Thursday, March 31, 2011

Suburban Superlatives or Secret Flies and Originals

It is time for the world to learn of a rather unusual group of alumni from a prestigious technical university.  A group whose destiny is beyond what they can imagine now.  However, I see my appearance puzzles you so I suppose an introduction is in order.  I have acquired many names in my travels through the multiple time streams and realities, but the title of Captain Continuity seems best suited for my current purposes.

My task is to keep track of the myriad nodes of reality and all possible worlds formed by the outcomes of their interactions.  The quickest way to open your mind to this would be to don my derby, which would grant instant knowledge of the basic causal connections between all entities and their actions.  Unfortunately this often leads to a complete neural meltdown in most life forms, leaving them with a blank smile and a perpetual “I get it now” expression.  To be safe, I’ll spotlight the individuals poised for fame and greatness by using my Flashlight of Truth. This will illuminate information and interactions at a more acceptable pace.  My role is not purely informative.  Occasionally, through time travel, reincarnation, or extra-dimensional interventions, someone’s life story becomes altered.  When it reaches a point that becomes impenetrably confusing (containing more unknown relatives, surprise twists and wild coincidences than an entire season of a daytime soap opera), I am forced to use the RetGun.  A single shot from this weapon will instantly obliterate the target from any theoretical past, present, and future, leaving a clean slate for a new, more rational, beginning.   My travels and goals are as ever changing as the stars in my costume.  The only constant is my sneakers: wandering the infinite timelines and dimensions can be hard on the feet.  But enough of my cosmic missions and footwear, back to the task at hand, for destiny cannot be put on hold.

This group of technical graduates lives in the suburbs, remained friends and co-workers after graduation, and all read way too many comic books. None of this is the unusual part, for those of you taking notes. But wait, there’s more.  They live in one of the universes where costumed crime fighters are real (still not unusual) have become super heroes themselves (not very unusual) and have remained living and working in the suburbs (there would be the unusual part).  How did this come to be? Who are these Paragons of the Parkway? 

Their story starts with a wish.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Carnivore's Guide to Cardiology: Too Focused on Food

Everything ended up still fine, but I managed to scare myself and darn near everyone else. My diet rapidly had shifted to include nine of ten most heart healthy foods (The exception: beans. You have to balance cardiac health with air quality sometimes.)  Apparently I’d been looking too hard at which foods are heart healthy, and not at which over the counter medications are one way tickets to the Emergency Room. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

One Cyber War Plot to Bind Them All

“There are no problems, only solutions” - Kevin Flynn
“There is no fate but what we make” – Sarah Conner
“There is no spoon” – Neo

After the Grid is restored, Kevin Flynn is able to become a more active leader now that he has reabsorbed CLU2.  He hadn’t realized the effect of using a part of himself in the creation of his digital duplicate until it was returned.   TRON broke free of being Rinzler in time to save his friends before vanishing into the sea of data. When he doesn’t resurface, Yori throws herself into her work, using her artistic digitizing skills to restore the beauty of the Grid.

In the real world, Kevin’s son, Sam and his until recently digital bride, Quorra, take the reins of ENCOM International, steering it toward more philanthropic and humanitarian efforts.  Sam connects the Grid to the World Wide Web, allowing communication with his father, expansion of the Grid, and the recreation of isomorphic algorithms.  The ISOs now dwell both in the Grid and on the web.

Enter another software engineer, not as bright, just as young, and much more devious.  After being let go by ENCOM, Edward Dillinger Jr. takes a position with a less good willed, less pacifistic, and less ethical company:  Cyberdyne Systems.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Up the Lake: A Typical Week

Week o Wandering
Seven Days of Silly

The amount of stories told at any gathering of Up the Lake folk is truly staggering.  The reason is the place acts as an “event generator”. By way of demonstration, the following tales all occurred in a single week.  The main characters (who all come from fathers named Joe) are a brother and sister and their cousin.  Their ages at the time of these events were: Ashley (12ish), Joey (9ish) and Jay (8ish) (Mine was “old enough to know better”ish.). In only seven days, enough material was generated for a Francis Ford Coppola style extravaganza.  However, as I have neither the time nor budget for that sort of thing, I’ll just hit the highlights.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Jeff's Books to Open Your Mind: Dr. Seuss

This feature will not be in chronological order (based on reading age) as it continues, but it makes sense to start at the beginning.  The earliest mind opening books I can think of were by Dr. Seuss.

The good Doctor’s writing, in general, is a great place for early stretching of the brain. Following rhymes and patterns are some of the first puzzles kids are able to solve. This can be either guessing what word or phrase is coming up, or making up rhymes on their own.  The ability to rhyme like Dr. Seuss not only exercises the grey matter, but is a wonderful, yet harmless way to annoy people as well (and apparently frighten my Uncle, but the less said about that the better.) Cultivating the proper level of smart assery in the face of authority is an important component of expanding one’s viewpoints.

While all of his books can serve as examples of these features, two stand out in encouraging thinking outside the box: On Beyond Zebra and If I Ran the Zoo. 

Both of these start with plain old (if poetic) reality, and then leap off the cliff of rationality, getting more and more distant and deranged with each turn of the page. The rhyme and meter hold constant, as the subject matter gets more bizarre.  This lets the form of the book hold the reader’s hand reassuringly, as the content takes them diving off the deep end.

The books I talk about in this series are ones I feel expand the way the reader can see the world.  While there are usually some similarities, they aren’t necessarily my favorites in a given group. For example: the books above are Seuss’s best examples of a good kids guide to find the way to “out there” ideas.  My favorite of his books, however, will always be The Sleep Book, primarily because Dad could never make it through the “Moose Juice/Goose Juice” section leading to gales of father/son laughter, and getting my bedtime extended until he worked his way through it.

Since this is the very first of the series, a bonus mind opening book for the same age group:

The Sesame Street classic The Monster at the End of this Book

This one provides a nifty introduction to a couple of devices that come into play later in a strange thinker’s life.  Grover’s paranoid romp is a great first look for the preschool set at both self reference and breaking the fourth wall.  Both of these are key elements that will creatively mess with their heads in later mind expanding reading.

Keep an eye out for future editions of Jeff's Books to Open your Mind...whenever I remember what they are.
(I said "open" not "improve" your mind.)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A Guy’s Guide to Cat Watching

Guys, if there is a woman in your life, there is a good chance that the two of you will be asked to monitor one of her friend’s felines for a brief overnight stay.   The simplicity of this plan will only be surpassed by the absolute chaos to which it leads.   You will undoubtedly be assured that the cat is good, does not scratch, does not climb or knock things over, and is next in line to be canonized by the Pope.  As a female, your partner’s only concern will be that it may dig in her plants.  As a guy, your only concern should be: it’s a cat.  

Women will tend to have more experience with cats.  One girl I knew grew up with five.  As five cats are far more than no cats, (Thank you Cookie Monster for another valuable lesson.) I thought I should be able to defer to her greater experience in this area.  However, due to the unpredictable and occasionally near demonic behavior of the animal, I was forced to learn much on my own.  This is important knowledge that should be passed on.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Of Men, Women and Monsters

Frankenstein is often referenced as an insight into various moral questions and dangers of scientific discovery. However, it can also be used to look at some significant differences in the way men and women think. The book was written by a woman, and the classic Universal films were scripted, directed and produced by men.  By comparing the two, those differences can be seen as clear as black and white (unless the Turner coloring people get involved.)

Yes, I do know that the film is actually an adaptation of a play written by a woman, Peggy Webling, but:
            A: There were other male written plays before hand that introduced the changes.
            B: The men who bought the rights to the play were dismissive of its quality.
            C: Using true guy logic: Why should I let facts spoil a good theory?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Up the Lake: Those Joes

Child Psychology and the Growth of Violence in America
Getting Hit by Guys Named Joe

Recent years have heaped publicity onto a large number of psychologists from the Home for the Humor Impaired. These and many other well meaning, if naïve, “adults” go around spreading the myth that children learn violent behavior from television.  This is preposterous; children learn violent behavior from guys named Joe. Then again, perhaps this is another Up the Lake phenomenon.  Nick, Skip, and I spent most summers Up the Lake with no TV at all, and all ended up just as psychotic as the average American boy, if not more so.  Our mentors in our evolution to destruction tended to be guys named Joe (due to the inherent "Italian Bronxness" of most Up the Lake families) who were the previous generation of Up the Lake kids.