Monday, September 18, 2017

Word: Clandestine

clandestine

[klan-des-tin]
adjective
1. characterized by, done in, or executed with secrecy or concealment, especially for purposes of subversion or deception; private or surreptitious:
Their clandestine meetings went undiscovered for two years.
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                His breathing and footsteps were slow and controlled.  He needed to move as quietly as possible, and everything he did was for that purpose.  It was not easy though.  The hallways were made of metal and the floor was bare.  Anyone walking normally would produce a dreadful echo.  It took immense effort and concentration to keep his footfalls silent in such an environment.
                He approached a corner and peaked out just enough to see around it.  Nobody immediately visible, but he held his weapon at the ready, just in case.  The small, air powered dart gun was loaded with tranquilizing darts that could knock out a charging horse.  It might not have been as lethal as its more explosive counterpart, but it was nearly silent.  That was more important in such a clandestine mission as this one.  Besides, killing people drew too much unwanted attention.  A sleeping guard would cause some eye rolls.  A dead one would cause an alarm to sound.
                The dart gun’s only real weakness was ammo.  Each clip only held five darts, and he could only carry three extra clips.  Hardly ideal, but he had been running reconnaissance on the facility for weeks in order to learn guard movements and the placement of the security systems.  With any luck, he would be able to complete his mission without using a single dart. 
                He froze.  The sound of footsteps echoing in the hallway.  Then voices.  Two of them, and both the steps and voices were big and heavy.  Guards, no question.  They were coming from around a corner though, so there was a chance they would simply overlook him.  He flattened his body against the wall with his gun at the ready.  He held his breath.  Sure enough, the happily chatting guards overlooked him as they walked by.  A few seconds passed before he dared to breathe.
                He proceeded to the location he knew to be the facility’s control center.  It was much too late for anyone to be in there.  Maybe a tech or two, if he was unlucky, but nothing substantial.  He slowly opened the door, being careful not to make a sound.  He scanned the room, finding it just as empty as he hoped it would be.
                He entered and closed the door just as silently as he had opened it.  Choosing a computer at random, he pulled out the reason he could only carry three extra ammo clips:  a large electronic device that acted as a kind of automated hacker.  While he did not have much computer skills, the device would be able to crack open any system in seconds.  And from there, a small virus would be implanted that would give his employers full access to the facility’s systems without the facility’s staff ever being aware of it, even after the auto hacker was disconnected. 
                He stood guard while the auto hacker did its job.  Seconds felt like minutes as he watched the door, unmoving.  A tiny, almost inaudible beep told him the job was done.  The system was hacked and the virus was implanted.  He breathed a sigh of relief, unplugged the auto hacker and headed for the door.
                He reached for the knob just before he came face to face with a guard.  The two of them looked at each other for a moment.  Only a moment, and then a tiny puff of air could be heard and a dart found itself in the guard’s neck.  The guard slumped over, suddenly asleep. 
                He sighed and prepared to drag the sleeping man into the room.  He should have known.  Nothing ever went perfectly.
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For best results, read this story with either the Mission Impossible or James Bond theme playing in the the background.  

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Word: Concatenation

concatenation

[kon-kat-n-ey-shuh n]
noun
1. the act of concatenating.
2. the state of being concatenated; connection, as in a chain.
3. a series of interconnected or interdependent things or events.
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                “It’ll never work.  You know that, right?” Darren said.
                “It’ll work.” Peter replied while admiring his work.
                The machine was a mass of parts put together to fulfill some greater purpose, although most people would not be able to tell what that purpose was.  The gears and wires running around the exterior were neatly arranged, to give it some aesthetic appeal, but the inside was a chaotic mess that only made sense to its creator.  To the common man, it looked very impressive.  To anyone who knew anything about mechanical engineering, it was a monstrosity.  To Peter, it was the most beautiful thing in the world.
                “No, it won’t.  There’s too much stuff going on for it to work properly.”
                “You’re just jealous you didn’t think of it first.”
                Darren sighed and shook his head lightly.  “No, because I’m not dumb enough to think that…thing will ever work.  Look, it’s simple.  The more complex the machine, the more likely it is that something in it will fail.  Your machine, if you can call it that, is complex unto impossibility.  Every single part is inherently dependent on every other part.  It’s like the world’s most complex, circular Rube Goldberg machine, but not as fun to watch.  If so much as a screw is even a tiny bit loose, it’ll all come crashing down.”
                “Well, it’s a good thing that every single part is working perfectly, isn’t it?” Peter said firmly.
                Darren took a deep breath.  How could Peter not see the many, many flaws in his design?  The entire thing was like a chain made entirely of weak links that was arranged in a big loop and tied off with a twist tie.  And yet Peter was treating it like it was the best made piece of machinery every built.
                “Pete, you’ve heard of Murphy’s Law, right?” Darren said.
                “Yes, I know it.  But it doesn’t matter.  I’ve taken that into account, trust me.  I’ve calculated for every possible failure of every single part, and found ways of making it so that none of them occur.”
                “You know you’re inviting disaster by saying that, right?”
                Peter looked at Darren with a confident smirk.  He held up a small, rectangular object lined with buttons.  The on switch was pressed, and the machine turned on.  It hummed and whirred as the parts started working, driving the machine to fulfill its task. 
                “See?  I told you it would work.” Peter said.
                “Wait for it.” Darren replied.
                A few seconds later, a sound came from the machine.  It was not a sound it was supposed to make.  The sound was a tiny tinkling sound, like two tiny pieces of metal hitting each other quickly.  The small mechanical problem soon became a big one.  The many interconnected parts started coming apart, dislodging themselves beginning from the first failure.  The machine collapsed in on itself.  Peter cried out in failure and fell to his knees as he watched his creation fail.
                “See?  I told you it wouldn’t work.”
                 
