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Old November 29th, 2019 #1
Jerry Abbott
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Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: In the hills north of Hillsboro WV
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Jerry Abbott
Default Divine Heritage (Brenda Lynn Jones series, book #1)

Divine Heritage

by David Sims (a.k.a. Jerry Abbott)

Chapter 1

Morningside Elementary School
Atlanta, Georgia
April 2044

You don't know me, but you will. My mom is Helen Hostetter, and through her I'm German and Swiss. My dad is Bren Jones, and his ancestry is mostly English and Scottish. I get my blonde hair from both sides. I'm a girl, but I was named for my dad.

It's my eleventh birthday, and I have to go to school. I live in Atlanta in the same general area as Druid Hills and the Atlanta Botanical Garden. My home and my school are in one of the nicer parts of Atlanta, though that isn't saying much. I'd really hate to live on the south side because it isn't safe there at all. When I asked Dad where he was sending me for middle school next year, he said "Parks," and I was horrified because Parks Middle School is infested with drug gangs. It's a place where the teachers rape the students, or the students rape the teachers, and there's always somebody shooting a gun at somebody else. It happens every day.

But he was only teasing me. I'm going to Inman Middle School next fall, which is bad enough, but not nearly as dangerous as Parks would be. Dad said that a sociologist at Emory University did a study and found out that some of Atlanta's high schools have higher mortality rates than graduation rates. It used to be that low test scores were the biggest concern.

I really wanted to attend Brookstone, but it's in Columbus over a hundred miles away, and my parents' apron strings aren't that long.

My school is about half a mile ahead. I glance around the bus as it changes lanes, and most of my classmates don't impress me much. These same boys and girls were reasonably normal people last year, but now they're all quite immature. I don't know what happened to them. Of course, some of them are less childish than others, but they all seem pettier and shallower than they should be, fighting over small differences of opinion, casting friendships to the winds over trifles. I've seen kittens play pounce games with more dignity.

Dad says that humanity needs a functionality upgrade. He's a computer technician and software engineer, and that's just how he talks. He's right, though. The next version of the human software is overdue. Maybe the hardware needs to be improved first.

The bus has turned into the school's parking lot, and that's a good thing because the four boys in the rearmost seats are growing rowdy, and it wouldn't have been long before they started picking a fight with somebody. Now we must gather up our gear and prepare to head into the education mines.

Parked. Begin mass disembarkation.

My name is Brenda Lynn Jones, and I'm heading into Morningside Elementary School on this 20th day of April, 2044, to begin my last month in the fifth grade.
 
Old November 29th, 2019 #2
Jerry Abbott
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Divine Heritage, Chapter 1, section 2.

It took about three minutes to stow most of my books in my locker along the side of Third Hall, keeping only my notebook and my math textbook, since that's my first class, and scoot into my home room ahead of the first bell.

Then I sat at my desk and looked around. Mrs. Joiner, mistress of my home room and the school's biology teacher, is reading something. The juveniles around me are abuzz with pre-bell conversation.

We're approaching the end of elementary school and a long, friendly association, albeit an institutional one, and whereas there are exceptions to which the word "friendly" would not apply, some of the girls in my class are misty-eyed about it. Sentimental. We will soon go our separate ways.

Although I'll almost certainly see familiar faces at Inman next fall, most of my schoolmates there will be strangers. A lot of the girls will be attending private schools in more gentrified areas where they will be less likely to encounter violence. So this will certainly be the last month in which most of us will see each other.

But unlike the sentimental ones, I'm looking forward to getting out of here and going somewhere people act their age, instead of like retards.

"Brenda, please pass this to Cindy."

"Okay," I said, accepting the note and handing it to the girl in the next column of seats and one row behind me. I didn't read it. Besides being discourteous, I can't imagine what the point would be.

To be fair, though, some of my classmates might be worth mentioning.

The best of them is a boy named Brian Smith. He's the smartest of the boys, and good-looking too. And he's well-behaved, and modest (for a boy), and—I guess you can tell that I like him. Last year, his grades were higher than anybody else's, and I was making B's and C's. This year, I'm top of the class, and Brian is number two. The remaining straight-A students in Morningside's fifth grade are Peter Chu and Sarah Weisman. Brian and I are white kids. Peter is Chinese, and Sarah's Jewish. We four are the grade point average elite, though some of the other kids are pushing hard to join the club.

A lady shouldn't be condescending, my mom says. But I can't help it. I enjoy having the distinction of being first in my class, especially since my having it means that Sarah doesn't have it. The title of "smartest girl in school" automatically goes to the student who has first in class standing, if that student is a girl. Sarah is jealous. She wanted to claim that status for herself. Last year, she did and made the most of it. This year, she can't. If I have anything to say about it, she never will again.

Mrs. Joiner began reading a list of today's announcements from the school administration, which means Principal Tucker, or the superintendent, or the school board. Or the cops. But Morningside doesn't often need police intervention, and today's list of imperatives sounded rather run-of-the-mill.

"...and some of you, I'll mention no names," said Mrs. Joiner, "are still in arrears for your school insurance premiums. The Principal and I expect payments to be completed by the end of the semester."

There's a law in Georgia that collectivizes the life-and-disability insurance that students are required by law to buy. Or, rather, our parents are required by law to pay for it. Collectively. Which means as long as the insurance company makes a profit, it doesn't care whether some had to pay higher premiums so that others could have a free ride. If the insurance company doesn't get "a reasonable profit" as determined by the courts, the same law enables the company to sue the county to recoup to that extent, and then the taxpayers pay for it. Payouts in the event of a death or an injury are legally guaranteed, whether the affected students' parents have paid their premiums or not. As a result, some parents don't pay. Mine always pay on the first day of each school term.

Why do we need insurance at all? The insurance gives you a certain amount of money to pay for your medical costs if you break your leg while playing basketball or if someone blinds you by popping out your eyeballs. That happened to a boy last year, and there was a big ruckus about it. There were reporters here from Channel 11 News, and I thought that it would make the newscasts, but it didn't. The station's producer or their affiliated network must have killed the story.

Anyway, the only other purpose of homeroom, as far as I can see, is to sneak in the prayers that the school is technically not supposed to sponsor. The only reason nobody sues them is the fact that they are watered down to the point of vague well-wishing. Be well, my child, and have the blessings of whatever gods or goddesses you like best. But the prayers only happen on Fridays, and today is a Wednesday.

Ah, the bell. It's time for math class. I headed out the door with the rest of the students. Some of them turned left. Some turned right. And the rest of us, myself included, went straight across the hall to room 306, where Mrs. Johns will try to teach us arithmetic.

I can't imagine why I ever thought that math was hard. It makes such perfect sense. Mrs. Johns must be a better teacher than any I've had before. I wish that she wouldn't go so slowly though. She isn't even going to finish the textbook before the semester ends. I finished it weeks ago, including all of the book's end-of-chapter homework problems. I turned them in just to impress her. The tests are so ridiculously easy that they ought not give anyone in here a challenge. And yet a minority of my classmates keep failing the tests, over and over again. I don't know how they do it, but they do.

We were in our seats, with me in the second row and the third column. Mrs. Johns, who had been sitting behind her teacher's desk, stood, picked up a handful of sheets of paper, and...

"Students," said Mrs. Johns. "Here are your mid-term tests, all graded and, where needed, commented upon. I'm going to give you your tests back, and those of you who are high-scorers should try not to look smug."

A smattering of smothered laughs rolled through the room.

"A few of you still need to study more. This should not be difficult."

Mrs. Johns handed out the graded test sheets. Mine had "100" written at the top. I could tell that Brian and Sarah had been similarly accomplished, but Peter was upset. I knew that this meant he'd missed one question, probably through misreading it, and had gotten a score of 98. That would be very upsetting to him. Worse, when his mother heard about it. Several of the questions on the test had intentional conflicts between logic and conventional syntax, and we students were being trained to attend to the logic.

A year ago, I was nobody special as far as grades go. I worked hard and was mostly a B student. But at the beginning of this year, I sailed to the head of the class. I don't just pass tests. I blast them out of the sky. I'm always the first to finish an exam, and I haven't missed a question so far this year.

The three other students of the elite aren't far behind me in GPA, and if I weren't here Peter, Brian, and Sarah would be vying for first in class. Behind those three notable classmates of mine, there's the "herd," of which I was an undistinguished member throughout the fourth grade. And behind the herd, there's a mass of dark matter that emits no light and can only be detected by their effects (mostly bad) on their brighter peers. The teachers focus their efforts on this latter group most intensively, at the expense of everyone else, trying to make them catch up with the herd. But it doesn't work.

I've met Peter's mom, a hard-driving woman, demanding of her son. Brian is a self-starter who does as well as Peter without needing his mom to nag him. Sarah is... well, Sarah's a Jew. To her, schooling is a stepping stone to the power, status, and wealth that she regards as the birthright of the Chosen Ones. And me? I suppose that I do more than is strictly required of me because I want to be an engineer like my dad when I grow up.

The four of us are all taking math class together. It's fifth-grade arithmetic, where we drill with addition problems involving four- and five-digit integers and study such advanced concepts as fractions and percentages. The dark matter actually struggles with it. The herd has no particular difficulty. Sarah, Brian, and Peter are already pushing ahead into algebra and plane geometry, though they've yet to take a course on those subjects.

"Today, we are going to begin the study of coordinate systems," announced Mrs. Johns.

I wanted to raise my hand and ask "Rotating or inertial?" but even the usually imperturbable Mrs. Johns sometimes gets annoyed with smart alecs.

"A coordinate system is a set of number lines that meet at a single point, called the 'origin,' but run in different directions. They enable functions and relations to be mapped, or graphed, on paper. This helps with visualiz—"

Mrs. Johns was interrupted by a call from another teacher, who had left her own classroom and was standing beside our door. Mrs. Johns went to see what the other teacher wanted.

Apparently, there was a discipline problem, and it was to be handled in the hall. The school's rules require such things to be witnessed, and all of the teachers are obliged to volunteer when asked.

I might have said earlier that Morningside isn't one of the really bad schools in Atlanta. It's true enough. Since it's an elementary school, the fifth grade is the highest grade it teaches. And in Atlanta there's an unwritten rule that two grade retentions is the maximum. A student who has already failed grade promotion twice will have on his later report cards no grade lower than a D. So the oldest kid here is a thirteen-year-old thug named Tyrone Banks. But he's still only a little thug, not yet as dangerous as he might be a few years hence. Still, some of the bad kids have been known to carry knives, so the extra teacher is as much a backup as a witness.

Tyrone was the troublemaker on this occasion. I could hear him saying that he hadn't done anything wrong. Or, rather, that's what he would have said if his English were better.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Sharon Malley took advantage of the teacher's absence to show off her new graphing calculator. It was the latest thing from Hewlett-Packard, and Sharon thinks that anyone who doesn't have the latest thing is nobody, socially. If she saw my Casio, she'd make out like her calculator is infinitely better than mine. She's parted her hair on the left today, trying to look stylish. And would you look at that handbag she has? It's one of those $1200 models from Newman-Marks downtown. What does she keep in there—her teddy bear collection?

I could hear Tyrone's voice from the hall. He was sassing both teachers now, loudly. They ain't gonna do nothin' to him 'cause if they do he'll get them fired and brought up on civil rights charges.

