The Novels

Economics 101, a Novel (Rough Draft) -- My first sustained attempt at a novel, two-thirds finished in rough draft, and heading a little too far south.
What would you do if you and your study partner, with whom you had been seriously discussing marriage, suddenly found yourselves all alone together on a desert island? Study economics?
Sociology 500, a Romance (Second Draft) -- The first book in the Economics 101 Trilogy.(On hold.)
Karel and Dan, former American football teammates and now graduate students, meet fellow graduate students Kristie and Bobbie, and the four form a steady study group.

Featured Post

Sociology 500, a Romance, ch 1 pt 1 -- Introducing Bobbie

TOC Well, let's meet Roberta Whitmer. Bobbie entered the anthropology department office and looked around. Near the receptionis...

Friday, March 25, 2016

[Backup] Economics 101, a Novel, ch_10 -- Bobbie and Karel, Changing Priorities

[JMR201801061305: backup of]

[JMR201609111927: Moved the link to the abandoned almost-final draft to the bottom. ]

Now that we have the framing story for this simplified economic system (, we can perform the first thought experiment. (If you haven't read the framing story, please do so. It will help the rest of this make more sense.)

You may note that this is not the simplest economic system we could, ideally, describe. Part of the reason for that is, as I noted in the framing story, that we think we know too much about interstellar travel.

But, part of what makes physics difficult is when we describe a cannonball and a feather interacting with the earth in a vacuum to children who haven't really ever properly experienced a vacuum. Simple is not simple without preparation.

A proper Adam and Eve story requires laying too much groundwork -- and there's too much of the models inside my head that I would have to explain.

I thought, by the way, of stranding Wycliffe on a different uninhabited island, for the one-on-one with nature and God experiments, but that kind of story is for another day. He will have a bit more direct interaction with God.

Even the uninhabited island part is a bit outside the ordinary experience, but it's much more within reach, I think.

Let's continue with Karel and Bobbie's story.

"Where is Wycliffe going?" Bobbie asked, almost to herself, as they watched the airplane disappear over the horizon.

Karel shrugged. "I suppose he needs to do more prolonged checks on the engine. I hope that's what he's doing. Or maybe he's going back to civilization for parts or something."

A few minutes passed as they looked around the island. They could see the beach stretching fairly straight away from them, and the sea seemed smooth enough. Inland, the land sloped up easily for a ways, with a small mountain off in the distance.

"How long will it take?" Bobbie leaned back on one of the trunks.

"How should I know?"

"What time is it now?"

Karel looked at his watch. "One twenty-six."

"Just wanted to know. Do you think he was acting a little strange?"

"Strange?" Karel thought for a moment. "Well, most of the people out here are not what we would call normal back home."


"It would be hard for me to tell what strange would mean for him. The island natives are a little easier to read."

Karel looked around the beach again, then at Bobbie. "You need something to keep the sun off you, I think."

"No, I'm okay. But I'm wondering whether we ought to move our stuff up the beach a bit, beyond the tide line."

"He should be back before the tide rises too far. I hope."

Bobbie drew her knees up under her chin and thought for a few more minutes.

Then she said, "Let's explore."

"Agreed. We've been sitting here for long enough." 

And they both stood up and dusted themselves off a bit.

"But we need to keep the beach and the luggage in sight."


Karel picked up a stick of driftwood and drove it into the sand upright. Bobbie watched him check his watch and the position of the shadow.

"East seems to be that way." He pointed out across the water.

"I do hope we're not here long enough to find out for sure."

So they walked north, along the beach, first. After walking about five minutes, Karel drove another stick in the ground and checked directions.

"The beach seems to be curving a little towards the west."

"Do you want to draw a map?"

"If we had the time, it could be interesting."

"I think we have the time. We could put off our return a day or two when we get back to the main island, and have them fly us back out here to explore."

"Sounds fun. Maybe so. Wycliffe would approve. So would Professor MacVittie and our parents. Heh. Let's head inland a bit."

After about a minute, the beach's level had risen five feet or so, and the sand began to be covered with grass. Another minute brought them into low shrubbery, and in another they had entered a wooded area.

