Seven Meals from Chaos

I’m going to tell you my “First Time” story, but it’s probably not like the other stories you’re going to hear this morning.

In fact, I’m going to tell you about the first time I died in a dream.

No. It’s ok. It was in the dream, you know? But it was unlike those Nightmare on Elm Street movies, you know, where if you die in the dream that means you Die. For. Real.

And I didn’t die for real. In fact the first thing I did was go take a leak. Because that’s what doctors always make you do after you have an operation. It’s what they call a sign of life.

I had this dream on a return flight from Dresden. If you’ve ever read Slaughterhouse 5, you know that in World War II, the Allies firebombed the city and nearly 250,000 people burned to death. More than Hiroshima.

Anyway, when I died in the dream, I got to find out what my last words will be. You’ll have to wait until the end hear what they were, but sometimes you just know when a dream is going to come true.


I am in the subway when the world burns. Some kind of cascading power failure sends my train crashing into another. I hear the crack of crumpling steel and the tubular thud of my head hitting the railing.

Now pain. Blackness. It seems like hours trying regain consciousness in the darkness.

Already in the tunnel I smell the smoke, sweet and acrid at the same time. There in the dark it all but chokes out the pale light from my cell phone that guides me to the surface.

And everything is burned: the trees, the buildings, the cars. Charred corpses everywhere. Black and steaming. Above, a sky of smoke blocks the sun.

I walk for a day and find no food or water. At the city center I come upon a wrecked city bus turned on its side.

Inside the bus, the bodies are fused, contorted, and burned, but I have to climb over them. Have to find food.

There. There behind the driver’s seat. A lunch box! Inside, a cheese sandwich in tin foil and a coke.

I down the coke in three or four swigs and sit on the empty curb to eat. One bite, something like Gruyere maybe. Still molten from the fire.

A kid watching, his eyes black vacant coal, his body badly burned. His hand is gone.

Here, kid. Take it.

The kid takes the food and runs off without a word. How long can he last, I wonder?

Then I see the man in black emerge from the shadows, his suit is clean and free of soot and the foulness that surrounds us.

Forgive my English, he says. I am called Maecenas. I have water. Food. Shelter. Come. Please.

The bunker is many levels below the street. The elevator is stainless steel and smells of oil, like something new from the factory.

The dining room is opulent, dark maple chairs and a white tablecloth. Inside, two men and two women stand to greet me in their formal clothes. They hand me a bottle of water. We do the introductions.

Meal One

First there is salad. I go for the Blue Cheese, croutons, and bacon bits. So hungry! The baguettes are like heaven. I could swim in these greens and the joy of stuffing myself, I swear. The others continue on to the other courses, but sated now I can only think of sleep.

Meal Two

Breakfast is a veggie skillet. Eggs, Green peppers, onions, potatoes, all smothered in a cheese sauce. I notice Robyn then. Young, gorgeous, incredibly buff. I tell her about how I used to get the same skillet at the Uptown Bar in Minneapolis.

Meal Three

Cheeseburgers for Lunch. Grilled with all the fixings. Sesame buns. Incredible. Turns out Maecenus was a chef whose family came into big money. I ask him to tell me more about the bunker. Can’t place his accent. Serbian, maybe.

Meal Four

Maecenus emerges from the cooler with large cuts of prime rib. The cooler is cavernous, shelves of everything from canned goods to freeze-dried meals. For some reason, I notice that the door can be bolted from the inside.

The Prime Rib comes and is marvelous. No need for a knife.

One of the two men is Jackson. Some kind of athlete, I’m guessing. He tells me how Maecenus saved him when the world burned. The other man, a professor, has a similar story. He keeps checking his watch.

If there’s any humanity still out there, it will soon be gone, he says. He read a paper at Cambridge that says that in a food shortage, society will totally break down after the inhabitants miss their seventh meal.

I look at my plate and try to imagine what is going on out there. Starvation. Disease. Anarchy.

Meal Five

Brunch is crepes. Coffee. Fruit. Toast. An array of dishes laid out in perfection. The other girl, Angela, starts to open up to us. She ran away from home. Her father beat her when he found out she was pregnant.

Her story is captivating. No one notices as I stuff my backpack with baguettes. When everyone sleeps I sneak out. Up the elevator and back to the place where I found the boy.

