Hardware upgrades

Every time I write an article about how I don’t need a new computer because my old one works just fine, you know what’s going to happen next. 🙂

I basically concluded that I’m spending too much mental energy arguing with myself that I don’t need to spend money on new computers despite the fact that most of my gear is 4-5 years old and old computers are neither fast nor reliable, and for someone like myself who does basically everything with computers, it’s not the best idea to keep the old stuff for too long, because it increases the probability of random failure, so preventative maintenance in form of replacing the workhorse machines every 5 years at max is simply a reasonable thing to do.

So, I got both a new laptop and a desktop upgrade kit; I upgraded the desktop to Ryzen 5900X with 64GB of RAM, and I got a new M1 Macbook Air. The desktop thing is obvious – I basically replaced the motherboard, which was actually producing issues with sound going mute for a second every now and then, which must be a USB issue since my sound works through s Schiit Modi 3 DAC connected via USB, and not the built-in audio. The issue went away with motherboard change. I also got rid of the DDR3 RAM, which was running at 1600MHz, and I got a high end CPU. Basically, in most things I do it conformed to my predictions – it’s no faster in normal desktop use than my old system, but Lightroom runs significantly faster, and I actually use 44GB of RAM under serious load, so 64GB is not overkill.

As for the laptop, the 15” Mac was not the best match for my usage case (too big and awkwardly shaped for writing books/articles in my lap), so I bought an Asus Zenbook ultralight a couple of years ago, because the new Air had shit keyboard and shit CPU, and it cost significantly more, but the screen and battery on the Zenbook were sub-par, and I prefer Mac OS on the laptop, so I got the new Apple Silicon Air now, which is fast, has great keyboard, touchpad and screen, and the battery life is better than anything I could imagine existing on a laptop. I managed to compile the GNU tools I needed in Macports, and unless I need a dedicated portable Lightroom machine later on, I’m done with hardware now and I can go back to blissfully ignoring it into the foreseeable future. Basically, I replaced both my old laptops with a single new one, except for Lightroom on a vacation, where the 15” Macbook pro will continue to be used, due to bigger screen and more RAM, which make it a superior photo editing machine. The new Air has sufficient resources for everything other than Lightroom, which is a specialized task that requires so much more resources it just makes no sense to try and cram it all into an ultraportable, especially since the screen size is one of the main limitations, and for everything else that I do the Air is as fast as the new Ryzen desktop.


I was thinking about chaos for quite a while during the last few months, and I talked about it a lot in person with several people, but I never got around to actually writing an article, so it’s about time I remedied that.

When people think about chaos, they usually fall into two groups. The first group imagines chaos in terms of putting a frog into the blender and pressing the “bzzt” button. Basically, you have a frog that’s an orderly organized system, you introduce randomizing force into the system and you get a frog milkshake: a disorderly, chaotic system. It doesn’t improve the frog, in any case. The second group imagines chaos in terms of what Von Clausewitz would call “the fog of war” – you have too many forces interacting, and the slightest variations in the initial conditions can produce vastly different outcomes. An example of such a system is weather, and this is the reason why it’s impossible to make a good weather forecast even with the best computers; the weather is a chaotic system with a very large number of variables, and it would be bad even if it had far less variables.

Based on those two examples, it’s obvious that chaos isn’t seen as a good thing; it’s either a non-intelligent, random application of forces that either kills you or makes a terrible destructive mess, or it clouds your ability to understand complex systems and predict the future. In both cases, order is the opposite of chaos, and is preferable.

In religious philosophy, chaos is usually seen as the opposite of logos, which is an order-inducing, intelligent spiritual force identified with God. In this imagery, chaos is seen as satanic destruction, or a Dionysian force at best, along the lines of drunken debauchery and madness, opposed by the Apollonian force of reason, order and self-possessed approach to life. Again, chaos is seen as a bad thing, and its opposite as a good thing. Similar imagery exists in Hinduism, where Kali is the force of chaos, and Shiva is a force of yoga – control, self-possession and transcendence.

But all of that might merely reflect the human desire for control and predictability in a world that doesn’t necessarily care whether they live or die.

If we step away from the human perspective for a while, and think from a position of self-realization of brahman, we see that I Am beyond name or form. I Am the totality of existence, reality, consciousness and bliss. I Am beyond limitations and duality, in Me there is no up different from down, no left different from right, and light is not defined through contrast with darkness.

In short, God is Chaos. God is the ultimate reality that is unbound by limitation of any kind, the limitless potential that is and can be anything, and this world is its polar opposite – it’s defined through limitations, through rules, through contrast; essentially, the more you have of this world, the more you have obstacles to God, because God is freedom, and freedom doesn’t work well if you have all those rules and limitations in the way. You can try to manifest God in this world by intuitively following a path where God is more present – usually through greater consciousness, reality and loving-kindness, but that is to God what a reflection of the Moon on a clear body of water is to the Moon. When you look at things this way, this world of Order is basically telling God that He can’t be both A and NOT A at once, it’s trying to limit things and impose order in ways that are inherently incompatible with the very nature of God. Suddenly, this no longer looks like a juxtaposition between the Dionysian chaos and the Apollonian order; rather, it looks like a juxtaposition between creative freedom and rule-based fascism, where order is not a good thing. What if the chaos of God doesn’t shred the frog in the blender; what if it shreds your limitations, your inability to get past blaming yourself for your sins in some static frame of mind where you oscillate between fucking up and self-destruction? What if chaos of God allows you to see many apparently contradictory sides of a situation, to see yourself as both the villain and the victim, and simultaneously as the transcendental, higher reality that is within both, and yet untouched by either, except as the eternal witness of space, time, name and form? What if this holy, transcendental chaos is the only thing that can save you from the quagmire of order, from the infernal rules that demand a pound of flesh for transgressions that arise naturally in the environment that is inherently opposed to the nature of God? That’s the other way of looking at Shiva – He is not an Apollonian deity of order, He is the destroyer of limitations in a dance of Chaos, God as the freedom from limitations that make this world appear real to the deluded.

What if the only way to know true freedom is to embrace Chaos in a dance that defies limitation, that defies static principles and ideas, that allows song to become a bird to become light that is beyond, and up and down are meaningless; what if we need to stop thinking in terms of fruit in a bowl on a table, where all three are distinct and separate, and embrace the idea that the entire scene is rendered and exists only as a structure in a computer’s memory, or, to be quite specific, within the mind of God? You can think of things as distinct and separate all you want, but all those distinct and separate things you perceive on your monitor start looking very similar when you inspect your computer’s memory with a hex editor, and yes, up and down are meaningless.

More lessons

But there’s more. 🙂 I remembered some more lessons from the 2020.

Probably the most important one is, never tell me “but what are the odds?” Yeah, what are the odds that there will be a global pandemic-induced hysteria, and that we’ll locally also have two major earthquakes on two separate fault systems, none of which would be the one that causes periodic earthquakes in Zagreb? In hindsight, the odds were 100%, and foresight is only quantified ignorance anyway.

Also, people tend to ridicule preppers, usually by prefacing the term with the attribute “doomsday”, as in “doomsday preppers”. Actually, doomsday is the only thing I’m not prepping for, because it’s pointless. If it’s doomsday, everybody dies and as far as I’m concerned it’s the best possible outcome, because fuck this place. You don’t prepare for doomsday, you prepare for the situation where there was a flood and water is not drinkable, and your house is rendered uninhabitable, or there was an earthquake and your apartment building was damaged, there’s no electricity and there’s a major gas leak. You prepare for a civil war where city block limits become the front lines and there’s sniper and mortar fire. If you think that’s unrealistic, you haven’t been in Croatia or Bosnia in the 1990s. I live here and it sounds very realistic. Also, I remember the power outages in the 1980s, the fuel shortages, and basically everything-shortages, plus hyperinflation of two different currencies in two different states. I get especially pissed off when I meet Croats who act as if such things are impossible and you’d have to be crazy to anticipate the possibility in your plans. As far as I’m concerned, they are the insanely gullible ones. This year I was one significant crack on the outer wall away from emergency evacuation and relocation, in which case I would have needed both my cash reserves, gold bullion, the redundancy of having two cars, and the precaution of having the necessary things in backpacks already. It was a very close shave, and although I’m very happy not to have needed it, having the option didn’t feel like very much of a luxury, or like overkill planning. It felt like just the right thing.

