Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fiction. Show all posts

Friday, October 14, 2016

Humanity's Future: The Next 25,000 Years



Hi Folks:

About a month ago I let you know about my new book with the above title. At that time, I provided you with a link which enables you to purchase a POD (Print on Demand) copy from Amazon for $9.99. Now, I want you to know that you can also get an electronic version of my book for a mere $2.99 by clicking on the following link: Kindle Store; Humanity’s Future

As I wrote last month, this book is an experiment. Like most people, I grew up on Star Trek in its many generations, Star Wars, and innumerable other science fiction materials, from optimistic classics such as Arthur C. Clarke’s and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 to a variety of apocalyptic prognoses.
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Monday, September 5, 2016

Humanity's Future: the Next 25,000 years



 Dear People: This is to let you know that I have just published a new book, with the above title.

Here is part of the preface:
This book is an experiment. Like most people, I grew up on Star Trek in its many generations, Star Wars, and innumerable other science fiction materials, from optimistic classics such as Arthur C. Clarke’s and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 to a variety of apocalyptic prognoses. All of these are fairly specific.

What I have always wanted to do is write a general, comprehensive (pseudo-)history of the entire future, a total extrapolation of what we, humans, have been doing so far. I also wanted to give the story a positive twist, one that places us, humans, at the center, and which relies on US to be the solution rather than the problem. So this is it. An experiment, an attempt to describe the WHOLE picture. Ambitious, I’m sure. But pretty unique and provocative, I hope.

The story evolves from mundane, early 21st century contemporary politics to a cosmic apotheosis. The first chapters examine the struggles of current nation states, with a special focus on the United States. Presidential successions, immigration, the economy, the energy crisis, the war on terrorism, etc.
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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Of Sleepy Ants and Crickets

by

A Children's Story

Once upon a time there was a cricket and an ant. The cricket was really happy. He was so happy that you might wonder if it wasn’t too tiring for him to be so happy all the time. I mean, he was always dancing and singing and he didn’t even have to carry an instrument to accompany himself, since he could make music just by rubbing his legs together.

The ant was not really that happy. She didn’t have much time to dance or sing, because her mother had told her that ants have to work hard to be good ants. So she worked and worked, built her nest, gathered food, even in the dead of winter when the ground was frozen and all the other insects were either not born yet, or hybernating. She didn’t smile a lot, only when she fell asleep and dreamt of feasting on an especially large bowl of sugar, because ants like sugar as much as you like chocolate chip cookies. Read more...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Blackout

blackout

I am looking out on my snow-covered back yard, the sun slowly sinking into the horizon, painting the sky a deep purple. The leafless trees, black and motionless are frozen in silence. Nature itself is paralyzed. No birds dare venture to our overflowing birdfeeders. No squirrels peek out of the tunnels they so laboriously dug under the snow. Life has slowed down to a bare subsistence level. Winter is master in this little corner of the world.

Inside the house, the fireplace is ablaze, overflowing with ashes. The cat is purring in his sleep, dreaming of warmer days and outdoor adventures. The smell of firewood and pea soup fills the air. The furnace is humming its reassuring song, keeping the frozen world at bay.

Night has fallen and the weather has turned nasty. Suddenly, a large animal appears out of nowhere in front of the large bay window and through the glass, I see a black and white husky look at me with his beautiful sky-blue eyes. He is magnificent looking, high on his legs, his thick fur making him oblivious to the cold. He seems to be asking if he can come in. Read more...

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Secret about Santa's Elves



Like most children, I believed in Santa while I was growing up. Although I was born in Hungary, we soon moved to France, where Santa goes by the name of 'Pere Noel'. Pere Noel wasn't very generous in those days, especially when he came down a poor refugee family's chimney, in the suburbs of Paris. But I was a kid and children are happy with what they get. They only become greedy when they grow up. I often wondered how Pere Noel would react if I caught him in the act. Would he wink at me, say 'ho, ho, ho' and leave me my one present? Or would he frown, do an about face as soon as he saw me staring at him in the middle of the living room?

When my family moved to Holland, I was introduced to the Dutch version of Santa. Over there, Santa plays second fiddle to a far less benevolent character named Sinterklaas. He is a bishop-like figure with a big pointy mitre and a staff. Every 5th of December, he arrives from Spain on a steam boat, accompanied by his 'helpers', all named Zwarte Piet. These are not your run of the mill elves, they are boys with dark skin, unmistakably of the Negroid race. One of these Black Peters is saddled with the difficult choice of selecting which children have been good and which ones have been bad. Candy for the goodie-two shoes and the rod for the baddies. If a child has been particularly bad, he gets stuffed in a canvas bag and shipped back to Spain. No wonder the Dutch are so stoic. Early on they are taught to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Read more...

Friday, September 20, 2013

Being Free from My Pasts



When I was very young, I was free from my past simply because I hardly had one. Like all toddlers, I was building my past at lightning speed, adding to it daily, constructing my past as if I was a born engineer. Had I known then, that a few years later I would want to tear down this painstakingly erected edifice, I could have saved myself a lot of hard work. I could have sat on my toddler hinie on the couch, eat toddler chips and watch Teletubbies.

My past started to become a burden at the ripe old age of four, when my family moved from my native Hungary to Paris. The little past that I had created, made me stand out. I was the 'other'. Four is pretty young to realize that your past is not acceptable to the people around you. I spoke French with a weird accent, my clothes looked funny and in the process of learning how to navigate the four-year old dominance hierarchy of my new country, my non-native past was as useful as a sandbag in the desert. 'Haute-toi!' my class-mates would say. Move! I obliged, not because I knew what the words meant, but because playground body language indicating that you are not wanted is universal. Read more...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

A Dry Spell



For a while now, my Muse has been on strike, stubbornly refusing to do her job of inspiring me to write. I go through the motions, poking my brain, trying to stimulate the writing reflex, zilch, nada.

I am sitting at my desk, frustrated, watching the birds go about their much more sensible business of waiting their turn around the birdfeeder, the squirrels madly chasing each other in the grass, their tails jerkily going up and down, trying to keep up with their owners’ frenzied activity.

The alarm on my electronic calendar rudely jars me out of my reverie, reminding me that National Grid is coming by to change our gas meter. I have five minutes to comb my hair, wipe the boogers out of my eyes and put some clothes on. Whoever shows up at this ungodly hour will have to suffer the consequences of morning breath and body odor.

I am in the kitchen making coffee, looking at the clock to see if I have time to go out and check on my newly planted seedlings. I feel a slight irritation brewing as I stir my coffee. My precious morning ritual of stepping into the dew covered garden in my p.j.’s to inspect the new growth has been disrupted. Read more...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Many Worlds Theory


by Madeleine Kando

I heard a snippet on public radio the other day about a new technology that allows a viewer to change the outcome of a movie. Plymouth University researcher Alexis Kirke has developed a technique that reads the minds (and bodies) of the audience by measuring heart rate, muscle tension, brainwave activity and perspiration, to monitor their reaction. Several versions of a movie are shot in advance and depending on the audience's 'reaction', the appropriate version of the next scene if selected.

It's too bad this wasn't available when so many great movies were made way back when. I have always been in the habit of mentally rewriting the ending of movies. Take a movie like 'The Manchurian Candidate'. The Soviets capture and brainwash Raymond Shaw (played by Lawrence Harvey) to become an assassin for their cause. He is supposed to kill the US Presidential Candidate, but after unwittingly shooting his sweetheart who happens upon the scene, Raymond instead takes revenge and shoots his mother, who is the 'operative' in the plot. The movie ends tragically when Raymond shoots himself after realizing what he has done and has been forced to become.

I fantasized so many times about the ending of this movie. Marco, Raymond's army buddy, played by Frank Sinatra, opens the door to the small sound booth where Raymond has positioned himself, just too late to prevent Raymond from quickly pointing his rifle at himself and pull the trigger. Why the hell didn't Marco climb the stairs a bit faster?

I read somewhere that in quantum physics, nothing is certain, as proven by the imaginary 'Schrodinger's Cat' experiment in which the cat inside his box is both dead and alive, until you actually look inside and only then does the poor cat have to make a choice. There are two potential cats, one is alive and the other is dead. It's the act of looking that determines the outcome. (Actually there are an infinite number of potential cats in the box, all waiting to collapse into a real cat).
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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Ashes to Ash: Remembering Metropolitan State Hospital



Mark is taking us on a nature walk again, this time through a thick pack of snow. The area is called 'Beaver Brook North Reservation', a 300 acre piece of conservation land in Belmont. It is a beautiful winter day, the sky is blue, the air is crisp and the branches on the trees are motionless, patiently waiting for the birds and squirrels to come forage for food or sing their morning song.

Our walk is taking us over a small wooden bridge where we peer into a brook with patches of ice that resemble delicate, transparent lily pads. We walk through fields where the invasive burdock lies dormant, waiting for the spring when it will conquer more of this native habitat. We pass by tall cherry trees whose bark looks like burnt cornflakes, next to some slender hazelnuts with bark as smooth as a babies' bottom. A patch of oaks whose branches droop under  the weight of blackened gouty oak galls, some others being choked by climbing ivy. Read more...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Columbia and the Many Little Dwarfs

by Madeleine Kando

Once upon a time in a land far away, there lived a beautiful and wise princess. People called her ‘Columbia the beautiful’. She adopted many little dwarfs whom she loved very much. Most of these little dwarfs liked Columbia too, because they knew that she would take care of them. Being dwarfs and all, they couldn’t very well fend for themselves in the big bad world out there.

They played together nicely but dwarfs aren’t perfect, and as you might guess there was an occasional protest when it was time to do chores, eat breakfast or go to bed. They didn’t like to be individually mandated (to be told what to do). Then Columbia’s mother had to come over. The dwarfs had nicknamed her Mother Supreme and it was she who had to settle the disputes in the family. She was fair and Impartial and things usually worked out well. Read more...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Progress

By Tom Kando

It is October 17, 2301: I am commuting to work across the Oakland Bay Bridge, driving on the temporary structure used for traffic while the real Oakland Bay Bridge is being fixed. It was damaged by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. Repairs are approaching completion.

A short while later, I come by the site where they are planning to start America’s first high-speed rail. They haven’t begun building it yet, but the news said recently that a commission is studying the proposal. The first line will be experimental. It will run from San Francisco to Concord, at a cost of $30 billion. It is predicted to be completed by 2353.
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Thursday, May 26, 2011

The History of Food Revealed

by Madeleine Kando

A 1999 BBC series on the origins of pornography inspired me to write a spoof. Rather than take sex as the subject however, I decided to replace it with food.

Before the 'Great Obesity Epidemic' of the late twenty-first century, when millions of people died from overeating, food and the consumption of food were a very inoffensive, daily activity that people engaged in without any shame or secrecy.

In previous decades it was customary to eat when one was hungry. There were even special places where groups of friends, husbands and wives, children and parents, sat together at a table and ate food, right in front of each other, there in public! These places were called 'restaurants'.

Before the 'Big OB-epidemic.', food was not considered taboo. But when more and more people became the victims of overeating, when women lost their ability to become pregnant and men became impotent, the government HAD to take steps to save our society from destroying itself.

Slowly, food consumption came to be seen as unnatural, something that was best practiced in secret.

Congress first passed the 'food obscenity' law, legislature that prohibited any kind of graphic display of food in public places. The second law prohibited parents from eating in front of their children. Many couples were denounced by their neighbors and faced severe prison sentences.

Soon, other laws followed: eating in public was deemed offensive and common decency required that any activity involving food consumption, talking about food and showing pictures of food be restricted to the privacy of one's home.

Believe it or not, but the expression 'May God curse you with a voracious appetite' did not exist before then. Other profanities, such as 'suck you' or 'eat cake' are fairly recent as well.

Black market trafficking of 'food-ography' (pictures of people eating together and other lurid depictions of food-related subjects) became a profitable business and people who could afford it joined secret societies where all manner of food perversion was the order of the day: strippers stepping out of giant cakes, food fights, movie showings of how food was produced and worst of all, members engaged in food orgies where they ate at nauseam and regurgitated their food in order to eat more.

As might be expected, all of this repression had the opposite effect of what was intended. Children who innocently walked to school were harassed by individuals who exposed themselves eating cake. The papers were full of articles about food voyeurs who had been caught in the act of looking at pictures of food. Some individuals developed severe cases of food fetishism for which they needed special psychiatric treatment. Virtual labs were developed where one could experience all the pleasures of eating without ingesting a crumb.

Soon there was so much censored, underground material available, on the internet, in chat rooms, on video, that people cut their workday short in order to secretly eat while watching movies about food.

People started to gain more weight than ever before. The simple pleasure of only eating when one was hungry had been lost, seemingly forever.

The Y.U.M. organization (Young, United and Mad) lobbied Congress to repeal the anti-food laws and eventually won. The circle was closed. Food slowly became a part of life again.

Some people still like to abuse food and occasionally succumb to the pleasure of eating in secret, but in general this period was a wake-up call for most of us. Who knows, maybe some day we will be able to let go of our inhibition and enjoy each other's company while eating in those quaint places called 'Restaurants'.

When tempted to eat in secret, repeat the mantra: ‘food is food is food is food..’ and don’t stop until the urge has passed. leave comment here
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

To Bee or not To Bee

by Madeleine Kando

Once upon a time there was a colony of beautiful, healthy and admirable bees. They lived together peacefully, each little worker bee content with her lot of gathering nectar for their graceful and fecund queen bee. All summer long they enjoyed the sunshine and the intoxicating scent of flowers, feeling the warmth of the sun on their furry backs and the ever growing weight of the pollen on their strong little thighs. Life was good and if they had been inclined to believe in a God they would have knelt and preyed in gratitude for their short but blissful life.

They didn't mind working hard. Feeding the queen was their duty but also their salvation. They knew that it was in their power to withhold food, by which act the queen would die. This, the queen was also keenly aware of and demanded but also gave. Gave many many eggs, day in and day out.

The worker bees had been told to feed a few of their larvae a very special diet so that these annointed individuals would become the chosen ones, the ones that would fertilize their adored queen in order to produce even more sisters, who in turn would feed more larvae, etc, etc. ad beefenitum.

This particular summer the weather was unusually cold and grey and many of the flowers died. Our friends in the hive searched for pollen but there were just not enough flowers. Life became hard for our poor bees. They began to wonder why they put up with all this flying back and forth, cleaning the hive, feeding the young, giving in to every whim of their demanding queen.

One very charismatic worker bee that went by the name of ‘Barbee’ (which rhymes with ‘Sara-Lee’) who previously had won a beauty contest, began to send out beemails to her sisters: 'Listen' she said 'Why do we work so hard all our lives? Why should we feed those lazy drones and our overbloated queen? I say to you: let's take matters in out own hands, every bee for herself!'

So many of the previously slim and industrious worker bees started to put on weight, lost their ability to fly, and there was a mass stampede to the royal chamber. The poor queen couldn’t handle all the attention. Bags started to appear under her big brown eyes from lack of sleep.

The beebies (I mean babies) were malnourished and started to die off. The queen, who was supposed to get fed every minute, only got fed once a day. She started to loose weight and lost her ability to lay eggs.

Soon the hive began to smell pretty bad. The remaining loyal worker bees who protested against these new developments were called traitors and maps were handed out with crosshairs to target them.

The converted worker bees turned to their newly apppointed leader and said: 'Barbee, we have done what you told us to do. We looked out for ourselves. Now what do we do? We don't particularly like the smell around here. Are we better off than before?' Barbee, who was very good at stirring up trouble but didn't have the brains to rule a hive, was at a loss for words. Even so she said: 'I know someone who might help us'.

She beemailed her distant cousin twice removed in Africa. Her name was ‘Killemall’. As soon as Killemal arrived she declared herself the new queen. She beemailed all her African sisters to join her and as you might expect they formed the new ruling class of the colony. All the worker bees were put on a restricted diet. They had to work twice as hard as before and the ones that protested were killed. Since these twice removed relatives were lazy, aggressive and mean by nature, they didn’t take good care of the hive. No new beebies were born. Soon, there wasn’t much left of the beautiful and healthy colony. The cells were empty and neglected. As they had done so often in the past, the Killemalls looked around, decided it was time for them to take up the offer of yet another gullible twice removed relative who had beemailed them for help.

Off they went leaving the empty hive to dangle from a branch, soon to be covered with snow, never to be inhabited again. leave comment here
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Friday, December 31, 2010

Who is in Charge?

by Madeleine Kando

I wish I was like my daughter Aniko. She still believes that everything in life can be'fixed', if you only put in the effort. It is a wonderful way to look at the world. Armed with her rock solid belief in the power of the rational mind, she goes through life like Athena, the Goddess of war. There is this slight feeling of cold toughness about her view of life, but war goddesses, after all, need a hard, metal armor to be efficient.

Yes, she is convinced that in the boxing ring of life her intellect is ample protection against the punches that come her way. With her strong, graceful and humorous personality, she approaches problems as if they were pets with behavior problems.

Granted, some breeds are tougher than others, but a rational approach will surmount any obstacle. You just need to observe, analyze, break apart if necessary and put pets back together the 'right' way.

What's the mystery about that!? Why would you have to put up with unhappiness, torment, ambivalence, uncertainty, contradiction, doubt, indecision or vacillation? Those words do not mean anything to my daughter. She swats them away like bothersome flies when the need arises.

You see, part of me takes pleasure in conflict. It gives the web of my life some tension. I don't really enjoy smooth sailing ALL the time. I would'nt want to have chronic stress, but a healthy daily dose of trouble gives spice to my days. Besides, I have had enough time to graduate from the school of hard knocks to know that my daughter's enviable illusion is far off the mark.

Someone up there must have been paying attention when they assembled her. She was handed a straight flush, right from birth. She is charming, balanced, pretty, considerate and oh so sociable. The envy of neurotic individuals like myself.

But what's going to happen to her when the shit hits the fan? Is she going to be prepared? How is she going to react when one of the millions of bad things that can happen to good people is going to come her way?

Or is it true that bad things only happen to people who 'attract' bad luck? Does she have built-in anti-shit protection? Up to now (she is already in her thirties) facts bear out this hypothesis. Shit, in any significant amount, has not come her way yet.

It's not like she leads a protected life: she takes risks. She travels around the world with just a backpack and her confidence and charm as her only weapons. But she also has an extremely sharp sense of self-preservation. When she has to choose between what's good for her and not so good for someone else, there is no hesitation. That's what leaves me breathless: her ability to remove this oh so familiar feeling of being pulled in two directions from her list of options.

Is there such a thing as 'self fulfilling prophecy'? Some people, who don't like to take risks, who do not travel, do not meet new people for fear of rejection, always find themselves holding the short end of the stick. Bad things come their way all the time. Their attempts at insulation does not prevent trouble from piling up on them.

