...THIS IS HEAVEN available for pre-order on Amazon, here...

Dec 23, 2010

The washed-up scriptwriter and more: novel novel material (Jacki)

Jacki (Jacki and Jacky are not the same person, don't get confused) sends this fragment. Enjoy:



He Grasped me firmly but gently just above my elbow and guided me into a room, his room. Then he quietly shut the door and we were alone.

He approached me soundlessly, from behind, and spoke in a low, reassuring voice close to my ear. "Just relax."

Without warning, he reached down and I felt his strong, calloused hands start at my ankles, gently probing, and moving upward along my calves slowly but steadily. My breath caught in my throat. I knew I should be afraid, but somehow I didn't care. His touch was so experienced, so sure.

When his hands moved up onto my thighs, I gave a slight shudder, and partly closed my eyes. My pulse was pounding. I felt his knowing fingers caress my abdomen, my ribcage.. And then, as he cupped my firm, full breasts in his hands, I inhaled sharply. Probing, searching, knowing what he wanted, he brought his hands to my shoulders, slid them down my tingling spine and into my panties.

Although I knew nothing about this man, I felt oddly trusting and expectant. This is a man, I thought. A man used to taking charge. A man not used to taking "No" for an answer. A man who would tell me what he wanted. A man who would look into my soul and say ... "Okay Mam," said a voice, "All done."

My eyes snapped open and he was standing in front of me, smiling, holding out my purse. "You can board your flight now."

Dec 21, 2010

Winter solstice, the shortest day of the year

Richard Cohen has a nice piece in the International Herald Tribune about today, the shortest day of the year on the northern hemisphere.

Winter solstice at Stonehenge
Winter solstice at Stonehenge

Here are a few highlights:

WHAT is the winter solstice, and why bother to celebrate it? The word “solstice” derives from the Latin sol (meaning sun) and statum (stand still), and reflects what we see on the first days of summer and winter when, at dawn for two or three days, the sun seems to linger for several minutes in its passage across the sky, before beginning to double back.
Virtually all cultures have their own way of acknowledging this moment. The Welsh word for solstice translates as “the point of roughness,” while the Talmud calls it “Tekufat Tevet,” first day of “the stripping time.” For the Chinese, winter’s beginning is “dongzhi,” when one tradition is making balls of glutinous rice, which symbolize family gathering. In Korea, these balls are mingled with a sweet red bean called pat jook. According to local lore, each winter solstice a ghost comes to haunt villagers. The red bean in the rice balls repels him.
In parts of Scandinavia, the locals smear their front doors with butter so that Beiwe, sun goddess of fertility, can lap it up before she continues on her journey. (One wonders who does all the mopping up afterward.) Later, young women don candle-embedded helmets, while families go to bed having placed their shoes all in a row, to ensure peace over the coming year.


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Pagan elements in Swedish Christmas celebrations

The transition from Roman paganism to Christianity, with its similar rites, took several centuries. With the Emperor Constantine’s conversion to Christianity in the fourth century, customs were quickly appropriated and refashioned, as the sun and God’s son became inextricably entwined. Thus, although the New Testament gives no indication of Christ’s actual birthday (early writers preferring a spring date), in 354 Pope Liberius declared it to have befallen on Dec. 25.
The advantages of Christmas Day being celebrated then were obvious. As the Christian commentator Syrus wrote: “It was a custom of the pagans to celebrate on the same Dec. 25 the birthday of the sun, at which they kindled lights in token of festivity .... Accordingly, when the church authorities perceived that the Christians had a leaning to this festival, they took counsel and resolved that the true Nativity should be solemnized on that day.” In Christendom, the Nativity gradually absorbed all other winter solstice rites, and the co-opting of solar imagery was part of the same process. Thus the solar discs that had once been depicted behind the heads of Asian rulers became the halos of Christian luminaries. Despite the new religion’s apparent supremacy, many of the old customs survived — so much so that church elders worried that the veneration of Christ was being lost. In the fifth century, St. Augustine of Hippo and Pope Leo the Great felt compelled to remind their flocks that Christ, not the sun, was their proper object of their worship.

Dec 6, 2010

What happened before the Big Bang?

The big bang mystery (what happened before the big bang?)
may have been solved by Roger Penrose (an old friend of FF) and his coworkers at Oxford University. Penrose starts with established notions about an ever-expanding universe subject to the laws of thermodynamics, i.e. entropy.

"At first the universe becomes less uniform as it evolves and objects form within it. Once enough time has passed, however, all of the matter around will end up being sucked into black holes. As Stephen Hawking has demonstrated, black holes eventually evaporate in a burst of radiation. That process increases uniformity, eventually to the level the universe began with."

Now---this is Penrose's creative assumption---past a certain level of uniformity, the Higgs field may disappear. The Higgs field imbues particles with mass; without it, all particles would be massless and, by Einstein's relativity theory, forced to travel at the speed of light (as behooves photons, for example).

"That (as Einstein showed) means that from the particle’s point of view time stands still and space contracts to nothingness. If all particles in the universe were massless, then, the universe would look to them to be infinitely small. And an infinitely small universe is one that would undergo a Big Bang."

HAHA!

Even better, Penrose's new theory comes with testable predictions. Black holes would occasionally collide during the later stages of the universe's evolution, and gravitational waves would result. These waves would survive the big bang à la Penrose; they would be witnesses of the bing bang's prehistory.

AND?

YES!

Corresponding gravitational waves have now been found (pictured above).

"KASSA! KASSA!" would Samuel Fisher say.

-"This is such a good idea, it must be true."