RUN A LEVEL FIVE DIAGNOSTIC! – BY TOM CURLEY


Warning:
If you are not a Star Trek fan this might not make sense to you.
Or maybe it will.


I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek lately. Not just the original. But most of the other ones too. Star Trek Next Generation, Star Trek Voyager, and Star Trek Deep Space Nine.

screenrant.com
screenrant.com

It’s addicting! I just keep watching. One right after the other. I admit I remember all the episodes from the original Star Trek. I’ve seen them all at least a hundred times and that’s no exaggeration. As for the other shows, I’ve found that some,  I remember. Others, I’ve forgotten. BBC America  will run an episode of the original Star Trek followed by Star Trek Voyager, then a Star Trek Next Generation episode.  I’ve never watched them all intermixed like that.

That’s probably why I never noticed there is one thing that all Star Trek episodes have in common. Something that they all do in all the episodes all the time. EVERY EPISODE! EVERY SINGLE ONE! I’m betting even the most ardent ” Trekker/Trekkie” has never noticed it!

What is it?

They run a diagnostic. At least one, often more. Any time anything goes wrong on or off the ship, they run a diagnostic. It’s the go-to solution for absolutely everything.

pinterest.com
pinterest.com
THE DIALOGUE:

Ensign: Captain, the  warp drive just went down!

Captain: Run a Level Two Diagnostic. Advise me when it’s done.

Chief Engineer: Captain! The Di-lithium crystals are absorbing too much anti-matter!

Captain: Send down a Level Four Diagnostic Team and advise me when it’s done.

memory-alpha.wikia.com
memory-alpha.wikia.com

Chief Engineer: We can’t do that Captain!

Captain: Why not?

Chief Engineer: We only have three Level Four Diagnostic Teams sir and they’re all busy.

Captain: Doing what?

Chief Engineer: Well, Team One is doing a diagnostic on the subspace communications array. Team Two is scanning the inertial dampers. And Team Three is running a diagnostic on why all the food replicators on deck three are putting “American Cheese” on everything it replicates.

americaomg.com
americaomg.com

Captain: I see. So what do we do?

Chief Engineer: Well, we do have a Level Two Diagnostic Team free.

Captain: Great! Send two Level Two Diagnostic teams. That would be the same as a Level Four Diagnostic Team. Right?

Chief Engineer:  Hmm. Never thought of it that way before, but yes I guess that would work. The  problem is we only have one Level Two Diagnostic Team available sir. The other one is examining the warp core.

Captain: Oh. …  OK. How many Level One Diagnostic Teams do we have?

Chief Engineer: Three sir. But one is busy.

Captain: Yes but we still have two Level One Teams free! Send in one Level Two team and two Level One Teams.  That will give us a Level Four Diagnostic!

Chief Engineer: Brilliant sir! Why didn’t I think of that?

Captain: That’s why I’m the captain.

I’d pay money to see that episode.


Here’s the thing. My Star Trek binge started right after the election.

thecollegefix.com
thecollegefix.com

Every day, I bounce from immersing myself in the whole” Star Trek Universe” and jolt back to this one. The real world. The. Real. World.

abc7news.com
abc7news.com

I think we need to run a Level Five Diagnostic on this episode of life. Something’s terribly wrong.

Oh yeah. And, if you are a Star Trek Fan, from now on, you will notice this “diagnostic thing” every time you watch an episode of any version of Star Trek.

AS THE MORONS MARCH – Marilyn Armstrong

At my age, I am baffled by the world in which I am living. Young people assume it’s because I’m old and getting senile, but it’s exactly the opposite. Old, yes. Senile, no.

You see, age has made me cagey, wily, cunning. But at the same time, it has hardened me. Increased my cynical streak and general distrust of human behavior. I actually believe they are out to get me.

To be more accurate, those people are out to get us all.

“How can anyone be that stupid?” Garry and I ask each other as we watch a movie, the news, or sports. “Why would anybody do that? What did they think was going to happen?”

Like the guy who fell into the Grand Canyon trying to take a selfie. Or Trump and his sycophants, although I suppose we can assume they at least are aiming to rule the world by greed and corruption. And then, there’s Brexit.

What is WRONG with everyone?

