Category Archives: Uncategorized

Bioasis

If you haven’t already seen it, the largest grasshopper I have seen in the city in many years is perched on the brown cattail in the foreground. On what the “let’s spite the liberals by pooping where we eat” crowd would call a ‘hippie-dippy waste of money,’ a patch of wetland the size of a small above-ground swimming pool nestled between parking lots of a local hospital along a rainwater drainage path.

Yep, it probably cost a few bucks to put it there and costs a few to maintain it.

Well, we’re creatures of nature and it does us good to see a little soft, verdant goodness among the hard, uncaring glass and stone and steel. Humans do not live by asphalt alone, nor should they.

I wish we had many more of those little biological oases in the city.

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Thrift Stores: A Geek’s Best Friend

You never know, for example, when you’ll find cool superhero costumes with foam muscles for 3 bucks apiece šŸ˜

When You’re Too Lazy To Make Toast…Ā 

… you make a cheese and egg noodles omelet so the carbohydrate is built into your breakfast. The topping is parmesan, smoked paprika, and celery salt. 

Next Time I Plant Chayote…Ā 

…it won’t be next to a tree. And it’ll be in a 30 gallon pot, not a 3 gallon pot.

I planted the thing on a whim because it sprouted in the vegetable basket after I bought it at the store & forgot to eat it for a week or so. When it reached for the tree I decided to look up its growing habits online.

It will probably grow few or no chayote in this little pot. We probably won’t find out until Septemberish when/if it flowers. 

That’s how garden adventures go. 

Dear Jeff SessionsĀ 

… because of the person sentenced to a year in jail for laughing at him. Really. 

The American Dream, All New For The Tricentennial — SciFi News Network 2076

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Omniews Printernet Corporation

Staff

June 3, 2076

Omimerica Holdings is bringing you a bold new twist on the American Dream for the Tricentennial! Recent polls show that more Americans than ever before believe their leaders aren’t listening. The people who govern us aren’t accountable! They tell lies to get elected, break their promises as soon as they’re made, and get re-elected anyway.

By the time they choose to retire they’re a hundred times richer than when they got there — and you paid for it!

No more. Thanks to Omnimerica.

Omnimerica’s domination of the business world in every field has placed us in a unique position in history. Once, companies and citizens were at the mercy of the politicians. Sixty years ago, that began to change. For the first time ever, a global business concern (today a division of Omnimerica) and political office merged in the single person of the President of the United States. The people accepted it. The politicians accepted it. Our world, slowly, began to change. This year, that change is complete.

Today, an overwhelming majority of politicians at every level of government are involved with Omnimerica. They’re our board members, our executives, our division and holding heads, our consultants, and the customers of our worldwide supply chain.

So we’re taking action.

We’re changing everything. For the better.

Your voice will no longer be limited to voting for the lesser of two evils. You’ll vote every single day if you want! You can vote on every single issue, join the debate with your comments, reactions, and memes, and shape the policies of the United States AS THEY DEVELOP.

Never again will your voice go unheard. Omnimeria’s We The People is your destination to connect with family, friends, and the vital issues that matter to you. With a fast-moving timeline, fun games, an automatic entry in the billion-dollar Omnimerica Lottery with every post, and an advanced participation algorithm that could propel your words direct to the timeline of your local officials, the President of the United States, or even the Omnimerica Board of Directors, there’s so much to love that you’ll never fail to do your civic duty — or should we say, civic PLEASURE — ever again!

We The People is open for business in limited-participation mode right now. If you’re a US citizen, you already have an account! Log in with your SSN, birthdate, and a scan of your Citizenship Chip.

Government by the people begins on the day of the Tricentennial — log in at 12:01 PM PST on July 4th to cast your very first votes. You’ll be choosing the contestants for Dance Across the States, airing on Omnimusical 2 every Tuesday and Friday for thirteen weeks following the week of the Tricentennial. The winners will perform atĀ ceremonies for thirty-five change of office ceremonies for mayors and governors slated for replacement by order of the Board of Directors.

