Dialog: Killing Sticks


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Sun with face rising on the horizon.

Original art by Pierce Morgan

As was traditional among the Veritas, before beginning the delving into such a troublesome topic as how to make sense of killing sticks, they sang their songs of the origins of the Veritas. They sang a song about their daily life and another about the dangers of greed and lying (taken from their story, “The Orange Man.”) Lastly, the ended with a song about the forgotten fields. 

These elements were traditional, but Many Paths opted to push their common ground even further because she knew this could be a very divisive topic. She intuited this partly from overhearing snippets of conversations as she passed by. She saw the puzzlement and concern on everyone’s face now. And, she reckoned that the idea of a weapon that kills so quickly quite reasonably caused much anxiety. When people were anxious they often shied away from the truth and from exploring many paths before running down one. She didn’t expect everyone to think of as many branches as she did, but she hoped they wouldn’t sprint thoughtlessly down the first path they spied. 


“If you will indulge me, I would like us to recount for a few moments, our successes in the Battle of the Three Forks. I do this for two reasons. I recount this victory because it will remind us of our ability to work together and our creativity because in that battle, we used many weapons that some among us invented. Eagle Eyes, as you may recall, invented the slippery slope after watching the ant lion; she also trained the Eagle to protect her and found a way to divert the river. And what was our greatest weapon of all?” 

“Arrows well-aimed.” someone shouted. 

“Well, those are vital and we have some exceptionally good archers here.” In the mental screen of Many Paths, the image of Shadow Walker drawing a bow sprang to mind. She missed him all the time in the form of a dull ache, but seeing him so vividly in her mind’s eye sharpened the pain as a hot pepper may do to a toothache. She drew a curtain over that image and continued. “I suspect our greatest weapons were being patient and trying to understand our enemies. As a result, two of those so-called enemies were not even actual enemies. In the case of the Nomads of the South, we have formed friendships and exchanged goods to both of our benefits. I recount this tale because it is natural to fear a new weapon that we do not understand. It is wise to dialogue this. Let us do so thinking with our whole brain. Do not become panicked. We have long survived and we will survive long after. So — open your hearts and open your minds. What do we make of these killing sticks?” 

Trunk of Tree, being Trunk of Tree, immediately took a stand against the legitimacy of the question. “Before we go any further, I’d like to say our first step should be to verify this rather preposterous story with another witness.” 

“You do have another witness,” said Lion Slayer. “Me. I was there as well. We both saw and heard the same things. We surely were not struck by the same hallucination at the same time.”


“There might be many ways for an illusion to occur. I do not fault you, but I am willing to lead another expedition to observe — and even steal this killing stick.” 

Lion Slayer slowly shook his head. “ I do agree, that it would be good to find out more, but it will take at least a week. And, once you are there…it is huge beyond your imaginings. In fact, we would have been captured several times except that, Eagle Eyes really is just that. But there are at least 100 times as many people there as we have Veritas. We saw what we saw and we came back here without being seen or caught. 

Eagle Eyes spoke up, “Lion Slayer’s right.” If you went back again to get an unnecessary verification, that person could be caught. That is not only a danger to the brave persons who would attempt to witness another such use; it is a danger to the whole tribe. If such a one were seen, these Z-Lotz would know that we know about these killing sticks. This may well hasten an attack as they would wish to do so before we learn how to make such weapons or defend against them. And, if such a one were caught, they would surely be tortured for information. Perhaps they would successfully resist or mislead but if they have a weapon such as this, who knows what kinds of torture they might have?”

In the Veritas form of dialogue, it was not necessary, particularly at the beginning to answer point with counterpoint. People just shared their thoughts and experiences. The Veritas actually listened to all of those who had spoken so far. There was a silence as the sun set in violent crimson and the roaring fire began to look brighter with the setting sun. 

Hudah Salem said, “I say to you that the Nomads of the south also think it good that we did not fight. It was not our fight. This now, we know more about the Z-Lotz and Nut-Pi. This now, we are happier still not to fight you.” 

Many Paths nodded. “So far, the strongest weapon we have found is not a weapon at all, but finding common cause so as not to fight at all.” 


Trunk of Tree spoke again, “But imagine that the Nomads of the South had had such killing sticks, assuming they do exist. They may have been less reluctant to kill if it were so easy and so risk-free for them.”

A long silence ensued. The Veritas tried to imagine how having — or not having — an easier, more risk-free way to kill might or might not influence their actions and decisions. 

At last, Many Paths spoke. She realized that Trunk of Tree was likely using the dialogue as a way to demonstrate his wisdom and power. Nonetheless, it was more important, so she thought at the time, to seek the truth. “I believe you may be correct, Trunk of Tree. I would add that how much such killing sticks would encourage or deter going to war would depend on how a particular tribe thinks about life and how they reward their warriors and on what basis. All of these considerations must also be in our calculations as well. Eagle Eyes and Lion Slayer, I have a question, perhaps on the minds of many. In this meeting you witnessed, suppose that the leader of the Z-Lotz had not had a weapon of any kind. Would he have prevailed over these other men in any case?

Lion Slayer shook his head. “We cannot tell. We did not get a good look. Neither man seemed particularly — neither of them looked like Trunk of Tree. The one called Nut-Pi was a slight man, not young, but neither was he old. The first two he killed looked to be able-bodied warriors. The last man killed, the one he tortured, was portly. In a fight without weapons — who knows? We could not judge their skills.” 

Eagle Eyes spoke next. “As Lion Slayer said, we did not have a chance to see the war skills of either. I can say with certainty that both Nut-Pi and the man we think was leader of the People who Steal Children were cowards. Neither one was a brave as our warriors.” 

Trunk of Tree questioned this as well. “How can you say this? You do not know.”

Eagle Eyes replied, “It is true. I do not know for certain. However, the Z-Lotz leader, Nut-Pi, though he had a killing stick, had numerous guards around him to face these unarmed persons. He used a weapon which easily and immediately killed two men. And yet, he did not use it just once but many times on his last victim. He intentionally and cruelly inflicted pain. Such damage as caused by the killing stick could have killed quickly. He chose to do it slowly instead. That is a bully. He used his power and his weapon to humiliate and cause unneeded pain. These are signs of a coward.” 


There was a general murmur of assent. 

“The other man — the leader, so I think, of the People Who Steal Children begged for his life. He did not try to help his comrades. As Lion Slayer said, he looked to be one who has things brought to him all his life, or at least recently.” 

Many Paths added, “Indeed, we already have evidence that Nut-Pi was a coward. He did not participate in the Battle of Three Forks though he tricked others into fighting. He promised the booty to be gained from the defeat of the Veritas to three different tribes. Surely, he knows one thing cannot be given to three different tribes. He lied to his own comrades and allies. Such a man is a coward.” 

Trunk of Tree again spoke. Since he had no direct knowledge of the affairs, it began to seem to many among the Veritas that he was not participating in a true dialogue. This rarely happened, but it had happened. 

Trunk of Tree said, “So there are cowards with killing sticks and cowards without killing sticks. From this we learn nothing. A strong leader, who is not a coward could be a very formidable leader and lead his people to victory after victory.” After a short pause, he added, “Assuming they even exist, of course.” 

Eagle Eyes shot a look at Trunk of Tree and caught his eye. She signed to him subtly so that others might not see, but openly enough that Trunk of Tree caught the meaning of her deft sign language, as did Many Paths and several others. “Do you think I am a liar, Trunk of Tree?” the gestures asked.

Easy Tears spoke next, “Trunk of Tree, we welcome you to share your thoughts with the tribe, just as we welcome the thoughts of everyone in the tribe. But I, for one, would like to hear from others what they think of this killing stick. And, speaking of sticks, Many Paths, perhaps it is time to make use of the Talking Stick as well.” 

There was a general murmur of assent at this suggestion. The tribe had not forgotten that not so long ago, Trunk of Tree had spoken against the leadership of Many Paths and even now, it seemed that everything he said was aimed toward making him leader and making him in charge of the killing sticks, no matter what the costs. 

Many Paths stood and held aloft the Talking Stick.  She glanced around the circles and saw that Stone Chipper wanted to speak so she handed him the Talking Stick. 

“You all do know that we use arrowheads and spearheads and that the preparation of such requires work. Yet, most of you do other work, so you do not realize how much skill and how much work is involved in making a good arrowhead or a good spearhead or a really good axe. It may be that these killing sticks require much less work. Or, it may be that these killing sticks require much more work to fashion. We have no idea. We also have no idea how much skill is involved in keeping one or using one. We do not know how much using a killing dulls it. Can it be used ten times? A hundred times? A thousand times? Not everyone is equally skilled at bow and arrow. Not everyone is equally skilled at using a spear thrower. Sometimes, in learning to use our weapons, one of our own is injured. You have all heard how flaming arrows, which seem like an excellent weapon accidentally destroyed an entire village. We know nothing about the dangers of such killing sticks. Perhaps one who seeks to learn to become highly skilled might accidentally kill others or themselves while they are learning. Perhaps we should all have one. Perhaps no-one should. But I believe it would be foolish to steal them from these people of the great walled city, these Z-Lotz, until we know more about them. It isn’t just like stealing their bows and arrows which we know how to use and make and care for.” 

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Stone Chipper’s son, Horse Viewer offered his hand to his father who laid the Talking Stick for the first time in his son’s hand. Stone Chipper hoped his son’s would prove wise. “When I was young and first followed my father to help find appropriate stones, I generally walked barefoot. As I grew heavier and my father walked more quickly, I disliked the sharp stones on my feet. So, I began to wear moccasins as most do. This protected my feet. But it also made them softer. Is it not possible that using the Killing Sticks would make the arms that throw spears and the arm that strings and draws a bow softer and weaker as well? That is my thought.”

She Who Saves Many Lives took the Talking Stick and said, “And that is a good thought, Stone Chipper.” Though the tribe awaited her to say more, she passed the Talking Stick to A-OC.

“It is thus with hands as well. And muscles,” said A-OC. “When it is the season to climb the trees and fetch fruit, my skin and my arms both become stronger. But when it is a season of much weaving, only the tips of my fingers are hard.” With that she passed the Talking Stick to Bent Finger.

He silently held up the crooked index finger of his left hand. “It is true that the animals of the forest, the trees, even the rivers adapt as do our own bodies, but not always. Sometimes accidents happen and there is no repairing it. As you see, my badly broken finger never did straighten or regain its earlier strength. This makes me wonder about the accidents that might happen with such killing sticks about our camp.” 

P-OC gently took the Talking Stick. “We talk of killing sticks. But if I understand the tale told by Eagle Eyes and Lion Slayer, they saw one killing stick. Do we really know whether there are more?” 

Lion Slayer signaled his intention to speak again. Many Paths took the talking stick from P-OC and handed it to Lion Slayer. “It is true, P-OC. We only saw one. That is an important point. In the place where Sadah and I were born, there are many grains of sand. They are each but a very small rock, so tiny that even an ant may carry such a very small rock with no harm. But when there are many many such small stones and they fly together like a large murmuration of starlings, these insignificant tiny stones can kill the strongest among us if he is left unprotected.   So, I agree that it makes a great deal of difference if there is one such killing stick or a hundred or a hundred hundred.” 

Eagle Eyes spoke next, “I do not know whether there are a hundred or a hundred hundred, but I am fairly certain that there are seventeen. I mean, at least seventeen.” 

Lion Slayer was taken aback. “But we only saw one. What do you mean?” 

Eagle Eyes explained. “I agree that the number is an important point, so I have been returning to our observations from before we arrived at the giant camp of the Z-Lotz. When we were searching the horizon for signs of our comrades, I saw many — well, 17 to be exact — of such similar sticks being carried among the party. I just thought at the time that they were odd spears or walking sticks. I did not realize at the time that they were sticks that kill so I did not pay much attention to them. But upon returning as I just have to what my eyes saw, there were seventeen.” 

Lion Slayer shook his head slowly. “I do not recall seeing any others. But I do believe Eagle Eyes. She is amazing. Her eyesight is much better than normal. It is possible…how do you…you notice so much, Eagle Eyes.”


Many Paths picked up the Talking Stick and noticed Trunk of Tree wanting to talk. She used her prerogative though and added, “I, for one, believe Eagle Eyes. But we still do not know whether there are 17 or 100 or 100 of 100. This seems important for two reasons. First, a hundred hundred such weapons could be overwhelming while even so many as seventeen might be defeated by our archers. Aside from that, if there are only seventeen such Killing Sticks and each one owned by someone else, then, if we were to steal one to study, we would surely be found out. But if there are hundreds, a few missing would be far less noticeable.” 

Trunk of Tree could no longer contain himself, “Wait! A few minutes ago, you were cautioning against trying to learn more Now, you want us to steal such Killing Sticks.” 

Many Paths tilted her head toward Trunk of Tree and held the Talking Stick high. “Trunk of Tree, you must wait your turn, even as so must Eagle Eyes and Lion Slayer who were actually there or even as so must everyone. You must wait your turn, even as young Horse Viewer did, though he be only of nine summers.” 

Gentle laughter murmured among the gathering and Many Paths continued. “I did not say either of those things. In fact, in my whole life, I don’t recall ever saying that we should not learn more. What I do believe is that it would be wonderful to know more about these Killing Sticks, but I also believe that there would be great risks in trying to steal one or more of them. I did not say that we should attempt such a theft. I said that if we were to steal some and that there were only a few, these Z-Lotz would likely notice that they had been stolen.” 

There were nods among many of the Veritas. 

Fleet of Foot signaled for the Talking Stick and Many Paths handed it to him. “Many Paths speaks true. I have been thinking of something else though. What would it mean if we had many such Killing Sticks and it were so easy to kill. What would it mean if we could kill with so little effort? Might not the people use them to kill each other?” He looked at the Veritas in the firelight as he spoke.

“Have you never quarreled with your neighbor and raised your voices in anger and tussled with them momentarily. Perhaps you were so angered you went home and plotted to kill them. But that took some thought. And as you thought about what to do, you soon came to realize that you had no real desire to kill your friend. You were merely angry. And so what if she were in the wrong. Your friendship is more important. And, the next day you embrace her and forget the argument of the yesterday, choosing life and love, in the today.

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“Imagine you had ready to hand one of these killing sticks and you got so mad you stung her to death with it. Your friend is dead. You will never be the same. Now, also are two families devastated. Anger and division will creep into our numbers as never before. 

“And suppose,” continued Fleet of Foot, that many tribes all have such weapons? Will they not have such moments and cause wars with the killing of many on both sides? And could these killing sticks not also be useful in keeping slaves?” 

Easy Tears added, “Yes, but there are other ways to do that — to keep slaves.”  

A-OC took another turn, “Is this possible misuse among ourselves not a greater danger than the temporary military disadvantage? If we cannot safely still such killing sticks, can we make  these killing sticks?” 

Stone Chipper asked, “Do we have any idea how they might work?” 

A long silence followed. 

Eagle Eyes said, “I know fairly well what they looked but I have no idea how the work.” 

Many Paths spoke, “It grows quite late. We must discuss this further, of course. For now, we must post more guards. Trunk of Tree, will you please consider how best to do that?” 

He nodded, glad of something to do and glad of the honor that Many Paths bestowed after chiding him somewhat for speaking out of turn. 

“Eagle Eyes, tomorrow, perhaps you and I and Staff Carver and Easy Tears may begin making some models of these Killing Sticks. I would like us to make perhaps seventeen — quite a good number for now — and spread them about among our people. I would like those who are given such to imagine that they are actual Killing Sticks. And, I would like everyone else among you to also imagine that they are true Killing Sticks. I would like to see how people react to these Killing Sticks among us as we continue to discuss what to do. Even though the Killing Sticks are no real, having such a thing — it is much like the masks we use to help with hunting. It will help us decide how to deal. Even such Killing Sticks as Nut-Pi has will not kill all our cousins in the sea and the air, all our brothers than hide in their tiny caves. Life will persist. This I know. Peace now be with you all.” She glanced at She Who Saves Many Lives. Even in the dim and flickering firelight she could see a small nod and an approving smile on the lips of the Elder. 



Author Page on Amazon. 

Eagle Eyes Begins to Tell her Tale


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Though still somewhat exhausted from her journey, Eagle Eyes felt like pitching in with the preparations for the upcoming feast. Whenever she closed her eyes to rest, visions of flames the size of trees danced behind her eyelids. Even the familiar and normally pleasurable sounds like the beating of drums or the cutting of wood startled her and made her flinch. She could see again in her mind’s eye, the horrible torture and death that she and Lion Slayer had witnessed in the City of the Z-lotz. Though she had very much been looking forward to re-uniting with Trunk of Tree, she felt a strange distance from him upon her actual return. 

She spied Many Paths sitting alone and weaving some leaf-plates for the feast. She hunkered down beside her and smiled. “Do you mind if I help?”


Many Paths smiled. “Of course not! I always welcome your company! And I really missed you. Of course, I worried about you as well. Each day, I wondered whether it was even wise to send so many after Tu-Swift….” Here, her voice trailed off and she sighed. “Damn!” She exclaimed as she cut the inside of her index finger on the sharp edge of a reed. “I have to be more careful,” she muttered. 

“That happens. It’s understandable that you still have much on your mind. I hate to add to your burdens, but, can you tell me anything about why Trunk of Tree seems so cold to me?” 

Many Paths sighed and sucked on her cut. She took out a small leaf of Witch Hazel from her medicine pouch and held it firmly on her small cut. She looked at Eagle Eyes. 

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“Perhaps. I am not sure. I can tell you my best guess, but it is really only that. You should talk with Trunk of Tree frankly and ask him yourself. But you should know this. When days passed and we saw none of you return, he began to question my judgement as leader. He thought that we should have sent out a massive war party. No, no, don’t frown. I don’t really blame him. I questioned whether I had done the right thing myself. There were so many unknowns. Like so many braves before him, he got it in his head that because he was stronger than I am, he should be the leader. He spoke to others among the Veritas. And, although there were some who were privately questioning my decision, his way of approaching people — he did not gain any real following.”

Many Paths sighed as she finished weaving one plate and began on the next. “I think that in order to make his case more strongly, he assumed or at least argued that all of you were dead — including you. I am quite sure that part of him is quite happy to see you. But at the same time, the return of so many of the search party, notwithstanding that we still have no sign of Tu-Swift or Shadow Walker, has dispelled any slight support he might have had. So, your very presence reminds him that he was wrong — at least about all of you perishing. It still might be that he was correct. Maybe we should have sent out a large war party.”

“No, you were not wrong. A large war party — or what we call a large war party — Many Paths, I have to tell you, the place that we saw was huge. It was filled with uncountably many people. And there were many strange things. Even if all of us had attacked such a place, I fear all of us would have perished. And, I have no idea how these killing sticks worked or how many there might be. But why should he be ashamed of being wrong? Everyone makes mistakes.” 

“Indeed, Eagle Eyes. Everyone makes mistakes. It is not worrisome that he was wrong. Obviously, I am happy you and so many others survived. It does bother me that he is so stubborn. But there is more you should know as well.” 


Original Artwork by Pierce Morgan

“What, Many Paths? Did he find another woman to take pleasure with because he thought I was dead?” 

Many Paths stopped weaving. “Not so far as I know. However… he did approach me. No, no, no. Nothing happened! He thought that since you and Shadow Walker were both ‘obviously’ dead, he and I should wed and rule ‘together’ though it was clear from his talk that what he really meant was that he would actually rule and I would support him.” 

“So you considered his proposal? You were willing to abandon Shadow Walker — and me?”

Many Paths shook her head violently. “No! No! I listened to what he said. I never thought that — he is not my — I never thought you were dead. I was — I am still sure that Shadow Walker is alive. I can feel his life out there heading our way. When I received your eagle and the bit of cloth you tied to it, I realized that you had probably survived a fire and that such fire, though far away, had colored our sunsets and sunrises for days. Of course, I showed this cloth to Trunk of Tree but he dismissed it. The two of us never had any kind of coming together. I’m sorry. I know he’s your friend but I do not believe he should be leader. You, Eagle Eyes — you I think could be a fine leader. But Trunk of Tree, to tell you true — I think he is too full of himself to be a good leader. Look over by the chestnut tree.” 

Eagle Eyes glanced over at Trunk of Tree who leaned back against the trunk of a very large chestnut tree and glowered at the two of them. In his hands, he turned a large rock over and over in his hands. She could see the rippling muscles of his forearms. She wished she were being caressed instead of a rock.

Eagle Eyes looked back at her friend, Many Paths. “Are you sure you did not encourage him to come after you?” 


“Of course! I am very much in love with Shadow Walker and very sure he is still alive. I am less clear about Tu-Swift. But in any case, I was also sure that you were alive as well. I wouldn’t betray you. I can’t imagine myself with Trunk of Tree even if you and Shadow Walker were both dead. You have good reason to be exhausted and yet here you are — you’re helping me make plates. Trunk of Tree has mainly been busy stirring up trouble, frankly, and there he sits while nearly everyone else is aiding to make the feast. I admire his strength. I admire his courage. He is good looking. And he is a good leader on the battlefield, but he wants to make everything a battlefield. An idea comes to him and he wants to immediately do it without thinking through the consequences. No. Not for me. I did not lead him on, I assure you. Not even a little.” 

Eagle Eyes did not want to believe bad things about Trunk of Tree. But she knew her friend Many Paths to be honest and open-hearted. “I believe you, Many Paths. Of course I do.” 

“Thank you, Eagle Eyes. Thank you.” 

They wove plates for a time in silence. Many Paths said, “But tell me more about your adventures! What did you see on your journey?”

“Oh, we do have other discoveries to share, though surely none are as important as the killing sticks

“I agree, Eagle Eyes, but what other discoveries?” asked Many Paths. 

“Take a look at this!” Eagle Eyes drew from her pack a strange object shaped like a brick. She took two sides of the brick and opened it to reveal a host of white cloths inside. “These very thin hard cloths or skins make excellent tinder for fire starting! It’s a clever arrangement to carry so much tinder in such a small space!” 

Many Paths took the strange object from Eagle Eyes. As she examined it, she quickly realized that each of the skins was nearly filled with odd stick figure drawings. “Look here, Eagle Eyes. Each of these skins, if that’s what they are, has many markings. Someone went to a lot of trouble to draw that many little pictures!”

Eagle Eyes took back the weird object and glanced through all the layers. “You’re right, Many Paths. It’s true; there are a sea of them, each one different from any of the others. Yet, these two are the same, and these. Wait. No, they are not all different, but there are many different types of picture.”

“How odd.” Many Paths turned the object over and over in her hand. “It cannot be a story because then the pictures would change from beginning to end. Why would they do this? For decoration I suppose, but you can only see a few hundred at a time and the object itself doesn’t look durable. Maybe it has some religious significance? Is it not true of the Z-lotz that they are very religious?”

Eagle Eyes nodded. “They make a show of religion, from what we understand. But, it may be a ruse. We shall see.” 


“Anyway,” said Many Paths, “this also prevents a mystery, but does not have the priority of your disturbing news about killing sticks. What else did you see?” 

“We found a door. It was made of something so strong and hard. It was as hard … it was as hard as ice, but unlike ice, you could not break it or chip it. And, it was heavy. It took many strong pushes to open that door. We saw more of this odd material in the large walled camp. But let me ask you another question. Why are you sure Shadow Walker is alive?” 

“I cannot really explain it. I feel connected to him. Of course, I feel connected to Tu-Swift as well. But when I take out the Sixth Ring of Empathy…it could just be wishful thinking. I also feel that Shadow Walker will do everything possible to ensure the safety of Tu-Swift. When I touch the Sixth Ring of empathy, I often feel that he is doing the same. It could be wishful thinking, but somehow, I don’t think so.” 

After a moment, Many Paths looked about her and saw that the Veritas were beginning to gather for a feast. She could only perceive small snippets of conversation, but there was a general air of excitement. People were glad that so many of the Veritas had returned and it appeared as well that some sort of vengeance had destroyed the village of the People who Steal Children though it was their own fire arrows that destroyed them. Everyone was eager to learn what others had seen most recently. 

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When it came time for storytelling, though she didn’t know all the details, she strongly suspected that the tale of Eagle Eyes would be the most dramatic. But she was reluctant to end all the tales with the tale of the killing sticks. She judged it better, on balance, to begin with Eagle Eyes and Eagle Eyes agreed. 

As she stood to begin her tale, she realized for a moment that she was tired, very tired. But she was home. She glanced around and caught the eye of Trunk of Tree. She smiled at hime and he seemed to give a genuine smile in return. Of this much she was sure. Like everyone else, he very much wanted to hear her tale. She decided that though she would look at everyone, she would return her gaze to Trunk of Tree. She would make him feel as though he had been with her the whole time. In this way, she hoped to bond them once again with her experience which could become their common experience with a decent telling. 

She began: “You all remember that at the feast of Beltane, we were attacked by surprise with People who Stand on Horses. And these people had fire arrows to destroy as though they had forgotten the Legend of the Orange Man. We discovered that Tu-Swift, the brother of our leader Many Paths was missing. To our great horror, we discovered that these People who Stand on Horses are also a People who Steal Children.” 

Original Masks by Sarah Morgan

Original Masks by Sarah Morgan


The Myths of the Veritas: The First Ring of Empathy (Book 1 starts)

The Myths of the Veritas: Feast and Fire (Book 2 starts) 

The Myths of the Veritas: The Orange Man (An older, isolated tale). 

Introduction to a Pattern Language for Cooperation and Collaboration. 

Index to Patterns so far. 

YIKES! I just realized I need to buy some more Holiday gifts!!. 

Essays on America: Rejecting Adulthood


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It’s nothing more or less than a rejection of adulthood. 

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Don’t get me wrong. I love to play just as much as ever. 

But the days of feeling that the world revolves around me are long gone. I care about others. I care about the future. I don’t give in to every impulse that strikes me. 

Most people go through a period of young childhood when their sense of “right” and “wrong” is sometimes nothing more than the desire to avoid punishment and seek reward. Even so, I believe empathy begins around birth. Most adults reach the point where they do feel responsible to do their duty even when no-one knows whether they did or not. They don’t typically commit crimes; not just because they are afraid to get caught but because they realize that if everyone breaks laws, it will be terrible for everyone. 

Now, we have a “leader” who gives in to nearly every childish impulse. He doesn’t even blink at breaking laws; it is all about what he can get away with. 

That’s pretty bad. Think about it. The person who should be the “Leader of the Free World” is an impulsive, self-centered child. The person in charge of our military is an impulsive, self-centered child. The person who suggests “acting” cabinet heads is an impulsive, self-centered child.

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But there’s worse. 

An impulsive, self-centered child has been “training” his base to be the same. He appealed to people who felt that they had not been as successful as they had hoped. (That’s a lot of people!). And, some of them really worked hard and still didn’t reach their American dream. They were responsible. And they got stung. So, along comes a con man. He tells them that the reason they aren’t successful is because of foreigners, and immigrants, and liberals, and gays, and people of color, and democrats. He tells them that you can’t believe any of those people or the fake media. He tells them they don’t even have to be adult. All they have to do is believe everything he says. 

A small child cannot participate in a democratic debate whether it’s okay to run out into traffic. They need to be rewarded, punished, and even restrained on occasion by their parents in order to ensure their own safety. Their parents know about dangers that simply seem mysterious to the child. They see (and smell) parents drink whiskey. Why can’t they drink kerosene? Kids typically show some obedience to their parents. And kids also love their parents and that often holds for abusive parents as well as non-abusive parents. 

blue jeans

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It’s natural, on occasion, to recall childhood and long for the simplicity and lack of adult responsibilities. These days, so many voices calling from so many directions. So many people saying one thing and so many saying the exact opposite. If only there were some way to avoid all the confusion and go back to the days when all you had to do was do what your parents said and believe what they told you to believe. 

But now you can no longer rely on them. In fact, you might even be taking care of them. 

But wait! There’s hope! 

Here’s a guy who knows everything (according to him) and he’s powerful and does whatever he wants. I can just listen to whatever he says.

I don’t have to be an adult any more. I can be a child again. I will be part of the loved tribe. And someday there will be a better world for me. I will have a world in which white males get a pass on pretty much everything. And, I won’t have to compete with foreigners, and gays, and POC, and atheists, and Muslims, and Jews, and immigrants! I’ll be standing shoulder to shoulder with others like me and we will hail “Der Fooler” forever. 


It’s understandable, but it is sad. It’s sad because almost none of those people will gain more than a teeny shred of the much-touted wonderful economy. And, if dictatorship does come to pass, they — like almost everyone — will be serfs without access to education, health care, communication devices, a free press, rights in the courts or a decent life. They won’t be better off than were Medieval serfs; they will be worse off because there is less free space and fewer free food sources. Instead of working fields all day where they could at least talk or sing, they’ll be stuck in sweatshop factories breathing polluted air and drinking polluted water. 

It has taken over 240 years for our country to evolve to the level of democracy we have now. It still isn’t fair. White males still have an unfair advantage. But our society is generally more respectful of the rights of all human beings than it was 240 years ago. 

But the fall to essentially zero rights can take place in less than a decade if people are unwilling to do their duty as adults. 


Author Page on Amazon. 

Eagle Eyes Returns


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white and yellow bird shallow focus photography

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The news of the return of Eagle Eyes and Lion Slayer spread through the tribe quickly. When Hudah Salah first heard the news, she feared to believe it. She feared she might have misunderstood the language of the Veritas. As she scanned the faces around her and saw them all looking at her expectantly, she realized that she had heard correctly. Tears of joy streamed down her cheeks and once she determined which way her husband would be coming she began to walk toward him in a quick but dignified fashion. As she spied the familiar figure of the man she had been promised to as hardly more than a child, she forgot her studied decorum and trotted and then sprinted toward him calling his name. A grin consumed him and he ran toward her as well falling into a long, tight embrace. 

The trio of berry pickers had just arrived in the Center Place of the Veritas when Eagle Eyes swung into the view as well. Trunk of Tree approached her awkwardly. She noticed something amiss in his bearing or she would have run into his arms as well. But perhaps, she thought, he has found another in my absence. For his part, Trunk of Tree saw her hesitation and considered that she was entering camp after a long absence in the company of another man, one for whom she obviously felt some affection. He frowned, not sure what to do in such a public forum. But Lion Slayer seemed to have eyes only for his own wife.  


Many Paths embraced them both and suggested that rather than answering a thousand questions, they should all prepare a feast while their newly returned friends would have a chance to reconnect with their loved ones. After the feast, Many Paths suggested, the tribe should hear their tale from beginning to end, without interruption. After that, everyone could ask whatever questions they wished. Nods and assents as to the wisdom of this plan spread and the preparations were made. Many Paths saw that Lion Slayer took his wife by her hands and they made their way to their small tent. She also noted that Trunk of Tree spoke awkwardly with Eagle Eyes. After a few moments, Eagle Eyes walked over to Many Paths and the two of them embraced warmly. Eagles Eyes whispered to Many Paths during the embrace, “Many Paths, you can’t imagine how happy I am to see this place again. I look forward to sharing our adventures, but there is something I feel I must share with you immediately.” 

Many Paths glanced at Trunk of Tree who stood awkwardly nearby. She whispered back to Eagle Eyes. “Certainly, though Trunk of Tree needs your assurance soon.” 

