Wrapping up

(I have a ton of gifts to wrap, so this is what I’m going to do instead.)

We’re almost to the end of another year, and this one has been a ride. Lots of ups and downs, in both the literal and figurative senses, which seems appropriate. After all, I went into 2022 thinking it was the last full year I’d live, so why not go out with a bang?

Twelve months later…I’m not sure of anything anymore. In some ways, the few good things that have happened in my life have made it worse. Stasis is death, and I was dying. Now I’m living, but it’s hard to start that when you’ve waited until you’re almost 40. Part of me wants to get things done. Another part wants me to turn my back on all of it. I want to give of myself, yet I also want time for myself. It’s a battle most people deal with years, if not decades, before where I am now, but age doesn’t always bring wisdom.

Still, I set goals for myself, and I think it’s a good time to look at how I’ve fared with them. Then, I’m going to set a few more for 2023.

The Great Works

I put forth my four Great Works at the beginning of the year, and I would say that I accomplished most of them.

First, Alana, the site I’m building for my “real” job, is coming along. It’s hit a few roadblocks here and there, and my dev team (such as it is) is perpetually understaffed for the tasks we’ve been given. Despite that, it’s a real site, and it has real users. If there’s any one problem I can see, it’s that the roadmap has far too many items on it, and there’s very little rhyme or reason to them. The perils of having a boss with ADHD.

Second, I spent a lot of time early in the year working on Technetism. In the past few months, I’ve backed off a little bit. That’s because I feel that the philosophy is sketched out now, and it just needs some literature and a few adherents. We’ll get to it, but I can truly say that I have created a school of thought that reflects my view of the world. The rest is just filling in the gaps.

Third, I ran for office. Okay, I didn’t have much of a campaign, and my opponent even claimed I had dropped out of the race the week before the election, but my name was on the ballot. People talked to me, talked about me. My name was on the tickers at the bottom of all three local networks. Best of all, my mere presence forced my opponent to campaign, something she hasn’t had to do in a decade. I came away with 28% of the vote just by offering a choice. If I can do it, there’s hope for everyone.

Last of all, I have to admit that I mostly gave up on Iconic. It has notes and a rough outline of where I want to go, but I just couldn’t put in the effort. I still believe that visual communication is a noble goal, that METI should be pursued, and that there is someone out there waiting for our call. If I have time in 2023, I may even pick up the project again. For now, this has to stand as the one true failure of the Great Works, but it was always the long shot.

Next up

Of the few goals I have in mind for next year, only a couple are really relevant to PPC.

Foremost among these is The Prison of Ignorance. I need to go back and edit the book, adding what I’ve learned about technetism through its development. I’ll also have to slap on a preface, an afterword, and all that. Other than those trivial minutiae, my first nonfiction philosophical tract isn’t too far away from completion. So let’s get it done.

Getting into philosophy and politics has also rekindled my interest in history and the things that make our Western civilization the greatest that has ever existed. To that end, I plan to read at least 12 of the so-called Great Books. This is a list of over 300 of the most influential works humanity has ever produced, and I regret to say that I’ve only truly read a small fraction of those. I plan to fix that.

I haven’t done much writing at all this year, so I also want to rectify that situation in 2023. I’d like to get On the Stellar Sea finished in draft form, as well as Pitch Shift. (That will be the first book I’ve ever written where I’ve actually visited the setting! Can you believe that?) Releasing Homeward From Afar is on my to-do list, as well as putting as many of my books as possible on a store besides Amazon.

On the development front, I’ve recently had an itch that I can only scratch by going back to Pixeme. This was a project I started a few years ago, and even built out quite a bit, but never released. The gist is that it’s a site to help people learn languages by using pictures. I’ve refined the concept, my job has given me more experience working on bigger apps, and now I want to see if I can build something.

And that’s pretty much it. Sure, those aren’t the life-changing goals I’d attempted this year, but my life has changed enough as it is. For the time being, I’d like some stability. Evolution, not revolution. Above all, that’s what I ask of 2023.

