Michel de Nostredame was born in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France in 1503. They were a middle-class family. His father was an attorney. Michel went to the University of Avignon when he was 15. There, he picked up the nickname “little astronomer.” The plague reemerged during this time and the university was closed and he was sent home.

He was interested in the stars and planets but also taught himself about plants and medicine and was able to work as an apothecary. He wanted to become a doctor but was kicked out of medical school when they found out he had been an apothecary. That version of “healing” was banned by the university, as was alchemy.

He had been focused on understanding and helping to cure the plague. It was still a major medical issue in his time, though the main epidemic had been during the 14th century. Some of Michel’s ideas about healing were more modern. For example, he believed that good hygiene was critical, and he was against the practice of bloodletting.

He was married and had children, but his wife and children died, probably of the plague. His second marriage was to a rich widow, and they had six children.

There are gaps in his life story, but he left medicine and turned more to the occult. In 1550, he wrote his first almanac which was filled with the annual predictions we still have in almanacs. It had weather predictions and annual predictions about celestial occurrences, some astrology, and also the kinds of prophecies he is best known for today. It was published under the name Nostradamus, a new Latinized version of his last name. The book was a big success, and he published a new book each year. Each volume had 100 verse predictions.

Astrology was generally considered to be a legitimate source of information. There were members of the royal court who were fans of Nostradamus’ Other astrologers of the time considered him a not very good astrologer but he had an audience.

He made more than 6,300 predictions, including predictions about the world well into the future, until the year 3797.

The prophecies of Nostradamus. came up back in 2012 when there was some end-of-world craziness around the Maya and people tried to figure out what Nostradamus might have said about 2012. Some people put forward some incredible (in its true meaning of “difficult or impossible to believe”) interpretations. Still, people continue to read his predictions today.

Some of the more famous ones include crediting him with seeing the Great Fire of London, the rise of Adolph Hitler, both world wars, the creation of the United Nations, the assassination of JFK, the atomic bomb, the Apollo moon landings, the McCarthy trials, the death of Princess Diana, and the tragedy of 9/11.

His predictions have only seemed accurate in retrospect. I have yet to hear of someone accurately predicting the future in advance based on Nostradamus’ writings. It hasn’t helped Nostradamus’s reputation that people have also created hoaxes using what they say are predictions he made.

I would say two tips if you are making prophecies are to be vague and make a lot of them.

His book Les Prophéties, a collection of 942 poetic quatrains allegedly predicting future events was first published in 1555.

film poster

One example of interpreting his writing came after World War II. MGM made a short film called “Nostradamus Says So,” which gave a little background on Nostradamus and suggested that he had predicted the Allied victory during the war.

Here is one verse they quoted saying that it is about the Statue of Liberty as a symbol of America:

“The chosen protector of the great country
For endless years will hold the famed torch
It will serve to guide this great people
And in its name they will struggle and triumph.”

Would you interpret this more accurate translation as being about WWII?

“The newly elected patron of the great vessel
Will see the clear flame shine for a long time
Which will serve as a lamp to this great territory
At which time the armies under his name
Will join with those happily of Bourbon
From east to west resting his memory.”

Nostradamus has stayed alive in our time. A part of us wishes that we could see into the future and know what was to come, even if the evidence points to that being impossible. Similar predictions are made using the Bible. There are regular predictions about the end of the world from Nostradamus, the Bible, and many others.

Wikipedia lists many references to Nostradamus in entertainments including Film, Television, Books, Music, Comics, Mangas, Games, and Theater.

He had become rich and famous. Nostradamus suffered from gout throughout his fifties and then suffered from edema. He made out his will and on the evening of July 1, 1566, he is alleged to have made a final prediction, telling his secretary “You will not find me alive at sunrise.” Not a shocking prediction, given the circumstances, but the next morning he was found dead.

Dear Future Me

at the laptop

Where did the weekend go? I only arrived in Paradelle an hour ago. It almost wasn’t worth the drive. It’s getting dark and cold. I’ll have to stay over rather than drive back home. That’s okay. I’ll make a fire, and a hot toddy, rustle up some dinner and settle in with a movie. At least my weekend in Paradelle will be relaxing.

I spent a lot of Friday, Saturday, and today writing on a keyboard but none of it was for this website. Virtual work on two websites and blogs that are not my own. Gigs that pay some of the bills. But I missed this place.

