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For All Nails #22: _Mangia!_
Palo Alto , California, USM
16 March 1972
It was an Italian family dinner and it wasn't, Anna thought.
Her aunt and uncle had chosen the menu in her honor, it seemed:
pasta, local _frutti di mare_, the promise of _tiramisu_. The
quality was excellent, if the olive oil on her bread was any
indication. Apparently there were olive trees all over the PMU
campus and they pressed their own. She wouldn't dare to say it at home,
but the local wine was also excellent -- perhaps even better than
her family's Italian imports and certainly far above anything from
But it was clear that when her father and uncle left Italy before the
Global War, Dominic settling in New Orleans and Giuseppe in San
Francisco, their paths had diverged in many ways. Anna's family spoke
Italian some of the time at home, bought food at Italian markets, belonged
to Italian social clubs and a mostly-Italian Catholic parish, and paid
close attention to the unhappy story of comtemporary Italy. These
Dimaggios lived in a megacity with almost as many Italian immigrants
as New Orleans or Novidessa  but could now have come from anywhere.
Aunt Norma Jean was _Anglo_, as they said here, and her older cousins
had married a Pole, a Jew, an _indigena_ [2a], and a _Hispano_ in that order.
Anna tried to imagine here family's reaction to a potential non-Catholic
At least Aunt Norma Jean kept to one family dinner tradition. Anna had
been seated next to the most attractive unattached man at the table, Tony's
friend Bobby Contreras. He was certainly easy on the eyes, and on the
ears as well -- time to get into the conversation.
"So Bobby, you're at the University as well?"
"Professor of Mathematics and Electrical Engineering, if you can believe it.
I was here for my first degree -- that's where I met Tony and sort of joined
his family. I was in grad school in the CNA, actually -- ever heard of
Champlain, in the NC?"
"Oh, yes, they're usually quite strong in cricket, though not the last
couple of years. Wasn't it cold?"
"You get used to it, though your school would have been better for the
weather. UNO, right?"
"Yes, the other university in New Orleans besides Nelson, as they always
say. But the undergraduate teaching is very strong, and the law school even
better. It's older than Nelson, too, founded by the Jesuits [2b]back in
1844 -- kept going through the war, too. Nelson was 1876."
"Well, that's got us beat by a bit. It's worse than that, because we try
to avoid using the original name..."
"Bernard Kramer Junior University, right. This Mercator Scholarship I'm
going to start next fall used to be a Kramer Scholarship as well. It
couldn't have kept that name all the way through the war..."
"No, Palo Alto University from 1931 to 1962, when we were renamed for a
Guadalajara police captain whose son had greatness thrust upon him."
"Rather than being born great or achieving greatness? I'm glad the English
classics are alive here, but isn't that a dangerous sentiment?
"Oh, in the long run we blow with the wind here. Despite what you hear, you
can _say_ pretty much anything you want until you try to organize a political
party. Who knows, something could happen and we'll rename everything again,
right down to Vincent Mercator Dimaggio over here."
"Ah yes, the other 1951 baby in the family -- a good name for the year, I
suppose. Actually I dearly hope something _doesn't_ happen. Technically,
I'm stranded here until they open the border again. I called about the
tickets and couldn't get an answer."
"I expect it will work out -- I was over on your side of the line for
the last dustup in '69, visiting my advisor in Burlington. The airports
opened in a couple of weeks, and I had to register with the police.
I don't think this is going to be much different, though from the
sound of it we got lucky it wasn't much worse. Someday we'll find
a way to train soldiers to read a map, I hope. My advisor had this
idea for a little radio that could pinpoint you anywhere in the world
by talking to a space station..."
"I can just see it -- we spend billions of pounds putting up a space station
and they spend their whole time looking for lost travelers?"
"Plenty of government projects don't make much more sense than that, believe
me. Though I wish we scientists had as much help here as your side gives
them. You wouldn't believe how often I have to rely on equipment back at
Champlain to test out my ideas. I'm working on instruction scripts for
calculating machines now..."
"Yes -- you take some big job, like doing the accounts for a company, say.
Then you've got to break it down into little jobs that a calculating machine
can do, like adding up two numbers. There's a theory that any kind of
calculating job at all can be broken down into little enough jobs. But you
know what we say about theory?"
"In theory, theory and practice are the same, but in practice they're
"Sounds just like legal theory and legal practice. So is the problem doing
the breakdown from big jobs to little jobs?"
"That's actually not too bad. Mechanical translating itself seems to be one
of the few things machines are good at. No, there's two problems. One is
that when you're done, you just have too many little jobs to do. I _think_
that there's some simple problems that you can't do without a number of steps
that has zeros going on for pages, but I got bogged down trying to prove it
and switched over to this script business. Actually the biggest problem is
deciding exactly what you want. You know how in the law, you're supposed to
be able to tell exactly what set of facts are supposed to lead to exactly
"Of course, that's just Lincoln's theory of legal positivism -- the law is
a promise by the state to do certain things under certain conditions, nothing
more or less ."
"But you know far better than I that you _can't_ list all the possible
conditions, and _can't_ list all the consequences. There's always some
kind of ambiguity, so they pay you and someone else to argue about what the
law should really mean, and some judge or jury gets to decide."
"Actually I'm not that likely to get into a courtroom. I've got the law
degree, but in our system that's only the first step toward being admitted to
the bar. There's a few women who've done it, but I'm not sure it's really
worth it to join a club of stuffy men who don't really want you. That's a big
part of why I'm coming back in the fall, actually."
"To practice on our side? Our courts'll listen to anyone who makes sense,
and to a lot of people who don't. Andy Jackson said that any intelligent
man ought to be able to hold any office of state, including lawyers and
"He had a point -- maybe they could replace the unintelligent ones we've got
now. But no, I want to study the USM legal system for two years, but then
there's a lot of possibilities. There's obviously a need for diplomats right
now -- maybe Foreign Service. I like academics, but you can't teach law
without being out there for a while. There's good internship programs now
in the GG's palace that are open to women. The main thing is to be out in
the world, changing things. And to see more of the world! You know, this is
only the second time I've been in Mexico, and the first time was only to
Lafayette  -- everyone goes there sometime for the music."
"Ah -- if you like the Cajun stuff there's a club you have to go to in
San Francisco. This band has a mixture of East Jefferson roots and _indigena_
music -- _Los Muertos Agradecidos_, they're called." I liked the music in
the CNA, don't get me wrong, I went to the Montreal Choral Music Festival
every year, but these guys have _soul_... what are you doing tomorrow night?"
"After I register with the police, I was going to tour the campus, but my
evening's still free --"
"Let me be your tourguide. And I'd be happy to buy you dinner in San
This man moved fast, Anna thought. Not to say that was a _bad_ thing...
 Same location as the OTL town, and both have major universities.
 On site of OTL Seattle, name corrupted from original "Novaya Odessa".
Russian Alaska extended over all of OTL Washington and beyond.
[2a] (added after original posting) "Indigena" is the polite word for a
Native-descended USM citizen of either sex. The word "Indio" is
[2b] (added after original posting) We have later decided that UNO, like
OTL's Notre Dame, was founded by the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
 An idea identified with Oliver Wendell Holmes in OTL. The railroad
lawyer got around, retiring as a law professor. On the site of OTL
Little Rock are the twin cities of Lincoln, SV, and Monticello,
Jefferson, divided by the Arkansas River which is the international
 He said something similar in OTL though I don't have a cite.
 Same town as OTL Lafayette LA, but of course in Jefferson.