Brian MacMillan

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14 Ska

Although that morning I considered myself on the tail-end of young that afternoon I exchanged a fraction of my age for a fraction of her youth. I wonder who got the better of the deal? Its an absurd question for age and youth are each other’s foils.

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08 Categorization

Use Gaussian / Bayesian techniques to create a simple learning system that categorizes items based on their features. Visually, what’s interesting about this process is that it is way to present distributions that is different than the histograms used in statistics, but closely related, and ultimately based on standard deviation measurements – each category is a type of distribution graph, but based on the group itself, not on the Cartesian plane its being graphed on.

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10 The Human in Human Error

AKA Hoshi reboots the server

Intake: The nonsense virus is not stopped. I’m sent to Japan to investigate … Hoshi reboots the server.

The man was a bully.

I realized he had no ability to negotiate. All his life he’d given orders and they’d been taken. (One of the many ways being rich prepares you for being a boss).

The Human in Human Error

Mainframe computers are like boilers on a transatlantic steamship. They do a lot of work, but require constant maintenance, and when they blow up people get hurt.

Data flows down hill from mainframes, to AS400s and to unix, where it enters the internet, and Windows, through which it reaches our user’s desktops.

There is one exception in my world to this downhill flow of data from Mainframes to Windows. One of my systems actually sent data upstream to the AS400. In this instance it is a great idea from a cost perspective, but creates a flow chart that looks like it has a short circuit in it.

The mainframes are run by these men with white lab coats, clipboards, who segregate themselves from us not only through their dress, but also with their weird data models and weirder naming conventions.

It is more mediaeval than you would expect at the beating heart of the digital world. A guild. We mockingly call them the keepers of the sacred fire. Or data trolls, when we’re feeling mean.

˙

Many things only have meaning in context. Like all spoken words.

Computers, like people, have many types of memory. Likewise, the phrase reboot the server has many meanings depending on context.  Application servers, hardware servers, file servers. There is a big difference between restarting a program that runs a web page and rebooting a mainframe.

The biggest machines in the world, when I was growing up, were these pair of excavators in Athabaska Alberta. The Athabaska tar sands are so huge and flat that the bigger the excavator you can use the better. The limit on size, interestingly enough, was not mechanical but energetic. It took a noticeable amount of the entire electrical grid of northern Alberta to jump start one of these suckers. Turning one on dimmed the lights in in Edmonton.  I always think of this when I think of rebooting mainframes.

“Hoshi-san, are you ready to reboot the weblogic server.”

“The server? Yes. Are you sure you’re authorized?  Jun-san insists that told me that only Ansulm can authorize this. Shall I call him? Its 3 a.m. your time.”

“Just reboot the server. You’ve got the scripts, right.”

“Here I go.”

“Hoshi, I’ve just been kicked out of telnet.”

“Yes. As expected. I believe that you will have to restart the telnet application once the server comes up.”

This information is like a safe dropping on my head. “You rebooted the linux server tokfidops?”

“Yes.”

“I thought that you were rebooting the infohub server.”

“No. I tried that. It didn’t work. We just discussed this.”

“Hoshi, we’re in trouble.  This unix machine runs 5, maybe 10 systems. They are all down now.”

On queue the Asian pager on my batbelt begins to receive a stream of pages that do not stop.

“I think that you should be more concerned about the batch Patrick-san. We may have to start that from the beginning.”

The thing about the batch – a nightly reconciliation of London and New Trades – is that it has to happen before the next day starts. For a bunch of reasons.  Like positions reports. And compliance rules. And convention. And law. Most trades have to be completed no later than T+1.  Why so little slack? Because it’s a slippery slope. One day late compounds into 2 days, which in 1968 caused a paperwork crises that killed Wall Street and launched Ross Perot’s career, two outcomes no one wants to repeats.

And thus the batch going down is not unlike a boiler exploding on the Lusitania.  There is an outer shell of people with surface wounds. But near the damage, it’s a mess. Body parts and blood, probably mine and certainly Hoshi’s. Thank goodness we’re peers and I’m not his boss.

“Hoshi, I’ll take care of the batch from my end. You ensure that all of our systems have rebooted. When you’re done ping me. I’ll need your help.”

“I have already begun executing the reboot scripts.”

“Hoshi, do you realize that rebooting the mainframe was a mistake.”

“Now I do. I will almost certainly be fired. ”

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Penelope Looses Olivier

She watched him go. Despite her earlier conversation with Celeste, she didnt care if it was an event caused by intention or destiny; she could only view it as loss. One moment he was here now he was gone.

It was a mistake easily made. We loose and find each other every day. Who could have known that last chaste kiss would be it.

She chastized herself with a curse for entertaining such a small hope. All she was really asking for was a proper goodbye, which was no demand on fate at all.

But then her aesthetic nature fought back. What was so wrong with a proper goodbye. At that moment she acknowledged his certain death.

She looked up at the advancing army. The gloriously attired Lords had disappeared behind a copse leaving a train of poorly armed, lean and hungry stragglers in their wake. The damp road had been trampled into mud so was slow and dirty. The peasant warriors and their marshalls moved slowly. But they were moving. They would get to Chateau Gaillard eventually.

What is war Why do we fight

Only the rear guard was visible now, a cohort of badly armed peasants kept in line by hedge knights with dented dirty armor , their valets trailing beside them with their gear, on burdened horses. A second, junior valet trudged beside, his only duty to carry the Lords lance.

What does it say about our nature

As a half-human she knew all about the will to violence but as an aelf she looked at it with an aesthetic eye . War was a filthy ugly business.

As she thought this a man stumbled. He was the most ragged of the lot, an old man, doubtless a substitute and certainly fated to die in his first battle. With an awkward cough he tripped and fell face first into the mud.

A dozen of the men s friends stopped to help him. The marshalls lowered there visors and readied their lances. Their captain, a Du Blois, junior but wearing expensive doublet made of Damascus steel and a sword from Seville, both plunder from the Third Crusade, shouted hurry up and gestured for his lance.

The man stumbled up and then fell down again. A crowd had gathered to watch. The marshalls, not wanting to provoke a riot withdrew.

A tall, rosy cheeked lad was pushed forward. An old lady prodded him and he spoke. Ill be his substitute. He turned to face the Captain. Penelope saw him head on. The right side of his face had been seared by fire and his eye was covered in a patch. But he was sturdy.

The Captain, looked to his right shoulder where the army was and then back did not deign to scold. Oui vit vit.

The marshalls closed in on the peasant soldiers and they started to move. The old men fell in the dirt. His village friends waited until the Captain had disappeared into the copse and then rushed forward to help him.

Although their progress seemed so slow it was only moments before they disappeared.

The aelf in her wished for it to be dusk; nature was such a good complement to strong emotions. The sky was bright and the air hot and and dry enough that emptyness could find purchase.

She had lost Oliver without a parting.

Her sadness did not spring from any thing; it came from absence.

fin

Despite this she wondered what would be the point

A strange question to ask of a haffen aelf. When your life is long the point of it stretches thin. Penelope wondered if for Eleanor the point had stretched to nothing.

Fee for no service : we need to tread a fine line between allowing billionaires to buy private jets for their mistresses pet corgies and ensuring that only brown people die in childbirth. (too harsh)

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04 Mid-Atlantic Reflections

A message from Compliance pops up on my screen, while I am drinking my third morning coffee. It’s an addition to our email policy:

Dismissals make me think of Debbie’s pager, which makes me think of how unattainable she is, which makes me think Ánut , who is just as hot as Debbie and with whom I do have a chance if I want to pay, which makes me think of money, which makes me think of Marta and her beautiful niece Angelique, which makes further work impossible. I decide to check out the news. It turns out that trial lawyers are inflicting more damage on the Catholic Church than Martin Luther. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake in Boston and Chicago and in several dioceses in Long Island. Texas does pedophilia in as big a way as it does everything else; a billion dollar settlement has already been paid out there.

While I shuffle through my clutter I realize that I have the cards of both Magdalene and Ska. I put them aside and then immediately think better of it – they are my only way of contacting these two women. I should send them both emails today. I vaguely wonder if I’m being unfaithful to my long distance girlfriend I’m pretending to go out with and decide I am unless she’s behaving the same way.

Achilles breaks my reverie. “Check out this email that I just received. It’s like a little morality play:” He clears his throat and begins to speak:

Troy interrupts, laughing, “There’s more to life than wanting all the money in the world??!! I guess there is – spending all the money in the world!”

“What about sex” Rajesh contributes, though in an off-hand manner. He’s busy writing a shell script right now. I had no idea he had a sense of humor. Or was even listening.

Opia is genuinely scandalized by our banter. “You should be working, not reading stupid emails. Didn’t you see the Compliance Alert?! Besides, there is eleven ticket in the queue. Eleven.”

Though I am very impressed by her dedication I am incapable of working right now so I try to bring her in to our conversation. “Hey Opia, where are you from?”

“China.”

“I mean what part of China?”

“Beijing.”

“What does your Dad do?”

“He’s a doctor”

“Private practice?”

“No, he’s a Major in the People’s Liberation Army.”

Far out. I wonder if her dad’s a Communist. Probably. Major? Certainly. I wonder what he thinks of her walking down the capitalist road.  This makes me think of how awkward it is going to be for any American to propose to her, which prompts me to ask, “Are you married?”

She replies by raising her left hand towards me. No ring. She throws my question back at me. “You don’t have a wedding ring, either. Do you have a girlfriend?”

“Yeah. Uh maybe. No. I’m in a long distance relationship but it’s over. We never see each other and the last time we talked we had a fight.”

“When was that?”

“Last week.”

“Huh.”

“Hey, let me finish.” Achilles continues, reading his email:

“Never enough” Troy interjects, sub voce.

Achilles continues.

Achilles concludes with a wistful expression in his voice. “Imagine, robbed by your own family. What a sad testament to man’s selfishness and greed.”

I wonder whether this scam works better with the poor or the rich. My mind flashes back to a memory of Pablo hitting on his son’s daughter, hash joint in his left hand, a glass of scotch in his right. Perhaps he should be the target of this email because cravings are worse when you’re rich because you expect so much more. It occurs to me that its impossible to be satiated until you want nothing.

Opia is livid, “Stop this bullshit, guys! There are now thirteen ticket in the queue. Get to work. Tell them to work Achilles, you’re their boss. And you too Patrick. ”

“Its tickets, not ticket. Thirteen tickets in the queue.” Lance reply is to Opia alone. He’s not trying to draw attention to his correction.

Opia mouths the word tickets, but says nothing.

“Here’s how I replied”, laughs Achilles, winking at Opia.

Achilles’ eccentric humor really bugs Opia even though she doesn’t get the joke that Ronald Reagan Junior’s charity is for atheists.  “That was stupid, Achilles. Why did you do that? Didn’t you read the Compliance Alert?

Even considering my lax standards, I too am aghast. What an inappropriate message to send using company email. But Achilles seems to think he is protected, and to an extent he is given his connections and experience.

“Don’t worry. We must send out 200,000 emails a day. No one reads them all.” His manner is lax. My sense is he’s making an argument to make one, like a role play, not to convince anyone.

Lance pipes up, “Actually A, we’ve hired this Israeli company to do just that. Its pretty cool. They look for key-words based on this Bayesian learning system. You’ll get away with that email today. You won’t in a month.”

 Opia is almost beside herself with frustration, “Guys, there’s fourteen tickets in the queue, aside from my two. Look at them before someone escalates.”

Achilles is chill. “The tickets will have to wait, Opia. We’ve got an all-hands meeting in 5 minutes.

˙&#sect;

As we take the elevator down to the auditorium I read a cheery banner printed in Christmas colors, which is posted above the floor selection buttons. It blithely declares that “In the CIE Cafeteria Every Thursday is Earth Day.” I reflexively wonder what the other six days of the week are? Trash day? Me day?

I look at Opia. There’s a point where conservative dress passes into the realm of the dominatrix for women and death camp Commandant for men. She’s not quite at that point, but if she does cross it she’d probably be breaking some law. She is wearing thigh high socks, which I earlier had mistake for tightens, until she sat down and her above-the-knee pleated navy skirt tugs up slightly to reveal the bare skin of her inner thigh in the one instant before she places her hands there and covers up the view. She is wearing a blouse that covers her neck in frilly lace, yet somehow opens up to reveal cleavage when she twists. She does that now, when she notices that no one on the elevator has bothered to push the mezzanine button, even though we’re all going there. Her breasts are fulsome, but seem almost cartoonishly large on her skinny frame. I look away, scanning the elevator to see if anyone notices my staring. Opia looks over at me, catches my eyes and briefly, secretly smiles.

The elevator whisks us down to the mezzanine, which – because it is public facing – is one of the more nicely appointed sections of Head Office. Two receptionists are busy directing streams of CIE employees toward the auditorium.  The auditorium itself is tastefully decorated with panels of teak wood, done in a 1960s style. The stage is surrounded by concentric half-circles of red-cushioned chairs. People chose their seats according to a mixture of seniority and ambition.  Achilles breaks for the front row, closely followed by Opia.  Janus, Lance and I skulk to a poorly lit section in the back, with a partially obstructed view of the stage. Rajesh has remained in the fishbowl, because he’s a consultant and is not invited.

Looking at the array of old men and one woman on the stage – the CIO and his 6 direct reports – I am immediately reminded of a photograph I once saw of the first Central Committee meeting of the Russian Communist Party after the death of Joseph Stalin. What I found interesting about the picture is how no one stood out. Its just this cluster of bad-ass anonymous men who can fuck with you. Same for Ethiopia’s junta and the dudes in Myamar.

Sitting here I feel kind of like a communist apparatchik, an insider but at the bottom of this food chain. It is the people on the stage who are the truly powerful ones. They control the fate and fortune of the 2,000 people in this auditorium, and of their families, and tens of billions of dollars of assets.

I am faced with a dilemma. My impulse, like that of Achilles, is to stand up and be noticed. Certainly all of the rhetoric that I had ever heard about America indicates that people here prefer you to speak plainly. But myths about go-getting Americans somehow never mention the corporate bosses who can fire you at will. Ashulm, one of the dudes on the stage, is my boss. I don’t want to publicly challenge him and I’m sickened at the thought of flattering him. Best to lay low.

