Communion Of Dreams


Lwb.

“We’re here at the 2023 SXSW tech gala, where tonight’s featured speaker and guest of honor is Ieuan Wyn Morgan, the famous Welsh technology innovator who turned a failing personal products company into one of the industrial wonders of the modern era in just two years.” The stylishly scruffy stringer glanced back over his shoulder to the main stage, where an empty podium stood towering over the sea of black-tie diners. “Our followers will know the story of Morgan, who first developed his nano-lubricant for use with adult toys and prophylactics. But the product proved to be just too good; it didn’t allow for sufficient friction for personal pleasure.”

The man looked back to the camera. “Dejected, with his patents aging and sales flagging, Morgan was sitting at home drinking, trying to watch a movie and forget his troubles as his son kept riding around and around the couch on his little retro tricycle, one of the wheels squeaking. The grating sound was just about to cause him to explode with rage when inspiration hit. He quickly ran to his bedroom, retrieved a bottle of Lwb, and then applied a couple of drops to the wheel in question.”

“The rest is history. Lwb proved to be the perfect industrial lubricant, an essentially frictionless, non-petroleum product. It is estimated that in the first year alone, Lwb reduced worldwide energy consumption by 3.7% …”

 

 

Jim Downey

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So I wander into this nuclear reactor . . .

I had reason to look up this item the other day, and was surprised that I hadn’t ever posted it to the blog. So, in honor of St Pat’s Day (well, OK, not really, but there is a connection…), here’s a little something from my old archives from a few years ago.

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So I wander into this nuclear reactor . . .

This morning’s news that the NRC has declined to force nuclear power plants to take additional precautions to prevent the breach of a nuclear reactor’s core by attack with a jetliner comes as little surprise, given the Bush administration’s attitudes about actual security issues.

But, as always when I hear such news reports, I was taken back to a sunny spring morning some 30 years ago, when me and a couple of college buddies wandered into a nuclear reactor.

It was the weekend of St. Pats day, and we were at the University of Missouri – Rolla to party with a friend of ours who was an engineering student there.  I think it was Friday morning, and our friend had some classes he had to attend, so myself and my two friends decided to just explore the campus a bit (we all attended schools elsewhere).

I had considered Rolla for school myself a few years previously, when I had been thinking of going into physics (a dream derailed by poor higher-math skills).  So when we came across the research reactor building, I wanted to have a look.

We just wandered in.  No, seriously.  We just wandered into the building, through a couple of sets of doors, and soon found ourselves standing at a railing, looking down at the glowing blue core of the nuclear reactor.  In this day and age it is hard to imagine such a thing – and even at the time it seemed more than a little odd.

A few minutes after we came in, a nice fellow who fit the stereotype image of a science professor came over to us.  Short, grey, bearded, balding, wearing a white lab smock over his shirt and jeans.  He sort of looked us over, asked what we were up to . . . and then gave us an impromptu tour of the place (after tagging us with personal dosimeters).

It was fascinating, to me at least.  The reactor core at this facility sits at the bottom of a large swimming pool, about 20 feet down.  That provides all the necessary protection from the radiation generated from operation of the fission reactor (which doesn’t produce much power, and doesn’t use the sort of fuel used in nuclear weapons).  Herr Doktor explained all this to us non-scientists, and also explained the eerie blue glow coming off the reactor (which was then in operation).

It was a color like I’ve never seen before or since – a soft electric blue that was both intriguing and repulsive.  I knew what it was, having been interested in physics:  Cherenkov radiation, caused when the radioactive particles generated by the fission reactions are faster than the speed of light in the water.  But it’s the sort of thing that lasts in the memory, embedded there in a way not unlike a religious experience – hard to describe, or explain, or convince others of, yet extremely vivid for the one who experienced it.

Now, I’m not religious.  I’m an atheist, in fact.  I understand what that blue glow is – yet, whenever someone claims that they have had a religious experience, I can tie it to that same feeling I had on first seeing that other-worldly blue glow.

Well, anyway, I had to share that personal experience, and add a bit of perspective on the changes we’ve seen in terms of security over the last 30 years.

Jim Downey



Listen to the voices.
March 16, 2015, 12:20 pm
Filed under: Music, Writing stuff | Tags: , , , ,

It’s been a surprisingly long time. Sorry about that. Nothing to worry about. Mostly just life intervening; a pile-up of other projects needing my focused attention, an annoying but non-serious respiratory virus took the wind out of my sails. But there was something else, which I thought I’d share.

After finishing Chapter 12 of St Cybi’s Well, as I was looking forward to the rest of the story arc, and the outlines and notes I had made, I realized that I had reached the point where I needed to make some major revisions before I could continue. My plans for the rest of the book had become too at-odds with what the actual book was turning out to be.

For those who haven’t attempted a book-length work of fiction, this sort of thing happens. It’s not cause for panic. If you read/hear/watch author interviews, you’ll often come across the notion that stories and characters seem to ‘come to life’ for an author, who is then in the position of having to negotiate between what is happening on the page and what they intended. It’s a bit like being in a marriage (or a similar long-term relationship of any variety). If you’re smart, you learn how to sing that duet, share your voice to make something greater. You don’t entirely give up your vision of what you want to say with your story and characters, but you can’t be so insistent on that original vision that you lose the potentially interesting developments which occur naturally as part of the writing process. You’re telling a story, not writing an instruction manual. And stories don’t come from just within ourselves — they’re part of the larger human tapestry.

So, anyway. I went back, cut out about 2/3 of the original “Prelude”, made a number of other substantial edits to the chapters I’ve already written. And I’m adding in an “Interlude” between Chapters 6 and 7. There will be another “Interlude” to come between chapters later in the book, and then a “Coda” of sorts when the story is closed. Because I’ve learned to listen to the other voices on the page.

Back to it.

 

Jim Downey