Friday, December 31, 2004

On the eve of 2005

I don't usually make New Year's resolutions because I think the concept is dumb. But I'm making one for 2005 (and posting it here so readers, if so inclined, can call me on it if I slack off).

Here it is: Get to serious work on my oft-mentioned yet unfinished novel, "Women and Children First." Maybe even finish a first draft before '06. The down-side is that I won't have as much free time to read. And it's possible -- but not terribly likely -- that I won't blog quite as frequently; I simply don't know.

One of the reasons I'm in a hurry to write this depressingly eco-dystopian story is because some of the basic themes are coming true much faster than I expected. And this sounds off-puttingly messianic, but maybe if the final product is good enough and I find a publisher, perhaps it will actually do some good. Michael Crichton (an author I've loathed since wading through the consummately unoriginal "Jurassic Park") just came out with a thriller titled "State of Fear." The premise of "State of Fear" is that environmentalists are dangerous lunatics, a sort of tree-hugging Al Queda.

Most intelligent readers are likely to see through Crichton's propaganda; already, more than a few are actually wondering who, ultimately, gave Crichton the green light for this latest delusional offering. Popular fiction's potential as a political instrument shouldn't be underestimated, especially with the current neocon freak-show expediently spreading its roots.

Best wishes to everyone for the best possible 2005. May reason prevail.
Earth's permafrost starts to squelch

"In addition to northern Alaska, the permafrost zone includes most other Arctic land, such as northern Canada and much of Siberia, as well as the higher reaches of mountainous regions such as the Alps and Tibet. All report permafrost thaw."

Coincidentally, I recently read Robert Silverberg's "Tower of Glass," in which an industrialist builds a giant vertical particle accelerator in Alaska in order to communicate with extraterrestrials. The heat from the accelerator's construction causes the permafrost to melt, endangering the project. So engineers bury refrigeration devices in the soil to keep the ground frozen solid. As the title might suggest, things go very, very wrong.

Climate change and global warming were the last things on Silverberg's mind; the novel is about social injustice. But it looks like he might have inadvertently killed two birds with one well-aimed stone.

Author Rudy Rucker has a really good thing going with his new blog. For example, here's Rucker's take on neurotheology:

"Well, we can keep determinism if we allow for a less supernatural view of reform-by-supplication. We could simply say that asking God for help has an organic effect upon a person's brain. In other words, expressing a desire to have a spiritual life might activate, let us say, certain brain centers which release endorphins that in turn affect the threshold levels of one's neurons. And these changes nudge the brain activities to a new strange attractor. A deterministic chaotic bifurcation occurs.

"Do I really think it works like that? Well, to be truthful, I've always felt comfortable about reaching out for contact with the divine. The world is big and strange, and we have only the barest inkling about what lies beneath the surface."


Now in its third year!

I've been self-indulgently browsing January, 2004's archived Posthuman Blues posts. I actually found it a decent read; usually I'm masochistically self-critical about the stuff I write. My 2004 predictions have fared pretty well: Bush was indeed made President, the body-count in Iraq is nowhere close to leveling out, and scientists have used organic and inorganic components to create a kind of "cyborg" neural computer. (Granted, those first two were pretty damned obvious.)

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Iran, Russia to study UFOs

"With a rash of recent sightings of unidentified flying objects in the Eastern Hemisphere, Russia and Iran have agreed to jointly study the UFO phenomenon." (Tip of the hat to The Anomalist.)

Smart move. Meanwhile, the West denies that anything weird's even happening. Or at least that's the intended impression.

You defer to the views of the television news
Let someone do your thinking for you
And you still buy a daily newspaper
And you find everything there but the news

--Morrissey, "Teenage Dad On His Estate"
Somebody, make her stop!

I just perused the official website of Oprah-certified child prodigy Akiane. She paints these noxious portraits of babies and Jesus and stuff. And writes poems about the same. Appropriately enough, she looks like one of the Children of the Damned.

Don't click on this link unless you've got a high tolerance for aesthetic atrocity. May cause vomiting.
Military Lab Proposed Gay-Aphrodisiac Chemical Weapon

Your tax-dollars at work.

Personally, I'd want to field-test the stuff first. And what better places to measure its potency than suburban mega-churches?

(Presciently, cryonicist Charles Platt once wrote a novel called "The Gas," about an aphrodisiac that escapes industrial custody and inundates England, inducing a nation-wide orgy.)
Here's a weird dream I had about a week ago: I was at the news-stand at Barnes & Noble and a magazine caught my eye. It was "Time" or "Newsweek" or something -- a major mainstream news monthly. The cover showed the barely lit limb of the Earth, apparently taken from orbit. And across the image was the sentence "WE ARE CAMERON DIAZ-LESS" in commanding white capitals.

"Huh," I remember thinking. "Cameron Diaz must have died . . ."
Human brain result of 'extraordinarily fast' evolution

"The sophistication of the human brain is not simply the result of steady evolution, according to new research. Instead, humans are truly privileged animals with brains that have developed in a type of extraordinarily fast evolution that is unique to the species."

I'm not writing off extraterrestrial intervention as one possible factor in the human brain's explosive evolutionary growth. At least one scientific attempt to date the formation of the Face on Mars suggests it coincided with "Lucy," a specimen sometimes cited as humanity's common mother.

Since the early 80s, researchers have commented on the Face's eerie simian resemblance -- and with good reason. If the Face is an artificial monument, then perhaps it was constructed to commemorate a feat of genetic engineering.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Mobile phones 'alter human DNA'

"They found that, after being exposed to electromagnetic fields, the cells showed a significant increase in DNA damage which could not always be repaired by the cell."

Good. Maybe cellphone addicts will keel over from insidious mutations. I'm utterly exasperated with the cellphone thing; I blame their popularity, in part, for my ailing social life. For example, the other night I was doing laundry and a girl I'd never talked to was there, talking on a cellphone while tossing bales of wet clothing into the steel maw of a commercial Maytag. I've found that cellphones make people genuinely unapproachable. Same with iPods. And Segways -- what, you're too lofty to share the pavement with the rest of us?

The irony is that I'm healthily technophiliac. But my requirement is that new technologies fulfill some useful role, and the gadgets that people are so enamored of are generally just costly toys. (Have you been to The Sharper Image lately?)

Don't misunderstand. I like Segways; I think they have the potential to redefine our relationship with our increasingly congested cities. But that doesn't mean taking walks is an obsolete concept. And what's with this sudden pressing need to have DVD players installed in cars? Do I really need to point out the danger here?
Where are all the dead animals? Sri Lanka asks

"Sri Lankan wildlife officials are stunned -- the worst tsunami in memory has killed around 22,000 people along the Indian Ocean island's coast, but they can't find any dead animals."

Altruistic alien zoologists, anyone?
Small Asteroid Passes Between Satellites and Earth

"The asteroid passed just under the orbits of geostationary satellites, which at 22,300 miles (36,000 kilometers) altitude are the highest manmade objects circling Earth. Most other satellites, along with the International Space Station, circle the planet at just a few hundred miles up."

Although the article goes on to reassure us that the asteroid would have posed no threat had it entered the Earth's atmosphere, it wisely acknowledges the astronomical "blind spot" suffered by ground-based telescopes. In other words, if this rock had been a bit bigger, oceanic quakes would be fighting for headline-space right now.

It's quite possible -- although by no means certain -- we will see the "big one" coming far enough in advance to take defensive action. Ironically, it's the smaller ones that concern me the most. If one of them were to impact near a city, the blast would probably be attributed to a nuclear strike -- and in the ensuing flurry of confusion and finger-pointing, it's plausible a "retaliatory" attack would be launched . . . ultimately resulting in a perfectly meaningless nuclear conflagration.

Conversely, the threat of space-borne rock could be used as a cover for a real nuclear attack in much the same way the US Air Force worried that spurious UFO reports could be spread by Soviet disinformationists in an effort to mask an actual air-strike.
Kerry May Withdraw Concession

"Democratic Presidential Candidate John Kerry is exploring his legal options after learning that there are serious questions about the validity of the vote count in Ohio. On December 23, Senator Kerry's Ohio attorney Jerry Hoffheimer stated on MSNBC's Countdown that the Senator will be seeking to obtain evidence being presented in a recount suit being pressed by the Green and Libertarian parties in Ohio."

I have difficulty accepting that this is anything but play-acting. The Bush administration practically owns the electronic voting machine industry . . . and Kerry's just now wondering if W cheated? Instead of congratulating W on his ersatz victory during a premature concession speech, Kerry should have railed on this. He should have acknowledged the probability of vote manipulation. He should have fought.

