Thursday, March 25, 2010


True story:

As a teenager, I lived in Stoneburg, Texas, a town so tiny it isn't on some maps. Two miles to the southwest was Bowie Lake, a small reed-bordered lake where I had learned to swim on visits to my grandmother in the summers. Bowie Lake was created as a reservoir during the early 1900s by placing a dam across a tributary of Middle Belknap creek, backing up its waters and that of a natural springs into a low-lying Crosstimbers area. Originally intended as a reservoir, it had been superceded by other reservoirs in the county. It was narrow and shallow except near the dam where it was rumored to be 40 feet deep. It held catfish, crappie, and bass of no great size. And aside from what happened to me, I never heard any strange stories about it.

My friends and I practically lived there during the dog days of summer. I could reach it on my bicycle, though usually a friend collected us in a battered ranch pick-up -- teenagers began driving at 13 on the dirt roads of that rural county. The spillway across its northwest corner was almost always above water, sandy and open, perfect for bonfires and hanging out. Occasionally we had to move to one side of the boatramp, to allow entry of a single-horsepower aluminum boat, but mostly we were away from adult supervision.

In the middle of the lake and about thirty feet from the dam was a concrete platform extending ten feet above the water. It had once held a valve mechanism for the reservoir, and had a rusting rebar ladder built along one of its pylons. The older teenagers used it as their gathering place, parking on the dam and pushing through snaky scrub there to reach the water. They'd swim out to the platform, sometimes in old tractor inner tubes, and we'd listen to their shouts and laughter with envy.

Until finally, the summer between sophomore and junior year, we decided we were old enough to claim the platform. I found it terrifying to break through the underbrush at damside and dive into deep, dark water, but the platform itself felt like golden territory. We could see the length of the lake, we could watch the occasional water-skier (I eventually learned to water-ski myself on that lake), and every now and then a fisherman would putt by, offering us a soda or Coors from his cooler. The drinking age was as lax as the driving age then.

At some point I discovered that the metal rungs on the side of the concrete pylon extended not only up to the platform, but also beneath the surface for an undetermined distance. Someone, perhaps me, issued the dare that we follow the ladder down as far as it went: Maybe it extended all the way to lake bottom, a terrifying prospect.

With the immortal stupidity of teenagers, I accepted the challenge, took and deep breath, and started down, rung over rung. I looked upward, watching ripples of light on the surface, until they were faded by navy shadows and then utter darkness. It became unbelievably cold, and I started to get uneasy. I kept going, though, until tendrils of waving vegetation wrapped around one ankle. I panicked then, shooting upward, my lungs yearning to scream, until I burst to the surface, gasping.

My friends laughed at me but decided, with feigned nonchalance, they didn't want to take the dare and go down the ladder for themselves. One of them said the weeds that grew on the lake bottom reached upward only ten feet, which meant I had gone down 30 feet. I have no idea now if this could be accurate, but at the time it was an impressive fact repeated about me. In light of what happened later, that descent is a terrifyingly foolhardy memory.

Sometime later, either that summer or the next, we were again at the platform on a brilliant day. Virgil and a couple of others were horsing around south of the platform. Dale had climbed out and was sitting on the north edge, facing me as I treaded water in the center of the lake. We were talking animatedly, Dale and I, when I suddenly felt something solid rise up beneath my paddling feet -- something smooth and cool but clearly living tissue, flat against the soles of my feet. I stopped moving but did not sink, because whatever it was held me up.

I stopped in mid-sentence, confusion slowly giving way to horror inside me. Dale said "What's wrong with you?" Looking at his quizzical grin, I was able to lunge forward, flailing to the ladder and scrambling up to the platform. I was shivering and gibbering, staring down into the water, trying to locate whatever it had been. Dale said he'd seen nothing around me. Our other friends joined us, and Virgil openly scoffed at me, saying anything big enough to hold me up like that would be too massive for this lake. I swore I wasn't making it up.

They finally believed I wasn't hoaxing them when I began begging them to go find someone with a boat to retrieve me because I was not getting back in that water. They still thought I'd imagined it, however. The fun was over and we couldn't come up with a rescue plan. so after an hour of sitting chilled under broiling sun, I found the courage to descend that ladder -- no way was I diving in -- and swim in frantic strokes to the dam.

I never returned to the platform again. My mother, who probably thought I imagined it as well, was kind enough to float some possible theories, such as a giant catfish or turtle, whose smooth backs might correspond with what I felt beneath me feet. No such creature was ever reported by anyone else, however.

Your guess is as good as mine.



(Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1300)

Every Thursday, I post a very large photograph of some corner of space captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and available online from the picture album at HubbleSite, followed by poetry after the jump.


by Deborah Digges

See how the first dark takes the city in its arms
and carries it into what yesterday we called the future.

O, the dying are such acrobats.
Here you must take a boat from one day to the next,

or clutch the girders of the bridge, hand over hand.
But they are sailing like a pendulum between eternity and evening,

diving, recovering, balancing the air.
Who can tell at this hour seabirds from starlings,

wind from revolving doors or currents off the river.
Some are as children on swings pumping higher and higher.

Don't call them back, don't call them in for supper.
See, they leave scuff marks like jet trails on the sky.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Here's the weekly best of what I've gleaned from I Can Has Cheezburger efforts. There are some really creative folks out there.


Monday, March 22, 2010


To begin reading this sci-fi novel or for background information, go to my Chapter One post here. To read about the background of the first novel, read my post here, which will also direct you to appendices.

