Monday, September 30, 2013

Riddle This

If you take your age and multiple it by 7, then multiply it by 1,443, the product repeats your age 3 times. For instance, most people say I act like I'm 17. So, take 17, multiply it by 7 and you get 119. Multiply that by 1,443. The product is 171717. Try it with your age.

The universe is a dark and lonely place... unless you are a star.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Word From Our Sponsors... Me!

Alive and well in North Texas.
As my habitual readers know, sometimes I forget what this blog is about. Well, it's a showcase for all things related to science fiction and, certainly not least, a platform to allow me to introduce readers to my books so that I might encourage people to purchase my novels. So, okay, here comes the commercial:

I've written a dozen novels (actually more but I refuse to share the stinkers with the public) and am also working on more. Yes, there will be more -- plenty more. Science fiction and attempts at straight fiction as well. For those who have urged me to continue with the Harry Irons Series, there is good news. I plan on doing another Harry Irons book next year. However, first I must complete the two current projects.

The Harry Irons Series started as a single book that ended up as To The Stars. It was my third or fourth effort to write the type of science fiction I would like to read. It took forever to complete with many re-writes and huge cuts. One of the cuts became the basis for Stolen Worlds, the second book in the trilogy. Anyway, at first, I had no plans for a trilogy. It was only after the book was completed with an open ending did I see the opportunity for another story with the same characters. When I started the second book, though, I knew I wanted to write a trilogy.

Here's the blurb for To The Stars:

In the year 2107, Harry Irons dreams of escaping poverty and an over-crowded earth by gaining employment with the Braithwaite Corporation. After proving himself in a series of tests, Harry gets his wish and soon enough is struggling to survive on an alien world. [To The Stars is] A story of first contact, corporate manipulation, and one man's dream come true. But will it turn out to be a nightmare?

What some readers said about To The Stars:

"Quintessential space opera."

", fun reading, an adventure story with all required elements thereof and told masterfully!"

"To The Stars is totally awesome."

"Well worth the read. It will keep you on the edge of your seat."

I average about 9 good reviews to every negative review, but must admit the bad ones still hurt. To The Stars is available online in industrial paperback and in ebook form. The ebook is free! Who says nothing in this world is free?

Stolen Worlds cover without annoying title & blurb. Click to enlarge.
Stolen Worlds

In the second book of the trilogy, Harry Irons, Galactic Survey Mission Commander for the Braithwaite Corporation, stumbles upon a mission to recover a new and powerful energy source on a newly discovered planet thousands of light-years from Earth. The expedition is filled with peril as the team races against time and an assortment of foes both alien and human. 

 Stolen Worlds is available in both industrial paperback and ebook form. Here's a couple of quick, kind reviews for Stolen Worlds:

"Great engrossing and fun SciFi read. Author has created a set of believable characters, incorporated interesting and plausible future events. Very enjoyable. I bought and read all three of the series, a rare event for me, in one week." By Stevin Strickland

"Story draws you in." By Mike Martin

Thanks to Steven and Mike for the kind words.

Minerva's Soul

Minerva's Soul took a long time to write too. I was two hundred pages or so into it when my computer crashed and I lost it. Well, didn't you have a back-up? You're supposed to be a computer guy? Well, yes -- I went to restore the file and guess what? My back-up had failed. I gave careful consideration to quitting writing altogether and trying out for a country-western band, but eventually after a few months, I started back to work. I re-wrote the entire thing from memory and added three hundred pages on top of  that. The rest is history. The Harry Irons Trilogy was complete. Here's the book blurb that's supposed to get you excited about reading it:

Harry Irons has been infected by an enigmatic alien species. As a result, he's losing his mind. It's a race against time as Harry and his team look for a cure in the sands of the Great Wahabi on the newly colonized world of Mirabel. A difficult task becomes impossible as they encounter disgruntled colonists, security forces from Earth, hostile aliens, and the mind-numbing powers of the kitzloc.  

Minerva's Soul, third book in the Harry Irons Trilogy, is available in industrial paperback and ebook.

"Excellent! Unlike some trilogies I've read, this one does not run out of steam in the final book. Kept my interest right up to the end." By David Thompson

"Pity it has to be a Trilogy I could have read more!"

"Fast paced and interesting SciFi read. Nice and innovative story plotting noted. Character development, i.e., Minerva's metamorph, I believe very unique among current SciFi genre. Recommend all three of series to be read in order written. Kudos to Mr Stone!" By Stevin Strickland

Many thanks to David and Stevin and unknown guy in the middle! Unknown guy -- there's two more books beyond the trilogy! Check it out.

The Harry Irons Trilogy

I released The Harry Irons Trilogy as a three-in-one book offer. It is available only in ebook form, but you can save money buying the Trilogy all together rather than buying the novels separately. Here's the book blurb:

First contact, new energy sources, quantum reality, and self-aware computers... The Harry Irons Trilogy is full of action, vibrant characterizations, and finely crafted, interwoven plots.