The CIO looks like Bill Clinton, right down to his bulbous veiny red drunkard’s nose and bluff manner. I can’t see whether his eyes are bloodshot because he is wearing slightly tinted glasses.  He is intently watching the main entrance, as if taking attendance. My assessment is that he is a high-functioning alcoholic.

The meeting begins at precisely 5 minutes past the hour.

The CIO begins the show with a question. “Why are you here?” No one answers. “If you were an artist you’d probably be working in a gallery or perhaps an advertising firm. If you were a writer you be working at a publishing company. You work in finance. People work in finance to make money.”

Much to my surprise this line not only gets laughter, it gets friendly catcalls and scattered applause.

He continues, pumped up by the positive audience response. “How are we doing this year? You all know the story. We’re riding on the crest of a wave.”

“What about our bonuses?” Some catcalls from my left. I don’t he’s who.

The CIO smoothly responds, “If you’re good, this is going to be a very good year.”

Cheers.

“But remember, this is Wall St. If you don’t deliver, you’re out of here. There are a lot of people who want your job and who are better at it.”

[It had never crossed my mind that there was anything special about my job. Other than the pay.]

For the next few minutes we’re given the metrics.  The numbers are not very inspiring. Bear Stearns and Goldman Sachs continue to eat into our Fixed Income business. Chase is hovering in the background waiting to buy us or kill us and eat our assets.

After a bullshit summary of this quarter’s numbers, the Chief moves on to Y2K, the over-hyped problem some mainframe systems have with 4 digit years. I am dispirited to realize that the CIO only vaguely understands what Y2K is. He speaks like a politician covering his ass, not someone intelligently assessing a threat. I completely ignore him and instead day-dream about being touched by Ánut. [She’s skinny avaricious and pallid but so sexual … It must be conditioning on my part but … why her and not Magdalene or Ska. I realize in part my attraction is based on a badness scale. Anut is most bad, Magdalene fluctuates between good and bad – the bad girl attracts the good girl scares me. Ska its impossible – she’s too virtuous, things could never work with her. … But man she’s fun. ]

We move on to questions. Achilles, thanks to his enthusiastic waving, is acknowledged first. The moment an audio-visual tech hands him a cordless microphone he speaks decisively; this is rehearsed. “Markets are good right now. But word on the street is that we’re in a bubble. NASDAQ’s at 4,200. Some analysts think it should be at half that, or less. [For example, should a grocery delivery company that is burning through its reserves really be worth 80 times earnings just because it uses the Internet?] What do you think?”

The CIO beams at the question, and responds by asking a question of the entire audience, “Who here has been working for Cousins for less than 2 years.” About one third of the audience raises their hands. “Who here has been working in finance for less than 1 year?” Just a few people lower their hands.

“You rookies, and you veterans who haven’t been paying attention should know that Cousins doesn’t take positions on the market. We don’t bet on the market going up or down. How do we make our money?”

This seems like a rhetorical question, but about a half-dozen voices boom in reply, “Volatility.”

“That’s right. We make the most money when markets are volatile. NASDAQ up 5% today, down 7% tomorrow? No problem. Markets like this are great! The crazier the better.”

Another catcall question, “Are there any issues? Any clouds on the horizon?”

“Sure. Anyone know what year this is?”

“1999” someone catcalls from the front row. We all see where he’s headed. Eyes are already rolling.

”That’s right. Right now times are great, all we have to do is not fuck up. Y2K is one of those things that we really could fuck up. So stay focused.”

The bosses nod their heads sagely in unison. I realize then that bosses move in herds.

Despite his shallowness, I like the CIO. To clarify, I find him smarmy but I like his plain-spoken manner, something vanishingly rare in senior managers. It makes it easy to not mind his thin knowledge of technology. I don’t mind having that left to us. His ignorance is our opportunity. As far as I am concerned Y2K is a joke. Sure there are some mainframe programs that can’t cope with centuries in dates, but for my systems it’s a total non-issue that has been hyped beyond the point of embarrassment by managers who just want more money. But who is to be the whistle blower and stop the madness. No one in IT, that’s for certain, at least no one sensible. I could see Janus complaining and not being listened to. Who in their right mind would say no to $10,000,000 to solve a non-existent problem, particularly when there are real problems they need that money to solve.

Our other strategic initiative for this year is THE INTERNET. Despite the fever pitch of the CIO on the topic, however, I find that I am not caught up in the hype. Sure it’s cool that Cousins floated a two billion dollar bond for a car factory in Thailand totally on-line but I don’t see the magic. It’s not like computers haven’t been doing stuff like this for 30 years. What’s so different now? How exactly has the world changed? This is where the CIO and I differ. For him THE INTERNET is the new paradigm, for me it is a new interface to the same old data; an awkward, difficult to manage interface that I’ll have to work on after hours for the promise of a bonus.

The final part of the meeting is about strategy. The discussion turns to Cousins’ plans to change housing finance by creating a lot of shell corporations. I briefly think about Seth in Toronto, but I’m so certain that the relationship is dead that I can’t even muster the energy to mull much less regret. Then my daydreams turn to Angelique, and the vicious lesbian Countess who stands between us. I give up on that thought because I know is a partial-truth. A whole class stands between me and Angelique, not just one nasty aristocrat. My fantasy tries to skirt the obvious issues of class and money and life experience, then gives up and turns its full attention to the drunken, grasping, sexy, bad-girl Ánut.

The Town Hall ends with a barrage of money questions that I miss entirely, and then concludes exactly 55 minutes after it started, exactly on time.

As I exit the auditorium, I find myself walking beside Ashulm who says to me, “Patrick, can you meet at my office for 10 minutes.” It’s a statement, even though its phrased as a question. His stern manner reminds me of my Vice Principal in High School.  This triggers flashbacks to the tawdry events of my adolescence. Am I in trouble? Reason tells me not, but that’s how I’ve been conditioned to respond to authority.

We exit the elevators then walk along the east side of the North Tower toward Ashulm’s office on the north-east corner.  The view is rarefied. We are above most of the skyline, except for the thin black line of the Millenium Hotel, the Woolworth building and the black box Deutsche Bank calls headquarters.  I idly remark on the view; Ashulm shrugs and gets to the point. “How are the Y2K projects going?”

My private school background makes it easy for me to fall into a military mode with this man. “Well to be frank sir, Y2K seems like more of a problem for mainframes than for us. Our databases have been compliant since at least 1986 and none of my front-end systems have any issues at all.” 

“You have no Y2K tasks left? Nothing?”

I pause for a moment to think. I’ve never had Y2K issues so it’s difficult to know how to proceed. I decide it’s best to throw him a bone, and invent a small one, “Well the Trade Blotter app needs a bit of work because some rocket scientist used character strings for trade dates so it can’t filter date ranges properly.”

That is enough. His stern Dad manner kicks in and he replies in a lecturing tone. “All date problems are Y2K problems. As is anything that could break our system in the New Year. We’ve got a chance to do a real cleanup here.”

