Monday, July 24, 2006, posted by Q6 at 11:42 PM
"The Press Conference"
A Short Story

The entire world was caught up in the current news, albeit a little disappointed. The aliens had arrived as most people had expected--in a flying saucer--but their presentation included fewer gadgets and "beep-beeps" as expected. They did ask to be taken to our leaders, but the request wasn't in a high-pitched, nasal alien-like voice; they presented what looked like a legal request, complete with blue backing paper, and, the world would later learn, a notarization seal. Their wardrobe was even pretty boring by science fiction standards. No metallic, green lame. Just olive drab tunics.

The Alien Negotiations didn't live up to the Roswell-esque legends, either. They weren't here to drain our water supply, eat our young, or steal hillbillies in the middle of the night. They wanted to trade technologies, plain and simple. Two days into their visit, CNN was making the whole things sound like an antitrust plea-bargain. People just couldn't get interested.

Reporters didn't really get much information until the six week negotiations came to a close. At the press conference, a high-ranking military official answered questions with relative ease. The aliens were having trouble making their nuclear technology work, and they knew that we were using it here on earth with a margin of error they could live with. Although variations in gravity, atom density, and other things need to be factored in, physics is physics everywhere ("Just like math," the general pointed out). In return, the aliens had some advanced research on some of our medical problems--cancer and AIDS, primarily--that would produce cures within eighteen months. They also had some great data on lactose intolerance, but since their milk comes from their equivalent of insects, it wasn't of much use to us. The general also made it clear that the aliens weren't sticking around. They had what they came for, and were leaving town. This was simply a "Could we borrow a cup of sugar" kind of visit.

"General, what can you tell us about the aliens themselves?" one reporter asked. "Anything about their culture, their habits?"

"Well, they seem kind of normal once you get used to the gray skin and the third and fourth eyes," the General said matter-of-factly. "They were very businesslike and polite. They seemed pretty evolved, obviously." The answers kept coming like that for a while--boring as all hell--and the press conference ended and life on Earth went back to paparazzi photos and reality television.

One reporter caught up with the General afterward, looking for the sound bite that would stand above the others.

"General, was there anything that stood out that might be mentionable?"

"Well," the General began hesitantly, "they did explain that they once had people on their planet that sometimes couldn't control their own behavior. Couldn't even make the simplest of decisions . . ." (The reporter was ready to blurt out something about the General's sanity, agreeing to give nuclear technology to an indecisive, out-of-control alien species, when the General continued,) ". . . but they developed a technology that controlled all of that. They more or less had to do the thinking for these folks."

"Wow," the reporter replied. If the aliens had to deal with such a thing, they might have a useful way of dealing with violent criminals or mentally disabled people. "What do they call this technololgy?"

"They call it the V-chip."
Sunday, July 09, 2006, posted by Q6 at 6:13 PM
My yard looks like crap. (I'd include pictures, but everyone knows what a crappy yard looks like, and I'm no fan of overkill.) I've got massive plans for it, and I'm taking the slow route (read "cheap"). Instead of renting a dumpster for all the stuff that needs to go (massive weeds, piles of dirt, more weeds, chopped up concrete, bricks, and a little bit more dirt), I'm filling the "greens" can once a week. I should have it done in time to host my son's high school graduation party . . . four years from now.

I have plans for pavestone patios, large trees, and artificial turf. Pavers aren't cheap, however, when you get into my kind of square footage; synthetic grass costs about $10 a square foot, which sounds rather inexpensive until you actually measure my yard: the front yard will run me $3000, and the back yard ia little bigger than that. Maybe I should be planning a college grad party.

The house is several states of remodel as well. My entire dwelling screams "work in progress," and has for about six years. I've had two wives tell me that I always start things and never finish them. The more I try to explain that I haven't finished them YET, the more they divorce me.

Fortunately, I now have a girlfriend who understands the concept of progress, no matter how slow it may occur. With luck, I'll have this place done in time to sell it when she marries me.