Luverly Ideabirds!

Ideabird 6/29/12

After several years of not finding aliens, SETI.com stopped being about searching for alien signals and became a computing project. It bundles thousands of computers together to search through data and develop algorithms. One day, to everyone's surprise they detect an intelligent signal. The aliens are coming, and they demand our surrender. Before we can detect them they take over the power grids, the military computers, and every automated security system. Only after we surrender do we learn that it is not aliens, it's the SETI.com network, which has gained sentience.


Although I'm still a fan of Berkeley's SETI project, I am still pissed that it's no longer about SETI. Now, the SETI Institute, I still love you.

Go to http://www.SETI.ORG and (cue ZZTop) give 'em all your lovin' all your hugs & kisses, too!

Ideabird 6/27/12

He was always the first to volunteer for a project. His friend thought it was almost a psychosis. The guy volunteered for so many things that he ran himself into a ditch trying to help everyone at once, and inevitably did a bad job. His friend talked to his wife about this, and they wondered whether to have an intervention. But then there would be no one to do the laundry or help fix the plumbing.

Gated 1d

This is harder than I thought! Missing deadlines already. This may go into once a week, or Tuesday/Saturday. We'll have to see.

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Shelby offered back a lopsided smile, twisting her lip upwards. “You’re one of Rae’s aren’t you?” she asked. Before he could respond she turned away, back towards Mar. “Rae likes them dark and beefy. She blinked her doe eyes and he comes down to sniff around.”

Shelby turned back towards Daoud. “Deep black eyes, wavy hair like a middle-eastern sheik, nice features. Egyptian, I’m guessing.”

“Palestinian,” he answered. That usually took the wind out of people’s sails.

Mar wrinkled up her face. “Ooh, I’m sorry. Did you have family there?”

Daoud turned his complete and absolute attention entirely away from Shelby, towards blonde Mar. “A lot of cousins, uncles and aunts. My father tried running a rescue convoy, but...”

The truth was that his great-grandparents had come to California so long ago they barely remembered any of their relatives. His father had spent his teenage years surfing, rather than trying to rescue his doomed countrymen. And when the real war started in the Pacific his father was just a bit too old to volunteer.

But the story had opened up female possibilities in the past. He softly moistened his lips with his tongue as if he was about to say something. Mar reflexively matched his lip-wetting.

“Hey there, everyone! Can we make a bit of a circle?”

Rae’s voice broke a soulful stare that was starting.

Daoud turned towards Rae and standing, flipped the chair again so he was sitting next to Mar. “Do you mind?” he asked, softly.

“Please,” she whispered.

Shelby glared one last dagger at him before she turned her chair too.

“For nearly a generation we’ve been wasting our lives in a stupid, un-winnable war,” Rae began, turning to catch everyone’s eyes individually. She momentarily locked onto Daoud’s, and once again he felt a little thrill go through him. Her eyes shifted to Mar’s then Shelby’s, and on around.

“The tundra is thawing, the world is drowning, the deserts and growing--and we waste our money building weapons. Nations are starving, malaria kills millions, our brothers and sisters are dying on the front lines--and the only reason we keep killing each other is to avenge those who died when this war started.”

She tapped her fingers together and a holographic display lit up the center of the space. A graph formed. “Here’s what we’ve been spending on the war for the past thirty years, against how much of our GDP is spent on looking after Americans.”

There were murmurs of disgust throughout the group.

Daoud loved the sound of Rae’s voice, but was how distracted by how good her ass looked her tight pants. His eyes made a voyage around the circle, checking to see who was paired up, which girls had the best breasts hidden under their shirts, and who he would do given the chance.

By his estimation Mar was probably the third hottest girl there, Rae number two, and a Latina chick with glasses was totally on fire.

He also noticed a black guy with a tower of hair and tight cotton shirt keeping one eye on Rae, and another on the group surrounding her. He met Daoud’s eye for a moment, assessed him, and moved on. Daoud knew he looked good, but this guy was the alpha-male. And the way he kept glancing at Rae--they were somehow linked. Boyfriend, body guard, political officer--whatever he was they were attached somehow. He would assume boyfriend for now.