Karel said, "We could lose track of the stuff if we go further."

"I think I do want to come back here to explore." replied Bobbie, and they turned back and walked south, keeping just outside the trees. Passing the luggage, they continued for another five minutes.

"Still heading slightly east. If we've been walking about 80 yards a minute, we've covered about a half mile of beach, and the beach doesn't curve much. Let's save this for when we come back."

"Sounds good. So, Karel, we're coming back after Wycliffe fixes the plane."


They walked down to the water and followed it back to where the stuff was sitting in the sand.

"Is it almost two?"

"Yeah. Maybe we should move the luggage up to the grass, anyway."

"I'll need your help with my trunk."

"And I'd appreciate it if you helped me with mine. I'm not quite into showing off my muscles today."


Moving the luggage occupied a half an hour. They had a trunk and a suitcase each, and Bobbie's purse, Karel's shoulder bag, a backpack each, and some other small personal stuff.

"I didn't really think about it at the time, but is it a little odd that Wycliffe put our personal stuff off, too?"

"Maybe. He is taking a long time."

And there was a box of emergency supplies, and the rubber dinghy and the tent in canvas carrying bags. And two boxes that they hadn't really taken notice of until the rest of the luggage was moved.

"What're those?"

"Something of Wycliffe's?" Karel picked one up, and Bobbie picked up the other.
"There seems to be a tag on this one." They carried the boxes to the grass and set them down and Karel looked at the tag.

What Karel had thought was a tag was an envelope. "Oh, for, ... It says, to us."

"Huh?" Bobbie took the envelope. "to Bobbie and Karel." The envelope was not sealed, and inside was a card with a heart and cupid's arrow drawn on it. "You guys need a vacation. There's enough food in these boxes. I'll be back in three days. Have fun."

"That ..." Karel didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Bobbie turned the card over to see if there was any more. "I'll call your professor and tell him you decided to postpone your return for a little adventuring. There aren't any dangerous animals on this island. Don't worry about a thing. See you in three days. Love Wycliffe." And she took a deep breath.

"How sweet." she said. "In a twisted sort of way."

"Meddling busybody." Karel muttered.

Silence for about three minutes as they thought their own thoughts.

"Professor MacVittie will uhm, have mixed feelings about this." Karel started.

"I have mixed feelings about this. Flying out from the main island early, with time for a little hiking and a picnic, and flying back after a day trip, that would have been a fun vacation. We might even have had Wycliffe or Zedidiah join us while we camped out for a night. But this is not going to make our bishops or stake presidents happy, either."

"Or us. Blast Wycliffe. Legally, this is kidnapping."

"And a bit worse, but swearing at him won't bless us."

"Okay. Bless him."

More silence.

"I think we should pray." This was Bobbie's suggestion.

"Indeed." Karel dropped to his knees. "I'll go first?"

Bobbie also knelt down. "Okay. Go ahead."

Karel prayed for Wycliffe to be forgiven, and for his heart to be softened, and for their safe return to civilization. Then he prayed for help for him and Bobbie, that they would be guided and kept out of spiritual danger as well as physical.

Bobbie concurred with a heartfelt amen, and then added her own concerns:

"... Father, we don't know what the future will bring, but please, keep us from doing anything that would offend our future companions or prevent us from being married in the temple. ...."

And Karel concurred with an equally heartfelt amen after Bobbie's amen.

They stayed on their knees, listening with their hearts. And got an answer:
Wycliffe is in my hands. 
Karel looked puzzled and checked with Bobbie. She nodded, she'd felt the same impression.

Karel again prayed. "Father, we hope that Wycliffe's life will be spared. And we hope that he will be able to return as he promised, in three days."

Bobbie added, "We'd rather it were sooner, if he could change his mind, but please at least bring him back by then."
I want you here, now, for a while. I know how to save Wycliffe's soul, and I know how to save yours. It's time for both of you to start preparing.
Bobbie and Karel repeated together what they had each felt, and watched each other's eyes as the words matched exactly.

And they prayed together for Wycliffe's friends and family, and then for their own, as they realized the possible meanings of the impressions they had received.

Then, following the instruction they had received to prepare, Karel opened the emergency supplies while Bobbie opened the boxes of food that Wycliffe had prepared for them.

"Bread, cheese, water. Sausage. Thoughtful of him about the water. Wine. We won't need that."

"Keep it in case we need crude antiseptic. We have one tent. It could fit four in an emergency. You get that. I'll make a lean-to or something. Oh, good, we have a water filter and some fishing string and hooks. Rope. A hand shovel, an axe, a good knife. It looks like a good scout packed this, or someone who knows what you need in the wilderness. We'll be okay for a while." And he put the supplies back carefully.

Bobbie closed the boxes of food and got her lunch out of her purse. It was a cheese an egg salad sandwich. "How careful do we need to be with our food?"

Karel got out his lunch. "Let's eat what we brought, so it doesn't spoil, and then we'll start exploring for real. We'll set the tent up before it starts getting dark." He paused.



"Where I was reading in the Bible on the plane this morning. Book of Job."
But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
"That's in the first chapter. God doesn't hate us, he just figures he can let us be tested."

"I reckon so."

Let's look at the values Karel and Bobbie put on things here. Consider how the values change as their understanding of their situation changes.

Now think about what Wycliffe has exchanged with Bobbie and Karel, and to what purpose.

Also think about the ways in which Bobbie and Karel have been cooperating and sharing, and what it is that allows them to cooperate and share.

Finally, note how their ideas and priorities were in agreement when they prayed, and how that allowed them to hear the answers they got.

The link to the next chapter will be here when it is ready can be found here:

If you want more background about Karel and Bobbie, you can read about how they got here at this link:

(The chapter index is here:

The above is where I am currently re-working and rewriting this chapter.

An abandoned almost-final draft of this chapter is here:

We Need to Talk More about Economics -- What I'm not yet doing here.

[Update JMR201606040240: 
I think I've changed my mind. 

This blog is going to be the novel I've been writing, Economics 101. And, if it turns into a series, the series. I think.

The (first) novel will be here: (placeholder).

The rough draft of the first novel is here: (

I wish I had the money to run my own servers dedicated to my writings. The connection fees and the current perverted structure of the Internet, and the perversions imposed on my tools, all militate against such independence. 

Once upon a time, each computing device connected to the network was a server. With Intel and their ilk promulgating their perverse Internet of Things (TM), it just ain't so anymore. And we are all being corralled into their for-pay universe.

But I gotta somehow make money from my writings.

And, right now, I have to get some sleep.

Wow. Fourteen page views before I can even get any content up.

We need to talk more about economics in our daily conversations.

So much of what we do affects not just our own future, but the people around us and even people far away from us.

We don't need economics as an excuse for tyranny, whether political, social, or emotional. But we do need to talk more about the economic effects of what we do.

To that end, I'm writing a novel that attempts to provide a simplified framework for talking about the basics of economics. Right now, it's in my freedom blog ( first chapter or so:, because it is definitely a freedom-related topic.

I'm thinking, however, of moving it here as it comes together and maybe evolves a bit, along with other economics-specific rants. But I'm not sure. I might end up deleting this blog.

For now, this is a place-holder.

[Update JMR20160401:

Since neither Google nor Blogspot seem to be telling me this is too many, I've decided to keep this blog for new rants that focus on topics of economics.

Concerning Economics 101, a Novel, mentioned above, I am going to put an index page here ( and keep the novel itself in the freedom blog (

Monday, March 21, 2016

[Backup] Economics 101, a Novel, ch_00 -- the Framing Story

[JMR201801061208: backup of]



(Or, Forewarned is forearmed. Uhm, Forward. I mean, Foreword.)

{JMR201609101750: Moved the link to the foreword for the abandoned almost-final draft to the bottom. }

When trying to decipher the physical laws of the universe, we find it easier to start with simplifications. For example, when describing the flight of a cannonball, we start by ignoring air friction and the wind. That makes the math simple enough for one person to handle without a computer in many cases.

