Saturday, May 21, 2005

reverse political correctness

Michelle Malkin links the speech of Indra Nooyi, president of Pepsi Co., and the vicious rumor-mongering of Linda Foley, journalist and president of the Newspaper Guild. There is no real comparison, of course. Linda Foley is a journalist who is spreading unsourced, defamatory, and dangerous anti-American rumors. Indra Nooyi is a corporate officer who made an ill-advised analogy. Foley has betrayed a public trust and violated the principles of her profession. Nooyi has angered some people who suspect she has certain unsavory opinions. The poor woman is probably going to lose her job over reverse political correctness.

Is the world really going to be a better place when we have to walk a tight-rope between the political correctness of the left and of the right? Suggest that maybe, just conceivably there could be biological reasons to explain the under-representation of women in science, and you are in danger of losing your job. Suggest that maybe, just conceivably, there could be empirical reasons that some people despise the US and you are in danger of losing your job. Argue that there were good military reasons for the Japanese relocation in WWII and the entire anti-American establishment comes down on you like a ton of bricks. Argue that Americans should take it on themselves to be good representatives of their country abroad and the entire pro-American establishment comes down on you like a ton of bricks.

This is not good, folks.

the party that never was

There is a lot of disappointment going around over the behavior of the Republicans in the federal government. There are lots of good reasons for disappointment. But not the ones that some people keep harping on. Via Instapundit, there is this prime example from Balloon Juice. Here are some of his complaints
Federalism- nope, don't need it.
The Republicans have always been in favor of the federal government enforcing human rights, all the way back to the origin of the party to end slavery. From the Civil War, to Jim Crow, to the Civil Rights Act, the Republicans have been consistent about this. More recently, the Democrats have hopped on board and taken the issue away from Republicans, but the idea that the Republicans believe, or ever believed that federalism should trump human rights is absurd.

Republicans believed that Terri Schiavo's fundamental God-given right to life was being taken from her by a callous state government and they called on the federal government to save her. This act is no different in principle from calling out the national guard to protect black kids that have been sent to a white school, and there is nothing remotely inconsistent in the actions of the Republicans who tried to save Terri.
Limited Government- nah- useless.
Another link to more of the endless whining over the Terri Schiavo case. You know: Republicans were violating their own principles by not deferring to the courts. Right. Can anyone tell me when the Republican party became the party of deferring to the courts? Was it some time during the last half-century of domination of the courts by left-wing radicals who have ignored the law and essentially remade our legal structure in defiance of the law and of the constitution? Was it during this period that the Republican party discovered this need to defer to the courts?

Or are you guys confusing the Republican party with the Democrat party? You know, the party that architected this judicial usurpation of power in order to force their beliefs on an unwilling populace?

The idea that the Republicans somehow violated their own principles because they declined to accept the will of the courts without a fight is laughable. Limiting the power of the courts is a central part of the Republican agenda. Millions of Republicans would like to see the president and governors accomplish this simply by refusing to enforce rulings by the out-of-control judiciary. Against this, the action of Congress in the Terri Schiavo appears as nothing more than an insipid, neurasthenic, and futile gesture. It was far less than long-standing Republican rhetoric calls for.

This next complaint is just confusing:
Tradition?- Whatever, loserboy.
I can't tell if he is complaining about the possibility of the rule change (which would violate tradition in one way) or the hesitancy of carrying out the rules change (which is currently violating tradition in another way). The idea that mere respect for tradition can tell us how to react to this conundrum is odd.
Fair play?- For credit card companies, not for you.
It simply is not the case that concern for fair play is all you need in order to decided whether the new debt legislation was good. It's a complex issue and no matter how it was worked out, someone was going to get screwed. That's what bankruptcy is all about you know. Someone gets left holding the bag.
Separation of Church and State- Fuhgeddaboutit!
When have the Republicans ever been the party of Separation of Church and State? That's just another bit of living constitution imposed by an out-of-control judiciary, and one that Republicans have been fighting against for decades. If you want Separation of Church and State, then campaign for a constitutional amendment. I'll support it. But don't blame Republicans for expecting the courts to enforce the law instead of making it up.
Compassionate conservatism- meaningless buzzwords.
Again, this was never a part of the Republican party. It was specific to George Bush's 2000 presidential campaign. Most Republicans I knew were angry about it. The problem with the slogan is that it endorses the Democrat philosophy that government is an agent of compassion --that by taking other people's money (by force) and using it for good deeds, you are yourself doing a good deed. Republicans (except for George Bush) reject this premise, and have for as long as I can remember. You can only do good deeds with your own money, your own time, and your own sacrifices. Taking from the rich and giving to the poor isn't charity, it's communism. And it's stealing.

