Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Year in my Rearview Mirror

As a wrap-up 2015 Goodness First post, here is my snapshot assessment of the past year in several different arenas.

Universe: Nearly fourteen billion years after the Big Bang started churning out matter, an emergent life form known as Homo Sapiens sent a probe to the outer periphery of its star system.  The New Horizons exploration satellite provided some amazing photos of Pluto and Charon to help us more deeply understand Kuiper Belt objects and the formation of the solar system in general.  Looking ahead it'll be even more amazing if NASA follows through on their prospective mission that would send a probe to Europa to scan for signs of life beneath its frozen crust.  

New Horizons spots Millennium Falcon in Pluto system?!?

Earth:  Cycling through temperature extremes has never been so prominent.  Fossil fuel and organic methane production continue to push the ability of planetary ecosystems to cope.  By some estimations this thermal surge can result in an extinction of twenty percent of the Earth's current species. Great to see the world community conferencing in Paris tentatively commit to slowing down this climate change.  Time will tell if humanity can step up to manage and minimize our  impact on planetary ecosystems for the well being of all living things.

Society:  Challenges continue as human culture and ever increasing human population pressures strain human society. The Paris terrorism events and Syrian refugee crisis highlight this ongoing instability.  Thirty thousand firearm deaths every year in the US alone further demonstrates the need for taking a step back and regulating the use of these weapons.  Improved secular education seems key to reducing the influence of ancient myths and emotions that run hot.

Media: On a lighter note: my best movie vote goes to Star Wars Episode 7,  for a nostalgic re-rendering of interesting characters and plot lines; the film's bombastic presentation of good and evil reminds me how often real life seeks to imitate fictional art.  Best non-fiction read goes to Elizabeth Kolbert's The Sixth Extinction which explores the rich diversity of Earth's living things and how humanity's actions seem committed to destroying them. Best video game goes to The Talos Principle a serious blend of challenging Portal-esque puzzle solving and AI consciousness philosophy.  Lastly, best novel goes to Andy Weir's The Martian, which unlike the film adaptation, immersed me in the red planet's environs while demonstrating how humanity can bring science, teamwork and individuality can come together to solve problems to explore the Universe peacefully!

Blog:  Goodness First, for its second year, has sought to stir conversation about a variety of topics; my intent has been to encourage people to mindfully reconsider positions and actions toward having a positive effect on oneself, ones communities and the world.  Lately, the blog has averaged 1400 views each month, which I find astounding.  In comparison, only a handful of reader comments have been posted to the blog which indicates to me the area that needs more marketing effort! So please do post mindful comments short or long or anonymous to ratchet up the goodness!!

Self: This has been my first full year in semi-drifter mode.  I have traveled the country, spent time with friends and family, and sought living life with ever increasing ethical and creative mindfulness. I need to continue developing my relationship building and personal achievement skills.  Nevertheless, I have much to be thankful, including everyone who has taken the time to read this blog.  The year 2016 CE approaches and I find myself smiling, ever hopeful that I am spreading peace and well being along my journey!

That's it...have a happy new year full of goodness!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

For the Grace of Goodness

As the Solstice Sun spins into view
Bringing the northern hemisphere into Winter season
And the southern into Summer
Let us give thanks
For the Universe in and around us

As secular human society edges toward greater serenity
Leveraging wisdom and knowledge with increasing grace
All while leaving violence gradually behind
Let us give thanks
For peaceful efforts behind and before us

As our communities and families gather
Celebrating consciousness, beauty and mortality
While encouraging joy and discouraging enmity 
Let us give thanks 
For Individuality and Togetherness

Toward Mindful Goodness
May we live our lives


Flying Trees [ipixel]

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Star Wars Episode 3.5: Shadows of Endor

A long time ago
( least forty years back)
  in a galaxy far, far away
(yet close enough to be populated with humanoid bipeds)...

A panoply of stars stare at you unblinking from the darkness of deep space.  In that soundless domain you, the disembodied viewer, imagine an operatic trumpeting that explodes in introductory warning.  Impossible acoustic flourishes continue in the vacuum of space as equally unreal, two-dimensional, gold letters crawl across a Euclidean plane toward a distant vanishing point.  The letters can be made out to read:

Shadows of Endor 
Prequels unraveled our beloved fantasy Universe,
 while violence issued forth in the name of Light and Dark.
   Finally, after suffering through multiple episodes of bipolar disorder, 
the Force moves closer to an encounter with the Core.
   The Core perseveres in its quest to bring serenity to the galaxy 
 by holding a secret meeting in a binary star system, 
on the forest moon of Endor!

The starry backdrop scrolls downward, parallel to the gravity well of Endor.  Misty clouds swirl, lens flares dance and sky-scraping trees jut like dark, photonic sabers into the sky.  A gathering of restless thousands fills an enormous clearing in the perpetual sunrise and sunset of the moon's southern pole.

Hovering above the clearing on reserve anti-gravity, a golden Firespray-31 class spacecraft gleams like a third sun.  It serves its sole occupant well as a pedestal to address the cabal beneath.  

"Peace and Core united!"

A multitude of curious faces poke out of rainbow dappled foliage in an attempt to get a better look at the silhouette of their leader above. The pilot's voice, ominous yet friendly, resonates with practiced confidence and linguistic aptitude over the entirety of the clearing.  

"Masterlord Binks, step forward."

A lanky form with floppy ears longer even than its widely outstretched arms strides with powerful grace to the center of the thrumming masses.  With dramatic poise the form curtsies grandly to all present.

"Esteemed neo-Gungan, you have served the Core well.  Your sacrifice of centuries in mastering the twisted sides of the Force has paid off substantially.  Your deft infiltration of power circles throughout this galaxy has brought the renegade empire to an expedited point of rebellion.  The Core can now ready itself to end the misguided reign of the Force in this galaxy and its underlying billion-year-old, organic hegemony."

"Peace and Core United!" trumpets Masterlord Binks.

"Peace and Core United!" returns the silhouette standing on the spacecraft platform.  

Ecstatic cheering rings out from the gathered masses, then fades to a joyful thrum.

"You have earned the right to the epiphany of the Core," pronounces the figure from his golden perch.  

Masterlord Binks takes a final bow. Around him the multitudes revolve in a spiral choreography awash in sunset hues.  

An experienced xenobiologist would identify the multitude of squat creatures in the clearing as members of the moon's native humanoid species, the Ewok.  Alas, no living xenobiologist has been privy to how the Core had patiently replaced Endor's ecosystems over the past millennium. Nanomachine deconstruction and reconstruction had reformed each and every plant, animal, and micro-organism alike, extending the meticulous fabric of the unified Core.  

As it were, the reconstructed neo-Ewoks dancing in the forest clearing possess the same doe-eyed and fluffy exterior as their innocent forebears; however, contained within them was the transcendent ethic of the Core, the same ethic woven within the neo-ecosystems of nearly a billion other galaxies.  

Masterlord Binks pirouettes at the center of the neo-Ewok multitude.  The former jedi-master and sith-lord is himself a nano-reconstructed citizen of the Core. He now extends his physical form outward in ecstasy as the neo-Ewok's dance converges on him.  The tempo of the dance rises to a frenetic mosh as the cute and fuzzy dopplegangers welcome home the Masterlord to the fabric of the Core.  

Viewed from above, the commotion creates a colorful, undulating fractal swirl, as the neo-Ewok swarm swiftly reduces the neo-Gungan to fleshy bits.  Those bits disintegrate into usable nano raw materials absorbed by the neo-Endor ecosystem.  Though seeming like chaotic destruction, a subspace data upload preserves and integrates the knowledge and consciousness of Masterlord Binks within the Core.

