Memories: A fatal change of Perspective

I left San Antonio behind me on November 14, 2003, without a solid home for the first time in 7 years. I drove my aging black Volvo north into an icy gray mid-west winter. Kansas City held a friend of mine and he had a room I could use. I departed at sunset and drove through the night, cars and hulking semi’s fading in and out of my headlights as silent anonymous companions. A rented trailer swayed in the interstate winds, bouncing behind my aging Volvo.

Only two of my friends saw me off, made awkward by the absence of many others. The division of goods from the split had gone her way heavily, both in material and social accounts. I knew that staying would become a mess of awkward moments between all those that had taken opposing sides.

We lived together 7 years. We fused together, then cracked and then became an exercise in acting. We had known things were over for a year but time and routine make a comfortable unseen box. We rehearsed the break up hundreds of times in harsh arguments, and when it did finally end, it felt routine. Now, I was as happily single as she was, and there was no animosity between us. Well, aside from the fact I got the nice microwave. But she got the TV.

Rolling north I had time to think and there was a lot of it to do. I had no job, good savings and my car. The job wasn’t a concern; I have always found work when needed. What I thought about on that surreal drive was the totality of what I left and the empty place I was traveling to. I had no idea what I would be doing in one year or five years. My old plans, built to support two people, felt one-sided now, leaning against my thoughts with a weighty need for balance.

As a military brat I’ve moved a lot so settling in comes naturally. I’d have all the basic things I needed; food, shelter, car and internet access. This was the bare minimum of course. An empty future barely visible beyond the beams of my headlights brought a sense of floating. The sheer amount cut free hounded my attention. Friends, places and expectations all wiped away leaving a slate so blank I fumbled to find anything that wouldn’t fit. Limitations help guide our choices, whether limits of money, social needs or current situation. They provide something to push against and overcome. I was rolling north pushing against nothing and picking up speed.

I was in Kansas City for two months. I dropped into a local social group and things went well. I had enough cash to coast for a year or more and for the first time in my life I tried to relax and not worry about it. With all my free time I was online more, writing more and I had finished off several overdue commissions for small sculptures and prop replicas I build. I had few bills and even less responsibilities. I lost large chunks of time as days flowed together. I worried about it but couldn’t see any reason to change. I was optimistic and worried in equal parts. It made no sense.

In early December Sam called me. We are more brothers than friends, having known each other since ’90.  He lived in Pennsylvania and his father lived near me in Kansas. Sam wanted him to come up to Pennsylvania for Christmas but his father wasn’t up to driving that far and flying was to pricey. I agreed to drive up with his dad and we headed out December 17.

Sam’s father was a heavy man who had served in Vietnam and was now suffering through a slow breakdown of his legs. We would learn later this was the onset of Diabetes, an affliction that would eventually kill him. He was quiet and the first half of the trip was awkward but passable, rolling up through the mid-west into the hills of Pennsylvania. I drove straight through. We reached State College in 18 hours, not easy considering the condition of the battered old van and the winter storms.

The visit was pleasant but strange. Sam and I picked up where we last left off without missing a beat. The apartment was warm, made more comfortable by the bitter ice outside. Christmas presents were exchanged and I sat back watching. This place felt stable, but it was a borrowed idea. I was seeing what a solid home looked like again but it wasn’t mine. I spent two weeks up there and before leaving I had two job interviews and was on my way to deciding to move again, to a location with some sense of place. Sam and his wife had just bought a house, and while they would not be living in it for two months, I could stay in it while re-flooring it and fixing it up.  I realized the raw departure from Texas still bothered me, and it would be ridiculous to expect it not to. I was concerned that I was making a mistake in moving again. The idea of continuous motion after so long in one place felt cowardly but I had a solid job offered in a week. It was a time of waiting.

On the ride back down out of Pennsylvania Sam’s father was in greatly improved spirits. He had changed from Mr. Smith to Lonnie, and we talked about life, the universe, and everything. We were discussing movies and I mentioned a film about Vietnam. He looked over at me and I remembered his reluctance to discuss this topic as he was a veteran of that messy war, but he took a drag on his cigarette and seemed to decided we could talk. He recounted that he had been at the battle from the very movie I had spoken of and was very angry at how higher ups were portrayed as heroic despite the fact they lied when asked if they knew what they were getting into.

“They wanted a sharp early fight that would show folks we were doing something and that’s why they didn’t airlift us out immediately after the damn thing,.” he spoke steadily and then sighed. There was a long pause but I didn’t want to interrupt his thoughts.

He shook his head and spoke. “I’ll tell you something, all this crap…” he vaguely gestured out the ice streaked window at the passing repetitive fast food places and billboards jutting from the gray snow.  “It don’t mean shit. Nothing. What you get in life is what you can stick to and survive. And then you know what’s important.”

I nodded as he went quiet. I felt I had to say something. “Yes sir.”

He snorted and looked over with a tired grin. “Don’t call me sir, I ain’t an officer, I work for a living.” I smiled.

It was near Kingdom City, Missouri that it happened. We were riding in silence and getting close to the end of the trip. The roads were windswept but clear of snow and ice. I was in the left lane passing slower vehicles and still processing the last few weeks, and then the last few months.

Suddenly a black minivan driving in front of us swerved hard right into the slow lane. I hadn’t been following closely and Lonnie looked up as I hit the brakes.

The minivan turned too hard against the swerve and whipped left back across I-70 in front of us shedding rubber from its blown tire up into the gray-white sky like a shower of black stones. The van shot across the icy median and into the panicked swerving line of oncoming traffic heading the other way. It swerved hard again turning back toward our side of the interstate, somehow missing the braking and sliding eastbound cars. The arcs of the minivan’s weaving corrections were getting longer and less stable. I was still standing on the brake, our beat up car shimmying as the rocking minivan bounced up out of the rough median and back onto our side of the road. It was instantly hit broadside, T-boned by the thick nose of a semi desperately trying to stop in the right lane. The sound of the crushing impact could be heard over the engine of our vehicle, a singular metallic crack surrounded by the by a hissing spray of glass and plastic.

We were 3 car lengths from the impact, just 25 to 30 feet away. The van scraped over onto its side and started rolling, spraying glass and mirrors in a cloud of blue-white diamonds. It tumbled over completely and almost back onto its wheels then fell back toward us, falling onto its passenger side like a dead animal. Its crumpled roof stared at me as I slid to a stop. I looked up to my rear view mirror only to see a semi behind me sliding and shaking as its tires dug in with a chatting squeal, finally lurching to a stop only 10 feet behind us.

William had his phone out and looked at me. “Get up there!” he yelled reaching for his cane, but I was already half out the door and running forward.

That’s when I saw her. A dark haired girl in a pink windbreaker laying with her back on the black wet asphalt, the van’s serrated roof line crushed across her waist where she was thrown from the van’s window as it rolled over.  A man yelling he was a nurse was running up behind me. By the time I got there I could hear a woman screaming inside the van over another younger female voice crying somewhere in the crushed vehicle.

The girl couldn’t have been more than fifteen and she turned her head awkwardly to look up at me.  She was pale and her gray eyes locked onto mine as I slid to a stop and just stared dumbly, instantly knowing I could do nothing to stop what was about to happen. The nurse slid to a stop beside me and said, “Fuck” under his breath as if to keep her from hearing him. She looked at me, a mask of innocent young fear on her clean face and said, “I’m scared” in a small voice and died.

I just stared back and the nurse started cussing as the spreading pool under her painted the wet asphalt red. I staggered back to the van to find Lonnie standing close by holding his phone limp in his hand at his hip.

“Don’t think about it.” he said calmly. “Just let it go.” He knew I couldn’t  but he said it anyway.

We waited for the police to arrive sitting in our van. The nurse had covered the girl with his jacket and others had pulled the mother, and I assume younger sister, out of the van via the windshield. I felt numb and cold but my mind was clear in the worst possible way. There was no room for anything beyond the staggeringly powerful moment that had happened, it had no reason and it was final. I have never been able to rationalize the loose “these things happen for a reason.” answer that comfort some, and now I sat looking at the nurse’s blue jacket resting on the asphalt with its edges stained dark.

After a conversation with the state troopers we drove on. There should have been more procedure, more doing something. But we just drove on. After half an hour I suddenly pulled over into the emergency lane, turned on our flashers and just sat staring along the whirling white expanse of the interstate, cars hissing by us mechanically without any knowledge of why yet another car was sitting on the side of the road. Lonnie was quiet, he just smoked and waited. Trite as it was, it seemed unfair above all else. After a pause that could have been minutes or hours he spoke.

“You won’t forget this, so don’t try.” he took another drag on his cigarette and his voice seemed to come from another time. “It don’t mean a thing. It’s just death. You just keep on keepin’ on.”

I knew what he meant even as I frowned, of course it meant something. A little girl had died. But she was dead and it was just that, she was dead.  This wasn’t a sign of evil or good or anything. Dwelling on it was useless. The understanding of it helped little, but I got it eventually.  I had to just keep on, keeping on.

I spent a few weeks packing and saying goodbye to my friends in Kansas City and there was a small crowd to see my battered black Volvo off. I still see those folks once or twice a year and will be always grateful for the room when I needed it. I left feeling nervous but without a doubt as to the reasons why I was once again towing everything in a wobbling trailer through a snow storm.

In Pennsylvania I had a house to refurbish and plans for work as well as some ideas about returning to school, although that obviously did not come till later. Much later. I can’t forget the accident or the conversations over hiss of tires along the icy interstate, and I don’t try.

What’s Old is New again.

