All posts by Kit

Egotism and conspiracy theory

I’m reading one of the ur-texts in esoteric neo-Nazi mysticism for Dracula vs. Cthulhu, The Dawn of the Magicians. It’s pure conspiratology, and contains the same fundamental sin as The Devil’s Chessboard: Conspiratology is fascinated by “what if.” Into a broken or incomplete narrative, rather than acknowledging it is broken or incomplete, and perhaps unable to be solved due to the distance of time, place, and circumstance, conspiratologists create a narrative by asking “what if this were the case” and then deciding that their newly invented fiction is a fact.

Conspiracy is a fiction that conspiracy theorists have decided is fact – and, indeed, at several points in the 160 or so pages of The Dawn of the Magicians I have read, the authors use quotations from novels as “proof” of their thesis. They liberally quote Arthur Machen and Bulwer Lytton, saying that novelists are essentially prophets and that both men belonged to the Order of the Golden Dawn and were thus enlightened alchemists. It’s boggling, but it is part of argument built by The Dawn of the Magicians.

In this sense, it appears to me that conspiratology resembles religion. Almost all religions and religious people assert a fallacy known as “the God of the gaps.” Supernaturalist religion occurs in those parts of the universe about which humans cannot see, or do not have an adequate theory to explain. Which is why God will cure cancer now and then (a disease that sometimes goes into remission for no apparent reason, often attributed to a miracle) but adamantly refuses to regrow the limbs of amputees. Cancer going into remission is a poorly understood process that happens on the cellular level – the God of the gaps acts invisibly. On the other hand, regrowing amputated limbs is big enough to be seen, thus does not happen.

Conspiratology is “pseudohistory of the gaps.” Take for instance the assassination of President John Kennedy. The Warren Commission was deeply flawed, yes. But to leap from “the Warren Commission was flawed because we know that the CIA and FBI engaged in a coverup” to “the CIA killed JFK” puts a fictional narrative into the gaps of history. Even though there is a strong but an unprovable narrative, that the CIA and FBI wanted to deflect heat for their incompetence in keeping track of Lee Harvey Oswald (as they would later deflect the heat away from their incompetence about 9/11), conspiracy sees a gap and fills it with whatever they desire. Thus, while it is almost 100% sure that the CIA and FBI played a hard round of “cover your ass” with the Warren Commission because there’s no record, conspiratologists can leap to the conclusion that the CIA killed Kennedy.

Moving on, the authors of The Dawn of the Magicians say that we should study the 100,000 works of alchemists to discover what they discovered. The Dawn of the Magicians never goes into what a massive undertaking it would be – since the works are coded, cyphered, incomplete – and how difficult it would then be to decide which parts are useful and which parts aren’t. It’s almost certainly easier for us to rediscover whatever medieval alchemists found (assuming there’s anything left to find, given the advanced state of chemistry, metallurgy, and materials science). But they love their narrative that there MIGHT be something truly, utterly amazing hidden away in these texts, and they wildly speculate about what it might be, such as unguents that can regrow the tissues of burn victims in such a way as to leave no scars. Because, y’know, they read that some medieval doctors had such things. (They didn’t, duh.) The gap – that we haven’t sufficiently studied old alchemical journals and books – can be filled by whatever fantasy a person desires!

The idea that creative narratives are actually, for-real true is a seductive lure. Most people want to believe that the universe makes a personal sense – that we, individually, understand the driving forces behind history or the universe. Of course, we tend to imagine that the meaning of the universe or the meaning of history supports our point of view. That is the heights of egocentrism! That the universe is ordered to give tacit approval to me? That God thinks that the life I live is the best kind of life, or that my ideals are divinely granted and inspired? Heavens. Equally absurd is the idea that history ought to do the same – given weight to my fancies and prop up my worldview. That the murder of JFK becomes a prop for my fantasies is intellectually shameful and morally vacant!

Yet, that’s the core message of conspiratology – that whatever narrative that you CHOSE to believe lurks in the dark corners and past the horizons of history. There is no need to get proof! Belief, alone, is enough because history is murky. Therefore all ideas have equal merit! Which is egocentric nonsense, and contrary to any epistemology that seeks truth rather than glorifies the self at the expense of the truth.

My other bike: Mechashark!

I’ve given love to my fast bike, Emu, so it’s time to give some love to my slow bike, Mechashark!

It’s a 2014 TerraTrike Rambler.  I got it because, well, at the time I was nearly four hundred pounds, and there aren’t a lot of bikes that can hold a dude that big.  This is the bike that got me over the initial hump of weight loss so I could move on to faster bikes and longer rides.

Now, it’s the ride I use for more casual stuff and local errands.  I’m now a strong enough rider that this bike is useful so I’m not constantly champing at the bit, looking to go ahead of people, so it’s usually the bike I use when riding with other people!

Initially, it was named Shark, but I installed an FSA Metropolis Patterson front drive to increase the gear range:

Now, the front tooth serves both as a 28-tooth ring and a 45-tooth ring.  With the internally geared hub in back, I can spin up to about 20 miles per hour with favorable conditions – which is enough for most rides!

It also has a bike computer mount and a light mount in front.  It’s the bike I prefer to ride at night because of its stability:

Seen from the back, that’s where I put my water and groceries.  The bags hold about two plastic grocery bags worth of stuff, so I do much of our shopping on Mechashark!

The bike is also equipped with fenders for when it’s wet outside, making it my de facto all-weather bike.

While not as sexy as Emu, I’ll always have a fond spot in my heart for Mechashark because it started me on the road to cycling.  So I’m very happy to have found additional uses for the bike in my day-to-day life.

Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner review – it’s a history of the CIA!

I have finished reading Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner. I found it to be a very odd book.

On the one hand, I have no fault for Weiner’s research. Since I’ve been following the CIA for a while, much of it was known to me, but seeing it collected in one spot was moving – the CIA has done so much evil.

On the other hand, Weiner doesn’t follow his research to the obvious conclusion: that the CIA never worked, and never will, that people operating in secret cannot be trusted, and secret services are a threat to democracy and global stability. Which is to say, the CIA should be shut down for the good of the United States and the world.

Continue reading Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner review – it’s a history of the CIA!

Nearly Quit Writing This Week

I almost quit writing this past week. Art is a very rough road, and there are no clear signs to “success.” Effort and ability are not enough. I’ve got a bookshelf and tablet full of indie writers who have gone through the considerable effort of writing and publishing their works – but the truth is that few people are likely to read what they write. It is as I said: hard work and ability aren’t enough.

The flat truth: the number of writers in any given market are increasing at a much faster pace than the number of readers. The limited amount of time and money the audience has is being more finely distributed over an ever-increasing number of authors. So bad is it that it is considered de rigeur for indie writers to pay promotional sites to give away their books. It is a reader’s market, and for the readers it’s great! They get to read to their heart’s content and not pay a dime, to have a plethora of high-quality work for free, indeed, the expense is borne by the writer, not the consumer.

Continue reading Nearly Quit Writing This Week

Weight Loss Monday (on, y’know, Wednesday), Part 9

I lost about three-fourths of a pound over the last week, which is slow for me, but there was a big contributing factor: I was at a convention. Four days! This is going to be an issue, I think. It’s very easy, at cons and shows, to rationalize overeating. Since I’m an introvert, cons are inherently stressful. I enjoy them, but there is stress. So when I’m at a gas station, and I see some candy, I get it. And then, because I don’t have access to my kitchen, I end up eating at a restaurant, which rarely has healthy choices. And if I go out with other people? Add some beer into the mix. Lastly, at cons, I don’t exercise – no bike, no gym. So, duh, it’s harder to lose weight at a convention!

However, I managed to do it, if only a little.  So, yay!  Hashtag goals or somesuch.

Still, before the con, I did ride 94.8 miles that week, though I didn’t do any lifting.

Which is a boring update, which is probably why it’s so late!

Weight Loss Tuesday, Part 9

Bike stats! In the last week, I rode 224.38 miles. I lost 3.8 pounds – I gained weight last time, and I did want to reverse THAT trend, thus the two hundred miles of riding in a week. I didn’t lift but. . . 224.38 miles on my bike in seven days! Forgive me that “lapse!”

In the coming week, I won’t get much riding done.  I messed up the XStream a bit – the problem with fiddling with things is somethings you get in over your head.  The bike isn’t damaged, but if I ride it in its current state it could become damaged, and since I’m going to be leaving Thursday for InConJunction. . . well, it won’t get fixed until next week.  My workout next week will be light.

Continue reading Weight Loss Tuesday, Part 9

Presenting my new ride: the Rans XStream

My, aren’t you a sexy beast!

And, now, for the Rans XStream. First, I include pictures because the X-Stream is a fine looking bike. Note the Zipp 404 wheel in front! It’s also got Q-Rings and a low-profile, aero front brake with the Shimano 105! That bag behind the seat isn’t just convenient to hold things, it also makes the bike more aerodynamic, saving about 7 watts at 24 miles per hour! I can even GET to 24 miles on hour on this bike! The seat angle is about as low as it can go on this bike, which is about thirty degrees!

Continue reading Presenting my new ride: the Rans XStream

Fare thee well, Cruzbike, adieu, adieu

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I. . . got another new bike. Well, a new used bike. A Rans X-Stream.

One might be asking, “Kit, what happened to the Cruzbike Sofrider v3?” Good question! Here is my review of the Cruzbike Sofrider v3.

I rode the Sofrider for almost exactly four weeks. During that time, though, I rode it thirty times for a distance of approximately 650 miles. Without a doubt, it is a faster bike than my Sun Bike EZ-Racer, which I rode before it. I can claim without hesitation or reservation that, indeed, Cruzbikes are climbers. I saw increases uphill in the 30% range, and the Sofrider was just faster everywhere else, too. Like all recumbents, it is a comfortable bike, too, though it wasn’t until the end that I got everything dialed in. Pro tip: if you’re not comfortable on a recumbent from day one, seek advice!

Continue reading Fare thee well, Cruzbike, adieu, adieu

Weight Loss Monday, Part 8, with weight GAIN!

I crossed a couple of thresholds this workout period. Since starting this experiment eight weeks ago, I’ve ridden over a thousand miles and burned over one hundred thousand calories on those rides. Which means I’m riding an average of 132 miles a week! I think that’s pretty cool, even if. . .

This past week, I rode 132.2 miles, worked out for 120 minutes, burned 15,780 calories and GAINED, yes, gained 1.8 pounds.

It is an object lesson on the importance of diet. No matter how much you exercise, you can sabotage yourself with diet.

Continue reading Weight Loss Monday, Part 8, with weight GAIN!