Archive for August, 2007

You might think this is a modern, rational world. But that’s just the latest fashion catchphrase from the house of science. In reality, taboo and superstition are running the show, and that means we have to have our escapegoats. Somebody in the community has to embody the village idiot and endure our ridicule. Nowadays, they’re called “celebrities”, and the community has informally crafted an elaborate ritual participation around what the loonies are up to, so we can sit in judgment of them.

The requirement of an escapegoat is that they be famous, preferably perceived as fortunate in some manner, and a bonus if they have behavioral problems. In other words, they have to reenact for us the belief that those better off than us are either undeserving of their luck, or they are miserable. It always comes down to “It should have been me!” or “Thank God I’m not like that!” Underlying that is a fundamental belief that the escapegoat’s sins are exclusively their own, and we’re the better soul.

Triple no to the max! It’s a “there but for the grace of God go I” kind of thing. Those people are carrying a collective burden no human being could or should have to shoulder. It could have been you! You sure you’re not like that, safely tucked into your bed at night with no eyebeams on your life? Yeah, you’re the better person now, because the village idiot picked up part of your cross today. It’s easy to turn your back on someone having a racist tantrum on the dweeb tube, or an alcoholic kid on the fast track to “where are they now”.

It’s a comfort to be able to say, “they deserve it”, or “they had it coming”. I always flash back to the lines Clint Eastwood gives in Unforgiven. “It’s got nothing to do with deserves.” “We all have it coming, kid.” No one stands outside the collective shadow of humanity. I’ll be right with you jeering and spitting at the escapegoats as they walk by, patting myself on the back at how much better I am. We can’t help it, we’re human beings. But if you’re going to do it, get right with yourself. Recognize where the dirt you’re hurling is coming from.

I’ve been trying to think about a recent movie I saw in the theater, but like the stooge Curly says, “I’m tryin’ ta think but nuthin’s happenin’!” I see maybe 1 or 2 movies a year these days. The theater experience has become an ordeal to be endured. Not that today’s generation ought to have a different experience, mind you. Heroic training for the invasion of the berserkoids does have its place, now more than ever. But for me, the psychic tabernacle is now best accessed in the comfort of one’s own home unit. It takes a compelling movie event to drag me away from the draft cider pipeline for a seat that feels like yesterday’s newspapers.

If you pay for a matinee, it’s a kick to the shins. If you pay full price, it’s a knee to the groin. If you buy a small drink and a handful of gummi bears from the candy stand, it’s a kick in the ribs. The theater is full of tourists from the local planetary system, and they lost their earthling behavior manuals on the way through the hyperspace bypass. Some of them keep getting messages from Galactic Central, even after the movie starts. And the screaming bratbots don’t seem to have a turn-off switch. I just got a knee to the groin, and now I have to watch 20 minutes of commercials? I haven’t even gotten to the previews and I’ve already received my complimentary brick to the skull. This movie better make Star Wars look like amateur night!

That is why I don’t go to movies much anymore. Its no surprise the only thing keeping the movie theater racket in business is the fact that they’re the only game in town. The tourist parental units need someplace, even a no win scenario, to drop the mobile kid unit brigade while they recharge the ion drive. The jack-bots have got us by the thrusters!

As near as I can make out, the only signs of intelligent life appear to be the “draft movie house” human cultural R and D. The movie is usually something that’s just passed out of the theater gauntlet, so you aren’t getting the immediate gratification of knowing what’s “now”, but who cares? The “current entertainment at the top of the catwalk” phenomenon never delivers half the hype it spouts out. You get to sit in a nice, comfortable layout without being crammed into the airline seats like sardines to the wallet-ectomy. There’s food that at least was handled by a human being for more than the 60 seconds it took to wake the protein chains from hypersleep. You can order something to drink, with a selection somewhat approaching bar standards of party-vertical. And the ticket price is a mere spitball to the cheek – an indignity, to be sure, but it’s a blow I can take. The money I save gets invested in the water flavored with beer, or the highly economical bottle for the price of a six-pack.

But at least it’s not a brick to the skull! Crumbs, its almost like America’s version of the pub, with a movie as the social draw, instead of local gossip.

Unfortunately, I have to go all the way over to the next province if I want to enjoy a tall cool one, a burger, and a not-so-current movie that’s priced about right. The freaky demographics must still look “un-mutual” in Pottersville*. Something that looks like a fad only the young, hip replicants enjoy. They must think the current model of family unit programs don’t have enough memory on their identity discs to run trans-warp drive experiments. Time to upgrade, slumlords! I’ve got the bonus points; I’m ready for my extra life! Pac man fever. It’s drivin’ me wild.

* No, not Harry, Henry! A reference to “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Okay, most toys are junk. There are still a few classics you can count on to always be there, in one form or another, such as Legos or dinosaurs. But for the most part, the good stuff gets made by accident, and disappears. Oh, the strange ideas for playtime that have floated past my peepers and through my flippers when I was a mere pouchling. Sigh, if only I had one of the three elven Rings of Power so that I might preserve unstained and untainted the glory of childhoods in the Elder Days. Sea Diver, I have failed you!

Well, okay, maybe I didn’t need a Ring of Power because I had some of that whacky, Tom Bombadil magic. A few artifacts survived and managed to make it to the current age of mankind, so to speak. I’m talking about that radical board game known as Fireball Island. Talk about high production values! Early to mid eighties engineering, with a concept that could only have existed in the seventies. Clever design, colorful artwork, and fabulous three-dimensional rendering make this game an instant classic.

You are one of four archaeologists who have just landed on the forbidden island known as “fireball island”. Your goal is to get to the volcano in the center of the board, steal the magic jewel, and then reach the docks to escape. Presumably riches and glory follow. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.

First off, the island is volcanic, and the capricious island tiki idol in the center of the board dispenses his displeasure in the form of giant fireballs of molten lava. Whenever the rules call for it (for example, when someone rolls a “1” on a six sided die for movement), a fireball is launched and someone chooses which of the six red marbles is pushed down a slope where it nails any number of helpless archaeologist tokens! If you get hit, you have to go to a “smoulder pit”, which acts as a penalty box where you “smoulder” and lose a turn. Its hilarious fun blasting people, even yourself – because if you have to shoot a fireball, and you are the only available target, blam!

Second, you and your three rivals each start with four action cards that can be used to push the odds in your favor, and you all draw a new card when you land on a dark space. The cards can make you move extra spaces forward instead of rolling, push back someone else several spaces, give you an extra turn, protect you from a fireball, give you a chance to shoot a fireball, protect someone from stealing the jewel if you are carrying it, etc. It means things can get pretty cutthroat between players, which makes sense. You’re all essentially tomb robbers ripping off somebody else’s sacred artifact for your own gain!

There are some nice extra touches to the game. They give it that special twist of the knob to eleven. There are six caves scattered around the board. If one is nearby on your turn, and you have the spaces to reach it, you can go inside. On your next turn you roll a die to see which cave you appear in. There’s an element of chance, because you could end up in a bad spot and waste a lot of time getting to a good cave again. Or you could zoom ahead to a strategically important place – right next to the jewel, in front of someone with the jewel and proceed to rip them off, or just way ahead of everyone else.

Another nice touch is the talismans. If you pass the ruined fortress you can pick up one of four talismans. The talisman is a neat little amulet that the jewel token fits into. At any time you can cash in the amulet for a full hand of four cards, or you can keep it and to use as a fake jewel when someone tries to steal from you.

But the best touches, I think, are the two bridges. Now, I don’t think I’ve conveyed how the game board is set up, exactly. It’s three dimensional, with valleys, hills, steps and paths. The entire board is painted with all sorts of nice little details, like bones on one of the beaches, or snakes in the jungle. The board is set up so the fireballs can roll down various “territories”, such as the aptly named “dead man’s alley”. On the way to the docks, you have to pass through a treacherous series of cliffs, crossing a rickety wooden bridge over a crevasse at one section, and another bridge over a raging river out to sea.

Yup, you got it. If you have the jewel, everybody is going to shoot any fireballs they get at you while you’re crossing a bridge! It’s the highlight of the game, to launch a fireball at your buddy’s token while he stands on the bridge, gawking. Bahahahah, there goes your token! If you have the jewel when you get blasted, it gets left on the bridge for someone else to snatch up. Things can get kind of funny as everyone keeps getting the jewel, gets blasted, smoulders at the pit on the beach, and runs back up the cliff to try again. All in a line! Eventually someone gets through and it’s a mad dash for the boat, hoping you’ll be the last one to steal the jewel if someone else has it.

It takes about 35-45 minutes to finish a game, but its high stakes action all the way! It plays equally well with kids and grownups, though I think kids have a better time as a rule. I like Chutes and Ladders or Candyland as much as the next person, but you’ve got to hand it to a game that relies on cheap gimmicks and flashy packaging to sell a solid gameplay. Just remember; always keep a fake jewel handy when you’re booking to the getaway boat. A good piece of real life advice, my friends!

An addendum to A Really Red Alert: The canning has been accomplished. 125 jars of delicious tomato goodness stored for the winter. We still had 14 from the last cycle, so looks like this will be a bumper pizza sauce year. Yeah!

Saturday morning cartoons! Ah, the good ol’ days of School House Rock and Sid and Marty Croft. Every time something gets re-released on DVD from the 70’s era of television, I get a warm feeling inside. A whole bunch of stuff has been put out over the last year, which it’s been hard to keep up with on Netflix. Some shows, like the Planet of the Apes cartoon or Scooby Doo* hold up pretty well. Others, such as the Flash Gordon** cartoon or Star Trek: The Animated Series***, not so much. The Mighty Isis show has just been released on DVD, and I can’t wait to see it. That show had to have about the coolest rhymes ever!

Basically, this archaeologist named Andrea goes exploring in an ancient pyramid and finds a magic amulet that when worn, allows her to change into the Mighty Isis when she says the words, “Oh Mighty Isis!” It’s a hoot, because her voice enters the echo chamber while spooky mist and sped up cloud footage goes everywhere. Never mind the Egyptian board of antiquities, that loot gets smuggled back home on the plane, because its finder’s keepers.

Andrea has a pet raven called “Tut”, and a host of bumbling sidekicks and always-getting-into-trouble students who need to learn the lesson of the week. Tut is smarter than any of the humans on the show, and Andrea understands whatever he says, though we the audience only hear “caw-caw!”. Nobody ever suspects she is the Mighty Isis, because of course Andrea wears glasses while Mighty Isis wears this sexy Egyptian mini-dress and high heeled knee boots and the sweet amulet of Goddess power on her forehead. Things like facial features or voice mean absolutely nothing, although to be fair Isis speaks with the power of authoritative command while Andrea is the typical Clark Kent wallflower. Don’t think too hard, it’s the way this alternate reality works. You’ll survive your Quantum Leaps better if you just go with it.

Episode spoiler follows.

At some point, bad guys come onto the scene, or the kids/sidekicks try to do something really stupid and dangerous. For example, there’s an episode where a teenager goes out on her uncle’s boat, even though the old guy has explicitly told her the engine needs to be repaired, or some such foreshadowing. The teenager doesn’t bother to do the local weather report, so of course she has no clue a major tropical storm is on the way. She goes off to have a joy ride in a boat all by herself, to prove how cool she is, because that’s what all well-adjusted teenagers do for fun in 70’s sunny California. She promptly gets jacked.

This episode was notable because of the special guest Captain Marvel, also known as SHAZAM. Mighty Isis was originally a guest on his show, but she proved so awesome that she got her own program. And then his show got cancelled, so he had to show up on her program as a guest star! What a world, what a world.

