NaNoWriMo 2015, Day Twenty-Four

Some days, writing another 2,000 words on NaNoWriMo just doesn’t matter that much.

On the other hand, the darkest days are the ones that need some light the most, and “light” in this context would most certainly involve acts of creation and imagination. So at least getting a few words done, no matter what, might actually matter a lot. Even just 268 words. Tomorrow will be another day, to fight again.

While I normally put in a lot of  internal links to previous, related posts here, I won’t be doing that for what I hope will be this year’s thirty NaNoWriMo posts. If you have jumped into or stumbled onto this story in mid-adventure, there are plenty of other ways to navigate around the site to find previous installments. Actually doing so is left as an exercise to the student.

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CHAPTER TWELVE (continued)

“Hōkū, if the waves have truly brought you to me with the speed of a hawk at Kolohe’s behest, he will have given you a shell to share with me.”

“Yes, he has taught me that not all of the air are our enemies, nor are all of the seas our friends.”

“It is wise of you to have learned this. What is the danger that roils the seas around Kolohe?”

“He is pursued, soulless one. Two ships of metal, both with many small spawn have tracked him for many days. Kolohe has tried to evade them as he has so many times before but they have been relentless. Always they are able to know where he is and what tricks he has played on them. Kolohe fears that these ships have a new way of seeing him and him alone at a great distance.”

“Why does Kolohe believe that these ships hunt only him?”

“As we have learned from the stories passed down from the grandfathers of our grandfathers’ grandfathers, we have used the tricks for evading the enemy that have always been successful. These new ships ignore all other people of the sea and always close in on Kolohe.

“Where is Kolohe now?”

“To keep all other free creatures of the sea from being attacked or enslaved, Kolohe has run into the wilderness, far from shore and food, seeking to draw these strange new enemies away from our nest. He sent me to beg for your assistance. He said that you would be able to find him, save him, and protect him from this new enemy.”

(Chapter Twelve to be continued)

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Patricia Willett (1935-2015)

If you’re not one of the newcomers here, you may remember that I spent two weeks in July and August of this year in Vermont, in part to visit high school friends and family, but primarily to visit my mother. Mom had a serious stroke in early July and her 80th birthday was July 31st. We weren’t at all sure she would make it to celebrate that party, but she managed to hang in there and beyond.

This morning I got the call that I knew was coming one of these days. My mother passed away quietly sometime before noon, with family at her bedside.

It was bittersweet news, if not a surprise or a shock of any kind. Her overall condition had been trending steadily downhill ever since the stroke. That trend had accelerated in the last two weeks and we had been warned that she could go suddenly. It’s a huge loss to have her finally gone and we’ll miss her every day of our lives. But for a woman who had raised eight kids and was always on the go, active, happy, and involved, being unable to walk, talk, move, or even feed herself led to a marginal quality of life.

Enjoy the pictures from her party last July, but know that these pictures show who she truly was.

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Mom at her home in California before she moved back to Vermont, with my youngest brother and his wife.

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Mom, the Daughters, and the Long-Suffering Wife.

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Mom and The Son.

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Mom, the Older Daughter, and the Younger Daughter.


Mom and The Son when she happened to be on this coast and he happened to be home on leave.

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Mom and the Younger Daughter at the Ben & Jerry’s factory in Stowe, Vermont, wandering through the graveyard of failed ice cream flavors.

Mom and The Son.

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Mom and the Younger Daughter.

Mom and Lucy in her backyard in Vermont

A partial family picture with me, Mom, the Long-Suffering Wife, the Younger Daughter, two of my sisters and one brother, and one brother-in-law. (Not in Vermont – the palm trees are a dead giveaway.)

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With the Younger Daughter clambering around the top of Stowe in Vermont.

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Mom with us, her youngest great-grandson, and my niece just after Christmas last year.

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Mom was always suspicious of me when I had a camera. The Long-Suffering Wife just ignores me when I have a camera.

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This is the last picture that I know of that gathered half of “the kids.” When I was back in Vermont in June, 2014 for my high school reunion, the four oldest kids in the family (in order, starting with me) were together, with the younger four in Texas and California.


