Thursday, August 16, 2018

Peevish Post: The Comment Google Plus Ate

This is not a full-length post either, although it's possible that Google + thought it was long enough to be one, especially now that it's been typed out at full length with the links cited. I read this round of haiku:

https://stardreamingwithsherrybluesky.blogspot.com/2018/08/is-this-land-my-land-is-this-land-your.html

I don't know this blogger well enough to know whether person is genuinely distressed, or is just another Democrat flogging that poor old dead meme about Republicans being racists. But in any case, a few quick data points showing that Progress Has Been Made:

1. Even if Trump fell out with a former "Apprentice," names and photos of his appointees show representation of ethnic minorities, women, and the younger generation at high levels of his administration. Could be more; could be fewer.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cabinet_of_Donald_Trump

Trump was born into a White man's world. He is not, never was, and will probably never learn to talk like a gentleman. He has learned that White men no longer own the world merely by being White or male. Even if he still uses the ugly, nasty slang that...I do know some baby-boomers who I would believe have never said all the naughty words Trump ever tweeted, but they're all either women or clergymen. (In the 1980s even women and clergymen said things like "grab'em by the short hairs" or "hit'em where it hurts," which are basically sanitized equivalents of Trump's famous line, so let's move on please.)

I'm not claiming any accurate inside information about whether Trump has seriously converted to Christianity or become less of the selfish jerk he's widely believed to be. I am citing evidence that, if his selfishness ever was more racist or sexist than merely selfish, he's at least learned that that doesn't work any more.

2. That "White Nationalist" rally that triggered so much angst last week? Twenty-some White Nationalists were nonviolently stared down by hundreds, maybe "thousands," of anti-racists counter-demonstrators.

http://reason.com/blog/2018/08/12/punch-a-nazi-in-the-face-antifa-says-wor

(I saw a cartoon version this morning on Twitter; didn't retweet, and won't link, because the caricature of the "damp, sad" White Nationalists was inaccurate in an unhelpful way, but its primary point was that the media were ignoring the evidence of progress and screaming about the mere existence of a remarkably unsuccessful fringe group.)

3. From a discussion I was able to find only because I'd saved my Disqus record as a Word document: the Atlanta correspondent's observation was similar to mine.

"
AtlantaDude

I'm sure it had some effect, but the type of people who get up in arms about "NY values" were not previously supporting Trump, but mostly Cruz or Carson.

I say this as someone living in the Deep South.
"

4. And then, from Twitter this morning...Residents of thoroughly segregated neighborhoods choose to open an integrated charter school:

https://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2018/08/charter_school_opens_doors_as.html

Progress is well and truly being made, Gentle Readers.

Amazon link? Have all of you read the books that explain why the grandfather of all "fiscally conservative, socially liberal" thought was an Independent, as are those of us who've learned from him? For those who don't know, the thing about Thomas Sowell was that, besides being fiscally conservative, socially liberal, and Black, he had the gift of explaining economics to people who don't have the math gene. You may actually enjoy reading:

Bad Micro-Poetry: Any Cat to Any Poet

You know that you will never see
A poem as lovely as, well, ME!

Is that long enough for an unsponsored post? (A post I'm making the time to post just because I was sick yesterday, still am, and want The Nephews to know I walked to work this morning.) Maybe not. Maybe another couplet is in order, for each cat:

Samantha:
But if you must write, how I wish
The readers would send us some fish.

(Yes, readers may click on https://www.paypal.me/PriscillaKingUS/1/ to send the cats one big tin of fish, or https://www.paypal.me/PriscillaKingUS/2/ to send them each a little flat tin of Friskies.)

Serena:
The best use for that pencil thing
Is tied to the end of a nice long string.

Traveller:
I'll pull the plug on that computer
If I hear any more of "neuter"!

Burr:
Surrender what you'd hoped to store!
We all know what paper is for!

(That's why Burr does not actually live here...)

Surprise Cat Coffee Mug with Baby Cat Inside - 17 Oz by World Market

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

That Science Fiction Story: Weeder Robots

This was the introduction:

https://priscillaking.blogspot.com/2018/01/bemused-weeder-robots.html

This is the story. Again, this one is not a children's story. It contains adults behaving badly.

I have no idea how Rama's anti-gravity technology works; the post from the day I wrote this story contains ideas about the weeder robots.

The Great Plague of the Peaceful World

1

At twenty-three, Maro Gra invented Levity®, “The Ultimate Antidote to Gravity,” and was hailed as the smartest young man in the world. The news media blared endless variations on the story of how his life had recapitulated the whole history of modern transport technology, from hang-gliding off roofs after business hours, with friends, at age eight, to perfecting the first anti-gravity backpack that even children could use. Often children learned to steer the devices faster than their parents and teachers did.

At twenty-nine, after Levity had wiped Anegrav and Mohelico out of the market, Gra’s estimated net worth outclassed those of the reigning monarchs of the world. Some thought he was rich as all of them, considered apart from their nations, together. Everybody who was anybody now flew with a Levity pack. Whole shopping districts were being reconfigured for the ultimate levity-friendly shopping experience. Vesh Lazor, whose Soaris products competed with Levity for a year or two, had committed suicide. Children whose good deeds were reported were telling the news media, “I want to be like Maro Gra when I grow up.”

Maro Gra was still short, nearsighted, and single. Like most young people who had been sterilized for eugenic reasons and were therefore ineligible for legal marriage, he found singleness per se no impediment to social life. He was invited to parties, and at parties in his airborne mansion, both men and women hinted that invitations to spend the night would have been welcome. Gra ignored them, although he felt attracted to some of the women, because he could not imagine those people having been interested in him if he hadn’t invented Levity.

Four living people, all of whom Gra considered old, were thought to be as rich as he was: Prudence Noe Roncepiers, Jonas Blaloc, Jehana Rochone, and Paza Mar. Three of those people lived in countries that had chosen to limit contact with Rama. Paza Mar, the hair care heiress, treated Gra as he imagined his grandmothers might have treated them if they had been alive when he was born.

Maro Gra was both a freak and an out-caste. Not only did the flala in the ordinary public water supply fail to replace the melanin his body refused to produce, as it did for normal people in Rama; it also made him sick. He was half an arm’s length shorter than either of his parents, who’d been shorter than average, because he’d stopped growing altogether for a few years in childhood. He had abnormal sensitivities to light and many other things—foods, fragrances, even wrist-comset band materials—that every normal person enjoyed. Everyday work suits didn’t even come in colors that matched his whitish complexion.

Most people had always been charitable about Gra’s freakishness. No rudeness was necessary. When a sip of the water everyone else drinks upsets your digestion for a week, you know you’re not normal. Gra was neither as shy as the news media claimed, nor as cynical (at heart) as he sometimes felt. He’d always genuinely liked his few friends, and understood why his hereditary defects limited his friendships. Still, in spite of her age, her sophistication, and her ankle-length amethyst-colored silky hair, he felt more comfortable with Paza Mar than he’d ever felt with any other person.

“What youthful follies are on your mind this evening?” Paza Mar trilled affectionately, waving her hand toward the pantry to waft a bottle of chilled ulala directly into his hand. (This was one of many clever effects fashionable people were creating with Levity products.)

“I dunno,” Gra said, sipping his drink.

Paza Mar nibbled her way through a bowl of mint-cream-flavored frozen air and waited. Gra finished his drink and watched her virtual tank of holographic fishes, an expensive triumph of engineering, their pixels moving in different patterns for more than three days and nights before repeating.

Finally he said, “I want to do something more.”

Paza Mar waited.

“I want to give something back to the world,” Gra expanded his thought. “Expand the human lifespan? Eradicate illness? I know we can’t have everything in this lifetime, Paza, but I’d like to...I’d like to give everyone Levity! All the children of the world! I’d like to let Kolanese field slaves fly!”

“Oh poor baby!” Paza Mar held out her arms. Maro Gra scooted his chair over and laid his head on her knees, and she stroked his tow-colored hair. Everyone knew the Kolanese rejected vainglorious human inventions so thoroughly that they didn’t even build houses. (They lived in caves, as they believed nature intended, according to strict rules of order, cleanliness, and propriety. Those who violated the rules became slaves, and slept in the fields.)

“Well, maybe not Kolanese field slaves,” he said, eyes closed, “but every child in Rama, anyway, and I’d like to do some good for other people, for the rest of the word. Why must we always keep all the benefits of civilization to ourselves? Just because people’s great-great-great-grandparents rejected trading agreements with us, does that mean they have to reject us who are now living?”

“Do you really want to sell more Levity?” she chortled.

“I could afford to give it away!”

“Not for long, Maro. Not for long.”

