Lozenge

I wish interaction could be reduced to an exchange of lozenges. Everybody has a small orifice on their forehead, out of which lozenges are dispensed. Give someone a lozenge you’ve dispensed, and if they eat it, they’ll totally get who you are, where you’re coming from, and where you’re going. Or at least, a snapshot of that from when you generated the lozenge.

The popular thing has always been for two people to exchange lozenges and then have sex, but lozenge exchange is nonsexual almost as often. It’s easy to see how useful lozenge exchange could be in a nonsexual context.

A trick is to dispense a lozenge when you’re really fucking happy, and then save it, and later in life you can eat the lozenge and enjoy the circumstances and happiness anew. You find lozenge jars at gift shops in tourist spots.

People getting married will sometimes both dispense lozenges at the culmination of the ceremony, and then they share the lozenges on their first anniversary. So of course there’s nuptial lozenge storage jars, and they get all dolled up, as you can no doubt imagine. I mean, they’re often tasteful, too.

In the lozenge section of the grocery or drug store, they’ll have more practical storage solutions, ones that enable you to label and sort your lozenges. They usually resemble pill cases. Not to imply that you can buy lozenges at a store, a crass notion. But you know how the grocery store will have like a stationary section, office supplies? It’s that kinda thing with the lozenge merchandise. And then at the drugstore, you’ll have the same merchandise, but a few more options, and maybe a couple nice options.

How many lozenges you make is a matter of circumstances and personal choice. Some people make several a day, and some people never make one. Your lozenge dispenser needs time to recharge after dispensing a lozenge. Say about three hours? But when it’s ready again, you won’t feel like you “need to go” or whatever. You can make another lozenge at your leisure. Lozenge generation is purely voluntary. Nothing bad will happen to you if you never dispense a lozenge in your life.

Lozenge generation is instinctual and kicks in sometime during puberty. You don’t need to learn how to dispense a lozenge; you just do it. Everyone’s lozenge shapes are slightly different to everyone else’s, but always the same from the same person. So if somebody knows your lozenge shape, they could pick your lozenge out of a collection.

If you eat more than one lozenge at a time, they all taste like shit and have no effects. One at a time, people.

Lozenges vary in color. There are exceptions, but usually a blue lozenge is generally positive, and on orange lozenge is generally negative, but that’s just a rule of thumb. There are positive-feeling orange lozenges, and negative-feeling blue lozenges, and sometimes you get weird colors from left field. They could be literally anything. Legend tells of someone who dispensed a candy-striped lozenge once. They saved it for years, and then finally one night they had it before bed and died in their sleep. Don’t eat the candy-striped lozenge! Not unless you’re ready.

Type

Sometimes when you’re typing, your wires get crossed up and you make a mistake, and then all of a sudden you’re thinking about where your fingers go. Slows you right down, it does. But then muscle memory does its job, and you’re back. Those slow moments are so interesting, though, because normally when you’re typing, you don’t think about where your fingers are going. You just hit the right letter at the right time. It’s almost like it’s a blur. But at those slow times when you’re uncertain, it can feel downright weird to type those keys. And you have to concentrate to do it. And then after a second or three of that, muscle memory kicks in, and away you go. I don’t know. I just thought it was interesting. And I’m not wrong.

That all refers to touch typing, incidentally. I learned to touch type in 1998, and it is the single most useful skill I have ever learned in my entire life. There’s no competition.

One time, in a professional setting, a guy asked me how I learned to type. And I told him, Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. And he was like, “I didn’t know people actually used that.” I thought it was kinda funny. I don’t remember how he said he learned to type. Back in those days, recall, they used to give you a buncha software when you bought a PC. Most people threw most of it away. There was usually like maybe one “big” product, that you might actually use, but the rest tended to be garbage. Mavis Beacon was almost always in those packages. So it’s no wonder the guy thought it was garbage. To be perfectly honest, it was a little bit garbage. But it was an effective way for me to learn to type, which is the whole point, really.

I tried a version of Mavis when I was helping Marnie learn to type, and they didn’t do so well with it. They didn’t like the games. ‘Cause there were games. Games in which you typed things. And if you hit the wrong letter, the mouse falls off the block. Or whatever the fuck it is. The frog falls off the lily pad. Shit like that. Sometimes you had to type things quickly, and Marnie really didn’t like those ones. So we switched to a different program, I think it was web-based and free, and Marnie did a lot better with that. Did it work? I can’t remember when I had Marnie learn typing, but several years afterwards, I asked them if they still used touch typing, and the answer was basically, “Sort of.” They organically developed their own thing, which combines elements of touch typing with elements of hunt-and-peck. I think that’s probably how most people type. It’s an approach that works. Marnie said they were glad to have had the typing training, that it was helpful to them. So that’s generally positive.

Lice

It is discovered that lice (head, genital, etc.) are actually self-aware, sentient, sapient beings, and as such, killing them is illegal because duh, that’s like totally murder and shit. So now when you get lice, you have to just leave it in there, unless you can find a volunteer’s body to transfer them to. This becomes a service that some people provide. The transfer process is time consuming and labor-intensive, and therefore inconvenient and expensive. ‘Cause you gotta get each nit onto a new hair safely, and that takes delicacy and precision. And time. And lice techs are paid by the hour.

Terrariums are created that can support ongoing, population-stable lice communities, and can also facilitate communication and cultural exchange between humans and lice. It turns out, lice are unbelievably cool and groovy people. The lice-human communication tech becomes portable, and not long after, the in thing to do is to harbor a lice colony, providing yourself as a living area and using the tech to communicate with your parasites. Who, as I said, are just really great fucking people. They are wise well beyond their humble status as vermin. And they have culture out the butt. It becomes unusual _not_ to harbor a lice colony familiar. Those who don’t are those who are allergic, or who aren’t good at carrying lice for whatever reason.

With the help of the communication tech, an agreement has been reached where lice will obtain consent prior to infesting a new host. So those who can’t support lice (or choose not to) won’t get infested without their consent. Lice become non-contagious. Or I mean, it can spread, they just have to obtain the consent of the new host. Which is impossible in most circumstances. So the lice just don’t spread like they used to in the old days. Like I said, they’re really cool people.

Hosting a lice colony can be less physically comfortable than not doing so, but it will enrich your life in all sorts of ways, and, assuming you take care of it, it will be a loyal, lifelong companion. So what do you say? Will you host a colony? I’ve got several available to choose from, all with ancestry and genetics and stuff. You won’t be getting mongrel herds from my showroom. And we’ll throw in the installation as part of the purchase price. I assure you, sir or madam, you won’t find a better deal anywhere else in town.

The Prophecy Says

“So you’re telling me, we need to peel back the last fourteen coats of paint, and no more, in order to get our next message? How in the hell are we supposed to do that?” He spoke angrily, and looked at her, frowning.

“We do that,” she said calmly, “with a paint diviner.” So saying, she pulled a paint diviner out of her satchel.

He gawped at her. Then he said, “You just happen to be carrying a paint diviner?”

She didn’t meet his eyes. When she answered, she spoke quietly. “I ‘happen to be carrying’ a lotta things.”

He snorted. “Next you’ll be telling me your satchel is an extradimensional storage space. Is this a fucking game to you?”

She eyed him appraisingly for some moments, then, as if internally coming to a decision, she nodded once curtly and said, “It is.”

He snorted again. “Oh, very funny, ha ha. Of course it’s a game, why didn’t I –”

“No,” she interrupted, and her tone stopped him short. “The satchel. It is an extradimensional storage space. And I do have a lot of stuff in it.”

He was about to snort a third time when he noticed how seriously she was looking at him. It was unnerving. “So wait, are you for… for real?”

“Yes,” she said simply. Then she sipped from her water bottle for a moment while his mind began to boggle. He started gabbling. She sprayed water in his face from her mouth, which had the intended effect of snapping him out of it. Then she grabbed his ear, and pulled his face close to hers. She was surprisingly strong, he learned. She didn’t hurt him. He didn’t give her an excuse to.

“Listen carefully,” she said. “This is more ‘not a game’ than you realize, and we’re going to be lucky to make it to the next step, let alone out. So I need you to stay with me. Keep it together, and I promise at the end we’ll sit down and I’ll explain everything. For right now, keep your head in the game, your eyes on the ball, and a third sports metaphor. Now pull yourself together and get ready to use the paint diviner on this.”

“Why do I have to use it?” he asked. “It’s your paint diviner.”

“The prophecy says you’re the one who has to do it,” she replied, shrugging.

Vefrin, 461

I was beginning to wonder if it was ever going to happen in my life.

– Oh, you’re awake. If what was ever going to happen?

That I should wake up and not know where I am, such that the first logical question to ask is, “Where am I?” I might have to go with “What is that horrible vibrating?” though.

– As it happens, those two questions have the same answer. You are in stateroom 8B of the Airship Loosifunt, bound on its maiden voyage to Harmanlanzi. The vibrating is from the antigrav generator.

Why’s it so loud?

– I don’t know, but I think something is wrong with the ship. The engineers are all in a tizzy going back and forth from the control room to the engine room, and all passengers are being confined to their rooms. Otherwise I’d offer to show you around.

So, how did I get here? I don’t remember anything.

– You’ve been drugged. Your memory will return in a couple of hours. We’re going to spend the intervening time convincing you not to kill me for drugging you and dragging you on this airship in the first place. I promise there’s a good explanation, but I’m afraid I can’t risk you becoming emotional, so I’ve fitted you with a Bracelet of Hold Person.

