Friday, April 24, 2015

The 50% Solution

The ceramics professor has a special project for his classes involving making a wall object. He calls the assignment "Off The Wall". The only stricture for the project was a rule that the ceramic object be incorporated in a larger wall piece such that 50% must be clay.

How that rule is interpreted is up to the student. So, 50% by area? Volume? Weight? What?

Since I was volunteered to help build any wood or metal portions for hanging clay on walls, I chose to participate as well. And I chose for my 50% rule composition, or tried to, which is, I guess, partly by area, but mostly by "looking right". I guess this involves not just the pieces and arrangement and rhythms and negative space, but also imaginary space.

Just so you know, the square root of negative space is imaginary space. Ah-ha-ha.

I decided to make more than one piece to see how things worked out. Here is the first piece:
Off The Wall #1

The second piece:
Off The Wall #2

The final piece:
Off The Wall #3

The method I chose for composition was also interesting: no or minimal measurements, so that any pre-planned thing in my head just kind of had to be made to fit as I went along. Some people, puzzled, asked me "So, you find that fun?" And I said "Yeah. It's a different approach for me as normally I draw out the design beforehand and then just follow the algorithm to make it. This changes on the fly".

I don't recommend this approach for everyone on everything. For example, don't build a bridge or a dam or a road this way (although perhaps, in ancient times, they did). This is more in keeping with flint knapping or booby traps. You adapt, improvise, overcome as it happens, which is frustrating and also liberating. No plan, dude. Just do it!

Speaking of impromptu or extemporaneous activities, I'm considering getting a tattoo. For the longest time, I thought most tattoos were stupid. Don't get me wrong, I've seen some fantastic art on people's skin, but I thought a lot of them stupid mainly because the people who got them just got them for no particular reason. Or for shallow or trivial reasons. Not everyone, but a lot.

I guess what happened was I got a student who is a tattoo artist in my bronze casting class. He had some pretty amazing stuff in his portfolio, and I mentioned I had kind of an idea for one recently. During the last bronze pour, this student noted that I was absolutely fearless around all of this dangerous shit. I had no problem exposing myself to fire and flame and intense heat, and what point my welding glove caught fire, I nonchalantly flung it off and gestured for a new.

My answer to him was: Yes, I am absolutely fearless when I do this. I'm not foolhardy, and of course, I am conscious of everything going on. But when a student gets in trouble, I have to be ready to step in. I explained that one of things I do before a bronze pour is to psych myself up. And one technique I use involves a considerable amount of symbolic association. And it goes like this. I'm a Taurus. Not that I believe in that, but it's a role play. As a Taurus, I'm an Earth sign.

I am a Son of Mother Earth.

As such, just like Mom, I have a white hot core for a heart. I'm just clay, or mud, or silt, although that's there. I'm also rock, and magma, and magnetic dynamo. Mere fire, mere flame, got  nothing on me. So, that's how I get fearless. There's a lot more to the process than that, but that's the semiotic gist of the procedure.

So anyway, I thought about a visual representation of what I do, and I came up this design, which, yeah, I'm about 80% certain I'll get from my tattoo artist student:

I am a Son of Mother Earth

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Lucky #7

Earth Day was first celebrated April 22, 1970. America also started dumping toxic and radioactive waste out into the intergalactic voids on that day. 

By cosmic irony, or justice, on April 22, 1994, President Richard Nixon and his staff disappeared down a black hole, when their wormhole collapsed and evaporated in a flash of gamma rays and neutrinos. 

Nixon was in a foul fucking mood that day. He was back from the Soviet colony world of Moon #7. Luna No-mer See-yem. Lucky #7.  His last stop before Earth was here on Alterra.

“I go from the fucking Russian Jetsons to this shithole granola planet? Nixon said, “Somebody get me a drink”.

And they did.


“You were there?” I asked Claire.

“Nixon's accident? No. How do you think I got the station master’s job?” replied Claire.


Claire, Aaron and I were seated in the alien quarantine section of Sam's Pub, which was packed. Ever since Sam installed the robot bartender in there, everyone wanted to be served by a robot. It kind of defeated the purpose of the alien quarantine, as that section of the bar had been partitioned off to protect Sam's human patrons from the occasionally hostile or exuberant alien. I could see perhaps a dozen people in the humans-only part, though hard to discern through all the alien graffiti and obscene pictures scratched into the 4-inch-thick bulletproof plexiglass.

