Thursday, June 30, 2005

On Vacation Until August 3rd

Yup- Summer is here and I am off!

For a month. So sorry, no posts for a while.

However, I will return August 3rd with another short story...

In the mean time you can check out some Canadian humour at Chilly Beach.

Or check out the latest insane news at Fark.

Or read about what Wil is up to.

Or re-read my stories right here at The Twisted Mind Emporium if you like.

Until August 3rd, have a great July!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Short Story: Kaylie’s Smile

Okay, here it is. The darkest, grimmest, most unforgiving, relentless and nastiest little piece of tale I ever conceived of and gave birth to. This tale is cold and bleak, chilling even. It is my one and only professional sale to date. I love it and abhor it all at the same time. In fact, I think it’s my favorite. What else would you expect from a truly twisted mind. Enjoy - if you can - smile even, if you dare. Go ahead and emote - it’s good for you.


Kaylie's Smile
by Paul Darcy

On Kaylie’s first birthday, she turned three months and one day old.

Kaylie belonged to proud parents who brought her home from the hospital two days after she was born. They were filled with love and joy, beaming with the glow of new parenthood. That same day they also brought home a stasis containment module designed for single infants up to twelve kilograms.

Weeks earlier, they renovated a bedroom for Kaylie. It shone with new paint and was complete with a crib, stuffed animals, toys, and colorful murals hanging from the walls. It was a perfect setting for a little baby girl. They placed the stasis containment module across from her crib. It looked innocuous, covered with a brightly patched blanket. The module was meant to be used for emergencies or when parents were unable to look after an infant for short periods of time. It was never intended as a baby sitter and the instruction manual warned against leaving a child in the containment module for more than twenty-four hours.

Before leaving the hospital, the new parents were counseled on the module’s proper use. They had nodded with understanding and agreement. But, with a newborn in the house anything explained to them might as well have been written on lavatory tissue.

Still, they had the best of intentions.

The first time Kaylie’s parents used the stasis containment module was at two o’clock in the morning, three days after little Kaylie became a permanent member of their household. Both of them were exhausted, in desperate need of sleep. The module sat right beside the crib, offering peace and quiet. Kaylie’s father had an important meeting the next day and needed to be fully rested. And so little Kaylie, all three and a half kilograms of screaming joy, was placed in the stasis module, the device closed and turned on. Instant tranquility descended on the house. Looking at Kaylie’s open mouth made both parents feel a certain amount of guilt and concern, but they were extremely fatigued. After several minutes of convincing themselves that she would be all right in the module, they went back to bed and fell asleep.

In the morning, Kaylie’s father went to work well rested and Kaylie’s mother took the child out of the module. She still felt guilty, but certainly better rested and much more able to handle the infant’s urgent, but non-life threatening cries. And so Kaylie’s third day of life was somewhat different than the first two, though she was far too young to notice what was right and what was wrong.

Two weeks later, the stasis containment module was used again. Kaylie’s father had earned a huge promotion at work and the family had to relocate to a different city by the end of the month. An impromptu party was held for him at his workplace and he and Kaylie’s mother could not find a baby sitter for the evening. They decided to use the module. After all, the party would only last a couple of hours. When they returned home that evening, tipsy and tired, they decided to leave Kaylie in the module until the morning when they would both be better able to look after her.

In the remaining weeks leading up to moving day, the containment module was employed many more times. How many times Kaylie’s parents could not recall, but there was always some urgent errand to attend to. Between selling the house and finding a new one, arranging movers, packing special items, and canceling utilities, Kaylie’s parents were pressed for time. The list of tasks seemed endless and Kaylie’s mom needed quiet time at home to sort out the details. Kaylie’s father was seldom around. He was busy traveling to and from his new job location and training his replacement. During all of this hustle and bustle, Kaylie’s doctor took seriously ill and retired. Kaylie’s parents would need to find a new one for her, after they had moved and were settled, and had more time.

Once Kaylie’s parents moved into their new home they used the containment module again, and often. What with the unpacking, scouting out the new town, planning new activities and finding new friends, little time was left to attend to Kaylie, so she spent most of her time in her room in suspended animation, questioning blue eyes staring into timelessness.

Kaylie’s parents were not neglectful of Kaylie in the beginning, but they slowly introduced bad habits into their lives. The diaper change could wait until the show was over. Feeding could wait until the afternoon. It wasn’t convenient to play with her. They were tired. They went for walks and out to restaurants. They saw many plays. They even went to Barbados. It was only for a week. This became the routine for Kaylie’s parents and as they spent more time away from home enjoying and enriching their lives, little Kaylie spent more time in the module.

On Kaylie’s fifth birthday, she turned four months and six days old.

Kaylie’s dad’s new job, a high profile executive position, kept him away from home almost all of the time, traveling around the world influencing people and increasing revenues. Kaylie’s mom started a part time job which became a full time position very soon after. This led to more prominent positions with longer and longer hours. Kaylie spent almost all of her time in the module now and her parents spent almost all of their time getting ahead in the world. If ever asked if they had any children, Kaylie’s parents would avoid answering, and those asking would drop the subject politely.

Kaylie’s bedroom eventually became a home office. Her toys and crib and all the other necessities of infancy found their way to the attic. Kaylie herself, suspended in time, joined her things in the attic not long after. Those visiting Kaylie’s parents’ house never knew that she existed. And so time slipped away while Kaylie’s parents made great strides in the business and social world.

On Kaylie’s fortieth birthday, she turned six months old.

Kaylie’s father retired and so did Kaylie’s mother. Their careers had been very successful. They had acquired every material thing they could have ever wanted, seen everything they wanted to see, and fulfilled every possible wish. The question of Kaylie had not come up seriously for years, and now that they were both old and retired they were less sure of what to do. Could they raise her now in their retirement as they had promised themselves? They would sleep on it and talk about it in the morning.

Kaylie’s father died of a heart attack when he was ninety-eight. Kaylie’s mother lasted ten years longer, living in the same house. She was so infirm during her last years that she could hardly take care of herself. But she sometimes struggled up to the attic to look at her daughter, like she were a picture and not a real person, her only daughter.

When Kaylie’s mother died, Kaylie was left alone in the attic with her things, smiling at some long forgotten pleasure she had experienced years ago. Some of her skin had changed color. Some of her hair had turned to dust. Some of the blue had washed from her eyes.

The bank sold the house to a couple soon after foreclosure. They found Kaylie when they cleaned the attic and immediately called the police. They weren’t sure what she was. Kaylie’s discovery made the front pages of many papers, her little smile using up countless gallons of printing ink. Kaylie, for a brief time, was known throughout the world. The world, for a brief time, was horrified.

How could such a thing happen?

At the city’s best hospital Kaylie was scheduled for release from the stasis containment module. No living creature had ever been contained for such an extensive period of time. And so, at the designated hour, the module was opened. Kaylie’s smile quickly transformed into a screaming rictus of pain, and then she was quiet.

On Kaylie’s eightieth birthday, she died. She was six months and fourteen days old.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Weird Science: Maxwell’s Demon

We all have our inner demons, don’t we? Well one of the greatest physicists of the 19th century, James C. Maxwell (1831 - 1879) certainly came up with a doozy of one in 1871.

He theorized that a creature (know today as Maxwell’s Demon) could, in principle, open and close a tiny door between two volumes of gases. This demon could then concentrate the slower moving molecules in one area and faster moving molecules in another area by doing so. And yes, drugs were readily available in 1871, but to Maxwell’s credit, I believe he dreamt this one up without their aid.

If this creature could exist, then Maxwell was able to break the second law of thermodynamics. I bet he was pretty hyped up about it at the time. The second law basically says that heat does not naturally flow from a colder body to a hotter one. Anybody sharing a bed with a thermonuclear spouse, knows all about that. . . .

