Now before I get too far into this, I want to say that I’m not really sure if this is a good use of taxpayer money or not. Our tax dollars go towards lots of programs and I don’t necessarily think that every one has to appeal to every taxpayer because in a country of 300 million people, that’s simply not realistic!

Still I thought this was interesting simply because until five minutes ago I had no idea that such a program even existed…

The program that I speak of is called Essential Air Service and it’s run by the US Dept. of Transportation to help support air travel in rural areas that otherwise couldn’t commercially support it. The way that I discovered it was through a random news article shared on Facebook about a local airport back home in Northern Michigan adding direct service to Dallas for a limited time this summer, with a single line catching my eye…

“It costs more than a million dollars to add this service, but the United States Department of Transportation provided a $750,000 grant.”

I found this interesting because apparently a total of 8 small town airports around Michigan collect some $18 million in federal tax dollars each year through Essential Air Service, out of a larger $300 million nationwide.

Now Michigan is very bottom heavy with regards to its population distribution, in that the big cities across the bottom of the state – Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Detroit – have by far the most, and the further north you go, the fewer people you’ll find until you eventually get into the Upper Peninsula where you tend to encounter more deer than actual human beings. 😉

The problem is, deer don’t fly commercial flights, so if you want to travel anywhere you pretty much have to drive downstate in order to catch a plane, with Detroit Metro being the largest airport in the state. Though many smaller communities scattered throughout the state have airports of their own, they’re mostly limited to small planes and in most cases, they’re just puddle jumpers that connect you through Detroit to continue on to your destination anyways…

I’ve never actually flown into one of the smaller airports myself, mostly because they’re typically a lot more expensive. For example, several years ago I remember pricing out tickets to visit during the summer and while two round-trip tickets from Tampa to Detroit were around $200 each, tickets from Tampa to Pellston – a small town much closer to home – were closer to $750 each!

For reference, flying into Detroit leaves you with another 4 hour car ride to get up to my hometown, whereas flying into Pellston is maybe an hour’s drive at best.

So a few thoughts here:

  • How does the airline justify charging 3x the ticket prices when they’re also getting excess of a million dollars a year in taxpayer subsidizes just to operate out of that small town airport?!
  • Is this a good use of taxpayer funds, particularly with a sizable national debt?
  • Who really benefits from these subsidizes?

I’m kind of torn on this because up until reading this article, I assumed that the higher ticket prices in these smaller airports were what the airlines needed to charge to justify doing business in those regions … but to hear that they’re also getting taxpayer funding on top of those high ticket prices??? Sure, it’s the same thing that we did with telephone surcharges and now do with cable and broadband taxes in order to require those companies to service rural areas, but at the end of the day does it all just come at the fault of our country being way too spread out in the first place?

I’m not sure if there’s much argument for transportation access for locals simply because – granted, depending on the area and the carrier – it’s hard for me to imagine most small town residents being able to afford those rates to fly local anyways! I know that whenever we flew and even now, we’d fly into the larger airport farther away purely because the time cost was easier to justify than the ticket cost.

Still, it makes it easier for travelers to come and visit these areas, and I’m ok with tax dollars going to support tourism … though I might suggest that the local states would be better off funding this reason than federal dollars.

There are jobs created – both direct and indirect – that the locals can enjoy, but again, I’m not crazy about taxes funding job creation if the markets can’t support them on their own … at least with regards to for-profit entities, for the most part.

So at the end of the day, is this just a $300 million Christmas present to an industry that’s kind of struggling, but let’s not kid ourselves when they still clear $16 billion a year in profits???

I’d be curious to know how much taxpayer funding it costs us as a nation – between transportation, telecommunications, and whatever other subsidizes like this are out there – simply to support everyone living so far apart. You’ve got to figure it also costs more in roads and bridges, there are probably expenses related to energy and other resources … what else?

And don’t get me wrong, there are certainly plenty of beautiful, natural areas around the USA that I wouldn’t exactly call for scrapping, even if the most utopian configuration called for populations in dense towers all crunched into a state the size of Texas!

