About Dane Mutters

I'm smart and cantankerous. I think in ways that are typically considered unusual. Everything else probably follows from there.

A Possible Origin Of The Vampire Myth


Vampire mythology goes back to at least the 12th century (Serbia), according to what written records have survived. It’s likely that verbal versions of the legend extend much farther back. What could the origin be?
 
In the middle ages, vampirism, witchcraft, and other tales were believed to be the explanation for plagues. One person would get sick and die, and their “curse” would kill their families and friends. However, this was not the origin of the vampire myth.
 
Before that, there were legends of people who would feed on the flesh and blood of others. These were referred to as vampires (by various names), and many myths were created around them. I wonder if this is the true origin of the vampire myth.
 
In more primitive times, when food was scarce, one survival strategy would have been to find people who were surviving and use them as a supplemental (or sole) source of nourishment. Agronomistic societies–those who farm and organize into settlements/towns/cities–would have been likely targets. A human predator would have used the blackness of night to stumble into town, find a victim, kill them, and–wasting nothing, including blood–get what nourishment they could. Sometimes, another person would have interrupted the act and found the predator first drinking blood from the dying victim, either as a meal in itself, or as a precursor for further predation.
 
In ancient legends, vampires were commonly female. A woman who was alone and not part of a settlement, at a time when physical strength was paramount to individual survival would have been at particular risk of starvation, and more likely to attempt such a desperate act. Since such a person would likely not be able to overpower a healthier, better-fed man in a fight, seduction would have been a primary means of initially pacifying a potential victim.
 
A person who fed in such a fashion would be sickly, as there are not only pathogens to be contracted via the consumption of human flesh; but someone who subsists largely on a diet of probably-skinny humans will become severely malnourished, in time, as a result of protein poisoning. A sickly pallor, a slow heart rate, and other symptoms would have given rise to the classical appearance of vampires.
 
I submit that the origin of the vampire myth is cannibalism, primarily as a result of food scarcity.
 
 
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How Much Faster Can You Get There By Speeding?


Bad drivers roam in tailgating packs that form as a result of impatience and stupidity.  –Dane Mutters

Today, I’ll be examining how much faster a person can get to their destination by going 10 or 20 miles per hour over the speed limit.  Notably, people who try to go much faster than the speed limit typically do so by weaving in and out of traffic, passing on the right/shoulder, tailgating (which doesn’t actually work, and is the most common and preventable cause of accidents), and other highly questionable maneuvers.  While much has been written on this topic (including in your state’s driver’s handbook), few people have taken the time to do the math for how much faster a person can actually arrive at a destination by speeding.  Below is such an analysis

For a 50 mile journey:

65miles/hr = 65miles/1hr
50miles / 65miles/1hr = .769hrs
.769hrs * 60minutes/1hr = 46 minutes at 65mph
So, it takes 46 minutes to travel 50 miles at 65mph.

75miles/hr = 75miles/1hr
50miles / 75miles/1hr = .666hrs
.666hrs * 60minutes/1hr = 40 minutes at 60mph
So, it takes 40 minutes to travel 50 miles at 75mph. Note that the extra 10mph only got you an extra 6 minutes, relative to traveling at 65mph

85miles/hr = 85miles/1hr
50miles / 85miles/1hr = .588hrs
.588hrs * 60minutes/1hr = 35 minutes at 85mph
So, it takes 35 minutes to travel 50 miles at 85mph. Note that the extra 10mph only got you an extra 5 minutes, relative to traveling at 75mph. As you increase speed, your gains in time saved will continue to decrease, relative to the previous 10mph speed.  In other words, the progression is not linear, and increased speed over a given distance will net diminishing returns.

So, to arrive at your destination 11 minutes sooner, on a 50 mile journey, you have to go 20mph faster than the speed limit. Not only is that dangerous, but it constitutes “reckless driving”, which is punishable by a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail, in California, not including the speeding ticket you’ll also get.

Now, let’s look the data for how survivable an accident is at 65mph vs. 85mph. According to the department of transportation (see link, below), at 85mph, you have a nearly 100% chance of killing at least one person if you get into an accident. Additionally, your risk of causing an accident dramatically increases at that speed.

