Ideology And Tribes

For over a year I have been thinking about writing a blog post concerning ideology.  I made some preliminary notes but none seemed sufficient to convey the my ideas; partially I suspect because I was still developing and expanding those ideas.

It was the something which popped up on one of my social media feeds that prompted me to make this post.  The piece titled "I left the Republican ideological bubble. I don’t want to join another." can be found at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2018/12/03/i-left-republican-ideological-bubble-i-dont-want-join-another/ the author is Max Boot.  I am not a Republican however the points that Max Boot makes are not Republican specific.

One way to avoid getting into an ideological bubble is to be aware of the areas where one's own ideology is incomplete, lacking in explanatory ability or simple not accurate.  And the same goes for one's tribe.  And let us acknowledge that the term tribe as used here is not precise however it does serve the purpose of designating for any individual the persons and organizations which tend to have similar values and positions and typically are what the individual might call "my  people" or where a person might feel at home ideologically.  Yet I submit that it is with those that one feels most close to ideologically where one might start a critical review. And note this is not about personality but about ideas.

So as we reflect on the year almost concluded and look forward to the year about to begin it might be worthwhile to examine our own ideological bubbles.


Tools and Resources For Critical Thinking

This is blog post will contain some pointers to tools and resources related to Critical Thinking, Rationality, Skepticism and related topics.

I might add additional items in the future and it is possible that I might add some commentary but for now this is a place I can document some resources and then point interested persons easily.

Of course I do not agree with every item listed in this post; just because I list a resource does not mean that it is correct in every respect.  This blog is not even correct in every respect and I am the author.

    Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality fanfic by Eliezer Yudkowsky

Blogs about improved thinking

Center For Applied Rationality

Rationally Speaking Blog


Rapoport's Rules of Criticism as summarized by Daniel Dennett

There is a site with Logical Fallacy and Cognitive Bias Posters for purchase or download


Notes On Discussing Religion And Terrorism

I have had some of these thoughts in mind for months however it was a social media post with its limitations for discourse that has prompted me create this blog post.  The general thrust of the prompting post was about Islam and terrorism. I suspect that most have heard some variant such as either hinting implicitly or stating explicitly that Islam is somehow inextricably linked with terrorism. I am not going to quote or link to the exact prompting phrase because I want this essay to be more broad than just a simple reply to a Facebook comment.

It seems to me that when attributing an attribute or action as being necessarily part of some religion one runs up against several problems.  Such as who is the authority on the features of the religion. Is the authority comprised of the scholars of the religion who are inside the religion? If so which subgroup? For example in Islam is the authority the Shia or the Sunni or others?  And consider the example of Christianity; is the authority the Protestant, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Mormon or others? Is the authority comprised of the scholars of the religion who are outside the religion? Even looking in at a religion from the outside as a non-member the characteristics that the scholar considers as essential might vary depending on the background of the scholar such as historian, sociologist or philosopher.

And the question is further complicated by the question of what sources does one use to determine what is necessarily part of a religion; does one base the conclusions on the behavior of persons who claim to be adherents of the religion or on the texts held sacred by the religion?  But this raises a new set of questions such as if there are two or more groups each claiming to be the true adherents of some religion work and that the others are at best well meaning although confused or at worst are heretics and apostates.  Not an easy problem to solve. And if one tries to analyze a religion based on texts then one runs into the problem of which texts, which versions, which translations, etc.  Not to mention that religious texts typically are full of allegory, fables, metaphors and literary allusions; not to mention the obvious inaccuracies, contradictions and what might appear to some being as simple nonsense.

Now certainly I am not saying that distinctions are impossible; only that they are more difficult than we often realize.  And in particular I suggest caution when either embracing distinctions which reinforce out pre-existing opinions or rejecting distinctions which are counter to our pre-existing opinions.

And this is not just idle speculation. Christianity is sometimes called a peaceful religion but tell that to the people of Béziers.  And remember those that suffered in the religious wars in Europe just a few centuries ago.  Also let us not forget the troubles in Northern Ireland.  Even in this supposedly modern era one finds persons around the world claiming to be Christian and engaging in what are generally considered terrorists attacks. So is Christianity a religion of peace or a religion of violence and terror?  How does one the one hand balance the quiet Quaker couple working at a soup kitchen feeding the poor against the phrase "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword."

So is there any major religion that has have the problems I mentioned above?  Maybe the Jain. Perhaps others but I think focusing on the religion misses the larger question.  At the risk of some over simplification I will pose the question as:  is it outside the bounds of ethical and moral behavior to harm, kill, assault or otherwise terrorize someone because that person holds different beliefs on religion?  Some people say No and some say Yes.  This is I suggest the crucial point; that once a persons adopt the position that others can live with their beliefs whatever those believes might be then that is what is critical.  If everyone took the position of religious tolerance then that universal religious tolerance would not necessarily lead to the end of violence and terrorism because there are other causes than just religion.  However sometimes a person's experience might make it difficult to understand that there is more to a religion that what their immediate experience.  For example consider those persons who lands were confiscated and who were forced to work building missions for the Spanish conquerors; it might seem that the religion of the Roman Catholic Church was one that was inherently violent and terrorist.

