A Profound & Utter Failure

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A Profound and Utter Failure

For years I have puzzled about why someone would get into a state where they actively and wantonly worked toward the destruction of life itself. By “life” here, I don’t just refer to human life. I refer to the entire tree of life including all our fellow humans but also butterflies, trees, dolphins, and wolves. Everyone is actually part of that tree. So why should one part of the tree want to destroy the whole. 

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Let’s take a journey back in time to your childhood. If you go back far enough, I think you will find a time when you would be susceptible to hatching the following fairly evil plot. 

Let’s say that you and your friends decided on a really cool project — say to build a treehouse. Each of you was responsible for one major item. Your individual responsibility was to get a very long extension cord. You realized you had the easiest job and therefore you put it off the longest. As you returned each good-weather day after school to the site of the treehouse, the progress was obvious. And one day you arrived and it was finished. All your friends were up in the treehouse. They all waved to you and invited you up. One held up a transistor radio with a portable TV and shouted, “Bring the extension cord! We can watch TV! Any channel we want!” 

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But you didn’t have the extension cord. Now, of course, you probably just said, “Oh, darn! I forgot! I’m so sorry! I will go try to get one right now.” And, that would be that. You and your friends could have spent a summer or two enjoying that treehouse until you outgrew it and the weather made it unpleasantly moldy and unstable. 

Perhaps you can imagine a slightly different way of reacting. Instead of admitting you had forgotten, you instead reacted like this: “Well, why should you get to have fun up there while I have to go get an extension cord? A treehouse is stupid anyway. They’re unsafe! And once I tell your parents about it, they will forbid you to use it!” Can you imagine getting into a headspace, as a kid, where you would rather spoil the party than let anyone enjoy it if your own enjoyment was tarnished for any reason, including guilt? 

Or, imagine as a teenager that you and your friend both went to take the written test for a learner’s permit. You finished and failed with a score of 65. You watch your friend still working on the test. Do you want them to pass with a 75? 85? 100? Do you want them to fail? Personally, even as a teen, I would want them to succeed. However — I am very aware of a part of me that would like them to fail. Ironically, that part would have been wishing for my friend to fail more than for a random stranger to fail. Can you feel that too? 

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So, these are some trivial instances where an immature person might be tempted to act as though, if they can’t have what they want, then no-one should. 

Now imagine someone who felt themselves to be a profound and utter failure. Absolute. Utter. A fraud. A person will negative wealth who claimed to be rich. A person completely unable to do their job. A person who fails at relationships, at work, and has no real friends. 

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A person who nonetheless insists and screams and yells that they were perfect in all things and the best at everything. 

Imagine that they felt the only life that really matters was their own. 

Now imagine that they are about to die. 

Now imagine that they have to power to make others die with them. 

Many others. Many, many others. And not just human beings.

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Such a person would have no affection for pets or for wild animals. 

Might such a person want to destroy the entire tree of life because they view themselves as a profound and utter failure?


 

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Myths of the Veritas: When Eagles Return

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Though the winged creature was hooded, Many Paths stretched her hand forth slowly and carefully so as not to startle the raptor away. As she did so, she imitated the screes of joy the eagles sang when they rode the air high above. She hoped that would work. It seemed to help to train the wolves. She missed them too! So many of her favorite people gone — and at her suggestion. To the task at hand, she ordered herself. 

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It occurred to her at just this moment that perhaps the eagles were not singing for joy at all. Maybe they were exchanging information about the location of prey below! Or, maybe they were arguing about whose turn it was to have first go at devouring the body of the unlucky rabbit or mouse. Here I am, she chuckled, named Many Paths and still jumping to conclusions and taking the first line of thought that arises. 

What else might they be? What do people do? People speak of things far beyond their immediate concerns. Do the animals? Do they tell each other stories? Make promises? Do they apologize? Do they try to trick each other? Well, they certainly do that! 

Even as her mind raced about the challenges of cooperating with animals of a different species, her hand still slid steadily and smoothly to the target and she deftly undid the small knots. Now, she slowly withdrew her hand and murmured warmly to the raptor on her arm. 

“Thank you, mighty eagle, for this word from afar.” 

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Many Paths recognized the cloth even before it was fully unrolled: the shred was from Eagle Eyes! The two of them had travelled together to gather the rare indigo gentian which Eagle Eyes had used to dye part of her smock. 

Many Paths felt a sudden pull of connection to Eagle Eyes as she felt the cloth. She held it close and drew breath in through her nostrils. Perhaps it was only imagination but she caught the scent of Eagle Eyes. Something else was much stronger though! Soot. Fire. As she looked more closely, she could see that a tiny section of the cloth had been burned! 

She of Many Paths felt that she had to share this new information with the tribe … and soon. First, she wanted to think what it might signify. Many Paths frowned. She wished that Eagle Eyes might have somehow drawn a map — possibly even including the positions of all of the companions of Eagle Eyes. She couldn’t tell whether Shadow Walker or Tu-Swift were all right. Why couldn’t she include cloth from them too…or their signs. She recalled with a smile the map that She Who Saves Many Lives had given her for their test for the First Ring of Empathy. But of course, that map was much too large to expect an eagle to carry very far. 

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Many Paths strode toward the feast and tried to frame how she would present this. On the one hand, it was good news, but the news was ambiguous and incomplete. The fire part didn’t seem positive, but it was hard to tell. Too bad, she thought, that eagles couldn’t carry a better and more complete map. But the wolves could! Maybe they would bring more complete news. She felt a pang of affection for them as well as loss. She missed the wolves. Immediately, a much stronger feeling of missing flowed over her, for everyone, but especially Tu-Swift and Shadow Walker. She sighed and felt a big hollow inside, but then, the image of Shadow Walker came quite clearly to mind. She felt as though she could almost hear him talking though it seemed likely he was far away. The mind does play funny tricks sometimes, thought Many Paths, but it seems like he is telling me that my idea is right; we could communicate over distances by sending maps and symbols. Sounds a bit crazy, but why not? The wolves can track by a scent from something that is no longer where they are. What if we humans could learn to put a whole host of marks and scents on paper and then send it quickly via the wolves? She arrived at the feast and mentally placed this idea up on a branch of a tree she kept for “Interesting ideas to be thought about later.” For now it was time to reassure the people and tell them what she knew. For a split second, she considered the idea to pretend that she had simply “foreseen” that Eagle Eyes was all right and that there had been a fire. People might begin to believe she was magic and that could help focus the people to a purpose when the need became great. She could even weave a story that involved the “Magic Rings of Empathy.” 

Now she smiled at the folly of that course. If she were successful in this lie — because exaggerating one’s own powers is always a lie — it would only make her make more outrageous lies in the future. The people cannot be led on a wise path with lies. That seems obvious. 

Why then did she come up with such absurd courses of action? Maybe it was to continue to strengthen her resolve to do what was best for her people. For each time such a plot surfaced, at least so far, she had resisted the temptation. Mainly, she saw it was the wrong thing to do. Imagine that your eyes began lying to your toes about the position of a stone. Imagine that your mouth lied to your stomach and your hand lied to your mouth. 

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Even from a selfish standpoint, such exaggerations of her powers would be quite dangerous. She could be found out and lose all credibility with the tribe. Suppose someone believed that the Magic of Remote Sight arose from the Rings alone. Someone might contrive to steal those rings, with or without her fingers attached! If she shared the actual evidence she had, a shred of cloth, the whole tribe could apply their wisdom about likely interpretations. But if, instead, she presented her interpretation as fact, people could not think straight nor generate the full set of likely possibilities. 

Beyond that, Many Paths knew that she could never fully enjoy and participate in the feast or in talking with her tribe mates if she knew she were telling them a lie. She would be — forever alone — even if they never found out. She would know she was lying. She would know. And that would put up a wall between them. No matter what someone said to her, she would have to “check to see” whether her answer would betray her or might betray her. A moment’s lapse of ethics, thought She of Many Paths, could lead to a lifetime of cover-ups and further lives. 

Instead, she took her place among warm greetings and admiration. She let it be known that she had some interesting news to share around the fire after their meal of venison and corn on the cob.

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The Creation Myth of the Veritas

The Orange Man: A Parable of Lying and Greed

The First Ring of Empathy (The Start of Book One) 

Fire and Feast (The Start of Book Two)

An Essay on How we sometimes Confuse the Label with the Thing

Author Page on Amazon

A Once-Baked Potato

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A Once-Baked Potato 

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I’m really not ready to go for a long, high speed trip in a completely automated car. 

