Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Tattoo, Yoga Guy and Healing Oneself

Today's blog will be one of my Three Things and a Belief exercises (click HERE for an explanation).  I want to see what sort of story my life has generated this week.

1) The Tattoo.

I have a fascination with tattoos.  I don't have one, myself.  When I was younger I remember there being a very strong social stigma associated with them.  There was a saying I heard when I was a kid that you should never trust anyone with two tattoos.  The reason is he might have been drunk and got the first one on a dare, which was forgivable, but the second one he had to go back for.  
My fascination with them stems from the fact that I think I "get" them, but can't think of anything I'd want on me.  They are a proclamation of something about you.  A totem that you want to carry with you, emblazoned into your skin.  At my cousin's recent funeral I met the wife of one of his grandsons for the first time.  She had a tattoo of her first born children on the back of her right shoulder.  I could see doing something like that, if I had a kid of my own.  
While on the shuttle bus at Comic-Con last week, a young lady sat next to me with a very interesting tattoo: 

It's a quote from Winston Churchill.  I liked it because it was not a typical tattoo by any means.  I don't think I've met anyone with a quote from a historical figure on them.  Also, it expressed something that I appreciated.  We've all heard the saying that the road to Hell is paved with Good Intentions.  But the road out of Hell...?  The only type of pavement that will get you out of there is determined perseverance.  
I've been reminding myself about this tattoo's message a lot this week, telling myself to keep going.  

2) Morning Yoga Guy

In the old TV show, Friends, there was a running reference to someone the characters could see across the street in his apartment, "Ugly Naked Guy."  Someone in the neighborhood they all knew about.  
I think I have someone like that in my neighborhood.  "Morning Yoga Guy."  I see him as I'm pulling out of my apartment's driveway every morning when I'm going to work.  He's standing out on the corner, at the end of the walkway to the apartment across the street.  I've seen him there numerous times, but only this week did I take notice of what he's doing.  
Every morning, when I drive past, he looks like he's doing something like the Sunrise Salutation.   It's that yoga move where you open your arms out and stretch back, then you lean into a series of deep stretches.  I do it myself, from time to time, when I'm feeling particularly tight, or before I start my stretching exercises after a long lay off.  
Morning Yoga Guy doesn't go through the whole Sunrise Salutation program.  I've not seen him do so yet.  But he does have his hands raised before him.  He looks like he's from India, with thick black hair, and skin the color of coffee with a couple of dollops of cream.  His eyes are closed as he leans his head back, facing the rising sun.  His attitude is prayerful, meditative.  This is not some mere morning exercise for him.  It's connected with something deep inside him.  
Friday, turning the corner past him, after getting my second good look at him, I found myself feeling better about my neighborhood.  Pasadena is a nice town for the most part, and I live on one of the nicer streets.  Not new or upscale.  But quiet, lined with trees, with a school at one end.  And, with at least one guy practicing his morning spirituality on the corner for the sun and all the world to see.  It made me feel like I lived in a place a bit on the funky side, if you know what I mean.  
I tried to think of other funkiness.  There is someone close by who plays the saxophone.  I've heard him or her play early in the mornings on the weekend.  Haven't heard it in a while come to think of it.  They might have moved out, which would be too bad.  A saxophone player as a neighbor is definitely a sign of positive funkiness.  
My neighbor below me has a keyboard, and I hear him working on compositions.  That's cool.  Musicians, especially struggling ones, have a degree of positive funkiness, too.  
I'd like to be funky.  I don't think I add much funkiness, though.  Being a writer has a funky flare to it, but it doesn't show very well.  I'm usually up before anyone else in my neighborhood is awake, and what they might see through my front window, me sitting at my computer, typing away, looks too much like what someone might do in an office.  
If my neighbors have a name for me, it's probably, "Funny Hat Guy."  Whenever I leave the house, I always wear my camouflage hat with the neck flap in the back.  That's not very funky, I don't think.  

3) Physician Heal Thyself.

