Rob Smith

An Active Observer, an Aspiring Writer

Category: Uncategorized

Gamma-Ray Bursts: Statistical Analyis as to Why it’s so very Quiet Out There

A new paper has been released detailing statistical analysis of the frequency of gamma-ray bursts (GRB) and outlying why it is a limiting factor in life’s development in the galaxy. The paper is located here:

arxiv.org…

There are several interesting takeaways from this paper. First the paper concludes that there was a 50% chance that GRB lead to at least one of the mass extinction events on Earth over the last 500 Myr. Take your pick as to what mass extinction event to tie into GRB, as the majority of them are very poorly understood. The Permian–Triassic extinction event would seem like the most likely candidate, where up to 96% of marine and 70% of land life suddenly disappeared from the fossil records. It’s a pure guess on my part, as conversely there is a 50% chance a GRB did not occur in the last 500 Myr. It now has to be part of the conversation when discussing mass extinction events.

Next, from a statistical standpoint, there is a high probability that life would has been totally wiped off the face of the planet at some point, at least once, between when it first appeared ~3.5 Gyr and today. Keep in mind it only took ~700 Myr the dominate life on Earth to go from the first worm like creatures to iPhone 6 obsessed apex predators. This leaves us with an opening to rewrite the narrative of just what might have occurred between 3.5 and 0.7 Gyr in the past.

Lastly, and what I find the most interesting is that this could be the single biggest limiting factor for life’s development “out there.” This is the portion of the paper that I need sometime to digest, but I feel will have the biggest impact in our quest for life outside of the blue and seemingly very lucky little marble we call home.

Why I Am a Rational Human Being, and You Are Not.

I had a couple of strange experiences this week that make me question if the theorized separation of the human species into separate distinct sub-species might not be truly be a reality. A portion of me believes that I am speaking with hyperbole; but deep down inside, I am really starting to believe this shit. We’ll go from least complex emotionally and move on from there.

So…. I’m driving my son to school, wading through the park lot traffic. Drop the kids off and head to the exit of a somewhat busy thoroughfare. Its one of those exits where a left hand turn is so unlikely that there are signs prohibiting it during normal school hours.   For the most part, cars in front of me are respecting this portion of the social compact; a few here and there are attempting this unlikely solution to these parking lot woes, but not many.   Behind me two cars, there is this bitch, and yes, we’ll call her a bitch to rightly set the tone, laying on her horn every thirty seconds; in some delusional belief that by doing so would somehow speed her departure from this middle school parking lot hell.

At first this blaring horn sound emanating from behind me was processed by my half asleep mind as a cliché expected sound of the grid lock we were all encountering attempting to exit this lot.   As it became obvious just how tricky it was to even make a right onto the main road, I realized what this jerks honking actually signified from her point of view.   There she was, sheltered in her car, interacting with the same meaningfulness as if you were art home watching television (or playing a video game for the younger generation). A two year old, who is the center of the universe, throwing a tantrum that they can not get their own way.

I looked at my clock and realized I had fifteen minutes to burn. A large part of me wanted to get out of my car and confront her; not aggressively but in a jovial “lets put all of this in some amount of perspective” standpoint. But I didn’t, pussy that I am.

A few days later, I was confronted with an even more egregious display of human indifference. My dog who is insanely territorial, escape my backyard. It was pure happenstance that he encountered another dog walking by the house on a leash. In his typical fashion he got in the dogs face and began bellowing. This dog is all bark and no bite, like me. In any case, the other dog sensing a threat, and probably rightly so, grabbed my dog by the throat. My dog never having been in a fight had no idea how to react cowered in fear and let this other dog maul his shoulder.

I reacted in a very similar fashion to my dog. I backed off and let the other dog owner pry his dog’s jaws off of mine. I was shaken; sure my dog was a goner. After a minute, he managed to pry the dogs apart. Immediately, this guy got in my face, screaming that I had created the situation. Yes. Thank you, my dog escaped and I know it’s my fault- he created this conflict– as my dog is bleeding, lying still on the ground—your dog is still going for him. Nothing we can do to change the reality of the situation.  The fucker walks away screaming, “this is all on you bro” over and over again, no care in the world as to anyone’s condition but his own.

After a bit of education from our vet as to how to help him heal, our dog is probably going to be fine; asshole that he is. But what of this other pet owner? If the roles were reversed and my dog did major damage to someone else’s dog, regardless of who started the shit, I would hope that I would show some compassion In reality, in situations such as these, we are all losers. No care in the world, this guy walks on yelling recriminations.