And as a purely practical matter I suggest that attempting to characterize an entire religion as inherently violent or terrorist is probably counter-productive.  Consider that humans tend to have much of their sense of self identity bound up in group identities such as Muslim, Christian, American, Egyptian, Republican, 49er Faithful or Raider Nation and so forth.  Of these religion is one of the strongest so let us consider a religion which has two groups of persons who claim that their group and only their group are the true adherents.  The first group is comprised of those who take the position that violence against non-believers or heretics is not a part of the religion.  The second group is comprised of those who take the position that violence is justified against non-believers or heretics is a necessary part of the religion.  As an outsider do you really want to be supporting the position of the second group?  In most cases probably not.  Actually I suggest that in most cases the best thing the outsider can do is shut up about internal theological disputes and instead just take a pro-peace stance without criticizing or praising the religion one way or the other.  If the persons in the second group start adopting the position of persons in the first group then so much the better.  And likely there will be those still in the second group saying they have the only true version of the religion and that those in the first group need to get into the second group to be truly part of the religion.  A person on the outside may not like the religion at all and thinks that for both groups abandoning the religion would be best. However for this person on the outside I suggest do not become a megaphone for a position that is the worst of the two possibilities just because it is not the best that you can imagine.

I realize the previous paragraph has been a bit convoluted so let me give a historical example; evolution.  Christians had a split which can be roughly categorized as compatiblist and non-compatiblist.  The compatiblist position is basically that accepting evolution does not mean one must reject Christianity.  The non-compatiblist position is basically that evolution is not compatible with Christianity. Of course there are variations and nuances which would take a book to cover but for sake of this discussion consider just these two positions which are theological and not scientific  Now imagine someone on the outside of Christianity who wants people to accept evolution so that school biology textbooks are scientifically accurate since the textbook standards are set in their jurisdiction by an elected board. I think the best course of action for this concerned person is not take a theological position which says that Christianity and evolution are not compatible therefore persons must give up Christianity because Christianity is false because it does not accept evolution.  Given human nature I suspect that it not be very successful and for those persons who are inside Christianity who are compatiablist and who also want good science textbooks it would likely be a hindrance.

So what to do?  In this example I think the better action is to promote accurate science and to be quiet about theology.  My general advice is be a megaphone for science and not a megaphone for a theological position which at best you might not fully understand or at worst is opposed to what you claim to desire.

But what about terrorism?  My suggestion is to promote peace, liberty, benevolence and the other similar humanist virtues and be quiet about theology.  Avoid taking a position that pushes people who want to maintain their group identify into the arms of those who advocate violence as necessary for being a member of that group.

At this point there is probably at least one person ready to claim that I am coddling terrorism or that I am a naive fool or a pacifist; the short answer is that I am not a pacifist, I am not coddling terrorism and that I am working on reducing the amount of error and foolishness in my opinions just like I hope we are all.  What I am saying is that there is a way to oppose terrorism which makes sense to me and which I suggest using.  And I feel that there is a way which I consider counter-productive and this is what I suggest avoiding. And for the person who wants to claim that I am some sort of cultural relativist who thinks all cultures are equal; the short answer is no I am not.  And someone else probably has fingers over the keys right now wanting to ask if I have abandoned self-defense or the defense of others who are innocent?  Again the answer is no; what I am saying is that a good first principle of defense is do not weaken your own position while strengthening your attacker.

Now some might ask what about saying Buddhism is a religion of peace, Islam is a religion of peace or something similar.  My first response would be politely to ask about your qualifications to be making theological statements about some religion, for example list the texts of the religion with which you are familiar.  My second response might be to want to know why the statement is being made.  Making the statement could conceivably be an informed analysis; or it could be make in order to signal that one is hoping that all adherents of the religion in question will behave peacefully; or is it that one wants to signal their disagreement which those who are bashing the religion.  My suggestion is to avoid theological disputes unless one is well versed the appropriate theological tradition.  Persons who persist on making theological statements about religions in which they are not well versed might find themselves viewed in the same manner as the flat earth advocate who is attempting to lecture a gathering of geologists on the structure of the earth.  And just another note of caution; let us avoid confusing statements of wishful thinking with clear and concise analysis.

Thus I advocate peace, liberty, benevolence and the other humanist virtues as the best first step.


Thoughts on the 2016 POTUS Election

After a few failed starts over the past weeks I am finally documenting some of my thoughts on the 2016 POTUS election.

I am going to comment on the four Presidential Candidates who are on enough state ballots to win in the Electoral College.

Donald Trump by his statements on policy issues has demonstrated a profound lack of basic understanding about many areas including as far as I can tell not even having a good comprehension of some aspects of the Constitution of the United States.  I will mention immigration as one example where I think Trump is deeply misguided; the other examples have been well documented.   I am very concerned about the way Trump discusses women and minorities.