Eagle Eyes stepped back a half pace. “I’m not sure he wants my assurances — or me. He seems much more distant than I pictured. Do you have any idea why?” 

“Yes, I think he was — it’s a long story, truly, but what is your urgent news? You and I — we can catch up later and I will say what I know about Trunk of Tree and what I surmise. Anyway, you should prepare yourself for the feast. First, what is your news?”  


“I will say more later, to the whole tribe, if you deem it wise. Everyone got separated in a fire and Lion Slayer and I looked for our companions but found no-one. A large caravan left the village of the ROI, which burned down, by the way, to a very large place such as I have never seen. It had many walls and there we saw … we saw someone — perhaps, the leader of this City torture and kill someone.” 

“I am sorry you had to see that, Eagle Eyes.” 

“No, you don’t understand. It was the way he did it. He pointed a kind of magic spear at the man but did not touch him at all! Yet, it caused great damage and pain nonetheless. Three times he pointed this — we came to call it a ‘killing stick’ — and each time he pointed it, it made the sound of thunder and the flash of lightning. And, three times, blood flowed from another wound. We argued about whether we should try to steal this but if we were captured….”

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“No, you did the right thing. This is disturbing. But go now and rest for the feast. Talk with Trunk of Tree. You each thought you might be lost from the other. Some awkwardness is understandable. While you were gone — please don’t — never mind. Talk with him first, and we can talk later. I want to consult with She Who Saves Many Lives about your important news. You and I must talk more later.” 

They held each other’s hands and looked deeply into each others eyes. They nodded and parted, each to consult now with another. Eagle Eyes walked back to Trunk of Tree with her hands out. Many Paths, turned to seek She Who Saves Many Lives, but the minute she turned, there was the elder walking toward her. Her gait was graceful and purposeful, though it lacked the springiness of youth. 

Many Paths quickly related the observations of Eagle Eyes about the killing sticks. 

She Who Saves Many Lives staggered upon hearing the news and grabbed hold of a nearby wood stack for support. She bowed her head and shook it slowly side to side and muttered, “I should have told everyone. Or, at least told you.”

“Whatever do you mean? Told me what?” 

She Who Saves Many Lives sighed. “I had a dream, a prophesy dream, about such things. I should have told the tribe, or at least you, but I did not.” 


“Indeed, Many Paths, now I think it a mistake. But the reason I did not tell the tribe. If they all knew that such a powerful weapon existed in the hands of our enemies and that we do not have such weapons, would it not panic them?” 


“I don’t — I don’t know for certain, Revered One. But Eagle Eyes and Lion Slayer witnessed it first hand. And they did not panic. They made their way back despite such a weapon. They lived to tell the tale. Have you not always said that decisions are best when based on what is actually true — that we cannot pretend wishes are facts.” 

“I have said that. And I believe it. Yet, it is also true that moods can be contagious. I wouldn’t want to have everyone give up without a fight because of all this killing stick or a prophesy dream about such killing sticks. A dark mood of hopelessness can be every bit as deadly as these killing sticks.”

Many Paths nodded. “Shadow Walker was just now saying the same thing.” 

The Older Shaman frowned. “Shadow Walker? Is he back? Are you okay?”

Many Paths looked at She Who Saves Many Lives and said, “What? Oh, no, he’s not back. I miss him. But sometimes…he feels so close to me. I took out one of the rings of empathy while I was walking back with Easy Tears and Trunk of Tree. I felt such longing for Shadow Walker and that I mindlessly fingered the Sixth Ring of Empathy, I imagined that he was so close. I could hear him talking and saying the same thing about moods being contagious and about not knowing whether to share some truth with someone else. I miss him. But somehow, I am sure he is okay. First, let us feast and then let us hear the tale of Eagle Eyes. Then, if it comes to you, you might share your prophesy dream about the killing stick.”

“Yes. It was more than just the killing stick, though that itself is worthy of thought. Everything was dying. But, I should share something else with you. It wasn’t only that I was afraid of spreading a dark and hopeless mood. There was one very odd thing about this prophesy dream. It disturbs me.” 

Silence. Many Paths began to wonder whether such a wise one as She Who Saves Many Lives had also the difficulty of choosing among so many ways to proceed, or whether there was one clear path but it was a difficult one to follow, or even begin. Many Paths imagined herself at the edge of a cliff overlooking water a roiling far below. A hundred enemies she knew would torture and kill her ran screaming toward her. She would jump. But it wouldn’t be easy. What to say? What to say, Many Paths wondered. Then, she simply smiled, moved forward a step and took the hands of She Who Saves Many Lives in her own, letting the warmth of their hands flow through each other and making a circle with their arms.


In this way, each of them really felt, as well as knew, that they were both close cousins, leaves on the same twig of the great tree of life. There was no need for secrecy. It’s all about all of us learning for all of us. All of us realize that it would be easier to leap off that cliff with someone else.

She Who Saves Many Lives continued, “Whenever I have had a prophesy dream before, I feel a strong wind in my face. I feel as though I am walking…not really walking…but floating forward, being drawn toward what I am about to see of the future.”

Many Paths nodded as she looked intently into She Who Saves Many Lives. 

“But in that dream…in that dream I felt wind at my back, yet I was sucked backwards. I don’t know what this means. I have always heard in the tales handed down to me of dreaming in the former way. Is it thus with you as well?”

Many Paths said, “Oh, I hardly think my dreams really qualify as prophesy dreams…” 

She Who Saves Many Lives tilted her head back and forth and clicked. “Many Paths. Come on. No need for false modesty. We’re trying to solve a problem here. Have your prophesy dreams had you going backwards or forwards or both?” 

Many Paths nodded. “All my prophesy dreams save one have been as the first one you described, being drawn forward. But I also heard about prophesy dreams always in the terms you described long before I ever had one myself, so I suppose that could influence how it appeared to me, or indeed, how I remembered it.” 

She Who Saves Many Lives nodded, “Or even how you describe it to me since you would still like to be in my good graces. Which you always will be, incidentally. But let’s get back to the one that was not like that. In that one you were going backwards?”


Artwork by Pierce Morgan

Many Paths shook her head. “No, I wasn’t going backwards. I stood there and watched things happening all around me. It was as though I could see every direction at once. It was like…when you are in a dance and everyone is singing around you and all the voices go together, but if you try, you can pick out the singing of each person because each person’s voice is slightly different. You can hear where everyone is all around you. It was like that but I could see as well as hear all around me. All my senses were everywhere! And, there were patterns. There were patterns sliding across patterns. But in my dream, there was not past. Nor future. There was only present. And present extended everywhere — everywhere at once. The past, the present, and the future were simply different ways to look at the patterns and only from one angle. The dream seemed to be telling me that past, present and future are all one. It makes no sense, but that is what it seemed.” 

A long silence fell between them: the old leader and the new leader. Each considered the words of the other. At last, Many Paths realized that though she loved to gain the wise counsel of She Who Saves Many Lives, Many Paths herself was now leader. In her judgement, once the tale of the killing sticks was told, everyone should dialogue about these killing sticks. At that point, she guessed She Who Saves Many Lives would volunteer her dream as well. The tribe as a whole must decide what this meant for them. For her part, Many Paths found it hard to believe the tribe would ‘panic.’ No, there were many ways to kill. Even if there were many killing sticks among the people who steal children, even such as those must drink, they must sleep, they must breathe, they must eat. But this was something for the whole tribe to think on. She felt again a deep longing for Shadow Walker. Without thinking, she began to tumble the Rings of Empathy in her hands.



Author Page on Amazon. 

The Winning Weekend Warrior focuses on the mental game for all sports including tennis, golf, softball, ping pong, basketball, etc. 

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

Fit in Bits shows how to work more exercise into daily activities. 

Turing’s Nightmares contains 23 short stories to explore the practical & ethical implications of AI & robotics. 

Solomon’s Seal


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“This Solomon’s Seal is delicious, Cat Eyes.” Tu-Swift had not realized how famished he was till be began eating. His meals at the ROI camp had been barely adequate calorically and lacked vital nutrients. Then, he had spent days mainly running from fire, limping, and riding a hollow log. 

Cat Eyes finished a bite and said, “Thanks. Nothing special. It’s Solomon’s Zeal by the way.” 

Tu-Swift shoveled in some more of the delicate roots. He closed his eyes, savoring the flavor. After swallowing, Tu-Swift glanced at Cat Eyes. “That’s what I said. Solomon’s Seal.” 

Cat Eye’s eyes twinkled. “Yes. But it’s called Solomon’s Zeal.

Shadow Walker chimed in. “I’m sure it’s called Solomon’s Seal, Cat Eyes.” 

Cat Eyes considered. “I learned about it long ago from my mother. In the days before I was stolen. I was young. I could be mistaken. But I really think Ma called it Solomon’s Zeal. In fact, I asked her what ‘Zeal’ was. She explained…” 


Cat Eyes paused. She looked down and a far-away look came into her eyes. A teardrop slid down her cheek. Her voice roughened. “She explained what it meant. I suppose…since our branches walked over the mountain many years ago…I suppose we could have gradually changed the name. I don’t know.” 

Tu-Swift looked to Shadow Walker. “What or who is Solomon, anyway?” 

The group looked at each other blankly. Cat Eyes asked Jaccim and the two women, Rachel and Chrystal in their own language. All three were all familiar with the plant and had similar though different names for it. But all contained something like “Solomon” — though no-one had any idea what that meant. 


Tu-Swift finished the last bite and said cheerily, “I don’t know who you are, Solomon, but thanks for the roots! I ate them with zeal.” He smiled broadly at Cat Eyes. Rachel tugged at her shoulder asking her to explain. Explaining wordplay across languages is never an easy task for the translator, but the expressions of amusement spread as she explained in various languages, one by one. 

Tu-Swift looked at her with something akin to admiration. This look was not lost on Shadow Walker. He kenned as well that Cat Eyes was special in more ways than her irises. Thinking of special women quickly led Shadow Walker to think of Many Paths. He missed her. He felt it as a hollowness that began in his chest and crept deeply into all his limbs. More than that, even the simple pleasure of eating after going without seemed somewhat flat. 


At the same time, he felt responsible, as the oldest and strongest, for the safety of this entire party. He knew that moods could spread from one person to another and while they might be safe now from the ROI and the neighboring Z-lotz, such safety could be wishful thinking. None of them knew whether the Center Place of the Veritas itself had been attacked or whether any of the rest of their expedition had returned. It would be easy for Shadow Walker to walk the shadows and spiral himself into an ever-darker place of negative speculation. But such a mood could be contagious and so he forced himself to turn his mind elsewhere.  

