Archive for August, 2012

August 31, 2012: 10:38 pm: Tales of the Aggregate, writing

Ji lay on her back staring at the Moon. She had picked this place because it was high up and away from everyone. It had the majestic desolation and gigantic skeletons of buildings that Estellay had, but without the crowds.

Stories of poisonous mutant reptiles kept the idle curious out of the Empire Desert. Around her sat miles of ruins, once homes and shops a long time ago. Most were just crumbling cement foundations now, most likely harboring a few reptiles. Some were poisonous, she doubted any were actually mutants.

when she heard the news, she headed straight out to her favorite spot in what was once known as Ontreo. The building she climbed had resisted the crumbling and wreckage of time that had taken down so many other of the ruins. Large orange letters from the ancient alphabet still clung to the side. She translated them once but it made no sense to her. House-Train Station? Something had definitely been lost in the translation.

But whatever it had been, it was now a solid steel structure that somehow hadn’t rusted into collapse. She had grabbed a bag of her traditional M&Ms, hit the road and here she lay, staring up into the night sky.

She loved M&M’s. They gave her a sense of history. “Brand names” had been a big thing in the pre-Delian times and though many had fallen int he delian age sophistication and the following collapse, M&M’s somehow had survived. The product had changed much over the centuries. It was odd to her to think that the lightly candied pretzel bits, nuts and cherry balls she enjoyed were not at all what the snack had been like even 100 years ago. She had researched the matter and found a historian who claimed the original M&Ms had been hard candies with a bean paste inside. She wasn’t sure she believed that but she accepted that the brand hadn’t always meant the food she loved now. And yet that was part of the reason she loved them. She felt like she was eating history.

The nostalgia brought back to a poem she learned as a little girl that had always stoked her fascination with the Moon.

Up on the Moon you cannot fall
Up on the Moon to wait in the hall
Up on the Moon untillen we call
Up on the Moon come back to us all

And now they were.

August 28, 2012: 12:48 am: Tales of the Aggregate, writing

The last of the special council’s members shuffled across the plush red carpets and took their seats. Councilman Go nodded for the bailiff to bring int he guests.

Three scientists in impeccable clothes that were utterly wrong for their complexion and bearing were accompanied by a much more accurately dressed pair of lawyers. They walked to the long authentic oak table in the center of the chamber and took their seats facing the council.

A bailiff recited the ancient litany of a council opening complete with 18th century “oyehs” and all and the Council Chief banged his gavel.

“This meeting of the complete council of the city of Los Angeles and all its districts, dependencies and aligned municipalities is called to order. The council will yield its opening time to the Mayor of the Citadel and Supervisor of the Hall of Justice.”

The Mayor rose quickly and mechanically recited. “The citadel recognizes the City Manager and yields the floor for the business of the department.”

And thus the real leader of the Citadel of Ellay as it was styled in more modern terms, began the actual meeting.

She did not rise or speak a word of ceremony, but directly addressed the scientists.

“You are the members of the mathematical sociology department at UCLA?” they nodded their agreement. “Thank you for coming. We called you hear to discuss your recent published and reviewed paper, “Rise of the Anti-Citadel Movement and Best Practices for City Management.” I think it would be best if one of you summarized your findings of rthe benefit of those int he council who may not have had a chance to read and or understand the paper in question.

A slightly built researcher named Miu took the lead.

“Thank you Mr. City Manager. Our paper very simply put, lays out the mathematical basis for the finding that the current Anti-Citadel Movement will be the most effective one yet, and will likely disrupt the governing ability of most citadels. Our paper also lays out the benefits and deficits of several considered responses the Citadels could take.”

The City Manager nodded, “Succinctly put. And what does your paper say is the best course, and why?”

“With respect, Mr. City Manager, it doesn’t choose a best option. There are an array of positives and negatives that are beyond the realm of science to discern as an objective best. Some leave the citadels in ruins, but create conditions for a swift recovery. Others smash the movement, but replace current stability with a rising dictatorship. Others lead to wars of varying fatality, or climate events, and other such negatives. It is up to government to choose what course seems best. Our job was to lay out the choice. ”

She continued before the City Manager could finish interrupting. “That said, two of our scenarios have proved most popular and seem to carry the most effectiveness. The so-called ‘Branding’ option, recasts the Anti-Citadel Movement as heretical and relegates them to a persecuted class. This would lead to the fall of the citadel system but has the benefit of a quick return to prosperous civilization within a few hundred years.

