24 July 2016

Conquest: 003: Disparity

003: Disparity

Kleinmorg began as a mill town, slumped down between two mountains along the path of the Towerkil.  Thousands of workers had operated the roaring machines in the big blocky buildings, carding, spinning, and weaving cotton cloth.  Others maintained the canals, the brick railroad-flats, and all the other necessities. But the passage of two centuries had laid waste to the cotton mills, undercut by cheaper labor elsewhere, and Kleinmorg had been left to subside on the slag of its remaining industry: specialty shops for felt and nets and fishing line, a paper mill, a chemical plant, and the foundry.  As the twenty-first century approached, however, even this commerce wilted away.  The trip hammers grew quiet, and the Towerkil ate away at abandoned foundations.

For three generations, Kleinmorg’s young fled to seek opportunities elsewhere.  Blair Felt & Fulling and University of Massachusetts Kleinmorg provided some employment, but for many residents, there was no recourse but welfare. The town hollowed out, blackrotted apartments studding its streets like blighted teeth.  The tax base shrank along with the population, and it declined even further when the largest remaining businesses demanded exemptions from a desperate town council.

All of these things might explain, then, why the tech boom was so surprising.  There seemed to be no particular reason why Kleinmorg would nurture a brilliant young programmer such as John Rensselaer.  But reality doesn’t cater to expectations; the reckless young man found astonishing success in the new frontier of distributed software -- and more than that, also chose to stay and build.  Rensselaer’s company, Supersolutions, wasn’t just a miracle for the millions who used their programs, it was also the first glimpse of how Kleinmorg might reverse its long decline.  Distrosoft existed only in networks, uncentralized and impossible to control, allowing them to evade the grasp of the captured regulatory agencies that would otherwise have continued to strangle autonomous ikons, ios, and other modern marvels.  Especially after the Ramanujan controversy ended most AI research, distrosoft seemed like the future of computing… and perhaps even the future of this former mill town.

Sophia Williams knew none of this.  She knew about Blair F&F, of course, the company that owned numerous smaller businesses (including the power company, the town ponder technics, and a dozen Jerrie Joe franchises).  And she was old enough to remember when John Rensselaer had gone to prison for tax evasion, leaving his brother in charge of Supersolutions -- a suspenseful time for her family, since her father worked in one of the Supersolutions cafeterias and there had been reason to fear the company might be broken up.  But Sophia was seventeen, and not particularly curious or studious.

Sophia just knew that she didn’t want to be hurt any more.  She didn’t want to be scared any more.

“What do you mean, revenge?” she asked Magda.  But it seemed like a stupid thing to say: Annie had already figured out that Sophia was up to something (not that Sophia had done a stellar job of remaining inconspicuous), and Sophia had already named Mikki as the author of the damage to her face.  So she followed up, lamely, by just saying the first true thing that came to mind: “I don’t want to hurt her.  I just want it to stop.”

“I wouldn’t quite use that word, myself,” said Annie, gently affixing tape to the gauze on her cheek.  “Unfortunately, all the decent words for conflict have a martial air to them.  But it seems plain to me that your best recourse against such a powerful member of the bourgeois is going to be extra-legal.”

“Social pressure is more effective and less risky.  And you know almost nothing about this young woman or the situation.  Don’t rush into something just because a few isolated facts conform to your preconceived ideas about social class and your petey sympathies. Be a fox, not a hedgehog,” retorted Magda, who was pouring hot water into a teapot.

Annie scoffed, the loose flesh under her arms jiggling as she packed away her first-aid kit.  “A bruised-up young lady from the north side who lives in one of these printed palaces is complaining about a bullying scion of the local robber barons, and is desperate enough to be fumbling about with some ill-conceived plan involving a shovel, a few ponders, and twelve acres of idiocy.  Explain the con.”

Sophia leaned away from the big woman, creating some distance on the couch between them.  The conversation was confusing.  She wasn’t stupid, she knew, but these women spoke in sentences so dense that they might as well be a foreign language.  It felt hostile… as though they were mocking her.  Why were they even living here, anyway?  They sounded like they belonged on a show, one of those rapid-talking cop shows.  Were they professors with the college?

Whoever or whatever they were, it was stupid to involve them.  She shouldn’t have said anything.  Now she wouldn’t be able to do anything to the Blair ponder; these old women would be able to tattle on her.  Probably for the best, she thought, wryly, since it was kind of a stupid plan.  They were right about that much, anyway.  If she’d been able to think of something so obvious as just moving the ponder to cause an accident, then there would be some sort of alarm or precaution to stop it.

“I’m going to go,” Sophia said.  She forced herself to smile, even though she felt so freaked-out that this all seemed like some strange dream.  “Thank you, my face feels better.”

“Start more simply, Annie,” said Magda, as though she hadn’t heard Sophia.  “Sophia, have you, perhaps, talked to the principal of your school?  Or asked your parents to speak to Cynthia Blair, who will surely have a vested interest in reining in her daughter’s alleged violence, if only for purely pecuniary reasons?”

Sophia stared at her.  How could anyone in town know who the Blairs were -- even know the name of Thomas and Mikki’s mother -- and not know how the world worked?

“No,” she said.  “I can’t prove anything.  Mikki is --” she groped for the appropriate word “-- careful.  And Mrs. Blair, she… well…”

The first and only time Sophia had tried to say anything to her parents about it was three years ago, at the start of high school.  The bullying had been going on for months, but Sophia finally broke down and said something to Momma one afternoon, after Mikki had spit in her hair as she was coming out of gym class.  Momma had listened quietly, picking at the ragged edge of a callus on one thumb as Sophia told about how Mikki had gone from being mean to being downright crazy.  And when Sophia was done, and was sitting there crying, her hair wild and ruined since she’d had to get it wet at school to get the spit out of it, Momma had stared down at her hands and unhappily explained that she thought it was best to just let it go.  She told Sophia about Liz Gustaffson and the Heather family and all the other people who’d crossed the Senator or Cynthia Blair and seen their lives ruined -- jobs lost, evicted, or worse.  And then Momma had looked up at Sophia, her face drawn and helpless, and asked her quietly if maybe she could just get Thomas to help her.  Thomas Blair likes you, she’d said.  Just, you know, get him to help.  He’d do anything for you, right?  She hadn’t needed to explain what she meant, and Sophia hadn’t been able to do anything but turn away and sob even harder.  She’d let it go.

“...it’s not good if Mrs. Blair thinks you’re trying to hurt her family,” Sophia could only say, lamely.

She stood up.  She’d already lost a cat to Mikki Blair, and maybe also a tooth -- it was throbbing with ominously sharp pain.  All she wanted was a way to make it stop, not to ruin her parents lives because two know-nothing busybodies with overstuffed vocabularies wanted to play hero.  Annie had made fun of her for the plan with the ponder -- fine, Sophia would figure something else out.  But she would do it by herself.  These people… she didn’t know them or anything about them.

“Well, ordinarily we would want to ensure that our revenge is strong and swift, but undetectable, to avoid reprisal by said mater iratosa,” said Annie in her rapid and clipped way, looking up at Sophia.  Her brown eyes were clear and wide, despite the swaddling bags that lumped up under them.  She pursed full lips, then added, thoughtfully, “No, we will want to send a message.  And a defensible one, too, in this day and age -- striking at their means of production.”

“Don’t rope the young lady into your class warfare, you lone-star looney,” said Magda.  She crossed her arms disapprovingly.

Sophia wasn’t sure what to say, or how to break into the argument.  It sounded like a well-chewed disagreement, worked over in many previous fights, and she felt very uncomfortable -- and increasingly nervous.  She edged her way to the hall entrance.

“See, you’re frightening her,” said Magda, still speaking to Annie.  She was scolding, but with a bright edge of proven-right triumph in her voice.

“Oh, child, I’m sorry,” said Annie.  “Here now, just sit for a bit and let’s see if we can come up with some way to help you.  We’re your neighbors, after all, and there was a time when that implied some social responsibility.”

“Thank you, but I need to go,” said Sophia, uneasily.  She paused, unsure of what else to say, and ended up only saying “Thank you” a second time.  She turned and fled down the hall and out of their front door, abandoning the house that was crammed full of carpets and furniture and insane old women.

She ran back to her house.  An red ikon with tinted windows was just pulling away from the driveway -- not Mikki’s, Sophia saw with both relief and surprise.  Her parents almost never took ikons home.  It was always too expensive.

Sophia crossed ragged lawns and approached her house, warily, glancing at the shiny red rear of the disappearing ikon before it vanished around a corner.  Had it been someone from her school, coming to see why she’d skipped last period?  That would be strange.  Or Thomas, unable to leave her alone without going to check on her?

She approached her front door.  Something was on the front steps.  A big, brownish-black lump.  It stank -- she could smell it in the crisp February air, even from ten yards’ distance.  A sweet and sickening smell of putrefaction.  Propped on top was something metallic and bright.

Sophia’s breath caught in her throat, and she clenched back a gasp.  She froze and took a long, shuddering breath.

She recognized the tag of her missing cat, Wendigo.


If you’re looking at a TOYOTA CERTIFIED recipe, then you know that you can trust that the recipe will be three things: trustworthy, powerful, and family-friendly.  Every distro included in the recipe will be individually certified by our skilled technicians to ensure that it will work every time, just the way it’s intended.  We also examine how the distros work in combination, just to be certain they get things done the way you expect when you run a recipe on your io.  And we block any threat of “hijacking” by running the recipe on our server banks, thousands of copies at a time.
You rely on recipes to do your banking, to find a ride, to keep your children safe, and to provide healthcare.  You can’t afford for anything to go wrong -- make sure you always use a TOYOTA CERTIFIED recipe to get where you’re going!
  • Karl Phuong, proposed ad copy for OFFICIAL TOYOTA CERTIFICATION FOR DISTROSOFT RECIPES program


LIESL POTS:  Look, I don’t want to oversimplify, but it’s just a fact: the elites of this country said, basically, that the end was nigh.  They were practically out in the streets with sandwich boards in the twenties.  Doctor Gardner’s house, his home, was bombed.  Firebombed.
LEILA-ANNE GOODWILL:  During the San Francisco riots. That was 2028.
POTS:  Yes. And then the next year the August Thesis comes out, and it’s this crazy mess of code.  And  it’s plain to see that wasn’t the end of the world.  [LAUGHS]  It was just what the skeptics said.  It was as if you’d asked a checkers-specific artificial intelligence to play chess, right?  Some of it was brilliant, some of it was wrong, and some of it was just nonsense.
JOHN TENTON:  But we don’t know how much of that was because the Thesis was cut short.  It seems likely that if Gardner hadn’t intervened that Ramanujan -- that it could have done anything.  It seems likely that we just got lucky.  Actually, we don’t even know that much. Keflavík in Iceland is a Gardner installation, and who knows what is going on there?
GOODWILL:  You’re talking about the Times investigation in October on the remaining Gardner Foundation properties.  How about that, Dr. Pots?  Doesn’t Mr. Tenton have a point?  Did mankind just get a mulligan on artificial intelligence? Or is there maybe something dangerous over there in Iceland, working on another August Thesis?
POTS:  This is just fear-mongering.  It’s no coincidence that, that we have these new movements today, peteys and re, uh.
GOODWILL:  Remedievalists?
POTS:  Yes.  They’re both reflections of an underlying discomfort with disruptive new technology.  They’re the new Wobblies or teacher’s unions, trying to hold onto entrenched but deprecated advantages.
TENTON:  You’re saying that the P.D., uh, movement is fighting for entrenched advantages?
POTS:  Well, it’s about economic inequality, which is a terrible problem, of course, but the peteys are also fighting to get back a vision of the past.  But it’s 2040.  The factories aren’t coming back, and bad-mouthing innovation isn’t going to help anything.
  • Rush transcript from 1 Dec 2040 episode of NBC’s Meet the Press


