Sunday, December 22, 2013

List 2013

I'm sitting at the edge of 2013, about to descend into 2014.

It was a year, 2013.

I mean, people look back on years as if the 365th day has more importance than the 45th or the 136th. And yeah, I do too. That said, I guess I'll just try to recall what happened. This list isn't complete

People that visited:
Olivia
Peter
Korena
Roger
Jacob
Barney
Micaela
Chelsey
Mitch
Dorothy
Mom
Dad
Natalie
Sue
Anwar

People I met
Andy
Mitch
Rebecca

People I reconnected with
Tess
Lizzy
Dorothy

People I saw
Dan
Dru
Alicia
Jim
Joan
Leala

People lost
Grandpa - I wish I could spend another few hours trying to teach him the computer.
Great Great Uncle George
Chris - I will really miss him. He was such a great photographer and nice guy

Jobs I held
Research Associate - no more
Recycling Prince - No more
Audition Monitor - sit and sign people in, I can do that
Tech Support Specialist - Love it, at Tableau
Script Reader - Fun stuff

Places I saw for the first time
Colorado - for Jim's wedding. What a cool place.
Leavenworth, Washington - Cute little Bavarian themed town, touristy but definitely worth a trip
Moscow, Idaho - gentle rolling hills and farmers, Applebee's too
Mt. Si - Beautiful from the top

Places I visited
Vaughn - The beach house is everything.
Issaquah - I love Village Theatre's Village Originals program
Portland - Portlandia
Reno - still home
Los Angeles - not a huge fan, but many people love it
Las Vegas - Dan won $700.

Things I did for the first time
Got laid off - That was great
Wrote Christmas cards, pic below
Cooked squash that I liked

And for the moment this is good.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

That Time, When We Were 16

They never talk about the smell or the temperature.

But that was being a teenager. Everything I remember about being a teenager is tinged with two things, the wrong smell and the wrong temperature.

Think about it, every moment of being a teenager was smells and temperature.

You start hanging out with friends, and not in the way that hanging out with friends used to be. It isn't birthday parties around parents, it's spending time with friends alone for the first time.

You go to new places, you go to their homes. And no home smells like your home. And you are never with your parents like it used to be. And they smelled great. They smelled like home. You always had home with you.

But now you are going to new places with new friends because no one keeps their friends from middle school, and you are smelling unfamiliar things.

And it's cold. Or hot. And you can't ever get the temperature right because the cool place to hang out--in your friend's room, or in an abandoned lot, or some half-built home--isn't designed to be warm. It's the room in the basement. It's the room with the sliding glass door that is easy to sneak out of but always lets in too much cold. And it certainly doesn't help that you and your friends are sneaking in and out of the house through that door. And you are leaving to go smoke weed--and that shwag weed smells terrible because it's the weed all the dealers keep for the high schoolers--or drink beer. And the beer is lukewarm or icy cold, and it smells like piss because, who the hell knows what good beer smells like? Probably not stale Coronas that have been hiding in some bush for weeks.

And you keep visiting new places, you meet new people. You get close to people who aren't your family. And they all smell different. For the first time, you hold someone. And you may have bathed recently, but that doesn't matter much because you just discovered deodorant and you don't know how much to put on. Sometimes it is too much--as with the boy's locker room which perpetually smells like body spray, so pungent that it burns your eyes--and other times it is not enough and you awkwardly sit in a car full of your friends, sweating because you didn't layer properly for the weather and the car and now you stink like rotting onions and you hope that the girl who is pressing her body so close to yours doesn't notice that you reek.

But a new body is everything it is cracked up to be. Except they don't tell you that holding someone is really holding another person full of just as many personal hygiene problems as you. They don't smell right. They smell different. And even though you hope that it will all make sense, that the smell with feel like home, you realize that sex and people and bodies aren't about comfort in any way you thought or believed. But it is a body and it feels great. But then it gets too hot and you want to push it away but you never want the other to believe you want anything other than to hold them until eternity. And so you sit under a heavy down blanket sweating furiously and worrying about the breakdown of your deodorant while you uncomfortably shift your position and try to desperately hold onto this moment that isn't right because its too goddamn hot and something doesn't smell quite right.

And the cars. They get you around. But because you are poor and young, the cars don't have adequate heaters or air conditioning. You are never the right temperature. Blasting heat that burns your face and hands while your feet freeze as they are pressed to the floor in a car in the middle of the winter.

Or the summer. It is hot. Too hot. So hot that you stick to the leather chairs and smell cigarette smoke and brown and whatever remains of that fast food you ate three nights ago in that car with your buddy who insists that midnight is the best meal time.

Being a teenager is all about going between one discomforting smell to another and one unbearable temperature to another. Despite it all, you find yourself happier and freer than you have ever been. You find that the world is open. That your friends, despite their stench or their inability to properly control the temperatures and settings of their rooms and their cars, are the best thing that have ever happened to you.

And so you keep seeing them. Keep doing new things. Keep being in new places. And building a new perspective of the world. One where new smells somehow become old smells. Where the discomfort of temperature one day years later suddenly brings you back to that beautiful moment one day in the past where you shared something new with a friend in a time where everything was new. But somehow, you didn't know it then. You let it pass without hesitation.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Protest

Short story

Capsaicin--the active ingredient in Oleoresin Capsicum (pepper spray)--is received by mammals' TRPV1 receptor. The transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1 (TrpV1) is the sole receptor for capsaicin. TRPV1 also helps regulate body temperature. Blocking the TRPV1 channel in the body can cause hyperthermia. In fact, the only to market drug has been unable to overcome this effect.

Which is why I was in an athletic tee, and sweat-wicking pants. As I felt my body heat up, and my sweat uncontrollably pool in all the uncomfortable places, I gathered my protest gear and marched out into the crowd. It was February, but the combination of adrenaline and this unpleasant drug made the 35 degree weather seem balmy.

I wasn't alone. A group of us, wearing red, were prepared to create blockades for the protesters. Eventually we would be blocking nearly the entirety of downtown. About two thousand of us were deputized as the wall between the police and the protest. Our sole job was to maintain order and our lines in the face of clashes.

I heard later that the line broke about two blocks south of me. A group of anarchists broke through the crowd and attacked the riot squad causing a small mob. Two members of the Red Wall were trampled. I'm not sure what happened after that exactly. The police opened fire first with the pepper spray.

But we held our line.

Then I heard the screams from inside the crowd. Or maybe it was the explosion. It must have been the explosion first. Something tore through my side and three mounted police pushed through our line and headed straight toward the source of the screams.

I was worried about this. I knew I had to run. But hyperthermia isn't just unpleasant sweating, my temperature had been artificially raised to 100 degrees. Too much physical exertion could kill me. Worse, I couldn't tell how hot I was. The TRPV1 receptors were put to sleep in a way that made me feel hot regardless of actual body temperature.

My adrenaline skyrocketed as I tried to get a hold of my senses. As I did so I realized I was standing in the middle of a bloody crowd. Were the police beating us or was it the explosion?

A second explosion rocked the plaza. I heard a crashing and I saw Jackson Tower's guts momentarily exposed before being engulfed in black smoke. What was happening?

I grabbed at the first red shirt I could find, we had been organized to respond to chaos by putting order back into the system.

I pulled the shirt into view and noticed that he wasn't part of the Red Wall; he was covered in blood. I let go of him and started running toward the south mall checkpoint. In case of emergency we had gathering points. When I got there, two red shirts were standing, waiting for order.

I screamed something at them. They obeyed my orders (I can't remember what) and took off. It was all sirens after that.

I was soon subdued by about four officers. In the confusion, the Red Wall was assumed to be the attacking force. And in the commotion we had become the Red Herring.

"Your temperature is very high, 102," the police medic said. I was in police custody; in their temporary holding zone about 6 blocks away.

"I know, I took Noripraisin," I said groggily. I had been hit pretty hard with a concussive flashbang.

"Well, your hearing is going to be ok, and if you relax your temperature should return to normal in 3-6 hours. You should be careful about Noripraisin though. Extreme physical activity can exacerbate hyperthermia and cause death. You are lucky the police pulled you from the fray."

I bit my tongue. I didn't find getting beaten by four officers and incorrectly identified as a mass murderer lucky. Besides, I was planning on a peaceful march, not a chaotic riot scene. I smiled at the medic wanly, "yeah."

There was a long silence, while the medic checked out my physical condition. "You are free to go. If you have stuff in the protest zone, it's best to consider it gone. There are bomb squads going through the entire area and destroying anything suspicious."

I thought about my small bag of protest items. Nothing important. I had lost it in the confusion. "Any other news?" I asked.

"I've been put on standby to treat bomb victims. The Jackson Tower is still in flames, and there aren't any new reports of explosions, but that still leaves six total. This isn't a good day," the medic looked at me and we exchanged a brief moment of understanding.

"Is there something I can do?"

The medic handed me a signed form, "hand this to the processing officer at the intake table and you are free to go. Other than that, go home and rest until the Noripraisin wears off. Drink water."

I tried to give the medic another understanding look. It wasn't returned. I left the police gathering area and headed back toward the chaos. Nearly 100,000 protesters were streaming out of the downtown area, trying to find their loved ones and get to safety.

I headed back in. I didn't know why.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Framing Questions (draft 1)

There are still some bits to fill in, and it needs to be tightened, but I'm tired. I will come back to it later:

I've been thinking a bit about how the media covers different issues. I often feel that the wrong questions are being asked in the stories. And of course, no one is going to get it right the first time. It would be foolish to expect everyone to find the right nuggets in a story immediately.

So first what is known.

In general people who identify as conservative believe that problems derive from personal responsibility and self-agency [cite poll numbers]. This can be seen in conservative attitudes towards food stamp programs. Generally speaking, conservatives believe strongly that if one tries hard enough they can overcome anything. So their approach to programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Unemployment (UI) Programs is to have strong work requirements reasoning that stringent standards will keep out fraudsters and help those that really deserve our help.

Liberal institutional attitudes. By contrast liberal (or if you prefer progressive) attitudes incorporate a much stronger institutional aspect into their opinions [poll numbers]. Liberal approaches to TANF and UI focus heavily on jobs training programs, education, and casting a wide benefits net on the assumption that these elements will counteract institutional inertia and empower people.

Of course the conservative counter is that this promotes laziness and fraud in the system. And the liberals counter that there is little or no evidence to support the claim of fraud in the system. And it goes on and on in circles. But we aren't here to focus on the dog chasing its tail. We are here to look at the bigger picture and how these factors can lead to missed opportunities at genuine improvement.

American attitudes toward personal agency. It should be noted that Americans generally skew toward personal responsibility and choice [poll numbers]. They believe, more than other countries, that hard work and a good attitude will be rewarded accordingly. Of course, this is obviously untrue; quantifying work in a capitalist society is highly subjective and molded by cultural attitudes. Further, economic mobility in the United States is the worst it has been since the 1920s, and is a paltry [position] of all developed nations. While Americans may believe in the American Dream, it is a harder to attain goal for the middle and lower classes to achieve than many realize. This complex interconnection of American attitudes and reality makes up the personal and institutional relationship.

Further these attitudes are modified by other group identifications. For example black people identify [poll numbers] with social mobility and in reality are afforded [numbers on actual mobility]. Evangelicals identify [poll numbers] with social mobility and in reality are afforded [numbers on actual mobility]. People making the median household income believe [poll numbers] and in reality are afforded [numbers on actual mobility].

And these lines draw themselves across a variety of issues, even non-economically tied issues. How much a person can individually make a difference is played out in most of our political battles as well. Which brings us to our third way of looking at a given issue. The political. The 24-hour news cycle often defaults to this perspective, looking at an issue as a game. Who is winning? What is the political fall-out? How does this affect poll numbers?

Often known as the horse race, this perspective looks at policymaking by its effect on political capital--how much political influence a given decision will cost or gain. In this purely transactional manner, people are allowed to not take sides and still give analysis on a given issue. Opinion polls are abundant and conducted often while deeper analysis--such as adverse economic or social impacts studies--are fewer and further between. And often politicians are very limited by their political capital.

Ted Cruz, a freshman senator with little respect on the hill, was able to leverage his stand against Obamacare to get media attention, improved (if temporarily) poll numbers, and a seat at the negotiating table. He is now considered a conservative thought leader whereas before he took a back seat to Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and even Michelle Bachmann. While there is no doubt in my mind that he cares deeply about stopping the Affordable Care Act (ACA), he definitely considered and used the political implications in his favor. His tactics improved his political standing.

Three ways to look at a problem. Now we have observed the three ways that a given issue can be looked at: institutional, personal, and political. All issues need to be looked at with all three aspects, but by targeting only one then radically different outcomes can occur. Let's take a look in greater depth at what characterizes the three parts.

Political. A political problem is one where the lines are drawn along ideological grounds. Be it the Tea Party versus the Conservative Establishment, or the more traditional GOP v Democratic split, a political issue is often approached in terms of popularity. Does it have enough votes? What does public opinion say? Inherent in this structure is the win/lose dynamic. Someone wins, and someone loses. Rarely, this is portrayed from the compromise, where the negotiators triumph by making everyone win (and lose a little). Even more rarely this is portrayed from the collaborative aspect, where everyone is a winner. This is the 'inside the beltway' perspective. It's about issues like swing-voters, the dwindling white majority, and their adverse impacts to a particular political view's strength. In its purest form it is democracy at its core. The popular one wins, there are no barriers, and all men are created equal.

Institutional. An institutional problem is one that persists regardless of politics. These are problems that continue whether the leading regime is democrat or republican, whether the leaders are charismatic or duds. Fundamentally, institutions are necessary. They maintain order and stability in a disordered and uncertain world. But sometimes institutions cause disproportionate harms to their benefits. The racist policies of the FHA after World War II is an excellent example. Institutional problems tend to have one winner or one loser with 'the rest' being generally unaffected. Institutions are interesting because they become invisible and monolithic. Institutional barriers give rise to terms like 'the man', 'Washington Establishment', and 'Wall Street'. No single individual or specific interest controls the institution yet an inequality or injustice persists despite the efforts from actors within and without. Some typical institutional questions: how do regulations affect the ability of people to start new businesses, how does race affect social mobility, what is preventing a cohesive natural resources management policy? These kinds of questions generally ask for big changes, changes that aren't typically available via democratic or individual means. The people with the power to make the changes generally want to preserve the status quo, making institutional change slow and full of inertia.

Personal. A personal problem is one created and manipulated by an individual or small identifiable group that share a causal factor. These are typically moral failings: stealing, lying, cheating, manipulating, incompetence, and general selfishness. A typical example is a politician taking kick-backs for a project. Often, moral failings unrelated to a person's job can sink their political careers (pretty much all of them are extramarital affairs). Corruption relating to the job is less common but more drastic. Not only is the individual in question affected, but anything in their purview is as well. This is the stuff of scandals typically. There is an identifiable wrong, an identifiable agent, and an identifiable punishment. Personal problems are the ones that get ratings: with interesting characters, intrigue, victims, and deception. The typical solution is to neuter or remove the person in power. It's important to note that the personal need not be a major moral failing, it could simply be an ideological adherence and failure to change course in the face of countervailing evidence. In that sense we all have our personal failings, the question becomes: when does that adversely impact our work and others around us? Rarely is a personal problem not part of a greater institutional or political problem.

And so it goes for most problems. What may start as one type of problem may end with all three bases being covered. This shouldn't be surprising as the barriers are permeable and influence each other. As an example take the recent government shutdown. About 40 Tea Party Republicans were dissatisfied by ACA's implementation. To voice this dissatisfaction they masterminded a plan that would cause the Federal Government to shut down unless their demand to defund ACA was approved. For 15 days the two political parties worked to restore the government while dealing with holdouts who refused to relent on their individual votes.

In many complex ways individuals, institutions, and politics worked in a give and take to shape the situation that occurred. For years, Democrats had largely yielded to similar Republican tactics. The GOP had been de-incentivized toward negotiation since a wave of ideological purity--spurred by the disappointments of the Bush administration and resounding defeat in the 2008 election. Ambitious young politicians, eager to make radical changes and follow through on campaign promises, had a strong incentive to stick to their strategy. These all culminated in a showdown situation with the individuals making decisions within the narrow spectrum of choices presented by their political and institutional affiliations.

The Argument

People have some free choice. There is no doubt that we can make our own choices. But…

Institutions are invisible decision makers. We are limited by the actions of others as well as the institutional constraints built around us. It's very difficult to understand this on a decision to decision basis. There is a great deal of literature that explains the limits that institutions can put on us.

Political calculus is a limited tool. While we may want to believe that poll numbers and political capital are the only things that motivate people, this is inherently limited to the partisan yes/no spectrum. This limits complex analysis.

There is a "right" set of questions. Obviously that's a simplification. The job of an informed citizen is to decide: what interests are involved, how do the interests characterize the main perspective of the issue (political, institutional, or personal), how do the other perspectives play in, how do the different interests account for differences in perception, how does the available evidence support each position. These sorts of questions are the check on the other questions. If other questions or framings do not align with the issue, then they require adjustment.

Wikipedia list of Government scandals http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_federal_political_scandals_in_the_United_States

Homemaker

So I clean around the house and get everything done, then I cook again.

Then I clean again.

Then I cook again.

Then I clean again.

I'm getting really good at this whole cooking and cleaning business.

It's hard work. Really hard work. It drives me up a wall. I'm not getting paid for this and my back hurts and the only recognition I get is from my spouse who comes home late and promptly passes out to get as much sleep as possible before going back to work again. Because she works hard too.



Whoa. I'm a housewife.

I gotta get a job. Oh wait, I just did! Tableau sent me their offer and they seem stoked to hire me and I'm stoked to work with them.

The only question I have now though, who is going to do the housework? I mean, I put in 6 hours and counting for the work today/tonight. And the house looks great, but there is so much more to do. Who is going to do this stuff? Or am I going to have to go back to the life of an unkempt house?


I suppose I prefer getting paid. I really do. But seriously, how is this house going to stay clean?

Autumn Coffee

She sat on the bench reading the book with an intentness that could have only signaled either an engrossing text or a concerted effort to remove outside stimulus from her attention. The noisy man seemed to indicate the latter.

He was putting up a show. Speaking loudly to the barista. Ostensibly to impress. Doomed to failure.

I received my coffee and turned toward the door. I blew feebly on the lid. I tentatively sucked at the miniscule hole. I burned my tongue. It always happened. I sucked in air and blew again on the lid. A futile attempt to cool the coffee.

The man got louder and more self-aggrandizing. There was more to the story than the woman on the bench.

I held the thought momentarily and left the scene.

The day was brisk and sunny. Bright. A fall day of yellows and reds set against the cool blue of the sky. A jet passed overhead, filling my ears with the dull roar of the urban environment. The streets were dappled with sunlight. As I shifted between shade and sun I could feel the temperature change.

Winter lay ahead, barren and gray. I didn't worry too much about it. Death comes to all of us, but we think about it only in the quiet moments when we can't close our eyes. And so too was the winter. Coming, gray and endless. But in the future--an intangible future.

My ears were bitten by the breeze. My hands were warmed by the coffee. I smelled the autumn air. And I enjoyed the quiet moment. It passed too quickly.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Things that bug me lately

The following is not an essay, it is a list of gripes supported by my own research and reading. Feel free to disagree, but do not take the following as arguments in and of themselves, or their permanence in my brain. Sometimes we just need to let loose. That's this.

So, things that bug me lately:

Argument by history. The Constitution is a living document and "government for the people, of the people, and by the people" tends to favor the living voice. An argument cannot stand purely on the backs of our forefathers who held many and varied positions. Some of them quite terrible in a modern setting; things like: slavery is good for the economy, Britain sucks, the Spanish and French can fund our war, women shouldn't vote, quartering troops in civilian homes is going to be a big issue, central banking will never catch-on, the gold standard is forever, and Canada might like to be a state.

Gun debates. Or the failure to even have them. Look, the proposals set out, be they large or small, would do many things to address gun violence without unduly curbing our liberties. I have the numbers to back it up, a great big list. Or let me put it this way, if the proposals thus far are so obviously unconstitutional then you could be assured that the laws would fail in the courts, right? Especially the conservative majority Supreme Court. But from a legal perspective the arguments used are esoteric and off-topic to say the least. The 'self-evident' argument is problematic because it isn't at all, leaving a pragmatic policy fight that has the numbers stacked against current gun policy. Gun control--more of it along with better enforcement--is totally reasonable.

Poverty. We just cut food stamps by $40 billion. Why? Unclear. Even if you allow for unreasonably large amounts of fraud in the system, it is still a vital service to the poor. We could pretend that 50% of cases are fraudulent ($20 billion) and we still wouldn't be looking at the same amount spent 'legitimately' in a military context that could be considered unnecessary. Period. And that's not including the dubious choice to saddle ourselves with the costs of the Iraq war, which had a minimal cost-benefit ratio.

Government shutdowns. Ridiculous. Don't hold the government hostage over a Red Herring. What's that? Attempts to repeal Obamacare have been rebuffed over 40 times? It is not technically or philosophically democratic to force unrelated things to be voted on at the same time as another item. Besides the political grenade is going to blow up in Republicans' faces anyway--at least according to polls. It's unnecessary brinkmanship.

Obamacare haters. It's not going to benefit everyone. No law can. But it's certainly better than our current system. I have already checked with my provider and I'm getting some major benefits. As someone who can barely afford healthcare now, I am stoked. Also, don't make me defend the law. Remember, the Republicans effectively got their original proposal AND voted against it. The Dems took the political hit while also being stuck defending it. It's a middle right law. I would have wanted single-payer coverage, but apparently our fears of socialism outweigh my need to be economically stable and physically healthy.

Syria. We avoided war. Why is that bad? Look, we would effectively be a third side in the current conflict because the rebels are extreme and Assad is a jerk. So we would be left with the unsavory position of an extended occupation as well as ANOTHER nation-building exercise. We can't afford it, especially if the Tea Party gets their wish of a shut-down government. I definitely don't want more dying people, but our guns and ammo are poor diplomatic tools in this fight.

Vaccine alarmists. The doctor was stripped of his medical license the study was so bad. Vaccinate your children.

Global warming deniers. It's happening and continuing to deny it is hurting our disaster preparedness.

Evolution deniers. It's real. 100% and we can prove it.

The 49ers. Come on. What a disappointing season opener.


Some other things to remember. Gold will decline as the economy gets stronger. Americans are buying more American debt--not the Chinese (who are selling it BTW). Rampant inflation has failed to occur since 2007, the Fed's Quantitative Easing is great, but real fiscal policy would be better. The 1% continue to gain wealth as a percentage of the economy--further squeezing out the rest of Americans, especially the lowest earning 2/5ths. It is a fallacy to argue in the negative (example: you can't prove unicorns don't exist, therefore unicorns do exist and anti-unicorn fences must be constructed).

Monday, September 23, 2013

Wedding and Vaughn

We traveled. Airports. Crying babies. Yadda yadda yadda.

But then we got to the good stuff. A Fiat 500 from Denver to Grand Lake with three passengers!

And then we got to party with people.

And I noticed things. Things that I always notice. And some new stuff too.

We drank awesome Scotch.

We got up early every morning.

There was a beautiful wedding. There was a nasty hotel owner/manager. There was a wonderful night under the stars.

We danced up a storm. The DJs were terrible.

I got to see Alicia. I paddle boarded for the first time.

---Break--

Then I went to the beach. And I spent time with family. We couldn't get the music right.

And Dan Tucker died.

And the cat was there. And the house was gorgeous. And my family was rowdy. And we ate perfect food.

Everything was good and nothing hurt. My cousins caught sharks. We built an epic fort.

So I've Been Let Go

First, this sucks. Second, it kind of doesn't. Rationalizing aside I was looking to make a graceful exit anyway. Management beat me to the punch.

I want to find a new place I can really fit in. I feel terrible that I couldn't seem to figure it out or fit in. A lot of it was me.

I now am faced with the happy prospect of doing something else. I'm faced with the daunting prospect of having to find that something else.

It's dumb to work at a place for several weeks after the announcement that you have been laid off. There's a genuine, half-hearted, and odd response that you get from people. Sorry you are going (but not enough). I truly wish you the best, but why do you seem happy that you aren't doing anything after this?

And then there was the bizarre moment when I was laid off. It will end up in a book somewhere someday.

But all of that's past, and I am moving on. I am looking for jobs. Which is to be expected. Because I can't pay the bills with love.

Anyways, working out the last two weeks was really…weird. People know you are going, you know you are going, and none of the work seems to matter. At all. It takes a lot of might to make the petty day to day seem important. I suppose that's how it always is.

I'm way happy to have moved on. I have applied for unemployment and I am using this time to understand what it means to be me. Not some Eat, Pray, Love journey of self-discovery, but just a moment of "hey, I understand that I am happy even though I didn't get what I thought I wanted. What's that all about?"

So yeah, here I am. Looking for a job, but not sure what kind of job I want to be doing. I just want a ton of money and I want to make the world better for people. Doesn't seem too hard, right?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Gaia Hypothesis

Short Story

The scientists hated the solution.  Global warming stopped because the aliens from 2001 a space odyssey saved the planet.

I mean that was the joke right?  These asshole aliens came down, and said, I shit you not, "we are here to serve man."  But you know that already.  It was in all the papers--or CNN--or Facebook.

It was a bizarre moment.  We were told that Global Warming would basically stop because the aliens had seen a huge increase in temperature fluctuations and they had said, "well, this isn't good."  So they turned a knob and restabilized our planet.  It was particularly bizarre because I remember looking over at the Republican senator's face--you know the guy, he's white, gray, and from Texas--and seeing the smug look on his face.  He basically was flipping off the climate scientists who were watching him on national television with that smile.

But then came the bit of news that made him shut up.  Global warming had been happening, but the aliens were stopping it.  The alien must have done its research because it looked right at Mr. Oil Tycoon Senator and said, "however, without our intervention you would have annihilated yourselves within the next 3 decades--mostly due to greedy oil barons.

I bet the scientists at NOAA cracked a very expensive bottle of champagne at that one.

It's funny though, I always thought that aliens would show up seconds before we annihilated ourselves with nukes.  I'm a child of the Cold War.  Back then it was all about Mutually Assured Destruction and nuclear fallout.

