Book Review #28

Days of Future Passed

The shape of things to come!  This author was prescient.  This is where it all began, or at least, a big part of it.

The book: Neuromancer

The Author: William Gibson

The Review:
This book was written in 1984.  I had a chance to read it over 30 years ago.  The son read it, but I passed on the opportunity.  It would not have had the effect on me back then, as it did to read it recently.  I read a post by a blogger who was doing what I am doing, taking old Science Fiction books out of storage, and re-reading them.  His description intrigued me, so I got a 2010 re-published copy from the library.

The story itself is not all that exciting –by today’s standards.  His protagonist is a computer hacker who can mentally access, not merely individual computers, but can surf the entire Internet.  Of course, the author doesn’t call it that.  The term, and the function, did not exist back then.  He did not coin the term Cyberspace, but this book popularized it.  Soon, readers and other authors were regularly using it.

In 1984, computers, and their interconnectivity, were far less common than in his then-future fiction.  Since he couldn’t call it the Internet, he coined the term The Matrix.  While this author, and this book, are not completely responsible, they both heavily influenced Tron, and the three Matrix movies.

The précis reminded me of Johnny Mnemonic.  A bit of research revealed that, 17 years later, he shuffled some concepts around and wrote the novel that another Keanu Reeve movie was based on.  Microsoft had incorporated in 1981, but the microsofts (small m) that the hacker uses to jack in, are nail-sized inserts that plug into a socket at the base of his skull, like Sim-cards, or SD cards.  They contain relevant data, and operating code – the Apps of their time.

The plot involves the hacker either slicing or surreptitiously oozing past security protocols, to free a manacled A.I. – Artificial Intelligence.  The story also contains a couple of computer ‘Constructs’, which are essentially the uploaded knowledge, experience and personality of hackers who were killed while online.

This author impresses me like the deaf composer, Ludwig von Beethoven.  He conceptualized huge amounts of technology that he couldn’t see, but which later came to exist.  Finally, there is another peculiarity, not of the story, but of the particular copy of the book that I received.

It is in the page numbering.  Each page is numbered in the lower corner.  Each number is underlined.  The underlining on the right-hand, or Recto page, extends to the edge of the page, across the thickness of the sheet, and continues till it underlines the number on the left-hand, or Verso page.

Infinitesimally and imperceptibly, the numbers and the underlining rise and fall several times through the book.  If you firmly close the book and look at the lower edge, the ink forms an EEG brain-scan readout.

Flash Fiction #277

PHOTO PROMPT © Lisa Fox

FORTRESS MENTALITY

With the advent of COVID, Bruce’s neuroses finally became useful.  Social distancing?  Check!  He was a loner, something of a sociopath.  No physical contact?  Check!  He didn’t like to be touched.  Disinfecting?  Mr. Germaphobe carried his own hand sanitizer and wipes.

Work from home?  He was a ‘Prepper’ who’d bought this bunker of an old stone barn and was fixing it up.  He’d laid in a ton of government-surplus dried foods.  The windmill pumped water through filters, and supported a satellite dish for phone and internet.  The roof was solid solar cells.

“Call me when it’s safe to come out.”

***

If you’d like to join the Friday Fictioneers fun, go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Flash Fiction #274

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

ROSE COLORED GLASS

Anxiety and dissention are the unfortunate results of the Internet Age.  It was once comfortable to believe that we were all basically the same.

Rose-colored glasses are passé.  We now must view our world through kaleidoscope specs.  Freedom of information also means freedom of misinformation.  Every bright and shiny, sharp-edged sect demands its own recognition.

Tea Party and Trumpers separate from Republicans and Democrats.  Anti-vaxxers abound.  Flat Earth is a growth industry.  There are still Christian mega-churches, but more and more, worshippers are doing what they did two millennia ago – gather in groups of 10 or 15 in private homes.

***

If you’d like to join the fun, go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Piss-offily

If you are looking for a good chuckle, here are a few of the funniest quotes ever.

Crossing the road

“I have noticed that even people who claim everything is predetermined and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road.” —Stephen Hawking, physicist

Insurance gods

“The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms.” —Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist.

Open-minded

“By all means let’s be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.” —Richard Dawkins, scientist

Narrow-minded

“He was so narrow-minded, he could see through a keyhole with both eyes.” —Molly Ivins, author

Family debate

“I’ve come to learn that the best time to debate family members is when they have food in their mouths.” —Kenneth Cole, fashion designer

Marriage from heaven

“They say marriages are made in Heaven. But so is thunder and lightning.” —Clint Eastwood

Get married

“My advice to you is get married: If you find a good wife you’ll be happy; if not, you’ll become a philosopher.” —Socrates

Slow computer test

“Before you marry a person, you should first make them use a computer with slow Internet service to see who they really are.” —Will Ferrell

Someone you love

“Life in Lubbock, Texas, taught me that sex is the most awful, filthy thing on earth, and you should save it for someone you love.” —Butch Hancock, country musician

Marriage gift

“Instead of getting married again, I’m going to find a woman I don’t like and just give her a house.” —Rod Stewart, rock star

Everything has a consequence

“All the things I like to do are either immoral, illegal, or fattening.” —Alexander Woollcott, actor

Bacon is everything

“When you have bacon in your mouth, it doesn’t matter who’s president.” —Louis CK

Spending foolishly

“Part of [the $10 million] went for gambling, horses, and women. The rest I spent foolishly.” —George Raft, film star

No character

“I was going to sue for defamation of character, but then I realized I have no character.” —Charles Barkley, TV basketball analyst

’20 A To Z Challenge – Folly

A To Z ChallengeLetter F

snow folly

HANNIBAL WAS CROSS

‘Tis folly to be wise

Call it Climate Change.  Call it Global Warming.  Call it Shit Happens.  Call it anything you want, but Charlie was beginning to believe some of the stories that Grampa told about growing up in this little mountain hamlet.

Yes sir, I had to walk 5 miles to school –each way – uphill both ways – against the wind…. And in the winter??! – snow was as high as an elephant’s….

Eye, Grampa??

Asshole, boy!  Asshole!

I had to make skis out of staves from a pickle barrel, and use icicles for poles.  Snow was so high I had to climb out the attic window.

There’d been no elephants in mountains, until Hannibal crossed the Alps, and They didn’t run through Montana.  As a site-designer, he was happy to ‘work from home’ after graduating, in the village he’d been born in.  Mom hadn’t even gone to the hospital in Helena – just popped him out in a sterilized bathtub.

The smart ones had been those who moved down with friends and relatives in the foothills, when the snow really started piling up.  When the Pastor/Mayor/Police Department had been notified that the plows weren’t getting through, and officials had no idea when that might happen, he suggested that everyone bring all their food to the church.

They’d rigged a flexible plastic tube from the air-conditioner vent, over the cliff.  That, and a small fan pointed up the spire gave them and the small generator enough air to breath.  The village weirdo geek had rigged a repeater/router to the lightning rod.  The cell tower further up the mountain, was only up to its knees in snow, so they had phones and internet.  The snow had drifted up and over the church, until only the steeple protruded, like a FOLLY.  It helped to insulate it, even as it locked them in.

It was a cozy little group of 14, although, if someone didn’t pry young Billy McCabe and the Winchell girl apart, there’d be 15 by the time they were released.  There were worse ways to spend a winter.  Guess the best thing to do is what Grampa suggested.  Just close the log cabin door to the snow, and don’t come out till spring.

WAIT!  WHAT??  Log Cabin??  I thought you said that you climbed out an attic window.

Don’t be a smart-ass, boy!  Nobody likes a smart-ass.  😳

Small Town Reality

Small Town

A recent humor post about small towns elicited some comments, questions, and not-necessarily-good memories. For those with curiosity, or defective nostalgia, here’s the real low, down.

Baskin-Robbins only has three ice cream flavors.

Corporate America has still not reached my little Canadian town. There used to be a couple of independent, Mom-and-Pop convenience stores that hand-dipped ice cream, before pre-packaged treats became available. Now they subsist by selling lottery tickets to folks dreaming about having enough money to get out.

You had to step out of the village limits in order to change your mind.

That’s a trick question. Nobody in my town changes their mind.

The nickname for the city jail is amoeba because it only has one cell.

Hah! Our town jail has two cells. One for drunken white men, and another for drunken Indians from the adjoining reservation.

McDonalds only has one Golden Arch and the nearest one is 15 miles away.

The nearest one is in the next town, 5 miles closer to the nuclear reactor, and the only source of employment left in the area.

Instead of a 7-11 they have a 3.5 – 5.5.

See ‘no corporate America’ above. 3.5 X 5.5 refers to metres – 20 by 30 feet sized convenience stores.

The New Year’s baby was born in April.

With all the screwing that’s going on, some of it even by people who are married – to each other – you’d think this would happen earlier in the year. All praise free birth-control information on the internet.

The “Welcome To” and “Thanks for Visiting “signs are front and back of the same sign.

The town has a lot of long-term summer residents – rich city folks who own expensive cottages. Neither they, nor the residents, really want transient, stay-at-a-tourist-camp visitors. There is no ‘Welcome’, or ‘Thanks’ sign. It was left to the Department of Highways to identify where drivers were with a generic sign.

You have to go to the next town to find 2nd Street….

At least there’s nothing as bland as 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Street in my home-town. We have a British-type, High Street, which I was born on, as well as street names like Morpeth, Anglesia, Grosvenor, Grenville, Landsdowne, Breadlebane, and Augusta.

A “Night on the Town” only takes about ten minutes.

There are bars in two hotels on High Street, a block apart. White folks drink at one. Indians drink at the other. If you drink too long at either, your ten-minute ‘Night on the Town’ could stretch to 72 hours in the appropriate comfortably-appointed jail cell.

The Subway restaurant that serves foot-long sandwiches cannot fit within the village limits.

See ‘no corporate America’ again. There is a French-fries/hamburger/ hot-dog take-out building on the highway, behind the bank. It limps through the winter months, and produces retirement income during the summer.

You do not bother using turn signals because everyone already knows where you are going.

Laid out by British surveyors, the town has good sight-lines, and broad streets. It is one of two towns in Canada with a 100 foot-wide main street – most have 66. If you do manage to cut off a local resident, they feel free to tell you where to go.

Big social events are scheduled around when the high school gym floor is being varnished.

The local Legion is big enough to handle most ‘big’ social events. The local high school was closed in 1955, because of lack of students. The couple of dozen per year are bused five miles to the 350 student ‘District’ high school.

You call a wrong number and the person who answers can give you the correct number for the person you are trying to call..

While this was once true, the internet has become a boon, since the big Don’t-Give-A-Damn epidemic hit town.

There is no point in high-school reunions because everyone knows what everyone else is doing anyway.

This is true of those too dumb to get out. The ones who leave, just tend to disappear.
“Do you remember Bob?”
“Bob who?”
“We went to school with him.”
“You mean Rob?”
“Maybe….”
“I got no idea where he went.”

School gets canceled for Provincial sporting events.

No-one in my town was good enough at any sport to qualify for Provincial meets. Senior elementary classes are sometimes bused to District events.

It was cool to date someone from a different high-school.

It had to be from the same ‘District’ high school, but at least you could date someone from a different town – or a farm girl, who could show you alternate social uses for the hay-mow in the barn.

The golf course had only three holes.

There’s a quite-nice golf course, 2 miles out of town, where the old highway wisely bypassed this social morass, a century ago. More recently, a developer included a tournament-worthy course as a perk with his new housing subdivision, on the other side of town, right next to the Indian reservation, whose residents are wisely not allowed to be members. They are both 18-hole courses. Amusingly, just 2 miles away from my current, big-city house, is a course that the city has grown out and surrounded. It is a par-3 course.

Anyone you are looking for can be found at either the Dairy Queen or Wal-Mart, over in ‘The Big City’.

I remember when I thought that it was the cultural center of the Universe, with all of 10,000 residents.

Directions are given using the one and only stop light as a reference – after they finally installed one.

Even after they redirected the highway through the town, instead of past it, the intersection with the main street was a 4-way stop until the Department of Highways insisted on a traffic light in 1955. It’s still the only one.

Weekend excitement involves a trip to the grocery store.

1955 was a year of excitement. A Canadian-based supermarket came to town to challenge 3 little independent grocery stores. While considerable excitement can be had with bananas and cucumbers, the entire town was agog when they imported coconuts.

Your teachers remember when they taught your parents.

My Dad was a Johnny-come-lately, carpet-bagger, non-native. My Mom left in her early teens during the dirty-Thirties, and returned as an adult. None of the teachers had been inoculated, or developed a resistance to me.

The best burgers in town are at the four-lane bowling alley.

Our bowling alley had the best burgers and 8 lanes, but was an unheated summer-only, beach bowling alley, only open from the end of May, till Labor Day. The next town down had a year-round, 4-lane alley, but no lunch bar. The best burgers were next door at the owner’s A-frame, chalet diner.

Tell us about your tiny home-town…. or the unfortunate section of big city that you grew up in.

There Was A Crooked Man

Who walked a crooked mile
And when I tell his tale
We get a crooked smile.

Facepalm

The Back-to-Jail Special

Two men decided a back-to-school event at an office supply store would be the perfect time to do some shoplifting. After all, store clerks would be busy helping an influx of shoppers. The sale happened to coincide with the annual ‘Shop with a Cop’ day, when about 60 police officers show up to help children pick out school supplies.

Burrito Patrol

Adan Juarez Ramirez had it all figured out—he could be a cop without having to take the boring test. But he was arrested in Grapevine, Texas, after pulling over a driver in his pickup truck, outfitted with flashing lights. He even had an ID badge, which he’d made by blacking out a restaurant gift card and etching in the word ‘POLICE.’ However, he’d kept the restaurant’s logo, a jalapeño pepper surrounded by the words ‘Chipotle Mexican Grill.’

The Case of the Returned Merchandise

A Target store in Augusta, Georgia, agreed to take back a printer from a dissatisfied customer. Then the clerk noticed some work the customer forgot to remove from the machine: Counterfeit bills.

You Mean It’s Not Scout Night?

Two machete-wielding men barged into a Sydney, Australia, bar demanding money. They didn’t know the club was hosting a bikers’ meeting at the time. One of the robbers ended up in the hospital, the other hog-tied with electrical wire.

Hampered by Stupidity

In Mesa, Arizona, a home break-in was foiled when the burglar jumped through the bedroom window—and got trapped in a clothes hamper. Cops took it from there. (That definitely wasn’t the kind of clean getaway he had planned.)

Worst Customer Service Ever!

Joseph Goetz’s alleged attempt to rob a York, Pennsylvania, bank met with some snags. Cops say the first teller he tried to rob fainted and the next two had no more cash in their drawers. Fed up, Goetz stormed out, threatening to write an angry letter to the bank.

To: idiot@jail.com

A German bank robber sent mocking emails to local police, ridiculing their efforts to arrest him. First he let them know they had his age, build, and accent wrong. Then he corrected their announcement that he’d escaped on foot; no, he had a getaway car! The cops got the last word in, though, when they arrested the guy a few hours later. They used his email to trace him.

The Case of the Clean Intruder

After a man kicked in the front door of a Texas home at 3:30 a.m., the resident fled and called police. When cops arrived, they were surprised to find that the intruder hadn’t stolen a thing. Police found the man in the bathroom, enjoying a warm bath.

Fish Tales

Robby Rose lost his first-place medal and was charged with a felony after it was discovered that he’d cheated in a Texas fishing tournament by stuffing a one-pound weight down the throat of a bass he’d caught. Officials became suspicious when they placed Rose’s fish in a tank and it sank to the bottom.

Banana attack

According to the bus driver, it was a brutal, unprovoked attack. A woman got on his bus and assaulted him with a half-eaten banana. ‘I had banana all over me,’ he insisted. ‘On my tie, my shirt, and my eye.’ The woman explained that the driver had almost hit her car and that when she entered the bus to rationally discuss the matter, the banana slipped … right into his tie, his shirt, his eye … The court may not have believed that, but it did believe her when she argued that it was ‘unreasonable that a banana could cause this much damage.’ They slapped her with a fine of only about $100.

You are gonna regret that tattoo

Police in Pico Rivera, California, had an easy time pinning a four-year-old murder on Anthony Garcia. That’s because he pinned it on himself—with an elaborate tattoo on his chest, depicting the killing. Cops noticed the incriminating ink when taking Garcia’s mug shot for a petty crime. The tattoo revealed all the details of the night, from the Christmas lights and bent streetlamp near the liquor store where the body was found to the image of an angry helicopter—Garcia’s nickname was Chopper—machine-gunning the victim.

Lincoln on the money

James Rhyne of Memphis was charged with forgery after he handed a waitress a $100 bill. The waitress knew something was funny with the money: Instead of the portly visage of Ben Franklin, it was the star of the $5 bill, Abe Lincoln, who was staring back at her.

11/11 Remember!

With the exception of a little explanation here at the top, and some added notes at the bottom, this will be a republication of last year’s November 11th post. I may not have said it the best that it can be said, but I’ve said it as well as I can say it.

remembrance

No matter what you call it, this is a little reminder that tomorrow is Remembrance/Veterans Day. Take two minutes at 11:00 AM to stand quietly and remember, respect and honor those in the Armed Services, past and present, who have given so much, so that we can have peace and security.

Take some time tomorrow – Hell, take all day if you want, and take a bit of time any other day, whenever it’s possible – to shake the hand of a veteran, or current Serviceman. Smile, and say, “Thanks!”

