Book review: The Key: A True Encounter

The Key: A True EncounterThe Key: A True Encounter by Whitley Strieber
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is kind of bonkers.

On the one hand it’s a downer because humanity is doomed.

On the other hand, there’s a small chance humanity isn’t doomed.

Around these two extremes and via a conversation Strieber transcribed from memory of a man who came to his Toronto hotel room at 2:30 a.m. on June 6, 1998, there are warnings about screwing up our planet before we are able to leave it and inhabit other worlds, detailed descriptions of the barrier between the living and the dead and how we can learn to both detect and communicate with the dead by using the devices seen on the ten thousand or so ghost hunting shows on T&E. The mysterious man who arrives at Strievber’s hotel room refers to himself by many names and descriptions–Master of the Key, Michael, Legion, a Canadian (who doesn’t pay taxes), and at times seems both human and more than human. There are condemnations from him of our stewardship of the planet (which seems perfectly sensible, really), government secrecy, the accumulation of wealth over spiritual growth, and the bonus revelation of how the murder of a couple in the Holocaust prevented us from learning how to harness gravity, because the smart person who figured this out was never born.

But wait, there’s more. There is confirmation of intelligent life on other planets and in space itself (I’m assuming something more subtle than the giant hand that grabbed the Enterprise in the original series). There are aliens here, both helping us, and trying to thwart our growth and evolution. They are in the government, well-hidden. Lizard people? Well, the Master of the Key doesn’t say, but he does note that these aliens are skilled in deception, general mind control and besides, some of them look just like us so don’t even need to hide themselves.

But there’s even more! Earth is a fallen world. Another ice age is imminent and with it the risk that humanity will be wiped out because, to paraphrase Illidan, we are not prepared. If we are made extinct we will not evolve and join with the other radiant humans who have already ascended and become part of the fabric of the cosmos (we here on Earth are referred to as “elemental beings” by the MOTK. This comes across as a bit of a putdown). There is talk of how three major faiths–Christianity, Buddhism and Islam–are all part of the same triad, each just a different aspect. Also there is no god because we are all god. And we should help starving children.

Also, there are intelligent machines out there and we need to get around to making our own intelligent machines that are smarter than us because it’s the only way we’ll get out of this climate mess. But these intelligent machines will become self-aware and…it kind of sounds like maybe that’s not a good thing, although SkyNET is never precisely invoked.

At one point Strieber describes himself as crying at the words of the Master of the Key, and it’s not difficult to see why. This is a lot of stuff to absorb when you were just expecting a waiter to come in and change your hotel room’s towels.

Now, it may sound like I’m being flip, but Strieber does provide some evidence and plausible thoughts on the climate change warnings, which only seem even more compelling in 2018 vs. 1998. There is also evidence that some kind of electromagnetic hijinks are happening in areas where people report ghosts. The idea that a soul–some kind of intelligent (plasma?) energy–may exist outside of the body has some evidence to support it. But it’s still a lot to take in. The Master, like any good prophet/seer/I-know-more-than-you-do often speaks in riddles and metaphors. And just as you try to wrap your brain about what he’s really saying he lays out a hard scientific explanation for the soul and how to detect it.

In the end I was left simultaneously baffled, stimulated and entertained by The Key. I keep an open mind, even about things most people view as nutty, like UFOS, Bigfoot and healthy fast food, so I’m not willing to dismiss the things discussed in this slim book out of hand. Conversely, it’s actually pretty grim in retrospect. Strieber keeps things moving, though.

I can’t say I recommend the book per se, but it certainly offers some interesting ideas about our world and where humanity may be headed.

And if Donald Trump pulls off his human mask during the next State of the Union address and confesses to trying to stop the evolution of humanity, Strieber can totally claim he called it 20 years ago. Hmm, that sounds way more plausible than it should…

View all my reviews

Camp NaNoWriMo 2018 update

This year I decided to dust off my 2009 NaNo Novel The Ferry because I actually finished it and could use this month to polish it into a second draft, then have someone else eyeball it. I set a modest 15,000 word goal, since I wasn’t expecting to greatly expand on it.

Then a few days ago I chucked all that aside. Am I mad?


What happened is I started re-reading the story after a long time away with it, so my eyes were “fresh” and it just didn’t grab me like it should have. There’s a newer prologue scene I added awhile back that I actually quite like, then it goes back to the largely unchanged text of 2009 and it doesn’t really gel, though I can see what I was attempting.

In brief, I was trying to set the mood through a long, slow burn where tensions keep increasing, without anything actually supernatural or weird happening. The ferry is late. It’s really hot. The terminal is crowded. Tempers are short. A stranger insinuates herself to the main characters in a way that is not entirely welcome. But nothing actually happens. And instead of things feeling tense, it starts to feel a little more like, “Is anything going to happen?”

And when it does finally start, I’m not convinced it’s even that interesting. Weird and deadly dog-like creatures appear to have gotten on the ferry and start attacking. There is a fear of panic. The bridge appears to have been attacked and is now empty. But still, I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep reading…and I wrote the thing!

I went back to Road Closed and in a way it has the same problem. There’s a lot of set-up in the early chapters before anything spooky or weird happens. Right now I’m deciding on how best to rework the beginning of the story and how to fit things together at the end (the middle is strangely fine). It’s already stronger than The Ferry, because it has the added bonus of watching a guy slowly self-destruct from drinking even before the ghostly shenanigans start.

Here’s hoping, then, that I can make real progress on Road Closed this year and maybe even self-publish the silly thing.

Ghost in the printer

A few minutes ago, as I was writing the previous post, my Brother MFC-9130WC printer (that name just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? At least Apple knows how to name things. Their printers were called ImageWriter and LaserWriter. Catchy, hip, easy to understand. Both also long dead. Moving on.) suddenly came to life and looked like it was about to print a job. Then just as suddenly it stopped, wound down and is now silent again.

I asked my partner if he’d sent anything to be printed. Nope. I asked myself, “Did I just have a blackout episode in which I attempted but failed to execute some sort of a print job?” and I’m pretty sure the answer is still nope.

Now I have the urge to write a spooky story about a printer that spits out creepy jobs on its own. I’m sure it’s been done a billion times and started three centuries ago with stories about feather quills that appeared to write ominous notes on sheepskin without any human assistance, so it’s not a strong urge.

Still, it’s kind of weird. Also the printer is loud when it does anything, so it was also annoying.

PURR-fect art

When I was a teenager and had my own bedroom I would put posters up on the walls. These were usually maps of amusement parks like Magic Mountain or Disneyland, or “funny” posters such as the “Instructions to patrons on premises in case of nuclear bomb attack” one which had these last steps:

7. Immediately upon seeing the brilliant flash of nuclear explosion, bend over and place your head firmly between your legs.
8. Then kiss your ass goodbye.

This poster would have gone up around 1980 so the advice was actually pretty spot-on given global politics at the time.

As an adult I’ve never put up posters or any kind of art on the walls and I’m not entirely sure why. I obviously wqouldn’t put up maps of amusements parks and I’d stay away from “humorous” posters, too, but surely there must be something I’d like to have hanging on the wall besides errant spider webs.

And now there is.

Last year I bought a 13 x 19 inch poster and a few weeks ago finally got a frame for it and it now hangs resplendently in the computer nook:

It inspires me to be aloof and to chase laser pointers and hunt birds. And maybe write, too. We’ll see.

I have one other good spot for another poster or print in the nook, so I am mulling what to get as I am absolutely delighted by this cat (the design is by the artist Rachel Caldwell).

Run 575: A new bridge, a new stink, knees and bonus running

Run 575
Average pace: 5:49/km
Location: Burnaby Lake (CCW)
Start: 12:15 pm
Distance: 5:03 km
Time: 29:17
Weather: Cloudy, some sun
Temp: 11ºC
Humidity: 64%
Wind: light to moderate
BPM: 167
Weight: 169.1 pounds
Total distance to date: 4460 km
Devices: Apple Watch, iPhone 8

Last week I did an elliptical/treadmill workout at the Canada Games Pool because the weather was poop and I didn’t feel like running in poop. That meant it’s been two weeks since my last outdoor run, so I was curious to see how it would go.

The weather was slightly cooler, but still mild and I ran counter-clockwise, but conditions were otherwise similar.

My average pace turned out to be identical–5:49/km. The knees held up, as before, and my mind was mostly mulling over where that thing called stamina went, as 5 km feels more like 500. Still, I got through without any issues and when I’d walked enough to cool off I began to run/walk the rest of the way to the trail exit, probably adding over 2 km of extra run time. Mt walking pace for the 9 km return trip was exactly 8:00/km, which is basically impossible at an actual walking pace.

The knees felt stiff during the walk back, which had the curious effect of making me want to run, as it was more comfortable.

My BPM was a bit higher at 167 but still below the 170 threshold.

The skunk cabbage has reached its stinky phase. Fortunately it never gets super-stinky, just kind of “yeah, wouldn’t want to be locked in a room with that” stinky.

The new bridge, which was in place but not open for the previous run, was now open and had a nice grippy concrete surface poured on it. The old bridge is mostly dismantled, with only some of the superstructure remaining. The new bridge feels very solid and has a sleek and sexy curve. We’ll see how it fares in slippery conditions.

Overall, I felt better than expected given the time off. I managed to keep to my previous pace, so that’s encouraging.

I make no promises now, but I will try to run before another week has passed.

March 2018 weight loss report: Up 0.1 pounds

Although it doesn’t feel like it, March actually saw my ballooning waistline stabilize, with a margin-of-error weight gain of 0.1 pounds. I’m now up 4.8 pounds for the year, down from 5.2 pounds last month.

I remain donut-free.

I am trying to run more, but not doing well there.

I tried going cold turkey on snacks and ended up wanting to eat whole turkeys. I’m trying to ease off now instead.

If I work at it I may see actual weight loss by the end of April.

The fatty stats:

March 1: 167 pounds
March 31: 167.1 pounds (+0.1 pounds for the month)

Year to date: From 162.3 to 167.1 pounds (up 4.8 pounds)

And the body fat:

January 1: 18.5% (30.2 pounds of fat)
March 31:
19.2% (32.1 pounds of fat–up 1.9 pounds)

The paralysis of choice: Streaming music

If you ask someone to choose between three things, most will not find the task difficult. Expand those choices to ten and it requires more thought and investment in time, but most could still make a final selection using appropriate criteria.

Further expand those choices to, say, a hundred, and now you’re looking at a take-home assignment. And the person asked to choose may drop your class before reaching a decision.

This is the paralysis of choice.

I signed up to the three-month trial of Apple Music, mostly because the iOS 11.3 update seemed to add annoying pop-ups to the music app, bugging me to really try Apple Music, seriously, you’ll love it. So many songs. So much music.

I gave in and signed up to the trial and it’s true. There is a whole lot of music.

And I have no idea what to listen to because there is too much to choose from.

There are radio stations and playlists, but these just underscore how out of touch I am with current pop music. I recognize some of the names, but not all or even most of them. And these are for the music genres I like. I suppose exposing myself to new artists and the sounds they make is all part of this grand experiment, so I’ll give it a shot.

But really, my first pick was playing a song from the Styx album Kilroy Was Here. Not an auspicious start.

Also, I have some thoughts on the Apple Music interface as it relates to iTunes (PC and Mac versions), but it’s challenging formulating my impressions without lapsing into a rant, so I’ll need more time to gather those complaint-y thoughts into a more reasoned look at how Apple integrates its streaming service into the much-loved* iTunes software.


* ho ho

What’s the deal with the moon?

I mean, we all know what the moon is, how it affects tides here on Earth, how it’s not really made of cheese. We have some nice rocks from it. But after just a few years, starting in 1969 and ending in 1972, NASA sent astronauts to the moon and then…stopped.

No other country or organization has ever landed people on the moon. It’s all been probes in orbit since, with a few rovers landing now and then. And I wonder why.

It’s easy to see how conspiracy theories start. Is there something tucked away on the dark side we’re better off not seeing? Scary moon men? Giant moon cheese monsters?

I don’t know.

But we should totally go back and find out. Even if it’s just more rocks it would be nice to see people bouncing around the surface again, this time in 4K resolution. And sponsored by some horrible techbro company.

A picture of me, enhanced Blade Runner-style

(Not really enhanced Blade Runner-style. Sorry.)

A couple of days ago I was strangely and suddenly compelled to take a picture of myself in the mirror, like how people used to do selfies in the old days. Perhaps it was because I always seem to look better in the mirror vs. when I take an actual selfie and the selfie comes out horrible and ugly. Maybe I look better in reverse.

After looking over the image I noticed how filthy the bathroom mirror, which is also reminiscent of the old days when people took selfies in front of mirrors. No one thinks to clean the mirror first.

I could have cleaned the mirror and taken another photo, but I was afraid I would lose the moment, so I used Affinity Photo to clean all the splotches from the mirror. It worked reasonably well, so hooray for technology.

And the photo:

The dirty mirror and me, March 30, 2018.

By the way, it’s not graininess you see on the bottom of my face, it’s stubble. It’s also deliberate and looks way better in person. For real. Yep.