Friday, December 30, 2016

Stage Hand for a 'day'.

An old friend posted on her Facebook page that she needed people to work on a crew to set-up and tear-down (I think she called it 'in' and 'out') for some political rallies that were coming to town. I thought that his might be interesting so I replied.

The first was a campaign rally for  Tim Kaine (Hillary's running mate) on campus. It was held on the second floor of one of the Student Commons buildings. The call was for 9:30 Monday morning (Halloween day) and after filling out paperwork (tax info, contact info, etc.) we started moving staging off of a semi truck in the basement to a conference room on the second floor. The elevator was too small for many of the carts so we had to unpack heavy staging sections and move them up one and two at a time. Pretty low tech but it seemed to be all in a days work for the experienced stage hands.
Beginnings of the stage. 

After the staging, lighting equipment, sound equipment, and all the banners and billboards were moved to the center of the room we began assembling the sets according to the plans of a couple 'Madison Avenue' sorts (whatever that is) and under the watchful guidance of the Union Steward.

This involved assembling risers, adding guardrails, adding steps, hanging curtains, setting up booms and scaffolds for lighting and sound, assembling and positioning 'bike racks' for barricades and crowd control (all draped with yards of star-spangled bunting).

It was interesting and enlightening to be part of this crew of professional stage hands putting together this set for the stage production that was to follow. It is amazing -- and somewhat disillusioning -- to witness the degree of production, direction, and control that is put in to our political process. Everyone: the crowd, the press, the candidate, the hosts -- everyone who shows up is carefully positioned, scripted, costumed, and orchestrated to produce the maximum effect.

I joined the crew again the next day -- the day of the rally -- to move everything out of the room and back into the truck that was waiting to take it to the next campaign stop.  We had to wait outside the building for an hour before we could start.  Security was tight until the candidate finished and left the building. The weather was nice so we didn't mind waiting; we were being paid.

Finally the truck was packed and we were all released to go our way.  On leaving the building I found a blow-up figure of a Darth Vader in the trash -- probably a discarded prop from a Halloween party.  It turned out to be in perfect condition and in fine working order. Perhaps it was an omen of what was to come of American politics.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Jack Pynesapp, Marge, and Red - dark matter

Today I decided to stop at Mother Fools Coffee Shop on my bike ride. I see that they have their new windows - at long last after the car ran into the front of the shop -- so the view is nice once again for sitting and writing.  There is good music and the nice hum of background conversations to smooth out the thought process. 

Dark Matter

It's nearly 9:00 pm and Red Pynesapp, her Grandma Marge,  and Grandpa Jack are still lying on a blanket, looking up at the stars and talking about 'dinosaurs'.

"Do you see that sputnik?" Red pointed where she was looking. "Up there by the handle of the Big Dipper."

"I see it. Are you sure it's not a plane?

"I don't see any colors."

"Is that how you tell?"

"I don't know." Grandpa Jack admitted.

"Wasn't you're dad going to pick you up at 9:00, Red?" Grandma Marge asked.

"He said to call if I needed a ride."

"Maybe you should stay over."

"Yeah, I don't have anything going on tomorrow."

"It's settled." Marge smiled.

"So Red,"  Grandpa asked, "how do you propose we get to the Andromeda galaxy in time to look back here and see the dinosaurs roaming our world?"

"You keep talking about Einstein and the laws of physics that he came up with. Why do we even have to obey the laws of physics?" Red sighed.  "Didn't someone say that all laws are meant to be broken?"

"If all laws are broken you're left with anarchy." Grandma scolded.

"And chaos." Grandpa added. "If you break the laws of physics you would be left with chaos."

"Really?" Red asked.

"Yes, because the laws of physics define our physical Universe; the Universe in which we live; in which we exist.  We are a part of it. We are made from the stuff of this Universe. The molecules and the atoms that make up our bodies are all the same as the Universe that surrounds us."

"And limits us." Red grumped.

"We are part if it and it is part of us." Grandma added. "We evolved together you know; this Universe and us. And these 'laws' as you call them, are the substrate upon which the Universe was built. Our creation depended upon them as does our continued existence. They are the fabric upon which all of this is put together. How do you expect us to be able to break such laws? "

"And even if you could break it, what's to say this whole thing might not come tumbling down? You know, like chaos. "

"So do these laws govern thought as well?" Red asked slyly.

"Now see what you've done, Jack." Grandma scolded. "With your talk of imagination."

"Okay, I'll bite." Grandpa laughed. "Red, what are you getting at?"

Red sat up and crossed her legs. She thought for a minute and then began;  "Science fiction writers have talked about this for a long time, haven't they? They've thought up lots of ways to break the laws of time and space. You know like 'warp drive' in Star Trek, and 'hyper-space' in Star Wars and others."

Grandpa added; "And 'worm holes', 'black holes'. I know; Steven Hawking wrote about these and about space-time curving around and even folding on to itself."

"Steven Hawking isn't a science fiction writer, Grandpa."

"I know. But some some of the things he says are even stranger than fiction." 

"So you're going change the rules of the Universe."  Grandma scoffed; "Or make up new ones -- just so you can go to Andromeda?"

"Not change the rules. " Red said as she lay back down and looked for more satellites. "Maybe we just don't understand what all the rules are -- or how they all work."

"That's a pretty safe bet." Grandpa laughed.

