Fossil fuel volcano

I’m reading Light of the Stars “Alien Worlds and the Fate of the Earth” — Adam Frank.

I’m about halfway through and so far Frank has supplied mostly background in his attempt, I’m assuming, to present various models — based on our solar system’s mechanics and planetary variations — to determine the probability of exo-civilizations, in the galaxy and the cosmos in general.

Humanity’s existence and technological capability is dependent on a host of serendipitous “coin-flips” all landing up heads. Two of the biggest and most impactful are plate tectonics and the availability of a billion years worth of stored solar energy in the form of fossil fuel.

Plate tectonics ensures that CO2 is recycled. (CO2 is fixed from the atmosphere as sediment and rock, calcium carbonate — limestone, taken below the crust, disassociated and then re-released by volcanoes around the planet.) Without this cycle, CO2 would stay fixed, the planet would cool (as it has done in the past) (Nitrogen and Oxygen, 78% and 21%, are not efficient greenhouse gases) and that would be it for Earth.

And we all know what fossil fuels have done for humanity; taken an energy starved species and give it unlimited access to millions of years of nearly-free solar power. Without fossil fuels, humanity would have killed off all the whales (for fuel), burned down all the forests (for fuel), and never seen the explosive population growth that produced copious ideas resulting in constant technological advancement.

WorldPopulationGrowthFossilFuels

Part of his premise (I’m guessing) is to determine the impact and potential mitigation of global warming during the Anthropocene. This unusual release of extra CO2 that is warming the planet is, as far as he’s concerned, a potential solution to the Fermi Paradox: exo-civilizations might kill themselves off by their shear size and impact on their planet.

As I read Adam Frank’s setup I thought about a strange “ready for fiction” story line:

What would happen if a volcano suddenly spawned beneath one (or more) vast crude oil fields? Imagine if a Kilauea sized volcano burst up from the sands of Saudi Arabia. The heat and fire would start the oil burning. Thirty mile-high plumes of smoke would spread out for decades. Nuclear winter would descend. This is much like what a super-volcano would do, but a smaller volcano would suffice to trigger the calamity.

This is typical, don’t you think, this reading of anything and the extrapolation of a fiction story from the material? The “what if”s. I thrive on them.


Suicide: the selfish solution

Nearly 45,000 Americans killed themselves in 2016, twice the number who died by homicide.

OK, you can curtail your churlish condemnation of the Anonymole pointing out that suicide might be a drastic, selfish solution to a (potentially) soluble problem.

I think of death daily. (Yes, I really do. The tape measure is out and I’m down on my knees measuring my anguish vs the benefits of existence — nanometer by nanometer.)

But, what existence has in its corner is this: the pain I would cause is always more than the pain I endure.

Bottom line. Bottom measure. Bottom of the barrel looking up — those looking down would suffer and suffer and suffer — no doubt about it.

Now, if I had no one, nobody around who depended on me, or felt deeply attached to me, and who, I know, would not steep in a decade long malaise of loss, then I’d take the first train to never where. CLICK CLICK, TICKETS PLEASE.

Alas, that is not my kettle of fish. My fish swim and feed and breath and look to me for presence, support and, potentially, guidance in the coming years and decades. And so, I scope with a narrow lens the trauma my absence would cause to my fish and know, in my heart of hearts, that to take my life, at this time, would induce far more spiritual agony than it would alleviate.

And the strange source of this examination is a quote from a “Blacklist” episode where Raymond Reddington says, “How could one do that to the people they love?”

Well? How could you?


Bring ’em back

Courtesy of the lovely Doctor Martina, I learned of the 27 Club; musical artists who died at the tender age of 27 years.

Well, shit, that’s pretty damn young to die, I will admit. And the list is sad — there’s no other way to describe it. Sad.

FreddyMercury

But, let’s say that if we all clap loudly and wish wish wish (and fling pixie dust out into the netherworld) we might bring ONE of them back. And not just those who donned the shroud of death in their youth — but others who died too early.

What musician would you vote to bring back from the dead — to live another 20 years (at least)?

 

  • Michael Jackson
  • Jim Morrison
  • Freddie Mercury
  • Janice Joplin
  • Amy Winehouse
  • The King – Elvis Presley
  • Kurt Cobain
  • Buddy Holly
  • Prince
  • David Bowie
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Bob Marley
  • [In the comments?]

 

 

 


Let the Hell Cat freeze!

I love show tunes.

audryhepburn

Computer: Play “Paint your wagon” radio.
“Playing Paint your wagon musical radio from your pandora station.”

From My Fair Lady: “let the hell cat freeze.” — Rex Harrison

Can you imagine calling Audrey Hepburn a “hell cat”?


Writer’s Log: 1751 Writing Wrong

No, not righting wrongs. I’ll leave that to the characters of our stories.

What I’m referring to here is practicing the craft but doing so incorrectly.

We all know, a “writer writes” (both Billy and Danny say this in the movie), but what if what you write is wrong? Poor form? Grammatically, technically, logically, or structurally wrong?

If you practice and practice, but you’re doing so in a way that you’ll need to correct yourself, perhaps severely, in the near future, what you’re doing is learning bad habits.

Bad habits are hard to break.