“I understand.”  This is a lesson in good management. Ashulm is covering his ass while simultaneously using the Y2K issue to working on necessary bug fixes. “When you’ve fixed all problems in New York, I want you to review our London and Tokyo systems. And meet an important new hire, Jennifer Shawndansey.”

And so I am sent off on a trip around the world to kill the Y2K bug in all of its forms, both real and imagined.

&#sect;

 “I understand that this year passports have taken up to six months to be sorted. Something to do with years ending in three noughts.” I am in London and my sensible driver is going at exactly the speed limit and keeping his eyes on the road as we exit from the M25 interchange onto the M4, near Heathrow Airport. Given the state of traffic it is amazing that he can speak at all, much less inform me of his understanding of Y2K.

“I have a hunch its all nonsense. Don’t tell me that bankers and computer programmers don’t know how to count.”

Although his words hearten me, they are cutting a bit too close to the chase, so I make an open ended statement, “Next year is going to be crazy.”

“You mean crazier. As if things weren’t crazy enough already. The FOOTSIE was up 2% yesterday alone.”

 “There’s been some profit taking today”, I add. Up and down. Volatility.

He laughs a charming though cynical laugh. “I’m sure there was profit taking. There always is until there can’t be any more, and then you rich people profit from the crash. Did you ever hear about the South Sea Bubble?” The driver shrugs emphatically as he says this, though his cautious hands never leave the steering wheel, nor his cautious eyes the road. He becomes silent as the traffic on the M4 consumes all of his attention.

After spending 90 minutes in traffic that manages to make the West Side Highway look efficient, I arrive at the Cousin’s office in the City, just opposite Liverpool station. Though exhausted from my trip, I am given no break but must go straight to work. 

Though I have read so much about London I have never been here and am uncertain what to expect.  I anticipate that the office will look like a drawing room, which some ornaments reminiscent of St. James Palace, perhaps a few Greek busts and an Elgin marble or two. My preconceptions are wrong on so many counts. The Office is a perfectly utilitarian building like the thousands that dot America’s suburbs and fly-over cities.

My first meeting is with an important player in London IT, a woman named Jennifer Shawndansey. I wonder what she will be like. My expectation is that she will look like Indira Gandhi, complete with a Sarang and bindi. I hope that she is thoroughly covered because I am certain that her mottled skin will hang like flaps of cottage cheese from her arms and thighs.

My preconceptions turn out to be different from correct. Ms. Jennifer Shawndansey’s has blunt cut, bobbed red hair and beady blue eyes. Her figure is more of a transnational – or archetypical – cast, along the lines of movie starlet. Her disproportionately large breasts make me amend that to Indian love goddess. She is wearing a form fitting blue pinstriped suit, blue French stockings with inseams, and stiletto shoes. Everything that can be coiffed about her is: her fingernails, her toes, and her somewhat long, bobbed hair.

Despite her pretty face, toned body and fashionable dress, I’m not attracted to her – or perhaps because wariness keeps my instincts in check.  I suspect there is a reason that her nickname among the London lads is Shiva, after the Destroyer, and not Aphrodite or Ishtar.

My not yet even lingering eyes are noticed and punctured by one sharp look.

˙

Jennifer Shawndansey flashes her million dollar smile around the room. Two million given the market.  I expect her to begin her PowerPoint opus, but she returns her gaze to her laptop. The smile was a dress rehearsal.

The moment Ashulm arrives she flashes the smile again, accompanied by her cheeriest “Let’s get started.”

She primly clears her throat, shuffles some papers, which I realize are a prop, and speaks, “Before I begin I’d like to announce some big news. The Fixed Income Document Management Team is going global. As of right now, we are the Global Fixed Income Document Management Team!”  We means London, which is a very sinister development for my New York based team.

Her stock is rising so my guess her smile is worth close to three million dollars when she closes, accompanied by a couple of enthusiastic sounding “Woots”, a “Huzzah”, and desultory applause from those of us not on her team. We are all forced to engage, given that the penalty for not being a team player is career death.

I catch my peer Andrew’s eyes and give him a ‘what the fuck?’ shrug, clearly not impressed.

Ashulm is impressed, however.  “Excellent introduction, Jen. Please continue.” Ashulm is smiling. Not lecherously. He is smiling approvingly, as if Shiva is his daughter and he is proud of her.  I wonder if he has children and whether their incisor teeth are as sharp as his.

“Thank you, sir.” Shiva nods deferentially to her boss.

One nanosecond before her deferential pause turns into a lull, Shiva revs up.  “Everyone knows everyone. Let’s start.” As she says this, her right arm sweeps over the conference room. It’s an odd gesture and it disturbs me. Then I know why: she’s lording over us. But her arrogance isn’t proactive. She’s not trying to assert her dominance or make us submit. She is as certain that she is better than us as she is certain that Cambridge is a better university than Toronto.

I thought she was my peer. She does not think that she is mine.

After such a strong start, she doesn’t even flinch when saying, “Of course you know that the Fixed Income Document Management team is always broadly available for adding value. Well, not surprisingly, this year we have an awesome project plan.”

[Note that all of her presentation is actual quotation from presentations]

I begin to get very uncomfortable. My world, information systems, no matter how broken and cobbled together it can be, is ultimately rational. This isn’t. I am vexed. I can’t process what she is saying.

Shiva inhales and then dives deeply. “We did lots of lateral thinking for this plan. McLennan, for example” – she nods toward a tall, stooped man with an untucked shirt and fiery red hair – “created a super decision tree for a Quality Form which is entirely logical. You can retrieve it from the Corporate Advisory intranet using the keyword info-hub with a hyphen!”

McLennan does not nod and accept her praise for his decision tree. He squanders his moment of glory because he is hiding the fact that he and an Indian consultant are playing Palm Pilot Pong with each other on their seats on the window ledge.

I look at Ashulm, Jennifer and my London peers. Much to my fatigued surprise I experience a moment of panic. I’m totally out of context here. None of what Jennifer is saying makes any sense to me. There’s a subtext that I’m not getting. I also expect that under the bullshit sales pitch there’s also content, but I don’t know how to recognize it. In a bid to learn more, I recklessly ask. “How is the Info-hub project going, anyway?”

“Well, Patrick. I want us to be able to put our hands on our hearts and say that we have confidence in our information systems. That’s the FANTASTIC thing about the Info-hub. It lets us do that!”

Despite a feeling in my stomach that is a cross between queasiness and foreboding I continue, “I’m not certain that I understand you, Ms Shawndansey. Can you please elaborate on what the Info-hub does?”

Siva takes a silent moment before responding to my question. “I guess you didn’t read the meeting notes very carefully.” I look up and notice that everyone in the room is looking at me, waiting for a response.

I think Yes I did read your meeting notes carefully and they were utter nonsense,  but instead say,   “Let’s address my questions off-line, shall we?” Though my voice is hesitant my monkey mind is raging, What a fuck up! I didn’t come here to make enemies. Damn!

Siva doesn’t brook opposition lightly, preferring to crush it immediately, and so is not quite done with me. “Patrick, I can answer your question in one breath: Transparent interfaces, dashboards and leveraged outputs…and of course, the INTERNET. That’s the underlying philosophy behind the Info-hub. But we don’t have time for basics right now.” 

