inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #201 of 250: Jane Hirshfield (jh) Sat 16 Jan 21 13:49
Brad Neuberg's reply quoted in #189 was brilliant--but doesn't the
word "next" have an 'e' in it? Maybe some joke there I'm missing?
"Only Allah can make something perfect"--the rug weavers' motto, and
so they take care to introduce an error.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #202 of 250: Craig Maudlin (clm) Sat 16 Jan 21 14:07
(a bit of slippage)

The Earth Species Project sounds interesting. It may offer additional
points from which we might triangulate new comprehensions.

With humans, it seems that some sort of socialization process is
inevitable (natural). Even in a "raised-by-wolves" scenario, there is
some socialization -- it's just not human.

Coming to grips with what some machine learning system is thinking may
be like the classic wasp experiment reported in Dean Wooldridge's book,
"Mechanical Man: The Physical Basis of Intelligent Life" (1968):

> When the time comes for egg laying, the wasp Sphex builds a burrow
> for the purpose and seeks out a cricket which she stings in such a
> way as to paralyze but not kill it. She drags the cricket into the
> burrow, lays her eggs alongside, closes the burrow, then flies away,
> never to return. In due course, the eggs hatch and the wasp grubs
> feed off the paralyzed cricket, which has not decayed, having been
> kept in the wasp equivalent of a deepfreeze.
> To the human mind, such an elaborately organized and seemingly
> purposeful routine conveys a convincing flavor of logic and
> thoughtfulness--until more details are examined.
> For example, the wasp's routine is to bring the paralyzed cricket
> to the burrow, leave it on the threshold, go inside to see that
> all is well, emerge, and then drag the cricket in. If the cricket
> is moved a few inches away while the wasp is inside making her
> preliminary inspection, the wasp, on emerging from the burrow,
> will bring the cricket back to the threshold, but not inside,
> and will then repeat the preparatory procedure of entering the
> burrow to see that everything is all right. If again the cricket
> is removed a few inches while the wasp is inside, once again she
> will move the cricket up to the threshold and reenter the burrow
> for a final check.
> The wasp never thinks of pulling the cricket straight in. On one
> occasion this procedure was repeated forty times, always with the
> same result.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #203 of 250: Craig Maudlin (clm) Sat 16 Jan 21 14:28
I do think "illusion" is a better term for this than "hallucination."

But even "illusion" is problematical... to the extent that some folks
are under the illusion that even "illusions" are not moored to reality.

"Illusion" is best used, imo, to make the point that what we see of our
surroundings is an interpretation. We simultaneously know this to be
true and tend to underestimate its extent.

So we are always overestimating the commonality of what we express in
common language.

The extremes of efforts like The Earth Species Project or attempts to
'rationalize' machine learning systems may help make this clear.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #204 of 250: Craig Maudlin (clm) Sat 16 Jan 21 15:01
> Sometimes the computer is
> "hallucinating" and sometimes the reader is; we fill in gaps with
> our own imagination by assuming that vaguely-coherent text comes
> from an intelligent being. Eventually, you learn to see the gaps,
> and the illusion falls apart.

Another interpretation is that some 'fast, automatic... and unconscious'
portions of our minds have learned from experience (have literally been
'trained') that there is something we want to call 'intelligence' behind
blocks of text we find to be meaningful.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #205 of 250: George Mokray (jonl) Sat 16 Jan 21 15:07
Via email from George Mokray:

Thanks to Jane Hirshfield (jh) and Bradley Westervelt as they are
much appreciated.

Bruce Sterling (bruces):  "I'm waiting for this neural-net tech to
find some deeply consequential killer apps, and my best guess so far
would be protein-folding and computational chemistry.”

It’s happening: 

Alphabet’s Google’s DeepMind’s program AlphaFold can predict protein
folding structures of about 100 proteins.  But I suspect bruces
knows that already.

As to climate, Michael Mann and others are now saying that, if we
zero out the emission of greenhouse gases, the Earth will cool more
quickly than previously thought.  My study of geotherapy, maximizing
ecological systems to draw down carbon from the atmosphere, has
convinced me that, if we employ known geotherapeutic techniques
globally and consistently, we can speed the process even more while
improving the soil, the streams, and the oceans.  I have been lucky
to know some of the pioneers in this field, including Tom Goreau,
who is expanding on Wolf Hilbertz’ work with biorock (mentioned in
Sterling’s Islands in the Net back in the late 1980s) to restore
coral reefs. 

