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A choice

Aggies came together tonight. Whether it was at the Aggies United event or at one of the many events held around the Memorial Student Center to protest Richard Spencer speaking at our University.
 
But even if not a single Aggie attended his speech, sadly some did, even if he spoke to an empty hall on our campus the damage has been done.
 
The damage has been done because this individual accepted the invitation to speak at our University expecting a welcoming reception.
 
That by itself is a loss for the University worse than any defeat that our football team has ever suffered.
 
The fact that our University would be perceived as a place where racists might be welcome should make students, former students, professors, and administrators stay up tonight and think.
 
Texas A&M is supposed to be a world class University. By sheer numbers we are. We are the largest University in the state by enrollment and the third largest in the country. Like it or not this carries with it a burden to lead.
 
Leadership is a virtue that no true Aggie shies away from. But we have to choose the path where we are leading our nation.
 
Do we choose the path of bigotry? The path of hate? Do we live up to all the bad stereotypes that rivals hold of A&M?
 
Or do we instead try to earn the title of a world class University? Universities are places to think, places that embrace diversity of thought, of opinion, of people from all walks of life and from various places around the world.
 
People like Richard Spencer want conformity of thought, conformity of speech, and conformity of people. They use the privilege of free speech to spread their hate to places where they think that it will grow.
 
The damage is done. He spoke, and the protest rallies have come and gone. But now it’s up to the University community to decide what happens.
 
Will students turn a blind eye to those that openly discriminate or will they speak up? Will former students become more conscious about bigotry in their work and daily lives or become conformists and bigots? Will the administration do more than just give lip service to diversity and to enforcing codes of conduct against bigotry or actually try to do something meaningful.
 
These are the questions that every Aggie and every person connected to Texas A&M University must ask themselves tonight.

Games people play

I was doing yet another sort through some boxes in one of my closets and tossing out old things I no longer needed.  How did I ever accumulate so much junk?  At the bottom of a box was a stack of game manuals, some from the late 1980s.  Most of these manuals were the rules and mechanics of playing all sorts of role-playing games or board games. One game that wasn’t there was Monopoly.  I hated that game.

You remember Monopoly, right?  A game that almost always ended up with someone getting really pissed off as one player inevitably ended up crushing all the others by ruining them financially.  Most families have that one relative that takes the game too seriously and read all the rules and understood the game mechanics way too well and always had the advantage.  It’s usually that distant cousin you rarely see and can’t stand and this just solidifies that distaste.

Well that cousin grew up.  Those early lessons in understanding game mechanics and manipulating the rules don’t just apply to board games.  We rarely think about life in the terms of game mechanics but some do and they do quite well for themselves.

Nearly everything in your life comes with prepackaged and predetermined rules.  Your job has rules.  Break enough of them and you’ll lose your job.  Driving has rules.  Those that don’t follow the rules either get a ticket or wind up in an accident.  Social interactions have rules.  You break these rules and you might end up all alone.

Those things that don’t have rules?  Either they do have rules and you haven’t realized it yet or some enthusiast is eagerly working out the rules right as we speak.

But two aspects of life have the most rules and have the most effect on our lives; money and politics.  Sure there are other games out there.  There’s science, there’s fame, there’s religion. But money and politics, those are the one’s that can affect all the others.  In all of these games is a cousin that knows how to work the rules.  Money or trade was the first game that we played.

The idea was simple.  Use tokens of exchange to represent value and trade those tokens in order to facilitate trade.  What’s wrong with that?  You provided labor or made something of value and someone paid you for it.  But along the way that cousin noticed something.  Money itself could be made to “work”.  Money couldn’t do anything itself of course but money in motion or the promise of money, well that could move mountains.

In the last century and particularly in the last 50 years, that cousin noticed that manipulating and skillfully moving money around could generate even more money than actually doing any physical labor or producing anything tangible.

So much money in fact that you couldn’t make enough physical tokens to represent all that money.  That money was now just notional numbers floating around in some digital ledger.  Cousin had totally figured out the rules of how to make more money and where the rules were sketchy then cousin made new rules to make even more money.

But somewhere along the way the rules got a little too complicated.  They contradicted themselves and suddenly the money began to eat itself up and shrink.  Cousin didn’t know what to do because the rules that covered this flatly stated that the game was over.  But Cousin also played another game.

I could get into a sophomoric argument of when and where it started, who’s to blame, and what’s the solution is but the game of politics is almost as old and complicated as the game of money.  You could look back in history all over the world and see similar examples and read as the political game became more and more complex and finally one way or the other collapsed either due to outside forces or internal pressures.

Where did our particular game start?  Some said it was a group of jealous old men at the start of the country creating rules to favor their interests.  Others point to the Civil War and the ascendancy of the federal government, and others point to the World Wars and the Great Depression making it obligatory that the political game become more important to ensure our survival.

Any way that it started it was ripe and ready for Cousin to enjoy and use.  We elevated politics from a homespun art form to a sort of science.  I say a sort of science for although we have good solid principles to look at, I don’t think we can quite claim that we can predictably look at politics and determine an outcome based on current conditions and applied forces.  At least most people can’t claim that.  Don’t expect the experts to admit to that.

But nonetheless amazing things have been done.  For example we created a system where spending money was considered to be free speech.  We mastered the art of the backroom deal and the wisdom of when and where to apply pressure to arrive at the desired outcome.  We could take a small sample of opinions from everyday folk and extrapolate the results to determine what an entire state or even the nation was thinking and postulate that this candidate would win where that other one would not.

Cousin played this game as well.  When one has a significant amount of money you can’t help but play this game.  Money attracts attention in a way that few other things can.  People that don’t have money figure that just being around money will lure money towards them and sometimes they’re right.  People that play the political game know that money helps quite a bit.

Cousin argued that the money game was broken and needed the political game to “fix” it.  Cousin knew that the money game could help the political game keep moving and expanding.  So new rules were written and the money game was fixed.  For the good of every one of course.

But now the political game was broken.  Those amazing polls, that nuanced science that could foretell the future, suddenly was blind.  Those political calculations that said this candidate should run instead of that one, those assumptions that underpinned the very rules of the game had suddenly yielded up an unexpected result.

Now the professional class that plays the political game for a living is at a loss as to what to do.  The rules had been followed yet the results were not as they should have been. According to the rules of the game something bad is about to happen.

Cousin won’t suffer.  Cousin never suffers.  Money forgives many sins, it pads Cousin against harm, and insulates Cousin against the worst effects and what’s great is that now, Cousin can make an infinite supply of money.

But for those that don’t understand either the political game or the money game….

