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.

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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...

Monday, May 1, 2017

RFQ4: Ch. 2, Priorities Begin to Change

(Framing Story)

[Yetr another false start.]

Now that we have the framing story for this simplified economic system, we can perform the first thought experiment.

You may note that this is not the simplest economic system we could, ideally, describe. Part of the reason for that is that we already think we know too much about the subject.

Part of what makes physics difficult is what happens when we describe (for example) a cannonball and a feather interacting with the earth in a vacuum to children who haven't really ever picked up a cannonball, much less properly experienced a vacuum.

Most children have played with marbles and balls and feathers. And their intuition will usually betray them.

Playing with planets as physics toys requires a bit of preparation. Simple is often not simple without preparation.

A proper Adam and Eve story also requires laying too much groundwork -- and there's too much of the models that I would have to explain explicitly if I were to just start off telling you about the Adam and Eve of Karel and Bobbie's world. (And that is also an interesting story.)
Even the uninhabited island location is a bit outside the ordinary experience, but it's much more within reach, I think than beginning with the first parents of a race when their world is new. On the other hand, even if we've never been to a desert island, we've heard something about such things, and I can tell you more about their island, and about their modern world, as we go.

I thought, by the way, of stranding Wycliffe on a different desert island, for his experience going one-on-one with nature and God. That would definitely be a simple system. But it would distract us. And he needs to have a bit more direct interaction with God than that, for our experiment to proceed.

God. And I've been talking about prayer, too. Maybe that worries you. I will be talking about both. But maybe you are an atheist. Or, maybe you don't think you can believe in my God.


Well, maybe not rubbish.

But bear with me a bit, and I think I can show you that I am not trying to sell you my gods, at any rate. Religion and cosmology is generally a part of most value systems, and economics is impossible without value, so we can't really avoid talking about the stuff.
Let's not fuss about it. I'll try to keep the religious elements of the story out where you can see them.

Karel and Bobbie are waiting for us in the lab.

"Where is Wycliffe going?" Bobbie asked, half to herself.

Both of them said a quiet prayer in their hearts as they watched the airplane disappear over the horizon.

After a bunmu or so, Karel shrugged. "I suppose he needs to do more prolonged tests on the engine. I hope that's what he's doing. Or maybe he's going back to civilization for parts or something. Maybe we should pray for him."

"And us. I'll say it."

Karel nodded his agreement.

"Our Great Parent, we're here on this island, we're safe for now. We don't know what Wycliffe is doing or where he is going, but please bless us and him and the plane, and bring him back quickly, and help us get home safely." And she invoked the name of their savior and they both said, "Amen".

They looked around themselves at the island as a few bunmu passed. They could see the beach stretching fairly straight away from them, and the sea seemed smooth enough. Inland, the land sloped up gently for a ways, with a small mountain off in the distance. The near moon glowed pale maroon above them near the yellow sun, and out over the sea the far moon hung, silver-yellow, rising over the horizon.

"How long do you think it'll take?" Bobbie leaned back on one of the trunks.

"How should we know?"

A few more bunmu passed without conversation.

"What time is it now?"

Karel looked at his watch. "Eight twenhex-six."

Sixteen hours in a day, so eight o'clock is noon. If twenty is two times ten, twenhex is two times sixteen. Thirty-two and six is thirty-eight, so that's thirty-eight bunmu past noon. (We would  call it about 12:12, but for them it is 8:26.)

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

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


"It's hard to tell what strange might mean for him." He laughed. "The island natives are a little easier for me to read."

"I think he was acting a little strange."

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

"No, I'm okay. But I'm thinking maybe we should move our stuff up the beach a bit. The tide line seems a little close here."

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

Bobbie drew her knees up under her chin and thought.

Then she said, "Let's explore."

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

And they stood up and dusted themselves off a bit.

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


Karel picked up a thin, straight stick of driftwood and drove it into the sand upright. Bobbie watched him check his watch and the position of the shadow, then they both looked again across the water at the hinter moon.

"Yep. That's east," Bobbie confirmed wryly. "I do hope we're not here long enough for you to make an accurate astronomical compass." She grinned, and Karel chuckled in response.

