It is Fated


For various reasons, but mostly because it’s now saleable and I have tens of thousands of words in unfinished stories, I went grubbing about in the old Austen fanfic sites for my stuff.  (Remembering the names I used was harder.)

Most of what I found is going to need serious revision.  There’s also the book that is missing most of the middle, because I had a note at the beginning and a thing about not archiving the note.  An inexperienced archivist thought that meant “Do not archive the post.”  Don’t go there.

What is interesting is finding things I don’t have the slightest memory of writing (we’re talking 15 years ago.)  It’s my style, and once I look at it a faint memory-like thing comes back, but I don’t remember what must be months of a chapter a week.  This disturbs me, because it’s like losing part of yourself. Also, am I going nuts?  Or was it just “young mother with young kids, writing late at night?”

But more interesting is reading some of these and coming across things that could be lifted whole from my later “serious” books.

It makes one feel uncomfortably like one is an instrument designed to deliver a certain type of message, which is going to come out no matter what the medium.

Which gets us back to the whole “was I designed to be a writer.”  This is perhaps more important to me right now because for various reasons, some of them physical, I’m having trouble concentrating even to type in/edit stuff much less write.

Which gets us back to the whole fate thing.

I grew up with “fate” as part of my mental picture.  Unquestioned part.  I was rocked to sleep to songs of people being destined to have some fate or other. It was probably the hardest thing to let go of when I acculturated, precisely because it was unquestioned.  Also because frankly most artists have a broken part of their brain that says “I’m meant to be yuge!” [looks at pants size.  Job accomplished.]

But if Himself is anything as an author it’s a pantser.  Sure.  We have the potential to be something, and maybe there’s some message He wants to get out, but in the end what makes you or breaks you is the decisions you make/plot you live in (and weirdly a lot of this is determined by what’s in your head.)

He probably has some dozen people designed to put out the same message I do.  And some of them chose never to write.  And ‘m not even fully sure what the “message” is as it’s woven into who I am.

It comes back to two things: the moment I was in the hospital, trying to die of pneumonia (now 22 years in the past) where what weighed most on me was the children I wouldn’t get to raise (they were 5 and 1 and change then) and the books I’d never written and which would die with me.  And the persistent wish I could go back in time and tell that young mother that yes, she’d get published.  Multiple times. Make a living even.

But if I’d done that, would I have fought so hard to get published?  Would I in fact have got published?

Sometimes, posting at insty late at night, I wonder at the weird trajectory of the little Portuguese girl, in a village of no importance, for whom dishwashers were imaginary, bathrooms inside were a luxury, and a six pack of colored pencils was THE most wonderful birthday gift ever getting the keys to a big site and giving her opinions to people who, had they seen her at that time would have looked at her as a touristic curiosity.

Is this a likely trajectory?  Is it even possible?  It has to be possible, because it happened to me.  But what fiction novelist could make this believable.

And if there were fate what mind would weave that one?

It makes no sense.

There is no scripted fate.  Or if there is, it is not written in stone.

We’re all arrows fired by a blindfolded archer, in search of a unique target.  Sometimes you have to make your own target.

It’s very easy to extrapolate from trends, both our trends and those of the nation and the world.  It’s also very easy to be completely wrong.

All those novelists in the forties and fifties writing of an overpopulated Earth weren’t cranks.  They were writing on extrapolation from the trends of their day.

Don’t be fooled by “perfectly logical” speculation.

The future is unwritten.  You (or the world, or the country) aren’t done till the count is finished, and the count is nowhere near finished.  The fat lady ain’t sung.  (And be glad, I can clear rooms with my singing.)

I hate “today is the first day of the rest of your life” as I hate most hippie slogans, because the answer should be “duh” or “It can also be the last.”

But it is still nonetheless true.  Nothing is scripted.  Sure, the past is prologue, but if you want you can defeat even the most persistent bad habit, the most awful “trend of bad luck.”  Analyze, change, create.

Do you want your story to be one of those that ends on a down note, of despair and inability.  O do you want it to be human wave “and he overcame all this to–”

The future is not formed yet.  Go create it.

188 thoughts on “It is Fated

  1. What C said to me, back thirty years or so ago when we first met, was “life is opportunistic.” She tells me she meant it as a joke but I think it’s a serious truth.

  2. S. M. Stirling has a phrase that he includes in some of his books (don’t know if the idea is original to him).

    It goes (roughly) “when the Trickster passes, it’s too late to hang on. So grab onto the opportunities he offers before it is too late.”

      1. when they announced the title for Star Trek VI, i remember people being concerned because the ‘Undiscover’d Country’ analogy they knew was *death*, not the future.

      1. And now I’m imaging Sarah Hoyt carving that into the top of a weatherbeaten picnic table with a Rambo knife . . .

  3. Thus explaining that little tidbit I found waiting for me earlier this morning. Read, edited, and responded to before I even checked this blog.
    And a very good Austen, O’Henry type of short it was, m’dear.

      1. Five a WEEK? In the depth that you write? And get your other stuff done? Umm, lack of sleep is bad your digestion (well, mine anyway).

          1. In a secret lab buried deep beneath Johns Hopkins, a team of elite bioscientists labor ceaselessly to create a process that will enable Sarah Hoyt to grow 4 additional arms and hands, 3 more pairs of eyes, and 6 additional lobes to her brain.

            “Sir. We’ve almost completed the Kali process. But there’s a downside.”
            “And what’s the downside? Do you realize how many billions have gone into this project?”
            “It’s not too serious, sir. She’ll just have to eat and drink 3 times as much as a normal person every day in order to fuel those additions.”

            1. Telekinesis, and the requisite ability to section one’s thoughts into ultimate multitask mode.

              THAT is what we need. (Sarah ain’t the only one. Frequent refrain at my place: I can draw, or I can write, tell me which one is greater priority right now!)

              1. I’ve always been fond of a concept called fugue from (I think) Roger Zelazny’s “Creatures of Light and Darkness” where masters of fugue could split themselves into 2 or 4 or even thousands and control each (usually for combat purposes). However the thought of our hostess doing that gives me a queasy feeling that we might let loose a Sorcer’s Apprentice like issue. For example as 128 Sarahs write Articles for PJMedia, 256 Sarahs quietly post to Instapundit, 512 Sarahs fix pages for the Monster Hunter Guardian collaboration and 1024 Sarahs visit the zoo (have to relax a lot…) … maybe its best that doesn’t work.

      2. I hope you get paid for the PJmedia stuff. That site is too nasty to put up with, and there’s that broken Disqus thing even if it wasn’t…

        “A site as nasty as that can only be the work of someone with a degree in web site design…”

            1. oy
              that is the only thing that makes disqus look good.
              I do not have any dealings with Zucks Data Mining, Information Collection, and Wholesale Bias factory

    1. Or better: “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them.… Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiates 12:1, 13).

    2. Doesn’t particularly help. Yeah, I know all those things. I’m not even going to argue I’m not a genius. Measured IQ hits around 165, which makes me the dumb bunny of THIS household. BUT that is not any of my problems. My problems relate more to time and time management, and … my damned health.

      1. As a former member and officer in Mensa I can state with some authority that the relationship between IQ and common sense is tenuous at best.
        And that relationship seems to get even fuzzier the higher you get on the bell curve. Known a couple of five sigma types who couldn’t pour fluid out of a boot if you know what I mean.
        And yeah, honey, you do need a minder, or manager, or scheduler, you pick the term, but someone to improve the efficient use of your time and health resources. I’ll do what I can, but remote just doesn’t cut it.

          1. A cat can not slack. They are always doing what they are supposed to do, just ask them.

        1. Could it just be that the correlation between IQ and common sense is a negative rather than a positive one? Frankly, IQ only really measures ability to take IQ tests. And as for Mensa, I looked into it when I first realized I qualified and quickly decided that these were the last sort of people I wanted to hang out with.

          1. Nah, although IQ might work to prevent “common sense” from developing by making it so that someone is less likely to learn the tools for it when they’ve got more raw mental power.

            Sort of like how short people can figure out more ways of getting stuff off of a high shelf than tall folks, simply because we’ve got more practice.

            1. The most annoying thing about being short and not being able to reach the high shelves is that the *low* shelves aren’t any easier to get to than they are for tall people.

              You’d think there would be a fair trade.

              1. I think the lack of lumps on our foreheads is the trade-off.

                And getting to make Mr “Oh, I can reach that, small person!” look very silly when he can’t.

                1. *Snort* I still managed to give myself a concussion on a Cessna wing, even though I can walk under them without bending over. Forgot the [censored] flaps were down…

                  1. Better than walking into the pitot tube, even with the flag still on it. (Looking away to the side is only a partial excuse. Once.)

                  2. I don’t pass under a 172 wing without ducking, so in order to avoid some amazing little diamonds-connected-by-a-line marks on my forehead I have to pay attention.

                    I suppose this might be one reason why I ended up with more hours in Pipers (Warriors/Archers/Dakotas, not Cubs, alas), though dodging under a low wing to sample fuel is a more gruntworthy than the fuel sampling evolution on a high-wing.

                    1. I disappointed many an individual by being able to test Cessna fuel caps, in a full skirt, in the West Texas breeze, without pulling a Marilyn Monroe. Sorry guys. 🙂

                2. I think the lack of lumps on our foreheads is the trade-off.

                  Apparently, most height-challenged people don’t think of that. I worked with a woman once who complained to me how bad being short was. I told her, “Well, at least you don’t bump your noggin as much as us taller people.” She looked startled and said, “You know, I never thought of it that way.”

              2. *chuckle* sort of similar: recently, Housemate was doing a customer PC build, and couldn’t figure out something in assembling the case (and looking at manual and online only showed he wasn’t alone). He turns to my hubby, the resident Mechanical Engineer, who takes all of five seconds to glance at the manual and does the job. Listening to Rhys snarking as he does is part of my free entertainment.

            2. Or the less strong learning earlier about leverage/moving heavy stuff, than the person that can just pick something up, because again we’ve got more practice at it. Especially important as one gets older, suddenly what was “easier” to move around, ain’t so much anymore.

              1. I was going to use that example, but it was taking way too many words and I’ve run into too many folks who have the physical power to throw around who don’t even realize there is a “trick” to it.

                1. Even though I was pretty strong, even when I was pretty little, I had to learn such tricks because I was trying to move much larger and heavier objects.

                    1. You figure out the easiest way real quick-like when you’re throwing heavy things around for a few hours.
                      Sure, you can use brute force, but you’ll exhaust yourself long before you’ve finished.

              2. <= not big, not strong, lifted tires that big tough male classmates couldn't because I knew how to use my weight instead of monkey-muscle.

                1. Costco. I’ve been known to ask for help to get cat litter & pop cases out of a cart & loaded into the car. Getting these things into the cart not normally a problem when still stacked, just grab, twist & lower (carefully). If lower down in the stack been known to ask someone close by who looks able, employee or not; teens get a kick out of it, usually. I can still to that, but if I do it wrong, my hips could “twitch”, that is bad, so, so, very, very, bad.

                2. I worked seasonally for the Forest Service during college. We had to move some (thing) to the rigs. The items weighed about 80#’s, over 2/3’s my weight, & almost as long as I am tall (short changed on height, or height challenged, take your pick). Couldn’t pack them over, but I could lever them onto a hand truck & pull them over; actually getting the item into the rig was a bit problematic, but would have figured it out. Crew got told “it is a crew function, not an individual one”.

            3. My wife and I had this problem. We were both smart enough to get through grade school and high school with adequate grades (I’m not “genius” level, but I’m usually the second or third smartest guy in a randomly selected room of reasonable size.) without having to work *that* hard at it.

              Of course she had a lot better focus than I did–she learned to some degree those sorts of study skills her first couple years. Me, I got a degree in Fine Art.

              1. Getting to a competitive college and then discovering you have no idea how to study is a real downer. Kids who have to work for their GPA in HS do better in college than people who get high GPA’s without trying. Well, except for the really smart ones who glide through HS and continue to do so in college. I’ve met a few of those.

                I gave up on math when it got to Fourier and LaPlace Transforms. Can’t figure them out at all. If I don’t understand something when I first see it, the odds of my ever understanding it are slim. My son the electrical engineer handles equations that require them with ease. He also calls me when troubleshooting home electrical problems- because I know how to do that, even if it’s a problem I haven’t seen.

                Of course, there’s the occasional mistranslation between stationary engineer and electrical engineer, like when looking at hot surface ignitors. Measure resistance across the leads. If it’s zero, it’s bad. If it’s open, it’s bad. It’s good. It’s 14 K ohms. OK, replace it, it’s bad But you said…. Should be about 16. 14K is closer to infinity than it is to 16….

                1. Sounds like me when I went to college…hit Calculus and bounced. But I’m a stubborn cuss, and retook the course. I’m a VERY odd engineer…my SAT verbal scores were significantly higher than the math scores.

                  1. I squeaked in Calculus, but both Calc and Diffe-Q didn’t really make sense until I ran across the problems in 2nd year EE circuit analysis.

                    Senior year, I took a complex variables course to show to myself I could do it. Didn’t hurt that the instructor knew he had a majority of engineering students in the course, so everything had applications. If the math is presented as abstract, I have trouble, but if it’s something I can relate to the real world, it’s a lot easier.

                  2. When I went back for my second degree, I was working full time, so one class a term. Had to take as many math classes as computer classes. Figured, no problem would take the requisite math class then the computer class … yea, no. Squeaked by on the Discrete math that required first term calculus that I’d had 10 years before, with required grade, barely.

                    I backed up retook first term calculus, & the math in order as suggested. Didn’t retake the math I’d already taken this round. So, almost 2 years before I took the first computer science theory class. Do not ask me to do any math now (beyond simple basic, algebra, & geometry). While I’m taking it, or working with it, no problem, otherwise, not so much. Allowed crib sheets of formulas are my friend.

                    1. D, that’s funny, because crib sheets of formulas are my enemy. I grew up (literally – try being raised by mathematicians) with the understanding that to really understand something, you have to PROVE it. Whizzed past most college math on that basis but passionately hated statistics, because in that class the professor kept whisking formulas out of his hip pocket and there was no time to prove anything — hence, no time to understand why it worked — just memorize and monkey see, monkey do. Hated it.

                    2. “understanding that to really understand something, you have to PROVE it.”

                      Agree. At least the coarse I took, that is what homework was for. I just can’t remember 100% of all the formulas over a period of time. Hey, just preparing the crib sheet before a test (Math or Physics) meant I generally didn’t have to refer to it during the test until I reviewed the test after finishing it. But lord help me if I couldn’t have my crutch, even if I prepared one to try to cement the formulas in my head.

                      “passionately hated statistics”

                      Yea. Tell me about it. I had to take statistics twice. First one was “Biometrics” which is learning then applying Statistics to Forestry (thus the ‘bio’). Then again because later program would not accept the Biometric coarse (which honestly made more sense because it was applying statistics to something REAL). Got a 93% second time, just missing an A on the review material (hey when you spend 3 weeks on bed rest & half that in the hospital as you miscarry**, & you are taking 21 hours that term, all your other classes maintained an “A” average, each, you tend to loose a few percentages somewhere).

                      ** Trust me, I was NOT studying; after 35 years, I still remember that.

                2. Yep – been there, got the “Wait, you mean I have to STUDY?!” t-shirt. Luckily I figured it out after a bit, though I’d prefer you only look at my college grades for the second half of my time there rather than the first half.

                  Funny thing is, no commercial-world job ever looked at my grades, or GPA, or even asked. Ever. Only the most diligent bothered to go confirm my degree.

                  So those who skated through to a degree by the skin of their teeth while partying across the campus were arguably more efficient college participants.

                  1. Took me a year to figure out that what I thought was an original idea about Latin American History 1492-1660 after 8 weeks of class was something my professor had seen and discarded long ago. So I learned to just repeat what my professor said about a subject, sometimes word for word without the quotes, and he knew I’d been listening. My grades went up significantly.

                  1. Let’s hear it for skating through! I never had to study the subjects I loved, and my father’s eminently sensible view was, “If you get better than a C in a class you’re only taking because it’s required, you’re working too hard.” The upshot: I made Dean’s List, but not the one everybody thinks of. But it’s perfectly true that I was on a list the Dean had.

                    And it was a valuable lesson in setting priorities.

                    1. Funny, my dad’s advice was a bit different. It was: “You’re doing all right in these classes, but if you were enjoying yourself you’d be getting As.” In my particular case he was right—I ended up changing my major later. I wouldn’t use that as advice in general, but it worked for me.

                    2. ** “You’re doing all right in these classes, but if you were enjoying yourself you’d be getting As.” In my particular case he was right –**

                      I resemble that …

                      I slogged through Forestry, worked my butt off for my “passion” (so young); graduated, but grades nothing to brag about (really). Hated the one required computer class had to take for the Forestry degree.

                      Not long after graduation the Spotted Owl happened. Not the only forestry trained person to have to change career. So figured go back & get accounting/book keeping, if I couldn’t do something fun, I’d do something easy (I ran through that prerequisite the first time) with a lot of job prospect. Career counseling was required, even tho I already had a degree. Counselor said I’d do great in the programming department, I thought she was nuts. Either program required the basic 3 accounting classes (beyond what I’d taken before) & basic programming class (hey it had been 5 years). Yes, accounting classes were still easy, too easy. But OMG, the computer class!!! Lets’ just say that was the start of a 35 year programming/development career; never pulled anything less than an A in a computer class, either that program or the 2nd bachelor’s latter.

                    3. There is hardware & IT, & programming & development. People tend to go one side or the other. Both sides usually capable of doing the other’s job, but they’d hate it. Programming/Development you usually have to be able to work with non-technical. IT/Hardware, not so much.

                    4. Heh. Don’t know how I could have worked less hard in my Anthropology classes (maybe skipping more?), but I got Bs in those, even though some of the women complained that I got good grades even though I never took notes.

                      I did explain that I wrote so slow that taking notes meant I would actually do WORSE, because I would miss more, but that didn’t help much. Ultimately, the reason I did well without notes was because the information he wound up testing on was usually stuff that had managed to stick in my brain because it had a quality of interest that caused my normally bad memory to retain it. At least for a while. I probably have forgotten 2/3 of it by now.

                    5. Lessons learned in the other crap I had to take for General Ed:

                      When the required-for-engineering Psych 101 class test the weekly quizzes using a live Scantron scoring machine in front of the entire class (you finished filling in your bubbles, walked up with it, and fed your form to the machine in front of everyone who had not escaped ahead of you), his purpose was actually some kind of twisted psych research project on how engineering major undergrads reacted when the machine passed your card through silently (swoosh = no wrong answers) vs. loudly (bzt-bzt-bzt-bzt etc.= lots of wrong answers) when everyone in the room can tell which yours was.

                      The required Art Appreciation class was “get credit for blowing your study time” by attending art exhibits and similar – basically, how much do you want an easy A outside of your major while screwing yourself on your core required classes?

                      And smartest thing I did was skip the offered “Honors Humanities” cycle and thereby avoid piles and piles of required writing. The poor bastards in eth school of engineering who took that bait were just building sleep deprivation into their schedules for something that mattered not a whit to their degree.

                3. About math:

                  My Father’s masterpiece as a historian was a two volume biography of Joseph Priestly. In the course of researching it he came across some letters in which Priestly wrote of his frustration in trying to understand Newton’s ‘fluxions’ (early calculus).

                  Priestly eventually gave up. My Father always wondered what direction he would have gone in had he ‘gotten’ fluxions.

                  1. Bishop Berkeley’s argument for Faith was that anybody who could believe in Newton’s infinitesimals should have no trouble at all with the Resurrection.

          2. I have found it depends greatly on how the mensa type was raised. Farm boy with 190 IQ will often have a lot of common sense. Maybe not as much as some people, but more than the city boys I knew in New Orleans who were Mensa members/eligible. It’s like manual labor as a youth kicks that in gear.

            1. What problems do have you spent your time on, and what results have you gotten.

              Only moving from success to success in a narrow field that few understand and can contribute in? You end up trusting a select few, and having a relatively narrow group in your sense of ‘this is who I can learn from’.

              What do you put your ego in.

              I have some very unpleasant experiences that brought the limits of pure intelligence to my attention. These forced learning and growth on me, and maybe pushed me towards developing more common sense.

              1. learn from everywhere. one of the things I like about Smarter Every Day on youtube is he admits he just didn’t think of something that when pointed out smacks him upside the head.

                1. I got one of those the other day!

                  Baby’s heart rate. Was through the roof at checkup…because this was the first time I’d had an exam on a hot day AFTER I’d just eaten, so he was bouncing off of the walls.

                  The doctor was much less amused, because she found out that their baby heart rate monitor has a REALLY OBNOXIOUS beep when the fetal heart rate is over 160.

                  1. The doctor was much less amused, because she found out that their baby heart rate monitor has a REALLY OBNOXIOUS beep when the fetal heart rate is over 160.


            2. Oh yes. Get put in a situation where you have to figure things out and you learn a lot more than book learning. I have one brother who is a rocket scientist. He went back for his graduate degree after several years working as an engineer. He reports that practical degrees love work experience, because those that went there straight from undergrad had no learned sense of what was actually important.

              You can panic over learning the stuff you’ll actually need, or you can panic over everything equally and exhaust yourself.

              1. Yep! Went for my MSEE 12 years after my BS, and there was a world of difference between the young-uns and the older, experienced folks. (Early bird courses, 7AM to 9AM, generally took 3.5 to 4 years to finish. The program was a cash cow for U of Santa Clara.)

                It was fun to hear some of the younger people terrified of one instructor’s courses (he did various circuits courses) because they were hard. Yes, they were, and the 4 of 5 that I took were incredibly useful. Not sure I regret not taking the RF course. I could have stayed in Silicon Valley another couple of years after the Dot Com bust. OTOH, leaving when we did was A Very Good Thing.

              2. Being poor helps too, sometimes.
                You learn to work around things, with things, and how things work, fixing the bits you can’t just go buy or replace etc. You learn to look everywhere to learn things.

      2. Speaking from personal experience (my dad was a National Merit Scholar, second year they had them) genius is not useful for time managment. Or for health management. Or for relationship management. Or for managing anything at all, really, because the world is interesting, and they overestimate how much they can do in a given amount of time . . . but figured out something about airsacks in dinos with by blowing up dead geese while they weren’t finishing the paper by the due date. (Yes, I actually do understand Dad’s research better than that, when I apply myself.)

        Hire the future DIL or someone else to manage the medical. You’ll live longer and healthier. Be merciful to yourself on deadlines. Get a housecleaner. And, you know, consider a conversation with The Author about what’s most important for you personally to do. Sometimes just talking it out helps, and He’s an excellent listener.

        1. A high degree of intelligence is useful … but the owner and operator should be fully aware that there are limitations. And in some circumstances, low cunning is much handier.

          1. High intelligence is useful for many things. Just not for managing things.

            Well, maybe if the owner of the high intelligence is totally devoid of curiosity. Not sure how that could come about, traumatic brain injury of some sort?

  4. Kind of annoying that it was said by one of the antagonists in the move, but it was a very good line.

    “Remember that chap about twenty years ago? I forget his name. Climbed Everest without any oxygen, came down nearly dead. When they asked him, they said, ‘Why did you go up there to die?’ He said, ‘I didn’t, I went up there to live.'” – Ronald Tembo, “Jurassic Park II: The Lost World”

    1. Though as I recall, that was one of those movies where the protagonists were all self-righteous jerks with the collective IQ of a hamster, so a good line would almost have to come from someone opposed to them.

        1. I only managed to grind my way through the first book. It had a strident preachy anti-technology subtext that I found annoying. And it was *very* unlike Crichton’s earlier work.

          I’m hoping that’s because he felt it would be easier to shop out as a movie script, and not him going whacko.

          1. The seeds of anti-technology, or at least “Be Careful, Human” are present in the earlier novels, as I recall from The Andromeda Strain (not so much in the movie), and in The Terminal Man. IMHO, there was a lot of “let’s set up a technological frammistat and let’s see what can go wrong”.

            Actually, because of this, I’ve been hit and miss with his books. Congo nearly got walled because some of the bits caused painful eye-roll (Natural diamonds as usable semiconductors, really? How about Galena crystals instead? /sarc) and using a Dupont paint brand name for something else Just Ain’t Right. I know nuthin’ about gorillas, though.

            OTOH, Jurassic Park and Timeline were acceptable reads on a really long airplane flight. That’s the last I’ve tried of his work.

            1. My understanding is that diamonds are used as thermistors which is a semiconductor application. If I am wrong here please let me know as I hate having years old bad data in my head.

              1. I don’t know for certain, but I suspect that the diamonds in question are produced in a lab. Natural diamonds would be too imperfect for most semiconductor applications. They are investigating the use of diamond as semiconductors for use in high-temperature environments, but that is most definitely not natural diamonds.

              2. I’m really rusty on semiconductors (retired early after the Dot Com crash), but at least when Congo was published in 1980, it had no commercial applications and not much research. Later, diamond was used for insulating layers, and the Wikis say there are some transistors. Looking at the search pages, they’re still in the lab, with a lot of “they will do such and such”.

                OTOH, diamond insulating layers have some nifty properties; good insulator, but a really good heat transmission number. All grown synthetically.

                As Wayne said, natural diamonds won’t have the purity needed to make a useful device. Thus, the search for blue diamonds in Congo didn’t make sense. My crack about galena crystals; you could make a point-contact diode by touching the crystal with a metallic whisker. Very early radio receivers used that. I encountered one (museum, maybe, or a science toy/kit) in the late ’50s or early ’60s. Very finicky.

  5. One of my favorite hymns includes the lyrics, “Our life as a dream, our time as a stream,/ Glides swiftly away,
    And the fugitive moment refuses to stay.
    The arrow is flown, the moments are gone,
    The Millennial year/ Presses on to our view, and eternity’s here.” (“Come, Let us Anew” Charles Wesley)

    Fate? Free will? None of the above? Whatever you believe in, we have to make the best of the moment we have, because it is gone before we can blink. I don’t believe in fate in the sense of double-predestinaton, but I firmly believe that there is something we are meant to do, and when we find that thing, it feels right, it works right, and it makes the best use of our talents. Now, that thing may change over time, but so do we.

    1. That reminded me strongly of Pink Floy’d “Time…”

      “Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
      Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
      Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
      Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.

      Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain.
      You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
      And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
      No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun…”

  6. I have this thing in my books that the more power you have and the more stuff you know about, the less you can -do-. Because every time you stick your oar in the water, the boat flips over. You’re too big, you make too much of a splash. You have to take it really easy.

    Knowing what Fate holds in store is the definition of being Too Big. In the Phantomverse there are beings so big and so old that they’ve transcended Reality and then come back again for Unstated Reason. (Take a conscious AI and leave it going for a Long Time, eventually its going to learn everything there is to know and move on, I figure.) Their problem is that because they -know- what’s going to happen they can’t really do anything. So they work by coincidence, opportunity, tricks, and lots of stealing horseshoe nails and leaving them for people to find. The mundane person chooses. The Powers abide. Makes for a fun narrative, and explains why Super Guy doesn’t just fix everything.

    As for the not recognizing what you wrote, I’m there with you. Going back to a book I’ve finished, it feels like it isn’t mine. Like somebody else wrote it.

    1. This is not just writing. Once upon a time I had High Frequency transceiver that had a fault (HW-101, out it into CW mode and it acted as if the key was down/closed all the time). Pa & I both went over the schematic (ah, Heathkit…) and argued back and forth as to if it was this or that. I eventually convinced myself, but not Pa (I think) that one particular (solid state) diode was the most likely culprit. And when I finally took things apart to get at it… sure enough, that particular diode had a broken lead. Soldering it back together (with a proper mechanical joint) and lo, the gadget worked as it ought.

      Some months later I sat, looking at the same schematic… trying to figure out how I could have possibly managed to figure it was that particular diode. Even when I knew from direct experience that was what it was, it somehow no longer made any sense. ‘Twas a rather eerie feeling.

      1. I was just mentioning to someone else that a few years ago, I found that I cannot get back into the thought process that caused me to make a certain comment. I had occasion to look up some old comments on blogs, including here, and found that I had said things I could barely follow, and that I could not reconstruct how those comments came out of me, even rereading the parts of the thread that led up to them.

        That I couldn’t remember making the comments in the first place is just normal for me.

        1. you are no longer that person. I have had similar results, though not quite the how and why you had, but having to look deep to figure out why I said what at that moment instead of something else that I know I knew/felt at that time.

        2. I have a fairly good memory. Also, I can often reconstruct a particular chain of thought by dredging up the initial conditions. I write heavily from inspiration.

          Looking back at my old posts on MHN, MGC or ATH? Sometimes I can reconstruct. A lot of the time I can still recognize ‘me’.

          But some things I lose if I don’t act on them right away.

          1. Argh. Sometimes. But I also have the experience of replying to somebody’s repost, and coming up with almost the same thing I said last time, in almost the same words. Like I’m plagiarizing myself. Or like I just turn on the same faucet and the same words come out. Super creepy, even if I agree with what I said.

            Also embarrassing. I mean, you think I would have learned something new in five years.

      2. Guess this comes under engineering too. Last programming job, occasionally we’d have a problem come in that wasn’t “look at what was last coded & go fix what is broken”. That meant there was something buried that was “correct” but implemented wrong & just adding code “broke it”. Because it ultimately was what was called “address trampling”, finding it was a slow slog.

        Guys hated/appreciated when I would “appear” to “see” where the problem was exactly. Appreciated it because it would then be a quick relatively easy fix. Hated it because I couldn’t articulate WHY I could “see it”. Well I could, but 35 years of experience wasn’t a reason, when what they saw was 12 years of experience (at that job).

        I had more programming experience than anyone in that company (excepting the boss had he continued programming, but he hadn’t, so yes, even him), & more variety on different projects, but had the least amount of experience on the companies project**. 95% correct, & it was the not part that everyone remembered.

        ** Did not know this until after I quit; so …

    2. Interesting… My uncle had a souped-up Caddy when I was a kid, that was VERY difficult to drive when it was raining. All but the lightest touch on the throttle would make the rear wheels spin as soon as the pavement got even a little slippery. Sort of the same idea.

    3. “Their problem is that because they -know- what’s going to happen they can’t really do anything.”
      There’s that problem with The Big Guy being all-knowing and also all-powerful. I square that circle by speculating that TBG experiences time all at once. Kind of messes with causality.

      1. In high school I read Boetius’ A COSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY (course in ‘Medieval Mind. Yes the teacher was an Odd), in which the author tackles the apparent conflict between God’s Omniscience and man’s free will. As I recall, he posited that God existed outside of time. So he knew what we would freely choose to do because he saw us choose it, whereas we were inside of time and didn’t know.

        I kind of get the outlive of the thought, but looking at it to hard gives me a headache.

    4. That about “the more power you have, the less you can do,” is brilliant. Will you forgive me if I apply it to some upcoming situation in a book? (Nothing like that applicable to the current book… but I’m sure it will stick in my memory.)

      1. Please feel free. I’m having a lot of fun with it, myself. As a condition in an imaginary universe, it definitely makes your powerful characters work for their results.

      2. Margaret, it’s been used and in fact is a basic premise of the “Earthsea” books.

  7. Test comment. Could not comment yesterday, checking if the problem is gone. Please disregard.

    1. Obviously it is. Please return to your regularly scheduled discussions. This was a test.

        1. If this had been an actual comment, you would have been instructed where to tune for news and official information.

          This concludes this test of the comment test system.

  8. I’ve frequently thought that “Fate” was a way of saying “There was an elephant stampeding through the town and I was too goddamned lazy to get out of the way”.

  9. I’ve had this bit of dialogue I’ve been working though in my head for a while. The heroine wonders if she was always destined to get stuck in this position, the being with her says that at least in theory, she always had a choice, but he’s not certain if she really did. Given who she is and the circumstances in which she found herself, could she really have chosen anything different? Or would her own nature have always forced her on the same path?

    I suspect much the same is true of that young Portuguese village girl. She was always going to find a way to write. Everything I’ve read on this blog suggests that she couldn’t NOT do it. And given who she was, there was a certain message of truth and freedom that would always be in what she wrote.

    1. Like the bit in Pratchett’s Night Watch where Vimes, dealing with the consequences of time travel and hearing about the many-worlds theory for the first time, objects, “So in all those many possible worlds, there are some worlds where I killed my wife?” And the guy talking to him says, “No. There are no worlds where you, Sam Vimes as he is now, killed your wife.” I.e., even if there are some worlds where a man named Vimes killed his wife, that man would have had to make so many different choices, and have such a different personality, that he couldn’t be called the same man as the “real” Sam Vimes in any way even remotely resembling the truth.

      1. Anathem has a good example of this, using the example of a block of ice in the center of a star. Possible, but a whole lot of unlikely choices would have to be made for it to happen, and the timeline you’re moving along probably isn’t it.

    2. I’ve seen multiple stories with this premise: “You have a choice, but everything that you have done and has happened to you up to this point will cause you to make only one possible decision”. Which, to me, is the exact same thing as fate.

      1. Ah, but there is an extremely small, but never-the-less real, possibility that you could change that choice. You have to wonder if the Uncertainty Principle and quantum fluctuations are the mechanisms by which freedom of choice emerges.

      2. Wouldn’t it be closer to say; “You have free will, but the choice that brings you to this event was made some time ago, and now you are fundamentally committed?” Each choice you make in a chain of causation makes the final choice more inevitable. You weren’t ‘Fated’ to be standing in this room over a cooling corpse, but the decision that got you here was made years ago when you started drinking laudanum.

        The Democrats weren’t ‘Fated’ to lose the 2016 election; but the decision that would wind them up with Her Shrillness was made back when they decided to fight Bill’s Impeachment…or even further back when they didn’t pull strings to dump him once they knew what a sleezy sonofabitch he was.

    3. “The heroine wonders if she was always destined to get stuck in this position,”

      LOL!. Oh please, you did not just say that. I’ve been reading a few too many risque’ books via Kindle Unlimited lately.

      1. Er, okay, didn’t think of that, maybe I should rephrase…

        (Or maybe not. How’s the market for risque books in KU these days…)

      2. Help, my mind is getting clean!!!!! I only thought of Crazy Glue, and not even in an obscene way.

  10. I cannot find the link, but just a few days or weeks ago, I was reading that some guy felt that criminals could not help being criminal because none of us have free choice – we all do what we do because of life’s circumstances.

    So, he believed it was wrong to punish those who only do what they do because they are not capable of choosing.

    That idea has been driving me somewhat crazy since I read it. It goes against everything I believe.

    And naturally, the guy is an atheist, so there really isn’t any wrong or right to HIM (I know plenty of atheist who believe there is right and wrong).

    I have no idea if this is a comment worth reading or not, but there it is.

    1. But, the extension of that thinking is that the only real option is to kill the offender, thus preventing others from receiving the programming (life’s circumstances) that he received.
      And even further, that programs of eugenics and ethnic/cultural cleansing would be beneficial.
      That kind of thinking makes me shudder.

      1. That’s the first thought I had as well. If the criminal has no choice, then the only choice is to get rid of the criminal.

      2. Nah, I could simply conclude that if the criminal is not a moral actor, neither am I, and that whether I shoot a dog, shoot a rabid dog, am willing to execute a common law capital felon, or am willing to execute people for fitting a pattern of past behavior, morality has no meaning. OP describes a sort of motte and bailey argument, where the implications of denying the moral value of agency are not followed to their logical end in the evaluation of the inherent worth of human life.

        I feel there is probably a theoretically possible rational for not valuing the worth of human life and at the same believing that the practical costs of mass killings justify some sort of restriction.

        That said, I personally tend to stick with the inherent worth of the human being model, because the utilitarian arguments alone are not very persuasive to my temper.

    2. That line of reasoning makes my head hurt– “we should CHOOSE not to punish people who do bad things, because they can’t choose.” What, criminals are the helpless robots? Shouldn’t we EXECUTE them, then? Only way to stop them, if punishment won’t change the choices.

      Well, dude, guess I’m unable to choose not to punish those who deserve it.

      And you’re wrong to argue that I should.

      1. The variant on that that I heard was about the man who’s caught stealing in a Muslim country, back when they enforced Quranic law strictly, and pleads to the judge, “I could not help stealing. It was the will of Allah that it would be my fate to steal, and who can resist his will? So I am not to blame.” And the judge answers, “Of course you are right, and no man can resist the will of Allah. And I, alas, cannot resist his will that I should condemn you to have your right hand cut off.”

    3. Other than a few states with the death penalty, criminals *don’t* get punished.

      They just get sent back to high school. Really, in too many school systems the only difference is that the kids get to go home nights and weekends. But it’s the same authoritatian concrete and PA system hell, and if it’s not “punishment” for 8 hours a day, how can it be “punishment” full-time?

    4. Of COURSE there is right and wrong to him, he just doesn’t admit it.

      I mean, without getting all analytical about it – it’s right there in the statement: He believes it is WRONG to punish criminals because they can’t help themselves.

    5. My answer to this Atheist is; “If these people are criminals without choice then they are irredeemable, and should be put down as dangerous animals. Not as punishment, but as prevention. And if you are prepared to do that in the name of the State, YOU are a dangerous animal and need to be put down.”

    6. I’m reminded of one of the early “insanity defense” cases where the defendant claimed an “irresistible urge” to kill, and the judge asked if he still would have committed the murder if there had been a policeman standing next to him. The defendant admitted probably not, and the judge commented that apparently the urge was irresistible only in the absence of a police officer.

      Similarly, the guy in question might consider if life’s circumstances were such that criminals were never punished, a whole lot more people might be forced by said circumstances to become criminals.

    7. If a criminal has no choice but to commit a crime and it therefore not guilty I also have to choice but to lock up said criminal and am similarly absolved from guilt.

      1. Robert Sawyer is likely who you are thinking about.

        He claims that humans “imagine” that we have Free Will.

        IMO That means that his books weren’t the “product” of his own mind and aren’t worth reading. 👿

    8. The guy’s thinking is confused. He should be put on a course of wall to wall counseling as psychological treatment for that. 🙂

      Yeah, there are also some fun options for ‘criminals are just sick, and should be treated instead of being punished’.

      The thing about policy statements based on nihilism that they may have flaws that can be identified by a rigorous argument from nihilism. These flaws might be common, because a lot of people who argue from nihilism face counterarguments based on other ideologies. For some reason, a lot of people think that denying Christ is not an ideal way to own the libs or Witness for Him.

    9. > So, he believed it was wrong to punish those who only do what
      > they do because they are not capable of choosing.

      That, I say That Boi is very confused.

      He is saying that the criminal is not a moral actor–cannot choose right from wrong, but that he (that boi) IS a moral actor and CAN choose, and further more seeks to convince others that THEY can make the choice to act in the right way.

      In a very few number of circumstances he’s right. And we have laws that cover those cases–the profoundly mentally retarded, or those who’s insanities are such that reality and whatever is going on in their head can’t be separated.

      But ultimately it doesn’t matter–if someone *cannot* make choices and hurt other people they need to be stopped. Call it “punishment”, call it “protective custody”, call it “taking out the garbage”. I don’t care, get it done.

      Side note–I bet he’s interested in punishing Trump supporters. Because unlike criminals THEY are not predestined to be such.

      Secondly, consider that *punishment* is not necessarily a “reward” for past wrongs, but inputs to a system designed to correct it’s functioning.

      And since we’re all just meat machines a little pain is irrelevant, no?

    10. That’s where the HBO Westworld went: Humans are merely the sum of their easily derived reductio-ad-absurdum drives and motivations; it’s the robots who might have free will – but probably not.

      Season 2 would have been walled were it a book.

    11. The argument you’re talking about ultimately comes down to whether you think free will exists or not. If you don’t think free will exists, it gives you a reason to not listen to any contrary theories. It’s an article of faith. Everything has been predetermined since the beginning of time and there is no meaning behind anything. It’s all pointless and inevitable.

      I don’t have enough faith to believe this because there’s so much evidence that it’s not true. It won’t make me try to convince the no-free-will people, since like I said, it’s an article of faith for them. But when I tell them they better not complain about anything anybody does to them, I hope it makes them wonder if they’re wrong.

    12. Not necessarily. One can still punish the criminal to prevent him from doing it in the future. When it comes down to it, that is why we punish children after all. It is fated that they will do bad things sometimes (at least every child I have known of has done so, with perhaps one historical exception). We punish them so they will learn better, not in the interest of some abstract justice. The same reason can be used to justify punishing criminals to change who they are so they will no longer be criminals.

      1. When it comes down to it, that is why we punish children after all. It is fated that they will do bad things sometimes (at least every child I have known of has done so, with perhaps one historical exception).

        Even He did something that got Him scolded, justly– pursuing His geek, even. 😉

    13. “…I was reading that some guy felt that criminals could not help being criminal because none of us have free choice…”

      This is a guy who does not understand what a human being is. He’s trapped in Wittgenstein’s logic book, and he missed this line: “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.”

      There are many educated idiots in the world. Looks like you found one. ~:D

  11. I always figure that I’d work harder if I knew that I would succeed. Because I hate the idea of doing work that won’t pay off. Because I’m lazy, I suppose.

    Or maybe I’d work even less and it’s all been making excuses all this time.

    I know that I will never respond to “you suck, you’re going to fail” with “I’ll show you!” Supposedly some people will try to “prove it” but I’ve always been the “who needs your approval, hey look over there, that looks fun…”

    1. I know that I will never respond to “you suck, you’re going to fail” with “I’ll show you!”

      That’s me, too. Unless it’s a continual barrage, I don’t generally let it bother me, but it doesn’t inspire me to an attitude of defiance, either.

    2. I don’t tend to respond to “you suck, you’re going to fail” . I DO get annoyed at “You can’t succeed, you’re only going to hurt yourself” and tend to react to it along the lines of “So get out of my way and let me fail on my own terms you condescending sonofabitch”

  12. I’ve heard Jordan Peterson say that what correlates to success best is a combination of high intelligence and high conscientiousness, and that those two traits are not correlated with each other at all.

    1. I believe it. I often see smart and scattered, organized and not-so-smart, and smart and organized. Student number 3 is going to do very well, even if her smart stat is a bit lower than Student Number 1’s.

  13. I tend towards the Chinese view that my wife introduced me to. Luck, destiny, character, and effort all are accounted for in our life’s path.
    I could hardly deny destiny given how my wife and I ended up together.

  14. “It is not written unless I say it is written.”
    — T. E. Lawrence

    Should be the credo of all writers.

  15. This is totally off topic, but was there a reason (besides intoxication) for someone to steal a tractor and drive it (with attachment) through Denver last night?

    1. Black sarcophagus apocalyptic nutjobbery and a misunderstanding of the reaping metaphor?

    2. There’s some guy in my town that drives this beat up Massey Ferguson around. Got a stump grinder on the back and everything. See it at the Foodland store all the time. I suspect license suspension. ~:D

      But, being Hooterville, it is not unheard of to see a combine in the parking lot at Foodland, or pulled up to the pumps at the gas station.

      I love living here. ~:D It’s frickin’ awesome.

  16. She says this as if it were not already widely known.

    The NEA Is A Racist and Evil Organization
    By Sarah Hoyt
    I got something from one of my readers about the Final Report from the NEA (National Education Association) Resolutions committee, and it was so outlandish I almost dismissed it out of hand.

    I’m glad I didn’t. I went poking, and yeah, okay, it’s outlandish and … well, it’s true.

    Read this remembering these people have control of every school in the country (except for a few private ones, which frankly, tend to follow the same program, so they can be accredited and feed kids into the same higher education — holds back metaphor on effluvium — stream.) Read it remembering these people have control of your (and everyone’s) children, 8 hours a day for twelve years of their lives.

    Ask yourself if your kids wouldn’t be better off doing just about anything, including wandering the woods or playing video games in that time.

    In these days, when even most college graduates are having trouble writing a coherent sentence (for my sins I’ve had to help people — not my kids. I made them learn to use words before ten — write essays to enter graduate programs. Trust me, you don’t want to go there) much less a coherent page; in these days when people with a high school education are unable to add the price of your lunch without a register or a calculator, what is the NEA passionately concerned about?

    If you guessed “White Supremacy” you are right. You are also, probably a teacher because no one in their right mind could possibly assume that the National Education Association would be MOST worried about white supremacy. …

    1. The NEA is itself among the best candidates for the ‘super sikrit’ conspiracy. Why? The horrible, no good completely incompetent job they do has a disparate impact on poor people from dysfunctional family environments. People from more functional environment can get things that the NEA doesn’t provide, and are more likely to survive the NEA’s poison and become functional themselves.

  17. I grew up with fate… I also defied it several times. Yep– defying fate comes with a cost, but it also comes with an interesting life.

  18. It happens to me more than most. I write software for a living. I see some stuff. I just don’t understand it. WTH is going on? Then I check the version, and *I* wrote it. And I am like, “WTF was i thinking when I wrote that?” Also, sometimes, it is like, “Ohh that is nice. How’d they figure that out?. Wait, *I* wrote that? O_o”

    Neither makes me feel very smart when I see that (“Holy cow I was dumb. Am I still that dumb?” or “I used to be smarter than I am now”.

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