Almost The End Of The World

Lately regular readers of my blog must be wondering “What’s with the politics?  Isn’t this a writer’s blog?”  And of course, those of you who have come for my for lack of a better word “social analysis” must wonder what the heck is with all the posts about characters, writing and (marginally linked on both sides) this thing called “Human Wave Science Fiction.”

Of course my first answer is that I don’t do politics and this post is an explanation of why not, to an extent.  The comments can devolve into politics and political arguments – perhaps they should, although I confess that partisan politics make me uncomfortable (for reasons I’ll explain below) and I don’t think they’re even appropriate most of the time – and into theological arguments (y’all know you’re all powerfully weird, right?  And I say this with the greatest love and respect.)  However, the posts themselves are not politics.  Yeah, I have partisan choices, though these days they can best be defined by “OMG.  WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS?” but those are my private business and also to an extent not what is important right now.

SO, Sarah, you say, rolling your eyes – what, must you pick up all my bad habits? – “Why the schizophrenic mix of writing articles and social analysis articles?  Who do you expect to read your blog when you don’t stick to a single line of thought?”

The answers in order are “Because they all reflect on writing.  And the writing reflects on social arrangements, too.” and “Everyone and anyone.”

And while you blink in bewilderment at my delusions of importance, let me explain.  First, let me lay down the reasons I think I’ve felt pushed into doing what must feel to people like a crazy hodge podge of themes.

My mind is an odd instrument.  Stop sniggering.  Yes, of course every human mind is, to an extent.  But my mind is weirder than normal.  This is not a matter of intelligence, or a matter of being adjusted to the world.  It’s more a matter of cognitive processes, the things that interest me, and the things my brain is good at doing.

In a very broad and oversimplified sense, there are human minds that tend to the specialty – leading to stories of math geniuses who never learn to tie their shoes – and minds that tend to the generality and are therefore, say, able to report on science without knowing a particular discipline intimately.

Both of those types of mind work way better than mine and are way more useful, unless you are a novelist where you need the broad, the narrow and the weird.

I am not exactly a mix of the two – though I go through times of intense obsession with a topic which causes me to become “the greatest living expert in” whatever it is.  It’s usually a really weird topic, like “Victorian Women’s Walking Shoes” (no, that’s not actually one of them, but it’s that sort of thing) – because my mind tends to the generalist.  I have broad interests and (with the aforementioned exceptions when I go into a narrow and obsessive mania) read broadly in both history and science.  But I’m not a generalist as such either.  Oh, I can act as one.  Most writers can.  I can give an impromptu lecture on the history and science of chemistry, if you give me five minutes to get names and dates right.

And that’s where the problem is.  I have virtually no mind for names and dates or specific incidents, even.  Instead, I read widely and everything I read goes into the compost heap and …  Well, compost heaps generate heat and fertilizer, but you can’t tell what started out as a banana peel and what started out as leftover cabbage.

Ignoring the particular nature of the fertilizer, fertilizer provides food for new plants.  Well, my brain works sort of like that.  I take in a lot of information from a lot of disparate sources (right now at various points in the house, face down, meaning they’re all being concurrently read are two historical novels, a book on Tudor England, a book on current events, and a book on dinosaurs) and then …  And then I start seeing connections that wouldn’t occur to anyone sane.  Sometimes these connections lead to “very strong hunches” which I have to call that because by the time I get to the hunch, I can’t tell you what facts I’m basing it on EXACTLY, I just have a strong gut feeling.

Sometimes getting at that hunch takes writing a novel too.  As I said my brain is speshul.  (It’s actually not an unusual mind for fiction writers, though we embrace our speshulness in various degrees.)  I often reason THROUGH fiction.  (Which leads to the sad “What’s your novel about?”  “Don’t know. Haven’t finished yet.”)

What I am and what I do is best exemplified by the scene in Heinlein’s Friday in which the boss has Friday research … what was it? Mini skirts and stock market trends, I think.  (Remember, children, this was pre internet and she was looking through more the equivalent of Arpanet.)  He has her spend days and days doing this and preparing reports, then calls her in the middle of the night and asks when the next black plague epidemic will hit.  And she “knows.”  And it’s right.

I don’t claim to be always right, though that sort of mega-hunch usually is.  And my input is not quite as divorced from the question as that example.

