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Some thoughts on turning 50

Today is my 50th birthday. As Terry Pratchett noted, "inside every old man there's an 8 year old wondering what the hell just happened". In the absence of some really big medical breakthroughs I'm almost certainly more than halfway through my span: so what have I learned?

(Note: I'm putting this in a blog entry rather than a novel because this is the right place for self-indulgent bloviating and miscellaneous wankery. Put it another way: if you read it here, you don't have to get angry at me because you paid good cash money for it. Just file under getting-it-out-of-my-system and move on.)

Rule 1 is "don't die". If you fail at Rule 1, by definition, you failed at everything else.

NB: some people of a theological bent are of the opinion that personal experience continues after you fail at Rule 1 (and that's before we get stuck into the simulation hypothesis). I'll believe them when I get a bad review for a new book from a long-dead critic. In the absence of such feedback, I'm proceeding on the assumption that this is the only chance you get: no do-overs. Nor do you win some kind of prize for dying with the most toys, or the most money: you don't even get a prize for dying with the most children (they, on the other hand, might have reason to drink a toast to your memory) ... personal extinction is forever.

There are several corollaries to Rule 1, but they're mostly obvious: coronaries have right of way, for example; or never eat anything bigger than your head (unless you're a gulper eel). Some are less obvious: start exercising now because it'll hurt less than starting when you're older. (I generally hate exercise, but I hate it less than the idea of failing at Rule 1.) Or take the meds your doctor prescribed you, in the manner directed unless they make you feel really ill: in which case go back and TELL THE DOCTOR (don't just stop taking them). NB: medical professionals can argue the toss, you probably can't.

Rule 2: Idiots are everywhere: fixing their idiocy is not your problem (unless it really really is — which is seldom the case). No, seriously, XKCD nailed it:

Remembering this rule (and figuring out how and when to apply the exceptions) will save your blood pressure, your hair, and a lot of stress: it will also contribute to you obeying Rule 1. Unfortunately obeying Rule 2 may prove difficult if you are a bit obsessive-compulsive, but what the hell, at least you'll have fun Being Right on the Internet ...

Seriously, if you hold with Richard Dawkins' exegesis on the extended phenotype, there's a reason for this. We shaved apes can acquire cognitive tools from one another. So rather than having to think outside the box for ourselves, we can rely on the normal distribution of smarts among our species to ensure that some outlier can think outside the box for us, and we can then copy their technique. Once we developed language (the platform for horizontally transferable skills) we were no longer under an evolutionary selection filter for better individual general intelligence. We are, quite literally, no smarter than we need to be: we're the dumbest possible species of intelligent tool-using talkative mimics, except for African Gray parrots and Fox News commentators. (Who might actually be African Gray parrots in disguise, trying to bring about our downfall; that's no crazier than some of the things they come out with, is it?)

If it amuses you to do so you may occupy yourself by trying to do something about the stupids, or to contribute to the long-term commonweal for people who will never even know you existed. That would be good. But seriously, bear in mind Rule 2 — and beware of Dunning-Kruger syndrome.

Rule 3 is the Golden Rule, in the original (non-Jesus, i.e. negative) formulation: do not do unto others that which would be repugnant were it done unto you. (This is not the same as that meddling do-gooder's manifesto, "do unto others as you would be done by" because, hey, everybody likes to eat shit just like me, right?) Honourable exceptions for self-defence (as long as you didn't start it) and Being Right on the Internet, as long as you do not wallow to excess in Being Cruelly Right on the Internet. Ahem. No, seriously, a lot of things would be a whole lot better if we all just tried not to inadvertently stomp on each other's corns.

Oh, and by the way? These days I'm convinced that the reputation grumpy old men have for being grumpy (not to mention old) is a side-effect of the way chronic low-grade pain goes with the ageing process. It's a sad fact that once you pass your thirties you get increasingly creaky: and constant low-grade aches and twinges do bad things to your temper. It's another sad fact that, for better or worse, most of our world leaders are middle-aged or elderly men, who should be presumed grumpy due to low-grade pain until proven otherwise. (There's probably a political solution to bringing about world peace through better access to analgesics, but that's a topic for another rant.)

(There is an inverse corollary of Rule 3, of course: as some 19th century wag remarked in a Victorian ladies' etiquette guide, "a true lady never unintentionally gives offense". (At least, not in front of witnesses.) If you're going to hurt someone? At least be clear about what you're doing, and why. Hypocrisy sucks, especially when this is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.)




And that's basically it.

There's a bunch of minor stuff I'd love to have been able to tell my 15-year-old self ("son, buy shares in a Californian company called Apple, that's AAPL, and don't sell them until 2014") but they're mostly spurious. There are also some regrets, but again: no point crying over spilled milk. And of course, with full foreknowledge some of my life choices would be different (I'm thinking of you, Mister school careers guidance teacher whose name I've forgotten). But all of that is me-specific, and probably meaningless to you.




So that's my distillate of fifty years of obeying Rule 1. What have you learned that you'd like to see engraved on your tombstone?

121 Comments

1:

With 50 on the horizon myself, this made me laugh and nod in agreement.

On a tangential note, your story of the etiquette guide made me think of an AP story I had to edit once that was about child-proof medicine bottles and how inconvenient they are for old people. The story said the special caps were designed to "prevent unintended poisonings."

2:

Oh, and Happy Birthday!

3:

Hapy pipy bthuthday ( Or whatever it was that appeared in "Pooh" )
DO NOT EVER GIVE UP
Keep at it...
As for "exercise", well, from personal experience, lots of low-level moderate "stretching" is (almost) infinitely better than "EXERCISE" or worse still "sports" - just don't go there.
I might add - keep your kidneys flushed ... most people simply don't drink enough, be it tea, beer of coffee or milk or even the fish-fucking liquid.

Talking of which - have one on me & of we live so long, I'll buy you one at Eastercon!

4:

Happy birthday.

I think my most important life lesson is screw what everyone else things of you. Some bloke called Bill something summed it up more nicely as "To thine own self be true."

I think, for me at least, it encapsulates your rules 2 and 3. I'm also not sure about your rule 1. I don't think there's anything magical about the length of your life, if you live true to yourself and live a high quality of life, that's more important than doing everything you can to live a bit longer and being a miserable git. (As opposed to a grumpy old (wo)man.

5:

As a consequence of following Rule 1 with some modifications, I've had, and am having such a good time in my now 70 + years, that I expect my tombstone to read.

"I wasn't finished yet!"

Congratulations on your 1st half century, may the 2nd half be twice as interesting.

