Something is Going Well Around Here!

The 1,000 “like” road marker disappearing in the rear view mirror…

The WP auto-post function just told me that I have accumulated 1,000 “likes,” which are all because the imaginary “you” have been appreciating what I’ve been pouring forth since June 22nd. It hasn’t been four months yet and I have so many “likes!” Who knew?!?

I’ve logged 87 posts (one was a repeat, so doesn’t really count and one was a reblog in respect for a new WordPress-induced friend) in 111 days, meaning that I’ve hit about 78% of the days between start and present. Not bad. Could be better. Let’s see if I can pick up the slack.

Thank you, everyone!

MSOC

The First Date

She looked fine.

I met her on one of the less-populated branches of the web, one where unpopularity could be confused with privacy, where loneliness could be mistaken for intimacy.

She looked fine. She seemed fine. As I approached, trembling a little on the inside, I could smell her and she smelled better than all the flowers that had ever wafted their perfumes past me.

She turned a little, perhaps shy. We had never met and it was to be expected. At least I thought I expected it. The shyness. Maybe what seemed one way was another. In retrospect. Maybe it was caution. Or curiosity. Was I what she was looking for or just another guy on the web?

I approached. She extended a hand and helped me up. This was moving quite fast! I considered my options and settled in, feeling her energy coursing into me as I pulsated against her, brittle limbs embracing, tight and loose, urgent and relaxed.

It was then that it all went wrong. She turned her head, opened her mandibles and bit into my left eye, blinding me. But she just munched, cracking the crisp facets of what had been a perfectly good eye into a chitinous snack. I opened my mandibles to protest and she assumed, I guess, I was offering her one. Well… both. But one at a time in a token act of selfless courtesy on my part, I suppose. And there it went, my left mandible falling apart in her mouthpieces and departing whatever still remained of my head.

At some point in this dismemberment, I realized I was still within her, priming what would be a new generation of young mates, guys and girls, ready to pair off and go through something horrid like this when they grew up and became adults. At this point, I felt a flutter of hope and tried to pry myself off her, away from her hooked arms, her tight and unyielding embrace. She would have none of it.

It’s an odd thing, being eaten so soon in a relationship. I know I had hoped for a second date, maybe a third. This had been my first, of course. It would be my last. Perhaps my expectations had been too high.

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Panic
Pretend

Thanks to confabler for unwittingly providing me with the idea for this piece!

I Was Nominated (and Accept)

Confabler nominated me for a Sunshine Blogger Award!

My distant, yet close friend Confabler has nominated me for the Shiny Shiny Sunshine Award. I love her imagination and sense of whimsy; she lets her muse du jour lead and she follows. There’s a wonderful freedom to that which is (1) difficult to allow in the rational process of “writing” and (2) enjoyable to find.

1. If you were to choose an insect that would take over the world after human extinction, who would that be?

It sort of depends on our route to extinction. If it involved an epidemic, the population of flies might see a giant uptick. This would be a good one:

mydas_sp
Gauromydas heros

If it is a slow process, then I nominate the Japanese Rhinoceros beetle because it would be awesome if creatures  with such improbably fashioned protuberances were to be the alpha species (Megasoma and Titan beetles would be acceptable alternatives):

800px-kabutomushi-japanesebeetle-july2004
Allomyrina dichotoma

 If our extinction took all other terrestrial life along for the ride, I would like to see this enormous isopod (a relative of our terrestrial roly-polies) rule the seas (note inclusion of actual human hands for sense of scale):

Giant_isopod.jpg
The underside of a male Bathynomus giganteus, a species of giant isopod captured in the Gulf of Mexico in October 2002.