"I found The Harry Irons Trilogy a good read. Imaginative and intriguing plots and subplots with pieces of the puzzle well-spaced allowing readers to participate in the mystery." By Peter Rockas

"This series only got better. Better as the story continued on as well as written. These are the types of Sci-Fi that people are looking for. Page turners. More than a hundred pages. Short stories are good, but I am old fashioned. If it is good enough to read through without stopping, it is good enough to wait and make a good read for your money. This keeps people coming back for more. A must read." By Wyatt

Thank you, Peter! Wyatt, you are too kind. You are the type of readers that keep me striving to do better. Thanks for you support!

Among The Stars

Among The Stars is the sequel to the Harry Irons Trilogy. Stolen Worlds was my favorite out of the trilogy until I wrote the sequel, Among The Stars. It is not a linear tale plus a portion of it is written from one of my female character's perspective. With Among The Stars, I feel I "upped my game" as a writer. It was also great being back in the company of Harry and all his friends (and enemies).

Click to enlarge. Cool pic, eh?
Among The Stars is also available in industrial paperback as well as ebook form. Back cover book blurb:

The Universe does not give up its secrets easily... Sometimes it takes someone like Harry Irons to find the truth for the rest of us. While seeking origins for the starship Minerva, tragedy strikes Edward Fagen and crew. Light years away, Harry is stirred to carry out an impossible rescue mission and just maybe, save the universe in the process.

"I rate Thomas C. Stone as one of the greats, comparing to the likes of Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke. Writing style is excellent and imagination off the charts. The characters are full of rich detail that makes the reader feel they are part of the action. Thank You Mr. Thomas for restoring me to my path amongst the stars!" By Allen Allen

"What a Series, I couldn't wait for the next Book. Am sure that more will come. I look forward to reading them with anticapation." By B. A. Lautz

Wow, Allen, what an awesome compliment! Thanks to you and B.A. very, very much!

Jennings' Folly

I said Among The Stars was my favorite Harry Irons' book, right? Well, Jennings' Folly just might be better.

A Harry Irons' Spin-off Tale -- If you liked Harry, you'll love Amanda. Orphaned on the colonial world of Dreidel, Amanda Jennings is raised by her grandfather and taught to take her revenge whenever the opportunity arises. That was fine with Amanda. All she wanted was to follow in her grandfather's footsteps and be a kitzloc hunter.

"For full disclosure, I originally got this book for free directly from the author, but as soon as I finished it I came back actually paid for it. Yes, I enjoyed it that much. If you are someone who enjoyed Heinlein as a kid, Jennings' Folly will not disappoint you. Though it's an extension of the Harry Irons series, the book reads by itself just fine. I sure hope there are sequels." By Daniel Stasinski

"This is a GREAT book! Read the series! They just keep improving. Thomas Stone is growing as a writer by leaps and bounds. Now I have to find the next one." By Bob Riggs

Thanks Daniel and Bob and heartfelt thanks to all my other readers! Keep on reading and remember to always reach for the stars! Be sure and check out my other books at your favorite online book retailer.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Farnham's Freehold by Robert A. Heinlein

Farnham's Freehold is a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein published in 1964. Like most of Heinlein's adult novels, there is plenty to contemplate. Thematically speaking, it appears to be an exploration of racism and role reversal. A word of warning, spoilers follow, although I promise not to give away the ending.

On the surface, Farnham's Freehold is a post-apocalyptic story from a time in U.S. history when the population was concerned with the cold war fears of an impending nuclear holocaust. Heinlein brings the scenario to life when Hubert "Hugh" Farnham, wife, two (grown) children, a friend, and a negro servant suffer through a nuclear attack in suburban Colorado. The first twist to the story is that somehow, the nuclear explosions send the six people two thousand years into the future.

They initially work to survive as a pioneer family in a wilderness replete with flowing rivers and wild animals. All is not paradise, though, because of wife Grace's addiction to alcohol and Duke's (Hugh's son) quarrelsome nature. In one of the subplots that make Farnham's Freehold a mature read, we find a romance between Barbara (Hugh's daughter Karen's friend) and Hugh. Yikes! Cradle-robber! Months later, when Karen admits she is pregnant by a boy at school, Barbara says she is pregnant as well. Karen dies during labor and her infant daughter dies the following day. As it turns out, the story has really only begun at this point.

Grace, whose sanity is slipping, demands Barbara be exiled from the group. The family is splitting apart from all the dissension when a large aircraft appears in the sky. After destroying the camp, it lands and all are taken captive by people of the dark-skinned persuasion.

Around that time, Hugh and his group figure out that they have not been transported to another world, but rather are in a distant future Earth. A decadent but technologically advanced African culture keeps either uneducated or castrated whites as slaves. Each of Heinlein's characters adapt to the sudden black/white role reversal in different and sometimes shocking ways. In the end, Hugh and Barbara fail to adjust and attempt to escape, but are captured. Rather than face execution, their chief captor offers to send them back to their own time.

Naturally, I've passed over much of what happens in the book. It is, however, a uniquely Heinlein-type novel that prods the reader to consider ideas that might make one uncomfortable.

Contract Bridge -- the Farnham's favorite game.
For instance, some critics have argued that the portrayal of the futuristic, black ruling caste as cannibalistic, polygamous, drug-providing tyrants with a preference for Caucasian women uses most of the available racist stereotypes about Africans and African-Americans. Another interpretation posits that the cannibalism and sexual predation of the dark-skinned masters is allegorical, representing the way that black slaves were historically taken advantage of by their masters. Proponents of the allegory theory point out that in the second half of the story, Farnham describes a place in the West Indies where the blacks are cultured and sophisticated, and whites are feckless and shiftless, and that Heinlein then plays out a traditional slave narrative with Farnham as the narrator. From this point of view, the story is not about Africans and Caucasians, but rather about masters and slaves, regardless of race. It is also interesting to note Farnham's second in command was not his son, but their black domestic servant. This servant, Joseph, was also going to college to become an accountant, and was described as the best bridge player of the group.

Sorry to disappoint the leftist mindset, but Farnham's Freehold is not a racist novel. Rather, it is a story that attacks racism. And yet, Farnham's Freehold is more than a story with racism as its central theme. As it turns out, the central theme isn't about racism at all. It is, rather, about freedom and the desire of some men to be free in spite of all odds.

Farnham's Freehold is thought-provoking, a bit archaic in style, and a genuine Heinlein piece of work -- which means, you'll be offended early on but by the end will probably be absorbed by the play of ideas.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Bad Decisions

I've been known to make a bad decision or two. I'll bet you have as well. Sometimes, when I'm feeling sorry for myself, I wonder what would have happened if I'd simply gone another direction on occasion, but then I realize this life journey winds up the only way it can for each and every one of us. We all take what's given, like it or not, so you might as well choose to like it.

Some mistakes are bigger than others. Like World War II. That was a doozy. Especially for Nazi Germany.

Adolf Hitler broke the non-aggression pact with the Soviet Union in June of 1941 when he invaded Russia with an army of more than 3 million men, 7,000 artillery pieces, 3,000 tanks, and 2,500 aircraft. Stalin was taken by surprise and his military was overwhelmed by the invasion. In the first week there were 150,000 Soviet casualties, and by October, 3 million Soviet prisoners had been taken. German troops reached Moscow by December 1941, but it took longer than anticipated and the cruel Soviet winter wore heavily on the German troops. The Nazis stalled at Moscow and the tide began to turn. The decision to invade Russia was Hitler's Waterloo and the beginning of the decline for Nazi Germany.

French Tyrant Napoleon
And speaking of Waterloo (and Russian wars) -- a hundred and twenty-nine years earlier, in June of 1812, Napoleon invaded Russia with one of the largest armies ever assembled for battle, and was so confident of victory he wagered the campaign wouldn't last more than 20 days. Unfortunately for the French, due to lice infestations and subsequent typhus infections, food shortages, freezing temperatures and, finally, Russian troops, the Grande Armee, didn't make it beyond Moscow. In the end, Napoleon lost half a million French troops and was escorted by the Russians back to France. It's a wonder why they didn't hang the sawed-off runt. Another bad decision.

Our final legendary war blunder deals with the Trojan War way back in 1200 B.C. The war had dragged on for ten years before the Greeks decided to employ a little trickery.

The end of Troy.
They faked a retreat and left the gift of the famous Trojan Horse, big enough to hide a few dozen Greek soldiers inside. I'm sure you know the story. The Trojans wheeled their prize inside the city gates and, that night, the Greeks snuck from the giant horse and opened the gates for the Greek army. Troy not only fell -- it was burned and razed to the ground. Bad decisions led to the war and a bad decision by the Trojans ended it.

But enough of the war stories. Bad decisions are rampant in war. How about American pioneers?

Vacationing with the Donners.
Well, in April of 1846, a group of 81 pilgrims in 20 wagons followed Jacob and George Donner westward from Illinois to California. Unfortuantely and (guess what?) due to bad decisions, the wagon train headed into uncharted territory. They began their journey on the California Trail, a known wagon-train route west, but decided to try a shorter, alternate route. Because of freezing temperatures and rough, mountainous terrain, the shortcut they'd hoped for turned out to be long and deadly. They became bogged down in the winter and, although we don't know all the specifics, only 45 survived to see California. Of course, what they're best known for is the question of whether they engaged in cannibalism while trapped in the snowy Sierra Nevada mountains. Bad decisions sometimes turn grisly.

In American history, especially in American politics, bad decisions come so often, it's hard to keep up. Prohibition is one we seem to forget about.

During Prohibition in America, between January 1920 when the 18th Amendment was signed until its repeal in 1933, it was illegal to manufacture, transport or sell alcohol (but it wasn't actually illegal to drink it).

