Wednesday, October 19, 2016

One Of My Prized Chinese Coins

One of the few coins in my collection I am very certain of is this fine example of a 10 cash chong ning zhong bao (崇宁宝) minted during the Northern Song Dynasty during the reign of Emperor Hui Zong (1101-1125). This coin was minted sometime between 1102-1106 AD and are plentiful and exist in many varieties. Nevertheless, the coins cast during Emperor Hui Zong's reign are considered among the very best produced during the Song Dynasty in terms of their quality, artistic essence and calligraphy.

Emperor Hui Zong was an impressive artist and calligrapher but not a very good administrator. His decisions resulted in the downfall of the Northern Song through defeat by the Jin. His calligraphy is quite distinctive and is known as "slender gold" script (shou jin shu 瘦金书) because the characters resemble twisted gold filaments. However, the coin pictured above is written in the Li script. This is actually a very common coin and beautiful specimens can be purchased for a very low price.

Unfortunately, these "10 cash" coins were not worth their stated value. There is a humorous story dating from this period that illustrates the hardship caused by the lack of 1 cash coins. The story relates that a patron bought a bowl of soup and paid for it with a "10 cash" coin. The soup seller did not have any small change and so encouraged the customer to eat more and more soup. The customer continued to eat but finally sighed and said, "It is fortunate that my coin is only a “10 cash.” If it had been a “100 cash” it would have killed me!"

These 10 cash coins were so overvalued that they were eventually devalued until they were worth the equivalent of 3 cash coins.

As a writer of fantasy, I enjoy holding coins like this allowing my mind to wander over the years and ponder the people who have held this coin, the lives that they led, the untold stories that now moulder in unmarked graves.

In a separate conversation, I was discussing my love for ancient Chinese coins and one commentator remarked, "Geekery is geekery no matter what the flavor is." My response:
And the flavor of mine is the romance of ancient bronze. When I hold one of these ancient coins and ponder the hands that have held them and the history they have passed through, I would offer years of my life for the gift of psychometry.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Another Question for Numismatists with Experience in Chinese Coins

This coin amulet is purported to be from the Jiaqing Emperor aka Emperor Jen Tsung or Chai-Ch'ing (13 November 1760 – 2 September 1820) who was the seventh emperor of the Manchu-led Qing dynasty, and the fifth Qing emperor to rule over China from 1796 to 1820.

The seller informed me that this object was not meant to be used as a coin, but as an amulet or charm to increase one's luck, especially financial.

Again, I would be grateful for any information that could shed more light on this coin, probably from the early 19th century. The writing is said to be in the Manchu style. If you can shed any light on this, please shoot me an email at AT gmail DOT com.

Please be aware that until I can talk to an expert, some or all of this information may be incorrect. Also, the orientations of the coin may be incorrect as well.

Halloween Gift #4 - The Rotwang Convention For Mad Scientists

Subject: Attending the Rotwang Convention for Mad Scientists
Date: May 5, 2012 9:05:42 AM EDT

My dear Colleen, I have just received the most delightful news! It appears that the events in my first foray into mad science in creating a race of sentient feline secretaries, were not in vain!

I’m delighted to report that I have received a personal invitation from the Rotwang Convention for Mad Scientists. Named after C. A. Rotwang who was made famous in Fritz Lang’s 1927 science fiction film Metropolis, the convention attracts mad scientists from around the world to compete for the famed Rotwang Award!

True fame has reared its lovely head. I shall keep you fully informed of my journey toward scientific immortality!

Dr. C. Loewen

* * * * *

Subject: The Rotwang Convention, Day 1
Date: May 8, 2012 10:55:42 PM EDT

I arrived via steam railroad and made my way to the fin de siècle hotel where mad scientists were already gathered setting up their displays to compete for the coveted Rotwang Award. The hotel was already filled with grinning men in stained lab coats with frizzed out hair and escorted by creations and abominations of their own making.

I confess I had my own aspirations and I kept my wheeled satchel close to me with my own pet project carefully wrapped to keep it from being damaged.

After meeting my three roommates and promising we would not use each other as unwilling participants in our experiments, we went down for opening ceremonies.