2. How old were you when you first read Harry Potter? And your favorite author of course?

I was pretty old when I read my only Harry Potter book (the first one). I didn’t enjoy it enough to complete the series, although I’ve seen all the films and enjoyed them well enough. In the period I read that first one, I was typically reading a lot of history and didn’t find that it was a good use of my time. When I was really young, I read the Classics Illustrated versions of novels, which were quite good at introducing a curious young mind to the wonders of literature without having to do the work (sort of illustrated CliffsNotes (I didn’t use these in school though), if you will). When I was a little older, I read Robert E. Howard, Sax Rohmer, John Carter of Mars, H. Rider Haggard, Stanley Weinbaum, George McDonald fantasies, etc.

My favorite author is Gabriel Garcia Marquez for One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera. His writing is so rich, amusing, full of simple wisdom and abundant humanity it is hard to believe he was just a human being writing about the lives he saw playing out around him. I literally would read some passages and have to put the book down as if I had just sipped the richest chocolate elixir in the world and needed to savor it until I sipped again. His Spanish-to-English translators did a good job in getting it right; Gregory Rabassa (OHYoS translator) was even praised by Garcia Marques himself!

3. If you were invisible what is the craziest thing that you would do?

Here’s an odd one: Go and hang around bigots, transcribe their conversations, and publish them for the world to see how terrible people speak when they think no one is listening (but, oh yeah, we have the internet so this already happens). If I could walk through things, which seems fair since I’m invisible, I would go around seeing what it felt like to do that—see if there were different textures to different things on the inside than on their surface.

4.what food makes you feel like a hungry hyena?

This has changed so much over time! These days, I don’t get this kind of urge anymore. In my early adult (late teen?) years… ICE CREAM!!!!

5. A song that makes you dream?

Gymnopedie #1 by Erik Satie


6. Have you ever planted a tree?

Yes. Unasked but answered: quite a few!

7. Choose your man: superman/ Spiderman/ iron man and if he was your best friend one thing that you would make him do?

Can I choose Supergirl? If I can, I would have her take me around to various places in the world, build shelters so I could stay there and visit free, then whisk me off to the next place on “our” list (she would be enjoying the sight-seeing with me, of course! What kind of boor do you think I am?!?!).

8.How much time do you spend in front of the mirror everyday?

As little as possible, which involves shaving and brushing my teeth. I find that shaving my teeth first helps with the brushing.

9.why you started blogging and tell us about the post enjoyed the most making.

I was having a bunch of conversations with people who did not seem to understand the wonderful humility of learning and doing science and wanted to see how well I could write about how science is a discipline that can assist us all in not leaning out too far over our skis (getting ahead of ourselves and pretending we know stuff we don’t). Blogging has become so much more than that since my first post on June 22, 2016, and I have had so much fun writing fiction and revisiting some poetry I wrote several decades ago (and finding them easier to “fix” than I remembered).

I’m not sure which of my posts I enjoyed the most. They’re all my children so I like them all? I probably like the odd bits of fiction that I had no idea were inside me when I woke up and then found them on the page looking up at me. I like The Big Day of these. Of the science posts, I like The Mess: Parts 1 & 2 and the Appendix 1 items best (maybe). Of the historical pieces, I like Risk Management. Of the life pieces, I like Building Blocks the best. Anyone who reads this is encouraged to make up their own mind; I am hopelessly biased.

10. Which social media platform are you addicted to (including WordPress)?

I don’t do much social media except WordPress. I don’t like Facebook at all and deleted my account. WordPress is addicting but in a very healthy way! You get to create something and share it with new friends from all over the world. That’s a great addiction have.

Now the rules:

1.thank the person that nominated you.

Thank you, Confabler. You are a true virtual friend, and I don’t mean that in any Pokemon way either!

2. Answer the questions from your nominator.

Done.

3. Nominate fellow bloggers you follow.

Hereinafter lie the following nominees in no particular order (order, of course, being an illusion):

Confabler – it would be completely wrong not to boomerang this thing back at her; how could I like what she writes and like that she nominated me but ignore why we share interests at all?

