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Archive for March, 2014

This is in response to the Weekly Challenge, which was “Time Machine.”

How interesting that the first time I learned there even was a “Weekly Challenge,” it would be about my favorite topic.  Two of my books have featured time travel in one way or another (and there are undoubtedly many more ways than just these two tricks…).

I notice with some dismay that some of the “Challenge” commenters have protested that time travel is not possible…that it can go in only one direction.  Please rest assured that it is quite possible.  Einstein was certain that it is possible, and that fellow was seldom wrong.  Well, he was wrong about the Patent Office being a pretty good place to work…  Other than that, his ideas were generally a safe bet.

No, we only perceive time to function as a vector, in the limited three or four dimensions we perceive, within the scope our minds are wired to grasp.  But there are greater adventures to be had, and understood.  We are the key players of a pageantry that is just now approaching its climax…

Have you ever noticed that time has changed on you, in an instant?  You are certain that someone has been following you for the past few minutes; but when you turn to see them–they are gone.  Or you have a recollection of an event from your past, as clear as day:  I sat over there, she wore this, so-and-so was present…but when you stumble upon a photograph of the event, it is completely unlike your memory.  Then there are the anachronisms:  you distinctly recall hearing a certain song, forever linked in your memory to where you were at the time…what you were doing.  Later, you learn that this song had not even been written yet.

Well, you were right, every time.  Time must recalibrate, every time it has an event altered.  But your memory records–impresses, if you will–the experience from the first time you lived it…or more accurately, from the most times you have lived it.  Furthermore, some genes carry the memories of your ancestors as well, if they were “impressed” enough by events.  Perhaps your great, great-grandfather was at Gettysburg…perhaps Thermopylae.  As our perception moves forward, our DNA moves backward…sending messages back from the future…”try this…try that…”   The genes separate into their split sequences right before conception, with their chemical messages for the distant ancestors to carry out…

The further back we go, the more unreliable the change is to occur, and the less likely to have the correct “postdicted” affect.  I would calculate that most of the changes currently being affected and relived by ourselves and our more immediate ancestors are targeting the time period from the Meiji Restoration in about 1858, to the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945.  My late uncle was at Iwo Jima.  He was thankful, but surprised, to have won the battle.  I think this may be because, in most instances, in most dimensions, we did not win that battle.  No…no, that is not quite correct.  More accurately, I believe that in most dimensions, that battle did not even occur.

I have been to Iwo Jima, while in the army.  It is the closest thing to hell on this planet, even in peacetime.  The only two animals that seem to thrive there are the seven inch centipedes and enormous rats that both periodically nibble at your feet to see if you are dead, as you try in vain to sleep.  The waters are infested with sharks, presumably hoping for a repeat of the feeding frenzy they had so many years ago.  On one side of the island, you sink to your knees in loose, grey ash.  On the other side, you hope that the ground is not a thin crust barely spanning another of the many boiling sulfur pits.  Jungle has completely reclaimed the rest, hiding and consuming pillboxes and even smaller airfields.  Few Americans may visit to explore as we did, as the Japanese Army continues its methodical task of recovering a few more bodies each week, of the twenty thousand yet unaccounted for.

What if Iwo Jima was as far as we made it?  What if my other late uncle was not driven crazy, off Okinawa that followed, as he survived his third carrier sinking in a row?  Would both of my uncles still be alive, if not for the physical and emotional scars carved into them during that terrible summer of ’45?  What if we reached a truce, and stored the results of the Manhattan Project in distant, dusty warehouses?

But what if we change the earlier?  What if we armed the other side–the Samurai–rather than the Emperor, during the Meiji Restoration?  Would the fragmented, feudal Japan even be in a position to wage World War II?  Would a consortium of such leaders be less likely to be cajoled and threatened by a single general named Tojo?  Would we in fact have a strong, stable, and honorable ally in the Samurai-led Japan?  What if two great peoples had never once been at each others’ throats?

As we currently experience it, we are on various paths to disaster:  environmentally, politically, technologically, and economically.  We would easily stave these off, not having experienced World War II, nor the Cold War that followed, nor the polarization of the world into its current state of haves and have-nots.  The message is coming back from just before the singularity that is the cataclysmic crash of all of these timelines, just decades from now…or better yet:  never.

