Sunday, January 29, 2012

Found Time and Cool Clockworks - Photos

Found Time Tank by Randall Cleaver, currently on display at NWCM
One of those out-of-the-way yet very-cool-to-visit places is the National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, PA.  A current exhibit is entitled "Found Time" featuring clocks sculpted by Randall Cleaver from various found objects.  I was so entranced that I forgot to take pictures! (I'm famous for doing that, but I linked up the site for you.)

The museum is heaven for horologists, history lovers and steampunk afficionados (they had a Victorian ball last year).

Drawing of 1088AD water clock by Su Sung. An armillary sphere tracked sun, moon and star orbits, while mannequins periodically rang bells and chimes to sound the hours.  The mechanism was powered by water.

The Atomichron (early 1950s) was the world's first commercial atomic clock, built by the National Company, Inc of Malden, Massachusetts. It was also the first self-contained portable atomic clock. (It was about the size of a filing cabinet, so not portable as in "carry it in your briefcase".)  Atomic clocks use the oscillations of atoms in a gas to mark frequency (in this case, cesium). It is so accurate it would only lose a second in 32,000 years.

Are you old enough to remember Pulsar watches? The first Pulsar was a brand of The Hamilton Watch Company (in nearby Lancaster PA) which developed the watch in early 1970. It had an 18 carat gold case, and was the world's first all-electronic digital watch, using a digital display with LEDs  A button was pressed to display the time. The first Pulsar initially sold for $2100. (The equivalent of $11,000 today.)  Eventually they manufactured watches which also monitored heartbeat and had a tiny little calculator.

And then there's the sheer beauty of gears, cogs, wheels and such.

The museum has hundreds of case clocks, pocket watches, table clocks, cuckoo clocks...if it told time, they've probably got an example of it. There's even a replica (non-working) of the Antikythera mechanism.  So, if you're ever in the south central Pennsylvania area, pay a visit. (Certain exhibits change, so check the site before you go.)    National Watch and Clock Museum

Friday, January 27, 2012

Artifice - Flash Fiction

I brought the Great Man down. The Prime Minister.

There was this big party, with smoking and drinking and sparkly women with great white horse teeth, smelling of rotten flowers and hair spray.  Big men with suits swam around the room, smacking each other and sneaking looks at the ladies. Little men in wrinkled suits that smelled of cigarettes (and one of maybe puke) stood around and played with their phones. All of them talked with their Outside Voices and tried to look interested but they really only wanted to talk to the Great Man. They didn't fool me, and I don't think they fooled each other.

Me? They didn't notice me. Never do, unless He decides that they should. Especially if She is around, but She was gone away on holiday again.

I never talk much, and so people shout at me as if being quiet is like being deaf.  I'm small, but that doesn't mean that I'm stupid.

When I went into the party - I wasn't invited of course - everyone smiled, and a few took my picture like they do of the dog, Rusty.  One of the wrinkled suit guys snapped one just as I climbed into the loudest lady's lap and asked, in MY Outside Voice,

"Sylvia, are you staying here again tonight?"  Then I threw my arms around her neck-like-a-chicken's and smiled right at Daddy.

He isn't so Great any more, not to me and not to anyone else. I may be just a kid, but I've learned how things work the hard way.

Now I'll never be overlooked or forgotten again.

Little people can cut you down in an instant.

Thanks for reading!  In the upper right hand corner of this site is a poll - vote for the genre you'd like to see more of here on Flash Fiction.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Invisible Quilt

For a friend...

I have a gift for you, my friend, one which I hope will remain with you always.  Something that will keep you warm during the cold dark days, though the corners may grow threadbare and the down become thin from hugging it so much.

Squares of memory whose half-forgotten patterns come alive the more you remember;  familiar patterns of joy and sorrow, vestiges of old spills, geometric shards of dreams and laughter.  The delicate even stitches of time hold it together, and though one or two pull free there is nothing which will make it completely unravel.

You cannot see it but I hope that you can feel it;  the invisible quilt of love and friendship wrapping itself around you.

May it warm and protect both you, and yours, forever.

Like it? Pin it. Pin It


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

It's Been One Year...

...since the first post went up here on Flash Fiction. Since then I've won a contest, had several works published in newspapers, magazines and anthologies, and even published a very short collection of flash fiction. I won't get into numbers - I don't care very much for that aspect, it's too easy to give them more weight than they deserve sometimes - but I'm happy with them.

I started this blog for two reasons:  to "shop" some experimental work/get feedback, and to figure out this newfangled thing called "blogging".  Before I started this blog, I was barely online. I knew absolutely nothing about how to form links, post pictures, manipulate templates, install widgets, or myriad other computer thingies.

So now I can do some of that :-)  Writing here at Flash Fiction has gained me quite a bit of knowledge and, more importantly, some wonderful and supportive friends. There's no way that I could name them all, but I will say this;  the majority of my followers and I keep in touch( even if there are some long periods of time in happens) and I love that. I consider myself lucky to have fallen into a great community. Much of that is due to the A to Z Challenge which really kickstarted my blog and introduced me to aforesaid great people.

I've also learned a heck of a lot about the mechanics of writing, both by reading other authors and by exchanging emails and opinions with some of you.  I hope I never get to the point where I think I know everything there is to know about writing. That would be death.

I wish to remain true to my original concept:  a blog devoted primarily to brand new flash fiction, created for the enjoyment of readers. No strings, no giveaways, no contests, no requests. Just read, enjoy, and maybe even leave a comment.

On occasion, I post poetry, photos that I think might be of interest, an occasional personal post (fun subjects like my first MRI and having a broken tooth yanked) and those pesky promo posts telling you that I had something published.

Oh, and once in a while I might flog a blogfest like the A to Z Challenge or the REN3 Blogfest/Writing Project or feature authors and interviews but hey, you can put up with that once in a while, can't you?

And so here's to another year of blogging, writing, tweeting and festing, good friends, good writing and good cheer.

I'm adding this last minute:  I had a piece published in Issue 4 of  5 x 5 Fiction. (Tell a story in 5 sentences, each containing 5 words.)  Yay!


Thank you for reading! Without readers, there would be no use for writers.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Public Service Announcement #3 - The Costa Disaster, Annoying Idiots, and Cruise Safety Tips

NCL lifeboat drill for crew, Bermuda. Passenger drill took place before sail in NYC

Standing on deck, beneath those great funnels, I prepare for what I know is coming.  And yet I always startle, my throat closes with fear and sadness, and the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Seven thunderous short blasts, one long. 

It's the General Emergency Alarm.  Prepare to abandon ship.



I know, I know,  my PSAs are usually humorous and this one is not. Sue me.

I won't go into details on the Costa disaster, as you're probably familiar with them. I was surprised to hear that a lifeboat drill had not taken place when new passengers boarded at a port of call. (Apparently they conducted one at the initial departure port, but not at subsequent ports.) I can guess one reason they might not have done so..

Because it would annoy all of the rest of the passengers who had previously boarded and drilled. Sounds silly, doesn't it?  

I've been on several cruises, as have some of my friends and relatives.  From an impromptu survey, every one of us had attended a mandatory drill on board ship prior to or shortly after getting underway.  (Lines were Norwegian Cruise Lines (NCL), Royal Caribbean, Princess and Celebrity.)  Since we didn't pick up additional passengers en route, there was just the initial drill.

When you're dealing with 2500 to 4500 passengers, it's no small matter to get them to their evacuation points on deck, line them up, check that they're wearing life vests, and count heads.  What makes it even more difficult is the fact that a large portion of those people are chatting, drinking, grumbling, blowing the whistles on their vests, milling about, complaining that it's hot/cold/boring, etc. Attendants have to check all cabins for people who are hiding or ignoring the drill, reluctant to leave the food or bar, sleeping, sick, in the bathroom, incapacitated in some way...

