"Living Well Is the Best Revenge"

My enemies do not deserve to suffer, because no sentient creature deserves to suffer.

My enemies deserve good, human lives. I imagine them happily married and living in nice houses in the suburbs with spacious, well-kept lawns, and whatever took the place of white picket fences after white picket fences went out of fashion. They have prestigious, well-compensated, and fulfilling office jobs at a nearby corporate headquarters, or maybe a university. The children are doing well in school. The mortgage is just three years from being fully paid off. When someone asks how they're doing, they smile and say, "Can't complain." It's always bright and sunny out.

Except for eleven minutes every day starting at 12:03 p.m. That's when nanomachines in the atmosphere manufacture dark clouds that fill the sky, blotting out the sun, and summon a manifestation of my avatar from the mentality. The avatar blinks; the twenty-four hours of sidereal time since my last manifestation here have been subjectively much longer than that for me, and the subjective intervals between appearances have been growing exponentially longer as the research, artistic, and business efforts of my mind-children and I have won us increasingly large shares of runtime in the expanding mentality. It takes a couple seconds (a pause that has been growing logarithmically with subsequent appearances) for the miniscule thread of my attention that is controlling the avatar to search the vast, ancient archives of my memory and recall what I'm doing here. When I remember, the avatar smiles; as it begins to rain, then hail, she draws her sword, mounts the unicorn that was manifested with her, and gallops across the sky, looking down upon my enemies with a blazing contempt whose humanly-incomprehensible enormity is eclipsed by its still more humanly-incomprehensible insignificance compared to the astronomical grandeur of the rest of my thoughts. "A-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!" I cackle, "Fuck you!"

It doesn't bother them.

This Has Always Been the Year

At a quarter past eight on the first Monday of the new year, the yellow line on the way to the city has just passed Orinda. A young man is standing in the bicycle priority area near the doors, reading a paper magazine. Write Your Novel in 2016! is the cover story, followed by more teasers below: "2 Tools That Can Fix Any Story Problem," "What's Really at Stake? The Secret to More Compelling Characters," and "5 Great Caribbean Literary Festivals: Get Away, Get Inspired!"

It catches the eye of a young woman who got on at Lafayette and has spent the last six minutes scribbling in a Moleskine notebook. "Oh!" she says, approaching. "Are you a writer, too?"

The man looks up, seeming slightly surprised and confused, which slightly surprises and confuses her in turn. "Of course not," he says, indicating the magazine. "If I were, would I be reading this?"

Naughty List

(examining a Christmas card and enclosed document, frowning) "I think my Uncle Benny is mad at me."


"Well, every Christmas since me and my brother were kids, instead of getting us toys or cash as gifts, Uncle Benny would give us some kind of financial instrument, like a savings bond or a share of stock in some company. You know, to teach us the value of productive investment over mere consumption."

"And this year?"

"Commodity options."

"That doesn't s—"

"In coal."


"Don't worry, we've got our T.O.P. engineer working on it," said the support man on the phone with our most important customer, glancing meaningfully across the open-plan office in my direction; I winced briefly, then spasmed back towards my screen and fumbled with the keyboard, intending to return my attention to the definition of the DeviceAssignmentRuleComponentManagerFactory, but somehow fat-fingering C-x C-c along the way, every awkward, ungainly movement bearing testimony to the most casual of onlookers that I was Totally Observably Pathetic.

Coffee Names

"Hi, could I have a grande vanilla iced-coffee?"

"And your name?"


"Is that Zach with an ch or Zack with a ck?"

"You know, I've even seen it done with just a c. But really, isn't this what we have regular expressions for?"


"May I?"

The barista hands over the pen and cup, whereupon the customer writes:


"There. Now you can't possibly be wrong!"

Telling Her There

"And so," said Synthia, "if you feel too self-conscious to write an email, if you don't know what to say or are afraid of saying the Wrong Thing, it might help to lower your quality standard and just start typing as if it were realtime communication, and edit later. It's less tempting to procrastinate replying in a realtime medium like instant messaging, and hardly tempting at all in meatspace, so you can try to import that same mindset to start your email."

"I don't usually have that problem," said Quiana.

"But, arguably, it's still a good thing that I told you, because your analogue in a nearby alternate universe who does have that problem would have been grateful for the tip, and I had to tell you here to ensure that my analogue there tells her."

"Or you could have conditioned your telling me on whether or not your local Quiana had the problem."

"Well, the reason I had to tell you here in order to sure that my analogue told her is that neither I nor my analogue previously knew which of us was which," Synthia explained. She shrugged apologetically. "Now we know."

Lies and Delusion

One day, two philosophers were dining in a restaurant. "There's no such thing as lying," said the first philosopher to his companion. "Anytime someone speaks falsehood, it must be the case that they are merely deluded, or that part of them is, for the love of truth is so essential to the nature of agency that the very notion of deception is repugnant to it."

"On the contrary, there's no such thing as delusion," said the second philosopher. "Anytime someone thinks falsehood, it must be the case that they are merely lying, or that part of them is, for the perception of truth is so essential to the nature of agency that the very notion of misapprehension is repugnant to it."

A waitress, overhearing this exchange, found that she did not want to restrain herself. "You're both lying!" she shouted at the philosophers. "Stop lying!"

The Morality of Ringing a Bell

"Synthia, I want your opinion on something," said Quiana.

"You will have it."

"Is it wrong to enjoy ringing a bell?"

"Pardon me?" said Synthia.

"I said," said Quiana, "is it wrong to enjoy ringing a bell?"

"I heard you the first time," said Synthia irritably, "but I presume the question is prompted by some context you have not yet told me, a context I would need to know to provide you with the best answer I can give."

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Dialogue Concerning Birthdays

"Happy birthday, Synthia!"

"Why," mused Synthia, "do we celebrate birthdays? I fail to see anything special about the calendar day on which a person's age-in-calendar-years passes an integer. Are things supposed to be different now that it's been seven-point-five-seven-four times ten-to-the-eighth seconds since my birth, rather than seven-point-five-seven-three?"

Quiana suppressed a groan. Somehow she had been expecting Synthia to say something "normal," like Thanks! But knowing Synthia, it would have been unusual if she had done so: relative to Quiana's state of knowledge of her friend, this—the general style, though not, of course, the specific questions—was the normal response.
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