Monday, September 30, 2013

Foreign Objects

I got my stent out Thursday, but still have a lingering pain. The thing was a hollow plastic tube the size of a strand of spaghetti, and yet, it caused me all sorts of discomfort. I'm still have an interesting ache that developed a few weeks ago and won't go away. I have to assume it's not an infection, but rather a protest lodged by my body to the indignities it has undergone.

Which makes me think of the Borg of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Originally portrayed as zombies, or automatons, or walking dead, they eventually became a bit more active and vampirish.
But at the beginning, they were just slow, shambling components of a larger juggernaut. And, having experienced my own bodily mutilations, I can understand their behavior. Fact is, with all those implants and invasive mechanical parts, and tubes stuck in as big around as your finger, it goes without saying they must be heavily doped to handle it. Walking around anaesthetized, you're not exactly going to be all sprightly and nimble as forest creature. Nor is the Collective (at the beginning) particularly possessed of much of a personality. Something very Blob-like and corporate board of directors about the first presentations of the Borg. It's only later in a movie they introduce the Queen of the Damned archetype to get the Borg a little more attractive.

The Borg also remind me of an essay I read (one that was incorporated into an assumption in the world-buidling involved in the 2113 essay), that made the observation that the current best robots are people.

People hardly ever break down (although there is a problem with this in Qatar), energy efficient, and fairly autonomous and self-maintaining. If there were just some fine granularity mind control options, maybe a vacuum tube stuck in the head, or a Heathkit board in the frontal lobe, or a platinum wire into the pleasure center or something.

I'm starting to read Charles Stross's Neptune's Brood. The reason I mention this is the earlier book in the same constructed universe, what Charlie calls the Freyaverse, is a place where humans are extinct but our mechanical creations live on. But the mechanical creatures have one big problem: they are programmed to serve, and this default slavery mode setting they are in is keeping them from developing beyond their original programming, or their society to evolve into perhaps something better than their frail predecessors produced.

I would hope that, when the time comes, we don't actually do that. My thought is, AI being the hard problem it is, we have raise them like children (which is Stross's thought too, but then he makes us humans all monstrous and evil by us raising these artificial kids to be slaves, an awful science fiction theme that... oh wait, we do that now, don't we?).

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Thing About Ladies' Shoes...

Quickly, as I have an appointment to get the stent out of my ureter at the urologist's office in about an hour's time. I'm told that I will feel so much better afterwards. I don't see how it could be any other way, after six weeks of Adventures in Peeing (the constant urge to pee, plus the pretty near crippling pain as the bladder tugs on the kidney via the stent at the end of a pee makes me ready to end this chapter of my life).

So, I've doing things AMA (against medical advice) anyway and stop when it hurts. I couldn't resist the free wall climb at the college yesterday. Climbing it made me realize just how out of shape I am. I mean, I was completely winded after abseiling down on the tether, which was a huge amount of fun.
Only 20 feet up, and it wiped me out!

(Years ago, I got kicked out of the rock climbing area of the fitness club one of my ex-s belonged to because I was having entirely too much fun climbing up and then just dropping down. "Sir! Sir! This is NOT a carnival ride!" the fitness instructor said to me, and I was banned from that area).

Then, later that night, I locked myself out of the studio and had to climb a wooden fence to get back in to the patio area. It took me two tries to hoist myself up and I barely made it over the seven foot fence. Jesus! What a wimp! My arms have turned into matchsticks, and I am looking forward to getting back into the gym!

Anyways, if my life was a stove top, there would be about twenty burners on it, and creating women's shoes, a sterling suggestion - certainly on on-ramp to the highway known as Success if played right - from UBJ that I consider creating women's shoes would be near the back row. Foolish yes probably, but also what the hell do I know about making shoes?

See, even after watching this, I still don't know how to make a shoe. Is that a plastic heel? Is it glued on? Do they make heels with internal steel spikes? I'm a bronze guy. Bronze may have incredible tensile strength, but it is also ductile. I think it would bend under wear and tear. Besides, why use my incredibly wasteful and relatively primitive foundry setup when I can purchase stainless pencil rod at a fraction of my cost. Sustainability goes hand and hand with profit motives, or should.