6:

Speaking as a 43 year old chronic depressive who is descended from a couple of lines of rather long-lived people (three of my grandparents lived past 90; the one who died earliest was in his eighties) when it comes to life, I'd rather have quality over quantity. But then, non gustibus disputandem, and I'm speaking from a position of relative privilege there (in that I'm unlikely to be dying of "old age" prior to my biblically mandated threescore and ten). Others' mileage may vary, and probably does.

7:

"...do not do unto others that which would be repugnant were it done unto you. "

Still doesn't do to much for other people because I have a high tolerance threshold and tend to treat myself harshly anyway. I'm more than 10 years older than you and have done insane amounts of exercise (martial arts) all my adult life.

I'm grumpy because I've seen the same old shit recycled time after time like it's new, and the same gullible idiots falling for it time after time (like I did once) and my patience is gone. Aches and pains are minor, and mostly ignorable. Strange thing is, on the pain front, I can not notice quite significant injuries until my attention wanders around to "what's that nagging sensation, and why is there blood dripping down my arm...?".

Summary of wisdom to date - be kinder to other people in deed rather than theory. A good heart beat a good mind.

8:

Happy Birthday Charlie!

I'm seven years behind you, and am still trying to sort the crap out, within and without me. I like Gilman's Formulation of Wheaton's Law (Don't be an Asshole) but sometimes, you have to be one. So maybe Don't be an asshole without reason and measure is the takeaway I have for life.

Also, "Just keep Swimming", a la Finding Nemo, has kept me in the game. Sometimes putting one foot in front of another, be it trying to climb a mountain, or write something, or get through a workday, works wonders. Would that I could tell my younger self this!

9:

Happy First Half Century. Here's to the Second!

I'm tempted to go along with MeSaare, something like "No Fair! I wasn't finished." But I hope to live long enough that I won't need that one.

I'll disagree slightly with El; Don't worry about what people think of you--unless you're relying on them for money.

Rule 3: Hillel had it right.
The rest is commentary, now go study. No need to stand on one foot.

10:

Charlie,

May it be a most happy 50th birthday, filled with friends family and fine ale.

As they say over here in the Pacific Northwest - you are not old...for a tree.

Obey rule one indeed. However, should this becomes unavoidable to violate, and cryonics is not an option, AND you have a hankering for such a monument to your memory/decompositon...how about: Help, I am trapped!

Cheers Charlie, to 50 more!!(and at at least one book per year)

11:

Happy B'day Charlie!

I like your rules, they're not too different than my own, and can also see 50 over the horizon now.

I'd add one rule though: "Never be bored"

Only very few times in my life have I been in circumstances where being bored was my only option. It takes an effort to take an interest, and what you learn or experience may be absolutely pointless and likely useless to you, but that is still way better than being bored.

12:

Happy birthday!

I think I would like to have the rule "Don't repeat your mistakes" to be on my tombstone. I mean by this that you should do stuff, not be afraid of mistakes (unless they are dangerous, but see your rules about that...) and learn from them. Then do that stuff correctly, and do new stuff, too.

I am quite risk-averse, and if I could tell something to the fifteen-year old me, I would probably tell him to not worry so much and try more new stuff. (Aside from telling him to buy Nokia, and Apple, and sell them at the correct times.) On the other hand, I wouldn't be where I am now if I had done things differently, and I quite like it here.

Now that I think of it, "be less of an asshole earlier" could be also a good thing to tell the young me. I don't think that'd stick, though. (I like to think I grew out of that soon enough, though.)

13:

By a strange coincidence, I bought your latest book this morning before reading it was your 50th here. Have a (small) drink on me.

14:

Rule 1a: Be nice to nurses.

Rule 1b: if a medic laughs at your joke, you maybe shouldn't tell it to ordinary people.

15:

Happy birthday!
Good health and good luck.

С днём рождения, мистер Штросс.
Please follow Rule #1.

16:

Many years ago I wanted "I'm masturbating while you read this" engraved on my tombstone.

17:

Don't stand on heads to get higher, listen to your angels, spread through life like a fire.

Happy birthday.

18:

"If you can read this, the bomb that I was buried with will go of in 3, 2..."

19:

Happy Birthday!

Having recently turned 54 I feel I may have usefully unlearned more than I have learned. The physical discomforts aren't as annoying as the senior moments.

Things seldom turn out as planned and if they do it was probably the wrong plan anyway.

20:

I've distilled the thing that makes me tick (nearly as long as you've been) into the following: "be a net gain for this world by being in it."

It's hard going, especially since some "taking" from the world is inherent in being in it, but as a measure of a worthwhile (and generally, an enjoyable) life, it has stood me in good stead.

Happy birthday, Charlie! May you have many more years of being up-close and personal with feline friends, from whose perspective you've totally made this world better.

21:

I once had an ambition that by gravestone be marked with the epitaph:

"LICENSED FOR DANCING"

But on the whole, I think it better to be inoffensive to all except to the offensive. That is to say: if the Westboro Baptist Church, the Daily Mail and the GamerGate hate group de jour turn up and picket the funeral, I've probably done something right.

22:

Happy birthday!

I've learned that people will treat you the way they treat other people.

Even when it seems like you're in a group that is granted some special status (family, friends, political allies, co-religionists, white people, men, ...), if someone treats out-group members like shit, it can (and probably will) happen to you too, because in-group status is precarious and policed. You can always do something that shifts your status to "not really an X".

Pragmatically, this means that if on the first date a guy treats the waitstaff like dirt, there is no second date.

24:

A re-statement of Rule #3 in two parts
1) Be most excellent to each other
2) Don't be a dick

25:

Happy Birthday Charlie

here's to fifty more years....8-O

I always fancied "Necrophiliacs Welcomed" as a tombstone inscription. Get more action in death than you did in life.

26:

Happy Birthday Charlie
As the big fifty looms for me also, I can't say I have any great wisdom to impart, but while I am embarrassed and regretful of the times I behaved badly, I am also proud of all the times I stayed true to myself.
Hope it's a wonderful day and as the Russians say, we wish you many more

27:

An epitaph...

"Epitaphs are for the living. I only live in your memory."

28:

Happy Birthday!

At 71, what I'd like to tell my 15-year-old self:
"You don't have ADD; the ADDish symptoms are from depression, and in some cases maybe from cerebral palsy."

29:

Happy Birthday, Charlie!

There's a poem by Ogden Nash specifically for thirty-year olds, but I find it's just as good for other birthdays.

