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I am an atheist.

This is not some bold declaration, this is a statement of fact.

But what does that mean? “I am an atheist.”

Well the first three words are pretty obvious aren’t they? “I” is what we called in school the “first-person singular.” a shorthand way for this current agglomeration of atoms to refer to itself.

“I am.” “Am” is a verb used by the first-person singular for “be,” according to the dictionary. “Be” refers to “a permanent or temporary quality, state, job, etc.” (http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/be_1).

Okay. what am I getting at here? Besides the fact that this keyboard is not conducive to typing.

I, John Grow, born in 1968 and currently returning to type this sentence after admiring the ass of a passing woman in a pair of lovely boots, do not believe in the god of the Abrahamic religions. This to me is a “no-brainer.”

The god of the bible (whatever that entity is–even the books that make up the bible are inconsistent on that score) is a work of fiction. Whether it was earnestly generated from the worldview of the writers of the various books or whether it was cynically constructed by those same men for population control and tribal identity, it is a work of fiction.

You, whomever you are, if you are “a believer,” you hold in your head a certain construct that you call “god.” Or “Jesus.” Or “Allah.” Or even “Buddha,” if you really didn’t pay attention to what buddhism is about.

This mental construct is what you refer to when you speak of god or Jesus or the others. I don’t know if I need to spell this out further to you, but if you really were paying attention to what and how you learned, it should have been plain that your version of Jesus, let’s say, and someone else’s, are as different as the minds that hold them. Even if you both had the same classes in school, your conclusions are affected by your history and environment to that point, and the perceptions which have evolved from that.

tl;dr: Your Jesus is *your* Jesus, not someone else’s. You merely agree for the sake of argument you’re talking about the same thing.

There is a term called “consensual reality” that I first read in my Zen days. Basically, reality is what we agree it is among ourselves overtly or tacitly, hence “consensual.”

So when you all talk about your god or your Jesus or your allah, you need to consider whether you speak of your own concept or the one you tacitly agreed to by joining whatever fan club you belong to.

This is one of the things that go into what I mean when I call myself “atheist.” In my worldview, this also means I don’t believe in a heaven or a hell or a soul, though I have experienced both heaven and hell in my own life. I also use all three terms–”heaven,” “hell,” and “soul,” as shorthand for bigger, harder-to-wield concepts.

I used to do the same thing with “god.” The concept I proxy with that word is closer to Einstein’s or Spinoza’s concepts than to the Abrahamic one.

In the end, they are still mental constructs. Everything is, and nothing is (hello Meher Baba).

We exist in a matrix of constructs of our own creation. Somebody else made the Valentines Day cards in the rack in front of me, as well as the wire rack itself, the paper and the ink, the paint, the steel in the wire. But the concepts behind them are just things some group of somebodys came up with at various points in linear time.

The wan loneliness I feel at not having a sweetie to give one of those cards to is also a construct. One of ego and longing and the soupy mess those have made in my life since at least puberty.

Truth is as slippery and illusory as any other mental construct. I’d go so far as to state that truth-seeking is nothing more than a search for validation of the concepts one already holds.

This is especially true if you’re not honest about the most central and basic illusion of them all: Yourself.

The scene opens with OUR HERO sitting in a room with a bed.
It’s well-lit, though he is always partly in shadow. It’s his thing…

OUR HERO:
If I distilled my life down to its essence, it would be…

(a tear wells in his voice. Again, his thing…)

confusion. And suffusion.

And loss.

I am not as smart, really, as I wish I were. Because if I really were,
I would have found a way to be with you, and to have lived a different life
than this.

One with marriage, and children. And health. And real love.
Not one where days are merely counted and observed. Alone.
Inevitably alone, increasingly befuddled by other people.

But perhaps this is the only way this story could ever go.
The only arc this character can travel.

[FADE TO...]

Maybe your days wend and wind like this. Maybe not.
Depends on how much you have going on, right?
Trade the rock’n’roll lifestyle for something less dramatic, see what happens.
And my hands are weak.

I’ve got nothing more to say,
I just float from day to day
And my hands are weak.

Sun cuts a path ‘cross the sky
Dark to light and light to dark and I
Just go through the motions.

