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Good-Bye Guidestones

Somebody blew up the Georgia Guidestones last night. “What the hell are the Georgia Guidestones?” you might (reasonably) ask.

Ha! Exactly the point I’m about to make.

Ok. Here’s the short form: Back in the late ’70s, some rich person or group managed to persuade the premier Georgia marble quarry and monument builder to cut out five 19-foot-tall marble slabs (plus a capstone) and carve a sort of New Age Ten Commandments onto the stones in English, Spanish, Hebrew, Hindi, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, and Swahili.

This was no small project. The point man behind the Guidestones was one Robert C. Christian, a pseudonym that he demanded never be connected with another name. He had truckloads of money and spent it liberally. In 1980 it was complete. The land had been purchased from a local farmer and was eventually deeded to Elbert County.

Here’s what’s on the stones, in case you (reasonably) don’t care enough to google it:

  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  2. Guide reproduction wisely – improving fitness and diversity.
  3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
  4. Rule passion – faith – tradition – and all things with tempered reason.
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
  9. Prize truth – beauty – love – seeking harmony with the infinite.
  10. Be not a cancer on the Earth – Leave room for nature – Leave room for nature.

It was in the news for a little while. ’80s New Agers went nuts for it. Then, little by little, the Guidestones were more or less forgotten. I read about them in the early 80s in one New Age book or another, then didn’t see anything significant about the stones until I read this morning that somebody tried to dynamite the damned things, and mostly succeeded.

There’s more details on the stones themselves here, if you’re interested. I did enjoy the somewhat goofier entry in The Creepy Catalog a little more.

Like most weird things, it has a low-profile fanbase who have been endlessly arguing about whether it was the Freemasons or the Rosicrucians or the Priory of Sion or maybe Ted Turner or Shirley MacLaine behind it. It’s been called satanic. It’s been called Roman Catholic, mostly because of the name R. C. Christian. Reaction to the stones in some quarters has been spectacularly unhinged–read the Creepy Catalog article to see what I mean.

The obvious thing to be taken away from the history of the guidestones is that they have accrued a lot of enemies, and eventually, one of those enemies would be tempted to strike back. The inscription is the sort of syrupy New World Order nonsense that was very hip back in the ’80s. Sure, it’s all upbeat and idealistic in a let’s-all-sit-together-and-sing-Kumbaya sort of way. Everybody be everybody’s friend, ok? Let’s all abandon our native languages and join our high school Esperanto club! Let’s all guide our reproduction…er, wut? There’s a word for that: Eugenics. Been tried. Millions died. Balance personal rights with social duties? This means, historically, that there are no rights, and social duties are forced on ordinary people by some ruling elite with all the guns.

In other words, the usual deadly Marxist claptrap. That, I think, is why the stones have been mostly forgotten. Reading the inscriptions again made me groan. Easy for you to say, Mr. Christian. If I were to read them too often, I would giggle.

Now, some odd thoughts:

  • Keeping secrets is hard. Especially huge, expensive secrets. I find it suspicious that the responsible entities have never been outed. There are theories, mostly tinfoil-hat stuff, but no hard facts.
  • Supposedly, Mr. Christian and the banker he worked with communicated via mail. Letters from Mr. Christian were always sent from a different place. So…where did the banker guy send his letters to?
  • This was all done during a period now 40+ years in the past, and according to Mr. Christian, planned 20 years before that. My guess is that most of the insiders are long dead. Who’s keeping the secrets now? There are either second-generation insiders keeping secrets, or they took the secrets to their graves.
  • Or…was the bombing a publicity stunt?

Think about it: Just like your elders, you spent your life and all your heavenly idealism putting this thing together without revealing whodunit. 40 years later, the whole shebang is an asterisk in some book on the backroads of Georgia. Honestly, I think more people have heard of the Mystery Spot than the Georgia Guidestones.