So, in order for heat to flow from a colder body to a warmer body work must be expended. If Maxwell’s creature did its job of channeling molecules, usable energy in the system would increase and the second law the second law of thermodynamics is broken. The demon could direct a flow of kinetic energy, and this energy (excess from the system of two gases) could power a perpetual motion machine. Ta Da!

Now the silly thing about all this is, it wasn’t until around 1950 (yeah, post Einstein) that Maxwell’s Demon was discounted as rubbish by the French physicist Leon Brillouin. He demonstrated that the decrease in entropy (entropy: a measure of the amount of energy unavailable for work during a natural process) would be offset and exceeded by the increase in entropy of the Demon’s actions in activating the door. The second law is not violated but holds true.

I’m pretty sure Brillouin had access to drugs too, or at least copious quantities of wine. And all this goes to show me is that we humans are always looking to get something for nothing. But the truth is, entropy has us all by the short and curlies - demons, physicists and thermonuclear spouses aside.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Science Fiction Book Review: The Tenth Planet (Trilogy)

I’ll review all three books here since I think they most likely should have been one large book instead of chopped into three anyhow. Marketing ploy, and a good one. Co-written by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch (What’s with the three name author titles?) The Tenth Planet trilogy is a science fiction action thriller and does quite well to follow the genre.

The premise of the books is that a tenth planet, in a highly elliptical orbit, sustains and alien race which harvests the Earth of organic materials every 2006 years, the time it takes the tenth planet to do one orbit around the sun. A pretty good what if scenario.

My only qualm with it is this. The planet is covered with photon absorbers (solar panels if you will) and is virtually invisible to telescopes. But, if there really was a large planet sized object orbiting our solar system we would know about it long before it was found with a telescope. Minor, and I mean minor (like milii-arc-seconds) of displacement of other planets would have, by the time these books take place, have proven another large planet sized object shares our solar system. You may be able to mask the planet visually, but it would have considerable mass.

For the sake of these books, that method of detection was completely not explored. So, we are left with an archeologist finding proof (every 2006 years) that something is devastating the Earth, but not the entire Earth, and it is set to come again. So book one then deals with the alien’s first pass by Earth and their sending down harvester ships. A battle ensues, but Earth gets its resources sucked and the Tenth Planet moves on.

But the Tenth Planet will pass the Earth again on its return to deep space. Book two then deals with Earth building defenses and making strategies to deal with the alien’s second pass. Throw in some nukes and nanotech and you have the end of book two.

Book three is the showdown between Earth and the aliens. Big battles, twists and turns and I won’t spoil the ending since you might want to read them. They are not long books so you don’t need to invest a lot of time in reading them. And, overall, they are fun. If you like science fiction action films, you will most likely enjoy these novels.

So here they are in case you want to hunt them down:

The Tenth Planet
The Tenth Planet (Oblivion)
The Tenth Planet (Final Assault)

Friday, June 24, 2005

Musings: Pursuit Of Happiness Or Hopelessness - Your Choice

Every day is full of choices, most of which we don’t make but instead we "go with the flow" and then grumble about what happened afterwards to others. Take the news for example. Now if you have TV Hookup (I don’t and don’t want it - even though my favorite actress is starting her new show this fall)

Digression alert! Digression alert! Digression alert!

Favorite Actress Aside - You go girl! Oh I am so happy about your recent movie role. You are the friken lead! I hope your butt and feet aren’t too sore from the recent training. And I can’t wait to see you again on the big screen next year, or maybe even this year depending on release time. That, for me, is always a major treat. Thanks so much for the continual inspiration and I am thinking that one day we’ll both be meeting An Oscar (not the grouch, the statue) - maybe even on the same project. Now that would be sweet! - And I’m talking real sugar, not splenda or that other crap. . . .

Ahemmm - Please excuse that happy aside - you will now be returned to this somber article . . .

How much time do you spend watching the news? Too much I bet.

And what does the news do for us? Oh it gives us the local weather and best of all (right?) it lets us know every heinous crime which was committed around the world in the last day or two. Everything from car bombings in Iraq, to murders in the big cities. And unless you live in the very neighborhood the news is reporting on, just how does this affect your immediate life and those you love around you? I’ll bet not at all. But you get all worked up, blood pressure rising, pissed off even and nowhere to vent except your personal space and those who happen to pass through it.

This is not an ideal situation. We all have enough local and personal issues without taking on the world’s greater problems too. My suggestion - Instead of watching the news tonight, pop in a Bach CD and get lost in the beauty of his music. It is one small example of what a human being can accomplish. Would you rather pursue a life of happiness, or one of hopelessness? It really is up to you. And you can change.

I’m not saying to be ignorant of world news but view it as the over saturated biased view of what is really going on out there in the world. News is sensational - the more deaths, the better. And it is not always the whole truth - don’t kid yourself there either. Here is where I talk about attitude again. You can choose to control it - it is yours and no others although it is easy to be influenced by outside sources.

The best way to foster a positive happy attitude is to do and experience and live positive happy events (like not watching the news every day), but there is a catch. You have to work at it. It does not come seeking you.

Now get out there and pursue your happiness.

PS - You go girl! Woo! Hoo! And Horton too!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Short Story: Shock Blaster Dark

Coffee: Don’t you smell it, taste it - yearn for it? Don’t you want some, right now, before you start reading this short story? I know I do, but why stop at one mug? The flame for this short story comes from three sparks. Spark one is H. P. Lovecraft, that master of the Cthulhu Mythos able to get under your skin and give you a sleepless night if you read too much of his work all at once. Spark two is deep appreciation for coffee, a need for coffee, okay - a dependence and addiction of coffee. Spark three is a canister of "Shock" coffee I saw in Ottawa one year. It promised hyper-caffeinated pleasure in an amygdaloidal shape. It was not wrong. So sit back with your pot of coffee (this story is about 2500 words long) and enjoy. But careful, too much may not be a good thing.


Shock Blaster Dark
by Paul Darcy

It happened during my third mug of the almighty elixir of life: coffee. But this was no ordinary coffee. I was skeptical and suspicious of the canister of hyper-caffeinated synthetic coffee beans labeled ‘Shock Blaster Dark’ that I had found at the mall. This product, purporting to have thirty times the caffeine equivalent of espresso beans, had immediately grabbed my undivided attention. I knew from my own experimenting that such an amalgamate, synthetic or otherwise, should not be possible in any sort of bean form, or so I believed.

The canister of "Shock Blaster Dark’, which forever altered my life, was standing forefront in one of those chinchy center aisle mall displays, the kind set up during Christmas to part foolish people from their money. But it was still three months till the Yuletide season. This center aisle display stood alone and looked hastily erected, products haphazardly displayed. The conspicuous canister of coffee beckoned to me like a Siren’s call.

I was the moth. It was the flame. Resistance was futile.

The sign over the stall read ‘Nephren’s Novelties’. The tall thin black man attending the stall peddled a variety of oddments including an assortment of Egyptian looking trinkets, but I ignored them, my soul irrevocably drawn to that canister of synthetic pleasures promising Nirvana. The canister’s label was taped on and obviously printed using a cheap dot matrix color printer. The price of seven-fifty for this half-pound of dehydrated dark roasted ambrosia seemed far too inexpensive for something as concentrated and potentially stimulating as this.

How did I know this? I am the world’s most intensely addicted caffeine addict. I have no certificate to prove my claim, but to all who know me or know of me, this declaration is undisputed.

Unable to control my limbs, I trembled like a heroine addict as I snatched the canister from its resting place. If anyone had been watching me, they would have been reminded of Gollum and the ring. How many cocaine addicts would switch, I wondered, if this product lived up to the advertising potential printed on the label. Holding my precious canister of ‘Shock Blaster Dark’ I noticed that I had obtained the last one. I thanked whatever god had left it there for me.