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I say that because of my baked potatoes. One for me. One for my wife. 

I’ve done it many times before. Here is my typical process. I take out a variety of vegetables to chop and chop the broccoli, red onion, garlic, red pepper while the potatoes are in the microwave. I put them in for some time like: 4:32 minutes and then, when that times out, I “test” the potatoes with a fork and put them in for more time. Actually, before I even take them out to use the “fork test” I shake the potatoes. I can tell from the “feel” whether they are still rock hard. If they are marginal, then, I use the more sensitive “fork test.”  Meanwhile, I chop more vegetables and take out the cheese. I test the potatoes again. At some point, they are well done and I slather them up with butter and cheese and then add the chopped Vegetables. 

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Delicious. 

But today is different. 

I pushed a button on the microwave that says, “Baked Potato.” Right away, I think: “Baked potato? I’m not putting in a baked potato. I’m putting in a raw potato. You have a button labelled ‘Popcorn’ — it doesn’t say, ‘Popped Corn’ so … ? Anyway, I decided to give it a try. 

The first disadvantage I see is that I have no idea whatsoever how long this process is going to take. I assume it has to take at least four and a half minutes. When I cook it via my usual process, it’s on “high” or “full power.” So, unless the microwave has a “hidden” higher power level that it allows its internal programs to have access to but not its end users, it seems I have at least 4 1/3 minutes to chop. 

Changing the way you do things always causes a little bit of discomfort, though often, a feeling of adventure outweighs that cautionary urge. In this case, I felt a lot of discomfort. The microwave can’t feel how done the potato is so it must be using some other sensor or sensors — likely moisture — though there may be other ways to do it. How do I know that the correlation between how I measure “doneness” and how the microwave measures “doneness” is even moderate? I am also a little concerned that there are, after all, two potatoes, not just one. There was no way to tell the machine that I had two potatoes. I decided that it was likely that the technical problems had been solved. 

Why? Certainly not because I have great faith in large multinational corporations to “do what’s right” rather than do what’s expedient. Once upon a time, not so many years ago, that really was my default assumption. But no longer. Too many lies by too many corporations about too many separate topics. Once upon a time, the government held some power to hold corporations accountable for their actions. Now, the power seems to have shifted so that many politicians — too many — are beholden to their corporate owners.  

The corporation just tries to work for its self-interests. They aren’t very good at it, but that’s their goal. 

Among the common ways they fail is by being too conservative. If they are successful by doing things a certain way, they often keep at it despite changes in the technology, the markets, the cost structures, the distribution possibilities, etc. (They are too afraid to push the “Baked Potato” button). At the same time, there seems to be no evil that many of them would foreswear in order to grow their profits; no lie that is too prosperous for them to tell. 

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Yet, I live, at least for now, in this world surrounded by products made by these companies and interacting with them all the time. I cannot trust them as a whole, but it’s almost impossible not to rely on some of them some of the time. They can’t fool all of the people all of the time. 

I do calculate that if they put these buttons on there and they were horrible, word would get around and they would lose market share. This presumes that there is real competition in the market. 

I think it likely that driverless cars will be “safer” than human drivers on average within ten years, and possibly sooner. My discomfort stems, again, partly from habit, but largely from a lack of confidence in the ethics of corporations. Normally, I would think that when it comes to life and death, at least, I can put some degree of faith in the government to oversee these companies enough to ensure their safety data were accurate. 

But I no longer believe that. And even after Trump resigns or gets impeached & convicted or he flees to Russia, there is no way to know how deeply and pervasively this corrupt misadministration has crept into the ethics of lesser government officials.  Any government official might think: “after all, if the President is flouting the Constitution by using the power of his office for his own benefit, why shouldn’t I? I need a bribe just as much as the next person and I certainly need the money more than Trump did!”

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Beep. Beep. 

The microwave claims the potatoes are done. 

And so they are. Perfectly. 

There is still hope for America. 

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Maybe I will be able to take that ride after all. 


 

Author Page on Amazon. 

Corn on the Cob

Parametric Recipes and American Democracy 

Pies on Offer

Garlic Cloves and Puffer Fish

The Pros and Cons of AI: Part One

 

Essays on America: At Least he’s Our Monster!

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“He’s a Monster, but at Least He’s Our Monster.” Little Sally pointed her tiny finger toward the writhing orange blob, then turned back to her older brother, Tony. Sally smirked smugly and folder her arms, dipping her head slightly as if that clinched the argument. 

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“No he isn’t!” insisted Tony. “You’re deluding yourself.” 

Perhaps Tony thought of his real name “Marc Anthony” as an invitation — perhaps a demand — to wax upon the topic; I won’t say wax elegant — but some sort of wax — as you might obtain as part of a ten dollar drive-through car wash. Perhaps if he had waxed more elegantly, but alas, that was not the case.

Tony thus proceeded:  “The whole point of being a Monster is that you don’t answer to anyone else. That includes a team captain, a superior officer, a teacher or any other “authority” figure. But you may, of course, give in temporarily to a more powerful monster. You are using him for your own purposes — playing on his vanity. Other, less powerful people you bully into doing what is in your own interests — or often just on a whim. You play to the throngs by giving them entertainment. But you have no loyalty to them either. 

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Liberty – Sold to the Highest Bidder. Hold for pickup.

“Our Monster — as you call it just because that’s the name he likes  — has no loyalty. He absolutely thinks loyalty is garbage – a set of words and concepts you can use on some people to get them to do what you want. So, sure, he thinks it’s fine to pretend loyalty in order to manipulate others. But the instant he thinks one of his “loyal followers” is a liability, he’ll destroy that person as best he can. If all he can do is ruin their reputation, he’ll do that. If they own key personnel in courts and law enforcement, he’ll use the courts to ruin his “comrades.” If and when he gains still more power over the police and military, he’ll destroy his enemies physically. 

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“And, if he runs out of enemies, he’ll start calling old friends, new enemies and destroy them as well. You’re playing with something worse than fire, here Sally.” 

Sally sniffed. “You’re just jealous because he likes me better than you!” 

A shrill scream shot through the air. Sally & Tony both jerked their heads toward the sound. The sharp teeth of the round-mouthed orange monster opened wide as it bellowed and screeched. “HUNGRY! HUNGRY!” 

“Well,” said Sally, “I think he’s cute, so I’m going to feed him.” 

As Sally scanned their scant provisions for something that would likely please the monster, Tony continued to try to dissuade her. 

“Look, Sally, it’s not safe. It may look somewhat human, but he has no human feelings. He just…” 

Sally picked up some lunch meat from the nearly empty fridge and ignored Tony as she walked out into the back deck. She looked down on the writhing form of our poor monster. She muttered to herself, “I don’t see why he needs to be penned up. He should be free to go anywhere he wants and to do anything he wants like everyone else.” 

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Sally strode over to the edge of the deck, took one backward glance to see whether Tony was coming to stop her and drew her arm back to toss the package of meat. She hesitated for a moment. What if Tony’s right? What if it really is dangerous? 

The monster’s plaintive cry bellowed through the air again, “HUNGRY! HUNGRY! FEED ME!” 

Well, thought Sally, I’m not going to do — or not do — something just because my smarty pants brother says it’s a bad idea. She cocked her arm again and threw the packaged down to monster — MY monster, she thought. 

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Monster immediately tore off the packaging and tossed it aside. He had already made quite a mess of his pen. He gobbled it up in a flash. Then, he began moaning. “Not fresh! Low quality! Need fresh! FRESH! Come closer, little girl. Pretty girl. Oh, you are a pretty girl! No-one ever pets me. Woe is me!” 

The monster waddled over to the edge of his pen. From here, Sally judged, she should be able to barely pat the top of his scruffy head. He looked up with dog eyes and she put her hand out to pet her. Suddenly, Monster’s neck shot up and took her whole hand in its mouth. It sucked on her hand and she could feel its sharp teeth against her skin. It began growling in its throat but she could understand what it was saying, “Bring me fresh meat! Or, I will eat you! I need it NOW!” 

The monster released her hand and stared up into her eyes with its dull shark eyes. She glanced back into the kitchen but saw no sign of Tony. The skin of her arm was unbroken. But that Monster really sucks! 