From the manager who lets the star pitcher stay in the game until his minor injury accelerates to a major one that will keep him out all next season. To teenagers who think not learning in school is the same as “beating the system.” To people texting while driving and seniors buying expensive luxury cars they can’t afford to run much less pay-off on their fixed incomes — all to impress other seniors who don’t care. It’s a world of marching morons.

After the irreversible deed is done, someone will inevitably ask us: “So. What do you think about … (fill in the blank) … ” and we are left speechless. What do we think? Why are you asking us now? Wouldn’t the time to ask have been before you did it?  Is it okay for me to say “I think you’re a moron?”

Can I answer honestly? “You are screwing yourself and you will regret it for the rest of your life.” Would that be cruel or worse, politically incorrect? Can I ask, “And how’s that working out for you?”

Probably we should just keep doing what we always do. Smile. Say something bland and hope they leave before we find ourselves saying something we actually mean. Something memorable and unforgivable.

It’s beyond baffling. Not merely stupid, it’s also cruel, destructive, and rotten. I used to worry about the march of evil in our midst, how the bad guys keep winning. These days, I don’t so much worry about the bad guys. They have always been with us and always will be. I worry far more about the morons who follow them. They are all marching to the beat of a drum they don’t even hear but are forever marching towards their personal, welcoming oblivion.


The Marching Morons was a science fiction short story by C.M. Kornbluth originally published in Galaxy in April 1951. This dark and prescient story of a future devolved to idiocy remains one of the most frightening visions to have emerged from the science fiction of that decade.

Proposing a future United States overwhelmed by a population of low IQ citizens — a consequence of over-breeding amongst the stupid — Kornbluth was writing of his observed present. The steady, inexorable descent of human intelligence obsessed Kornbluth. It was one of his major themes and reached its truest statement in this novelette.

And sometimes, sixty years later, as I look around me, I get a shiver of recognition down my spine and wonder where the line can be drawn between science fiction and the world in which I live. Is there a line? Or have we already crossed it and left it far behind us.


It’s just cost me 62-cents for the Kindle version on Amazon. Probably 62-cents well spent.

RECKONING REALITY TIMES THREE – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Reckoning

In a quantum physics sci-fi universe, a three-way choice creates three parallel realities or worlds. One is the current universe where the “me” I am today lives. This is my known reality.

At one point in my life — when I was 18 — a three-way choice presented itself. I picked this path, but as a result, two parallel universes exist based on the choices I didn’t make.

I wonder what became of the other two-of-myself?

Our road is full of side trips and detours. We reckon the odds and make choices. It isn’t the more or less traveled path. All paths have many footprints. We go where we think we need to go or for sentimental or mental reasons. More often, we reckon the best path is the one which will take us most effectively where we want to go, at least as far as we have figured out where we want to go.

Most of us reckon we can change our mind later. Which is true. We can change our mind … but because we are in a different place and time when we decide to change courses, it’s yet another course leaving another two worlds in parallel to the one we know.

At 16, I started college and was required to choose a major. Clueless, I chose music because I liked playing the piano. I thought maybe I should pick something practical too. In an elegant compromise, I became a music major with a comparative religion minor.

Religion, the practical career alternative.

Except, I was really majoring in hanging out at the college radio station. Music was okay, but I wasn’t sufficiently dedicated — or talented — to make it my career. Religion was the intellectually “fun” choice. I knew I was going to be a writer. The radio station gave me an opportunity to write and eventually led to real writing work.

Not to mention I met two out of three husbands to be at that radio station.

Dodging and weaving through the first two years of school, there came an unavoidable day of reckoning. Even a dedicated procrastinator ultimately gets gored by the horns of a dilemma. The summer between my junior and senior year, I wound up at a three-way crossroads.

My old boyfriend — with whom I couldn’t have a civil conversation, but with whom I had exceptional sex — sent me a train ticket to join him at his summer stock theater on Cape May. A sexy summer by the sea was an attractive offer. Not a career maker, but it had perks. Meanwhile, back at the radio station, the guy I’d been dating asked me to marry him.

I liked him. Smart. Educated. Employed. Good-looking in a waspy way. I could do worse.

And then there was Boston. Almost on a whim, I’d applied to Boston University’s Communications program. In 1965, Boston was as cool a town as a kid could want, short of San Francisco. Joan Baez sang at Harvard Square and the comedy clubs featured men who would become the future kings of late night television.