Still, it’s interesting to discover a nearly unknown program that realistically affects a pretty small segment of our population, and to try and better understand the justifications for why it exists in the first place.

More Home Automation Talk

January 3, 2017 12:57am
Tagged with:

So I’ve been thinking more about home automation lately – which in itself is a bit comical because apparently the last time I wrote about it was a year and a half ago – but nonetheless I think that it’s going to become a project of mine for this year, at least from an introductory perspective.

The thing that I’ve learned the most so far is that, simply put, there’s a lot to take in, and I’m seeing at least the potential for the same conflicts we’ve seen with audio and video where different companies have their own formats and aren’t necessarily eager to work together. And I hope that’s not the case because a big part of this for me is really going to be getting all of these various things to do that as much as possible…

…though I’m entertaining the idea that if everything is controlled via an iPad and different functions have their own apps, maybe that would be ok.

I think that comes much later, though. For now I think my best approach is to narrow down just a couple areas of focus – primarily ones that offer some real function to my home and not just ones that sound neat, but admittedly I’m not really lacking or anything. 

For example:

Lighting
I’m still trying to wrap my head around the traditional lights because although having the ability to change colors and put on light shows and all of that sounds cool, at $50/bulb the cost is just ridiculous with very little objective value. Plus I’m not entirely sure that it makes sense to have “connected bulbs” that burn out in favor of switches that control many lights, as is the case with most of the rooms in my house.

Still, I have a shelf up high that spans the main wall in our living room which we decorated with lit up garland for the holidays and we kind of grew accustomed to the ambient light when the house was otherwise dark, so I thought this might be a good trial to run a strand or two of LED strip lights along the top that can be controlled remotely.

Keyless Entry
This is a simple one. I’ve got three kids now and thus I almost never come through the front door with nothing in my hands, so just like I’ve loved not having to dig out my car keys to open the door anymore, now seems like the time to introduce that same technology to the house as well.

Pool Temperature
I’ve tried a couple of floating sensors from Home Depot over the years and frankly, none have lasted more than a couple of months tops. But I think that it would be really useful to be able to compare air temp and the actual water temp in our pool to gauge if taking an afternoon dip is realistic or not.

Three fairly simple tasks – I think. Two of which should just be configuring products out of the box, with the pool thermometer possibly needing some creative fabrication to make an underwater sensor where others in the past have failed. But I think all of these are reasonable, and more importantly, each would serve a worthwhile role to help really sell me on the other stuff that seems cool, but might not be as instantly beneficial as not having to fumble for my keys when I’m trying to get kids and groceries through the door! 🙂

Because in everything that I’ve looked at so far, there is a bunch of neat stuff out there to pick up – a Nest thermostat, the indoor and outdoor cameras for security, fancy smoke detectors that run for 4x what regular ones do, and maybe even one of these Amazon Echo discs to control everything via voice command … if we can prevent Alexa from rattling off porn phrases, anyways!

Of course, the other side is that this stuff isn’t exactly cheap and although I’d like to think that a well-designed system might help to raise our home value when we’re ready to sell in a couple of years, it’s definitely something that will need to be done in phases rather than just going wild with an Amazon order and getting a box of robots in the mail two days later! It should be fun, though, and I’ll plan on writing more about it once I’m able to start picking a few of these things up later on this spring.

Super Mario Run is surprisingly fun!

December 29, 2016 1:03am
Tagged with:

So I’ve been playing the new Mario game for iOS on and off since it came out a few weeks ago, and I’ve got to say that despite some of the negativity that I read, I personally found it to be pretty enjoyable.

I’ll admit that when I first heard the news, the idea of seeing a Mario game on a platform other than one created by Nintendo did seem very weird, and I can’t help but wonder if it was more or less published in response to Pokemon Go – a game that was immensely popular, though I can’t see making a lot of revenue for the company because they only charged for add-ons and not for the game itself.