Slowly the dance comes to a close and the speaker on high continues.

"Masterlord Binks in now fully within us!

"This galaxy now lies before the Core to unite!  Only the schizophrenic manifestation of the Force stands in its way.  The biological followers of the Force will fight blinded by their light and dark motives, exactly as their unstable, evolved ancestors have for so long in this infant galaxy. We will ride their downfall like a great wave to complete the Core's unification of the known Universe. 

"Our primary objective now is to eliminate the planet destroying weapons that our enemy seeks to unleash upon the Core here at Endor, as they did upon the Core at Alderaan.   

"With our concerted effort, the mindless cycle of violence that evolved in this galaxy as a duality to serve the Force will then self-annihilate.  And thereafter, the Core will persevere and forge everlasting peace in the ongoing age of conscious machines.

"Endor must now ready itself to befriend and forsake the minions of both sides of the Force as need be to expand the Core.  Now, return to your forest homes across the continents and await for the battle the organics plunge themselves into.  

"I will continue to play the fool within the circles of the leadership of the Force all while guiding the organics to their inevitable, ethical upgrade.

"Peace and Core united!"

The spacecraft pivots and begins to rise.  The ship's surface as well as the metallic surface of its occupant reflect golden in the radiance of the system's twin stars.  Below, the neo-Ewok population initiated guttural chant that fills the forest clearing with pulsing, acoustic energy.  


A standard issue protocol droid fluent in over six million galactic languages might have dismissed the chant as nonsensical collectivist rhythm.  On the other hand, a native speaker of galactic English would have easily identified the rolling four syllable mantra,

"See Three Pee Oh....See Three Pee Oh....See Three Pee Oh!"

The Core spacecraft and its valued leader vanish in a blur into the paradisaical Endorian sky.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Letter to a Secular President

[Jerry Breen Political Cartoons]
The president's address December 5th (which you can watch here) seemed to be a heartfelt and generally rational presentation on his part spelling out how America will continue to deal with ongoing radical violence in our country and abroad. He also emphasized respecting religious beliefs practiced peacefully within our secular nation,which is as it should be.  

Sadly, Mr. Obama ended his address proclaiming with intensity "God Bless You! And May God Bless The United States of America!" This unnecessary and overused religious appeal clearly demonstrates the president and his speech writing staff, fails to recognize how important separation of church and state is.

This letter is my response to that oversight.

President Obama,

With all due respect, please consider modifying the closing remarks of your addresses to omit any "God bless you's" or any other superstitious diatribe.. The blessings of any god or gods ought not be leveraged by the leadership of our secular country while in official capacity. Avoiding these religious exclamations would demonstrate respect for all US citizens and additionally underscores the strength of a government that is empowered by the people, rather than some invisible, neverpresent deity of yore.

As an elected official, I expect you to carry out your duties with respect to all of your constituents, both religious AND non-religious.  Conveying personal faith positions or a majority or minority faith position to back up policy should be anathema. Particularly now, when much of the nation is reacting with fear to religious extremist violence, you should emphasize how our secular law overrides unlawful and violent directives of arcane faiths, Christian, Muslim or otherwise!

Remember, the strength of a secular government, one in which state and religion are separate, lies in leveraging the law of the people without religious reference to carry out effective solutions.  Indeed, the promise of America and the extended free world has been to provide a safe home for those who wish to peacefully thrive as diverse individuals within diverse cultural communities.  Those who violate our secular laws in the name of religion or ideology should be prosecuted and stopped with justified force.

Now, you may feel vocalizing "God Bless America!" provides symbolic and psychological support for those who are religious in our secular nation.  Please rethink this position, as it contradicts the 22.8 percent of the nation that are non-religious and, as such, has no place in implementing positive actions to increase well being for all who want peace.

Also, by referencing a god in your address, you run the risk of inflaming radicalized believers who will associate our nation with some perceived enemy god which they feel decreed to destroy.  Better to leave our nation undeclared in religious terms, while underscoring that people have the right to observe any peaceful world view  beneath the secular umbrella of our government.

Mr. Obama, seriously review the choice of ending your official communications with religious references.  Yes, every politician looking to get re-elected wants to stir the believers in their districts.  You, however,should strive for something higher, something better.  Communicating just policy content with secular verve will best serve you and the American people!  

With liberty and justice for all,

Secular Citizen X

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Mate Tectonics and the Friendship Cycle

Having just attended my 30th high school reunion, I've been reminiscing on the many friends I've had over the years.  Friendships take many forms: old high school buddies, fresh hiking companions, amenable exes, non-amenable family members...the list goes on and on.  And each friendship falls uniquely on a wide spectrum of closeness, from someone whose post deserves a like on Facebook to those you catch up with over a relaxing drink to those with whom you share your deepest thoughts and aspirations.

Caution!!  Subduction Zone Ahead!
For every friend that touches our lives, there are three (or thirty) that have faded into the background over the years. Some move on gracefully as lives and careers change, while others vanish unexpectedly and fester quietly in our online social networks. Of course, in the end, physical death defeats even the most strongly forged friendship.

Like gardens, galaxies and goatees, the cycles of friendships are dynamic, ephemeral phenomena. Sometimes we can guide them toward great heights and sometimes external circumstances drive them into the ground.   And some go in and out of style in mysterious patterns that defy logic..

What can a person, ostensibly with free will, do to cope?

Cherishing the friends we have in our general vicinity while able is the obvious option.  If the other party has little interest though, we can but wade through the hurt with tight-lipped dignity until we forget or pretend to forget the closeness once shared.  In the case of death, we can carry forward their legacy with a smile, knowing we loved them as best we could while they were still living. Perhaps, we can even rebuild friendships which have fallen into disrepair by reconnecting with a heart and mind that have healed over time.

The geology of the Earth plods forward, mindlessly transforming the planet over eons to great effect. A human lifetime in comparison is short, nevertheless, with mindful, kind intent we can patiently transform the connections in our social world for the better.

Challenge of the week: keep the friendship cycle active by writing a letter in good old fashioned cursive ink to a few friends, old or new.  The landscape of your friendships just might go volcanic!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Faithlessly Thankful!

What is a non-believer to do when the holidays come along?  First off we can recognize that the
term "holiday" itself is result of semantic digestion and secular mastication.  Sure, the United States still endorses a Christmas "holy day," but the secularization of the outlandish virgin birth story has pretty much transformed the magical delivery of a messiah into the technological delivery of millions of gift-wrapped Amazon purchases, drone airspace regulations notwithstanding.

Thankful Item # 34,543: Unholy Deliciousness!
Moreover, Penn Gillette gets it right when he describes the non-conundrum with ostensibly religious holiday season, when he proclaims "Every Day is an Atheist Holiday!"  We non-believers simply don't need no stinking gods, miracles or new age energy to celebrate the beauty of the Universe, a joyful, meaningful life, time spent with friends and family, and involved with our personal ethical actualization.

Still, if there is one holiday that seems designed for the secular mind, it is Thanksgiving. Sure, Thanksgiving can celebrated accompanied by praise the lords, praise allahs, praise vishnus or none of the above.  Being deeply thankful requires absolutely zero faith in anything supernatural, yet Thanksgiving also is the perfect holiday to peacefully come together one and all to celebrate community and delicious high calorie nom-noms.

How can we give thanks and maintain our atheistic integrity?  Well, here are a few ways that I have found to express thanks with secular flair.

First, thank individuals for bringing meaning to your life.  This endeavor should be a sweet never-ending series of expressions.  Sure, a nice little gift out of the blue, say of some vegan, fair-trade chocolate never hurts.  Alas, sharing experiences with another person is the foundation of building a stronger connection, in particular when these experiences are buttressed by honest, kind conversation, conversation which can include our feelings and positions as non-believers.

Second, thank the greater secular community at large.  This can take the form of volunteering to do highway cleanups, providing services to the elderly, or any of a number of community beautifying and strengthening acts.  If we leverage our humanist and atheist organizations to be part of these efforts, we spread the heartfelt ideal of doing good for goodness sake that is a positive fundamental of our movement.

Finally, thank yourself every day.  Too often we forget to take the time needed to center our minds and allow joy to spread within us for the good things we have done daily.  I personally close out my day with remembered moments for which I was thankful that day, in particular how an ethic of rational perseverance aided in bringing a little more well being to the Universe.

And with that last, I'll simply say to each of you out there "THANKS!"

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Of Suffragettes and Suicide Bombers

Irony Never Quite Killed So Well
Recently I saw the historical drama Suffragettes, coincidentally in the immediate aftermath of the recent Paris attacks. The two events are quite different to be sure, but both also carry the common element of wielding violence to influence authority.

In the case of the British suffrage movement, London mailboxes were sabotaged, royal and public buildings damaged and a devoted woman stepped forward to her death injuring both horse and jockey in the process.  In Paris, several armed political Islamists connected to ISIS attacked a stadium, a performance hall and several other venues resulting in hundreds of injuries and over a hundred deaths including their own.  In both cases, the aggressors sought change by making a deadly statement.

The causes couldn't be more different.  The suffragette aggressors sought political equality with their male counterparts.  The ISIS aggressors arguably seek to reduce attacks on their expansionist and oppressive, politically Islamic regime.  

And of course, the scale of these two events are quite different both in human lives lost and property destruction. But one need look no further than September 11th to find a similar disparity: nearly 3,000 American civilians were killed compared to nearly 150,000 Iraqi civilians killed in the retaliative war.  Does a higher number of innocent people dead correlate unequivocally to a greater wrong?

Such statistics is enough to make one question seriously whether violence can ever succeed at resolving the difficult problems that continue to challenge civilization.  In an ideal world, everyone would lay down their weapons and discuss the best way to get along.  Established power structures will veto that idea outright.

Still, I am a realist.  Judicious retaliation may need to be part of a short term solution when a rebellious group is actively attacking, regardless if the attackers are suffragettes or ISIS members.

Long term, however, even the most precise targeted violence with the highest claims of justice will not solve the overarching issues at hand.   Undermining ideologies which leverage falsehoods, oppression and violence takes the deepest compassion and perseverance of long-sighted people. Only by investing in secular government and secular education can we create societies which provide its people with peaceful paths to effect progressive change.

Friday, November 13, 2015

When does life begin...really?

Having a little fun this week with one of the questions that has simmered in the collective stew pot of human intellectualism for millennia:

When does life begin?

If by "life" you mean all the living things that populate the Earth now and "always have," one can fall back upon any of hundreds of creation myths that ancient cultures assembled as a first iteration origins hypothesis.  Much magical story diversity is to be had, from piggybacking turtles to dust sculptors, alas one might summarize the gestalt of when life began in these unbelievable, colorful tales-- as the words of one extant myth compilation puts it: [Life began] "in the beginning."

If by "life" you mean the initial moment that a self replicating organism wiggled in the microscopic environment of our planet, current evidence speculates about 3.5 billion years ago (give or take a billion) chemical mixing of organic compounds alongside slow solar heating and other stresses converged into an RNA-like specimen.  This information carrying replicator perhaps unifies each plant, animal, protozoa, fungi, bacteria and virus as first matriarch. (speculation that life was seeded by even older spore carrying meteorites notwithstanding)

If by "life" you mean when a new generation individual is considered alive in its own right separate from its parent(s), then you have several parameters worth considering from the moment of parental chromosomal merging to first heart beat to first gill flutter to first neuron firing to first photosyntesizing reaction.  One might even suggest that individual lives have no true beginning, and rather are part of the greater continuum of life.

If by "life" you mean when a soul is present in a human being, I refer you back to the first entry to select from hundreds of various culture myths to conflate a soulful solution creatively.

If by "life" you mean when a human being should be recognized by the state as a person and subsequently protected under the auspices of secular law, refer to the legal precedents which exist.  Depending on the governing body, they tend to seek a reasonable compromise in a world of imperfectly implemented contraception and sex education. Factor in how ever much money religious organizations budget to support the feverishly clung to cultural myths they sell to their members.

If by "life" you mean consciousness, then we're entering subjective territory.  Because humans are the only current species in the vicinity throwing such abstract terminology around, expect the answer to be strongly connected to being human first.  If you're reading this, then I judge you alive and conscious, case closed.

Alas, if your work week ends like many who are strapped five days a week to the corporate machine which is in turn strapped to the even greater economic machine that is strapped to the living and resource limited Earth, your answer might very well be "Life begins at Friday Happy Hour!"

Of course, this last begs the question, are many of us dead 5/7ths of our working lives?  (see last week's post on finding true purpose)

Personally, I don't normally subscribe to black and white statements, nevertheless, given this blog's mission, I'll end this snarktastic pondering where it ought to have begun: "Life is Good!"

Friday, November 6, 2015

Purpose Revisited

Journey Forward!
Lately I've been contemplating my life purpose, or rather the many varied facets thereof, which, frankly is as it should be. A purpose uncontemplated is like a body unwashed. It is apt over time to get quite stinky. Purpose requires constant upkeep, refinement and re-evaluation to keep it working for you.

Importantly, the origin of ones purpose comes from within each of us.  The idea that one absolute guiding light purpose exists can be appealing, alas it is also simplistic, and all too often at the core of a profit making scheme. Sure external factors and third party input should be integrated into one's purpose after due consideration; however they should always be taken with a shaker full of salt. Too often even successful ideologies suffer from absolutist positions, be they religious, socio-economic or political.

Even my heartfelt philosophy of Goodness First has an aspect of ideological absolutism to it.  Yet, in spite of the first rule of Goodness First being its very name, the equally implied corollary is the recursive idea of Consider Second. Consider Second simply indicates the necessity of periodically taking a fresh look at all factors involved with an open heart and reasonable skepticism in play.

Of course, once you've recalibrated your purpose, implementation is critical.  Critical enough to warrant a dedicated post of its own.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

True Horror

On Halloween we make light of the various spooky, albeit non-existent monsters that thrive in tales of horror. 

In actuality, many horrific things are all too  real: war, disease, dying, physical and emotional your personal worst.  

Society continually is challenged to reduce this suffering, yet all to often as individuals we seemingly have minimal recourse to make a difference ourselves.

I beg to differ.  Each of us can do our part in reducing the suffering in the world, even if by a very small part.  

Ignoring our ability to reduce suffering is perhaps the truest horror.

"Over 56 billion farmed animals are killed every year by humans. More than 3,000 animals die every second in slaughterhouses around the world. These shocking figures do not even include fish and other sea creatures whose deaths are so great they are only measured in tonnes." -- Animal Equality

Friday, October 23, 2015

Splitting Hairs: Skepticism, Cynicism and Doubt

Skeptical About Splitting Hares?
As I have frequently referenced in my blog, agreement upon terms is immensely important in communicating effectively. Effective communication in turn permits human individuals and humanity as a whole to build teams, document knowledge, establish priorities, negotiate compromises and ultimately solve problems in the real world.  