And before the aliens, it was the Warm War.  The war about changing global temperatures.  Mutually Assured Destruction was guaranteed but no one could stop it because it didn't happen in an instantaneous flash of nuclear fusion.  Instead it happened slowly, and we were all little nukes, slowly blowing up the Earth.  Incinerating it.  I tried to reduce my carbon footprint, but I'm an American--and proud of it--we don't really save energy.  We make it bigger, better, crazier.  And we add cup-holders--that's a bit outdated of a joke.  But we do love to use energy. 

I mean, look at this room we are in.  It's my dream home.  Double-paned weatherproof windows sure, but in a space this big covering that much area.  In the winter I have to crank up the heat to 77 just to keep it warm in here.  And that doesn't count my gas fireplace.

Look I don't think we all need to live in a hovel, but I don't need a separate room for my workout equipment, my home computer, my home office, my guitars, my dogs, and my coats.  And I don't need the rooms to each be the size of a small convention center.  But I have it.  And it looks great.  This house is beautiful.

So, what's the lesson?  Why did these assholes come down like angels and change everything to the way it needs to be?  Hell, I hear they are even restoring some of the species we destroyed--like the Tasmanian Tiger.  I mean, what's the lesson?  No one seems to care about electric cars anymore.  No one seems to care about saving the planet.  Now the aliens just turn dials. We reap the benefits and never have to suffer the consequences.  Shouldn't we be responsible stewards or something?

I don't know.  If I were them, I'd just crank up the heat again.  We suck.

Maybe that's the lesson.  Maybe we aren't supposed to be the stewards of this planet.  We are just dumb apes who fancy ourselves intellectuals.  We're just curiosities I guess.

Have you ever seen one of those Ecospheres? Glass balls with animals inside.  It's a self-regulating system with algae, shrimp and snails.  The whole system stays in harmony if everything is done right.

Sometimes I feel like we are in the Ecosphere, thinking we have it under control.  When really, the aliens are pulling the strings.

We will never be masters of our destiny.  We'll always be the shrimp.  I guess that's the lesson.  We are dumb.  Really dumb.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Tough Life of the Fed Chairman


The poor Federal Reserve.  I mean it.

Here imagine this: you are the best contractor in all of America.  You have a crack team of workers who can build even the most complex things, and you can do it under budget and ahead of schedule.  One day you get the biggest job you've ever had--a once in a lifetime gig.  This could change the world.  But you are a bit wary heading into it.  The job isn't starting from ground zero.  Instead, there was another contractor working on it previously, and he did a really crappy job.

Not intentionally mind you.  Just that the previous contractor wasn't as good at predicting future costs and you got stuck cleaning up a lot of the mess.

So now you are on a job that is already over budget and behind schedule.  You show up to the construction site to survey what's going on and to your dismay there is almost nothing ordered by way of supplies.  Sure you bring in your own equipment usually, but for something to be so radically off budget you were expecting at least a pile of wood and maybe some cement.

Instead you find some poorly built one story homes on the lot that are really falling apart.  You are told that the project is actually a renovation job and a new construction job.  First you have to rebuild the disintegrating homes and then you can renovate up.

No big deal, you've done jobs like this before.  Your team is really good at this.

You get to organizing your team, they are all ready to start in when the property owners tell you that there is another problem. The homes are privately owned. The land is ok to work on, but through a weird arrangement set years ago each private home has to be either bought out or they have to hire their own private contracting team.  Ok, you think, team work is good. Many hands make light work.

When you start surveying these homes, just to get a sense of what this greater renovation will finally look like you get a distinct American Psycho feel from some of the owners. You aren't allowed in many of the rooms and a lot of the damage you can see appears to be self inflicted. On the homes that you were allowed to buy out, it looks worse. You got a rotten deal. What you thought were homes falling apart turns out that the were cardboard cutouts. The previous owners had more or less already scrapped everything of value and run away with all your cash.

You start getting frustrated. You aren't really a real estate broker. Shouldn't it have been the job of the property owner to sort this stuff out in the first place? Your job was to just build.

Oh well, eventually you will be able to do your job. And your job is what you are good at. So now everyone is building and fixing. This is great. The other contractors are a bit slower but everything is looking good on the outside.

One day the owner of the lot comes by to check everything out.  Things start out great. The owner has a lot of power and even gets you some access to the private homes so you can take a peek.  You get into one of the homes and you are appalled. The insides look the same as the day you started work.  Worse. Instead of seeing tangible renovations there are big piles of cash all over the floor. The money you gave the other contracting teams is literally stacked up, they just buffed out the facades.

It's frustrating sure, but you know that you have done good work.  You and the owner go look at what your team has accomplished so far and you are feeling pretty good.

The houses have their foundations shored up and you are almost ready to start the main renovations that you were originally contracted for.  But then the owner's wife comes in. She is pissed off. She disagrees with everything that the owner says.  Some of the stuff she says makes a lot of sense, but most of it is out of your scope of work.  Stuff you can't do a lot about.

She is really mad that the owner is so far over budget. Eventually she starts yelling at you. How could you let the budget get so crazy, she asks.  Fair point. You explain the unprecedented nature of the task, how hard it is to work with such an odd property and the houses. You explain the contractors of the other homes and how you suspect they might not be doing their jobs. You suggest more oversight.

This gets her even madder. Turns out she trusts all the other contractors way more than you. Many are personal friends. To suggest they are capable of wrongdoing or even slight mismanagement is a slap in the face.

You finally calm her down a bit and insist that you will work to the highest standard.  Good, she says, and drops another bombshell, all the funding for the project has been cut to bare minimum levels. The owner will only pay wages and what was left in the scope.

You try to explain that being over budget is a product of the previous contractors and the--well you can't talk about the private contractors so you try to sidestep it a bit.

As the two walk away you hear the wife mutter that you are a shifty shyster. A little offended you resolve to try to make amends and really explain the project better next time.  Maybe it was just a bunch of misunderstandings.

The next day the owner calls you and says that he confiscated all your tools except your hammer and nails.  Good luck.

Then it gets worse. Every month the owner and his wife drag you in front of them to talk about why the place isn't built yet. you try to explain that without more tools and funding it is going to take a while but the wife insists that unless they take away the hammer the place will never get built.  Meanwhile she screams at the owner during these monthly meetings for taking out a loan in the first place to pay for the construction.

One meeting it gets really awkward because you have to explain to the wife the importance of building materials to make a building.  Her reply is that the private contractors seem ok.  You bite your tongue about the empty facades and try to keep plugging along.

Finally, you get a lot of work done. Progress is moving and it seems like the huge project will actually get done. The owner and wife are anxious though that you are still working on the project and start phasing in new contractors.  It is a bit hurtful that the job hasn't panned out and they don't want you but nevertheless you want them to get what they want. Happily these guys seem to do a decent job, albeit slowly.  So you help them along while trying to transition yourself out.