Lines To Be Scribbled On Somebody Else's Thirtieth Milestone

Thirty today? Cheer up, my lad!
The good old thirties aren't so bad.
Life doesn't end at twenty-nine,
So come on in, the water's fine.
I, too, when thirty crossed my path,
Turned ugly colors with shame and wrath.
I kicked, I scratched, I bit my nails,
I indulged in tantrums the size of whales,
I found it hard to forgive my mater
For not having had me ten years later.
I struggled with reluctant feet
Where dotage and abdomens meet.
Like the tongue that seeks the missing tooth
I yearned for my extracted youth.
Since then some years have ambled by
And who so satisfied as I.
The thirties are things I wallow among,
With naught but pity for the young.
The less long ago that people were born
The more I gaze on them with scorn,
And each Thanksgiving I Thanksgive
That I'm slowly learning how to live.
So conquer, boy, your grief and rage,
And welcome to the perfect age!
I hope good fairies your footsteps haunt,
And bring you everything you want,
From cowboy suits and Boy Scout knives,
To beautiful, generous, wealthy wives.
If you play the horses, may you play good horses,
If you want divorces, may you get divorces,
Be it plenty of sleep, or fortune, or fame,
Or to carry the ball for Notre Dame,
Whatever it is you desire or covet,
My boy, I hope you get it and love it.
And you'll use it a great deal better, I know,
Than the child that you were a day ago.

--Ogden Nash

30:

Hi Charlie. Happy Birthday. I reached 65 two days ago, so your post moved me to register and send greetings. I have been a fan of your work since your early Interzone short story days (I've been a reader of Interzone since the mid 80's and have found many new writers though it's pages) As for keeping fit, my recomendation is walking. Other than some trouble with my left knee (due to my days on Motorcycles) I am in good nick for my age and am often told that I don't look my age. Spent part of Thursday, my 65th, reading Equoid. Love the Cold Comfort Farm riffs. Keep on doing what you are doing. I look forward to reading many more books from you. Best wishes

31:

Happy Birthday Charlie!

I'm getting older & grayer myself, and are currently visiting the parental units who are further along the process and thinking more of mortality. Your guidelines for living are close to mine & seem wise (the two may be connected).

32:

Happy birthday, Charlie Stross. It gets better. I made you a picture: http://www.michelledevilliersart.com/MichelledeVilliersArt/Bio.html

33:

Happy birthday, Charlie Stross. It gets better. I made you a picture: http://www.michelledevilliersart.com/MichelledeVilliersArt/Bio.html

34:

Sorry, That was a mistake, I promise. Please delete it. But still have a wonderful birthday! http://michelledevilliersart.wordpress.com/2014/10/18/vrek mooi-fall/

35:

Happy birthday! Live long and prosper (and keep righting awesome books...which is what causes prosperity for you, come to think of it)

36:

Sorry, That was a mistake, I promise. Please delete it. But still have a wonderful birthday! http://michelledevilliersart.wordpress.com/2014/10/18/vrek mooi-fall/

37:

Sto lat! ((Live) a hundred years) Since it's Polish, I doubt if they meant you would have a 100 good years, but a few might be nice.

All the best and keep writing!

38:

Happy Birthday Charlie!
I wish you many more and hope to keep reading your stuff.

39:

Happy birthday!

Rules to live by? When it's not fun or interesting any more, stop and do something different.

40:

Working backwards: explaining the problems with your formulation of rule 3 would break rule 2. But how much are you prepared to put up with (in terms of being degraded or other people suffering or dying on your behalf) in order to keep rule 1? This, I hasten to point out, is a purely theoretical question. :P Happy Birthday!

41:

A distillate of life lived so far? OK, here are some more uncommonly recognised rules, mostly the ones you aren't supposed to know.

Rule 7 : Life isn't Fair

No, really. There is no cosmic accountant balancing things up and apportioning pain/gain on the basis of how good you have been. Rather, random things happen and can land on you. It's how you deal with that that matters. Take advantage of the good, dodge the bad.

Subrule 7a : Liars prosper

Derived from the main rule, the things we tell children about lying being something to avoid, about retribution, karma, and not stabbing people on the way up because you'll meet then on the way down - it's all junk. Generally they ain't ever coming down, at least not the same way. The empirical reality is that those that don't play fair, and don't expect life to be fair so they place their thumb on the scales of life - they get ahead.

Rather than teaching kids not to lie, we should teach them to lie well, to know when to lie, to avoid the consequences - strategic lying.

Subrule 7b : People Cheat

Derived from subrule 7a above, people cheat. Since it doesn't tend to come back in anything like the extent that your mother said it would, it's no surprise that everyone cheats; in the right circumstances (not getting caught). You shouldn't expect anything else. You certainly shouldn't rely on anything else.

Subrule 7c : The System Supports Cheats

It should be no surprise that since cheats prosper, they get to the top. And if they get to the top, they get to set the rules. And thus the rules make sure that they, and other cheats, never really suffer as they should for their cheats.

Sure, they may well try and pull up the ladder after themselves, but the key characteristic you should realise is that there are legal ways of cheating and getting away with it - in any system - and you shouldn't expect anything else.

If you think this is wrong, that cheats should be weeded out and the meek and virtuous should triumph and inherit the earth - can I refer you to rule 7.

Rule 13 : Half the people are below Average

Obviously, in everything, half the people are below average. In particular, as per rule 2, in intelligence half the people are much dumber than you could ever possibly expect.

Given that this world needs above average intelligence to really deal with the complexities, the interrelations, it follows that most people are incapable of doing so.

Subrule 13a : Democracy is a Bad Idea

True democracy is based on the idea that the crowd is intelligent enough to make the right decisions. However, given rule 13, there is no reason to expect that to be the case - correct actions usual deviate from the accepted mean - therefore you shouldn't expect democracy to work.

Which is why we don't have democracy.

Subrule 13b : Systems exist to keep people OUT

Given subrules 7c and 13a, in any situation the systems will be setup such that at least the 50% below average are kept out. Usually it's more than 50%. That's their purpose, nobody wants to have to deal with those idiots.

As such, the 'approved' route through any system is hard, full of hassles, and designed not to allow you through. Think of all the systems you have come across for a moment...

However, given subrule 7c, there is usually a way to cheat, a way past/around the system that's designed to keep the 50% out.

You have to prove you are smart enough to use it, by finding it first.

Subrule 13c : It's the Abnormalities that Count

Nobody is entirely average. Everyone has abnormalities. Some of those place them well down the lower 50%, and some place them well up the upper 50%.

You should know and understand your own abnormalities, and cherish them. They are what make you you, and notable. Avoid the implications of the negative abnormalities and exploit the positive abnormalities. To do that, use subrule 7b.

Rule 34: Yes, it's Sex

Nothing in terms of sex, love, etc. is in anyway novel, new, or unexplored. EVERYTHING has been done before, just not by you. Exploit this by learning from their experience - and avoid the common mistakes. There are no prizes for falling down the potholes (see rule 7) and in particular recognise the lesson "everything's fair in love and war", or as it's otherwise known, subrule 7b.

However, realise that you shouldn't make this the main centre of your life, no matter what the poets say. Yes you should experience and benefit from your knowledge, but it's not the meaning of life - or at least, not of a life with meaning.

Rule 99: The Destination isn't in Doubt

Baring the transhumanists, you are going to die one day, that's not in doubt.

A life well lived is lived well in the terms that YOU set, not by some celestial accountant (see rule 7). As such you can't really do it wrong and regrets are for losers (who you obviously aren't, since you determine what winning is).

However, do try to ensure that you leave ONE thing to the human race that makes things better and will continue forever. You have an entire lifetime, and it's not too much to ask that the entire thing doesn't end up a waste of time and resources for the human race.

Only don't think that that one thing is kids - really, the average rat has 50 kids in it's lifetime, and you should be more capable than a rat. Replacement units don't count for YOUR contribution.

Something to bear in mind, you can be the fastest, smartest, biggest, etc. - but someone can always be faster, brighter, bigger. Nobody can be firster.

Tombstone

And what would I want on my tombstone? Well, firstly I'm not sure a tombstone is a great idea anyway. The more space you take up, the more certain it is they will dig you up in less than 100 years to make room for more paying customers (see rule 7). If you want a final resting place, get cremated and a small plaque, out of the way.

And your descendants aren't likely to bother with it anyway, so get your ashes made into diamond instead of buried in the ground - people will neglect a grave, but ain't nobody is losing a diamond. Better still, do this whilst you are still alive, using toe nail clippings - what's the difference really?

And rather than an inscription, embed an AI with a representation of your personality and details of your life in multiply redundant electronics, power by solar, with iron/nickel batteries and a solid state speaker - into this discreet tombstone. Hold conversations after your death with visitors to your final resting place. I intend to have Monty Python quotes and jokes in mine - and for it to randomly make "Ooooo" noises, late at night.

42:

For my tombstone?:

Immortality Fail.

Or "Here lies... which wasn't part of the plan."

No lessons, age thus far at least, has brought me no great wisdom.

43:

We all get to find out if we live in a sufficiently large multiverse. We never find out if don't.

44:

Heres to the next fifty.

45:

Happy Birthday, Charlie.

What to put on my tombstone? I don't know yet, but hopefully it will be something that will really intrigue future archeologists. Actually, perhaps that should get buried with me, six feet down. Perhaps it should be an engraved bronze cheat sheet for freshman biology, the evolution and cladistics section? Perhaps we should start leaving things like this all over the place, just for the heck of it?

46:

These are good, simple rules. The only problem I have with any such rules is that I have a hard time getting past Rule Zero: In a godless universe made of atoms and the void, all rules, laws and morals are absurd, arbitrary and strictly optional for thinking beings. Praise Azathoth! (They can put that on my tombstone, I guess.)

47:

After 65 years I have come to believe that "grumpiness" among, um, experienced people, is often the result of that experience. We've simply seen so many people not doing their job competently that, unfortunately, we come to expect it. And, given that our personal time has become our most valuable asset, we feel no need to waste a moment on incompetents. But we must, on occasion, interact with them. That is easily (and often reasonably) interpreted as "grumpy". I sense a certain tendency to this in you.....

Yes, everybody gets grumpy when they don't feel well -- but that happens at any age.

I personally do my best to forget my "birthday", so I can't, without substantial hypocrisy, wish you "happy".

48:

For myself, the fifties have felt like the forties, only more so. You may be amused by William Geist's "The Big Five Oh! :Facing, Fearing and Fighting Fifty". Hope you enjoyed your birthday, to your satisfaction.

49:

I was talking about Douglas Adams the other day at work. The way the bastard went and died too early. Well Charlie. If you die too early, I will attempt a method of bringing you back to life, merely so that I can kill you again for dying too early. If that makes sense.

I.e. write more.

I think if you can keep churning out good quality writing, you'll be doing a good part of your "leave the world a better place" responsibility.

Also, I still don't like your Golden Rule. In either formulation, a sadist is just a masochist following the rule. Certainly my tastes are different.

50:

Actually, I haven't given too much thought about a head stone, a simple marker with name and dates perhaps. I've always thought I'd prefer having my body wrapped in a shroud and stuck in the ground, with some sort of fruit-bearing tree planted over me.
But, as I said, I intend to live a while, at least until after I see Halley's Comet again, I'll only be 90, should last a while after that.

51:

Happy Birthday.

52 in December in my case. I understand the comment on low-level pain, it is amazing how debilitating it can be.

I notice things repeating themselves and I have a good laugh when I see the panic/excitement/noise being generated as a result. I also appear to be increasingly dissociated; for example, the number of new films I like decreases almost exponentially and a recent visit to London left me wondering what the hell had happened to British reserve.

On the plus side, there are lots of good books to read, the bank manager makes appointments to see me, and I get to be grumpy. I'll live with that for the moment (especially the grumpy bit).

52:

"Tombstone" ?
I think Milligan's is the bast:
"I TOLD YOU I was ill"

As for seeing the idiots repeating past mistakes, well, it's tiresome isn't it?

"Aches, pains & twinges"
Ease past them, try various allieviating measures, including very gentle exercise &, of course, dilute anaesthetic ( Usually in 568-ml doses ... )

53:

Da, what I've learned is that the world ain't set up for our benefit, its mainly for the people at the top (Ian S's rule 7). But I've also learned that there's often no point in getting angry ; it will just make you miserable and few will listen to you anyway...so combine Ian's rule 7 with your rule 3 for the sum of my wisdom. Yup, idiots are everywhere, but the wisest course of action is avoid reacting, and stoically bear it and grin.

Ruminating on the future, I think it's high time to get off-world and try to make a fresh start. Mars looms large in the minds of futurists again - you have a flurry of Mars missions in progress and planned - MarsOne in the Netherlands and its private colonization plan, SpaceX and Elon Musk's Mars rockets, NASA about to test its next-generation rockets (Orion).

Getting off-world's been an expensive, impractical dream for a long-while now of course, but once artificial intelligence appears on the scene and greatly advances science and technology, things should happen very very fast, and we may actually see the Martian frontier opened to a mass market within our lifetimes.

A new branch of human civilization off-world offers a blank slate - a fresh start - in which new systems of govt. can be devised and implemented. If things are done right from the start, possibly the cycle of stupidity can finally be broken.

I may have located the first person to walk on Mars. I searched and found a 13-year old girl, Alyssa Carson. Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/08/alyssa-carson-mars_n_5952252.html?utm_hp_ref=tw

This girl's been training for the Mars mission since age 3, and speaks 4 languages! The youth of today!

Yes, like Elon Musk, if my tombstone has to be anywhere then let it be off-world, on a Martian colony.

54:

Your explanation of Rule 13 suggests you're in the "much dumber than you could possibly expect" group I'm afraid. A simple examination of a normal distribution curve will show you that the mode will be clustered around the mean.

In other words if you expect people to be of about average intelligence, half will be dumber, yes, but not MUCH dumber unless you say the other half are much smarter which seems unreasonably charitable. I don't know where I'd draw the line for much dumber in numerical terms, probably somewhere around mean - 1SD so ~16% are MUCH stupider than you expect, although half are still stupider than you expect.

There's a whole different diatribe about what you mean by dumber of course. The Mismeasure of Man Is a good read on the subject.

55:

I found turning 50 a lot less traumatic than 30. By now I'm reasonably happy with who I am and with what I will or won't achieve in life. You should be too.

On the trite slogans, mine are:

Decide what's important and what isn't to you.

Everybody screws up, so give people a chance and cut them some slack, but if you need to do it too often, get them out of your life.

And a sort of corollary of that: you're going to screw up and let down or hurt people who depend on you. When that happens don't be a pompous dick about it. Apologise clearly and sincerely at the first opportunity. If they then keep dragging it up, get them out of your life.

And growing from that: find a small bunch of good friends and work to keep them. Which means both of the above apply even more here.

We seem to have branched into epigraphs. Here's the one that works for me at the moment.

56:

I'd kind of forgotten the apologise one, it's been part of my life for a long, long time, but it certainly wasn't there at 17. Owning up and apologising sincerely is definitely a life lesson we can all do with learning earlier.

57:

once artificial intelligence appears on the scene and greatly advances science and technology, things should happen very very fast

Ah, a naive singularitarian! I remember being one of them (vaguely).

Martian frontier opened to a mass market

Ooh, look: two ideologies for the price of one! (Frontier expansion/land grab meets capitalism.)

A new branch of human civilization off-world offers a blank slate

With no escape for the citizens victims if it goes horribly wrong; you can walk home from the Gobi Desert at a pinch, but Mars is for life.

Sorry, I'm not buying any of it. "Artificial intelligence" is a category error, and anyway, we've already got the stuff coming out of our ears (hello, google pagerank algorithm, anyone? Spam filters? Retail store CRM that knows the customer is pregnant before they do? We're drowning in the stuff). The mess we've made of this planet suggests that even if interplanetary colonization is possible, we'll just replicate our messes somewhere else -- we need to figure out how to clean up the mess, or not make one in the first place. A frontier land-rush mentality and crude capitalism is, I think, a big chunk of what we've got wrong -- not the solution. And absolutist attempts at blank slate political engineering tend to build ghastly pyramids of skulls even in places where the government doesn't have a natural monopoly on air and water.

58:

Do unto others as they would have you do unto them -unless they are codependants abusives with loads of daddy issues.

59:

The one thing we do need which would enable everything else is cheap clean energy for everyone.

60:

Ah, a naive singularitarian!

Nope. Hard take-off Singularity is in the far future or may never occur. But it is not required. I am just anticipating that fast computer simulations and expert systems should lead to more rapid advances in material science, rocketry and cheap energy sufficient to drop the cost of space flight by several orders of magnitude. I think its a reasonable expectation.

Ooh, look: two ideologies for the price of one! (Frontier expansion/land grab meets capitalism.)

Not what I meant. I don't subscribe to any particular ideologies any more, and I'm no fan of unchecked capitalism. However I think the general notion of a 'frontier' where people are free to explore and try new things is a good one. And Mars is the next natural frontier.


With no escape for the citizens victims if it goes horribly wrong; you can walk home from the Gobi Desert at a pinch, but Mars is for life.

Good point, but that's just the nature of the frontier. It's high risk.

And absolutist attempts at blank slate political engineering tend to build ghastly pyramids of skulls even in places where the government doesn't have a natural monopoly on air and water.

Absolutist attempts at political engineering are to be avoided, but the fact is, people need a new frontier far from the cops if they really want radical political change. I think you can see that on Earth, once a government has reached a certain level of bureaucracy and complexity, it seems to be near impossible to implement genuinely good new ideas, due to entrenched vested interests.

For instance, several great (in my opinion) political ideas are Land Value Tax (LVT) to replace Income Tax and the Universal Basic Income (UBI) to replace welfare. Even though many smart folks seem to agree they are great ideas, it seems near impossible to implement them due to vested interests on Earth. But they could be tried on off-world colonies.

You in Scotland recently had a good opportunity for Scottish independence, but again, all the hard work came to nothing when it was voted down, demonstrating just how hard it is to get radical changes past entrenched interests. A colony of Scots on Mars would find it easy to declare independence ;)

A new frontier gives folks an opportunity to try out new social experiments, and that's the strongest argument for it in my view.

The Elon Musk case for Mars in 'Aeon' is a good read:
http://aeon.co/magazine/technology/the-elon-musk-interview-on-mars/


61:

HBD, Charlie, I made that mark almost three years ago. Today's my wife's 46th, this afternoon we're driving down to El Paso for a movie and maybe Vietnamese food. Hope you had a good one!

62:

my grave shuld have written on it "I tried...". But I will give my body to science ie : some first year medecine pupil will learn anatomy by cutting pieces of me. I should probably think of a stupid tatoo instead...
Now, YOUR grave should have "click to continue reading" on it or maybe "there ARE strange atractors".

63:

Happy Birthday, Charlie!

When I was younger, someone told me "you'll always regret the women you didn't have sex with a lot more than you'll regret the ones you did." By age 50, I have learned that this is absolute bullshit.

64:

You know, I'm not going to carp at Elon Musk's desire to colonize Mars; he seems to have a much sharper grasp of the size of the problem than most space cadets, and more importantly he's [metaphorically] building a military-industrial complex rather than designing parade uniforms for his army, which is what so many soi disant Mars colonists get hung up on. Infrastructure is all, after all.

But I think you're dead wrong about complexity, bureaucracy, and governance. We live in complex societies and we're dependent on each other to handle the specialities we're not able to cope with -- Heinlein's nostrum that "specialization is for insects" is junk; even today it's virtually impossible to cover all aspects of household maintenance for a sub/urban lifestyle. (Hey, do you want to specialize in woodworking, glazing, or network security for your IOT power meter? How about cooking from raw ingredients and making your own clothes? Including repairing the sewing machine when its logic board throws a tantrum?) This stuff is increasingly opaque and we need division of labour just to keep the wheels turning. We could indeed do with better government -- but part of the problem is that our expectations are low, and often kept low artificially by those vested interests you allude to, because alienated, disempowered people who think government can't change things or work effectively are less likely to get in the way of those interests who are efficiently using privileged access to government to achieve their goals.

(I'm not going to comment on political change in Scotland; let's just say that some weird shit has been happening over the past month, and the picture is incredibly unsettled. Labour -- the natural party of government from around 1960 through 2007 -- appears to be in a tail-spin; the Green party tripled in membership in two weeks, while the SNP now has more members than all but two of the UK-wide parties (that is, parties operating in a population pool ten times larger than Scotland alone). ICM are predicting a strong risk of a hung parliament in Westminster after the June election, with the Scottish National Party rather than the Liberal Democrats as the only other party in Parliament able to go into coalition with either Labour or Conservatives to achieve a government with a working majority. So, interesting times ...!)

65:

You in Scotland recently had a good opportunity for Scottish independence, but again, all the hard work came to nothing when it was voted down, demonstrating just how hard it is to get radical changes past entrenched interests. A colony of Scots on Mars would find it easy to declare independence

Also much easier to be for them to be blockaded and left to die.

Reminds of me a similar excursion into colonialism by the Scots

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darien_scheme

I have always though the first attempts to colonise Mars would be little more than Jonestown-on-Ares.

66:

"inside every old man there's an 8 year old wondering what the hell just happened"

Terry Pratchett is one of the wisest men my wife and I know - and it's breaking our hearts that he's dwindling so.

When my mother was in the care home, she was ... well, not quite quizical, but hurt: "It seems just like yesterday I was 21"

One of the awful things about reaching our age is that we start becoming the senior generation. When my mother died spring last year, she was the last of her family from that generation. Suddenly, I and my siblings and my cousins are the senior generation - there are no more uncles and aunts left.

The only upside of that is that I expect to go to fewer funerals for a while. But hell, that shouldn't be because they're all dead.

(My wife is the eldest child of two only children, so doesn't get this so much. I think she's been to more funerals on my side of the family than on hers, and she still has her mother alive and (thank whatever) going strong.)

67:

My wife beat you to it by a week or so, but I've still got two years to go :) It's a bit like Fawlty Towers and the Germans - Don't. Mention. The. Birthday.... I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it.

I just don't feel (nearly) 50. I remember looking at 40-year olds back when I was a student, and thinking them well beyond my ken. Now through a bit of coaching at the University, I'm on the other side of the deal - except the students are willing to talk to me. Maybe we've become less ageist, or maybe I still behave like my late-20s.

Granted, I've lost nearly all of my aerobic fitness, but I'm still hopeful that Rule 1 is a good few decades away. I do get to point at my early-30s work colleague and point out that he's on the long slide downhill now, which is quite fun :)

68:

Happy Birthday!

I hit that milestone later this year myself. I became a grandfather earlier this year. I've been told I don't act like someone who's almost 50 so maybe I've managed to stay young at heart.

On my tombstone I have two thoughts right now:

"Pepperoni" or "They didn't give me a shovel"

69:

I am just anticipating that fast computer simulations and expert systems should lead to more rapid advances in material science, rocketry and cheap energy sufficient to drop the cost of space flight by several orders of magnitude. I think its a reasonable expectation.

Space travel has had a good fifty years of study, and twenty or so of them were extremely well funded. I fail to see what a few more computer simulations are likely to accomplish.

In one of my first jobs, my boss wanted me to use some design of experiments techniques to optimize a process that our factory had been doing for 30 years. I did, and the optimum was what we had been doing for 20 years. Computer techniques can be very useful for quickly finding the optimum for a system, but they're little use if a system has already been optimized the hard way.

70:

Happy birthday, Charlie. May the forces of evil get lost on the way to your house.

71:

Happy 50th! -

Motto/lessons: Stay curious, keep learning/trying, don't be a jerk.

72:

Actually, here's a thought for a headstone:

Wow, this is different.

73:

Tombstone idea: I'd rather be living.

74:

Myself, I've learned three things in my 67 years;
1) If you wear your shoes on different feet on alternate days, it spreads the wear and extends their life;
2) if you put velcro on your internal house doors and disable the handles, it makes going in and out easier when carrying plates;
3) Don't start land wars in Asia.

75:

3) Don't start land wars in Asia.

So, just drone strikes are OK?

76:

I want the same as my Twitter bio:

“Based on a true story [citation needed]”

77:

Happy Birthday!

May your 50th (and indeed every other birthday) be nicer, and less memorable than my fortieth. Food poisoning, to be precise.

I had hoped for gentle EtOH poisoning throughout the day, but had to settle for DHMO. I have avoided work Christmas dinners ever since (my birthday is in the depths of December).

78:

Pity the youth of today. In my distant youth (I'm coming up on 44), there was no Internet, and certainly no Facebook, Twitter or other social media. Back then, I was a brash, boorish twerp lacking in social graces (so much time, so little change!) but I survived, though the memory of what a fool I was did not.

Not so the youth of today! All their lives, their loves, their failings and embarrassing missed jokes, all of it is there on social media. It does not go away; there is no right enshrined in international law that can make these past horrors go away. All their lives, their youthful indiscretions may come back to haunt them.

Poor buggers.

79:

Belated hippo birdie 2 female sheep!

"If others wish you ill, do unto them as they would do unto you, but do it first".

80:

A slightly late (but far from my personal belated-birthday-wishes record) "happy birthday"!

I would suggest that perhaps rule zero should be: "There are exceptions to all rules."

And also to add (at whatever number you wish): "Don't expect tomorrow to be better, but act like it will be."

81:

> "It seems just like yesterday I was 21"

My memory seems to be random-access. I don't remember things in any sequential fashion; a lot of times I remember something vividly, but have trouble placing it +/- five years.

As I've gotten older, I don't feel that I've lived any longer. It's just that "the other day" has become much larger.

82:

> Maybe we've become less ageist, or maybe I
> still behave like my late-20s.

When I was very young, I noticed early that adults were mostly sour and angry. I vowed never to become one. I've mostly avoided (that kind of) adulthood since.

"You have to get older, but you don't have to grow up."

83:

"You have to get older, but you don't have to grow up."

You and me both.

Oh, and the nicest thing anyone said to me at the pub on Saturday? When introduced by a friend, and told which birthday I was celebrating, they looked at me, did a double-take, and asked, "where's the portrait?"

84:

Hi,

Happy Birthday, and thanks for all the entertainment :-)

I think I'd like an entry phone on my grave slab, with a creaky voice that answers querulously : "Yes?" pause "No, I don't think we want any of that, thank you." then sleeps for 20 mins.

85:

Many happy returns!
[Hmm . . . what does that phrase mean, anyway? I hope you get a lot of gifts you can return for what you really want?]

Re low-grade pains, having a bit more time on the clock than you (about six years), my personal theory is that no injury ever ENTIRELY heals, and all those little insults to the body just add up over time. It's nothing a bit of whiskey can't keep at bay, though.

As we used to say in the 1970's, keep on truckin'!

86:

"You have to get older, but you don't have to grow up."

You and me both.

I think (not being a native speaker of English, so bear with me) that growing up can mean many things.

I like being grown up, in the sense of at least trying to be responsible and making an effort of being a good person. Having a nice job, a great family, and good friends is great.

I don't like being the grown-up who doesn't play and thinks only of serious matters. About being grumpy, I think I should be more relaxed and not get angry about stuff I can't influence. I'm too old to be an angry young man anymore and too young to be a good grumpy old man...

I think my parents' and even more my grandparents' generation scoffed at hobbies they thought of childish. My grandparents were young adults during the Second World War, so I can understand why they might have thought differently, but even my parents' generation seems to have a lot of people who don't play any games, read only "serious" literature and so on.

In my bubble I see a lot of people in their thirties and fourties having those childish hobbies. It gets even more pronounced in our children - though I'm not sure if my children will consider larping a way uncool hobby, "something my parents do". Judging by the tabletop rpgs they play, I think not, but I can't be sure.

87:

Happy Birthday. I haven't learned a damned thing, so it'll be the Epicurean lines on my stone. "I was not, I was..."

88:

Belatedly, happy b'day, Charlie, you kid you (i've got some years on you, and am cheerfully a curmudgeon, even though my wife doesn't like that....)

#insert "viking_birthcday_song"

Sometimes, though, you have no control over stress. And even if you want to live a life without caring about *anyone*, and so incurring hostages to fortune, I'll restate your corollary of Rule 1 the way I've always said it: the universe doesn't care about your line in the sand, and won't even notice when it steps over it.

What's left? Live in the day, and don't spend the day doing tomorrow in your head.

mark

89:

First, happy fiftieth, etc. Long may you wave.

From the prospect of a couple decades along, I'd agree with Dick Bruere @7 and several subsequent geezers that at least some grumpiness is rooted in loss of patience with that "same old shit recycled." For some reason this seems to apply especially well to political discussions. Long ago, one of the readers of my disseration, which featured some shiny recent critical-theory technology, remarked, "Oh, I see--that's what Aristotle meant by. . . ." I eventually arrived at a place where I found myself echoing variations on that comment with some frequency.

Addenda:

Measure twice, cut once.

Could be worse. (Minnesota's state motto.)

When in doubt, bite your tongue.

(And eventually:) You can't always trust a fart.

(And two Robert Frost poems: "The Span of Life" and "Provide! Provide!")

90:

I'm 53 and I've worked as a copywriter my entire career, and while I'm growing used to the idea that I won't be able to knock off 10 mile hikes like I used to, the real killer has been the hit on my vocabulary.

I've noticed a disturbing need to stop writing and search my brain for words that would have come freely a decade ago.

Copywriters don't typically need an expansive vocabulary, but even simple words now sometimes require a little dredging. Then there are the moments I open a new browser tab to do something -- then forget what that "something" was.

(Note that I also have 6 and 4 year-old daughters, and that sleep deprivation may be playing a role in all this. At least that's the guilt trip I'm going to lay on them when I'm older.)

91:

I would add a new rule 0, in honor of the visiting commenter whose name starts with 'z'.

Three things in life are inevitable:
Death
Taxes
Space cadet colonization schemes

92:

I'm still freaking out over the idea that there are people who are over 50 who are younger than I am.

93:

I think this will help keep blood pressure down: Hanlon's razor.

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

We don't always know our own motives*, let alone other people's, so if you don't assume the worst in every case then it's probably easier to forgive others.

*Unless you're a psychologist. http://xkcd.com/954/

94:

Don't worry about that whatzit, the word-thing. You know, the where you can't, um, make your brain, uh, oh shit--re-something. Retread? No. Oh, remember. Yeah. It only gets--more badder? Less gooder?

Well, you know what I mean.

95:

Happy birthday.
Fifty's not so bad. Think of it in hex if it feels better.
Tombstone? How about 'behind you'?
Cheers

96:

Belated happy 50th, Charlie! I was a little disappointed when I got to 50,( 17 years ago..) it just felt like any other birthday.. Mind you, once you get to 65 when one is supposed to be 'retiring', it is amazing how much stuff is still out there to be done! It all just takes a bit longer somehow.
Hope you had a good time at the pub, anyway.

97:

Happy Birthday!

As for the epitaph:
"I didn't get where I am today by acting my age"

98:

Happy belated Birthday!

So far as those aches and pains are concerned, I strongly recommend Feldenkrais Method. The idea is that you forget parts of your movement repertoire as time goes on because you only remember what you use. Habit and injuries cause various aspects of movement to be forgotten, but there are repeated gentle movements that will remind you of how you used to move. Somatics by Thomas Hanna is a good introduction.

Also, you have the good fortune to be living in Scotland, where Gary Ward is teaching. His book, What the Foot and maybe an hour's work led to going down stairs becoming easier for me than it's been in five or ten years.

Politics getting odd in Scotaland: Taleb convinced me that psychohistory is *wrong*-- people become less predictable as they become more numerous.

99:

I'm 53 ... (Note that I also have 6 and 4 year-old daughters, and that sleep deprivation may be playing a role in all this. At least that's the guilt trip I'm going to lay on them when I'm older.)

Having kids past your 30th birthday is a real killer.

I had mine when I was 35 and 38. No fun. All nighters are a real kick in the but when you're that old. I can only imagine doing it 10 years later.

100:

Pity the youth of today. In my distant youth (I'm coming up on 44), there was no ...

And we both walked to school.

In the snow.

Up hill.

Both ways.

101:

I see the youth of today all the time. They seem like a bunch of conformist squares who wouldn't know fun if it drove by them at three times the speed limit, laughing. It's a very disappointing feeling to have about the next generation; I'd rather see them break a few rules and get in some trouble.

102:

Happy birthday, and many thanks mein host for the Laundry series.

I'm not one for post mortem vanity products I'm afraid.

You do realise that it's now almost inevitable that you'll end up writing a three volume magnum opus on the human colonisation of mars?

And welcome to the ranks of curmudgeonry :)

103:

You say 'no escape' like it's a bad thing Charlie :)

Speaking as the citizen of a former english penal colony, there's a lot to be said for creating a hell on earth and sending people there. Of course once you're there you might find it's not quite bad enough so you'll have to find a worse place again to send the real hard cases to.

Not enough atmosphere, too much gravity and no magnetosphere… perfect.

104:

This BBC story is a marker for how medicine is changing. Spinal cord damage is appearing to have been partially repaired.

