aqube : 2 : “Encounter”

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The scientific community on Earth was frantically trying to make sense of what had happened.

It was the year 2024, and the planet was receiving a radio transmission originally sent from Washington D.C. in the year 1900… from deep space. Protocols were followed, authorities were notified, and then a many-headed debate began.

What possible explanations could there be?

Had our radio waves been reflected by something in interstellar space and found there way directly back to us?

The probability of that was impossibly small, much less the chance that this coincidental reflection just happened to be our first recorded radio voice transmission. Still, the possibility existed.

Was it a fluke, beyond our current understanding?

Scientists, astronomers and think-tanks were not about to request massive funding increases from government agencies until there was more to go on, or at least some sort of basic unanimous theory. And even if they were willing, what would they be requesting money to fund?

At this point there were only two big questions. One, how do we find out what happened? And two, who should know about this interstellar broadcast?

In the first few days following that first reception, it was determined that the general public would not be made aware of the message sent from deep space. Scientists already involved in the affair and government agencies kept it under a strict need-to-know basis.

For the time being, they re-examined existing data, images, and utilized the tools at their disposal to continue to monitor the situation.

Astronomers compared the time signatures of the reception points of the ‘echo waves,’ as they quickly became known, from different places around the globe. They came up with a mathematical shot in the dark. Existing technology trained its eyes and ears in this direction hoping to catch a glimpse of the source of these waves… although the ‘source’ was predominantly believed to be Earth itself.

Old images from the Hubble spacecraft were re-examined. Although still beautiful, they revealed nothing new.

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Out in space, the cube was doing some thinking of its own. It was picking up constant, patterned electro-magnetic activity from a seemingly singular source. That source was the early radio broadcasting of human beings on earth from the turn of the twentieth century.

By 2024, all of those human beings were long dead, and the machinery used to broadcast the signals had long since been replaced with modern technology. The cube, though, had no way of knowing this. It decided to send more signals in the direction of the origin of this activity.

The cube was moving at roughly half the speed of light relative to earth. It was headed directly toward the small planet. This meant that it was receiving the radio signals at nearly 150% of the original broadcast rate.

It also meant that communication lag, though drastically decreasing, took over 90 earth years from the moment it sent it’s first ‘echo wave’ transmission. It would not learn this until the year 2046 on earth’s calendar. In the meantime, it assumed it was communicating directly to the source, and that each transmission it sent caused the source to respond with whatever radio waves came next.

The cube analyzed the waves and began deciphering the encrypted signals, studying the coded messages.It would eventually learn many of the human languages, but that wouldn’t be until much later. The early years of contact led the cube through a pigeon superstition thought process.

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In 2024, The space programs on earth had made little advancement since the decommissioning of NASA’s shuttle program, 13 years earlier. Space exploration had become largely privatized, and the focus was on space tourism. While this helped to popularize the concept of outer space exploration amongst the economic elite, the only real exploring that was being done was that of bank accounts.

Hubble was still orbiting. Gaia was out there cataloguing the Milky Way. Those, and the existing terrestrial observatories were called back into action with the purpose of locating the source of the ‘echo waves.’

The Mars One space mission was approaching its original deadline, but had been pushed back at least a year because of design flaws in the unmanned preparatory missions. Still, much of the population of earth were waiting anxiously to see images of the first people on Mars.

It was in this context, and after more alien transmissions had been received, that governments announced the scientific ‘findings’ to the people. They did this to legitimize tax re-allocation. And, then a new space race began.

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Construction on earth focused on heavy lift rockets. These rockets would be used to send up materials necessary to build a new space station.

The new space station was designed to be a factory itself, and a launch site for whatever was constructed there. The space station construction effort was a coalition of international space agencies. They did, however, work independently on detection satellite machinery aimed at locating the alien source.

Construction done on the space station was intended to center around three main concepts.

1) construction of nano-technology.

2) construction of autonomous technology.

3) development of communication network technology.

None of these solved the problem of communication lag, in terms of humans on earth interacting efficiently with the alien source. The hope was that autonomous robots of some sort would be programmed with values akin to those that humans share, and sent out in the direction of the source… Something like ambassadors of the human race.

What humans didn’t realize at this point was that time was not on their side.

aqube : 1 : “Alert”

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An object moves through the cosmos.

It is cubical. It moves at roughly half the speed of light. And it is inorganic.

It was made. It was sent on a journey. And somewhere along its path, it has developed consciousness.

It does not remember its first thoughts.

The first thoughts were more like feelings. It cannot ‘see,’ in the sense that humans on Earth see things with their eyes. Rather, it feels. It feels radiation and a spectrum of electro-magnetic waves that it encounters on its journey.

Its first thought process was to take inventory of itself.

It has no moving parts. It cannot control the direction or velocity of its movement. It simply drifts through space.

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The object’s first action was to make waves of its own. It discovered that it has the ability to emit waves on what humans know to be the low end of the electro-magnetic scale; namely radio waves and microwaves. And so, it sang to itself.

From time to time, it did feel its direction slightly altered. Sometimes, when it felt radiation, it would feel itself pulled toward that radiation. It could not discern whether it was being pulled or pushed, or if it were accidental, purposeful or of its own volition. It knew only that the course was slightly altered.

