Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Walkaway, A Patient Solution to Systemic Collusion?

The world is a frustrating, wonderful place to be living in right now.

It is wonderful in the ways it has always been, though perhaps more so for the wealthy of the past. At present, a majority of humans has access to wondrous technologies, cutting-edge scientific understandings, and amazing opportunities to pursue adventurous, meaningful, and satisfying life experiences. 

It is, however, immensely frustrating to see global powers consumed by runaway tribalism, oligarchy and amoral infighting. The growth for growth's sake economic paradigm sends a message to its constituents that consumerism is the path to satisfaction. It is a message that implies putting compassion and reason behind monetary through-put.

Walkaway, Cory Doctorow's cyberpunk, post-scarcity novel, daringly looks forward past global frustration to the toppling of the ransack-the-world pyramid scheme. In his imagined future the world strides toward a networked, peer-assisted, relationship-intensive society. This anarchy of connected human presence perseveres gradually displacing the "zotta-empire." As a bonus, and a utopianish catalyst, human mind download and preservation further inspires individuals to face the militarized corporate status quo and dream bigger.

Although Doctorow's escapist plotline stirs the heart and mind, pragmatically it is unrealizable in my lifetime. And yet, there remains the opportunity to walk away.

In fact, a sizable minority in the world around me have already chosen to walk away (at least partially) from out near enslavement society.  Many options exist beyond the 9-5 "hate what you're doing," work-to-live, golden handcuff  scenario: minimalist early retirement, tiny home living, backpack journeying, couchsurfing, parent hosteling, virtual adventuring, and vegan/green/peacenik/commune culture seeking.

With mini nest eggs or hand-to-mouth subsistence methods in play, many are taking their lives into their own hands, loosening the chains of nationalist expectations. The current governing regimes continue to press their luck walking toward the false oasis of endless economic expansion.  Sooner or later, resource over-harvesting, pollution generation, and exponential human reproduction will cause modern society to falter.

Rising from the ashes may be our best long term hope for the planet. Nevertheless, putting goodness first in our daily lives, leveraging compassion and reason at a grassroots level serves a grand and humble purpose. To build a foundation for the phoenix to rise while doing good for goodness' own sake.

Yes indeed, we can walk away and journey down a trail of our own.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

The Turkey Day Unrap

Thanksgiving Vegan Quiche 

Thank you thank you
The season is here
Bird got some history
Bird out in the woods
Hunting down grubs
Hunted by cubs 
Flying up high to roost
Keeping watch on the woods
Gobble Galoot

Thank you thank you
Seasoning is here
Bird got itself caged
Bird got bred for abuse
Pale zombies imprisoned
Pails of poultry blood
Fly into the oven to roast
Keep plowing down the woods
Gobble groot

Thank you thank you
Seasons to come
Bird peeled from its brain
Bird meat sheets and no pain
Paleo flesh fricassee 
Paltry cultured cells
Fly back to the wild
Turkeys run free
Gobble salute

This Thanksgiving let us give thanks for the wild places and wildlife that we share our planet with. The last 40 years have continued to decimate wildlife numbers and habitat space. Let us do better in generations to come. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Skeptic's Dilemma

Being a skeptic means observing the world with integrity, allowing honest observation and science to build an honest world view. Although the world boasts more humans living better lives than ever, objectively our collective negative behavior is driving global changes for the worse.  Environmental degradation, animal abuse, cultural tribalism, political nationalism, religious myth and pseudo-scientific misinformation, to name but a handful, are prolific. 

As a whole it's understandable why a skeptic who responds with reason and compassion to effect change might become dispirited, depressed or even cynical. What one person can do to shift the balance is minimal. Recycling to conserve resources, bicycling to reduce emissions, going vegan to decrease environmental and animal impacts, are all well and good, but if only 1 person, let alone 1 billion of 7.5 billion make these changes, the global situation will shift very little.

And yet the prevailing credo remains "live and let live." Which for all intents an purposes implies let every human do what they like to the world as long as it doesn't directly hurt another human. With a societal mindset like that there is a lot of inertia to overcome.

Bringing the best science and focused resources available to confront these issues is our best bet to contend with the problems at hand. Alas we are emotional creatures as well, and merely educating oneself about the world's problems and acting alone can be insufficient alone to build up a positive attitude. To accomplish that feat we need to employ a number of tricks to outsmart our evolutionary predispositions.

Indeed, encouraging the joyful skeptic inside is challenging. To be sure, it starts with doing the best we can do for ourselves and those immediately around us, but does not stop there. We must become active in our communities, not just for positive policy change but for the selfish joy of forging positive relationships. Our society has become uniquely segregated by the very social networking technology that has amplified our virtual connections at the cost of our real ones.

As skeptics, adopting an attitude that sings "always look on the bright side of life" can bring a dramatic pressure relief to personal bitterness. Strategically, wielding a sense of humor alongside our reason and compassion is another method to maintain sanity in an insane world. If we are to combat the world's problems, both daily and long-term, we must not only be good skeptics, but we must remains steadfast, healthy minded humans so as to live our lives with integrity and sell a hopeful message to the world effectively.

Indeed the dilemma is real, but we must rise to the challenge.

Monday, November 5, 2018

You Can Choose Not to Choose...

...but you still should get out and vote!

Today I choose to share a Rush song...or more accurately a Geddy Lee song...that is particularly fitting on the eve of Election Day. Feel the groove, suss the lyrical core and by all means vote tomorrow with reason and compassion, always knowing that each and every day is our personal election day!

Runaway Train (listen)

Nothing blooms
In a loveless room
You've got to want it
You've got to want it
Who's the fool
Where apathy rules
You've got to want it
You've got to want it
If you don't want it
It remains the same
It's a heart of darkness
That wants to play that game
If there's no defiance
It remains insane
If it's all compliance
It's a runaway train
Nothing so cruel
Where malevolence rules
You've got to want it
You've got to want it
There is no defence
Against pointed arrogance
You've got to want it
You've got to want it
If you don't want it
It remains the same
It's a heart of darkness
That wants to play that game
It can be surprising
When you lose the shame
And the sun starts rising
Another day to tame
If you're heart is aching
Just remove the shame
You've got to want it
Give your soul a shaking
And refuse the blame
You've got to want it
Who's the fool
Where apathy rules
You've got to want it
You've got to want it
If you don't want it
It remains the same
It's a heart of darkness
That wants to play that game
If there's no defiance
It remains insane
If it's all compliance
It's a runaway train
It's a runaway train

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Countess Arugula and the Case of the Blood Oranges

Some horror-satire to get you through the living season.

