I Knew An Old Man, Once

Working hands-1509

I knew an old man once who’d been around,

Who was young, once, and strong and made things.

He worked on the railroad, laying rails and timber

Until a machine came along that could do it faster.

Then he worked in a factory that made cars.

He stood in one spot and hung doors on Fords,

Just the passenger side for a week. Then the other side for a week.

And he started to dream about Ford doors chasing him,

Continue reading “I Knew An Old Man, Once”

5 Billion Years of Solitude*

MilkyWay_Java_justin Ng

Are we alone in the Universe?
After 5 billion years of solitude,
Are we really alone?
For the first time in human history we are getting the non-religious answer:

Nope. We can’t be.

Here’s the math:

  • 100 billion planets in the Milky Way (conservatively speaking; it is probably four times that)
  • Of that, astronomers estimate 50 billion would be rocky worlds in some way similar to Earth (or four times that)
  • 1/10th of 1% of these = 50 million that might be water worlds (or four times… oh, you get the idea)
  • Too much? Ok, cut it to 1/100 of 1% of 50 billion. That’s still a whopping 5 million

Five million Earths.

Maybe more. Maybe a lot more.

So, no. We’re not alone.

I’m just afraid of one thing: That we’re maybe the galaxy’s cockroaches, and the 5 million of our neighbors are one giant Orkin fleet with really big flyswatters.


I’ve been reading science fiction since I was in the 5th grade, and have been a total space geek.  I read this book a while ago, but since then there have been some radical discoveries with Keppler that have changed things. A lot.

It’s now very plausible, if not highly probable– no, it’s definite–that there are a Kirk-load of planets very much like Earth.

This means there must be others. Like us, or very, very, very different. But others. Bet you (one of you) $5.

But why does that not make me feel good? I do not feel good. And I watched ET and everything.

177076375 Billion Years of Solitude,
By Lee Billings

Memo: If I Were In Charge…..

Note: This is evidence why it’s a bad idea to put me in charge of anything. 

Memo To: the “Under-appreciated and Whiny” code Monkeys downstairs  Web Development Department

From: That Idiot Upstairs Who Signs the Checks

Hi, guys. I need to talk to a web developer. We’ve got a little bug in the code on the Hello Poetry site. Our pages are telling readers to submit “suggestions” on a mouse-over of the little pencil icon.

To Carl Sandburg, in this example. Of all people.

I know….Yes, none of us, including me, saw the problem when we OK’d the final design. No fingers are being pointed. However, now that I see it, live, next to Sandburg’s name, and others, it doesn’t seem like our finest move.

He’s been dead for several decades—30 years before the Internet—for one thing, so there’s little chance he’s going to get any emails. For another, he won three Pulitzers, and we haven’t won any, nor have our readers, as far as we know. And he probably wrote a couple of million poems. Let’s quietly disable that feature before writers everywhere see it and say mean things about us on their blogs. You know what drama kings and queens they are …..

Sandburg copy

I Think I Might Have Missed A Turn Back There

babe in a wood

You know that moment when some idea just-weird-enough-to-be-worth-blogging-about happens? The it’s-not-true-but-ought-to-be moment? The kind of thing we normally keep to ourselves but have gone slightly cracker dog? So we don’t..?

I just had one of those.

You know about Moore’s Law for computers? Where they double in power or speed every few months now? So more and more transistors can crunch numbers faster and faster, and the computers are so small that every human has at least one in a pocket—except when it’s glued to said humans’ hands, which is pretty much 24/7. I mean.. c’mon, people!

But I digress….

I wondered… when a certain point is reached, and the Web—the Baby Hive Mind—switches on one day–no, I mean REALLY SWITCHES on— and makes people forget kitten videos on Facebook, and Kim K’s non-human butt, forever. And we all realize the damned dress WAS Gold and White, dammit!

And once switched on, phones…home. 