As ever they will be the ones that suffer first and the most.  One thing that you may notice is that when you put away the monopoly board that you’re always missing  a piece.  The thimble, or maybe a couple of plastic houses, or a couple of dollars go astray here and there.  No monopoly board ever remains intact and yet even though some of the little pieces of the game may be lost or damaged the game continues.

Insulted? Angry at the notion of plain every day people being considered to be nothing more than pawns or tokens?  Me too.  Why aren’t we doing something about it?

What am I trying to say?  Do I have a plan to fix it all?  Of course not.  That would mean that I played the game (one or the other).  Clearly I don’t play.

But maybe it’s time to flood the game with millions of new players.  Maybe it’s time for people who never thought that they had a stake in the game to get in.  By themselves they would not win, they might not even win in big groups but maybe, just maybe they can force a rewrite of the rules.

Improbable?  True.  But is it better than just being a pawn and waiting for the dice to roll to determine where you will land?

The panhandler

When I was a kid there was this credit card commercial.  Two buddies out on the highway with their ten speed bikes.  They spend the day riding around and then ride into an inn or bed and breakfast where one of them takes out his credit card and books a couple of rooms.  No wallet, no fuzz , no muzz.  This was back in the late 80’s and to me it seemed that the only people who could live like this were rich people.  The rest of us carried grubby piles of paper money and coins in our wallets.  The idea of a cashless society was just a pipe dream.

So fast forward a few decades and there I am in traffic headed back from the gym.  I’m headed to a supermarket to get some fruit juice or something to drink.  All I have in my wallet is my ID and my debit card. I’m stopped at a left turn signal waiting for the light to change.

Just to the left on the median is a guy with a handwritten sign on a torn scrap of cardboard.

“ANYTHING HELPS”

All I could offer was a smile.  The light changed and I drove on.

Typically I do give to panhandlers.  I know the arguments against it and I do give to shelters as well.  I always advocate that people who can give should give.  But when you’re face to face with someone so obviously in need it’s a little hard to say no and comfort yourself with the logic of giving to a homeless shelter for the ‘greater good’.

I don’t give every time of course or I’d be broke.  By some estimates the U.S. is up over 1.5 million homeless people and I just can’t get to everyone.

1.5 million people who need food, water, shelter, and some sort of basic sanitation.  Just because you lose your job doesn’t mean that you stop living.  You still have to somehow provide for your own needs an often adults have to provide for the needs of their children.

Now, not everyone that is homeless begs or panhandles.  Most people try to tap their personal resources of friends and families or reach out for government assistance.  They keep on trying till they’re able to normalize their situation and get back on their feet.

But some people do have to panhandle to survive and feed themselves.  Some abuse the panhandling situation.  They don’t have a desperate need but have normalized this as a way of life.  Lastly, some panhandle to get drunk or stoned and to try to escape the miserable reality of their lives for just a little while.

I wondered what kind of money was involved in all of this?  How much do these people make in a day?  Easy enough to research on the web.  Somewhere between ten and a hundred dollars per day depending on circumstance with an average of about twenty-five dollars a day.

How many people?  That’s tougher.  Not a very stable population to track.  But for argument sake let’s say a fifth of the total homeless population.

How many days a year?  Again this probably varies wildly.  Some days they work, some they don’t.  Some days they make nothing.  Let’s say about 300 days a year.

Plug in some numbers….  This can’t be right. 2.25 billion dollars a year.  Averaged out to about $7500 per year per panhandler.  Most of that money going to basic needs or vices.

Of course that figure assumes that all of us still carry round paper and metal money to give out to panhandlers and that we don’t all carry just debit cards or credit cards.  Tying back to the beginning of this post a lot of economists want us to do away with physical money permanently and switch to a digital system.  Once that happens might we see the end of the panhandling era?

Not necessarily so.  Now I go back to a couple of years ago.  I’m at an art gallery wandering round looking at paintings and sculptures and whatnot.  Someone has set up a credit card reader on a pedestal with a sign urging patrons to support the arts.  Each swipe would donate 5 dollars.  The reader is hooked up to an Ethernet cable and seamlessly debits the donated account from the patrons account.  Several patrons are enthusiastically swiping.  Why shouldn’t they?  It’s been shown that people tend to spend more using credit and debit cards when they don’t have to dig out physical money or write out a check.

So now we go back to my panhandler on the median.  What if this panhandler had been equipped with some sort of card reader.  Not a sophisticated device like those hooked up to a smartphone or to the internet but a standalone device.  Something that needs to be downloaded at a centralized base station like at say a homeless shelter.  A place where the homeless would have to go to cash their earnings.

A place where he would be registered, where homeless volunteers and workers would get a chance to help this person with additional services.  A place that they could keep tabs on this person and suggest housing, food, or medical help for this person.  A place that we could begin to better quantify the problem of homelessness.

The challenges?  The technology I don’t believe is a challenge.  Card readers are fairly robust and reliable systems.  Coding the applications needed should not be a problem.

The banking aspect would be trickier.  Would bankers go for something like this?  Certainly they would want to charge service fees which might make things difficult for the average homeless person.  But perhaps the answer lies in the volume of business.  I mentioned up above that this could turn out to be a multi billion dollar concern.  Even if the bank made cents on the dollar this could add up to be serious money.

Of course abuse could come on the other end.  Card readers being stolen or hacked to extract the funds.  But I think safeguards can be put in place.

The main benefit that I see is that this is a way to get people back into the system.  This allows the system to sit up and take notice of just how big a problem homelessness really is and to allocate the appropriate funds to address the problem.

I believe that we need to address this problem in a modern fashion.  If we expect to go into the future and reap the benefits of a technological wonderland we must be prepared to make sure that these benefits are enjoyed by all parts of society from the richest to the poorest.

If we choose to ignore or marginalize this population then I don’t think that we can ever really move forward into the future.

 

run

I’m sitting on an examination table in an examination room waiting for the doctor to come in.  The narrow little room is barely larger than a broom closet and lit by a single sullen fluorescent light that doesn’t seem too thrilled to be here.

My naked feet dangle just inches above the floor.  I look round and see the standard things you would find in any exam room in America, rubber glove dispenser, a sink, anatomy posters that look decades old,  and advertisements for some new drug or some other treatment for diseases that I can’t even imagine.

The doctor walks in.  He looks to be in his fifties and wears the ceremonial white lab coat that we all associate with medicine and science.  He briefly glances at a clipboard, greets me, and gets to business.  He kneels down and starts stretching and rotating my feet around.  After a few minutes he nods his head and announces that he is pleased with my progress.  The ankles are not as stiff as before and the swelling has disappeared. As he washes his hands at the sink he advises me that I should start running again.  Nothing too severe and definitely not everyday.  But it would be for the best he says.

Just like that, doc?  That easy?  Start running.  I think back through the years at all the people who would issue commands or make broad statements and never really gave any thought as to what they were saying.

Start running.  I had stopped running back in November.  In the middle of a step, miles away from anywhere, I stepped down and felt a fiery jolt of pain race up my right leg.  I nearly stumbled off the running trail.  I wound up hopping all the way back home and I kept limping for the next two months.

I then had to navigate through my insurance agency’s tenuous rules and regulations till I found a podiatrist I could go see.  Now, months after the treatment I was ready for the next level of my rehabilitation.  Running again.

I had tried getting back into running before.  If you know nothing else about me you must at least know that I will heedlessly plunge into anything with little thought of consequences.  It is one of my biggest faults and at a few key moments in my life my only redeeming quality.

The results of course were predictable.  After less than five minutes of running.  Pain, cursing, limping, and returning home dejected.  So you must imagine I was not too thrilled to attempt running again.

Treadmills.  No true runner would find it ironic to know that treadmills had at one time been used as a punishment in prisons hundreds of years ago.  The device itself is not to blame and neither are the designers that in their genuine good intentions wanted to provide people with an indoors running option.  No, rather the concept of mindlessly running in place in one spot for minutes if not hours at a time is somehow anathema to those that spend any amount of time on the road.  The very activity seems to be innately linked to punishment.

The newest and latest treadmills offer all manner of conveniences from heart rate monitors to personal fans to virtual reality TV monitors that try to give the illusion of running out-of-doors including inclining or declining the treadmill.  But really nothing replaces the feeling of being out-of-doors and seeing the world move past as you run.  Feeling the heat of the sun, the cold of winter, the rain pelting on your face or the wind blowing in your face and feeling like an anchor trying to drag you back.

This particular treadmill was on the higher end of the machines.  It had a built-in TV, a heart rate monitor and a variety of options to make your run more pleasant.  You could even hook it up to your smartphone and listen to your tunes.

I hit the quick start button and started walking.  I set the machine for a 30 minute workout.  The pace is a glacially slow walking pace so I almost immediately dialed it up.  After two minutes I was bored so I dialed it up again and again.  I finally dialed it up till I was at the edge of a running pace.  How long could I keep this up?  I kept nudging it up.  I held onto the heart rate monitor bar and I was already up to 130 beats a minute.

Finally I was running.  The monitor said I was running somewhere between a 9 and 10 minute mile.  I’ll take that.  I wasn’t trying to break any records.  Just get out of the starting gate again.  I try to focus on the running and keeping my mind off the tendons in my ankles.  Was I tearing something?  Would I feel it in the morning?  Would I throw away months of rehab in a few minutes?

Keep running.  Ten minutes, fifteen minutes into the workout.  I reach for the heart rate monitor.  174 beats  minute.  Right at the edge for a man my age.  Sweat is getting in my eyes.  I feel my cheeks flush as my internal engines kicks into high gear.  Long idle systems springing back to life.

I feel a slight jolt as the treadmill slows down.  I’ve lost track of time and the 30 minutes is up.  The machine automatically goes into a ‘cool down’ mode and a walking pace.  After five minutes I unsteadily walk off the treadmill and head to the weight room.  Sweat rolling off every inch of me.

A couple of the trainers do a double take seeing me walking off a treadmill.  They’re used to seeing me at the stationary bikes.  Riding fast and getting nowhere.

I pass by a kid wearing an Iggy & the stooges cut off t-shirt.  Apropos I guess because I do feel like a streetwalking cheetah with a heart full of napalm.  I should be dead tired but I’m not.  Running always revs up my engine and this workout has released a heady brew or adrenaline and testosterone into a system that hasn’t felt like this in months.  I’m not cooling off at all.  I was heating up.

Everyone has a set routine of how they prefer to workout.  Too many people today, my routine won’t work.  I need to get rid of this excess energy.  So I head for the nearest thing.  The rowing machine is open.  I don’t even check the weight and just start rowing.  Attacking the handles and almost ripping them off.  Before I know it I’ve gone through three sets and still I’m not tired.

It’s almost intoxicating.  This feeling of power coursing through me, needing an outlet.  I feel like I can do anything.  Bicep curls, the ab crunch, the chest press.  Finally I get to the lower back machine and I feel that I’ve done enough.

I get in the car and it hits me.  Like a junkie coming down, the last vestiges of the adrenaline wear off and I feel abnormally tired.  I almost want to sleep.  So many months without anything and suddenly all of this.  It’s too much for my system.

Still, I wonder how my ankles will reward me in the morning.  One day doesn’t cure anything.  It’s just a proof of concept.  I’ve still got a long ways to go and this is just one of many challenges to come.  Enjoy the moment.  Little victories like this are few and precious.  Tomorrow will take care of itself.

 

 

success

I wake up while it’s still dark.  The sun isn’t even of thinking of getting up for another hour.  I dress in my gym clothes or rather my former running gear.  I don’t run anymore.  The last pair of running shoes that I bought still look fairly new even 9 months after I bought them.

I step outside and it’s a typically hot and humid July summer morning.  This Saturday won’t bring any relief from the heat.  I drive down to the gym on the empty west Houston streets.  Last year I could run the three and half miles to the gym in about half an hour.  Not any more.

I get to the gym entrance just as they are opening up for the day and go in with the other early birds and go through my routine. Half an hour on the stationary bike and forty-five minutes on the weights and machines. The same routine four or five times a week depending on my schedule.  I’m thankful for the continuity of the routine. Routines and set schedules are a cold comfort but they are a comfort after what’s happened in the last year or so.

I suppose collapse might be a good description of 2015.  2015 was a year that I expected would be a breakout year for me.  I expected that things would not just get a little better but would totally improve in every aspect and in every imaginable way.  Unfortunately it seemed that things began badly and little by little progressed to be actively terrible.  The year culminated with my health taking a turn for the worse.

The gym has new exercise bikes.  Much better than the older bikes that they used to have but I can feel that this is no substitute for an hour-long run.  I’ve tried the thread mill and the elliptical machines and I still can’t do more than twenty minutes before the pain in my ankles forces me off.  Still, I feel better than I did in December when all I could do was limp from place to place.

I leave the bike all sweaty and I get some sense of satisfaction.  Proof that I’ve done something today.  I go into the weight room and look for an empty machine or a spot with weights without too many people.  My gym is fairly cool about things.  “Leave me alone and I will leave you alone” is the unspoken motto.  A few people like to show off.  They load up the weights as much as possible and make a great show of lifting or they show off their physique by wearing clothes that are too tight or too revealing but for the most part it’s work minded people looking to get in their sets and get back to their regular lives.

Work itself has been a challenge to say the least.  Whether it’s because of a sluggish economy or bad advertising of our company or just my depressed mood it has been a challenge to keep moving forward this year.  We snapped out of our doldrums around February and have been making progress since then, slow but steady progress.  I’ve been able to implement some routines to make the most of what sales leads that we do get and the results are slowly beginning to pay off.  Nothing spectacular but better than the nothing that I was producing before.  I feel happy with the progress but I dare not get slack and relax.

I’ve worked out my arms till everything aches.  I get that odd ropey almost limp spaghetti like feeling in my arms that let’s me know that the workout was effective and a little more progress was made today.

The sun’s out and as I drive home and at a red light I think about my situation.  I no longer have the big goals or checkpoints to check my progress that I wrote down in late 2014.  No lists or anything that tells me “yes you are getting ahead”.  That doesn’t work in this situation.  This year I have to measure success in another way.

I have to measure success in my willingness to get up every morning and to continue battling every day.  To take progress wherever or whenever it comes and to be adamant that no matter what happens that I keep fighting.

In the worst days of December, January, and February I would wake up dreading the coming day at work.  Would I sell anything today?  Would I get any sales leads?  Would I have a job at the end of the week?  I would feel depression and shame as my physical condition slowly deteriorated over the days and weeks and feeling powerless to make things better.

Little by little I’ve had to claw and scratch my way back.  I can’t look up yet and face the gigantic hill that I still have to climb.  The sheer size of it would sap my will.  It’s not time for that yet anyways.

I have to define success as my willingness to continue fighting every morning.  No matter what happens, no matter what setbacks may come up I am still willing to continue fighting.  It’s not the joy of competition or joy of battle that I once felt when I was younger.  Time was that I would savor a new challenge and see the advantages and rewards to be gained by testing myself and winning.  No this isn’t that.  This is a sort of grim determination that I will not quit.  I will not stop.  No matter what I will keep going.

Maybe one day I will be able to set up lofty goals and have grand plans again.  But for now this is what success looks like. Another day of fighting.  Another day of work.

The pyramids of Galveston

So my parents haven’t been to Galveston in a long time.  We took off and took highway-6 south and went round downtown Houston and took the hour-long trip to the island.  I was hoping the trip down would have less traffic this way but south Houston has grown up and is now packed with new subdivisions and strip malls.  Highway 6 is less a highway and more of a large and very busy city street.

We planned on Moody Gardens.  It’s a big park (half zoo and half aquarium) on the island and is one of the big attractions.  They decided to put it all inside giant pyramid-shaped buildings.  The aquarium part in a conventional but pyramid-shaped building and the zoo in a large glass enclosed hot-house.

Since it was the off-season, the crowds were fairly small.  The aquarium has one of those tubes you walk in and get surrounded by fish, and turtles and sharks

Interesting to see, though somewhat fish smelly.  They had animals and fish from all the oceans of the world and a little fish themed cafeteria that we decided to skip.  I’ve been to several aquariums and this did not seem all that special.

The tropical rainforest however was great.  It’s a bunch of rainforests from all over the world in a giant glass pyramid.  They had gathered flowers, trees, and exotic plants from all over the tropics.  My mother is a gardening fanatic and loved it all.

There were parrots, lizards, monkeys, and an ocelot.  The ocelot was sullen and barely even appeared but it was a nice little zoo.  All set to rainforest themes and complete with replica concrete Mayan temples.

It was a nice cool 80 degrees inside and very humid, perfect walking weather.  A nicely executed tourist attraction.  We then went up and down the seawall looking for a place to eat.  We hoped to get into Gaido’s, Galveston’s premier seafood place however everything in and around that restaurant was packed.  We ended up at Landry’s seafood on the seawall.   A long-long trip but well worth it.

Story Shard – Aug 2013

[Author’s note.  Unfinished fiction piece from the 1990’s]

 

Vampires:

Main Entry: vam·pire

Pronunciation: ‘vam-“pIr Etymology: French, from German

Vampir, from Serbo-Croatian Wampir

Date: 1734

World Synonyms: Asanbosam (Africa), Civateteo (Aztec), Uttuku (Babylonian), Nosferatu (Central Europe), Ch’ing Shih (China), Vrykolakas (Greece), Estrie (Hebrew), Rakshasa (India), Baobhan Sith (Scottish)

1: the reanimated body of a dead person believed to come from the grave at night and suck the blood of persons asleep

Type: necrobiological

Appearance: varied, see text below

Powers:  see below

Description:

Like all necrobiologicals, vampires are not truly dead nor are they truly alive.  In 1956 the Spitzzenbergen Institute in West Germany discovered what would be dubbed “the vampire virus”. More accurately described as virus GX-211 shortly after their breakthrough research on zombie proliferation in the Caribbean, and the discovery of GX-209, the zombie virus (Case file Ht-1952-004),

GX-211 is a liquid borne virus found in all bodily fluids of a vampiric revenant.  Transmission of the virus takes place after a bite.  The virus cannot sustain itself outside a protein liquid base and becomes inert in other liquids such as water, where the protein media is not in place, and is thus safe to handle.

The virus is quite large in size for a virus about 8 microns in size.  In shape the virus is a hexagonal base pod which houses the RNA sequence, a long cylindrical structure connects this to a flat pad with gripping footpads, which hold onto the cell wall.  The RNA injector at the end is designed to pierce cellular structures and inject the RNA strand (see Figure 1 in Appendix A).

GX-211 contains one molecule of linear positive-sense single stranded RNA with a hetero-adaptive protein “hook” on the end of the strand allowing it to adapt itself to various animal life forms.

Distribution of the virus is worldwide.  Transmission of the virus is by direct physical assault from an infected host.

Inception and metamorphosis:

Usually the revenant will kill the victim through shock brought about by blood loss or strangulation.  The virus upon injection will begin to process any remaining blood in the system to propagate itself in the host system.

Once a sufficient number of viruses have propagated, a Gestalt-like link is formed between the viruses, that is not fully understood, A secondary viral/ blood cell is created (GX-211a).

The viruses as a collective whole start acting as a semi-sentient being.  The first active target of this being seems to be the central nervous system, in particular the pathways to the brain stem to fully stop any lingering immune response and gain access to cell division processes and stop decomposition.