My recommendations for those who want to know more about geotherapy
Geotherapy: Innovative Methods of Soil Fertility Restoration, Carbon
Sequestration, and Reversing CO2 Increase Edited ByThomas J. Goreau,
Ronal W. Larson, Joanna Campe

the conferences organized by Biodiversity for a Livable Climate
which cover not only soil-related geotherapy but also freshwater,
ocean, and biodiversity techniques as well

and Healing Earth:  An Ecologist's Journey of Innovation and
Environmental Stewardship by John Todd, an old and dear friend

One of the many advantages of geotherapy is that it works at every
scale, from a flower pot to thousands of hectares, from the smallest
stream to the largest river.

I say geotherapy not geoengineering, please! but my experience in
wandering the lecture halls of Harvard and MIT has taught me that,
if the concept ever comes up, it is because I raise it.  Although
that may be beginning to change as people like Dr William Moonaw,
long of the IPCC, knows and talks about it often in relation to the
negative feedback loops we are setting up.  Recently, Dr Moomaw
participated in an online discussion with the Dalai Lama and Greta
Thunberg to introduce a short film series, Climate Emergency: 
Feedback Loops (<>).

Unfortunately, there is not yet a Harvard/MIT Joint Seminar on
Geotherapy but there has been one on solar geoengineering for years
now, with plans to start setting up for experiments beginning in the

My approach to climate change is
100% renewables ASAP
zero emissions economy ASAP
carbon drawdown ASAP
geotherapy (not geoengineering) ASAP

More at
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #206 of 250: Alan Fletcher : Factual accounts are occluded by excess of interpretation (af) Sat 16 Jan 21 15:11
Q: Who stole the Kishka?
A: Gollum stole the Kishka.

Doesn't work for me.  
Seems to be a Polka / Klezmer song. eg
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #207 of 250: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sat 16 Jan 21 17:12
Yeah, I asked that question to be funny and see what it would do.
It's a song I play on accordion.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #208 of 250: Jane Hirshfield (jh) Sat 16 Jan 21 18:39
Thanks, George. I know the Todds also-- while it's now closed down
and unlikely to be revived, with Bill Thompson's death this year a
sorrowful coda, I was part of the Lindisfarne Association with them
for some years. Please say hello from me, if you have the chance.

I like your "geotherapy, not geoengineering!" distinction. It's a
good example of our human fuzzy-association taking of meaning from
words that I believe (rightly? wrongly?) that I understand if not
exactly then generally correctly what you are saying by that. What
would an AI take from it?

And I appreciate that your post holds some hope of resiliences of
the most essential kind. If we choose to, we might still be able to
pull out of the death spiral. 

"On the last day of the world, I would plant a tree." -- W. S.
Merwin, whose amateur palm tree reserve in Maui, now the Merwin
Conservancy, is considered one of the best resources of palm tree
DNA on the planet.

Here's a link to the Earth Species project. 


This is the first time I've gone back to the site since having seen
my first starling murmuration--their graphic depicting the 10,000
most used words in English looks quite like the starlings in some of
their milder-dramatic moments.  More dramatic, here:


Now would an AI associate these two things? My guess is not. It
would somehow be so familiar with so many more instances of things
that "look" to me like this, I assume that one wouldn't pull up the
other. (Forgive all the anthropomorphized language--not my field,

Some here will notice that one of the two Earth Species co-founders,
Aza Raskin, is also one of the founders of the Center for Humane
Technology (among other things). 
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #209 of 250: Malka Older (malka) Sun 17 Jan 21 03:42
> "how many of our apparently wicked problems will just yield some
day, like a solved riddle?"

