The key difference between baking and normal cooking is the indirect application of heat. This allows for food to be cooked gradually from the outside in, usually leaving a hard, protective casing as in the case of a bread loaf. It's a fair assumption that baking began with bread, and bread began with gruel. Primitive man learned that grain when heated in water would release its starch and so thicken a soup into a more nourishing gruel. This gruel when left in the baking heat of the sun would turn into what must have been a very terrible bread, but that bread was still leaps beyond any other food preserving technology. A revolution was born, one that has carried humans from nomadic tribes to city-states to high-rise offices. There was another revolution, born on that same primeval day on running in parallel ever since, that has been just as influential. For there is an alternative to letting gruel dry in the sun. It can also be stored in liquid form, mainly in tree trunks for this predates pottery, and when one does that a curious thing happens. It ferments. And so at the same time humanity made its first terrible bread it also made its first terrible beer, and while mind altering substances such as mushrooms were surely already known to man now, for the first time, here was one that could be made at will and in quantity. Beer and bread, the two great stories of mankind. Apollonian and Dionysian, the dueling currents of culture and counter culture.

Which brings us to the other definition of bake and today's most visible battleground of the ancient feud between those who wish for the freedom to stretch the possibilities of the mind to its limit (or, as is often tragically the case, past the limit) and those who seek to protect the citizenry from the dangers inherent in too much freedom. This, at least, is the honorable front of that war, small though it is. Most of the fighting is done on the dishonorable front, between those who profit of the misery of others through imprisoning them either physically or chemically. It must be said that there is such a thing as too much freedom. How accessible do we, as a society, want our opioids to be? Or our guns for that matter? Surely some limits are necessary. Some lines must be drawn. But, as anyone familiar with the incarceration rates knows, in this country, on this particular battle, we are far from that line. Laws that make criminals of our greatest contributors, from Paul Erdos and Carl Sagan to John Lennon and Bob Dylan, do not serve society. Those laws become themselves the enemy of society. Christopher Hitchens once said that totalitarianism, that ultimate antithesis to the healthy society, has as its essential principle the making of laws that cannot be obeyed. In a healthy society, as we should have learned from the 21st Amendment, everybody's crime is nobodies crime.


It's a relationship rarely reflected on in our current culture, but for much of history the role of guest and host were of extreme importance. The crime of MacBeth and his Lady was so momentous that it drove them mad not just because it was murder, and not just because it happened to be their king, but also because it was done while that king was a guest in their house. As ole' Mac tells us himself before doing the deed, "He’s here in double trust: First, as I am his kinsman and his subject, Strong both against the deed; then, as his host, Who should against his murderer shut the door, Not bear the knife myself."


To cant is, supposedly, to talk sanctimoniously. I've never seen the word in the wild, but I doubt this is its core meaning. It sounds to me musical, and a little looking reveals that it springs from the the Latin for sing, canere, to which we also owe canary and chant. It's easy to imagine how the modern (though seldom seen) meaning crept into place. As the language changes and we don't find ourselves needed to discuss Latin singing the musical connection fades but the ecclesiastical atmosphere remains. Though it left behind one cousin which holds onto the original meaning. Canticle, a word whose apparent dignity is in exact opposition to its actual meaning which is 'little song.'


We become so accustomed to water that we have to be reminded how miraculous liquid is. Most matter in the universe is a gas, each molecule so flush with energy it rushes headlong through space, tied to nothing but itself. Sometimes it finds itself plunged into a mass of others and in so doing is lost. Crushed into a solid where each atom is held so tightly by every other atom that none can ever break free. More often it reaches an opposite fate, it finds itself getting more energy than it can take and can no longer hold itself together, forced to watch helpless as its electrons slip away as it becomes plasma. These are the more common fates of atoms. Only in a few rare spots does something else happen. Something truly extraordinary. Some atoms come together and though they become mutually trapped in the resulting web of connections they do not give up their own energy. They do not crystallize but instead keep moving, bound but not imprisoned. They become liquid. 

