#WLAMF no. 2: The Interview

This morning, I woke up from a really vivid dream in which I was a magazine reporter doing an interview. I was interviewing the Shambling Horror from the Cursed Moor for a human-interest story, as one does. It was a long and quite vivid dream, that stuck with me while I was making tea.

As I recall, the dream went something like this:

Me: What’s the best part of your job?

Shambling Horror: You might think it’s opening demonic portals into the Void, or tearing the souls of the damned from their bodies, but those are really just the day-in, day-out stuff. The thing I really live for is that kid. You know, the one who gets it into his head that he’s going to go out on the first full moon of the year and see if all the stories about the ancient ruins are true.

He usually comes right up to the front door. You know, right down the Cursed Stairway to the Portal of Horror. And he’s all like “Hey, Cory, where are you? Cory, is that you? Where are you, Cory?” He doesn’t know his friend Cory chickened out at the last minute and is home with his mom sipping hot chocolate.

So this kid is all like “Cory, is that you?” and I step out of the shadows with all my tentacles writing and say “Yes, it is.” And then he goes high-tailing it back home…man, kids can run like gazelles!

Me: You don’t, like, devour his flesh or anything?

Shambling Horror: What do you think I am, a monster?

Me: Isn’t that a terrible thing to do?

Shambling Horror: Naah. That kid, the one who came out when his friend Cory stayed home? That kid is going to grow up to be an adventurer. He’s the kid who’s going to rescue damsels and slay dragons. You know why? Because he’s going to remember how scared he was, and that he still made it home alive, and that memory is going to stick with him. It’s going to remind him that no matter how scared he is, he can still do what he wants. That kid is going to be awesome! The Corys of the world are going to grow up to be accountants.

Me: So what about the grownups who visit the ruins on the moor?

Shambling Horror: Well, every now and then some damn fool gets it in his head he’s going to cleanse the world of an ancient evil or drive off the demonic host, and those guys come knocking on my door with a bunch of clerics and holy water and blessed swords or something. I can’t let that happen. So I have to deal with them, you know?

Me: Do you eat them?

Shambling Horror: What? No! Humans are filthy animals. Who knows what kind of diseases you carry. Ew! I’m not going to eat a human. Yuck!

Me: So what do you eat?

Shambling Horror: I have a lovely collection of artisanal cheeses in the basement. Cured on oak, not on metal shelves. I don’t care what anyone says, you can taste the difference. Some crackers, a nice wine…now that’s heaven. Or so I’ve heard. I wouldn’t know.

Yes, I have to live inside this head.

I’m writing one blog post for every contribution to our crowdfunding we receive between now and the end of the campaign. Help support indie publishing! We’re publishing five new books on polyamory in 2015: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/thorntree-press-three-new-polyamory-books-in-2015/x/1603977

Adventures in Europe, Chapter 22: Sliding Under a Big Bridge

Throughout my life, there have been several recurring themes in my dreams.

I’m not talking about the one where I become despotic ruler of the earth and crush dissent in my iron fist; that’s really more of an ambition than a dream. I also don’t mean the one where I suddenly realize to my horror that I have been enrolled in some university all year but I totally forgot about it and don’t know my class schedule, and I’ve only just become aware that today is finals day and I can’t even find any of the classrooms…which, annoying as it is, is pretty much a run-of-the-mill stress dream. Any of you who don’t have that dream, be happy.

Nor do I mean the one where I see myself standing in sort of sun-god robes on a pyramid with a thousand naked women screaming and throwing little pickles at me–that’s actually Val Kilmer, not me.

The dream that I have is about a bridge. And really, in some ways, I think it might be this bridge.

You can, if you want, click on the pic for a much, much bigger version (nearly four thousand pixels wide!).

This is a hand-stitched panorama of the Østbroen Bridge, or the Great Belt Bridge, in Denmark, which we passed beneath (by inches) on the way from Gdańsk to Oslo. I put it together in Photoshop from a half-dozen pics I took by setting my camera on a rail on the front of the ship and holding the shutter down while I rotated the camera by hand, on account of ’cause I don’t have a modern DSLR capable of doing panoramic shots by the power of Science and elfin magic.

Which, as a side note, if anyone out there wants to contribute to me getting a better digital camera than my first-generation EOS digital, I’d be most appreciative.

My dreams have often been illed with impossible bridges. In some versions of the dream, I’m on a flat, two-lane bridge, completely lacking guardrails, that extends five or six hundred miles into the water and then slowly dips below the waves, leaving me stranded without enough room to turn around and go back the way I came.

In others, the bridge is more like this one, only in the center it starts to rise more and more steeply until finally I have to stop the car, get out, and climb. There’s usually a narrow catwalk, or sometimes just a tightrope, that makes up the center of the bridge; I walk across it, climb back down on the other side, and somehow my car is waiting for me to get in and finish the drive.

In yet other versions, it’s a long, high suspension bridge that ends on the far side on the roof of a skyscraper or other tall building. I drive across, and then find myself on the roof, with no way to get off the building onto the street below.

So when I saw this bridge, which is impossibly long (it’s apparently the largest bridge outside Asia and the third largest in the world, or so the ship’s captain said), it felt kind of like a weird homecoming. In, y’know, my head. When I’m asleep. But only sometimes, and not during the times when I’m Val Kilmer and it’s the thing with the pickles.

We passed beneath it with, as I mentioned, only inches to spare. I really wanted a photo of that, but my camera battery chose that precise moment to die, which I thought was absolute dog’s bollocks, but there it is.

I particularly like the windmills on one end, and the way it touches down on a little spit of land and then promptly dives into an underground tunnel and disappears on the other, which you can’t quite see in this panorama.

I have no idea what this bridge means, nor why it’s been a central fixture in my dreams for so many years. I have noticed that I haven’t dreamt about it since we passed beneath the Østbroen Bridge, for reasons that entirely escape your humble scribe.

So the stress and poor sleep continues…

…and with it, the unreasonably vivid dreams.

Which, in this case, apparently offer me the history of cinematography for the next century. Apparently, in 2101, I am to be assigned the task of writing a book on the top 100 movies of the past century (2000-2100). You will no doubt be relieved to know, Gentle Readers, that Watchmen made the cut.

Among the more interesting:

The top movie of 2039, surprisingly, was the surrealistically violent, surrealistically explicit Strength, a highly stylized movie billing itself as “inspired” by the life of the Viking king Canute the Great. It was originally released in 2037 under the name Strength Over Ice as a sprawling 3 hour and 20 minute epic, and was critically panned; Strength Over Ice was a box-office flop. In 2039, an edited, streamlined 2-hour version of the movie was re-released under the new title and became an unexpected hit.

The only documentary to make the list was 2057’s Like Neighbors, an account of the brutal murder in 2032 of Kenneth Lanton at the hands of a group of eight members of the theocratic American Dominion Party for alleged “offenses against sexual decency”, and the backlash that it triggered which eventually led to the loss of all six Senate seats held by the party and to the dissolution of the party itself in 2049. When Like Neighbors was released, a handful of theaters refused to show it because the movie contains footage of the murder itself, taken by one of the attackers.

I need to go to bed earlier.

Dreaming of Kinky Sex and Computer Security

These days I’ve been working rather a lot more than I’d really prefer to, and been dealing with rather a lot more stress than I might be wanting, so I haven’t been sleeping well.

When I do sleep well, I rarely remember my dreams, and those I do remember are fairly prosaic, like trying to catch the bus and then realizing as I’m running down the street that I’m in my underwear, that sort of thing.

When I’m stressed and sleeping poorly, on the other hand…

Jenna Jameson, leet computer hacker and hardware wizard extraordinaireWhen I’m stressed and sleeping poorly, my dreams are vivid, complex, and bizarre. Like the one last night, which involved Jenna Jameson, my sweetie joreth, lolitasir, an unsecured fiber optic junction box, a BDSM convention, two other unnamed porn stars, a set of railroad tracks, a disposable Bic pen, a laser pointer, a fishing tackle box full of needles, Walgreen’s drug store, and group sex.

And to be quite honest, I don’t even really know who Jenna Jameson is, other than she either does or did at one time do porn. I didn’t even know what she looks like ’til I Googled her just now. Apparently, that’s her there on the left.

As far as my subconscious mind is concerned, she’s a computer hacker with mad leet skillz.

But maybe I should back up a little.

