The Culture and Arrakis

What would happen if a Culture ship turned up in orbit around Arrakis?

The Mentats would be up in arms, of course, at the presence of an AI. The Bene Gesserit would try to control the Culture, and be overwhelmed. The Navigator’s Guild would strike at the prospect of ships that didn’t need them. The Empire would convulse in a jihad it could not win, against a target that didn’t care much what it did.

The Culture would be unaffected. Spice would become a fashionable drug for a while on some ships, then fall out of vogue. Even true foretelling becomes uninteresting with no disasters to avert.


While questing through the timelines undefined
They say the Muad’Dib beheld a ship
No navigator steered while in the grip
Of worm-bred spice. The pilot was a Mind
Constructed like a man’s, but smarter still.
Its crew were men, but fattened with excess.
A culture without want, without distress
To test a man, to strengthen mind and will.
The Kwisatz Haderach then closed his hand.
For he who sees all roads can pick his way:
Which branchings to ignore, which let to stay.
This path he blocked, as if with drifting sand.
A lucky man, who may his jihad choose
Forknowing which he would most surely lose.

Originally posted on Making Light

A pig is building a building

a pig is building a building
of sticks, a frail wattled
house, a strong fragile house
(beginning at the singular beginning

of his hopes)a skillful uncouth
shelter, a precise clumsy
shelter(building twigandbranch into Stick
Around the restless searching for a home)

a pig is building a refuge, a discrete
cottage for refuge and(as i guess)

when Big Bad Wolf(whom Riding Hood hates)shall

huff and puff the house down
He’ll not the home,
     laborious, casual

where the heart and hearth


Originally posted on Making Light

New dress for Mistress Pink, or, Package tracking as entertainment

Last year, my mother made a [jumper / pinafore] (depending on dialect) dress for Fiona. It was every pink-obsessed little girl’s dream garment, with tier on tier of floral ruffles. From a parental point of view, it’s also very good – corduroy, washable, looks good unironed, long and loose enough that she can wear it for some time before it is too small. Fiona loves it, and has to be wrestled from it when it’s time for a wash.

So in the tail end of the year, with the sewing machine and serger throwing inviting glances her way, Mom asked me if I wanted her to make another one. I thought about it, but Fiona only really needs one obsessive dress, or we’ll run out of shirts and tights to go under it. But I had an idea for the leftover fabric from the first dress. Why not make a matching one for Fiona’s favorite doll, Holly?

Measurements were taken in the dead of night. Guesses were made and rechecked. More measurements were required. Christmas threatened to squat like a toad on the postal services, so the decision was to wait till after New Year’s to send the package. Federal Express then required a crash course in Dutch postcodes (hint: looking at them on the US ZIP code database gets you nowhere). Finally, the thing was sent and all we could do was watch the tracking.

And watch it we did, with versification to keep it entertaining.

On January 3 it arrived in Memphis. Mom commented,

Give me Memphis, Tennessee!
Hep me find the party tried to get in touch with me.
She could not leave her number, but I know who placed the call
Cause m’uncle took the message and he wrote it on the wall!

I replied with a mangling of Marc Cohn’s Walking in Memphis:

Warehoused in Memphis
Would that I could see the sights outside
Warehoused in Memphis
Waiting for my transfer. Where’s my ride?

Then it was sighted leaving Memphis, destination unknown. I found myself humming:

I’m leaving on a jet plane
At last I’m on my way again.
Fedex can ascertain
Where next I’m set to go.

Paris, as it turned out, was the next step. Mom announced this with:

The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay,
I heard the laughter of her heart in every street café

The last time I saw Paris, her trees were dressed for spring,
And lovers walked beneath those trees and birds found songs to sing.

I dodged the same old taxicabs that I had dodged for years.
The chorus of their squeaky horns was music to my ears.

Holly’s dress arrived in that most magic of all cities at 8 pm today, January 3.

The first time I saw Paris I was 19 years old. We took a train into town, and we got there at about 6 am. (“We” being Mike Thacker and me.) I walked out onto a bridge over the Seine, and the city was misty and quiet still….the cathedral had been there forever. At that moment I fell in love, as one does at 19, unthinkingly. And forever. I can’t see the real city now, when I go back. All I can see is what I saw in 1965.

The last time I saw Paris, her heart was warm and gay,
No matter how they change her, I’ll remember her that way.

I Googled for Paris poetry, and settled on one that starts:

First, London, for its myriads; for its height,
Manhattan heaped in towering stalagmite;
But Paris for the smoothness of the paths
That lead the heart unto the heart’s delight. . . .

It swiftly became:

First, Piedmont, for the artistry that creates,
Flat Memphis that still Elvis elevates;
But Paris for its far-flung motorways
That bear the dress to where the dresser waits…

Before any more versification or doggerel could be committed, the Fed Ex van arrived here in Oostzaan. Fiona was delighted.


Thanks, Mom, for the dress and the entertainment.