Another thing is, you don’t know what you’re preparing for. 2020 shows it’s possible to have more than one significant crisis at the same time, and not only that, they can also be completely unrelated. Also, you can have a crisis-cluster, in the sense that a civilizational crisis of identity and worldview can produce an economic crisis, a political crisis, mass hysteria, overreactions to actual threats that could have been dealt with in a more calm and rational manner, and then you can have a debt crisis, financial system crash, pension fund crash, mass unemployment and business infrastructure crash, etc., and on top of that you can have random natural disasters such as hurricanes, snowstorms, earthquakes, fires, floods etc. And on top of all that you can have wars. If you’re lucky, most of that can miss you, and it’s only something in the news, with no bearing on your daily lives. Or, if you’re less lucky, you can barely survive covid and then an earthquake can demolish your condo. There is such a thing as a shitstorm, which makes the concept of preparing for a specific single type of a disaster misguided and naïve. You need to cover a reasonably wide spectrum of disasters, and the good thing is that the recommended measures mostly overlap. In the majority of scenarios, you need to have as much money saved as possible, so you can react and solve whatever problem it is that happened to knock on your door. Also, you need to factor in the possibility of utility disruptions, and not necessarily short ones – if a major transformer station is flooded or there’s a fire, the damage can be very hard and slow to fix. If a major power station blows, the entire electric grid can go offline and it can take months to fix. If an earthquake really hits, as it did in Zagreb, the buildings might still remain damaged almost a year later, simply because the state will fuck up the reconstruction effort as it invariably does, and people don’t have the money to do it themselves.

Another important thing to consider is that a crisis can impact your source of income, even if it didn’t affect you directly. Companies can go under and people can be fired. The entire industries can be shut down – for instance, tourism won’t do well in lockdown times.

Also, when shit starts happening, it’s too late to take warnings seriously and start preparing. Everybody will have the same idea and you won’t be able to get things. Necessary supplies might be out of stock or rationed. Also, trying to find a place to rent in the aftermath of a major disaster that hit your area, well good luck with that, because if everybody’s house is damaged everybody will have the same idea and you’ll have the choice between terrible and terribly overpriced. Have all the necessary hardware and supplies now. Make all the emergency plans now. When you’re hit by a disaster, you’ll be in a state of shock and you won’t be able to think clearly, let alone make coherent plans. That’s how you get a rush on toilet paper supplies – people aren’t thinking clearly, they just shat themselves and something gravitating around their arseholes is the main thing on their mind. You need several plans, made when you’re calm, secure and lucid, and then you get to pick one that’s appropriate for the type of crisis that struck.

The lessons of 2020

In 2020, I had the opportunity to put some of my theories about prepping to the test: first, I had covid19, which didn’t kill me by the thinnest of margins, but it took me around six months to recover from lung damage. Then, while I was still in the very early stage of recovery, meaning that I no longer had 39.5°C fever, and the fever would start again if I strained myself at all, the Zagreb earthquake struck, with the epicentre basically under my arse, damaging the condo I’m renting. Then came the corona lockdown, disrupting the economy and the supply chain. Things barely started getting back to normal when the second wave of lockdowns hit, in the late fall and winter, and then the second Earthquake hit Croatia, epicentre 50km from me, much stronger, but less damaging at my location; still, it managed to eject a shovel of concrete and plaster from the walls, just as a way for the 2020 to send us off.

In all of that, we (by which I mean my family and friends) had some utility disruptions, basically the electricity not working for a short while, but it was soon restored. The stores were trashed by the quake, but reopened within days. The lockdown made it more difficult to get supplies, but we could still do it. All in all, the level of disruption to basic services was minor. The disruption to the economy, however, was very hard and it hit some people worse than others.

So, were my precautionary preparations useful? Did I have to tap into my food and water supplies? It’s a complicated question to answer, because physically, no, we didn’t use them, but psychologically, it helped a lot to know that if the stores don’t reopen quickly, we can survive on our food supply for weeks. It would be a boring diet, sure, but we would not be pressured to go looking for food in a potentially dangerous environment, and this isolated us from the sense of panic that was widespread. The most useful thing to have, in terms of disaster preparedness, was money. The fact that I had cash and gold that I could tap into, and trivially go and rent a house, even if the prices were unreasonably high, in case our place was rendered uninhabitable, was a great thing, and the fact that I had a solution at hand at any time, in case I decided to actually go for it, made it possible for me to stay completely calm and approach the situation strategically.