Super Mario Run, on the other hand, cost a whopping $9.99 after a relatively small number of trial levels, which is more than I’ve paid for almost any of my apps except for maybe business-oriented ones, but I was curious and I haven’t bought a new Mario game since that weird cat one, so I figured I’d give it a try…

The look and feel is identical to The New Super Mario Bros, with the only real difference being the continuous running aspect, which took a while getting used to but after a while I found really grew on me. At first it seems weird playing a game with literally only one action – tap to jump – however a lot of my complaints about other iOS games is that they try to cram in a full controller’s worth of buttons onto the screen and it ends up looking just like the console version, but essentially unplayable.

I didn’t get that with SMR and although I sped through World 1 pretty quick, the worlds to follow offered quite a bit of challenge – I certainly didn’t just blow through them all in the course of an hour!

Lately I’ve been going back to the earlier levels and trying out the various coin challenges where you have to collect five pink, purple, or teal coins from each level, with each color getting increasingly difficult. I’ve gotten all of the pink and purple for several levels, but I don’t think I’ve cleared all teal for any one level just yet – they’re pretty tough, even at the very beginning.

But it’s nice to see that challenge in an otherwise pretty simple game. In a way, it almost has a Lemmings quality to it, or maybe that Mario vs Donkey Kong puzzle game for the DS … they’ve taken the Mario universe and put an interesting spin on it to make a new experience for the purely touch-oriented iOS world, which is kind of what they do if you look back to the likes of Super Mario Galaxy, or Mario 64, or whatever the new Mario title was for each Nintendo console on down the line.

Again, it’s a little odd for Nintendo to release a game from their flagship brand for a platform other than one of their own, but maybe that’s ok. I don’t really play the Nintendo DS simply because I’m getting older and the screens don’t work for me anymore, but give me a simple Mario game that can entertain me for a few random minutes here and there on my phone and I’ll play it, and I’ll like it, too! 😉

Paying the Cost of Journalism

December 23, 2016 4:40pm
Tagged with:

When I first moved to Florida, I was a proud subscriber to our daily local newspaper – the now defunct Tampa Tribune.

I had actually started getting the Sundays mailed to me about a year prior so that I could look through the classifieds for jobs and places to live, and I ended up extending it to a full subscription when I got here admittedly because it felt like the grown-up thing to do, plus it cemented the idea that my new city warranted a seven day newspaper whereas the papers back home in Northern Michigan were only published something like twice a week! The paper would get delivered to the front door of my apartment every morning in time for me to take it to work with me, and it would end up getting passed around my team throughout the day until I had a chance to read it myself during lunch.

That went on for several years until eventually I stopped carrying it to work with me and the growing pile of unread papers on my floor became more of a guilt-trip than an honest source for news. By then it was probably 2007 / 2008 and I was getting the vast majority of my news, including stories from the paper that got delivered to me by hand, off the Internet before I ever got around to even unbagging the day’s newspaper until finally I just bit the bullet and canceled the thing altogether.

I remember literally sitting on the floor with several dozen newspapers, flipping through them methodically to skim for anything I may have missed just because I felt guilty throwing the papers out without ever even opening them!

So fast-forward to today, like many of my like-minded colleagues in the wake of the election season and particularly this fake news hysteria, I just recently subscribed to a couple of newspapers … electronically, that is. For me, I chose The New York Times because they seem to hit on most of the biggest national and world stories and the Orlando Sentinel because I enjoy their tourism and theme park coverage.

The total cost once their promotional periods are over is less than $4 a week.

