Polly & Jake’s

Candice eetimesBack when I was in grad school at Stanford, in the early 1980’s my friends and I would remark on the odd existence of Polly & Jake’s, a storefront on the south-east corner of Page Mill Road and El Camino Real.  The painted sign on the parapet, just below the name of the shop, was the inscription, “Est. 1929”.  The windows were dusty, never cleaned.  Peering inside one could see that it was filled with cheap knick-nacks, bric-a-brak, and green depression glass, also gathering dust.  The place looked like it hadn’t been open since the 1930’s.  No matter what time of day or evening, when ever we tried visit, it was never open.  It was one of those odd mysteries that invite ever stranger explanations.  The most common was that it was owned by a rich older grand dame who held onto it with the pretension of being a shop owner and thus had somewhere important to go and do.  But in truth, we had no idea what was the real story.

My friends and I all vowed that if we saw the shop open, we would visit, no matter what errand we were busy with… just to be able to see inside.  But that was decades ago and I’ve moved and mostly lost touch with my college friends.

I drove by there a few years ago.  Polly & Jake’s was gone, replaced by an AT&T cellphone store.   After all, how could such a valuable location remain closed and apparently unused for so many decades?  It was bound to be converted to some other use at some point.  But somehow I always thought that it would still be there, timeless, frozen in the Great Depression.

I’m telling you this because I got an email from a stranger around that time which began,  “I’m reaching out to you to ask if you were friend’s with a woman named Trini at Stanford?”  Well, of course I had, but I hadn’t seen her since she up and dissappeared in the ’80s.  None of us knew what had happened to her.  So, of course I messaged back that I had known a Trini.  That’s when things got weird.

Via snailmail a few days later I get a package.  In it was a lovely cut crystal vase and a note from Trini “From Polly & Jakes”, but it was dated from 1935!  What was the joke?

I emailed the stranger who had sent it to me… and this is the reply, “I know this will sound strange, but Trinidad was my grandmother.  I found this in her effects with an instruction in her will that stipulated that I send this package to you.  Polly & Jake’s was her shop.  She insisted that it had to remain untouched until she died.  She was always very mysterious about it, always joking that it was her time portal.  I always thought that was an allegorical reference to the old junk in the shop.  But said in her will you would understand.”

Are UFOs real?

Candice eetimesA bit over ten years ago, I was piloting my Piper Cherokee over eastern Oregon in excellent visual conditions.  I could see for over a hundred miles.  I spotted what looked like a white building a long distance away on the horizon along my desired route so I used it as a visual point to fly a straight line toward it.  As I flew along, the “building” seemed to be getting bigger far too quickly.  I revised my estimate of how close it must be but couldn’t grasp what it was.  It suddenly grew much larger than it could possibly get and I suddenly realised it was flying at the same altitude as I was.  OH MY GOD!  I’m going to crash into it so begin to turn away when it flashed past me at high speed….

What was that thing?  A UFO?

Well, as it flashed past me only feet away, I finally understood… it was a white rubber toy helium balloon with a string hanging from it.  It was my first encounter with a toy balloon but not my last.  Each time my heart skips a beat then catches up with a rapid pounding as they flash past.  The ones that are really freaky are the metallic ones that shine brightly in the sunlight and appear to be bobbing flying saucers that nearly collided with me.  So please, hang onto your balloons lest they terrify some poor pilot half to death and give rise to yet more silly reports of “Unidentified Flying Objects”.

Yes, UFOs are real… I’ve seen ’em !

The Language of the Future

Candice eetimesYesterday, one of my readers expressed a concern that my novel, All The Stars Are Suns, was riddled with typos.  It turned out he was having trouble with some of my characters use of language.  He didn’t realize that I was trying to convey how in the future, languages would merge into creoles, admixtures of the languages of two or more cultures when they interact.  In my vision of the future, much of the advanced technological polities of the world would use what I dubbed “International Chinese English”, a creole of mostly English words, but with the simplified syntax of Mandarin along with some Mandarin words.  But in space, the cultures having developed primarily from Russian and American space programs, both governmental and corporate, would develop a creole of Russian and English.  This would leave English words as the dominant feature of both creoles as the common intersecting gloss.

All languages evolve, some faster than other during some historical periods, often from cultures interacting with each other, taking on loan words, sometimes blending vocabularies wholesale and simplifying the grammar.  Languages that evolve in isolation tend to accrete more complex grammars as a means of increasing error correction.  When one has to keep gender, case, number, etc. all the same in a sentence, then a slip in one word is caught as an error and is less likely to cause a miscommunication.  However, when two speakers of two or more different languages speak together, they will drop the complexity in favor of simplicity in order to facilitate faster learning of the new creole.

English is in some ways a mish-mash creole becoming a more complex language.  English is a creole of French (a vulgate Latin) and German with more than a bit of Norse (from the Danes / Viking occupation of the east of England).  Added to that are loan words directly from Latin and Greek, as well as others.  Though now that it is becoming (over the past three hundred years) taken up as a second language by more speakers, those speakers often drop the complex grammar in favor of a simple one.

