Jaccim Knows the Way

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Among the several dialogues brought on by recent revelations — Killing Sticks, Walled City, Tamed Horses, and Drawings that Talk — the one that Tu-Swift invariably participated in dealt with Other Veritas. Tu-Swift did find the topic itself of considerable interest but his main motivation was that he would see, and sit beside, Cat Eyes. 

Cat Eyes seemed to him so exotic, not just because of her amazing eyes, but also because she had lived in such different circumstances from most of the people he knew. He found the other two ROI women someone exotic too, but it was slow work understanding each other and they just never held the magic that he felt for Cat Eyes. They also shared a life-altering experience that others could not really fathom — being torn from your family and thrown into a small box. They were both forced to do something for others. Though they had both hated that, they both learned something as well. Tu-Swift had learned much about horses and he had freely told his tale to the Veritas and answered all the questions that anyone asked him: Sooz, Cat Eyes, Many Paths  — he would tell anyone who asked. In fact, he rather enjoyed the attention. 

Cat Eyes had learned something about this strange new way of communicating using the “Drawings that Talk” and they were working together to understand the small bit of such drawings that they had. But when Tu-Swift asked her mundane and seemingly easy questions about her time with the Z-Lotz, she would often get a faraway look in her eyes, say something vague and then ask him another question. It piqued his curiosity because she recalled some things in extreme detail such as the very large dwelling within the Walled City where she lived for several years. But when he asked her whether she had her own partition, she claimed she couldn’t recall. 

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Tu-Swift found himself slightly suspicious. If she wasn’t being honest about her memory, maybe she just made up the tale of the other tribe of Veritas. Yet, he felt that story was true. He wanted to go on an expedition to see such for himself. 

Many children, having been stolen from their own tribe would become fearful and timid. Tu-Swift however, perhaps because he had an active role in his own escape, felt as though he desperately needed to learn more about the world. If there were things such as People Who Steal Children, and Killing Sticks — things that could tear his family apart and tear his tribe apart — things that he had never known about, he wanted to learn as much as possible about many things. And the Veritas over the Twin Peaks intrigued him. Perhaps they also had Killing Sticks — or even more powerful weapons. Or, yet another way of communicating. 

In wanting to learn more about the Veritas of Cat Eyes, Tu-Swift was hardly alone. As the tribe discussed trying to reconnect with this lost tribe, nearly everyone wanted to do it, but they were also much moved by the words of Cat Eyes who had described that people had died in the past trying to find their way back. Though abducted young, Cat Eyes was sure that she had not been taken over this melting glacier. She had been strapped on the back of a horse and had caught random glimpses of woods and fields. From the tale of Shadow Walker, as confirmed by his companions, the People Who Steal Children are exceptionally bad at hiding their tracks. That makes for a curious dilemma. Why did these Veritas not try to find Cat Eyes when she was stolen? 

It was argued that, of course, such a rescue party — perhaps several — may have followed them and fallen into a trap. Cat Eyes had no way to know. They could not solve the mysteries until they had a chance to dialogue with these Veritas of the mountain, but no-one could find a good plan to get there. Essentially, the same dozen people had met three times and talked themselves in the same circles. 

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Now, they sat for a time in reflective silence. While in silence, Jaccim approached their circle and caught the eye of Tu-Swift. Jaccim gestured for him to come over. Tu-Swift glanced at Cat Eyes and wordlessly asked her to accompany him. Jaccim and Tu-Swift could each make themselves understood to the other, but it took time. It would be more efficient with Cat Eyes there to translate. Jaccim realized, of course, that Tu-Swift was no longer his captive. In many ways, their roles were reversed though Jaccim was free to roam among the Veritas. Tu-Swift was working with Jaccim to construct a suitable place for their horses. Besides the mare & colt that had come with them, another stallion and a mare had found their way to the Veritas. Jaccim had reached the point in training where he could use Tu-Swift who seemed to have an innate talent for rapprochement with the creatures. 

The last thing he wanted to do was to impose on Tu-Swift which would remind Tu-Swift and possibly others that Jaccim was of the People Who Steal Children. He never thought of himself that way but he understood others might. He’d rather be known as someone who could make a contribution. Jaccim therefore asked if they were done with their dialogue for now. He observed nothing was being said. Times of silent reflection were not common among the ROI so he assumed that they were “done.” 

Cat Eyes explained to Jaccim the dilemma that they had been discussing and explained that they were thinking silently of how to communicate or reach the Veritas by the Twin Peaks. Jaccim frowned and said, in ROI, “Why not just take the path the ROI take? We could go there on horses once these are trained in a few weeks. We wouldn’t have to steal children.” 

Instead of translating into Veritas forTu-Swift’s benefit, Cat Eyes began having an excited conversation with Jaccim in ROI. At last, Cat Eyes told Tu-Swift the good news. Then, she grabbed Jaccim by the arm and brought him into the circle. She explained to everyone that this man knew a way to ride horses into the land of the Veritas who lived near the Twin Peaks. She might find her home or she might find only an empty place, once lived in, but now deserted. 

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Index for a Pattern Language for Teamwork and Collaboration  

 

  

Shadow Walker’s Walk

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A few days after Cat Eyes and the others told their tales, Shadow Walker’s ankle felt good enough to allow him to accompany Trunk of Tree as he checked on the Northern guard postings. He had taken to asking someone from the tribe each time he made a check. Although all the Veritas possessed detailed mental maps of the entire area, Trunk of Tree needed to see the entire area through new eyes that came from the knowledge that there are such things as Killing Sticks. 

As they ascended the area known as White Pine Hill where the path could easily accommodate two abreast, Trunk of Tree, began to speak, “I’m glad you made it back okay. And, bringing back Tu-Swift as well. That’s something! Honestly, when you didn’t come back right away, I thought you would never find him. I mean, they were on horses. It’s just amazing that you ever found them.” 

“As I said in my recounting, they were terrible at hiding their trail. It struck all of us as odd. Even the Nomads of the South. I thought they were just careless. Perhaps riding horses made them always impatient. I didn’t know about Killing Sticks at the time, but now, I am thinking that perhaps they had some so they did not feel threatened.” 

“Perhaps, but our guards that were killed were surprised. I don’t think … wait. The only witness who was there was knocked out and doesn’t not recall much.”

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“In any case, Trunk of Tree, they did not use them when they attacked us with the fire arrows. So, I am not convinced the ROI had any. Perhaps only the Z-Lotz have them. Perhaps, indeed, only Nut-Pi has one. He may feel that it gives him power and he doesn’t want others, even his own warriors, to have such a weapon.” 

On they trod for a time in silence before Trunk of Tree resumed, “With so many of them and such fierce weapons, you can see why I thought you dead.” 

“I suppose,” said Shadow Walker, after a pause. “I never really gave it much thought. Finding Tu-Swift and staying alive dominated my mind.” 

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Trunk of Tree continued, “So, yes. Of course. Staying alive. But we did not know you were alive. I thought not and so, of course, I thought of the tribe and supporting Many Paths so…I just thought you should know. So now you do.” 

Shadow Walker grinned, “So now I know what, exactly?”

Trunk of Tree seemed surprised. “What? Oh, you know. I thought it might be that the tribe would need to think about re-arrangements and things. And, now, oh — Congratulations! by the way. But back then, you were not officially betrothed. That’s what I mean.” 

Shadow Walker laughed. “Shadow Walker! Oh, Shadow Walker! Where are you?! Where is the brave warrior from the Battle of the Three Paths? I hope when are in the next battle, you keep your words clear and sharp and pointing straight to the conclusion. That way, we can react on the same day as the battle.” 

Trunk of Tree reddened visibly. “What do you mean?”

Shadow Walker stopped and turned toward Trunk of Tree in such a way as to top him in his path. When he had caught his eye, Shadow Walker said, “Many Paths told me about your various attempts to woo her.” 

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“I wouldn’t put it that way. I was thinking about the tribe.” 

“OK, Trunk of Tree but now Many Paths and I are betrothed. And, if you want to think of the tribe, we need to keep our unity now more than ever. Don’t ask her again. Not while I’m alive.” 

“Absolutely! I’m … I mean Many Paths is too … Honestly, who is stronger? Me or Many Paths?” 

An image flashed into Shadow Walker’s mind. He saw Many Paths skipping stones along the river not far from the Center Place. 

Shadow Walker said, “When it comes to who can heft a larger rock, you are stronger. In fact, you’re probably the strongest of the tribe. Though perhaps some day we should test that. I think I might be able to best you. When it comes to balancing many factors in coming to a good decision, she’s the strongest of all the tribe.”

Trunk of Tree nodded and they resumed walking. After a few paces, he asked, “Well, what about throwing stones?”