I walk from work to my car
The same way every day
and cross over my own footsteps.

Threadbare shirts and worn out shoes,
Another day of cold finger blues.
And my hands are weak.

Sun cuts a path ‘cross the sky
Dark to light and light to dark and I
Just go through the motions.

I’ve got nothing more to say,
I just float from day to day
And my hands are weak.

Threadbare shirts and worn out shoes,
Another day of cold finger blues.
And my hands are weak.

This is an oldie. I don’t quite remember how old. I think my parents were still married. So a while ago. Well over 25 years ago maybe. I think maybe I’d read the Jefferson Bible and tried to clue in on what Thomas Jefferson was going after. He was born a half-century too early.

I found this paper on the floor, well away from the small pile in the nearby bookshelf. Old lined notepaper. I had this out for a reason. Probably to post it right here. Dunno.

The sentiments are pleasant, earnest, if naive. The boy had no idea what road he was on. Here you go. XOXO.

Humans themselves are not perfect.
Expectations are far too high.
They hunger and starve for divinity,
A light to show them the way.

There once was a time
When I needed you
More than I needed breath.
When your words to me
Were a soliloquy
Of compassion, grace and humility.

I worshiped you as a god.
One day was yours without question.
Benevolent father at my shoulder,
You were first and last in my mind.

But now I see the facade,
The smoke, mirrors and trickery
A swindle performed on humanity
In the guise of the holy trinity.

Jesus, you had no clue
Of the sins they committed for you,
Between black-velvet benevolence
And white-supremacist belligerence.

Jesus, you had no say
In the church they made in your name.
Icons of words and colors
And tortures beyond comprehension.

You preached tolerance and love,
They made it prejudice and guilt.
Separate the myth from the man,
One day you’ll understand.

If I had the balls, could I really end it all? If so, this would be the last note.

(Oh don’t worry. I’m too chicken, and it’s not time yet.
Besides, sez he, I love you too much.)

 

Bumble and stumble from passion to passion–
This is the wend of your life, you’d see–
if you had the guts to turn around
and look at what you wrought.

Aimless quest to get through the day–
Inchoate pleasure to cool disdain–
Whatever kept you whole
and got you yours, whatever you wanted.

Love’s lamented refrain
Another thinly veiled stab
At self-satisfaction,
No matter what you said or say.
Her eyes once alight with you
Now just more broken bottles
In a foreclosed room.

You dragged her down with crocodile tears,
Held yourself back with artificial fears.

What does it matter?
You knew it would come
To this room,
To this wall,
To your hunkered shadow
Swimming in self pity.

This is where it will end.
You will be old and alone
And unregarded.
Mother’s desperate wishes,
Father’s Family yearnings,
Naught and naught, naughty one.

Your blind and mute improvised solo
Flat and minor and over not soon enough.

Two o’clock. Can’t sleep. Labyrinthine thoughts once and again don’t you know? The breeze from the overhead fan reminds me of something. Now.

Scurry
Hurry
Disconcertedly
To this from that,
Into here yet there too.

Losing, lost,
Winding, wending
Into such inner intricacies!
Such eternal internal
Interstitials!

Words wind and wend,
World without end,
And yet
You forget
The
Insistent
Persistent wind
Past your ear,
Against your cheek.

Now passes to then
While you lose yourself
Lost.

Meantime,
The sun’s been out
All this time.
Wind whispers past your ear
Insistent
Persistent
Begging
Cajoling
Reminding you
There’s more outside
Than inside.

Used to be, one would run across these sorts of lists on Facebook all the time. Not so much lately. Ah well,… I grabbed this one and started filling it in. I think I’ll find something constructive to do.

I love you. I wish you knew. I wish you felt the same. I wish I mattered. Maybe not.

