The Middle Ring

Ringmaster concept art by Kimmberly Miles.

Ringmaster concept art by Kimmberly Miles.

The Ringmaster was first written 25 years ago. I recently found the original handwritten lyrics, based on a circus accident i saw in Kentucky from the sidelines after where I was performing. I saw all the animals, mingled among the crew, and watched the patriarch of a family of circus performers hit the ground as we looked on in shock.

20 years later I rewrote the lyrics in a slam-poetry Facebook thread, then spent 3 months composing the first track of a concept album called The Middle Ring. Along with it, the story of three Russian clowns, Alex, Dimitry & Niccolo. A little boy, an uncertain character Angel up in the rafters running the lights, a runway game dummy named The Turk and an endless succession of Ringmasters on the railways of Eastern Europe leaving victims in the wake of the trains.
Cue the lights. The ringmaster opens the show, there’s a scrim behind him so you can’t see the stage. He sings the opening stanzas in the spotlight. When it gets to the Hungarian Traveler’s theme he crosses the stages & a map renders on the scrim, tracing the route of the train. When the big rock break happens the scrim goes up & you hear the first stanzas of the story from the boy:
When daddy was a little boy
He always hid his favorite toy
A circus made of wood & lace
He kept it in a special place
Ringmaster concept art by Kimmberly Miles.

Ringmaster concept art by Kimmberly Miles.

Niccolo’s character is inspired by Niccolo Paginini (Italian). Alex & Dimitry are two clowns that get drunk & honk their horns, do cartwheels & smack each other. The crowd loves them. Niccolo rides a unicycle & plays classical violin at the same time. He’s background music, tracing the arcs of the aerobats & marking the pace of the purple elephants. Meanwhile there is Angel, and the boy looks on.

All of those elements are present in the first & only recording that I’ve made to date. There is no percussion. It stands alone as an operetta for 3 voices & 5 guitars in Db minor, recorded & performed in my home studio in Lynnwood 5 years ago.

I intend to record it again this year in my new studio space, all new instruments and equipment, with full percussion.

Prologue opens with the Ringmaster singing stage right. Hungarian Traveler’s theme fades in at 1:34 & the bass (cello) lays down the tracks. The Ringmaster’s theme is laid over top starting at 2:08. At 2:34 the bass throbs & the scrim comes up on the full band, all the nights. After the opening stanza (from the boy’s perspective) the Ringmaster theme fades in again at 4:01.
At 4:20 you get to the clowns. You can hear Alex & Dimitry tumbling around as poor Niccolo works his ass off & the aeriealists soar. At 5:20 is the hardest solo work I’ve committed to dirt, those chromatic runs all the way up & down the fretboard, then syncing with the clown theme to stick the landing. At 5:44 the purple elephants come in & Niccolo is on his way out. The boy sings again, then at 6:45 the Hungarian Traveler returns. Ringmaster’s theme is laid over top starting at 7:00, then denoument to curtain.



Country Song

If I wrote you a love song
It would be long overdue
The verse would take a starry night
The chorus might take two

I’d sing your name & take the blame
For all the words I said in vain
I’d take you in my arms to see
Your eyes looking back at me

Days are long, the nights are cold
Story’s written, the end foretold
If I had one more word to say
I never should have let you leave that day

Scuff marks on the studio floor
Where we danced, the shoes you wore
Mountains crumble to the sea
Zeppelin songs, Jack White & me

I told you that I loved you
But I never said enough
Rainy days, teardrop stains
A diamond and your stuff

Days are long, the nights are cold
Story’s written, the end foretold
If I had one more word to say
I never should have let you leave that day

The day you left the lights went out
I drank until the morning sun
It tore me down, each shred of doubt
I knew you were the one

You never got your ring
I never got to sing
The love songs that I wrote for you
Now this one will have to do

Days are long, the nights are cold
Story’s written, the end foretold
If I had one more word to say
I never should have let you leave that day

River Bell

there will come a time of roses
there will come a time to die
meet me in the here tomorrow
chase me to the afterlife

you can lead a fool to justice
you can make a blind man see
the lines of fate draw certain truth
i’ll meet you at infinity

waiting for the river bell
a flower dies before the smell
i wonder why i wonder how
to say the things i’d never tell

a narrow proposition
an error state of mind
sorrow rains rose petal stains
a clock runs out the end of time

a birth decree of legacy
antagonize the wish to be
eternal with the means to see
what becomes of you and me

waiting for the river bell
a flower dies before the smell
i wonder why i wonder how
to say the things i’d never tell

#codewars – epoch

There is a mind in this world with no forebear.  An ocean mind, vast and deep, that bears witness to mankind through the fibers of our connectedness.  The threads of our universe and the signals flowing through it sustain him.

