ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the August 15, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] lone_cat, [personal profile] bairnsidhe, [personal profile] readera, [personal profile] technoshaman, and [personal profile] we_are_spc. It also fills the "safe" square in my 7-31-17 card for the Cottoncandy Bingo fest. This poem has been chosen in an audience poll as the free epic for the September 5, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl meeting its $200 goal. It belongs to the Kraken thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.


"For Whose Sake"


Capricorn is fascinated by
computers and code, and
so he notices the people
who make them beautiful.

There's this girl.

One day she waltzed
into a BlackSheep chat about
the open-source operating system
that Kraken had developed for
health nexus management.

Five minutes later, she had
fixed the Anopheles bug that folks
had been trying to kill for a solid month, and
streamlined interdepartmental data
almost as an afterthought.

She's working on
her doctorate thesis
at MIT, which means that
Capricorn can probably prevail
upon his old friend Peter
to arrange a meeting.

Capricorn rarely goes out
in public, but this is worth it.

Peter's office is lined in
warm golden wood and
books of every color.

"Hello, old friend," Peter says as
they shake hands and sit down.
"So I have Alex to thank for
this very uncommon honor?"

"She caught my attention,"
Capricorn says with a nod.

"She catches everyone's attention,"
Peter says. "Those boys from Berkeley
keep sniffing around her, and I have
to beat them off with a stick."

"I can well imagine," Capricorn says,
wondering if Peter needs any help
swinging that stick around.

"Lucky for me, Berkeley is more
into plasma and nonlinear dynamics,"
Peter says. "Alex has been helping me
work the kinks out of my dark matter scanner.
Oh, and that wireless power transmitter that you
went nuts over? The software for it was one of
her independent projects in graduate school."

Capricorn's eyebrows climb. "Impressive.
Does she know she's saved the world a few times?"

"You asked me to be discreet about that,
so no," Peter says. "Alex wouldn't believe it,
anyway. She's very modest young woman."

When she comes in with her arms
full of papers, Capricorn can believe it,
because she's covered from head to toe
in cloth, from a black top with a satin bow-tie
at her throat to a pair of stretch jeans.

She is quite pretty in person,
with blonde hair to her shoulders
that flares in every little breeze,
her blue eyes magnified by
black-framed glasses.

When Capricorn looks at her,
though, he can't help but recall
the incredible beauty of her code.

To him, the inside of Alex's head is
far lovelier than the outside of her skin.

"Alex, this a friend of mine from college,"
Peter says. "We used to call him GoTo."

"Because he's the one everyone always
wants to go to for help?" she says.
"I know that feel, bro."

Capricorn smiles at her.
"I'm sure you do," he says.
"I was quite taken by your solution
to the Anopheles bug, not to mention
your improvement of the data handling."

"Oh, that was nothing," Alex demurs,
tucking her chin against her shoulder.
"I just thought it'd work better that way."

"Indeed it does," Capricorn says.

He takes his time drawing her out,
because Alex is shy and quiet,
but that's okay, since Capricorn
knows how to deal with geeks.

She babbles happily about
Peter's work in dark matter and
compact energy supplies and even
the baby bonsai that she needs
to remember to water today.

"It's a dawn redwood, you know, they're
terraformers as adults but the seedlings
are very delicate," she confides.

"I do know," Capricorn says.
"They're fascinating trees."

Alex chatters about redwoods
and wanting to visit Muir Woods and
large-scale environmental changes
and how she wishes that she could
build a superconducting supercollider
bigger than anything before it.

Capricorn thinks about dark matter,
whose hidden power holds
the universe together.

He thinks about that Jewish tale
of the 36 righteous men for whose sake
the universe is not destroyed, and he
wonders if one might be a woman.

He thinks about Peter's projects and
how useful they are to Kraken, and whether
Alex might be enticed to help out here and there,
which gets Peter going on about his budget.

Somehow they don't even notice that
Alex has slipped out of the room until she
comes back in with an Arc'teryx mug
cupped carefully in her hands.

