Tag Archives: Feminism

Mary Mechanic

I will not ask. No way. I‘d rather take all night than ask. Asking is for sissies. I‘ve got no clue what‘s wrong with this bloody beast, but asking is not an option. Never no asking, ever.

Up to her elbows in chain oil, Mary tries not to mumble what she reminds herself to think, to strengthen her resolve to go it alone. She also takes care not to look up from the spread of parts what would be an early twenty first century ebike in its assembled form.

Such so called Pedelecs, because of the electrically assisted pedaling, were a typical fad of the late presustainable era. What passed for a battery in those days delivered minimal storage capacity for maximum bulk, and no wearable  photovoltaics to top up on the go. Pretty much useless over long distances or for steep climbs. But this sorry device reminded its nonagenarian owner of the joys of youth, when it turned up at the far end of a cellar that had to be redone after unusually severe floods. He decided to have it repaired and upgraded, as a vintage gift for the twentieth birthday of a grandchild that will be hard pressed to pretend cheer.

As no expense was to be spared, Mary opted to replace the toxic mess left from the original battery by the best bioreactor money can buy. For a daily dose of ten Milliliters of sugar water the genetically engineered glowyeast delivers enough juice to carry bike and rider over one hundred kilometers flat, with minimal muscular exertion. No annoying stopovers at fast charging stations. Carry a couple of refill syringes, and you‘re good for a whole day of mobile fun.

The bioreactor alone is equivalent in worth to an electric Harley Davidson. That‘s Mary‘s gift to the poor grandchild. If she‘s clever, she will overcome the disappointment, read the manual, discover the hidden gem, have the bioreactor replaced by a nanotube battery and buy herself a one year subscription to a virtual reality chamber instead of the three day pass she had been hoping for.

The glowyeast is in place and humming with productivity, the power transmission is a no brainer, but the mechanics prove more tricky than expected. The cogwheels resist assembly in standard formation. Mary has so far discovered eight ways not to do it, plus one that might work. Unfortunately, that one and so far only viable option runs contrary to basic basics. Every first year trainee knows all wheels should turn this way, and this way only, not that way. Except here, it’s the opposite. Either the elders had different basic basics, or Mary is about to mess up big.

I will not ask. I will not look up, otherwise Esther will come running. She has this way of saying ‘Come on sister, let me help you. Can’t have the boys thinking we’re not up to it, right?’ Drives me mad. Asking is for sissies, totally not ok.

I could go for a soda. With a little luck, Bodu will be at the fridge. Incredible, how many sodas he’s gulping down over a day. We’d have a little chat, about antiques. A chat, that’s not asking.

Of course it is. A chat is asking. Whom are you trying to fool here? No asking, period.

Mary has once again assembled the parts in the only way that feels right, except for running contrary to all basic basics. Only one way to find out who is right, her intuition or tradition. She releases the brake on the bioreactor and gently, gently exerts pressure on the pedal with her left hand, ready to emergency stop the engine with her right, in case it goes against.

Oh marvel, oh wonder. All fine, all parts working together for the common goal, ready to hit the road. Mary heats up in a rush of conflicting emotions. She did it. Without asking. All on her own. She’s one hell of a mechanic, getting even messy antiques back up. But could he, the constructor of this mess?! He owes her a long and sweaty afternoon, the bastard. Pity he must have been dead for decades, Mary would so love to kill him right now. How dare he?!

“Hey, sister, you did it, and all by yourself! Was wondering whether to drop a hint, like about some people in some countries driving on the wrong side of the road. Funny, how the folks in Asia and Europe had their mechanical conventions all upside down, back in the days of this antique, isn’t it? My first one took me a whole day to figure out, so congrats, you got there faster…”

Mary hadn’t heard Esther coming, too busy having more than one feeling at a time. Now she’s back to normal, as in one feeling, strong. She’d love a T-Rex to amble by and select Esther as snack. Nothing gory in her vision. No screaming, no wriggling, no red splashes. Just Esther swallowed by dinosaur mouth, period. Peace.

Esther is still talking, oblivious to the fact that she has just been snacked on, as far as Mary’s personal universe is concerned. Mary does her best not to listen while packing up as fast as possible. Her official workday ended three hours ago, and now she needs out. Otherwise, her inner T-Rex might suggest a novel use for the big wrench. Traditionally, it’s not meant to be used to smash someone’s skull. But sometimes, intuition needs to prevail over tradition.

