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Chicken

3 tablespoons dijon mustard
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 pounds of skinless chicken breasts, divided into four pieces each, rinsed, and patted dry
2 English muffins
3/4 cup parmesan (or) sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon unsalted melted butter
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat over to 450°
Stir together mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper
Add chicken, coat well, and refrigerate to marinate
Pulse English muffins in food processor until ground. Add cheese, butter, and pepper, and spices. Pulse until well combined
Transfer to a shallow plate.
Dredge chicken one piece at a time in crumbs, coating completely and pressing crumbs to adhere.
Transfer to baking sheet. Bake until golden brown and cooked through, 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the


Sauce

1/3 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon butter
1/3 cup chopped yellow pepper
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
3 cloves fresh garlic, pressed
1-2 tablespoons flour
1/2–3/4 cup milk (goat milk is best)

Over medium heat, cook onion, garlic, and yellow pepper in butter until limp.
Add flour just to the point where butter is absorbed, then stir carefully for one minute.
Slowly add and stir milk until sauce is thick and easily stirred.
Turn heat off and stir in cheese until melted.

Serve crusted chicken breast pieces with a spoonful of cheese sauce over each. A side of lightly steamed fresh broccoli or green beans will complement the taste nicely.

 

Who are you? Wait, don't answer.

Given how busy my life has been, writing anything more substantive than 140 characters of a twitter update just hasn't been high on the priority list, especially since my primary writing time is going toward the novel and my screenplay revisions.

The short version is that life is good, but I could still improve my focus and discipline, although, like some people say about starting recreational running, trying to overdo it at first will just lead to burnout. So I'll take this new discipline thing slowly and hope that a few good habits stick.

I'm actually writing this blog post primarily as an excuse to wonder who all of the random people following me on twitter, requesting to be my facebook friends, and reading my livejournal are. I look for information about them, but no, I can't find any kind of connection to my life in their information. Why does a romance novelist in Virginia need to read my twitter feed? Why does the Seattle Symphony follow it too, for that matter? What's with the dutch art collective following my livejournal (ok, I suspect that one is really a bot, but still...)?

Because of all the research for the two web series I'll be launching soon, I recognize that it's important to keep some kind of public persona going (thanks for the great word, Ingmar Bergman!) but really, people, if you don't know me, do you actually need to be my electronic stalkerfriend? It would be different if I were a celebrity, but I'm not. Not my career path.

Cue dumb, obvious statement: the internet sure is weird. But you got a livejournal post from me out of it, so quit complaining.

Seriously, Don't Miss This Post!

Friends and Readers -

The following is huge news for a number of reasons.

Foremost, it's an incredible community action to raise money for one of my favorite musicians, S.J. Tucker, who is undergoing a health crisis without health insurance.

Second, read the list of contributors carefully. Some of my very favorite authors have submitted stories, including Neil Gaiman, Holly Black, Charles de Lint, Phil Brucato, and Catherynne M. Valente. (The other authors are totally cool too – the list above just happens to make my geek engine rev particularly loudly.)

So please, consider picking up a copy of the book – it's for a great cause. Also, check out the saveours00j community, pick up a few CDs, and help support an extraordinary artist going through difficult times.

Ben

--------------------------------------------------------


Ravens in the Library - Add to Cart
Featuring Tales by:
Ari Berk
Holly Black
Francesca Lia Block
Phil Brucato
Sam Chupp
Storm Constantine
Charles de Lint
Ben Dobyns
Jaymi Elford
Neil Gaiman
Alexandra Honigsberg
Elizabeth Jordan Leggett
Shira Lipkin
Angel Leigh McCoy
Seanan McGuire
Kris Millering and Storm Wilder
Mia Nutick
S.J. Tucker
Carrie Vaughn
Catherynne M. Valente
Terri Windling
and others...

With Illustrations by:
Amy Brown
Stephanie Pui-Mun Law
James A. Owen
Brian Syme
and others...

Edited by:
Phil Brucato
& Sandra Buskirk

Graphic Design by:
Sherry Lynne Baker
The Ravens in the Library Project, in connection with
"A Healthy Dose of Sooj"
and "Save Our Sooj" presents

RAVENS IN THE LIBRARY:
MAGIC IN THE BARD'S NAME

A Limited Edition Collection of Stories and Art dedicated to the health of S.J. Tucker
This special VERY limited edition has been compiled to defray the medical expenses and recovery of musician S.J. Tucker.

The collection will NOT be released in stores, and it is NOT downloadable! It will be available only as long as those expenses remain unresolved. After that, RAVENS IN THE LIBRARY will disappear.

Order your advance copy today... Before they fly away forever!

Add to Cart$25.00 includes shipping & handling
within the continental United States

Anticipated Release Date*: Feb. 22, 2009
Trade Paperback format
Color covers, B&W interiors
Self-Published by The Ravens in the Library Project
With Heartfelt Thanks to Ellen Datlow and all contributors.
* - barring delays in printing or production.
View Cart

today

Woke up to a grumpy Rita, both of us without enough sleep. Made it to the bus on time. Three hours later arrived in Olympia.

Did late Christmas with Rita's family. Received a Wii. We are doomed.

Bused to Tacoma. Caught the tail end of a party for 19th century reenactment enthusiasts. Helped clean up. Met several rabbits.

Time to sleep!

Today in My Life

Rita and I woke up in an unexpected place.

At home, I made biscuits with cheese and pepper scrambled eggs.

We purchased several unique gifts at a series of art galleries and Pike Place booths.

We watched "Australia", which wore its heart on its sleeve with pride. Highly recommended, not least for the elegance of its plotting and the extraordinary logistics involved behind the scenes.

We had coffee and cider at Local Color in Pike Place and talked about how empowering it was to turn down the Val Kilmer flick. If I can say no to that, I can say no to anything. I feel that I have regained my powers of self-determination.

We stopped by the bookstore, where I purchased a book of crossword puzzles. Ideally they will help motivate me to awake earlier and to maintain a stronger daily routine.

We ate dinner at Tango on Capitol Hill.

Rita took the bus home and I attended the H+ discussion about emergent leadership. Some thoughts:
  • Our usage of social networking sites creates habits of trust that allow privileged access to alternate networks without a formal introduction.
  • Leadership of a group can also emerge through mob behavior that is subject to agreed-upon behavior routines.
  • Just as the creative commons movement can encourage letting go of one's ability to track the propagation of creative content through the web and beyond, letting go of leadership control can allow for self-selecting leadership behaviors to emerge in a mob, especially when instant communication and information tools like Twitter are used.
  • Leadership does not have to be about authority - it can be about providing content and competence.
  • Formal leadership and traditional hierarchical structures tend to be goal oriented and to involve financial compensation for those participating. It increases order. Informal leadership tends to be story or narrative oriented, to rely on how compelling that story is to achieve participation, tends to be subject to the law of diminishing returns, and often increases disorder.
  • Clowning tells a story that subverts the status quo. See: clowns vs. militias, the Billboard Liberation Front, improv Everywhere, and Jesus.
  • New tools and technologies have the potential the change the nature of leadership, especially for self-organizing, narrative-oriented groups.
Following the H+ discussion, we adjourned to Six Arms, where the talk turned to the likelihood of emergent A.I. I strongly suggest that people interested in that topic read Kevin Kelly's thoughts on the matter. Link 1, Link 2, and most importantly Link 3.

I ran from Pike and Melrose to 3rd and Pine in five minutes, in time to catch my bus. (.7 miles) Total transit time to return home from Capitol Hill: 25 minutes.

finished

Dear LJ Interwebs -

After a long absence, I am returned bearing news. I have just completed the first draft of my first novel, "Letters to the Real World".

Thank you for your support during this long and intense month of writing. I couldn't have done with without you - in large part because you are weird, which has supplied me with endless inspiration. Please keep it up!

Peace,
Ben
It takes a lot to render me speechless. But this photo might do it.

Some background from the Christian Broadcasting Network:

[Cindy Jacobs] believes that just as there came a time when God judged the gods of Egypt, He is now judging the god of mammon. Nations are standing on the cusp of history that will determine their course for generations to come. God is judging the ideologies of nations. He is moving to put the fear of the Lord not only on His church; but upon the nations of the world. 

For these and other reasons Cindy is calling for a Day of Prayer for the World’s Economies on Wednesday, October 29, 2008. They are calling for prayer for the stock markets, banks, and financial institutions of the world on the date the stock market crashed in 1929. They are meeting at the New York Stock Exchange, the Federal Reserve Bank, and its 12 principal branches around the US that day. 

“We are going to intercede at the site of the statue of the bull on Wall Street to ask God to begin a shift from the bull and bear markets to what we feel will be the 'Lion’s Market,' or God’s control over the economic systems,” she said.  “While we do not have the full revelation of all this will entail, we do know that without intercession, economies will crumble.” 


And, for your viewing pleasure, here is a photo from the prayer session:



Christians praying at a golden calf, for economic wealth. Where's Moses when you need him?

Credit needs a safety valve

Disclaimer – I am not an economist. Nor am I a scientist. Proceed at your own peril.

