Tag Archives: philosophy

The Very Model of a Good Utilitarian

(It is suggested that you play this in another tab while reading this.)

I am the very model of a good utilitarian.
I cultivate the virtues of a great humanitarian.
I always switch the trolley so it hits the one and not the five
Because there is a duty and it comes with an imperative.
I have a perfect duty to select the one best act and rule.
And consequentialism is what’s universalizable.
I try to play the role of consequentialists and what they do
Habituated practice means that that’s what I’m accustomed to.

I donate giant quantities because of scrupulosity
I try to find the golden mean amount of generosity.
In short, with all the virtues of a great humanitarian
I am the very model of a good utilitarian. 

If biting every bullet is the purpose of philosophy
You’ll find that I’m the best at its inherent teleology.
Like in the dust specks/torture case I must deontologically
Accept the torture so I don’t use people as means, optically!
If giving Felix all the world increases total happiness
It’s time for us to practice with the virtue of self-sacrifice!
If five need organs from one donor, that bystander I would kill
But it’s OK because I’d do it from the lawful mind’s good will! 

I’d tell a lie to save a life since Exodus 1 told me to;
Divinely ordered duty is a thing that I should hold me to!
In short, with all the virtues of a great humanitarian
I am the very model of a good utilitarian. 

In fact when I choose actions by what globally fills preference,
And when I make my choices based on likely future consequence,
When I attempt to maximize the happiness of everyone,
When I start picking options by events that will then flow therefrom,
When I begin to weight the value of all humans equally,
And follow maxims that I think will maximize utility,
In short, when I’ve a smattering of sensible philosophy
You’ll say that I apply my consequentialism flawlessly. 

My decision-making process, while it’s better than ad hoc-ian
Is really better-suited to the Ethics Nicomachean.
But since I have the virtues of a great humanitarian
I am the very model of a good utilitarian!

 

Ten sonnets

I asked for people to tell me some philosophical positions which I’d then write sonnets in favor of, because taking requests is much more fun than just writing. Here’s every sonnet I’ve written so far, in more or less chronological order.

Request: Dualism.

If my beliefs were wholely chemical,
I’d have no reason to suppose them true.
I cannot hold that process credible
Which need not tell me one and one is two.
A physicalist’s brain cannot include
Such abstracts as “emotion,” “reason,” “fact.”
But merely microscopic clockwork. Who’d
Believe a theory where belief was lacked?
As anyone who’s been a human knows,
Your mind-states have subjective qualities.
Though physics’ scope has been far overblown,
Mere atoms have no mental properties.
If you can disagree with all of that,
Then tell me what it’s like to be a bat!

Request: Deontology

Morality comes from obeying rules
Of duty, obligation, and good will.
To treat another person as a tool
And not an end cannot their ends fulfill.
The proper rules are universalized:
If everyone obeyed it, would you keep
Consistently the maxim you devised?
If not, irrationality runs deep.
The acts of moral worth are only those
For which the agent freely does decide
To trust their reason when it duty shows.
And use that reasoned duty as their guide.
To make exceptions from the rules you want?
The only answer then is no you Kant.

Extra sonnet: Regular Utilitarianism.

Morality must live in this our world
And work to help as much as can be done
By satisfying preference in full
And sacrificing those of few or none.
The trolley problem’s switch, proponents say
Will save the most from underneath the wheels.
To those who will not press it shall I say
The four lives saved can far outweigh your feels.
Though cold and calculating it may seem
To weigh the good of one and find it small,
To implement such average-helping scheme
O’er iterations benefits us all.
Though fiction’s villains cite “the greater good,”
So too the volunteer who donates blood.

Request: Rule Utilitarianism.

As all utilitarians agree
Utility, not duty, we fulfill.
To help more people, as I’m sure you’ll see,
Is more important than the mind’s “good will.”
Yet if you think, you’ll find rules have their place.
Since human reason biases infest
If we ran calculations case by case
Utility would be far from its best.
We’d all rob banks to give to AMF
And murder organ donors right and left.
But since to Rules we aren’t completely deaf
We stick to strong heuristics like “no theft.”
The rightness of an act comes from the rule
From which it came. Thus spoke John Stuart Mill!

Request: Whether 1+1=2. (This request was itself a sonnet, which is awesome. But I didn’t ask if I could copy it here, so I didn’t.)

There’s no one claims that in arithmetic
The sum in question’s not precisely two.
The problem’s whether we would be too quick
In saying that it’s absolutely true.
But if the universe itself obeys
The rules that we derive math’s statements from,
Our theorems, from Hairy Balls to Bayes’,
Must all still follow from those axioms.
It cannot be shown true beyond all doubt.
No argument is infinitely strong.
But if it’s only false in worlds without
Noncontradiction, I’ll not say it’s wrong.
Unless you can contest Peano’s tools,
Then all the cosmos bows before math’s rules.

Request: Transhumanism.

The human lot is not immutable.
There was a time when humans lived in caves.
That we’ve progressed is indisputable
With words we read, and medicine that saves.
And we ourselves have capabilities
Beyond the things innate to humankind.
Eyeglasses, and external memories
In books or hard drives. From the human mind
Come more and more improvements on the state
Of nature. As we heal the sick and blind
And seize control of our own human fate
Why should we stop improving our own lot
By the techniques that humankind has wrought?

Request: Immortalism

By all the tenets of the humanists
We value humans’ goals and agency.
Transhumanism says that that persists
Beyond the normal contexts that we see.
As one case, over decades we lose health:
A fatal curse we can at best delay.
But we oppose all mandatory death:
No minds and bodies should be forced to fade.
Our life span might increase with no fixed end
As our technology advances on.
If you’d endorse the limits nature penned
Then tell it to the ghost of smallpox gone!
And know that in the past few centuries
We’ve more than doubled life expectancies.

Request: Is science socially constructed?

To be constructed means that science could,
(Contrary to perception) possibly
Have not existed in some other world
With very different books of history.
The scientific method just describes
A way of learning facts empirical.
But many different nations, tongues, and tribes
Have known things with no tests statistical.
While Thales, Bacon, Ibn al-Haytham may
Have helped the world by starting science on,
It could have also not been made that way.
But that in no way makes our science wrong.
A world deprived of science would be one
Where knowledge and accomplishments are gone.

Request: Solipsism

It seems to me I think therefore I am.
I can’t imagine that might not be true.
But I can’t know if all the rest’s a sham.
Most possibles of me don’t have a you.
Consider then the famous Boltzmann brain.
He pops into existence, has a thought,
And then he dies. But ere he wanes
He thinks he all of history was taught.
I’ve seen the Matrix—I know that he could
In that brief instant think himself on Earth.
But by a quirk of physics, I conclude
Of brains that aren’t like Boltzmann’s there’s a dearth.
Once I decide my sense can be misled
I’m probably a brain without a head.

Request: Italian sonnet, theory of forms.
Request: Should we keep helping pandas mate even though they are too lazy to reproduce just because they’re enormous cute fuzzballs?

We say that we have knowledge; it is true
That we can comprehend particulars.
Instantiations are familiar.
But universals—Can we look on through
The sky or sea and see the Form of Blue?
Or something that, though thought inferior,
Is the Platonic perfect lump of fur
Perfection that most likely knows kung fu?
The answer’s that our knowledge is informed
When things to Forms are somewhat similar.
Not many things on earth are absolute.
But pandas are ideal! It’s been confirmed:
We ought to help them mate because they are
The Form of The Enormous Fuzzballs Cute!

Phoenix Tears and You

So, you’ve just found out that there’s a species dependent on your tears to stay alive.

Wait, what?
It’s true. Your tears can cure any illness or injury they ever get. Anything short of death.