In conclusion, I don’t really have any conclusions. I strongly suspect this has something to do with me being a more rational human being then you, though this central thorium is rather suspect. I’ll leave you with one more example of this in my everyday life. On the road ahead of you there is a car behaving erratically in a fashion that can only indicate a driver over the age of seventy five. You have no idea if they are slowing down because they are about to signal to make a turn or because they have done so every tenth of a mile for what seems like the last thousand miles. Are you the asshole who starts tailgating them in order to, what, run them off the road? Or are you smiling, a safe ten car lengths behind, in the realization that we’ll all be there some day and who the fuck is in a rush to get to work anyways?

Apologia ad me

Longtime, no blog.

Tonight will be full of sheer random thoughts, as I haven’t had many organized ideas outside of just enjoying life for the last 5 or 6 months. Which brings us to my first topic, writing as an escape.

ESCAPE

Ultimately, the one thing I discovered about myself is that I write only when I am deeply unhappy with life. For me, and probably quite a few people, writing is an escape from something. Artificial constructed realities. And fuck is it a lot of work. My last little bout of escape netted more shit in a compact amount of time than Steven King on a meth binge. Four solid months of “part time work” the first 80 to 100 pages of two separate novels, three partially finished small collections of short stories, the begins of quite a few thrusts… nothing finished.

Year end activities at work subsided, the weather improved, and suddenly I was far more interested in smelling the now blooming flowers, both metaphorically and in actuality, than escaping into some self created parallel reality. It has been difficult explaining this to other people and even rationalizing it internally. I’m not blocked; I’m just fucking enjoying this sunset.

So onto the next challenge… writing whilst content with life. The realist in me observes tat it will probably collapse into bleakness again with the change of weather and the impending year end 2014 at work. I’m just not so sure anymore that you wait for it to happen to you. There is something to be said about taking control of your own destiny; though it all seems so much more beautiful whilst in the middle of a barren landscape.

POLITICS, RELIGION & OTHER SUCH FUCKWITTERY

Anyone else get totally exhausted the first moment a political or religious debate transpires in your presence? That slow sinking feeling when you realize that no one will be happy regardless of the outcome?

Tonight I got totally engrossed in a debate about creationism versus evolution. At first, I got a high off of the ‘blood in the water.’ But this really isn’t a valid debate, no? The idea of a creator is not contrary and readily could be worked into the concept of evolution.   In so many of these sorts of discussions, politics, religion, whatnot, the two sides of a debate aren’t even discussing ideas that really are in conflict with the opposition.

…and don’t even get me started on politics in America.

 

…I Don’t Venture Often into Political Discourse..

I no longer venture very far into political discourse; though when I do, I am hell bent of WORLD DOMINATION.

In my early and mid twenties, I became rather active in local politics. At an early age, I became part of “inner circles” of two political campaigns, one for a state justice position and the other for a congressional campaign.  In both instances, I learned the same lesson.  Regardless of passionately you feel about your beliefs and no matter how small the office, politics in America is a machine. You either have the support of the local politburo or you face a uphill battle. To garner such support you either have had to have drinks with the party boss every other weekend, have had shit on him/her or other such nonsense.

The one take away is as follows.  You go big or go home.  You have a huge cash reserve, enough so that the incumbents wife is sucking your dick in a coat room- or you don’t even bother to throw your hat in the ring. As much as I hate to say it now, as bat-shit crazy as he was, the Ross Perot model is road that would need be traveled down in order to create any sort of long changing in America.  Sure you can suck the party bosses dick, not rock the boat with you views and get elected.  But then what mother fucker?  You’ve just become part of the machine… and that is not what you thought you’d be when you grew up.  Back in the day when you still had ideas, ideals- a soul. Sure you’re getting a check… and maybe some day that party boss will let you run for a higher office…..   But that’s not why you got into this racket, right?

And we all agree it’s a racket, right?

Find something else you’re good at….. build up the wealth…  circle back to this dream of making a “difference” when you have the ability to skull fuck your opposition at will.  Just make a strong attempt to keep the bat-shit crazy thoughts inside your head– and not in the press– at least until after the election.

Good Night… and good luck…

Some Links…. Some Thoughts

Surfing the webs quite a bit as of late- looking for something interesting, something to tickle my fancy.  We’ll start off with this interesting blog Still Drinking.