I purchased the canister and took it home, post-haste. You see, no amount of caffeine could satisfy my cravings and this unexpected treasure filled my heart with glee. I had tried it all before. The closest I came to an apotheosis was the day I ate one hundred chocolate-covered espresso beans in twenty minutes and washed them down with eight cups of my own personally distilled caffeine extract made from pulverized Columbian bean hearts and atomized Coca-Cola syrup. It had almost happened then. I was so close I nearly died of despair, but I would never give up because I knew that one day I would find the way. All I needed was a dose of caffeine concentrated and pure enough to find the entrance into the Other and become one with the cosmic all. ‘Shock Blaster Dark’ seemed, if not the solution, at least another viable avenue for me to try.

Once home I wasted no time. I peeled back the vacuum seal of the canister. It hissed open like the sweet whisper from a lover’s lips. The escaping aroma sent my already shaking body into near convulsions of bliss. My head felt light and my heart beat more quickly. Controlling myself as best I could, I ground up a quarter of the synthetic beans and set the water boil. By the time the kettle whistled I had transferred the grounds to the filter, licking my fingers clean of any residue. I brewed a large carafe which, I might add, smelled so heavenly that I felt as though my entire body was made of scent receptors and this the sweetest perfume ever created. I felt surrounded by the aroma of the gods. If the great white bearded old one himself used underarm deodorant, this would be his fragrance.

When the coffee had stopped oozing through the filter like liquid gold into the carafe, I knew that I was on to something good.

I didn’t know how good, but was dying to find out. Dipping the last of my mocha bagel into my wide rimmed stainless steel thermally insulated mug, I started refill number three. What happened then really didn’t surprise me. I was only mystified as to why this had never happened to me before. I had tried countless times to reach the Other before but had always met with failure. This time was different. This time it was the real thing.

I was ecstatic as my vision began to fuzz. I could perceive movement around corners and in shadows. The sensation was somehow unsettling though, in some sixties kind of lava-lamp way. I knew my body was on the verge of shutting down from such a dose of pure saturated caffeine pleasure and I desperately fought the irrepressible urge to pass out. Must stay alert. Must enter the Other, I said over and over to myself like a maniacal mantra. My blood, I knew, was as close to pure caffeine as possible. ‘Shock Blaster Dark’ was working! My true awakening had come and so my first journey into the Other began.

When the wall of my room started to alter and shift like water flowing across a freshly inked page, I knew I was lurking near the threshold. I could no longer feel the chair beneath me as though it had disappeared. The music of Beethoven, which I had been quietly listening to, began playing itself backwards and I could suddenly see beyond the shadows and corners of my room. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was looking at, not knowing what to expect of the Other. Distant curved surfaces twisted into angles my mind couldn’t quite comprehend and a faint greenish glow bathed the entire scene as though I were peering into some undersea vista. Strands of green waving lines swayed over mammoth angular stones and in a short while I recognized them as long tendrils of kelp swaying undulating in the depths.

Wow! Suddenly it hit me like a baseball bat. The random configurations of ganglia in my skull abruptly metamorphosed into a cogent neural-net of profound understanding. We are not alone. I could sense the being in the Other. It was this entity that I had been seeking all of my life and hadn’t realized the truth until this very moment. He/She/It was ancient and genuine, and I had crossed the boundaries of dreams and into a deeper universal reality. At long last I had reached the Other, a world of intrinsic truth, and was riding in the powerful thought-wake of the ultimate one himself. I drifted upwards along a twisting path just above the angled stones and writhing kelp. Soon I could make out what looked to be the top of a mountain, though top suggests a normal geometry whereas the Other did not lend itself to Euclidian conventions. Should the realm of a god be otherwise? I was not worthy to speculate. I could see a huge monolith set behind a gargantuan set of doors. The monolith was engraved with an image of what I can only describe as a squid-dragon. The massive doors which I was drawn to were carved with things, ineffable things. I will say no more about them. I knew I was to open these doors if I could. The being from the Other was compelling me to try. He/She/It was unjustly confined within and must be released.

But before I could reach the great rings of the titanic portals my awareness began to subside. The sharpness of the Other was fading and the walls of my room superimposed themselves over the images before me. Not long after my apartment walls returned and I left that beautiful place I had so briefly visited. Beethoven reverted to forward normal and man, did I need to piss!

My heart rate was so high, and my limbs so shaky that I knew that I could experiment with ‘Shock Blaster Dark’ no longer that night. Tomorrow was another day and the imprisoned entity would wait for me. I knew He/She/It he wasn’t going anywhere, dreaming under the sea in its salty cyclopean city of seaweed.

That night my bed rocked me to sleep like a sea cucumber tossed gently by deep ocean currents, and visions of pseudopods danced in my head.

The next day I woke late, exhausted but eager to be in the Other again. But some inner voice, some thought residue from He/She/It warned me to wait and built my strength. I knew the warning was right and that before I tried the journey into the Other I would need to fortify my earthly body. The task I needed to perform would require strength, strength my body at this time did not have. The eve of the following day was the Autumnal Equinox and I knew it was important to wait until then. It was as though some message had been transferred to me from He/She/It and I was eager to comply.

So I spent the intervening time preparing for my mission. I bought vitamins, something I had never done before, and herbs, steaks, green vegetables and tofu. I gorged myself and even exercised for the first time in twenty-three years. I was so full of nutrients and minerals and verve by the following eve that my carcass could have sustained a tribe of cannibals for several months.

Finally the appointed time had arrived. The last drop of ‘Shock Blaster Dark’ oozed into my giant carafe and the clock on the wall displayed a mere thirty minutes until the Equinox. I sniffed the vapors, reveled in the aromatic bliss and began to imbibe. With each finished mug I could feel this world slipping away. When some immortal notes of Beethoven played in reverse I knew I was almost there. The walls fuzzed as they had before and I crossed the threshold into the Other once again. I was bathed in green effulgence, more pronounced this time, more urgent. I felt unbelievably complete. The swaying kelp seemed to part at my passing as though I had the power to affect it with my thoughts. I ascended the slope in my dreamlike state with ease. I was on a mission from a god.

I navigated the non-Euclidian stonework, slippery and twisted as it was, as though I had walked this landscape all my life. Even though I knew the Other was somewhere deep under the ocean, maybe even on another world, I could still make out the stars above. Their gyrating oscillations, I suspected, were the result of diffracted light from wave action far overhead on the surface. As a spill over from He/She/Its’ thoughts I knew their configuration held some importance. I knew that I had but one task to accomplish: open the portals and become forever one with the Other as my reward from He/She/It.

I was soon before the huge monolith, gazing upon the squid-dragon’s features, the mighty portals looming directly before me. I studied these ancient barriers for a possible means of ingress. Their size was prodigious and I didn’t know whether I had the strength to move them. Two immense pull rings were the obvious handles with which to swing open the portals and gain complete immersion with the Other through the power of He/She/It. I reached up and grabbed hold of one, but recoiled in pain. My hand was burned. Then I saw why. Welded to the seats of the rings in fine traceries of gold was a five pointed star. In its center I could see a frozen orange flame. It was the power emanating from the star which had caused me pain. I could sense rage from the entity below. I would need to remove the star first if I was to unlock and open the portals.

I looked about for some tool with which to pry this offensive star from its lodging, but all about me was seaweed and slime and gargantuan blocks of stone, not exactly choice levering implements. I knew my time was running out and an extensive search for another solution would take too long. I would need to grab and wrest this thing out with my bare hands.

Barely enough space existed around the star to allow my fingers purchase. I steeled myself and plunged my fingers in on either side of the star. Pain, excruciating pain filled my hands, but I gripped the star with all my strength and began to pull. I screamed, I laughed, I wrenched my burning fingers in all directions trying to extricate the star, but despite my best efforts I could not break it loose. Then hysteria gripped me. A desperate panic so intense, so alive, I almost exploded from the sensation. I knew this feeling was boiling up from He/She/It below, whipping through me in a frenzy. The entity seemed to take hold of my dream body, and with a power I was sure was not solely my own I began to pry more vigorously still. I would not be denied the Other. There was still time. With a final incredible feat of strength and will I tugged and twisted until I heard a loud crack. I stopped and for a moment believed that one of my wrists had broken. But when I looked closely I could see that the noise had issued not from my wrist but from the star. It had cracked. My last wild struggle had broken the star, but it remained in place. I was drained of energy, unable to pull anymore and I was slipping from the Other. He/She/It screamed in my mind to obey, but I was receding rapidly, unable to do its bidding.

