Abusing silence

I confess to being a Selective Silence Abuser. Abusers come in many kinds, flavours, and colours, nowadays. In addition to the time-honoured kinds, like the Booze Abuser, the Drug Abuser, the Social Benefits Abuser, and the like, a whole catalogue of new ones have recently popped up. Here I’m not talking about the more or less immoral abuses where one person abuses another, like using abusive speech, beating some bastard up, etc.

No, my particular abuse rather belongs inside a large Venn circle that could be labelled Self-Abuse, together with such problems as megalomania, smoking and not working out. (I should probably point out that here I don’t use the term ”self-abuse” in the same way as it was used some 100 years ago, when it meant something completely different.)

Pleasant current abuses

Among the new kinds of abuses we find some remarkably pleasant ones: Sex Abuse, Lottery Abuse, Computer Game Abuse, each one giving rise to its own psychiatric specialty and its own volunteer Support Group to help the sufferer kick the habit. Any old habit will of course not succeed in reaching Abuse status. A habit generally becomes an Abuse when some psychologist or psychiatrist succeeds in making the headlines by maintaining that his/her (pitifully under-funded) research shows that XYZ-abuse will soon eclipse AIDS and SARS as the most serious threat to humanity.

Anyway, I’m a Selective Silence Abuser, SSA for short. The affliction hasn’t made the headlines yet, so strictly speaking it shouldn’t be termed an Abuse. But have no fear, it will, one of these days. The word Selective means that I only abuse very particular kinds of silence. For example, I don’t shut my ears off to traffic noise, belching, pneumatic drills or bomb BOOMs. My abuse consists of living in a relatively high degree of selective Pop & Rock Music silence – I’m unable to hear pop, rock or country music.

No hard feelings at all

Mind you, I’ve nothing whatsoever against these types of music, not in the least. But I have rarely experienced them. I know the faces of a number of pop megastars like Madonna, Leonard Cohen and the Rolling Stones, of course. But as a rule I’ve never heard their music.

My affliction has an anamnesis, like afflictions do. The problem can be historically extrapolated from – and blamed on – the fact that the Swedish state wireless used to have one channel and one programme only, for an unusually long period of time. The programmes then were a mix of music, news, talks, wireless plays. So at that time I was reasonably knowledgeable about popular music, because I heard it on the wireless, along with news and talk. But then they introduced more wireless channels and the airwave material was split up – talk in one channel, music & trivia in the others. By wishing to listen to the talk, I was suddenly shut off from all of the current popular music, being too lazy to dial in on the other channels.

Musical snowball

This state of affairs continues. I still listen to the talkative wireless channel, which is devoid of music. Hence I have never heard the tunes that people are humming or talking about. A major problem is the snowballing effect that this state of affairs brings about. If you have never heard song X, then other people’s heated discussions and comparisons of song Y (which I haven’t heard either) and song X become incomprehensible. Hence the even newer songs Z, W, etc., become ever more remote from your horizon of experience. Little by little you become a total pop-music ignoramus, completely shut off from an important sector of social life, with one non-listening experience reinforcing the next non-listening experience. The Rest is Silence.

Intimidating CDs

I could of course step by a record shop and get a few CDs. But standing there, unable to tell one title from the next, is just terribly frustrating. Moreover, the huge selection is intimidating in itself -- to be able to listen to all of this would take me two lifetimes, and I don’t even know where to begin.

On E2 an affliction like SSA can be a problem -- I’ve not a clue whether a pop-music writeup is an erudite treatise or just bunk, all I can judge it by is the spelling and the grammar.

    If you know of a volunteer Support Group for SSA victims, or a psychiatrist specialising in the field, do /msg me.

This is a follow-up on a previous daylog.

In that daylog I mentioned that I was puzzling over the question of whether GR is time reversal invariant. Specifically, I was thinking of a star collapsing to form a black hole and releasing gravitational radiation. When time reversed, this process would seem to involve gravitational waves hitting the black hole and causing the event horizon to disappear and a star to form. This doesn't make a lot of sense and is not allowed in GR, so I was wondering a) Is GR time reversal invariant and b) If so, how do you think about the time reversal of a black hole collapsing?

And the answer is...over my head, apparently, but the short answer to a) is yes, and I'll explain about b). At the end of last week I spoke to a post doc who knows something about GR about this question. He said a lot of stuff I didn't understand, involving conformal transformations of spacetime and touching on the causal structure of anti-de Sitter space, but he did say a few things I understood. He said that yes, GR is time reversal invariant, but you have to determine correctly how all the relevant properties transform under time reversal. In the case of a black hole, when you think about it evolving in reverse it becomes a white hole. In this case, the reverse evolution is gravitational waves hitting a white hole and turning it into a star. That's still hardly intuitive, but at least it doesn't seem to clearly break any of the rules of GR. It is still unclear to me what time reversal really means in general in GR, but he said in cases like those considered in numerical GR, the geometry of all of spacetime is determined by the metric and its derivatives on one spacelike hypersurface (one surface of constant time in some coordinate system). In order to "time reverse" this solution in GR, one needs only to reverse the derivatives of the metric appropriately. So, that sort of answers the question. It defuses the core of my confusion, but, unfortunately, it seems I don't understand enough GR to really appreciate why this is the correct way to do time reversal.


