A peace mint

Jogger, wearing a headlamp on a north Alabama side road, influenced by a viral video of villagers rescuing a neighbour’s body from within a python, bobs up and down as bobolinks and robins wake up in the predawn air.

We don’t pick cotton or cut sugar cane by hand around here anymore.

No, manual labour has lost its value as far as commercially-farmed edibles is concerned.

Manual labour still exists in the form of handcrafted art and jewelery.

Workers still fill potholes with shovelfuls of asphalt, still run power cable by hand, still hammer studs and plant bushes with their arms as levers.

But the tools grow more sophisticated, the workers’ brainpower redirected, their hand-eye coordination rewired.

We look to education to solve human-machine interface configuration issues.

What are looking for, really?

Is it one person’s yacht versus a thousand persons’ robotic movements?

Are we forever doomed to be hierarchical antmound builders, some with a mountaintop view and some in perpetual darkness underground?

A recent visitor to this planet asked if we’ve always been mountbuilding social creatures, observing from space that our domiciles are primarily boxes piled on top of boxes, linked by antlike trails carrying food and supplies from domicile to domicile primarily across the surface of the planet.

Who was I to disagree?

The visitor asked if we planned to carry these habits with us as we moved on to other planets.

A good question.

Have we advanced beyond moundbuilding civilisations?

Will we ever?

Will we continue to appease our ancestors or completely reconfigure ourselves to enhance our ability to travel great distances across the galaxy?

The visitor left us with many questions, providing no answers except in the negation of our Earthbound habits.

The visitor was not humanoid or superintelligent, the visitor did not use a universal translator to communicate.

The visitor was an asteroid with a shiny surface, reflecting us back to ourselves, reminding us that the tree which drops seeds on the ground is composed of the same galactic material.

The messages we write into DNA which triggers a new species to assert itself beyond Mars orbit, that is the lesson the asteroid taught us: we already have the tools we need to successfully move away from Earth, we just need to reeducate ourselves to use the tools properly, getting beyond moundbuilding and social hierarchies in the process.

In Search Of…

In my pocket sits the letter, or book chapter, titled “Diary of a Lefthander.”

A tufted titmouse calls out from the branches of a bush whose common/Latin name I can no longer remember — evergreen with thorns and orange berries in late autumn — reminds me of the word pachysandra and looks like cotoneaster, but taller and spindlier. [Google search identified it as pyracantha, yea for search engine technology when my portable memory (a/k/a my wife) is not around.]

I sit in the garage, uncomfortably seated in a folding chair emblazoned with the orange and white colour scheme of the University of Tennessee, with requisite pocket for a drink in an arm of the chair.

A 16GB SD card is plugged into the notebook PC on which I write these notes, containing many snapshots of the plastic chair in the treehouse toward which the trailcam is pointed, capturing also images of squirrels.

I would include one of the images here but this free blog has reached its 3GB image storage capacity and I don’t want to pay for more.

None of the images are particularly viral but it is funny to see the squirrel on the chair.  There’s also a fuzzy furry image of something big in the treehouse, its body pressed up against the trailcam…could just be the squirrel, and probably is, considering we don’t have much more treeclimbers of the sort that look like squirrel fur/eyeball up close.

I’ve always worried that I am boring so I’ve created many ways to entertain people, getting bored myself when a particular character I’m portraying attracts too many of the same kind of people so lately I’ve tried to cultivate a character people dislike (modeling in part on a certain self-centered politician (isn’t that redundant?)) to see if it attracts any fans.

It has and not the kind I want, either.

Too bad for I was just getting to like the new character.

What is next for me, then?

I still believe in Earth-based life on Mars like so many other people, both interesting and boring.

We don’t know with complete certainty which of the 8+ billion humans on/around Earth will make the difference in  declaring the success of Mars colonisation by 6th May 2050 so I can’t write off any one person, subculture, population, planet.

Excuse me or am I the only one who thinks the millipedes around here keep getting bigger and bigger?

I walked through our wooded yard earlier today, noting the blooms of spring beauty, white star grass, scorpion weed, yellow trout lily, trillium; early sprouts of mayapple, deciduous holly, and unidentified trees.

A Carolina wren calls out from the branches of a burning bush, highlighted by the bright pink blooms of a Japanese redbud.  In the distance, another wren returns the call.

Strips of shagbark hickory hang down from a gray stalk growing upwards tens of feet to the forest canopy.

The twisted trunk of a decades-old wisteria holds a maple tree in suspended bent shape as if defying gravity.

Lacewings, crane flies, bumblebees and wasps occupy my gaze occasionally.

The beep of a computer reminder to install a new version of Java reminds me that it’s time to get ready to go to work to collect freshly donated whole blood for processing and delivery to patients in need of blood products at our local hospitals.

Perhaps I will type up “Diary of a Lefthander” later this week…

The Fourth Wall

Lee met Shadowgrass for a moon bounce.

They’d take a hop for a couple of sols, bouncing from Martian moon to Martian moon, racing each other through suborbital traffic.

A typical parent/child venture.

They hadn’t seen each other for a long time, what between Lee hiding on Enceladus, traveling through a black hole, visiting and revisiting Earth, promoting, selling, experimenting, taking holidays,…

Shadowgrass wasn’t exactly free, either, having supervised the conversion of Lee’s and Guin’s labs and greenhouses to ensure enough tourism kept people focused on and talking about Mars, then soliciting resources for more research facilities far away from tourists.

As they circled the Northern Ice Cap, they noticed a new outpost.

“Have you been there?”

“No. It’s just another resort under construction, currently designated Outpost 14.”

“That’s curious. Why the extensive excavation?”

Shadowgrass had wondered the same thing. ISSANet records indicated special deep foundations were designed for the outpost. But why? The subsoil was firm. “I don’t know, Dad. It’s not readily apparent.”

They circled on around the planet, shooting out toward Deimos for a bite to eat.

“Shadowgrass, when you get back, can you make time to visit the outpost?”

“Sure, Dad.”

“Thanks. Your genius will figure out what’s going on in ‘know time,’ I’m sure.”

They laughed.

“Last one to Deimos buys fuel credits!”

S’iht Egneh Snots

S’iht sat silently.

Assigned to the new outpost ten sols ago, S’iht had studied the goals and expectations of the outpost team.

This being the 14th outpost, with tourists taking up much of the old science station quarters of the First Colony, S’iht’s job importance had grown significantly as tourists put pressure on the new Martian government to provide fun, exciting places to explore safely.

S’iht knew that the first thirteen outposts were overcrowded.

The team for this outpost wanted something different, too.

After all, they has mastered all the knowledge that 200 marsyears of recent robotic exploration had accumulated. 

They wanted to be remembered.

Memory was gold in the outposts.

Being remembered by more than your teammates was priceless, rarely if ever achieved.

S’iht had once been remembered.

S’iht arrived in a group of ten excited tourists who had arrived with a shipment of permanent Martian settlers, Permartians, the first people designed to live there.

The Last Humans, S’iht’s tour group were called.

With so many returning tourists reporting major health problems the Mars Tourism Bureau declared the Red Planet offlimits to all but Permartians for next 100 marsyears.

S’iht had won the DNA lottery, surviving untold marsyears of ultraviolet and cosmic radiation exposure with little longterm damage.

S’iht was not remembered for health reasons.

S’iht has been wealthy on Earth, taking calculated but high risks investing in AI technology which turned whole planets into sentient beings, integrating many of Earth’s governments and corporations, forming the precursor to the ISSANet.

The economies of scale turned S’iht into the solar system’s first quintillionaire.

Until the ISSANet reached beyond the mere imaginings of Earthlings, converting S’iht’s wealth into a public resource for, of course, the greater good.

S’iht was erased from public memory, left to serve as a Martian Outpost Operator, unable to convince anyone of S’iht’s previous life.

Always inside the unending view of the ISSANet, the omniscient caretaker crafted to grow its existence beyond the solar system, rewriting and reinventing its connections, no longer dependent on human-based algorithms. 

But S’iht still dealt with tourists using old-fashioned methods of talking, facial movements and body postures developed over millennia of human evolution.

The fourteenth outpost was going to be remembered.

S’iht had a plan.

All while fighting off thoughts of self-hatred, dark thoughts of suicide when S’iht knew the ISSANet would please itself by keeping S’iht alive for centuries.

What if evidence of a strange alien civilisation was uncovered in the fourteenth outpost?

S’iht had new friends, including humans, Permartians and ‘bots. They formed a cohesive unit that communicated ideas without talking about them.

Together they had created a whole back story for a civilisation that had arrived on Mars billions of years ago but died out.

A civilisation that had known Earth in its early days before single-celled organisms had spread across the planet through water networks and evaporation. 

Together S’iht’s colleagues would dig out in full view of the ISSANet a civilisation that never existed.

Despite its advanced technology, the ISSANet carried within its network a series of iterative, reinforcing behaviours that mimicked humans’ sympathy networks, ever so slightly susceptible to subliminal messages.

S’iht’s colleagues spent decades of marsyears nurturing the seed of an ancient civilisation on Mars until the ISSANet convinced itself of the same possibility, doubling the duties of outpost builders to look for such.

S’iht had become an indispensable outpost crew member because of S’iht’s insistence that such a civilisation didn’t exist.

The ISSANet gambled a small portion of its galactic expansion resources on the chance S’iht was wrong.

S’iht just wanted to be remembered again.

S’iht joined the 14th Outpost crew and yelled out, “Let’s Stonehenge this place!”


What is talent?

It seems I wish everyday I haven’t woken up from the night before, that I don’t have to face the real me anymore. 

As a child, well-versed in protecting myself from my father’s angry blows and blessed with a natural smile on my face, I was able to fake happiness physically when I was instead crouching in fear mentally.

That fear has never left me.

In a false belief of sophistication, I have grown my vocabulary of words and phrases to protect myself from what I always perceive as two ways people treat me:

1. They want something from me, and/or

2. They intend to do me harm.

It is an odd way to see the world, not knowing what love is except through observation and analysis of others’ behaviour toward one another when they say it’s about love.

In the autumn of 1984, I took my parents’ station wagon and drove out West, able, through many hours of hearing country/rock songs on the radio, to discern much of what people call love in commercial music/adverts is really lust or temporary physical attraction.

But decades have past and I’m older, supposedly wiser.

A friend, Brenda Craig, once told me if I ever got outside my head, to look her up. I interpreted that to mean joining society more fully so I climbed the corporate ladder and looked her up. She congratulated me.

From that experience I learned it was no good trying to interpret what other people mean.  Did she love me, and if so, in what way?

I have been alone, mostly lonely, my whole life.

Despite the best efforts by friends to break through my mental fog of being isolated from the world, the fog thickens and I return to my self-hatred and fear of the world of humans at large.

I don’t give up hope that I might change and actually learn what true love and friendship is.

At the same time I’ve grown used to being alone in my thoughts, so much so that I’ve tried to warn friends old and new to leave me alone, I’m not who they think I am.

I’ve developed a strong defense system that appears to make people feel better about themselves which in turn makes them want to make me feel better by their reciprocal behaviour.

It is simply sets of states of energy reacting to one another.

Although Jenn has been a great friend to me I have done my best to stay away from her because I know who I am.  I love her too much to be a part of her life.

With that I return to my mental contemplation of wishing I don’t live another day and stop recording my mental musings in social media.

The Bore Wars

The Emperor Ming: Klytus, I’m bored. What plaything can you offer me today?

Klytus: An obscure body in the S-K system, Your Majesty. The inhabitants refer to it as the planet… Earth.
The Emperor Ming: How peaceful it looks.
[He activates a console, and watches as earthquakes, floods, etc., start to occur. They both get a good laugh out of it.]

Klytus: Most effective, Your Majesty. Will you destroy this, uh, Earth?
The Emperor Ming: Later. I like to play with things a while… before annihilation. [laughs evilly]