I just wrote myself an email on the Future Me website that will be delivered in a year from now. I’ve done it before. You write yourself a letter and pick a future date when you want to receive it. I’ve done it before.

I used to do this with my middle school students before the web could do it. They wrote letters to their graduating high school selves based on some models I provided. I never saw the letters other than briefly as they put them into a self-addressed and double-stamped envelope, and I noted that they had done the assignment. Then I bundled them and stored them. I would mail them out at their graduation time in 4 or 5 years depending on their grade level.  (Double stamped in case the postage rates changed in the interim.) A middle-schooler writing about who they were and who they wanted or expected to be as graduating seniors could be an interesting letter.

After I mailed them, I would have a few students return to visit me. Some had forgotten the assignment and were amazed that I remembered to mail the letters. A few letters bounced back to me (I was their return address) because they had moved. Most of the students never came back. That’s typical with students you taught in middle school, But the ones who did visit me were really excited to get their letter. Their reactions to reading it ranged from “Geez, I was such an idiot” to “I was so wrong (both in good and bad ways) about how high school would be.” They told me they had written about middle school best friends and interests and dreams that had faded away. Some said their ambitions were still ambitions – perhaps still to be fulfilled after graduation.

Who can predict our future? None of us, though we try. Just now (for the purposes of this post, of course) I took a look at my horoscope and tarot reading for today. Am I a believer in such things? Not really, but I treat them like having a daily affirmation or keeping a gratitude journal. They are a moment to reflect on yourself. The unexamined life isn’t worth living, right?

My horoscope said You may be wondering why everyone is getting so touchy when you see this as being just a normal day. No one was touchy today. I only saw my wife and she was fine with me today. The wonderful thing about horoscopes and tarot is that you can always get another reading. I checked a second horoscope source and it said:  You may discover that what you find beautiful today is different from the idea of beauty you were raised with. That is certainly true. Today, at least this second half of it, was beautiful in a way that I was never raised to think of a day. But then the horoscope went in a totally different path: Even if you have already been drifting in this direction for some time, being able to clearly articulate what you do and don’t like in the moment can help you make decisions more easily about how you’ll style yourself going forward. Once you have the idea of a general style you want, you may really enjoy shopping for some of the specific items. Shopping? Is that tied into the ads on the webpage? I hate shopping and my style hasn’t changed in decades.


Let’s look at my tarot reading done online – which is perhaps as valid as one done by any human including me.

Your emotional foundations benefit wonderfully from a New Moon on the 2nd. This offers a fresh start domestically, within your family. I don’t feel I need a fresh start domestically but let’s wait for that New Moon.
It indicates a possible house move or the beginning of a home-related project. Well, I can always anticipate that my wife might start a home project. She’s been talking about new furniture and making a new area around the fire pit, which is currently snow-covered.
It could also mean new domestic responsibilities come your way or any issues connected with your clan get ironed out. That’s ominous. I already have responsibilities for my older, ailing sister, and I suppose either of my grown and married sons might add something. I hope this prediction is wrong.
Resolving or proceeding with anything home or family-related is supported further by your ruling planet Venus moving forward on the 29th. Where emotional security and contentment are concerned, it’s all systems go! Well, that’s encouraging.

I’ll make a note on the calendar to check back on the 29th and February first (which is actually when the New Moon slips into place) Should I worry about any of this? The Magic 8-Ball says “No” and I like that definitiveness.

In case you’re curious about sending your future self a letter…

Soylent Green 2022

Soylent Green is a movie, and in that film, it is also a processed food that keeps the 40 million inhabitants of New York City and much of the world alive. It is set in the year 2022.

It was the worst of times. Scarcity. 50% unemployment. People living in cars. Women are completely oppressed. The younger and prettier ones become “furniture girls” – mistresses to rich men.

The film Soylent Green was released in 1973. It is an ecological, sci-fi,  dystopian thriller. It was directed by Richard Fleischer, and stars Charlton Heston, Leigh Taylor-Young and Edward G. Robinson in his last film.

The 2022 setting of the film is a world of dying oceans, the greenhouse effect (a term less used today) but the changing climate results in pollution, poverty, overpopulation, and depleted resources. Sound familiar?

Soylent green.jpg
Fair use, Link

It is also partly police procedural about the murder of a wealthy businessman. The wealthy elite citizens live in elegant fortresses with private security, bodyguards and their “furniture. NYPD detective Frank Thorn (Heston) and his aged friend Sol Roth (Robinson) are on the case. Roth, AKA “Book, “is a very intelligent former college professor and police analyst who remembers the world when it had animals and real food.