Hinter moon? Nether moon?

Xhilr has two moons. The far moon's orbital period is roughly twenty-eight and seven eighths Xhilr days, and the near one's is about seven and one eighth days. They are also called Slowmoon and Fastmoon. Bobbie calls Slowmoon the hinter (distant) moon and Fastmoon the nether (low) moon.

Xhilr is what they call their planet. It means, in their language, roughly, "big clot of dirt". It's also an electrical term meaning a large charge sink of relatively neutral electrical potential. "Xhilr" is very much a cognate of the modern English "Earth". I could have translated it as "Earth", but I think that would have caused confusion more than not.

East? Well, that's the compass direction in which the sun and the moons and stars all rise in the sky. They use four primary compass points, just like we do, so translating them to English should cause no confusion. Xhilr is in prograde revolution around their sun, and prograde rotation, just like our Earth, so their compass hides no real surprises for us.

They started walking north, along the beach, first. After walking about a gohbu, 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 could make the time. We could put off our return a day or two. I need to go back to the main island for some things, but then we could have them fly us back out here to explore."

"Sounds fun. Maybe so. I think I have the budget left."

"Me, too."

"Wycliffe would approve, Zedidiah, too, probably. So would Professor MacVittie and our parents. Heh." Karel grinned.

Bobbie smiled at the thought. "Let's head inland a bit."

"Sounds good."

After about couple or three bunmu (about a minute) of walking, the beach's level had risen five feet or so, and the sand began to be covered with grasses tinged in indigo, violet, and crimson. Another few bunmu brought them into low shrub and high grass, and in a few more they were into thick, wild green woods.

Karel looked back and 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 tree line. Passing the luggage on their left, they continued for another gohbu (five and a half minutes).

"Still heading slightly east. I don't think we've been walking a full rhip per gohbu." (That would be a pace of about 96 yards a minute.)

"We're not walking that slow. You always walk a little fast anyway."

"How fast do you think we've been walking?"

Bobbie laughed. "You're already trying to guess how big this island is, aren't you?"

"Yeah." Karel grinned sheepishly.

"We haven't walked less than one rhip."

"And we haven't walked more than two. That's actually a useful estimate, one and a half rhipt."

"But what can we tell from that?"

"The beach doesn't curve much here, but we can see it curve a bit further than we've walked. If the island is round, the circumference is at least four and a half rhipt."

"And now you're going to tell me it's at least a rhip and a half across." Bobbie slapped Karel lightly on the arm, laughing.

(If you're wondering, a rhip and a half would be about three quarters of a kilometer, or a bit more than three fifths of a mile.)

Karel laughed, too. "Let's save this for when we come back."

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

"Yeah. We can let him think he persuaded us to have an adventure."

"We could ask him to be our chaperon."

Both of them were still chuckling.

"He'd be an interesting chaperon."

They walked down to the water and both of them took their shoes and socks off and waded around a little. Bobbie kicked a bit of water at Karel, getting his clothes wet, and they laughed.

"Really nice water."

"Beautiful, clear blue. Definitely going swimming when we come back here."

"I'm going swimming now." Bobbie waded in up to her waist.

"I don't think it's a good idea." Karel followed her and then walked a little ahead, checking the water.

Now Bobbie followed, watching him with a sudden change of interest. Without warning, she left her shoes in the water and sprang for his back.

Karel heard the water slosh and turned just in time to catch her, almost losing his balance.

Fires which had been carefully banked for the last four months flared as they looked deeply each into the other's eyes.

I haven't yet told you that it was mid-spring, nor have I mentioned that a year on Xhilr is a little more than twelve months. They had traveled to the islands about a week after the year began at winter solstice, and those four months had brought them into spring. (Twelve seems more than a coincidence, I suppose. Well, to be more exact, it's a little over twelve and a fifth months: 352 485/686 days.)

And Karel said, in a husky voice, "I've dropped my shoes, too. I think we should chase them before they get washed out to sea."

Bobbie pouted, then sighed and looked around. Her shoes were not moving away rapidly, but they were moving away.

While her head was turned, Karel kissed her ear, but then let her slip back into the water so they could chase their shoes, which they did, laughing and joking.

Carrying their shoes, they followed the water line back to below where the luggage was sitting in the sand.

"Is it almost aye o'clock?"

Ten o'clock, on a sixteen-chippu clock is two chippu past noon -- basically 15:00 on a 24-hour clock, or three in the afternoon. And they use hexadecimal, as I said, so it's A:00 -- as we write hexadecimal, anyway. So, "aye o'clock" is mid-afternoon.

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

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

"Sure. And I'd appreciate it if you helped me with mine. I'm not quite into proving I'm Atlas today." (Well, okay, not Atlas. That's mythology from our world. You wouldn't be familiar with Seoyezhimu, but he was supposed to be carrying the world on his back according to some of their old myths.)


They set their shoes and socks down on the beach to dry.

Bobbie shivered. "I'm getting a little chilled. Maybe going swimming in our clothes wasn't such a good idea."

Karel put his arm around her waste, and she leaned against him, drawing a little warmth. After a bunmu or two, he said, "Moving the luggage will warm us up a little."

Moving the luggage occupied two or three gohbu. They had a trunk and a suitcase each, and there was Bobbie's purse, and Karel's shoulder bag, and a backpack each, along with some small personal stuff of Bobbie's wrapped in a scarf.

"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 also baggage from the plane itself -- a box of emergency supplies, and the tools, and the rubber dinghy and the tent each in its own canvas carrying bag.

"Are you still feeling chilly? I could set up the tent and you could change inside."

"I'm warm and my clothes are pretty dry now. How about you?"

"I'm okay."

And they found 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. "There seems to be a tag on this one."

Bobbie picked up the other, and they carried the boxes to the grass and set them down near the other baggage. Karel looked at the tag, but what he had thought was a tag was an envelope. "Oh, for, ... It says, to us."

"Huh?" Bobbie took the envelope and read it. "To Bobbie and Karel." The envelope was not sealed, and inside was a card with a heart and a Cupid's arrow drawn on it. (Cupid. Ayizhimu -- similar story about arrows that made people fall in love.)

"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.

They each thought their own thoughts for a minute or two.

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

"I have mixed feelings about this! Flying out from the main island early in the day, with time for a little hiking and a picnic, and flying back after a day trip, that would have been a fun vacation."

"Mmmhhmm. Yeah. Fun."

"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 happy."

"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. Then Bobbie laughed. "Yes, bless him. I think we should pray."

"Indeed." Karel shook his head as he got down on his knees. "I'll go first?"

Bobbie also knelt down. "Please. It'll give me some time to calm down."

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:

"... Our Great Parent, 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.

Temples and marriage?

A temple in the E-P religion is a place where special instruction is given and special ceremonies take place. Marriage is one of those ceremonies. E-P-ists claim that they can perform marriages in their temples which extend after death, forever.

But individuals and couples wishing to enter into those covenants are asked to maintain a certain moral decorum that Wycliffe had not considered carefully enough when he made his plans for his little practical joke.

I think, had he stopped to think about it, he would have taken Zedidiah's advice to heart and just brought them back to the airport on the main island.

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. "Our Blessed Parent, if Wycliffe is in danger please protect him. And we do hope that he will be able to return in three days, as he promised."

Bobbie added, "We'd rather it were sooner, if he could change his mind, but please at least bring him back by then."
We want you two 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 looked at each other and repeated together what they had each felt, watching each other's eyes as the words matched exactly.

Then they prayed together for their friends and family, and then for Wycliffe's, as they began to understand the range of the possible meanings of the impressions they had received.

I said I wouldn't pull any punches, so I'd better explain something at this point.

In the universe where Bobbie and Karel live exists an ancient and very advanced race, as it were on a different plane. That ancient race has a custom of populating the planets of that universe with a variety of creatures. Some planets include a population of a race of intelligent bipedal creatures in the same pattern as humans.

"Humans!" you protest. "Monkeys! Why not intelligent lizards?"