Anyway – having gone on a two page detour on this (what, you expected brevity?) – the fact that my brain works this way means it has lately been screaming that the effect I’ve found lately – where publishing seems to be dying but it’s actually being reborn in a form we haven’t been trained to perceive – is going on not just in publishing but everywhere.

Everywhere from the way news are written – and consumed – to the highest levels of governance are changing so fast that the official institutions, designed and honed through the last three hundred years or so are completely at a loss.

They are also increasingly irrelevant.  It’s like when I was little and went on those merry-go-round type cars in amusement parks.  They have a wheel, but the wheel does nothing.  No matter how you twist it, you’re still going to go in the same direction.

Where the metaphor changes is that we’re not going in the same direction.  It’s more like they were used to the wheel responding and allowing them to drive in these nice little circles.  And then something happened and now sometimes they twist the wheel and nothing happens, and sometimes they twist the wheel and the car takes off like a plane, or starts digging into the ground, or does spirals into the horizon leaving the amusement park behind.

The important thing, though, is to realize that just because that ride has gone weird, the rest of the park is still working, and new rides and new ways of amusing yourself are being discovered.

Or to drop that overstretched metaphor – what is wacking publishing is wacking government and is wacking also every field in between (mark my words, education is the next field to seemingly come apart at the seams.  And given that our public schools also serve to warehouse juveniles while their parents work, the coming apart will be more brutal and uglier than anything we’ve seen yet.)

It’s called catastrophic change and the image in your mind should be that thing about Atlantis:  But afterwards there occurred violent earthquakes and floods; and in a single day and night of misfortune all your warlike men in a body sank into the earth, and the island of Atlantis in like manner disappeared in the depths of the sea.

This is coming about for several reasons, though at the basis of it it’s technology: while we liberal arts majors were jaw-jawing the techy people went and built information networks and machines to navigate them in.  While not as sexy as spaceships, computers are as transformational, probably more.  But it’s a stealth transformation.  For almost fifty years they’ve been digging under the establishment.  When collapse comes it will be sudden and absolute.  But it won’t be collapse as such, because at the same time they’ve been building structures under there, and when we fall, we’ll fall into the new structures, just like publishing is collapsing into new publishing.

Now, in government I’ll maintain I still think the constitution of the US is the best foundation on which to rebuild, but you and I every animal and plant under the sea must know that the constitution and government as we have it is not a creature of the constitution.

What it is is a creature of the Industrial revolution, the time when bureaucracy was invented with its characteristic grouping of people by one characteristic, its keeping of records, its inflexible rules and — more importantly — its insistence on top-down management.

The last time we had this type of technological change that shook the foundations of society it was when the industrial revolution came in, bringing untold prosperity and misery, both.  In the same way that happened then, we too will end up emerging from this period with institutions that are as different from our own as absolute monarchy is from constitutional republic, or even the social democracy of Europe and with finance as different as gold coin and fiat currency.  IF we’re very lucky, we might do this without the floods of blood that attended the last transformation.  (I don’t know.  Do you feel lucky?  I don’t so much.)

This is why partisan politics annoy me.   I have opinions on whom to vote for.  On the other hand, I don’t think what’s happening at the level is the show or even the main show.  At this point ALL they can do is make things worse.  As can we, at our level.

And at this point both parties are more creatures of the status quo than not.  It’s sort of like asking “Should I go with a big publishing house or a medium publishing house” when the question is “Should I go with a publishing house at all?”  There are answers to that last, both valid, and both depending on what you want, or what you think will do least harm. (You lays down your dollar, you takes your bet.)  But to the first the answer is only “You’re asking a question from ten years ago.”

On the other hand, what is happening, and how the shocks propagate to the system, and how the system is changing to deal with it (for instance the whole thing of trying to favor girls in schools – it’s sort of like controlling shelf space for publishers.  It’s already a symptom things are falling apart.  And it won’t work.  It’s the sort of move a terminal bureaucracy makes and which helps no one and makes things insane for a large number of people.  The answer is not more bureaucracy, but something new — more freedom?  More granularity? Something completely different? )

My job as a writer – since my first love was science fiction – requires me, always, to do a bit of free lance futurism.  To be living in a time like this is sort of like for an archeologist to find a time machine.