1. Last hug: My mom, I think.

2. Last phone call: A message @ work

3. Last text message: What?

4. Last song you heard: “Gimme Some Lovin’” by the Spencer Davis Group

5. Last time you cried: After we buried Grandma.

 

HAVE YOU EVER:

6. Dated someone twice: Of course.

7. Been cheated on: Too often.

8. Kissed someone & regretted it: Yes.

9. Lost someone special: Yes.

10. Been depressed: Of course.

11. Pulled all-nighter: Heh…

 

LIST THREE FAVORITE COLORS:

12. Blue

13: Red

14: Grey

 

THIS YEAR HAVE YOU:

15. Made a new friend: Dunno.

16. Fallen out of love: I haven’t been *in* love this year.

17. Laughed until you cried: No

18. Met someone who changed you: This year? Not yet.

19. Found out who your true friends were: Hmmm…

20. Found out someone was talking about you: Oh sure.

21. Kissed anyone on your friend’s list: NO dammit…

 

YOUR LIFE.

22.How many people on your friends list do you know in real life: Most of them

23. How many kids do you want: That’d be a neat trick. Lemme tell you why…

24. Do you have any pets: No.

25. Do you want to change your name: Why?

26. What did you do for your last Birthday: Took a long drive.

27. What time did you wake up today: 4:00 AM. Not on purpose.

28. What were you doing at midnight last night: Sleeping.

29. Name something you cannot wait for: Love?

30. Last time you saw your mother: Just a few mins ago.

31. What is one thing you wish you could change about your life: The scars.

32. What are you listening to right now: Pandora

33. Have you ever talked to a person named Tom: Sure.

34. Who’s getting on your nerves right now: Me. I am my own worst enemy.

35. Most visited webpage: gmail

36. Whats your real name: John Gilman Grow II, or jr. Whatever.

37. Nicknames: Go fuck yourself.

38. Relationship Status: See 37, above.

40. Male or female: Male.

44. Write w/e you want here: Surprise motherfucker!

45. Long or short: Shaved.

46. Height: 5’10”

47. Do you have a crush on someone: YES. Dammit.

48. What do you like about yourself: RIght now? Not much. Try me later.

49. Piercings: See 37, above.

50. Tattoos: See 37, above.

51. Righty or lefty: Lefty. Of course.

 

FIRSTS:

53. First piercing: N/A

54. First best friend: Andy Beckmeyer, when I was five. That and the bear.

55.First sport you joined: See 37, above.

56. First vacation: That I remember? Yuma, when I lived in Wichita

 

RIGHT NOW:

59. Eating: Nothing

60. Drinking: Diet Rite

61. I’m about to: Check out hulu

62. Listening to: Barbara Ann, The Who (Pandora)

63. Waiting for: Godot.

 

YOUR FUTURE:

64. Want kids: I’d have to get nookie again, so reply hazy as fuck.

65. Get married: Sure. Maybe I can get it right.

66. Career: Technically I am on my third, I guess. Maybe fourth. No, fifth.

 

WHICH IS BETTER:

67. Lips or eyes: Both.

68. Hugs or kisses: Kisses. Though hugs are sometimes underrated.

69. Shorter or taller: Shorter. But this is negotiable.

70. Older or Younger: Hmmm.

71. Romantic or spontaneous: Both

73. Sensitive or loud: Sensitive

74. Hook-up or relationship: Either would be nice for their own reasons.

 

HAVE YOU EVER:

76. Kissed a stranger: HELL YES.

77. Stole something for someone: Not on purpose.

78. Lost glasses/contacts: No

79. hurt yourself: Often

80. Broken someone’s heart: Yes.

82. Been arrested: Ummm,…

83. Turned someone down: Yes.

84. Cried when someone died: Like a baby.

85. fallen for a friend: Yes.

 

DO YOU BELIEVE IN:

86. Yourself: Sure.

87. Miracles: Not so much.

88. Love at first sight: Yes.

89. Heaven: No.

90. Santa Clause: NO!

91. Kiss on the first date: HELL YES.

92. Angels: No.

 

ANSWER TRUTHFULLY:

94. Had more than 1 girlfriend at a time: . Tots

95. Did you sing today: ‘At Last” by Etta James. You had to be there.

96. First person in your contacts: Whatever starts with A

97. If you could go back in time, how far would you go? Back? Why not forward?

98. The moment you would choose: To see Siddhartha under the tree.

99. Are you afraid of falling in love: Afraid of being hurt again. And hurting again.

Later that very same night, our hero had a seance to contact his dear-departed muse…

 

You are correct sir,
Non-sequitur,
Another train another chain
Of thoughts like so many blocks.
Blink-a-tink-a-link
To the brink
Of another brick wall
Or again a road to nowhere.
Blink-a-link-a-clickety-trick,
The air in here is getting thick
With tangents sign and co-sign
Our names across the sky!
Oh why do I try to fly
When I’m too fat I just fall flat
I was never very good singing scat.
And nevermore will I trod the floor
To knock knock on my muse’s door
And wonder if she will enlighten me
As I type a’tick-a-clickety-snick
And roam at home
Write a pome
While I wait for the brain to reign again.

This is about a fairly typical episode in my head when it comes to women.

I swear to you, I am surprised I ever managed to get laid, let alone had a woman actually want to be with me. If I ever had “mojo,” as Austin Powers once said, it’s just gone. Even if a woman were actually interested in me, there is nothing I could ever do about it. I don’t know anymore where to begin.

But that has not stopped me from thinking, and wishing. This is about that sad state of affairs that is me right now. 

 

I imagine us entangled, enraptured,
Love like the air around us,
Perfect, obvious, electric.
You lean in for the kiss
You’d take by force if I didn’t give it,
Pulling me into you.

And then the mist clears.
I see the comedy
Of my errors.
The only universe where that embrace
Makes any sense
Is the one in my head.

There’s only one buffoon here,
And he’ll remain silent
About his affections
Lest the truth come out
And blast clean any leftover dignity.
You’re safe from my embrace.

So last Saturday night, one of my big storage hard drives died. It was from an accidental fall, but I lost over a terabyte of data.

I’ve been working with computers on and off since I was maybe twelve. In the last twenty years, it’s been pretty exclusive. One of the appallingly normal things that happens of course is when a hard drive goes tits-up on you.

At this point in life, I am goddamned tired of it.

I didn’t lose much. 95 percent of what was on that drive is recoverable because it’s stored someplace else–On Apple’s iTunes servers in this case. I replaced the drive with a NAS (Network Attached Storage) unit and will spend the next week or so putting the contents back together.

The reason for this is that Apple started making purchased iTunes content available online. “Stored in the cloud,” in the modern marketing vernacular. When you buy something, it downloads to your computer, and is also available from them directly.

So, when you think about it, what would be the point of storing the media files locally? Part of it is in order to have the content available in a network outage. Sure, we live in an era of robust bandwidth and fast access, but we’re a clipped fiber-optic line away from the dark ages even now.

Also, it’s because there’s part of me that still lives with the old way of computer thinking. All the content I own, I want “near” me. It’s all intangible, but I still gotta have it close. It’s really one of the minor absurdities of this current internet age.

I’ve been dabbling with the whole “life in the cloud” thinking since 2002 when I got my first wireless card for my Dell. When I went back to Macs in 2007, part of the impetus was that much of the software I wanted to use was available online, and open-source. Plus the computer was leaner and lighter than the Windows machines of the period.

Hard drives are finally superfluous, and SSDs are cheap enough to get and throw into your machine, if it didn’t already have one. Back in 2007, I figured most of my crap would be stored online by 2010. It took a little longer than that, but it’s true enough now.

The Macbook Air was a hint of that life to come. The 11-inch machine I got in late 2010 had a 64 GB SSD, 2 GBs of RAM and was in a package smaller and thinner than the last PS/2 keyboard I owned. Astoundingly small. It still gets me how thin and light that computer is.

When Google introduced Chrome OS and the Chromebook concept, the Macbook Air felt like the hardware counterpart of the impossible dream Chrome OS represented, a life lived online. No more computers with vast amounts of storage on spinning disks ready to fail. In fact, the hardware was supposed to become essentially irrelevant.

This video from Google back when the CR-48 prototype was introduced demonstrates this concept in appalling detail. Made all the more sickening when I think Google could have sent ME one of those pilot computers! I signed up and everything. Damn.

Yesterday, Google introduced its newest reference model Chromebook, called Pixel. Now to this point, all extant models of Chromebook followed the example of the CR-48: A modest amount of RAM by current standards–from 2 GB to as much as 4 GB–and a small SSD, no more than 32 GB usually. An internet appliance disguised as a laptop. Acer introduced the C7 which, intentionally or not, was the real steal among Chromebooks, in that you’d buy the hardware for $199 and upgrade the RAM and storage easily and cheaply with off-the shelf components. This was because it was essentially a low-end Windows machine retooled slightly.