We know how to solve climate change: we simply need to change our
behaviors (admittedly, we need to change them fairly drastically).
The wicked problem is how to solve climate change without doing so.
Which brings us back to that Buckminster Fuller quote. 
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #210 of 250: Malka Older (malka) Sun 17 Jan 21 03:46
To belatedly respond to Jane's wonderful post (#174), I've found
some solace in recent days from sea shanties. Not the songs
themselves, which are redolent of the slaughter of intelligent
creatures and the exploitation of workers, but the spontaneous
crescendo of collaboration that they have incited among more or less
isolated people in different places. A pleasing reminder of how
social media can be used for creation and across the boundaries of,
at least, distance and (the literal sense of) ignorance.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #211 of 250: Malka Older (malka) Sun 17 Jan 21 04:12
I'm preparing a presentation for tomorrow, which is rare for me in
that I usually wing or pants instead of preparing, but this one is
long, and in French, and I was requested to speak both about my
dissertation research (on local government improvisation in disaster
response) and science fiction. This is a bridge or amalgamation I've
been flirting with for a while, and I'm pleased to have a push to go
farther on it, but I find it challenging, both because of the
content and, perhaps because of the slightly different personae I
use in each profession.

In any case, I am going to speak on the role of imagination in
disaster response. I find that I seek to defend this topic even to
myself, because it feels frivolous (besides being not precisely what
my research is on; an expertise plus another expertise don't
necessarily result in an expertise on the combination), but the more
I look at it, the more important it feels. 

The House of Representatives report on Hurricane Katrina was titled
"A Failure of Initiative"; it's a silly title that they made sillier
by not defining initiative and then, in the body of the report,
criticizing it as often as they praised it. 

A failure of imagination might be more accurate. What is our failure
to act on what's coming but a failure of imagination, an inability
or unwillingness to fully envision the consequences? 

In the midst of a disaster, when situational awareness is often
limited, either by the lack of communications or by the limits of
our science, imagination is the only way to make decisions and act.
While experienced responders, or even first-time responders, can
often imagine a lot of the needs quite accurately, they tend to fail
when it comes to imagining the needs of the Other. (For example, I
was told independently by several male emergency responders in Japan
that it took them a long time, and in one case the intervention of
female military officers doing needs assessments, to remember that
women might need specific household products on a regular basis.)

But the failure that I find myself worrying most about right now is
the failure in learning from the disaster. The time immediately
after a disaster is typically the most fertile both for rallying
political will around preparedness and identifying the failures of
current response plans, but in the rush to avoid blame or any
quaking of the status quo, government response evaluations tend to
paint each disaster as unprecedented, unique, impossible to imagine
- and that carries over to the next, and the next. 
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #212 of 250: Malka Older (malka) Sun 17 Jan 21 04:22
This failure or, more often, devaluing of imagination is a problem
fairly pervasive in our society. I am not a luddite or
anti-rationalist; I believe in facts and I value numbers and
measurement. But rationalism and associated principles like
neutrality and objectivity have overrun their limits in our society;
they've been appropriated and misused for the opposite of the
purposes which they are supposed to serve. We need to find ways of
using them that allow space for the unquantifiable, for emotion and
connection, for plural subjectivity instead of the illusion of a
single correct and abstaining viewpoint, for uncertainty, for
beauty, for rigorous opinions and evidence-based creativity.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #213 of 250: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 17 Jan 21 05:59
I worked on the Katrina Peoplefinder Project, described at
<> and in
more detail at
es/003437.html>. One effect of a disaster like Katrina is that people disperse and lose track of each other. It can be hard to know who of your relatives and close friends are safe and alive, and to track them down especially if they've been sent to a shelter somewhere. Hundreds of thousands of people had been displaced.

Ka-Ping Yee had worked at Berkeley on the problem of tracking
survivors of 9/11 and getting diverse bits of information from
unstructured data into a structured format so that you could have a
single authoritative registry. He had developed PFIF, the People
Finder Information Format, for that purpose.
<> He
brought the format and the thinking behind it to the People Finder
Project, where we had people writing scripts to retrieve
unstructured data about survivors from various sources and put the
data into PFIF. We also had teams of people adding data that
couldn't be handled by scripts, and doing error correction. One
recollection I have is how we were having a hard time getting
traditional organizations like Red Cross to work with us. Salesforce
and Google eventually got involved.