Of course, this presupposes Kerry had some intention of actually winning -- and, in retrospect, I think this is a matter for debate.
Unknown Energy Surges Continue to Hit Planet, Global Weather Systems in Chaos

"An increasingly panicked global effort is now underway by the worlds top scientists to understand an unprecedented series of 'blasts', energy surges, which the planet has been taking from as an yet unknown source which has been bombarding Antarctica with cosmic rays and disrupting Northern Hemisphere weather systems on a global scale."

Earthquake: Coincidence or a Corporate Oil Tragedy?

"What is interesting about this is that the same place where the whale beachings have been taking place over the last 30 days is the same general area where the 8.1 Australian earthquake took place, and this is the same area where they are doing these seismic tests. Then 2 days after the Australian tectonic plate shifted, the 9.0 earthquake shook the coast of Indonesia."

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

I just did something I've wanted to do for a long time. I'm always getting requests from Plaza tourists to take their picture, and tonight was no exception. I really don't mind; if anything it's a good chance to size up various digicams before committing to a purchase. But this time I politely asked the couple whose picture I took if they had email. Then I asked if they would take a picture of me and email it to me, if possible. They agreed. So unless they misplace my email address, I might be getting an decently scenic photo of myself in my in-box. And if I do, I'll post it -- good or bad.
Rumsfeld's Freudian Slip: Plane "Shot Down" Over Pennsylvania

"And I think all of us have a sense if we imagine the kind of world we would face if the people who bombed the mess hall in Mosul, or the people who did the bombing in Spain, or the people who attacked the United States in New York, shot down the plane over Pennsylvania and attacked the Pentagon, the people who cut off peoples' heads on television to intimidate, to frighten . . ."

Rumsfeld, you dumb fuck. It's bad enough your boss has to wear a damned wire to the debates. Now you have to start blurting the truth when no one asked.
Why Make a Matrix? And Why You Might Be In One

"A Matrix may contain a civilization that matures and proceeds to build its own Matrices in the simulation. Realty could thus contain many levels, with computers being simulated inside computers which are themselves simulated, and so forth. How many layers of simulation there could be depends on the computing power available to the bottom-level Architect (who is not simulated). Since all the higher levels of simulation would ultimately be implemented on this Architect's computer, he would have to shoulder the cost of all the simulations and all the simulated people. If his computing power is limited, there may be only a small number of levels."

If this is a Matrix . . . then where is Carrie-Anne Moss?

Monday, December 27, 2004

Asian Disaster Death Toll Passes 22,000

"Bodies washed up on tropical beaches and piled up in hospitals Monday, raising fears of disease across a 10-nation arc of destruction left by a monster earthquake and walls of water that killed more than 22,000 people. Thousands were missing and millions homeless."
Bookstores Rated New York's Best Pickup Spot

"According to a survey of 1,003 New Yorkers aged 25 to 35 released by American Express on Wednesday, the bookstore chain Barnes & Noble has the best singles scene in the city."

All right -- what's the catch?
Playgirl virus attacks Chechen rebel sites

"An email virus that poses as pictures of a nude glamour model actually contains malicious code designed to launch denial-of-service attacks on websites run by Chechen separatists." (Via Beyond the Beyond.)

The UFO stories from India keep comin' . . .

Remote viewing Tibetan monks see Extra Terrestrial powers saving the World from destroying itself in 2012

"Monks also mentioned that beyond 2012 our current civilization would understand that the final frontier of science and technology is in area of spirituality and not material physics and chemistry. Beyond 2012, out [sic] technologies will take a different direction. People will learn the essence of spirituality, the relation between body and the soul, the reincarnation and the fact we are connected with each other are all part of 'God'."

Sounds like they're talking about a transhumanist "technology of consciousness." Regardless whether any of the messianic stuff is real, I actually think these (alleged) monks might basically be on the right track.

UFO Sightings over Iranian nuclear installations - Iranian Air Force orders shoot at sight but admits technical inability

"Flying object fever has gripped Iran after dozens of reported sightings in the summer and in recent weeks. State-run media has reported sightings of unknown objects flying over parts of Iran where nuclear facilities are located. 'The unidentified flying objects could be satellites, comets or spying or reconnaissance crafts trying to monitor Iran's nuclear installations,' Mahini said. 'Flights of unknown objects in the country's airspace have increased in recent weeks ... (they) have been seen over Bushehr and Isfahan provinces,' the daily Resalat reported today. There are nuclear facilities in both provinces. The timing of the reported increase in sightings, which comes as the United States is urging allies to confront Iran over its nuclear program, has strengthened Iranian public perceptions that the objects are surveillance or hostile aircrafts monitoring Iran. Iran's Air Force chief Gen. Karim Ghavami was quoted in Iranian newspapers Saturday as saying that Iran was fully prepared to defend any threat to its nuclear installations."
Asia Quake's Tsunamis Kill Nearly 10,000

"'All the planet is vibrating' from the quake, said Enzo Boschi, the head of Italy's National Geophysics Institute. Speaking on SKY TG24 TV, Boschi said the quake even disturbed the Earth's rotation."

Not to dwell on bad news, but have you read this? It's positively surreal. And it looks as if they've grossly underestimated the body-count . . .
Corporations Granted Relief from Pollution Regulations

"The thirty companies that own most of the dirtiest power plants in the country have raised 6.6 million for President Bush and the Republican National Committee since 1999, and were given relief from pollution regulations that would have cost them billions of dollars. [...] Some of the emissions that these companies release include sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide, which pose higher risks to Americans in terms of asthma attacks, lung ailments, and premature death."

Sunday, December 26, 2004

A year or so ago Stephen Hawking predicted the human race would go extinct within 1,000 years unless it expanded into space. Between global biowarfare, nuclear proliferation, rogue asteroids, and ecocaust, we don't have much of a chance unless we take radical measures. I've always thought Hawking was being naively optimistic and generous; 300 years seemed a more likely figure. Now, in my mind if nowhere else, that figure is dropping to somewhere between 50-100. The veil of optimism -- the smokescreen of contrived hope -- is in tatters, and I suddenly realize what a bruising my psyche has taken while trying to keep up a positive front.

Maybe this is what psychologists call "externalization": Maybe things aren't all that dire, but my frustration with myself -- my uncertainty -- is superimposing itself on the outside world. Or maybe people are saner and kinder than I assume. Or just maybe the environment can take an unprecedented artificially instigated pounding and still keep a human population of billions alive and in reasonable health.

Is it any wonder Christian Fundamentalism has made such an appalling cultural and political comeback? I honestly suspect most of us harbor an unrecognized visceral certainty that we're on the brink.

Maybe I've been out of the loop all along, while the Fundies have enjoyed something like prescience. The irony stings.

I finally coughed up the money for Morrissey's expanded, deluxe two-disc release of "You Are the Quarry," which contains eight B-sides and a DVD. I'm a bit angry because I thought I had already bought the "deluxe" two-disc edition when the album debuted. Then again, $20 for eight brand-new songs (practically an album's worth) isn't too bad. And the songs are pretty great. I listened to them on my portable while ingesting (somehow, "drinking" is not the word I'd choose) a chilled Naked health beverage -- ostensibly banana-flavored -- which left a persistent silty residue between my lips and gums.

Tracks to pay special attention to include "Teenage Dad On His Estate" (the title alone is ingenious), "Friday Mourning" and "The Never Played Symphonies." Nothing quite as excellent as "Come Back to Camden," but lots of Quintessential Morrissey Moments; I dare you to listen to "Don't Make Fun of Daddy's Voice" without laughing.
I just received a pretty fantastic report of a "flying triangle" hovering near a Web server and supposedly knocking a variety of UFO-related websites offline. Unless I'm being put on, the FBI is involved in some capacity. What the hell?
Indonesian 'hobbit' legends may be factual

"The story had previously been dismissed as a legend - along with other tales of 'little people' living in isolated rainforests that are common elsewhere in Indonesia and Southeast Asia."

Indeed, common just about everywhere. And again I'm drawn to the possibility that not only might some of these once-mythical creatures still be alive, but to the prospect that we've actually interacted with them in modern times -- possibly without even realizing them for what they are.

Say you're an ancestor of the Flores "hobbits" and you don't want to be found. It might seem prudent to disguise the facts surrounding your existence, knowing full-well that homo sapiens' technology is bound to detect traces now and then. One good subterfuge -- assuming you have access to the technology to pull it off -- is to appear to be of extraterrestrial origin. With humans watching the skies for aliens, you can effectively control their beliefs, up to and including belief in the possibility that they share the planet with one or more species of intelligent bipeds.

Technological development is an enigma. Archaeological evidence suggests that sometimes it comes in discreet quantum jumps. Ancient Sumerian civilization, for example, came out of virtually nowhere, prompting many "ancient astronaut" scenarios; none other than Carl Sagan wondered if the famous Oannes myth was an actual record of ET contact. Visiting aliens aside, who knows how long it might take for a race of hominids to develop a sophisticated technology? It's possible the hobbits were forced to compress the time between their Stone Age and Information Age to merely hundreds of years. Or maybe, for a nonhuman civilization, there was simply no need for an incremental transition; their method of thinking could be fundamentally different -- and vastly more efficient.

Couple this with the so-called "Singularity" that seems to hover over our own technological horizon. Many "transhumanists" think that in 20 years or so we will begin making exponential strides due to advances in artificial intelligence -- redefining "human" in the process. Perhaps the hobbits, or someone like them, has already enjoyed something equivalent to the Singularity, in which case dealing with them is likely to be as strange as dealing with actual extraterrestrials.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Was Jesus Gay?

"'Large chunks of Jesus' life are missing from the Biblical accounts. This has fuelled speculation that the early Church sanitized the gospels, removing references to Christ's sexuality that were not in accord with the heterosexual morality that it wanted to promote', said Tatchell." (Via The Anomalist.)
Be very afraid . . .

The Christmas Miracle

"Sixty-two percent say they favor teaching creation science in addition to evolution in public schools; 26 percent oppose such teaching, the poll shows. Forty-three percent favor teaching creation science instead of evolution in public schools; 40 percent oppose the idea."

Newsweek is at glaring fault here for using the condescending term "creation science." Biblical Creationism isn't science; it's not even close. But Fundamentalists know perfectly well they need to work the "s"-work into their agenda if they're to wield political clout; flaunting Creationism as some sort of overlooked field of objective study is nothing but a prudent gimmick. And of course once they've accomplished their mission of subverting the public education system they'll abandon the pretense altogether. Meanwhile, the mainstream news media obligingly endorse the fiction that there's something scientific about Creationism.

Welcome to Jesusland.

Your Christmas is Most Like: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

You can't really get into the Christmas spirit...
But it usually gets to you by the end of the holiday.

Yeah, yeah . . . maybe these blog-quiz things are sort of lame -- but I like them. And damned if they're not accurate.
Asteroid Given Highest Potential Impact Rating So Far

"The asteroid is about the length of four football fields and has just received a rating of 'two' on a 10-point scale that predicts impact."

Just what you wanted to hear about on Christmas, right?
Stealth satellites' cost in orbit

"The stealth satellite, which would probably become the largest single-item expenditure in the $40 billion intelligence budget, is to be launched in the next five years and is meant to replace an existing stealth satellite, according to officials. Non-stealth satellites can be tracked and their orbits can be predicted, allowing countries to attempt to hide weapons or troop movements on the ground when they are overhead."

Troop movements? I thought we were fighting terrorists, not armies. Unless "stealth satellites" are simply a prelude to a war that has yet to be announced.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Let the holiday merry-making commence!

This is interesting. I just realized it's 3:00 AM on Christmas Eve and I'm blogging about viral holocaust.

Happy holidays from Kansas City!
Nature, the most deadly bio-terrorist of all

"Consider the basic facts: we have several strains of deadly avian flu infecting the poultry of south Asia and we have millions of people who keep chickens and ducks in their yards and huts in one of the world's most densely populated areas. On their own, these two factors are ideal for creating a deadly new flu virus. On top of that, we have the bonus factor of cheap, global air travel ready to whisk newly infected humans round the planet. And given that flu victims become infectious before their symptoms develop, the situation looks extremely dodgy, to say the least."

Between natural and engineered viruses (think "12 Monkeys" or "The Stand"), it seems virtually inevitable that germs will play a pivotal and grisly role as the human species reaches "critical mass," probably sometime in the next century.
The Quantum AetherDynamics Institute

"The Quantum AetherDynamics Institute is a non-profit educational and scientific organization devoted to promoting an understanding of the Aether Physics Model. We will provide an environment for the Aether Physics Model to grow by supplying books and training, a laboratory, and an open knowledge database website. We believe the Aether Physics Model provides key solutions to physics including a Unified Force Theory, which will lead to breakthroughs in all branches of science. We also believe that establishing the Aether Physics Model as the foundation of universal knowledge will increase world harmony and human development, by creating a bridge between science and spirituality."

I'm always reading about the quest to join science and spirituality. The popular assumption is that reconciling the two -- if possible -- will be an unquestionably good thing. To be sure, it has a nice ring to it; it's not as if the appeal is obscure. But why do we assume we need to bridge the gulf between science and spirituality? For that matter, who says the "gulf" even exists? It could be a perceptual anomaly, an intellectual mirage.

This might sound stodgily materialist, but maybe the only way to humanize science is to do more science. As we continue exploring the frontiers of neurology and quantum cosmology, the "bridge" so many of us are looking for may begin to reveal itself with increasing resolution.

What's playing:

1.) MTV Unplugged (10,000 Maniacs)
2.) Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me (The Cure)
3.) Medulla (Bjork)
4.) Paris (The Cure)
5.) Us (Peter Gabriel)

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Manipulating our memories of food can influence what we choose to eat

"'We set out to test what we've known anecdotally - that false beliefs have repercussions, affecting what people later think and do,' said Loftus, whose research over the past three decades has changed the way scientists and the public view the malleable nature of human memory. 'We proved this; however, we also discovered that food is a surprisingly easy target for memory manipulation.'"

Oh, boy. The Orwellian implications are positively rampant.

(Thanks to Bill Dash for the lead.)
Invitation to ETI

"Issuing an invitation to ETI on the World Wide Web is a long shot, as is every SETI project. Our chances of detecting ETI are at least as good as those of any other project. If successful, though, our project could provide humanity with particularly high benefits because we aim to achieve a scientific, educational, and philosophical dialogue between humankind and ETI--not simply find evidence that ETI exists. Humanity could gain an extraordinary wealth of new insights from such a dialogue."

This isn't the first attempt to send a Web-based "open letter" to ETI that I've seen. I doubt it will be the last. Oddly enough, I find myself in basic agreement that the chances of this method succeeding are comparable to radio-based SETI. Even the SETI Institute's Seth Shostak seemed to be pondering a similar scenario when he recommended terrestrials transmit the contents of the Web to a candidate extrasolar civilization -- and few would argue that sharing our planet's collective digital unconscious is more portentous than firing off a string of anonymous prime numbers.

The truth is probably closer to Rudy Rucker's vision of encrypted alien intelligences passing us by in the form of background radiation, completely unacknowledged as anything other than stellar noise.

In the meantime, I'm giving "Internet SETI" a shot.
New 'moon' found around Earth

"Much uncertainty surrounds the mysterious object, designated J002E3. It could be a passing chunk of rock captured by the Earth's gravity, or it could be a discarded rocket casing coming back to our region of space."

Could it conceivably be something else -- perhaps an extraterrestrial probe making a close approach? Maybe we should try signaling J002E3; an "echo" or return broadcast would confirm that we're dealing with something unprecedented.


It's come to my attention that this science story dates from way back in 2002. Sorry about that; I try to keep the weirdness fresh around here. Still, I found this interesting. I think it's a little foolish to automatically consign orbital anomalies to space debris; it's just possible we might miss something far more intriguing.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

EU Pleads for Global Warming Agreement--US Says No

"The US administration continues to claim that global warming is a matter for debate, even though there is no longer any scientific question that it is happening, or that human-generated pollution is a significant contributor to the warming process."

I don't think the rest of the world realizes how profoundly twisted things have become in the US. To Bush and his pals, the end of the world is eminently desirable because that means Jesus is on his way, complete with flaming sword. So global warming -- and other serious environmental threats -- are unflinchingly neglected.

It's not a (relatively) simple matter of choosing to look the other way for fear of what might be seen; those in control actively want this. Mind-blowing? Certainly. But then again so was W's "re"-election; we should be practically numb to absurdity by now.
Live Cat Found In Freezer With Euthanized Animals

"No one is sure if he ever received the deadly shot, but he somehow ended up in the shelter's freezer, with the other euthanized animals."

Question: Can cats suffer post-traumatic stress disorder?
'We have to protect people'

"'Traditional family values are under attack,' Allen informs me. They've been under attack 'for the last 40 years'. The enemy, this time, is not al-Qaida. The axis of evil is 'Hollywood, the music industry'. We have an obligation to 'save society from moral destruction'. We have to prevent liberal libarians [sic] and trendy teachers from 're-engineering society's fabric in the minds of our children'. We have to 'protect Alabamians'." (Via CP.)

Isn't it wonderful that politicians are so eager to help us? I find it boundlessly encouraging that some total stranger is going beyond the call of duty to protect me. I mean, the utter selflessness of it!

Seriously: I don't "get" homophobia. I suspect that just as there are biological conditions that predetermine if one is gay or straight, there are genes/hormones/enzymes that kick in to make people homophobic. And I have a hunch this biological mechanism is tied to religion, another irrational phenomenon with known neurological aspects (thus the burgeoning field of neurotheology).

In other words, there are sets of factors, intrinsic and cultural, that conspire to turn people into assholes. You might not actually find the term "asshole" in the neurological literature, but perhaps it should be there just the same. Assholes, like the "shits" scorned by William Burroughs, appear fundamentally unable to mind their own business. So they become politicians and corporate hotshots, careers that allow them to make a profitable living screwing with other people's lives in the name of "morality," the worst possible form of ersatz altruism. These are the "functionally dead" people I mentioned in a previous post. They're everywhere.

As far as I'm concerned, they might as well belong to some virulent alien species. And yet, far too often, the rest of us willingly play by their rules. We cow-tow to them. We make it easy, consoling ourselves with the costly fiction that casting a vote once every four years might make a difference.

Meanwhile, the planet goes to hell.
More UFO fun from you-know-where . . .

More evidence of Extra Terrestrial contacts with Indian Government and Military

"According to rumors in New Delhi, UFOs made formal contact with Indian Government. The Government was initially baffled without knowing how to react. Later things became quiet and it seems all understand that these Extra Terrestrials are friendly."

Assuming that all of the tales coming from India aren't simply tabloid fiction, it's tempting to wonder if they've been planted to screen top-secret research. India might have its own home-grown Area 51, complete with dupes to spread wild "contact" stories. There's ample precedent in United States spookdom: John Lear, Bob Lazar, etc.

Of possible significance is that the ETs allegedly visiting India are friendly, whereas the "Grays" of the American "silent invasion" mythos are, at best, duplicitous -- and, at worst, downright demonic.
Weird lights and strange noises in the news . . .

Arctic lights blamed on climate change

"Eskimos and scientists report a strange 'lightness at noon' that is turning the usual all-day darkness of the high Canadian Arctic into twilight, apparently in defiance of natural laws. Canadian government officials say it may be the result of an unusual atmospheric phenomenon caused by global warming."

Low tone sounds like a mystery

"A Midlothian Council spokeswoman said: 'Following a complaint made about tonal noise by a Mayfield family last year, the council engaged a noise consultant to investigate. The consultant reported that the noise experienced by the family was below the level that would enable the council to take action, and that the precise source of the sound was not identifiable.'"

You have to wonder if there's a common origin.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

I'll be collaborating (albeit in a limited capacity) on Twentythrees, a graphical blog that documents synchronistic recurrences of the number 23.

The image above is a typical example. I created it using typoGenerator, a Web-based application that takes a keyword, conducts a search for relevant images, and randomly "stylizes" the results. In this case, the input was the word "replicant," the term for the androids in "Blade Runner." Weirdly, the number 23 appears, totally unbidden.

I'm also about to set to work on a story on the "23 phenomenon" for the print version of "Phenomena" magazine. If you have any wacky "23 stories" to share, let me know; they might make it into the finished article.

Note: I experienced a synchronicity involving 23 while making this post. While checking the MS My Documents folder on my desktop, I suddenly noticed the only unfiled graphic was a new picture of the Cydonia region on Mars with the file-name "R23 context."
I got this email today:

hello! my name is Elena, I'm from Russia. I looked your profile on dating site. So, you are look like as my type. let's get acquainted! It's probably you'll like me if you see my pics and find out a little about me. Please write me back!

Sounds like a teaser for an erotic website, doesn't it?

The weird thing is that I think it could possibly be for real. I've had two Russian single women email me to profess their desire to meet American singles, and, to my surprise, both turned out to be real people. (How serious they were about "dating" is another issue, but they weren't hawking porn or asking for money.) So I wrote "Elena" a quick message in reply just to see where this goes -- which is probably nowhere fast.

The bone-chilling irony is that I probably have a better chance at meeting someone in Siberia than in my own hometown. (Insert Morrissey lyric here.)
The Delusional Is No Longer Marginal

"The news about the environment is not good these days. With an administration that wants to rewrite the Clean Air and Endangered Species acts and millions of Americans who literally believe that environmental destruction will hearken the second coming of Christ, esteemed journalism Bill Moyers understands the despair many of us feel. But in this speech, given as he accepted Harvard Medical's Global Environment Citizen award on Dec. 1, he says the cure for cynicism is the will to fight so the next generation will not have to, and the conviction that the future does indeed depend on our actions."

Quite probably a must-read.
Two brand-new websites to check out

I thought that Keanu Reeves played the protagonist in the "Matrix" movies. Evidently I was mistaken. As the title banner for PAG E-News clearly demonstrates, the "Matrix's" Neo was in fact played by UFO lawyer and commentator Peter A. Gersten. I've been getting Peter's email newsletter for a long time; he rounds up some exquisitely high-weirdness news items, and does so daily. Have fun.

Also, ufologist Larry Hatch has just unveiled his UFO specific *U* / Gigablast Search, a UFO-dedicated search engine designed to help filter out stupid UFO sites. (Imagine, if you can, checking out paranormal sites without enduring "eerie" MIDI soundtracks and animated "X-Files" graphics . . .)
'Artificial life' comes step closer

"'This is rather philosophical,' says Dr Libchaber.

"'For me, life is just like a machine - a machine with a computer program. There's no more to it than that. But not everyone shares this point of view,' he told the BBC."
I like to think of how I'd explain the world of 2004 to a citizen of the 1940s or 50s . . . someone with a good grasp of science for whom descriptions of ubiquitous marvels like DVD players and global positioning systems would seem like technology, not fantasy or mysticism. Nevertheless, a daunting task.

Let's say I've got only a couple minutes to sum up the post-millennial zeitgeist. Where should I start? Even a typical street scene is liable to sound like bad science fiction, what with people coasting by on Segways as they prattle into cellphones that double as cameras. To say nothing of those drinking $2.50 cups of organic coffee as they establish wi-fi connections with their laptops, which they use to "surf" this enigmatic thing called "the Web" and transmit messages that dance across the globe in fiber-optic cable.

Blogs. Depleted uranium. The search for Hawking radiation. 9-11-01. Stem-cells. Global warming. Computer viruses. Mars rovers. Chat-rooms. Dish TV. MP3s, PDAs, GMOs, SUVs and MRIs. The Higgs boson. Quantum encryption. Transgenic art. Dirty bombs. Solar sails. Google.

Actually, here's what I might say to my hypothetical friend from the 1950s: "Do you read science fiction? There's this author, Philip K. Dick. You might enjoy him . . ."
Robotic pods take on car design

"Built using environmentally friendly plant-based materials, the single passenger unit is equipped with intelligent transport system technologies that allow for safe autopilot driving in specially equipped lanes." (Via

These things are a blast -- Segways with profoundly serious delusions of grandeur.

Here's another idea whose time has come: virtual homes. Put on a VR headset and stroll through the house (or city) of your dreams, even if you're sitting on a crowded bus or waiting in the grocery check-out line. Now that "augmented reality" has arrived in the form of Human PacMan, I don't see any significant hurdles.

Perhaps the real-estate market of the mid-21st century will be dominated by customized digital environments, both consensual (as in a Gibsonian chat-room) and solipsistic. People will pay real-world money for them too, as witnessed by the guy who recently paid over $20,000 for a gaming environment that exists only in cyberspace.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Campaign of deception used to push patriotic song up charts

"The Bumper of My SUV, which was written by Wright, tells how she was driving down West End Avenue in Nashville in her SUV when someone saw her bumper sticker supporting the troops and made an obscene gesture. The song calls for support of the troops no matter what a person thinks of the war in Iraq."

You know how professional wrestling comes with the disclaimer "sports entertainment" -- meant to discourage the credulous from thinking the matches are anything but rehearsed skits? In a similar vein, I think certain kinds of music should be labeled "music entertainment." "Young country" is one of them. It's always been stupid; now W's Iraq War has pushed it hurtling past the threshold of self-parody. ("The Bumper of my SUV"? Jesus!)

Rap -- generally artless and formulaic -- is another form of "music entertainment." "Gangsta rap" devotees buy Snoop Dogg CDs for image, not aesthetic virtue. Britney Spears? More "music entertainment." Same with Marilyn Manson and other contemporary "goth": sheer gimmick with little or no redeeming substance.

I just ran across this great quote from Rudy Rucker's "Saucer Wisdom" notes (PDF):

"The answer to the Fermi paradox is 'They do exist, and they are already here, but we haven't built a modem that can distinguish them from white noise so they just zip past without decrypting.'"
Rash of UFOs in Eastern Hemisphere

"It's been a busy December for skywatchers in the Eastern Hemisphere, as citizens of Indonesia, China and Australia have all reported seeing unidentified flying objects."


Blasts in Indonesian cities possibly meteor - media

"Police, on high alert after warnings from Western governments of possible terror attacks over the Christmas and New Year period, said they had no information on the blasts. A presidential spokesman also said he had no details."

India and UFOs: What is Going On?

"There have been a few earlier stories reported here, and now another story from India Daily that floats rumors of contact has appeared. This story, for the first time, mentions the possibility that there has been official contact between India and extraterrestrials."
Dead in the water: how we are killing the sea

"Having emptied Britain's shallow coastal strip of its once bountiful fish stocks, fishermen are now wrecking our last virgin territory: the sea bed."

We're merely finishing what we started. What resolve.
DNA may hold key to information processing and data storage

"The DNA molecule--nature's premier data storage material--may hold the key for the information technology industry as it faces demands for more compact data processing and storage circuitry. A team led by Richard Kiehl, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Minnesota, has used DNA's ability to assemble itself into predetermined patterns to construct a synthetic DNA scaffolding with regular, closely spaced docking sites that can direct the assembly of circuits for processing or storing data. The scaffolding has the potential to self-assemble components 1,000 times as densely as the best information processing circuitry and 100 times the best data storage circuitry now in the pipeline."

Sunday, December 19, 2004

I finally installed a guestbook (see sidebar). Please take a moment to say "hi." (Sorry about the ads.)
Electronic Life Forms

"'Elf' is a two-part installation developed in the context of the research project 'electronic-life-forms' by Pascal Glissmann and Martina Höfflin. On one hand, the 'elfs' are documented in their natural habitat, and the fading contrast of electronics and nature gives the scenario a surprising common impression. On the other hand, the imprisonment of these life forms in Weck-Preserving-Glasses reminds one of childhood adventures, exploring and discovering the world around us. The light-sensitive 'elfs' desperately use their chaotic sounds and noisy movements to call the attention of the outside world."

It's a good thing Sauceruney is still blogging; otherwise I might have missed out on this . . .

In fact, I find myself inspired to try out some of my own cyber-concept art. Imagine dozens -- or even hundreds -- of insects "tagged" with miscellaneous defunct electronic components! I could totally do this.*

And what a way to shed my present image as The Guy Who Writes About Martians. Is Kansas City ready for The Guy Who Glues Microcircuitry To Bugs?

*And get the good people at PETA breathing down my neck . . .

This PDF document provides a sprawling perspective on the "silent invasion" mythos -- which, like all good yarns, works spectacularly as metaphor.*

*That's not to say some of it might not be jarringly close to the truth.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

An Electromagnetic Theory Of The Paranormal

"Frequent and prolonged irradiation of the brain by EM fields has been medically shown to induce a range of seemingly paranormal effects, including a sense of 'missing time,' trance states, vivid visual halluciantions [sic], paralysis, deja vu, sudden and intense fear, and feelings of an invisible presence and of being watched. It is probably no coincidence that combinations of some or all of these effects are reported by persons experiencing angels, alien, and poltergeist encounters. Electrical stimulation of the brain's language centers can also produce disembodied voices that intrude into the experiencer's thoughts as if from an external entity."

This is a longtime fascination here at Posthuman Blues. It's likely we won't know how accurate the EM hypothesis is until years from now, when more people have had an opportunity to be exposed to the "hotspots" discussed in the article. As cellphones and satellite TV become ubiquitous, it's feasible we might have an exponentiating problem on our hands; imagine a near-future in which epileptic fits and "visionary" episodes triggered by electromagnetic allergies are commonplace. I'm reminded of Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" -- we're saturating our environment with EM radiation without understanding its long-term effects, just as we once unhesitatingly used toxic chemical pesticides.

Could the thriving wireless industry be an unintentional attempt to upgrade the collective unconscious, an unwitting communion with the Other via casual contact with technology?
The BIG Picture (by astronaut John Young)

"The human race is at total war. Our enemy is ignorance, pure and simple. The last 25 years of NASA's Solar System exploration including Earth is telling us what we need to do to preserve our species. This new knowledge is useless unless we act on it. Large volcanoes on Earth, giant impacts on Earth, or unreliable solar activity cannot be ignored. Historical statistics show that these events are likely in our lifetimes or the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren. Knowing what we know now, we are being irresponsible in our failure to make the scientific and technical progress we will need for protecting our newly discovered severely threatened and probably endangered species -- us. NASA is not about the 'Adventure of Human Space Exploration,' we are in the deadly serious business of saving the species. All Human Exploration's bottom line is about preserving our species over the long haul."

Young is absolutely correct. But ignorance is a tenacious enemy. Will we triumph, in the long run? The odds are stacked against us; I would be quite surprised if we survived our technological adolescence and went on to become a robust space-faring civilization. As a species, we appear to lack the sense of perspective so direly necessary if we're to redefine our role in the Cosmos.


Former Astronaut, Engineers Hope to Deflect Asteroid

"Former astronaut Rusty Schweickart, chairman of the foundation, spoke about its goal at the Planetary Society in Pasadena, California. 'To deflect an asteroid in a controlled manner by 2015. And we're not saying to write a paper about it, to think about it, to talk about it. We're saying our goal is to deflect an asteroid, that is, to move an asteroid, to change its orbit, by 2015,' he says."
Superstorm Confirmation--It Has Happened Before...and May Again

"5,200 years ago, alpine meadows from Peru to Switzerland were suddenly buried in mountains of snow. Oetzi, the famous ice man, was caught in one of the storms in Switzerland and remained frozen until 1991. The world climate suddenly became much drier and colder as water vapor was trapped in ice. The Sahara desert appeared, destroying in a matter of years a vast temperate region and turning it to a sandy waste. Worldwide drought ravaged forest and grassland alike. What happened to human beings--of which there were about 250 million on the planet at the time--remains obscure, but documents like the Popul vuh, which describes an enormous upheaval, suggest that extraordinary climactic violence accompanied the change."

Meanwhile . . .

Freak storms kill six in France

"A freak hurricane-force wind has struck the French capital Paris and much of the country's north, killing at least six people, say the emergency services."

"'Psychologists have suggested that people with anxiety disorders are very sensitive to subliminal threats and are picking up stimuli the rest of us do not perceive,' says Dr. Joy Hirsch, professor of neuroradiology and psychology and director of the fMRI Research Center at Columbia University Medical Center, where the study was conducted. 'Our findings now demonstrate a biological basis for that unconscious emotional vigilance.'"
More deliciously opaque commentary from India . . .

A secret project in India's Defense Research Organization that can change the world as we know it - anti-gravity lifters tested in Himalayas?

"Dighi in Pune, the city of the brightest Indian defense research scientists and engineers is full of whispers these days. According to some sources in Pune the scientists are tight lipped and say they cannot speak till 2012. What is going to happen in 2012? No one knows but they keep saying before any question is asked - 'I know nothing!' If you carefully keep your ears on these whispers you will realize India has tested something no one wants to talk about, It is a break through in conventional Physics and traditional mechanical and aeronautical engineering."

Friday, December 17, 2004

Your soul is bound to the Solitary Rose: The

"When I wake up alone, the shades are still
drawn on the cold window pane so they cast
their lines on my bed and lines on my

The Solitary Rose is associated with loneliness,
melancholy, and patience. It is governed by
the goddess Merope and its sign is The Sword,
or Unrequited Love.

