1. Rorschach and Roomba

    The Great Drowning

    The ocean cracked and told us with a smile, “the world will flood”.

    And to prove it was serious, the ocean flooded one particular coastal city. Calling a “flood” is being too generous. It was a drowning. There was no safe ground high enough, no rooftop above it all. There was no time for escape and nowhere to escape to. Everyone, everything, was just gone, completely lost.

    There are no words to describe what that was like, to see a city of millions swallowed up by the ocean, disappearing like it never even existed. No words are big enough or surreal enough. None are scary enough.

    That snapped us all awake. Cities started organized plans. Politicians made speeches. Religious buildings were swarmed with both devout followers and new believers. Some people “headed for the hills,” literally. Military vehicles seemed to be everywhere all the time: on the roads passing in front of us, in the sky flying above us and in the sea launching from our docks. Where they were coming from or going to was completely unknown. They never stopped. We never asked.

    We all knew what was coming, but not when. After some days (it’s all a blur now) the all-consuming, urgent feeling that screamed “we’ve got to do something, anything” began to subside. We were struck by a combination of “seriously, what can we do against a city-sized flood the whole world over” and “I don’t want to think about it, maybe it’s not going to happen” and “this is the fates, I’ll make it or I won’t (probably won’t).” Whatever the motivation, the end result was a lot of us went back to our daily routines. We stopped planning our bug-out bags, stopped tabulating what we wanted to take with us, to wherever we’ll be sent to, by whomever would be coordinating some rescue evacuation... for the whole planet.

    The Watchmen

    It was Halloween. Or there was a comic book convention. (Again, it’s all kind of a blur and these details don’t really matter now.) We were all wearing costumes... of comic book characters. Well, everyone but me. I don’t remember why I wasn’t, but I wasn’t. They were dressed as The Watchmen: The Comedian, Silk Spectre II, Dr. Manhattan, Ozymandias, Nite Owl II and Rorschach.

    She was the most excited about it all. Even though the world was going to end in a giant flood and we’d likely all die from it, we were going to dress up as comic book characters and have some fun. She insisted and her insistence was contagious. She was Silk Spectre II, of course. It was a pretty hot day to be in full costume, but no one really cared.

    Except Rorschach. It’s like he completely put on Rorschach’s character, not just Rorschach’s costume. He wouldn’t budge. “This is stupid. It’s too hot. I’m wearing a million layers. I’m not doing this.” It was a standoff. They couldn’t be The Watchmen without Rorschach, but he wouldn’t be Rorschach. Not in this heat. “This is stupid.”

    Again, I don’t remember why I wasn’t wearing a costume to begin with, but there I was. So, I got enlisted to be Rorschach. The world was going to flood... sometime, but today we were going to dress up as The Watchmen and have some fun. Or so we thought.

    I put on the Rorschach costume. Which to his credit, was very hot with all the layers on, but it didn’t matter right then. Things like “these clothes are too hot” weren’t important anymore. The one change I made to the Rorschach costume was that I didn’t want to paint my face, I wanted to wear a mask. We found some muslin in the closet, did a quick cut/sew job and applied the Rorschach Test inkblots with some permanent marker.

    “Good enough! Let’s get going before...” I don’t remember what I was going to say. Before what? No idea. It doesn’t matter. Our “normal” lives completely ended right then. For the second time. Really, they had ended with The Great City Drowning. And then again here, in the middle of my sentence about going before something, when I saw a snake fall (jump really) out of a tree.

    My first thought was, I didn’t know we had snakes in the city, let alone really, really big snakes. Snakes measuring several feet long. My second thought was to (almost) convince myself that it wasn’t a snake at all, but instead a really big branch that had fallen. But then another snake jumped from the tree. Then a third. A fourth. We all crowded to the window to watch. And what we saw was our world disappearing and every living thing in the world realizing that.

    It turned out that the flooding of the world wasn’t a giant crashing wave out of some old Japanese painting. It was more like the draining of a bathtub in reverse. There was water in the streets. It had a current. It was slowly rising. (We couldn’t see any cars anymore.) And it would soon be as high as the stoop at the front of our house.

    I had tried to imagine this moment so many times. How would I feel? What would I do? In none of those scenarios did I imagine this. Somehow, right then, we were all fine with it. We felt no panic, no urgency. Anything that resembled “a plan” was instantly forgotten. We didn’t grab our bags that we had packed and re-packed. We didn’t run in circles and scream about. We were calm and accepting. This was it.

    Still in costume as The Watchmen, we all left the apartment and made our way down the long series of hallways that led to the front door. For whatever reason (and I still can’t understand or explain this now), I was carrying my Roomba. Not food, not a dry sack of clothes or drinkable water or a medical kit, not even an inner tube. Just my Roomba.

    Here was the weirdest thing (in a world recently full of impossibly weird things): the hallway was littered with other Roombas. Did they all go rogue and try to escape, until their batteries died? Did their owners, like me, start to bring them, before realizing that the water would destroy their electronics? I don’t know. But there they were, laid out in front of us: a graveyard of Roombas.

    “It’s strange. I never had a Roomba and I still kind of want one,” said my roommate, who was dressed (painted) as Dr. Manhattan. (He was chosen to be Dr. Manhattan because he was the tallest. The costume was a tiny swimsuit brief and lots of blue body paint.)

    “Take one”, I said. “There’re plenty just sitting there.”

    “OK,” he said as he picked one up off the floor by its handle.

    “Not that one. That’s an older one. It’s too heavy.” I explained, as if the weight somehow mattered.

    “This one?”

    “That’s pretty good, but a bit big. Oh! That other one there. It’s a newer one. It’s small and light,” I said, again as if the size or weight of a robotic vacuum cleaner mattered when the Earth was flooding. I still don’t know why he wanted one and why I cared which one he took. It’s a blur, like everything Pre-Flood.

    So, there we were: two grown men dressed as Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach, carrying Roombas, walking to the end of the world.

    By the time we made it to the front door and stepped outside, only the top step of the stoop was still visible. The water’s current was constant, but not frighteningly fast. No whitewater rapids whipping through the Grand Canyon on a family adventure, it was instead a summer river float, missing only the floating cooler of drinks. We stepped into the current and began the gentle but sure process of being swept away from our old lives.

    The water was tepid and salty. There was no point in swimming, only floating. The current did all the work. I’m sure that someone got hurt from unseen underwater obstacles, like cars and fences and trees, but I never saw it happen. There was something different about this water: everyone floated. I had never gone to the Dead Sea (and now, I guess I never will), but I imagine it was like something like this. Maybe it was the salt density, maybe it was something else. There’s still so much that is unknown about what happened.

    All I do know is that everyone floated. It wasn’t just humans floating away to the end of the world. There were the snakes that jumped from the tree, and there were monkeys in there too. Monkeys! I don’t even know why there were monkeys in the city. There were also, of course, cats and dogs. Other small animals: squirrels, mice, rats. Everyone.

    Somehow, the strangest part wasn’t the menagerie of non-human animals in the water with us. It was everyone’s total calm. There was absolutely no fighting, either with each other or against the water. We all just floated together. I even bumped into a snake with my foot at one point and it simply slither-swam a bit farther away from me. We had all accepted that this was the fates at work.

    And then, my memories fade away. Just black.

    The Awakening

    It’s frustrating; there’s so much I don’t recall: I don’t remember where we floated to or how we got there. I don’t remember when or how the water went away. I don’t remember waking up or if I was ever not awake in the first place. My first fuzzy memories Post-Flood were walking through some streets, somewhere in the city. We were still together as a group, still damp, and still dressed as The Watchmen. Dr. Manhattan’s body paint had mostly washed off. I don’t remember why or when I stopped carrying that Roomba around, but I don’t have it anymore.

    The water was mostly gone. Minor puddles here and there were caught in bird baths, car roofs, potholes. The evidence of flooding was everywhere. Water lines visible several stories high on the sides of buildings. Overturned newspaper boxes. Cars swept away and collected around a street pole. Debris everywhere. Everything that you’d expect from a giant flood. Everything except the water.