I was a fool when I began. I just dove straight in; the water was deep and dark and could take my plunge. Unbeknownst to me, there were snags and rocks and muck just beneath the surface — and boy did they hurt when struck. I’d been an avid reader, effectively watching from the sidelines as authors plied their craft. “I can do this,” I thought. “Swish”, “Goal”, “Crack” — the sports analogies are many. Fans feverishly following every movement of the hands and balls of expert players: “Sure looks easy from here.”

I’d been better served by writing small pieces and having them tortuously shredded by a fiction editor; take baby steps, careful, incremental progress. I’d have learned the right way to write. Instead I created an unstable foundation which I’ve had to deconstruct and rebuild over years now. I’m explaining this in the hopes that some burgeoning, aspirational writer takes these cues and adjusts the arc of their career such that they build a solid foundation — first.

Here are some corner stones I’d wish I’d learned early on.

  1. Grammar, dialog grammar specifically. Proper use of the m-dash, semis and contractions.
  2. Active vs Passive. When you write “was” or “were” outside of dialog think, “Can I say this with more action?”
  3. Controlled use of dialog tags. “He said, she said…” Scale back such tags. Instead use a character’s actions to link spoken words to a character.
  4. Describe don’t explain (or show don’t tell for most). Adverbs tend to tell, that’s why they’re frowned upon. When you explain you insert a layer of distance between the story and a reader.
  5. Maintain proper POV. Oy! what a bother. Learn your POVs early. Subtle intrusions into the minds of characters — whose thoughts we should not be privy to — are a no-no.

    These last few are more style and nuance and are never fully learned, only slowly perfected.

  6. Consistency of voice, both of the story and of the characters. If you write over time, months or years, on a story, you’ll need to keep the voice of your characters in your mind as you sit after a break and begin afresh. That’s why may writers say “write the whole thing in a flurry.” Well, I can’t do that. So re-entering a character’s mind is critical.
  7. Story mechanics: time accounting, flashbacks, dreams, travel, world building consistency. These will help your story become complex and engaging. Time serial stories are boring. Screwy physics or mismatched abilities will break your reader’s suspension of disbelief.
  8. Cycles of conflict, action, resolution, reflection. This is my personal preference; frame your stories as a sine wave of varying activity.
  9. Character arc: hidden angst, emotion, motive, doubt, conflict, result. A more advanced subject here. Good stories have odd and conflicted characters.
  10. Plot design and tuning: allusion, foreshadowing, subplots, intra-themes. Complex stories force the reader to work — and a working reader is an engaged reader.

These are points of advice I’ve learned from many editors and writers, here and elsewhere. You know who you are.


A bramble vine basket

Humanity evolved creating stuff.

Everyone in a tribe or clan contributed to the group’s survival. If things needed to get made, everyone (I imagine) pitched in. Sure some segregation of tasks took place, but I suspect most jobs were shared across gender, age and ability.

Here you see a simple bramble vine basket I made just for fun. (I later hung this up in a small tree in the woods thinking it might become a nest for some woodland bird.)

BrambleVineBasket

The thing is utterly simple yet effective. Crude but serviceable. Just what, we could imagine, some bygone set of folks traversing the hills and valleys of ancient lands — eons ago — might make, on the spot, to help them gather berries or herbs or for ceremonies to honor deities and spirits they found compelling.

It probably took me 30 minutes to weave from wandering bramble vines I found in the backyard. The effort was thoroughly fulfilling. Taking a weed and turning it into a functional tool easily cast my psyche back to a time I know our ancestors found invigorating.

In those times, everyone (I’m sure) participated in the survival of the People. Sharing was a built-in response to everything that was done. If you had two, you gave one away to another in need. Of course you did. And you did this knowing when they had two, they would do the same for you.

The unit of survival was the group, the tribe, the clan. Your kin were all those people around you who knew you and protected you — and you protected them. When the group needed housing you all pitched in. When the clan needed to process an animal — all were on deck. When you found a cache of vines to make baskets, you picked all you could, shared the resource and if you wove many, passed them out without expectation of recompense (not entirely, but the spirit was there).

I think we’ve lost that altruistic sense of collective prosperity — enacted on a daily basis. Giving when you can. Accepting kindness when you can’t.

A simple, empty basket seems the most unlikely symbol of charity, don’t you think? But, filled with wild-picked berries, you can see what a gift it might be.


I give you ONE wish

Here are the rules:

You get one wish.

It will come true the moment you utter the sealing spell “that is my wish.”

It must be specific, that is, enactable by an omnipotent being (me). Meaning, it cannot be vague, “I wish for world peace.” (What would that mean? And how would any omniscient, omnipotent being apply that to the Universe?)

It can apply to any era in the history of the Universe; to any aspect of existence, any land, sea, creature, peoples or culture.

Go.

For thought fodder here are a few that you might consider. If multiple folks pick similar wishes then I’m sure they will eventually come true. (OK, this might not be possible, but, hey, we’re all living in a material, I mean, virtual world, right?)

  1. I wish that the physics of matter made it impossible for life to evolve.
  2. I wish that altruism balanced aggression in the natural order.
  3. I wish all planets that could harbor life, did harbor life.
  4. I wish that humanity was not alone in the universe and that we would discover this tomorrow.
  5. I wish that telekinetic power was possible.
  6. I wish unicorns existed today.
  7. And elves, flying dragons, 2nd law of thermodynamics defying physics existed too.