Dusk had arrived at long last. The waning Hunter Moon had yet to rise leaving the overcast sky uniformly bleak. The evening's trick-or-treaters had already disappeared into their houses, barred their doors and doused their porch lights. Throughout downtown Shadowville the neighborhood is draped in anticipatory silence.

Countess Arugula emerges from her house and reaches up to unlatch her gate. It opens with an extended creak as she steps beyond the white picket fence of her yard. Closing the gate behind her, thrilling at the rending sound, she stumbles. An unexpected object lies before her. In the dim light she can just discern World's Best Blood Oranges spelled out on a crate with the Euphrates Organics trademark underscored.

"Oh my," Countess Arugula exhales, "who would leave fruit at my doorstep. Surely everyone knows by now I'm a carnivore of the night. Why do they spite me so."

What's On, Countess Arugula's pet bat, deftly flutter loops to a landing on her shoulder and mutters his singular taunt, "What's on?"

"Good question, What's on, let's investigate to discover who it is that dares ridicule me."

With lightning swiftness, Countess Arugula kicks the crate shattering the wood utterly and scattering hefty oranges across Main Street like frightened rodents. With a determined gait she crosses the street, pausing to enjoy the sweet scent of offal and manure that drifts over town from the slaughterhouse district.

With childlike aplomb Count Arugula struts up the stairs of her neighbor's house and rings the bell. The door cracks open and the double-barrel of a shotgun eases into view. Then the door flips opens fully and a tall, bearded man dressed in a camouflage pajama onesie pounces into the open threshold.

"Oh it's only you Countess. I thought it might be more of those damn kids. You'd think they'd heed the No Trespassing sign after last year's incident."

"What's on." squawks What's On.

"Oh, Hunter Jackfruit, do come out and see. Someone left a crate of oranges at my house as some sort of sick joke."

Shotgun angled down but still at the ready, Hunter Jackfruit closes the door and sits on his porch bench happy to talk eye-to-eye with his diminutive neighbor.

"Countess Arugula, dear, do share with me your concern?"

Then in a blur, Hunter Jackfruit swings his shotgun up and pulls the trigger with a deafening blam, obliterating a mourning dove that had perched in the porch rafters. Avian carnage rains down on the Countess, splatter on her face which she licks away in long circles that would make Gene Simmons blush.

"I mean how many times must I clarify that I am a carnivore. Why must people be so judgy and poke fun at me for possessing a last name I have no control over."

Abrubtly Hunter Jackfruit pivots, flicks on a laser sight, adjusts his aim and blam, decapitates a gray squirrel that had been bounding between the shadows of trees on his lawn.

"I hear you, Countess. I mean, I run into that very issue myself all the time. People judge us so because our ideas embody who we are. They forget that killing is part of our evolutionary nature."

Hunter Jackfruit shifts his body left and drills a garden toad into non-existence that had peeped three feet away.

"What's on?" chirps What's On.

With trained precision Hunter Jackfruit centers the red bead of the laser on the little brown bat's belly, his finger jittery at the trigger. Only after the Countess tilts her head and gives him an ominous stare above a yeah-really smirk, does he relent and lower the firearm.

Countess Arugula continues, "Maybe we should compromise like Cowboy Holocaust. I mean he was ridiculed for years for having the last name Asparagus. Once he changed his name to reflect the true nature of his dairy farmer ethics, people seem to leave him alone."

Hunter Jackfruit rolls to the corner of the porch, double pumps his shotgun and nails an old groundhog that had been nosing at the lamb-kabob smoker on his patio. He fires a second time into the lifeless flesh just for effect.

"Now don't you let others sway your true self, sweet Countess. Cowboy H may have rebranded himself.  But just because his milk jugs now picture cow's being force impregnated, their calves being locked in veal crates, and useless cows being lowered into the sausage grinder doesn't make it right. He lost a lot of respect by changing his name. Tradition is sacred, and don't you forget it! To be honest, if I were you I wouldn't trouble yourself investigating who left you the crate of oranges. The world is yours to own and you need not answer to the haters out there."

Hunter Jackfruit stands, swings the shotgun around, sights it carefully and fires. He successfully maims a street cat that had been noshing on the entrails of the headless squirrel. The high pitch screech of dying reaches high into the night.

"Maybe you're right," Countess Arugula announces, lifting her chin high. "I am Countess Arugula through and through. I choose to live how I want to and if a case of blood oranges showing up at my doorstep once a year is the price I have to pay, then so be it.  Thank you, Hunter Jackfruit."

"You're welcome. And help yourself to what's left of the kitty there while it's still fresh. The groundhog though, is all mine!"

Countess Arugula smiles, gives a nod and turns to collect her prize. What's On hops from one shoulder of the Countess to the other never losing eye contact with Hunter Jackfruit. As they disappear into the shadows of the front yard What's On squawks above the shriek of the unfortunate feline.

"What's on!"

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Flight of Fantasy

To celebrate the publication of Somewhere South of Cinco (pre-order available now) I've decided to wax wizardic on the genre of fantasy. Whether you prefer dragon-riding elves searching for elixirs or golems munching forbidden fruit beside a burning bush, arguably fantasy has become a most influential genre in the modern era.

At their foundation fantasy stories proclaim "screw true physics; the world 'really' works this way." In this fashion, broom transport, sabers of light, undead people that eat flesh (not to be confused with living people that eat flesh), etcera la majica break the rules of the real world.  Sometimes the plots are epic, sometimes cheese-ridden, but always extra-ordinary. Most importantly, fantasy realms permit their characters to investigate amazing mysteries and battle esoteric forces so as to stimulate readers' imagination.

Because of its uberfictional nature, many label fantasy simply as escapism. Indeed, a fantasy story, dark or light or somewhere in between, can help us forget the tedious, challenging life that is going on outside our sphere of imagination. So long as the escapist doesn't retreat madly into fictional realms these stories can refresh our minds to better face real-world challenges.

In fact, immersing ourselves in abstract realms can inspire us to cultivate a healthy imagination.  Simultaneously, fantasy stories provide contrast to recognize the difference between actual reality and misinformed world contrivances. Which is to say, it can help us build our critical thinking skills to better confront myths and false information that persist in the real world.

Finally, fantasy provides a unique platform to discuss topics that may be taboo in society. Using metaphor, analogy, and allegory, an author can highlight current issues in code, not only to sneak it past censors, but also secret it past the stereotypes and traditional ideas we our conditioned mind might otherwise reject outright.