Jill Stein might think she is on the side of what is generally termed 'working class' but looking at her policy positions on issues related to the economy and minimum wage I do not agree with her proposals.  I think she has an inadequate grasp of basic economics and does not realize the harm that can be done by the policies she advocates.

Hillary Clinton at least has a basic grasp of the state of the world and does not have totally delusional views.  Some of my concerns about Clinton are that she does not acknowledge the continuing damage done by the War on Drugs and she still does not appear to understand the problems caused by the USA engaging in military and covert adventurism around the world.  And as some have pointed out her relationship with some Wall Street firms might be a cause for concern.

Gary Johnson has executive experience as the two term governor of New Mexico which is a plus. And Johnson seems to understand the harm done by the War on Drugs and has pointed our the problems with actions such as the Iraq invasion. However I have been disappointed with the Johnson campaign.  Johnson is not perfect but I find him more palatable than the other three.

I could continue with many more pages but just writing the above has been depressing enough.


Thoughts about Twitter, MLK and lessons

Every few years I re-read the "Letter From A Birmingham Jail" by Dr. King and today I read it again. It is one of those pieces of writing that are worth revisiting periodically and I do recommend those who have never read to take time to read it. I suspect that nobody will agree with it totally. The value of the piece is not so much in the answers but in the questions that it raises as we reflect on the context.

Twitter, like most of the more popular Social Media platforms, can be a useful tool or a great time sink. For me the value derives in following people on Twitter who either tweet useful comments or point to useful information or both. Jesse Walker @notjessewalker is one who often does both. Today in a tweet
Jesse pointed to a specific instance of someone attempting to use MLK to justify a position that one would not expect MLK would support. Jesse referenced the article he wrote in Reason about this:
In the article Jesse Walker describes a particularly egregious example of someone attempting to use a historical figure such as MLK, Lincoln or JFK very much out of character to support a position instead of sound and coherent reasoning. My experience has been that usually the more an argument relies on appeals to historical figures the weaker the argument.

Near the end of the article Jesse Walker quotes from King's Nobel Prize speech and one of sentences that I had forgotten grabbed my attention. The sentence that struck me was: "A so-called limited war will leave little more than a calamitous legacy of human suffering, political turmoil, and spiritual disillusionment." That sentence is from the Viet Nam War era; yet I wonder how things might be different today if Bush and Cheney had spent more time in serious contemplation of the sentence from Dr. King and less time being deceptive, foolish and mendacious in arguing for an invasion of Iraq.

The military involvement into Viet Nam was a terrible catastrophe. Decades later the military invasion of Iraq was a terrible catastrophe. When will people start to learn the lessons?


Reflections On The Horrific Events In Paris

Friday evening on my way home from work I heard about the horrific events that had occurred in Paris.  I began to think about writing this blog post as I continued toward home and then later after arriving home.  I wrote the majority of this post Friday evening but decided to wait until Saturday morning to see if sleeping on it would lead to significant changes.  And after some reflection this (Saturday) morning I realized that my post had a flaw.  But I am going to make this post with the flaw and then at the end add a short discussion of what I considered the flaw.

I expect that much ink will be used and many electrons excited about the horrific events in Paris being the responsibility of either religion in general or one religion in particular.  But I think this misses a crucial point.  In my opinion there is something even more basic.

The more I reflect on our world today the more I see there is a decision that each person needs to make.  Under what conditions will you take direct action to kill, kidnap or otherwise seriously harm another person?  This action could be by bomb, gunshot, knife, bare hands or many other methods.  The question is what situation would prompt you to take action?  And to be clear the question of harm coming to someone due to inaction is being left for another discussion.  So your ideology says that your particular set of beliefs about the transcendent are the most important thing in the entire universe; would you attack your neighbor who does not share that belief and chooses to live their life differently?

Just as not all persons professing to be Muslim advocate the killings in Paris so also not all Catholics sanctioned the mass slaughter at Béziers in 1209.  But what does the events of Beziers in 1209 have in common with the events of Paris in 2015?  What they have in common is that the persons involved took the position that there were ideas about which there was no personal choice; there was only obedience or be subject to attack.  In the thirteen century the murderers at Beziers and other perpetrators of the crimes of the Inquisition appeared to hold the position that it was better to kill than allow persons to choose their own theological positions.  And today there are still persons who will kill rather than allow others to choose how to live or which religion to follow.

But it goes beyond religion. If we consider the last half of the twentieth century we have a clear example in the Cultural Revolution of Mao Zedong which lead to millions suffering death, imprisonment, beatings and other assaults.  For example a scholar could not choose to continue studies nor a small shop keeper continue their selling but rather they were forced to the country to labor or into re-education camps; they were no longer free to engage in the basic choices of living.

The commonality between ISIS, Maoism and similar movements is that followers of these movements will kill people rather that allow persons to be free to choose.