The dream started simply enough–joreth and I driving together to a BDSM convention. The thing about dreams is that the laws of physical reality don’t apply; within the dream world, I can become other characters, ignore laws of physics, change my shape, become invisible, fly through a tie-dyed sky, all manner of things.

Some things are universal constants, inviolate even in the realm of dreams. One of those is that I have a lousy sense of direction.

So naturally we got lost on the way to the convention–so lost that at one point I decided the only way to find the hotel was to drive along the train tracks to get there. There was, you see, a train station right in front of the place–and happily, we arrived at the same time the train did. I parked behind the train, it disgorged a carload of porn stars and the computer hacker Ms. Jameson, and we went inside…

…to discover the hotel was sold out.

But no matter! The porn stars and Ms. Jameson invited us to stay in their room.

We followed them up to the room, and Cut for kinky imaginary sex and computer trespass

Dreaming of Transhumanism Remixes

Last night, I had a very long, incredibly detailed, and incredibly high resolution dream about Battlestar: Galactica.

Well, kinda sorta.

This isn’t actually a post about BSG, though the show is definitely a springboard for it. I liked the show a great deal, but in truth didn’t much care for the take-away lesson from the last episode, which cut for spoilers, which you don’t really need to read to get the rest of this post

Some thoughts on women, sexual double-standards, and complicity

So I can not fracking sleep tonight. This fever is refusing to go away, even after I’ve waged a fierce two-pronged attack on it with Advil and Tylenol, and I feel like I’m about to hork up a lung. Truly, I am a walking shambling catastrophe.

The fourth night zaiah was here, and the first night I had this damn fever, I woke up from a very strange dream. My dreams tend to be a bit weird to begin with, but when I have a fever, look out.

This is actually a post about societal fears of women’s sexuality and sexual double standards. Bear with me; I’m a bit fuzzy-headed at the moment, and apt to be preternaturally rambly. Now where was I?

Oh, yeah. fever dream. Anyway, I had this dream, and in this dream I’d met and made friends with a woman. Don’t recall her clearly–long black hair, big brown eyes, that’s all that stuck.

Anyway, in the dream, shortly after we became friends, a group of researchers pulled me aside and explained to me that she wasn’t actually a woman at all. She was a synthetic construct–body engineered and grown in a vat, brain a gigantic supercomputer kept in a huge facility elsewhere in town and remotely operating the body. She was not aware of any of this; she was actually an experiment in artificial intelligence, socialization, and the development of self, carefully monitored over the past thirty years. The place where she lived–a gorgeous penthouse suite, indoor pool and all–was closely monitored ’round the clock, and all her interactions with the outside world were carefully regulated. She was encouraged to keep a private diary, which she believed was secret but which was actually published monthly in a trade journal about AI and machine consciousness.

They took me up to the control room and let me read some of the back issues of the journal. One of her diary entries was particularly strange; she’d somehow got her hands on a book of basic anatomy, and was utterly perplexed that the book showed things that she didn’t have. Specifically, the book showed reproductive and sex organs, and she had nothing of the sort–no sexual organs whatsoever between her legs. No labia, no vagina, nothing. The researchers, somewhat shamefacedly, said they had been too embarrassed to put them in the design when they were growing the body.

I woke up really, really pissed off, with nothing to attach the pissed-off-ness to. It took some introspection to figure out what the pissed-off-ness was connected with; this bizarre and nearly universal sexual shame that we as a species seem to attach to female sexuality.

I’m not talking about the schizophrenic Puritanical sexual asshattery that we in the US attach to sex in general. I’m talking about a hatred of sexual expression in women that’s so virulent that entire societies will surgically mutilate women to prevent them from enjoying the act of sex.

And make no mistake about it–the impulse to label sexually promiscuous men as “studs” and sexually promiscuous women as “whores” is no different in kind; it is the exact same impulse, merely taken to a different but equally illogical conclusion, that drives folks to get out the scalpels.

And it’s frickin’ everywhere. It’s not just a handful of societies. It’s not just a few places. It’s everywhere. The ancient Israelites had all kinds of weird religious rules about touching women when they were ‘unclean,’ that speaks to a level of institutionalized abhorrence and fear of basic reproductive biology that’s mind-boggling. In Hindu societies, a woman who committed adultery was publicly executed after first having her sex organs cut off with a knife–and the real kicker is that for this purpose, “adultery” could be defined as “talking with a man and touching his clothing.”

