Open Notes

A Glossary of Terms

When we last left off in this newsletter, I was starting to read the notes from many thoughtful readers who dove into an early draft of my novel, Surrender. One of the repeated suggestions was to provide a Glossary of Terms, since the place and time in the book doesn’t yet exist, and maybe nobody would know what in the world I was talking about? Good point. It turned out to be fun to write the glossary, and it clarified my thinking. I’ve reproduced some of it below for your amusement. (If it looks like too much to read in an email, you can skip to the later items, including my manifesto for 2022, a blog post about what I’ve learned about teaching online for USC, and why no writing is ever wasted.)

Glossary of Terms

Blast Curtains

Protective curtains, often programmed to move into place automatically, that shield living and work spaces from the powerful morning heat of the sun and its damaging UV radiation.


Originally called communications devices, or simply “phones,” comms have come to signify both a suite of devices and a concept. Citizens are assigned a number-letter string identifier at birth (or rebirth) and this unique identifier is embedded into all of their handheld, personal, and residential devices. Comms are used for communication, research, accessing the Feed (see Feed, The), image and audio capture, tracking, and data storage.


A nation-state. Casually abbreviated as “dom.”

Feed, The

Since the planetary collapse of all entertainment, news, and political networks, efficiency has dictated that all information be delivered to citizens via the Feed. The Feed is updated continually and delivered to all comms devices. (See Comms.) The Feed is administered by each Domain (see Domain) under the supervision (but not control) of the Planetary Administrator. (See Planetary Administrator.)

Floating Home

A traditional home outfitted on pontoons so it may float on the rising coastal waters. Floating homes were first adopted in the 21st century in the countries formerly known as Thailand and the Netherlands, and later adapted for use worldwide.


The planetary high-speed antigravity travel system that replaced the rail travel system years ago.


These long, narrow watercraft, powered by a single oar, with capacity for one or two people, make travel possible in cities submerged by rising water levels. Gondolas may be piloted by bots or humans. Payment is cashless by comms unit. (See Comms.) Tipping is permitted.


Once the size of a backpack, and now miniaturized to an insect-sized (see Insect) drone, the Harvester gathers the thoughts and pre-thoughts of people in public spaces to build a more reliable data model for MIND to use and answer to your every need.


Since the adoption of the Holographic Standard of 2025, holograms, called holos, have been widely used for entertainment, communication, and official announcements. The high cost of production and transmission have made the creation of holos inaccessible to everyday people. The wealthy use them often.

Input Man

A roving collector of thoughts who moves through public places with a Harvester (see Harvester) to gather training data for MIND. Because they may be mental expansives (see Mental Expansives) people identifying as women are not allowed to be Input Men; hence the specificity of the term.


A small flying animal, once the largest population of life on Earth. Along with birds, they are rarely seen since the Change.

Logic Tree

Much as the 20th century theoretical physicist Richard Feynman’s charming drawings (called Feynman diagrams) are pictorial representations of the mathematical expressions describing the behavior and interaction of subatomic particles, logic trees, invented by the visionary Bradley15 Power, depict the functions of MIND. (See MIND.)


As part of the comms assigned at birth (or rebirth), (see Comms), each citizen is assigned a memex. A memex is an auxiliary memory storage area, often housed in a citizen’s comms unit, but sometimes occupying more space externally when needed. Certain high-level employment contracts require citizens to grant employers access to their memex.


MIND is machine intelligence that can teach itself; therefore, a recursive intelligence. Originally called DEEPAK, it was invented by the visionary Bradley15 Power while he was a student at ABCD University and is wholly owned by MIND, the company of the same name. MIND is simultaneously a device, a concept, and a company. See Comms for another explanation of how a device and concept can coexist in the same thought space. MIND is this author of this collection of information and scenes you call a novel.


I wrote a manifesto for the new year that includes some predictions, a review of Don’t Look Up and some much-needed optimism.

The future is still ours to envision. No one can take that away. We have an obligation to think past next week and next month and next year, and envision the future that will be lived by the many generations who will come after us.

While many academics and students are struggling with teaching online, I don’t think it’s so bad. I’ve been teaching a course to grad students at USC for the last seven years. Read it at 500 Words or on Medium, where it was picked up by the publication Age of Awareness.

Students influence each other. Projects cross-pollinate. Any group will spread influence among its members, but this is especially true in my online classes. I made a point of encouraging cross-pollination.

When I used to write (mostly) on paper, I threw out so many pages I thought I needed a larger garbage can. Now that I write digitally (mostly) rewriting is less painful, even invisible at times. Is any of that work wasted? I say no.

Once upon a time in New York, I wrote and produced plays. After I moved away to California, it didn’t seem likely that I would ever write or produce a play again. I was heavily involved with screenplays, teleplays, documentary scripts, and writing the evening news. Then, a couple of decades later, something called podcasting showed up.

Now Casting

Gathering people to participate in a group is like casting a play or audio drama. You need the right mix. That’s what I’m working on now as I assemble the Podcast Creative Working Group. It’s a place to workshop your podcast ideas into real, live podcast. Getting the mix right means that I want to include some journalists, a few podcast hosts, an actor or two, and at least one novelist. It’s the collaboration and cross-pollination that makes it work.

It starts on February 16th.

If you’re thinking about joining the group and have questions, just hit reply to this email, or let’s set up a call.

Thanks for reading,


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