The walls of my apartment formed around me again. I had returned to my world. I would not become one with the Other this day. My last cup of ‘Shock Blaster Dark’ had spilled from the cup and onto my hands.

I had failed.

In a mad scramble I raced to the mall. It was open for half an hour more, but ‘Nephren’s Novelties’ was gone and all those I talked to, including the security guards, could not confirm that there had ever been a stall fitting the description I gave. What madness was this? ‘Shock Blaster Dark’ I screamed until I was forcibly evicted.

Nearing my apartment, I watched as a figure ran swiftly down the steps of my building and fled into a side ally. He reminded me of someone.

Back inside my apartment I could find no trace of ‘Shock Blaster Dark’. I could not find the canister. My carafe and coffee mug were spotless, and the place I had spilled the coffee scrubbed clean. Even its heavenly aroma had dissipated. Then I suddenly identified the fleeing figure in my mind. It was the black man from ‘Nephren’s Novelties’. He had obviously paid me a visit to remove all traces of his brew. But why?

I still strive through my own concoctions to reach the Other though I am doubtful that I will ever visit there again. The potency of ‘Shock Blaster Dark’ I have never been able to duplicate. And still, I never pass a mall without going inside and searching the aisles.

One day, someone, I or perhaps another, will become one with the Other and set free He/She/It who is unjustly imprisoned.

But oh, how I want it to be me!

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Weird Science: Great Sailing Balls

Four! Ever hear that behind you on the golf course, followed shortly by a four-letter F word of your own as that long drive nearly hits you? Why is it that golf balls can travel so far anyway - several hundreds of yards? Today, briefly, we will examine those balls to see why.

The first golf balls were actually smooth. But golfers of long ago, as proficient today with four letter F words as we are, found that scuffed up balls traveled farther than new smooth ones. They quickly began to hammer small dents into new balls to make them travel farther. Strange but true fact. But why is that so?

Well it has to do with aerodynamics and boundary layers. You see the golf ball must push its way through the air as it sails toward the green, water, sandtrap, back of another golfer’s head, or the nearby interstate - depending on your skill level.

And a ball traveling through air has a boundary layer of air surrounding it - a skin if you will of air clinging to the ball. There are two types of boundary layers. One is turbulent and the other is laminar or smooth. A dimpled golf ball sailing through the air has a turbulent boundary layer while a smooth ball has a laminar one clinging to it.

Now, a golf ball with turbulent boundary layer will cause less of a wake (like that of a boat in water) than a smooth ball. And this wake effect, dealing with pressure differentials on the front and back of the sailing gall, makes all the difference in how far it will go. The dimpled one wins easily, able to travel twice the distance as a smooth one.

So, if dimples are so great, how many is too many or not enough? Well, there is no actual ideal number, but the number of dimples that work best comes in between 300 to 500. Way more than Shirley Temple. And the more dimples you try to put on a golf ball past 500, the closer the golf ball gets to becoming smooth and you defeat the effect.

So, the next time you are playing with your balls, you will have a better understanding of why they can sail so far after you whack them. . . .

Ummm, that could have been worded better.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Mystery Book Review: Knots & Crosses

Well, this is definitely a departure in my reading patterns. This novel, Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin, is my first dive into the genre of pure detective fiction. And what an exhilarating first plunge - like a swan dive into an empty pool, but in a very good way.

This is the first novel in the long and well known (to those into detective fiction that is) Rebus series. Actually touted on the cover as "Rankin and Rebus" so people like myself will know what to look for on the bookstore shelf. Good marketing for good books.

The main character is somewhat recognizable - he drinks too much, is divorced with one daughter, fantasizes about women and scores on occasion (go Rebus!), smokes too much but is trying to quit, not afraid to break the law, steals when it suits him, hangs around with some of the wrong crowd, etc. No, the main character is not your local politician, but John Rebus and he works as an Inspector for the police in Edinburgh.

Being the first novel we naturally want to know all about the protagonist, and Rankin does not disappoint. In fact this novel deals with Rebus more than the actual murders and we get insights into his past, his relatives, his inner self and those he used to associate with. And it is very well done. The murder plot gets tangled up directly with his family and becomes personal and ends with a satisfying conclusion. All in all a worthy book with good writing and no extraneous drivel.

I can’t say any more about the details in case you want to read it (I suggest you do) but I will mention one more thing about the actual book itself. The cover and binding is top notch, at least the Orion paperback versions I own and have seen. These "Rankin and Rebus" paperbacks are a pleasure to hold and read and even the texture of the covers is unusual. It is almost silk-like. More marketing genius, and not unappreciated by me for sure.

So when you read this book you will be compelled to read them all as I am. I’m pretty sure of that. And you have a total (so far) of 15 novels of Rebus to sink your teeth into. I’m glad I took a friend’s advice and decided to read it. Now, I will be on to the next 14.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Musings: Ode To A Ruffled Grouse

I have murdered!

And I have done so more than once.

And I’ve used three different guns to do my murdering with. A single shot .22 rifle, a Remington breakdown 4:10 and a Lakefield 12 gage shotgun - three in the clip, one in the chamber.

It was quite a few years ago now, but I still can see, in my minds eye, the head of each of my targets penetrated by hyper-velocity lead. Lethal lead released by my calculated actions.

My hand pulling the trigger each time, and each time another life snuffing out.

Every time I think back on it I feel pain and guilt.

Those poor ruffled grouse and spruce hens. I did eat them, but still.

I would take back those actions if I could. But we do not live in the world of H. G. Wells, and so my actions must stand. I would not kill again in that fashion. I swear I would not. Life, any life, is far too precious a thing to be so cruelly extinguished for no-good reason.

I have learned that we all make mistakes. Some of them we should atone for, and others, less severe, we should learn from. Those who never learn from their errors have either retreated into a shell so as to never make then again, or are too thick or afraid to analyze their actions. They will follow others with hardly a thought of their own. You could say they have been murdered by their own hand.

What is that, over there in the grass?

There, on the fields in your mind, stalking through the grass, unseen, unheard, waiting for your unsuspecting bare foot to get close enough. And it is never where you can see it, but always behind you no matter which way you turn. It scares the hell out of me. But these are waking dreams, not the kind visited upon me at 3:00 a.m. (most popular alien abduction time).

And if there were aliens visiting us, wouldn’t you think we would "really" know it - crop circles and missing time episodes aside? Or is that not even the point? We love the unknown, deep down in the dark crinkled-up lobs of our brain, but with that love comes fear as well. Most likely ingrained in our DNA when we lived predominantly in trees and feared the big cats, the ones that slink quietly through the tall grass until it’s too late for you or your mate. Leaping muscle, sinking fangs and. . . .

Another snuffed out. But for food, not fun.

But we, as a race, have learned.

We are still here.

Not all living things have been exterminated.

Life goes on.

And it is wonderful to behold.

I am glad I’ve hung up my guns for good.

Those who control their own lives do so without force.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Short Story: Those Babbling Blades

I’ve never smoked drugs my entire life. Only at specific times and when I was much younger. . . . And no, they never spoke to me, not directly. But there was a message to be found hidden there in that experimentation, a lesson to be learned about life. I don’t suggest to anyone that they try them - it is an utter waste of money, brain cells and life. Find a better teacher to enrich your life, think for yourself and enjoy the company and friendship of others. Life is a transient, fickle flame and there are far too many ready to blow it out on you. This story is short. It has a point. I hope you enjoy it.