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“Throwing stones? Well, not all stones are the same, but I would guess you can throw similar stones farther than Many Paths.” 

Trunk of Tree nodded enthusiastically. “Yes! Yes! I should be able to throw stones farther. Yet, she bested me just a few days ago.” 

Shadow Walker chuckled. “Tell me what happened. Exactly.”

Trunk of Tree stopped again and closed his eyes. “She challenged me to see who could skip a stone farther. I picked one up and threw it. Hard. And with some skill. Then, she did the same thing and skipped it twice as far! I swear she did.” 

Shadow Walker laughed gently. “Oh, she’s done the same to me. But let’s go back to your description. Tell me again. You picked up a rock. Tell me about the rock.”

Trunk of Tree frowned. “The rock? A flat one.” 

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Shadow Walker prompted, “What else?” 

Trunk of Tree shook his head. “What else? There is nothing else. I looked down, saw a flat rock and skipped it.” 

Shadow Walker nodded. “Right and what did Many Paths do?”

“She did the same. She stooped down, picked up a rock. Then, she … Hold on. She picked up another one. And another. What was that about? She picked up several and then…she lifted them and swung them and examined them. I remember thinking that she should hurry up and throw. But she picked one and then … well, actually, she still didn’t throw. She … felt the ground with her feet. What was that about? Anyway, she found a spot she liked and then…well, she still didn’t throw it. She twisted her body and her arm a few times. That’s like… that’s what we do with our legs before a race. I see. That’s what she meant by saying that preparation was important.” 

“Right, Trunk of Tree. And that’s not all. She loves skipping stones. She’s done it a lot. And though she never said so, I imagine she tried many variations of stone to find out the very best size for her, the best way to throw it, and even where to skip in the stream.” 

Trunk of Tree slowed his pace again and asked, “What do you mean where? Surely, you can’t tell where a rock will skip!” 

Shadow Walker replied, “I can to some extent. But I’m sure Many Paths can do it even better. If you hit the rapids, it’s more likely you get a bad skip.” 

Trunk of Tree shook his head. “How do you … how can anyone get along with her? She’s so … she thinks so much!”

“We get along just fine. To me, it’s a joy that she’s always thinking of something I never would have thought of. But what about you? Eagle Eyes is the same way! She comes up with amazing ideas!” 

“She does. But lately…since she returned. Things are different. I’m not sure she likes me any more.” 

Shadow Walker gestured to a spot in the cliffs that rose steeply on either side of the path at this point. “That would be a great lookout point. And, these cliffs would be a good spot for a potential ambush. But why not ask Eagle Eyes to help you find good battle spots for us?”

Trunk of Tree sighed. “Many Paths made a similar suggestion. But what if she doesn’t like me?” 

“You’re guessing what is in her mind and how she feels! Ask her! Or, just ask her to come with you and see how she acts. But do something! Don’t just imagine how she feels.” 

Trunk of Tree & Shadow Walker came to a broad field. After a time, he spoke again, “Do you believe what Cat Eyes told in her tale?”

“Yes. I was very suspicious when I first met the ROI. But Tu-Swift pointed out something odd about them. It seemed they only would fight when they were ordered to. Anyway, I have many reasons, but I believe her story about the other part of the Veritas.” 

Trunk of Tree said, “Yes. I believe that part. I think we should try to connect. Maybe they would help us fight off the Z-Lotz and their Killing Sticks. But I still feel that Cat Eyes knows something she is not sharing.”

“I agree, but I think I know what it is. She was taken at a very young age. They trained her for sex. That’s what I think. She’s never said that, but whenever anyone asks her about the time shortly after she was captured, a darkness comes over her, she stiffens, and her jaw becomes rigid and she says she doesn’t remember anything or remember much or she changes the subject.” 

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Trunk of Tree made a face of disgust. “But she was only a child! Surely…That’s … why would anyone do that? That’s not natural!” 

“No, it isn’t natural. It’s evil. But you see how it is with some people who will do anything for power. To them, being cruel to a child is even better because the child has no way whatever to fight back. And you can bend them to your will from an early age. Cat Eyes herself said as much though she doesn’t want to say anything about the horrible things that were done to her. I am afraid, Trunk of Tree, that these people who use Killing Sticks and Steal Children will show no honor whatever. We must train our people, even our children, how to kill without being caught — in case any such as Tu-Swift are taken at an early age ever again.”

Trunk of Tree nodded. He led Shadow Walker off the main path on to a small deer path that doubled back toward the cliff. They followed it as it zig-zagged its way up around the side of the cliff and up to the potential lookout that Shadow Walker had spied. It was a vigorous climb that often stabbed Shadow Walker’s ankle. The view from atop the cliff was worth it, however. 

Somehow, it seemed to Shadow Walker, that high places like this allowed him to see everything in his life with perspective. He realized that he valued Trunk of Tree’s friendship and forgave him for seeking to replace him. Shadow Walker momentarily contemplated Many Paths with Trunk of Tree. Far from feeling jealous, he now felt a certainty that she would think circles around him. Shadow Walker smiled. She did the same to him, but he didn’t mind. She always showed him the paths of her thinking and he could follow them up to a high place where he could see the world more clearly. 

He smiled more broadly as he felt deep in his heart that this was a great and beautiful land he looked upon. There were many wonderful people and he knew that though these Killing Sticks posed a great danger to the Veritas, his tribe would defend it to the death, he felt sure — each and every one of them. 

One way or another, he thought, life and truth will survive and thrive. And so will we. So will we.

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Start of the Second Book of the Myths of the Veritas

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Table of Contents for Essays on America 

Index for a Pattern Language for Teamwork and Collaboration  

  

Tu-Swift Tells his Tale

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After the feast, Many Paths rose to speak, “On behalf of the whole tribe, and on behalf of this woman who now speaks as well, I thank you, Shadow Walker, for finding Tu-Swift and returning him to me … to us. There is much that we would hear from you as to how this came about. We also would like to hear from Tu-Swift. As the elder, Shadow Walker, would you care to begin your tale?”

Shadow Walker rose, “Thank you, Many Paths. I will tell my tale in due course. Having already heard from Tu-Swift and the others, I believe that my own tale, though a useful one for us to consider, is not the first one that the tribe must hear. I believe we should first hear from Tu-Swift  and then from Cat Eyes. I can tell my small tale last.” 

Shadow Walker had discussed this with Tu-Swift who had reluctantly agreed. Tu-Swift, arose and Many Paths noted that as he did so, he braced himself strongly against the rough-hewn wooden table. The cheeks of Tu-Swift glowed with the red of the post-fire sunsets as he began his tale. Soon, however, he found himself “inside” the tale he was telling and his self-consciousness disappeared. A natural born storyteller, Tu-Swift illustrated his tale with sound effects, gestures, and facial expressions. Apart from babes in arms, the entire tribe, children and elders included, followed with rapt attention and respectful silence. 

Tu-Swift recounted his initial abduction, his confusion, his despair, his meeting with Day-Nah, their work with the horses, how Jaccim had been the gentlest of the three overseers, both with the boys and with the horses. He described how he had sabotaged some of the weapons of the ROI and made it easy for the horses to escape. As he told his part, he glanced at Jaccim, whose eyes widened and whose jaw dropped open. He had no idea that Tu-Swift had played any part at all in the destruction of the ROI village. 

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Tu-Swift went on to describe his joy at being reunited with other Veritas and their being attacked yet again with flaming arrows. He described his terrifying run to avoid the flames and the sudden stab of pain that wrecked his knee. He described his long, painful hobble back to the village in hopes of finding food in the burned forest, his discovery of the sword which he held aloft dramatically. Tu-Swift’s face exploded into a large grin as he told of his second re-uniting with Shadow Walker and the Wolf Pups. The Veritas gasped as one when he told of the harrowing flume ride. 

The Veritas learned at a young age to be respectful while someone told a tale. So, tonight, they said little or nothing — until Tu-Swift came to his last dream and as he told of his “decoding” of “Sooz” in the dream, he beamed at her. Now it was her turn to carminize and the others smiled at her. But as Tu-Swift began to explain his understanding of the game and its symbols, the tribe began to murmur restively. Tu-Swift had meant this revelation to be the exciting climax to his tale, but as he looked out among the Veritas, he saw understanding dawn quickly only on the faces of Many Paths, She Who Saved Many Lives, and Eagle Eyes. The eyes of those three grew wide with surprise and delight. Most of the Veritas, however frowned, shook their heads, and muttered below their breath to someone nearby. 