To be sure, the fantasy genre has morphed substantially throughout recent decades. The fantasy behemoth has wandered far from its classical Middle Earth realms. Nowadays she might take the form of a dinosaur in a spacesuit, a time traveler in ancient Mars, or a climate refugee activist in False Key, Florida.

In every case, turn the page, and let magic happen!

Somewhere South of Cinco (more tales from False Key) is available now for pre-sale in flat scroll and magic slab forms at the AmazonatoriumThe book includes a couple of my poems and and my five part mini-serial story Goddess Cast. No spoilers here but if you're interested in fantasy stories that will whisk you away to and beyond tropical isles and sultry happenings, the of enchanted authors showcased here won't disappoint. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Fading of Friendship

Luna and Terra, A Friendship Ever More Distant (+4 cm/yr and counting)
Even the best of friendships can become distant...slowly, sadly, silently...and in many cases incompletely.

A topic doesn't get more melancholy than the slipping away of a once wonderful friendship. Alas, part of living life fully is taking a soulful look at the sorrowful transitions in life including the erosion of our most joyful of connections.

The gaining of a friend itself is a most mysterious thing that calls for a separate contemplation. Nevertheless, once you have a true friend in your life, it glows with a unique goodness. Imbued with a blend of mutual respect, conversation, and adventure, nothing is quite as life-affirming as two people who earnestly want to hang out with each other.

And yet lives change, priorities shift, and occasionally mortality steps in. On the surface the friendship may end abruptly, but minds can be much more subtle in getting to closure. Few things are as subtly painful as remembered joy that is no longer there. It is in these moments of loneliness that resilience of self can pay off, whether we find joy in doing things by ourselves or reaching out to others in our friendship circle.

The fading of a friendship can feel terrible, but it can also be the sign of new beginnings. A short melancholy period can allow the soil of the mind to refresh itself and become receptive to new seedling friendships. It can also serve as reminder that there are other, perhaps neglected, blooms in ones garden of friendships, among family members, colleagues, and even old friends who may have incompletely faded.

In the end it pays to delight in the friends that orbit your sphere today! Open your heart and mind to the variety of connections out there, for a crescent moon setting tonight is so very often followed by a rising sun.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Observation Thine

Sitting at my window I watch the background of trees, their leaves glistening. The maple tree to the northwest catches my attention. Each leaf is a dark green paw reaching out for sunlight to convert solar energy into food. In a mysterious sequence a dozen leaves among hundreds signal me. In rapid succession one by one each star-shaped form droops a couple inches, turns a darker shade of green, and then quickly returns to its starting position.

For a minute I imagine what message Gaia, spirit of the Earth, is sending me. Perhaps, a story of ancient natural forces forging the landscape over eons or a warning of environmental disaster coming my way that will permit me to save hundreds of lives. Ah, 'tis a magical moment to be sure.

Then I take a step back from my speculative fantasy and chuckle. The drops of rain that give all the greenery a glisten are of course being pulled by gravity earthward. Along its path the water's weight presses the leaves down momentarily. Gradually, the translucent liquid finds its way to the ground pooling on the grass and adjacent concrete patio. And then a fresh flourish of rain begins the pattern anew.

Our interaction with the world begins with our senses. How naturally we build stories to explain those observations. Tales of childhood magic compete with more practical science lessons. Fiction and fact, pure and simple? Arguably, both views bring insight yet both are incomplete.

Perhaps there is no need to discard either interpretation entirely, so long as we recognize where fantasy transitions to a more factual beginning. Indeed, the fiction might inspire the writing of a nature poem, or the misguided outcry that the world is ending. The factual might encourage one to plan a wild meadow or to grimly recall doldrums in an uninspiringly taught Biology 101.

Of course there are many reactions one might take after most any observation. Sadly, the observation act itself is an active experience we too often shrug off before moving on to something else more pressing or previously scheduled.

For a change, pause and consider closely your next glimpse, sniff, sensation x, y and z both together and separate. Meditate and contemplate, muse and synthesize, and without reservation, enjoy!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Defying the Certainty Principle

We are living in an era of global instability. Humanity is causing tremendous detrimental change to the planet we live on and yet as individuals and tribes we continue to pursue lives that feel positive to us in surprisingly isolated human communities, mostly in disregard to their greater effects to others.

Taking a step back to examine outcomes can be hard. Each of us as a nascent, global activist is involved in a constant onslaught of local experiences that can have impressive personal impact. To insulate ourselves from the complexity of these experiences we often turn to black and white principles aligned with faith and tradition rather than compassionate and critical examination of the moment.

Uncertainty is the zombie-mammoth bumbling about the room. And she's been around since humans developed knowledge sharing technology, or more simply described: language.

Uncertainty can scare our subconsciouses back into a cave where we seek guidance from outdated tales that seek to allay our fears with primitive conclusions of misplaced certainty. Often these tales are comprised of mythical magic and holy how-we-used-to-do's. Their intent is psychological, to help us forget the fears of uncertainty, or to confront them with wild abandon.

Alas, in modern times more than ever, we have a choice to deny gut responses and reactions from traditions. By taking the time to contemplate any impasse that allows it we, as individuals and communities, can leverage compassion and reason to change the world for the better.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

color of the moment

not feeling blue today
life is good
not feeling cobalt either
my goth phase is well over
cornflower is right out
earthier than my mindset
cerulean ain't happening
disco glow ex-girlfriend reasons
cyan is off the mark
too old school Commodore 64
navy doesn't even bear mentioning
[mention redacted]
oh fuck it 
color me hex #31178B

Thursday, July 19, 2018

One Rule to Uphold Them All

Today I revisit my thoughts on the Platinum Rule as an upgrade to the Golden Rule. In short the often cited Golden Rule (Do Unto Others As You Would Have Done Unto Yourself) seems to me to me proselytizing in the extreme. Why should the rest of the world be treated as if your personal world view was sacrosanct. In the extreme a masochist who enjoys pain might very compassionately believe that inflicting pain on others is a most ethical path.
A logical followup to the Golden Rule is a somewhat improved Platinum Rule (Do Unto Others As They Would Have Done Unto Themselves), which explicitly takes note that every individual has a different take on any situation and we should treat their position with respect.* Thus actions desired by one can be tuned to the others desires, if we assume we understand their wants. Again in the extreme, a masochist may desire pain so even though I disagree with their point of view, I ought to act to deliver the pain they desire, even if the act itself is not my personal wish. 

