war, peace and philosophy

This week I got up to Volume III, Part II in War and Peace, and at the start of this section, Tolstoy enters into a bit of philosophising — or I should say re-enters, as he sort of went over this in an earlier section. In this part of the novel, Napoleon is invading Russia. His army is far superior to that of the Russians, which appears to be in comparative disarray as they are lacking a strong leader.

Tolstoy posits that everyone involved in that war believed they were acting for themselves, according to their own will, but, in reality, they were all “involuntary instruments of history”. In an earlier part of the novel (I forget where, and the book is much too big to go searching for this one particular chapter), Tolstoy wrote something about the great cascade of events that must take place for a war to start, and claims that it cannot be pinned on any one event or person.

If I remember correctly, the main gist of it was that no matter who insults who, or who wants to go conquesting where, there cannot be a war if great masses of people don’t enlist to become soldiers, and there is a great deal that must happen to lead to that.

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near miss

I very nearly didn’t get a blog post done for this week. I did think about letting this one slip by. After all, there’s nothing forcing me to continue this post-per-week thing.

But I just couldn’t. I’m not sure what it is — Pride? Stubbornness? Fear? Why can’t I just let this go? If there is one week in many that I don’t feel like writing, or forget to blog, surely there is no terrible ripple effect on the universe, right?

Anyway, it’s less than two hours before Sunday ticks over to Monday, the start of another week. I’ve made it before the deadline yet again.

Hopefully next week-end will be less busy, and more full of writing inspiration. Or, who knows, maybe next week will be the week I give the whole thing a miss.

a habit unmasked

I’ve come to realise that it was a lot easier to get used to wearing masks again than it was to get used to not wearing masks. The last time my city went into lockdown, it was mandatory to wear masks in hospitals and medical centres, as well as in workplaces where it was not possible to “social distance”. Having been through this before, it was easy enough to go back to that routine.

Once the lockdown was over, masks were no longer mandatory. Hardly anyone wore them anymore, but it felt so weird to walk into the building at work not wearing one. I’d approach the glass sliding doors in the morning, and the thought would occur to me that I didn’t have a mask on, and my hand would automatically move to my bag where my mask was kept, and … hold on, is the lockdown really over?

I had to glance around me at other people also not wearing masks to reassure myself that I wasn’t breaking any laws by not wearing a mask. 

I just think it’s strange how I got used to it so quickly, and then going back to what I’d been doing for the vast majority of my working life was harder. Such are the times, I guess.

hot topics

Thermodynamics was not something I expected to think much about after high school, but as I grasped my coffee cup with both hands while going up the stairs at work, I found myself thinking about thermodynamics and the transfer of heat, and about how wonderful it is that these concepts exist and have been explained.

It suddenly got very cold here around the middle of the week. On Wednesday when I left work, my watch told me that it was 18 degrees (Celsius) outside. I was surprised and thought it must be a mistake. But when I got outside, I felt like it was about 10 degrees, the air was so icy cold.

So on Thursday morning, I got a coffee from the cafe a few floors down from my workplace. They have a tendency of making the coffee quite hot (or a friend suggested I might just have a sensitive mouth that cannot handle high temperatures), but that morning I was grateful for the extra hot coffee, as I could allow the heat to warm my cold hands.

As I walked back up the stairs, I thought about the idea of heat energy, and of the movement of molecules caused by this energy. I thought most of all about how heat always goes from a warmer object to a cooler object, and about the concept of specific heat capacity, which explains why different materials absorb or lose heat at different rates.

And I thought about my high school chemistry/physics teacher, and about that semester of learning thermodynamics, and how most teenagers who don’t intend to pursue science or engineering careers probably think it’s all pointless. But how positively wonderful is it to be able to experience these phenomena — like the phenomena of heat transfer — and be able to know why and how it happens?