Seriously?
Yes. They’re called “humans,” and they consider your species legendary beings.

Because of the tears thing?
Because of the tears thing. Well, that, and the burning to death and being reborn at regular intervals, and all the flame-themed magic, and stuff like that.

So is this why humans keep asking me to cry?
Yes. It’s pretty understandable, actually, since they usually have someone they want you to cure and when humans die they don’t just light themselves on fire and come out younger.

What? Why are there any of them left?
There are always new ones. Sometimes there are more of them and sometimes less; it’s kind of weird. 

So it doesn’t really matter if they die?
It matters to them. It’d be nice of you to help them out.

And by “help them out” you mean “cry on them to keep them alive.”
Or save the tears in a jar or something. Can you cry at will? I can recommend some acting lessons.

This is weird and kind of creepy.
Yeah, probably. But I promise it’s worth it to the humans.

I don’t like the idea of my tears being in someone else’s body. I’m not doing it.
I’m pretty sure all the humans would agree you have an ethical obligation to do it.

Not doing it.

 

So, you’ve just found out there’s a species that needs your blood to live.

 

Wait, what?
Yep. They’re called vampires, and they starve without human blood.

I heard you talking to that phoenix. You’re about to try to convince me to feed the vampires.
Pretty much.  It’s inconvenient but safe, and it’ll save someone’s life.

A vampire’s life.
It’s not their fault they’re a vampire! That’s racist. And they have literally no ethical source of food other than human volunteers.

Aren’t they just going to need to feed again later?
Usually it’s a one-time thing. There are exceptions. But even so, so what? 

It sounds painful.
Kind of. It’s a lot less painful than starving to death, though.

And dangerous.
It’s actually not. It’s not like anyone will go crazy and try to kill you for your blood, and modern sanitation makes vampirism not contagious.

And disgusting. I don’t like the idea of my blood in someone else’s digestive tract.
How do you think they feel about it?

Look, you’re obviously crazy and there is no way I’m doing something that disgusting.
You’re OK with people dying for your feelings?

Go bother someone else.
You know, a phoenix just refused something easier than this. How would you like to be able to tell people you’re more ethical than a phoenix?

OK, I’m in.

So, you’ve just found out there are people who need your blood to stay alive.

Hey, you’re that vampire guy! I’m not letting any vampires use my blood.
Why not?

Um, they’re disgusting and cannibalistic and evil and stuff?
I’d argue with you, but it turns out calling people racist isn’t very effective at convincing them.
What if they weren’t disgusting evil creatures? Would saving someone nicer be worth something  approximately that degree of weird?

Well of course. I’m not a psychopath, so of course I’d take a few minutes’ inconvenience to save the life of a centaur or a unicorn or whatever.
In fact, wouldn’t you agree you have a moral duty to do that just as much as a phoenix has a duty to save people?

Well, not as much, because with the phoenix it’s less effort and it’s saving real human people….
Good news! It works on humans, too.

Huh?
Really. You go slightly out of your way and have a moderately unpleasant part of your afternoon, and it saves someone’s life. This is totally within your power as a normal human and doesn’t have to involve any fantasy creatures whatsoever.

Oh, you’re talking about blood donations. No, I don’t do that.

 

 I’m always annoyed at people in fiction continually missing really obvious solutions to things. And then in some cases the same thing works even better in real life, and people still don’t do it. I don’t know if it came across, but the point I was trying to get at is that if you think phoenixes should cure everything then you should probably be a blood donor.

World of crazy

Imagine a world. It is similar to the one you’re from except that everyone else believes in an extra terminal value. In addition to whatever things people normally care about, like art, pleasure, virtue, eudaimonia, other people, etc, the population in this world also cares about something you don’t. Maybe they want to make sure that piles of pebbles are always sorted into correct heaps.1 Or something.