Those Babbling Blades
by Paul Darcy

The grass started speaking Yiddish in the summer of ‘77.

It wasn’t so much the banter, it wasn’t so much the language, it wasn’t so much this particular crop. It was more the ‘why now of all times?’ And of all things it could have said, and in any language it could have spoken, I would have expected screaming instead of chatter. It was, after all, burning, wrapped in export cigarette paper and pinched cruelly with an alligator clip. Maybe smoldering would have described it better. I could see tendrils of smoke curling away from it like the twisting trail of a doomed fighter. Still, it shouldn’t have been talking calmly in Yiddish. It shouldn’t have been talking at all. The whole damn situation felt somehow, strange. But this was my fifth so everything seemed at least a little strange.

I know what you are thinking, auditory hallucination. No, I retort emphatically. I was intimately familiar with hallucinations, auditory or otherwise and this was nothing of the sort. But I stray from the point, or should I say joint, in hand. What was left of my reefer was speaking to me and I didn’t quite know what to do.

So, wanting to stop the torture I had inflicted upon this innocent weed, I pinched out the smoldering parts with my fingers though it kept right on talking, in Yiddish, as though nothing at all was the matter. I wondered what would have happened had I let it burn away to nothing? Burning, Yiddish. There was a morbid and historical connection between those two words though I couldn’t quite nail it down. I believed I was on the verge of solving the mystery, but like I mentioned earlier this was my fifth and I was feeling a little strange.

I began to focus, as best I could, on why number 5 would start to talk and Yiddish of all the languages on earth? Why not Arabic, Spanish, French or even Hungarian for that matter. And why to me of all people and why now? God, how the universe is filled with mysteries too deep to fathom with any hope of clear insight, especially when you are feeling a little strange. So I looked at my situation from another angle. Perhaps it wasn’t something the grass had done but something I had done. Maybe the power to bring life to grass and make it talk was within me, unlocked by my many years of communing with nature by inhaling the burnt carcases of grass. I may have been transformed into a half plant, half human. Could it be a least partially true that you are what you smoke?

But no, this was the stuff of science fiction, and besides could I, even had I the power, teach grass a language I myself did not know? So there had to be another explanation, one more mundane, one more founded in the rigors of science. Maybe the seeds popping in the burning joint merely simulated the sounds of speech. Perhaps this particular batch of weed seeds popped in such a fashion when burned as to mimic in almost perfect simulation, Yiddish. But I saw the flaw in this theory almost at once. The joint no longer burned, the seeds no longer popped, and the grass swaddled in export cigarette paper continued to babble.

I had been quietly listening and thinking up till then and decided a direct confrontation and experimentation was now the order of business. I cleared my throat lifted the reefer with the roach clip close to my face and addressed the grass within. It stopped its chatter for a moment as if listening, then began again. Its tone subtly changed. I believed it to be a blind thing and imagined myself in its place. Darkness, cold, well maybe not cold especially during the smoldering bits, but lonely without direction, purpose or motive. A drifting something biding its time and saving its energy for generations to call out from the void and try to reach another sentient soul and convey its utter misery. Maybe not. How could I be sure of anything.

So we conversed in a manner, I talking slow sonorous English in my state of a little strangeness, it spoke fluent, for what else could it be, Yiddish. Then its tone and inflection began to change and I was reminded of a speech I had seen on TV. It was trying to tell me of its origins, link itself not with words but with meaning to what it was that all people should know. What was it, Seinfeld, Captain Picard, and then I had it?

By God I had it, and I shivered to the bone.

It was the charismatic and mesmerizing speech patterns that could have emanated from only one man, sending cold fear down through time. Adolf Hitler. My addled and befuddled mind slowly fit the pieces together into a coherent whole and what I found left me sober and cold. This batch of weed I knew had come from overseas. Now I had a pretty good idea from where it had originated. This weed had been grown on soil fertilized by the lives of a million Jews, brutally murdered by a madman’s dream. And I, seemingly no better, had put those same molecules to the torch once more.

That message had come to me in ‘77, and I knew it was time to move on from my idle life of degradation and worthlessness and better myself and all mankind. Had a million dead Jews not spoken to me of life, I would have spent what days I had left slowly sinking into death. I had seen the embers of hate and pain and suffering and knew life was a gift far too precious to burn away.

I buried the remains of that batch of weed under an oak tree, and I swear that oak tree prospered like never before. I still go back to that tree each year and collect the acorns and plant them where I can.

The summer of ‘77 had changed the outlook of my life forever.

The year the grass spoke Yiddish.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Weird Science: Inertia

Ah, inertia. We all have it, especially at night sitting on the couch reading a book or watching a show and not wanting to move for anything. But maybe that is sloth, not inertia. So what is inertia then? Well inertia is defined as the tendency of an object to resist changes in its state of motion. Still sounds like sloth, doesn’t it?. But lets clarify a bit. What is meant by "state of motion?" Well, the state of motion of an object is defined by its velocity, so we could reword inertia like so - the tendency of an object to resist changes to its velocity. All matter has velocity. If something is not moving, it is still considered to have velocity - a velocity of zero.

So who was the nutcase that started thinking about inertia and defining (through words and mathematics) what it actually means? Well, the nutcase was Isaac Newton (1642 - 1727). And let’s just say Isaac was not a couch potato. This abnormally intelligent and motivated individual was the antithesis of inertia in every form. If you ever (I hang my head in shame because I haven’t - yet) read his "Philosophae Naturalis Principia Mathematica" (published in 1687), you will find inside his three laws of motion. What is it with individuals named Isaac setting down three laws anyway? . . .

Newton’s (I’ll use Newton not Isaac from now on so as not too confuse) first law was defined by him as "every body persists in its state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed upon it." These bodies are said to be in equilibrium with a constant velocity until they are subjected to unbalanced forces. Now it could be argued that I am unbalanced, but while I am on the couch reading my book at night, I can be considered to be in equilibrium because thoughts are not considered matter, so that kind of unbalance is not dealt with in Newton’s first law. Freud, however, may have so notes on this matter. . . . But I digress.

So now that we know my body is in equilibrium on the couch, we may want to know why that is so. Well, my body is being subjected to balanced forces and therefore my velocity is unchanged. Gravity is pulling me into the couch cushions and the couch is pushing me back up. Equal and opposite forces keep my body in a constant state of velocity. Now for me to actually move, some unbalanced force must give me a shove and overcome my inertia, or I must use my muscles to do the work. And my wife, at times, knows how hard that can be. And the larger the mass of the object, the harder it is to overcome its inertia as well. And no, I will not step on the scales.

Without getting into diagrams and mathematics, I think inertia is pretty well defined here. I’ll just settle back on the couch now, grab up a novel, and use my inertia to resist any unbalanced forces coming my way.

Tune in next Sunday for another exciting, exhilarating, fun and educational Weird Science article. . . .

Well - educational anyway.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Science Fiction Book Review: Robots In Time (Dictator)

This book, Robots In Time (Dictator), is the fourth of a six book series written by William F. Wu and deals with Asimov’s robots and their adventures in time. In short this, and the other five novels by Wu in this series, are concerned with the three laws of robotics and six specific times in human history. If you don’t know what I’m talking about and you like science fiction, you really must go out and read the Robot novels by Isaac Asimov. But if you are continuing to read this review, you most likely already know his work and are curious about this Robots In Time Series.

There are three series I know of which are not written by Asimov, but deal exclusively with his robots and the three laws of robotics. The first series written was Robot City (1 -6), then came Robots In Time (1-6) and lastly Robots And Aliens (1-6). Asimov himself gave his okay for certain other writers to explore his concepts. Asimov’s short story "Robot Visions" was the inspiration for Robots In Time.

