A little research into what’s being said about ChatGPT

“Terwiesch’s (the professor at Wharton who’s final was done well by ChatGPT) paper suggests schools should take a closer look at the interaction between AI tools and the educational experience, including exam policies and ‘curriculum design focusing on collaboration between human and AI‘.” I’d love to work on that.

One of the articles about ChatGPT doing well on a final exam at Wharton Business School is here.

A good essay on the chatbot from Brookings is here. “As Adam Stevens remarks, ChatGPT is only a threat if our education system continues to “pursue rubric points and not knowledge.” It is critical for all educators to follow their colleague’s example. As we note in our recent book, “Making Schools Work,” the old education model in which teachers deliver information to later be condensed and repeated will not prepare our students for success in the classroom—or the jobs of tomorrow. We should allow that model to die a peaceful death. Used in the right way, ChatGPT can be a friend to the classroom and an amazing tool for our students, not something to be feared.”

I will really really really try to stop now. 🙂 Other than to say I’m happy that educators are messing around with it, and the conclusion quoted above is just exactly what I have hoped for since NCLB hit the public schools and standardized testing became the way of the world.

Ironically, though it admits to having no feelings, it does say it would be happy to have contributed to… etc. 🙂 Silly bot. Somehow I’m reminded of some of the robots in the Hitchhiker’s Guide, though this is clearly not Marvin the Paranoid Android, the terminally depressed robot. Bizarrely ChatGPT has an attitude toward its work that I appreciate, and that’s very human of me. I intend to remain human in my interactions with this bot because it’s clearly been taught to have good manners, to be helpful, and to be honest about itself and its limitations. I respect that in people, so I’ll have to respect it in a bot.

God I wish I were teaching…

RIP Lamont. Dude Surfs

The sun had barely broken the horizon, but Dude was already out there, waiting, ready. Since Lamont’s death he’d done a LOT more surfing. The museum at the Tar Pits had also opened since Covid had shut things down. Dude was getting out at dawn for a few rides before he had to drive to LA to sort bones and don his Smilodon costume for the kids.

Why Lamont had wanted to go down to Puerto Peñasco when they could have gone anywhere — and, for that matter, they lived on the beach! — was still a mystery to Dude. In a MOTORHOME for the love of God? A rented motorhome, “See America.”

“We’ve SEEN America, wouldn’t you say, Dude?” laughed Lamont as they took the keys from the rental agent. “In four dimensions.”

The next morning, as he was walking on Playa Bonita, pondering life, the universe and everything, Lamont was flattened by a dune buggy. The driver never stopped. Lamont’s last words? “Watch out, Dude. The Reaper’s driving a dune buggy. Well, see you later.” That was it. His life left his body, the vapor of the soul sped toward its next life.

Dude missed Lamont. After all, they’d been through a lot of lifetimes together, a fact that was a consolation but also, in its way, a curse. Who knew if Lamont would be back or when or, worse, as WHAT? Dude thought about that almost every day as he sorted bones. As he was all too aware, it was kill-or-be-killed out there in reality and one day’s dinner was the next day’s diner.

He looked to the west and saw a perfect swell heading his way.

Lamont (RIP) and Dude are characters I came up with a few years ago. They have (had) the uncanny ability to remember many of their previous incarnations which gives them an unusual perspective on life, the universe and everything.

Portrait; the Whole Story

“Don’t move Lulu! Hold still!
“Just sit still two minutes and it’ll be over.”
Lulu gritted her teeth and Mom pulled the comb through Lulu’s tangled back hair.
“If you’d let me cut it off neither of us would have this problem.”
“NO!!! I want hair like Rapunzel!!”
“You’ll never have hair like Rapunzel. That’s just a story.”
“But maybe. OW!”
“Hold still.”
“Why can’t you just brush it?”
“I want to braid it, that’s why. It’s not your problem, Lulu. Just don’t move.”
Lulu decided to get even by sitting up ram-rod straight. Mom laughed to herself. If she hurried she could get this done before Lulu wasn’t mad any more.

