Life, I tell you! Extraterrestrial…. liiiiiiife!


So, here is a quickie, to get warmed up and breathe a little life back into my own posting habits.

Science News reports that some very clever people have come up with a laser technique for detecting microbial activity. We can not only use it to, say, detect Martian life from orbit, but even use it to detect life on worlds orbiting other suns! Even better, it uses very inexpensive, off-the-shelf equipment. Which means maybe even some enterprising amateurs could conceivably be the first people to discover extraterrestrial life.

How cool is that?

Nothing Else Better To Do


Okay, it’s been completely dead in here for far too long.

I’ve been a near-total hermit since sometime late last year. I blame Obama. But I’m hereby officially re-committing to posting some postings at least once a week. I already have a couple in my head. They may not all be the casual masterpieces that you’ve grown accustomed to seeing from me. But they’ll be something.

I’m kicking off with a new song that I’ve largely finished mixing this morning.

It’s probably the most highly-produced song I’ve done yet, with all sorts of layers and panning and automation envelopes and synths and on and on about stuff you don’t care about.

And, Ghod help me, I smashed it all to hell with compressors and limiters. It just seemed like the kind of tune that called for that. Another sad victim of the Loudness Wars. I left a few transients in there somewhere. Maybe.

I like to think that this one is in the finest tradition of EatOurBrains.

I hope that it’s an easy listen for you.

…Uh… You should play it loud….


Nothing Else Better to Do


EDIT on 10-04-09: I’ve just loaded a slight remix of the song, for increased clarity. I brought the vocals forward so that they’re more intelligible, increased the strings’ level for ear candy, and got rid of some mud in the bottom end. I don’t know about you guys, but I usually don’t enjoy having mud in my bottom end.

Hugs to all of you


Stuff We Did This Weekend

You know how I am… It’s all a blur to me. I kinda almost remember stuff. Sometimes.


Lessee… what did I do this weekend? I remember riding into Austin on my Shadow on Friday evening. She Who Is Awesome and Jesse and I ended up eating dinner at the all-you-can-eat place, because the upscale places were all overloaded with those people who are about three cuts above my normal social class and prefer the restaurant music to be so GODDAM LOUD that you can’t hear your own intestines explode when the salmonella kicks in.


I normally don’t like the all-you-can-eat food places, but this one was quieter than usual and the food was extremely tasty, and apparently did not contain any salmonella. Jesse was taking us out to celebrate because he just got a new job installing cutting-edge solar technology to power laser-beam death rays on people’s roofs. I spilled ice cream on my shirt and licked it off, but it didn’t get really clean, actually.


Jesse had to go to bed early because he had to go in the next morning to start collimating the death rays. Me and Rach rode over to the nearest movie plex and saw ‘The Dark Knight’. I kinda remember it being pretty good. It was long, but didn’t seem that way at the time. I didn’t have to get up to go to the bathroom even once during the movie, which was nice.


Slept very late Saturday morning. Washed clothes, as I had forgotten to bring any clean underwear with me. Took a shower, and got back into the sweaty underwear, as the clean underwear wasn’t dry yet. Yeah, I know – gross.


Got to band rehearsal after the scheduled begin time that afternoon, as usual. We jammed out until about nine. We were mind-blastingly great, as usual, and everybody even seemed to enjoy it, despite the mandatory bitching and whining. I got to play loud, some. Caroline’s cello solo on the not-quite-last song (which is a secret song for the wedding gig, so shush!) was sublime.


Jesse was out shooting pool with friends when I got back to the apartment, so me and Rach wandered off and had TexMex at this quiet place tucked away in the wilderness that is Pflugerville. It was late, so we were the last customers to leave before they closed. I left a larger than usual tip, because I felt guilty about that.


We weren’t tired yet, so we rode off down I-35 looking for trouble, and… What did we do then?..


Oh, yeah, now I remember.


: Continue reading

A Wild and Crazy Truth

Let's Get Small 

I usually dislike books labeled as “memoir” (though I occasionally read them), because I’ve always known they can’t be trusted.

In fact, when the whole Million-Little-Pieces debacle unfolded a few years ago, I was bemused by the “Shocked! Shocked!” reaction it provoked. Seriously, now: Were daytime-television bookclubbers really surprised to discover that “memoir” is French for “big fat self-serving lie”?

Besides, even if a memoirist endeavors to be as truthful as memory allows, he or she will still get something wrong. I myself, the earthly avatar of Honesty and Cub-Scoutiness, have discovered that I often just flat misremember things. Last year, for example, I wrote an essay for Eat Our Brains in which I described a childhood game that I said had no name, but that I would refer to as “Dizzy Idiots.” Then, a few months ago, my Baby Brother (who could now crush me ‘twixt his thumb and forefinger like an overripe grape) reminded me that the game I had described did have a name. It was called “Tornado.”