In laboratory analysis using human cadavers, the average rate of “resuscitation” took between 48 and 72 hours depending on the amount of damage the cadaver had sustained previously.  The most successful results of course from just dead subjects.  Tests on cadavers more than 36 hours but less than 192 hours yielded poor results. No resuscitation was found in cadavers older than 192 hours. (Deavers & Hopkins, 1983)  (See Figure 2).

Anatomical changes also occur at this time.  Vital organs, bone structure and biochemistries are altered to suit the needs of the new vampire. GX-211’s mutagenic properties allow it to manipulate the basic cell structure of the host to its needs.

The gestalt being will begin the transformation by burning fatty tissue and sugars in the body to provide energy to make changes and sustain it itself the first few hours until the first “meal” is ingested.  Thus another vampire is usually present to help obtain this meal.  This possibly explains the link between “master” vampires and their “children”.

Possibly the most important change is to the musculature of the vampire.  All fatty tissue is dissolved away and ingested.  Lean muscle is put in place, allowing the vampire to gain immense strength.

Unlike most creatures the vampire has full or nearly full control of its autonomic bodily functions, allowing it to perform feats such as quick healing of wounds, change its basic shape to a certain degree, and move very quickly.  Additionally this allows the vampire to “ignore” pain from wounds.

The digestive system is simplified and streamlined to accept a liquid only diet.  A description of the vampire’s digestive cycle is not included here, but can be found in other literature (Scoates, 1967)

Lungs are totally absorbed into the surrounding tissue, and the epidermal layer’s pores increase slightly in size to accept a wider gas exchange from the surrounding atmosphere.
Contrary to the notion that vampires do not breathe, they do rely upon an oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange to exist.  However the gas exchange is much reduced so that one Liter of air would suffice a vampire for a day.

Nasal and olfactory ducts increase in number in the nasal passages leading to a heightened sense of smell.  The number of rods and cones in the vampire’s eye increases twofold leading to heightened light perception at night.

The epidermal layer is also important in an oft forgotten subject, waste disposal.  Without any lower GI tract the vampire must get rid of waste salts and materials through its outer epidermis.  The vampire’s epidermal layer sheds at a rate five times that of a human.  The resultant layer of waste product covers the skin.  This explains why some vampires have a “chalky” or pale appearance, and for the pungent rotting smell associated with vampires. (Scoates, 1971)

Disease is rarely a factor for vampires.  The vampire’s immune system is extremely aggressive.  The immune cells actively seek any foreign bacteria or viral bodies and incorporate them into the body by “eating” the intruders and depositing the remains in the digestive system by way of the arteries.

Lab experiments using several strains of bacterium and viruses have failed to produce and appreciable results.

Lastly, the vampire’s most recognizable feature also emerge.  The human canines are lengthened and narrowed to a sharp point, to allow them to bite into tissue and bone.

The brain changes very little through this process.  The only change is an additional structure found at the upper base of the spine  This structure is totally foreign to human cellular structure.  (See Figure 3).

The psychological make up of the vampire is little changed from the original human.  The brain structure is little changed very little and can in fact retain much of the previous owners memories and psychological makeup.

Vampires can and do suffer human related psychological and psychiatric problems.

The lack of available mental health professionals to aid them with these problems coupled with a vampire’s impressive physical prowess had led to some truly horrific results involving anti-social and psychopathic behavior (Case File JTR-054-1871 through1893 inclusive).

Cognitive skills are usually on par with the victims former skills, though some atrophy is usually experienced due to decomposition damage to the brain, however long term surveillance of some subjects has determined that vampires can and do learn (Case File Lst-083-1845 through1972 inclusive)

Life Cycle:

After a gestation period of no more than 72 hours the new vampire will seek to feed and start interaction with its environment.  A post gestation period ensues that can last anywhere from three days to two weeks, during which neural pathways are reformed and repaired and motor skills are refined in the new vampire.  Speech is usually the last skill re-acquired.  These “infant” vampires are usually referred to as neo-vampires in technical literature, or as “goons”, “stiffs”, or “dummies” by field operatives.

Following this period the vampire has full independence, and is in fact ready to restart the “reproductive” cycle.

Old age is rarely a factor in a vampire’s life; due to its ability to control autonomic processes to such a high degree and repair damage done over time.  Reliable documentation exists of subjects over seven thousand years in age existing as late as 1993 (Case File Lil-001-001)

The vampire is of course nocturnal (Bram Stoker only said that vampires could walk in the day as a literary device).   The deadly relationship between sunlight and GX-211 is not fully understood.

Current speculation suggests that the virus is Helio-sensitive to some part or some combination of the electro-magnetic spectrum.  Due to its ability to process and redirect energy so quickly it is suggested that the intensity of daytime radiation from the sun may actually “overload” this process with energy and cause a catastrophic energy cascade resulting in the vampire’s demise.
The individual cells will overload with energy and burst releasing energy as longwave radiation (heat) and burn up the vampire.

Regular electric lighting at night does not affect vampires.  Attempts to use floodlights or portable spotlights have met with nothing but failure.  Flashbulbs at close range however, will elicit a pain response.  Research is ongoing to determine what parts of the EM spectrum work best against vampires and into developing portable light sources that will affect them.

Fact and fiction:

Hypnotic powers – Myth.  Certain individual cases have exhibited powers of persuasion that are higher than the norm however statistical analysis of cases has shown that this figure corresponds to a statistical equivalent among attractive or personable humans (Wheatley 1986)

Religious Icons – Myth.  In laboratory conditions vampires have been exposed to a variety of religious paraphernalia from all the major religions and have not exhibited any measurable physical response.

However in some test subjects of Eastern and Central European extraction, Christian religious paraphernalia elicited heightened psychological responses ranging from cringing away from the object to a need to attack the object.

This may be do to the early church’s widespread persecution of revenants, and the Templar knight’s successful campaign against them in the 13th century Poland (Malenkov and Ito, 1972)

(Side note: Many recently “created” vampires have taken to wearing religious symbols as a form of rebellion against elder vampires)

Reflection – Myth.  Vampires like any other material object will absorb visible light and reflect light frequencies that their skin or clothes do not absorb.  They are perfectly visible in mirrors and in visual surveillance and recording devices like cameras.

The myth is prevalent enough for researchers to devote time to hypothesize however.  Some researchers feel that older vampires may be able to use some form of telekinesis and create a powerful magnetic field to bend light rays around their person and render them invisible.

Shape changing – Partial fact.  The ability to control their autonomic reflexes allows a vampire to change some aspects of its physical being, most particularly its internal organs.

