An old friend is coming over to the house tonight; he's back from a year and a half as WaPo bureau chief in Pakistan, so there will be tales and ales. Ergo, nothing much tonight. I get to do that: have an evening without this. Also have a column to do - Wednesdays are the worst day of the week, in the sense that everything starts to compact and bear down. I never have a good idea in the morning, which makes me nervous (I have ideas, just not big ones; the problem with writing a column twice a week as opposed to daily is that you have to be Big. I’d rather just be constant) and then the afternoon is spent in mild twitchery. Plus I have to find someone to interview. Everything builds until Friday at 3 PM and then I hit SEND, and a weight commensurate to the collected mass of the universe rises from my shoulder.

That’s impossible, you say; you are part of that mass, and cannot be considered separate from it. Besides, what if we’re in a black hole? That was a piece on some site today that raised that issue, and I sighed; the genre of “What if the universe is a (blank) story” is always a let-down, especially if they’re suggesting this could be a holographic simulation. I still don’t know what that means and I’ve read the articles ten times. It’s one way of saying “this could all be running in a computer somewhere.” I suppose it’s possible, but the parameters seem set rather narrow. No magic. No interstellar travel. Of course, if it is a simulation, it’s one of many; who knows how long it takes to run, and whether the point is to program X Y Z and see how long it takes for someone in the simulation to figure out it’s a simulation, or create computers powerful enough to create their own infinitely detailed holographic universe simulations - at which point the game ends and the time goes up on the leaderboard.

Unless you want to keep running the game until there are thousands of nested virtual universes, each believing it is the only real one. That happens if you leave the program running while you’re on vacation, I guess. Then one day Dad says he needs to free up some space on the computer; can I clean out these saved games? Sure, go ahead, I don’t play that much anymore. And untold trillions of individuals lose their history and mill around on a hundred billion planets wondering what to do.

I find it impossible, because I just looked over to the right at the coffee pot, from which I just took a cup. The coffee is moving back and forth as it settles. The simulation would have to be able to take into account the fluid dynamics of the coffee, the lighting from the overhead fixture, the reflection of an item I placed in the sink an hour ago, and the fact that I just looked over at the pot for some reason that has nothing to do with anything I’m thinking or doing. Calculating the interaction of everything everywhere on this planet, let alone every body in the heavens, would, I suspect, exceed the limits of any possible computer.

Just writing that makes me nervous, because I suppose it’s not. But. C’mon. There’s a snow storm supposed to hit us again. Imagine 100,000 people in cars; add snow falling; music on the radio, or news broadcasts that contain that background noise and conversation; and all the thoughts people have listening to it for a moment before their brain switches to what they’re planning for dinner. Do they have canned tomatoes in the closet? Diced? Hunts or Red Gold brand?

Times a trillion. I suppose it’s possible. Almost be a shame if it was.

Friend’s here; have to go.


Because I’m really padding the heck out of it today, we return to the new feature clamored for by none: a selective, unrepresentative look at places I don’t know, with snap judgments assigned to a brief examination of blurry images.

Say hello to Muncie, Indiana. Why? Same as last week: I was looking for the location of a restaurant from 1969.

It is difficult to imagine a time when this was a good idea. Look at the stone globes over the cheap wooden facade - there’s a proud Richardsonian Romanesque building behind that. Tilt up. (BTW, I've noticed that these pictures don't always pop into proper focus; if not, just click on the picture, and the rest should sharpen as well.)

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Slide down the block: it’s a 50s modernization. As someone once noted, it was as if a flood struck every downtown in America and swept away everything on the first floor level.

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Pan right a bit, and you'll see a view that's been unchanged since JFK, probably. Look up: The heaviness of the stone is offset by the bright open corners.

Now and then something is brought back to life with meticulous care. There’s a reason for the thin windows, and it’s not just structural: from what I recall, the windows helped suck in air to cool the buildings. I think that’s the reason.

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I have no idea what this could have ever been.

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Whatever it was, they didn't want you to see what was going on upstairs.

Oh, grand: someone looked at the FBI Building in DC and thought it needed a little brother in the middle of the country.

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Typical for the era: emphasizes the mass at the top of the building, and ends up looking like a glum keep for a cruel, remote leader.

Now and then you look down, and the past reappears before your eyes:

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Across the street, history inlaid in the floor of the city:

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There’s a Miller’s Florists that’s been around since 1929; this could be the original location. These inlays are one of the most bittersweet apparitions in old downtowns; there’s pride and history in the sight. This name shall last! This store is here for the ages! I’s likely everyone today walks over it without knowing who MILLER was, and given how most people look at cities it’s likely most people don’t give it a second thought. Just something that was. That’s all.

Finally: the 20th century of small-city architecture summed up in one picture.


Updates on the right - restaurant interiors! Also, See you around.


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