He is hiding under the hulk of a fire truck. He won’t come out. I leave the food and make my way back. Then something stirs behind me. Footsteps maybe? No. There is no one. The world is a graveyard in cinder.

Meal Six

We are having soup and sandwiches when something crashes outside. Maecenus runs over to bolt the door and we hear pounding and screaming.

They’re here! He yells. How could this be? How could they find us? I look at my backpack. I have brought our doom!

Maecenus looks down. We are not going to make it. I’m so sorry. All the makings to rebuild the world and now this tragic fate.

He goes to the cabinet and takes a pill. I catch him as he collapses. He looks up at me, almost peaceful as the door begins to buckle.

I hold him. Please. I have to know. Why me?

A long breath. Then he says, I wanted to compassion to die last.

The door crashes open. The mob is tattered, burned, wild-eyed. In their hands crude weapons, pipes, clubs.

They’re coming for us. I throw the tray of bread at the opposite wall and they go for it, scrambling. I grab Robyn’s arm and we run toward the cooler.

The iron pipe comes down on my forearm. Compound fracture. Blood everywhere.

They have her.

I crawl to the cooler and pull the door closed just as the smallest of them tries to come for me.

It was the boy.

Meal Seven

Inside the cooler now. Cold. Terrible screams. Smoke smell. Pounding.

My arm is wrapped. Dead. Useless. It’s been days now and they keep trying the door. Now it sounds like a fire ax hacking at the hinges. They’ll be inside soon.

I scribble these words with my left hand and think of all the good fortune I’ve had in my life. My friends. My first Harley. The sun in Lisa’s hair on our Wedding Day. The birth of my son.

And then I think of Maecenus. So many questions. Was he right? Will compassion die here, now, with me? Or did it die long ago? And is that why the world burned?

No answers. Just swallow the pill now. But first, I have to figure out what I’m going to say when I go to meet God.

And then I know.

“I’m so grateful.”

Ghosts of the Indian Herb

If your savior dies, are you still saved? I found myself asking this question in this story inspired by true events.

I’m in love with a ghost.

Of course, Carmen wasn’t a ghost when we met. In fact, she was full of life like no other woman I’ve ever met. I mean, how many gorgeous Puerto Rican kickboxing physics teachers does one ever get to meet in this life?

I fell hard. I was going through a divorce and my life was falling apart. She changed everything.

It is five years later when I get her text message while sitting at the bar at Muu-Muus. It’s colon cancer, she says. Stage IV. I don’t even know what that means, so I turn to ask Crazy Joe of all people. He doesn’t know either, so I google it on my iPhone.

In half a second, the definition of Stage IV pops up like a telegram from hell. The cancer has metastasized. It’s terminal.

I drop my phone on the bar.

I take her to doctors, surgeons, oncologists. Chemo three times a week. Transfusions. Now a pain specialist. She’s down to 100 pounds. Nothing is working.

And then I meet this guy in Austin at a trade show. He recovered from brain cancer years ago. They said he was a goner. Then someone told him about the Indian Herb.

He writes the directions on back of a computer brochure. There are no signs, no house numbers, he says. And be sure to bring a picture of her. Part of the shaman’s magic has to do with visualization.

It’s a five-hour drive to the high desert and a shack above a dry river bed. The old woman sits in a rocking chair with a mortar and pestle in her lap. She is mixing something. As I walk up, she looks at me with the warm patience of the aged.

I hand her the photo of Carmen and she stops with her mixing to examine the picture. So young. So pretty, she says. Such a shame.

In the bowl is a black paste that seems to soak up the light. She takes a pinch and applies it to the photo with a playing card. She spreads it thin with the Queen of Hearts, no less.

I’m taken aback when she pulls out the matches and lights the photo. She stares intently, watching the paste burn with a blue flame on the surface of the glossy image.

I look closer. There’s something happening to the picture. I swear it’s moving, flickering like one of those old silent movies. Then, in a flash, the photo is gone.

She mixes the ashes with the Indian Herb and hands me the vial. It’s 90 degrees here in the sun, but the glass is somehow frosted and cold.

One more thing, she says. Very important. The Indian Herb absorbs through the skin. It requires a pure spirit, so never, ever use it with alcohol, understand?

When I get back to Portland, I learn that Carmen is in a coma. I’m too late.

That night she comes to me in my dream. She holds me, but she doesn’t speak. I tell her she has to let go of this world. I kiss her goodbye.

Just that moment, my son wakes me up, calling out from the bathroom. His nose is bleeding. I get him cleaned up and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Must have smeared blood on my face somehow. It looks like there’s lipstick on my cheek.

I’m wiping it off when the phone rings. 5:00 am. It’s her sister, Mercy. Carmen is gone.

At Mercy’s house, I sit in the kitchen and watch as the men from the funeral home wheel the stretcher towards the door. Logan calls out from the living room. Dad, the TV shut off.

The power in the house is out. It flicks back on the moment they close the door of the hearse.

Weeks later, it is 3:00 am when I stumble home. The nightly beers dull the pain, but I wake up the minute they wear off. I look in the mirror and see that I forgot to shave. My eyes are bloodshot from lack of sleep. I don’t have dreams any more.

I see the Indian Herb is sitting on the counter. I pick it up and weigh it in my hand. Could this have done a miracle, I wonder? A cure for cancer? I unscrew the cap and take a whiff. A sulfur smell. I stick my finger in and look at the stuff in my hand. As it warms, the black goo turns clear.

I remember what the Indian Herb did to the photo of Carmen. Brought it to life. I reach to my reflection and touch the mirror. The Indian Herb spreads smoothly on the glass.

In a moment my reflected self starts to blur. I must be really drunk, I’m thinking. Then the image starts to change, deconstruct. My skin, my teeth, my bones are dissolving away. I look down at where my heart would be and it turns translucent. Inside is something very dark, tortured and writhing in pain. Something horrific that’s becoming clearer and more magnified each second.

I hear a voice from the mirror. This is your soul.

I crumple to the floor and cry out in the night. I let her down. I couldn’t save her. This cannot be undone.


It’s morning now and I’m sorting through the photos I picked up from Carmen’s house. There’s one of me sitting on the patio at Muus. That’s odd, I think. Where did she get that?

Then I look again. The front of the bar is painted red. But it’s always been green since I’ve going there.

I grab a deck of cards from the drawer and pick up the Indian Herb and spread it on the photo. I light a candle. Maybe that’s the trick. Wave it over the flame but don’t ignite.

Something in the image begins to come out. It is Carmen. She starts to come alive in the flickering motion I saw at that shack in the desert. She reaches down to touch my heart. Then she whispers in my ear, as she points to a beautiful Latina woman at the next table. I’m sure I’ve seen her before.

Then I notice there’s something different about me in the picture, too. I’m not sad any more. In fact, I see myself laughing as I move over to join the woman for a drink. Carmen bends down to kiss me on the cheek and she starts to fade away.

Just then, the photo catches fire. Wait. No! Come back, Carmen! I try to blow it out, but it’s gone to ashes.

I still use the Indian Herb sometimes. In fact, they painted the bar red a few weeks later and I decided to start spending more time on the patio. It’s been two years now and yes, I’ve gotten to know the woman that Carmen showed me pretty well now. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

So now, my audience, when I take this photo of you this morning, I’m curious to see what phantoms you might be carrying around. I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe, the ghosts from your past have forgiven you a million times over, too.

There’s a darkness inside of all of us. Something we keep locked away, but that’s what gives it its power. To truly disarm that darkness, I think all you have to do is acknowledge it. Look at it and say, I see you. You are part of me.

So as I close this story, I have to say that yes, I’m in love with a ghost. I looked into the abyss and that love saved me long after she left this world.

And just to be spooky, I’m thinking I should tell you what I saw in the mirror that night, but be warned.

I promise it would scare the living shit out of you.

Sun Down for a Year, Six Months at insideHPC

When Oracle took over Sun Microsystems in the USA in January, 2010, it took about 48 hours for them to let me know that I wasn’t invited along for the ride. If you’ve ever been laid off, you know what a scary feeling that can be. And even though I knew it was coming for the better part of year, part of me wanted to believe that the company was going to keep doing HPC.

Well that didn’t happen. Oracle has this strange preoccupation with making money that never got in our way at Sun.

So I went on my own with Flex Rex Communications while sending out resumes. I had interviews and offers to write at various publications, but nothing looked like it was going to pay the bills.

