Thursday, September 30, 2004

Tonnies, 29, is unimposing - tall, thin, bespectacled - until he speaks, throwing out head-scratching, multisyllabic words with the ease of a college pitcher striking out eight graders.

My cover is blown . . .
The Submerging World

"Recent polling indicated that the single most salient issue for American voters in this year's election is not Iraq, not the deficit, but the price of gas. Too high, the price of gas. Faced with the high price of gas, why worry that Tuvalu has a culture that may date back four thousand years? Why worry that as we raise the temperature of the oceans we not only make them larger but we also -- inexorably -- kill off the coral reefs that surround these islands? Marine scientists have warned that this most benign and teeming of all ecosystems may not make it to mid-century. Already, widespread bleaching from higher temperatures has sterilized many reefs. Oh, and when the reefs die off and disintegrate, islands like Tuvalu's, with nothing to break the surf, are opened to increased wave action, which merely compounds the problem of rising seas. Why worry that mosquitoes carrying dengue fever are already spreading into places that have never known mosquitoes before -- parts of Bangladesh, for one -- bringing sudden hemorrhagic death?"
This just in:

Is Caffeine Withdrawal a Mental Disorder?

"Researchers are saying that caffeine withdrawal should now be classified as a psychiatric disorder."

I have a weird relationship with caffeine. It seems I can drink unlimited amounts of coffee/espresso at any time of the day or night without appreciable effect. More interestingly in light of the above headline, I've found that I can stop at any time without fear of the slightest "withdrawal" symptoms. No headaches. No more irritability than usual.

My craving for coffee drinks is purely habitual. I like drinking coffee not because I get a "fix," per se, but because I like drinking coffee. I like the feel of hot ceramic. I like the endearing way in which cardboard "java jackets" tend to slide off if not properly secured. I like the short-lived floral patterns on the surface of my latte.

I am not mad!

Take a look at Forth Media, the revised website of eWarrior's tech-savvy graphic design venture, featuring "MacBot Singularity," the increasingly appropriate digital portrait that appears on the back on my book, "After the Martian Apocalypse."

For related graphics, click here.
Carol, commenting on a prior post, writes:

"Mac, it sounds like you may be experiencing entoptics, a phenomenon I've been having increasing for about 10 years now. There's some evidence it is associated with a rise in theta brainwaves, and in my experience that includes a bit of psychic opening and a whole lot of synchronicities. There has been work tying it in with cave art patterns, possibly as a way of inducing the state as part of shamanic work."

Needless to say, I'll take a look at the links she provided to see if what I've experienced is related. Whatever it is, it hasn't let up. Imagine being surrounded by a vaguely glistening amalgam of flesh and metal; that's what it looks like. Also, I recently experienced a lucid dream so intriguing that I stayed in bed till past noon to see it through to its "conclusion."
Virtual windows have been a standard in science fiction interior design for a long time. Too long. Check out The Virtual Window Project:

"The Virtual Windows above consist of eight 15" LCD panels connected via custom-built cables to two nVidia Quadro PCI video cards, each with four DVI outputs. The LCD backlight inverters are driven by their own power supply (sitting on top of the PC) and the panels get their 3.3v power from the PC's ATX power supply. The total desktop resolution is 3072x2048. A small Visual Basic app cycles pre-cut images every 15 minutes and Windows manages the arrangement."
Astronomer David Darling was on late-night radio a few days ago. He was fascinating, every bit as articulate about anti-gravity UFOs and ET supercomputers as his book "Equations of Eternity" is about cosmology.

One of the ideas he discussed was his personal conviction that consciousness is a field "tuned into" and individualized by organic brains. In other words, we're tapping into a universal commodity with organs evolved to do just that. We (normally) perceive such a small piece of reality because the hyper-awareness implied by disembodied, "raw" consciousness is simply unnecessary -- and even potentially harmful -- to organisms such as ourselves. Our bodies require constant physical attention; if we could access the entirety of the universe, many of us would probably keel over from sheer information overload. Of course, this is a species that can't even handle Dish TV.

The transhuman imperative, as I see it, is to upload ourselves into this vast, barely tapped reservoir of awareness. I think advanced aliens have taken a similar evolutionary route, originating as carbon-based life on rocky, terrestrial worlds and eventually learning how to transcend gross matter while retaining something of their individuality -- whatever "individuality" might entail for nonhumans.

This juxtaposes the "afterlife" debate with the SETI debate in a most unfashionable manner. But that's part of the fun.
Will women outpace men in 2156?

"Women's times have been improving steadily faster than men's in recent years, they showed. If this trend continues, they calculate that a woman should be the fastest person in the world 152 years from now, give or take an ample statistical margin of 724 years. Women would triumph in a time of 8.079 seconds compared to men's 8.098, they report in Nature."

I think "gender" and "sex" will be mostly inconsequential by 2156, terms useful only in a formal sense. I foresee a burgeoning population of asexual "gender migrants," an idea sensitively explored in Greg Egan's novel "Distress."

Sex will still be available, of course. If you're into that sort of thing.
Toutatis Passes Without Incident

"According to some conspiracy theorists, the President was supposed to make an announcement on Tuesday night that the world was about to end. And the government supposedly shut down a website that dared to break this news. Toutatis was going to be captured by gravity and impact the Earth, ending all life."

I hadn't heard this bit about W making an emergency announcement. I feel cheated. A desiccated biosphere and mile-high tidal waves in Kansas seem a small price to pay to see W stumble his way through that speech.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Engineering God in a Petri Dish

"Advisers to Keats' organization, the International Association for Divine Taxonomy, include biochemists, biophysicists, ecologists, geneticists and zoologists from the University of California at Berkeley, the Smithsonian and other institutions of scientific repute. The mission: to determine where on the phylogenetic map -- the scientific tree of life -- to put God."

Who says "God" -- given that it exists -- is necessarily alive? I'd hire some information theorists and cyberneticists to compliment Keats' team of biologically inclined experts. More than likely, "God" isn't a "thing" at all, but a process. Then again, that's what life is: a self-perpetuating pattern in an ocean of disorder.

But if you're going to look for "God" in the biological domain, I think you're best off starting where our ubiquitous belief in it is most readily apparent -- our own brains.

To be read in your best William Burroughs voice:

I hereby found the Institute for Neurotheological Taxonomy. We seek to isolate this so-called "God virus" so that its effects can be studied, catalogued for the benefit of posthuman scholars, and ultimately eradicated . . .

Dr. Benway enters the laboratory wielding a bonesaw and a dismembered vacuum cleaner. He descends on the comatose patient's shaved skull with a wanton smile.

Back in Kansas City the laptop computer's keys have grown warm with captive electricity.

"I'm gettin' outta here, me."

A good retrospective of John Mack's impact on the close encounter research community by Whitley Strieber.
There's quite a bit of road construction going on near my apartment and I'm fascinated by the neon "pavement glyphs" the construction guys use to denote various cryptic functions. They're generally circular, with a line of some kind emerging from the center -- very similar to the pictograms that flourished near Stonehenge in the early 1990s. Indeed, these gaudy works of "found" urban art share a surprising kinship with English crop circles; I have little doubt that if I flattened a field in the shape of one of the quickly spray-painted markers on the street outside, the next morning would find quizzical bystanders marveling at the weirdness of it and offering to pay so they could enter the circle's hallowed circumference . . .
Mack's death didn't exactly capsize me, but it did take some wind from my sails on what otherwise might have been a very good day. I went to see "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow"; right as the movie started I developed stomach pains, which robbed some of the enjoyment from an excellent movie. Among other things, "Sky Captain" is the closest thing to a "steampunk" film I'm likely to see. I think mainstream critics are missing out with their predictable "the effects are great but that's about it" treatment.

Hey, here's something kind of weird: You know how when you screw your eyes shut you see vague geometric patterns? For the last couple days I've been seeing quite elaborate stuff -- glistening biomechanalia and trippy cross-hatching. I close my eyes and, more often than not, I've got this funky kinetic tapestry waiting for me. It was cool at first. Now it's getting annoying.

(Jeez -- I must sound like Philip K. Dick with his account of "violent phosphene activity." Actually, I attribute my "visions" to circadian fluctuations and disturbances in caffeine intake.)

So, are The Authorities lying about Toutatis? Does the world end today? If it does, there's one comfort to be taken: John Mack didn't miss out on a whole hell of a lot.

Song of the day: "Slippery People" (Talking Heads)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

I've just discovered that Dr. John Mack, Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard psychiatrist and author of two controversial books on the "alien abduction" phenomenon ("Abduction," "Passport to the Cosmos") has died in London, apparently the victim of a drunk driver.
Antarctic Glaciers Melting Faster -Study

"'If anyone was waiting to find out whether Antarctica would respond quickly to climate warming, I think the answer is yes,' said Theodore Scambos, a University of Colorado glacier expert who worked on one study."

Monday, September 27, 2004

Huge Asteroid to Fly Past Earth Wednesday

"The space rock, named Toutatis, will not hit Earth, despite rumors of possible doom that have circulated the Internet for months. Humanity is very fortunate there won't be an impact, as the asteroid is large enough to cause global devastation. Toutatis is about 2.9 miles long and 1.5 miles wide (4.6 by 2.4 kilometers)."

Still I wonder: If a space-rock capable of "global devastation" were to be heading ominously our way, would the Powers That Be let us know? The one study about this particular end-of-the-world scenario I'm aware of suggests they wouldn't.

So maybe Toutatis is in fact heading irrevocably toward a colorful collision with this increasingly toxic blue-green ball we call "Earth." Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Just think -- no more suicide bombings, muck-raking political campaigns or "Precious Moments" figurines. Best of all, no more Jack Chick.

Bigelow's Gamble

"The Bigelow Aerospace project to privately develop inflatable Earth-orbit space modules is beginning to integrate diverse U.S. and European technologies into subscale and full-scale inflatable test modules and subsystems at the company's heavily guarded facilities here."

This Bigelow guy is fun to watch, whether he's proposing trans-lunar tourist shuttles or pouring money into alien abduction research.

I've posted some new Mars material at the Cydonian Imperative. For anyone wondering why I've been so lax on the Martian front lately, it's because I haven't seen a good new anomalous image in a long while. However, I think the European Space Agency is supposed to photograph the Cydonia region by the end of the year, in which case I can again plunge into my typical obsessive what-if hypothesizing.

In the meantime, it's looking increasingly like we've detected the chemical signature of life on Mars. As in life on Mars right now. I can't claim I'm surprised, but it certainly is fun watching the evidence accumulate to the chagrin of wet-blanket Jet Propulsion Laboratory types.
GOP admits mailing anti-gay fliers

"On Thursday the Republican Party owned up to sending mass mailings to residents of Arkansas and West Virginia demonizing homosexuals and predicting liberals would ban the Bible if Democrats won in November." (Via CP.)

See, this kind of crap is why I don't give a fuck. Four more years? Bring it on. I have ceased to care; politics are for the terminally unimaginative. I refuse to play along.

I guess I'm "un-American." Damn.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Venture capitalist rewrites the starving-author story

"The Silicon Valley venture capitalist wrote his novel, founded a company to publish it and then launched one of the biggest and most colorful individual book giveaways ever."

In the not-so-distant future, the majority of titles on bookstore shelves will be written by pretentious assholes who can't write (which, now that I think about it, sounds just like now . . . ) Once reputable reviewers like Kirkus start reviewing self-published books for a fee -- which is already happening -- it's only a matter of time until a bigger "fee" wins the author a better review. Which means bigger sales to the lit-trend pseudo-intelligentsia.

Within a few years, authors who prospered (or at least made ends meet) under the old system are back to reading their work in ill-lit coffeehouses while the independently wealthy throw huge signings and cruise around in limos tossing free copies of their novels/memoirs to the sullen masses on the sidewalk.

Erickson. Pynchon. Womack. Gibson. Vonnegut. Who?
Hurricane Jeanne hits home

I was unable to read today's "Zippy the Pinhead" due to technical difficulties experienced by the Florida-based company that provides SF Gate with its daily roundup of comics.

This marks the first time I've been consciously inconvenienced by a hurricane, and I don't like it one bit . . .
Two cool things here:

a.) a rendering of Franz Kafka that would look good on a T-shirt


b.) a fascinating (if authentic) photograph of a "dirigible" taken in the early 1900s. Part of that secret Victorian aerospace war effort I've been hearing about?

Saturday, September 25, 2004

The desert of the real

"In the medieval Christian tradition, the devil is a mimic, an actor, a performance artist, and he imitates the wonders of nature and the divine work of creation. Unlike God, he can only conjure visions as illusions, as he did when, in the person of Mephistopheles, he summoned the pageant of the deadly sins for Doctor Faustus and then seduced him with the appearance of Helen of Troy." (Thanks to The Anomalist.)

Strange how this article fails to address virtual reality.
Today's musical purchase:

Friday, September 24, 2004

15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense

"Besieged teachers and others may increasingly find themselves on the spot to defend evolution and refute creationism. The arguments that creationists use are typically specious and based on misunderstandings of (or outright lies about) evolution, but the number and diversity of the objections can put even well-informed people at a disadvantage."

"Creationism" is indeed BS. What bothers me is that the various skeptics groups that help deflate Fundamentalist Creation mythology tend to attack UFOs with equal vigor -- and they lie, whether by intentional omission of data, willful ignorance or simple disingenuity.

There's no need to duck the "points" made by so-called Creation Scientists; they're intentionally fabricated by feeble-minded people for feeble-minded people. The UFO problem is much more complex. Debunkers typically attack the existence of unexplained objects in our skies by attempting to confuse the core phenomenon with the mythology it has spawned. This goes generally unquestioned by academe; you never read articles in science magazines decrying the limp, anthropomorphic biases that show up again and again in anti-UFO literature.

Ideally, politically inclined groups such as CSICOP would like to stereotype "UFO believers" as mindless dolts who also believe an omnipotent being created the world in seven days and molded humans in his own image. My own findings reveal a genuine -- but unfocused -- dissatisfaction with Darwinism among some "UFO types." But the issues under question are generally scientific, not metaphysical -- even if the controversy shares a common origin. It appears most of us share a common need to be part of something larger, whether that something is a bearded caricature of ourselves or a galactic supercluster.

For example, many in the UFO "community" advance the idea that Homo sapiens was genetically facilitated or modified by an extraterrestrial intelligence. To some, this sounds preposterous, little better than Creationist rhetoric. But at worst, it's mere bad science, even if the proposed explanation strives to turn the human legacy into something bigger than it really is . . . and, of course, to some, the idea that we're basically livestock at the mercy of superintelligent ETs seems downright degrading. (I personally haven't dismissed alien genetic intervention, and propose taking a long, hard look at the human genome just in case . . .)

Carl Sagan lamented Fundamentalists' distaste with the idea that humans were, ultimately, forged in the nuclei of exploding stars. Sagan found the idea awe-inspiring, eclipsing the sense of the numinous claimed by the religiously inclined. An agnostic, I share Sagan's sense of wonder. Which is partially why I wince at the tactics of so many self-proclaimed debunkers, who act not in defense of truth, but to deify contemporary paradigms at the exclusion of all else.

Sure, it's nice that they trash Creationists. But why the Pavlovian need to dispel legitimate unknown phenomena?
A great quote about conventional SETI by Stanton Friedman:

"Although SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has been getting a free ride from the popular press and the scientific community, a closer examination of its assumptions (there is no evidence to examine) clearly indicates it is basically a cult movement with the acronym really standing for Silly Effort To Investigate. Ufology traditionally gets a very hard time from the press and the scientific community, but, in contrast with SETI, has facts and data that lead directly to the conclusion that some UFOs are alien spacecraft and that there is a Cosmic Watergate. It is useful to note the contrasting underlying assumptions of SETI and ufology. Unfortunately, it appears that SETI proponents are totally unwilling to review the UFO evidence and are suffering from the Crown of Creation Syndrome. Our current methods of long distance communication and travel seem to them to be in the forefront of those of all life in the galaxy despite the fact that we have only had advanced flight, electronics, and nuclear technologies for roughly a century and that there are sun-like stars just down the street which are a billion years older than the sun. It is time to realize that the emperors of SETI have no clothes."