[Well, Baby Brother would have a better memory of that game than I would. He was the one who wound up in the Emergency Room because of it.]

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Unca Scott Makes A Movie!

Scott McCullar was the rhythm guitarist, frequent lead singer, and often song-writer for the late, somewhat- lamented Los Blues Guys. His song ‘The Element of Fire‘, based on the classic Martha Wells novel of the same name, is one of my favorites, though ‘Elvis is Alive‘ was always a huge crowd pleaser.

After tiring of the madness, the groupies, and the endless, hazy parties of the rock ‘n roll lifestyle, he became a librarian in Houston. But the spotlight called to him, as it does to us all. Here’s his new movie:



Pessimism — Part One

Instead of a music vid this week, I’d like to recommend to you this half-hour long presentation by a gentleman named Stephen Petranek. It’s called ‘Ten Ways the World Could End’:



It’s from the TED Conference in 2002. This is the secret meeting that the Really Smart Cool People have every year. Up until recently, the proceedings weren’t available to folks who aren’t completely cool and smart. However, last year they started putting stuff on-line. I’m not sure why. Maybe they wanted everybody to know how cool and smart they are.

Massive props to The Dude for turning us on to TED months ago, in an email that that he sent to the secret Brainiac listserv that we maintain, where he told us all about it so we could become cooler and smarter. As if that were possible.

There are over 200 videos up on the TED site, and every one that I’ve viewed so far has been absolutely fascinating.

They’re not all as long as tonight’s featured flick, but you could waste at least a couple of days watching these things and probably enjoy them all. Except it wouldn’t be a waste, as you would become progressively cooler and smarter with each one.

More later tonight, on my personal plans regarding that whole End of the World thing.


Blood, Bones, Metal, and Magic at the OK Corral: A Review of Territory by Emma Bull

Territory by Emma Bull. Wow. Just, wow.I’d said I wasn’t going to blog this week, but I came across a true delight last night, and I must share it.

As a reader, I lean more toward science fiction, but a well-written fantasy novel is a delight, and Emma Bull‘s Territory kept me up half the night. It’s one of the best books I’ve read in years.

Territory is the legend of the OK Corral, with Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday and Ike Clanton, naturally, and it holds all the dust and fire and bullets, all the frontier law-making and -breaking, the cattle rustling and gun slingers, of a good western. Only it mixes in a heady brew of sorcery, with a daub of American and Chinese mysticism, like spices that bring out the flavor of the brew and transform it into something new.

Bull sneaks up on you. I am a long-time reader and there aren’t a lot of books that sink their hooks in and grab hold without my being aware of what’s happening. But she pulled me in. There’s not a single false note in this book. The magic is handled deftly, the characters achingly real and believable. The magic sneaks up on you, too. It’s not merely tacked-on pyrotechnics. Rather, it manifests itself gradually, as a raw and elemental force woven so naturally through the story that ultimately it seems unthinkable to view the original legend without the magic mixed in.

Territory is told primarily from the viewpoints of three characters. Jesse Fox is a drifter summoned to Tombstone by an old friend, Chow Lung, a Chinese sorcerer and physician who seeks to protect the town against the powerful evil forces gathering there. Throughout much of the book, Jesse struggles to keep at bay his own supernatural abilities. He had a ringside seat at the inexorable destruction of his beloved sister, due to her own power and sensitivity to the supernatural.

Mildred Benjamin, a widow whose husband has recently died, is a copyeditor-cum-reporter at a local newspaper and secretly, a fiction writer for a deliciously trashy fiction tabloid. One of the delights of this book is that the “ordinary” people are no less extraordinary than the conjurers and magicians. Mildred is levelheaded and practical. She is no sorceress, to be swallowed by earth, flame, and water, as Jesse is. But in Bull’s hands, her arc is equally gripping. Bull portrays her with a clear and unyielding vision of the difficulties women faced in the American west. Mildred comes into her own for the first time in a difficult, lawless time. She is no fainting damsel. Mildred is thrown into town life at large by her husband’s death, and later flung into dangerous and eldritch happenings by hidden sorcerers’ machinations. And she finds herself equal to the task.

The other viewpoint character is Doc Holliday. Earp and Holliday, as the two antagonists, are also compelling characters. Doc Holliday is a consumptive, slowly dying, and kept alive only by Wyatt’s own version of magic — or is Wyatt only using him, and slowly killing him? Yet they are close friends whose ties reach back over the years, and you sense that Earp’s hold on Holliday is in one sense also Holliday’s hold on Earp. Holliday is acerbic, amoral, and self-destructive, but you can’t help but like him anyway, and even Earp a little, when you see him through Doc’s eyes.