What I wondered (oblivious to a dozen serious problems with this assumption) was…. what if we’re part of the experiment? That we’re designed to build eight quadrillion microscopic computers and hook them all together globally?  And what if we’re only one of a billion planets, all doing the same thing, and someday all switched on?

I wondered the same thing you just did: Exactly who–or what– would we all be trying to call?

And you know that other kind of moment? The one where you notice people are backing away from you slowly, a look of concern on their faces?

I just had one of those, too.

But there are pills that can fix it.


Out there, in here

MilkyWay_Java_justin Ng
The Awesomeness We Seldom See


The sun does not move, we wrongly think.
Our eyes just show us what we wish.

We know the Earth rolls around it, though,
Tilted this way and that;
The days and months, the seasons, we’ve been taught,
Are the proofs of something we are too limited to see.

We feel the invisible attraction of rock and dirt
From the instant of conception.
Sperm and egg swim and dance in the grip of gravity.
We never know anything else.

Yet we please ourselves to believe that
Our world is one solid thing, unchangeable,
When in truth, we’re bound with atomic chains
to a whirling ball of temporary matter, itself
Caught in the invisible embrace of vast, eternal destruction,
Pulling, pulling, pulling against the death song of
A black hole  of cosmic suck, built to twist time itself
at unimaginable distances, but all-powerful.
And most of what we’ve thought for 10,000 years or more
Is no better than a child’s bedtime story.

Lord, what fools we mortals be.

As the Earth rolls around—half a face always bathed in the the furnace of judgement—
The dark half peers into the infinite emptiness, out where
A trillion-trillion-trillion billion stars burn, out where light grows old and dies, alone, cold.
Mindless nuclear furnaces rage in silence, balls of fusion blaze in emptiness,
Racing around ultimate darkness,
Multicolored alien majesties spread across time, on scales beyond imagining.

But we cannot see, and think this dirt beneath our feet is all permanent.
The vasty deep is, to us,
Just twinkles and glints through the haze,
More than all the grains of sand in the world, a million worlds,

Other Earths
Go rolling about their own furnaces, racing through darkness and light and ultimate cold,
Torn between capture and escape.
And among them, trillions of beings live and die, each thinking
It is the center of everything, fixed in place on
something that does not move.

Our Sun pours radiation alike on the just and the unjust, the worthy and the unworthy,
Without a care for which it nurtures and which it burns.
We, who arrived as the last link of cosmic unpredictability and take our
Turn squinting at the light that just now comes above the edge
Of our rolling world, must wonder:
What does this day require of me?

Would You Buy/Read an E-book?

Trying the poll function in WordPress for the first time, and hope you’ll take a couple of seconds to help me out a bit.

Would you please let me know what your preferences are when it comes to buying books? I’m researching the option of publishing in an electronic format versus trying to go the traditional paper route with an established publisher.

Other things I wonder about…. If you have bought e-books in the past, how do you decide whether to spend your money? Do you only buy known authors? Do you need samples and excerpts? What is a price that seems right for a full-length novel? What’s the most important thing you’re looking for? Any comments on these questions would be great. And if you’re a published author, tips would be awesome. I’m obviously a total newb at this. 🙂


More Weird Al: Battering Business-speak Bull**it

Screenshot 2014-07-21 15.28.00

Direct link if the link on the image above doesn’t work: http://vevo.ly/zTDyrD


Long overdue takedown of something awful. If you like this, just google “Bill Hicks” and “marketing” for an even more NSFW take on a pernicious evil that is driving the car with Thema and Louise and all of us straight over the cliff.

Set to something close to Crosby, Stills and Nash’s “Suite Judy Blue eyes”, Weird Al skewers the hateful plague of meaningless business-buzzword-BS.


When the Moon Became Real


On this day in 1969, July 20, the first human stepped onto the surface of the moon. It may not seem like much now, but trust me: It was a BFD. The whole world stopped and watched, and held it’s collective breath as the Lunar Lander touched down with barely any fuel left.