So what better way to get people talking about the Guidestones again than to create a conspiracy to knock them down? #guidestones is trending on Twitter now. Supposedly local government knocked the other stones down a few hours ago to keep them from falling on feckless tourists. Also supposedly, the cops fingered a perp, though about that I see nothing firm.

But here’s the deal: People are talking about the Guidestones again! Social media is making its message immortal. I consider it a terrible waste of good granite, but it’ll be in the news for a few days until the next mass shooting or Congress impeaches Trump again. Given the silliness of the whole business, that might be the best that the shadowy Guidestone conspiracy can hope for.

BTW, the Guidestones were not the American Stonehenge. That honor goes to Carhenge, which I visited with Carol and some friends when we drove to Alliance, Nebraska for the 2017 total solar eclipse. I’ll tell you this: Nobody is gonna knock that down anytime soon!

Odd Lots

The Four-Color Problem

A year or so ago, a stray thought popped into my head as I crossed a large parking lot to get to one of the few remaining indoor malls in the Phoenix area. I stopped. I looked around. I looked around again. And damn, that stray thought was right:

Cars appear to be made almost entirely in four colors: black, white, silver, and red.

Up and down my row it was almost a physical law. I raised my gaze and did a 360. Ah–way over there, a flash of blue! On the opposite edge of the lot was something that looked brown. Or maybe it was just dirty.

There was no yellow. There was no green. Lord knows, there was no purple or pink. (Is Mary Kay still a thing?) It was black, white, silver, and red plus debris.

I first assumed it was a fluke. Or maybe selective vision. Carol and I have a silver car and a red car. Up and down our street it’s pretty much black and white. So there you have it: We notice what we’re used to noticing. But as days and then months passed, the pattern played true: black, white, silver, and red, with an occasional green or blue rounding error. It’s persisted to this day. When I see two blue cars at the same time it startles the hell out of me. And a few days ago I saw the first yellow vehicle I’d seen in over a month. It was a big honking pickup truck. (Could it be a custom, er, bespoke paint job?) Yes, I would be able to see that one coming.

Ok. You who know me know this: Stray thoughts enter my head so often my head might be considered a sort of thought pound. Most of them don’t stand up to close examination. This one has.

Time was, mall parking lots were rainbows. When I was growing up, our family owned cars in blue, various shades of green (including two-toned green), gold, and yellow. In fact, at one point we owned two bright yellow cars at the same time. For a little while, we had a two-toner in gray and maroon. And that was before I left home. Later on, red, white, and brown cars finally entered the Duntemann homestead. I do recall seeing a few purple cars back in the day, though not in front of our house. (As best I know I have never seen an orange car.)

No more. So what happened? My guess is that car manufacturers are shaving costs by limiting available colors. They may keep one paint machine open for special-order colors, and I’ll bet they make customers pay big for the privilege. I don’t know anyone in the car industry or I’d just ask.

It doesn’t matter in any important way. But a little bit of weird urban beauty has passed out of this world. I wonder if I’m the only one who’s noticed.