There, special speaker Joseph Biden gave us an encouraging talk on how to take over a world leader with a brain transplant and it was a rousing speech filled with drama, cackling mad laughter, and screams of "And they call me MAD!"

Later we went down to for brunch where the usual verbal assaults broke out over the unending discussion of whether the ultimate goal of a mad scientist is to turn a beautiful woman into a gorilla or turn a gorilla into a beautiful woman. Personally, I avoid the entire conflict as the whole purpose of my life is simply to find new and novel ways to blow up chickens.

The Dealers' Room then opened and I snagged myself some good deals on Jacob's Ladders and some brains in old glass jars. I almost got a secretary, but as she grunted a lot, scratched at imaginary fleas, and insisted on being paid in bananas I thought it better to pass. She sure was pretty though.

Of course, I had to pass on a lot of panels to get the good deals, but through the afternoon, I attended the Does Your Assistant Have To Have A Prerequisite Hump? and Bad Monster! Bad Monster! or The Shame Of Premature Rampage.

Afterward, we all sat around playing Bridge and Cribbage because even mad scientists need to let their hair down. For those really wanting to party, I could have gone to the dance where mad scientists cavort with each others creations, but the event has a high body count.

Dr. C. Loewen

* * * * *

Subject: The Rotwang Convention, Day 2
Date: May 9, 2012 6:05:42 AM EDT

The next morning after breakfast we discovered some mad scientist, in order to get a jump on the day's competition and impress the judges, had spiked the coffee with his Gender Bender formula.

We took the offender, fed him his own formula, and then turned him into a gorilla.

Fortunately, it all wore off which was good because belting out a mad cackle and screaming, "It's alive! It's alive! I now know what it feels like to be a god!" doesn't have the same impact when you're a pretty, blue-eyed blonde.

Then the contest started in earnest and it was the best year I have ever seen: inter-dimensional gates large enough to swallow whole cities, tentacled horrors that started out as puppies, rampaging robots with great gas mileage. It was incredible!

Then it was my turn.

With my heart in my throat, I wheeled my satchel onto the stage, opened it, and took out a chicken. Carefully placing it on the table with a handful of grain to keep it occupied, I then took out my life's work, a small pistol that looks like a toy from a local dollar store.

I took careful aim, pulled the trigger, and in a flash, the stage was covered with feathers and gore.

The crowd went wild and I could taste victory. The Rotwang was surely mine!

"Awesome," one of the judges said. "How many people can you target at once."

"Well, sir," I said. "It targets a total of one chicken at a time."

"And people?"

The auditorium went silent. "I'm sorry. It only blows up chickens."

The award went to a scientist who came up with a mutated abomination that could belch The Star Spangled Banner.

We all agreed that was certainly mad.

Dr. C. Loewen

* * * * *

Subject: The Rotwang Convention, Day 3
Date: May 10, 2012 9:05:42 AM EDT

There was no Sunday.

The hotel accidentally double-booked our con with the Dark Mages Con and very few of us have survived to tell the tale of the scheduling disagreement.

But it was still a great convention and I'm going back next year with a bigger and better chicken!

Dr. C. Loewen

(Title graphic is in the public domain)

Monday, October 17, 2016

Halloween Gift #3 - Pepsi

Subject: Building A Better Mousetrap, Day 1
Date: May 5, 2007 9:05:42 AM EDT

When I sent you the message concerning the Warner Brothers animated film Cats Don't Dance, I made an allusion to the benefits of having a sentient, anthropomorphic feline as a secretary. The more I thought about it, the more certain of my belief I'm sitting on a veritable gold mine. Take a little money, time, study, and research and … viola! … the end result is lots of little kitty secretaries for which the world would beat a path to my door. Surely a better mousetrap in more ways than one!

With that goal in mind, this morning I mailed my letter of resignation to my employer, went to a yard sale, and bought a used chemistry set, a used microscope and a gene splicer (Okay, it's really a roll of Scotch tape, but if I cut it very, very, very thin, I'm sure I can splice some genes with it). The SPCA refused to give me a cat so I then went to a local farmer who sold me a chicken.