The Great Works: Update

Before this year started, I set myself four goals, four Great Works, for 2022. I did this mainly because, in my depressed state, I didn’t expect to see another full year after this one, and…I wanted to have something to leave behind as a legacy, something that others could look at after I’m gone.

This Monday’s post should explain why I don’t feel as hopeless as back in December, but it’s worth it to take a look at those works and how they’re progressing.

The First Work

Alana is the biggest winner in my great works. That’s because, no matter how I feel, I still roll out of bed every weekday morning for work. I’ve sometimes hated myself for doing it. I’ve started most days wondering if I would be fired for my inadequate performance. But I didn’t stop.

We’re not ready for launch yet, but we’re definitely in a beta state. Now, part of the reason why we’re so far behind (the original deadline was last September!) is because of scope creep: instead of the simple “dating site for car-buyers” my boss envisioned, we’re practically building a whole new social platform. Lucky for me, I’ve tried doing exactly that on no fewer than three occasions. (Themis, Pixeme, and Clave, in case you’re wondering. I want to revisit the second of those eventually.)

The team has expanded, too. I’m working with an actual designer. I have a front-end developer to handle all the things I’ve never really been good at. We’re ready to hire more of each. There’s a QA team, a security consultant, and too many marketing types waiting in the wings. Best of all, we’ve been getting hits from the sales pitches on both the consumer and business sides.

I’m never more than cautiously optimistic about anything I’m doing. Anyone who has followed me on here the past seven years understands that. With this project, I feel as good as I dare.

The Second Work

No matter what happens, I am on the ballot in November. The deadline for removing myself has just passed, so I’ll be listed as the sole challenger to a Republican seeking her 5th term.

The thing is, I don’t want to do it. The whole point was to get a platform for some of the things I felt Tennessee really needed: anti-lockdown measures, a ban on mask and vaccine mandates, school choice, constitutional carry, and so on. While the incumbent doesn’t support all of those, her colleagues in the General Assembly have done an admirable job dragging our state toward greater liberty without her…or me.

I can’t handle the publicity, the crowds, the interviews. I’d rather not have to. This was never more than an excuse to say I’d done it, and a way to tell those who are better suited for office that anybody can do it. So I’m on the ballot, and thus I consider the second Great Work complete. I’m content with that.

The Third Work

Technetism exists. It’s a real, valid philosophy that attempts to return to the roots of humanism, before the term was hijacked by nihilists. There’s a website that I haven’t updated in months, but also a Substack column I write weekly.

You can check it out over in the sidebar (or the menu, if you’re on mobile) to see what I’ve been writing. The gist of it, though, is that technetism is about finding your own path to personal betterment. Whether that comes from religion, politics, community, meditation, or whatever, it’s your choice. Your duty.

Since working out the tenets of the philosophy, I’ve tried my best to live up to them. I seek out knowledge, as I always have, and I’m willing to share it with others. I eschew dogma; more and more people are doing that every day now. And it really does help. Maybe it’s not great for alleviating depression and anxiety, but it does solve the problem of a lack of purpose, something I’ve suffered for almost as long.

I will continue to explore technetism in as many venues as possible, and I still want to get The Prison of Ignorance released by the end of this year. Even without it, however, I’ll consider the third Great Work to be achieved. Not finished, because something like this is never truly done.

The Fourth Work

The idea of extraterrestrial communication had mostly left my mind for a few months. I worked a little on the “beacon” message I described initially, which I’ve since named ICONIC, but that’s about it. This week’s first-light images from the JWST have now made me want to go back to the project.

A message for aliens has to start at the beginning. First, you need a way to establish that you’re intelligent, that your message is more than just the random noise of stars and quasars and whatnot. This is done through patterns, repetition, and structure.

I have that done. Drawing on sources such as Cosmic OS and Contact, I’ve devised a simple sequencing pattern that works to give any listener a good picture of what we’re sending. From there, I started work on a section introducing basic arithmetic—aliens intelligent enough to receive the message would obviously know this already, but it provides a basis for further communication.

That further communication is where I stopped. Next on the list would be simple algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. These would complete the math “chapter” of the message, allowing me to move on to physics and chemistry. Following those would be biology, I think, and then a simple language based on the concept of semantic primes, a kind of universal meta-language. (I like to think I’m good at creating languages. I’ve been doing it for more than half my life, after all.)


So the fourth work is also the one farthest from completion. Two of the others are basically done, and the last—first—is well on its way. That’s…not quite the outcome I expected when I laid out the initial plan.

Of course, a lot has changed since then. Leslie and I got back together, and now we’re making plans of our own, plans that don’t abruptly end next October. My job is steady and stable, at least for the time being. My family is recovering from the trauma of the past few years. The world is still no better, but circumstances have made it possible for me to look beyond some of the sore spots.

But you know me. I’ve spent so long at the bottom that it’s hard to look up. And…I don’t want to fall back down again. I’ve worked too hard, on these and on so many other things. It’d be nice to win for a change.

Situation report

At the end of last year, I stated that I would spend 2022 on four Great Works. We’re about a quarter of the way through, so this is an update on where I stand in terms of both progress and the mental state that led me to make the original post.

The First Work

I’ve been on the job for almost a full year now, and I still wake up every morning wondering if this will be the day I get fired. So far, that hasn’t happened, and I’m amazed.

In the past three months, I’ve been toiling away at the “Alana” project, and it has finally begun to take shape. Instead of being a lone developer, I’m now the manager of a team that includes a second developer for the front-end, two designers, and a marketing team I have yet to meet. The site is getting built, and that’s largely because of me. However, if—and I stress “if” here—we make our launch date of April 26, it’ll be because everyone did their part.

This whole thing has been less a test of my abilities as a programmer, which I’ve honed over the past 30 years, than a test of me as a person. I’m not a manager. I never wanted to be. I’d rather just write code, but I don’t have that option in this case. And the code I am writing, in this case, is fairly straightforward. Probably the most invention I’ve done is actually in server configuration, of all things.

The Second Work

For the second work, I have until April 7 to submit my petition to be on the ballot. I’ve already launched my campaign site, though it’s still very much a work in progress. I also need to do all the legal necessities of running a campaign, like finance reports, and logistical things like getting signs.

I’m running as an independent, because I believe that political parties are the bane of liberty. That said, an independent representative will likely have to show support for one of the two sides to gain any traction. For me, there’s only one realistic option. A few years ago, I’d say you were crazy if you claimed that I’d find common cause with the Republican Party on anything, but they’re marginally less insane than the Democrats these days, and the people who actually do want a better future have joined their ranks. Therefore, if elected, I see no other choice than to caucus with the right side of the aisle.

Of course, that assumes I have a chance at getting elected at all, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility. There is no Democrat candidate for House District 27, and no other independents have announced their intent to run. It would be a two-way race, but the incumbent is very much a “traditional” Republican: big business, big corruption, and nothing for the masses. My district includes a lot of rural and suburban people who are crying out for a populist candidate to represent them in Nashville. All the pieces are there. I just have to find a way to put them together.

The Third Work

My spiritual journey continues in fits and starts. I started The Weekly Technetic in January, and I’ve managed to keep it going at one post per week since. Those posts aren’t as long as some of the ones here at PPC, but I think they’re very…on point. They let me explore my thoughts in a way I really haven’t in a long time, and that has helped.

I still have big plans for technetism in 2022. I want first to flesh out the remaining areas where I feel it’s weakest, then find like-minded people who would be willing to share in the wisdom I truly believe I’ve stumbled upon. I also plan to finish, edit, and publish The Prison of Ignorance, so that some of this wisdom might outlive me.

The Fourth Work

Last on the list is ICONIC, which didn’t even have a name in the original post. Basically, the idea is to design a method of visual communication that can be sent to, and understood by, a hypothetical extraterrestrial species.

I have a rough sketch of the contents of a primer. First (and the only part I’ve actually written down thus far) is a mathematical introduction, defining symbols for numerals and the basic arithmetic operations. This alone would provide multiple facts about humans: that we are sapient, that we understand mathematics, that we have a positional number system of base 10, and so on.

Next comes a more thorough dive into math. Following that are definitions of chemistry, physics, and biology. All of these are intended to be self-contained and self-sustaining: at any point, a statement must depend only on what has come before. Like many other SETI enthusiasts, I begin with the hard sciences because they are the most universal.

Once I’m done with those, however, it gets much more difficult. I want to draw on my 20+ years of conlang design experience to create a kind of visual lingua franca. By illustrating and defining the concepts most vital to human communication, I believe we can devise a means to “talk” to another advanced species about most topics. It would be very rudimentary conversation in most cases, but that’s a start that most experts in the field don’t even consider possible.

The situation

In three months, I’ve made progress on all four of the Great Works. I’m glad I have. I finally feel like I’m doing something again, instead of merely waiting on things to happen. I even have a few side projects on top of these, like On the Stellar Sea, the Noctis OS, and a series of programming tutorials I really want to write.

The darker side of my original post, on the other hand, continues to gnaw at me. I still believe my days are numbered, and that the number is much lower than anyone expects. With each passing week, the world grows closer and closer to an all-out collapse. Forces beyond my control have more power over my life than I do. All along, that has been the source of my depression, and it will continue to affect me as long as I live.

In a sense, the Great Works were meant to substitute for the true life goals I felt were no longer achievable three months ago. They’re a pale imitation, I’ll admit, but they were all I had left. They were intended as a swansong, a last chance to make my mark on a world that couldn’t care less. I would like to believe that’s no longer the case.

But you know me. I’m not a believer. I need proof.

The great works

As I have stated, 2022 will be, in all likelihood, the last full year I’ll get to see. Thus, it may be my last chance to plan for something that could take a whole year.

I want to leave something behind, some proof that I created more than I destroyed. I want to make something that will outlive me. Since the most obvious and most honorable method of securing a man’s legacy is denied to me, I had to find something else. The end result is this: four Great Works.

These are longer-term projects that, in my opinion, have the best chance of enduring not only after 2022, but after I’m gone from this earth. They’re not easy. They’re not simple. And that’s the whole point.

The First Work

First among the works is the one I’m doing for, well, work. The platform is called Alana, named after my boss’s newborn daughter, Basically, think of it as a social network for car owners and buyers. You sign up through your local dealership or an invitation, and the first step is a kind of personality profile, the same as you’d find on, say, a dating site. After that, you get a set of vehicle models best matching your profile, and you get to like or dislike each of them until you’re left with only a few “top” matches. Then, you get to see actual inventory, and possibly even buy a new car online, if you’re so inclined.

That’s the gist of it. In truth, there are a lot of other things going on behind the scenes. And the list keeps on growing, because Brandon (the CEO) is at least my equal when it comes to off-the-wall ideas. But that’s one of the things I like most about him. That, and how he’s the kind of person who always encourages everyone around him to be their best. (He’s part of the reason why I consider my expiration date to be in the future, rather than the present.)

Alana could take forever. It’s open-ended, and there’s always something new to add. I’ve been working at it for over 2 months now, and I sometimes feel that I’ve made no progress whatsoever. Some of that comes from the very…fluid requirements of the project. Some stems from my lack of self-esteem. Beyond those, however, it’s just big. It’s the biggest software project I’ve ever developed, and the development is, for the time being, a one-man show.

If I can get this thing launched, and get all the main features working, I’ll consider it a success. Sure, I’d like it to go viral and become the Facebook/Instagram/Tinder/whatever of cars, but I’ll be happy just knowing that people are using it, that someone, somewhere, found exactly what they were looking for because of me.

The Second Work

I’ve already launched this one, but it needs far more content, and the “real” thing can’t start until 2022. To put it simply: I’m running for office. Specifically, I intend to be on the ballot for the Tennessee State House of Representatives, 27th District in the 2022 general election.