Odd Lots

  • Research shows that ivermectin works. Here’s a paper published this past July in The American Journal of Therapeutics. I’ve read in a number of places that ivermectin is one of the safest drugs known. No, the FDA hasn’t approved its use against COVID-19. The Pfizer vaccine wasn’t FDA approved either until a few days ago. I can’t help but think that people are dying needlessly because of all the government screaming and yelling about people taking horse medicine, when taking horse medicine is a vanishingly small phenom. If ivermectin has no serious side effects, why not let doctors try it? What’s the downside?
  • Here’s a 30-page review of evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of ivermectin in treating COVID-19. Again, if it’s a safe drug that’s been on the market and widely studied for 30+ years, why not let people try it?
  • It’s become harder and harder to find evidence of the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) in combination with zinc. I’ve looked. The early clinical experience emphasized that the two work together or not at all. I find it weird that nearly all the studies I’ve seen test HCQ either alone or with azithromycin–but not zinc. Clinical evidence shows that the combo doesn’t work well on late and severe cases, but rather when symptoms first appear. Still, if ivermectin works as well as recent studies show, HCQ’s moment may have come and gone.
  • I may have backed the wrong horse. Recent research seems to show that the Moderna vaccine generates twice the antibodies as the Pfizer vaccine does. Now let’s see some research on the rates of breakthrough infections versus vaccine type.
  • Here are some recent stats on the prevalence of breakthrough infections. The real eye-opener would be to know which vaccine is best at preventing breakthrough infections. That said, the chances of breakthrough infections occurring is very low. If you don’t read the paper, at least skim down to find the odds chart. Cancer risk is 1 in 7. Breakthrough infection risk is 1 in 137,698. I like those odds.
  • Ugggh. Enough virus crap. Let’s talk about something else. My pre-2000 pandemic penny jar (a thick glass bottle that once held cream from Straus Family Creamery) continues to fill. Last week I got a 1950-D wheat penny. A few days ago I got something a little odd: A 2 Euro cent coin from Ireland, dated 2002. It’s almost precisely the same size as a US penny, and if I didn’t look closely at coins I might have missed the fact that it was 19 years and an ocean away from home. Getting pennies from the 1980s is an almost everyday thing now. The penny jars are clearly still out there and still emptying into the McDonald’s till.
  • We lived near Santa Cruz for three and a half years and never visited its famous Mystery Spot. It turns out that mystery spots, roads, hills, and holes are all over the place. Here’s another interesting compendium. Yes, it’s bullshit. Yet I get the impression that it’s often very clever bullshit, and I wouldn’t mind getting a look at one or two.

Rant: If It’s Not Aliens…Then What Is It?

If you’re anywhere in the greater nerd universe, you’ve doubtless seen recent reports of Navy pilots spotting objects zipping around the sky and sometimes diving into the ocean. The Feds have declassified three videos of unidentified thimgamajigs doing their airborne calisthenics in the vicinity of US Navy fighter pilots.

So what is a reasonably sane person supposed to think about this?

UFOs as a phenomenon are not a new thing. It’s older than I am, and I’ll be 69 in a few weeks. Early on, the mythos crystallized around the theory that such objects are spacecraft (or aircraft) created by and piloted by intelligent beings from some other star system. There was (and still is) big money to be made on alien-based entertainment. Independence Day is one of my all-time favorite movies. The aliens myth (and I’m speaking in a Campbellian sense of the word “myth” here) is strong. I’m an SF writer. I should be a big aliens guy. I’m not.

I’m actually a Rare Earther. There are so many possible terms to the Drake Equation that I’m pretty sure we as a species are a vanishingly unlikely fluke. There are either hundreds of millions (or more) intelligent species in the universe, or there is only one. I reviewed an excellent book on Enrico Fermi’s question and its possible answers. It’s definitely worth reading.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the question since I read that book back in March. So what I’m going to do in this entry is list all the possible explanations for the Navy sightings that I can come up with, irrespective of their likelihood. Note well that I don’t “believe” in any of them. I offer them as hypotheses. And yes, some of them are batshit nuts. I’m an SFF writer. Batshit nuts is just one more thing we deal with every day.

Buckle up, kids.

Tonight’s question: What are those things the Navy pilots caught on film?

My hypotheses fall into three general categories:

  1. They really are made and piloted by aliens. I cite this for completeness only. I have reason to think it’s not the case, since I have a hunch we are alone in the universe. I won’t discuss this category further. It’s long since been discussed to death.
  2. They are made and piloted by Hungarians. (This is an inside joke. Look it up.) What I mean by it is that the objects were created right here on Earth, as a result of top-secret research into novel physics. (Ok, here’s a cheat.)
  3. They are the result of…weirdness. Patience. I’ll get there.

So. It’s possible that the objects are in fact aircraft of some sort, piloted or drones, created in somebody’s lab somewhere under truly deadly secrecy. Physics is not as complete and airtight as physicists would like the general public to believe. The big glitch in physics currently is dark matter and dark energy, about which I have some quibbles, but set those aside. Darkstuff (my coinage) may be a telltale of novel physics, novel enough to give us “thrusters,” that is, engines that don’t depend on action/reaction; e.g., throwing stuff backwards.

If that’s the case, the apparitions may simply be a show of force by whoever developed the thrusters. Let’s hope those developers are American.

That’s the entirety of Category 2 in a nutshell.

So let’s take a look at Category 3. This is the fun stuff. I’ll give you another list, of explanations that seem absurd on the surface…keeping in mind that we as a species have been wrong before, and we will doubtless be wrong again.

1. They are aircraft from Earth’s own future, piloted by human beings who have figured out time travel. I like this one, as there is a whole series of novels buried in the premise. (Somebody may have already written them.) As I understand the physics, time travel, while difficult, is more possible than faster-than-light travel. It may require some of that darkstuff to make it work, but however it works, those Tic-Tac travelers could be somebody from a few hundred thousand years in our future. What they’re up to is unclear. Maybe they’re just testing their machinery. Maybe they’ll announce themselves eventually. Maybe they’re trying to stop us from making some really bad mistakes. (If so, they should have set their meters to 1900 and prevented us from creating Communism, which killed 100,000,000 people in the 20th century and is still killing them.)

2. They are glitches in the simulation that we here on Earth call The Universe. Glitches–or beta tests of new features. Maybe bugs–rounding errors, or off-by-one errors. Reality-as-software is a scary notion to anybody who’s done any significant programming. Supposedly we could determine if we are in fact existing in a simulation, but I’m skeptical of that claim.

3. They are evolved but not intelligent organisms, originating in our solar system if not necessarily on Earth. (This is a variation on Category 1, but I put it here because it’s way weirder than canonical big-eyed Aliens.) If exotic physics yielding thrusters are possible, they could emerge via evolution from conditions that could be radically different from what we have on Earth. Who knows what could cook itself up in the atmospheres of Jupiter or Saturn? What I mean here is something like an animal, not self-reflective, but posessed of the means to cross interplanetary distances. Maybe they thrusted their way here, zipped around for awhile sampling the local environment, and finally decided it’s not fun and went home. It’s humbling to admit that they may not have noticed our presence at all while they were here.

4. They are poltergeist activity. (Hey, don’t zone out. I warned you!) This is tough to describe, but it’s a scruffy box into which we could place all sorts of “paranormal” phenomena–some of which look suspiciously like reactionless motion. Telekinesis, psi powers, all that stuff. A friend of mine was confronting poltergeist activity fifteen-odd years ago, and Colin Wilson has written about it extensively. Objects fly around the room, appear and disappear, with no known force behind any of it. Peculiar mental powers seem to exist. I’ve experienced a couple of those things that I still can’t explain. But they happened. (I can’t go into any of it here.) Maybe our UFOs are just astral travelers, out for a ride without having any suspicion that they can be seen or perhaps any clear notion of where they are.

5. They are irruptions from the collective unconscious. Some might choose to toss this in the poltergeist box as well, at least those who think poltergeists are irruptions from the collective unconscious. I don’t. I’ve read extensively about Marian apparitions like Lourdes, Fatima, Zeitoun, and many others. There is something called the White Lady archetype in Jungian thinking. Humans have a thing for luminous women popping up in odd places. (The white is their overall color, not their skin color–I have to say that in this race-nutso era.) Christianity shaped that archetype into the Mother of God in Christian visions. However, white ladies were originally a pagan archetype and are still being seen all over the place in contexts without any religious framework at all. Seeing odd things moving around in the sky is also an archetype. It gained strength in the first half of the 20th Century as popular culture embraced predictions of space travel and people from other worlds. In 1947, assisted by movies and TV, the archetype got legs. Note that these aren’t purely mental glitches in the minds of the Navy pilots. These are disturbances in the physical world that generate/reflect light and can be photographed.

6. They are intrusions from higher spatial dimensions. Now, this hypothesis could also be tossed in that scruffy box with the poltergeists, but I mean it in a more rigorously geometrical way: If there are in fact more than three spatial dimensions (I’ve heard people talk about as many as nine) then suppose some four-dimensional being is poking at our planet with a stick. Imagine Flatland here, with a 3-D being poking at the surface of the plane or sphere or whatever 2-D surface you like. Moving that stick will appear to the denizens of Flatland as a cross-section of the stick moving around without any apparent cause. The cross-section of a four-dimensional stick would be a three-dimensional lump. Its motive power would be off in hyperspace where we can’t see it. All we would see are the cross-sections of 4-D objects moving around like crazy, unimpeded by Newton’s laws. Why? Who knows? Maybe it’s the hyperspatial equivalent of skipping stones on a quiet lake, done simply for fun. Again, it’s possible that whatever entity is holding the stick has no knowledge of us at all.

That’s what I have so far. If I had to choose one to hold as most likely (and I don’t) I would choose an application of novel physics by human scientists and engineers right down here on Earth. Secrets of that sort are very hard to keep, and I wonder if the leaks have begun, and the Feds are feeling their way toward eventual disclosure of the technology. It would be perhaps the most wonderful “unsettled science” ever discovered, as it would open the solar system to human exploration and habitation.

Remember that this is a rant, and I have my SFF writer’s hat on. I embrace Haldane’s Law: The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine–and I can imagine a lot.

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

  • Twitter has gone absolutely off its rocker since Parkland, and now it’s just haters hating anyone who disagrees with them. (No, that’s not new; it’s just never been this bad.) I stumbled across a site called Kialo, which is a kind of digital debate club, in which issues are proposed and then discussed in a sane and (hurray!) non-emotional manner. I myself certainly don’t need another time-sink, but I wanted to bring it to the attention of anyone who enjoys (increasingly rare) reasoned debate.
  • Another interesting approach to political social media is Ricochet, a center-right bloggish system with paid membership required to comment. (You can read it without joining.) No Russian bots, or in fact bots of any kind, and a startling courtesy prevails in the comments. Its Editor in Chief is Jon Gabriel, who used to work for us at Coriolis twenty years ago. Not expensive, and the quality of the posts is remarkable.
  • FreePascal actually has an exponentiation operator: ** That was what FORTRAN (my first language) used, and I’ve never understood why Pascal didn’t have an operator for exponentiation. Better late than never.
  • This article doesn’t quite gel in some respects, but it’s as good an attempt as I’ve seen to explain why Xerox never really made much money on the startling computer concepts it originated back in the crazy years of the ’70s. I worked there at the time, and top-down management was responsible for a lot of it, as well as top management that wasn’t computer literate and thought of everything simply as products to be sold.
  • Japanese scientists found that treating the hair follicles of bald mice with dimethylpolysiloxane grew new hair. Dimethylpolysiloxane is used to keep McDonalds’ deep fryers from boiling over, and given that Mickey D’s fries are one of my favorite guilty pleasures, I suspect I’ve ingested a fair bit of the unprounceable stuff. No hair yet, though I keep looking in the mirror.
  • German scientists, lacking a reliable supply of bald mice, have discovered a species of bacteria that not only enjoys living in solutions of heavy metal compounds, but actually poops gold nuggets. How about one that poops ytterbium? I still don’t have any ytterbium.
  • Eat more protein and lift more weights if you’re a guy over 40. Carbs are no food for old men.
  • Evidence continues to accumulate connecting sugar consumption to Alzheimer’s. Keep that blood sugar down, gang. I want to be able to BS with you all well into my 90s. Try cheese as snacks. It’s as addictive as crack(ers.)
  • If in fact you like cheese on crack(ers), definitely look around for St. Agur double-cream blue cheese. 60% butterfat. Yum cubed. A little goes a long way, which is good, because it keeps you from eating too many crack(ers.)
  • And don’t fret the fat. The Lancet has published a study following 135,000 people, and the findings indicate that there is no connection between dietary fat and heart disease. Ancel Keys was a fraud. Ancel Keys was the worst fraud in the history of medical science. How many times do we have to say it?
  • 37,132 words down on Dreamhealer. It’s now my longest unfinished novel since college. (It just passed Old Catholics, which may or may not ever be finished.) Target for completion is 70,000 words by May 1. We’ll see.
  • On March 17th, it will be 60 years since Vanguard 1 made Earth orbit as our 2nd artificial satellite. Probably because it’s so small (a 6″ sphere, not counting antennae) it is now the satellite that’s been in orbit the longest, including those the Russians launched. The early Sputniks & Explorers have all burned up in the atmosphere.
  • I never knew that the parish church of my youth was Mid-Century Modern, but squinting a little I would say, Well, ok. Here’s a nice short visual tour of the church where I was an altar boy and confirmed and learned to sing “Holy God We Praise Thy Name.” It hasn’t aged as well as some churches (note the rusty sign) but some of the art remains startling. I met Carol in the basement of that church in 1969, and will always recall it fondly for that reason alone.
  • Ever hear of Transnistria? Neither had I. It’s a strip of Moldova that would like to be its own country, (and has been trying since 1924) but just can’t get the rest of the world to agree. It has its own currency, standing army, and half a million citizens. (I’ll bet it has its own postage stamps, though why I didn’t notice them when I was 11 is unclear.)
  • A guy spent most of a year gluing together a highly flammable model of a musk melon (or a green Death Star, if you will) from wooden matches, and then lit it off. He even drew a computer model, which needed more memory to render than his system had. Despite the bankrupt politics, we live in a wonderful era!

