Putting the life back in science fiction

Fun with Panpsychism
February 20, 2018, 12:56 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

This is a follow-on to a discussion on Charles Stross’ blog, and I’m posting it just to show an interesting case where some version of a God might be more parsimonious than assuming that God doesn’t exist. Continue reading


Too Big To Fail?
December 17, 2017, 5:36 pm
Filed under: American politics, economics, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

I saw this last night and decided it was too big, literally, to ignore.

The US Army currently reported that in FY 2015 it had $6,500,000,000,000 (that’s $6.5 trillion) in spending on an annual budget of $122,000,000,000 ($122 billion), or spending 54 times more than its budget.  Worse, between 1998 and 2015, the Army and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) somehow racked up $21,000,000,000,000 in spendings.  Here’s a link to the press release about Michigan State Professor (Mark Skidmore), who broke the news (although it had been mentioned by the government), here’s the article on it in Forbes.  Here’s the documents.  As noted in both articles, when Prof. Skidmore started probing these expenditures, documents on them, which had been publicly posted at the Office of Inspector General at the DoD, for some reason all the links started disappearing.  It’s a good thing Skidmore had already copied the documents and is now posting them online.  Oh, and this might potentially be why the DoD is undergoing its first agency-wide independent financial audit ever (press release).  I haven’t looked at what HUD is doing, if anything.  Continue reading

Beavering away at geoengineering

Two down, now three (four?) EIRs to go.  Oy.  And one of the ones I commented on planned, perhaps, to install a meter-wide water line in the same busy intersection as another group is currently going to install a 240 KW electrical transmission line.  Shocking, possibly explosive.  I can only hope that the engineers already knew of the juxtaposition, even if the environmental consultants did not.

So, I want to talk about something else: peat.  And beavers.  And some really silly ideas about geoengineering.

Continue reading

A Bright and Shiny Future. With Mirrorshades

More avoidance.  I was going to write about the IEA’s 2017 World Energy Outlook (Vox article).  Or I could write about The Grauniad’s seven megatrends that could beat global warming” article.  Or I could write about the bright and shiny, 100% electrified future that seems to be the major global bankwagon that people like the IEA are now jumping on.  But that would be avoiding the real work.  Continue reading

Orality, Literacy, and Enchantment as a Survival Skill
November 15, 2017, 2:30 am
Filed under: climate change, disasters, futurism, Speculation | Tags: ,

Since I’m avoiding reading two EIRs right now (I commented on a third last week), I figure I might as well play with some ideas that floated up since the previous post, about our modern conceptions of magic being the residue of previous methods for storing and propagating information in an oral culture.  Right now, my bedtime reading is Walter J Ong’s 1982 opus Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word.  I wanted to highlight a point that Ong makes in great detail, echoed by others (like Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein): people process data differently depending on whether they know how to read and how to write or not. Continue reading

The re-enchantment of the future, collapse style

Sad that I missed posting in September.  My only defense is that there’s a lot going on in the real world.  Not writing for profit, sadly, but dealing with development, environmental impact reports, and policy.  And pulling weeds.  I’d rather write about something totally different: the idea that civilization collapses and magic comes back.  It’s not new, of course.  It’s the premise of, oh, the whole Shannara series, a bunch of stories by Fred Saberhagen, even the Dying Earth if you stretch the metaphor until it breaks.  You can probably name another dozen stories in a similar vein.

I think I found a different angle, one that might make practical enchantment work in the real world.  With, yes, wands, staves, amulets, fetishes, and all sorts of enchanted items and rituals. Continue reading

Silly summer thoughts 3: Dune Shields

First, a bit of news: I’ve got another guest post up on Antipope, if you haven’t already seen it.  Go have fun with it, if it’s your sort of thing.

Now back to summer silliness; why not pick on Dune again?  It’s a fun target at the moment, especially since it gives this distorted impression that magnates and aristocrats could be part of  a breeding project to produce a superhuman messiah, even though rationally we know that regression to the mean seems to be a more common outcome for human reproduction(except for inbreeding, which gets rather worse).  The current administration in Washington is a great example of how each generation in a wealthy family gets smarter and more talented.  Or not.

In any case, for summer silliness, I give you the shields of the Dune universe, which apparently are spherical shells of force (or weirder, if you’re David Lynch and filming the novel), that slow down objects passing through them to 6 to 9 centimeters per second (this from the glossary in the original story and here) . Continue reading