Inhuman Swill : Environment
            

Our Dependency on Foreign Keys, art by Hayrettin Karaerkek
The second and concluding part of my new science fiction novelette, "Our Dependency on Foreign Keys," is available today at the online magazine Across the Margin. (Part One appeared yesterday.)

When last we left our not-so-heroic hero Pell "Franny" Franziskaner, he was no closer than he was at the start to figuring out who is sabotaging his cocktail party and threatening to kill him, nor to completing or even figuring out the task he's been given by the super-duper advanced A.I. called Hondo. But at least he's invented a cool new party game called dueling holaoke! Will Franny unravel the mysteries before it's too late? And will Hondo ever make an appearance at the party?

Learn all the answers now...

Part One: http://acrossthemargin.com/odfkpo/

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Our Dependency on Foreign Keys, art by Hayrettin Karaerkek
A brand-new story of mine, "Our Dependency on Foreign Keys," is available today at the online magazine Across the Margin.

Or actually, the first half of this 11,000-word story is available today. The second half will go live tomorrow morning.

And to be honest, it's not exactly brand-new, either, though this is the first time readers are seeing it. According to an old blog post, I was working on this story during a trip to Malta and the Middle East in May 2008. It was one of those stories that started with the title, and as I worked out the basic situation of the story the plot and its world, things grew very complicated indeed, even given that I decided to set it in the same near-future historical continuum as a couple of my earlier stories. I clearly remember the bar in Chicago's Bucktown neighborhood where I was sitting when I named the main character Pell Franziskaner. According to my records, I finished the first draft around the time Barack Obama began his first term as president.

The story was a difficult one to write because I needed it to be light and frothy but dense at the same time. I took the Jeeves and Wooster stories as my model, though I think you'd be hard-pressed to see that in this final version. Connie Willis's screwball comedies like "Blued Moon" were an inspiration too, though again...

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So, over on Facebook I opined that it's now time for Mr. Obama to get his ass in gear about global warming. I further opined that it was time to stop referring to it by the namby-pamby term "climate change" and get back to calling it "global warming." Boy, did that incite some strong responses!

As I said there and will reiterate here, "climate change" may be a descriptive term in a bland way, but it's way too soft and weaselly. "Climate" as a scientific term is just not understood well enough (or at all) by most of us, and "change" is just, well, change. It says nothing about the degree or direction of the change, about whether it's good or bad, and it even leaves some dangerously stupid pundits enough wiggle room to say, "Hey, change is no problem. We'll just adapt."

"Global warming," on the other hand, is direct and scary, and we need to be scared by it. We need to be shitting our pants because of it. "Global"—it affects all of us, everywhere. "Warming"—this identifies the most direct effect of the most critical element of the climate-change equation, to wit that if we keep dumping more and more carbon into the atmosphere, the average global temperature will keep going up faster and faster, leading to every other bad outcome, like increased sea levels, decreased permafrost, increased ocean acidity, increased extreme weather events, and so on. The most important thing we can and must do to stop climate change is to stop that temperature rise.

Now let's all change our underwear and call Congress (202-224-3121) and the White House (202-456-1111) and tell them now is the time to get very serious about halting global warming.

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The giving trees

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This morning is Plant a Tree day on WBEZ. If you pledge any amount today, they will plant a tree in your name anywhere in the world.

"Anywhere?" said Laura. (We often talk back to the radio in the morning.). "I want them to plant a tree in my back yard."

"I want them to plant a tree in Antarctica," I said. "It's pretty barren down there."

Does this make us jerks?

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The choice

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If you're an American voter and you're still undecided today, please read this New Yorker editorial and think hard about it before you go to the polls:

The Choice

And to those of you for whom opposing abortion is the most important issue in this campaign, please ask yourselves honestly why protecting a horde of merely potential human beings who are more likely than ever to be born into crushing poverty is more important to you than ensuring that there is a clean, prosperous, and stable world for them to live on.

If you don't like abortion, don't have one, but please, for the sake of us all, don't let that get in the way of dealing with the real problems we face here in the real world. Real, feeling people are suffering in real, horrendous ways now. You are part of the world economy, and you are without doubt feeling the pain yourself.

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Ancient climate change

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Meanwhile, back in Chicago, we're going to Schuba's tonight for this week's Field Museum Café Science lecture, on ancient climate change. The speaker is the brother of one of Laura's coworkers. Science and beer, what could be better?

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Pinheading our hopes

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People spend so much time and effort agonizing over things that are imaginary. Yes, it happens with Star Wars and the Marvel universe too, not just with religious topics, but at least Star Wars fans know Star Wars is made up. I think.

Man, what if all the brainpower we waste on this stuff were devoted to world peace instead, or to developing clean, renewable fuels. Too bad we didn't evolve to agonize over questions like those until they're solved.

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Philadelphia Inquirer books editor Frank Wilson uses Cormac McCarthy as an excuse to peddle the rankest of bullshit in his column of yesterday:

Of course, as D.H. Lawrence pointed out in the last book he wrote, Apocalypse, those who warn of apocalypse secretly crave it, the way puritans tend to be turned on by the very vices they so loudly denounce.

The Road is just the latest installment in the pornography of despair.  [full diatribe]

That saw Wilson trots out about those who warn of apocalpypse is one that gets appropriated and applied out of context time and again in a ploy to shame us into thinking that everything will be all right if we just carry on in the style to which we have become accustomed. Lawrence's book was at least in part a diatribe against Christianity, a religion whose anticipated Apocalypse is a rather different animal from environmental disaster. Believers in Apocalypse believe that Apocalypse is inevitable, and they look forward to the happy horseshit of the Millennium that will follow. Believers in environmental catastrophe, or in nuclear winter, or in a host of other terrors of the modern age, don't believe the end is necessarily inevitable. If they did, why would they be trying to raise enough awareness to avert it?

Furthermore, in the balance of his column, Frank Wilson pretty much shames books editors everywhere by displaying his tin ear for brilliant, poetic prose, his utter lack of sophistication as a reader, and his blindness to symbolic content as he drops road apples all over The Road. Of course, if he denudes the book of its value as art, all that can remain in his cramped little mind is a perception of pornography. It's all in the eye of the beholder, after all. To me, pornography is American soldiers and Iraqi citizens dying unnecessarily while Washington watches, skies and seas poisoned as we blithely career down dead-end roads in our dead-end SUVs. Pornography is not contained, nor would be it even be containable, within the borders of The Road.

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Great Googly moogly

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Today's Google logo for Earth Day is pretty poignant.

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The Week in green

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Our favorite paper news digest, The Week, has published this week's issue on the web, for free, without a paper version:

For one week only, The Week has published a full issue exclusively online, bringing a bonus issue to you at reduced impact to the environment.
Not a bad advertising technique, either. And when more people subscribe because of this, they can use even more paper!

(But the really bad part is, this issue is not so well suited for bathroom reading.)

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The Accidental Terrorist 30th Anniversary Sale

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