The Space Blindness

When I stare out the ports of the space ship too long, I get the space blindness. The ship’s doctor said it’s psychological, not physiological, from being in space too long. Kathy gets it too. Maybe others, but they haven’t said anything. Are they psychologically more resilient than Kathy and me? Maybe they just don’t stare out the ports as much as we do. I try not to, but it’s compelling. Once I look out, I am drawn into the void. I scan the star fields, praising myself when I recognize the galaxies and stars in a patch of space. Time passes quickly. I’ve been at the port hole for a couple of hours sometimes, and it seems like minutes. When I finally push myself away and force my gaze back to the interior of the ship, the image of the void remains, imprinted on my retinas. I stumble around, trying to find purchase on a familiar object. Eventually my vision returns and I tell myself I won’t lose myself in the cosmos like that again. But I always do.

The Art of Minding Your Own Business and Maintaining Inner Monolog

There is a woman at work who I avoid like the plague, because she is opinionated, has no inner monolog, and tries to engage people in banal conversation about her opinionated world view. There’s a good chance I share her world view, but it is presumptuous of her to assume I share it. I think every workplace has such a person. Maybe you know someone like this. But no thanks!

I went into the break room to get some water. When I drink water at work, I don’t like cold water. I don’t judge people who like cold water, I just don’t understand them. Cold water lowers my core temperature and makes me cold in a work environment that is already too cool for my tastes. I like warmth. I can’t stand cold. If other people like cold, who am I to judge their metabolic needs? But I like warm water and so that is what I drink. My preference in no way burdens anyone else.

I filled my one liter Nalgene bottle with water and put it in the microwave for three minutes, which is just the right amount of time to get a liter of water to the temperature at which I like to drink it. I then went to the restroom, to relieve myself of the liter of water I had consumed about an hour prior.

When I returned to the break room, there was about 50 seconds left on the microwave timer. I would have surfed the Intarwebz on my phone, had I not left it at my desk when I went to get warm water.

This obsequious woman came into the break room while I waited for the timer to count down. She appeared to be minding her own business. I paid no mind to her business, assuming she was there to get coffee or a snack. I didn’t really care. The microwave pinged the completion of its thermalizing duties and I opened the door and took out my water bottle. She pounced.

“Heating up your water?” she said, more as a question to herself than to me. “That’s weird, but OK,” she answered herself.

You’re right. That is weird. I’m weird. But it’s none of your goddam business, so SHADDAP!

I didn’t need to justify my actions, so I just explained briefly, “Cold water makes me cold,” then smiled and left the break room.

She didn’t know my reasons for heating up water. Maybe I was going to make tea? So why express an opinion when you do not have all the facts? That is what Republicans do, and it makes you look foolish. So stahp, woman!

Lyrid Meteors

My band practice was canceled tonight, by the drummer, because his wife had made other plans for him. That will make it over three weeks since we have practiced. I don’t really mind, since I have plenty of stuff to do. But I got to thinking, I am one of very few amateur musicians who holds band practice sacrosanct. I think one of the main reasons why musicians have a tough go of making a living at music is that many of them don’t take it seriously enough to make it a priority in their lives. For example, if you told your boss at your day job that you weren’t going to make it into the office because you just found out your wife had made plans for you to go do something else, that probably wouldn’t fly. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all about telling your boss to piss off. However, most bosses frown on it, and if you want to make a living and pay the bills via a day job, you generally have to honor the agreed upon times that you say you will show up to work. Unfortunately, musicians don’t subscribe to this philosophy as much, and that’s why they largely fail to succeed, much less make a living from music. If all musicians prioritized their art and took it as seriously as a job, musicians might have some credence as professionals in society and actually get fairly compensated for doing music. As it is, society views music as a low priority, flexible hobby, because that perception is fostered by slacker musicians. On the other hand, when musicians book gigs, they typically honor the date and time of the gig and prioritize it, even if it doesn’t pay money. Why will they honor gigs but not band practices? I suppose it is because they view the venue as an “employer” so they give the gig the same priority as they would a job, and if bands bailed on gigs as much as they did on band practices, they wouldn’t get asked to play very many gigs after a while. But I view band practice as part of the job and it should be prioritized as a part of being a musician.

Since band practice was canceled tonight, I fully plan to watch the Lyrid meteor shower instead.

The Boss is a Turd

Editor's Note: This story is a reality based fiction.

