Category Archives: Missives from modernity

Community service

And so it came to pass that the local municipality set out to discover exactly why its young members harbored such anti-police sentiments. Being good social scientists, they employed a wide range of methods, from interview to surveys to participant observation. It was a very large and – for purposes of efficacy – unannounced study, working so far as it could in the shadow of ordinary everyday uneventfulness. Some concerns about ethics were raised, but largely ignored due to the severity of the situation.

As the results came in, several themes emerged. Or, rather, one major theme and a few supporting side themes all relating back to the major theme. As it happened, the results all pointed towards one thing: the youths were all radicalized against the police by having one time or another – more often than not several – been beaten up for no discernable reason by these very same police officers. The study controlled for a number of other variables – communist propaganda, violent subcultures, computer games, violent subcultures using computer games as their primary recruitment tool, poverty, family relations, gender, class, and so on – but even after extensive quantitative analysis, police-initiated violence stood out as the main factor.

Of particular note is the team engaging in participatory observation, who displayed a marked increase in anti-police sentiments after having suddenly found themselves on the business end of a police raid. Whether this is a significant find or a methodological problem is an open question. They did, however, write an extended analysis of a particular incident: a youth on his way to school being suddenly beaten up by a police officer, deciding (despite the bruises) to attempt to complete the trip to school anyway, only to be beaten up by a different police officer a few minutes later.

Upon publication of the report, the local police were asked to give a comment on these findings. They did not.

Competitive cost/benefit analysis

He had a problem. Or, rather, something more akin to a nuisance. His job was to oversee the logistics of moving stuff to and fro, and a non-trivial amount of this moving happened by means of containers. Most of these containers were full, but some were not. Some were definitely not full, and incurred the administrative fee levied on containers containing less than a certain amount of stuff.

His first solution was to encourage the marketing people to up their marketing efforts. More stuff in motion meant more stuff to cram into those not-quite full containers, after all. After an unfortunate series of misunderstandings, he and the marketing folks reached a mutual understanding that there would never be a need to talk about anything at all ever again.

His second solution was more indirect. Instead of moving more of the company’s stuff, he arranged to move other people’s stuff. Specifically, he would pay them to fill the available container space where there was a risk of incurring the dreaded (and outrageously disproportionate) administrative fee. This would incur a non-zero cost, to be sure, but it would be substantially less than the fee, so the result would overall be a net positive.

To his surprise, and to the dismay of the marketing people, this turned out to be a widely popular service. Customers showed up left and right to move single items that otherwise would cost a small fortune to ship. For some thirty-odd months or so, he was the only logistical administrator to not incur a single fee, and was suitably commended for it. Profits were made, and everyone involved (except the marketing folks) liked the status quo.

Then, disaster struck.

Due to a glitch in the system, he ended up with an empty container. Due to it being a particularly busy day, he did not have time to look too closely at what cargo the company was shipping. His eyes were fully focused on the quota needed to avoid the fee, and boy did he avoid that fee. In a fit of administrative and logistical prowess never seen before or since, he managed to fill the whole container with miscellanea, and have everyone paid as per usual.

The company was not pleased at finding that it had paid twice to ship an entire container of other people’s stuff for no reason or profit whatsoever.

Time management for busy people

As per your request, what follows is a summary of the temporal status of the relevant location. It has been determined to be a stable time loop, albeit a particularly complex one. The loop is a continuous repetition of eight different timelines, one following another in a predetermined sequence. As the details are intricate to convey, this missive will contain only the barest of summation. The eight timelines are as follow:

  1. The base timeline, without any temporal alterations
  2. An altered timeline, caused by a discovery of time travel
  3. A second altered timeline, with changes motivated by medium term economic interests
  4. A third altered timeline, with changes motivated by massive ecological devastation
  5. A timeline identical to the base timeline with the exception of a single document hidden away in a remote monastery for thousands of years
  6. A fourth altered timeline, characterized by the hostile attention of extraterrestrials brought there due to temporal anomalies
  7. A fifth altered timeline, where the initial discovery of time travel was altered so as to avoid the attention of the aforementioned aliens
  8. A sixth altered timeline, wherein other extraterrestrials nevertheless noticed the temporal anomalies, but for reasons currently unknown used their proficiency in temporal matters to restore initial conditions, thus looping back to 1

Any travel to this location will find itself in either one of these timelines, depending on the time of arrival. Given the relative stability of this loop, and its marginal effects upon our interests, it is recommended that we abstain from any future interaction with or travel to this location.

As to the loss of field agent Bothan, it has been deemed an unfortunate but acceptable price to pay for this information.

To spot the mark

To the untrained eye, the graffiti tags were just visual noise. They appeared, disappeared, reappeared, ever changing, in what seemed to be a never-ending game of whack-a-mole between tagsters and property owners. For reasons unknown, the tags would keep popping up and disappearing; most people neither noticed nor cared.

For the trained eye, however, these tags told a different story. They told the current preferred locations of illicit trades, mostly in small contraband, easily hidden and easily exchanged between two persons in motion. One week, the tags indicated a particular street corner. Another week, they indicated an abandoned warehouse. Those who could read the signs knew where to go. Those who could not were none the wiser.

In particularly troubled times, the tags indicated a moving target. Being in any one spot for an extended period of time is risky, and necessity being the mother of invention, they invented. It was a difficult tag to make in a hurry, but it could be done: indicating that those interested were to hop on this particular bus at this particular stop at this particular time.

This went on for an untold number of years, out of mind – but not out of sight – of the general population. An anonymous society of secret transactions, unincorporated, but definitely leaving its marks.

Closing time

The numbers were in. The interviews were analyzed. The data was processed. From every data point, the same result screamed itself at the Analysis and Strategy Team: the desire to go to the store increased exponentially the closer closing time got. They had the numbers to prove it.

A few hours before closing time, the desire was negligible, unless sparked by some specific circumstance. About two hours before, a quiet whisper emerged at the back of the customer’s mind, reminding them that if they needed something, now was the time to get it. An hour before, and this whisper had gotten its metaphorical paws on a boombox. Half an hour, there was a marching band afoot. A quarter to, and the need for speed (and/or something small to nibble on) was paramount.

This was useful information.

Unfortunately, its usefulness was limited by the fact that closing time only came around once per day. Ever a fount of inspiration and creativity, the Analysis and Strategy Team thus proposed the following course of action: close the store at several points during the day. This would give the described impulse more opportunities to manifest itself, and overall increase the pressure to get to the store before it closed. The team projected that the sales of small things to nibble on would skyrocket.

The very next day, the team found itself restructured into a purely analytical unit, with a new strategic team starting up at the opposite end of the building.

Covering all the basics

This was not an ordinary shelter for the homeless. It was more than that. It was the most scientifically studied shelter for the homeless there ever was.

On the surface, it did everything you would expect it to: provide food, beds, showers, rudimentary legal aid. Nothing out of the ordinary – nothing less than what was necessary, and sparse few things more than that. In short, it and its ever so temporary inhabitants scraped by.

Except. For some reason, probably due to the contingencies of interpersonal friendships, this particular shelter was the goto hotspot for social scientists focusing on homelessness and social deprivation. Whenever a study of the homeless population of the city – or indeed the nation – were to be undertaken, this was inevitably where the researchers ended up.

Over the years, a relationship had been established between the manager of the shelter and the researchers. The manager, ever the curious sort, had gotten into the habit of reading the research articles that came out of this peculiar arrangement, and thus knew the field just as good as anyone. When researchers talked to him about the particular study they were about to conduct, he could more often than not direct them to articles or authors they hadn’t considered yet.

