My New Diary, 11/3 to 11/6/2018


{11/3/18}  Weight 219.2.

Created a new Meetup group called “Head-2-Head Games,” for chess, go, shogi, and so on, to meet at Dagny’s every Saturday at 11:00 am.  We’ll see what happens.  I have no great desire to play chess, but will enjoy meeting people on, in a sense, my own turf.

Moscow Ballet is doing the Nutcracker in Bakersfield on 12/13.  Shall I go?  The tickets I want are $68 each.  I can do that easily, even if I invite Natalie and Chris, around $200.  Even if I take them to a modest dinner first, another $60.  I can do that easily, and I want to do it, but I also want to save money.  I had intended to save $200 this month—that would be it.

Now, about that car that I want to buy.  One little drawback:  it would reduce my physical activity, which these days is generally limited to walking to and from bus stops.  It would give me the opportunity to go camping and do some hiking, but how often would I do that?  If I had to go alone, not very often.  More likely the occasional day trip somewhere in the Sierras.  That’s good, though, because I really miss mountains and trees.  I could get mountains and trees by renting a car, which overall makes a kind of sense.  And there’s the desert.

I have $394, of which I’m allowing $124 for groceries.  If I save $200, that leaves $70 for all other expenses, and I’m thinking “better coat,” also.  And “better shoes.”  Three and a half weeks to payday.  The thing is, if I am going to buy tickets, better now than after next payday, because I’d naturally get better seats.  I’ll talk to my people tomorrow, if they show up.  I know Pablo wants to go.


{11/4/18}  Weight 218.4.

Decided against the ballet.  Just don’t want to spend the money.

Watched a couple of movies from a 5-movie “horror” package.  Wind Chill was nothing special, though the acting was very good.

More interesting was Vinyan from 2008.  It was a memorable if often tedious kind of art-horror thing, with not enough of either.  One review said you spend most of the movie waiting for something to happen.  Yes.  Yet, I’m not sorry to have seen it, despite my frequent sighing and whining until the last half hour.  Very offbeat, once it gets going.  Director Fabrice Du Welz, not a household name.  Emmanuelle Beart is seemingly game for anything, a “good sport,” though what’s up with her lips, her mouth?  Quite distracting early on.  Some great, memorable visuals, but this movie has to be given entirely too much leeway—it’s more like a symbolist something-or-other than a real movie, because the last half hour or so is just quite unbelievable, yet the most entertaining part.  53% at Rotten Tomatoes.

Bought a book that looks quite interesting and peculiar.  The title is The Beginning of Heaven and Earth Has No Name: Seven Days with Second-Order Cybernetics (Meaning Systems).  I’ll have more to say when I get a look at it.  It consists of a three-way interview with some cyberneticist.  Quite inexpensive.  I didn’t want to spend the money, given that I’m trying to save, but I didn’t want it to get away (Powell’s was down to three copies).

I donated three books to Dagny’s today because I’m overloaded, even to the point now of boxing some up.  One was a biography of John Gielgud, my favorite actor.  In looking through it, I can see that it would be interesting, maybe even fun, to read; but it’s not important.  Does my reading really need to be important?  Sort of, yeah.  I’m too old and have too many books clamoring for attention (spent another hundred out of this paycheck for books, too).  I’m quite gone off reading fiction, though Indochine at Dagny’s looked pretty interesting, until I got to chapter 1.  The “Prologue” (or whatever it was) was quite interesting, but then ch. 1 started up like fifty years earlier, with a different character.  I have a low tolerance for jumping from character to character.


{11/5/18}  Weight 219.something.

Rereading the A-List last night I was mightily impressed by my own brilliance.  I took it off my blog, thinking that it was too good to give away for nothing, and not wanting it to be “looted.”  Perhaps, “I should be so lucky,” but I don’t believe it.  What’s there could serve as the foundation of the philosophy I want to write.

Another part of that philosophy might well be the “New View of Human Nature,” which is the title of a chapter in the latest book that I’m excited about, Lisa Feldman Barrett:  How Emotions are Made:  The Secret Life of the Brain, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, New York, 2017, hc.  I find it totally convincing and, despite some one-star reviews on Amazon, not at all a “self-help book masquerading as science.”  Admittedly, I haven’t gotten to the chapters that look like self-help, but I have read up to page 163 and have found nothing but science and speculation about how the mind works.

In working on putting together old reviews from my old web site, with the aim of creating another blog post without actually writing, I find the following (from 1997, with bracketed text from some time before 2006):  “The consensus view of morality [a concept I have been working on] is false because it assumes a free and open society, not a society of manufactured consensus.”  It’s from a review of a book by Jonathan Kozol, The Night is Dark and I am Far From Home.

I haven’t thought much about consensus recently; my morality, such as it is, is based on the idea that “if anything is evil, unnecessary suffering is evil.”  This is a foundational principle that, to my mind, supersedes consensus without nullifying its unique importance.


{11/6/18}  Weight 219.4 (I think).

Election day.

Had a scare last night.  I kept finding little bumps like mosquito bites on my arms and legs.  I thought it was bedbug bites, because the problem has been getting rather worse after some weeks where I didn’t see a one.  I started making plans to move out of this apartment, which would be a horrible experience because I have little money and less energy and strength, plus few friends to call on for help (one).  Eventually there were so many bumps I realized what they were:  hives.  I took a couple of antihistamine pills and ended up sleeping for a while, and everything was back to normal (except the bedbugs are still very annoying).

I rarely get hives, like almost never, and I’ve never been too sure about what caused them.  Likewise this time.  My “dinner” yesterday was thoroughly disgraceful, almost half of a Dutch apple pie plus, plus a whole package of Pepperidge Farm cookies.  That was dinner.  Did that cause the hives somehow?  I guess so; but this is hardly the first time I’ve had total junk for dinner, not even the first time in the last month.

I voted by mail this year, mailing it in on the 1st—I actually took it to a post office to mail it, not because I was concerned about the mail, but because I also wanted to get rid of a printer cartridge, recycling it back to the manufacturer because they provided the postage.  Turned out it was easy as could be.

I haven’t written much in the diary lately.  Here are my usual activities for the past week or so:

  • Watching a Great Courses course on Herodotus, during meals.
  • Dictating pages of my Prison Diary into the computer, and sometimes turning the text into a blog post.
  • Twitter, of course. Multiple hours each day, often while something was on the TV in the background, often with the sound off.
  • Watching DVDs. Last night, Passengers, with Jennifer Lawrence, who was totally adorable.
  • Going somewhere on the bus, mostly for shopping or to meet Pablo.
  • The Hemlock Club meeting, Sunday morning for two hours.

I also started a new Meetup group, “Head-2-Head Games,” to play chess and other, more rarely seen games (in the U.S., that is), such as go, shogi, and Chinese chess.  Those are all games that I prefer to chess, but I’m pessimistic about finding any players through Meetup.

That’s about it.  Not much reading, except on the bus.  My current reading is Lisa Feldman Barrett:  How Emotions are Made, which I first mention here in August and September, then picked up again on Halloween after a fairly long layoff.  I think it’s a spectacularly important book in cognitive science.  I’m about halfway through.

Speaking of cognitive science, last night I looked through Stanislas Dehaene:  Consciousness and the Brain, rereading all the highlighted passages and a bit more.  I typed in some quotes back in May.  I had totally forgotten the point of this book, and now it doesn’t seem especially important, though a good current book.  On the other hand, Barrett offers “a radical new view of human nature,” which naturally interests me greatly.  So we’ll see.

Here’s my Amazon review of Passengers, a DVD I watched last night (no spoilers):


Jennifer Lawrence (“Aurora”) is very appealing, a great looking actress who can really act. Chris Pratt (“Jim”) is pleasant and competent enough in an undemanding role. Laurence Fishburne is solid but unspectacular and essentially wasted. The spaceship looks peculiar but it’ll do. The corporate presence is hugely annoying but doesn’t occupy much of the movie. The dialogue is natural enough but there’s not a lot of it and it’s nothing special. The special effects are excellent but negligible. The plot doesn’t work because important technical details don’t make sense. For me the only real excitement came with the swimming pool, but even there the details made no sense. I don’t want to be more specific because I’m avoiding spoilers.

“The first third starts off well but soon is dragging, and one gets impatient waiting for something to happen. The moral question that should have been at the heart of the movie gets a superficial treatment and finally is the worst element of the whole affair because it just goes away because, you know, [spoiler omitted] only the audience is left going, “Yeah, but … ?”

“If I hadn’t just discovered that I’m a big Jennifer Lawrence fan, I’d have given it two stars. Good outtakes feature is probably the best part of the DVD.”


Diary entries from 6/1 to 9/30 are available in this file:  link.
Diary entries from 10/1 on are available here:  link.

Copyright 2018 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All right reserved.

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