Next by Michael Crichton

I grabbed the novel Next by Michael Crichton.  I haven’t read everything he’s put out, but I have read several of his books and enjoyed them immensely.

Next has been a bit of a struggle.  I understand DNA beyond just basic concepts.  I also understand bioengineering to some degree.  I try to stay abreast of it because I feel like I should be informed about things that are eventually going to affect my life.  And these two things are going to shape the future more than most people want to admit.

Next is about bioengineering DNA, much like Jurassic Park was.  And while I am used to the many characters and threads in Crichton’s books, I am struggling to remember who connects to what thread of the story and how it all weaves together.  I was going to listen to this on audiobook but I can’t imagine it would be any easier to for me to cobble together…

I am working on Ritual Dreams here and there.  This month has been a struggle.

 

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#United2026

If you watch World Cup you know this hashtag as the bid put in by the US, Mexico, and Canada to host the World Cup in 2026.  Which was won by the Us, Mexico, and Canada.

It stands for United North America, and is perhaps the weirdest thing ever.  First off, the three countries that make up North America couldn’t be more divided right now.  The US stance on immigration and trade have really screwed things up.  We have put up tariffs to supposedly protect American goods against everyone, including Canada and that has lead to some economic conflicts with our neighbor to the north.  And the Zero Tolerance policy on immigration is kind of terrifying and mostly affects Central American and Mexican immigrants trying to enter the US thereby straining the relationship between the US and Mexico and the talk of a border wall just makes things worse.

In other words the three countries involved in hosting the 2026 World Cup are not getting along real great.  It has already been announced that Mexico will host the finals.  Canada and the US will host the group play.  Meaning Mexico will host 8 matches or so.

Talk about spreading out the matches.  Canada and the US are huge countries.  If you lopped off Russia all of Europe would fit within the borders of the US.  Canada and Mexico have provinces bigger than most European countries and the US has states that are geographically bigger than most European countries.  For instance, all of the UK will fit within the state of Missouri, where I live.  And there is talk of my state holding some of the group play matches because Arrowhead Stadium where the KC Chiefs play American Football is also used to play Major League Soccer (KC Sporting uses the stadium) and it holds around 75,000 people.  It has also undergone massive renovations in the last ten years making it a nice stadium.

However, Missouri isn’t exactly close to either Canada or Mexico.  I live six and a half to seven hours away from Chicago, Illinois which is the closest major city with international recognition… Although while in Germany I did meet a waiter in an Italian restaurant that knew where Missouri was.  Much like Russia, fans aren’t going to be renting cars to go from stadium to stadium, they are going to be hopping on planes.

Plus there is the added thing of in World Cup the host country gets a free pass into the tournament.  How will that work with 3 host countries, two of whom, the US and Canada do not make it into World Cup consistently?  With a little luck, by 2026 the three countries will be back to playing nicely in the North American Sandbox…

Sometimes, It’s Good To Hate The Author

I listened to Under the Dome by Stephen King and remembered that sometimes, I kinda hate him.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it means he is doing his job very well.  I like character driven stories.  Don’t get me wrong, all stories need a good plot, but I have to connect to characters to stay interested…

I think that’s why I don’t enjoy reading Dean Koontz or Jim Butcher.  I can listen to their work in audio format, but I can’t stay interested when I have to read it.  I have always wondered why I can listen, but not read them and listening to Under the Dome finally gave me the answer.

I like Harry Dresden, but I like him the same way I like the characters of a TV show.  I’m not truly vested in what happens to him when I read.  Unlike an audiobook where a narrator gives him a voice and ta-da, I stay vested in his character.  Same applies to every character of Dean Koontz.  I really liked the Odd Thomas series, but I couldn’t get through the first 100 pages of the book, had no problems with the audiobook though.

This is where Stephen King and Clive Barker appeal to me… When they want me to hate a character, I really hate them.  Listening to the rape scene of Sammy Bushey in Under the Dome made me think “If these characters do not die, painfully, I will never pick up another book by King again.”