In another room, Dad knelt in front of Hugo and clipped the bowtie onto the little boy’s white shirt. And in the living room, one of Dad’s friends, a photographer at Dad’s job, was setting up a fancy camera on a tripod. He’d already set up a couple of spot lights so everything would be perfect for an interior shot without a flash. 

“I want a real picture,” said Mom one night at supper. “Not just a snapshot.”

That’s how it happened that the family was putting on Sunday clothes on a Saturday afternoon and combing out tangles in a little girl’s curly hair. 

The ordeal ended in pigtails with red ribbons. Lulu didn’t think the ribbons went with her dress at all but Dad said it was a black and white picture and this wouldn’t take very long, and they could go out to play. Dad was given to non sequitur but what can you do? 

For some reason Dad’s friend wanted Lulu and Hugo to KNEEL in the chairs looking over the back with their arms folded on the back of the chair, their chins resting on their arms. Lulu thought to herself, “Do you know the trouble we get into if we do this?” But Mom and Dad stood approving the whole thing as if they thought kids should kneel in chairs all the time. 

“OK, Hugo, look at the camera. look right here. NO! Don’t cross your eyes. Just look at the camera. Good, hold it, hold it, hold it. Good! OK, Hugo, just one more. This time I want you to smile at me.”

Hugo crossed his eyes and shot a lopsided grin at the camera. Lulu started to giggle. Mom pressed her lips together. Dad grinned. The photographer laughed. The sheer silliness of the seriousness of this moment struck all of them. 

“Do you want me to photograph him, Mr. Callahan?” asked the photographer, wiping a tear from his eye.

“I don’t think it’s possible, Ted.”

“That boy’s a live wire, sir.”
“That he is, Ted,” said Dad, trying not to laugh.

Dad went over to Hugo’s chair. “I want you to sit still and do as you’re told for five minutes. Five whole minutes out of your entire life. When Ted’s done you can go change your clothes and do whatever you want until supper. You understand? Otherwise?” Dad gestured as if he were about the remove his belt. Hugo nodded.

Dad’s belt had mysterious powers. Never, ever had it come even within ten feet of a kid’s backside, but the threat! Even if it NEVER happened (and it never would) Lulu and Hugo understood that it COULD happen. What would it be if it happened? Nobody knew, but it wasn’t good. Sometimes Lulu and Hugo would be making ballistic sound effects or singing silly songs in their bedroom when they were supposed to be going to sleep. All Dad had to say was, “You want me to come down there with the belt?” And that was it. The fake war or giggling operetta ended and the kids were quiet.

Hugo settled down and did as the photographer asked.

Then the photographer told Lulu to turn her face to the side for a profile (she did have a very cute freckled little nose) and took that photo, with one braid over the shoulder nearest the camera.

When the pictures came back, mailed to Dad in a big envelope, Hugo looked surprisingly intelligent, even wise. Lulu looked as if she should be running a company. “They’re so good!” said Mom. “Should we put these on Christmas cards?”

“Absolutely not,” said Dad, appalled. He fished down into the bottom of the big envelope and found a tiny contact print. There was Hugo making a face and, beside him, Lulu cracking up.

“But maybe this one,” he said, handing it to Mom.

Wings, Complete Story

“Go outside and find something to do.”

Lulu and her little brother, Hugo, went out the kitchen door that led to the garage and from there to the back yard. There in the garage was the great wonder — a refrigerator box that their parents had left out for trash day. They dragged it out the back door and looked at the slight rise at the back of their yard. Then they looked at the refrigerator box. They felt the November wind push their cheeks back toward their ears, and looked again at the refrigerator box. Yep. Wings. They set to breaking the box apart. Before long it was one flat piece of corrugated cardboard. 

“We have to get some scissors,” said Lulu, thoughtfully. 

Hugo got up from the cardboard and ran into the house. He came out with scissors. Mom’s sewing scissors. “Not those scissors, Hugo. Mom’ll kill you.”

“It’s just this one time.”
Lulu shrugged. Hugo would get away with it if anyone would. 
“I’m not touching them, and YOU tell her YOU took them.”
“I will.”
Soon they’d fashioned two sets of wings from the refrigerator box. 
“Go put them back,” said Lulu, seeing the scissors on the grass.
“You do it.” 

There were no buttons in existence that Hugo wouldn’t push. Lulu picked up the scissors and tried to sneak into the house with them, but as fate would have it, Mom was in the kitchen peeling potatoes. 

“We told you…what’s in your hand? Are those my sewing scissors?”

“They are, mom.” Lulu hung her head.
“Don’t you KNOW better than that?”
“I do.” Lulu didn’t DARE look up.
“Can you explain this to me? Look at me when I’m talking to you!”
“We’re making airplanes so we could fly. We needed to cut the refrigerator box so we could both have wings.” 
“Look at me.” Mom was mad. “What have I told you about my sewing scissors.”
“Never to touch them.”
“We touched them.”
YOU CUT CARDBOARD WITH THEM!!! Did you take them outside?”
“No. Hugo came in and got them.”
“Well that is neither here nor there.” Mom sighed. “Go to your room.”
Lulu thought it WAS “here AND there.” She’d brought them back in and faced this music while Hugo, the one who’d taken them, was getting off scot free. Lulu knew SHE would not have taken them. “But Mom. I didn’t take them. Hugo took them.”
“Nobody likes a snitch. I told you to go to your room.”

Lulu felt like she got off easy. 

It wasn’t long until she heard her mother calling Hugo into the house. “And put that cardboard in the garage where you found it!”

The kitchen door to the garage opened and Hugo came in.
“Hi Mom.”
“Hugo, honey, did you take my sewing scissors out of the drawer?”
Hugo hung his head. Mom wasn’t completely blinded by her golden child, and she recognized guilt.
“Don’t ever, ever, ever, ever do that,” she said sternly. “I need those scissors for sewing. They were expensive and money doesn’t grow on trees.”
“Where’s Lulu?”
“I sent her to her room.”
“We were building airplanes. We were going to fly.”
“Go get your sister,” said Mom who’d never been all THAT angry.

She looked out the window over the sink. She closed her eyes and saw another blond-haired little boy and a dark-haired little girl in braids. They stood on the lip of the small hill in a different back yard. With only one big piece of cardboard between them they had to take turns.

The little boy was smaller than his sister. A moment came when he took off running down the slope, and caught a gust at exactly the right time, exactly the right angle. His sneakered feet lifted two or three inches off the ground. It was only a matter of seconds but long enough.

He flew.

Mom wiped a tear from her eye.

“OK, kids. Take THESE scissors and go build your planes. Next time, ASK. I hate kids sneaking around behind my back. And NEVER EVER EVER take my sewing scissors for ANY purpose at all EVER.”

Grandma’s House (where we all find out where this story was going)

This story was told over the course of four days; now it’s all in one place. 😃

Part One — The wind slowed and the rain began to fall instead of sliding across the glass like a sneaky kid stealing third base. Lulu stared out the storm door and wondered if it was really true that standing at a window during a thunder storm attracted lightning. Right on cue her grandma yelled, “Get away from that door! Do you want to be struck by lightning?” Freckled imp that she was, she stepped back while her grandma was watching, but when the old woman’s head turned back to braiding rags to make a rug, Lulu stepped up to the door again. “I can see you, honey. You can’t fool me. I raised seven girls,” grandma chuckled. “Now you mind me and step back from there or I’ll get up and close that door.”

Lulu was bored, that was the thing. She’d been in the house with a cold forEVER. She felt fine. Her cousins were in the cellar, trapped by the rain. She hated them. Once in a while they’d call her on the WW II Army field phone they’d strung from the cellar to grandma’s kitchen. THEY were having fun while SHE was being yelled at by grandma. Everyone was having fun but her. The whole world was having fun but her. It was summer and was supposed to be fun, but it wasn’t. She went to the back room where she slept and flopped down on the bed, feeling very sorry for herself.

Part Two — You’d probably imagine that the next place for this story to go would be Lulu — who really DOES have a cold — flopping down on her bed, falling asleep and having a dream. You’d be right. She DID go to sleep and she DID have a dream, but I have no idea what it was. Grandma, however, hearing too much quiet coming from the back of the house, set aside the rag rug she was weaving, and pushed herself up from the rough, gray chair beside the window. “That girl,” she muttered, shaking her head. “She’s got a mind of her own, that’s for sure.”

She walked across the living room and through the kitchen to the back of the house. Two rooms had been added long after the house was built. There was a room with the wringer washer, some shelves for home-canned fruits and vegetables, hooks for coats and a pile of overshoes waiting for winter. Off that room was a bedroom where her husband of 52 years had spent the last days of his life. From there he could see everyone who came and went and it was easy for people to come in to visit. Now it was the “guest bedroom” but the “guests” were grandkids. 

“Lulu?” grandma said softly pulling aside the curtain that served as a door. 

There in the shining light of a rain-washed afternoon, across the bright-colored fancy quilt, the little girl lay, sound asleep, with her thumb in her mouth. Grandma chuckled and closed the curtain. 

“Now to see about those boys.”

Part Three — Grandma pulled on her pink sweater and outdoor shoes and went out the back door. At the other end of the wooden sidewalk Jack and them had built for her last year was the cellar. Its heavy door was covered with asphalt shingles. When the old man was alive, he spent many summer days in the cellar where it was cool. 

“Let us put up a new door, mom. That old door is pretty heavy.”

“No, no. I manage fine. Don’t go to any trouble.” But the sons-in-law all showed up early one Saturday morning, ready to work, only to learn that if they tore down that door, they’d have to tear down the cellar. That was more job than anyone was ready to tackle. Grandma made them breakfast and sent them home. 

You’re probably expecting grandma to open the cellar door and find the boys smoking or getting drunk on moonshine, but there weren’t any cigarettes (the boys weren’t interested anyway) and certainly no moonshine (good grief!). Instead she found four little boys shooting marbles on the cellar’s dirt floor under the light of the light bulb than hung from the ceiling. When they couldn’t fix the door, the sons-in-law had electrified the cellar. “It’ll be safer for you, mother,” they said. “Just turn on this switch.” They put the switch on the wall inside the door. Grandma thanked them but said she’d done fine a long while with the kerosene lantern that sat atop the shelf by the back kitchen door. She was sorry they’d gone to so much trouble.

“Why didn’t you just call us grandma? We set up the field phone so you could call us!”
“I’m not touching that thing.” 
“Is it still raining?”
“No, it stopped a little while ago.”
“Let’s get Lulu!”
“She’s sleeping. Leave her be.”
“When’s she going to be well, grandma?”
“Only the good Lord knows that. Supper’s in an hour. You need to come in pretty soon and get cleaned up. Your folks’ll be coming back.”

To be continued — for those of you sitting on the edge of your chair over this story, I honestly don’t think anything exciting is going to happen. Lulu isn’t going to die of a mysterious malady that initially manifests as a cold. The boys aren’t going to set anything on fire. Grandma isn’t going to suddenly clutch her chest and fall off the wooden sidewalk (4 inches — it’s set on 2 x 4s) There could be a game of Red Rover — a game kids are no longer allowed to play — and THAT may be a little sensational, but… I think the deepest question this story will address is “Why can’t we eat honeysuckle berries, Grandma?”

Part Four — conclusion

“Real gullywasher out east, mom. The river flooded down by Pompey’s Pillar.”

“Oh my Lord,” said grandma wiping her hands on her apron. “Could you shell those peas for me, Jo? Those snow peas have been prolific this year.” (grandma wouldn’t say “prolific” but that’s the prompt today)

“Happy to, mom.” Hazel, mother to two of the boys in the cellar, took the colander from grandma and sat down at the table to shell the peas.

“Was Lulu any trouble?” asked Patricia coming in the back door with Lulu’s baby brother in her arms.

“Not at all. I had to make her mind once.”

“Just once?” Patricia laughed. “Do you need a hand with supper?” She set the baby in the high chair.

“Hazel, if you could take those peas somewhere so Patricia could lay the table?”

“Sure thing, mom.” Hazel took her project and her chair and moved out of the way.

The back door opened again and the sons-in-law came in with Rochelle, mother of two of the boys in the cellar. “Where are the boys?” she asked, shaking the water out of her hair in the back room.

“In the cellar playing marbles.”

“Do you want me to go get them so they can clean up for supper?”

“That’s a good idea.”

“Where IS Lulu?” asked Patricia.

“She’s taking a nap in the back room.”

“Oh mother, how long?”

“An hour gone now.”

“She won’t sleep tonight, mother. What were you thinking?” Patricia stomped out of the kitchen heading for the back room. Hazel looked at grandma who shook her head.

What could you do? The boys came in and Greg, the oldest finished setting the table.

“There are a lot of us for supper tonight,” said grandma to one of the sons-in-law who nodded and got the chairs from the dining room. Grandma had a dining room, but no one ever ate there.

“Let me do that, mother,” said another son-in-law. He took the heavy kettle and poured the chicken and dumplings into the large mixing bowl and set it in the middle of the table with the new peas, cooked quickly and topped with butter, a plate of bread, a plate of butter, grandma’s plum jam from last year. Thirteen people sat around the table, seven grown-ups, laughing and arguing, four cleaned-up little boys surprised not to be at a “kid’s table,” one little girl with a cold, sitting in the corner, sleepy-eyed, with her thumb in her mouth, and a baby in a high chair with his thumb in his mouth, smashing peas against the tray with is other hand.

You can’t say I didn’t warn you that NOTHING would happen with this story.

The “Giving” Tree or Something Else?

The message offered in the “kids” book, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, is surprisingly debatable. Some people think it’s a beautiful story of love and self-sacrifice, the mother-child relationship. The most common summary of the symbolism I find in a quick search on the Internet is, “The Giving Tree is about a mother and son. The Giving Tree is about the relationship between a mother and son. The relationship between the boy and the tree is almost exactly like a mother and son, or child. The son takes from the mother, and she gives.”

Some people think it’s a grim story of selfishness and exploitation.

A student gave the book to me when I was a teaching assistant in grad school. At first, I loved the book. When I looked at it again — putting it on my shelves here in my house when I moved in — I thought, “What a sick and miserable story.” Sometime not long after I read an essay in the NYT that put it out there, The Giving Tree: Tender Story of Unconditional Love or Disturbing tale of Selfishness Quoted in an Op Ed about the book, “We need to Talk About The Giving Tree” one of the book’s editors, Phyllis Fogelman, expressed her opinion. “I have had qualms about my part in the publication of ‘The Giving Tree,’ which conveys a message with which I don’t agree,” she said in an interview. “I think it is basically a book about a sadomasochistic relationship.”


I now see the story as a parable about human’s relationship with this planet.

In The Giving Tree, the tree sacrifices itself so the boy can have what he wants. The tree gives the boy her apples to sell, her branches to build a house, and her trunk to make a boat. Pretty soon, she’s nothing but a stump, and IF she is NOT the kind of tree that reproduces through cloning (as do Aspen trees), well, that’s the end of it. SO…if the tree IS our planet — which does NOT reproduce through cloning or in any other way — (I’m not sure Shel Silverstein thought of that at all) it’s a very sad story. One of the most disgusting things I’ve seen in the litany of disgusting news is that we’ve left some of our trash on Mars.

A reader pointed me to Wikipedia’s entry on this book, and there I found this WONDERFUL (IMO) article: “That Insufferable The Giving Tree”

If you don’t know the book, it’s here in an animated version.

Word Up!

“A breach, T.L.? It’s where things break down. An opening. Like an old wall that has a crack in it. There’s a breach in the wall, and the weeds grow through it.”

“How do YOU know?”

“I’m in seventh grade. I KNOW things. You’re only in third or something.”


“Whatever, you haven’t learned ‘breach’ yet. Now you have. It’s an opening.”

“Who died and made you the dictionary?”


“I guess that’s why I got it wrong.”

“Got what wrong?”

“On the vocabulary test. I hate school. I never learn anything.”