Canadian Flag

veterans

Times, and social situations change. Wars are no longer only fought by going to the other guy’s country and shooting him, or just blowing up his shit till he stops being an asshole.  In addition to the Vets and current Armed Services personnel, mentioned above, we should also remember to thank and think of (because of the job they do, and the way they must do it, they’re invisible, but invaluable) Intelligence and Internal Security Officers, as well as the folks building SkyNet, who feed info to them, so that they can keep us safe from gas attacks, poison and biological assaults.  They also prevent attacks and loss of service to our increasingly technologically-dependent Internet lifestyle, with their Ninja-like handling of all those little 1s and 0s.

poppy-flower-red-remembrence-day-artificial

2017 A To Z Challenge – O

Challenge2017*

I am an Optimist.  Not a cockeyed optimist.  Not a naïve, ‘everything will turn out right’, optimist.   Not a wide-eyed, slack-grinned, Pollyanna, ‘everything is great’, optimist.  Not a Little Orphan Annie, ‘The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow’ optimist.  Not even one of those Optimist guys who goes to monthly urban-improvement meetings.  I just always hope for the best from people and society.

letter-o

On the other hand, I’m also a flint-hard-minded, cynical realist. I hope for the best, but expect the worst from people, and I’m seldom disappointed, Trust – But Verify.

The optimist thinks that we live in the best of all possible worlds.
The pessimist fears that that statement is true.

During my childhood, alone in my neighborhood, I sometimes reached out to other children (guys) living blocks away, to show them things I’d discovered during my solitary explorations. Almost without exception, whatever was not stolen, was destroyed, preventing further enjoyment by them, me, or the rightful owner.  It’s still an all-too-common attitude in the world today, which I just don’t understand!  😯

I would like to believe that, with the information age, and increasing education and technology, the world is slowly rising to be a better place.  Certainly, within the more civilized sections, torture and arbitrary executions have mostly disappeared.  Then I see militant Islam terror attacks against Christian countries, and one type of Muslim killing and driving out another.

Islamofascists are trying to control/prevent the dissemination of information and concepts that they do not approve of, especially via the internet. That genie (if you’ll excuse the expression) is already out of the bottle.  I hope that the tipping point has been reached, and, no matter how many AK-47s or Semtex explosive they use, knowledge and social freedom will still continue to spread.

In the western world, it seems restricted to acts like a local LGBTF-friendly church recently having its entryway sidewalk graffitied, “The Church Shall Remain Holy.” Since they are welcoming the same sort of social rejects that Christ did, they feel that they are holy, and plan to have another artist ‘frame’ the graffiti, and seal it with a transparent coat, turning it from an act of hate, to an inclusive act of love.

So much of life has become polarized – Blue States vs. Red States – White Supremacists – tear down historical statues – Fundamentalists trying to drag society back into superstitious days.

I hope!
I hope!
I hope!

I don’t think that I will live long enough to see very much total improvement. I’d like to say, ‘Two steps forward – One step back’, but often it seems like 12 steps forward, 11 steps backward.  I hope that progress will continue.  I hope that my children and grandchildren will live in a better world than the one that I did.  I am optimistic!

***

This is the closest that I’ve finished a blog composition before posting, since I wrote my first 13 directly into WordPress. It was completed only a half an hour before my self-imposed schedule said that it was to be published.  I don’t even think it was because of my procrastination – more like, I just couldn’t organize my thoughts, and decide where it was going.  Since I’m supposed to have three, in a Word file, ready to go at all times, I’d better get going at P, Q, and R.  😳

Five Long Years

calendar

That’s what Colin James says my blog has been.

FIVE LONG YEARS
(click above, to hear him say so)

Five years ago, to the day, on November 21, 2011, I first dived into the blog-pool. I had no idea what I was going to say, or how often I would say it.  I finally calmed down enough to casually mention when I reached post number 600.  This one is number 687, reaching toward number 700.  I’ve accumulated 878 followers, (Now I’ve got 879.  Do I hear 880?)(Okay!  I’ve got 880!  Anybody want to go for 900?)  and had 9400 visits, for 32,000 views.

For me, everything is still the same, and yet, everything is different. Society is different.  Politics is different.  The Internet is different.  My writing and posting are different.  Some of that is good.  Some of that, at best, is questionable.

While some of my favored blog-sites from five years ago have shut down, or atrophied, many newer ones continue to entertain, amuse and educate me. I continue to do my best to do the same in return.

The traditional gift for a five-year anniversary is wood. I already have a solid block-head, and I possess several wooden nickels, and even a wooden quarter, so I guess all that’s left for you lovely readers to do, is to commend me for not dying, and not shutting up.  Many thanx to all who visit, like and comment.   😀