Communion Of Dreams

A follow up.

I was reading a discussion about this article concerning foreign students, and came across the following comment which really rang true:

You do realize that many of us who live outside the US consider that it is a Police State?
posted by adamvasco at 6:23 PM on January 11

I was a foreign-exchange student in West Germany in the summer of 1974. It was a wonderful experience. As part of that wonderful experience, the group I was with took a trip into East Germany. And yes, it was pretty much exactly what you would expect from hearing stories from that era, complete with Stasi minders, random security checks, and guards coming onto our bus and conducting searches multiple times.

Perhaps this is part of the reason why I object so to the expansion of a “security state” here in the U.S. – I’ve seen what that can lead to. Personally, I don’t think we’re there yet – but all the pieces are in place, and all it would really take would be for someone in power to start actively using this structure not just to ‘provide security’ but to impose an actual police state. And it is very sobering to hear from outside that this is how our country is perceived.

Jim Downey

And so . . .
January 11, 2011, 1:35 pm
Filed under: Science Fiction, Writing stuff

Open File – C:\Document\St. Cybi’s Well

Look in: St. Cybi’s Well

  • Select file: Notes
  • Information: Last modified 11/24/2004 5:18 PM
  • New File: Notes 2011
  1. Links:
  2. History:
  3. Legends:

Save changes? Yes.


* * * * * * *

And so it begins again.


Jim Downey


“If you build it . . . “

“Vir, do you believe in fate?”

“Well, actually, I believe there are currents in the universe, eddies and tides that pull us one away or the other. Some we have to fight, and some we have to embrace. Unfortunately, the currents we have to fight look exactly like the currents we have to embrace.”

Recently, I came up with an audacious idea. This is something which happens to me now and again. Most of the time, I chuckle over it, consider the possibilities, then let it slide back into the creative froth. But every now and again I get an idea I take somewhat seriously, and consider practically – not so much on whether I think it will work, but on whether I think I can convince enough other people that it will work.

Through the last couple of decades I’ve done better at this than you might think, batting about .500. Here’s a list of the big ones, along with a synopsis:

  • Opening an art gallery. This *almost* worked, but remains my most expensive failure to date. It’s very sobering to lose money that belongs to family and friends who trust your judgment, not to mention all the work of yourself, your partner, spouses and employees.
  • Writing a novel, and getting it published. Looks like this one will actually work.
  • Paint the Moon. My biggest artistic success to date.
  • Glass Canopy. This caught the imagination of a number of people, and generated a lot of discussion locally. Now such structures are used elsewhere for exactly this purpose. A failure, but not a total one.
  • Nobel Prize for JK Rowling. A debacle, in that so many people hated the idea. But perhaps I was just premature.
  • Ballistics By The Inch.  A huge success. This was in no way just my idea, and I only did part of the work, but I think the vision I had for how the project would be received was largely mine.
  • Co-authoring a care-giving memoir. Still early in the evaluation period on this, so can’t say whether it is a success or not.

And looking over that list, thinking about it, one of the clear things I see which helps make something a success is the amount of work I (and others) put into it. When presented with a zany idea, most people will be amused, say why they think it is crazy, and then more or less forget about it. But if confronted with the fact of an idea made manifest, a lot of that skepticism disappears (or never occurs to people in the first place.)

This isn’t very profound, of course, and certainly isn’t at all new. But I am still somewhat surprised to see how much it actually operates in the real world. It’s like imagination is so difficult for people that they just can’t get past their initial dismissal. I asked for comments on my latest idea, and so far have only heard from one person, who pointed out potential problems with it (this was actually a very helpful response). I can only guess that most other people consider it too nutty an idea to even bother with – but in my gut I’m pretty certain that if this resource existed it would be hugely popular and widely used.

But who knows? Was the voice a ghost or just hallucination? Do you embrace the current or fight it? Failure is real – both due to risk as well as inaction.

Jim Downey

I am the maker of rules.*

The Miami-Dade Police Department recently finalized a deal to buy a drone, which is an unmanned plane equipped with cameras. Drones have been used for years in Iraq and Afghanistan in the war against terror.

* * *

MDPD purchased a drone named T-hawk from defense firm Honeywell to assist with the department’s Special Response Team’s operations. The 20-pound drone can fly for 40 minutes, reach heights of 10,500 feet and cruise in the air at 46 miles an hour. “It gives us a good opportunity to have an eye up there. Not a surveilling eye, not a spying eye. Let’s make the distinction. A surveilling eye to help us to do the things we need to do, honestly, to keep people safe,” said Miami-Dade Police Director James Loftus.

This quotation, slightly altered, is inscribed on a plaque in the stairwell of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

(CNN) — If you get arrested in California, better hope there are no incriminating texts or e-mails or sensitive data stored on your phone.

On Monday, the California Supreme Court ruled that police in that state can search the contents of an arrested person’s cell phone.

Citing U.S. Supreme Court precedents, the ruling contends that “The loss of privacy upon arrest extends beyond the arrestee’s body to include ‘personal property … immediately associated with the person of the arrestee’ at the time of arrest.”