So back we send the chemical message.  Save my uncles, and all the killer angels, on both sides.  Back we send envoys and spies and captains of industry, with inclinations in their very genes.  Back we send lovers and hobbyists and the unpredictable wonder that is finding a friend.  Back we send the characteristics that our once and future leaders need and will find attractive in each other.

We are the very change also, for more recently needed changes.  Do what you feel like; what compels you.  You have hated a person your whole life, and suddenly see their worth.  You have never driven that road less travelled, and this afternoon it beckons you.  Tinker.  Play.  Explore.  And for the sake of all that will be, talk.  Talk, really talk–and listen–to everyone you meet.   Because you just…never…knew.

Did you just feel that?  Was there a shadow overhead just now?  Because when I look towards this sunny, spring sky…it is quite empty.

 

 

Here’s what others have written, about their Time Machines–check them out:

A Random Short Story | Musings | WANGSGARD

Second Time Around: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn | Never Stationary

Housecleaning 1900′s Style | The Library Lady and Rosie Bear

I grew up on an island. How did I never read this? | Andrea Reads America

Weekly Writing Challenge: Time Machine | The WordPress C(h)ronicle

The Day Before the Snowdryft | Project eXa

My dream trip | Myriad Notions

Weekly Writing Challenge: Time Machine | In my world

One Night In Summer | Fish Of Gold

Hallowed Canaries | field of thorns

Labor Day Weekend, 2011 | Simple Heart Girl

Memorial Day Weekend, 2011 | Simple Heart Girl

On the Steps of the Lincoln Memorial | Lead us from the Unreal to the Real

Going Back at Birth | Navigate

DP Challenge – The tale of the Hiry Mammoth | Properties for sale in Cuba

DP Challenge – The tale of the Hairy Mammoth | Properties for sale in Cuba

Day 280: If I Had a DeLorean | Writer’s Desk

To go back in time… | adventuresofaneverydaywoman

The free ticket. | chey4412

Weekly Writing Challenge: Time Machine | Ramblings of a Midwest 20-Something

Weekly Writing Challenge : Time Machine | Simply about Life

Time machine | Icezine

In Our Hands | risingrave28

A Peek Into My Past | Ninjas In Stitches

Time Machine | Thinking Languages!

The Deep Time Society: Imagining Academia and Time Travel | THIS CREATIVE REALITY

The Race. « Restawyle

Time Machine | jenniferannefleming

Weekly Writing Challenge: Time Machine | imagination

Dark? Ages | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am

I’m Happy Being In The Present, Thank You Very Much! | Sammi Talk

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Difference Engine

This is in response to the Daily Prompt, which was “I Walk The Line:  Have you got a code you live by? What are the principles or set of values you actively apply in your life? ”

As long as Daily Prompts continue to feature song titles from the sixties and seventies, I shall be drawn to them like a needle to the vinyl.

For me, the title summons the railroads near which I have always lived.  When I was a kid, the daily Erie-Lackawanna commuter trains from our town of Nutley, New Jersey to nearby Manhattan were pulled over the trestle a block from and hovering over our house by steam locomotives.  These were identical to the miniature version in my Lionel train set, only much, much louder.  When we moved to Florida, we were now a distant two blocks away from the equally noisy (but now diesel) Eastern Seaboard line.  And so it went throughout my life:  Arizona, near the Santa Fe yards in Tucson.  Germany within a couple of blocks all three places I was stationed.  Japan, right beside our very noisy beehive of a station in Kanagawa prefecture.  Back in Virginia, the Norfolk Southern train actually ran through our apartment complex, past an abandoned station used for God knows what by local teenagers.  And now the CSX trains run one block from our current house.

The sound is music to my ears, conjuring up the best of memories from my past.  But this nostalgia has become something of a code for me, as well…  I am most definitely enthralled by steampunk culture.  My second favorite show as  a kid, after my beloved Star Trek, was The Wild Wild West.  The latter was definitely not a western, as its two Victorian-era secret service agents used gadgets and inventions to solve each week’s improbable issue.  I favor the steampunk of the possible, wherein the various inventions would actually work.