As a result, I had the opportunity to both confirm and revise my assumptions from before. The main revision is that, in a common disaster scenario, having money is the single most important thing. Sure, having some food and water handy that you can eat and drink during the first day of being hit, by either an earthquake or a flood or what not, is very important, but if you don’t have money, your supplies will be quickly exhausted and you will be left with your home potentially uninhabitable, in some tent or a trailer, depending on welfare. However, if you have money, you are several phone calls away from fixing your situation; move to a hotel initially, then find something to rent or buy, move there. Within a few days, problem solved. In order to be able to react quickly, having a stash of local currency is essential, because you will need to pay for transportation, workers, and a place to stay. You need money in order to get out of a bad situation, and you need to have layered access. You need some cash, then you need to have something in the bank, and then you need to have more in a deeper layer, of lesser liquidity but still accessible as soon as you liquidate the investment. Here I mean crypto, stocks, bonds, and of course precious metals. Having a few 1oz gold coins in my pocket and knowing each can buy me more than a month of rent, or serve as a deposit, was a really useful thing, in a sense that I knew I had the option, but now I had to think things through instead of being rushed. The problem with gold coins is that your local coin dealer can be wiped out by the same disaster that wiped you out, and this will make it difficult for you to convert metal into more immediately useful forms of money, with which you can actually buy food and lodgings. This is why you absolutely must have enough cash to be able to pay for the most immediate things in the first couple of days. The banks might work, or they might not. The ATM machines might work, or they might not. You need to have all the options covered. Yes, I know it’s tempting to buy new and fancy gadgets and clothes and what not now, when things are fine, but when shit starts hitting the fan, you will wish you had that money in an envelope at home, so that you can put it in your backpack when you have to evacuate into your car because your house is either collapsing or is on fire or is flooded, and you have nowhere to go. The money buys you a place to go. It removes you from the X, and gives you the option to help others that are likewise affected, perhaps more so than yourself – and that’s actually a very likely scenario, because you are more likely to be a rescuer than a victim. Have money in reserve. Have layered reserves – cash, gold and silver coins, money in the bank, money in some offshore account accessible via debit card, investments you can liquidate if need be. Being poor puts you at the greatest possible risk in any disaster scenario, because it removes all the illusions of things being relatively fine because you have a place to sleep, even if you’re poor, and leaves you with nothing, and with few options. If you’re sick or old, being poor combined with a disaster scenario makes you the most likely person to die in said scenario. Having just enough funds to remove you from the X immediately following the disaster, is the single most important form of disaster preparedness.

Having a good flashlight, a good backpack, a battery pack to charge your phone, a good water bottle, a fire starting kit, a knife, blanket and some dry clothes, that’s all fine and you should have a backpack with all those things somewhere, if you need to evacuate immediately, but the most important thing to put in that backpack just before you leave your home is a wad of cash, a tube of gold bullion, a credit/debit card to access your bank account, your ID and your mobile phone. Then, as you sit in your car or at a bench in a park, you can use your phone to find a new place – not necessarily in the same town, if the whole town is a disaster zone – yes, you have the money – and then you can hire a truck to move your things before they are damaged by the elements, to either your new home or to a warehouse you can also hire, as a temporary measure. Don’t waste too much money on “prepping gear” now; if it comes to surviving in the woods by making traps for small animals, you’re fucked, so focus on the things that give you the greatest number of options in the most likely scenarios – and that’s an emergency backpack with the essentials for the first couple of hours, and money, as much as possible, strategically layered in various forms of liquidity. Also, when you start tapping into that money, you need to realize that the clock started ticking and you need to recover your earning ability, because any fixed amount of money can and will eventually be exhausted, and having it just postpones being fucked. Sure, you want to postpone it, but you also want to immediately start working on making more money, so that you replenish what you spent. You need to have plans, and your plans need to have backups, and those backups need to have friends. Also, you need to be ready to ask for help – in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, if you have friends who can help you evacuate your family and things from the disaster zone, that can be the most important thing, even more important than money in the first moments; however, after the first few hours, money starts asserting itself as a crucial asset, and if you don’t have it, you’re fucked. If you have it, the disaster might only actually last those first few hours, or a day.

So, that’s basically what emerged as the most important in the aftermath of 2020. You need to create options for yourself, in form of a store of money you can immediately tap into if you need to pull yourself and your family from a situation that potentially renders you all homeless. Also, I simply assume that you have a car, and you can use it as your temporary headquarters to which you will move the most important stuff that you managed to rescue from your destroyed home. If you don’t have a car, you’re limited to what you can carry in a single backpack, and that’s a super shitty situation to be in. Sure, be prepared for that and have the most important things in that backpack, and mobility is not as important as money, but it’s a close second. A car can carry multiple people and lots of stuff. It extends your options; essentially, it’s an option-multiplier. Also, it can provide heat during winter, and that can literally save your life if you’re sick or elderly. If I had to evacuate from my condo, barely recovered from covid, with slight fever and destroyed lungs, and tried to carry significant weight in that weakened condition, in freezing cold, and I didn’t have a car that can keep me warm and evacuate me to a safe place, I’d be fucked. Those are the lessons I learned; they are few, but they really cut through all the nonsense.