Category Archives: The kairos made me do it

Triple-A games and beyond

Bringing your A game: efforting to your fullest, being the best you can be, really putting in the work to get it done; the maximum performance of one singular individual

Bringing your AA game: the result of a small friend group or neighborhood community coming together to get something done; the maximum performance of a small collection of individuals

Bringing your AAA game: the result of a big corporation focusing a non-trivial portion of its budget upon getting it done; the maximum performance of a large number of people with access to significant resources

Bringing your AAAA game: the result of an entire continent directing its attention to getting something done, Manhattan project style; the maximum performance of millions of people with access to entire supply chains’ worth of resources

Bringing your AAAAA game: a planet honing in on a task and buckling down to accomplish it at scale; the maximum performance of billions of people with access to planetary scale resources

Bringing your AAAAAA game: an entire solar system devoted towards a singular task, harnessing the remaining heat of the big bang to get it done

Bringing your AAAAAAA game: a local stellar group united by a single vision to perform a (1) thing at scale

Bringing your AAAAAAAA game: a galaxy, sprawling across light year after light year of stars and planets, whose inhabitants are all aligned and pointed towards a unified vision

Bringing your AAAAAAAAA game: a series of galaxies cranking out paperclips for the betterment of the universe, which shall in time become paperclip

Bringing your AAAAAAAAAA game: OUR HANDS HELD THEIR CHAINS. OUR MOUTHS SANG THEIR FATES. OUR MINDS, THEIR GODS

When the mood strikes (vending machine edition)

The mystery vending machine had become even more mysterious. For years, it had served up cans of obscure, foreign or (at times) discontinued brands of soda to those brave enough to insert a coin into it. No one knew where the money went, who refilled the machine or from whence the outlandish soda cans came, but nevertheless it had been a reliable source of unexpected delights for those in the know. The mystery machine had a small cult following who mostly accepted its gifts in grateful equanimity, keeping a lid on the enigma so as to not overburden their unknown benefactors. A few sought to discover who was behind this elusive dispensary of Eleusinian mysteries, but to no avail; not even the most donut-saturated of stakeouts revealed anything. One time, a vending enthusiast received a bog standard can of Coke, to much concern and consternation among those in the know

All this was accepted as the natural order of things until the mystery intensified. One morn, instead of the usual seemingly random can of pop, something completely different emerged from the unknown interior of the machine. It was, suitably enough, a paradox, something both rectangular and circular, a squared circle of confoundment. What the machine ejected on that morn was nothing else but a CD with mood music from 1997. Subsequent attempts at purchasing a refreshing can resulted in even more mood music CDs, featuring an abundance of pan flutes, wind chimes and no fewer than five different whales. At length, the machine ran out of these blasts from a very specific past, and returned to its usual programming of vaguely Slavic brands, Trocaderos and the occasional crystal Pepsi

Planetary-sized data

It was, at the heart of it, a computational problem. There are only so many variations of people, and in principle it should be possible to divide them into categories. Any such categorization would be a step up in efficiency from approaching each and every person individually, and given the sheer size of the aspirational megacompany, any gain in efficiency would rake in more money than any one person could reasonably comprehend. Whether the categories were based on anything substantial could be argued to be beside the point; the system only needed to work better than the one currently in use. Thus, the hunt was on

They did everything. Mined the data, crunched the numbers, algorithmed the search turbines. Every possible and impossible permutation of pattern recognition (and a very physical kitchen sink) were thrown at the wall, in an effort to see what might potentially stick. At the end of these exhaustive and exhausting efforts, they found something both surprising and inevitable

The one system of classification that turned out to fit the bill was astrology. Moreover, it performed with such accuracy that it blew the previous system quite out of the water. Knowing the precise contours of how a Scorpio reacted after getting in a row with a Virgo – a dangerous proposition if there ever was one – could produce suggested purchases and related search results with frightening efficacy. Add in the relative position of the houses, and the big data fix was in

The only problem was that they could not come straight out and say it. Instead, they had to launder it through such an extensive amount of AI technobabble that even the script writers of Star Trek had to admit defeat. Given that the ROI on shifting to this new and improved categorical scheme went through the roof, it was a small price to pay

The virtues of living memory

He’d done it. Through some magic, trickery or incredibly advanced scientific shenanigans, he’d done it. He was now transported back in time, and could finally find out about all those ancient mysteries that had so eluded the present. Thus so transported, he set to work uncovering these mysteries. First among them being: what was Aristotle really like?

Asking around, his first discovery was that the modern education in ancient Greek was sorely lacking. His second discovery was that Aristotle was not held in as high regard as he’d expected. Rather, he was something of a laughing stock. Sure, he got the general gist of things, but it was the least developed, most bare-bones version of social theory there ever was. In fact, the entire city of Athens was seen in the same light; the least among equals

This discovery did not sit well with him, so he did what any historian would do. He went to the source and verified. And lo, it turned out to be true. Everywhere he went, everyone he talked to, every observed social process confirmed the general impression that the democratic tradition was comparatively underdeveloped in Athens. However, since the culture of public oral speech was so refined and well-entrenched, the penchant of writing things down fell to the wayside. Why record events when everyone remembers it from yesterday’s deliberations? When in doubt, just ask

This certainly explained things, our historian traveler thought, just as whatever magic, trickery or shenanigans that brought him back now brought him forward again. He did not have a good time explaining his findings to his print-based colleagues

Random encounters

This particular street corner was known to her as a random encounter spot. Some of the random encounters could be explained through the powers of statistics and probability – the sheer number of people passing through every day meant that you were bound to meet someone unlikely every once in a while. Indeed, most encounters were highly familiar – some friend not seen in ages, that one guy from high school, a celebrity who took a wrong turn, and on occasion an ex to swiftly avoid. Other encounters, however, were outright spooky, such as when she found a fondly remembered childhood toy, staring intently at her with his epoxy eyes, just as he’d done all those years ago. She sometimes wondered if she should’ve picked him up, but the nature of the spot told her, again and again, that there were things best left as encounters

On the twelfth day

Matters have become exceedingly strange in these latter stages of the quarantine. Upon venturing into the seldom visited nooks and crannies of my domicile, I have chanced upon new and unfamiliar items previously unbeknownst to me. I described these peculiar new discoveries to my cohabitants, who did not recognize said items even as I laid out their aspects at great length. Mere moments later, upon conducting an ocular inspection of my exotic acquisitions, they made it known that a distant acquaintance, referred to colloquially as “aunt Martha”, had ceremoniously bestowed these peculiarities to our abode during the annual celebration of the birth of one member or another of the household. Heavily implied in this assertion was the fact that it was common knowledge that these objects had indeed been in place all along, and that the only confusion in these matters was caused by my overly ornate and quixotic verbiage on the subject matter. Perhaps, the smaller one of them concluded capriciously, we had – hypothetically, perchance, mayhaps – been “cooped up” in here ever so slightly too long, facilitating the initiation of a gradual decline of our (meaning my) mental capacities. This, if true, would be an exciting development indeed, for what could be more interesting and open-ended than the discovery of a brand new self to delve into and discover anew? I do so hope that the quarantine will find reason to be extended, allowing me further possibilities to extend these investigations. The truth, surely, is in here somewhere

Where conspiracies lead

Early on, the organization figured out that the single biggest predictor for if someone believed conspiracy theory x is whether or not they believe conspiracy theory y. There seemed to be a general propensity to believe in conspiracy theories in general, regardless of the specifics of any one theory. Mole people, black helicopters and the faked moon landing are all, somehow, of a piece

This presented something of a challenge to the recruitment office, who wanted to find a process to screen out the more dedicated theorists without also scaring off more grounded candidates. Initial attempts to ask about unrelated yet conspiracy-adjacent topics, so as to indirectly suss out whether the person had a propensity for such thinking, were called off after a rumor began circulating that one of the standard questions was related to aliens. That was not the particular kind of attention they needed at the time

At length, they figured that the best way to find out was to give the prospects an informal communal free lunch. Those whose conversational topics trended towards the conspiratorial could easily be identified, and those who were merely nervous about the possibility of being hired could be ushered towards that very possibility. The success rate was not 100%, but it more than made up for the cost of the free meals. Overall, it was one of the better counterconspiracies of the organization

The divine comedy of Kenneth

Kenneth
the frequency
what is it

Kenneth
we need it
the frequency

Kenneth
they have laser eyes now
like Jessica Jones
the frequency
hurry, please

Kenneth
they have begun acting out elaborately choreographed dances
we suspect it to be some sort of arcane ritual meant to consume the souls of those caught within
the frequency
we need it to escape

Kenneth
this is the end of the world as we know it
we’re really in the spotlight here
drive, drive, drive

KENNETH
THE FREQUENCY OPENED A LITERAL GATE TO HELL
NO, WE WILL NOT USE IT AS A POWER SOURCE
ONCE WE HAVE DEFEATED THESE DEMONS, WE WILL FIND YOU

KENNETH
THE SECOND FREQUENCY OPENED A SECOND GATE TO A DIMENSION CONSIDERED HELL BY THE DENIZENS OF THE DIMENSION WE CALL HELL
THE METAPHYSICAL IMPLICATIONS SCARE US MORE THAN THE ACTUAL PHYSICAL HELLSCAPE BEFORE US

Kenneth
your brilliant plan worked
by powering through successively worse iterations of hell, we finally hit a point where the Caelestial buffer overruns, and we have entered into the most exalted of heavens
you unstoppable, conceptual bastard

A template for a rejection letter

To whom it may concern,

I am honored that you have considered me for this award/nomination/appointment/coauthorship/[appropriate term here], and take great pride in being a name mentioned in the discussions surrounding this occasion. Truly, I am in great company.

However, I can not in good conscience accept this award/nomination/appointment/coauthorship/[appropriate term here]. The reasons for this ought to be obvious, as your efforts at due diligence should have indicated them in extensive detail. I wish you well in your search for a better suited candidate.

Sincerely,

Alive and/or kicking

She had died

This was a very confusing thought to have. She’d always imagined being dead as a great big nothing, the darkness to end all light, the absence to define all things. This whole business of surprised realization was not at all in the cards. And yet, here she was

Besides being when not expecting to be, she also found she was not what she expected to be. Rather than the comfortable but limited form that had been her from birth until death, she was larger somehow. More cosmic. More capable of bringing universes into being and ending them, as suited her whim. More ambiently omnipotent. That had definitely not been part of the skill set of her mortal coil

As she examined this greatly expanded capability of getting things done, she thought a phrase common to her generation:

I understand and accept these new terms and conditions