Stuff I worked on this week.

My 300 word fiction for this week's Antarctic writer's group exercise. "You have a couple who have come to the ice. One of the couple convinced/coerced the other to come along. There is a 3rd party love interest. Do something (anything) in 300 words."

Ok, I did this.

Goodbye True Love

She had a way of looking at him he could feel. Human aura. Radiation of the flesh. Windows to the soul, open to the bright white fire inside.

He'd felt it across continents. The width of a galley table was no obstacle.

There was a single plate on his tray upon which he'd spooned something that resembled the residue of a drying marsh back home. Home. Where was that?

"You're doing this to get back at me for making you go," she said, and he felt every word. It could have heard them through a gale. He could see her with his eyes closed. A blessing. The curse. The spark of instant recognition that had drawn them together five years earlier. Marriage gave it a name. It would not disappear as he thought it would.

"No. I’m not like you. I didn't plan it. It just happened."

“You can stay.”

“You’re giving me permission now? For god’s sake. Everyone knows.”

Now she was breathing in those short strokes he knew preceded the torrent, and he hated himself for being the cause. But he’d made the decision he would not undo.

"Is she retroing, too...?" and then she couldn't speak.

He nodded. “She quit. We’ll find work in Australia.”

He felt her say, "Will I see you again?" her words barely afloat on the air.

Sheet metal forks clinked against stoneware. The sound of machines breaking.

Quietly, “When am I going to see you again?”

He got out of his chair and crouched beside her.

“What were you thinking?”

“You hated it so much. I thought I could make you happy.”

He said, “I came for you. I was leaving because that’s what you wanted.”

He kissed her on the forehead, said, “Next time, you’ll get it right.”

Left her in the galley.

John Titor

Last week I read a book called John Titor: A Time Traveler’s Tale. The idea of John Titor is that he's from the year 2036. The idea of John Titor is that we can be anyone we want on the internet as long as we write well enough. "John" kept people engaged for about 3 years before bailing out. It's like the story K-PAX, complete with insane people.

Between early 1998 and March of 2001 someone who called himself John Titor and began posting notes to some newsgroup or another, and told his story of the year 2036. The story is this:

After the elections of 2004, the government clamps down on civil liberties to the extent that ordinary citizens begin disappearing, the way they did in Chile under Pinochet. Acts of civil disobedience turn into Waco-like skirmishes, and eventually, divide the nation in civil war. By 2008 the fabric of American society is shredded into warring factions, similar to what happened to Yugoslavia.

Sensing the instability has opened an opportunity to strike, the Russians, and then the Chinese, launch a nuclear first strike against the U.S. around 2015. The U.S. retaliates. One thing that hasn't been rendered inoperable by bloody civil conflict in 2015 is the nuclear defense system.

In a brief nuclear war (they all must be brief), all the major cities of the U.S. are wiped out, but similarly, even more significant devastation is wrought upon the cities of eastern Europe and China.

At the end of the exchange, nobody's got any nukes left but the U.S., which now fragments into five separate regions consisting of what's left of the fifty original states. Each region has its own president, united under a modified constitution.

By 2036, stability has returned, but the U.S. weapons programs are still going strong. Nuclear winter did not occur, but huge sections of each of the continents are uninhabitable. Water is in precious supply, and there are places where the air is unbreathable.

Time travel has been invented by the U.S. Military, and John Titor has been trained and sent back to the year 1975 to retrieve an IBM 5100 series desktop computer because it has the ability to, "interpret between APL, UNIX, and BASIC." John was chosen because his own grandfather worked on the IBM 5100 product, and he has connections.

John's time machine is a 500 lb box whose secret sauce are two rotating, charged, black holes each smaller than the size of an electron, held in a charged bottle. The interaction between the gravitational fields in these black holes produces the ability to cross time.