Where had Tony gone? She opened the kitchen door and padded about. No-one here but old Winston, the sick gray cat. Winston had once been a fun lively pet, but these days — not so much. Maybe he’d be happier dead. She knew in her heart of hearts that was a lie. But somehow, lying for the Monster didn’t seem so bad. She grabbed Winston by the scruff of the neck and put her hands under his aging body. She could feel the old cat’s ribs. She had to use her butt to open the door back to the deck but she managed. Like a zombie, she walked over to the edge and tossed the cat over before she lost her courage. 

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The cat was gone in a single gulp! Well, she thought, at least it was painless. “There you go, Monster!” 

“I NEED MORE! MORE Fresh Meat!” the monster pleaded. “NOW!” 

“We don’t have any more meat. Times are tough. Would you like some fruit?” 

“MEAT! NOW! MORE and Fresh! NOW!” wailed the Monster. 

“Okay, just a minute, Monster. I’ll look.” 

Sally re-entered the kitchen but saw no sign of Tony. She walked into the entry way and there sat Tony putting his fishing boots on. 

“Where are you going, Tony?” 

“I’m going fishing! You just threw away our last package of lunch meat. Like an idiot!” 

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Sally ground her teeth. Why was her brother so mean about the Monster? “Tony,” she said sweetly, “I’m glad you’re going fishing. I’m sorry I gave our last meat to the Monster, but I think you’re right! He’s dangerous! And, I think he’s about to break out of his pen! Can you come take a look before you go?”

Tony nodded. “All right. I’m glad you’re finally seeing some sense!” He finished putting on his boots making the trek out onto the back deck a little awkward but he came to the edge and looked down at the Monster. He scanned the pen. “Sally, I don’t see a problem with the pen.” 

Sally came up next to him.  “Look over — like here — right below. Doesn’t it look like a hole in the fencing? It might be okay, but it looks wrecked somehow.” 

Tony leaned over the rail to look at the fencing directly below. “WHAT?!” he screamed as Sally snuck behind him and lifted his feet making him tumble a dozen feet onto the ground below. Something — perhaps several somethings — snapped as he hit the ground awkwardly. “NO!” he screamed. Those were his last words. 

Sally felt a moment of guilt but then thought: Well, he had it coming. Anyway, now the Monster’s fed. And he was really hungry. She felt just a bit nauseous though as she heard the monster’s teeth saw through the bones. She couldn’t tell her parents what really happened of course. When the noise stopped, she crept over to the edge. There were only small pieces of her brother left and these were being lapped up by the Monster who stopped long enough to leer at Sally. 

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“Monster happy! Thank you, little girl. Pet Monster, pretty little girl. Please pet Monster.” 

Having a pet Monster like this was a lot better than having a pesky brother she decided. 

She put her hand down to pet the Monster’s scruffy head again. She stared uncomprehending at the place where her right arm had been just moments before. A pulsing geyser of someone’s blood spurted through the air. She shook her head and said, “What?” That’s my blood, she realized and she fell forward. She was losing consciousness. She found the strength to move her head and the last thing she saw was the Monster’s impossibly long neck stretching that roundish hole of teeth toward her face. The Monster laughed and said, “Pretty little stupid girl.” 

After digesting the lunch meat, the cat, Tony and Sally, the Monster felt quite satisfied. 

For an hour. 

Then, he began using his new found bulk and strength to dismantle his pen. Now he would be free. 

Free at last. 

Free to kill and eat all the children he could. 

Life was good, thought “Our” Monster. 

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An earlier parable about a monster. 

The beginning of the Myths of the Veritas. 

Author Page on Amazon. 

The Illness that’s Everywhere

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“I don’t really feel sick. Not exactly,” said the white-haired lady.

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Many Paths sat down on the edge of the pine bough bed and looked down warmly into the eyes of She Who Saved Many Lives. She squeezed her mentor’s hand a bit tighter as she asked, “Can you tell me how you feel, Great Leader?” 

She Who Saved Many Lives chuckled a bit. “That’s you now, dear.” She squeezed the hands of Many Paths and returned the warm gaze. “You’re the Leader.”

“It is more like everything feels sick,” Saved Many Lives continued. “Not a lot, but some. I see, feel, hear, sense — an illness that is slight for now but growing and that it is — everywhere.”

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Many Paths now grew worried. Perhaps, as sometimes happened, something bad grew in the brain of She Who Saved Many Lives. Or, maybe she was being metaphorical and vague on purpose. That was one of her many “tricks” to get you to think for yourself. Maybe, she is even now about to teach me a lesson. I would certainly welcome it, thought Many Paths. Her mood had improved. She could at least hope that her mentor was teaching her. 

“It’s most like a dizziness. As when you spin around in a circle for a long time. Then you stop and the whole world seems to be spinning. You lose your balance and fall. And that is what this feels like as well. Something in the world is very much out of balance. It is falling. And though the earth still lives, there are those about in the world who would make earth herself fall.”

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“And that makes you dizzy?” Many Paths still thought a teaching lesson was not the only hypothesis, but the best. 

“It does when I look upon it. I want to understand what it is and how it came about and how to stop it of course. And when I study into it, that’s when I myself start to feel that dizziness. How can anyone want to destroy life itself? They want it to be imbalanced! They want life to stop!” She Who Saved Many Lives sat up and Many Paths could see her mentor’s forehead was wet.  

Many Paths thought perhaps rest was the most important thing to prescribe for her patient. But her “patient” was anything but; she seemed obsessed with trying to find out what was imbalanced. Many Paths decided to pursue the conversation. 

“How could the world get out of balance? If it were in balance to start with, why wouldn’t it stay in balance?”

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She Who Saved Many Lives nodded, “I have asked myself that same question. As you no doubt would appreciate, there are many possible answers. It might be that none of them are correct. It is possible that the imbalance was always there but too slight for us to notice. Over time, the imbalance became so large that it was impossible to return to balance.”

Many Paths remained more concerned with her patient than with such a philosophical discussion. But her curiosity had nonetheless been engaged. She Who Saved Many Lives had a gift for that. 

“I can see how a small imbalance could lead to a larger one. But it may also be true that imbalance and balance are themselves in a cycle. When a person is a tiny toddler, they fall a lot! They have very little sense of balance. At last they grow into adulthood and they have good balance. Then…no offense meant…but as you get very old, your sense of balance becomes worse. Then, you fall again.”

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“Yes, and of course, each of us individually dies. For us, as a separate being, we grow so far out of balance that we die. And yet normally, the whole of life is not thrown off balance by that. But my sense of things is that people are “falling” at all ages, not just toddlers and old folks. It is something — I don’t think there is a better word than “evil” — some idea or way of thinking that is not only wrong in some circumstanced, but actually aimed at self-destruction. I think of NUT-PI and also from our own tribe, ALT-R and POND MUD. But it is not just them. Somehow, they or people like them are infecting others. It may be that I myself am ill. And because of that, I sense illness elsewhere. But I don’t honestly think it’s like that. The illness is everywhere — and it makes me sick to think of it — that there are life forms out there — as recounted in The Myth of the Orange Man — that want to destroy life itself for some trivial greed.” 

For a time, the two women sat in silence, each considering the words of She Who Saves Many Lives. Many Paths at last began, “I have felt something similar. I felt it when POND MUD and ALT-R betrayed us. But after we won the Battle of the Three Paths, it seemed as though the world was well again. Then someone stole Tu-Swift. Stole him. Who would steal the children of others? And then, in trying to find Tu-Swift, others left — and no-one is back. No-one. They may all be dead for all I know. Everything is sick. Yes. Very sick. And I don’t know how to cure it.” 

Many Paths looked for a time into the eyes of She Who Saves Many Lives for an answer, for a clue. Any moment now, she hoped, her mentor would ask one key question and this would all fall into place. At last, Many Paths realized that was not going to happen. Saves Many Lives had not been teaching at all. She was as confused as Many Paths. Saves Many Lives had reminded Many Paths that it was now her turn to be Leader. Many Paths took a deep breath and gave the hand of She Who Saves Many Lives one last squeeze and stood up. 

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“But we will find out how to cure it. We will find out. But for now, let us both get some rest. Tomorrow may bring good news or bad, but it will be another day. Many Paths smiled, turned, and exited the Cabin of her mentor. She looked out onto the Center Place of the Veritas. She smelled the cooking fires, and she heard the happy chatter of her people punctuated now and again with a laugh. It suddenly hit her that she loved this entire tribe and loved it with the same ferocity as a mother grizzly loves her children. She would find out what this illness of the world was and together they would cure it. They would fix it. Surely, life itself would come to her aid. 

