I’m useless at self-promotion, so up until now, I’ve avoided asking for donations for my work. It’s partly because of the ‘imposter syndrome’, and it’s partly because the tools that were available were once difficult to use or expensive.
It’s the ‘imposter syndrome’ which really cripples me and causes me to hesitate to ask for money. Questions arise like ‘Am I being cheeky, asking for donations?’ or ‘Is my writing good enough to be asking for donations?’ or ‘Can I really call myself an author?’.
I’m less worried by the technical complexities that go with asking for donations. Technical stuff has been my whole life, and I don’t usually have problems with that sort of thing, but sometimes a prerequisite of the technical stuff is a paid subscription to something, and that is a problem for me.
There also has to be a driver. Why do I want to ask people for money? The reason is that I want my writing to improve. I want it to be worth reading, and that involves asking people for advice. People, friends and relations could be asked to help, I suppose, but to really get the lowdown on my writing I would need to employ a professional editor.
So that is why I am asking for donations. If I can get enough, I can ask someone to look over my work, and give their professional opinion. I should be able to improve my writing, both by editing my past work, and by taking account of the editorial comments when writing new stuff.
Please consider donating via Paypal (you don’t have to have Paypal to do it), so that I can improve my past and future writing. Thank you.
Some wag, way back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, once commented that homosexuality is a self-limiting problem. I assume that he (or for that matter, maybe, she) meant that homosexuals don’t breed, so they can’t produce more little homosexuals. Of course there’s many things wrong with this comment, not the least of which is that homosexuality is somehow a ‘problem’.
The writer of the comment assumes that homosexuality has a genetic component. That is, homosexuals are born not made, which is almost certainly true. But the writer was totally wrong when he/she suggested that homosexuals do not breed. They can, they do, and they have always done so, by one means or another.
I don’t know whether the babies of homosexuals are more likely be homosexual or not, but if I were to hazard a guess, I’d say that the kids of homosexuals would be slightly more likely to be homosexual than the kids of heterosexuals. This would be because the kids of homosexuals would be less likely to suppress any homosexual tendencies in themselves than the kids of heterosexuals. Just a guess.
The mothers of homosexuals are mainly heterosexual women, so homosexuals are not going to die out unless the human race changes and homosexuals are not born. This is good, because they are often colourful and interesting characters. I know that’s a stereotype, but it’s not far off the mark.
The thoughts above came to me when I was thinking about something completely different. Anti-vaxxers. They are far from my favourite people. They are the aggressive fundamentalists of this era, the sort that get up in your face and cover you in spittle as they shout their arguments at you from very short range. That’s also a stereotype, and it is also not far off the mark.
When we get vaccinated, we protect ourselves and others from diseases like Covid-19. We all wear masks because that probably reduces transmission of the disease. The vaccines will protect us and will reduce the effects of the virus if we come in contact with it, but they are not perfect. A few people will get the virus even though they have been vaccinated, but only a small number out of an already small number will need hospitalisation. Very few will die.
But those who have not been vaccinated will, if infected, probably need medical help. Many of them will end up in hospital. Some will die.
So, will anti-vaxxers die out? Will they die or recant before they can have children? That seems unlikely, as many of them already have children and scream “You’re not putting that junk into my child’s arm!”
Also, being an anti-vaxxer is probably not hereditary. Of course, their children will be indoctrinated by their parents with their parents’ anti-vaxxer views, and in that way the parents’ views would be ‘inherited’ by the children. Later the children could encounter a disease that kills them because they are not protected against it. They would not pass along the anti-vaxxer mind set to their potential children and the anti-vaxxer mind set would die out, but only in that family.
Unfortunately, the anti-vaxxer mind set can spread sideways much faster than it can die out. An anti-vaxxer can ‘infect’ many others with their mind set in a very short time.
Since it looks like anti-vaxxers are not a self-limiting problem, we will have to live with them. We’ll need to get vaccinated, and we will need to pay our taxes to provide the medical services that they and their kids will likely need. It’s the price we pay for living in a free society. It would be a lot easier if we could compel them to get vaccinated, but that is not something that anyone in their right mind would want to do.
