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         “Rumor is, Goldfish, that you’ve been hanging around with that witch,” Razor frowned.  “Didn’t I warn you about that?”
         Chess hurried to match his strides with Razor through the now sparsely populated hallways.  His heart pounded as he waited for Razor to say that he knew they were stealing food.  But that revelation did not happen and, as they continued walking, Razor’s mind seemed to wander onto other subjects.
         “You know, Ileana has been bugging me that I should delegate more, let the men make some of their own decisions,” Razor confided, making Chess’s heart jump once again.  Did he know the entire plot? Chess wondered desperately.  But Razor just shook his head, his expression grim.  “I know she’s trying to help me, but she just doesn’t understand.  This isn’t civ.  Out here, you have to be strong.  When you’re the leader, everybody wants to be in your place, and you have to be careful -- not show any weakness, not give an inch.”  He turned toward Chess.  “Know what I mean, Goldfish?”
         Chess swallowed hard and nodded, trying desperately to look calm and unconcerned, but positive that condemnation was coming with Razor’s next breath.  Instead, Razor stopped just then, and shouted to a man who was ducking into a nearby room.  The man stopped, looking wary, and Chess recognized him as someone who worked for Razor within the building.  Razor strode over to the guy, Chess trailing at a reluctant distance.  And one of Razor’s men was also heading toward them.
         “…my staff reports that some of the ammo has been disappearing,” he overheard Razor say as the man shook his head in animated denial.  Chess began backing away slowly as Razor held a brief conference with his subordinate.  Then he turned abruptly back to Chess.
         “Come on, Goldfish, we don’t need to stay here,” he said.  “Ileana’s right: there are some things I feel comfortable delegating.”  They walked quickly away, as, behind them, Chess could hear the man’s protests of innocence getting louder and turning into screams.
         “If I’m gonna stay in control, there’s one thing I definitely can’t allow,” Razor growled as they continued down the hallway, “people stealing from me.”

         “So you thought he knew, but he does not know,” Sariel summarized, a few days later.  She shrugged and bent to retrieve a bottle of isopropyl alcohol from a low shelf.  The light from the hallway was just enough for them to go about their gathering activities.  “I assume that he also does not know how much time you’ve been spending with his girl,” she muttered.
         Chess froze, holding a can in mid-air.  “Are you jealous?” he gasped, turning toward her.
         With a snort, Sariel lowered her head and rummaged noisily through the stock of first aid supplies, hissing curses over the limited selection.  Chess grabbed her arm, making her look up at him.  “How can you be jealous?” he asked in disbelief.  “You’re a goddess.  You’re my goddess.”
         “No,” Sariel demurred, her eyes growing wide.  Pulling her arm from his grip, she rose and started to turn away from him.
         “Well,” Chess persisted with a growing smile, “You’re… her avatar, here on earth.”
         That statement elicited a thoughtful “hmm” from Sariel and, encouraged, Chess darted behind her and swept her up into his arms, causing her to cry out in surprise.
         He carried her, unresisting, to a nearby counter, and set her down gently on it.  “I worship you,” he said, gazing into her still-wide eyes.  He let his hands drop to her hips and slide down the outsides of her thighs.  “Only you,” he whispered, lowering himself to his knees.
         “Daring boy,” Sariel murmured, with one eyebrow raised.  She pressed one foot against his chest.  The touch was light, but it expelled all the breath from his lungs, as desire for her took over.
         The scent of her perfume surrounded him, and the inside of her calf was soft where he laid his cheek.  When he was with Sariel, he thought, the entire rest of the world sort of faded away.  He began to slide his lips downward toward her foot.
         And, from somewhere behind them, he heard the harsh sound of male laughter.

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Worthwhile Research

“C note was challenging my authority,” J.T. answered calmly. “…He went back on his word and I had to do what I had to do.”
I pushed a little harder. “Couldn’t you just punish them with a tax?”
“Everyone wants to kill the leader, so you got to get them first.” This was one of J.T.’s trademark sayings.
-Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh

         Just one more blog about science, and then I’ll leave off of this for a while! Getting back to the subject of the potential benefits of basic research -- the kind of research where the outcomes do not immediately lead to products or revenue -- there are also the Ig Nobel Awards, an annual ceremony that is broadcast on NPR on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The official description of the Ig Nobel prizes is that “they honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think.” If any research sounds like a silly waste of time, it is probably the projects that receive awards at this ceremony. But, upon digging deeper into each study, it becomes apparent that the research is the beginning of answering larger and perhaps truly useful questions. And a few winners have actually gone on to be awarded a Nobel Prize.
         I had a personal experience with this subject, also. At the 2014 Arisia sci-fi convention in Boston, some unfortunate convention-goer tried to impress/flirt with me by telling me about some of the research that he had learned about from the Ig Nobel awards. I not only happily engaged the subject (rather than the person presenting it), I ended up monopolizing the conversation and giving him several book recommendations, including one by Jared Diamond, before he managed to get away from me.
         So I guess the conclusion of the story is that I am kind of pathetic at flirting. But here is an Ig Nobel-awarded study, published in the Journal of Evolution and Human Behavior, that has the potential for assisting with flirting -- or at least for predicting when flirting is more likely to be successful: Ovulatory cycle effects on tip earnings by lap dancers: economic evidence for human estrus?



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