I’m happy to report, Under the Dome did not disappoint.  I didn’t like the TV show.  Made it through two episodes, but sometimes a book just doesn’t translate to TV or movie.  Considering all the dark themes that flowed through Under the Dome, I can’t imagine the show was much like the book and what would have been forced onto the cutting room floor are the parts that make King’s work scary.  For instance, I read The Shining about a decade before I watched the Kubrick version of it.  One of the things that scared the crap out of me from the book was the topiary.  It sounds absurd, but that damn topiary was like the Weeping Angels of Doctor Who… yet for the sake of making the film shorter, Kubrick cut most of the topiary scenes from the movie… Totally sad.  It is one of the big reasons I prefer the Stephen Webber TV miniseries version of The Shining instead.

I admit there were times in Under the Dome that I was actually a little annoyed that the characters that needed to get what they had coming weren’t.  Like the main bad guy… all that crap about his arm hurting, the doctor having a heart attack, I could have sworn it was foreshadowing and then it didn’t.  He didn’t get away with it, but much like Anna Karenina, if he’d just died the first time his arm started to hurt, some of the frustration could have been avoided… But then the plot of the book would have also disappeared to some degree, so I get it, but I was still a little ticked about it.

At which point, it was perfectly okay for me to hate Stephen King just a little bit.  He did his job and did it well once again reminding me why I consider him a masterful writer.

*Clive Barker can make me love a character that I’m not supposed to, which takes a whole different set of skills.  For instance, in Mister B Gone, the reader knows up front that the narrator is a demon who has done some evil things, yet the reader likes him anyway.  And it isn’t just the tongue in cheek way that Mister B approaches his imprisonment.

Audiobooks

I have been listening to lots of audiobooks lately because I am having difficulty concentrating on words on a page.  I’m on book 10 of the Dresden Files.

I’ve mentioned before that some writers, I have trouble reading and Jim Butcher is one of them (as is Dean Koontz which is even stranger).  However, I can listen to his books just fine.

For the last year, I have been accumulating Audible credits that I haven’t used.  So I went and grabbed more Dresden Files as well as some Stephen King and Clive Barker books.  I’m managing to get through about one Dresden File book a week.  It might take me a little longer to get through the three Stephen King novels I grabbed because I realized I hadn’t read them.

I grabbed Dr. Sleep and Mr. Mercedes.  I didn’t realize how far behind I was on my regular reading.  In the past, I have read every Stephen King upon its release and used his back catalog to keep my King Fix going between books.

One of the other books I grabbed was Clive Barker’s Scarlet Gospels.  I have read the book, I read it almost as soon as it was released because as much as I love other authors, Clive Barker is my hero.  In many ways I aspire to be Clive Barker.

I don’t find Barker’s stories to be terrifying in the way that everyone expects horror to be.  His narrative is magical in so many ways that have nothing to do with whether his books keep me awake or not in the dark of the night.  And I did love Scarlet Gospels.  I’m hoping I love the audiobook as much as I did reading the actual book.

The point of this was something else, not just announcing my love of Barker, King, and audiobooks.  This has made me realize that audiobooks have become very important in our society.  They aren’t just for car rides, in other words.  I have listened to the last two Dresden Files audiobooks while playing video games and attempting to cook and things.  It helps me think about something other than the pain and almost constant nausea from my gallbladder woes and pain issues.

You Might Be Psychic If…

I don’t remember what article I was reading this week, but it listed common criteria for psychics.  Some of the things were like “able to put together furniture” which I associate with being mechanically inclined more than being psychic, but I don’t know much about psychics.

  • Babies and dogs love you instantly
  • You are sensitive to scents
  • You see colors around people
  • You hear sounds no one else hears
  • You intuitively know how things go together
  • You are a vivid dreamer
  • You commonly experience Deja-Vu

There were others, but these are the ones I remember.  All except the being able to put shit together intuitively apply to me, which is weird because I don’t like babies nearly as much as they like me.

