Is There a Draft in Here? (Part 1)

Blogger lets you save work as a 'draft', so you can finish and publish it later - or just keep stuff you want online but not in public. I've had 14 'drafts' hanging around for years. Here's a few.

I wrote this on January 3rd, 2005:

There is a parasite worm that lives by burrowing into the skulls of ants, and eating their brains. A shout is literally a million times the amplitude of a whisper. Every hour, at least two species become extinct. The human eye has 130 million light receptors. It is unknown why animals need sleep. The difference in scale between a quark and the limits of the observable universe is 10^44 - that's 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

I've no idea where I was going, and not just because I didn't get there. A few days later:

If you want to understand an idea, study the arguments against it.

I occasionally make use of a little magazine called Spiked. It's run by the remains of the RCP - Revolutionary Communist Party. This gang of mad sectarians probably never had more than 200 members before it imploded around 2000, but they somehow produced a stream of televised 'documentaries' throughout the 1990s, using various fronts and pseudonyms.

The speciality of Spiked and the late RCP is to justify rightwing ideas in terms that sound like they come from the left. They opposed the Poll Tax demonstrations because the protesters were 'middle class'. They attacked environmentalism on the grounds that some Nazis were mystical treehuggers.

The actual content of most Spiked articles is of course junk. Like this one on Ten myths about assisted suicide which caught my eye. But it's a useful exercise in clear thinking to sort out other people's muddled thoughts - in this case, deliberately muddled thoughts.

Yes, I did read the online Spiked for a few months. It was that particular kind of journalism which starts by listing uncontroversial facts, then goes fuzzy for a sentence or two of word association, hoping you'll just be carried along without noticing...and when it emerges back into clear writing, suddenly it's all hypotheticals, insinuations, cherrypicking and moralising.

The trick to reading it was to identify the fuzzy moment of gear change. Often it hinged on a single adjective, buried in one parenthetical remark.

More ideological picking-apart on January 31st, in what I think was a summary of a debate on pension cuts:

Some interesting points came up in the forum last night. One was the habit in mainstream economics of treating the mass of people as a kind of crisis generator.

If people live longer, they are seen as a drain on resources for living beyond a productive age. If the average length of life falls, they are not fulfilling their full productive duty. If the birth rate rises, the new population are once again a drain, because the state needs to waste money on feeding and housing them. If fewer babies are born, this reduces future productivity.

Other points. The occupational pension fund owned by a company may be it's largest lump of money. It could run into billions of pounds. Some companies are the targets of takeover bids mainly for the size of their pension fund.

Individual saving is promoted as a way of deferring use of personal resources until old age. Saving food might work like that, but money doesn't.

Two weeks later, I felt the need to say something about technical frustrations:

Three films captured today, all files unreadable beyond a random point - different for each one. It could be a problem with the codecs, or more likely the OS, or more likely than that, the capture software.

I don't have a desperate yearning to reinstall Windows for the second time in a week - I've done it so many times I've memorised the 25 character authorisation code.

If I knew what the problem was, and knew that it was insurmountable, I could live with that. If I knew what it was, and could find a solution, that would be great. But I don't know what the problem is, and that is guarrunteed to bother me.

In the following two weeks, I was obviously feeling introspective:

It's so tempting to withdraw from any political matters, and shrink into the private world of music, computers, philosophy and science. Areas that we can pretend have no political influences or ramifications.

Having a cold, trying to lose weight, installing software, watching television, looking for love. These are the things that belong in personal blogs. I've just been to a forum about an encroaching police state - imprisonment without charge, trial without jury, a climate of fear

...and that's as far as I got. Seven years later, I'm still overweight and still installing software, but don't watch TV and aren't looking for love.

I'm not sure whether I'd realised it yet about forums on hot-button issues: Usually no one in the room knew anything about the subject under discussion. There was a speaker, usually some young hack who'd read one approved article by an elder hack and slightly rephrased it for an audience.

And then there was the audience, some of who knew nothing and so kept quiet, while others knew nothing but could produce enough airy generalities to sound like they did - unless you happened to have genuine knowledge yourself.

Actually, I do remember the moment I first realised the speaker was a fraud. It must have been earlier, around 2002, in a forum on the 'war on terror' and the possibility of America invading Iran. In retrospect they were never going to do it, no matter how insane the rhetoric got, but at the time it seemed they just might.

This forum was on something like "Is Afganistan the new Vietnam?" - a sign that what the speaker really wanted to talk about was the Vietnam war, and didn't have much to say about Afghanistan.

The moment of revelation? She said, and I quote: "In world war two, the average age of the combat soldier was twenty six. In Vietnam he was nineteen."

She repeated in several times in different words, as a major point. I must have spent a minute staring straight ahead, digesting that this supposed expert's source was a pop record sampling a documentary.

And on the theme of people bullshitting each other, this from a week later:

I seem to have drifted into the habit of staying up all night, going to bed at 0700, and waking up around 1400. I've always been a night owl, and it's a good way to study, compose, and work uninterupted - but it does rely on there being nothing to do in the daytime, except the occasional client with a computer to mend.

Unfortunately I have an interview tomorrow at midday, at which I have to prove that I'm still self-employed. The scheme is one of the government's ways to reduce apparant jobless figures - in this case, by getting 'jobseekers' to go through to motions of running their own business for six months.

My tenure is nearly finished, at which point the jobcentre will try to put me onto an 'Intensive Jobsearch' programme, and I tell them to go fuck themselves. I've been on that programme before, and it was the biggest waste of time I have ever experienced.

More tomorrow.

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