For more detailed information, posted elsewhere on this blog are:

Pya Dictionary from Skenish to English (complete up to present chapter), with some cultural notes included
Pya Cast of Characters (complete up to present chapter)
Owl Manage on Saya Island, original plans
Saya Island Eastern End After Development
Map of Pya with Description of Each Island
Map of Skene (but not Pya)
Map of Saya Island and Environs When Pyosz First Arrived
Map of Saya Island, Teppe and Pea Pods Environs After Development
Skene Character Lineage at Midway Through Pya Novel
Skene, Chapter One (With Cultural Notes in Links)


The next morning, Maar got up instead of sleeping in and helped Pyosz milk. They ducked returning to the Manage for breakfast, instead heading straight for Koldok and letting themselves into the djostiker side door to stash milk on Kolm's weekend coldbox. They ate breakfast with Dodd and Briel, everyone merry and hungry. Briel walked them to the clinic, drawing blood and letting the young women fidget around the lab as she ran the test. When she turned to face them with a grin, Maar screamed and lifted Pyosz into the air. They whirled for a few seconds, then Pyosz said urgently "Put me down" and barely made it to a trash can before vomiting.

"Oh lev, I'm sorry, sweetheart -- " began Maar. Briel said "It wasn't you" and went to wet a washcloth. As Maar wiped Pyosz's face, her grin unabated despite the nausea, Briel told them what to expect the next few months and created tinctures for various needs. They walked back home with her for the thrill of telling Dodd personally.

Thleen, Lawa and Qala were all at the point fishing. Thleen said accusingly "Where did you go?"

"To see Briel" said Maar, her fingers linked through Pyosz's. Lawa and Qala began reeling in their lines, hope on their faces.

"What for?" demanded Thleen. Lawa said "Here, hand me your pole" as Pyosz squatted in front of Thleen. "You're going to be a sibu and a sibemma both" she told Thleen, her mouth unexpectedly trembling.

They celebrated for the next half hour, until Pyosz had to run to the privy again. Lawa then looked over the tinctures and Qala began making a special tea to go with dry toast. Pyosz said "I feel hungry and queasy at the same time."

"What digests quickly, full of nutrients but not too rich?" mused Lawa out loud. They decided on breakfast possibilities and Qala began making rice porridge with dried fruit and all-yolk scrambled eggs.

"You should call Halling" said Lawa.

"Emma first" replied Pyosz, taking the eyedropper of tincture Qala offered her as she dialed. Maar was standing behind her, both palms spread over Pyosz's belly. She could hear Prl's shrieks clearly. Pyosz gave Prl permission to be the one who informed Nioma before she clicked off to dial her abbas. Thleen had run to get the camera and was taking photos of everyone, "So my siba can see how glad we are she's coming" she said. She added "Can I name her?"

"Nope" said Maar. "Emmas' prerogative. But once she can walk, I'll let you be the one to teach her kickball." Thleen then had to gallop back and forth through the great hall, demonstrating technique to a running narrative.

In Skene, after they clicked off the radio, Halling leaned back in her chair and looked across the table at Yoj. "Well, that removes any question about our timeline. I want to be settled in before a baby turns it all upside-down there."

"Shall I get our planning list?" offered Yoj.

"Not yet, let's just soak it in. You gonna be all right with not living in the rooms Bux spent her whole life in?"

Yoj blew out a breath. "There's no part of Bux's absence that I'll ever be all right with."

"We won't be dropped into the same lava stream when we die. Not as anybody we've buried" mused Halling.

"Return is return" argued Yoj. "Besides, more than half our family is there now and will follow us into that lava flow."

"For all time" agreed Halling.

"I'm more worried about leaving Prl. She's looking pretty scooped out these days" said Yoj.

"Prl sets a course before she's got lift enough to get somewhere, it's how she does things" replied Halling. "She's already made up her mind to be in Pya, she did that as soon as she gave Pyosz money to build a Manage, whether she admitted it to herself or not. This thing with Nioma, she'd never have done it if there was any doubt about where she'd end up. She'll find a way, let her be."

They share a long period of silent thought. Yoj finally said "You sorry you picked Danaan instead of Mill?"

Halling stared at her, following the trail that Yoj must have pursued to arrive at that question.

"If Pya hadn't been there, I'd have done something else" said Halling. "I don't know what, but of course I'd have made sure she became a leader somewhere, she was born to it. I don't think she's upset with me any more, do you?"

"No. Abbo's trajectory has disabused Mill of her tendency to blame emmas for everything" said Yoj with a sad smile.

Halling had a sudden thought. "You don't think Mill will see me moving there as me trying to horn in on her territory, do you?"

Yoj considered this, chewing her lip. "Well, just ask her, Hall. Give her advance notice and have her keep it quiet, she'll like that. In fact, you keep bringing up that Pya needs its own flight school, so why don't you ask her if she has plans along that line and if she wants your help or wants you to butt out? Bring it all out in the open."

"Yeah. Good idea" said Halling. "Can I mention your idea about helping pull together a university for Pya?"

"You can mention it, but again, that needs to not leak out and she should come to me for more discussion. And Dodd, tell her curriculum is going to be decided by Dodd, not politicos" warned Yoj.

"If Prl comes to Pya soon, she could run for Ethicist when Api retires" mused Halling.

Yoj gaped at her. "Are you wavebent? I think Oby has her eye on that, and unless we know different, we need to not put Prl into any kind of competition with Mill's family. Besides, I imagine Prl becoming a gakusha. I think she'd rather research and teach a little than be answerable to public need any more."

They had another interval of silence, which Halling broke by saying "We're taking our bed, the one Bux painted. And your desk, and your abba's rocker. Whatever the shipping cost is."

"Absolutely. Plus, I have that baby cradle in the rafters from Isola, remind me to ask Xunu to haul it down this evening. I'll clean it and send it to Pyosz right away" said Yoj.

"How far along are you in getting copied what you want to take with you from the Archives?" asked Halling.

"Not far enough. I better hire an assistant" said Yoj, looking suddenly tired.