Thursday, September 23, 2004


"The ETI on the camera is an 'immaterial image'. With immaterial images there's a registration of the ectoplasm (a subtle living matter present in the body of a medium, and which is capable of assuming various semi-solid or solid states, which can be, and have been felt, and photographed) or a registration by means of psycho-inductive feedback (caused by the medium directly on the registration material). While these appearances only occur in the presence of Robbert - a person who is a renowned medium with paranormal gifts - is this a matter of a 'mediumistic immaterial appearance' in stead of a physical ETI. With these types of appearances it's understandable that the image itself strongly resembles something actual or archetypically, that means: the perception the medium has out of his memory how something should look like."

If the images are genuine, I doubt the phenomenon is ET in origin. It seems more likely that the minimalist "alien" is a construct plucked from the collective unconscious . . .

Then again, maybe "they" are saying the same thing about us.
Morphine Apparently in Your Head

"'Without doubt, human cells can produce the alkaloid morphine,' Zenk wrote in the paper. 'The studies presented here serve as a platform for the exploration of the function of 'endogenous morphine' in the neurosciences and immunosciences.'"

I have a lurking suspicion that the brain, properly triggered, can produce just about any psychoactive substance or its functional equivalent.
Researchers Discover 'Hole' in Global Warming Predictions

"Using a detailed regional climate model, these researchers estimate summertime daily maximum temperatures will not climb as high in a Midwestern region -- centered on the Missouri/Kansas border -- as anywhere else in the United States. The hole stretches for hundreds of miles and includes Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Oklahoma."

Hey! Lucky me!
John Shirley writes:

"When I was having thyroid problems, I began having visions of suicide and a feeling of 'do it, do it'. When I got thyroid medication, those suicidal images and urges went away. Certain people (often teens) taking certain antidepressants, paradoxically get suicidal urges. Men who are very territorial and possessive of their families often--when their chosen mate decides to leave them--fall victim to a 'I must kill my family and myself' syndrome. It seems triggered by a specific set of circumstances. This pattern of self destruction, prompted with such cerebral automaticity, suggests that suicide is designed into us by nature. There may be a 'suicide program' wired into the brain, which is triggered at times, sometimes accidentally. This to me also argues that nature is up to something--that it has intention. It is willing to make us kill ourselves if we don't get with the reproductive program. It is more winnowing."

I bang my head against this issue all the time; am I a merely a convenient receptacle for selfish DNA molecules or am I a sentient individual fortuitously perpetuated by the machinations of DNA? Both, quite possibly. If so, which is the more important aspect of my being? What's the raison d'etre of intelligent carbon-based life?

Maybe it's a yin-yang sort of thing. Life and death; the solace of the inanimate waging perpetual war against the sense of individuality and purpose (however ill-defined) taking place inside our skulls -- and, just possibly, elsewhere.

Like Shirley, I've wanted to cash it in. At times there's an almost palpable drop in what can only be called "life energy" -- a sort of subjective energy-level maintained by the subconscious. Think of it as one of those little glowing meters that accompany characters in video games. You take so many bullets, or lasers, or punches to the face, and the meter drops to zero and you "die."

To Freud, the psyche was ruled by the immutable laws of Sex. I suspect the mind cares less about actual sex than it does the perpetuation of DNA. Superficially, of course, they're one and the same, but the ensured output of viable genetic material is far more abstract and depersonalized. It's as if we share our bodies with mechanistic genies with their own purely selfish agendas -- and when our own agendas begin to conflict with the deoxyribonucleic overmind, our "life meters" start to plunge -- maybe just a little bit, enough to produce a bit of existential unease -- or maybe a considerable fraction all at once, like blowing a tire.

It's then that the genetic overmind plants its roots in the fertile soil that once housed your volition and identity. You become a husk, loping android-like from once task to another until effectively lobotomized. As G.I. Gurdjieff stressed, we are literal machines. And although he didn't specifically invoke biochemistry, he may as well have harped on Richard Dawkins' inspired notion of the "selfish gene," had the idea existed in his time.

The irony is that a being constructed (and in certain critical respects defined) by genes bent on self-preservation can be lured to (or actually programmed for) self-destruction. I wonder if other planetary ecologies have produced intelligent creatures to whom suicide is a physiological impossibility; such creatures may exist among us in coming decades, and we will know them as robots.

Maybe that's the answer. Perhaps we are larvae, subject to incurable neuroses that will cease to exist only when we ourselves cease to exist, supplanted by something new, and -- in strictly Darwinian terms, if nothing else -- fundamentally better. Maybe Shirley's "winnowing" -- seemingly psychotic from our narrow vantage on the evolutionary bridge -- is an essential instrument in the betterment of our species, or at least a lens through which to glimpse where we're headed.
Cool site of the day: The Open SETI Initiative

"But SETI is nothing more than a badly-contrived myth. It seeks legitimacy through claiming membership in the larger scientific community, which itself is a collection of old myths that have outlived their usefulness."

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

One of my biggest flaws is my desire to be approachable and accommodating to strangers. The trouble, simply, is that I'm not discerning enough, and the Crashing Bores of the world universally see this as a select opportunity to take advantage. I'm burdened by this naively Mr. Roger-ish view that because I perceive myself as fundamentally decent, everyone else must be, too. I want to be liked. And I pay dearly for it.

This was pounded home a couple months back when I was signing books at Borders. It was a weeknight and the turnout was far from outrageous, but I found myself signing more copies than I'd expected and basically enjoying myself. Enter two Crashing Bores: a young married couple with this inexplicable -- and in hindsight, totally spurious -- interest in Martian archaeology. They nodded over my book, commending my intelligence. That should have been the tip-off; strangers don't go around attempting to boost someone's ego unless there's something in it for them. In this case, all I could offer was a signed copy of a book they'd never heard of which, to my surprise, they actually purchased.

But not before dropping veiled references to a lucrative "work from home" scheme they thought would be up my alley.

"What's involved?" I asked, politely skeptical.

"It's basically e-commerce," the male Bore replied.

"What's your email address?"

The Bore conceded that he didn't have one. Strange for someone supposedly making big money in e-commerce, I thought, but since he and his wife were talking Mars and making to buy my book, I let it pass and let the husband hand me a very unimpressive business card with the original address in Lawrence, Kansas scribbled out and the new one scrawled in its place. Finally they departed and I resumed my evening.

A few days later I get a message on my answering machine. It's the male Bore wanting to discuss his business and requesting a call back. I groaned and promptly deleted it.

Then one morning the phone splinters my sleep. I answered groggily, defenses in limbic shambles. It's the Crashing Bore again, wanting to meet me at the Borders where he bought my book.

"Can you explain what, exactly, this is . . . ?"

The Bore informed me that it was "mostly visual" in nature and that it "wouldn't make sense" over the phone. Half-asleep, I didn't summon the will-power to question this absurdity. Instead, I agreed to meet him and his wife to hear out whatever they had in mind -- furious at myself but placated by the thought of strolling the aisles at Borders after they'd finished their spiel.

I met them as planned. The spiel was indeed "mostly visual," consisting of the male Bore drawing crudely annotated diagrams in a spiral notebook. I smiled over my coffee and said "no." He persisted. So did his disturbingly Stepford-like wife, who I abruptly felt like kicking forcibly in the shins. Again, I politely declined to no avail.

The husband, with a tepid show of good cheer, handed me a CD and color leaflet. I looked at it briefly: lots of condescending stock imagery of guys 'n' gals conducting "business" in the privacy of nicely furnished living rooms. Lying, I said that I would be happy to peruse it and contact him if interested. No good; the leaflet and CD, it seemed, were quite valuable materials that needed to be returned as soon as possible -- preferably that very Saturday when a local work-from-home/e-commerce convention was to take place. Bing!

Then the guy tries to leave in a hurry, letting me know that he wants his materials returned and that he'll see me Saturday. I finally had to virtually shove the fucking brochure into his hands: "Take it now, please; this isn't for me and I'm not going to able to return it."

The two of them stalked off, visibly discomfited, and I watched them conversing from the cafe as they walked rapidly to their car.