I was talking with an associate of mine this week.  He has had a falling out with another person in that circle.  They used to get along well with each other.  Now they don't want to be in the same room with each other.  
I was taking to my associate, telling him how I thought he was mistaken about the motives he assigned to her actions, how he needed to talk with her to get the things he wanted done, etc.  At one point I started to tell him that sometimes, even if you think you are completely in the right, you needed to show contriteness and make the first move, otherwise you'll be cut off and isolated from others.  
It was while I was telling him this that I realized it applied to me as well.  
I've had my own falling out with people that I need to deal with.  My response was to cut our contact to the absolute minimum.  I needed to focus what I needed to do, I told myself.  I would be polite, beyond reproach in my conduct with them, but I wasn't going to go beyond that.  We've been in this minimal contact situation for about three weeks now.  
While telling this associate what I thought he needed to do, I realized that I needed to do the same thing.  That my advice to him applied to me as well.  
I hate feeling that I'm in the wrong.  I hate it when I think I've made a mistake.  But more than that, I hate leaving an error uncorrected.  And when I know something ought to be done, it bothers me when it isn't.  
You can insert a heavy sigh at this moment.  Imagine it came from me right after I listened to my own advice and decided I really needed to do something about it.  
So, I talked with the parties involved.  One at a time.  Each conversation when a bit differently.  I focused on explaining my actions, hoping to avoid apologizing I think.  I hate apologizing.  We started talking again.  It's not done.  But I've done what I ought to do.  
My belief: You gotta fight through.  
I complain about my job.  A lot.  It is stressful.  Things don't go the way I want them to.  I dream about winning the lottery (which I don't play, so it's more of a fantasy), or of having something I've written optioned for enough money that I can live without having a real job forever. There is a lot about my job that I would change if I could.  
Friends will sometimes tell me about openings at other companies, in other fields.  From my complaints, they think I am looking to get out ASAP.  To date, I have not followed up on any of these "opportunities."  I haven't been sure as to why before.  I think I might have an idea now.  
In my job, the things I have the most trouble with are those things that I know I'm not good at.  For instance, I have problems telling people what to do.  I don't like being told what to do.  My attitude is if you've given me a job to do, then tell me the result you want and I'll give it to you.  Unless I need training on some aspect of it, I'd prefer to get the parameters of how you want it to turn out and then have you leave.  Come back at the end of the day, and it'll be done.  
But as a manager, I need to tell people what to do.  I need to find a way to communicate what I want in a way that they feel and respond to the importance I believe it has.  I don't think I'm good at this.  I've tried various ways of getting my point across to my department as a whole and the employees individually.  With close to twenty people to oversee, this is hard.  
I want to fight through this, and the other problems I face.  I want to "fix this" in myself.  It's a deficiency.  It needs to be corrected.  It's like exercising in the hot sun.  I don't like doing it.  I don't like feeling I'm deficient at something.  The stress may end up killing me.  But I want...  I need to deal with it.  Might as well do it now, I suppose.  
I've reached my limit and haven't tried to combine these yet, but I'll do that on my own.  If it's any good, I'll post it here for you later.    

Sunday, July 21, 2013

When Zombies Come True

Yesterday, I was followed by zombies through the streets of San Diego.  And it was fun.  
It was part of the seventh annual Zombie Walk at Comic-Con.  It marks the high point of the convention.  The climax.  
It starts with a gathering in the Children's Park, at the corner of Front Street and First.  The organizer, a woman whose skin is colored a bluish-gray with dark patches like bruises, stands on a knoll in the middle of the park.  Surrounding her is an army of people comprised of two parts.  One division is dressed up to look like zombies.  Some are very simple zombies, with blood smeared on their throats and faces.  Others are more elaborate, with prosthetic gunshot wounds and scars, plastic flaps of flesh peeling off the their faces, and other props.  One woman I saw had a brain molded from cherry jello that she ate from as she walked.  Another guy had wounds that squirted pus and blood as he shambled along.  The most creative costume I saw was a guy who had a zombie puppet attached to their body that moved and growled as he acted like it was attacking him.  
The other division was the rest of us from the convention, come to cheer our tribesmen on, take pictures and follow along.  I was thinking that we could be the victims, fleeing from the zombie hoard, but that would have taken too much coordination and planning.  This was a zombie parade.  
The Zombie Walk has two parts.  The first part is the gathering in the park.  The best way to describe it is a Woodstock for nerds.  The park is filled with people.  Everyone is talking and laughing.  Music is playing.  People are taking pictures of zombies, zombies are taking pictures of people.  "Awesome!" and "Kewl!" are heard again and again as you see someone's effort to out gross, out gore, out clever, basically out zombie the others.  
For a time, you really feel you are someplace where a zombie apocalypse can take place.  A happy, fun-filled zombie apocalypse.  
It is a place where being a nerdy old geek is, for once, the norm.  
Eventually those participating are gathered together and told the rules.  Yes, a zombie hoard has its marching orders.  We'll be taking our weirdness into the world of the mundanes and we have to be careful.  Stick to the route.  Don't get ahead of the leaders.  No "fast zombies," a la "28 Days" are allowed.  Do NOT touch anyone eating outside at one of the restaurants.  Do NOT touch anyone, period.  Obey the traffic signs and the police officers lining the walk route.  In other words, don't do anything that might get this event cancelled at future conventions.  
The head zombie rallies the troops.  
"What do we want?"
"When do we want it?"
Then the walk begins.  It curves first around the western edge of the Children's Park then makes its way along Harbor.  At first the crowd is comprised of fellow conventioneers, the people that followed them to the park and those just leaving the Convention Center.  There are more cheers, more pictures.  The zombies are acting out the shambling effort to get brains to eat.  
Somewhere after the Trolly's Convention Center station, the atmosphere changes a bit.  It is here that the number of "normal" people increases.  I watched as people in the restaurants, driving past, or walking the streets would stop and turn and look at this shambling mass of people at their pretend play.  Some, the shop-owners and restaurant workers that have seen in before, smile with their arms crossed in the doorways of their shops.  Others whip out their cameras and start taking pictures.  
"Dwayne, here...  Hold my purse!  I gotta get a picture of this.  We got nothing like this back in Kansas!"  
The city blocks off part of Fifth Street to vehicle traffic.  The zombie walk turns up Fifth to join the ongoing street party that is going on the last day of Comic-Con.  When I saw the mass of people, heard the loud music, the honking of air horns, the blaring of police whistles as they try to direct the traffic along different routes, I remembering thinking, "This is the end of the parade.  The end of the zombies.  They are going to get swallowed up by the people partying and drinking."  I was sure they were going to dissipate amongst the crowd and become lost.  The same one's dreams and fantasies can become lost when faced with reality.
It didn't happen that way, though.  Instead the people gathered close.  They formed a pathway in the middle of the street.  Like a runway at a beauty contest, instead its a runway of zombies.  The cheering continues.  Pictures are still getting snapped.  It has a congratulatory feeling.  The way you might applaud someone for finishing a their first 5K.  Except for the zombies, you can't tell which of the watchers came to the convention, and which were just out on the street and decided to join the fun.  Nerdiness overcomes normalcy and the normals are welcomed in.  
I've been going to Comic-Con for nearly twenty years now.  Most of those years I've been going as a professional, which means that I've been published or produced in some form at least once every three years.  Recently I've been wondering how long I can keep attending or whether it is still worth going for me.  Watching the Zombie Walk reminded me of the one consistent aspect of Comic-Con for me. 
Comic-Con makes me yearn.  That's the most true think I can say about the convention.  Every year, like right now, I have a list of things I want.  To publish more stories.  To be invited to sit on a panel myself.  To have my story turned into a movie.  To find a female friend who has the same nerdy inclinations as I do.  A list of things from my fantasy and dream life that I want to see expressed in the real world where everyone else can see it and now that it exists.  
Just like a zombie on the streets of San Diego.  
It's good to yearn.  It's good to want to see your dreams come true.  
See you next year, San Diego.  

For those interested, here is a link to the pictures I took at the 2013 San Diego Comic-Con Zombie Walk.  Enjoy.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Comic-Con Special Edition: The Answer to Dan's Question

As some of you have already guessed from my tweets yesterday, I'm at Comic-Con.  My yearly pilgrimage into the realm of all things Geeky.  
I've lost count of the number of times in a row I've been to Comic-Con.  I know it's at least fifteen.  It's not twenty yet, I'm sure of that too.  Comic-Con has changed somewhat during that time, however long it's been.  It's gotten much, MUCH bigger, for one thing.  But there's a lot of it that has stayed the same.  It's that mix of the familiar and different that makes it a place I want to go to.  Like finding money in some pants you haven't worn for a while, I expect to find something valuable when I come here.  It may be a quarter.  It might be twenty bucks.  But I'll be able to make use of it.  
This year, it happened on the ride down.  
I took the train to San Diego, my third year in a row.  I was first in line to board the train.  A good thing, too, because Preview Night at Comic-Con coincided with opening day at Del Mar Racetrack, and that meant the train was going to be standing room only.  
The gentleman right behind me in line, a retired immigration attorney named, Dan, got to talking.  Polite, stranger-in-line, chit-chat at first.  The conversation became more animated when I found out that he has had Dodger season tickets for the last thirty-six years.  We ended up boarding the train and finding seats together, holding each other's places from the hoard of racetrack goers that we're hovering over us.  
At one point we asked each other what was taking us to San Diego.  Dan had a meeting between his church group, which does immigration work, and the border patrol.  I told Dan about my professional aspirations as a writer and Comic-Con.  Dan knew another person that was going to the convention and wanted to know what it was all about.  This lead to questions about my opinion on writing and publishing in general and about my own work specifically.  
"Can you tell me," Dan asked toward the end of this line of discussion.  "What is it you find most enjoyable about your work?"  
"Well, I...  I, uh...  Huh?"  
I asked Dan if he meant to ask what I found most enjoyable about writing.  No, it was what he had asked.  What did I find most enjoyable about the stories that I had written.  
I thought about it for a moment.  To my surprise, I was stumped.
I know what I like about writing.  I could tell him in great detail what got me interested in science fiction (I did, in fact, as a way of buying time).  But what about my own stories did I enjoy the most...?  Well...
To help me creep up on the answer, I started telling him about my most recently published story, Shadow Angel, which appeared in Asimov's last year.  The story revolves around a space-pilot who can't tell if he's hallucinating or being lead back and forth through time by aliens his employers want him to reach.  
One of the things I'm most proud about the story was my effort to put the reader in the shoes of the pilot.  To present them with a situation where all the "fact" are there, but which don't add up to one conclusion or the other.  One reviewer of the story said that it was confusing at the beginning, but that it rewarded the reader with interesting conceptualizations.  
"Interesting Conceptualizations."  I like that.  It's what I like about the stories I read as a kid, and the novels that made me want to do this same thing.  
The thing about the pilot's situation in Shadow Angel is that it's what I believe everyone's day to day situation is about.  We're all contained in these vessels of flesh, blood and bone, taking in information through our sensors as we direct ourselves toward whatever destination we have set for ourselves.  A destination that might very well be an alternative reality that no one else experiences but ourselves.  That is the conceptualization I wanted the reader to get.  Or something very close to it.  
As I've thought about it, I noticed that all the stories I've written that I like best have that quality.  Someone struggling to make a decision about what to do, knowing or being forced to face the fact that the data they have is incomplete, or faulty, or possibly even made up.  This insight has also clarified a story I've been working on for some time now that I've yet to complete in a satisfactory way.  I know what I need to focus on now to get it there.  I'm looking forward to working on it again.  
So, Comic-Con has come up good again.  It's definitely worth more than a quarter.  At least five bucks, maybe, in the found money in the laundry sort of way.  
Before we separated, Dan wrote my name down on a card.  He wanted to be on the look-out for my fantasy novel I told him I was writing.  In the event that Dan stumbles across this blog to see if my novel is published yet, I have this to say...
All the stuff I told you on the train?  Forget about it.  This is what I meant to say.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

My Story Generating Exercise for the Week

Three things and my belief from this week: 
Work and The Blue Crew
It feels like things are turning around at work.  After weeks, months actually, of struggling to get things working the way they should, it seems to me that the pieces may finally be coming together.  And the reason for this turnaround is this: 
Hanley Ramirez is 19 for 46 (.413) at the plate for the month of July.  
I'm not saying that's the ONLY reason for the turn around at work.  There are others.  Clayton Kershaw has an ERA of 1.50 for the month so far.  And Adrian Gonzalez has hit 4 Home Runs and 10 RBIs for the same time period.  That, and getting the staff organized to clean up in the In House scanning has combined to put the Dodgers a couple of games back from first place in the NL West AND allowed me to beat my Daily Goal by over five thousand dollars for each of the last two days.  
It simply occurred to me this week that my life at work has paralleled the performance of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  
It's like this...  Both of us, the Blue and myself, started this year with very high expectations put on us.  For me, it came from a very successful inaugural year as production manager, where my unit beat the plan laid out for it by thirty-seven percent.  For the Dodgers it came from new ownership taking over and a lot of big trades and player acquisitions that showed the new ownership was serious about winning.  
For both of us though, things weren't going as planned.  I was having difficulty making the elevated goals set for my unit.  The Dodgers were having trouble scoring runs.  And both of us were hearing people say things that made it seem like new managers were in order.  
Hey, Don...  I was feeling for you.  I know what you were going through.
Recently, though, there has been improvement.  And I'm glad for both us.  You make think its silly to believe that the fortunes of a time can affect one's life like that.  And you'd be right.  But it's like they say in that beer commercial, the one where they turn the labels toward the field so the smooth surface of the bottle can create a connection with the football so the kicker can make his field goal.  
"It's just like magic, only real."  
Case in point: Last year, when the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup, I did not see a single first period in the games they one.  If I watched the games from start to finish, they lost.  At first I thought it was coincidence, but the empirical evidence became too great.  I started waiting until the game had already started before tuning in.  And look what happened!  
If the Dodgers win the World Series this year, they'll make me CEO.  Go Blue!  
Was that you...  Dressed up like Pikachu? 
I went to AnimeExpo last week.  Just for Saturday.  It usually comes to close too ComicCon, which is next week, for me to make a big go of it.  But I was invited by some people to join them, so I went.  
One of the things that's fun to do at any convention is to take pictures of the cosplayers.  These are the people that dress up as their favorite comic book hero or villain.  Here is a link to the pictures I shot this year: 
People always ask me, when they find out that I go to comic book and science fiction conventions, if I dress up.  They always have this sort of sniggering smile of expectation when they ask.  I usually reply with something like, "No, I leave that to other members of the tribe."  My aim is to dispel any sense that I think what they do is strange or weird or funny.  I understand the reason they're doing it.  I feel the same impulse myself.  If there is any reason why I haven't it's because I don't have the costuming skills, or the body any more, to pull off anything like what I see.  
A character named Kanako Ono, from a favorite Japanese manga of mine, Genshiken, said it best when she explained the thrill she gets from becoming the favorite character for someone in person, even for just a moment.  I used to get a similar thrill from acting.  
Now, I'm usually pretty good at spotting fellow tribesmen.  When I travel to conventions, and get closer to the convention site, I can pretty easily point out the ones that are gathering along with me to geek out for the next few days.  That guy with the backpack in the ticket line.  That gal reading the next book in the series I just started reading.  The couple wearing the matching Spiderman tee-shirts.  Yeah... Nerds and geeks are pretty easy to spot.  
So it was with some surprise that, while looking through a friend's set of pictures taken at the same convention, that I thought I spotted someone that I knew.  Someone that I would not have suspected at all of being into that sort of thing.  I zoomed on the face, certain that I'd take a second look and thinks, "God, it sure does LOOK like that person, but...  No, I was wrong."  
That didn't quite happen though.  Common sense, and what I know about this individual, tell me that I'm wrong.  But that face...  Oh, man...  I don't know.  
I get why someone might want to keep this side of their life a secret from "mundanes."  That's the word we nerds use for "normal people."  When posed the question, "Do you dress up?" with that smile on their faces, it would hard to say, "Yes.  I do," and do it proudly.  Though doing so would be one way of putting such a mundane in their place.  
It plays at the imagination, it does.
The Right to Complain
I posted a tweet a couple of weeks ago, when things just didn't seem to be going my way: 
It sometimes feels like I am denied the things I want just because I want them.
My tweets repost to Facebook.  There one of my Facebook friends "liked" my comment and replied that they felt the same way.  
The thing you need to know about this friend is that she lost her husband last year to cancer and at the time she posted her reply was going through therapy herself for breast cancer.  
I liked her reply to my comment, but I didn't say anything else.  
This last week I met someone from Japan.  He told me about some of the things that have happened to him in his life.  The business he was running went under.  His wife divorced him.  And he had to spend weeks in the hospital for some serious illness.  
After he got out of the hospital, he decided to take his savings and come to the United States and study business for a year, in order to put his thoughts in order before starting up again.  
People like this make me feel like I don't have much right to complain. 
And that's too bad, because I think I enjoy complaining.  I'll even take that qualification away now.  I ENJOY COMPLAINING.  I like telling people about the bad things that happen to me.  About the vendors I've being contacting me for weeks FINALLY telling me that the software they sold me wasn't designed to do the thing I told them I wanted to use it for.  About people trying to tell me how to do things that they have NO IDEA AT ALL how to do.  Sometimes about the very nature of the universe.  It's easy to complain.  Everyone is an expert.  
But what's harder is to do something about it.  Like take all the money you have left after losing your business, your wife and a part of your health and come to a strange country.  Or going into therapy.  
I'm not going to stop complaining.  But I'm going to try very, very, very hard to only complain about the things I'm actually doing something about.  THEN, I think I'll have the right.  
The Meaning of this World Order
I think I'm getting subliminal messages from a Japanese pop band that dances in business suits.
I found out about them today.  They're called World Order.  Here's a link to one of their songs called, "2012."  
I watched a documentary about this group preparing for their first concert at Budokan, a major Japanese venue for artists to play at.  After the documentary I spent the morning going on line to watch their videos.  After I post this blog entry, I'm going to go to iTunes to see if they sell their music there.
Why?  Something about the group fascinates me.  I might be reading into something that isn't there, but I feel something resonate inside me while I watch them perform.  It's similar to the feeling you get when someone pushes one of your buttons and you feel something, anger, rage, hope, joy, for no reason you can explain.
One of the lines in the song 2012 caught my attention.  Here's the translation: 

Someone is shouting from the other side of the rainbow bridge.
We entrust our sense to the power of silence, 
Begin weaving dreams from fibers of light,
And then open the gate to that unknown world.

I sometimes worry that I don't really "Believe" in anything.  Discoveries like this, however small they may seem, give me hope that what I believe is somewhere, maybe hibernating, deep inside.  

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Last Week's Posting, This Week

I'm having the same problem this week that I had last week when I didn't post to this blog: Not knowing what to write about.  
And like last week, my problem this week is the same.  It's not that I don't have any topics.  It's more like I have too many topics.  Too many things on my mind that won't coalesce into a single story representative of my life for this last two weeks.  
That's actually not quite true.  It's not only have a brain full of topics.  It's also not knowing which is really real for me.  Which is important.  It's not knowing what I really want to write about.  No, no...  Wait a second...  I'm getting closer.  
It's not know if I REALLY want to write about something or I just THINK I really out go write about something.  
So, I'm going to try to do this week what I tried to do last week, only this time actually finish doing it.  I'm going to present what I have and see if there is a common thread running through it all.  Here we go...
A Death in the Family
I went to a member of my family's funeral on Tuesday.  Jim Melton was my cousin.  He was about my Mom and Dad's age.  My Dad and Jim were raised in the same area of the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas.  
I grew up around Jim and his family when I was a kid.  There were parallels between the families.  Both Jim and my Dad married someone "exotic," compared to the rest of  our hillbilly lineage.  My Mom came from Belize and Iris, Jim's wife, is from Puerto Rico.  Both families were raised Catholic.  My cousins were about ten minutes away and we were at each other's house every weekend it seemed.  
When I heard the news, my thoughts were something like, "Oh, no.  Jim's dead."  I waited for another thought to follow but nothing seemed to come.  It was a fact.  As simple and irrefutable as the sky being blue or me having a lot of work to get out that day.  
The funeral brought it home.  Listening to Jim's grandson, Matt Jr., and my cousin, his son, Louie, give the eulogies, brought back the memories of what Jim was like as a person, what it was like to have him in our family.  When the casket was wheeled out of the chapel in front of me I thought, "Oh, no...  Jim is dead."  I couldn't think of anything else for a while after that.  I was too busy crying.  Too busy feeling the loss.  Too filled with regret for the years that had gone by without stopping by and saying, "Hey, Cuz...  How's it going?"  
There's more I could say.  I'm not going to, though.  
Robots as bosses; A.I.s as Oracles
I've been thinking about robots.  A story I finished and sent out for submission this week was about robots in a retirement community being secretly taken over by the residents so they could watch out for each other instead of relying on the dwindling staff.  That had something to do with robots being on my mind.  
I've also been thinking about robots taking over everyone's jobs.  Manufacturing has been coming back to the United States according to reports I've heard, but not the jobs.  That's because the work is being done primarily by autonomous machines instead of human workers.  Robots.  And if you extend the term "robot" to mean any device or program that does something a human used to do, then even more work is in jeopardy.  There are programs in the legal field that will review documents that have been made searchable that can build an attorney's case, replacing hundreds of billable hours by a human paralegal.  And I saw one documentary about a company building a robot to replace the workers at a fast food restaurant like McDonald's.  Imagine going in and placing your order the way you would get money out of an ATM.  
This week, though, I read an article in May's edition of Scientific American about the future of robotics that gave me something new to think about: robotic bosses.  The article featured a robot designed to weld frames together for military vehicles.  The specifications for the frame, the materials available,  plus the changes the designers wanted in the frame, were uploaded to the robot.  The robot then not only created its own plans for how to cut and prepare the pieces and what steps needed to be taken, it also divided the work into those steps it would do and those steps the human attendant would do.  
In other words, the robot, not the human, was responsible for deciding what instructions the human would follow.  It was giving the orders for the completion of the job, not the human.  When the job was completed, the robot directed job, with its human assistant that had no previous experience in welding, was completed in about one-third the time at one-third the cost as a test frame made by a team of human expert welders.  
It made me wonder what it would be like to have a robot directing me in my work.  What would happen if the robot decided that firing people was a task it didn't do well, and left that all up to me?  I don't know that I would like such a boss all that much.  Or maybe it would take all the pressure off of me.  "Sorry, it wasn't my decision.  It was the robot's."  
A step beyond this was a writing prompt I heard on "Writing Excuses," a podcast for writers that I listen to.  During the podcast, the cast speculated about A.I.s after the singularity, when computer systems become self-aware and self-directing.  In such a world we would not be able to make our computers do anything.  We would have to approach them and ask them to perform the tasks we want.  The relationship could become similar to that of the ancient Greeks to the oracles they approached, asking for divination in exchange for some sort of sacrifice.  
What would I ask an A.I. oracle for?  I have often quipped that my goal is to find a way to upload my consciousness into a self-sustaining quantum matrix, in essence to become an A.I. myself.  I would be able to create my own universe to live in.  Or I could put my unit into a spacecraft and see the universe for real, not worried about how long the journey would take.  
Or...  I might ask the A.I. to direct me to the woman of my dreams.  "Can any A.I. find me...  Somebody to love!"  With apology to Freddy Mercury and the boys for my alteration to their lyrics. 
With my luck, the A.I. would give me her contact information and I would use it to discover that she's uploaded her consciousness to a quantum matrix that is now boosting past Pluto's orbit on its way to Tau Ceti.  Damn.  
What criteria do you think an A.I. would set to elevate a human into its immortal state?  What would interest an artificial intelligence in taking on such a task?  
Alternate Realities
I directed a play when I was in college for a directing class I was taking.  The play is called, "Hello, Out There!"  It is a one act by a famous American playwright named William Saroyan.  It's about a man locked in a jail cell, for something he claims he didn't commit, while an angry mob gathers outside to lynch him.  Over the course of the play he tries to convince the shy cleaning girl to let him out.  
I had a dream about that play.  It woke me up in the middle of the night.  There was a scene in the play that I didn't get to work quite right.  Now, thirty-some-odd years later, I knew how to direct it.  It was a simple matter of getting the actress something to do, go back to cleaning the sheriff's office, to avoid an embarrassing admission of truth.  
I went back to sleep, dreaming about this change.  The dream continued.  I made the chance in the scene.  I also made other changes in the staging.  And in the set design.  I brought the audience up on to the stage, placing them on risers, and enclosed the seating and the stage area inside a chain-link fence, to underscore the feeling of enclosure and isolation.  I had tried to do this originally tried to do this by placing the actors in an empty stage with minimal props and set pieces and using spotlights to isolate them.  It didn't work to satisfaction.  I even had a frame of chain-link fencing slam down over the heads of the audience just as the lights came up, to make a sound like a cell door slamming shut on them.  
In my dream version of my college production, the play was a much bigger success.  So much so, they let me write and direct my own main stage production the following quarter.  I imagined that as well.  Even writing the play in my head.  When I woke up in the morning, I had it in my head.  It's a comedy-thriller, sort of like Ira Levin's "Deathtrap" but with supernatural overtones.  A young couple, cousins involved in an incestuous relationship, murder their wealthy aunt for the inheritance.  As part of the Aunt's will, a seance has to be held in her home to contact her spirit if she died "unexpectedly," before any inheritance is paid out.  
I think the ideal afterlife would be something like this.  Not a cloudy paradise with choruses of angles or a harem of virgins at one's disposal.  But a chance to replay one's life and experience all the good things again or take the things that didn't quite work out and make them better.  
That's it.