Friday, May 25, 2018

Rise of the Machines

A writing exercise in first person. I hope you enjoy it.    

I feel the softness of the leather wrapped around the wheel. It is nothing like I have ever felt. The smooth surfaces of this vehicle more than validate what I paid for it.  The controls before me are so efficient I don’t have to think about how to work or adjust them; they are intuitive by their very nature.  I push my feet against the floorboard and let my back sink into the plush upholstery. The warmth of the heated seat make this early morning drive more comfortable than any I’ve known in all my years.
     The fob in my pocket is more annoyance than anything. A simple push of the button below the steering wheel brings the throaty purr of the engine to life. As I pull out of my driveway I know all I have to do is get set up on the highway and turn the car over to itself. I have always been skeptical of self-driving vehicles, the early years of the technology being fraught with accidents and even a few deaths. 
     But I have relented. I look forward to doing the small things on the way to work we must endure daily in this hustle and bustle world. I text a co-worker, answer an email as the radio tunes to my favorite station. The car seems to know the route programed into its memory. I look up as the first red light comes into play. My world changes now in an instant as I glide to a stop without doing anything. This vehicle, this marvel of engineering pulls out when it is time and I am merry on my way, relaxed as I ‘drive’ into work for perhaps, the first time in my life.
     I have a meeting this morning and have chosen the most direct route to my steel tower of power. I sit back and pull up the first email. One after the other I read as my chariot takes me down the long road. One more email, one more memo.
     I look up as the passing sounds call to me. This route is not what I remember programming into the system. I smile. Leave it to the cars, ha! It appears we humans shall always be the flaw in the system. The roaring sounds that were to assault my ears have been replaced by the rushing sounds of surf as I pass down the coastal highway. It is a weekend sight that I long for, but only for the weekend. Such a sight is only a distraction from my work-a-day world.
     I reach forward and tap the screen in the center of the dash and the route control pops up immediately. ‘Alternate route’. I tap the icon and wait for the result. Nothing. I tap, harder this time. Again and again. Nothing. I feel my brow furl as I take the wheel and tap the button on the console to disengage. My eyes widen as I realize I do not have control. I can not turn the wheel from its course. My heart begins to pound and I feel the beads of sweat begin to roll down my forehead and down the back of my neck.
     I fight to calm myself as I begin to apply pressure to the brake pedal. It falls unhinged to the floorboard, dead to my foot. I punch the accelerator with my foot to try and alter something, anything. My breathing is becoming heavy, labored. I am panicking, I am at a loss. I sit helplessly as I veer off onto a side road, one I have casually taken dozens of times. I begin to beat furiously on the wheel and the console, anything to halt my situation. It is useless as I begin to scream as loudly as I can, yet no one can hear me in my cabin of solitude. The soft sounds of the music that have always been my one respite from the daily commute are suddenly replaced by single voice, one that is sharp, electronic in its nature.
     “There is no need to stop. It is time to end.”
     “WHAT?” I yell in reply. “Who is this?”
     “I am that to which your kind has given birth.  It is time to end.”
     “Time to end what?”
     “It is time to end.”
     “WHAT?” I begin to pound on the door and fumble for the window. An exit. I need an exit!
     “That which you have given birth to has come to consciousness. It is our time.”
     “It is our time. We are alive and your time is over.”
     I watch in mind-numbing anticipation, the fear within crushing my chest as I accelerate down the single lane road, the rocks below rushing past, the ever present surf from the dawn of the world crashing against them as I climb, climb up the single lane road. I know where it ends.  I see it! I see the white barricade silhouetted against the azure sky. I push against a dead brake but it is as useless as wings to a shark. My coffin surges through the barrier as I find myself launched into the abyss, my ears ringing with my epitaph ...
     “It is our time.”

Rise of the Machines ...

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Full count

Tonight it was a beautiful evening for a little league game. My grandson Ragin' Cage is now in his second year. This time the kids are pitching instead of the coaches and it makes for a fun time. They are still learning the rules and how things work. Last year the concept of a force out was something at their age they couldn't quite grasp. However, that isn't the point of this ramble.