They also apply to my mother, including the mechanically inclined part.  My mother can soothe the babies of strangers with just a touch.  It never fails, if her and I are grocery shopping, some baby in a shopping cart will want our attention.  They wave, smile, giggle, make faces at us, and I have actually seen my mom touch a baby’s hand while it was fussing in a cart and have it instantly settle down.  The baby’s mother was less freaked out than one might imagine because my mom just puts off a grandmother feeling and people are just comfortable around her, even if their babies.  The mother told us that said baby had been teething and hadn’t stopped fussing for days and she was surprised my mom had gotten her to calm down even for a few minutes because her own mom hadn’t been able to do it.

However, my cousin and I are fairly sure that most of the women in our family are a touch psychic.  On more than one occasion when my cousin and I were together, we have both been struck by watery eye-hair standing on end sensations at the same time.

Most of the time, I’m indifferent to claims of psychic abilities and I don’t know if I believe they exist or not.  But sometimes it’s hard to dismiss every event that happens to someone as coincidence.  Especially considering strange things happen from time to time.  For example, before we bought our house over the summer, I had a dream about it.  That wouldn’t be a big deal except it was June and we weren’t even looking at houses at the time, especially not this house, which we saw the first day it came on the market.  I walked in and knew it was the house I had dreamed about and I have had a lot of deja vu moments in it.

Also, I was instantly in love.  I am not particularly close to any of my uncles on my mom’s side.  There is one though that I talk to often and like a lot (and one is creepy AF and I am waiting for the news to splash his picture around announcing he’s a serial killer).

A few weeks after we moved in, the uncle I really like, came by to see the house.  I gave him the tour and he looked at me and asked why we had decided on this particularly house.  Turns out during the 1970s and 1980s, my uncle knew the guy that owned the house and they held a monthly poker game here.  Here’s the thing, I don’t live in a huge city, but it isn’t a little town either.  At a population of 110,000 residents, with at least four satellite cities, the odds of us buying a house my uncle used to play poker in three decades earlier were really rather slim.  Especially, since my uncle has lived in several other cities besides this one…

It just makes you scratch your head.  We saw probably a hundred houses and yet this was the one I absolutely wanted to have.  The others were nice, but they were just houses, this one felt familiar, like a home.

A Hitman’s Mistake?

The Mary Morris Murders are theorized to be the work of an idiot, unfortunately the idiot is probably a contract killer.  As someone that considers contract killer’s serial killers who really love their day job (much like me, but without the need to clean up after myself as often), I research contract killers the say way I research serial killers.  The only difference is we don’t know a whole lot about really good contract killers…

After all, if they weren’t good, we would know about all of them and they wouldn’t be employed for very long.  Sadly, to err is human and contract killers are human.

In October 2000, Mary Morris left for work in the morning and was reported that evening as missing by her husband.  It didn’t take long for the Houston Police to discover, Mary Morris had left for work at her normal time, but had never arrived there.

It didn’t take long after Mary Morris’s husband reported her missing for her body to be found.  It was parked in her car, not far from her house, dead.  Everyone was shocked.  Mary Morris didn’t live a high risk life style.  No one could imagine who would do such a thing.

Just three days later, another woman was found dead, in her car,   Like Mary Morris, this woman had left for work as per usual, and her body was found only a short distance from her house.  Someone had tried to make it look like a suicide.  Oddly, the victim’s name was Mary Morris and the theory of the inept Contract Killer was born.

With the Murder of Mary Morris One, there were no suspects.  The same was not true of Mary Morris Two.  Mary Morris 2 was a nurse who had until recently, been working with a male nurse that had creeped her out.  He had been fired just a week or so before, Mary Morris’s death.  Also, Mary Morris 2, was having marital problems with her husband.

Mary Morris 2 had a very large life insurance policy and her husband refused to let the police interview their daughter, who was his alibi.  Also, both Mary Morris victims were missing their wedding rings, but nothing else, including their wallets and cash were missing.  This is one instance where art imitates life, contract killers often remove identifiable pieces of jewelry such as wedding bands to provide to their employer to prove the job is done.