With any luck the rise and fall of the anti-vaxxers will parallel the rise and fall of smoking. At first no one smoked. Then everyone did. It became apparent that people were dying as a result, and while the smokers and the tobacco industry pushed back, the numbers slowly started to fall though it will be a long time until smoking tobacco all but disappears.
Probably the most effective measure that was taken to reduce the number of smokers was the banning of smoking in public places, like pubs and restaurants. It used to be automatic to light up after sitting down. When you had to go outside to light up, it became a chore and this make it easier to give up.
I think that one way to reduce the number of anti-vaxxers would be to ban unvaccinated people from public places, like cinemas and clubs, but that is hard. If everyone carried an inoculation ‘passport’, it might work. Almost everyone carries a driver license, and that works, but there are valid reasons to be wary of requiring everyone to carry an inoculation passport.
Maybe the anti-vaxxers will come to their senses eventually, when they see their unvaccinated family members dying off. Maybe. But by then they will have passed the virus on to others. Innocent people who would get the vaccination if they could, but can’t for some medical reason.
Every unvaccinated person is a Typhoid Mary. It is worth reading that Wikipedia article to get an idea of the mayhem that an uncooperative unvaccinated person can cause. If you are not vaccinated, and you infect someone and they die, then it would make sense that you could be charged with manslaughter. The problem would be proof.
I just realised that I’ve not posted any of my stories for a while. In fact I’ve not posted much at all! I’ve still been writing stories, but most of the time I’ve been polishing ones that I’ve already written.
The stories that I am posting below are ones which I’ve not posted before, but when I’ve figured out how to update files on this site I will update some of the older ones. I’ve not substantially changed them though. I’ve just changed a few sentences, corrected some grammar and spelling mistakes. That sort of thing. I hate seeing mistakes in my stories!
Under the Bridge
The troll didn’t have a name, and the humans teased him. He lived quietly under a bridge, and appreciated the smoothness of a stone, the strength of a rock, and the trickling of the stream. But he saves the humans and meets an intriguing fellow stream dweller.
There was something about the cat, the Boffin decided, that was not quite right. The Mage agreed, so they kept an eye on her. She led them to an encounter with a prickly Cat Queen, and the Mage and the Boffin uncovered a plot.
The Master lives high on the mountain known as the Behemoth. He sees climbers come to try to conquer the mountain and often, they die. The Master knows everything, except those things that he deliberately chooses not to know. He is waiting for his Student to appear from the world below.
It’s a time of war, and a time of disruption. The girl robs dead bodies for food because her mother is dead and her father is missing. She is barely surviving, but then one of the dead bodies turns out to be not as dead as she thought.
Azathoth searches for something, but he doesn’t know what. He travels the infinite universes, searching for life and the meaning for his existence. He meets a girl and lives a full human life, but there is more to him than that.
According to this article from the LA Times, coronaviruses aspire to be like the common cold. In other words, more infectious than Covid-19, but less deadly. The article says that at least four coronaviruses have mutated to follow this pattern.
According to Daniel Defoe, in “The History of the Plague in London” the early form of that disease was both infectious and lethal. Later it made people ill, but it didn’t kill quite so readily. (I’m interpreting what Defoe said, and interpolated his conclusions). It may be that this is the way that the Covid-19 epidemic ends. In the case of the plague, this happened within a year (if I’m correct), and it is likely that Covid-19 may mutate and produce a much less lethal strain on a timescale of months.
Coronaviruses are noted for their ability to mutate. Mutating fast means that any immunity that someone gets from being infected quickly erodes. So, if the flu is a good guide, the flu’s rapid mutation means that we have to get vaccinated every year to protect ourselves. Sometimes the flu virus is a more serious disease than at other times, but it doesn’t seem to become a lot more lethal over time.
There is a possibility that that is mostly due to better medical treatments and facilities for sufferers. But there is always a chance that the flu could become more lethal in spite of this. If Covid-19 doesn’t mutate to become less lethal or harmful, then life as we knew it is over. Border controls, social distancing, and so on are here to stay. Outbreaks are here to stay. Fast cheap air travel is at an end. Global tourism is at an end.
The Covid-19 pandemic may not actually end, but governments may have to act as if it has. They will be forced to open the borders some time, and this will, inevitably, let the virus in again. More people will die. It seems that vaccines will at the most be only partially effective. People still get the flu even if they have been vaccinated, because the virus continually mutates and the same may prove true of Covid-19.
