On the Infinite Subdivisibility of Time

Written and transcribed by Doug Burbidge

At the recent Genghiscon, Jay Stratton walked up and asked me, “Are you still the history project?”

In place of a more detailed answer, I replied, “Yes.” And he handed over a bag of stuff.

Most of it was Swancon souvenir books, but there were some odds and ends, including two pages from a tractor-feed dot-matrix printer, which, upon reading, I slowly realised was written by me, and features myself, Jay, Mark Suddaby, and Peter Cooper, better known as Comrade.

It is transcribed forthwith:

Once upon a time there were three young men. They all juggled; they were all interested in science fiction; and at least two of them had studied more physics than was good for them.

One of the young men was trying to learn an under-the-leg throw with clubs.
“It’s OK, Mark”, said one said the second young man, “there’s heaps of time.” It eventuated that all the young man had had to do was move the club under his leg as soon as it landed in his hand, rather than when it was time to throw it again. He soon mastered the trick; and it was plain for all to see that there was, in fact, heaps of time.

Later, the second young man attemted to learn the behind-the-back trick with clubs.
“It’s OK, Jay”, said the third young man, “there’s heaps of time.” And, indeed, there was.

The three young men continued through life, but as they watched other jugglers, they noticed a curious thing: some of these other jugglers appeared to have more time. Where was it coming from?

Time, it seems, is infinitely subdivisible. That is, between any two events, no matter how close together they are, there is room to cram a third event in the time between. Juggling, it seems is seems, is a long quest to gradually utilise more and more of this in-between time. Each new trick simply involves finding where the time is, and using it. And the three young men found that this was true. They continued to learn new tricks, and they continued to find the additional time in which to execute them.

One day, the young men went to a Swancon 18 committee meeting. The reasons as to why are now shrouded in the mists of time, and in retrospect it certainly seems somewhat foolhardy, but this is, nevertheless, what they did.

They realised that the ‘con could do with some extra person power; not necessarily taking on any particular responsibility, but helping out where help would be useful. This primarily involved helping the programming subcommittee, which consisted of Comrade. Comrade was also the publications committee, an important part of the guest liaison, and felt that he was under a little stress.
“It’s OK, Comrade”, the three young men explained, “there’s heaps of time.”

Over the next month or so, Comrade, the three young men, and anyone else they could persuade (often by luring them under false pretences, of (sic) simply through blackmail), spent much time in or near Comrade’s Mac lounge working on the program: typing in text descriptions for the events; typing in blurbs about the games, the guests and each other; relaying out the program on a paper spreadsheet, using much liquid paper; playing Bolo on the Macintoshes; logging onto the UCC’s Coke machine; juggling in the corridor outside; and always, always, reiterating to Comrade to remember that there was heaps of time. Comrade, however, was not swayed by the simple truth of this logical argument. Taking entirely the wrong tack, he wrote and installed a network time utility on the Macintoshes, so that all their clocks would show the same time. This prevented us from using the most optimistic clock, helping Security to throw us out closer to the nightly deadline of 11pm. It also made it more difficult for Comrade to reach spiritual enlightenment, and understand that there was, indeed, heaps of time.

Eventually, the deadline came: Comrade finalised his layout of the souvenir book and the program, and sent them off to the printers. The three young men spent the week remaining before the ‘con preparing for the panels they’d dobbed each other in for, and the third (and most foolhardy) young man also spent much of his heap of time fixing the Shadow packs (note two decades later: these were old laser tag packs) so as to be able to lug them to the ‘con and get rained on.

The three young men also attended the committee meetings, which were coming with a rapidity which resembled Zeno’s paradox. It was at one of these that the big, bad Tara presented them with their membership badges. The badges were orange. Despite their protestations, the three young men were, therefore, on the committee.

At another of these meetings, the bags of convention goodies that would be presented to each con-goer as they arrived, were stuffed. This was done by having one young man hold the bag open, while everybody else in the room threw things into it. Sesame Street cards, advertising, the souvenir book, the program leaflet, a highly variable number of chocolates, and many other things too nondescript to describe, were thrown into each bag in rapid succession. How do you manage to get the items from your stacks into the bag, when evebody (sic) else in the room is trying to get things from their stacks in, and the airspace in the room therefore resembles a small tornado? Simple: all you have to do is remember that there’s heaps of time.

Comrade failed to turn up to some of these later committee meetings. Some say that this was because of his lack of transport, but in fact it was because he was using his Macintosh to remote login to a beach in Acapulco, where he was recuperating.

Even to this day, Comrade has not achieved enlightenment, and you can still get him to foam at the mouth and make funny noises; by waiting until he is late for something, and simply reminding him that there’s heaps of time.

(Following this is a hand-written comment from me to Jay: “J — I have this on disk — I’ll give it to you this evening or 2moro. — WW”. The disk would have been a 3.5″ Amiga disk, which I may well still own. I no longer have any recollection of what publication this might have been destined for. Also, I brought way too much stuff to that Swancon: a set of laser tag packs plus charger and base stations, an arcade cabinet, and an Amiga. Also also, I totally missed a pun opportunity in the second-last paragraph, on Comrade and “recuperating”.)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *