Amoeba’s Lorica: By Any Other (Eww) Name

It is midnight at the Capulet compound in Verona, Italy. Juliet, age 14, is in the throes of her first crush – and has just found out that the object of her affections is a rising star in a rival gang, the Montagues. She takes her angst to the balcony and shares it at full volume to the garden, which she believes to be more secure than her bedroom, perhaps thinking that her parents and their IT staff had programmed Alexa to spy on her. Unknown to her, her sixteen-year-old crush, Romeo, has somehow crept over the compound walls and through the barbed wire without being detected by the security cameras, and is now sitting in the garden, listening in. He is, of course, no wiser about believing her words than she is about uttering them, and when she starts comparing his ugly name to a sweet-smelling rose, he can contain himself no longer …

Romeo: Bacteria!

Juliet (freaked out): WTF?!? Who the hell is out there?”

Romeo: “It’s me, Romeo!”

Juliet (pissed):Seriously? You pick me up at a party not six hours ago and now you’re stalking me?!? You creep!”

Romeo (pissed in return): “Say what? Get real. Four hundred years they’ve been playing this balcony scene, and now it’s creepy?”

Juliet: “We’re not in the meat market any more, Mr. Romeo Montague. And we’re not in a hurry to get pregnant so we can have our children – if any – before smallpox or the plague or cholera does us in. Speaking of which, Buster, where’s your mask?”

Romeo: “A little bit late to be worrying about that now, isn’t it, kissyface?”

Juliet: “Right. Come over here and let me show you scratchyclaws! And you were the one who brought up germs just now! Ewwww!!

Romeo: “And why wouldn’t I, when you were announcing to the world how roses by other names smell sweet, and we can make bacteria smell like roses?”

Juliet: “Huh?”

Romeo: “The guys and gals in Montague Labs have worked out how to make bacteria produce 2-phenylethanol, which is the compound that gives roses their smell. We can make these ‘germs’ smell like roses, or jasmine, or anything you like. At industrial scale!”

Juliet: “So not only are you a creep, you’re a nerd!”

Romeo: “Check out the Bitcoin account, sweetheart. Sheathe those talons and I can sweep you off your feet in style!

Juliet: “And just how am I supposed to tell my friends that I’m hanging with a pusher of GMOs?”

Romeo: “Were those the friends at the party who were chowing down on those Impossible Burgers?”

Juliet: “Yes, and me too. You got something against saving the planet?”

Romeo: “Only this, Juliet the Vegan Capulet. Impossible Burgers are impossible without the yeast that make heme. Yeast that have been genetically modified to make heme. Your flagship vegan products are GMO. You might have some unpleasant choices to be making here.”

Juliet: “What are you doing to me? I thought love was supposed to make you feel good!

Romeo: “Sometimes love don’t feel like it should.”

Juliet: “You calling me a cougar?”

Romeo: “Honey, you don’t come close to qualifying.”

Juliet: “Speaking of close. You get out of here before Security finds you. I’ll text you in the morning or something. Maybe.”

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Amoeba’s Lorica: Little Red Hen-pecked

It was sunset on a farm somewhere on the Great Plains of the North American continent. The landscape was brown, fading to gray as the sun set on the hazy western horizon, and the air was chill with the first announcement of the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. Around a small campfire, a group of five animals sat, silent, downcast, and dejected, staring at the fire and the lack of cooking utensils on it – or, of anything to cook. The five included a cat, a dog, a rat, a duck, and a pig.

Abruptly, there was a sharp growl. All the animals suddenly went on alert. The cat, flashing to steam instantly, whirled around to face the dog, sitting next to him. “Don’t you start getting all snarly with me, Fido, or I’ll rip your nose off!”

“I didn’t do it!”, the dog whined. “Go sink your claws into somebody else!

“Yeah, like who?”, the cat yowled back. “Pipsqueak here? Or feather quackers?” The rat flashed her incisors, while the duck hissed.

“Back off, pussy”, the pig grunted. “It was me. You heard my stomach growling.”

“With all that fat you’re lugging around? No way!”, the cat retorted.

“Way. And my fat is screaming that you’re all looking pretty tasty right about now!”

All the other animals, including the cat, suddenly dashed behind the dog, putting him between themselves and the pig. The dog was not too keen on this, and said so.

“OK, OK, OK!“, he bayed. “Can we stop squabbling and remember what got us all here?”

“That damned hen“, the duck spit out. “And the bread she wouldn’t share with us! We’re all citizens of this farm just like she is. What is her problem?

“Exactly”, proclaimed the dog.

“But”, squeaked out the rat.

“But what?” the dog barked.

“I-I don’t understand”, the rat stammered back, “how come you dogs care about bread?”

“Shows what you know about what’s in dog chow these days”, the dog responded, sardonically.

And you useless puppies sat back and took it!!”, the cat screamed. “I have you to thank for vegan cat food!

“You were in line for that hen’s bread just like the rest of us”, the pig rumbled.

“And if you were offered a choice between a fresh loaf, and mass-produced kibbles stinking of kerosene and stale cauliflower?”, the cat shot back at the pig.

don’t have any problem with vegan cat food”, the rat stated.

“Yeah, you wouldn’t!” rowred the cat. The rat skittered back behind the dog.

“It’s discrimination!”, the duck interjected, drawing attention away from the cat.

“Correct”, the dog asserted. “And I for one am sick of those barnyard fowl lording it over the rest of us. Snooty-nosed birds, prancing around in all those fancy colors. And their chicks all go to their own private schools. Go ahead. Try to get a puppy enrolled in one of them. Just try! And see how far you get.”

