He never meant to throw her from the balcony. In a panic he looked round. There was no one else in the dimly lit theatre other than himself and the girl who had confronted him.
Duncan Smith was used to meeting young women after shows. Women were the bulk of the audience for his “Crossing the Divide” shows. Many did nothing for him, but he was often happy to offer comfort to his younger female fans if they had someone. If they were willing enough, he’d schedule private time after a show to attempt a personal séance with the departed, and maybe some more intimate support afterwards.
He’d thought the young woman hanging around on the balcony after the show was one of these. Lighting was handled from the projection box on the upper level, so often someone would be waiting for a personal moment. What he hadn’t expected was a young woman by the projection box with a microphone. She claimed she had a recording she claimed revealed all his tricks. Unlikely, he cheated in so many ways, but no one needed the illusion shattered.
He’d never meant to push her. He simply wanted the recording. She’d struggled but she didn’t have to. If she had given him the recording none of this need have happened. She retreated to the balcony edge, and after a tussle for the recording she was over the barrier. It was almost like she wanted to jump.
He stared down at the figure below, broken across the seats in the stalls, looking back up at him. She’d won. She’d jumped out of spite to end his career, and show she looked back up, gloating in death. She’d won. She had the recording.
He looked by the seats and found her bag. Sure enough there was a small microphone, plugged into a phone. He tried unlocking the phone to delete the recording, but he didn’t have to the code. Damn.
He looked up from the phone, guilt driving him to check if she had seen him tamper with the phone. He looked down to the stalls below and saw only her dead blue eyes. This could look bad. He needed to show he’d done nothing wrong. He’d tried to stop her from jumping, and now… He took out his own phone and called the emergency services. “I need an ambulance at the Meridian Theatre. There’s been a terrible accident.”
There are all sorts of cyclical events that ancient peoples are thought to be interested in, solstices, lunar cycles and eclipses. What rarely seems to get attention are meteor showers. It might seem odd, they’re annual, happening at the same point in the Earth’s orbit. They can also be spectacular. So why don’t they get much attention from archaeoastronomers? There are probably a couple of reasons.
One is that there’s not a lot of clear historical evidence that meteor showers were predictable in the ancient world. The ancient certainly saw meteor showers, one of my favourites is Plutarch writing on pleasure:
…[P]leasures, like gales of soft wind, move simpering, one towards one extreme of the body and another towards another, and then go off in a vapor. Nor are they of any long durance, but, as so many glancing meteors, they are no sooner kindled in the body than they are quenched by it.
It’s clear that whoever wrote that must have been familiar with fleeting meteors showers. There’s also evidence of periodic observations for meteors, again from Plutarch, but these weren’t annual events. From his biography of Agis, a king of Sparta:
Every ninth year the ephors select a clear and moonless night, and in silent session watch the face of the heavens. If, then, a star shoots across the sky, they decide that their kings have transgressed in their dealings with the gods, and suspend them from their office, until an oracle from Delphi or Olympia comes to the succour of the kings thus found guilty.
Every ninth year in this case means every eighth, because of inclusive counting. It seems that while meteors were well-known in the ancient world they were unexpected. If you count your calendar against the moon, as most ancient cultures did, then events like solstices happen on different days of the year. So too would meteor showers. Along with the vagaries of weather and they tend to be variable in strength anyway, it might be less of a surprise that they weren’t predicted and planned around.
It’s not just historical evidence we could look for though. Continue reading
I put up thoughts on the HP Chromebook 11, after having one for a couple of weeks on Google+. At the time I said I liked it, and I still do, but it’s not perfect. I’m happy with it, but if it disappeared I don’t know if I’d get a new one or something else.
What I’ve found is that it’s mainly a tablet replacement for me. The HP Chromebook 11 is light enough to do that. What I really like about the machine is the display, which is Mac-like. It’s 1366 x 768 pixels, which is the standard resolution for all Chromebooks (and the same at the MacBook air I think). The smaller display you have on your Chromebook the better it will look.
I also like the keyboard. I bought an iPad, thinking I’d type into it. I really don’t like doing that. The HP keyboard on the other hand is perfectly usable. I’m surprised, because I thought an 11″ machine would be a bit too small for serious work, but I have happily sat down and typed for a few hours. For me, the display and keyboard are critical. The HP 11 is the best of the Chromebooks for that.
Where the HP 11 lags is with the chip. The HP 11 and Samsung machines use an ARM chip. This means they’re fanless, but also they aren’t as fast as the Intel based machines (like the HP 14 and everyone else). This caused problems with YouTube videos, which seems to have improved since I got the machine, but there are still lags on the laptop. Some of this is my poor internet connection, but I also wonder if some of it is the machine being a bit underpowered. It really isn’t by a lot, but it’s not quite seamless.