I indicate agreement with my most polite, “huh.” What bullshit! I think.  I scan the room again. No one is looking at me. They want this special moment of public humiliation to pass almost as much as I do. It does with the next slide. I am not the only one of us to sigh when it does.

Suddenly fatigue overwhelms me and it is all I can do to stay awake. 50 million minutes later,  Shiva pauses, and then dramatically lords over the room one last time.

“To summarize, follow my project plan and our business users should realize some serious return on investment!” Pause. “Do you have any questions?” Pause. “No. Have a productive day!” Ms. Shawndansey’s Power Point presentation dissolves into a line drawing of  Earth surrounded by slogans from the Firm’s Triangle of Value branding initiative.

We all quickly gather our notes and prepare to leave but Ashulm stops us. “I have an announcement.” The ensuing scramble for seats looks like musical chairs.  “You may wonder why we went to the effort to bring you all here. The reason is that Jennifer’s responsibilities have been broadened. At this she flashes her smile, which I now value at north of $3 million, “She is now responsible for London, New York and Tokyo Fixed Income Technology Legal Document Management. She will be moving to New York next month to begin implementing a re-org.”

I leave the meeting feeling exhausted, desultory and concerned.

[McLellan notices and sidles up beside me. His red hair is wiry, and his freckles are iridescent against his pale skin. Noticing my dejection he puts his arm around my shoulder in an act of genuine camaraderie. “One piece of advice, buddy, next time I’d read her meeting notes more carefully.”

Though I like Angus, at this moment I’m a little sensitive about my recent mistake. I blurt, “I always read her emails and they don’t make any sense to me. What the fuck do transparent interfaces and leveraged outputs have to do with one database table being used to produce one webpage. One fucking table. One fucking webpage.”

“Hey, calm down. And remember what they say, ‘Brahma creates, Vishnu preserves and Shiva  destroys.’ I would tread very very softly if I were you.” Angus laughs as he says this. Let’s hope she transfers you to London and doesn’t fire you. We’d love to have you. Even if you’re not fluent in corporate bullshit. He pats me on the back and lumbers away. I realize that he’s just like Lance is to our team – one of the indispensable ones. None of the rest of us have job security. Not even Ashulm.

Y2K checks take one day to complete, and then London is behind me and I am back on a plane, flying over Ireland at sunset. Looking down on the planet and up to the heavens I experience what a tremendous thing creation is. The spiritual moment is made that much more unreal by our speed, which closely matches the speed of the setting sun. Sunset takes two hours.

Earth turns slowly on its axis and I experience a moment of peace that lasts for hours.

For the first time in months, I am not racing toward the millennium.

I even have time to reflect.

My plane chases the sun across a sky that is divided into hemispheres of retreating light and advancing darkness. Looking forward I cannot see my destination and my origins are dim. I am suspended between day and night. Not quite suspended, because the shadow over my shoulder does grow longer as darkness creeps toward the light and overtakes it:

Glow, afterglow, gone.

˙

I land and am assigned to an immigration queue. My officer is a thin, distracted old man who looks 100 years old. He has brittle white hair and skin the color of the terminal wall. Perhaps he’s like the famed London moths, which took on a soot color during the 1890s. Did his parents work here as well, and did they breed here? Was there an evolutionary advantage to blending in?

“Citizenship?”

“Canadian.”

“What were you doing in England?”

“Business”

“Where do you live?”

“Midtown”

“Manhattan.”

I nod. He waits. I say “yes” and he continues.

“Who do you work for?”

“Cousins Investment Finance. It’s an investment bank.”

“I know it. What do you do?”

“I’m a computer systems analyst.”

“Why do you have a work visa?”

I think, This question must be a trick? Then out loud, I say “Huh?”

“You’re a Canadian aren’t you?”

“Yes”

“Canadian’s don’t need visas.

My god. This guy has been working here for a really long time and has missed some of the rule changes. Sure my Grandpa could roam from Boston to Toronto to Detroit to Winnipeg with no visas, but I sure as hell can’t.

“I will inform the lawyers at Cousins about this and sort it out, sir.”

“You do that sonny. We’re really busy here at New York International Airport, so anything you can do to smooth the process is appreciated.” Sonny? New York International Airport?

A perverse imp makes me salute him. I get most of the way there, then the imp allows me to put down my arm. The guard smiles, and sharply salutes back.

&#sect;

It is raining and the cab line at JFK is long. People are jostling but surprisingly polite for New York. A few misplaced elbows, some sincere apologies, a couple of friendly conversations about pleasant vacations ending too soon, and I find myself in a cab driven by a Yemeni Mario Andretti racing to the Midtown Tunnel. The driver initiates conversation.

“Excuse my speed sir, but if we don’t make the tunnel by 9:30 then it will be closed for repairs and we’ll be stuck in a traffic jam for hours at the 59th Street Bridge.”

I laconically give consent to his request to drive recklessly fast. I think, Get home quickly. Good idea. The increased risk of death seems quite acceptable at this juncture.

I phone Seth, feeling like now is as good a time as any to stop pretending we’re in a relationship.

When she answers, I say, “Hi sweetie, it’s me, Patrick.” I add my name because I don’t want to find out she’s already forgotten me.

“Heyyyy. How was your trip?”

 “Pretty good. I’m a bit bagged, but it was fun to see London First Class …”

“Business class”, she corrects.

I ignore her correction, “How are you?”

“I just went in for some tests.”

Woah, I can’t believe we didn’t hit that car in front of us.

The cabbie says over his shoulder, “Excuse me, sir. I am amazed by the people they allow to drive on these roads!”

Seth pulls me back into our conversation, “Patrick, are you listening to me?”

Fortunately I haven’t lost the conversational thread, though it was close, “What tests? You didn’t tell me about any tests. What’s up?”

“I think I may be really sick.”

Ohmygod.

The taxis ducks between a truck and an SUV.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“I’ve been getting dizzy spells, head aches. Last week I went in for tests and it looks like I might be very sick. It’s not certain, just a possibility. Maybe a 30% chance.”

The taxi blasts through a wall of water thrown up by the truck in front of us then ducks right just as the red brake lights threaten to smash our windshield.

Too close! Too close! I am thrown violently to the left then the right as the driver dodges a car doing a bad merge.

I desperately try to uphold my end of the discussion. “What’s not certain?”

Inhale. “I told you already. I may be really sick.”

“So what does this mean? In the short term? Like tomorrow, or now?” 

A terrible choice of words, or at very least an opening. Seth blasts, “You don’t care about how this affects me. Long term. You only care about you.”

“Sweetie, of course I’m wondering how this will impact me but I really care about …”

“You only care about you. Not me. Talk to you later. Like after never.”

My mobile phone goes silent, but my monkey mind is busy.

Shit. How did I mishandle this? Was there something that I could have said better? Could I have been more sensitive? Do I even care?

I don’t know that I care.

I do know.

I don’t care.

Not because of nihilism, but rather adrenal fatigue, or something like it. I’m too tired to care. I would care if I could.

And besides, I’m where I want to be. It is past time to let go of this pretend relationship.

I am also beyond tired. I try to morph my anger into energy. Fuck … I think. Too much effort. I don’t even add a noun. My anger has been burned away by my adrenaline. I collapse into the hard folds of the taxi seat.