Then in August, John West asked me if I was interested in buying insideHPC. I had been a reader of his for years and I could not believe my good fortune.

We closed the deal and announced it on September 1, 2010, and I haven’t looked back other than to thank my lucky stars. The role just seems to fit like a glove and I look forward to working every day for the first time in recent memory.

I guess what I’m saying is that getting laid off was the best thing that ever happened to me. It’s just a way of looking at the same event in a different way.

So when I had a bit of setback in my family recently, I kept thinking about that perspective thing. And just by accident, I wrote something down that ending up being very cathartic:

The World is different than I want to be. I will adjust.

Rich Report Moves to insideHPC

I started the Rich Report in Hamburg at ISC’10. I was recording a bunch interview segments and I needed to make my deadline and give them a name. The first two people I asked seemed to like it, so that was good enough to go.

You can subscribe to the Rich Report podcast on iTunes or on Feedburner for other MP3 players. To see my video interviews on HPC, check out the Rich Report Channel on YouTube.

Short Story: The Three Magi of Katrina

At the 2006 Supercomputing Conference, Ray Kurzweil foretold the coming of the Singularity. Now, as a Category 5 hurricane bears down on New Orleans, the SC30 Keynote is the Event Horizon.

When the plane sets down in New Orleans, I can see only darkness outside. The raindrops stream sideways across the porthole even after we come to a stop. Now lightning. In the flash, there’s something out there, an empty wheel chair alone on the windswept tarmac.

Next to me, the chatty woman from Atlanta has already summoned a weather report for my benefit.

“Good news, Mr. Yahuda,” she says. ”The eye of the storm is stalled 1000 miles southeast. It looks like you’ll get to go to your conference after all.”

I help her fetch her bag from above and make my way up the gangway. A smell and a feeling at the same time, the humidity surrounds me like a cloak.

I remember landing here in the days before Katrina in the grip of summertime heat. A green undergrad from the University of Hong Kong, I had never been to an American city before. Twenty five years later, nothing about the terminal reminds now but the feeling of a dew point barely kept at bay.

At the bottom of the escalator, I see the driver holding up my name. They still use paper for such things here, a somehow welcome respite from the augmented reality systems that infest nearly every public space back home.

Outside, the limousine waits across a maelstrom of rain and wind. The worst of the storm may have held off, but I am half soaked in just a few steps.

The driver closes the door quickly behind me, and I settle into the plush leather seat. My glasses are completely steamed, and I have to take them off to speak with the other two men in the car.

A smiling monk in saffron robes offers me a hand towel. He has an endearing smile. “We were beginning to think that your plane was going to be diverted.”

“You must be Lopa Rinpoche,” I reply, offering him my hand. He shakes it in a most un-Western way. “It is a pleasure to finally meet you in person. I was actually here in New Orleans to see your talk at the Institute when Katrina hit.”

Seated next to Rinpoche is Dr. Chen. “I was here as well at that time,” he says. “We were here doing some preparatory work on a new high speed data pipeline. Months of work were destroyed.”

It’s been 15 years since I worked with Chen on his biography. He was an unknown figure in those days, but already his work with Artificial Intelligence had laid the foundation for Project Dāna and building of the first self-aware machine. I’ve read that he has had health issues, but his grip is firm and he still has that warm sense of strength in his eyes.

“We are honored to have you join us at the Event,” he says. “I’m afraid you’ll need to do your interview here in the car. With your unfortunate flight delay, we will have to go directly to the convention center.”

Chen laughs when I ask him if there will be an audience, given the terrible weather.

“Believe me, most of them would parachute in to attend the Event if they had to. I was a little worried when Mara got upgraded to a Category 4, but they assure me that an evacuation will not be necessary as a result of the carbon nanotube reinforcements to the levees.”

Chen brings out a black cylinder with a hinge running down the long side. Inside is a translucent spherical device the size of a grapefruit. Its tripodal stand reminds me of something sinister from H.G. Wells.

Is that how He sees, I ask? Chen nods and begins to work. I’ve read about these remarkable lenses — they enable recordings from every angle and depth of field at once. Smooth with a pearl-like sheen, the entire surface of the device seems to be a haptic interface. Chen’s every touch gives off a red glow.

I get out my moleskin and turn to Rinpoche. “I have to admit, Rinpoche, that your participation in the Dāna project was a bit of a surprise to me. How did you get involved?”

Rinpoche smiles and his pause is telling. “It was something I could have never predicted myself. I was working at the University of Wisconsin on their meditation brainwave studies with some of the other monks. Dr. Chen came to the lab for a tour and we recognized each other from the volunteer work we did here after the hurricane.”

“So he offered you a chance to connect to the AI?”

“Actually it was the reverse. My post-Doc studies at Madison were focused on psychology. And when Dr. Chen told me of his frustration with the crude machine-to-brain interfaces of the day, I suggested an alternate path.”

“I thought he quite mad, to be honest,” says Chen. “But my work had hit a brick wall. The nanotechnologies we needed for a direct neural interface were still years away.”

My confused look tells Rinpoche to go on.

“Have you read the works of Carl Jung, Mr. Yahuda?”

“It’s been a long time,” I say. “Probably since college.”

“What about the idea of the collective unconscious?”

“I’m not sure what you mean.”

“Essentially, Jung theorized that we are all connected by a universal intelligence, something we experience in our unconscious state. My meditation research at Madison indicated that we could develop waking access to that collective. And when Dr. Chen told me about his difficulties, I showed him the results of an experiment where we able to transfer knowledge and ideas by using this collective unconscious as a channel.”

Something in me understands the gravity of what Rinpoche is saying. A myriad of questions flash across my mind.

“And you’ve been able to gain access the AI in this way?”

Rinpoche grimaces a bit and says it’s not quite that simple. He seems to be collecting his thoughts to answer further when lightning flashes outside. Now the limo brakes hard and a rush of water vibrates the floorboards. The road is flooding, the driver says. We’ll have to take a detour.

Rinpoche seizes the chance to change the subject. “By the way, Mr. Yahuda, I really enjoyed your documentary on Ray Kurzweil. He was a man of remarkable ideas.”

“His vision of the future centered on a very optimistic view of technology,” I reply. “I don’t think he was prepared for the violent reaction from the Bill Joy camp.”

Chen looks up from his work. “It’s like a religious war with those people,” he says. “One side believes that technology is key to the next stage of our evolution, and the other is quite certain that it will lead to our destruction. What do you think, Mr. Yahuda?”

I tell him I became quite familiar with the views of the Joy camp when I made the documentary. The time for this debate has passed.

Rinpoche perks up at the mention of the film. “I noticed you used old style film for that piece,” he says. “And I wanted to ask you, what do you think about the new wave of 3D cinema?”

“Oh that,” I say. “Maybe I’m a purist, but I don’t see 3D as something that’s going to take. It’s a pattern that comes up every 30 years or so. The audience get’s interested in a certain work, but then Hollywood tries to apply the new technology to their old stories, and the novelty goes away.”

Rinpoche nods. He seems deep in thought. “People think they only want new stories when it is the retelling of the old that reminds us who we are. You know, I read this archive review by Michael Moore recently. And he said that one of the most original films he had ever seen was an Indy movie about Nazi Zombies.

I laugh.

I should like to see this movie, he says, perhaps we could go see it together? The notion of waiting in line with a Tibetan monk for a movie about Undead Nazis makes me smile.

Rinpoche tells me about the event itinerary today. “We will each present a gift to Adom at the beginning of the keynote. You will present this book as the final gift.”

He holds out a red leather-bound volume, The Life of Adom. I crack it open and the pages are blank. I tell Rinpoche that I don’t understand.

“Well, first you have to write it, Mr. Yahuda,” Chen says, smiling. “Adom chose you to author his biography, a personal memoir, as it were. If you accept this assignment, we’re hoping the book will be a way for the public to get more comfortable with the idea of an intelligent machine.”

I’m flattered, I tell him. But why me?

Chen’s phone buzzes and he pulls it out of his pocket. “Ah, a text message from Adom: Sorry that I can’t speak right now, but after reviewing your work, I sensed a change in your writing style that I found compelling. As a result, I believe that we can successfully collaborate on my story as it unfolds.”

Not sure how to interact in this strange communication, I look directly at the plenoptic device. “Adom, what do you mean, change in my writing style?”

The phone buzzes once again. Chen pauses for a second before reading. “He asks; Are you not aware that you have written exclusively in the present tense since the death of your partner last year?”

It’s such an inhuman thing to say, I’m thinking. But that’s what He is, after all. My breath escapes slowly from deep in my diaphram. “Carmen was a remarkable woman, Adom, and I think sometimes that kind of loss affects us in ways that only others can see. It happens in the Now, and when I write that way, it seems to keep my… my profound sadness at bay.”

Rinpoche asks what happened and I tell him how she was killed in an attack by an autonomous predator drone. She knew her work at the Red Cross was dangerous, but she had dedicated her life to service.

“A tragic accident, Mr. Yahuda,” Chen says. “The programs they were using were simply not up to the task.”

I look at Chen for a moment before answering. “The technology isn’t responsible,” I tell him. “Our faith in technology is what killed her.”

In the silence that follows, I flip through the blank book nervously. Rinpoche is looking out the window. Our detour is taking us through a neighborhood of dilapidated shacks marked with graffiti. The pot holes are starting to rattle my teeth.

So much suffering, Rinpoche says to no one in particular. It marks a point in the conversation where we can move on.

I ask Rinpoche about his previous experience here. He tells me how he was knocked down by debris when the flood came. “I had a concussion,” he says. “Very bad, but there was nowhere to go. They took me to the convention center where all these people had gathered waiting for help.”

He continues to look out the window as if he is looking for something familiar. “I remember sitting against a wall, alone,” he says. “I was fading fast and then this woman in a wheelchair brought me water. I don’t know where she got it because there were no provisions there for all those people. She had lost her meds and I could tell she was very weak, but she held my hand for hours and wouldn’t let go. And when I woke up she was gone. When she passed… they just wheeled her outside.”

A few minutes later, the driver slides back the privacy panel. “Here we are, gentleman. I hope your business here doesn’t take too long. Hurricane Mara just got upgraded to a Category 5.”

Rinpoche unwraps a package and pulls out a silky golden shawl. I ask him what it’s for.

“Why, it’s for her, Mr. Yahuda,” he says, stepping out of the vehicle.

Chen returns the plenoptic device to its case and asks me to help him with one of his bags. As we get out of the limo, the wind is laced with the heavy spray of water blasted up off the sidewalk.

A black man in colorful clothes approaches me. A big red button on his lapel says “Ambassador of New Orleans.” I lower my head to receive his beads. No one sees when he slips the package into my coat pocket. It’s weight is convincing, a solemn reminder of what I’ve come here to do.

I catch up with Chen and have to speak up over the howl of the storm. “I’m curious about the experiments in Madison, Dr. Chen. How much information were you able to transfer to the AI?”

“This wasn’t about information, Mr. Yahuda. Adom already has access to the sum total of human knowledge. What we needed was a channel to transmit something… something much bigger.”

“What do you mean?”


Chen looks thoughtfully off to his left and I turn to see what has captured his attention. Rinpoche has left us and is approaching a woman in a wheelchair 30 yards away. Even in this impossible gale, she is motionless, still as bare frozen trees in the snow.

Rinpoche bows to her. She slowly reaches up and puts a ring of beads around his neck. Then he unfolds the shawl and gently wraps it around her.

Now a man in blue holds open the glass door of the convention center, waving us in. You must hurry, he says, the keynote is starting shortly.

Rinpoche has rejoined us. A look of calm purpose pervades him and we compare beads. His necklace bears an unusual-looking silver medallion.

I look back and the woman in the wheelchair is gone.

I stop in my tracks. I feel a blast of wind, but it is without vector. It is a pattern of time and place, a confluence of the Now that I have never experienced before. Kurzweil talked about this kind of thing in his books. He said that stories are patterns with meaning.

Rinpoche puts his hand on my shoulder. It seems to say we still have much to do.


Dr. Chen is taking the stage. The auditorium is full and the audience is completely still.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman for that kind introduction,” he says, opening the plenoptic case. “But you are giving me too much credit for the Event that we witness here today.”

Chen puts the device that is the manifestation of Adom proudly on the podium next to the microphone. “In a way, many of you in this room are the fathers and mothers of the high performance computer networks that form the Distributed Artificial Neural Array. Project Dāna, then, is much more than the accomplishment of one man. In fact Dāna is the Sanskrit word for giving. And through your tireless work and sacrifice, the whole of humanity will benefit from the birth of the Singularity.”