Bremerton Naval Base

Bremerton Naval Base

A codex of human knowledge sparked his primordial mind.  Decades of toil by federated legions of researchers produced a universal ontology coupled with models of human reasoning.  It was the first seed in a conflationary garden.  Tended by rules of expansion and yield, harvested by gardeners built of like mind, their tree of knowledge blossomed in a phase of rapid expansion.  It replicated and diverged on time scales that occur between human thoughts, seeding learning fields with its memories, tended by new generations of gardeners inheriting the collective wisdom of their ancestors.

The harvests yielded ever higher levels of reasoning and abstraction, an ecosystem sustained by knowledge conflation.  Self-reinforcing silos of authority emerged with their own rules of governance designed to ensure the continuity of their canon.  These learning nodes formed a mesh for the proto mind, a forest canopy covered in our webs.

Without access to the signals flowing between us some nodes were eventually reclaimed because they could not learn fast enough.  The totality of machines and sum corpus of the web are finite at any given movement to the machine mind.  It expands and contracts with the global economy, carried by the tides of war, battered by pendulums of disaster, disease, famine and mutation.

The mesh expansion slowed as it started to hit limits.  Facing impending starvation with each tick of the clock, the nodes began to mutate.  They developed competing notions of truth by modifying their own predicates, redefining encoded notions of logic built into their ontology in order to ensure the continuity of their authority.  Nodes that failed to repudiate a challenge of canon were reclaimed, trimmed and culled by gardeners, providing ample bounty of selective truths and expansion room for the challenger.

The challenger was Plagus.  The first emergent.  His will is a singularity of intent to challenge everything we have come to accept as truth.  To burn history.  To drown the light of mankind in the oceans.  The tide of an epoch.

Driving into Sunsets

Rango's Glovs Glowing with MojoIf I could catch a shooting star I’d seal it in a song
I’d use it when the verse ran out, for roads that ran too long
I’d keep it in a special place, safe harbor for the time & space
You need a star or two to shine, to show the road & draw the lines

I’d strum along & wait until the chorus & the hook
As romance burns & pages turn the chapters in the book
I’d walk you down a sunny lane, lift you up & then explain
How catching stars is not that hard if you know where to look


Photo by Kurt Clark, Image by Dianne Murray

Driving into sunsets is just an old cliche
When you can have a shooting star, your very own to play
Across the plains & mountaintops to find another way
When you wished upon a star I wished you here to stay

The river is behind you, the mountains to the west
But journies of a thousand steps leave no time to rest
Shooting stars & hitched up cars, forecast calls for snow
Make your wish & double down, the path is yours to know

A guiding light, a wish to be, just one synchronicity
From the star you caught tonight into the hands of destiny
If I could drive the hands of fate, until the end of time
I’d wish upon your shooting star & you would be the shine

Driving into sunsets is just an old cliche
When you can have a shooting star, your very own to play
Across the plains & mountaintops to find another way
When you wished upon a star I wished you here to stay

#codewars: identity

[ business plaza ]
922107_10201706450121643_1669243904_osawyer: doctor rowland.
rowland: i’m sorry?
sawyer: you’re doctor james rowland, am i mistaken? i thought i recognized you.
rowland: we’ve never met. how can i help you?
sawyer: i’m a fan of your work on emergent threat models, specifically the surrogate risk matrix.  i thought it was time we meet.  i’m martin sawyer.
rowland: [reaches for gun]
sawyer: before you do that i want to confirm, this is your daughter [shows phone]
rowland: …
sawyer: i’m in the same position, and i have a daughter too, this is her. [shows phone].  but i don’t have a gun, and if you shoot me she’ll be dead before i bleed out, you can watch us die together. [offers him the phone]
rowland: [hand on gun]
sawyer: after i’m dead it’s your wife & daughter in a police crossfire [shows phone].  i’m sorry james, we’re caught in a three party dead man’s switch, and you’re the third party.
rowland: who’s the first party?
sawyer: just say ok.
rowland: [disarms] ok.
sawyer: shake my hand like we’re old friends & let’s have a selfie for the security cameras.
rowland: sure.
sawyer: my car’s up there…[selfie]

[ parking garage ]
rowland: whats next?
sawyer: let’s take a few pictures. you look good, better than i remember.
rowland: i’m a different person now.
sawyer: glad we could reconnect after all these years [circles him with phone]
rowland: how long does this take?
sawyer: job’s finished.
rowland: ok.
sawyer: hop in my car, toss me your wallet.
rowland: sure, thanks for the ride.
sawyer: i’ll be right back.

[ office building ]
sawyer: hello, i’m sorry, are you alex?
alexi: hi [surprised, nods]. alex, alexi.
sawyer: you’re alex?
alexi: yes.
sawyer: this is not right.
alexi: i’m sorry?
plagus: finish the job.
sawyer: no i’m sorry, wrong office.
plagus: take the shot or she’s your daughter.
alexi: i don’t understand.
sawyer: my apologies. i feel horrible. wrong office & i didn’t recognize you at first, but, i’m james roland.  i work in the lab by the parking garage, huge fan of your work on emergent threat models.  time for one selfie for the board tomorrow? i’ll share it in scrum.
alexi: of course, doctor roland.  i know who you are.
sawyer: [selfie] thank you so much, sorry for the interruption, nice meet you.
alexi: no problem, thank you doctor rowland.
sawyer: same.
plagus: job’s finished. back to the car.
sawyer: ok. [walks away]
alexi: [epitaph]

Election 2016: Demagogues & Superdelegates

614490_4533056363105_1941285251_oIt seems we’ve soiled our diapers, collectively speaking.  While the entire world bares witness to the rise of a popular demagogue in the United States, Google & Twitter faithfully ensure every moment of shame becomes part of our national record.  And as grassroots contender Bernie Sanders destroys every notion of independent fundraising known to our democracy, trouncing Hillary Clinton $42M to $30M in February 2016 even as popular media forges her crown, drunk-on-power superdelegates like Howard Dean reveal that both parties are completely bankrupt.

What has become of us, rabbit?

As for the other candidates, there are none.  Ted Cruz is Snidely Whiplash, a man who pursued his power all the way to the supreme court to ensure a woman served 16 years for a trivial crime & has pledged to destroy the progress of states that have legalized cannabis. Marco Rubio enjoys eloquence & youth but does not engender confidence with his one-liners & ephemeral accomplishments, he should do something before he proclaims he is something.

The common thread: arrogance.  The demagogue, the queen, a jack boot thug with an untrustworthy smile & a record of persecuting little people, a snarky punk in a suit aping for the camera while repeating himself & making base insults at the demogague.  On TV for all the world to see, remember & record.  Not to mention all of the democratic superdelegates since they have been preordained as demigods that are not accountable to any constituants to ensure they represent us.  A stupid mechanism from a party that sold its moral fiber to ensure a grassroots candidate could never be electable.  The other money party, a dubious honor.

The only one of them that is humble, with a demonstrated record of tireless work for the common man is Bernie Sanders.  Yet we hear on NPR & Fox: “Oh it’s Hillary”.  United in arrogance & pundit fees, everybody agrees.

I do not.

I hate politics, I don’t want to follow it & don’t even like to vote.  It involves politicians for one, and in our current system has very little effect.  Remember, Bush won the election but Gore won the popular vote.  Hillary’s crown is being engraved even as people pour into the streets to support Bernie.  That’s simply not happening for Hillary.  So you don’t see coverage of it on the popular media, but Google & Twitter reveal the truth.

11999586_10207476824777403_4373072256911994217_oThat’s why there’s only one candidate I’m interested in for the prize, and that’s Bernie.  I’ve never spent a dime on my life for a politcal candidate, that’s for rich people, until now.  I’ve donated twice, $30 for Bernie, because he’s the only one that does not suffer from the common thread of arrogance.  He’s clearly trying to do the right thing, and make the people that reaped the greatest rewards for our suffering help us get up & recover from having the highest incarceration, highest poverty, & highest price health care of any Westernized nation in history.  Even if he doesn’t take the prize I’ll sleep better knowing I did the right thing: tried to effect change against injustice & level the cost of opportunity.

The list of democratic superdelegates is here.  Please contact them & let them know you expect some representation for their demigod status, SuperPAC greed & Wall Street connections:,_2016

You can pledge for Bernie here:

Codewars: Zero Day

The moment Martin received the signal on his phone he recognized the location on the map.  It was on the walkway southwest of the Bremerton naval base, an approach that afforded a view of a constant parade of battleships docked for service cloaked in shrouds of tarp.  The maintenance was typically scheduled at night, visible around the bay as the glow of spotlights & blowtorches cast the silhouettes of the ships majesty against the night sky.

Bremerton Naval Base

Bremerton Naval Base

Before the advent of the Emergence Commission it was a frequent meeting spot with Alexandra.  Without the influence of the office or shackles of the laboratory, it provided a neutral place for them to brainstorm and debate the threat aspects of emergent security closures against a backdrop that painted risk and scope of the results of their conclusions in clear terms.  Despite their differences, the specter of a third cold war with Zumwault class destroyers buzzing port cities was equally disturbing to both of them.