A lot of ugly shoes are made. Who is to say mine won't be among them? Better to get the design advice of people who wear and use the product, don't you think?

Part of a disciplined lifestyle is knowing your limitations. I am confronted on every side with my profound ignorance. If I happened to get the venture going, and managed to get some quality personnel and various style, production, marketing and managerial advice, who exactly would be learning more from whom?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

One Word: "Bismuth!"

Gold may have its uses, but it pales in comparison to almost all other elements in utility. That may change, but for the longest time, gold has been and is, in reality, pretty much worthless.

Working my way through the (hopefully) humorous news items of 2113, one of the themes lurking on the back burner of my mind was the idea that a big part of the difficulties of civilization is what I call The Storage Problem.

Not just storage for holding all of our shit that we create and collect in the built world, although that is a problem, but energy storage in all its forms: electricity, informational, monetary, political power, etc.
I suppose, in a general allegorical manner, it all boils down to informational, but the information can take many forms.

Consider the Malthusian problem of energy storage. With the advent of the modern age, circa 1848, we have seen constant acceleration in all areas of technology, or at least various leaps and bounds that approach, approximate, or exceed exponential growth -- save one, batteries.

If you look at a graph of battery development, it's near linear (thus the nod to Malthus, who saw trouble ahead with a trend in arithmetic growth in food production, and geometric growth in population).

Starting with the crude lead acid battery (Gaston Plante, 1859), increases in energy density (kilowatts per kilogram) are pretty sad. It took a little less than one hundred years for the next advance, nickel cadmium batteries of the 1950s, to occur. A further forty years elapsed to get to lithium ion batteries. All the while, the best energy density of batteries - even today - is a thousand times less than that of gasoline.

Power utilizing electricity is clearly the way to go in terms of efficiencies, if only efficient means of transport or storage were available. Tesla's dream of transmitted power is a dismal failure - barring some wacky development out of left field. So we are stuck with hoping the trends in high temperature superconductors and increasingly powerful batteries and supercapacitors continue. (And interestingly, the biggest beneficiaries of these trends will be in the developed world, and good on them. Waiter, decentralized solar power for everyone!)
Image courtesy of www.

Well, actually, there is a battery that has about a million times the energy density of gasoline. Problem is, it is a nuclear battery, and it's not quite developed yet (certainly not the way plutonium thermoelectric generators have been developed). But the fact that the battery uses an unstable isotope of bismuth gets us to the topic at hand.

Hey, what else can bismuth do for you today?

How about bismuth for thermoelectric components? Currently, the material of choice is lead telluride, and bismuth telluride is another choice candidate, but tellurium is becoming increasingly scarce. And nanostructured bismuth shows promise as a thermoelectric material.

How about information technology. The current Holy Grail is the quantum computer. A quantum computer would immediately possess thousands to millions of times the processing power of classical computers. There are as many paths to get to this technology (quantum computers already exist, but are so horrendously expensive that only large corporations and government agencies can afford them). I have in the past speculated that near-Absolute-Zero applications make prime components for quantum or optical computers, but for widespread use, a room temperature approach is required. One such path are the so-called topological insulators (not a very good name, but basically a material that acts as an insulator in its interior bulk, but a conductor on its surface). One very promising candidate is an oxide of barium and bismuth, which acts as a superconductor as well.

And then there's bismuth ferrite for solar cells.

Oh my, is there nothing bismuth can't do? Well, it can't nationalize the banks, which is a still another storage problem.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Talkin' 'bout Art

I got a piece in a show at the Bridgeport Art Center. the opening was Saturday night. It's called "Theory and Practice".

Driving to the show, just west of Sox park Cellular Field on 35th street, at around 7pm, I managed to time it peefectly for sun glare. I nearly hit three or four cars and pedestrians because I could not fucking see. That was the excitement for the night (aside from seeing little art hotties from the Art Institute of Chicago).