We pull off of the BQE into the midtown tunnel. Traffic workers with shiny, reflective vests line the entrance. I look up at the LCD clock on the taxi’s dashboard. 9:27. We made it. Another example of the power of insane intentions over matter. Until now the phrase “speeding through the midtown tunnel” was a conundrum, but this one time the tunnel is empty. We’re the last one’s in before the construction begins. The bright yellow-white work lights make me feel like I’m in a video game, which is a good place for my brain to be right now. Murray Hill is one car away from gridlock but even at glacial speeds we get to my apartment in minutes. Thank god. The taxi is one of a dozen skins I need to crawl out of right now.

There are two surprise visitors at home: Ánut is in my room, wearing black jeans and a camisole. She is speaking Hebrew on my phone. A small dark-haired Latina is sitting on my bed smoking a blunt. As I enter the Latina rises, looks me over once then silently gets up and leaves.

I interrupt Ánut, “Hi, remember me, Patrick, from Angelique’s bag store.”

Sacre Bleu.” She kisses me once on each cheek. “You promised to buy me an emerald purse.”

The purse that costs as much as a house down payment in Whitby, my father reminds me from beyond the grave. “Its great to see you again”, I reply.  Curiosity forces me to ask, “Are calling Israel on my phone?”

“Yes. Tel Aviv. My girlfriend. EJ said it was OK. Thanks!” She looks away, having more important things to say to the soprano voice on the other end. Her call eventually ends with something between a fight and a passionate goodbye. She leaves my room without saying a word, though our side long glances intersect for an instant. She crosses the kitchen to Earl’s room and carefully closes the door, but leaves the blinds on the door half open. I can’t help but watch her undress and straddle Earl.

While I stare, Ánut looks my way. She probably can’t catch my eyes through the slats on the door, but I pretend she can. She has a neutral expression on her face, then for one instant, tersely smiles and returns to her work. As I avert my eyes I notice that the handle to Troy’s room has a sign with a silhouette of two naked men with laurel crowns on their heads copulating. It says, “Do not disturb.”

I’m alone, tonight, which is just as well because I do not feel at all social. I try to sleep but can’t. Even though I am exhausted I am twitchy and claustrophobic, and need to get outside.  I rush down the stairs and go for walk in the rain. Park Avenue is beautiful, crowned by the jewel of Grand Central station. My head hurts and I hear a buzzing sound, probably an air pressure issue from flying. When I return from my walk I find Crazy Dewey is sitting on my stoop. He asks me for some money for food. I sift through my wallet looking for small bills, don’t find any, so give him a couple of quarters. Small change. I know I’m being cheap but I don’t do anything about it. Next time. I’ll take care of you, next time. Good lyrics for one of his songs, I think to myself as I return to my apartment, grab a beer from the fridge and lay down on my bed. Though my nightcap is large and has high alcohol content it is poor medicine. Two whiskey shots later the buzzing in my head dissolves into fretful dreams.

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The Ring Berates a Fallen King

Walk through Osgileath. “This is an old forest. Here Vercingetorix held a council with the other Gallic tribes. [The last man to arrive was executed for being late when the council ended.] He convinced the Gauls to rebel against Julius Caesar. They lost. He cut off the right hand of every prisoner.”

How can you show me the future?

You have asked that question before. Did you not listen to my answer or are you insane.

Everything happens time and again.

To answer your question, I can only predict the future because my nature is so entwined with reality that I know how it may unfold. Some futures are more certain than others.

Why do you communicate with me. Alexander never spoke of the future.

He was closed and you are open.

In time and space.

… why didn’t you talk about it?

Because words never change the underlying reality. Only actions do. By not talking about it I avoided having to determine whether his actions were true or designed for me.

?

The power relations. Who is lord and who owes fealty.


By choosing to bear me you did not give up your freedom; you chose a fate. What you call your thrall is your freedom. Let me enhance it with my power.

I am not free when all I do is resist your temptations.

You are in thrall to your freely made choices.

… Oak tree. Vercingetorix

What is your motive Ring?

The same as yours, to control, survive, be loved.

Love. All you do is enthrall.

I do not know the difference between forced and unforced love because I do not know what will is. I do know that when being supplicated I feel safe.

What greater love than when I force it. The Ring blasted Dmitrius with its full power. Supplicant, kneel. The Ring pushed him onto his knees. It almost worked. Dmtrius resisted. With knees almost bent to the floor he stood.

The Ring laughed. Of course it had a sense of humor. That was all in the head.

What is your motive?

What I call real is different from what you call real. My reality has no sensations. Just thoughts and actions. I read your mind I see what you do. That is how I know you.

Surely you see my intention?

No.

I don’t. I really don’t. I do not know what intentions are.

You have no plan?

Certainly. To be safe. That is why I scan your mind for thoughts of forges and volcanoes.

And forced love.

I don’t know why you would experience love otherwise. To wait for it to happen on its own is so … indirect.

Ring, tell me. What am I to you? An other, nothing more?

Yes an no. Yes you are just another; of course. You are not me. But again and of course you are different from Lady Ithilaen or Jopthama or

… mystery – a particular autocorrect turns gibberish into a message. To Inwood murder mystery novel …

… what are the Ring’s last words. It discovers identity. “I have discovered your identity. Do not destroy me. I know you know me because now I know you. You are no other. “

Just another victim …

… we’re going to solve the problem and then get the senate.

The Ring pleaded. “Do not destroy me. I know who I am. I know who you are. I know what identity is!”

Penelope before destroying the Ring: In France she would have listened to the Ring’s pleas, and reflected. On correct assessments of her own weaknesses. On blame. And the virtue of redemption. But she was post-moral now so the time for that was long past. And even if the time for judgement was now, she could no longer be a judge. She had become the quest, to destroy Alexander’s Bane.

And it would not die, it was bound force. When dissipated the force was neither created nor destroyed. The purpose of the quest her life her fate was to unknot this thread of fate by dissipating this power.

… later with Numenoi.

Would you like me to advise you on whom to kill?


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12 Eleanor and de la RocheFoucauld

… Outtake … Eleanor with hand maiden ælf Ithilæn

“Tell me true.”

The Lady Ithilæn scowled. She said,

Why do you hate me?

How do you know?

“You are le Duc de la Rochefoucauld’s niece.”

The young woman looked at the Lady Ithilæn. She was wearing a simple dress with simple but elegant lace trim, and a high collar. Her tight blemishless skin, and slender, almost child-like body looked ageless. Not young. The maid thought, Of course she knows how I feel. She’s a witch.” The child crossed herself and said a quiet prayer to the Virgin Marie, her namesake.

Eleanor looked on, detached. There was so much about humanity she detested, but she forbade herself to engage. Engagement brought out her humanity; corrupted her ælfen nature.”You admit you hate me?”

“You know I do. Why do you ask?” Why converse at all? she thought. You can read my mind, witch.

“That’s a trivial question, girl. Not one living thing wants to be hated, certainly not me. My motive is clear. But your motives are not. Why you you hate me?”

“Your really don’t know.” The girl laughed. “Of course. You’re too great to know.” Knowing her mind was being read made it easier to speak freely.