Then there are the secondary characters, all delightful and skillfully drawn. My favorite is Lung. He is powerful, irascible, and very funny, a Chinese immigrant to the barbaric west, who is baffled by Jesse’s struggle over science versus magic. To him, medicine and magic are part of the same system. And the women of Mildred’s acquaintance: Kate Holliday, who is herself a force of nature, and the Earp wives, downtrodden, kept isolated by their husbands and shunned by Tombstone’s social circle. They are powerless and victimized and it would be easy for Bull to treat them as ciphers. But they come to life in Bull’s hands as Mildred befriends them, and thus we not only experience a more thoughtful view of power in domestic and family relations; we also learn much more about the Earps and the evil they are capable of — and why.

As a writer, I am in awe of Bull’s craft. She reaches deep and grabs hold of something raw, real, and fabulous. As a reader, I am besotted with the world and the characters. She is a master of her craft. I’m so ready for the sequel I can’t stand it! Why isn’t it finished right now?? Auuuggh!

Grade: A+. With Territory, Bull crafts a dangerous, rich portrait of the old west, transformed by elemental magic, exotic and familiar at once. Highly recommended.

Update: I belatedly note from some of the Amazon reader reviews that one or two readers are mildly let down when they discover that the the famous shootout doesn’t happen in this book. Be forewarned–Territory is clearly the first of two, and the shootout will undoubtedly occur in the second.

Clarke Orbit … Clarke Obit

Sir Arthur

The idea of a geosynchronous satellite for communication purposes was first published in 1928 by Herman Potočnik. The geostationary orbit was first popularised in a paper entitled “Extra-Terrestrial Relays — Can Rocket Stations Give Worldwide Radio Coverage?” by Arthur C. Clarke, published in Wireless World in 1945. In the paper, Clarke described it as a useful orbit for communications satellites. As a result this is sometimes referred to as the Clarke orbit. Similarly, the Clarke Belt is the part of space approximately 35,786 km above mean sea level in the plane of the equator where near-geostationary orbits may be achieved.

Sir Arthur, aged 90, has died.

…what you say may be taken down and used against you.

Never trust a man, who when left alone with a tea cosey… Doesn’t try it on.–Billy Connolly

Now, I’m the kind of guy who believes in transparency in public affairs and a kind of public integrity for pretty much everybody. You want to act like an asshole, fine, just so you’re up front about it. This doesn’t meant I want every thought in my head to be public knowledge but I’m pretty up front about my general beliefs even though I would be embarrassed, probably to have all my opinions spread across the internet.

I have friends whose writing I love and friends whose writing I don’t care for and people I don’t consider friends who, for some unknown reason, consider me their dearest buddy. I am polite in public and sometimes this means just a little bit less than completely honest.

So, one thing I want to be really careful about is not saying stuff in venue that will hurt people’s feelings. So, this kind of relates to Mad’s post about the train wreck that is The Moment of Truth. Both that and the following really fit into the category “What on Earth were they thinking?!”

An American insurance company, in defending its refusal to pay out a claim, is seeking to call in evidence personal online postings, including the contents of any MySpace or Facebook pages the litigants may have, to see if their eating disorders might have “emotional causes”. And the case is far from a lone one. Suddenly, those saucy pictures and intimate confessions on social networking sites can be taken down and used in evidence against you in ways never dreamed of.

In the US, a sex assault victim seeking compensation faces the prospect of her MySpace and Facebook pages being produced in court. In Texas, a driver whose car was involved in a fatal accident found his MySpace postings (“I’m not an alcoholic, I’m a drunkaholic”) part of the prosecution’s case. From Los Angeles to Lowestoft, thousands of social network site users have lost their jobs – or failed to clinch new ones – because of their pages’ contents. Police, colleges and schools are monitoring MySpace and Facebook pages for what they deem to be “inappropriate” content. Online security holes and users’ naivety are combining to cause privacy breaches and identity thefts. And what all this, and more, adds up to is this: online social networking can seriously damage your life.

Just ask the 27 workers at the Automobile Club of Southern California fired for messages about colleagues on their MySpace sites; the Florida sheriff’s deputy whose MySpace page revealed his heavy drinking and fascination with female breasts – and swiftly found himself handing in his badge; the Argos worker in Wokingham fired for saying on Facebook that working at the firm was “shit”; the Las Vegas teacher at a Catholic school fired after he declared himself gay on his MySpace page; the staff of an Ottawa grocery chain fired for their “negative comments” on Facebook; the 19 Northampton police officers investigated for Facebook comments; and Kevin Colvin, an intern at Anglo Irish Bank, who told his employers he had a family emergency, but whose Facebook page revealed he had, in reality, been cavorting in drag at a Hallowe’en party.

Facebook Can Ruin Your Life” at The Independent

Don’t Sue My Buddies!

George wants his buddies in the telecommunication biz not to face the consequences of helping him illegally tap phones.  From the Washington Post:

Referring to the phone companies’ need for relief, Bush said: “They’re facing billions of dollars of lawsuits.”