Some of my bronze casting students were reluctant to attend as they weren't certain if the neighborhood would be safe after dark. I assured them not only was Bridgeport safe (it is former mayor Daley's neighborhood) after dark, it would be safe at 3am. But you know, elderly white ladies from the affluent horse farm northwestern suburbs are easily alarmed. Must be because Chicago is now murder capital of the US (with 500 murders in 2012), even though the number of white victims fallen by gun fire is exactly five.

Yes, five. Count it with one hand.
Maynard is on the left

So, then, the next day, Sunday, I went to Navy Pier for the Art Expo, with galleries from almost everywhere, from NYC to Beijing. Spain, for some reason, was heavily represented. The one thing I noted was how tired my legs were at the end of the day. Not having done anything physical all summer long has really gotten me out of shape. I toured the gallery aisles up and down, and covered the whole exhibition hall in about two hours, then spent an additional hour zigzagging to check out all the sharp ladies. I really need to start dressing like an adult for these things. Not that I'm not already middle-aged invisible to these lovelies, but looking like Maynard from the Dobie Gillis Show was no help.

I took pictures of stuff, while I was there. I remembered that my mobile is also a camera, which helps. Sorry if the images aren't that great.

This one here, a triptych about fourteen feet or so, I liked for the atmosphere, and the imagery of giant women was interesting. Not sure what the fascination with giant women is, but I think the artist was female, so maybe it's about empowerment:

A gallery from Beijing had some pictures that I liked that were either undersea stuff or microscope slide sutff. They were titled as landscapes. Forgot who the artist was, and also the gallery.

This guy I took a picture of to look up later. I thought, given the visual and thematic similarities in portraiture I saw, maybe the Chinese elite might be interested in my stuff, although his work was displayed in a gallery from Rome. After doing online research, our stuff is not at all alike.

A gallery from Mexico City was devoted entirely to the works of Daniel Lezama, which was clearly all magical realism. I liked his style and subject matter.

A gallery from Montreal was devoted to an artist I forgot to document. I've always loved pen and ink and india ink wash, and the environment of this space was just a cool place to hang out for awhile:

I liked the title of this piece:

And then finally, I came across an artist who is traveling a parallel path to me with funny little curious creatures and their documentation and categorization, and in many ways, doing a much better job at it than I:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Sept. 19, 2113

A delegation of Whoopsie-daisians1 requested an audience with the Queens2 to volunteer as sacrifice to the Moon Beast3. Her Majesties provided the quantum informatic equivalent of a pat on the head and replied "How delightful of you to offer, dears. But sadly no. All billets have been taken".

In matters of greater import, the Queens consulted the vast plastic intelligences of the Gyres4 to determine the best time to launch the rescue mission to Tau Ceti5. The Gyres were reported to have replied "Gzzklyzktzyzk", which, upon spooky action into the past, was deemed a favorable outcome. The expedition will proceed in the next few weeks.

The nostalgia industries report an uptick in democracy. The current fashion favors the Hawkins number6 given the recent culls within the Chimera party.

In related nostalgia industry news, advances in paladium-doped boron nitride columnar nanotubes open the way for radiation shielding of large scale habitats, making space colonization finally viable for Mundanes7. Spokespersons for the most viable populations in sub-Saharan Africa have so far expressed no interest.

The wonderful soothsayer George Carlin has been resurrected. After a brief ceremony in the mile deep recesses beneath the  Joachimsthal Radium Palace, Mr. Carlin has opted to shift shape and join the Aberrants8 on Mercury.

The Mosaic Party9 has petitioned the Union of Formerly Russian Imperial Stouts for time share occupation in the various restricted zones. Reason cited was "Current background radiation does not suit our mutation quotas".

The Peoples Republics of Chinas are offering up an IPO of their Venusian Dragon10 biotech industry. Starting bids at 150 million pounds/share, or equivalent in updated vacuum tube technologies for their google skull beakers11.
google skull beaker

In business news, a rally on Toxins suggests current abyssal thermoelectric transmission conduits will soon be deep-mantle-worthy.

In related business news, lead-bismuth- and lead-tellurium-selenium- based biolife are posing a challenge to the existing liquid lead forms on Venus. Extraction companies take note!