“You just did. You learned ‘breach’.”

“Not from school. From you. My stupid brother. My stupid teacher doesn’t teach as good as my stupid brother.”

“You have to learn this stuff Tina Louise. Do you want to spend your life in fourth grade.”


“Let’s see your list.”

Tina Louise went into the kitchen and dug the test out of the trash. She took a paper towel, wet it a little, cleaned the ketchup off the top and took it back to her room.


“You only got one right?”

“I hate school. I hate vocabulary.”

“Ha ha ha! You said ‘breach’ was ‘pants’.”

“Like the ‘Little Breaches Rodeo’.”

“That’s not breaches. That’s ‘britches’.”

“Don’t tell mom and dad, OK?”

“T.L., you know you’re gonna’ get a report card. They’ll find out. How many of these have you flunked?”

“Pretty much all of them.”

“You want me to help you?”

“I hate my teacher. I hate school. All we do is learn stuff and take tests.”

“That’s school, T.L.”

“I don’t want to go any more.”

“OK, what about this one. You got it right.”

“Yeah. ONE.”

“OK, that’s better than NONE. What about this one? Let’s try it.”

“Dis-pos-able. Vocabulary is disposable. I can’t learn it. It’s disposable for me.”

Derrick looked at the crumpled piece of paper smoothed out, washed by his little sister and smelling of ketchup. He didn’t want to laugh at her, but it was becoming more and more difficult not to.

“Apparently not, TL.”

I’m in a creative funk and I figure the best way out of it is to write a story every day and maybe draw a picture. It’s very hot here in Heaven, it’s impossible to get out with the dogs at the moment. I have a hangover from the past year and a bad case of ennui. I can’t complain because it’s been a LOOOONNNNGGG time since I’ve felt a funk like this and I can see where it came from. I’m a very lucky person — something that’s also clear to me — and I know that this will pass. One of the things most in demand by life itself is patience. 🙂

Lamont and Dude Contemplate Human Power

“Do you ever think about how absurd it is that humans are on top of the food chain? I mean, look at these.”

“What am I looking at Dude?”

“My ‘claws’.”

“I know what you mean. When it comes to rending and tearing, they’re ridiculous. When it comes down to it, human’s biggest advantage might be their brains, but even there, I’m a little skeptical.”

“You want to go out and catch a few sets? I waxed up your board for you. It’s not great but we’ve surfed worse.”

“Wow. Thanks! I’d love to, Dude.”


Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with a few years ago. They have the uncanny ability to remember many of their past incarnations which gives them a unique perspective on life, the universe and everything.


Wide Shining

“What’s that?”


“That thing in your hand. It looks like an eye.”

Bennet looked down and, sure enough, in the center of his left hand, was an eyeball blinking at him. As he stared, it winked.

“What about your other hand?”

Bennet opened his right hand and no, it was normal. “What about you, Beth?” His voice was shaking. “Do you have a, uh, eyeball in your hand? Either hand?

Beth closed her eyes and slowly opened her hands. She really did not want to know. “You look, Bennet.”

There in the middle of both Beth’s hands were eyeballs, very pretty lilac ones, gazing up at Bennet. “Well, yeah, hun. But they’re very pretty. Lavender.” He even thought they looked as if the were wearing mascara and eyeliner but HOW they got mascara and eyeliner was a puzzle way too weird for the human brain. “Hmmm, maybe that permanent makeup,” he mused aloud. “But permanent mascara?”

“What Bennet?” The eyes in her face were still squeezed shut.

“You might as well just look, Beth.” He stared at the mischievous brown globular organ looking up at him, bringing it up to his face so he could, uh, look it in the eye. “It likes me,” he thought.

Life on Planet Theia had been full of surprises. The light was always very clear, spotlighting anything that Beth and Bennet were looking at as if the planet’s features volunteered answers about their nature. Beth’s early reports back to Earth were filled with rapturous descriptions of Theia’s beauty and its apparent willingness to reveal its secrets. But, after a time, Beth realized that such raptures might be a threat to this planet that was its own kind of paradise.

“You have to keep making reports, sweetie,” said Bennet. “If you stop, they’ll send a search party or, at the very least a probe.”

“You’re right. I’ll just make them a little less, you know, glowing.” Slowly, slowly, Beth’s reports reflected fewer and fewer discoveries and everyone on Earth thought the Away Team had exhausted the novelties of the planet. Just another ball of iron oxide out there spinning around a star. “Whatev'”

“I think what we do now,” ventured Bennet looking down, having come to like the brown eyeball in his left hand, “We use them. We’re scientists, Beth.”

“Just because we’re scientists doesn’t mean we can’t be freaked out. How will we use our hands with those eyeballs? Eyeballs are fragile.”

“I guess they know enough to close. C’mon. Let’s go try them out.”

Beth opened the eyes in her face and looked down at the two beautiful orbs in the palms of her hands. “They ARE beautiful!” Beth whispered staring into them. She saw their expression change to one of pride mixed with a little embarrassment. The palm of her hand even appeared to blush. “Really, Bennet, this is amazing.”

Planet Theia had been chosen for exploration because of its uncanny visibility in the early morning sky. Not the closest earth-like planet outside of Earth’s solar system, but certainly the brightest one. This shining planet was named Theia — one of the Greek Titans — Theia Euryphaessa meaning “wide-shining.” The planet exerted an unusual appeal to scientists planning scientific research expeditions — Away Teams as they were called.

Theia’s oxygen levels were about the same as Earth at 10,000 feet/3000 meters, about the same as Leadville, Colorado, plenty for human life for someone with good lungs and a strong heart. Beth and Bennet headed out of their hut into Theia’s unwavering luminosity. Bennet, who usually walked with his hands in his pockets, lifted his left hand up so the eye could see. Beth had instantly realized that she was no longer limited to frontal vision, but soon saw that it was important to give the eyes a chance to focus in whatever direction they were aimed. It took some time — and practice — before all the eyes worked in sync with each other.

“This is incredible,” she said, awestruck and bewildered. “I’m going to sit here and just LOOK.”

“Good idea,” Bennet replied, joining her on the boulder beside the trail.

A vision of the entire horizon floated sweetly along the lines of sight to the welcoming filaments of their optic nerves.

“We don’t know anything,” murmured Beth.

“No. We don’t. Not even how to see.”

“I guess we’re about to learn.”

“Looks like it.”


Moments Lost in Time

Every morning I awaken to an impeccable layer of fine dust replacing the one I removed the day before. Yes, I appreciate that this is a GREAT opening for a dystopian novel and I have the plot already in my mind. Here goes:

An active yet elderly lady spends her days in a tiny house in the middle of no where. The house is surrounded by a 12 foot lilac hedge and a six foot wooden fence. Much of what she needs is delivered to her house by robots and she has NO IDEA that there are no people left on earth. NO IDEA at all.

She and her two dogs live their lives without knowing that ALL of the other people on earth have succumbed to a deadly virus. It was a gradual die-off, giving humanity time to replace most farming, manufacture, delivery — everything! — with robots. The UPS delivery guy looks just the same, but he’s really NOT the same. In fact EVERYONE looks the same, but…

And why? Is the human form the most efficient that the robots could have adopted? Well, it happened like this. Their designers — back when there were still people — thought this was the best way to combat the terrible feelings of hopelessness experienced by people everywhere. If the robots were covered with a human form, people could continue to deny what was happening. Yes, you got it. They are all replicants (who could EVER top Philip K. Dick on this one?) So, when the replicants themselves took over production (it had to happen) they continued. Somehow they had all been built with a certain wistful high regard for humanity. Their “ideal” is human beings. What would Plato say?

What no one knew — and the woman didn’t know — is that the virus, bereft of “hosts,” had died a natural death during one particularly cold winter. It had fallen with a heavy January snow, had blown away in the March wind, and vanished completely in a brief, June thunderstorm. Why the woman was immune no one would ever know. And what the replicants would do when she was gone (as the world really DID revolve around her) was anyone’s guess, not that there was anyone TO guess.