The Cumberland Post

The Cumberland Post
My Backyard, Six Miles from the Cumberland River

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Christmas Star Protocol

The Dreamship moved along the outer band of  the Mobius curve of the universe at one hundred times the speed of light. Reaching the point at which the outside became the inside, the ship slipped into time.

The Pilot was of necessity asleep and would remain so until the end of the mission when he brought the Dreamship back out of the universe and into eternity. His mission was simple: transport the Judges to the developing world in question and bring them out again. The Judges' mission was the difficult one; amongst themselves they frequently called these missions "End Times" missions.

As always, there were three of them. In current binary terms, they were 101, 111, and 000. In ancient nomenclature, they were two men and a woman. We'll call them Sam, John, and Ruby.

Most often their missions took them to the fourth planet from the local sun, but in this instance, it was the third planet out, a waterworld class planet which meant that at least 65% of the surface was covered with water.

The beings on this planet had reached a stage of development where it was necessary that the Judges make a determination regarding the beings' future existence. If the Judges judged wrong and allowed these beings or those on any "developmental" world who were following the wrong path to continue to live, the entire harmony of the universe would be destroyed and chaos and eventually total destruction would ensue.

The Boss would not be happy because that would mean starting the whole "universe" experiment over again from scratch, beginning at the point of the initial creative explosion. And that took an enormous amount of planning and engineering.

Only about one in ten worlds met the Judges' strict criteria for survival. The other nine were eliminated, swiftly and efficiently. The Dreamship was outfitted with a simple sonic device designed by the Boss which allowed the Judges to eliminate the world instantly if that was their decision.

A highly sophisticated and hidden monitoring system was in place and had been recording data since the beings on the planet had evolved to a certain level. That level included a strong and positive value system and organization into a cohesive society which permitted the maximum amount of individual freedom. There were several thousand other points of measure that the Judges considered too.

When the invisible Dreamship achieved an orbit around the world in question, the Judges moved to the observation room to examine the records available. It was clear that many of the societies on the planet were moving in the wrong direction, but there were a few which seemed promising.

On the first vote, John and Ruby were split. Ruby voted for elimination. John voted for continuation. Sam wavered. It was a most unusual situation. After a spirited discussion, Sam proposed that they use the rare and infrequently used "Star" stimulation to push the world's beings along the right path. This was in effect a spectacular event plus an extension which allowed the world in question a fixed amount of time to reach a level of satisfactory development.

Because they were split (which rarely happened), John and Ruby saw the logic of providing the extension. They were fully aware that they would have to fully explain and justify their decision to the Boss but felt confident in their reasoning.

All three immediately  touched their screens to implement the "Star" protocol.

An artificial "star" was instantly created outside the orbit of the planet's moon; the star would move along a pre ordained path for three years and would be visible to all beings on the planet. At the end of that time the "star" would disappear. Judging from these beings' spiritual development (primitive, but with some movement toward monotheism), the appearance of such a star could possibly stimulate development along a positive path.

The Judges telepathically interacted with the Pilot; the invisible Dreamship quickly left orbit around the waterworld and almost instantaneously reached the outer band of the Mobius curve. It slipped seamlessly back into eternity.

Once they were outside time, John and Ruby maintained their objectivity about the world in question. But Sam was pulling for the little planet and its people. He liked their grit. And they made really good beer.

The Judges would return 2200 solar years later to make the final decision about the planet's survival.

Merry Christmas

We've been in TX since Saturday, December 15, with our son's family. We'll be here until after Christmas.

For the first few days we enjoyed balmy weather, but today is much different: low 40s with a 35-40 mph NNW wind. That wind cuts like an icy knife, especially if you're wearing a toga.

Hope everyone out there in blogland is doing well and enjoying the season.

The huge and diverse staff here at the Cumberland Post wishes all of you a very merry Christmas. I'll see you again soon unless the alarmists are right about the 21st being the end of the world. For more on that see my next post.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Drifting Outskirts Blues

We've had four days of rain now. The creek in the park is up and the ground is saturated. I'm going out in the drizzle after I write this to buy licenses and pay wheel tax fees on both our vehicles (yeah, that $150 hit comes right at Christmas too). And my old computer is still killing me with blue screens, and I can't make up my mind about which new computer to buy.