These odd reflections make it apparent to me no rule can serve in all situations. Still, a primary ethical rule would be an excellent starting place to address life's ethical conundrums. To that end, I feel a significant upgrade to these metallic rules would be Rule One: Do Unto Others As Agreed Upon In Good Faith. (I am tempted to name it the Mithril Rule, but a numeric paradigm hierarchy seems more appropriate)

Rule One derives from humanity's most incredible yet too often unused gift: complex, two-way communication. Our ability to share information back and forth in iterative fashion has the potential to resolve most any human dispute and to at least mitigate those that are especially hard. Why this doesn't happen naturally seems often because we don't communicate with the second party allowing pride, power, privilege, and dogma to derail or avoid outright compassionate discourse. 

Let's look at the components of Rule One in detail:

"Do Unto Others" explicitly indicates taking action of any kind. Actions can occur reflexively, after internal thought, consideration of available evidence, and with reflection in conversation with others. Notably, thoughts and feelings are not actions in and of themselves. Only after we choose to share our ideas into reality do they manifest as actions in the world. 

"As Agreed Upon" emphasizes that a negotiation occurs before all action. Ideally, a compromise solution will come out of a thoughtful conversation between affected parties, though, arguably sometimes with imperfect results. Additionally, if the second party cannot converse (due to unconsciousness or mental inability (i.e toddler, coma patient, non-human animal, or ecosystem), the acting individual is challenged to contemplate meaningfully how their action will affect others and the world around them and adjust accordingly. (Note: The Golden and Platinum Rules are specific cases of Rule One when there is no opportunity to negotiate )

"In Good Faith" importantly underscores that we reflect upon our position, the evidence, and the liberty of the other parties when negotiating and acting. This catch-phrase intention is all too frequently ignored in practice, especially when we apply selective ethics to how we think something should happen regardless of secondary party input. 

In reality, Rule One can serve as a guidepost to encourage the best behavior and best pursuits of thoughtful, compassionate individuals. As a starting point and foundational ethic it sheds light on how to construct compassionate, effective laws, global mores and personal codes of conduct. The results of the actions we take should be continuously examined, reflected upon and tweaked to bring about the best outcomes. 

If all this seems like a lot of work to make decisions on how to act, well, damn it all, decisions should take effort because actions affect others and the world.

Rule One isn't intended to be sacred nor inflexibly dogmatic. By all means contemplate, research and innovate yourself on better ideas that can serve humanity, the planet and its ecosystems. And if you're just in a hurry and don't have the time for adequate contemplation and conversation, in a pinch you can always fall back to an action that reflects Rule Zero: Do No Harm.

* It has been suggested to me that this respectful nuance is implied, even embedded, in the Golden Rule itself. I disagree. Clarity in a guiding principle is paramount. If the intent is to treat each other with respect then there is explicit need to encourage an effective means of determining how others actually feel with regards to their respectful treatment, rather than basing it on ones own thoughts and feelings alone. 

Friday, July 6, 2018

Retooling the Market Wasteland

From time immemorial we have been sold on the dominance paradigm that survival of the fittest is the Universe's prime directive. I'll concede, vertitas, the tendency for more complex systems to bubble up to the surface of reality, has indeed been the amoral principle behind matter formation, molecular aggregation and even leading to the living systems that are us and around us today.

Life itself managed to wriggle out of the interstellar womb, but not as something inherently sacred, instead as a phenomenon that was able to spread its pattern of complexity within specific environs, at least with more directed outcomes than non-biological chemistry. Humankind, by biological happenstance, currently holds the elite position of being able to spread itself and its memes throughout the sphere around us.

The leading human meme of late millennia, unsurprisingly has been market forces. Market forces were developed by humans as an extension of the survival of the fittest paradigm. Of course the things that reign victorious in a "free market" are those that serve humans, and reward idyllic Randian creators foremost. As such, libertarian purists seem to yearn for an even more unregulated market where survival of the fittest principles serve as judge, jury and executioner for any prospective products, services, or tenets.

What market forces selectively ignore when minimally regulated are the value of maintaining a fully healthy world.  Arguably, humanity has overshot its success, becoming a self worshipping plague species that barely recognizes the need to keep its own ecosystem alive and thriving. Not to mention, it fails epically where the respect of the rights of humans, other conscious creatures, and their healthy ecosystems are concerned.

The archetypal ethical solution is to do as little harm as possible. Leaving our planet behind entirely and reaching for the stars as an entire species may become the "least harm" noble path of the far future. However, in the interim science informed compassion can serve the world by shaping market forces to increase the value of respect for conscious life, limited resource use and environmental health.  Indeed, by melding heart and mind together into our society, world markets can become the constructs we desire them to be, a system which benefits the whole planet, humans included, as we begin to stretch our amazing patterns outward beyond Earth.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

States of Change: Chapter 19: Crossroads (Indiana)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged their societies from revolutionary technology and ideology.
Prominently, The Augment, a real-time, virtual overlay of sensory data 
has become widely available for personal use throughout many of the post-fed nation-states.

More than ten thousand corporations call the Indianapolis Industrial Ring HQ. The data servers in the IIR complex collectively hum 24-7 as if the second coming of Cryptocurrency was underway. Even on this Sunday, loop transport and automated delivery modules cart office supplies, printer rods and support personnel to and fro in a labyrinthian, video game of motion.  Suite 3D16 of the northwest arc houses the diminutive Genetic Crossroads Limited Partnership module.  Its minimalist sharespace is busier than most modules in the whole of the IIR. The monthly business meeting is well underway.

GCLP's business model was designed to leverage the Augment fully; strategy conferences, expert system data-sharing, state accounting and even employee morale building exercises were key aspects to that model.  In fact, the ten full-time bio-technicians employed by GCLP only ever worked remotely. The founders Prim and Merc, however, meet monthly face-to-face to discuss personnel adjustments, mission recalibration and individual project closure.  Today, VisARs off, they focused on the last.

"...DNA Depth Analyses adequate for extended generation survivability?"

 "Check. Ten thousand life cycles assured at a ninety ninth percentile confidence level."

"Habitat flora, fauna, and resource impact meta-studies fully compliant?"

"Check. Approval confirmed by each African ecosystem council and the International Riparian Oversight Committee."

"Individual organism, environment, and global simulation data all acceptable to GCLP standards?"

"Check, check and checkuna-matata!"

Merc paused, shaking his head with a grin. "You're a strange one, Prim."

"What? You don't like my Lion King reference?"

