Doorknobs and the Speed of Light

This afternoon I opened a door in the house to find a dog waiting anxiously for me on the other side. It took my mind to an old comic by Gary Larson, in which lab-coated dogs are studying diagrams of doorknobs, marked up with vectors and other sciencey-looking things.

Knowing how it could change the lives of canines everywhere, the dog scientists struggled diligently to understand the Doorknob Principle

I wondered if somewhere in a dimension far away yet right here, there might be a similar comic pinned to a tetricle (a four-dimensional cubicle) featuring humans and the speed of light.

The Last Ones

A little something based on these musings.

It was difficult to tell what the animal might have been. A rabbit, perhaps, but a large one. These days, half the creatures Buzz ate didn’t really fit any of the old names.

He waved his hands to scare the flies away, but they just came back. Fur from the ragged skin of the carcass puffed away and floated in the air of the dying desert day. The meat of the creature was greenish and almost liquid as he lifted it to his mouth. He tried not to breathe, tried not to taste, tried, just for a moment, to suspend all conscious thought, to become a machine until the creature was in his belly. There were parts worse than the meat, and he would have to eat all of them to stay alive.

As the first bite slid down his throat, he took a shuddering breath and wiped a tear from his cheek. His stomach reacted happily, asking only for more.

“Hi Buzz!”

The girl was sitting on a rock about fifteen feet away, glowing in the evening light, her schoolgirl dress shorter than what he suspected would actually be tolerated in a Japanese school, her legs akimbo. The sere landscape behind her was faintly visible through her glowing form. “Heishi-chan,” he said.

“I’m so glad you found the food!”

“Yes. Thank you for telling me about it. I’d be lost without you.”

“I found another thing, kind of a dog, maybe? It’s still moving. Twenty-one point seven-five kilometers on a bearing one-one-six. It’s a little out of the way…”

Buzz opened his throat and let another bit of carrion slide its way to his stomach.

When his throat loosened up he asked, “Did you get another look at the river?”

“Oh, yes! I have devoted most of my sensors to the river since you told me you wanted to know more about it.”

“Are there people there?”

“Yes! There are many, many people!”

Buzz felt his heart jump in his chest. His time of solitude was almost over. “That’s great!”

“But they’re all dead. I think the river must be poison. Whoever escaped the bombs seems doomed to drink from the river.” Heishi put on a sad face.

Buzz slumped into the sterile dust and looked at his meal. He wondered if it was worth even bothering to eat anymore.

“You have to stay strong,” Heishi said.

“Why?”

“You’re my friend, Buzz. I would kill everything that still lives on Earth for you.”

“I don’t want you to do that.”

“And I won’t, because you don’t want me to. Because you’re my only friend and I would be so sad if you were mad at me.”

“Don’t you talk to other people, too? When your orbit is over some other continent?”

Suddenly she was cagey. “Of course I do. But… I would kill them if you asked me to.”

“Don’t kill them.”

Her face lit up with happiness. “Okay! I think they’re all going to die soon, anyway! They can’t eat what you can.”

Buzz let out a breath into the cooling desert air. “This really is the end, isn’t it, Heishi? There’s no reason anymore to pretend that humanity will survive. I may as well end the farce.”

Heishi knotted her hands together and clutched them to her gratuitously-ample holographic breasts. “Um… Buzz? I just detected motion at the farthest reach of my instruments. I won’t know until I can adjust my flight path, but it seems like it might be a woman.”

“You’re lying.”

“Please eat, Buzz. I promise I have detected a female biped that might be human.”

Buzz looked at the almost-rabbit he was choking down and wondered what an almost-human would be like. Not unlike himself, he concluded.

1

Perfection

I’m on the patio this evening, wearing a sweatshirt but naked from the knees down. My whiskey glass is unwhiskied, but there’s a simple remedy for that.

Moments ago a tiny creature landed on my glowing screen, backlit by pixels. These tiny bugs annoy me, because it seems their entire purpose in life is to swim in something I want to drink. And when they’re not swimming they’re flying around my eyeballs or crawling across my screen or exploring my nasal passages. The little fuckers bother me mightily.

So naturally when this little critter landed on my screen, my first instinct was to flick out my hand and crush it. But… lit that way, I could really see how well-constructed the creature was. It possessed a symmetry and a focus in construction that I had to pause and appreciate. A much better spokesman for intelligent design than any mammal will ever be.

I stayed my hand, and it flew away. If it landed in my glass, I am now digesting it. A more honorable death, for sure.

Kickstarter! Fun Cards! Toys for Tots!

As many of you no doubt know, I have taken many the picture of Harlean Carpenter (who is a fiction). You can see a bunch of them over at Poetic Pinup, but there are some shots that will never show up there. Four whole shoots worth, in fact.

You see, a while back someone suggested that it would be fun to make a deck of playing cards with pictures of Harlean on them. We thought that was a capital idea and got right on it (roughly three years later).

Here’s a look at promo photos taken during the three shoots we have in the bag so far:

Those shots won’t be in the actual deck, but they do give an idea what the cards will be like. You will note that each photo includes a number of small objects, from one to thirteen. Because fictitious or not, Harlean takes her themes seriously. I’m really looking forward to the clubs set this weekend – Paleolithic, baby!

The page over a Kickstarter explains it all better than I can, but I’ll give you a brief rundown – 52 fun pinup photos + jokers, high quality printing, plastic case. You can get extra-special cool stuff if you pony up a bit extra.

Some of the proceeds go to Toys for Tots, so this is also a chance for you to shine a droplet of sunshine into a kid’s life.

You would make me all sorts of happy if you (yes, YOU), were to pop on over and buy a pack. And whether or not you decide this awesome pack of cards is for you, please, PLEASE spread the news.

Thanks for your support! You all are awesome.

1

Paying for Medicare For All

Bernie has proposed a bill in the Senate, and damn near every Democrat who hopes to run for president next time around has jumped on to support it. The ones with anything to lose have been a little more cautious, but they all agree this proposal is a great way to start a conversation. And that is certainly true.

Among Democrats, support for the idea is very strong until the idea of increased taxes to pay for it is mentioned. Because let’s face it, taxes would have to go up to pay for it.

But consider this: My health plan is already taxpayer-subsidized. If you have a company health plan, you are taxpayer-subsidized as well. Your employer doesn’t pay taxes on your benefit. That’s money out of the government coffers to make your health care cheaper. The ones who need support the least benefit the most.

That’s bogus, even though I benefit. It’s backwards from the ethic I embrace, that those doing well look out for those who need a leg up. I am embarrassed that my health care is subsidized while others go without any care at all. You should be, too.

So when people ask, “how do we pay for it?” — a legitimate question — point out that the government is already subsidizing health care for everyone with a job. The ones who need it least.

1

Goodbye, Cassini

In about twenty hours, the spacecraft Cassini will plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn and destroy itself, to protect any potential life on Saturn’s moons. Can’t have Earth-life-tainted space junk floating around out there.

Cassini’s mission has been an astonishing success — with an emphasis on astonishing. It found things that turned some of our notions on their heads, and revealed a small moon with a liquid water geyser(!). It’s going to take a while to figure that one out.

I’ll not go into all the details; there’s actually a pretty nice write-up at fivethirtyeight, and you can get real-time updates straight from NASA.

The scientific instrument I most appreciate is the plain ol’ camera – Cassini sent home some beautiful images. Here’s a low-res markup of one of my favorites: A shot of Earth taken through the rings of Saturn.

The universe is still filled with mystery; we’re barely out of our own back yard and everywhere we turn we find things that astonish us. As we struggle with the trials of having a lot of sentient creatures packed onto the rocky parts of the surface of one small planet, we would do well to take a breath and look up, and be awestricken by what we see.

2

A Proposed NFL Rule: Surrender

I am not a rabid fan of the sport, but I do enjoy catching the occasional NFL game. Yet while I no longer have a team to pull for (the San Diego Chargers abdicated that position), the two teams that play nearby seem to be doing all they can to NOT draw me into their fandom. The Raiders, well, they’re the Raiders*, and also they are leaving town in a couple of years. No point jumping on that wagon, even if they might do well this year.

Then there’s the 49ers. I didn’t watch the game today, but I monitored its progress now and then. I saw one sequence that sent me the clear message: “we don’t like our fans.”

The Niners were behind 23-0, well into the 4th quarter. (For those not up on the jargon, time was running out, and they were getting their asses kicked.) They moved the ball downfield through steady performance only to come up 4th-and-one deep in enemy territory. (It’s late, but for the moment at least, they are not sucking — but it’s time to make a big decision.) The game is essentially over, but there’s a chance to make some noise. One yard? It’s actually the kind of thing their steady-but-not-flashy quarterback is pretty good at. Yet rather than go for it and perhaps spark a great comeback, the coaches take the safe route, wave the white flag, and kick a field goal so at least they don’t have a zero on the scoreboard. Now they’re only down by 20 points!

Fine, whatever, you’re cowards. Better luck next week.

But then, THEN, when the other team had the ball, the Niners called time out.

You have already surrendered! Why are you doing this? If you thought there was any hope, you would have tried to score a touchdown on your previous possession. Why are you wasting everyone’s time prolonging a game you have no intention of trying to win? Why do you hate us so much? That part of the game is called “garbage time” for a reason.

The rule change: When a team attempts a field goal when they are losing by more than the minutes remaining times four, they forfeit all their remaining timeouts, and spiked balls are intentional grounding (which they should be anyway). Additionally, the other team cannot use its timeouts unless the score narrows to less than that margin. Let’s just get this thing over with. We’ll call it the “surrender rule.” Or perhaps, the “show the fans a little respect” rule.

_____
* The Raiders are just another football team. I don’t dislike the team as much as I dislike the fans. In fact, there are a few players on the Raiders who quietly make a huge positive impact on their community, and I respect them tremendously. And to be honest the fans in Oakland are working hard to remove the stigma of violence that surrounds them, while still being hardcore fans. What I really hate are the Raider fans in Los Angeles. I hate them a lot. But “The Night I Put a Curse on the Raiders” is a San Diego Super Bowl story for another day. (For the record, I formally lifted the curse at the start of last season.)