Out with the old, and in with the NEW AMERICAN DREAM!

 

 

Dare to Discuss Time: Nnedi Okorafor’s Lagoon

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Here gather some reviewers and/or writers — AND YOU IF YOU’D LIKE TO JOIN IN — to discuss a book. We do it every couple of months, so pay attention if you like reading things. Since you’re here, I think you do.

This time, we’re talking about Nnedi Okorafor’sĀ LagoonĀ (not an affiliate link, if it matters to you) in the comments section below. I’m going to talk about it here a little bit first, and my fellow participants have written their own thoughts/reviews on it at Sci-Fi and Scary, The Scary Reviews,Ā Michael Patrick Hicks dot com, Ā and Dave’s (David Dubrow’s) Blog.

I suggested we read it, and from what I’ve heard they mostly sort of enjoyed it but saw some pretty serious problems with it, giving it two or three stars out of five.

So I might not get to recommend new fiction for us to talk about for a while. We’ll see how forgiving they are.

Don’t take the previous two sentences too seriously šŸ™‚

Nnedi Okorafor has a few words to say aboutĀ Lagoon as well, on her Wahala Zone Blog. They’re worth reading. “I admit (and don’t apologize for) the fact that my flavor of scifi is evenly Naijamerican (note: “Naija” is slang for Nigeria or Nigerian.),” she writes.

If you’re personally acquainted with the cultural context her writing speaks for/to/of/with, or even have enjoyed reading some Afrofuturism in the past (that’s my case), you may find Okorafor’s work more easily accessible than if your experience is otherwise.

On the other hand, to hell with accessibility. Variety is the spice of life and all that.

My impressions of the book:

Some folk have been bugged by the extensive use of dialog in Pidgin English. I wasn’t, but then I’ve read throughĀ A Clockwork Orange so…

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…the Pidgin didn’t bother me for reasons you might guess. Others found it distracting. Personal taste.

I enjoyed readingĀ Lagoon. I wanted to love it as much as I loved readingĀ Binti andĀ Akata Witch and a few of Okorafor’s short stories I’ve stumbled across. But I couldn’t quite.

It felt, to me, like the ideas of two or even three books stuffed into the skin of a single book. If it were a sausage, I’d say the richness overwhelmed the flavor. But I’m glad I ate it, and the experience was positive and memorable, even if I had to take a break in the middle and let everything settle for a while. Which I did. I putĀ LagoonĀ down about 2/3 through and read a short story anthology, then came back to finish it.

Nnedi seems to have her plate full of writing for the forseeable future so I’m not holding my breath for a return toĀ Lagoon. But if a sequel showed up, I’d love to see what she does with that crammed-full-of-interesting-things world.

 

 

Flash Fiction: Under Ashes

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ā€œAnything worth a damn is made on a coast and ships from a coast. By air or sea.ā€

That’s what the president said. At least, it’s what was reported on the shadow web that snakes through the makeshift network of ā€œsmartā€ stoves and washing machines and automobiles (if you can afford them!) and can openers and athletic shoes and disposable razors and anything else with WiFi and an app.

The authorized news, on the other hand, ran a piece on how the economy was so gloriously rampant and virile that airlines have formally discontinued coach and business class seating, leaving nothing but a spacious expanse of first class and super luxury class seating in their cavernous airliners.

The anchorbot’s perfect on-air voice floated like a cloud behind the image of an iron-haired general, her chest a solid plastron of stars and ribbons like a compacted galaxy. Her feet were up on an ottoman and a masseusebot worked the suspension bridge of corded tendons in her neck with eight-fingered silicone hands.

Then, as the anchorbot droned a lulling narrative bridge, a puffy gilded teen cherub sat with a megaplatinum record from Motherland Records on a hefty wood base with a tall glass cover occupying a seat of it own beside her. A stewbot cracked the claws of a four pound lobster with deft blurs of a little brass gavel and slid the laden tray before the starlet who tucked into the chow with a flood of melted butter.