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Murphy's Law:  Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.  Never challenge it.  It will always win.  And when you think you've planned for every problem, you haven't.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Name: Whoosis

whoosis

or whosis

[hoo-zis]
noun, plural whoosises. Informal.
1. an object or person whose name is not known or cannot be recalled:
It's the whoosis next to the volume control.
2. a person or thing considered typical or illustrative:
the usual paragraph about the party given by Mme. Whoosis.
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He knew these people.  They were his coworkers.  They had been his coworkers for years.  How many years?  He forgot.  But he knew them.  He remembered many things about them, so he knew who they were.  He just could not remember their names.  He used to know them, he was sure about that.  But for some reason, he simply could not place any of the names to the faces that he knew so well.
In fact, he could not remember his own name either.  He could remember everything else, just not that.  He knew his age, his birthday, his wife’s birthday.  Everything that was worth remembering about his life, he remembered.  He even remembered a few things that were not particularly worth remembering.  But his name.  That was the one thing he could not remember no matter how hard he tried.  It was like it had been erased from his mind along with all the other names he should know.
“Tony, there you are.” The statement came from a small, round man.  He knew the man to be his boss.  Was Tony his name?  It felt familiar.
His boss went on giving him his daily assignments and praising him for a job well done the previous day.  He remembered why.  He had given a presentation that had earned the company a substantial contract deal.  The only reason the short, round man had not thrown him a party was because everyone involved had to remain professional.  Besides, there was still work to be done on the contract before it took effect.
He promised his boss to keep up the good work and that he would get all the accounts and such squared away as soon as he could.  His mind went through the conversation.  There was a name mentioned at the beginning that was presumably his.  What was it again?  Tom?  Terry?  It was a T name, he knew that much.  But the specifics escaped him.  Why was that?  It had been less than five minutes since the name was mentioned, and yet he could not for the life of him remember it.
Nobody else seemed to be having troubles with names.  They called out to him, greeting him with that name that simply would not stick in his mind.  He answered his coworker’s greetings with as much enthusiasm as he ever had.  He did not want anyone to think anything was wrong.  That would only bring unnecessary trouble.
He sat down at the desk he knew for sure to be his.  He started to do the job he had been doing for nearly a decade.  It was practically second nature to him by now.  He knew that he was not losing his memory.  He could remember his first girlfriend from high school, after all.  Well, everything but her name.  He had remembered it yesterday, just not today. 
His fingers moved over his keyboard as he thought about his recent predicament.  How could he suddenly forget everyone’s name?  It did not make any sense.  He had not done anything unusual, certainly nothing that would create a loss of such specific memories. 
He came to the conclusion that he would not find an answer while sitting at his desk.  He would start investigating as well as he could after work.  He just had to hope that he could get through the day without needing anyone’s name.

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I have some trouble remembering names.  It takes me a few days to really remember names and faces and such.  Of course, that assumes that I see the person or persons in question often enough.   
Also, this word definitely sounds like something Dr. Seuss would have come up with, doesn't it?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Word: Ruth

ruth

[rooth]
noun
1. pity or compassion.
2. sorrow or grief.
3. self-reproach; contrition; remorse. 
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Chuck’s chin lay slumped against the table.  His eyes stared out at the wall, somehow finding the one spot that was clear of people.  His body was hunched over in an almost painful way.  He strove to think about nothing, and mostly succeeded until one of his friends, Amy, started talking.
“Oh come on, I’m sure it’s not that bad.” She said.  Chuck did not expend the effort needed to look at the girl, nor did he dignify her words with a response.
A hand clasped his bent over shoulder in what was supposed to be a friendly, reassuring manner. “Yeah, I mean, you can always take summer classes.  That’ll make it all fine.” The boy who spoke was another of his friends, Willy. 
The group all looked at their fallen companion.  Even while avoiding their gazes, Chuck could still feel their pitying stares.  He took a deep breath and began to move.  He did so slowly, and only enough to bring a single sheet of paper onto the surface of the table.  The others looked at it and recoiled in shock.
“Okay, maybe not.” Willy corrected.  “But that doesn’t mean anything.  I mean, I bet lots of really successful people failed a grade or two.”
Chuck’s only response was a slow blink aimed at nothing.  His friends kept talking.  They kept trying to console him; make him feel better about failing the 10th grade.  But they did not understand.  How could they?  They were all smart.  They all passed their classes.  Amy even did so with straight As.  How could they understand the plight of the idiot?  Their attempts at cheering him up sounded like nothing but them taking pity on him.
Maybe that’s all they ever did.  Maybe he was just too dumb to have noticed it until now.  Maybe they only hung out with him out of pity, since nobody else would.  Maybe they saw him as nothing but a charity case.  Hang out with the pathetic stupid boy and suddenly they look compassionate and good natured.
Chuck’s mouth curled down and his brow furrowed.  He had just figured it out.  His friendship was based on nothing but a big pity party.  What else could it be?  They were all smart and good looking and talented.  All Chuck had was sheer size.  He was just a big dumb lunk who was good for nothing but making the others look better.  And now that he was being held back a year, they could feel even better about being his so-called friend.  After all, what better way to make themselves look better than by continuing to allow him to be near them for a prolonged period of time?
Well, he might be dumb, but Chuck still had his pride.  He would have none of their false compassion.  He would find new friends.  Real friends.  Friends who did not hang out with him out of pity.  He stood up quickly, grabbed his report card and walked out of the room without saying a word.
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 So glad I never got held back a grade.  Really, that must be terrible for everyone involved, not just the person being held back.