ToiCle Day

Another ToiCle Day? One month supposed to have passed since the last ordeal? Safran aren’t yet willing to believe what their scheduling device tells them.

Unfortunately, blinking doesn’t help. The alarm is there all right, in the upper left corner of their left eye. This early in the morning, it’s not disruptive. The tiny shiny white icon could even be considered pretty, if it wasn’t for the disgusting associations.

Pausing the coffee mug they were about to bring up to their lips in mid movement, Safran wonders: Would the whole of humanity by now share this association?

They vaguely remember a piece of infotainment that suggested some astoundingly high percentage of humanity, at least a low two digits kind of number, having to make do without. They recall watching this way back in their youth, in 2D media format.

Taking a careful sip, this so-called coffee tries to make up for the lack of taste by being too hot, Safran recalls Taylo’s amazement. They had taken their favorite grandchild to the museum of living memories, where the exhibits felt so real they had to strap you in.

They visited an early 21st century home, in some big city neighborhood.

At first, Taylo didn’t even understand the concept of living room. Safran had to explain about detached and semi-detached housing, how tiny groups of people, sometimes even an individual person, would own a place with multiple rooms.

Taylo were prepared to accept living rooms as prequels to the com-rooms of modern housing, but they balked at the design: “OK for the couch, for the legs-up kind of fun. But why would a big flat screen take center stage? It shows moving pictures and there’s sound, obviously, but this is to infotainment what a pinwheel is to a power plant. No even the low tech elders could have made do with this insult of the senses.”

Safran smile. That hopeless joke of a beverage, certainly no coffee bean harmed in the process of concocting it, deserves their anger. They will make sure to rekindle the negative feeling later on. Will provide themselves with a task, for the rest of the day. But Taylo gasping at the horrors of world without interface implants, that was hilarious.

Blink. Every five minutes, the white icon increases in size. A minimal adjustement. You wouldn’t be able to tell the difference if the previous and current icon sat side by side, but it does happen, and you feel the transition. Stupid ToiCle Day. Even worse than the coffee.

Safran don’t mind all progress. Living to their ripe old age of sixty four, that had taken a lot of medical progress. The generation of their parentals, born in the early twenty first century, they could count themselves lucky to make it to the mid forties. And not in good health.

According to Safran’s parentals, not everything was bad, in the dark ages of their youth. „Sex, drugs and a streaming flat rate,“ Ade used to say, „what more does a man need, for the good life?“. „A man“ Ade used to say. Bigotted old scum of a conservative.

Ade never came round to modern pronouns. Or any other advances, like full body radiation protection. No wonder they were down and out by thirty eight. There’s only so much a body can do, when left to its own meagre devices.

Blink. There should be a law, an age limit. No one past sixty should be made to participate. ToiCle day duty, that’s for the young. They get all the fun, and have so much longer to live, in these best of times. Only fair to have them do the chores. 

Safran tested their age limit idea on Taylo. The impertinent juvenile dared argue back. Something about sharper senses and worse suffering. Rubbish.

Safran see, hear, taste and smell just as sharply as in their youth. That’s what implants are for, for ProtoLabs sake! They didn’t spend thirty years slaving away in implant manufacturing to listen to stupid excuses.

It wasn’t a full thirty years on the factory floor, of course. The first five years were a doctorate in brain nerve interface design. Then came five daunting years in manufacturing. Safran had to supervise the production of their high tech creations. They had to work shifts. Three shifts. This alone should be sufficient to spare them… Blink. 

Why for ProtoLabs sake can’t anyone finally come around to inventing a proper self cleaning device? Why has a formerly hard working and highly qualified senior citizen to perform such menial tasks? Go refill the detergent container, push that button, check the result for perfection, swipe away remnants of imperfection and take a picture, for confirmation?

Safran spent the first year of their retirement trying to invent what they were so sorely missing. They came up with a mountain of perfectly viable ideas. It’s not lack of technological feasibility keeping them stuck with disgusting tasks. It’s politics.

Safran never argued against workplace equality. As a high school student, they transitioned from obsolete gendered to modern ungendered pronouns faster than their teachers could updated their own routines. Safran don’t need anyone to help them adjust.

It is therefore a blatantly unnecessary injustice to subject them to… Blink.

„Darling? Darling, my interface tells me you didn’t react yet, to the ToiCle Day prompt. Come on Safran, just a little effort. You know it won’t go away. Why don’t you just go and do it. It’s perfectly hygienic, there’s nothing to worry about…“

No one dares talk to them in this tone. Safran happily feel a third anger well up. A good day.

They will now argue with their beloved spouse, about how to talk to a former hard working bread winner. They will argue back they used to make more. Which is true on paper, but they made their easy cash in marketing, while Safran designed game interfaces. „Now who did humanity a more important service? See what I mean?…“

They will have fun arguing until the bloody icon gets too distracting. Then they will clean that bloody toilet, loudly muttering four letter words at the injustice. With a little luck, this will both get them rid of the bloody icon and trigger a new round of spousal hostilities.

And finally, if there’s still any boredom left to overcome, they’ll have another so-called coffee.

Black Hat Hack

„I‘ve got it! Listen to this one: „Conventional auto-black turns you tan-wreck? Never again: A new you with Lagos blue.‘ That‘s good. Powerful. Suggestive. We‘re done, team.“

Riba Shi leans back on his lounger, a fluffy white affair. The guru on his cloud has spoken. His virtual reality glove points at the bright future, a larger than life 3D representation of a bottle of their new product taking centre stage. 

Taru Van squeezes the steering wheel adorning her own lounger, a red sports-car. Never no criticism to be uttered in a brainstorming session. Not even when the ultimate poser comes up with the worst slogan ever, and expects you to applaud.

Smile. Focus on doing better.

Let someone else stop that phrase from ruining the prospects of a perfectly viable product.

Not easy, in the fifth hour of a pre-launch meeting that was supposed to last ninety minutes. 

Taru Van normally cherishes the forty second floor view. Today, watching the sun glide into the glittering Lagos Lagoon is insufficient compensation for the ongoing hardship. 

Seven of them steaming, faces gleaming despite the perfect chill.

Production reported upscaling issues. Business as usual a this stage. What works fine for a one hundred liter lab container might not produce the same results in a ten thousand liter tank. Adjustments needed to be made here, there, and at one more step. As if anyone not involved in the actual manufacturing process cared. But it‘s mandatory to pretend to listen, while checking messages or compiling the groceries shopping list for the weekend.

Unless you‘re over-diligent Quality Control. Their representative, the new guy, listened for real. He didn‘t like what he heard and countered with an impromptu thirty minute stand-up. Something about potential shelf life issues caused by all those last minute twists, including a most deplorable one initiated by Financial insisting on cheaper packaging. The scene sent Taru Van wondering if the new guy will last long enough to make it worthwhile to memorize his name.

International distribution contributed unexpected regulatory requirements. Some minor markets have funny ideas, concerning product specifications. Compliance not achievable at short notice, unless additional resources are made available. Proposal to reduce the initial launch scope. Once the product is established in the trendsetting mega-cities, the backwater clients will clamor for access, and the regulators will go flexible. Business as usual, again. And Financial of course demanded additional savings, to make up for the lost earnings from the Americas, the Europes and Japan.

This triggered another angry rant from Quality Control. Absolutely no way for them to postpone the purchase of some expensive equipment. Taru Van noticed how attentively Financial listened. A bad sign. Typically leads to a spreadsheet. First stage of doom. The new guy in Quality Control excels at digging his own grave. Definitely no need for her to learn that name.

All this was bad, and excruciatingly long-winded. Taru Van suffered. But compared to the currently ongoing disaster, the first phase of the meeting was a holiday.

The latest management fad from Cairo has wormed its way into the occasionally cloudy mind of their technically incompetent but extremely charismatic CEO:

„Only creative tasks will retain the best talent. Provide them with the chance to shine, and they’ll stay. In-house all the creative tasks currently outsourced to advertising agencies.“ 

At thirty five, Taru Van has seen her fair share of fads foam up, and trickle back down.

She‘s old enough to recall last century style meetings, with chairs around a conference table instead of a 3D projection area. Her internship at a small health food company led by an ancient eco-warrior taught her more history than twelve years of virtual immersion at school. That boutique insisted on keeping equipment until it broke down. Which chairs and tables do far less frequently than 3D equipment. An obsolete meeting culture persisted.

When Taru Van moved on to a proper job, her new colleagues called her first encounter with a virtual reality glove the best office comedy ever. She had to endure a lot of jokes, until the next generation of devices was rolled out and everybody had to acknowledge that she’s actually quite good at technology. She has survived her share of fads and will survive more.

But middle management sloganeering?! That‘s never going to work.

Oh, good. Klen Fado from R&D is doing the needful to stop Riba Shi‘s stupid phrase.

Taru Van wants to sleep at home tonight. She needs a slogan.

Creativity 101, let your mind wander.

Without personalized loungers, their forebears had to make do with variations in business attire, to express their inner selves. The likes of Riba Shi wore broad, aggressively colored ties. Ladies were provided with slightly more choice. An early Taru Van would have gone business vamp.

A bright red dress, in sharp contrast with her black skin. Flashy, in a cute, outmoded way.

But wearing the usual aluminiumish suit on her sports car lounger, that‘s far more comfortable. Safety and hygiene would also have been issues, with legacy attire. And who‘d dare go without functional garb, when every street corner is plastered with posters reminding citizens: „You like to breathe? You hate to bake? Wear functional, for a good ambiance!“

Creativity 101 strikes. Totally unlike lightening. Taru Van clears her throat and goes:

„Klen Fado, Riba Shi, apologies for interrupting your perfectly fascinating exchange, but how about this permutation: ‚Lagos blue. Wear it. Feel it. Live it.‘“

Taru Van did it. Their faces tell it all. Five displays of relief, one case of badly concealed hatred.

The appreciative comments come flooding:

„Without even mentioning it makes you look like naturally black people? That‘s clever. The lighties are going to love it. Already hear them lying: ‚It‘s a wellness thing, really. Would never aspire to conceal my natural skin color. Not my way. The darkening, that‘s just a side effect.“

„People will wonder, what‘s behind that slogan. We want them to guess. To get them emotionally engaged. And ready for the product they’re about to discover. Sometimes, you need to gate crash. Sometimes, you better sneak in through the back door.“

„What I really like is how we don‘t even deign compare with conventional darkeners. Auto-black, that‘s basically the concept of cooking oil applied to humans. Sick, plain sick. Millions dying too early, because of all this sun-bathing and the cancers it triggers. People don’t want to turn crusty. They don’t insist on premature death. They long for dark. Totally different game…“

Klin Fado from R&D in passionate mode, that‘s going to take a while.

Taru Van has heard it all, many times, and lets her mind wander once again.

She can‘t help wondering how the aliens feel about this scene, if they‘re listening in.

The upper floor neighbors, as they‘re mostly referred to nowadays, are assumed to have access to all virtual reality equipment. That‘s where they show up, once or twice a year.

As dark skinned women, with African or South Asian looks. The scene always unfolds according to the same script: The nightly entertainment of some innocent middle class family gets interrupted by a thirty second statement urging them to make the world a better place: „We have this dream…”

Same exhortation, for fifty years. The world obviously isn‘t a good enough place yet.

Despite the substantial efforts triggered by the persistent neighborly interest.

The aliens never threaten to use force. But signals scientifically certified as coming from one and the same very distant spot are scary. Even more so when there is exactly nothing, no potential source whatsoever, at that spot. Not even according to the most advanced instruments.

Superior technology taking an interest in local affairs, that’s not negligible.

Governments, supranational institutions and charities dutifully devised policies. And a global multitude of individuals decided not to end up on the wrong side of the upper floor neighbors. Showing off receipts for donations and diligently paid taxes replaced conspicuous consumption as status symbol. And everybody suddenly longed to be black.

That obsession with skin color strikes Taru Van as odd. The aliens manifest themselves as black women. Why the craze about just one of their properties? It’s perfectly possible that being female beats complexion. But global opinion, men and women alike, went the other way.

Taru Van’s father always entertains family gatherings with the anecdote of his first skin darkener client. A regular customer at his convenience shop, a lady with not so dark skin, had bought one tube of lightener per week for years. One day, she suddenly asked if by any the chance the opposite would be available. Preferably without having to sunbath, because heat caused her discomfort. From one week to the next, she had switched aspirations.

„… if you take the numbers seriously, sunbathing in public should be prohibited. We did it for smoking, we did it for unassisted driving, we wouldn’t dream of allowing anyone to operate an internal combustion engine outside of a carefully ventilated museum,…“

Klen Fado‘s voice turns shrieky when passion strikes. Unpleasant. Has to be endured.

A mind has to think. Taru Van tells hers to contemplate a really weird scenario:

If ever the upper floor neighbors turned out to be a black hat hacker exploit, would people switch back? After so many years? Would anyone dare display lack of respect?

Taru Van has endured so much white whining, about black privilege and presumably denied opportunities, she’s sure certain she’d never walk that road. Not even if she experienced actual, verifiable discrimination. Claiming special treatment, that’s so undignified.

Silence? Klen Fado done? A nod from Riba Shi? All is well that ends well – dinner ahead.