Two women murdered just a few days apart in a city as large as Houston, even with both of them named Mary Morris, could still be a coincidence. There were probably a dozen or more women named Mary Morris in Houston at the time.  However, the similarities between the two cases, including how the women were killed, and the fact that both Mary Morris victims even looked a bit alike, make it coincidence unlikely

Finally, after the murder of Mary Morris 2 there were no more Mary Morris’s killed in Houston in 2000 or in 2001.  Police actually suspect that Mary Morris 2 fought back against her killer.  The case has gone cold, but it is an interesting case.  A serial killer of the non-professional kind is unlikely, since serial killers are never that strict about their vicomology, that they would have to kill dark haired women named Mary Morris and try to make the crime look like anything other than a murder.  Also, if it were a serial killer, one would think there should have been more Mary Morris victims.

Sometimes, They Just Stop

I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve heard the saying “serial killers don’t just stop” in movies and on TV.  The problem is, they really do.  Dennis Rader isn’t the only one and the more we learn, the more common we realize it is.

Rader became distracted by marriage and life changes.  Kids were born.  He gained status in his church… He just kinda quit in 1991, which really wasn’t a bad thing.  BTK had tormented Wichita long enough.

The capture of the Golden State Killer has brought this kind of stopping to light again.  No one is entirely sure why a serial killer just sorta decides to stop killing, we haven’t asked a lot of them, because there haven’t been a lot of them to ask.

It appears that like BTK, the Golden State Rapist/Killer just decided to stop one day.  He was terrorizing California one day and then there was nothing for a long, long, long time, so long that most people forgot the case had ever even existed.

We’ve talked to two known killers about their stopping, seemingly randomly, one day; Dennis Rader and Gary Ridgeway (The Green River Killer).  Rader said the above, life became busy.  Ridgeway mostly ignored the question, but a review by a forensic psychiatrist showed that Ridgeway was most active during his first two marriages, which were definitely not happy marriages, and then slowed to a crawl during his third marriage which was far more blissful than his first two marriages ever dreamed of being.

At some point, we’ll end up asking the Golden State Killer.  Right now, a forensic psychiatrist has brought up that the killings stopped after he turned 40.  It isn’t some mythical, magical, unicorn number, it’s just a number, but the majority of men start experiencing decreases in sex drive and testosterone levels after 40.  Surprisingly, the male equivalent of menopause might actually play a role in a serial killer’s desire to kill or not.

The majority of male serial killers are younger than 40.  Same goes for rapists.  While males are still loathe to discuss or accept it, men do go through some serious hormonal changes in their 40s.  This is the era of weird hair sprouting uncontrollably from ears and nostrils.  A widening of the waistline is fairly common as are digestive changes and a decrease in sex drive, that men associate with a mid-life crisis.

Also, by the time a guy is in his 40s, he’s sown his wild oats, probably has a couple of kids, a wife, a steady job because these life events create bills, and is looking towards retirement in the next decade or so, not long days at work followed by rape and murder.

It sounds a little tongue in cheek, but rape and murder are exhausting, no one wants to deal with that after work, and still race home for your favorite prime time show and an hour or two spent with the family before calling it a night.

Or doing all that, then waiting for the family to go to bed, so you can sneak out and hope your kid doesn’t have a nightmare and your wife wakes up to find you aren’t there, because you decided to go out raping and killing on a Tuesday night.  Then you have the “I didn’t get enough sleep last night” drag at work the next day.  As well as a call from your wife’s lawyer about divorce papers they’ll be drawing up in the next few weeks, because your nocturnal wanderings haven’t gone unnoticed and she’s convinced you have a mistress that you are sneaking off to meet in the middle of the night.

In other words, serial killing is a young man’s thing, not a middle aged guy’s thing.  There are exceptions, but they are an odd lot.  Pedophiliac serial killers tend to be a little older and the killer’s age doesn’t seem to matter.  The same is true of pedophiles though.   Which is why Albert Fish isn’t really an exception to the rule about serial killers not being of the older sort.

 

 

Some More Lucid Dreaming Tidbits

I don’t talk about lucid dreaming very often, because it actually scares the bejeesus out of me.  I listen to other people talk about their dreams and I’m like, nope, doesn’t apply to me.

One German study found lucid dreamers were more prone to night terrors as a child, even when the child couldn’t remember what they dreamed about.  It also found that about 51% of people it studied had experienced lucid dreaming at least once in their life time.