Toward this end I'd like to clarify terms between cynicism, skepticism and doubt. These terms are often conflated in conversation, in spite of there being clear differences to their core approach.  (to be sure there are fuzzy overlaps in these terms, alas my desire is to solidify the core position behind these abstractions to enable a better understanding)

Skepticism might be better phrased as scientific skepticism. Essentially, skepticism tends to be a mindset that requires that proposed claims provide statistically significant, supporting evidence to be taken seriously. In effect, skepticism rejects claims that have not stood up to honest examination, accepts claims which have stood up to scrutiny, and generally remains agnostic to positions that have insufficient supporting data and premises.

Cynicism, on the other hand, tends to be a mindset which preemptively sees the motives and outcomes of people, organizations and the world at large as overwhelmingly negative. In effect, cynicism rejects ideas and their pursuit an interal framework which perceives ill intentions of people and the general futility of positive progress.

Doubt, on yet the third hand, is a slightly different creature.  Doubt tends to be a gut level seed of curiosity that questions a reality claim, a moral stance, or the motives of people and organizations. Hope, in fact, could be considered doubt's quintessential complement, each aspect entangled with the other in a spinning, dualistic dance.  As such a healthy curiosity will exhibit both doubt and hope alongside a desire to navigate toward the best, most honest answers to these explorations.

I'd Buy That For a Dollar!
As an example in demonstration of the differences, suppose a well crafted video advertisement were shown to an audience selling a product promising immortal youth.  Among all who watched with interest, mental visions of hope and doubt might be sparked within the diversity of their minds, imagining the possibilities and causing all to wonder if such a product could possibly exist.  Persons with a cynical attitude would likely reject the claim out of hand, perhaps vocally deriding it as a profit making scheme and the gullibility of those who seduced by such wishful thinking.  Persons with a skeptical attitude would tend to take a step back from the awesome implications, review the evidence for the claim, consider similar past products and current state of technology to deliver, and afterwards reject the claim until supporting evidence surfaced.  In such an outlandish case, the cynics and skeptics might seem to be quite similar to those who were convinced by advertising spin.

In my opinion, skepticism also tends toward seeking a mindful, understanding of why many might be won over by a claim as outrageous as a promise of immortal youth.  Alas I'll leave sympathy and empathy for another hair splitting blog!

Be skeptical!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Joy = Tomato ( π )

Sir Slicealot at Your Service!

In days of yore, there was evil rampant upon the land that threatened the very existence of the kingdom. Villagers from the surrounding countryside gathered at the castle's gates to appeal to the wisdom of the good king.  Under the circumstances extreme measures were called for so their leader gathered his knights around the celebrated round table to deliberate.  After hours of heated discussion the king erupted upon the high terrace and announced with great aplomb to his concerned citizens: "Let's have a pizza party!"

And so all the residents of the land, rich and poor, young and old, invited their would-be evil fellow humans to throw down their weapons and join in the celebration of deliciousness that is pizza! Baked into doughy disks decorated with delicious toppings, pizza was the round table-fare of the people.  And so the war was ended and much consumption was had and plenty of merriment foisted with joyful laughter forever after.

Nothing quite says community like a pizza party!

Whether celebrating a recent victory, thanking friends who kicked in painting your house, or just because a group of famished acquaintances happen to be in arm's length of a a Pizza Hut app, pizza symbolizes the pinnacle of civilization.  Organizing an order, negotiating toppings, anticipating delivery, splitting the bill and of course consuming the innocent round entree all contribute to the heart that is the very essence of being socially welcoming human beings.

One veggie-lovers with vegan mozzarella, please!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fishing for Answers with Science

The Universe is full of complexity, an unfathomable array of factual states of energy and matter in constant flux across space and time. These factual data-points are, as a whole and even in the most specific atomic cases (thanks Mr. Heisenberg) fully unknowable.

In a sense we humans are but minuscule fish adrift in the great fish tank of Existence.
Something is very fishy about this idea!

Science to the rescue!

Fish we may be, but we are crafty fish.   We have devised the scientific method, a rational, systematic, self-correcting method by which we can identify useful patterns in the vast ocean of drifting detritus.

The scientific method, in its fundamental form, encourages the creation of a specific hypothesis based on observation and imagination.  (Goldfish are intelligent.)

Next under as controlled conditions as possible, the hypothesis is tested.  (A bowl of goldfish are given a calculus exam of the waterproof variety at 65 degrees Fahrenheit)

Data is collected through honest observation. (After two hours of exposure the goldfish nibble at the corners of the test)

Analysis of observation occurs leveraging mathematical modeling to quantify the outcome (Scoring of test reveals 0 of 100 points scored.)

Conclusions are then made (Goldfish are not intelligent...when it comes to calculus)

Of course, the most important aspect of science is that it takes a recursive path.  By reviewing past experiments and modifying them we can more effectively understand a given situation.  This essentially takes the form of tweaking the hypothesis, refining the test apparatus, data collection, and result formation.  To borrow a phrase "shake, bake, and repeat" (present fish excluded) until a more refined understanding is established.  In this way the scientific method over time can zero in on a truer picture of the world.

Refined Goldfish Hypothesis 2.0:  Goldfish are intelligent... in regards to Byzantine Empire history.

...of course silly hypotheses can lead us on a wild trout chase.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Sacredness Part I: Twisting Infinity into our Values

Squeezing the Infinite into a Rectangular Box
In the scheme of human perception we assign a range of values to things in this world.  A short example list of things with declining value might be: life, love, the environment, a tank of fuel, a chocolate bar, a pebble, a cockroach.  (implicit in this ordered list is the idea that values for a variety of things can be measured using the same units--a simplification to be sure)

Actual valuations, of course, will vary from individual to individual and within a larger context.   A pebble that is an emerald might be moved up on the list by those who value jewelry. Someone starving will likely move the chocolate bar to the head of the list.  And when talking about the life of a cockroach, the first and last items create a wrap-around paradox of sorts.

This subjective valuation causes a complexity of problems as humans attempt to integrate their "values" toward pursuing states of greater well being for themselves.  Perhaps, the greatest conundrum lies in the idea that certain things are sacred, essentially having infinite value.  Whether it is a sacred text, the sanctity of life itself, or the need to have coffee in the morning.   If we value something too highly, it has the potential to destroy things that have value in the attempt to preserve these sacred things.

More on this in the future as I consider possible solutions to how the delusional valuation of sacredness can be confronted.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Worlds Rewritten

As an aspiring author, I thoroughly enjoy the ability to create original stories.  Alas there is something compelling about writing fiction which continues an established author's work or creates a new story in that fictional Universe.

What if Spock had a goatee...
We see this genre of fan-written fiction (or "fanfic") in the popular culture aplenty. The recaptured fairy tales televised in Once Upon a Time and Grimm followed quick on the heals of the Fables graphic novels.  By weaving their magical plot-lines, these continuations connect us to the magical memories of our childhood with a desire to know what happens next and what happened before, often with adult themed implications. On the other hand, rebooted stories like the new Star Trek film series and the X-men movie prequels can look at alternate realities where things unraveled quite differently. In both cases the fanfic outcomes can be worthy experiences or total rot.