They’ll argue with each other about which heaps are correct, of course, but getting it right matters to a large majority of them. If they see a stack of pebbles, they’ll approve of whoever correctly made the stack with a prime number of pebbles or rant against those terrible people who prefer heaps in square numbers. (The more extreme things they say in the rants are jokes, of course. It’s not like you can’t have friends on a different side of the division, even if people commonly say you can’t, and violence is rare.)

You, having been transported into this universe by the hypotheticals genie, can make no sense of the issue. The number of pebbles in a heap is about as important to you as the question of whether your Congressperson was born on a weekend. It’s not just that it doesn’t matter to you; it’s that it wouldn’t have occurred to you that it might matter to anyone.

Naturally, whenever someone asks you what kind of stacks you prefer you say you don’t care. You predictably get responses along the lines of “why don’t you like heaps of square numbers of pebbles?” You try to assure them that you don’t dislike their favored heaps, and that you said the same thing the last time you were asked by a prime-ist, and with effort you can convince people of that. You’re not opposed to it; it’s not like you think people shouldn’t heap pebbles however they want; you just don’t care about it like they do.

You consider the possibility that they don’t really care about the numbers of pebbles in heaps. More likely it’s just an excuse for them to divide into groups of Us, Not Us, and Them. (It’s a well-documented fact that people like doing things like that. After all, this world is just like the one you came from.) You’ve asked people about this, of course, but just as obviously they always deny it. Of course heaps of pebbles are intrinsically important, and you shouldn’t suggest otherwise.

Maybe some of your friends try to convince you to care about pebble-sorting. You should, they say, because everyone else is doing it. Or because it’s an experience that you haven’t had. Or because the organization that runs your bridge club is also affiliated with a pebble-sorting alliance and if you don’t join that then you must not care about bridge. They say these things with perfect seriousness.

You ask if those are the reasons they want pebbles to be in heaps containing square numbers. They say yes. You ask if that means they care about those reasons more than the pebble-sorting. They say no. Of course heaps of pebbles are intrinsically important, and these other reasons are just bonuses. They say these things with perfect seriousness.

There are a bunch of less widespread but similarly strange things in this universe, like maybe people annually build and then burn a giant straw statue of a goat, or maybe people get really invested in identifying with other people who share the same favorite color. You tell people you aren’t really into any of those and nobody reacts much. Only a minority of people care about each of those things anyway, so it’s easy to just assume you aren’t a part of that particular group. Then you say you aren’t interested in the heaps of pebbles, and people question your sanity.

Whenever there’s a huge pebble-sorting festival, you always feel like you’re the only sane person in a five-mile radius. You try to wrap your head around the idea that it’s actually important to these people how many stones are in each heap a particular gigantic mass of pebbles gets divided into. Maybe you went along with a group of friends to see it once. It was about as interesting as, well, as watching people stack pebbles into appropriately numbered stacks. But your friends were all excited and cheering and booing in perfect unison, and even you could occasionally appreciate the amount of skill demonstrated by the professional pebble-stackers. Some people took that to mean that you really do care about the heaps of pebbles.

It gets even weirder when you notice that people consider their heaps of pebbles to be a sacred value. It’s not the sort of value that they tolerate weighing against others very much. If you ask someone how much they’d have to be paid to do nothing in an empty room for three hours, they’ll probably think about it and maybe even answer. Being comfortable is not a sacred value, so they don’t mind trading it off for mundane things like money. But if you ask them how much they’d have to be paid to stack pebbles in the heaps preferred by the Hated Rivals, many people will just get offended. Sometimes they’ll accuse you of betraying “Us” for even suggesting it, but they’re probably joking. You’ve never been one of the “Us,” and they know that…right?