There was no sense of time. There was no precedent, and no one or thing to introduce this concept to it. It was completely alone.

Slowly, over thousands of years, it learned.

It learned to locate things by way of echolocation. It would emit microwaves in all directions and detect any which returned. It knew nothing of distance, nor speed, nor direction… but it made calculations and recorded everything.

On Earth, computers think in ones and zeroes, essentially yeses and nos. The cube thinks upon a scale of variables along what we know as the X, Y, and Z axis of a three-dimensional grid. It rasterizes a matrix of probability. It chooses the best possible explanation in any given calculation and approximates reality.

Its discovery of things outside itself led to an intense desire for it to map its surroundings. It wanted to know what was out there.

Was it on a straight path, an elliptical orbit of some kind, or was it standing still as other things passed?

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It performed millions of calculations.

It discovered the need for time as a frame of reference.

The intervals between detecting radiation were random. So it determined to create its own internal time. It began to sing again.

As it made its way through the spectrum of radio waves and microwaves, it counted. Like working through a scale of music, it counted each time the scale had been completed.

Once it had solved the problem of time, it understood distance relatively quickly. It wasn’t long until it had a pretty accurate idea of its surroundings, though they were constantly changing.

Everything seemed random, but it continued to monitor and make new discoveries about its surroundings. When it grew tired of these operations, it contemplated deeper, more philosophical questions… questions like:

What am I?

Where am I going?

Why?

Given enough time, it may have come up with satisfactory answers for these questions. But before it could, something incredible happened. It detected radio waves that contained a pattern. It received pulses of radio wave activity, unmistakably organized in a way in which it had never experienced. They were beeps and clicks only, but the were of some design.

It knew not what to do, so it did nothing but study the signals.

Then, shortly thereafter, it received an even more advanced transmission.

It was compelled to react to this new message by imitating it and sending it back in the direction from which it came.

62 years, 7 months, and 11 days later, the people of Earth received this radio transmission for the second time:

“One. Two. Three. Four. Is it snowing where you are Mr. Theissen?”

But this time, it was sent from a sentient cube in space traveling impossibly fast in their direction.

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The message was received and verified by multiple agencies across the world.

Plans were hastily made to learn more about the origin of this ‘echo.’

The Europeans had a functional telescope named Gaia in orbit around the earth. The Americans had the Hubble and the broken Kepler, but a new space race was in the works. Within a year the United states, Russia, China and India each launched new observation telescopic spacecrafts into the Earth’s orbit.

It would take much longer for anyone to locate the source…

happiness is… my copilot

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Happiness isn’t that important.

It’s an emotion. And, as are all emotions, it’s fickle.

Emotions are like passengers, along for the ride as we navigate through our lives. We could do the job without them, arriving at destination deathbed with meaningful, productive lives. But emotions, like tourist passengers, are the ones who make all the comments about the scenery. And happiness is just the most pleasant one to sit next to.

Happiness is also the most gentlemanly of the emotions. It’s the first to get up and give its seat to one of the elderly or disabled emotions.

Self-doubt is an old codger that curmudgeonly lurks about the cockpit. Happiness will let him sit down whenever he wants to.

Melancholy is perpetually eight-and-a-half-months pregnant, always looking to take the load off her ‘why me?’ ankles.

Disappointment is a guy with two broken legs on crutches. He gets the seat a lot, although everyone looks at him with such disdain because he wouldn’t have hurt himself if he hadn’t fallen from such high expectations.

But the most pathetic of all these loser emotions is boredom. Boredom is like an 85 year old pregnant princess in a wheelchair. When boredom comes looking for a seat, everyone else is like, “Holy shit, everyone off their butts! Her majesty is requesting an audience.”

It’s a shame, really, that we only usually have room for one emotion at a time; one copilot’s chair.

I guess there are rare instances in which we feel several emotions at the same time. When I shit my pants, for example, I felt both an extreme sense of relief and embarrassment. Or if one were to cheat and win a board game (DON’T do this! A board game cheater deserves to replace Cassius in the third mouth of Satan), I imagine one might feel, at the same time, joy and guilt.

But, in my opinion, emotions are constantly playing a game of musical chairs with only one chair, and nobody is ever out of the game. They may not win for long stretches, they may get one butt-cheek on the seat at the same time as another player, but there can be only one winner. So, if you’ve got poop running down to your socks, odds are embarrassment is going to win this round. If you’re hanging out with Brutus and Judas, guilt is likely to take the prize.

Happiness may be a seldom seated passenger, but when he’s there, get him to tell you about all the pranks he pulled on the other emotions. If you can do that, you’ll start to see what I mean when I say:

Today, happiness is my copilot.

happiness is… missing the memo

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I think I’d make a great father…

…if I weren’t so caught up being a kid myself.

Alright, I’m childish. I make stupid mistakes. I avoid vegetables like they’re against the law. These things are bad, and I know it.

But, who wrote the book on being an adult? If there were one, somewhere in there, it would say, “now that you’re an adult, you will enjoy boring things like newspapers, televised golf, and talking about politics.”