As he often did, he took out one of the Rings of Empathy, the one only he and Many Paths shared. He turned it in his hand and felt a certainty grow that Many Paths was alive and well — at least for the near future. It could, of course, simply be a fantasy, but it made him feel better. And he looked over at Tu-Swift who hung on every word and gesture of Cat Eyes. She was beginning to relate one of the few memories she had from the Veritas land in the meadow between two mountains. 


“We were out gathering medicinal herbs and came over a rise to see a long and lovely meadow before us, filled with the blazes of a thousand thousand blooms and blossoms of every hue. My Ma had a wondrous voice and she began to sing the story of the forgotten fields.” 

Tu-Swift sat mesmerized. Though he had many times heard the legend of the forgotten field of flowers, he had only heard it chanted, never sung tunefully as now. Cat Eyes seemed to sculpt the air itself. At long last, she came to the sad ending, the time when people forgot to enjoy the field of flowers and speak of their common gratitude for life and list the things they agreed on before beginning to speak of that which people disagreed on. 

Tu-Swift and Shadow Walker had many times heard the story before, but the companions of Cat Eyes had not. She did not try to reproduce the song but told them the gist of the story quickly. Tu-Swift sat for another moment simply looking in awe at Cat Eyes as she chattered in so many language so quickly. He realized he was tired, bone tired, but as he arose, Cat Eyes surprised him by continuing the singing. 

Shadow Walker had already arisen but sat back down in curiosity as well as common courtesy. He had never heard this verse either. The story had always ended with a sad lament, but now Cat Eyes was singing what appeared to be another verse. It made little sense but its mood was darker than the ending lament they were familiar with. She sang of a great death of spirit, and a time of darkness when the people stopped trying to find truth. She sang of a day that rose with a score of suns rather than just one — a day that spewed death far and wide.  


Though it was only a story and a song, and surely this last part was completely fanciful, Tu-Swift tasted the salt of his own tear. He stared into the fire, remembering the fire that had almost burned him alive and tried to imagine that of which she sang— a day of fire everywhere.  A day of great death when people had grown too greedy and too rushed, when they had replaced woods, and fields, and meant to replace life itself. 

Tu-Swift frowned, sure as he readied himself for sleep that his dreams would be unsettling indeed. Someone of the Veritas village where she had grown up had made a horror story to scare children. He shook his head. 

Such craziness. People could never be that stupid. They know the story of the Orange Man. He shook his head and drifted off with this phrase reverberating in his head: 

“Such craziness.”


Myths of the Veritas: The Forgotten Field (Prose; First Verse Only). 

The Myths of the Veritas: The Orange Man

The Myths of the Veritas: Beginning of Book One. 

The Myths of the Veritas: Beginning of Book Two. 

Author Page on Amazon. 

Mapping Out the Road Home


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The small group sat around the campfire in silence for a time, each relishing privately the fact that they were still alive. Shadow Walker looked at Jaccim and broke the silence, saying in Veritas and illustrating his points with gestures, “Thank you for showing us the ‘flume’. I think you may have saved all of our lives.” 

Tu-Swift looked at Cat Eyes and tilted his head and smiled at her. She quickly translated in case the others misunderstood the sign language. All nodded. 

Shadow Walker spoke again. “I hear no more drumming. I think the — you call them ‘Z-lotz’? — have given up their search. But I still do not feel safe here, though at least we are surrounded by unburned forests. Apparently, the fire did not know how to ride the ‘flume’ to these lower grounds. We have fresh water and we can hunt. I, for one, am quite hungry. We will hunt to gain back our strength, but then, we must find our way back to the lands of the Veritas. Can you help me make a map? We can all work together and have the best chance of not getting lost. Perhaps you can all point out where you think game might most likely be as well?” 

Cat Eyes and Tu-Swift cleared some ground near the fire. As he worked, Tu-Swift spoke aloud, “We need to find food and find our way back home, but once our bellies are full and we know which way to walk, or hobble, at least, I want to find out more about the use of strange markings for talk at a distance.” 

“I will help if I can,” said Cat Eyes as she smiled at Tu-Swift. 

Shadow Walker turned suddenly, obviously startled. He put his finger to his lips. “Deer!” he whispered. “Or elk. Listen!” 

Shadow Walker slowly put his sword in hand. Hunting was certainly easier with bow and arrow. Trapping was easier still, but in this case, he thought, our swords will have to do. His well-trained eyes caught a bit of movement and pointed. He gestured for Tu-Swift to grab his sword and circle slowly around, but the deer turned and headed right toward them! How unusual, he thought. 

Soon everyone could see that neither deer nor elk approached, but a rather large horse. Tu-Swift recognized the dappled mare as one of the ones he had set free. Her colt accompanied her. He approached slowly, careful not to startle the creatures. He spoke in a low soft voice, telling the horse how beautiful she was. 

horse and foal at field

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Jaccim chuckled and said something in ROI which Cat Eyes translated into Veritas. “He says that you are quite talented with the horses. Jaccim says that if it were up to him, he would treat them more like you using more love and less pain to train them though this is not the way of the ROI.” 

Tu-Swift continued to approach the animals very slowly. Meanwhile, Shadow Walker glanced at Cat Eyes and then to Jaccim. “Cat Eyes, can you ask whether they are edible and tasty like deer?” 

Cat Eyes smiled, “Oh, they are edible. I can answer that myself. But horses are much more useful as transportation. The ROI and the Z-Lotz only kill them for food when the animal has become too old to work or has broken a leg. They also use the hooves of such to make something that causes two things to stick together. I know you are hungry, as am I. I have never been here, but I suspect game should be easy to find. I saw deer scat and rabbit scat both when we crossed a trail near where we came out of the water.” 

“How can you trust such a large and powerful animal though? It seems it could bite you or knock you down and trample you.”

“Indeed. I suppose they could. But watch Tu-Swift. He is not afraid. Though we have no ropes to ride with. I have seen some ride such animals by holding on around their large necks. But if you wish to use them, we may need to make some ropes or weave some vines together. Look.” 

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Cat Eyes pointed to Tu-Swift who now stood right next to the mare still talking quietly and patting and rubbing the animal gently. “I think Jaccim is right, Shadow Walker. Tu-Swift shows great cunning with horses. If you are going to fight further with the ROI or the Z-Lotz, our people would do well to understand horses better. In this way, both Tu-Swift and Jaccim could prove useful. We will find sustenance, I do believe, without killing this one who has come to us in trust.” 

Shadow Walker, sword in hand, had been slowly approaching the mare and her colt. He had been planning to try to kill the smaller animal. It would be less dangerous and would still fill their bellies, giving them strength they needed for their journey. As he drew nearer, the words of Cat Eyes began to penetrate his warrior mind and he could not help smile at the colt who sidled up against his mother and seemed quite unafraid of Tu-Swift. The colt reminded him of Tu-Swift. He recalled how devastated he and Many Paths had felt when Tu-Swift had been stolen. If he killed the smaller animal, the mare would be equally devastated. 

Shadow Walker stopped advancing & turned back to speak with Cat Eyes. “You’re right. We may find great use for these animals. We can find other game. Perhaps Tu-Swift can convince these animals to come with us.”

As Shadow Walker spoke these words, he realized that he had not seen the wolf pups for awhile. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw them returning to their fire circle and each held a rabbit in its mouth. 


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Cat Eyes laughed lightly and pointed to the pups, “It looks as though some of your friends have already been hunting. I see vines of ground nuts there and some Solmon’s Zeal by that path. We can bake the roots in the coals as soon as I can dig these up and clean them. Can you clean the rabbits with your sword?”

“I suppose I could,” answered Shadow Walker, “but I’ll have an easier time with this.” As he spoke, he took a flint knife out of a sheath in his belt. 

Jaccim spoke aloud. “Here you go, Boy. Tu-Swift. Use this to capture the horses!” He held aloft a length of rope. Something about his gesture, his voice, or the sight of the rope spooked the horses and they trotted off into the dense forest. 

Tu-Swift hobbled back and shot a glance at Jaccim. He shrugged his shoulders. 

The group finished preparing the meal and ate quickly. One the edge had been taken off their hunger, they returned to the task of collaboratively creating a map. When they were satisfied that the map was as accurate as they could make it, Cat Eyes quickly reproduced their sketch on a piece of dried deerskin. They agreed on an initial direction, gathered up their belongings and began what they hoped would be their three or four day journey back to the Center Place of the Veritas. 

They followed a deer path through the forest and soon came to more open land. Tu-Swift looked back toward the stream and on above that to a small stand of charred trees that marked the graveyard of the village of the ROI. Despite his persistent limp, he felt glad to be alive and free. He smiled, for in the distance, he saw a small herd of horses following them from perhaps a mile away. 

group of horses

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They walked for a time single file, with Shadow Walker and Jaccim in front, the three ROI women, and Tu-Swift in back with the two wolf cubs. As Tu-Swift walked, he found himself juggling many ideas and feelings. The ideas twisted and turned in his head so rapidly that it reminded him of the terrifying, yet exciting ride in the ‘flume.’ Cat Eyes strode directly in front of him and he liked the way the sunlight played in her hair. Tu-Swift desired her greatly, though that made him feel guilty and wonder about Sooz and whether she would still be looking forward to Tu-Swift’s return. Besides, Cat Eyes seemed very much older and wiser than he was. She seemed a person filled with much light, but there were also very dark shadows somewhere in her soul. Cat Eyes happened at that point to glance back at Tu-Swift. She did this periodically, to make sure they were not moving too swiftly for him to keep up. She waved to him in a friendly way and pointed back at the horses and smiled. Then, she made a gesture that seemed to mean that she really liked him! Or, perhaps that she really liked horses. Or, perhaps that she really liked that the horses were following. Or, perhaps that she too was glad to be away from the place of her captivity. 

Sign language could prove quite ambiguous. That made Tu-Swift’s mind explore his memories of the stick-figures on the deerskin and his dream. He felt sure something magical lay in that small leather pouch that he could spy tied around Cat Eyes. Then, he reminded himself to put his mind back to the task at hand. The ministrations of Cat Eyes had improved his knee, but one false step into a hole, tripping over a root, or stepping into a hole and his knee could end up worse than before. His eagerness to see all his friends and especially Many Paths grew with every step. Would he eventually be able to train the horses, perhaps with Jaccim’s help? Would he and Sooz still be best friends? Then, he again reminded himself that he needed to keep his eyes and minds on the task. One step at a time. One step at a time. 