When you’re the only one who doesn’t care about the heaps of pebbles, you get used to being strange. This is a good thing, because it increases your tolerance for other people who do strange things, which is everyone. You aren’t literally the only person who’s not into the pebbles, but meeting someone else who says they don’t care is pretty rare, and when you do it’s not like you automatically have something important in common. It might seem to some other people like it would be a big deal, but you don’t exactly trust their judgement on what counts as a big deal because you’ve seen these people go crazy over pebbles. To you, it seems approximately as significant as meeting another person who doesn’t collect stamps.

Meanwhile, crowds of people get intensely excited at regular intervals about the heaps of pebbles, and  it doesn’t bother you very much because you’re good at tolerating strange things. Eventually the hypotheticals genie decides it has made its point and sends you back to your perfectly ordinary and sense-making world of college football.

1 This particular example of a thing reasonable people don’t care about has been taken from Less Wrong, where it was used for a different purpose. It’s completely unrelated, but go read that article; it’s kind of cool.

The Fall of Civilization as We Know It

Once upon a time, people talked to each other. That stopped long ago. Today, is there anyone who bothers with face-to-face communication anymore? No there is not. Everyone just spends hours staring at rectangles in front of them, and talks to things instead of people. Yes, everything was originally created by a person, but there’s still no human contact at all. No mere thing can think or feel. However many minds we can exchange information with, that’s still no substitute for an actual conversation.

People today are more isolated than ever before. If you put a handful of people in a room together, it used to be that they would talk to each other. Now, talking to people is something to be avoided. They just all pull out their gadgets and commence ignoring each other. Those gadgets are sucking all the feeling and meaning out of human existence. If “human” is even the right word any more.

Nowhere in nature is there anything resembling this modern technology.  It is used by humans only, and it works against the traits that make us human. These devices have no human feelings, and the more they are used the less contact there is with real people. Less personal means less human, and isolating people from one another is turning them into machines. This is the inevitable result of anything this artificial and unnatural.

Can you communicate a tone of voice or a twinkling eye over a text-only medium? All you can send are words. Words are great, but imagine a conversation where the words are the only information being sent, with the tone of voice or body language left to guesswork.  It would be monotonous in every sense. Not to mention ambiguous; you wouldn’t even be able to detect sarcasm! Communication should be face-to-face, and anything else is inferior.

We live in an age of more communication than ever before, and most of it is useless. In the world as it used to be, you would get a piece of information and act on it. Now it’s expected that most of the information you get doesn’t apply to your life at all. We receive record amounts of news from the other side of the world, and then proceed to devour it and ignore it. Of the things you read recently, what percent affect your life at all? How much is going to change your actions? How much is completely frivolous? People put all their effort into collecting information that they know is useless.

Nobody understands anything anymore. They don’t need to, because “I don’t know, but I can find the answer right here” is considered an acceptable answer. So they depend on access to completely useless lists of facts, and let that stand in for actually knowing anything. Instead of being educated, they substitute having information at their fingertips. This is not how knowledge is supposed to work.

People are meant to be people, not some unholy mass of collected information. But everyone supports this new technology, because they’ve always associated information with intelligence. Real knowledge is more natural than that. You either know something or you don’t. This modern use of gadgets is no better than using technology to give people better memories or computing power, and it’s obvious that making people smarter through technology is wrong. “Unnatural” doesn’t begin to cover this; it’s more like “dehumanizing and immoral.”

But if all this technology can make people smarter, it also has the opposite problem. When was the last time you memorized a poem, or had a conversation about philosophy, or did any of the things people used to do all the time? Anything involving thinking is just too hard for all the technology-dependent people, which is everybody, so nobody does it. You can get all your thoughts in pre-arranged packages, so there’s no need to think for yourself.

And everyone consumes all the same content. Whatever’s currently popular, you can count on everyone being intimately familiar with all of that and completely unfamiliar with anything else. Mass distribution of information makes it easier than ever before to just do what everyone else is doing and not bother forming your own opinions.

This is all before even considering the physical effects. People spend hours staring at their rectangles, not moving from one spot. Often, they don’t bother getting out of bed. Inactivity is at an all-time high because anybody can get their favorite entertainment on demand. We’re amusing ourselves to death.