November_child –  in her poetry, every word is judiciously considered for its various meanings and the images they stir and she makes great short stories that are deep and playful and serious all at the same time

anonymouslyautistic – for doing an AMAZING job of writing about this misunderstood spectrum of living – and for inviting others who share her interest to contribute

English Lit Geek – because she searches the web and her library for poems that communicate her inner soul to us all out here in the ‘sphere and I appreciate this!

Wiser Daily – because this guy writes REALLY well about every single subject he wraps his mind around, because he is not a scientist but writes extremely clearly about science, because he is just a damned good writer!

Breathmath – because they are doing an astonishingly serious job of trying to get the world to see the beauty in mathematics

Sheryl – because she’s written a book, is working on others, has great tips for doing the same, and kindly visits my offerings fairly often

The Nexus – because he writes REALLY well about physics and does a great job of doing what I set out to do, whether I’m doing it on any given day or not

The Biology Yak – because she is passionate about biology and shares her passion in every word on every topic she chooses

afternoonifiedlady – even though I have no idea what it is to be an afternoonifiedlady, I love her rants about living with and without her ex and trying to wrestle with notions of romance – she is very witty and amusingly pissed off!

Yaskhan – for her lovely, succinct way with words

urbanagscientist – because she is at least as worried about the misunderstanding of science as I am

Luke Atkins – because he writes really well about difficult subjects and he writes like the stuff matters a lot, which it absolutely does!

And there are more in my list of 119 writers that I am following but this is enough for now.

4. Give them 10 questions to answer.

If you wish (and I clearly cannot impose this on any of you, please respond to confabler’s funny questions. I enjoyed them, maybe you will too!

Kind regards, MSOC

https://confabler.wordpress.com/2016/09/20/shiny-shiny-sunshine-award/

It was Generous of confabler to choose me. Now I have to Jump off and do other stuff!

The Pellicle and the Mist

Zara had her eyes closed and somehow that made the room seem larger and less confining.

Zara had her eyes closed and somehow that made the room seem larger and less confining. She was shuddering, struck to her core by the ice that flowed in tiny crystalline shards through the capillaries in her fingers and eyes, the veins in her legs and arms, through her back, stomach, and chest, into her heart, which was a barely throbbing iceberg in her human-shaped sea of flesh. Ships of blood ran aground there, broke free and floundered back through the diverging rivers, streams, brooks, trickles, and springs at her nail beds, running aground, then turning and seeking the adamant rock lodged among her ribs. She could not stop shuddering. Tiny mountain ranges of goose flesh ran the length and breadth of her, reaching for a sun she could not see or feel. The thought of all those bumps with their aerial hairs perched upright and rigid like prairie dogs alert at their burrows made the air seem colder still, though no wind was blowing in her darkness.

At some time in a future she could not comprehend, he would return, hungry, wanting to feed. But he did not like her blood cold, full of jagged bits and misery. He just liked the dimpled saucers of her red blood cells, warm and tender, swimming without the encumbrance, the embrace of this preternatural cold and the inevitable slivers of her frozen world. If she could just keep this up, just keep so cold, teetering on the cusp between immortality and death, he would not feed again. That would kill him. That would set her free to find her way out of her labyrinth of stillness, silence, and night.

As she sat, a slither of crackling dew started encasing her in a brittle shell, crafting tiny clear domes over each pimply hill on her skin, creeping up each bristling antenna like a fog bank and then snapping shut once it had completed its crawl, a finger of snow pointing skyward a million times over. This was new, this coat of glass, this sheath of frost. If it was fur, she would have melted. If it was silk, she would have slipped from her throne and broken into a cluster of silvery bits in this room in the vastness she had acknowledged as her prison, her life.

