Neal’s Hero: Arroyo Vet Hospital

Q: WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN you lose your wallet, the roommate’s got the car all day, and the cat has a mysterious slash on his tail which he won’t stop licking and leaves bloody smears on the chaise-longue???

A: What I did was call Arroyo Veterinary Hospital, who told me to sit tight while they sent someone over to pick him up, fix him up and hang on to him until this afternoon. These are the same people who oohed and awwed over our little woojums last time and who put him up during the week we got flooded in February.

That’s ARROYO VETERINARY HOSPITAL, who have no idea they’ve been so lauded. Local heroes: people who do their job well and graciously. Thank you.

Pithyism #1:100

IT IS DIFFICULT TO BE a friend to people and be a friend to their Institution (whether school, religious body, ideology, non-profit or dinner arrangements) when the Institution distracts from its intended focus: people.

Fiction: The Little Green Man Who Didn’t

HE WAS DANGLING FROM THE upper corner of my typewriter window, upside-down and scowling, when I first saw the Man from Mars.

That’s what he was, no doubt about it. He was three feet tall, emerald green where the spacesuit didn’t cover him, and with more-than-vestigial antennae sprouting from a large bulbous head. His expression mingled disappointed with disbelief, as though his worst hopes had been realized about a minute before he appeared.

“I cannot believe you people,” he was saying. “Just can’t believe it.”

“I’m not sure I believe in you either,” I said.

Biblical Note: No Idiots Need Apply

IT HAS COME TO THE attention of Metaphorager.Net that certain hatebrained wink-and-gigglers are selectively quoting vv. 8-9 of Psalm 109 to express their disdain for the President With The Suspicious Middle Name (simply paraphrased, they’re calling for his death). While I’m not one to upset the otherwise noble Lower North American art of president-disdaining, I really hate to see some of my favorite books hijacked by idiots. So it appeals to the Cosmic Jokester in me to discover that Psalm 109’s second and third verses say this (in the Artscroll translation):

2. For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful have opened against me, they have spoken to me the language of falsehood,
3. And with words of hatred they have encircled me, and attacked me without cause.

(“God?” Please. Save us from those who think they know You. The rest of us are tiring of the irony.)

Pithyism #23

ALL GREAT TRUTHS WERE ONCE heresies, but not all heresies become Great Truths.

N.B. I might have inadvertently nicked this from someone else, but ISTR specifically coining it after some New Age sweetness-and-lightster tried to convince Sputnik and I to junk our cars and levitate instead

We’re All Clones (Except Me)

A RECENT FACEBOOK POLL (OF which I generally conduct one daily) revealed that few people have experienced the mindbreaking awe of encountering their own body double.

Let me assure you: No matter how often it happens, it is a very weird feeling, as it undoubtedly was for one such Other Me I spotted across the BART tracks late one night in the Walnut Creek station (we kept looking at each other nervously; he in sports jacket and briefcase, me in long hair and T-shirt). It likewise may be or have been weird for those other Other Mes I’ve seen in newspaper and book photos (mostly Afghanis, Pashtun and Russians, but once of a forced-smiling Jew in a Nazi-overseen road crew).

To date I have yet to converse with myself, although I once got into an argument with a fast-food cashier who swore I was the beverage guy “making fun” of her.

Perhaps an ancient ancestor was emphatically fecund, or otherwise genetically impressive. But I tend to think this communal physiology is more construction than consanguinity (a fine word, but of too-little conversational relevance, meaning “relation” ). My DNA was crafted among the Eastern Europeans on my mom’s side and Russia and Germany on my dad’s; on my dad’s side I’m also a Levite, those touchy servants of the ancestral Temple, and I sometimes wonder if the Other Mes are too.

But my bigger questions concern the fluidity of identity: How much of who “I” am depends on what I look like? Where I came from? And just how unique are we all, anyway? If someone looks like me and acts like me, I might be tempted, a la the mad monk Nasrudin, to tie a balloon to my leg to tell us apart, were it not for my inner sense that I’m the one wondering about him. But what if he thinks he’s me? Well sir, I should hope my friends would know the real me (the one who’s writing this now, or did before you read it) well enough to help me do the same when needed — especially in that waking fuzz when I don’t know who I am, only that it’s time to feed the cat.

As I say, few people have experienced this phenomenon, but those who know, know — as do, of course, those who only look like them. Everyone else will just have to take our word for it.

First Graf: Ringworld

SINCE 1970, LARRY NIVEN HAS written four books and a number of articles concerning the Ringworld: an Earth’s orbit-diameter ribbon made from disassembled planets and populated by its builders with all manner of adaptive species, each with its own culture and agenda.

Who built it? Why? And what caused its civilization — one vastly superior to 29th century Known Space — to fall so abruptly? These questions are at the core of the eponymous first novel, where two humans — 200-year-old Louis Wu and his 20ish inamorata, Teela Brown — join the aliens Speaker-to-Animals (a Kzin, something like an ironic feline wookiee) and Nessus the Puppeteer (a three-legged, two-headed galactic captain of commerce) in an exploratory mission to the mysterious structure.

Neal’s bias: Classics, especially for those with a heavy worldbuilding fetish, although Ringworld and The Ringworld Engineers also stand alone fairly well. I enjoyed the first two novels immensely;The Ringworld Throne I thought better the second time (but was close to the Eight Deadly Words on first read) and Ringworld’s Children largely for how The Master integrates (the technical term is “retcons“) the latest cosmological theories on dark matter and the like. Four rockets. Check ’em out.

In the nighttime heart of Beirut, in one of a row of general-address transfer booths, Louis Wu flicked into reality.

His foot-length queue was as white and shiny as artificial snow. His skin and depilated scalp were chrome yellow; the irises of his eyes were gold; his robe was royal blue with a golden stereoptic dragon superimposed. In the instant he appeared, he was smiling widely, showing pearly, perfect, perfectly standard teeth. Smiling and waving. But the smile was already fading, and in a moment it was gone, and the sag of his face was like a rubber mask melting. Louis Wu showed his age. …