Space Whales

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They came from deep space, hurtling through our orbital plane at such tremendous velocity we thought they would be gone before we got more than a brief look at them. But then their trajectory shifted. As they shed speed in Saturn’s gravity well, eighty-three satellites focused on the two objects. Ovid bodies, covered by near-black armor plates, a single “head” plate covered the blunt end of their bodies, near the tapered rear two “tendrils” extended backward, twisting and flexing as they changed course. From Saturn, they looped around Venus for a final course correction, before heading toward Earth.

Five hundred years ago, we invented the Gravity Wave Space Drive and the solar system became our new frontier.

The two creatures that had traveled untold distances in lockstep, now separated in Earth orbit. For several weeks they called down to Earth with bursts of radio chirps, squeals, and tones. We think they were searching for others of their kind. The two reunited and drifted into a higher orbit. They turned their bellies toward each other, armor plates parted, lifted, opened allowing them to join as one. Together they slowly spun as they orbited Earth. Three days later, they separated and returned to their previous orbit.

Gregor Snadbar is credited as the inventor of the GWSD. Just twelve years after gravity waves were confirmed to exist, he found a way to bend and warp them around an object to create lift.

Six months after the space whales’ romp in orbit, one descended to fifteen thousand feet over the Pacific Ocean. The plates around its tapered end parted and something fell. The blue green-brown object tumbled through the air for what felt like hours but it was less than a minute before it righted itself and flew back up to its parent. Four more fell and flew over the next six hours. When the parent began to ascend two days later, the calves followed into the upper atmosphere but would not or could not follow into space.

There are children’s stories about whales flying through space, coming to Earth, and teaching us to ride gravity waves. Those were just stories, right? Surely if alien creatures had visited Earth we would have recorded it.

The calves are miniature versions of their parents except where they are solid black, the calves have pale blue undersides and green and brown molted backs. Camouflage from predators perhaps; but what could prey on small-airplane-sized creatures?

Perhaps their first visit was much shorter, just long enough to find an empty nest and for us to observe them bending gravity waves. Short enough for us to forget. But someone remembered. Someone remembered who we owed for giving us the solar system. They remembered and turned it into a story.

In five years, the calves have doubled in size but are still dwarfed by their parents. We think it’ll be a few decades before they can leave Earth’s atmosphere maybe longer before they leave the solar system. Their parents come down into the atmosphere on a regular basis to spend a few days at a time with them. The rest of the time the calves wander around the planet, riding jet streams or skimming through clouds. They keep their distance from planes and rarely come closer than several hundred feet of the ground. There are websites and apps to track their movements. Even an animated show for kids.

Perhaps this time we won’t forget them.

Nighttime Encounter

I had an encounter tonight.

Part of my walk home goes by a church parking lot. The sidewalk has a bit of grass on either side between the street on my right and the church parking lot on my left. As I was walking by I saw a police suv in the parking lot, which is not abnormal but this one was parked across several parking spaces.

So, I glanced at it a few times and one of those times I saw something move in the periphery of my vision. I looked down at the motion and there was a small black shadow moving around. For a second I couldn’t resolve what I was seeing then it turned and I saw a shock of white fur. It was a skunk less then five feet away with its tail up. I jogged a couple of steps diagonally away from the skunk into the grass by the street. When I glanced back the skunk was hiding under a car.

Several weeks ago I saw a skunk in a bank parking lot but from a much larger distance. Tonight’s encounter was a lot closer than I ever wanted to come to a wild skunk.

(Re)Creation

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My first breath was deep and sweet. It filled me with life and thoughts. I laid still on the ground breathing in and out. A Voice said, “Wake Up,” so I did. Bright sunlight filtered through the leaves of the tree I laid under.

Sun, leaves, tree. I had never heard these words yet I Knew them.

“Come,” the Voice said.

I stood and followed the Voice into a clearing. Animals of all types surrounded me. I was not afraid because I did not Know fear. An animal approached me and bowed its head.

“What Is It?” the Voice asked.

I reached out to touch the animal’s forehead. “Deer,” I said Naming the animal.

The deer raised its head and bounded away.

“Good,” the Voice said and I felt good and loved.

Animal after animal approached me and one by one I Named them until none were left. I laid down under a tree and breathed in and out. A squirrel ran down the tree and buried a nut. Nearby deer grazed in a meadow. Sparrows flittered from branch to branch overhead. A thought collected itself in my mind.