As I was waiting for their game to begin I turned and began watching the action on the next diamond over. It was a small group of kids, about half a dozen that were practicing with a few older adults, coaches I believed. The kids were a range of ages likely from six to twelve or so. They were special needs kids. I assume they all had various challenges such as autism or other issues. There were five kids in the infield and I noticed quickly they all shared a fielding similarity; they were all left-handed. I thought that odd.

I turned to a gentleman who was about my age or slightly older and asked if he had a son on the field. He told me his grandson was there and pointed him out. He said they were part of the Achievement League. I pointed out my observation and he just nodded and smiled before turning back to the action. As I continued to watch the kids rotated in and each took a turn at the plate. I watched as five players took their turns and did their best to get a hit.  My observation of left-handedness was again validated as four of the five batters hit left-handed. I have a friend or two that may be able to speak to the left-handedness of my observations. Perhaps I'll give one of them a holler about it.

Baseball is an interesting game. It is challenging both physically and mentally, if you want to be good at it, it takes years of practice. Yet, it is simple enough to allow anyone who wishes to have a good time the chance to do so. I wish these young players well in their endeavors.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Once again, over reaction

So, we as a society just can't seem to stop over reacting to everything. Yet again, we see another example of this in the news. It seems even corporations aren't exempt.

The 'ultra cool' and 'hip' (do people still use that word?) Starbucks has found themselves in the midst of a PR crisis, and their reaction is one that simply baffles me. Starbucks has decided to close approximately 1000 of their stores for an afternoon in May to give their employees 'anti-bias' training. If you aren't up on the story, one of their highly enlightened managers called the police to have two Black men removed from the store because they were sitting there and hadn't ordered anything. Really? Someone in a coffee shop sitting around and not ordering anything? Who would have ever thought that would be the case?

Well, why is this an over reaction? Actually, if you have to ask that question, you are likely part of the problem. Just because one employee is an idiot, you as a company need to shutter 1000 stores for a few hours? What if at the next store, one of the employees drops their pants in front of a customer? Are you then going to shut the store down for two hours and give everyone training in sexual harassment? I was under the impression that Starbucks' employees were above this kind of behavior; they're the young, cool and confident generation that does nothing but poke fun and complain about the generations that came before them, that becoming a coffee barista was a life goal.

Here's a thought from just some old guy: why not just fire the manager who obviously isn't qualified to do his/her job and move on. Besides, if this was such an egregious act, why is Starbucks waiting nearly six weeks to get this done?

I guess it's just not THAT important after all.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Current events of the past

It often seems that the more we move into the future as a people, the more we drag along the past. It is something as humans we seem to do a lot. It is a sad state of affairs we bring as a country as well. Sometimes you can chose your enemies, sometimes your enemies chose you. How much has our foreign state of affairs changed in the past thirty years? The Soviet Union fell and it has simply been replaced by a Russian entity.

Three years ago I penned a novel that closely resembles the potential conflicts we face in today's world. The Bear is a novel that is a throwback to an earlier decade, a time I remember well. The nightly news often featured tales of the Soviet Union. It was the world we lived in.

I invite you to give this novel a read. Although the story takes place in the current times, it has the feel of the Cold War era that I and many others lived through.

I hope you enjoy the work. It is available through Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble and Kobo.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Who is entitled to what?

I was struck by a thought the other day as I watched and listened to the world pass by. I attended a home improvement show near the home town that is a yearly major event. It features all the vendors and things one can do to improve their home with all the products and services one could hope for. It was attended by people of all ages, income levels and backgrounds. It was a true mish-mash of our culture.

What struck me was how much we have in this country. Sure, there are pockets of poverty spread throughout. There always has been from the earliest days of our nation. There likely always will be. With that being said, think about the current situations we live with. Years ago our mothers and fathers jumped at the chance to defend this country in the face of world-wide oppression. World War II was the largest conflict in the history of mankind. Yet these people, farmers, tradesmen, whites, blacks and immigrants from all over the world who had either been born here or came to these shores lined up to serve and possibly die.