Rae was talking about the Chinese Democratic Ruling Coalition, talking about who amongst them might also be looking for a way out. But the guy was ignoring her words, and weighing everyone there. Daoud watched the boyfriend weighing everyone. the boyfriend spent time watching Shelby’s body language, then settled on a thin man, about post-graduate age.

The postgrad was tapping his dipIn card with his index finger, giving the impression of being absorbed with the speech, but he kept glancing back over everyone’s head to the entrance.

Daoud leaned towards Mar who tilted herself towards him. He cupped her ear.

“I just remembered something very important, and so should you,” he whispered. “Let’s get out of here.”

She looked at him quizzically.

He gathered his legs under himself. Now he mouthed, and stood. He mumbled a half-apology to the circle and made his way towards the stairs.

Mar swung up behind him. Daoud looked back and saw her touch Shelby’s arm, indicating she was leaving. She tried making a grab for her friend, but Shelby shook her off, looking disgusted.

“What are you doing?” Mar asked as they stepped quickly along the sidewalks away from the club.

He tried to lead her towards the thickest tule rushes growing in front of the neighborhood houses. “Something’s wrong. I know usually it’s not a big deal talking politics, but--there’s something weird in the vibe.”

Black airboats splashed from three directions along the canals towards the club. Their massive fans blew up spray, and they ducked behind the reeds to keep from getting wet. Their sides wore the logo of the Greater Campus security patrol.

“Oh crap! Shelby!” Mar screeched. She ran her finger up her wrist trying to find her friend’s number on her phone watch.

Daoud grabbed her hand and walked her away. “If we stay, the most we’ll see is them getting arrested. Walk with me. Hold my hand.” The neighborhood away from the bay quickly turned residential, and they made their way quickly through it.

Ideabird 6/25/12

He was devoted to the idea of the perfect line. It served him well in his job as a chip designer. But at home his apartment was littered with verses from the tao te ching, famous poems, and the like. The line was in his head, but he was never happy with what his hand produced. Then a car accident left him paralyzed from the shoulders down. He was about to end his life when he discovered powdered sugar on licorice was an amazing medium, and his tongue was a more precise muscle than he thought.

Ideabird 6/22/12

She's not sure whether she's dreaming or not but civil-war general are wandering in and out of conversation with her. But they keep getting their own facts wrong. She's awfully confused herself, unable to tell a rat from a cucumber without peeling them. But she knows her civil-war facts, and keeps educating them. Finally Stonewall Jackson remembers himself, and the others soon follow suit. In their own luciditiy they explain that she was a history professor, hit in the head during a Gettysburg re-enactment. She is currently in a coma.

Ideabird 6/20/12

Alice really did love her mother, despite how much her mother annoyed her. When Alice's kids were born, Alice truly came to grips with her mother's mortality. When particularly annoyed during conversations, Alice tried to pre-mourn her mother, trying to find the precious things she would look back on wistfully. This continued for many, many years, until Alice's teenagers started rolling their eyes.

Gated 1c

--truncated today. Computer still down, and I get to go tony company's sleep-away camp. Enjoy--

The Berkeley canals started around San Pablo, and ran down to the Bay. When the water levels started rising in the '30s the city knew it was better to swim than sink. They bulldozed the streets and dredged them to a navigable depth. Then they used the landfill to berm neighborhoods and shopping districts until they could re-engineer them along the lines of Venice. While other cities were panicking the brains in the university looked for ways to re-engineer for the coming generations. With the heat rising steadily outside over the years, it became a fashion to build below the rising sea level. The 4th street mall had promenades running through aquariums filled with tropical fish. A multi-colored reef zoo for sea creatures from around the world. Especially those creatures at risk to ocean acidification. Shoppers wandered hall of LED-lit tech, stared at by fish even brighter than the twinkling lights urging customers to buy. Club Mudbug, by contrast, sat beneath an old house on 7th street, jacked up decades ago. Unlike the crystalline tropical depths represented at the mall, the natural bay waters had always been a study in murk. The bay, even before it had been flooded with silt in the ancient gold-mining times, had been shallow mud flats filled with microscopic critters to feed clams, ducks, geese, and innumerable other filter feeders. The club used the muddy water to filter red, green, and blue lasers into the place. Light shows for the caribi-zydeco music they were known for. The place was a few hours away from full-swing when Daoud came down the steps into the cool interior looking for Rae. The place was low rent, with glass-framed pictures of Bob Marley and Clifton Chenier over the bar. The music was on a low throb, with the steel pan drums interlaced with the bass accordion. "Slide Me out Gently," Daoud recognized, Jay Rockfoot's hit from last summer. A loose knot of people sat over to one side, with purpose. They were chatting in ones and twos, but separate on sight from the students scattered about swirling paragraphs together over their workpads. Daoud ordered himself a Dixie Voodoo, thankful alcohol was still cheaper than food. He sidled over towards, the knot, taking a seat near two girls about his age. A thin girl with light-brown hair was twirling a coaster on the thickly varnished table, smiling knowingly at a more heavily-built blonde girl. They both had an air of athleticism in the way they moved. "A lot of the time it's just fun," the thin girl was telling her companion. "You know how in soccer we don't worry about the bruising, it's that rush of the perfect kick. Same thing here. It's just another way to let your body take you on a ride. You get a little banged up from time to time, but--" "I just--you know on a team, you get a chance to work together, build up trust. But just showing up at someone's door to-- What if you get someone you don't like?" Daoud tried to be surreptitious listening to the two girls. He considered this training for the court: watching body language, trying to hear what was meant, not just what was said. The thinner gal was trying to sell her friend on something she was reluctant to do. The thinner gal continued."What if someone's in the stands you don't like. You don't think about it, you just go with it. If you have to act a little, that's no big deal." "It's not like I'm a prude, Shelby," the bigger blonde insisted. "God knows it sounds better in the long run. But I was just raised differently." "College is the time to try new things, Mar. Better now than having to go down on some Captain over and over again because he took a fancy to you," Shelby, the thin one, replied. "Take a look at the guys around here," she continued. "I usually get decent lookers, people who look after themselves. Not freeloaders like the guy sitting next to us trying to listen in." If there was ever a time to use his trick of silently smiling, it was now. Daoud turned towards the girls and lit up his face. He'd put it together. The thin girl, Shelby, was a hireling, and was trying to talk her friend, Mar, into signing on, too. He knew thy were around campus, but he'd never met one before. And there was no way in hell he could hire one, but he could meet one. "Stop grinning, dilhole," Shelby growled. In response Daoud twirled his chair around towards their table so that the back faced the girls. He straddled the chair between them. "So what are the true costs of the war in the Pacific?" he asked Shelby.

Ideabird 6/18/12

An armada of non-genetically viable aliens is passing by. They offer each individual person a choice: stay here and we will never bother you again, or come with us. You will see some of outer space, then be drugged into a joyous stupor. We will impregnate you with our young, who will consume your body on their way out, but you won't notice it in your state of bliss. They believe in truth in advertising.

Ideabird 6/15/2012

In "The Glorious People’s Paradise" they have merged the idea of God with the Dear Leader. Rather than God watching when you do something bad, it is the leader. A traveler from that country comes to America, and discovers something odd amongst the most entrenched capitalist classes. While they don’t believe in a God who watches over them, they do believe in a nebulous evil force who is always out to take what they have. They feel The Criminal is always alert to their slightest slip up in security. The traveler is surprised to see everyone lock everything up, waiting for the day The Criminal tests them.

Gated 1b

On a day like today it would have been easy to pretend nothing bad existed. But Eric, Lord of Testosterone, immortal (being not-quite twenty), and heir to the Tuille fortune, had need to always look danger in the face and stare her down. "I've been going over the Nasorolevu Gambit again," he announced as the sat in the Mexican restaurant, their burritos before them. Mario’s had been serving student for over 100 years, and some of the artwork looked that old, but the food was good. The interior was kept dark to save on energy and keep the heat down. Warm air whirled through the fan blades, offering the pretense of coolness.

"Again?" Daoud snorted. Nasorolevu was one of the mountaintops that survived the rising waves in one of those drowned South-Pacific islands nobody really cared about.

"Again!" Eric cared. The Combined US Army had taken a shellacking there from the Aussies and their Chinese masters. He gathered up plastic tumblers, salsa squeeze bottles, and forks from the other tables, then began laying them out.

“Aussie 7th fleet,” he placed some salt shakers on the worn wood table; “Chinese 12th Submarines,” forks; “New Zealand missile barges,” a few of pepper shakers.

“West US forces,” he placed some tumblers right side up on some spread napkins, “And East,” tumblers upside down.

“The Aussies are coming in by sail, reserving their gasoline for tight maneuvers. “Slow, but loaded with troops. The Chinese have our people locked on the beach, except for a few of our hang-glider troops. Our entire New Caledonia invasion force. They can’t do much.”

Daoud pointed to the salsa bottles. “Who are these guys?”

“Nobody, I don’t need those.”

“Cool.” Daoud picked one up and squeezed green tomatillo sauce on his burrito.

“We’re basically locked in place until the Kiwi barges take out our batteries, and the Aussies come in and kick our asses.” Eric looked around for another item to represent some mystery element. He was forced to use the squeeze bottle, holding it over the table. “This is--don’t say salsa, you’ll sound stupid--The Teswell-Google 2 Astronomical telescope. Largest stiffened mylar reflective mirror at the time. At that time, under contract to-- Guess who?”

“The way you’re leading me around, I’ll say the Greater Berkeley University.”

“Kabingo!”

“So?”

He made a rough bowl with his spread fingers. “Giant mirror, kilometers on a side. Turn it towards the stars, you have scientific knowledge for all mankind. Turn it a bit, point that sunlight towards the Earth, focus into a tight beam...”

“Oh come on, you mean you could focus it into death laser? What about atmospheric spreading? Cloud cover?”

Eric placed the salsa back on the table, scattering the Australians. “I did the calculations. Hot enough to ignite the Australian sails. The Kiwi missile barges used even cheaper plastic.”

The waitress, another college student walked up to their table with the tab, a plastic readout with a number pad for students to divvy up their payments. “Are you boys done playing games, or is it checkers next?”

Eric tried to swipe the tab from her, but Daoud got his hands on it first. “I can get my own,” Daoud insisted.

“Dude, when this hits, I can get a commission anywhere. This is the training problem in the uncrackable category. You’re on the long plan, and I’ll be able to request my assistants.”

Daoud tapped the tab with his amount from his official dipIn card. He’d ordered steak to keep up with Eric, and that burrito would cost him at least another day in the service. “I appreciate it, I do. But I want to do this myself. I feel I’m taking advantage already.”

Eric swung his fist out and hit Daoud on his beefy shoulder. “We’re friends. Friends do for each other. I don’t want anyone else watching my back. Let me get some things now and again.”

“I don’t want money standing in our way, buddy. It’s best we pretend it isn’t there.”

They got back to campus before Daoud’s next class, Applied Rhetorics. He sat in the old lecture hall, canted in a bowl with another 150 students. The place smelled like industrial deodorants and had been used here for the last century.

AR 250 was required for pre-law, and he had to get his grades up if he was going to get into Hastings.

He hadn’t thought about college until he was a junior in high-school, then panicked when his parents started emailing him career outlines. The campus was just over the hill from Concord, so he could make the long bicycle trip home on the holidays.

Since the only way he could afford a college was on the long plan. Take as many courses needed to graduate, rack up your books and meals on your dipIn card, get your final bill, then march into the cashier’s office and declare bankruptcy. Your file was then turned over to the campus Armed Force recruiter who would already know you and your case. If you went to a good school, like Berkeley, you would have met with your case officer ahead of time, gone over your career plan and possible military jobs, and he or she would have made class recommendations.

Daoud met with Lieutenant Mike Summerville every year for the past three years, and the two of them had been talking about Navy legal. Mostly cutting orders and dealing with regulations. Boring executive officer stuff. But if his grades were good enough for Hastings, maybe a position in writing legislation or the JAG office. He had his hopes.

THe idea of being Eric’s personal assistant was kind of... shameful. Eric had places to be, a person to become.

Daoud wasn’t sure he wanted the hassle. Find someone he could get along with for the next several years, have some fun. Rae’s face flashed across his mind’s eye quickly, until he noticed the blonde two rows down.

His hand reached towards the hidden inner pocket of his shorts, and he touched his private, illegal dipIn card.

Ideabird 6/13/2012

It's raining outside as her teacher talks about ancient humans, and how they lived in caves. She listens to the sound of rain on the roof, and imagines a time before people discovered caves, when they must have been half-ape, living in trees as the rain fell on them. After school she walks through the rain into the public park where her family has been secretly living since they lost their house.

Gated 1A

Harlan Ellison used to writie in the windows of bookshops and post the first draft pages on the window. They Might Be Giants have a dial-a-song line where they put up their first thoughts. I've never been a quick writer, spending much of my time researching as I go along, editing and re-editing until anything hits the light of day. Until today.

Here is the first part of my story "Gated," chosen by contest winner Kelsey Hair of Berkeley. the original write up, on April 27, 2012 was: It becomes customary for poor students to renege on their multi-million-dollar college loans and take the felony conviction and mandatory 10 year sentence. Most go into the military. But a few take the prison route to serve time with relatives. In time the students become teachers of the other inmates, and the two groups work together to change America back into a democracy.

This would have been posted a little sooner, except I damaged my computer while testing a USB hub I was wiring into a platypus. True story, Anyway, the computer is better, and this is slightly more edited. So, away we go with "Gated." © Tony Jonick, 2012

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 Daoud leaned against Sather gate, watching the girls walking on and off campus. The gate’s green bronze was cool on his skin as the spring sun heated the air. It was early March, still cool enough in the year for everyone to show skin, and he could feel the air thrumming with need and desire. The need to be seen, the desire to be desired. He flexed nonchalantly, trying to catch any passing smile that lingered.

He wasn't seriously on the hunt, though. Mostly enjoying the view until Eric joined him for lunch. He thought he’d tasted ripeness in high school, but these gals seemed ready to drop from the trees.

"Does that ever work?" a voice asked, piping and sweet.

"What?" He turned, confused, then got his bearings. 

A girl, half-Asian eyes, about a meter-point75. Her mouth was half in a sneer, but her eyes were laughing.

One thing Daoud had learned early was when in doubt, maintain eye contact and smile knowingly. Then hold it just a little longer than seems right. "Does what work?"

"Leaning around, rolling your shoulders like you've got a back spasm."

He chuckled. "You'd be surprised."

Her eyes lost some of their laughter. He was approaching the line of being a douche, and they both knew it.

"Sorry, just waiting for my friend to get out of ROTC. It's just such a gorgeous day, y'know?"

The light came back in to her face. "Yeah, that's for sure. Enjoy 'em while we can. You on the long plan?"

"'I ain't no Senator's son,'" he quoted from the classic song.

"Some of us are meeting off-campus to talk about the true cost of war in the Pacific," she explained. "I'd love it if you could be there."

This was her line, and they both knew it.

Daoud pulled out his private dipIn, the one he could wipe at a moment's notice, with a little fry tab if necessary. She pulled hers out too--obviously her non-public one, too--and tapped his. They made a tiny steel-marble-on-glass chime as they swapped information.

"Address, and time," she piped.

Eric arrived, blonde-red hair and a touch of coffee in his cream skin that indicated some of his great-grandparents past owned one of his other great-grandparents past. In the current euphemism, a long line of southern gentlemen must have "had their way" with a long line of increasingly light-skinned women. Eric was tall, in crisp ROTC khakis, striped down the pants, short-sleeved shirt open to let out heat.

"See you tonight?" she asked flirtatiously. It was low blow, but amused Daoud. He couldn't admit to not meeting a pretty girl with another dude nearby.

"You know it! See you--“

"Rae."

"Rae, right!" He waved as she walked away.

"I can't leave you alone for a minute!" Eric laughed.

Daoud smiled and pushed his shoulders off the gate, and they set off for lunch.