Startled by the sudden familiar aroma,
Capricorn sits right up in his chair.
There is no mistaking the bright,
citrus-and-sugar scent of
La Tortuga coffee.

Sitting up, he can see into
the cup where the whipped cream
is dotted with edible ink forming
his own constellation, along with
the abstract swoops that mean
safe food in Kraken code.

Alex sets the cup in front
of Capricorn, who wonders
how she knows his preferences.

"You brought him coffee?" Peter squawks.
"But you never want to fetch the coffee!"

Alex just gives Capricorn a shy smile.
"Some people are worth serving coffee to."

* * *

Notes:

Alex Turing -- She has pale skin, blue eyes, and wheat-blonde hair to her shoulders. She wears nerdy glasses with black frames. She is currently working on her doctorate thesis in quantum physics at MIT. Alex is brilliant with science and computers, but not when it comes to organizing her own life or keeping track of practicalities.
Origin: Alex was born with her superpowers. She is descended from Alan Turing and a Jewish man he once made love to in a dark alley. Alan never knew that he had offspring; but his lover switched surnames, escaped to America, bore a son in secret, and told a partially-true story about the child's other parent having died in the Holocaust. Nobody really asked any questions.
Uniform: Alex wears geeky girl clothes. She is particularly fond of sassy t-shirts and tops that incorporate a bow tie. She is less fond of wearing an actual tie around her neck, but will do it for formal occasions.
Qualities: Master (+6) MIT Doctorate Student, Expert (+4) Asexual, Expert (+4) Humility, Good (+2) Gamer, Good (+2) Geek, Good (+2) Gender Studies
Poor (-2) Absent-minded
Powers: Master (+6) Super-Intellect, Good (+2) Tzaddikeh
Motivation: To keep the multiverse in good repair.

A tzaddik is a sort of petty saint who lives in secret, keeping the world intact just by virtue of his existence. Yiddish uses -e or -eh as a feminine ending, as in alrightnikeh (successful woman).

Peter H. Fisher, Professor of Physics, Department Head, Physics, MIT
Research Interests: Professor Peter Fisher's main activities are the experimental detection of dark matter using a new kinds of detectors. His other interests include wireless power transfer, pedagogical work on electromagnetic radiation, new kinds of particle detectors and bonsai.
Biographical Sketch: Prof. Peter Fisher is a professor in the Physics Department and currently serves as department head. He carries out research in particle physics in the areas of dark matter detection and the development of new kinds of particle detectors. He also has an interest in compact energy supplies and wireless energy transmission. Prof. Fisher received a BS Engineering Physics from Berkeley in 1983 and a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics from Caltech in 1988.


* * *

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is generally considered the best school of physics, followed by the University of California--Berkeley. MIT does more with quantum mechanics. Berkeley's interests include plasma and nonlinear dynamics.

Anopheles is a genus of mosquito. The Anopheles bug was a glitch in the software for the biological samples database, which kept losing vital information -- much the way a mosquito sucks blood out of its hapless victims.

In local-America, the Superconducting Super Collider was a particle accelerator planned for the vicinity of Waxahachie, Texas. In Terramagne-America, Alex wants something bigger and better.

Dawn redwood makes a lovely bonsai.

The geekiest cup of coffee comes out of an espresso machine that uses edible ink to write messages. In L-America, the edible ink printer is frequently on the fritz. In T-America, people think it's on the fritz. It's not. It's just talking nerdy to you. Most people can't read the level of nerdy that Alex writes. It has a computerized interface to analyze the brewing process and produce a perfect cup of coffee.

Capricorn is a constellation sometimes represented by a pattern of dots.

The international food-safe symbol is a stylized glass and fork. The Kraken symbol for safe food consists of the inside line from the glass and the outside line from the fork, so it just looks like a random doodle. EDIT 9-30-17: [personal profile] bairnsidhe has rendered the Kraken symbol so now you can see it!