Against all odds, Boston accepted me into the program. Nothing could have surprised me more.

I had a lot of deciding to do.

I married Jeff who was (coincidentally) Garry’s best friend. Four years later, there was my son, Owen Garry, because Garry is not only Owen’s step-father but also his godfather.

Don’t over-think it.

The old boyfriend refused to stay gone. Like the proverbial bad penny, he would keep turning up for 15 more years. He would follow me to Israel when I dumped everything and emigrated there in 1978. Another story for another day.

Marrying Jeff gave me a son, a career, a chance to finish my B.A. and find my feet in a reasonably secure environment. I made friends, got a career going and figured out what I wanted to do.

But there are two other universes from that first triadic choice. In one world, I went to Boston and probably stayed there. Oddly enough, that’s where I wound up eventually anyway. Worlds within worlds.

In the other, I went to Cape May — and I have no idea where that would have gone.

If I should, by chance, encounter either of these other versions of me, I’d love to know what happened.

I bet all of us married Garry. Destiny is unavoidable.

EARLY RISER – A NEW NOVEL BY JASPER FFORDE – Marilyn Armstrong

Early Riser
A Novel – By Jasper Fforde



In Audible. I have it in hardcover too.
I’ve read it and listened to it.
Narrated by Thomas Hunt
Length: 15 hrs and 16 mins

Jasper Fforde has written some of the funniest books I’ve ever read. You know, the kind of book you read in bed, but you are laughing so hard it makes your partner wake up and irritably ask what the hell you are laughing at?

This book has moments of humor and once in a while, a chuckle. There’s no hilarity, however. Overall, there’s a seriousness to this story that none of his other books have had. This isn’t so much humor as it is a warning about where our climate is going and who is running our world. I don’t know which is more terrifying: the obvious sub-arctic winters in Scotland … or the death grip the mighty “pharma” company has on all humankind.

There are fighters against big pharma and the corporate grip the company holds over everyone. For reasons you will have to read the book to understand, it isn’t easy to figure out who is the good guy or who is the bad guy. There’s not “history” about how the world got to this place, but if you have been reading even the headlines, it isn’t hard to put it together.

This is science fiction, except … it’s not all that far-fetched. Sometimes, I found myself not merely listening to the story but worrying if this is just a story or this is the real future history of my Earth — unless we DO something about it. Like … NOW.

Of course, it’s beautifully written because everything Jasper Fforde has written is wonderful, though I still am in love with Thursday Next.

I do recommend this book very highly, but I have to warn you — it isn’t like his other books. It isn’t hilarious and sometimes, it’s pretty serious. But he’s telling us a story that I think we need to think about … while being well-entertained. Just so you know, this does take place in the future, so it actually is science fiction. Not your usual sci-fi, however.

Is this science fiction or is it our science future? I think you will have to decide for yourself.


I have mixed emotions about the narrator. He was good … but I think I’d have preferred a deeper voice? Or maybe I’m just being overly picky.

WHEN THE END COMES, WE’RE READY – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Construct

This is a rerun, but I laugh every time I run it. This is THE construction we need to survive the end of the world — which I think is about to pop up any day now. This piece of real estate could solve all our problems. No zombies gonna make it into this “residence.”

WELCOME TO THE LAST SAFE PLACE ON EARTH!


The above-ground home is 2,000 square feet. But if you use the keypad entry to the basement, you’ll find 2,300 more square feet that were a former launch control center. It has been converted — with dining and entertainment space and two bedroom suites — complete with marble bathrooms. It has 10-foot tall ceilings, simulated daylight — and what we all need in our post-apocalyptic home — an open floor plan.

Another view of the house.
Aerial shot of the property.
Views from the property.
Your own personal runway.
Great media room!

Basement entrance. Good solid construction.
Inside the basement house. it’s a whole new world!
Comfy bathroom.
Stairway to the silo.
Tunnel to the silo. This could use a little work. Maybe some paneling?

Inside the missile silo is a 9-story structure, currently empty. Consider it would be perfect for underground condos. Bring your friends on board and recycle that air!

It used to be selling for a mere $1.7 million. If it hasn’t sold by now, maybe we could make a deal?

A TALE OF TWO TREKS: TO BRAVELY GO – BY TOM CURLEY


“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”


Well, that’s not really true. More like: “It was the best of times. It was not so bad, at times.”

Also, I hear they are bringing back Patrick Stewart — at 78 — to reprise Jean-Luc Picard. I have no idea how the show will go, but you have to hand it to Stewart! At 78, a weekly show? So there will be yet one more Star Trek. Not sure when they are planning to start this one, but that’s the word.

Talk about a concept that has survived through many long years!

Does this mean I’m finally going to have to pay CBS because they put all their good shows on the “pay to view” network?

Once more, we are bravely going where no Star Trek series has gone before. This is not our universe, of course.  Real life would be more like “It was the worst of times. It was the ‘what the fuck is going on? This can’t possibly be real! Would somebody please wake me up’?” … of times.

This is the current run of the Star Trek universe.

Our world has been without a Star Trek series for a few years. I think we are always supposed to have at least one original on the air. I’m pretty sure it’s a law, but, for some reason, we have been forced into reruns. But times, they are a’changin’ …

Now, we have two and both are bravely going wherever they are sent.


STAR TREK DISCOVERY: CBS All Access, Streaming


Star Trek Discovery takes place 10 years before Kirk, Spock and the gang started their five-year mission to boldly go wherever the hell they were told to boldly go.

In this variation, the main character is not the captain, but the first officer. She’s a human raised on Vulcan by Spock’s parents. Its main storyline is about the First Federation vs. Klingon war. It was shot using a huge budget. The actors are all pretty good. The show is … okay.  I mean, it’s not bad. It’s good-ish.

But it has a few problems.

First, the Klingons only sort of look like Klingons. As a start, they are bald.

Klingons are usually pretty hairy.

They’re also incredibly racist. They believe in racial purity. Everyone else in the universe is inferior. And they are all victims of every other species in the galaxy.

You know, like Trump supporters. 

ALL the Klingon’s dialog is in Klingon. Actual Klingon. With subtitles in English!

Really?

Now, I’m as big a Star Trek nerd as anybody out there. I know there are Klingon camps you can go to learn the Klingon language. The bible has been translated into Klingon. People have Klingon weddings.

Yeah. That’s real.

But even for me, this is one nerd-step over the line.

Second, the ship has developed some kind of biologic warp drive that takes you instantly anywhere. Basically, it’s folding space. But what happened to it later?

In all the other Star Trek shows? Where did it go?

Voyager sure as hell could have used something like that. They were stuck in the other half of the galaxy for seven years — not including syndication.

Maybe someone will explain it in later episodes. Also, the ship can do weird things. Like the outer ring of the ship can spin around for no discernible reason.

The captain is sensitive to light, so instead of red alerts, they have black alerts!

Black Alerts?

WTF? The show’s creators say “they are taking liberties with the show.”

Liberties? Did any of them actually watch the other shows? The final, really big problem is that it only airs online through CBS All Access. You have pay for it. Like Netflix or Hulu.

The show is very dark, but still … it’s okay. Maybe the problem is that none of, or at least, very few of the people involved in all the other Star Trek series are working on the show.

That’s because they are working the other show.


THE ORVILLE – FOX Network


The Orville takes place in a very Star “Trek-ish” universe. It’s not exactly Star Trek, but really, it is.

Seth McFarland is Captain of the Planetary Union science ship, The Orville. He wasn’t the first choice for command, but the Planetary Union has over 3000 ships to man, so he got the job anyway. The show is funny. Very funny.

It’s also serious. Actually, it’s brilliant. Oh, and the Captain’s first officer is his ex-wife. Only a little minor stress there. 

The helm officer’s main concern is whether or not he can drink soda when he’s on duty.

Here’s a line of dialogue from one of the shows. They find a giant ship where the people on board don’t know they are on a giant ship. When they try to contact one of them, he shoots at them and they shoot him.

Well, they actually just stun him. They then run into his son.

CAPTAIN: We mean you no harm.

DOCTOR: Well, you did just shoot his Dad.

CAPTAIN: Other than shooting your Dad, we mean you no harm.

The plots are really, really good. Great science fiction. They do what the original Star Trek did. Take current events and put a spin on them. In this case usually a funny spin. This is the Star Trek that needed to be made. The one about the ship with a crew of screw-ups, who smoke pot, drink a lot, love to gossip, and yet, always get the job done.

I like this show so much I usually watch each episode twice. I never do that. Maybe because it reminds me of a series I did years ago (that Marilyn created) called Sterling Bronson, Space Engineer! 

Why that name?

Mostly because we knew if we called it any variation of Star Trek, we’d get sued. And it was an inside joke.

So, if you’re a tried and true Trekkie …

Excuse me, Trekker. Trekkers hate being called Trekkies. NOTE: You know how you can tell if someone is a Trekkie? They insist on being called Trekkers. But I digress.

If you’re a serious fan check out Discovery, but if you really want to see a great Star Trek series, it’s “The Orville.”

Boldly going wherever they’re told to boldly go!

BACK TO THE DRESDEN WORLD: READING THE SERIES AGAIN – Marilyn Armstrong

I really missed Jim Butcher and Harry Dresden. I missed Harry, the only wizard listed in Chicago’s telephone book. I miss his huge furry dog Mouse. And his gigantic cat. I  miss his magical Chicago and the strange island in the middle of Lake Michigan.

The only new writing he has put out in recent years is a collection of short stories, which I bought and read. And then, I began the entire series from the beginning, books one through 15 because I live in hope that someday, he will decide to write one last book about Harry Dresden. Just one more.

Including spineI am a Harry Dresden and Jim Butcher fan, so there’s no way for me to discuss any of these books with even a semblance of neutrality. If you also love the series, the enchanted world of Harry Dresden and Jim Butcher … I’m with you.

In the next to last Dresden book, “Ghost Story,” Harry was neither entirely alive nor quite dead. It was a difficult excursion for Harry’s fans. I liked it well enough, though it was different from any previous Harry Dresden adventure. I was sure it was an important bridge to the next phase of Harry’s world and I was right.

“Cold Days” is more satisfying. Although Harry gets pulverized (as usual), I’m consoled knowing Harry will survive what would kill an ordinary mortal. He has, after all, already survived death. Earlier books ended with more resolution than the last few. Now, each book is an episode in a continuing storyline. “Cold Days” brings Harry back — alive, this time. He is different. Changed, less careless of life having lost it … but as Winter Knight, he is powerful in new ways. This is just as well because his foes are stronger than ever and they aren’t going away.

Jim Butcher is brilliant.

He extracts Harry from impossible predicaments in which he faces horrendous odds, then adroitly uses these apparently hopeless situations to move the story in a new direction that will become the next book. Nothing is superfluous. It’s all part of a giant jigsaw puzzle, a piece of the full picture to be revealed in a subsequent installment.

I love the Dresden universe. My world has more than enough evil to keep an army of wizards busy, but the evil on this plane is likely to consist of grey bureaucrats, smarmy politicians. Fighting them is like trying to punch a hole in jello. You can’t beat them; they have no substance. Harry fights evil for me. He takes his lumps and then some, but he’s out there fighting for justice, even when it seems he’s taken a wrong turn. Despite appearances, Harry is never bad, though he is stubborn, too wedded to his own opinions. He has always been a poor listener and this failure has cost him dearly.

He listens better these days.

Harry is changing and growing. He’s painfully (in the most literal sense) aware of his mortality and fragility. He knows he’s made terrible mistakes he can never set right. He’s not cocksure anymore. He has become more of a planner. He is less inclined to charge headlong into danger unless it is the only course. Mindless violence is no longer his default setting. All to the good.

I’m sensing a climactic conclusion to the series coming. I wish the series would go on forever, but Jim Butcher has said it will be 20 books and a trilogy. I’m not sure if the trilogy is part of the 20 books or in addition to it. I keep meaning to ask. Maybe I’ll just wait and see.

Harry Dresden

I hope — by now — the next installment of the Dresden Files is nearing publication. I’ll be waiting and ready to read when it comes around! Meanwhile, if you haven’t gotten to this one, don’t miss it. It’s rich, complex and I promise it will grab you and take you for a ride you won’t forget.

I’m now finishing the last full book – Skin Game. I think there needs to be at least one more. Please Jim, one more. Just one. After that, I’ll stop begging.

He has his own website where you can find all his books. It’s called Jim Butcher. All his books are available at Amazon and everywhere they sell books, including Audiobooks.