A place for thought.

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“And then what happened?”
“Well, nothing really, that was the last thing.”
“Nothing? Really? Are you sure? I mean, this is happening,” she waved her hands about indicating us, the room, the world.
“Things exist, things continue.”
“But nothing happens?” she still could not agree.
“Nothing to write home about.”
“So things need to reach a level of interest or entertainment to be happening?”
He felt she needed convincing, ”So, what’s going on in your life?”
“Not a thing,” the way she answered suggested she considered herself a failure.
“And if you did write home what would you say to the dear folks?” he said driving home his point.
“Nothing!” she gave in completely. “Nothing is going on.” She paused and thought a full minute. He knew the process and waited patiently. Her eyes lit, she understood, “And nothing is going to happen.”
He nodded. She looked disappointed. He understood her disappointment. He had seen it before. “It’s okay,” he assured her.
“For nothing to happen?” her eyes were wide open and she looked a little mad, in every sense of the word mad.
“Things aren’t that bad,” he said with confidence.
She thought for another full minute, “No, not that bad,” she stressed the word bad.
“You’ll see, after all, nothing is going to happen,” he saw understanding creep over her pretty face.
She walked out into the street. She didn’t get hit by a car. No one screamed and set themselves on fire. The world didn’t stop spinning – nothing happened.

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First of all it is not black and white. No one is all left and no one is all right. We are a mix, each and every one of us – but we tend to be team players, herd animals. Consider a football team, the one considered to be yours, the one you root for when they win and when they lose. Imagine a key player, the guy that cuts through the line and slaps the ball out of the quarterback’s hand. That key player, during the off-season, is traded to a rival team. He once was cheered. He once was honored for his skill. Now he’s the cheating bit of slime the just hurt our quarterback!
My wife and I do a thing that is considered, by some, unthinkable. We cheer for individual plays. If the offence executes a play with skill and success we cheer. If the defense blocks progress and pushes the ball back to second and twenty we cheer. I realize it’s a messed up way to watch football but I suggest it is a better way to handle the politics of our country.

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Jimmy, Super Kid (part forty-one)

My uncle flew away but he left behind a bit of his wonderment. Ricky and I loaded our backpacks with food and water early this morning and headed for the creek. From the plane we saw the creek follow the low places between foothills until it disappeared at the base of the mountains east of town. The plan is to follow the paths along the creek until we reach that point.   Ricky’s mom gave him her phone, just in case we get lost – I’m not sure that’s possible but there are other unknowns out there, I can’t tell you what they are.

“I love to go a wondering along the mountain track,” Ricky has decided a true hike requires music but he doesn’t know the whole song so he just sings that one bit over and over and over. Sally got tired of the music and ran on up ahead some time ago. She runs back to check on whether he’s still singing every five minutes or so, she just checked and he still is. I have my walking stick which identifies me as a hiker so there is no need for me to sing. I let Ricky take the lead and I fall back a bit in order to enjoy the quiet morning. The creek is running about half full leaving us plenty of room to walk along the bank. So far the trails that run on each side of the creek are well defined. I don’t know if they are kept that way by fishermen, kids, or animals but they provide an easy path around rocks and trees and tall grasses. Frogs jump into the water just ahead of us warned by Ricky’s song. I watch for snakes hoping they are driven away by his song too. A cottontail rabbit stops to watch us pass, waiting for us to leave the area so he can get a drink from the creek. All at once the music stops.   Ricky stops walking. Sally doubles back to see what has happened and I almost walk into Ricky before I stop next to him.

“Time for a snack,” Ricky proclaims as he sits on the log that was his reason for picking this spot. He pulls the pack off his back and starts looking through it. I sit next to him on the log as he pulls out a sandwich size plastic bag of cookies. He hands me one of the homemade cookies.

“Thanks,” his mom makes the best cookies; they stay chewy instead of getting hard and crumbly like store bought cookies.

“We’re making good time,” Ricky says as he chews on a cookie of his own.

I think the time has come to get something said, “About the hiking song, Ricky,” I start.

“Oh, that’s over. Sorry if you’re going to miss it,” he says with a grin. “Getting a sore throat.”

“How much farther do you think?” I ask.

“Five miles,” Ricky answers between chews.

I hold my hand out for my second cookie, “How far have we come?” Ricky is petty good with distances.

“Two miles,” he answers with complete confidence that lets me know he hasn’t got a clue.

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The unique robot stands still waiting for me to come and have our daily talk. All I have learned has gone into his creation, my greatest accomplishment. He stands silent and still without a hint of impatience. At first we walk without talking, he points to things he has done during the day and I nod. We pass other forms I have created and he tells me their names. He has a name for almost everything I have made, thousands of names; I remember each one as he tells me. We pause and watch as two of a kind go through the program I have introduced that enables them to create another of their kind. The one unique robot shows fascination.

“Would you like another, like yourself?” I ask as we walk in the cool of the evening.

“I would,” he states fully understanding what that would mean.

The process takes time and involves changes to the unique robot as well as using all my skills to make the new. The new is not just replication but a mate, the two together will be able to interact and create others of their kind. Seeing their attraction to each other, the way they talk, laugh, play brings tears to my eyes and at the same time I feel distance for the first time. My greatest creation does not depend wholly upon me. Their independence brings a thought into my mind, “what if they could make decisions for themselves? What if they could learn without my programming each thought?” I set myself to develop the program, perhaps the most difficult task I have ever undertaken. Nothing I have created before can truly make a decision.

At last my work is complete, a simple chip, easily placed within my robots, a chip that will change them forever. The next evening I go to meet the pair in the garden, ready to share my addition to their programming. They sit on a fallen tree, arms wrapped around each other, smiling, laughing. I change my mind. What I have made is good – it is enough. I can protect them as they are. I cover the chip in my hand but the first unique robot sees me.

“What is that?” he asks with pure innocence and points to my hand.

“It’s not for you. It would make you different.”

“How could I be?” he asks, just curious.

“You would be able to function without my guidance,” he sees the sadness in my eyes and understands. He forgets the chip but his mate watches as I place it high on the branch of a tree. I say to her, “never touch this. It is not meant for you.” She nods but watches the branch with the chip for a second longer.

The next evening they are not sitting on the log, they are not waiting in he path, “where are you!” I shout but I already know what has happened. I find them hiding from me. Afraid of me! But they are no longer just my creation they have added to my programming. I cannot contain them within my boundaries. I let them know I will help in every way I can but they will have to let me now – they will choose.

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Toby (part two)

The first sign of trouble in Toby’s life came at the age of twelve. He was attending a very well respected middle school at the time. The school had all the extras needed to guide young minds. The school had a very successful athletics department, the football team not only possessed shiny new uniforms but almost every year won at least one playoff game. The school had an arts program that sent students traveling in buses all over the county and sometimes even to other parts of the state for special events. The school, and this was the part Toby enjoyed even though he did show some signs of trouble in his life, had a very adept chef and produced lunches that were as good as anywhere, at least anywhere that had to present one thousand two hundred lunches to crazy children in less than twenty minutes. But with every advantage Toby still felt out of place attending this fine school. He complained to his parents once, during a slightly heated discussion with primarily his father, he was heard to remark, “I didn’t ask to be born.” Toby tried to share his problems with his friends at school, of which he had several, but they each felt their problems should be attended to and did not spend as much of their time felling sorry for Toby as he felt would be right. As luck would have it a couple of years passed and at the age of fourteen Toby decided maybe life was not so bad after all and he found a comfortable place in a very respectable high school not a long walk from his very respectable home.

High school presented another chance for failure. High school introduced Toby to women. Toby had always had good eyesight and the opposite sex had always been around but in high school Toby discovered they held an attraction he had not delved into before.   Toby discovered women: when bumped up against not only did they not smell like boys, they did not feel like boys, or smile like boys, and they certainly did not giggle like boys.   Toby discovered that his reaction to women was totally different than the way he reacted to others of his own sex, and he discovered he especially enjoyed the difference. Toby did not go mad with this new information. He did not become some sort of sex crazed manic. He took it in stride and in most cases he kept this new knowledge very much to himself. But there was one exception. The exception was named Jill. From the first time Toby saw Jill in the hallway having trouble with the combination to her book locker he knew she needed his attention. She was just a silly, giggly, girl. She looked a lot like Toby’s mother had at his age but Toby did not take the time to realize this, he did not think about much other then how pretty she was and about how her blue eyes sparkled when she laughed and about how much he would like to be near her. And so he waited for an opportunity, not like a lion waits for its prey, not with confidence and a well laid out plan. Toby waited for an opportunity to meet Jill with fear and insecurity.

After what seemed much longer than a few days he found his chance, “before you pull down the handle you need to jiggle it like this,” Toby jiggled the sliding latch on Jill’s locker and pulled it down, just like he had been doing with his own locker since the school year had begun.

Jill smiled at him and said, “Thanks.” Toby felt his heart melt. “You’re Toby. Right?” Toby’s throat went dry and he produced an expression on his face that Jill could not discern. “You’re in my Spanish class.”

“Oh,” it wasn’t much of a sentence but it did prove Toby was capable of speech.

“Thank you for your help. I will try that jiggle trick next time I need in my locker,” Jill said with another melt your heart smile.

“I could just wait here and help you,” said Toby, finding his words and even sounding a little smooth.

“Silly,” she giggled. And then the bell rang giving Toby one of the best ideas he had ever had.

“Could I walk with you to Spanish class?” he asked. It was his next class and she had just told him she was in it. He carried her books and they found they could talk to each other easily. It was almost a full week before they held hands and a few days after that before they shared a simple, quick kiss. He had no reason to create a plot to bring about the end of this world, but the first bits of the plan started to form in his young mind.