Yes, the Republicans have entered into a cycle of uncontrolled spending. And yes, that part is against Republican tradition. But even there, to be honest, you only have a limited claim. Republicans as the party of spending control pretty much ended with Newt Gingrich. I'd love to see it come back, but I don't think many Republicans have made reducing the federal government or entitlement programs a major part of their campaigns since they got their butts handed to them by Clinton over this issue. They're more chicken than liar.

funny blogging

Well, the 4th Carnival of Comedy is up. Late, I might add. No. I guess I won't say anything. Forget that snippy comment about being late. After all, Flying Spacemonkey worked very hard on this carnival. Or so he alleges. It's a bit hard to see where all the work went when the introduction consists of this:
So since it's late, I'll skip the usual spacemonkey blather. There is your 4th Carnival of Comedy. Now fortified with small bitesize spacemonkey nuggets!
Yeah. Like I want monkey nuggets in my cereal.

more on Ms. Nooyi

A couple of people left comments on my post on Ms. Nooyi and I wanted to comment on the comments. I decided to put it in a post because it was getting long.

First, it's really cool to have people argue with me on my blog. I've got to take controversial positions more often :-).

Lastango thinks I'm kidding. He quotes this section as an example of her anti-Americanism
As the longest of the fingers, [the United States] really stands out. The middle finger anchors every function that the hand performs and is the key to all of the fingers working together efficiently and effectively...

However, if used inappropriately --just like the U.S. itself-- the middle finger can convey a negative message and get us in trouble. You know what I'm talking about. In fact, I suspect you're hoping that I'll demonstrate what I mean. And trust me, I'm not looking for volunteers to model.
Why should I take offense at this? The second sentence is not only not anti-American, it's darn near jingoistic. Then she makes the perfectly ordinary point that with great power comes great responsibility. Sounds like a good message to me. I don't think America should go around kissing butts, trying to make everyone like us. But at the same time, we should show class and courtesy, and we should be cognizant of the impression we make. I don't think Ms. Nooyi's words can fairly be read to say any more than that.

Roscoe quotes this
And we wonder why the world views many Americans as boorish and culturally insensitive. This incident should make it abundantly clear. These men were not giving China a hand. They were giving China the finger. This finger was red, white and blue and had “the United States” stamped all over it.
I don't have a problem with this either. Much of the world does view us this way, fairly or unfairly. She gave an example of boorish behavior and she explained the consequences. She pointed out that when a bunch of American execs act like jerks in a foreign country, the citizens of that country don't just say "those guys sure are jerks", they say "Americans sure are jerks". Yes, it's unfair, it's bigotry, and it's very much human nature. Until we can change human nature, I propose that we follow Ms. Nooyi's advice and be aware of how our actions are going to reflect on others.

Now, Ms. Nooyi's example is very selective, of course. It would be easy to find examples of boorish behaviors on the part of Chinese, French, German, Japanese, or anyone you want, and maybe some of the her critics are concerned about the fact that she seemed to be picking on Americans. But she was speaking to Americans. Is she supposed to go to an American university and complain about French boorishness?

Do the Chinese, French, Germans, and Japanese get graduation speeches telling them to be polite when they are in foreign countries? I honestly don't know. I'd expect that the Japanese do and the French don't. The others I wouldn't even hazard a guess about.

In any case, it is good for a country to have the attitude of being classy and courteous, and it is good for commencement speakers to encourage that behavior.

UPDATE: More raging against the machine here. Sorry, but I'm upset about this.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

on the other hand

One Hand Clapping, Powerline, Roscoe and others got all over Indra Nooyi, president and CFO of Pepsi Cola, for remarks that she made at a graduation ceremony for Colombia Business School. Now that her speech is online (thanks to Powerline) I hope everyone reads it with some charity. It isn't at all what the original report claimed.

The original report on Powerline claimed that Ms. Nooyi was making an anti-American political statement, but that is not at all what the statement was. She was merely encouraging the graduates as individuals to comport themselves in foreign countries in a way that would bring credit to the US. The analogy of the US to the middle finger meant that the actions of Americans could be easily misconstrued, as when one points with or scratches ones nose with the middle finger.

She said that the reason that the actions of Americans could be easily misconstrued was due to America's size and prominence. I think that's only half of the story, but she shouldn't be reviled for passing lightly over the other reasons for negativity toward America.

Ms. Nooyi in no way blamed America, George Bush, Republicans, or any other groups for the negative image America has, nor did she approve of that image. Her primary message was "be nice".

I hope the bloggers who came down so hard on her will reconsider their words.

Well, after I wrote the post above I went around the blogosphere reading the reactions to her on-line speech. It was pretty depressing. The mainstream media taught us with James Watt and Robert Bork how to do character assassination, and it looks like bloggers have learned the lesson all too well.

Donald Sensing, whom I respect a great deal, read the speech and decided that it wasn't really all that anti-American. But instead of backing down, he changed to criticizing the poor woman on her speech-making skills. OK, she didn't have a great speech. The analogy was more appropriate for a junior-high audience than college. But I don't believe Donald Sensing, in spite of his words, really thinks that Pepsi should be boycotted because their president gave a bad speech.

Hugh Hewitt, another of my favorite bloggers, went so far as to quote extensively from the speech to prove that it was anti-American, but he failed to point out anything that was actually anti-American in the quoted portion. Yes, there were a couple of comments in there that could raise the hackles of an over-sensitive patriot, but nothing to support the kind of hostility that Ms. Inooyi is suffering. Nothing to require the humiliating abject apology that Hugh is demanding.

Frankly, I can't tell from this speech what Ms. Inooyi's politics are, and neither can the people who are so outraged about it. There is nothing in that speech that I couldn't have said myself (modulo stylistic differences) and no one has ever accused me of being a leftist or anti-American (actually, I was accused of being a socialist once for distinguishing between intellectual property and physical property, but let's let that one go...).

I genuinely feel sorry for Ms. Inooyi and the storm of undeserved hostility that she is experiencing. Bloggers were too quick off the mark on this one, and are being too slow to quit. They are still flush with their victories over Dan Rather and Jordan Eason, and anticipating a new blood-letting at Newsweek soon. I hate to say it, but it seems that power has gone to their heads and they are now, to some extent, exercising their power just for the rush.

This whole thing reminds me of the merciless press attacks that I have seen over and over in my life. Something just clicks, for no rational reason, and suddenly every newspaper and TV station in the country seems to be worrying at the same poor victim like hyenas dragging down an antelope. There is never a rhyme or reason for it, it just seems to happen.

It's like rogue waves. You have all these small waves in the ocean all the time, going in different directions and at different speeds. When two waves overlap, they both add their height, creating a larger wave. Every once in a while, a bunch of waves will overlap all at once, creating a rogue wave that can swamp an ocean liner.

Can we reach out beyond the news business and swamp the president of a major corporation? I would hope that bloggers have become that powerful, and more hopeful that they are wise enough not to abuse the power. Waves don't have responsibilities. Bloggers do.

Please think about this. Don't be like them.

UPDATE: More here and here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Via the Belmont Club, this exchange at a Whitehouse press briefing:
Q With respect, who made you the editor of Newsweek? Do you think it's appropriate for you, at that podium, speaking with the authority of the President of the United States, to tell an American magazine what they should print?
MR. McCLELLAN: I'm not telling them. I'm saying that we would encourage them to help --

Q You're pressuring them.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I'm saying that we would encourage them --
Wretchard has some interesting things to say about the attitude of the media. I'd like to comment on the attitude of the president's press secretary. He's a wuss. This impudent reporter asks him who do you think you are to criticize the press, and he goes all timid on them. "Oh, I would never dare to criticize a Member of the Mighty and Holy American Press. I'm just saying ..."

