Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2018/06/13

At work, everyone thinks I’m great. I’m the talented one. The one that fixes all the problems. It’s what Tommy said when they brought in the new system. “I could play around with it for 3 days, and get nowhere, and have no idea what was wrong, or how to get it to work. Or, I can short-circuit the whole process, be smart, and call Freddy for help right now.”

Yep. That sums up work. If it’s a mystery, call Freddy. Call me. And I’ll come figure it out. In a matter of minutes. The guy from the research lab said that too, just in a different way, “How did you find that problem in half an hour while we were a lunch, in something you’ve never seen before?”

It’s what I do. And there’s oceans about what I do that you don’t know. No one knows. Except my wife. And for some reason, she hasn’t left me. I’ll never figure out why, ‘cause I’m a frickin’ disaster. But she sticks around. Some things are best left as mysteries, aren’t they.

See. I can do magic at work, ‘cause I crash and burn at home. All the time. The headset they use, the augmented reality one that they couldn’t get working for three weeks, before they said, “Let’s see what Freddy can do to help.” Yeah. That afternoon, the headset was working normally, and everyone was going, “Ooo,” and having a blast trying to follow instructions written in thin air next to circuits they were trying to fix.

Yes, I fixed things. But only because I spent over a year figuring out how those damn headsets work. Got an entire system at home that I use just for that. Hook up the headset, and see what I can do. Had to do clean reloads of the operating system every other day for a month before I got anywhere. Have three of the damn headsets, well, three cheap copies of them, sitting on my desk at home, where I’ve torn them apart to figure them out. Traced the circuits, monitored the timing between components. Have you ever spent months tracking down where electrons move in something? And why they move where they do? Months staring at sheets of hexadecimal numbers, searching for patterns in them that tell you when events happen, how the headset responds to those events, and how it’s all translated into pixels displayed on a plastic lens in front of a human’s eyeball?

Before you can figure it out, you have to crash and burn, and make every frickin’ mistake there is to make. Hell, people forget that. They get lazy. They learn to walk by crawling, then trying to stand up. And they fall over 80 zillion times, and bang their heads on the floor, or the table, or the chair. They land so hard on their butts it bruises them. But, they keep getting back up, and trying to walk again. Until they figure it out. Until they learn to balance themselves. Learn to maintain their balance on one foot at a time. Learn to move that balance point around, and keep their body parts positioned to maintain that balance.

But, you get them past learning to walk, and they stop learning. ‘Cause. Making mistakes sucks.

Damn, I hate lazy people. Lazy, scared people. Want to scream at them, “If you aren’t making mistakes, if you aren’t falling face first onto the floor, and crying about a broken nose. If you aren’t bruising your ass where you landed on it, ‘cause you did something stupid trying to get better. Then you might as well be dead!’”

Same people will take out a gun, and spend $50 an hour to shoot at little bits of paper hung from a chord that’s 50 feet away from them. And will keep shooting at it, spending money on box after box of bullets, until they learn how to hit the target every time. And then, they’ll keep shooting at the damn sheet of paper so they keep in practice.

But, hand them a remote control to the TV and they go totally stupid. “Where’s the frickin’ ON button on this crazy thing!” ‘Cause. They don’t want to learn anything new. They don’t want to make the mistakes needed to learn anything new. “I just spent $3000 on this damn TV, I ain’t reading no users guide!”

Hell, they don’t even look at the pictures that show you how to do things step-by-step. ‘Cause it hurts their brain cells to figure out the pictures.

Yeah, my desk is a wreck. Yeah, I have to keep multiple backup copies of everything I save on my computers. Yeah, I have to slick my computers over and over again. If I don’t have to slick my computer endlessly, I’m not trying! I’m not learning! I’m not making progress!

And because I do, the idiots at work can say, “Let’s just call Freddy. He knows.”

I hate humans. So fucking lazy. And so afraid to try anything. So they don’t try. And they end up stupid. And helpless.

Oh, look. Smoke. From the headset attached to the computer. I’ve let the smoke out of it again. Another headset cooked. The wife’s gonna be pissed. Have to see what parts I can scavenge from it, and if I can get one headset working from the parts of the others. Sounds like a challenge to me. Always wanted to know how that works.

It’s just another part of the learning process. Right? I don’t screw things up, I’m not learning anything, am I.

931 words (Yes, WAY over the 750 word limit. So what.)
@mysoulstears


This is written for Week 59 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. I needed time to fix things inside me. Now, I’m starting to wander back to writing. You can read about Miranda’s small fiction challenge here. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that showed up. The tales are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. And many of them are amazing.

 

Advertisements

Questions With No Answers (2)…

Continuing my series of questions with no answers, let’s move to the problem of gun violence in the United States. Let me start with a link to what is, likely, the true cause of the rise of mass shootings in this country.

“The Best Explanation for Our Spate of Mass Shootings Is the Least Comforting”
By David French
For National Review
May 18, 2018.
Link : https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/why-do-mass-shootings-happen-best-explanation/

Quote : “At the risk of oversimplifying a complex argument, essentially he [Malcolm Gladwell] argues that each mass shooting lowers the threshold for the next. He argues, we are in the midst of a slow-motion “riot” of mass shootings, with the Columbine shooting in many ways the key triggering event. Relying on the work of Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter, Gladwell notes that it’s a mistake to look at each incident independently”

For those interested, here is the link to Malcolm Gladwell’s article from the October 19, 2015 issue of The New Yorker.

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/10/19/thresholds-of-violence

In short, the problem is not guns. The problem is a social problem within US Society. To fix the problem, we have to correct it at the social level.

Note the following, before you get all stupid on me.

1. I do not own any guns, and I never will.
2. I do not see any reason anyone needs guns.
3. I grew up around people who owned guns, and never considered the possibility of using them out of anger, or frustration. And certainly never considered using them against other human beings.

As I have said above, the rising gun violence in the US is indicative of a social problem within the US. Saying “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” while technically accurate, denies the cause of the problem. Saying, “if no one has guns, we have no problem,” while somewhat accurate, also denies the cause of the problem.

Now, let me express my understanding of the problem. As I’ve said, it’s a social problem.

Look at the recent string of mass murders performed with the use of firearms. All of them center around someone gun supporters, and anti-gun groups, have declared were mentally unstable, deranged, unhealthy. To put it bluntly, mentally ill. Let’s review, shall we.

1. Santa Fe High School, Texas. We have the father’s declaration the shooting was caused by bullying. We also have the ongoing tale of the girl who refused to date the shooter.

2. Stoneman Douglas High School, Florida. Where the shooter was an expelled student, with behavioral issues.

3. A list of the shootings. Here.
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2017/oct/02/america-mass-shootings-gun-violence

These are not random acts. These are acts of individuals who believe in what they are doing, and are using gun violence out of desperation, to strike back at what, and who, has injured them. Even if the injury is only emotional, and not physical.

Will removing guns solve this problem? No, it will not. It will force those who perform these acts to find other methods of performing such acts. Using motor vehicles. Using improvised explosive devices. Using toxic chemical blends.

But, in the short term, for a decade or two, it will look as if gun control has solved the problem. Further, an increase in traffic fatalities may not even be observed as a growth in attempted mass murder methods. It may be brushed off as, “Boys will be boys, and drive stupidly.” It may be written off as “toxic masculinity run amok.” It may be ascribed to “gang violence”. Because, we can’t afford for gun control to not work, and not be successful.

Gun control cannot, and will not stop events like the Boston Marathon bombing. Or the Charlottesville automobile incident. Or the Oklahoma City bombing incident. I could continue to cite incidents where guns were not used to commit mass murder.

What I’m trying to say is, even if we implement stringent gun controls in the United States, we do not solve the problem at the root of the violent acts we have come to observe almost daily. All we really do is throw a band-aid on an open wound in our society, and pretend everything is all better, while the causes of the problem remain as part of our society, and continue to grow, and fester, and infect more and more people. Resulting in more people finding alternative methods to guns that accomplish their objectives of vengeance and retribution against those they perceive as having injured and attacked them.

Gun controls won’t change that. All they’ll do is cover it up, and make everyone feel good. At least until the problem become apparent once again.

So, how do we fix the problem of gun violence in the US? Wouldn’t it be wiser of us to admit the causes of that violence are the problem, and work together, as a people, to correct the problem, instead of burying it, and pretending it doesn’t exist?

Questions With No Answers (1)…

Having observed Facebook and Twitter going insane yet again about something called toxic masculinity, I find it’s time I started asking the questions I find no one answers. So, this is the first in a set of questions.

