember dead people as they were, not as they are. But no one will remember me after I’m gone. That’s okay with me. I like influencing people with ideas. Sometimes you can have a huge impact on a person’s life just by saying the right words at the right time.

As long as the events I set in motion continue to ripple outward, I am content to vanish from history, to be unremembered. The force of the wave is what matters, not the object that set the wave in motion.

 

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