Amoeba’s Lorica: A Star in a Chessboard Sky

Originally posted on Good Friday, 2006 CE – alternatively, year 1 BQ (Before Quilldancer) – on the now long-defunct Felloffatruck Publications blog. Discovered while Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba was researching the past – the past when Quilly was content to dismiss YFNA as a ‘pompous jerk’ (alas, how some things don’t change).


The scientist was walking home. It had been a long day of databases, and DNA gels, and repeated web searches for arcane facts, and people passing each other like the proverbial ships in a fog, each aware of the other only just in time to avoid collision, just long enough to be assured of safe passage.

He was alone. He was also hungry, but the city had already locked itself away from the street people. Everyone else had gone home. The Asians of the university were under the curfew of responsibility, diligent in their pursuit of a life of respectable getting and spending, while the whites were dipping into their stores, stocked in anticipation of the approaching long weekend. In this part of town, the blacks were few and, apparently, blended into the night.

He walked down the street, thinking of the food he’d have to fix for himself at this late hour. But his thoughts were repeatedly interrupted by the insistent sweetness of jasmine, the scent coming now from a garden, now from some hidden clothes dryer, now from a perfumed partygoer on a balcony above his head.

He looked up. He suddenly realized that he had not been able to do this for more than a week. The incessant, and abnormal, spring rains had kept the good citizens of Berkeley trapped under parkas and umbrellas, eyes cast down, treading carefully through the water and the mud. Tonight, though, the rain had at last come to an end, the pavements were dry, and he could scan the sky without getting a face, or a shoe, full.

He saw that the clouds had not disappeared – the anti-rainbow, he thought with resigned disgust – but they were not the solid bank they had been, either. In fact, in large parts of the sky, there was a regular pattern of square clouds, alternating with square holes that revealed the unreachable depths beyond. A stratospheric chessboard. And in one of the holes, there shone a single star.

The scientist was fascinated at the sight, and a little troubled. At this fascination, his professional side was more than a little annoyed. Yes, he knew that tomorrow would bring that capriciously-dated holiday, Good Friday, when a 2000-year-old man whose birth was symbolized by a star was, as the story goes, put to death by the Romans under suspicious circumstances. He had read the sober scholars who doubted whether the execution ever occurred, whether the one executed even existed. He had read the accounts linking the stories told of Jesus with those told of Mithras, and how both traditions shared elements with traditions that were older still.

The scientist could look up that star on a chart. Calculate its size, distance from Earth, and motion relative to Earth. Calculate the probability that a few photons, of all the ones randomly cast into space by the nuclear fires of that star, would survive all the mischances of travel over multiple thousands of light-years of time and parsecs of distance to intersect with his eye at 11 PM PDT on 13 April 2006 on the grounds of the University of California at Berkeley. That picture of a star framed by chessboard clouds was a freak of randomness, a happy chance perhaps, but a chance all the same, signifying nothing.

But he could not stop the wave of alarm and dismay that pounded on him when the chessboard moved and the star vanished, snuffed out by a white square.

Posted in Amoeba's Lorica, personal thoughts, Quilly | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Dude and Dude: Heartless

Don’t lose heart.

… they might want to cut it out …

… and they want to avoid a lengthy search.




“This, like, sucks, dude! … hello?”

“Nah, dude, I ain’t askin’ whut this is. ‘Count a b’cause if I did, ya’d keep me here all day, an’ they’s only so much a this Zoom thingy I c’n take. Tell me mebbe what doesn’t suck. Shorter list, less time.”

“Babies on bottles.”

“… whut?”

“‘Cause if this keeps on like it’s goin’, ain’t gonna be nuthin’ in them bottles fer tha babies ta suck on, yeah?”

“[…] Good day sunshine ta you too, dude.”

“Yeah, like, whaddaya want from me? It’s Labor Day weekend and ya cain’t even go ta tha beach!