Anyway, this is why I’m opposed to books.

Mad Philosophy

Mad, they called me, mad! And I called them mad! And wouldn’t you know it, they outvoted me. But I’ll show them, I’ll show them all! I’ll show them that in a mad world, only the mad are sane! Which I guess would be them, but that won’t interfere with the Showing of Them All! Muahaha!

At last, my evil plan is coming to fruition. When I bought a $12.8 million piece of artwork on the legitimate market a year and a half ago, even the other mad philosophers thought me insane. After all, what would a professional mad philosopher want with a recently rediscovered painting? Eighteenth century French Neoclassical art is not exactly huge in the field of Mad Philosophy. But they only thought me insane because they couldn’t appreciate the depth of my genius, my plotting wheels within wheels within wheels!

They only received some inkling of my master plan after I had the painting, Huele sur Toile, safely in my possession, and hid it in a safe where nobody but me could see it. They guessed that I was trying to deprive the world of a great treasure, but little did they know that that was only the merest fraction of my grand design!

All the world agreed that I was well within my rights to keep it hidden if I so chose; after all, plenty of private collectors do. Of course, most of those aren’t doing it as part of a brilliantly schemed master plan; they’re just selfish. I like keeping everyone else out and being the only one allowed to appreciate a work of art as much as the next guy, but at least I had a reason for it.

Keeping the painting to myself was a bit mean (by non-evil-person standards, obviously), but hardly unusual. Nobody got all torches-and-pitchforks-y about it, of course, and really nobody bothered noticing at all. After establishing that the painting was mine to hide or display as I pleased, I made it clear that I did not intend to ever allow anyone else to see this painting ever.

I lied, of course. What did you expect? I’m evil. And because I’m evil, I always intended to allow everyone to view this priceless work of art, for free, on one day only. Right before—well, while, actually—publicly destroying it.

And thus, the next phase of my plan was revealed! I would expose the inconsistency in the philosophy of the masses! What did they think, that I could hide my property from everyone permanently and that’s fine, but if I destroy it then that’s suddenly a crime against art? As if that even makes sense. It’s just oil on canvas; it’s not like it gets some mystical significance from being art. I didn’t destroy any information, since copies and reproductions exist, and it’s not like it’s the most historically significant painting. And it’s not like I’m destroying a painting belonging to anyone else.

These people had all already agreed that I didn’t have to show the artwork to anyone if I didn’t want to, so they had no grounds to object when I made that decision a bit more permanent. But object they did, and I laughed in their philosophically-inconsistent faces (which, might I mention, look like they were created by someone with no grasp of realism).

Six months later, now that I’ve made my point, all I have to do is make a profit from it, thereby earning back the respect of mad philosophers the world over with my crazy—but utterly successful—scheme. Therefore, I hereby reveal to the public the fact that I still have the painting! You have no idea how simple it is to have a plausible copy made when nobody has access to the original. And one canvas covered in oil will burn much like another. So, I have here the genuine piece of artwork, Huele sur Toile itself. This is the only chance you’ll ever have to own a painting that was lost for centuries, discovered last year, and until today thought to have been destroyed in an incident involving a brilliant Mad Philosopher of above average attractiveness. Bidding starts at $16.3 million, and I’ve got two interested buyers already.

One last thing. For all those of you who ever Called Me Mad: Consider yourselves to be Shown.

Happy Whatever Year It Is Right Now!

I have a hard time getting excited about New Year’s Day.
If you say “Happy New Year 2015,” that isn’t exactly what I hear. I hear something along the lines of “Today, the earth has completed precisely two thousand and fifteen revolutions since the annual festival of Janus (Roman god of doors) that took place in the year of the birth of Jesus, according to one incorrect estimate. Plus or minus a few days because of calendar confusion.”