Usually I have a sense of purpose – I know what I want to pursue and how I want to do it.  But these last few weeks have me at a loss.  Suddenly, my projects are in a personal holding pattern, due in large part to the churning rapidity and fluidity in national and world affairs.  As a filmmaker, I rely on investment (in whatever form) to get my projects off the ground. But there isn’t a lot of credit to go around these days. Even the banks are afraid to offer credit to each other. (This is a Bad Thing.)

It's easy to predict that unstable systems will change and possibly collapse.  It's a lot more difficult to see beyond that threshold. From this vantage point, all that I can say with certainty is that it doesn't look good.  Are we witnessing the utter failure of free market conservatism? Definitely. But what comes next?

Much as Hunter wrote on Daily Kos yesterday, I have lost all faith in our government, directly across the political spectrum. We're getting ready to hand over hundreds of billions of dollars to the same crooks that got us into this mess. The democrats can't find one collective backbone among them. Politicians on both side of the aisle are looking for political cover for the looming November elections. Obama has big plans and little economic chance of implementing them, barring a shock to the system so big that he might be able to ram massively change through while everybody is reeling, a la a progressive approach to Klein’s shock doctrine.

But none of this sound and fury addresses any looming issues beyond the immediate and pressing.  Our infrastructure is crumbling.  Prices are up. Wages are down. Credit is drying up, which has the potential to start affecting paychecks now. Our delivery system for goods and services is stretched to a brittle breaking point in the name of squeezing every last penny of profits from the removal of expensive safeguards and redundancies.  I don't tend to think of myself as an alarmist -- reality tends to fall short of doom and gloom predictions -- but this is, at a minimum, an unqualified mess that corporate socialism has wrought on us.  If I had to guess at the root cause of this state of affairs, I would call it two things: short-term thinking and a disregard for entropy.

Let’s talk about short-term thinking. Free market capitalism does not encourage thinking for the long term. It requires quarterly growth. The dysfunction is built into the system. The real movers and shakers make money by taking a cut of interest on credit. (Or credit on credit, on which they speculate, etc.) Everyone else plays by putting money into the system, which is loaned out at higher rates, with a percentage of interest going into the pockets of the intermediary. Without growth, that interest is not created and the people who use money to make more money lose their revenue stream. (Yes, this is an over-simplification. If you want accuracy, see an economist.) So we privilege growth. And we privilege efficiency at the expense of redundancy.  And only when things go sour do we notice that we might possibly need that redundancy in order to weather the point at which growth (fueled in large part lately by imaginary derivatives) can no longer continue.

More examples – in order to maintain growth, we extract resources unsustainably. We clear cut forests. We over-farm and exhaust the soil. We borrow against the future, taking profit now at the expense of our children and grandchildren. We give money to the rich, so much money that entire new markets must be created for them to invest in, thus giving them access to their all-important interest, that allows their money to make more money. So much money flowed into the pockets of the ultra-rich over the last eight years (or twenty-eight years, if you prefer) that the banks couldn't find enough cash-strapped people to borrow those funds. So they made credit available to anyone. They created a mortgage market big enough to send interest flowing back to the rich. And they overextended so badly that the entire system risks collapse.

Bush's tax cuts took from the poor and gave to the rich, giving so much money to the rich that they had to take even more from the poor just to keep up with the massive interest that their wealth was generating. This isn't even political ideology any more – it is theft, pure and simple.  And the end result? We plan to give $700 billion more that we can't afford to the thieves, the same thieves who are telling us, somehow, that we must pay for our own healthcare (with the majority of those payments going to support the private health insurance bureaucracy, creating the highest per capita expenditure on healthcare in the entire world), that we must shop at big box retailers that drain money from local communities, that we must deregulate everything in order to allow quarterly growth to continue. Is there rocket fuel in our drinking water? Let mid-level political appointees change the science and allow the rocket fuel to continue to cause health issues and birth defects. After all, the system is in such dire straights right now that we can't allow safety concerns to get in the way of the profits that we must have to keep the house of cards from collapsing. 

Across the board, we relax regulation in the name of sustaining the system. We overlook off-shore tax shelters in the name of sustaining the system. We tax the poor in the name of sustaining the system (we can't afford to tax the rich, or they wouldn't be able to keep making money!), without ever stating the obvious: the system's entire function is to sustain itself, and to do so it must consume at an ever-greater rate, just to keep the trail of destruction in its wake from catching up to it.

Is it too much to suggest that all of the above is evidence of short-term thinking without regard for consequences? Ladies and gentlemen, there is an elephant in the room!

