Friday, 18 October 2013

5. Expectations – Isaac & Serena

“Is this real?”

“What do you mean?”

“Can I adjust this and will it really happen?”

“You could say that.”

“I just did (say that – that is) – my question was: will it really happen?”

“That depends on you.”

“Don't treat me like a child.”

“It's the truth – and I'm sorry about the choice of vocabulary; it really does depend on you.”

“I feel like a character in a film I once saw.”

“Interesting – what was the plot?”

“He was asking for parole after murdering somebody – but each year he'd feed them a line about how he was rehabilitated and each time they turned him down; it wasn't until he gave up trying to guess what the right thing to say was that he was set free.”

“I've seen it”, he flicks the ash from his cigarette, “ – it's a good film.”

“I didn't see you light up!?”

“What were we talking about?”, Isaac's phone went...DSC03167

“Hold on a mo'... Yes? Right – so without that she doesn't... and so we... ahhh – right, I should have known that before I came in. OK – damn. I'll make the change – leave her be. Yes – I know, let's see what happens.”, he hung up and placed the phone back inside his jacket, breathed in and quietly uttered beneath his breath:

“He relit his cigarette whilst thinking of her emotional state”

“What did you just say?”, silence... he said nothing and looked down at his feet, gently clapping his hands together as if he'd just finished gardening and was rubbing the soil from them.

“You said something about my emotional state... Oh my god! You – you're changing me.”

“And now you can do it too – to yourself, not me... If you can start to handle this properly you might find that you can do more than read, in the not too distant future. In answer to your first question: No – it would have not 'really happened'; but if you get through this next stage it might.”

“I can change myself! Fantastic! ...but what if I change something that causes me to not remember how to change myself back? I could become someone else and not know how to fix myself.”

“Terrifying, I think, but you're absolutely right; you could do that very thing and end up going up your own arse hole!”

“That's not very comforting.”

“It was supposed to be funny.”

“It's not.”

“Well – ok, 'that's what I'm here for, to keep you safe...'”

“Why do I find that hard to believe?”

“Because I'm in a comedic mood and the – oh forget it; just try it out will you?”

4. Traffic Calming Part II – Donaldson & Stevens

“You remember that wireless calming system that you thought may have caused a problem with Karl Bernahrdsson's pacemaker?”

“Yes, do you want me to come down?”

“It might make more sense – I do hate acting these things out on the phone...”, Donaldson placed the phone back on the receiver and switched on the old black metal electric fan. He started thinking whether the fans electric field was causing interference that the sites systems were picking up; and, if so, were the systems attempting to cancel them out.

“Right, go ahead.”, Stevens had arrived.

“That would be impossible though, right?”

“What would be impossible? – try to include me in any preamble when you want to discuss ideas, you know, just to bring me up to speed.”

“I was wondering if the electric fan here”, he turned it off, “would generate enough of an electromagnetic field to cause the 'radio calming' systems to try to cancel it out.”

“Oh...”, Stevens looked less than enthusiastic, having left the problem with Donaldson he'd not given it another thought since.

“But it would be impossible, wouldn't it?”

“I don't know – why?”

“They'd need to pick up the signal of the interference in order to know what to cancel it out with.”

“True – they would. Yes, you're right – it couldn't be cancelled out”

“Then how do they expect to cancel out radio hotspots unless they're actually there experiencing it?”

“Ahhh – right, well, they might then.”

“They might? Another fine answer... please explain!”

“Well”, Stevens continued, “it might just be that the system models the electromagentic spectrum in order to 'predict' hot spots; it then transmits similar signals...”

“Yes – I know, to cancel it out...”

“Well, yes, but I should clarify – this is somewhat separate from the standard 'noise reduction' as the mechanism to cancel out the noise needs to be delivered to a particular place and is almost always achieved through refraction and reflection of the signals – not a straight forward 'anti-replication' of the signal passing through the building.”

“I can't quite imagine that – although I'll take your word for it”

“Good – I'd hate to have to explain the code behind the software that models it. What did you want me for – just that?”