Moreover, beyond the aesthetic delights that practitioners of the art bring to the table, I believe they are also presenting alternative solutions.  My lovely wife and I were having a lazy conversation yesterday morning, which I curiously curved towards our over-reliance on both technology and petroleum.  In the case of technology, I imagine a teenage girl somehow smug that she is at the top of the food chain because she has both fashion sense and can expertly use all of the features on her cell phone (which she does constantly, ignoring all who are actually in her physical company).  Mind you, this is some generic teenage girl, in no way resembling my own daughters when they were younger.  No this generic teenager looks more like Mila Kunis (who’s name I had to find on Wikipedia just now)–but I digress…  My point actually was that not only can she not make a cellphone; neither can I, and I have advanced engineering degrees.  Neither can I drill for or refine petroleum.  Our tools may be within our daily grasp; but we are like the Eloi of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine:  we can no longer recreate or even fully understand what we have at anything approaching a personal level.

But I can make a steam engine, and have made rudimentary ones.  When I was in college, my friends and I all used slide rules, since the first calculators available cost over $800 (and I was earning a dollar an hour).  While I now enjoy calculators almost as much as this laptop, I am still aware every step of the way that all of the resources in our town cannot duplicate a microchip, if we ever needed to do so.  We have all heard the mantra that there is now more computing power in each of our handheld devices than the entire Apollo spacecraft had on board.  All well and good, but those were resistors, transistors, capacitors and vacuum tubes–things that we can dust off the books for and manufacture.  Microchips are by definition microscopic–we cannot even see, let alone work on–their circuits.

So what this is all leading up to, in a most inefficient manner, is that the first part of my code is self reliance.  I see the lower level technology of the steampunk culture as very adequate emergency replacements for all of our vulnerable nonsense.

But I also embrace the social side of the culture, as the second part of my code.  The Wild Wild West first aired 49 years ago.  My two current favorite shows are–predictably–Downton Abbey (or as I call it:  “greatest show in the history of the world”) and Boardwalk Empire.  What I take from the former is that I too would like to serve as an example of Victorian aesthetics and ethics, treating every being with dignity rather than judging them, not being moody or insulting–yet not being satisfied by the inadequate, either.  My, but that was a mouthful, wasn’t it?

These obsessions–whoops, I mean “interests”–extend to the fashion and architecture of the era, and as nearly as possible, to transportation.  I was able to fix my own first few cars:  a 1969 Pontiac Firebird and a 1970 Opel GT.  But something sad happened with my fourth or fifth car, a 1979 Camaro:  there was to be found under the hood a confusing array of electronic black boxes.  Fixing that car was a hit-or-miss proposition of replacing things at random (and at great cost), until it starting running again.  I suppose that I am more dieselpunk on this point, but do at least prefer the earlier, more foolproof models of things.

Philosophically, or perhaps spiritually, I would have to define myself as wandering closest to Theravada Buddhism.  I retired from Roman Catholicism soon after high school.  Ignoring the overly superstitious side many Buddhists seem to fall into, the basic tenets come close to paralleling what physicists claim as possibilities.  I am excited at the prospect posed by astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington:  “Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.”    Physicists maintain such wonders as the multiverse, string theory, a holographic universe (think The Matrix) and on and on.  I am right there, and wish only that it will become accessible to all of us.  Einstein stated that movement both forward and backward through time are possible.  Two of my own books deal with this possibility, in different ways.

My steampunk code also elevates the appearance of my environment, featuring in this part of the country so many of the dozen architectural styles that flourished then; and it somehow helps more accurately frame the many coincidences that have defined my life.  For example, coming full circle now, I once jumped off of a moving train (just like in the movies).  But it was not just any train:  this was the famed Orient Express.  But that, and the others, are stories for another day.

If you, my dear reader, have steampunk interests…by all means–please declare them! Describe your code, your tastes, and the world of your mind’s eye!

My lovely wife’s more thoughtful response to this same Prompt appears here.

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In Step with an Angel

This is in response to the Daily Prompt, which was “Born To Be With You: Got a soul-mate and/or a best friend? What is it about that person that you love best?”

At first, I read the prompt as “Born To Be Wild.” Unlike that Steppenwolf song, I don’t think anyone can really find their soul mate by “being wild.”  We each have a reservoir of craziness we need to spill before we can even begin to appreciate the actual depth of life.  I took a long, tortuous course before I found my soul mate.  Perhaps it was the course…all of the lamentable mistakes…that made me even know who to actually be looking for.  My soul mate is exactly that, as a result.