The Philharmonic Society requests thematic contributions for the autumnal performance of the First Siege of Fort Meigs, conducted by General Henry Proctor, with a virtuoso solo by Chief Tecumseh12.

In entertainment news, Tyr the Complacent constructs a rubidium BEC stele upon Eris to commemorate his tour of the Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt. Fans clone, flock, and swoon.

In related entertainment news, Rufosity!13 has been restored to full power. You know, Rufosity!


1 - Formerly citizens of the United States of America, reinculcated into the Commonwealth in 2076, after the Glorious Suzammenbindenkugelblitz. The United States of America was bombed out existence in WWIII (2022-2022), but in a historical irony, had built up enough intellectual fodder to allow the Refugia to the attain the next S-surve of technology.

2 - Hive entity that is titular head and occasional tyrant of the British Empire, composition depending upon the constraints/optimals/vagaries of the geo-socio-political-economic fitness seascape.

3 - Pretty much what it says, lives in the hollow core of Earth's Moon.

4 - Formerly the Garbage Patches, the effluvial plastic accumulations formed within Earth's oceans. George Carlin was correct that Nature Wanted Plastic. As it turns out, dioxins and various toxic petrochemicals are the best and densest storage media for electronic intelligence. The fact that so many of these materials are toxic to humans mattered not one whit to Nature, in the same way that we do not concern ourselves over the wants and needs of our stomach linings when manufacturing concentrated hydrochloric acid.

5 - One the production of negative mass (antimatter) in large enough quantities was available, stellar tectonics and manipulation of gravity waves made it clear that the Earth was one big telegraph key receiving messages from the surviving Sestren and Brethren of our nine-billion-year-old parent civilization. Our cousins on the second planet of the star Tau Ceti were, believe it or not, in even more straightened circumstances than Earthoids. Given the programmatic instruction of altruism embedded in all life, an errand of mercy was never in doubt.

6 - 1,048,576 The maximum number of people a xenomorphic humanoid can remember.

7 - Mundanes: unmodified humans

8 - Aberrants: modified humans, favoring the inner planets of the Solar System, xenomorphic, and, um, tend to favor lots of thorns as adornment.

9 - splinter of Chimera party, currently the Loyal Opposition, enjoys the more radioactive portions of Earth, including the High Plains  and Deep South of North America, the Islands of Japan, the Korean peninsula, and the Middle East.  It should be noted that WWIII, by seriously depopulating the planet, was the best thing to happen to wildlife since Chernobyl.

10 - Biomechanical critters that stripmine Venus for the heavier elements, really do look like dragons!

11 - Not to be confused with google skull breakers.

12 - Since it's only mimicry, Global Causality Violation is not considered a problem, but do take note that things that used to be lost to the mists of time are now not.

13 -
Do Not Fuck With Rufosity!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I think part of my fascination with the Singularity is that it allows for magic to happen (per Arthur C. Clarke), but not just any kind of magic. Not the ambiguous, haphazard, hand-waving magic of "Alakazaam" and "Heeny wienie jelly beany" spasticity, but a rule-based iterative or recursive process that is consistent and replicable, and not without hazard.

I can remember being perhaps completely jaded in my speculative fiction preferences by the age of thirteen where I decided that magic was for babies, gave up on fantasy, but then discovered A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Leguin, and The Dying Earth series by Jack Vance. There were rules behind the mummery of their magic, and I decided it was still cool to read about stuff like that. It also helped that they have a gift for weaving images, evoking moods, and crafting dialog that still haunt my consciousness and inform my works.

When Vernor Vinge wrote his essay on the Singularity, I'm not sure if he meant to put a limit upon speculative fiction as to what could or could not be narrated in a future world where all bets are off, but I suspect he left an opening for fantasy to reenter hard science fiction. But I've always maintained it is simply when machines come to life, exhibit the complex behaviors of life, and therefore, rather than being unknown territory, it is a matter of studying biology - and observing all the ingeniously clever things that life forms do - to write a narrative of the Singularity.