The murder victim was William R. Simonson, a board member of the Soylent Corporation which makes the food supply for half of the world. Their cookie/wafers include “Soylent Red” and “Soylent Yellow” but their new product is “Soylent Green” which is a more nutritious version and it is in demand and in short supply. It is advertised as being made from ocean plankton. There are supply chain and distribution problems and that causes riots when supplies run out. Rioters are violently removed from the streets by garbage-truck-type vehicles called “Scoops” that shovel up people and haul them away.

Simonson’s “furniture” Shirl begins a relationship with Thorn and helps him. He is told to end his investigation but continues anyway and finds himself being stalked.

It has been a long time since the film was released, so can I give a spoiler about the plot? The dying oceans can’t produce enough plankton to make Soylent Green. The company needs a new source of protein. I won’t say what that source is – though you might guess – and Simonson’s murder was ordered by his own company because he was troubled by the direction of the company.

Roth is disturbed by what they discover that he decides to end his life using one of the assisted suicide government clinics. Euthanasia is an accepted practice in this version of 2022.

The screenplay was based on the novel Make Room! Make Room! which was published in 1966). In the novel, the setting was 1999.

I won’t say it’s a great film but it did win the Nebula Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film at the time. Is it a prescient film? Is it accurate in its prediction of 2022? Thankfully, we are not living in the film’s 2022 world, but there are aspects of the film’s future that are true to today.

I was surprised some years ago when I saw that Soylent (meal replacement), became a brand of meal replacement products. I was surprised because what happens in the book and film is a horrible thing.

In the book and 2012  film Cloud Atlas and in another dystopian novel, Tender is the Flesh, food shortages are solved in a similar way to Soylent Green.

La Nina Winter

I wrote last week about the interesting but unscientific prediction of a bad winter based on the acorn harvest which is one of many weather lore ideas. Someone contacted me to say they spotted “black deer” in their neighborhood and that predicts a bad winter. But on the more scientific but not always accurate side of predicting the weather, the NOAA has put out their notice on how La Niña may affect the winter of 2021-22 in America.

La Nina
A look at La Nina along the equator in the tropical Pacific Ocean in September 2021. (NOAA

In what is called a “La Niña winter,” the southern U.S. gets above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation. That could be bad news for the Southwest and areas dealing with a historic drought.

La Niña tends to have the opposite effect on the northern U.S., meaning lower than average temperatures with more snow and rain.

Even the NOAA folks add the caveat that a more exact forecast of temperature, snow, and rain isn’t possible until winter has arrived.

What is La Niña? It is when cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures along the equator indicate La Niña will develop. In September they saw it had developed and will extend through the second winter in a row according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. La Niña is a natural ocean-atmospheric phenomenon and is translated from Spanish as “little girl.”

In 2020, La Niña developed during the month of August and then dissipated in April 2021.

Our Brain’s Constant Predicting

The end of a year and the start of a new year brings many predictions about things to come. Predictive coding has nothing to do with “coding” computers or predicting trends and everything to do with our personal neuroscience.

The classical view of perception states that we experience the world by receiving input from our environment, processing it at the higher levels of our brain, and then responding accordingly.

A newer alternative theory proposes to add to those three steps that our higher faculties often “predict” the input from our environment. That means we have a perception of some things before we experience it. This is called predictive coding or predictive processing.

I read an article by Sara Briggs and then followed up with another titled “To Make Sense of the Present, Brains May Predict the Future.” In those readings, I encountered this theory (still controversial) that suggests that perception, motor control, memory, and other brain functions all depend on comparisons between ongoing actual experiences and the brain’s modeled expectations.

The next day I noticed a connection when my son’s visiting dog seemed to do some predictive processing. Pepper reacts to her doorbell at home by barking and sprinting to the front window. We were watching the movie Love Actually and in one scene Hugh Grant’s character rang a series of doorbells looking for a woman’s home. Even though these were different doorbell sounds from the sound in Pepper’s home, she reacted to each ring in the same way that she does at home. Her actual experience in my home and her brain’s modeled expectation created a match.