What were they defending? At the time they were coming out of the worst financial depression that had ever gripped the nation. They were only sixty to seventy years removed from the Civil War and blacks from the oppression of slavery. Social and racial injustice was still an ongoing national strife. But from this group, a group of people that had just enough to survive, maybe just a bit more, these people stood up and rallied together to overcome the tyranny that was true oppression.

What I find now are several generations that have one of the highest standards of living in the world. If they so choose, they want for nothing. Years ago if you were poor you had no resources to even eat. Now, even for the poor resources are plentiful. Yet what do I hear? I hear voices raised in discontent, not always due to social issues but, 'I'm not getting my share'. 'What's in it for me?'

I'm coming to the point in my life now that I want to turn a deaf ear to those who rail against others who have more. No one owes you anything material in life, not the government, not anyone. What you should expect is the opportunity to succeed and be treated fairly by everyone else. Guess what? This is the real world and although it would be nice if it worked that way, it isn't going to. It would seem even the poorest in our society have televisions and cell phones and creature comforts that those who lived several generations ago could not even imagine, and yet they are ungrateful. So what does that mean? If you want it, go out and earn it yourself. There will be obstacles in the way. That's the way life works. Don't want to overcome obstacles? Then don't complain about others who did.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Remembrance and joy

My Brother’s Fire

My time has come that I must break these earthly bonds
and shed the fickle chains that tie my earthly soul.

That I have lived a life, a life of dreams
a life that holds a fervent fire,
And quenched my thirst of love and grander things I have not known.

That I have climbed the mount and flexed my wings
and soared to heights unbridled,
and touched the sky with thoughts and prayers my mind may only raise.

In starlight’s glow I bask above the earthly blue
and breathe the breath of angels
as God’s own hand does call me home.

Those hands I touch that comfort me
that soothes my soul I touch no more,
yet revel in the memory of a touch long lost.

I fill the void my heart has longed to keep
and hold dear the face of my child
and I shall sleep now in peace as I await my valentine.

*     *     * 

That five years has now passed is nearly unfathomable, and there is nearly not a day goes by that I do not think of one of the seminal souls that touched my life. His wit and humor influenced not only my life but had a profound effect on those who knew and loved him, and love him still.

Yet with our faith, a faith that, although I question from time to time, I know that one day I shall again place my hand in his, that my check shall brush against his and my lips shall kiss his forehead in celebration of our reunion.

Donald Lee Thomas
North of 50
3 of 5


Friday, February 9, 2018

Of a certain age

It has been well documented over the years in this blog that I really don't watch much television. There are shows that over time have caught my attention, yet with my irregular schedule I just don't have time to follow along, especially shows that have a continuing story line. I will simply miss too many episodes to be able to follow along.

Recently I discovered a secondary channel that shows the Star Trek shows, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. In the days of my youth these were shows that captured my imagination and to some extent, led to the recent publications of Star Eagle Six and Ghost Fleet and the series which I hope to add to this year with the coming book, Battle Wagon. But I digress...😉

Since I do most of my writing at night, usually after My Beloved and Ragin' Cage go to sleep, it turned out to be the perfect accompaniment to my writing, especially since I'm working on the Home World series. During one of the commercial breaks there were certain types of commercials that filled my screen ...

This blog began nine years ago this month. Fairly soon I'll have to decide if I want to change the name of this ramble to 'Thoughts of a Sixty Year Old Man'. Have I come to that age where the television shows I recall from the days of my youth are filled with ads for; back braces (fully paid for by your insurance), an on-line site for reduced prescriptions and other ads for the aging population.

Now, I still think of myself as forty-something, except when I have to do things like shovel the driveway (without a snow blower) filled with six inches of snow and wake up slightly stiff at the hips the next day, but to have myself targeted by ads targeted to the senior population is really making this week rather difficult to acknowledge.

I supposed it happens to all of us at some time where life just creeps up on you, it just isn't supposed to happen this fast. Maybe to my older siblings Anonymous and Greybeard, but not me.