I wonder what he did that was so bad that it compelled that other teacher to take cognizance. They usually just pretend not to have seen or heard anything. The teachers out there were trying to keep their voices down, but I can still hear them. It's an awkward situation for them because Tyrone isn't making an idle threat.

Years ago, laws were passed that criminalized something called "disparate impact" in the administrative policies of public schools, most especially those regarding discipline. A rule that causes one group of students to be more often subjected to punishment, as compared with other groups, may not be enforced. Tyrone belongs to a group having a very high per capita misbehavior rate. It's getting near the end of the year, and Morningside has probably used up its allowance of corrective actions with respect to that group.

Tyrone is black.

My classmates nearest the door had begun laughing. I'd missed something. But the desk-to-desk whispernet quickly informed me that Tyrone's offense had been urinating, in front of his class, while standing on top of a table, into Mrs. Thomas' aquarium. Mrs. Thomas was the school's English and Glee Club teacher. She'd been out of the room at the time, having had to witness for yet another teacher who had been trying to straighten up yet another offender, the details of which I probably won't know until this afternoon.

Most of the teachers at Morningside are white, and they don't like to deal with racial issues. The reason for their taciturnity is that doing so carries political risks. Someone like that mouthy black boy out there might accuse the teacher of racial bias, or of using a racial slur. He'd be lying, but all the authorities would pretend to believe him, and the teacher could lose her job. By never speaking about race as if there were any social significance to it, the teachers avoid having to choose between lying to their students or else being punished for telling us the truth.

The teachers worry about being fired by the principal. The principal worries about being fired by the superintendent. The superintendent worries about being fired by the district board of education. The members of that board worry about being dismissed in recall elections. And all of them are afraid of civil rights lawsuits, to which any of them might become liable if he says anything that implies that the races aren't equals, or that he thinks that mixing the races isn't such a good idea.

A threat to the paycheck will make most people pretend to believe every lie they ever heard.

Mrs. Johns reentered the classroom, and we resumed our study of arithmetic. When we were duly introduced to orthogonal Cartesian coordinate systems, we reviewed long division.

Yes, ma'am. I know how to do long division. I can show you how to find square roots, too. No, I don't need to see the prime numbers up to one hundred because I've programmed my calculator to find them for me, and to show the prime factorizations of the composites. I'm bored. Not with math, but with the slow pace of this class. The hell with mixed fractions, greatest common denominators, and least common multiples. Teach me something new, Mrs. Johns. Before I throw your box of chalk out the window.

I thought again about the deed of Tyrone Banks. Peeing in a classroom isn't the worst thing that has happened in the Atlanta Public Schools, but it is certainly one of the oddest. I wondered whether Mrs. Thomas' fish would die.
 
Old November 29th, 2019 #3
Jerry Abbott
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Divine Heritage, Chapter 1, section 3.

After the bell ending the first period, I went to my locker, unlocked it with my school-issued key, put away my math book, and grabbed the textbook for my next class.

Elementary schools once taught something called "Social Studies," which was (so I'm told) a class devoted to following contemporary events of national and international importance, and upon these events students would strive to say something relevant and clever, after which the teacher would bestow grades according to how well she admired what each of the students had said. It was, of course, a consensus-building exercise, but during the school days of my parents it did, at least, allow some wiggle room for independent thinking and the freedom to express that independent thought, if a student were capable of it.

Social Science is different. It's a brainwashing class. Once taught in colleges, it filtered into high schools in the twenties, and now it's being pushed like a narcotic drug to fifth-graders like me.

Having sat through twelve weeks' worth of Mrs. Fergus' classes, I've the impression that Social Science is a hugely convoluted exercise in circular reasoning. The entire subject exists to justify ideas that sociologists believe must be accepted as true because they should be true. And you had better not inquire whether they really are true or not, unless you want a bunch of sociologists to run up and spit on you.

Dad told me that anthropology was like that, too, regarding the theory of racial equality.

A lot of what sociologists preach sounds like nonsense. But my teacher, Mrs. Fergus, is a true believer in the stuff, so I have to pretend to believe what she preaches, or I won't get a good grade.

"What you thinkin' 'bout?"

Sharon Malley. She sometimes talks that way because her boyfriend does, leaving out unnecessary words and syllables for the sake of mandibular efficiency.

"I was just thinking about how fortunate we are to learn such an important subject as this from an expert such as Mrs. Fergus," I answered. "Is that a new calculator you have there?"

"Yeah. It's an HP."

She showed it to me, angling it so that the overhead fluorescent light reflected into my eyes.

"Is it programmable?"

"Don't know. If it is I haven't figured out how to program it yet. I hear you have a new calculator too."

I showed her my Casio.

"Pretty nice," she conceded. "Mine's probably better, though. Do you think we'll need them in class?"

"In this class? No. In Physical Science, we will."

"Yeah. That class has a lot of equations. Why doesn't this one?"

Sharon Malley isn't completely stupid, then, if she can think well enough to ask a question like that. Still, it wasn't safe for me to answer her, so I didn't.

Mrs. Fergus droned on for an hour about the usual stuff. Poverty causes crime. Everybody is born equal and different life outcomes are the result of disparities of wealth and privilege. Give a monkey enough free bananas, I thought, mentally extending the argument, and he'll become civilized and earn his living thenceforth as a mechanical engineer. I'd have loved to debate Mrs. Fergus. I was pretty certain that I could make a fool out of her.

She'd point out that the races of mankind differed by only a fraction of a percent of their genes.

I'd reply that humans and chimpanzees differ by only two percent of their genes, and that most of the genes of both men and apes have nothing to do with the differences between them, but rather function to determine them both as animals rather than plants; as multicellular rather than single-celled; as chordates with a central nervous system; as vertebrates with a backbone; as warm-blooded mammals instead of fish or reptiles; as primates rather than felines, ursines, or ruminants; as hominids rather than monkeys. Doing all that uses up 98% of our genes.

If I were disputing the equality of humans and oak trees, a much larger fraction of the genes would be relevant to the debate. But if I'm disputing the quality of the several races of mankind, the only genes that deserve attention are those that cause human racial variation to occur. The similarity in all the rest of the genes is irrelevant and does not constitute a valid talking point for the egalitarian side. Anyone who thinks otherwise should be asked whether farm tractors and passenger cars are the same things because they both burn fossil fuels, require lubricant on their moving parts, and have wheels, transmissions, and internal combustion engines.

Yes, I could beat Mrs. Fergus in a debate, provided that neither of us had an unfair advantage. But Mrs. Fergus held just such an advantage. She had the power to choose what grade I would get from her class, whereas I had no reciprocal leverage against her. Were I to show her the errors in her ideology, she'd punish me by giving me a bad grade, and with that grade I would lose my class standing. So I'd just keep my mouth shut, at least until I graduated from elementary school.

You don't have to tell me what a hypocrite I am. I know it already.
 
Old November 29th, 2019 #4
Jerry Abbott
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Divine Heritage, Chapter 1, section 4.

Physical science does have equations, but they're all simple ones that you don't need a fancy graphing calculator for. Anything that will do the four basic arithmetic operations will get you by.

On the other hand, I've had a peek into Dad's college physics textbooks, so I've seen what's coming a ways down the road. The equations in that book are the kinds of stuff that you do need a graphing, symbolic algebra-and-calculus, programmable calculator for. Since I don't expect to wait until I'm in college to do work at that level, my calculator isn't just for flash and status. It's an investment that I'm glad my dad paid for because my allowance sure wasn't going to cover it. Not even if I volunteered to do the dishes every night.

Now I know what Sharon uses that oversized handbag for. She smuggles chewing gum into class in it, and passes it around to the more rebellious girls who dare defy Mr. Davis' gum interdict. For a boy, getting caught chewing gum would be worth an immediate trip to the Principal's office for a stern lecture, plus whatever else they do to boys in there. Rumors abound, but hard evidence is scant. But a girl can usually evade punishment by saying, "Oops, I forgot," and by looking very sincerely contrite. We girls are all experts at looking very sincerely contrite. It's a survival skill.

I won't bore you with the rest of my science class, except to mention that some white phosphorus got away from Mr. Davis after it ignited on one side and burned his fingers. He had been holding it in his hands, trying to wipe the oil off.

"Is that white phosphorus?" Brian had guessed what the stuff was.

"Yes it is," said Mr. Davis, squeezing the little blob.

"You're going to get burned if you keep that up."

"No, I'm not. I—"

Fffffft!

"Ow! Damn."

He dropped the phosphorus, and after it hit the floor the thrust from the burning side made the blob scoot under our desks. We all raised our feet to get them out of the way while it careened from wall to wall, and nearly every girl in class except me screamed. The phosphorus wedged into a crack between two masonry blocks, and Brian ran into the hall, grabbed a fire extinguisher, and ran back in to spray whatever was in it on the phosphorus, which was still oxidizing furiously.

With Mr. Davis, that's a normal class. Last week he blew up a beaker filled with water by throwing some metallic sodium into it. He looks like a mischievous Faust when he does stuff like that, which is one of the reasons I like science class so much.
 
Old November 29th, 2019 #5
Jerry Abbott
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Divine Heritage, Chapter 1, section 5.

Biology is my least favorite class. Mrs. Joiner is our biology teacher, so I was back in Room 305. We've gone over human anatomy in some detail during the earlier weeks of class, covering digestion and metabolism while we were studying the alimentary canal. And some of the ruder boys predictably made jokes at the end of that chapter of our textbooks. We'd wrapped up the chapter on the reproductive system yesterday, and today we were reviewing sex.

More jokes from the boys.

I'm not sure how I feel about sex. It sounds like a messy and unsanitary kind of activity. But I'm quite sure that I don't like childbirth. The film we saw certainly made that part of the business look painful. Having to stretch that far seems like it would kill somebody. Maybe the fact that most women survive having a baby is why older people call it a miracle.

"Yes, Devon?" Mrs. Joiner had paused her lecture to answer a question.

"Do women sometimes defecate while they are having a baby?"

Um.

"It has been known to happen," the teacher said, taking the question seriously. "Nurses are trained to wipe away any feces, to prevent them from infecting the mother or the baby."

That was yesterday. Today, the focus seems to be on the physiology of sexual arousal, intercourse, and orgasm. Some of the students wanted the teacher to describe how an orgasm felt.

"All right," said Mrs. Joiner, rising again to the challenge. "Do you know how it feels to need to sneeze, but the sneeze won't quite come?"

A student quickly pointed out the unintended pun. Mrs. Joiner revised her question.

"Your nose itches, and you need to sneeze to relieve that itch, but you can't. Not quite. Not for a while. But then the sun gets into your eyes, and all at once you sneeze hard, and it's such a relief not to need to sneeze any more. An orgasm feels something like that. Only better."

Quite a few of the boys expressed disappointment when Mrs. Joiner told us that there wouldn't be a film documentary to throw light upon the human sexual act. One of them pointed out that we had seen the childbirth film, and he suggested that it was just as reasonable to see how a pregnancy began as it was to see how it ended.

I couldn't fault his logic, though I suspect he had an ulterior motive for wanting a pornographic film imported to our biology class. He can find sex movies online, if he's really interested. But having one shown in the classroom would legitimize his watching them and give him something to say if his parents caught him browsing YouPorn videos at home.