L-Hemingway reporting. 

The log of the HMS Shelby’s slow transition from Jack to Jill class is sometimes much easier to write than others. It is hard when every Crew Lizard thinks they need a moment in the spotlight. Larry over in Self-Preservation get’s a lot of play because well, the SHELBY is in a lot of situations that create fear responses these days and things that  were safe are now being re-listed as dangerous. It’s hard to explain. But here goes.

In Memory and Interpretation (M&I) we have access to all the various sets of memories and frameworks for reacting to things. How this works is, when the ship encounters something there’s a call to the interpreters to find a previous framework for what’s happening and build a list of possible responses. It’s like the biggest flowcharts you’ve ever seen.  In Psych terms these are schemas. Ooo education.

Let me give you an example. Someone hands the SHELBY a Coke, the Interpretation Lizards then respond with a flow chart. This is a very simplified version.

The more things a ship has done the more options it gets. This is experience.

Then Command up in the brain runs these choices through the big three. Self Preservation, Logic and Emotion. The committee picks one and away we go. All of this of course taking place at Lizard Standard Speed which is microseconds for the Ship and a while for us.

Easy right? Well it had been until we started the Retrofit. A lot of things that had been routine now aren’t.

What has been changing up in the stacks is that situations are very different between Jack and Jill class vessels. A Jack class vessel can wander through a dark parking garage and is at a much lower level of anxiousness or threat. A Jill class ship, even if they are physically comparable to a male, must be more alert because the potential for danger is higher. The resulting combat isn’t the point. It’s not that we think the SHELBY is any less physically able to fight. That hasn’t changed in any real way. But the fact is the situation is more likely to occur due to an opponent’s appraisal of the SHELBY.

Well there are these subtle and weird changes to a lot of the responses these days. In the above example, if we were at a party there would be a recommendation to make sure it was our own drink, to avoid the dangers of being drugged. Not that it’s a high chance but it is there. That recommendation has always been there but was way down the list as a possibility. That path now has a slightly higher threat value.

The set of rules the ship uses to navigate and interact with the world as a Jack class involved a lot of invisible favorable assumptions. These are only noticed when we suddenly have to unbolt that set of reactions and remove them. The slow loss of “male privilege” was something we thought we understood but had no idea.

To really cover the subtle and frustrating way that the retrofit is re-writing some of the basic routines I went down to the Interpretation floor and listened in on some of the crew there. The following exchange was pretty telling.

Interpreter Lizard-Bob: Ok then, Command is requesting a reaction to a TV show. Uploading video now. Show is listed as humor and some science fiction. Main character is at a bar, hitting on a female. She isn’t into him and tells him off.

Interpreter Lizard-Sarah: We have a pretty solid pattern match here, nothing t0o surprising so far.Responses suggested are Grin Type 1, or possibly a Chuckle class 2.

L-Bob: Good to go, the character is now spraying something from an alien bottle on his face. And once again talking to the woman. Oh, I get it now. She is now climbing all over the guy due to the alien perfume thing. Let’s send this to command as a Chuckle Class 2. Over.

L-Sarah: Are you freakin’ kidding me!?

L-Bob: What? It’s an alien gizmo he sprayed on himself, obviously breaking the rule against personal use of alien stuff by the shows alien fighting group and the mean chick now wants to have sex with him. It’s funny. He shouldn’t be misusing the perfumey thing and the result is really over the top. Ha ha, you know.

L-Sarah: Look I know I am new here, but that is NOT funny. That’s rape.

L-Bob: Whaaaaaaat!? No it ain’t! He sprayed the stuff on himself and now she is all…

L-Sarah: What if he had sprayed it in her drink? What’s your flow chart tell ya then Sport?

L-Bob: *Looking at a few charts* That’s a “Bad Thing”. Not funny at all.

L-Sarah: So how the hell is it funny when the same thing happens when he’s spraying it on himself? She is still chemically drugged to have sex when she didn’t want to.

L-Bob:Umm damn, sorry didn’t see the retrofit note. That used to be funny. Why was that  ever funny? It’s a joke based on the idea that date rape is funny. Not the event, but the actual concept. How the hell is that right? We didn’t even have a chart for that apparently. Ok, I’m recommending Pissed Off Class 4 with a high chance of Indignant Outrage type 3. This looks to have a slow burn and we are seeing a lot of cross pollination into other subjects. Jokes about Rape Culture sub-category is now listed as a Class 1 Toxic zone. I repeat, that crap just isn’t funny.

L-Sarah: Bingo.

[L-Hemingway: Editors note. At this point Bob was renamed Brenda and issued a wig. I think I’m exempt from the re-naming, but if you see someone editing this log later named L-Bronte, well that’s probably me.]