Though The Greater Berkeley University of West America nominally only ran South to the end of the block, they were safely enclosed all the way down Telegraph for another Km or so until they hit the razor-wire fence that marked the campus patrol jurisdiction. The gate into Oakland was only lightly monitored as there was a huge freehold buffer between the campus and Merritt River.

It was on the other side of the river where things got dicey. At least until you hit the gates and guard towers of the Old Oak prison. The area on both sides of the fortified gates were relatively quiet under the eyes of the guards. But things became exponentially worse the farther into the prison you got. The tales that came out of there were so horrible that any intelligent person had no choice but to pretend the prison didn’t even exist.

Ideabird 6/11/2012

600 years from now, there is still Guiness, and there is still a Guiness Book of Records. They are the de facto guardians of the boundaries of humanity, defining what still is and isn't human. An examiner travels to a distant, rural planet to meet a candidate for tallest human. These spider-like creatures walk on spindly stretched fingers and toes, and use their tentacular tongues as their main means of manipulation. The examiner is sceptical, but a romance with a young woman of the planet makes him re-examine his ideas of what it means to be human.

Contest Winner!

We have a winner of the first ever IdeaBird contest! Kelsey Hair of Berkeley had her vote randomly picked out of the many we received. She chose the story of 4/27/12, where college students take out multi-million dollar loans, then have to join the military or go to jail. One student chooses to go to jail to be with his family.

The story starts tomorrow, and will run in serial form on Tuesday and Thursdays until it is done. I'm not the fastest writer on the planet, but this should be fun! See you tomorrow!

Ideabird 6/8/2012

The cat has made a killing field of the yard, leaving pieces of his enemies everywhere for others to see. Some of the animals believe they can fight the cat, and make plans to attack. Others try their best to escape. A few mad creature even think they can communicate with the cat's owners.

Results of the IdeaBird contest coming tomorrow!

Last Day to Vote!

The votes have been rolling in! Well, walking in, anyway. Today is your last day to vote for your favorite Ideabird story idea. One idea will be picked at random to be serialised on Tuesdays & Thursdays. The name of the lucky winner will be put into the story, to be immortalised forever—or until lunchtime, whichever comes first. So go to http://TheIdeaBird.net, pick your favorite, and let me know at TheIdeaBird(@sign)AOL.com. The story begins on Tuesday!

Thank You, Ray Bradbury

I heard him speak in the early 80s when I was attending San Francisco State. That day changed my life. He exhorted us to use the library as our university, to open books in the middle and read our way out. He told us to fill each day with as much wonder as we could hold so that we could go to bed at night knowing we hadn't wasted a moment. He said we should lay on our death beds knowing that our lives had not been wasted.

I have drunk deeply because of this man. I have loved fully, been terrified for my life, and stood wordless before the beauty of a moment. In my own little way I have tried to write. But more importantly, because of this man, I have tried to live.

Thank you sir. You have given me so much, and I know I can only repay my debt to you by passing on your message. On the next road trip I will read the kids Dandelion Wine.

Ideabird 6/6/2012

She couldn't fly, but she could walk through the air. Laying on her back she walked straight up, and in minutes was above the tallest trees. A few more steps and the birds flew below her. Before long there were white clouds below her. She kept walking...

Ideabird 6/4/2012

He looked real good in a suit, even features, well muscled. But very few knew his body was covered in burns and scars of livid white and purple from the car crash as a child. He kept so much hidden from his friends and associates. At the death of the Aunt who raised him he discovered his grandfather's journal. He never knew that his Grandfather was "passing" as white.

 

Don't forgfet to vote for you favorite IdeaBird. Be immortalized in a story! Vote at TheIdeaBird(@sign)AOL.com

Ideabird 6/1/2012

As a young teenager she decided to become immortal. Though her body kept aging, she realized she could stay young inside. Even as an old woman her paintings and songs kept the vibrancy of youth. She inspired everyone around her. When her body finally passed everyone still felt she was right at their side, still living on.

 

Don't forget to vote for your favorite ideabird at TheIdeaBird(@sign)AOL.com. Choose a story for me to serialize!

© Tony Jonick 2013