As a Solitary Rose, you may be summed up as a
hopeless romantic. You desire love and have so
much love to give, but things just never seem to
work out the way you want them to. In life,
you can be very optimistic, even when things
are gray and nothing works out to your

What Rose Is Your Soul Bound To?
brought to you by Quizilla

I can't say I didn't see this one coming. On the subject of doomed romance, I finally got around to starting Kathi Diamant's "Kafka's Last Love."

Remote control rifle range debuts

"A Texas company is considering letting web users use a remote-controlled rifle to shoot down deer, antelope and wild pigs."

I have an idea: Why don't we all have neurosurgery that neatly and efficiently excises the part of our brains responsible for empathy? I mean, why not just get it over with?

I'm a vegetarian; I find the idea of eating chunks of dead animals distasteful, and honestly marvel a bit at people who don't. But I typically shut up about it because when people ask why I don't eat meat, I figure I'll invariably come across as self-righteous and abrasive if I tell them the truth. So I say I don't eat meat for health reasons, which is partially true.

At least casual meat-eating seems innocuous enough; it's hard if not impossible to get emotional about an anonymous slab of beef, especially when it's been cooked, marinated, spiced, salted, and buried under tufts of parsley in an attempt to disguise its true identity. Hunting is different. Hunting -- which, contrary to myth, is not a "sport" in any sense of the word -- demands that the participant actively suppress his or her capacity for empathy in favor of a dose of farcical "accomplishment," a bit of macho street-cred.

In a sane world, efforts like remote-control hunting would show just how gutless and imbecilic hunting really is. Unfortunately, this isn't likely to happen; in our world, people will be lining up for this shit . . .
Here's a must-see holiday video sure to bring tears to your nostrils. If you have a slow connection, it's worth the wait; go harvest your icecubes or something.

More cryptic extraterrestrial news from the world's newest UFO capitol!

Strange microwave and radio signals around the glacier at Kailash in India-China Himalayas - extra terrestrial signals?

"People in deep Himalayas in Chinese territory have recently reported strange microwave and radio signals. The signals are most prominent around a region called Kailash regarded by Hindus for thousands of years as the door to heaven and home of God Shiva. According to tourists and pilgrims the signals are real and no one knows where they are coming from."

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Have you ever been around people who are functionally dead? People whose lives have become so automatic and uninspired that they're miserable and simply don't realize it?

You find high concentrations of these people in the corporate/political world. They're typically cloyingly religious and, for simple lack of a better term, total assholes. But they've got this craving for justification; deep down, something in them requires validation. On some level they know their "purpose" -- if one can call it that -- is to stick out their genetically allotted time on this planet before keeling over from disease or age. So they become self-righteous, arrogant -- and deeply boring.

These people suck the very prospect of vitality out of the air. Their presence induces fatigue, depression, anxiety.

And they own the goddamned planet.
Better for old to kill themselves than be a burden, says Warnock

"Warnock's views are of considerable significance as she sat on an influential Lords select committee that agreed on a complete ban on euthanasia in 1993. Last year, however, she and two other peers on the committee conceded that the law needed to be reviewed and backed a private member's bill permitting assisted suicide for the terminally ill."

I think humane assisted euthanasia should be available to anyone, regardless of medical condition. We're so afraid of death that we've effectively criminalized it, as if it's something unutterably obscene; consequently, we're unable to deal with it in any productive context. Ironically enough, you run up against the same ideological paralysis when you talk about extending healthy lifespans; suddenly death ceases to be abhorrent and becomes natural, even "sacred."

We're afraid of dying; we're afraid of living forever. So most of us settle for the willful oblivion of organized religion, television-watching and flag-waving. It's not death -- not quite -- but it certainly isn't living, insofar as "living" implies some capacity for productivity.

And suicidal people are supposedly unbalanced? At least they know what they want, which is vastly more than you can say for most.

"The average global temperature anomaly for combined land and ocean surfaces from January-December 2004 (based on preliminary data) is expected to be 0.55 degrees F (0.31 degrees C) above the 1880-2003 long-term mean, making 2004 the 4th warmest year since 1880 (the beginning of reliable instrumental records). Averaged over the year, land surface temperatures were anomalously warm throughout western North America, southern and western Asia and Europe. Boreal fall (September-November) as well as November were warmest on record for combined land and ocean surfaces."

"Watch ants live and burrow into the highly nutritious, transparent and non toxic gel, creating an amazing pattern of tunnels. Antquariums were developed from NASA technology created to study and understand the development of animal life without gravity. The gel has special properties ensuring it does not compress and crush the ants by the immense g forces during NASA Space Shuttle take off."

Wow. Is it too late to add this thing to my Christmas wish-list?
Skeletal Systems

"Each character resides on a translucent, hinged panel. When the panel is lifted the character's skeletal structure is revealed giving each a certain validity and glimpse into its origins. Each panel is hand-drawn with archival ink and covered with an acrylic/acetate transparency."

This gallery exhibition has been making the rounds online (I first encountered it at Chapel Perilous), but in case you haven't seen it, start clicking. This guy deserves a MacArthur grant.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Now reading: "Singularity Sky" by Charles Stross

What's playing:

1.) Meat Is Murder (The Smiths)
2.) Automatic for the People (R.E.M.)
3.) OK Computer (Radiohead)
4.) Bloodflowers (The Cure)
5.) The Cure (The Cure)
NASA Eyes Effects of a Giant 'Brown Cloud' Worldwide

"The ozone-monitoring instrument on the NASA Aura satellite is providing scientists with new data about the brown cloud. The high-detail images from the new instrument promise to help scientists address major questions that include 'what is pollution?' and 'what is natural?'"
I can't resist, um, "borrowing" this from John Shirley's site:

"Macy's ran a big ad for Paris Hilton's new perfume, which is called...Paris Hilton. The copy says that, like Paris Hilton, the perfume is 'sophisticated...brilliant...' Those were the two words you had in mind, when you thought of her, right? Sophisticated. Brilliant.

"Her new scent 'has notes of frozen apple, peach nectar and wet ozone,' according to a reviewer. And maybe just a hint of the terror of tortured lab animals. 'It's screaming, sure, but it's eyes aren't seriously damaged, we can approve this one.' That's the Paris Hilton spirit.

"The ad also says it reflects her 'mysterious' qualities. The mysteries of her internet porn? Like, this mystery: is that a zit or a birthmark on her thigh? I haven't seen the video but from what I've seen of porn, if there's a blemish--it's probably a zit.

"'Now you have the opportunity to share a bit of the magic that is Paris Hilton.' The magic of Paris Hilton--like when she's on reality tv, whining about having to do some work with her hands. ...

"They should describe her perfume appropriately. 'If you feel overwhelmed by your day, spray on some Paris Hilton--her shallowness will become your shallowness. You'll forget about all those nuances, those complexities--you'll think only of yourself. How you look, and who's hot, and where to shop. It's just that simple. It's just...Paris Hilton.'"
New science standards may include intelligent design

"The smoldering embers of the evolution debate that brought international attention to the Kansas State Board of Education could be fanned back to flame as the panel takes up its triennial review of public school teaching standards." (Via Jason at Busy, Busy, Busy, who has a front-row seat to this insanity.)

Even the term "intelligent design" is disingenuous. The conservatives pushing for it aren't the least bit interested in, say, the possibility that the universe was fine-tuned by some arbitrarily advanced intelligence, or that we're someone else's artificial life experiment. Those scenarios are at least as ego-threatening as evolution. "Intelligent design" is a deceptive euphemism for Biblical Creationism, in which a big dude in the sky created mankind "in his own image." That's not speculation; it's superstition.
Fun fact: In a few short weeks this blog will celebrate its second-year anniversary, which is rather surprising when I stop to think about it. I wasn't sure if I'd "take" to the blog medium or not; when I started, I was pretty much doing it as a self-centered writing exercise. So it's very cool that I've picked up a few readers along the way -- that was unexpected. I've been meaning to install a guestbook . . .
Literary projects I'm either working on, plan on working on, or sincerely wish I had the time to work on:

1.) "Women and Children First" (near-future post-"ecocaust" novel)
2.) "The Postbiological Cosmos: Artificial Intelligence and Alien Visitation" (speculative exploration of emerging technologies and their impact on the search for extraterrestrial intelligence)
3.) "Posthuman Blues" (the book!)
4.) "The Color of Television: A History of the Cyberpunk Movement" (sprawling, exhaustively researched chronicle of a science fiction sub-genre)

Any publishers reading this? Hello . . . ?
The Megatsunami: Possible Modern Threat

"So should we worry? 'Maybe,' says McMurtry. He thinks that a tsunami, which can race across an entire ocean in a matter of hours, is a real threat to urbanized coastlines. Other experts agree that a large tsunami would be bad news for, say, Los Angeles or New York City. And tsunamis are not parochial. One originating in Alaska in 1964 killed people in California and generated damaging surges clear down in Chile."