She walked over to the edge of the broad, swiftly flowing stream. She smiled as she remembered the clever way that Eagle Eyes had turned this stream into a weapon in the Battle of Three Paths. She could see the pink and gold of the sunset clouds reflected yet transformed by the churning water. She knew that somehow and some day, all would be well once again. Life, after all, was robust. It also flashed through her mind the nearby spot where KAVA-NUT had been attacked by a trained eagle! That was something to behold. If we can enlist nature….

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Many Paths looked upward imagining the great eagle swooping down. She imagined that she could actually glimpse the eagle in the fading light…careening over the trees. No. It was an eagle, she decided, and headed this way! Could it be…? Many Paths quickly flung several folds of her robe over her forearm so that the Eagle could land there. She put her forearm up parallel to the ground and the Eagle alit. 

Many Paths recognized the Eagle as one of the ones that Eagle Eyes had trained. This one appears to have a badly broken leg, she thought. But as she calmed the Eagle, hooding its vision with her hand, she noticed that something was attached to the Eagle’s leg. She had to breathe deeply to calm herself enough to remove the something without spooking the Eagle. It seemed to be some sort of message.

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The Creation Myth of the Veritas

The Orange Man: A Parable of Lying and Greed

The First Ring of Empathy (The Start of Book One) 

Fire and Feast (The Start of Book Two)

Previous Most Recent Chapter in the Myths of the Veritas

An Essay on How we sometimes Confuse the Label with the Thing

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Essays on America: The Game

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The Game

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The Game has no rules. Not really. I suppose you could say that the one rule is that there are no rules. 

Not everyone can play The Game. So, that might count as a rule about entering and leaving The Game.

To Enter the Game, you need to be a Player. 

And, to Leave the Game, you need to die. (You can’t “quit.”)

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Those are the two rules about whether you can play, but there are no rules within The Game. 

But how does one become a Player? 

Fame is not enough. Wealth is not enough. Good looks, or sharp wits, or intelligence, or encyclopedic knowledge, or special talents? No, that is not enough. 

What is important is that you have Power and that you will execute your Power without regard to any human ethics or sense of fair play or human sensibility. 

But what exactly is this Game? 

To answer that, we must look at its origins. 

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Original Art by Pierce Morgan

Have you ever been bored? 

I certainly was — as a kid. But not for long. Because when I was bored — no TV, no friends, and long before video games or the Internet, I would read or I would make up a game and play that game. As an adult, however, I’ve been very busy as most of us have. I have plenty to challenge me, entertain me, make me laugh, and make me cry, both real and artificial. 

Likewise, I imagine that most of you have been more tired or worried or overjoyed or experiencing any one of a hundred emotions much more often than you’ve been bored. 

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But let’s imagine that you had been born into different circumstances. Let’s say that you were born into so much power and wealth that you could afford literally anything provided only your parents approved. And, once you could carry cash around on your own, you could even circumvent that restriction fairly easily. You may not have been able to buy true love, but you could certainly buy enough sexual favors to keep you satisfied. You could access any drug you felt like without any fear of consequence so long as you didn’t do anything boringly inconvenient like OD. 

Because, you see, if you did overdose, it would call attention to the fact that you and your mates could use drugs without a meaningful fine and without any jail time, provided only that you ditched your parents’ mansion for a month or two and instead lived in another mansion that would set you straight. Similarly, many of life’s challenges that most people have to face are not really challenges for such folk. They don’t have to worry about getting into college, or getting a job, or being popular, or finding a mate, or getting drafted into the army, or getting sick and not having to be able to afford the drugs, or getting arrested for such trivialities as shoplifting, doing illicit drugs, speeding, sexual assault, or vandalism. 

Human nature being what it is, even this kind of upbringing will not produce only sociopaths. Some people from such circumstances do turn out to be wonderful, productive, generous human beings. After all, they will get access to a marvelous education and if they are thoughtful, they may see that the world would actually be a better place if more people could live better lives. That happens a lot. 

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But not always. Many people born into such circumstances will not feel true love toward another human being. They will not take advantage of the educational opportunities by learning how to be a better human being. Some might learn particular skills like finance or law that they feel will help keep them in power. But education for them, like everything else, is only a means to an end. 

Imagine how you would feel if you had everything you could possibly want? Ecstatic? For a while perhaps. Happy? Maybe. But again, the way most of us are wired, with zero challenge there is zero sense of true accomplishment. You would be bored. Since real life offers no challenges, you’d like to play a game. 

The Game. 

The Game with no rules that is only open to the very bored and very powerful. 

To be a Player, you must have enough power to make it interesting to the other Players. And, you must be willing to play unethically. Otherwise, you’d be boring because you’d be so easy to beat. 

Just because you can’t be a Player doesn’t mean you don’t have a part in The Game. You do have a part. You are the dice. You are the cards. You are the little tokens that more around the board. There are 7 billion of you. It’s a complicated game! And because it’s so complicated and so open-ended, it never really gets boring for The Players. 

Although the game is open ended, there are certain patterns of moves that recur quite regularly. A common move, for instance, is to start a war. Another is to steal a great deal of wealth. Another is to “take over” another player — to “own” them so that they have to do what you say. 

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These “moves” in The Game, of course, can cause great pain and suffering to millions of people in the real world. So what? Many of them are also trophy hunters. It’s kind of a signal to other potential players: “No, I don’t care about life. But I care about winning. And I won over this lion (or elephant). So there!” 

Similarly, The Players really don’t care about how the people feel who die in a war or what it means to their kin; not any more than you would care if you’re playing monopoly. You might care about what token you use. I think the train and the dog are quite popular; the iron not so much. 

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Similarly, The Players often have some sort of persona that they prefer; gangster, thug, bon vivant, playboy, philanthropist, celebrity, politician, professor, entrepreneur, etc. Somewhat inconveniently, their persona shares a body with their real character so if the persona is mobbed, the real person beneath gets rushed, and touched, and man-handled. A great deal of time and effort goes into protecting The Player from the consequences of their actions in “the real world.” 

I cannot see the whole board, but it’s clear that The Players moves right now are, among other things, destroying the ecosystems that we rely on. By the very nature of The Game and The Players, they couldn’t care less provided the “real world” consequences will occur after their death. It’s no accident, of course, that most of The Players who are on-board with ecological suicide are old, white men who are not going to live much longer anyway. It’s of absolutely zero interest to them whether people die in hurricanes, or lose their crops, or their houses are flooded —- BOR-ing! What really matters — to them — is winning the game and “taking over” other players along the way. 

If that’s all that matters to us — the dice, the cards, the board, the checkers — if all that we care about is whose team is winning The Game and nothing about the consequences for billions of human beings and for other living beings on this earth — then that’s what will be. 

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But if we do care, then it’s time to end The Game. 

Before it’s too late. 

In other words, now.

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Series on SHRUGS (Super Hyper Really Ultra Greedy Swindlers). 

Post on how interconnected all life on earth is. 

An antidote to boredom: gratitude. 

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Essays on America: Ice

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“Have a nice day.” 

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In the San Diego area, where I live, people really do often say, “Have a nice day.” And, generally, that happens, at least weather-wise. It is typically between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit (13 to 24 degrees Celsius) year round. Right now, we are having a slight heat wave. When I went to play tennis this morning, I filled a cup 2/3 ice and 1/3 water to help me stay cool and hydrated on the court. Although we played at 8:30 am, the temperature on the tennis court was already high. As I filled my cup (to almost running over), I was once again struck by the odd properties of ice. 

One of those properties is that ice is less dense than water. Ice floats. That turns out to be a good thing. But it’s also an unusual thing. Many substances contract as they get colder and expand as they get warmer. 

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There’s another weird thing about ice. It takes as much heat energy* to change a cup of ice at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) to a cup of water at 32 degrees Fahrenheit as it does to warm that water from 32 degrees F to 176 degrees F!! That is hot water! Exposure to water for two seconds that is only 150 degrees F will give you third degree burns. You do not want to touch water that is 176 degrees Fahrenheit (80 degrees Celsius)! 

Just contemplate that astounding fact. It takes as much heat energy to change a cup (or any other amount) of ice to water at that same temperature as it does to heat that ice cold water up to way beyond scalding. 

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“Well, okay,” you might say. “But who really cares?” 

You do! Or at least you should. Because all that ice that is melting at the Arctic and in Iceland and in Greenland — that is a big frigging deal! 

And I think you would immediately know it’s a big frigging deal if Global Warming heated the ice cold water in the Arctic Ocean to scalding water that was so hot it killed all the fish, dolphins, whales, crabs, and seaweed in the ocean. It would kill you almost instantly if you tried to swim in it. 

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Actually, what is happening is worse than that. 

Why? Because although water is reflective, it is not nearly so reflective as ice covered with snow. Chances are, you may have heard the expression “snow blind” which is a temporary blindness caused by the sunlight bouncing off snow and hurting your retina. But you have not heard the expression “water blind.” Although there can be glare off the water, it is not nearly so severe. So, when the ice melts, it not only represents a huge change in heat energy; it also speeds up the further heating of the planet. The sunlight once reflected off of ice covered with snow and that helped keep the planet cooler. In those areas where the ice and snow have melted, much less of the sun’s energy is now reflected off into space. 

Actually, what is happening is worse than that. 

Why? Because the arctic heat is also thawing permafrost in arctic lands. This means that methane which is trapped beneath the permafrost is being released into the atmosphere. Alas, methane, like Carbon Dioxide, is a greenhouse gas. So, the increased level of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere is not only itself causing the planet to heat up; it is also releasing huge quantities of another greenhouse gas: methane. 

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Unfortunately, in the first two decades after being released into the atmosphere, methane is 84 times as “effective” as Carbon Dioxide at trapping the heat energy in the earth’s atmosphere. Agro-business and manufacturing also produce methane. This means more warming and less ice. 

As it turns out, there are many possible variations of ice. The exact number of different types varies depending on what “counts” as another type. You know that “solid ice” is different from frost and snowflakes and candle ice. Under extreme pressures, many kinds can be produced in the laboratory. But none of them is Ice Nine. 

Ice Nine is a science fiction substance created by the mind of Kurt Vonnegut in his wonderful book, Cat’s Cradle, which is well worth the read. 

In Cat’s Cradle, a scientist discovers another form of ice which “freezes” at room temperature. Not only that; if even a tiny “seed” of this Ice Nine touches a larger body of water, that entire body of water will turn into Ice Nine. So, an over-arching suspense arc of the book is whether or not humanity will be able to “contain” Ice Nine or whether it will basically destroy life on earth. 

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Ice Nine is fiction. But global climate change is not fiction. 

Whether we humans can get our act together in time to prevent turning Global Climate Change into Global Climate Disaster is not clear. Many people are working very hard to prevent that. But many other people apparently think it will happen after their individual life is over so they don’t really give a damn about how many of their descendants will suffer or how many other life forms they destroy. And a few people, those I call SHRUGS (Super Hyper Really Ultra-Greedy Swindlers), are actively trying to hasten the Global Climate Disaster by rolling back environmental regulations, setting forests afire, and denying that Climate Change is real. 

Why? 

That’s the subject of the next post. 

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  • In actual practice, the amount of heat will vary depending on the insulation and ambient temperature. If you heat ice water up on your stove, for example, at first, in addition to the heat you provide from the gas flame or electric coil, your house temperature (perhaps around 72 degrees F) will also be heating up that water. But once the temperature of the water reaches a higher temperature than 72 degrees F, some of the heat you apply from the stove will “leak out” into the rest of your house. And the higher the temperature of the water, the more will leak out into the rest of your house. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat%27s_Cradle

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A Little is Not a Lot.

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“A little’s not a lot.

A swing may be a miss. 

You must remember this:

A kiss is not a kiss

Without the bliss.

A single sword does not

Make Camelot. 

Offers don’t make bought. 

A day does not make old. 

All that glitters is not gold. 

Ads do not make sold 

Without the goods, 

A tree is not a woods. 

A giant sea of coulds 

Does not imply a single spoon of shoulds.”

@truthtable, 2019. 

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I just reheated a lukewarm half cup of French Roast coffee. I zapped it in the microwave for 18 seconds. That seemed about right, and it turned out very close to perfect. If I’d put it in for 17 seconds or 19 seconds, I would have been equally satisfied. 

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Do you think 1 second would have worked equally well? My “microwave,” despite the name, does not let me control the time to a microsecond, or even a millisecond. Do you think a millisecond would have been sufficient heating time? What do you think would happen if I put it in for 18 minutes or 18 hours instead of 18 seconds? 

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I’ve been watching the US Open on TV. There have been some amazing matches! Like the folks on TV, I can hit a serve. I can volley. I can hit topspin or slice. I can hit backhand, forehand, swinging volley, and overhead. I can aim the ball toward the empty court, or hit behind a player racing to cover the empty court. Yet, I don’t think any of my readers, however much or however little you know about tennis, would ever confuse my play with any of the contestants in the US Open! Why? I mean, is there really much difference between my forehand and Rafa Nadal’s forehand? Sure, he puts more topspin on and hits it with more speed. Why should that make a difference? 

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On a completely different topic, let’s consider nutrition for a moment. Do you think water is good for you? Yes or no? Without any access to fresh water, people die. How long it takes to die of dehydration will depend on health, activity, ambient temperature and other factors. As a general rule, three days without water will kill you, but it could be much shorter or slightly longer. But you won’t die in a millisecond. And you won’t survive for a year. It’s obvious; right? So water is good for you! 

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But wait. You can also kill yourself by drinking too much water. It takes about 6 liters of water to kill a 165 pound person. Of course, it depends slightly on the person and the situation. But you will not die from 6 teaspoons and you will certainly not survive drinking 60 liters in an hour. 

You can certainly drown in water. People do it ever year. In 2015, it is estimated that over 300,000 people died from drowning! It seems to me that water must be bad for you! Yet, you cannot live without it. 

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What about exercise? Good or bad? If you never exercise, that is certainly bad for you (which is why I wrote Fit in Bits). If you run as fast as you can for as long as you can, you will injure or kill yourself (as did the very first marathoner). Again, it depends on your health and the situation. Some people can survive a 50 mile race. Others will have a fatal heart attack sprinting 100 yards. 

How can life be so contradictory? 

Life is not contradictory. 

But neither is it composed of a set of perfect dichotomies. 

We like to impose dichotomies because it makes thinking and decision making quicker and less painful. In some limited circumstances, this strategy is appropriate. It’s fine to try to avoid cutting yourself. Under most circumstances, you don’t really have to say to yourself, “Hmm. It’s Tuesday, September 3rd. I wonder how much I should cut myself today?” No, any cut means a chance of infection and will take some of your biological resources to heal and recover from the blood loss. 

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Nonetheless, there is a difference between nicking yourself while shaving and being beheaded. There is a difference between stubbing your toe and being stoned to death by an angry crowd.

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I must confess to feeling a bit foolish pointing these things out, because I imagine everyone reading this is well aware that “some” does not equal “all” and that in many circumstances, how much and under what circumstances make a huge difference. If you want to give a pint of blood some day so that others may live, good for you! You’ll be doing it lying down and in the presence of medical personnel who will minimize the chances of infection to near zero. But you can’t give six pints of blood in one day. And, it is not advisable to “do it yourself” by slashing your wrist, collecting a pint of blood and then putting on a bandaid before transporting the blood to a blood bank.

Again — isn’t this all obvious? Well, I would have thought so. 

Yet, over and over, when I talk to supporters of the current US President and mention that he has told over 12,000 lies since taking office, people almost always say, “So what? Everyone lies.” 

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I am a dinner guest for the first time at the house of an acquaintance and they serve overdone salmon with way too much salt for my taste. I might say it’s “good” or that I “like it.” Depending on the situation, and how much they press me, I might also mention that I also eat sushi so I’m okay with having it less done. I might or might not mention that I’m never add table salt to my food. 

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If they say, “I like it…but I think I might have put too much salt in. What do you think?” At that point, since they are asking for honest feedback, I am going to tell them that I agree with them and that it tastes very salty.” Generally, I like to give people feedback that is honest, unambiguous, and offers a positive suggestion for how to improve. In the case of cooking, it makes a lot more sense to mention my preferences before the meal whether I’m at a restaurant or at someone’s home. Now, if I am nonetheless served over-salted, over-cooked food, I have a basis for being more frank than if I hit them with new requirements after it’s too late (at least this time) to do much about it. 

