Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Sundry Remarks

Antonio Machado

I was hungry in the night, and I was wakeful in the early morning; but the moon was just past full and we don’t have the blackout curtains up, so I might have slept through that without noticing, if it had been full dark. Not a ferocious hunger, just a present one. It might have been wise to have eaten a little more when I broke my fast -- say half a bowl of stew -- I don’t think it would have taken much. In any case, I’m feeling quite stable at breakfast. So that’s good. So far I’m impressed by how fast things (meaning hunger, energy, etc.) have normalized. Now that I’ve had my breakfast, I don’t think that -- if you wiped my memory clean -- I’d have any way of knowing I was fasting yesterday.

All this fasting stuff is still experimental, and it’s way too early to plan schedules, but if I were to plan one right now, it would look like this:

1-day fast every other Tuesday (i.e. 4:30 Monday afternoon to 5:30 Wednesday morning), 
3-day fast every two months (i.e. 4:30 Monday afternoon to 4:30 Thursday afternoon)
5-day fast every six months (i.e. 4:30 Monday afternoon to 4:30 Saturday afternoon)

Yeah but
The thing is
With all this health ruckus settled, you are going to need to figure out what your days are supposed to be made of, Dale
What you are studying
What you are making
And how you know when you’ve done enough for the day
You have found one point of leverage
And that’s the moment you turn to
You need to turn to the study of the moment instead
There’s probably another point in the evening when you turn to YouTube
But anyway
Here’s a try:
In the morning half an hour, alternating Spanish literature and Canon
In the evening half an hour easy Spanish reading
That’s just an hour a day
And I’m sure you can do it
Even on hectic days
Maybe more on non-hectic days
But give this a shot
Right now it’s Machado’s poetry
And Lucretius
And the easy reading is Spanish’d Narnia
That’s not so hard, is it?
You can totally do this AND enjoy it
Silly boy.


Here's a go at translating "Sobre la tierra amarga..." (1903). I take unconscionable liberties with the stanza and the punctuation. Machado has three four line stanzas, but I think it works better in English with two sixes. And I can't bear ellipses in poetry. (What the hell are line breaks for?) But other than that it's a pretty close translation.

Dreaming, on this bitter earth,
has labyrinthine roads,
tortuous paths, parks
in flower and in shade and in silence;
deep crypts, ladders over stars;
altarpieces of hope and memory.

Figurines that walk and smile
(the melancholy toys of age):
kindly images
at the flowered turn of a lane,
and rosy chimaeras making their way
into the distance.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

2nd Fast

Today is the first 24-hour fast. Possibly 36, if I feel like going on till tomorrow breakfast, but certainly 24. I was going to start *after* breakfast, but I got up this morning and thought, “why the hell would I waste the 13 hours of fasting I’ve already accrued?” So my fast started at 4:30 yesterday, and I’ll break it at 4:30 today. I am having coffee, because piling caffeine withdrawal on top of fasting seems like asking for trouble; also I’ve taken my thyroid med and my vitamin D3. Otherwise, it’s water.

It’s oddly luxurious to not have to think about food prep and planning. Spacious. I have two white pint bowls that I use for my morning broccoli. In the evening I prep the broccoli and put it in the fridge, ready to steam in the morning, and last of all I start the dishwasher. In the morning I eat the broccoli, as I unload the dishwasher and make the rest of my breakfast; and before I sit down to eat my oatmeal and eggs I put the newly-empty bowl into the newly-empty dishwasher. So the one bowl spends the day on the shelf and the night in the fridge, while the other spends the whole day and night in the dishwasher, and in the morning they switch places: but the two never meet. But this morning they are on the shelf together, eyeing each other with suspicion and surprise.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?”

“I live here. I’ve always lived here.”

“Nonsense. *I* have always lived here.”

I’m sure they’ll sort it out. I wonder if I have twin in the world, occupying my negative spaces? I imagine I do.


So now I have done 24 hours! Not much of a struggle, actually. Of acute interest will be: what do my hormones do now? I just ate my usual dinner, though an hour late. Will I be unusually hungry tonight, or tomorrow? Stay tuned.

Monday, March 29, 2021

Belated End of Year Check-In

 I neglected my end-of-year check-in this year. So here it is, three months late. Here's the chart for the weight. Weight is a crummy metric for Metabolic Syndrome: it's analogous to cholesterol -- we rely on it because it's easy, and gives us a spurious but scientific-feeling accuracy. You can see the major contours below, though: I lost weight steadily from May 2017 to August 2018, going from 220 to 150; then I gained back ten pounds; for the two years thereafter I've held pretty steady at 160.