He should have stood up to them: "Who am I to criticize Newsweek? Well, first I'm an American and that gives me the right to criticize any-the-hell-one I want. Second, I'm the agent of the man who was elected to represent all of the American people, and I'm criticizing Newsweek on their behalf and in their interest. And finally, who the hell do you think you are? You criticize me and the president and anyone else you want endlessly and interminably, but you think no one can criticize you back? You think professional journalists have some holy dispensation to be the only people with an opinion? You think the Great American Press is above all criticism? Well, you're confused. What Newsweek did was wrong, was irresponsible, and was highly reproachable and I'm damn well going to reproach them for it. If you don't like it, try to start your own country where no one is allowed to criticize the press."

Well, that's what I would have said.

in defense of empire

Here is an excellent article defending the Star Wars Empire against the slanders of George Lucas (via La Shawn).

This sort of analysis is not only amusing but also instructive. It displays the simplistic and often reckless nature of pop morality: Empires are always evil. Rebels are always good. Sincerity is all the justification you need to start a civil war.

confusing questions

Monday Evening is asking some confusing questions about Newsweek, freespeech, and desecration. Don't read it unless you have some aspirin handy.

Next Storyblogging Carnival hosted at Tales by Sheya

Sheya Joie will be hosting the next Storyblogging Carnival. If you wish to submit a story to her, please send the following to her at

* Name of your blog
* URL of your blog
* Title of the story
* URL for the blog entry where the story is posted
* (OPTIONAL) Author's name
* (OPTIONAL) A suggested rating for adult content (G, PG, PG-13, R)
* A word count
* A short blurb describing the story

I hope to see you there.

PS: I hope Donald Crankshaw doesn't sue me for copyright infringement but I was too lazy to make my own post...

Monday, May 16, 2005

sharing information

I just got an internet party invitation from a friend. You know the kind I mean: they go to a web site and fill out a form and give some strangers my private email address. Then the web site sends me a cute invitation and manages an RSVP list. Of course I can only use the RSVP service if I register and give them some more personal information.

This is a racket folks. That site doesn't make money off of sending invitations, it makes money from gathering and using information about you and your friends. It's really quite rude to give a friend's address to one of these information-gathering sites. It's an invasion of their privacy.

Often, the site will post a policy statement that seems to guarantee your privacy. In this case the policy says that they will not sell my email address to a spammer. But it doesn't say that they won't spam me themselves.

And it is just a policy, an internal decision by the company, not a legal obligation. There is nothing to stop them from changing the policy as soon as they have collected enough email addresses to make it worth their while. Other sites have done it.

Please, folks. Don't ever give out a friend's email address or any other personal information. And that means don't ever enter the information into a form on the internet.

Scale 7 Artifact, part 4


Exploration (part 2)

Daniel loped down the curving corridor of the starship Nina. Each stride lifted both feet from the ground as if he were running, but he was using no more energy than he would use to walk on Earth. The Nina was spinning end-over-end like a thrown knife to simulate about a fifth of Earth gravity, one-fifth g, on this level. Each level had a different apparent gravity and astronauts adopted a different walk for each level.

The living and work areas were all in the rearward part of the ship, the "handle" of the spinning knife. Because of this design, the apparent gravity in these areas would be in the same direction whether the ship was spinning or under acceleration. The forward end, the blade of the knife, consisted of cargo, reaction mass, and an enormous heat shield to protect the ship during its interstellar voyage. In this area gravity would seem to shift from up to down as the starship went from acceleration to spinning.

Daniel found the door to the crew cab at the end of the corridor. A grounder would call this cab an elevator, but cabs don't elevate anything when the spaceship is in zero g. This was the sector one cab. Imagine taking the ship lengthwise and cutting it into eight pie slices or sectors. Number them clockwise from zero to seven. Sector zero contains the main docking bay, the place where the ship attaches to a space station.

In the middle is the core. Small ships have a core stair, a long ladder that extends the length of the ship. Large ships like the Nina have a core cab instead to help move large items around the ship. The core cab is analogous to the freight elevator in some large buildings, used only for moving large objects such as carts, equipment, and furnishings. It is not called a "freight" cab because in a starship, "freight" is what lies in the cargo holds.

Ships that are large enough for a core cab usually also have a crew stair, a ladder that extends through all the decks. Normally, crew are expected to use the crew stair instead of the core cab. The very largest ships have a crew cab instead of a crew stair. Traditionally, the crew cab or stair is in sector one for convenient access to the docking bay in sector zero. The Nina was one of the largest ships every built. She had two crew cabs, one in sector 1 and another in sector four, directly across from the docking bay.

Daniel took the cab rearward --which was also downward at the moment-- for several levels. When the air-tight doors blossomed open, he found himself in a beautifully engineered living area. The ceiling, eighteen feet above the deck, was constructed of millions of tiny mirrors: nanotech manufacture. The mirrors were oriented in such a way that anyone who looked at them from below would see into an infinite reflection. The effect was almost identical to the blue skies of Earth. The light of a warm golden sun shown from behind a high wall, the illusion powered by a brilliant chromatically-correct light above the ceiling.

Occasionally Daniel knew, the sky would cloud up --an optical illusion created by millions of nanoservers re-orienting millions of the tiny mirrors-- and a light rain would fall. Daniel had read that the biggest technical challenge of the artificial sky had been to get the rain to fall hard enough when it was falling such a short distance in a low-g environment. The problem had finally been solved with hundreds of thousands of tiny squirt guns.

Daniel turned left down a cobblestone street curving gently away in the near distance. The little street was about ten feet wide with a hedge on one side and a nine-foot stone wall on the other. Behind the wall were apartments, storage, and other areas that were accessible only from the other side. Over the wall, set well back to give the impression of open space, the buildings rose to the eighteen feet, and had windows overlooking the lane. It was impossible to tell that the buildings intersected the illusory sky.

As Daniel walked along the lane, the hedge sported an occasional gap, an intimate little path into the growth beyond. On the other side, was an occasional doorway in the wall, a back entrance into the living quarters on the other side. The doorways were actually just open hatches, airtight barriers that would close automatically in case of an air loss on either side.

Twice, Daniel passed under a large arch, another concealed hatch, into a courtyard. Each courtyard was a small village marketplace with apartments and a few storefronts. The third such courtyard was Daniel's new home.

Daniel paused and asked the air: "VOCI, what is my apartment again?"

The microphone on his collar broadcast the request to the ship's AI system through the VOcal Computer Interface. The artificial intelligence processed his question in microseconds and returned the answer through the ear piece on his collar: "Level 8, Village 3, Building 2, Apartment 2".

Daniel looked around and then turned his steps toward the building that had a brass "2" on the door. Inside was a cozy living area dominated by a large video screen playing an old Spiderman movie. The only other person in the room was a large Asian-looking man sitting in a lounge chair. The man seemed absorbed by the movie.

Daniel noted the door to his apartment but he didn't go directly there. Instead, he courteously stepped over to put himself in the other man's field of view, expecting the man to look up so that they could be introduced. The man ignored him. After a moment, Daniel turned to the screen and commented, "Is that Spiderman in the black costume? I remember the gentleman as being more colorful."

"It's Spiderman in a different costume," the man answered absently. "This costume is an alien symbiotic organism but Spiderman doesn't know it."

"Hmm." Daniel observed. "That fits my plan perfectly." He wandered over to a desk and sat down in the comfortable office chair to log into the computer. The man in the lounge chair suddenly asked from over his shoulder, "What do you mean, 'that fits my plan perfectly'?"

Daniel looked innocently over his shoulder to see that the movie had been paused. "The explanation is long, Sir, and I do not want to interrupt your entertainment. Besides, I am trying to find out what is going on around here."

"What do you mean, Sir, 'what is going on'?"

The clouded moon appeared on Daniel's screen, and Daniel seemed too absorbed to answer as he typed at the keyboard. The stranger got up to see what he was doing. As Daniel felt the man approach behind him he turned around, stood courteously, and offered his hand, "By the way, I am Dr. Daniel Greaves. I have just been assigned to this building."

The stranger took his hand, "Dr. Peter Li. I just arrived a half an hour ago myself."

"Did anyone explain why they revived you, Dr. Li?"

"They did not, Dr. Greaves, should I have expected otherwise?"

"As to you I cannot say, Dr. Li, but I most certainly was not on the early arrival list."

"Nor was I." Peter answered, thoughtful now.

"So neither of us was scheduled for revival until the later stages of the mission. Other astronauts were to have built us living quarters on a space station because the ship does not have enough room for all 20,000 astronauts. Yet here we are, Sir, wandering around in a nearly empty ship.