Any book like this one must necessarily begin with the following warning: yes, I am realized, and yes, I believe that the clerics of the Realized Church can and do perform genuine miracles.  But while I do think that the divine shows itself clearly in such acts, I also think that far too many outsiders (and maybe even some of the faithful!) allow the controversy to distract them.  “There’s no such thing as magic!” shouts the attacker, and “We see it with our own eyes!” shouts the defender, and the actual philosophy of the Realized Church gets lost in the shuffle.  That’s what this book is about: how becoming realized can improve your life.
  • Wendell Scott, Make It or Break It

10 July 2016

Conquest: 002: Foundation

002: Foundation

“I’m not doing anything,” said Sophia, reflexively.  She started walking to the sidewalk in front of her house... as though she’d just paused to idly look at the ponder buried in her driveway while she was en route to somewhere else.

“Why yes, I can see that,” said the heavyset older woman from her position next to a mailbox several houses down.  The Jacobs place, until they moved out last week.  This must be the new tenant.

The new neighbor studied Sophia as she spoke.  The woman had large brown eyes that bulged slightly from her face, made even more prominent by the bruised-looking circles beneath them.  She looked old -- maybe sixty or seventy, Sophia had never been very good at telling people’s ages -- and she was wearing a headscarf and a long denim dress that stretched tight over a wide belly, with bare, fleshy arms and voluminous cleavage.  She was magnificently tall and impressively round.  “Plenty of people stand in the middle of the road in the afternoon with a hammer and a rusty approximation of a shovel, staring at ikon transponders.  Just the other day, the whole lot of the Benevolent Order of Astonishingly Poor Liars was out here engaged in some truly excellent ponder-staring.  A rich and noble pursuit.”

Sophia wilted before the woman’s withering sarcasm, feeling her shoulders tense up.  She lowered her head and began walking more briskly.  Sophia didn’t know this woman or whether or not she was the kind of person to interfere.  If she could just get out of sight, hopefully she’d be out of mind.

“It won’t work, you know,” she heard from behind her.  “Dig one up and it’ll be worthless.  They operate in a blockchain, like a distro, so even if you could tamper with one, it would find itself outvoted.”

Sophia half-turned in surprise, and in the process placed her foot down wrong.  She stumbled as her toe caught the asphalt strangely and nearly lost her balance.  

The woman squinted at her, frowning, continuing with the rat-a-tat flow of precisely pronounced words.  “Or maybe you didn’t even get that far.  I can see something is motivating you, anyway, by the look of that abrasion.  You’re all hematomaed-up, eye-wise.  Just because those are called orbital, doesn’t mean you need to chuck them around so hard.  Poorly-positioned proteins and plaques, that’s what you’ll get.”

Sophia stared at the woman, bewildered.

Is she making these words up?  Is she just being funny?

It reminded Sophia of her Gran.  She’d gone to work with Gran a few times when she was younger, before the cancer had taken that apple-cheeked, waifishly-small elder from her.  Gran had worked as a tester for the Rensselaer Group, doing something mysterious with computers -- the old ones, with big screens like picture frames instead of an io projection.  It had been fascinating to little Sophia, since Gran had actually carried on with real work most of the time, leaving Sophia to her own devices.  In between the occasional cooing comments or questions about whether or not Sophia wanted another piece of taffy, Gran would chirp into her phone or call out questions to her neighbor in fluid, semi-intelligible jargon, sorting through whatever bit of code wasn’t working that day.  And sometimes, when she noticed that Sophia was listening in to something, Gran would lapse into silly technical-sounding nonsense, just to confuse her on purpose.  Gran would pick up the phone and smoothly begin an imaginary conversation about recompiling the ram-doc-spec-matron or reticulating the splines on the turbo encabulator, and just when Sophia was starting to lose track of the flow of syllables, Gran would whirl around in her chair with a reedy chuckle, blowing a raspberry at her mystified and giggling granddaughter.

“Annie!” shouted another woman’s voice.

Sophia’s nosy neighbor turned back to her house, answering the call with a shout of her own.  “Out front, getting the mail!”

“What’s taking you so long?” came a returning holler.

“There’s a girl out here who’s trying to decide whether or not to commit a felony!” called back the older woman.  Sophia cringed, looking down at the tools she was carrying.

Should I run?  No, she knows where I live, that’s stupid.  And I haven’t done anything wrong, anyway.  I could just ignore her and walk away, but then she’ll probably tell Momma or Daddy.  Maybe I should just go inside.  I can say I was going to do something normal with the tools, if she tells on me.  Or just say she’s wrong.

“Is it a good felony?  Like a fun one?” shouted their interlocutor from the house.

“Boring and dumb!” shouted the older woman, and now Sophia was wondering who might be overhearing this.  She needed to go, but hesitated, unsure of what might be the best thing to do.

“Well, bring her here!”

The neighbor -- Annie -- turned back to Sophia.  She raised a big arm and motioned.  “Come on, then.  Don’t worry, don’t worry… you’re not in trouble.”  Sophia didn’t move.  She realized her mouth was gaping, and closed it.  Annie puffed in annoyance, and gestured again.  “Land o’ Goshen, kiddo, come here!  We can at least fix up that cobbler you call a face.”

Is this an Uncle Eddie situation?

But Annie seemed strangely harmless, for all her syllables and sarcasm.  The big, bluff woman didn’t seem warm or friendly, exactly -- nothing like Gran or Momma -- but neither was she angry or creepy, like Sophia’s nasty uncle.  Annie just seemed… disconnected.  Detached.  As though she weren’t really invested with the situation (maybe not even all that interested).  As though it were just a problem to be solved.

“Come on,” repeated Annie, and Sophia went.

Annie’s house was one of the shabbier ones on the block.  It was formerly rented by the Jacobs family, an angry, fatherless clan of six brothers and their exhausted mother.  The Jacobs boys had been heavily into the petey scene in Kleinmorg.  It had been disruptive, since they’d often skip school and go prowling midtown, where there were shops and remed houses but not a lot of security.  Most of their destruction there was just the usual vandalism, smashing windows and keying cars, but sometimes they’d get hold of something small enough to take away.  Then they’d spend hours in their backyard, beating someone’s property into pieces with psychotic energy and patience.  It was nerve-wracking, but their neighborhood didn’t have the security to stop it, and certainly no one was about to personally confront them.

They hadn’t done any P.D. on their house, of course, but their activities had still taken a toll: flying bits of metal scattered as a Jacobs beat a generator or artisanal bicycle into its constituent atoms.

Sophia warily followed Annie up her walk and into the former Jacobs home.  The heavyset woman kicked her sandals off as she entered, turning to beckon Sophia up over the threshold.  She leaned over and plucked the hammer and shovel from Sophia’s nerveless hands, humming something tunelessly as she did, and placed them carefully next to a smooth wooden bench resting just past the door in the little mud-room.  She glanced at Sophia’s ragged athletic shoes, but didn’t request that she take them off.  Instead, she just gestured for Sophia to go further in.

Hesitantly, Sophia did, walking down a little hall until it opened up into a large living room.  Actually, Sophia saw immediately, it was actually both living room and kitchen; the bolt-holes were visible in the ceiling, half-hidden behind hanging houseplants, where the original partition had been removed.  A big wooden butcher’s block stood in its place.  The arrangement allowed for a larger space than most prefab houses could have -- a benefit that the occupants had used to cram it chockablock with rugs and furniture.  There were at least twenty rugs in the room, laid next to each other and layered over others, so that the living room portion was a full half-inch higher than the kitchen, and thick-limbed wooden armchairs were crammed in next to an overstuffed old couch and a dozen end tables of varying sizes and sturdiness.  Adding to the sense of oppressive fullness, the walls were decorated with natural things: a broken half of a beehive, a bird’s nest woven through with red threads, a brown furry thing made of leather in the shape of a horn, a frame holding jewel-winged insects, and more.

Sitting on a stool at the butcher block was a bemused woman, watching Sophia with interest.  She was chubby, although not as rotund as Annie, with glittering dark eyes and her hair piled up in long locs on her head.  She was wearing black slacks and a silver blouse.  “Hello,” she said, not unkindly.