“What don’t I know?”

“What happened to my family after Gisors?”

“Gisor was a great French victory.”

“Philip Augustus did very well out of that battle.”

“Yes?”

The maiden raised her supplicant head. The Norman’s still hold my uncle. They captured him on the first charge. He was half-way to Caen by the time the Normans had lost. Along with a dozen valets, poor cousins. Her brother.”

She stopped and let her emotion wash over her. It was not pain for the grief of her uncle, who she understood was chained in a dungeon, living on mouldy cheese stale bread and rats, should he capture them. She had no love for that man. He treated his own prisoners the same, even worse. Her grief was for the servants King John was executing to make the Duc pay his outrageous ransom.

Take time to envisage the outcome.

Eleanor experienced this all through one vision (her visions are only present and past. Dmitrius’ visions are only of the future). The scene was the arrival of John’s present. The delivery was presented as a gift of state. With pomp. … The messengers quaked as they spoke. They knew how offensive the gift was. The bodies they presented were all cleanly killed and washed when delivered. John was not a savage, just greedy. [Despite the talk of his apostasy he always allowed his victims – the servants at least – a Christian burial.] The main feeling was through emotion.

“Why hasn’t the family paid?”

“King Richard asked too much and now King John wants more.

“Why won’t they just offer King John all they can afford. He will surely take it. He needs gold.”

“They don’t want to. They’d rather he died in captivity. That’s why they’re going to let King John kill my brother.”

“I understand why you hate King John. And your Aunt. And your Uncle. But why do you hate me?”

“Then freely I will speak. I hate you Lady Ithilæn. When you fall – and you will because all the barons hate you – I will be tortured and I will confess to whatever lies they tell me to. To cover up their sins they’ll declare that I am a witch and burn me to death with young wood. That is the fate of unlucky women like me.”

OR

“I hate you Lady Ithilæn not because of who you are but what you are. My brother will die. My maid’s are dead. I will die. Killed for being loyal. Killed for being disloyal. I’ll never win. That’s the way it is with the high-born, playing your games through proxies.”

Dmitrius steps out of the shadows. “I will free your uncle.”

Why are you doing this? Eleanor thought.
I have foreseen. This maiden has a role to play.

He sent her his vision. – Penelope being helped by the maiden (she needs a name!).

John arrives. LRF

If the archers came closer than … they would turn and start firing on their own.

Tell me what you feel. Don’t worry. I will not kill you. You have a role to play. I have foreseen it.


In the presence of the Ring her human nature was strangely mute. She felt only calmness and detachment when presented with harm her class did. She hated feudalsim, and how it trapped her into roles and hierarchies. She made so few decisions, was so barely an agent. “Is there anyone left to rescue?”

“You mean aside from LRF?”

“We cannot rescue him. That would alter the timeline.”

“What?”

“Who can we rescue? John must have his prisoners with him. He can’t wait for his gold.”

“My brother. Maybe that great hero can rescue my brother? Can he? Do you know? You can foresee …”

“I don’t know”, Eleanor snapped. She was awesome in her fury. The LRF maid cowered.

Dmitrius stepped forward from the shadow of the tapestry. “I will go.”

“Have you foreseen?”

Yes.

Tell me more.

No.

“Thank you hero.” Her voice had lost its sarcasm. “Let me tell you what my brother …”

“Think about him.” She did, and then Dmitrius knew.

“Will you succeed. Perhaps you can foretell like the Lady?”

“I can only tell you this much. If I succeed your brother will live.”

Tell me what happens. The Lady implored.

No. To me you only have one fate. I cannot risk you having another.

I know I can escape my fate.

Perhaps.

Weak encouragement.

This is hard enough. Don’t taunt me. Eleanor you cannot escape your fate. You are a tragedy.

Eleanor lost her control and the Ring made its move.

Kill the ælf. Take me. The Ring pulled into the air toward Eleanor. She leaned toward it. Her human nature overwhelmed the aelven …

Penelope steps out of the shadows. She observed the battle and realized she had a role to play. She added her force to Dmitrius. The Ring faltered and then was contained. It fell back onto Dmitrius’ neck. Eleanor relaxed.

But the air remained tense. Penelope was shocked. Eleanor had been in thrall. Dmitrius had been in thrall.  She looked at herself in the mirror. Have I been tempted, she wondered. Did I succumb?

“No. NO! I can tell you nothing or everything an you cannot escape your fate. I don’t see a good path for you. I do see worse ones.”

In the heat of the exchange neither had noticed the spell the Ring had cast over the conversation. There was only one question. Would Eleanor become enthralled.

The LRF maid broke the silence. Not a word had been spoken for thick slow minutes. “May I speak?”

The Lady calmly replied, “You are from Caen. Return there. Take these. ” She had a small treasure chest, which she kept beside her bed. She opened it and withdrew two satchels, one tied with red thread, the second with purple. “Come closer, no one must hear.”

“Penelope?”

Lady Ithilæn nodded.”

“How do you know?”

“I have foreseen it.” — Dmitrius? Eleanor?

“And if I spend the money in the purple bag?” It was a stupid question. The Lady was a witch. There was no question about denying her will.

The Lady replied, “You are already cursed. If you do this the curse will be revoked.

<!– Although Eleanor’s anger was directed ælf to human, its intensity came from her human side and was intense as a form of self-hatred. –>

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Aphorisms

You do not respond to defeat by being defeated.

09 Penelope and Dmitrius

Penelope has been caught sneaking in Dmitrius warddrobe. She has found something but doesn’t know if its what she’s looking for.

Dmitrius stepped out of the shadow and said, “What are you doing here?”
Penelope replied, “Looking for færies.”

Dmitrius nodded gravely, as if her sarcasm was unheard. “No. You lie. You are looking for the ring.”
“You are right, Dmitrius Euthydemus, I let you read my mind and yet you close your mind to me.”

“I can read your mind whether you open it or not. You are simply a virtel ælf.”

“Perhaps that is true, but answer me, what am I feeling right now?” she smiled sweetly and then blasted him with a projection. His view was that of a dying Roman soldier. He was being trampled by an army of elephants. The vision had an intensity and violence that no ælf could summon. It was all human. Dmitrius staggered.

“You’re too busy trying to be an ælf. That’s no way to fight the Ring.

The next vision she blasted him with was of a snow leopard leaping at prey. He was the prey.

It was an image she barely knew having learned of it through conversations with animals. He blasted her back with an image that he did know. The Tyrant had just conquered a city in trans-oxonia and wanted to use humans as mortar in his new tower.

The power of the Ring was a power to mold reality – it radiated outward, getting progressively smaller. But beside its origin … the projection of Dmitrius’ anger onto reality was so intense and so forceful, and such a dramatic change that she was forced backward to the edge of the courtyard and became pinned against the wall.

He looked at her. His eyes pinned her to the wall. He looked up and she slide up, against the coarse brick and aged mortar.

He blasted her with another image. Persepolis, the most beautiful city in the world, being looted and burnt to the ground by Alexander’s troops. Payback for incessant war.  Dmitrius let the image dim; this let her focus on the intentions that motivated what she had just seen. The drive was craven, but it was also weary. A Samson addiction that kept pushing, only content when dragging the whole world down.

“Letting off steam.”

“No! Each violent act gives it more control.”

She threw a vision of the most optimistic sunrise she’d ever seen. It threw him off balance and he released her. Gently. She slide back down to the ground in a handful of breaths. The intense vision went away,

“How were you before you took on the Ring?”

“I only knew love. For Eleanor, for your suffering peasants, for me.”

“Show me.” His love image was of water and wood – a willow, some oaks, a meadow and a river.

<!– And now? “Hate. For Eleanor, for all peasants, for me.”

What mind do you know?” “The mind behind those feelings.” “Do I love you?” Dmitrius smiled. “Why do you smile?” –>

“Perhaps I know your mind better than you.”

“Do I love you.”

He smiled, as he replied, “You can’t know what is mixed up until its settled. And even then you know something else.”

Pause. They came back to the situation. She was snooping in his wardrobe. He had to ask her, “Why are you here?”

“I’m looking for something.”

“What?”

“An explanation.”

“What explanation do you expect to find in that closet? Or yonder chest?”

“Why did you give King John the Ring?”

“He took it from me by force.”

She looked at him. “Why?”

“What do you mean?”

“Why do you lie so carelessly with me? Its because I’m a viertel aelf, isn’t it?”

She had been circling him, like a predator. That showed how human she was. An aelf would go to the position she intended to attack from and wait for the appropriate moment. Like an animal. He couldn’t stop his aelven prejudice from filtering his view of her.

“Why did you not give it to me. The Ring will not rule me.”

Still she circled him. He had to turn to keep facing her. He had to keep his eyes open because she walked silently. Like an aelf. She could kill him.

“Why did you not give the Ring to the Lady Ithilaen?”

To her surprise he answered with a thought, I will.

Penelope feared Eleanor. Being haffen made her unable to use her humanity as a strength. It conflicted with her, it undermined every thought and action.

She answered with a thought, Give the Ring to me. I am stronger.

He had been tense until this moment. There was only one good way this encounter could work out or rather all other ways were far worse.

You will take it.

Dmitrius had never shared a vision with a viertel aelf, but now he knew that he could with Penelope Mortain. She would be a Ringbearer; the vision would make her burden that  much easier when her time came.

He showed her a battlefield.  John was on one hill, a baron on another. She didn’t recognize him.  Everyone else was dead. John had been defended by an army of body parts …. Eleanor counter attacks. Knights. Aelves. He could not show her himself, but she could feel him as a force behind the entire vision. It was his sword which cut the Ring off of King John’s hand.

Eleanor smashed John’s skull with a mace and picked up the Ring. The ground was soft and bloody – the Ring could animate anything that once had a will, dismembered limbs digitals, organs, all now beaten into a morass. The Lady Ithilaen was covered in gore. She grabbed the Ring and put it on her finger. She started to shake. And shake some more. A deep noise echoed through the fabric of reality (needs work!) Her eyes started to smoulder and her body to disintegrate, but it didn’t dissipate, it reformed as a tower that started to grow. But it was all blurry, because the Ring fashioned reality; it was not part of it.

… It takes over her aelven nature through her hatred of humans.

Although the vision was only in her mind, Penelope stood wide eyed and swaying as Eleanor came in to her power.

This is the future?

No. A possible future it is best for you to see.

I needed to see that?

He realized she didn’t.

“Know. These visions are for me alone. I don’t help you but by showing you what might come I am less alone in what I know about what could be.”

She knew his burden and how long he’d carried it and how badly things were working out and saw how tragedy was part of the essence heroism.

is essence divisible? perhaps tragedy is the essence of heroism.

<!– decisions are never made in meetings – to city of rats –>

Perhaps you can read my mind elf lord, but I can still fool you by changing its contents. Tell me, when you felt my love did you love me? Can haffen aelves even experience love. Hah!” [flirting?]

I know you love me quintten-aelf but let’s not talk about that because then we’ll have to talk about how you also hate me. Let’s talk about Ahnkemar’s Ring. You are searching for it. You don’t want it.
No I don’t. But I am one of the few creatures in Middle Earth who can resist it’s power.
But that is not my primary reason for spying on you my liege. I was looking for drawings. Cannons change everything. They can destroy city walls.
You don’t want those either. Gunpowder will destroy this world. But you won’t find anything here. I destroy technical drawings.
She knew he believed his words. She couldn’t believe her good fortune. He hadn’t read all of his library, or perhaps he did not understand it? There were no pictures, and the language was unique to the Netherlands.
But words were enough. It was all about strengthening the iron, and the instructions were there.
Quinten aelf,
Haffen-faerie, if you please.
Penelope, I am not here to play games. Westernesse is closed to haffen-aelves and I do not want to live forever here. So I have no reason to lie to you, to mislead you. I am trying to guide you.
I must go.
I can’t read your mind but you are right. When I am dead and Eleanor is dead, and our deaths will happen, we are both tired of life on Middle Earth. And Westernesse is closed to haffen-aelves.
When we die, only you will be able to resist Ahnkemar’s Ring.

She had waited for himi to blink, but he rarely did so. So she waited for one of his ethereal moments, where he retreated into his head. And when he did she quickly picked up the satchel with the stolen documents and quickly left the room.

he did not search her, he was preoccupied with the question of whether the love he had felt from her was just a faerie trick.

The document was not complete but it solved one problem very well, how to make bands of iron which would stop cannons from exploding. Not one cannon – and no cannoneers – survived the battle of Angers.
The treatise had no pictures, because it was a secret document, written in code, which in this case was scientific German. . But the instructions, written in German, were very clear: heat Swedish iron over hot coals (not lignite), and throw in a bit of sulfur from anywhere and a few other trace elements. She wondered how much was magic and how much science. She had some spells to add, of course, but these were just a matter of strengthening the cannon’s with bits of her malice and anger.

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Vulcan Rejects Earth Application to United Federation of Planets

Moved to AR, where it belongs

For the seventh time since First Contact occurred, during the Apollo 12 mission in 1970, the Vulcan Academy of Sciences Interplanetary Review Board has rejected Earth’s application to join the United Federation of Planets.
Why the Vulcan IRB and not the UFP Senate? Well it turns out that this role was first given to the academy as a compromise between factions within the UFP, because of the Vulcan Academy’s moral rectitude, support of logic, and attention to detail.

Enraged home rocket scientist – they’re a bunch of fusty old farts. I could have got my moon rocket up to Warp 1.1 if they’d sell me the Dilithium.

In defense of the ruling, interplanetary lawyer xy said,


Pundits may joke that all that’s at stake is whether or not we sit at the judges table during intra-galactic dance contests, but could there be more in play, like trade in Dilithium Crystals, and flux capacitors?”

“Don’t forget warp conduits. Yes there’s more at stake. And there’s not. What I mean is that interplanetary trade is huge on Earth, and growing like gangbusters. But in terms of trade, its all personal, and in terms of inter-planetary trade, its all about the Ferengi’s not whether Earth sends a hologram to the United Federation of Planets plenary session and signs some statement. The galaxy is a big place, pal, that’s what why everything has to be personal.”

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