“Big dudes ‘r tryin’ ta make sure ya don’t get laid out on tha beach permanently. In yer case, I ain’t quite sure why they’re sweatin’ it …”

“What? So’s tha COVID don’t take ya out? ‘r are they tryin’ ta keep alla tha cars offa tha roads so’s ya don’ rack yerself up drivin’ one? That one’s tha more likely, ya ask me. Why don’ they just make a announcement, ‘Fun’s cancelled fer tha rest a tha year‘ an’ have done?”

“‘Cause if’n they, ‘r you, think this is gonna be over at tha end a tha year, y’all got ‘nother think comin’. We’s just gonna haveta tough it out. Kinda like we thought a million years ago.”

“Ya mean, like, back in April?”

“Yeah, then. Ya ain’t bailin’ on me, dude?”

“Not if’n ya keep yer ass outa tha path a tha bucket. An’ ya might wanna consider grabbin’ a bucket yerself, yeah? Tha water’s comin’ inta tha boat hard ‘n fast, an’ if’n yer countin’ on jus’ me doin’ this, yer gonna get a little soggy even if ya don’t get hit wit’ a pailful.”

“OK, OK dude! I wuz just checkin’ up on ya, y’were soundin’ a bit, like, gloomy.

“Ya reckon? Wit’ life in tha tank an’ tha Idiot In Chief an’ his goons tryin’ ta cark it up even worse, an’ peeps buyin’ it?!? An’ Biden an’ his crowd promisin’ ta find new ways ta cark things up? Didya know that, ever’ Republican President startin’ wit’ Nixon has figgered out some ingenious way ta piss tha country off, enuff so’s one would think their party would be in tha wilderness, like, ferever, an’ tha minute a Democratic President came in, wit’in two years tha Republicans had stormed right back? Carter’s debacle, Clinton vs. tha Contract wit’ America, which woulda been easier ta deal wit’ if’n he’d kept his dick in his pants, Obama vs tha ‘birthers’ despite tha fact that he stopped tha Great Recession from lookin’ more like what we got now?”

You have been talkin’ wit’ OC?!?”

“First time fer ever’thin’, dude. An’ ya learn, real quick like, that tha way ya don’t lose heart is by fergettin’ about it an’ focusin’ on tha bailin’.”


“But a dude’s gotta take a break sometime. An’ I can’t even go ta tha beach!”

“Ya c’n try readin’, dude.”

“Yeah? Like what?”

“Like this.”

“OC’s Quilly has written a book?”


“What kind? I mean, it’s not like she’s inta stuff nobody ever heard of, ‘r cares ’bout, like OC is.”

“A romance, dude. Dude an’ a chick an’ a dog an’ a farm ranch out West an’ …”

Du-UUUUUUUUUDE!!! We couldn’t get chicks afore we had ta sweat masks an’ social distancin’! Ya tryin’ ta torture me afore ya kill me?!? How do they even get ta hold hands wit’out tha COVID police descendin’ on ’em??”

“It’s fiction, dude. Tha police are defunded.”

“Yeah right. Are you fer real, dude?”

“Virtually. Same as you. Have ya fergotten?”

Posted in current events, Dude and Dude, humor, Quilly | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Amoeba’s Lorica: Responsible Parties

If the public is to blame for the current surge in [COVID-19] infections, then our leadership is no longer responsible. [Blaming the public] is an evasion technique that avoids asking hard questions, making hard choices, and more than anything, it avoids accountability. Blaming the public allows for inaction on contributing factors to the spread of infection. These include limited access to health care for certain groups and for those that have lost their jobs, the lack of sick leave for many, insufficient wages to match the astronomical cost of living, and overcrowded housing that disproportionately affects our highest risk groups.

Governor: “OK, Advisory Council, I need advice. We’ve got this germ here. It kills people. The only way we’ve got to stop it is to isolate people from each other. Which means they don’t work, don’t get paid, don’t eat. Which kills people. What do we do here?”

Chamber of Commerce: “Let it rip. We …”

Medical team:What kind of beast …?!?

Governor: “Let him have his say. You’ll get your turn.”

Medical team: “We don’t want a ‘turn’. We want you to save lives!

Governor: “Did you hear what I just said? What part of ‘kills people’ did you not understand? This is not a TV show, and rigging the Kobayashi Maru software is not an available solution. Neither is automatically doing your bidding, or anyone else’s, until I hear what all the issues are.”

Medical team:But …!!

Governor: “Shut. Up. (to Chamber of Commerce) My apologies for interrupting you.”

Chamber of Commerce: “Thank you, Madame Governor. As I was saying, we think it best to let the virus rip. We have just gotten these islands back on their economic feet after the last economic disaster. We have done so via tourism, which absolutely depends on unfettered contact among people to be profitable: travel, show audiences, dining out. Shut tourism down, and we go from 3% unemployment to 30% unemployment overnight. And demolish the income we’d need to keep these people fed and housed while we wait for somebody to figure out how to make the virus go away.

“Even you medicos acknowledge that, if we stop the world, the virus won’t get off it. If we let it go, it will take, like, six months to burn itself out. If we don’t, it’ll take like two years, with no guarantee, short of development of an effective vaccine …”

Anti-vaccination activist: “An effective what?!?”

Governor: “And how did we get so dependent on tourism?”

Retirement community representative: “Because any noisy, smelly, disgusting industrial activity that you try to bring in here to destroy our views and ambiance is going to get firebombed! And remember, we vote!

Farmers: “Along with any damned GMO crops you try to bring in. And we vote too!”

Chamber of Commerce: “But no other crops are even going to be close to profitable on these islands!”

Farmers: “We don’t care. We don’t want them here. We get by with our specialty crops. You’re not going to wipe us out only to find that you still can’t grow enough stuff to feed our people.”

Chamber of Commerce: “And when we can no longer pay to fly in the crops from California and Mexico that we rely on now?”

Farmers: “Not our problem.”

Aloha ‘aina: “And don’t even think of bringing tech companies in here. We’ll wipe them off the islands like we’re wiping the telescopes off Mauna Kea!”

Governor: “I see …”

Medical team: “You see nothing! We’re going to hook you up to nonstop videos of people dying with hoses stuck down their throats! On cots in hallways! Then you’ll see something! And you’ll do the only right thing!!”

Chamber of Commerce: “Do we need to hook you up to nonstop videos of living skeletons in breadlines?!?

Medical team: “Yeah go ahead. You post yours on social media, we’ll post ours on social media. We’ll see which way the hate mail goes. We’re betting it won’t be pretty for you when the votes are counted.”

Governor: “Do I wish to know how come we don’t have enough hospital resources to cope with the virus case load if we don’t choose to shut down?”

Medical team: “You don’t see that either? It’s because those corporate criminals that you love so much won’t corral their insurance profiteers, won’t pay taxes to ensure that citizens …”

Chamber of Commerce:Businesses on these cursed rocks pay nothing but taxes!! And for what?!? Useless railway publicity stunts? Be grateful that we have a tourist industry. You’re not attracting any other class of revenue-earning commercial activity to these islands for the bluehairs to firebomb. Not with the current tax extortion in place. And without that tourist industry, you physicians might be doing all your procedures in grass shacks!”

Aloha ‘aina: “Works for us! Maybe we can get rid of all you haoles while there’s still fish on the reefs for us to live on, like we used to.”

Governor: “And so …”

Chamber of Commerce: “Make a decision, dammit!”

Medical team: “And make the right one, or else!”

Everyone else in the room: “Yeah!”

Governor: “What do you want from me?”

Everyone else: “We want the world and we want it NOW!!!”

Retirement community representative: “I sure as hell won’t want to be you after you make your announcement on this and your approval ratings are published.”

Governor: “OK, well, thank you all. Dismissed.”

Farmers: “Where are you going?”

Governor: “To church.”

Aloha ‘aina: “For why?”

Governor: “To beg for an act of God. He doesn’t have to stand for election.”


A multitude is as wise as its wisest member if it obey [dem]; if not, it is no wiser than its most foolish. – Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Posted in Amoeba's Lorica, current events, Hawai'i, health, politics, We the People | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments