Probably Karma

Playing With Fire

You want to think there’s a reason things happen. This tendency in humans causes a lot of grief, I’ve found. Example, one possible explanation for why my fellow citizens are so likely to fall for idiotic conspiracy theories. It all turns on two mutually exclusive assumption: 1) Either a secret cabal of politicians/Illuminati/People-Who-Are-Not-You are in charge of everything or 2) No one is in charge of anything and chaos reigns. All one has to do is pick your scenario and run with it. A surprising number of folk choose option 1 because it’s a lot less scary to them than option 2.

Drifting from the topic a little, which is karma…maybe. Remember last time I mentioned our cat got skunked? Not only that, two days later the fluffy little idiot went out and got skunked again. He is now under curfew. Come evening, the cat door gets locked. I try to tell him it’s his own fault, but he is quite put out about not being let out.

On top of which Microsoft is pulling an Apple stunt and my perfectly fine and stable computer is now obsolete. So just to spite them I’m doing a build your own with just enough new parts to satisfy the requirements and refusing to buy a new computer. I’m not against an upgrade but I hate being forced into it.

Feels like I’m being punished for something.

Not Getting Back to Normal…Ever

After the CDC revised guidelines on COVID and the fully vaccinated no longer have to wear masks inside public spaces, I…still wear the mask. And probably will for the foreseeable future. I’ve seen a couple of arguments for doing so. Which to no one’s shock in our current period of cultural upheaval have absolutely nada to do with whether it is safe to forego the mask, but they are somewhat revealing.

The first goes something like this: I still wear the mask because no one will have any idea who is vaccinated and who isn’t, and I don’t want to make people worry about being near me. Besides, I don’t want anyone to mistake me for one of those Q loons.

Oddly enough the second argument takes the opposite tack but comes to the same conclusion: Well, I wasn’t wearing one, because FREEDOM, but now I’ll start because I wouldn’t want anyone to think I’m one of those vaccinated and Gates-chipped sheeple.

Whatever works. I personally plan to keep wearing my mask for reasons more in line with the first than the second, but there’s a good bit more to it. In the 2019-2020 flu season approximately 38 Million (that’s million with an M) caught seasonal flu and about 57000 people died. In the 2020-2021 flu season? Just over 2000 confirmed cases total and maybe 200 deaths. Not to mention, congruent with the flu season, I normally come down with a really nasty sinus infection lasting weeks. Every. Damn. Year.

Except this one.

Cause and effect or mere correlation? Personally I don’t give a rats’ tuchus. Masks work. Some Asian countries already knew this, especially in dense population areas like Tokyo where “social distancing” is not so much frowned on as nearly impossible. Masks are common in public, COVID or no COVID. I think we need to take a lesson.

Besides, this way I don’t have to shave as often. It’s a win-win.

No Empathy, No Normal

I took First Reader off to a nearby town to get her second Moderna vaccination. We’re hoping for mild side effects. The first one left her arm sore for about three days, some temporary lethargy, but otherwise not much. My second was back in March, so in theory I’m good. In practice? I’m thinking Covid-Resistant but not Covid-immune. I expect to be wearing a mask when I’m out and about for the foreseeable future.

It’s not such a big deal for a lot of reasons. It’s inconvenient, but compared to dying with your lungs full of jelly or causing someone else to do so? I’ll wear the mask, thanks. I’ve heard all the reasons for not wearing a mask. With extremely few exceptions, they’re BS of the first water. Worse, they’re selfish, and usually expressed in terms of “I’ll be fine” as if that’s the only thing in the world that matters.  The whole point about living in a civilization is that it’s not “everyone for themselves,” and to do that right, it takes a little bit of empathy.

Empathy is apparently a rare trait among large populations of my fellow Americans these days. Not sure why. Maybe it was always this way and I’m just being naïve, but the fact is undeniable. I remember the recent case of the Fox News Personality who said he’d always been against paid parental leave, thought it was nonsense…until he fathered a child. Suddenly it wasn’t nonsense anymore, but a darn good idea. Which, whether he realized it or not, illustrates a complete lack of empathy.  We’ve all heard the variants: “If it doesn’t happen to me, it doesn’t happen” or “If I don’t need it, no one does.” Whether the problem is an unwillingness to place yourself in someone else’s shoes for a bit, or a lack of capacity to do so, the result is the same. I imagine future dissertations and peer-reviewed research on the subject. Maybe someone will sort it out in the future, but the rest of us must live with the consequences for now.

Or at least try to.

On the Road to Shalas

Lots going on in the world, but nothing I want to talk about. So instead I’m offering a snippet of the WIP. Marta is returning to Shalas after the events of Power’s Shadow, and the vague “he” referenced is a person she doesn’t know she knows, and that’s all the context you’re going to get, because that’s what the book’s for.

