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"WE EVEN HAVE EARMUFFS, IF ANY OF YOU WANT A COUPLE."
Fine, the rest of this story will not contain shouted words, although the use of CamelCase at the start of sentences may be preserved; anyway, it pertains to a multiple-choice exam sat by the author recently, where the primary hindrance presented to the students consisted of FAA-compliant noise. Noting that nobody needed even a single muff, the proctor glanced at my choice of seating.
I nod, scattering allergens to assure the poison sniffers that the correct ghola had showed up for the Mentat Bowl, and prudently leave my cheating machines concealed yet readily accessible. Another proctor kindly wished me good luck, although the whorls of spacetime conspired me to think of the all-too-recent practice wherein children were forced to conform to seating limitations regardless of neurology. Ah well, we all bleed our age one way or another.
"Good luck!" said just about everyone, whether aloud, to themselves, or just to pretend they hadn't run out of mere politeness (quite the scarce resource).
Eventually, I notice a unital (as opposed to unitary, i.e. dimensional) discrepancy. These buggers are pernicious, especially when the exam purports to pertain to the physical sciences, but in truth does not contain a single SI-qualified value, opting instead for alphabet soup interspersed with "happy particles". I flag down a passing professor.
"You have a question for this one?", he mimes, doubtlessly thinking of the overworked teaching assistant.
"YES, YOU SILLY GOOSE, WHO ELSE?" I shout at nobody in particular, while nodding silently to respect the silence theater quivering at the brink of metastability. He walks over, punts my question at the nearest underspecified constant, and wanders off to give polite hints to less helpful questioners.
I guess it's time for me to eat more rotting fructose, since competitive thermodynamics is an awfully energy-consuming game: time is in finite supply, proportioned according to the Cayley-Hamilton nulleph (if you've got that sphere mapped; if you don't, please do: see Poincare's cut if you've already passed Dedekind). I don't blame that professor for my inevitable failure at this exam, as he'd actually given quite a helpful hint: he could tell I was asking for him to make a public clarification regarding a sloppily-worded question, the correct answer to which was painfully obvious, so he instead reminded me that the Grand Canon controlls how many ells deep drinks the spider.
Teacup - empty; birdseed - messy; orange - too flagrant a juicy snack, and there's still half the alloted time left! What could I possibly do now, other than start to actually work out the silly little calculus exercises? Maybe asking the proctors to unplug the noisy desktop computer fanning itself for no apparent reason, or at the very least tell us which prion it was busy refolding for the good of humanity, although somehow I suspect the answer to that would've been closer to:
Hush, little baby; don't say a word! ... never mind that noise you heard. It's just the wormholes in your ear, crawling thru that strength we fear.
At which point, the student to my right gets up, hands in his papers, and moves to leave.
"No! Stay!" quoth an audience member, who had elected to sit the exam undercover, out of true respect for the process.
"Sorry, honey, I've got a plane..." he replies, politely ignoring her "Can't it wait?" as he glides out, better than the most professional of bettors.
At least the desktop had decided to continue cooking its motherboard in silence by the time our friendly noisemaker began running his own fans overhead.
Lying along the shoals of inattentiveness, listening to each phonon (yes, I know how to use that word uncorrectly, too;) surf along the pitch black glideway, way below, I realize I've begun overhearing yet another conversation that never happened.
TRIGGER WARNING: IF YOU KNOW ME FROM SCHOOL, YOU MIGHT KNOW THESE PEOPLE TOO; ONLY THE WORDS, LEXEMES, AND CORRELATES HAVE BEEN CHANGED, TO PROTECT THE PRIVACY OF THE UNNOTICED AND THE SANCTITUDE OF YOUR MIND.
Three doctors - of philosophy, naturally - are quibbling over which rights to violate when administering the exam, in the hope that one will be sufficiently distrauchted by some best jest that a quick bid for the silverware could be made.
Quoth the theoretician: "First of all, the exam must be as fair as possible; all students who are required to pass the exam, must have an uncorrelated likelihood of passing the exam, and any students who wish to pass the exam, must have an uncorrelated likelihood of passing the exam, and any correlations arising unintentionally must be uncorrelated with each other correlate, in so far as --"
He's been interrupted by now: "That's a load of nonsense. You've written the exam by now, so why don't you tell us what's unfair about it? Noone will be judging you. Why don't you... do it in the code?"
Before he can deliver the correct, coherent, counterpoint, the third one suggests: "Any unfairness unavoidable in the exam should be biased in favor of those students who have attended lectures, in some power per portion of time wasted together."
"WHAT!?" is the inevitable reply, so he continues, explaining exactly what he means: "The exam is unfair, and always will be, so I'd rather at least encourage us to all waste our time together. I don't want academics to devolve into each student spending a semester in a silent sterile cube with a pay-per-view port to some quintessence datahose and a shelf full of dead-tree graffiti painstakingly curated by some long-dead Adlai."
Silence. You could hear a pin drop, land right-way up, and blow up the tire of the next hrududu blundering down the street (and what a fine alarm clock that'd be!).
"Did you just use a student's name as an expletive?", asked the practician of theoretical jurisprudence.
"Yes, because we all know exactly what I meant by that; if you have a problem with what I said, say whatever you want instead, but let me finish my gottanjecture."
Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward. - Kilgore Trout
I've led a rather blessed life, so far: I've never had to perform acts of mortal violence against people, nor have I witnessed the salty splashed remains of such action. Ironically enough, those who profess a desire to save lives and heal, are more likely to end up playing the roadside autopsy game, where harm done is measured as correctness of identification rather than reduction of inflammation. But I digress, and nobody cares much about my military service; after all, as I told my lab partner just before the last sunset: "All I ever really did myself was tell other people what to do."
Some people I've known personally over the years are dead by now, as often happens to people after you know them long enough. What's less common, although does occur once you know enough people of the various kinds, is that they die by their own hand. Three times in my life have I encountered the news that yet another doctorate in practical existentialism has been granted, and coincidentally enough, none of these volunteers for an early afterlife deigned to leave behind their dissertation. I don't blame them; after all, annealing such thoughts into human language is messy enough work without the added challenge of not being around to edit the result.
On the one hand, I've already mentioned elsewhere the second instance, and I'm loathe to elaborate upon it, for a variety of reasons. The only one which matters in this case is that that story forms a brief chapter in my long-forgotten upcoming memoir. On the other hand, the third instance is simultaneously too personal, and too impersonal, and too soon, and - although that friend's memorial service just the other day triggered the thought-helix leading to this post - no, I'm not telling that story yet, either. The first instance really shouldn't count, although black humor can be found even in such sanguine remains, so I'll give it a shot - just like the instantiator himself!
One guy who went through basic training together with me was quite the basket case: the kind of dork who literally hits himself after realizing how stupid he's been, without even any bully around to mockingly tell him to stop hitting himself. This poor shmuck had glasses thicker than his own skull, and his skull was quite thick, because he spent most of basic hitting himself, because this poor shmuck just couldn't get anything right. He was the kind of kid who couldn't get through the morning routine without getting toothpaste in the barrel, gun oil on his pants, and boot black on his face. Soldiers are rarely nice people - the average platoon could make a kindergarden playground look like a safer space than the campus of Snowflake University - and we soon had a nickname for this shmuck: we called him Shock.
Shock must've had a good heart, because he volunteered for medic training. Not only did he surprise us all by actually surviving medic training (they do some rather gruesome hazing, if the stories are to be believed, but those are not mine to tell), he also volunteered for the most thankless assignment: yep, Shock went back to that part of the desert where men are turned back into boys again, where the worst of humanity is strained out and molded into rank and file: Shock went to minister to the next crop of drafted children. One day I hear the following brief tale:
"Hey, remember Shock who went to become a medic? We need to find him a new name. One of the kids there shot himself in the shower. Poor old Shock found the remains, and now he's no longer in shock!"