So, is it a smart gamble to risk your life and the lives of everyone around you to get to your destination 6-11 minutes faster? Are you qualified to make that decision for someone else who is on the road with you? No.

Slow down, drive safely, be patient, and wait for a good opportunity to pass. No matter how slowly the person in the leftmost lane is driving, they can’t “force” you to do something reckless; that’s your decision, and it isn’t a smart one to make.  The math and physics don’t lie.

http://nacto.org/docs/usdg/relationship_between_speed_risk_fatal_injury_pedestrians_and_car_occupants_richards.pdf

Flirt


She’s buying watermelons, and I’m trying not to think about crass pickup lines
–No matter how funny they would be.
So, I’m looking at the asparagus and thinking simultaneously about how I want to cook those ribeyes I bought, and whether asparagus is the side I want to go with them;
Meanwhile, the other aspects of my masculinity chime in, suggesting that I really should go over and talk to this girl.

She has brown, almost hazel eyes, and I like the quirky upturn at the corners of her mouth, which could indicate:
One, that she has a clever, wry sense of humor; or
Two, that she’s too stupid or crazy to know that it isn’t always appropriate to smile.
I try to talk myself out of approaching her, out of some sense of assumed pickiness;
But really, it’s because I’m just feeling insecure.

She has a pimple on the right side of her forehead that looks like it’s been there for a while.
Her hair is loose, like she doesn’t know how to use a hair-tie, but tried to, anyway.
Her basket is full of “organic” produce, which proves that she doesn’t actually know anything about what constitutes “organic” produce. She must be ignorant.
Maybe malnourishment is what’s causing her skin condition.

Then, she goes over to the Red Box, while I’m still stupidly pondering over which bunch of rubber-banded asparagus to buy, or whether to give up on it and buy broccoli, instead, or whether to get the asparagus and some lemon to go with it…that would be good with the Himalayan salt I bought from a different store…
And she’s looking at Arrival.

My heart leaps, because that might mean that she has some grasp of the sociological expositions displayed in the film, regarding innate xenophobia in a nation full of immigrants.
Perhaps she also likes science fiction that’s about philosophy, instead of special effects. Yes! I’ve met my bride-to-be!

Then, out of the corner of my lemon-filled field of view, I see the colors on the screen shift from silver to red and blue. Must be that new Marvel movie.
I like Marvel movies, because they involve some really neat special effects (forget what I said, above), and plenty of blowing stuff up.
And how cerebral they are…obviously.
OK, that could work.

Maybe I’m just horny.
Well, yeah, but it would be nice to meet someone with assets above the shoulders, too.
I guess her below-the-shoulders assets aren’t that bad.

So, I’ve picked out my asparagus and lemons, and I’m really sure I’m ready to talk to her, at which point I realize that I also need to get some red wine to compete the meal.
I mean, if I’m going to have a nice dinner with a pretty and intelligent woman (pretty despite the zit and bad hair day…I mean, I’m not that shallow, right?), I should at least have a nice bottle of wine to share with her.
Besides, she’s not done paying for her movie, and probably also wants to buy something other than organic produce and the chic flick she finally picked out.

So, I go over and pick out a $10 bottle of wine, because I’m classy like that. Yep, no Rex Goliath, this time, even though it’s actually pretty good.

I walk over to the checkout stand, and as it’s time to insert my awkward new chip-card, she’s entering the back of the line at the next stand over. She really is pretty, now that I’m not focusing on the overpriced vegetables.

I absent-mindedly tell the clerk to have a nice day, and then realize that it would be awkward to stand around for two minutes waiting for her to be done checking out.

Well, there’s always next time, and at least I have a nice dinner.

 

Dane Mutters, 2017

The Safe-Cracker’s Puzzle


By Dane Mutters
2016

She is locked in a wooden safe, with the handle on the inside.
The dial on the outside spins
To the
Click
Click
Tick
Of a safe-cracker’s twitch.