But that's how the human biology class went through the chapter on sex and reproduction. The girls concealed both interest and embarrassment. The boys tried to discombobulate the teacher with prurient questions that were oh-so-technically phrased. But Mrs. Joiner was an older woman who did not easily become discombobulated, and she sometimes found ways to turn the tables on the boys.
 
Old November 29th, 2019 #6
Jerry Abbott
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Divine Heritage, Chapter 1, section 6.

I have a "study hall and independent study" period after biology class. My project has been measuring the electric charge capacity of several brands of rechargeable 18650 lithium-ion batteries, with a secondary purpose of sorting them according to their actual capacity and scoring their sellers on a truth-in-advertising basis.

Over the years, lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries have replaced alkalines for nearly everything, and it's easy to understand why. They work at low temperatures that make alkaline batteries sluggish. They hold twice as much charge as alkaline batteries do and have a nominal potential difference of 3.8 volts, instead of 1.5 volts, across the poles.

Alkaline batteries are still used in wall clocks, but that's about it. My calculator uses small lithium batteries. Cars and buses run on huge lithium batteries. The 18650 battery is the most popular choice for flashlights, and flashlights are the most convenient device to me for draining the batteries.

A fully charged 18650 battery has about 4.2 volts. As it is used to supply power to a device, that voltage falls. The reduction in voltage means that the battery isn't pushing electrons through the wire as strongly as it had been earlier, so a given amount of current—which is the number of electrons moving past a given point in a wire in a given amount of time—carries less energy than it did before. The beam from the flashlight's light-emitting diode grows dimmer, and, when the battery's voltage has fallen to about 2.8 volts, the light goes out completely.

The flashlight I've been using is one of my dad's. He collected LED flashlights when he was younger, and he let me borrow his Romisen T801. I upgraded the bulb from its original XML T6 LED to an XML Y5, which I bought online.

At the start of the period, I entered Coach Cukenheimer's sparsely pupiled classroom and measured the voltage of the battery that I was using at the moment with the school's voltmeter. I wrote the number in a log book in the column beside the date. I put the battery back into the flashlight and turned it on. As I switched on the flashlight, I started a chronometer. Then I pulled a book from a desk compartment and read it for an hour with my feet propped up on the seat of the next desk. When the bell ending the period was near, I put the book away, turned off the flashlight, and stopped the chronometer. I recorded the battery's new voltage and the elapsed time.

A battery will recover some voltage if it is given a rest, so the voltage that counts is the one measured at the beginning of each class session. I wrote down the voltage at the end of the period just to find out how large the recovery was.

The Romisen T801 is a bright, demanding flashlight. The bulb is efficient, but five hours of runtime uses up the charge in the batteries that I've been testing, most of which have between 2400 and 4200 milliamp hours of capacity. Whether or not the capacity advertised on the label matches the capacity that the battery actually has is one of the things I'd set out to discover.

I've found four brands of 18650 batteries that are consistently good. The others... not so much. I've pretty much concluded that any battery brand name ending in "-fire" is second-rate at best, with some having less than half of their advertised capacity. I suspected that many of those weak batteries were rebranded old cells with a new wrapper put on at some dirty factory in Zhangzhou. One of them fell apart in my hand, so I threw it away.

The twelve batteries that I've tested so far have been recharged and are in a basket on top of a filing cabinet that contains a photocopy of my data for each battery, as well as graphs of those data. A battery's chemistry determines the shape of the curve of the declining voltage over time. An alkaline battery will have an almost linear decline, but a lithium battery will drop a little at first, but then hold almost steady until right before the end, when it suddenly poops out.

I know this isn't much work, and the class is just an easy A on my report card. But that's public schools for you. The curriculum is much too easy for some, but it is much too difficult for others, and there's a distinct racial correlation involved that nobody seems willing to talk about.
 
Old November 29th, 2019 #7
Jerry Abbott
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Divine Heritage, Chapter 1, section 7.

School was over for today. I was back at home, and Mom was cooking supper. We were having tacos this evening.

Dad had just got back from his office at Parris-Ranier, where he's the only remaining white software engineer. The company had fired or laid off all the other white programmers to be politically correct and to save on labor costs by replacing them with Indians. Dot-heads, not woo-woo. What actually happened was the company rid itself of nearly all of its accumulated experience in software design, and the only reason that my dad kept his job is that the management belatedly realized that they'd shot themselves in the foot and had nearly blown their brains out.

The Indians were bright enough, but they often used poor judgment while programming in order to try out what they thought was a clever short-cut, but which invariably ended up causing problems later on—problems that my dad was likely to be blamed for. Much of the trouble involved ridiculously over-engineered subroutines that often did the job that they were supposed to do, but did it in an inefficient way that let the programmer show off his mastery of logic. To keep his own job, Dad had to edit their code and then let them have all of the credit for creating it. And that's in addition to doing his own share of the work load. But Dad couldn't review every bit of code that the Indians wrote, and he was always the one sent to troubleshoot when customers complained. Which meant that Dad had to face the wrath of annoyed executives from other companies on account of software problems that weren't his fault.

So, in the sense of being a source of commercial software, as opposed to being merely a vendor, Parris-Ranier depended for its survival on its last white programmer.

After greeting Mom, who declined my offer of help—there really wasn't much I could do that she didn't have well in hand—I turned on the television and prepared to wait for the prime-time episode of Space Probe Destiny, which was all about the adventures of a robotic space explorer that somehow managed to visit a different star system each evening.

My parents were coffee snobs. But I must admit, they had reason on their side. I could hear them talking in the kitchen.

"Was the grind from the Dominican Republic any good?" asked my father.

"No," sneered my mom. "It had a harsh flavor with an aftertaste redolent of charcoal."

"Like supermarket brand-name coffee, then," said Dad. "Odd. You expect better of an imported consignment."

"It tasted as though it were brewed from floor sweepings."

"I guess the Dominican coffee won't be giving Jamaica Blue Mountain any competition."

Mom laughed.

Mom's tacos are pretty good, and, as you might expect, they are designed to go well with good coffee. A flour tortilla shell fried lightly in olive oil is covered with a spread of melted cheddar cheese. On one side, then, went ten slices of pepperoni. On the other side, half of a stirred fried egg. Covering the pepperoni were a light scattering of onion bits, a line of yellow mustard, and a few drops of Italian salad dressing. Covering the egg were a spread of sour cream and a dusting of black pepper. A tablespoon of salsa went down the middle, where the fold would be made when it was taken for eating.

Not being needed to help with supper, I went into the living room to watch TV.

Television is mostly social propaganda, and Space Probe Destiny is a good example. It's a science fiction series in which an artificially intelligent probe from Earth visits one alien civilization after another. But in every episode, without exception, the "good" aliens were the ones that proclaimed ethical views that are currently fashionable on Earth, including the idea that racial diversity—racial social mixing—is a good thing, necessary for peace, love, and joy in life.

But some of the aliens just didn't get it. For the benefit of alien species especially prone to error, Destiny would offer unsolicited moral advice, and the fate of the aliens' world usually depended on their taking it.

All beings are brothers, it would sagely say. All conflict is the result of misunderstandings. Utopia can only come about by putting enlightened liberals in charge of the Unified Planetary Government and then letting that government have the power to do whatever (good things) it wants to do.

I used to enjoy Space Probe Destiny as an adventure series. But now I watch it for the same reason that I watch the evening news: to learn which lies the elites of my own world consider important enough that they'd go to such trouble in belaboring the public with them.

Over dinner, Dad talked about amusing anecdotes from his workplace, and Mom made fun of some of the neighbors. I found an excuse to mention that a black boy at school had used a fish tank as an improvised urinal and had threatened two teachers with a civil rights lawsuit because they had dared to criticize him for doing it.

"Par for the course," said Mom.

Dad agreed.

My first issue of Popular Astronomy had arrived in the mail. I hadn't seen it when I came home because Mom brought the mail in, but I found it after dinner. There was a big article about an asteroid that had passed closely by Earth in 2029 and had its orbit changed by Earth's gravity. It was predicted that the asteroid would return for another close encounter with Earth in April 2068, which was twenty-four years in the future. But it turned out that the astrophysicists didn't account correctly for the Yarkovsky effect, which set the asteroid in a slightly different orbit than expected. According to the article, there was a two percent chance that it would hit Earth instead of being a close miss. If it does impact, the relative speed will be forty kilometers per second, after allowing for the acceleration of Earth's gravity. Since the asteroid's mass is twenty-seven billion kilograms, the collision would release a little over twenty quintillion Joules of energy, which is something like five thousand megatons of TNT.

Boom, y'all. I hope it doesn't land on me.

It bothers me that I'm having to take the word of other people about the orbit of that asteroid because I don't know celestial mechanics myself as yet. I'm going to have to remedy that because those other people keep getting the details wrong. Like the Yarkovsky effect, which is a result of radiation pressure from a rotating asteroid. It ought to be treatable as part of perturbation theory. Of course, I don't know any perturbation theory, either. It's just a term that I pulled off Wikipedia.
 
Old November 29th, 2019 #8
Jerry Abbott
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Divine Heritage, Chapter 1, section 8.

I found out some days later that Mrs. Johns had an ambition to transfer from Morningside Elementary School to one of Atlanta's high schools, and that she was taking night classes in integral calculus so that she could become certified as a teacher of high school AP Calculus. I'd thought that she knew calculus already, since I certainly do. But better late than never, I suppose. I came to math class early and saw Mrs. Johns trying to work out a problem. I looked over her shoulder. It was one of those solids-of-revolution questions.

I read it aloud.

"If y equals open-parenthesis four minus x raised to the power of two thirds close-parenthesis, raised to the power of three halves, then what is the surface area of the solid formed by rotating the section of the function from y=4 to y=8 around the x axis?"

"That's a correct statement of the problem, Brenda," said Mrs. Johns. "Unfortunately, I'm stuck about halfway through it." She seemed frustrated.

"You've identified the problem as one to be solved by trigonometric substitution, though," I approved. "That's good. But the reason you're stuck is that you can't recall an integral identity involving sines and cosines raised to even powers."

At my comment, Mrs. Johns' eyebrows rose and her jaw dropped.

"Here it is."

I took the pen from her hand and wrote on a sheet of paper.

∫ sin⁴u cos²u du = u/16 − (1/6) sin³u cos³u − (1/64) sin(4u)

"For you," I said, punning the argument of the sine in the rightmost term. "With that, I think you'll get to the bottom line." I put her pen down and took my usual seat in the classroom. The other students were beginning to arrive.

As I took my seat, I watched Mrs. Johns struggle for words, but before she could say anything, something happened inside my head that had never happened before. I completed the problem symbolically, converted the limits from one space to another, and calculated the numerical result. I was aware of the intermediate steps, and I could have written them down at that moment, but what mattered was the result.

"Mrs. Johns, the surface area of the frustum is about 17.2 square units. The surface area of the side at x equals four is about 10.2 square units. The solid tapers to a point on the right side. So the total surface area is about 27.4 square units."

"How on earth are you doing that, Brenda?"

"I don't know."

Which was true. I didn't. All that I knew was that, for a moment, my mind had expanded so that it seemed to hold the whole world in its grasp, and the answer to the question that I'd been thinking about had seemed obvious. But the feeling was gone, and I had no idea what had happened to me.

You'll appreciate, I'm sure, that it is one thing to memorize a few integral identities, but that it is something else entirely to zip through a non-trivial sequence of trigonometric and algebraic operations, convert limits into a transcendental space, integrate, do the mop up arithmetic, and spit out the answer, all in a few seconds. I felt as if the greater part of myself had briefly woken up, scratched an itch, and then gone back to sleep.

I knew that I'd been getting smarter since the fourth grade, but I hadn't known that I was that darned smart.
 
Old November 29th, 2019 #9
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Divine Heritage, Chapter 1, section 9.

Physical Education is a class that a lot of 11- and 12-year-old girls would just as soon do without. The reasons are none of your business, except that I'll tell you that they are related to the approaching maturity of our bodies. I personally have no problem with it, as long as everything develops according to the divine plan and Murphy doesn't throw a wrench into my bra size. Not that I quite need a bra yet, but Mom said it was good training to wear one, so I do. We girls were dressed in our PE clothes on one side of the gym, while the boys were on the other side. As it happens, I was doing my floor exercises next to the class snob.

"Which school will you go to next year, Brenda?" Sarah Weisman asked while she stretched.

"Inman. You?"

"Father is sending me to Brookstone," she said. "So sorry you won't be there."

Sorry? Not likely, I thought. Sarah always thought of herself as superior to everyone else, though she was usually subtle in how she let her opinion show. She made an interesting contrast to Sharon Malley's obvious and petty displays of one-upmanship. But for all that, Sharon had nothing on Sarah when it came to arrogance. Sharon had never resented my ascent to first-in-class as Sarah had. Sharon knew very well that she never had a real shot at the top academic honors in elementary school, but Sarah did until I finally grew a brain last summer.

Sarah was smart, but Brookstone was where all the smart kids wanted to go. The school had prestige, and there was the added attraction of its being completely free, so far as I knew, of the sort of hooliganism and thuggery that plagued most of the Atlanta Public Schools. Some of the Atlanta schools, the few that had white student majorities, weren't so bad, but the rest of them had big discipline problems and low test scores. Some of the crooks who caused the infamous CRCT cheating scandal back in 2009 were still there, older and craftier now, working goodness knows what new forms of iniquity.

But, far away in Columbus, halfway across the state, there was a golden school shining its beacon of knowledge across the land, calling all the smartest kids to learn and excel.

Brookstone.

And I wouldn't get to go. Sarah Weisman would go there because her dad is a rich banker while mine is only a hard-working software engineer.

But Sarah was going to get a nasty surprise. She thought that she was going to stand head and shoulders above the herd there, and she's wrong. She's going to be in the herd, at Brookstone. Nobody special, once again.

"Well, best of luck to you, then. I'll just do with Inman as well as I can."

I've seldom seen Sarah surprised by banter. She hadn't expected my courteous reply. Last year, I'd have said something stupidly spiteful to her.

"Why thank you. Good luck to you as well," she said.

Sarah can hide her true feelings very well. If there's one thing she can do better than I can, it's dissemble. And schmooze her way into the favor of people who can give her what she wants. Most girls can do this with their daddies, as I sometimes do. But Sarah can do it with anybody who isn't wise to her people skills.

Morningside's former PE teacher was a black man who had lost his job three years ago for feeling up some of the girls under the pretense of examining them for "muscle tone development." Predictably, he sued the school for racism, but he lost—which, in Atlanta, says a lot about how egregious his offenses must have been. A white man who did the same thing would be in prison. A black man is merely told to look for another job.

The new PE teacher is also the school's basketball coach, a white man with the funny name of John Paul Cukenheimer.

We did our stretches and push-ups. He's having us do sit-ups now, and jumping jacks will be next. The routine hardly ever varies, except for the tournaments, where we compete for athletic honors. I've never been much of a competitor. Physically, I'm in the herd, though the coach says that I've been improving. We're halfway through the jumping jacks now. In a few minutes we'll be turned out for track and field exercises. We girls will do a mile—four laps—around the track while the boys do chin-ups. Then we swap, and we girls will have to grip metal bars that the boys have left slippery with sweat.

So, outside we go for our daily run. I know: it's just exercise, and it isn't important whether you come in first or last, but I wanted to be first across the finish line for a change, to be a better runner than the other girls. I wanted to win the race that always starts among the fastest girls when we get turned loose on the track.

That's when the weirdness hit me for the second time.

Do you know those warm-chills you get when someone tells you that they love you, or when somebody does something nice for you unexpectedly? That's the feeling I had just then I had just then. It spread along my neck and back and down my arms. But along with it came that mind-expansion that I'd had while I was doing Mrs. Joiner's calculus problem. And, on the next step I took, I bounded into the air so high that my feet might have cleared he heads of the girls nearby.

I came down, stepped off, and took to the sky again. It seemed that I was hanging up there for longer than was proper. It was as if either gravity had gotten weaker or—

Time was slowing down.

No. It only seemed to be slowing down. The other girls appeared to be running along in slow motion, but that's just how I saw them. They're just now beginning to realize that I made two Olympic-sized high jumps at the starting line. But jumps aren't what a race is about, so I decided to modify my step when I hit the ground next time, and fly more horizontally.

Boom, down. And now ahead, push.

Ah, good. I had been a bird, but I'd become a bullet. I began passing the other girls and saw, up ahead, Hazel Gibbs and Joyce Cobb, the two fastest girls at Morningside. Until now.

"Hey Hazel, want to race?" I called out, stretching the words to fit their time rate.

She tried. So did Joyce. But I left them in the dust.

I didn't run as fast as I could. I estimated that my apparent time rate was four times faster than normal, so in theory I could have finished the mile in about two minutes. But I knew that there might be problems for me if I were to halve the existing world record for the women's mile run while still in elementary school, so I held back and finished in a very respectable time of just over six minutes. I finished first. Hazel Gibbs finished about a minute behind me and was a very poor sport about losing. She'll just have to get used to it.

The other girls congratulated me and said things like "I didn't know you could run so fast!" and calling me a show-off. If I'd wanted to show off, I could have done a better job of it.
 
Old November 29th, 2019 #10
Jerry Abbott
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Divine Heritage, Chapter 1, section 10.

I began testing another battery in my Independent Study class. It was one of the Asian fakes. I knew that it was a fake because the label said it had 7000 milliamp-hours of electric charge capacity, and the company named on the label had never made an 18650 battery with that much capacity. Actually, nobody had. Those Chinese battery sellers were shamelessly dishonest.

On the other hand, the battery did work, and now I wanted to know exactly how well. The voltage across the poles of the battery just before I put it into the flashlight was 4.12 volts. I turned the flashlight on and started the chronometer. Then I put my feet up on the next desk—Independent Study was a sparsely pupiled class—and hit my books.

No, not my school textbooks. I finished those a long time ago. Usually, I read a novel. But I'd recently gotten some books on astrodynamics from a nearby technical library through an inter-library loan.

I started with one that looked light and easy, a relatively thin volume entitled Adventures in Celestial Mechanics, by Victor G. Szebehely. And I relearned the old lesson about not judging books by their covers. Still, it really wasn't all that tough. The math was algebra, trigonometry, and some differential calculus, mixed up with vectors and conic sections. The whole subject is basically about freefall motion under an inverse-square central force, and you just need to learn the conventions about coordinate systems and orbital elements, and you can begin to understand the math.

I didn't read the book straight from cover to cover. I skipped around as my interest took me.

In chapter seven, which dealt with hyperbolic and parabolic orbits, I saw something that bothered me about Mr. Szebehely's method, for which I wished he were with me so that I could take him to task. He had made an error in judgment by treating the semimajor axis of a hyperbolic orbit as an intrinsically positive quantity. Doing that requires a sign change in some of the equations, causing them to differ with the forms they have for elliptical orbits.

If, instead, you regard the semimajor axis of hyperbolic orbits as being intrinsically negative, you can keep the equations in the same form for both kinds of orbits. At least for a while. That reduces the amount of calculator code that someone would have to write. Someone being me.

I continued to read Szebehely's book until the bell rang, ending the period. I had another book on the subject, The Determination of Orbits, by A.D. Dubyago, translated into English from the original Russian, but I didn't touch it today.

As I went about the remainder of my school day, I kept thinking about asteroids moving along elliptical paths, going around the sun in accordance with Kepler's laws—faster when closer, slower when farther away, so that the angular momentum stayed constant. Celestial mechanics is great as a visualization exercise, where you train yourself to see what the math is doing.
 
Old November 29th, 2019 #11
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Divine Heritage, Chapter 1, section 11.

At our school, we take the CRCT at the end of April. That stands for "Criterion-Referenced Competency Test." It's the standardized test used in Georgia to determine whether a student in an elementary or a middle school deserves to be promoted to the next higher grade. It's laughably easy, and I don't mean only for me. I wasn't a genius last year, and I had no trouble with it then, or the year before. The CRCT is such a simple test that it doesn't really test most of us. Even the "herd" of my class can fumble through it okay.

However, there's the "dark matter." That's a metaphor I picked up from astronomy. I compare the dullest students at Morningside to the dark matter that's supposed to make up such a big part of the universe. It emits no light, and its presence can be detected only by its influence on brighter things, like stars. The reason the metaphor is appropriate for the least-able students in my school is that nearly all of them are black kids. I don't know why so many of them are so slow to learn anything, but it's true. They're about one seventh of the enrollment at Morningside, and just about every one of them is near the bottom of the list in grades and in test scores.

Well, except Annette Grange, a black girl who is near the top of the herd. She thinks herself the equal of Peter Chu or Brian Smith, but she isn't that smart. On the other hand, she won't have any trouble with the CRCT.

Most of the other black fifth-graders will do poorly on the math part of the test this year, just as they do every year.

The only year when most of the blacks seemed to pass the CRCT was 2009, the year my mom was born. Their gains over the previous year were, in most cases, too good to be true. And, of course, they weren't. The man who was the governor of Georgia at the time noticed, and he hired a detective firm to examine the erasure patterns on the test forms. These experts discovered that there was a bunch of cheating going on, that somebody had been erasing the wrong answers that the black kids had put on their answer sheets and substituting the right answers. The most likely suspects were the principals and the teachers in the affected elementary, middle, and high schools.

And more than half of the suspected schools in the state were in the Atlanta district.

The governor decided to kick some butt, so he assigned an investigation team, composed of a former state attorney general and a former county district attorney, and sent the state police to back them up. About eighty black teachers and principals confessed to upwardly falsifying the CRCT scores of black students in 2009. Another hundred similarly complexioned school officials who were strongly suspected of cheating denied any guilt, but most of them took the Fifth Amendment when the state's investigators began asking questions.

That's history today, but the scandal isn't quite ancient history, even though it happened 35 years ago. The Atlanta Public Schools almost lost their accreditation because of it. Some of the principals and school district administrators were fired. Some of them went to prison after being convicted of fraud, document falsification, or lying to the cops.

CRCT cheating still happens, of course, or the blacks would fail even more badly than they already do. But there aren't any more "changing parties" with teachers blatantly erasing stuff. The CRCT is a multiple-choice test, and it's more like the teachers find ways to point out which answers are correct while giving the test.

The clues are often subtle. It might be a 20-Hertz shift in vocal pitch, or a five-decibel drop in volume, or a two-second delay in reading—frequency modulation, amplitude modulation, phase modulation. With such an intuitive grasp of signal processing, you'd think these cheating black teachers would be top-notch electrical engineers instead of under-performing academics. They might also shift their weight, clear their throats, put their hands on their hips, or adjust their glasses while reading the correct answer, to clue the black students.