Mind you, I’m a bit torn about paying for online content across the board just because I don’t think I want to see the Internet turn into a place where micro-payments are the cost of access, although between my own dwindling ad revenues and the awful user experiences that more and more sites are willing to subject readers to in exchange for ad dollars once again, my opinion on the topic certainly isn’t set in stone…

But I think when it comes to real journalism – not opinions that are a dime a dozen, but true, ethical reporting – as the information age continues to grow in ways that we’re not entirely sure how to contain, it’s important that we put our support behind those news sources which we rely on so that money isn’t a reason for them to fall off the edge of the earth like countless newspapers have done in the last decade. Sure, it’s becoming harder and harder to know what represents honest reporting these days and I’ll sincerely admit that my own selections aren’t 100% unbiased, but I think we need to start somewhere and for the stories that I’ve found myself wanting to read more and more lately, these are two of the papers that consistently deliver.

Plus I’m getting sick of seeing that “You’ve exceeded your 10 free articles for the month!” pop-up from the Times and they’re like every third story in my Facebook feed, so I’m willing to pay a couple of bucks a month just to get rid of that alone! 😛

#ServerProgress

December 20, 2016 8:56pm
Tagged with:

Update: Got the scottsevener.com network of sites moved back over to its new home, everything is resolving correctly and not in 48 seconds per page load, and it’s being served through Varnish + Apache … woohoo!

Mind you, I’m not entirely sure that it’s configured correctly because speeds aren’t tons faster, but we’ll work on configuration tweaking another day … I’ve got so much catch-up writing to do now… 😛

Troubleshooting page load speed, part 45…

December 20, 2016 3:31pm
Tagged with:

For the record, I’m painfully aware that the page load times on several of my sites have been, well, unbearable as of late!

Admittedly it’s a problem that I’ve been stalling on for some time now, despite the regular high load emails that I get from my server. A few days ago I got one saying it was as bad as a 5-minute load average of 68.94 … and this is on a VPS with three CPUs and 5 GB of RAM that does honestly pretty light traffic right now, unfortunately…

I had been hoping that most of it could be chalked up to an OS issue because I recently discovered that cPanel had stopped updating on me after reaching a version threshold where the latest would no longer run on 32-bit operating systems, which I was kind of surprised to learn that I had, but again, this VPS was setup back in 2012 so I suppose 32-bit could’ve still been the default four years ago.

The trouble is, there’s really no clean way to upgrade my server from 32- to 64-bit leaving everything intact, so it requires spinning up a new machine and migrating everything over to the newer OS.

Plus, the way I migrated four years ago to VPS from my plain, old shared hosting account of maybe eight years was using cPanel’s built-in account transfer features, which although made it incredibly easy (plus my host did most of the work!), lord only knows how much random garbage has accumulated in all of those files over 8 + 4 years of shared history!

So I had planned on making the migration sort of a clean-up effort along the way and only copy over the guts of each WordPress install, leaving behind whatever caches and other nonsense have accumulated over the years.

And then terrible performance got even worse!!!

When it got to the point where it would literally take upwards of a minute to move from one page on my blog to another, and the admin pages would randomly get disconnected because they couldn’t touch base with the server when it was super overloaded, I knew that it was time to finally tackle this pig. So within a few hours time, I created a second VPS with my awesome web host and gradually let it go through all of the OS and app updates while I staged just one install – my multisite that contains my blog, Thing-a-Day, and about half a dozen other sites – and everything seemed to be going fine…

…until I switched my domain over to the new server…

…upon which usage started blowing up like crazy, again despite little traffic, and even though I started this new VPS a bit smaller than my main server (figuring I could upgrade once I’m ready to stop paying for the old one), it quickly became unusable just like the old machine had been.

From here I started doing some digging into WordPress itself because no longer could I point fingers at the 32-bit OS. I downloaded a couple of plugins – P3 Profiler and Query Monitor – and with the latter’s help, that’s when I noticed that apparently I had a plugin that was just GOING NUTS against MySQL day and night:

To walk you through this fun graph, the orange is your normal SELECT queries that happen when anyone hits a page and WordPress queries its database to build it; the purple, on the other hand, is somehow all INSERT queries, which should really only ever happen when I’m publishing a new post, with a few exceptions.