“What am I?” I asked the Voice.

The presence of the Voice grew greater. “You Are Me Made Flesh. I Merely Spoke The Sun, The Moon, The Stars, The Land, The Waters Above And Below, The Sky And All Animals That Walk Fly And Swim Into Being. But You Are Special. I Molded You And Shaped You From The Earth And I Breathed Life Into You.”

“Is that why I know Words?”

“Yes.”

I thought about this as the sun traveled across the sky. As the sun reached the boundary between sky and land, a new question formed itself. “Who am I?” I asked.

The Voice was pleased and happy. “You Are Yourself. Chose Your Name.”

I thought of all the words I Knew and selected one.

“I am Eve,” I said and it was Good.

/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/-/

“What did she just say?”

“She said her name was Eve.”

“But Adam was the first man. How can there be an Eve before an Adam?”

“The game is programmed to adapt to the player’s gender identity. Its standard game design.”

“This isn’t a game. It’s supposed to be a recreation of The Holy Bible.”

“Well, regardless it’s unethical to override a user’s gender without their knowledge and since the ‘recreation’ includes memory blocks and no setup screen, remember you wanted the ‘recreation’ to start with no title screen, there’s no way to get consent.”

“So, what happens next? Adam is created from her rib?”

“Yes.”

“That’s not how the bible goes. Fix it.”

“I can’t without either loosening the memory blocks or adding a title screen.”

“The whole point is for people to experience the Garden of Eden and the Fall From Grace first hand. Wait, if she stays in the recreation will the serpent tempt her or Adam?”

“Adam. We found that in playthroughs with women only 40% would be tempted by the snake but 90% would be tempted by their in-game mate.”

“At least it’s always Adam and Eve.”

“Not always.”

“What?”

“Well, we can’t override the player’s sexual identity without consent either.”

“So, what happens if a gay man enters the recreation?”

“He would enter the game as Adam and eventually another Adam would be ‘created’ from his rib.”

“That’s blasphemy.”

“No, it’s ethical game design.”

Three Doors, One Choice

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Death was a shadowy figure, standing in front of three identical doors. “Choose,” they said.

“Am I dead?” I asked. Thick fog obscured the world beyond.

Death inclined their head ever so slightly, extended an arm towards the doors and said once more, “Choose.”

I paced in front of the doors. “Ok, so these doors lead to like different afterlifes, afterlives?, or rewards or punishments, right?” I stopped and held a hand up towards Death. “No, don’t answer that.” I resumed pacing. “They could also all lead to the same place as some sort of metaphor about humans not having free will.” I stopped again with both hands held up. “Don’t tell me.”

I turned to study the doors. All three were plain wooden doors with a regular door knob on the right. No locks of bolts. I looked closer at the patterns in the wood grain. Was that a face on the second door? Whose face, my fathers? No, he wasn’t dead, yet. But maybe this was happening outside linear time?

“Hey, do I have to chose now or can I think about it for a while?”

“Chose,” Death said again in their monotone reverberating voice.

“Can I glance through the doors first?”

Death leaned back as if considering my question. After a minute, they nodded. I heard three sets of clicking and clacking as the three doorknobs turned. The doors cracked open.

Behind the first door, I saw a living room. Pleasant music drifted out. Seated on the sofa was my grandmother knitting the sweater she hadn’t finished for me. On the coffee table, a spread of cookies, homemade, sat.

Behind the second door, I saw a street. People walked back and forth between street vendors and food trucks that lined the street. Others sat in the shade talking, laughing, or just resting contently. Distantly I could hear a band playing on a stage.

Behind the third door, I saw a black void. As a stared into it I began to see shapes without borders and hear sounds that bled into each other. It was empty of meaning but full of potential.

The doors closed. I turned to Death. “Thank you, for letting me see what was on the other side. I’m ready to choose now.” They said nothing.

I walked up to my choice, opened it, and stepped through.

Inspired by this writing prompt: https://deepwaterwritingprompts.tumblr.com/post/185891958305

“The Umbrella Academy” Episode Ten Thoughts

I liked this episode a lot. It pulls the story threads together, has a couple of great action scenes, and ends the season off in a decent way.

As a season finale, it’s fine but if the series hadn’t been picked up for a second season and this had been the series finale it would not have been fine. In a way, I’m glad I didn’t binge through this series before the second season was announced because I would not have been happy with this ending.

But we’re getting a second season so I can abide the final five minutes of this episode knowing the story will continue.

Episode specific thoughts below the cut

Continue reading

“The Umbrella Academy” Episode Nine Thoughts

Second to the last episode done. We’re in the final stretch with the ending in sight.

I feel all wound up for the finale. Overall I’ve really liked the series up to this point. It’s going to take a real stinker of an ending to change my mind.

I’m kind of surprised that this episode and the finale are 45 and 47 minutes long respectively. They are the shortest ones in the season where most episodes have hovered around the hour mark. I don’t feel like this episode was too short but it wouldn’t have hurt to expound on a few things.

Spoiler thoughts under the cut. Continue reading

“The Umbrella Academy” Episode Eight Thoughts

I am massively late with this review but I am finishing the season soon.

Not a lot happened in this episode but some important backstory is revealed. I still really enjoyed it. The series is doing a good job of filling in a lot of the blanks the comic never did. We move closer to the apocalypse by a day. Two more episodes remain in the season.

Spoiler thoughts below the cut Continue reading

Black Mirror Season 5 Review

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The longer Black Mirror goes on the less it has to say about technology. Ideas from previous seasons are being recycled more and more. The show needs to move beyond “people use technology too much and that’s bad”.

Having said that, I still found these new episodes fun to watch. The

“Striking Tigers” Rating 2.5/5

Infidelity the episode. Except for the immersive VR this is a story that could be told with WOW or Everquest or even just Facebook. The new technology doesn’t create these behaviors it just enables it. You could tell this same story in 1910 with telephones. The cross-gender element was really underexplored along with the fact that they could have been any character but just choose the same ones each time.

“Striking Tigers” is one of the weakest episodes of the series. Only its actors save the uninspired plot from being unwatchable. Anthony Mackie and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II sell their friendship and romance incredibly.

“Smithereens” Rating 4.5/5

This is my favorite episode of the season. Set in present day, it is a dramatic thriller about addictive social media, big tech company overreach, and survivor guilt. There is an undercurrent of “social media bad” but the episode is more about unintended (and intended) effects of social media rather than a simple denouncement of such.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot because while there are no major twists the story unfolds beat to beat rather nicely.

“Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too” Rating 3/5

“Virtual actors/singers and who controls the rights” to them is not a bad premise for an episode but the side plot of toy copies and the one superfan mudded the waters. I think “Waldo Moment” from season two did the premise better.

I was surprised a little bit by the episode’s plot. I was expecting the Ashley Too to malfunction and become malicious or manipulative. Unlike most other episodes with a copied consciousness, there isn’t a lot of handwringing about what to do with the copy and she is simply allowed to continue to exist.

This episode has a happy light-hearted ending and while it isn’t not my favorite episode it was the perfect way to end the season of what is normally a pretty depressing series. I’m not saying every season should end with a happy ending but it was nice to not feel soul crushed when going to sleep.

Final Thoughts

Overall season five is about average for Black Mirror. Some repeated premises, but good to excellent acting and with the exception of “Striking Vipers” solid stories.

 

 

How To Cook an Omelette (Alien Edition)

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Imagine you are an alien with a modest grasp of the English language. You have never been to Earth nor met any humans. You learned English from a straight translation of a dictionary. You enjoy reading human books even if you don’t fully understand some elements. One day you find a cookbook. The idea of eating real Earth food is enchanting. After much deliberation, you choose one of the simpler recipes; an omelette.

So, do you, an alien with a modest grasp of the English language, think you could cook an omelette? Let me answer for you: probably not but with a little help maybe.

We will ignore the difficulty in obtaining all the ingredients and the ambiguity of a recipe that calls for eggs. What kind of eggs? Fish eggs? Snake eggs? Dinosaur eggs? No, you won’t have to deal with that conundrum. Fresh chicken eggs will be provided along with the proper spices and fillings.

So, where does the difficulty in preparing an omelette come from? For starters is there air in your alien kitchen? If there is air, what is the air pressure? What is the temperature in your kitchen? Air pressure, temperature, and humidity can affect cooking times and ingredient stability. Even the small variations on Earth are enough to require conversion charts.

Air pressure is measured in pounds per square inch which means nothing to you. A pound is 0.4536 kilograms and a kilogram is … you don’t happen to have a Kibble balance do you and do you have an understanding of Plancks Constant? Can you measure the precise number of atoms in an object? You know what, forget about that nonsense. Here’s a barometer/thermometer combo. Pressure should be between 29.2 and 30.2; temperature between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Not that the environment is close enough to Earth’s you can begin. Your omelette recipe says to heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. How hot is “medium-high heat”? Some recipes, mostly baked dishes, will specify a temperature in Fahrenheit. Do you know how to calibrate a temperature measurement device in Fahrenheit? Don’t worry most humans don’t know how Fahrenheit is calibrated, let alone the temperature of medium-high heat, so we’ll allow you a human stove/oven powered by the latest in fusion batteries. I’ll even throw in a frying pan.

Now you’re ready to heat two tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Wait, you do have measuring spoons right? No, well look at the inside front cover of the cookbook and you’ll see that one tablespoon is one-sixteenth of a cup or fifteen milliliters or half a fluid ounce. No measuring cups either huh?

Well, one fluid ounce is 29.5735 cubic centimeters. There are one hundred centimeters in a meter and one thousand meters in a kilometer. Light travels at 299792 kilometers per second. A second is … okay, I’m just going to give you a clock but you have to do the rest of the work.

At this point, you have a properly pressurized and heated kitchen with a working stove, frying pan, measuring utensils, and clock. I have one more gift for you; a set of cooking utensils(spatula, spoon, knife) and a plate.

Now you have everything you need to cook an omelette.

I’ve Seen the Endgame (no spoilers)

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I started today off very lazily. After drifting in and out of sleep for a couple of hours, I got up around 4 pm. (Note: I normally sleep between 6 am and 2 pm.) I put a small load of clothing to wash before heading to shower. After my shower, I set the clothes to dry and I started browsing tumblr and Facebook.

The day before I had checked online to see which showings of Endgame were sold out. Most of the early evening showings were but the later ones were still available. I didn’t want to go out to the theater so late at night and have to walk home at an even later time. I had figured that I would have to decide before 8 pm in order to have time to get to the theater and get in before I was forced into a side seat in the front.

Just before 6 pm, I received a phone call from work asking if I was okay. I replied that it was my day off, wasn’t it? Guess what, it wasn’t. I was given the option of not coming in because it was a fairly slow day and my position, jewelry counter, isn’t strictly essential. I decided to go in and recover what few hours I could. So I rushed about to change into work clothes and hurried to the bus stop. I just managed to catch the 6 pm bus.

After getting to work, I started thinking about going to see Endgame afterward. My store is in the mall which is right next to the theater. The latest showing was about an hour after we would be getting off work, giving me plenty of time to get a good seat. On the con side, I had not eaten before rushing off to work and there was nowhere besides the theater and their inflated prices to get a passable meal.

I flip-flopped several times over the course of a few hours until I committed to seeing the movie tonight. My plan was to fortify myself with a root beer and snickers bar from the break room vending machines.

As I rounded the corner of the mall I saw the theater parking was full and overflowing into nearby mall parking. I nearly walked straight home but I had committed myself to this course of action no matter how foolish (but harmless) it was. A line hugging the side of the theater again tested my resolve. Were these people in line to buy tickets? Was the line to an earlier showing this long? Once closer to the theater I saw the line was constrained by a pair of retractable queue poles and not nearly as long as I had feared.

After buying my ticket, I joined the line I had seen on my approach. Not long after the line was moved inside to the short maze next to the ticket taker station. A police officer walked from end to end informing people this was the line for the 11 pm 3D showing of Endgame. I was seeing the 11 pm 2D showing of Endgame. I inquired about the line for the 2D showing and was directed to a line that had at most twenty other people. My fears of getting a bad seat disappeared.

About thirty minutes into the movie I started to feel a headache beginning to wrap itself across my forehead. Watching a movie in a theater, in general, has a chance of triggering a headache in me but combined with not having eaten an actual meal since the day before it was almost a certainty. I used some simple relaxation and pain management skills to push the headache aside for most of the movie.

Even with a mild headache and an empty stomach, I quite enjoyed the movie. It’s not perfect but nothing could be. For better or worse the Infinity Stones Saga is over and I’m mostly content with the ending we have been given.

Rating 4/5