    We wandered. Everyone wandered. Completely dumbfounded. Eventually, we found a small crowd that seemed to have some purpose. (I’ve never understood why humans instinctually group to each in times of uncertainty or danger. There’s probably some evolutionary reason.) We gravitated to and then into this group.

    Amazingly, there was still no hysteria, just an eerie calm of “we went through this thing and all survived somehow”. People shared what little they had: food, water, clothes. The one thing not in short supply, shared liberally from person to person, was information: rumors, facts, personal stories, theories. And the information spread fast.

    We heard all the religious explanations of the flood and our survival. It was The Rapture, The Great Flood, Noah. Those were just the Christian stories. Eventually, we heard all of it. So when people spoke of Arks, we didn’t think much of it. When we heard stories of bubbles, orbital cities and space tunnels, we didn’t think much of it. There were a million pet theories flying about on what happened, why, how.

    But this sci-fi story was the one that stuck around the most. It went something like this:

    Somehow they (and who they are was never clear) knew for a long time that something like this was going to happen and had been planning an escape route. They built massive retractable spheres underneath a few dozen cities and “important areas.” The top half of the sphere remained retracted underground. They got ready after the ocean told us that the world would flood. But they wanted to be sure it was really real before revealing their giant secret operation.

    Once the coastal cities started flooding, they initiated the sequence. It took a long time for each sphere to spin up and cover the whole city. In that time, massive flooding overtook the cities and those of us inside began to float. When the sphere had fully enclosed the city, it detached itself from the earth and launched out into lower orbit with its inhabitants floating inside.

    After the city spheres reached their new homes in space, they tethered to one another, forming space tunnels, a kind of subway through the black. The flood waters from each city sphere were drained into smaller spheres that now comprise the only source of water for us, the living colony of orbital spheres in space.

    It still sounds insane to say it out loud. But it was just one of the many crazy rumors about what had happened to our lives and our world. Regardless of how many times we heard it, we still didn’t really believe the story.

    When the military and the politicians came around and confirmed this story, we didn’t believe it. When somehow the power came back on for a little while and the news people on TV told us this story, we didn’t believe it. It was too unbelievable of a story to possibly be true.

    It wasn’t until we made it out to the edge of the city, a place we now call The Coast, that we started to truly believe. Even then, it took some time, time to re-wire our brains, brains that had only known of millions of years of human terrestrial evolution.

    We stood there at the edge of our city that had become a world, and we stared back at Earth. Earth. It seems like such a lie to call it that anymore. The Blue Marble. It really was The Blue Marble now, with no land or cities or lights to taint its watery hue.

    We stared at Earth, massive in front of us, and at the other city spheres, connected to us via massive tunnels through space. We stared and tried to believe in our brains what our eyes were showing us. That these city spheres were now our world. Somehow, “world” and “earth” were no longer the same.

    The Epilogue

    There’s still so much we don’t know. I mean, we normal people. We survivors. We don’t know what caused this, or who knew it was coming. We don’t know how long they knew or even who “they” are. We don’t know their long-term plan. We don’t know if anyone survived back on Earth, in submarines, on boats, in the mountains.

    Are we ever going back to Earth? Will the water ever recede? Was there a coordinated global effort to plan and execute this escape plan? On a more practical note, once our food supplies run out, how will food production and resource consumption be handled? Will population control be necessary? How freely will be able to travel between city spheres? Will there be a “global” government now?

    How did they do all of this undetected? How are they able manipulate gravity in our city spheres to emulate Earth’s gravity? What was the extent of the extinction of species planet-wide? How many billions of humans and non-humans died while a few million survived?

    And underneath it all: what will our lives be like now? What will our world be like? Incredibly, improbably, we have somehow immigrated out into black space, avoiding annihilation. How much farther will we explore outward?

    So much that we don’t know. So many questions. It’s all still too overwhelming. I think that for all of us that survived, it will always be too unreal to fathom clearly. It’ll take a generation or two born into this life to really accept it. That is, if we continue to live this life.

    Based on a dream I woke up from on the morning of 2013-08-01.

    (Edited by Abby Phoenix)

  2. JSON-LD is an Unneeded Spec

    Today I learned about a proposed spec called JSON-LD. The "LD" is for linked data (Linked Data™ in the Uppercase “S” Semantic Web sense).1

    From the JSON-LD site:

    Data is messy and disconnected. JSON-LD organizes and connects it, creating a better Web.

    Linked Data empowers people that publish and use information on the Web. It is a way to create a network of standards-based, machine-readable data across Web sites. It allows an application to start at one piece of Linked Data, and follow embedded links to other pieces of Linked Data that are hosted on different sites across the Web.

    JSON-LD is a lightweight Linked Data format. It is easy for humans to read and write. It is based on the already successful JSON format and provides a way to help JSON data interoperate at Web-scale. JSON-LD is an ideal data format for programming environments, REST Web services, and unstructured databases such as CouchDB and MongoDB.

    Linked data. Web sites. Standards. Machine readable.

    Cool. All of those sound good to me. But they all sound familiar, like we've already done this before. In fact, we have.

    Linked data
    That's just the web, right? I mean, we've had the <a href> tag since literally the beginning of HTML / The Web. It's for linking documents. Documents are a representation of data.
    Web sites
    If it's not wrapped in HTML and viewable in a browser it, is it really a website? JSON isn't very useful in the browser by itself. It's not style-able. It's not very human-readable. And worst of all, it's not clickable.2
    Standards based
    To their credit, JSON-LD did license their website content Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain. But, the spec itself isn't. It's using (what seems to be) a W3C boilerplate copyright / license. Copyright © 2010-2013 W3C® (MIT, ERCIM, Keio, Beihang), All Rights Reserved. W3C liability, trademark and document use rules apply. (source)
    Machine readable
    Ah... "machine readable". Every couple of years the current trend of what machine readable data should look like changes (XML/JSON, RSS/Atom, xml-rpc/SOAP, rest/WS-*). Every time, there are the same promises. This will solve our problems. It won't change. It'll be supported forever. Interoperability. And every time, they break their promises. Today's empires, tomorrow's ashes.3.

    Instead of reinventing the everything (over and over again), let's use what's already there and what already works. In the case of linked data on the web, that's html web pages with clickable links between them. For open standards, open license are a deal breaker. No license is more open than Creative Commons CC0 Public Domain + OWFa. (See also the Mozilla wiki about standards/license, for more.) There's a growing list of standards that are already using CC0+OWFa. No process is more open than a publicly editable wiki. (Mailing lists are toxic.)

    Finally, for machine readable data, nothing has been more widely adopted by publishers and consumers than microformats. As of June 2012, microformats represents about 70% of all of the structured data on the web. And of that ~70%, the vast majority was h-card and xfn. (All RDFa is about 25% and microdata is a distant third.)

    Maybe it's because of the ease of publishing microformats. Maybe it's the open process for developing the standards. Maybe it's because microformats don't require any additions to HTML. (Both RDFa and microdata required the use of additional attributes or XML namespaces.) Whatever the reason, microformats has the most uptake. So, why do people keep trying to reinvent what microformats is already doing well?

    Back to JSON-LD. The "Simple Example" listed on the homepage is a person object representing John Lennon. His birthday and wife are also listed on the object.

              "@context": "http://json-ld.org/contexts/person.jsonld",
              "@id": "http://dbpedia.org/resource/John_Lennon",
              "name": "John Lennon",
              "born": "1940-10-09",
              "spouse": "http://dbpedia.org/resource/Cynthia_Lennon"

    I look at this and see what should have been HTML with microformats (h-card and xfn). This is actually a perfect use case for h-card and xfn: a person and their relationship to another person. Here's how it could've been marked up instead.

            <div class="h-card">
              <a href="http://dbpedia.org/resource/John_Lennon" class="u-url u-uid p-name">John Lennon</a>
              <time class="dt-bday" datetime="1940-10-09">October 9<sup>th</sup>, 1940</time>
              <a rel="spouse" href="http://dbpedia.org/resource/Cynthia_Lennon">Cynthia Lennon</a>.

    You can throw in a little bit of decoration for improved human readability without comprising machine readability.

            <div class="h-card">
              <a href="http://dbpedia.org/resource/John_Lennon" class="u-url u-uid p-name">John Lennon</a>
              was born on
              <time class="dt-bday" datetime="1940-10-09">October 9<sup>th</sup>, 1940</time>
              and was married to
              <a rel="spouse" href="http://dbpedia.org/resource/Cynthia_Lennon">Cynthia Lennon</a>.

    This HTML can be easily understood by machine parsers and humans parsers. Microformats 2 parsers already exists for: JavaScript (in the browser), Node.js, PHP and Ruby. HTML + microformats2 means that machines can read your linked data from your website and so can humans. It means that you don't need an "API" that is something other than your website.

    Please don't waste time and energy reinventing all of the wheels. Instead, please use what already works and what works the webby way.

    1: In its footer, the JSON-LD site mentions that it's a "Part of the PaySwarm standardization initiative". Which in turns claims to be "The Universal Payment Standard". An awfully big claim. But, that's another post for another time. ^

    2: Hell! You can't even put comments in your JSON. ^


    1. 2005-2009(?): StructuredBlogging
    2. 2005-2011: Google Base schema
    3. 2007-2011(?): Google Data API/Elements
    4. 2009-2009(?): Yahoo et al CommonTag.org
    5. 2009-2011(?): Google rdf.data-vocabulary.org
    6. 2010-present Facebook OGP meta tags
    7. 2011-present Google+MS(Y!) Schema.org
    8. 2012-present Twitter Cards meta tags
    9. 2012-present OpenMetadata.org

    (source: tantek.com) ^

  3. The Squirrel, The Possum and The Gods Up In The Darkness

    “Then the squirrel told the possum her favorite story. The squirrel swears it is true and she witnessed it herself. The possum stared back at her and listened with all of his might.”

    “I was resting in The Great Feeding Tree. It was darktime, a couple coldtimes ago. I had fed. I was happy. I was safe. The Giant Ones had once again extinguished their suns like they always did. The world was quiet from all of the noises made by The Giant Ones and their gods.

    “I never understood why The Giant Ones’ gods went away when The Giant Ones extinguished their suns, but they did. The only one of The Giant Ones’ gods that we ever see or hear in darktime is the one with twin red and blue suns trapped on its back. It runs so fast and loud that it seems to be flying.

    “But not even those gods were present in this one darktime. The only gods I could see were the small suns up in the darkness.

    “Fed, safe, quiet, I rested for a moment and looked to The Gods Up In The Darkness. There were only a few at first. Then more and more showed themselves to me. It was as if they wanted me to see them. As if they needed me to see them. As if I didn’t see them, they wouldn’t be.

    “So I saw. And saw. There were so many Gods Up In The Darkness desperate, yearning to be seen. But there was one god that drew my gaze, focused it. It was bigger than the other Gods Up In The Darkness. Big and orange.

    “The more I fixed upon this big orange God Up In The Darkness, the more the other Gods Up In The Darkness faded away in pain or jealousy. The only Gods Up In The Darkness that were still present to me were the immediate neighbors to the bigger, oranger God Up In The Darkness. There were three very close neighboring Gods Up In The Darkness that were in a straight line.

    “I had never seen any Gods Up In The Darkness inline like that. And so close! They could have reached out and touched one another.

    “And then, in this particular darktime when I looked at The Gods Up In The Darkness, I wanted for nothing. I asked of them nothing. Then I saw it.”, the squirrel finally paused.”

    “Saw what!?”, the possum demanded.”

    “The truth. The truth.”, the squirrel answered staring emotionlessly off into the distance.

    “The Possum still hung upside down by his tail, but completely honed all of his attention on the squirrel waiting for more from her.”

    “The squirrel’s eyes adjusted as she returned to here. Then she explained herself.”

    “While I was watching it, the bigger, oranger God Up In The Darkness grew larger and brighter. I first thought it might be angry and exploding, though I had never seen a God Up In The Darkness explode before.

    “But when the other neighboring Gods Up In The Darkness began growing in size and brightness, I realized they weren’t exploding. The Gods Up In The Darkness were falling from the darkness.