Programming Sucks

Keeping a program afloat sucks monkey balls; and by this I am not speaking of the cute imaginary cartoon monkeys you might be picturing in your head.  No, I am speaking of the feral monkey, who hasn’t washed said balls in a stream or been in the rain for months.  Though I don’t leave work quite as often the last month, with the flavor of salty sweaty hominid ball sack, picking lice out of my teeth as I limp through the parking lot to my car,  as I had over the proceeding two years, the whole thing leave a bad taste in my mouth (errrr…  pun intended?). My favorite quote and the one I most connected with was as follows:

“Eventually every programmer wakes up and before they’re fully conscious they see their whole world and every relationship in it as chunks of code, and they trade stories about it as if sleepiness triggering acid trips is a normal thing that happens to people.”

This was me the summer of 2011 to fall of 2012. Wait… fuuuck….  this saga has been dragging on for three years, and not two as I stated above.   Well 2011/2012 is a dead space for me, so forgive me for having a bit of a fucking time dilation issue.  Its a lot like time travel, except you still fucking age. So I guess its not like time travel at all.  Its more like a year and a half black out drinking event- with the same wear and tear on the body. Regardless, the essay is well worth a read.

 

STORIUM

This is an interesting project- and the first (and probably only) crowd-funded venture I’ve ever given money.  The concept is solid,  collaborative story telling in a “game” format.  Very low tech with a high entertainment value.  Haven’t been involved enough to really give an opinion on the project.

 

Random Thought

I was talking to someone at work about my vacation- and directed them to some public photos on my locked down Friendface account.  I got to thinking that I have no idea what the people in my building are like outside of the office.  I went home that evening and stalked via various social media outlets, various people I see on a day to day basis.  This is not an activity I recommend.  If you were to run the same experiment in your life, I believe you will find these people to surprisingly boring…  and occasionally a little strange, albeit in a rather dull sort of way.  The somewhat sexy account executive who you are sure was a bit wild in her twenties only posts crap about work- and that stodgy executive doesn’t have an interesting cosplay fetish as you suspected (although he does collect model trains- and seems rather obsessed with not only photographing them- but posing with said trains, looking contemplative)

 

 

Back in the Saddle

A two week vacation from everything Buffalo seems like a life time, oddly.  It was winter when I left for Florida and I returned to what can only be described as Spring. Today’s high temperature in Buffalo is 71F; which is a few degrees warmer than the high temperature the first few days I was in Tampa.  Odd that….

I have made some resolutions whilst away.  First to social media and play random games less as they suck all available time away. Blog more, in addition to randomly surfing topics which amuse me (blog on those as well). Write more and read less. I got sucked into a few novels of considerable length that I can’t put down… or finish for that matter.  There was only one book I ever left unfinished in my lifetime- which shall go unnamed. Time to just plow through them and call it a year. I’m also going to stop randomly downloading books from self published authors who are giving away their material for free as a promotion– not because the works are bad, but because I now have far too many books in my queue that I can not feasibly finish reading all of them by Christmas….. 2015.

Lastly, I am going to spend more time focusing on me and my head space….  a little less talk radio on the way to work, and more time just working through ideas that have been playing through my mind.  The two week vacation worked as a good release valve for built up tension accumulated since my last vacation in March 2013–  now time to move forward into 2014.

Next benchmark is July, where I will be off for a beach vacation with quite a few children.  It’s more fun than it sounds……

Vacation…

It is amazing to me how much effort I expended into preparing for a two week vacation.  Between the four weeks of training I had to provide to everyone back at home so that the ship didn’t sink in my absence and dodging calls from head hunting agencies trying to recruit me elsewhere, it was a bit trying.  I have far too many vacations planned between now and July to enable me to be career mobile. I got through the shit months with not a peep from these other firms.  Can’t jump ship while I’m cashing out the good will I have accumulated.

The whole thing left me very conflicted.  Here I am doing “knowledge transfer” like I am leaving forever, being wooed by other companies to do just that, having to put them off indefinitely- which put them very off, to say the least–  knowing I would only be gone for two weeks.  There was a feeling of disconnect surrounding the whole affair.  “We’ll talk again in July,” was my stock response to all inquiries.

The level of hostility I experienced at work from both management above me and my subordinates was at the level I would have expected; though I have difficulties living in a world where this has to be the case, I accept it as an inevitable outcome. Fuck, I am always a little resentful internally when other people can escape–  I always try to limit how much I present this to the offending party.  Thus never seems to be the case when I leave for an extended period of time.

Four days into the vacation, and I haven’t heard a peep from them. Either the four fucking weeks of training covered enough scenarios they’d run into or they decided I’d clean up the mess when I return. I’m not sure what is more likely.  I hope for the former and dread the later.

I have spent the first four days of this vacation decompressing. I have a lot of trouble letting myself be idle, time to lick wounds and other such nonsense. It is a necessary part of the process.  One that I am finally learning to embrace.