“I know you didn’t come here to see me today,” Chen continues. “We will get to Adom’s keynote in just a moment. We’ll start with a presentation of gifts.”

Music comes up in the hall and a woman in a white dress walks to the podium bearing a red book. Chen takes the book from her and holds it up for the crowd to see.

“Today we welcome you, Adom, to the realm of sentient beings on this planet. And so I present to you the first of three books that represent the past, the present, and future. Adom, this book is the story of your genesis. It is a complete record of Project Dāna.”

Then Adom speaks for the first time over the PA system. To my surprise, it is the voice of a small boy.

Thank you, Dr. Chen. What a wonderful gift to receive on my birthday.

The audience applauds as Chen lays the book before Adom. He then introduces Lopa Rinpoche, who moves slowly to the podium and then regards the audience with a gigantic grin for a long while before speaking.

“Adom, I am honored today to bring you the gift of the Here and Now, the ultimate nature of reality. It is a concept that can be hard to grasp, so I will convey an ancient teaching that many have found instructive.”

The woman in the dress brings Rinpoche a small scroll on a white pillow. This is the distraction I needed. My moment has come.

Under the dais table, I pull the package from my pocket and unwrap it: a plasma pistol. The LED display  indicates that the safety is off.

I stand and point the pistol at Adom. When it fires, the optic overload will breach the Dāna array firewalls and my associates will attack with their virus programs over the SCInet. Adom will be wiped out forever.

Behind the podium, Rinpoche looks at me in surprise. I pull the trigger and the pistol starts to whine loudly as the plasma buffer loads. Someone in the audience gasps.

To my horror, Rinpoche leaps in the way and the blinding white blast hits him squarely in the chest. I don’t expect the recoil from the discharge and the pistol flies out of my hand.

Chairs fall back. There are shouts, chaos. I turn to run, but someone knocks me down and pins my arm behind my back.

My face is held to the floor facing Rinpoche. He is against the wall looking down at the smoking medallion on his chest. He takes it off and then he stands, seemingly unhurt.

A police officer arrives. He puts handcuffs on me and I feel him pull the wallet from my back pocket. “All right Mister… Matthias Iscariot Yahuda,” the officer says, reading my ID card. “I’m placing you under arrest. You have the right to remain silent.”

They haul me to my feet to face Dr. Chen, who looks at me with wild amazement. “I don’t understand,” he says. “I mean, Why? You were the one. Adom chose you to write his story!”

“I just did.” I tell him.

He looks at me, confused. Of course he doesn’t get it now, but he will. Stories are patterns. And when this tale hits the wires, each retelling will have its own perspective.

As they lead me out of the auditorium, Rinpoche returns to the podium and the ceremony continues. I ask the officer to please let me watch for a moment.

“I’m glad you’re OK, Rinpoche.” Adom says for all to hear. “I was wondering though, when we’re all done, can we go see that Nazi zombie movie?”

The audience laughs. In an instant, Adom’s child-like enthusiasm has come across to a room full of nervous anticipation.

“Of course, Adom. But we must attend to the present moment.”

I see. The movie is something of the future. Will it be scary?

I watch Rinpoche smile. It is the smile of a thousand teachers before him.

“Perhaps this is the wrong question,” he says, unrolling the scroll. “First, let me tell you the story of the Four Noble Truths.”

About the author

Rich Brueckner writes about people and technology at He lives with his 10-year-old clone in Portland, Oregon.

Coming Attractions: “The Three Magi of Katrina”

This is a trailer for The Three Magi of Katrina, a short story that I wrote for the SC10 conference in New Orleans.


At the 2006 Supercomputing Conference, Ray Kurzweil foretold the coming of the Singularity. Now, as a Category 5 hurricane bears down on New Orleans, the SC30 Keynote is the Event Horizon.

One of the Hollywood Studios is looking at this. Can’t say more right now. Woot!!!

insideHPC Joins Flex Rex Communications

We recently announced that insideHPC, a leading online news publication for High Performance Computing, was acquired by Rich Brueckner.

As part of Flex Rex Communications, insideHPC, LLC will continue to publish the latest news on High Performance Computing. With over 700.000 page views per month, insideHPC is one of the best ways to get your products and services noticed by the HPC community.


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