I know it's not a cat, but I'm not discouraged. I'm certain I've read that all the great scientists who made breakthrough discoveries started out with chickens … Einstein, Edison, Madame Curie, Booker T. Washington, da Vinci.

I will keep you informed as to my progress as I continue toward my goal of creating the world's first sentient, anthropomorphic cat. Mark this date well. I am sure to go down in history!!!!

Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

Dr. C. Loewen

* * * * *

Subject: Building A Better Mousetrap, Day 2
Date: May 6, 2007 10:55:42 PM EDT


The chicken blew up.

I'm really not all that discouraged because Wikipedia tells me most famous scientists had their chickens blow up the first few times around. In fact, I discovered that Edison blew up over 100 chickens before he realized they made poor light bulbs.

And how many chickens did Booker T. Washington bury before he finally discovered peanuts?

Anyway, my laboratory is covered with chicken feathers and I must go do some cleanup. Well, my laboratory is really my coat closet 'cause my wife won't let me work anywhere else, but, MARK THIS DAY! Someday, when my kitty secretaries are making coffee and taking dictation, you will be GLAD you knew me in these early halcyon days of my genius.

I would close by laughing fiendishly, but I discovered that I'm allergic to chicken feathers and I'm stuck on a coughing jag.

Dr. C. Loewen

* * * * *

Subject: Building A Better Mousetrap, Day 3
Date: May 7, 2007 6:05:42 AM EDT

After the chicken debacle, I decided to follow the literary example of Mary Wallstonecraft Shelley, author of Frankenstein and procure another subject more suitable for my experiments.

Therefore, last night, under the light of a crescent moon rising in the east with clouds of heat lightning illuminating the west, I snuck into the local pet cemetery and desecrated the grave of Piffles … Beloved Pet.

Hurrying home with my ill-gotten volunteer, I prepared to make history!

I remember it so clearly. The Jacob's Ladders were arcing, the gyros were gyrating, Tesla coils were spitting out spikes of electricity, filling the air with the odor of ozone and casting dancing shadows on the coat closet walls (none of them actually do anything, but I do have a flair for the dramatic). As the lightning storm intensified I pulled the lever that opened the roof and turned the great crank that lifted the bed that bore the cold lifeless corpse of Piffles … Beloved Pet into the sky amidst the gusting winds, the lashing rain, and the bolts of lightning.

Suddenly, the laboratory rocked as massive bolts of energy each bearing millions of watts of electricity slammed into the bed, each bolt hotter than the surface of the sun. The thunder cracked windows and was matched only by my howls of mad laughter as I watched bolt after bolt surge through my machinery and the body of Piffles … Beloved Pet which lay so high above my head.

Within moments I was turning the crank to lower my creation back into the laboratory.

Sadly, Shelley was wrong. Lightning does not bring deceased matter back to life. In reality it deep fries it to a crisp crackly crunch. I went and reburied Piffles … Beloved Pet.

However, as I was tamping the last spadeful of earth back onto the grave, a little white kitten came out of nowhere and began caressing my ankles and purring. With a shout of triumph, I swooped her up to discover I had obtained a little white spitfire.

The doctor in the ER said that with therapy I might get full use of my left hand back someday.

Nonetheless, I have my cat. I will keep you fully informed as to my progress as I make my way toward becoming a millionaire. MARK THIS DAY! Someday, you will be glad to say, "I knew Craig before his Nobel Prize."

Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!, etc.

Dr. C. Loewen

* * * * *

Subject: Building A Better Mousetrap, Day 4
Date: May 8, 2007 9:05:42 AM EDT

Before my progress report, I feel compelled to respond to your previous message sent to me on May 8, 2007 5:19:19 AM EDT:
Craig, Exploding chickens? Have you thought of the weapons potential of this? Smuggle a chicken in and use it to attack people or destroy military defenses or annoy your friends! If the weapon thing bothers you, think of this as a great party gag. Remember, some of the best research was stumbled upon and I say you stumble with the best of them. -- The Col.
My dear, I must say that it appears you are not taking my research seriously. My goal to create a sentient race of feline secretaries goes far beyond military uses or party gags. I search for a higher, nobler purpose which shall someday place my visage on Mount Rushmore as well as make me rich beyond my wildest dreams (and my dreams can be quite wild!). Of course, I'm being all very humble about this and what not. But I digress …

You can imagine my delight when I discovered in the Ladies Home Journal an article listing a mail-order source for carrier viruses for genetic research ("Cooking With Vegetables You Mutate Yourself!" April 2007, pp 125-128). A quick phone call and 24-hours later I was growing carrier viruses loaded with a heady blend of Homo sapien and Felis catus DNA.

As I victoriously carried the Petri dishes from the growing chamber to the work station, I sadly broke one of the samples, the glass deeply cutting my thumb. It appears the tragic accident is one of those good news-bad news type of events. The good news is that I'm no longer bald. The bad news is that my hair color has changed from red to a sort of calico.

Nonetheless, I will not let a minor set back dissuade me. You’ve seen pictures of Albert Einstein and how his hair suffered from his experiments with relativity.

The DNA has been doing its work quite rapidly in my little white kitten friend. I have seen signs of expanding intelligence which I am cultivating by showing video tapes of Sesame Street and other assorted PBS shows played at the fastest speed possible. Her first exposure to a word processing program resulted in her first typewritten missive:

"I kill Big Bird."

I would write more, but tears of joy have made the screen blur and my mascara run. MARK THIS DAY! Someday, you will say, "I knew Craig before his face was carved on Mount Everest!"

Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

Dr. C. Loewen

* * * * *

Subject: Building A Better Mousetrap, Day 5
Date: May 9, 2007 9:32:42 AM EDT
On May 9, 2007 5:22:32 AM EDT, you wrote:
Craig, I have a question: is the little white cat blue-eyed? Doesn't that mean its deaf? Won't a deaf secretary be a bit of a problem. How will it take dictation? Answer phones? Yell at annoying servicemen (repair type, not military type)? -- The Col.
My dear, dispel all your worries since Pepsi, whom I have named after the sustaining beverage that has carried me through these many days, has developed into an exquisitely-formed, five foot, two inch tall, green-eyed, anthropomorphic feline beauty. The only difficulty is that I got her at the start of her shedding season and, as you're a cat owner and know how cats shed, you can imagine what a five foot, two inch tall cat can do. My house looks like an explosion in an albino mink fur factory.

Mounds of fur aside, I've clocked Pepsi at ninety-five words a minute on a Dvorak key board, but, sadly, she has inherited a tad too much of the feline nature. When she doesn't feel like working she says things like, "Bugger off!" or "Want me to claw your eyes out?" Several times when I asked her to do something for me, I found the task left undone while she read Garfield cartoons from the paper. Most unprofessional, if you ask me.

She also ate the computer mouse.

And it may be just my imagination, but I think my stash of catnip tea is disappearing too.

I may have seen success as a tad premature, but I shall endeavor to keep you posted on my slow, but determined march toward fame and financial success.

Ha, etc.

Dr. C. Loewen

* * * * *

Subject: Building A Better Mousetrap, Day 6
Date: May 10, 2007 3:31:42 PM EDT

It appears the experiment has fizzled. Pepsi has left me and ran off to join a traveling veterinary convention as an exotic dancer.

You may say it's sour grapes, but I'm relieved the experiment ended this way. She was costing me a bundle in kitty litter and all last night she kept us awake working on a hairball.

I've given up on sentient feline secretaries. Fortunately, my letter of resignation to my employer returned due to insufficient postage, so I still have my day job.

Now I'm working on another idea—sentient food. This would give lonely people something to talk to when they eat at McDonald's.

The farmer has agreed to sell me another chicken tomorrow.



(Title graphic is labeled for noncommercial use with modification. Owner of the graphic is unclear, but may be located here.)

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Halloween Gift #2 - Kill Your Darlings

Sitting in the window of my favorite coffee shop, I watched Reggie coax his battered Dodge Van into a parking slot. I glanced at my watch and knew something was wrong. Not only was my eccentric friend on time, he was actually a few minutes early. When he eased his bulk out of the van and started looking about, I assumed he forgot that I told him I would meet him inside the cafe.