And those two big valleys in the purple that you see around the 18th and then again between 19 and 20? The first is when I had temporarily pointed my domain over to the new server; the second is keeping the domain back on the old server, but turning off the plugin in question … which apparently solves just about everything!

By the way, the last little purple sliver is me turning the plugin back on so that I can capture some logs to send over to the plugin’s developer to help him look for a fix…

because the thing is, I actually really like this plugin – it’s called WP Word Count and I’ve used it on just about all of my sites for years and years to summarize how much writing I’ve put into my projects. I love it, and if I can spare the time next year, I want to make use of its work to pull together a running total of word counts for all of my work combined so that I can ultimately put together a fun, little dashboard to help motivate me to keep putting words on the screen!

Luckily after finding another multisite user with the same issue, I left a quick comment expressing the same and got a reply from the plugin’s developer later on that evening, so it’s awesome that they’re actively interested in patching this bug because I’ve evaluated a lot of other options and honestly never really found ones that I liked better than theirs.

In the meantime it’ll have to stay off, though, as I continue with my fun server migration. During this whole effort, I’m also trying to really hone in on The Perfect VPS WordPress Configuration, so I’m doing other things like tinkering with Varnish and considering adding Nginx in front of Apache, and then eventually I also want to fine tune W3 Total Cache so that I have one reliable set of caching / compression / minifying rules to use for all of the different sites that I publish … because I figure if I’ve seriously been doing this publishing on the web-thing for over fifteen years now, my pages should be some of the fastest loading around!

Stay tuned for more as I struggle through more issues to come! Now if I can only get this stupid thing to post… 😛

movie thoughts … Snowden

December 12, 2016 3:10am
Tagged with:

It scares me to think that I distinctly remember when this story broke a few years ago and what a big deal it was, or was supposed to be, and yet here three years later I honestly don’t know how much I trust that anything really happened to change anything.

I mean, I understand that President Obama eventually recanted … to some extent, and then Congress passed some reform bills … to some extent, and for the most part our 24-hour news cycle has long since moved on to other topics as it is wont to do…

…but for a secret spy network whose only accountability is to a group of politicians behind closed doors who don’t have to tell us anything under the guise of national security – how are we supposed to believe that anything actually changed at all after Edward Snowden leaked the security documents that he did???

Cinematically, I think the movie turned out great. Joe Gordon Levitt nailed the role as Snowden, and hopefully it had enough suspense to get the story out to a wider audience, many who may have skipped over the headlines either blindly in the name of fighting terrorism or even merely writing Edward Snowden off as some computer hacker just as disappointingly as Obama did in one of his less admirable points during his presidency.

Because the thing is, I have little doubt that the NSA is technically capable of intercepting telephone and Internet transmissions of normal, everyday American citizens like you and me. And though it admittedly kind of blows my mind how much disk space it would require for a government agency to literally have a record button for THE INTERNET, you can buy a lot of hard drives for the $50 billion a year that’s allegedly our intelligence community’s budget…

…cause we can’t even know that out of fear for national security… 🙁

I think privacy is a very basic concept that most people probably take for granted. If you’re standing inside of your own home and you’re speaking at a reasonable volume, naturally you would assume that nobody outside can hear what you’re saying, and even if what you’re talking about is utter nonsense, you still wouldn’t invite the entire neighborhood into your living room to just sit on your couch and listen to your daily banter with your spouse.

The argument that “people who have nothing to hide have nothing to fear” is bullshit because we all have business that we don’t want being shared with random strangers, be it what we call our significant other behind closed doors or the sometimes bizarre Google searches we make out of sheer curiosity at three in the morning or the intimate details of our personal finances.

And one of the cornerstones of our justice system is the idea that each of us is “innocent until proven guilty” which means that spying on Americans just in case one happens to be a terrorist is treason. Yet because the best we can do is trust our politicians that they’re keeping the NSA under control … which has been proven categorically false as of late … not only do we not know if sacrificing our privacy in the name of national security is actually working, we also don’t know if that information is also being used to serve other personal or political motives in the name of perversion or even just good, old-fashioned crooked capitalism!