We were celebrating the end of the dimming of the wormhole network. All the wormhole apertures had grown back from sullen little cherry-red bee-bees to nice big blue-glowing soap bubbles. Traffic between worlds was restored, and everybody was back to their normal jobs and happy. There had been some tough and primitive times for a while, with all available electrical power used up just to keep the damned things from collapsing. The colony had been forced back to circa-1830s lifestyle.

“We were at the banquet,” Aaron volunteered. I gestured a suggestion for a refill. They shook their heads no.

“You met Nixon?”

“Oh yeah” Claire smiled. “He was like a drunken werewolf that could talk. Filthy. Foul-mouthed. Pretty horrible.”

“God, I wish I could have been there.”

“No, you don’t, man” Aaron said with raised eyebrows. "He was abusive, just a very unpleasant motherfucker". 


Lucky Number Seven. Lu-na No-mer See-yem. Moon Number Seven. Earth satellite of a warm gas giant orbiting a G-type star. Colonized by the USSR in 1974, it’s some 4.784 billion light years from Earth, in the direction of the Pleiades. 

The Russkies poured their heart, blood, soul into this world. They practically moved the entire Soviet Union there, with basically just paint shadows and abandoned furniture left on old Earth. And, of course, an operating power and wormhole station in the Urals, and eventually Moscow, Leningrad, Vladivostok. Smart fuckers, with only a minimal military budget, they devoted their time and energies to science and engineering. 

They leapt ahead a good generation or two ahead of Earth in technology. They even colonized the Earth world in closer orbit to their star with their nuclear rockets. Out of 19 Earth worlds in the universe, two of them were in the same system the Soviets found, so Lucky #7.

Ah, but progress is not without it's price. They managed to trash the environment and kill off nearly half the plants and animals with all of their development. Not to mention the nuclear and industrial accidents. They probably wouldn't have made it all had it not been for the Kraken.

"You know why Nixon was so sour about the Soviets?" Aaron asked. 

"Yes and no. I assume the whole triumph of collective central planning over free market capitalism had a lot to do with it. Plus, Nixon just hating Russians in general."

"That's part, but no. It was his fault the Russians managed to succeed, and that just gnawed at him. You remember the disclosure of how the chemical and nuclear industries were paying big bucks to dump all their crap out into the big voids?"

"Sure. That was big news when it broke". 

"Yeah, well. Turns out there were Things out in the voids that really liked our waste product. They contacted the Kraken, who in turn contacted Earth with the message 'More please'."

"Things? What kind of things? I've never heard of these things."

"Yeah, well, there's Things out there with a capital T. And the Kraken regularly supplied them with toxic wastes and stuff, but apparently ours was, what, gourmet? Fresh and new? So, when Nixon and Kissinger craft a number of deals with the Kraken, news broke about all the disasters on Moon #7. Place was just trashed and they were looking at an extinction event. Nixon, kind of half joking, informed the Kraken about their predicament. Next thing, you know, place is all cleaned up, and the Russkies get the same Kraken tech as we got. Lucky #7!"

"Oh man! That must have stuck in his grisly old craw".

"For ten years." laughed Claire "we always figured the wormhole aperture collapsed from an overload of bile!" And we all laughed and drank to that.

Happy Earth Day from all of us on Alterra!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Fermi's Follies amended

"Have you noticed the sun seems dimmer?"

I looked up at the noonday sun. "Not really, but not surprising. Global dimming."

"What? Global dimming. Smoke and dust and air pollution from human activity. It's all been dimming the sun for decades".

"I don't think this is it. The days don't seem quite as bright lately. Like a lot darker than normal".

"Well, now that you mention it...huh the sky seems a nice blue, no upper atmosphere haze... let me check my phone and see if there is any news."

"Holy shit!"


"My NASA news feed. Mercury is disappearing!"


"Here look! Pics from MESSENGER".

"Jesus! It looks like Mercury is dissolving into dust. What the hell? What's that... Oh. Shit."