It also found people like me, were the exception.  I lucid dream every night.  It was one of the reasons for Clonazepam to deal with my anxiety.  Clonazepam actually dulls a person’s ability to remember dreams, which was really nice.  The following pieces of information pertain to myself.  I haven’t studied lucid dreaming very much.

  • My dreams are rarely a chaotic jumbled mess.  Meaning if a Walrus and a bear are in a bar, there’s a reason for it…  If Joe Blow walks in during the dream and sits with the Walrus and the bear, it also has a purpose.
  • My dreams seem longer than 15 seconds, which is the average time a dream supposedly lasts.
  • My dreams can pick up where they left off.  If I am awakened while dreaming and fall back asleep, my dream returns to where I am, at which point a fur trader might wander into the bar and I discover Joe, the Bear, and the Walrus, are all there to sell rabbit pelts and have a cold one.
  • My dreams might make sense, but they are still odd.  The premise for Ritual Dreams started during Flawless Dreams when I had a dream Azrael, tried to convince me to buy a vial of magic holy water  to ward off serial killers.
  • I often use my dreams in my books in one way or another.  The first chapter of Elysium Dreams was written when my friend was in the process of moving and I was concerned about the distance between.  In the dream, the guy doing the skinning, wasn’t adept at it and I ended up covered in blood trying to save my friend.  That was a wake up at 4 am and take a shower situation.
  • I have a vivid memory from when I was about seven of my father, sister, stepmother, and stepsister going to Silver Dollar City.  I don’t remember seeing or doing anything at Silver Dollar City, except riding the log flume with my father.  Except, I’ve never been.  My sister and father will renounce the memory under oath and it seems strange that I can remember the log flume so vividly, but nothing else about the place.  Oddly, I don’t believe I was even tall enough at 7 to ride the log flume at Silver Dollar City and I am convinced it was actually a dream.
  • I have a second memory from around the same time that involves my mother and sister and a store that has been in our city for ages.  My mom met a guy and he took all of us upstairs in the attic of the store and gave us free clothes.  I figured out in my early 20s there was no way it was a real memory.  The store in question is a flat roofed single story building in our historic district and the guy looked like Harry Dean Stanton.
  • I started keeping a dream diary after I realized the store memory had to be an implanted memory from a dream because if I write them down, they are less likely to implant as memories.
  • I am not the only one in my family that has implanted memories that most certainly started as dreams.
  • It takes me a while after I wake up to forget my dreams.  I’m talking a few hours, not a few minutes.
  • All dreams bother me enough to make me not want to sleep which is why I have sleep anxiety.
  • I prefer to have weird dreams than to have good or bad dreams because I am less likely to have sensory perception in weird dreams, like Joe, a bear, and a walrus met up with a fur trader in a bar, I didn’t smell or taste anything in that dream.
  • I have eaten a meal in my dream and woken up feeling stuffed.
  • I don’t have to have first hand experience with anything to dream about it.
  • Even though it might not seem like it at first, all my dreams are horribly logical and by the time they end, they make perfect sense.  Joe, the bear, and the walrus, turned out to be Joe, two guys in costumes because it was October, and the fur trader also turned out to be a costumed guy, and I ended up being at a bar during a costume party.
  • When they happen, I am often aware that I am dreaming, even if I don’t realize it immediately upon waking up.
  • I am more likely to remember a three week old dream than what I need to pick up at the store, even if I haven’t written the dream down, but I have written down the stupid shopping list.
  • I consider any dream with a lot of smells to be bad dreams.
  • My most common dreams are dreams where someone I know is murdered by myself or someone else, burning in a fire, or freezing in a frozen lake.

Thanks Menopause

One of the side effects not often discussed with menopause is the nightmares.  It’s like being a kid and having night terrors all over again.

I am what is called a lucid dreamer.  What I see, hear, smell, touch, eat, in my dream, is still in my brain when I wake up.  There are two side effects from this, sometimes dreams implant as memories in my brain.  Not memories I had a dream, but memories that I did whatever was in the dream.

This is problematic because sometimes I kill people in my dreams.  This is a more common dream than people realize and it seems to revolve around being concerned for the person that gets killed, whether you kill them or someone else does.