“They all go nuts, I’ll agree with you on that”, the cat said. “Try it with a kitten!

“I actually got a duckling in there, one time”, the duck confessed, sadly. “Then they found out. It wasn’t pretty.”

“How can you build barnyard diversity with an attitude like that?”, the rat asked. “How can you build trust? And equal treatment among animals?”

“Like you’ve never made off with one of their eggs?”, the pig snorted.

“Shut. Up.”, the rat replied.

“Not until I’ve asked all of you this question”, the pig oinked, staring down each of the other animals in turn. Didn’t the hen ask each one of us to help in the making of this bread we’re all grumbling about?”

“I thought grubbing in the dirt was your department”, the cat purred derisively. The pig blinked. The cat went on the offensive. “Well? What kind of slave-labor jobs did she want us to do, huh? Was any of us offered an executive-level position in this bread-making company? Hell no! Break your back digging and hauling and weeding and threshing and milling, and maybe at the end of the day you’ll get a few crumbs for your labors! Down with slavery! Down with chickens!!

DOWN WITH CHICKENS!!!”, all the animals screamed in unison.

“Remember this night of hunger”, the dog proclaimed. “May it forever fuel your resolve never to yield until we have our rights! And bread is ours! DOWN WITH CHICKENS!!

DOWN WITH CHICKENS!!!”, all the animals screamed again.

By this time, the campfire had burned to embers. The cat, the dog, and the pig took turns watering it down, until only a few wisps of foul-smelling smoke remained. Then, each of the animals sought their resting places for the night, minds full of plans for the morrow and how those plans would deliver justice unto little red hens.

As the rat and the cat were about to depart, the rat spoke up. “When we come into our own, I’ll share my chicken down stash with you. It makes wonderful bedding.”

The cat purred.

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Amoeba’s Lorica: Solitaire Confinement

Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba has spent some time lately (he’d, ah, rather not specify just how much time) trying his damnedest to lose. And no, he’s not on a diet. That kind of loss he gave up on, a powerful long time ago.

Y’see, it’s like this.

For some decades now, when absolutely too stonkered to accomplish anything else (like completing overdue work tasks, or following the news about useless Presidential impeachment sideshows), but a nap is out of the question or it’s too early to go to bed, YFNA has turned to playing solitaire. Usually the solitaire, commonly known, in the USA anyway, as Klondike. He has been known to play solitaire in bed so that he could fall asleep. He has, um, also been known to spend hours investigating whether the game he was playing was properly called Klondike or Canfield, the originator of which called his game Klondike …

Back when elephants had fur, YFNA played analog Klondike. Using actual playing cards. Yes, Gen Z folk, there was a time when pasteboard playing cards existed, and cell phones did not. Then, he found a free Klondike software program, which he downloaded and guarded through several generations of computer hardware and operating systems. Alas, it didn’t survive attempts to install it on the computer he’s using now.


So he went looking for a new free download. And discovered that downloads were no longer necessary. He could play Klondike for free online! Open a webpage and shuffle cards for as long as it took to detox from that ridiculous argument or lay down and dozzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz …

Well, almost free. There’s that intrusive sidebar with the ads. Judging from the companies featured on those ads, either the perpetrators of this particular online Klondike are particularly effective sellers, or there’s enough people playing it to catch the attention of Big Business. YFNA guesses that he’s not alone in being alone, so to speak, and he’s not at all sure that that’s comforting news.

But those sidebar ads don’t interrupt the game playing. The full-screen videos that pop up from time to time do interrupt the game playing, and were annoying enough to induce YFNA to consider corrective action. Especially when they were ads for ammunition dealers. Actions, like ditching this game and finding another. Which probably would have fatal quirks of its own, which he would have to spend time finding and dealing with somehow. Or, working out whether there was any way to play the game and not have to put up with the popup ads.

So, he played the game. And discovered, over time, the algorithm that the game uses to decide when to deploy one of those full-metal popup ads. It proved to be très simple. Every third time the victim player wins a game, presto, a popup appears, and the game does not continue until the popup finishes.

In other words, the player is penalized for winning. To which, the only appropriate response is, don’t win! The player usually knows when a game is won before the final card is turned, and the game offers no prizes, or running points tally, or other incentive to prove to the game that the player is competent.

So YFNA has spent much of his undisclosed amount of time lately honing his skills for detecting a won game, and moving to the next hand before play on the previous one has formally been completed. And his reward has been the ability to play for long stretches, uninterrupted by popup ads – and, sometimes, even without the sidebar ads. This can’t be good for the game owners (though the Big Businesses occupying the sidebar don’t seem to mind, yet), but it suits YFNA down to the ground.

Yes, this is pathetic, this wasting of allegedly precious hours on a meaningless pastime.

But from what YFNA has seen during these seasons of floods and high temperature records, of the ubiquity of masks and the dearth of hugs, of snakes on flags and an insurrection that was simultaneously existentially terrifying and breathlessly incompetent, a focus on Klondike beats a focus on the futility of phony words to bring humanity back from the brink of the precipice on which it stands, and on the stark necessity (and doubtful outcome, White Rose fans) of self-sacrificial action needed to effect real change.

And yes, YFNA has been known to count flowers on the wall.

Counting flowers on the wall
That don’t bother me at all
Playing solitaire till dawn with a deck of fifty-one
Smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo
Now don’t tell me I’ve nothing to do.

Lew DeWitt

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