SHELBY’s Log:

            A lot of things have been creeping into view as my transition progresses. I had thought the biggest differences would be between the male social setting I knew and the alien strangeness of being a transgendered female. It was the gulf between these two vastly different worlds that I was ready to explore and absorb. But I didn’t have to look that far at all. As soon  as I stepped out of the male persona and moved about in public I began to see things differently. Now this is obviously going to happen. You put on some make up, trot out to get some food and of course the environment is going to feel different to you. Not necessarily good or bad, but certainly different. But it was all the things I had walked through and been a part of that I never noticed that shock me. Not the things focused on being trans, not really. It’s the thousand little things that swirl about the edge of a females vision everyday that a male never sees simply because he doesn’t have to.

I used to hear the words Rape-Culture and I will shamefully admit that mentally there was some eye-rolling and that sort of stuff was instantly shelved under Problems / Female / Probably Feminist Complaining. I didn’t think it was inconsequential, I just assumed it was something that was more rhetoric than reality. And now things have changed. Not because I am having some egalitarian epiphany but because I can SEE it now. This isn’t to say that as a male I was walking along with my eyes closed happily ignoring things. Ignoring something implies active knowledge of it, and then purposely pretending it doesn’t exist. This sort of thing literally never came up because it simply wasn’t in the programming to show up as a problem. Our environment is a constant reinforcement of what we have always believed. We try to understand  new problems and attempt to put ourselves in other’s shoes to gain empathy or insight but it is often impossible. Not having a true frame of reference for the other, whoever they are, makes fixing an invisible problem much more difficult. We need that frame of reference removed, or exposed to us in a new way, to make us see things more clearly.

It’s like asking a fish what the water is doing for them. The fish thinks you’re crazy because it has no idea what you mean; it’s lived in water all its life and is unaware of its influence. However take that fish out of water and they will suddenly have some strong opinions on what the water had been doing for them and probably make a lot of noise about it.

Message from the SHELBY.

START LOG: 043011

L-Hemingway Reporting: Addendum

(At this point I have been notified that the SHELBYwill be making some entries itself. Please know the communication and opinions expressed by the ship as a whole are not endorsed or approved by the specific Neural Lizard crews of the HMS SHELBY)

“Certainty and Fear”

Hello, this is Shelby, not the SHELBY, as I am referred to when the blogs are coming from the fictional Neural lizards in my head. (L-Hemingway edit: We are not fictional.)

It’s been a rough couple of weeks leading up to the Easter weekend meeting.

I am happy to announce that both my fiancé and myself have survived and have come through the ordeal more devoted to each other and with greater confidence in our lives and our choices. So yay for that. Needless to say it’s a long story so I’ll sum it up for those of you out there. They came, they pretended I did not exist, everyone was very tense, a great Salmon was made and a butter sauce was ignored, they left. There you go.

Lately my life has been defined by a constant low level of fear. It is sometimes focused on particular things such as going out dressed up and worrying that I look like a wreck, or on far more vague things like if I am doing the right thing here.

The more vague things are the hardest ones to deal with because the decision doesn’t have an immediate way of being resolved. Also they are the most internal. As I go through this shift change the greatest part of it isn’t the physical changes. Those are easy. Your body does it all automatically. (L-Hemingway Edit: Easy!? Tell that to the guys in the Endocrine system.)

Stop that.

(L-Hemingway edit: Fine.)

Anyway. The point is that it’s automatic. You take a pill, or inject a drug and it happens. Why you do these things is the big question. The idea that anyone just decides one day that ‘Hey I want to live in fear, limit my access to things and endanger myself in comparison to the general public.’ is insane. This is a huge process and I was naive when I thought that once I had begun, this course of action would just be all forward looking.

It’s not.

I recently watched a video of a friend who just finished her SRS (Sexual Reassignment Surgery), you know, the BIG one. She stated that she was so at peace and the tiny doubts had fled.

I was surprised at this. I thought she had no doubts at all. I suppose that’s a goofy way to have thought about it but I did. Most of the other Trangendered people I have spoken with seem to have some defining moment that stands out like a three story neon pink arrow pointing to a sign that says “You are female.”

I don’t have that. I have a cardboard square tacked up to a lesser part of my cerebellum that reads “Have you seen this girl?” and all the brain lizards walk by it and look for her as they go about their days.

(L-Hemingway edit: Told you we exist)

Get out of my analogy. (L-Hemingway edit: That… would be impossible.)

The point is I am always in doubt, in a state of possible confusion and definitely in a state of low grade fear.

So why do this? Good question. Basically one day during a rather casual conversation I began thinking about the long list of masculine traits I have, or think I should have. First was the way I spoke, and I remembered the year I changed that to blend better with the males I was with. Then I thoughts about the hyper-vigilant way I was in school when I was younger and I studied other guys movements specifically to avoid ‘moving’ in such a way as to be seen as ‘wrong or swishy’. Then I thought of another and another and things just fell apart. It is actually hard to describe.

(L-Larry edit: I can describe it! PANDEMONIUM!)

Shut up Larry.

But the biggest part of it wasn’t realizing these things, it was realizing how authentic I felt when I let them go. It was the lack of this masculine ‘overlay’ that suddenly freed my brain. I literally changed overnight. Things I had liked were now a turn off. Not in passing but drastically and completely. I was happy. Which was a pretty new thing.

Am I happy now? Yes. Does that mean I am without a care in the world?

(L-Larry Edit: Hell no!)

Shut up Larry.

Wait, no he’s right on that one. Between public attacks, possible discrimination and the simple idea of not doing this right I am a wreck a lot of the time. But behind it all there is a strange sense of certainty. Does that help most of the time? I don’t think so, but the one thing it’s doesn’t allow is retreating. For the first time in my life I have something internal that is to dear to me to discard when it gets difficult to handle. I am lucky to have a perfect partner and a fantastic circle of friends who support me. The one person I am most worried about not paying attention to is myself. Which tends to result in a lot of talking to myself.

(L-Hemingway edit: There’s a shock.)

Shut up Hemingway.

Battle Stations!

START LOG: 041711

L-Hemingway Recording.

Today in light of stress and possibly conflict, we aboard the SHELBY are preparing for a fight. Despite movies and books depicting otherwise it is actually quite rare for the average ship to find itself in real combat. Most conflict and stress is dealt with through conversation and subtler actions. Not that these aren’t a form of combat themselves.

There is a lot of stress lately, above and beyond what the retrofit is causing. This has alarms ringing in the Amygdala which is where the Self-Preservation Lizards work. The Fight or Flight crews have been running a LOT of drills. They are all very high strung and hand-picked for their quick response time, although they are a simple and single minded group. Their only concern is keeping the SHELBY alive and safe. They have been busy for a few reasons.

The first reason is new fuel injection system, or Estrogen delivery.

We are now injecting the Estrogen directly with a needle rather than taking it via pills. This technique is less painful than expected. However after 30 minutes of staring at the leg, then trying to move the arm, then staring at the needle, not much was happening. There are a lot of hardwired resistance to stabbing yourself apparently. It is still difficult to override all the safeties but eventually Allen(Arm/Hand Driver Starboard side) did it. All the while Larry is screaming about air embolisms, muscle damage, slicing some unknown nerve that will make the heart stop or other such craziness. It is also not to fun when the psycho L-Harry escapes and keeps offering suggestions like “Hey, just stab it in your heart, that’ll make it work faster.” Yeesh. That guy is creepy.

Larry just sat in the corner with his hands over his ears yelling ‘La la la’ until it was over.  I know we Lizards don’t have actual ears, but saying hands-over-the-tympanic membrane is clunky.

Larry’s possibly justified panic aside, the leg stabbing procedure saves wear and tear on the kidneys having to deal with the ingested type. The crew down in digestion and filtering are a lot happier now with the new fuel injection. Eventually we would like to go to the skin patch as it is even easier on the body.

However Estrogen isn’t the real concern. It’s Progesterone. This stuff is commonly used for Birth Control. Even with all the radical changes happening no one aboard the Shelby thinks it’s going to get pregnant. Aside from Larry. But the effects of this chemical are a powerful boost. All the same things like fat redistribution and  skin changes keep happening but the secondary sexual characteristics are expected to change faster.

However, this chemical is known to have some drawbacks. It can make the Command get all kinds of crazy readings and these are exhibited as sharp mood swings, uncontrolled emotional outbursts and the like. Command aboard the SHELBY hardly needs a new reason to be crazy. It basically tries to convince the system that the Shelby is pregnant. Which has predictably strange effects beyond Larry’s insistence that ‘IT COULD HAPPEN’.

So far we have been processing the Progesterone for 9 days and haven’t experienced any of the negative effects so we are optimistic.

We took the SHELBYout again last week into the public and she handled well, wandering down busy streets and going into a store to do some shopping. I hear that we even hailed another vessel and it went fine. This was the first interaction with an unknown ship completely as the SHELBY. Does wonders for the confidence levels.

With the recent chest growth and structural changes it’s becoming more difficult to travel about as a Jack class ship. We have 6 weeks of the current University training quarter left and the SHELBYstill travels there in the old HMS DAVID design. We will soon have to make stronger efforts to ensure we are seen by the other ship as a Jack class for a little bit longer. The official ship title and legal rechristening is planned for summer. Then the paperwork will be in process to drop the DAVID name and become SHELBY full time.

Now, the event that has reduced Larry to a whimpering puddle. On Friday the 21,  there will be a gathering at our home-dock. This is a group 6 members of the fiance’s family, or her fleet. Currently the ships of that fleet are classified as hostile. This fleet does not support the SHELBY’s retrofitting, so our vessel is just attempting to make this gathering pass with as little combat as possible.

No Lizards here think there will be a an actual war, nothing like that. However from what I know of the situation we expect a lot of arguments and passive aggressive actions. The ECM (Emotional Counter Measures) crew is running simulations non-stop to prepare for fights, comments or possible histrionics. I think that Renfeld’s (Imagination and Simulations) dramatic simulations of these worst case scenarios a bad idea, as it seems to make things worse, but what do I know about fighting, I’m just a clerk in the memory division.

Harry has recommended going into the meeting very drunk. While attractive, this is not an option.

Up in the brain pan Command is telling everyone to remain calm and that projections show the meeting as being far less damaging than expected. However while the retrofit makes the Shelby a prime target of aggression, we fear the real combat will bear down on our partner ship. Her mother-ship has made it clear that her sadness lies more in the fact that the upcoming fleet creation ceremony(or wedding) is between two Jill class ships. Technically a “Marriage” not legal between two Jill class vessels in our current location. However we will be completing the paperwork for the event while the SHELBY is still technically a Jack(Male) class vessel. So there are no legal issues with the marriage.  When the SHELBY’s official gender designation changes to Jill, the government has no legal means of nullifying the marriage just because it is NOW between two female vessels. So there. Pbtbtbtb!

Sorry, that was hardly dignified. I take my liberties in this log when I can.

The Judy Garland Effect

START LOG: 040411

L-Hemingway Recording

The ship is back on track at the university and the daily attempts at uploading new data continues. Yet another electrolysis session has come and gone and the skin guys pretty much just gripe and suck it up now.

The retrofitting is a lot of hurry up and wait. And those of us in Memory and Interpretation are being asked to do a lot of archive retrieval duty lately. Command is constantly running checks to determine the retrofit status. I don’t think anyone expects us to find something to bring the process to a halt but everyone, in all the departments, wants to be sure we are doing this right and for the right reasons. However the parameters for “doing it right” are staggeringly vague.

This leads to a lot of pressure on us on the memory department. Command asks for confirming evidence for the change around every 3 hours. Really. And we always tell them we cannot confirm, we can only show what the ships historical actions have been and let them do the predicting up front.

See the problem is, if you go into the stacks looking for something to confirm a feeling the Emotion or Logical path, you will find it. Every time. It’s called Hindsight Bias and it’s hard to avoid. The fetcher lizards can quite literally make something out of anything. They are experts at pattern creation and rationalization.

If you look back over your life and think, ‘I should have seen this coming.’ you WILL see things that indicate it was. But that just means you’re good at creating patterns that reinforce your beliefs. It’s part of the Command programming. It has to be or we would go crazy.

.

So the fact that the early HMS DAVID didn’t play with dolls may make the Social Conformity cheer and say “HA! We can’t possibly be a Jill Class ship because we would have!”

Then there are the times that the ship had tried cross-dressing as early as ten years old. “HA!” says the retrofit supporters. “That makes it obvious that we were always going to do this.”

There is one problem with that and it’s a big one.

It is the fact that Memory is not perfect.

Down in the memory warehouse there are long shadowy shelves with boxes and crates full of cards that have stuff written on them. Now the media we store this stuff on is just a white neural poster-board. It’s a 3×5 card but it looks the size of a poster to us. Size and space don’t work for us the way it does for a ship remember? And sometimes the handwriting is sloppy, or gets smeared when its filed. We don’t have the best pens. Sometimes the ink bleeds through onto the next card in the box and they all tend to degrade with time.

There is usually not more than a couple words per card, and a request for a specific memory will call for a series of cards depending on its complexity.Fetcher lizards, little guy with sneakers and really fast reading skills shoot off into the stacks, climbing up, down and sideways over boxes crammed with millions of dog eared old cards. They are something to see. They bring back everything they can find that is thought to be relevant.  Then the Interpretation crew assemble the cards into pictures and  broadcast it on the internal view-screens.

This can also create something we call the Judy Garland effect. Named for a particular fetcher Lizards obsession.

Once while communicating casually with several other ships, a trivia question was sent out. We love those down here in Memory, we get to haul ass all over the warehouse and try to dig up a card that is related. We are pretty good at it usually but sometimes… sometimes things get goofy.

The question that caused this whole thing was “Who was it, y’know… that lady who sang in the Sound of Music? Man I should know this.”

Well this is an easy one, the section on that movie is fairly close and common. We sent out the fetchers and they were homing in on it when…

“JUDY GARLAND!”

We all turned around and this one scrawny fetcher lizard is standing there in front of the communicator panting, holding this Mem-card over his head like a trophy torn from an enemy in battle Now the fetcher lizards are mute. Not sure why but they are. They communicate through basic pantomime or with the memory cards they bring up. Makes them interesting to talk to and flat out deadly at charades.

Well this is wrong. Obviously. We knew that singer did the Wizard of Oz. But when a card is missed it’s usually something close. We turned the triumphant lizard away, he sulked a little and wandered back to hunt.

