Roaming the continuum

Over Christmas, I went to visit my parents in 1974, a pre-apocalyptic world untouched by modern technology.  Not through any effort to shun technology and live a simpler life.  Just because nobody has gotten around to it yet.  (Disclaimer: My dad actually shuns computers.)  So when I go home, I have to bring my own technology with me and hope for the best.
This year, I was driving from my brother’s house to my parents’ house.  It’s about 10 miles through the low hills of western Pennsylvania.  When I got home (because only an idiot reads text messages while driving) my cell phone carrier had sent me the following message:
Accessing data during trips outside the US may result in significantly higher data charges.  Do you wish to allow data access?
It then gave me a number I could call to sign up for a global data plan.
Now, having been educated back in the 60’s and 70’s, I’m pretty sure that Pennsylvania was part of the United States even as far back as 1974.  So it took me a while to realize why I was getting this message.
You see, there’s an old adage in the computer world: Computers do what you tell them to, not what you want them to.  If you don’t explicitly program a computer to handle a situation, it will respond either by failing to detect the condition, or by misinterpreting it.  In my case, the latter had happened.  I had traveled back to a time that predated the cell network, and my phone was responding with the closest error message it could find.  The correct message should read:
Accessing data during trips to the past may result in significantly higher damage to the time-space continuum.  Do you wish to allow temporal paradoxes?
I did not.  You’re welcome.
(Correction:  Apparently I was wrong.  And I also have butterfly guts all over the sole of my shoe.)

Grapes, the coffee machine, and everything

I live in the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina.  For those of you who are not here, it’s basically a small Silicon Valley with no valley, less traffic, cheaper homes, and more tobacco than marijuana.  Because it is a relatively high-tech area, the population is divided into engineers and people who have to put up with engineers.  This fact is the only reason I could get away with this.

I was at Wal-Mart earlier today to pick up some things I needed: an umbrella, a new coffee maker, and some grapes.  (Disclaimer: I didn’t really need grapes.  I just like them.)  When I got to the checkout line with my items, the checker said hi and asked me, “Did you find everything?”

I get asked this a lot, along with “How was everything?” in restaurants.  Apparently I give off a vibe that says, “Ask me about everything!”.  I have a hard enough time keeping track of what day it is.  So normally I will respond apologetically, “I’m sorry, I wasn’t looking for everything.”

Today was different.  In a flash of what I call “brilliance” (like a seizure, but less painful), I smiled and cheerfully responded, “Yep!  Now I can finish my time machine!”  I didn’t get a laugh, but I also didn’t get detained by security, which I probably would have in a less tech-savvy part of the country.

Disclaimer: You do not need grapes to build a time machine.  I got the grapes as a snack, in case all the food in the future is in pill form.  Actual produce from the 21st Century might be worth a fortune in steak pellets or dilithium 500 years from now.

I will have already been going to go

I am a sucker for time travel stories. I love the whole idea of alternate possibilities, and I’ve never been able to figure out why they confuse so many people. I still remember movie reviews complaining that “Back to the Future 2” was hard to follow. But I suppose this speaks to the kind of people who review movies for a living.

On the other hand, even I am confused by the timeline of the Eagles’ “Already Gone”. See if you can figure out what’s going on here. Continue reading

Ice Cream of the Future

Reposted from Facebook:
Today at the mall, I once again passed the kiosk for Dippin’ Dots, “Ice Cream of the Future”.  I’ve never tried it, because I live in the present, so I assume it’s not ready yet.  But this got me thinking.  I’ve been a student of the future since I was 8.  I remember looking forward to the launch of the Jupiter II in 1997, 2 years before the moon will be blasted out of orbit by a freak accident at… the nuclear waste dump on the dark side, and 4 years before the launch of the Discovery mission to Jupiter.  (Note to self: in the future, stay away from things and places named Jupiter.)  I’ve seen and read about alliances and empires and federations from this century until the year 10,191 and beyond.  I’ve seen humans live underground to avoid the apes on the surface, and live on the surface to avoid the Morlocks underground.  I’ve seen dystopian worlds where some people live forever, and utopian worlds where everyone dies at 30.  (Note to self: check this one out — a utopia full of twenty-somethings is an oxymoron.) But across a hundred futures spanning a million years, I have never once seen anyone enjoying a serving of Dippin’ Dots.  No one ever walked down the DS9 Promenade or the Babylon 5 Zocalo and passed a kiosk for “Ice Cream of Right Now” in dot form.  The TARDIS has never materialized in an alien bazaar where people were marveling at “Ice Cream of the Distant Past”. I’m not sure what to make of this.  Someone is lying to me, either the Dippin’ Dots people or the future.  I am not happy about this.
As an aside, according to my friend Sara, other people walk around the mall thinking about clothes and shopping and where they parked and stuff. Bunch of weirdos…