Economics is not as easily simplified as physics. In physics, we can see the interactions, even if we don't directly see many of the interactants, like the wind or electricity.

Continuing with the cannonball example, gunpowder is not very simple, but we might use a catapult or trebuchet to launch the cannonball. We can see what happens, we can measure and time the acceleration paths, etc. And we can compare our results with the path and timing of a dropped cannonball or a cannonball rolling on a slope.

In economics, we deal with complex interactants and abstract interactions. Some of the elements are fairly straightforward, like food, fuel, and housing. Some, like value, are so abstract that we can't define them once and be sure they won't change. Some elements of economics, like money, are deceptive simplicities hiding complex and abstract qualities that play directly into the math.

We need simplifications to be able to work with economics, even with help from computers. But economic interactions are difficult to simplify.

Complex mathematics looks a lot like literature, abstract mathematics even more so.

So, I'll take a hint from the math and construct my informal thesis on the fundamentals of Economics as a set of thought experiments in the form of a novel.

I'll need a framing story. A good simulation game always has a good framing story, and this is a mental simulation game.

But uncharted, uninhabited islands no longer exist. Google took the final steps to taking care of that when they introduced their map service. So I have to set this framing story about 50 years ago, when uninhabited islands still seemed like they might stay undiscovered for a while. And I'll still need to set it in an slightly alternative history.

It was either that or talk about interstellar travel, and we know too much about that now, too.


There are things in human nature which really can't be properly discussed in literature for general audiences. (Recent efforts in popular literature to prove the principle wrong only serve to emphasize it.)
 Isolating humans, as this story does, makes it a bit more difficult to avoid talking about those things. In this story, I don't avoid those things.

I do think I try to avoid exploiting the ambiguities. But that means I come right out and talk about some things that some people are too young to deal with properly. Or maybe not too young, but not properly emotionally prepared today.

And some people will disagree with the way I present them, and/or the way I have the characters in the story behave in relation to those things.

If you are not up to reading some rather frank discussion of sexual matters, in particular, you might want to stop here. You can still read my other rants in my other blogs, some of which can be found on my main blog, here:

I will try to warn you in advance at the top of each chapter.

This framing story is entirely fiction. Any resemblance to real people or events is purely coincidental.

So, here it is, complete with anachronisms and out-of-contexts:

[JMR201609101751: Moved the link to the abandoned almost-final draft of the framing story to the bottom, too. ]

Framing Story

"Your doctoral thesis plan looks good, but you'll need to do some on-location research."

Karel Pratt nodded his agreement. "I guess I should have said that? Should I revise the plan to say something about needing the research, but not yet knowing when and where?"

Professor MacVittie tilted his head. "Well, I think you know enough to be somewhat specific already. You can name several islands as possibilities, even."

Karel scratched his chin thoughtfully. "Sure, I can say I'm looking at a few locations, but don't know which, yet, I guess."

"Sounds reasonable." MacVittie paused. "Say, do you know Roberta Whitmer"?

"Not really. I think I've met her. She calls herself Bobbie, right? And she's in the anthropology program, too?"

"Yes. Her thesis seems like it might complement yours. You might want to talk with her. Just a suggestion, of course, but it often helps to have someone you can work with."

"Okay. I'll talk with her and see."

"You two never seem to get together anywhere but in my office."

"We meet at the library, too." Bobbie looked a little taken aback.

"Once a month?"

"Once a week."

"Was my suggestion about backing each other up during the on-location research phase a bad suggestion?"

"No. It's a great idea. We're working together on the plans. But our theses are different enough that we really don't have that much to talk over besides the schedule, flight plans, and such." Karel shrugged.

"We actually went to the airport together to find the closest planes." Bobbie said brightly.


"And We've we've written to some consulates and got gotten the names of some charter conpanies companies and some independents, too. And we've talked with travel agents who have put us in touch with people in New York who handle tours of our islands."


"People keep asking us if this is our honeymoon. Silly people." Bobbie grinned.

"Not so silly if they've never met you. Okay, so you're actually ahead of me."

"Not really," said Karel. "We needed to show you our results so far, and we would definitely appreciate it if we could have someone check them over. Which is why we are here, now."