Prohibition ends! Happy days are here again!
Prohibition was considered the "noble experiment." It was supposed to lower crime rates and reduce the amount of money spent on prisons. It was supposed to clean us up socially, as well as improve our health and hygiene. Instead, what resulted was an explosion of alcohol-related crime, and eventually a corrupt law enforcement and political system on the take from gangsters (sound familiar?). Prohibition didn't stop people from drinking; it just changed the what and where. Because alcohol was illegal, the underground economy was unregulated. Tainted alcohol killed an average of 1,000 every year during Prohibition. It is generally agreed these days that Prohibition was a bad idea.

Business decisions can be just as risky as gambling and there is no shortage of "bad decisions" stories from the world of commerce. Take, for instance, the following two sad tales from technology where fortunes were made and lost.

The first was when the Western Union Telegraph Company made a horrible mistake by calling the telephone an “Electronic toy” and turned down the patent for the telephone. The patent was offered for only $100,000. Now, the telephone is recognized as one of the most valuable patents in history.

Our second bad decision from the business of technology comes from the Atari company. You've heard of Apple, naturally, but if you're under thirty, chances are you're not familiar with Atari. Atari was an early game console company. When Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, co-founders of Apple Computer, went to Atari to sell their design for personal computers, Atari turned them down flat. All Jobs and Wozniak wanted was a job and a salary. The two went to Hewlett-Packard and were likewise turned down. So, the two started their own business and Apple Computer was born. Apple currently has a market value of $184 Billion. Their market share of PC users is nearly at 10 percent and steadily growing. CEOs at HP and the now defunct Atari are still shaking their heads on that one.

Another example from tales of the ones that got away is from 1962. Ah, my very own wonder years. Dick Rowe, an executive at Decca Records, believed guitar groups were falling out of favor. On New Year's Day, The Beatles auditioned for Decca Records producer Tony Meehan. One month later, when Dick Rowe heard their audition tape -- 15 tracks on a 12-inch audio tape -- he passed on signing the band.

She Loves You, yeah, yeah, yeah.
The Beatles went on to sign with EMI and released their first 8 albums through the Parlophone label. It's estimated they earned $38.5 million by the end of the summer of 1967. The Wall Street Journal estimated $50 million in record sales in the U.S. alone in 1964. In 1968 they launched their own record label, Apple Records. Dick Rowe faded into obscurity.

Show biz is fickle, right? Who knows what will appeal to the masses and what won't? How about a Hitler sitcom for television? I'm not making this up. There was a Hitler sitcom produced on British television back in 1990 called "Heil Honey, I'm Home." The plot centered on the regular household lives of a fictionalized Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun living next door to a Jewish couple, Arny and Rosa Goldenstein. I guess the public wasn't ready for Hitler and Eva because the show was canceled after just one episode. Bad decision to cancel or bad decision to air the one episode? You make the call.

Bad decisions, you see, are not just for you and me. Sometimes they're bigger than the both of us put together.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Science As Dogma?

Contemporary science is based on the claim that all reality is material or physical. There is no reality but material reality. Consciousness is a by-product of the physical activity of the brain. Matter is unconscious. Evolution is purposeless. God exists only as an idea in human minds, and hence in human heads.

These beliefs are powerful, not because most scientists think about them critically but because they don’t. The facts of science are real enough; so are the techniques that scientists use, and the technologies based on them. But the belief system that governs conventional scientific thinking is an act of faith, grounded in a nineteenth-century ideology.

According to Rupert Sheldrake (and others), there are ten core beliefs that most scientists take for granted. If we did not take each of these as solemn truth, it would likely lead to something like a wholly new renaissance that would transform mankind. Here are the ten scientific core beliefs:

Rupert Sheldrake
1. Everything is essentially mechanical. Dogs, for example, are complex mechanisms, rather than living organisms with goals of their own. Even people are machines, ‘lumbering robots’, in Richard Dawkins’s vivid phrase, with brains that are like genetically programmed computers.

2. All matter is unconscious. It has no inner life or subjectivity or point of view. Even human consciousness is an illusion produced by the material activities of brains.

3. The total amount of matter and energy is always the same (with the exception of the Big Bang, when all the matter and energy of the universe suddenly appeared).

4. The laws of nature are fixed. They are the same today as they were at the beginning, and they will stay the same forever.

5. Nature is purposeless, and evolution has no goal or direction.

6. All biological inheritance is material, carried in the genetic material, DNA, and in other material structures.

7. Minds are inside heads and are nothing but the activities of brains. When you look at a tree, the image of the tree you are seeing is not ‘out there’, where it seems to be, but inside your brain.

8. Memories are stored as material traces in brains and are wiped out at death.

9. Unexplained phenomena like telepathy are illusory.

10. Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works.

Together, these beliefs make up the philosophy or ideology of materialism, whose central assumption is that everything is essentially material or physical, even minds. This belief-system became dominant within science in the late nineteenth century, and is now taken for granted. Many scientists are unaware that materialism is an assumption: they simply think of it as science, or the scientific view of reality, or the scientific worldview. They are not actually taught about it, or given a chance to discuss it. They absorb it by a kind of intellectual osmosis. You see, science itself has become a "belief system."

Sheldrake believes science is being held back by centuries-old assumptions that have hardened into dogmas. The sciences would be better off without them: freer, more interesting, and more fun. The biggest scientific delusion of all is that science already knows the answers. Below is a short lecture by Rupert Sheldrake that was banned by TED (It was TED who originally sponsored the video.). For TED's take on the debate, go here.

Mail Order Aliens

For $488, you can have your own Zetan. Zetan is a unique, high-quality collectors item available in a limited edition of 2012. It is constructed using fibreglass and reinforced with an internal steel armature. The model is hand-painted and finished and will satisfy even the most discerning paranormal collector.

The Zetan model stands 137cm or 54” high and weighs approximately 6 kilograms. It is freestanding and has a circular fibreglass base. Each model comes in its own recyclable EBE terrestrial transportation crate (i.e. a very cool printed cardboard box).

If you seriously want one (or more) of these, go here. Tell 'em TommyBoy sent you.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Kinetic Sand

Kinetic Sand demonstration.

Very Short Story

It's almost that time of year again. Wal-Mart has costumes and fake blood for sale already. With that in mind, I present you with a very short story:

My daughter won't stop crying and screaming in the middle of the night. I visit her grave and ask her to stop but it doesn't do any good.

-- by Skuppy

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Few Thoughts On Evolution

In my pursuit to make money, I have tried a number of jobs, none of which I particularly cared for. Among these was teaching school. I've taught at nearly every level from university to elementary school and so have had the opportunity to ask different generations questions about their view of the universe. You know, the meaning of life, stuff like that. One thing I've run across is the notion people have that each succeeding generation is better than the previous.

Better in what sense? Well, smarter, for one thing, but physically better as well. Athletes are faster, stronger and bigger with each passing generation, right? That's true, I suppose, if you look at the past 60 to 100 years. With better nutrition and growth-enhancing drugs, steroids, and such, we have pushed the limits of homo sapiens' physical abilities, although I'm not certain it makes one generation of humans physically better. There is a downside to being bigger, faster, etc. -- that's a topic for another day, but I will say the drugs and required nutrition puts a strain on the body that appears to make one more apt to get cancer and/or other diseases.

Maximus Thrax
I'd like to add that the earth has seen giants before. Take the tale of Maximus Thrax, for example. Maximinus Thrax, Emperor of the Roman Empire from 235 to 238 AD. Every major account of his life remarked on his massive build, gargantuan strength and cruel, barbarous nature. There seems to be some discrepancy about his date of birth. His height was 8'6" tall. He was born in Thrace, which is modern day Bulgaria. He spent most of his time as emperor fighting against the Germanic Tribes north of the Danube River and was one of the 10 great Roman persecutors of the Christian church. Murdered by Roman troops, his life came to an end on May 10, 238 AD, while sleeping in the afternoon sun. I expect they felt compelled to sneak up on him. A big guy like that.

Additionally, there are numerous examples of giants in the Christian bible. In Genesis, chapter 15:18-21, they are enumerated and named among Canaanite Peoples: "Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, and the Amorites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites" (Genesis 15:19-21; compare Exodus 3:8,17; 23:23. Deuteronomy 7; 20:17. Joshua 12:8).

David (right) and Goliath (left)
What happened to them? "These were to be cut off, and driven out, and utterly destroyed." (Deuteronomy 20:17. Joshua 3:10). But Israel failed in this (Joshua 13:13; 15:63; 16:10; 17:18. Judges 1:19,20,28,29,30-36; 2:1-5; 3:1-7); "As to their other names, they were called Anakim, from one Anak which came of the Nephilim (Numbers 13:22,33), and Rephaim, from Rapha, another notable one among them." From Deuteronomy 2:10, they were known by some as Emim, and Horim, and Zamzummim (verse 20,21) and Avim, etc. "The Emims dwelt therein in times past, a people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakims."

A race of giants called the Anakim traced their ancestry to Anak, the son of the Canaanite Arba, founder of Kiriath-Arba (the city later known as Hebron).

*Hebron, the land Caleb received for his inheritance, is the focus of contemporary land conflict between Palestinians and Jews, and is much in the news.

Anak's descendants were conquered and displaced by Caleb, one of the scouts whom Moses had sent decades earlier to spy out the land of Canaan. Giants like the Anakim were also known as Nephilim, thought to be superhuman progeny of the sons of God and the daughters on men cited in Genesis 6:4. You see, there have been big dudes in times past. Apparently, even entire races.

Sorry to get carried away with all the giant talk, but I wanted to emphasize that attributes such as size or athletic ability probably have less to do with performance-enhancing drugs and nutrition than with a genetic predisposition. Fe-fie-fo-fum.

Now, as far as new generations being smarter than the previous, I will admit each generation has more information available, although much of that information is just more nonsense to dig through. Basic truths are still basic truths and many are hidden from upcoming generations. So, is the new generation any smarter than the old? No, I would say, not really.

What difference is there between someone who was born in 1950 and someone else who was born in 2012? Is the 2012 child going to be smarter? Stronger? Better adapted to living in the world? The answer is, not necessarily. So what about someone born 2000 years ago? You think an idiot could exist back then any easier than an idiot can exist today?

All right, where does the idea come that each succeeding generation is an improvement over the previous? I'll tell you where: it comes from what we generally believe about evolution.

Gigantopithecus -- color me extinct.
Evolution is a well-accepted theory in our culture, indeed, not just here in America, but all over the globe. We assume that evolution changes a species toward something better, toward something more suited for its survival. However, a species that changes in size and rate of metabolism, let's say, in order to gain an advantage over its opponents, may find itself lacking in enough resources to survive when food sources dwindle. Or, perhaps blind cave dwellers find themselves in the light after an upheaval of the earth. They're bound not to last long. My point is, evolution may favor adaptations for a short run, but not necessarily for the long run. People are basically the same as they were thousands of years ago and to say otherwise, well, that's just egocentricity.

Those who believe the earth is billions of years old and all life has evolved over hundreds of millions of years also believe that man is the crowning achievement of random mutations. Without evidence to the contrary, we tend to believe that our own consciousness and embedded intelligence is the reason of reasons for our existence and that, to the extent of our knowledge, nothing else has achieved these lofty heights.

And yet, believing the earth is ancient and that other species have arisen and fallen and become extinct, that thousands upon thousands have come and gone -- some of which may even have been more advanced than humans -- we still put the current generation at the top of the heap. I say it is hubris to do so. It is illusory and dangerous and, most likely helps to promote a remarkable, bullet-proof attitude that lies just this side of foolishness.

Back to a freshman English classroom at North Texas State University in the Fall of 1979. "How many of you," I asked, "believe your generation is smarter than the previous generation? Better equipped to function in the world as you perceive it?"A unanimous forty some-odd hands elevated into the air. They all thought they were better because they had this mistaken belief that evolution is leading somewhere, up some invisible incline towards higher consciousness and superhuman abilities. They all desperately wanted to believe the human race was headed somewhere besides extinction. But, I am here to tell you that's just not the case, kiddies.

I didn't want to end this little essay on what many of you will see as a down note. The full truth is not about human extinction, and so it's not all bad news. You see, as far as breaking through to higher consciousness and all that crap, we're already there, if you simply allow yourself to believe it. Do I need to say anything else? I don't think so. Thanks for reading!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Blow My Mind (What's Left Of It)

New Quantum Experiment: Effect Happens Before Cause
Posted on Sep 13, 2013 in Science & Technology

A real-world demonstration of a thought experiment conducted at the University of Vienna, has produced a result that is somewhat befuddling to people with what the lead researcher calls a “na├»ve classical world view.” Two pairs of particles are either quantum-entangled or not. One person makes the decision as to whether to entangle them or not, and another pair of people measure the particles to see whether they’re entangled or not.

The head-scratcher is: the measurement is made before the decision is made, and it is accurate. “Classical correlations can be decided after they are measured,” says Xiao-song Ma, the writer of the study. Entanglement can be created “after the entangled particles have been measured and may no longer exist.”

The finding can be integrated into potential quantum computers, one hopes.

Causality, clearly, is a quaint, irrelevant concept.

Read another article on this experiment here.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix, left-handed guitar virtuoso, died on this date in 1970 of a drug overdose at the young age of 27. Similarly, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison, influential rock singers from the same era, also died at the age of 27. Live fast, die young.

Other musicians who made it to the "27 Club" were: Amy Winehouse, Robert Johnson, Brian Jones, Alan Wilson, Pete Ham, and Kurt Kobain. Ironically, these make up just a sampling. The number of musicians who have died at the age of 27 and the circumstances of many of those deaths have given rise to the idea that premature deaths at this age are unusually common.

To this day, Hendrix is still called one of the most innovative guitarists in the world. Many critics still say he was the best the world has ever seen. That certainly depends on one's tastes, yet it cannot be denied Hendrix was an extraordinary musician. He was a natural, playing entirely by ear and never learning how to read sheet music.

Leonidas and the Battle at Thermopylae

Molon labe. A phrase from Greek language and culture, meaning "come and take". It is a classical expression of defiance reportedly spoken by King Leonidas I in response to the Persian army's demand that he and his men (the Spartans) surrender their weapons at the Battle of Thermopylae. It is an exemplary use of a laconic phrase.

In 2006, a movie was released entitled 300. It was the tale of King Leonidas and his men fighting the Persian army in 480 B.C. It was a splendid slash 'em up historical gorefest starring Gerard Butler and the dazzling Lena Headey. If you'd rather skip the details and cut to the movie, stop what you're doing and surf over to Netflix or YouTube or wherever you rent movies and watch the flick. Or, you might want to wait until next year because I understand there's a sequel being released (I kid you not) called 300: Rise of an Empire that details the battle the Greek general Themistocles had with the Persians.