    “Something happened between the moment when they let go their grip up in the darkness and the moment they flew through The Great Feeding Tree and crashed to the ground.

    “They weren’t bright anymore. Or even light at all. They were now small too. So small that I could pick them up with my mouth, which I did.

    “When I had what used to be some of the Gods Up In The Darkness in between my teeth, I could taste that familiar flavor that I have lived on for years. It was the fruit from The Great Feeding Tree. Smooth green skin. Rich meat. Hard inedible center.

    “But they were rotten. Bitter and stringy on the inside. Bitter and fuzzy from the sickness on the outside. I spat it out and ran away back up The Great Feeding Tree. At the top, when I looked for The Gods Up In The Darkness, it was just the darkness.

    “That’s when I realized the truth: the gods were never real.

    “That was the end of the squirrel’s story to the possum and they each went on their way”.

    “So, what do you think? It’s the first time I’ve told this one”, Annie said and then pushed the coals in the campfire with a stick.

    “It’s good! I wasn’t expecting it go that way. A story about a story, you’ve never done that before”, Beau answered. Then asked “When’d you think it up?”

    “Last night. After a long ‘family meeting’ where mom and dad told me that they’re getting divorced. I couldn’t sleep, so I just stared at the ceiling trying to imagine the stars. But I couldn’t anymore.”

    “There’s an epilogue to the squirrel’s story to the possum. Want to hear it, Beau?”


    “The next lighttime, the dog who lived with The Giant Ones chased the squirrel up The Great Feeding Tree. All the while screaming and yelling ‘This is my space! You can’t be here! My food! Go Away!’ like it always did. The squirrel escaped like she always did.

    “After a while, the dog stopped screaming and went to investigate the fallen gods. And then the dog ate the moldy, bruised, stringy, brown fruit. Just like the dog always did.

    “The squirrel never saw The Gods Up In The Darkness again”, Annie finished.

    “That’s it? The dog ate the gods?”, Beau fired back.

    Annie calmly replied while staring at the fire “they were never gods. They were just like everything else, food for something else.”

  4. 90s Photos of Bands

    Birthright at the Emerson Theater in Indianapolis, IN at Indy Fest in July 1997

    I used to go to shows a lot. Not so much anymore. When I did, I usually took my camera and took photos. When I started it was with my mom's crappy point and click 110. Later I got my own 35mm. I asked for a fully manual camera, but got a fully auto one. I went through a black and white phase while I was in art school, mainly because it was cheaper and I could develop it myself. But also because I thought it was cool.

    Today I ran into a dude from an old band that I shot once. Like most bands, I never was able to give a copy of the photos to the band. It made me realize that while most all of the photos I took back then are on Flickr, people who would care to see them mostly don't know they exist. So, here's a blast shot into the abyss, that maybe someone will hear.

    I shot almost everything that I went to. As it turns out, it was all on film (110, 35mm, Polaroid). By the time I got a digital camera, I had stopped shooting photos and had moved on to digital video (another post for another day.)

    In writing this post, I realized that there are still a handful of bands that aren't scanned/uploaded yet. I'll get that remedied some day. I started when I was 15. My first show was Shelter and Enkindel (which was supposed to be Earth Crisis, but they crashed their van). Here's a very small sampling of bands that I photographed.

    Hardcore bands
    By The Grace Of God
    Boy Sets Fire
    Punk rock
    No Use for a Name
    Good Riddance
    Ska bands
    Assorted Jellybeans
    Citzen Fish
    Big bands before they got that big
    Limp Bizkit
    Sugar Ray
    (and for some reason a mountain of ICP photos)
    Big bands that were hopelessly far away
    Rage Against the Machine
    Little hometown hero bands
    Neena Foundry
    Eiffel Tower High
    Cheese Weed
    And weird bands
    Blaster the Rocket Boy
    Boris the Sprinkler

    And many many more...


    By the Grace of God's first "last" show at Rhino's in Bloomington, IN

    Eiffel Tower High

    Good Riddance at The 513 in Atlanta, GA circa 1999

    MU330 at The Emerson Theatre in Indinapolis, IN