I’m an independent. I don’t want celebrity endorsements or help from PACs. In fact, I’d reject both of those without a second thought. What I want is to see this state (and, ideally, this country, but let’s start small) get back on the right track.

Tennessee has been leading the pack in a lot of good ways recently. We passed one of the toughest anti-SLAPP laws in the nation a few years back, allowing people to speak freely, without fear of lawsuits designed only to bankrupt them. In 2021, we outlawed the teaching in schools of Critical Race Theory, the anti-American and anti-Enlightenment doctrine that is so prevalent in the US today. We returned to Constitutional Carry, meaning that the 2nd Amendment actually exists here again. And only a few weeks ago, our governor signed into law a statewide ban on vaccine mandates, including the enforcement of federal mandates within the state.

Those are all great. They make Tennessee a shining beacon of liberty in a world plagued by tyranny. But I think we can do even better. I also think today’s partisan politics won’t let that happen, so that’s why I’m throwing my hat into the ring. If nothing else, I can set a better example through my words and actions.

The Third Work

Setting a better example is behind the third work, as well. Here, it’s not so much a political system as a philosophical one. I’ve mentioned “technetism” a few times in recent months, but I want to flesh out the concept in 2022.

At its core, technetism is nothing more than humanism divorced from the atheistic additions it has gathered. It’s almost impossible to find Christian humanists these days, but it’s certainly possible, in my view, to be a Christian technetist. The same goes for, say, Islam or Buddhism. Or even atheism, really. All that matters is that you see humanity as something to preserve, rather than destroy.

I have actually written a 20,000-word introductory monograph, called The Prison of Ignorance, which I would like to edit and publish in 2022. This, as I see it, becomes the first step in creating the “technetic” school of thought. There will also be an accompanying site, where I’ll talk in more depth about what the philosophy is, what it means, and how others can become a part of it. (In my wildest dreams, there’s even a technetism podcast. I’d planned to start that all the way back in April, but…well, you know.)

The Fourth Work

When I came up with the idea of Great Works, I promised myself that I wouldn’t include any of my books. There are too many of those, and they just aren’t great enough. Or that’s how I see it. None of my novels will ever be classics in the sense of Lord of the Rings or Ender’s Game. They won’t get turned into TV shows like The Expanse, much as I would love for that to happen. Except for the handful of extant copies, most of my stories will vanish once I’m gone, so I needed something else.

Well, there is something I could do. The Orphans of the Stars series has taken a turn in its fifth installment, and it has led me down the digression of SETI. Writing about humanity’s first (known) contact with an advanced alien species made me wonder what that would really be like. Not just the questions of what they look like, what they eat, and whether they would wonder the same about us, but the communication aspect. How do we communicate with people who aren’t even human?

I’ve been learning about that recently, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s possible, and in a way that so many of the “universal” messages don’t take into account. Most of those tend to focus on only one part of communication, one branch of knowledge. They’re fixated on math and physics, for example, or they worry too much about creating a functionally perfect system that ends up being useless for conveying information.

What we need is an interdisciplinary approach, something that combines mathematics and the hard sciences with linguistic, psychological, and even anthropological knowledge to create a more well-rounded method of communication. Something that represents human beings above all, emphasizing our intelligence and sentience while not getting bogged down in proving it.

I know it sounds crazy, but I’m willing to call that the fourth and final Great Work of 2022. Nothing in the world—nothing I can realistically achieve, rather—would make me happier than the knowledge that something I created has become an ambassador for mankind. And everyone needs a quixotic quest. Everyone needs a windmill to tilt at.

This can be mine, because I’ve spent 38 years reaching for things I can’t have, fantasizing about futures that will never be, wishing I could touch the stars in some way. There’s nobody better to try it, if you ask me.

What’s left of me

(Avantasia again, but now taken from The Mystery of Time, an epic of an album in scope and confusion.)