“Hello,” said Sophia.  She spoke a little more loudly than she intended, glancing around her.  This was strange.

“She had a hammer and a shovel and was staring at the ponder in her driveway.  Not sure what can be done about congenital silliness, but I thought we’d at least clean up her face,” said Annie, walking up behind Sophia.  Sophia felt a little trapped -- the packed room probably had something to do with that -- and stepped forward, past the other woman and out into the living room area.  She stood apart, turning to watch the pair.

“Sure, we can.  Hello, there.  I’m Magda, and this is Annie,” said the other woman.

“Hello,” Sophia said again.  After a moment, she felt awkward, and added, “I’m Sophia.”

“Nice to meet you, Sophia,” said Magda.  Annie stepped past her, over to the countertop, putting a hand on Magda’s back as she went and letting it linger as she walked by.  Sophia watched the gesture.  They’re a couple.  Annie knuckled the button on the bottom of an electric kettle, turning it on.

“I’ll get the first-aid kit,” said Annie.

“It’s in my workshop,” said Magda.

“You still have a thumb?” said Annie.

“If you’re willing to round up,” said Magda, easily.  She waggled a gauze-bound digit at her partner, then turned back to Sophia.  “So then… force or profit?”

Annie clucked her tongue as she walked past Sophia, saying as she went, “Intentional verbal spoliation for the purposes of questioning obfuscation is only needless aggravation.”

“Cease your interrogation of every permutation of my conjugation,” countered Magda, calling after her.

“Assassination!” threatened Annie on her way out of the room.

Is this some sort of weird sex thing?  Or a religious thing?  Or both?  Sophia had heard that the Realized Church did a lot of that sort of stuff.  “I should go, I think my Daddy is waiting,” she said.  Someone is waiting for me, in other words, and will miss me if I’m not there.

Magda nodded politely, but then asked another question, rather than responding.  “Did you think you could sell your house’s ponder, Sophia?  Or were you aiming for a more violent end with its removal?”

“I was just looking,” said Sophia.  She frowned.  What business was it of theirs?  They were neighbors -- new neighbors at that, strangers -- and this was not the sort of neighborhood where people meddled with each other.

“It wouldn’t have worked, either way,” said Annie, reappearing with a small red box.  She sidled past a pair of chairs and settled down on the big couch, sighing as she lowered herself onto its puffy purple pillows.  “Consider this a safe bet for the future: any adolescent plans for something as ubiquitous as an ikon ponder can’t be so obvious.  It’s sort of like when you meet a new person and they have a particular kind of name, like Clementine or Kirk -- you don’t make the first joke that comes to mind.  A thousand other people will have beaten you to it.”  She patted the couch next to her, then opened up the first-aid kit.  “Have a seat.”

Sophia did, sinking down into the couch.  Her face did hurt, after all.

“Not sure that rule can be generalized,” broke in Magda.  “It makes me think of the economist who walked right past a ten-dollar bill on the sidewalk, saying that it must be an optical illusion or someone else would have already picked it up.  Consider the possibility of black-swan jokes... immediately apparent to someone but still completely new.”

Annie shook her head as she ripped open a swab of disinfectant, dabbing it onto Sophia’s cheek.  Sophia just listened to the patter of nonsense, trying to keep up.

“The point is that if she’s seeking retribution -- which is the obvious conclusion, I think, given this ruggeroo-looking face of hers,” said Annie, glaring at Magda for a moment, “then this is not the way to go about it.”

“Well, we’re agreed there, dear,” said Magda, pleasantly.

“Then the question becomes how she can better achieve justice.”

“A lofty goal, and not one we should perhaps be putting before her.  Expectations of a just world and all that, O my Pangloss.”

“We’ll not get into the ways a liberal arts education has crippled you, thank you, let’s just stick to the topic at hand.  Sophia, what happened to your face?”

“I’m not sure --” Sophia said, but then thought better of it.  More firmly, she said, “A girl at school.  Mikki Blair.”

What was there to lose?

Magda whistled, low and long.  It was quaintly cartoonish, and Annie paused in the process of unfolding a bandage to purse her lips skeptically at her partner.

“A Blair.  You have enemies in high places,” Magda said.  “In Kleinmorg, there’s the college, the Blairs, and the Rensselaers.  You’re picking fights with one of the three powers of the town?”

“She’s been after me for years,” said Sophia, scowling at the woman.  She felt indignation flare up inside.  I didn’t do a thing to her, not ever.  “Because of something that happened with her brother, a long time ago.”  My fifteen minutes of local fame, come and gone when I was seven.  Saved thanks to Thomas, which somehow makes me Mikki’s mortal enemy.  Really, she knew it wasn’t any sort of logical process that had put her in Mikki’s sights.  But that incident, with poison wracking Sophia’s guts and a panicked Thomas dragging her to help, had still somehow been the start of it all.

“I can’t stand a bully,” said Magda.

“It’s the economic disparity that gets me,” said Annie.

“Thuggishness needs no Marxist justification.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”

“For my part, it’s quite decided.”

“Excuse me,” said Sophia, leaning away from Annie as the older woman pressed the bandage to her cheek and breaking into the rapid flow of polysyllables.   “Just what are you saying?”

“Why, isn’t it obvious?” said Annie, surprised.

“She’s talking about helping you, my dear, although I’m not quite sure I’m sold on the notion,” said Magda.  “She’s talking about revenge.”

The kettle made a loud click.

“Ah, time for tea,” said Magda.  Annie smiled over at her, beatifically.


how sweet of rama!
to give such evidence and proofs
for our destruction
  • Gregory Batomat, “No. 7,” The New Yorker


Crandall was arrested later that same day, but it was too late: Ikon was live.  In fact, Crandall even had time to notice and fix two bugs in the software before she was caught.  That final version of her basic program, Ikon 1.2, became the basis for both the Rensselaer version and the Global Scrape version, the two most popular Ikon variants.  And while there is a third version of Ikon, Hunter2, it’s a David compared to the Goliath of Crandall’s work: Rensselaer Ikon and GSI are used by approximately 91% of all users.  That means that hundreds of millions of people employ Jeri Crandall’s work every day, which makes Crandall -- by some estimates -- the most prolific criminal in the world.
This fact hasn’t gone unnoticed by glowering authorities, who have issued strongly-worded statements admonishing Crandall and her imitators.  But when the state of Illinois attempted to prosecute her for a small share of those crimes, presenting it as a test case for distrosoft accountability, the judge found that Crandall couldn’t be held accountable for “merely providing a means, neutral in nature, by which other individuals could then break the law,” going on to find unequivocally that “the state has not shown an element of malice nor of negligence in Ms. Crandall’s actions; she is rather like an automobile manufacturer, who likewise can not be held accountable for the many speeding tickets their customers routinely receive.”
In some respects, law enforcement has been lucky: there are very few engineers with Crandall’s foresight and squeaky-clean background, and it has proven possible to lean on many who wanted to follow in her footsteps.  Two cases formed a high-profile lesson for budding engineers: John Tenton, whose banking distrosoft had a cleverly-hidden “kill switch” that he agreed to trigger, and John Rensselaer (of Rensselaer Ikon), whose program was “clean.”  Tenton got five years of probation for his cooperation.  Rensselaer, on the other hand, was prosecuted on an enormous list of unrelated charges, and will be eligible for parole in 2069.  The message was clear, and has been mostly effective.
  • Murray Abrahamowitz, “Governments Take Aim at Black-Hat Distrosoft Devs,” WIRED


  1. Hairy Leg Massage
  2. Snacktime in the Garden Shed
  3. Your Spicy Dumpster
  4. Steamer Trunk
  5. Bilateral Insertional Achilles Tendonitis
  6. Tastee Wheat
  7. Eat the Rich
  8. I Smell Something Cooking, Let Me Get My Plastic
  9. Septuple Entendre
  10. F’k’r
  • Set list for a gig by prominent petey band Cowboy Stardust Legend