So, here’s how Mighty Isis’s powers work. She has complete command over all the elements; she just has to tell them what to do by busting out a phat rhyme. If she wants to fly, she says, “Oh mighty winds, that blow on high, lift me up so I can fly.” That’s her bonus rhyme. She can only do one rhyme at a time, which proves important in this episode.

The sidekicks can’t find the teenager for whatever reason, like she was late for the study break or something, so Andrea sends out Tut to look for her. Being a sharp bird, he finds the poor fool immediately, and Mighty Isis does her trippy transformation and flies over. Meanwhile, theteenager is totally panicking, because the engine blew up, the boat’s taking on water, the radio doesn’t work, and the storm is looking pretty scary as it comes in. You know its bad news, because the “people in trouble” music is playing.

Mighty Isis flies in, and sees the storm is looking pretty bad, so she busts out her rhyme: “Oh mighty winds now listen to me, hold back the waves, and calm the sea.”**** The storm is temporarily stopped, but the teenager is still on an express elevator to Davy Jone’s Locker, so Isis sends Tut to get some help, ta-ta! Captain Marvel! Luckily, he also understands raven-ese, and flies to her aid, and tows the boat back to safety using his super-strength.

Whoa, watch out, the double moralizing from both Mighty Isis and Captain Marvel! Teenager has learned her lesson, sidekicks tell her how much they love her. All is right with the world. No episode is complete, however, without the sidekicks noting how “Andrea missed all the fun.” Mr. Dumb-blockhead sidekick #1 says, “You know Isis, I’m beginning to think Andrea is afraid of you.” I forget what her comeback was, but I’m sure it was witty and kind.

Ahh, the late seventies, women’s lib era of superheroines. The Bionic Woman, Wonder Woman, and Mighty Isis. Lots of strong, independent, and effective women characters on television. Good times.

* The era after the goofy guest star formula like Batman and Robin or the Harlem Globetrotters, but before Scrappy Doo.
** The master of using the same footage over and over again. Need to kill an easy 30 seconds? Cue the long slow entry into Ming’s throne room.  Again.
*** Except for the “Yesteryear” episode and “More Trouble With Tribbles”, which every trekkie knows is authentic, bow down I am not worthy Trek lore.
**** Don’t hold me to this, it’s been 30 plus years since I heard this one.

I’m a bath person. It’s something of a spiritual observance for me, so I take my enjoyment of it seriously. It’s all about the psychic decontamination and decompression procedures. You pick up a lot of radiation out there among the road mutants, and the general scrum of existence needs to be regularly soaked out, like a form of toxic waste.

At a minimum, I’ve got to have candles, incense or bath salts, and preferably all three. No interruptions to my mental space are allowed. The cats get the boot and all lines are busy! Preferably, the bath has access to lots and lots of hot water – about 35% scalding and 65% uncomfortably hot. Nothing’s worse than a hot-soon-to-be-tepid tub. Yeagh!

Ideally, the tub should have a good amount of depth. Shallow bathtubs just don’t cut the mustard. Those crazy overflow drains they have under the faucets are the bane of my bath-existence. Stopping the flow of water is priority one, if I’m going to get any depth out of the average tub. I have a plastic contraption that fits over them, but it only works on smooth surface models. Usually I have to rely on a washcloth jammed neatly into the holes.

When I was in Japan, I made it a point to travel to as many bathhouses as I could, and I got to see the masters at work. Sitting in a stone bath with a view from the 34th floor of the Tokyo skyline gives you an idea of how far the decadence can go. Then there was that hot spring up in the hills, far from the beaten gaijin track.  I don’t think I need the supersaturated, volcanic mineral water that technically was boiling for my pipe dream, but it’s nice to see what kind of optional widgets you could put in the mix.

I go on estate sales, and one of the fun parts is the exploration of the house and seeing how the layout unfolds. I keep an eye out for interesting bathroom constructions, and I’ve seen a few cool ideas now and then. My favorite had to be the townhouse where the former occupant had completely renovated the top floor around a huge master bathroom built to specification. There was no denying the woman took her bath time seriously, and had achieved some measure of that pipe dream.

We’re out there. The bath people. Performing our personal, alchemical ceremonies – but to what purpose? Are we modern day warriors purifying ourselves in the fight against barbarism?

One of the purposes I envision for this website is to be a source of information about my books. I’ve been a storyteller going all the way back to Richie Rich times, and I’ve been growing more serious about my writing for a good many years now. The language arts are just something I do. My folks kept me supplied with books of all difficulty levels since as far back as I can remember. If it interested me, they got it. Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s analysis of shipwrecks might have been a bit over my head at age 5, but I took it in. Exposure to it made impressions on my young mutant brain.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2007. The need to write is growing, the need to create has reached the limits of my little hidey-hole, and I’m still crippled by a major obstacle. I don’t know if my ideas are any good, if I have the skill or the talent to present them, if I can even get them out there for people to accept or reject. The specter of the gatekeepers is just too intimidating for little ol’ me.

Something happens. Several personal pieces of my life come together right about the time I’m doing research into the publishing business. Reading the testimonials and essays of authors, agents, editors, publishers and commentators, I realize I’m blocked by something that doesn’t matter. I have no chance at all of success! Whatever I plan to do, it’s governed by complete luck. Talent, skill, money, connections, promotion – it’s all completely random and out of my control.

So I give up. I don’t care anymore, and all of a sudden I’m free, I’m liberated. I see what I am going to do. I’m going to write books until I don’t. I’m going to do it my way and experience what happens. And it happens. I write a book in three months, and I start studying ways to improve my writing. I format, edit and revise. I start looking at ways to get it out there to people. I’ve never been this serious about something in my entire life. I have a purpose.

This is where I stand today. The book is 290 pages. I’m about 34% through the first revision. The revisions are hard work, but worth it. When I complete them, I have someone I trust lined up to give me honest feedback and suggestions. Assuming the person says it’s good to go with no major changes, I’ll have to do a polish. I’m pushing to have everything done before this year ends (the holiday season would be personally meaningful and appropriate). It’s hard for me to not talk about it with people, because I’m so excited about what I’m doing. I’m impatient to start the next book, and the next, and the next.

But what you really want is a teaser, right?

Young Rordan the rustic wants to be a sage and help his brother advance. Kea the drifter wants to murder Rordan and make it look like an accident. At Regol Coros Academy, magic is leaking into ordinary life. If Rordan doesn’t uncover Kea’s secret, he must serve evil or die! But can either of them pay the price of magic’s discovery?

Ahhh. The smell of comic book newsprint in the morning. My earliest comic book memories are of Kamandi (The Last Boy On Earth), Defenders, The Witching Hour, The Haunted Tank and my all-time favorite, Richie Rich. There was a bus station in Athens, Ohio that had a comic book stand and there was a newsstand in Hanover, New Hampshire where I would get a hold of these titles. Those places of magic exist now only in my mental archives. They shall remain a lost wonder of the world to inspire my thoughts in this adult age of my existence.

Then came the Tintin books, starting with Red Rackham’s Treasure. That wrapped Christmas present started a revolution in my psyche that has remained with me to this day. The ripples are still being felt and absorbed by my brain. Back then, I started drawing them to learn how to make my own comics. That’s really where I found out what the power of comic books to tell a story could be. I wanted to be Tintin, and in my crude comic books I was, or he was my sidekick and his adventures were really my adventures.

It would be many years still before words like “trade paperback” and “sequential art” would enter my personal space. Even as I struggled to copy Tintin’s distinctive tuft of hair, amazing work was being done in the field that I wouldn’t find out about until much later on down the line. People like Crumb doing underground comics, people like Eisner doing mainstream comics. It boggles my mind to think of the titanic work on culture and civilization that was being done at the time.