“The other option is the “Reed-bending” plan which sees the citadels accede to most of the demands of the Movement but not all, thus depriving them of momentum and support. This will significantly slow the decline of the Citadel System at the cost of some social stability. However it raises the probability of a long period of low prosperity and organization went he citadel system finally does decline.”

“So dump the problem on our descendants and give them little hope for a quick recovery, or rip the bandage off and hope for the best. Do I have it right?” Asked the City Manager.

“Yes sir,” the scientist nodded.

“Questions for the team?” The City Manager opened his time to the chamber. He knew nobody would ask a thing. All the discussions and debates were handled on public forums in front of any interested citizens long before this meeting.

“In that case we would like to–” Councilman Go raised his hand.

“How many will die?” Go asked without waiting to be called on.

The scientist didn’t pause in her answer. “In the branding scenario, over 945 million in the interim between fall and restoration. A few hundred years. In the “Reed-bending” plan 15 billion total at the end of the decline.”

Her colleague a young sandy-haired researcher added “Those are weighted numbers of deaths attributed to cause above the standard churn at a current baseline.”

The chief scientist smirked. “He means those are the deaths that wouldn’t happen if it weren’t for the upheaval. Not total deaths for all causes.”

The City Manager barely heard the answer. Councilman Go had just performed a coup. It was unheard of to ask a question in these cases, because it made the council member look unprepared. But Go had risked it in order to gain this moment. Now the council could not vote for reed-bending because in every summary, report and truthful edit of the proceedings, it would look like a bot on how many people should die. They were now locked into the distasteful religious option.

The City Manager did not bother to dismiss the guests, but moved straight into a vote. The bailiff escorted the. Scientists out anyway. The vote began and the age of the Citadel ended.

August 16, 2012: 12:34 am: Tales of the Aggregate, writing

The Lonely Tower of Ellay

Outside the great salt plains of western Nortemerica stands a beautiful brick tower of unknown age. Estimates range from two to five thousand years old but it is in perfect condition. No hints to the purpose of the tower can be found inside. A curving ramp, punctuated by openings just large enough to stick an arm out, wraps around the interior. The ramp levels to create platforms by the openings, just wide enough for a person to stand. At the top is a circular spot with a 360 degree view of the surrounding plains.

Archaeologists best guess is that the tower was built for defense, but there the theory ends. There is nothing to defend. No settlement exists and no natural resource worth defending sits nearby.

Surviving records only refer to it as an outpost of the Citadel of Ellay.

However what may have been there in the past is largely unknowable. All that can be found near the tower are traces of a huge explosion that would have incinerated everything within several kilometers. However the tower itself appears to have been unaffected by the blast.

And that leads us to the strangest detail of all. The brick of the tower can be dated and is certainly several thousand years old. But it is in fine condition. Too good. The entire tower, sometime after it’s construction, was sprayed with a complex carbon polymer that protects the brick from degradation. It protects it so well, that only in a few rare places can scientists even get to the brick to analyze it. I these few places where the sealant was either misapplied or worn away, the slightest cracks reveal an aged and crumbling brick. But everywhere else the brick appears merely old but in excellent repair.

In one case the sealant gap was big enough to allow an entire brick to be eroded, but the sealant around the brick was not, yielding an almost invisible case. This technology would seem to have been perfect for windows, but was never used in that way. The gaps in the tower are wide open to the air, and there is no evidence here was ever any covering.

The concrete used inside to make the ramp and platform, reveals little more information. It too was sealed and without gaps. That means it has been impossible to date it to see if it is contemporary with the brick or a later remodeling. The polymer seal is impenetrable to any modern solvent or force. Only lost Delian technology could have moved or broken it.

Still, archaeologists continue to comb over the site, hoping for a sealant crack, or a tidbit of material that escaped destruction to give them a bit more information on the lonely tower of Ellay.

August 15, 2012: 11:42 pm: Tales of the Aggregate, writing

Warren looked at Rida as they bobbed up and down, their capsule tossed by the currents.

“We’re alive,” he said. “We did it.”

“No turning back now,” she smiled.

A sound like destruction of every metal thing you ever knew interrupted them and then ceased.

“Hey!” a voice yelled. “This is Boatman Tira Sukjat. Welcome to Earth?”

A polite way of asking if they were alive or burned to a crisp.

“We’re alive!” shouted Warren. “Thanks for the recovery! It’s nice to be here. Can’t wai to get outside and see what it looks like up close.”

That’s when Warren realized he could barely move. His arms felt like 100-kilogram bar weights as he tried to undo his straps.

“Thank goodness,” yelled back Boatman Sukjat. “Don’t move much OK? The gravity might break a bone. We’ll get you out.”

They had been prepped on the intense gravity on Earth but the reality was much worse than they imagined. The crew of the recovery vessel lifted them out like invalids. They had to sleep in water to reduce the strain on their lunar bred bodies.

When they met with the folks who first contacted them, they did so lying down. Doctors assured them they would adapt enough to stand eventually but they both just wished they could go home.

Most of their mission could have been done without them physically there. They delivered copies of all the data preserved on the Lunar Citadel. They received a briefing and data copies of all the important info preserved on Earth. They would sift through the data and compare notes. This went much faster in person. But one thing they couldn’t have done remotely at all. They couldn’t have conducted a search.

They finally informed Earthside officials of this after the data exchange.

“We notice a lot of data missing from the Earth history’ especially in the post-Delian heretical period,” Rida began.

“Yes, we were hoping maybe you could fill in some of those gaps. You certainly do up until contact was broken,” said the Doctor. “But… That wasn’t very far into post-Delian society, in fact some date the end of the Delian age from that loss of contact. Not that your data isn’t helpful it’s just…”

“You thought there would be more.”

“Yes, especially of late Delian science. There are still things they did we cannot even fathom how. Things as simple as sealants up to advanced cures for diseases and well easier ways to get tot he Moon.”

Rida shrugged off this casual generic for Luna. “You saw our records indicated an Archive capsule was supposed to be sent to us preserving the types of info you speak of. It contained a recent copy of the Internet at the time.”

The Doctor laughed a bit. “Yes, our legends tell of a similar thing. Of course we’ve never determined what the Internet really was. All the records we have are exaggerated, and it looks like yours talk about it in the same vagaries.”

“We think it was real and pretty much as described. We have a small version of it at Amstrong, as you may have seen in our records. We also believe the Archive capsule was real and we think we know where to look for it.”

The Doctor looked skeptical. “If you hadn’t risked your life to be the first people to travel between the Earth and the Moon, I’ll be honest. I wouldn’t listen to a word of this. But setting my prejudices aside. What evidence do you have for the capsule?”

“No more evidence than you have seen that it exists. I think we just have a hater trust and respect for our records than you do, since we never had a period of anarchy to seed them with false data. However observing Earth for signs of life has been an obsession for us. And in a few hundred years we got good at noticing things.

“There is an area in the western region of North America that has a uniform blast radius. It also seems to have a structure preserved near its center. The capsule communications we have all came from a team working feverishly in a region of the LA Citadel called Utah, to preserve records and get the, to the Moon.

“If they tried to launch the records and failed they may still be partially there and there may even be a copy.”

“I know the area you’re speaking of,” The Doctor said, shaking his head. “It’s an odd artifact out near the great salt flats. We have studied it and found nothing like that. I’m afraid it’s just another ruin. The structure in the middle is an empty defensive tower, not a capsule.”

“What was it defending?” Warren finally spoke.

“We don’t know,” the Doctor admitted.

“Will you let us try to find out?” Rida asked.

August 14, 2012: 12:17 am: Tales of the Aggregate, writing

When he crawled out of the tunnel at headquarters nobody was there. Rida had confirmed the issue and hall had been repaired. He found her standing on the railing overlooking Docking Bay.

Docking bay. He thought Bout the literal meaning of it and how shocked he’d been when he learned that as a young boy. A place for ships to dock. Ships from Earth, the big blue ball that shown down on them from time to time. Intellectually he knew they all had begun there, but for him it was a legend. A myth. An unattainable mystical dream to tell stories and dream about but nothing more.