Below is the graph of my waist measurement over the same time (sorry, I don't know enough about the charts and PNG formats to get the scales to look the same: but they really are over the same period of time)

From this you get a better picture of what the changes in weight meant, and what I was trying to do. The year I gained ten pounds, I did it deliberately, and I did it without increasing my waist measurement, which I've been able to hold pretty steady in the 33" to 34" range. Waist measurement is fussy and inaccurate and frustrating, but it's actually a direct measurement of what I was most eager to do: reduce my visceral fat. So the ten pounds I gained was mostly muscle mass: something devoutly to be wished. Not because it's decorative, but because muscle means you can get up off the floor and carry groceries, etc.; and because it provides an excellent glucose sink for people (like me, like at least half the American population) that have difficulty managing glucose in a healthy way. The glucose that doesn't end up in your muscles lands in your liver, and the liver has to flail about trying to store it in various generally unhealthy ways.

The attentive reader will see that over the past year and a half I've tried repeatedly to bring my waist down another inch or two, with no success whatever. (That's where the blue line, which describes my intention, goes jagged, as I revise it over and over.) I had thought the same strategy I used for my original weight loss would work again: why wouldn't it?

Well, it wouldn't because within a week or two of cutting down my calorie intake, I would find myself binge-eating, just like the bad old days. God knows I don't want to start that up again. It was during one of these binge-prone periods that I had my blood lipids done, which showed a mild deterioration, and inspired my doctor to urge statins, and made me take the project of further reducing my visceral fat, and improving my metabolic health, more seriously. (Yes, yes, I know that cholesterol is a crappy metric for metabolic health, but it's not totally irrelevant, either. A happy liver just doesn't crank out that much cholesterol.) Hence the reduction of saturated fat -- the switch from the nightly hamburger and ice cream to herring and turkey (which is going fine!) Hence also the time-restricted feeding, also going fine, with a quite roomy ten- or eleven-hour feeding window: the idea of that is making sure that my insulin actually has time to fall for a reasonable amount of time. (Calling thirteen or fourteen hours a "fast" seems a bit overblown to me. "Not snacking" seems nearer the mark. But it makes sense that if you want to burn fat you'll have to stop flashing the "don't burn any fat! we've got sugar to burn!" signal at some point; i.e. let your insulin levels fall.)

And also I'm interested in real fasting, fasting for a day or two or three -- partly because of the the autophagy and senescent-cell-clearance speculation, which is fascinating but not really settled health science yet, and partly because it seems at least possible that it works for burning fat without lowering metabolism, which in real-life terms, may mean without kicking off binge-eating.

I'm interested too for what you might loosely call spiritual, or psychological, reasons: I've been hagridden by obsessive attention to food all my life, and I long to shake loose of it. I have never, in 63 years on the planet, gone a full 24 hours without food. This seems rather immature to me: not because I think I should have the will power -- I don't believe I will ever have any more will power than I have right now, or that I have, or should have, particularly more or less than anyone else -- but because I'd like to practice managing my endocrine reactions better. I would be a better person if I didn't get cranky and unreasonable at missing a meal, or at even the prospect of missing a meal. And I think with practice I might get a handle on that.

So that's the current project. Still pushing to get that waist/hip ratio down to 90%. And tomorrow is the next fast: 24 hours this time. (Or put another way, skipping lunch and dinner.) Wish me luck!

Friday, March 26, 2021

A Change of Days


The bound flow of a calligrapher's hand,

The bandaged fingers and braced-up wrists

of a gymnast's well-chalked grip:

What kind of gift

have you brought to this meal? 

What will you say 

that you have not said before?

With a primate's practiced peck

of thumb and forefinger I catch 

a sugar ant, and absentmindedly

roll it to its death:

I will notice the smell of its small catastrophe

later, when the sun is high, and I rub my eyes,

aching from the light.

I hesitate to go again into the world

until I can answer these questions.

If this small space is room enough for sin

why would I need more?

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

First Fast

 So a 17-hour fast (I was aiming for 16.) Finished my lunch around 1:00 yesterday, and broke my fast around 6:30 this morning.


  1. I drank a couple cups of hot water in the evening, and I got up to pee after every damn sleep cycle. Four times, I think. I don’t know if it was hunger, or a revved metabolism, or the extra water, or the combination: but anyway, it was not a great-quality sleep. NB I did have one of those really deep naps yesterday afternoon, so that’s a possible factor. Also recollect that carb bomb of the birthday croissant and two enormous cookies. That probably destabilized my blood sugar a bit.