If you carefully examine the anatomy and genetics of most of the animals in this world, you see that there are common patterns. You have heard the jest that there is a stage of the early human foetus when it is difficult to tell the human foetus from that of many mammals, and even many amphibians, perhaps?

The pattern is a common and flexible one, and very utilitarian. I would propose that, had humans descended from cats, or even from lizards, not much would be different about our external physiology.

Maybe. Maybe not.

But the form factor is a good one for certain needs. We must expect that it will be reused.

We must also expect that, should a race such as ours become sufficiently advanced, they will conquer death, disease such as we know of, hunger, wars, and all other ills. We should not be surprised if they advance a bit beyond the bodies such as we have, perhaps changing them for bodies that are made of something that the grosser body can't directly sense or measure.

And we should expect that they would become bored with such an eternity of no problems.

Thus, we should expect that they should become a progenitor race, a parent race. What else could they do to make things interesting?

Would it surprise us that they might stick around to make sure their children don't do too much damage to themselves or each other?

Would it surprise us that there might be circuitry, as it were, in our brains and in our intangible parts, to enable temporary connection between this plane and that?

If such a connection to the transcendent plane existed, would it be of a form that would not be called prayer?


Anyway, such is the universe of this fantasy.

When they felt they had prayed sufficiently, they decided they should follow the impressions they had received to prepare.

Karel dug into 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. Candles. Wine. We won't need that."

"We'll 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 and twine. A hand shovel, an axe, a good knife and a medium survival saw. It looks like a good scout packed this, or someone who knows what one needs in the wilderness. We'll be okay for a while." And he put the supplies back carefully.

Was that Scout? No, scout. Either way, really.

They had something like Boy Scouts, too. It's a useful nomenclature for one useful approach to education in a broader sense than formal schools can deliver.

"No salad," Bobbie said a little regretfully as she closed the boxes of food and got her lunch out of her purse. It was an egg salad sandwich. "How careful do we need to be with our food?"

Karel got out his lunch. "I think I saw some good seaweed while we were playing in the water. Let's eat the sandwiches we brought for the flight, so they don't spoil, and then we'll start exploring for real. We'll set the tent up before it starts getting dark." He paused. "Bobbie?"

She looked up. "What?"

"Where I was reading in The Holy Book on the plane this morning. Book of Watza."

Of course it was not the Book of Job in the Bible of our world. But it was an account of one of the holy men of The Holy Book of their world, whose life was taken as a parable of patience. And it had verses like the one Karel quoted, which you will think you recognize from Job:
"You've let this man gain a lot of wealth. He's living the good life. That's why he's being such a good person. If you reach out and take away all the good stuff that you've let him get, he'll start behaving and talking badly enough pretty quickly. Just try it and see."
And the Parent gave the deceiver permission to test Watza. But, Sota said, you may touch only the material wealth. You may not harm his health or his family.
Bobbie nodded. "That's in the first chapter. God doesn't hate us, Sota just figures Sota can let us be tested." ("Sota" is the third person non-gender-specific pronoun. "Xota" is 3rd person masculine elevated, "Shota" is feminine of the same, and "Sota" is non-gender-specific.)

"I reckon so."

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

Also, let's think about what Wycliffe thinks he has exchanged with Bobbie and Karel, and to what purpose.

And we can think about the ways in which Bobbie and Karel must have been cooperating and sharing, and what it is that allows them to continue to do so.

If I tell that story in full here, it will distract us, so let's save that for another time. But we can think about what it might be that will allow them to do the unusual things they will do together on the island.

Note how their ideas and priorities were in agreement when they prayed, and how that sense of unity allowed them to hear the answers they got.

Oh. If I am not trying to sell you my religion, I am definitely not trying to convert you to Bobbie and Karel's. Praying to "Your Parent" is probably not called for. And if you go around exclaiming, "Oh! My! Parent!" people will glance askance at you. If I am in range of hearing, I will, too.

(Framing Story) (Table of Contents) (Next)

[Extracted and revised from the 3rd draft, here, 20170621.]  

[In the 1st draft.]
[In the 2nd draft.]

[Earlier trashed version RFQ3.]

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