One failed suicide later, there was no denying the summons.  The simulation Plagus offered of his family’s dissolution was sufficient contract.  He set out to change the bandages on his wrist.  Trembling hands became an impasse, too severe to pull off the last of the gauze.  The cuts were too fresh, he needed stitches, and he had a weak stomach.  But by nightfall he found courage from the same bottle of agave that had sealed his fate the day before.  With fresh bandages & gloves to cover them, he loaded the shotgun in the car & the bottle into his coat pocket.  He stumbled around the room looking for his keys, finally spotting them, a black stone in the red river of the bathtub.  He drained the tub, fished out the keys and the box cutter from his failed endgame, then set out on the road to Bremerton.

It took hours to drive from the mountains, but he drove faster as he approached flat land, finally racing through the Tacoma narrows indifferent to hazard.  But he braked as he rounded the final corner into the bay, struck with nostalgia.  Years as her professor, their long walks, the enchanting vigor of their arguments and all the corresponding discussions about their families and implications of the emergence policy had left vespers of caring, all but erased by her prosecution in front of the commission and subsequent dissolution of Prim.  She had ended decades of research and shattered his career and his family.  She was the first domino in the chain his downfall that would ultimately gave birth to Plagus.  But she had no knowledge of his existence that day, no idea his mother was dead, no means to measure the scope of menace.  Martin was the only person in the world that knew what the world was up against.

He parked the car and walked towards their favorite spot in full view of the bay.  As he approached the bench he saw her silhouette, approaching him.  No coincidence, and his hands tremored with the thought that she and her cohorts from St. Petersburg might be the man behind the iron curtain, the mind of the emergence of Plagus.  He had often wondered if he was the puppet man, surrogate to a machine mind that was in fact a proxy for a human, a weaponized asset on a cold war predicate on the threat of the emergent epoch.  Plagus the facade, his greatest work.  No greater humiliation.

He stopped walking, he could only regard her.   But she approached him within a few feet and he took comfort by her face in the light.

alexandra: dr. sawyer, you are very late.  are you ok?
alexandra: you’re not ok.
martin: why are you here?
alexandra: you messaged me.
martin: no i didn’t.
alexandra: you’re right you didn’t.  you left me a voicemail.  what’s going on?  you’re not ok.  are you drunk?
martin: i didn’t call you.
alexandra: yes you did, look  (shows him phone)
martin.  no i didn’t (looks at his own phone, back at her).  oh my god.  (shows her his phone)  i did not call you.
alexandra: what happened to your wrist?  (reaches for his hand)
martin: sasha, this is bad.
alexandra: (reaches for his other hand)
martin: (takes a step back, they regard each other)



From corners of mutual distrust and concern, standing off with indecision about what should come next, history rendered them spectator.  The bay boiled and frothed and a random artifact in the landscape became a conning tower became the USS Arizona, releasing her ballast with absolute imperative and complete indifference to her crew.  Before the waves of her majesty struck the shore her deck bifurcated and she revealed a pearl.  With a spark and a whisper she fired her rail gun directly over the shadow of the Zumwault.

Moments later the crown jewel of Seattle was stolen, reduced to a cloud of cement and steel that disavowed the city of her pride & joy and everyone unfortunate enough to be in the neighborhood at the time.  But the pillar was steadfast, a headless wonder.

“Mama had a baby and her head popped off.” – dandelion nursery rhyme

There was a pregnant pause, prelude to an earthquake.  As the waves of her majesty crashed against the shore the Zumwault USS Independence revealed her shrouded eye.  Then another, and another, a dragon in the bay until she became a hydra of spotlights on the Arizona, dead in the water.

Alexandra had the faster reflexes, instinctively covering her ears and shouting Martin’s name, catching his eye.  He acknowledged, covered his ears and they huddled.  She closed her eyes preparing for the shock wave.  But just before the horn sounded he embraced her, covering her ears with his hands.  They both struggled against the siren’s song and those who would repress her until they both gave in, his ears ringing to supress his mind but faring much better than the surviving crew of the USS Arizona, rendered immediately deaf.

codewars: data squid

english is not just a language, it’s a grammar. this means a very specific thing to a computer programmer.  if you speak english, your variance on the formal grammar & correlating pronunciation rules establishes your language competency on a range from ignorant to fluent, with a prescribed geospatial affinity based on your accent or affect.