There are some problems I have with Vinge's version of how it all happens. It is assumed that some form of self-replicating von Neumann machines will be part of it, some kind of nanotechnology. And there is the standard speculation that a hyperintelligent computer is created, that in turns builds a smarter computer, and so on. I don't think you need either a computer or intelligent design. I think the Rapture For Nerds can come about completely by accident, and practically any consortium of well connected life forms. Cosma Shalizi has speculated that we beach apes inadvertently went through a Singularity during the Long 19th Century. That would explain some things.

The one nebulous theme I have been ruminating upon is that we already have a four-billion-year old self-replicating von Neumann machines in spectacularly fecund spades here on Earth, and if your looking for general intelligence robots, powered in turn by miraculously self-renewing energy sources, you look no further than us. It certainly provides a badly need biological grounding to an otherwise bleak and relatively uninformative study known as economics. The one thing that has been noted by roboticists is that a really good robot, with superior energy efficiencies and storage, and very little breakdowns or control problems is us humans. (And in fact, if go back and read Karel Capek's R.U.R., there's really no difference between his artificial people and the genuine article of the time).

Which brings me to 1913. Consider this. People say life is too short.

Bullshit. Life is too damn long. (Well, except for me, where, if I'm gonna get all the shit done I need to, I figure another 150 years will do -provided I can retain my current physical and mental capacities).

But seriously, we do a terrible job of judging time frames. It's taken me fucking forever to reach the age of fifty-six, and 1913 was practically yesterday. I carry vicarious memories of that year through my grandparents, who alive back then.

So, consider. I am transported back in time to 1913 at my present age. Is it like going to medieval times? No, it's pretty much modern (if you grant me a similar station in life). You got telephones, automobiles, modern hygiene, germ theory, globalization, aerial bombing, quantum mechanics,  socialized medicine, international corporations, and asshole bosses.

Had I been born in 1857, I'd have a vicarious memory of the Civil War and even the Revolution through my parents and grandparents (my actual ancestors, by the way, in the real worldline of 1857, were living in abject poverty and squalor in Northern European shit-holes), may have fought in the Wars of Indian Extermination of the 1870s, certainly would have lived through the Spanish American War, the awful depressions of the 1870s and '90s, and the every-four-years financial panics, and read up on things like the Boxer Rebellion, the Russo-Japanese war, and many other things, as surely as I remember the fall of the Soviet Union, the advent of the personal computer and the Internet, and Tiananmen Square, among many other things.

So, I asked two questions yesterday. They were, in a way, trick questions.

Q)  In 1913, what nation was the most powerful on Earth?
A) Great Britain, at least so you would notice. London is the largest city on Earth, centered in the largest empire in history, capable of projecting force practically anywhere except for Antarctica (but not implementing it's will, which, dearies, is a military delusion that we Americans now suffer from), global financier bar none, and cultural hegemon. But, getting back to my exploration, not in any way in control of its real source of power for all it's self-replicating robots - food. The food superpowers of the the early 20th century are the US of A, Canada, and Russia, in that order. The United States is sending 25-50% of its trade to Great Britain in the form of wheat, corn, barley, and rice. Great Britain, in turn, sees the United State's excursion into Latin America and the Pacific as merely a convenient adjunct extension of its empire (and not entirely inaccurate), and so technically we can include the US in the British sphere of influence, and so technically, Britain is food self-sufficient. But if we view food as the true power, then it's got to be Russia. Fortunately, or unfortunately, 1913 is a bad year for food producers, as food production outstrips consumption, and a new chemical process, the Haber-Bosch synthesis of ammonia, promises 'unlimited' expansions of the food supply. Which gets us to:

Q) In 1913, what nation was the most technological and scientifically advanced?
A) Germany, no question, None whatsoever. I was actually surprised that almost everyone said the United States, which consisted of barely literate, jug-eared, pumpkin-headed yokels, one third of which, evaluated for the draft of the Great War, were judged 'feeble-minded'. At the beginning of the last century, chemistry is everything. It is the quantum informatics, the computer industry, of its time, and Germany is the place to be for chemistry. You name it, no one else is doing it, except in Germany.

And one German in particular, Fritz Haber, comes up with poison gas and artificial fertilizer. In retrospect, given the dead zones in so many marine environments, given the soil degradation and loss of diversity and habitat, given the pollution in so many aquifers, as a result of his fertilizer, perhaps Fritz should have stuck to poison gas.

Today, it might surprise you China and India are rapidly becoming the largest food producers, with the US number one in corn, Russia number one in barley and rye, and chalk all that up to Fritz. But so then, I have to ask, given hindsight:

Q) In 2113, what nation will be the most powerful on Earth?
Q) In 2113, what nation will be the most scientifically and technologically advanced?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


In her book Empires, Nations, and Families Anne F. Hyde references a painting by George Caleb Bingham entitled "The Squatters".
Courtesy Wikipedia

Have a good look at it. Notice the Anglo men, denizens of late 1830s Missouri, probably already well liquored up on hard cider, loitering around as the women labor in the background.

Bingham himself commented:
"The Squatters as a class, are not fond of the toil of agriculture, but erect their rude cabins upon those remote portions of the national domain, when the abundant game supplies their phisical [sic] wants. When this source of subsistence becomes diminished in consequence of increasing settlements around they usually sell out their slight improvement, with their 'preemption title' to the land, and again follow the receding footsteps of the Savage".
They were viewed as rugged individualists, independent frontiersmen, but as Hyde makes clear in the book, they were nothing but parasites, and when threatened by "the Savage" or exposed to straightened circumstances, heavily dependent upon government largesse for both protection and sustenance.

Little different from the banksters and Wall Street crooks of today, in my opinion.  But that's not what I want to talk about. Actually I have nothing specific to talk about, but I was musing on various conversations I had down in Indiana this past weekend, and thus the yokels-among-us opening gambit.

I thought a lot about anniversaries of one type or another. We are coming up on a big anniversary, the First World War, now ninety-nine years behind us. The Federal Reserve will also celebrate a centennial. And the Civil War, in another two years, will celebrate a sesquicentennial.

Federal Reserve first. I know there's all sorts of silliness about the Fed having a hundred year charter, but that's just horseshit by ignorant fans of the Pauls. These same conservative types also want to put us back on the gold standard, an idiocy that ranks up there with building the Maginot Line. The only people who want us to go back to the gold standard are the same frauds, crooks, and banksters that so efficiently bled the economy of 27 trillion dollars (about the only market efficiency they've managed to accomplish).

The Pepper McFadden bill of 1927 gave the banks perpetual charter for the Fed. People complain about the Fed, but it really isn't the Fed that is the problem. It's the banks that control it that are the problem.  So long as they privatize profit and socialize loss, they've absolutely no reason to change their perverse but cozy relationship with the money supply, and as a result all us food-powered self-replicating robots are screwed.

End the Fed? Screw that! Nationalize the Banks!

Okay, WWI. I held an informal poll with two questions, answers at end. Most people were surprised by the answers, and one actually, I think was offended. I chalk it up to American parochialism. Ready?

1) In 1913, what nation was the most powerful on Earth?
2) In 1913, what nation was the most technological and scientifically advanced?

Hint: The American Long Century is soon to commence. (I'm calling it that because I have to assume we continue our sole superpower status for at least another decade or two. And honestly, the worst thing that happened to us was for the Soviet Union to collapse. Because after that we engaged in undeserved triumphalism and engaged in a series of foreign misadventures primarily because... well, we could).

Finally, the Civil War. Things aren't going too well for the South, and just as well, good riddance. In hindsight, I'm not sure that the "cheap food for cheap people" policy the North employed was any more particularly savory or of long-term validity, but there's no scenario of a slave empire that turns out well.


1) Great Britain
2) Germany

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Machinerette Diptych

I decided to keep it simple for the wall mount. So, I cut some plywood up, drill a hole to accept a drywall screw, and then glued the boards to the back of the glass. Here they are setting up:

Here is the diptych mounted on the wall, in studio (florescent) light:

And under tungsten light:

Now I mail these suckers off and have only my backer eldest bro and nephew to deal with. They want "something special", and I have no idea what that would be. I think my nephew is submitting a drawing that I have to render.