Docking bay to him was just a name for the large open area below central command where all the fans were installed. When the originals had given up on redness from Earth they had begun using Docking Bay to construct the machinery they would need to subsist. Fabs to process raw materials an minerals into tubes and hoses and gears and silicon. Cyclers to take waste products and break out the molecules into reusable growth media, water and even air.

The originals had begin the strict regimen of zero degradation that he had grown up in. Everything was re-used. Anything lost outside the hatches was lost forever. What they had could not be replaced. Each molecule could be re-used, recycled, reformed and refitted, but if they couldn’t find it outside in the Lunar dirt, it could not be replaced.

The originals began an index to track the degradation of materials over time and make sure they could stop leaks and losses quickly. All values started at 1. Recently a few had dropped perilously close to zero. When those ran out it would cause hardship. Hydrogen, Oxygen and Carbon were the most important. Their indexes were perilously low. He had argued with Rida about whether they would approach zero in their lifetime. She was convinced they would.

And now instead of meeting him at the exit hatch to comb over the data of the repair job and how it would effect cycle rates and nudge the indexes, she stood quietly looking out over the machines chugging away in Docking Bay.

“We’ll have to clear it,” she said as he got close to her.

She had been pessimistic before but this was ridiculous. What had set her off?

“Oh come on Rida, don’t be melodramatic, even if you’re right in a decade or so, the machines are what keeps the index–”

“No,” she turned and showed him a bloodless face painted with fear. “We’ll have to clear it for them, Warren.”

“Who?” he asked concerned. He wasn’t sure she was OK. Should he call Infirm? “Who’s them?”

“The Earth-men. They answered,” she began to sob.

He dropped his tools, as his brain attempted to reconcile his understanding of everything.”

August 8, 2012: 10:04 pm: history, humour

The other day I saw some old footage with athletes wearing CCCP on their uniform, the Cyrillic letters for USSR. It got me wondering how the old Soviet Union would be doing in the medal count if it was still together. So I did a quick count and posted it on Twitter.

The inevitable literalnet responded that not all the medals would have been won, because of team restrictions etc. But a few more interesting people replied with curiosity of how the Roman empire would do, or perhaps the British Empire.

Granted, an exhaustive survey would find out the origins of every athlete that medaled and then account for the team restrictions and who might have won if certain atheletes had been barred from medaling because of that. What I did took me too much time as it is, so this is not that and it’s not perfect.

However it is an amusing, at least to me, look at the medal count with old-timey empires put in for fun.

Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
European Union 67 88 75 230
British empire 51 41 54 146
Roman empire (ca. 117) 39 52 49 140
USSR 25 26 45 96
USA 34 22 25 81
People’s Republic of China 36 22 19 77
Holy Roman Empire (ca. 1600) 20 28 24 72
Russian Federation 11 19 22 52
Great Britain 22 13 13 48

Notes: I counted half the US medals in the British Empire since more than half of the US population lives in the old colonies. I also counted half of Italy for the Holy Roman Empire since only northern Italy was part of the time period I used. I also only used half of Great Britain’s medal count for the Roman Empire, since I really didn’t feel like digging up which of the medal winners were from Scotland and Northern Ireland (and possibly Wales and Cornwall etc. etc. if you *really* want to get sticky about it).

August 2, 2012: 6:34 pm: Tales of the Aggregate, writing

Warren cracked his helmet against the wall of the crawl space and yelped.

“I told you not to wear that stupid thing,” Rida laughed over the coms.

Warren just grunted. Rida, and most others mocked him for putting on the helmet when he went to repair vents in the carved crawl spaces of the station.

Mostly they laughed because he didn’t wear pants. Or the suit top. He wore regular clothes and a pressure suit helmet sealed at his neck and attached to air. His reasoning was that the vents didn’t lead outside so were unlikely to lose pressure. But they could spit all kinds of nasty stuff at him and suffocate him. This had never happened to anyone, but Warren sure as hell wasn’t going to be the first.

He got to the vent and saw one hose hanging limp, twit hint occasionally like a sleeping cat. Air was flowing out the side into the crawl space.

“Found it. Outbound hose rotted through. Spitting CO2 out into the CS. Good thing I have this helmet on or I’d have to keep backing out into clear air every five minutes. Should have it done pretty quick.”

“As always, Warren, you’re a genius. Let me know when it’s done and I’ll confirm.” Rida replied in her snottiest tone.