Finally, the anchorbot burbling upbeat and drawing to a conclusion, the vid showed a man in an immaculate dark suit and bright tie. The men are always first or last, symbolic frames of the stream of words and images, carrying with them weight and importance, tangibility. The lights and vids of an array of three monitors suspended from the ceiling (the ā€œoverheadā€ on an airplane, is it called?) flickered gem-reflections off the heavy steel rims of harsh six-angled eyeglasses. His hair was a blond cap, waxed down like a helmet. Sideburns trimmed to stilettos stabbed the angles of his jaw in the new style I can’t get used to. A trackball in each hand, he Does Important Things for the cameras.

The images fade to the state news logo and the anchorbot climaxes and relaxes into a commercial.

We all have televisions so we can see how good things are. We may not have hot water, or even running water. We only have electricity part-time. I can’t afford the simplest drugs to treat my pre-diabetes or even aspirin for my arthritis half the time. I set snares for squirrels or I’d have nothing to go with the endless lumps of hard bread (gotta soak it in a bowl of water to eat it) and cheese the Army hands out to keep us from starving or rioting or both.

But the state provides televisions. A new one every Christmas, even if you forget to bring them the old one to trade in.

We’re doing great, dammit. We’re finally great again. The television tells us so. All the biggest world powers respect us they way they should, the announcerbots say.

Just outside the city line ā€“ I can see it from the kitchen table in this two room shack I’m blessed to share with just two other bachelors ā€“ a bot crew and one Christ of a huge fanged combine-thing, driverless and nameless, chews up the old interstate highway and loads the bits into an endless stream of self-driving dumptrucks that take the blacktop south to do God knows what with it. Thin dribs and drabs of snow float through the scene like in a snow globe, and icicles hang from the noses of the workbots. They don’t care, of course.

I hear blacktop is made from oil. Maybe they’re squeezing the oil back out of it to ship to India or China or Brazil. Those places are hungry for oil and any other resources they can get their hands on, the shadow web whispers from the WiFi toilet when I crap. Who knows if it’s true. The television doesn’t say a word about that.

But the stock market is up again, and the Air Force says Fallujah will fall again soon.

There’s going to be a celebration when it falls, next month in DC. The commercial for it is on again. It has been playing twice an hour since spring.

The commercial ends and my gaze falls on the faded cap hanging on its nail across from the window. The cap is gray now, like my hair before it fell out, but you can still see the crimson fire peek out of the deep folds of the seams like ember under ashes.

I wish I could be in DC for the celebration. To wear the cap again, pump my fist in the air and holler again. Full of power, strong like a bear. Those were the days.

But the highway has gone away, and I’m not much for walking anymore. Nobody I know is.

END

(This post first appeared on my Patreon page, 02 January 2017. My patrons get to see a lot of things early, and can get free ebooks and even paperbacks! Come help me get the hell out of this damned trailer park and into a place where I can have even a small writing office and maybe even write ALL THE TIME. Well, almost all the time. I do have kids and a wife and a cat to think of as well.)

The Magic Bullet For Success

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It’s easy to find a 10-step guide to success on the internet.

The internet is crawling with magic bullets. I’m going to make some up, but they’ll probably replicate or be damn close to real ones: “5 Easy Tips To Unleash Your Creativity” “10 Great Writers Tell You How To Be A Success” “3 Simple Principles To Unlock Viral Fame”.

You know the stuff. You’ve seen it. Maybe you’ve clicked on a few. Lean in close, I’ll tell you a secret.

Ready?

I’ve clicked on a few.

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Yeah, sometimes I read those things. Maybe you have never, but the odds say you have. They’re tempting. We all want to do the stuff we do better. Sometimes we’re pretty sure we’re doing it wrong. Sometimes we’re pretty sure that what we’re missing is simple, a little thing, somethingĀ so obviousĀ that we’re not seeing it like (we presume, because AFAIK nobody’s ever talked to a fish) fish don’t realize they’re swimming in water.