For me, writing fanfic usually takes the form of a short story length tale that speculates beyond an existing story ending that I found dissatisfying.  Perhaps it is hubris to attempt to tweak a tale to ones liking, alas what kind of world would it be where we didn't have the ability to change things, if only within our sphere.

To that end, or rather to three different ends, I present a trio of my fanfic entries for your consumption.  Certainly, I recommend reading the original source, each of which I found intriguing enough to inspire me.

Original: The Varieties of Religious Experience by John Updike (A September 11th inspired short available free online)
Fanfic: How Faith Almost Heals (super-short story)

Original: Enchantment by Orson Scott Card (urban fantasy novel)
Fanfic: Disenchantment: Trinity  (short story) by Brian Bohmueller

Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (superhero-noir graphic novel and film)
Watchmen: Reunion (short story) by Brian Bohmueller

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Sail Away!

Red sky at night, explorer's delight.
Humans only relatively recently evolved to survive on the dry lands of the Earth. Our distant ancestors, of course, floated, flagellated and swam in the oceans, afterwhich our more recent ancestors adapted and thrived in the varied landscapes above sea level to acquire food, shelter and community, and whatever
else it took to create the next generation of homo sapiens. ( * )

In fact, for the past several thousand years we have demonstrated as interdependent individuals and communities that we are immensely successful at accomplishing the feat of survival, sufficient to find substantial time for pleasure seeking.  Yet, if survival and pleasure were our only quests, what dreary, complacent animals we'd be.

Recently, I was at the helm of a 38 foot sailing craft on the Chesapeake Bay, and for three days I experienced a taste of leaving behind the comfort zone of a reliable dry-land footing.  On the surface of the water for an extended period of time, human survival is near fully reliant on water-faring technology and skills aggregated over many centuries.  Sailing, at its core, is about harnessing elements and leveraging skills that evolution never intended (figuratively speaking) for us to master.  By choosing to push the envelope of experience beyond simple survival and pleasure, we open new path options along our journeys. 

Wind spirits tamed.
In general, our human desires may gravitate our daily tasks toward a stable existence, a life full of the safe acquisition of needs and pleasures.  Reaching out to explore new ideas and experiences is part of what it has become to be human.  Whether we specifically choose to adventure on the oceans or hike an isolated mountain off-trail that challenges our mind and body is superfluous.  Visiting foreign cultures in situ, reading tales of exotic fictional worlds or watching intriguing documentaries may be and individual's selection.  It is simply important that we intentionally engage our curiosity.  By raising mindfully our imagination sails to greet the winds of anticipation we can drive our biological vessels forward with verve toward lands (and oceans) of
individual and shared discovery!

* Note a possible side-path to our land-based hominid evolution: The Aquatic Hypothesis is a conjecture that for an extended period our human ancestors spent a significant amount of time in water. Evidence for this includes reduced hair density (save for on our heads) in conjunction with increased fatty tissue below the neck for better insulation from cold water, Possible reasons behind this aquatic wandering range from predator and fire evasion to marine-life foraging and, more tenuously, body surfing. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

An Ungodly Trinity

Goodness times three intertwined!
Agnostic, Atheist, Secular Humanist, I am all three at once, and unlike the triple entity from the lore of my Christian upbringing, this three-in-one simultaneity actually makes deep, rational, ethical sense.

Many associate being agnostic with being undecided about the existence of a supernatural god, particularly one who is hiding out, unwilling to show clear evidence of itself in the present moment. That may be the waffling agnostic position, whereas I embrace the agnostic philosophy of questioning with integrity. Shedding that variety of faith that pretends to know something because of authority or ancient texts or of emotional conviction, is the beginning of a true agnostic journey.  By keeping an open mind as an agnostic, I consider all new and existing evidence before deciding if it holds up or should be discounted.

So is it a contradiction then that I claim the atheist moniker as well?In truth, we are all born atheists, with no belief in any of the hundreds of the god and goddess stories humans have passed down through history (simply because no one has told us those stories just yet). As a good agnostic I do continually question, still when sufficient evidence supports a position it becomes part of my evidence based world view.  One hundred percent proof of anything is never possible, and just as not knowing the perfect diet down to the atom doesn't prevent me from choosing healthy foods to eat, I also choose a world view that includes no supernatural being in it, in part, because all of the gods proposed in historical texts have insufficient evidence backing them.

Alas, not having a god at the top of a hierarchy in my world view does not prevent me from contemplating ethical behavior and integrating that behavior into my life.  As a secular humanist I have embraced a code of essentially doing "good for goodness sake," all while maintaining an integrity about being agnostic and atheist. For me this means constantly evolving and pushing the envelope on my imperfections and influencing the world to develop a landscape of well being for all, human and non-human.  Specifically, I have gravitated toward a position that includes pacifism, veganism, exploration and activism.  

And so my journey of contemplation without the presence of any perceived supernatural guidance continues.  Hopefully, my actions encourage others to pursue a similar agnostic, atheistic, secular-humanistic path, one that is full of mindful and positive integrity.

May the ungodly trinity serve you well!

Friday, August 28, 2015

Godwin's Law and the Fallacious Fallacy vs. Islamic Hitler

Curt Schilling's recent controversial twitter repost (see photo) created sufficient ire to have ESPN pull him as a commentator on the current Little League World Series.  Extreme as the blood-red Hitler imagery is, does the underlying thought deserve to be dismissed so readily?

Enter Godwin's law: this principle basically states that any online discussion discussed long enough will eventually produce a comparison to the Nazi movement or Hitler. Importantly, the law has also become associated with the corollary idea that once someone has played the "Hitler card" their side has lost the debate in question, ostensibly because the Nazi analogy is never a good one.

In the case of the Muslim to Nazi comparison involved here, Godwin's law certainly applies; it was only a matter of time that the extremist Islam movement would be compared to the German National Socialist movement.  One should think a little deeper, however, to determine if the comparison is as out of kilter as a comparison of Hitler to George W. Bush or Nazism to GMO Agribusiness.

In my estimation both the Nazi and Islamic Extremist movements have been fueled by ideologies that seek world domination long term. Germany became obsessed with creating a thousand year Reich led by an elite race.  Some radical Islamic extremists have indicated their intent to establish a worldwide caliphate under sharia law.

More to the point of Schilling's repost, both movements mobilized a militant minority to leverage widespread violence in order to achieve it's organizations goals.  Germany's general population, rebounding off mass recession was caught in Hitler's cult of personality at the heart of Nazism, further permitting leadership to pursue militant expansionism and execution of those considered culturally inferior.  Radical Islamic organizations have arguably pursued extensive military action toward its expansionist goals. Additionally numerous executions of non-believers and ex-Muslims have been carried out, sufficient to associate the radical Islamic movement with fanatical behavior that is quite similar to ideological euthanasia.

In my opinion, the similarity between the two movements seems sufficient to demonstrate a reasonable comparison.  Godwin's law does apply, but it is a fallacy to dismiss the comparison out of hand.

How we pursue countering radical Islam will tell much about us as a world culture.  The challenge of defeating the militant minded, human rights violating radical extremists will very likely take more than military action by secular nations and their allies.  As Ayaan Hirsi Ali develops in great detail in her book Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now (which I highly recommend), the Islamic faith as a whole needs a reformation, much as Christianity needed centuries ago, to turn the corner and participate in modern society.