Now I will address what I consider a flaw in the above.  The flaw is in considering the events in Paris as primarily a religious matter.  Based on early reports the attacks were prompted in large part by anger over the French involvement in the anti-ISIS military campaign.  If one looks at attacks in the USA and Europe many have been against countries that have been involved militarily in predominately Muslim countries; UK, Spain, USA, France.  If it was only a religious matter why do we not see these attacks in Brazil which has the largest Catholic population in the world?  If it is only a matter of Islamic fundamentalists lashing out against what is commonly referred to as  Enlightenment then why are the large scale attacks primarily in UK, Spain, USA, France and not other countries which have at least in large part embraced most of the Enlightenment?  Of course this is not an absolutely perfect categorization; for example consider the 2004 murder of Theo van Gogh in Netherlands. [Update this example to include the Charlie Hebdo attacks which did occur in Paris].  But as a general trend the large scale attacks tend to be in countries with military involvement in the Middle East.  If those who are carrying out the attacks are combining a feeling of self-defense with a fundamentalist religious ideology then an analysis which focuses on just on religion is going to be incomplete.  I do not have a full insight into all of this but I very concerned that some people are focusing on just one aspect of the situation and ignoring the larger picture.


A Work Of Fiction: Finding A New Story

The following is a work of fiction. All entities and events appearing in this work are fictional. The author desires that all who need to read this Fantastical Story will do so and become better.

Title: Finding A New Story
Author: F. C. Moulton

Box Say lived on a planet along with a few billion others. Box Say had experienced some ups and downs in his professional career as a writer of Fantastical Stories. He had been thrown out of two of the three professional organizations for writers of Fantastical Stories. He was not universally well liked; nor was he universally reviled; to be honest only a tiny fraction of the billions had ever heard of him. But the number who had heard of him and agreed with him were sufficient that Box Say kept being moderately successful making a living writing in the Fantastical mode and blogging as well as selling merchandise from various websites.

Box was very dissatisfied with quite a few things in the world and expressed his views in his blog. Some read the blog and agreed with Box. But a much larger number disagreed and they often debated if the posts were racist, sexist, or just plain rude but Box did not care. He ranted and railed as he pleased.

One day a few years back Box ranted in a blog post that 'enough was quite enough' and that 'he had taken all he was going to take' and similar sentiments. The Fantastical Stories and Novels that he liked were not even finalists for the Big Fantastical Award in any category and further he himself had never been a finalist in any category of the Big Fantastical Award. It was time for action. Box rallied the readers of his blog to nominate a slate of works and the slate took most of the finalist slots in the various categories. However when the votes to determine the winners were tallied his slate was not successful. Those who had been long time supporters of the award were not happy with Box and his crowd and began making plans to modify the rules two years in the future to blunt future actions such as which Box had just organized. The next year Box ran his campaign again and while he was not a winner he did finish above No Award in each category.

The year following the rule changes were in place but not as intended. The new rules allowed Box to switch tactics and focus on making sure that in each category his single most desired work was one of the finalists. And Box Say was successful. Then came the round of voting to determine the winner and Box made sure as many of his followers as possible become members so they could vote and that they knew which work to rank first in each category.

It is an old saying that Generals fight the previous war not the current one. And so it often is with rules changes. And Box Say is one to plan ahead.

Finally success; well partial success; Box Say won in both the Novella category and the Novelette category and would have won Novel and Short Story if he had not lost in the final comparison to No Award. Still, two awards in one year was something. Many great and legendary writers of Fantastical Stories never won even once during their careers; some were never even finalists.

Yet a month later Box was feeling a bit unhappy. The afterglow of victory had started to wane. Box was no longer cheered even by recalling the wailing of the social justice, laissez faire, rationalist and other similar groups when his wins were announced. The day after he won Box referenced them in a tweet "Their tears of anguish nourish me like spring showers nourish the vineyards" and that saying was now generating income via t-shirt and other merchandise sales. But Box was still a bit unsettled; so one day he decided to go out and take a long walk to get some fresh air.

As Box made his way along the path he expected that his mood would improve but it did not. Still he had business to consider so as he walked he was planning about the things that needed to be accomplished during the coming week such as putting out a big blog post. The path he was on merged with another path and Box was so lost in the planning of his next blog post that he almost collided with someone on the other path. Both stopped and quickly did the "excuse me" exchange almost by reflex. Then the newcomer extended his hand and said "Since we are now on the same path let me introduce myself; I am Nathaniel Noble Ware; call me Nano".

Box Say grasped the hand and said "I am Box Say" making sure to leave a long pause between Box and Say otherwise his name was often heard as Boxy.

"Good to meet you Box".

"Nice to meet you Nano" Box replied. And Box realized that he really meant it; Nano seemed like a really fine fellow. Box had not seen him before but he seemed like an agreeable sort.

They continued down the path and fell into a conversation about the local flora which morphed into a discussion of aesthetics by the time they had reversed their course and were walking back. Box did notice that Nano would occasionally hum softly to himself but Box did not find it unpleasant; it just seemed like a small nervous habit. Other than the humming Nano was calm and friendly with dark eyes that were deep and inviting above a warm friendly smile; about the same height as Box, trim and well tanned with wavy dark hair and a warm voice.

By the time they arrived back at the point where they had met Box had told started to tell Nano about winning the awards. Nano listened as Box explained about the awards with a particular emphasis on Box's own ideas and about gaming the rules. Nano's only comment was "Incredible."

As Box made his way home he realized that he did feel better. The conversation with Nano had lifted his mood although Box felt that he had spoken more than Nano. Perhaps he might see him on the path again but perhaps not.

Two days later Box was again starting to feel a bit off; his mood was dragging so he decided to go out again and headed down the path. A short way past where the paths joined Box saw Nano sitting on a bench looking up. When Box approached Nano glanced over and smiled warmly "Hello Box; have a seat. I was just taking a look at the clouds."

Box sat on the bench next to Nano and looked up to the clouds. Soon they were discussing the clouds and the images they formed and then onto the science behind different cloud types. Eventually they fell silent; Box was unusually quiet and Nano humming softly.

After many minutes Nano asked Box what was bothering him.

"Nothing is wrong with me" Box snapped.

"Really?" Nano questioned.

Box said "Well I am a bit annoyed at the names some of my detractors give me. You know. Deliberately insulting names. Not that I really care personally but it does sometimes hurt my public image and that can cut into revenues. Actually Box Say is my pen name not the one on my birth certificate."

"I know" replied Nano. And Box wonder if he had mentioned this previously but let it pass when Nano asked "So what are these names? I won't laugh."

Box took a deep breath and said "It started with some calling me Box Fay since Fay is an allusion to effeminate behavior. And then it went on to Box Gay as if I was queer. Then someone started calling me Kox Say because they thought it the height of humor to call me what sounds like a slang term for male genitals and next was the combination Kox Gay which sometimes got flipped to Gay Kox. Another group started calling me Pox Say as if I was a plague then flipping it to Say Pox. It finally peaked with them combining into Say Pox Gay Kox. Yes they managed to combine a reference to disease plague, homosexuality and slang for male genitals into one phrase to apply to me. In a way it is almost brilliant; I might think of adding it to my repertoire. Well actually of course I don't rally care; I don't let what others think about me cause me any concern as long it does not impact revenues by way of damage to my public image."

"Sure Box I understand" and Nano put his arm around Box and gave Box's shoulder a reassuring squeeze. After a long pause Nano said "So Box have you ever said or written anything insulting about anyone else based on sexual preference or race or gender or even taste in literature."?

Box mused "Well yeah but that was different."

"Oh really? I wonder if they thought so." said Nano.

Except for Nano humming softly they sat in silence for a while then Box stirred and Nano slipped his arm from around Box's shoulders. Box stood and said "Time for me to head home, I have work to do."

Nano said "Goodbye. Have a nice evening" and watched Box walk away.

Four days later despite the weather being a bit cool and the sky a bit overcast Box went out again. Box had been turning the previous conversation with Nano over in his head for the past few days and he had finally started to think that maybe, just maybe in a few but not all cases he had been slightly too harsh in what he wrote about certain individuals and groups. But only in a very few limited situations where his rhetorical exuberance had gotten to the heights where it might perhaps have been just a wee bit excessive. That was what he keep telling himself. But Box kept thinking about it. And then he asked himself why was he considering his process of thinking and writing so much. Everywhere Box looked there seemed to be a 'Why' popping up.

Soon he came to the bench and he sat down and looked at the clouds becoming more dark and roiling. A few minutes later Nano arrived, greeted Box, sat down and hummed softly as Box talked about his day. When the temperature dropped slightly Nano put his arm around Box; this warmed Box and he felt calmer. When Box was silent they sat watching the clouds until a gust of chill wind caused them both to shudder. Box said "Come back to my place before the storm starts." Nano stood up and "Great" and they started back to Box's home.

Part way back Box pulled out his mobile phone and ordered pizza delivery with a six pack. They arrived just as the first drops of rain fell and about five minutes ahead of the pizza delivery. They sat on the sofa; enjoyed the pizza and beer and watched rain through the large window. Then they talked late into the evening; taking the cushions from the sofa and placing them in front of the sofa so they could sprawl on the floor looking out the window. Eventually it became dark as they lay there talking; finishing the beer. Box was starting to get drowsy; Nano was humming softly. Their conversation had wandered from weather to world events to popular culture then to the differences and similarities in the famous songs "You Are My Sunshine" and the less popular "You Are My Destiny".

Nano turned to look into Box's eyes and said "You are my Teddy Bea..." and the rest of the words were lost as Box impulsively kissed Nano; affectionately not passionately and then Box dropped his head to Nano's chest and fell asleep.