"Griefers. Alien probes. They are using Mercury to make dust to blot out the sun".


"A Dyson swarm, but with dust as well. They are blotting out the sun!"


"To get rid of the competition. Us. Life."

And just then noon went to midnight, as permanent night fell upon, not just Earth, but the whole Solar System. A palpable chill was felt in the air. It would stay dark for a long time, and things would soon get very, very cold.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Fermi's Follies

When I was a child, we had an Addams Family Thing Bank, which you would place a coin and Thing would come out of its box and snatch the coin.

It took about maybe two days before I broke it. When Thing snatched the coin, I snatched Thing, and a tug of war ensued that proved shoddy Asian manufacturing was no match for 500 million year old multicellular nano engineering.

It's amazing how easy it is for greedy monkeys to break shit.

Take our climate, our world, our existence. We seem bound and determined to perform a historical recreation of the P-T extinction event as soon as we can. At current trends, I figure 2100 for sure. Maybe 2050 if we really let the stupidities blossom like a thousand flowers. (That's an ambitious schedule, but I think it will only take a decade or two of conservatard rule to do that).

As such, there is no paradox to the Fermi Paradox. There are no aliens because Nobody Has Made It Yet. If this is true, and we humans are universally unexceptional, then the Great Filter awaits.

Or, it could be that star-traveling aliens took center stage a long time ago, that these aliens decided they didn't want to take a chance with their survival with competition from ET, and took up the griefer lifestyle.

If star-traveling (and no magic allowed), then aliens travel slower than light, probably much slower than light (less than 1%c), and so the best option is send out self-replicating robots (vN probes) to colonize and explore other worlds. And if you are a griefer, you use your vN probes to get rid of alien life.


Well, one method would be use the entire (or near) energy of a star to build a giant fucking star laser. Then, whenever you detect a planetary signature that suggests life, you blast it to smithereens.

Or, my scenario, more likely as I suspect it uses less energy, is a variant of grey goo. There is almost always waste when making stuff, stuff left over, so you use that waste as dust.

The vN probes simply turn anything they can in the target solar system into dust. Blot the sun, or at the least set up a star circling dust cloud that makes it hard to travel or beam messages through. Dust is easy to make, and there is a lot of debris floating around ready to be turned into dust.

So, if we are looking around, and we see an old to middling aged star with a very young dust cloud or disk surrounding it, maybe you should be afraid.

Of course, it could be that the aliens are simply everywhere, but we call them Dark Matter. In which case, if they are predatory, we could end up like that hot blonde at the beginning of the movie Jaws. A nice little golden speck of a civilization suddenly just grabbed by the ankle and pulled down under into the sub levels of reality to be consumed.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

April 9, 1865

Tomorrow marks the 150th anniversary of General Lee surrendering to General Grant. To keep things in perspective, it also marks the 100th anniversary of... well, nothing all that specific or eventful in WWI, save for just the ongoing carnage and stupidity. But, in two weeks, the Germans launch the first official poison gas attack at Ypres, so we got that to look forward to...

Finally, after the idiocy of four years, the South loses. Well, hate the sin not the sinner. (Although... I know there are people in the South that equate Lincoln to Hitler, a mass murderer. Those people should keep in mind that I equate the Confederate Stars And Bars with the Nazi swastika flag).
image courtesy

This essay isn't about gloating over the defeat of the Confederacy, although I am glad that particular vision of America suffered a setback. Some are proposing a new national holiday, a National Reunion Day.  I don't know.

Let's not kid ourselves. It wasn't state's rights that drove the rebellion. It was always about slavery. The threat of losing the labor of African slaves, as noted in the Mississippi Secession Document, is what drove the rebellion.

I don't want to hear this weasel shit about state's rights anymore. That's loser talk.

I think it important to point out a section of the Mississippi document (emphases mine) which provides the premises for the logic of secession:
"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin".
The aristocratic planters of Mississippi come very close to admitting that the real cash crop was human chattel, food powered robots that to this day most of world still relies upon to extract wealth.

That extractive process is still in place, and America's biggest cash crop is still it's peoples of color.

(They've merely extended the franchise beyond skin color to all those below the income level which marks the Harvest Line).