"You could offer some work to Su" suggested Halling. "Not exactly her cup of tea, but she could stay over here at the end of the school week, go to Market with you the next day and then do the hauling and copying you need at the Archives after. Pay her for all that time, give her good meals and a chance to go out with Riesig friends on Ot evening. It'll give her coin and some independence."

"That's a great idea" said Yoj. "I'll write a letter to her emmas today."

"You can grab our planning list now, I'm ready to flesh out the nitty-gritty" said Halling, standing to stretch before refilling the teapot. She was still moving around easier than she had before their visit to Pya. Yoj said, on her way to the study, "You need to call Vants and arrange to buy that electric cart before someone else does."

"Will do."

Shmona dinner on Teppe was riotous. By mid-afternoon, Pyosz's stomach was back to normal and she ate her way steadily through whatever a family member spooned onto her plate. When they all stripped for a dip in the cranberry pond, Maar bent over to look at Pyosz's abdomen closely. Pyosz noticed several others watching her and Maar.

"Can you tell a difference?" asked Pyosz.

"Not yet" said Maar regretfully. Moasi called out "Don't rush it, you'll have plenty of time to get sick of being bulbous."

Pyosz whispered "I won't get sick of it. Oh, Maar, I love you so terrifyingly much." Maar straightened to hug her tight. "I know" she whispered back.

On Moja, Pyosz told Mrebbe that in addition to finishing out the rock shelter, she wanted a ramp built for cart access to the Manage, and bookshelves to line the study. They finally decided on a switchback incline between the south side of the Manage and Pyosz's pottery shed. It would mean removing part of the porch railing -- "Where the owl likes to sit" said Pyosz regretfully -- but the front door was wide enough for a cart already, and the north side of the house was flush with herb and flower gardens in full bloom.

Mrebbe offered to make assistants of Thleen and Ziri, with Pyosz paying them a small salary, to haul wood, make measurements, and hammer nails here and there. The killing field was again covered with a canopy, and the sound of power tools filled the daytime hours. Ziri began stripping off her shati to work, and Thleen of course followed suit. Their skinny chests went deep brown, and they compared new muscles several times a day. Before school started, Pyosz took Thleen for another round of clothes shopping because her arm and leg bones continued to lengthen.

Mrebbe's timmer crew was stretched thin, since it was prime weather for outdoor construction. Dodd and Briel were adding two large rooms to their Manage, one atop the other. The downstairs room was intended as a bedroom and private sitting area for Qoj and, they hoped, Uli. The upstairs was to have windows all around with a tiny spiral stairs to a roof observation deck for Qoj's stargazing. This room could be a shared office for Qoj and Uli. The two extra bedrooms already in their Manage were being saved for Mruch when she returned to Pya and, implicitly, grandchildren.

A third crew of timmers hired by Mrebbe but under the oversight of Xante were beginning renovation of Dou to accommodate Ngall and Ehuy's planned move to Pya. The island's north and western fringe of woods were being left intact, and the cold springs was being tapped to fill a pond. Pyosz imagined the hours Ehall would spend there with her sailboat. One large field was planned for growing successions of berries, with a small hothouse for strawberries, which was not so far afield from Ehuy's huertanista background.

The family had been surprised, however, by Ngall's decision that they would also raise turkeys. "I like them, and I think there's a market for them on this side of Pya" she argued. Pank said "You smoke 'em with us, you'll be minting coin."

Pyosz was entertained by Thleen's scowl when she heard Ehall would be coming to live in the Pea Pods and go to school with her in Koldok. "She displays no jealousy about an impending sib, who's going to directly compete with her for family attention, but she sees Ehall as a monstrous threat to her primacy among us" she said to Maar.

"It's the toys thing" suggested Maar. "You hand over identical toys to Ehall right in front of her. I just hope a real new baby, instead of a theoretical one, doesn't make Thleen swell up with injustice."

"Well, you were a good role model for her, how you treated her as a sibu" said Pyosz.

"Yeah, but I wasn't so kind with Adon and Su, I was often pissy with them. And they turned around to pass it on to Thleen" warned Maar.

Aside from construction projects all around Dvareka, everyone's conversation was focused on the new contracts being finessed between Pya and Skene. Each trade and industry was beset with rumor and internal arguments. Sheng Zhangs were short on sleep and flooded with correspondence.

Negotiations had begun formally with exchanges of proposed contract revisions via mail. After extensive deciphering of Skenish propensity for florid language, counter-proposals were sent out, and the lines of struggle became clearly defined. Lengthy phone calls followed, crowding out regular radio channels at certain times of day, with heavy reliance on the new speaker radios since every leader on Skene knew the value of having others in on a decision, if only to have someone to blame later.

Pyosz was hearing the ripcurrents of speculation in both Pya, at family dinners, and Skene, from calls to her abbas and Prl. Nioma went to Skene for five days, ostensibly to visit her second child's family and also to sit in on one contract meeting for Pya's ejida system, but of course her nights were spent at the Genist Manage. Calls from Prl ceased during that time. Once Nioma was on her way home, however, Prl radioed Pyosz early one morning on a private line.

"I need to ask you something big" said Prl. Pyosz felt a frisson of excitement. Prl didn't go where Pyosz anticipated, however. "Your connection to Naki, the printer there in Koldok -- can you ask her to publish something without reading the contents? Or maybe she could show Qala how to run the equipment and be entirely off the premises, that would be best. I know Qala would take that on for me -- "

"Emma, if you need something published privately, yes, Naki is trusthworthy but why won't you let me be the one to do the intermediary work? It's not illegal, is it?"

"No, child, but it could still stain your reputation."

"Throw that over the Shatters, emma, I'm standing by you in all things. What is it you want to publish, a community letter?"