But every time you pull away they have a mental breakdown and can't get any work done.  So you go back to the owner and wife every month trying to detail a plan for you to leave. They scream at you again, insisting you should already be gone and refusing to give you any of your tools or at least give them to the new contractors.

And this happens for five years.

That is what it feels like to be the fed chairman right now.  Yelled at, constricted, the butt of everyone's rage, limited in ability, and utterly alone.

So no matter how you feel about the guy, try to at least understand how stuck he is.

The Death and Rebirth of the Earth


A dream I had. It still needs work

I am an angel.  My job is to run the day to day with the other Angels.  Under the command of the Archangels we manage the majority of Earthly matters.  God has become old and unable to nourish Earth.  He knows this, Satan knows this, and the Seraphim guards know this.  I however, was never supposed to find out--at least I thought.

The archangel Gabriel may have known this, or had a clue, but his love for God had blinded him to the reality.

I found out because of my mother.  The virtue curiosity was my mother, and my father was the first angel to appear before Abraham.  As a hybrid, I can take the form of a man--an angel, or a spark of light--a virtue.

God's kingdom is an infinite sea, but his castle from which he governs is a small and finite space.  It is a jagged structure, on the edge of nothingness.  Human depictions are of a beauteous light, but God was borne out of the darkness.  The nothingness.  His castle was the first thing he built, before there was light.

Huge black marble slabs jut raggedly out of the scorched earth and build a wall a quarter mile thick. The Black Wall surrounds a deep gold meeting house.  The First Chamber, little more than a large chamber where God convenes his highest orders to discuss matters of governance.

The angels do not go into God's castle unless he calls for us.  Instead we attend to our duties along with the other orders of angels inside the Second Chamber.  The Second Chamber sits a short distance from the castle and is surrounded by a steeply sloped metallic wall.  An iridescent wonder that stretches several miles into the sky.  Inside, the structure bears little resemblance to God's gloomy chambers.

The Second Chamber was built after Satan's insurrection as a testament to the power and goodness which God so embodied.  It is light and airy.  It is much closer to depictions of heaven.  Angels dart busily about, attending to the business of Earth. 

The business of Earth concerns the regular cycles mostly.  The majority of angels work on geologic timescales, pushing and pulling on Earth's forces to maintain a stable balance.

As an angel hybrid, I was assigned to give weekly status reports out of a sample village.  My job was not to interfere, but to simply observe the goings on and report my findings.  To do so I posed as a doctor in a small hamlet in the mountains. It was after a strange incident that I was called into God's chambers to speak with him.

I explained the circumstances and elaborated from my report.  The trees near the village appeared to be changing radically in age.  And not in a linear fashion.  Early in the week they had been old growth trees, towering in the mountains.  By the middle of the week they were saplings, barely higher than the ferns that took shelter in a mature tree's shade.  By the Sabbath they were spindly trees reaching for the sky, young but not saplings, old but not mature.  In addition, the trees seemed to be taking on various seasonal forms.  Some were beautiful yellows and reds, while others were spring green, and still others had no leaves to speak of.

It was this disconcerting event that made me worry a demon had escaped Hell and was making mischief on Earth.  But no breach had been found.  I spoke with Angels of the forests and they had not even noticed a change.  It was all the more peculiar too in that none of the trees seemed alive.  They did not move in the breeze they did not change in their form.  They grew as a child would draw a tree, without detail and personality.

God had obscured himself in a veil, listening through a Seraph and attending to his many millions of other matters.  When I mentioned the stiff way the trees grew, something I had never experienced happened.  The Seraphim all paused their duties.  The World stopped, the stars blinked out, all energy and motion ceased for a brief moment and concentrated on me.  I was told to approach.

An Angel is rarely given to the direct presence of God.  He speaks mostly through his Seraphim and Archangels.  I had seen him only a few times before, and always for large celebrations.  I glimpsed him at the formation of the first star.  I saw him banish the Devil in the trial after the war.  I watched him kiss the first light of inspiration into man.  All those times I had been far away, tucked between the virtues and the angels, barely able to see Him.

So I was fearful at first when I approached him.  I could feel the Seraphim bristle their feathers as they parted for me--their eyes burned through me, regarding my past, my present, and my future.  The Seraphim are limited extensions of God.  They are firm and aloof, full of responsibility and authority.  To pass a pair of Seraphim without tipping your head in Grace is to risk a firm reprieve…if they are in a good mood.  They are the wrath of God, and no one forgets it.  Only an Archangel would risk speaking ill toward a Seraph.

As God's form came into view I could feel everything start again.  By the time I had fully approached him, the stars were burning bright and the Earth was rotating normally.

I was shocked by his gaunt appearance.  He had not the benevolent smile I knew from my youth.  His strength seemed gone, and his complexion had faded to a pale white.

I was dismissed from his presence.  On my way out, I turned to a spark of light and hid behind a chandelier.  Two Seraphim walked past.  "What will we do after the Great Loss?"

"He said that all will be as it was. But what does He mean by that?  Will all be darkness again?"

"Surely that must be true.  He is losing his form day after day.  I remember when he had a deep brown skin, and now he is translucent."

"If all is darkness, what of Earth?"

"What of it? The angels take care of it, do they not?"

"Not the main dealings.  The big decisions.  God has a hand in every major event."

"And now?"

"And now nothing. God has his plan, it is already in motion and we will follow his orders." Seraphim had little free will.  Imbued with a fair helping of God's wisdom, they were also heavily restricted in their actions by God after Satan's rebellion.

I waited until the seraphim had long passed before I dared move. I sparked my way from chandelier to chandelier until I found myself once again in the main chamber.  God was being attended to by three Seraphim.

God spoke. Not in the commanding voice I had known, but in a much weaker voice. "It has begun, all shall be as it once was. I must rest. There shall be no more business for me. Tell the archangels that they govern until the next age." He faded out even more. I could barely make out his form when I left.

On the way out I was stopped by a Seraph who guards the corridors. I explained I had gotten lost in the walls, and he pointed me out with a stern look.

I resolved not to report back to the Second Chamber.  Instead, I went straight to the outpost between the two buildings.  There is a hole to earth that the angels take when they do not want to be seen leaving.

I slipped through the hole and found myself at a brook near a steep face in the mountains. There was a large boulder sitting on the edge of a drop off. The brook was nearly a waterfall it was so steep. Nothing grew except the river slime that accompanies every creek.

Surrounding the brook were young trees. Spindly, tall trees that competed for sunlight.  They were nearly all the same age.  There were no old growth trees in this forest.

I heard something. A villager. I scrambled toward the trees to conceal myself but slipped on the rocks.  I slammed my head against the rocks and started to lose consciousness.  As I passed out I could feel the cool water of the brook on my back and a firm hand grasping the neck of my robe.

I awoke in a dark room.  It smelled heavily of smoke and dust.

I tried to gather my surroundings and noticed little. There was a small window covered by a tattered curtain. There was a basin of water by my bed. 

I tried to rise.

"Don't, you will pass out again." I recognized the voice.  It was my partner.

Angels rarely travel alone. My partner was a farmer in the village.

"May I ask why you took the secret entrance?" my partner asked.

"curiosity." I could hear him smiling. If I didn't want to explain myself I invoked my mother as cause.

"Did you know the entrance was so close to our village?"

In truth I was stunned by the revelation I wasn't far from my assigned village.  I was more intrigued that I had never noticed the entrance, or the angels coming and going.

"It didn't look like I remember," I answered slowly. Angels rarely forgot details or remembered details incorrectly.

My partner hesitated, "you must see a doctor.  I think you hit your head quite hard."  I let out a weak laugh.  I would feel better when I returned to the Second Chamber to heal, but on the Earthly plain I was subject to Earthly pain.

I tried again to remember what that hill looked like.  I strained, but could not form a memory.  Why didn't I know the entrance was there?

I was often preoccupied with the duties of a local doctor, and when not doing that, the duties of a heavenly administrator.  My partner benefitted from set work days and ample free time, it was no surprise that he knew the landscape much better than I.  Perhaps I had just missed it.

"I think we are in terrible danger," I spoke slowly. My head was pounding.

"Satan was banished, and has no power to return, there is no danger."

"No. It's not Satan. It's God.  I saw him. He was weak, frail. The Seraphim know.  I heard them talking. They sounded genuinely afraid. They said that all will be as it once was."

My partner spoke, "that explains why the Seraphim are looking for you. There is rumor that the Devil has stolen you and is trying to set his army loose on Heaven."

I shuddered. The Seraphim were tracking me. There was only one other angel ever tracked by the Seraphim.

"No. This has nothing to do with Satan. He rests where God imprisoned him." then I realized something, "but he may have been unleashed when God lost his strength."

God had been so weak, his powers would have surely diminished, and the Beast could have escaped.  It would explain the erratic behavior of the trees.  The survey of Hell's Gates must have missed a crack.  For surely there was no new evil?

My partner became alert suddenly. He had excellent hearing. "We have to move. The Seraphim are coming. They think you are here."

Humans could not see a Seraph in its true form. To them a Seraph appeared like an average human and they quickly forgot what that looked like.  But to an angel a Seraph appeared as the flaming might of God's wrath.  Sure the scriptures said it was his love, but Seraphim were God's hands--and He was a vengeful god.

My partner helped me out of bed and I struggled to my feet.  He handed me a vial.  It was his blood.  I took a drop of it and ran it across my forehead.  I felt better, but it would only be momentary--the pain was dulled but not gone.  We hurried out the door.  "To the portal" I said.

We did not speak as we ran.  Dusk had set in.  With my feet pounding the thin path through the mountains, I could hear the villagers calling out.  And the Seraphim.  They screamed my name in Heavenly tones--too high and too low for a human to hear.  But Angels can hear it and it can be a beautiful lullaby or it can be a soul piercing screech.  The Seraphim were screaming for me, shaking the earth and rattling the trees.

We reached the brook, water tumbled down the steep granite face.  I could see the boulder thirty feet below me.  I must have entered that way.  The Seraphim were getting closer.  My partner motioned for me to follow him.  We climbed carefully down the face until we reached the spot where I had entered.  My partner and I felt around for the entrance; the subtle entrance to the heavenly world.  But we could not find it.

"It's gone!" My partner explained.  I looked around at the grove of trees, they seemed smaller, less foreboding than before.

I could hear the Seraphim coming closer.  My partner hid behind the boulder and I hid in the trees.  They stopped at the brook and I held my breath.  They motioned for the villagers to keep moving and the two Seraphim descended the mountain face.  One Seraph stooped to examine the granite face, looking for signs of us.  The other approached the boulder where my partner hid.  I watched from the grove anxiously.

The Seraph scanned the area, picking up traces of my presence.  I refrained from breathing, letting the natural flow of the breeze to obscure me.  The two Seraphim smelled the air.  For a moment they were at peace, enjoying the gentle weather and beauty of God's creation.

Then one picked up the scent of my Partner and they both instantly descended upon the boulder.  They darkened their forms and stretched themselves over the boulder, cutting off my partner's escape routes.

They played with their prey and changed form slowly.  As they were about to engulf my partner, I sparked into my virtue form and shot toward the Seraphim.  As I approached, I turned into my angelic form and threw my body onto it.  I could feel God's power as I hit the Seraph, and it burned my body.  A divine and cleansing fire.  For a moment I knew everything, but the burning did not stop there.  It boiled my skin and exposed me to every horror in the universe.  For a moment I died several trillion ways.

And then I was back on the cliff. Laid up against a tree.  My partner tossed a large bark slab from an old growth tree at me and motioned to a similar slab in his hand.  "Jump!"

And so I did, we fell down the hill with the bark acting as a sled.  We slid on the brook's bed, narrowly avoiding boulders.  Faster and faster we slid down the hill until there was no more brook.  Instead, we were traveling on dirt and through brush.  Young thin trees sped past me.  I gritted my teeth and tried to maneuver.  I survived only on luck.  Then we were on a huge old growth log; a monstrosity thirty feet wide.  As we shot down the hill, the sun set and darkness rose.  The air became crisp as we fell.  And then we were in snow.  On a snowy path travelling at a whip fast speeds.  It was snowing.  But it had been summer a second previous.  I looked back at my partner.  He was just as stunned as I.  The hill seemed never to end.  Only the simple whooshing sound of snow compressing under us was heard.  We said nothing as we maneuvered through thick stands of trees.  Eventually it stopped snowing.  And we found ourselves in a large empty valley covered in snow.

"Where are we?"

I shrugged my shoulders.  Only God knew where we were.  I peered out into the fog.  There was nothing.  Almost nothing.  I saw the shadow of a beast rise, walk away, and disappear.  My partner saw this too.  A form that large could only mean one thing.  We had descended into Hell somehow.

I turned to my partner.  "We have to find out if the gates still hold.  That's our only way out."  It was nearly impossible.  The gates were built to hold Satan.  There was one entrance from the second circle to limbo, and judging by the weather, we were in the Ninth Circle of Hell.

We moved forward with trepidation.  Unsure if each step was taking us closer to the entrance or deeper into Hell.

Several times we had to hide from beasts.  Then I heard it.  Satan.  Lucifer. Beezlebub. The Opposer.