“Well, no, not for long...” His voice trailed off. “I would like to be recognized and remembered around the world.”

“Every gate has its lock,” Paza Mar said feyly. “Bla-loc. Every lock has its key. The Blaloc of Blajeny might have the key you want.”

“Blajeny restricts contact with Rama,” Gra recited.

“For most,” Paza Mar purred. “For us, Maro, almost all things are possible. If you find a comset message from ‘Jonas,’ read it, reply at once, and then destroy it.”

2

Rama’s rainy season comes as a relief from the height of summer. Maro Gra was completely unprepared for the rainy season in Koila.

“Is this place always so unpleasant?” he asked Jonas Blaloc.

“Often it’s even worse, I understand.” They were plodding along a mud road, treading now on jagged slippery rocks, now on boot-deep patches of heavy foot-sucking clay. Below their heavy mantles their clay-coated boots looked like hooves. “But this is the only time of year when we can observe Kolanese field slaves. When it’s colder, no foreigners travel. When less cold, travellers don’t cover themselves well enough...for you.”

He did not need to mention that he could have walked down a road in Koila, unnoticed, in the kind of robe and head cloth Kolanese gentlemen wore. Maro Gra was constantly aware of that kind of thing.

Blaloc was both family name and title. Jonas, The Blaloc of Blajeny, was generally believed to be over ninety years old. His straight, burly shoulders and brisk pace could have belonged to a man of thirty. To Gra the red hairs still liberally scattered among his white ones, and the orange undertone of his florid skin, made him look almost Rame. Gra was prepared to believe that none of the bad things he’d read about the Blaloc were true.

“Here.” The Blaloc plunged into a border of weeds beside a field. “What do you see growing?”

“One of them is wheat?” Gra had never seen actual wheat growing and wasn’t sure which. “And some other plant, mixed in among it, is not wheat.”

“Tarnel, they call that. The more of it, the less wheat grows in the field each year. Can’t take it out before harvest. Have to cut it, dry it, bring it in, then sort it out, grain by grain, and then burn the tarnelseed so it won’t grow. And meanwhile some of it’s already in the ground, sprouting, ready for next year. So every year they have to plant their wheat in a different field; and not every field is good for wheat. And if it rains too much, no matter where they plant the wheat, the mildew gets into it. And most years it does rain too much for wheat.”

“What do they do?”

“Survive on other crops, year to year. Never have as much wheat as they want.”

“Hey, you thieves! Out of wheat field! Can’t y’see this a wheat field!” The field slave was as tall as the Blaloc, and looked as if he outweighed Gra and Blaloc together. “Move!” he screamed, stooping to pick something off the ground. “Now!” he bellowed, as the clay-covered stone he’d thrown bounced off Gra’s boot. They moved.

“I expect he was put out of the cave for his violent tendencies,” the Blaloc muttered after the field was out of sight.

“He must be a miserable human being,” said Gra.

He imagined that everyone in Koila must be miserable in this damp chilly weather. Nevertheless he’d felt more energetic, for more hours at a time, than he’d felt even during the euphoric heights of his adolescence. He was feeling particularly glad to be Maro Gra, and inclined to want to help those who had not had the good fortune to be Maro Gra.

“I’m sure he is,” said the Blaloc. “always out in the weather to guard the wheat. Likely nine-tenths of the wheat in that field will be dead or mildewed by harvest time. Of course the field slaves get the share with the chaff and weevils in it. Say the protein in the weevilly wheat is what makes them grow big and strong.”

“Weevils?” Gra was disgusted. “What a life.”

“He deserves it,” growled the Blaloc, and then, looking down into Gra’s eyes, he said, “If the nature of wheat were different, more resilient, he would be forever indebted to the genius who could fortify the nature of wheat.”

“How can that be? Machines make it easier to work with most growing things...” But nobody in Rama ever had much opportunity to study growing things. Few things grow well enough in a desert to justify efforts to produce local food. Rama exported machinery for food. “Perhaps a very small robot could be built to react to something in the tarnel and cut it off at the ground, dig it up, burn it...” The novelty of such a problem appealed to Gra’s mind.

“Perhaps. But have you not read what the more advanced agricultural nations are doing? They can actually imbed some part of the nature of one living thing into another. Rochone’s pet scientists have bred biting flies that will starve before they’ll bite a human—and made them the dominant breed. To the south in Gilenia they’ve bred silkworms almost twice their natural size, covered in fur, and able to live outdoors. Roncepiers has his scientists breeding cattle that give something like human milk, for the whole world to drink, and not Phorveaux only. Others claim to have bred bacteria that cause mild infections and leave people immune to deadly diseases. Certainly the whole world now has cotton with deep, true colors to it, not only white, pink, and yellow, but red and green—and they expect any year to breed it blue! Some say even that Rochone’s scientists intend to breed a deadly disease that can harm only Rame people, in case of war with Rama. I am an old man with no talent for science, but a young lad like yourself, what could you not do?”

“How can that be?” Gra repeated.

“Magnify it enough to see it, and the stuff living creatures are made of is as malleable as the stuff machines are made of. They claim that if they took the right microscopic particle from a hair of my head and imbedded it into the right microscopic part of your face, you’d start to grow a red beard. I don’t understand it myself, but you’ll work it out I’m sure. Should Rama, Rama of all the world, lag behind Tamaria in any new development of science?”

“Of course not,” said Gra.

His mind kept picturing tiny robots that could kill weeds, but his sense of public spirit ordered it to focus on building disease bacteria that would harm only people who were not Rame. Where would one begin? Oh well, he himself would not begin. He knew people in the medical field who might enjoy building a new disease that would be deadly to Rochone’s ethnic type, almost as much as he would enjoy building his...Weedermites? Tarnelbanes? Wheatsavers?

3

“When you eat a wheat cake, thank Maro Gra of the Levity Company! Not content to coast on past success, the bashful billionaire invented the Levity Weedermites, making it possible for the first time in history for Koila to export wheat...”

“Luno Volram’s age and cardiovascular weakness are unfit for a President of Rama. Maro Gra, the 34-year-old genius behind Levity and Weedermites...”

“Raza Kashu says that, if Maro Gra is nominated, she won’t bother challenging President Volram in the next election...”

“Maro Gra accepts the presidential nomination...”

“As front-runner Raza Kashu and popular favorite Zul Shomush have withdrawn from the election, Maro Gra’s remaining competitor for the presidency, Flar Bohol, admit having accepted the nomination just to give his party an alternative...”

“Maro Gra wins an unprecedented 88% of the popular vote...”

4

At the biennial meeting of the international council Gra was surprised by the look of Jehana Rochone. A typical Tamarian according to what he’d read, she was a full arm’s length taller than he, quiet, copper-skinned, narrow-faced. Her hair was black, and trimmed evenly at waist length, but it reminded him of Paza Mar’s. Gra decided during the opening ceremonies that Rochone’s type of face really did have a permanent look of arrogant disdain, for which he supposed the woman might not even deserve blame. At any rate he found it difficult to take his eyes off her.

He asked himself why he felt such an attraction to a stranger, an enemy, and knew that part of the attraction came from guilt. He had quietly encouraged his medical friends to build the disease that would protect Rama from any disease humans built for an attack on Rama by Tamaria.

On the fifth evening he found himself walking beside Rochone on the beach. Her black hair brushed against his arm. He reminded himself that he must seem even more of an ugly freak to her than he did to his own people. Even after warning himself to say nothing that could be construed as a personal compliment, he heard himself blurting out: “Even in Rama everyone had heard of Jehana Rochone’s school of scientists, established...sixty-three years ago?”

“That was my grandmother.” The woman seemed amused. “I’m twenty-nine years old. You’re thirty-five. Mere children in this crowd.”

Gra wondered whether, for his country’s sake, he should claim food poisoning and request that Raza Kashu fly out to take his place.

“My grandmother would have given all her money and her left arm to bring you into her school,” Rochone said. “How did you stop the birds eating your Weedermites?”

“That’d be telling! You ought to open trade and examine the shipment we send you.”

“Indeed we ought.” She laughed. “Thera opened trade with Rama, and now Therans talk openly of being slaves to the richer nation. You Rame could rule the world—if most of the world had no moral rules against using the wonders you work.”

Gra was mortified to hear himself asking, “Do moral rules require such a high collar on a beach dress?”

“Moral rules?” She blinked. She had long black eyelashes. “Believe it or not, the sun here burns even my kind of skin. Would you like to see my evening-in-my-room dress?”

He would, of course, though afterward all he remembered that it was reddish black, or blackish red, the color of a few special breeds of multipetalled roses, and that when she stretched out her arms and pivoted on her feet, her breasts seemed to lift themselves out of it.

She made a low curtsey to recover eye contact. “They are a burden and a nuisance. Most women look like that only while nursing babies, but a few in my family, like myself, never even having married...”

“Beautiful,” he said. If he went on behaving like a slow-witted child of fifteen, he might be sent home in any case. That might be the best thing for Rama, he answered his conscience, and said, “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Few people have.” She smiled. “At home, where I’d have to see the same people again, I’d never do anything like this. I find this freedom exciting.”

“So do I.”

“You know the story of Samson?” He did not. “Each time this man visited this woman, she required him to tell her a secret.” One perfect breast raised itself an inch higher than the other. “Tell me how they make the bird-repellent coating on the Weedermites, Maro Gra. We have seen them, you know, and analyzed them. We need only to know how you combined and stabilized the chemicals from the three insects you used.” The other breast raised itself higher than the first one.

“The great travelling butterfly, the long-tailed butterfly, and the beetle that...”

She rose and crossed the room. “We know that, Maro Gra.” He felt soft, firm flesh against his ears. It had to be her breasts, because her hands were now covering his eyes. “Tell me more.” She bobbed slightly, grazing the back edge of his bald spot, and he was sure he was feeling the bodice of the dark red dress slide down.

He had always wanted to share Levity with the world, and for the first time he felt that at least, if his youth was going to be used against him, he was enjoying it.

5

Rochone was good at her job, Gra thought the next day. Whether others noticed how tired and restless he felt, or he was only imagining they did, he could not imagine anyone guessing that she had finally fallen asleep at two o’clock in the morning, wrapped around him, murmuring that she would never forget this matchless night. In the evening, strolling on the beach with the white-haired ladies from Thera and Thrite and the Palomesse, she looked as demure and deferential as a child; her black hair covered her face when she modestly bowed her head each time one of them spoke.

Later she came to his room.

“What do you want?” He doubted that his delight was a secret at all; at least anyone who might have been listening wouldn’t have heard it. “I gave you all the information you asked for.”

“Did I do as much for you?” she said.

“Oh stop it. That dress looks as if it might be harder to get out of than the other one. How many dresses did you bring, anyway?”

“For fifteen days in this heat, forty-five, of course. You like it? Gilenian silk?”

“Not particularly,” he said, finding it quite easy to lift off over her head. “But why?” he persisted, as she separated the halves of his suit similarly. “Why bother to seduce an ugly old man twice? You could have held out for a better exchange rate on your new and improved silk. Are all forty-five dresses made of it?”

She raised one finger. “They are.” Two fingers. “You’re neither old nor ugly; you’re Rame.” Three fingers. “You answered one question.”

“There are more?” he said, nibbling on her fingertips. From between them a little object slipped into his mouth. He swallowed it without thinking, then thought, and asked, “What was that?”

“The next question. Why are you killing us?”

“Me?”

“Oh, of course not you, yourself, any more than a Kolanese cavelady would thresh her own wheat. Of course others did the actual work. But why, Maro Gra? What harm have we done? You’ve shown no personal prejudice...”

“I have none. We have peace, and minimal contact. It’s been that way for thousands of years.”

“So why the plague?” she said. “We know it is no natural disease. We know it was manufactured in Rama.”

“As an experiment! As a preparation for some possible war. But there is no war. We heard that you were manufacturing something to use against us in a war. We prepared. We have a right to prepare. But it’s never been used. Between our countries, why should it ever be used? And what was that capsule you gave me?”

She popped out an inner core from her hair ornament. It was a deathdart gun; he had one, too, as each delegate on the island had, but it was in the pocket of a jacket hanging in his closet. “That will not kill you. This will, if you make an unpleasant scene. Why not enjoy the moment, Maro Gra? I’ve enjoyed your company.”

“I’m enjoying the moment,” he said, estimating the level of his enjoyment to have dropped from nine point nine to two point two out of ten. “Why should our plague ever be used? That would be an act of war. Why should we want war?”

“Why indeed? But the plague has been used. You’ll know that soon enough. My grandmother was old, but you killed my parents as well, and more of our close kin than not. If I’d been ten years older your plague would have killed me.”

“No,” he said stupidly.

“So!” she said angrily. “Even at twenty-five I was ill for thirty-four days! As you’ll soon find out, Maro Gra. It won’t kill your people, but some of you may wish it would before it’s over. Ten days from now you should schedule a month or two for rest. You’ll need it. You may never be quite as fit to work again as you are today. If not, it would serve you right. You only heard that we had manufactured such a disease. You did not even confirm the report to be true. If you had you might have known it was Thera that prepared for war against you. Instead you sent your plague among us.”

“I swear, I never sent you the disease. No one did. That would have been an act of war. It would have set the whole world against us, and as all know we are outnumbered, one human being in forty in the world, a pathetic tribe of freaks who only by chance found a way to live in land no other humans wanted. Why would we, Rama of all nations of the world, ever want a war?”

“Why did you? Why would you, not being a fool, do a thing so foolish?”

“I never did. I never would have done. No one would have...no one knowingly would have released a plague.”

Reko Vur, he thought, and Shala Bomar, whose eyes always locked across any room. What precautions might they not have forgotten? And old Zarem, whose blood pressure surged to the point of acute pain at any provocation...

“Carelessly, then.”

“It could only have been done carelessly,” he agreed. “Even without official punishment, those responsible will regret it. Forever. We had not even heard—I had no idea it had been released. The scientists working on the project probably...”

“Nobody should ever have worked on such a project,” she said. “We also regret the necessity for some reprisal. I think this conference can now reach an accord, without waiting for another year and a popular vote. There must be no more such projects. Never.”

“Never. Could I ask you to put your gun in the closet beside mine? I’m not violent. I understand I’m due for some punishment. In any case you’re probably stronger than I am.”

She popped it back into the ornament. “Had you really not heard? Why is there no delegate here from Gilenia? The whole nation of Gilenia was destroyed. The survivors fled north to live among us, or south, to the Palomesse. The disease was deadliest in a temperate climate...and we welcomed them, to take the places of our dead. Even the Therans only intended their plague to weaken and discourage warriors, not to destroy an entire nation.”

“Are they sure it’s not fatal? Are you?”

“Anything may be fatal to the weak.” She gave him a thin ironic smile. “This will be my last conference, Maro Gra. I will still be a scholar, but never again trusted to represent Tamaria among foreigners. On the whole I suppose we’ll both regret that we ever met—if that’s any comfort to you.” She tucked the ornament into the folds of her blue-black skirt and draped the dress over the closet door, more carefully than he had flung it there a few minutes before.

“No,” he said, thinking about it. “I’ve already lived longer than anyone thought I could have lived when I was a child. I’ve been President of Rama. I’ve been Maro Gra. For a freak of freaks who should never have been born I don’t have a lot to regret.”

“For an orphan who was widowed before the wedding,” she said, “I don’t think I’ll have such a lot to regret either.”

6

Maro Gra kept his gun in his pocket for the rest of the conference. From time to time, when any other delegate was behind him, he imagined that they might be drawing their guns; but none of them was.

“Even though we all agree that there must be no more human manufacture of diseases,” argued Morvran Carbre of Calawn, “in the first place even for something as obvious as that the people should have their chance to vote, and in the second place, what harm is done by breeding cows whose milk nourishes humans? Let the manufacture of diseases cease, now, of itself, and vote on the rest as our people bid us vote.”

“Precisely,” said Lucrecio Palbani of Obregonia. “A blue cotton that never fades, that can grow on the hill farms...”

Maro Gra proposed the first draft of the law banning all experiments with the nature of living things in Rama during his report after the conference. During the same address to the news media he announced his two months’ scheduled rest.

He lost his sight to the plague, which he agreed, while suffering from it, was enough to discourage any warrior. In retirement, he thought it likely that blindness had secured his chance to retire in peace. He might easily have been given to Medical Science, as Vur, Bomar, Zarem, and the younger one he didn’t know, had been when they confessed having worked to create a plague.

He shared that thought, not by comset but a by well-paid private messenger, with Jehana Rochone. She agreed.

The plagues encircled the world. People pitied the straggle of survivors, first from Gilenia, then from the countries nearby. Every straggling survivor was an immune carrier. The pathogen that affected only Rama  caused long-lasting debility but was rarely fatal. The one that affected bodies naturally supplied with melanin killed majorities of the population in every country but Rama.

Two years later, on the comset, Gra heard the delegates walking in turn to the platform where each affirmed aloud, and the recording devices captured the scratching sound of the pens they used:

“I, Moriel Talinn, surviving student of Rona Velune of Amazar, pledge never to alter the nature of any living creature or permit another to do so...”

“I, Jonas Blaloc of Blajeny...”

“I, Tervran, in the name of my father, Morvran Carbre, who lies ill in Calawn...”

“I, Ranal Genesan, of the scattered people of Gilenia...”

“I, Maher Korban, servant to the late Kalev Resht of Koila...”

“I, Morlena, widow of Lucrecio Palbani of Obregonia...”

“I, Siveth, daughter of Isith Shihyr of the Palomesse...”

“I, Raza Kashu, replacing the disgraced Maro Gra of Rama...”

“I, Lirona Meyrell, successor to Jehana Rochone of Tamaria...”

“I, Jochana Beher, the last of my bloodline in Thera...”

He remembered the little of Beher’s pale, brittle skin that had shown, even indoors, when she removed her headscarf and gloves, and her greenish eyes. He remembered the big wooden basket of pens from which each delegate would have taken a few to present to friends as souvenirs, with the title of the document signed inscribed along one side. Some delegates’ full titles contained twenty or thirty terms that could be written with as many pens...

Together they recited: “From this day forward, let no human tamper with the nature of any living creature. As the Holy One has created every living thing, so let it be.”


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Bad Poetry: Ode to Guys and Tinkering

Just in time to get some sponsored posts up, comes the notification that this poem did not win a contest.

A Stone Age guy whose name was Murgh
was always tinkering’round
with rocks and twigs and beetles
and anything he found.

He tried eating twigs for dinner.
It only made him sick.
He suggested trying beetles.
His wife hit him with a stick.

Oh, he was a foolish fellow,
they said in those days of yore,
always neglecting business
to try things not done before!

He stuck a twig into his nose,
producing sinus pains.
Friends said, “If the discharge were less
we’d think it was your brains.”

His experiments were stupid,
all the Stone Age folks agreed.
He was always trying silly things
for which there was no need.

He tried eating poison ivy,
raised a rash on his back end.
His best pal said, “Don’t tell anyone
that I was once your friend.”

It was really almost blasphemous,
devout Stone Agers said,
the way he ignored their wisdom
with such notions in his head.

He tried using fire to dispel
the damp inside the cave.
A spark lit on his sleeping furs!
The whole tribe had a close shave!

The tribal elders said it was
a sorrow and a shame
that this foolish youth’s experiments
endangered their good name

He tried to use a rock to smash
a pimple on his face.
His wife said, “If a man were single
I would let him take your place.”

Had the Jackass Show existed then
he might have won a prize,
but the Stone Age did not yet reward
experiments unwise.

Five hundred or a thousand times
he tried to burn a stone.
At least four hundred of those times
he caused someone to groan:

“Murgh you fool, you’ve put the fire out!
Won’t you please just go away
and perish in the wilderness
doing things in some new way?”

And when he built a fire so hot
it burned around a stone,
no one could stay inside the cave
until the fire was gone.

And they all formed a Society
for Murgh-Damage Control,
discussing ways they might subdue
this restless, reckless soul.

And Murgh built a great big hot fire
out in the open air,
enough to melt a soft, red rock!
It gave them quite a scare!

And if this tribe had not lived in
a dampish coastal clime,
they might have been wiped out by that
wildfire for all time.

But as things were, a storm blew up
and put Murgh’s fire out,
and left some new, hard, shiny stuff
for Murgh to show about...

And that was how the Stone Age gave
way to the Iron Age,
and subsequent generations
then revered Murgh as a sage.


Status Update: Glyphosate, Fourth Major Poisoning This Year

This may get bad, Gentle Readers. I intend to try to finish the hack writing job I have open on the computer; if I don't, I want you to know why.

Twitter string:



I am not feeling good. Not too sick to work, so far--but not good.

I woke up this morning feeling very good. I was especially chuffed by the damages awarded to the poor slob who'd developed cancer, and arguably deserved it, by poisoning California schoolchildren with glyphosate for years.

I've never blacked out in a public place yet; there's a first time for everything, so if I do go into a deep "sleep" in the cafe, people should know that it's part of the reaction that, as a celiac, I don't have to wheat itself but do have to glyphosate poisoning. Lasts through one or two normal sleep cycles, after which I'll wake up sick but not disabled. Hospital wouldn't be able to help but, if anybody happens to be at a pharmacy that sells charcoal, I am running low on that at home.

Fiskars Ergo Trowel, 384220-1001
Got weeds? The solution is so cheap Amazon will prod you to buy something else to make it worth the cost of shipping. Good brand, long life expectancy. Warmly recommended.