"And what I'm saying is: what if our very existence depends on these physical laws. You break the law and all this vanishes." Grandma waived her arms across the night sky.

"Assuming these laws can be broken." Grandpa said. "It's easy to write about this stuff. What if it's impossible to actually do? " 

"Exactly." Grandma sighed.

"There's a shooting star." Red said. "Did you see that?"

"Did you make a wish?" Grandma asked.

"I did."

"What'd you wish for?" Grandpa asked.

"I can't tell you or it won't come true."

"That's only for birthday wishes."

"I don't think so. I think it's for all wishes." Grandma said.

Red rolled on her side facing her grandparents and propped her head on one elbow. "Okay, so maybe we wouldn't have to actually go to Andromeda. You know, like ourselves; physically I mean."

"Are you talking about the  'two places at once' thing again?" Grandma asked.

"Actually, if I see where you're going with this Red, " Grandpa said, "We don't need to be in two places at once. All we need is to have some thing, or some entity that is two places at once. Remember what we're trying to do - basically - is to get information. We shouldn't need to move matter for that. If we don't move matter then we don't have to obey the laws of time and space."

"Even better than that .. " Red paused for a minute while she collected her thoughts, "what if there was some sort of thing that already existed when our universe was created.  It would be 'outside' the framework of our universe. Right?  Like another dimension maybe, you know --  sort of. So it wouldn't be governed by our laws of time, space, mater, and even energy. This would mean it could exist everywhere and nowhere at the same time." She laughed; "But, you know like the words 'everywhere', 'nowhere', and 'time' are all things in our Universe and would have no meaning (or a different meaning) in what I'm talking about. I guess it just 'is', 'was', and 'always will be'. You know?"

"You're saying that relative to this thing, both Andromeda and Earth would be at the same time and place?"

"It's possible; if it's everywhere."

"And if it's 'nowhere' then neither Andromeda nor Earth are here."

"Then where are we; now?"

"We're on both Andromeda and Earth at the same time."

"So all we need is a powerful enough telescope and we can watch the dinosaurs."

"Okay, stop it you two." Grandma protested. "Now you're just being silly."

"But I can see you've been thinking about this haven't you." Grandma continued.

"It's Grandpa's fault."

"I bet it is."

Grandpa said; "Well, even if there is such a thing, what does it matter to us? If it is outside our physical universe then how do we -- who exist within this universe -- use it?"

"Use it -- nothing, " Complained Grandma, "how do we even detect it? Isn't that the first challenge?"

Red sat up, crossed her legs and looked at her grandparents. "You said it yourself, Grandpa. We detect it with our minds. It is what our thoughts are made of. We move around within it with our imagination. We can't see it with our eyes. We can't feel it with any of our other senses because our senses are made of this universe. "

"That's right. Our senses are given to us - or have evolved - to enable us to survive in this physical universe." Grandpa agreed. "If we didn't have them we wouldn't survive to reproduce and our species would have gone extinct long ago."

"I don't agree. " Grandma turned over and rested her chin on her hands and looked at Red. "Our thoughts and ideas are just manipulations of images, sounds; memories of things we've experienced and all the things that have happened to us in the past.  Our imagination comes because our brains are not perfect recorders of events. Our brains get mixed up and these memories get rearranged in strange and sometimes novel ways."

"Okay, maybe there's that. But I'm talking about more than our brains -- our minds. I'm talking about our hearts; not the blood pumpers but the place we hold our love and hate and -- well -- our soul. "

"So, " Grandpa asked, "you think our souls are made up of the stuff -- whatever it is -- that was here before our universe was formed?"

"Yeah," Red agreed.

"It doesn't exist in time or space as we know them?"


"And it has no mass or energy?"

"Right. "Red agreed. "At least not as we know them, necessarily."

"So it's nowhere and everywhere at the same time?"

"I guess so."

Grandma sat up and looked at Red. "It sounds like you're talking about 'God'." She said softly.

"Okay." Red said. "Maybe so - in a way."

Grandpa said. "Maybe we call it 'God' because we need some way of making it real. Some way to give it substance so we can talk about it when there is no other way to explain it in terms of anything we see or even understand."

"But we know that it's there, even if we can't prove it; even if we can't feel it, see it, or touch it." Red said.

"That's an interesting idea." Grandma agreed. "Give it physical characteristics so that we can talk about it. Kind of like the ultimate 'elephant in the room'. "

"A big elephant. "; Red laughed.

"This is the biggest elephant." Grandma said.

Grandpa was still lying his back and looking at the stars. "Okay ladies, that's all well and good but how does this get us any closer to seeing the dinosaurs?"

"It doesn't I guess, but don't you always say that the first step in finding a solution is to define the problem."

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Jack Pynesapp and Red

"You've got to jump off the cliff all the time, and build your wings on the way down. " - Ray Bradbury 


Red Pynesapp's real name is Andrea but everyone calls her Red. Maybe it's because of her hair -- not really red but more a strawberry blond - or maybe because of her last name; Pynesapp. Her Grandfather and her Father are both named Jack (you know like Jack Pine) and someone may have thought it cute to have a 'Red Pine' in the family. Or maybe it was just because of her hair.

 Red lives in Mayville with her parents; Jack Jr. and Gwen. She is an only child (so far) but she spends a lot of time with her Grandfather who is going through a second childhood (his wife; Marge says that he's still in his first childhood).