And I’m not trying to make it sound like everyone back home can go fuck themselves…  but… well…  I guess everyone back home can go fuck themselves.

No Ordinary Morning

“Yet another morning,” he said to himself.  He laughed with the realization of the repetitive, ritualistic pattern these mornings had taken.  It seemed far less than twenty four hours ago that he was standing in that same spot, saying the same thing to himself, the same motions.  Saying the words out loud had become a morning mantra. He took a deep drag of his cigarette, lifting his coffee cup to his lips.  Alternating actions, smoke, sip, smoke and sip. Repetitive actions, life had become all too  repetitive.

He looked at the sculpture that sat in his garden, something he had crafted with his own hand two decades prior. He had been a different person then; full of confidence, so sure of himself.  Though he had made a six figure salary for sometime now, he missed those bygone, innocent times. Anything, everything seemed possible. He created with his hands and mind, with total disregard as to where the cards fell. Not really caring if fortune smiled upon him, if he’d be able to afford to eat that week, as that had only seemed a small part of the equation.

Now he worried about second mortgages, retirement accounts, if his teenage daughter had been fucking the young man who cleaned his pool, his wife’s most recent face lift recovery, what that meant for his sex life, getting his BMW washed every Monday morning, alternate pool cleaning services, should call off his meeting with his secretary at a motel room in the valley on Saturday afternoon, her naked form in the afternoon light, her incessant inquisitions if he’d ever leave his wife, leave his life?

He took another drag from his cigarette, glaring at his sculpture, his creation.  Was this the path he should have traveled?. True, he wouldn’t have had the toys he had now; the trophy wife, the house, the car, his whore daughter, the whore he had become; a different reality, possibly a more fulfilling reality would have taken its place. What could have been?

He threw his cigarette in the garden, something he had never done in the past. It’s never too late.  It was time to live again.

The idea that spontaneously leaps from the subconscious fully formed

“Do you think this is safe?” he asked hesitantly.  She always had been of the opinion that Josh was a pussy.  He even voiced his over cautious thoughts cautiously.  If he hadn’t been halfway decent in the sack, she would have kicked his ass to the curb.  His tender touch and attention to her needs reminded her of being with a woman. That had been the allure.  But come crunch time, he had never been anything other than a warm body to watch her back.  Pussy.

“Yes,” she said evenly. She had seen no good reason to further unsettle him by voicing doubts.  “The Shadow said it would be here at dusk. No one has ever been killed or harmed in anyway by one of them.” That we know of, she added in her mind.  Plenty of people had been harmed considerably by the humans who worked with Shadows.  Josh probably knew this as well, but her words appeared to placate. Fuck him; he had been no use to her in finding the man who killed her father.

He looked around at the hillside overlooking the cemetery, settling his eyes on a tree a few meters away. “I’ll go stand by the tree and keep watch like we agreed,” he said. She nodded and looked back toward the path leading up to the hilltop.  “And Clarissa, be careful.”

“I always am,” she responded quietly; mostly as a reminder to herself.

She played through her mind, a thousandth time, the story dad told on his deathbed.   He believed the Shadows represented an alien culture’s means of communication.  Their appearances were misinterpreted as ghosts, or worse gods.   The Shadows’ would not communicate clearly with people who held such views. He maintained that all human achievement could be attributed to their intervention.  Behind ever predominant leader, inventor and oligarch, there had been a Shadow.  He had not been one of the chosen. He worked for a Senator, who let him in on the secret. This Senator had been unceremoniously assassinated, and in the chaos of the moment, her father had taken a device the Senator used to summon a Shadow from a desk door.  Though he said he had never summoned the courage to call a Shadow, he shared the opportunity with his daughter.

“Hello Clarissa,” said a deep voice over her shoulder.  She turned around quickly. She found it as before, little more than a black outline, like smoke hovering at an undetermined distance  It lacked definition, and though it seemed as if it had been standing a few meters away, if she looked at the space that it inhabited a little differently, the distance between them could be ten times that distance.

“You said you preferred meeting outdoors,” she said passively.  The ball is in your court.  How does this work?

“I prefer to communicate in a less public space than you foolishly choose for our first encounter.  Let’s start with a question for you.  How did come to be in possession Senator Keaton’s property.” Though she had been fairly certain this was not a god that stood before her, she was torn.  How much to reveal?  She had no true gauge as to it level of omniscience.

“My father gave it to me,” the truth she decided. Was it enough? More, she decided. “He took it from the Senator’s office when he was killed.”

“So it was theft.” the being said, statement of fact.

“Not theft,” she defended. “The Senator had no need of it, and my father decided that better to fall into his hands than that of someone with no foreknowledge of what it represented.”

“I choose when and if I respond.” There was silence while that message settled in. “You father attempted to communicate on several occasions.” It hadn’t been cowardice! She felt a pride in the old man. Then awareness dawned.

“Why did you choose me?” she asked.

“You goals compliment the goals of my kind.” She had no idea what this could mean. She only desired revenge.

“Your kind?” she saw her chance to get an answer. Had humankind been guided by aliens or delusions, demons or angels?

“We have been with you since the beginning. Your triumphs have been our triumphs.” A non answer.

“What are you?” she asked more directly.

“What do you think we are?” She thought a moment.  Dad had his suspicions. After her first encounter with the Shadow, she doubted these conclusions.

“I think you are all of the things we believe you to be,” she paused for any sort of affirmation.  When none came, she sided deeply and continued.  “You are Moses and his fucking burning bush. You are Mothman warning the people.  You are the voice that whispers to the psychic. You are the idea that spontaneously leaps from the subconscious fully formed.”

“We will help you find your fathers killer,” it responded and was gone.

She sat on the ground drained.  She could hear Josh approaching from behind her.

“Clarissa, are you alright?” Josh rushed to her side.

“Mmm,” lost in her own thoughts.

“I saw you turn and than fall to the ground,” he said, concern in his voice. “Don’t you think you should get up in case the Shadow arrives?”

“It was already here,” she looked into his eyes. “Didn’t you see anything?  I talked to it for about five minutes.”

“I got to the tree. Almost immediately, you turned, looked behind you and fell to the ground.” He looked frightened, as the one thing that kept him anchored gave every indication that it had loosened from the rocks.

She shook her head, partly in responses, primarily to get the blood flowing to her mind. Had she encountered the shadow in some sort of time dilated state? No, that made little sense. Had the sequence of events only occurred in her head?  This seemed likely. Had they been in our heads the whole time? Had the Shadows been nothing more than a part of us?

 

Note: After quite a few false starts, this was my submission to Chuck Wendig’s terribleminds blog in response to the flash fiction challenge, somethingpunk. The idea being to write something outside of the cyberpunk, steampunk, dieselpunk, zombiepunk genres and find a new punk.  I originally got a third of the way through a story involving people on an asteroid where oxygen was a scarce resource, oxygen-punk.  Whilst world-building in my head, I realized that there were other resources (i.e. food, water) that I couldn’t explain away.  So I sat down and started anew–  with this idea of Alien-punk, where the supply of technology to humans from an outside source was the crux.  It evolved quickly from there into something totally other than that.  The Shadows can be anything and everything that have crept from the outside into human affairs from the day we decided to come down from the trees and give it a go.  Could be in our head… could be aliens…  could be our subconscious communicating to us after eating one too many unfamiliar plants. I’m going with the label god-punk (small g).

This is what flash fiction is meant to be in my opinion; something totally unintended, that comes out far away from your starting expectation.

The Journey Home

The mask of his pressure suit fogged up slightly, as he exhaled deeply. Through the thin morning mist of this alien world, he barely discerned the weather vane that sat atop the outpost.  The tenuous atmosphere gave everything a red tint, as if the world was covered in blood.  He looked at the white gloves that covered his hands, covered in blood.

The genetically modified trees slowly converted the methane laced atmosphere into something capable of sustaining a human population someday; or so they had been told.  He knew nothing of the science.  He had been one of fifty ‘criminals’ transported to this wasteland.  Stranded here under the guise that the equipment and processes for a sustained human presence needed to be tested by someone.  Who better than the enemies of the state? The only crime they had been guilty was having the courage to stand up for what they believed.  No, he believed there was a more sinister motivation; revenge.

“I have led them into Hell,” he said to himself. He had shouldered the blame, though there had been enough to go around.

“What was that Eddie? I couldn’t make out what you said” asked a voice on his radio.

“Nothing, I’ll be back inside soon,” he answered dismissively.

“We’ll be here waiting.” Of course they would. Where else would they go?  No escape.

He looked back up at the weather vane, the one remnant of familiarity from the past.  He often came out and just stared out it vacantly.  He regretted the part he had played, the sequence of events which led them all to this place of total desolation he found both around him.  The desolation had grown inside him.

He raised his hands over his head to stretch out a tightness he felt in his shoulders.  The suit made this impossible.  He left his arms in the raised position, considering the claustrophobia he felt in this suit, in the outpost, in his own head. He put his hands to the release clasp on either side of the helmet that kept the poison at bay. Today would end differently. It was time to go home.