Also, there’s great advice out there. Granted, it’s usually not behind a headline like “7 Pathetically Simple Things Your Dumb Ass Can Learn In 30 Seconds By Reading This Article What The Hell Is Wrong With You”. Which is how all those headlines read when I’m feeling down. THANKS INTERNET YOU JERK.

The great advice, though, really is in little online articles sometimes. Or in tweets from some of the more entertaining and personable writers out there. Or in books like the ever-so-frequently-mentionedĀ On Writing by Stephen King — his isn’t the only one, look for some in your home genre if you write and you’re looking for tips.

Y0u just never know where it’s going to show up.

But the “magic bullet” articles are generally 1 part obvious stuff and 9 parts crap. There’s not a magic bullet to make you an enormously selling writer (I mean, I don’t think so. I’m not enormously selling, so I could be totally wrong I suppose) or anything else. No magic listicle to unlock huge webcomic popularity or world champion marathoner prowess or being a better friend-spouse-whoever-you-are-to-someone-else, no magic bullet to jack your B average up to an A, no magic bullet to unlock the best lyrics ever from your songwriting pen.

If you’re really looking for magic bullets to success, you’re in for a sad surprise. They’re basically spells. Modern-day incantations and rituals. Do X,Y, and Z while saying A and writing B, and you’ll be the next Rowling.

Not.

How.

It.

Works.

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There’s magic in the world — and if you’re allergic to schmaltz, skip ahead a bit. There’s the magic of hugs and love and empathy and giving a damn about your fellow human being and babies and kittens and freshly baked cookies and waterfalls and walks on foggy beaches and blooming flowers and fat bumblebees and…

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You get the point.

But there’s no magic zip-zappity-poof now you’re at the top of your chosen field.

The truth is boring.

Always work to improve. Always be ready to hear constructive criticism. Always be ready to ignore trolls. Keep working. Keep looking for new opportunities. Keep on keeping on. And do read things that you think might contain helpful things for you.Ā Sometimes you can find a bit of perspective or a tidbit that points you at a personal shortcoming or strength so you can improve or capitalize. Sometimes it will even be in one of those silly listicles. But mostly not.

Just don’t give up.

And maybe write something like this if you’re having one of those days when you, personally, feel like giving up.

It helps. Take my word for it.

 

Zombies Love Cultured Brains

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This story and the post following appeared first on my Patreon page — come say hello!

I’ve written about cultured meat before, here on Seriously Eclectic: seriously on the culinary potential of it, in the context of outrageous fast food gimmicks, and in the context of what 23rd century North American culture might become. This is definitely the first time, however, I’ve written about cultured meat as a way to save humanity from the zombie apocalypse.

It seems like a reasonable idea, doesn’t it? Keep the zombies fed and while you have an inconvenient mob of zombies nearby, they’re fat and happy and they leave your last redoubt of humanity alone. Hopefully. As long as you keep the feeding site a safe distance from your shelter ā€“ a catapult might be a good zombie feeding tool– and as long as you can grow enough brains to sate their unholy hunger. But that’s nothing different from a normal zombie story: survival always boils down to who has the brains.

Zombies aside, though: I write a lot about lab-cultured meat and it is a common background (sometimes foreground) detail in my stories. I write about it because I’m as sure as you can be about anything that hasn’t happened yet that cultured meat is happening. By which I mean I expect to see it in stores and widely popular before this century hits the halfway mark, and very possibly much sooner. Like the self-driving car, the question isn’t if, but when and how.

The emergence of cultured meat into the marketplace will be contentious, sort of like the emergence of margarine provoking (I kid you not) concerted attacks from butter producers. With the potential for inexpensive factory production of cultured meat beyond what any stockyard or meat packing plant can accomplish, cultured meat is likely to wipe most traditional meat production off the map ā€“ something that margarine never accomplished against butter, even at the height of its vegetable-oily power.

