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End of the Line – Chapter One

(First chapter of a nearly finished post-apocalyptic, alien invasion, military science fiction novel. Not sure why I can no longer get proper formatting in these posts anymore…)

ONE

I watched the endless lines of humans allow themselves to be herded to their deaths from three miles away. The combat scope’s digital zoom was top-notch, and allowed me to see too much detail. A woman in a torn red dress, crying with two children clutched to her chest, a family of at least eight, most of the children still in their pre-teen years, a group of at least thirty senior citizens, all of them too dazed to resist as they were led like cattle to the slaughterhouse.

The building that housed the Kai ovens reminded me of a warped children’s toy, one invented by a sadistic madman. Instead of malleable clay being fed into one end and spaghetti or pizza coming out the other, this one took in human beings and belched out an oily, blackish-grey smoke that hung in the air like thick smog. I wondered if the Kai had bothered to learn some human history, then decided to pick one of the most terrible events ever recorded as a fitting end for us. We had no idea what the Kai had done to the Hanura, other than once the Wire had gone silent, their amusing voices no longer chattering on the network, we knew that they’d become part of galactic history. The same with The Seven, our other ally against the Kai. Maybe this was the way that the Kai always vanquished their foes.

A commotion to the right caught my attention and I shifted the scope. A Kai soldier had picked up a human in each of its two powerful hands and carried them toward the entrance of the furnace. The two Kai soldiers guarding the doorway stepped forward to block the mass of humans while their comrade dragged the kicking, screaming men inside the building. The soldier reappeared three seconds later, and began patrolling the area as if nothing had happened. I thumbed the power button on the scope and rolled over when the Kai began shuffling people into the incinerator again. I couldn’t watch anymore.

“How bad is it?” Sergeant McAdams asked me from a few feet down the hillside.

“The same as Denver, Salt Lake, and Great Falls,” I whispered down to her.

“Come on, let’s go,” she said.
Continue reading

Some flash fiction…

Found some old flash fiction stuff from years ago just now…

“In this dream, I was a bird,” she said softly as they lay together.
“What kind of bird?” he asked as he took another drag off his cigarette.
“I don’t know, a fast one I guess. I had really sharp talons and a really sharp nose.”
He laughed softly, chiding her, “Birds don’t have noses. They have beaks.”
“Beaks, noses, whatever, it was sharp!” she said, at the same time digging a finger into his side to tickle him in retaliation for correcting her.

***

There was something about the way the woman kept looking at him that made his skin crawl. It wasn’t necessarily a bad sort of creepy, but it was creepy nonetheless.
Why does she keep staring at me?
he thought.
He reached up and behind him to grab the stop-line, unable to take his eyes off her. He’d walk the extra nine blocks in the dark just to get off the bus and away from the weirdo.

***

“My bologna used to have a first name, it was H-E-A-V-Y-M-E-A-T,” Ryan sang as Eric drove them down the old logging road like a bat out of hell.
“That ain’t how it goes, ya stupid jackass!” Eric shouted above the heavy metal blaring on the stereo.
How he heard Ryan singing a stupid song in the first place was a miracle.

Smash and Grab and Loot and Steal #1

Well… I just wrote this about 30 minutes ago (I’ve spent the last 30 minutes trying to figure out why WordPress 4.0 no longer keeps proper formatting like paragraph indents and such). I don’t even know what the hell it is, so you probably should avoid reading it.

Smash and Grab and Loot and Steal #1

“May I help you?” the stuffy man at the counter asked the young woman standing across from him. The six pirates standing behind her all began to shout at once.

“Arrrr!”

“Keep yer eyes to yerself, matey!”

“Ye best be helpful, dog!”

A dirty hand loaded with shiny gold rings reached across the counter and tweaked the salesman’s name tag. “Don’t be thinkin’ we ain’t watching ya, Gary.”

The way the hand’s owner had said his name made Gary think of how someone might describe a pile of fecal matter. Another chorus of arrrr’s and grunts and snarls and other pirate-y noises followed the boisterous threats directed at the customer service rep. Carly held up her hand, and the store became quiet other than the rustling of sword scabbards and knife sheaths, the tinkling of jewelery, and the clink of coins within their purses.

“Don’t mind them,” the woman said to the man behind the counter. “They’re just…”

The man raised an eyebrow at her, waiting to hear what her answer could possibly be.

“They’re just a band of pirates my husband hired to follow me around to make sure no one gives me any trouble,” she said with a sigh, sounding as if she’d had to explain it for the hundredth time in the last ten minutes.

Gary gave a wary glance to the six pirates gathered around the woman. “I see,” he said. He looked back at the attractive woman standing before him. “How may I be of assistance?”

“Do you think you could fix this?” she asked, holding out her hand.

Gary leaned forward to get a look at the gold chain. He paused when he felt the tip of a sword under his chin. He glanced up to see a mouth full of shiny gold teeth greeting him.

“I see ya achin’ to get a look-see down M’lady’s shirt,” Captain Ironbeak growled, his voice dangerous and his breath only slightly less toxic than the atmosphere of Jupiter.

The woman cleared her throat, and the sword disappeared. The pirate’s snarl morphed into a smile that promised a walk off the plank at the point of a scimitar. Gary blinked a few times, then turned his attention back to the gold chain. He studied it for a few moments before raising his head, making sure to focus on the woman’s eyes.

“May I?” he asked, holding out his hand, which caused a number of swords and knives to rattle in their scabbards and sheaths.

“Certainly,” she said, handing the chain to the salesman.

Gary gave another wary look around, the six pirates all staring daggers at him, before he focused on the ugly knot in the woman’s chain. Within seconds, he saw the problem, and visualized how Frank, the master jeweler, would repair it. He’d just opened his mouth to give the customer a quote when a resounding crash erupted behind her, followed by much cursing, yelling, and gnashing of teeth.

“Get yer sticky hands away from here, pup!” Pirate Rustblade snarled, waving a saber at a small child who was sprawled on the floor of the jewelery store’s wide entrance.

Three other pirates were brandishing their weapons at the child’s parents, while a fourth gave a challenging stare to the mall cop who had finally left the Food Court to make his rounds.

“Uh,” Gary said in a voice loud enough to get everyone’s attention. A little too loud, he thought when six angry pirate faces swiveled back to wish evil things on him. “Please don’t get blood on the carpet.”

Gary was sure that he’d formed some other thought to vocalize, but his brain and mouth were on vacation at the moment. The only thing his mind had been able to focus after the pirates had turned their attention to him again was how Mr. Douglas would erupt into a fit of rage at having to replace a section of blood-stained carpet. Gary thought Mr. Douglas was a pretty decent guy, other than the constant complaining about how much everything cost, how much money he was losing, how the government was out to get his every last dime, and how his employees were getting a free ride since jewelery practically sold itself to anyone who could afford it.

The woman snapped her fingers and the pirates immediately formed up into a small mob behind her. She gave Gary a sheepish grin, one that said he was lucky all they’d done was accost a small child holding a cookie.

“Frank will be able to take care of this for you,” Gary said, once again making sure to keep his eyes locked on the woman’s face. “It will take him maybe three or four days, as he’s kind of busy this week, but it shouldn’t run anymore than twenty-five dollars, depending on how intricate the work is.”

An explosion of roars and threats and blustery howls met his ears, along with three sword blades that met his neck.

“Let me have ‘is head, M’lady?” Pirate Bloodeye asked.

“I say we tenderize ‘im a bit,” Pirate Fangtooth rumbled, giving the fancy salesman a triple poke with the tip of his cutlass.

“Walk the plank!” Pirate Hookfist shouted.

The band of pirates exploded in cheers and shouts and calls and barks and demands that the criminal behind the glass counter be forced down the plank with a sword at his spine. Gary thought about asking the pirates where they’d parked their ship, since Idaho was a landlocked state, and Boise was too far upriver for a galleon, or a caravel, or a brigantine, or whatever type of ship a pirate crew would sail, to navigate safely. The three pirate blades waving near his neck and eyes made him decide to keep his question to himself.

“Twenty-five dollars is fine,” the customer said.

The threats and howls and grunts behind her turned into low grumbles of agreement, along with a single dissenting belch that sounded like a broken foghorn.

“Please fill out the top section of this,” Gary said, careful to reach slowly for a repair ticket.

He looked at the pirate that he thought might be the leader, though to his eyes, all six of the men seemed to be dressed the same in a mash-up of tattered, torn cotton, and fine vivid silks, with hair that ranged from long and greasy to longer and greasier. Captain Ironbeak nodded, the pirate’s massive, calloused nose hypnotizing Gary for a moment as he watched it bob up and down.

“Thank you so much,” said the woman, Carly, according to the repair ticket, after handing it back to Gary. “Next Monday, maybe?”

“Frank will call you and let you know, but it shouldn’t be any problem to get it done by then.”

“Ye best warn yer ol’ pal Frank to get right on it,” Pirate Devildog threatened.

“Don’t make us angry!” Pirate Rustblade yelled, receiving a number of hoots and shouted agreements.

“You’ll walk the plank!” Pirate Hookfist cried out.

“Walk the plank!” came the chorus of whoops, cheers, and shrieks, punctuated by the harmony of rattling swords, jangling jewelery, and plinking coins.

Gary could only stare when the customer gave him one last smile, as if she still had three hours of shopping to do while lugging around six small, cranky toddlers, then turned around and walked to the door. The pirates parted, then closed ranks behind her, each of them shooting a final hateful glare at the landlubber behind the counter. The sounds of a jaunty pirate tune soon rolled back through the store’s opening, the occasional blustery shouting of the song’s chorus and the rattling of sabers and cutlasses and rapiers and spadroons slowly fading as the strange group made its way to the JC Penny anchoring the mall’s eastern end.

The Big Bhang #5: Gadrians Go Gananas & Aliens ‘Get Down’

The Big Bhang #1: The Master & The Streak
The Big Bhang #2: Global Legalization & The Human War Machine
The Big Bhang #3: The Lill & The Backstory of the Backstory
The Big Bhang #4: Make Joints, Not War

5. Gadrians Go Gananas & Aliens Get Down

“Welcome, Mr. Jackson,” Chancellor Adimo said, shaking Forjay’s hand. “Please, have a seat. We have much to talk about.”

“Like I said to Ms. Templeton on the comm, there’s really not much to tell,” Forjay insisted after sitting down.

“Well,” Adimo said, “as Ms. Templeton said, it simply cannot be that simple.”

“Chancellor,” Forjay asked, leaning forward, “have you ever partaken?”

Chancellor Adimo looked around the room. Twenty generals or admirals or commanders, all with so many ribbons on their chests they looked like weird jungle birds in the midst of a mating ritual, glared down the length of the massive conference table at their leader. Almost as one, their heads had swiveled from Forjay to the chancellor, the tone of their scowls never budging from severely angry. One looked like he might literally explode if he didn’t get a chance to yell at the hippie sitting at the end of the conference table.

Adimo shrugged and gave Forjay, and the twenty generals, a sheepish grin. “I was a bit of a partier back in my college days.”

Forjay nodded as if he’d figured as much. “So then you can see that it was just that easy.” Forjay rose from his chair. “If there’s nothing else, I’ve got to get back to work.”

General Volcano finally did explode. “Sit your sorry, stinking, hippie ass back in that chair, son!”

Forjay was too far from the general to read his name tag, but decided General Volcano was a pretty good name. It was better than General Asshat, which was the nickname Forjay had given hulking general next him.

“Uh, General Volcano, no offense, but I don’t take orders from you.” Forjay stepped back from the table and turned to leave, only to find two even more hulking Marines blocking his way.

“You better listen good, you slimy little shit,” General Volcano yelled from the other end of the table. “Now sit your ass down before those two Marines fold you in half backwards and make you kiss your own ass!”

Forjay frowned at the two Marines, but decided to sit down. He’d led a life of peaceful passivity, and doubted he’d be allowed to fire up a joint to dull the pain of a rifle butt in the face or guts if he didn’t do as the sawed-off little guy near the chancellor commanded.

“Do you have any idea of how much trouble you’re in?” the general continued after Forjay was seated. “You’ve put the war effort in jeopardy! What you did was stupid, dangerous, and I’m sure it was quite illegal as well.”

“There’s nothing illegal about sharing a bowl with a friend,” Forjay said. “And there’s definitely nothing illegal about sharing weed with my alien friends.”

“So you and these Gadrians are best friends forever now?” General Mustache asked, the frown on his face almost comical.

“I wouldn’t say we were best pals, but the little guys were pretty goddamn funny. Here, I got some vids on my comm.” Forjay began to call up some of the videos he’d recorded of the piggies trying to imitate humans, but General Squinty-Eye interrupted him.

“We don’t need to see any of your traitorous HoloTube videos. What we need is for you to tell us exactly how you defeated the Gadrians.”

“Wait,” Forjay said. “I’m a traitor for defeating one of the aliens we are at war with?”

“How did you defeat them?” General Volcano screamed from his end of the table.

The generals on either side of him scooted their chairs away from the man, afraid, like Forjay was, that the little guy was going to explode and cover everyone with whatever he was made of. Forjay made the mistake of thinking General Volcano might be made of confetti, and the image that popped into his head caused him to burst out laughing.

“You think this is funny, you piece of shit aaaaaAAAARRRR!”

The soft sound of twenty chairs rolling across thick carpet was lost in the scream of rage that erupted from General Volcano as he bounded out of his chair and onto the table, running straight for Forjay. The first few hands that tried to grab the general were unable to find purchase on the man’s short legs, but by the time he’d made it halfway down the conference table, the other generals had wrestled him down.

Ten minutes later, after everyone was properly calmed down, other than the stubby general, who had to be removed from the room by the hulking Marines, Chancellor Adimo resumed the questioning.

“I apologize, Mr. Jackson. You understand how it is with short men, I’m sure.”

Forjay nodded. At almost two meters in height, he’d had to deal with “short man syndrome” his whole life from aggressive little men or aggressive men with small penises.

“However,” Adimo continued, “we really need you to tell us how you caused the Gadrians to collapse into civil war.”

“The honest truth, Chancellor, is that I smoked some bomb-ass weed with them, then sent them home with the few joints I had with me. If I’d have known they were down, then I would have taken more with me.”

“What kind of weed was it?” General Blinky asked.

Forjay turned to him and found he was mesmerized by the involuntary tick the general had that made his left eye blink every three seconds. He didn’t answer for a full fifteen seconds, silently confirming five blinks in that span, but deciding to not laugh or even smile this time.

“It was weed. Some shit I call ‘Space Ace’ and ‘Feels Like Dying.’”

“What was so special about it?” General Schnoz asked. Forjay wondered how the man could see around the huge nose that took up the middle of his face.

“I grew it?” Forjay asked in reply. When the twenty generals gave him their most severe scowls, he sighed. “Look, dudes, it was weed. Shit I grew on my farm in Oregon. It’s not really special beyond the fact that it will fuck you up pretty good after one or two rips.”

“How did you know it would drive the Gadrians mad?” Chancellor Adimo asked.

“Because it gets me high.”

“No,” Adimo said, his frown surfacing, but light years behind the death-stares the generals were giving Forjay. “I mean, how did you know it would cause such chaos when they went home?”

“Oh, that,” Forjay said, rubbing his chin. “I didn’t know they’d be having orgies in the streets or killing each other over it. I mean, these two strains are pretty killer, but nothing to murder anyone over. Besides, Skronk and his boys acted just like humans do when high. They’re just as stupid, just as annoying, and just as funny as any other stoner. But they’re really cute, if you imagine them looking like little Earth piglets.”

“Those cute little piggies have murdered millions of human beings,” Admiral Beard growled from somewhere within the metropolis of facial hair covering his cheeks.

“Well…” Forjay said. “You kinda did just start shooting at them.”

“Son,” General Blinky said with a huff, “which side are you on?”

“Hey, man, it’s cool. I’m all for Earth and humans and shit. Rah-rah go team and all that.”

“So we’re to believe,” Commander Dagger-Chin rumbled, “that if we’d just sat down with them and smoked marijuana, we would have never gone to war?”

“When you say it like that, you’d probably have still gone to war,” Forjay said with a frown. The men in this room, other than maybe Chancellor Adimo, were not cool. “They’d know you guys were narcs. No one says ‘smoked marijuana’ unless they’re a narc or the parent of a teenager, and none of you look like any of your children lived to that period of their lives.”

“You liberal, tree-hugging, granola-eating, Seattle-living, energy-conserving bastard,” General Rage screamed, pounding his fists on the hempwood conference table. “You better screw your head on straight of you’ll be rotting in a prison dungeon until the end of time!”

“According to GANJA,” Forjay said, unperturbed at the general’s tirade, “I’d only be in that dungeon for about two more months.” Forjay stood again. “So, once more, gentlemen, if you don’t mind, I’d like to live out the final two months of my life getting high and listening to my favorite tunes since you’re all too fucking stupid to understand that if you’d just sit down and break up a bud with a guy, he’ll be your friend instead of someone you toss nukes at so they don’t eat your women and children when they invade.”

This time, no one moved to stop him after his mini-rant. One of the hulking marines shot him a grin as he walked through the doorway. The sounds of military brass arguing and carrying on in heated voices faded as he rounded another corner. Forjay had no idea where to go, or even where he was. He assumed he was in New York City, at the U.N. building, but for all he knew, he could be a thousand miles below a swamp on a backwater planet.

“Lost?”

Forjay turned around to see Marianna Templeton walking toward him, the click of her too-high heels almost as hypnotizing as the exaggerated swing of her hips.

“Yeah,” he answered, looking a little sheepish after she’d caught him starting too long at her legs. “You’re not here to try and seduce me or pump me for more information, are you?”

“Oh, this,” she said with a frown, looking down at her skin-tight skirt. “I wear this sausage suit so the boys just nod their heads and sign whatever papers I put under their pens.”

Forjay chuckled, understanding exactly why the generals didn’t bother to look at what they were putting their name to. He got caught once again looking too long at her legs and hips.

“Uh, isn’t that… I don’t know, unethical?” he asked, making sure his eyes met hers.

“What’s unethical is that until I and the other girls started dressing like Wall Street prostitutes, nothing ever got done around here that didn’t involve invading a planet or approving a new battleship being built.”

“I see,” Forjay said, grinning at her. “Am I in an underwater prison in the Outer Rim?

“No, you’re in New York.”

“Great. There’s a place called Giardino’s near the U.N. building. If you aren’t sexually harassing any generals’ eyes for a bit, that is.”

Before she could answer, a huffing, puffing Chancellor Adimo jogged up to them. He opened his mouth to say something, then bent over, hands on knees, and took a deep breath. After a few seconds, he stood upright again.

“Good,” he said. “You’re both here. Let’s go get lunch.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be in your meeting?” Forjay asked.

“Those guys… they’re brawling right now. Half want to go to war with you, the other half want to invade the Gadrian homeworlds and exterminate them while they’re freaking out, and somehow, another half wants to buy or grow a trillion tons of weed and pass it out to the other GU races.” He laughed. “One even kept going on about how we would rule the galaxy if we just gave them all your super-weed.”

They began walking toward the elevator.

“So, Mr. Jackson,” Marianna said. “How did you really defeat the Gadrians?”

“I’ll tell you when we get to street level,” Forjay said with a grin.

He refused to say another word until they stepped out through a side door and onto a busy side street. Forjay looked around, then propped his back against the building and pulled out a joint.

“Mr. Jackson, I’m afraid I do not partake,” Ms. Templeton said.

They way she’d said it made Forjay think he might have pulled a dog turd from his pocket. When he glanced down and saw that it was indeed a joint of “Hybrid Gigglebox,” he smiled and put it to his lips.

“Aw, Marianne, lighten up,” Adimo said before Forjay could say almost the exact same thing. They looked at the chancellor in surprise. “What? It might do you some good is all I’m saying. Maybe it will get you to stop wearing those damn tight skirts, and we could finally get something done around here.”

Marianna sighed and waited for Forjay the light the doobie. She didn’t feel like explaining to her boss for the twentieth time the reason she wore such scandalous clothing. She harumphed at Forjay, impatiently waiting for him to pass the bomber on.

Half an hour later, two NYPD officers nearly commanded their drug dog to attack the three hippies rolling on the sidewalk who were almost having seizures from laughing so hard, snot and tears and drool coating all three faces. Luckily for the hippies, Officer Barnes recognized the Chancellor of Earth just seconds before he was going to open the door to the police cruiser and let Mr. Fang bite on one or more crotches.

The chancellor and his secretary were helped up from the ground, but when they were handed towels to clean the goop off their face, all they could do was pretend to make different hats or facial hair styles with the towels, and ended up falling down and rolling around with Forjay again. Officer Barnes and his partner gave up and moved on. Mr. Fang drooled and barked through the cruiser’s windows at the three crotches fading in the distance that he wouldn’t get to bite.

A few hours later, the trio began to sober up. Forjay realized they were in the middle of a strange peep show in New Times Square, which had been built just across the river in Jersey. Old Times Square was now a ghost town since all of the entertainment had been forced to the newer location.

“I got it,” Chancellor Adimo mumbled from the floor, where he lay on his side.

“Got what?” Marianna asked, making a gagging sound when she saw her boss was on the floor of the peepshow theater.

“How that one guy beat the alien dudes.”

“Sir,” she asked, “do you mean Mr. Jackson and the Gadrians?”

“Yeah, sure, those guys,” he said, a fifteen second giggling fit infecting him again, making his secretary and Forjay begin giggling as well.

“So, you’re thinking of just sending bales of weed to the Gadrian homeworlds?” Forjay asked. “As a peace offering, maybe?”

“While I would love to,” Chancellor Adimo said, sounding very sober finally, and quite disturbed that he’d been rolling around on the floor of an adult theater, “we can’t.”

“Why not?” Marianna asked.

“It’s the Gadrians’ gig, not ours. We’ve done our part, even though I’m sure Forjay didn’t mean to cause a civil war.”

“So…” Forjay said, disappointment evident in his voice. “You’ll pull our forces from the Gadrian front and send them to the other fronts?”

“No,” Adimo said. “We’ve only got two months to live. It would take two months just to move a battle group into position. No, our next course of action is to go before the Galactic Union and present our case with the Gadrians standing by our side. Assuming that the Gadrians can get their shit together and stop screwing and fighting long enough to restore some order.”

“What are we going to say?” Marianna asked. “That we’re worthy of being allowed to exist because we got a bunch of enemy aliens so high they forgot they were at war with us and went to war with themselves?”

“We’re going to say that whatever substance Forjay presented to the Gadrians was powerful enough to make an entire civilization practically crumble overnight.”

“A threat, then?” Forjay asked, not sure where the chancellor was going with his plan.

“No, no, nothing like that. That probably wouldn’t work anyway. I mean, they’re kinda ready to wipe us all out because of all the threats we’ve already made. And turned into promises a few times.” He didn’t like the looks the other two gave him. “Okay, a lot of times.”

“So what’s the big plan, then?” Marianna asked.

“Check it out,” the chancellor said. “While we’re praying to whatever gods we believe in that the Gadrians come to their senses before our final two months runs out so they can be present at our trial, you and Forjay are going to travel to Harmony-V, where all the different alien races live and do business in a central location, and turn on everyone and anyone to some high-grade dope. We’ll find as many aliens as possible that are affected by it, hopefully a little less than the piggies are, and convince them to tell the GU to give us maybe another year, hell, even another month or two.”

“So,” Marianna asked, wondering if the plan sounded like the babblings of a stoned human to Forjay’s ears as well. “We’ll go to the capitol on Harmony-V and wander around the city trying to get as many aliens high as possible?”

“Yes. Oh, and get me some of those Tyx candies I love. The ones with the glowing insects trapped in sweet ectoplasm. Soooo good!”

Return to Innocence

Hey, all. Travis here. I’m very sick with the flu (never marry a school teacher if you abhor getting sick regularly!), but thought I would update and let everyone know that “Return to Innocence” is live @ Amazon.

It’s my first “vampire” story, and I hope everyone likes it (and I hope no one is expecting “Twilight” style of vampires because my vampires are a bit darker than that).

If you are a KindleUnlimited member, or an Amazon Prime member, you can borrow the book for free. Otherwise, it is $2.99. However, if you contact me, I will give you a free copy, saving you $2.99 (and the rage of spending $2.99 on a terrible story!).

Return to Innocence - vampires!

Return to Innocence – vampires!

Many thanks to Rebecca Weaver for the awesome cover!

Red (Orange-ish / Tan?) Badge of Courage

This author was featured on bargainbooksy.com

(this is a good thing… ignore me, I’m messing around at 5:30AM, right before going to bed)

Stuff Goes Here

Hey! I heard I had a couple of books that were being offered for free at Amazon today. I also heard one of my paid books is priced at $.99. You should check it out. It’s the only way you’ll get enough evidence to convict me in a court of law (in America, at least).

;)

Some Goofy Writer’s Books or Something That You Should Avoid

Techological Evolution = Societal Evolution (+ a warning?)

Let’s talk about Travis and his paranoid delusions. Or maybe they’re just my fears? As someone who has spent half his life in the high tech industry, I’m pretty familiar with the way a lot of the industry operates. I understand hardware, until it gets down beyond the silicon where there’s a lot of math and electrical current and all that. I understand software down to the part where you have to code the actual language of it. I understand the internet both from a user perspective, as well as from a technical perspective.

On top of all this knowledge-y goodness, I’m also old. I’ll be 41 in a couple of weeks. This gives me a lot of experience, but it also gives me a good deal of perspective. I’ve been alive long enough to actually see trends develop. A lot of you younger readers, you’ve grown up with the internet and instant communications. To you, this is just normal. This is how it is. It’s sort of like when I grew up with TV or electricity (okay, I’m not that old, but you know what I mean). It’s something you take for granted.

Now, knowing what I know about technology, business, and human nature (and money, let’s not forget money, and religion, I guess, though religion doesn’t play a part in this at all as far as I can tell), I’ve watched the world grow up with this new internet “thing.” There’s still some of us who are scared of computers, and don’t understand the internet. I’m pretty sure when I was born, there were still those who were scared to death of color television and didn’t understand why it was important to put men in space.

I’ve watched how technology has evolved the social structure of civilization, and has done it possibly more rapidly than any other huge leap in innovation ever has in our history. I grew up remembering a billion phone numbers (733-9329 was our home # for… forever, like twenty years or more, and 733-5776 was the number of the car dealership who had the most annoying asshole I’ve ever seen on TV doing their commercials). I grew up having to get up and change the channel. I also remember remote controls having five buttons only: power, channel up, channel down, volume up, volume down.

My mother told me about remotes that only had one button. You clicked it, and the channel went up. That’s it. To get all the way back around, you just clicked it a bunch of times. But, and keep this in mind, there were like… three TV networks back then, and that’s about it. The Star-Spangled Banner played at midnight, then it was six to eight hours of snow because the TV stations shut down for the night.
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If I Was – or – If I Were? Grammar Lesson!

Right. So. As I’m editing a story tonight, I’ve come across a couple of times where I’ve had to scratch my head and say a sentence out loud. A lot. Why? I’m glad you asked (you didn’t but be a good hostage and pretend I’m important for a moment).

“…a strange foreigner of high birth who threw silver coins around as if he were allergic to them.”

This is one of the sentences in question. If you exchange “was” for “were” in this sentence, it still sounds right. Right? Sort of? And then when you start thinking it does sound correct, you start questioning that. Because “were” starts to sound more correct again.

Okay, maybe I’m the only one with brain damage and has trouble with this. However, I’ve seen this question often, and when Google can autocomplete my query perfectly when I go searching for the answer (remember, English classes were a long time ago for me), I feel better knowing that others have been in this situation.

All of the sites that I respect have the same answer, but since I like Grammar Girl the most, I’ll use hers:

“Believe it or not, verbs have moods just like you do. Yes, before the Internet and before emoticons, somebody already thought it was important to communicate moods. So, like many other languages, English has verbs with moods ranging from commanding to questioning and beyond. The mood of the verb “to be” when you use the phrase “I were” is called the subjunctive mood, and you use it for times when you’re talking about something that isn’t true or you’re being wishful.

This particular piece of confusing English badassery is known as “subjunctive verbs.” It’s badass because it always kicks my ass. Thankfully I have smart editors who, when not laughing at my attempts to relay an intelligible story, make giant, angry red slashes on my manuscripts (or, you know, uses the Track Changes feature in MS Word) when I fail this ongoing test. I’m also bad at using “that” instead of “who.”

There you go, young writers. And old writers like me who forgot most what what I learned in high school and college after banging my head on the desk too many times trying to come up with a plausible storyline that didn’t read like it was written in blue crayon.

PS: If you like Grammar Girl and want her tips to come up first, just make sure you always add “Grammar Girl” to your search. But you knew this already.

Fermi Paradox: Why haven’t we encountered life beyond Earth?

Just read a really interesting article about why humans have yet to encounter any life beyond our home planet: Fermi Paradox

“A really starry sky seems vast—but all we’re looking at is our very local neighborhood. On the very best nights, we can see up to about 2,500 stars (roughly one hundred-millionth of the stars in our galaxy), and almost all of them are less than 1,000 light years away from us (or 1% of the diameter of the Milky Way). “

…..

“When confronted with the topic of stars and galaxies, a question that tantalizes most humans is, “Is there other intelligent life out there?” Let’s put some numbers to it (if you don’t like numbers, just read the bold)—

As many stars as there are in our galaxy (100 – 400 billion), there are roughly an equal number of galaxies in the observable universe—so for every star in the colossal Milky Way, there’s a whole galaxy out there. All together, that comes out to the typically quoted range of between 1022 and 1024 total stars, which means that for every grain of sand on Earth, there are 10,000 stars out there.

The science world isn’t in total agreement about what percentage of those stars are “sun-like” (similar in size, temperature, and luminosity)—opinions typically range from 5% to 20%. Going with the most conservative side of that (5%), and the lower end for the number of total stars (1022), gives us 500 quintillion, or 500 billion billion sun-like stars.”

Read the rest here: Fermi Paradox