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

Odd Lots

  • I get asked several times a year: “What are your politics?” Tough question, given that I think that politics is filth. But now Jon Gabriel has answered the question for me: I do not join teams. I create my own. I’ve been doing this all my life. I’m not going to stop now.
  • Side note on Jon Gabriel: He used to work at Coriolis back in the day. So although I’ve been seeing him online for years, I never realized until very recently that he was our Jon Gabriel. (There is another who does diet books.)
  • Twitter is experimenting with doubling the size of tweets to 280 characters. I wonder if Gab had any least little bit to do with that?
  • Cirsova Magazine posted a short excerpt of something called the Denham Tracts from 1895 on Twitter, with a longish list of British supernatural beings, among which are “hobbits.” You can see the whole fascinating book on the Internet Archive. It was published by the Folk-Lore Society and it’s exactly that: Short notes on British folklore, including local saints, odd little ceremonies, song lyrics, and supernatural creatures I’ve never heard of, like the dudmen, wirrikows, gallytrots, miffies, and loads more. (The list starts on page 77.) Great fun!
  • At last, it looks like a popular treatment of sleep science is coming to us. Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep will be released on October 3. This long-form piece provides some background. Walker is willing to say what I’ve been saying for decades: Do not short your sleep. Bad things will happen, including cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s and who knows what else. Unlike me, Walker is an expert on the subject, so maybe you’ll believe him.
  • Lack of sleep can kill you. So, evidently, can low-fat diets, according a Canadian study of 135,000 adults in 18 countries, published by The Lancet. Note the reactions of NHS physicians, who aren’t convinced. (In their defense I will say that the Mayo Clinic is still pushing a low-fat diet in their newsletters.)
  • Here’s a long, rambling, but worthwhile discussion of how the fake science of fat demonization came about, and how, faced with the spectre of being shown to be wrong about something (impossible!) governments are doubling down on the fake anti-fat message. Government actions cause harm because we can’t throw the responsible parties in a cell and leave them there. The King, after all, can do no wrong.
  • Via Esther Schindler: The history of email.
  • I’d prefer that it be in Pascal, but so it goes: There is a Javascript code baby onesie. My grand-niece Molly is now a month old. Decisions, decisions…
  • In his will, philosopher Jeremy Bentham specified that he was to be mummified, dressed in his ordinary clothes, and put on display. So it was written. So it was done.