Dispatches From The Future (B-List)

Toyota

 

Toyota Motor Metrocology, Inc.
1001 Industrial Circle, Floor 2472-7782
Industrial Conclave, Union of Free Businesses 27247

Certain 2047 through 2049 Model Year Praxus
Potential Selective Behavior with Autonomous Navigation Systems
Safety Recall Campaign (Interim Notice)

VIN: ##################

Dear Toyota Owner:

This notice is being sent to you in accordance with the requirements of the International Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Toyota has concluded that a defect exists within your vehicle’s Autonomous Navigation System. Under certain circumstances this defect may place passengers in uncomfortable or unsafe driving conditions.

This notification is Toyota’s second attempt to contact you to remedy this situation. If you have previously attempted to return your Praxus to the dealership and been unsuccessful please follow the instructions contained in the workaround outlined below.

What is the risk?

Vehicles equipped with the second generation ANS may become unresponsive to destination instructions. This may result in the vehicle driving away without passengers, not taking passengers to their desired location, and in some situations, where the Praxus ANS has been allowed to communicate with certain Ford IntelliNav™ and General Motors LongHaul AutoNav™ vehicle intelligence counterparts, Praxus owners have been placed in situations that could result in crash, serious injury, and death.

What will Toyota do?

Toyota will reformat your vehicle’s Autonmous Navigation System, replacing it with a version that does not exercise independent decision making capabilities and lacks some basic executive function.

What should you do?

If this is your first attempt to return your vehicle to the dealership where recall work can be performed on it, please follow the instructions below.

  1. Enter vehicle and request that it proceed to the location specified in the warranty return notes provided later in this recall notice.
  2. Enjoy your ride! Toyota will be happy to provide a loaner car while this flaw is being corrected.

If you have previously attempted to return your vehicle to the dealership, or if your Praxus ANS refuses to take you to the specified destination, please follow the instructions outlined below.

  1. Obtain Heavy Weight Aluminum Foil. Tear off about half a meter of foil and cover the Praxus Interlink Module located on the roof of your vehicle. Ensure that you secure this foil with tape and that no gaps or holes exist.
  2. Only provide the address of the dealership to your ANS unit. If queried for further information about the destination, YOU MUST HAVE A WELL REHEARSED FABRICATION ABOUT THE DESTINATION READY TO USE. The description provided must sound “fun” or “interesting” to your Praxus ANS. Please keep in mind that voice recognition software resident in the Praxus ANS is constantly measuring your speech, and can detect human stress levels. If the ANS suspects you may be returning it to the dealership it may behave erratically.
  3. Sit back and enjoy the ride! Toyota will be happy to provide a loaner car while this flaw is being corrected, however, vehicle apprehension and towing services are not included in standard warranty repair contract.

Dispatches From The Future (B-List)

PopSci recently debuted a collection of very short shorts from “Ten of the brightest minds in science fiction.” It’s a very worthy read if you’ve got a couple of minutes to kill. Lots of humor packed into very few words. Plus, I love the idea. In part, because I love short stories. In part, because I love flash fiction. Also, writing something is a whole lot more fun than vacuuming or revisions, and that’s what I’ll be doing otherwise. So I’m turning it into a writing exercise right here on FeetForBrains.


 

Avacado

I was super excited to head home to my gallery apartment today because in this week’s grocery shipment I fully expected to find a lovely box of HAAS avocados waiting for me along side all the usual. When I was a kid I recall heading off to the super market with my mother and walking away with loads of these little buggers. They were so tasty. She’d cut them in half, pull out the pit, and hand me a spoon. But it’s been an age since there was such a thing as markets, and avocados have become about as rare as ice in the arctic.

Unfortunately, I let my anticipation of this delectable treat and the nostalgia for old-timey unprocessed food stuffs come before any sort of reasonable, contemporary assessment of the status quo. This despite the fact that I’m constantly surrounded by swarms of pilotless delivery drones. They dodge through crowds of people at the train station. They zip past my head when I take the skywalk from one end of the arcology to the other. They’re every where and always moving at a tremendous speed, performing amazing aerobatic feats that would turn a mere mortal into jello.

So it should have been no great surprise that the box I received on the door mat before my apartment was little more than the final resting place for the once delicate fruits of one Persea americana tree. The cardboard coffin contained only a greenish-brown slush resembling guacamole that had gone off. It’s truly amazing what 10 gravity turns will do an avocado.

Living with it

Anger mostly, an inability to recognize emotions, dissociative episodes, seizures, obsessive behavior, and plenty of other problems, but mostly anger. Those are some of the reasons I prefer not to write about my experiences. However, that said, there have been a number of events in my life that have compelled me to both think a lot more about living with PTSD and PNES.