We peered over the ridge and saw an army of sin to the horizon.  The Opposer, flanked by his generals, spoke.  "We move now.  The gates of Hell hath opened and all the pain and wrath of these nine circles will march upon the Black Wall and we shall tear down God's creation."

I recoiled in horror.  My partner tapped my shoulder and he motioned for me to follow.  We found a quiet space and he said to me, "they are so strong."

"I know. What can we do to fight them?" I asked hopelessly.

"Should we fight them?  If we do we would surely die! There is no one to stop them.  You said so yourself, God is weak and feeble."

"God is mighty.  He seemed weak but he has a plan.  'All will be as it once was.'"

"All was once Darkness, this must be the way. We join the Darkness and we live."

I finally understood.  The Seraphim weren't looking for me.  They were looking for my partner.  He was the traitor.  He was the spy. "You. It was you.  You are a fallen angel."

He smiled demonically. "I haven't fallen.  I have risen from the ashes and been reborn.  I understand power now.  And it isn't with your weakness."  He struck my face and I instinctively changed into my virtue form.  A blast of fire surrounded the Dark Army as Satan's speech ended.  I used the opportunity to hide myself in the light, catching a torch.  I watched as my partner scrambled to find me, gave up, and fell into the ranks.

I rode my way out of Hell disguised in the torches.  When I emerged from the gates of Hell I saw the nightmare.  The Dark army had split the Second Chamber from the Black Wall.  God's army was holed up in the two chambers.  Seraphim were holding back the army at the gates, but they would not last long.  I found myself in complete despair.  There was no way to stop a horde of that might.  The only escape, the only chance I had was to distract them.  I burst into my angelic form.  Full wings and halo.  And I taunted them loudly.  The army turned to me. Most of them anyways, and they descended as a swarm.

I rushed to the secret entrance hoping against hope that it had returned.

I could feel the demons gnashing at my ankles as I rushed through, flying at full speed.  The entrance was still there!

And the first thing I saw was an apple--the exit was no longer in the mountains.  I knocked it from the tree, and veered toward the sky, flying higher and higher in a spiral.  The army followed me. I could feel the army catching up to me, gnashing at me ready to drag me down.  And in the lead was my partner, screaming my name.

My partner caught me, pulling me down. I looked up and saw his sinister smile.  The swarm engulfed me, a ball of evil pulling me toward Earth, tearing at my flesh.  Everything went dark for a moment.  I had failed in my Holy duties.  Then I felt a bit of God's light touch me.  I opened my eyes and saw Gabriel tearing the demons off of me.  Without any fear, he wrestled back the hordes.

I gathered myself and looked around.  The Second Chamber had found a way out and part of God's army had entered the fray.  The lower orders of Heaven could only do so much without the power of God and the might of the Seraphim.

The Archangels were leading the fight as Generals, commanding the lower orders to fight back the dark twisted balls of demons.  They did not dare touch the mighty Hell beasts--the only creation of the Devil.  I saw a Hell beast emerge from the hole and spread its enormous wings to join the fray.  But a curious thing happened.  From directly below, a ray of light touched me.

The ray of light spread and then engulfed me. The demons recoiled and started fleeing.  The Hell beasts receded as a pure white light filled the sky.  I gathered myself and flew back down, and re-entered Heaven. When I passed through I saw the army of God in its might, beating back the demons of Hell, slowly but surely.  They were cutting a V toward the Black Wall, steadily making their way to free the Seraphim and God

The pure white light followed me.  The light stopped every demon I passed and drove them back toward Hell.  As I did so, the heavens started to shake.  I looked toward the Black Wall.  It exploded and God emerged in his glory.  His deep complexion and full form had been restored.  He was the God of all Creation.

And I felt his love, it emanated from him in a wave.  The Seraphim poured out of the Black Wall and God's army was restored.  The light continued to spread and burn the demons.  The Devil let out a terrible howl as he watched his army disappear before his eyes.  He impatiently bore himself into battle covered in his golden armor.  With a terrific roar that shook the Heavens truly, he lunged at God, pushing his minions aside.

The two clashed, God brushed off the Devil's attacks with his shield.  Time after time, the Devil let loose with his most powerful blows, but God could not be moved.  As the two fought, the light had entered all of Heaven and the minions of Hell had been imprisoned behind the Gates.  Only the Devil remained.

The Seraphim descended upon the Devil, the Archangels descended upon the Devil, and all of the lower orders descended upon the devil.  Together, the Kingdom of Heaven held down Satan, and dragged him back to the depths of Hell.

He screamed and cursed.  Gnashing and tearing at anything--a poor virtue with a weak hold was nearly obliterated as we struggled to contain the Devil.  Finally, we pushed him behind the gates and God began to close them.

As He did so, the Devil looked straight at me, "there is no horror greater than that which you have brought into being.  Nothing can contain it.  Fear me, but I am not the Darkness."  I shuddered, but relaxed as I felt God's hand rest upon my shoulder.

When all was quiet and the celebrations had died down I was called into God's presence again.

"What saved us?  There was darkness.  And then there was light.  Where did it come from?"

God spoke with the force and grace I had always known, "Heaven is nothing, and I am nothing.  I am the power and the glory, but I am nothing.  Mankind is everything.  The mind, the magical mind, is the truth and the light."

I was confused. "What does that mean?"

"You gave the spark of inspiration to mankind.  You gave them science and the future.  And one day they will be gods.  They will rule the Heavens and the Earth."

"I didn't do that," I protested.

"Sometimes all it takes is knocking an apple from a tree," he smiled, "all of Creation was once an idea and nothing more. I once was as man is and soon man will be as I am."

"But why were you so weak?"

"Faith is understanding the miraculous. A world without explanation is merely an empty moment.  I was weak because I always have been.  I am strong because I always will be. In that moment when that apple fell, you gave meaning to humanity in a new way. Before they worshipped me as incalculable, now I am worshiped because I am finite."

"But you are infinite."

"only as you know me now.  Soon I will cease to exist, and so will you.  And we will be the better for it. We will melt into the human subconscious, memories."

"But what of Creation? What of the Devil? And the Darkness he spoke of."

"Man holds the keys to his gates. It is no longer our job to be stewards of Creation; of light and dark."

"Why me? Why the long journey?"

"I do have a higher plan. I could change the world tomorrow if I wanted, but adventure tells a better tale. There is no adventure so great as the one we are destined for."  I almost let God leave the conversation at that, but I opened my mouth.  And before I had breath, God spoke. "I have an affinity for old growth trees, I hide clues in the trees to remind us all that I'm still here.  For what would be a righteous adventure without God?"

I laughed.  God had no hubris nor affinity for particular creations, but He did have a peculiar sense of humor.