When asked why he didn’t apply for a job at the university – seeing as he knew his way around both theory and practice – he responded that his GED was not quote sufficient to make ‘em university administrators give e damn unquote, and that he anyway felt that he made more of a difference where he was.

University representatives, when asked if they would provide funding to the shelter, replied that they would not.

Monumental enlightenment

In light of recent revelations with regards to the importance of historical statues and other monuments in relation to historical memory, it has been decided that all preexisting statues and monuments are to be demolished immediately. In their place informational statuettes will be placed, so as to educate the populace about various historical and contemporary issues they need to be aware of.

The exact details of which specific statuettes will be placed where are yet to be determined. However, there is a general consensus that there is to be a park themed on the tax code, two parks themed on constitutional issues, one park themed on wokeness and no less than three parks themed around the importance of civic virtue.

By public demand, the central square will feature a multitude of statuettes imparting important insights about our shared and sometimes divided history.

There have been some objections to the slight increases in taxation this sudden increase in expenditure on statuettes will impose. However, we are confident that there is a broad consensus regarding the importance of giving every citizen access to the opportunity to learn by means of statue osmosis. In the long run, we will all prosper from knowing more about who we are and where we came from.

Honest pay for honest work

We ran the numbers, and found out that implementing full scale socialism is too massive an undertaking to be accomplished quickly. However, during the course of our investigation we found an alternate route that arrives at the same destination, with a few minor differences. Instead of managing the redistribution of wealth through central committee, we outsource the process to private institutions. The details can be found in the attached document, but the short summary is this: everyone get to be employed in a top-level position for ten to fifteen days, and get to keep the salary earned in full. Given the eyebrow-raising salary levels of these positions, we should see massive amounts of redistribution in only a couple of years or so.

It should be noted that this can be done in parallel with the traditional approach, as per the attached document.

A note on forbidden knowledge

Oh yes, there is secret knowledge. There is in fact lots of it. You will be interested to know that there is also forbidden knowledge, and that this is different from secret knowledge. The secret stuff is mostly boring trivia that does not concern or interest those that are not involved directly with it. If you find out something like that, nothing really happens, other than that you’d have reason to ask Old Man Frank about his prostate cancer that he hasn’t told anyone about. It’s secret, but most of it is irrelevant to your lived experience.

The forbidden stuff, however, is forbidden for a reason. A very specific reason, at that. This reason is that nothing engages and excites the mind like being told not to do something. By making it publicly known that certain things are forbidden to know, a whole lot of attention is brought to bear in that specific area, and thus we can expect the overall discussion about this thing to advance by leaps and bounds. Forbidding knowledge is like giving it a vitamin injection – like a disturbed anthill, it bristles with sudden activity.

There is a third category of knowledge, though, beyond secret and forbidden. This is radioactive knowledge, which irradiates everything it comes into contact with. It cannot be safely handled, and it cannot be stored in a secure manner. Once it exists in the world, it creates waves and ripples, turns heaven into hell and hell into heaven. Nothing survives contact with it, and the only safe way to deal with it is to never know anything about it at all. It is the stuff of suicide cults. Only death and destruction follows from it, which is why we never talk about that stuff. Even by omission.

And that, my friend, is why you are not allowed to know the truth about the moon landing, chemtrails, or the fact that the Earth is flat. Under no circumstances are you to continue your investigations into these areas.

There are no gay frogs.

Working relationships

Mr. Andersen

We have gone through your recent text message history, and we have found a number of troublesome tendencies. It would seem you do not sext with your wife nearly as much as you once did, and the nature of the other texts indicate that your relationship is in something of a rough spot. We worry that this might eventually become a source of distraction from your work, and want to ameliorate the situation before any unfortunate incidents occur. Prevention is always better than cure.

Tomorrow morning, you will report to HR for a debrief on your marriage situation, and a crash course in effective sexting. A happy employee is a productive employee, and we are always proactive in ensuring the productive capabilities of those under our supervision.

Best regards
Senior HR manager