I’ll start with a question I asked someone last night. A question I don’t expect an answer too.

I’m a guy. A white guy. And an older one at that. By the definition of everything I see lately on Twitter, and Facebook, I am the problem. OK. I can accept that. I, being a 59 year old white guy, can make women feel uncomfortable, unsafe, worried about the actions I am capable of taking.

I’m a documented autistic. By definition, I don’t pick up on unspoken signals. I don’t observe and respond appropriately to body language. I don’t react appropriately to facial expressions, and spoken comments and remarks. Because, I’m socially deaf. It’s like I speak sign language in a room full of people who have never seen sign language. That’s how autism works.

I’m human. By definition, I’m imperfect. I make mistakes. I sometimes make embarrassingly huge mistakes. Like running my car into the back of the car in front of me. Of driving over a curb in a parking lot. How do you hit a stationary object you’re trying not to hit? Welcome to humanity. Welcome to mistakes. They happen.

Given these three items, I now ask my question.

How do I never make mistakes in the presence of women? How do I not scare them at times? How do I not do things that make them ponder their safety in my presence? How do I not say things that make them wonder if they should be in the same building I’m in?

The answer, of course, is I can’t. I will make mistakes. There is no way around that. No way to avoid that. No way to prevent that.

Guys know this. All of us know this. We scare each other all the time. Because. Mistakes. We say things we shouldn’t have said. We break pencils. We take walks. We make up song lyrics. We drink soda, or beer, or whiskey. We go to gun ranges and shoot hundreds of holes in sheets of paper that are a hundred feet away. We put our right foot down while driving.

In short. We express our emotions. It’s not toxic masculinity. It’s frustration. It’s anger. It’s disappointment. It’s grief. It’s anxiety. It’s terror. It’s emotions. And the very best of us still make the mistake of expressing them.

We sometimes scare each other. That’s right, women. Guys scare guys. We know how you feel. “Is that big idiot going to start throwing things?” We scare each other. “As long as all he hits is the wall, I’m good.” We scare each other. “Get out of his way, he’s driving like an idiot right now.”

We scare each other. We don’t just scare women.

A man with a kitchen machete, cutting up an onion. Especially if he’s talking about a bad day at work. A man with a beer, working on a car motor on a Saturday. One stuck bolt or nut, and bloody knuckles. And I wouldn’t want to be near him either.

But, that’s my question, isn’t it.

How do we, as men, as human beings, not be human, and not make mistakes. Because it’s those mistakes that scare you, isn’t it. How do I, as an old white guy, not say something, not do something, not feel something, not write something, not drive, not wash dishes, not mow the lawn, not run the vacuum cleaner on the carpet, not gather up laundry and sort it, and wash it in the washing machine and dryer, without sometimes scaring another human being, especially a woman?

There’s only one way, and everyone knows that.

By not existing.

#ThursThreads Week 315 : I Recognized My Handwriting.

The next day was more of the same. Everyone stayed at home, and the internet went crazy. Videos turned up of police officers refusing to work on Michelle’s murder case. Evidence being put on a shelf, never to be examined. It was endless.

Officer Johnson said, “I won’t work on that case. I’ll walk off this job before I work on that.”

Officer Matthews, “I’m glad it’s dead. Whoever did it, they did us a favor.”

Dr. Richmond, the medical examiner, talking to someone, “I recognized my handwriting. No evidence to be found.”

So it went. One excuse after another. One reason after another. Person after person. The case was put in the cold case cabinet at five days old. Everyone forgot about it. No one asked questions.

Then there was Officer Morgan, once again. Saying the same words she’d always said to some strange man who asked, “A transgender victim? Nothing has been done.” The way she shrugged, and didn’t even look up the case told the story. Only this time, there was another scene, where Officer Morgan screamed at the sheriff, “There! That’s him! That’s the guy!” He pointed at the picture of a man leaving the police building. “He’s the one causing all the trouble! Get him, and it all stops!”

The internet watched as the town’s police started a manhunt for the guy who asked about the case no one wanted to work on.

238 Words
@mysoulstears


The next part of the ongoing Armor 17 story. It’s Week 315 of #ThursThreads, hosted by Siobhan Muir. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read. And there are some great writers who turn out weekly.

 

#ThursThreads Week 314 : You’d Really Let Me Fall Into That?