She is the embodiment of everything I believe, in her personality and her pragmatic-yet-humorous take on life, in her abundance of love for the people who matter to her, and in our many shared interests.  Physically, when we finally did meet, I experienced love at first sight.  My little cutie is the most endearing vision I shall ever see or hope to see.  She has a puff of born to be wild hair commanding the attention of everyone in proximity–especially babies, who stare and coo unabashedly at the shock of strawberry blond nature at the next table in a restaurant. She has the button nose of a bunny rabbit and the eyes of a renaissance masterpiece.  There is nothing better than seeing her sensuous lips curl upwards in a smile, then quiver right before the laugh.  But the best part of all is cuddling… Here is where I must recall that these words are actually online, not in a hidden diary.

My wife had the roughest of times.  Her beloved mother, with whom she was so in step, died tragically while her two children were still in college.  Her father was brusque and unhelpful…I would most succinctly sum him up as Quite The Pecker Head.  Her first husband left her with two toddlers and a burden of debt.  Her career path left her with a glass ceiling unlike any other in our current civilization.  Despite all of this, the person I met was the most cheerful, most emotionally generous soul I have ever encountered.  How can someone remain so optimistic, when life continually beats them down?  How can someone turn poverty into a childhood that our girls think was wonderful? 

Our marriage has been one of love, mutual respect, and shared dreams.  I have no doubt we shall reach our goals, because I so trust my better half.  I have no doubt that this is the person I can easily love forever, because who she is in my eyes leaves no room for competition.  There is one place for me to be, and that is beside her.  There is one activity for me to undertake, and that is whatever it takes to keep her safe, warm, and in my arms.

I hope that each and every person reading this has the exact same success in this life, finding your angel.

 

 

 

 

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Sentimental Journey

This post is in response to the Daily Prompt, which was “QUE SERA SERA: Do you believe in fate or do you believe you can control your own destiny?”

It’s funny how nostalgia can provide solutions.  Today’s daily prompt, the first post I have attempted, reminded me of the old Doris Day song.  But my favorite song of hers’ is the opening theme to the movie Mister Roberts, and arms me with my answers…

I do not believe in fate.  We MUST have the power to choose, to steer the little go-kart that is our life.  If we have free choice, we can pretty much achieve whatever we like and have whatever we crave, simply by charting a course and sticking to it.  So why aren’t we all millionaires?  Why aren’t we all living on the beach, eating fresh seafood every day…forever?

Most would tend to agree that we cannot be completely selfish.  But where does one draw the line?  I would submit that we can do whatever we like, with only two caveats:  We cannot harm others; and we must ensure that any other human beings we have created reach adulthood successfully.  That’s it.  We cannot ditch our own kids in order to chase our dreams.  We cannot defraud others to enrich ourselves.  Anything else is fair game.  We can and must pursue dreams, but it does not matter how slowly.  If you have just created a human being, your first big stock market gamble may be delayed by approximately eighteen years.

We are probably not all millionaires, and probably not all living on the beach because we are sacrificing our goals, or at least slowing them down, in order to fulfill higher responsibilities we have invented–responsibilities that are actually immense gifts–to others.

What a remarkable power we have as human beings, that we can put another’s well being ahead of our own desires.  Armies depend on this…and the sacrifices that occur in that horrific environment are so astounding that what would not be believable as fiction, occurs as fact.  But the sacrifices by parents are no less astounding.  Soldiers make their snap decisions in a single, divine instant.  Parents consistently make the same, weighty decision, every day…for eighteen years and more.  They make the decision for someone who cannot even fully appreciate the sacrifice yet.

Occasionally, the parent lives long enough to hear sincere appreciation.  So many parents–and children–are not lucky enough to experience such a just timeline.  In most cases, we are instead content to decide that we so value our children, that the smallest wins define the most treasured moments of our lives.  The fact that they are on the right path and can chart their own success…at some point…is enough.

I seriously doubt any deathbed was ever lightened with the recollection “Geez, that time I shorted a thousand shares of Enron was really magical…” 

But the eyes glisten with the memory of the look on our children’s faces, opening just the right gifts at holidays, or the day they met the pet that would become their remarkable friend for years, or simply laughing with unrestrained joy at a joke only the family truly gets.

We can count as a complete success, the moments our children hung up the phone to burst with the news:

“I made it!”

“I got the job!”

“I got in!”

or the mixed blessing that is actually my favorite of all…

“He asked me out!”

Yeah…the beach house can wait a few years.  So can my first million.

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