My dedicated comic collection phase came after a trip to Austin, Texas. I picked up issue #182 of The Uncanny X-Men. The one where Rogue switches personalities to Carol Danvers and goes after S.H.I.E.L.D. to rescue an old lover of Carol’s. The art and the story were top-notch. My cousin had collected X-Men and I’d read a few, but this is where it connected and I was hooked. From then on, I’d begin my collection phase, which is a whole story in and of itself. The Uncanny X-Men lead the way, and it’s still a huge influence on me as to what superhero groups should be about.

I outgrew my comic book collection phase. Too expensive to maintain a subscription box. Too many titles to keep track of. A decline in quality by mainstream titles from Marvel and DC. I’ve entered a state of mind where I expect a certain level of maturity and deeply moving story that I just don’t get these days. I refuse to put up with never-ending storylines and lack of continuity any more. I’ve also grown tired of the mindless sexism and racism of mainstream comics. You could say I’ve entered the treasure hunt era for comics, with an emphasis on graphic novels, or “trade paperbacks” that resolve what they put forward.

K gave me the hook-up. The three Courtney Crumrin books by Ted Naifeh, published by Oni Press. The artwork turned me off at first. Just because I’m looking for new and different, doesn’t mean I can handle it off the bat! But it’s grown on me, and the story of young Courtney learning the ways of magic in her warlock uncle’s mansion, while dealing with everyday growing up issues, has moved me. I’m blown away, and never get tired of reading it. This is what gets me up in the morning, the Richie Rich at the dawn of time to the Courtney Crumrin of today. I’m looking at the monolith.

For as long as I can remember, listening to music has been a core aspect of my upbringing.  The folks raised me on a steady background soundtrack of Rolling Stones, Bob Marley, and Devo.  My first personal exploration of music goes way back to the Sesame Street records, particularly such chart toppers as Oscar the Grouch’s “I Love Trash”, Grover’s “What Do I Do When I’m Alone”, and Cookie Monster’s “Up and Down”.  The Beatles came along later as my first “group” fascination.  I still get a lot of mileage out of that White Album.

It’s many years later, and my music collection has become an integral part of my meditation exercises and psychological well-being.  For a long time, U2 was my favorite band and a group I strongly identified with.  Their last two albums have shown a significant decline in quality, and I find the group’s behavior increasingly repulsive, so I get a lot less enjoyment out of them than I used to.  I’ve written them off, along with a lot of other bands I used to like.  The state of popular music has stagnated to the point where mainstream equals lifeless and phony.

On the other hand, the treasure hunt for fantastic sounds has never been better.  The process resembles combing the halls of a mammoth ancient library with a tiny lantern.  Or searching the labyrinth of market alleyways for traders, with that one artifact or tidbit of gossip you need to hear.  The internet allows you to make connections on a scale that used to take years of wasted money and time.  And my friends have the same superpower!  There are ways now for artists to communicate their statement and their art without the guild-monopoly distribution systems that have stifled culture for decades.

It adds up to getting in touch with music I never thought I’d like, old music I didn’t know existed, and new music that is exciting and alive with experiment.  If I come across something I don’t like, it still has value because I can tell someone else I meet on the treasure hunt about it, and speed their own journey.  That’s what I think is the “now” experience: A diverse ecosystem of life support that generates ideas and raises consciousness, or just plain helps you survive.  Your own musical habits are heroic in a way they never were before.

So, an example: I’m on a Peak Oil website, of all places, and they have an entry on “Celtic Battle Music” at the bottom.  Well, being of Irish descent, I’m going to at least give it a look. Wow, rousing, exciting stuff.  I’m down with that!  So I click on the link to the YouTube search, below the video, and pow, I’m sold.  There’s this group called Albannach, and they have a website.  I check it out, and find they’ll be coming to a Ren Faire near me.  I pass this all along to K, and we agree; we’re going to be there to see them.  The life support system has just gotten a replacement filter.  Now I’m telling you by way of this post, and passing it along.  Maybe it’ll give you the power-up, maybe it won’t.  But just the choice makes us all more powerful.