But many of them fail the test, nevertheless.

Anyway, we had our CRCT today, and this year it was just too easy to be any fun.
 
Old November 29th, 2019 #12
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Divine Heritage, Chapter 1, section 12.

Dad looked at me strangely when I came home from school. I went to my room to set down my borrowed books, which I read in class while the teacher tries to impart an education to the dark matter, or to the herd if no dark matter is present. The teachers, except Mrs. Fergus, let me get away with it because they know that I'd otherwise be wasting my time sitting in the classroom. I'd get bored, and, being bored, I might become cantankerous.

"I got a telephone call from Mrs. Johns," said my dad, as he appeared in the doorway.

"Oh?" That probably wasn't good.

"And then I got another call from Mr. Cukenheimer."

"Coach Cukenheimer," I corrected. What had he wanted?

"Whatever. Did you really solve a calculus problem for Mrs. Johns? She told me it had been a tough one."

"I solved an indefinite integral for her. It was part of the problem, not the whole thing."

He scratched his face, and cocked his head. "So... You're learning college level math at age eleven."

"Be proud, Dad. I've become a genius." I smiled so that he wouldn't think that I was sassing him.

Dad caught sight just then of the books on my bedroom desk.

"Honey pie, are you really learning this?" The corner of his mouth twitched. I thought he was going to cry, and I guessed the reason. He was having visions of his little girl all grown up and leaving him. I'm an only child, and I've always been the apple of his eye. Of course, I will have to leave someday. I just wish there were a way for me to soften the hurt it will cause him when I go.

"Yes, Dad. I wanted to learn how to compute orbits so that I can find out whether that asteroid will hit Earth in 2068. What did Coach say?"

"That you set a new school record for running a mile yesterday."

Darn it.

"I wasn't all that fast. I finished in six minutes and six seconds."

"It's plenty fast for a fifth-grade girl. And it was a record for your school, counting both girls and boys."

I didn't really want to talk about my emerging super powers—especially since I didn't know where they were coming from. I tried to change the subject.

"I'm going to a different school next fall. Inman Middle, I believe it is."

He didn't answer right away. His face had that expression it gets when he's wrestling with something heavy inside, like when he's—

"No. You're going to Brookstone School next fall."

—deciding to give up something that he really had wanted to keep.
 
Old November 29th, 2019 #13
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Divine Heritage, Chapter 1, section 13.

We were reading about Greek and Roman mythology in our literature class. Brian Smith was there, and he was not only one of the smartest boys in school, but also one of the cutest. Like most of them, he'd begun to notice that girls aren't quite the same kind of playmate that other boys are. The segregation of the sexes in the gym for dressing into our PE clothes provided a strong hint that something was afoot, even though it prevented us from observing the details. For those, we must rely for now on the word of Mrs. Joiner and on her classroom visual aids.

Anyway, Brian sat ahead of me in the first row of desks and in the next column to the right. I prefer the second seat, rather than being in front, even though by convention the first-ranking student is entitled to sit in the front row if she chooses. I've never approved of standing on status alone, since it doesn't always correlate well with a person's actual merit. Sarah Weisman's plutocrat father being a good example of that. Watching Brian fiddle with his calculator, even though this wasn't math class, got me started thinking about males and the purpose for which they exist.

Although I don't have any particular desire to touch a boy, nor have one touch me, I've been assured by my parental units that this lack of inclination is a temporary state of affairs. Just as I didn't put off learning calculus until high school, I'm not going to procrastinate about learning the ins and outs of sex.

No, I won't sleep with a boy just to find out how it is. That would get both of us into trouble. Mostly him, I suspect, unless I stood forth and took the blame upon myself. Which I'd probably do because I've learned that being honorable is better than being reputable. It's a fine distinction, but an important one, and if you haven't learned it yet, then I recommend you read about King Arthur and the knights of the Round Table.

But although I won't sleep with a boy until I'm more grown-up and physically prepared to become pregnant, should the gods so decree, I'm not going to remain ignorant about the social, political, and emotional dynamics that complicate the physical part of sexuality. Not if I can help it. Early awareness is an advantage, and I like having advantages.

And so I've begun paying attention to TV dramas and reading romance novels, mining them for clues about how adult women think. It seems weird to me just now, but I don't suppose that those producers and authors are making it up just because they're all goofy. If that's the orbit which lies ahead for me, then it would be well for me to begin my maneuvers now, so that I won't need any large, uncomfortable accelerations later.

So I watched Brian Smith, the prettiest and the smartest boy in class, punch buttons on his calculator and wondered what sort of problem he was solving and whether he ever thought about girls.

Enter the literature teacher, Mrs. Thomas, who wanted us to turn in our assigned reports on the three gods or goddesses we liked best. I'd chosen Diana, Minerva, and Vesta because I identify with each of them to some extent, even though they all remained virgins for centuries, which seems a ridiculously long time.

Vesta was the goddess of refuges, particularly the place of family gatherings. She was a gentle goddess, radiating warmth and comfort, and her symbol was the fire of the home hearth. If I had a best friend, I'd want her to be someone like Vesta.

Minerva was the goddess of wisdom, commerce, poetry, and crafts. Of all the goddesses, I'm probably nearest to Minerva because of my pursuit of knowledge and my technical hobbies. I'd love to invent something that I could patent and sell until I'd become wealthy. Then I'd show those Weismans a thing or two about how money is earned, as opposed to being merely skimmed as interest on loans.

Probably the most lofty of the goddesses, though, was Diana. She lived in inaccessible places like high mountains and in sacred forests where mortals didn't set foot if they knew what was good for them. She was usually above the petty affairs of humans, except that she sometimes acted as the guardian of humankind as a whole, or as the protector of humans who would so act, such as righteous kings. She was the patron goddess of mortal champions. And she protected women during childbirth.
 
Old November 29th, 2019 #14
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Divine Heritage

by David Sims (a.k.a. Jerry Abbott)

Chapter 2

Brookstone School GSC
Columbus, Georgia
Mid- to late 2044

Brookstone School had a minimum-IQ policy applicable to candidates for enrollment. They didn’t go by school grades because different schools had differing grade standards, and a 3.5 grade point average at one school might mean a lot less than the same average from another did. They didn’t go by standardized test scores, either, because academic frauds have been known to happen. What they use today to decide who deserves admission is the IQ score on a version of Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices that has been hyped-up to Mensa standards. There are a few other requirements, such as being fluent in English and having an acceptable degree of general academic knowledge.

I must say, though, that I approve of the minimum-IQ requirement. Every really good school that wants to stay really good ought to adopt the same policy. It tends to keep the hooligans out.

Still, I’d never had my IQ tested, and since it was necessary to submit a legally certified IQ test score to the school prior to admission next fall, Dad took me to have the test done. I dressed really pretty and used my innocent-little-girl look, with the cuteness level set at about eighty percent. I was quite the bouncy young lady that day. Just the sort of skippy blonde you’d expect to hit about 95 on an IQ test. Definitely not Supergirl.

Yes, I was feeling mischievous. Sue me.

I must have done well with my act, since the lady who took Dad’s money and signed me in sort of rolled her eyes in anticipation of my demonstration of stupidity. Then we sat down in the lobby because we had to wait for the previous round of test-takers to finish.

It turned out that lots of parents were trying to get their progeny into one exclusive school or another, and I met with several other Brookstone hopefuls, about half of whom probably didn’t have a chance. I could tell that most of them thought the same about me.

Dad thought that I was carrying the empty-head routine too far and admonished me. I pouted at him outrageously.

Finally, the earlier group left the building, and it was our turn in the Inner Sanctum. We kids were led into a large classroom with three tables running the length of it. There was a clock on the wall, which was apparently redundant because there was an electronic timer at the head of the table and two grown-ups, a man and a woman, each wearing a stopwatch. I sat at the place to which I’d been shown and continued to look dumb and pretty. Some boys across the table snickered and pointed at me. A girl was looking at me out of the corner of her eye while whispering behind her hand into another girl’s ear. The other girl nodded and laughed.

Now the test booklets were being passed around. We were cautioned not to open them until permitted. We were told to write our names on the cover of the booklet. We were told that the test was timed and advised to skip any of the picture-sets we couldn’t figure out quickly, and come back to them later if there was still enough time. We were warned that they would be watching us all closely and that cheaters would be disqualified immediately. The lady with the stopwatch wished us all luck, while the man set the timer, both of them pushed a button on their stopwatches and said “Begin!”

In case you’ve never taken a Raven’s type of test, I’ll tell you that the “questions” are a set of pictures that are laid out in a logical evolution of design. You have to see the pattern of the changes in the pictures you are shown, and make the proper choice for the missing picture from a set of alternatives shown at the page bottom. It is, in fact, sort of a multiple choice test. But the language of the test is pure logic. Raven’s is one of those culture-free tests for which it doesn’t matter what your cultural background is, or which languages you speak.

The early progressions are easy. The circle starts small, gets big, and then bigger, so of course the right answer is biggest, which is one of the choices you can make. But the later progressions aren’t so easy. Objects changed shape. They began having filled-or-empty rules and priorities regarding what is visible when an occultation happens. They acquired spin and paths of motion, sometimes rotating or moving clockwise or counterclockwise in the plane of the paper, but sometimes rotating perpendicular to the plane of the paper. The objects begin having other objects associated with them in various ways. And there were picture-sets in which several different patterns were going on at the same time.

Some of the kids around me were sweating by the fifth problem. I was having trouble with the eleventh, and, just as I was getting desperate my mind did its goddess thing again. After that, I had no more problems until the last picture-set. Try as I might, I couldn’t see any pattern to it. Not even with goddess-mode on. So I left it uncompleted.

I checked my work and had finished checking about the time the timer went ding and the grown-ups called out “Stop. Now! Close your booklets.”

We were shown out of the same door we’d entered by, and I found Dad still waiting in the lobby for me.

“How soon will I know how badly I did?” I asked him.

“Oh, probably in about a week.” He smiled indulgently. “This testing company must score a great many tests, so they probably won’t get to yours for a few days.”

During that week, I graduated from Morningside Elementary School as first-in-class for 2044. As expected, Sarah Weisman didn’t enjoy the proceedings at all. She was fourth-in-class, behind me, Peter Chu, and Brian Smith.

We heard back from the testing company, all right. Right after our Congressman called to convey his congratulations. And then the Governor did the same thing. Which left my dad and I looking at each other and wondering whether this was the customary procedure. If so, then that testing company sure gave its customers their money’s worth.

And then the company’s representative arrived at our doorstep to congratulate me in person. Dad was casual as he invited her into our home, though I knew he was anxious. I wasn't. I'd taken the test. I knew that I'd done well, having been unable to find the right answer to only one question on a test having many questions. The representative was a middle-aged woman with dark brown hair.

“So, what’s my IQ?” I asked her.

“We don’t know,” said the representative, grinning. She smoothed her skirt out. Her eyes were wide, as if she had never had to say that before.

“Wait a minute,” my dad said, showing some irritation. “We paid good money so that—”

“You misunderstand me, Mr. Jones,” the lady told my dad. She turned to me. “What I mean is your IQ is at least 180. We don’t know how much higher than that your IQ is because that’s as high as this test goes.”

“And I didn’t even answer the last question.”

The company lady laughed.