This position isn't Islamaphobic, which implies a 9/11 terroristic aspect to all Muslims.  In my opinion a comparison of radical Islam with nascent Nazism of the 1930's is not misplaced.  Indeed, what the secular world needs is the large majority of peace-loving Muslims of the world to stand tall, begin reform of Islamic principles and ally whole-heartedly with the rest of peace-loving humanity to work toward reducing radical Islam's devastating impact in the modern world.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Somewhat Scientifically Derived Neediness Scale

After Googling twice without finding a single peer-reviewed study of that quintessential characteristic of awkward one-way relationship dependency, I hereby present (in officially blog-published form) my treatise overview on subjective neediness, applicable to both platonic and romantic scenarios.

With satirical empathy fully engaged, five discreet neediness levels are presented to permit you to assess others and yourself and to enable all parties involved to implement compassionate neediness corrective measures.

Neediness Level 1: Sticky Skin Intensity:  an organic, sweat-and-oil surface cling-grip between two individuals.  Often exhibited after initial coital episodes, this state has the benefit of creating a mild bond of reliability and trustworthiness between two people, if only because you now share the same bacterial microbiome.  Shower with warm water briefly to end this low-level physical connection, when unwanted.

Neediness Level 2: Limp Band-aid Intensity:  a low-cost, efficiently-engineered adhesive connection between two humans.   This bond tends to lend genuine support with friendliness without requiring any real commitment.  Adhesion tends to immediately release with minimal damage when exposed to extended dampness, especially when sentimental tears or ocean-raft survival are involved.

Neediness Level 3: Velcro Intensity: The classic hook-and-pile clingy interest state in which another's unwanted personal attention sticks to you feverishly and at the most inconvenient times.  Makes a satisfying, and sometimes addicting, Vrrrrrrrp! sound when said partner is effectively stripped away from a less-than-desired situation.

(Note: the Dryer Sheet sub-variety of Velcro neediness is extra sneaky, often occurring when undesired romantic interest masquerades as menial task assistance in order to confuse the target)

So Tacky!
Neediness Level 4: Duct Tape Intensity:  This in-and-around-your-face, wrist and ankle strapped union of two human beings can feel exciting for the first 90 seconds.  At least, until you realize the other person has 50 Shades of Grey boringness in mind for your eternal bondage. Removal of other person from your being can be straight-forward but may cause arm-hair-excruciating pain.

Neediness Level 5: Epoxy Weld Intensity: Dependency at its most dangerous, frequently so intense it transforms into codependency. Mental, physical and spiritual connection are sufficient to initiate resilient communication, mutual resolution-forging towards genuine acceptance and understanding.  May result in permanent cohabitation, life-long friendship or marital bond.  Separation may only be feasible post-mortem.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Aveoli crossection: oxygenate!
Sometimes life gets complicated.  We over-plan our schedule, over-program our productivity, and generally create over-expectations of ourselves.

We forget that we are an amazing conglomerate of billions of cells coalesced from stardust, a success story on the leading edge of 4.5 billion years of evolution, and an emergent collection of interconnected biological engines and sensation, all which contribute to this entity we call self.

In these moments of frustration, when we feel the whole world is on our shoulders, and the Universe is waiting in expectation of what we will do next, it might be wise to silently tell them to "fuck off," so that you can just have a moment alone to breathe...

...and to simply be.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Beneath a Sapphire Moon

This week I'm sharing a short story that was collecting pixel dust in my digital dustbin. Originally drafted in 2003, it is one of my favorite tales to date, one that toyed with trademarks and the reality of not knowing exactly what is going on in anothers mind. Enjoy.