"More than that. It will amount to a small book, at least double the size of our population directory, though with smaller print to conserve paper. I figured out a way to tell without telling -- thank Maar for putting the idea in my head. But I have to sit on distribution until everything else is in place." Prl's voice was tight. "Anyhow, Nioma has the disk with the manuscript on it, she'll give it to you for safekeeping. She also has eks to cover printing and binding costs."

"How was your visit?" asked Pyosz.

"Confirmatory" said Prl, enigmatic for a few more seconds. Then she finally said "My plans include migrating to Pya, not for at least a month but definitely by midwinter. Is your offer still open?"

Pyosz had to sit down abruptly. Maar, about to leave for work, looked at her with concern. Pyosz said "Oh, emma, I can't wait to live with you again. You'll be here when our baby is born, then?"

"Of course" said Prl. Maar kissed Pyosz's forehead before heading out the door. "I also sent with Nioma a swatch of cloth that is the exact color I'd like the walls of my room to be. Can you mix paint with that precision?"

Pyosz laughed. "I'll do the painting myself. Well, with Thleen's help, I imagine."

"I'll be bringing my bedroom furniture, and yours as well if you want it. Plus what else from this Manage would you like?" They began discussing particulars. When they had to call back to stay on the private line, however, Prl said "Don't tell Thleen or anyone outside your Manage that I'm emigrating. That news has to be held back until other things are in place. The Dullard confronted me tonight about Nioma. I had to lie and claim it's just a brief affair, and assure her any Genist work that might be connected with Nioma's family will of course be directed her way. But she can smell change in the air, and is licking her lips at the prospect of possibly replacing me as Genist. So we have to keep this from even our extended family for now."

"I understand, emma. Though everyone is already asking me if you'll be here for the birth. Are you telling Halling and Yoj? It will be hard for Qala and Lawa to keep it from those two."

Prl's voice held secret humor as she replied "Yes, I talked with them this evening after dinner."

Pyosz deciphered what had entertained Prl a couple of hours later, when she returned from milk delivery to Lawa, Qala and Thleen celebrating in the kitchen instead of already out at the point. Thleen rushed her, shouting "They're coming, my other habibis! They called to ask if they can move here with us! We said yes." Pyosz swung her around in a circle as Lawa said "It'll be a month, at least, before they get things in order."

After eating a jubilant breakfast together, Pyosz offered for Thleen to get to be the one to go tell Herne Island about Yoj and Halling's migration. Once Thleen had raced out the door, Pyosz shared Prl's news with her abbas. Lawa looked worried. Qala said "You know, when you stood in that Genist kitchen and informed us you were coming to Saya to tend goats, I distinctly felt the globe begin to shift on its axis. The motion is still continuing. This time next year, we'll have a nearly full Manage." She rubbed Lawa's shoulders and said "Prl will be all right. She always was the most sensible of those five kids, and she's tougher than Dodd." Lawa blew out her lips and went to pull fishing tackle from the hall cupboard.

Pyosz decided to go meet the huolon from Skene when it landed, and Thleen tagged along. They greeted Nioma and went into the canteen with her for tea. She complained of a chill, and looked exhausted. Mill, who had also been in Skene this week for negotiations, said hello but went directly into her office carrying a dispatch bag stuffed with papers, Oby following her.

Maar ended her shift and, after a second cup of tea, offered to fly Nioma with her luggage to Talaba. Nioma accepted gratefully, and Thleen went with them while Pyosz returned for milking. Thleen and Maar were late getting back, arriving just in time for dinner. As Maar dressed her salad, she said "I got sucked into hearing Mill telling about the Lofthall contracts meeting."

"Habibi was there" Thleen said importantly. "Because she was Sheng Zhang forever."

"How'd it go?" asked Qala, her focus entirely on Maar.

"Well, Mill split the difference between the shipping rate increase Api wanted, which was ridiculously low, and the one I thought made sense. She said Pya industry was about to take a leap and they'd need minerals and machinery from Skene for a few years, so rates would impact us as much as Skene. Her number was still a shock to those at the table, she said." Maar had buttered a roll and now paused to eat half of it in a single gulp. Pyosz was eating steadily, making up for morning fasts.

Qala asked the number and Maar, her mouth full, indicated it with her fingers. Qala's eyebrows rose, and with old insider's knowledge, she swiftly assessed out loud what increased revenue it might mean. Maar had swallowed and replied "Yeah, but we're hurting for the income. Mill said the real splash came when she mentioned starting a flight school here in Pya, to address our growing need for personnel and to accommodate some differences in our approach to dealing with issues like leviathan threat. She said there was a horrified silence, and Danaan looked at Halling accusingly. Which means Nan Halling hadn't breathed a word of it to anyone."

Pyosz noticed that automatic "Nan" in front of Halling, used in this context where she had allied with Mill and, by extension, Pya. Maar continued "I can't believe it hadn't occurred to Danaan. I think they were counting on using their training fees as an offset for a shift in huolon haul rates, so the contract they'd prepared suddenly became pointless. They could put their own huolon into service, of course, but that will tie up two pilots four or five days a week and they'd have to lease jichang rights from us, so it'll be just as economical to swallow the rate increase. The Sheng Zhangs there were furious, and some of their anger was at Danaan for not seeing this coming."

"Awkward for Halling and her relationship with Danaan" commented Lawa.

"Yeah, and Abbo was at that negotiation, apparently. She came into the office while Mill was telling us about it and added a jibe about Danaan, with a smirk. If she had the same expression on her face at the meeting, it won't have helped things" said Maar, frowning. "I spoke with Mill privately before I left, asked if I could go with her next week for the final negotiation." Maar looked at Pyosz. "I don't want to leave you right now, but they need to see me involved with this process. And Thleen has one more week off school, she could go with me and visit Chloddia."