Giving feedback that is honest, direct, and offers an actionable suggestion is a good heuristic to use in the design of user interfaces as well. An error message that says, “Illegal syntax!” is fairly useless in and of itself as is “Stack overflow!” Error messages such as these are written from the developer’s viewpoint. They may serve as useful error messages during debugging. They are useless for the typical user. 

All humans are created equal. But not all lies are equally evil. And many many lies are not the same as a few lies. If you still think that publicly telling 12,000 lies that are told by a person who is supposed to be leading the country — lies that are told for the liar’s own short term benefit — if that ocean of lies is the same as a teaspoon of a lie told to encourage a child, or spare someone else’s feelings, then, please re-read this post from the beginning. 

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Human language enables us to communicate over time and space. It is a wonderful thing. Without language, we would basically be living lives not very different from those of primates in a zoo. Human language allows us to work together harmoniously; to specialize in particular skills; to build roads and buildings; to discover things about nature and ourselves; to invent and to improve. Human language can be used for no other purpose than to attempt to con people. 

There are even cases, where being “conned” is understood and acceptable. If you see a play or a movie or read fiction, you suspend your disbelief. At one level, you imagine that what you are seeing is actually happening. That makes the story and the experience more compelling. But you know that it’s a move, play, or novel. The same fiction, if it is touted as a documentary, is a lie. 

It is fun to see a competent magician perform. Their patter is meant to distract you, to misdirect your attention. It is part of the illusion. It is not “evil” because you know it is all part of the show. As an adult, at least, you don’t think that the woman was really sawn in half and then magically healed. It’s a perceptual challenge. It’s meant to be fun. It would be quite different if the magician murdered his assistant by actually sawing them in half! 

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Twelve thousand lies. Twelve thousand lies. Not twelve. Not twelve hundred. Twelve thousand. Each one is a cut to American democracy. Each lie reduces the credibility of America on the international stage. Each lie makes people feel less confidence in government. 

Yes, there are cases where it makes sense for POTUS to lie. Say that a reporter says, “A source tells me that we are going to try to capture Bin Laden on May 2nd (2011) at his compound in Abbottabad around 1 pm local time.” And then, imagine the reporter asks the POTUS at a Press Conference,  “Is that accurate?” 

Let’s further suppose that POTUS knows that this is accurate. Should he say, “Oh, yes, in fact, your source is precisely correct.” No, of course not. 

That is not at all the same quality of lie as it is to lie in a self-aggrandizing way about your abilities, your height, your vote total, whether or not you have Russian help in getting elected. It is not the same as lying that the Mueller report “exonerated” you. 

All lies are not created equal. And one lie or even a dozen lies does not equal 12,000 lies. One cut does not equal 12,000 cuts. One liter of water does not equal 12,000 liters of water. Heating my French Roast in the microwave for 12 seconds does not give the same result as heating it up for 12,000 seconds. No-one would carelessly equate any of these things. 

So, why do the apologists for the POTUS respond to 12,000 public, provable, and important lies by saying, “Well, everyone lies sometimes.” 

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A little is not a lot.  

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Books on Amazon by Author: 

The Winning Weekend Warrior focuses on strategy, tactics, & the mental game for all sports, for business, and for life.

Turing’s Nightmares uses fictional scenarios to explore ethical issues around robotics and AI. 

Fit in Bits suggests numerous ways to fit more fun and exercise into daily activities. 

Tales from an American Childhood recounts early experiences and relates them to contemporary issues and events. 

Is there Honor in Killing Sticks?

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Eagle Eyes and Lion Slayer moved swiftly away from the walled city, at first walking rapidly and later running quickly. They had both been shaken badly by seeing the killing stick. When they were sufficiently far from the city, and into a copse of white birches, they stopped to catch their breath and talk about what they had witnessed. 

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Eagle Eyes began by simply looking at Lion Slayer, grimacing and wordlessly shrugging her shoulders.

Lion Slayer responded simply by slowly shaking his head from side to side. 

They simply stared at each other for some time. At last, Eagle Eyes put into words what they both felt. “What was that? What did we just see?” 

Lion Slayer answered, “I have no idea for what it even could be. I have never seen or heard of such a thing.”

“Nor I!” said Eagle Eyes. “But I am fairly certain it was real and not play acting or ritual. The screams of pain were too real. If that was Nut-Pi, that is very bad news indeed.”

“Indeed it is!” 

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Eagle Eyes looked for a moment at Lion Slayer. “I’m glad you eventually came to fight on our side instead of working with Nut-Pi.” 

“Yes,” said Lion Slayer. “So am I. In fact, all of Nomads of the South as you call us — we feel that way. Nut-Pi is cruel and treacherous. He is quite possibly the one who began this stealing of children. My brother was one of the people who first spoke to the Cupiditas. Nut-Pi was not a nice person. Not at all. But he had a way of talking…it would make you think he was on your side and doing you a favor, but — no, no, don’t shake your head. I am not making excuses. It’s just…I’m agreeing with you. Nut-Pi has a giant city. He may have horses. He is very cruel, but he’s also a very persuasive liar to some. My brother never fell for it, but some of the Elders did. Frankly, I think the Cupiditas envied the Veritas.”

Eagle Eyes, “Why? Never mind. But now there is the killing stick! We don’t know what it is or why they steal children or how many killing sticks they have or how they work. We must get back and warn the Veritas.” 

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“But we could stay and find out more. Perhaps we could even steal some such killing sticks!” suggested Lion Slayer. 

“What?! What honor would be in such a kill? Nut-Pi showed no strength or skill. And it certainly was not a fair fight. Who would want to kill in such a way? Perhaps only Nut-Pi. Although…”

“Although what, Eagle Eyes?” asked Lion Slayer. 

“I wonder,” began Eagle Eyes, “if using such killing sticks makes a person into someone like Nut-Pi. But, no we must get this much information back there as swiftly as possible. We might learn more and we might not, and meanwhile, we might get captured and they would torture us for information about how best to destroy both our tribes! We can speculate further as we run. Come on!” 

They began to jog. Lion Slayer ran alongside through some sparse woods and then onto a burned field. “Do you know the way back to the Veritas from where we are?”

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“I know the direction but am not familiar with the terrain. Though as you see, we are lucky enough to have a sunny day with many small clouds.” Eagle Eyes glanced over at Lion Slayer. 

He said, “You mean because the clouds will keep it from being too hot or because it’s easier to know your direction when the sun’s out?” 

She said, “No. Both of those are true. But I speak of a third thing. The clouds help reveal the terrain beneath them.” 

Lion Slayer frowned. He took some even deeper breaths to ‘save up’ for more dialogue. “What mean you? Clouds reveal terrain? Clouds are clouds.” 

Eagle Eyes said, “Clouds do have their own nature. But it not just water that reflects. Everything reflects everything. Of course, the clouds are not like a still lake. But have you noticed that the water appears different when the sky is dark and cloudy from how it appears when the sky is clear and blue?”

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Lion Slayer answered, “Yes, but that’s because water reflects everything.”

Eagle Eyes smiled and said, “Indeed. Because everything reflects everything.”

Lion Slayer kept jogging but paused in his speech. At last, he said, “All right. Everything reflects everything, but not so you can see anything!”

Eagle Eyes laughed a bit, which slowed her pace. So, she controlled herself and continued, “You mean to say that you cannot see anything. I can. A cloud such as these changes slightly. Such a cloud over a desert shines a little more yellow; such a cloud over a snowy mountain appears whiter; such a cloud over a pine forest is greener; such a cloud over a large lake is slightly bluer. You can see fire reflected in it too though not a picture of the flames. Perhaps I can teach you by the time we get back to the Veritas center place.”

Eagle Eyes continued, “First, and perhaps most importantly, do you see any flickers of red up there?” 

Lion Slayer considered, “No, but I never do except at sunup and sundown.” 

Eagle Eyes shook her head, “If you ever know of a fire and there are such clouds as these, look and you will see. It can be pretty obvious. The others are a little more subtle. Look north and then look south and tell me what you see in the colors.”

Lion Slayer at last said, “They are different colors and shades and shadows both places. They aren’t one color or another!”

Eagle Eyes allowed herself a small chuckle. “Of course not. I don’t mean the cloud will be colored blue like a blueberry or white like a sun-bleached skull. Subtle. Subtle.”

