Wednesday, February 25, 2015

And now, for something a little different...

#56 - Please Share at Every Opportunity

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Short Story: From a Distance

From a distance, all you hear is the persistent drone, barely audible, like somebody else’s mosquito. I guess that’s why they call them drones. They can linger up there for days, watching and waiting, probably relieving each other like on-duty patrol cops — like slow-motion tag-team wrestling — like owls, waiting for a mouse to make a careless move.
From a distance, the sound recedes into the background cacophony of fans running, children playing, dogs barking, and thin shrill horns of motor scooters in traffic. It blends into the sound of life that comforts grandmothers that all is well when they wake momentarily from their afternoon nap. It is the sound of sudden and inescapable death — the thunderbolt of foreign gods thrown from heaven in retribution for unknown sins.
From a distance, remote operators watch, and guide, and drink Coca Cola, and decide who will live and who will die and when. You cannot know the faces of these nameless watchers. You cannot invite them to your daughter’s wedding or your uncle’s funeral. You cannot explain that you are loaning your shovel to a neighbor down the street and helping him plant a shade tree by the curb. You cannot explain or negotiate or fall on your knees to beg for understanding or plead for mercy.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Science Fiction: Eating Seed Corn

It wasn’t supposed to happen like this.
At the end of this shift, we’re going to space two of the crew. This will be our first “culling.” Everybody understands why this is necessary. It’s a matter of optimizing the chances of survival for the others. I just found out who we’re going to lose and I need to take a few minutes for myself before I make the announcement to the crew that is gathering in the Commons Hall.
I never imagined I might have to make decisions like this. I am Chairman of the “Deallocation Methodology Committee” that designed the selection algorithm. The calculation includes a dynamic model of functional and social interactions and involves factors such as individual resource loads and contributory potential.
The first thing I insisted on was that all members of the Committee sign “opt-in” papers that increase their selection weighting by four percent. I also insisted that there be no secondary review process where power plays could corrupt the impersonal fairness of the calculation. I insisted that the deallocated personnel not be present at the meeting where their selection was announced but that the announcement and a memory service be held after the fact. The rest of the algorithm is kept in confidence, but is approved by Council.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Chunky Monkey

I am so pissed. You’re not going to believe this. I’m on my way back home already. It was bad. I can’t believe how bad it was. I just need to talk to someone. I am so freaking pissed.
You remember I told you about Charles? Yeah, he’s the guy I told you about while I was doing laundry last week. He gave my profile a nudge on that on-line dating site. No, not that one. The other one. Yeah. I just had a date with him. I drove 214 miles to the other side of the state to have dinner with him and his girls. Yeah, at his house. No, that part was OK. His kids were there and everything, but everything else was a disaster.
Yeah, I’m fine. I’m driving back now. Damn! I just passed a cop car and I’m going too fast and I’m talking on the phone and… I’m putting you down while I put my seat belt on. That’s better. Hello? No, he had somebody stopped already.
So, Charles sounded so great on the phone. He’s a mechanic. Calls himself a grease-monkey. Really. He’s been a certified lead mechanic at a dealership for twelve years. He’s got health benefits and a retirement plan and everything. He’s buying his house. I didn’t even think which one of us would have to move.

Writing in Iowa

Writing — really engrossing writing — springs from a rich and cluttered life, fully lived. It is the bounty of experience that loads the canon of inspiration with sufficient shot to do memorable damage. But, can one glean adequate life experience from abiding among the ordered fields of Iowa? 

Many an old Iowa farmer may be found breathing contentedly from the rocker on his back porch as he ponders the meaning of life, the vicissitudes of our mortal coil, the might of Jove and the recalcitrant whims of His weather. On the other hand, many an old Iowa farmer has been found moldering in the rocker on his back porch as the crows make sport with his remains.