Because it’s estimated that 50,000 people work for the NSA and if we follow the same contact circles outlined in the movie, it doesn’t take more than a couple of hops to literally have tens of millions of people directly or indirectly connected to the analysts who could have access to anything they ever wanted to know about, well, anyone.

Of course, the whole issue of whistleblowers is a fine line because our government and our military need to keep some things secret in the missions that they’re performing, but when we the people can’t rely on those who we’ve elected to keep everybody honest, that’s when we occasionally need people like Edward Snowden or Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning who are willing to literally put their own lives on the line to point out that what these people are doing behind closed doors isn’t right.

Great movie, and I really hope that it helps to re-open the discussion about mass surveillance and what we’re really willing to let our governments do with when they tell us that they’re trying to protect us.

Dreaming Fact & Fiction

December 11, 2016 3:24pm
Tagged with:

I’ve always been kind of curious about dreams, hence for the past several years I’ve occasionally blogged the more memorable ones here for entertainment and posterity’s sake!

Last night I had a particularly interesting one, in that it was peppered with details that were both true and untrue – enough to lead me to wonder what exactly it is that makes up the content of our dreams … sometimes they’ll be completely fictional, sometimes an erie re-creation of past events, and every once in a while they’ll be like this one where fact and fiction seems to be sort of intertwined … and even more strangely enough, there were definitely a couple of moments where I knew that throughout my dream… 😕

I had returned to the auto parts warehouse where I used to work back in my hometown, and it was as if I was already working there again, but I also seemed ready to make my departure … again.

Walking into work one day, I found a note from the boss saying that I wasn’t supposed to keep personal items at work. It had been left in this upstairs second floor that the building had – which was true, however the part about getting in trouble was false.

The note had said that I could get my things – presumably some t-shirts and other clothes – from the manager who was holding them, but when I finally hunted him down, a bunch of my co-workers had gathered into sort of a dinner-type setting because they were all throwing this goodbye dinner for me.

This definitely didn’t happen, although the faces were all real!

What was particularly strange was that both old and newer employees alike were present – in reality, the warehouse got acquired by one of our competitors midway through my time there and some people left while other new faces joined – and yet here was a mix of both, though for some reason it sounded like somehow the original company had returned and managed to make a comeback.

At one point I found myself prompted to give a speech, and so I re-told a few anecdotes from working there through the years which everyone enjoyed, including a rousing story about the actual acquisition … which was booed, but then later applauded when I shared how the actual brand behind that company had still managed to survive.

Parts of this were actually true, in that the brand technically did survive and exists elsewhere today, though it no longer has nearly the presence in Michigan that it did before the acquisition. In fact, I even remember a few of my co-workers hoping that maybe someone else under the same brand would come in and “save us” from being acquired, but nothing ever came of that…

Eventually it was time for me to go, and I was packing up my things – which ended up being far more numerous than just a couple of stray t-shirts – though it was strange because around my desk were mementos from Florida, some rather personal from several girlfriends whom I certainly couldn’t have been dating all of at the same time! 😕

The references were real, and peculiar, and we’ll just leave it at that. 😛

As I was putting everything in bags, I started thinking about my future and about how instead of sticking around, maybe I should just hit the road and head back down to Tampa the very next day. Presumably there was some indecisiveness in my itinerary despite leaving my job up north, though the dream didn’t do much to elaborate.

I had vague recollections of a life that I once had down in Florida, but nothing definitive, and I think I thought that maybe once I got down to Tampa, more of those memories would come back to me.

This is a dream fragment that I have a lot, though admittedly not much as of recent – I’ll be back home, knowing that I used to live in Florida, but now I don’t … and I’m trying to put the pieces back together because I can’t quite remember how they fell apart and I had to go back home.

Mind you, none of this is factual, but I used to have nightmares about it for a long time – I think because moving was one of the most pivotal moments of my life.

The dream essentially faded away here, except for one other random fragment that was just too weird not to share because it involved somebody somehow flooding the warehouse – like an aquarium and we were all just swimming around underwater having a grand time until I finally had to come up for air because one of my children … it was unclear which one … was swimming with us, too, and he was having trouble and just needed to get flipped over!

While I was doing that, I had a pleasant chat with the manager who I’d worked with all of those years reflecting on everything that had transpired, so that was nice. 😉

And though I don’t recall a specific conversation that aligned with this one in the dream, I do remember leaving on a high note where he wished me luck and whatnot whereas it had taken many years for our working relationship to get to that point.

I guess it’s just both interesting and a bit odd to me to look at these subconscious, creative stories that happen inside of my own head and wonder how exactly they get put together in there … though now that I think about it, that’s how most of my creative work gets written, really. I either start with something outlandish and occasionally sprinkle in pieces of reality or maybe focus on a moment of truth, but then exaggerate it into a story that’s more funny or shocking or generally enjoyable than the original ever could’ve been on its own.

I’m not sure what the stats look like now, but I know that when I moved to Florida back in 2003 something like 700 people moved to the Sunshine State every single day. And as I sat there in my stately motel room, eating pizza and trying to write freelance articles for the newspaper that was now the polar opposite of the new world right outside of my motel door, it kind of blew my mind to think that in one form or another, there were another 699 people around the state – many of them right there with me in Tampa – who were going through the same thing!

So while the story itself wasn’t particularly unique, there were certainly bits and pieces that when blown a little out of proportion like any good humorist does make it a fun story to reflect back on, and so maybe that along with its significance in my life is why it seems to keep bubbling up time and time again while I’m trying to get a good night’s sleep, too.

And it makes me wonder if other creative folks find themselves dreaming like this as well. My wife, for example, says that she almost never dreams, which I’m about 95% sure isn’t just because she’s up every 2.5 hours to breastfeed the twins yet again! Despite all having the same general biological stuff on the inside, it tends to function a little differently for each of us … beyond that, though, there’s a reason why I’m a writer and not a biologist!

I did perform Dream On by Aerosmith in the talent room during my junior year of high school, so maybe that has something to do with it??? 😉

Short Fiction : Reckoning

December 10, 2016 12:20am
Tagged with:

The year is 2030 – some fourteen years after Emperor Trump was unknowingly elected to be the last President of the United States.

History books – what’s left of them, anyways – show that he ran under the decree that he would “Make America Great Again.” 

People even wore it on hats and posted the slogan proudly in their lawns.

Now barely more than a decade later it’s a phrase that is heard ominously across the landscape, from our institutions to our employers to our workforce itself, for failure to simply utter the words in response to a government official is paramount to treason in America today.

The only one who is afforded a Freedom of Speech in 2030 is Trump and Trump alone.

I spend a lot of time thinking while I’m at work about how things devolved the way they did so fast – it helps to make the manual labor move by faster during my daily 16-hour shift at the server farm. It’s a hot and grueling task to maintain the thousands of computers that support the Trump regime, but it’s better than building The Wall … I’ve heard that some men get tasked to work on the wall only to never see their families again, whether it’s the non-existent safety standards or the rogue patriots who still think that they can somehow make a difference in this world…

How they haven’t all been hunted down by Trump’s deportation squads, I have no idea, but admittedly there’s a small part of me that believes in what those guys fight for because rumor is that it’s what America was actually founded on centuries ago.

I understand the country had already begun to steer away from its roots by the time that Trump was elected to power. One half believed in the rights of the people, whereas the other half lived motivated by fear and antagonism, and it’s not hard to guess which side he chose to incite in order to take control of the American government. Some could see the writing on the wall and people protested in the streets, but they were quickly shutdown by his supporters who seemed to see Trump’s victory as a way for the like of them to clear the slate after having tolerated the other side for so long.

