A Fragment Of A Smile

I saw a photo on the Internet. The picture was just a part of a woman’s face. I bit of her nose, lips, and the crease of her smile against her cheek. It was suggestive, and I wanted to see the rest of her face. My mind started to run wild with speculation. Finally, I found the source of the photo after nearly an hour of furious searching. The web page informed me that it was indeed a fragment of a larger photo. There was a link pointing to flickr. I clicked on it. The page loaded. “This user is no longer a member”.

All I am left with, all the whole world is left with, is this fragment of a smile. A fragment of a face we will never know. Forever wondering what brought on the smile.

Twilight of a Rescuer

Things had actually started to calm down. In the larger scheme of things, it was twilight. The twilight of everything I’d assumed would last forever. For all the material things people held so dear.

Destiny held me: how she had found me in all the chaos was inconceivable, and yet I’d always known she’d be here now. I felt her toned stomach muscles heaving against my chest as her arms held me in a strong embrace and she sobbed. My mana was starting to get used up. People could smell it when there was an excess, and they’d come and hover like humming birds at a nectar feeding station. Many of them were not going to be around much longer. She said in a low voice how she was looking forward to the end of this, and a fresh start even though we both knew the price would be so very high, and the chaos unimaginable.

Whatever. By the time I or any of my friends get around to producing a grandchild (or even a child, come to think of it), we might as well have to explain what computers had been. And frozen dinners. And celebrity clairvoyants and airplanes and New York and America and even cities, and heaven only knows what else.

— An excerpt from the draft of the book Saving Katy by Rex Latchford

In the Grasp of 4G

I had a dream. About cellular networks. Now I know I’m ill for sure. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been shopping around for alternatives to my current telecommunications arrangements.

In the Grasp of Cellular: Not

Perhaps it was a reaction to having had a dream about something as commercial and commoditized as cellular phone service. I started to look for for a way to eliminate cellular service from my life entirely. I knew it wouldn’t be simple, but if I could do it fast, my concern about cellular service, costs, contracts, etc. would be history and I could rid my dreams of this commercial intrusion into my peace. The flip side of the coin is that like most people who work, I need to remain in contact, so simply unplugging is not an option.

I found my solution in the iPhone:not. Also known as the iPod Touch. Steve Jobs had died, and so I didn’t have to worry any longer about getting some of his bad karma by purchasing one of his company’s products. The iPhone is basically an iPod touch with the addition of the cellular circuitry, a bit more memory to handle the overhead, and a slightly higher-rez camera. The iPod Touch is slimmer, more lightweight, and when I show it off and tell people it’s an iPhone 5, they believe it. So much for the iPhone being revolutionary. But then, your mom has one so what do you expect? Conversely, the Touch is exactly what I wanted; an iPhone without the cellular. But can you make phone calls on the Touch? Absolutely, yes. The newer Touch models also support Bluetooth, so you can use an earpiece (but Skype doesn’t support Bluetooth!) if you want to.

I needed a phone number, and a way to shuffle my calls around in case my Touch is out of WiFi range. Google Voice to the rescue! I got a Google number.

Here are the remainder of the components I assembled together:

  • Virgin Mobile pre-paid WiFi cellular hotspot, for when no WiFi is available
  • Google Voice account
  • Bluetooth Headset
  • The following iPod Touch Apps (most are free):
    • Google Voice (very limited; requires the others…)
    • GV Connect (handle multiple #’s for personal, business, etc.) ($)
    • Talkatone
    • Whistle (for an additional phone #)
    • Skype (doesn’t support Bluetooth!)

This is not intended to be a how-to article. Nor exhaustive. There are many other apps that support similar functionality; the above are the ones I chose and am using at this writing.

I’m an old fart. I suspect many younger folks are doing this also. Google may be breeding a whole new generation of kids who use Google instead of cellular for phone service. If I were a kid dependent on mom and dad for a cell phone, I’d surely dump it in favor of this and take control of my communications without the cost.

No contracts, no per-minute rate. No cellphone tracking.

Henry’s Extraterrestrial Experience

For Cady.

Hat Creek Radio Observatory

Image by armigeress via Flickr

Henry always wanted to travel into space and visit other worlds. Henry read science fiction novels all day long whenever he had a free moment; and in the toilet too. Henry was an elementary school student with poor vision, and consequently he was equipped with thick glasses that allowed him to read, as well as see reasonably well. Henry was always thinking about space aliens. Space battles between conflicted groups of humans. Or aliens. More often, though, Henry had a vision. A vision of a peaceful, verdant planet. This planet was occupied by a relatively small population of advanced beings that lived in a complete peace and harmony with their planet.

Henry’s family were farmhands. They lived in a small, run-down trailer in Nebraska. The trailer was a few hundred feet from the main farmhouse, and the complex was dotted with trees. Beyond the trees were rows of corn as far as the eye could see.

A retired 1955 Kenworth Model T-216

Image via Wikipedia

Henry traveled to and from school on a beaten-up school bus. The trip was nearly an hour each way. That made for two hours a day in which Henry had to entertain himself. Some of the kids on the bus did their homework. Others sang songs. Girls giggled. Boys fought. Some sat alone and texted themselves, their friends, or other kids on the bus. But Henry dreamed. Henry dreamed of being in space. Henry believed that if he dreamed hard enough, he could will himself to travel to a far away planet. In Henry’s dreams, his will was an awesome and terrible thing that was growing and growing. Sooner or later, it would grow so powerful that it could transport Henry to that planet he dreamed of.

One special night, Henry went to bed as usual. Before going to sleep, he focused hard on his desire to travel to other worlds. His eyes scrunched up and his hands tightened into balls of will. Henry fell asleep.

Henry’s mom awoke to sounds coming from first Henry’s room, and then the door to the trailer as it creaked shut. She sensed a flash of blue light and an odd ethereal sound outside the trailer with eyes closed in her dreamy state. She had been in a deep sleep, and thoughts of getting up and checking out the noise formed in the forefront of her sleepy mind. But the weight and exhaustion of the day’s labors fought and overcame those thoughts, and Henry’s mom fell back asleep, her breath resuming a steady rise and fall.


A rich starry sky fills the view from an ancie...

Image via Wikipedia

Henry awoke under a clear, starry sky. His bare feet were cold and wet. There was a slight breeze, and it carried air that felt strange to him past his nose. He became aware of unfamiliar scents. The weight of his body felt wrong; he felt lighter than normal. Then, a rustling noise and a strange animal sound that he had never heard before.

Henry stood still, and focused on breathing the strange air steadily. His head was clearing, and he was becoming better able to sense his new environment. Henry realized that he was no longer on Earth. A chill traveled down his spine at this thought, and simultaneously the little peach fuzz hairs on his back stood up and tried to be tall. He took a step forward.

It was very dark, and the place he found himself was very, very dark. He tried to identify the horizon, and from what he could tell, the surface of the planet on which he found himself was very, very flat. The surface was evenly covered by short plants, all of which seemed to be the same. Henry took off his glasses and rubbed them with his pajama shirt in an effort to get a clearer view.


Starry Sky over Palo Duro Canyon

Image by r w h via Flickr

Henry’s mind was now excited, and thoughts began flooding into his consciousness as his brain cranked faster and faster. This planet must be smaller than Earth. That would account for the feeling of lightness. Also what appeared to be the low horizon. Perhaps it is a very old planet with little vulcanism, and consequently whatever mountains there had once been were now worn down so the planet is relatively flat. Henry looked up into the cloudless sky and wondered about the constellations… his vision was too blurry to tell, but he expected they would be completely different than those seen on Earth.

Henry took a few steps forward. He realized that he was standing on what seemed to be a dusty road or path, about 20 feet wide. It seemed Earth-like until he realized the implication: there must be some sort of intelligent life here that built the road! He took a few steps to the edge of the road and squinted into the foliage. It seemed as if the plants were organized into rows, or else some other regular pattern – he couldn’t be certain. But it implied either large-scale agriculture, or else a very alien kind of vegetation that naturally grew in this organized way. It occurred to Henry that soon he would have to find food and water, but he decided to put that off until light came; whenever that might be. In the meantime, he relieved himself on a rock that was clearly visible, so he wouldn’t step in it later.

Intelligent life! Something like a road, and something like agriculture. Suddenly Henry experienced a flush of sensation, warm and glowing. It might be possible to live here! Perhaps he could find the aliens, communicate with them, and live here with them. Away from humanity, the trailer, the bus, the school, and the other kids who tormented him! While they lived out their dreary lives on Earth, Henry would be ahead of them all. The first human ambassador to another civilization of sentients! Henry could barely contain his excitement.

Now, in the distance, he heard a noise. A rumbling, steady mechanical noise. Henry turned around to survey all directions, and at one point in the distance, he saw lights. Instinctively, he ran into the foliage to hide. The sound drew nearer, and the lights brighter. Henry overcame his fear and realized that he couldn’t survive long here, alone. He needed to make contact with the aliens right away. The sooner the better. So Henry moved to the edge of the road, took off his pajama shirt, and started to wave it.

What seemed like an Earth-like vehicle slowed and stopped perhaps 100 feet away. An alien form, bipedal, got out of the vehicle and slowly moved toward him. Then, it spoke! In English!

“Henry? Is that you?”

Henry froze in terror as the creature continued to approach.

“Henry, your mama is worried out of her mind over you. Come here boy, and we’ll take you home. Looks like you’ve been out sleepwalking. Are you OK boy?”

It was a police officer. Henry cooperated with the alien, and got into the vehicle, which roared off. Soon he was home, and his mother was weeping and wailing and thanking the police officer. Before Henry knew what was happening, before he had adapted to suddenly being back on Earth, he was bundled into bed, the lights were shut off, the door to his room locked, and with strange ease, he fell asleep. It was probably the exhaustion from the stress of space travel.

The next day, Henry’s mom took him to the doctor, who prescribed a sedative. The doctor assured her that was the last time Henry would travel into space, to visit other worlds.

The End?

Fair Doinkum

Like many people, I suspect, I do a lot of online searching. Sometimes I get “searcher’s block” and vamp for a moment or two, searching for something silly, or purposely misspelled.

Today, I typed in a variant of “Fair Dinkum“. Instead I typed “Fair Doinkum“. Sounded amusing to me at the time. I got no result! It occurred to me that I’d found the salvation to my occasional writer’s block. I can blog about words that search engines don’t recognize (until they index this blog). And so here we are.

What is “Fair Doinkum” you might ask? Well, stopping to think about it, it must mean asserting that you did in fact doink that girl that your friend doesn’t believe you could. Or, a well deserved (fair) doinking.

Still mystified? You probably need to know the meaning of “Fair Dinkum” from which I derived “Fair Doinkum”. No need to give examples. Log onto Twitter and search for “fair dinkum”.

The best reference I could quickly fish out: World Wide Words offers a Fair Dinkum article… Eponymously if you ask me.  By the way, I really like that site. Tip o’ the hat to Michael Quinion, erstwhile Brit Etymologist.

But if you search, as is often the case, you’ll get a lot of irrelevance despite Google’s collective Phd power. Stay away from the Urban Dictionary! It has more SEO (Search Engine Optimization for ad sales) than it does useful content.


Image via Wikipedia

Is Digital Really So Different From Film?

Remembering Images

Is Digital Really So Different From Film?

Apparently not. This morning I got up early to watch the sunrise on one of the longest days of the year. I brought along my digital camera to see if I could capture some of it.

As I walked and the sun approached the horizon, I saw purple mountain-ed majesty, although there were no fruited plains; just plains with lots of buildings on them. Actually, the mountains were pink, not purple, and there was still some of this year’s magnificent snow pack visible on them. Against an aqua blue sky, it was pretty stunning. It appeared that if I could zoom in as far as the optics on my digital camera would allow, I’d be able to capture it.

I fired up the camera. It booted. A whirring sound was made as the protective iris over the lens opened, and the lens telescoped out of the body of the camera like a mechanical erection. An image appeared on the screen. I zoomed in all the way, and tinkered with the camera’s parameters until a nice image was displayed. I pressed the “take” button. A message appeared: “No Memory Card Present. Image Cannot Be Saved.”

My mind instantly took me back many decades to a moment where I had been out in the field, having carried with me a heavy bag full of Pentax cameras, a tripod, lenses, filters, and various tools for making 35mm film images. I had carefully set up the camera, composed a shot, and discovered that I had forgotten to bring film, and that none was loaded in the camera (I’d cleaned out my camera bag and “organized” everything the day before).

If you had told me about digital photography when I was a kid, I wouldn’t have believed you. Even though I was an electronics hobbyist. I took to photography at a very young age. My first cameras were of the Kodak Brownie type, taking 127 roll film, usually black and white. The cost of having it developed at the pharmacy was high, so I very quickly learned to develop the film myself. With that came the joy of the smell of chemicals, and discovering all the things that could be done with the image in the dark room by manipulating the chemical processes of developing the film, and the image printed to photographic paper. I acquired all sorts of equipment over the years, from bulk film loaders allowing me to buy film hundreds of feet at a time, to all the accouterments necessary for processing the film. Cameras, enlargers for making prints. I love to shop as much as anyone else, and I shopped hard for all that gear. I worked in various film formats, mostly black and white, from 120 roll film to 35mm to 5″ x 7″ sheet film. I used flash bulbs to illuminate subjects, and discovered the world of lighting for photography. In college I learned about acting and even makeup for film and television. I went on and shot 16mm and even some 35mm motion picture film, side stepping the low quality of 8mm. I learned how to budget film productions, and employ film crews and union workers to move around all the equipment (and take expensive breaks to ingest large amounts of catered food and drink).

All the while, electronic photography was following in my wake. Video at first. Soon, it was cheaper than film to shoot. I worked in Broadcast Television for a while, and Video was a must. The images weren’t as good as film, but the money was better (that seems to have been the story of television). Electronics progressed, and digital photography inched into practicality. In my digital vault is the evidence. Very low resolution images and video taken with devices ranging from the sublime to the ridiculously cheap.

I branched off creatively into music and writing. But technology did not wait. It gobbled up the market for images and image making to such an extent that now precious little is left of the film industry, and what little is left is in support of the rapidly diminishing market for cinema and movie prints.

So I am here now. Remembering, as Baba Ram Dass always exhorted, back in the days of Bob Fass and Steve Post at WBAI. Not that much has changed. Memory cards can be forgotten as easily as rolls of film, and images can be lost even more easily than the negatives: at the touch of a button.

[as a matter of self-aggrandizement, I’d put a link in to my own activites at WBAI, but I used another name then, just as Ram Dass was once Richard Alpert]

Remembering Images

Is Digital Really So Different From Film?

My Space on MySpace

“Just visited MySpace. Half the lights are out, bears are living in my comments section, and a homeless guy’s been pooping in my blog.”



So much for diversity.

Remote Office

I’m fully armed. I could be dangerous, but not in this blog. Netbook, cellular modem (in case the wi-fi isn’t), bag, sunglasses. It’s really all I need to write. Girlfiend took over the bathroom – it’s her office now, and the wi-fi works great in there.

Today I’m at the supermarket. Not to shop. There’s a nice workspace here. Moderately quiet. A handy coffee dispensary right next to it. More than enough food and drink right there if I need it. So I don’t. Helps me keep my girlish figure, what there is of that which is not solely in my long-term memory or imagination.

It’s a gray day outside. There’s an exit door right there in case of an emergency need to get out. Not needed today. Today the glass door is the portal by which I can see the gray. It’s helping to get the work done. The sun promised has not arrived, and that was expected to be followed by a three-day rain-a-thon. No wonder alcoholism is a workplace hazard for meteorologists.

There’s a fake fireplace. It does not radiate heat. I’m chilled. It limits the time I can spend in that timeless, limitless place called cyberspace that I’m sharing with you now. I’m reminded of when I was dead. I was dead for way more than 6 minutes once. Fortunately I was tended by medics who knew how to keep my brain alive. That was cold too, but I’ve learned to limit what I write about that, because the experience conflicts with the deeply held beliefs of many others. Fortunately, now, getting warm is a much easier task than it was when I was dead. Sadly I was not capable of it then, but now I am able to simply remember the hug I got this morning. I’m very glad about that hug, and I wish that everyone on earth had gotten a hug like that this morning. But I know that many didn’t, and wishing for a thing does not make it so.

I want to go back to my office now. That was, after all, the purpose of coming here. To make me want to go there. But something is holding me back, and making me write this instead. It’s the gray. A holding place. A Zen state. Punctuated by passing small children, their shopping parents, and supermarket employees on break. And now a last cup of coffee, after which I’ll get back into the gas-powered vehicular system that will transport me back to what I now appreciate as a much better environment, filled with compute power, pleasant environment, and warmth. There I will work for a while. Until I want to write more. And then, I will write.