Cassiopeia

 

This short story is an entry in one of Wattpad’s plethora of writing contests (Comet’s Tale) in collaboration with Children’s Fiction on Wattpad.

This is a story about Isomerism. In chemistry it represents a chemical structure with the same number and types of atoms as another chemical structure but with different properties due to a slight difference in the arrangement of atoms. Isomerization can arise spontaneously depending on whether the energy of the configurations i. I love to use this concept in my writing of Sci-Fi–when something appears identical, but is not–like one’s reflection in the mirror

The chemical structure of Cyclohexane has always remained one of my favorite structures of Organic Chem, this structure often referred to as, ‘the Woman in the Chair,’ named after the star constellation, Cassiopeia.


“Mom… Is there anyone out there just like me?” asked Phia.  “Someone who has the same name, someone who has the same blue and green eyes like I do?”

 “Yes,” her mother answered as they sat on the edge of the bed, looking up through the dome and into the stars beyond.

 “Exactly like me?”  

“Well… yes,” Her mother hesitated. “Your left eye is blue, but the other Phia’s left eye is green.”

“What about the freckles on my shoulder?” Phia asked.  “The ones in the pattern of the constellation, Cassiopeia, does the other Phia have that?”

“Yes. But for you, those freckles are on your right shoulder and hers are on the left.”

“So she is not exactly like me,” Phia said scrunching her brows.

“But indeed she is,” her mother insisted.  “If the other Phia were standing in front of you, no one could tell the two of you apart.”

“But everything seems different, I don’t understand?”

“Let me show you,” her mother said and commanded the home’s A.I. to bring up the portal of planet Isomer on the other side of the galaxy.  The two watched as the air began to ripple, then swirl until it thickened into a circular gateway.

Phia leaned into her mother, perplexed by what appeared in the room.

”There is nothing to fear,” her mother giggled.  “Now stand up,” she said nudging her daughter forward. “Go meet the other Phia.”

Phia slipped off the edge of the bed and faced the portal, stepping closer until she was staring back at who she believed was herself.

“But that’s me!” she said turning back to face her mother.

“No.  That’s the other Phia.  Now raise your left hand,” she encouraged her daughter.

Phia once again faced the portal and raised her left hand.

“Do you see now who I am talking about?” Her mother asked.

“No.  I see me,” Phia said still holding up her left arm and wiggling her fingers in the air as the Phia in the portal matched every move.

“Look more closely,” her mother instructed.  “Which arm is the Phia before you holding up?”

Her daughter studied the girl before her, then realized the other Phia was holding up her right arm. She stepped closer until their noses were almost touching, looking directly into each other’s eyes that were reversed in color.  Phia pulled her tee shirt off her shoulder to reveal the freckles as the Phia in the portal matched her every opposite move.

“Now do you see?” her Mother said from behind.  

Her daughter nodded and placed the palm of her hand upon the surface of the portal until she could feel the other Phia pressing back with equal force.

Her mother looked on at the two of them, not concerned about her daughter slipping through to the other side, because no matter how hard she tried, she could never find her way around the Phia in the portal, who matched her every move.

“I can feel her!” Phia said to her mother as she watched and listened to the Phia before her say exactly the same thing.

“Now say good night to her— it’s time for both of you to go to bed.”

The girls waved to each other, opposite but the same.  “I’ll see you tomorrow,” they each said and turned away, but quickly, each turning quickly to see if the other did the same, smiling when they did.

 

Nothing more feared than the US Mail

As the heavy door slid shut and the echo of steel on steel reverberated in the small concrete space, the new inmate did not make eye contact with his cellmate, instead, he walked quietly to his cot and sat down, his folded blanket and pillow in his lap.

 

“Whadaya in for?” the cellmate asked after the guard left.

“You don’t want to know.” he said quietly into his pillow.

“You a wise guy or something?  the cellmate asked, the threat in his voice was unmistakable.  “How ’bout you answer my question or I get up and come over there.”

The new inmate did not flinch or say anything.  He just sat there on his cot, his hands and stare focused on his pillow.

The cellmate started to get up–

“Possession of a US mail bin…..”

The guy sat down hard, as if the wind had been knocked out of him.

The new inmate turned slowly, catching a glance from his cellmate who quickly turned away and was breathing rapidly while nervously smoothing the non-existent wrinkles from his pant leg.  He tried to form words but nothing came out of his mouth.

“I was carrying Costco items in it…” the new inmate continued, each word spoken slowly and deliberately.

The cellmate nervously stood then walked in clipped steps to the front of the cell, placing his large hands around the rungs, squeezing them until his knuckles were white.  He took a few deep breaths and closed his eyes before screaming out—

“Guards! Guards!” he shouted while looking back over his shoulder; the new inmate lowered his head without breaking eye contact..

“It was pretty heavy….” the new inmate added, and could see the dark stain of urine spreading out along the seat of his cellmate’s pants.

“Guards! Guards!… guar–” the cellmate shouted, his voice choked back by a sobbing cry.  “Help me… please God help me he said, his head hung low beneath the sliding grip of the bars as he sank to the floor, his forehead resting against the cold steel.

“That’s when my mail carrier, Angie, spotted me…. I had almost made it to the garage…” the new inmate said getting up to approach his cellmate before lowering himself then his voice to a whisper, the last of his words pounding in his cellmate’s ear like nails in a coffin as his hands came up and clasped on the pate of his bald head, feeling inches away from his extinguishing life.

“What’s going on here?” the guard asked unconcerned, his arm crossing casually over his belt to rest both hands on the baton at his side.

“Nothing,” the new inmate said… “Just getting to know each other,” he added with a smile then patting his cellmate on the shoulder as he stood and walked back to his cot.

“Well… get up and clean yourself off.  You better figure out how to get along, because the new guy’s in for another three years.”

********

During our recent trip out west and then continuing with a NE loop, we had our mail held.  When I got back, they handed me this US mail bin, which has made for some uneasy night’s sleeping until I know it has been returned.  I was more concerned with this than I was with Dorian. 

 

neuroSTAT

There’s one thing about a cat 5 sitting off the coast as you wait for the power to drop…. you are left with only your own imagination.  

 

 

SYNOPSIS FOR S SCI-FI: In a future society where people’s emotions are held in check by software implants (neuroSTAT),  a digital drug (landScape) begins to make its way through the floating commune of Peck Lake in South Florida where its effects reach beyond the limits of the inhabitants emotional governors.

                             ***

During a king tide with a cat 5 off the coast, the sea level along the Intracoastal stays high all day, as if the moon has stopped in its tracks demanding more attention than the storm. On days like this it makes it difficult for me to pick up supplies along the mangroves, so I sit in the sling of my floater, facing the water, away from the mune,  skimming through my pane, listening to casts from the button times. Casts about clunkers having drivers in them— yeah… it’s true. They moved hangers of product from point A to B… slippers, watches, sexBots and shit like that. The demand at the onset of the button clicking generation had pushed pilots of the clunkers beyond their enhancers where they frequently drifted off and were awakened only when they crushed a centipede of  people pods. So the convention stepped in, mandating every clunker have a neuroSTAT installed to keep them afloat. I’m beginning to think that’s where it all started. Lately, after a dissolve, I can feel the edge of my own neuroSTSAT and I’m beginning to feel shit… shit like happy stuff… but mostly sad shit– things I’m not used to. My meuf’s been feeling the same shit so I know I’m not going crazy. It seems to be spreading along our mune for those of us uploading the most recent dissolve –some shit called landScape– but no one knows what bench they got it from.

 

More at some point in time after the power drops and I still have a charge on my iPad……

 

If you like this idea, let me know….

Mangrove Seedpods

Lately I have noticed the consistent march of mangrove seedpods in the water off the dock–more than normal. These king tides reach higher up into the mangroves, where the pods detach and begin to float vertically in the water, the tides shuttling them to far away places. A soaking of the pod softens the outside shell and it begins to peels away, allowing the seedpod to germinate. The vertical position is by design so when the tide drops the seeds settle upright in the soft muds along the banks, providing the ideal location to spread. I cannot help but think how closely these pods remind me of the seeds of Phragmites, releasing at once, wondering if these mangrove pods are also carrying the alien contagion.

November Seed

November Seed

 

The fun side of A.I.

I was trying to open the tumblr app today and the app got confused on network connections and presented me this pop up. What I find amazing is the logic behind the programming, first identifying me by name as well as pulling up this famous quote associated with my name and reasoning that I write SciFi and finally addressing the issue. I love it..

FOREST 404

Biophony [bi oph ony] : A term coined by Dr. Bernie Krause, referring to the collective sound in Ecology of vocalizing species (sans humans). A good example would be the different species of insects, frogs, birds, monkeys, etc., in a rain forest, vocalizing at one time, but not talking over each other.