A second project, called Shelter Finder, emerged as we saw the
problem of tracking all the popup shelters that were emerging to
take people in. Finding people was partly about having data about
where they might be.

We were an ad hoc group of volunteers who knew something about
technology, working together with some degree of agility to help
with a problem that was often not handled well if at all following
that kind of disaster. We'd had some experience (via Worldchanging
connections) with the same problem following the Southeast Asian

We talked a lot about building technical disaster relief teams for
future disasters, and there might have been some of that. But it's
hard to get people to prepare for future disaster, that sense of
urgency fades over time and you forget the fragility of
infrastructure and relationships that had been so apparent when you
were in the thick of it.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #214 of 250: Virtual Sea Monkey (karish) Sun 17 Jan 21 07:58
Part of leadership is the ability to get people to follow you.
Imagination is equally important, the ability to anticipate the
consequence of different possible courses of action and to choose a
good one. This imagination needs to be coupled with the authority to
take action.

The US was a month late in rolling out tests for COVID-19 last
winter. The leaders who had the authority to fix this lacked the
imagination to anticipate the consequences of delay and the sense of
urgency this imagination should have driven. The same is true of the
drinking water disaster in Flint, Michigan.

In Florida Rebekah Jones had the correct insight that it was
necessary to collect and to disseminate life-saving information, and
she had the personal initiative to do it herself when she didn't
have support from the state. She's being punished now for
embarrassing the people who had the authority and decided not to do
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #215 of 250: Jane Hirshfield (jh) Sun 17 Jan 21 11:21
This last run of posts is a joy to read...  

Malka, that presentation (good luck with delivering it!) sounds both
a thrilling and a direly needed reminder. 

Both your post and karish's point out how much a CYA mentality
damages both immediate action and later learning. (Svetlana
Alexievich's _Voices From Chernobyl_ comes to mind as a marriage of
investigative reporting/recording and Alexievich's leap of
imagination in inventing the genre  -- a kind of 180 degree
journalistic invention to Hunter S. Thompson's -- as a way to keep
available and real the evidence of failure's depths,
lack-of-empathy's costs, and also, in other dimensions, emotion's

There are models in medicine for dealing with this--the post-event
analysis of why something went wrong, undertaken in a way understood
as collectively necessary and, ideally, non-punitive. Maybe that's
because medicine is one long ongoing crisis, just crisis after
crisis after crisis with life-and-death consequences. So they had to
figure out a structural way to avoid CYA increase of stupidity as
best they could.

jonl, that post-Katrina work is such a good example of the kind of
thing I associate with Rebecca Solnit's A Paradise Built in Hell.
Including the Red Cross not wanting to accept the assistance of an
ad hoc, newly-imagined solution that wasn't in their own fiefdom.

And if just want to say thank you in particular, Malka, for your
post 212--that's one of the most additive, and beautiful, paragraphs
I've read in a long time.  It lays out, not least, the map for why
art exists, and for why the arts are a necessary ally to the
investigations of science in the bettering of lives.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #216 of 250: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 17 Jan 21 12:59
Normally we end the State of the World conversation after two weeks.
If we did that, tomorrow would be the last day. However there's so
much happening, including the inauguration scheduled later this week
- I think it makes sense to extend by a week, through January 25.

I haven't asked <bruces> and <malka> about this. They committed to
be here for two weeks, and might not have time to stay in the
conversation for another week. But they, and all others, are
encouraged to keep posting.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #217 of 250: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 17 Jan 21 13:05
We're getting close to done here.  It's been edifying. 

I've got a new book coming out this year, a book I've been working
on for a decade: a collection of Italian-themed science fiction

Being a guy who, for twenty years, has written about the "State of
the World," I've long had some vague ambition to  write a "regional
novel about the Planet Earth."   That's a conceptual challenge for
me, the challenge of global localism, "glocalism," "think globally
act locally;" there's something Whole Earth about this set of
concepts, which are  often on my mind as I traipse about the whole

Also, regional novels interest me.   Their constraints often give
them a paradoxical universality.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #218 of 250: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 17 Jan 21 13:06

I didn't know how to go about regionalizing the Whole Earth, though,
and that noble effort seemed a bit like a ladder-to-the-Moon.   So
instead I decided to try some regional writing about the city of
Turin.  As in, how local can a foreigner get?  And what about the
world's regionalized varieties of science fiction — Italian
"fantascienza" as an Italian literary genre?