They came to a well worn path but had to run single file. Eagle Eyes jogged on in the lead with Lion Slayer a few strides behind. They ran on in silence for a time enjoying the motion, and enjoying the slow descent. They also enjoyed not being on constant guard against discovery by the Z-LOTZ. 

At last, Lion Slayer broke the silence. “I’m not sure. But it seems like north is whiter and south is slightly more yellow. But it’s crazy. There’s no such thing or people would have told me.” 

Eagle Eyes said, “I wasn’t taught either. And that seems strange. Maybe the elders want kids to figure it out for themselves. But it might be that I noticed it because…well, I notice things.” 

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Lion Slayer tried to pay a compliment, “You do.  Have. Good eyes!”

Eagle Eyes said, “Thank you, but it isn’t just things I see. I hear things too. For instance, I hear from your breathing that you need a short break.” 

Lion Slayer replied, “No. I. Don’t. I.” 

Eagle Eyes stopped. “Fine. I need a short break. We’ll make better time if we don’t wear ourselves out. Plus there is water up ahead.” 

Lion Slayer said, “You see that in the clouds?” 

Eagle Eyes answered, “No, I see it in the plants and the trees. You don’t have this kind of lushness in your country. For you, the signs of water are quite obvious. There is desert and there is oasis. Right?” 

Lion Slayer nodded, “Yes, that’s true. Although, in the deep desert, one may sometimes see an oasis that is not really there. We call them a mirage. An oasis that lies.” 

Eagle Eyes nodded. “I hate lies. But I don’t think the oasis is lying really. I think what you are seeing is a reflection. But not off clouds and not off water. So…what could such a thing be reflecting from?”

Lion Slayer could now feel his legs becoming heavy. Eagle Eyes had been right. He did need to get a drink and stretch & take a short break. 

Reluctant to start a fire whose smoke might still be visible to Z-LOTZ scouts, Eagle Eyes shared the remainder of her pemmican provision. They ate silently for a time and sipped the cool fresh water that had indeed been where Eagle Eyes had predicted it to be. They agreed that they would walk for awhile and then jog again in the afternoon. As they walked, the conversation again turned toward the killing sticks. 

Eagle Eyes wondered aloud, “How would you feel if you killed an enemy with such a killing stick — especially if they had no killing stick of their own? Would you feel any sense of victory? Any pride? Or, would you become something like Nut-Pi? I don’t know. I used eagles against someone with no eagles. I used a change in the river’s course against those who had no idea that such was possible. But there was always some risk on both sides. What if you could kill someone from the other side of a mountain? Never having to see their face? Killing is not the first answer ever, but how does this strike you?”

Lion Slayer sighed. “If it were up to me, we would not use weapons at all. We would wrestle — something I am quite skilled at. But I can see why someone who is not so good a wrestler might prefer to use a club or knife. For honor though, the combatants must be equally matched. If they use killing sticks, we need to get some as well.”

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Author’s Page on Amazon. 

Beginning of the Myths of the Veritas

Beginning of Book Two of the Myths of the Veritas

An Essay on Labelism 

A Wild Ride to a Lower Level

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Tu-Swift shook his head. “We should all go. You and I are not all that fast either right now. He has knowledge about horses that we need to learn — and about the ROI. We cannot leave them here. We don’t know who is coming, but I doubt it’s a rescue party.” 

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Artwork by Pierce Morgan

Shadow Walker sighed. “All right. If Jaccim can walk out of here. I’m not carrying him. Nor is anyone else.” 

Though the sun could not be seen, its hidden light from beyond the horizon lit high pink clouds as they tugged aside the heavy door. Tu-Swift, now fully awake, shouted down into the cellar. “Cat Eyes! Cat Eyes! Wake up! We hear war drums afar but coming closer. We should leave. I’m going down to help. Pack up quickly. Can you explain to the others?” 

Tu-Swift, who had lost all fear of the others, began working his way down the stairs. The others were already packing. Apparently, they had no objection to leaving their adoptive slave-home, now in ruins. Tu-Swift could hear the soft yet insistent voice of Cat Eyes talking to the others in ROI. For some reason, it did not sound so foreign when she spoke it. Shadow Walker had also descended. He imagined his strength would be needed to get Jaccim up the stairway. Though if this really were a war party approaching, he doubted they could out-run or out-walk them. Working together, they managed to get everyone out of the cellar with their meager provisions and belongings. 

Shadow Walker began working his way toward the cover of the burned and broken forest and motioned for the others to follow. Jaccim shook his head and jabbered something in ROI. Shadow Walker grew impatient. “We don’t have time to discuss. We can leave him here though I think it would be better to kill him outright. Otherwise, the ROI or whoever it is will force him to say which way we went. Let’s go!” 

“No, no. You don’t understand,” began Cat Eyes. He wants to come with us, but he says we should go another, faster way.” 

Shadow Walker asked, “How? What other way?”

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Cat Eyes said, “He calls it a ‘flume’ but I don’t know what that is.” She glanced at Jaccim who grimaced in pain. It hurt him to move, but he began using sign language to supplement his words. 

Cat Eyes, turned now to Shadow Walker. “He says that beyond the place where they kept the horses there is a branch of the river that was long ago dug to allow logs to flow down to the plane. Even among the ROI, it is not much thought of. But he thinks it will still work. There are still hollowed logs there that we can use to ride quickly down to the plain. If we hurry, and they don’t see us, we will escape them for good.” 

Tu-Swift stared at Shadow Walker who stared back and then looked at Jaccim. Could Tu-Swift be right about this man? Does he really feel grateful for the medicine? Shadow Walker thought it would be almost impossible to outrun them anyway with his sprained ankle. “Yes, let’s try this ‘flume.’ They made their way as quickly as possible back to the horse paddock. Beyond that they went toward a small stream. On the far side of the stream, the current had dug into the bank. In that darkness, floated several hollowed out logs. 

Jaccim pointed toward them as though he wanted them to get in these logs. But then, as they approached, he suddenly shook his head and pointed urgently to a nearby large lever, hidden among vines, and signed for them to help him instead. It still wasn’t clear to Shadow Walker whether or not this was some sort of elaborate plot or trick. He kept his hand near his sword and spoke a single word “Caution” to Tu-Swift. 

Jaccim grimaced as he pulled back on the motionless lever. Cat Eyes, Shadow Walker, and Tu-Swift put their backs into it as well. The lever itself seemed to be made of that same material that the swords were fashioned from and the cellar trap door — and the door that Shadow Walker had moved long ago. They all pulled on the lever, but nothing happened. Then suddenly, all four of them fell on their backs as the lever gave way. Jaccim urged them to get into the dugouts now – at once. The lever had apparently been connected to a kind of gate which moved and allowed much of the river to veer off steeply to the right. Shadow Walker got in behind Jaccim. He wanted to keep an eye on him. Two women quickly got into another dugout, each holding one of the wolf pups cradled in her arms. Cat Eyes got into the third and last log and told Tu-Swift to get behind her. 

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The logs felt odd and unstable. They eddied around in the dark pool and Jaccim used his hands to paddle the log. Soon, Shadow Walker imitated him. Working together the log slowly inched its way out into the current. Suddenly, the log began to move quickly. Jaccim immediately put his hands out and grabbed the side of the bank. Then, with Shadow Walker’s help, they turned the boat slightly. 

To Tu-Swift’s eyes, it seemed the boat had simply disappeared. Directly in front of him, he could see the two ROI women following. Their boat also fell from view. Tu-Swift was tempted to jump out. He knew how to swim but he had never ridden in a boat and he didn’t like it. But Cat Eyes grabbed at the shore and managed to turn their boat and then…whoosh! The two of them were falling, speeding downward. Tu-Swift grabbed Cat Eyes around the waist to help keep his balance. He could see that they rushed through a wooden channel — a kind of artificial river. They fell much faster than he could swim. The long beautiful hair of Cat Eyes streamed into his face making it hard to see. Maybe Jaccim had lured all of them to their death. He began to wonder how he and Shadow Walker could have been so stupid. 

Suddenly, Tu-Swift found himself submerged in icy water. The breakneck flight of the log stopped. It resurfaced and bobbed along gently. Tu-Swift and Cat Eyes now floated together stuck to their clothes and to each other. Tu-Swift noticed that the other two logs floated nearby. He could hear the water rushing into this slow river behind him. Or, was the sound in front. Tu-Swift felt disoriented. In front, he could see Jaccim and Shadow Walker paddling wildly toward the shore. And, now, so did the other two ROI women. He and Cat Eyes followed suit, though he wasn’t sure why. They were already soaked. And, this seemed a pleasant enough way to travel. There was definitely a roar in front of them. He could see Jaccim and Shadow Walker scrambling out of their boat, grabbing their things and wading to shore, holding on to the branches of a fallen tree to help. Shadow Walker tried to pull the dugout along with him but the current dragged it away. It floated away and disappeared. Soon, he and Cat Eyes joined the other four on the shore, all of them soaked. They scrambled up a muddy embankment. From there, Tu-Swift found a higher vantage point and watched the other two logs disappear over a cliff of water. A sudden shiver shook him. Was it the cold, he wondered? Or, was it the knowledge that he had been seconds from being crushed from a fall? 

Tu-Swift began to shiver uncontrollably now. Shadow Walker rummaged through his belongings but all the blankets were damp. He glanced at Jaccim and saw that he lay motionless, apparently exhausted from the effort required by their narrow escape. Shadow Walker felt loath to build a fire after seeing all the destruction and death it had caused, but he knew Tu-Swift especially needed warmth. He was so skinny. His lips were turning blue. 

He glanced about. This part of the forest, far below the Center Place of the ROI had been spared by the great conflagration. He placed a few damp blankets and hides over Tu-Swift and searched for tinder and kindling. He now felt comfortable leaving Tu-Swift, at least for a time. He returned a few moments later to see a strange sight. Tu-Swift and Jaccim lay together.  Both shook with cold but the three women had thrown their arms and legs around the two, using their own body heat to help keep everyone keep warm. 

Shadow Walker created a place to set a fire with reflecting stones around them on one side and a rock behind on the other side. Before he began striking his milky blue-brown flints together though, he asked Cat Eyes to find out from Jaccim whether their fire could be seen from up above. 

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She quickly translated the short question into ROI, but Jaccim’s answer seemed too long. At last she said, “He rather doubts they will follow us. What they see from afar could be clouds from the water fall. Or, smoking remains of the fire. Those are not the war drums of the ROI, but of the Z-LOTZ. They are not actually even war drums but celebration drums. The leader of the Z-LOTZ proclaims that the ROI are now in default of their agreements and all will be made slaves. The drums are calling all the living ROI to come out and be slaves for the Z-LOTZ.” 

Shadow Walker asked, “What agreement?” 

Cat Eyes sighed. “That’s a long story but the main point is, it’s okay to set the fire.” Here, she looked straight at Shadow Walker. 

“Tu-Swift is very cold! Please!” As she said this, she hugged Tu-Swift even more tightly as though to demonstrate her point. 

Shadow Walker was a skilled fire starter. Even so, his own hands shook a bit as he set the fire and chipped his flints together. 

Soon, Tu-Swift’s color returned. It felt quite nice being warmed by the three women. Especially Cat Eyes. Tu-Swift found her eyes very beautiful to look into. He stopped shivering and the women released him. He sighed and inched a little closer to the fire. He noticed a small stack of kindling laying a ways off. 

Tu-Swift found the kindling — weird. Normally, Shadow Walker stacked firewood in a very methodical way. These sticks lay haphazardly splayed out at odd angles. Not surprising, thought Tu-Swift, because Shadow Walker had been in a hurry. Feeling a bit embarrassed by being so cold, and even more by the pleasure he derived from the women warming him, he decided to do something useful and to stack the wood carefully. He sat now still close to the fire, but with his back to it and began to stack the sticks. But as he did so, he felt an odd tingling sensation on the back of his neck. He noticed that his eyes stared fixedly at one little configuration of sticks. And, it reminded him somehow of Stone Chipper who had folded his arms just like that in order to signify…

Tu-Swift clapped his hands together. “The dream! The dream! The dream!” he exclaimed aloud.

Shadow Walker held up his hand and said, “What dream? What are you talking about?”

Tu-Swift stared at Shadow Walker and asked very slowly, “Did you save the hides with the strange markings? Did you?”

Shadow Walker nodded solemnly. “I did. You just now sat on one such hide over there.” Shadow Walker pointed at the spot where Tu-Swift had just been sitting. “What is going on?”

Tu-Swift glanced at the eyes of his companions. “I think I know what it means!” 

Cat Eyes seemed excited. “The marks? You know what they mean?”

Tu-Swift nodded, “I think so. I have to check. You know the Z-LOTZ tongue as well as the ROI and Veritas, right, Cat Eyes?” 

Cat Eyes. “Yes, I do.” 

Tu-Swift added, “Good! Good! And sign language. You know their sign languages too, right?”

Cat Eyes answered, “Well, yes, but they are the same. Almost identical. Life three leaves on a tree.” 

Tu-Swift eagerly asked, “And do they have the Legend about the gifts of sounds from the animals?”

Cat Eyes considered this for a moment. “Well, I am not sure. I have never heard it whole after I was stolen. They wouldn’t bother to entertain me or teach me about such things. It would take me some time to recall whether I overheard it.”

Tu-Swift, “Yes, yes. Well, it doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter. Here, look at this. You see how these marks are like the arms and forearms and hands? Don’t you see?”

Cat Eyes looked at the excitement on Tu-Swift’s face. His eyes twinkled with the vibrant flames. “So, you think these marks are actually meant to be … pictures … of people doing sign language?” 

Tu-Swift nodded vigorously. “Yes! Yes! But it’s more than that too. See? It isn’t just every sign that’s shown. Each sign is for one of the main sounds of the language! See? There is the ‘zzz’ of the buzzing bee! There is the ‘sss’ of the hissing snake! Do you see? Do you see? We can make these symbols line up into a whole story! Imagine!” 

Shadow Walker frowned and shook his head. “That seems like a lot of work for nothing. Why not just tell you?” 

Tu-Swift continued with unabated enthusiasm. “Yes, but — I’m here! But what if…what if we could…what if we could put such marks on a small piece of bark, tie it to the leg of one of the hawks that Eagle Eyes trained and you could … you could send these words to Many Paths! You could tell her we are alive. You could tell her…anything that you could tell her in person.”

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Shadow Walker wrinkled up one eye. “What are you talking about? Are you suffering from being too cold?” 

Cat Eyes had caught Tu-Swift’s enthusiasm. “No, no. He’s right! Tu-Swift’s right! We could use this to send our words. See. I think of a word. I put one of these for each sound. Now, when you look at it, you don’t think of the whole word; just think of the first sound. Now you put them together and it makes the sound of the word. You know which word I meant.” 

Shadow Walker tilted his head. “That might work. Yes. But why not just make a mark for each sign?” 

Cat Eyes began talking while Tu-Swift considered this. “You could. But … I think sign language works well when you are there with the person. It doesn’t take a great imagination, if we are all wet and cold and you gesture toward firewood, we know what you mean. But how would you tell Many Paths, if she were not here, that Tu-Swift and you were both alive, had joined up with four ROI, their village had burned, and all would return by full moon?”

Shadow Walker. “I see. But that wouldn’t fit onto hawk’s leg!” 

Tu-Swift said, “No, you are right. But now that we know such a thing is possible, we might find other uses or other ways to send messages some distance. Remember how we put false marks in the forest to thwart Nut-Pi?” 

Shadow Walker nodded. “How do we know these marks are true? When you speak to someone, you can see the truth in their eyes. How do we know the marks are true?” 

After a pause, Tu-Swift said, “That is a good question. A hard question. But a very good one.” 

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Books by the Author:

The Winning Weekend Warrior – strategy, tactics, & the mental game for all sports. 

http://tinyurl.com/ng2heq3

Turing’s Nightmares. Speculative Sci-FI about robotics and AI that raises ethical issues. 

http://tinyurl.com/hz6dg2d

Fit in Bits describes many ways to work more fun, variety, and exercise into many of your daily activities to become fitter, thinner, & healthier. 

http://tinyurl.com/h6c7fce

Tales from an American Childhood recounts early experiences and then relates them to contemporary issues and events. 

https://tinyurl.com/y9ajvz9j

The First Book of the Myths of the Veritas. 

The Second Book of the Myths of the Veritas.

https://petersironwood.com/2017/02/25/the-invisibility-cloak-of-habit/

How we can “paint ourselves into a corner” psychologically. 

Four Essays on Social Media, Propaganda, Persuasion.