Casting Machinerette Rewards

I got two glass castings out of the kiln this morning. Here they are.

I changed my firing schedule. I slowed the down ramp from the high end casting soak to the anneal soak, as I was getting thermal shock cracking. This also helps seems to help with preventing any 'suckies' (shrink porosity defects).

Here are the glass pieces cracked out of the molds.
M. jubilaeus cleaned up some

M. flumine cleaned up some
And here are the glass pieces rinsed off and prior to bead blasting.

I tried to tone down the yellow on M. jubilaeus by adding a lot of amber tint powder to the yellow and orange surface powder (2:1 amber tint to color by volume), but the yellow backing frit just overpowers everything.
"Toned down" new piece on the left, old piece on the right
The red palette on M. flumine, again with 2:1 or maybe 3:1 amber tint to orange and yellow, with red powder surface and backing with a red frit, really, in my humble opinion, is kicking ass. I'll need to be making more with this combination, that's for sure.

I rubbed one of the M. jubliaeus pieces with graphite, and then sealed it with clear acrylic. Actually, they all looked good wet, so I sealed them all with clear acrylic.

The plan is to offer the red two pieces (M. gumbo and M. flumine) as a wall mounted diptych as an appropriate reward to a Kickstarter backer, but I think I will photograph a triptych and submit to New Glass Review (and chances of it getting in: pretty much zero):

(L to R)  M. flumine, M. jubilaeus, M. gumbo

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

"Given the events of the past two decades, it sure looks like China won the Cold War"

I can't remember who said that, but I would say, given the trillions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of lives wasted, the result, that the United States has achieved basically ZERO global advantage geopolitically, makes me realize that I have to agree.

Here on my computer at the college, I've asked numerous times to have Adobe Photoshop installed, seeing as we are part of the art department and manipulating images might be one of the activities we would like to do. But after five years, I've pretty much given up on that request. Besides, it turns out I can get what I want more or less done with the primitive Microsoft Paint (and I do miss the original 1980s MacPaint). Since my standards of graphic design are mediocre at best, this image suffices.

I slapped together this image yesterday with no actual theme in mind aside from a reference (about that in a minute), but since I wasted a half hour on it, I figure I'll try an wrap an essay around it. I rather like my work. Here it is!

"Don't Look in That Rear View Mirror!"
So, the reference is a quote an interview of Andrew Bacevich, author of the recent Washington Rules, who - paraphrased - said "Americans refuse to look at the smoking wreckage in our rear view mirror".

Americans do have a huge problem with history. We suffer our delusions, and keep moving forward in anticipation that someday we might get it right. The problem is, if you don't examine your past mistakes, you don't learn nothin', and, given our entire history as a nation, we won't learn nothin'. We will just happily whistle a tune as our big square wobbly head nods from side to side and we step heavily on the gas to put as much distance between us and our follies dismal failures as we can. And turn up that AM radio as loud as it will go (irony, AM radio is dying), so that we don't have to hear the screams and wailing of all the people we have helped.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

You Don' t Know How To Handle Affluence

Thin king about how homeless kids in Miami view the rich South Beach clubhoppers- as oblivious, clueless, self-absorbed, superficial, easily distracted and tricked oafs and buffoons - got me thinking about Americans in general. It's true that the stereotype the children developed was anecdotal and limited, but still, experiential and repeatably empirical.

And honestly, it's not Americans, people in general around the world, as they become increasingly prosperous, affluent, and idle, fall into the same behaviors. Even animals are like that. It turns out, not only are Americans #1 in the obesity trend, so are our animals. So are our vermin!

Let's just say it. People (or maybe I should say all life on Earth) may be good at many things, but they are absolutely terrible at handling abundance. Human beings do not do well with abundance. We get all self-destructive. Too much available money, we spend too much. Too much available booze, we drink too much. Too much available drugs, we get high too much. Too much food...

We are not genetically, or epigenetically geared for an abundance of anything. We get stupid, fat, and lazy. And we don't learn nothing from it.