In the end, the faculty and Sister MacVittie decided it was a good idea for Professor MacVittie to accompany them for the first two weeks, just to be safe. Sister MacVittie was especially excited to go along, and to take their youngest son, who was preparing to go on his mission.

(Sister MacVittie is Professor MacVittie's wife, if you are wondering. God is the Father of us all, so everyone in the Church is a brother or a sister.)

The schedule was lengthened to approximately a month on each of four islands so they could look for volunteer projects to get involved with. It was assumed that the volunteer project participation would help them collect more meaningful results in their research.

Things went well for the four months, and we are not interested in the details. If this were a normal novel, we would be interested, but it's just the framing story for our experiment.

Besides, I'd have to do more research, okay? The whole purpose of this story is to set up the simple economic system.

Where things get interesting for us again is towards the end of the last month, on the island they were scheduled to fly out from, in the office of Wycliffe and Zedidiah, the charter pilots who had taken them around from island to island.

Wycliffe looked at the schedule on his desk. "Hey, Zed. Look what we got here."

Zedidiah looked up. "Yeah, I saw that. Those two grad students from that Marmon school. Come to study ant rope loggies. Native culture and all that. And do busybody serve ice pro jets. Straight as two rulers. Even the natives are laughing behind their backs."

"Yeah," agreed Wye. "I think they need help studying natural island nature, way up close. And help seeing just how Marmon they are. And help growing up."


"Heh heh. Wait. Don't do anything stupid on me, okay.? Just fly in and get them and fly them back."


"What, me? Would I deliberately sabotage my own plane to strand them on a deserted island to test their morals?"

"Depends on how drunk you've been this week."

"Heh heh."

"Okay, that does it. I own half of that plane. I'm flying this one."

"Ten hour flight? The longest you've flown is [JMR201609111834: an hour four hours ] . And you accuse me of plotting to strand them. Naw, I'm just kidding around. I'll bring them back safe and sound."

I really hate to tell stories about bad people.

Now, Wycliffe really wasn't a bad person, just a little mixed up. He had been converted to Mormonism at some point, in love with a good Mormon woman. And maybe she was insecure, or maybe she just didn't realize what a great guy he was. Or maybe she knew she wasn't strong enough to be his wife, in particular. Anyway, she ditched him.

And that was part of the reason he was in the islands, trying to escape from himself, blaming the Mormon religion for his sorrows.

About three hours after picking our two heroes up, already way off the path of the flight plan, he started deliberately running the engine lean.

"What's wrong?" Karel asked.


Wycliffe shook his head. "Engine trouble, I guess. Sometimes engines get finnicky finicky."


"Are we in trouble?"

"Well, if we have to ditch in the water, I do pack a dinghy. But it should be okay." And he ran the mixture back to normal.

About an hour later, in a lull in the conversation, he asked, "Well, I was bettin' my partner that you two would be, like, an item by this time. I guess I lost?"

Bobbie made disgusted sounds. "Everyone seems to think that a single woman and a single man who work okay together and get to be good friends should jump into bed with each other. You don't have to get married to everyone you love."

"You love each other?"

Karel answered: "Like brother and sister. You know, in a sense, we are, because of our religion, if not just by being human."

"Well, what have you got against each other?"


Bobbie answered this., "We don't want to spend all of our evenings the rest of our lives talking shop at home."


Karel added, "Professional interests can sometimes get in the way of other kinds of interests, besides."

"Okay, you don't want to be arguing about work at home. I guess I could see how that wouldn't necessarily be so great."

Then he leaned out the engine again and pretended to nurse it. "C'mon baby keep with us." And returned the fuel mix to normal again.

"There you go." And, turning back to his passengers, "So, this wonderful, romantic view up here is just wasted on you two?

"I wouldn't say that. It's beautiful. And romantic. But you know, romance is about adventure. There are other kinds of adventure than sexual adventure. And some of those are adventures that friends can share."

Wycliffe almost found himself persuaded, but he was too far off the flight plan to back out. Too far into his plan to back up and an admit he was taking them away from their destination, and to admit to himself why it was wrong.