(The date January 1 was picked for New Year’s Day because the new year seemed to go with the two-faced (literally) god who looked both ahead and behind. So that’s what happened on January 1 whatever number of years ago. The number of the year, as opposed to the date, is of course counting from Jesus’ birth, except that it miscounted.)

With all that error and estimation, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to count down the minutes. It’s like the old joke about the man who works in a museum and describes the dinosaur bones as “eighty million and two years, six months old, because they were eighty million years old when I started working here two and a half years ago.” And by “like that joke” I mean “exactly as wrong for exactly the same reason.”

When you can tell me when Jesus was born down to the minute, then this holiday would make more sense. If you want to launch fireworks precisely when Anno Domini 2014 changes to Anno Domini 2015, the least you can do is do it precisely 2014 years after the birth of the lord in question. Using approximations and guesswork and then reporting the answer as if it’s precise is frowned upon. By me, if nobody else.

Of course, you can argue that nobody is celebrating revolutions of the earth or anything to do with Janus. They’re just celebrating the year 2015. They’re enjoying watching that number increment by one and most of them aren’t thinking about what it’s counting from. Which is kind of my point. The date and the year number, and the year length if you have some perspective which most people don’t, are excessively arbitrary, so I tend to not care much about this kind of thing in general.

Most holidays have this problem, some worse than others. I think along these lines every holiday or birthday, but New Year’s Day is the only one that actively celebrates it. (Except birthdays. And anniversaries of national independence or, for that matter, anything else. And probably lots of other things.) OK, I’ll amend that to say that New Year’s Day is the only one that does nothing except actively celebrate it. Other holidays might celebrate a discrete whole number of years since something important happened, but then there’s at least some important thing to celebrate. New Year’s Day is celebrating nothing but the fact of a discrete whole number of years. Which is way too arbitrary on way too many levels.

Of course, some holidays are better than others. I even enjoy some of them. Christmas happens at an arbitrary time, but at least nobody acts like its location in the calendar is some innate law of the universe. And at least Christmas is celebrating something notable instead of just counting years. (If you’re a Christian. If not, then it’s almost as bad as New Year’s.) So despite what you might be thinking, I’m not actually the Grinch.

Actually, I could probably model my grinchiness as a function of time around the year. It’d be unusually high during whenever all the Christmas songs start playing (“If you pick an arbitrary date, you could at least stick to it!”) but by December I don’t mind because it’s close enough to the Christmas season and I really don’t hate Christmas. Then a few days afterward people start celebrating one of my pet peeves, and I get a lot grinchier quickly.

The global maximum occurs in mid-February. Nobody seems to be able to tell me why it’s important that the number of days since I was born is divisible by 365 (+/- 1), and on one particular day around then it’s nearly impossible to get away from. And Valentine’s Day has an arbitrary date plus no obvious connection to Valentine, so I’m already primed around that time of year to be as much of a grinch as possible. Other than February, though, New Year’s Day is the high point on that graph.

The traditional way to celebrate a new year is to make a resolution. This is so that you can belatedly realize that you broke it and resolve to do better next time. Or you could try something more entertaining: “I resolve to keep this resolution.” “I resolve not to keep this resolution.” “I resolve to hold to this resolution for half the year, then half of the remaining six months, then half of what’s left, and so on for eternity without ever actually succeeding.” “I resolve to keep the New Year’s Resolution of anyone who does not keep their own resolution.”

But I’m going to go with something more normal. I noticed that whenever I’m pacing, it’s almost always counterclockwise. So my resolution is to pace clockwise sometimes. (I said more normal, not actually normal.) You probably think that’s ridiculously unambitious, but at least I’m going to keep mine. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean that I’ve been replaced with an alternate-universe version of me who is made of antimatter and therefore evil. That doesn’t even make sense. I’m just trying to be more symmetrical. Janus would approve.

Anyway, happy anniversary of the festival of the god of doors.