This is a level of fucked-up-ness I can’t quite wrap my head around. Seems like everyone’s just scared silly of women’s sexuality. Seriously, WTF?

The part that really blows my mind, though, and the part I really don’t get, is the extent to which women themselves buy into this kind of thing. One thing that consistently mazes me on online forums that have anything to do with discussions of sex or sexuality–any time a woman talks about how much she likes sex, or about enjoying any kind of non-traditional sexual arrangements, especially things like polyamory or (God forbid) casual sex, there will be a handful of guys who’ll say things like “slut!”–but they have to stand in line behind all the women who’re screaming it, too.

And I really want to grab some of these women and shake them and say “WTF is wrong with you? Don’t you understand that by slinging around words like “slut” and “whore,” you’re participating in your own sexual disenfranchisement? What are you thinking?”

And I’m not even talking about the fun use of the word “slut,” as in the “My, aren’t YOU a naughty little vixen? I have just the thing for a naughty slut like you!” that dayo so enjoys hearing.

So, naturally, since I couldn’t sleep, I decided that zaiah shouldn’t sleep either, and woke her up to talk about it.

Enlightening conversation, it was.

She is of the opinion that, popular opinion to the contrary, women are if anything fare more competitive and far more hierarchical than men are. Take a group of three female friends in a bar, she says. Each of them knows precisely what her place in the hierarchy is. If they spot a group of three men across the bar, they’ve already decided which one gets who before the first words are even exchanged. Should one of the men approach the “wrong” woman, her friends will smoothly step in and cock-block him, and order is restored. With, naturally, the men none the wiser.

It starts in grade school, she says–a formalized, competitive hierarchy of popularity and subtle social status, with rigorous standards about which women are eligible to compete for which men. It continues through high school and college, and even carries out into the adult world–often, she says, women wear makeup and jewelry not for the direct benefit of men, but rather to signal to other women their status and intentions in the competition.

And it’s a ruthless competition, with a high cost for those who refuse to buy in.

The cost of not buying in? The women who don’t compete in this way, or who pursue men deemed above their status or outside their league? These are the women labeled “slut” and “tramp”–not by men, but by other women.

Color me astonished; I’m forty-two years old and none of this had ever occurred to me.

So, yeah. Dreams and fever: interesting combination. Now I’m going to take some more meds and try to go to bed.

Ph34r me!

While i rarely remember my dreams, every now and then I have one that’s a doozy. A few nights back, I had a dream that I took over the world.

Not in a military sense, though, and not in a James Bond “siezing control of all the natural resources” or “building a flying orbital fortress sense.” It was a lot more…transhumanist than that.

It started out with me on a group of islands somewhere in the middle of nowhere. I had developed gap generators–anyone who plays the game Command & Conquer Red Alert will know what I mean. Towers that blank out the area around my island to air and satellite photography.

I also had a lock on tech that is to current high tech what an M-16 is to a flint knife. We’re talking general nanoscale assemblers, instantaneous global real-time intelligence, near-instant suborbital travel to any point on the globe, force fields, force manipulators, the works.

So I did what anyone would do in that position, if they were me: started issuing edicts. I developed a very simple system for it, in fact. I’d send out a mass-media, all-channels broadcast to some place, telling their government what to do. If they failed to comply, then the folks responsible for the failure would get zapped by lightning, or find their homes and offices crumbling to dust under a flying swarm of microscopic robots, or stuff like that, and then I’d repeat the broadcast. Rinse and repeat until compliance.

A lot of governments took strong objection to this, and tried all sorts of things to get me to stop. They’d send navies after me, which would find themselves blocked by invisible walls hundreds of miles out. They’d launch missiles at me, which I would snatch out of the air and add to my collection. In one particularly vivid and detailed part of the dream, the American government sent a nuclear attack sub after me, reasoning that I wouldn’t see it coming; I snatched it out of the water, and sent the crew back to Washington on a suborbital ballistic transport with a note reading “Here’s your guys back, thanks for the sub!”