The next morning Box woke up a bit befuddled since he was not in his bed. Then the events of the previous evening came rushing back to Box and he turned to see Nano just starting to stir beside him. Box was going into deep denial mode thinking to himself that it was the beer; yeah the beer was responsible. But they had not had that much to drink; only three beers each. Box wondering if he had really lost control after three beers. Oh Crap. Oh Crap. Box was starting to tense up. Just then Nano opened those beautiful dark eyes and said "Good Morning". Box took a deep breath and answered "Yes but a bit earlier than I am used to." Nano agreed "Yeah me too."

Box realized that one thing which had awakened him was that his bowels were asking for relief. Box stood and headed toward the master bedroom with its attached bath and as he passed the guest restroom he tapped the door and said "Guest restroom here; make yourself at home."

In the bath off the master bedroom Box sat on the commode and was able to fall into his usual routine. Each morning sitting on the Throne Of Inspiration as he called it Box would pick up the small tablet he kept there always charged and scan the news. Sometimes scanning the news was for his own edification and amusement, sometimes for getting an idea to kick start a Fantastical Story that was stuck but most often as a source for his blog. He had been neglecting his blog recently.

While he had made a new entry each day of the past week Box was honest enough with himself to know the posts were a bit short and bland. If he did not throw some red meat to his blog readers soon they would leave or worse yet might turn on him. No, they would not turn on him but abandon him, probably. Box scanned the news aggregators and found nothing he wanted to pursue even though there were a couple of items about a court case concerning teaching about the history of the idea of race that he was sure that his blog readers expected him to cover. But for some reason he was not interested in going after that case now.

Box sat there with his legs started to get numb and getting anxious when he spotted a news article about someone totally messing up their smartphone due to not understanding the basics of the technology. He had done a blog entry a few months back about someone who had gotten a new car and driven it until the engine seized up due to lack of service and regular oil changes. That had been a hit; letting the blog readers think about how much smarter they were than the dummy with the seized engine. Now he had the germ of the idea of his next blog post.

As he headed out to the kitchen he smelled coffee.

Nano smiled "You said make yourself at home so I found the coffee and coffee maker and started coffee. I hope you don't mind? It is ready now."

"No, coffee is great. Just what I need now. I have a long blog post that I need to get out today and I finally got the germ on an idea."

Nano poured them each a cup. The dark French roast was wonderful. Box pulled the pizza carton from last night out of the fridge where he must have stored it but did not actually remember. Opening it he saw four slices. He turned to Nano "Want pizza? Warmed or cold?"

"I will take a piece as is. Cold pizza - the breakfast of champions."

Box laughed "Yes. Well actually Cold pizza and beer; the breakfast of champions but we finished the six pack last night." Box paused and then mumbled something about the beer really hitting him last night and he did not remember much.

Nano said "No beer for me this morning anyway. Coffee is what I need since I need to get going to take care of some business that will tie me up today and probably tomorrow." Nano paused for a moment then continued "We should do lunch sometime."

Box swallowed his coffee and answered "Yeah, sounds good."

Box told Nano about the blog entry he was planning and Nano said he expected it would be a hit.

When they had finished their coffee, Box told Nano to just put his cup in the sink and he would take care of it later.

Nano said "You know that new restaurant, the one that opened last month? I hear they are good. Morning after tomorrow I have business across the street. After I finish with my business that morning how about I pickup something from them and bring it here for lunch."

Box gave a cautious "Sounds good."

Nano gave Box a squeeze on the shoulder and left with a smile and a wave.

Box stood there for a moment then put the rest of the pizza back in the fridge; washed the coffee cups while composing the new blog piece in his head.

The blog post took longer to compose than Box had planned but it was finally up on his website and he could relax. The rest of the day flew by on small errands. The next morning Box reviewed the comments and found his blog post was a great hit; the URL was getting passed around on social media. He should have felt great and in a way he did but at one point he wondered if the owner of the ruined smartphone had seen this blog post and if so how they had felt.

Box made another small somewhat related blog post so he could focus the rest of the day on other business. Several times he recalled that Nano would be by for lunch tomorrow.

The next morning when Box awoke it was still early but he could not fall back asleep. So he got up. After his morning routine he made another blog post not as good as usual but at least it was up and he did not need to think about the blog for the rest of the day. Then a few minutes past noon Nano was there with Chinese food and a six pack. The food was good, the conversation was better. The day was unseasonably warm and they sat outside in the shade in the chairs next to the pool.

Box usually swam several times a week to stay in shape but had missed the past few days. After a couple of hours of conversation he got the urge for a swim. He said "I am going for a swim, join me if you want." Box followed his usual habit of shucking his clothes where he stood and diving in since skinny dipping was the default for him. The pool was mostly out of view of his neighbors and if they looked out their window well that was their problem. Box had already swam to the far end and paused when he looked back to see Nano also shucking his clothes and diving in.

After swimming and tossing a beach ball around they climbed out, Box grabbed a couple of towels and threw one to Nano. Box dried and wrapped the towel around his waist and then returned to his chair. Nano did likewise.

After a few minutes Nano asked "Box, what is it? What is bothering you?"

Box looked over "Well since you asked I was .. ah ..just .. ah .. wondering if you a nudist since you ..ah.. are ..ah.. tan all over."

Nano smiled "Oh, this is my usual skin color. My background is a bit complicated but the answer I can give you now is that it is mostly from Somalia and Ethiopia with a bit of Scottish, a bit Chinese, and a bit other. "

Box said "Oh that explains it" and then fell silent again while Nano hummed and looked at the clouds. Eventually Nano stood up and started pulling on his clothes saying "I have a business meeting tomorrow and I need to prepare for it so I need to get going."

"Yeah" Box said "I need to get busy myself. Day after tomorrow is Sunday. How about we meet at the bench around 10AM Sunday morning and walk down to that new French restaurant for brunch? I just got a royalty check so I am buying."

Nano smiled "Sounds wonderful. See you then" and gave Box a big hug then a quick kiss on the cheek and then he was gone.

Box stood there for a moment. His mind was a jumble; had he cuddled with a man on more than one occasion and a mixed race man; well actually a mostly black man at that? He felt light headed and sat down. After a while Box realized two things; first that he wanted another beer and second that he need to put all of this out of his mind and focus on work. He put his realizations into action.

Sunday morning Box still in a bit of a mental jumble. He wanted to see Nano for brunch but thinking of Nano brought up the questions and thoughts he had sequestered. Still a few minutes before ten o'clock Box was at the bench and at the stroke of the hour Nano arrived and said "Let's get going" and they started down the path.

About two hundred meters along the path suddenly a young fellow jumped into the path followed by two more; the three were late teens or early twenties and did not appear friendly. The one in the front said to Nano "We don't like your kind around here. Box here seemed an alright type until you came along and now you have him holding your hand in public." Box had not realized that soon after starting down the path that his hand had sought Nano's. Or was it that Nano's had sought his?

Nano said "We do not want any trouble and ..."

Before Nano could finish the thug in the lead throw a punch and caught Nano in the jaw. Box moved to catch Nano because that punch would surely knock down if not out. But Nano did not fall; it was as if his face deformed slightly and the thug's punch had no affect.

Nano just looked at him and said "You and your companions will leave now and not bother either of us again."

"No fag tells me what to do" and with that snarl the thug swung again putting as much force and weight behind his punch as possible. In hindsight probably the thug considers that a mistake. A very big mistake.

Box moved to try to block the blow because he could not imagine how Nano could take another blow particularly one with that force behind it. But Box was too late; the punch as already on the way and he looked in horror at Nano's upper jaw where it was headed. Just before the blow landed Nano's face changed in texture. The blow landed. The sound that followed was like something breaking; actually many things breaking. Of course Box may have imagined the sound, his brain filling in the sounds it expected. What Box saw was that when the thug's fist connected with Nano's face the fist began to collapse back into itself and then the forearm bent in an odd manner. The thug did not scream, it was as if he had gone immediately into shock and then collapsed.

Nano spoke calmly "He has multiple broken bones in his hand and as you can see his forearm is also broken in both bones. You need to take him to a hospital immediately. With proper surgery and physical therapy he should regain full use of the hand and arm. Maybe even learn to play a musical instrument. Take him and go now. And never bother either of us again."

The two thugs picked up their friend and departed without a word.

Nano looked at Box "Box. You look very pale. And I am a little tired. How about we skip brunch and head back to your place." They did; Box a bit mystified and Nano humming.

At Box's place Nano got him to drink some water, then put together a decent meal with whatever was found in the fridge and after they had eaten Nano brought each a beer. Then he said "I suspect you have some questions." Box realized that he had not spoken since the incident on the path said "Ah .. well ..ah ..well .. ah .. yes; a few."

"OK ask your first one or would you rather I anticipate your question; such as what happened?"

Box just nodded and did a keep going sign with his hand.

Nano grinned and said "You have probably been thinking that nobody takes a punch like he threw and stays standing; much less breaks the puncher's arm with their jaw. Are you wondering if I am a pro boxer or Superman?"

Nano sat and hummed softly as Box stared for a long time and then finally Box asked "Who are you? No. What are you?"

Nano thought for a moment "Well I obviously am not like you. I am from somewhere else; for now consider me as just an alien space visitor."

Box was a writer of Fantastical Stories so he knew what to ask next "OK. Are you biological or are you electromechanical or a cyborg combination?"

Nano thought for an extra half instant "I am not biological nor am I electromechanical in the ways you use those terms. I am a collection of small nanoscale machines organized into a coherent entity. That is why I can rearrange my jaw to be as hard as a steel block. Although that takes a lot of energy particularly if I do it in hurry."

Box blinked slowly "Ware. Your last name is Ware and you said most call you Nano. Nanoware!". Box started laughing and Nano joined in.

Nano continued "I did not arrive here on Earth in this form. I arrived as a small nanomachine; mostly memory and a limited set of manufacturing tools. I essentially built myself and learned about your planet."

Box said "So all of that stuff about ancestry; you know about Ethiopia and Somalia was just a bunch of BS?"

Nano said "Well not exactly BS. It is actually not totally false but my answer was incomplete and if you remember I phrased my answer as what I could tell you then. So I did not actually totally lie to you; it was what I felt I could tell you at the time and there is some accuracy to what I said including the Ethiopia and Somalia part; it is all very complicated. So anyway I am the first of my species to come here to Earth. I am sure you want to know if there will be more like me coming. The answer to that question is that I don't know for sure. My trip was sort of an experiment."

Box stared for several seconds then said "So you are like an adventurer or an explorer?"

Nano took a long time to answer "Not exactly. This whole thing is an experiment and the details are complicated and some of them are outside my area of expertise. Suffice it so say that back in my home world I committed an ethical transgression against several individuals and I volunteered for this because it would help with the reparations for those that I had harmed. But it is a grand adventure. However it was being too attached to adventure that lead to my ethical lapse. After a lot of consideration and personal reflection I came to a better ethical position and reformed of my previous ways and it was due in part to my change in perspective that I was allowed to be considered for this trip. That is not all exactly accurate but it is as close as I can come using your language and concepts in any reasonable amount of time. So you can view this entire thing as a punishment for an ethical transgression or you view it as a reward for improving my ethical perspective. I am not entirely sure how I view it myself. But however you view it I am not likely to ever be able to go home again."

Box sat for a long time not saying anything, then pointed to the cabinet in the next room "Please bring me a bottle of single malt. No, not the Oban; the Laphroaig. And a glass, two if you want to join me."

Nano returned with the bottle of Laphroaig and two glasses and said "The alcohol will not affect me but I will drink with you. I have never had Laphroaig and I have heard the flavor profile is interesting."

So Box and Nano talked and drank. Eventually it was more Box talking and Nano listening and humming and asking questions. Soon Box was asking "I am not sure about some things any more. At one point I realized I have been cuddling with a man then a few days later I realized that I have been cuddling with a black man. Then today I realize it was not a man at all but an alien. Oh shit. Oh shit. What am I doing? What is happening?"

Nano said "First, why do you find any of what you just described morally wrong? And secondly, what aspect of the definition of a man would you consider disqualifies me from that category and which would qualify me?"

Box sat there for a long time. Opened his mouth as if to speak; then closed it. Opened then closed without a word again. Finally Box took a deep breath and his pronunciation was a bit off as he said "I think I have some answers to your questions but I need to work on how to express them properly. I have had just a wee dram too much. I also think I am about to be sick and puke all over my table. And if I stand up to take care of the situation I will likely pass out." Box slurred his words a bit more when he said "My dilemma is ..." then laid his head on the table and went to sleep.

The next morning Box became about half awake; awake enough to realize that he was naked and in his own bed and that his bladder was demanding urgent attention. So he slowly make his way through his hangover haze to the attached bath and took care of his bladder. And took the opportunity to drink a glass of water and then head back to bed. About half way back to the bed his bowels decided to awaken and ask for relief so back to the commode. When he sat on the Throne of Inspiration Box reached for the tablet by reflex but put it down when looking at the numbers on the unlock screen made him slightly nauseous.

His urgent bodily needs satisfied Box realized that as tempting as the bed looked he needed to get his internal biological state back to some semblance of balance so he headed to the kitchen.

Of course there was Nano with an open ended "Good Morning?"

Box just grunted.

Nano said "I found some bread and butter so I am making toast. After you have had that and settled your stomach then we can consider future arrangements."

Future arrangements were that by lunch time Box felt sufficiently recovered for a more normal meal. Then some coffee revived him further but he was still hurting.

They sat out on the chairs by the pool. Nano humming softly and looking at the clouds. Box starring into the distance and then frowning.

Nano finally asked "What is it?"

Box turned his head to look at Nano; "What is the humming about?"

Nano smiled "I found a pitch and beat that would slightly slow some of your fast habitual thoughts and induce a bit more reflection as well as being a bit calming. Decisions based on anxiety and fear tend to have comparatively poor outcomes. I was not trying to brainwash you; just allow you the opportunity to consider things in a more reflective and nuanced manner. I did not know if you would change or not; in any case all of the thoughts were your own."

Box was silent for a long time "I have changed; hopefully for the better. I have more doubts now and I think that is good. Many of the positions I previously held I no longer hold. In my blog I will be honest. I am going to do a short blog post that I am feeling under the weather and will be away for a few days but to expect something big later. And that is true, I am still under the weather with this wretched hangover. And thanks for taking care of me in my time of need. And the blog post I will do in a few days will be big. It will repudiate many of my previous views and I will apologize to those I have harmed with my words. So my blog audience will likely all abandon me."

Nano said "Perhaps you will get a new audience. And you still have your Fantastical Story writing."

Box said "Yes perhaps I will get a new blog audience but I doubt if it will be as large or as lucrative. And as for my career as as Fantastical Story writer, I don't know."

Nano just looked at Box and smiled and hummed softly.

Box exclaimed "Wait. I am a Fantastical Story writer and I have just had a first contact story drop in my lap. I need to get writing."