In any case, muffins that are only imaginary aren't liable to get stuck.
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In any case, muffins that are only imaginary aren’t liable to get stuck.

-Thomas M.

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When we came out of the cookhouse, we found the boy's father, the Indian man who had been grazing the horses in the pasture, waiting for us. He wanted someone to tell his troubles to. He looked about guardedly, afraid that the Señora might overhear him.'Take a look at me' he said. I don't even know how old I am. When I was young, the Señor brought me here. He promised to pay me and give me a plot of my own. 'Look at my clothes' he said, pointing to the patches covering his body. 'I can't remember how many years I've been wearing them. I have no others. I live in a mud hut with my wife and sons. They all work for the Señor like me. They don't go to school. They don't know how to read or write; they don't even speak Spanish. We work for the master, raise his cattle and work his fields. We only get rice and plantains to eat. Nobody takes care of us when we are sick. The women here have their babies in these filthy huts.''Why don't you eat meat or at least milk the cows?' I asked.'We aren't allowed to slaughter a cow. And the milk goes to the calves. We can't even have chicken or pork - only if an animal gets sick and dies. Once I raised a pig in my yard' he went on. 'She had a litter of three. When the Señor came back he told the foreman to shoot them. That's the only time we ever had good meat.''I don't mind working for the Señor but I want him to keep his promise. I want a piece of land of my own so I can grow rice and yucca and raise a few chickens and pigs. That's all.' 'Doesn't he pay you anything?' Kevin asked. 'He says he pays us but he uses our money to buy our food. We never get any cash. Kind sirs, maybe you can help me to persuade the master . Just one little plot is all I want. The master has land, much land.'We were shocked by his tale. Marcus took out a notebook and pen. 'What's his name?'. He wrote down the name. The man didn't know the address. He only knew that the Señor lived in La Paz.Marcus was infuriated. 'When I find the owner of the ranch, I'll spit right in his eye. What a lousy bastard! I mean, it's really incredible'. 'That's just the way things are,' Karl said. 'It's sad but there's nothing we can do about it.

-Yossi Ghinsberg

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Issib wasn't thrilled to see him. I'm busy and don't need interruptions." "This is the household library," said Nafai. "This is where we always come to do research." "See? You're interrupting already." "Look, I didn't say anything, I just came in here, and you started picking at me the second I walked in the door." "I was hoping you'd walk back out." "I can't. Mother sent me here." Nafai walked over behind Issib, who was floating comfortably in the air in front of his computer display. It was layered thirty pages deep, but each page had only a few words on it, so he could see almost everything at once. Like a game of solitaire, in which Issib was simply moving fragments from place to place. The fragments were all words in weird languages. The ones Nafai recognized were very old. "What language is that?" Nafai asked pointing, to one. Issib signed. "I'm so glad you're not interrupting me." "What is it, some ancient form of Vijati?" "Very good. It's Slucajan, which came from Obilazati, the original form of Vijati. It's dead now." "I read Vijati, you know." "I don't." "Oh, so you're specializing in ancient, obscure languages that nobody speaks anymore, including you?" "I'm not learning these languages, I'm researching lost words." "If the whole language is dead, then all the words are lost." "Words that used to have meanings, but that died out or survived only in idiomatic expressions. Like 'dancing bear.' What's a bear, do you know?" "I don't know. I always thought it was some kind of graceful bird." "Wrong. It's an ancient mammal. Known only on Earth, I think, and not brought here. Or it died out soon. It was bigger than a man, very powerful. A predator." "And it danced?" "The expression used to mean something absurdly clumsy. Like a dog walking on its hind legs." "And now it means the opposite. That's weird. How could it change?" "Because there aren't any bears. THe meaning used to be obvious, because everybody knew a bear and how clumsy it would look, dancing. But when the bears were gone, the meaning could go anywhere. Now we use it for a person who's extremely deft in getting out of an embarrassing social situation. It's the only case that we use the word bear anymore. And you see a lot of people misspelling it, too." "Great stuff. You doing a linguistics project?" "No." "What's this for, then?" "Me." "Just collection old idioms?" "Lost words." "Like bear? The word isn't lost, Issya. It's the bears that are gone." "Very good, Nyef. You get full credit for the assignment. Go away now.