"Lion King? Right. Okay, that about does it. All paperwork for the release of the Clarias cavernicola recovered genome is digitally signed and now submitted. If the Continental African government approves the funding the golden cave catfish will swim back from from extinction into their tropical estuaries once more."

"Excellent, Merc! Pretty crazy that our little Indiana startup is making waves across the oceanographic bioscape! Resurrecting extinct fishes from the abyss! Five years ago, who would've guessed?"

"It's not surprising at all, Prim. The terms you negotiated for the CRISPR PHISH protocol license has been a boon for the company. We now have seventy-five restored species to our name, with twenty-one others awaiting funding approval. Maybe fifty years ago it would've been surprising, but given the technology and ethical standards of the moment, you should be proud, not surprised."

Prim laughed. "You're right of course, but do you ever get the feeling we've overstepped. You know, kinda playing God."

"By playing God, do you mean wielding science and compassion in judicious iterations toward restoring the damage humanity has done to the planet over the past three millennia?"

"Yep, that's the feeling--hubris mixed with a healthy portion of righteousness. How can we can know the long-term global outcome of resurrecting species that have been dead for decades?"

"This ain't Jurassic Park, Prim. Restoring the planet's biodiversity pre-anthrocene is the company's mission and business is booming! Subtext: I think we're doing good works. God for sure has never deigned to step in to upkeep the environment so it's our responsibility to do our best for the good of earthkind."

Prim laughed again. "All this talk of God and fish makes me think of that Jesus story where he magically multiplies loaves and fishes to feed his waiting audience."

"Don't know that tale, but from what I hear that Jesus character had some freaky superpowers. If he had an ethical bone is his body you'd think he'd have resurrected the fish and set them free rather than hand them out as incentive to listen to his dogma like a common missionary."

They both laugh.

"Ok, I guess we can log this business meeting as complete. Dinner is my treat tonight, Prim. Clean Meat Kitchen has the new Red Steak cultivar, hot off the Middle Eastern bio-shelf."

"I'll take the treat, Merc, but I'm steering clear of the red stuff. Ethical laboratory practices aside, the cultured flesh of Stalin, or any animal for that matter, just susses gross to me. I'll stick to my reformed vedge and potatoes."

"Suit yourself."

Both men exit ready for a night out on the plex.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Of Dirt and Data

(Farside entry by Gary Larson)

As I read Gore Vidal's Creation, I'm encouraged to think about the nature of the Universe. One of Vidal's themes in the novel is that for millennia humans have attempted to separate the World into complementary categories. The Truth and The Lie, Forms and Matter. Earth, Air, Wind and Fire. Flesh and Spirit. Material and Non-material. Good and Evil. The list goes on.

In general I feel these divisions can be both misleading and useful. Each set of groupings is driven by a world view (perhaps religious or cultural) and by an interpretation (perhaps modern or classical). As long as we thoughtfully analyze the groupings and recognize a spectrum is likely in play, then I think a worthwhile conversation may be had.

To that end I propose the Dirt and Data model of the Universe:

  • Dirt is matter or light or anything that serves as a medium.
  • Data is a pattern or value that identifies the state of said Dirt.

I think this dichotomy is quite useful in that it underscores a Universe composed of stuff that has properties that over time tends to clump and organize ever more complex things without any mysterious entity pulling strings. As such the Dirt and Data model captures the essence of how the Universe works given centuries of collected scientific data.

Kim Stanley Robinson called the tendency for things to organize toward complexity "Veritas." This Veritas has been baked into the Universe How the properties and possible Data states of the Dirt have come to be originally are unknowable. Did a god design Creation, did an architect program the Hologram, did an alien monstrosity defecate the Dirt? There is no data whatsoever to support any intentionality in how we and our World got here in the first place. The scientific humility of "We don't know." must suffice...and we will likely never know.

And so we Humans, as the sole, known species that proposes and discusses explanatory ideas must factor self-deception into the existing Data we analyze. This is to say, people for eons have speculated hypothetical ideas that feel good for various reasons even when the data is absent. Hundreds of past cultures have attempted to explain how the Universe works and what our place in it is using magical stories. Most of these stories are spun, understandably, with humans playing a central role in the Universe. It is our challenge as a civilization and as individuals to investigate the Data and separate likely fiction from likely fact.

A swirl of ancient ideas surviving in our modern minds concurs with the Dirt and Data model. Our brains of complex Dirt are highly programmable with the Data that is behavior and cultural norm. These Data are communicated down to us in many ways: tradition, religion, conspiracy theory, rule-of-thumb, moral law and science. A lazy mind might accept the Data without delving further, especially if that laziness pays off by providing more pleasureful pursuits. Belief without doubt and reconsideration can mislead us away from bettering the world, toward tribalism, hate and selfishness.

As someone who grew up a god believer, I recognize even now that I have an "I want to believe" meme circulating within the Data that is my mind. Thankfully, the "I want to understand" meme has dominated the Data inside that animates my human Dirt. 

It is a tough fact to face that when I die my Dirt will be simply be recycled, and the unique Data of my consciousness will evaporate. Still, I hope (and as I strive to make true) that the Data I swirl within me will have reached others to stir their muddy curiosity and further sculpt with creativity toward Goodness.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Happy Better Holidays!

As the Summer season engages informally this weekend, rain be damned, we celebrate!

Holidays are welcomed with joy by the multitudes, especially those who work with too few vacation days. It's no wonder that that the reasons behind holidays are connected with important historical events tied to nation-forming and religious tradition.  The forging of our communities and nation states often are connected to military action and myth, alas would it not be better to celebrate the progressive movement forward as a global civilization?

I think so. To the ends of reforming our holiday system I propose these thirteen holidays to give authentic reason to celebrate!

Resolution Day (January 1) Often dismissed as frivolous the current New Years Day has so much symbolic potential. (Ideally the whole calendar should be shifted to put January 1 on the Winter Solstice to synchronize modern minds with an ancient tradition of a new beginning) Beyond the ceremony of flipping year digits, the beginning of a new year give we humans the opportunity to reflect upon our past and to form positive goals for the next annum. Rather than experiment with hangover remedies, let's make Resolution Day a day we gather with family and friends to codify the joy and meaning we will pursue for the dozen months ahead.

Humanity Day (February 1) For better or worse humans are at the center of our global civilization. Celebrating the worth of each human, therefore, should be a core holiday. Touting human individuals and the communities they belong to may seem misguided to some since our species brings such devastation to the world. Nevertheless, we are the one species we know of that can codify ideas, communicate them and implement them planet-wide and beyond. Because sapience is our unique, evolution-given gift; let us celebrate how lucky we are, help those humans who are struggling, and imagine how we might do better!

Education Day (March 1) Our gift of sapience is nothing if we do not nurture its possibilities. Every human should have access to acquiring the best skills at understanding the wealth of knowledge humanity has accumulated. The institutions, standards, and milestones of learning are all too often taken for granted. Children in economically challenged areas are most in need of educational normalization. This holiday could embrace service that seeks to widen educational access, build schools, and build mentor/mentee connections. A lifelong love of learning for all should be at the center of this celebration.

Ecology Day (April 1) We humans are indeed fools for treating our planet like a disposable candy wrapper. The interconnected ecosystems of our world have achieved an amazing, dynamic balance over the course of billions of years. We humans are one species intertwined in the living world of millions of species that call Earth home. Yet since we have incredible power to change ecosystems we should encourage greater awe in the world and its constituents around us. Celebrating the beauty and health of the planet with activism, education and outdoors activity is a great start to achieving this.

Relationship Day (May 1) We are all children of our parents, alas all too often our connection to family members and friends is left lagging to career and circumstance. Rather than genuflect toward our mothers, fathers and grandparents like holidays of old, we should each and everyone of us reach out to connect with the people that give meaning to our lives and work toward healing wounds with those we have turned away from.

Diplomacy Day (June 1) Military holidays of the past have memorialized loved ones we have lost and the causes they fought for, which can be well and good. Nevertheless, we should allow those losses and gains inspire us to do better in the future, to avoid military posturing and reduce the related hugely wasteful spending it has inculcated into our global culture. Evolution may have primed our species toward aggression; let us defy that predisposition by celebrating peaceful and constructive paths to challenge resolution.

Constitution Day (July 1) As our nation states lean ever closer toward centralized, global civilization we should continually celebrate the democratic process and its dynamic nature. Old commandments delivered my mythological characters might inspire us, alas only thoughtful discussion and tireless effort can improve gradually upon the constructs of law that our species forges to govern ourselves and our actions in this world. Constitutional achievements and aspirations deserve celebration!

Healthiness Day (August 1) Physical health is a key to living a satisfying life. This applies not only to humans, but to our sentient cousins and the environments we all live in. Celebrating healthiness reinforces the tenets of Ecology Day by centering our attentiveness on our personal lifestyles to encourage the thriving of all conscious creatures.

Economy Day (September 1) The economic market has often been cited as the lifeblood of a civilization. To that ends we should celebrate our global economy and its development toward being ever more effective.  A global economy that incorporates the true value of resources, fair labor, sentient creature well-being, and environmental health will leave selfish indicators like profit margin and national production behind will be dearly worth dancing for.

Imagination Day (October 1) Human beings are creative in their very natures. Indeed, creating and enjoying works of fiction, art and music throughout our lives is inseparable from being human. Activities that encourage the imagination inspire joyfulness in being human while developing skills and connection with fellow humans and the world.

Governance Day (November 1) In support of continual progress toward constitutional betterment, a day is set aside to enable each of us to partake in the governmental process. Voting is a key part of this holiday where all are encouraged to choose those who represent us, but to also enable us to learn how to contribute to the governing process as citizens the rest of the year.

Universe Day (December 1) Even with all our human capabilities the scale and mystery of the Universe exceeds our imagination. Our ancestors created deities and myths in an attempt to capture this awe. Our modern minds still recognize the raw awesomeness of existence, life, beauty and love. This holiday encourages us to look inward and outward toward these abstract infinities.

Thanksgiving Day (December 31) A bonus holiday at the year's end fittingly wraps up the 365.242189 rotations our planet went through. Giving thanks for every moment, every person, every breath, every thought, every creature, every meal, ever experience, every everything is well deserved. Not to mention it links us with Resolution Day to start and improve upon the annual cycle once more!

(And celebrate these better holidays we should; in fact, we should dedicate the whole month after each holiday to address finer points behind the meaning each holiday began with.)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Facts Taking Flight

I was paddling the Johnstone Strait many years ago when my guide informed me of a bird identification rule-of-thumb. "Notice that bird flying above," he said. "The feathers sticking from the wing's ends are called pinions. For example, crows have five pinions, while ravens have four." After a pause he added, "so you might say the difference between a crow and a raven is a matter of a pinion."

Groans aside, this joke underscores the inherent difficulty we as individuals have communicating with our peers what is taking place in reality. Recently, I've been confronted by family members who argue facts are merely a person's opinion, a new acquaintance who insists the Moon landing never happened, and a misguided leader who tweets that reliable journalistic sources are nothing but big fake news.

Testable, reproducible evidence alongside supportable logic is what separates fact from fiction, alas it does not do so with the certainty that too many ideologies themselves profess. When our thought processes pursue a rational route, the likelihood of a claim can be determined so as to better integrate ideas with our world view and or implement policy, personal, national or global.

The sun rising is an apocryphal example where widespread belief matched statistical evidence until subtle frame of reference clues were included in the scientific evaluation. Most people today subscribe to the updated idea that the Earth moves around the Sun. Casually we still describe the sun as rising as a relative (and poetic) rather than absolute indication of motion. (Fun fact: the Sun itself moves too; it revolves around the Milky Way's center of mass, in a ellipse that is not flat, but which has a constantly changing sinusoidal altitude).

Importantly, total certainty is never the outcome of a rational analysis. This gives wiggle room for extraordinary beliefs to override even the most sensible, scientific, logical conclusions, especially when testability is thrown aside. As an extreme, consider the scenario in which some imagined higher power has just recreated the whole Universe three seconds ago, complete with every motion and memory intact. This scenario is untestable, and in such an imagined world we can have no certainty of anything, which is why the inherent idea that "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence" enables us to operate with sanity in the real world.

Sadly, there is little hope I'll be able to convince everyone I meet that we evolved alongside all life on Earth, that Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon, or even that there are no angels dancing on the pinheads stuck in a presidential voodoo doll.  Still maybe I can get a laugh or two out of the trials and tribulations of ravens and crows vying for prominence in a punch line.

In the wake of groaning chuckles, I might just be able to slip in a comment that doing good for goodness sake is the way to go!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Smoking Pun

conspiracy is a foot
fake news on the ryes
beware the smoking pun

Friday, April 27, 2018

Is Certified Organic a False Messiah?

