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What It Is
I had to cancel the presentation of my paper to the annual conference of the IAAA. It was a difficult decision, especially since I am on the board of the Intergalactic Association of Armchair Astrophysicists.

I had planned to detail my most recent work establishing the Pulsating Nodes Theory (PNT) as the appropriate visual metaphor for everything-that-there-is. My research, however, has uncovered some new findings that have led me to abandon that formulation. My apologies to my brothers and sisters in the Association. I promise you that my search for imaginary truth will not end here.

Still, I do not make this change of mind without some regrets. The PNT remains, in many ways, an apt analogy to the concepts that mere science has brought to the table of lay understanding. It imagines all existence as a 4-dimensional “mist” of pulsating nodes, each of which “blinks” (pulsates) at its own unpredictable rhythm, offering us a vision of a shimmering, layered cloud of multiverses existing beyond even meta-time.

A beautiful image, yes (especially if we had eyes to see beyond our three pathetic little dimensions), but I cannot sustain my support for this visualization. My communications with members of the other IAAA (International Alliance of Actual Astrophysicists) have opened my eyes to some inconvenient truths that undermine my theory. One concerns the Red Shift discovered by the astronomer Edwin Hubble over 90 years ago. The logical extrapolation from this phenomenon is that our immediate universe will continue to expand — with the rate of expansion actually speeding up — until it runs of of “gas,” leaving an unimaginably huge dead thing where once there was life and energy and light.

Not only is that a depressing prospect, it runs counter to the fundamental premise of the Pulsating Nodes Theory. The PNT posits a universe that expands, then contracts on itself, over and over again. Ours, along with an infinite number of other universes, would go on like this forever, thereby producing the light show of an infinite number of Big Bangs illuminating the cosmic fog of Is/Is not.

I have struggled (just as brother Einstein did) to explain away the Red Shift. Some of my friends in IAAA #2 were with me in this effort, including Christof Wetterich, a theoretical physicist at the University of Heidelberg. Chris proposed that the apparent shift was caused, not by an expansion of the universe, but by a change in mass in the observed phenomena. Such a change could mimic the symptoms of an expanding universe, thereby allowing the PNT conception to remain viable. I am sorry, Chris, but I cannot continue this charade any longer.

I had also clung to the hope that the hypothetical existence of white holes might somehow save the PNT from the junk pile. But no. The whole white hole idea felt like a desperate conspiracy theory aimed at denying the obvious: this universe (like all multiverses) will end up becoming nothing more than a vast headstone on its own grave, cold and dark and dead forever. The PNT might as well be buried there too.

There are some new hypotheses coming out of IAAA #2, however, that give me hope for a new meta-metaphor. I am calling it, for now, the Bubbling Multiverse Stew Theory. Indiana University physicist Nikodem Poplawski has cranked out some mathematical models suggesting that black holes represent other, newer universes a-birthing right here in our own. Those universes would not be included in our dead zone, but rather would live separate lives of their own. Those fledgling multiverses would end by producing their own self-made cemeteries, but on a different clock than ours. And, like this one, they would be creating new universes through their black holes.

It is as if each multiverse is a morsel of food in the Big Stew of eternal is-ness, and each bit is fully cooked in its own good time. Some bits are hunks of meat, others are celery or carrot or a pinch of spice. (I like to think of our universe, incidentally, as nice piece of lamb shank.) New morsels are being added all the time to this Eternal Crockpot, but eventually every ingredient becomes part of the broth.

Or whatever. As you can see, I’m still working on the Bubbling Multiverse Stew Theory (including the name). But I think it has promise as something-we-can-grasp as an explanation for everything-that-there-is. Watch this space/time.
Toke Up, Woke Up
Yes, it is true that we live in troubled, dangerous times. Chaos, mendacity, and willful ignorance are ascendant. Community has given way to individual aggrievement. The specter of oppression looms like a many-headed Hydra over our liberal democracy.

It is also true that we all know these things, so what is the sense in dwelling on them? We have to fight the darkness at every turn, yes, but if we become obsessed with this ugliness, then it will drag us down with it. We will need to be there, whole and ready, when the tsunami of stupid blows over and reason returns at last. So look on the bright side, I say. Light up that big Pollyanna doobie and take a nice, long hit. That’s it…now kick back…let go of the dread…cast your mind forward to a better time and a better world. It looks pretty good to me — in large part because of Donald J. Trump and his enablers.

Hear me out. Who is to say that reliable print media could have survived without the rise of fake news and strategic lying? Subscriptions to the New York Times and the Washington Post have soared during this period because, all of a sudden, the value of truth has become so obvious. Newspapers were at the brink of death until the rising tide of bullshit made them indispensible. And that tide flows right out of the President’s mouth.

Similarly, the latest step forward in gender equality would not have happened so soon were it not for the harasser-in-chief. Millions of women were so outraged by his election that they came together in the #metoo movement and demanded that things must change. And they have changed — years before they might have. I’m not ready to thank His Repellency for that, but his rise to power has certainly clarified our thinking and galvanized us into action.

Activism itself, such a vital force within any free society, has been energized. People with strong opinions on every subject are stepping up to be heard, and violence does not seem to be a part of this trend. These movements — like the Parkland student uprising and the teacher strikes — are about righteousness, not partisan advantage. We need them. In fact, I predict that there is a healing coming for all of us. There’d better be, or none of us will survive on this shrinking, increasingly afflicted planet. Trumpsters, no matter how exasperated you may be with them, had to be brought inside the circle. They have been marginalized or ignored for too long, and we can’t afford to leave anybody behind. None of this could have happened so quickly if the last election had gone as expected. It’s the Trump Effect, and it came just in time.

Yeah, yeah, I know. That’s the doobie talking. And maybe you’re right, but we’ll never get anywhere by mainlining the opioid of despair. And so, I call your attention the bright side: our society was due for an upgrade anyway. If we keep our heads straight and seize the opportunity provided by this near-death experience, the Age of Aquarius is just around the corner.

Care for another toke?
Facebooks Balanced?
Zuck took our secrets
And he made out quite nicely
Then he spilt the beans
So do we get a slicely?
The Grille of my Dreams
For the first time in 35 years, I am in the market for a new car. A lot has changed in that time. Prices have gone way up, technology has introduced a higher level of quality, and everything is more complicated.

One factor, however, has remained constant. Although such concerns as mileage, reliability, safety, and cost are important items on any checklist, I think we can all agree that the number one consideration in choosing a new car is the look of its grille.

The grille, after all, is the face of your vehicle. It is the image you present to the world, and like it or not, it speaks to your character and your worthiness as a human being. You don’t have to believe me; just ask anyone who had the misfortune to own an Edsel. If you are too young to remember that sad late-50s Ford product, I will tell you that it was likened at the time to an Oldsmobile sucking a lemon.

That is not the kind of look you want to be associated with you and your loved ones. The expression on the face of your car will be thought of as your expression, so there is good reason to choose carefully. Such judgments are, of course, matters of opinion, taste, and gut feeling. In this case, mine. But I have given the matter a lot of thought, and I hope that my modest assessments might help others who are in the market for a new automobile.

Although my observations deal only with passenger cars, I will note in passing that all trucks pretty much have the same expression on their faces. Nearly all of them feature rectangular grilles. The chrome “teeth” may be aligned horizontally or vertically, but the overall impression is one of effort and clenched determination. That grimace tells everyone that this vehicle is ready for anything. It’s not a friendly face, but friendly isn’t what you’re looking for in a truck.

Passenger cars are a different matter. There, you want friendly. Unless you are in the market for a muscle car (or something even more dangerous, like a Jag), you want your car to be a buddy. That is why most cars have grilles that appear to be smiling. Hondas are a good example. Though some models are a little goofy-looking, the entire line have expressions that are warm and supportive and very likable.

But there are smiles, and there are smiles. Mercedes and Caddies, for instance, have grins that seem less than sincere, even condescending. VWs smile, but I get the feeling that they are not genuinely happy. Priuses exhibit a prim countenance that can come off as smug. Other members of the Toyota family, by contrast, appear to be laughing heartily. Unfortunately, the poor things are sorely in need of an orthodontist.

I don’t have the space here to go through the entire market, but we should at least take time to examine the offerings from Detroit behemoths Ford and Chevrolet. Both sport the popular six-sided polygon configuration that closely approximates the human mouth itself. It is, no doubt, a pleasant look, but in my opinion the designers in both cases have gone too far. The subtle, suggestive curves of these grilles make them look too much like smiles. What’s more, they cross the line between friendly and sexually provocative. The Ford Fusion and Chevy Malibu, for example, look positively randy. I don’t want to have an affair with my car, just a relationship based on mutual trust and caring.

If you are looking for a new car, I hope that you have found my research useful. For the record, I have made my choice: the Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid. The Clarity, like its stablemates at Honda, has a broad, sincere smile and a gentle aspect. And though Its grille resembles to some the gaping mandibles of a giant chrome insect, I am proud to call it my friend.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon