Thursday, March 31, 2016

First Contact - A Tale

      It was a tiny area compared to galactic scale. Only about 100 light years across. When the race happened upon a periphery, and detected the new signals, there was great excitement among their scientists. They naturally tried to keep it quiet. But just as on Earth, when a new species is first detected, word tends to spread. Slowly at first, then faster and faster, the news trickled from one advanced race to another. It was within a relatively short span of galactic time that several races sent observers to the outskirts of the newly discovered sentient system.

And it was not too long after that, that Earth observers began to detect unusual movements out in the neigborhood of Neptune.

At first it was explained away. “Just some more planetesimals stirred up by Neptune's orbit.”

“Nothing out of the ordinary. A new comet or two. Add them to the catalog.”

But a few astronomers were tracking the objects, which were lit at times, unlit at other times, and moved quite erratically.

“No matter how much a planetesimal tumbles, it does not fly in formation with others, then suddenly break off and move in odd directions without any gravitational explanations.”

A couple adventurous races moved in closer, to get better visuals on Earth's orbiting ISS and Comsats. The NASA and RSA scientists who were tracking them tried to keep that quiet, too. But the story soon leaked. The sources were discredited, and the lid was kept on for the time being.

Military branches were informed, and brought out their “just-in-case” manuals. Variations on the “fire everything we have and pray” strategy were reviewed. Governments consulted with each other. It was decided that as long as the 'bogeys' didn't make any outright hostile moves, we would observe. After all, we might learn a thing or two.
A probe was discussed, between the Europeans, Russians and Americans. After much haggling, it was agreed that a set of two probes would be sent. Cameras, radar and radio sets. But no identifying marks. After all, it was reasoned, if they are watching us, we certainly have a right to watch them back.
The 'bogey” movements slowed, and soon they blended in perfectly with the background. Someone on the other end got the rogues to cool it, and folks were just watching for the time being.
They followed the Earth probes with interest. They even allowed them to bathe the ET's with radar, lidar, and a lot of other “ar”s. Eventually, the probes journeyed out into the Kuiper belt and beyond. They sent back data that was inconclusive at best. But at least the Earth agencies got some more good close-ups of Pluto.
Earth became a de-facto galactic petri dish and/or zoo. As life went on down on terra firma, the space agencies would have periodic spurts of exploration, followed by decline. Funding and accidents were blamed. Planned Mars colonies never quite got off the ground, and the Moon was exploited, but only with robotic devices. People contented themselves with the usual mundane pursuits, and human life went on.

When this or that pair of lovers would take a hand-holding walk at night, and look up at the stars, and wonder about their fates and how they became intertwined, little could they know.
Their fate was not in the hands of gods, kings, presidents or corporate potentates. The zookeepers were mostly to blame.
                                               The End
 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Four are Dead

Two fine police officers,
one criminal they transported,
one drunk driver who hit them.

Is this a balance of justice?
Two good, two “bad” perhaps?

Seems that way. No matter what they say about the young man who ran into the cops head-on, the record shows that he had several alcohol-related arrests including public intoxication and OWI. Yet he got behind the wheel, and (presumably drunk – why else would you drive down I-80 the wrong way?) smashed into a police vehicle head-on. A tragedy all around. This is why we have such strict laws regarding drinking and driving – a perfect example of what can happen. This debate will really rage now, after the accident. Four human beings will no longer be around to hear or participate in it.
Tragedy all the way around. The criminality, the drunkenness. No easy answers. Human beings are such cussed creatures.

- end

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Zombie Paradise

The Midwestern city seems lively in the middle of the day. Food trucks crowd a bustling sculpture park. Throngs mill about, feeding or strolling through displays. Others move up and down sidewalks with seeming purpose and intent. Some glide in and out of office buildings, where they play the obedient roles given them, in exchange for a pittance. On the surface all seems well.

But if you walk among them you get a different feeling. Making eye contact, you get a lot of dazed stares. Greeting them gets automatic responses. The seeming vibrant youth shows alarming evidence of being remote-controlled.
As of course they are. Everyone is under the control of someone more powerful than themselves. For some, it may be a spouse. For others, they are enslaved by their habits. Others are controlled by addictions. But most are also controlled by their bosses or company owners, especially on the job. Sometimes at leisure too.
Religious beliefs play a key controlling role. Just walk into any shop or store owned by a religious group, and you can almost feel the hostility. Join us or die! And leave your money behind. If you don't conform, we will get at you any way we can – anything is fair game.

Control. Our society runs on it, our people are under it's programmed directives. Whether it is the bottom line, the next quarters results, the next fix, or a hoped-for future outcome, we are all under some kind of automated control or other. And in some cases this may not necessarily be an evil or conspiratorial issue. But what is laughable is that everyone will claim they have complete freedom of actions and movement. When freedom seems conditional on ownership. 100 % total freedom will almost always equal homelessness and poverty. 100 % enslavement (to a job, business or other endeavor) may mean a lot of wealth and prosperity. But your time is not your own anymore.

The (old and new) zombies march around downtown, doing the Leaders' bidding. They dutifully work and spend and consume, laugh and mock on cue, make love and make babies and buy condos on demand. Our fair metropolis will grow and become congested by consumers, will expand and annex and tax and spend. And won't it all be wonderful? Won't it? Makes you wonder sometimes.

Thanks for reading.


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Loyalty


      In light of the persistent terrorist attacks on Western countries, it seems a good time to speak up about loyalty. Nowadays you have various technology giants coming down on the side of privacy as opposed to surveillance. The Apple case stands out. But it makes one wonder, where is the loyalty of these companies? Especially since they got their start under our system, in our country, the USA. Could Google, Apple, Amazon or Microsoft have gotten a similar start in a smaller country somewhere, with no national Internet (developed by the government after all) to capitalize on? Perhaps, to some extent. But here in the US they have all become behemoths, making many, many millions. Some of the money they made was undoubtedly through government contracting jobs. 

      And now they want to deny the same government any recourse to obtain records from a terrorist-used Iphone? Because they are worried about privacy precedents? Oh come on. The NSA has already demonstrated their ability to collect huge amounts of information. And commercial companies harvest huge amounts of freely-given personal data. You have people posting all kinds of personal info on social media sites, completely voluntary. And yet a company won't co-operate in the unlocking of one lousy phone, to help authorities catch terrorists. 

So the terrorists laugh at civilization, and keep blowing us up. If Apple and these other companies will not help the government (representative of the people), then their loyalty must be with the terrorists. Or they simply have none. Maybe they should move to Syria.

Now, loyalty is not such a bad thing. During WWII, or even during the World Trade Center bombings, people came together and proclaimed their loyalty as Americans. The flag-waving was epidemic. If there was a cellphone back then that could have helped catch the WTC bombers, would Apple refuse to unlock it? Who made Apple what it is, anyway? American customers! And yet they thumb their nose at American authorities. Maybe Apple should move to Syria, since apparently their loyalty is with ISIL.

A stretch, perhaps? But still these corporations show zero loyalty to the nation that birthed them. It is disgusting. Why can't Apple dispatch a technical team to the justice department, to help them unlock that one phone? That is what a company would have done in the past. But nowadays everything is manufactured overseas anyway. I suspect that Apple would need the help of some South Koreans and Chinese, since they have the true technical know how to get into a phone nowadays.

     This is not to say that companies should have fanatical, slavish loyalty to the government no matter what.  This is a democracy, after all.  But when some terror suspects murder many people, and hide potential information on a company's product, that company should step up and help - period.

Come on, tech giants. Show just a smidgen of loyalty to our country. You were born in the USA, like it or not, and for that you owe some allegiance.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Beware the Stalking Predator

There once was a cat named Callie
who got into moods wild and silly...
There once was a plant in my living room,
that Callie chewed before fleeing, vroom!

There once was a feather duster,
minding its own business on the table,
She jumped up and bit down on feathers,
took it and ran as fast as she was able.

There once were birds who flew outside,
Oblivious to the predator fixated inside.
Thereafter, any toy or tool with fur or feathers
got pegged as a bird, ended up in tatters.

Even hands and feet moving of their own volition,
were viewed as prey, slated for kitty demolition.

Now the human (owned) must keep a sharp eye,
lest he get charged and bit, then utter loud cries.

(c) M Wilson 2014 

- end

Monday, March 21, 2016

He Ate My Lunch

(In response to a humorous Facebook post)

What strange manner of creature this,
who pretends sympathetic friendship?
Proclaims steadfast loyal admiration,
promises to subject you to no hardship.

The quick as a wink,
fast as a flash,
the minute you sit down to eat
your lunch meal of Ramen,
he swoops in with a utensil
thrusts his prehensiles,
and gobbles up a whole
HALF of your noontime repast!

The Nerve!
The chutzpah!
The sheer rude Neanderthal crudity!
I mean it is not as if you offered him any...
And you thought he was your friend!

Dump the boy,
leave him to his toys.
Go find yourself a man,
who considers it his duty
to leave your Ramen alone.
Go out with the man with that plan.

But you had better eat lunch at
McDonalds or Burger King.
(Nary a Ramen noodle in sight
at those places, last time I checked. )

Good luck with your love life,
and keep those noodles under lock and key.
While the best things in life often are,
these Ramen noodles are not free!

- end with a smile

New by Dycen Alexander

My good buddy and alter ego dycen has requested that I put up his Amazon Kindle books for sale again.  So here they are, starting with the latest one Epic Prime collections:

Epic Prime Collection – www.amazon.com/dp/B01D8107K0

Experimental Tales – www.amazon.com/dp/B01AWJSRBC

The Osmotics – www.amazon.com/dp/B00IDW1OFM

New Venture – First Contact in the Kuiper Belt – www.amazon.com/dp/B00U9URST2 

Thank you for taking a look on your Kindle-compatible device today!



Thursday, March 17, 2016

Trump-et

That Donald Trump is a riot,
claimingfollowers cannot be subdued;
Anonymous hacked Trump's private info,
including his social security number.

Media circus goes on entertaining us,
exposing new outrages every day.
Vladimir Putin complains about him,
John Kasich eagerly joins the fray.

Foreign leaders try to endorse Hillary,
who says no thanks, this is for Americans
to decide (but are donations still OK?)
One thing is clear: This is a unique campaign.

No one can say this election will be cliché;
This year more than ever, Vote on Election Day!

- end

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Ghosts and Thier Homes

The pop icon smoothed his hair, and muttered, “Hey, lil lady, how about you and me go for a ride?”

The platinum blonde star replied, “Why sure, big guy. Can you drive me in your pink caddy?”

The warm sun slanted, late afternoon streamers across adobe and brick abodes, glinting off shop windows not yet lit for the night. Another Palm springs evening approached, as the couple cruised down Indian Canyon Drive in their translucent ride. They were soon joined by a parade, a caravan of other luminaries following in everything from a 1937 Deusenberg to 1964 mustangs. The large procession would most likely stop at Chi Chi's, a popular nightclub, for a sumptuous dinner and glamorous entertainment.

To regular Palm Springs residents, the procession would mean no increase in traffic or congestion headaches. For all of the famous (and infamous) movie stars, mobsters and industrialists were made solely of memories, invisible to the naked eye. But if one were to look sideways, with one eye closed in the twilight, they might just get a glimpse of Frank and his boys, or Dino and Sammy partying late, or even a tribe of Indian ghosts doing a rain dance. But if you blinked, they disappeared back into the well of memory that suffuses this desert paradise.

Then you will have to join everyone else, and go on a tour of celebrity homes in the area, to see their houses and try to remember what they looked like. Fortunately, Palm Springs has a lot more to offer than the ghosts of yesteryear. There are gorgeous canyon hikes, tram rides and area trails to walk or bike. Not to mention the numerous golf courses and tennis courts in the area. There are many fine resorts that offer lots of luxuries to their guests. A variety of restaurants and nightclubs round out the offerings. On a recent visit I got to enjoy a lot of what the area has to offer, including many good meals, a stay at a local resort that (I'm told) was built by Howard Hughes, and visits to local sights including Palm Canyon.

So I can heartily recommend Palm Springs to Californians and out-of-staters alike. But don't be surprised at what celebrity ghosts you may brush elbows with when you are out dining, clubbing or walking the streets in Palm Springs. There were over 600 celebrities who have lived in the greater Palm Springs area at one time or another. And if you go, the count will increase by one. Enjoy your visit.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Beware Simplification

      Seems remarkable that whenever humans endeavor to automate some system or other, in the guise of helping make thing simpler, they always make them more complex, and ultimately more difficult.
One example is the autocomplete feature on cellphones. At every encounter with this, it is mostly wrong. People end up posting ridiculous-looking words or remarks on social media sites. How about those voicemail menus? Every choice but the one you want. Whenever an automated program tries to make decisions for us, trying to be helpful, they usually just get in the way. Should we keep trying? I wonder at times.

Now the discussion at technology events like TED and SWSX rages about Artificial Intelligence. About having an intelligent mind-program out there on the Web, that will learn about you, and in doing so be more helpful. Currently the programs that simply ask, “What can I help you find?” or simply wait for your question, like Siri or OK Google, do not seem too bad on the face of it. But an active program, trying to meddle in my life in order to improve it or make it simpler? No way. That reminds me too much of a helpful nanny invading my house, and “organizing” everything so it is easier to find. Easier for him or her. Not for me – I live here, and know exactly where everything is, even if it is disorganized. People are disorganized, chaotic, random and emotional. If you are trying to build an AI program, you'd better take that into account.

And so then comes the parade of robot products, at events like SWSX. They are fascinating, even titillating to a degree. Our personal servants, right there on the horizon, ready to do our bidding. But how intelligent do we really want them to be? So much so that they question our judgment? “I think you may not be feeling well today, Dave, so I'm ignoring that Kill command. Here, let me put you to bed now...”
     “But it's only 10:30 in the morning, you damned insane robot. Leave me alone! Ungh...”
I sincerely hope these products come with an Off phrase or kill switch. Better yet, several. Once those are clearly established, and printed in various places around the house, then fine. Sign me up for a humanoid manservant that will do all of the chores, and even chat about world affairs on occasion.
     It is astounding sometimes how far we have come with these products. Self-driving cars and household robots may be commonplace in five or ten years, at least in affluent households. Like products beforehand (TVs, Cellphones, etc), science fiction becomes science fact. In some cases, the affluent may envy the poor, who will not be prisoners of their own technology. Even as some of the poor will be jealous, wanting to join the ranks of the pampered elite. It should be a fascinating next ten years. Just hope no one automates the basic toilet too much. I don't want to enter a password to take a P. Thanks for reading.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Memorial to a Keyboard God

You were one of a kind,
in an incredible band.
God of the electronic keyboards,
you made the most amazing sounds.

Part of a chaotic time in life,
Your music painted a path forward,
teased and eased my mind at work
and especially at play...

One of the rare artists whose creations
made this world bearable for the masses.
Thank you, Keith Emerson, for all of the
light, color and wonder you brought to
so many adolescent lives.

You helped us forget long gas lines,
Watergate, Vietnam, Inflation,
and seemingly unending Recession.

The show never ended as long as
ELP gifted us with album after album.
Your music is a force unto itself
and will exist for the life of the universe.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Another Successful Penetration of the Stratosphere.

Soft-spoken commentators give an overview,
two screens shown on the video feed;
one shows the rocket, misting white
from vents, fueling commencing.
Soon complete as the count
decreases to 2:00 and counting.

The commentator notes the milestones,
reviews the goals of the mission:
Launch a huge comm-sat into GEO,
and land the first-stage booster on a
robot pad somewhere in the ocean.

The launch soon commences,
right on time, and the flight is flawless.
The spacecraft enters and exits
Max-Q, KPS numbers advance smoothly.

As the rocket gains altitude and speed,
the commentator explains how it will
soon reach LEO, and orbit for a time.

Then, one more burn to set the Sat and
its thrusters on a path to Geostationary
orbit, 38,000 kilometers above the Earth.
It takes a lot of propellant fueling those
Merlin engines. But they burn flawlessly.

The quiet professionalism of smart young
scientists shines with excellence once again.
The thin white needle pierces the veil of
Space, and soon deposits a glistening drop
of machine intelligence, Earth-human
crafted communication technology.

Another success for this amazing company.
Can human passengers be far behind?

Keep up the superb work, SpaceX!
Perhaps we humans are not doomed
to be grubs on a blue-tinged rock forever.

 

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Land of the Famous Over Time

Luminaries and celebrities,
famous and infamous and hangers-on,
rich and wannabees and employees.
The past blends into a melange,
a melee of famous faces now dead.

All of the fabulous food they ate,
fine utensils they used,
chairs and tables they rested on
now passing from flea markets to antique
stores, only to be bought up again,
ending up back in a warehouse.

The restaurants are demolished,
the fine hotels torn down to make
way for new condos bearing similar names.
Famous partying celebs have been
replaced by retirees resting in
purchased apartments.
Whoopee, we are in paradise now, Mabel.

Fame and fortune too rapidly
ends up as dust and detritus.
Have a good time and hold
on to those memories,
before you too end up as dust.

Maybe if you are lucky,
someone will remember you
as some kind of celebrity,
if only in their heart alone.
enjoy that desert sun while it lasts;
even those lofty palms won't live forever.

But it is sure fun while it lasts :-)