In Robots In Time (Dictator) we are transported back in time (by a time machine - a.k.a. story convention so don’t try to figure it) to the Russian front during world war two. Its cold, dismal, and the escaped robot MC 4 (long story, but you don’t really need to know it) must be recaptured by Hunter (a humaniform robot) and three humans. There is also another roboticist (Dr. Nystrom the creator of the MC robots) trying to find and recapture the escaped MC 4 as well. He shows up as the foil in all six books and in this one he is accompanied by a robot as well.

I would class this book as a young adult novel. William F. Wu does a good job, though it is nothing like Asimov’s originals, of depicting robots and how they deal with the contradictions and situations which can arise from conforming to the three laws of robotics. Suffice to say that this novel dealing with world war two, Russians and Germans, is entertaining but not too heavy. An easy read that is fairly enjoyable. If you approach these novels as young adult books, you will have nothing to be upset about. If you were expecting classic Asimov, I’m afraid you are going to be disappointed.

Bottom line is - fun, light, and something to pass the time. Not a real page turner, mind expanding read, but it never pretends to be. For reference I’ll list all six titles in case you get the urge to collect (like I do all the time). So in order,

Robots In Time (Predator)
Robots In Time (Marauder)
Robots In Time (Warrior)
Robots In Time (Dictator)
Robots In Time (Emperor)
Robots In Time (Invader)

Friday, June 10, 2005

Musings: Your Destiny, With Fries Or Without?

My Random House (I like the Random part) Dictionary defines destiny as: Something that is to happen to a particular person or thing, the predetermined course of events. Sounds all very limiting and oppressive to me - might as well throw in a mandatory biggy fries as well. But does life, your life, need to take such a rigid preordained journey? Or can you grab it by the short ones and steer it yourself?

I think the answer to that question would fill several billions of books (one for each of us), and the only author capable of writing your personal book would be yourself. And if you believe that, you are one step closer to how you want to perceive and live your life and one step further away from the biggy fries.

But how does destiny fit into the picture of life? Well, I will explore two views on it, and though they are diametrically opposed, they both lead in the same uplifting direction.

Let’s say that everything is predestined. Every ant, every wind, and every abscessed tooth was going to exist and live out their destiny exactly as it should, without any change at all from the start (if you believe in the Big Bang) or no start (if you believe in the open Universe concept of - it is, it was, it ever shall be in an endless continuum of no beginning and no end). The start doesn’t matter too much right now since we are in the middle of the story. Theoretically then, if you had the means (which nobody or repute does, sorry Nostrodomos - too cryptic and sorry Bible - same problem) to see all things which will be, life would not be very exciting or worth it. You could quickly determine, if it was your destiny, that you are going to be an accountant, marry an idiot and die of some wasting, hideous disease at forty two. Now tell me, how fun is that?

The other theory would be that almost everything is changeable. I say almost everything, because if certain things could change or be changed (like the charge on an electron, or the cosmological constant, or the Starbucks and Tim Horton coffee formulae) we would very quickly be unable to live in this spacetime continuum. A rather unpleasant thought, at least to me. I kind of like it here. So given those parameters, we as human beings (and ants too, and everything else for that matter) either have a freedom to choose, or are exposed to random activities, and things are not a destiny, but rather a series of somewhat controllable events which we can guide. Hey, did you just get a rush too? Now isn’t that the place you want to live in? It starts looking like you don’t really need to have those biggy fries shoved down your throat at all if you don’t want them. And that perception is a positive, good thing.

Now for the thrilling conclusion. If either theory is correct, destiny or no destiny, we still have a very important decision to make. How we react. And I truly believe it is how we view and respond to the universe around us that controls our destiny. (This statement seems contradictory, but bear with me)

I think this ability to choose your reaction was typified in the scene between Vader and Luke. Vader was busy telling Luke, "it is your destiny" the negative stentorian voice of the inevitable. Luke was busy holding on for dear life (a neat little image there) and basically telling Vader to stuff his negative vibes where the light saber don’t shine. In fact, I think Luke didn’t so much as let go because he was tired and trapped, but let go to give Vader the finger. He would have used his other hand, but as you know he was kind of missing it at that point in the movie.

For every thing that happens to you, or you choose (illusion or reality it makes no difference) to make happen, you can decide how to react to it.

You can behave like you have no choice, that you are a born loser, that the universe is out to get you. Or you can behave like you have a choice, that you are a born winner, and that the universe is neither for you nor against you but is a playground in which almost anything you set your positive mind to doing is achievable.

Ultimately, you have the power to decide how to react.

It is your choice, not your destiny.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Short Story: Four And Twenty Bad Words

Ever find a piece of paper in a used book, some time stained scribbling from a long dead hand? Well I did. And it was in a book of nursery rhymes I picked up for my daughter. But what I found was disturbing, horrible even, and forever changed my view of those fairy tale lands and enchanting stories. I’ll say no more but let you read what was scribbled on that parchment tucked into the pages. I turned it into a short story but left the names unchanged. And yes, this story does fit the category of "Twisted." I hope you enjoy it.


Four And Twenty Bad Words
by Paul Darcy

Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall. Bloody stupid if you ask me. If you were an egg would you prop yourself up on a wall overlooking a hard surface on purpose? Well, would you? Only if you had a death wish I say. You are thinking that maybe Humpty did? I’m sure he was put there against his will, was too frightened to say anything and when he couldn’t take it anymore, he jumped.

You know who did this deed, don’t you? Well if you don’t know, I’ll tell you though me fate may be the same. The king and all his men. But they tried to put him together again, right? Wrong! Oh sure they made as if to put him together again, but they didn’t really try. I saw the whole thing plain as day.

I was pushed aside, told to wait, the king’s men and horses were doing all they could. Horses. Just think about that for a moment. Hooves. Not very good at piecing together small white splinters of eggshell if you ask me, and here were the king’s men denying access to those who could have made a real difference while they let their horses muck about with poor Humpty’s shattered remains. A complete and purposefully botched job. But who can gainsay a king? Not me, and I’m not even going to try publicly though I’ve grumbled enough after the incident that I’m sure they are on to me.

Which brings me to why the dish ran away with the spoon. No reason given, right? Well let’s take a look at some forgotten facts. The cow jumped over the moon to escape the laughing dog. Upon reflection that’s how I see it. Nobody trusts or likes that mutt much. He is crazed for sure, fed and trained by the king, and the dish knew it. It took the dish a long time to convince the spoon to bolt. You see the spoon wasn’t afraid of the dog. The dog could chew and chew but the spoon, she’s stainless and could take the worst punishment from his molars. The dish on the other hand, though microwave and dishwasher safe, was not indestructible and could be chewed to the point of fracture. And not wanting to be left alone in the big wide world coerced the spoon into joining him. They were long time friends and spent much time together. There may be other motives to it, but I stick to the most obvious.

Little Miss Muffet, now there’s a sad story here. Not really afraid of spiders at all, though she convinced her friends that she was. I know better. It was all a ruse, carefully planned and executed to look like the spider scared her away. You want the plain truth. Her wicked step mother, the king’s sister, fed her only curds and whey after she herself ate the best food with the food coupon allotted to her on Miss Muffet’s behalf. So, by convincing her friends and neighbors that she was terrified of spiders, Miss Muffet carefully orchestrated the encounter with the spider so as to have a legitimate reason for leaving her step mother and never coming back. I hear she is in Neverland now, and doing quite well.

That little pig that went wee wee wee all the way home. Hell, I don’t know nothing about him, honest. And I’m not going to be guilty about liking the flame broiled double bacon cheese burger one bit. And for only a wee wee wee bit more you can get fries with it as well.

And don’t talk to me about magic beans or plums in pies. Who ever heard of a plum pie anyway. I mean really, there is plum pudding, plum cake, plum juice and even sugar plum fairies, but plum pie? Who are you trying to kid?

And don’t try to cover up for that lackadaisical, no good for nothing slacker Bo Peep. I mean watching sheep was left to the youngest of children hundreds of years ago and even today, and she couldn’t even find one? Come on, for Christ’s sake, sheep aren’t exactly stealth creatures capable of hiding in fields. They are bloody white like clouds, on green grass, and slow and dumb and only interested in eating grass. So how come Bo Peep lost them? Pure negligence, that’s what I say.

And who is her dad?

Do I need to say it.

Okay, I’ll say it.

The king!

And being the spoiled brat that she was she just plain didn’t want to look after them. She was too busy flirting with Little Boy Blue. And it was no surprise that when Bo Peep finished with Boy Blue by the haystacks he was fast asleep and her sheep were lost. They had plenty of time wander away. She didn’t care where they were anyhow. Leave them alone and they will come home was what the king advised. What lame-ass excuse to use on the sheep’s owners. But she had the backing of the king and everything was smoothed over. She should be doing time now for this botched job. Sure, the sheep did come home, but they have some responsible person looking after them now, not some cow-eyed flirting tart interested in scoring with Boy Blue. Nepotism makes me sick. Now where was I?

Most pies are baked at roughly 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or more. Now I may not be Einstein or even Laplace, two very brilliant people from our fairy tales, but someone help me here. What bird could withstand that kind of temperature for 30 minutes, let alone being bound in pastry with only the smallest of breathing holes poked through the top. Black birds? Oh please. So who started the sad rumor about 4 and twenty of them flying out of a baked pie? Is this the same king who’s men propped Humpty up for his big fall? Hey, I say it is. So who could trust a king that blatantly abuses the laws of science for his own ends and let’s his men assassinate a valued member of the community? I don’t, not one bit.

If I could find the country the dish ran off too I might join him, not to cut in on his spoon action, but to get away from this goofy land and its evil tyrant. So you still don’t see conspiracies every where you look, eh? How about that old woman with the droves of kids. And living in a shoe? That’s just pushing credibility too bloody far. I mean the largest shoe I ever saw could maybe hold one small infant, but a drove of kids? The king uses this one, says he is supporting her and her children as a token of his good will towards the poor.

And nobody I know has ever seen her, that imaginary shoe or the hundreds of alleged kids. And that many kids would make noise throughout the countryside, impossible to hide. Lies, all lies. Please again. Same kingdom here folks, same seedy king. And when he is not busy fostering these horrible lies he is treading the streets naked like he is wearing a million dollar suit and proclaiming himself Emperor or other. And I will not keep my voice down. This charade has gone on far too long.

Wolves blowing down houses made of straw and sticks? Now arguably wolves have larger lung capacity than the average person, but you try blowing down a straw house, even one poorly constructed. Hell, I’ll be there to take pictures. Hell, first one to do it with lung power alone I’ll write a personal check for 1000 dollars. No takers, eh? Not even the king? How about some of his men? I thought so.

I have much to say, and I fear my time is short. I can hear the horses hooves from all the king’s men already. When you see me on the wall, you know the one, know it wasn’t my idea, even if I’m smiling. And when I finally tumble off to my death, and you see those who put me there mulling about like they are trying to help, know this. They are there only to ensure my demise. It happens to all of us eventually. Those of us who learn the truth, the truth about the king and his lies and his seedy henchmen. I may not live out the day, but if you recover these notes maybe you can spread the word, carry it to distant lands less corrupt, less eager to believe the lies. Maybe one of them will take up arms and stop the horrors here.

I’m afraid I can’t write any more for I can clearly see the king’s men now coming quickly down the road, and Oh this steams my potatoes, that laughing treacherous dog is with them. I will hide this under the nearest stone and hope they don’t see me. Damn, but I am too young to die, but all I have said needed saying. If you find this please pass it on, and for the love of truth do not let any of the king’s men see it. Take this out of the land as soon as you can. This land which was once pure, now tainted by that king and all he stands for.

Yours truly,

Humpty’s youngest son,

Lumpty.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Weird Science: Superstring Theory

Oye - talk about reality being stranger than fiction. This topic is sure to give your head a spin, but will that spin be three halves (like a Graviton), or negative one half (like a Wino), or something in-between? And have I completely lost my mind? Let’s examine Superstring Theory and find out.

So, just what is Superstring Theory anyhow? Well Superstring Theory is one possible unified theory of all fundamental forces including quantum gravity which is the problem child (we will deal with him in a minute). In order for Superstring Theory to be what it is, it needs to reside in 10 dimensional spacetime or ghosts (quantum states with non physical negative probabilities) become part of the landscape. See, much stranger than fiction.

And keep in mind (appropriate term, no?) that Superstring Theory is "theoretical" right now since there is no direct evidence of strings - yet. And why is there no direct evidence of stings? Well, gravity, the problem child (we are dealing now), to be included in the theory makes the strings so small that no particle accelerator yet created can detect them. So to include a theory of everything and not leave out quantum gravity the theory predicts string lengths to be somewhere near the length scale of quantum gravity, better known as Planck’s length. Head rotating yet? Mine is.

Okay, so how long is Planck’s length? It is a mere millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a centimeter. And you though short and curlies were small! Way too small in fact to be seen experimentally right now and nobody is going to finance a machine that can detect them - yet. So, what to do? Well, theorists are not to be denied, so they theorize what we would see if strings really exist in 10 dimensional spacetime by looking for their effects. Keep in mind this theory must result in the 4 dimensional world we observe and live in. (Although, I must admit to residing in one of the other 7 dimensions once in a while - and yes, Elvis is there.)

Two main contenders exist right now. In this corner we have Klauza Klein Compactification; seven dimensions rolled up (like the rim of a Tim Horton’s coffee cup) into an incredibly small strange, interesting little place all their own. And in the other corner we have Braneworlds; seven dimensions so unbelievably big but allowing matter and gravity to propagate in three dimensional space called a three brane (where we live). And the winner is - Tylenol helping millions overcome headaches. And right now my ‘brane’ is starting to hurt. . . .

Actually the winner is an attribute of either Superstring Theory contender called Supersymmetry. Supersymmetry states that the strings are closed loops (like necklaces or rubber bands) and have super partner pairs between bosons (force carrying particles) and fermions (particles that make up matter). And now for the head spinning conclusion.

Well, whether Braneworld (seven huge dimensions) or Klauza Klein Compactification (seven tiny dimension) Theory is the best is yet to be detected experimentally. And instead of definite answers, we are left with many more questions like - what is really the best theory? - why is the cosmological constant zero, or close to it? - what are the cosmological ramifications of the theories? - and why, after every laundry day, do we seem to lose one of a pair of socks?

It looks as though with all the work being done in the field of Superstring Theory, that the answers to these questions may come as soon as ten years. But until that time I am popping some Tylenol and trying not to think about it. Oye!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Fantasy Book Review: Voyage Of The Fox Rider

Written by Dennis L. McKiernan, this fantasy book is one of many set in his created world of Mithgar series. This particular tale takes place mostly on the high seas - hence the "Voyage" in the title. The Fox Riders are exactly that - riders of foxes, little mythical people, hidden ones, human like in form but very small - Ummm, small enough to ride on foxes. Oh, and they are immortal, can create shadows hide in and shoot bows with deadly poison that none can duplicate, etc. . . .

Starting to sound all very "fantasy novel" standard fair? Well, this book is no exception. Throw in a good mage, a bad mage, a seer, an elf captain sailing a legendary ship, fighting dwarves, trolls, vile orc-like creatures, people that live in the sea. . . . you get the picture. Overall this book was not hard or complicated reading and fairly enjoyable, more so if you have read the previous Mithgar novels making this one more journey to an already familiar place - this novel paints a detail on the larger canvas of his Mithgar works, though it can stand alone without having ever read any of the previous novels.

Now for some quibbles and bits. One of the main characters, a fox rider named Jinnarin, and another main character, the good mage Alamar, have what I can only describe as forced, unbelievable arguments most of the way through the book. I know you are supposed to suspend your disbelief and live the world you are reading, but when two characters on stage are arguing for the sake of having some character conflict, it gets tired fast and detracts from the story. I see no point to it except to have conflict for conflict’s sake. Otherwise the tale itself, though I felt the pacing was off a little more than it was on, is pretty solid, enjoyable and you get swept along on the journey to its climactic world changing end.

But do not be fooled. This is no Lord Of The Rings. But it is a lighter satisfying tale of adventure and no surprise to the seasoned Fantasy reader. If you are like me (scary thought, no?), you will want to start the Mithgar tales at the beginning if you are going to read McKiernan at all. With that in mind read the Iron Tower trilogy first, then the Silver Call dualogy, then Dragondoom, then The Eye Of The Hunter, before this work.

So do I recommend it? Hmmm. Tough call. If you are familiar with fantasy and want a fairly quick read with no real surprises, go for it. If not, I would suggest you give this a pass.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Musings: Winston - Leader, Motivator, Dead Guy

I’ll start off this rambling with a quote by Wayne Gretsky (hockey player). Stay tuned for Winston’s quote at the end.

"You’ll miss 100% of the shots that you never take."

Pretty astute observation from a man who’s head hit the ice a few too many times - once or twice without a helmet even. But he has it dead on. If you don’t take the chance - don’t make the attempt - you are guaranteed failure. But life doesn’t always present to you a net to shoot your puck into. Sometimes you need to search for it first. And what at first appears to be a door can end up being a window instead - like at open banks where one door always seems to be locked.

Now one from Henry Ford (car making mogul guy).

"Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t. . . . you’re right."

Clever little quote there Henry. And again, dead on with a few common sense limitations of course. Believing I can go over Niagara Falls, blindfolded and in the nude and survive to tell the tale is one thing, actually making it through alive is another. Sorry for the previous sentence, but I thought I would use the word nude in this post (twice now) - helps with the search engines. . . . Actually what old Henry was implying is the age old "self fulfilling prophecy" idea. To which I will add - Life is indeed what you make it, at least in your own mind, but to a great degree as well outside that arena if you make it so.

And second to last a neat quote from Calvin Coolridge (philosophical dude man).

"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent."

Wow. What to say about that which is not already said within the quotation marks. If there is ever one underlying secret to success, that quote is it, dead on again. Absolutely nothing gets you where you want to go like persistence and determination. Nothing at all.

And lastly, (now that we know the real secret to success from above), Winston Churchill - Leader, Motivator, Dead Guy.

"Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never give in. . . ."

It is all in the attitude. Attitude can be your life. Pick the right one, take your shots, believe you can, persevere and never give in. Live that and you will find the person you want to be and the fulfilling life you want to live.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Short Story: If At First

Manuals - We don't need no stinking manuals. Isn't this what most men think?


If At First
by Paul Darcy

Three hours and twenty minutes later, Melvin was hyperventilating and trying his best to not put his foot through the picture tube. And it wasn’t even a bloody tube, it was one of those plasma screens. What would happen, should he lose it and actually puncture the screen? Maybe the unit would vent like and Enterprise nacelle when it needed to break loose from some hostile galactic entity or make contact with a hyper-spacial race who could only communicate through exchanging crude physics via sub space. And this inner discussion was not solving his bloody dilemma.

There was a book, perhaps eight by six inches filled with directions for the hookup he was trying to master with logic. Piss on it, he thought, it will not defeat me. Resorting to that manual was for the weak, the uneducated, the inferior. No electronic device had made him search for the answers in some horribly laid out manual. They were all the same anyhow. Filled with schematics depicting everything you needed to know and on the opposite page words in English, or rather garbled quasi-Japanese-Korea-bastardization English like: red plug electrocute ground force. Co-join socket plug initial setting unless unit master three plug no connect. And the brainless warning; No water unit, like he was going to take the whole thing into the tub with him to watch movies.

So, several deep breaths later, Melvin tried again. He unplugged all the wires and cables and laid them out on the couch. He started with the cable box which he routed into the plasma unit, out again to surround sound amp, to sub. So far, so good. Next, old VCR in outs to the amp back into the plasma unit. Check. Dvd player in outs to amp to tv. Check. Now, satellite feed into descrambler, to amp to tv to vcr back to amp. Now all power cords into the octopus plugin and breaker on. Check.

He pushed in a DVD and made sure everything was powered up. The DVD player spun up to speed and... blue plasma screen like a goddamn backdrop for a horror movie where the man in a rubber monster suit had the special model effects put in later. The timer on the DVD was working fine so the disc was spinning, but no frickin picture again. Melvin tried VH-1 VH-2 every one of the 999 channels and still no bloody picture. And, hey, shouldn’t there be some sound.

He cranked up the amp and heard only static, then one massive thump from the sub as some random power shock made it activate violently. Calm, gotta stay calm. Melvin looked over at the manual, that abomination sitting, almost smirking at him from the coffee table. You can laugh all you want you ground up tree scrap but I’ll not flip you open and give you any pleasure.

Four hours and thirty two minutes later and he had sound but now the blue screen had turned to white fuzz. Only the satellite feed was coming through on audio. Sounded like an old Bob Hope movie and his wise cracking voice was grating on his already frazzled nerves. Twice he had hit the manual will all his might, but it deflected his fury like a shield, mocking him, daring him to succumb. But he would not open it. Piss off you pile of crap, Melvin swore at the manual, the tv, the converter box and the next door neighbor who was watching the game on his big screen. From across the street he could almost read the numbers on the player’s sweaters.

Manual reading Wuss, Melvin thought. Bob rerouted another line bringing a clear chorus of laughter through his surround system... all but the center speaker. It was progress, and without that infernal manual.

Melvin, after so many futile rearrangements of the wires began to play a dangerous game. Live cable jockeying. He knew it was wrong. He knew it was dangerous, but by crap, this pile of electronic junk was going to know who was the bloody boss. After nearly blowing his eardrums the first time, he decided that Russian roulette with the amp cranked up, incase he would happen by chance upon a correct hookup, was not a good idea. But after a while, despite the manuals ever present mocking presence, he could toggle, with several quick cable changes sound from satellite and blue screen, or sound from cable box and white fuzz. He even figure out how to get video, on channel 73 from the VCR, but no sound. Soon, bloody soon this crap would be under his control and he would be master of his electronic domain.

Five hours twenty seven minutes and Melvin was down to only his pants, sweating, swearing, raging until the veins were pulsing on his head ready to burst. He had hit the plasma screen once, hard, but it didn’t make him feel any better and because of it he couldn’t get the proper shade of blue screen anymore. Two cables, he was not sure how important they really were, he had bitten in half. He could still taste metal in his mouth but wasn’t sure if it was blood or the copper innards of the cables he had severed.

He stopped for a break. The sub was making a droning hum like a guitar amp cranked up about to blast out feedback. The plasma tv was flickering from white fuzz to grey lines and back again. It had started that shortly after he had jammed in a composite video cable into the optical connector. "You are mine," he swore hurling the beer bottle across his living room. He strode to the manual, picked it up... No, no would not succumb, he would not. He took it in his teeth and shredded the repulsive manual to bits actually masticating some of it and swallowing with the last of his beer. "You bastard equipment" he yelled, wild anger flashing in his eyes. Never before, never, never.

Picking up the plasm tv, it weighed a good hundred and twenty pounds, he let it drop from the stand to the floor. Next he ripped the cables from the amp and threw them onto the couch. And as if in complete mockery, video and audio feed from the DVD suddenly jumped onto the screen. He dropped to his knees, kissing the plasma screen full on. He knew it couldn’t defeat him, it... went to white fuzz again. No... No! You son of a...

Picking up the octopus power cord Melvin sank his teeth into it for all he was worth.

***

"Deranged, and an obvious suicide," was constable Tenants comments for the local paper. "We could find no cause as to why he would electrocute himself, that way. He’d been drinking, maybe on drugs too. We won’t know for sure until after the coroner does the autopsy."

The End