In some ways, Mandarin can be seen as a special pidgin.  A ‘pidgin’ is a language created from the efforts of inter-language contact of traders and travellers who don’t have time to learn each other’s language but need to have a minimum vocabulary and grammar, just enough to get by on.  The vocabulary of Mandarin is greater than a true pidgin but it’s grammar is very pidgin like.  It has no verb conjugation, no gender, no articles, etc.  Yet it serves as the first language of the single largest group of speakers.  This likely developed out of the polyglot history of Imperial Chinese rule.

As Asia gains in economic influence, it needs a common language.  In a strange quirk of history, because modern technology and business in Europe and North America is based on English, that language has become the international business and technology standard.  But China is the single largest market and will soon be the largest developer of technology.  It seems inevitable that English and Mandarin will begin to merge for international business and technology exchange to become “International Chinese English”

In space, I do not see the Chinese working with the Americans and Russians, for the next century at least, since there will be military implications of the technology.  China will want to fully control its own space technology.  Thus, as people move off-planet to live more and more of their lives in space, two cultures will emerge.  Perhaps I’m just being chauvinistic, but I believe that the American/Russian partnership’s culture will eventually dominate space but will have strong economic ties to Asia such that eventually the Space Born, will speak a creole of English/Russian/Mandarin with their own unique spin to it.

So… happy reading !

Pandora Is A GMO Ecosystem

Candice eetimesIn the wildly successful science fiction film Pandora advanced technology allows humans sitting inside a brain scanner to teleoperate genetically engineered alien-human hybrid avatars.  It was never clear how the avatars were connected to the scanners… radio?  Doesn’t matter, they had to have had fully functioning brains and nervous systems because in the end Jake Sully, a human being, has his full memories and consciousness transfered to his avatar such that his human body, and his human brain, is no longer needed.  I won’t go into discussions about how silly I found THAT.  But I do want to talk about the other unquestioned aspects of James Cameron’s vision of Pandora.  The Tree of Souls and sahalu, the ability of the Na’vi to directly interface with a number of domesticated species and to the Tree of Souls.  If this were a real alien world that we humans had discovered…

I would stay the HELL away from it!  Such an ability could NOT have evolved naturally.  No, the entire ecosystem, which has a connection to Eywa, the consciousness of the entire ecosystem, would have had to have been genetically engineered by a very advanced civilization.  My first question would be, are the Na’vi the descendents of that civilization?  Or merely one of their domesticated “pets”?  Either way… time to stay as far away from them as possible until one has established whether or not that civilization still exists at the level that was needed to create that ecosystem.  Because if it does, they would be far more advanced than the human civilization as it was portrayed in the film.

Which brings me back to my own writing.  If you have read my first novel, All The Stars Are Suns, you would know that my story is how humans as a species will do the very same thing, genetically engineer ecosystems that can turn barren worlds into living ones ideal for humans, including genetically engineered symbionts that will allow telepathic like connection to both electronic computers and to each other… and to genetically engineered symbionts in our domesticated species in genetically engineered ecosystems.

Frankly, I can’t see any other way that we will successfully colonize other worlds as we expand past the womb we call Mother Earth.  My future books will explore those new worlds our children will call home.

News Byte On Bitcoin

***In financial news today, Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies crashed today.  All the exchanges have halted trading of futures as well, as news spread that a new very high qubit supercomputer set up to mine Bitcoins was said to have been finding hundreds of the previously elusive hard to find prime numbers needed for cryptocurrencies per millisecond.  Countries that had switched to cryptocurrencies are scrambling to set up conventional currencies, many switching back to the U.S. Dollar as its reserve currency.

***In related news, the powergrid of Venezuela has experienced several fluctuations due to the shutdown of energy intensive conventional computers nearly simultaneously.  These computer farms had previously been mining for prime numbers for cryptocurrencies.

***President Harris said that the U.S. Dollar and economy is still stable and that the Federal Reserve’s move to enable it own eDollar system is in no way hurt by this new technology and is in fact aided by it since the new quantum computers will be able to track and keep secure all electronic transactions using U.S. Dollars.

Now available in paperback…

My science fiction novel is now available in paperback for $7.99 for those who aren’t big fans of ebooks (or those just waiting for CLEARink to go into production… I know I’m looking forward to it).  The novel is still available as an ebook for $2.99 or FREE on KindleUnlimited.

The (Genetic) Lottery

“Please.  If you would just run this story…” pleaded the Cub Reporter.

“No way!  We would both lose our jobs!  The Owners of the network won’t allow it.  Besides, don’t you understand, the listeners won’t believe it.  They can’t believe it.  If they did, they would have to get off their couches and do something about it,” retorted the Wise Senior Editor.

“But they need to know!” demanded the Cub Reporter.

“What?  You think they need to know that the Lottery is rigged?  That they don’t have a chance to become rich?  Look kid, this is the way things are and have been for generations.  It’s how the system works.  Of course the winners of the Lottery come from families that won the lottery already.  That’s how they maintain the illusion that everyone has a shot at the ‘American Dream’, poor saps.  They sure as hell can’t win through hard work!  Kid, life isn’t fair.  To win you have to first win the genetic lottery, chosing your parents well.”

“You mean that you already knew?”  cried the Cub Reporter in dismay.

“Of course kid.  Why do you think I have this job?”