I was reading a post on LinkedIn by Elsa Sotiriadis, PhD (*BioFuturist*) about a BBC Podcast/Sounds/Experiment called, Forest 404, which is an eco-thriller starring Pearl Mackie with theme music by Bonobo.

I find the title quite clever, being that 404 refers to the HTTP error code: “Not Found” (therefore, Forest Not Found). The story takes place well into the future, where a young girl (Pan) has a vocation of sifting through sound bytes of the past (aka, the slow times) and must decide what to delete and what to keep (hint: they are rewarded for deleting and Pan is quite good at freeing up terabytes of space.).  She comes across a SoundScape of a rainforest; now extinct in the fast times, and becomes curious about the origin of these sounds. But curious is not what those in charge want.

To get started, go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/forest (I recommend registering an account and logging in before you start listening).  It took me a bit to figure out what was going on and what to listen to in what order. I will save you this. Start with EP0.

  • All Episodes begin with Ep*
  • All accompanied talks begin with T*
  • All accompanied SoundScapes begin with S*

Each episode has an associated talk and SoundScape.  For example, Ep1 (episode 1) has an associated talk (T1) as well as an associated SoundScape (S1).  There are nine episodes in all. The episodes are the actual eco-thriller.  The talks are like a mini TED talks about the sounds explained through experts in their field (do not skip these), and finally, the SoundScapes are just that, the pure sounds of the episode (insight enhanced after the talks).

Each episode is about twenty minutes in length and the talks and SoundScapes range from four to eight minutes.  Take on one episode set per night (E, T & S), before bed, and I highly suggest the use of headphones, ear buds, etc. to get the full impact of how beautiful this truly is.

This entire production is an experiment to educate the listener and receive feedback to see if the needle has moved toward the understanding of Ecology (the slow times) and how good humanity (the fast times) is at interrupting the natural order of Ecology.  There is a survey you can take to add in your data set to this project. I would recommend you listen to at least two episodes and their associated talks and SoundScapes before taking the survey.

I have studied Ecology at length; it made up the bulk of my learning toward my degree in Marine Sciences and remains a major influencer in how I look at life around me. The rewards of the concepts, knowledge and observation have been the focus of my writings in Science Fiction.

I hope you take the time to experience this project, but it will require you to step away from the fast times.  This production is a beautiful blend of science, art, and the eco-responsibility of us all.

Stornelli Amorosi

Life is never more than an iteration– a series of fractal experiences where we jump from one era to another, seemingly different but always the same.

Years ago, in NYC, during the end of the Koch administration when subway cars lacked AC and the lights constantly flickered, I was sitting near the door of a downtown #4 wearing a three-piece suit with a WSJ folded precisely into quarter panels— a lost art that no one seems to practice anymore.  When you have traveled the underground for as many years as I have, you never need to look up to see where you are because the sounds along the route are as unique as the stations themselves. I could tell from the screeching and torquing of metal along the rails that we were approaching 14th Street and waited for the movable platforms to nudge their corroded teeth up against the cars and for the sleepy conductors to poke their heads through the windows, signaling to each other it was safe enough to open the doors. After the flush of commuters rushed in and out, an elderly blind gentleman, draped in a poncho, stepped in with an accordion and a sweeping cane fitted with a worn cup to catch loose change.  As the doors wobbled shut and the train jerked into motion, he found his footing and squeezed air into his instrument. This was the third panhandler to come through and I was running low on change. What I thought was going to be yet another mariachi tune evaporated when he began to sing, his voice, not expected, angelic, almost tearful, floating above the simple chords the way a butterfly glides over a field of wildflowers. I put down the paper and listened, purposely missing my stop at Wall Street to hear him sing. The last stop in Manhattan had arrived and the doors were opening. As I waited for the last breath of air to be squeezed out of his accordion, I dropped some singles into his cup before birthing myself through the crushing doors at Bowling Green and onto the platform where the tang of ozone lingered in the stale air. I remained there, held in a trance with a feeling of love for everything, regretting not having asked the gentleman his name or the title of the song as I watched the last car with its tags of graffiti drift into the darkness beyond.

For years it haunted me, my lunch hours spent frequenting the J&R music stores along Park Row, searching through stacks of LPs in the foreign language section, looking for Mexican folk singers while asking the staff if they could identify my comically mimicking cadence of the man’s voice.  My persistence carried through the decades, the Internet era, conducting endless Google searches for that needle in a haystack. Even with all this technology at my fingertips, I had given up hope of ever finding it.

Then the other night, Meredith and I were watching a movie she had picked out from Amazon Prime, “Big Night,” a 1996 release starring a cast headed up by Stanley Tucci, Tony Shalhoub, Mini Driver and Isabella Rossellini to name a few. It was during the opening credits and listening to the music track when I felt the prick on my finger. There it was, the song which had haunted me for years began to play… in Italian and not Spanish.  I grabbed my mobile and tapped on the Shazam App….. Bingo! “Stornelli Amorosi” by Claudio Villa.

After researching everything there was to know about the song and singer, I now understand why that man on the train played this song and why it was chosen for the film.  I have researched Claudio Villa (impressive), and what Stornelli Amorosi means: A ‘love stornelli’. A stornelli is the Italian precursor to a rap battle… yes…way before it was popularized during the hip hop era of the late 80’s, where singers would brag, boast and throw insults, each trying to outdo the other.  Claudio’s love for this type is singing shines bright in his “Stornelli Amorosi.” Needless to say, it is now forever in my favorites.

A Tribute to Llewellya H. Willis

In the Sunday (5/12/2019) NYT Obituary was homage paid to Llewellya W. Hillis (1930 – 2019) — a Canadian-American trailblazer for women in the field of Science and a rock star to me for her extensive contribution in Marine Biology with a specialty in macro-algae… yes… seaweed.  Her bio is too impressive to cover here but I could tell from the obituary she had a favorite, Halimeda.  I know what you’re thinking… how can someone get excited about seaweed?  

 

Halimeda falls into a group of macro-algae, that have a calcareous infrastructure for the algae to grow on.  My guess is that Llewelyn was surprised by the depth at which this species grew (50 m +) during her research in the nuclear crater of the Enewetak Atoll, in the southern Marshall Islands, where she was one of the first, and a woman, to dive this research site. It was her research that linked this species as a major contribution in the ecology of reef building.

But what caught my eye in her obituary, was her link to William Randolph Taylor, who wrote the Bible of Seaweeds, ‘Marine Algae of the Northeastern  Coast of North America.’ At the time, in 1978, as a student of Marine Biology with a specialty in Marine Algae, I purchased my own copy for a small fortune— a must if you were serious.  To my surprise, I pulled my copy from the shelf and saw a great thank you by Taylor for Llewellya’s significant contribution in the making of this reference manual, which has served me well over the years with its saltwater stained pages from hours upon hours in the field.  

Silversides

Silversides

It should be of no surprise that my latest novel under wraps, Silversides, has countless references to seaweed, from the opening scene, to the flora on an alien planet, to my characters names being a derivative of various genus of seaweeds, and my protagonist, a girl, named, Nori.

When a person of influence dies, you feel a part of you has been torn away, but the influence that lies beneath becomes yours.

Thank you Llewellya H. Willis, for being the needle of my compass.

 

A Lost Opportunity

Mars Opportunity has not been heard from since June 10th, 2018, after a global dust storm swept across the Martian surface, most likely covering the solar panels with a layer of red dirt, too thick for NASA’s attempts to clear it away before Opportunity’s on-board batteries drained  against the cold winter months.

 

Today, NASA has announced it will stop trying to reach Opportunity–a time to say goodbye.

One of my favorite images from Opportunity was the tracks lit left behind, leading back to the horizon.  The things Opportunity saw…. Postcards wishing you were here.

Rover tracks disappear toward the horizon like the wake of a ship across the desolate sea of sand between the craters Endurance and Victoria on the Meridiani Plains. Opportunity took the image while stuck in the sand ripple dubbed Purgatory for over a month. This panorama (only partly shown here) was named Rub Al Khali after the “Empty Quarter” in the Arabian Desert.
Image Number: WEB13648-2014
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell University

Fifteen years ago, Opportunity landed on Mars and was only anticipated to last ninety days.  Congratulations to all the NASA engineers and staff, to all those who contributed the financials, to all of us on Earth who followed this journey.

To see the raw Images taken by Opportunity over the past 15 years, click here.

So long for now Opportunity, we will see you when we get there.  And one day, when all who visit and move to Mars, I am sure you will have a proper place in the Mars Space Museum among your peers told for and lost, who will have made our visit and stay possible.