Tuesday, December 22, 2015

It's Okay

Trump is the 'bad boy' your teenage daughter started dating. You keep telling yourself; "Don't worry; it's just a passing phase."

She keeps telling herself; "Don't worry; I'm just having a little fun (and it will show them I'm sick their rules.)"

Then one day she tells you; "Me and Donny eloped last night, I'm pregnant so we'll need to live with you guys for a while. Okay?"

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Travels of Jack Pynesapp - Book 2: Red and Jimmy - Chapter 1; Night Train

This is 34 in a series of  chronicling an expedition into 'space' with Jack Pynesapp and his granddaughter Red. To read the entire story (with notes) please see the JackPynesapp web site: [ click here ]

Travels of Jack Pynesapp

Book 2: Red and Jimmy

Chapter 1; Night Train

"Dinner reservations?"
The voice filled a gap in the song that was playing in her earbuds and Red opened her eyes to see a man walking down the isle towards their seats.  She nudged Jimmy; sitting next to her. He reached up and pressed the pause button on the wire to his ear buds and looked at her;
"Let's eat in the dinning car tonight."
"That's so expensive." He grunted.
"I know," She said,  "but I don't feel like a sandwich in the snack bar. And anyway, shouldn't we see if the food is a good as they say it is?" 
"Alright, but you pay."
She laughed and whispered; "Right." Then she touched the man on the arm as he was walking by her and she said; "We'll take six o'clock."
"I only have 5:30, 6:30,  and 7:00 reservations left."
"We'll take 5:30, "she said, "I'm starving." She looked at Jimmy; "Is that alright?"
"Fine." He sighed.
The man wrote something on a small piece of paper and handed it to Red. "Okay, you have a reservation for two at 5:30 in the dining car."
"Cool!" Red squeaked. The man walked on and continued calling; "Dinner reservations?"
The little boy, who was sitting with his mom in the seat in front of them was looking over the seat back at Red. He looked hungry. Red smiled at him and giggled. Then looked at Jimmy and said; "Isn't this exciting?"
Jimmy grunted.
"Won't this be fun?" She said. "I've heard the food is really good in the Dining car."
Jimmy smiled at her and said; "I know, you said that." Then he clicked off the pause, settled back in his seat and closed his eyes. "We'll see."
"I can't wait." She said to the little boy. He disappeared down behind his seat back.


When they entered the Dining car the attendant motioned to them to sit at the table he was standing next to.  There was already someone sitting in the booth, across from the seat where the attendant was pointing.  Jimmy gave Red a puzzled look. Red smiled back and nodded. She'd heard about this custom on trains; if there are only one or two in your party you will share a table with someone else.

So Jimmy and Red slid in the booth across from an older couple who looked up from their menus, smiled brightly,  and said; "Hi." As if they were-long lost friends.

It turns out that this couple weren't a couple after all. They were traveling alone and had been seated next to each other. They had only met at lunch -- when they had also been seated together -- so they already knew each others story.

The waiter was right there and handed each person a long narrow sheet of paper. "Please fill in the bottom with your car number and room number and sign your name. "

"We're in coach." Red said.

"Then just put your car number." The waiter smiled.

He collected the papers, took our drink orders, and walked away. 

"Meals are included with the rooms." The lady said. "I'm Alice and this is Bill. Bill and I met at lunch and now we've been seated together again. Isn't that lucky?"

Bill smiled at Alice and nodded. "What are the odds?" he said.

"Hi, I'm Andrea and this is James." Red smiled at Jimmy. "We already met, too."

"In high school." Jimmy added with a laugh.

"Are you married?" Alice asked.

"Two years." Red said.

"Is this your first train ride?"

"No, I wouldn't say that." Red laughed.

"Not exactly." Jimmy added.

"But it's our first time on this train." Red explained.  "This is our first time on the Coastal Express."

"It's Bill's first time as well." Alice said. She looked at him and asked; "Right?"

"That's right." He said  "I've always wanted to take the train but I've never had time to travel before now."

"Too busy." Alice added. "Bill's never traveled at all until now."

"Never been out of Seattle before now." Bill added.

"Your kidding, " Red said, "you've never been out of Washington state?"

Alice bubbled; "He's 72 years old and he's never even been out of Seattle - not just Washington state - Seattle. He's never been out of the city. Can you believe it?" 

"Why haven't you ever left Seattle?" Red asked.

"He said he was too busy with work and all, you know." Alice said.
Bill added; "When I retired I sold everything and bought a train ticket and I've been traveling ever since."

"Sold everything?" Jimmy asked. "Why, are you dying?'

Red turned to Jimmy and gave him her 'be nice' look. 

"No, no, no, nothing like that." Bill laughed. "I just retired and I wanted a change."

"He sold his house and all his possessions." Alice bubbled.  "He even gave away all his cloths and furniture - everything that he couldn't sell he gave away. Everything he couldn't give away he just left behind. Isn't that incredible?"

The waiter brought the drinks and waited for their food orders.

"You should have the steak." Alice suggested. "I've had it before and it's great."

"I take it this isn't your first time." Red as she ordered the steak.

"Oh good heavens no." Alice laughed.

Jimmy and Alice ordered the steak and Bill ordered the fish. "I'd like to try something different." He said apologetically. 

"Why am I not surprised." Red smiled.

The waiter left.

"So, Bill, " Red asked, "where have you're travels taken you so far?"

Bill paused a second, glanced at Alice and when she didn't say anything, he answered; "Well first thing, I flew out to New Jersey to see my Son and his family."

"It was his first ever time on an airplane." Alice chimed.

"Figures." Jimmy looked at Red, smiled and looked like 'what?'.

Bill continued; "Well, you know I just figured why not splurge and take a plane. I have tons of money now and I can afford some luxury."

"Well what did you think of flying?" Red asked.

"Have you ever flown?" Alice asked.

"Not here." Jimmy glanced at Red.

"So how was it?" Red persisted. She didn't want the conversation to take that turn.

"You see me here right -- on the train -- that should answer that."

"He said it was terrible." Alice said. "There were long delays. The plane was and hour late getting there. Once he got on the plane they had to wait another hour to take off."

"Some sort of mechanical problem." Bill interrupted. 

"You're kidding." Red looked at Bill -- hoping Alice would get the hint and shut up.

She didn't. "I know, " She continued, "and once he was on board, his seat was uncomfortable and he was wedged between two executive types who had had a little too much to drink."

"It was very uncomfortable." Bill added.

Alice continued; "He said they were vulgar and loud and kept harassing the stewardesses. Can you imagine?"

"I've heard stories like that about flying." Red said.

"Well, I'd never fly again." Bill said.

"Why would you?" Alice laughed. "Trains are faster, much more comfortable, have much better service."

"Faster?" Jimmy laughed. "Really?"

"Of course." Alice laughed. "I don't mean that trains go faster than planes. But don't forget that they have to take off and land, taxi to the terminal, sometimes wait -- like Bill said -- a long time to get access to the runways."

"And don't forget about delays for weather and all that." Bill added.

"Trains just stop, pick up and drop off and then they go again. No delays. It only takes a couple minutes and they're back on the way -- full speed ahead." Alice said.

"But there are a lot more planes." Jimmy said. "So the service has to be better."

"Not really," Bill said. "Take this Coastal Express service for instance. They run a train every two hours from New York and Los Angeles -- and back."

"And pretty much the same service between all the major cities." Alice interrupted.

"And, " Bill continued, "with all the stops it takes a bit longer over all, but even so 14 hours coast to coast isn't that bad."

"Once you eat, take a nap or - like on this overnight run -- you can get a bed and sleep off this great meal." Alice said.

"And when you wake up you have time for a cup of coffee and a roll and you're in LA." Bill said.

"All relaxed and ready for the new day. You can't say that about a plane.' Alice laughed.

"That's for sure -- that's for damn sure." Bill said.

"Bill!" Alice scolded.

Bill smiled sheepishly as the waiter arrived with their food. They began eating and the conversation took a temporary back seat to the yummy sounds of four travelers enjoying a good meal.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

When you're 86...

Wisconsin Memorial  Union Remodeling

So -- what? Like another 20 years? I hope I can wait that long.

The second phase of this remodeling project has now begun. Peet's is closed and will open again in its new location -- somewhere in the remodeled east end -- vacating the current location in what used to be the arcade.

They have moved the ice cream place into one of those little rooms across from the Stiftskeller and they serve coffee there as well. On my first visit I bought one of these coffees (my Peet's coffee card wouldn't work since Peet's is gone.) I sat down in the Rathskeller but as you can see from the pictures below, it's very weird in there now. The room is still open but all the arches are boarded over and it is very claustrophobic.

It is also very empty, at least at 8:00 in the morning. Not a soul sitting and rarely anyone walking through. No background music. No conversations. Nobody studying or reading. No teachers meeting with students. No friends meeting and talking about the day (or night). Just very quiet stillness and, perhaps a couple ghosts.

So I will give the 'new' Union a try. Next bike ride to campus I will stop at the Union South. I hear they have a Peet's coffee shop.

September 2015 - so it starts
Feels a little claustrophobic
Rathskeller is deserted -- feels like a dungeon.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Diggin the trees.

There's a fence around the UW Memorial Union parking lot this morning. It extends into the street (Langdon St.) and almost blocks my access to The Union from the east. My bike and I are forced onto the sidewalk to pass between these construction 'pens' as I make my way to Peet's for coffee. This too will close in August for the second phase of remodeling.  But this isn't about fences -- or Peet's.

The old parking lot had a center island with nice trees. As I am writing this, these are being cut down and chipped.  The plans call for replacing these trees -- and the parking lot -- with a green space (pedestrian mall) and hopefully, more trees.  I like this idea of  more green space, and I believe this will be an improvement to the campus. But, did they have to cut down the trees?

I've noticed more and more that trees get in the way of progress.  When they decide to improve  a road, or erect a building or some other monument to civilization, the first thing to go are the trees. Young or old, it doesn't seem to matter. There seems to be no thought whatever given to this life that will be lost. It is a mere blip on their radar that is easily torpedoed. "We'll just plant a new one." seems to be the attitude. "It's easy and, after all, it's good for the economy."(These days anything that is 'good for the economy' is considered sacred.)

For the past 20 years I have been planting trees in an attempt to establish a woodlot. One thing that I have learned is that Nature is much better at planting trees than I am. She knows which tree species (or individual) will thrive in a certain spot -- and which will not. No matter how much I study, or how much I think I know, my efforts are little more than guesses.  So when a tree grows and thrives in nature there is a reason for this that involves much more than merely whether a seed lands on the ground.

A professor of mine once told me that when you learn all the things that can kill trees, you will give up trying to raise them. There are soil conditions, nutrients, water, and climate that determine if a seed will sprout. Then the seedling must survive competition (eg. grass, weeds and other trees),  animal browse (eg. deer, rabbits, gophers, and mice), winter kill, hunters in their trucks, herbicide drift from neighbor's corn fields (or lawns),  deer rub,  pruning 'accidents'.  Or simply trying to plant the wrong tree in the wrong place (or time).

So with all these things working against success, it's a real accomplishment when a tree manages to grow up to be big and strong -- and, dare I say, happy. But then comes along a new 'boss' with a different idea and suddenly this tree is in the wrong place and has to go. Who knows, they may end up planting a new tree right where the old one stood (it is to become a green space after all). But these days it's easier and more economical (there's that word again) to bring in the heavy equipment; wipe the slate clean; start over from scratch.

After all, it's for the good of progress. It's for the good of the economy. It's just too bad for that tree.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Flies are Amazing

Every Tuesday morning, Jack takes a walk down to the local coffee shop where he joins a bunch of his old high school buddies for an hour or so of smart talk and/or tall tales. On this fine Tuesday morning in June, everyone seems to have something better to do than sit and drink coffee. So today it's just Jack and Glen Denning. Glen is probably the only guy in town who is farther 'out there' than Jack. 

" I never realized how amazing flies are."; Glen leaned back in his chair and took another bite out of his Danish.


"Yeah, you know those iridescent green flies."

"Okay. What's so special about them?" I asked; "They're flies."

"No, listen to this."

"Oh boy," I thought, "here we go."

"I was out in the woods yesterday, working on my hunting stand, you know, cutting sight lines so I could get a better shot at the deer. Clearing brush and that, you know." He brushed some crumbs off his chest and leaned toward me and said softly; "You know, I stopped in here for one of those great greasy steak and egg breakfasts and then headed out to the woods."

I wasn't sure why he was whispering.

He continued aloud; "Well I was just cutting away and having a great time when I got this rumbling feeling in my stomach. Just a little gas, I thought, and it would pass." He laughed at his own joke. "But it didn't, you know. It started cramping and I kinda knew where this was going so I put down the saw and started heading for the car. I figured that I'd better get to the house and take care of this."

"This isn't going where I think it's going, is it?" I said as I looked at my half eaten Danish."

"No, listen." He said. "This is cool."

"So." He continued; " I got in the car and started it up but the cramps were getting worse -- and fast. So I got out of the car. I figured I was gonna have to take care of this right away. You know, old style."  He laughed again. "So I had to find a tree to lean back against. I was wearing my big boots and saw chaps so it's not safe to just squat -- you gotta lean back against something in order to get a clear shot at the ground."

"You said this was about flies?" I asked -- hoping to change the subject.

"Yeah, I'm getting to that." He said; "Well, by now I was cramping really bad that I knew that I couldn't hold it much longer.  I leaned back against the first tree I could find and started  tearing at my chaps buckle and belt. I was holding as hard as I could but it wasn't enough to stop the inevitable."

I pushed away the Danish.

"I dropped the pants and chaps down to my boot tops and slid down the tree trunk into full squat but the deed was half done. I was able to clear my pants and my boots so I was feeling a little better -- until I looked at my underwear. You've had kids. You know what a full diaper looks like." He laughed.

"Yeah, I've seen a few of them."

"Well trust me, this was worse. Lucky I was wearing tighty whities. It was all 'contained' you know. But now there I was; stuck, you might say, with my back against the tree and full pants. How do I extricate myself without doing more 'damage'".

"You said this was about flies, right?"

"Patience. I'm getting to that. Well lucky for me, I had my hunting knife -- I always carry that when I'm in the woods. You know; habit. So I took out the knife and cut the underwear off through the leg openings and waistband. Folded it up like a diaper and tossed it clear (for now)." Then I grabbed some leaves from one of the bushes I'd just cut and wiped as well as I could. It's a far cry from Charmin, you know - leaves. But what are you gonna do, you know."

"We're really spoiled, I guess." I smiled.

"So I worked my way back up to standing and pulled my pants up again. But you know what's amazing? There were already a dozen or so of those flies just eating happily away on that shit. It was only like a minute. Where did they come from?"

"Out of thin air - you might say." I laughed.

"Yeah, I guess." He said; smiling. "But seriously; isn't that amazing."

"What's amazing is that you told me that story this while I was eating."

"But those flies can't just be everywhere. Can they? They must have an incredible sense of smell to pick that up so fast." 

"Maybe they are everywhere and we just don't see them until someone shits in the woods."

"Whatever, I still think it's amazing. Can you imagine how useful they could be if we could train them to be -- like bloodhounds. They could track down fugitives by smell. Or find lost kids."

"And once we train these flies how do we track them? Tiny little GPS transmitters attached to their tiny little legs?"

"Yeah, funny. You know, I'm just saying."

He sat back and sipped his coffee. After a while he said; "We'd have to train swarms of them and then we could follow the swarm with a drone or something."

"How do you train a fly?"

"I don't know. It must be coded in their genes, you know, to sense the smell of food. All we need to do is find out what gene codes for the smell of shit and change it to code for the smell of lost boy."

"Simple." I laughed. "Then we only need to inject that new DNA into millions of maggots and we're all set."

Glen nodded and said; "You'd probably need to modify the mother fly before she produced her eggs to get this to work. How long does it take for fly eggs to hatch and maggots to turn into flies?"

"I don't know. By then the lost boy would probably be dead and you'd have to change the gene to code for dead lost boy."

"Still, " Glen smiled as he finished off the last bite of his Danish, "you've gotta admit, flies are pretty amazing."

Bottle Fly, aka Blow Fly, aka Cadaver Fly

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Dream in layers

When insomnia hits at 3:00 AM I put in my earbuds and listen to books on tape. I replay old stories that I already know very well so there is no suspense left. It's like when I was a child and my mother used to read to me at bedtime. The voice of the storyteller pushes from my mind all the thoughts and worries that have kept me from sleep. 

These books span many tapes (CD's) and I play copies of them on my ipod using the music app. This app will just quit (and 'turn off') when it get's to the end of each tape so I start listening in the middle of the 'tape' so that it won't keep playing and wake me up again after I doze off. I have figured out the timing, over the years, and it's usually foolproof.

The other night, after starting the story and settling my head back in the pillow I was trying to talk to someone and I couldn't hear them because of the storyteller was talking too loud. I turned the volume down so that I could hear. But as we continued our conversation the story teller was still too loud. So I pressed the pause button on the earbuds to get the story teller to shut up. The story teller kept talking and I still couldn't hear the conversation. So I pulled the earphone plug out of the ipod (this always stops whatever app is playing.) But the storyteller kept talking.

By now I was getting pretty annoyed. I wanted to hear the conversation and all I was hearing was this story that I'd heard a million times. I was annoyed enough, in fact, to wake up and really pull the plug out of the real ipod. The storyteller finally was silent  -- but the conversation had ended, along with my dream.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The 'reinvestment' of the UW Memorial Union

I have seen the 'renovation' plans. I have voted on which chairs I like for each new area. And now as  I walk through the halls of the University of Wisconsin Memorial Union I try to soak it all in so that I will remember it when it's gone.

I do remember it; as I sit in Peet's Coffee Shop and write, I remember when this space was a video arcade. I remember that it was always hot in here - and loud. It's still warm but instead of the ringing of the pinball and songs of Pacman and phasers of Centipedes there is quiet classical music playing in the background.  My kids loved that arcade but they're grown and gone now. And now I prefer Peet's. So some change is good, I guess. 

According to the plans, the Rathskeller will remain un-touched. I'm thankful for this because, to me The 'Rat" is the heart of this place - if not the soul.  I remember that it welcomed me like a comfortable old friend when I arrived as a seventeen-year-old freshman in the 60's - fresh off the farm and scared to death. I ended up spending long hours here. I met many people; some of whom would become my friends, accomplices, mentors, and compatriots. We studied here. We drank and partied here, too.
We warmed up on cold winter nights here. We gathered and talked and laughed and thought about all the world's problems and all life's wonders. And we conspired to master them all. So yes, I remember; because it became part of the substrate upon which I developed my self.  It was -- and still is -- a unique place where students, staff, alumni and friends can gather and build (rebuild) their selves in some unique way.

But I do understand how time and age can affect old friends - even buildings. I have heard this remodeling effort called a 'rejuvenation'. I can see that. I wish it were as easy to 'rejuvenate' me - or my friends.  As long as rejuvenate doesn't mean reprogram.

And I do understand progress. In the 60's there was no need for a coffee shop or an ice cream store. These have been added to the Union by tucking them into a corner here and there (like that old arcade). The new plans call for each to have it's own proper space within the context of the overall environment. Easier access, better seating, and more efficient service.  

To my mind, there is only one Union on the UW campus. They tried building another one on the south side of campus in the 70's. This was a flop (I wasn't the only one who hated it). Now they've built a new Union South and I have to admit that it's pretty nice. But when I tell someone to meet me at The Union,  I still mean The Memorial Union.

This fall they will close the Union to begin construction. I will miss The Union while it's doors are closed and I will feel the loss. I hope this loss will only be temporary. I look forward, with hope, for it's return.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Hotel California

I miss having my guitar along on this trip. It's been almost 2 weeks and my fingers are growing soft and dumb. I bought a new case so I could take it along on this trip but at the last minute I decided that both laptop and guitar were too much to keep track of on trains, buses, cars, hotels and all. So I chose the laptop. Next time I will leave the laptop at home.

One night in Las Vegas, a Hawiian/Ragae band was playing on one of the Freemont St. stages. I'm not a big fan of Regae  but these guys did mostly their own stuff and it was a nice mix. One song they did very well was "Hotel California" by the Eagles. It struck me that I should learn that. But since I didn't have my guitar, I'd have to wait. Meanwhile I tightened up the lyrics.

The thing about learning lyrics to an old classic that we've heard a million times (and sung along with nearly as many) is that the words are there but not the articles that hold them together;  the 'bricks' but not the 'mortar'. So I'm working on remembering whether it's a 'the' or an 'an' and all that. It does make a difference; each little word was chosen for a reason: "There she stood in the doorway...." could as easily be sung "As she stood..." but it wouldn't mean the same thing or fit as well with the rest of the thought.  So each brick has to be placed an each mortar has to hold it together and form the overall shape.

I look forward to getting my fingers on the strings. This will be a challenge. I don't think it will sound great with only one guitar but it might sound good - if I can manage. If not, at least I'll learn something by trying and then maybe use some of this to make something of my own.

Seems appropriate that this song was on my mind when we arrived in Laughlin. Our plans had us staying one night and traveling for 3 days to visit relatives - and 'impose' upon their hospitality. We learned that they were ill so we extended our hotel for one night. The next day they were still ill so we extended our hotel another night. ".... you can checkout any time you like, but you can never leave." [solo on the 'air' guitar for now - you know it, it's in your head now isn't it].

Monday, March 9, 2015

On revising the first draft - of 'so far'

The deep freeze has broken here in Wisconsin. The snow will all go this week and I'll be able to ride again. I am still walking to coffee because the bike lanes are still icy from the daily thaw and freeze at night.

I have all 33 chapters/parts of Jack Pynesapp and Red moved into Scriviner manuscript editor. I have done some reorganizing and a lot of repairing - things like grammar, voice, flow, etc. I am still troubled with how slowly the story starts. I think there's too much talking and not enough action. This is understandable since this project started as an exercise in writing dialog. But now that I have a better idea of where  the story is going, I can do some things early that start it moving that way.  This may be as easy as giving Jack some more back story. Like, who is this guy? We now know that Billy has been busy since the 'first' train ride; did Jack just blow that whole thing off? It is kind of implied that there is more to it but it may be way too subtle. Another Dream? Perhaps. Maybe Marge can help.

I am on schedule so far. I am caught up with getting what I have into manuscript form (and learning how that is done - and what it is, even) before we take our cross country train trip (leaving this week) where I hope to get more ideas about what this "ghost" train looks like and perhaps follow our characters on one, of more, of their trips  - once they figure out how to get a ride.

I am also thinking about a title. The one I have been using is too weak, I think. 

For now, I'd better start packing. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Jack and Red - editing manuscript

It's very cold this morning (-7 ) so I think a short walk is enough I just walked the half mile to the Mana Cafe. It was rather empty early so I could sit wherever I wanted.

Snowy tracks.
I've been working on the first edit to this manuscript. It takes longer to edit this than it did to write it. The first part needs the voice changed and some clean-up on the action. Most of the conversation I can keep, I think.

I'm not sure it it moves along fast enough. I'll have to save that for the second edit - for now.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Jack Pynesapp and Red: Part XXXIII

This is the thirty-third in a series of blogs chronicling an expedition into 'space' with Jack Pynesapp and his granddaughter Red. To read the entire story (with notes) please see the JackPynesapp web site: [ click here ]

[Today I'm checking out a new coffee shop; The Coffee Gallery in the strip mall on the corner of Sherman and Northport. This is about a mile walk from home which makes it a good destination when it's too snowy to ride bike.  Not as cozy as the Mana Cafe but that is a little too close to make a good walk. And the last time I was there (Mana) I was asked to wait to be seated. I turned around and walked out. Why? Because all I wanted was a cup of coffee and a place to sit and write. I can find that for myself, thank you. I know, pretty snippy. But like I said, this is a better distance for walking. ]

[I was so excited to see the train and now that it has come I feel a little let down (the same way Billy feels, I suspect.) Added to this is the difficulty in riding bike in the winter - with the snow and all. It all makes it hard to know where to continue. I think it's time to end part 1 of the story and begin another major part: book II?  ]

Part 33

Billy didn't stop in at Jack's house that day. He waited at the bridge for three hours in case the train showed up in it's "return run" like it had the day he'd ridden it so many years ago.  He didn't really expect it because, after all, JJ had taken the can lid with him. So maybe that was why the train didn't appear again. But he also didn't get a call from Mrs. Olsen so he had to assume that even if he would have had the milk can cover the train wouldn't have showed. There was something else controlling that. He decided to stop and see Mrs. Olsen on the way back to the city and ask her about the ticket stub again; to see if she'd found it or remembered where she'd put it. It had to be there somewhere because it was working it's magic. Finally he stood up, walked slowly back to the road, and got into his car and drove off. He didn't want to see Jack or JJ right now. He had a feeling that seeing Mrs. Olsen was more important.  

The train didn't come back again that day, or the next day, or the next day. Mrs. Olsen had promised to call Billy if it did. And Billy had promised to call Jack. 

The next day JJ stopped at Jacks after work. It was Monday and the first day of the new school year so Red was busy with soccer practice after school. She was already caught up in all the excitement of returning to school.

"I brought over the can lid." JJ said as he walked into Jacks workshop. "I thought you should have it here in case the train comes back.  Maybe you can hear it go by if you have the lid."

"I was thinking that too but I didn't know if you'd want to part with it."

"It's not doing me any good at my house. We're too far away to hear the train."

"Maybe it's not just a matter of hearing it." Jack suggested. "If it was, why wouldn't we have heard it when you were still living here. You had the lid all the time, you know."

"What are you saying?"

"Just that maybe the object - whatever it is - needs to be closer to where the train actually appears in order to make it visible (and audible) to us."

"Like in Mrs. Olsen's house?" JJ said.

"Like Mrs. Olsen's." Jack agreed."Her house is a lot closer to the tracks than ours."

"Did Mom even hear the train yesterday?" JJ asked. "I forgot to ask her."


"So that's why she had to ask us, isn't it? I was wondering about that."

"I know. That train was pretty quiet but I would've thought she'd at least hear the horn."

[Like I said, I'm having a hard time with this. I was going to start a new section but here I am still in the old one.   I'm not worried though because Red's back at school and doesn't have a lot of time to worry about this right now either. So meanwhile I will continue to update the draft for what I have so far, and put it into manuscript form.

We are planing a vacation trip to the southwest on Amtrak in March. I plan to work on the train part during this trip - you know like immersion in my subject sort of thing.

Meanwhile, I'm looking for people to proof read the first half of this manuscript .... ]

Friday, January 23, 2015

About the Book

Snow seems to come in little bits this winter. The weather is unseasonably warm so what snow we get melts in a few days and then the bike paths are passable again.  During these breaks in biking, I stay home and work on other projects. My current project is to convert this Jack and Red blog into manuscript form. This will be my first manuscript.

I have searched the internet for guidance in preparing a manuscript for submission to a publisher. Here are a couple sites that I have found useful:
  1.  Editors Blog
  2.  Daily Writing Tips
  3.  5 Best Free Writing Tools For Authors More on this later. 
    1.  Scrivner A complete 'development system' for manuscripts.
  4.  Example manuscript I actually started with this one. 
  5.  StyleWriter.   This looks pretty neat. Do I need it? Do I want it?
With this information in hand, my first task was to collect all the blog entries into a standard word processor so that I have more control over format.  My first choice was one of convenience because I have a copy of MS Word, and I have used this program for all the 'serious' writing I have done over the years (since the demise of Word Perfect). But it seems like every time I try to use MS Word, I get so frustrated that I want to throw my computer through the window. I am a computer nerd and think I know how to use this program but it is not at all intuitive to me how to make it do what I want it to do. (Perhaps this is an indication of how little 'serious' writing I actually do. ) All the little things that the program does to help people just seem to get in my way. I want to be able to see the underlying markup language and work 'under the hood'. WordPerfect had a mode called 'show codes' that did this. MS never has seen fit to show ALL the codes - even in draft view.

So after importing the first few chapters, everything was just a mess. I threw up my hands (but not the computer) and looked once again to Google. I found reference to a program named Scrivener and downloaded a trial version. After running through a quick tutorial,  I started importing.

This works pretty well, I thought, except I still needed to remove all the blank lines that I had added in the blog to separate paragraphs.  Manuscript format requires indents for the beginning of paragraphs and no blank lines. Scribener will take care of all this formatting if the text is clear of formatting. But Scrivener doesn't allow global search and replace on individual chapters. So again I turn to MS Word to reformat each chapter before importing into Scrivener.  Word has a nice search and replace for global sorts of things so this step doesn't slow down the process very much.

After an afternoon's work I had all 33 chapters imported into Scrivener. After doing this it occurred to me that in the process of getting MS Word to reformat these chapters, I managed to figure out what was frustrating me in the first place. Namely that I was trying to work in 'print layout' view and not in 'draft' view. Duh. But now that I have the whole thing imported into Scrivener, I will work there until the trial period ends. At that point I will probably export the whole thing into Word format and go from there. We'll see.

Now that I have a 'first draft' in the 'proper' form I will be able to look at it as a whole. I can then tackle the task of editing the content while paying attention to the overall organization and flow. I think there is a story in there somewhere but I suspect it is buried under a lot of fluff.  Scrivener reports that the story currently has 227 pages and 44,000 words. I have a feeling that the story is about half told so this sounds like reasonable progress.

The weather forecast calls for more of the same so I can expect to have time this winter for both writing and editing. I prefer the former.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Jack Pynesapp and Red: Part XXXII - So what was that?

This is the thirty-second in a series of blogs chronicling an expedition into 'space' with Jack Pynesapp and his granddaughter Red. To read the entire story (with notes) please see the JackPynesapp web site: [ click here ]

[author - The past few days have been warm enough to melt the snow on the roads and clear the bike paths so I can ride into campus. The coffee shop is closed over winter break but the Union is still open and there are other places to get coffee.  Over this 'break' I have been just writing down bits dialogue without context. This morning I have filled in some of that - and the beat goes on... ]


So what was that? 

They all sat quietly for a minute, going over in their minds what had just happened.

Jack sighed and stood up. He began to move towards Billy, who was still slouched over, sitting with his face in his hands. He thought he saw his shoulders shake a little. Was he crying? Maybe he should let him be, he thought, so he turned back towards JJ and Red who were still sitting on the bridge.

"We'd better be heading back." Jack said softly. "I think we've seen all we're going to see for today."

Jack started walking. JJ stood up and Red stood up next to him and sighed as they started after Jack.

Red looked back at Billy and said; "Billy, are you coming?"

Billy shook his head slightly as he raised it out of his hands and turned to look across the bridge in the direction the train had gone.

"Okay, see you later." Red said.

The three of them walked past where the siding had been and studied the ground as they passed - in case they had missed something. JJ looked at the can cover he was still carrying. Maybe a little relieved that it hadn't disappeared along with the train (and everything else related to the train.)

"So Dad, " JJ said finally.  "What were you and Red talking about before? Like this train is in some sort of alternate universe? What's that all about?"

"It's just something that Red and I have been talking about and I wonder if this is somehow related." Jack said.

"So you finally figured out an experiment." Red laughed.

"I'd say the experiment sort of dropped into our laps." Jack said. "Now we have to figure out the parameters while we interpret the results." 

"Sort of an uncontrolled experiment - don't you think?" JJ said.

"Well, I don't know, "Jack said, "we have a control and a test case. It's just that we don't really know how to do the observations properly."

"Too bad Billy couldn't get on the train." JJ laughed. "He could've gathered some observations."

"If he would've ever come back." Red laughed. "I doubt he has anything here he wants to come back to."

"Good point." JJ said. "But if I know Billy, he'd want to come back and tell us all about it. You know, to prove he's not crazy." 

"I believe this train is in another dimension;" Jack continued; "another reality or another universe (to use a term that Red and I have been using.) For some reason this train is 'pushing' us into a forth dimension."

"Grandpa, I thought the forth dimension was time." Red said.

"Well, time is it's own thing," Jack said, "and I'm only talking about physical dimensions here. Time is something else. And, by the way, it looks like that train is in pretty much the same time frame as we are. At least according to Billy."

"How do you know that?" Red asked.

"You said it yourself, Red: by the looks of that train it is apparent that technology has advanced to about the same degree in that world as it has in ours, only in a different direction. Emphasis - and money - have been directed towards rail in that world where in our world has concentrated cars and trucks."

They reached bridge that crossed the road by Jacks house and slid down the bank and started up the road to the house.

"I suppose that makes sense." Red said; "But what is this extra physical dimension - how does that work?"

Jack continued; "Our universe - our existence - is in three dimensional space so we can only sense three dimensional space. At least directly. The presence of this train pushes (for lack of a better word) us into another dimension so we can experience another frame of reference - another layer, if you like, in addition to  our universe." 

"But we were still in our universe when the train was here." JJ said; "It's not like we warped into some other universe and came back. The only thing that changed was that the train was here."

"What about the tractor and wagon." Red protested. "And that force that pushed us away from tracks. We were really there. We weren't just watching. It wasn't like we were in a movie."

"That's right." Jack said; "Not only did we experience the train but we were actually experiencing the whole reality (or universe) in which the train existed. It was like we were really there - but not there at the same time."

"I don't get it. " JJ said; "How can we be in two places at once?"

"That's just it." Jack said, "We can't be in both universes at once- our brains won't let us - so we have to be in one or the other." He stopped walking and turned to face JJ. "Even with the help of the train - this phenomenon - we are still 3 dimensional beings and our minds can only deal with three dimensions. If we were four dimensional beings (if there is such a thing) we would probably be able to experience both of these universes simultaneously (and infinitely more, perhaps) the same way we can experience a ball instead of just a circle."

"What?" JJ asked; "What ball?"

"Imagine we were two-dimensional beings living in a two-dimensional universe. What would a ball look like to us?"

"How could a ball exist in two-dimensional space?" Red asked.

"Right, Dad?" JJ agreed. "Good point dear." He smiled at Red.

"I don't know. This is just a thought experiment." Jack continued. "But for the sake of argument, the ball could exist in two-dimensional space the same way that train can exist in our three dimensional space. The question is 'how would this ball appear to a two-dimensional being?' "

"Like a circle?" Red suggested.

"Yes, that's all it could look like." Jack agreed.

"Okay, " JJ said. "But a sphere is made up of an infinite number of circles. Which one would this two-dimensional being actually see?" 

"Good question. " Jack smiled. "He would see whichever circle happened to exist within the same time and in the same space that this being existed."

"So it's just luck." Red said.

"Maybe, I guess you could say that." Jack smiled.

They had reached the house and Marge was sitting on the front porch and she greeted them as they walked up. "So, did you see the train?"

"Yep, it came." JJ said.

"Did Billy get on it?" She noticed Billy hadn't come back with them.

"No, it didn't stop long enough." Jack said

"Where is he?" Marge asked.

"He stayed out there at the river bridge." Jack said.

"Why? Is it going to come back?"

"Who knows." JJ said; "He's pretty upset that he missed the train."

"I'll bet." Marge said. "Well, I'm glad you three are safe and sound. I was worried. You'd better call Gwen. She called a while ago and wondered where you were."

"She didn't guess"; Red asked.

"I think she did." Marge said. "So you'd better call."

"Okay." JJ said. "But we'd better get going ourselves." He said to Red. "Your Mom wants to go school shopping this afternoon."

"That's right, I forgot." Red said. She skipped up the steps and gave Grandma a big hug. "Don't want to miss that." She laughed and then she stopped and hugged her Grandpa on her way to the car. She dialed her phone as she sat in the passenger seat. "Bye Grandma, Bye Grandpa." She called out the window as JJ got in and started the car.

"Bye Mom, Dad" JJ called out as he backed out of the driveway. "Let me know if Billy stops by."

Jack and Marge waved as they drove away.

"So, " Marge said, "tell me all about this train."

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Jack Pynesapp and Red: Glossary

[ I have discovered that as this story progresses, I am having trouble remembering the names and places that I have met and visited. So I will try to maintain this glossary as I go forward. ]


Cast of characters:

Jack Pynesapp
Andrea (Red) Pynesapp (Jacks granddaughter)
Jack Junior (JJ) Pynesapp (Jacks son and Red's Dad)
Marge Pynesapp (Jacks wife)
Gwen Pynesapp ( Reds Mom &JJ's wife)
James (Jimmy) Vanderbilt. (Red's friend/classmate)
Billy Thompson (JJ's friend/classmate in high school)
Mrs Olsen (lady who lives next to tracks in Oakwood)


Mayville : Town closest to where Jack lives. Where JJ (and Red) attend school. Where the ice cream store is located.
Oakwood: Next town along the tracks towards the city.  Relatively new town that has sprung up as a bedroom community. Where Mrs. Olsen lives.
The City: A large city that is the terminal for this short line railroad.
Glendale:   Mental hospital where Billy spent some time.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Flying high.

Flying High.

My son bought a drone. We've been talking about this for a year or so and he has been waiting for the technology to improve before buying (ie waiting for the price of technology to come in line with our budget). He decided to jump this winter - before the bean counters and legislatures get their noses into it and mess it up for everyone.

Phantom II Vision+ with new prop guards
He settled on a "DJI Phantom 2 Vision +" (flying camera). After he had a chance to fly it around his house and town a bit, he dropped it off at my house. He warned me to read the manual before trying to fly and then he left - it wasn't a good day for flying.

After reading the manual and going through the assembly and pre-flight checks (about 10 minutes) I set it on the back deck and fired it up. I lifted it off about 10 feet into the air - hey this is easy - and then brought it down for a landing. I brought it down too hard and it bounced into a flower border.  The propellers were digging into the leaves and I was afraid it would damage itself so I shut down the copter (the shut down procedure is the same as the start up procedure so I must have held it too long so after the props stopped they immediately started spinning again. I didn't realize what was going on so I panicked and turned off the controller (bad move).  I was afraid to try to grab the thing and the manual warned against getting close while it was running. As I watched, it powered up and took off - completely on it's own (I had no control). I was sure it was possessed but there wasn't anything I could do but watch it climb straight up (somehow avoiding a tree in the neighbor's yard) forty feet into the air and then slowly settle down to a soft, perfectly executed landing at the spot on the deck where I had first turned it on. Then it shut itself off.

And this was exactly what it was supposed to do. When I turned off the controller it sensed a loss of connection and when this happens it is programmed to auto-home. This is a fail safe in case something happens it will always return home. It has shown me that it is smarter than I am. The Packer game had just begun so I packed it in for the day.

First 'selfie' from flying camera
It took me another week to get up the nerve to try again. I had re-read the manual and was sure that everything was fully charged and communicating properly (the controller, the copter, the camera, the wi/fi, and the iphone app). This time I knew what all the blinking light codes meant and I had memorized the flight training routines (Download Pilot training manual) and found an open place in the parking lot next door to our house for a launch site.

After about 10 minutes I had run through all the routines and got the nerve to face it around and take my own picture.  The camera is controlled by the iPhone app and the screen is small - and icons smaller - so I had to trust the copter to stay where it was while I searched the screen for the shutter button icon. The copter is very stable, it turns out, and it holds it's position wherever you stop it.
Lower angle view of back yard.

By now I had been flying about 20 minutes and the lights were blinking red - which means the battery is getting low. So I brought it in for a nice soft landing and carefully shut it down.

Since then it's been windy and cold so I haven't had another chance to fly. My next thing will be trying to fly while watching the video feed on the iPhone screen instead of watching the copter.

Jack Pynesapp and Red: Part XXXI - .. Is Over

This is the thirty-first in a series of blogs chronicling an expedition into 'space' with Jack Pynesapp and his granddaughter Red. To read the entire story (with notes) please see the JackPynesapp web site: [ click here ]

[author - Did you see what I did in the last chapter? I just jumped right over that plot hole - you know about that extra day that got stuck in there.  I'm not proud of it but this is a blog after all. I'll fix it sometime - maybe. But for now I have more interesting things to work on. So, onward....]

  (The wait .. ) .. is over.

"That doesn't sound like any train I've ever heard." Jack said as he stood and looked up the trail towards the sound. The sound was coming from the direction of [ I can't remember the name of that town. I have to put together a glosary of places and people. - author ] They all assumed it was a train because it is coming from the same direction that other train came from all those years before.

They were all on their feet now and moving towards the sound.

"Guys?" Billy said softly. "Look at the bridge."

They all turned back and looked at the bridge. It was shimmering and transforming in front of their eyes from a rusty old erector set of iron beams into a finely sculptured and graceful piece of architecture which at once reminded you of a river flowing through a pine grove. Their jaws dropped at it's beauty and elegant form. It formed two distinct passages as it crossed the river. The smaller one on the right was carpeted with what looked like grass and was separated from the larger passage on the left by a netting of cables that were obviously designed to look like vines of grape or some sort of ivy. And through the center of the large passage there ran a track. Not the train track that they remembered from the past, made up of iron rails on top of wooden ties. This track was one continuous piece of some substance - perfectly smooth and it shimmered in the morning sunlight. There was a flat rail-like track on each side and in the middle a raised tubular track that held about a foot above the ground by a central 'stalk'. This tube was completely smooth and about 6-8 inches in diameter. Their eyes followed this track as it appeared - past their feet - and around towards the direction of the sound.

This sound was more of a humming sound than the rumble; typically associated with a train.  And it grew steadily in intensity as -- whatever it was -- got closer. To the left of the track - as they walked towards the sound - there materialized a low platform upon which a large tractor was parked. There was nothing unusual about the tractor. In it's cab they could see a man with his back turned to them. He was apparently waiting, like them,  for the 'train'. Behind the tractor and next to the track was a wagon holding two large metal containers. The one nearest looked like stainless steel tank and the far one was covered in a drab fabric (like canvas).

Then they saw the train pop into view around the bend in the track. It was like nothing they'd ever seen before. It was a sleek aerodynamic bullet shape that was silver, green, and blue in color. Again, reminding your eyes of a river flowing gracefully through a brightly lit woods. The train became completely quiet as it pulled along side the platform with the forth of fifth car along side of the wagon.  The body of the train was so smooth that it was hard to tell where one car ended and another began. It looked like a giant snake as it wound back out of sight around the bend.

Billy started walking towards the train.  The others just stood there, transfixed.

The train whistle sounded once. Then the side of the train raised up and robot arms quickly moved the containers from the wagon to the train and then replaced them with matching containers from the train. It all took less than 30 seconds and the side of the train closed again.

The train horn sounded twice and it began moving towards them as they stood next to the tracks. Billy began running towards the train. He waived his arms and he was yelling something.

As the train started moving, the track next to where they were standing began humming loudly - as if to warn them to back away. The train picked up speed quickly (quicker than you could imagine) and it was bearing down on them. Just before the train got to where they were standing (all deer in the headlights) a loud thumping sound came from the track and some sort of force knocked them back and away from the track. It was as if someone pushed each of them out of the way of a speeding car (which was exactly what it was meant to be) and as they stumbled and struggled to keep from falling, the train whizzed by with a low hum.

It was longer than they had imagined and by the time the tail end got to them it must have been going over 60 miles per hour. Even at this speed it still seemed to take forever for all of it to go by. As they stood, still a little shaky from the push, they watched as the end of the rain passed then, move onto the bridge and out of sight (the other end of the bridge ran directly into a wooded area).

They turned to watch as it went by and as they watched, the bridge slowly reverted back to the old rusty ironworks and the track vanished into the old wooden planking.

Jack turned around and looked back up the trail. "Where is the tractor?" He said.

 JJ turned to look. "Gone," he sighed,  "just like before."

"I wanted to get on." Billy said softly, as he began walking towards the bridge; "I wanted to go with it but it didn't stop long enough for me to even try." He left the others standing and wandered along after the train. "I wanted get on!" He shouted towards the bridge and the train that had left him behind.

"I don't think it was a passenger train, Billy" Jack said. "I didn't see any windows, did you?"

Billy didn't answer. Maybe he was lost in his own thoughts or perhaps he was too far away to hear. 

"I didn't see any sign of people; either passengers or crew." Red chipped in. 

"I didn't even see any windows in the front - on the engine. No windshield or anything." Jack said.

"Wow, that was some train, alright. I've never seen anything like it." JJ said.

JJ began walking along the path towards the spot where the tractor had been parked along the side of the tracks.

"Well it makes sense, doesn't it?" Jack said. "If Billy was right about how the universe was on his last ride, then it makes sense that there would be some astounding progress made in the technology of transportation. Look at how much more sophisticated cars have gotten in our universe."

"Yeah," Red agreed, "just think if they put as much effort and money into developing their trains as we have put into our cars; who knows what great things they could come up with."

"I think we just got a glimpse of that." Jack laughed.

"I guess so." Red agreed.

 Jack and Red follow JJ and when they get to where the siding had been,  they begin search the ground for some evidence of the tractor and wagon (or even the  train tracks). There is nothing to see. The ground along the path is the same here as it is anywhere - a pea gravel path (actually two distinct paths) bordered by newly-mown grass - about 3 feet on either side. And then long grass and weeds that disolve into brush and trees. Just a normal snowmobile/bike/hiking path.

Convinced there was nothing to find here, they headed back to the bridge.
Billy was standing in the middle of the bridge, staring at the trail as it disappeared into the woods; as if doing so would bring the train back.  After a while he turned and walked back to where JJ, Jack and Red were sitting on the side of the bridge. He said; "There must be passenger trains. Wouldn't you think Mr P?"

"I can't imagine there aren't." Jack agreed. "Maybe they're on a different schedule."

"How do we know that wasn't a passenger train? "JJ asked. "Just because we didn't see windows doesn't mean they weren't there, you know."

"Good point." Jack said. "A lot of the tinting we do to windows makes them look like something else."

"Maybe this was just a freight stop for the farm and we need to be at some sort of depot if we want to get on for a ride."

"Who says we want to ride" Jack said. "I didn't think that was part of the plan."

"I promised Gwen that neither Red nor I would even consider getting on this thing." JJ said. "Both Red and I had to promise before she would let us come along on this little adventure."

"Me too, I'm afraid. " Jack said. "I had to promise Marge."

"Well, I didn't promise anyone. " Billy said. "And I'm going to find a way - especially now that I've seen what the train has become I have to go. You know that don't you? " He looked at Jack like he would have an answer.

"Yes." Jack said. "We all sort of figured that."

Billy sat on down on the ironworks on the other side of the bridge - facing the others. His head in his hands.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Hunkering down in our Bat house

A 'whatever' board made from scraps
left over from other projects

It's a cold day in Wisconsin. The roads and bike paths are covered with snow so I can't ride to coffee (I won't ride to coffee).  So I stay home and hunker down. There is time now to read - I need to take another run at "The Universe in a Nutshell" by Stephen Hawking.  And there is time to work on a little software project I've been putting off - a 'Useless Machine'. I have turned some 'kindling' into something else - another thing I have been putting off.

As I peak out the back door to snatch another couple chunks of wood out of the woodbox, I see the needle on the thermometer hasn't moved from it's guard post around the number '0' (It's been faithfully stationed there for the past couple weeks). I have to be careful not to let the screen door slam shut since the shock absorber (closer) doesn't work below 10 degrees (F).  I add the chunks to the glowing coals that coat the bottom of the firebox and adjust the draft to give the new wood some air. This stove is located in the rear of our house and a fan sits next to it blows air past the wall behind the stove and out into the rest of the house.

When I walk from the family room - where the stove sits - to the front room, the temperature drops from the mid 80's to the high 60's and I think about how bats behave in bat houses (or attics). They control their temperature -- and/or the comfort of their babies -- by moving (them) between the hot sunny side of their 'house' to the cool shady side - and points between. Our house is a bat house and we have learned to move about like bats. I like bats.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Jack Pynesapp and Red: Part XXX- The Wait ..

This is the thirtyth in a series of blogs chronicling an expedition into 'space' with Jack Pynesapp and his granddaughter Red. To read the entire story (with notes) please see the JackPynesapp web site: [ click here ]

The Wait ..

JJ, Billy, Jack, and Red are sitting on the ironworks of the old bridge that crosses the creek. It's just after 7:00 AM. They've been sitting for half an hour, waiting for the train.

"She said it came last yesterday afternoon, right?" JJ asked Billy.

"I've told you a hundred times, yes." Billy said; "She called and said that she'd heard the train about 3:30 yesterday, yes - ask me again and I'll tell you the same. Just relax JJ. It'll be here soon okay."

JJ turned the milk can cover over in his hand and studied it. "Will it change or something, you know, when the train approaches?" He asked.

"How should I know." Billy said.

"Yeah, how should you know about anything." JJ said. He was already getting frustrated by the wait.

"So Billy, " Red asked, "you never answered me when I asked what this world was like that you - and Grandpa and Dad - supposedly left behind last time you were on the train?"

"Yes now that we have some time to kill,  tell us about that." Jack agreed. "I'd like to know what we've been missing."

"Well, " Billy began, "most everything was the same - first of all - you know. The obvious difference was that the country depended a lot more on trains for transportation and freight. The rail system was highly developed and the highways were of secondary importance. Most people didn't even have a car; and if they did it was only to get to town and back - very local, you know. That's why we were planning on taking the train to the city that day, JJ. And that's why you have that milk can lid. The trains were used for everything. There were very few trucks."

"You said that you talked to this guy - this veteran of the war - and he said that it had just recently finished?" Jack asked.

"Yeah, that was weird, I guess. It seems like it just kind of ground to a halt. Japan ran out of equipment. The suicide bombers took care of all their airplanes and we eventually sunk all their ships and they gave up the fight."

"What about the atomic bomb?" Red asked.

"It didn't happen." Billy said. "He'd never heard of it - I'd never heard of such a thing, until I got off the train, that is. People talked about atomic energy as being some sort of power of the future but nobody talked about using it for a bomb."

"Wow, " JJ said, "and what about Germany. What about Hitler?"

"Hitler was assassinated by a bunch of his own generals. It was some sort of coup. They overthrew the SS and signed treaties with Russia and the Allies and they set up an interim government and started to rebuild the country. I think most of the SS and the top leaders of the Riech were hung for treason and crimes against humanity for their part in the wholesale slaughter of prisoners of war."

"The Germans did this themselves." Jack asked - amazed.

"Yeah. I think when Japan surrendered, they saw the writing on the wall or something, you know?"

"Amazing." JJ said.

"So there was not D-Day or anything like that?"  Red asked.

"No need for it." Billy said. "The war was over."

"So why elect Eisenhower?" Red asked.

"He was never President." Billy said. "A guy named Taft was president in the 50's. I don't remember even hearing about any Eisenhower."

"Wow, things really were different." Red said.

"That probably has a lot to do with why trains were so popular. " Jack said. "The freeway system was largely Eisenhower's baby. He wanted to copy the Autobahn in Germany. He pushed hard for roads and broke up the railroad industry. And the fledgling oil industry had played a huge role in getting him elected and they expected pay-back."

"Yeah, whatever." Billy shrugged. "But you know, some things were diferent and some were the same, you know. Like the people were the same, as far as I know anyway. Like everyone at school was the same -- all the kids that I remembered from before were there afterwards, too.  That's always kind of puzzled me, you know. How could that happen?"

"I have a guess." JJ said, flashing a wry smile towards his Dad and Red.

"What do you mean." Billy asked.

"Well, I think the same people were there because everything was same." JJ said. "It's simple. Nobody changed because everything was the same before and after the train and the only thing that changed was you. You're memory that is."

"He has a point." Jack agreed.

"What was that?" Red interrupted. "Did you hear that?"

"Yeah, " JJ said excitedly, "sounds a little like a train, doesn't it."