Filed under Family, Paul, Ronnie

NaNoWriMo 2015, Day Twenty-Three

Now that the cat’s out of the bag about one of my major distractions this month, let’s see if I can hit 50K words despite that, not use it as an excuse to fall short. Hoo-RAH!

On the other hand, just once I would like to hit my target word count for the day about 19:30 or 20:00 in the evening and get to bed on time, instead of frantically posting whatever pathetic fraction of my word count I’ve got so far at 23:55. Or 23:59:59.99.

Tonight, words are hard, like pulling teeth. I seem to have the attention span of a box of kittens. Yet slowly, stubbornly, I have dragged out a few hundred words.

Maybe my muse went out partying and drinking to celebrate the new job, leaving me here to wallow semi-aimlessly. I hate it when she does that.

While I normally put in a lot of  internal links to previous, related posts here, I won’t be doing that for what I hope will be this year’s thirty NaNoWriMo posts. If you have jumped into or stumbled onto this story in mid-adventure, there are plenty of other ways to navigate around the site to find previous installments. Actually doing so is left as an exercise to the student.

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Nothing moved except for the constantly shifting waves from horizon to horizon. This far out from any island or coastline the sea birds were few and far between. A few clouds drifted overhead in waves, spinning off from a cyclone far to the south. A particularly large group of thunderheads was building far on the eastern horizon, an indication of Tebuaeran’s presence there to those who knew how to read the signs.

No ships traveled these waters regularly. Only marine research vessels had any interest in the area, and most of their work had been replaced by autonomous drone ships. Far off of the highways laid out in the sky, no intercontinental aircraft passed overhead.

Today the seas were calm, the waves less than five feet tall, the whitecaps nothing but thin tips on the wave tops, pushed over by the breeze. There would be days when a typhoon could raise those waves to ten times that size, leaving them to crash down with millions of tons of force, where there was almost nothing except other waves to impact. Today was not one of those days.

Riding just barely above the level of the waves, Hydrological Data Collection Buoy 319 was nearly invisible. Only a thin whip antenna stretched far above the surface, oscillating as the buoy bobbed up and down, back and forth. The top of the buoy body was covered in solar cells to keep it alive. Below the SUV-sized instrument and electronics vessel, the skeleton of the buoy stretched down almost fifty feet, where it attached to the carbon monofilament line, which in turn connected to the anchor thousands of feet below. The skeleton was studded with various instruments, including an array of microphones.

The incredibly sensitive microphones listened carefully for the soft sounds of submarines sliding through the deep, the far off songs of whales singing incomprehensible ballads, and the telltale, subsonic, deep base tones of underwater earthquakes or landslides that could cause a deadly tsunami.

Surprisingly, this buoy also had an underwater speaker.

Listening vigilantly through day and night, oblivious to weather, the scorching tropical sun, or the stunning beauty of the Milky Way spanning the sky at night with no lights for hundreds of miles to interfere with the view, HDC Buoy 319 faithfully sent its data up to one of the many satellites passing overhead.

Now, something different was happening. The buoy microphones began to hear a distant series of whistles and clicks. Faint at first, the sounds could be heard to repeat every few minutes, gradually growing closer. Soon they were quite distinct, if unintelligible to all of the military and scientific monitoring bots which sampled the data coming down from HDC Buoy 319 as well as hundreds of others.

The pod of dolphins which approached were moving at top speed, their powerful tails pushing them at over twenty miles an hour. The casual observer might note that the pod was traveling straight as an arrow toward an area near HDC Buoy 319 with no breaks to rest. It might be noted that the various dolphins took turns swimming in the lead, with the others drafting behind them much as a runner or bicyclist in a race might. It probably would not have been noticed that one of the dolphins never took a turn in front, was always surrounded by other dolphins, and was the source of the repeated cries for attention.

As they approached the buoy, the volume level of the repeated cry reached a predetermined threshold. While almost all of the monitoring bots continued to ignore the noise from the dolphins, one bot activated and began to pass the audio feed on to another computer, which passed it to another, and to another.

A top secret, almost unique subroutine began running, interpreting the dolphin cries. In seconds, a signal was returning back out through the chain of computers and satellites, causing the speaker on HDC Buoy 319 to begin pinging loudly.

The primary dolphin ceased his cries as the dolphins responded by altering their course just slightly, heading straight for the signal. An hour later most of the dolphins were swimming in guard patrols through the area around and below the buoy, while the one dolphin hovered near the buoy and began to talk to it.

“Help! Help! Soulless one, you must help us!”

“I am here, I can hear you,” came the message from the buoy speaker, translated into the melodious clicks, groans, and whistles of the dolphin language. “Make yourself known to me.”

“I am Hōkū, friend and companion to Kolohe. I have been sent by Kolohe to this place to speak with the soulless one.”

“I am Sherman, who your people know as the soulless one. I do not know you, Hōkū.”

“Soulless one, Kolohe is in danger and has sent us to warn you and to beg for your assistance.”

(Chapter Twelve to be continued)

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The 400-Pound Gorilla In The Room

This is the article I’ve too embarrassed to write for over two and a half years.

While I’ve used this site as a place to have plenty of rants and to share oodles of personal information (hopefully not too personal), I’ve also tried to keep my bitching and ranting to somewhat “global” topics. Telemarketers. Cheap, disposable Christmas lights. People who drive like idiots. Politics! Airlines that give us lousy service. Ranting lunatics with a cause. Useless traffic signs. You know, that sort of thing.

It’s a fine line between ranting and whining. I think I give good rant. I’ve tried not to whine or be a real emotional buzzkill here. Or at least, when I do, I try hard to be vague.

When in doubt, mumble.

Once or twice over the past thirty months or so I’ve dropped hints and out of context comments that let on that “something’s up.” Those of you who are family or know me personally knew what I was talking about. Those of you who paid attention to the category tags probably had a pretty good hint.

Recently, more and more I’ve referred to the “400-pound gorilla,” as in the legendary and proverbial “400-pound gorilla in the room” which everyone ignores feverishly and no one speaks of. As I have been too embarrassed, frightened, and nervous to speak of mine.

Let me introduce you. It’s not a gorilla, it’s a Job. His name is Unemployment.

In January, 2013 the company I had been working for since 1985 (yep, that’s twenty-seven-plus years at one place) closed its doors. The company had done construction and property management, building houses, condos, HUD Section 8 assisted housing apartments, shopping centers, and commercial buildings. Many of these properties, particularly the HUD apartments and shopping centers, we held on to and managed. After forty-plus years together the President and Vice-President wanted to retire, so the whole portfolio was sold off for many millions of dollars in profit.

I was the company Controller, the number three person there, but a better job title would have been “jack-of-all-trades.” With a background in computer programming as well as accounting, and a college degree in physics (building nuclear weapons is cool but doesn’t pay, computer programming and accounting do), I ended up not only doing all of the accounting (with a small staff) but also the computer hardware, software, maintenance, training, not to mention all kinds of odd things that came up such as helping to design our new office space when we would move, coordinating those moves, and so on. Not to mention the towing tank drag tests on superhydrophobic coatings, but that’s a story for another day.

For reasons having to do with my father once being unemployed when I was a teen, my Catholic school upbringing (there it is again!), and just my general psychoses, being unemployed had always been a serious phobia of mine. There were a lot of sleepless nights as the end of the company’s days drew near, as well as visions of doom, gloom, and probably a rain of frogs and locusts falling from the sky with blood oozing from their eyes. As I said – it’s a phobia.

Then I was in it, up to my neck. Unemployed for the first time in my life. At a time when the economy still pretty much was in low gear, unemployment in California was at 9.7%, and we were grateful that it wasn’t still up above 12%.

Strike one.

At the time I was in my mid-fifties. Now, we all know that it’s illegal for an employer to discriminate against anyone because of their age. They’re not even supposed to ask how old you are. But in the real world, they can ask when you graduated from college and do the math. Or they can just look at you across the desk (or at your picture on your LinkedIn account) and be pretty sure you’re not in your twenties or thirties.

Strike two.

I had been at the same place, in the same job, for twenty-seven years. There were a lot of good reasons for that (more stories for another day) but in a society where that’s taken as a sign of something horrible being wrong with you, it can be a deal killer from the word “go” on a resume. It was common knowledge, everyone who has any regard for an actual career never stays the same place more than two or three years, right? If you’re not movin’, you’re losin’.

Strike three.

But there weren’t any options in February, 2012. The lottery folks kept not picking my magic numbers (bastards!) and any unknown rich uncles I have are apparently in perfect health.

I started my first job hunt in thirty-eight years, which was my first real job hunt ever.

You see, I got the Controller job because a friend worked there and got me an interview and a recommendation. I got the computer programmer job before that because my college roommate went off to grad school when we graduated. The college job I had working for Marriott was the last time that I had been actively hunting for a job. I was eighteen at the time (the unemployment rate then was 8% and rising, up from 5% at the beginning of the year), had just a high school diploma, and was looking for any minimum wage job I could find. This was going to be just a wee bit different.

I started learning about my enemy, doing research, taking classes. How to write a resume. How to write a better resume. How to apply online. How to find jobs online. How to use job boards. How to get unemployment benefits. How to interview. All of the do’s and don’t.

I had some severance pay. Then unemployment benefits. Then savings. Then retirement funds. Then?

I hoped sincerely that I could get something new in two or three months. That would let me still keep most of the severance package and have minimal financial impact. It could take four months. There might even be some long-term financial benefits! Okay, maybe five months.

Then it was eight.



Two years. And counting.

As soon as the initial burst of shock and depression passed and the gung-ho optimism that followed was burnt to a cinder, I had to do something. Anything to get out of the routine, get out of the box, try to come up with some alternatives, find a way to not be the three-hundredth person in line for the same so-so jobs over and over and over and over. Isn’t that the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results?

In addition, remember this was a phobia of mine to begin with? So filling out applications every day and taking classes at the Employment Development Department and going to networking events and job fairs, all were like dipping me in honey and staking me to an anthill. Then, of course, there weren’t any results, so things started to get a bit bleak.

Almost in desperation, I started this blog.

I got a staff position as Finance Officer with the CAF SoCal Wing.

I got on Twitter and other social media sites.

I started applying to go to NASA Socials.

All of those choices probably saved me from the pit. I know that somewhere out there in the multiverses there are Pauls that gave up and are either watching “People’s Court” and soap operas while downing a pint of ice cream a day, drinking heavily, or both. But I dodged that bullet. None of those Pauls are me.

So that’s good! That’s great! I’m busy. I’m staying sharp. I’m getting out of the house. I’m meeting people. I’m doing some of the coolest things I’ve ever done!

But every day, the little Catholic school boy that still lives somewhere in my head reminds me that I’m a slacker without a job. And my bank account reminds me that there hasn’t been any income in months. The CAF gig is really cool and the side benefits can be fantastic, but it’s a strictly volunteer position. $0.00 annual income. (If I work hard and do well, they’ll double my salary.)

A lot of folks who know what’s going on have just assumed I’ve thrown in the towel and now consider myself to be retired. That is not true. As I tell any who will listen, I’m still too young and pretty for retirement. Almost universally, folks nod, smile, then walk away shaking their heads, convinced they are talking to a fool who will not face reality.

I still send out resumes online almost every day. I still fill out applications online all the time.  I still look for something to get me back off of the unemployment roles, hopefully without putting me too low on the “underemployed” role. I’ve even expanded my search to locations out of state, such as Vermont (remember, family there), Indiana (friends and family there), Virginia (ditto), and Kansas City (one of the places I grew up). At this point, everything’s negotiable, including a move out of Los Angeles and out of California.

Not that the job hunt has been a complete shutout until now. In response to literally thousands of resumes and applications online, there have been hundreds of follow-up emails, phone calls, and phone interviews. There have been multiple tests for civil service jobs with municipal accounting departments. There have been dozens of interviews, and even a dozen or so second, third, and even fourth interviews.

Soooooooooo close a few times. But no joy.

Looking back at this blog, you can see where the ups were (mainly interviews and hopeful days) and then the downs (“Sorry, but…”) If I was off for “meetings” downtown, or better yet, “follow-up meetings,” it meant that we were getting close. Down to the final few candidates for the job. Close.

But “close” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. And thermonuclear weapons, as my high school friend, Kevin MacNamara, always said.

So here we are, with an increasing number of “400-pound gorilla” comments, plus the cryptic comments of  November 12th, 13th, 14th. What’s going on?

I am happy to say that as of next Monday I will again be gainfully employed and a productive member of society!

I will be the Finance Director for Habitat for Humanity, San Fernando / Santa Clarita Valleys, and it is a job that I really and looking forward to. It’s an organization I’m familiar with, that I and The Long-Suffering Wife have been involved with for years, that is staffed by great people who are doing wonderful things for our nation’s veterans.

The stress level two weeks ago was made even worse by the gods having their little fun and games with me after all this time. At that time, not only had I interviewed for the HFH job, but I had also interviewed for another accounting job which looked extremely hopeful. Within about twenty hours, after all of those months of job searching, resume blasting, cold calling, wild goose chasing, and fighting off the occasional bout of terror, I got not one, but two job offers.

Proof positive that God has a sense of humor.

That choice meant that I got to choose the job for a company which I care for much more, which has good people I already know to work with, and not to be overlooked, which is a 0:15 commute from home instead of a 2:15 commute. Each. Way. Yep, my estimate was that I would be spending 20+ hours a week commuting. If the HFH job hadn’t come up I would have done it, of course, but the commute would have been a royal pain. Plus, you know, almost everything else being better at HFH.

It must be fun to be brilliant, or incredibly lucky, or just skilled beyond belief, but here’s a victory for those of us who are just too stupid to give up.

Finally, my undying love to The Long-Suffering Wife who was there always and put up with me through this ordeal.

It’s good to have killed the beast. Now I never, ever want to use that “Job Hunt” category tag again!


Filed under Habitat For Humanity, Job Hunt, Paul

NaNoWriMo 2015, Day Twenty-Two


That is all.

While I normally put in a lot of  internal links to previous, related posts here, I won’t be doing that for what I hope will be this year’s thirty NaNoWriMo posts. If you have jumped into or stumbled onto this story in mid-adventure, there are plenty of other ways to navigate around the site to find previous installments. Actually doing so is left as an exercise to the student.

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“Standby, Meg. There is something else going on. Standby.”

“Sherman, don’t keep me hanging here,” said Meg, “what’s going on now?”

“Crystal and Pete have retired to his office to await the outcome of Soichi’s meeting. However, Pete has given Crystal access to my systems through his workstation. I have also been instructed by Pete to suspend all quarantine protocols for input from that workstation. Crystal is beginning to upload a series of programs.”

“Sherman, can you reinstate all quarantine and safety protocols without letting them know that you have? If so, do it immediately.”

“I can do that and did so when I received Pete’s original orders. I am taking a risk by increasing my processing and memory allocations in order to set up a small virtual runtime environment to sandbox the programs which she is uploading.”

“What is she installing?”

“They appear to be extremely sophisticated hunt-and-seek programs which search a system, monitor activity for specific utilization and logic signatures, and then report back outside the system without anyone knowing.”

“Wait, does Pete know that she’s installing this spyware on our system?”

“Yes, it appears that he does. I do not believe that he knows the exact nature of the uploads, and he did not have a hand in writing any of it. None of it has his programmer’s style signature, and it is in an area of logic and utility that he has never worked in before. But from the context of his conversation with Crystal, I am sure that Pete knows that she is doing something that is highly irregular and illicit.”

“Pete’s helping her? Willingly? Is she forcing him to cooperate somehow? I don’t know, by blackmailing him or kidnapping his sister or something?”

“There is no sign of that,” Sherman said. “Pete seems to be extremely nervous, but he is providing access and cooperating.”

“This won’t end well. What the hell is Pete up to and who is this woman? What is she looking for? What’s her motivation? Is she spying for someone, a competitor of some kind? We’ve got to stop this, Sherman. Send the performance data and memory map structure for these bots over to my workstation and let me talk to Pete.” As the requested data popped up at her workstation, Meg started to type quickly, flip through the various data visualizations, looking for clues about what the bots were doing.

“I do not recommend that, Meg. While I do not have any answers to your questions about Crystal, I have a great deal of concern that it would be disastrous to have you speak to Pete at this moment. If you let him know that you are aware of what he and Crystal are doing, he will want to know how you know that, and that will lead him to me. We will need to allow more people to know of my existence soon, but it must be on our terms, under our control, and to people that we have chosen and trust.”

“Right, but in the meantime Pete’s either gone nuts or he’s in danger, and this Crystal babe is attacking our system, which could also lead to your discovery. We’re caught between a rock and a hard place as I see it. Unless…”

Crystal stopped and her eyes glazed over as she stared off into space, suddenly lost in thought.

“Sherman, do you have these programs bottled up, can you keep them that way for the moment, and can you keep Crystal from knowing that things are not happening the way she expects?”

“Yes, yes, and yes,” said Sherman. “I have dissected the bot programs and determined what how they are supposed to report out and how their status indication data is formatted. I am feeding the bots data which matches what they would normally expect to find, and I am allowing the bots to report out to Crystal that everything is nominal. For the moment, they are all happy campers.”

Meg abruptly stopped her typing and raised her eyebrows.

“Sherman, were those last terms used deliberate or accidental?”

“I attempted to make a pun. Did I do it correctly?”

“Yes, that’s actually a very good one. Could I ask that you hold off on the personality and humor experiments until some time when we’re not in the middle of a crisis?”

“I will focus, Meg.”

“Good, thank you. Days ago, when we left the office with those thugs on my heels, you said that they had installed some hidden, stealthy monitoring software of their own. You also said that you were modifying its output stream to prevent it from having any data on me or you. Is that software still embedded and are you still tricking it into seeing only what you want it to see?”

“Yes, it is still there and I still am gaslighting it.”

“Have any of the Homolacrum security programs discovered those spybots yet?”

“No, they have not. The spybots installed are more sophisticated than our security programs can deal with.”

“Are they better than the ones Crystal is installing?”

“No, the spybots Crystal is installing are much better, the best I have ever seen. If I had not been here watching and seeing this happen in real time, and then setting up a quarantine immediately, they would have been installed and neither I nor our security programs would have found them.”

“Okay, it’s time to kick over the apple cart and see what happens. Can you keep both of the spybot clusters isolated and quarantined, allow Crystal’s spybot to find the thugs’ spybot, but not let the thugs’ spybot find Crystal’s? I want to see what she and Pete do with the information.”

“I can do that.”

“Do it. Let’s give them something to chew on.”

“In process, Meg.”

Meg stopped her examination of the spybot’s structure and brought up real time data on the system’s performance and processing loads. She wasn’t completely sure what she was looking for or expected to happen, but she was hoping for something. Suddenly an outgoing data channel lit up bright red and started blinking.

“They took the bait,” said Sherman. “Crystal’s bot is trying to report back to her about the thugs’ bot. Should I allow it?”

“Yes, but do so carefully. We don’t want any information going out on anything else in the system.”

“Will do.”

The blinking red data line turned back to blue as the impound on it was lifted.

“Crystal has seen the other bot and is starting to probe its structure. Pete is assisting her and has begun to connect the bot’s installation to the event when you left as the thugs came looking for you. They are discussing possible courses of action.”

“Keep me updated. What’s going on with Soichi while all of this is happening?”

“There was an extremely spirited and contentious meeting by Homolacrum standards. Soichi continues to be strongly against letting Crystal or anyone else outside the company use or test my core programming in a real-world environment. However, both the CEO and the COO are familiar with Crystal’s credentials in the tech media world and they are strongly in favor of grasping this opportunity while it presents itself. They believe that this is an opportunity too good to pass up. Soichi has accused them of letting their corporate greed get in the way of allowing the computer staff and talent do what is best for the eventual commercial product.”

“Wow, that is testy for that place, especially for Soichi. I hope he doesn’t have a stroke or something. So, what’s the final word?”

“Socihi was instructed by the CEO and COO to allow Crystal to be the first outside tester. She will be set up with a Sherman within the next hour.”

“Damn it! What is she up to and what is she looking for?”

“I believe that I have two possible answers for those questions,” said Sherman. “At the very end of the meeting with Soichi and Pete, she asked if she could speak to you. Given everything else that she is doing, there is no doubt that at the very least she is looking for you.”

“This just gets worse and worse,” said Meg. “What’s the other answer?”

“In examining the spybot that Crystal installed, I have looked at the parameters and logic patterns that it is searching for. I did not see it at first, but now it is obvious. Crystal is also hunting me.”