“No – something else; although your answer may have helped me on the way. The system seems to never reach a balance. I wouldn't necessarily expect it to when the areas it is monitoring are occupied although I've isolated some sections and it looks as though even when the living quarters are empty the system seems 'at war' with itself.”

“OK, I'll bite, what do you mean?”

“I mean, well, let's say there's a hot spot in cabin 1; the system models that – you say – and then provides signals that will cancel out that hot spot.”

“Sounds about right.”

“Then, shortly afterwards there's a hot spot somewhere else, perhaps – given what you've just told me – because the system has just adjusted what it is transmitting”


“It then adds it's 'new move' to the model and finds that it must calm that hot spot.”

“Yes – that sounds right too”

“So this loop keeps on progressing and progressing until what?”

“What do you mean?”

“Does the antenna burn out – all this signal noise intended to drown out a hotspot surely causes more damage than the one hotspot eventually?”

“Ahh – no, the system should understand when it no longer.... Hmmm, I see your confusion – the signals the 'wireless calming' system outputs are not leyered one on top of the other – the whole system is modelled and the best 'single' complex blanket pattern is deployed for the 'imagined' state of the site.”

“By imagined I guess you mean the model that the computer has calculated”


“But how can it calculate it if it is constantly cocking it up? Schrödinger's cat comes to mind – how the hell can you tell what state it's in if your poking away at it every millisecond?”

“You can't – it guesses.”

“This is getting beyond a joke. So there's this 'radio signal noise' that purveys, no, that surrounds every inch of our life and, in order to keep it under control, we employ a computer to guess where the noise is noisiest so we can attempt to cancel it out with more noise; which, if done incorrectly, could result in fatalities?”

“Pretty much.”

“You must be hiding something from me – otherwise people in Oaklands would be dropping dead every day. Why does it work?”

“Generally speaking the signals are of such low power they're not really an issue, the whole idea of cancelling them out seems like a publicity stunt for Oaklands anyway – if there was a health hazard we'd be doing it everywhere...”, he stepped over to the water cooler and poured some water, “the system is not constantly in 'output' mode, it does stop to listen to what is happening without interfering from time to time. This gives it the opportunity to update the model and send out the correct 'blanket' signal that it needs to...”

“Thank god for that! I was waiting for you to tell me you'd discovered that radio waves have a 'memory' like water – and you can 'ask them' where they've got a little bit hot under the collar?”

“No; we're not quite away with the fairies.”

“Well if that's true then why the instability – surely the system would vary only when occupants were interfering with the signals by using wireless enabled systems.”

“That would be my expectation, yes.”

“Well that's not what it happening!”, Donaldson put his feet up on the desk and folded his arms as if to indicate his work was over.

“The idea was to establish why Karl Bernahrdsson's pacemaker failed to restart his heart; not simply pick holes in the wireless calming system.”, Stevens knew that the best reaction to this was a resignation on his part – let Donaldson lead for a moment, he obviously had more information than he was letting on.

“OK – well I requested an autopsy report. It seems our dearly departed Karl was somewhat cooked from the inside out – judging from his activities leading up to his death he was finding it more and more difficult to get out of the house and so spent time working from home. Hot spots in his apartment are far from regular – but if you put a bag of bones in there (and the accompanying water that goes with it) the 'imagined system' that I've been informed of contains hotspots in his bed, on the sofa – just about where he watches the TV) and in the bath.”

“Sounds like someone was trying to kill him.”

“I thought that too.”

“Anything odd about the software? Have you asked it why the hot spots are there?”

“I don't have permission to 'converse' with it.”

“I'll get that changed – and I'll get you a list of the people who did.”

“Thanks – oh, and just reassure me, we don't have 'noise cancellation' here do we?”

“Funny.”, Stevens raised his eyebrows in disapproval at the joke and left.

3. False Memory Theory – Isaac & Serena

“So how's it going”, Isaac had been sitting next to Serena for about five minutes before he interrupted her chain of thought...

“How is it going”

“Come on now, there's no need to get all grammatical on me.”