There are no temporal paradoxes in John's story, nor is there any need for John to accurately predict the future. A time traveler crosses "world lines". The 2036 John left to come to 1998 was 2.5% different than the one he left. When he visits his parents, he meets himself as a 3-year old. There is no paradox. If he was to kill the 3-year old him, that boy would simply cease to exist on this world line, which is different than the world line John departed. In fact, John can never return to his world line. He will return to a universe some small number of percentage points different from the one he left.

In John's universe, for instance, the Y2K problem caused a social cataclysm. He predicted it to everyone on his message board. When it didn't happen, he chalked it up to something that fell between the cracks of his 2.5%.

He wasn't around long enough for 9/11/01. But he didn't predict it, either. Though he did talk a lot about plane crashes.

He managed to dodge real physicists questions. Simple things like--if the time machine doesn't move in space, but only in time, and you go back to a certain point in time in, say, 1975, who's to say the earth is in the same place when you get there? The earth travels around the sun, but more importantly, the sun is orbiting the center of the galaxy. So there's no "there" there.

Computers solve that relativity problem, apparently. The also solve the problem that if in the open field where you started your time journey was back then, the location of a giant granite monument to the inventor of fire-retardant sofa cushion foam, computers prevent you from "materializing" inside the granite.

And so on. I was able to suspend disbelief long enough to get to the part where John explains that the only way in 2036 to "translate" between APL, UNIX, and BASIC was an archaic piece of IBM hardware that apparently ran all those "programming languages".

Oh, and by the way, UNIX has a flaw which will cause it to become non-functional in 2038. We all know that.

John also feels the GOSUB statement, which he feels is similar in all three "languages", is the key to solving much of what ails the world.

First of all, a single random molecule of computer literacy cures you of any belief you might fear to develop in the story.

Next. Why, oh why?

Why couldn't someone actually smart have come up with it? I would have enjoyed it if it was consistent and plausible.

There are the typical grainy UFO-style photos included. One, apparently, of a time-traveler teacher shining a laser pointer through the gravitational warp caused by the microsingularities, and bends the beam 90 degrees, right in front of the guy, who is not torn apart by tidal forces.

And I remember APL fondly. I was sure, as a young college student, that all things would eventually be solved and automated using it. Unfortunately for me, despite my dedicating several semesters to it, it died an ignominious death. Few people alive today have any reason to suspect something other than the ELIZA program was written in APL. Maybe something buried in Cheyenne mountain used APL.

There was an APL that ran under UNIX, as I remember. But it was about as popular as iced tea at an igloo festival.

But what ruined John's story for me was not his abuse of computer science (he claimed he was not an expert and could be explaining things wrong), his abuse of his knowledge of firearms (he was supposed to be in a militia armed only with slug guns--there's a reason you don't see shotguns with scopes), nor his abuse of physics (also, not an expert), but rather his abuse of logic.

If time travel exists the way John Titor says, then the future exists (because he comes from it). If the future exists, then the past certainly exists (because he's visiting it), and while that sounds like an obvious "duh", I offer the question, "where?" Is there a static version of all time in some reality memory bank somewhere? Is there a frozen version of me, at my moment of birth, ready to be replayed as soon as someone figures out how to get back to it? And then where do you store the version that's visited by a time traveler? And what about the whole entropy problem, that kind of gives time a specific direction (toward more entropy)?

If the future exists, and I'm in it, what decisions did I make to get to those points? Free will. Yadda. yadda.

See, my problem with time travel is that it presumes the past and future are these massively, somehow co-existing lumps of stuff that are visitable like a moving diorama in a museum. That seems just plain stupid to me, and I'm going to guess it does to just about anyone who thinks nihilism is the funniest part of The Big Lebowski.

I think, then, that there simply is no past and no future--at least, these things do not exist. The past is in our memory banks and because of the way time works, we have no memory of the future, but all that exists is right here right now. There is no time travel, not because it's impossible, but because if you try it--there's just plain nowhere to go, except OUT. You go to a different universe, as Titor intimates. But I have a hard time believing those universes have enough interaction to cause similarities in history.

Again--try to go visit George Washington crossing the Delaware, and you have about as much chance doing that as discovering a unicorn or Marley's ghost or Fred Flintstone's house. These things, all of them, do not exist. We have memories of George, and certainly his imprint is upon us Americans. But the plain and simple fact he no longer exists is undeniable. And if you went backward in time, you would not find him, either, because that's all gone.

What you do then, traveling in time as John Titor suggests, is move into alternate universes with no possibility of return. I think he got that part he got right. The Penrose diagrams he refers to, do indeed indicate the possibility of worm holing into alternate universes. But what does that mean, even? An alternate universe might just be another part of this universe, a space-like distance away.

And that is really boring and uninteresting, and not at all what the author of the John Titor story had in mind when he dreamed up his novel.

My theory is that whoever wrote the John Titor story is a survivalist living in rural Florida, reading popular books on quantum mechanics and "this or that for Dummies", and not getting enough of it right to convince a really bored, easily convinced, guy like me it might be real.

It's not even a good try. It was the type of book that when finished makes one think: "Would my time have been better spent masturbating or perhaps even reading the 1963 income tax code?"

That's why the book had to be self-published. But hey, he got my $15.95. No need for him to get yours.

The Nazis at Blue Cross

Blue Cross is going to drop my daughter's health insurance because she turned 19. We have to prove she is a full-time student.

Fair enough. Monday last week, I got in the mail a letter from Blue Cross explaining this policy and asking for proof of her full-time studentship. Because I'm anal retentive about such things, I immediately put the appropriate documents in the self-addressed envelope and mailed them.

The next day (read:24 hours), I got an identical letter. Because I am anal retentive about such things I immediately put the appropriate documents in the self-addressed envelope and mailed them in.

The next day (read:24 hours) I got an identical letter at work, this time. Because I am anal retentive about such things I immediately put the appropriate documents in the self-addressed envelope and mailed them in.

The next day (read: 24 hours) I got a letter at my home written in past tense. It said, "We have dropped your daughter from your coverage on March 1st, 2005, because you have not provided the appropriate documents to prove she is a full-time student. You are eligible to enroll her in a separate insurance policy by California law, blah blah blah.

Proof positive, someone has a time machine, and that events are never causal, and nothing exists that's rational in the world of American health insurance. My entire time travel theory is blown out of the water by the underpaid martinets at Blue Cross, who have managed to send me a letter from the future of an alternate universe where the U.S. Post Office fails to deliver even one of three identical letters mailed on three successive days.

We need to get a qualified physicist involved in this case, because I certainly cannot comprehend it with my feeble gray matter.

Holden was right.

I keep forgetting that screwed up fictional character had it all figured out. By the time you get to the end of The Catcher in the Rye you start realizing what has been happening this whole time and then he gives his only piece of advice from the whole novel: "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody." Is it wrong to miss people? So many factors of life tell us that life is a forward motion meant to leave the past in the past and focus on everything new. I found that my life is the sum of the people I have met. I have met so many incredible people over the years that I am amazed I have lost contact with. Someone gets me talkin' about something, some old story, some old time, and then I talk about those people... and I start missing them. I feel bad if I remotely begin to forget people. I think it's important to keep up with the people who were important to us.

We are the sum of whom we've encountered.

I have really improved over the years, usually through the hardest events. The people that went through those with me have really helped a ton. Most were only with me for a week or six weeks, some for years, but most may never know how important they were. In fact, is it socially acceptable to just say, "Hey, thanks, you really helped a ton"? Last I checked it's not. It should be.

Tyler Evans
, Grade 3, Mrs. Baker's Class, Shady Grove Elementary
Vichizzle McNizzle, Pimp Daddy

Gay Marriage

Vichizzle: Hey yall, it's the Vichizz here rappin at ya today about dis issue that be all gettin America's panties up they ass. Gay Marriage. Evah since pigs be bustin in on coupla queers gettin cock-to-ass friendly in they apartment down in Tex-ass, they gets charged with some fruit crime and they take it allah way to the Super-ream Court where that bogus law be shut down, people be sayin dat the gay marriage laws be busted down, too. Everbody be talkin bout equal pro-tection shit and now all the dykes and daffodils be linin up to get hitched. Now everbody be askin McNizzle "Hey Vichizz, man, where you stand on gay marriage?" cuz I guess now it's sumthin everbody has to know bout everbody. First off, lemme acks you a question: what the fuck they wanna get married fo??! Suriously. What the fuck anybody wanna get married fo?! Why they linin up to be havin the same rights to get seriously fucked like the rest of us?

