On a more personal note…

There are a lot of reasons why I want action on climate change, but one very personal one is that I hate hot weather. When the temperature gets above 90F, I’m reduced to a puddle of sweat sitting in front of a fan. The prospect of longer, hotter heatwaves as I grow older may well be the grindstone that shapes me into a bitter old man a few decades in the future.

Exits and Entrances is now available!

I’m pleased to announce that my first novel, Exits and Entrances is now available in paperback and e-book formats on Amazon.com! This is the culmination of years of writing, learning, and re-writing, and I’m delighted to have it out!

My publisher described the book as a metaphysical fantasy, and I think that’s a good fit for it. This novel is the first of a trilogy, with book two well underway. I invite you all to read it, and to tell your friends about it.

He had once climbed the stairs of the Empire State Building, and that didn’t take half the time he was spending on these. Anthony was also fairly certain that he knew of no buildings with black marble stairs of such great width. He couldn’t see the walls on either side of him now, just darkness.

Wisps of pale green mist gathered around him, glowing faintly without lending any light to their surroundings. Anthony paused to look back. The stairs behind him were a well of darkness out of which reached faint tendrils of the luminous fog.

After what seemed like hours, he reached a door. It was unquestionably a door. Anthony was utterly certain that it was a door, but he couldn’t tell if it was a normal roof exit door, or a huge wooden door with wrought-iron hinges, or a house door, or a gate. It seemed to be all doors at once. Not flickering exactly, but not remaining in one guise either. Anthony realized that all the doors he had ever seen in his life were merely imitations or reflections of this door. Leaving such a door closed was not an option. Mouth dry and hands sweating, he opened it and stepped through.

Cover art description: A theater with the front two rows of seats visible. There are three stage doors, with a strip of thick blue curtain above them, forming a top frame for the stage. The one on the left opens not to backstage, but to a seascape, with a few seaweed-covered rocks, and a couple flying seagulls. There are some clouds in the sky. The waves are sloshing through the doorway onto the stage, and the water is running down the left side of the stage into the audience. There is one seagull standing on the stage, looking across it. The middle door opens to a hot desert, with distant mountains beyond the dunes. Some of the sand has blown through the doorway onto the stage, extending one of the dunes through the doorway. The third door, on the left, opens to a field at night, with a few flowers in the grass. Not far from the door, the grass meets a body of water, with moonlight reflecting off of it. Beyond the water, is more grass, and a few trees. The night sky in the lefthand door has a moon and clouds, with stars above them. The stars climb up the side of the picture, fading over the strip of curtain, and into a space-scape over the whole picture. Sheets of green aurora light mingle with the stars on the right, and toward the left there are two spiral galaxies, and a glowing nebula.

Fox news on climate

It should come as no surprise to any of my readers that Fox News has a uniformly terrible record when it comes to honest or accuracy on reporting about climate change or climate science. For me, at least, it’s a source of morbid interest – at what point will they stop lying about it? What will it take to get them to that point? How will they go about telling the truth if they do get there? I seriously doubt that if they do start telling the truth, they’ll acknowledge their mistakes or the role they played in making the problem worse. Either way, here’s a fun ad on that subject:

Pascal’s Wager and what non-Christians believe

Continuing the series “Conversations with Strangers, here’s a non-climate one, in response to a Huffington Post blog post on Pascal’s Wager. There are better responses to it out there, but I’m fairly happy with what I wrote:

Me:

Pascal’s wager is a case for dishonesty – you can’t choose to believe, but you can choose to lie and pretend that you believe.

So integrity is one thing that you lose if you accept this argument.

Beyond that, religion changes how you interact with the world. Do you pray over a decision, or do you reason through the pros and cons of it? How do you view people who don’t share your religion? How do you treat them?

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Danger and opportunity

There are a number of resources that are essential to modern society, without that fact being broadly known. My favorite is the blood of horseshoe crabs, which is currently irreplaceable as a detection mechanism for the presence of toxins on any medical equipment or medicines that will be entering the human body through the skin. If horseshoe crabs go extinct, modern medicine will take a big hit. Another such resource is helium. I didn’t know how useful it was until college, and my hunch is that a lot of folks remain ignorant about it throughout their lives.

While it has a large number of uses, arguably the most important use of helium is in its liquid form as a super-coolant, keeping the superconductors of MRIs and NMRs at the temperatures required for the work they do. While I put effort into doing as little lab work as possible during my college years (while doing what was necessary for my biology degree), the importance of the NMR in analyzing substances was clear, and it’s hard for me to imagine how much damage the loss of that technology would do. It wouldn’t cause the downfall of civilization, but it would remove a powerful tool in our efforts to diagnose illness, and to understand the universe we inhabit.

The image shows a cross-section diagram of an MRI scanner. At the center is a white circle - the space that the person being scanned lies. Next are a thin brown circle, a thin purple circle, and a thin blue circle, labeled

MRI diagram

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Frederick Douglass on the 4th of July

Fellow-citizens, pardon me, allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here to-day? What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?

I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you this day rejoice are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence bequeathed by your fathers is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?

What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is a constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to Him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes that would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.

At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and could reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour forth a stream, a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and the crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced.

Go here to hear James Earl Jones reading it. I recommend it.