In fact, many were such ardent supporters of Trump after his election that they didn’t even realize what was really happening until nearly half the country had succumbed to his new style of leadership.

Unemployment fell to zero, namely because every able-bodied man was put to work in the national farms or underground in the mines or doing other menial tasks while at the same time females were banned from the workforce and expected to stay home raising the family, out of sight and out of mind.

International trade with other nations disappeared overnight as Trump declared that America would reject the global community and put to rest any reliance that it had on countries like China and Japan which were once known for making a majority of the goods consumed by Americans.

Immigration proved to be a rather simple problem to solve because long before construction even began on The Wall, illegal immigration all but ceased from our southern border as immigrants observed up close the rapidly deteriorating American lifestyle and thus decided that they were far safer outside of the American Empire in their own country.

Though it’s been years since anyone has seen Emperor Trump’s face publicly, his name remains plastered in gold letters upon our most monolithic of structures that we pass on our routes between work and our own meager homes. His messages are broadcast out to every citizen via devices that we are required to carry on our persons at all times – he uses an application they refer to as The Twitter that shares his most prolific thoughts with his followers in near real-time.

I’ve heard that in the past, these incredible devices could be used to communicate with just about anyone else on the planet who also possessed one, however today they’re limited to only official communiques from @realDonaldTrump.

He mostly sends messages out late into the night when we are just returning home from our workday, and they’re almost never coherent, but you didn’t hear that from me.

I’m sure America wasn’t perfect back then, but it certainly couldn’t have been any worse than the world we live in today – a darkened industrial complex where it’s difficult to breathe outdoors, working long hours for only government-approved rations with no time left for rest or relaxation, much less personal expression or any form of belief other than an unwavering allegiance to Trump. There are certainly those who prosper – mostly people who had vast wealths prior to Trump’s election or his own personal friends and colleagues.

They’re the ones who fly around in their private jets and live in these enormous, glass towers and enjoy lives that the rest of us work tirelessly to provide for them. America is no doubt great if you’re one of them, never wanting for a thing in their lives and yet always wanting a little more of ours, too.

Maybe it was them who he was really talking to when he promised to Make America Great Again.

Dream Journal : Alien Invasion

November 23, 2016 1:04pm
Tagged with:

I was an astronaut sent with five of my companions on a very important mission.

It hadn’t been long since they had shown up, their gigantic ships hanging ominously in the sky but otherwise not yet giving any hint to their contents, and so that was my team’s job to try and figure out from above. We would launch into space to get a better view of the situation and try to determine the fate of mankind…

We were a tight-knit team that had been up together many times before, however with so much at stake there were suddenly many new voices in the control room which all wanted a say in how we were to do our job, which ultimately led to our downfall … quite literally.

I recall the argument being about something as seemingly innocent as where each of us would sit in our own craft.

Astronauts train for the very worst of conditions using the buddy system much like kids do in the swimming hole at summer camp, though it’s a much tighter bond because up in space we trust each other with our lives and in those emergency situations each pair of astronauts really needs to be able to function as one for our best chance at survival.

As such, it makes logical sense that we sit facing each other on takeoff … but the voices that be had other plans because one of them had made their own seating chart that they expected us to follow, and even after insisting that we ultimately followed the command of our captain, not the people back on the ground, time was of the essence and he eventually caved so that we could get to work.

The last thing I remembered was reaching that point where the sky was both blue and black at the same time, and then suddenly I was waking up from blacking out and we were all floating in the ocean.

My buddy, the captain, and I were the only ones that survived, and we were lucky to even make it out of the water because by the time the helicopter made it out to sea to rescue us, there was nothing behind for it to return to because they had taken our liftoff as a sign that it was time to strike. We sought refuge in an abandoned building as best we could, but as three astronauts without a ship we felt especially helpless to fight the situation at hand.

But astronauts above anything else are problem solvers, so our new problem became how we could find ourselves a new ship.

© 1999 - 2017 Comedic-Genius Media, All Rights Reserved.