  2. The hunger really does come and go. It doesn’t just ramp up and up. And I wasn’t all that hungry when I woke up to pee: certainly not so hungry as to make it especially difficult to get back to sleep. A really interesting thing was that when I when I got up in the morning, and was on the verge of breakfast -- breakfast was within sight -- the hunger vanished. A lot of it apparently consisted of anxiety about whether I would be able to do the fast, and whether fasting meant I would never get to eat again. I could easily have dawdled another hour before getting breakfast. (I did in fact take my first walk before I ate.)

  3. At no point was I anywhere near as desperately hungry as I used to be -- multiple times a day -- when I was fat. No cravings.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Little Fishes (part 2), & the Theory of Fasting

Huh. Okay, last night was the canned herring with lemon and pepper. The idea was, I'd eat 300 calories' worth of them, and add some olive oil to the potatoes. Upon opening the cans, I abandoned the oil idea at once. They're not kidding when they call them "oily little fish"! Even I, who adore fats, was not going to add more oil than that. That was plenty.

Once again, I'm startled by how much food my 100 grams of hamburger translates to in other proteins. No wonder beef tastes so good! A calorie bomb.

There's bunch of stuff thrown in with this version of the herring -- this is definitely processed food we're talking, here -- but I don't think you could seriously argue it was, nutritionally, a worse dinner than the burger and ice cream. And it was delicious.

(One advantage of eating precisely the same dinner for four years straight, I suppose, is that anything new will seem marvelous.)

So here is a second success. Today and the day after I'll be finishing up my ground turkey. Then probably it's on to the canned salmon. Science marches on.


One of my many unexamined dietary assumptions was that a person should seek a steady state, a perfect calorie intake, and stay there. From my recent reading, this appears to be wrong: actually cycling through periods of glut and deprivation is what the system is designed for, and both states confer advantages that a steady state will not. That, at any rate, is the hypothesis I'm working from now. Not big swings in body weight -- not ten pounds a go -- but some alternation of surplus and fasting. In a period of glut the body builds muscle much more readily, and muscle mass is good for you in a couple different ways, practically and metabolically. And at some point in a period of fasting the body kicks into "conserve and repair" mode and starts cleaning up damaged cells and mitochondria. Then you get shiny new cells with snazzy new appliances, if I understand right, but more importantly, you stop the old senile cells from sending confusing and inflammatory messages to all the other cells in their neighborhood. This clean-up process is called autophagy, and it's thought to be why calorie restriction sometimes extends lifespan.

The catch, for the humble end-user of this theory, is: what counts as a "fast"? 16 hours daily? 1 day every 2 weeks? five days per quarter? And how much calorie restriction: 50% 75%? 100%? Nobody really has any idea what the ideal protocol would be. Autophagy turns out to be a difficult thing to detect: you can't just prick your finger and get a number for it. Presumably some clever person in a laboratory will figure out how to do this, at some point; but for now, it's just guesswork. My plan is to do what seems offhand to be easiest, which is one day (36-hour) fast every two weeks. I'll give that a shot next Tuesday. It doesn't seem (in prospect) all that difficult to just not eat for a day.

Monday, March 08, 2021

The Great Protein Swap

Hi Dr P-----,

Thanks so much! I'm afraid there's nothing mysterious about my cholesterol numbers edging up this year :-)

I propose seeing what I can do with diet and exercise, first, and seeing if I can get that total chol/HDL ratio at least back down to 5 by June. I'm not dead set against taking statins, but I want to at least put up a fight. I'm pretty clear about what I need to do.

Can we plan on another lipid panel in June, and go from there?


The great protein swap begins tonight, with ground turkey (thanks Am!) instead of burger and ice cream. I reckon 150 grams of Turkey about equals the calories of 100 grams of burger, and 50 more grams would about match the ice cream. We’ll see how much I actually want, but certainly 200 grams would be a plausible place to start. 

And salt tracking started last night. I’d be very surprised if limiting salt had any effect on the cholesterol -- it really shouldn’t -- but it might have an effect on the blood pressure, which would in turn affect the results of Dr P’s risk calculator. And it’s just been hanging, for a long time, and I’m tired of it being an issue out in the offing. Anyway, this is just to get a starting read on how much I’m actually adding to my food at the moment (not counting the salt already in the lunch soups, which should be, I dunno, less than 1/3 of a teaspoon per serving, probably a lot less; also not counting the salt I throw into the oatmeal, which is about 1/4 teaspoon.) If you don’t know your starting numbers, you don’t know anything.

The other big question in the offing is fasting. I’ve got a book on hold at the library, about fasting and autophagy -- The Switch, by James Clement -- and decide how I’m going to start fasting after that.

[Evening] Well, the turkey (150 grams) was not what I expected. I doubled (at a rough guess) the olive oil, making perhaps a four inch pool rather than 2 ½ - 3 -inch, and ended up crumbling the turkey, and it drank every bit of the oil. So rather than having potatoes saturated with oil, I had very tasty turkey and dry potatoes. The combination was pleasing and I in no way felt deprived: but the turkey was so tasty that I must remember to examine its label carefully. Did they sneak some sugar into it? [ans: no. Turkey and Rosemary extract.] By the reckoning on the package, the turkey calories will have been 210, which should be less, even with the extra oil, than the 100 grams of hamburger and ¼ cup of ice cream. So I would call this part of the project a grand success. Whether it has any impact on my waistline or lipid numbers, of course, we won’t know for some time. Tomorrow will be canned fish, of one sort or another -- I bought four different sorts -- and some olive oil drizzled on the potatoes.

So far I'm not missing the ice cream at all: that's encouraging. That was the last refined sugar in my diet.

Meanwhile, I have introduced a second daily walk, which I'm gradually going to increase until it's the same length as my first daily walk. (Gradually, because last time I kicked up my walking distance rapidly my knee objected strongly.) So far so good, with that. My main exercise is still resistance training, mostly bodyweight. I have to be very prudent about how I stress my knees and my lumbar spine. I am not a big fan of cardio, either by preference or by theory, but 15 or 20 minutes a day was really not enough. And I like what having a walk on either side of my afternoon siesta does to my mental clarity. I might start tying the walks to waking from sleep, come to think of it. That's an idea.

Saturday, March 06, 2021

Little Fishes


Well, my doctors are at it again, trying to get me to take statins. So I've been going through what I went through ten years ago, browsing studies and reading Cochrane reviews and getting the lay of the land. American medicine is very aggressive about preventive statins. It's a maddening edge-case, for me: kind of a toss-up. On the one hand, the benefit is clear enough: if you put a thousand at-risk people on statins for five years, you'll prevent some 18 major cardiovascular episodes. But as far as I can tell, no one clearly understands why. The popular narrative of cholesterol "clogging" arteries is not what actually happens. And meanwhile, you've also put 982 people on a serious systemic drug for five years, without measurable benefit. I don't have confidence that these studies (all of which are underwritten by people who -- surprise! -- want to sell statins) are looking really carefully for long-term side-effects. I don't doubt that the research is conscientious, by its own lights. But its lights are not exactly mine. The balance has shifted slightly in favor of the pro-preventive-statins side, in the last ten years, but not much. I'm undecided.

But still, even given all the caveats, my cholesterol is outlandishly high, and probably indicates that I should do something about it. One thing, which I'm already undertaking, is to increase my (quite lame) cardio: I'm gradually going to double my modest daily walking time.  The other thing, of course, is my diet.

I have fixed a lot about my diet, in the past four years, but there's two big changes I've left for later: salt and saturated fat. Salt is a project I'm not willing to undertake yet. But I eat a lot of saturated fat at dinner: 100 grams of ground beef, and a densely-packed quarter cup (probably half a cup, unpacked) of ice cream. I have not had much luck tampering with those: I've partly been able to make all the other changes because I still able to look forward to gorging myself on saturated fat at dinner. But I think I'm going to take another, sustained shot at replacing the burger and ice cream with little fishes. Sardines, or herring, or whatever you call them. Little guys towards the bottom of the food chain. It needs to be canned, because no way am I taking on the burden of purchasing, storing, and prepping fresh fish every day. Not happening.

So. I'll have a lot of calories to spend -- upwards of 400 -- if I drop the burger and ice cream. I have a hard time picturing eating 400 calories of sardines. (Truth be told, I have a hard time picturing eating sardines at all) So at least it will be an "all you can eat" situation, which may placate the appetite demons somewhat.

We'll see. It's an experiment. If I can't do it -- if it leads to intolerable cravings and binges -- then I'll just accept that, resume the burger and ice cream, and go on my way: moving one blood lipid marker down is not worth putting the whole project at risk. Maybe I've done as much as I can: if so, that's all right. But I am going to make the attempt. Market day is Monday, so that's when I start.


Having to decide about the statins evoked an odd emotional crisis, which I'm still sorting out. My doctor ordered me to start taking them in a note on my online chart. It was not camouflaged as a suggestion, or a consultation. It was phrased simply as a command. This is a new-ish doctor for me, who is busy and rather rushed, who probably was not bearing in mind, or didn't know, or didn't care, that doctors have ordered me to take statins before and I have said no. 

I don't respond well to being ordered, when I think I ought to be consulted. As a white man with and advanced degree and a retirement stash, I'm greatly impressed with my own importance and dignity, and I expect everyone else to be too. 

At the same time, I score off the charts on those personality quizzes that assess agreeability. I prefer to avoid conflict. And I'm keenly aware that I want to stay on the good side of my health care people, because they have control of the pharmacopeia. If I'm dying of cancer someday I may want all the opium I can eat, and this is the doctor who will be deciding if I get it. I'm also aware (really I am!) that even thinking this thought wanders over the line into paranoia: I really doubt that many doctors are going to make that decision by pondering whether I was willing to take statins when they told me to. 

No, what's really operating here is a reluctance to accept my low status and vulnerability. Where my two options appear to be knuckling under and accepting that I'm powerless old man, hoping not to be stranded on the ice floe, with an ever-growing list of cumulatively debilitating daily medicines to take; or becoming one of those ridiculous superstitiously anti-medical cranks who refuse to go near a hospital when their appendix bursts. Comical, in any case. Nobody retains their dignity in the face of the Western way of doing medicine. Nobody retains their dignity in the face of age, in any case. And isn't it -- supposedly -- my goal to get rid of my dignity? Isn't my dignity precisely and exactly the source of my suffering? I thought abandoning my dignity was my life's project?

The fact is that this decision is trivial. If you did a study with fifty subjects, and a fifty-person control group, you would probably conclude that a) statins have no benefit and b) statins have no side-effects, either. You can't even see these effects in a small study. I may have opinions about the wisdom of setting standards for preventive drugs that result in the majority of the population eventually taking them, but -- that's another question, and not one in which the opinion of an IT guy / massage therapist / occasional poet weighs much.

So that much is clear. The decision is actually unimportant. What is important for me -- apparently -- is how I hold it, which stories I tell myself about it, and what state of mind they leave me in. The story of letting myself get pushed around is not going to be one that -- for instance -- inspires me to have a go at eating little fishes. The story of crotchety, shrill defiance, and insistence on my dignity, in defiance of due authority, may undergird the little fishes project, but it takes me that much further on the road to suspicion and isolation.  I'm already further down that road than I want to be.


Anyway. If any of you have helpful hints or suggestions about little fishes, please give them to me! My plan Monday is to plant myself by the canned fish and read labels and just try whatever they've got. 

Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Von Tal in the Ice

Ice Storm, February 2021

Lo ’mperador del doloroso regno
da mezzo ’l petto uscia fuor de la ghiaccia

The deep forest is gone. I made the mistake, fifteen or twenty years ago, of taking a shortcut home from the beach, through what I foolishly thought was still the deep forest, along old logging roads and such analogs to country lanes as we have here. There was no forest. It was ugly slash, the remains of multiple clear cuts, stumps and scrawny miserable third- or fourth-growth Douglas firs: the scars everywhere, and the junk logs, detritus, and brush dumped into the creeks. Nothing left. There is no deep forest now. A few parks: in Joni Mitchell's phrase, tree musee-ums. And even the closest of those have been burnt over in the seasonal wildfire romps, now. Why should I care about further losses? It's all been trashed. If you didn't know what a real forest was supposed to look like, I suppose you could take these places for forest. I can't. 

In this mood, I am probably as close as I will ever get to understanding the hearts and minds (loosely speaking) of Trump supporters. They too think everything has been ruined: though why they loved what they loved makes no sense to me. To my mind, suburban America has always been hideous and its pastimes have always been ridiculous. I still feel that way, and I have less inclination than ever to apologize for it. But they loved it, or thought they did, and now they've lost it, or believe they have, and they've found someone as stupid and hostile as they are to be a focusing-glass for their rage. Go for it, guys. Tear the country apart. The chances of making it worse are small. 