Thus the imminent publication of "Robot Artists and Black Swans, the
Italian Fantascienza Stories," which are stories of mine mostly
written for the Italian fantascienza markets and first published in

Since arriving in Italy, I've written maybe one fantascienza work
per year — and I thought of them as being rather like Italo Calvino
literary pranks.     "Invisible Cities" is an effort I much admire.
In this  famous work, the Italian Marco Polo confronts the Grand
Mongol Emperor, the World Potentate who seems unsure of the nature
and the boundaries of the world over which he presides.   So Marco
Polo, who seems possessed by a strange mathematical rigor, chants to
the Emperor, "Well, there's a city named this-and-that, and all the
people are like such-and such.   Next, there's a different city
named this and it's unique because of that," and somehow this
rattling Calvino ensemble has the mind-bending effect of being
thrown through a medieval atlas.  There's an Amor Mundi
world-wonderment to it.  It's regional, fantastic, and about the
whole Earth.

As a college student I first bought "Invisible Cities" in a used
bookstore for one dollar.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #219 of 250: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 17 Jan 21 13:06

Decades later, I met Calvino's widow in Italy and I told her about
my bookstore bargain. Calvino first met his wife in Paris, where she
was an Argentine technical translator who specialized in nuclear
power issues for the United Nations.  There was something very
carbon-rod in the nuclear pile about Chichita Calvino.  You could
tell she'd spent a lot of her womanly time tying up the husband's
shoelaces and rescuing his abandoned, smoldering coffee-pots.  She
was quite the stern guardian of his literary heritage, too; a
nobody's-fool grand-dame, chain smoking French cigarettes and doing
shots of grappa while in her eighties.  It encouraged me to get to
know her a little, it somehow set my feet on the ground and felt
civilized and humane; even Marco Polo himself, literary legend, was
once some genuine Venetian guy with a Mrs Polo and the little
daughter Polo.

Calvino's role as a model encouraged me,  and  I gave my Italian
fantascienza project some serious thought.  Likely I even
overthought it some.   There are works of Calvino's that are so
"motto pensato" that Calvino himself probably forgot what he was up
to— they're so intellectualized that they're arch, over-baked and
verging on daffy, much like Umberto Eco making his erudite semiotic
jokes for an audience of mostly himself.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #220 of 250: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 17 Jan 21 13:06

So in my experimental Turinese stories I assumed I was likely
overdoing it, not exactly "self-indulgent," but something like
building ships from toothpicks inside a Turinese bottle.  However,
now that the collection is assembled and published, and it's got a
couple of intros and an afterword and even some nice illustrations,
I can see that ROBOT ARTISTS AND BLACK SWANS is one of my better
books.  Instead of being desiccated, cranky and erudite, it reads
like some 1970s psychedelic Metal Hurlant French bande dessinee —
it's brightly colored and even somewhat European comic-booky, and
rockets right along despite all its squinchy pen-and-ink detailing. 

As it happens, Italian SF fans don't much like Italian regional
stories. Instead, they like space operas and mutant cyborg vampires,
just like all the other cool genre people.  However, the Italians
are impressed that I could somehow create a book that entirely lacks
America's normal cliches about Italy.  Instead, my hybridized,
sampled "American fantascienza" is composed of truly peculiar
Italian elements that 95% of Italians don't know about or care

The book's narrative impetus is all in how much the *author* cares
about it — he's super-into his Italian wunderkammer collection. 
He's piling up centuries of Italian minutiae with the glee of
Tolkien naming his elves.  It's like watching some street-clown
making Italian balloon animals — there's not much common-sense to
it, but his obsession is endearing.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #221 of 250: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sun 17 Jan 21 13:07