When my oldest visits from far away California, I prepare myself. I don my rational coat and tell myself: 'Ok, Madeleine, for the next few days, put all that sentimental crap on the backburner, Aniko is coming. You better behave yourself.'

Here I am, writing about her, wondering how she will react when she reads this post. I am conflicted, ambivalent, not sure if I should remove her from my list of recipients. You see? There it is: insecurity! That's another word that doesn't fit in my daughter's world view.

Soon she will be gone. I will look back on her visit and our conversations about how to 'fix' the problems that have piled up in my life. But how do you 'fix' an overwhelming feeling of helplessness when you watch someone you deeply love self-destruct? How do you 'fix' the paralyzing feeling you get when you discover that injustice is hardwired in the fabric of life? How do you 'fix' loosing someone to war, to accidents, to neglect?

I learned a long time ago that I am not in the driver's seat of many aspects of my own life. Yes, in small things, like deciding what to eat for breakfast or what color shirt to wear, but even that is doubtful. leave comment here
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Sunday, November 14, 2010

Apples

by Madeleine Kando

Once upon a time there was a father and a mother who had ten children. They were all beautiful and smart. But one of the children was not only beautiful and smart, he was also big, strong and very wicked. He always wanted more than his fair share.

The children were very fond of apples (they were lucky, they lived in New England, so apples were aplenty). They each got one beautiful, red, shiny apple for their birthday. The beautiful, smart AND wicked boy was’nt happy with this arrangement. He really felt that he should get more. He eyed the other children’s apples and thought: ‘Why don’t I get all of them? I am smarter, more beautiful AND I am wicked!!’

Since he was extremely clever and manipulative, he convinced the father and mother that he really deserved more than one apple. He managed to get them to give him five of the apples! What with being so big and all, he really needed to eat a lot more than the other children, he said.

The other nine children were upset but they had to make do with the remaining five apples. They just had to cut them and got half an apple each.

The children grew bigger what with all the apples they had been eating on their birthday, especially the handsome, smart AND wicket boy. But one day, the mother and the father said: ‘Children, we have no money left. We cannot buy food. You need to give us five apples or we will starve.’

The beautiful, smart AND wicked boy was so clever! He said: ‘I will give you two apples because I love you so much.’ The other nine children had to chip in to make up the remaining three apples. They each gave a third of the half apple they had, which didn’t leave much, to be sure.

The father and the mother were so impressed with the generosity of the beautiful, smart AND wicked boy! He had given two apples, not just a measly sliver of an apple. (They all had forgotten that he still had three shiny, red apples left!) They gave him special privileges, and when their birthday came around and it was time for apples again, he didn’t not hesitate to take five of the ten birthday apples for himself once more.

The wicked boy had now eight apples, the three from his last birthday and the five that he took, all for himself. Since there were only ten apples total, the other nine children only got half an apple each. That and the sliver of an apple left from their last birthday didn’t even add up to one whole apple for each one of them!

The brothers and sisters realized that if things continued like this, the wicked boy would end up with all the apples in the world and there wouldn’t be any left for anyone else. They decided to finally take matters in their own hands.

They took the axe that they used to cut apple wood, went up to the beautiful, smart AND wicked boy’s room and, without hesitation chopped off his head. They cut up his body in many pieces, just like they had had to do with the few apples that he he had left them.

The deluge of apples they found in his room were devided amongst all of them, their children and grandchildren and they buried the apple cores in the orchard where soon new apple trees grew. They buried the beautiful, smart AND wicked boy under one of the apple trees and wrote on his tombstone: ‘Here lies the smart, beautiful AND wicked boy. He made the fatal mistake of wanting too much. May he rest in pieces. leave comment here
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Saturday, August 7, 2010

I Just Met Superman

By Tom Kando

This afternoon I biked up to Rescue and back. This has become my favorite ride over the past year. It’s a fifty-miler from my front door and back. I go up to Folsom Lake and then take Green Valley road up to a hole-in-the-wall called Rescue. It’s a 1200 foot vertical climb, and on hot August afternoons, it takes the stuffing out of me. I am slow, but I get there. Beyond Francisco Road, it’s practically non-stop uphill for five or six miles. The road is very beautiful, it follows an isolated stream, there is little traffic and the shoulder is good. Between the endorphins and communion with nature, I am in heaven.

My turnaround point is the Rescue fire station, a single antique building in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by Gold Rush mementos. There is never a soul. That’s where I usually take my half-way break, drenched in sweat, guzzling down gatorade and devouring a power gel. Silence reigns.

So I thought I was doing something pretty nifty.

But this afternoon, as I sat on a pile of stones collecting myself for the return ride, this other biker stops and starts chatting.

He is a handsome youngster probably in his 20s. His face bears an uncanny resemblance to my nephew Tomi, although his helmet conceals some of his features.