Of course, I don't believe that people in this mood can hang together or take constructive action. I have only to look at myself in the mirror, to know that. You can't cooperate if you think other people are stupid losers. You can't build anything without hope. So the Trumpists will roll through like the wildfires from time to time. But the idea that they could actually build something -- a third party, for example -- is absurd. Nihilists don't build. They don't trust each other any more than they trust us. So you want to keep tabs on them enough to get out of their way during their brief flares. For the rest, relax. They may commit random acts of terror, but that's about all they're up to. I don't worry about them any more than I worry about lightning strikes on a clear day. Could happen: will happen to some unfortunate soul: but who cares? Plenty more human beings where we came from.


So the question -- this is me again -- is not whether von Tal is right. He probably is, given his premises and his point of view. But there's the dizziness, the flash of nausea, in moving from his point of vantage to mine. Am I to trust people? Am I to regard myself as one of them? As a Buddhist? As an American? As a Democrat? As a Portlander? What's at stake, and how deep is the trust to be? And do I even have any say so, really? You can't actually decide to trust people. You just do or you don't, and your conscious mind scuttles to keep up, supplying excuses, suspicions, or extenuations, as required.

The facile reply is that we don't have any choice. We have to trust people, or we die. That's the human condition. Choosing universal distrust is choosing to die: always has been, always will be. But that leaves a wide space for maneuver. We don't have to trust very many people. I don't have to accept every designation that my busy neighbors may assign me. I don't have to regard myself as a member of any of these tribes: with a little flexibility of mind I can just wriggle past the obvious, brute-force ones. Pay such of my taxes as would be readily garnished, because according to others I'm an American, an Oregonian, etc.; beyond that I can just go my own way, avoid law enforcement and lawyers like the plague, and mind my own garden. Not so bad. Who cares what the other human beings do? Who cares what they assume about me? With minimal camouflage I can be whatever they expect me to be in public. Nowadays, while wearing a mask, I don't even need to produce the required facial expressions. I walk stony-faced down the sidewalk, peering briefly into every set of eyes that goes by me. Unintelligible flickers; counterfeits of consciousness. Who cares?

Really, it's the universalizing religions that challenge us to a wider sympathy, a wider identification. And  they are subject to immediate wear and tear: it doesn't take long for the story of the Good Samaritan to be encysted. Pretty soon you can slaughter all those other odious Samaritans with a good conscience. For every Blake insisting that everything that lives is holy, there are forty snide commentators pointing out that all Republican (Democrat) lives are worthless.

So, I don't know. Was Rush Limbaugh's life infinitely precious? Why?

And there are such huge things in motion, carrying me with them. One very valuable part of having lived for a couple generations is that I can see, clearly, that many of the things I thought were manifestations of my special snowflake perceptions, when I was a teenager, were just broad cultural currents that happened to sweep me up early because I was directly in their way. For example, my love of Tolkien and high fantasy -- my impatience with gender roles and acceptance of varied sexualities -- my contempt for  authority -- were all just in the American air and water. I was bobbing along in a current that was gradually going to sweep up everyone. I was not specially discerning: I was just spun into main channel a bit early.  It gives me a little twinge of distress, now, when I see the Lord of the Rings appear in lists of "one hundred books that everyone should read." No! Only special weird people love the Lord of the Rings! I remember vividly the first time I met actual other living human beings, in person, who loved the book. It was 1971, and it seemed miraculous. Soul mates! I was not alone in the world after all! 


But back up a little. You can't decide to trust people: but you can practice it, if you want to. Do I want to? I don't know.


Or maybe people are not the point. I always think of Fermi's supposed paradox -- if there is alien life, why hasn't it contacted us? -- with some amusement. The assumption that alien life would want to contact other alien life is so very much the assumption of an uneasy, semi-hierarchical social animal, one that dreads yet is fascinated by strangers. We are a weird species, in that regard. Other intelligent species are probably either not social at all, or perfectly social: either content as individuals, or content as a hive. Who cares what other species are doing, so long as they're not trying to catch us and eat us? Wandering around perpetually trying to gain the approval of strangers is practiced, so far as I know, only by a couple very weird species of primates.

So let that go. Let other people go. I am still here, shaggy and unbrushed, blinking in the new sunlight. I have a family and a few treasured friends. I'm fine. 


Nevertheless: I am missing something obvious. There are wheels within wheels. I can taste it: there is a deliberate stupidity in all that I'm thinking right now, a falseness. I have been telling myself stories in a dark corner for too long. It's time to get out for a walk, if it's possible. It's time -- speaking as one of those weird primates -- to ask a stranger for help.