It needn’t be a zero-sum game between meat culturing upstarts and established corporate meat producers. The latter could easily invest in the former or create their own ventures which would be likely to succeed: with great funding comes great advantage. But I wonder: will the culture of the animal-raising-and-slaughtering business allow them to embrace slaughterless meat? I have my doubts, but perhaps there will be a standout, a meaty visionary in corporate clothing just waiting for the chance to make their mark with the meat of the future.

There are plenty of questions about how easily cultured meat can make that mark, how likely it is to become popular. Foremost is simple acceptance ā€“ will the average consumer be willing to eat a steak that wasn’t carved off a cow, a wing no chicken ever flapped? I think the answer is yes. Enough for cultured meat to gain a foothold, and that foothold will expand rapidly once the ice is broken. Sort of like ā€œcars are a fad that will never replace horsesā€ rapidly became ā€œI want two cars, maybe three. Four would be nice, too.ā€

Weirdly enough, I think vegetarians and vegans may lead the way despite all the omnivores’ jokes about how annoying they can be (which is precisely as annoying as the vegetable-averse meat eater who won’t stop complaining about vegetarians every chance he gets). And that’s because many vegetarians and vegans are motivated by a concern for animal life. Cultured meat is created with no need for killing and no more animal pain than collecting a cell sample. A needle biopsy doesn’t exactly feel like a caress, but it’s a relatively small pain that passes quickly, doesn’t endanger the animal, and doesn’t involve a need for confining many animals in cramped or inhumane conditions. Those factors may lead many current vegetarians to be among the first people to purchase cruelty-and-even-inconvenience-free meat.

Other people either avoid or limit consumption of meat due to health concerns. They worry about fat content, antibiotics used in meat production, and unsanitary conditions. Cultured meat answers those concerns as well. If there’s a demand for fatless meat, you grow it fatless. Antibiotics aren’t needed ā€“ a roomful of culturing vats don’t come down with hoof-and-mouth or whatever. You’re not growing a whole animal, so you don’t need a bunch of growth hormone. As for sanitation, well, a slab of cells growing in a tank doesn’t poop. Poopless steak is one hell of a selling point if you have any slightest idea of how much poop ends up on traditionally produced meat. You can be sure that cultured meat sellers will tell you all about it. Seriously, if I was selling cultured meat ā€œthe competition has a bunch of poop on itā€ would be my first advertising campaign.

Cultured meat will almost certainly be cheaper than the competition, too. No need to keep animals alive, provide all the space they need (even the terribly cramped minimum possible), buy feed, dispose of all the animal poop, transport animals, dispose of dead animals, deal with sick animals, and so on and so forth. All those things cost money, money a cultured meat producer won’t have to spend. Lower price will overcome a LOT of concerns about eating cultured meat. Trust me, I’m telling you so from below the poverty line. Millions of parents will happily switch from cheap hotdogs full of ground guts and fat and scraps of dubious sanitation to even cheaper hotdogs full of clean and lean cultured muscle tissue. Millions of budget-conscious home cooks will happily switch from inexpensive ground meat and cube steak to inexpensive cultured New York strip. And will a restaurant or fast food chain hesitate to buy cheaper meat with a consistency of product and supply that ranching and chicken husbandry can’t hope to match? The answer’s kind of obvious, isn’t it?

And of course there will be questions about the producers of cultured meat ā€“ what are you growing it in, are there harmful chemicals in the nutrient baths, and despite the lack of poop is it really being handled safely?

Those are questions for regulators. Whether the meat’s off the hoof or out of the vat, it’ll continue to be a worry as long as we underfund and understaff and undermine the FDA. No matter what the future of meat is, that’s in the hands of voters and their elected representatives. So I’ll end with a PSA: don’t just root for your damn team like politics are a sporting event. Ask yourself ā€œhow do we make a better society and world for our grandchildren?ā€

Hmm. Can we grow politicians in vats? Would cultured politicians be safer and better than traditional on-the-hoof politicians? We do seem to have an oversupply of uncultured politicians lately coughTRUMPcoughcough. Maybe I’ll write about that next.

(If you want more S.A. in your life, come say hello on Twitter @Tao23 or drop a line on Patreon!)