We do not have infinite resources to extract. Oil will not magically renew itself.  The rainforests will not magically regrow overnight. The methane released as the permafrost melts will not magically resequester itself in the ground. The ice will not magically reattach itself to Greenland after it falls off. We cannot magically turn entropy back on itself. We cannot violate simple laws of thermodynamics.

The universe is not a perpetual motion machine. Neither is the fucking economy. So why are we treating it like it is one?

Because when we ignore future consequences, we can make lots of money with the lie that giving money to the rich will improve everyone's life. My little perpetual motion machine works great as long as you guys turn the handle, and you guys drop money in it, and you guys poor in natural resources, and you guys clean up the trail of sludge it leaves behind, and you guys bend the rules to allow it to get bigger, and you guys pocket some blood money, and I take the profits and run. Who in this scenario is guilty of short-term thinking? Every person participating who cares more about money than about the future. We are all guilty.

Of course, there aren't a lot of alternate choices available to the wage slaves, the desk drones, the gas guzzlers, even the counter-culture dumpster divers. We all still rely on this economy and this government to provide jobs, food, resources, and shelter. If this system breaks, we all suffer.  But break it will. Maybe not tomorrow.  Maybe not for a hundred years, whenever we reach the point where we really do run out of extractable resources.

Can we change course? I doubt it. Our politicians need money to get elected and retain power. Our investors provide the credit that drives the market. We need food, housing, and disposable consumer electronics. We are addicted to a way of life that only functions as long as we are willing to consume the future.

Do we want to fix things? Do we want to stop thinking in the short term and ignoring future costs? Then perhaps we need to eliminate something that's been with us since the Great Enlightenment. We need to eliminate the financial model that assumes constant growth. We need to change the nature of credit and investment.

Is it possible to function without credit? Of course not. Without credit we regress back to feudalism. (The discussion of which being a digression I don't wish to tackle here.)

Credit creates opportunity. But it also creates risk. And when we eliminate (or monetize) risk we find ourselves in the current mess, where the risks taken were so gigantic that we cannot allow those who took them to suffer the consequences of their short-sightedness because we would suffer more than they would.

We need a safety valve that allows the value of credit (debt ownership) to depreciate over time. The rules of credit must reflect the rules of reality. Otherwise, we will repeat this boom/bust extraction of resources for the benefit of Robber Barons over and over again.

Of course, what I’m suggesting won’t happen. Too many people would suffer. Too many politicians would deride it. Too many people wouldn’t understand it. But we must recognize that our economy plays according to the rules we have written for it. And if we want to fix it, we need to change the rules.

If we don’t, we risk increased destruction of the environment, increased extraction of wealth from the poor by the rich, increased strain on our crumbling infrastructure, and eventually, hitting the point where the debt we have taken out against the future comes due.

As I wrote above, I am neither an economist nor a scientist. I’m just some guy trying to make sense of a system that ignores the second law of thermodynamics at its own peril.  Because any system that so flagrantly violates natural laws and limits looks a lot less like science than it does religion. Perhaps through religion we can look forward to a metaphysical violation of entropy that gives us life after death. But there ain’t no religion that’s going to rescue credit from itself when that debt comes due.

Flame on!

Writing Accountability - Hiatus

I've just accepted a gig as AD on a short film about domestic violence on reservations and the loophole in Federal law that allows white abusers to go unpunished.  It's a topic that I'm passionate about and is worth putting aside my short-term goals in order to help this project get made.

Writing accountability will resume September 24th.

In the meantime, perhaps I'll try to post occasional production updates.

Day 25, 09/02/08 - 150 minutes on "American Geniuses", finished revisions, draft five is done! 120 pages, 24,000+ words.

Day 24, 09/01/08 - 60 minutes on "American Geniuses", revisions through to page seventy-five
Day 23, 08/31/08 - 60 minutes on "American Geniuses", minor revisions
DAY OFF, 08/30/08 - Writing called on account of Matt and Emilie's wedding
Day 22, 08/29/08 - 60 minutes on "American Geniuses", more red ink, twenty pages of minor revisions
Day 21, 08/28/08 - 120 minutes on "American Geniuses", more red ink
Day 20, 08/27/08 - 150 minutes on "American Geniuses", lots and lots of red ink
Day 19, 08/26/08 - 120 minutes on "American Geniuses", wrote eight new pages, finished draft on page 118. Now comes fine-tuning!
Day 18, 08/25/08 - 30 minutes of pure hell
Day 17, 08/24/08 - 120 minutes "American Geniuses", wrote one page, deleted it, worked on outline, tried to solve the "too much dialog problem"
Day 14b, 08/20/08 - 90 minutes on "American Geniuses", wrote three new pages