In Defoe’s time people eventually suffered from “plague fatigue”. They took the attitude that if the plague was going to get them, it didn’t matter what they did, and they stopped avoiding plague victims, and just carried on with business as usual. (They wrapped it up in religious language, but that is the essence).
This, interestingly, appears to be happening in NZ and in the rest of the world. In Defoe’s time, in London, this happened at the peak of the epidemic, and things, coincidentally I believe, got better from then on. In Trump’s America, (and some other countries) we can see the consequences of giving up too soon.
Consequently, I believe we in NZ should continue the fight against the virus, for so long as it remains so lethal. We should hope that, within a year, the virus mutates to become less lethal. We should hope that a vaccine becomes available, but we shouldn’t pin all our hopes on that. Viruses have ways of getting around vaccines.
Some of my stories have been published on Amazon (as eBooks and paperbacks) and Kobobooks and Smashwords (as eBooks). Here are the links to my Author Pages on those sites.
I’ve been doing other things, mainly fiddling with this web site, but I’ve also been writing some more stories in the Mage and the Boffin series. Here they are!
When Alan is threatened “everything flickers” and he finds himself in a strange new place. He will have to start again from next to nothing. No home, no friends, no money. He needs to find someone who can help him make sense of it all.
Imagine a world where men are much less intelligent than women. What would it be like? Would the men become little more than pets, or would they still be able to hold their own in a relationship? What would such a relationship look like?
I’ve written a story about a couple, Jess and Pet, who live in such a world. The story is available here. It’s in a number of parts, and each part is less than 3,000 words long.
Please note, I’ve decided to share my stories here as PDFs. If you would prefer a different format, for example, an ePub file, just let me know through my feedback form.
Some of my stories have been published on Amazon (as eBooks and paperbacks) and Kobobooks and Smashwords (as eBooks). Here are the links to my Author Pages on those sites.
There’s nothing quite like arguing with Climate Change disbelievers or those who believe that 5G is harmful. Or similar ‘fringe’ believers. Oh, some of the fringe beliefs may turn out to be true, it is true, but most of them, and almost certainly the ones I mention above, will turn out to be false.
One particular line of argument caused my jaw to drop. I want to share its ridiculousness with you. It goes this way. Firstly those who cite mainstream articles, ones which espouse Climate Climate or the harmlessness of 5G are accused of cherry picking the results that support the mainstream point of view. There are after all, hundreds of papers, the critics point out, that espouse the opposite view.
Well, yes. In a very narrow sense they are right, of course, but why would anyone cite papers that oppose their point of view? There are good theoretical grounds for believing that Climate Change exists, and that 5G will not harm us, therefore the fact that most experiments support this view is not surprising. Experiments that do show that Climate Change doesn’t exist, or that 5G will harm us should therefore be considered with suspicion, especially if, as is usually a case, there is no theoretical basis for the claims, and the claims are unverified.
It is worth noting that some papers that support Climate Change do cite papers which deny Climate Change and the same is true of some papers that investigate the effects of radiation on the human body. They cite them in the sense that “we looked for the effect described in this paper, but didn’t find it”.
But mainstream believers can turn around and accuse the deniers of Cherry Picking their references too! Can’t they? Surely they also have been choosing only those results that align with their view?
“Not so!” the deniers cry. “The references that we pick are Black Swans!”
A little background. The philosopher Karl Popper stated that a theory can never be proved, but can only be disproved. One example that is often quoted is the theory that “All swans are white”. This can never be proved because, no matter how many white swans that you find, the next one you find might be black. Or red or green or blue, maybe. All the white swans that you find support the theory, but one Black Swan demolishes it completely.
Of course, it is rarely as black and white as that (sorry). Scientists figuratively find an off-white swan.
“See, we said that the theory is false. That is not a white swan,” say the deniers. The other camp say “Yes, of course it is white! A bit of a dirty white, but still white.” “No, it isn’t!” “Yes, it is!”
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a finance professor and former Wall Street trader, extended this idea. He defined a Black Swan event as one which is impossible to predict due to its extreme rarity but which could have catastrophic consequences, and which is explained in hindsight as if it were actually predictable. Just as a verifiable counter example could be catastrophic for a widely accepted theory.
The deniers, it appears, have in turn extended this definition to “a Black Swan is any experiment whose results run contrary to mainstream thought”. This completely demolishes the counter argument, supposedly, whether the experiment is verified or not. And they are never verified.
A true Black Swan experiment could be defined as one which is a) verified and accepted as producing true results, and b) contradicts a currently widely held theory. The ‘Black Swans’ pointed to the anti-5G supporters fail to fulfil ‘a)’ above.
Leaving aside the fact that scientists have their biases just as do normal folk, one can’t tell simply from a list of papers whether they have been verified by others or not. Very often, the list is said to contain ‘peer reviewed’ papers, as if that adds any veracity to any of the papers in the list. A peer reviewer merely reports that a paper is OK to publish or not.
For example, there were plenty of peer reviewed papers that supposedly showed that smoking cigarettes was harmless. There were others that supposedly showed that smoking would kill you.
Why did those that argued that smoking was dangerous win? Certainly not because of any ‘cherry picking’ or ‘black swans’.
Firstly, there was a consensus among scientists that smoking endangered health. This was driven by the sheer corpus of evidence that built up in favour of that theory, and the fact that the experiments that favoured the opposite could be criticised on many levels. It couldn’t be said that the opposition was ignored. In fact many scientists spent many hours examining supposedly contrary evidence and decided that it was wrong.
Secondly, there was evidence that the chemicals in tobacco smoke were shown, outside of the context of smoking, to be dangerous. So, if you inhaled them because you were smoking, then you exposed yourself to those dangers.
Thirdly, there was ample evidence that stopping smoking resulted in better health outcomes, even if the smoker had been a smoker for years. Even the proverbial man in the street could see it.
As regards Climate Change and 5G opposition, the evidence continues to build for the former, and attempts to demonstrate a harmful effect for the latter continue to be less than impressive.
Climate Change is all but confirmed, but people do continue dissent. That is their right, but it is pointless.
The 5G opposition is strident and irrational. They continue to ignore the evidence, and instead present a body of so-called evidence that is not convincing. They ignore a body of evidence that claims that EMF of the 5G frequencies does not affect the human body, and justifies this by a ludicrous appeal to ‘Black Swans’ which is misapplication of the ideas of Karl Popper.
I’m sure that Popper would be spinning in his grave, if he knew the ways that the 5G opposition were misusing his wise words.
The situation is unprecedented. There will be mistakes, over-reactions, back downs, changes of directions. There will be shortages of this, that, and the other and panic buying and hoarding, people not getting the help that they should. There will be accidental and intentional breeches of self-isolation. There will be people saying stupid things (I’m looking at you Hoskins) and others doing them. There will be others selflessly putting themselves in harm’s way for the sake of you, me and the rest of us.
The authorities are moving faster than they have ever before to try to contain the situation. Many, many times faster. Obviously not everything is going to go right. That is not their fault, though they will probably blame themselves. It is the fault of the situation.
The Government is probably unable to help those stuck overseas. They are probably unable to help those from overseas stuck here. There’s no use in assigning blame.
They are probably going to change their minds on things twenty times a day. This doesn’t show indecision. This is merely day to day reaction to what is happening.
Let’s not forget that they are doing their best. The Government, the police, the medical profession, shop keepers, food growers, all the supply chain workers, from the farmers to the supermarket workers. Plumbers, who fix that pipe which burst at the worst possible time. Teachers who are struggling to keep the education system going. They are all doing their best.
In my opinion, temporarily making supermarkets the sole source of food and other supplies is a good move. Shutting butchers’ shop might not have been a good idea, but I understand why it was done. Letting booze outlets sell their wares online is probably a good idea, for morale, if nothing else. I reluctantly agree that keeping the cigarette factories open is a good idea, though I hate smoking.
Sadly, when this is all over, there will be recriminations. People will accuse the Government, the police, the medical profession, and all of those who struggled to maintain some sense of normality in these abnormal times, of making wrong decisions. Wrong decisions will have been made, but those decisions will have been made with the best of intentions. People should remember that.
(My apologies. I will not be including any images in this post. I just want to get it out there.)
The previous post, which I posted on February 20th, was about the possible extinction of the human race as a result of global warming. Since then, the Covid-19 virus has become a huge threat, and we all have to self-isolate and stay home. It’s not an extinction threat, but it is a threat.