Then I looked at books.

"The human brain appears to have a receptor for such stories, as for opiates, because the neo-doomsday crowd never lacks an audience. Just now, a lot of people again imagine the world ending very soon." (Via The Anomalist.)

This is tricky territory. Because yes, there's a ton of bullshit "end of the world" memes swarming all over. But the risk exists that while discerning neo-eschatologists chortle knowingly, we might miss an authentic threat. Worlds do end, after all; take a good look at Mars or Venus.

Also, who says the world has to end with a bang? Our planet is being recklessly poisoned, and the effects can seem innocuous enough until a critical threshold is reached. It's quite plausible that we'll go out with a whimper. No pyrotechnics necessary.
I realized that I just blogged about politics.

Well, not so much politics as much as image-manipulation and the questionable application of tax-dollars. But in any case, stuff that's suffocatingly boring and ultimately pointless.

I generally approach the political landscape in much the same way some people approach fantasy baseball or model railroading, only without the fervor. Political grumbling is at best a distraction, potentially more masturbatory than disk-golf or incessant cellphone use.

Frankly, if you're interested in the so-called election, you're better off reading the latest by Michael Moore or Rush Limbaugh; they're both eminently useful idiots, certain to distract. Most Posthuman Blues readers know this perfectly well. But maybe you're the new guy. And I'm here to help.
How my taxes are helping finance Bush's "re"-election campaign

A long time ago I impulsively ordered a free DVD called "Up From Zero" from a U.S. government website. "Up From Zero" is a drippingly patriotic documentary on the events of 9-11-01 and the subsequent courage and fortitude of the American people. We Will Never Forget. All that crap.

My apartment manager slipped the disc under my door a few hours ago after at least a year of -- what? Shipping? I'm convinced no one should expect prompt or efficient service from the government -- regardless of context -- but the grossly belated delivery of "Up From Zero" was anomalous even by bureaucratic standards.

Then I realized what was, in all probability, really going on: "Up From Zero" is Bush administration campaign propaganda masquerading as sappy patriotic docudrama.

The timing is perfect:

Thousands of Americans will watch "Up From Zero" right in time for the election.

They'll see a quaint, by-the-books retelling of 9-11, replete with lavishly edited footage of Bush doing his best to look solemn and paternal.

They'll remember those post-attack days of "coming together" under W's steely, competent watch.

More importantly, though, they'll vote for Bush.

If "Up From Zero" had arrived on time -- say, after two or three months -- the 2004 election would have seemed remote. Certainly no one would have been talking about John Kerry. People would have dutifully watched the DVD, perhaps thrown it out with that week's bushel of AOL CD-ROMs, and quietly forgotten about it.

But the suspiciously long delay between order and receipt seems conveniently timed to coincide with the upcoming electoral farce. The image of Bush that proliferated in the weeks and months after 9-11 is one of power and abiding leadership in the face of massive uncertainty. It was never more than a media artifact, of course, just as W's current TV ads are perilously subjective renderings of the (P)resident's psyche.

"Up From Zero" is a tax-funded attempt to exhume the W of old. A self-declared "War President," Bush stands to benefit substantially by the DVD's delayed release. It captures him at his teleprompted best, as a man of action not yet committed to a backfired war of "liberation." No flight suit footage here.

If you find yourself glazing over while watching "Up From Zero," don't be alarmed. That means it's working.
Green, leafy spinach may soon power more than Popeye's biceps

"Baldo and other researchers from MIT, the University of Tennessee and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, including electrical and biomedical engineers, nanotechnology experts and biologists, collaborated on the world's first solid-state photosynthetic solar cell. The work was reported in NanoLetters, a publication of the American Chemical Society."

Yes, I know this one is making the rounds on the "weird news" circuit. But I couldn't resist.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Yes, but will it run Netscape? ;-)
Bruce Sterling cites Natasha Vita-More as the source for this delightful list of technological predictions:

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."

--Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."

--Chairman of IBM, 1943

"I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won't last out the year."

--The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957

"But what ... is it good for?"

--Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.

"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."

--President, Chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977

"This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."

--Western Union internal memo, 1876.

"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"

--David Sarnoff's associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.

"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C,' the idea must be feasible."

--A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith's paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)

"Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?"

--Warner Brothers, 1927.

"I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling on his face and not Gary Cooper."

--Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in "Gone With The Wind."

"A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make."

--Response to Debbi Fields' idea of starting Mrs. Fields' Cookies.

"We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."

--Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.

"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."

--President, Royal Society, 1895.

"If I had thought about it, I wouldn't have done the experiment. The literature was full of examples that said you can't do this."

--Spencer Silver on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M "Post-It" Notepads.

"So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we' ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet.'"

--Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak's personal computer.

"Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools."

--1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard's revolutionary rocket work.

"You want to have consistent and uniform muscle development across all of your muscles? It can't be done. It's just a fact of life. You just have to accept inconsistent muscle development as an unalterable condition of weight training."

--Response to Arthur Jones, who solved the "unsolvable" problem by inventing Nautilus.

"Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy."

--Drillers who Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist to his project to drill for oil in 1859.

"Stocks have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau."

--Professor of Economics, Yale University, 1929.

"Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."

--Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre.

"Everything that can be invented has been invented."

--Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899.

"Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction".

--Professor of Physiology at Toulouse, 1872

"The abdomen, the chest, and the brain will forever be shut from the intrusion of the wise and humane surgeon."

--British surgeon, appointed Surgeon-Extraordinary to Queen Victoria 1873.

"640K ought to be enough for anybody."

-- Bill Gates, 1981
NASA Awards Jupiter Icy Moons Mission

"NASA has chosen Northrop Grumman Space Technology to build its upcoming Prometheus Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO) spacecraft, and awarded them a $400 million contract to cover costs up to 2008. JIMO will use a nuclear-powered ion engine to go into orbit around each of Jupiter's icy moons: Callisto, Ganymede, and Europa. Once in orbit, the spacecraft would be able to examine each of the moons in great detail with a suite of instruments to try and understand their composition, history, and if there could be conditions for life."

Unfortunately, however, NASA's not accepting any human passengers.

I just watched "Crop Circles: Quest for Truth," an excellent documentary on the "crop glyph" controversy by Oscar-nominated director William Gazecki. I hardly ever see a documentary on paranormal/esoteric phenomena that's worth a damn; "Quest for Truth" is an exception, providing voices and perspectives from a broad cast of human participants. This is must-watching. And I haven't even begun perusing the special features . . .

Here's the film's official website. Take a look.

Monday, September 20, 2004

I've been invited to join the Society for Planetary SETI Research, a group I've admired for a long time. SPSR's involvement was central in getting NASA/JPL to acquire images of the Cydonia region (site of the Face on Mars) with the Mars Global Surveyor orbiter, and they've done an admirable job of applying scientific method to what seems, at first, the stuff of New Age wet dreams.

For books on the Cydonia controversy, click here.
Pylons suspected in deaths of unborn babies

"There are electric pylons along Ereka Road and some of the blocks of flats are directly under these pylons. Gumede believes that there is a connection between the miscarriages and the electric pylons." (Via The Anomalist.)
Take the quiz:

"What Kind of Soul Do You Retain?"


"You have an open heart and open mind and you chose not to let anyone get to you and the way you want to live."

I can't believe how optimistic my diagnosis is. I was expecting something much, much worse. That little elf chick doesn't exactly scream "macbot." (Via CP.)

Sunday, September 19, 2004

A Traveling-wave Engine To Power Deep Space Travel

"A University of California scientist working at Los Alamos National Laboratory and researchers from Northrop Grumman Space Technology have developed a novel method for generating electrical power for deep-space travel using sound waves. The traveling-wave thermoacoustic electric generator has the potential to power space probes to the furthest reaches of the Universe."
It looks like my speaking engagement in scenic Sedona, AZ will be on the third Friday of January, 2005. Can't wait. I think the name "Sedona" is interesting because, phonetically, it's similar to "Cydonia" -- the region on Mars that I'll be discussing. It also resembles "Sedna," the trans-Neptunian object recently discovered orbiting the Sun past Pluto.