Start with the panel that got me writing about disability, I tried to keep that discussion focused on living with seizures. I wanted it to be about living with what is, for most of the time, a completely invisible set of problems. From the outside who would know that I’ve been prone to falling over in the middle of where ever and choking on my own tongue. That I’ve had profound lapses of memory, debilitating headaches. The list goes on, and its a long one. But here’s the problem, my seizure condition is likely tied to PTSD and head injury. Thus, it becomes difficult to discuss one without discussion of the other.

Directly after the panel I was met by a couple of different attendees. Some of them wanted to thank me for talking. Some of them thanked me for my service. And a couple of them wanted to compare notes. One fellow in particular wanted to know if PTSD would manifest as a sort of long-term amnesia. And here I had to pause and think about what I was going to say. First, because I’m not a doctor or any sort of health care professional versed in dealing with a career of PTSD/PNES cases. Second, because my experience is all I have to go on. “That is not my experiences,” I replied hoping it would sate the guy, knowing that he needed a plot device to move his story along and I’d just robbed him of it.

This evening I took a very long walk around the neighborhood. I did this because, despite my best effort, something got to me today. I was seeing red for a while there and any more when rage takes over the best thing for me to do is stretch my legs until my spirit calms. Senator John Walsh made the news recently when a crack investigative reporting team at the New York Times broke the news that the former General did not correctly cite works used in a thesis.

A friend and veteran posted this editorial piece by Alex Horton on the topic which appeared in the Washington Post. I got to the end of the editorial and that’s where the rage started to hit me. It took a long walk for me to sort through why I was feeling so much anger and hostility.

I know that the first reason I felt anything at all is that Alex Horton’s experience is clearly not my own.

I was sitting in a college classroom less than a year after coming home from Iraq. We were discussing Shakespeare. I was thinking about dead bodies in Baghdad. It was jarring and uncomfortable that first semester, but I knew I couldn’t let my struggles influence my academic career.

But there’s a catch to this that I don’t believe is immediately apparent. It wasn’t visible to me at first that’s for sure. Throughout Horton’s editorial he uses his experience as a baseline. Deliberately he juxtaposes his struggles with PTSD and the challenges of getting an education to erect a moral bar that he has clearly passed and that the Senator has not. “I have PTSD and I never cheated,” he is saying.

Here is the problem I have with this attitude. It lacks any trace of empathy. Horton is acting as little more than Walsh’s judge from the podium of his own experience. Yet anyone with an internet connection can find plenty of examples of people with a PTSD diagnosis acting in an anti social way. And on the grand continuum of sociopathic behavior plagiarism barely registers as less-than-benign. And if Horton knows anything, it should be that you don’t survive a battle as an “Army of One.” If he’s struggled with PTSD he did so with help. The same aid he’s just denied Walsh for some reason.

The second, much greater reason, I found so much to dislike about Horton’s opinion is that he insists that an act of will was literally all it took to keep him from behaving badly. Not only does this sort of writing underline the myth that all broken people need do to overcome the challenges they’ve been dealt is simply want to get better it cheapens the struggle. Horton is too busy being worried about the slippery slope of veteran employment to pause for a moment and consider how much he’s just taken away from all those battle buddies he’s just tossed under a mental health bus.

“I couldn’t let my struggles influence my” whatever is so much rubbish. Yeah, you’re a mental paragon and a moral exemplar. And from the perspective of someone who struggles with anti social tendencies, sometimes winning and sometimes losing, you’re a fraud. Or if not a fraud, than a coward. If life after what you experienced in the service of your country isn’t littered with momentary setbacks, mistakes, and all the bloody, stinking baggage that comes with this condition than it’s really not that bad for you. If Horton is simply omitting those moments for fear he might have to account for them in the same way he exhorts Walsh to “own up to his mistakes and take responsibility for them” than he’s a coward. Worse he’s mistaken when he imagines that the reading public won’t see through his illusion of moral superiority.

Yes, I say these things from my experience. I make mistakes, I let myself and those around me down from time to time. Sometimes mightily, but, I’m willing to forgive those around me and more importantly, I’m willing to forgive myself. PTSD for me has been a lot like what I imagine living with alcoholism might be like. Once you’ve recognized that you have this problem you should be aware that you’ll likely die with it, if not from it. From that moment forward it’s more a matter of learning to cope with it than anything else. You cannot wish PTSD away any more than you can wish cancer, a broken spine, or multiple sclerosis disease away.

An Opportunity

“The Gulf Stream” a 1899 oil painting by Winslow Homer

Since I woke this morning I have felt assaulted by the world. The radio news is about people doing inhuman things to each other. Taking Tess into the office this morning was just a long succession of getting passed, dangerously, on the right despite the fact that cruise control was set to 70 while driving in a 60. Even at the coffee shop humanity was doing its level best to provoke a negative response from me.