I'll leave the discussion of the Greek and Persian naval battles at Artemisium and Salamis as fodder for another article. Today, I want to tell you about Thermopylae and Leonidas and his heroic men.

Greek hoplite.
At Thermopylae in the late summer of 480 B.C., Leonidas, the Spartan king, held out for three days with a mere 300 hoplites against thousands of Persian fighters led by King Xerxes.

Thermopylae (derived from "hot gates") was of great strategic importance, commanding the pass from Thessaly through Lokris and into Boeotia. Controlling that small piece of real estate could block an invader and perhaps even turn him back. The pass at Thermopylae was not the only way into Central Greece, but it was the best and easiest route.

In 480, most scholars agree that the pass was between fifteen and thirty meters wide with high cliffs on one side and a steep drop to the sea on the other. Today, 2500 years after the battle, an alluvial fan of river-born silt has accumulated and the coast is now up to three miles to the north.

Give up your arms. Please?
Herodotus says the battle took place during the festival of Apollo Carneia at Sparta and that the Olympic games were also in progress. When Xerxes and the Persian army arrived at Anthela, just west of the pass, they camped and waited for five days before attacking.

Xerxes sent a spy to see what the Greeks were up to; he returned to report that the Spartans were stripped for exercise and fixing each other's hair. Xerxes sent a herald to propose that the defenders of the pass should surrender and become allies of the Persians. In return they would be unharmed and participate in the spoils of the Persian army's anticipated success in Greece.

Now, the Peloponnesians, presumably including the Tegeans, Arcadians, Corinthians, and Phlians as well as some contingent of the Spartans, were all for abandoning northern Greece and falling back on the Isthmus; however, only the insistence of Leonidas restrained them. This debate among the Greek states typifies the distinctive feature of their relations in the period, namely that each state tended to support its own regional interests -- at least, in regard to foreigners. The sense one gets is that this was the curse of the Greeks, for had they only been able to cooperate better, as they did for just long enough at Salamis (The sea battle I'm not going to tell you about in this discussion, sorry.), they could have ruled the world, or they would never have become the subjects of the Macedonians or (later) the Romans.

Leonidas had only a total of 7,100 troops at his disposal, the core being his now famous 300 Spartans. Herodotus says Xerxes had 2.5 million troops and as many again of camp followers, but the figure is widely acknowledged to be fantastic. A more realistic estimate is perhaps 200,000, and not all of whom had arrived at Thermopylae by the time Xerxes decided he had waited long enough.

When the fight began, the battle went according to Leonidas' plan. The narrow confines negated the advantage of numbers for the Persians. Also, the Greek hoplite was better suited to the tactics employed, with his long thrusting spear, heavy shield, and body armour. The Persian soldiers used a shorter javelin-type spear, a lightweight wicker shield, and thick linen corselets. The Spartans held off lesser elements of Xerxes' army. After two days of battle, they finally faced the Immortals, the Persians' elite fighters. Likewise, the Immortals were cut down.

Betrayal turned the tide of battle when a local man, a Malian named Ephialtes, showed the Persians a route around the rear of the Spartans, called the Anopaia path (see map at the top of this article).

Friend Randy at Halloween dressed like Leonidas.
Again, according to Herodotus, Leonidas was aware of the existence of the Anopaia path. He stationed 1000 Phokians on the path to stop any encircling movement. The Phokians were taken by surprise. Leonidas received a message that he had been outflanked, and there was probably time to abandon the position before the Persians arrived. Yet Leonidas refused to withdraw. Herodotus presents it as an act of deliberate self-sacrifice carried out in accordance with an oracle, which had said that the death of a Spartan king would save Sparta from destruction. Of course, pronouncements from oracles in the late 480's have a distinctly pro-Persian cast; it seems likely that the priests, simply believed that the victory of the Persian army was inevitable. It may be that this oracle, if genuine, actually meant that the recommended course of action was for the Spartans to depose one of the sitting kings and take back Demaratus as the vassal of the Persians. Alternatively, it is possible that the oracle is a post-event falsehood, rendered by the oracle and to make it appear that Apollo had successfully predicted the outcome. There is also available the so-called "military" solution to the question, that Leonidas remained in order to give the allied contingents time to get away.

Of the small Greek force, attacked from both sides, all were killed except for the contingent of Thebans, who surrendered. Leonidas was killed, but the Spartans retrieved his body and protected it. Herodotus says that Xerxes' had Leonidas' beheaded then displayed on a stake while his body was crucified.

A hero cult of Leonidas survived at Sparta until the Antonine era (1st century AD), although the story of Leonidas and his 300 Spartans remained for two and half millenia. In the modern era, a monument to Leonidas was erected at Thermopylae by king Paul of Greece in 1955. It features a bronze statue of Leonidas. A sign, under the statue, reads simply: Molon labe which is what the Spartans said when the Persians asked them to surrender.