I just returned from the bookstore, where I bought two trade paperbacks I've had my eyes on: "Altered Carbon" and the hugely acclaimed "Light" by M. John Harrison.

Considering the nonfiction "prize package" I received from appearing on Dr. Bob Hieronimus' show, I think I'd be quite happy locked in a vault right now provided I had sufficient illumination and an espresso machine.
For a blog that frequently dwells in "the unknown," Posthuman Blues has been conspicuously silent on the Afterlife Question. I'll try to remedy that.

Simply, I don't know. I don't pretend to know. I haven't a fucking clue. My hunch is that "afterlife" is a bloated oxymoron and that once the meat-machines we call our brains cease working, so do we. It's tough to conceive what it might be like to not exist, but should it be? After all, how many of us remember anything prior to our own birth?

Part of me likes the idea that I somehow persist after biological death; it might even be possible, albeit in ways currently antithetical to materialistic science. Empirical science (as currently practiced) may be missing something crucial; if consciousness exists after the demise of its neurological substrate, then it's likely our current definition of consciousness is simply wrong-headed. Maybe brains are more akin to receivers than computers and we're all tuned to the same channel, or at least the same spectrum.

Another part of me finds the prospect of an "afterlife" thoroughly unnecessary. Simply ceasing to exist -- in whatever form -- seems so much more economical than lingering in some nonbiological state. Or maybe, upon death, you're presented with the option to "terminate program."

Eternal life or blissful oblivion -- what would you do?*

*I should point out that none of this logically entails the existence of "God"; if there's a "next world," then I assume it's every bit a part of our Cosmos as black holes and quasars. In this context, the "soul" should be viewed as a phenomenon intrinsic to sentient organisms, perhaps amenable to technological intervention.
Named and identified victims of the war on Iraq

"This table lists the names of 3,029 civilians killed as a result of the US-led military intervention in Iraq up to September 12th 2004. This collection was compiled by members of the Iraq Body Count project (IBC), using a wide range of sources, primarily press and media reports."

I thought I had the wrong URL at first; then I realized that the list was simply taking a long time to download. Oh, my.

I've adopted a somewhat Carlin-esque view of our species: I think we're circling the drain of extinction, and one of the only releases left to us is the ability to laugh at our collective psychopathologies. But the wholesale slaughter in Iraq is hard to press into the usual list of humanity's deadly failures. The deaths in Iraq aren't due to some lofty collective psychosis -- they're the direct result of a morbidly solipsistic political regime that somehow managed to take root in a country we once hoped -- intuited, even -- was somehow above such things.

As such, I can't accept the civilian casualties in Iraq (or the wanton poisoning of the region with depleted uranium) with anything approaching black humor. This stuff makes me sick to the bone; it makes me feel comically futile and ineffectual.

I'd sincerely love to throw my head back and laugh and attribute the nightmare this planet is becoming to some ineradicable Jungian death-wish. But I can't, because the people responsible have names.

This is how it ends.
Product of the day: Rap Snacks (Thanks to Jason.) Although I must profess disappointment; I didn't see any chips commemorating the Notorious B.I.G. or Snoop Dogg.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

I'd like to buy a vowel

This evening I walked down to LatteLand and was greeted by a swarm of milling pedestrians and a black stretch limo. I didn't think much of it at first. I bought a latte and sat down to read. Then I tuned into the ambient conversation and discovered the limo belonged to none other than "Wheel of Fortune" sidekick Vanna White, who was shooting a promo for the show outside Steve's Shoes nextdoor.

I was disappointed; I irrationally hoped it might be Natalie Portman. Even so, I found myself joining the crowd outside, where technicians with high-definition cameras and eye-scalding lights were preparing for the shoot. Vanna was sauntering around blankly, like a DisneyWorld animatron with a head-wound. She looked like, well, Vanna White -- older and shorter than I had expected, but still very pretty. I shuddered with concealed laughter as security personnel attempted to corral the small mob of rubberneckers. (The black guy who asked me to step back a few feet had a name-badge reading "White." "Any relation . . . ?" I asked.)

Vanna's script, if one could call it that, involved strolling past LatteLand clutching perfectly empty shopping bags from various stores on the Country Club Plaza. I experienced a fierce urge to run down 47th Street to Barnes & Noble and slip her a copy of "After the Martian Apocalypse."

The first shoot done, a crew member from "Wheel" informed my section of the crowd we would be videotaped. It was then that I realized I was about to appear in a "Wheel of Fortune" commercial. Everything became quite surreal; Vanna passed right in front of me next to the locally famous "boar sculpture," a forbiddingly life-like bronze uber-pig whose lustrous nose is due to untold thousands of hands rubbing it for good luck.

She uttered something about "from Kansas City" and timidly rubbed the boar's nose, bidding "Wheel" contestants good luck. Clever. Then, on the director's cue, everyone yelled "WHEEL . . . OF . . . FORTUNE!" Including me. I was right there, immediately behind Vanna yelling and applauding like a mind-control casualty.

The moral? Set your VCRs, because I honestly don't see how I can fail to be in this commercial. I'm wearing a long-sleeve pale-green checkered shirt.
"Intruder Signal" on 40 Meters Remains a Mystery for Now

"An unidentified signal that's been showing up on the 40-meter phone band on or about 7238 kHz has mystified amateurs in the western US and Canada, where it's been heard frequently for the past few weeks."

The signal's coming from near Sedona, AZ, where -- the last I checked -- I'm heading in January to speak to a UFO group. Given the myriad accounts of giant underground military bases in the region, you have to wonder if this represents EM leakage of some sort.
I started Joseph Christy-Vitale's "Watermark," a well-written book that suggests that a chunk of lethal star-stuff from a distant supernova entered the solar system 12,000 years ago, wreaking gravitational havoc and wiping out a global civilization in the process. Incidentally, this is the basic premise of Herbie Brennan's "The Atlantis Enigma," also enjoyable.

"Watermark" is a Paraview Pocket Book, edited by Patrick Huyghe (who tackled the original manuscript of "After the Martian Apocalypse"), so some of my appreciation for Christy-Vitale's book is its publishing history. I feel we're both members of some unofficial club for writers with an affinity for planet-wide holocaust.

I've fielded a few queries (both online and in "meatspace") about how "After the Martian Apocalypse" came to be. The answer, perhaps disappointingly, is "organically." Thanks to the Internet, I was able to circumvent some of the usual publishing conduct so painfully described in how-to-write articles. I didn't hire an agent; my Mars website, the Cydonian Imperative, ultimately functioned as an online book proposal. So I was spared the typical experience of post-mailing sample chapters to prospective publishers and in general driving myself crazy.

Most of the "get published now" literature seems to ignore the stark reality of the Web and its vast networking potential. Of course, this doesn't mean I won't have to wrestle with old-fashioned networking in the future. The genre fiction market is glutted with would-be authors; I'd be very surprised if a single nonfiction book does much to impress the editors at, say, Tor or Ace (two consistently good science fiction publishing imprints).

Summing up, I don't particularly know a whole lot about the publishing world and its economic nuances. Frankly, I find it all quite headache-inducing. So I'm clinging -- probably naively -- to the notion that if I'm a good enough writer, unafraid to share my output with knowledgeable strangers, there's a plausible chance my efforts will meet with some success. But of course my own experience is couched in the nonfiction industry, and it's easier to break into nonfiction than fiction.

Right now, I've got three book proposals I want to pitch -- one for a novel, one for a short-story collection, and another for a speculative science/paranormal book along the lines of what I've already done (minus the Martian trappings). If I happen to learn anything along the way, I'll let you know.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Teacher Arrested After Bookmark Called Concealed Weapon

"Kathryn Harrington was flying home from vacation last month when screeners at the Tampa, Fla., airport found her bookmark. It's an 8.5-inch leather strip with small lead weights at each end."

Something tells me the boneheads who arrested Harrington don't spend a lot of time at Barnes & Noble. Although if someone were to just describe the bookmark to me without telling me what it actually was, I'd probably guess bondage paraphernalia.
Global warming to devastate Europe first

"Picture postcard European snowscapes are destined to become consigned to history books before the end of the century, and 75 per cent of Alpine glaciers will have melted by 2050 – melting reduced the glaciers by one-tenth in 2003 alone, the study found."

