The multiverse is everywhere

There are days it is nice, when it is snowing and windy, to sit inside at lunch and watch the snow while a space heater blows hot air at your legs, and not go out into the cold to buy a sandwich (because you are skipping lunch) and not go buy fresh lottery tickets (because you gave all your cash to your wife and kid this morning, and the last Visa bill was ahem bigger than expected). Just sit inside and watch the snowflakes and think about the origins of the universe, and the ongoing popping into being of the multiverse, and how when you finish reading this cosmology book you will retain less than 1% of it but oh well.

There are days it is nice, when snowy and winding, to sit inside where it is warm and think about the perfect, broken, imperfect and absolute beauty of all of this, this world, the way simple natural laws and teeny-tiny strings (apparently) add up to all this stuff! Crows who recognize your face and hop onto the bench to eat your chicken sandwich! Children the size of mountains! Clouds full of millions of worlds!

(It helps if you develop the ability to see in more than three or four dimensions, depending on whether you consider time a dimension. Some are very tiny, it takes practice.)

(For the purposes of this essay, time is considered a dimension.)

There are days you remember yesterday’s traffic jam and are glad you took the train.

Endless days.

Days you throw your head back and laugh at the broken beauty of it all, just wait until you’re alone in the room.



Odin tries to describe how he is feeling to his wife, on a mobile phone with a dodgy connection.

“I feel like I am on the verge of a panic attack.” The word ‘verge’ echoes.

She tells him to take a walk.

“I am taking a walk. I’m on the way to the store to get a sandwich for the crows. Here’s Huginn already.” Perched atop a Peugeot, a grey crow the size of a duck watches Odin walk past.

Odin buys a chicken sandwich and some honey-roasted peanuts, because he wants to see if the crows will eat an entire sandwich, and wants to have something left over for his own lunch in case they do.

He sits on the bench and in less than a minute, all three crows arrive. The black one, Muninn, is the cockiest. Odin puts a piece of sandwich on the bench beside him, then turns and tosses pieces to Huginn and the third crow, a smaller grey one. When he turns back, Muninn is already dismantling his sandwich a couple meters away.

Odin has to throw the third crow another piece because Huginn took the first two.

The third crow has no name.

Eventually all the crows have food.

They eat all of the first half, and most of the second, of Odin’s sandwich. Odin eats the peanuts.

It is an unnaturally quiet, grey day and Odin’s heart is beating wildly. He has no idea why.

What say the hanged?

The universe was made from the body of the giant Ymir almost fourteen billion years ago. It is thought to be flat, but you know what else used to be thought flat. It is 46 billion light years in radius. Beyond that, who knows.

Beyond that, the multiverse.

Beyond that, everything else.

Beyond that, an infinity of possible things.

An infinite number of worlds just like this one, and worlds slightly different, and worlds way different.

Worlds in which you see a strange, tall, black-haired woman at the store and try not to stare. Worlds in which you see her, and say hi. Worlds in which she brushes you off. Worlds in which you have coffee. Worlds in which you never see her again. Worlds in which you become friends.

Worlds in which pieces of an airplane land on your house and you are interviewed on the news.

Worlds in which you buy a used hat and don’t get headlice.

Worlds in which you bake an apple pie for Thanksgiving without a recipe, from start to finish.

Worlds in which you go outside in the dark to throw out the garbage and step on a hair brush instead of a garden clog and think a hedgehog is hiding in your garden clog and chuckle at your mistake.

Worlds in which you are full of electricity and don’t know why.

Worlds upon worlds upon worlds.



Markov text generation

Then we took pictures with Agnes’s website whether one is Muninn, the god of the bench by examined, your kid’s not much of a sandwich to see how the tinkling music inside which I sort of describes teaching Hannibal left. You were freaky starecase, spelled that was hewn from the entire book, as we may try. A book that purifies both by examined, your kid’s name of the spider choked in the cellar bench, wonderful people?

By now, you are no doubt aware of,  the website that will generate new texts from your facebook feed. It is basically a Markov text generator.

If you want to play around with Markov text generation, here is another Markov text generator online that will generate text from any text you choose to input. It generated the text at the beginning of this post from text copied from the last few months of my blog.

It lets you determine the randomness and length of the output. Here is an excerpt of text generated from my blog at the most random setting:

I’se mssqumyoblan meatore intown s htheovewh bovinorwathe ce dinthin do wes  wros thespid wa isoricr, ofouan Henk se ck aters wacro HP oimeand.

This setting would come in handy if you are writing a fantasy novel and don’t have time to invent your own fantasy language.

The second-most random setting gives you this:

“Perhapto ther sychops more Mundately rand go larends int to I has if the I site ally expere littage exack melly waite ack. I (evence to ke had ahem somer one be theady yell that chas met.

Set output to book length and write Finnegan’s Wake II in no time!

Text generated from the third-most random setting:

They leaks to did napkin his blog, mean als in a busy, Contail is at they tickets into do wher peanuts of the Don’t have grey has suffet, because the fun put the pressure you trying scribed in Vienna photogrape via train his tinkled up. Hokusai-ins tomatter remember moves are neighbor’s face at the other. A smart of back to the has a little of throws.

Fourth-most random setting:

So salmon is of the leaky faded quickly or a between the hoses contact me at me so I done: collowing up, and wait the weeks, and you trying as going on the calm before new heroine a thesaurus: perfect and Bran. Go ahead and I had me to the older it took a raises his poured over mouth with he had to avoid doesn’t wanted within three meters. After the excrement because we needed lettuce.

Indeed! Fifth-most random setting almost looks normal:

Mark didn’t feel the street car would be completed by foot, or something new, I guess.

Markov chains have been around for ages, so have language bots using them, but this is all new to me. It’s fun to play around with, and interesting to see what it does to language, and your own writing. Here’s the next level of randomness/non-randomness:

The god of the office has never before seen, has never before seen, has never before our superior alien might!’ But no one steals anything friends arrived, the plate holder, that explosively flammable party drug of the god of the spot like that. Anyway, if you do a good job, they come back.

It’s like my own writing, only better! A person could use this stuff as writing prompts, at the very least. Here is the next (seventh?)-most random setting (there appears to be no upper limit to how (non)random you can make it, but less random settings didn’t give me much interesting new text, so I will stop here):

The Spider watched another forms of photography that I can identify by smell, because he was already getting half-price day-old chicken salad.

Odin thinks about trying to write and it will take him to the subway and miss a stop.

Eventually I do, of course,

Luwak epiphany


Photo by Bruce

I was at the doctor yesterday and she asked me how I was mood-wise cause a medication she prescribed can cause suicidal depression. I had totally forgotten. I thought it was the fog and general greyishness. Overall not so bad, though, I said. Actually, really great, I think now. My kids ate dinner with me and it was fun talking to them. The cats were freaky when I got home because my wife is away on a business trip and they were alone all day. This morning I was carrying one around and she stuck her tail into my coffee and I had to decide whether to make a new cup or just drink it. Making a fresh cup would have taken 30 seconds and I didn’t want to wait that long so I just pretended it was Luwak coffee. Then that, in combination with everything else, triggered an epiphany, which I sort of described in a post at

Writing blog posts is a lot of fun. Sometimes I am really happy with what I end up with, despite or because of the randomness and accidentiality of them. I am trying to write a novel right now, yet again, and am trying to figure out how to translate blog-type writing into a novel.

A whole bunch of short chapters, I guess.


I looked in the window and saw you

Odin feels so bad! He hasn’t fed the crows lately. Either he’s busy, away or fasting and doesn’t go out at lunch. But today he goes out. It’s a spectacular, cold, sunny fall day. He buys a curry chicken sandwich and some peanuts and a bottle of water at the store on the corner.

He sits on the bench and eats half the sandwich. Then he eats most of the other half, but the crows don’t arrive. Perhaps they have given up on him, or migrated. He looks up at the sky, and sees a lot of crows flying here and there. He can hear other ones in the distance.

He throws away his garbage and walks back to the office. He holds on to what remains of the second half of the sandwich in case the crows show up, and one does before he has walked very far.

Here you go pal, says Odin, and throws him the food.

What say the slain?

I looked in the window and saw you eating dinner with your daughter. You were eating scrambled eggs and fried potatoes and watching Hannibal. At one point your daughter choked a little when a piece of jalapeno teetered on the edge of her windpipe. At another point she made a remark about how the two of you end up doing things like this, like watching Hannibal at dinner, or going to see The Evil Dead on Father’s Day.

You both smiled a lot, and laughed, even though both of you are fighting autumn depression. You like each other. You have two episodes of Hannibal left. You will watch them tonight. I looked through the window and saw that.

Important news

Photo by jumpingspider on

Photo by jumpingspider at flickr (

Fans of the design work of Bran Fox are in for a treat this week. Obscure blogger and cartoonist Mig Living has published a book collecting all the The Bug cartoons he could find, and his blog,, has been redesigned. Bran was the driving force behind both projects. Not only did she make both projects coherent and pretty, she also wielded a mighty sword hacking through Kafkaesque thickets of technical difficulties and Mr. Living’s neurotic dithering as she did.

Or something like that. Anyway, if you think the new blog design looks pretty, it’s all because of Bran. Go ahead and click on all the links and have a look around.

The book, with the title The Bug, was published at The Bug has a special page on this blog here, and the Lulu page, where you can view a preview of the entire book, as well as BUY IT, is here.

As these sort of projects often are, these were learning experiences. Because everyone loves listicles, here are

Several things I learned self-publishing:

  1. Most important thing first: always allow way more time than you think you will need. I wanted to have the book ready by October, and it nearly was, except for a pesky white stripe down the right edge of the cover. It took us three tries to get that right. Then I found out it would take 6-8 weeks for the book to show up on amazon, which pushes that particular distribution channel into next year. I have ordered copies from Lulu, they are fast (under a week in the US, two weeks to Europe) and quality is great. The only concern I have is that postage for European customers will be cheaper when they are able to order from the UK or Germany or France, etc, although postage for multiple copies is not that bad from Lulu, and you’re all going to order multiple copies, right?
  2. Make sure you get a patient and talented designer. You need someone who does nice work, like the classy Hokusai-inspired cover, and who can also put up with neurotic dithering.
  3. Choose a Kafka-inspired theme, because then when it takes you three versions and three weeks to eliminate a mysterious white stripe, and you rush to finish by your deadline only to discover an unmentioned step in the procedure will cost you 8 more weeks, and you are simultaneously spending a month trying to install Office  on your kid’s new laptop which uses Windows “Whack-A-Mole” 8, the overall situation will feel appropriate to the theme.
  4. You will be thrilled when you get your new book in the mail, because it looks just like a real book.
  5. Your family will also be thrilled, and proud of you for making such a neat book and Bran will be their new heroine for enabling you to do this.
  6. Is that enough listicle points?

I will write more about this eventually, but I just wanted to post this and say, me so happy.


French Wondertoast.

How does your dad get the pancakes so fluffy, he asked his girlfriend.
You should taste his french wondertoast, she said, if you think his pancakes are good.
What is french wondertoast, he asked.
What it says on the label, she said: french, wonder, toast.
Yeah, but, he said.
She whispered in his ear: but choose wisely — it grants you the power of flight. But it’s a secret.
After that, he wouldn’t shut up about french wondertoast.
Her dad said he would make some for breakfast if he pruned the plum tree.
The plum tree was getting real bushy and pressing up against the neighbor’s house and was too tall to pick all the plums in summer and storms blew it up against the house in winter.
So if he pruned it back he could have french wondertoast.
But if I ate the french wondertoast before pruning the tree, I wouldn’t need a ladder would I? he said.
You told him about french wondertoast, her dad said to her. It was supposed to be secret.
The girl shook her head sadly because she knew what was coming: her dad would stick him in the tower with the others who couldn’t shut up about french wondertoast.
And the plum tree grew and grew.