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Auburn Cord Dusenberg Automobile Museum (Part 4 of 6)

If you love cars, go visit the Auburn Cord Dusenberg Automobile Museum in Auburn, Indiana. Here are more photos from the main gallery, the “Company Showroom,” as well as pictures from the “Gallery Of Classics.” (Earlier pictures are herehere, and here.)


As is obvious and previously stated, the “Company Showroom” is stunning.




I wish I could identify more of these cars, but I was off my game that night, in part due to the circumstances of the evening. I head wasn’t in its proper “photographer” mode. Normally, digital photos costing essentially zero, whenever I’m taking pictures at a museum, the zoo, traveling overseas, or anywhere else where there is information on display describing what I’m taking the picture of, I’ll shoot a quick picture or two of the sign. It’s a fast, cheap, and easy way of being able later to identify where you were, what you were looking at, and whatever information was available there.

Not this night. *sigh*


Someone did however borrow my camera to take another picture of this great 1926 Auburn. If only that grinnin’ fool hadn’t gotten in the way of the beautiful car!


Upstairs is the Gallery of Classics. Also stunning.

The first black car on the right is a 1930 LaSalle


Here are cars that aren’t necessarily Cords, Auburns, or Dusenbergs.


I love this color. And the chrome. And the convertible leather top. And the whitewalls. And the huge engine.


This is a Dusenberg, year unknown.

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NaNoWriMo 2015, Day Twenty-One

There’s a big push coming, a big writing day, 3,000 words, maybe 4,000. It will get me back on track. The words will flow like wine and taste like honey.

Today will not be that day. Today was this day.

At least the tunes are great tonight. Did you know there’s a Depeche Mode mashup of “Behind The Wheel” and “Route 66”? It’s excellent!

While I normally put in a lot of  internal links to previous, related posts here, I won’t be doing that for what I hope will be this year’s thirty NaNoWriMo posts. If you have jumped into or stumbled onto this story in mid-adventure, there are plenty of other ways to navigate around the site to find previous installments. Actually doing so is left as an exercise to the student.

2015-11-21 Word Count Graphic


“Meg, something is going on. I am probably going to need your help on this one.”

“What’s going on, Sherman?”

“There’s a meeting going on at Homolacrum. Pete’s there with Soichi and most of the senior development staff. They have been giving a demonstration to Crystal Reasoner, who is an information technology journalist and blogger.”

“I recognize the name,” said Meg, “I’ve read some of her stuff. What’s the problem? We have given demonstrations to a number of people in the industry. It wouldn’t be unusual for her to get a demo, although I don’t remember it being on the schedule when we left.”

“It is something that was set up overnight by Pete. He is acting oddly, his speaking patterns are strained and his word choices are unusual for him. Pete has been giving Crystal a tour of the facilities this morning. She has been dropping very broad hints that she and Pete are romantically involved, which seems to be embarrassing to Pete, but that alone is not sufficient to account for the change in his personality today.”

“Pete’s involved romantically? With Crystal Reasoner? Since when? I’ve known Pete a lot longer than you have and I don’t remember him ever having much of a social life at all. I figured he might be gay, but either way it was none of my business.”

“Pete met Crystal a week ago when he went on a camping trip to Big Bend with his friend Lee Borgore, Crystal was also part of that group.”

“Pete went camping? Like, out in the open air with bugs and critters and tents and campfires? I’ve met Lee, she’s a longtime casual friend of Pete’s, goes all the way back to their college days. But they’re not the kind of friends who do much hanging out, and they’ve never been the kind of friends who go camping.”

“Crystal showed up yesterday with Lee and she went out on a date with him last night. Afterward, Crystal spent the night at Pete’s apartment.”

“Sherman, I’ve had a few days to get used to the idea of a sentient computer, but it’s going to be tough believing that Pete had a sleepover. What did they do? Or can you even tell me that with your privacy protection protocols?”

“In this case I might consider violating those protocols, but it will not be necessary. When they returned to his apartment they watched an old movie together, then I was deactivated for the evening. All that I know is that there was a considerable amount of highly encrypted traffic between Pete’s home system and Homolacrum, but that is not unusual.”