Lenovo, Samsung and HP released models of Chromebook that hewed closer to the CR-48 concept than Acer, but all with the subtext that the hardware was not so important.

Enter Pixel. At first glance, it looks a bit like the CR-48 crossed with a Retina Macbook Pro. Gorgeous, well built, faster that the rest of the Chromebook brand, and with a sinus-clearing pricetag. For $1299, you get a laptop with a 12.85 inch touchscreen in a 3:2 orientation (harkening back to the days before wide-screen laptops became all the rage), backlit keyboard, aluminum body, 32 GB SSD, WiFi and an i5 processor. For $1449 you get all that, a 64 GB SSD and LTE access. You also get three years of one terabyte Google Drive space, which if bought separately of course is more expensive than this machine.

The blogosphere and commentosphere have not been kind to Pixel. Those who are unclear on the concept deride this machine as a $1200 web browser. Others actually go so far as to recommend Apple computers as better buys than this machine. Astounding when you realize comment trolls HATE Apple with a passion usually reserved for Obama. Or atheists.

The haters are stuck in an old way of thinking about their computers and their data–that your machine must be completely autonomous, able to handle e-mail, coding C++ and video editing with nary a sweat, whether you actually do any of that or not. In that paradigm, RAM and storage and running native apps are the only things to consider with computers.

This is the mindset that Chrome OS would supplant. Nothing is kept on the local machine. Nothing. Everything is online, so viruses and software bloating are not an issue.

Among those who actually get Chromebook, the pricetag on Pixel is still an issue. Chrome OS was supposed to make the hardware irrelevant. It’s hard to sustain that argument with a $1200 computer. It’s a valid point.

My take on it is, Google brought out a proof-of-concept with basic hardware–an oversized netbook really–with CR-48. It was offered for free because those who received the computer were volunteer testers, and the OS still needed tweaking. The first Acer and Samsung models were pretty much built on the same hardware profile, save for the Samsung Series 550, which was billed as the top-end model with more RAM and a faster processor than the Series 5.

The next generation diverged in various ways from the CR-48 reference. Acer’s was probably the most radical, and definitely the cheapest. Lenovo and HP both brought out machines that also diverged from the original in variously interesting ways.

The common denominator in all of them though, they’re cheap. Build quality is variable, but acceptable for the price.

Pixel is Google’s example of the high end. Most every aspect of this machine, based on the specs, is something we as adopters of the Chrome OS have wanted in a “dream Chromebook.” As I think about it, I believe most all the specs on Pixel were mentioned in Google’s Chromebook forum as things that would make the experience better.

I am using an Acer C7 myself. I got it back in November with the tacit understanding I was going to void the warranty and open the case, upgrading it as much as possible as soon as possible. This now has 16 GB of RAM and a 64 GB SSD. The upgrade took only a few minutes and required twisting five screws (four for the SSD). It also has a larger battery, answering the main painpoint for the C7, its short battery life.

As I read the specs of the new Pixel, my only concern is the RAM. In Chrome OS, the more RAM you have, the more tabs you can open and leave open in Chrome. On previous models you could have as many tabs open as you wanted. After a period of inactivity however, the OS would purge some tabs in order to open up space, so when you returned to a tab it would end up needing to reload. Also, in my experience with the Series 5, there were also instances of stuttering video which may have been RAM or CPU related (it used an Atom processor).

Well with 16 gigs of RAM, that ain’t a problem. I have 20 tabs open here, of which I access maybe half to two-thirds every day, whether here or on another device running Chrome–a real benefit of Google’s ecosphere. None have needed to reload as yet. My usage is not too different from other Chromebook users, except for the number of tabs. Apparently more than five is aberrant behavior.

Most of my data is online now, spread among several sites for various purposes. Their access is platform agnostic, as it should be. Apple’s is not, as you’d imagine. I am, for all intents and purposes, a denizen of the online world.

Which is why that hard drive dying like it did galled me so much. “Aren’t I past this? Aren’t we all past this?” I asked myself as I ordered its replacement.

Almost, but not quite.

 

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