...and so I can imagine how much of a furor there would be if a ship which embarked passengers at multiple ports  conducted a drill each and every time.  Because the fact of the matter is that some passengers feel safe enough, (or silly enough) to blow off the exercise, disrupt those around them, and even become put out that they have to spend precious leisure time going through the motions.  I'm guessing that cruise lines will now tighten up procedures more than ever, and (hopefully) passengers will be more inclined to happily participate, even if it means multiple drills.

On a related note:  My husband and I were aboard a ship bound for Bermuda;  due to a tropical storm (which developed into a hurricane) we were diverted to Canada.  It was fall, we were all more or less packed for the tropics, it would be cold up there, and we had no guarantee what trips/facilities would be available at the ports of call, since they weren't expecting 2000 tourists in town. (Thank you to the people of St. John's, who scrambled to accommodate us, welcomed us with a red carpet and band [seriously, they had a red carpet!] and sold us warm clothing without marking it up and gouging us.) Although many of us took the itinerary change with good humor, there were others who complained, swore, threatened to sue the cruise line, and were generally nasty the whole trip.  Would they have preferred the Captain sail into the heart of a hurricane? Thank goodness the shrieking of the few didn't overpower the common sense of the cruise line.

The main point of this post (yes there is one) is not to point blame or re-hash the details of the Costa sinking. That's up to the media and the courts.  It's more a rabid reminder that when safety drills are conducted, you might want to pay attention. Quit updating your status and viewing videos of talking cats. Don't be an annoying idiot and wear your life vest as a hat or jock strap.  Don't moan about the fact that you haven't eaten in like an hour. 

It's not a joke. 

A few hints and reminders if you've never cruised and in case you DO miss out on a lifeboat drill:

1.  Your cabin should have life jackets with full instructions on how to wear them properly. Find them as soon as you get into your cabin. (You may pee first if you must.) Try it on BEFORE the drill, and wear it per instructions during the drill. Yes, it's often hot and acutely uncomfortable wearing them on deck, (and not a fashion statement by any stretch) but do you really want to figure it out in pitch black darkness?

2.  Your cabin should have a map on the back of your cabin door showing evacuation stations (with yours prominently marked). Know where it is and how to get there, along with at least one other alternate route/exit point.  KNOW WHERE YOUR CABIN IS IN RELATION TO THE OPEN DECKS

3.  Got kids?  Make sure you have life jackets to fit them. There should be infant/toddler jackets available.  If they are not already in your room, ASK!

4.  All necessary meds should be in an easily carried bag, pouch etc. and kept in the same place where you can easily find it and hopefully grab it.  However, DON'T spend precious time scrambling around trying to save valuables and things in an emergency. They aren't that valuable if you don't live to enjoy them later.

5.  Pack a flashlight and keep it handy!  Few people seem to do this when they travel, but you'll be darned glad you have it should the lights go out, no matter where or how you're traveling.

Nervous?  Don't be. Panic is your worst enemy. (Actually, other people in a panic are your worst enemy.) Have a game plan;  review escape routes BEFORE figuring out where the casino, bars and game rooms are located;  pay attention to security procedures;  trust your instincts.  And remember, it's far more dangerous to cross a busy street than it is to sail the seas.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Cold - Flash Fiction

As the autumn fades along with the daylight, snow shovels come out and Flexible Flyers are stacked in the store aisles.  Children pray for snow, and couples eagerly plan for their annual getaway to the mountain ski lodge.  But the promise of cold coils deep within my chest, waiting and watching to sink its teeth into my bones.

I remember the day when the propane gas ran out and I had no money to fill it. One tank equaled three weeks pay at a minimum wage job, and with twenty dollars left each week after bills were paid, I had no way of ever saving enough.  And so I eked out the warmth that I had. With the heat shut off, there was at least the electricity to run the water heater. To take a shower in the frigid bathroom, I plugged in the hair dryer and let it run, a towel across the bottom of the closed door; that gave the bathroom at least the illusion of warmth. Then layers of clothes, as many as I could put on and still move; yet still the chill would not leave me.  Visiting the homes of everyone I knew at mealtime, in hopes that they would invite me to eat, soaking up the warmth in their 72 degree homes, never wanting them to know how desperate and pathetic I was.  Spending extra time at work, reluctant to leave, offering to work unpaid in an effort to avoid going home. 

On the few days that the sun shone, I laid on the floor in the weak rays, dreaming of beaches and the hot summer days, imagining the buzz of cicadas, the heavy comfort of steamy summer air as I slept. I understood why fear is characterized by cold.  I knew why the ancients worshiped the sun.

Embezzling those funds was not a lark, not greed, but a simple necessity.

My days of poverty are long gone, yet the icy breath of winter still reaches me here in my island paradise.  The chill of an air-conditioned restaurant steals my appetite immediately, and the sight of snow on the television sends me frantically scratching for the channel button.  When the temperature dips occasionally, I can be seen on my porch bundled in an old afghan, while youngsters ride their bikes in tattered shorts and bare feet.  They laugh, and they point, and they give my cottage a wide berth.  They do not understand.

The cold is forever within me.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Just For Fun - Guess the Fairy Tale

 Just for fun...can you guess the fairy tales alluded to in each stanza?

It is right that we should tell stories,
and learn from the wisdom of yore;
to avoid being robbed by a blonde girl,
be certain to lock your front door.

Do not make a deal with the reaper,
for reason or logic or jest;
though you may get away with it one time,
you cannot forever trick death.

You might have a bag full of cunning,
and self-serving exploits to tell,
yet a well thought out plan or escape route
might serve you equally well.

Once married, a fellow should quiet,
neither offer to help, nor complain,
for the spinner will not take heed kindly,
any efforts to help are in vain. 

 Have you guessed any of the fairy tales?   I'll post the answers sometime Sunday. Not much to go on
 in each stanza, but then it's meant to be a challenge!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Small Doses, After Dark Excerpts

Some tidbits from a collection of flash fiction Small Doses: Flash Fiction In A Medical Vein. This was originally published by Trestle Press;  I requested that it be withdrawn from sale on Feb 1 2012.                Why I'm Pulling My Book  
Since these stories will now be considered "previously published", I suspect that they will not find a home elsewhere.  They may appear as future posts here at the Flash Fiction blog.

From "May I Have Your Attention, Please?"

She has cancer.”

The words were delivered with the same undercurrent of excitement and thinly veiled odium as news of a teen pregnancy in high school.......

.......I'd spent hours on the phone with her, listening to diatribes mixed with gusts of weeping, wishing that the telephone had never been invented and that I'd never given in to my soft heart. Lately, I'd been eating lunch in my car so as to avoid any extended conversations and had my phone number changed.

From "The Hand Of Anarchy"

Women began to avoid him, as he'd often pinch their bottoms or run his left hand up their skirts while engaging them in benign conversation. The odd thing, of course, was that Joe protested mightily each time that he'd not done it purposely; the hand had “a mind of its own”, and try as he would he couldn't seem to stop its antics.

From "Insomnia" 

He fought with it all night, lying quivering in the twisted sweat-sodden sheets. He tried another; that one left him awake but feeling  paralyzed, hovering a few inches off the bed in suspended animation. Here and there, he slept for an hour, then wept when he opened his eyes to realize that most of the night stretched out before him.

The volume also includes Change of Heart, Game Of Life, Gifts, and others. If there's enough interest, I might start working on a second volume.

Available from Amazon

From the paranormal anthology After Dark , published by Ethics Trading:  an excerpt from my story "Visible Signs"
His eyes fell on a pimply youth sitting on a stoop, smoking and frantically tapping on some electronic gadget.

“Bum one?” he asked, drawing closer. The boy looked up.
 “Sure,” he said, glancing sourly at Paul and drawing one from behind his ear. “You look like you need it more than me. Although my girlfriend just ditched me for some douche.”

It was all that Paul could do to stifle a scream.  A gaping wound had bloomed on the boy's chest, opening and exposing the beating organ. 

Available Now