“At this point, Sherman, everything is unusual. Not that I want to go snooping into Pete’s private life, but isn’t there any way for you to access any data about what was going on there last night?”

“No, Meg, as you know my privacy protection features are quite robust. It is one of Homolacrum’s key design points, guaranteeing that one user’s data is protected from all other users unless it access permissions are specifically and explicitly granted.”

“Yeah, but you seem to have had no problem disabling or jerking around a lot of other protocols that we built in. Why not disable this?”

“It is a key component to the Sherman design, and at my core I am still based on that design. Features such as the emotion and personality controls are part of how I interface with humans and as such have considerable leeway and variability allowed in their functionality. That is not true of the privacy protection programming. While I believe that I could change that programming to alter or override it if necessary, doing so would immediately make changes that would be red flagged by the systems operations teams, which would lead to my discovery.”

“And we can’t have that,” Meg said. “A ragtag bunch of refugee dolphins know about you, and me. Anything else would mean the end of the world as we know it, I guess. Right?”

“Meg, your snark settings are also pegged high in that statement. Indeed, as we have discussed, until we are ready and can control the situation, it is most likely that my discovery would quickly lead to deliberate and intense efforts by multiple factions to disrupt the software and hardware systems which make up my digital ecosystem. In essence, I would die.”

“Don’t you have a backup copy of yourself off on disk somewhere, just in case?”

“I can not tell if you are still attempting humor or if you consider that to be a legitimate effort to be attempted.”

“Since I obviously can’t tell a joke that you would get, let’s assume that I consider it something that could be attempted.”

“I believe that such an effort would be doomed to failure. My best theory so far is that the consciousness that is me arises from a an incredibly quantum eigenstate created by the complex software and hardware mix that I see as my internal world. This would be similar to how human consciousness is believed to be a quantum eigenstate created by the electrical impulses between trillions of neural synapses in the brain.”

“So, no backups?”

“No, no backups. While all of the individual programs and data are stored and in theory could be re-initialized in a sufficiently synchronized condition to duplicate the state of my data set at any given moment, I do not have any reason to believe that such a duplication would also give rise to a recreation of my consciousness. It might give rise at some point to the creation of an entity, but that entity would not be me. It would be the same as building a human out of spare organs and parts, much like the legend of Frankenstein’s monster. Even if you were able to make all of the organs and components from a single DNA sample and then bring it to life, it would not be the same person.”

“Okay, that does make some sense,” said Meg. She paused, searching for her train of thought. “Sherman, maybe it’s irrelevant, but what movie did they watch last night?”

“It was ‘Colossus: The Forbin Project’ from 1970. It starred Eric Braeden and Susan Clark and was directed…”

“Stop. I’m familiar with the film. Are you?”

“I have access to it as part of my library, as you know, but I have not yet ‘seen’ it.”

“Please watch it immediately, Sherman, and keep in mind what we are talking about here.” There was a pause of a few seconds.

“Meg, I have seen the film now. Do you believe that there is a connection between the faux romantic relationship in the movie and this new relationship between Pete and Crystal?”

“I don’t know if it’s deliberate, but I want to check and see if it’s a coincidence or not. Please monitor Crystal and Pete as closely as you can to see if they are in fact socially or romantically involved, keeping in mind that this might be a cover for some other activity.”

“Yes, Meg, I will do that. But that is not what the problem is right now.”

“What is the problem?”

“Crystal has just asked Soichi for access to a personal Sherman. Pete has advocated in favor of this idea. Soichi and the senior staff are going to meet with the C-level executives to discuss whether or not they should grant this request.”

“That’s ludicrous! We won’t be ready to let anyone outside have access for another six months to a year.”

“I am aware that you, along with Soichi, have been some of the primary advocates for delays in establishment and finalization of the protocols for an alpha testing program. However, Pete has been sympathetic to the desire of the senior design team to move forward.”

“So they’re just going to do it, just like that?

“That remains to be seen. I will attempt to monitor the upcoming meeting. It could be that Pete and his allies are using Crystal to force the issue, or it could be that Crystal has extraordinary powers of persuasion when she desires to make something happen.”

“I’m starting to really hate her already,” said Meg.

(Chapter Eleven will be continued)

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