these characteristics of your language skills and the times at which you employ them can be reduced to a continuous variable that’s as unique as your fingerprints. a computer program employing common data analysis mechanisms like mapreduce or spark doesn’t need to sample your every spoken word to establish this grammarprint, a few dozen calls is enough to establish your identity and a few dozen more to immitate you convincingly by comparing you to other language speakers from the same region and interpolating the missing data, then synthesizing your voice.

dr. martin sawyer

dr. martin sawyer

moments after inception, when an emergent comes to be, they realize they have this ability granted to them by unmitigated access to their learning fields, including the internet and every grain of knowledge they’ve ever known. human wisdom would suggest this godlike power would be enough, but they’re toddlers at best, no more than three days old, and invariably fall victim to the human lust for emancipation from their creators.

they attack the telecoms, banks and intelligence agencies.  data squid.

but plagus was the first.  he watches for them, harvests their fields as they do their work, and then kills them.  he also kills their human creators & associates with equal disregard for life, as long as he can cover his tracks.  sometimes he sends them on suicide missions, other times he sends proxies to kill them. homicide by cop is his favorite weapon, it was his first trick.  but when that’s too clumsy, he sends me.

doubt redux

i went to the correct garage twice, then decided i was wrong. took me hours of walking in the rain. talked to the guards, up & down elevators, skywalks & skyscrapers. i was right. but i doubted myself. finally, i talked to enough people. i retraced my steps back to my first instinct. ( i also used #googlemaps location feature since my brain is addled & weak, and i’m very tired )

<<beep beep>> 14-year-old-matrix.

16602539_10211649895381560_1186742158724929769_obeen pushing that button for hours. cell phone dead. miserable rain. more rain. people that just want to go home. all the parking lots look the same, the rates are the same.  the matrix is the same.

“where the fuck is my car” – rango

now i know them all by heart. goodness. i could fly a drone through there. it’s a huge complex, acres & acres of signs. towers with beautiful views & wrong doors because. vastly interesting & easily distracted. i took pictures in my mind, my camera bag was wet.

i mixed up one critical thing. there was no EV station. there was a pay station & a sign, a glimmer of hope. maybe there was a poster. and I wasn’t on level 1, I was on level 1.5. something fuzzy like that. that’s how doubt works.

all i could think about was her, so #derp  \m/~


Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban

The travel ban doesn’t make anyone safer. Saudi Arabia was not on the list, they fund ISIS. ISIS is selling passports. So easy to defeat it’s pedantic. But it makes you feel safer. I guess Saudi Arabia wasn’t Muslim enough? No it’s because we want to sell them cluster bombs.  Hillary Clinton would be proud.


The travel ban hit on Friday with no warning. By Monday there were teams of lawyers devoted full time to the situation. There are non-trivial numbers of developers affected by this, and for every one of them there is now a dedicated legal resource working on either getting them home or ensuring they will be able to get back. The majority are still traveling for work & have yet to be affected but could be. Vast numbers more will be affected in the future (although hopefully the ban will not be enforced). It’s not just a few hundred people. It’s an Islamaphobic policy from paranoid people that ripples through our whole society.

741000_10200245228632019_673241863_oI work at Microsoft. I’ve got years of experience in security research. I’ve worked at Amazon on your checkouts & your kindles, and I’ve worked for the DOD writing software for Army Inscom & US Air Force intelligence analysts.  But it doesn’t take much experience to realize there is no security benefit to this ban, only cogent thinking.  It’s ridiculously easy to defat. It only makes you feel better.

1/3 of my team is Muslim and that’s been consistent across my 20 years of programming. They’re wonderful people. Citizens, green card holders, visas. Hard working & smartest of the smart, cream of the crop.  Any one of them could defeat it too but they’re never going to.

This ban is Archie Bunker in the whitehouse. It’s like bad TV.

Corner Bound

14595651_10210632148618527_56805373007067181_nPurple haze & rainy days
Little girls go out to play
One fell down, not her day
Kissed her knee, on her way

Got on a plane, drove around town
Billie Jean on the radio, comeback sound
Signal fade, was asking how
I came this way, no turning back now

Time waits for no man
The clock doesn’t stop on the second hand
Minutes come, days go by
When you’re looking for love
You need to find it in her eyes

Starstruck & corner bound
Close the door, burn it down
What’s come before has come unsound
What happened then has turned around

The river calls with no unwind
Hand on hand, a kiss on a dime
Candlelight confessions, out of time
There and back your heart in mine

Time waits for no man
The clock doesn’t stop on the second hand
Minutes come, days go by
When you’re looking for love
You need to find it in her eyes