“Why can’t I move?” was my next question. I suppose I could freak out, but I’m not gonna get uptight about this. Let’s make with the explanation, shall we?

– Thank you for taking it so well. It will become clear why I took the precautions I did. But to start, we have to go back to Vefrin, 461.

Aliens Land on a Medieval Planet

Aliens land on a medieval planet. They’re figuring their tech advantage makes them immune to these primitives. They are mistaken. By hook or crook, the group of warriors who take them down are victorious without losing any of their own number. Of the aliens, four remain, the only civilians in the landing party. Captured because they would not fight. It so happens that these alien civilians are quad-linked. Technobabble to taste. Basically when one of them dies, their essence (whatever that means) will be transferred equally to the remaining members of the quad-link, increasing their knowledge and wisdom, a process which makes some kind of humming noise and vibrating, and glowing of the persons receiving the essences. It doesn’t matter exactly how it manifests. For the story to work, it has to be noticeable to the casual observer, and ambiguously threatening.

So the warriors and the aliens can communicate, because of some tech the aliens have got, but it’s not perfect communication. In other words, talking isn’t going to be easy. You see where this is going. No, but so the warriors are “interrogating” the aliens, and one of the aliens dies. The quad-link transfer begins, and the remaining aliens all glow green or whatever it is you’ve decided to happen. This freaks the fuck out of the warriors, who hack the aliens to pieces immediately. So now there’s all this quad-link energy floating around looking for hosts, and of course it settles on the warriors. Who all become super wise and smart and ethical. Realizing what they’ve done, they suffer a great anguish of remorse for killing the landing party of the aliens. And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that there are more of these aliens somewhere, and it seems likely that sooner or later, some of them will come looking for the ones who are dead, and then what? The warriors only won by a fluke; the aliens were absurdly careless and overconfident.

With the essences of the quad in their minds, the warriors realize the kinds of capabilities these aliens are going to have. So the warriors make a pact: that they will use their gifts to intercept these aliens and shield the rest of humanity from their influence while they work out a peaceful agreement concerning the aliens the warriors killed and the people living on planet. Basically, they’ll act as emissaries when and if the time comes that these aliens return. In the meantime, they will lead the people and prepare them for what may be coming.

The answer to my next question will tell you something about the person answering. I’m not sure what exactly, or the significance, but it’s definitely something. Anyway, the question: Does the plan of the enlightened warriors go well? Does it go hilariously awry? Or does it go really, really badly?

CC BY 4.0

Somebody in Your Room

– So you’re saying there’s somebody in your room.

Yes. He is a man named Harold.

– And he’s been there as long as you can remember, and hasn’t gotten any older.

Correct.

– What does he look like?

He’s about 5’8″, early thirties, maybe a hundred and eighty pounds, brown hair brown eyes. He wears khaki slacks and a tucked-in light blue polo shirt with a barbed heart logo. Sock-footed. Black socks. Close-cropped hair, stubble beard. Very friendly face, with a ready smile. The eyes can be intense sometimes.

– And what does he do in your room?

We hang out. He’s very adept at figuring out if I need to talk to somebody, and when I do, we’ll have conversations. Almost always helpful. When I don’t want to talk, he’ll sit somewhere nearby and we just hang. We like to play video games. It’s like being alone, without having to be alone. It is really nice. I’m very glad he is in my room.

– Does he ever leave the room?

I think he must, but I’ve never seen him leave it, and I’ve never seen him outside it. Sometimes I go in and he’s not there, but then I’ll wake up and he’s there. I’ve never seen him walk in or out the door. He’s just there most of the time I’m there.

– And how much time do you spend in your room with Harold?

Well, I sleep in my room, call that 9 hours. And I’m in my room awake for maybe 2-3 hours every day on top of that. So I guess about twelve hours in my room a day, usually with Harold.

– Does Harold sleep when you sleep?

There’s some overlap, but it’s not always one hundred percent I’m-up-he’s-up or I’m-down-he’s-down.

– Does he sleep in bed with you?

No, he sleeps in the bathtub.

– Does he wear pajamas?

No, he sleeps in his clothes. He never changes his clothes, and they never wear out or stink or anything.

– Do you wear pajamas?

No, I sleep in my underwear.

– Doesn’t all of this seem odd to you?

Lots of people sleep in their underwear, dude.

– No, I mean the fact that there’s a guy in your room who always looks the same and whom you never see enter or leave but sometimes he’s not there? Where does he go? How does he get there? Why doesn’t he age? Is he magic?

I’ll try to get this right. To answer your questions in order:

1) No, it doesn’t seem odd. This is how it’s always been.

2) I don’t know where he is when he’s not in the room.

3) I don’t know how he gets wherever it is. Hell, for all I know, he’s just really effective at hiding.

4) I don’t know why he doesn’t age.

And 5) I think probably he is. I mean, maybe he’s a ghost, but aren’t ghosts magic anyway?

[pause]

I think I got it all right!

– Yeah, I think you did. You are a question-answering machine.

Far out.

– Has anyone else seen Harold besides you?

Oh, sure. Whenever I have friends in my room, Harold is there sometimes. He hangs out well with whoever I bring in there. It’s always a good time. Always? Not always. Most of the time. The overwhelming majority. I have a couple friends who come to my room to see Harold as much as me.

– Does that freak you out?

No, dude. Harold’s just this guy, you know? He’s almost always around, and it’s good when he is. Frankly, I don’t think it’s a good idea to scrutinize the situation overly. I don’t want to jinx it. Not that I really believe in jinxes, but can we change the subject?

– Yeah, man, I think this is our exit coming up anyway.

What Happens to the French Taunters?

So here’s the question. What happens to the French Taunters after the cameras go off in Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Do they get arrested with everybody else? Are they rounded up? If so, how do the cops overcome the taunting? Of course, all those cops seemed breathtakingly adept at “I’m not taking any of your shit”, didn’t they? Maybe they would have just sliced right through the taunting, where Arthur and his knights were totally bamboozled by it.

The thing is, Arthur and his knights, in the scope of the fiction, were formidable opponents. Just look what happened to the Black Knight. But then the cops seemingly effortlessly neutralize Arthur and his Knights completely. They must have done the same with the French Taunters, who would only have accrued further citations for hurling objects at officers of the law. “You’re only making it worse for yourself, buddy,” as the Taunter puts a turd in the cop’s eye. I don’t know why the cop is from America, but I don’t really know how British cops talk, beyond, “What’s all this then?”

And that’s the story of what happened to the French Taunters. Part of it, anyway.

I imagine some of the Taunters went into paddy wagons with some of the Britons. I wonder how that went. Maybe the Taunters explained their taunting deal sufficiently to get the Britons to forgive them about the cow and the poop and stuff. Maybe they have a really good reason for taunting. Maybe it’s a net positive for the universe. The Britons are reasonable men. Or no, probably not. Anyway I digress. So the Britons and the French Taunters team up to escape the paddy wagons. With their combined talents, they have the power to vanquish even the mighty cops, who vanquished each of them separately, but never together.

After the cops have been defeated, the head Taunter reveals that they didn’t actually have the Grail, so Arthur has everybody fan out and search. It’s gotta be around here somewhere, right? The search continues to this day.

But the thing is, the Taunter was taunting when he said they didn’t have it. It’s in the castle in a dresser drawer in the master bedroom. No wait, it’s in the deepest corner of the lowest dungeon in a box of wood shavings. I mean no, it’s in a cabinet in the attic. There’s a line of built-in cabinets on the long wall of the attic. As you face the wall, the Grail is in the eighth cabinet from the right.

The Preferred Third

An author writes a trilogy. The third book is kind of a letdown. So a couple years later, the author comes out with a fourth book in the same trilogy, which acts as a new third book and completely replaces the original third book. Thing is, it’s totally different, even though it uses all the same setup from the first two books. Seriously, it’s amazing how well everything fits. You honestly can’t tell that the first two books weren’t written to be followed by the fourth book.

The fourth book is very popular, and lauded as the proper ending for the trilogy. That’s because it is a much better book than the third book. When the trilogy goes to mass market paperback, the four books get a box set. The standard accepted reading order is, one, two, four, then three if you feel like it, but you don’t need to. So the spines on the box set, the third book’s spine is the cleanest and least marked on most people’s sets, ’cause it gets read the least. How about that?

The fourth book comes to be known as the preferred third book.

So, was it a stunt by the author to generate publicity, or was it an honest, “I can do better, dammit” kind of thing?

The Parable of the Flower

There’s a flower. It is remarkably beautiful, its petals glow and it seems always to be sprinkled in dew that twinkles like diamonds. It is delicate and robust at the same time, and its beauty is cleansing.

There’s a group of people gathered around the flower. They admire and love the flower with full and open hearts, recklessly, and their lives are full of love and serenity and joy. In their love for the flower, they also love each other and take delight in one another’s company.

Then one day, the flower falls ill. It begins to wilt, and its petals drop to the ground one by one. Ice slivers of fear puncture the internal organs of the lovers of the flower, and a storm of grief gathers in anticipatory inevitability. The people do everything they can to try and save the flower, and they cling to one another desperately as they pour out care upon the ailing bloom.

Despite all of their efforts, the flower dies. A toxic grief settles itself in the entrails of each of the people who loved and cared for the flower. The root of their love gone, they are cut loose from one another. They can no longer stand to be together; the memory and the grief are too much. They are torn apart and scattered to the winds.