One way scientists look for evidence to support this theory is to look at cases where the brain predicts too much or too little. For example, individuals with autism would presumably have a weak predictive filter. That would mean that they have a harder time categorizing items based on past experiences.  They would have an extreme sensitivity to input from the environment and the many “new” experiences could be overwhelming.

A person with schizophrenia would be at the other extreme with an overly strong predictive filter. Their brain would be so certain about what it’s looking at, it will cancel out new information and have false perceptions, possibly even hallucinations.

What is considered “normal” is somewhere in the middle of this spectrum.

Of course, we can change that by changing our brain chemistry. That is why some research uses psychedelic substances. Some neuroscientists might say that our “normal” perception is a “controlled hallucination.” Substances like psilocybin and LSD remove the predictive filter and so when we under that influence someone sees something common to daily life, such as a tree, there is no prediction and it alternative perceptions emerge. The branches moving in the wind are arms and the leaves are flames. The drugs don’t add to perception but by removing the filter they allow other possibilities.

How does this predictive coding affect learning new things?

To learn new things we need to be open to new perceptions which means the filter must be reduced to some extent. But in order to retain the new information and use it in the future, we need a predictive model of that information, which requires that filter to be operating normally. When the two are balanced, learning and memory are optimized.

In a more simplified explanation, being open-minded should lead to greater learning. We don’t put information in a box and move on.

Some of this theorizing isn’t new at all. Back in the 1860s, the framework known as the “Bayesian brain” was introduced and Helmholtz’s concept of unconscious inference emerged. It proposes that the brain makes probabilistic inferences about the world based on an internal model, – it calculates a “best guess” interpretation of what it’s perceiving. The name comes from Bayesian statistics which quantifies the probability of an event based on relevant information gleaned from prior experiences.

These “controlled hallucinations” based on predictions don’t wait for all sensory information to drive cognition. We are constantly constructing hypotheses about the world. We use these to explain new experiences. The brain is constantly generating and updating a mental model of sensory input.


Reading the Tea Leaves

tea readers

This morning, I brewed a little pot of tea in the old way and so I ended up with some tea leaves in my cup. And I did a bit of reading the tea leaves.

You’ve probably heard about that and I’m not claiming that tasseography (or tasseomancy or tassology) works, of course. But divination by interpreting patterns in tea leaves is quite an old practice.

Tasseography comes from the French word tasse for “cup” (which comes from Arabic tassa) and the Greek suffixes -graph (writing), -logy (study of), and -mancy (divination). You get a bit of history by looking at the word and see who practiced this art. It is also done with coffee grounds and wine sediments, but tea leaves are the most common method.

I know there is no scientific evidence that the future can be determined through any method, so you can view this as just a party game – but I do have an affinity for things that are interpretations of synchronistic events.

The methodology is simple: pour a cup of brewed tea made without a tea strainer into a white cup and drink the tea. (I don’t think you should just pour it out.) Some things I have read say to shake the cup but that seems like some deliberate changes to the leaves, so I leave them be unless they are all in a lump. I did give a final swirl before I finished the last sip. There aren’t that many rules about what to see and much of the interpretation is in the eyes and mind of the reader.

Look for a pattern: a letter, a shape, a face. There are books that give clues, much in the way that dream interpretation books suggest meanings and symbols. But the meanings are supposed to be so personal that you need your own system to interpret your future.

Guides will say that a heart means your love life, a snake is falsehood, a spade is good fortune, a road or mountain is a journey, though the mountain might be an obstacle along the way. Pretty standard interpretation stuff and far too generic to have much personal meaning. Maybe, for you, a heart indicates actual heart health. Maybe snakes are pets to you, or perhaps you just saw one in your garden this morning. Meanings are personal. You could certainly anger some people by saying that a cat represents “a deceitful friend or relative” while a dog is “a loyal friend or relative” as I read online.

I was taught (by a girlfriend in college) that you read a cup starting at the rim by the handle as the present, and down to the bottom as the future. If you’re able to do it, some readers can see not only images in the dark tea leaves, but also the reverse images in the white negative spaces (the dark leaves are then the background).

tea leaves

What did I see of my future in my cup of plum tea?

I think near the handle I do see a mountain.
Those two blobs to the left? Clouds?
On the bottom, I see an alligator with its mouth open at the left. Not sure what is below it.
So, am I facing a mountain that I must climb soon? One obscured by clouds or something?
To the future, that alligator doesn’t bode well. Unless, it’s a lucky dragon.

I think I’ll stick to my casting of the runes.