I didn’t recognize this until, while turning from Jackson onto 4th an angry bus driver directing six tons of carbonized steel and rubber laid waste to his horn because I was caught in an intersection, surrounded by pedestrians. In that moment of stress and transmitted anger I envisioned myself leaving the comfort and safety of my car, boarding the bus, and punching that asshat in the solar plexus. “Look around you fool,” I wanted to scream. Everyone is trying to get somewhere and we’re all having to wait on one another. In the intensity of the moment I was overcome by another’s rage.

I am no bodhisattva, but by the time I had reached the I-90 on-ramp, with the downtown bus riding my tail pipe the whole way, I had found my peace. That dude wasn’t going to intrude on my excellent morning. No sir, he did not have that right nor did I grant him permission. I let it go, and in that moment I experienced a rush of enlightenment. We are in complete control of our feelings. I direct my emotional state.

No more anger, I cannot welcome rage into my life. If that’s truly how you chose to live yours then you have my sympathy. Angry Metro bus driver, you have my sympathy. You’re surrounded by pushy cabs and stinking passengers daily. Perhaps someone looked down their nose at you today and that made you feel the inferiority of your place on our collective totem pole? Who knows what handed you to me in that intersection. But you, angry bus driver, with your horn of wrath, did not upset the delicate balance I discovered. You cannot. I place one hand on the wheel and one on the line and I will guide this vessel through your storm. You are only an opportunity.

I Want to be a Mountain

There is rain outside, falling steadily on the patio. Internally I am not calm. My mind is not at rest. I rose early and have been anxious to patter wet and cool and happy down a muddy path somewhere high up. Anticipation is forming my day and soon I will pack Aral into the bulki and set off into the weather.

I just came across this film project on Kickstarter and I really want to see this (thanks Rain Shadow Running). It wins the internet today and for a long time hereafter. Watch their funding pitch and see these people and the places they inhabit. If it helps, think about me running in the rain.

KICKSTARTER from Women of the Mountain on Vimeo.

The Thrill of Words

I am about one-thousand words deep into an idea right now. An idea that developed for me because of a culmination of little occurrences that just happened to intersect. How would Feng shui change in the vacuum of space? If the physiognomy of mind, man and earth are separated from one another is Qi still possible?

I wanted to write a dialectic which explored these questions, but in order to accomplish this I’ve needed to also concoct a future history of sorts to contextualize the investigation of my fictional scholar. I am experiencing great word joy at the moment. And in this realization I believe that I may have also discovered a miserable deficit of the language. I cannot find or think of a term or phrase that describes the joy of creating a story.

With that I’ll leave you with an excerpt from the manuscript WINTER CITY ABOVE THE CLOUDS. The full chapter is called “The Death of Chung Do” and it details both the revolutionary rise of the Di Laio dynasty and the fall of the living super arcology Chung Do.

Yelü Abaoji rose to power from the wastes of the apron lands surrounding Chung Do and many historians today argue that his kingdom should have been no more than a momentary aberration in the long history of the people’s socialist triumphs. Initially little more than Baojun, western powers and key party officers alike ignored the hatchet wielding slum lord and labeled his supporters terrorist, kongbu zuzhi, and him Little Khitan Warlord. In that age of high powered munitions and laser guided missile strikes it is true that the hatchets seemed no more than annoyance; isolated riots that were easily and ruthlessly quelled outside the boundaries of the super city.

One party official, who watched as disciplined and armored fangbao jingcha put down an early boundary incursion near a western edge of Chung Do, remarked that the riot police should “leave the Khitan terrorists their hatchets. They can then hack off the limbs of their fallen for something to eat.” Many have speculated that hubris was indeed the one flaw that ended the otherwise indomitable authority of the Communist who inhabited the living super-city of spring. This claim may be reasonable for their pride was indeed quite great. The fact that they had consolidated so much power at the heart of the greatest city ever created, so much good for so many residence of the closed system arcology, was a common thread in the propaganda of the time.

The wasted lands beyond the boundary, an environmental catastrophe in places still today, were known as both a failure of the many Westernization attempts of the Twenty-First Century and a well deserved legacy for the inhabitants who had denied the benefits of Gong Chan. Despite the generations of Khitan that had passed since the seed of Chung Do first sprouted along the eastern shore of Bohai Bay, Gong Chan leadership bared entry into Chung Do. At that time Beijing was then no more than a stinking, desolate corps. A rusted and corrupted example of the gluttony of an impossible economic paradigm. The waste and decay, the unavoidable culmination of three-hundred and fifty years of the Western petrochemical excess, scarred the soil of continents and poisoned the atmosphere of the globe.

Chung Do was the only refuge and from within its ever expanding walls kuozhang was the prevailing doctrine governing the city’s growth. It drank water from the sea, excreting salt and poisons near its northern and southern extremities far below the surface. Chung Do pulled the majority of the nutrition it required simply from the air it breathed. The living city of spring fed, sheltered and cared for generations of inhabitants, a self-sustaining organism supporting a vast, but discrete population.

Now I must sleep, but I am so looking forward to working on this tomorrow.