“Hey, Joe.” Gary’s greasy voice reached Joe’s ears as he sat at his desk. Joe swiveled around in his office chair and saw the chubby, balding office manager standing in his cube entrance, staring at Joe with his emotionless, rapidly blinking insect-like eyes. “Do you have a minute?”

Joe had a lot of minutes, but they were valuable and he didn’t want to waste them on Gary, so he didn’t reply.

Gary continued, “I saw you submitted some vacation time for two weeks off that you took back in October, but it looks like you didn’t have enough vacation time accrued.”

“Yeah, I didn’t at the time,” Joe replied. “But I do now, so that’s why I waited to submit the time retroactively. Dan was fine with me doing that.” Dan was Joe’s former boss, who had quit a few weeks earlier.

“I have no way to check that,” Gary said. “And I am not fine with it. You have to request vacation in advance, and you can only take vacation if you have accrued the time.”

“Well, what can I say?” Joe asked. “I had a chance to go to Europe for two weeks and I took it. Who in their right mind would pass that up? International travel makes for better employees.”

“It’s against the rules,” Gary replied. “It’s not fair to other employees who follow the rules.”

“If anyone else here wants to travel internationally for two weeks, I fully endorse it,” Joe responded. “And so should you. It’s not like I spent two weeks binge watching Netflix and drinking beer. I learned a ton on that trip.”

“You didn’t have enough vacation time saved up,” Gary repeated. “You should have known that you couldn’t do what you did.”

“Gary, think about what you are saying. It…was…Europe.” Joe argued, emphasizing the last three words. “When I booked the trip months ago, I actually had the necessary vacation time. I just had some unforeseen things come up between then and the trip that put me over the limit a little bit. It happens, but it’s not a big deal and I couldn't just cancel the trip. People dip into their vacation all the time. It’s fine.”

“The company used to allow that but doesn’t anymore,” Gary said, smiling smugly like he had won some kind of competition.

“I repeat…I booked this trip before they changed that policy and I had the vacation time saved up then,” Joe said. “I told Dan I would have to go over a little on vacation time and he approved it before he quit and had no issue with it. I was grandfathered in. I am sorry you were not in the loop, but that’s how it is, so you should respect it.”

“Joe, you need to understand you can’t do that,” Gary said in his most patronizing tone, his smug expression replaced with red faced anger. “How did you think that was OK to do?”

“You are not hearing me, Gary. It was OK to do because I did it and my boss at the time said it was OK,” Joe said. “It was Europe for crissakes. What do you not get? Look, I already cleared it up with HR and it’s fine to do this retroactively now that I have the vacation saved up. You are being really uncool about this.”

Gary opened his mouth to argue further, but Joe rose from his seat and towered above Gary, glaring at him intimidatingly.

“I am going to head over to HR now and get a verbal confirmation,” Joe said. “If you have further issues, please take it up with HR.” Then he walked away from Gary, leaving him frustrated and blubbering in the doorway of his cube.

Paris on the Eve of Apocalypse

I had to call in my crack team of advisors, Biff and Chet, to help me out with my accountability assignment.

"Why did you procrastinate so long?" Chet inquired. "You should have been working on this on Tuesday night."

"I was having a mental block," I explained. "I figured I may as well do other things until I had a breakthrough."

"Well, where are we at now?" Biff asked. He was always the pragmatist. Chet was the ideas man.

I told them about the article I had read online about the physics experiment on quantum entanglement.

"So let me see if I got this straight," Chet said. "A particle over here..." He held up his left fist. "Tells a particle over there..." He held up his right fist. "What it's supposed to do?"

"Yes," I replied. "And not only that, but they communicate instantaneously, apparently in violation of Einstein's relativity. Information cannot be transmitted faster than the speed of light, yet somehow the information reaches the other particle instantaneously."

"Wormholes!" Biff explained.

"Bingo!" I said, looking at Chet to see if he was understanding. He wasn't.

"In order for the particles to communicate, a bridge through space/time forms between them, effectively bringing the particles adjacent to each other in a fifth dimension," Biff elaborated.

"That's hard for me to visualize," Chet said.

"I'll give you a handy illustration of it later," I said. "What's important here though is that some physicists have quantum entangled a bunch of particles at the same time, basically creating a cluster of wormholes. So if you could quantum entangle enough particles in a small area, you might be able to create a portal through space/time, and if you could go through this wormhole, you would emerge in the vicinity of the other group of particles that the first group is entangled with."