Add to that that most people with normal brains seem to be stuck into one of two modes “bring this back” and “bring that back.”  Or alternately “make it stop.”   This means they tend to “read” trends wrong and ignore the greatest chunk of them.  At least they read trends wrong according to MY lights.    According to my lights, the attitude should be “How can we help make this the future WE want?”

I’m not saying I’m right, but my skewed perspective might shed light on things for someone.

We are living in interesting times, and I reserve the right to reflect on them in schooling, in society, in writing.  So you’ll get periodic posts about “what I think will happen to income in the future” or “what schools are doing that is crazycakes” or even “top-down doesn’t work in publishing or … at this point in anything else.  The system is too complex.”

And sometimes you’ll get posts on how to write believable characters.  Because that too is changing.  Because the characters that were believable to an industrial-age audience aren’t necessarily the same that will resonate with us.  And because, wanting to be an ever-more-popular writer I must analyze that.  And because fiction — and particularly science fiction — are what we, as a society/species, dream with and part of shaping the “new new” future is to dream it up.

In the ultimate instance, these posts are how I process what I read, what I see, and of course, the occasional hunch.  They’re my way of bringing it all to the conscious.  Hopefully they’re interesting to you too, even those of you who aren’t writers and/or who would rather not muse on catastrophic change.

To me, as well as to you, I’d like to say it’s no use to try to make the change not happen.  It’s already too far gone.  To stop it WILL lead to rivers of blood and chances are it will come anyway.  Instead: “Be not afraid.”  It only looks like the end of the world, but what’s actually happening are the birth pangs or a new Earth and a new sky.

Or if you prefer it more popular (always good Sarah, for those you haven’t scared away with your obscure reasoning) It is the end of the world as we know it, (and I’m writing about it) and I feel fine.

UPDATE: The opening to my novel, Sword And Blood under the pen name Sarah Marques is up on Mad Genius Club

49 responses to “Almost The End Of The World

  1. ppaulshoward

    Very good.

  2. My mind always boggles when people say that a blog (or anything else) should only be this or that one thing. The world is a huge banquet for writers, and if you aren’t gorging, or eve nibbling, at those times when you’re already overfull, then you’re always going to be wondering why you have trouble coming up with interesting ideas to write about. Or you’ll be stuck in writing the same kinds of things that everybody else writes about.

  3. WOOT! Oh, it’s going to be a *lovely* ride! ::hands barf bags to the more trepidatious readers::

  4. Forgot to check the notify me of follow up comments. This is, then, essentially a null post. Sorry.

  5. Bah. “No politics” is, in most cases, simply part of the Marxoid-Progressive attempt to enforce unanimity in their favor. Observing that “conservatives” use too much salt when they eat babies is an amusing side-comment, worthy of mild chuckles but otherwise not noteworthy; suggesting that they might not eat babies at all is “politics”, to be suppressed by whatever means may be available, up to and including messy execution of the overly “political” commenter.

    The attitude is pervasive. Good for you for resisting it.

  6. “My my my my my … what a mess.” – Tommy Lee Jones, The Fugitive

    First, the ride we’re on is the Dodge ’em Cars. The steering only works sporadically and before you can get up a head of steam in any one direction you get knocked off topic from another.

    It’s your blog, nobody is paying admission under the impression Isaac Asimov is lecturing on biochemistry inside this tent and you are entitled to ventilate your brain in whatever way helps you crank out interesting reading. There is only one reason to avoid Politics and that is because it is troll bait. Well, that and it risks alienating potential readers whose politics differ from yours as does base from acid. There are only two, 2, reasons to avoid Politics … /Monty Python … Look, anybody not caught up in the dance knows that Politics, Partisan is a racket and all we’d be fussing ’bout is who gets to farm the racket (annnnd my mind veers into Archer’s Goon territory …)

    Societal organizing principles, OTOH, is a fundamental purpose of SF/F. Take Libertarianism (please!) — most people are incapable of conceiving how a libertarian society would function because they are too trapped in the tropes of managed society, so trapped they are unable to see how managed they are (good thing for the managers, too — annual reports from the last two decades would have them all fired.) SF/F helps people to envision an alternate organizing principle. We are standing on the precipice of the future and it behooves us to consider routes down. Societal organizing principles are also politics. Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.

    Two fundamental truths are a) Change is inevitable and b) Change is threatening. This is the dynamic tension underlying all good storytelling (call it “character growth.) People, cultures, fight change and/or attempt to manage change but change will occur. So long as you write about change you will be writing about politics and there’s no pleasant way to cross that midden so you might as well wade in, challenging assumptions and announcing “the Emperor’s got nothing on” — but remember, the Emperor has agents among us eager to curry favour by denouncing clothing denialists.

  7. Changes in the Publishing Biz: I was reading last night about Fifty Shades of Grey … an perfect illustration of how publishing is changing. I haven’t read it, don’t plan to read it and don’t much think I would like it if I were to read it. But it casts light in some interesting places.

    For those who don’t know, 50 Shades is apparently Lady-porn, with mild but significant (or maybe not so mild – haven’t read it and, as I’ve said, don’t plan to) elements of bondage, submission, dominance etc etc etc and has become THE HOT NEW THING amongst exactly the types of ladies who denounce such archaic ideas. I gather a publisher is paying $4M for dead tree rights and a movie deal is in the works. The important, the interesting thing about this book is that it should have never been published.

    We’ve all read the problems with publishers forcing literary broccoli down the public maw, how women must be portrayed as virtuous and noble, men as predatory and base, etc etc etc. Yet 50 Shades doesn’t bow to that standard. NO publisher was going to touch it. Yet the author put it out in ebook (just as “on the internet no one knows you’re a dog,” in an ebook nobody knows you’re reading Fanny Hill) and it not only caught fire, it caught fire amongst the crowd of high-tone readership (NY Liberal elite) that would seem most inclined to reject such themes.

    I submit to you that 50 Shades proves you can write Indie and find success in the old order (whatever their literary pretensions they WILL queue up like mad to make moolah.) Their filters no longer control access to the marketplace, the public is fed up with 50 shades of pablum and is ready for some bold new zesty flavors.

  8. In a very broad and oversimplified sense, there are human minds that tend to the specialty – leading to stories of math geniuses who never learn to tie their shoes

    I can too tie my shoes! Who told you that? It was that Alger guy who dragged me here a couple of weeks ago, wasn’t it? I only have trouble walking and chewing gum at the same time (but I swear that lamppost jumped in front of me).

    Actually, I know what you’re saying about adding things to the heap without keeping the details, because I do the same thing. But my hunches are about science and engineering.

    • Mark says his cats tie your shoes. Sorry. You had to know. 🙂

      Actually it took me till 14 to learn to tie my shoes, and I’m not even a math genius.

      My husband has those science hunches.

      • I used to let the cats tie my shoelaces but after the 3rd time I tripped from having the shoes tied together …

      • Wow. Poor kitties. That’s quite a walk. 🙂

        Heh. My sons CAN tie theirs, but they don’t: They tie them once, loose enough to slip them on and off, then they’re done, unless they come untied. I’ve gotten them slip-ons before, but usually they like the look of a pair that ties. Go figure.

        • My sons could both tie their shoes by twelve. My brother, OTOH (and yes, I KNOW he reads my blog — grin — he denies this but I REMEMBER it) had to have my mom tie his shoes on his way to his wedding at twenty six. (Runs, before a projectile from Portugal makes contact with her head.)

    • One of my physics professors had to be taken aside and informed, gently, that showering was not optional. Brain the size of a planet, that man, but NO social skills. Or sense of smell, evidently. You could track him down the hallway, out of sight before the boom went down. He also had the posture of an orangutang. But if you needed some Feynman transformations in five minutes, he was the guy to go to.

      • See, when they got an IQ test on my second son, I read up on everyone with his IQ and it seemed to be “Died of dirt, in a room choked up with trash, after refusing to come out for fifteen years” — I set out to battle that. So far so good.

        • Do tell me how you do it. (Wink)

          • Now, now, do not disparage The Daughter. She is personally clean and enjoys clean clothes. It is just that there are soooo many books, magazines, papers and crafting projects, and she does insist on raising dust dinosaurs.

  9. REM provides an anthem for this line of reasoning. …And I feel fine.

  10. Most airliners have a pilot/captain control and a co-pilot control, and the pilot control has a button that turns over the control to the co-pilot station, or returns control to the captain station. One of the French airbus companies decided that was too authoritarian, and their controls both work all the time, and if the captain control and the co-pilot control are pushed or pulled the same amount in the opposite direction, the flaps stay as they were. I feel now as if the ship of state is in the condition we know immediately proceeded a couple of crashes in the recent past: the plane is plummeting toward the ocean, and the captain is pulling his yoke with all his might and screaming, and the co-pilot is pushing his yoke all the way and muttering.

    • *sigh* It doesn’t matter to your point, which I sort of agree with, but I can’t restrain myself any longer.

      In almost all airplanes, not just airliners, that have two sets of controls, the two are mechanically connected. If one set moves, so does the other, and each pilot can feel both what the air does and what the other is doing. Some modern airplanes have “fly by wire”, meaning the controls are electronic. Until recently the designers provided feedback, an electric way to move the controls to simulate the way mechanical ones feel when they affect the air, and as a byproduct the controls move simultaneously, just like the mechanical ones.

      Airbus Industrie (there’s only one; that’s the name of the company) decided not to do that. The controls on that model are all electronic, an expensive and sophisticated version of a Nintendo controller, and there is no “feel” feedback. Neither pilot can feel what the other is doing; they have to tell one another verbally. It’s suspected, but not proved, that in the incident you mention, the two pilots were pushing in opposite directions and didn’t know that because neither one said anything about it. If that’s the case it definitely contributed to the disaster, because one of them (the copilot) was disoriented and was pushing the wrong way.

      That explanation isn’t proven fact, but it’s persuasive to a lot of people who know airplanes because Airbus has made that kind of “the geeks are always right” mistake before. In one model, the controls were programmed not to respond if the result might damage the airplane. Then one day the pilot had the choice of damaging the airplane or crashing it, and the controls refused to allow the “damage” choice. Since the resulting crash happened at an airshow, AI’s bad programming choice became public knowledge — and was changed, tout suite.

  11. Well, compost heaps generate heat and fertilizer, but you can’t tell what started out as a banana peel and what started out as leftover cabbage.

    Ah? I cannot read one word futher with out clearing my cluttered mind by saying: Just so long as it does not give birth to wire metal shopping buggies…

  12. I like it. I like it. Sarah you have done it again.

    Fiction, particularly SF/F is a means not only to ‘safely’ examine the world as we see it, but the world(s) that might be.

    Most people will embrace individual elements of change, because they can see how it will work for them at the time. They are not thinking about the cumulative effects. We are at a point where the cumulative effect of the technological revolution appears to be leading to the catastrophic failure of the management systems that were put in place in reaction to the industrial revolution.

    This might explain the gray goo novels, those invested in the old system know it is breaking up and all they can see is the end of their world. They can’t think or see further. One more reason we need Human Wave SF/F.

  13. “Almost the End”

    Spoken like a science fiction writer, for sure. And one who is still living!

    And very happy that you are, Sarah.

    Not as happy as I am about my own life and living, of course. (That’s why I dropped “the World” from my heading.)

    I gave in to narcissism, self interest, as we were all born to do. (Or at least, so we’ve been told.)

    You are playing at the margins, Sarah, and I like that.

    If you weren’t a science fiction writer, I might mistake you for a border collie.

  14. Dorothy Grant

    “The only people who like change are babies with dirty diapers, and even they cry about it.”

    Science Fiction has always been about the art of the possible, of the human nature and the outcomes if something goes on past the politically-acceptable limit to the timeline. It’s the interaction of idealism and humanity, of surprising yet inevitable interactions and unintended consequences. It’s about so much more than our latest political conflagration, but touches on the incentives and habits that motivate us even now.

    I for one find your thoughts fascinating, and not as strange as all that – if you are a voice crying in the wilderness, the internet has made that crying out into a conversation, a debate, a collaboration, and a rumination.

    As for education, fifteen years ago I would have thought the Khan Academy a nice research project without much point – but these days, I see teacher’s unions and zero-tolerance policies destroying the very system they’re trying too hard to keep under their control, and accelerating the rate at which people turn away from it.

  15. I’m in a sugar coma at the moment, but basically want to say that your “political” or “social commentary” posts haven’t scared me off yet. Partly it’s because I for the most part agree with you. But mostly it’s because you stress to “think for yourself”, something that the people who do eventually scare me off never do – or do without any genuine feelings that direction. (ie: They phrase it more like, “Think for yourself… and you’ll find that you agree with me, if you’re smart.”)

    I don’t comment on those posts, even if I vehemently agree, because by the time I get to them, they’re often over 100 comments as it is and having read through a few of the troll-infested posts you’ve had, I just don’t want the drama of even reading them. I ought to, of course, just to read opposing views that might open my eyes to a different way of looking at the issue and being able to examine my beliefs and decide if they still hold water or don’t. But my feeling for half of this month is, “Meh, I am under the weather and cbf today.” So there it goes.

  16. Didacticism of the day: we will never get the future we want. We will, however, get the future we build.

    Not sure we can see clearly enough to actually plan a future. Which is why *I* don’t like politics. Politics is to me the practice of using government to get your way. (“You” and “your” in a general, non-specific sense.) And, to me, that’s what’s mainly wrong with the world. People are too busy minding other people’s business and, since they want to mind MINE, it forces me to pay attention to politics. As that great woodland sage, Winston T. Pooh, put it: “Bother!”

    My mom always taught me to be ready to accept — gracefully — “no” as a dispositive answer to any question. You don’t have a right to universal acceptance and acquiescence to your desires.

    The Gods in my ficton have this power. They call it The Oracle. It allows them to perceive — dimly, unreliably, and with considerable doubt — the range of probabilities which may eventually coalesce into what mankind might loosely and inaccurately call “the” future. Most of the times, they can see just clearly enough to understand that their best course of action is inaction. That is, to NOT act on what they know.

    But every once in awhile, they feel impelled — by cupidity or misplaced compassion — to take action in an attempt to alter the probabilities in favor of a desired outcome. They always get it wrong. They have been doing so since time immemorial and — being human, these Gods — they keep failing to learn the lesson being imparted.

    From these experiences, humans get the concept of hubris.

    There is, of course, a lesson to be drawn from this little thought experiment by humanity. And, having learned it — I think — at least moderately well, I have become a small “l” libertarian and a believer in the phrase and acronym first thrust onto the world stage by Eric Frank Russell, MYOB — Mind Your Own Business.

    Some day, I may even buy a t-shirt.

    M

  17. And Hoyt is not Hoyle.

    Yet.

  18. i

  19. derekchamberlain

    “crying out in the wilderness”
    I think the internet has brought all those wildernesses within chatting distance of each other, and that, more than anything else, is the fuel for the change that the world is undergoing. Before the internet all us ‘goats’ were solitary beasts, with only limited influence upon the ‘sheep’ amongst whom we lived. Nowadays though, all us goats can get together and compare notes, organise, and motivate each other. That’s got to be scary to for the ‘shepherds’.

    I’m glad you’re talking about a wider variety of topics. Someone needs to bring them up who isn’t marketing a partisan POV.

  20. derekchamberlain

    Or perhaps we need a new party. The SF/F inspired Humanist Party.

  21. Maybe you need a new party, derek.

    But tonight? I’m much more interested in Mark Alger.

  22. I mean, really?

    How can someone SOUND like that when they write?

  23. No matter what he said…

    It sounded SO good.

  24. Sheesh, maybe I got sidetracked with aural?

  25. There are people out there who SEE colors with each note of a symphony.

    Well that is just way too odd AND way too cool.

    Never spent a minute wondering if that enhanced a synethetic’s appreciation of life, of music…or detracted from it?

    Still have no clue, But what I can say is this…

    I was totally distracted by the “sound” of Mark’s voice tonight. And the “sound” of Sarah’s voice before

    Not tonight, Sarah. Sorry. But before.

    This is the internet. We READ here. We don’t usually HEAR this most melifluous SOUND coming from words that we read that make us forget that we’ve read anything at all.

    Like music? Of course,

    Except it isn’t music, and if I dare say, it isn’t necessarily good writing either.

    • Sidney;

      Thank you.

      I think. So hard to tell if it’s sarcasm with out the tags.

      I was pretty pleased with it, myself, especially how quickly it came, although I was worried that the connect-the-dots nature of it might seem a bit disjointed or deliberately esoteric.

      M

    • Some books, at least in my mind have magic. The authors will achieve a voice, a feel, a taste in my head. My parents read out loud to me and as a dyslexic I do a lot of audio books, but this is not at all what I mean. It is something that comes out of the text, the texture and rhythm of the words give birth to more than mere thoughts as my eyes take them in. The opening of To Kill A Mockingbird with its sweet talc and sweet always brings the smell and hot sticky warmth of a deep south river town summer. After the pageant, during that terrible dark shoeless walk home from school I feel the cool damp of the soil as it gives ever so slightly against my bare feet.

  26. It’s a MYSTERY!

    Because we like it like that, “she said”.

  27. derekchamberlain

    Ric Locke — Very interesting. I would have thought it was counterintuitive not to have feedback controls, but maybe that’s just hindsight.

    • That was the prevailing opinion in the early days of fly-by-wire, but experience shows that pilots can fly the airplane without feedback from the control surfaces, and it’s actually easier in some ways. After all, there are legions of people who can “fly” Flight Simulator, which is actually a pretty good simulation of flight, and the controls for that have no feedback. That’s why Airbus decided to do it that way.

      As usual, it’s the limiting cases that cause problems, and Airbus is currently in a quandary. It would be extremely expensive to re-do the controls so they’re connected, and the airplanes would be out of service for a long time — it essentially means rebuilding the cockpit area. The stopgap is teaching the pilots to communicate, and that obviously has problems in cases of panic &ct. when the people aren’t communicating anything, as in the case before us. There doesn’t appear to be a really good solution, and as long as engineers aren’t allowed to see the future that category of mistake will occur again.

  28. Larry Patterson

    So now I know why I was never able to write fiction!

  29. I grew up doing duck-and-cover for the any-day-now nuclear holocaust. And then it never happened. So I tend to under react to predictions of incipient disaster. But, my, isn’t the wind brisk? And look at that funny cloud, it looks almost like a tornado. Could be the landscape is about to get rearranged; we just don’t know by how much.

    In Thursday’s Rusch Report it sounded like the mega corps that ultimately own the publishers are going to make the traditional publishers change their approach to e-books. For good or bad is the question, there.

    Politics? Ye Gads! It looks like an abyss whether you’re looking at rights or economics . . .

    The global thermonuclear war never happened. And yet I find myself wishing I could find some way to duck and cover . . . whatever is coming. I think the future is bright, with cool tech, medical advances, manufacturing advances, space access and more. But the road to it is unmapped territory.

    • I grew up doing duck-and-cover for the any-day-now nuclear holocaust. And then it never happened. So I tend to under react to predictions of incipient disaster. But, my, isn’t the wind brisk? And look at that funny cloud, it looks almost like a tornado. Could be the landscape is about to get rearranged; we just don’t know by how much

      Bunny trail alert.

      Interestingly enough the National Weather Service is testing a new warning system for tornados in five areas this year. They will be using language chosen to create a greater perception of threat. Why? Because people have become inured to the standard warnings and fail to take shelter. So, my question is: if it works, how long until they will have adjust the language again?

      • They make such a big deal out of “bad” storms these days that we’ve heard worse than the NWS warnings over what amounts to normal storms.

        _If_ they can keep the local weather forecasters from trying to keep their watcher’s attention by over-hyping, _if_ they can keep clear and obvious separation between bad weather and emergencies . . .

        I think that’s my problem. I hear so much hyperbole I can no longer judge the true danger of the situation. So if something really bad happens, say, economically because [fill in blank] was or wasn’t (re)elected, I’ll be whimpering, watching the DOW fall and kissing my IRA goodbye, rather than patting myself on the back and congratulating myself over have gotten out of the market the previous month.

        Perhaps chronic under-reaction is the desired result. Although knee jerk over-reaction (verbally) is what often occurs.

        • The little mountain town we used to live in had an old fashioned air raid siren they tested every few years. Forget your TV warnings. Since that siren rang for the first time after we moved there a month or so after 9/11 I can tell you, I needed to change my pants right after that. So, some warnings work. But they need to be used sparingly.

          • My little town uses the air raid siren to announce every fire department response, night or day. Naturally, no one pays any attention to it any more. There was a major attempt a couple of years ago to put an end to it, partially on the basis that the noise, if you happen to be out on the street, is just gawd-awful. There was a year’s respite, then it was restored.

  30. At the risk of costing someone several days of work, I think that you are underestimating the ease of doing the “Friday” research today. The Internet provides access to facts, but unless someone has already done the analysis of the facts, It doesn’t give you trends

    • no, but that’s what she was doing — she correlated the trends. I will do that too — sometimes obsessively and consciously.
      Some things have no explanation, though — like my absolute need to read for days on end about oh… big foot sightings. I swear writing and research too are forms of insanity