For a minute Rudolph McMurdo had been worried. He was hardly old. At the age of eighty-two he was still a year short of another media magnate, and his own news empire supplied him with the best health care money could buy. Yet he had been warned by medics that he had cardiac problems and the crushing pain in his chest had felt like the end. It wasn’t entirely comforting to realise it was. At least he had the satisfaction of knowing his demise proved he wasn’t has heartless as the smug bastards in the liberal media claimed. Nevertheless, it was cruel that death had finally come on his honeymoon night with his fourth and presumably final wife.
It was a sense of injustice over this that gave him an anchor in this new place. It was hard to tell exactly where he was. It was black, but well lit — though from no visible source. It certainly wasn’t dark. He could see himself well enough, a cursory examination of the back of his hand revealed the usual mottled. That was another thing someone would have to sort out. If he was dead then there was no need for him to be old.
The noise from behind was quiet, but was the only sound in the otherwise silent place. Rudolph spun round in surprise. Some distance away an old man in what may have been a robe, or possibly a toga, was shambling towards him. His gait was hindered by the need to avoid his overgrown beard that could have slipped beneath his feet as he walked. His head was stooped, like the most fascinating things in the world were his toenails. The image was everything Rudolph associated with religious nutters. Christ! You can’t even escape the bleeders in the afterlife. The man seemed to be muttering to himself. As the figure got closer it wasn’t what Rudolph had expected.
“…and then someone says ‘let’s have some religiously-inspired genocide.’ It would be nice if, just once, they thought of the poor sods who have to process everyone afterwards. I told him ‘Thou shalt not kill’ and ‘Turn the other cheek’ were too ambiguous, but would he listen? Ooof!”
The final syllable punctuated the man’s collision with a fascinated Rudolph. The man looked up and into Rudolph’s face with benign incomprehension. Rudolph waved his hand in front of the man. “Hello? D’yer work here?” Rudolph asked.
To add a little context to the previous post: I’ve taken a course in short story writing, and Silencing the Echo might have been an entry for a short story competition in Wales — but I decided against entering it.
The inspiration comes from a druid who campaigned for reburial of prehistoric remains in the UK. Avebury, I think. Reburial was, he said, a matter of “common decency”. As phrases go, it’s a good one. It taps into the British sense of decency and reasonableness. Or at least it does at first.
When it keeps coming up again and again it loses the feeling of a sincere spontaneous statement and starts looking like a soundbite. Looked at closely, it gives away the intolerant nature of some of the campaigners.
Imagine we’re on opposite sides, and I’m campaigning for common decency. What does this make you? I suppose it could make you uncommonly decent, but the insinuation is a moral failing rather than simply a matter of disagreement, and when the same tag is used over and over then it looks less like an accident.
An unquestioned assumption is that reburial is what the person buried would wish for. This is not certain.
The black clouds unleashed their rain, pelting Adlais’s face. The drops melted into her tears. Now, in the centre of the circle, the priests gripping her, she understood what happened to her friend Branwen.
Once again the crops had failed. The gods were angry. Someone in the tribe must be angering them and the tribe would have to be cleansed. Adlais had been called to the priests, who had asked if she would sing at the cleansing. She had never liked cleansings, but it was important it was done right, so she had willingly agreed and drank from the horn to signify her submission to the gods. Now, barely an hour later, her head felt like it was splitting, her ears rang with sound of her own heartbeat and her limbs jerked of their own volition as the priest listed her crimes.
Witnesses came into the circle to testify to seeing events that had never happened, to spying acts that had never been committed. They briefly recited their words, as they had for Branwen last year. Then they scurried back beyond the safety of the ditch that separated the world from this cursed space. As always, the accused was challenged to deny her crimes, but Adlais’s blood felt thick and poisonous. The words would not come to her tongue. She had been on the other side too many times to hope that people would see her distress. Her silence would condemn her. Her spasms would be visible evidence of the guilt torturing her.
The judgement came. Adlais filled with fear. Not for herself, her future was as obvious as the grave in front of her, but for her family and her friends watching from beyond the ditch. They were desperate, hoping this cleansing would finally rid the land of the blight. But what gods would be appeased by falsehoods?
It was almost a relief when the last act came. The blow to the back of her skull surprised her, as she discovered the pain in her head could indeed get worse. She stumbled, then fell into the pit dug for her, to the cheers and relief of the watchers. Still awake, she lay in her final bed as the priests began to cover her. Adlais cried. Not for herself but for the friend she had abandoned a year ago.
For a man who claims to be religious, Ken Ham certainly has a negative view of religion. io9 reports that he has denounced the Smithsonian for promoting naturalism. So when he wanted to denigrate naturalism why did he use the word religion?
It’s rare that anyone pointedly saying science is a religion, is using the term religion in a positive sense.
So to celebrate, I’ve added Religion as a new Creationism Card.
Creationism Cards, collect the set!
In possibly related news, I’ve had an uptick in end-times email in my inbox.