For those of us in paid employment, self-isolation means working from home, which of course brings problems, especially with regards to any children who are in the home. Even though in most cases there will be partners at home who can give the home worker a hand looking after the children, it may well be that both partners are working from home, and it then becomes a question of how child care is arranged between the partners.
That could be a problem of course. But for those of us whose children have left home, there is a different issue. Typically, a married couple or long term partners have different interests. That’s fine in a “normal” (scare quotes) situation, but in these unusual times, couples are forced more closely together.
That can be a mixed blessing. You may be able to recapture some of the attraction that brought you together in the first place, which, while not lost, has mutated into a more mature relationship. But you have matured, and you will have, usually, developed interests which you partner may not share.
They may not share your interests, but they will support you in them. They will tolerate your culinary experimentation, while you will indulge them in their taste for art house cinema.
So, I am a writer and a geek. My wife tolerates these interests, just as I indulge her in her liking for quiz shows on the TV. I actually enjoy them too.
I’m a deep geek. I have written low level routines for several Operating Systems, and I’ve even written programs which run at a hardware level on some. Don’t worry about the terms I use. It just means that I have delved as low as it is possible to do so without actually designing computer chips and the circuits that they operate in.
So, what has this to do with my title? Well, in the absence of doing things like shopping, at the supermarket and other places, which I’m happy to do with my wife in normal times, of course, how do I fill the hours?
Well, I’m spending a little more time on my writing, but on the geek side of things, I’ve been looking at moving my web site from WordPress to Drupal. Not seriously. I’ve long been a fan of Drupal, but I’ve settled on WordPress as my platform of choice, and that is unlikely to change.
Drupal is much more flexible than WordPress. That means of course that it is more complex. WordPress has ‘posts’ and ‘pages’. Pages are static, intended to have a long lifetime. Posts are intended to be ephemeral, at least in terms of relevance. You might want to look at a post from three years ago, but you are more likely to want to read a recent one. Pages are the things that tell people about you (“about” pages) or allow people to contact you (“feedback” pages), and so on.
Drupal has ‘Article’ and ‘Basic page’ ‘content types’ which, roughly correspond to WordPress posts and pages, but you can easily add extra content types in Drupal. Drupal has a highly complex system which allows you to do this, often using one or more of an extensive list of modules which enhance the system.
WordPress also has a system, the plugin system, which allows you to extend the base system. In fact there are thousands of plugins, but if you can’t find one that you want, you may be able to cobble something together from existing plugins.
So these are the things that I have come across so far in my geeky delving. I downloaded the Drupal 8 package onto my ‘server’ (otherwise known as the computer in the back room) and installed it.
Drupal works out of the box, after a fashion, but you would probably not use it like that. Some things can be fixed, like the site logo, but others need one or more modules.
I set about downloading and installing the modules necessary to make the site look better. One example of Drupal’s quirkiness out of the box is that Articles and Basic Pages have addresses like https://<site-name>/node/293. A module is necessary to change it to something user friendly like https://<site-name>/feedback for the feedback form.
Somewhere along the line I discovered that the correct way to install Drupal and its modules these days is to use a program called ‘composer’. This is basically a package management system. Yes, yet another package management system to learn. Oh well. So I blew everything away and started again from scratch.
Next I downloaded the modules necessary to allow me to import my WordPress website into Drupal (using ‘composer’). I always knew that it wouldn’t be an exact fit, but at least I would be able to see what it looked like, and what I had to do to make it look reasonable. I wasn’t trying for an exact copy of my WordPress site.
That was a lot better, but I wanted to tweak the styles a little, so I sub-themed it and created a small file with just my changes in it. This small file overrode the parts of the main theme, while the main theme supplied the rest. Or so the theory goes. In fact I had to add some parts of the theme configuration (the ‘regions’) to my sub-theme to make it work properly. I don’t know why sub-themes don’t inherit everything from the main theme automatically. It seems sort of broken.
I discovered that the images in my Drupal site still pointed to my WordPress site, which was a nuisance. One way to prevent that would be to edit the Import file and manually change the addresses. Definitely do-able, but I shelved that problem for now.