The frowns most of them wore were reinforced as they looked to one another. Now, the contagion of doubt even spread back to Tu-Swift himself who also frowned. He looked at Many Paths for reassurance. Tu-Swift’s nicely told tale ended anti-climatically as he mumbled something about that being the end of his tale and sat back down, again using the edge of the table as support. 

Many Paths quickly stood and spoke. Her mind raced with the astounding possibilities opened up by Tu-Swift’s revelation, and the possible uses of such symbols, but she reigned her mind back to the here and now. What this moment needed was to re-establish the unity in the tribe that came from shared experience. As she looked about her she saw that only a few among her people understood what Tu-Swift had said. 

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Many Paths used her strongest voice to speak to her people. “Tu-Swift, thank you for sharing your tale. I am eager to learn what Cat Eyes and Shadow Walker have to say, as I am sure the rest of the tribe is as well, but before we get to that, please indulge a few questions, for I am not sure I fully understand what you meant about these symbols. We have symbols for people and for other things. But you are saying that this is a different kind of language. Many of the tribes understand sign language which is common among us. But that sign language is limited. We understand each other when we are face to face.

“The language you speak of,” she continued, “is different. You claim there is a symbol for each sound — as in your example of your good friend Sooz. The “s” sound of “sooz” is shown by the stick figure representation of our sign language for “snake.” Then, the “ooo” sound is shown by the stick figure representing our sign language for “owl” who often makes the “ooo” sound. Last, the “zzz” sound of “Sooz” is shown by the stick figure of someone making our sign language for “buzzing bee.” So, such a language can cause one to think of a long sequence of words just as they would be spoken aloud. Is that right? Can this be so, Tu-Swift?” 

Tu-Swift swallowed hard. He did not enjoy being put on the spot again. What had seemed so obvious to him, was apparently not so easy for others to grasp. He bit his lip. Through the fog of his embarrassment, he realized that Many Paths understood perfectly. She was helping the many of the Veritas understand that which was already understood by the few. Tu-Swift stood again, and nodded. “Exactly so, sister. You will hear next the tale of Cat Eyes who believes that there are complete stories made with such symbols and that those who understand such language can “hear” a story in the ears of their imagination. Maybe it will become clearer if you hear her story now.” Tu-Swift sat down, but to the surprise of Many Paths, Hudah Salah arose and spoke. 

Many Paths recognized her to speak. Many Paths thought to herself how much she had changed since she first came to live with the Veritas. Then, she would never have risen to speak on her own but would silently support with her expressions, manner, and short utterances that which her husband Lion Slayer had already said. Now, however, she showed no hesitation to speak. 

“Lion Slayer likely knows more of this than I do, but among our people there is a legend of such a language. Near the southern edge of the desert where we dwell, there is a place we call, “The Desert of the Desert” because nothing grows there. Only a few have ventured there for everyone who does so returns sick. But more than one such have told of odd symbols written there on very large rocks. Our legends say that such stones speak to those who can listen to them properly. None of those who visited there heard the stones speak. But now, I have to wonder whether those symbols are cousins to the ones that the ROI use.” Hudah Salah sat and Lion Slayer stood quickly adding, “It is just as Hudah Salah says. Such symbols may be dangerous. For, as Hudah Salah says, everyone who goes to hear these stones speak returns ill but none of those who have returned heard the rocks say anything beyond the windy whispers of the desert night breezes.” 

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A buzz of murmurs began among the Veritas, and Many Paths recognized Cat Eyes. “Let me begin my tale. First, I thank Shadow Walker and Tu-Swift for rescuing me and I thank all of you for welcoming me back to my tribe. For I too am of the Veritas.” As Cat Eyes looked among the Veritas, she could see more uncertainty and confusion. “Let me begin my tale with a reassurance however. I lived among both the Z-Lotz and the ROI and saw many people, including children, using and playing with the symbols that Tu-Swift spoke of. None of these became ill. Certainly, no-one among either of those tribes believes that such symbols cause illness. I suspect it may be the extreme dryness or heat of a place where nothing grows that causes the illness. Or, perhaps those symbols are different. But these symbols I have carried myself for years and not gotten ill. I now believe that these symbols allow the ROI and the Z-Lotz to plan and plot and tell tales across great distances and across many summers though I did not realize it at the time I lived among them. I have thought about it more and more after Tu-Swift’s revelation.” To illustrate her point, she held aloft one of the matts of symbols and let it unfold as she held it in her hand. She lightly brushed her hand over the symbols. 

“This is not painful,” Cat Eyes continued, “and does not cause illness or I would be long dead for I have kept these hidden on my person or very near for years. Some of the richest among the Z-Lotz have a room where their children play and many of these kinds of matts are spread on the floor. The walls of these rooms are stacked with many sheaves of such symbols. They cause no harm that I could discern, nor the Z-Lotz who had their children play there.” 

Eagle Eyes held something aloft, “Sheaves like these?” she questioned. 

Many Paths worried that the clear telling of the tale of Cat Eyes might become derailed and confused. She took the object from the hand of Eagle Eyes and handed it to Cat Eyes. 

Cat Eyes nodded and exchanged a look with Many Paths. “Indeed! This is exactly the sort of thing I am speaking of. Where did you find it?” After a moment she added, “This one seems damaged. There are missing leaves.”  

Now it was Eagle Eyes’ turn to blush. “I found it when we searched for Tu-Swift and the others in the village of the Z-Lotz. I thought it was nothing more than a clever and less bulky way to carry fire-starting tinder. We used a few leaves to start a fire on our way back here. I had no idea….”

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Many Paths jumped into the conversation. “We must study such symbols and learn from them. It will no doubt take time. But meanwhile, Cat Eyes, please tell us your tale, unbroken. I suspect that although it is late, many would like to hear that tale tonight. Others may be understandably tired and eager to put their children to bed. What say you people? Shall we hear this tale tonight or on the morrow?”

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After much murmuring among the Veritas, the vote was taken by a show of hands. Nearly everyone longed to hear the tale of Cat Eyes now though the last bits of color had dimmed long ago. Many Paths nodded and gestured to Cat Eyes who began her own tale of how she had been stolen at an early age, even younger than Tu-Swift. 

“Sixteen summers ago, I was born among the Veritas, in a village over the Twin Mountains,” she began.

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Start of the First Book of The Myths of the Veritas

Start of the Second Book of the Myths of the Veritas

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Table of Contents for Essays on America 

Index for a Pattern Language for Teamwork and Collaboration  

 

Love’s Afterglow

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“Many Paths? Are you okay?” Many Paths recognized the voice of Tu-Swift and it nearly overwhelmed her. It seemed it had been so long since she had heard his voice. Each day after his kidnapping, she could hear his voice so clearly in her remembrances. She entered them diligently even after the rescue party left. She did not merely “try to remember.” She revisited the times and places of learning that she and Tu-Swift had shared. She conjured up his voice, his smell, the touch of his hand. She searched for some clue that might be helpful in finding him, even though the rescue party had left. Of course, along the way, she also encountered things she could have done differently; better examples that she could have used in her teaching; ways that she herself could have seen more quickly the insights Tu-Swift had offered her.

Now, Tu-Swift was right outside her dwelling, and not in memory only but in the flesh, alive, and generally well. Except, Many Paths realized, he is not really the same Tu-Swift. His voice sounds different. Definitely him, and yet, there is another note in that voice that was not there before. A deeper tone and a more thoughtful, more musical way of speaking signified to Many Paths that he was more mature, more confident, more balanced. To a lesser extent, she suddenly realized, the same could be said of Shadow. 

Tu-Swift knocked again and spoke, “Many Paths? It’s almost time to begin the feast, I should think.”

“Yes, Tu-Swift, thank you! I’ll be down shortly. It’s so good to hear your voice again!” 

“You too!” 

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Many Paths could hear the uneven footfalls of Tu-Swift limp-running down toward the Central Fire and wondered whether he would ever regain his former speed. Then, Many Paths felt the gentle hand of Shadow Walker stroke her. She smiled and turned to face him. After spending most of the day in love-making, they had fallen asleep. Tu-Swift’s voice had awakened them both. Now, they had only a little time to be together privately before the Celebratory Feast and the Telling of Tales. 

Shadow Walker said softly, “You know, many times on my journeys, Many Paths, I really thought … I could … connect with you, especially when I felt this ring, the Sixth that you and I share.” 

“I did this as well, Shadow.” She smiled at Shadow Walker still more fully.  

Original Masks by Sarah Morgan

Original Masks by Sarah Morgan

“I did wish when we were out there, that we had been formally bonded. I understand that your position makes it complicated….”

“Shadow, we should be formally bonded. I am sorry to interrupt the flow of your words, but you were right and I was wrong. Not being formally bonded didn’t make any easier whatsoever to deal with your being gone, the uncertainty of whether you’d come back, trying to make decisions. The truth is that we are bonded and, frankly, I don’t think it makes any difference whatsoever to us. But it could prove useful when it comes to others. For example, just because we weren’t formally bonded, after you were gone for some time, several young fellows each tried to suggest with more or less finesse, that he should replace you.”

“What? Who were these scoundrels? I’ll … have a word with them, shall we say.”

“Shadow, relax. It’s no big deal. The most persistent of the lot was your friend, Trunk of Tree. No, no, no, don’t frown so hard, you’ll crack your teeth. At least he was straightforward about it. He’s quite inept, however. Here I am missing you, loving you, beset by worries on every turn and he thinks to replace you, and, oh, by the way, in his version of reality, he would actually be the leader and I would — I don’t know — be his advisor. We need to give the poor boy some lessons in something — social relations. I need to get ready, but I do have to tell you one more story about your hapless friend. One of his complaints that I wasn’t using the Rings of Empathy “properly” because I wasn’t decisive enough and strong enough. So, I invited him to use the Rings and force his mind onto someone. Well, Easy Tears was there and she immediately picked up on it and pretended to be under a spell from Trunk of Tree. It was all we could do not to crack up.”

“He must have been furious when he found out the two of you had tricked him. He can be a bit dangerous, you know.” 

“You see, Shadow, I gave him a way out. Easy Tears pretended that she and Trunk of Tree had pulled the trick on me. Of course, he knew that wasn’t true, but he had a publicly acknowledged way to save face. Do you think I did right to play that little game? I could not convince him, not from talking alone, just how they were meant to be used. He just had this idea stuck in his head that he could use them to control people. I had to disabuse him of that somehow. Do you think I did the right thing?” 

Shadow Walker stared for a long time into the deep, dark eyes of Many Paths. “You are really quite a woman. And quite a leader, Many Paths. We are lucky to have you. You did the right thing. I would never have thought of it.” After a pause, he added, “Is there anything else I should know about Trunk of Tree?”

“No, not really. We did have short stone skipping contest this morning.” Many Paths smiled. 

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“Oh, I can just imagine how that went! Does he know yet how outmatched he was?”

Many Paths and Shadow Walker laughed together and Many Paths shrugged and said, “I explained to him that preparation was important and that was why I needed his help in preparations. In that, I am quite serious. These killing sticks are no joke if they are as described by Eagle Eyes and Lion Slayer.”

“Killing Sticks!? What are you talking about? Spears? Staffs? What Killing Sticks?” 

Many Paths sighed. “I’m sorry. I somehow thought someone would have told you. You should ask Lion Slayer and Eagle Eyes, but basically, they saw someone point one of these long sticks at someone and then, without touching them, there was a flash of light, a loud crack, and the person began to bleed to death immediately.”

Shadow Walker frowned. “I don’t recall any odd looking sticks in the village of the ROI. The first time, it was dark and I was only interested in saving Tu-Swift. The second time, it was mostly charred rubble. Have you asked Tu-Swift though? He was there for some days.” 

“No, but I will; I have not yet really asked him anything. And now it is time for you two to share your stories with everyone. Let’s get down to the feast, Shadow. Can we announce to the tribe our betrothal?” 

Shadow Walker looked her in the eyes and kissed her gently on the lips. “Most certainly, Dear Leader, most certainly.” 

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Author Page on Amazon

Start of the First Book of The Myths of the Veritas

Start of the Second Book of the Myths of the Veritas

Table of Contents for the Second Book of the Veritas

Table of Contents for Essays on America 

Index for a Pattern Language for Teamwork and Collaboration  

A Map, of Sorts

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After Shadow Walker and Tu-Swift had been embraced by all of the Veritas, including Trunk of Tree, they had a chance to circle back to Many Paths, who continued to shower them with affection. Their entire party, including Cats Eyes, the ROI, and the two horses all served as sources of amazement. 

Jaccim and Tu-Swift cautioned people to stay well back from the horses. Even the colt could deliver a serious kick or bite if terror overcame them. Trunk of Tree had followed Many Paths out of the village and had greeted Shadow Walker and Tu-Swift warmly. He quickly understood that he could help by keeping people at a distance from the horses, so he did. 

The Veritas asked more questions than anyone could answer. At last, Many Paths spoke in a loud, clear bell of a voice. 

“We all rejoice in the return of our excellent comrades, Shadow Walker and Tu-Swift. We will hear their tale, as they must hear ours. Such recounting is best done from beginning to end, carefully, and not in answer to a bee swarm of questions. You all know why this is. One must plant the seed in the proper season, let it grow in the proper season; harvest in the proper season. If one is pressed to answer questions out of order, here and there, scattered like dandelion seeds blowing this way and that, one may answer so as to make a good story for the conversation, rather than answering for an accurate reconstruction. 

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“Like you, I am impatient to learn more. And, there is much to learn. But we do not want to corrupt such lessons. After our evening meal, we will hear the tale of how Tu-Swift became not so Swift and of how Shadow Walker became Shadow Limper.”

Titters of laughter broke out among her appreciative crowd.  

“But for now,” she continued, as she held aloft her hands sporting all seven Rings of Empathy, “these rings tell me that I must interrogate Shadow Walker alone for a time, concerning a private matter.” 

Many Paths took Shadow Walker’s hand and she pulled him toward her dwelling. Many of the adults in the tribe chuckled for all knew exactly what kind of “interrogation” Many Paths had in mind. The children of the tribe knew or felt that the words of Many Paths showed one meaning but something else was hidden beneath. They sensed that both from the countenance of Many Paths herself and from the reactions of the adults. What that underneath meaning was, the children, for the most part, could not guess. In any case, they were more fascinated by the odd way that the strangers spoke, the scarred face of Jaccim, by the Irises of Cats Eyes, and the sheer size of the mare. 

Many Paths had fantasized about her next meeting with Shadow Walker on multiple occasions during his absence. They all began with a sudden and violent animal coupling. That fantasy had seemed so real. But in the moment of their actual being alone and lying beside each other at last, she first wanted to drink him in through all her senses, perhaps to convince herself that they shared this here, this now, this moment, and now this moment and yet another. 

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Many Paths, both by natural bent and by training, had lived a life of conscious gratitude. She felt gratitude for the sunrise: its beautiful variety; it’s promise of a new day. She felt gratitude for being alive as she woke; and for the life all around her; for her ancestors. She felt gratitude for being able to relieve herself and for feeling the cold of the morning. She felt likewise gratitude for the sun setting and the warmth of the campfire and for its constant, random flickering. She felt gratitude for her memories and her hands and her skills. 

These were all child’s play — practice sessions, in a way — for the gratitude she felt now that he Shadow Walker — had returned, alive and whole. Look! Here was another moment of his being real, of his being alive!

Now, they each had much to tell each other. Many Paths had not yet decided how to bring up the several instances in which Trunk of Tree had tried to undermine her authority or convince her they should join forces and “lead together.” Of course, he would have to be told, and soon, but she had to think carefully about exactly how to do that.  

“I am so happy to see you, you cannot imagine,” she began. “And so thankful you found Tu-Swift.”

“Oh, Many Paths, I can imagine because I am so glad as well.”

“Shadow, I really don’t want to spoil your memory, but at least tell me whether you are all right — and Tu-Swift. And who are these people? Did you ever find out why they steal children? How did you find Tu-Swift?” 

“I am glad to see you still have patience enough to wait,” chuckled Shadow Walker.

Many Paths laughed too. “You are right. I’m sorry. But are you both all right? And what is … never mind. All you all right?”

“At one point, we had to run flat out through smoke to escape fire. We all became separated. I turned my ankle and it’s almost healed. I think it would have been fine except that, we had to keep hiking anyway. There are so many things to tell, but anyway, Tu-Swift really hurt his knee for the same reason. But his injury — I am not sure whether he will ever heal completely. I guess we will know in time.”

“Thank you, Shadow. Maybe you could give me the outline of the journey you took and you can later relate the story in detail tonight.”

“All right, Many Paths, I shall. Of course, it would be very helpful to have a map of the region.” Shadow Walker gave her a sly smile.

Many Paths’ eyes brightened. “Oh, I have a map if that will help!” She began to rise. 

Shadow Walker put his arm out. “No, no. Your map won’t do. We went beyond your map. But I just need something to frame my story. It doesn’t need to be detailed. This will do for my map.” As he said the word ‘this’ he motioned to the body of Many Paths. 

Shadow Walker began to tell his tale: how they had all been together and following a trail that was as loud as a thunderstorm. He described the strange door that they had come to, made of something cold, hard and smooth. (He unclasped her belt and slid it aside to dramatize the moment). 

He described how they had rescued Tu-Swift and how he had helped with his own rescue by damaging the weapons of the ROI. He recounted how they had been attacked with fire arrows. (And, he illustrated this by a rain of his fingers landing very gently over her body and sliding away downhill like raindrops or tongues of fire). 

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And he told how that fire had split apart their party. (He gently parted her lips with his own to illustrate the point more vividly). 

He showed her how the flames spread over the hillside and engulfed the ROI village. (Because it was important for the Leader of the Veritas to remember this, he illustrated by rubbing his hands together to warm them and showed her how flames may climb gently but sometimes land on another spot to make a fire).

He spoke of his running headlong to escape the flames uphill and downhill. (He demonstrated by gently tracing the contours of her body). 

He told of his indecision when he woke up all alone about where to go next.  

Many Paths sighed and said softly but firmly, “I know exactly where you should go next.”

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Author Page on Amazon

Start of the First Book of The Myths of the Veritas

Start of the Second Book of the Myths of the Veritas

Table of Contents for the Second Book of the Veritas

Table of Contents for Essays on America 

An Essay on Gratitude

Index for a Pattern Language for Teamwork and Collaboration  

 

By the Numbers

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A Tale of Two Table Tennis Tables

 

One of the fun things for me personally about beginning to work at  the IBM research Eero Saarinen building — a fascinating building for numerous reasons. For one thing, it was a 22nd century flying saucer of a Sci-Fi vibe filled with dark glass, concrete and steel. However — it walls were studded everywhere with a huge amount of beautiful and variegated natural stone. I make no claim that this has anything to do with the actual design rationale for the building, but to me, it represented the idea that the future (symbolized by the sleek design, the glass, the steel) would be achieved on a foundation that was strong; it consisted of a great number of individuals from a great diversity of background in terms of age, gender, national origin, religious backgrounds, and academic disciplines. I liked that. It made me feel good to drive to work knowing that I would be entering a building with that symbolism, a symbolism reflected in the reality of the actual working environment. 

A short walk from that Eero Saarinen building lay various recreational facilities. Bernen House, for instance, had two rooms, each containing a ping pong table. Around noon, about 8-15 people would typically gather to play. If you won, you got to stay and take on the next challenger. If you won three in a row, you had to step aside any way. I’ve always been decent at table tennis. But, now I found myself playing with an entirely different class of player. These folks were excellent. As in the Research Center itself, these folks came from many different places including America, but also India, Japan, China, Middle East — all over the world, really. And, of course, playing each other was a lot of fun just because there was such a variety of playing styles. 

At some point, the administration decided to use part of Bernen House for administrative offices. So, one but not both, of these ping pong tables was taken away. Whereas with two ping pong tables bringing out 8-15 players, you might think one ping pong table might bring out 4-8 players. Or, you might think people would be willing to wait longer and we would still have 8-15 players. Or, you might think it would be somewhere in between, say 6-12 players. What actually happened was this: after a few weeks, there were typically zero players. 

Yes, you read that correctly. Zero players. How can that be? I can’t say for certain, but here is an analysis copied from an earlier post: (https://petersironwood.com/2018/12/20/non-linearity/)

Here’s what happened. The first day after this change happened, I went over and about fifteen people showed up. I, like everyone else, waited a long time for a game. Our “official” lunch hour was actually 42 minutes and the building was a five minute walk away. So, if you had to wait a half hour for your chance to play, it really wasn’t that much fun. In addition, there were some more subtle effects. All the players were good, but there some substantial differences in skill level. People tried to arrange it so that they played someone at about the same level. With only one table, this was trickier. In addition, when a relatively large number of people showed up, it was too crowded for everyone to see the match without interfering with play. It happened that I was too busy to go for a few days. The next time I showed up, no-one was there. Some of us talked about trying to “organize” the ping pong to insure that enough people showed up but everyone was busy and no-one wanted to take this on. Scheduling researchers is harder than you might think. It was hard for people to make a commitment to show up at noon because a meeting might run over, their manager might give them extra work, etc. The number of people showing up swung wildly for about two weeks and then stabilized.

At zero. 

The Death By Many Cuts

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It was considered quite a torture actually: the death by many cuts. And, if you think about it closely enough to get mildly nauseous, you’ll understand why. But notice that everyone cuts themselves occasionally. I have cut myself shaving. I’ve cut myself using a kitchen knife. I’ve cut myself on sharp paper. I’ve cut myself with my own tennis racquet. I’ve obviously lived to tell the tale. A minor cut is not fatal. But a thousand will be. 

If you were chained in a cold, damp prison cell and each day, someone came in and cut you badly enough that it took awhile for the bleeding to stop, it would be difficult to think of anything terribly pleasant, but you might as well, if you possibly could. Anyway, every living thing is like this — there is a range in which it is able to recover and recuperate and a point beyond which death is the outcome. That’s true about temperature, dehydration, infection — any insult to the system eventually becomes fatal. It’s true of dogs, cats, humans, birds, teams, corporations, nations, and coalitions. It’s hard to predict precisely which straw will break the camel’s back, but it is certain that the back will break eventually. 

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But let’s not leave you in that dark, dank cell, chained to the wall without at least doing you the courtesy of delving into your fate. I think you would find it rather annoying to be cut each day, knowing full well that at some point, you will die, but having no idea when. Your torturer might be a novice and accidentally cut an artery the very first day. Or, you might get a bad infection that kills you in a few days, long before you were supposed to bleed to death. In any case, the outcome is certain, barring some miracle. 

Self-Destructive Behavior

Now, imagine that you are in that stony cell, and the torturer tells you that they will destroy you, one piece at a time. He adds though, that before you’re cut, even once, you are shown a button on the wall, well within reach. It is explained that if you push that button, you’ll be free to go, no hard feelings and not a single scar. But if you didn’t push the button, you’d be cut. After that, if you felt like it, you could push the button and leave with just one scar. 

Apparently, some people in that position would be curious. “Well, it’s only one cut. Let’s see how bad that really is. If it’s bad, I’ll just quit. One scar. No big deal.” The torturer comes in and slices them. Now, they look over at the button and they think, “Well, I’ve come this far. It’s kind of interesting trying to figure out where he’s going to cut me next.” 

The next day, in this scenario, the blue button is once again appealing, and yet — that hypothetical prisoner (certainly not you, right?) chooses instead, another slice be taken. He feels comfort in the idea that he could, at any time, end this if he chooses, simply by pressing the button. Maybe he will see just how far he can go. But he’ll stop one short of killing himself. 

I suspect you’re thinking that no-one would possibly do such a thing; that it’s ridiculous. 

Really? 

No-one would do such a thing? 

How about an alcoholic or drug addict who regularly takes a dose that is very nearly lethal? How about a person who spends most of their life in a job that saps their soul because it’s never quite the right time to leave? How about the gambler who, from anyone else’s perspective, will eventually gamble away his fortune, his family, and his future — but they gamble it away regardless of every friend’s warning. They’d rather lose their friends than keep hearing the bad news about how destructive their behavior is. They’ll find new friends. Those friends will likely share the same addiction. And, rather than challenge his beliefs about how he just needs to get that one good break and he’ll be successful & famous, they’ll be agreeing with this unlikely scenario. Oh, my yes, he’ll be the one heading the parade and he’ll be made of money and all the people who laughed at him before will be singing his praises. He might say, just in so many words: “I just need that one good break!” And his new pals will say, “I know! I know!” Because they have very similar delusions. 

Of course, if there is a dollar to be made, there will be people aiding and abetting in the creation and propagation of such illusions. For example, the casino advertisements will show people winning and jumping up with joy. I’ve been to Los Vegas for a conference and in my observation, the winners at the slot machines did not jump for joy. Instead, they would wordlessly take their new stack of quarters and begin feeding them back to the machine. How many jumps for joy did I see? Zero. I didn’t even see a change of expression. 

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And here’s the thing. Numbers matter. Occasionally being subjected to information that is erroneous will likely not move your opinion all that much. On the other hand, if you are subjected to relentless, targeted, misinformation all targeted at keeping you addicted to whatever it is: alcohol, tobacco, firearms, gambling, fast food, opioids, etc., it makes it that much harder to stop being self-destructive. 

In the “best case,” you’ll convince enough people to become addicted, that people will do much of your “advertising” for you. For instance, how many sit-com episodes have you seen in which someone is emotionally upset about something and their friend says something on the order of: “You know what we need to do? We need to get drunk!” Dealing with problems in this matter has become normalized in the culture. 

What you see much less of are relentless, targeted, misinformation campaigns telling you about the benefits of chess, say, or playing a musical instrument, or dancing, or reading widely, or learning a foreign language. There’s a bit of advertising and perhaps a claim may be exaggerated here or there. 

It is nothing like the campaigns to get you to do self-destructive things. Chess, music, dancing etc. all have actual benefits. When it comes to self-destructive behaviors, you need illusions to keep you hooked. You may be able to generate those all by yourself, but it certainly helps to have friends who share your illusions and your collective illusions are much more likely to gel with a large enough community of the like-minded if it is all jump-started with a large infusion of cash whether it’s from a consortium of casinos, pharmacy companies, or Russian oil oligarchs. 

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Numbers matter. 

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Are we, as Neil Postman claims “Amusing Ourselves to Death“?

You Bet Your Life

Essays on America: The Temperature Gauge

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The sun is shining! Spring is here at last, and the trees are in bloom. You’re driving down the road and you see … 

That your “Engine over-heating” light goes on! 

You think: My engine’s over-heating! 

Or,  you think, it isn’t over-heating at all; I just have a bad sensor. 

Over the next few months, the red light goes on several other times, and each time, you pull over and try to judge whether the engine is really over-heated. No easy task. But you get back in and turn the car on and lo and behold, the light’s no longer on. Aloud, you mutter: “I’ve got to get that damned sensor fixed. Maybe next week.”

In the olden days of driving cars, I had a continuous gauge of the temperature. It was more obvious if it was acting oddly because I had more information. I could track it day to day. If I went on a long trip I could see whether the behavior of the gauge “made sense.” I might go up a long mountain road on a hot sunny day, and I expect to see the temperature gauge climb. On the other hand, if I went back down that same mountain at night and the temperature gauge climbed, I would know to get it checked. 

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Suppose instead of a gauge, you or I only get is one bit of information: “Temperature sensor says overheated,”  it’s much harder judge the veracity of the source. But, if we cannot even trust the reliability of the sensor, then we don’t even get one bit of information. Before the light comes on, there are four possible states (not equally likely, by the way, but that’s not important for the following argument). 

Engine OK, Sensor OK; 

Engine OK, Sensor ~OK; 

Engine ~OK, Sensor OK; 

Engine ~OK, Sensor ~OK. 

When the red light comes on, you have some information because the state of:

Engine OK, Sensor OK is eliminated. 

But is it? 

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It certainly is — under a certain set of assumptions — but let’s try to tease apart what those assumptions are and see whether they necessarily hold in today’s world, or in tomorrow’s world. 

Let’s imagine for a moment that your automobile is bewitched and inhabited by an evil demon with limited magical powers, mainly to do with the car itself. If you’ve seen the movie Christine you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t seen it, please buy the book instead. It’s so much better. But let’s get back to our own evil-spirited car. This car, let’s call him “URUMPUT” because it sounds a bit like a car engine and because — you know, just because. Let’s imagine the car has a lot of mileage and is painted a kind of sickly orange color. The tires are bald, and it’s a real gas guzzler. It’s actually more of a jalopy than a car. Your friends would have assumed you could have done much better, but it is apparently what you’re stuck with for now. 

URUMPUT, unbeknownst to you, is actually out to kill you, but his powers are limited. He cannot simply lock the doors and reroute the exhaust till you pass out from the fumes. So, what it does is to over-ride the sensor so that you get out to take a look at your car so you open the hood and you look inside and BLAM! Down comes the hood on your head with enough force to snap your neck. When your neck is snapped, you don’t die instantaneously. You are aware that something is terribly wrong. Your brain sends signals for you to move; to get the damned hood off; but you can’t move. And, worse, you can’t breathe. Soon, but much too late, you realize something has gone terribly wrong.

You. 

Are. 

Dead! 

That blasted URUMPUT got you. Why?  Just because he could. He paid you no more mind than had you been an ant on the road. He gave you misinformation. That is information that you thought you had because you assumed you were dealing with a system that, although imperfect, had some degree of transparency. You certainly did not think you were dealing with an actively evil agent. But you were. And, now you’re dead. (But go ahead and read the rest as though you were still alive.) 

Of course, in real life, there are no bewitched cars. We all know that. 

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Do we? 

Let’s consider how much electronics and “smarts” already exists in cars. The amount will skyrocket with driverless cars. For one thing, the human “occupants” will be able to have much more engaging entertainment. Perhaps more importantly, the “brain” of the car will be able to react to a much wider array of data more quickly than most human drivers could. 

With all the extra sensors, communications, components, functions, protocols, etc. there will be greatly enhanced functionality. 

There will also be all sorts of places where a “bad actor” might intentionally harm the vehicle or even harm the occupants. Your insurance company, for instance, might fake some of the data in the black box of your car to indicate that you drove a lot during nighttime hours. It doesn’t seem to match your recollection, but how would you double check? You grudgingly pay the increased premium. 

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Behind on your loan shark payments? Oops? Your driverless car just steered itself off a cliff and all the occupants were killed. 

Oh, but how, you ask, would loan sharks get hold of the software in your car? 

Then, I have to ask you a question right back. Have you been watching the news the last couple of years? People who owe a great deal of money to the wrong people will do anything to avoid the promised punishments that follow non-payment. 

Our government at this point is definitely not much like old time cars that allowed you to see what was going on and make judgments for yourself. This government just sends out signals that say, “Everything’s Fine!” and “Do as I say!” and “Those people NOT like you? They are the cause of all your troubles.” 

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That is not transparency. 

That is not even informational. 

That is misinformation. 

But it is not misinformation of the sort where a student says: “Akron is the capital of Ohio.” That’s wrong, but it’s not maliciously wrong. 

When people lose a limb as a result of an accident, cancer, or war, they often experience something called the “Phantom Limb Experience.” They have distinct sensations, including pain, “in” the limb that is no longer there. The engine’s not working but the sensor is also bad. 

That’s where we are. 

The engine’s not working. The feedback to us about whether it’s working is also malicious misinformation. 

We have the Phantom Limb Experience of having a government that is working for American interests. 

We need to regrow the missing limb or get a really good prosthetic. 

We need straight information from the government which is supposed to take input from all of us and then make decisions for all of us. It’s never been perfect, but this is the first time it is not even trying or pretending to be fair or even accurate. People in top level positions in our government think that their oath of office is a joke. 

We live in a monster car — and not the fun kind — the Christine kind. 

The engine’s not working. And the sensor light means nothing. If you look under the hood to find out what’s really going on, you’d better have a partner ready to grab the hood and prevent it from being slammed down on your head. Because URUMPUT would do it with as little regard for you as he would have to out and destroy any other whistleblower. 

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The Invisibility Cloak of Habit

Author Page on Amazon

Story about Driverless Cars (from Turing’s Nightmares). 

Table of Contents: Myths of the Veritas (2)

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Happy New Year!

Book Two of The Myths of the Veritas began on February 27th, 2019 and ended with the last post on December 31, 2019. Below is an index to all the chapters of Book Two.

Myths of the Veritas: Feast and Fire (At a feast, the Veritas are attacked by the ROI who used fire arrows.)

On Horses?   (The Veritas discover that Tu-Swift,  the younger brother of Many Paths, is kidnapped by “The People who Stand on Horses” – that is, the ROI Tribe.)

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Myths of the Veritas: The ROI (Introduction to the ROI Tribe).

Myths of the Veritas: The Z-Lotz  (Introduction to the Z-Lotz tribe).

Tu-Swift in a Cage (This chapter depicts the imprisonment of Tu-Swift.

Many Paths Constructs her Way (Many Paths struggles with her duties as a leader of all the Veritas and her duties as the older brother of Tu–Swift).

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Original drawing by Pierce Morgan

Many Paths Becomes Clear (Many Paths, in consultation with others, determines to send a search party).

The Horse Whisperer (Tu-Swift is pressed into service training horses).

Search Party. (The adventures of the small search party sent to find Tu-Swift).

Dialogue and Discovery. (Many Paths leads a dialogue of discovery to reflect on what everyone collectively knows and what more they have yet to know).

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Original art by Pierce Morgan

The Bonds of Horses and Humans. (Tu-Swift learns more about horses).

The No-Rock Rock and the No-Door Door. (Shadow Walker & the Search Party are Stymied by a seemingly impossible door).

The Alliance of the ROI & the Z-Lotz. (Background on the relation of the ROI & Z-Lotz tribes).

Trees Die at the Edges. (Tu-Swift reconnoiters his surroundings).

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Original drawing by Pierce Morgan

The Drums of Hooves, Humans, & Hearts. (The Search Party Follows the Easy-to-Track Trail of the ROI).

The Path not Taken. (Many Paths Receives an Unwelcome Offer).

Tu-Swift’s Dream (Tu-Swift’s Dream)

Unstrung Bow (Tu-Swift Manages to Disable some of the Bows of the ROI).

Fire Arrows (The Search Party is Attacked by the ROI using Fire Arrows).

Finger-Pointing (The ROI Ask themselves who is to Blame).

Post-Fire Blues (The ROI React to their Situation).

Too Many Tu-Swifts (Another Dream of Tu-Swift’s)

BRA-BRILL’s Audience (BRA-BRILL finds trouble with NUT-PI).

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Drawing by Pierce Morgan

Slow Tu-Swift (Tu-Swift is injured)

The Ashes of ROI 

Shadow Walker’s Shadow Walking (Shadow Walker returns to the Camp of the ROI alone)

Eagle Eyes Eyes an Eagle (After the Search Party becomes Separated, Eagle Eyes Spots one of the Eagles she Trained).

Tu-Swift’s Vengeance (Tu-Swift has the Opportunity for Vengeance on his Captors).

The Doors of Mystery (Some of the Search Party Return to the Odd Door Encountered Earlier).

Many Pains for Many Paths (Further Attempts to Undermine the Leadership of Many Paths)

Myths of the Veritas: Killing Sticks (Eagle Eyes and Lion Slayer Witness Killings at the Great City of the Z-Lotz)

The Eyes of the Cat (Shadow Walker & Tu-Swift Meet some of the ROI)

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Cats Eyes Shows her Gift (Cats Eyes Shares a Gift).

Tu-Swift Dreams of Drums (… and the Dream is Real!)

A Wild Ride (In a Log Flume)

Is there Honor in Killing Sticks? (Eagle Eyes and Lion Slayer Dialog about what they have seen).

The Illness that’s Everywhere (She Who Saves Many Lives shares with Many Paths).

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When Eagles Return (Many Paths Receives a Message from Eagle Eyes)

A Small Snippet of Cloth  (Many Paths Learns much from a Small Snippet of Cloth)

The Truth about Clouds and Gods (Eagle Eyes & Lion Slayer Continue their Homeward Journey)

Lion Slayer & Eagle Eyes Return (They continue their journey to the Center Place of the Veritas)

Mapping Out the Road Home (Shadow Walker, Tu-Swift and others Seek the Veritas)

Solomon’s Seal (Cat Eyes Prepares a Meal on the Journey)

Eagle Eyes Returns (At last, Many Path’s friend Eagle Eyes, along with Lion Slayer, return)

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Eagle Eyes Tells her Tale (Eagle Eyes and Lion Slayer Recount their Witness of Killing Sticks).

Killing Sticks Dialogue (The Veritas Dialogue about Killing Sticks)

Skipping Stones (Trunk of Tree Confronts Many Paths; Shadow Walker & Tu-Swift Return; End of Book Two).

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Author Page on Amazon

Essay Index for 2019

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Thanks, dear reader, for stopping by! Happy New Year!

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In 2019, my blog saw roughly 14,000 views from 122 different countries spanning every continent but Antartica. If you happen to know someone in Antarctica, I’d appreciate it if you could get them to stop by and comment on something for 2020. Even if you don’t know anyone in Antarctica, you could move there, but that’s likely too much to ask. Anyway, comments are always welcome from any part of the globe.

This post is meant to make finding things within this blog a little easier by providing an index.

There were three main topics that I dealt with in 2019.

Informal Lessons on Stories, Storytelling, & Their Use in Creating Value.

Essays about contemporary politics and psychology.

Book II of The Myths of the Veritas.

I began with a series of expository posts on stories and storytelling. These were associated with a design course I taught at the University of California, San Diego. These informal articles should prove useful for business leaders, writers, and particularly for those in HCI, UX, design, Human Factors and related fields. Stories are useful throughout the design, development, and deployment of systems and services. Below is an index to those informal papers on stories and storytelling.

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The Story of Story: 1

The Story of Story: 2

The Story of Story: 3

The Story of Story: 4 (Character)

Using Story in Design – 1

Using Story in Design – 2

Using Story in Design – 3

Using Story in Design – 4

Using Story in Design – 5

The second major class of posts are essays. Mainly, these essays have been inspired by actual 2019 events, large and small. Beyond the immediate danger of Trump, there are also additional essays and these are indexed below as well.

What’s Wrong with People, Anyway?

Essays on America: You Bet Your Life!

Doing the Dishes.

Essays on America: Winning by Cheating is Losing. It is not Winning

Corn on the Cob (An Essay on Gratitude).

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Essays on America: How do you Re-culture a Culture? 

Mobility

Essays on America: Declaration of Interdependence

Essays on America: Labelism

Essays on America: Wimbledon 

Essays on America: Wednesday

Essays on America: Mueller Time?

Finding the Mustard

Essays on America: A Tale of Two Nannies

Essays on America: A Little is not a Lot.

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Essays on America: Ice.

Essays on America: The Game

Essays on America: “At Least he’s our Monster!”

A Once-Baked Potato

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Essays on America: A Profound and Utter Failure

Essays on America: Sexual Fantasies for Political Gain? 

Horror Story

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Essays on America: Level the Playing Field 

Interview with Giant Slug

Essays on America: RIP, GOP.

Essays on America: “It’s Just Tommy being Tommy.”

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Essays on America: “It’s your call!

Essays on America: Beware of Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing.

Essays on America: The Screaming Defense

Essays on America: Rejecting Adulthood

The final class of posts are fictional. With the last post of 2019, I finished Book Two of The Myths of the Veritas. These will be indexed tomorrow in a separte post.

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Next year, I will finish the trilogy of The Myths of the Veritas in the blog. I also plan to publish four books next year. Two of these will be the first two books of The Myths of the Veritas.

A different book will comprise a Pattern Language for Collaboration and Teamwork. The fourth book will be Essays on America. 

All of these should be available on Amazon.

Happy New Year!!

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Skipping Stones

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The next morning, Many Paths awoke early. As she peeked outside, she could see that a heavy fog hung about the river. The sun itself appeared as nothing more than a gray disk. Many Paths sighed and briefly shivered as she arose and trod slowly to the river. She liked to stand and watch the flow of the water. She found it calming. 

She thought of Shadow Walker and yet again; she drew out from a small pouch, the Sixth Ring of Empathy, the last that she and Shadow Walker shared. She tried to recall when she and then the rest of the Veritas had begun calling him “Shadow Walker” rather than “Shade Walker.” It was odd, she mused. Most names became shorter over time. “Shadow” she supposed, was more precise. Specific things had shadows. But you could be in shade from many trees at the same time. You would not know which tree had caused which shadow. She still felt strongly that he was alive but she had no proof. 

Still clutching the Sixth Ring of Empathy, she began to reflect on last evening’s Dialogue and consider how things might go tonight. Perhaps she thought, we should finish the mock Killing Sticks and give people a few days to live with them before we explore them further. Even though a mock Killing Stick would not be like having a real one, she still thought it would offer more insight. They knew so little! Yet, time might not be on their side. Suppose Eagle Eyes & Lion Slayer had been tracked? Many warriors with such killing sticks could arrive to destroy or enslave the Veritas at any time. 

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If they all made the noise described by Eagle Eyes and confirmed by Lion Slayer, they should hear the use of such Killing Sticks in time to prepare for an attack. She needed to prepare the people. They could not be caught unawares as they had when they were attacked before and Tu-Swift had been taken. It still puzzled her that they had stolen Tu-Swift. She heard the caw of crows and turned in that direction. A large man was walking through the mist toward her. She hoped it could be Shadow Walker. As he loomed closer, she saw instead that it was Trunk of Tree. Though nothing more than a shadow in the fog, she could tell from the way he moved and his general outline that it was not her love, but this friend, this excellent warrior, this man who had lately grown problematic. Why was he seeking her out so early in the morning? 

“Good morning, Many Paths. It is I, Trunk of Tree. I woke early to check on our guard posts.” 

“Good morning to you, Trunk of Tree. Thank you. How are the guards?” 

“They are well. No sign of trouble. Nor did I catch any sleeping at their posts. I wish I could give each of the guards one of those Killing Sticks! But I did not come to speak of Killing Sticks — though they are much on my mind.”

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“They are much on my mind as well. We must all think on such a thing and dialogue again. So, what did you want to speak about?” 

Now, Trunk of Tree strode up next to Many Paths. He looked at her intently. “If I may speak frankly, I think we must accept the sad news that Tu-Swift and Shadow Walker are gone. I mean, they are not coming back. It is sad for all of us. But we must accept reality and move forward to protect the people from these Z-Lotz and ROI. Most especially because of what we have learned about the Killing Sticks.”

