PROCASTINATION – IT’S EARLIER WHEN YOU THINK

Procrastination? It’s not procrastination. Uh uh. It’s enjoying the freedom of unharnessed time. For long time-faceyears, I too was scheduled. Always short of time, but never late. Never missed a deadline. Always left the house early in case I encountered traffic. I used up my time making sure to have enough time.

But time is all in our heads. There’s always time and there’s always no time at all. I put off what isn’t critical, do what must be done now, and the rest? I’ll have another cup of coffee and a Danish, please.

I call and change appointments when I don’t feel like going. If traffic piles up? I’m late. I say “Oops, sorry. Hit some traffic.” The world keeps spinning. No one takes out a pistol and shoots me. Yet.

In the immortal words of Robert Heinlein’s Time Travel Corps from All You Zombies —

Never Do Yesterday What Should Be Done Tomorrow

If At Last You Do Succeed, Never Try Again

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine Billion

A Paradox May be Paradoctored

It is Earlier When You Think

Ancestors Are Just People

Even Jove Nods.

Priorities are important. I’ll get my leaky valve fixed. In time. I’ll get that book review written. Tomorrow. I’ll process some more of the pictures we took yesterday … later. After coffee. After I read, write and think a while.

There will be time. For the important stuff. Maybe there won’t be time for other things and, well … they just won’t get done. Because my hurrying days are done.

WHY TIME TRAVEL DOESN’T WORK – BY TOM CURLEY

A word from Marilyn:

I want to introduce you to one of Garry and my best friends. I would say oldest friends, but he’s not all that old. We have, however, been friends … forever? Since college, anyhow. We were at the radio station at Hofstra — back in those long ago days when we and the world were young and stupid. His lovely bride, Ellin, started writing for Serendipity a few months ago and I dragooned Tom into it too.

Tom’s a funny guy. Really. Funny. This piece is so on target for today, I just had to run it. Probably he would have liked to work on it some more, but … well … I pulled the trigger.

Say hi to Tom. (Hi Tom!)

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WHY TIME TRAVEL DOESN’T WORK – BY TOM CURLEY

So there I was. Thinking. Not quite awake. Not exactly asleep. You know. The funny place between.

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And it hit me. Fixing all this craziness is simple. The question is WWCKD? Or, to put simply, “WHAT WOULD CAPTAIN KIRK DO?” If you look at the problem like that, the answer is simple. Obvious.

Travel back in time to a point where you can change the present from happening. As any Star Trek fan knows, Kirk did it all the time.

Now that I had the solution, the question became a matter of coördinates. To when and where do I go back to fix this? And the answer came to me as if in a dream …

Go back to 1998. Convince President Clinton to stay the hell away from Monica Lewinsky. There would be no scandal, no impeachment. Bill could campaign for Al Gore — like he was supposed to — and George Bush would never get elected. Everything that happened after that would not happen!

Brilliant!

So as I was drifting off to sleep, I imagined finding a time machine. Going back to 1998. Actually getting an audience with Bill Clinton … in the Oval Office.

How do I do this? Who knows? I’ll let the writers will work out those plot points later. I’m more into the “Big Picture Stuff”.

But … this is also where the whole idea fell apart because the conversation would go like this:


President Clinton: “Well for some reason the writers haven’t figured out yet, I believe you are a time traveler from the future with important information for me.”

Me: “Yes Mr. President. You must not have an affair with your intern, Monica Lewinsky.”

President Clinton: “Whoa! How’d you know about that?”

Me: “I’m from the future, remember?”

President Clinton: “Oh yeah right. I guess that makes sense. So, why shouldn’t I do that?”

Me: “Because you will get caught. The public is going to find out about it. The Republicans are going to impeach you because of it.”

President Clinton: “Well, that’s not good.”

Me: “Don’t worry. You don’t get convicted. Your approval ratings go up to over 70%.”

President Clinton: “Well that’s good, right?”

Me: “Not really. Because when Al Gore runs for president, he won’t let you campaign for him. Or let you anywhere near him.”

President Clinton: “Really. Hmm. Who’s he running against?”

Me: “George W. Bush.”

President Clinton: “You gotta be kidding me!”

Me: “Nope. And even though Al runs a terrible campaign, he will only lose the election by 500 votes. Well, actually years later, when a full recount is done, it turns out Al actually won. But in 2000, the Supreme Court steps in and stops the recount. And appoints Bush as President.”

President Clinton: “I don’t think the Supreme Court can do that.”

Me: “Neither did anybody else. Until they did it. So George W. Bush becomes the president. One of the first things he does is ignore all the intelligence agencies warnings that Osama Bin Ladin is going to attack the US.

Because of this al-Qaeda hijacks four 747’s out of Logan in Boston — and La Guardia in New York … using nothing but box cutters as weapons. They crash two planes into the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon.

The Twin Towers are destroyed, thousands of people die. Now, even though all the hijackers are from Saudi Arabia — and Bin Laden is hiding in Afghanistan — Bush invades Iraq. Totally destabilizing the Middle East.

Wall Street creates a bubble based on the housing market and that causes a world-wide financial crash in 2008 in which trillions of dollars are lost, and millions of people around the world lose their jobs.

So in 2008 America elects a black guy — Barak Hussein Obama — as president, then in 2010 a bunch of billionaires help create something called the Tea Party. And the Republicans swing so far to the right, Barry Goldwater would be considered a Communist.

By 2016, which is what I call ‘the present,’ it seems pretty likely your wife is going to be running for President against … wait for it …

Donald Trump.”


At this point, the Secret Service enters the Oval Office and drags me away. As I’m being carried out, I see The Truth.

Wow. When you actually say all that out loud? I don’t believe it either.

Then I fell asleep.

MULTIPLE CHOICE

I do not know how many times WordPress has run this prompt. This is an edited answer I wrote the first time it came up, in 2013. 


If you’re into science fiction or quantum physics, life’s road is full of forks — and each fork creates its own reality. Our real choices are not between less or more traveled roads, but between realistic choices. Rarely do we have a genuine option to veer off the main road into uncharted territory. It’s more about figuring out where we want to go, then how to get there.

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We make our choices under a lot of pressure when we’re too young to know what we want. Such is life. Before we’re of drinking or voting age, we make the most important decisions of our lives.

My first big choice was what to choose as my college major. Music? Something useful? Can I just screw around until I figure out what I want? How about all three?

I went with “all three.” Technically, I was a music major. Unofficially, I was a comparative religion major (now there’s a practical choice). Mostly, though, I majored in hanging out at the college radio station. It turned out music was fun, but I lacked sufficient talent to make it my life’s work. Religion? Fascinating, but it’s not a profession for me.

The radio station, for which I got no credit and where I had a blast with all the other misfits who found each other in the dank, tiny studios in the basement of the Little Theater, moved me along the path to life as a professional writer.

That’s what I was going to do, no matter what else I chose. It was me.

The point is, we make choices. During the summer between my junior and senior year, I got a three-way choice.

1) My old boyfriend with whom I could not have a civil conversation, but with whom I had exceptional sex had sent me tickets to join him at his summer stock theater in Cape May. A summer by the sea with all the hot sex I could imagine. Hmm. I was 18. Not an unattractive offer.

2) The guy I’d been dating at the radio station —  who ran it and worked for the university and got paid and everything (he was 8 years older than me) — asked me to marry him. I really liked Jeff. Smart, funny, probably the best conversationalist I’ve ever known. Witty, word-wise and good-looking in a blond waspy way. If I stayed, I’d be married before summer was over.

3) I got accepted into the Communications program at Boston University. Great program. In the 1960s, Boston was ultra-cool. Joan Baez sang in Harvard Square. Comedy clubs featured the future kings of late night. Unlike uncool Hempstead. Hofstra didn’t have a communications program. Yet. The radio station was the closest Hofstra offered to a program and you didn’t get a diploma by working there.

I had to do a lot of deciding. I married Jeff.

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Of the three choices, the real choice was what was right. For me.

I made a good choice. I was where I belonged. It set the course of my life for the next 15 years, after which the dials on that Big Machine sent me in another direction.

In my theoretical science fiction universe, the 3-way choice created three realities: one I chose and two I didn’t. These realities exist on separate planes somewhere in the time-space continuum.

Somewhere, there’s a Marilyn who went to Boston, and another who went to Cape May. If I meet them I’ll ask them how it went.

I bet all of us are here, married to Garry. Some things must happen. Destiny. Karma. Or maybe they are the same thing.

As for the road less traveled, less traveled roads are often dead ends. That’s why they’re less traveled. If you are going to go down such roads, make sure you’re very good at making u-turns in tight spaces. Oh, and watch out for the quicksand.

CAPTAIN QUIRK HAS THE BRIDGE

The tall, used-to-be-handsome captain stands on his bridge as the U.F.O. Sloth shoots through the darkness of space. That’s right, Captain Quirk is at the helm. Again. The ship is hurtling through the universe at Warp 9 toward its next destination.

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What destination? Unknown. This is a voyage of exploration, of discovery.

That’s probably why everyone is drunk.

What could possible be more boring that traveling endlessly through the void of space looking for something, anything to break up the monotony?

Quirk has this command because it was the only way to get him out from underfoot at headquarters. The crew, comprised of whack jobs, bizarre misfits, malcontents, substance abusers, and dunderheads, could care less where they go as long as they don’t run out of booze.

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Maybe they’ll find new planets. Maybe they’ll just wander endlessly around intergalactic space until they run out of fuel, get old, and pass away.

Back at headquarters, either outcome will be welcomed.

This is the Quirk I know and love. Captain Quirk. A man’s man. A lady’s man. A leader. Going nowhere, but doing it with style, authority and zest.

ALL YOU ZOMBIES, ROBERT HEINLEIN

Time travel makes my brain go “eek.” This is a compliment. Not many things make my brain do back flips and somersaults. Time travel is an impossible concept I cannot understand because it is inherently incomprehensible. Therefore, I love it.

This review contains spoilers, so if you’ve never read this, you might want to stop now and allow yourself to be surprised.

I first read this story by Robert Heinlein long ago as part of a compilation of his classic short stories. After all these years, it remains on the top of the heap of time travel tales. I couldn’t remember its title, so it took me a while to find it. It is called “All You Zombies.”

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In a strange infinite loop, a baby girl is mysteriously dropped off at an orphanage in Cleveland in 1945. “Jane” grows up lonely and dejected, not knowing who her parents are, until one day in 1963 she is strangely attracted to a drifter. She has a brief passionate relationship with him and becomes pregnant.

The stranger disappears.

During a weird and complicated birthing, Jane’s doctors discover she actually has two complete sets of sex organs. With her life on the line, the doctors change her from female to male. Jane is now a man. Then …. a mysterious stranger kidnaps her baby leaving Jane a man and childless.

Depressed, lost, he becomes a drunk and a drifter. He eventually, meets a young woman in a bar, who he impregnates during a brief affair. The story contains even more complexities, involving the Time Corps and a bartender. Throughout, everything continues moving forward and backward in time.

Read it, and get your own brain in a twist.

Zombies

The story is a paradox, impossible yet structured with its own internal logic that you can neither reject nor accept. At which point, my brain goes “Eek!!” Jane is everyone. Everyone is Jane. She is her family: tree, trunk, branches and roots.

I found this amazing diagram on the Heinlein Society’s web page. They have lots of other cool stuff too and if you’re a fan, take a look. You won’t be disappointed.

The circular logic combined with the impossibility of the sequence where the same person is mother, father and child forever in an infinite loop — the snake eating its tail — is deliciously mind-blowing. You can get it for your Kindle from Amazon for $1.25, or as part of an anthology of Heinlein short stories. There are several listed on Amazon, new and used.

Heinlein did much of his most creative writing in these early short stories. His later novels are better known today, especially Stranger In a Strange Land. The short stories have gotten a bit lost in time but are well worth your time. Most were written for the science fiction fanzines — newsprint magazines that were the primary outlets for sci fi until the genre broke into mainstream literature in the 1960s. Not only Heinlein, but all the classic great science fiction authors started their careers writing for the fanzines.

I’ve read many hundreds of time travel books and stories over more than 50 years of loving science fiction. But this one, this story, has stuck firmly in my brain as the most perfect paradox where the past, present and future come together in a perfect conundrum.

All You Zombies is my favorite for good reason. It’s unforgettable. I promise you will never forget it either.

HE’S HERE! OY.

300-shmuel my uncle“So,” says Uncle Shmuel, who having appeared out of nowhere is now sitting at the table enjoying a nice piece cake. Miraculously  he speaks excellent vernacular American English — albeit with a heavy Yiddish accent,

“Nice place you got here. I see you keep your animals in your house. That one there sounds like a pig but looks like a dog.”

“They are our pets, Uncle Shmuel. The oinker is Nan. She just makes that sound. She’s kind of old. I think that’s the dog equivalent of ‘oy’.”

“Pets, shmets. Animals. In the house. What’s next? Toilets? Never mind, your life, your choice. Oy.”

“Can I give you something to eat? Tea? Coffee? Cake? If we don’t have it, I can go out and buy some.”

“Are you Kosher?”

“Uh, no. Not Kosher,” and I shiver, remembering the many pork chops that have passed across our dishes. “Oh, wait, here’s my husband. Uncle Shmuel, I’d like you to meet my husband Garry.”

Shmuel looks shrewdly at Garry, then at me. “He doesn’t look Jewish.”

Garry’s eyes twinkle. “But really I am,” he says and deftly pulls a yarmulke out of his pocket. It say “Joel’s Bar Mitzvah” across the back in big white letters. Fortunately, Shmuel doesn’t notice.

“So,” Shmuel continues after a pregnant pause, “You have problems with the Cossacks?”

“No Cossacks, but lots of politicians,” I reply.

“Cossacks, politicians, there’s a difference?”

“Not so much,” I admit.

“And for a living you do what?”

“We’re retired. But before that, I was a writer. Garry was a reporter. On television.”

“What’s a television?”

I look at Shmuel, realize we are about to embark on an extended conversation, so all I say is: “Oy vay is mir!” Which seems to sum it up.

Oy. Can someone set the table?

WANTED: THE TIME STRETCHING GADGET

Time travel? Invisibility? Anywhere doors? Nope, none of the above. What I need — right now — is a time extender.

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I need something that makes every 24 hours give me as much time as 48. The faster I try to go, the behinder I seem to get. Now, the holiday is barreling down on me.

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Sadly, the local gadget store is not selling a time extender, so I’m going to bite into the mountain of work I’ve been nibbling at and see if I can reduce it to a molehill … and make my deadline which is getting scarily close.

If I don’t come to visit your site, forgive me. I still love you all, but this stuff I’m committed to ain’t getting done. I know of no way to fix it other than to simply do it.

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Maybe they’ve invented a clone-copy machine. I can use it to make a second me. She can do the stuff for which I don’t have time. You think?