I know there are people with a lot worse problems, and I'm not saying this is in any way as bad as that, but, it is my problem right now. I'm at a fork in the road.

One road leads to Mac-ville. It's a very, very expensive road to travel on, but according to reports is a clear, simple journey that can be made without difficulty. If you want to pay the high toll upfront.

Another road leads down Windows lane. I've been on this road all along, so I am familiar with it. It's relatively cheap to travel on (especially in comparison to the Mac-ville road) but sometimes there are breakdowns. It's a soft enough road, micro-soft some say, but the twists and turns and mapping problems can give you headaches.

Right now I can't make up my mind. Undecided, washing this wishy and wishing that washy if you get my drift, and I am drifting. Floundering. I'm on the outskirts, so to speak. Can't seem to make it into town.

Which reminded me of this song I heard last night in a great "little" movie (practically unwatched, according to IMDB) called "Around the Bend," starring Josh Lucas, Michael Caine, and Christopher Walken. It's an emotional drama about fathers and sons. Right now it's on Starz On Demand on our Comcast cable setup; check it out sometime if you get the chance.

Anyway, this song "Carmelita" played in the movie. It's by Warren Zevon and the singer I heard in the movie was male, but I don't think it was Zevon.
Linda Rondstadt sang it back in the 70s and Dwight Yoakum has a version too. He wasn't singing it in the movie but I'm using his version here.

I'm not on heroin like the speaker and never have been, but I do think I'm hearing Mariachi music on my computer.

(On a side note: I'm not much liking the new youtube format. You can't seem to escape the ads.)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Computer Gods Toy with Us

After all those blue screens for several days, the computer mysteriously gave me a whole day yesterday of clear and clean surfing. This morning, five minutes in, the screen went blue again. I'm pretty sure my hard drive's gone soft. (Insert age appropriate smart ass remark here.)

I can imagine the scene on Computer Olympus. The king of the computer gods, Microsoftus says to his wife Googleus, "Why don't we mess with his mind a little. Give him one more day and he'll think everything is cleared up.Then we kill everything the next day. That'll be fun. Especially since it's Christmas."

Guess I'll have to spring for a new one tomorrow. Sigh.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Blue Screen Blues

For the past few days I've been getting quite a few blue screens on my 5 year old Gateway desktop each day. They started a couple of months ago, but only once every few days or so. But lately they've increased almost geometrically. Now, they're coming after about 5-10 minutes. They happen now even when I'm not online when the computer is idle with only my startup icons showing.

I'm writing this post from Joyce's Gateway laptop because I was afraid to start a post on the desktop.

My son has given me a couple of sound remedies (a C-Cleaner scan, and a Lavasoft scan) which did improve the computers speed, but the blue screens are still coming.

I could buy a new hard drive, but I'll probably just opt for a new desktop.

Why is it that unexpected expenses always come at the worst time? Is this just another manifestation of Murphy's Law: what can go wrong will go wrong?

Or maybe we need a new Law: the Christmas Wallet Corollary. You naturally have extra anticipated hits on your wallet at have those plus the CWC, those inevitable unexpected expenses which always occur when you need them the least..

Monday, December 3, 2012

1957 Ford Country Sedan: Our First Dependable Car

I've already written about my first car as a teenager, that 1948 Chevy as well as the Fiat Bianchina Joyce and I bought when we were first married and still in undergraduate school.

When I finished the course work for my M. A. in English at Peabody in Nashville in early January of 1963, I accepted a position to fill a mid academic year teaching vacancy at Southeastern Louisiana College in Hammond, Louisiana. I was due to report for work at the beginning of the spring semester, about the second week of January.

Using what were called federal "defense" loans in those days (paid back in full in the '70s) and some part time work by Joyce and myself, I had made it through college and the first year of graduate school by the skin of my financial teeth. Our funds were depleted and we were in debt. But we didn't care. Before I only had prospects, but now I had a real job in my chosen profession. The salary I would receive at Southeastern for one semester of full time teaching ($2400) sounds paltry by today's terms but to us it was a fortune.

Joyce and I knew we had to have a newer car to even get to the job. As a student, the bank wouldn't talk to me about a car loan, but as a graduate with a job they were more than happy to help me.

There were three of us by then--Barry was 1 year and five months old. We didn't have much in the way of material possessions but we had accumulated some "stuff" over our 2 1/2 years of marriage.

We were driving (sometimes pushing) a nine year old '54 Dodge Royal (formerly my parents') that by that time was smoking heavily and looked pretty beatup as a result of a rear end side swipe my Mom had experienced several years earlier. It frequently wouldn't start or would fail to complete the three mile trip from our apartment to Peabody; setting out to Louisiana in it was out of the question.

We needed a car that was big enough to load up our meager belongings and dependable enough to make the trip to Louisiana without difficulty. We found the perfect vehicle at Hippodrome Ford on Broad Street one gray, cold day in January. It was a yellow and cream four door, 1957 Ford Country Sedan. The picture below is not the actual car; I have pictures of it somewhere in our attic storage space which I've been promising to dig out for a couple of years now. but this one looked just like it.

The big wagon was already six years old but in really good shape. As for the engine, it was an OHV Ford V8. Wiki says,

The [1957] V8 lineup included a 272 CID (4.5 L) Y-block making 190 hp (142 kW), [and] a 292 CID (4.8 L) Thunderbird version making 212 hp (158 kW).

I'm not sure now after all these years, but I'm pretty sure ours was the base 6 passenger  model which had the 190 hp, two barrel carb version of the engine. Whatever it was, it would go pretty good for such a docile and practical looking vehicle.

We laid down the back seat and filled up all that storage space with pots, pans, Barry's baby bed, clothes, our small 17 inch white Motorola TV, more clothes, and linen; in short, everything we owned we carried in the back of that Ford wagon. The picture below shows a green interior, ours was brown. The picture shows the rear seat up, while we had it down flat to provide more space for our "stuff" when we made the trip. The picture also shows the space empty; when we made the trip to Louisiana, our wagon's space was completely full from top to bottom. I could only see the rear through my side mirrors.

Barry rode up front with us on the front seat. He had a little flimsy traveling bed that would change into a sitting position which he slept or sat in some, but most of the time he sat in Joyce's lap or stood (horrors) on the big bench seat between us.

The Ford did great on the trip which was pretty uneventful. About the only thing I remember is that we had our first Po Boy barbeque beef sandwich at some drive in restaurant in McComb, Mississippi. It was pretty danged good.

Our time in Louisiana was short and for awhile we had a rough time. It was my first teaching assignment and I was trying to learn the ropes. But much worse than that, Joyce had a miscarriage. She became anemic and took several weeks to recover. But we nade some good memories too. We learned the real meaning of Southern Hospitality. Colleagues, friends, even our landlord, went out of their way to help us during our troubles.

I was offered a full time job at Southeastern for the coming academic year at an annual salary of $4800, but I had been looking around for other possibilities. Eastern Kentucky offered me $5600 (an $800 raise) and after our difficulties, Kentucky sounded a little bit better to us than Louisiana.

During this time, the Ford served us well. It started every time and required nothing other than normal maintenance. It continued to serve us for another year in Kentucky until we traded it in on our first new car, a 1964 Dodge Coronet. But that's another story.

Here's one last look at that great old Country Sedan. Ford's slogan used to be, "There's a Ford in your future." There may be. But there is definitely one in our past. No wait. There are two in our past. This one and that 1971 Pinto. But that's another story too.

UPDATE: With his comment about a trip he remembers from his childhood, reader Buck reminded me of another part of our journey to Louisiana. Here's my response to his comment, complete with a Wiki link if you want to read a little more about the Natchez Trace Parkway (a most interesting roadway):

Buck, Thanks for helping fill out my memory of that trip a bit. As you point out, the roads 50 years ago were different, very different. I remember we drove to Columbia, TN and then made it over to the Natchez Trace Parkway. This is a two lane limited access road first begun under FDR that follows and commemorates the original trail used by early settlers in the South. The trail itself still remains visible at some points on the parkway; you can see the deep ruts of wagons from long ago. We took the Trace down to Jackson, MS, and then went further south toward Hammond on a blue highway, the number of which I can't remember now. But I do know it passed through McComb.