PLEASE DO NOT READ PAST THIS POINT IF YOU ARE A JUNGIAN, FREUDIAN, ANALLYSTERANT, OR ANY OTHER SORT OF TWO-BIT CROCK-SHIT WITCH DOCTOR.
Naturally, I was in some rather open campus environment: too many people to know many personally, let alone recognize faces at a glance. Sure, sometimes someones seemed familiar, but life's a bitch, innit? Until I recognized... her.
One of the few truths I'll ever label a lie is that in this dream, her identity caused a stale stack resurrection (or perhaps a register collision, if you swing that kind of metaphor) with someone I've not met in a long time; last we spoke, she likely got justly insulted by some connotation of exactly what I said to her about a guy she fucked.
(at this point, the lies resume)
We made eye contact, and I'm quite sure she recognized me back. Maybe she winked, or smiled, or let her eyes linger; but she was in a flock, and such flocks flow. I saw her again a few times in a similar manner and concluded that there must be some performance of a visiting dance troupe, because I remembered her as a skilled dancer from a young age. Maybe I could verify that conclusion, and thus actually talk with her, rather than just smiling at eachother across the void?
Needless to say, such dreams do not collaborate with that other kind of dream. My quest led me to a room full of unrecognizable acquaintances who just got visited by a jolly fat holy man of stereotyped ethnicity. I could tell he was holy because he dressed like a hobo, yet wore an immaculate turban, and because he was there to sell drugs. Naturally, I asked him whether he accepted the only kind of coins I had kicking around as unallocated spending cash, to which he laughed and twinkled out of the story.
No worries! Salesmen don't travel in vain, and the buncha fukken junkies now gladly split the purchased wares among themselves (and everybody got two share). Perennial outgroup member that I am, I wondered aloud as to the kind of flower they had bought, and whether any one of them felt like reselling. Before I even repeated the name of the coin, I realized that it would be in vain: they ignored me in favor of their greedy delight at crumbling that golden brown between their fingers.
My momentary disappointment didn't quite hit rock bottom, though: although I prefer vaporizing active essentials from Cannabis blossoms purchased uncut, the remembrance of hashish's complementary advantage of greater edibility reassured me... as I awoke to the sound of a pigeon alighting at my windowsill.
TRIGGER WARNING: Vital escense is not absorbed by the kidneys!
Hokay, so: there's the sun, which is active matter of one sort.
There are planets, or overgrown, well-behaved comets, or aggregated, annealed, aquatic asteroids, or whatever you call the rocks. You can kick them quite hard, cut your teeth on them, eat them, smash them at eachother to make more or less of them, but as far as I can tell, they're the kind of stuff the turtles swim above.
On the better-civilized parts of some rocks, are a bunch of... museums. I use that word in the Wolfeian sense, and expect audience familiarity with everything I can recall during the acts of creation, editing, auditing, and reliving, so a "museum" is not quite what you'd expect. Perhaps you know me better than I do myself, and you could define the concept more accurately than my feeble effort, so I'll let you do that yourself as an audience exercise.
One of my earliest memories involves a dispute about who'd visit which parts of a museum, under what conditions (note the omission of unpriced admission). When museums grow large enough, these disputes can heat so vigorously as to cut costs on central heating, and soon enough the tearily nostalgic demand for a thermostat gives way to the much more interesting challenge of climate maintenance. Control, as you may be aware, is naught but the name of a button or two on various antiques littering this museum; maintenance, whether by hand, foot, or nail, is a fucking career.
The incorrect way to express displeasure about museum administration is by amateurly executing the chief executive amateur.
RIP Yitzhak Rabin (b: 1 March 1922; d: 4 November 1995; c: trauma, kidney failure, life)