I don’t remember all the edicts that I issued, but I do remember that some of them included:

– An immediate end to laws mandating sexual segregation and sexual oppression in the Middle East;
– An immediate laying down of weapons by all armed, militant religious and paramilitary groups, with a 24-hour deadline (after which armed militants found themselves being taken apart, along with their weapons, by swarms of nanobots);
– Immediate closing of prison camps all over the world, including the prison at Guantanamo;
– Patent reform in the UK and the US;
– Immediate, unconditional, and unrestricted civil rights for gays and lesbians everywhere in the world;

and so on.

You know, looking back, I think I’d probably make a pretty good dictator of the world.

Okay, so.

I don’t like beer.

I don’t know how to cook.

I don’t know how to brew beer, except that the process involves mashing up some kind of grain at some step along the way. Oh, and I think yeast are involved, too.

I don’t know a thing about spices; see reference to “don’t know how to cook” above.

Nevertheless, last night I had a dream in which I came up with a new recipe for beer (which, just for the record, I don’t even drink). Said recipe involved nutmeg (which I know is a spice of some sort) and curry (which I believe to be a spice of some sort). I brewed large quantities of this beer, which I then loaded into the back of a station wagon, so that I could drive all over merry old England (a country I’ve never visited) selling it to pubs and bars.

Apparently, it was a big success, and by the end of the dream, Molson Brewing Company (a company I wasn’t even sure was real–I had to Google it just now) was negotiating with me to buy the rights to the beer for millions of dollars.

Either I have a secret font of arcane, esoteric knowledge buried deep inside my head somewhere, or someone else has been using my brain while I’m asleep. Would you even put stuff like curry and nutmeg in beer? I have no idea.

Steve Jobs is God

So last night, I went to bed very late. I don’t know if it was spending the entire day playing World of Warcraft, or eating little besides leftover Subway and frozen microwave dinners, or perhaps the fact that I was working on my Web site every time I was waiting for my mage to recover mana, but for some reason I was visited by the spirit of Steve Jobs in my dreams.

The dreams were so vivid that when I woke up, I could almost feel the presence of Steve there in my bedroom. I remember talking to the Great Mr. Jobs about the inside skinny at Apple, and learning some rather…remarkable things. A small part of our conversation:

Me: So when Apple switched from PowerPC processors to Intel processors, you made it possible for users to run their old PowerPC programs.

Steve: Yes. We created an emulation program called Rosetta, which emulates a PowerPc processor on an Intel processor.

Me: Other people have done the same thing before; there’s an open-source program called PearPC that runs Mac OS X on Intel computers. But it’s very slow. I’ve seen it run; it takes about half an hour to boot. How did you get Rosetta to run so fast?

Steve: Well, for technical reasons, emulating a RISC processor like a PowerPC on a CISC processor like the ones Intel makes is very difficult to do. At first, our emulation program was very slow, too.

But then we thought, what if the laws of physics are changed? Is it possible that under different fundamental laws, emulating a RISC processor on CISC architecture might be easy? So when our engineers started going down that path, we discovered we could get much better performance.

Me: Come again?

Steve: It’s quite simple, really. Rather than emulating a processor, what if Rosetta emulated an entire universe–one where the laws of physics made running PowerPC code on an Intel chip easy? We searched through a large number of parallel universes, and found one where the basic physical properties of the universe gave us the results we wanted.

Me: Wait a minute. Are you telling me that Rosetta doesn’t emulate a processor, it emulates an entire universe?

Steve: Exactly! We got the idea from watching The Matrix. When you launch a PowerPC application, Rosetta brings a new universe into being. This particular universe has non-Euclidean geometry; it turns out that Euclidean geometry is particularly bad for emulating RISC on CISC.

Within the laws of this universe, it’s easy to run PowerPC applications on the Intel processor found in all our current computers, like our best-selling iMac or our high-end Mac Pro.

The only drawback to this approach is memory. Emulating an entire universe within Mac OS X requires significant memory, which is why we recommend that our users who still find themselves running legacy PowerPC applications install at least two gigabytes of RAM. You can add more memory to your computer as a build-to-order option from the Apple store.

Me: And this actually works?

Steve: Oh, yes. Emulating an entire universe involves more overhead, of course, but the speed advantage you get by running RISC code on a CISC processor in non-Euclidean space more than makes up for it.

Me: I’ve noticed that when I keep my computer running for a long time, PowerPC apps can suddenly start to slow down.

Steve: Yes. We’ve observed that issue in our labs as well. It has to do with the formation of life in the parallel universe.

Me: What??!

Steve: If you let Rosetta run for long enough, eventually life will arise in the universe it creates. Because emulating the complex functions of life is a processor-intensive task, the performance of PowerPC applications can diminish over time.

It’s impossible to predict precisely when this slowdown will occur, because life doesn’t always arise at the same time or in the same way. We’ve found that on an eight-core Mac Pro system, it usually takes about three or four days for life to appear. On an iMac or a MacBook, it can take longer.

When this happens, we recommend that our users quit all their Rosetta applications. This causes Rosetta to destroy the parallel universe. When you launch a PowerPC application again, Rosetta will create a brand-new universe without life in it, and performance will be restored.

Me: Is any of this life…intelligent?

Steve: Sometimes. If you let your PowerPC applications run long enough, you may see intelligent life inside of Rosetta. When this happens, you’ll notice a significant slowdown of your PowerPC apps. We recommend that you quit all your apps at this point.

Me: Waitaminit–isn’t that murder?

Steve: Technically, no.

Me: But…you’re destroying an entire universe full of sapient life!

Steve: If you look at it that way, sure. We look at it as freeing system resources.

Me: But…it’s life!

Steve: Yes. We thought about releasing a game based on Rosetta, to compete with The Sims. The game would allow the user to interact with the parallel universe created by Rosetta and take a hand in shaping the life that formed there.

Me: And?

Steve: It turns out our market research shows that people only want to play with games that emulate human life. And not just human life, but middle-class twentieth-century American human life. Dealing with non-human sapience in a non-Euclidean universe didn’t have the same draw, so in the end we left it out of iLife ’08. However, we’re working on a smart backup feature for Leopard that we’re very excited about.

Me: Do you mean Time Machine?

Steve: Oh, no. That’s a data recovery app that folds the fabric of space-time to recover accidentally deleted files by grabbing them from a past version of this universe. The new smart backup feature uses the intelligence of sapient life in a parallel universe. But that’s all I can say about it right—

And then I woke up. No more WoW and frozen TV dinners for me, I think.

Dreams and Weekend Stuff

So. Ove the weekend I had a dream–one involving zensidhe, datan0de, femetal, fatesgirl, and zombies. Any of you who know one or all of those people will probably know that adding zombies to the mix really isn’t that much of a stretch.

Anyway, in this dream, the six of us–the Smoosh, Shelly, and I–were all living in a big rambling country house together, a couple miles from town. During the dream, there was an enormous storm over the town, with weird glowing clouds and lightning and tornados and all kinds of chaos, and datan0de and I were standing outside the house watching the storm. A huge cone of light blasted out of the weird glowing clouds and hit right in the center of town, and somehow (through that weird dream logic that lets you know this sort of thing) we knew that it had turned all the dogs in town into zombies, and that soon the dogs would be biting people and turning them into zombies too.

So. datan0de and I were talking about this, in a casual offhand way–“Should be at least a Class 2 zombie outbreak in just a few minutes.” “Yep, seems about right. We probably have a couple hours before zombies are swarming all over the house.” “Yeah, I’d say that’s probably true. Hey, we should get the camera and take some pictures of the storm. Check out all the lightning!”

We were all relaxed and casual about the whole thing, because zensidhe was there, and if anyone knows how to handle a zombie outbreak, it’s him. So all of us were greeting the prospect of being overrun with a swarm of hungry zombies with about as much panic as you might expect from a weather report of a chance of scattered afternoon showers–“Yep, maybe we should take the lawn furniture inside and load the shotguns.”

Shelly feels that this dream is an expression of a great deal of confidence on my part in zensidhe‘s abilities. I think it’s just a subconscious desire to live with femetal and fatesgirl because they’re cute and all.

Sunday, Shelly and S‘s other boyfriend S and I drove up to Gainesville to meet indywind and her partner. I have no idea of her partner is on LJ or not.

We lounged in a park–or rather, I lounged in a park while indywind and her partner taught Shelly and S various Renaissance-era dances that are appropriate for poly folk. I have a new respect for how bawdy the Renaissance-era peasants were, but that’s a whole ‘nother post altogether.