The ability to change shape seems to be a ‘learned’ action.  Most vampires over 100 years can change facial bone structure, height, weight, and skin pigmentation.

Vampires over 500 years seem able to change their physical structure even more radically into animal shapes, and even plant shapes.

No reliable witnesses have been eyewitness of a vampire turning into a mist.  However vampires over one thousand years old may be able to accomplish this

Magic – Partial fact.  The manipulation of eldritch energy by human operators has been documented in laboratory-controlled environments. (Stills, 1959).

Approximately 1 in 500,000 humans have a genetic predisposition that allows their minds to manipulate eldritch energy to a small degree without any directed control.  About 1 in 10,000,000 can consciously concentrate this enough to a point where it can be considered under directed control.

It is not unreasonable to expect a similar percentage of vampires to have the ability to manipulate eldritch energies to the similar proficiencies as humans.

Flight – unknown –  As mentioned above older vampires may be able to manipulate energies to generate some flight characteristics.  No subject under surveillance or taken in custody has show this ability.

Damphyr – unknown – The Damphyr (alternate spellings Dampyr, dampire) is a half vampire half human hybrid sometimes called a “day walker”.  The damphyr is supposed to have the power of a vampire without the vulnerabilities.  No subject matching this description has ever been catalogued.  However researchers refuse to rule out this horrifying possibility.

Vampire History and Social Structures:

Vampires have traditionally been grouped into a basic unit called a “family”.  This unit usually numbers between 2 to 12 individual vampires, however larger families have been known to exist.  The leader vampire, known as a “master” vampire, will dictate policies for the family.  This vampire is usually a hundred years older than the other vampires, and has usually created or “sired” them.

He is responsible for finding a “haven”, a safe place for the family to reside, leading hunts, for travel arrangements, and for interacting with other “families”.

Larger associations do exist called “clans”.  These are discussed below.

The leader will have the privilege to feed first, to choose lieutenants, and will usually distribute out any monies from victims, or any other material goods.

Newer contemporary vampires prefer a looser social structure with the “master” vampire more analogous to a gang leader.  The leader is constantly under challenge and has to reassert himself over all others in the group constantly.

Myths exist concerning vampires as far back as 5,000B.C.  Further, revenant like creatures are mentioned in various stories as far back as 7,000 B.C.  However, very little is known concerning European vampire history as a whole until the 20th Century.  Histories from pre-Columbian America, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Far East are rarer still.

In the middle ages, the Catholic Church issued general edicts against vampirism along with several other enemies of Christendom.  However only one direct action was ever sanctioned.  In the 1232 Pope Gregory IX directed the Knight’s Templar order to launch a campaign against several vampire clans overrunning southern and eastern Poland.

The Templars sent 300 knights along with 1,000 men at arms and squires to root out the vampire infestation.  By burning entire villages along with their inhabitants (humans included) and digging up several graveyards the Templars massacred entire clans and drove other clans to Russia and the Balkans.  Vampires would not be seen again in Poland for another 400 years

Several individual profiles have been compiled concerning lone individuals over several centuries.  However as a whole they are not well catalogued. The few history’s that have been gathered from manuscripts and interrogations are at best suspect.

European vampires arrived in the New world in the late 17th century mainly in French and Spanish colonies.

The founding of the city of New Orleans in the early 18th century would provide them with a base of operations in North America.

In Europe of the19th century vampires flourished.  With the catholic church being diminished in power many clans and families returned to areas they had previously shunned and set up operations.

Paris, London, Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Vienna provided particularly good hunting grounds.

Secondary infestation sites included Moscow, Prague, Bucharest, Stockholm, Bordeaux, and Berlin.

It is known that high ranking and powerful vampire clans did support the central powers in World War I and the Axis powers in World War II.

In both cases the vampire clans were offered uncontested dominion over large portions of Central and Eastern Europe should Germany emerge triumphant.  In exchange for this, the clans offered their services as assassins and spies.

During these wars the British and later on the American intelligence communities became aware of the vampire threat and formed countermeasures to deal with it.  Thankfully, Germany lost both conflicts and the vampires were forced to hide from the victors.

After the Second World War the massive oppression by the soviet NKVD (and later the KGB) and its Eastern European counterparts forced several clans to emigrate to the west.   Some clans were exposed by this and were wiped out in successful operations in the 1950s.  A couple forcibly splintered off into smaller clans, which fought amongst themselves for superiority.

Traditionally families were linked to one another in a loose confederacy of clans.  These clans usually had “blood ties” to one another.

Older more prestigious vampires had titles such as Count, Duke, Overlord and Emperor, all reminiscent of European noble houses.  These alliances however have been shaken by internal and external strife recently.  A bloody fratricidal war ensued between two of the largest clans in the early 1980s, drawing in several smaller clans.

A peace was brokered in 1988 and an electorate was set up to choose an uncontested Emperor.  The new Emperor’s reign was short however as one of our special operations teams infiltrated past their security and successfully assassinated him.  Ever since then, the clan structure has steadily deteriorated.

The remnant clans have retreated from public view and have become more insular since then.  New “recruits” to the clans are chosen more carefully and scrutinized for long periods of time before being approached.  Additionally some vampire groups are operating in a new hierarchy more reminiscent of terrorist cell groups than the old traditional family or clan.  These groups take direct action against humans without permission or even knowledge of the senior members of the clans.

It is unknown whether the vampire clans know of our organization or not.  The clans as of this date have undertaken no direct actions against our operatives or operations.

Vampire Diet and Habits:

Unlike popular myth vampires do not exclusively feed on human blood. Laboratory tests have shown that vampires may feed on many sorts of liquid proteins from many types of animals.  In tests vampires have ingested and processed blood from various types of mammals, birds, reptiles, fish, and even cephalopods (i.e. squids). To adequately derive nutrition however the vampire will seek similar life forms.

From surveys and random observation of subjects, it is estimated that up to 85% of a vampire’s diet is non-human in origin.  However all vampires hunt human prey.  Why they still hunt humans is unknown.  It is speculated that they derive some protein chain not found in other types of blood that they need to survive.

Subjects in long-term custody exhibited lethargy and weakness after being denied human blood for more than 2 months but still fed non-human blood.

Family groups will usually go out and hunt in small groups no larger than 5.  Vampires usually will stalk solitary victims in open areas such as alleyways and parks.  These areas will provide over 75% of a vampire’s successful hunts.

Most modern vampires will acquire the blood of cattle, swine, or poultry from markets or butcher shops along with meat and consume the blood discarding the meat.