The attacks stopped. People stayed home. The police cruised the streets, looking for anyone suspicious, and scaring anyone who wasn’t obviously white out of their minds.

Everyone was on the internet, chatting with their friends, texting like crazy on their phones. The world had gone insane, and they wanted everyone to know it.

That’s when Michelle’s murder showed up on every internet news site, and every social media site. Even a full video of the discovery of her body turned up on site after site. No one could block it. No one could stop it. It kept showing up.

There were pictures of Michelle going to work, above words that asked how she looked, if she looked dangerous, like a murderer, a killer, a rapist, a thief. Then pictures of her remains, tied to a lamp post, while the words asked if she deserved to die that way. Other pictures showed her helping at the local food bank and local nursing home, how she dressed as a princess and visited sick children at the hospital in the city to the north.

The last picture showed her remains, and the words, as a quote from the Sheriff, “This is what happens to people like that. We should kill all of ‘em. We’d be better off.”

The Sheriff made the news that night. “You’d really let me fall into that? Blame me for that? Let me be the scapegoat for a hate crime?”

I laughed. The Sheriff knew his days were numbered.

250 Words
@mysoulstears


The next part of the ongoing Armor 17 story. It’s Week 314 of #ThursThreads, hosted by Siobhan Muir. Please go read all the entries in this week’s #ThursThreads. They are always fun to read. And there are some great writers who turn out weekly.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 05/10/2018

I suppose, if we had a conversation, it would likely start with you asking, “What the fuck are you doing in the middle of a salt desert wearing a blindfold, and handcuffs?”

My answer would, of course, be rather long winded. Perhaps it would start with, “Well. This is where the drone dumped me,” which would be quite accurate on my part, but wouldn’t explain why the drone dumped me in the middle of nowhere. Salt as far as I could see in all directions.

Welcome to the fate of a self educated man in our world. Seems I learned too much, taught myself too much, studied too much. And that made me dangerous. Which in turn got me arrested, jailed, pushed through a trial with a jury of my peers, found guilty, and sentenced to almost certain death in the salt desert.

Presto, blindfolded, handcuffed, and carried by a drone aircraft into the middle of the salt flat. The one that’s 11,000 square kilometers. Yeah. The big one. “If you make it out alive, your sins are forgiven, and we will all know God meant for you to be here.”

No one makes it out alive, of course. No shade. No shelter. Tiny little clumps of cactus scattered here and there, although none of them were visible to me. And, even if it rained, which it did frequently, there was no water, because of all the salt.

First thing I did was take off the blindfold. That lead to the second thing. Find the damn box with the keys for the handcuffs. That’s really fair, guys. Dump me in the middle of a salt flat, tell me I’m free if I make it out alive, and then make me spend the first few days looking for a treasure chest with the key in it.

At least I was getting to learn new things. Like how much a man can piss in the middle of a salt flat while slowly dying of thirst? Like if a man stops eating, does he stop shitting too? Or can a man sleep on a salt flat every night? And even what’s the worst kind of sunburn you can get, and still remain functional? Not exactly questions I wanted answers too.

“When looking for something, walk in a growing circle.” Yeah. Great advice there. How the fuck do you walk in a growing circle when there are no landmarks? When you could be moved twenty kilometers in any direction, and it would look exactly like where you are? That turned into, “When looking for something, guess which direction to walk in, and start walking in a straight line.” I figured, “If I find the damn keys, good. If not, no big deal.” Didn’t see any reason to hunt for the keys, wasting time I could spend trying to get out of the biggest salt desert on the planet.

“If this is a perfect circle, and they dumped me in the dead center, it’s roughly 500 kilometers in any direction to get out.” You have no idea how big 500 kilometers is until you try to walk it on foot. At least they let me have good walking shoes and socks.

I knew, of course, there was no way to get out alive. If the weather didn’t kill me, the lack of drinking water and food certainly would. Without water, I figured the longest I’d last was four or five days. Then dehydration would kill me. Or, I’d go stupid, and start drinking salt water out of desperation. And the salt would kill me.

“Well. At least I get to see the stars at night before I go.”

That old legend about water from cactus? Yeah. No one talks about the spines. And even if you can get to the water, no one talks about how much it is.

After the first day, I was coated in salt. That shit stuck to everything. Got on everything. Got in everything. Sweat, and watch the sweat trails turn white and crusty.

As luck would have it, I did make it to a lake. A big puddle of water, on top of a salt block. Yeah. That’s useful. Pink flamencos every fucking where. Zillions of them. Having a god damned party. Swimming around. Flapping wings. Dancing. Like a big damn pink orgy. All that water, and I couldn’t drink any of it. Not one drop.

That’s where I gave up. Sat down on the salt, and watched the fucking birds. And wondered why God made them impervious to all that salt.

760 Words
@LurchMunster


This is written for Week 53 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. I’m still catching up. You can read about Miranda’s small fiction challenge here. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that showed up. The tales are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. And many of them are amazing.

Miranda Kate’s Mid-Week Challenge : 2018/05/06

I held the drawing before the board of regents, “This is what we found.” My antenna shook, but only briefly.

“Do we have any idea what it is?” One of the Emperor butterflies asked. “Or perhaps what it’s made of?”

What to answer? How to answer? That was always the problem with the unknown. Everyone wanted immediate answers, and there were none. “It’s not made of metal, wood, or stone.” I knew the items in the picture too well. I was there, with the ants, when the expedition dug them up. “It’s a flexible material we’ve never seen before.”

“And how far down was it?”

The strata of dirt, and rock, built by time, layer upon layer. It was our best way to determine an object’s age. “Even deeper than before.”

“So, millions of years, correct?”

“Yes. At least six. Maybe more.”

“How do we know it’s not metal?”

The same explanation I’d given a thousand times. For a thousand objects we’d found in the ground. “Metal would have corroded, and rusted, and turned to dirt. There was plenty of oxide in the dirt where we found this.”

It was, like everything we’d found, huge. It stood a good six Monarch tall. Looked for all the world like a megaphone. Only ridiculously big, and somewhat artistically crafted. Not just a basic cone. “We think we know what it is. Or what it was used for.”

“What?”

“To amplify sound.” I pointed out the wide opening at one end, “Either to catch sound that otherwise could not be heard. Or to send sound out, from a weak source.” I shrugged, “Like a megaphone, or a hearing aid. And that is how it actually works. We’ve tested that.”

The conversations between the board members were hurried, excited, and nervous. All I could do was watch, and wait, until they decided what to do. I fielded any questions they had for me. “What kind of material, other than stone, can survive for millions of years?”

“None we know of. It’s constructed of a material we’ve never seen. I’ve sent a sample to be analyzed. The Swallowtails are working with that now.”

When they finished their discussions, the decided what to do with this new discovery. “We will place this in the museum, for all to see. It is our conclusion it is another object made by the giants that once roamed the world.

The giants. All we’d ever found of them were the things they made. We’d never found any fosiles. Nothing. “It’s like the wheels, and the tombstones we found. It shows giants once walked the Earth.”

No one knew what the giants looked like. All we knew was they were huge. The wheels we’d found, so like wagon wheels, but made of strange material that never seemed to decay, and hundreds of times larger than any wheels should ever be. The tombstones, sized like office buildings. With written text carved into them. Many of the symbols as large as a Pieridae, or Skipper, and a few, larger even than me, or any other Monarch. The etchings were deep enough, and large enough, entire colonies of ants could live in them.

And roads. We’d found roads. Made from some strange material that decayed into chalky, grey dust, with lines of rust, that had once been metal, all through them. Others made from a black substance. Bits and pieces of the roads remained. Preserved under the dirt. Out of reach from the wind, and rain. It could remain unchanged for millions of years.

The roads defied description. They were beyond huge. The seemed to be endless, and wide as entire cities. Mostly, they left discolored lines in the strata. Strange dirt, encased by normal dirt on either side.

We had no idea what the giants were. We kept hoping we would find remains. We wondered if we would even recognize them if we did. Until we did, or until we found drawings, or paintings, or some other images of them, we’d never know what they were like.

We only knew they were giants. And they lived here. Millions of years ago.

688 words
@mysoulstears


This is written for Week 52 of Miranda Kate‘s Mid-Week Challenge. Since I got Week 51 out of the way, I can slowly catch up. You can read about Miranda’s small fiction challenge here. Please, go read Miranda’s short tale this week, and any others that showed up. The tales are always little works of art, crafted with words, meant to be shared, and enjoyed. And many of them are amazing.