Lemme tell yall sumthin bout marriage. The Vichizzle be married at one time. Yup, fo real. I know it hard to believe. Fo bout six months in 1996 the Vichizz be hitched up, found some foxy lay-day at the club, she gets my hearts all a pumpin and I says to myself "damn that one fine-lookin ho!" So I buys her a drink and we gets to talkin next thing ya know I'm givin her a world tour of my dick back at her place. So we date fo while and she's all like "Vichizz when we gettin' serious, baby?" and lemme tell ya, she had dis power ovah me cuz if she be runnin a Amusement Fuck Park she be makin lotta change, yo! So I rush to sign up fo a lifetime pass to Funland Fuckpark; all the free fuckin an suckin a man can evah want. But guess what. It not turn out dat way. Alla sudden, Vichizz be gettin shit fo hangin out wit his crew, then I be stayin out too late, then she start complainin bout my bidness, sayin I should be doin somethin else bettah with my life than pimpin. I say fuck that shit and I outta there. Fore I know it, bitch be takin all my shit. She end up wit my entire muthafuckin James Brown CD collection. I might as wella been in a gay Marriage because alla sudden I be gettin fucked up my ass. Fo real!

Tyler: Marriage is when a man and woman get married, right? At first I didn't know how it could be different. I asked my daddy what people are talking about when they talk about gay marriage. He said that it's when fags and dikes get married. But I was confused. Why would a man marry another man or a woman marry another woman? They can't have kids. He said that's exactly the point. He said that the sanity of Marriage is in jepardy.

So I guess I don't like gay marriage if it will cause married people to go crazy. Maybe that's why our neighbor last year ran up and down the sidewalk naked. Mrs. Baker said it was because he didn't take his medicine but I don't know maybe it was cuz of the fags getting married. My daddy said not to worry about it, though. Someday God will get them like he did Sodom and Gomorrah and then we won't have to worry about laws that say the fags can get married cuz there won't be any. So I guess I'm not worried about it too much.

Vichizzle: So in summization, I say nobody gets married, fuck dat shee-ite. Hey all you dick lickers and muff munchas, you be wise to just leave it like it is, knowhaddi'msayin? You be lucky it illegals in most places, removes the temptization. No matter what body part you be doin yo bidness in, be it the ass or the snatch, if yo get married, you be seriously fucked, ya dig? Lotta people be talkin bout the sank titty of Marriage. Fuck dat. Only thing sanctified is you be gettin a sanctified rod up yo sanctified cornhole if yo ansah "I do" to any question but "Yo you wanna nutha hit off this bong, dawg?" Fo real. But I guess if the gayzz wanna go an get hitched, doesn't affect the Vichizz none. Go and get yo'selves hitched, but then in a few years you see what I'm talkin bout. Won't be lobbin no more fo the right to marry! Werd! Peace, I'm O-U-TEE!

Tyler: I have this friend, Bobby Miller. My daddy saw him once after school and said he walks funny. He says Bobby is probably a fag and might wanna marry me someday. He told me I can't be friends with Bobby anymore. Too bad cuz he was fun. I liked to do drawings of clothes with him and match them up by color. I'm going to miss Bobby.

11/24/04 == 12/20/04 == 12/21/04 == 12/30/04 == 01/31/05 == 02/10/05 == 02/14/05 == 05/18/05 == 07/25/05 == 09/01/05 == 10/24/05 == 12/22/05 == 07/20/06 == 10/31/06 == 02/07/07 == 07/13/07 == 12/18/07 == 9/17/08

Latest Catbox Mattbox Messages from Outside on Tue, 21st Dec 2004

EVERYBODY has won, and all must have prizes.

22:17 wertperch gets down on one knee
22:18 LaggedyAnne rawr!
22:18 JudyT readies the whip
22:21 LaggedyAnne slobbers all over JudyT
22:21 FeltTips knows a lady who keeps a riding crop under the passenger seat of her car
22:22 wertperch /msg grundoon Will you look at my homenode please?
22:22 Andromache01 is speechless, and she isn't even the one being asked. O_O
22:22 grundoon is watching, curious.
22:23 wertperch Will you marry me, Christine?
22:24 grundoon Why, yes, I b'lieve I will.
22:24 LaggedyAnne WOOOOO!!!!! *acts all obnoxious*
22:24 FeltTips dances and jumps up clapping in her cubicle
22:24 grundoon LOL! Try to remember I'm at work, here, people! YES.
22:25 Ereneta rubs his eyes. Rereads catbox.
22:25 DejaMorgana Dude!
22:25 FeltTips can I sing at your wedding?
22:26 Ereneta This better not be some Nigerian banking scam.
22:26 haze throws joints
22:26 wertperch grins like a fool, and cries some, too

22:26 FeltTips weeps also
22:27 grundoon I'm turning into ophie. OMG OMG OMG OMG. Happy solstice, everyone!
22:27 LaggedyAnne awww. how sweet... dude! *That's* why you bookmarked that one thing :P
22:27 Ereneta Yet.
22:27 Vimes Super.
22:27 Andromache01 hugs the Lovely Grundoon. And Wertperch, too. Congratulations, you two!
22:27 wertperch hugs grundoon with great relish
22:28 Jet-Poop HOLY CRAP
22:28 LaggedyAnne throws bird-safe rice and dolphin-safe tuna and tells someone to make a casserole on such a happy occasion
22:28 Albert Herring Well, congratulations.
22:29 Ereneta has been here five years plus... and there's never been one instance of chatterbox that I've taken for "real life."
22:29 TenMinJoe throws rice
22:29 Ereneta I've having a hard time suspending my disbelief.
22:29 256 Congratulations, both of you.
22:30 randombit throws dolphin safe tuna sandwitches
22:30 grundoon You and me both, Ereneta.
22:30 Jet-Poop hires himself out for the bachelorette party
22:31 FeltTips knew this was coming for a while
22:31 Jet-Poop sees himself in the mirror every morning and feels duty-bound to advise bachelorettes to bring their own Pepto
22:32 DejaMorgana tries to think of witty things to say but ends up stammering "DUDE!" again and again. Congratulations to the both of you.
22:32 grundoon Yeah, but FeltyTips, you don't count, you are a seer.
22:32 JudyT squees and tries not to cry.
22:32 wertperch It was inevitable, FeltTips, but one day, I knew I would just ask.
22:32 FeltTips grins like a goof
22:33 Jet-Poop Are we not overdue to see this in the topic?
22:33 Digital Goblin cheers madly.
22:34 grundoon Grinning like a goof describes it pretty well. Kevin, you are a nut case. I love you.
22:34 JudyT ties tin cans full of tuna to EDB's back bumper.
22:34 Ereneta I can believe you'd ask, werty. I just can't believe you'd ask in the catbox.
22:35 FeltTips oh now silly ~ that's just a performance for the masses.
22:35 Albert Herring Jet-Poop, we already do, do we not? Just needs a pipelink...
22:35 Ereneta blinks. Shakes head. Rubs eyes again. Slowly backs away from the computer.
22:35 wertperch I love you too, sweetheart!
22:36 Chase holy shit. Congrats!
22:36 Albert Herring The PSM also sends her congratulations.
22:37 Ereneta I'm gonna come back later and see if this thing is real, or some new form of performance art. (Here's hoping that congratulations and festivities are in order! Hooray!)
22:37 wertperch Ah, thank her for me! Thanks to you all!
22:37 iceowl you crazy kids. ossie says congrats.


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