Red is about to enter 8th grade in Mayville Middle School -- "Go Hornets". She loves to run and jump and pretty much do anything outside so it makes sense that she play soccer for the Jr. Hornets. But it is summer vacation and right now she is lying on her back on a blanket in her Grandparent's back yard next to Grandpa Jack and Grandma Marge. It's 10:15 PM and completely dark except for the light from the billions of starts that fill the night sky.

Red breaks the silence; "Can you believe that some of those 'stars' are really whole galaxies?"

"I've heard that but it's still hard to believe." Marge said. "Do you know which ones?"

"Not really." Red admitted.

"There's the Andromeda Galaxy." Grandpa said.

"It figures you'd know." Grandma scoffed. 

"Do you know which one it is?" Red asked.

"No, I don't think you can see it this time of year - not till later in the season."

"It's funny, " Red said, "a whole galaxy of stars that looks like just one star to us. What if someone was on a planet circling one of the suns in that galaxy and they were laying on a blanket right now and looking at the 'star' that is really our whole galaxy."

"Right now?" Grandpa asked.

"Yeah I know, " Red laughed, "not right now. They would be seeing how we looked millions of years ago."

Red has always been interested in astronomy -- well, science in general. She is not afraid to ask stupid questions and say stupid things and she and her grandparents spend long hours debating things like time and space. 

"It's only time."; Grandpa laughed.

"But time separates everything."; Grandma added.

"But so does space." Red said.

"But space isn't absolute, " Grandma said, "you can move through space. Time, on the other hand, is fixed. Time is unforgiving. Time is the irresistible. Time is permanent."

"I don't think Einstein said that time was fixed - did he?" Red asked. "It just seems fixed. It's actually tied to space and energy and mass. They're all tied together in his big theory of relativity."

"Okay, point taken." Grandma smiled. 

Jack said; "You know, time is all those things but it's not impermeable."


"I mean, it's not impenetrable. I don't mean that you can move through it physically. But you can still move through it mentally. With your memory and with your imagination. "

"Come on Grandpa, "Red scoffed, "Be serious."

"Maybe so, " Marge said, "but what good is that?  Like you say,  you can't move through it to any place you haven't been - really. You can't learn anything new.  You can't visit someplace you haven't been or someplace you cannot go to. Remember Einstein? Time and space are irrevocable linked. "

"Imagination?" Jack protested. "Imagination isn't governed by these laws. Imagination isn't limited by space, energy, or the speed of light. It's instantaneous. It can move at the speed of thought."

"Imagination is just you guessing about what something might be like. Or might have been like in another time. It has no direct link with reality."

"Really? How bout the Wright brothers? They imagined that humans could fly and now humans fly."

"They didn't see the future, they changed the future."

"What's the difference?"

"I thought we were talking about moving through time."

"Yeah, Grandpa. That works (maybe) when you're talking about the future but what about the past. What if you want to go back before memory? Like before recorded history, I mean like back to the age of the dinosaurs."

"You said it yourself, Red." Grandpa said, "That person laying on their back in the Andromeda Galaxy is seeing our world with dinosaurs roaming right now, this instant."

"Yeah, but that's them. I'm talking about us, Grandpa. How do we see those dinosaurs - right now."

"Yes, Grandpa." Marge smiled, "how do we do that?"

"You said that we can move through space, right? Well we just move to where those guys are lying and look up."

"Grandpa, now you're being silly."  Red laughed.

"Don't forget Einstein, Jack - dear. Don't forget that time and space are linked. It would take time us to reach the Andromeda Galaxy; a huge amount of time, and by then we'd just be looking back at ourselves, lying here on the grass."

"Hmm." Jack said.

"Hmm" Red sighed.

Marge smiled and the three of them lay in silence and looked up at the stars.

"Grandma," Red said finally, "what if we didn't have to move through space to get to Andromeda?


"I mean, then we wouldn't be limited by energy and mass and time and space or any of these physical laws."

"How do you propose to do that?" 

"Like I was saying, " Grandpa interrupted, " using our imagination. "

"Well no, not exactly Grandpa." Red said. "I mean what if we were there right now; the three of us, laying on a blanked at night, looking up in the sky. With a really powerful telescope (you know we'd have to have a really powerful telescope in order to see the dinosaurs that would be here.)"

"So you're saying that we're there and we're here right now; this instant." Grandma asked.


"We'd have to be two places at the same time." Grandpa said.

"Yes, at least two." Red said.

"Yes, " Grandpa asked, "why stop at two. Why stop at anything? We could be everywhere at once."

"Sort of like God?" Grandma said. "We'd be omnipresent."

"I guess so." Red said softly.

"Well, " Grandpa said gaily, "if God can do it, I guess it can be done."

"But not by us." Grandma scolded. "We're not God, Jack. Shame on you for suggesting it."

"You're right, Marge." Grandpa admitted. "Let's get real here, shall we."

"Us?" Marge scoffed, "Reality? You're kidding, right?"

"Yeah Grandpa, you're no fun."

"Ok, okay, " Grandpa laughed, "so Red, how do you propose we -- non-Gods -- might pull off this feat of magic."

To be continued.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Travels of Jack Pynesapp - Book 2-5: Red and Jimmy - Chapter 5

This is 38 in a series of lblogs 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 5; 

So here's Grandma. But that still doesn't answer the question as to why they are here (either here in this story or here in L.A.)

"Grandma, what's going on?" Red asked, as Grandpa got up out of his chair.