“You weren’t supposed to,” she said, patting my shoulder. “The last question was designed to have no pattern at all. All the choices at the bottom were wrong. You did the best thing that you could have done.”

Well. I hadn’t thought of that possibility. I should have.

The lady congratulated us again and told us that a certified copy of my scored test had been mailed to Brookstone School in Columbus, as we’d requested. Then she returned down the walk to her car and drove away.

And then the media started showing up.
 
Old November 29th, 2019 #15
Jerry Abbott
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Divine Heritage, Chapter 2, section 2.

If you’ve never seen yourself on TV, being praised to the skies by reporters, pundits, politicians, and head-nodding news anchormen, try it sometime. It’s a real ego-trip. But the praise isn’t quite as heartfelt as they try to make it sound. To them, I was just something to talk about, something they could gain views and ratings and sponsors from. Since most of the media bosses are political leftists, I’m sure that they’d much rather I were black.

“Yesterday, our reporter Paul Siegalman interviewed Miss Jones at her home in Druid Hills. Paul, what was your impression of Atlanta’s young genius?”

“Frank, Brenda Jones makes quite an impression when you meet her in person. You just wouldn’t expect someone who is only eleven years old to speak like she does. She can project a certain air of naivety one moment, and in the next instant surprise you with her razor-sharp intellect. I’ve never in my life been so…”

They’ve been saying stuff like that on every channel.

“Paul, we understand that one of the teachers at Morningside gave her a difficult math question, something at the college level.”

“That’s right, Frank. The teacher is a 'Mrs. Johns,' the school’s Math teacher. It was a calculus question that Brenda Jones allegedly solved in her head.”

“Really? Not even using a calculator?”

“According to the teacher, no. She is said to have worked it out in her head almost instantly.”

“Amazing. Just amazing. Now in other news, Atlanta Mayor LaShawn Devon Brown has denied any involvement in the drug trafficking scandal at…”

Hm.

It’s all fluff, of course. They don’t know that I’m studying celestial mechanics. Or that I know how to do fast Fourier transforms. Or that I’ve solved a non-linear differential equation regarding time-to-fall in a plunge orbit. Or that I knew why you should never divide by

2(5!) − cot [4 arctan 0.2 + ½ i ln i] − 1

—before I'd ever heard of Leonhard Euler.

They don’t care about the particulars. All they’re doing, really, is boosting my fame as a means of boosting their profits.

Tonight’s newscast should show that snooty Sarah Weisman her place, but lately I haven’t been able to say why I should care about what airs someone like her puts on.

Also, being famous for a good reason isn’t a bad thing, but it comes with a risk. Although it will predispose people to think well of you, they will also expect the best of you, which means that your public manners had better improve if they aren’t already suitable for royal company. The higher you go socially, the harder you’ll fall if you lose favor. I know more than most people do about the theory of beautiful deportment, but I’m still enough of a tween to find its implementation somewhat difficult.
 
Old November 29th, 2019 #16
Jerry Abbott
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Divine Heritage, Chapter 2, section 3.

Summer vacation passed as it usually does in Atlanta. I surfed the web, tweeted, and watched videos. White kids can't safely go outside to play because of the "youth" gangs that control the street, sometimes in defiance of, and sometimes in complicity with, the mostly-black Atlanta Police Department. Druid Hills wasn't as bad a neighborhood as most of Atlanta is, but it's bad enough that we don't wander around outside. Even the front yard can be dangerous. And yet sometimes a bit of neighborhood traveling can't be avoided, and it was while I was walking to Nancy Petersen's house that I beat up my first black.

Or, rather, I beat up four of them, after they started trouble with me. Blacks almost never attack solo, but nearly always in pairs or in packs, when they think that they have overwhelming advantage on their side. I suppose that a lone black might attack a cripple or someone he perceived as being too weak to defend himself. But otherwise they go in groups to stalk their prey.

I think that they had rape on their minds, even though I wasn't pulchritudinous at age eleven. Black males don't care about that. They'll rape old women, fat women, ugly women, each other, and nanny goats if they can catch them. They will certainly rape pre-teen white girls. Unless the white girl is me.

Moving at four times my normal speed, I found it very easy to defeat the thugs. They couldn't take hold of any part of me because that part moved faster than their hands could. I left them all with broken bones, moaning and thrashing around helplessly on the ground. I thought that perhaps I should kill them.

Since that might be a shock to you, I'll explain my reasons. First, crime statistics suggest that they'd probably have killed me, if they had won our fight, just to prevent me from identifying them afterward. Turnabout is fair play. Second, the likelihood is very small that any of those four black youths will ever in his life repay society for the costs of his upbringing alone, without even counting the additional costs he will impose on that same society with his future criminal actions. So they are, via taxation, a drain on everybody else in the country. Whether my fellow citizens would thank me for killing these youths or not, they should at least appreciate the relief from a small part of their crime risk and economic burden.

But I didn't kill them. I did, however, relieve them of several cell phones and credit cards that didn't belong to them. I'd mail these items back to their owners as soon as I'd found out who they were and where they lived. The police? You've got to be kidding me. This is Atlanta. The police are grown-ups who were gang members just a few years ago. They pretend to be protectors, but they aren't. They pretend to uphold the laws, but they don't—except when it lets them do as they please. If the cops ever get their hands on valuable property, it might just "disappear" once again. The police in this city are enemies you smile at because you can't fight them and win. And they smile back, confident in their power, and pose for the media's cameras as if they were the most righteous fellows in the world.

I've been told that, once upon a time, before I was born, most police officers were professionals who impartially enforced just laws. But that has changed. Now the cops are just another gang. Do you know what the difference is? Professional police officers police each other at least as assiduously as they police their communities, and they don't make excuses for other officers who commit misdeeds under color of law. When the cops start doing that, they've become a bunch of punks, distinguished from other punks only by wearing somewhat nicer clothes and by being, on average, a little older.

I arrived at Nancy's house, and I told her about my adventures along the way. We got right to work on the internet, finding out who owned the credit cards and the phones, using encryption methods that I devised to defeat the government's spyware. If we'd tried to do the right thing openly, we might have gotten arrested. Before long, we had the addresses, and we satisfied our social interaction desires by doing our civic duty. Boxing up each cell phone and slipping each credit card into an envelope, we put the stolen properties with Nancy's outgoing mail to be returned to their rightful owners. We didn't include any return address for reasons of operational security. It was more likely that we'd get into trouble than be recognized as heroes.

Then Nancy and I ate popcorn and watched old movies. While we were doing that, another group of young blacks, waving pistols, tried to rob a drug store about a half-mile from where we lived. A white store manager pulled out a gun and started shooting, killing one of the robbers and putting the others to flight. I didn't hear about it until the news came on TV that evening, by which time I was back home again.

"They arrested the store manager?" I asked. "Whatever for?"

"The police think that he used unnecessary lethal force," my dad replied. "Or, anyway, the police spokesman said that was what the police believed."

Phooey. I saw the robbers' guns in the news broadcast, which had included an outtake from the store's security video. The guns were real, and they were loaded. One of the robbers had even gotten off a shot, which missed. Even if the guns had not been loaded, nobody defending the store, at the last moment it would be possible to exercise a defense by shooting back, would have enough time to make sure of it. And likewise if the guns had been only toys. Any sensible defender will shoot to kill, simply because a robber's gun appears to be—and nearly always is—a real gun with real bullets in it.

The only reason for the opinion of the police officers, and for the arrest, was that the winner of an interracial conflict had been the white side of it, and the black police department intends to revise the outcome.

I think it was right about then that I understood what my life's purpose would be, though I had no idea how I was going to proceed.

Because it doesn't matter where you find them, blacks are about the same everywhere: Atlanta, Detroit, London, Johannesburg, or Port au Prince. Considered as a group, blacks always have a higher per capita rate for perpetrating violent crimes. And it isn't just a little bit higher, either. It isn't a matter of a few percent. Nor is it merely double or triple. The difference between the crime rate for the average black and the crime rate for the average while is a whole order of magnitude, a factor of ten or close to it.

The US government once kept track of crimes by race. If you can access the archived files of the Department of Justice, look for the FBI Uniform Crime Reports. They'll tell you most of what you ought to know. The historical demographic data from the Census Bureau, the Statistical Abstract of the United States (formerly a publication of the US Government Printing Office), and the old CIA Factbooks, if you can find them, will tell you the rest.

Or, if you live in an area heavily populated by blacks, you can just look around. If you don't live in such a place, and if you won't do the research that I just now suggested, then how can you convince me that your opinion is worth a nickle?

No, the reason for the difference isn't poverty. I hear that excuse quite often. The leftist's "poverty causes crime" argument sounds plausible at first. I remember thinking it over when Mrs. Fergus introduced it in her social science class at Morningside Elementary. The idea is that poor people, seeking food and the bare necessities of life, are forced to commit crimes in order to survive. Thus, the per capita crime rate among poor people should exhibit a strong correlation with socio-economic status, but no correlation at all with race. But I've checked, and there's an even stronger correlation between crime and race than there is between crime and social class.

Poor whites don't behave as poor blacks do. Each race has a characteristic statistical spread of behaviors. The conjecture that poverty causes crime is disproved by the evidence. It is a myth whose tellers hope to blame "social injustice" for racial differences. On the contrary: blacks and whites simply aren't the same kind of creature.

The myth serves as the leftists' road to political empowerment, which is their true goal. The Marxists want to be able to dominate, and thus to exploit, everybody else. They want to supplant the natural elite, the elite of merit, with themselves, and to enforce their rule by murdering dissidents and by starving defiant populations into submission. All of their talk about "social justice" is mere hypocritical deception.

The sooner you deal with a problem, the easier the task will usually be. If Americans had recognized a fundamental racial difference between whites and blacks in 1995, or, even better, in 1950, or, better still, in 1850, and had dealt with it rationally, with a clear grasp of the facts, then their great-grandchildren would not be suffering from race-related crime and violence today, in 2044. Instead, they believed polite fictions about the "equality" of the races, and they believed them to the point of punishing anyone who did not believe them. People who told the truth were ostracized. They lost their jobs.

Similar things were going on in other countries—it was almost as if the lunacy were being orchestrated by an international conspiracy—and, in a few countries, it became illegal to tell the truth about race. Telling the truth became a crime called "inciting racial hatred," and people who told the truth were arrested and bum-rushed through a show trial, in which the judge took judicial notice that the truth must be false because the lies were legally required to be true, and sent the defendant to prison.

The law does not create virtue. At its best, the law reflects virtue. When the law is dirty, it doesn't.

These were my thoughts as I considered the events of the day, and the televised news of that evening.

Somebody had to save the world. And it had to be saved from more than an asteroid collision in 2068. And I decided, as I went to bed that night, that I was going to be the one to do it.
 
Old November 29th, 2019 #17
Jerry Abbott
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Divine Heritage, Chapter 2, section 3.

Summer passed, and I prepared myself to live apart from my parents for the first time in my life. Dad and Mom signed papers contracting my legal guardianship to Brookstone's Dean Norman Klang for the duration of the school year. I would be moving to a room in a girls' dormitory called Mathews Hall. I was allowed one suitcase for clothes, one computer if I had one, and one small satchel for toiletries. Any money over $1000 that I had with me had to be deposited with the Brookstone Bank, which was also on campus. It was, I believed, a student project.

Brookstone School is a combined school that can take a student from pre-kindergarten all the way to a Bachelor's degree in a wide range of subjects. It's a private school founded in the 1950s, moving twice to new and larger campuses for grade school, adding a college campus in 2026, and just rolling in money because it is widely known as an exceptionally successful school, having an unblemished public safety record (no murders, ever), where the students were self-disciplined, the campus orderly and neat, and the teachers competent and glad to be out of the hell-hole public schools. It had acquired a new school president just this year, the old one having retired last year. I got a whiff of politics behind that, but I didn't delve into it deeply.

To my father's surprise, and mine, I received notice by mail that I was being given a 50% discount on my tuition because Brookstone's administration had read my IQ test report and my school transcript (we'd authorized it for release to Brookstone), and wanted me badly enough to cut my fees in half. Which was just as well. Brookstone's usual tuition, and its fees for housing and food, were the same as that of a very reputable college, and my poor, hard-working dad would have been billed into poverty if he'd had to pay the full amount.

So, one sunny August morning, I hugged my parents, said my good-byes, and boarded the bus to Columbus. I tried not to think about it too much. The other passengers were the usual motley bunch, with rebel teens and their loud music boxes, older people telling them to be quiet, a few fellows in suits, a sprinkling of shady-looking types.

A well-dressed middle aged woman recognized me, or thought she did. She asked whom I was, and I told her "Brenda Jones." She asked if she could sit beside me, and I acceded mostly because otherwise a rambunctious boy might claim that seat. The bus moved out of the station, and we struck up a conversation about where I was going, and what I hoped to do in the future.

Well, it doesn't do to explain what one hopes to do, if what one hopes to do is turn the world upside down, shake it until all the rascals fall off, and then put it back together in one's own way.

"I want to study science," I said.

"Oh, how lovely," said the lady. "Which field of science is your favorite?"

"Physics," I said. "At the moment, astrodynamics. I've been teaching myself how to find transfer orbits. After that, I suppose nuclear physics, along with some nuclear engineering."

"What do you want to study that for? Are you thinking of getting a job in the energy industry?"

Actually, I was thinking about inventing the hydrogen fusion rocket engine and then using it in such a way that my knowledge of celestial mechanics would be put to a serious test. But that's another thing I didn't want to tell a stranger, so I just agreed with her guess. It made a plausible cover story, since almost all the world's electric generators ran with energy supplied by nuclear fission reactors.

When fossil fuels declined sharply about fifteen years ago, it was either nuclear or next to nothing. Solar, wind, and hydroelectric power couldn't have bridged the gap between supply and demand. This bus was an electric bus, made by Tesla Motors, running off a huge battery under the floor. Without nuclear power, that battery would never be recharged. Solar power was used to run some homes and charge batteries for flashlights and other small appliances. But all the big jobs were, at least indirectly, accomplished by nuclear energy.

"How do you find transfer orbits?" she asked.

Interesting question. A lot of people would have asked what a transfer orbit was.

"First, you should pick a time when you want to depart from the orbit you're already in, and about how long you want to spend in transit. The time of departure, plus the transit time, equals the time of arrival. When you arrive at the intersection between the transfer orbit and the orbit of the object you want to reach, you want that object to be there, too, and not at some other part of its orbit."

"That sounds simple enough," she said. Have you noticed that I still didn't know her name? I'd noticed, but I didn't want to ask just then.

"No, it really isn't simple. Because the transit time for the destination object, as it follows its own orbital path, isn't necessarily the same as your transit time. In general, you and the destination object won't get to the intersection point at the same time."

"Then how does it work out that you can get to where you want to go?"

"By carefully choosing the time of departure and the transit time so that an exceptional and happy circumstance arises, namely that you do reach the arrival position at the same time that the object does."

She wasn't a reporter. Reporters don't pursue technical subjects even to this depth. They want you to talk about the salacious stuff that titillates TV audiences or tabloid readers. But she wasn't just some woman off the street, either. My curiosity got the better of me.

"Are you, perhaps, affiliated with Brookstone?"

The lady smiled.

"Why, yes I am," she said. "I'm Vanessa Emory, one of Brookstone's vice presidents. I heard you were boarding a bus for Columbus and made sure to follow you. I hope you don't mind."

"Not at all," I said, wondering whether I should mind but knowing that I shouldn't say so. "Emory? There's an Emory University near where I live."

"No relation, as far as I know," said Ms. Emory.

We chatted on a good while. She probed my knowledge of physics, especially in regard to transfer orbits, probably because I'd mentioned the subject. I felt encouraged to ramble.

"A transfer orbit that is geometrically possible usually doesn't satisfy the transit time requirement," I rambled. "But if you specify the departure location, the arrival location, and require that one of the transfer orbit's apsides coexist with either departure or arrival, you can solve for the elements of the transfer orbit. You know, the eccentricity, the semimajor axis, the inclination, the longitude of the ascending node, the argument of the perihelion, and the time of perihelion passage. You would use the sun-departure-arrival geometry to find the eccentricity and semimajor axis of the transfer orbit, and then you'd check whether the transit time for the spaceship was the same as that for the object with which you wanted to rendezvous."

"And if it wasn't?"

"Then you change the time of departure, or the required transit time, or both of them, and try again. Until you get a match in the transit times. After you do that, you proceed to find the rest of the orbital elements and the delta-vees for departure and for arrival."

"What are delta-vees?"

"Oops. Sorry. That's rocket engineer talk for changes of velocity. So much acceleration for so much time."

I didn't need to expound on the rest of the calculation of the Keplerian transfer orbit, or the subsequent tasks of the patched conic approximation and then finding the fully accurate time-integrated trajectory, with its revised delta-vees for departure and for midcourse correction (if one is needed). Instead, Ms. Emory steered our conversation toward personal matters, in which I, rather than she, was the subject of most of the conversation. For my part, I tried to give her the impression that I was just a rather smart little girl who wanted to learn everything I could and do well at Brookstone.

And I could tell that she knew I was doing it.

Last edited by Jerry Abbott; November 29th, 2019 at 10:00 PM.
 
Old November 29th, 2019 #18
Jerry Abbott
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Divine Heritage, Chapter 2, section 4.

"What are you doing here?" A familiar voice spoke.

What rotten luck. Sarah Weisman had been assigned to my dorm room. She was my roommate. I was fated to have to see her every time I came back from class.

"Dad changed his mind about Inman."

"Too many blacks?"

"Too little challenge."

"I saw that TV newscast about your being some kind of genius." Sarah contrived to smirk. "I wondered how you pulled that off. Nice coup."

"It wasn't a coup. I wasn't looking for fame. An IQ test was required, so my father paid to have me take one. I didn't know that I was going to be the first person ever to go off the charts on it."

"Well, then it must have been an easy test, if you did that."

"I thought so."

I was about to propose that we draw a chalk line down the center of the room and keep all our stuff strictly to our own sides, when Sarah made the suggestion unnecessary.

"You'll be glad to know," she said, "that I won't be staying here. I've gotten a wavier from the dean to live in a private apartment."

"We can do that?" A private apartment might be nice.

"I can. You probably can't. My father is a stockholder in Brookstone, and I'm to work in the Student Union Bank."

"S.U.B." I spelled out the initials. "Sure to go under."

"Very funny. What that means is I'm going to have certain privileges that you won't have. One of them is an apartment, so I won't be bothered by the yelling, running around, slamming doors, and loud music that you'll probably hear, starting tonight. Another is that I'll be paid to attend this school, while you, on the other hand, will have to pay to attend it."

Hm. Something smelled fishy about that summary of things.

"You mean that you're working your way through school, and that your father's recommendation got you a job in the bank to defray your tuition. Your daddy didn't just pay for everything, even though he easily could have."

"I'm wondering just how it is that your father came up with the money to send you here," said Sarah, nastily. "Did he mortgage his house again? If he did, then when my father forecloses on it, he might give it to me."

"No, our house is clear of debt. My tuition was reduced by half on account of my graduating first in class at Morningside."

Okay, so I lied. The tuition discount was the result of my IQ test, but the effect on Sarah was most satisfactory. Have you ever seen a Jewish girl lose her temper? Normally, they strive for poise and for verbal elegance. But when they get mad, they'll sometimes show their real nature.

"You stole that honor from me, you little bitch!" Sarah hissed the words. Her face was sunburn red. She was shaking with anger.

"And remember, Sarah, you were fourth in class. Not second. Peter or Brian would have gotten the honor, if I hadn't. Not you."

She tried to slap me. I intercepted her wrist, turned her around, and slammed her into the wall. Going on quick-time comes naturally to me now.

"Watch it, Sarah. Nobody at Morningside ever had the misfortune to learn about it, but the smartest girl at school was also the toughest girl at school. I don't want to hurt you, but you'd better not try to hit me again."

Fear quelled her anger, as I'd figured it would. She was about to put her Miss Nice mask back on.

"Yeah," she said, turning back around. "I heard about you on the track, those jumps you took right before you set the speed record. Well, I guess I'd better start taking my stuff to the apartment. The school will assign you a new roommate before long."

As she was carrying her suitcase and satchel down the hall toward the dorm wing exit, Sarah turned around. "But remember one thing, Brenda. This isn't Morningside, and there are students of all ages here. Even college age. Most of them are probably nice people, like us."

She pushed the lever bar to open the door.

"But some of them might not be."
 
Old November 29th, 2019 #19
Jerry Abbott
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Divine Heritage, Chapter 2, section 5.

Classes didn't begin right away. After arrival day, we had a day for orientation, followed by Registration Day, when we got our class assignments and paid our fees, and classes started the day after that. But our orientation began the night after we arrived and moved into our dorm rooms. It turned out that the Dean Klang lived in the dorm. His wife was also a dean of students, in charge of the girls living on the upper floor. They were, for the foreseeable future, my legal guardians, with all the parental powers thereunto appertaining.

I wasn't to address him as Daddy, though. He was Dean Klang, and so was his wife, and none of us had better forget it. We were summoned to the dorm common room—it was more than a lobby, though it served as that, too—where we were given our formal welcomes and had the house rules laid down for us. There were rules in Mathews Hall about noise, and stricter ones about boys. Illegal drugs got you expelled from school, and, for us, alcohol was an illegal drug. Prescription drugs had to be in the prescription bottle.

One girl raised her hand and asked what happened if she accidentally swallowed her mouthwash. Some of the other girls giggled. Dean Klang the Mister asked for her name and room number. The giggling stopped.

"Clara Sanders, room 212."

Dean Klang the Mister looked at Dean Klang the Mistress, who wrote something on a notepad and put it back into her pocketbook, giving everyone the impression that Clara Sanders had just got herself on somebody's bad side. The girls who had giggled were slowly edging away, each of them casting an expression of distaste at Clara Sanders and trying to convey to the room at large the impression that she hadn't been among the gigglers.

The Deans Klang went through some additional rules. Mistress Klang mentioned the proper use of fire alarms and fire extinguishers and told us that improperly using them was another expulsion-level offense. There were rules about using the hall telephones, how many calls per week, how long each call could be, and so on. Cell phones weren't allowed at Brookstone ever since they started being used to trigger flash riots in Columbus. That happened in Atlanta, too, so I thought that it was a good rule. But six girls had brought cell phones with them, and these were confiscated amid their protests.

"You'll get them back when it's time for you to return to your parents' homes, during school recess," said Mr. Klang.