Another thing that I spotted about images was that the images that I uploaded appeared under the ‘Images’ tab of ‘Content’ part of the Admin pages. But there was another tab, labelled ‘Media’ which was empty. After a bit of reading I discovered that there is move away from images towards Media Image objects, which are more like WordPress Media images.
Which sounded great until I found that there Media Image objects could not (currently) be embedded into content via the WYSIWYG editor. No button. But this is, fortunately, scheduled to appear in the next release of Drupal.
And that’s about when I gave up. Drupal is a great CMS, but it is not easy to learn, like WordPress. I could use it, but it would take a lot of work, and maybe I’ll delve into it again at some time, but for now I’m happy with WordPress.
Drupal is flexible, but the price of that flexibility is complexity. I was trying think of an analogy to contrast the two CMSes, but the only ones that I could think of denigrated one or the other in some way. There’s more than enough room for both.
Most people would agree that the climate crisis is real and serious. Many people would say that we are not doing much to combat it, and they are probably correct.
One effect of the climate crisis and the spread of humanity to all corners of the globe is that species are becoming extinct, as climate change or the spread of humans and their activities destroys their habitats. In some cases, humans have deliberately targeted species for food or even sport. If you search the Internet you will find numerous lists of extinct species like this one.
Unless these animals, and others who have lost their habitats from climate change, or human expansion, can find new ways to hunt, then they are doomed to extinction.
Humans are expanding so fast, and taking over so much land, that they are destroying the habitats of species and driving them to extinction. Logging and forest fires, both natural and deliberately lit, have decimated the habitat of the orangutan , for example, and many, many other less noticeable species have probably already been driven to extinction .
As I have said, the coming apocalypse is probably unavoidable. Many species will become extinct, and the human race, at best, will be reduced almost to the caveman level. At worst, we will become extinct too. Post-apocalyptic novels generally show the human race bouncing back from almost complete annihilation, but that is unlikely to happen. Species don’t often rebound from such a set back if their habitat has been destroyed.
Suppose the human race and 90% of life on Earth becomes extinct. What then? Well, actually, the outlook is bright for the planet. This is not the first time that such an extinction event has occurred. According to some, there have been five prior mass extinction events.
So, life on Earth, as a whole, has bounced back, even if individual species, have been rendered extinct. How does this happen? Surely there would be fewer species around, and while competition might be reduced and predators may have become extinct, still, how are a few species going to repopulate the world?
It may be surprising to some, but almost all of the species that have ever existed are now extinct. Every species that we see is a descendent of a few species that survived the previous extinction event. Only about 25% of species that existed at the time survived, and in earlier extinctions, only 5% of species survived.
Suppose one species, maybe a badger, survives. Whatever species (plural) survive, they are likely to be adaptable, able to eat anything, and be fast breeding. The badger flourishes in the post-apocalyptic world, and spreads far and wide. Few other mammals are around to compete with it.
The badger families start to differentiate. Some prefer open areas, some prefer trees, some might even take to the water. Over a long period the families lose the ability to inter-breed. They become different species, filling all the niches that other species used to fill, and they don’t even look like badgers any more.
If this is a sixth extinction event then for a long time only a few species would rule the world. But over a longer time frame, as I noted above, the few species would evolve to fill all available niches.
DNA, which is within every living thing, determines everything about an organism. Species, shape, abilities. DNA is so flexible that the number of possible organisms is very large, almost infinite. This means that even though millions of species may become extinct, the few survivors can evolve into millions of new but different species.
So, while there would not be mice, there might be mouse-like creatures. There would be bird-like creatures, mosquito-like creatures, and probably human-type creatures. They wouldn’t look much like their present day counterparts, but they would fill those niches, provided those niches still exist. As an example the replacement for the bird species would probably be as different from birds as the pterodons were from present bird species.
It depends on what the conditions turn out to be. For example, in the time of the dinosaurs, the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, conditions favoured large herbivorous animals, although there were certainly also large carnivorous animals.
But those were only the most obvious species. I avoid the word ‘dominant’ because they may have been the most obvious, the biggest animals, but there may have been smaller, less obvious animals that we know little about. (I may be showing my ignorance here!)
Intelligence has, so far as we know, only evolved once. It may well be a fluke, and in the future, post-apocalyptic world, it may not evolve again. If it does, let’s hope that any intelligent species that evolves in the future will do better than we did.