He repeated the game with the engine just as a deserted desert island came into view over the horizon.


"Maybe we'd better put down on that island and look at the engine."

Put yourselves in Karel's and Bobbie's shoes. What would you have them do? Pray? Of course pray. But how were they supposed to know that Wycliffe was planning to ditch them on a deserted island for a few days?

Well, both of them prayed in their hearts, but God, for some reason, didn't tell them one way or the other.

"Well, if that's the safest route, then go ahead," Karel said. "Maybe I can help with the engine."

"Do you know anything about engines?"

"I know a little about car engines. But at least I can use a wrench or hold things for you or something. Bobbie is no stranger to engines, either, I think?"

"Actually, I'm certified to fly. I should have mentioned that earlier, but sea flight is not something I've done yet. I've worked on airplane engines, too, but not this kind. It does sound like something is making it run lean. Let's put it down."

And Wycliffe put the plane down on the beach and radioed Zedidiah and told them they were on an island they were not on, several hundred miles away.

To get at the tools, they had to unload the luggage and the emergency supplies.

After an hour of fiddling with the engine, Wycliffe said, "I need to take her up and see how she's running. It'll take me about ten minutes of circling the island, and if there aren't any problems, we can fly on."

They both volunteered to help with the test flight, but Wycliffe made an excuse about needing the plane light. Once up, he circled twice, brought the airplane down as if to land, and then shouted out at them, "I'll be back when you two have had a chance to grow up!" and flew out.

Neither Karel nor Bobbie heard what he said over the engine noise. So they sat on the beach, said a prayer together for Wycliffe, for the airplane, for themselves, and for getting home, and waited for him to come back.

Now, remember, I'm just setting up this simplified experiment in economics. If this were a regular novel, we would want to know why Wycliffe never came back.



We would want to know that he was intending to put down on another island back in the regular traffic lanes where he and Zedidiah had a cache of fuel, and just wait a few days to see what would happen. But his games with the engine had fowled fouled it, and he ran out of fuel trying to make it to his cache. And he ended up ditching the plane in the water, without his emergency supplies.


We would want to know that after he ran out of strength and sank in the water and passed across the veil, he kept going back in time and trying to contact himself and Karel and Bobbie and Zedidiah thousands of times, to prevent this one stupidity.

Fortunately, this is a made-up story, so we don't have to grieve for him. But I think we might know people like him who need our pity and our help. And we can and should grieve for the many who have allowed themselves to be caught in such snares.

Time on the other side of the veil is different. Don't kid yourself. An eternity in hell is an eternity in hell. But eternities end when hearts soften and hear these words of truth: Trying to change the past is not the way to repent. Put the regret behind and do the good that you can do now.

And we would want to know that Bobbie and Karel's families, and volunteers from the Church and the university, and lots of other people came searching for them.


We'd want to know that Zedidiah spent all of his remaining money looking for them, and would have committed suicide by starvation in the middle of the ocean, but both Karel's and Bobbie's parents told them they would not forgive him if he did that and that, and brought him back.

We would want to know that the police suspected him of being complicit in some kidnapping scheme, because the plane was empty when it was found. But no one pressed charges. And that Zedidiah ultimately went back to New Zealand, where he was originally from, and starting started facing the problems he had been running from when he ran away to the islands to be a charter pilot. 


Finally, we need to know that the island Bobbie and Karel were left on was still uncharted at that time, and too far from the flight plan and the regular routes to be found by accident. The searchers never got out far enough to find them. If they had, the sheer size of the ocean would have overwhelmed their resources.

In fact, there are many things we would want to know ...

... what Wycliffe and Zedidiah were doing in the islands, and whether they were no-gooders or just having good fun;

... why Wycliffe died and what he did after he died, and how he managed to do so much in apparently so little time (Is time for the dead the same as for us, the living?);

... what Zedidiah did after Wycliffe died;

... how the police and others on the islands got involved; and, hey, what Bobbie and Karel's professors, family, friends, the school, and the Church all did when our co-protagonists failed to return; ....

