Building a better superego

Punishment in 18th century Bristol by John Latimer

’Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions, a tradition floated by best hopes and intentions for the future … and grounded by the reality that most will fade long before Summer Solstice, some forgotten by the first day of February.

The problem with resolutions is that they are, for the most part, structured as demands upon ourselves. We look at our shortcomings and shake our heads. Dissatisfied with our unworthy ways, we try to parent ourselves into doing better.

And so we make lists, and read listicles, and download apps, and sign up for seminars, and buy books — somehow convincing ourselves that this time things will be different, this time you won’t let yourself fall off the bridge to success.

It doesn’t help that there’s an entire industry of task management apps, books, workbooks, videos, seminars, retreats that all focus on constructing a better way to parent ourselves.

Home on Lagrange

I first came across Lagrangian Points many years ago in Arthur C. Clarke’s novel A Fall of Moondust. It boggled my young mind, picturing satellites orbiting in seemingly static positions around the Moon! Of course, in fact they were orbiting Earth and the Moon, affected by and in balance with both gravitational sources. (This is what the best science fiction does: explore scientific concepts, even in passing, within a fictional story.)

This morning, while researching for a project I’m working on, I found myself returning to Lagrangian Points, a phenomenon beautiful in its simplicity.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines Lagrangian Point as:

Any of five points in the orbital plane of two bodies, one of which is much larger than the other, at which a third, even smaller body will remain in gravitational equilibrium. Bodies located at Lagrangian points appear stationary with respect to the larger two bodies.

Digital: ephemeral

Zathras die

What happens to this blog when I die, when I no longer pay the monthly bill? What happens to my emails when my card no longer covers the autopay on the account? What happens to the gigabytes of archives I have tucked away on Dropbox when the account is not renewed? Unless I provide for their continued maintenance in my will—assuming I have any estate that outlives me—they will go away, gone forever.

Even the free services—GMail, Flickr, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter—could just quietly drop the accounts after we pass on. There's obviously a business there: curation of our collective individual histories. But so far, companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter want no part of it.

This isn't just about sentimentality or attachment to our intangible cultural legacy. What about digital assets with real value—music we create, videos we produce, books we write? Copyright protects us (somewhat) from piracy, but not for preservation. As we ourselves become worm food, our digital tracks, so much a part of our lives, disappear into the ether.

Mahlerficent occasion

MahlerFest 2014 orchestra


Last night, on impulse from a friend’s suggestion, I had the immense pleasure of attending the main concert for this year’s MalherFest. Historically I haven’t been the biggest Mahler aficionado, but last night did about all that’s possible to make me a convert.

The orchestra itself, comprised of mostly local musicians with a few flying in from around the country, was quite wonderful.

When I lived in Chicago, I went several times to hear the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. When I lived in New York, I heard the NY Philharmonic and many other concerts at Carnegie Hall. (Shura Cherkassky’s birthday concert stands out as an especially fun experience.) When I lived in LA, I went several times a year to the LA Philharmonic.

And yet since I moved to Colorado, I’ve heard precious little live classical music. And yet it’s obviously all around us. I’m really going to have to get out more.

Nebula reading

Book cover for Ancillary Justice

If you're a science fiction fan like I am, here's a new reading list.


Winner: Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie (Orbit US; Orbit UK)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler (Marian Wood)
The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman (Morrow; Headline Review)
Fire with Fire, Charles E. Gannon (Baen)
Hild, Nicola Griffith (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
The Red: First Light, Linda Nagata (Mythic Island)
A Stranger in Olondria, Sofia Samatar (Small Beer)
The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker (Harper)

(I picked up Ancillary Justice last week.)

Need more selection? There's also the Hugos nominee list, also provided courtesy of John Scalzi, former SFWA head and prolific opinionator on all things SF.

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