We’re coming to the end of another year. This one has been rough. Maybe not quite as bad as 2020, but it’s pretty close. We still dwell within the dystopia of a false pandemic, now with the added bonus of the powers that be attempting to force a harmful, useless, and potentially deadly drug down our throats. (Or, if you prefer, into our arms.) Tennessee has begun to stand as a small beacon of hope in a darkened world, which might be the only positive thing going at the moment.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about mortality, specifically my own. It’s not that I’m old (38 isn’t even middle-aged, is it?) or that I’m scared of the bioweapon that kills 1 out of every 1000 or so. I don’t fear for my life. I just don’t see it lasting too much longer.

It looks as though I have everything arrayed against me. Although this state has taken a tentative step forward in barring public functions and private businesses from requiring the so-called vaccine, there’s nothing stopping them from reneging on that pledge of liberty. Add in an economy spiraling down, indeed put into a nosedive by those in control, and the stress of working a job that relies on cars being, you know, a thing, and I don’t see a lot of wiggle room. Literally everything has to go right for me to even have a chance to tread water. Advancing just doesn’t seem possible from where I sit.

Part of that is mental, I know. Depression colors my thoughts at all times now, but a rational breakdown of those thoughts will show that not all of them can be attributed to the darkness clouding my mind. Our world really is in bad shape. We’re beset by demons, though of the metaphorical sort—you can’t make me believe the literal ones exist.

My worldview relies on that rationality. It relies on the notion that a person’s value is proportional to that which they create in humanity as a whole, that creators are inherently more beneficial for our species than destroyers, and that they will be rewarded as such. Most of all, it takes as axiomatic the idea that the single most human act is the creation of another.

If I can’t do that, I might as well not even live, because what am I contributing?

This is not a suicide note. It is a simple statement of fact, of my sincere beliefs. I don’t intend those beliefs to cover anyone but myself. This is how I view my continued existence, rather than a general judgment. I would hope that others recognize the value of it and see it in a positive light, finding ways to incorporate the essence of it into their own system of the world, but I am content to hold it in isolation if necessary.

I accept my position and its consequences. To that end, I now view the coming year, 2022, as a final chance to put certain things in order. Most importantly, I want to take those twelve months to create…something big. Many things, rather, things that will outlive me. If my lineage will not survive, maybe my legacy can.

One legacy may come from employment. The project I’ve been working on these past two months has the potential to become a viral sensation. Even if it doesn’t, it will most likely provide a strong base for future projects in the same vein, and a platform that can endure. Although I have not once thought I was worthy of bringing it to market, I would be happy to put my name on the finished product.

The second is far more personal. I want to take time in 2022 to develop my philosophy of “technetism” for two reasons. First, I do believe it is beneficial as a whole, and will inspire others to think of the world and themselves in a better light. Second, I hope it can do the same for me. Spiritualism in any sense has never worked for me, despite decades of trying, so I don’t see many other options. As always, the only course I feel is open to me is going it alone.

The third on the list comes from a longtime hobby of mine. As I’ve repeatedly stated on PPC, I got into fantasy writing in part because of my hobby of language construction. In the 20+ years I’ve been tinkering with my own linguistic creations, I’ve expanded into related fields, and I want to do something big in that vein. I’m not sure what that is just yet, but I have a few ideas I’m going to explore in December. If I come up with anything, I’ll be sure to let my readers (do I even have readers?) know.

The writing itself comes in fourth on the list. I regret that I probably won’t be able to finish Orphans of the Stars, Otherworld, The Hidden Hills, The Occupation Trilogy, Endless Forms, or even Modern Minds. Honestly, I doubt I could finish them all even if I lived forever. But I would like to leave enough behind that others are inspired, and maybe a talented author could complete what I left incomplete.

These are the things I want to do. Not all of them, mind you. Many goals I would like to reach are no longer possible. Many avenues have been closed off. Thus, I take what I can get and ask for no more, because no amount of asking, begging, or pleading has ever gotten me anywhere. The items I listed are, to me, the bare minimum that I feel I need to complete before calling my life well-lived.

Those four hopes are, in a sense, all that’s left of me.