Communion Of Dreams

What it was like.

My wife and I decided to revisit the Cosmos series recently. It holds up surprisingly well for a pop-science program from 30 years ago.

Tonight’s episode was the finale. And I was struck by what it was like back then, to contemplate the possibility of nuclear war. I think a lot of people today who weren’t aware during that time have difficulty in understanding just how palpable that threat was. Here’s a good bit from the episode that explains it better than I could:

Is it any wonder that a post-apocalyptic world was the setting for so much science fiction generated during that time? Any wonder at all?

We may or may not have threaded the needle and survived the time of peak technological vulnerability. Not only are there other threats out there to our long term survival, but even the threat of nuclear war is not passed – not hardly. I still fully expect that there will be another war in which nuclear weapons will be a factor, and such use could easily spin out of control and engulf the entire planet.

But the hair trigger we lived with for some 30 years is no more. Things certainly are not perfect now, but they *are* better. We did indeed decide to survive, at least through that time. And that was an important step.

Jim Downey

Fat and happy.
April 8, 2011, 5:38 pm
Filed under: Bipolar, Depression, Health, MetaFilter, Society, Survival

The uncle I lived with following the death of my parents had a response he used almost whenever someone asked how he was doing. With a big grin, raising a beer almost as a toast, he’d say “fat and happy!”

* * * * * * *

MetaFilter pointed me to an interesting science item from last year that I managed to miss:

ScienceDaily (May 18, 2010) — When people are under chronic stress, they tend to smoke, drink, use drugs and overeat to help cope with stress. These behaviors trigger a biological cascade that helps prevent depression, but they also contribute to a host of physical problems that eventually contribute to early death.

* * * * * * *

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that my usual bipolar cycle seems to be a little shorter this time around, and I am in something of a downturn.

Nothing too bad yet. And not likely to become so, since my cycle is pretty shallow as such things go. But I am less inclined to write here. It is harder to write in general – for my regular articles, working on the book, even on Facebook.

But I’ve noticed, and mentioned it to friends.

Which is somewhat . . . annoying. I need to rally and beat the ongoing problems from the pneumonia I had last year (primarily through exercise). I have a new big round of ballistics testing coming up the end of the month. Getting the care-giving book out means a lot of work and attention. And there is always book conservation work to do.

* * * * * * * *




This is unsurprising:

Why French Fries Are Such Good Comfort Food

Ever wonder why French fries, potato chips and Cheetos are so appealing when you’re feeling stressed? A new study suggests that elevated levels of salt in the body lower stress hormones and raise levels of oxytocin, a hormone involved in love and other social connections.The research, which was conducted in rats, was published in the Journal of Neuroscience. It found that rats’ response to a stressful situation — being tied down — depended on how much salt they had in their bodies. When restrained, rats with high salt levels showed less activity in their brain’s stress systems, compared with rats with normal salt levels.

Where are the pretzels?

* * * * * * *

The uncle I lived with following the death of my parents had a response he used almost whenever someone asked how he was doing. With a big grin, raising a beer almost as a toast, he’d say “fat and happy!”

He wasn’t really fat – just a big guy, and a bit heavy. I’m easily as heavy as he was then, or moreso.

And to a certain extent, even then I knew that the “happy” part masked the stresses he was under – and which he coped with admirably, at least as I see it from this vantage point.

And, as usual, he demonstrated a wisdom I did not appreciate at the time.

“Fat and happy,” indeed.

* * * * * * *

Jim Downey

Maybe there’s hope for us, after all.
April 3, 2011, 6:19 pm
Filed under: ISS, Music, NASA, Predictions, Religion, Science Fiction, Space, Violence, YouTube

This is from the end of Chapter Three, set on a space station in Earth orbit:

There was a knot of perhaps 15 people, all facing one another around a bunch of tables shoved together. They finished their song, and clapping was heard throughout the atrium.

Jon smiled at Gates, explained. “Spacers. Crew off those two ships docked outside. Choral music has become something of a tradition the last few years, and each ship usually can field a fairly good ensemble of at least a half-dozen singers.”

“Huh. I had no idea.”

Another song started, this time with more voices. “C’mon, let’s go on down there.”

Why do I post this? Because of this wonderful clip:

Not choral music, but flute as an accompaniment to a song. The provenance of her flutes is impressive in itself. But the fact that we’re seeing a highly-trained, wonderfully intelligent person in orbit doing this just really makes my day . . . and re-affirms my faith in humanity overall.

It is sometimes easy to be cynical and depressed at the things we do.

This makes up for it.

Jim Downey

April 2, 2011, 11:05 am
Filed under: Marketing, Music, Promotion, YouTube

Yeah, it’s an ad. So what? It’s still fun:

Jim Downey

April 2, 2011, 10:28 am
Filed under: 2nd Amendment, Alzheimer's, Ballistics, Guns, Health, Publishing, Writing stuff

I usually try to avoid posting things on April 1, since *I* don’t trust hardly anything I see online on April Fools. So I held off, other than the link to my article.

Anyway, some interesting things to report. First off, the numbers. March had 768 downloads of my complete novel, which means there’s been over 2,000 downloads so far this year, and some 31,000+ total. No, I have no idea when it will be actually published by Trapdoor, so don’t ask.

Hits to BBTI have slowed a bit – down to only 350,650 for March. That puts us at 5,759,535 total hits. Even with it slowing down, we should break 6 million total hits sometime before the end of this month.

Writing for has been fun, and seems to have gone well enough. The articles are being well received from what I can tell. I’ve been asked to start also doing ‘Editor Reviews’ of some handguns, and those will start to show up here any day now, if you are interested in such things.

I had another CAT scan this week, following up on the ongoing health issues. Preliminary report from the scan is that things are clear – no major problems show. Which is good – there’s nothing serious going on. But also somewhat frustrating, since it doesn’t show what is causing the lingering pain I feel in my ribs on my right chest. I see my doc next week to discuss things, but mostly I think it will be a matter of just dealing with the pain and getting on with life. Best guess is that it’s probably some kind of muscle/tendon damage that can’t completely heal because I keep breathing. And I’m not willing to stop doing so in the hope that the pain will go away.

But the real news is that yesterday we filed the paperwork with the Missouri Secretary of State to form “HFY Publishing, LLC.” Yeah, on April Fools Day. Seemed appropriate.

No, seriously, while this is a small and largely symbolic step, it was an important one. An even more important one is that I’ve now heard from all of the beta readers, and gotten some very valuable feedback. We (my co-author and I) need to expand the introductory material of the book, to better explain how and why the book is structured the way it is and how to use it to best advantage. We also need to tweak the layout of the book for clarity. Neither of these are major changes, and we should be able to get them sorted in the next week or so.

Well, that gets everything up to date, I think. Now time to go do some home repairs.

Jim Downey

April 1, 2011, 8:06 am
Filed under: Ballistics, Failure, Guns

My latest article is up on Here’s an excerpt:

I picked up the gun. Replaced my original magazine, the one with premium defensive ammunition. Chambered a round, took aim. Pulled the trigger.

Just a “click.”

I felt a cold chill run up my spine. My face felt a bit clammy. I waited, then cleared the magazine and round from the gun. My vision focused into a tight tunnel on the pistol in my hands, as the full implication of what had just happened settled in: my carry gun didn’t work when I expected it to.

Read the whole thing to find out what happened.

Jim Downey

(Cross posted to the BBTI blog.)