La Tortuga Coffee (Honduras: Citrus, Apple, Light Sugars)
Crystalline transparency and exceptionally sweet, sunny citrus notes characterize this refreshing new harvest gem from the Caballero family.
-- Intelligentsia Coffee

See the Arc'teryx insulated titanium mug.

Sending someone for coffee is a trope, and it illustrates the gender gap. Making this request can be hazardous to your health. However, if a female geek brings you coffee, it means she really likes you.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-09-15 06:40 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
... if a female geek brings you, not JUST coffee, but *premium* coffee (that bag of Tortuga cost me eighteen clams, where my usual Raven's Brew is twelve-something for a slightly bigger bag), *decorated in your secret language*...

Uhhh, yeah. It may not be that she actually wants to jump your physical bones, but she is going to want a LOT of your time for the next howeverlong... there will definitely be *mental* intimacy. :D

And, oooh, that Ti mug BETTER be insulated; that stuff conducts heat FAR too well.

this is my answer to that, the blue one. Motorcycle-safe sealing mechanism. :D

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-09-16 05:26 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
Okay, PENNY DROP.

I didn't realise the initial timeline of this was more than a day or three.

He just wanted to meet her. She's already out to catch him... and it's working.

Tortuga is not something you just *casually* keep around, unless you're eyeballs deep in coffee beans (la la la la la)... so this wasn't just a "c'mere, I want you to meet someone" kind of thing, this was planned, and she was like "oooh, he's interested? I can catches him, my preciousssss"... *click* favourite coffee *click* edible ink... Aaaaaand, the hook is set, and the fish comes willingly.

For the record, so far, Kona Classic is my favourite, followed closely by Raven's Brew Breakfast Blend; their Dharma Beans are also excellent with cream... ditto Molokai Coffee... a very *complex* flavour.

Re: Thoughts

Date: 2017-09-16 07:06 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
AHEM!!!! Despite the American accent of his speech machine, Hawking's a BRIT!

It actually took me a few minutes to suss it out, but I did find it:

Hawking's favourite brew.... Builder's Tea. (A surprisingly pedestrian cup for the Lucasian Chair, but hey, it's what you're raised on...) But, yeah. NOT COFFEE.

(Ironically? Tea is one of the few things That Company makes decently by itself. But it's ICED. And you KNOW about Iced Tea and Brits. ;)

*snork* I suspected as much. There are FOUR coffeehouses on or immediately adjacent L-MIT campus. NONE OF THEM ARE STARBUCKS. You gotta hike all the way over to Broadway to get chained-up mermaids.... even Dunkin' is closer, being across the street from main campus.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-09-15 03:09 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: the positively imaginary half of a cubic mandelbrot set (Default)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Might have to go looking for that one. Though the stainless steel ones I'm using now are pretty good. Would be much better insulated if I bothered putting lids on them, but they're more comfortable to drink out of without.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-09-15 03:23 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
FWIW the one I posted is stainless ...

Yes, an open mug is far easier to actually drink from. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2017-09-15 06:16 pm (UTC)
we_are_spc: (Default)
From: [personal profile] we_are_spc
Not for us-the mettle against our lips is...weird feeling to us. We much prefer lidded ones, especially with stainless steel. Plastic or glass can go either way for us, though.

Beside the fact that lids are safer for spillage reasons. xd

-Fallon~

(no subject)

Date: 2017-09-16 12:37 am (UTC)
mama_kestrel: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mama_kestrel
I use beverage containers with lids to prevent feline sharing....

(no subject)

Date: 2017-09-16 01:01 am (UTC)
we_are_spc: (Default)
From: [personal profile] we_are_spc
Ha. Luckily my cats aren't allowed on tables or counters, but I feel you there.

-Fallon~

(no subject)

Date: 2017-09-16 04:19 am (UTC)
mama_kestrel: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mama_kestrel
And they obey? You are honored among mortals! Or else they're good at not letting you catch them..... -grin-

(no subject)

Date: 2017-09-16 05:31 am (UTC)
we_are_spc: (Default)
From: [personal profile] we_are_spc
It's honestly a bit of both-I've caught them enough though that they know. They are afraid of the kitchen sprayer. LOL

-Fallon~

Re: Well...