Five coordinated, class-action lawsuits are pending against the phone companies, but substantial damages would be awarded only if courts rule that they participated in illegal surveillance affecting millions of people, not just communications involving terrorism suspects overseas. If all the claims were added up, the statutory penalties could be $13,000 per person or $200 per person per day of violation.

* * *

Referring to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Bush said: “I don’t want to try to get inside their head; I suspect they see, you know, a financial gravy train.”

Two nonprofit groups are overseeing the five class-action cases: the San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois. But each case has at least one for-profit law firm assisting the plaintiffs. At least one law firm is seeking no compensation. There is no prospect that financial damages would be awarded soon.

My favorite Commie rag says:

 US President George Bush used a Thursday White House press conference to issue a belligerent demand that Congress pass a bill effectively gutting Constitutional protections against government spying while granting immunity to telecommunications companies that helped the administration break the law.

The bullying tone of the president, who repeatedly banged the podium while warning of supposed imminent dangers posed by the Congressional delay in renewing the administration’s unfettered power to conduct domestic wiretapping, stood in sharp contradiction with the overwhelming popular hostility towards Bush, whose standing in the polls has fallen to record lows. Despite his deepening political isolation, the Republican president is justifiably confident that the Democratic majority in Congress will ultimately bow to his demands.

The following can be attributed to Timothy Sparapani, Senior Legislative Counsel for the ACLU:

“Contrary to the president’s false claim that those suing the telecoms are doing so because of a ‘financial gravy train,” those who are seeking justice against the companies that sold out their privacy are not in it for the money. This is about the rule of law, and about insisting that corporations not be treated as above the law. You follow the rules, you don’t get sued. It’s as simple as that. Americans deserve their day in court.

“As for getting the help of these companies in the future, the president conveniently fails to mention that the companies will have immunity if they follow the law – namely FISA. For years, the telephone companies knowingly violated that law and should be held accountable.  Because the administration does not want this lawlessness aired publicly, Bush is trying to prevent the courts from doing their job and is now goading Congress to bait them into aiding his administration’s cover-up. A full and public airing of the facts is necessary and overdue. The bottom line in all of these cases is that these giant companies must be held accountable for violating the law and dissuaded from violating the law in the future.”

But here’s my favorite comment:

The Billboard Liberation Front today announced a major new advertising improvement campaign executed on behalf of clients AT&T and the National Security Agency. Focusing on billboards in the San Francisco area, this improvement action is designed to promote and celebrate the innovative collaboration of these two global communications giants.


Idiocracy — Drinkin’ It All In

This isn’t about something obscure, but we’re all really smart people here at EOB, so I thought it might be as obscure for you as it was for me.

Last night, while I was staying with She Who is Awesome and her intended, Jesse, she made me watch ‘Idiocracy’, the Mike Judge (he’s another Texas boy! Yee-haw!) movie about a future where the stupid people have so completely outbred the smart people that the world’s average IQ is somewhere around 50. Or maybe 20.

I normally despise stupid movies about stupid people. Couldn’t even finish the commercial for ‘Dumb and Dumber’. But this is a smart movie about stupid people. I suspect that it has metaphors and stuff in it. Maybe even some satires. Even though I’m ashamed, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

It’s not for the faint of heart; I had an almost continuous cascade of ‘WTF! They can’t really be doing that’ moments while watching it.

The only drink in the world of the future is Brawndo. It now is a real drink, and here’s their web site.

They have a bunch of video commercials and they’re…. well… damned if I know how to describe them. But they make me laugh.

The same guy who did the voice on the first Brawndo commercial also did the voice on this commercial for Power Thirst. It made me want to eat my own head. I almost fell out of my chair when we came to the line about God and lemons.

None of these are safe for work, incidentally.



Try not to hate me for this post, guys. It’s our future, and it’s already here. We just have to learn to accept it.

(There’s probably an extremely serious, meaningful conversation to be had about some of the issues presented in this movie and these commercials, but I may not be the guy to have it with.)



Via Pacific Views, a great, short post from blogger Wandering Ink entitled “How to Prevent Another Leonardo da Vinci” that plays off Michael Gelb’s book How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci. The post describes how to squelch students’ creativity, drive, and critical thinking. Here’s a sampling:

This is how we kill each trait that may yield another Da Vinci:

1. Curiosita (from “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci”)
What? Intense and insatiable curiosity; constantly learning due to a desire to ask and answer questions
The Murder: In schools, for the most part, students learn only what the teacher decides they will learn. Student questions will often go unanswered if they lead away from the material (go off-topic), or if there are time constraints on what must be learned that leave no time for these questions in class.

Snap! It’s almost like somebody took the how-to-prevent-a-da-vinci list from Wandering Ink’s blog and used it as the design specs for our educational system. The post was nominated for the 2007 EduBlog post of the year.