We look at the stars and marvel at the miraculous nature of Earth that only here have we yet found life, but the existence of life is but a mere extension of Earth's main miracle: Abundant liquid water. The great prerequisite for life. We can imagine life without water if we try, Carl Sagan hypothesized ammonia based life as close as Titan, but we are hard pressed to imagine life without liquid. Indeed, life on Earth is little besides liquid. We imagine ourselves solid, but the percentages tell us otherwise. We are water. And life's liquidity is not limited to its composition. The behavior of life is that of liquid writ large: A vast web of semi-independent actors, each pursuing their own course yet inescapably bound to one another. Animal life is a way for the ocean to spread its dominion over the surface, and like the ocean it has its own ebb and flow. Recently life in the shape of humans has flowed over the world entire. We have crashed our way into every niche and cranny like surf breaking upon the rocks, and while we congratulate ourselves on our total victory I fear we may be missing the beginning of the turning of the tide. Humanity may yet recede, and we may be feeling now the first gentle pulls of that great ebb.


The rarely seen singular of the common trousers. I don't think anyone is quite sure what a trouser is, I'm certainly not. Is it one leg off the pair that together constitute a pair of trousers? If so, why do we feel the need to qualify when we say 'trouser leg?' Even when considering the familiar plural the confusion continues. Here in the US we call most trousers pants and only those pants on the more formal end of the spectrum do we actually use the word trousers, but this is far from universal. In the UK any and all of what we would call pants are strictly known as trousers and, in fact, pants is what they call the type of garment that we rather literally refer to as underwear. Though sometimes we do somewhat agree with those across the pond by calling them underpants and of course when those underpants in question belong to a female we drop the 'under' and tack on a jarring note of what I would call infantilization and refer to them as panties though this would sound strange to the rest of the Anglosphere who, seemingly just to add even more confusion to the mix, have plucked an entirely new word from the ether for these garments and call them knickers.


The magnetic tape, once a mainstay of our lives, now a dead medium. Replaced by the similar but more rigid spinning platters of our hard drives or the temporarily frozen transistor patterns of our phones flash memory. At least, dead in the common eye, but useful technologies almost never die. They simply fade away into the limbo existence of their fringe uses. There is a small DC power grid still operating inside San Francisco, powering a network of ancient, economically irreplaceable elevators. Out there in the wilds of legacy systems there is still FORTRAN code controlling perhaps vital systems. And while consumers may have left the tape to die data archivists have kept it alive. Where data is needed forever, in a business sense, there is nothing that can compete with tape in longevity. Tape libraries holding petabytes of information in drum upon drum of magnetic tape exist in server rooms across the world. And how long will they last? Just what is forever, in a business sense? About 30 years. They hope. So what will become in the decades to come of all this data we have been studiously collecting, trusting in the messianic power of the Big Data revolution to solve all our problems if only we can offer to it sufficient amounts of what it craves. What will happen to it when even the tapes begin to erode? Well, the answer is simple. That's tomorrow's problem.


It is perhaps the greatest fear of humanity. To fail. A large net that when cast catches most all else there is to fear. What is the fear of public speaking, and other high pressure socializing, but the fear that we will fail in the minds of others? The fear of heights is, as is often remarked, really the fear of falling, but the fear of falling is really the fear that we will fail to keep our balance. Fail to stay tethered to the ground and in a sudden gust of wind or shift of earth to find ourselves plummeting toward that most universal fear. And what is death but a failure to survive? 

Our fear of these things is in inverse proportion to the trust we place in ourselves against their challenges. Philippe Petit was able to walk along a rope between the Twin Towers because he knew the exact limits of his balance. We would rightly be afraid to try such an act, we know it is beyond our limits, but how many of us even know our limits? Most never even approach them so ingrained is the fear of failure. The fear that our limits our even closer than we surmise. But what is there, truly, to fear in failure? Often we are risking nothing, or near it, and the cost is mere embarrassment. And that small risk is where we must start. Where we begin the long process of circumscribing our limits and so build to greater risks and eventually the jump must be made. There is a time when the larger risks must be made. Our bones, or our careers, or our fortunes, or, sometimes, that greatest risk of all: Our lives. But, when we do it, truly risk it all, even if we fail, is that so bad? To meet our end a little sooner than some, and in a way that it may be said of us what is said of Phaethon, "though greatly he failed, more greatly he dared." That is not so great a thing to fear.


There is a mystery to the fish. Much of humanity relies upon it, but for most of history we knew so little about the world it came from. Emissary from a strange and alien place, inaccessible to us. Perhaps this played a part in the choice of fish as an early symbol for Christ, another emissary from the unknown. More likely fish as Christ came about because of the fish's preexisting symbolic association with life, shorthand for the life sustaining bounty of the seas.

