Tag Archives: time travel

30 Cubed – The Analyst

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Fixing it. Sometimes the lure of a chance to, well, do it over and do it right is intoxicating. The human curiosity of how we might make the math come alive in the “real” world taunts us. Surely the math can’t lie. If time has no arrow in the equations, then why do we still see an arrow?

Given the current state of affairs in my life, time travel was beginning to look more than desirable; it was looking downright necessary. My job was out the window, my wife had shown me the door, and most of the friends I had were avoiding me in case I was contagious. And the thing was that I knew when things went bad. Well let’s face it, a lot of people knew, when but I seriously suspected it before it all came crashing down. I grumbled about it almost daily. My wife was sick of it. Maybe that’s why she kicked me out. “I told you so,” are not words that endear you to people or create deep bonds.

Aw, see? That’s where the problem was, bonds. One of the things that any mathematical or physics theoretical specialist will tell you is to not apply the math unless the entire scenario fits. Some seriously damaged soul had taken a mathematical algorithm that defined how bodies of a certain mass react and applied it to bonds. If bonds have any mass it can only be defined by the amount of puffery used to sell the things. Why, then were we using the math of gravity (as we knew it) to define bond markets? It was insane and it kept me up at night.

It’s taken me months of research, quiet investigation and not a few bribes. I have, however, found someone that is sure they have a functioning pathway to the past. They were quietly looking for volunteers because one person had to stay in the present while one went into the past. I was game. And I knew just where I wanted to go.

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Wall Street in the late 1990s was on fire. There was a perception in the country that things were really moving up. I knew then and I know now that the real numbers were far gloomier. Expendable income in the majority of households had not risen in a decade or more. But people believed. And when they believed they spent money. I was there to find the one person that would change the course of the future. The MBA who thought it was a good idea to mix physics with finance. Surely I could explain the facts of life and economics over a nice Manhattan lunch and return to a saner world, a world where I still had a job.

His name was not widely known. A student in a university taking an MBA with a serious interest in economics. He fell in love with math. He had been looking for a way to determine future yield on bond markets. Something reliable in an emotion driven market. (You didn’t really think that market investments were driven by logic, now did you)?

I had to convince this person that the idea he was about to take to Wall Street was the worst economic decision the world had seen since the crash. I found him in an off-campus diner, chatting with another student. Placing myself to hear the conversation I realized that this was the physics student that would drive him off course. Friendly as I could be I introduced myself as a visiting professor of economics. During our lunch I did my best to point out the pit falls of combining the fields in the manner they were attempting. Believing I had made my point I took my leave and found my way back to the portal.

I found things as they should be in the lab. My guide, however, was nowhere to be seen. Perhaps I didn’t return exactly as expected, so I went in search of information. Walking down the hall I saw a television on in what appeared to be a break room. Several people were watching the program on the screen and I stepped in to listen. There was the student, now a few years older and he appeared to be under arrest. Moving closer I heard the newscaster rattle off some statistics that only made sense in one context. The camera pulled out and on the building behind him an all too familiar logo came into focus. Oh, he had learned all right. When I suggested his formula would cause havoc in the bond market he simply switched tactics and sold his paper, and his life to Enron. I had arrived too early. And most of it was going to happen again.

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Filed under My Fiction - Very Short Fiction

Reflections ~ If you were “there,” it never really goes away.

This week, here in America, many of us are recognizing a moment in history when the course of our history changed.  I know there are many such moments; times when the myriad possibilities that stretch before us solidify into the future path.  However, if you were alive and well in the early 60s; the assassination of President Kennedy was more than a defining moment.  It was a moment when the darker side of American existence pushed and shoved its way into the public eye.  For better or worse, on that day, America did indeed “lose her innocence.”

ST-C420-51-63At the urging of a friend I picked up a copy of Stephen King’s, 11/22/63.   She opened a chat line on Facebook so that we could discuss our interpretations and feelings on the novel and that moment in history.  My answer will be to post a link to this blog.  For me, it was an all-consuming (whenever possible) read.  You see, I was around and old enough to be cognizant all those many years ago.

King’s story is an exquisite adventure into time travel.  I was completely drawn into his mental exercise of what the implications of time travel might be.  How no matter how fervently we wish to change the past that change can cause repercussions we are even less happy with.  No matter how hard we try to make sense of the horror or randomness of life’s pathways; there can be even more horrible consequences should we meddle.

Reading the story sent me on my own nostalgic trip. Using faithful and ever present Google I looked up the home that I lived in with my parents in 1963.  It was in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Interesting, the house is still green and the retaining wall we built is still there – at least it was when the street-level Google photo was taken.  It took a bit more research but I finally found the elementary school I was attending and as soon as I saw the name I had a “George” moment: Whittier Elementary.  A fairly sizable school within suitable walking distance of our home.  No, I only walked uphill one way, but the winds of my youth were very, very cold (dress code demanded that girls wear skirts) and the snow could get rather deep in that part of the country.  I also saw that my “short cut” was still there.

It was during our lunch time recess that there was an announcement on the PA system; we were having an emergency assembly.  I remember filing into the auditorium with everyone else on that day and seeing our principal and most of the teaching staff on stage.  Nearly all of them were in tears.   With a breaking voice our principal informed us that our president had been assassinated.  School was being closed, everyone was being sent home.  If you did not have acceptable arrangements at home, please speak with your teacher.  Thanks, but no thanks.  I’ll be fine.  And I walked home.

I don’t remember when my parents got home, or what their specific responses were.  I think my mother was deeply affected, I’m not really sure about my father. For me the world was suddenly something I heard down some tunnel we like to think of as reality.  My home life was not a pleasant thing.  Better than some, worse than others, but behind our walls some of that “innocence” of the day was most definitely cracked and pealed.

In the 60s child abuse was something that happened most often in the comfort of your own home (or educational institution) with hot chocolate and marshmallows.   It wasn’t talked about.  Any more than the performance of a drunken actress singing happy birthday to her own, very special president was talked about.   America had won the war.  We were healthy economically, on top of the world politically and our borders were secure.  Our president had avoided nuclear war with an intense game of chess (or poker) and we were all breathing easier for the victory.  Suddenly, that all shattered.  For me it was truly personal because I had held a belief that “once I left home” I would be in control of my own life.  The assassination of a controversial, but beloved president blew that vision into a million shards of star dust.  Nowhere was safe.  Absolutely nowhere.

I will, of course, never know what my journey might have been if I could have retained my belief in a safe America.  An America where people somehow believed that rhetoric does not create real events, real impact.  I say this because I firmly believe that at least part of the community guilt that Dallas suffered was due to the hot bed of racial and religious intolerance that was evident not too far below the surface if not quite frankly out in the open.  King does an excellent job of describing our country in that age.  The segregation, treatment of women, the slums, the real hatred that some held for our internationally renowned “leading couple.”  There was a bubbling current of talk about how the man should be shot; he was nothing but a commie and he would surely lead us all into perdition; most assuredly if he made us live side by side with “those others.”  I am sure there are many that thought good riddance; but there were others who felt just as guilty as if they had fired the shot themselves.  The underbelly of America.  Prejudice, poverty, fear for the future in a nuclear world.  It was no longer possible to ignore it.

King, after researching the matter with the zeal of a writer, does not think there was a conspiracy.  What feelings of “conspiracy” I have are limited to the opportunistic use of the event rather than any forethought or planning.  Although I’m sure there was plenty of that going on.  Of all of the work I have read myself on the subject, the best and most believable is Mortal Error: The Shot that Killed Kennedy by Bonar Mennings.  It is the story of 25 years of research by a man named Howard Donahue.  Donahue is a ballistics and gun expert and was involved in one of the many investigations that followed the event.   It is a completely different take on the events of that day.   Anything I say about the book will be a true spoiler.  It was, for me, a bit of closure.

After 50 years, where does this story leave me?  I have to say that it may have influenced my life more than I have previously acknowledged.  I am an avid student of history.  Not just the dates, events, names, and chronologies; I love to sort out the pieces and see if the trail of consequences leads me to some conclusion not obvious in the written record.  What were the pivotal moments in history that caused kingdoms to rise or fall or individuals to become heroes or villains? Do the same circumstances in another place and time change the label of hero or villain; do they change the outcome?

The other part of that repercussion is my intense interest in philosophy and religion.  Is life really random?  Is there anything concrete we can depend on, or is it all a blind act of faith?  Is there some hope that we can navigate our lives in such a way that our journey, and that of others that we touch, is somehow better and not destroyed in some small or great way?

That brings, me then, to my current work in progress.  I think in my exploration of the life of Job and in the various interpretations of his story and his response I am going back to these fundamental questions.  Why do such horrible things happen?  Is there a plan, or only a vague path through the “lesser horror” and a hope for mitigation?  What is the impact of “change,” when and if it is even possible?  Perhaps you’d like to make the journey with me.

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Filed under Humanties for the Unbound Mind, My Bookshelf ~ Fiction, Personal Journeys