Finger of God

There was a scene in The Ten Commandments that freaked me out as a kid. And I still think it’s delightfully creepy. It’s that last plague when the fog slowly infiltrates through the streets of Goshen and kills all first-borns, beginning with that spectral hand in the sky.

I think the creep factor was so perfectly visceral because for the first time in a series of unpleasant events, it gave a glimpse of God’s physical being, rather than just symbolic terror. My primitive human mind responds quicker to tugs on my evolutionary coding: monsters are amalgams of all the scary parts of animals that used to eat us. That’s what a dragon is. And the dragon exists in some form across all cultures. We fear things that appear to posses the ability to destroy our physical forms. And, I would say, rightfully so.

Anyway, as I was fogging for mosquitos, the lack of wind and barometric pressure created a similar experience. It was a cool picture.

It didn’t kill me, as I’m not a first-born. But I sure hope it killed more than the first-born mosquito from each clutch!


Modern Car Feedback and Reckless Driving

The standard human driver is just…bad. There’s unintentional bad (not a day goes by that the local news doesn’t report that some old fuck drove into a building!) There’s negligent bad (always cellphone-related.) And of course there’s always been asshole bad (the college kids are starting to show up for the summer.)

I fully admit, too, that my driving edges into the unsafe, but only when I’m driving my wife’s vehicle. It’s easy to drive, but I think it’s too easy, and this presents a problem. In it, I speed much more and give less thought to smooth velocity changes. It’s not intentional.

So recently, as I was driving my 2003 Honda Accord home, stopped at a stop sign, then turned left towards an oncoming and very new-looking KIA Pinchoff or whatever, whose driver communicated their objection to my maneuver with a long series of horn blasts, I had a moment of self-reflection and pondered the state of modern driving.

This isn’t you

Well, first I yelled “Fuck you!” and flashed the birdie, as is the only proper response. Then I admit that I felt a little sheepish…at first. I’ll take blame for an honest mistake, but then I considered that the KIA had been moving so fast that it wasn’t there when I first checked. In the time between when I looked in that direction (for a second time after looking to the right), and then shifted my gaze back towards my front, it had cleared the bend in the road and closed the 50 yard distance to the intersection I had since creeped into – a feat not possible at 25mph, which is why speed limits exist. (They’re not just there to be annoying. It’s a calculated velocity which, when followed, is the fastest one should be driving in order to avoid losing control of the vehicle or hitting someone else on the road who wouldn’t have been able to react in time. Going faster increases the risk. Of course we all push the boundaries, but a residential street that winds around probably isn’t the best place to play Dominic Toretto. (Also not when you bought a lame-ass KIA Pinchoff).)

Anyway, between this encounter and my own self-reflection on my different driving styles between the two vehicles I drive, I’ve come to a conclusion: Modern vehicles encourage bad driving by making driving too easy and seemingly less dangerous. And it comes down to vehicular feedback. Modern vehicles overly disconnect the driver from the act of driving. Here’s some examples:

  • My car uses older hydraulic-assisted power steering. It requires more effort to turn the wheel than the Ascent, and so feels like a heavier machine in comparison. This nudges me to treat it as bigger, more dangerous, and unwieldy when it’s objectively less so compared to the Ascent. The Ascent uses drive-by-wire electric motors to transfer user input to the steering system, and takes very little effort. Consequently, I’m tricked into believing the Ascent is lighter and more sporty than it really is, and it doesn’t transfer the feel of the road conditions to my hands, and so my steering becomes more aggressive. (It also necessitates a much smaller steering wheel, so in further mockery of Mr. Pinchoff above, you can’t possible feel saturated with testosterone when also maneuvering your Pinchoff with a bagel.)
  • My car uses an antilock breaking system. When I lose traction, this kicks in and provides me tactile and audible feedback, which is somewhat unnerving especially when at high speed. This prompts me to drive slower and more cautiously in adverse weather conditions. The Ascent uses all-wheel-drive electronic breaking stabilization. If I lose traction, this system automatically adjusts breaking and torque for each wheel. There’s very little chance of spinning out. In fact, I don’t know if I ever really have lost traction when driving it. And so, the complete lack of feedback gives me no prompt to drive more cautiously. (I think the dashboard makes a small ding, maybe?)
  • My car uses a classic automatic transmission. When I tax the engine, the shift points and their timing in my acceleration give me a clear indication of how much torque, and therefore how much tire grip, I’m experiencing. The Ascent uses a constant variable transmission which lacks definitive gears, so apart from the tachometer, I don’t feel the engine strain. Ergo, I’ll less inclined to let off the gas with the Ascent since I don’t know that I might be compromising the engine and vehicle control.

In short, my Accord gives me a very visceral driving experience, and through this greater connectedness, I have a greater respect for its power and, more importantly, a heightened fear of what might go wrong if I get too aggressive.

The Ascent gives me very little of this feedback. Much of the time, I only really feel the size and weight of the vehicle when trying to stop it from a high speed.

THIS is you

My conclusion is that maybe people aren’t intentionally driving worse, but instead it just seems that way because they’ve lost a material connection to the danger associated with piloting a motor vehicle, as a result of vehicle design seeking to enhance comfort and ease of use. Modern vehicles disconnect us from the potential consequences of driving.

But ultimately, no amount of safety feature enhancements will prevent all forms of the ultimate tactile driving experience: when your driving brings you to a sudden and complete standstill–violently. If there’s any PSA I’ll preach here at the end of my post, it’s just to remember that however disconnected you become from your driving experience, your body is still traveling at velocities that far exceed anything that evolution ever designed you for.

…And Toretto isn’t actually real. You can’t drive down the side of a dam, out-racing its collapse and ensuing tidal wave. Especially not in a KIA Pinchoff. (Also you’re a douche.)


Solitude (or, Leave Me Alone!)

I’ve always possessed a rather high tolerance for solitude. And often, I’ve been mislabeled as “antisocial” as a result. But time gives one opportunity to self-reflect, and I have since concluded that this accusation is unfair. I’m not antisocial. Rather, I possess a lack of tolerance to associate with people who don’t contribute to my happiness, well-being, or personal/professional goals. It’s not being self-centered, it’s being pragmatic; and it’s a natural progression into the latter stages of life (I’m middle-aged now I hear!)

It’s probably a very late realization, for I was raised to be the people-pleaser. Parental upbringing, an oppressive educational system, a social system that rewarded agreeableness, and the supremely draconian punishments for upsetting customers in service jobs (the only jobs available to a 16-30 year old) – all contributed to the “be nice and indulge everyone” philosophy that dictated my social interactions throughout my formative years. As a result, this “antisocialness” was instead a tendency to avoid all people, because I was conditioned to have to like all people, and lacked the backbone to be more selective.

Now I’ve realized that I don’t have to do that. And it started with this:

If people obey the fuzzy ropes at public venues, then a chain should accomplish the same. My apologies to USPS and any package couriers. I try to remember to take this down if one of you is coming that day.

Granted solicitors are the most aggravating of the lot. When I checked back on surveillance footage and saw the same guy from 2018 who comes back every year to try to sell me a bug-spraying service, my patience hit an end.

Add to that a stereotype Republican boomer neighbor with a litany of conspiracy theories (government is spraying the atmosphere with COVID vaccines, Michelle Obama has a penis…you get the idea), street missionaries trying to get me to join their church, and political activists asking how I plan to vote; and while not true “solicitors”, I’m hoping the chain will send a message.

So far so good, though I haven’t captured anyone on camera yet to draw a correlation.

More importantly, the symbolic gesture has finally emboldened me to become more self-serving! I view this as a good thing. Being a doormat only leads to a life of quiet desperation. That was the lesson that George Bailey should have learned.

Here’s some examples:

  • I hung up on someone! I had to disable blocking unknown callers for a time during that HVAC adventure, and I got another call asking for Dustin Werner. When I said they had the wrong number they proceeded to ask if I knew him, and I just hung up and blocked the number instead. Damn was that liberating!
  • I send my new doctor a letter outlining his incompetent staff (4 weeks and I still don’t have my medical records available). I never “broke up” with a physician before.
  • I stopped engaging with my sister over pointless and hostile “discussions”. Actually, I do feel a little bad about this one, but it’s the similarly politically-charged points as the aforementioned neighbor, albeit not totally unhinged and far left instead of right and dripping with pseudo-intellectualism (the world’s entering environmental collapse, you planted the wrong tree, you interpreted that book/movie wrong, The Patriarchy and men are all overly-confident know-it-alls (why would you even have this as a conversational point when calling your own brother?) I still talk to her in chats though.

This almost sounds like a bad motivational speech, but if you don’t add any value to my life then I’m not going to talk to you!

I mean, within reason of course. I’m not a psychopath. I’ll still help people and do nice things for family, but I won’t tolerate them thinking I owe them my time.


Eclipse 2024

In the end, everything worked out as planned and hoped. In my first viewing of a total solar eclipse, the food was great the the weather perfect! Huzzah!

2017’s eclipse

It was also surprisingly scary. I know the event isn’t actually a harbinger of doom, but I didn’t expect it to look quite that creepy, with the moon just appearing next to the sun and turning black. An existential moment of personal insignificance.

Anyway, here’s some pics:

You can sort of see a missing bite
Binocular projection
I thought this was a neat screenshot of an augmented reality overlay
Another shot through the filter
Unfiltered and bad auto focus
Party in progress with some apparently needed booty dancing

Last year at this time Canada was on fire and the ashes rained down as a blight upon the land. I like this year better!


Bonus Bias

A man’s mark of success is in his ability to pay for family necessities.

Well, that and to work hard for that money. But also to have a rewarding career doing something he loves and will change the world. But mostly to be able to take care of his family. But not that that means his wife shouldn’t also have a career, because that’d be sexist. But she shouldn’t be forced to if she doesn’t want to. But don’t suggest that she not. And be ready to pay the bills if she wants to be a housewife which she could totally do if she wants but that’s her choice but it’s a man’s responsibility to support her if not, not that there isn’t anything wrong with being a househusband if that makes more sense economically but know that you’ll always be judged for not being able to take care of your family financially even though it’s totally acceptable in these times to be a househusband except that it isn’t. And you’ll be identified immediately as a pedophile if you go anywhere in public with a kid and there isn’t a woman around, because all men are either rapists or potential rapists. Especially if you’re a loser who doesn’t have a job.

(I couldn’t help but eye-roll a little at Ferrera’s breakdown monologue in the Barbie movie. It sounded pretty juvenile. The double standards exist in the manosphere too. I guess she just needed to vent and the pretext of the fantasy world she was in justified it.)

Fortunately for my own societally-defined personal sense of worth, I’m a high enough level at work to get an annual bonus! And I have the honor of spending it on family necessities, so I get to keep my man card! Necessities such as Invisaligns, dog dental work, and federal taxes! Woohoo!

Meanwhile, Liz spent hers on this:

New couch, coffee table, shelving, and whatever you call that narrow table shelf thing against the wall.

I admit things do look nice.

So I think I need to buy another gun after all. I need a selfish gift for…motivational purposes. Yeah. A man needs to feel reckless at times too. And the gun would be able to protect the family. Wild man energy combined with a protective instinct. Total man card points there. Internal contradiction resolved.

Damn is proving my manhood exhausting. I think I’ll take a nap on that couch.