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Metro anti-terrorism teams will immediately start random inspections of passengers’ bags and packages to try to protect the rail and bus system from attack, transit officials said Thursday.

Police using explosives-screening equipment and bomb-sniffing dogs will pull aside people carrying bags for the inspections according to a random number, Metro Transit Police Chief Michael Taborn said. The searches might be conducted at one location at a time or at several places simultaneously. If people refuse, they will be barred from entering the rail station or boarding a bus with the item, Taborn said. The inspections will be conducted “indefinitely,” he said.

You live in a defended island of freedom, but your life is part of the main. So let me ask you as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.”

If you’ve ridden the subway in New York City any time in the past few years, you’ve probably seen the signs: “If You See Something, Say Something.”

In Washington, D.C., Metro riders are treated to a recording of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano urging them to report suspicious sights to the proper authorities.

Now, Wal-Mart shoppers across the country will see Napolitano’s message in a video as they stand in the checkout line.

“We are expanding ‘See Something, Say Something’ in a number of venues,” Napolitano tells NPR’s Audie Cornish. “It’s Wal-Mart, it’s Mall of America, it’s different sports and sporting arenas, it’s transit systems. It’s a catchy phrase, but it reminds people that our security is a shared responsibility.”

All this means that the people of any country have the right, and should have the power by constitutional action, by free unfettered elections, with secret ballot, to choose or change the character or form of government under which they dwell; that freedom of speech and thought should reign; that courts of justice, independent of the executive, unbiased by any party, should administer laws which have received the broad assent of large majorities or are consecrated by time and custom. Here are the title deeds of freedom which should lie in every cottage home. Here is the message of the British and American peoples to mankind. Let us preach what we practice — let us practice — what we preach.”

In ancient times, Gorgon was a mythical Greek creature whose unblinking eyes turned to stone those who beheld them. In modern times, Gorgon may be one of the military’s most valuable new tools.

* * *

This winter, the Air Force is set to deploy to Afghanistan what it says is a revolutionary airborne surveillance system called Gorgon Stare, which will be able to transmit live video images of physical movement across an entire town

Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”

Bryce Williams wasn’t expecting to walk through a metal detector or have his bags screened for explosives at the Greyhound bus terminal near downtown Orlando.

But Williams and 689 other passengers went through tougher-than-normal security procedures Thursday as part of a random check coordinated by the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.

The idea is to keep off guard terrorists and others who mean harm, thereby improving safety for passengers and workers. There was no specific threat to the bus station on John Young Parkway south of Colonial Drive.

I can’t help but feel that we took a wrong turn somewhere.

Jim Downey
*Of course. Cross posted to dKos.

Cleaning up.
January 2, 2011, 1:24 pm
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Ballistics, Health, Publishing, Science Fiction, Writing stuff

Yesterday, we had an Open House for our neighborhood.

* * * * * * *

It’s a curious thing. The novel has now been available online for four years. You’d think that it would be dropping off a bit in terms of popularity. But using the same criteria I’ve used in the past, total downloads of the book this last year have jumped by almost 50%.

Yeah, it had been very consistent in the first three years, averaging a bit over 6,400 downloads. But for 2010 the total downloads were 9,631. We’re now over 29,000 total copies of the book downloaded altogether.


* * * * * * *

I hate “spring cleaning”. It seems like an artifact of a different age, perhaps going back to when coal was used as a fuel source for most homes, and following the winter everything needed to be cleaned thoroughly to get rid of the coal dust.

But I like having a clean home. I’m not a neat freak, but doing an in-depth cleaning always feels good. That’s one of the reasons why I like having an Open House on January 1 – it gives impetus to go through everything you might usually let slide, putting things away or getting rid of them, getting into the nooks and crannies you might otherwise ignore.

* * * * * * *

Got a note from WordPress this morning, a summation of the last year’s blogging. Here’s a bit:

The average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 4 fully loaded ships.

In 2010, you wrote 204 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 1007 posts. You uploaded 23 pictures, taking up a total of 12mb. That’s about 2 pictures per month.

Your busiest day of the year was April 18th with 156 views. The most popular post that day was #2, so I’ll try harder.

Curiously, last year the BBTI blog beat this one for total visits for the first time. But then, BBTI itself had a Monster year.

* * * * * * *

Yesterday, we had an Open House for our neighborhood.

It was a relaxed gathering, not as large as some recent years. But quite enjoyable.

After, as I was cleaning up the dishes, I had a chance to think about where I was, what was on the horizon. Little stuff, bills to pay this week, conservation work to be done. But bigger things, too. Communion of Dreams to be published by Trapdoor Press sometime in the next couple of months. Hopefully some progress on finding a publisher for Her Final Year. Getting going on My Father’s Gun.

And I’ve started thinking again about the prequel to Communion of Dreams. What I had written previously needs to be scrapped completely, though the basic idea I had is still there. I’m feeling . . . strong enough . . . to again consider creating a work of fiction.

It’s an interesting place to be. 2010 wasn’t bad, really, though it had some rough patches. But I really feel like I am on the verge of something with 2011. I suppose we’ll see.

Jim Downey