And Christ as fish, life giver and messenger, makes a direct contrast to the Lord of the Old Testament who most of all resembles that most terrible of his supposed creations, the Leviathan. Master of the alien world. Remote, powerful, destructive and mysterious. Rarely seen, most often recognized by the signs of its passing. The cresting wave signaling the colossal thing passing beneath. A great wind that rends mountains signalling the thing that swims unseen behind the material world.

In the Book of Job the Lord describes the terrible power of the Leviathan to cow Job into compliance, but he doesn't stop with the terror of the seas. He also boats of another of his creations: The Behemoth. Leviathan's land locked counterpart, a beast of such enormity it drinks rivers. And if we take Behemoth as another symbol of the Lord then we see even more why Christ, the fish to the Lord's Leviathan, came to Earth as a man. 

According to Jewish folklore there is one other primal beast to rival Leviathan and Behemoth. It's name is Ziz and it is the terror of the skies. A bird of such enormity its wings block out the sky. Now we recall that the dove is yet another symbol for Christ. Fish, man, and dove versus Leviathan, Behemoth, and Ziz. Two competing views of divinity and therefore the nature of the universe. A place of life and hope or a place of terror and death.


Everyone knows the definition, to break the rules. But what lies beyond the rules? Tron was disqualified from the 1982 Academy Award for Special Effects because they had cheated by using computers. Going far enough past the rules can change them.


What is and is not possible? That question has, possibly, had more written about it than any other. Is possible that which can be expected to happen? But far too much has happened that was once believed impossible for that to be a good answer. Perhaps it would be easier to work from the other side, how do we hedge in the impossible? Theoretical occurrences that violate the laws of our everyday existence are termed magic or supernatural. But, of course, many would argue that these things can and do happen. Almost every religion has part of it's founding dogma that the supernatural has happened at least a handful of times. And if any of these mutually contradictory claims are in fact correct it would in turn make the label of supernatural worthless as anything that happens in nature is by definition a part of it. If the supernatural refers to God interfering with the normally operating laws of the universe then that means he had to have built into those laws the possibility of his own future meddling, making them also part of the laws of the universe. Divine intervention would be a feature and not a bug. If the supernatural real then it isn't, so by definition the supernatural only refers to what cannot happen. So we limit ourselves only to that which lies within the circle drawn by the laws of physics. But can we be sure of those? Some physicists worry that the laws of physics may differ across vast regions of space. It is possible that physical constants are not constants at all but variables whose shift can only be detected on the inter-galactic scale. After all, how would we know? We can only perform real tests in our own little system. We look to the stars and see that everything seems to follow the same rules we observe on Earth, with a few yet to be understood wrinkles, but what about all we cannot see? Those wrinkles may in fact reveal holes in our understanding of nature and of what is in fact possible.

So perhaps to arrive at what is possible we should start at the beginning with what know to be true and certain and universal. And what, ultimately, do we know for certain? Descartes gave us the axiom that all we truly know is real is ourselves. The famous Cogito ergo sum. It's a better place to start than most but like all axioms it must hang alone unproved. Can we really prove to ourselves that we think and therefore are? Is it not possible that our perceived thoughts are little more than memories, a story constructed by our brains to make sense of the actions we took and therefore improve our future predictive ability even though those actions were in fact done without thinking? It's possible that we are in every moment unconscious automatons and consciousness only exists in retrospect. But, of course, if we pursue that thinking we are forced to ask, if this isn't consciousness then what is? We have nothing to compare it to and so consciousness either refers to this or it refers to nothing and so now we see the pull of Descartes' axiom. After all we must start somewhere. But there is value to be gained in this exercise in that it brings us to ask if there are other places to start. Other axioms. I can think of one. Possibly older than Descartes' if it was, in fact, invented by Hassan-i Sabbat, founder of the Assassins. More likely it was invented later, perhaps by Neitzsche who certainly popularized it and may have only attributed it to the Order of Assassins for the air of age and mystery the association created. The axiom is this: Nothing is true, everything is permitted. Regardless of its origins it is hard not to agree with Neitzsche that herein lies a path to true freedom. To take as your axiom that there is no truth that can be given to you and that there is nothing other than yourself that can determine what you can and can not do. That it is up to each one of us to determine for ourselves what is true, and what is possible.