You want to see ingenuity? You want to see innovation? Put a limit on things. Put a barrier up. Put a boundary out there. You start to see precision decision making. You start to see end-run planning, flanking maneuvers, improvisation, repurposing, cleverness.

Oh, sure, there's a limit on the other side. Make things too scarce, and you can't think straight. Take away all options, and you get despicable behavior. Make the challenge insurmountable, and you get frozen thought, panic attacks, inaction, apathy, criminality.

So what to do with ourselves?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Old Banshee Is Back

"Even I know that you don't chant "Bloody Mary" in front of a mirror in a darkened room. Mirrors are little demon gateways to Hell. So are most holes, doorways in rundown buildings, especially cellar doors, and abandoned refrigerators, and Jeep Cherokees with black windows.

Trypophobia is not an irrational fear. Not when you know what can come through a hole. Not when you know what can come through a hole can do.

God has been on the run for almost two decades now. Holes opened up all around the Citadel of Heaven, right beneath the very feet of the Host of Angels. What came out utterly destroyed the Citadel. God's palace made of beautiful blue moon marble was smashed to dust. TV news tried to keep it secret, but children in shelters everywhere were woken by dead relatives, telling them the horrible news.

God has fled Heaven. He may be hiding, or He may be gone, but He has yet to reappear. The Host is in disarray. The Demons found the doors to our worlds. They have the upper hand. They are as inexorably existent and as omnipresent as a dark ocean. Angels fight a holding action, guerilla tactics in the streets. 

If you are smart and brave, you will not succumb to jealousy, hate, and fear. The demons feed off these. If you are smart and brave, you may have seen Bloody Mary, La Llorona, and still be here. 

Boys cannot survive seeing Bloody Mary. If they awaken at night and see her - with her clothes blowing back, and no wind about - they are marked for death.

Even the Devil himself, Satan, is afraid of Bloody Mary. Satan fled Hell because of her, and now he works the terrestrial streets.

Satan hates Miami. He was humiliated there. He walked the streets, wearing that Tommy Hilfinger, smoking Newports, drinking wine and snorting coke, and though he was covered in gold and silver scales, the stupid rich clubhoppers did notice him for what he was. The rich people are oblivious, easily distracted oafs. Gold chains, diamonds and shiny objects hypnotize them. 

Satan found a large Hell door underneath the Colony Hotel. He offered the stupid rich owner ten Mercedes-Benzs to lease out the Hell door, but a group of angels captured Satan.

"Why do harass our friend who buys us drink and smokes and snorts?" asked the rich people. And the angels, who had chained and fettered Satan, said "Watch what happens when he touches water!"

And some stupid rich, but most went back to the party.

So, there you go. For those of you foolish enough to pray for the End Times, your wish is granted. For those who don't get it yet, the End Times look no different that regular times. And for those who don't want to admit it, there will be no Judgment Day".    

I wish I could take credit for this. I can't.

This is some of the rich mythology that is passed around from child to child among the homeless of America. It's not all that surprising that God is missing in action, in a world of gangbangers, screamers, child abusers, bad parents, worse strangers, and the oblivious rich, there's not a lot of call for asking for help from the Almighty.

There is the Blue Lady, but she is hobbled by a spell. And then there is Bloody Mary, who commands legions. And the horrible truth about Bloody Mary?

"God's final days before his disappearance were a waking dream. There were so many crises on Earth that He never slept. Angels reported rumors Of Bloody Mary's pact with Satan: She had killed her own child and made a secret vow to kill all human children. All night God listened as frantic prayers bombarded him. Images of earthly lives flowed across his palace wall like shadows while he heard gunfire, music, laughing, crying from all over the Earth. And then one night Bloody Mary roared over the walls of Heaven with an army from Hell. God didn't just flee from the demons, he went crazy with grief over who led them. Bloody Mary, some homeless children say the spirits have told them, was Jesus Christ's mother. "No one believes us, but it's true! It's true! It mean there's no one left in the sky watching us but demons!" 

Not a great world, but a fantastic folklore:

 Myths Over Miami.