Gateway to my Books on Amazon — Gifts for the Holidays

The Winning Weekend Warrior

For the amateur athlete in any sport. This book focuses on the mental game. 

Turing’s Nightmares

Speculative fiction meant to raise practical as well as ethical issues about AI & robotics.

Fit in Bits

Suggests many ways to work more exercises into the daily activities of those who are very busy. 

Tales from an American Childhood

This book recounts early experiences and then relates them to contemporary issues and events. 


Free blog posts (no ads). 

The First Ring of Empathy (Beginning of this tale).

Introduction to a Pattern Language for Collaboration

Index to the Pattern Language for Collaboration  


The Loud Defense of Untenable Positions


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The Paradoxically Fierce Blind Defense of Untenable Positions. 

Quick! How do you know the earth is not flat? 

sky earth galaxy universe

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If you’re like most people, the question seems absurd. Everyone knows the earth is not flat, you think. Why should I have to prove that? It’s silly. 

You’re so sure that the earth is round that you probably do not have a ready answer. You might know enough about astronomy or general science to put together a fairly convincing case, but unless you’re an elementary school teacher, or have family members who belong to the “Flat Earth Society” you will likely have to construct an answer “on the fly.” 

Although you might be “annoyed” at having to produce a rationale for something that “everyone knows” it is unlikely you will get downright enraged. If someone challenges you, you’ll likely just shake your head and walk away. Or, you might try to convince them that the earth is round. 

man wearing brown suit jacket mocking on white telephone

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You likely haven’t given much thought to how to “prove” that the earth is round; at least not since you were a kid. But there’s another and more insidious reason why you cannot “rattle off” a defense of the “earth is round” thesis. 

There’s no money to be made. Not only science, but commerce is premised on the fact that the earth is round. Since (nearly) everyone already knows the earth is round, no-one is being paid to make disturbing videos that seem to “prove” the earth is round. No-one has a troll farm somewhere paying people to post things on facebook or twitter to push the position that the earth is round. 

Let’s take another example. Imagine that you’re walking down the street one day and you look up from your iPhone long enough to notice a man who appears to be trying to walk through a brick wall. He bangs into it; backs up a few steps and walks into it again. 

You were just about to beat your personal best in Candy Crush, but you sigh and ask the man, “What are you doing?” 

“What does it look like? I’m walking through this wall.” 


The scenes from the Harry Potter movies where magical folks get to the Hogwarts Express via walking through the wall to get to platform 9 3/4 flash onto your internal TV. But you realize that is a movie about a magical world. Every instance you can come up with where someone walks through a wall is a cartoon or superhero. Perhaps this is where the guy got the idea. But here he is trying it out in real life. But he does’t just try it out once. Here he goes again. You don’t know how long he’s been doing this, but you’ve seen three trials, all with the same, and quite predictable result. 

You realize that if he keeps walking into the brick wall, he will eventually be injured. Moreover, a person who is so clearly self-destructive might do other, and even worse, self-destructive things. Would it be possible to talk them out of this behavior with logic or facts? That seems doubtful. After all, assuming they didn’t just pop up on the street from a completely different universe where walking through brick walls works, he’ll have already had plenty of opportunities to learn about the world. 


The more absurd the false beliefs are, the more vigorously people will defend them. You’ve spent no time practicing arguments about why the earth is round or why you can’t walk through brick walls. On the other hand, someone who does believe in these things will have had many occasions when those beliefs were challenged. Nonetheless, they won’t be very successful in convincing others that, say, the earth is flat. But every time they try to make that sale, it will convince the person who constructs and voices such arguments, even more deeply that the earth is flat. So, even though they might tell this story 100 times and every single person remains unconvinced, by thinking that they have to “stand up for themselves” they will try out any sort of non-sense to bolster their position. And, if there were serious money to be made by convincing some people that the earth is flat, you can bet there would be a never-ending series of propaganda offerings to push in that direction. And, while most people will continue to believe the earth is round, occasionally someone will hear enough crap to really begin to wonder. 

Now, let’s go back to our original flat-earther who has just failed to convince one hundred people that the earth is flat — but at the same time, he (let’s say it’s a he named Milhaus) has practiced convincing himself 100 times. And now, a miracle occurs. Milhaus happens to run into Doubting Dolly who has heard or read screes promoting flat earth to the extent that she now experiences a certain amount of doubt. The two of them strike up an excited conversation in which each one reinforces the beliefs of the other. Mihaus is thrilled! Imagine! He’s been scoffed at as ridiculous 100 times. But now, right here, he finds an acolyte — someone who now shares his beliefs. The chances that Doubting Dolly will find such screes depends a lot on whether there is any extrinsic reward for writing and promulgating such screes. Flat Earth conspiracy theories don’t lend themselves to making money off such lies. 

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Other currently popular lies, on the other hand are promoted initially by people with vested narrowly selfish interests. But once enough “Milhaus”-types get converted, these falsehoods, however bizarre, get repeated over and over. For instance, the oil company oligarchs have known for years that their business model is seriously damaging human lives, changing climate, and putting much of life at risk. What do they do? They spend millions creating and promulgating false narratives. 

Ironically, then, people who hold untenable, counter-factual positions often are more practiced at their arguments than people who simply put forth the truth. Moreover, they not only are more practiced, they are also more emotionally involved. The average person who belongs to the “Flat Earth Society” has hugely more of their identity wrapped up in the idea of a flat earth than the average person has their identity wrapped up in the idea of a round earth. Of course, there are no valid arguments for a flat earth, for walking through a brick wall, or for interpreting the Constitution as saying that the President should be treated as a dictator. As a result, proponents of such things tend to scream and pound the table a lot. 


The screaming and table pounding is not just out of frustration for not having any valid arguments. For people suffering from PTSD, or who have been in abusive relationships, or grew up in an abusive household, yelling and screaming and pounding the table reminds them of terror and a remembrance that the only way to avoid pain is to make daddy happy. Oh, let’s find out what Pappa Putin wants and give it to him! Maybe we’ll get lucky and he won’t end up treating American citizens as badly as he’s treated his own countrymen. Maybe. But don’t count on it. 


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Beware of Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing!


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The more common expression “Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing” originates from the Bible. In the King James Version, we have: 

Matthew 7:15-23 King James Version (KJV)

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

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There are actually two common sayings that come from this verse. First, “Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Second, “A tree is known by the fruit it bears.” These are both wise aphorisms that are appropriate to many situations. For instance, people may appear to be gentle or feign liking you when their real intention is to put you off your guard which makes it easier to take advantage of you. The second one is particularly apt when looking at the concept of “fake news.” Amazingly, many people now call “mainstream media” like the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal or The Washington Post, “fake” despite the fact that they have been around for a long time and still make significant proportions of the money from subscriptions. Meanwhile, they see as “true,” the unsubstantiated claims of purely on-line media completely paid on the basis of how effective their “click-bait” headlines are, many of which are developed by Russian troll farms. Sad, and partly dealt with in earlier essays which you can access here. 

Social Media and Divisiveness

However, in this essay, I want to turn the first famous phrase around so that we have: “Beware of Sheep in Wolves’ Clothing.” Bn this expression, what I mean is that people present themselves as brave fighters for your rights or for the truth when they are actually simply sheepishly going along with a crowd. Americans particularly value individualism and bucking authority to do what is right. In some cultures, people would feel far less positively toward the “lone wolf” crusader. But here in America, we don’t like to be thought of as “sheep.” We tend to respect folks who are brave individualists doing things their own way. 

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This high valuation of uniqueness is often used by clever sales people to make you think what they are offering you is a “special deal” that would “get them in trouble with their supervisor” if it became known that they were giving you such a wonderful and unique deal. Of course, in reality, it isn’t a special deal at all. It’s the same line they give everyone who they try to sell insurance or cars or houses to. But they make it out as though they are being a bit of a rogue by bending the rules for your benefit, and that therefore, the two of you are in league; you are both “in the know” for this special deal. 

While the deal is presented as unique, the product may be sold as being popular. In fact, the product or service is often presented as being in very short supply. “Grab this special deal before it goes away, because so many people desire this product. Luckily, there’s one left just for you — but only if you act now, (before you have a chance to compare prices, terms, and products).” 

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Here’s a common variant. Someone comes to your door claiming that they were “in the neighborhood” anyway working with “some of your neighbors” to — pick one: clean gutters, install solar tiles, cut trees, clear underbrush, pave driveways, put in satellite dishes, etc. Since they are “in the neighborhood anyway,” they can give you a special deal on the gutter cleaning, brush clearing, etc. Obviously, this “special deal” is only available for “right now” because otherwise, they’ll have to make a trip just for you. 

No doubt, for many people, including me, part of the appeal of Barack Obama was his uniqueness. The offspring of two parents of quite different heritages, he spent his early life dealing with a much wider variety of people than most American politicians. 

Donald Trump portrayed himself as very much the “outsider to politics as usual.” He claimed to be “different” from the “swamp” of politicians that typically infest Washington DC. Instead, he was a highly successful businessman, according to him, and knew how to get things done, according to him. He was feisty, so he said, and “not afraid” to “tell it like it is.” He eschewed “political correctness.” He portrayed himself as someone unique and self-defined — in other words a “Wolf.” 

He is not. 

He is not brave. He is not courageous and he is not unique. He is not even, by most measures, anything approaching a “self-made man” or a successful businessman. He was given a fortune by his father. By most accounts, he’s particularly inept as a businessman (it’s hard to know exactly because, although he promised to release his tax returns, he never has, and in fact has had his lawyers fight releasing them at every turn). He would be far richer today if he had simply invested his inheritance in an index fund.


He has a “track record” of portraying himself as richer, more famous, and more successful than he really is. You can read about any of this elsewhere (see links below), but let me skip that and tell you about my limited personal experience. About a decade ago, Trump bought a golf club that I belonged to. He made some nice improvements, by the way, to the clubhouse and these were real improvements. He also put up several posters of himself portrayed as “Man of the Year” on the Time Magazine cover. If I owned a golf club, I would not personally put up illustrations of how great I am. But, I thought: “Well, it’s a matter of personal taste. I find it braggadocios but fine.” Except is was a lie. A lie that came true a decade later! In 2016, he really was named “Person of the Year” and really did have his picture on the cover of Time. But it was definitely a lie when he put up the posters. 

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That was far from the most egregious lie even at that time. Given all the lies that he has told since, I hesitate to even use the word “egregious.” It seems that the very concept of egregious has been egregiously extended by Trump into what we see as “normal.” His posting a false cover was certainly nothing like the whoppers he’s told since in the seriousness of import, but it struck me at the time as egregious, so I’m keeping with it. Before Donald bought our golf club, they, like most, hosted several “Club Championships” each year. The winners had received cups and their names were prominently displayed on plaques in the clubhouse. When Donald bought the club, many people quit the club, including several former club champions. Donald had their names removed from the Championship Plaques and put his own name there as champion for those years. He had not only not won those championships. He hadn’t even played in them. 

What kind of a person would feel anything but shame for putting their name undeservedly on a championship plaque? If you did it, for any reason whatsoever, I would imagine you would feel embarrassed or ashamed whenever you looked at it. I know I would. It takes a certain degree of courage to enter an athletic contest. You could fail miserably and publicly. You might win. Winning might take all your courage, whatever the sport. But putting your name on a trophy for something you never did? That takes no courage. That’s the act of a coward. Eventually, he got so much grief over this from the members that he took his name off those plaques. That should also be noted, because that too shows his lack of courage. 

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#45 portrays himself even today as the champion of the “common person” even though he lived in a gilded penthouse, in fact, commenting on what a dump the White House was upon arrival. Trump portrays himself, not just as “the champion” when he isn’t; he portrays himself as a brave champion fighting the “forces of evil” which include (in his rhetoric) the Main Stream Media, the Washington insiders, and so on. In fact, he is not brave at all. 

He had his dad bribe doctors to lie repeatedly about mythical “heel spurs” to prevent being drafted into service. He or his proxies released a video supposedly showing him sneaking up on a “Professional Wrestling” (in other words, fake wrestling) referee and sucker-punching the ref. Trump regularly urges others, for instance, an entire crowd, to gang up on protestors in his audiences and beat them up. 

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Such calls to violence are not mere stage tricks. They have consequences. People have died. Never has Donald Trump been put in danger by his calls to violence. He’s never offered to “fight” anyone in his ranting tweets. Without a shred of evidence, he’s named people in the media, Democratic donors, and Democratic politicians as “enemies of the people” as well as entire races, countries, and religions. “Inspired” by such lies and calls to violence, there have been mass murders and attempted murders. Right before the 2018 elections, as you would undoubtedly recall with respect to any other presidency, pipe bombs were sent to Kamala Harris, Corey Booker, and Tom Steyer, CNN, George Soros, the Obamas, and the Clintons, among others including former intelligence head, James Clapper.  


Sending pipe bombs is a cowardly act, but if so, isn’t encouraging people to do it even more cowardly. What were the consequences for Trump? None. 

A brave man stands up for his actions and their consequences. A coward induces others to do his dirty work for him and then moves on.

On October 27, 2018, a gunman entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and attacked worshippers killing eleven innocent people and wounding another six.


This coward was more indirectly, but no less importantly, inspired by the hate-speech of Trump. For example, after an innocent protestor was mowed down by a White Nationalists, Trump famously said there were probably good people on both sides. His foreign policy and public statements encouraged an increase in people applying for asylum at our Southern Border. This he described as an “army” attacking our country. That also played into the sick logic of the attacker. 

What were the consequences of Donald J. Trump when these innocent people were gunned down in cold blood? 


The right of free speech is vital to our democracy. But it is not an unrestricted right. You cannot, without penalty, walk into an operating room and start screaming at the doctors. You cannot yell obscenities at the top of your lungs in the middle of a restaurant. You cannot yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theater. You would face consequences if you did any of these things. 

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Unless you are the President of the United States, that is. He un-bravely incites others to violence that results in innocent deaths and a perpetrator likely spending the rest of their life in prison, but suffers nothing himself. 

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What a ‘brave’ wolf. Most people care when they have any involvement whatsoever in the harm of innocent others. Isn’t that true of you? And the people you know? Suppose you invite a friend over for dinner and they are involved in a serious car accident on the way over? All you did was to ask them over for dinner. The accident is not your fault. Not at all. You did nothing wrong. Nonetheless, if you’re anything like the people I know, it would certainly run through your mind that if only you had not made the invitation or if only you had reminded them to drive safely or … Hopefully, you’ll recognize that you aren’t really at fault and “forgive” yourself and not only see logically, but feel as well that you really are not to blame. But if you encourage hatred against a whole group of people and then some of those people get hurt, you certainly are partly responsible. 

August 3rd, 2019, a gunman drove 650 miles to El Paso and used an automatic weapon to destroy the lives of 22 innocent Hispanics and wounding another 24. His language on-line is much like Trump’s in concept and wording, but the shooter claims he had these beliefs before Trump. That may be true, but do you think having the President of the United States express those same opinions might influence the chances you would plan out and execute a mass murder?    


Will Trump bear any responsibility for all those lives needlessly lost? No. The shooter, however, will likely spend the rest of his life in jail. 

Look at the record of how Trump has treated all his “top notch” picks for various positions within his White House. They are the best thing since sliced bread, until they are fired, which he rarely has the courage to do face to face. Imagine being the President of the United States and not having the courage to fire your employee face to face. Among other things, you’re the head of the greatest military force in the history of the world and you’re surrounded by the extraordinary people of the Secret Service! And, yet, Heel Spurs is afraid to fire people face to face. Wow!

And now the incontrovertible evidence mounts even higher that he isn’t even doing this all for his own interest. He’s doing it for Putin! Yes, yes, Trump is making money hand over fist for his Crime Family, but it’s peanuts compared to what he’s handing over to Putin which is nothing less than world leadership! 

Putin desperately wants to reconstitute the USSR before he dies. His biggest impediments until now was NATO and its member states. And America was a particular thorn in the side of his ambitions. Until now. Because now, Trump is cowered to do Putin’s bidding. Putin’s agenda, which Trump has been working on since even before day one of his Presidency is three-fold: 1) isolate America from her allies; 2) divide the country; 3) weaken the military, state, & intelligence functions of America. 

Pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord; pulling out of the Iran deal; dissing the leaders of democracies while cozying up to brutal dictators; suddenly withdrawing support for the Kurds; throwing shadows corruption on the legitimate government of the Ukraine when their president ran on an anti-corruption ticket — all of these things isolate America from her allies. For most of us, they are also bad decisions, but whether a decision is bad is a matter of balance and potential disagreements. Doing the bidding of Putin against our national security and national interest is something else. It is treason, clearly, but it is also an act of almost transcendent cowardice. 

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The divisive rhetoric of the President also plays right into Putin’s hands. It isn’t just that it plays to racism, misogyny, Islamophobia, homophobia, and other absurdities though that’s plenty evil in and of itself. It’s purposeful on the part of Putin and Trump damned well knows it. It isn’t just using “bad language” or being inarticulate or not being “politically correct.” Trump urges violence of some Americans against others. For God’s sake! What President of America does that? Of course, it’s in Putin’s interest to have a divided America. It’s not in our interest or the interests of our allies and trading partners. They would like to see a reliable and stable America. That’s in everyone’s interest. But to intentionally divide the nation against each other when the only two benefits of that are: 1) Trump keeping his base riled up and 2) Vladimir Putin being that much closer to his USSR 2.0? That is the essence of cowardice. 

We should be able to see by now, that the replacement of experienced professionals in the State Department, the Military Command, the Intelligence Agencies, and the Justice Department with complete lackeys doesn’t only allow “Trump to be Trump” and run the details of the government for his own profit. It also destroys the effectiveness of these agencies and causes the public to lose confidence. Who benefits from all this? Putin, of course. Just to take a recent example, three US Soldiers who were convicted by Courts-Martial of war crimes were “pardoned” by Donald Trump. What does this do? It lowers the morale of the armed forces. As does the ban on trans people and his unwillingness to visit troops anywhere near a war zone. As does issuing orders without planning. As does casually giving away important intelligence. Cowardice, plain and simple and extensive. 

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Sadly, it turns out that Trump is not the only sheep who pretends to be a voracious wolf. There are many such sheep in the GOP Congress as well. They rant and they rave and they shout and pray. But at the end of the day, they do Putin’s bidding. They support isolating us from our allies, even promulgating lies about our allies — lies that are all part of our enemy’s propaganda operations. 

These roaring GOP sheep support dividing the country against each other. They could have censured Trump the very first time he showed his racist side. But they didn’t. Nor the second time. Nor the third. Nor the thousandth. Many of them won’t even face their constituents in town halls. 

Mitch McConnell refused to bring up for a vote any of the many bills that the House passed to deal with serious American issues. And, at the same time, the Russian trolls are spewing out messages on Facebook and Twitter that basically say: “Its a do-nothing Congress.” or even “What good is Congress?” 

It is a series of Babushka Sheep. Look inside. 

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It isn’t turtles all the way down, after all. 

It’s cowardice. It’s sheep. However loud these sheep howl, they’re still sheep.

But you don’t have to be. 




It’s Your Call!


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It’s Your Call


Tennis is played on a so-called court. As a matter of fact, when tennis began, it was literally played in a courtyard and people could hit the ball off roofs, etc. But, now the game has become much more regular. Historians believe tennis began in the 12th century. At that point, the ball was hit with the hand. At what point does it become close enough to modern tennis to deserve the name? I don’t know. My cats have been known to play a kind of primitive tennis with me and, more rarely, with each other. 


The most elaborate example of the latter was something I walked in on. Under the kitchen table were three of our cats batting back and forth the lifeless body of a small lizard who had unfortunately managed to sneak into our house. The cats are well-fed so there was no rushing or fighting over the meat. No, they were batting it back and forth. I don’t know how long they had been playing this little game, but at the point I observed them, they seemed rather bored. I can tell you that when I play tennis, almost all the time, almost all the players exhibit enthusiasm for the game. 

Tennis, it turns out, is much like the game my cats played. Just as the cats did, there is a defined space within which a small object (lizard, tennis ball, etc.) gets batted back and forth. Sides (one or two people to a side) take turns batting the ball over to the other side. This back and forth continues until one side is unable to return the ball into their opponents side of the court. The ball must pass over the net before bouncing and it must land in the opponent’s side of the court. In tennis, as in baseball, if a ball hits the line (even a little) it is “in.” So, knowing when the ball is “in” or “out” is quite critical for scorekeeping purposes, just as it is in nearly every game or sport. “Baseball,” they say, “is a game of inches.” And so is tennis. And football, and hockey, and gymnastics, and basketball, and golf! There are boundaries — and often it is both critical and hard to determine where something falls with respect to those boundaries. 