But wait; it gets better:

Giant fans, nukes among amateur 'cane cures

"By far the most outlandish proposal, and one of the most recurrent, was the idea to use a nuclear warhead to blow a hurricane out of the water."

Thursday, September 16, 2004

I'm fairly psyched up about seeing the retro-futuristic "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow." Which is distinctly weird, because I generally don't give a damn about movies. There are exceptions, of course ("Donnie Darko"), but not too many. I was marveling recently at how many movies I've seen lately: "I, Robot" (mildly entertaining), "The Village" (flawed but beautifully filmed and authentically creepy), "Alien Vs. Predator" (!), "Darko" . . . I usually see four big-screen releases a year -- or less. I don't know what's gotten into me. Hopefully it's not terminal.
I finally finished Robert A. Metzger's "Picoverse"; read my review here.

What next? I'm thinking Charles Stross' "Singularity Sky," but I could easily wind up reading China Mieville's "The Scar."
The Evolution Will Be Mechanized (by the ever-dependable Bruce Sterling)

"The rate of technological change is dizzying, and it's only getting faster. In September at Stanford, the Institute for the Study of Accelerating Change is acknowledging the trend with its second annual Accelerating Change conference. The 2003 confab was billed as 'the first in the world to focus on the multidisciplinary implications of accelerating change and the multidisciplinary implications of accelerating change and the consequences of a technological singularity.' What is a technological singularity? A moment when runaway advances outstrip human comprehension and all our knowledge and experience becomes useless as a guidepost to the future."
Weird biomechanics in the news

Flower power turns up the volume

"It hooks up to a CD player, TV or stereo and relays sounds up through a plant's stem and out via the petals."

Nose replaces mouse to surf web

"The technology matches the cursor's movements to the path of the nose as the head moves side to side. Motion detection software, meanwhile, is used to pinpoint the blink of a user's eye. A double blink switches the nouse on."

And I thought my touhpad was a bitch . . .

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Dark Matters Surround Dark Energy

"Recently the British science news journal 'New Scientist' revealed that the American military is pursuing new types of exotic bombs - including a new class of isomeric gamma ray weapons. Unlike conventional atomic and hydrogen bombs, the new weapons would trigger the release of energy by absorbing radiation, and respond by re-emitting a far more powerful radiation. In this new category of gamma-ray weapons, a nuclear isomer absorbs x-rays and re-emits higher frequency gamma rays. The emitted gamma radiation has been reported to release 60 times the energy of the x-rays that trigger the effect."
NASA Transfers X-37 to Unidentified U.S. Agency

"Scaled Composites spokeswoman Kay LeFebvre would not confirm the company's involvement in the planned dropped tests and referred questions about the White Knight's role in the X-37 program to American Mojave Aerospace Ventures. That company, a Paul Allen and Burt Rutan partnership that owns SpaceShipOne and its carrier aircraft, recently announced that it would make its first official try for the $10 million Ansari X-Prize Sept. 29."
'Playboy' Not Alienating For E.T.-Loving Women

"Posing nude to promote extraterrestrial communication isn't for everyone -- but it helps when you have a body that's out of this world."

I wonder if SETI's Seth Shostak has considered this tactic. Nah.
Bush-Linked Company Handled Security for the WTC, Dulles and United

"George W. Bush's brother was on the board of directors of a company providing electronic security for the World Trade Center, Dulles International Airport and United Airlines, according to public records. The company was backed by an investment firm, the Kuwait-American Corp., also linked for years to the Bush family." (Via Chapel Perilous.)

Yet another one of those wild coincidences, I presume. One "new Pearl Harbor," made to order.

Four more years of this guy, then another four years of someone just like him, et cetera . . .

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Microsoft warns of poisoned picture peril

"The old bromide that promises you can't get a computer virus by looking at an image file crumbled a bit further Tuesday when Microsoft announced a critical vulnerability in its software's handling of the ubiquitous JPEG graphics format."

Part of me loves it when Net mythology comes true. (Thanks to eWarrior.)
Psychic Claims Aliens Control The Media

"She says they're 'dripping waves of fear and chaos' into broadcasts to keep humans off their path. She says their goal is to 'keep our planet from evolving to where it should be.'"

There's no doubt that our broadcasts are laden with fear and chaos designed to keep us paralyzed. But I suspect the perpetrators are much closer to home.

Of course, this story is via the hard-working team at Wireless Flash News. If my own run-in with this outfit (giant arachnids on Mars) is any indication, it's possible the "psychic" in question said nothing of the sort.
Object 230 light years away could well be first planet directly seen outside solar system

"But if, in time, the object is unquestionably identified as a planet, the discovery would mark a watershed in the history of science -- one of the biggest since Galileo spotted the moons of Jupiter through a tabletop telescope 394 years ago. For the first time, humans would have directly observed a planet orbiting a star or starlike body rather than indirectly inferring its existence based on its gravitational pull on that body."

Good news -- a technician from the Compaq service station called today and said he wouldn't have to restore (read: erase) my desktop's hard disk. I was worried about that.
Is AM Radio Harmful?

"The Koreans looked at the death rates in 10 regions with AM radio-transmitting towers broadcasting at more than 100 kilowatts and compared them with control areas without transmitters. The substantially higher cancer mortality in those who lived within two kilometers of the towers led researchers to conclude that more investigation was needed."

Monday, September 13, 2004

Please take a look at the newly redesigned New World Disorder, which includes a science fiction vignette cribbed from an unfinished novella I haven't had the heart to delete from my hard-drive.
I never knew that the women of ancient Greece were so small and plastic-looking. Or so damned kinky.

I was driving through the suburbs on my way home from my parents' house and glimpsed what looked like a luminous four-foot humanoid figure standing by the roadside. The illusion persisted for about a second: I was actually seeing a reflective stripe on the side of a newspaper vending machine. It must have had a design on it that suggested a tiny person standing in profile, and when my headlights played over it it seemed to materialize out of the dark. Acutely disappointing.
Vote count at mercy of clandestine testing

"'I find it grotesque that an organization charged with such a heavy responsibility feels no obligation to explain to anyone what it is doing,' Michael Shamos, a Carnegie Mellon computer scientist and electronic voting expert, told lawmakers in Washington, D.C."

I don't care for protests. In a digital age, I think they're an insufficiently savvy means of self-expression. They're along the lines of big street parties -- the quintessential Vonnegutian "granfalloon." The mass protests at the Republican National Convention, for example, were a complete waste of time. But I have to wonder if there would have been any effect if anti-Bush protesters had taken their act to Diebold. Probably not; I think we all know the score here.

The irony is that even if this were a real election, Bush would probably win.

Grotesque, indeed.

Is anybody out there?

"In early August a group of people interested in the implications of these cultures in our lives met in Exeter at the Unitarian Church to hear the ideas of Thomas Hansen, Ph.D., from Virginia, and Exeter resident Carol Hochstedler, and to discuss their own ideas. They want the study of Exopolitics, which is concerned with the political, social, economic, technological, environmental, spiritual, military, scientific and personal implications of off-planet cultures interacting with humanity, to come out as a legitimate field of research and dialog."

I don't anticipate anything nearly as quaint as an interplanetary UN, such as the one envisioned by the Disclosure Project and others. In fact, I think postbiological ET intelligences will likely have discarded politics altogether.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

It's football season! (Or pre-season, or whatever the hell they call it.) And you know what they means? That's right -- even more pathetic jock-sniffing nobodies strolling around in officially licensed NFL gear than usual! Some of these idiots have already started decorating their vehicles. And to top it all off, everyone's doting on a completely fictitious presidential election.

Orwell couldn't have come up with this shit in his wildest dreams.
Physics professor confident his time machine will work

"He hopes the energy from a rotating laser beam may warp the space inside the ring of the light so gravity forces the neutron to rotate sideways. With more energy, he thinks it's possible a second neutron would appear. This second particle would be the first one visiting itself from the future."
Space probes feel cosmic tug of bizarre forces

"They had been tracking the probes using the giant dishes of Nasa's Deep Space Network. By the time the two spaceships had swept beyond Pluto, they noted there were persistent anomalies in their trajectories. Every time they looked the Pioneers were in the wrong place. The effect was not large, but it was significant. Something more than the Sun's gravity appeared to have a grip on the craft."

This was noted at least a year ago; evidently it's still happening. Peter A. Gersten has proposed that the Solar System is a computer simulation and that the Pioneer craft are reaching the literal edge of "reality." Or maybe we're under quarantine, and this is our first evidence of an "invisible fence" keeping us from ruining other habitable planets in our galaxy.
OK. Flying triangles ("FTs") are becoming an increasingly common sight. Meanwhile, the distribution of sightings indicates that these enigmatic craft are probably a "skunk-works" aerospace project. The paradox is that the FTs are apparently being deployed over large population centers, which would appear to mitigate against their being "ours" -- after all, why risk crashing a secret test aircraft near a busy interstate highway or in the middle of a suburb?

A triangular UFO photographed over Belgium.

Assuming for the moment that the bulk of FT sightings can be attributed to terrestrial engineering, what's going on? Either the FTs' high visibility is desired (possibly for psy-ops reasons the likes of which I don't have space to deal with here) or else FT sightings are the inevitable by-product of an actual tactical agenda. I'm not sure which possibility is more disturbing.

What perceived threat would necessitate ubiquitous low-flying FTs near or over American cities? What sort of "mission" is being carried out, assuming we're not witnessing so much high-tech joy-riding?

Is this a form of invasion? Given documented mind-control technologies and the high probability that some UFO abductions have actually been staged by the CIA, it's worrying to think what the FTs represent.

Or I might be misreading the correspondence between FT sightings and Air Force bases. The triangles may indeed be alien, drawn to AF bases for reasons unknown. A show of technological might, perhaps? Some kind of alien-government liaison? I don't think it's especially likely, but it's not impossible . . .
Various unsorted thoughts

1.) Zines are not dead! Not quite, anyway. I got a print rag called "Bizarre Bazaar" in the mail. It's basically a cheaply produced catalogue for Fortean/New Age/conspiracy merchandise, but there's at least one article in it. The complete works of David Icke, anyone?

2.) LatteLand (my coffeeshop of choice) now has satellite radio. With any luck, this means not listening to the same damned thing every time I stop by for a caffeine fix; tonight the playlist was entirely 80s, highlighted by The Smiths' "Ask."

3.) I've come to realize I have a weird habit of clarifying perfectly obvious spoken references with "illustrative" hand-gestures. A couple hours ago, for instance, I was discussing CDs and discovered that I was pretending to hold a CD in my hand (gripped at the edges between thumb and forefinger). Lame nervous tick or genuine eccentricity?

4.) Tonight I noticed a horde of blond party-girls clambering down the stairs of what appeared to be an airport shuttle or "senior" bus. On the side of the vehicle was the name for some limousine service. I couldn't help but wonder if these girls knew they had been gipped. A "senior trolley," no matter how ostentatious, is not a limousine. It might be an eminently practical means of transporting a gaggle of vacuous 20 year-olds, but please don't call it a "limousine" when any schmuck can plainly see that it isn't.

5.) After viewing the original release of "Donnie Darko" for the first time since 2001, I have to agree with discerning "Darko" fan Jason that the opening song by Echo and the Bunnymen was an inspired choice. INXS's "Never Tear Us Apart" (substituted for the director's cut) works nicely, but "The Killing Moon" works better. Plus it's performed by a band with "bunny" in their name, and the film involves a forbidding six-foot rabbit. Come on -- you're not going to do any better than that.

6.) I finally rode a Segway. It's pretty fun; they're surprisingly speedy. Learning to navigate is basically intuitive, but not quite as automatic as I'd expected -- it's actually closer to learning to drive a car than learning to ride a bike. If I had a spare $5,000 lying around, I might just get one; as it was, I winced at forking over the $5 for the test-drive.

Now playing:

1.) "Hail to the Thief" (Radiohead)
2.) "More Songs About Buildings and Food" (Talking Heads)
3.) "Diamond Dogs" (David Bowie)
4.) "Violator" (Depeche Mode)
5.) "Meat Is Murder" (The Smiths)

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Paris's new slant on underground movies

"To be fair, until recently very few people did have a clue about La Mexicaine de la Perforation, a clandestine cell of 'urban explorers' which claims its mission is to 'reclaim and transform disused city spaces for the creation of zones of expression for free and independent art'."

Yet another "Neverwhere" moment.

Thanks to Patrick Huyghe and The Anomalist.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Transhumanism: The Most Dangerous Idea?

"But Fukuyama would undoubtedly respond that Pleistocene hunter-gatherers are still recognizably human, no different in their innate capacities than people living today. What transhumanists seek is very different. They want to go beyond current innate human capacities. They want to change human bodies and brains."

A must-read that underscores exactly what's wrong with Fukuyama's reasoning. His book on the potentials of the biotech revolution, "Our Posthuman Future," is a blinkered, neophobic rant that, of course, fooled just about everybody.

Read my review here.
Pollution triggers bizarre behaviour in animals

"Hyperactive fish, stupid frogs, fearless mice and seagulls that fall over. It sounds like a weird animal circus, but this is no freak show. Animals around the world are increasingly behaving in bizarre ways, and the cause is environmental pollution."
I was just on a New York radio show called "Beyond Strange and Mysterious." I tried Googling it to no avail. This was the first show I've done in a while with call-ins, so I got to ramble a bit on two subjects that otherwise weren't on the usual list on talking points.

The first caller asked if I thought aliens were walking among us in an attempt to learn the nuances of human existence. I mentioned the work of Dr. David Jacobs, a smart guy who thinks that an extraterrestrial hybridization program begun in the 1940s is now producing viable transgenic offspring who are quietly infiltrating human society. (I don't agree with Jacobs, but that's another post . . .) I offered my opinion that if advanced ETs wanted to secretly observe us they could probably do so using a form of nanotech that would elude 21st century science; disguising themselves in order to work and live among us unnoted seems unlikely.

Then again, who am I to outguess bona fide aliens? I like Whitley Strieber's telling of two apparent "visitors" in a bookstore shortly after the release of "Communion," covered in scarves, hats and sunglasses . . .

The second caller asked me if there were such things as Men In Black; I replied that there were, although exactly who these frequently bizarre characters are is the subject of debate. (Keel's "The Mothman Prophecies" and Jenny Randles' "The Truth Behind Men In Black" are probably the best books I've read on the phenomenon.)

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Here's a quick but effective rundown of this year's "forbidden news," as summarized by John Shirley (who recently survived the Burning Man festival). Read it and cringe.
In a secret Paris cavern, the real underground cinema

"There the police found a full-sized cinema screen, projection equipment, and tapes of a wide variety of films, including 1950s film noir classics and more recent thrillers. None of the films were banned or even offensive, the spokesman said."

This article made me feel just how unhip I really am. I mean, no one's ever asked me to hang out in a place even remotely this cool. I doubt even Robert Smith is deemed goth enough for this joint . . .
I've gone ahead with Blogger's new email option. See those little envelopes? Click on one and you can effortlessly send the post in question to a friend. It really beats cutting and pasting a permalink.

Smelly robot eats flies to generate its own power

"The idea is to produce electricity by catching flies and digesting them in special fuel cells that will break down sugar in the insects' skeletons and release electrons that will drive an electric current."

Robots that eat vermin -- I love it. And think of the potential military applications. Drop a platoon of flesh-eating 'bots into enemy territory and watch the feeding frenzy. Plus, the military brass doesn't have to worry about troublesome body counts, as all human corpses will have been processed into fuel -- fuel that can be used to launch new offenses against The Enemy.

Quick -- what's DARPA's phone number?

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

This blog is a proud member of The Cabal.
Noah's Ark plan from top Moon man (Via Everything Isn't Under Control.)

"The European Space Agency's chief scientist has said that there should be a Noah's Ark on the Moon, in case the Earth is destroyed by an asteroid or nuclear holocaust."

We're already working on a DNA "ark" of endangered species. It shouldn't be terrifically difficult to put a copy of it on the Moon.

Incidentally, this scenario is very much like that depicted in Jack Williamson's "Terraforming Earth" -- only his plan called for cloned humans to oversee the post-apocalypse restoration effort.
Creepy coffee: Owners of downtown shop say it's haunted (Via The Anomalist.)

Now I know how the staff at LatteLand feels . . .
Cleaning Up Kennedy Space Center After Frances

"NASA workers are continuing to assess the damage that Hurricane Frances wreaked on the Kennedy Space Center when it tore through Cape Canaveral over the weekend. Many buildings suffered wind and rain damage, including the Vehicle Assembly Building, where the space shuttles are attached to the external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters - it had 820 panels blown off. The Thermal Protection System Facility, where heat tiles and blankets are manufactured suffered significant damage. It's still unknown if the effects of the hurricane will push back the shuttle's return to flight."
Philadelphia mulls wireless society

"The ambitious plan, now in the works, would involve placing hundreds, or maybe thousands of small transmitters around the city -- probably atop lampposts. Each would be capable of communicating with the wireless networking cards that now come standard with many computers."
"Houston, Texas is so radioactive that it has learned to talk."

Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks the infographics at look like something conceived by "Saturday Night Live."

Genesis space capsule crashes to Earth

"A pair of helicopters, helmed by stunt pilots, had been ready to snatch the refrigerator-sized parachute with a hook as the Genesis capsule descended. But there was no sign that the parachute opened, and video from the scene showed the 452-pound (205-kilogram) capsule hurtling toward the ground at the military Utah Test and Training Range. The capsule broke open on impact."

A crashed saucer! Call in Project Moon Dust!

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Song of the day: "Mad World" (remake) by Gary Jules
Latest SETI signal not even 'promising'

"What cosmic listeners would love to hear is a repeat signal or a signal that says, in effect, 'I'm an intelligent lifeform -- are you, too?'"

Of course that's what they want. But probability strongly suggests that SETI's best get is to eavesdrop on a stray transmission -- something the program is presently unwilling to consider. And we probably don't even have the technology to search for stray signals anyway. SETI as it is now envisioned will only succeed if and when an extraterrestrial civilization takes an exclusive interest in our solar system.

Meanwhile, who knows how many actual transmissions we might miss out on because our criteria are so depressingly slim and anthropomorphic. A venture like this can only work if we follow up on everything; we can't afford to wait for a greeting intended for us.

Monday, September 06, 2004

Learning to love the touchpad

I've been fretting over the Synaptics TouchPad built into my laptop. It's temperamental. The cursor floats merrily across the screen, seemingly of its own volition; I lift my finger and the arrow shoots away like a frightened hummingbird. This afternoon I was acutely tempted to put my fist through the LCD screen.

Anyway, I think I've discovered a way to keep the cursor under control: I cool my fingertip by gently blowing on it. Apparently the touchpad registers the heat -- as well as the heft -- of the controlling fingertip, and if you're on edge -- as I was this afternoon, trying to point and click with the accuracy provided by a mouse -- your skin tends to grow hotter, confusing the touchpad interface.

(I've actually seen the cursor drifting and meandering across the screen when I'm not even touching the computer; I still have no clear explanation for this poltergeist-like phenomenon . . .)
Solar Airship

"The Solar Airship is an incredible 8 metres long and looks remarkably like a giant burnt sausage. In fact, it looks just plain remarkable."

In fact, it looks quite a bit like one of George Adamski's cigar-shaped motherships. I want one of these bad.
Earth warned on 'tipping points'

"Professor John Schellnhuber says the most important environmental issues for humans are among the least understood."

Sunday, September 05, 2004

I'll be on 21st Century Radio this evening at 7:00 (Central). Click the banner for more information.
Blogging in style

I'm writing this with my laptop, which I hooked up to the Internet for the first time about an hour ago. This was to have been my "writing machine," but so far it's serving its secondary role as backup nicely.

Incidentally, the much-hyped Blogger WYSIWYG editor, which I've lacked on my desktop computer for some time, is "back" in all its glory thanks to the laptop's newer software. (Blogger offers font options? I never knew!) That's what you get for using a pre-millennium machine . . .

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Bloggers in meatspace

I saw "Donnie Darko" today with Jason and Maggie. An absolutely fascinating movie, every bit as funny as it is troubling. I wanted to buy the soundtrack tonight but didn't have enough cash, so I settled for a smart drink and a Gregory Benford novel.

Tomorrow I take my Compaq to be repaired. Since I've nothing to do at the moment, let me get my laptop online. Jeez, I wish I had wi-fi . . .

Pssst! Posthuman Blues is going for $8,000+ at BlogShares.

The MTVI staff has just earned itself a "business casual" day.
Scientists track incoming probe

"Genesis was launched on 8 August 2001. Then, on 3 December 2001, it unfurled its collecting panels and started an 884-day period gathering solar particles at the L1 gravitational balance point between the Earth and the Sun."
Virtual Humans Proposed As Space Travelers

"'We humans, I think, are hungry to bond with machines . . . and I don't understand that at all,' Plantec said. 'Wouldn't it be interesting if it was a natural instinct that was the next part of our evolution? I really believe that, eventually, these things will evolve into a quasi-life form and we will form symbiotic relationships with them.'"

Friday, September 03, 2004

The Environmental Threat to Human Intelligence

"Millions of people now suffer intellectual decline because of human-caused environmental change."

To put it mildly.
Reports of SETI@home Extraterrestrial Signal Highly Exaggerated

"While this makes SHGb02+14a interesting, the chances that it actually represents an intelligent signal from beyond remain extremely slim. Random chance alone would make it probable that at least one of the billions of candidates detected by SETI@home would be observed on three separate occasions, as was the case for this candidate. Furthermore, as we reported in the SETI@home Update of May 17, 2004, the fact that this candidate’s frequency drifts rapidly makes it extremely improbable that it is a transmission from extraterrestrials."

So, in essence, it looks like they're writing it off because it doesn't conform to expectations of what an ET signal "should" be like. Break open the champagne, fellas.
'Flying Triangle' sightings on the rise

"The years 1990-2004 have seen an intense wave of Flying Triangle aircraft, the study observes. Sifting through reports by hundreds of eyewitnesses, the NIDS assessment states that the behavior of the vehicles 'does not appear consistent with the covert deployment of an advanced DoD [U.S. Department of the Defense] aircraft.'"

Holy Christ -- flying triangles in the "mainstream" media!
Electromagnetic Fields Pose Biohazard Risks

"Two recent studies on the effect of electromagnetic fields on animals found that low-level magnetic fields caused damage to the DNA in rat brain cells while exposure of rats to extreme electromagnetic fields caused the animals to produce toxic amounts of ozone."

So please, talk on that cellphone just a little longer . . .
Does SETI Have a Signal?

"The fact that the new radio signal has been detected by SETI three times indicates it could be an intentional transmission. This is the first indication of ET contact during the six years of the SETI@home project, which uses programs running as screensavers on millions of personal computers worldwide to sift through signals picked up by the Arecibo telescope."

The mainstream news blackout regarding the possible alien signal is a phenomenon in its own right. And I'm haunted by the prospect that SETI researchers will elect not to delve into this for fear of tarnishing their academic image with a potential false alarm.

False alarms are, of course, the stuff of science. But standards shift in interesting ways when the evidence is a potential communication from an extraterrestrial civilization.

Even if this turns out to be the real thing, can we hope to partake in the process of discovery during an "election" year? Back when fossilized life was arguably discovered in a Martian meteorite, Dole and Kemp (remember them?) made magazine covers. Life on Mars took a backseat.

I fear something nauseatingly similar is about to happen. But what should I expect from this thoroughly fucked-up society?

Payphones of the World

"2600 printed its first payphone photo in the Autumn 1988 issue. We received so many more contributions that printing pictures of foreign payphones became a regular feature a year later. The pictures appeared on page 2, which was limited to black and white. In the Autumn 1994 issue, we moved the payphones to the back page and put the table of contents on page 3. This enabled the payphone photos to be printed in their original color form. Now, by putting the pictures up on the web, we have created a growing library of foreign payphones."