Pyosz studied Thleen's face: Thleen looked happy about the idea. She said "Maar, go for it, you do need to be there." She ignored the wailing inside her. I'll get emma's publishing done before they leave and ship it back anonymously with Maar she thought. She felt the disk Nioma had given her, tucked inside her gilet. She had not yet read the letter that accompanied it.

Qala was nodding. Her mind was elsewhere, however. "So, will shipping rate increases pay for construction and staffing of a flight school?" she asked Maar.

Maar smiled slightly. "Nope. Mill will either have to increase intra-Pya shipping rates or ask for more funding from the tax budget." Thleen was reaching for a third biscuit, and Pyosz said "Not until you finish all of whatever is green or red on your plate." Thleen groaned melodramatically and muttered something which had the words "the way YOU eat" in it. Pyosz focused back on Qala.

"I don't see any way around a tax increase here in Pya" Qala was saying. "From the plans I hear, that folks have been hatching for a decade waiting for contracts to be revised, Pya will be awash in new civic structures and services. All of which require coin. Especially a hospital with our own surgery." Pyosz liked that "our".

"Oby says might as well get it over with now, raise taxes as things are being built so folks have cause and effect in their immediate vision" said Maar. "Api is afraid it will spark a campaign against her, keep her from winning re-election."

Lawa said "If that's motivating her, then she does need to be replaced." Thleen looked worried, not really following the content of what was being said but recognizing everyone's tension at Lawa's bluntness. She said to Maar "When I go to Chloddia, will I have to sleep with Su? I don't want to spend the night there."

Maar looked at her, saying "You don't have to." Pyosz added "You two can sleep in my old bedroom at the Genist Manage." Thleen's shoulders relaxed, until Qala said "Where would you build a flight school, in Pertama?"

"They wish" said Maar. "No, we've got that swath between the beet fields and Pertama road, just east of and adjacent to the school. It's set aside for municipal use -- Oby made sure of it, a decade ago -- and although technically it's designated for educational use, Mill's reading of the statute means she can squeeze a flight school through. Since flight school is open to any student who passes the entrance exam."

"Who would teach there? Mill and Oby?" asked Qala.

Maar looked like she was choosing her words, and Pyosz said "Or perhaps other experienced former pilots, maybe someone in retirement." Thleen was grimacing as she forked down the last of her kale and didn't connect the dots as Lawa and Qala did. Pyosz didn't want Halling's name hitting the Ziri broadcast network. Maar added "And we want to train dispatchers as well", raising her eyebrows at Qala. Lawa thumped Qala on the back but Qala only grunted.

Pyosz said to Maar "What about you? You're an excellent trainer."

"I'd be hands-on in the cockpit, once the greenies begin taking to the air" said Maar. "Mill also thinks we should copy what they did at Chloddia, combine the parachute training grounds with a sports field that could be shared with a new university,"

"Dodd showed me the draft curriculum" offered Pyosz. "Heavy on biology, chemistry, physics, especially relating to agriculture and industry. She wants to call it Pya Polytechnic instead of university. She says in 15 years or so, the population of Pya will be large enough to support a second, real university. With a music department, she hopes."

Thleen had been snagged earlier in the conversation, however. "Sports field? What kind of sports?"

Maar grinned at her. "Has to be a kickball team, for sure. Just think, once you graduate regular school, you could play for the university."

"Polytechnic" corrected Pyosz. She felt the disk again and imagined Prl as the head of a new biology department. With Yoj as Gakusha of Early History.

Qala said "Likely to be a tax increase in Skene, too. For different reasons. And just as items like our imported wood and corn and wheat go up in price."

"Api is begging for moderation across the board, because Skene can turn around and stick it to us for minerals and metals" said Maar. "And some manufactured goods."

"But not for long on the latter" said Lawa. "Tu says there's going to be a silkworm farm on Hore, once the ferry goes in. She's consulting on the set-up, Botaniste is already starting a batch of worms. We'll have Pyan silk."

"And weavers" said Pyosz, thinking of Yoj's aggie.

"Building that ferry is going to be tricky" said Maar, a sudden furrow in her brow, catching Pyosz's attention. "How so?" asked Pyosz. Maar flicked a glance at Thleen and said "Good job on cleaning your plate. You want to grab one of those chilled melons and go eat it on the porch? We'll join you soon."

Thleen raced for the cold box and Lawa went to supervise knifing open the melon. When she returned, Maar said softly "There's deep lev presence continually around the margins of Dvareka but especially concentrated around ferry lines. For instance, about an hour before the shift changes on Oto and Rudni, when miners commute back and forth from Cogio, radar starts picking up growing clusters of levis. But the faryastes say they almost never see them. Anyhow, the channel between Hore and Uscat is very deep and has an open lead between Trumpinne and Hayashi to the Southern Wasa. Just north of Hore, though, is the reef that protects the Pea Pods. Leviathans patrol the Pea Pod boundary all the time. That ferry will be directly over them."

"Will you have to sink a pylon between?" asked Pyosz, her hand spread over her belly.

"Too far down to bottom" answered Maar. "It's a gap that can just barely be spanned by a cable drive. And a brave faryaste." She began stacking plates as she added "Plus that quarry they're going to dig on Uscat? Sinners hauling stone from it to the mainland won't have more than a 20 meter loft, at best, before they reach deep water with levs in it."

Pyosz felt something shift inside. "You won't be hauling stone, will you?"

Maar met her eyes to say "I'm the best heavy loads pilot we have. I'll have at least one shift a week." Pyosz decided to forego melon, and instead went upstairs to put her disk in her bedside drawer.

On the porch, they discovered Thleen had been spitting her melon seeds into the darkness instead of saving them. Qala said severely "Tomorrow morning, before anything else, you get out here and search through the yard for every levvin' seed, I don't want melons germinating among my pansies and mint."