The search, disrupted by this, was now completely scattered. Luckily for the ship it was one of those moments when none of the gathered ships could figure it out. We knew it was common and probably spelled similarly or sound similar.

We jumped back into the hunt and were sorting rapidly through a huge list of movie and music related searches and *almost* had it.

“JUDY GARLAND!”

Everyone froze and turned to see that little bastard standing there again waving the card over his head like mad and that time the ship broadcast the answer before we could stop him.

We instantly sent up a message that this was NOT in fact correct but the ship had already spoken.

Command deployed embarrassment counter-measures. “Judy Garland. Wait.. no. Duh, I know it’s not Judy Garland, that’s Wizard of Oz.. right.. Man I SO have this on the tip of my tongue.”

It is never on the tip of the tongue. We stopped looking there. There is only food bits and saliva on the tip of the tongue. No words. Ever.

We grab the crazy little fetcher lizard, fling him and his beloved card back into the stacks. Being OCD is practically a job requirement in the M&I. When something like this happens we start getting a bit obsessive down here, especially if we know that we have the info, however every query going into the stacks keeps getting ambushed by the white rectangle of JUDY GARLAND waving from the darkness until we finally hunted the little bugger down.

The worst part is this tends to make a trivial question climb waaaay up the priority workload. Suddenly we are devoting more and more time to this, all background stuff though, not on the conscious level.

So when three hours later the SHELBYsuddenly blurts out “IT’S JULIE FREAKIN’ ANDREWS!!!” in the middle of a restaurant, it scares the hell out of any ship within hailing distance. However this is usually accepted once the reasoning is explained to others and often is accompanied by other ships saying things like “Oh yeah, of course, etc.

Down in M&I we all finally relax. We managed to catch the the crazed fetcher when he wasn’t looking and where was the Julie Andrews card we couldn’t find? It was stuck on the OTHER side of the Judy Garland card. Little dumbass just had to flip it over to show us the side he was looking at.

Emotional overhaul and the Twinkie effect.

START LOG:031111

L-Hemingway.

I have been asked to explain what the Command group is exactly. We call them Command, the Brain, or the Confused Ship Committee.

Command is where everything comes together. What the ship feels, thinks, fears and enjoys. It’s a mess to be honest but it works. It’s  made up of Lizards from the big three.  Emotion, Logic, and Self Preservation. These three rarely agree but each one handles their job well. Depending on what the ship is doing, various lizards are in the Big Chair at the time.

Logic: These are the eggheads. These lizards are all math and calculations and rationalizations. When it comes to the gender retrofit these guys are a mess. They support the change due to the evidence shown and they can’t ignore the information that Emotion keeps throwing at them but at the same time they are highly conflicted about the situation. They judge things as best they can and they don’t call on us down in Memory and Interpretation much.

Emotion: Now here is where things are getting shaken up. The Emotions group has nearly tripled its staff and installed all sorts of new equipment and refitted the old stuff. The head of the department is L-Danielle now and she is taking no prisoners. Seriously if she says Cry, you ask how many gallons and get to it. Emotion is suddenly getting a lot more attention and personally I think it’s because of the Estrogen they keep guzzling down there. That stuff is potent. But the ship sure runs better on it.

Self Preservation: Well, these guys are a wreck. Always have been really. The most famous member is of course Larry, but there are others with less insane reactions. These folks assess threats or possible damage. The funny thing is, since the shift-change they are both alot more busy, and a lot less. Due to the long running issues of the DAVID not performing at 100% they were in a constant state of scanning all other Jack class vessels and making sure that the weird urges or ideas that were sneaking through the firmware never showed up. The Self-Preservation crew only knew that not lining up _exactly_ as a Jack Class ship was inviting dangerous combat or attack. They had no idea why the ship kept moving or thinking outside of protocols, they just knew it had to be kept suppressed. This lead to the Self-Preservation crew becoming Hyper-Vigilant and stressed out, constantly recording the actions of other  Jack ships and simulating those actions or ideas.

This created a lot of stress because no one could figure out what the problems were or how to fix it until after the sabotage was discovered. However, as Larry is quick to point out, the stress of faking the outward signs of a Jack class ship was NOTHING compared to the stressors that a gender retrofit would create. Fears of social stigma, threats of physical violence, employment problems, health issues and surgeries, the list goes on.

However the boost in motivation level, comfort and happiness are so off the chart no one (aside from maybe Larry) see the change as a bad thing.

Two of the groups can override a third and this series of checks and balances keeps things moving smoothly most of the time, although sometimes the distributed nature of the decision making process creates a mess.

 

The Twinkie effect.

Something that should be noted is how and why the ship reacts the way it does in some situations. Like it or not the action response to most things is pretty random despite the belief that it is far more controlled. Situations can shift in milliseconds and the ship is not always at its best when information is flying at us.

