How long has it been since you struck a match?

Feel the rough, square-edged splinter of wood between the tips of your thumb-pad and your index and middle fingers. Close the box, hold it in your other hand, and press the sulfured tip of the match to the abrasive strip on the edge of the box. Put pressure on the stick of the match to the point just before it starts moving.

And just hold it there.

That’s what it feels like when everything is on track. When the tiniest gears mesh perfectly and the slightest amount of effort will be transmitted throughout the entire machine. Poised and charged.

Fingers to match. Match to strip. Match to flame.

Then flame to fuse.


July 24, 2010 · Posted in Everything Else  

Ya’ll let me know when you’ve seen “Inception” so we can discuss it in detail.

In the meanwhile, if you’ve found that you like discussions of how to know whether what you’re experiencing is real and whether it actually matters if it’s real or not, feel free to also watch “The Matrix”, “What Dreams May Come”, “Existenz”, “Naked Lunch”, and/or read Jeff Noon’s novel Vurt.

That’s by no means a comprehensive list, but those oeuvres stand out in my memory, for some reason.

Without raising any spoilers, I can say the following:

1) “Inception” is beautiful and you should go see it. DiCaprio’s acting couldn’t ruin this movie, visually stunning as it is and filled with other actors that deserved all the moments in the spotlight they got.

2) It’s really not as hard as all that to hack someone’s head. I’d do it for a living if I could get a steady list of clientele.

3) Dreams are quite a bit more flexible than the movie presents. If the director had cut 90% of the parts explaining the rigid physics of dreams, it would have been easier to swallow. Also, dream logic could have been exploited a bit more thoroughly — though possibly at the expense of turning out a linear, orderly, multilayer story.

Also, lucid dreaming is fun. I recommend it for everyone.


July 20, 2010 · Posted in reviews  

I’ve been indulging my most horrible hobby lately: looking at all the busted things and wondering how to fix them. That obsession’s been at the core of every job I’ve had (at which I was successful, anyway), and even for my writing, because at the core of it, the problem I’ve been trying to fix has been the inherent brokenness of a blank page.

It’s still evil out there. There’s a lot that’s broken.

The more advanced I am in my career(s), the more I’m required to look at the larger picture — not just at the project on which I’m working, but how that project dovetails into the larger puzzle. Nothing can be designed for a pristine laboratory environment. Whatever you build has to be handled by a thousand hands, dragged in the dirt, and put to a hundred uses for which you never planned. Including probably being used for a weapon.

I’m reluctant to turn out even a single paragraph in these circumstances. With so much fear and uncertainty around, people are just looking for a way to appropriate whatever you give them and turn it into a supporting argument for their own attacks and defenses. In times of fear one’s own sense of reality is weakened and people will grab onto anything that can be twisted to provide an illusion of control over one’s environment or support one’s view of the world around, regardless of whether it’s inherently positive or negative, and with no respect whatsoever for that view’s grounding in reality. Or more importantly, lack thereof.

For some reason it’s okay for the world to seem more awful than it actually it is as long as you know it’s just behaving according to the rules. C.f., Murphy, et al.

If you’re reading carefully, you see I’m admitting to being tempted by the same trap, seeing evil everywhere because that’s what I’m focusing on, recognizing evil because I “know” things are evil out there. I’m going to continue to call it an obsession, because that has the necessary connotations of illness. It is, in fact, interfering with my health. And not for the first time.

From where I’m standing, evil is in the bigger picture I find myself forced to consider. We’ve created giant hulking machines out of ourselves, aggregate machines that are as alive as we are, whose goals and interests are not our own, and which are allowed to eat us for their sustenance. A small percentage of ourselves ride them like parasites and predate on them — and thereby us — and that’s as evil as attacking us individually and directly.

And there’s no existing morality that defines good or evil with respect to these aggregates. In that vacuum, people use them without the kindnesses they’d direct even to livestock. They use them as condoms for raping people they’d never have the guts to rape and steal from in person. That level of organizational insulation protects those who profit from guilt, but nothing protects the victim from misery.

If our institutions of governments and religions don’t start addressing the problems of these new life forms, I may have to break down and found one that does.

So I can stop obsessing and allow myself to see a bit more beauty again.


July 18, 2010 · Posted in Everything Else  

Raw petroleum is slimy and icky and makes the fish taste funny. It’s pretty bad to have millions of gallons per day just gush up into the ocean and get things all messy and coat the animals and birds. But frankly, the massive petroleum spoogefest is nowhere near the worst part of the ongoing problem.

Poke through the following in approximately this order:

Here’s the upshot.

Where you have oil, you have methane. It’s “natural” gas — a term created by energy industry marketroids to make us feel better about burning it, as opposed to, say, any of a selection of unnatural gases. It’s just a kind of petroleum, which, in turn, is nothing but chains of carbon atoms of various lengths bonded to as much hydrogen as can be made to stick. A “chain” of one carbon atom is methane, two is ethane, three is propane, four is butane — and after that, they tend to be liquids at typical room temperatures and atmospheric pressures, and we start to call them names like pentane, hexane, heptane, octane, etc., all the way up to hydrocarbon sludge. Petroleum distillation is largely just sorting those molecules by length into various buckets.

Methane can be produced as a product or byproduct of metabolic processes and is the major component of a fart. But it’s also one of the substances you get in a post-supernova cooldown, and since hydrogen and carbon are really common elements, you can come by planets with oceans of the stuff. So it’s tough to say whether our petroleum deposits are condensed/compressed interstellar carbon or the result of biological decay, but it’s probably both.

In any case, we keep precious little methane (or ethane, or propane, or butane) in our atmosphere these days — and we like it that way. For the past four billion years we’ve worked hard to process that stuff out of our sky and turn it into water and carbon that we can turn into, well, us.

A bubble of methane in the sky some twenty miles across is just a bomb — but a bomb that is as much of a planet-killer as a hefty asteroid traveling at speed. In fact, the devastation from some of our asteroid strikes may have been assisted by the methane bubbles they shook loose from the ocean the way thumping a glass of something carbonated can make it foam up and overflow the glass.

The water is a mile deep where the Deepwater Horizon well is, but the oil pan from which they were sipping is 2.5 miles below the well-head. I’d dearly love to know what forces could have lifted the sea bed by thirty feet where the well-head is, especially when all of the action is supposed to be 2.5 miles below that. And I’d love to know how concerned we ought to be about that particular pimple popping — what will be released, and what will happen when the seafloor drops back to where it was. Or below.

Tsunamis, earthquakes, the sky on fire, raining carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide and various unsavory chemicals — all of these are on the menu. What entree will this crisis pick?


July 11, 2010 · Posted in Everything Else  

Yes, the Thursday Emu Report has returned.

Today’s feature is Louisiana chef Dale Bourgeois’s cookbook for the American Emu Association, largely to let you know that there is such a thing as the American Emu Association, and that they, in fact, have a cookbook. And possibly members. And probably lobbyists.

More lobbyists than you, I’d imagine.

Click here for a list of handy recipes should you happen to put your hands on, accidentally or on purpose, a wad of emu meat or an egg or two.

Click the emu to see an article on How Stuff Works to, at least theoretically, discover how emus work.

Amazon’s new grocery ordering service doesn’t yet cover emu eggs that still have the payload inside, as it were, but they have a nice price on clean and empty shells.

The people in this video managed to put their hands on a loaded one.

I personally recommend videos from this link, as they are more representative of my own experiences with emus.

As you were.


July 8, 2010 · Posted in Everything Else