The author's search engines, in particular, are so ferocious that
genuine, traditional Italian regional fiction could never pack so
much Italian regionalism into a text.   The book is native 21st
century writing, with a dizzying Google-erudition packed, jammed,
overstuffed into every page.   There's a crammed-prose cyberpunk
feeling of a newfangled form of historical writing which no merely
human historian's brain, fingers and fountain-pen could possibly
contain.   Only a digital-humanities guy would want to stack up so
many terabytes of loosely-networked something-or-other.  It feels
like the difference between an Italian Renaissance lutenist and a DJ
with a ProTools set-up that's full of Italian Renaissance lute

Also, the stories are funny.  They're amusing, not in the Umberto
Eco donnish-maestro way, but in the Mark Twain "Innocents Abroad"
way, as in "Why are the tragicomic pranks of mankind so absurdly

So I'm pleased about my new book, and there's more such work to
come.  There are similar fantascienza stories not collected in this
volume,  and I've written some new ones since.  There seems to be
water in that cistern for me.  The bucket's rusty and the crank is
slow, but the water's potable.  It tastes pretty good in its export
bottles, even.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #222 of 250: Jane Hirshfield (jh) Sun 17 Jan 21 14:31
The book sounds fantastic, bruces. Congratulations and, as Ovid said
of his mss mailed off from exile, and the Well writers conference
members like to say here: "Go, little book."

Yet another tradition of outsider's-eye seeing what locals may not
(because differently curious, and because peripheral vision is
needed, even physiologically, for some kinds of seeing) comes to
mind from what you say also: a kind of Turinesqe Toqueville.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #223 of 250: Alex Davie (icenine) Mon 18 Jan 21 06:03
A tiny story about imagination and disaster response...I mobilized
from Atlanta on the first flight in to Baton Rouge, Louisiana after
Katrina had left building, rented a car and drove directly to our
Company's HQ in downtown Baton Rouge, a 12 story building chock full
of corporate types top to bottom...

I personally was responsible for our emergency response contract
with the U. S. Postal Service so I was there to respond to the USPS
needs during the aftermath and was on the Task Force within the
Company to respond to all the ER contracts, present and future...and
as such, I observed early on, in the first few days the desire and
the subsequent contract to pump out New Orleans...which we did, in
record time, astonishing the US Army Corps of Engineers and the City
of New Orleans...

I voiced this sentiment, before we got the contract from the US Army
Corps of Engineers, to pump out New Orleans, to wit:

Forget pumping out New Orleans, let the floodwaters recede
naturally, then give the people and the governments 30 days to
retrieve their schtuff and abandon the City since it was built below
sea level and it was inevitable that it would flood again in the
future and come back in 20 years and see if the Mississippi had
changed course again and then re-build...

As you might imagine that went over like a lead balloon to those I
expressed it to...there was too much money on the table to made so I
never said it again in the sixty days I was there responding to
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #224 of 250: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 18 Jan 21 06:21
I know that we're in a disaster and we're in for a lot more

People such as Dr Malka who are intimate with disasters are the
avant-garde among us.

"Armageddon" is boring, because the clock stops ticking and there's
nothing left to think about or to say, but  disastrous times are
different.  It's much like dwelling on the slopes of a volcano. 
Awful things happen, with various time-lines and various scales of
awful, but that's where you live, that's your home.  Yes, it's
risky, but you've got a vineyard and a cradle.

Southern Italy is like that.  It's beautiful and fertile but it's
poor, and you can venture there from Northern Italy, and you wonder
"where  are all the monuments?"  There just aren't many: the
earthquakes knocked them down.
inkwell.vue.510 : State of the World 2021
permalink #225 of 250: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Mon 18 Jan 21 06:29

Every once in a while you get a huge monument that the volcano
buried completely.  It was some once-thriving place destroyed by
disaster so utterly that everybody forgot its existence.  Then
somebody unearths Pompeii and they set to digging it back up again. 
Been at the antique-mining for a couple of centuries, so far.  "The
fire-born are at home in fire," but these are the fire-killed and
their town came back, out of the ashes.

The ruins of Pompeii tend to fall down a lot.  They're frail. In the
middle of the ruins there's a pizza joint.

Surprising numbers of living people move through the streets of
Pompeii. Enough that, even though it's a skeleton of a Roman town,
it kinda resembles a contemporary tourist town.  You have to wonder
how often people meet a romantic stranger there and get married.


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