He finally saw me waving through the window, and he waved back, yet as he walked to the entrance, he still looked about with a look that bordered on fear.

Inside, he shed his coat, and squeezed himself into the seat across from me.

“Skittish, aren’t you?” I asked as he motioned for the waitress.

“Fred, you are not going to believe what I think is happening to me. It’s … it’s incredible and I want you to tell me I’m just losing my mind.”

“Okay. You’re just losing your mind.”

“Don’t make me laugh,” he said, anger flashing in his eyes.“I think I’m in some serious kim chi.”

“Okay,” I said. “Spill.”

“First let me order something. I’m starved.”

He called the waitress over and ordered breakfast suitable for three men.

“Eating light today,” I said.

“Stress puts me off my feed,” he replied. “This has me all worked up.”

I boded my time as the waitress put a little coffee in Reggie’s cup of milk and sugar and wandered away. After taking a large gulp and a good amount of it joining the other stains on his shirt, he wiped his chin on the back of his hand and sighed. “Well, Fred,” he said, “remember that pile of stories I wrote for my humor anthology?”

I nodded.

“Did you read the one I wrote about the three girls attaining magical powers?”

I rolled my eyes. “Unfortunately. That washow can I put this kindly?sophomoric.”

“Well. Here’s the killer. Do you remember the last line of the story?”

I shook my head in the negative.

“Well, I do. I got the blasted thing memorized. I quote: ‘And when I get my hands on the clown who plotted this,’ Priscilla said through clenched teeth, ‘he'll wish he had never been born.’”

“Oh, yeah. I remember something like that.”

Reggie looked around nervously. “Fred, I didn’t write that. The last line I wrote was one of the girls making a crack about their new cheerleading routine.”

“Well … maybe you don’t remember writing that last line or maybe the editor thought she could improve on the story. I don’t know.”

Reggie shook his head. “Neither of them are true. And last night, I got an e-mail.” He reached into his pocket and unfolded a piece of paper and gave it to me. It was a computer printout and other than the typical header which said it was from a Priscilla Waverley, the message itself contained only on line. ‘A good writer kills his darlings. Maybe it’s time for the tables to be turned.’

“It’s a tasteless practical joke,” I said.

Reggie laughed, a high pitched nervous cackle. “Oh, but you see, I’m not a noob when it comes to computers. I know how to find the source of an email from its header.” He blinked at me owlishly through his thick glasses. “Fred, it comes from no known domain.”

I laughed in spite of myself. “Reggie, Reggie, Reggie, do you hear yourself? Do you hear what you are saying? You’re trying to get me to believe this e-mail came from a character in one of those silly stories you wrote!”

Reggie leaned in closer. “Fred, you gotta listen to me. Do you remember the super power I gave Priscilla Waverly in the story? I gave her the power to manipulate earth. Now you can ask my wife, but last night Emilia and I woke up to what felt like an earthquake.”

“It was an overloaded eighteen-wheeler driving by your house,” I said in growing impatience.

Then the waitress brought Reggie’s breakfast and our conversation was interrupted by my friend’s frontal assault on three Breakfast Specials. I nursed my coffee and kept silent while he ate. I learned early that getting Reggie to eat and talk at the same time was a guaranteed path to post-traumatic stress disorder.

In ten minutes he shoved his plates aside and hugged his refilled coffee cup like a beloved pet.

“So,” I asked, “what do you want me to do.”

Reggie shook his head. “I think I’m going to need some real help. If I find more evidence like this, you’ll help me right?”

I nodded. “Of course, but I’m telling you that you’re letting your imagination run away with you.. You need to relax. Go write a romance or something.” Reggie sneered and left. Three minutes later I realized he had stiffed me with the bill and the tip.

The next day was Sunday and that afternoon, I had just sat down to watch the latest Dr. Who bootlegs when the phone rang.

“I don’t know who this is and I’m not happy,” I said into the mouthpiece, when I was interrupted by Reggie’s high-pitched wheedle.