I immediately detect a British accent. I also notice that his road bike - a fine Giant-brand carbon bike very similar to mine - is loaded with a tent, a gallon water container and assorted other paraphernalia.

“Hi!” I say amicably. “I am Tom. Looks like you went far. Where did you ride from?”
“My name is Daniel. I rode from Virginia....” is his astounding answer.
“No way!” I exclaim. “You mean Virginia City, in Nevada?”
“No, Virginia on the East Coast...”
“That’s stupendous! When did you leave?”
“I’ve been on the road since June 28...”
“So that’s almost six weeks...”
“Right.”
“So you must’ve done 100 miles a day! That’s incredible. That’s better than the Tour de France! You have done over 3000 miles!”
“Over 4000, actually...

I further learn that Dan’s destination, tonight, is San Francisco - still over 100 miles away. He comes from Birmingham, England, and he is just doing this for the heck of it. Just today, he started in Nevada and followed highway 88 in California, crossing the 8650 foot Carson Pass! That’s way higher that the Tourmalet, the Tour de France’s most challenging mountain pass! Unbelievable!

I am flabbergasted. I can’t stop asking questions. The heat, the distances, the utter isolation crossing the Far West.

“It feels pretty good here,” he says (today was in the mid-nineties - a reasonable summer temperature for Sacramento). “Back East was bad, some days. 99 degrees, and extremely humid. Crossing Kansas was the worst.”

“How about Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, the deserts,” I ask, “ weren’t there enormous stretches of absolute nothingness?”

“Yeah! The longest stretch I went without seeing any roadside stops or people or anything was somewhere in Nevada - for 86 miles, it was just the road and me...”

Then he adds, “I thought Nevada was flat, but it sure isn’t, man!”

“So, did you have flats, or other mishaps?” I inquired. “And what do you do, if something bad happens?”

He shows me his map, his cell phone. His spare tire, his gallon water. But he has no GPS.

Two red necks happen to come by. I am so excited, I address them, saying, “Hey you guys, guess what: Dan here just rode his bike all the way from Virginia!”

The only reaction we get from one of the red necks: “Why would he do such a thing?”

Dan answers courteously: “It’s the challenge, I guess.”

And then, he hops on his bike, saying, “Well, I have to get to San Francisco before nightfall. Better go.”

I get his e-mail address, and I wish him the best. I still can’t believe it. Here I thought I was doing something - riding up to Rescue, doing 60 miles on a hot August afternoon. Wooptido! But today I met superman. leave comment here
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pequeño

by Madeleine Kando

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, there were three little children whose names were: Jane, Eva and Peter. They all lived together in a big house with their mother and father. They were very busy getting bigger, because that’s what they wanted most of all: to get BIG.

One day, Jane fell out of bed and broke her tooth. Poor Jane. She wasn’t too upset though, she could still chew her food quite well with all her other teeth. But just to make sure, her dad called the tooth fairy and said: ‘Tooth fairy, could you come over tonight and grant Jane a wish, so Jane won’t be sad about her lost tooth?’ So, the tooth fairy asked what Jane wished for the most and he told her: she wished she were BIG.

The next day, when the children woke up, they were a little surprised. Everything was so BIG! The chairs were big, their beds were really big and even their slippers were so big that they looked like boats instead of slippers.

Peter (who was smaller but very smart) said to his sisters: ‘Don’t worry. This means that we are still asleep, and we are just dreaming. Let’s wait until we really wake up.’ So they all laid down, closed their eyes again and waited until they REALLY would wake up. Eva, who became a bit impatient, peeked through her half closed eyes. But nothing had changed. So she said: ‘I don’t think we are dreaming, guys. We better find out what’s happened.’

Eva managed to climb out of her enormous bed. And right there, on the enormous floor was an enormous piece of paper with enormous letters on it: ‘Yoor weesh as bin granted. And it was signed: ‘Sinceramente, la hada’ (which means ‘fairy’ in Spanish).

Oh, no! The tooth fairy, who had just arrived on a boat, only spoke Spanish! She had feverishly looked up all the words in the Webster English/Spanish dictionary, and had misunderstood.

Instead of making Jane, Eva and Peter BIG, she had made everything else big! Jane said: ‘We will write on the note, ask her to make things ‘smaller’ (they knew the word from their Spanish class in school).

Luckily there was a bucket of fresh paint on the enormous floor. Peter, Jane and Eva dipped their little feet in the enormous paint bucket and started to walk the letters like this:


They managed to climb back into their huge beds by grabbing onto the sheets and closed their little eyes and waited. Sure enough, they heard a swooshing sound and when they opened their eyes everything was normal sized again.

Jane, who was actually the smartest of the three, told her dad that they wanted to send the tooth fairy a gift certificate which would entitle her to take some English as a Second Language classes. That is how the tooth fairy learnt English and never made mistakes like that ever again. leave comment here
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Friday, June 11, 2010

The Egoas and the Plebs

by Madeleine Kando

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, there was a group of individuals who went by the name of ‘the Egoas’. Lady Luck had been very generous with this group. She had given them a special place to live, a place called ‘Egoasville’. She had also endowed them with the ability to never doubt their own superiority with regard to the rest of the world.