A millennium passed, then two. She thought slow thoughts as only the frozen can. About how the universe was vast and mostly a collection of gelatinized gases swirling slowly in clouds above the planetary masses lying somewhere below. About the once-living who, trembling and burrowing deeper in their crisp coatings, were now statues like herself. About how it once was and might never be again.In the darkness, they shared as an eternal home. Still, he hadn’t come, he hadn’t fed. He may have transformed into a statue himself, arrested in mid-tread, wrapped in the same fragile mist that had clasped her so close all this time, if time had passed but who was there to count the seconds and the years. She could no longer tell. There was no clock, there was only the dark beneath her eyelids and the chill of being awake and at rest all at once.

A pulse flashed out from some remote island in the dusk and wilderness. It was made of light and heat and clawed, then rushed, towards her tomb of immobility and sleep, breath and awareness. It cooked all that came between it and her throne, turning solids molten and liquids into a fresh and deadly air above new spheres cantering around reignited suns.

And suddenly, after all of her thinking and feeling and waiting, she was gone, a mist in the coruscating heat, a vapor in the dawn.

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Shiver

Ah…!

What’s happening? it thought.

Over the past two days, I’ve written and posted over 5,000 words on two topics that started with fairly simple notions and demanded much detail with almost each sentence I wrote. I had to dig up a good number of references and evaluate them for some level of impartiality and intellectual rigor (if I didn’t do that, I would just be adding noise to an excessively noisy web). I had to choose videos, graphics, and “for additional reading” materials when implications in my post became too unwieldy to cover in anything short of a book-length piece. It’s a type of curating, I suppose, but that idea has been overused, so maybe I will not use that description. At many steps in this process, I added new knowledge to my already teeming mind full of the stuff, useful and “can we please forget the jingle for Alka-Seltzer® now? It’s been decades since that’s been an advertisement!” When the brain is feeding, it is a beautiful experience. When it is feeding and sharing, it is an enriched and astonishing joy of the first order.

Then, when I was only an hour into the post I was starting for yesterday’s prompt, I read today’s prompt. I have written something recently on this topic and will link that below, but after an afternoon of well-earned relaxation, I knew what I needed to reference, if not post in full. It is part of a chapter in the first book of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (may your atoms fall upon each of us and make use all wiser). Many people probably avoid this book thinking it is (1) “just another science fiction novel” or (2) “not serious fiction” or (3) “certainly not as worthy as non-fiction!” I propose to each of you that has not sampled its written and multitudinous pleasures (not the film version, although possibly the BBC radio version) that it is a flawless work populated with insights of the most stunning, yet humorous kind that each of the uninitiated should start reading right after finishing their dash through this post.

In the following passage, our galactic travelers have used the infinite improbability drive that powers their vessel to the least probable places in the universe. When this happens, a local probability disruption occurs and improbable things happen in the vicinity of their ship:

Another thing that got forgotten was the fact that against all probability a sperm whale had suddenly been called into existence several miles above the surface of an alien planet.

And since this is not a naturally tenable position for a whale, this poor innocent creature had very little time to come to terms with its identity as a whale before it then had to come to terms with not being a whale any more

This is a complete record of its thought from the moment it began its life till the moment it ended it.

Ah…! What’s happening? it thought.

Er, excuse me, who am I?

Hello?

Why am I here? What’s my purpose in life?

What do I mean by who am I?

Calm down, get a grip now… oh! this is an interesting sensation, what is it? It’s a sort of … yawning, tingling sensation in my… my… well, I supposed I’d better start finding names for things if I want to make any headway in what for the sake of what I shall call an argument I shall call the world, so let’s call it my stomach.

Good. Ooooh, it’s getting quite strong. And hey, what about this whistling roaring sound going past what I’m suddenly going to call my head? Perhaps I can call that… wind! Is that a good name? It’ll do… perhaps I can find a better name for it later when I’ve found out what it’s for. It must be something very important because there certainly seems to be a hell of a lot of it. Hey! What’s this thing? This… let’s call it a tail—yeah, tail. Hey! I can really thrash it about pretty good, can’t I? Wow! Wow! That feels great! Doesn’t seem to achieve very much but I’ll probably find out what it’s for later on. Now, have I built up any coherent picture of things yet?

No.

Never mind, hey, this is really exciting, so much to find out about, so much to look forward to, I’m quite dizzy with anticipation…

Or is it the wind?

There really is a lot of that now, isn’t there?

And wow! Hey! What’s this thing suddenly coming toward me very fast? Very, very fast. So big and flat and round, it needs a big wide-sounding name like… ow… ound… round… ground! That’s it! That’s a good name—ground!

I wonder if it will be friends with me?

And the rest, after a sudden wet thud, was silence.

And that is Learning.

Please buy your copy at a local new or used book store or use your inevitable on-line source of choice.

And from July 25, 2016: Sanctuary

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Ellipsis

Everyone thought it was an illusion, a mass hallucination, and no one mentioned it to anyone else.

Everyone thought it was an illusion, a mass hallucination, and no one mentioned it to anyone else.

Then it was obvious that something was going on and that whatever had been would no longer be.

Sometime around that time the tides started placing boats on the ground and if they were placed back in the water, replacing them somewhere else. The tides started knocking the piles out from under beach houses and floating away docks built at some point to watch the water come and go and exert its slow, gentle magic on the torments of the human mind. Fish were left on shore, gawping at this irregularity and at their abbreviated lives. And then people started getting grabbed by the tides and taken out and away into deep watery ravines that would open and shut with a shattering clap hundred of meters or kilometers towards the horizon. Ships would get devoured in one gulp in these hungry seas. Islands that once communicated with the large islands of the Americas, Africa, and Eurasia (as the deserts between them were washed away never to return) went silent and were believed gone forever. The waters would rise further today than they did yesterday, sweeping areas of the shoreline that had never seen tides and never been drenched except in rain. And each time they rose curious people who had come out to see where all the water had gone were surprised to see the water coming for them faster than they could run. The local authorities told people to flee inland and all of the roads were packed with cars that could go no further until the cars ahead of them had moved on to higher ground. Sometimes and for some people, the cars no longer worked as they had run out of gas and become obstacles to the onslaught of cars and people fleeing the ravening waters and some begged rides, which were either given to them or, when there were too many useless cars and too many fearful people, not. So the people walked uphill and inland until they couldn’t and hoped that would be far enough. It was for some and not for others, who were pulled back to the deeps increasingly cloudy with lives.

And sometime around that time it occurred to the people who watched such things that the smiling face of the full moon no longer beamed down upon them but had turned, at first imperceptibly, then more dramatically, then quickly and presented all its faces, one after another, as if they were frames in a hand-drawn animation from a hundred years ago. Click-click-click, the faces went, a new face every hour, then minute, then second. And the moon started wobbling as it orbited, as a top running down wobbles at both ends as it is about to drop to the floor and flounder through a couple of useless cycles before it comes to a halt. But the moon wasn’t stopping, it was spinning faster and wobbling faster and its ellipsis around the earth was pulling the tides higher and higher, nearly emptying the ocean at its perigees and sucking the shorelines dry at its apogees.

Then the earthquakes started. Mountains split and deserts disappeared in the raw wounds festered into them. Water washed through them and disappeared, returning in plumes of steam and ash. Volcanos shuddered from their naps and spat mud and lava into the clouds, hanging there like giant question marks over the earth.

Then it became terrifying. The moon’s ellipsis shifted subtly and then it was obvious what was happening. It would get further away at apogee but at perigee, it became a huge, leering, spinning, cackling face grimacing into the hearts of those who remained alive, like the corpulent, round-faced relative playing a discomfiting game of peek-a-boo with a newborn; “WHO’S your uncle? WHO’S your uncle? WHO’S YOUR UNCLE!!!”

But all of that was nothing when it finally came so close that it started brushing the edge of the atmosphere with its pock-marked visage. Tendrils of fire trailed behind its circuit and the tendrils were bits of the moon’s face so the craters became more numerous and deeper and the face became more angry and unpleasant with every orbit and more trails of fire became more rocks falling through the sky and pointing incandescent fingers at the places they would impact if they ever arrived. But they didn’t. They just burnt by the hundreds, then thousands and then millions every day as the moon swung closer in its perilous orbit. And the people who were left realized that this was not going to end well. Not at all.

But those who watched such things noticed something odd about the moon as this all happened. They noticed that way up near what was once the reliable north cap a hole appeared, first fairly small, then wider, then deeper, or as deep as the watchers could tell with their telescopes and satellites, which were rapidly being splattered against the hard dome of the air like bugs on a windshield. It was when it became deeper that the wobble had shifted and the orbit had changed and they had seen that there was some kind of apparatus near the north cap and that the hole was extruding a plume of dust up and back onto the surface around the hole. And there may have been some kind of vessel but it was hard to tell as the dust seemed to mask that part of the picture, so maybe there was no vessel or apparatus but the moon was surely doing its prolate dance and scraping the atmosphere and sending these torrents of rocks into the air.

Then the day came when it came too close and the air turned to fire around the moon as the rocks crumbled off and burned into the earth, larger and larger until they did hit the huge remaining islands or the catastrophe of the seas leaping from their abyssal canyons. And the moon braked further and slowed until, finally, the atmosphere joined the fire and burnt as well. And the moon crashed, splitting the earth open and disgorging both cores.

Sometime near the end, it came to make sense to those who watched. They had wondered what had happened to the moons around Neptune and Uranus, Saturn and Jupiter and Mars, and what had happened to those planets before they had disappeared.

The vessel and its apparatus came in, swept up what remained, and moved on.

Moon

Meal

As the forest collapsed into a bed of its own leaves and bark, xylem, cambium, phloem and heartwood, as each tree dissolved, outside-in, from a whole to a scattering of its parts, it spilled slowly down onto the earth, where so many of its predecessors had come to rest before this last forest fell as well.

As the forest collapsed into a bed of its own leaves and bark, xylem, cambium, phloem and heartwood, as each tree dissolved, outside-in, from a whole to a scattering of its parts, it spilled slowly down onto the earth, where so many of its predecessors had come to rest before this forest fell as well. The trees fell, but the undergrowth did as well, dissolving in much the same way its huge, swaying companions had disgorged themselves, onto and through the leaves into the soil beneath, which was, after all, nothing more than its parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, going back so many thousands of years. But today this forest fell apart, along with all the other forests falling into the grave in which their silent ancestors had slept, yet provided nutrition and comfort for their offspring as they grew.

But beneath it all, countless tendrils and capillaries of the ever-present, always-invisible fungus sprang into action, mycelia spreading quickly and creating new branches and regions of an already enormous network of life, a life that welcomed the inevitable death of its neighbors, the penthouse-dwellers up there in the top leaves that wiggled seductively in the sunlight, their offspring, who hoped to reach the sky someday, but for now were stunted, tiny parodies of their parents and ancestors, those who had towered so mightily for so long. The mycelium web grew and spread and found every crevice into which a particle of the forest fell and sopped up its delicacies, droplet by precious droplet, eking out every nutrient it could find, but somehow repeating its past feasts, course-by-course, appetizer, palate-cleanser, entrée, dessert, aperitif, repeated, a million times a second by the famished phantasmal fingers groping through the ground, poking towards yesterday’s leaves and bark and decay.

mycelia

But someday, after this meal was done and the forest was gone forever and all of the creatures that it had supported, right down to the creatures that skittered through the earth around the mycelia and budded and popped into more and more cells in a ratcheted-up carousel of living things that seemed impossibly busy some days, after all this was done, the mycelia would lie there, still, shrinking, evaporating into a shadow of what once was, coming to rest because there was no more life that died and fed it. And there would be no more life. Forever.


Feast