-Orson Scott Card

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Ritual abuse is highly organised and, obviously, secretive. It is often linked with other major crimes such as child pornography, child prostitution, the drugs industry, trafficking, and many other illegal and heinous activities. Ritual abuse is organised sexual, physical and psychological abuse, which can be systematic and sustained over a long period of time. It involves the use of rituals - things which the abusers 'need' to do, or 'need' to have in place - but it doesn't have to have a belief system. There doesn't have to be God or the Devil, or any other deity for it to be considered 'ritual'. It involves using patterns of learning and development to keep the abuse going and to make sure the child stays quiet.There has been, and still is a great deal of debate about whether or not such abuse exists anywhere in the world. There are many people who constantly deny that there is even such a thing as ritual abuse. All I can say is that I know there is. Not only have I been a victim of it myself, but I have been dealing with survivors of this type of abuse for almost 30 years.If there are survivors, there must be something that they have survived.The things is, most sexual abuse of children is ritualised in some way. Abusers use repetition, routine and ritual to forced children into the patterns of behaviour they require. Some abusers want their victims to wear certain clothing, to say certain things. They might bathe them or cut them, they might burn them or abuse them only on certain days of the week. They might do a hundred other things which are ritualistic, but aren't always called that - partly, I think because we have a terror of the word and of accepting just how premeditated abuse actually is.Abusers instill fear in their victims and ensure silence; they do all they can to avoid being caught. Sexual abuse of a child is rarely a random act. It involves thorough planning and preparation beforehand. They threaten the children with death, with being taken into care, with no one believing them, which physical violence or their favourite teddy being taken away. They are told that their mum will die, or their dad will hate them, the abusers say everyone will think it's their fault, that everyone already knows they are bad. Nothing is too big or small for an abuser to use as leverage.There is unmistakable proof that abusers do get together in order to share children, abuse more children, and even learn from each other. As more cases have come into the public eye in recent years, this has become increasingly obvious. More and more of this type of abuse is coming to light.I definitely think it is the word ritual which causes people to question, to feel uncomfortable, or even just disbelieve. It seems almost incredible that such things would happen, but too many of us know exactly how bad the lives of many children are. A great deal of child pornography shows children being abused in a ritualised setting, and many have now come forward to share their experiences, but there is a still tendency to say it just couldn't happen.p204-205

-Laurie Matthew

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Shigure: "Lemme guess; you lost your temper and yelled at her again, right? You know, you shouldn't do that if you're just going to regret it. Not too bright, now is it?"Kyo: "Save your breath. I'm just not meant to get along with other people. Period. End of story."Shigure: "Oh sure, some people just aren't. But you're not one of them. You lack experience, that's all. For example, I'm sure you could smash this table to bits with your bare hands. But I'm equally sure you could punch the table without breaking it. And why is that? Because I know your training has taught you to control your fists... at least I should hope so, after four months of fighting bears and-"Kyo: "I didn't fight bears!"Shigure: "My point is, it takes just as much training to get along with people. Only, training by yourself in the mountains won't do you any good. You need to surround yourself with others. As you get to know them, of course you take the chance that you'll end up hurting them, or they'll end up hurting you. One of those things might very well happen. That's the only way we learn... about others, and about ourselves. You're a black-belt in martial arts, but I'd guess you still a white-belt in social skills. Someday, you're going to meet someone that truly wants to be your friend, and you, theirs. But it if you don't keep training, you won't be ready when that happens."Kyo: "It'll never happen, anyways!"Shigure: "Uh-uh! Never say never."Kyo: "Ok, fine. Maybe if I meet someone with brain-damage... or something."Shigure: "That's the spirit!

-Natsuki Takaya

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An imaginary circle of empathy is drawn by each person. It circumscribes the person at some distance, and corresponds to those things in the world that deserve empathy. I like the term "empathy" because it has spiritual overtones. A term like "sympathy" or "allegiance" might be more precise, but I want the chosen term to be slightly mystical, to suggest that we might not be able to fully understand what goes on between us and others, that we should leave open the possibility that the relationship can't be represented in a digital database.If someone falls within your circle of empathy, you wouldn't want to see him or her killed. Something that is clearly outside the circle is fair game. For instance, most people would place all other people within the circle, but most of us are willing to see bacteria killed when we brush our teeth, and certainly don't worry when we see an inanimate rock tossed aside to keep a trail clear.The tricky part is that some entities reside close to the edge of the circle. The deepest controversies often involve whether something or someone should lie just inside or just outside the circle. For instance, the idea of slavery depends on the placement of the slave outside the circle, to make some people nonhuman. Widening the circle to include all people and end slavery has been one of the epic strands of the human story - and it isn't quite over yet.A great many other controversies fit well in the model. The fight over abortion asks whether a fetus or embryo should be in the circle or not, and the animal rights debate asks the same about animals.When you change the contents of your circle, you change your conception of yourself. The center of the circle shifts as its perimeter is changed. The liberal impulse is to expand the circle, while conservatives tend to want to restrain or even contract the circle. Empathy Inflation and Metaphysical AmbiguityAre there any legitimate reasons not to expand the circle as much as possible?There are. To expand the circle indefinitely can lead to oppression, because the rights of potential entities (as perceived by only some people) can conflict with the rights of indisputably real people. An obvious example of this is found in the abortion debate. If outlawing abortions did not involve commandeering control of the bodies of other people (pregnant women, in this case), then there wouldn't be much controversy. We would find an easy accommodation.Empathy inflation can also lead to the lesser, but still substantial, evils of incompetence, trivialization, dishonesty, and narcissism. You cannot live, for example, without killing bacteria. Wouldn't you be projecting your own fantasies on single-cell organisms that would be indifferent to them at best? Doesn't it really become about you instead of the cause at that point?

-Jaron Lanier

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