SkyNet Is Postponed

Terminator

Despite the hard labors of a lot of capable people, who work their neurons to the bone(head), A.I. (Artificial Intelligence), the SkyNet that so many people already fear, will still be some time coming.  There are a few little kinks and quirks to be ironed out.

AmphiRobot

The above photo is a screen capture from a mall security camera. What might look like a splashed-down North Korean nuclear nose-cone in a mall fountain, is actually a semi-autonomous security robot.  It’s a kind of flightless drone, with wheels, rather than wings; really, just an overgrown Roomba with a few upgrades, mindlessly ricocheting off all obstacles, human and otherwise, while constantly, wirelessly sending CCTV images back to a monitor in a security office.

One lady Apple worker from Cupertino, wanted to dance with one in San Francisco. The mere presence of these things makes people feel safe and happy.  This one just didn’t receive enough upgrades though.  Someone forgot to download the ‘@Walking On Water’ app.  It’s a good thing that it didn’t manage to bumble out the mall’s front doors.  It probably would have been run down by a self-driving car that swerved to avoid a plastic shopping bag, swirling in the wind.

They’re built by a company with the sinister name of Knightscope, evoking the thought of ‘night vision devices’. “We can see you, and know what you’re doing, even in the dark.” Our not-so-little belly flopper is Model K7.  It/they still have a long way to go, before they’re the equal of another Knight Industries self-aware vehicle, with a K-model number – the Knight Industries Two Thousand, K.I.T.T. car of TV’s Knight Rider.

😆

 

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A To Z Challenge D

Challenge2017

I have some alien DNA in me, though I think many of you have suspected that for some time.

For the letter

Letter D

I think I’ll write about DNA

DNA

I woke up the other day. (And congratulated myself for doing it.) I crawled out of bed, threw on a grubby tee-shirt and a pair of track pants, went downstairs and began the ‘feed and water the animals’ routine, including me.  I walked into the living room. I sat down in my big easy chair.  I picked up the day’s newspaper – and absently scratched my right leg.

WOW indeed!  Just from gently touching it, it was now intensely itchy – and a burning kind of sore.  A spot about the size of a silver dollar, 6 inches above my knee was hard, hot, red, swollen and inflamed.

When I complained, the wife told me to come over to her chair and pull my pants down. There were times in the past that that could have led to something interesting.  The only way I know that is because I have it written down.  I can’t remember.

This thing had an even redder spot in the center. What the Hell was it?  Necrotizing fasciitis – that ‘flesh-eating disease’?  Better not be.  I’m so chubby that it could die of indigestion.  A cat scratch?  There would have been more than one, and a scratch, not a single point.  An insect bite?  I seldom go outside, and when I do, I wear heavy jeans and boots.  A bedbug bite?  There’d be more than one, and the sheets are clean.

In my It’s In The Jeans post, I already showed how much alien human DNA I have in me.  I don’t need any non-human DNA.  I don’t want to be like that guy in the Alien movies, and have a mouthful of fangs erupt from my chest.

When I mentioned it to the wife’s podiatrist a couple of days later, he suggested it might be a boil. I still have a scar on my right forearm from a teenage boil.  This ain’t growing, and it’s no boil.  When the wife looked at it, her best guess was an ingrown hair, and she promptly proceeded to do exactly what we tell teenagers not to do with a zit.  She applied two thumbnails, and popped it.

SDC11029

SDC11030

Like teenaged zits, she forced some of the poisons back into the surrounding flesh, making it look almost like a bruise. I spent the next week, slathering antiseptic cream on it, trying not to scratch like a kid with chicken pox, and hoping that my DNA was stronger than any old alien DNA.  I’m back to what passes for normal, but perhaps only because the alien broke his lease, and abandoned this condemned structure.   😉

Oops! Was I supposed to put a medical warning at the top??  Sorry about those photos.  Eye and brain bleach is available in the lobby at reasonable prices.

A To Z Challenge – T – Redux

april-challenge

When I published my T For Terrific Challenge post,  I made it an interactive one, promising to select one entry from those who gave me a T-word and a prompt, and write a post about it.  Susan Leighton over at Woman On The Ledge was the only one who actually did that, so she wins(?) by default.

Click on the link to her site and ask her why she would do such a thing. I guess I have to go through with this.  Since she’s a Woman On The Ledge, if I reneged, she might jump.

She submitted the word ‘tacky.’ Tacky??! I could write about tacky all day!  I have lots of inspiration.  I could go on at great length about the Kardashians or Donald Trump!  Why not?? They do!

Then she slipped the fine print to me. It had to be about cheesy B-grade movies of the 80s.  Oh, what an embarrassment of riches!  I wanted to do a piece about Clint Eastwood.  From Rowdy Yates on TV’s Rawhide, to talking to an empty chair, Clint has been quite a character over the years, both onscreen, and off.

clint-eastwood

I had hoped to write about his spaghetti westerns, but those were in the 60s and 70s.  I’ll have to go with his Dirt Harry series to get the correct decade.  It doesn’t matter.  They’re indistinguishable.  Like the remaking of the Japanese ‘Seven Samurai’ into the American western The Magnificent Seven, they are all morality plays.

dirty-harry

Everything is black and white. The Good Guys are always good. The Bad Guys are evil, and Right always prevails.  The only difference is that Clint’s character ‘Makes America Great Again’ through the application of justice with a Colt .44 Magnum handgun, instead of a .45 caliber Peacemaker.

The overall theme is to be respected, but the presentation means that each movie contains enough cheese to make me a big plate of nachos. I once watched a network broadcast of, “I know what you’re thinking. Did he fire six shots – or only five?” where the network censors edited out two gunshots to reduce the total violence, rendering the line ridiculous.

The 80s was also the decade when Clint did a couple of Any Which Way But…. movies, where he played second banana to an ill-mannered, incoherent, bright orange orangutan.  This should have been good training for dealing with the recently-crowned inaugurated, Emperor President Donald Trump.

Well, there you have it, ladies and gentlemen, another composition proving that I have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, and couldn’t generate interest with Doctor Frankenstein’s lightning-rod apparatus. Don’t blame me!  It’s not my fault!  susan Susan made me do it!  😳

Book Review #15

robert-a-heinlein

The Book – Robert A. Heinlein

The Author – William H. Patterson Jr.

The Review –

This is the second of a two-part complete biography of one of the most important, seminal authors (not merely of Science-Fiction) of the 20th Century.  BrainRants made me aware of Part 1 last year, and recently, another blogger reminded me that book two was available.

The complete title is, Robert A. Heinlein – In Conversation With His Century.  That needs to be remembered when accessing library or bookstore web catalogs.  Enter only ‘Robert A. Heinlein,’ and you get, We have 800 listings for Robert Heinlein, which one did you want? I want the one written by Patterson.  The sub-title of Volume 1 was ‘Learning Curve.’  The sub-title of this Volume is, ‘The Man Who Learned Better.’  It covers his career from 1948 to 1988.

For someone like me, used to reading novels, with their character development and plot twists, reading this tome was a ….learning curve. Were it not for its subject, it would be as exciting as reading a telephone book.  (Remember those?)  But this was a man who met and talked to Presidents and Prime Ministers; who awed, and was adored by, astronauts who went into space and walked on the Moon, and scientists who put them there, and a probe on Mars.

I see why those with little intellect, or lives of their own, hang on every video-provided nuance of “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” The author casts a very fine net, down to what Heinlein had for breakfast on particular days. Scrambled eggs, sausage, coffee and toast on April 17, 1957.

The ‘Rich And Famous Lifestyle’ of a profoundly successful author is not all that we might imagine – or rather, it’s far more than many of us would want. Not only did Heinlein (and many like him) have to keep grinding out grist for the publishing mill, but he had to keep in constant touch with lawyers, editors, publishers and agents.

He had a New York agent, a California agent, and a European agent. There was an agent who failed to promote Heinlein’s work.  There was an over-zealous NY agent who invaded the California agent’s territory long-distance.  There were editors who revised his works without his permission, or even his knowledge in a couple of cases, completely changing the thrust of a story.

Agents sold rights to stories they were not authorized to do. Publishers printed work they had not paid for. He lost money twice in the movie industry, when projects collapsed.  One studio used creative bookkeeping to withhold payments for a successful movie, while another simply pirated his idea, and retitled it.  Which brings us back to the lawyers.

Back before the internet, he had to deal with most of this at the speed of ink. When he moved to Colorado, he was on a party-line telephone with six neighbors for over a year.  One of his later notes said that he finally had to give up helping fans with theses, term papers, and dissertations.

He corresponded with other authors, giving and receiving commendations and inspiration for story lines. Occasionally, he would pen a promo or review for another writer.  While he pumped out a stupendous amount of prose during his working life, it was far overshadowed by the mass of mundane, unpaid writing he had to do.

‘All You Zombies’ is considered one of the greatest short-stories ever written. A time-travelling hermaphrodite becomes his/her own mother, father, and child.  It was written as a submission to Playboy Magazine, who turned it down – because of the implied sex??!

As a way to give back to a country he cared very much for, Heinlein did at least two important things. He promoted and supported NASA, and the space program.  While many civilians complained about the waste of money, Heinlein knew that every dollar invested in NASA returned $14 to the economy – and that was even before the Silicon Valley bubble, powered by the newly developed micro-processors.

He had had a variety of medical afflictions over the years, and had a very rare blood type. His life had been saved at least twice by transfusions provided by the Rare Blood Association.  He established grassroots blood donor clinic organizations, and he helped make the likes of Rare Blood, and the American Red Cross stronger and more efficient, donating both expertise and money.

While the book could seem dry and tedious, the life of the man it revealed was just awe-inspiring. I am glad I spent the time and patience.  I highly recommend the pair.

ICEBREAKER

ice

Recently, it seems that there’s a lot of people, who want to know a lot, about a lot of other people. A while ago, I published a post in two parts – 31 Facts In 31 Days.  Scarcely had I put it up, than I found another, apparently compiled by the neighborhood pervert voyeur.  It contained questions like, “What do you wear to bed?” There’s not enough vodka or trained psychiatrists in the world, for me to get into that.

This one is called Icebreaker, and can also be used at large meetings and seminars where people don’t know each other. Although, by the time you fill yours out, and read everybody else’s, I don’t know how much time would be left to actually get anything productive done.  I guess that’s what big meetings are like anyway.  It’s probably better than Angry Birds, Candy Crush, or Words With Friends.

This old Iceberg broke off the parent glacier about five years ago. It has been drifting down and blocking the blog-lanes ever since – a publishing hazard to sanity and good taste.  I thought in that time that I had pretty much revealed all, perhaps not though.  If you have the guts and the stamina, read on MacDuff.

Are you named after someone?
My paternal grandfather was Howard. My father was Cyril Howard.  There was a whiny kid in my town who everyone called ‘Howie’, and I grew to hate the name, so I never admit that my second name is Howard.
When is the last time you cried?

Guys cry??  Okay, okay – the last time I heard a real feel-good, beat-the-odds story, my eyes leaked – a little.
Do you like your handwriting?
Dear Lord no! With my tremor, my writing looks like a chicken on meth walked across an ink pad.
What is your favorite lunch meat?

Spicy Tokay or Mexican, salami
How many kids do you have?
Three, one of each….no, wait, just daughter, LadyRyl, and son Shimoniac.
If you were another person, would you be friends with you?
I’d have to be a member of a select group, because of my take-no-prisoners attitude and opinions, but, yes!
Do you use sarcasm?
Are you F**king kidding??  Hell yes!
Do you still have your tonsils?
No. Back when it was all the rage (1950), a surgeon cut my throat.
Would you bungee jump?
I have to take care of an increasingly fragile old body, but I would say yes – maybe till I got to the edge.  I’d like to skydive, into my bucket list.
What is your favorite cereal?
Spoon Sized Shredded Wheat, with strawberries
Do you untie your shoes when you take them off?
I wear (cowboy) boots – no laces. When I don’t, I do.
Do you think you are strong? Physically?  More so than most men my age.  Mentally?  Emotionally?  Probably the same answer
What is your favorite ice cream?
In a bowl, or cone – Black Cherry.  With cake or pie – French Vanilla
What is the first thing you notice about people?
Often, how they inter-react with others, including me
Red or pink? I am seldom understated.  Intense blue, purple or green.  If I must – red.  It makes a statement.
What is the least favorite thing you like about yourself?
My increasingly failing memory, thank (insert your favorite deity) for search engines
What color pants and shoes are you wearing right now?
In the privacy of my own computer room??  You should be reading this with your eyes closed.  Dark blue track shorts and slippers.
What was the last thing you ate?
A small slab of white cake with some 10% cream and diced peaches
What are you listening to right now?
The sounds of both my allergic cat, and dog, snoring, as they lie guarding me
If you were a crayon, what color would you be?
Plaid?  Probably Royal Blue
What are your favorite smells?
Oh, so many….wood smoke, rustling dry leaves, frying bacon
Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone?

Some Paki named ‘Kevin’, who wanted to clean my ducts.  I told him to….
Favorite sport to watch?
Pretty much stopped watching TV.  Almost watch no sports.  Maybe American Pro Football
Real hair color?
I’d like to say black, but that was then, and this, is now mostly white.
Eye color?
Brown.
Do you wear contacts?

It’s all the wife can do to get me to wear my glasses.  Frightened as a child by the Three Stooges, I don’t poke my own finger in my eyes.
Favorite food to eat?
Yes please.  Probably tonight’s supper – potato pancakes
Scary movies or happy endings?
Some big explosions, car chases, gun fights, a little Punch and Judo, people hanging off tall buildings – that can be scary.  Then the bad guys are defeated, and it’s all a happy ending.
Last movie you watched?
Star Trek Into Darkness….see above
What color shirt are you wearing?
Maker claims it’s ‘Dusty Blue’.  I say it’s Steel Blue (greyish-blue), one of my more subdued shades.
Summer or winter?
Autumn!  If I must choose….Summer.  I don’t have to shovel rain.
Hugs or kisses?
Depends on the time, place and person….and if anybody’s watching
What book are you reading?
John Brunner – Wrong End of Time, Tom Clancy (actually, Mark Greaney) – Support And Defend, James Rollins – Devil Colony
What is on your mousepad?
Cat hair
What is the last TV program you watched?
Bones
What is the best sound?
One or more of my cats purring, preferably in my lap
Rolling Stones or The Beatles?
Different strokes for different folks – a bit, but not too much, of both, liberally mixed with many others.
What is the farthest you have traveled?
Since all trips have to be by car, I drove to Key West, Florida – 2765 Km = 1730 mi.
Do you have a special talent?
Yes!
Where were you born?
In the front bedroom of the family home, in Southampton, Ontario, Canada.

 

Flash Fiction #120

banishment

PHOTO PROMPT © Jan Wayne Fields

THE SMELL OF NAPALM IN THE MORNING

“So, tell me exactly how it happened.”

“I really have no idea. It’s all still just a blur.  She asked one of those IED-booby trapped, wife questions, like, ‘Does this dress make my butt look big?’  There must have been some extra Semtex.  I thought I was being tactful.  I should have just claimed a kidney imploded.  I’ve been banished to the couch for a night or two – but this??!”

“So, when do you think you will be allowed back in?”

“I don’t really know. I get good Wi-Fi reception out here, and I’m beginning to really enjoy the silence.”

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

Getting The Cold Shoulder

ice

Once upon a long time ago, I overcame my failure to launch, got a job, and moved to a city a hundred miles from home. During the middle of February, a nasty cold snap moved in.  One Friday night, my friend and I went to an early movie.  The place was not crowded.

Afterwards, we went up the street to our favorite restaurant. Besides the proprietor, there were only four of us on that chilly night, the friend and I, and two young ladies.  At least that’s what they told us they were, when we went over to introduce ourselves.

After about an hour, they asked if we would walk them home. ‘Why shor!’ As we left the restaurant, I glanced at the big Coca-Cola thermometer, hanging on the outside wall.  It read -18° F, about -28 of these newfangled Metricated degrees.  The walk home involved only that, not even any hand-holding, although it’s hard to hold hands with snowmobile gloves on.  Snowmobiles might have been invented by then, but snowmobile gloves sure hadn’t.

After leaving the girls, we headed back to the restaurant to warm up again before going on home. I looked at the thermometer again as we stepped in.  It had fallen to -23° F, or -30° C, in the hour we’d been gone.  As we sat cuddling our hot chocolates, my pal said, “Do you know your ears are white?”  Like the joker I am, I said, “No, but if you’ll hum a few bars, I’ll try to sing along.”

“No, no! Your ears look frozen!”  I reached up and found something that felt like Michelangelo had carved from marble.  I wrapped my hands around the mug, and transferred warmth to my ears.  I couldn’t feel a thing.  Within 15 minutes I could feel them again, and was sorry I could.  They stung for hours.

The next day I went to a Men’s Wear store, explained what had happened, and asked if they had a solution. The salesman provided a bright-white as-the-snow, 100% wool, skiers’ ear band, which I wore faithfully.  I later found that, while I had not lost the ears to frostbite, the tiny blood vessels had been damaged.  Now if a cool September breeze stirs the leaves on the Maples, the ears don’t like it.

I left the job, moved back home for a summer, moved out again, went back to school for retraining, got a girlfriend, got a fiancé, got married, and wore that headband every winter. My WIFE looked at the now grey-brown abomination on my head, and said, “That thing’s gotta be washed!”

Most of the wife’s family is allergic to wool. Thank the Catholic God and Monsanto for Nylon, Rayon, Orlon, Banlon, Dacron, and Polyester.  She washed it in nice hot water, and dried it in a nice hot dryer, and I got back a nice, paper-white wrist band.  Oops!

We easily replaced it at K-Mart, before they went extinct, but she always felt badly about destroying the original. Some years later, when her knitting skills had improved to the point that she was arguing with knitting patterns and TV knitting show hostesses, she asked if I would like her to custom-design and make me a replacement, this time in a washable wool/polyester blend.  See above, “Why shor!”

head-band

She started with a tube, a basic sock. Then she steadily increased stitches on one side, while adding a simple pattern.  After achieving a desired length, she stopped the pattern, and reduced stitches till both ends were equal.  Now she carefully sewed the ends together, and I have a double-thickness ear protector.  The protruding edge goes down the nape of the neck, to fend off cold breezes and falling snow.

After letting me be the guinea pig, the son decided that he’d like one also. A neighbor kid, watching me shovel snow with it on one day, asked how I got my hair to grow up through my hat.

I once sliced into an old tennis ball, and pushed it down over the ball of my trailer hitch, to protect it from rusting. This was the same kid who asked me how I got the ball to balance there.  I think he’s got all the way up to manager at his McDonalds location.   😯