For that reason, professional tennis tournaments have not just one, but several people whose sole responsibility is to determine whether balls are “in” or “out.” There is also a “chair umpire” who has several roles but one of which is to serve as a kind of “over-judge.” He can “overrule” one of the linesman as to whether a ball was in or out. More recently, technology has added yet another layer of “presumed certainty” about whether a ball was in or out. Everyone assumes — or has agreed to act as though they assume — that the technology is perfect. As someone who spent many years working with technology, I think it is perfectly safe to assume that the technology is not perfect. But it is, in pro tennis, the final arbiter. 

The kind of tennis I play, “Club Tennis” or “Friendly Tennis” is quite another matter! Our prize money is nil. Our trophies are nil. That doesn’t mean people don’t play their hearts out! But who gets to say whether a ball is in our out? We don’t have technology or line judges; we make our own calls. Here is the over-riding rule of “Friendly tennis”: people call the ball “in” or “out” on their own side of the court. There are three major reasons for this. First, when you hit a ball, you intend for it to be “in.” Second, if the ball is “in” that is to your advantage in winning the game. Both of these are “psychological” effects that impact everyone to a greater or lesser degree and will tend to make them “see” their close shots as in that are really out. The third reason, however, is much more important and it is purely physical. In nearly every case, the person who is attempting to hit the ball is way way closer to the ball (and the line) than anyone else. 

Sometimes, however, there are mitigating circumstances. The person hitting the ball may be running hard and tracking the ball in order to hit it. It sometimes happens that they will admit to having no idea whether the ball was in or out. The first recourse is to ask their partner whether they saw the ball clearly. They might also ask their opponents. Remember: it’s a friendly game. But that does not mean it always stays free from controversy. 

You are supposed to call a ball “out” only if you are sure it was out. What “sure” means though can vary quite a bit from person to person. There are also physical reasons why some people’s line calling is better than others. Many players in our games wear glasses. I won’t go into all the various issues with glasses. If you wear glasses you already know and if you don’t, you couldn’t care less. (Unless you’re extremely empathic and then, you might want to read “The Myths of the Veritas” which delve heavily into empathy; go ahead; give it a try; it’s free with no ads). People also differ in how much they compensate for the effect of parallax. If I am receiving a serve, for instance, I am likely to see a ball that’s slightly long as “in” while the server will tend to see it as “out” even if it is barely in. If a serve comes to my side and lands near the line, the effect of parallax is to make them look “out” even when they are slightly in. Some people are aware of these effects and some aren’t. To make a long story short, people don’t always make the best call. 


We have the exact same issues that we had when we played baseball, football, in grade school. The only difference is that now that we are in our 70’s we don’t spoil our day and tell Johnny we’re not going to play with him any more. Instead, we revert to “It’s your call” even when we “know” that our opponents have just called one of our hits that was really in, out. 

In the same way, in life outside the tennis realm, we can sometimes see problems that the person nearest to their problem cannot see. We may know that you are eating too much for your own good, or drinking too much, or would be happier in the long run if you studied harder. We might say that, under the right circumstances, to a good friend. But — at the end of the day, it is “their call.” 

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As I’ve argued elsewhere, there seems to be an urban/rural difference in how hard one pushes to let people know they are screwing up. It isn’t only an urban rural split. It seems to me, that many conservatives are afraid that liberals want to make them do and be and like all the things they do! But liberals, you see, by the very nature of the word “liberal,” don’t want to have everyone the same. It’s okay with almost all liberals if you go bowling, or play tennis, or watch NASCAR. We’re not going to force everyone to eat quiche or adopt a “gay lifestyle.” I have to admit, I do think there are some liberals who would be happy to write you an extremely detailed “prescription” for your life. But they are really rare exceptions, in my experience. Liberals, just like conservatives, do want to have laws that prevent people from hurting others for no reason. 

There are interesting edge cases that people may differ on. Is this “your call” or “our call”? That has changed over time as people have multiplied across the earth and as science has understood more and more of our interactions. In the middle ages, when people began congregating in large cities, they lived in (what we would now call) disastrously unsanitary conditions that were ideal for plagues. Dump your sewage into a place that flows into the water supply? Sure. It’s your sewage after all. But now we know that is not a good idea. 

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When I was a kid, my dad and my grandpa would “rake the leaves” in the fall; rake the leaves into a big pile; and then burn them. And, everyone was doing that. Now, I would guess that such is illegal in most places in the US. We realize that the smoke doesn’t simply “disappear” but is, in fact, bad for other people. You are burning the leaves on your land, but the smoke doesn’t stay there. Now, we’re more savvy than when I was a kid. But it’s much more than that. There are also a lot more of us! When I born, there were about 2.4 billion people on earth; now there are more than 7 billion. But it isn’t only the number. Many of us around the earth, including me, are using up a lot more resources than we did back then. We are using materials like plastics and sending more and worse chemicals out into the environment we all share. I still believe in the general principle that it’s your call, in terms of how much pollution you are willing to live with. 

As I’ve mentioned before, Air Fresheners are a good example of a bad example. So-called “Air Fresheners” do nothing of the kind. They make you think the air is fresher because they have perfume in them. Not only that; they typically include carcinogens, a chemical to mess with your hormones and another chemical that deadens your sense of smell! You see? Air Fresheners, some people might call the “Bill Barr” of household products. They label themselves as “Air Freshener” but they are really noxious stuff that only makes the whole situation worse. 

I’m afraid that what is “your call” will continue to shrink in some ways if humanity keeps expanding the population and using up more and more resources. On the other hand, the space of what is your call is also expanding. Whether it is sports, clothing, food, games, movies, TV, books, experiences — even with the choice of burning autumn leaves in your backyard gone, you have way more choices available to you than your parents or grandparents had. 


If there is one person in a car driving alone, they can pick the music they want and play it loud. They can change stations every two seconds. Or not. But if there are six people in the car, it’s going to be more complicated. That’s not because people hate your music or hate you. Now, you could take the attitude: “It’s my car, so I’ll pick whatever music I please!” And then, you might choose to play disco music at full blast. You could. But if you do that, then as soon as possible, people will choose note to ride with you. That’s okay. But don’t complain that you’re ever more isolated. It’s not your choice of music that isolates you. It’s your insistence that everyone is subjected only to what appeals to you. 

And, then we come, at last, as we seem to inevitably do, to the crisis at hand.  

It’s our collective “call” to determine who our leaders are. Some prefer someone who is stately, intelligent, and diplomatic. And, some prefer Donald Trump: bombastic, often inarticulate, and crude. Styles and tastes differ. It’s your call. Personally, I don’t think style is irrelevant, but I don’t think it’s vital either. 

But being an agent, witting or unwitting, of Vladimir Putin, rather than of America, is not a question of style. Doing what is in Russian interests and against the interest of America over and over is not a matter of style. Nor is dividing the country against itself. Nor isolating us from our allies. Nor destroying the morale of our intelligence agencies, our military command, our State Department, and the Justice Department. 


If it were possible for you to have a dictatorship and for me to stay in a democracy, that might be fine. I would caution you that you wouldn’t really be the least bit happy about living in a dictatorship, but in the end, that’s your call. Also problematic is the fact that dictators are almost never satisfied with the absolute power they have and want to keep extending it to other areas. 

Donald Trump doesn’t want to just be dictator of the Republican Party (which he pretty much already is). He wants to be dictator of the entire country. That is destroying and will continue to destroy everything good about America. It’s the whole country. It’s not just your car. Before finding out just how horrendous it is for everyone to live in a dictatorship, go live for a few months at least, in a cult that has a dictator and see how you like it. You might like it. You might not. It’s your call. 

But America is not going to let our entire country go to ruin. No-one has the right to make that call. 

That would be like one of my tennis opponents saying, “The ball was “out” and furthermore, from now on, everyone’s tennis rackets are mine and you can only play when I say so and I win every game no matter what happens! 


You know. It’s possible it could happen one day. We’re old. People have strokes. People get dementia. I hope none of my regular tennis players go insane like that, and if they do, I hope they get appropriate care. 

We’re not crazy enough to “give in” to such absurd demands! Not even if he yells and screams and says, “It’s my call!” 

Because it isn’t. 

It’s our call.


Author Page on Amazon. 

The Myths of the Veritas 

Trumpism as the new religion

Why the Rule of Law is important

City Mouse and Country Mouse


It’s Just Tommy being Tommy!


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It’s Just Tommy being Tommy!

group of people eating together

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com


Imagine for a moment that you pack your family into your car and drive to your in-laws for the holidays. Of course, the traffic is horrendous. When you arrive at the nicely decorated house, a few snowflakes waft through the air. You and your family walk up the flagstone walk to the wreathed door and you’re greeted warmly. In you go, all five of you, each carrying a nicely wrapped present or two. Christmas music plays in the background and the smell of turkey with all the trimmings is in the air. Your mouth is watering! Your tempted to to short-circuit the introductory phase and head straight to the buffet — just for a taste. But that would be impolite. 

Yet, something seems amiss. What is that noise? Their spoiled little brat, Tommy is running amok in the living room shooting the loudest cap guns you’ve ever heard in your life. It slowly dawns on you that no cap gun makes that kind of noise. Those are actual bullets! They must have given their ten-year old who mistreats pets, bikes, and toys actual working guns for early Christmas presents. 

two men standing beside brown wooden cabinet

Photo by Kevin Bidwell on Pexels.com

What do you do now? I mean, on the one hand, your in-laws have prepared a wonderful Christmas Dinner. Your stomach is growling. Besides, it will be embarrassing to just walk out. 

On the other hand, you don’t want your kids to be accidentally killed or maimed for the rest of their life. You don’t really want yourself or your spouse to be killed either. 

Sounds like a pretty absurd scenario, doesn’t it? 

But polls indicate that many Americans are just fine sitting down to dinner in this scenario. 


If you are one of those folks, you don’t even insist that the guns be taken away from Tommy. In fact, many of you even encourage the parents. “It’s great that you’ve finally found something Tommy can feel responsible for.” Or, “Oh, well, that’s just Tommy being Tommy! After all, no-one’s perfect!” Or, “Well, yes, Tommy might hurt someone, but that’s true of all kids.” 

And that weekend, assuming there are no casualties at dinner, you are happy to send your kids over for a playdate. And there’s Tommy with his real guns loaded with real bullets putting real lives at danger. But I guess you wouldn’t want to embarrass your in-laws. And, who doesn’t like a free meal or free baby-sitting?


It’s just Tommy being Tommy! 


My first experience with real guns could well have been my last. Free chapter 

from “Tales from an American Childhood” 

Author Page on Amazon. 

A Pattern Language for Collaboration and Teamwork. 

The Myths of the Veritas.