If you were born after this event, it might be easy to misunderstand how radically this changed our view of the Moon—and the Earth.  It had floated overhead from the Earth’s earliest days, billions of years, and yet we experienced it as almost a fantasy, a mysterious thing we had never touched.

On this day, it became a real thing for the first time in all of time. A real thing. We stood on it, and it was no longer a nightly mystery.

The last astronauts on the moon left garbage behind. They left their footprints, of course, too. And scientists believe those imprints—planted in another era by long-since retired moon boots—could last for millions of years amid the craters, faint reminders that the sooty surface of our favorite satellite isn’t so far from home.


Did You Help Weird Al?

I’ll bet you did, or many of you did. I did. I shared this video on FB and here. I didn’t know I was part of a savvy media machine.

It made the rounds on many of my friends’ Facebook pages. Al has been around for more than 30 years, and the story linked here (clicky-clicky) is for those who, like me, are media observers as well as consumers. 



What Can I Help You With?



I just called up Siri on my iPhone and said “Hello, Samantha.” The answer came back immediately “Hello, Theodore… I mean, Hemmingplay.”

Try it. I know it’s a one-off, hard-coded thing from those clever folks at Apple. But the line between present and future, and between reality and entertainment, has never been so blurry.



A sharing, a cry of loneliness,

A feeling—not an understanding.

A wail, a sob, a whine,

A silence, humming along the wires,

Disguised by the noise.

A grimace in a mirror,

A mask, a character maintained,

Not quite false: manufactured, designed.

Solitary, but not quite alone.

© Hemmingplay 2014

Bug Risks Your Internet Data

I’m going to put my IT hat on here because this news needs to get spread as quickly as possible.

You may have heard in the news today and yesterday about the “HeartBleed” vulnerability that may be infecting services you use for your online banking and purchasing activities. This is a serious problem.


The bug affects banks, big email systems like Yahoo! and some of the biggest online retailers such as Amazon. It’s safe to say that all of them are racing to fix the vulnerability. Hackers will be racing to intercept your transactions before they’re locked out, too. Until the legitimate services get this fixed, your personal information, passwords and private records are at risk of being stolen.


In the meantime, there isn’t a lot we can do, other than avoid online transactions until you’re sure your bank or retailer has fixed the problem on their servers. By Thursday or Friday most should have done so. I just checked Amazon and they seem to have already gotten it done.


Once they have– and you can check at the first link below–you should go to each one and change your password, on the assumption that the hackers might have stolen the old one some time in the past before the problem was discovered.


Tracking love and loss, Big Data style


“We observed a steady regime around the baseline before the day the relationship status changes,” the Facebook Data Science team wrote on their blog (a Facebook page) on Saturday, “followed by a discontinuity on that day with a more than 225 percent increase of the average volume of interactions.”

“This points towards people receiving support from their friends in times where they need it,” they conclude, “whether it comes in the form of private messages, timeline posts or comments.”


Face Of The Day

This suggests some science-fictiony story possibilities. Anyone want to take a shot?

The Dish


Artist Lucy Glendinning’s “Feather Child” series explores “the allure and dangers of artificially propelling human evolution”:

Inspired by the Greek myth of Icarus, she imagines future humans treating our DNA as a medium of expression and wish-fulfillment; in the poem accompanying the sculpture, she envisions feathers like “A decoration applied with / a gene, not a needle.”

The Art Circus Review adds:

Covered from head to toe, the feathers may act as a camouflage, keeping the children hidden or they may enable them with a unique ability to survive whatever landscape they now populate They may also just be tired freaks, taking refuge in art galleries. Glendinning’s tactile sculptures are beautifully crafted, showing a very sensitive and vulnerable side to her bizarre subjects, leaving the viewer uncertain whether to take the mutant child into their care or throw them into the fire.

More photographs of Glendinning’s sculptures here.


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“The lyfe so short, the craft so long to lerne." --Chaucer


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In happiness my words I lack, in grief they overflow.

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