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         At their next free time, Chess found himself leading an abbreviated game for a few of the recruits. The experience seemed surreal, he reflected. Even more so than the weeks at basic training had been. And, at each step in the game, his mind raced ahead to plan what he was going to do next, because, for this one crazy moment in time, he was not just acting as Game Administrator --something that he had always wanted to try -- but he also had to be both the G. A. and most of the characters… just so the other players could get an idea of how the game was played.
         The general idea was not that hard to understand, though, and by the end of their free hours, they were definitely catching on, and Chess dropped down to playing just one character and being G. A.
         “Okay, there’s a squad of the king’s guard approaching you on horseback,” Chess intoned, trying to sound like the G. A. from his old game. “They had just emerged from the archway between the trees that hide the walled city when they spotted you. Now they’re coming at you pretty fast.”
         One of the recruits, a kid named Tenor, frowned at the papers laid out on the cot before him. They had managed to scrounge some pages from an old notebook and made an impromptu map of the game area for themselves. It sort of worked, even though the pages kept scattering whenever someone walked by. “Hmm,” Tenor mused. “I’m in an open field, no cover for hundreds of yards…”
         “That’s correct,” Chess answered. He stole a glance at Mal, who was also focused on the papers. Her pretty face showed tiny lines of concentration in the area between her hazel-colored eyes.
         Tenor exhaled decisively. “I run toward them,” he said.
         Surprised, Chess dragged his attention back to the game. “What? You attack them, you mean?”
         “No. I ask them for help.” Tenor shrugged and raised his hands. “They’re not looking for me. Not yet, anyway. They don’t know what I’ve stolen yet -- they don’t even know who I am. So, if I’m out there and I’m not doing anything wrong… well, then I must need help, right?”
         “Huh.” Chess considered the strategy. “Interesting.” And, incredibly, he realized that, despite where he was and whatever the future held, he was, just now, actually enjoying himself.
         Amazingly, it was not all bad here, he reflected. Well, it was mostly bad, though. Yeah… mostly, the whole thing made his stomach churn, like mud under a humvee’s tires.

         The following day was gray and rainy after overnight downpours, as Chess dutifully strapped himself into the driver’s seat of a greenish, mud-splattered humvee and squinted, terrified, through the dirty windshield. The weather seemed to be growing warmer as they neared the beginning of March.
         “The humvee is the army’s smallest personnel vehicle, right now,” the army driving instructor, in the passenger’s seat, explained, shouting to make himself heard over the noise of the engine. “That’s why we’re starting with it. You ever drive anything before?”
         Chess looked over the controls in bewilderment. Of course, like nearly all recruits from the city, his answer was no. Under the sergeant’s instruction, though, he brought the vehicle into halting forward motion, and, after a little while, managed to drive it a good distance through the open, hilly area.
         All around him, he noticed the ground was covered with tire ruts: the smaller ones were obviously made by vehicles the size of the one he was driving, but there were other massive furrows that must have been made by much larger vehicles. Chess focused his gaze tightly on the ground directly in front of the truck, feeling the sweat run down the back of his neck like the drops of rain on the windshield. The humvee bounded in and out of the huge grooves along its spine-jarring course.
         Chess was just starting to feel as though he was getting the hang of driving when, under instruction, he made a sharp right turn and the vehicle lurched to a stop. Heart pounding, Chess stepped on the gas and the engine roared, but he could feel the tires spinning underneath him.
         “What’s the problem?” the instructor barked. “Are you giving up?”
         Chess swallowed hard, gripping the wheel, as white noise started to fill his brain.

Continued next page...


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The Temptation of Amalgamation

Phil: [Holding Phil the Groundhog behind the wheel] That’s not bad for a quadruped. You gotta check your mirrors: just side of your eye, side of your eye. … Don't drive angry. Don't drive angry!

Groundhog Day (1993)

         Capitalism has arguably been the driving force behind the success of this country, which (IMHO) needs a strong economy in order to remain a power for good, both for its own citizens and in the world. But unchecked desire for gain leads to corporate greed, bank failings, and a multitude of evils. On the other hand, socialism has led to innumerable evils in countries around the world, including in Vaclav Havel’s Czechoslovakia. However, socialist-leaning Nehru’s strong commitment to education for all, and his government’s establishment of many colleges, has to be partly responsible for the economic growth of India in the past two decades. Some believe that even though the economic policies of Nehru’s time greatly hindered India’s growth, still, the emphasis on education set his people up to be able to take advantage of opportunity when it finally came along in the form of “economic liberalisation” in 1991. (Unfortunately, India is still plagued by setbacks, due to economic, political, and social problems that I just don’t have the knowledge to get into here.)
         Perhaps there is some good and bad in every economic model? In the penultimate chapter of Hot, Flat, and Crowded, Friedman absolutely stuns by speculating that it might be nice if the United States could be a little totalitarian, just long enough to implement real renewable energy policies and get the necessary industries underway, since the general public, raised on free-market capitalism, will probably never agree to this thing that is best in the long run. Unfortunately, he may be correct. But still, what a weird thing for a staunch capitalist to propose. He’s not even a Libra!



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