Many Paths sighed. “Do you see the sun?” 

Trunk of Tree frowned. “Do I see the sun? Well, I — yes, I can see it, though it lay yet well hidden by the fog. What…?”

“Do you think it will be hidden in this way when it is high overhead?” 

“No. I think the day will be clear, and it will be hot and yellow. In fact, we won’t even have to wait. Another little while and it will be shining brightly. It’s not a cloudy day. Just this morning fog obscures it. But what has this to do with Killing Sticks?”

“It has much to do with Shadow Walker. He too is hidden from our sight by the fog of time and distance. Yet, I believe him to be very much alive. We are connected. Actually, we are all connected, but I especially feel a connection to him and I tell you that at this moment, he is alive. Whether he and Tu-Swift can return safely, I cannot foresee just as we cannot yet see the shining sun.”

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Trunk of Tree shook his head back and forth slightly. It seemed to him impossible to have a frank and straightforward conversation with this woman. He grimaced and chewed his lips, searching for another path. In this, he lacked the easy skill of Many Paths. Yet, he continued. “I suppose it is possible he is alive somewhere, captured, enslaved, injured. Perhaps he has joined with the Z-Lotz. He is a proud and ambitious man and … “

At this, Many Paths broke into happy laughter. “No, Trunk of Tree, you — trust me, he is many things. He has skills. You have skills. But he is not as you say, a proud and ambitious man. That describes you, not him. What do you wish to say?”

“The tribe needs unified leadership. I propose that you and I join forces to provide that unified leadership. We cannot face an enemy that possesses Killing Sticks when we are divided. I propose that you and I marry. I know you still like Shadow Walker as I still like Eagle Eyes, but we must think of the tribe, not just ourselves. Join with me. With my strength leading and your wisdom as support, we will mount an attack on the Z-Lotz and take all their Killing Sticks. It is this which I see as the only sure way for the Veritas to survive. And thrive.” Trunk of Tree surprised himself at how well he had put forth his argument. Surely, she would see the sense of his position, now he thought. 

Many Paths stared at Trunk of Tree. “Who among the Veritas do you know to be my closest friends, apart from Tu-Swift and Shadow Walker?” 

“Who do I suppose… ? What? I have no idea. How would I know? I never thought about it. What does that — ?”

Many Paths intensified her gaze. “Think about it now. Take a moment. I’ll wait.” 

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“I suppose She Who Saves Many Lives. You talk much with her and she gave you all the Rings of Empathy. Did I guess right, Many Paths?”

“That is one of two. Yes. And, do you think it accurate to say she gave me the Rings of Empathy? Is that what you think? Were you and I and all the others not given the same tests? Am I not the only one who passed all the tests? What say you, Trunk of Tree?” Many Paths tightened her lips and furrowed her brow. She began to second-guess herself. Perhaps she had taken bait for an irrelevant conversation.

“I — I don’t know. I suppose. But She Who Saves Many Lives is clever. She may have wanted you to be her successor all along. But the point is that the people now need a strong leader. It is more important than ever. We can together offer that strong leadership. You are wise, but on your own, you have a tendency — you don’t always act even when the path is clear.” 

Many Paths felt like screaming at him that leadership was already united save for his attempts to undermine it. She wanted to scream that he had been completely inept in trying to gain support for his style of leadership. Most of all, she wanted to scream at him that she would never marry him and that she loved Shadow Walker. 

Instead, Many Paths pleasantly said, “Let’s skip some stones.”

“Skip stones? Why? We are having a serious discussion about the future of the tribe! Anyway, I can skip stones much farther than you. It’s obvious. What’s the point?” Trunk of Tree ground his teeth. But he bent down, took up a large oval stone that happened to lay at his feet and flung it into the river. It felt good to release some of his anger. He saw the stone skip five times before plunging at last into the rapids in the middle of the river. He grinned at Many Paths. “Can we now return to my proposal?”

Many Paths searched the ground. She picked up a flat stone. Then another. And another. And another. She looked carefully at the stones; hefted them one by one. She put them down beside her and whirled her arm about her. She stretched her arms carefully. She picked up one of the stones and walked to a place where the ground felt firm beneath her feet. 

At last, Trunk of Tree could stand it no longer, “What are you doing?” 

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Many Paths briefly glanced at Trunk of Tree and smiled. Then she took her stone and turned it about in her palm. She looked out at the river, noticing the parts of the river that flowed calmly and those that jumped and churned with turbulence. Then, she turned the trunk of her body nearly parallel with the earth and whipped her arm with surprising speed. The rock skipped across the river hitting the surface eleven times before landing on the far bank. She turned back to Trunk of Tree and smiled. “Thanks for indulging me, Trunk of Tree. Thanks for your patience. I am quite aware that these Killing Sticks pose a threat to our tribe, perhaps even to our very existence. That is why I really need you to do me a favor. You are a good warrior and a good general. I need you to prepare a contingency plan of what to do should we hear Killing Sticks. I do not want to be caught unaware as we were at our Feast that turned to Fire. Could you take on that important responsibility? For me, for the Tribe, and for my best friend, Eagle Eyes?”

Trunk of Tree stared at her, momentarily tongue-tied. “How did you throw your rock farther?” 

“What? Oh. That. I was just illustrating how important careful preparation is. To remind us both how important your plans will be. Just as in the Battle of the Three Forks. This time, we must be even more prepared. This may be the most important task for the survival of the Veritas, at least until we learn more. Perhaps you can enlist the aid of the woman who loves you, my best friend, Eagle Eyes. She was invaluable in our preparations for the Battle of the Three Forks. Working together may help overcome some of the understandable awkwardness that has temporarily grown between you. I need to confer with her for the morning on the making of the mock Killing Sticks. After that, she’s all yours for the next few days. To help with the plans.”

Trunk of Tree had much more to say, but Many Paths turned away and walked back toward the Center Place of the Veritas. She disappeared into the fog before he could utter a word. He stood for a moment staring at the rushing water. He shook his head and began thinking about how one might prepare against something so dreadful as a numerous tribe with Killing Sticks. 

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Soon, the sun dissipated the fog and Many Paths found Eagle Eyes at work making drawings of the Killing Sticks. She noted that there was a special place near the center where Nut-Pi had pressed to waken the Killing Stick. It was a bulge near the middle of the stick. Stone Chipper had gathered several appropriate sticks as well as three more among the tribe whose skills included carving. She walked over to compliment the group on their progress when she heard drums of the Veritas from afar. They announced the coming of people. With horses! Her heart quickened! The People Who Stand on Horses had returned! No. No. They were not, the drums said, standing on the horses, but beside them. Strangers, but without weapons. Who were these people? The drums said, Tu-Swift! The drums said, Shadow Walker! Eagle Eyes jumped up and embraced Many Paths. The eyes of Many Paths filled with tears and she ran toward the drums. Eagle Eyes and the party of carvers followed close behind her. 

She ran along the path that ran into the deep woods and out into a clearing beyond. She could see a group of people and horses atop a small knoll descending toward her. She sprinted even faster as she approached. The group with the horses kept moving slowly toward her. At last, she could make out the form of Shadow Walker jogging toward her. He seemed to be limping slightly. That would pass. Behind she could make out Tu-Swift who also appeared to be limping. She flung herself wantonly into the arms of Shadow Walker who reacher her first. The held each other fiercely as she kissed his face over and over, relishing the smell of him and the salty taste of his sweat. This moment at last had come and she wanted to relish it forever. Shadow Walker began to speak but she silenced him with kisses until Tu-Swift drew near and then she released one arm to draw him to her as well. The three of them held each other tight. Whatever else the coming days might bring, Many Paths felt that they could find — must find a way to survive those days, Killing Sticks or no Killing Sticks, spreading death or no spreading death. They would survive and the Veritas would survive, must survive. She had no idea yet of the discovery this little party had brought to the Center Place of the Veritas. In fact, even the members of that little party yet understood the full importance of the discovery they had brought with them. It would prove even more important than Killing Sticks. 

Original Masks by Sarah Morgan

Original Masks by Sarah Morgan

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Have a wonderful New Year!!

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Start of Book One of The Myths of the Veritas

Start of Book Two of The Myths of the Veritas

Introduction to a Pattern Language for Teamwork & Collaboration

Index to a Pattern Language for Teamwork & Collaboration

Author Page on Amazon

Sports Book on Amazon: The Winning Weekend Warrior which focuses on the Mental Game

Sci-Fi Stories about the Future of AI & Robotics: Turing’s Nightmares

Tips for Putting more Exercise into Daily Activities: Fit in Bits

Recollections and Reflections: Tales from an American Childhood