"I'm sorry kids but I need to talk to Grandpa for a second, privately. Please, just a second."

She grabbed Jack's arm and lead him past the next table, leaving Jimmy and Red standing together and watching them go.

Jack and Marge were scanning the room and whispering back and forth excitedly. They were both frowning and they looked very concerned.

Jimmy had returned to his breakfast when the grandparents returned to the table. Before Red could say a word, Marge said; "Red, James, something very important has come up that Grandpa and I have to deal with immediately."

"What?" Protested Red.

"There's no time to explain right now," Grandpa said; "Marge and I have to run. Can you get me the box, Red?"

Jimmy pulled the suitcase from under the table and handed it to Red.

Grandma handed Jimmy two little boxes. "Here," she said, "these are a couple ports for you and Red. These are what they use to communicate here -- kind of like cell phones."

Jimmy opened one of the boxes and took out a small pendant and a pair of pea-sized things.

Red handed the box to Grandpa and closed the suit case. She then opened her little box.

"You hang the pendant around your neck and put the ear plugs in you ears." Grandma explained. "
They're made to allow all sounds to pass through so they don't effect your hearing. They little 'handles' allow you to pull then out anytime you like. "

Red and Jimmy examined the plugs and Grandma said;  "Please put them on now. We need to activate them quickly."

Grandpa looked around and then tucked the box into his backpack while Red and Jimmy hung the pendants and put the plugs into their ears. "Now what?" Red asked.

"Just listen." Grandpa said.

Red 'heard' a voice say; "Please say your name."

She said; "Red Vanderbilt."

Jimmy said; "James Vanderbilt." at the same time. They looked at each other."

Red 'heard'; "Hello Red Vanderbilt. Is this your port?"

Red and Jimmy both looked at Grandpa and he said; "Say 'yes'."

They both said; "Yes"

Then Grandma said; "You both want to be a member of a 'node' called Pynesapp 485."

Both Red and Jimmy seemed to answer Grandma, but really they were answering the questions by their nodes. "Yes." They said. And then; "Pynesapp 485."

The nodes said thank you and that they were now registered and ready to begin. "I am at your service." They said.

"You can introduce your ports to other names that you answer to. It will learn other things about you as well while you learn about it." Grandma said.

Grandpa added; "Right now it will answer only to the names it knows."

"So now if you want to talk to me or Grandpa, just say our names and, if we're available, it will connect us and we can just begin talking."

"Pretty slick." Grandpa said.

"Grandpa."; Red said and then paused, waiting for the port.

"You have to say 'Jack Pynesapp'." Grandpa explained. "But trust me for now that it works."

Grandma interrupted; "Now we have to leave." She took a box out of her purse -- similar to the one Grandpa put in his backpack -- and handed it to Red. "Here dear, take this back to your Dad for us."

"What's in it?" Jimmy asked.

"Money." Grandma whispered. "Money for this side. So keep it hidden and keep it safe."

"You can use some it if you need it while you're here, but don't use more than you absolutely need."

"Now we absolutely have to go." Grandma said as she hugged Red and Jimmy. "We probably won't be back before your train leaves."

"We can skip this one and take a later train." Red offered.

"No! No don't do that!" Grandpa insisted as he gave Red a long hug.  "James, please don't let her talk you into that. No matter what happens it's imperative that you are on the next train back home."

He hugged Jimmy and looked over his shoulder at Red; "Promise me, Red."

"I promise, Grandpa. If it's that important."

"Please trust us, it is." Grandma said as she took Jack's hand and pulled him away.

"Introduce yourselves to your ports and ask them whatever you want to know." Grandpa said.

"And call us." Grandma said over her shoulder. "We love you and be very careful"

And they disappeared out the door leaving Red and Jimmy standing over their unfinished breakfasts.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

The Travels of Jack Pynesapp - Book 2: Red and Jimmy - Chapter 4

This is 37 in a series of lblogs 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 4; 

So what is grandpa doing in a book called "Red and Jimmy"? Apparently we can't get rid of the old coot. Maybe this is just a cameo.
But I needed something for Red and Jimmy to do in L.A. because they sure aren't there to play a gig. (Or are they? ) Frankly, I just panicked. 

"Hello James," Grandpa beamed as he shook Jimmy's hand, "so how did you like the express  trains?"

"Very impressive."  Jimmy admitted. "They really fly." Jimmy smiled. "Literally. we're told."

"Oh, Grandpa," Red interrupted, "it's so good to see you finally. I didn't sleep at all last night waiting for this."

"Yes, I'm so glad you decided to come."

"Where's Grandma? Where are you staying?  Why haven't you come back home? People are starting to wonder, you know. They're asking if you died or something."

"So many questions." Grandpa protested; "Well, Grandma had to run a little errand, she'll be here soon. She can't wait to see you, too." He continued; "So don't people know that we're in Florida?" Grandpa smiled slyly.

"Yeah, that's what we keep saying, but they're wondering about the house. And I guess a lot of them miss you guys and are genuinely worried, you know. You've been gone for three years. "

"Kinda mysterious Jack, you gotta admit." Jimmy added.

"But you guys are staying in the house, like we planned, right?"

"We stay there between semesters, you know, but we're both still in school and we're away most of the time."

"But JJ mows the grass and keeps an eye on the place while you're away. Right?"

"Yeah, Daddy does a great job. The place looks nice all the time."

"Well then?"

"We miss you and Grandma?" Red gives him another big hug and then says. "That's all, you know? When are you coming home?"

"Well that's why I wanted you to come out here. Sit down. We need to talk about things.

Red and Jimmy sat. Jimmy put the suitcase under the table and out of the way.

"Have you eaten? Are you hungry" Grandpa asked.

"Last night." Jimmy said.

"We ate in the dinning car. It was good and we met some interesting people."

Red briefly told Grandpa about  their conversation with Alice and Bill. 

"Yeah, they pretty much force you to meet people." Grandpa chuckled.  "It's cool once you get used to it. So you wouldn't mind some breakfast then? "

Grandpa waved for a waiter and they placed their orders. "It's on me." Grandpa smiled.

"That's good," Jimmy said, "we're running short on credits. Since our money isn't any good here."

"I would imagine, if you're having fancy dinners on trains." Grandpa said sternly.

"We just thought it would be fun to try." Red protested.

"I'm kidding guys." Grandpa laughed, "It's just fine. We'll add some more to your account."

"Thanks Grandpa." Red smiled.

"It's worth it just to see you." Then Grandpa leaned close to Red and whispered; "You brought the box, didn't you?"

Red smiled and whispered back; "Yes, it's in the suitcase. I'll get it." She began reaching under the table for the suitcase and Grandpa gently grabbed her arm and said softly; "Not now, Red. Just leave it there for now." He gave a quick scan of the room with his eyes -- not moving his head. "We'll deal with that later."

"So Jimmy, " Grandpa continued, "why do you say literally flying?  What have you figured out about that train? What did you mean when you said 'literally, we're told'?"

"Well Jack, we didn't have time to figure out too much, " Jimmy  said, "before we met a guy who was happy to tell us all about it."

"But only up to a point." Red added.

"Yeah, he started to tell us but then he kind of clammed up." Jimmy continued.

"He was sitting next to us -- in the seat across the isle -- when he overheard us talking about it and he introduced himself and he said something about the train flying and said it was riding on a gravity wave." Red said.

"What was his name?" Grandpa asked.

"Arthur." Jimmy said.

"Just Arthur?" Grandpa asked. "No last name."

"He didn't say." Red said. "He seemed anxious to tell us all about it and he suggested we move to the observation car"

"So we wouldn't disturb people around us." Jimmy continued.

"But once we got to the observation car, all he seemed to want to do was ask us all about ourselves." Red said.

The waiter arrived with their food. 

When the waiter left, Grandpa leaned in closer and said quietly; "So he didn't explain any more about this drive system."

"No,"  Red said as she took her first bite.

"He just wanted to know about us and he was starting to creep us out." Jimmy continued while Red was chewing.

"How much did you tell him? " Grandpa asked; concerned.

"Not much, like Jimmy said. " Red  swallowed and continued. "We made up some story about us being musicians and heading for a show in L.A."

"Yeah, Red started that one." Jimmy laughed. "I had all I could do to keep up my end."

"Did he buy it?"

"I don't think he was convinced, really." Red smiled.

"So we bailed on the whole thing and went back to our seats" Jimmy said.

"We just left him sitting there." Red added.

"Did he say anything when he came back to his seat?"

"He never came back." Red said.


"Red said she was awake all night and he never came back." Jimmy added.

"Where was he then, I wonder."

"It gets weirder. " Jimmy added.

Red took a sip of coffee and said; "When I was getting off the train this morning."

"I was digging for our luggage."

"A couple cars up I saw Arthur getting of the train. And he was with the two people we met in the dining car last night."

"Did they see you?"

"They all saw me. And they all waved and smiled. And then they turned and headed for the station."

"They looked like they were together. Like they knew each other." Jimmy added. "I was there by then and Red pointed them out to me."

"Interesting." Grandpa said thoughtfully.

Just then Grandma Pynesapp walked hurriedly up to the table. 

"Grandma" Red cried as she jumped up and gave her a big hug.

Marge Pynesapp was trying to catch her breath as she hugged Red; "Oh Red I'm so glad to see you. You look great. We've missed you so much."

As Marge gave Jimmy a big hug, she looked over at Jack and to him she said softly; "You and I need to talk - alone."

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Train crossings

Press Release:

Rep.  Cliff Darlington (R- Marionette) introduced legislation in the Wisconsin Legislature calling for the repeal of right-of-way for trains at roadway intersections. He sites the danger posed by speeding trains to motorists and pedestrians as the main reason. "Too many of my constituents have been killed or injured by speeding trains,"  he says, "we need to stop this carnage."
Under the terms of the new law,
crossings signals like this
will no longer be needed.

He also points to the inconvenience and loss of productivity suffered by scores of motorists and commercial drivers who are required to yield as long trains pass. "This has given the railroad companies an unfair competitive advantage or far too long." He explained; "It's about time to level the playing field."

He claims broad support in the Republican led State Legislature and predicts easy passage. The Governor is expected to sign the bill if it arrives on his desk.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Travels of Jack Pynesapp - Book 2: Red and Jimmy - Chapter 3

This is 36 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 ]

Travels of Jack Pynesapp

Book 2: Red and Jimmy

Chapter 3; 

"What do we do when he comes back?" Red asked as they settled back in their seats.

"He's a jerk -- we just ignore him."

"Easier said..."

"You'd rather explain why we can't invite him to our concert?"

"Well, no. I guess not."

"That was quick thinking, by the way."

"Thanks -- I guess." Red laughed. "Ended up -- kind of out of the frying pan..."

"I think I prefer the fire, in this case." Jimmy smiled.

"Why was he so interested in who we are?"

"I wonder. Do you think he's really who he says he is."

"Why don't you ask him when he gets back." Red smiled.

"I might just do that." Jimmy huffed.

Red put in her earbuds and smiled; "You just do that."

Jimmy put in his buds too and smiled; "Watch me."

They both reclined their seats. Red leaned over against Jimmy and they both switched on their music.
The train made a number of stops on it's way to the coast but these were so smooth that Red and Jimmy barely noticed any change in the motion and soon Jimmy was snoring quietly.  Red couldn't sleep because she was trying to think of a story to tell Arthur when he came back that would explain their other story. Even though Jimmy had said he would confront him, Red knew it would be up to her to take care of this. She leaned over and switched off Jimmy's music and then pulled a magazine out of her bag and began reading.   The train sped on through the night.


Red nodded in and out of sleep all night.  Arthur never returned to his seat.

The conductor announced that the train was approaching it's final stop and instructed all remaining passengers to collect their personal belongings and prepare to move to the exit doors when the train comes to a complete stop.

Jimmy stirred and Red kissed him on the cheek and said; "Wake up Ripp Van Winkle."

Jimmy opened his eyes, sat up and stretched, leaned over and kissed Red. "Good morning sunshine." He said as he looked over to Arthur's empty seat. "Did he ever come back?"


"Never? How do  you know? Didn't you ever sleep?"

"No. I couldn't stop thinking about what we would tell him."

Jimmy yawned and scolded; "I told you I'd take care of that."

"I know." Red smiled. "And how exactly were you going to do that sound asleep?"

"Where's he been, I wonder."

"Not our problem." Red said as she stood up and started packing her stuff back in her bag.

Red stepped off the train onto the platform while Jimmy retrieved their bag. She looked up and down the sleek black train and along the platform to get her bearings. People were exiting each car from doors that happened about every 50 feet along the side of the train. These doors were pretty much the only way to tell where each car was along the otherwise smooth skin of train. Two doors to her right ( toward the front of the train) -- the first sleeping car, according to her calculations, she saw Arthur stepping off the train. He then turned around and helped a lady step down. Red recognized her; it was Alice from the dinning car the night before. And after her Bill stepped off.  Arthur looked Red's way and when their eyes met he smiled and gave a little wave. Bill and Alice followed his gaze and gave a small smile of recognition and then the three of them turned and walked away towards the station entrance.

"Wow, that was brutal. I had to wait while this lady tried to find one of her bags." .Jimmy said as he stepped off the train with their suitcase. "Finally her husband showed up with it and said she forgot it under her seat. The idiot."

Red was still watching Arthur and company. Jimmy looked too and asked; "Is that Arthur?"

"Yes, and he's with Alice and Bill. You know, from the dinning car?"

"You think they're together?"

"It sure looks like it doesn't it."

"Maybe they just met and just happen to be walking together. That's the way everyone is going, you know."

"Yeah maybe you're right."

They joined the procession of passengers walking towards the exit when Red said; "Notice something else?"


"None of them have any luggage -- just briefcases."

"They travel light." Jimmy laughed.

"Maybe, but did Bill strike you as someone who would carry a briefcase?"

"Well, I guess not. Did they see you?"

"Yes, they all recognized me -- they smiled and waved and then all turned and walked away."

"Well there you go, Red. What's so unusual about any of that?"

"I guess you're right." Red admitted.

"I'm always right." Jimmy boasted.

"Oh yeah, I forgot."  Red gave him a playful shove, laughed, and then she said; "It just seems strange to me."

"Oh don't be so paranoid." Jimmy scolded.

That was the last they saw of Arthur, Alice and Bill. For now....


Red's phone rang. She pulled her cell phone out of her purse and gave Jimmy a quick look as she answered; "Hello, this is Red."

She listens for a few seconds,  As she looks at Jimmy she speaks into the phone; "Okay, we'll be there in a couple minutes." and hangs up.

"Was that him?" Jimmy asks.

"Yeah, he's in a restaurant named "Sander's". He'll be at a table at the far end."

"Why so dramatic? Why didn't he just meet us at the train?"

"How do I know? Ask him yourself?"

It must have been a busy time for trains because there were people everywhere. The train station looked like a shopping mall. There were shops and carrels everywhere.  Red and Jimmy wound their way through the crowd.

"There." Red said finally as she pointed to a sign that read; "Sander's Restaurant" up ahead and to the left.

They walked in and a hostess asked; "Table for two?"

"We're meeting someone. He told us he was at a table near the back." Red said as she peered over the hostess' shoulder into the dim light.

"Yes, " She said, "the gentleman told me you'd be coming. Please follow me." and she began walking away.

He stood up from the table when he saw them coming. He waved. Red started running when he saw him.  "Grandpa!" she cried. They met and gave each other a big hug. "Red, I'm so glad you came." Jack whispered.