The next morning Marta reclaimed her horse and set out on the road south. Dessera had tucked herself out of the sun and into some quiet crevice of the saddle bag. Bonetapper rode on Marta’s shoulder, sound asleep. He’d spent the night scouting the southern road until it reached the sea and turned east toward Shalas and didn’t return until just before dawn.

“Didn’t see anything or anyone at all until I reached the sea road,” he reported. “Traveling merchants, one or two wandering priests. Not much else. Either he didn’t go that way or he’s better at hiding than I am at looking.”

“Interesting, but not very reassuring. No matter; we have to take this route if we’re going to reach Shalas before winter.”

That was the end of the discussion and Bonetapper nodded off soon after. Marta rode on, enjoying the silence. She was tempted to turn west when she reached the sea road; it was the most direct route to Lyksos and home. Yet circumstances had dictated that she leave her cart and pony in Shalas, and she was not inclined to abandon either. As for home…was there really any point in going there at all? She would only have to leave again when the Arrow Path relented and showed her the path to the Seventh Law.

Assuming it ever did.

This possibility was one Marta did not enjoy considering. The Arrow Path asked a great deal, whether you were the witch following it or the one who incurred the Debt because of it. Those who accepted the bargain an Arrow Path witch offered did so freely if not always wisely. They weighed the value of what they received against what they gave up, and for them the scales balanced. For those who followed the Arrow Path, the bargain, both in terms of value and loss, was not so clear. Yes, it led them to the Laws of Power without which they would be unable to meet their obligations, with the promise of both power and the freedom to use it however one saw fit at the end of it all. That was the lure that brought so many to it. But was this ‘promise and hope of mist and smoke,’ as the child’s rhyme went?

Has anyone ever found all Seven Laws?

Perhaps her mother had done so. She was, after all, widely regarded as the most powerful witch in the Seven Kingdoms. But if she had found it, why had nothing changed for her, in all the time Marta had known her? And then there was the undeniable fact that Marta’s own discovery of the Sixth Law owed more to dumb luck than guidance and she did not feel any pull from the direction of the Seventh Law at all.

We had a bargain, Amaet. Me, my mother, and every Arrow Path sorceress who ever lived. Are you going to honor it? Or have I, after all I’ve been through, misunderstood everything the Arrow Path was supposed to be?

It was a careless thought which Marta regretted immediately when the voice echoed through her skull like a bad memory.

“Smart girl,” said the familiar voice. “Would you be surprised to know your mother asked the same question? It’s true. And she had her answer. Will you have yours? The anticipation is delicious.”

“And when will I know?” Marta asked. “Will you tell me that much at least?”

“Certainly, because it’s something I need you to understand when the time comes.  You will have your answer,” Amaet said, “When you find the Seventh Law of Power.”

“But—” Marta didn’t bother to finish. The silence in her mind told her not to waste her time.

(c) 2021 Richard Parks

Almost There…

In the movie reference sense. Will the Deathstar(tm) (45’s Admin) finally blow up? Will the new year be better than 2020? Danged if I know. It’s hard to imagine much worse, and I have a fairly decent imagination. Yet reality continues to surprise me…one of the wonders and drawbacks of being in touch with reality, even if you don’t always live there.

So here we are. Either at the tail end of chaos or just getting started. I’m optimistic enough to remain cautiously optimistic, and we will see.

It reminds me of a discussion of The Uncanny Valley (TUV) over on FB(and a previous post For those who don’t know, TUV is a metaphor, usually applied to computer graphics. At the point where, say, a CGI rendition of a human becomes no longer “cartoonish” but yet not quite completely lifelike, not quite “right.” This is the Uncanny Valley, where many people might react to the image with unease and even fear, though they might not know why. Never had that problem myself, but I understand the reaction. Possibly there’s an evolutionary advantage, where a dappled patch of sunlight in the tall grass is actually a lion waiting to pounce, but the fact that it looks slightly “off” might prod an ancestor to avoid it, and thus live to reproduce.

Or maybe it doesn’t have anything to do with evolution at all. It occurs to me that TUV may be uncomfortable because it is, in the truest sense, a liminal space. A transitional condition between one thing and another thing, and thus not quite either one. This tends to put us off balance, and also explains why some people have aversions to such mundane things as bridges and thresholds. Ask yourself: are you more comfortable in a cozy room with a nice chair or walking down a long hallway?

And that’s what we are rapidly approaching. The end of one thing but not yet the start of another. Probably the reason our forebears thought the veil between worlds was weak this time of year. From now until 2021 is a liminal space. Something ending (we bloody hope) and something new beginning (we also bloody hope). A tricky time, for everyone, but hang on.

Almost there.