It was supposed to be a day of skydiving, but the weather wasn't cooperating. Wouldn't you know that it would clear up just in time for a bit of yard work. You'd think the weather gods would pay more attention. But then, maybe they were.

I've only owned the house since August, and didn't manage to get the previous owners out until mid-September. Moving's not something you do all at once, and by the time the inside of the house was in a state to be livable and comfy, we'd gotten well into November and though things don't quite die in the winter in this part of California, they do grow more slowly.

Which was a blessing, really -- my semi-ex L. (there's a story in itself) didn't uncover any of the yard tools until last week. She dropped them off while I was soggy and in the middle of washing my motorcycle, and she and J. just dropped everything in a pile in the middle of the garage.

So here I was, yard tools, sunny day, no excuses. Well, I could have gone skydiving, but no one's better at nagging me than I am, and I just couldn't do it. In retrospect, it's quite possible that this was a mistake, but we'll get there soon enough. I took stock. What exactly was bugging me the most? Definitely the hedge. It had little sprouts all over and looked very unkempt.

In this neighborhood there are no sidewalks, and the streets are all narrow and winding. When you park, you pull as far off the road as possible, just to leave the road passable. But we're also on the side of a hill, with lots of trees. I think some of the neighbors' landscaping was done purely with the intention of keeping folks from parking in front of their house. But I should talk, I've got this five and a half foot tall hedge that runs most of the length of my property, leaving space for one car and the driveway.

I own exactly one powered yard tool and it's not the lawn mower. I always felt guilty about buying a powered mower because I've always had so little grass. Hedges though, I've always had quite enough of to justify an electric trimmer. Of course it hadn't been used in about five years. But it still ran, and made really short work of the hedge, so to speak. I didn't really shorten the hedge at all, but it looks so much nicer after a trim.

That took all of twenty minutes and having done it I felt cocky and ready to take on the next task, which was a plum tree. I may sound like I know what I'm doing here, but I don't really have a clue about plants. Okay, I have a tiny bit of a clue. Enough of one that it was pretty obvious that the tree was in need of a trim too. I'm not sure how long it had gone without one. At least a year, maybe two. The tops of the branches were tangling with the phone lines, and that couldn't be good.

I swapped my hedge trimmer for a nasty looking tool for branches. It has a little tiny clipper at the end of a very long pair of handles. I have no idea what it's called, but it's really good at trimming branches. I'd hate to get a finger stuck in it. Anyway, I went round and round, trimming and trimming. And hardly making a dent. Eventually I got most of the reachable stuff and discovered that wasn't even going to be close to sufficient.

So I went for the ladder. It's an old ladder, wood and little wobbly metal bits. It worked great when I bought it ten years ago, but it doesn't seem to quite be holding up the way I'd like, and did I mention my house is on a hill? Not a good combination, I think. Some of those branches were rather thick, and most of them were rather high too. I kept walking up and down that ladder, and moving it. Over and over.

Eventually I took a break. I'd been working on that tree for over an hour. I grabbed a soda and nearly dropped it my arms were so tired. Okay, take a break. Have lunch. Watch some TV. Check tree. Yep, still there. Alrighty then, looks like I'll have to finish the job.

So I continued. Only this time I was standing on the top step. With the cutters waving over my head trying to get the higher branches. Why do the neighbors always pick times like this to wave hello as the walk by? Eventually I got to the point where there were only three branches that really had to come down. Thick ones. Ones that needed a saw.

But I had no saw. I made a quick trip down to the hardware store and came back with a nice bow saw. By this time the light was fading a bit. So, there I was, standing on the top step of a wobbly wooden ladder, on a hill, sawing like a mad woman. One branch down. Two. Halfway through the last and highest branch the ladder did something that ladders are not intended to do. It twisted. Looking down I saw that one of the metal latches and popped out sideways and was looking decidedly unlatchlike. I slowly got down off the ladder and inspected the damage.

There is no way I was going back up on that thing. Time for a new ladder, but it was getting dark. D. had come over and helped me gather up all the branches. I'd swear I cut down at least a tree's worth. I was nowhere near finished with the yard, but it'd have to wait for another weekend.

Just as well. I was tired, I was achy, and I'd completely forgotten about my allergies. The sneezing fits started about an hour later. But when I got up the next morning, getting ready for work, it was still standing there. One branch raised high, giving me the finger.

I work in a drugstore. We sell Schedule V codeine cough syrup behind the counter here, which doesn't require a prescription but does require we enter the buyer's name and address into our CV Log Book. I'd guess, looking through the repeating names in the log book, that about half of the bottles are being used recreationally. This guy came in about an hour and a half ago to buy some. Then it comes up in conversation that he works down at the school here. He's a bus driver. That's just great. Yeah, you hit that bottle of codeine at 2 pm then go drive the kids home from school on loose gravel when it's raining out. Fuck yeah. It's a learning experience.

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