“I'm sorry – but it would be so simple just to get it right.”, she looked up at him conveying, facially, a level of helplessness and, at the same time, disappointment,

“No need to apologise – we have a lot to sort out and no time for that level of politeness. They're both right – incidentally... ”

“Not necessarily in written form. OK – I agree about the politeness”, her body contracted down into the chair slightly.

“Are you shaking?”

“Something like that – I think it's just too much coffee”

“You've not had that much have you?”

“I don't know – I've lost track”

“Well, here have some water”

“If you think it will help.”


“What do you want?”

“Just to see how you are.”

“Well, how am I?”

“That's what I'm asking you.”

There was a pause. The conversation was brisk.

“I don't quite see what it is you want to tell me; or what you want me to tell you.”

“Good – you're jumping ahead, but remember, although I want you to be honest, I need you to keep things sequential. There's no good in jumping ahead of me – although you can read what I'm about to ask there are things I know that you don't.”

“Then what's the point in being able to read you?”

“It gives you an opportunity to frame your answer. Choose a good 'response frame' into which you can fit your answer”

“And if the answer doesn't fit your question?”

“Well then you choose a better frame”

“Then what was the point in framing before I knew the answer?”

“It makes your response seem more immediate, more believable to … me.”

She laughed, “This is pointless”


“Everything seems pointless”

“Well let's give you something to do then”

“OK”, she stared at him, “I'm starting not to trust you”

“But you wouldn't lie to me, would you?”

“I'm not allowed to”

“Well if you're not allowed to then why would you start to not trust me?”

DSC02995“It's an expression – I... 'like' you.”, she moved the lighter to a 45 degree angle and turned it over to hide the starfish; a green and black cartoon crab stared back;

“Well, I'm glad to hear it, I like you too – remember, we did know it each other very well for a time.”

“I'm starting to doubt that.”

“Oh – so you think that might be a false memory? Been reading up on your Freud have you.”

“Something like that”

“Well if you haven't then look into it – Freud had a take on that sort...”

“I CAN'T LIE TO YOU...!”, it was shouted, she crossed her arms. Isaac was taken aback:

“OK, ok, it's just conversation... It seemed like a non-committal answer, if you ask me – now Freud, a take... er on that – ah here we are – sort ...of thing and it might prove useful when you're trying to express yourself.”

She visibly shook as if in anger or hatred; as if she found her self stuck somewhere, tied down; Iasaac lent forward and touched her arm – for the first time with any sort of empathy, “OK?”

“Thank you”, she visibly relaxed and took a sip of the water in front of her.

A long pause... Serena watched him as if observing a long lost memory, watching him survey the surroundings as though they were of some consequence and then she moved her attention to the cartoon 'emerald crab'. One half-leg of a star fish from the table-side of the lighter wrapped around it's edge into her view and she began to feel as though she missed them dearly.

“Still smoking then?”, he leaned back on his chair

“Yes – for the moment... it doesn't seem to matter any more.”

“Well – yes, I can see that point of view, but I'd be inclined to give up for the sake of it; if it doesn't matter there's no point doing it is there?”

“If you say so.”, annoyance returned.DSC02691

“Why would you be annoyed about that?”

“You're always telling me what to do...”

“You used to like that!”

“That was different – I enjoyed what we were doing then”

“Hmmm – I remember... Maybe we should try some role reversal and you tell me what to do next time”

“You sound like a bad book”

“Like a bad dog? A book that has done a bad thing? ...or a badly written book. I mean, really, you were bad in bed – but I never complained. It was good.”

“You've made your point.”, she stopped and seemed truly confused. “It'll never happen – let's stick to work... Please – if this is important, as you suggest, I don't think it's a good idea to get confused as to what's real and what's not.”

“It's all real – don't you remember?”

“I mean – if you're going to pretend to love me then I'd rather not do it...”

“OK – I won't pretend to love you”

“Do I tell you what to do now?”

“If you want. I'm all ears.”

Silence... “Why?”

“Not quite there yet then. 'Why?' is not an instruction by the way. I'll let you read some more.”