Two: bad dreams are really, really, really bad.  Imagine having a nightmare like what happens at the end of Battered Dreams, but you can smell the blood and gore, you can feel it on your skin, and for the first minute or two you are awake, none of that sensory stimulation goes away.  Meaning after I have woken up, I can still smell it, still feel it, still see it in all it’s glorious violent horror.

This is why I developed sleep anxiety.   Couple those awful nightmares with dreams that implant as memories that everyone tells you just didn’t happen and then you realize your dreams are implanting as memories, and yeah, it makes one not want to get much shut eye.

When the nightmares started in earnest in December, I thought they were stress related.  Nearly 3 months without my Clonazepam, and well the nightmares and my sleep anxiety, got a little worse.  I spoke to my mom about the nightmares, because I had a strange dream about a Burmese python slithering across a road in front of me.. I’m not afraid of snakes, making it bizarre that the dream woke me up and I was still suffering from a touch of panicky fear.

She confirmed she had nightmares when she was in menopause.  I went and looked it up, it’s fairly common.  Why did someone forget to tell me this?!  It seems like it was important, need to know, information.

I have a lot of weird dreams, but they rarely cause me fear.  What’s strange for me, is that the nightmares I’m used to, those of killing people or trying to save someone from being killed, aren’t happening.  Instead, I’m getting dreams about snakes that shouldn’t frighten me, but do.  Before menopause, the above mentioned python dream would have made it into the weird pile, not the terrifying pile.  And because I am a lucid dreamer with a heightened olfactory system, I could smell the python, and hear it hiss.  Yes, snakes have a distinctive smell.

It has definitely made me wonder what the next five years or so has in store for my lucid nightmares.

Not All Women Poison Their Victims

Occasionally, I get dinged by a reader for Battered Dreams, Tortured Dreams, or Mutilated Dreams because the killers are women who are not poisoning their victims.

There is a common myth that female serial killers poison their victims and that Aileen Wournos was an anomaly.  Except, it really is a myth.  The reason a woman kills dictates the method she uses to kill.

Women who use poison are more likely to suffer from Munchhausen’s by Proxy than women who beat their victims to death.  However, there is a Soviet case of a female serial killer who beat her victims to death, probably because of Munchhausen’s.  She claimed all the murders were self defense.  It’s a little harder to make that claim if you are slowly poisoning your victims.

In the case of Wournos and so many other women who kill, there was a lot of rage fueling the murders.  In other words, rage isn’t just a motivation for male serial killers.  The majority of female serial killers are okay with getting their hands dirty.

Another myth is that female serial killers almost always work with a partner.  Cases like Paul Bernado /Karla Holmolka and Myra Hindley/Ian Bradley feed into this myth, because these are women that probably wouldn’t have started killing without a male partner.

Unfortunately, like the whole female serial killers almost always use poison myth, it’s exactly that, a myth.  It is true that females are less likely to become serial killers, but again that seems to be dependent on motives and temperament more than whether they get involved with the wrong guy.

Female serial killers are harder to profile then males because we understand them less, primarily because psychopathy and sociopathy is less prevalent in females.  More interesting is that female psychopathy and sociopathy seem to have more genetic links than environmental.  Two children who grow up in the exact same environment, with only their gender being the difference can breed one male psychopath and one normal female.

There have been studies to try to prove that social engineering is a key difference in that boy children are supposed to be tougher and not allow themselves to be abused, but recent studies have found that in societies outside the US where macho personality traits are less favored by the general population, yield the same results as children in the US.  Much like the Double Y was thought to increase a male’s propensity for violence, people are starting to wonder if the X chromosome has something to do with antisocial personality disorder.

Sadly, this makes sense.  Boys only have a single X chromosome and they are more prone to ASPD with sociopathic and psychopathic tendencies.  Girls who have two X chromosomes would then need to inherit a gene on each X chromosome to trigger sociopathic or psychopathic ASPD thereby making it far more rare than it is in males.  It would also account for the slightly larger number of female serial killers with Munchhausen’s because it has predominately been a mental health disorder diagnosed in women.

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