Another statue, also with the inscription Molon labe, was erected at Sparta in 1968.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Time To Unplug

Come on. You've been thinking about it for a long time. You know you'd free up tons of personal time if you simply unplugged from the mainstream. You could revert to reading for information and pleasure. You could work on all those projects you daydream about. Learn another language just like you've always wanted to do. Learn to play the piano. Play with your kids. Talk to your wife. Just think of all the things you could do if you didn't spend so much time staring at the television. So, what's preventing you? You know you can do it -- if you could only find the time.

The problem is, you're addicted to your college football, or basketball, or daytime soaps, or reality shows, or some other nonsense that prevents you from paying attention to what's really going on. Oh, so you think that by unplugging from the television news (or radio, for that matter) that it will make you ignorant about
what's going on. You won't have Oprah or Ellen to tell you what to think. Not to worry. I assure you, you'll still be able to read the news. Whatever's important will filter down as it always has. If you really want to keep up, read alternative news from the internet. Fair warning, though -- you're going to be upset when you finally figure out the mainstream media (MSM) is all about propaganda and getting you to believe what they (who is they, you might ask?) want you to believe. The thing is...

They're never going to broadcast the truth.

...and practically everything you watch and/or listen to on MSM is designed to elicit an emotional response from you that works to keep you constantly upset and unsettled and believing you must back one side or the other or you must purchase some worthless crap to make you feel better about yourself. They are forming your reality for you.

Turn it off. Unplug the drug. Do it today. Do it now. Before it's too late.

Reconnect with your own thoughts. Reconnect with your wife (or husband), your children, your neighborhood. You might just re-discover your own soul.

The End Of The World

Thursday, September 12, 2013


The sci-fi anti-hero, Riddick, has made a return appearance in theaters this past week in a new movie simply entitled Riddick. The previous two flicks were Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick, both of which were pretty darn good. For those of you living under a rock, Riddick is the name of the lead character (played by Vin Diesel -- stage name for 46 yesar old New York City actor Mark Sinclair).

There is a bit of a back story to Riddick that is included in a few flashback scenes, but honestly, if you haven't seen the prior movies, you probably won't get it all. But never mind that because you can easily follow this action adventure tale by simply paying attention.

Riddick has been stranded on a hostile planet only God knows where and naturally, he wants to go somewhere else, to his home world of Furya. The problem is, there are no spaceships about to take him there. After struggling with the vicious fauna of the unnamed planet, Riddick stumbles upon an abandoned human building which is explained away as a mercenaries' outpost. Now, what in the name of the universe an outpost is doing on a desolate planet sort of stretches the imagination. But let's not get bogged down in details because it offers Riddick a way to get off the planet when he intentionally trips a beacon that also identifies him as the most sought-after criminal in the known universe. Furthermore, the beacon informs all bounty hunters within parsecs that Riddick is there for the taking. So much for suspension of disbelief.

A Boy and His Dog
Up until that point, the story is one of survival. From there on, though, it's really about Riddick stalking and murdering the eleven mercenaries who arrive as two opposing groups so that he may take one of their ships and fly home.

There's ample opportunity here to detail spoilers for you. I won't do that. I will, however, tell you that with all the logical inconsistencies, the story was great fun, especially if you're a fan of the Riddick character, which I am.

Katee Sackhoff -- Be Still My Beating Heart
The scenery is great, the aliens are deadly and rich in detail, and the actors are gritty and realistic enough to believe when they say they're going to take Riddick's head home with them in a box. There's only one babe in the flick, an amazon played by Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica) who does a fair job of convincing you she really can beat up her fellow mercenaries.

For those of you thinking you might take the kids to see the movie, think again. It's rated "R" for nudity and violence. I love the Riddick series, even with the inconsistencies and stretches of the imagination, so I give it four and half stars on a five star scale.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Riddick character, here's what Wikipedia has to say:

Richard B. Riddick, more commonly known as Riddick, is a fictional character and the antihero of four films in the Riddick series (Pitch Black, The Chronicles of Riddick, the animated movie The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury and Riddick), as well as the two video games The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay and The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena. Actor Vin Diesel has played the title role in all of the Riddick-based films and video games so far.

Riddick -- the consummate loner.
Within the canon of the series, Riddick is shown to be a highly skilled predator - he is extremely mobile and stealthy, especially for someone of his size, has a vast knowledge of how to kill almost any humanoid in a variety of ways, is an extreme survivalist, and is notoriously hard to contain. He is also, self-admittedly, a dangerous convict and murderer - yet despite this, he is sometimes shown to perform moral or even atypically heroic actions, usually against his own better judgment and survivalist nature.

Riddick is a Furyan, a warrior race obliterated by a military campaign that left Furya desolate, and is one of the last of his kind. One of his most defining features are his eyes, a characteristic inherent in a certain caste of his species (The Alpha-Furyans), although he implies in Pitch Black that they were "shined" by a back-alley surgical operation. This allows him to see in the dark with no difficulty at all, but also renders his eyes incredibly sensitive to concentrated light, ergo he wears tinted welding goggles for protection.

Riddick was once a mercenary, then part of a security force, and later on a soldier. He is also an experienced pilot.