The madness of August has officially started. I’m talking about tomato canning season. Water must be boiled constantly. Tomatoes must be washed, blanched and sliced. Jars must be filled, sealed and steamed. And that’s assuming the quest for tomatoes has been successful.

In the past, the family made trips to the farms near the coast. We would fill up six bushels or so with tomatoes, rain or shine. You end up sweaty, dirty, and smelling of pesticide. Our reward would be a pit stop on the way home at a local restaurant that sells some awfully fine fried chicken.

You get home, and the time clock starts ticking. The tomatoes begin to press down on one another and lose their firmness. Then they start to rot. So you have to do a certain amount of jars every day to stay ahead of the curve, and by the end it’s a brutal, haggard rush to get those final tomatoes in.

The folks refuse to use air conditioning, so the kitchen gets really hot. You burn yourself handling the tomatoes to remove their skins. Your clothes acquire a red paste spatter. The entire kitchen is devoted to the process of canning, so food has to be drawn from leftovers, kept really basic, or brought in.

Why is this madness endured every year? At the end, you have about 120 jars of tomatoes that can be used for just about anything – salsa, spaghetti sauce, and chili. It’s a ray of sunshine you can call upon during the winter to get you by on that tough day. Plus, they make fantastic gifts!

It’s taken the family about 15 years to get the formula down right. The process has been honed down to every tool and the time it takes at each station. The last two years, the trip to the farm has been abandoned for a new development.

I don’t quite remember farmer’s markets being this prevalent in the past, maybe we were just too busy to notice. But we’ve been getting our bushels in installments from the markets, and that makes all the difference. The time clock of rotting tomatoes is removed, allowing us to rest between bouts.

The madness has lessened, but the benefits remain. An accident of nature, or a slight expansion in brain power? I know not.

Random encounter time! K and I drive into the shuttlecraft parking module and grab our civilization training gear, when lo and behold, we have a critter call! Slightly bony, gray haired kitty announces his/her low fuel gage and projects that psionic command line letting you know if its not happening now, you’re dead meat! Such encounters get added to your lifetime RSS feed when you come under the province of a cat’s karmic lessons. Yup, there’s our very own cat responsibility in the window silently meowing. Yeah, thanks for letting the rogue traders know where the soft touches are.

At first, I think its smokey, our nickname for the local cat constable for the neighborhood up the hill. Might well be, in which case, way to hook up with the protection racket, purr puff! Kitty is friendly, vocal, and affectionate. Yup, pulling out all the bonuses for the Beg Roll on us. Ha! The first meow knocked out the shields and put me on auxiliary power. No worries there, nagging hungry stomach that is the cat uber-psychic “now” of feline study on earth. I pass the retina scan and open the supply lines for a hit of the expensive vet stuff. K distracts the pit stop kitty with pets and praise (humans have a few desperate measures that can sometimes be relied upon to work, or at least reassure us that something is happening).

This paw-puff knows what time it is. The meow-bombing ceases, food is calmly assimilated into main reactor, and mandatory licking of mouth commences. Without any further ado, kitty powers up disruptors and goes back to whatever appointed quest or neighborhood duties may be pressing. See ya next time! Hey, this racket has been getting these creatures by for thousands of years. I don’t see natural selection weeding this behavior out with a ten-foot pole any time soon. Next, feed the cats that, you know, actually live with us. Just another night in the maintenance of inter-species alliances, I suppose.

Next morning, as I’m setting up the recycle pod for the local truck feeding, I see a white and gray cat in our neighbor’s yard, munching contentedly on catnip I swear wasn’t growing there before, but of course its reality change 22-732 and its been there all along. Whether it’s a change in the Matrix or the local cloaking device is down for repairs today, how would I know? I don’t make monkeys; I just play one on earth. The cat looks at me and chooses at that moment to munch dramatically to emphasize how lucky I am that there’s more than one fueling station. Hrm. I guess this is what in cat free trade practices is known as “opening new markets for exploitation”.