But, mostly, our focus would be on Karel and Bobbie, since they are the lab subjects of our little experiment.


If you want to read more about the characters in the framing story, you can continue here:

Or you can jump ahead to the experiment: (Link to next chapter will be here.)

(The chapter index is here:

The above is where I am currently re-vising and re-writing this chapter.

An abandoned almost-final draft of the framing story starts with the excuses here:
Likewise, an abandoned almost-final draft of the framing story itself is here:

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Simplify (Early Draft of Economics 101 Framing Story)


This is a very early draft of the Economics 101 novel that is not going anywhere right now, that I dug out of my Math and English blog (of all places).

It was written before I created this blog, if you are wondering about the date. I forget to record the actual date before editing, and Blogspot/Google doesn't seem to have a way for freeloaders like me to retrieve the edit record, so I'm guessing that I last saved it around March 15th.

Maybe I'll re-use a lot of this when I finally get around to the re-write. I like it better than a lot of the hackish stuff I've been writing.


When trying to decipher the physical laws of the universe, we find it easier to start with simplifications. For example, when describing the flight of a cannonball, we start by ignoring air friction and the wind. That makes the math simple enough to handle without a computer in many cases.

we simplify the system of a cannon ball, a feather, and the earth by dropping the cannon ball and the feather together in a two or so meter tall near-vacuum chamber. By observing that the feather and the cannonball fall at the same rate in the vacuum, we gain confidence

watching what happens as we remove air the vacuum gives us confidence that, in a true vacuum, the feather, like the marble, accelerates at so close to the same rate as the cannon ball that we can't measure the difference. This allows us to ignore friction with confidence in many cases. in other words, to simplify. Simplifying allows us to use mathematics that we can

Or, we couldn't until very recently. We have some very fast measuring devices lately.

Nature helps us here. The earth is so much bigger than either the cannon ball or the feather that it predominates all the curves, all the equations. For all practical purposes, the earth can be seen as the entire source of the accelerating force.

Actually, to say this correctly, the miniscule difference in the fall times is due to the acceleration of the earth toward the feather and the cannonball, if I remember correctly, and that is why it is such a miniscule difference. So we generally discard

Karel and Bobbie had just arrived at the island airport. They had one more long hop to their final destination, scheduled on a local chartered flight.

Their doctorate advisor had introduced them to each other a year ago, and had suggested they work together on their projects for their doctorates in anthropology. They were both working on island cultures, and needed to do some in-depth, long-term, in-context research.

Their professor had suggested they cooperate, so they could back each other up in the foreign culture.

Getting their plans to mesh hadn't been too hard. And they found that there would be some down time, waiting for each other to finish things here and there, so they had added some service projects to their plans.

Now they were standing with their luggage, looking around the tiny, mostly outdoor airport for the charter company. Asking airline staff had produced puzzled looks, and then nods in various directions. As if no one understood what a charter company was.

The airport cleared out as the passengers on the regular flight went their various ways. The flight crew finished up post-flight checks, secured the plane, and left for their quarters or the local canteen.

Finally, there was no one left but a couple of unkempt looking rough-looking characters lounging in some shade in a corner.

"I guess we should try asking them?" Karel suggested.

Bobbie's eyes rounded. "I'll wait here and cover your back," she joked.

Karel nodded and said, "That actually might not be a bad idea."

Bobbie shook her head. "Nah, let's go with safety in numbers."

So they walked over to the roughs, pushing their bags on a hand truck, and Karel asked, "Do you speak English?"

"What's it to ya?"

"We're looking for a charter flight and we were wondering whether you'd know where the company is."

"That would be us. I'm Wycliff and this is Zedidiah. You must be Bobby, and your girlfriend must be Carol."

"I'll get your bags," Zedidiah offered.

"Where's your plane?" asked Karel.

"Oh, yeah," said Wycliff. "I knew we were forgetting something. You guys wait here with your bags and we'll go get the plane out of the hangar." And they headed out across the airstrip to a building that looked too small to contain an airplane.

"You're not going to correct them." Bobbie was not asking.

"No. Can you see a constable?"