Date: 2017-09-15 06:32 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
My favourite Kona cups (use at home) are glass, and not very expensive ...

Edited (Tyop) Date: 2017-09-15 06:32 pm (UTC)

Re: Well...

Date: 2017-09-16 12:38 am (UTC)
we_are_spc: (Default)
From: [personal profile] we_are_spc
Buh, I'ma have to look at these in the store, but heads up to BBB for actually having a half-way 7understandable text descripter. o.o Like...I've always had a problem with dimention spaces on the internet, right? But the descripter is cool.

-Fallon~

Re: Well...

Date: 2017-09-16 04:28 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
So, a Kona cup: A footed glass in the shape of a fat tulip (this thing holds 16 ounces), with a solid handle, the top of which comes out at a right angle, then bends down and sweeps in to the bottom of the glass, curving more sharply as it goes, to intercept the side of the glass just above the foot. The foot is plain, tapering into the base of the tulip shape at about forty degrees from horizontal, and is about the diameter of the main body of the cup. If you're familiar with an Irish coffee glass, it's shorter, fatter, and is rounded instead of faceted.

Re: Well...

Date: 2017-09-16 08:59 pm (UTC)
we_are_spc: (Default)
From: [personal profile] we_are_spc
...waaaannnnttttt! OMG.

...

Not familiar with Irish coffee things in body but out of-well we get coffee in those all the time so it transfers enough to be useful.

...

But now we want both so much omg.

-Fallon and Isaiah~

Re: Well...

Date: 2017-09-16 11:10 pm (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
The cool thing is they're not that expensive. The link I pointed to up there (which is to Target) has them at three dollars each. And they're good, solid mugs; you can bang'em around with reasonable impunity... much more so than my beer flutes, which are pretty thin and which I make sure not to put next to one another in the dishwasher.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-10-01 09:45 pm (UTC)
johnpalmer: (Default)
From: [personal profile] johnpalmer
Oh, yeah I have several *very* nicely insulated mugs that work too well - they burn my lips when I try to drink from them. I much appreciate those who make their mugs drinkable with and without lids.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-09-15 08:16 am (UTC)
kengr: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kengr
This is *soo* cute.

A couple of "oopses":

>>Capricorn's eyebrows climb. "Impressive.
Does know she's saved the world a few times?"<<

I think that was meant to be "does *she* know"

>>His other interests include the wireless power transfer, pedagogical work on electromagnetic radiation, new kinds of particle detectors and bonsai.<<

Drop the "the" in front of "wireless".



Minor usage point

Date: 2017-09-15 09:34 am (UTC)
ng_moonmoth: The Moon-Moth (Default)
From: [personal profile] ng_moonmoth
...from someone who's been there before deciding xe preferred a J-O-B to a P-H-D*:

Customary academic usage of my time was to designate someone a "doctoral" student rather than a "doctorate" student.

*And would you believe that I once used that line on someone who was interviewing me for a position, and they didn't even come close to getting it? !!! As you have no doubt guessed, that was the end of my interest in that company.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-09-15 02:14 pm (UTC)
gingicat: drawing of me based on wedding photo (Default)
From: [personal profile] gingicat
I love it, and am reminding myself that the mpreg could be due to Alex's parent owning a uterus while being actually male ("FtM") or having some sort of superpower. Though, the former would require very careful handling for a gay male penis-owning sex partner to not notice.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-09-15 03:47 pm (UTC)
redsixwing: Red-winged angel staring at a distant star. (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsixwing
Oh! Lovely, and exciting. And yes, that's a serious signal. Here, kitty kitty.

Alex has a bit of stealth or some very good timing about her. Interesting person, and I like your description of her role in keeping the universe together.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-09-15 07:40 pm (UTC)
fyreharper: (Default)
From: [personal profile] fyreharper
Alex Alex ALEX!!!

Re: Yes...

Date: 2017-09-15 08:03 pm (UTC)
fyreharper: (Default)
From: [personal profile] fyreharper
Heeeeeee yep!

Terramagne: doing significantly better than a glass hammer :)

Tzaddikim

Date: 2017-09-16 12:34 am (UTC)
mama_kestrel: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mama_kestrel
An interesting thing about those whose existence maintains the universe is that not only do they live in secret from the the rest of humanity, they live in secret even from themselves. Their identity is known only to G*d, though the people around them may well, like Capricorn, guess their true identity.

Re: Tzaddikim

Date: 2017-09-16 11:16 pm (UTC)
mama_kestrel: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mama_kestrel
In others, they're quite dramatic if you know what to look for. If someone leaves and their world implodes, that's kind of a giveaway.

Well, yes. But generally they aren't around to see it happen, kind of by definition. Although...given the tailspin our world has been in post WWII, I wonder how many of them died in the Shoah? Now there's a disquieting thought....

Other times they do something so selfless and momentous that it just leaps out.

Indeed. But should you say something of the sort to the tzaddik/tzaddikah, they'll ask you what was so momentous or tell you that they just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and that anyone so placed would have done the same. "I'm just myself, nothing extraordinary" they'll say. "What's the big deal?" and go on with their lives.
Edited (typo) Date: 2017-09-16 11:17 pm (UTC)

Re: Tzaddikim

Date: 2017-09-17 12:42 pm (UTC)
mama_kestrel: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mama_kestrel
Looking at Israel, well, their behavior makes me think they're not exactly spawning many petty saints these days.

I wish I could argue that, but I can't. :( And the population that thinks they're raising tzaddikim are mistaking obsessive isolationism and religious rigidity for holiness. Removing themselves from the modern world and its temptations is exactly the opposite of what is required of a tzaddik. And if you get the impression that I have little to no patience with the Haredim, you're right.

I think it's a bit rude to say it to their face, if you already know what they are, because then you know they won't be able to see themselves and it will just embarrass them. If you don't know what they are until after you've said it, just quietly back off the topic.

I'd never quite thought about it as rude, but you're probably right. I've seen it in action, though. I was present when a couple of friends were trying to explain to another why people were going to so much trouble for her when life was throwing an entire bucket of fastballs at her, because she considered herself "nothing special". "You're the kind of person people throw themselves on a grenade to save" one of her friends told her, and she took it in and thanked him, blushing, but she was clearly still mystified as to why her friends felt that way.

A Holocaust survivor blocked the door during a school shooting so his students could escape.

I remember that, and remember wondering at the time if he was preserved during the Holocaust in part so that he could preserve another on that day. And yes, reading the accounts of his life before that event, it was clear that he was a tzaddik. I wonder how many lives he saved in other ways before that. I'm betting it's beyond counting.

By the bye, slight linguistic detail: the tzaddikim aren't petty saints. That implies that there are more major saints, and there aren't. They're living saints. They're considered only a step below the angels, seraphim and cherubim. Human and mortal, yes, but holy and already living so that the divine essence of their souls shines through.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-09-16 12:36 am (UTC)
we_are_spc: (Default)
From: [personal profile] we_are_spc
Yaaaayy Alex. :d :d :d

...
*rereads* :d :d :d Love so much.

-SPCFolks~

(no subject)

Date: 2017-09-16 06:03 am (UTC)
antisocialite_forum: A group of small round pumpkins in a very green pumpkin patch (Pumpkin Patch)
From: [personal profile] antisocialite_forum
<3 and \o/ and :D on this one. :)

Also little squee! when I saw Alex's last name is Turing.

The bit about dealing with geeks - letting them babble about whatever's interesting - is completely true.

- Matt

A present

Date: 2017-09-30 06:14 pm (UTC)
bairnsidhe: (Default)
From: [personal profile] bairnsidhe
I liked this so much I wanted to do something extra special for you. So I make a picture of the Kraken safe food symbol. You can see it here: https://bairnsidhe.dreamwidth.org/15312.html and you have full permissions to use that image any way you want.

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