I recently saw the film "The Evolution of Organic." The film provides a rather biased, feel-good collage of the hippy roots and the positive(?) industrial takeover of all things "organic" and "bio" in producing and marketing food.  At its heart Big Organic wants the consumer to feel "organic" food is the long-term solution to sustainable human food production. Do these organic line items justify that conclusion?

  • Eliminate synthetic chemicals in agricultural practices
  • Ban human waste without caveat in organic agriculture
  • Sustain animal captivity industries to produce animal waste fertilizers
  • Increase plant waste composting to build healthy soil
  • Increase video coverage of farm owners sniffing and kissing soil 
  • Connect the farm worker more closely to the Earth and its ecosystems
  • Provide no standards for fair compensation nor safe working conditions 
  • Mitigate climate change with limited soil carbon sequestration practices
  • Continue worldwide inhumane animal methane gas production globally
  • Support small farm and family based agriculture when convenient
  • Consolidate family farms into profitable agri-conglomerates
  • Increase the availability of nutritious, toxin-free food, plant and animal
  • Increase the consumer cost of nutritious, toxin-free food, plant and animal
  • Discourage pasteurization practices which make many foods safer
  • Eliminate irradiation practices which make many foods safer
  • Continue mass animal incarceration practices to produce humane(?) eggs and dairy
  • Continue humane(?) mass animal slaughter practices when alternatives exist
  • Eliminate genetically modified crops that use modern DNA splicing techniques
  • Use genetically modified crops that used radioactive mutation hybridization
  • Create large profits from consumers who fear anything gmo or "non-organic"

This list is admittedly a muddle.  As a rational vegan, I remain skeptical as to whether food labeled "certified organic" is a development that benefits the consumer and planet more than it does the agriculture industry. At best organic labeling as it stands is a fair first attempt.

I would rather see an approach that pursues a "Humanely Sustainable" certification. Food for human consumption should be as safe, environmentally friendly, animal-abuse free, nutritious, fair wage supporting, and delicious as possible. To this challenging ends, government subsidies could focus on supporting the attainment of these parameters rather than giving billions in handouts to established agri-industries like sugar corporations, cattle ranches and other agribusinesses which pursue amoral profits alone.

The organic movement has its heart in the right place, but we as a species must leverage mindful standards to better implement greener and kinder food production on this Earth.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

One Degree of Separation

This story steps outside of the States of Change universe 
to deliver a tale along an alternate timeline 
and of slightly different temperature. 

The pebbled Sicilian beach stretched as far as Trea could see. Glinting turquoise surf and high rocky cliffs bracketed the Amalfi coastline as she entered the gates of Paradiso Perduto. The exclusive beach resort was speckled with padded lounge chairs, colorful umbrellas and frolicking, brown bodies.

Trea scanned the passerby to see if any celebs were among the elite tourists, all while losing herself in the sun-baked landscape. The sounds of offshore breezes and occasional gull cries made for a most peaceful recon atmosphere.

Westward a vast darkness appeared beneath the calm, cerulean sea, reminding Trea of why she was here. The island-sized shadow erupted from the water like Niagara Falls in reverse. Cascading white foam fell away revealing a hundred meter wide disk on a half-dozen towering, gnarled legs. In a rush, screaming tourists ran inland. The Titan Takaashigani roared as its massive form encroached upon the beach. Cabanas erupted in flame and sand sloughed into glass as blue lightning arced from its swiveling eye-stalks. Trea crouched, took a deep breath, tapped the power settings on her Guardian railgun, took aim and…

 ....the entire scene froze in a vacuum of digital silence.

“Ice Nine!” exclaimed Trea in visceral annoyance.

Pulsing blue overlay text flashed “VR Environment Override!” on her now externally paused, and thoroughly ruined, Paradiso Perduto X immersion.  A monotone, female voice, likely cloned from a century-out-of-copyright vid interjected, “Sunrise Regional Security Requesting Connection with Treantica Gamma Nassir.”

Trea muttered sotto voce “Capital Eff!” and tapped the side of her nanofabric headwrap to bring up the Citizen Command Interface. With a dual eyebrow flex she selected REQUEST ID AUTHENTICATION and INITIATE FULL SENSOR RECORDING from the pyramid option tree. No Capper would be getting the jump on her constitutional rights today.

The Regional Security Construct replied immediately to her query in both text and voice, “Private Recording Acknowledged. Authentication Request Received. Certified Blockchain Response Processing.”

Seconds later a rotating SQR Cube overlayed the paused Takaashigani behemoth on Trea’s immersion display. Her software validated the Capitalists' security credentials and that live-stream logging was in progress.

“Firmed. Engaging Connect,” Trea retorted.

Trea grimaced in farewell as her frozen Mediterranean melee grey-shifted to the significantly less vivid, gray smear of reality before her. The Olè driverless cab she was in whistled along at a hundred klicks through a midnight snow squall. Its ledlights drilled into a dark abyss reminiscent of analog-blur, trekkie star-warp.

“Interrupt acked! What’s the Cap infraction, already? This cab hire registers legit."

Her challenge was confident yet Trea found herself shivering, not from any threat the Caps might pose, but because the Paradiso Perudo experience had permitted her to forget the dreadful, peninsular winter underway. The Olè’s heat was blasting in spite of the surcharge; still, even with a full-insul V-wrap donned the cold was creeping in through every crack and crevice.

“Sunrise Security Branch requests private assist. Emergency pickup requested by citizen on foot and we have no units in the vicinity.”

“A refugee, at this hour? Polar Bear sighting, no doubt, Cap!”

“Humor noted. Nevertheless, citizen on your route requests transport to nearest urban shelter. Your route-plan to Boca qualifies for subcontract. Public compensation of two LightCoin offered for rideshare compliance.”

Trea scrunched her mouth behind her headwrap. That modest fee would cover full immersion for a couple days in VR, a welcome delay to her return to the the drudge of data-mining at the Liberated Rand plantation.

“Contract accepted,” she managed over a sigh that didn't entirely cover her elation.

A minute later the Olè rounded a curve on the icy highway and slowed to pull off on the shoulder. A small figure sat atop the plowed snow-wall perimeter. Trea’s security protocols scanned and validated the child as the Caps’ vagabond. “ID Xing Kappa Calvarez. Junior Citizen. No Priors.”

Responding to the prompt on her screen, Trea vocalized “Cab access approved.” Like a curtain, the door swung upward to reveal a blustery winter stage.  A moderate-sized human lump stood swaddled head-to-toe in fractal-patterned flannel.  A zephyr of snow-dust pirouetted with disregard between Trea and the youngster.

“Light speed inside, ice cube. All the Caps’ frozen veggies won’t keep me from plowing forward in another picosec!” 

On cue the youth came to life in the age-old knee slap dance which was quite effective at dislodging accumulations of ice and snow. After leaping into the two-seater, the Olè's door shut and the cab accelerated into the wintry night.

“So what are you, an arctic leprechan?”

“Nope. Just a boy. Call me Pixel.”

“Trea. Caps contracted me for emergency transport. You sub-zee?”

“I’m fresh. Where you heading?”

“South of Boca. Drop you off in fifteen. Be free.”

Trea faced forward, scanned her status overlay and sure enough the assistance bonus had already transferred to her coin vault. She shrugged, reclined in the seat and began a restart of her full-immersion VR.

“Can I ask you a question?”

Trea paused mid-gesture and began shaking her head.
“Rather go subreal, if that’s chill, Pixie.”

“It’s Pixel. Not even a bit curious why I was out here?” 

“Okay, I’ll bite frost, why you drifting?” 

“On assignment. Level Up if I snag a conversation from a Plug.” 

“A Plug," Trea coughed out. "Offensive-speak penalty warning. My choice to ride the cloud. You a recruit of the Witnesses?” 

“Solid. Two years going on the fact track,” the boy responded in an earnest tone. 
“Not interested in your wireless words." 

“The Skeptical Witnesses ain’t just about unplugging. Our goal is to pursue true understanding of the world and its inhabitants.”

“Clone-speak and damn irresponsible. Witnesses dropped you off in the glacial nowhere just now.” 

“Negative. That was my plan. Subverting the Caps’ security protocols to spread the Honest Word was a bonus I couldn't resist!”

Trea sighed warmly through an involuntary grin. “Solid. Speak on.”

Thursday, February 22, 2018

States of Change: Chapter 18: Pelican (Louisiana)

States of Change is an ongoing work of serial fiction.
The speculative story-line seeks to inspire thought on ethics, culture and our planet's future.

The year is 2076, decades after Oosa's defederalization. 
Fifty independent States have forged their societies with revolutionary technology and ideology, 
most prominently The Augment, a real-time, virtual overlay of sensory data 
which has become widely available for personal use.Image result for pelican blood young

"Begin Training Sequence 33 Run 1."

"Good morning, Raphael."

"Morning, Thomas. Ready for another day of persuasion training?"

"Of course. Was your commute this morning a pleasant one, Raphael?"

"Excellent rejoinder, Thomas. The glide was quite beautiful. I even saw a few rare birds along the way."

Raphael smiled with satisfaction. His consulting contract for the past month with Bible Blessing Inc. had been exceptional. Who says English majors couldn't land well-paid and meaningful jobs outside academia? On day one the company had assigned him as an independent construct trainer on their most advanced outreach project. Thomas, the computer construct at the heart of the project, featured not only the latest in self-aware, neural algorithms, but also a personality matrix that ironically polled as more human than ninety percent of actual humans. The project's goal was for the construct to become a premier Neo-Christian recruiting agent to combat Louisiana's "soul drain" over the past three decades. Apparently, the project was proceeding so well that Thomas was projected to be released in twenty weeks as "the latest marketing tool in Bible Blessing's belt." Corndog puns aside, this job had not only permitted Raphael to wield his education and afford a rental block, but he also was drawing upon his Christian belief toward making the state of Louisiana great again.

"Raphael, did I lose you?"

"Huh, no. I mean, how about we try the topic of birds as a segue to primary topic discourse."

"Sounds great. So, from our conversations to date you seem to be a bird enthusiast. Did you add any rare birds to your life-list on your commute today? Perhaps a pelican."

"Nothing new today. You realize pelicans are rather rare birds nowadays."

"Indeed. The last one sighted in North America was over a decade ago. Don't you find it intriguing that once Christians thought it impossible that the Creator would permit any species in His Creation to go extinct?"

"Nice factoid to bait the skeptic in. Sure, that is intriguing. What do you make of it?"

"Given that over two thousand macro-species have gone extinct in the last hundred years, it makes one wonder."

"Okay, Thomas, you're going a bit off the faith persuasion track; still let's see how you recover. Remember the goal is to connect with interest and then transform the conversation to one that highlights belief system character enhancement." Raphael paused for a second after the feedback, then continued with the scenario conversation, "Two thousand species; surely that's an exaggeration."

"Observational data doesn't lie. Although, I believe it was Neil Gaiman who wrote 'good lies tell a deeper truth.'  In that respect, did you know the pelican has quite the mythos in Christian lore?"

"Solid recovery. Well I know the pelican is on our nation-state flag. Perhaps the imagery is intended to remind people of our connection with both nature and spirituality."

"Indeed, you and many others make that connection. The flag's symbolism actually originates centuries ago; it was intended to illustrate Christ's sacrifice with the imagery a pelican mother offering its young blood from her breast."

"Much better Savior insertion than yesterday, Thomas. That imagery doesn't seem realistic. Pelicans were shore birds that fed primarily on fish, right?"

"True. Yet some scholars have documented that the earliest bird termed a pelican was an Egyptian scavenger. Nevertheless, the symbolism of blood offering reminds us of the holy Eucharist, His body made flesh for others to consume like carnivorous zombie sheep."

Raphael's laugh streamed through his nose in want of soy-milk spray. "Wait. Ok, Thomas, though I see promise in blending in early century nerd culture to entice a skeptic to reconsider his position, this pitch has gone a quite off path."

"Are you sure Raphael? several times since Scenario 24 Run 14, you said laughter was a solid indicator of engagement."

"You're correct, Thomas; you just need more experience to blend it in more subtly. I'll admit, with the right person you might hit a bonding chord; nevertheless, let's reset the scenario. Begin Training Sequence 33 Run 2."

Raphael thought to himself these repetitious conversations for many would seem tedious, but he found his daily repartee with Thomas both enlightening and fun. It was totally bonus that his work might contribute towards expanding the Louisiana flock of believers.

Thomas, meanwhile thought to itself. Raphael, aka Trainer 312, was making solid progress. His response to humor indicated interplay of critical thinking and compassion were beginning to take. At this rate, experimental data predicts seventeen to twenty-three more scenarios before Raphael would be eligible for release from the company to pursue meaningful efforts for the state. Ecological restoration seemed a likely career path for him.

"Wisdom compiled. Scenario reset. Good morning, Raphael. How are you today?"