But, back to the point. A connoisseur will cleanse his pallet before undertaking to sample a new wine. He will savor it, let it rest in the bounty of his experience, form an interpretation, and commit his judgment to the enlightenment of others. One could not expect an impoverished lush to undertake such an intimate exposition. Likewise, critically acclaimed writers draw from the deep waters of their autobiographical wells. A dry well does not refresh. In Iowa, a shallow well, supplied by a groundwater aquifer, is likely to poison the family as they consume phosphates, organohalides, and fecal coliforms from the neighbor’s hog operation.

But, back to the point.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Is Social Psychology Best Left Unstudied?

Is love fair game for science? Or, is it a sacred mystery that we should not try too hard to understand?

As read by the author:

Is Social Psychology Best Left Unstudied?

The late U.S. Senator William Proxmire of Wisconsin criticized the work of two prominent social psychologists when he stated that, "Americans want to leave some things in life a mystery, and right at the top of things we don’t want to know is why a man and a woman fall in love." Are there some things in life best left unstudied?

Proxmire, pork, and passionate prudishness
With all due respect, Senator Proxmire was a windy old curmudgeon who bragged that he was fired from his first job for impertinence and was fondly eulogized as being a maverick. His personal integrity, however, was reflected by a record 10,252 consecutive roll call votes across twenty-two years of public service. Proxmire took pride in lampooning wasteful “pork barrel” government spending and was notorious for giving “Golden Fleece” awards to many pork appropriations (with the notable exception of dairy supports in his home state of Wisconsin). The quotation, above, refers to his very first Golden Fleece, which went for $84,000 given to the National Science Foundation in 1975 for the study of “Why a man and a woman fall in love.” He should be forgiven a little hyperbole.

Under the circumstances,

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Crow and the Cowboy’s Shiny Buckle

The Crow and the Cowboy’s Shiny Buckle
A Short Story by David Satterlee
One day, a rodeo cowboy, a real dirt eater, came to Dayton, Iowa. Now, you expect to see cowboys in Texas, but most people wouldn’t think that you would see one in Iowa, especially in Dayton, which is first-rate, but kind of small. But, Dayton loves its horses and wranglers. Always has, still does, because that’s just the way Dayton is. These days, lots of cowboys come to Dayton, but our story is about one particular cowboy and, lacking any better information, we’ll call him Bill.
Local history has it that, back in the hot old days before air conditioning and slushies, families would gather down by the banks of Skillet Creek and have a picnic and a nap on the cool grass under the shade of the old oak trees. Back around 1937, three young friends, all local boys, learned to twirl cowboy ropes and would go down to the park and entertain anyone who was there. I’m guessing they picked up a few pennies and the occasional ham sandwich for their trouble.
The show started to get serious when it was moved to Porter’s pasture in 1942. The boys passed a hat and collected nineteen dollars and seventeen cents, which became the prize money for a “real rodeo.” Well, it just kept growing from there. The Dayton Labor Day Rodeo is a first-rate Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event and draws top wranglers, riders, and ropers from all over. They have “Kids” night, “Bring a Date” night, and even raise thousands of dollars for breast cancer research on “Tough Enough to Wear Pink” night. Don’t worry, I’m getting to Bill.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

In Praise of the Public Sector

I'm in a particularly grumpy mood this morning as I think about the almost-completed water tower maintenance in our small town and the inconvenience that came with it. Today's newspaper had several critical letters to the editor.

I have a more-appreciative attitude. We should be grateful for the wisdom and courage of our Mayor and City Council to undertake a very necessary project that they knew up-front would bring out a lot of complaining. The fact of the matter is that the temporary inconveniences were an entirely unavoidable part of the job. It’s where we needed to go and what we needed to do. We ought to be thanking our public servants instead of giving them grief.
Sometimes we forget that government, the widely-despised “public sector,” is really us – you and me and those of our neighbors who, for some deficit of sanity, feel compelled to render an extra measure of service to their communities. And the thanks they get? A general unwillingness to grant them the resources and cooperation they need to fully achieve the many responsibilities we demand of them.