“Fred! Fred!” came the tinny voice over the phone, “You gotta help me! Please! Turn on the TV. Go to Channel 8!”

“Hold on,” I said. I found the remote I was sitting on and flipped the channels. A smartly dressed woman stood informing the viewers an unexpected earthquake measuring three on the Richter scale had struck south-central with its epicenter just two miles south of Dillsburg.

Where my friend lived.

“Fred, please. You gotta come. I don’t know what to do.”

“Reggie,” I said into the phone. “You have got to calm down. Literary characters do not come to life. It doesn’t happen.”

I heard my friend sob on the far side of the phone. “Fred. I’m calling from inside my writer’s shed. Priscilla Waverley is standing on top of the hill right across the road. Please come and get me out of here. I don’t think she’ll kill me if there are witnesses.”

Suddenly, I heard my friend shriek and his scream was drowned out by a low growl as if some gigantic beast had reared its head. The line went dead.

In two minutes I was in my car heading to my friend’s home.

My worry increased when the traffic report on the radio told drivers to steer away from the area that contained Reggie’s address.

Twenty minutes later, after lying through my teeth to get through the roadblocks, I came around the corner and brought my car to a halt alongside the road. My jaw hung open in shock.

Reggie’s home still stood intact, but a short distance away in an old field gone to weeds and shrub, an old shack served as his writing office. Or, better to say, had served.

Surrounded by rescue vehicles with their blinking lights, the place where Reggie’s shed should have been was nothing more than a huge gaping sink hole.

I put on the four ways and stepped out of my car. It didn't take any imagination to know my friend could not have survived the earth giving way under his very feet.

Slowly, I turned around to look at the grassy hill my friend had mentioned, the one that would have been clearly visible outside of his office window.

And there she was.

After gingerly climbing over a barbed wire fence, I slowly made my way up the hill to her, carefully picking my way around the occasional cow patty.

She didn’t run. She just stared at the destruction below with a sickly grin on her face.

“Priscilla Waverley?” I asked when I got close.

She turned and looked at me in alarm. “You know me? How do you know me?”

“Reggie told me that you were threatening him.”

She laughed. A little teenage girl giggle. “I think I did more than threaten.”

“No doubt,” I said. “Mind if I ask you a question? I really have to know.”

She shrugged. “Ask away. If I don’t like the question, I’ll just have the earth open up and swallow you. Nobody’ll ever know.”

“Do you have any memories of your life say, about a year or so ago?”

She snorted in contempt. “That’s stupid, of course I …” Suddenly she paused. Her brow furrowed in intense thought and a look of worry came to her face.

“In fact,” I asked, “other than the events in the story Reggie wrote and what you’ve done to scare him, do you have any memories of any life at all?”

She looked at me then. Scared. “I know if I think hard enough …”

“You know,” I interrupted, “I find it ironic that Reggie and his wife always wanted a child and in a unique sense of the word, he actually was your father.”

“Go … go away.”

“You’re guilty of patricide. And because of a perceived slight to your pride, you killed the man that brought you into existence.”

I had her full attention now.

“Now that Reggie’s dead,” I asked, “what’ll happen to you?”

She looked back down the hill at the ruin she caused. “I don’t know. I’ll get by.”

“No,” I said. "Not so. The man who brought you to life and could have sustained you is now dead.”

She looked at me, genuine panic in her face. “But you’re talking to me! You see me!”

I smiled at her. “Who, me? I don’t believe in you.” I turned on my heel and walked back down the hill.

When I got to my car, a policeman stopped me. “Excuse me, sir. But I have to find witnesses. Did you see what happened?”

“No,” I said. “It was well over and done when I arrived.”

“Didn’t I see you up that hill there talking to somebody? Could they have been a witness?”

I looked up at the empty hillside.“My apologies, officer, but you must be mistaken. I haven’t spoken to a living soul since I got here."

(Title graphic is labeled for noncommercial use with modification. Original artwork can be found here.) 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Halloween Gift #1 - Timely Revenge

Security Interview Transcript
Date: Monday, August 12, 2019
Time: 14:25
Subject: Dean Tevis, Engineer

"You say I killed Drew Carlson and my wife, Lisette, but I'd like to see you prove it. As far as we both know, they probably died peacefully in their sleep ... together. Exactly the way they wanted it.

"And what is Zeus Corporation going to do about it? There can't be a public trial, you know. The miniverse is a military secret, all hush-hush. Can't let that get out now can we with all our government contracts and everything, right?

"So, since none of us can get about our real work until you have the story, here it is.

"Can I have a cigarette? Thanks.

"You fellows brought me into the Genesis Project two years ago. By that time, you already had created a miniverse in that magnetic jar. Man, I wish I had been part of that. To rip a tear in our space/time continuum and create a tiny universe of our very own and all of it contained in a space that to our perspective is the size of a pea. Quantum physics rocks, doesn’t it? And then not only to have power over it all, but create a portal where we can go anywhere you want inside a universe of your own creation? To control its time flow and make it zip ahead twenty thousand years in less than a millisecond.

"I love how it makes me feel like God.

"By the way, how many universes has the Corporation created and destroyed before this one? I can see you either don't know or you can't tell me. No sweat, but I’d love to know. Does it ever make you wonder if our own universe is somebody's experiment? Gives me the willies to think about it, but let's not go there.

"Anyway, I came into the project with my wife, Lisette. I can't believe that I spent all that cash helping her get a doctorate in exobiology and here you guys actually gave her an opportunity to use that worthless degree. Knowing Lisette, I thought the money would have been better spent on basket weaving classes.

"But, Lisette and me? We were happy, emphasis of course on the past tense. I helped control your private little cosmos and she got to go inside and study all those weird little aliens you all evolved in there.

"But I couldn't go in with her. I had to stay out here with the engineering staff and help baby-sit an entire universe while she's in there looking at who-knows-what.

"And she's in there with Drew Carlson. Mister I-Got-Muscles-Instead-Of-Brains and he's in there with my wife and I find out he's doing a lot more than just studying your pets. He's in there making moves on my wife and they think I'm stupid and don't know.

"For pity's sake, man, I'm a freaking engineer! I hack computers in my sleep. Did she really think I wouldn't see the e-mails they were sending each other on their office computers?

"So they want to be together? No sweat. I waited two months until it was just them and them alone on an exploration trip. They go through the Portal to some backwater planet you guys had already seeded with Earth life and when nobody was looking, I aged the entire miniverse ninety thousand years in just a few seconds.

"With Drew and Lisette trapped inside it.

"I already heard the Corporation found the planet filled with little furry imbeciles with hints of Drew's  and Lisette's DNA. I guess inbreeding does do in the old sentience genes eventually, but hey, Warren and my wife got to be together, right? They even got the opportunity to raise a little family.

"Anyway, look at the bright side. If I hadn't showed you Security guys a dangerous loophole in the system, you wouldn't have those new safeguards in place. You should thank me.

"Anyway, a planet full of furry little freaks is pretty evident to me that Drew and Lisette lived a long time, so technically, I didn't kill 'em and you can't put me on trial and I'm too valuable for the project, so I'll just head back to work, okay?"
Concluding Report:

The Zeus Corporation has judged Engineer Dean Tevis unfit for further employment. He has been summarily fired and exiled alone to Earth VII, Shallivarden System in the Cathuria Sector and the entire miniverse time flow accelerated by two hundred years.

This case is considered closed.

(Title graphic is in the public domain and is labeled for noncommercial use with modification)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Question for Numismatists with Experience in Chinese Coins

Last weekend I was delighted to pick up a beautiful coin from the Western Han Dynasty. Called a whu zhu or 5 zhu coin, the above is quite a nice specimen.

Notice the crescent mark below the open square. Also, called a half moon or fingernail mark, according to my research, the symbol marks the coin as one of the earlier minted coins, but I could be wrong. If anybody reading this has any knowledge of ancient Chinese coins or could forward this entry to somebody who might know, I would be grateful for any insight as to its approximate age and what purpose, if any, the crescent symbol may have represented as not all whu zhu coins are marked.

Please respond in the comments section or you may email me at AT gmail DOT com.