"When I interrogated the med tech about our situation, the gentleman would tell me nothing except that we are not at our original destination. The rest, so he tells me, is classified. But why would they be keeping secrets when everyone on this mission has qualified for the highest security levels?"

"Well. That is a bit ... sinister, Dr. Greaves." Peter said slowly.

"I don't know that I would call it 'sinister'," Daniel sat back down and resumed typing, "The flotilla has stopped at Star Beta 3. The original mission called for a close hyperbolic approach to this star for observation, but no stopping."

"The entire flotilla stopped?" Peter asked.

"Yes, and stopping is no small matter. We will have to build a mass projector and launch caches along our route before we can continue on our way. This is a multi-decade project."

"So they have essentially decided to make this our destination. But that can only be because they found a planet in the life zone!"

"Actually, Dr. Li, they found a collection of planet-sized moons orbiting a gas giant. Moon 3 has water clouds and some bright green areas."

"Green?" Peter was even more excited now, "Not chlorophyll?"

"That is the question I was about to answer." Daniel typed a few more keys and struck the last with a flourish, "Here we go."

A window popped up on the screen and Peter leaned over Daniel's shoulder to read. He breathed the word in awe, "Chlorophyll."

Daniel just stared at the screen. He had speculated, of course, but until now he hadn't really considered it a serious possibility. They had discovered alien life. Not only life, but life based on chlorophyll, just like the plants of Earth. It was more astonishing than anything he could have hoped for. What else was there? Had they sent probes to the planet? Had they landed? Were there alien animals? Daniel hadn't felt this excited in decades. Here was real exploration!

It was the worst possible time for the door to open. Peter sensibly ignored it but Daniel couldn't ignore the duties of courtesy. He sighed, and then stood to look around Peter. A man and woman stood at the entrance. Both of European extraction. The man perhaps more northern and the woman more Mediterranean. Both in their late thirties to early forties and they had that long-time couple look. Daniel called across the room to welcome them to building 2. As he stepped around Peter, the man took over his seat without so much as an "excuse me".

Daniel laid it to the enthusiasm of youth, and went to greet the new couple. He met them in the middle of the room where they exchanged introductions. Dr. Jackie and Mr. Harold Walenski. Daniel gestured to the rube who had taken over his console, "That gentleman is Dr. Peter Li. He seems to be a bit distracted over the discovery."

Jackie Walenski was a pleasant, outgoing woman. She asked immediately, "What discovery is that, Dr. Greaves?"

"Before I answer, Dr. Walenksi, let me ask you something: did you know that we aren't at Star Gamma 7?"

"We knew that, Sir." Harold Walenski answered. The man seemed a bit stiff, but not unfriendly, "We did a quick database scan on the way here. And I'll venture that your discovery explains the reason that the flotilla stopped at Beta 3. It will take decades to get back underway."

"In part, Sir. They found liquid water on a few of the moons orbiting a gas giant."

"Really?" Harold Walenski seemed interested but not excited. "But these moons can be of no use to us. Beta 3 is far too radioactive; the zone about the star that will support liquid water is inhospitable due to intense radiation. We could never survive there and this is why the original plan was to bypass the system."

Peter interjected from his console without turning around, "But these moons are much further from the star's life zone. The gas giant has some internal source of heat that warms the moons. Also, the moons are protected by a Van Allen belt to end all Van Allen belts. Oh, and Moon 3 seems to have plant life."

"What?!" The Drs. Walenski exclaimed in unison and darted over to the console to read over Peter's shoulder. That left no room for Daniel so he went to his apartment to get his own keyboard. With that in his hands, he could take over the big screen and make it a computer monitor. Power will be mine! he thought with a grin.

The apartment was a tiny place. All the furniture was folded up into the walls. One could put down either the bed, or the vanity/desk surface, but not both together. Or one could arrange half of the bed to create a couch, which left a bit of room for the desk chair and an acceptable, if un-ideal, conversation setting. The cramped, private rooms contrasted with the large and inviting public areas. This was a deliberate effort to counter space withdrawal --that condition in which space travelers become isolated and withdrawn, often leading to severe agoraphobia. The cramped quarters were intended to provide a bit of privacy while at the same time discouraging anyone from spending too much time alone. The quarters were big enough for sleeping, for an hour or two of personal computer work, or for an intimate evening with a lover, but they were not comfortable for extended use.