They went about their business feeling very pleased with themselves because in Egoasville all the signs on the walls read: ‘Egoas are special, beware of imitations.’ Another poster read: ‘Please come to our special meeting on Wednesday night to discuss an impartial view of world affairs. Non-Egoas are not really welcome’. Unfortunately, as time passed, the Egoas got older and lazier. The Egoas needed fresh blood. Egoasville was situated in a country called Plebsland. That’s where the Plebs lived. The Plebs were not very privileged and many of them really wanted to live in Egoasville where they would become as special as the Egoas.

One day a Plebs just marched right into Egoasville, rented a room in a nice street and went about his business. The Egoas demanded that he fill out a questionnaire, to see who he knew that lived in Egoasville. The form clearly showed that he did not know one single Egoa personally, so out te went, along with his suitcase and already unpacked toothbrush.

Word spread of his appalling treatment and before you could count one two three, friends, family members and sympathizers rushed over to Egoasville and staged a protest march. Egoas aren’t comfortable with conflict so they allowed the Plebs to stay in Egoasville but dedicated a special section of town to them, which became known as the ‘Dontgothere’ quarters. They gave them money for schools, hospitals, libraries, anything to keep them out of the rest of Egoasville.

The Plebs initially were pleased. Life was easy. They spent their ample spare time trying to impose their religious views on the Egoas who didn’t go for any type of religious nonsense. But soon the Plebs began to feel like second class citizens. After all, they were ready to pull their load, but filling out forms, being pressured to stick to your own kind and having your friends pre-chewed for you was not something they enjoyed. They started a movement called ‘Letusin’. There was no opposition to their aggressive slogans, their unreasonable demand for equality, their obsession with religion. But all of this was to no avail. The Plebs couldn’t budge the Egoas’s obstinate attitude.

No one remembers exactly when it started, but Egoasville became a place where noone dared walk around after dark. The Plebs in the meantime, were wondering if admiring the Egoas was still a good thing. I mean, they really had made a mess of things, hadn’t they? Their treatment of the Plebs became known as the ‘Great Gaffe’ and the Plebs’ admiration for the Egoas started to wane.

As time went by more and more Egoas died out or left for greener pastures. More and more Plebs came to Egoasville. They didn’t put up with any Egoas nonsense any more. Gone were the days of admiration and servitude. In fact they decided to rename ‘Egoasville’ and called it ‘Plebsville’. The Plebs were in control. They became the new Egoas.

One day, without any warning whatsoever, a stranger appeared in Plebsville. He didn’t understand the rules of Plebsville very well. He was used to go as he pleased. So he just marched right into Plebsville, rented a room in a nice street and went about his business… leave comment here
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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Flopsy Bunny Nations

By Madeleine Kando

It is said the effect of being too affluent is ‘soporific’. To have so little want of the basic things in life, like food, shelter and good health, that it seems a distant dream to have to do without those things. Some nations have at one time or another been exposed to the soporific effects of too much comfort. Other nations never had that luxury. (I doubt that a country like Haiti ever did suffer from a soporific mindset).

Countries that are affluent for an extended period of time start to take their level of comfort as the norm. The inhabitants of such nations remind me a lot of Flopsy Bunnies. They are overcome with slumber most of their lives. They wonder why other nations are poor. ‘What are we doing right?’ they ask themselves. ‘What are they doing wrong?’ Thus, being affluent creates a lot of hot air, like gas bubbles rising to the surface of a soup.

Flopsy Bunny nations love to criticize. They like to think of themselves as very special. Their flopsy nature makes them prone to self-agrandisement and unless someone pinches them real hard (in the shape of a good old famine, an earthquake or a flood..) so that they wake up from their soporific slumber, they will never admit to just being pampered and plain lucky.

I didn’t know this until I decided to venture outside of MY flopsy bunny garden patch . I did this on a whim, mind you. I was a flopsy bunny myself. I liked the luxury of a soporific life style. Basking in the sun after a heavy meal of my favorite lettuce. Knowing that my Flopsy Bunny country would safely tuck me in at night. My Flopsy Bunny garden patch was my world and I did not want to venture into the rest of Mr. McGregor’s garden.

I had heard horror stories of bunnies disappearing there and put in a rabbit pie. Of bunnies getting sick and not being able to get health care because they couldn’t pay their doctor bills. Of bunnies going without lettuce because they had lost their patch, and no one there to take care of them.

‘Thank God I don’t live in Mr McGregor’s garden’ I thought. But I was also curious. Mr. McGregor’s garden sounded a lot more exciting than my Flopsy Bunny neighborhood. ‘What was wrong with just taking a peek?’ I told myself. So I did. I peeked. The more I peeked the more exciting it seemed to live there. Forget about the rabbit pie. I could outrun any old McGregor. So I packed my basket and my umbrella and squeezed under the garden gate.

I had some close brushes with disaster, like the time that I had to go on food stamps to buy lettuce. But on the whole, I never regretted my decision to leave my flopsy bunny nation. Mr McGregor’s garden turned out to be as exciting and expansive as I had imagined it. Moving there sure gave me some battle scars. But I am no longer a flopsy bunny and living the soporific life style of my youth would not fit me any more.

I do not begrudge flopsy bunnies their affluence. More power to them. But they are confusing luck with superiority and their tendency to lecture the less affluent is what I abhor. leave comment here
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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Milly The Wug

by Madeleine Kando

Milly the wug was very ordinary looking. She wasn’t one of those fancy wugs, with curly cues int their hair and stiff collars to hold up their necks. No, Milly was unpretentious. True, she had a tendency towards being snappy sometimes. Especially when her father came into her room without knocking. Her parents often couldn’t tell where her wugging started and theirs ended. But on the whole, she was a well-adjusted, soft-spoken, cuddly little wug that most other wugs her age liked.

On Tuesday she received a letter from her aunt Mildred (she was named after her as you might have guessed). This is what the letter said: ‘Dear Milly. This is your aunt Mildred. I wanted to come over to visit you on Friday to give you a present. Please respond a.s.a.p, as I am waitressing all week at the ‘Wugger’s delight’ and need to ask my boss if I can take the evening off. Yours sincerely, Aunt Mildred’.

Milly liked presents so she replied in an email. ‘Dear aunt Mildred. Yes, please come over. I will be waiting in my room. The secret knock on the door is the following: ‘two short taps followed by one long one’.

Milly could hardly wait for Friday to come. She had received presents before. They all had had cards on them: ‘to Milly-the-wug’. Just so they wouldn’t be given to whom exactly? ‘Milly-the-bee’? ‘Milly-the-bear?’ No-one else was named Milly in her neighborhood, so it was somewhat superfluous in her opinion. But as I said before, Milly was ordinary and unpretentious, so she kept her criticism to herself.

On Wednesday, on her way to school, she met up with Barnaby. Barnaby secretly liked Milly. That’s why he sometimes pushed her and punched her on the shoulder. So Milly crossed the street so she wouldn’t have to talk to him. In school they learnt about the famous twelfth century ‘Batlle of the Wugs’ when Wug the Magnificent had defeated his enemies.

On Thursday, after she had done her chores and her homework, she took Poodles for a walk. She saw a crawn stuck in the tree where Poodles was doing his business. She carefully untangled his right leg and placed him on the ground. Crawns are unpredictable you see, so Milly quickly stepped back before the crawn would have a chance to take a bite out of her helping hand.

Finally it was Friday. Milly had put out chips and lemonade, crackers and napkins. And now she was waiting for the secret knock. And sure enough: she heard the two short taps followed by one long one. ‘Please come in’ said Milly.

The door opened slowly and Milly, who hadn’t seen her aunt Mildred for quite some time, was surprised to see a beautiful, tall and slender wug stand in the doorway. ‘Hello Milly’ said Mildred with a beautiful, melodious voice, unlike any other wug voice Milly had every heard. ‘I have come to give you a present. Would you like to open it?’

Millly was very curious but also very polite, so she first offered Mildred some lemonade and crackers. As the tension built inside her, she inched her way closer to the box and finally couldn’t resist. ‘May I?’ she said. The box was easily opened. A flat, square looking object was wrapped in tissue paper. She had never seen anything like it before. Inside a dark brown looking frame was a shiny silver colored glass surface with the letters ‘U’ and ‘G’ on it. As Milly slowly turned it towards her she saw buttons with letters, like a telephone pad on the side of the frame. She pressed the letter ‘W’. Whoosh! An odd looking creature was looking back at her. It had eyes, ears, a nose.. ‘what is that?’ asked Milly. It looks like a picture of someone familiar. I sort of like it. Who is it?’

Mildred leaned towards her and as she caressed her cheeks with an ever so tender touch, she said: ‘that is YOU, my darling. A wug. Why don’t you press the letter ‘B’?’ Instantly she was transformed into a B-U-G inside the frame. As she started to press the different letters, her reflection metamorphosed into a M-U-G, then a R-U-G and also a SL-U-G. ‘What a wonderful present’, said Milly. I can be anything I want!’

So from that day on, when she didn’t feel like doing her homework she changed herself into a bug. And when her father got upset she could become a ‘hug’ and make him feel better. And when her feet were cold she could become a ‘rug’.

I bet you can think of many other things Milly could change herself into. Wouldn’t it be great to be a wug? leave comment here
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