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Sunday, July 31, 2016

Staycation 2016, Day 2

I'm nearing the end of the second day of my 2016 "staycation" (what an ugly word), and I have accomplished nothing. I guess that's what holidays are for, but I feel like I should at least clean up my office. Today I slept in until 11, ran some errands with Sylvia, then napped from 4 until 8. I think I'll turn in early; maybe tomorrow will be a more fruitful day. 


Jeff Shyluk said...

If you recall, Tutorbot, through an unfortunate accident after being given the knowledge of the Universe, was demolished, de-activated for a thousand years, and re-activated in the far future by a friendly Gnatbot. What happens after that is this: I don't know yet.

Here, instead, is what happened one day in school back when Tutorbot was still teaching to uppermiddleclass children on board the orbital space station:

Tutorbot was required to provide interface time with the parents of the children he taught. Normally, this took place by AvaTome, the current proxy-communication network. The parents would demand a bliptake which Tutorbot would provide, detailing the child's progress in the classroom. The parents would then sharify the bliptake so that the parent with the most likeys could boast in public and continue to drink in private, while the parent with the least likeys would probably commit suicide or at least not post for a week, which is very much the same.

"I'm concerned Geroy Tango-Epsilon isn't making adequate progress," complained Mr. Tango-Epsilon, the father.

"I understand," replied Tutorbot. Mr. Tango-Epsilon was sitting in Tutorbot's office, which was difficult since Tutorbot did not have an office. He had at best a recharge station. Mr. T-E was sitting on a plastic milk crate, which itself was an immeasurably priceless artefact from The Olde Earth, so priceless that nobody knew that it was valuable let alone missing from the federal archives. Nobody ever saw it, which is why nobody ever reported it missing, or thought to look for it in a Tutorbot recharge station. It had Olde Englyshe fontletters on it that decried theft of said milk crate was punishable by severe punishment. The fontletters were all upside-down, though, since if they were rightsideupways, you couldn't sit on the box.

The fact that Mr. T-E was sitting on a milk crate (priceless!) was in itself indicative of the nature of Mr. T-E's child. Geroy was a sweet intelligent child, but unlike the rest of his uppermiddleclass cohort, he was obviously never destined to rise to any of the multitude of desk jobs mandatory to run a functional space station. The old case of the apple failing to fall far from the tree: Mr. Tango-Epsilon didn't even live or work on the station. He was a licensed ukulele tuner for long-haul interstellar freightcargos, a job that took him to the farthest bounds of occupied space, and one that required uncanny nerve and dextrous fingers. Geroy Tango-Alpha could instantly identify any musical note and he sat at the desk closes to the porthole, where he often gazed at the stars glittering in the vastness of space. Too bad for young Geroy that licensed ukulele tuning was a career plagued by reverse-nepotism: it was traditional that the person replacing a retiring ukulele tuner would be a complete stranger and above all never a blood relative of the original tuner. Horrifying stories of space-maddened flight crews locked in bloody mutiny over a dissonant version of "Over The Rainbow" percolated within Tutorbot's memory bank, but these tales were too gruesome to retain in active RAM, let alone verbalize. The ukulele tuner's guild was too aware of the chaos that could result if they let up their guard even for an instant.

Jeff Shyluk said...

Tutorbot formulated a question: "Have you ever visited the palaces of Q'on?"

Mr. Tango-Epsilon frowned with his forehead betraying disconnected signals that arced and jumped like sparks in the space just behind them.

"I suppose nobody has, not for twenty thousand years," Tutorbot smoothed over the confounding remark. "It is said that the King's palace was at one time ringed with impenetrable defenses. This was because Q'on was Qin's father, and he lived in the time before Emperor Q'in showed us all the way of mutual love and understanding, rendering both weapon and defense utterly useless as we all know today.

"In those times, the King was unquestionably mighty, yet a powerful few sought to sow fear and anarchy among the people. Once such raider was Constantinius The Considerable, who had amassed an army far greater than any ever assembled before, dwarfing even the fearsome King's Guard.

"The Guard was crushed in a battle that lasted four hundred years. Constantinius arrayed his remaining troops to surround Q'on's palace. Ten million of Constantinius' men died breaching the walls. Another ten million perished making a hideous human bridge to cross the moat. Millions more were taken in the Forest Of Traps. Constantinius' own praetorians were slain in single combat against the King's Chosen Sons, who also died. Constantinius was down to a dozen living troops, each who succumbed to the blasted salt flats that lead to the magnificecnme of the King's Garden.

"Alone, his last man dead, Constantinus himself mounted the steps to the beautiful garden and planted his vile flag in the emerald lawn, which at the time was indeed made of emeralds. At the edge of the walk that led to the main castle was a peach tree, which attracted Constantinus with its sweet juicy fruit, Constantinius being ravenous with thirst on account of the guardsmen, wall, moat, traps, more guards, and especially the salt flats.

"He bit into a peach, but accidentally inhaled the pit which was the perfect diameter to lodge inextricably within his windpipe, and so expired.

"'I don't recall ever planting this tree', Q'on told Q'in sometime afterwards, 'But I've kept it since I've always enjoyed a good peach.' He bit into the fruit in his hand: 'You just have to be wary of the pit.'".

Jeff Shyluk said...

Had Tutorbot a human face, he would have emulated one of mankind's most complicated inventions: the expression of subtle appreciation.

Mr. Tango-Epsilon remained a solid block in mortal form.

Tutorbot's well-worn internal sigh circuit blazed for the four hundred and ninety seven millionth time of its lifetime, precisely. Five hundred and three million more activations remaining until replacement.

"All conventional means to stop the approach of the enemy upon the King ultimately failed. They did their job, but it was not enough. Ultimately, it was the one thing that nobody had planned on that killed the villain and saved the Kingdom. Young Q'in took this lesson to heart when he planned The Empire."

Tutorbot continued: "Yes, we have our bureaucracy and this functions to keep us safe and productive, which is why we value it so. It provides measurable gains towards keeping our people protected and comfortable. Without the many, many office workers on this space station, for example, we would undoubtedly be exposed to the vacuum and die since work orders would never be processed, overtime slips would not be honoured, and quarterly reports would not be distributed, crippling our morale. So, we thus prize the values we can qualify."

"But what about the elements of society that defy qualification? How do we value them? Typically, we do not, as they are overlooked at best and removed from the community by prejudice and violence at the worst. Yet as the sapling grows in the emerald lawn, just a little water, a patch of soil, and a modicum of sunlight are all it needs to bear delicious fruit. It does not ask for more than to fulfill its potential on its own terms. Sometimes, all it will do is bear sweet fruit for a season. Yet sometimes that might be enough to turn an entire army. It may be the only thing that keeps our civilization from disintegrating into selfishness and anarchy."

The blank bewilderment presented by Mr. Tango-Epsilon was measurable by Tutorbot's internal scale, but it was close to pegging the needle and forcing a recalibration.

"Your son Geroy will be fine," concluded Tutorbot, "Just give him some time."