Paint, dice, random
Lately I've been taking care of a few house chores, basically a chain-reaction from last year's renovation
of the back yard and fence. (Pride has a way of spreading!
) Clearing out the storage room, planing sticky doors, vinegaring the refrigerator, screwing down a bent piece of siding, replacing latches on kitchen cabinets. This week I finally redid a 'temporary' jury-rig that had been in place since 1991. To insure privacy and darkness in the bedroom, I had ductaped cardboard over the window glass, then ductaped a windowshade over the cardboard. Over the years the ductape had slipped and the cardboard had gathered dust and moisture, so it looked awful even behind venetian blinds.
Since I've switched to Old People's Time
I no longer need to block the sun in the morning. In every season I'm up at least two hours before sunrise. So I decided to remove the cardboard and paint the glass. The result turned out nicely; bedroom is still private but now it's normally illuminated instead of cave-like. Feels better that way, probably saves a few pennies on electricity.
But I underestimated the power of the paint vapor; even with full ventilation it made me feel dull and weird for a couple days. Now it's cleared out, with no lingering ill effects. (The underestimation is another young-old change. Back in high school I spent a summer working on a paint crew, breathing the stuff every day, and it didn't affect me at all. Stupidly assumed that 62 would be the same as 18. It's not.)
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A local newspaper columnist runs a nice daily column on words. Today's word was conjecture,
which led me to write a comment that pulled my brain out of the paint-induced dullness.
The comment was pretty much a blog entry, so might as well put it in the blog.
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The idea of throwing bird bones, or throwing dice or yarrow stalks, or flipping a coin... It’s the oldest form of randomization. When the object leaves your hand, it becomes subject to all sorts of influences.
If you’re purely secular, you can think about air currents, slight imperfections in the surface, magnetic and electrostatic pulls, and the vector components of the spin imparted by your fingers. There’s no way to know all of these, so there’s no way to predict their effect.
If you’re not purely secular, you can see the brief time between hand and ground as a time when the gods can influence the coin, an interval when you’re loosening the hold of reality to ask the gods a question.
Either way, the coin or bone has left the zone of total control for a while and passed through a zone of mystery before it gets observed.