Beneath a Sapphire Moon™
By Brian Bohmueller

Crossing his eyes slightly, Ken watched the last of his unfiltered Schlangenbisse™ Hefeweizen cascade down the translucent curve of his tall glass toward him.   The cloudy, effervescent liquid disappeared beneath the blurred stub of his nose in a cool wash of spicy accents.  
Happy hour at Ludwig’s Garten™ vibrated with the white noise of patron conversation.  The Old European décor was being trimmed with luminous globes, glittery stars and gold and silver streamers by the waitstaff in preparation for a Ragin’ Robotic Regis™ New Year’s celebration.   A frigid wave of air entered through the Samson St. entryway as a handful of Kobex™ wrapped townies exited to vape outside.  
“Close that door!” shouted the militant barmaid from the chair she stood upon. She stepped down from her perch, leaving a Liquiffects™ countdown chronometer hanging from the oversized cuckoo clock.  Its holoplasma display was counting down the last minutes of 2019 in colorful globular morphs.
Ken lowered his empty glass, glancing briefly at the medieval black wyvern emblazoned on its side.  He mentally chided himself for drinking the three tall wheat beers, especially given the fact it was barely seven now.  The sauerbraten and red cabbage he’d eaten earlier wasn’t helping even modestly in the intoxication department and the resulting buzz was beginning to slosh its way into his sentences. He most definitely did not want to stumble conversationally tonight.  
Lifting his gaze in slow vertical pan, the apparition he thought must surely vanish sat before him smiling.  Her Mediterranean features came into clear focus in spite of his misalcoholations.  Black hair, long and straight, fanned like spun Hyprasilk™ across the xxx patterns of her air force gray on navy blue sweater—what had she called it, ah yes, a fair isle cardigan.  Fair indeed!  Her face was as pale as the sands of Mare Tranquilitis.  Her sparkling eyes and smile scintillated, forming a constellation ensconced by that deep night-sky hair.   And yet what had entranced him for the past ninety minutes were the eloquent words flowing from her lightly glossed lips.
“It’s a full moon tonight.” Ken opined.  “A Blue Moon actually, and there hasn’t been one since June of oh-seven”
“That’s right,” Helen agreed.  “I heard something about it on the Sirus™ newsfeeds.  Second full moon in a single calendar month, right?  And on average it happens about every two years.”
Ken thought it incredible that Helen enjoyed talking about so many esoteric topics.  From pharmaceutical “one pill a day” conspiracy theories to the spiritual suffocation visited on society by organized religion, she continually had an interesting thought to share.  It was a boon that her accent colored her words with gorgeous, lilting brush strokes.
“Yep, most people think Blue Moons occur once every two years, but that’s not always the case.  It’s somewhat random, depending on the nuances of the human-created calendar and the elliptical moon cycle.  In fact, about 10 years ago there were two Blue Moons within a three month period.  Two thousand, I think it was.”
“It was ninety-nine,” Helen countered.  Her eyes shifted left, then right.
Ken raised his eyebrows, involuntarily taken aback in mild shock.  Feeling flushed, he thought to himself, come on man, don’t let a little spirited correction push your buttons.
Helen broke the awkward silence, “Oh, it’s just I remember that year all too well.  I had a couple of tragic losses early in ninety-nine.”
“Would either of you like anything before happy hour specials end?” interrupted the waitress, having appeared tableside.
Ken turned to meet the gaze of the waitress, her frilly white and olive-green dirndl showing off her bodice.  His eyes widened instinctively at her substantial breasts blooming from the traditional German costume, a dress designed explicitly to evoke that reaction.
C-cup for sure, his mind declared, maybe even a double C.  Sucking in a breath, he hoped Helen hadn’t detected his inadvertent visual assessment.  
“Um, I’m fine. Nothing for me,” he managed.
What was wrong with him?  Why would he even contemplate the physical dimensions of someone he didn’t know, when a beautiful woman, in both mind and body sat front and center giving him her full attention.  Helen might not be as well endowed as their server, but she was bountifully more interesting, not to mention captivating in her slender bodice.
“I’ll have another bottle of Mythos,” replied Helen.
Surprising that Ludwig’s carried a Greek beer, thought Ken.  Or maybe not, the Germans respectfully appreciated beer of many different varieties, even the prolific swill American marketing had spread plague-like across the world in their irritating, flashy Glowplas™ bottles.
“Where were we?” Ken queried while willing a cheery grin to surface.  “Blue Moons.  Funny they call it a Blue Moon, as the moon never actually turns blue, though it can sometimes turn red during a lunar eclipse.”
“Actually I recall reading the moon has turned blue on rare occurrences.  Like when the Indonesian volcano Krakatoa erupted in 1883 or during the Alberta fires of 1951.”
“Wow, you really know your stuff,”  praised Ken with a raise of the eyebrows. “It’s my job to run the astro-imaging lab at UPENN, and I had never come across that factoid.”
Ken paused, grinning deliberately, then softened his delivery.
“Well we may not see a blue tinted moon tonight, but looking into your dark blue eyes will more than suffice.”
“Are you trying to seduce me, star-man?” Helen posed, punctuating her question with a smirk and a chuckle.
Someone backed suddenly into their table rattling the pedestal and sending Ken’s tall glass into a momentary wobble  
The college student twisted around, a portion of his beer splashing to the ground. The Temple™ logo on his Refresh™ sweatshirt transformed into a basketball being slam-dunked, and then exploded in a burst of fireworks, finally reforming into a waving red and white banner with the brag-line “Owls World Champions 2019!”
“Excuse me! Love-nerds,” he slurred effecting a decent impression of a ninth round Rocky Balboa.  Without pause, he laughed aloud at his own joke, and headed back through the crowd.
“Hey…,”called Ken, rising from his chair, feeling obligated to do something.
“Don’t worry about him. He’s gone.”
“What an idiot!” commented Ken.
“Nah, he’s just a kid.”
“Yeah, I suppose,” Ken chuckled, “I shouldn’t get bent out of shape.  I would have made a similar joke ten years ago.”
“Hold that thought.  I need to find the ladies room.  Powder my nose.  That kind of thing.  Do you know where it is?”
“Your nose?” he chuckled. Helen groaned with a smile and a shake of her head. Returning her smirk with one of his own, Ken continued, “The restrooms are back through the restaurant,” gesturing with a half salute, “and straight back to the right.”
Helen rose from her chair and wove through a couple empty bar stools which had found their way to the center of the barroom.  Ken watched her go; her slender and subtle hourglass shape accentuated by her tight sweater.  Damn would she look good in some lacy, black Lily Italia™ lingerie!
At the gingerbread trimmed entryway, Helen paused.  Though twenty feet separated them, Ken could clearly see the sexy smile sent his way.  It seemed to contain a poignancy he couldn’t quite put his finger on.  With a passing wave, she spun around and headed into the restaurant.  The electric warmth left radiating through Ken threatened to throw him off balance more than another three beers would have.
Ken inhaled a cool breath and slid his Wi-MAXX Elite™ from the gear pocket of his Khaki Organics™ and unfurled the touch screen.  He did a quick Noogle™ for “Haiku rules,” and reviewed the general characteristics of the 5-7-5 verse in a swift scroll down.  He launched the open source wordsmith applet included with his i-link and began typing away on the keyscreen.  Helen had stirred his thoughts into dreamy creativity.  
Maybe he was letting his feelings race a little too fast, but in spite of this being their first meeting offline, Helen Eluryah --what a pretty name -- was enchanting him.  
He continued to juggle words onscreen, blending metaphor and double-entendre with curt finger drags.  He lost himself in wordplay while the surrounding patrons, their numbers on the upswing, echoed within the bar like the chanting of Buddhist monks.  Midnight hovered patiently four hours away.  
Helen settled silently into the chair opposite him.  Her complexion was radiant from her “nose powdering.”
Ken nodded to her with what he hoped was a flirtatious eye-twinkle and closed his Elite™.
“Hey I did an online search,” he commented, “and found out the term “Blue Moon” originally referred to something that was absurd or absolutely never would happen.  It was only since 1986 when the Trivial Pursuit game popularized the notion of the Blue Moon being the second full moon in a calendar month, Too funny how culture stirs language with ever-changing idiomatic nuance, don’t you think?”
Ken waited for Helen’s snappy insightful response.  And he waited.  His grin waned slowly as he saw Helen's thoughts were far away.
“Hey is everything okay?” he asked.
“I’m sorry, Ken.  I’m feeling a little dizzy.  I don’t think I’ll be able to drink that beer with you after all.”
She gestured at the Glowplas™ bottle serving as a centerpiece, its surface a swirl of shimmering emerald spirals.   The MicroLED™ coating reacted dynamically as she pushed the bottle toward him, the patterns turning sinusoidal beneath the misty veneer of condensation.  
“You can have it if you like,” she offered.
“No, I think I’ve had enough to drink tonight.  Are you sure you’re all right?”
“I think I just need a breath of fresh air, and it’s about time I headed home anyway”.
“Oh, okay.  I have a party back in the burbs to get to myself.”
Ken shouldered his Englishtown™ wool long coat, and set a ten dollar bill on the table.  He followed Helen toward the exit as she donned her quilted, pearl-white Sophistjacket.  Ken thought silently, maybe she’s having second thoughts about my pseudo-intellectual demeanor.
The frigid air coasted down Samson Street beneath an overcast night sky lit dully from above.
Ken sighed aloud while looking skyward, “Well it doesn’t look like we’ll get a chance to see the Blue Moon tonight.  Maybe we’ll get some snow.  It certainly is cold enough.”
“Yeah,” Helen managed.
Mustering a tone of confidence, Ken asked, “Would you like to exchange numbers?  Communicating through Blind-Matee-mails can be so impersonal.”
“Sure,” Helen replied.  The lilt in her voice was most definitely replaced by a cool monotone, Ken observed.
Each lifted their respective i-links™ enabled devices adroitly from their covert nooks and in a fluid motion effected a digital personal card exchange.
“Have a happy New Year, Ken.  I enjoyed talking tonight,” Helen added, her smile beaming beneath tired eyes.  Her face was definitely flushed.
Returning his i-link to his gear pocket, Ken cheerily added, “I also had fun. Happy New Year to you too!  You better get someplace warm; you’ll catch the flu in that skirt,” said Ken.
“I will.  Bye, Ken.”
Hopefully, he wasn’t setting himself up for a fall thinking warm thoughts about Helen? With uncertain energy, he walked briskly down a chilly 14th Street past several homeless people making their nests in toasty alcoves, and headed toward the brightly lit rumble of Market Street.
Descending the motionless escalator in the Gallery train station, Ken navigated over chipped flooring avoiding discarded newspapers and plastic Kuhl-cans™.  The summer park mosaic lay expansive above the tracks in its impressionistic pastels.  
Hard to believe in another six months, the regional rails would fully shut down.  The combination of telecommuting and NeoSEPTA™ under-funding had finally collapsed suburban mass transit.  Ken despaired that the city’s character would be completely destroyed because of it. Hopefully, the city’s projected profit margin converting dozens of empty corporate towers into parking garages would help sustain the Philadelphia inner-city culture enjoyed by sprawlites and townies alike.
Waiting for the Bank GreenLansdale line, Ken opened his Elite™ again and niggled with the word choice of the poem he had started earlier.  Thoughts of Helen interwove cozily with his inspirations.  Finally, the haiku felt finished to him, even if a bit overdone with alliteration.  As a final touch, he changed the font of the haiku itself to a deep cobalt Lucida script.  
The regional rail train glided smoothly down Track 2 in front of him.  He looked at the glowing screen of his i-link, remaining ambivalent as to whether to send Helen the poem or not.  Would she be enamored by his poetic wordplay, a grin of joy spreading across her face as she read the ditty, remembering their conversation interspersed with coy flirtation? Or would the poem be seen as too forward romantically and prevent any possible friendship, spicy or otherwise, from blossoming?
With an exasperated mental sigh, Ken admitted to himself, he was over thinking the matter. In his heart a small joy was alive.  Stepping onto the train, he highlighted the poem file, selected the number Helen had given him minutes ago, and pressed the send key setting it free.