Zedidiah called out across the strip as they went inside the putative hangar, "Hey, if you guys want to hang around and explore the town before heading out, we don't mind."

"No thanks, our professor is waiting for us."

"Well, it will take us a couple of hours to get the plane ready, so you might as well look around. The luggage will be okay where it is."

Zedidiah walked into the shade of the hangar and started working the doors open. "He says their professor is waiting for them."

"Waiting for them, huh?"

Karel found a police officer who spoke English and they were able to assure themselves that the two roughs were, indeed, their charter pilot and co-pilot. Bobbie found a hotel with a phone, and they called their professor at their destination.


And they took their pilots' advice and looked around and took some notes. When they got back in an hour, their luggage was not where they had left it, but the plane was sitting at the near end of the strip and their pilots' were idling the engine.

"We loaded your luggage already!" called out Zedidiah. "Hope you don't mind."

"Right back here." Wycliff indicated the back of the plane. "Ready to go?"


"Can I make sure we have it all?" Bobbie asked.

"It's tied down, but everything is visible."

Karel climbed in first and started counting bags. Bobbie climbed in behind and did the same.

"All there."

"And you even have the right bags at the bottom." Bobbie noted.

"It's a long flight, you'll want to use the facilities before we leave." suggested Zedidiah. We've already been, and Wycliff filed the flight plans just before you got back."

"Final check about the weather, you know. It looks clear, so night flight is okay. We can go once you've taken care of any minor business."

When they got back from the toilets, Karel mentioned casually that he had contacted their professor. Wycliff said, yeah, he had called in, too, and had talked with the professor and told him their ETA. The trip would take about ten hours, and they should arrive just after midnight.

For all that the pilots did not inspire confidence in their attitude or appearance, they seemed to know their plane and the route. The island they left behind was beautiful from the air, and then there was nothing but sea. That was also beautiful, but it got boring. Naps had been suggested, and the suggestion had been taken. Small talk was exchanged and then Wycliffe had regaled them with stories of some of his adventures, which Zedidiah had then proceeded to top.

It started getting dark about sevenish, and the sunset was beautiful. So were the stars when they came out.


About ten or so, Wycliffe turned around. "You two don't seem to be enjoying the view so much."

"What?" Karel had been thnking about some theoretical work he had planned.

Bobbie was also lost in reviewing her research plans. "Mmm, oh, it's very nice."

"But you're not enjoying it." Emphasis on enjoy.

"The stars are beautiful in the sky. So is the reflection in the sea. Are we supposed to be having a party?" Karel was genuinely puzzled.

"I dunno. We had kind of thought you might," Zedidiah commented over the noise of the engine. "No need to be shy in front of us."


"Oh, that little misunderstanding, maybe. We are not, you know, girlfriend and boyfriend. We just have doctoral projects that we're helping each other with."

"Oh. Waste of a view." Zedidiah sounded disappointed.

Wycliff thought for a moment. "More than a waste of a view. It's unnatural. We should've brought our girlfriends, too, you think, Zed?"

"Would've been crowded, and a bit close on the fuel, Wye."

Bobbie and Karel looked at each other. They could read each others' thoughts, that they were both thinking this could be amusing or a bit disconcerting.

About eleven, Wycliff woke Zedidiah up to trade off. About eleven thirty, he woke their passengers and told them to get ready to land.

About twelve, Wycliff asked Zedidiah, "Who is God?"

"Dahl is God. Dahl ahb eelahdah lahdah."

Then he turned and asked Karel. "Karel, who is God?"

Karel shook his head. "I'm not following the joke, here. God is God. I have no idea what or who Dahl ahbee lahlah is."

"Dahl ahb eelahdah lahdah." It's one of the names of God, according to the customs of the island you're going to."

"Oh. Well, I'll keep my ears open for the name."

"It's very important, and it could be a matter of your safety. Make sure you say it right. Dahl ahb eelahdah lahdah."

Karel thought it best to humor their pilots. "Dahl ahbee lahdah lahdah. Okay, I think I've got it."

"Good. There's no airport here. We'll be landing on the beach."