"They have only done this on a small scale so far," Biff continued. "But in theory the entangled particles can be any distance apart. So if you set up one particle chamber in New York and another in Paris, then entangle the particles within each chamber, you would theoretically create a wormhole from New York to Paris."

"How would a person go through this wormhole?" Chet asked, wide-eyed.

"That's not established yet," I said. "That's where we get into the sci fi story and why I summoned you chaps. So basically, I need an outline of a plot for a short story, my weekly goal I set in my accountability group."

"Why the hell did you join an accountability group?" Chet asked.

"To get motivated," Biff answered, before I could. "it's a way of taking ownership and action for things you want to accomplish. But Joe procrastinated and now it's crunch time."

"OK, whatever," I said. "The point is, I need an outline. So it's kind of a sci fi plot and a physicist does set up quantum entanglement particle chambers in New York and Paris and he does open a wormhole between the two chambers and he steps through, emerging in Paris. Then what?"

"What if he emerges in a future, post-apocalyptic Paris?" Chet volunteered.

"That could work," I mused. "In my writing workshop tonight, in fact, I scribbled out a quick story that could fit that concept."

"Or maybe it's not the future Paris, but an alternate universe Paris," Biff added. "Then it could still be apocalyptic."

"The only issue I see is that a particle chamber in Paris probably would not be functioning in a post-apocalyptic world," I said. "No power."

The lads chewed on this for a couple of seconds.

"What if some scientists in post apocalyptic Paris have stumbled on a particle chamber and manage to get it turned on...then it entangles with our world's particle chamber in New York and our scientist steps through to the apocalyptic Paris."

"That should work fine for this short story," I said. "I'll flesh it out more in week two of my accountability goals. I'm tired now though and need to get some sleep. Leave me now."

The consultants dissolved into the fifth ethereal dimension where they dwell most of the time, also known as my subconscious mind. Biff and Chet are my imaginary advisors, roughly equating with good conscience and bad conscience, respectively, although it is more like Yin and Yang, depending on the situation. Bad conscience is not always bad and good conscience is not always right.

Natural Herbal Sleep Aid

Some, perhaps even most, herbal and nutritional supplements don't work, or if they do it is because of the clinically documented placebo effect.

One product I know works is the Sleep natural sleep aid from Now Foods. If I take two of these pills, I sleep like a rock. The supplement contains known soporific herbs: hops, passionflower, and valerian root.

It's possible, I suppose, that some placebo effect is at work. But there seems to be a gradation of effects based on dosage. If I only one pill, I don't sleep as soundly as when I take two (the recommended dose). If I forget to take it, I sleep in my normal light way, waking up frequently.

I used to work in R and D at a vitamin company, for like eight years, until I "fired" my boss for being lame. I know supplements in and out and I am well aware of the placebo effect. I think I am immune to it because I know what it is and I am usually a highly skeptical person, especially when it comes to supplements, because I saw the charlatanry first hand at the vitamin company.

So when I test a supplement and it seems to work, there is a high likelihood it is legit.

The only other herbal supplement I am convinced works is rhodiola, a non-stimulant based energy booster. It's actually an adaptogen, improving your constitution so you can handle stress better and withstand fatigue longer.

I probably shouldn't share these secrets with you, because if these supplements become popular, there are charlatans just waiting to whip up some cheap knock offs.

The World View

I am making a concerted effort to avoid posting controversial political posts on my social media feeds, particularly Facebook. It's not easy. My strategy has been to write the post in full and then delete it without publishing. Most such posts aren't going to change anyone's mind and are more satisfying for the poster than the reader. My main reason for writing such posts is to organize my own thoughts, but I don't need to publish them to do that. Publicizing them only leads to grief and angst as people react and bicker incessantly online. I usually have to turn off notifications on such posts right away in order to avoid a barrage of comment notifications on a given post. The turn off notifications feature on Facebook is essential to me and I use it judiciously. I have gotton to the point where I try to break my own record for how soon after posting I turn off notifications. I have also unfollowed the feeds of a fair number of my so-called Facebook "friends" (more like acquaintences). I should probably unfriend them since I could care less about their activities on social media. But that seems kind of rude since they went through the trouble to add me as a friend. By not following them, they are still friends, but friends I never talk to or see. Is that douchey?