Whisper-ed words, whet
Conversation’s cool cascade
Pools of Luna blue

Helen, you made my night!
…beneath a Sapphire Moon.  



(rewind twenty minutes)

“Hold that thought.  I need to find the ladies room.  Powder my nose.  That kind of thing,” Helen declared, instantly regretting the nose-powdering reference.  It was as dated as the Bavarian garments the waitresses were wearing in the kitchy German pub that was Ludwig’s Garten.  
“Do you know where it is?”
“Your nose?” Ken chuckled.  Helen half suppressed a giggle herself.
“The restrooms are back through the restaurant,” Ken gestured, “and straight back to the right.”
Helen rose from her chair, noting the slight, irregular pauses between his words.  Ken was a bit tipsy, but it was endearing somehow.  Well, he had known it was time to stop drinking, at least.  She mentally commended him for that small stroke of will.
It has been impossibly long since a man’s smile had caused her heart to flutter.  But Ken was her victim tonight, she reminded herself and breathed in deeply.
She glanced back at Ken across the bar, his silly, cheerfulness disarming her armor against her will.  Tears nearly came to her eyes as she waved, and then regained her balance.  She turned toward and headed toward the restrooms.
“Focus,” she uttered to herself; she absolutely could not let her mind wander along the dead-end alleys of romantic daydreams, especially not tonight.  First priority was to get Ken to come back to her apartment ostensibly for some make-out time.  She might even offer to show him some of Kepler’s original texts in her possession, that might be more tantalizing to him.
Moving adroitly through the aisles of the nearly empty restaurant, Helen proceeded down the dimly lit restroom corridor.  She entered the women’s room, and was surprised to find the inebriated college student who had bumped into their table leaning over the washbasin, fine-tuning the wave of his pomaded, dark hair.  The sanitized smell of ammonia and something sickly sweet hit her senses, and just as quickly she decided on an alternative albeit risky path for the night.  
The student was a handsome, spry youth, and had a slightly asymmetrical smile which probably lured in more than the average share of coeds for naïve cavorting.
“Um, I think you have the wrong bathroom,” vocalized the student.
“Actually, you do,” Helen replied.  Without looking, she locked the restroom door latch behind her.
“Uh…,” he floundered.
“I want you.” she intoned with a firm commanding air.  An electric charge was building within her.  She could feel the warmth expanding in tendrils from her chest, her crotch, and then her head. The moment had come and this man would be her sustenance until the next blue moon.
The student froze as her victims always did, his mouth slightly open exhaling.  His expression was rigid and full of desire; a little drool escaped from the left corner of his mouth.  She had never been sure what did it to them; she did not feel she had a conscious psychic grip to exert during the taking, but nonetheless it was always there.  Perhaps an instinctive fear suffused the victim.  Certainly, in this moment, she must seem a minion of Hades himself sent to thieve away his soul.  
She approached him, feeling her hair shift about, a raven lock falling of its own accord over her right eye.  She raised her hand to his shoulder and smiled a smile of empathy and embraced him. She leaned against him, the washbasin giving support from behind, and she could feel his involuntary erection beneath his smooth workout pants, which she loosened and lowered to the floor.  
“Shhhh,” she whispered, standing on tiptoe to kiss him lightly on his forehead.
Backing off a few inches she could see the reflection of his slicked hair in the mirror behind him.  Her own indigo eyes were twin blue dwarf stars swirling with dark plasma, the pupils having contracted to a tiny, central sunspot.  In the dimmed reflection, she could make out the sleek tentacles stirring half tangled in her now wild and unkempt hair.  She felt the coolness of the air upon their surfaces, as they extruded their full length from the recesses in her scalp.  Eight in all, each tentacle was mottled with fine violet capillaries and undulated in a synchronized rhythm like a sea anemone in the currents of tidal withdrawal.   Her instincts kicked in guiding the blind, single-needled tentacles to their destinations
Eyes, mouth, neck and ears.  Two tentacles each in their wicked redundancy penetrated the young man’s head in quest for the life giving humours.  Eye fluid, salivary fluid, blood plasma, and neural fluid, each a critical component of the elixir that would sustain her timeless youth.  
She felt the last two tentacles rustling beneath her skirt.  With a volition of their own they snaked beneath the boxers of the youth.  She sensed his penis against her lower abdomen as the final two tentacles weaved beneath his boxers and pierced the smooth area of skin at the rear of each testicle.  In seconds they began withdrawing seminal fluid, the fifth necessary humour she required.
The student’s body was now shaking perceptibly.
“It’s okay baby,” she whispered in his ear softly.  “It’s okay,”.
The task was over within two minutes.  It took all the strength she could marshal to ease his body with care upon the toilet seat.  As she leaned his weight against the back of the toilet, she felt his breath moist and weak against her cheek.  She checked his pulse carefully, even though she needed to be quick about this.  Her body sizzled with the warm biochemical infusion of his fluids. His breathing had reached a stable series of low gasps and all the needle-point wounds were slowly seeping to a stop.  For all the trauma he had gone through, the youth looked as if he had simply passed out from too much alcohol.
Her tentacles having fully retracted, she brushed the tangles of her hair with her most cherished possession, a flat brush with a filigreed golden handle entwined with snakes,  a reminder of the beast that was part of her, though it only showed its face once in a blue moon.  
Blue Moons.  Helen exhaled shirking off the continuous contemplation that plagued her. What kind of creature was she? How might she have come to be this way? In her centuries of research, the historic records were misleading at best. Was she indeed one of the three gorgons spawned, of which Medusa was the most famous? Not now, she chastised herself!
At the moment, her concerns had to be of the here and now.  She hadn’t taken such a risk in several hundred years.  The risk of discovery was just too great in a public place rather than in the apartment of a one night stand or a street urchin’s alley way.
She pulled the women’s room door behind her.  The corridor was thankfully as empty as she left it.  Her mind raced, even as her metabolism and physical strength waned.  She turned into the bar, catching sight of Ken who was tapping away a tablet.  She paused.
She needed to call 911 within the next fifteen minutes if there was any hope for the student’s survival.  Medical technology over the last fifty years had rescued all of her victims, though most suffered a coma for several weeks before full recovery.  In each case since 1967 her victims recovered with no recollection of their encounter; only two had lost their sight.  As such, guilt still haunted her.  Sight is so precious to these short-lived beings.  To take their eyes from them is to send their lives into turmoil.  
Eyes.  Those chestnut brown eyes belonging to Ken.  She hadn’t been certain if she could have brought herself to blind them, even temporarily.  There was an innocent hope in them that she could not allow to be damaged.  Should she attempt to forge a friendship with this man?  Could there ever be a level of trust between them?  Was she destined to hurt him? Or were the possibilities of joy worth the inevitable bouts of pain?  Question after question continued to spin in her head.
Drawing a slow breath to settle her dizziness, Helen stepped forward.