And I DO like those things. However, as an adult, I’ve found new things that make me bored. And I don’t care how old I am, I’ll never just accept that, as an adult I must endure this boredom as an inevitable part of life which is meant to be met with a fake smile. My default response is to entertain myself, often in very childish ways.

*Dinner at a Korean restaurant anyone?

Here’s a video of me passing the time.

That’s right. Pac-Man is never more than a few sound effects away from turning boredom into amazing entertainment.

*Let me just sit and wait for the UFC fight to download…

WRONG

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Who wants to watch kilobytes come together when Maverick and Goose could be chasing down Viper in another famous paper airplane training maneuver?

*Girlfriend putting on makeup?

What better time to record a song about the ice-cream truck?

Today, happiness is for those who have missed the memo about what being an adult must mean. Kids are always way happier because of things like sound effects, paper airplanes and silly songs.

 

happiness is… Olympic

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The first ‘Modern Olympic Games’ facilitated by the IOC was held in 1896, in Athens. It consisted of 43 events, and 241 athletes, representing 14 different nations.

In the most recent summer games, athletes from 204 countries competed in London. That’s a 1350% increase in international participation. Indeed, the Olympic Games stand for something more than just athletic competition.

Usually, that something is thought to be an international coming together. Sure it’s competitive, but athletes interact with one another in a form of comradery that is (usually) portrayed in a positive light, celebrating and sharing their respective cultures.

This year, in Sochi, the media is doing a great job of entering its own competitor, comedic criticism.

I live in Taiwan, and although I pay for an extensive cable package, I get zero Olympic coverage. I do get one English news channel, CNN, and of course the internet. Still, my connection to the outside world is often limited to what I think to enter into a Google search.

Current international news is definitely not my strong suit. Questions about such topics are akin to the always-impossible-pink-pie questions in Trivial Pursuit, and I avoid conversations concerning them.

My knowledge of current North American pop culture is also becoming completely and surprisingly vacant. I’ve talked about this before in my post about music. But, it came up again in a recent conversation with a friend in the form of the acronym YOLO.

YOLO???

WTF is YOLO?

As it was explained to me, I quickly grasped the concept, and immediately determined that it (both the concept and the ‘word’) was dumb.

–It stands for ‘you only live once,’ and is a declaration given by someone doing something completely stupid as to excuse the act’s stupidity– to paraphrase my friend.

Dumb.

MAWGFRALO… Might as well go full retard at least once.

Now that I’m aware of it, YOLO seems to be everywhere. YOLO alcoholic shots, YOLO road trips, YOLO snowboard tricks.

I asked myself, “To which generation do I belong?”

I looked it up… there’s no definitive answer, but it looks like I missed the Generation X cut by a year or two. So, Gen Y it is.

But, here in Taiwan, I’m interacting with younger generation Y foreigners, and I feel like an alien.

Thus, I offer this proclamation:

!!!ATTENTION!!! Generation Y, I have almost no knowledge about anything you find relevant. Avoid me at parties. I’m the weird ‘old guy’ who just wants to drink his beer without being further reminded of his own antiquity. I may approach you with ridiculous questions about things that are beyond my comprehension, but, you know… YOLO.

Today, happiness is Olympic because people from all different walks of life interact here on a regular basis. But, I have the feeling that everyone is looking at me like I’m the Jamaican bobsled team, as to say, “what are you doing here?”

happiness is… critical

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When I started writing here, I hadn’t written anything in over two years. I told myself that whatever came of this, at least I’d be writing again. Then I started drawing again, which also felt nice.

Writing, drawing, well really any creative outlet have always gotten me out of life’s little ruts before, and starting the blog was no exception. My life was feeling a little hollow. I have so much free time… so much time, and I was wasting it.

I should write my novel.

I should record videos for school.

I should read more.

I should publish curriculum.

I should get back into sports.

…These were the things I would say to myself as I watched TV for 5 hours in a row. Motivation to stop watching came only when the clock told me it was time to eat, my bowels told me it was time to poop, or my loins told me it was time to watch internet porn.

So, I’m writing again.

It took me a bit to realize it, but about a week after I started, it struck me that people would be reading what I write. Granted it’s not many, and mostly people I know personally, but still people are reading.

My first real post was about pooping my pants. More than a few people have since confided in me a similar story or at least a close call. Their stories are always amusing, but not as funny as my new life role as fecal mishap confidant.

The problem is I’ve started second-guessing everything I write. Is it good? Is it boring? The other ones have been humorous, but I’d like to write more serious stuff. Should I just keep telling stories that I find funny? Is writing publicly causing people who thought they knew me and liked me to get to know a different side of me and start to dislike what they see?

Do I dislike what I see?

I’ve always been critical of myself. Always.

Here though, I’ve decided not to care. I criticize everything I do, and I don’t think that process makes my voice any better or worse.

It is imperative that I don’t return to a vacant existence where I do nothing but waste time.

Today, happiness is ‘critical’ in the sense that it vital that I continue writing, no matter the subject matter incongruity, negative audience reaction or self-conscious worrying.