We were told that we might not bring any guns to school. I didn't think any of the girls had them, but you never know. A boy over at one of the other dorms had brought a pistol to school a couple of years ago, just to impress his friends. His dean heard about it, and the boy got expelled and arrested. His dad had to pay for bail, and then a fine, and he never did get the gun back.

The Deans Klang brought us again to the matter of boys. There was a school policy about "visitation," in which a girl could have a boy in her dorm room, or vice versa, if they were studying together. But the hours for visitation were posted and overstays were presumed to be intentional violations, subject to various punishments ranging from loss of privileges, to a fine in lieu of expulsion, to just plain expulsion.

The girls in this dorm ranged from my age, eleven, to about eighteen. Most of the college girls lived in another dorm or in a private apartment on Brookstone's college campus, which was about two miles away from the grade school campus. Some of them lived off-campus in an apartment or in a rented house. Since they were legally adults, the visitation rules that applied to us didn't apply to them. If they got themselves pregnant, it was their own tough luck.

We were given our student handbooks, which contained a list of courses available for each grade. Since I was headed into the sixth grade, I checked the relevant courses. And I was disappointed. There were no advanced courses here. No differential equations. No numerical analysis. No mathematical physics. No quantum mechanics. It was all the same kind fluff that I would have taken at Inman Middle School in Atlanta. I didn't see anything that I didn't already know forward and backward, nor any course whose final exam I couldn't ace right then even if I had to take the test while hanging by my knees upside down.

"Is there a problem, Miss Jones?"

"All of the courses for the sixth grade seem too easy, Dean Klang." It was the Mister who had asked.

"Yes. I expect that they do." He stroked a short beard. "Karen—rather, Mistress Klang—and I were advised that we'd have someone special join us this year. And, for you, special arrangements have been made."

He handed me a pamphlet that looked as if it should be an appendix to the handbook. Suddenly, I was very glad that I'd been nice to Vanessa Emory on the bus.

"You will have to take the regular core curriculum, of course," said Dean Klang. "But your electives may come from this addendum, which, you'll notice, contains college level courses in math and in science."

I had noticed. I thanked the dean sincerely.

"Where are you staying, Miss Jones?"

"In room 107, sir."

"I assigned one of your old schoolmates to be your roommate," he said. "Is this satisfactory?"

He knew perfectly well that Sarah Weisman had changed her residence and was testing my morals. He wanted to see whether I'd try to get a room all to myself by keeping quiet about her departure.

"Dean Klang, that girl has received a wavier to live in a private apartment on campus. She won't be living here in Mathews Hall this semester."

"Quarter, Miss Jones. We use the quarter system here. Well, then, if there's another situation such as yours, with one girl in a room, I'll move her into your room as your roommate. It isn't that I'd mind if two girls each had a room to herself, but the other girls would consider it to be unfair favoritism, and we can't have that, can we?"

"I see your point, sir. No sir."

The dean considered me thoughtfully.

"You are quite fair-spoken for an 11-year-old girl. You address me almost as if you'd grown up in a military academy. Where did you learn your manners?"

By reading Robert Heinlein novels and learning how men in authority like to be addressed, that's how. Sir.

"I guess it's just how my parents raised me."

"Well, then. They did a good job. Good luck at Brookstone, Miss Jones."

"Thank you, sir."
 
Old November 29th, 2019 #20
Jerry Abbott
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Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: In the hills north of Hillsboro WV
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Jerry Abbott
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Divine Heritage, Chapter 2, section 6.

For our official day of orientation, Mr. and Mrs. Klang took us on a hike of the campus of what was essentially a combined elementary, middle, and high school. The elementary school was on the far side of it, and I got the impression that we weren't supposed to go over there. Elementary school students didn't live on campus. Students of Brookstone's college lived (and studied) on a separate campus elsewhere in the city. So the students of what we regarded as the "main" campus of Brookstone School were of the ages between 11 and 18. Since I was to attend some of my classes at the college campus, I'd need to arrange for my transportation.

A bicycle seemed to be the cheapest option. Since the campuses were separated by only about two miles, I could make the trip in a flash on quick-time. Unless I got arrested for speeding. Somebody was bound to notice a bicycle weaving at sixty miles per hour through the traffic downtown. On second thought, perhaps I'd better tone down my speed-up a little, as I did for running track.

Brookstone has excellent sports facilities: gym, track, basketball and tennis courts, a football field. Nothing was run down or gone to seed, either. I could see custodial employees, often assisted by students, busy trimming hedges, mowing lawns, watering flower gardens, pulling up thistles, and picking up an occasional bit of trash. We saw several of the class buildings, and the administration building where we'd go for class registration. In times past, students would actually fork over their tuition money then. Now, though, you deposit your money in the bank ahead of time, and the school takes it out of your account electronically.

Speaking of the bank, we toured it also. I was wrong about it being a student project. Brookstone Bank was a regular bank, owned by Brookstone's shareholders. But it was affiliated with the Student Union Bank, which did business with it. The SUB was the student project, which began as an assignment given to a senior majoring in Business Administration. It had had enough success that every class of students since has helped keep it going. At Brookstone, "senior" meant someone in his fourth year of college. Those in their last year of high school were called "twelfth graders."

We also found the bookstore. Do you know that some of the college textbooks cost over a thousand dollars each? And they keep changing the book used by a class so that used copies of the book-in-current-use will be hard to find. What a scam. There's no good reason for why they couldn't use the same book over and over, at least until the advance of human knowledge made a textbook obsolete. All I knew is that I wasn't going to be buying any of those books. My dad couldn't afford them on top of the tuition, even with the discount. The books for grade schoolers were more reasonable in price, most of them selling for under two hundred dollars each. I'd probably need to have several of them for this quarter's classes.

We found the cafeteria and went inside for a meal. After registration day, most of the cafeteria's patrons would be students paying their way in with special key cards. Today, though, it was being run just like any other buffet restaurant, except you paid cash or swiped a credit card on your way in, rather than on the way out. That way, if you don't like what was being served, they already have your money, so too bad for you.

On our way to the serving line, I picked up some chatter from the tables where students were eating.

"Hey, they should have a sign in the kitchen that says: Wash your hands after handling the food."

"You're right, Frank. I do believe that I now understand why cafeteria and bacteria end in the same five letters."

Lots of laughs from that table. As we passed another table, I heard this.

"I heard that some of the serving pans are deeper than they look, and that things live at the bottom of them. Under the food."

"That's common knowledge, Bud. Last fall, one of the serving ladies got too close and a tentacle reached up, grabbed her, dragged her screaming into the food, and she was never seen again."

"Uh-huh. Those dishes are the tastiest ones."

I grinned, knowing that being critical about institutional food is a common form of entertainment. Some of the girls in our dorm group thought it would be classier to feign disgust, however.

We joined the line proper, as it slowly moved past the bar with its row of trays and the serving ladies, who were the first blacks I'd seen since stepping off the bus at the edge of the campus with Ms. Emory, who had given me directions to Mathews Hall before leaving me in the direction of the administration building. I thought about that. Blacks are about half the population of Georgia. But where human quality is required, you hardly ever see them. I started to wonder whether there might be something to those criticisms from the students in the eating hall.

The food, however, looked okay. There wasn't anything creative about it, but it appeared to be good basic food. English peas, creamed corn, carrot slices, all probably right out of a can and warmed up. There were fishsticks, bought pre-cooked and frozen, and then thawed and heated. There were little rolls of a kind that I knew was mass produced for sale in supermarkets. I saw no particular culinary talent on display. On the other hand, the food seemed good enough, and nothing was burned. So I took my share when my turn came, and I went out to the tables in a section of the dining hall that Mr. Klang had been saving for us.

"The food seems more wholesome than comments we heard on the way in led me to expect," I said, as I stood beside my place at table.

"Please be seated, Miss Jones," said Mr. Klang. "I've heard the sort of things the students say about the food. And there have been issues in the past. Brookstone is required to submit contracts for outside business to bid, and unfortunately the lowest bidder is often the one that provides the bare minimum of services, and those of the lowest acceptable standards. Fortunately, most of the time the only problem with the food is that it tends to become somewhat overcooked by the middle of the afternoon."

"The cooks open all their canned vegetables in the morning and put them into very large pots," added one of the older girls. "I've worked with the kitchen staff to pay some of my school fees. I was a food runner, carrying the trays from the kitchen to the serving line. They consider it is too much trouble to cook twice and clean the pots twice in the same day. So they halve their work, and as the result the string beans are as limp as noodles by two o'clock, the mashed potatoes are burned at the edges by three, and the rolls are hard as bricks by four."

"That's why I brought you here at noon," said Mr. Klang. "I knew that the best food was served early in the day, but I wasn't certain why that was so until now. Thank you, Miss Lane. I'll have a word with higher school officials on this subject."

Mrs. Klang arrived as the last member of our lunch party, herding the remaining girls to our tables. As she approached, she looked at Mr. Klang, who nodded slightly toward me, whereupon Mrs. Klang gave me the sunniest smile that I've seen in a long time. I had no idea why. I attended to my table manners, ate my food, and pretended not to notice.

The girls sitting around our tables chattered to each other, occasionally giggling at god-only-knows what. Mrs. Klang admonished a few of the gigglers and urged some girls to better posture or to greater decorum.

"Could Brookstone perhaps do its own grocery shopping and cooking?" asked Donna Lane, the twelfth grade girl who had spoken earlier.

"Well, yes," answered Mr. Klang, chasing some creamed corn with his fork. "But there are, um, political considerations of which I'm not fully aware."

Now there was a technical truth if I'd ever heard one. Not fully aware, he might be. But he has some very definite opinions about why Brookstone hasn't horizontally integrated itself an in-house cafeteria. And he doesn't want to share them.

"That's too bad," said Donna. "A cafeteria could be a laboratory attachment to the school of business, teaching students how to run restaurants."

"You have worked for this cafeteria," Mr. Klang pointed out.

"As a menial employee, yes. But I never cooked. I never balanced accounts. I never hired anybody or managed inventory."

"Yes, I see your point."

I didn't see how men with beards could possibly eat neatly enough to avoid getting food on their facial hair, but Mr. Klang somehow succeeded. Small bites, I supposed. And steady hands, so that all the food stayed on the fork until it was in his mouth. I was mentally turning over what he'd said about this cafeteria, which appeared to be the one avenue by which blacks had any presence on the Brookstone campus for middle school and high school students. Blacks handling my food made me feel uneasy. What were those "issues in the past" with regard to the food it served?

In Atlanta, there were scandals once in a while about black restaurant workers deliberately contaminating food with feces, resulting in customers becoming sick. A black man had been prosecuted a few years ago for putting his own sperm into yogurt and selling it to white women, but the mostly black jury wouldn't convict him. I remembered the case because it had been the talk of town for a while. Any of us could have been a victim of the tainted yogurt. The media never did say whether the seller was HIV positive. Were those "issues" something like that?

I'd missed something while my thoughts were wandering.

"I'm sorry sir. I was woolgathering. Did you say something to me?"

"It's quite all right, Miss Jones. I'd just asked you whether you'd like to share your room with Ruby Pierce, the dark-haired girl who is sitting at the next table, facing us, two seats down from Mistress Klang."

I saw her. A pretty brunette, apparently several years older than me.

"Certainly, Dean Klang. I'd be happy to do so."
 
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