His wrist is stoically poised,
The back of his hand just outside of his vision;
His fingers twist one way, as his thumb tilts to the other.
The safe clicks and ticks, but doesn’t open.

This safe is a custom build that nobody has been able to crack.
Though wooden on the outside, it is petrified to the hardness of steel.
The woman inside has a demur smile as she quickly opens the door to other pursuant safe-crackers,
Allowing them a timid peek at who lounges within,
Before slamming the door shut, again.

They are left with dreams of twinkling eyes and a sunrise behind swaying brown vines.

But for this safe-cracker, she leaves the door wide open until he approaches near.
As he smiles, she smiles and closes the door an inch.
As his footsteps echo upon the marble floor, she closes it another two.
Before he can offer his hand, the door is closed, so he walks away.
This safe-cracker is no fool.

…But after years of dreaming, he can’t resist the call of the safe that has never been cracked.
More than a Browning safe, with its floral design near its base, and proud name at its top;
Or a stoically red Amethyst safe with a single, tantalizing, golden handle;
This safe sings his praise, and promises secret riches of beating rubies, dripping pearls, and adorning diamonds.

For a long time, he stood far away, remembering the click of the closing door.
He cracked other safes in hope that they would satisfy his craving.
He walked to other cities and conquered strongboxes, stores, and banks by the power of his keen senses;
And their strongholds did nothing but adore him, swinging their hinges apart to give their treasures.
But their diamonds he dropped on the ground,
And he walked away shaking his head.
He can’t return to those places.

Why?” he thought, as the safe quietly went, “tock.”
He froze for a moment, and reached for the handle that wasn’t there.
He heard a footstep from the other side.
He pulled his hand away from the door and held his breath.
The door went “clunk”, but didn’t open.

From the other side, he heard someone slowly spinning a dial, as if listening for the right combination.

DO NOT DISABLE YOUR AD-BLOCKER!


If you’re using an ad-blocker like AdBlock Plus (you should be!), and a page tells you that you need to disable your ad-blocker to see the content, it’s time to leave that page, and not return until they change their policy. Here’s why:
 
1) The most popular ad-blockers have “whitelists” that let content providers submit their ads for screening. If their ads are respectful–don’t install malware on your computer, don’t pop-up and cover the screen, don’t play loud videos, etc.–then AdBlock Plus and similar will let you see it! There’s no excuse for not being on the whitelist.  Are you a webmaster?  Click this link.  Now, you really have no excuse.
 
2) If an ad is not on the aforementioned whitelist, it’s because it’s a truly obnoxious ad, and/or the site’s owner isn’t a responsible citizen of the Internet. It’s literally unsafe to display such ads. In addition to being REALLY ANNOYING, they can install viruses on your computer/phone/device, steal your credit card information/identity, give your personal information to dangerous people, cost you hundreds or thousands in electronics repair bills, etc. There’s no good reason for displaying such an ad.  There’s no good reason for trying to make people see such an ad.
 
3) If you boycot pages that refuse to make their ads respectful and safe, you will force web site owners to make their content respectful and safe…which they should have, to begin with. Don’t give in. Yes, that includes Forbes.com, or your favorite “reputable” web site. It’s only as reputable as its content.  Be patient, and keep your ad-blocker on.
(You should also consider installing Web of Trust.)

Anthropological Motivation For Not Fighting About Politics


For context, look up popular American news articles for March 12th, 2016.

Raja Yoga (the Hindu philosophy of using physical movement to achieve a higher spiritual state–called simply “yoga” by most westerners) seems to have arisen out of a collection of movements and postures practiced as part of human life. From bowing to a king, to taking a wide stance in preparation for delivering a sword blow, to stretching in the morning and evening to alleviate muscle and joint pain, to picking up a baby–this is a system of kinetic learning intended to explain and teach the human condition and how to function within it.

Humans are loving. Humans are powerful. Humans fight for survival, spend their days gathering resources; humans follow leaders; humans battle for control over the followers and means of acquisition. (Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably seeing you as their follower…) This method of teaching translates literally to “royal yoga”. As profound as it once was, it fails to teach apt governance or understanding in the absence of the cultural understanding that could only be truly had in the more revered and wealthy circles of the ancient world.

What would such a system look like, if it were created out of the successful strategies of governing and being governed within our own society? Are there any motions that we can still use to universally increase our usefulness and success as a part of the human meta-organism? Today, we crave a method that works for almost everyone, and mourn the absence of any such thing that can make us happy. There is currently no “one size fits most” method for anyone born after 1980, or, perhaps, before.

In politics and religion, alike, we are bereft of truly effective guidance. We celebrate the death of “storge” love while complaining about lack of agreement in public matters. (This is a contradiction.) We seek ancient wisdom that hardly translates to how to make a real living, today. We are amply taught, in school, church, home, and in casual society everything but what is known to be truly, universally effective–because nobody knows of any universally “human” means of survival that has, itself, survived the test of time.

In the last decade, much of the world has awoken to this predicament, and we are fighting each other because nobody can figure out how to make things work, again. The information age arose out from Pandora’s box, and our greatest minds have yet to tame it in a way that lets everyone live happily, who is willing to keep trying.

Or maybe that is the nature of the human condition: as the Buddhists say, “suffering exists”, and it’s up to us to figure out how to deal with that.

It is a part of human nature to fight. We committed genocide against every human species that came before us, until only Homo sapiens remained. (A chilling thought, but true, according to archeologists, evolutionary biologists, and anthropologists.) A new way of living will one day emerge out of the ashes of analog society and the minds of those who, like Homo erectus, failed to adapt (despite having a larger brain). In the mean time, let’s limit our battles to the ones that actually matter.

If an idiot or a fool gets elected president, let them show us how not to do things.

Some arguments can only be won by letting your opponent win, and then realize, on his own, that he should have been wiling to compromise (A.K.A. “adapt”). We decided in the late 40s that killing all the stupid people is wrong, so if such people end up running things, and we don’t crash and burn because of it, we will have proven that the antiquated morals of centuries past–survival of the fittest, when you boil it down enough–are truly not as good as the softer ones we revere, today.

And if letting stupid people self-actualize turns out to be a problem, we can always decide that Hitler had the right of things and commit genocide until all the stupid people are extinct, and we evolve into a species that’s better than Homo sapiens. (Personally, I don’t advocate this method.)

Seriously, folks, don’t get into physical fights over political beliefs unless you think we should silence, cage, and eventually extinct all the imbuciles–including, possibly, you.

Trump and Sanders fans, I’m looking at you.

Proverbs That Last Forever


“However, a much older Near Eastern origin is suggested by a near equivalent in the 6th century BC Proverbs of Ahiqar: ‘a sparrow in thy hand is better than a thousand sparrows flying’.”

I love finding proverbs that have somehow survived 25 centuries of linguistic translations and societal changes. Such proverbs are almost certainly somewhat accurate (in the right context), because the only way people would keep saying them for 2,500 years is if they feel like they have a decent reason to do so, themselves, and to teach their children to say them, too.

Interestingly, it’s possible that personal adherence to old texts of philosophy, poetry, mythology, scripture, and fable–stems from the same phenomena; and that, therefore, religion, philosophy, ethics, and more are a result of old thoughts being consistently seen as worthwhile enough to repeat and teach future generations to repeat.
The historic use of force to enforce adherence to ideas skews this effect, somewhat. This includes classic examples of European churches imposing laws and punishments, as well as popular non-religious philosophies making law with legislation and court cases (incl. case law), and punishing those who violate those laws. It can’t really be argued that the modern law and punishment is as brutal or authoritarian as ancient law and punishment; but when an armed person can come to your home and put you in shackles (handcuffs) for not obeying, one can neither argue that this isn’t the use of force. Sure, the methods are different, but disobeying gets you punished.
How do we decide whether and when old ideas are more/less valuable to us than new ideas? How effective have those uses of force been in making a given idea persist? Does an idea that has been appreciated (even/especially out of pure expediency) for 2.5 millennia have more (objective) believability than an idea that’s been around for 50 years? Each person chooses how to weigh these and other factors to create a personal philosophy. Then, they explain their philosophies to their children using proverbs.