FOR EXAMPLE:

Often while cruising about the DAVID would spot a ship that was high on the Attractive Scale and the Sex Drive would instantly hit the “CONFIRM” buzzer. Command would roll their eyes but then focus on the other ship and then Command would suddenly stop paying attention to what is going on and just stand there on the bridge staring out the view port saying amazingly intelligent things like;

“Wow, she has great drive nacelles.”

“His eyes are so blue, oh my.”

or my fave…

“Scan the rear quadrant on that ship. Focus. Enhance… Enhance… Enhance…”

Inevitably because they detect our slightly goofy lock-on the other ship will turn and hail the SHELBY.

It’s usually some complex to decipher signal like. “Hi there.”

Now at this point there are literally HUNDREDS of protocols for responding. React favorably, not favorably, stalling, inquisitive, complimentary, insulting… you name it, it’s in the Command instructions.

BUT.

Nobody is at their post, their attention is glued to the big screen. Suddenly the entire Command staff realizes they have all left their stations and are gawking at the attractive ship when the hailing alarm starts going off!

The SHELBY falters while a span of seconds pass. In Lizard terms this is a long time and we are well into the Embarrassment Zone. The other ship is waiting, the SHELBY is still at a 20% tilt staring vacantly as the eyeball drivers start trying to look anywhere other than the other vessel! Everyone starts running for their stations, panicking. Larry never misses this sort of chance and starts screaming ” EVASIVE MANUEVERES! THEY’RE GONNA MACE US! ”

If we are unlucky Harry will break into the bridge at that moment as well and offer helpful commands like “Punch ’em in the head and run for it! They didn’t get a good look at us!”

This all happens in milliseconds, we operate on a different time scale onboard. But in that time, when the ship is listing and just staring it never fails that the only one huge never left their Command post is the huge goon wedged behind his console over in Food / Fuel station. So even before the SHELBY’s face has cleared the vacant and terrified expression from it, Lizard-Food takes charge and sends a reply that he deems important and relevant.

“I like twinkies, do you like twinkies?”

Larry usually passes out around then.

Learning JILL class Camouflage.

STARTLOG: 031011

L-Hemingway

Learning new movements and procedures is a big part of the transition from Jack class ship to a Jill. Some parts are obvious and expected, like the effects of the new estrogen hormones we are dumping into the Endocrine system. Those effects, while feeling a bit emotional and uncontrolled, are well documented. The folks over in the Emotional Control section are paying a lot more attention and have much wider range of responses and hair triggers on some things.

But what I am logging about today is some the learned skills of a Jill class and the dangers and difficulties of those.

First off, the ship is getting a new paint job every day or so. Applying camouflage paints, creams and colors to the face mostly although Jack and Allen have dealt with new paint jobs on the fingernails as well. This process of ‘make up’ is a controversial one even with other Jill class ships. The need for the paint or the concepts it represents have a ton of information behind it. But that’s work for the Logic and Social folks to work out.

The point is that currently the face camouflage is for hiding the Jack class aspects of the vessel that still remain. Think of it is a Stealth system. The ship is identified as a Jill more often with it.

With more electrolysis being done on the facial area we hope to need less of the Make Up stuff.  Dermont down in Outer Hull is against the continuing electrocution of the ship but we showed him some plans and schematics for the more serious stages of the retrofit and he just went all pale and started muttering about healing, tensile strength of skin and scars.

The proper camouflage levels are of the utmost importance, too much and you have a clown scenario, too little and there’s no effect at all. It’s a fine balance and both the aesthetics and the application operations are improving slowly. Some of the application acts are dangerous. Harry began screaming and running around like crazy when the mascara brush started coming at the eyes. I don’t need to explain all the horrors he had the imagination folks whip out in response to that.

One of the strange effects is that during various parts of the Make Up camouflage application, various parts of the face go slack. Nothing can stop it. When applying the mascara stuff the mouth just suddenly hangs open. the Food guy gets all interested but we wave him off as nothing in Make Up is really edible. (This has not been confirmed but we are going with that.)

Jack and Allen are trying their best to keep the hands steady but they are having to learn their way around the new claws, err, fingernails. These are an optional part of the refit, and they are easily removed but for now they stay. However they have created an unexpected issue.

The ship has slightly bad optics, the eyes fixed with aftermarket Contact Lenses and they do the job well enough. However removing them has turned into a struggle with both Jack and Allen doing the best to not jab the eyes while trying to remove the contacts every night.

Once again Larry see’s claws coming at the eyes, him freaking out, sedation, etcetera, etcetera.  I sometimes think he will eventually calm down but it’s just not in his nature.

I hope to make some new reports sooner rather than later and I will be focusing on the new protocols over in Emotion Control. Or as I call it, the crying game. Wow, that is so meta I think I hurt myself.