On the other hand, I've always wanted to jet-ski in Kansas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

There's an influential contingent that refuses to acknowledge that depleted uranium is in any way bad -- a pretty nifty act of doublethink since the stuff is literally nuclear waste. (Of course, these are the same people who make a point not to inhale the stuff on a regular basis.) If I had the money, I'd pay to have this Flash video (or something very much like it) broadcast to millions of American TV-viewers right in the middle of Monday Night Football.

And if those deformed infants seem reassuringly distant, wait until the Iraq war comes home.
Device for the Paralyzed Turns Thinking to Doing

"Instead, scientists at the New York State Department of Health and the State University of New York designed a system to monitor the faint electricity that naturally radiates from every brain and then created special computer software to translate those reflections of thought into direct action."

William Gibson: "The street finds its own uses for things."
First-hand Accounts of Underground Explosions In The North Tower

"The damage to the parking garage and lobby simultaneous with the first plane impact are also indicative of the effects of high explosives, with widespread blast damage and fine dust covering the entire scene."

These reports seem to bolster the anomalous seismograph readings that preceded the towers' collapse. Was 9-11-01 a phildickian sleight-of-hand?

Living cells get nanosurgery

"Now, Japanese researchers have turned an atomic force microscope (AFM) into a surgical tool for cells that could add or remove molecules from precise locations inside a cell without harming it."

Very cool. We're getting closer to molecular cell repair technology.

Monday, December 13, 2004


Hmmm. If this is real then I would think impeachment might be a very real possibility.
UFO Appears to Explode in China

"Xinhua News Agency reports that witnesses saw a strange, shining object cross the sky at 11:36 PM Saturday night, followed by tremendous booms. Over 700 witnesses have reported seeing the phenomenon. Police are searching for debris in the area where it fell. The earth trembled across a 70 square mile area around the western Chinese city of Lanzhou, suggesting an impact with the ground. But so far, nothing has been found."

An errant rocket or would-be spy satellite?
Crows as Clever as Great Apes, Study Says

"New Caledonian crows manufacture two very different types of tool for finding prey. Hooks crafted from twigs are used to poke grubs from holes in trees, while they also cut up stiff leaves with their beaks, carefully sculpting them into sharp instruments for probing leaf detritus for insects and other invertebrates."

Prairie dogs, crows . . . what's next?

I like this news item, by the way. Perhaps if humanity snuffs itself crows will reign supreme. Imagine avian archaeologists a few million years from now stumbling across the ruins of a Wal-Mart.

Reading assignment: "Brain Wave" by Poul Anderson

Film assignment: "The Birds" by Alfred Hitchcock (What else?)

"However, the Palisades seismic record shows that -- as the collapses began -- a huge seismic 'spike' marked the moment the greatest energy went into the ground. The strongest jolts were all registered at the beginning of the collapses, well before the falling debris struck the Earth."

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Louisiana teens getting driver's license also register for selective service

Oh, I just love this one . . .

"There may be no 'plans' for a national military draft, but that hasn't kept Louisiana from registering teenagers too young to serve in case conditions change."

Yes, W has "promised" that the draft will not be reinstated. Some people might even believe him. But it's the reaction of these teens that makes this article a gem. Check it out:

"After being informed of the new condition for getting a first-time license, some of the teenagers only shrugged.

"'I don't care,' Mark Fontenot, a 16-year-old student at Apostolic Christian Academy, said.

"Pineville High School student Josh Stokes, 15, said, 'I think it's good.'

"But neither student would elaborate on his view."

You know why they wouldn't elaborate? Because it's likely they're literally unable. They've been born into a mindless hive society where dissenting opinions and creative solutions are the stuff of bureaucratic nightmares, where the slightest hint of intellect arouses suspicion and hatred.

Despite their apathy, there's a better-than-average chance these kids will be dead before they're thirty.

"I don't care."

"I think it's good."

The voice of a new generation.

Ed Gehrman reports on the discovery of the alleged UFO crash site that supposedly yielded the weird-looking body in the "alien autopsy" footage. This can only get better. I don't buy the crash-recovery operation described by the alleged "cameraman" (who, like the erroneously stamped film canisters, is probably a commercial fiction), but I'm glad that others are beginning to take an interest in the site. You never know. And sometimes, when you do, you're wrong.
I had an interesting "visionary" experience while drifting to sleep last night. It was similar to other recent episodes in that it had the feel of a lucid dream (although I was awake with my eyes open) but different insofar as it seemed like I was interacting with an actual technology of some kind.

In front of my face, at reading distance, there appeared to be multiple rows of compressed text, each word encapsulated in an ellipse. Each row moved rapidly from the right to the left -- too fast for me to make out any sort of narrative, but acutely responsive, so that I could visually choose a specific word-balloon and have it persist for a moment before vanishing -- instantly replaced by a stream of words with similar connotations. It was like looking into the mind of a language database or some futuristic heads-up display word processor. It also had the feel of a timed quiz or test of some sort; I can see something like it eventually becoming a high-bandwidth Web application. If I knew how to write Flash, I could probably craft a pretty good approximation.

Perhaps significantly, I seem to have experienced increased hypnogogic phenomena like this since I suffered a retinal occlusion a few months ago, temporarily blotting out the sight in my right eye. Maybe my retina (technically, part of the brain) healed with heightened sensitivity to the phosphene activity most people experience when they close their eyes in a dark room. My subconscious could be amplifying ocular "noise," allowing me to experience certain dream imagery while not fully asleep.
Is It Time to Scrap SETI?

The mainstream dares to question the esteemed Dr. Shostak and his grant-hungry minions!

"A computer can't show a picture that has been compressed by another computer unless it knows how to decompress it, and likewise we couldn't decode a television signal that had been compressed unless we already knew the code. And, Newman and his colleagues argue, any advanced civilization that has used wireless communications for even a few decades would surely have figured out that it makes sense to encode."

Of course, you could argue that that's anthropomorphic chauvinism at its most blatant. After all, who knows what real-life ETs are going to do, or how they'll go about doing it? Still, it's a good question.

The article goes on:

"'In our paper we proved that there's an equivalent result for radio messages,' Newman says. 'The most information-rich radio message looks like thermal radiation, which is the standard kind of radiation that we see in the sky. So that would make it difficult to tell the difference between an intentional transmission that was very efficient and just natural phenomena.'"

So do we scrap SETI? Is it really a "Silly Effort To Investigate," as claimed by ufologist Stan Friedman? I argue that we keep SETI -- but take the necessary pains to keep it flexible, theoretically versatile, and democratized. Humanity needs to prize SETI -- the most potentially momentous endeavor in history -- out of the hands of a few technocratic gurus. There are many ways in which we can do this. We could, for example, enrich the SETI inquiry by calling on minds in fields as disparate as cultural anthropology and planetary geology.

Contrary to SETI dogma, it's by no means a given that a message from extraterrestrials will take the form of an electromagnetic broadcast. This possibility, once-heretical, is beginning to gain attention, with talk of interstellar artifacts surfacing in the scientific literature. We could, for example, be veritably marinated in microscopic ET machines -- "nanoprobes" -- and not even realize it. Or our "junk" DNA could turn out to be an actual message crafted by long-ago genetic engineers.

I'll be talking about this stuff in Sedona next month. If you're in the area, drop by. (More information TBA.)
Pontifical university to take on the devil

"A Vatican university said on Thursday it will hold a special 'theoretical and practical' course for Roman Catholic priests on Satanism and exorcism in response to what the Church says is a worrying interest in the occult, particularly among the young."

Here's a perfect example of a belief system in the act of perpetuating itself, obliviously unchecked by the so-called authorities. If you're not rolling your eyes at the implications of the above article, you're missing the delicious irony at work -- as are the rubes at the Vatican.
Texas to Florida: White House-linked clandestine operation paid for "vote switching" software

"According to a notarized affidavit signed by Clint Curtis, while he was employed by the NASA Kennedy Space Center contractor, Yang Enterprises, Inc., during 2000, Feeney solicited him to write a program to 'control the vote.' At the time, Curtis was of the opinion that the program was to be used for preventing fraud in the in the 2002 election in Palm Beach County, Florida. His mind was changed, however, when the true intentions of Feeney became clear: the computer program was going to be used to suppress the Democratic vote in counties with large Democratic registrations."

Nothing new here, exactly, but I couldn't resist the NASA angle.

Forget Canada; I'm moving to Antarctica.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

"Fuelled by guilt, hype and stupidity, Christmas is certainly the biggest and most unpleasant consumer binge of the whole year. This year why not get into the Zone and make World Enterprises the centre of your anti-christmas activities."

Friday, December 10, 2004

What Do You Say to An Extraterrestrial? (by SETI's Seth Shostak)

"So here's my take on message construction: Forget about sending mathematical relationships, the value of pi, or the Fibonacci series. Rid your brain of the thought (no doubt borrowed from 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind') that aliens are best addressed with musical arpeggios. No, if we want to broadcast a message from Earth, I propose that we just feed the Google servers into the transmitter. Send the aliens the World Wide Web. It would take half a year or less to transmit this in the microwave; using infrared lasers shortens the broadcast time to no more than two days."

Actually, I have in mind something a little more ambitious: Send a human. Not a flesh-and-blood human, but the uncensored digitized contents of a real-life human brain, along with a primer explaining how to assemble it in a machine substrate. (Of course, it might be a good idea to be careful who you send.)

In any case, it's nice to see Seth actually stretching his brain muscles a little. You have to start somewhere.

Someone instant-messaged me the other day to ask for my ideas on cattle mutilations. While I don't claim to know what they're all about, I'm satisfied that some of them are indeed mysterious -- but not necessarily due to an overarching alien agenda. My best guess is that a "black-ops" government project is monitoring the spread of toxins and/or diseases by sampling cattle.

The guy I was chatting with posed the obvious question: But if it's the government doing a clandestine study, why scare people when it could buy its own cattle-land for research? After all, who would know?

My answer is that people would know. They might not be aware of the ultimate purpose of the project, but sooner or later they'd be curious -- and asking uncomfortable questions. Keep in mind that Area 51 was a tourist destination long before it officially existed; hiding research projects in the Southwest isn't nearly as easy as one might assume.

So rather than risk snooping researchers who might expose a frightening secret, why not simply do all research "in the field," using made-up UFO scare-stories to keep the project safely protected behind the "laughter curtain"? I wouldn't be in the least surprised to discover that some of the UFO reports associated with cattle mutilations were actually staged to confuse the issue, and perhaps even frighten away potential witnesses. (Inevitably, there are unsubstantiated rumors of grisly human mutilations, supposedly the work of cattle-snatching alien biologists.)

Aside from remaining invisible -- albeit with its handiwork in plain view -- the project could expand its sample population by plucking cattle and horses from disparate locations; this makes sense if the goal is to actively track contaminants as opposed to studying them in the privacy of a lab.

My question: What, exactly, are they tracking? And how dire is the threat, assuming there is one?
Electrical brainstorms busted as source of ghosts

"In the past, scientists have claimed that religious or out-of-body experiences result from excessive bursts of electrical activity in the brain. In the 1980s, Michael Persinger, a neuroscientist at the Laurentian University in Ontario, Canada, began exploring this idea through a series of experiments."

What this article doesn't mention is Persinger's fascinating theory that alien abduction experiences are induced by EM fields. Or that UFO sightings are concentrated in areas prone to tectonic "earthlights," phenomena often sighted near faults and preceding earthquakes. According to Persinger, someone exposed to an earthlight would enter a trance-like epileptic state and experience "alien" imagery -- and honestly perceive the event as UFO contact.

Of course, if the Earth itself is an organism, earthlights might be a way of expressing the planet's collective unconscious through human mediums.

Going even further, Albert Budden insists that man-made EM fields are also a culprit in many so-called hauntings and close encounters -- and suggests the popularized "alien face" is somehow wired into our brains.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Mysterious 'George W. Bush: Our leader' Clear Channel political public service billboard graces Orlando freeway

"A billboard recently put up in Orlando bearing a smiling photograph of President Bush with the words 'Our Leader' is raising eyebrows among progressives who feel the poster is akin to that of propaganda used by tyrannical regimes."

I'm 99% sure this is a farce designed to get people talking. Then again, we live in a nation where people are vomiting forth $50 for ceramic replicas of this guy to put on their Christmas trees, so maybe I'm being too optimistic.
Human PacMan hits real city streets

"The new game, called Human PacMan, superimposes a 3D PacMan world on top of the city's streets and architecture. Players enter the game by donning a wearable computer, headset and goggles before choosing to play the role of PacMan or one of the Ghosts. Players' movements are tracked using GPS receivers and motion sensors and they are linked back to a central computer system by wireless Local Area Network."

Entertainment and reality continue to blur!

Why do I have a sudden craving for Power Pellets? And how long until Human Space Invaders?

"The New Totalitarians come forward smiling obsequiously like head waiters in third-rate Indian restaurants, and assuring us that everything is for our benefit."

--J.G. Ballard
I'm reading the revised edition of John Shirley's "In Darkness Waiting," due out in February. This is a good one. Shirley (the horror writer, as opposed to the cyberpunk writer -- not that the genres are by any means mutually exclusive, as Shirley's backlog confirms) has the ability to take ideas that seem plucked from a "B"-movie (in the case of "In Darkness Waiting," I'm thinking of the insect-creatures that incubate in human brains and erupt from their victims' eye-sockets) and make them genuinely scary in ways you never would have suspected.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I just checked my Mars book's ranking and discovered, to my dismay, that I'm unwittingly helping to advertise, among other things, "The Passion of the Christ" DVD and a website all about Revelations and the end of the world, Fundy-style.

The problem: poorly written software. Amazon's pages are smart enough to detect keywords in a book's title and connect them to other items of possible interest, but they lack a sense of context. Thus, a book about Mars (that happens to have the word "apocalypse" in the title) generates a list of "related" products, even if they have nothing to do with it -- indeed, even if they appeal to an opposing demographic.

I know Amazon can do better because I took a quick look at Blogger's "get paid for ads on your website" scheme and they're careful to hype their software's context-recognition ability. (This must be fairly new, because I remember when BlogSpot sites hosted unsolicited ads in place of a proper nav-bar, I'd sometimes get hilarious results. While chronicling the wad of airbag fabric known as the "bunny" after the Mars Exploration Rovers landed, for example, I'd see recurring text-ads for rabbit slippers. Or I'd post a harangue about Precious Moments figurines and within minutes Posthuman Blues had been turned into a virtual billboard for the damned things.)
Last rocketeers set sights on Mars

"'We need to exceed where we were with the Apollo program,' says Musk, whose company, SpaceX, plans its first orbital launch next year. 'We have to go to Mars with people. A lot of people take for granted that that's the direction we're heading in, but unless there's a dramatic reduction in cost, there won't be anything like that. Somebody has to try to step in and try to save the day.'"

I really hope this headline is mistaken in calling Project Paperclip scientists the "last rocketeers"; hopefully they'll eventually be counted among the very first.

Or, just possibly, chemical rockets as we know them might be phased out by relatively cheap, clean electrogravitic technology -- in which case Musk and his friends just might be among the last after all. The "flying triangles" suggest a radical propulsion system that could make Apollo-style rockets laughably primitive by comparison . . . but are they ours?

(I recommend that any science fiction readers perusing this blog read Ken MacLeod's "Engines of Light" trilogy; the first book, "Cosmonaut Keep," presents an ingenious flying saucer back-engineering scenario that's so plausible in might, in fact, have already happened.)

"The near extinction of the gray wolf across most of the West in the past century now appears to have removed the natural element of 'fear' from these ecosystems. It has triggered a cascade of ecological effects on everything from elk populations to beaver, birds, fish, and even stream systems - and helped lead directly to the collapsing health of aspen and some other tree species and vegetation."
Robotic fix for Hubble challenged

"When it comes to fixing up the Hubble Space Telescope, is the best person for a job actually a robot? A report being submitted to NASA this week casts doubt on that proposition, contending a robotic repair mission would be costlier and riskier than the space agency thinks."
NASA attack on comet lights up Star Wars fear

"'We need to know a lot more about our enemy,' said Duncan Steel, a space scientist with the Ball Solutions Group in Canberra and vice-president of the Rome-based Spaceguard Foundation, a consortium searching the skies for threatening objects, and devising ways to protect the planet from them. 'We don't know if we need an elephant gun or a butterfly net to deal with them. We need to find these things out.'"