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Tech Q&A

Guy Ogilvy

Describe your latest project.
The Alchemist's Kitchen is an alchemical recipe book. It begins with an explanation of the philosophy behind the ancient art of alchemy and a brief overview of the alchemical tradition over the last two millenia, before rolling up its sleeves and getting stuck into some serious potions. These are all medicinal, since the highest aim of alchemy is to produce the ultimate all-perfecting, death-transcending elixir commonly known, in one of its forms, as the Philosopher's Stone. The focus is on processes, rather than ingredients, as the various potions are defined by processes that can be applied to a wide range of (mostly herbal) substances. There are extensive appendices chock full of recipes for all manner of useful things like glue, perfumes, soap, pigments, gunpowder and alcohol, and tables of alchemical correspondences, together with instructions for choosing the perfect moment to begin a potion.

What inspires you to sit down and write?
When I have an idea or information that I am burning to record and share, I find writing is the most practical way of responding to that impulse. When the force is with me and coming down my arm, the pen is mightier than the lightsaber.

Describe your favorite childhood teacher and how that teacher influenced you.
As a navy brat I went to eight different schools in four different countries. Teachers never seemed to like me very much.

Have you ever taken the Geek Test? How did you rate?
At dinner the other night a new aquaintance accused me of being a geek when I used the term "CGI." I was then subjected to a geek test (perhaps not the Geek Test) and was, fortunately, aquitted when I was unable to translate various computing acronyms like MPEG and TWAIN.

Chess or video games?
My son got me hooked on a video game called StarCraft a few years ago and for weeks I was obsessed by it. It took up all my time and invaded my dreams whenever exhaustion finally forced me to sleep. Fortunately I ended up with a repetitive strain injury in my right arm and was forced to quit. I know of no drug so inescapably habit-forming. Chess I play poorly and seldom, but I love it in principle. Titus Burckhardt's short essay "The Symbolism of Chess" is really fascinating.

What do you do for relaxation?
My favorite way of relaxing is making alchemical potions. I immerse myself in the process and try to be at one with the substance I am working with.

What's your favorite blog right now?
While googling something related to "perennialism" I came across a splendid blog called One Cosmos, written by a fine metaphysician with a great sense of humour called Gagdad Bob. Here's his sell:

Circumnavelgazing the Whole Existentialada of Lumin Development, with Mental Gymgnostics, Verticalisthenics, Dilettantric Yoga, Stand-up Cosmology, Extreme Seeking, High Energy Karmanihilation & Egobliteration, Slack Retrieval, Applied Non-Doing, Inward Mobility, Orthodox Hoodooism, Seventh Day Adventurism, Jehovial Witticisms, Christian Seance Monitoring, and Buddhaflaw Correcting.
Not for everyone, perhaps.

Douglas Adams or Scott Adams?
Who is Scott Adams? Google. Oh yes, Dilbert. I've seen it once or twice in American periodicals, but it doesn't cross the Atlantic.

What was your favorite book as a kid?
Homer's The Odyssey.

What new technology do you think may actually have the potential for making people's lives better?
Technology invariably creates greater levels of dependence. Except for people with disabilities.

If you could be reincarnated for one day to live the life of any scientist or writer, who would you choose and why?
If I could have been the great pioneering scientist and physician Jan Baptista van Helmont [1577–1644] on any of the occasions that he claimed to have performed metallic transmutation of base metal into gold with the "powder of projection," then I would know for certain whether this great miracle were truly possible. Van Helmont is as reliable a witness as one could hope for and readily admits that the transmuting agent was not of his own making.

What was your best subject in high school? Your worst?
My best subjects were French and English. I found (ancient) Greek so impossible that on one occasion I threw a complete fit in the classroom, whereafter I was allowed to give it up.

What are some of the things you'd like your computer to do that it cannot now do?
Work properly.

Describe the best museum of science and/or industry you've ever visited and what made it great.
Visiting London's Natural History Museum as a small boy and being completely dwarfed by those massive dinosaur skeletons was truly awe-inspiring and quite unforgettable, apparently.

By the end of your life, where do you think humankind will be in terms of new science and technological advancement?
Perhaps the free energy cat will be out of the bag.

Which country do you believe currently leads the world in science and technology? In ten years?
Now, I can't say, but in ten years, probably China.

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