So that bit didn't answer any questions, did it? It just added more. Have I painted myself into a corner here? Where the heck did Grandpa come from -- and why? He just popped into my head when they got off the train. 
I just noticed that I need to be more careful about verb tense here. I haven't given it any thought before now but is it better (more powerful) to tell the story in past tense or present? Pick one and stick to it. I have been using past tense, simply because it feels easier to use the word 'said' instead of 'says' or 'is saying'. I think it sounds more normal. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Travels of Jack Pynesapp - Book 2: Red and Jimmy - Chapter 2; Arthur

This is 35 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 ]

Travels of Jack Pynesapp: 

Book 2: Red and Jimmy

Chapter 2; Arthur


"What was up with those two?" Red asked Jimmy after they had settled back in their seats.

"I know. You'd think they were married or something."

"She wouldn't let him finish a sentence."

"She wouldn't let him start one, you mean."

They both laughed as Red tucked her legs up under her and she kneeled on the seat and then leaned close to Jimmy and gave him a quick kiss.

"What was that for?" he asked.

"Why does it have to be for anything? I just felt like kissing you. Okay?"

"Yeah, I mean -- well -- yes. It's great. Thanks."

"Thanks?" Red leaned back against the wall and gave Jimmy a look of mock indignation.

"You know what I mean."

She slid back over and hugged him around the neck. "We'll never be like that, will we?" She cooed.  

"Like what?"

"Like those two, I mean like -- I'll never be like that. You know, like an old married couple."

"They're not married."

"Yeah, but they act like they are - you even said." Red protested. "Well she acted like it, anyway. I feel sorry for him."

"Yeah, I know. But the good thing is that they're not married. If he's got any sense he'll stay away from that."

"But he looked pretty innocent -- babe in the woods, like. You know like he's never been anywhere or done anything but work his whole life."

"You believe that?"

"Yeah - well I think. Why wouldn't I?"

"Whole story seemed pretty weird, is all. Didn't it?"

"I can see it happening, though. You see his cloths?"


"The cloths looked brand new -- still had the folds from the package. And those jeans were still stiff they were so new."

"You were checkin out his pants?" Jimmy laughed.

"Yeah," Red gave him a punch in the shoulder, "I was checking him out." She laughed, mockingly.
Jimmy reeled back and grabbed his shoulder in mock pain. Then he laughed and said; "you ever get like that, I'll just have to kick your butt."

"Like to see you try." She laughed as she leaned back and put up her dukes in mock defense. 
Then they noticed the little boy watching them over the seat in front of them. They both growled at him and laughed as his head disappeared behind the seat back.

Red un-tucked her legs and sat down in her seat. As she settled in, Jimmy leaned over to kiss her hair and at the last second she turned and kissed him on the mouth. Then she laughed and said; "If I ever act like that you'd better kick my butt."

Jimmy put his arm around her shoulders, they both put their feet up on the seat back in front of them as she snuggled within his arms. 


"How fast do you think we're going?" Red asked after a while.

"Well if it really only takes 14 hours to get to L.A. we must be averaging around 200 miles per hour."


"Yeah. So with all the stops, we must be going a lot faster than that, most of the time."

"Seems like we're hardly moving."

"It's pretty smooth."

"It's because we're basically flying, you know."

Jimmy and Red both looked at a middle-aged man who was sitting in the seat across the isle from them. He continued; "I don't mean to eavesdrop on your conversation but I couldn't help myself."

"So I see." Jimmy looked over at him and frowned.

"I mean, It just sounded like you were surprised at how smooth the ride is -- for a train."

Jimmy put his feed down and sat up in his seat. "What do you mean, flying?"

"Well not really flying, of course," the man laughed, "I mean we're still on the tracks -- sort of. "

"You mean it's mag-lev?"

"That's what they used to call it, I guess. The man said. "See, it's not really magnetism any more -- it used to be, you know -- but now it's a form of gravity wave thing."

"What do you mean gravity wave?" Jimmy asked.

"Say, my name is Arthur." The man laughed and reached his hand across the isle towards Jimmy;  "Arthur Hale". Jimmy just looked down at it and frowned.

Red reached over Jimmy's lap and smiled at Arthur. As she shook his hand she said;  "My name is Andrea and this is James. Glad to meet you, Arthur." She frowned at Jimmy.

 "Yes, well how is it that you don't know about this stuff? I thought the kids now days knew all about technology."

"We're not much in to science, you know. We're musicians."  Red lied.

"Hmm." Arthur looked at them suspiciously. "So you're not interested in this." He said; "Well -- again -- sorry to interrupt."

"No." Jimmy protested. "We are interested. It's just that we've never been on a train but now that we are, we're very curious about how it all works." He looked at Red and said "Right?"
Red nodded and smiled.

 "Well," Arthur said, "lets not bother these people. Maybe we can find a spot in the observation car.  I actually know a little about this stuff and I wouldn't mind telling you as much as you care to know -- probably more, once you get me going, I'm afraid."
"Great." Red said.


They walked through two more coach cars to get to the observation car. All the booths were full; people playing cards, eating, drinking, or just talking.  The fading evening light, tinted glass of the windows, and speed of the train meant nobody was really 'observing'.  They were able to find a curved lounge seat that was vacant and the three of them settled in.

"So, " began Arthur,  "how does one become a 'musician'?"

"I thought we were going to talk about gravity waves and the like." protested Jimmy.

Arthur smiled and said, "I was just being sociable. I'm just interested in people, You know."

"That's sweet." Red said to Arthur as she gave jimmy a little smile. "Well you know, we were both in music in school and we kinda got together and started playing gigs for friends -- weddings and such. Well,  people kinda thought we were really good, and word spread and pretty soon we nad all the work we could handle."

"Yeah, that's pretty much it." Jimmy added. "Now what are these gravity waves."

"So what kind of music to you play?"

"Rock" Jimmy said at the same time that Red said; "Folk."

Red blushed and Jimmy said; "Folk/Rock." And Red added; "Yeah,  a mix-up sort of thing. Kinda our own creation, you know. Like I said, people really like it."

Arthur looked at them but didn't say anything.

Red broke the silence and said; "So Arthur, what do  you do?"

Arthur smiled and said; "I'm a consultant."

"What do you 'consult'?" Jimmy said.

"I head up a small company that basically hires out to industries that need novel solutions to unique  problems."

"I could've gotten that off your business card." Jimmy scowled. "What do you really do?"

Arthur gave them another long look. Then he leaned towards them and said softly; "I'll tell you what I really do if you tell me what you REALLY do."

"Like we said, Musicians." Jimmy protested.  "We're heading to LA for a gig."

"And you've never taken a train before." Arthur said.

"No," Red insisted, "actually, to be honest we've never played outside Chicago -- until now."

"Hmm", Arthur smiled but he didn't say anything as he fixed his gaze on the two of them.

Finally Jimmy said, "So, you were going to tell us how this train moves."

"Oh," Arthur said, "like I said -  it's a form of Mag-lev."

"But you said 'gravity waves'. You said it wasn't anything like Mag-lev." Jimmy said.

"Oh, did I?" Arthur said.

"Yes, you did" Jimmy insisted. He looked at Red and said - not so softly; "Let's go back -- uh, Andrea -- to our seat. I think this guy's full of it. Or he just likes screwing with people."

"Wait a second, " Arthur said, "I'm sorry if I have offended you. You know, I normally fly but every now and then I take the train because it gives me time to relax while I travel (I travel a lot, as you can probably imagine.)"

"Yeah, so?" Jimmy looked back at Arthur. " And that gives you the right to jerk us around?"

"No, not at all. But one of the things I most like about the train is that it gives you the chance to meet people you're traveling with. You know, get to know them. I was just trying to learn more about your lives."

"I'd say that's none of your business." Jimmy said.

"Oh lighten up Jimmy." Red said. "Give him a break, okay."

"So, you prefer 'Jimmy'" Arthur asked Jimmy.

"No, my name is 'James'" Jimmy retorted.

"I just -- Andrea called you Jimmy and I just thought..."

"Well, you're wrong. Red's the only one who calls me Jimmy!"

"I see. So these are just your pet names for each other, I guess." Arthur smiled; "I understand."

"I doubt it." Jimmy said.

"But I do," Arthur insisted, "like I said, I'm interested in people. Especially interesting people." Arthur smiled knowingly. "So Andrea, is anyone but James allowed to call you 'Red' ?"

Red smiled and said; "No, Arthur, pretty much everyone calls me 'Red'. And it's okay if you do too."

"Well I can understand that." He looked at Jimmy. "I really can." And back to Red; "The name seems  very apropos."

"What?" Jimmy laughed, "Who uses the word 'apropos'?"

"Actually, pretty much everyone." Arthur countered. "It's a very common. Especially when it's apropos." Arthur quietly snickered at his own joke. 

Red was getting a little uneasy about how this conversation was going and she was thinking that Jimmy's idea of going back to their seats wasn't such a bad idea. This guy was getting a little too close for comfort.

Then she said; "Well Arthur, its been a pleasure to meet you but I think Jimmy's right; we should go back now."

Arthur sighed and said; "Okay Red, if you insist. But believe me that I'm sorry if I offended you. I tend to be a little to forward at times. It's just that in my line of work I don't have the luxury of beating around the bush. I have to be direct and to the point. Time is money, you know. Especially when the people you are talking to are paying you for advice."

"That's what I've been saying all along," Jimmy said, "get to the point. I'll bet your customers don't pay you to 'beat around the bush' prying into their personal lives."

"On the contrary, James. This sort of inquiry is critical to good consulting. After all, communication is most effective when the parties share a common understanding of each others background and level of understanding. You know the saying. 'know your audience.'?"

"But we're not your clients." Red said "All we want to know is how this train moves."

Jimmy added; "And you did offer to tell us. Remember? Isn't that why you brought us here?"

"Yes, that's true. And again I apologize for old habits. Please understand that in my line of work I am dealing with information that is mostly considered either proprietary or top secret by my customers. I have to be very careful about what I disclose and to whom."

"But we're not like foreign spy's or corporate snoops," Jimmy protested.

"But how do I know that? You haven't been honest with me so far."

"We've been honest." Red lied.

"Oh come on, " Arthur scoffed, "musicians? Really?"

At this Jimmy grabbed Red's hand and pulled her up and after him as he began to walk away.  Red  looked back and said; "Good bye, Arthur."

"I've got some time to spare, can I come and see your show?" Arthur called after them.

Jimmy turned and said; "You wouldn't like it." and kept walking out of the observation car.

After they had gone through the doors Arthur said to himself; "But you said 'people really like it'."

Okay, now I've done it. I have to figure out what sort of thing a "gravity wave" is and how do you make a train "fly" on one.  
And why are Red and Jimmy making up this story about being musicians? 
Thankfully the train doesn't reach L.A. for a few more hours so I have some time to think about these things.