"The birds will have already eaten them" retorted Thleen loftily.

"You heard me" said Qala. Pyosz sat close to Maar and said "Abba told me there's serious talk of building reefs between Faar and Beras, closing all that water into a protected lagoon. It'll take a long time, but the idea is if they can transfer the lagoon industry that's now between Faar and Verzin to a new eastern lagoon, the old lagoon can be filled in to create dry land."

Lawa said "You mean Verzin and Faar would be a continuous land mass?"

"Yeah. You can just imagine the jurisdictional battles going on already" said Pyosz.

"One way to get rid of leviathan threat to everybody but pilots -- connect all the islands to each other by land or lagoon" said Maar. "And create fields to grow grains." They began speculating about which Skene islands would be modified next, until Thleen said "I don't want to talk about Skene, can we sing now?"

That night when Maar joined Pyosz in bed, she leaned over to turn off the lamp and Pyosz said "Your sweat smells really strong tonight."

Maar stopped her motion. "Is it bothering you? I didn't bathe, I can go -- "

"No. I like it. It's just -- I think my sense of smell is different now" said Pyosz, snuggling against Maar. "Here, let's kiss, see if you taste stronger, too." Within a minute, Pyosz had rolled on top of Maar and had her hands under the maillot Maar had worn to bed.

"Pyosz, are you -- is this all right? I mean, we can do as much as...oh, stars, yes, right there!" Pyosz meant only to give Maar a turn, but was swept up in a build that felt more vulnerable than ever, and they explored each other as if it was a first time. Pyosz wept afterward, and went to sleep with her tears drying on Maar's arm.

The following dawn, they kept giggling in the kitchen, trying to muffle it so no one was awakened. "I won't be home at lunch, I'll grab something in Pertama; I'm going to buy gifts for my sibs and emmas" whispered Maar.

"What are you getting them? I'll pack a hamper of food from here you can take to them" said Pyosz.

"Okay. Clothes for Adon, that's all she ever wants now" Maar thought out loud.

"That shop next to the leathergoods place? That's where I bought the slinky woolen shati you like so much, with the tiny buttons up the side of the neck?" said Pyosz.

"You're right, Adon would love that fabric" said Maar.

"And I have leftover leather allotment right now, enough for you to get gloves for your emmas. Fleece lined or dress, whatever they'd prefer. Get Su a pair too, the really limber work type" suggest Pyosz.

"Oh, and a new bookbag for the school year, in that bright yellow sailboat canvas that all the teenagers here are carrying right now, Su will be a trendsetter with one of those" said Maar. "Gotta run. I'm going to cut Thleen's hair before dinner, tell her to wash it before I get home."

They kissed with a restored ease. Pyosz grabbed a wedge of cheese and an apple to eat as she got ready to milk, holding the fruit away from begging goats until she was done. She split her core between Killer and Boulder. She had the disk tucked in her bag, and loaded her milk cans directly into the wain instead of going back to the Manage for breakfast.

Once deliveries and shopping were done, she stopped at the cafe and sat at the wall end of the counter. It was crowded with people eating before jobs, especially the bucky crowd, but she felt enough privacy to pull Prl's letter from her pack and refresh her memory as to her emma's instructions. She ordered spicy shrimp and hominy rolled in kelp plus fried banana planks, and reminded herself to eat slowly, hoping the food combination wouldn't trigger nausea.

Naki was open and her printer whirring when Pyosz entered. Pyosz pulled out the disk and said "I have a big job for you. Maybe the biggest you'll ever do. But I need your absolute discretion."

Naki's face was expressionless. "I'm not a gossip."

"I know that. Still, for your own good, what I'd like to do is rent your equipment and facilities for enough time it takes to print this order and do it myself, after you've trained me." Pyosz looked at Naki's supply shelves and said "I'll need you to order paper."

Naki's face showed suppressed interest. "How much paper? What's the job?"

"Well, I'm not certain. What I need to do is print out one copy, tinker with formating, and estimate from there. Could we do that now or -- " Pyosz looked at the pages stacking in the tray but Naki moved smoothly to block her view, saying "This is a private job, too. Be done in five minutes. Why don't you look through my paper sample drawer, there's prices on each sheet, and pick out the stock you want?"

An hour later, Pyosz had a copy of 183 pages on both sides of wood-pulp paper -- Prl had said make it a document that would stand up to time and use. The cover page was dry and descriptive text which nevertheless made Pyosz's pulse race. She placed it in a folder and went to call Naki from her office.

"Happy with how it turned out?"

"Yeah. Can you show me how to use the autobinder now?"

As Naki demonstrated the machine, she asked "How many pages, then?"

"183 plus a cover sheet. I need 550 copies, so ..." Pyosz did math in her head "That's over 101,200 sheets, they come 500 to a pack, right? Make the order for 205 packs, just to be sure."

Naki eyebrows had shot up her short forehead. "550? That's more than any bestseller -- that's enough for every Manage on the planet!"

Pyosz made the mum sign and said "Can you get that much paper on short order? And can I have your shop, say, tomorrow night?"

Naki let a few seconds go by before she said "Yes to both. What kind of binder material do you want?"

"This dark green, if it's in stock" said Pyosz.

"Let me go call my supplier" said Naki. Pyosz bound her pages between the stiff green vinyl and looked at its blank cover, thinking This will become an immediately recognized artifact. with a copy in every library and the Archives.

When Naki returned with a go-ahead, Pyosz pocketed her disk and pulled out two platinum eks plus a gold one to lay in Naki's palm. "That's far too much" said Naki, "all the labor is yours."

"You'll earn it. This isn't illegal but it will be controversial" said Pyosz.

Naki grinned. "The written word and printed image often is. Part of why I love it so."

"I'll come to your house tomorrow after dinner for the key" said Pyosz. She felt lightheaded when she walked outside, pulling on her burzaka against a fresh rain, the new book tucked under her gilet. When she got to Saya, she was spotted by Thleen who dropped her pole to run over and demand where she'd been.

"Errands. Listen, I bought this teak tray, would you like to give it as a present to your emmas?" Once Thleen returned to the point, Pyosz went to the kitchen and called Prl, ignoring the hour of day as Prl had requested. She gave her details of the printing task, the green volume on the counter in front of her. She felt reluctant to actually read it, to decipher what it contained. Qala was at the aga, blanching and peeling tomatoes, and Pyosz didn't hold back anything she needed to say.

When she clicked off, Qala said "Tomorrow night is when you're doing this?"

"Right after dinner. It will take me hours, with the binding."

"I'm going with you" said Qala. "I don't need to know all about it to help you, I don't want you doing this alone."

Pyosz felt relief. "Thank you, abba, I want the company."

"We can put on a slow stew for dinner, pack Thleen off to Kacang and take long naps in the afternoon" said Qala.

"In that case, I'm doing a double bread batch today" said Pyosz. As she opened canisters. Qala said "Don't break a confidence, but is Prl going to be all right through this?"

"She believes so" said Pyosz. "So does Nioma."

"Has she told Yoj or Halling?"

"No." Pyosz turned to watch Qala's veined but still nimble hands pull scarlet strips from steaming globes. The chickens will feast today thought Pyosz. She said "I trust her, and I can't find a bug in the sift, but maybe I'm blind because, well, she's my emma and I want her to get here as fast as she can."

"Trusting Prl generally works out" said Qala, but Pyosz could hear concern somewhere in her voice, which chilled her. She suddenly had to run for the privy. When she returned to the kitchen, Qala had tea and tinctures waiting for her.

On Roku after Market, Pyosz awakened Maar from her sleeping in and helped load half the crates of books into the lighter Maar was using to carry herself and Thleen to the Lofthall. Qala had a hamper for their huolon flight, and Thleen's pack was stuffed with books, hand puzzles, pillow and blanket.

"It feels like agony to see you go, I don't know how I bore it all last year" said Pyosz, clinging to Maar beside the hatch.

"Same here. I'll come home to you, I swear by all the power I possess" Maar murmured in her ear. "I'll call once we're at your emma's."

Lawa unpinned her best lure from her gilet and attached it to Thleen's cap, saying "Just in case you have a chance to catch some of those easy Skene fish." Which kept Thleen from tearing up as Pyosz buckled her in.

Pyosz didn't cry, either. Once the drone of the huolon had passed, she carried a mug of tea to her study, closed the door, sat at the wide desk in late afternoon light, and opened the green volume to read it.

Copyright 2010 Maggie Jochild


Sunday, March 21, 2010


Today The New York Times issued an admission, in the form of a column by its Public Editor Clark Hoyt, that it was wrong in its coverage of the so-called ACORN sting and had been wrong to defend its wording since the truth began to emerge.

ACORN (acronym for The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) is defined by Wikipedia as "a collection of community-based organizations in the United States that advocate for low- and moderate-income families by working on neighborhood safety, voter registration, health care, affordable housing, and other social issues." Because ACORN has, since its inception in 1970, been very successful in its goals and particularly effective in registering millions of low- to -moderate income voters, it has been the target of conservative attacks because lower income citizens tend to vote progressive and because ACORN promotes racial equality. Despite the fact that attempts at illegal disenfranchisement and voter fraud overwhelmingly originate from the conservative camp, the right-wing noise machine has prevaricatingly smeared ACORN as the source of voter illegality in recent elections.

In this campaign of "stop ACORN by any means", a right-wing con artist named James O'Keefe released video where he (falsely) claimed that he and another person dressed in outrageous "pimp and ho" costumes entered an ACORN office during July 2009 and were secretly taped receiving information on how to conceal illegal activities. The New York Times backed this story without ever viewing the original videotapes. Subsequently, Republicans succeeded in stampeding Congress to cut off all federal funding for ACORN and President Obama immediately signed the bill without batting an eye.

ACORN claimed it was fraud from the outset and demanded to see the unedited original video. They also filed suit for illegal secret videotaping. O'Keefe's employer, rightwing propagandist Andrew Breitbart, appeared in print and on TV repeatedly defending O'Keefe. Breitbart's story began to unravel when O'Keefe and three others were arrested in January after illegally entering the offices of Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) in an apparent attempt to tap or damage her telephone system. The criminals were "charged with entering federal property under false pretenses with the intent of committing a felony" and are awaiting further legal action.

In December 2009, former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshberger issued his results of "an independent inquiry into the organizational systems and processes surrounding the social services of the organization" pursuant to the recent allegations of corruption within that organization in the ACORN 2009 undercover videos controversy". His written report exonerates ACORN from any alleged illegal activity.

Likewise, media watchdog FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) issued an excellent analysis of The New York Times' coverage and concluded it was "wildly misleading" and that the paper had been "duped".

Harshberger's report was cited in the judgment issued ten days ago by U.S. District Court Judge Nina Gershon, which reversed the act of Congress by granting both declaratory relief and a permanent injunction to ACORN. In her ruling, Judge Herson stated "The government has offered no...unique reason to treat ACORN differently from other contractors accused of serious misconduct or to bar ACORN from federal funding without either a judicial trial or an administrative process applicable to all government contractors."

This means the right-wing can, and undoubtedly will, continue to target ACORN for destruction, but for the time being, actual proof will have to be produced before governmental punishment can be levied. And this assertion of the rule of law no doubt played a strong role in The New York Times' watery admission of error today.

The damage has been done, however. As Hoyt's column points out, "Now Acorn [sic] and its supporters say The Times got the story wrong and, by failing to correct it, has played into the hands of a campaign that has pushed the group near extinction."

These admissions arrive during a week when right-wing dissociation from honesty can be found all over the news. For instance, in a desperate last-ditch effort to derail even a semblance of health care reform, a fake memo was promulgated which "claims to be sent to 'Democratic health and communications staff' and which suggests the majority party leadership wants to make big changes to Medicare next year after health care passes". This memo was ballyhooed by right-wing blogs as proof of Democrat hypocrisy only briefly before it was declared a hoax -- though salivating Republican Congressman Scott Garrett (NJ) couldn't stop himself in time to avoid being revealed as a lying ass in public by Anthony Weiner (N-NY):

We have also learned that the 33 Haitian "orphans" kidnapped by U.S. christianist missionaries turned out to have parents, after all: parents who were devastated by the earthquake and accepted the missionaries story that the children would be taken to a free school where the parents could visit at any time. The children have been returned to their families, and while not enough news outlets are calling this what it was -- human trafficking -- at least the sob stories about how it was "all for the children" have died away.

I wonder if all the money raised by fundamentalist churches to "aid these orphans" will be now directed toward helping their families, or if instead it will go to Laura Silsby's defense costs. I'd love to see a breakdown of how much tax-free income generated by the Catholic Church and fundamentalist Protestant groups has been spent in decades of cover-up and protection of pedophiles. There's a reason why the best place to find a child-sex predator is in conservative Christian strongholds, but I'll save that for another post.

It is important to note here, however, that the subtext which makes sense of why this kidnapping is justified in the minds of the Christian Right is a racist conviction that children of color are always better off beign raised with at least white supervision of their parents, if not white parents. Children of color are presumed to have illegitimate births, lacking proper familial values or documentation by authority. The Right seeks control over families of color, not giving them independent assistance where it might be needed.

Jill Cozzi details recent white-supremacy-driven threats at this week's teabagger bundthall gatherings as further documentation for "GOP: The Party of Legitimized Hate" (see my earlier post on this at Kickin' Ass and Namin' Names). This week saw black members of Congress being called "n****r" by teabaggers as they tried to go about their work. Later they had a big laugh yelling "f****t at Barney Frank, and successfully refused to cease their menacing behavior when a Capitol police officer tried to eject them.

Violence and lying for the cause is not only justified and excused by the Right, it's expected. For the theocrats among them, coercion is part of their mandate from g*d tp prosyletize: Such a mandate is by definition disrespectful of others' right to self-determination. The non-theocrats on the Right have absorbed past lessons from fascism which proves Big Lies backed by localized community violence can dominate nations.

Republican control of public discourse has meant their version of reality has been imprinted on an entire generation or maybe two. One of their lies is that "the media is liberal", when in fact the reverse is true. (Where is OUR Faux News?) Another is that "Americans are mostly to the right of center", when nationwide polls and landslide elections indicate the opposite. (A denied reality which has squeezed the teabaggers out from their "independent" cover.)

A third Republican distortion is the folksy "All politicians lie" with an implicit tag of "and they all equally." I'm not about to argue for the veracity of politicians. I'm not even going to argue that so-called progressives don't engage in the Big Lie from time to time, not when our own President had the nerve to declare in his address to Congress yesterday "You have a chance to make good on the promises you made" the same week that despite running a campaign which included the promise of a public option in health care coverage, it was revealed Obama "made a backroom deal last summer with the for-profit hospital lobby that he would make sure there would be no national public option in the final health reform legislation". a deal confirmed by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina.

But with the obvious exception above, Democrat political lies usually don't deliberately reverse the truth and project their own actions into Republicans. Progressives who vote Democrats into office don't lie us into murderous, economy-breaking wars. We're educated enough to comprehend the difference between socialism, communism, and fascism, and to know who is/who ain't. We support separation of church and state as it was delierately written into this country's organizing fabric by its founders. We understand that habeas corpus either extends to everyone or we're all living one accusation away from the noose. We know goverment is a safety net for "the least among us" and that it is in everyone's best interest to have good free schools, a functioning infrastructure, public health and safety, clean water and food, oversight for business practices, and, of course, the unimpeded right to vote. We are adult enough to recognize these public goods must be paid for by our taxes, not left to corporate goodwill or other forms of magical thinking.

And being adult is a big part of what differentiates the progressive mindset from conservative thinking. We are not locked into a worldview dependent on fear of authority and hierarchies. We have matured enough to not be overwhelmed by the prospect of pluralism, respectful difference of opinion, or modernity in its unpredictable state. We are much better equipped to deal with real-world ambiguity and conflict. And, as Digby points out, "How the two sides handle defeat is a defining characteristic." Assassination and violence as an excuse for having immature mechanisms for dealing with emotion is typical of the Right, not the Left.

Standing here amid the debris left by the Bush administration, we are like the grown-ups who arrived to rescue the boys in Lord Of The Flies. Our current leaders may be distracted by the "lookit this, some of it's kinda cool" crap left behind by run-amok children, but we in the authentic progressive base know eventually Bush/Reagan fantasyland all has to go in a bonfire. Everybody gets a tetanus shot and we return to the Constitution.

Between then and now, there'll have to be an increasing awakening of a majority of those who thought Ronnie and Dubya at least "meant well". They will need to admit "Wolf!" has been repeatedly cried to keep them from their honest labor and their community values have been exploited to serve the egos of a narcissistic few. This kind of adjustment always occurs, eventually.

And maybe, just maybe, this week we're seeing the actual beginning rivulets of that turning tide.

NOTE: Definitive and often exclusive coverage of the entire ACORN story has been untiringly performed by The Brad Blog, whose dogged persistence can be credited for much of the progress toward justice and exposure found above. Our ardent thanks to them for real truth-telling and an insistence on journalistic integrity.

[Cross-posted at Group News Blog.]