Despite the urgency of his curiosity, Daniel spent a few minutes like anyone does in a new home. He opened the bed and lay on it: surprisingly comfortable. He converted it to a couch: acceptable. He opened the vanity/desk and examined himself in the mirror. He had shaved, showered, and combed his hair in the recovery room, and nothing had fallen too badly out of place since then. On impulse, Daniel logged in at the workstation. He had mail. No time to check it now as he detached the wireless keyboard and folded the desk back up. He opened the several lockers. Inside one --delivered by a robot when he had been assigned this room-- was a small plastic bag containing all his worldly goods.

The bag looked tiny and lost, a small sack holding less than two pounds, luxuriating in a space designed for a thirty-pound spacechest. Each starfarer had been allowed thirty pounds of luggage, but Daniel had been unable to think of anything that he wanted to bring with him. Clothing? He would be spending the rest of his life in a spacesuit and coveralls. Photographs? He download them all into the ship's database --no weight penalty. Shaving kit? The ship supplied everything he needed for personal hygiene. Computer? He would always have wireless access to ship's computers far more powerful than anything he could carry. Books, games, movies? Practically every book, game and movie that was available on Earth, was in the ship's database. Sports equipment? The ship carried everything needed for any shipboard activity. Money? That was just numbers in the ship's computer.

At first Daniel had thought that he would bring nothing. Naked had he come into the Earth and naked would he leave it. But at the end, he had brought three small items. Everything he had from his planet of birth was in that forlorn little sack nestling at the bottom of the locker. He gazed at it for a moment, but then closed the locker without reaching for it. All he had really come for was the keyboard.

Not that the keyboard was really necessary. Daniel could put on his visor and do anything he needed to do with hand gestures or VOCI but those interfaces were a bit less efficient; no one had yet found a higher-bandwidth way of communicating to a computer than with a keyboard --except for neural connections, and those required surgery.

Daniel returned to the living room with his prize and stopped in delight when he spotted another newcomer. A beautiful young Filipino woman, no more than twenty-five, stood in the middle of the room, her arms folded defensively across her breast. Sarah Osmena had been with Daniel in ground camp and they had been close friends.

Sarah was a born spacer. Small, lightweight people were in high demand for space work because it was far less expensive to move them and their food around. Because of this, there more Filipinos in space than any other nation. They had been in space for so long that many of them, like Sarah, were born there.

At ground camp, Daniel had noticed the shy young woman and had made a special effort to befriend her and help her make friends. She was tiny, below five feet tall and rather child-like in behavior. Daniel smiled, remembering how she was so child-like and so shyly adorable that it was a constant struggle to not grab her into a big hug. Of course it wasn't really acceptable to have casual physical contact with people who were not family. Especially not between men and women.

Then there had been the incident of the physical aptitude test. Poor Sarah had been very nervous about it even though it had been obvious to everyone except her that she would pass easily. Daniel would have thought is was funny if he had not felt badly for her obvious distress. So Daniel had given her encouragement and helped her practice. Mostly he had just been there to empathize. Immediately after she passed, Sarah ran to share the news with him. So excited, so bouncy and child-like and obviously wanting a congratulations hug in the worst way, but too shy to initiate it. Daniel had impulsively spread his arms. Big mistake.

Sarah had launched herself against his chest and squeezed him so enthusiastically that he had feared for his ribs. The girl was uncommonly strong for someone who looked so delicate. And ever afterward she would hug him, hold his hand, sit in his lap (in public!), and generally act like family. It was all quite inappropriate. Daniel didn't really mind, though.

Now, watching her across the room, Daniel could see that she was feeling shy and uncertain again. She had not seen him yet and the others were ignoring her. She would be enthusiastic to see a friend. So enthusiastic that Daniel feared for his ribs again. Oh well, the medical care on a starship is very good.

He could at least keep her from flying across the room and knocking him off his feet by sneaking up from behind. Daniel stifled a grin and started to edge around the room.


Sunday, May 15, 2005

Carnival of Comedy

Oops. I forgot to mention that the Carnival of Comedy is up. I'd explain why I forgot but it's kind of a funny story and you're about to be funnyed out by reading the Carnival.