There's going to be a TV report on the 21st October (and that's another sign of a different change, I think) and it does seem to be a landmark. There's just one example, which makes it very early days, but a Polish man who was paralysed by a knife attack is now able to walk again, with a frame. After the treatment there has been a very slow recovery of function, but it is a recovery.

Repairing nerve tissue is one of the big problems, and they have (I can't avoid this) taken the first clear step on a long road.

It's a part of why we can get older.

105:

You know you have grown up when you are actually happy to get a pair of socks for your birthday.

106:

"half the people are below average" is certainly not generally true! Only with some distributions. It is certainly possible that everybody is below average except me. Or that everybody is above average except me.

Perhaps you meant "half the people are below the median" but nobody understands that - certainly not the people below the median.

107:

Reminds of me a similar excursion into colonialism by the Scots

Robert Zubrin (advisor to the Holland 'MarsOne' scheme) reckons a manned Mars mission could be done for $US 6 billion (see 'The Case For Mars') using existing technology . He points out that the use of in-situ resources (utilizing local Martian resources as much as possible rather than transporting it from earth) substantially drops costs, and after the first mission is out of the way, costs start to fall.

Plans for a British space-port have short-listed 8 sites, of which 6 are in Scotland:
http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/jul/15/uk-spaceport-project-launched-tourism-science

Could a modern version of something like the Darian scheme actually work for Scotland today? The Scottish parliament could set up a new organization for 'The Martian scheme' and Scots could sign up for shares in Mars colonization and receive spiffy blue jumpsuits - this could turn out to be a popular new Scottish movement!

Gentlemen, I want to raise a glass and declare:
'To Mars!'

108:

See? Grumpy old man!

Maybe they're slightly less enamoured of overconsumption of alcohol, or more aware of the risks of uncontrolled psychoactive compounds. Maybe the ones you see are students at an expensive university, aware that the days of taking student costs for granted are past...

Or just maybe they're more aware of pervasive photography and more careful to have their fun just out of sight. You know, like we did (although I have a friend who took her pocket camera everywhere, and as a result has a shoebox full of blackmail-grade photographs from our student days).

I haven't noticed any notable successes on the part of the Fun Police (or for that matter the Ministry for the Popagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice) over the last few decades. The Fashion Police have had a few big wins, mind you :)

David@99 - like you, we had our kids in our late thirties (my wife had her fortieth birthday while pregnant). I hadn't anticipated that infantry training would prove so useful - all those skills of sleeping, eating, washing when you can (because you don't know when you'll next get the chance), catnapping absolutely anywhere, taking your "kit" absolutely everywhere, or being shaken awake by someone who points out it's your turn, they're off to sleep now.

Now, a decade on, it's school and impending puberty we worry about. I just hope in another five, I don't have to pull out the "how to persuade the nice policeman that your soldiers are just inoffensive drunks, and the Sergeant Major is about to make their existence truly miserable" skills. Infantry command as a relevant parenting skill, discuss...

109:

Well, being somewhat late to the party again, congrats, many happy returns and may the Schwartz be with you! And a toast to the feeling you won't become as old as the guys and gals half your age doing the party next...

As for things to write on tombstones, what about "you're next!"

110:

Some days, I think I'm lucky that, when I was a teenager, I grew too fast (inches in weeks) and blew out the cartilage in my knees. I had to walk with a cane for a time in my teens, and I've had chronic knee pain ever since.

I'm now in my late 40s, and the chronic pain everyone describes is indeed there, but it's just like a less intense version of what I've been used to for almost all of my life is simply more distributed now. Nothing I can't cope with -- nothing I haven't *been* coping with for over 30 years.

I wonder if that's part of why I get more cheerful as I age.

(It's not all good, though. Didn't need glasses or have my first cavity until around the age of 40, and now I've got presbyopia and fillings. Still not used to those changes yet.)

111:

taking your "kit" absolutely everywhere,

You'll appreciate this. My wife works for a major US airline. Over 15 years of that in a reservations call center with lots of time dealing with baggage calls.

Several times a week they'd field a call from someone saying their flight was delayed and all their diapers and baby food was in their checked luggage and what was she going to do for them. The unspoken thought was to revoke their license to be a parent. I mean how could you have a baby and get through the first few months and not learn to have over your shoulder 5 or more diapers, food for at least 1/2 a day if not more. TWO complete changes of clothes. For the baby. A spare shirt or two for you. Towels, wipes, small trash bags, etc... And so on.

And yet people would check EVERYTHING into their luggage and not carry on any of it. Unbelievable.

As to your comment about sleeping anywhere anytime. Totally. Plus the ability to out of bed up at 4 AM, change a diaper, go back to bed, and never really wake up such that you literally have no memory of the night's events except for the debris pile the next morning.

112:

You beat me to it on the average vs median issue...

The classic example is that almost everybody has more than the average (for your species) number of legs.

And happy birthday, Charlie!

113:

At 54 my corollary to Rule 3 is "Try to be less of a dick than you were yesterday"

Although ignoring Rule 2 tends to increase your dickishness. You'll live a much happier life if you try not to be an mean or annoying dick to the people around you.

114:

Another Tombstone epitaph:

"Soon be your turn to find out."

115:

Happy 50. Exercise will certainly make the stay here on planet earth more enjoyable. And if you look hard at most people you will find they are all still eight years old. I think this confirms we really are machines and consciousness was an illusion from day one to day last.

116:

> revoke their license to be a parent.

If only...

A lot of places, you have to have a license to keep a dog, but all you need are functioning genitalia to be a parent.

117:

My other tomb is a pyramid.

118:

Here lies Atropos.
In death, as in life,
Late.

119:

Of all unlikely sources, Billy Joel (Christie Brinkley's ex), said something genuinely profound on a recent PBS show about the boomer generation: "You gotta keep your mind occupied or it'll occupy YOU, that's where you got a problem."

120:

Taking that off on a tangent, I keep wondering what would useful to bury in one's grave, on the assumption that, when it's dug up centuries or ideally millennia from now, it will blow the discoverer's brains. I'm thinking here about the equivalent of the Antikythera mechanism, which demonstrated that the ancient Alexandrians (or whoever) had enough math and engineering skill, even without zeroes, to build an analog computer.

Suggestions? Right now, I'm thinking about something like a miniature Clock of the Long Now, but bronze (or perhaps aluminum) plaques that had some cool science laser etched into them are a close second. Perhaps the cladists' Tree of Life? Or an etching of an astronaut on the moon, Earth rising behind him?

After all, tombstones only last a few thousand years if you're lucky. Hiding something profound in the grave as a deep future time capsule might be a lot more fun. Or, if you don't have a cool gravesite, cache it somewhere.

121:

Seems like only yesterday that 16-year-olds were older women.

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