There is no recorded instance of vampires engaging in ranching or keeping animal livestock.  Most likely due to the animals panicked and often violent reaction to vampires.

A small vampire clan in the southeastern US set up a blood processing plant in the late 1980s.  They processed 90% of the blood for local hospitals and kept the remaining 10% for themselves.  After several pints of blood turned out to be tainted with AIDS, it was realized they had not processed the blood at all and were shut down.

Alternately some vampires will resort to family pets such as cats and dogs for blood.  Some vampires will travel from pet shop to pet shop purchasing the animals to keep themselves supplied; if this is not feasible they may steal pets from suburban neighborhoods at night.

Rarely a desperate or battle weakened vampire may resort to feeding on rats.  The practice is culturally shunned however as it is seen as below them to feed on such animals Unfavorable comparisons to ghouls and other revenants are often made of those that feed on rats (Interrogation 295;101-108)

Although some vampire families have successfully taken over small remote villages and towns this is rare.  The ease of modern travel and communications makes it more likely that outsiders will venture into these towns and expose the vampire family.

Even rarer still are the few vampire families that have blended into human society posing as rich autocrats.  These lucky few vampires enjoy the privacy and security afforded them by wealth and the protection afforded to them by publicly posing as real human families.

Recently though the vampires have begun to target places where humans are intoxicated such as discothèques, bars, and gatherings known as raves using drugs to immobilize their victims.

Alcohol, narcotics, and sedatives are being used more and more to subdue victims. A human will usually be disabled and brought back to a haven to be fed upon by the group as a whole.  The bodies of those not being turned into vampires is usually buried in remote areas or disposed of in other ways.

By necessity vampires inhabit the poorer more crime-ridden parts of large cities.  Prostitutes are a ready source of food in the vampire diet.  Not only are they readily available in the areas that vampires inhabit, but also they are rarely missed if killed.  Even if a body is discovered most police departments will consider the death related to his or her line of work and not investigate further.

Alternative hunting methods include the establishment and maintenance of a bordello.  Several historical examples exist of this type of operation.  A bordello will be purchased or set up.  Most of the prostitutes at this establishment are human females.  Only the owner and a few of the “girls” are vampires.

The vampires will carefully screen patrons to the bordello to choose victims that will not be missed or that can be easily dismissed as never having any ties to the bordello.  The mason Diabolique in Paris is a good example.  The bordello operated from 1717 to 1793.  It is estimated that between 8,000 and 12,000 patrons to this establishment fell victim to the vampires in this time period.  Ultimately the bordello fell victim to the French revolution for suspected royalist ties.

A less preferred method of feeding are donors.  Certain humans with sexual fetishes for vampirism will readily provide some vampires with nourishment of their own free will.  This symbiotic relationship presupposes that the donor receives some form of sexual gratification and is not killed by the vampire outright, and that the vampire receives a sufficient source of nutrition from the donor.

Most vampires shun this method of feeding for two reasons.  Firstly is the proliferation of blood borne diseases in the late 1970s to the present.  Although venereal diseases will not infect vampires, the vampires can act as carriers and spread the infection to humans.  A sudden outbreak of venereal diseases in a small, concentrated population will serve as a marker for vampire hunters.

The second and most important reason that vampires shun this method is the lack of hunting.  Hunting is almost as important for vampires as feeding is.  The appearance of a vampire getting a handout of blood is degrading to them.  Vampires that exclusively feed using donor blood are referred to as “toothless“ by other vampires. (Interrogation 313; 212-214)

The newest most disturbing method of hunting by vampires is called “ranching”.  Extremely wealthy vampire families have been able to use their wealth to set up small compounds in out of the way places run by human conspirators.  In these compounds homeless transients, runaway teenagers, and other unfortunates are brought by force to live out their days in captivity.  They are generally housed either in cages or closed warehouses, well fed and urged to breed.  The population is kept artificially low by culling the older humans and sending some out to the master’s table to be eaten.

This method of vampire feeding was only recently discovered in a remote part of Wyoming where a special operations team found and shut down one of these camps

Familiars and human interaction

Human accomplices and servants are known as familiars.  These humans are bound to the vampire family or to a Master vampire.  Folklore attributes this link as some sort of mystical or mesmeric link.  Research shows that this relationship is usually simply based either on greed, an emotional attachment, or fear.

The vampire will either promise great riches or threaten the human and force them to serve him.

In some cases the link is psycho sexual and the familiar will feel devotion to the vampire and will fanatically protect them from harm or discovery.

However the main cause for humans to serve vampires is greed.

Methods of Control

DVD list

[Author’s note] – I am going through several websites and forums that I have posted or written in for the last 20 years and pulling out several posts of some things that I consider better than average or at least worth saving in one place.  This is from April 2010

 

yes I was this bored.

I went through my collection to see what I had and what I could ditch.  and while I was at it I reclassified everything.

movies grouped in categories

 

70s to 90s cult classics

A boy and his dog – a post nuclear apocalypse movie

Repo Man – a surrealist view of car repossession with nothing to do with the Jude Law movie

They Live – A libertarian view of world finance and space aliens

Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man – Fallen Idols back for one last fight

Falling down – a man tries to go home

Network – prophetic movie of mass entertainment 30 years ahead of its time

Soylent Green – a Malthusian nightmare

Logan’s run – Michael York’s finest movie

Andromeda Strain – extremely well made

the 13th Warrior – speculation into the modern human/Neanderthal relationship

westworld – odd mix of westerns and robot movie

Heavy Metal – american cartoon movie epic

 

Dr Who – tom baker only

The talons of Weng Chiang – A Dr Who story set in foggy Victorian London

Genesis of the Daleks A must see for any true whovian

The horror of fang rock – Another Victorian style story

 

Horror

The last man on earth – Vincent price version

omega man – same movie with Charlton Heston

brotherhood of the wolf – surprisingly good french movie

Salem’s lot – the 70s version

The Exorcist – the only really scary movie ever made

Exorcist prequel – not so good

The legend of hell house – best haunted house movie ever

The lost boys – wonderful vampire story

Zodiac – strong movie about serial killer

the nightstalker series – you must love this!

nightstalker/nightstrangler – the made for TV movies for above

Blade II – good vampire hunter movie

 

Comedy

Better off dead – the best John Cusack movie ever

one crazy summer – companion piece to above

grosse pointe blank – the last good movie above made

Mr Blandings builds his dream house – Mirna Loy, the funniest redhead ever

Philadelphia story – sophisticated comedy

Clerks – a classic comedy

Clerks II – dovetails into above

Mallrats – widely panned but good

Jay and silent bob strike back – wraps up viewaskewverse

Arrested Development – seasons one to three, the smartest comedy ever

Mystery science theater 3000, the movie – same as series

MST3K – same as movie

Ed Wood – biopic about worst director ever

1941 – arguably Steven Spielberg’s worst movie but funny

the goonies – 80s cult comedy

Fanboys – movie about fans of star wars

the gumball rally – race across US

Hopscotch – Walter Mathau as a spy

Volunteers – early tom hanks

Joe vs the volcano – the first of the tom hanks/meg Ryan romantic comedies

kung fu hustle – throwback to 70s kung fu movie

the drunken master – jackie chan movie

young Frankenstein – mel brooks horror comedy

animal house – american comedy classic

Jeeves and Wooster, seasons 1 to 4 – PG Wodehouse at his best

the Simpsons movie – it was a Christmas gift : /

the adventures of baron Munchausen – wonderful movie

yellowbeard – graham Chapman’s last movie

groundhog day – a comedy but also existential in nature

raising Arizona – best Coen brothers movie

office space – relates to me

 

 

Action/Drama

treasure of the sierra madre – complex character driven story

the Shootist – this is the film John Wayne should have won an Oscar for

the outlaw Josey Wales – vengeance ride

Henry V – Kenneth Branaugh gives an over the top performance

the crossing – made for tv movie surprisingly good

the good earth – pearl buck story set in china

gladiator – I like it for the first 15 minutes of the movie that’s all

master and commander – great sea story

a midsummer’s nights dream – similar to henry V but more comical

Charlie Wilson’s war – tom hanks semi action movie

Elmer Gantry – movie about revivalist movement

inherit the wind – scopes monkey trial

lord of the ring; return of the king – I am sick of this movie now

Dogs of War – the novel is better

Enemy at the gates – Jude laws last good movie

Excalibur – shiny knights

 

Sci Fi

Star Wars episodes 4 to 6 – the only star wars movies

Buckaroo Banzai and the 8th dimension – classic sci-fi of the 80s

Battlestar galactica – the miniseries 2000 era

Dune – the 1984 version

Serenity – the best sci-fi movie in a long time

 

edutainment

Myth and legend – tv documentary on myths

the power of myth – collection of interviews with Joseph Campbell

 

last but not least, guilty pleasures.  movies I shouldn’t like but I do, at least some parts

 

sky captain and the world of tomorrow – eye candy

Hudson hawk – I don’t understand why people don’t like this movie

cross of iron – a sam peckingpah movie about the russian front

revolution – Al Pacino as a revolutionary war hero

ford fairlane – Andrew dice clay; nuff said

Scary movie – spoof of horror movies

Gods & Generals and Gettysburg – civil war movies

 

 

The federal budget and weight loss

A few silly similes, muddled metaphors, and addled analogies concerning weight loss and how the US government spends money.

If you think about it, the way the federal government taxes and spends is a perfect method for losing weight.

Taxation:

At the beginning of a health and fitness regimen you need to be thinking about running a deficit.  This of course will mean running at a loss, which is what you want to do.  The last thing you want is to collect more income (in the form of weight).

We have to be republican about things and lower our taxes (intake of food) but in an obverse fashion.  We have to drastically lower our intake of taxes from the poor (fatty and carb rich foods) and increase taxation of job providers (protein and vitamin rich foods).  These will create the jobs (more muscle) that will burn more fat in the future.

Spending:

Here you need to be democratic and be lavish on the spending of revenue (exercise).  Make sure all the constituencies get some (exercise the entire body) but also fund some special programs to fund those job creators.  Those muscles will later on scream for more revenue to spend (burn fat)

Each day will be your fiscal year.  Tote up the losses happily as you recklessly spend your way down to nothing.

Striking a balance

Once you do get to your ideal weight you need to put the brakes on the spending and increase the tax revenue.

More importantly once you do get to that ideal weight you will want to become a libertarian and pass a balanced budget amendment to maintain your weight.

conventions and reflections

Last October I walked through the Irving convention center surrounded by people dressed as stormtroopers, little kids with homemade Captain America costumes, a few catwomen in risqué costumes and assorted characters from film, TV, and comic books.  As I beheld the milling throngs taking pictures, buying memorabilia, and lining up for autographs I reflected on how comfortable I felt here.  These were my kind of people.

These people had no hangups about getting out there and dressing strange.  They simply wanted to be part of the moment and reveled in the chance to be with other like-minded individuals.

I always get this warm and comfortable feeling around these conventions.  A feeling of belonging.  I drove up to Dallas alone, I wasn’t meeting anyone, but yet I didn’t feel alone.

I’ve been doing these conventions (comics, games, anime, movies) for about 25 years and it never seems to change though I certainly have.  From being a kid who could barely afford admission to one of those old guys who seriously considers buying some overpriced piece of memorabilia.  Yet I never seem to tire of these conventions.

I saw all the old familiar characters.  The kids running round wanting to see all the exhibits, the weekend dad trying to buy his kid’s approval by spending a fortune on junk.  The 30 something guy wearing a cartoon t-shirt and cargo pants carrying around a roll with his home made art trying to find someone who would tell him it was good.  The cosplayers trying to be their favorite superhero or villain fir a few hours and nonchalantly pretending that they didn’t like all the attention that they got.  The dealers that traveled the convention circuit going from town to town with this moving carnival trying to just make enough to get to the next convention.

That evening I went out to a fancy restaurant by myself.  I figured might as well since I was in town.  As I sat in my booth waiting for an over priced steak and drinking fine red wine I saw a party of about a dozen youngsters come in.  They were all in their mid twenties, maybe a couple of years out of college, and fresh in the job market.  A wedding rehearsal dinner party.

I could tell by the way one couple clung closer together than the others.  The boys all wore starched stiff shirts with ties and looked distinctly uncomfortable and the girl all wore nice dresses and giggled at the boys discomfort.

I speculated that these kids had just entered the process that led from college to marriage to a big house in the suburbs, to families, and full rich lives.  Golf weekends, country clubs, fancy events, box seats at big sporting events, family events, the works.  These kids had their lives figured out and mapped already.

I felt like a stranger peeking through a window at their lives.  I did not belong here.  I belonged in that over crowded convention center with the autograph lines, terrible convention hot dogs, and all those silly, silly dreams.

I reflected that if I had made a few key decisions differently in my life that I would have probably turned out like these privileged kids and would have been in a similar setting a decade and a half earlier.  My life would have been mapped.  Where had I deviated from the path?  Why had things turned out so differently than how they “should have”?  Why was I not sorry?