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See Abu Ghraib Prison abuse scandal to read what I consider the biggest story in today's news.

I am a military man. As it turns out, I am not in Iraq right now. Probably later, but not right now.

I am in Key West.

Now, Key West is a very liberal town. Rainbow flags hang above business doors. New age hippies wander the beaches. People faint at the thought of a sea turtle or chicken being harmed.

They call themselves open-minded here. I believe them. I believe them because in the years I have been here, never once have I ever felt unwelcome. Even when Iraq War II started, and there were protesters on the street corners, never once did anyone so much as give me a dirty look while I was in uniform.

That's pretty remarkable. I have been stationed all over the world, and usually you can expect a sneer or two as time passes, but not here in open-minded, open-hearted Key West. I love this town, and when you love something, you try to honor it.

Then last night I see a few pictures of military men and women clearly torturing civilians. I think to myself, "And these are only the ones stupid enough to take pictures". Logic suggests what we see is only the tip of the iceberg. Logic further suggests that...sigh...the powers that be will strive to keep further details hidden.

And today I go into a Winn-Dixie to buy my wife some flowers. I am in uniform. I am waiting in line.

And today...today is a bad day.

Shit.

The fallen.

I must write this in a highly emotional state, so please forgive me if I overstep my bounds.

Watching Nightline tonight to hear the reading of the names and to see the pictures of those who have died in the war in Iraq was something I had a great deal of trouble handling. Through much of it I cried, genuine tears that still stain my face, and often I needed to grab hold of something to hold myself steady.

These are people, and they MUST be noted as people and not just numbers and statistics. These were people who had families, who had people who loved them, who had children who will now grow up never knowing them. These are people who are gone from this place, who are now remembered only in memories and stories that their friends and loved ones will tell for many years to come. These are people who may have been your friend, your brother, your sister, your father, your mother. They are GONE.

You MUST consider this. You cannot deny it. People may sacrifice themselves for a cause, for a reason, for something that means something. If you believe this war means something, then you may be at greater peace with their passing than I am. I mourn all of them. I cry for all of them. I pray for all of them. I wish them all safe passage and clear skies. I will not listen to anyone who mocks or derides these people and the sacrifice they made. I am a man of peace, a man of love, but I will have great trouble holding back from resorting to darkness and striking you if you dare to belittle these people.

If you can look at the roll call of those who have fallen and died for this cause and believe that their sacrifice was made for good reasons, more power to you. I remember when I was in high school. I remember the people who decided to go into the military, feeling they could get a good job, a college education and defend their country at the same time. There were those who were just looking for a fight, but most were looking to do something that mattered. They wanted to make a difference and felt going into the military would give them that. They believed. They were good people. Some of them were friends of mine. Some of them were people I looked up to. My first girlfriend went into the Air Force and continues to serve as an NCO in Air Force Intelligence.

I know and love people in the military. A very good friend of mine is a Navy fighter pilot. I haven't heard from him in two years, but I know he is over there. I have nothing but love, respect and compassion for those in service.

As Ted Koppel said, this wasn't a political statement. This was just reality, and it was respect. These people deserved to be honored for their sacrifice, whether it was for a reason or if they were just misguided and used. Most of them believed they were doing the right thing. They were doing their job. Give them your love and compassion, regardless of where you stand. They are DEAD. If you don't understand what that means, it means THEY ARE NO LONGER HERE. They can't see their children, their parents, their spouses, their friends. They are GONE. You are still here. Honor the dead, wherever you stand, because for them this story is over. For us, it will continue.


Give them a little bit of your time:
http://abcnews.go.com/sections/us/Primetime/IRAQ_Casualties.html

Yet more cannon fodder in my quest to figure out just what the hell TV is all about- it's 2:30 AM here, in Nashville, right now. I have tuned in to the Disney Channel, on a lark. At this hour the programming is clearly and blatantly geared for a younger audience. I ask you: what right-thinking adult would allow their child to be awake at 2:30 AM? What kind of message is Disney trying to get across? "We want your children to be tired, cranky, unprepared for school tomorrow, upset and generally annoying. Wake them up. Tune in. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is on." Hmmm... there's something to that, now that I think about it.

I tell you, if I was a parent, I'd feel pretty miffed, partially confused and fairly annoyed. Not that there isn't enough to be annoyed at Disney about already, but this just kinda adds to the ever-growing pile.

Next up: The Sci-Fi Channel. Neither science, and barely recognized as fiction. Should it have been named "The Spec-Fi Channel" instead? Tune in later for more details.

I was kind of expecting a flash of light. Or a tingly sensation or an electric shock or a feeling of intense speed, or at least a jolt. Nope. Nothing.

As it turns out, this is because the instant I closed my eyes, Ed-B managed to hit the emergency abort switch, cancelling the experiment entirely. While the "flux" capacitor discharges harmlessly (but wastefully) into the Earth, he shoulders open the elevator doors and strides across to his alternate self. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"I wasn't anticipating your reactions being quite that fast," says Ed-A.

"They're your reactions, Eduardo my boy," says Ed-B. "What about Jen? We're friends, that's it. You know that's all there is to it. Are you saying we get married? And something bad happens?"

"Um, ahah. Yeah. See, the thing is, this was just supposed to be a sort of joke. I just wanted to make the future more interesting for you. I don't really know if anything happens between us and Jen in the future."

Ed-B gazes levelly at his counterpart from the previous universe for a few moments, and then punches him in the face. As Ed-A reels and tries to regain his balance, Ed-B yells at him. "You're messing with people's lives here, Ed! You're messing with your own life. Let this be a lesson to both of us, since we're pretty much identical; learn to see it from the other guy's perspective. I mean, if I can't empathise with myself I can't empathise with anybody." He turns and heads back to the time machine, where I am still waiting, aghast. "Start it again from step 209," he calls to the scientists in the control room overlooking the machine. He climbs in and shuts the door. The countdown starts again from sixty seconds.

"I can't believe I'd do something like that," says Ed as we wait once again. "I'm not that vindictive, am I?"

"I can't believe it either," I reply. "Maybe it's the fact that you're interfering with your own life that made you think it was okay. I mean, ethically it's a lot like experimenting on yourself versus experimenting on others. Maybe you just thought you could take the joke. Or you were trying to introduce some variety into your alternate self's life."

"My life is varied enough," says Ed. "Bah, I can't second-guess myself. We're both thinking exactly the same number of moves ahead. Well, we'll do it differently when it's our turn..."

The timer hits zero, but there's still no flash of light - quite the opposite in fact, for the lab is dark and empty when we arrive, because it's midnight and there's nobody working. That, I think to myself, was pretty painless.

Above us, an alarm starts to wail and flash. After a minute, a squad of marines wearing helmets and body armour troop into the room and aim machine guns at us.

We raise our hands and surrender, as, thousands of miles away, Ed-C and Sam-C's lives begin, very subtly, to diverge from ours.

*

Interrogation is nightmarish, until the CIA guys arrive - Agents Mulheardy and White, whom we astound by recognizing and calling by name. They explain how the alternate us (us-C) are under observation for potentially world-threatening activities, and how our sudden appearance here while still being somehow under observation in England might have something to do with Ed-C's experiments. Mentally, Ed and I attempt to make sense of things. Now we are the alternate Ed and Sam. Now we have to continue the chain.

Witnessing it all again from the other set of eyes is plain eerie. We are so predictable. I find myself mentally finishing sentences for my counterpart.

It goes almost exactly the same as the previous time around. Disks change hands. Time-travel passwords are revealed. We hand over the electronic blueprints for the time machine, though Ed declines the offer to keep a copy, saying he's unlikely to bother building one of his own. We see our alternate selves off, headed back in time two days and another nanosecond.

There's one major thing we change, though. This time around, Ed's final piece of advice is different. "MARRY JEN."

Ed-C looks astounded, and never even reaches for the abort switch.

Afterwards, I'm infuriated with Ed, but also somehow unsurprised. Maybe he really does think his own life is just a plaything. Maybe he thought he was doing his other self a favour, or when it came to the crunch he just couldn't resist messing with the future.

In the end I say nothing to him, because there's nothing to say. Though we can never find out what happens to the other Ed and Sam, I hope they're okay.

*

As we take an overnight passenger flight home - no supersonic action this time around, alas - Ed checks his watch to see how much time we've lost altogether, and I try to pretend none of it ever happened, in preparation for resuming our lives where they left off, apparently, nearly three days ago. Between us, we decide not to adjust our birthdays to suit. It'd just be too hard to explain to our families.

The man sitting next to us is understandably curious when we start talking matter-of-factly about our temporal shenanigans. "Excuse me, have you two... travelled through time or something?" he asks.

"No," I answer. "We're actors in an upcoming time travel movie and we like to stay in character." The human mind is a wonderful thing. Implausible though it is, he's far more likely to swallow that explanation than the truth.

It's only when we finally reach Gatwick Airport and start looking for a coach home that a final thought strikes me.

"Where does the chain end?"

"It goes on forever," says Ed.

"But it can't go on forever. Even going back a nanosecond at a time, you eventually reach a time where the Kerrig Facility had never even been excavated. What then?"

Ed glances at me. "Are you sure you want to know?"

"Why do you say that?"

"I figured it out way back while Ed-A was explaining the theory of time travel to us. Frankly, it was the most worrying thing about the whole situation. Eventually, one of us dies. Possibly both."

I open my mouth, but can't say anything.

"You remember how I said that statistically, there are probably a few dozen of us who - just by chance - broke our legs stepping out of the time machine? Take it to its logical conclusion and someone is eventually going to get killed. The time machine makes a one-in-a-trillion malfunction and kills us both. You or I trip over and crack our heads open on the way to the interrogation room. The plane from England to America crashes and nobody survives. Actually, now that I think about it, the weakest link in the whole sequence of events between one iteration and the next is in the very first few seconds. Marines with guns. Somewhere, when you average out over a trillion iterations, one of a pair of us is almost certain to do or say something wrong, and they'll shoot us in response. In fact, four hundred and fifty billion iterations of that event without either of us getting killed is highly improbable. Maybe a few thousand would be more feasible, a million tops."

"So what about the disk? Somewhere back along the line, we lied? We made up the whole disk thing?"

"I'm sure we had our reasons, and frankly, there's no way we can ever find out for sure. There's no use agonizing over it, now. I daresay the alternate Eds will figure the lie out like I did. In retrospect, I guess we aren't to be trusted after all."

"Speak for yourself," I say meaningfully. "...I just wish there was a better way for it to end. Instead of an Ed and Sam a thousand universes removed from ours getting shot by accident."

"Who knows?" says Ed. "Maybe somewhere along the line, the two of us will decide to set up new lives in America instead. Working at that very facility, maybe. Again, we'll never know for sure."

"Time travel sucks," I declare.

"That it does, Sam," says Ed. "That it does. Right now I just want to go home and have a traditional post-adventure cup of tea."

"Maybe I'll call Jen over," I grin.

Ed groans, but he only has himself to blame.

Sort of.


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Accident alert they call it. The time when accidents without injuries do not require police action at the moment. Cars torn in places where they once were solid, curses hurled at the sky, fists shaken, insurance information exchanged.

The drive to work. Normally merely an annoyance. I hate driving. So many people, eager to get to where they want to be. Eager to get there on time. Eager to walk their dogs with hundreds of other dog owners. The Furry Scurry today. So many dogs, so many.

May 1st. Beltane. May Day. Fertility, a pole, streamers. Lying naked on the bed, eyes of comprehension. In a car, torn from the work commute, screeching tires. Late to work, pieces of my compact car left on the SUV I met in coital anger.

Today I give up driving forever. I won't miss it.

Judgement Day

I just watched Terminator 2: Judgement Day for the first time in ten years. Something I never could have noticed the last time I saw it is the date Sarah Connor believed Skynet would launch the "Judgement Day" nuclear attack: August 29, 1997.Which coincidentally is the exact day (and year) Pantaliamon and I got married.

How's that for irony?

"Shout to god to bring my sunny day".

I found this phrase lying on my car written on the fuzziest leaf I had ever seen in my life as I left work on my half hour of freedom they call lunch. It was rather clever, if you ask me. It communicated herself quite accurately to me in the most abstract of ways. She was suprisingly clever at times... expecially on the sunny days, though in general I thought there was something lacking in her reasoning.

It was a gorgeous day. One of the first of last year. All the more reason to let the wind blow more and more life into her hair as the gas pedal becomes heavier and heavier. I had always warned her that she was a bit too much for herself, but that had never really sunk in her thick, yet inquisitive, head.

After I had returned to work following my lunch break, I got a call.

"Nick, I just got in a car wreck." The words seemed to echo for a moment. I knew she had to be well enough to be calling me, so my heart relaxed slightly.

"Are you alright?" I asked... for her more than myself, though I was concerned.

"I think so."

"Who's fault was it?" I asked, already knowing the answer. It was just her luck, getting in a wreck with no insurance. And besides, no one shouts to God to bring their sunny day and walks away without being taught a lesson in patience and understanding. It's like tugging at a sweater that's stuck on something. Calm and intellegent is the approach for those hitches. But she has to be spaztic and irrational about everything. She recently told me she is now smoking cigarettes in an effort to do all the things she can in this life. I can do nothing but tell her how utterly fucking retarded it is to start smoking cigarettes so late in life!

"Mine, but wait..."

I was always the adult of the relationship. She went on to "handle" me the same way she did her parents. That's no way for a relationship to be... at least not for this cadet. That's when I realized she was not what I was looking for. I'm not looking for someone to be beneath me nor above me, but next to me. I have since put that quest in the hands of fate. After all, love is only who you know, and fate has done quite well in handling that scenario for me. I just like to follow it along in no real hurry.

My grandfather's obituary:

3rd Avenue Master Barber
Wayne LaVel Pope (65), loving Husband, Father and Grandfather, passed away from the debilitating effects of pancreatic cancer, his family at his side, on May l, 2004. He was born on August 24, 1938 in Vernal, Utah.

The obituary mentions who he is survived by, just a list of names.

Wayne graduated from Uintah High School in 1956 where he was Senior Class President and a star basketball player. He married his (high school) sweetheart, Carol Hulburt, in the Salt Lake Temple, on June 3, 1957. He was an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, serving as High Priest Group Leader, Bountiful Temple worker and in many other Church capacities. He loved his family, the Lord and his Church with all his heart. He worked hard every day, so that his children could have a better life. He enjoyed participating in and watching sports as well as venturing out of town on frequent camping, hunting and fishing trips, and many of the other valuable activities that gave his family precious time together; building a foundation of experiences that will remain with them forever.

Wayne was a Master Barber, cutting hair for 45 years, most of them on 3rd Avenue at his own Wayne’s Barber Shop. His clients loved him as much for his classic barbering as for his conversation. He cut the hair of governors, mayors, legislators, university presidents, Church general authorities and even TV personalities; but more importantly, he cut the hair of thousands of individuals he called friends.

Having just retired, he and Carol traveled to the East coast, visiting as many of the Church, historical and tourist sites that they could. They were called to serve a Church Mission as Temple workers in Fiji. It was while they served with all of their hearts that Wayne became very ill and returned home for his last months of life. Funeral services (were held) on May 6th, 2 pm, at (an) LDS Church. (And it gave the place, times, address etc.)


My grandfather died on the day of my Senior Ball. Interesting enough, I was driving home from the day activity with all our dates in the car, having just drove past Wayne's Barber Shop when my mother called to tell me of his death. It was quite the experience. Today I look back on this event, finally posting something on it because I've been thinking about it a lot lately.

Sometimes I feel like he is guiding me, other times I feel like divine intervention is happening by his hands. I'm sure he helps me when he can. He used to cut my hair, did so for about 4 years of my life. I then started liking Bull cuts so I stopped going to him and went elsewhere. He always had a pop and a sucker I could have when I went to him. It was way awesome. We'd always go fishing together, and the other part of our family excluding my father and brothers, would go hunting with him often. He was a hardy old man, lived a long life until his death. He was one of the first people to encourage me to play chess. When he first came home from his mission with the church he was sick. My way of saying goodbye to him was playing chess with him. I never lost to him after I got good three years ago. But this last, final game, with my grandpa, was the hardest chess match of my life. He played out the game extremely well, and I finally won. Goodbye Grandfather.

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