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{Thursday, October 31, 2002}

Happy Halloween.


by Fred 1:46 PM

{Wednesday, October 30, 2002}

"Dear Fu'hunarkle... what the hell is a fu'hunarkle?"
He was standing there, holding the letter.
"It says Uncle, Dad. Don't be an ass." I hated this, being critiqued like I was in school. This was my free time, and I didn't need a teacher, I needed Dad to tell me what he thought of the letter I'd written to his brother. I think that's why the epithets came out, to sort of differentiate between school and home. I'd never call my teacher an ass.
"Watch your mouth there, little guy. I can still spank you." It's the kind of threat that we all know means he can't. I can still spank you. The desperate cry of the parent of large offspring.
"Sorry, Dad." A flat reply for an empty threat. Appropriate.
"Dear Fu'hunarkle, I'm forreag chor che lacheaneff of chef refponfe... If your handwriting gets any 'flowerier' I'm gonna have to start burying it in the garden. This is illegible."
"Your eyes are just bad, and I said I'm gonna type it. I just wanted you to preview it to see if it's appropriate. This is delicate." Aaah, lies. They pour from my mouth.
"Oh... hmm... Delicate. He hated the dog, you know." I know. I know because I hated the dog too, and its being dead didn't make it any more likeable.
"No he didn't! He loved bixie, and I did too!" He named the dog Bill Bixbie. Oh, that clever uncle of mine. My clever family. We all hated that dog.
That was all I could take. I snatched the letter from him and slunk off to my room. He was right, the writing was awfully flowery. All the letter said was Dear Uncle, Your dog died, Sorry, Love, etc. A pointless letter, the punctuation for a stupid dog's life. I still think it was appropriate that the letter be illegible. The dog was only barely a dog, the letter was only technically a letter.
We never missed either. The letter was lost in the post, but my uncle never cared. I called him a week later to say I was sorry and he didn't know what I meant.
He and Dad laughed over the "Dear Fu'hunarkle" thing at Christmas. I heard Dad on the phone, but I don't think he knew I was there. He called me the "Fruity one," when asked which son it was who committed that letter. It hurt, but I knew it was true. And I didn't even have a dog to tell about it.

by MisterNihil 5:44 PM


Your topic is:

{a nonsense word}

To clarify, just use any nonsense word you want to use.

by jal 11:57 AM

{Tuesday, October 29, 2002}

Evening was the best time to make progress. The lab was almost always empty, and quiet, finally quiet. Marla liked the hum of the incubators better than the hubbub of technicians and grad students. She placed a specimen sample under the microscope and adjusted the slide into view.

Reaching to her right for her notebook, Marla noticed an editorial someone had clipped. "Rights for the Unborn," it clamored. They didn't understand; Marla shook her head. College student activists looking for a cause to rally behind, only because their parents had rallied behind causes, always tried to put a soul into a collection of cells. Might as well grant rights to a tumor. Marla fished under the editorial for her notebook.

When she returned to the incubators to collect another sample, she tapped on the glass and grinned ghoulishly at the slack face inside. "You don't need civil liberties, now, do you?" Her voice sounded strange to her in the empty lab. "God doesn't give souls to things grown in tanks. --Do you, God?" She squinted up at the buzzing fluourescents.

In answer, the buzzing increased, then dipped, as a power surge shut down the lab hardware. Marla collected her wits as a UPS began to beep pitiously, shrugging into its duty. A stab of alarm struck her, and she rushed to inspect what damage may have been done to the specimens. Fighting the crowding shadows thrown by the emergency lighting, she peered into the incubator window, directly into the manic eyes of the unborn.

by Sharon 11:59 PM

Bernie only has one lung. The took the other one when the cancer got him, filled him up with tubes and cogs and wires and patched him up, good as new. You can hardly tell just by looking at him. He still breathes a little funny and holds his side sometimes, but the doctors say it’s a miracle he survived at all. The nurses joke and call him future boy. Bernie doesn’t see it like that, and he doesn't laugh, but he lets the doctors have their say. They hook him to their machines, marvel at their own ingenuity, poke and ask him where it hurts, and Bernie doesn’t say a thing. You learn to accept a lot about a person once they’ve saved your life.

Although sometimes, he worries about the donor.

“It was one of those things,” he says. “A robot.”

The doctors had to work quick. They’d expected to salvage at least a piece of Bernie’s lung, only to get him on the table and find out it was already too blackened and dead to be of much use. They had to look around for other options. Sometimes you make do with whatever you’ve got. In this case, it was one of the robot maintenance crew that cleans the hospital. They’ve got these air converters inside them that, as it turns out, are kind of a perfect fit. Sure, some people say the robots might be sentient, and there were some protests when the news got out, but the docs have been pretty good about keeping Bernie’s name out of the paper.

What he’s worried about now, I don’t know.

by Fred 12:39 PM

-begin transmission-
Why der ship crashed
By chipper.

Mungo sits inna front. I sits inna back. Dats how yer fly one'a deez. Mungo does da wingses an' I does da engines anna guns. Mungo tells me what ta shoot, I tells Mungo what ta aim fer. Derz no better way ta fly one'a deez tings. I seed 'em flied wit tree but dey fights, an' I seed one guy get in'a ting an' fly by his'elf. He lasted half-a-minnit inna air.
So Mungo sits inna front. I sits inna back. Mungo worries fer da wings. I worries fer da engines. So ya see why I tink prollem when Mungo leans his head back an' sez "Wuzzat Soun?"
Mungo gots a prollem. Dat's jus' how he talk.
I sez I dunno, its'a engine, an' Mungo sez "Izzit broked?"
I sez nah, we're mebbe tree quart low, no prollem. He sez "Needa Renk?"
Mungo don' say Wrench too good, but I know what dat means. I sez nah, I gotsa wrench, it fell inna gears twenny minutes back. He sez "Herdit."
Mebbe its'a whatchakall, axent. I dunno. Dats how Mungo talk.
So dats when da erl start leakin' on Mungo ann'e sez "Stobber," which I tink mean Stop it. I starts ta' patch da hose where da erl come out, ann'e sez "Stobber," again only real excited like. I gets da hose workin' an' he sez "Stobber" again, like I ain't heared him. I sez I stop dit, whatcha wan', a rag?
So he points outda winda an' derz da stopper from der gas tank fallin' off der ship wit der gas comin' after it.
So dat's why we crashed. In loo of fillin' out dis Twenny-seben-Bee-stroke-six ting, dey tole me ter send a report an tell why we needs'a nudder ship.
I blames der fuel-monkeys fer da loss. If dey'd put in der stopper like dey sposda der ship'd still be in der air.
So we, dat bein' Me an Mungo, is requisit'nin' an'udder ship ter fly as we still ain't bombed der emny base we were spos'da wit der last assig'm'nt.

-end transmission-
intercepted 10:29:02:10:00:01
Transcribed by pfc. Durian Morningsong

by MisterNihil 10:00 AM

Mechanical failure

by Shawn 9:35 AM

{Monday, October 28, 2002}

"It's too god-damn early."

A pause.

"mumble mumble"

Another pause.


One more.

"'said don' knock it. 's daylights savin' times."
"You're not making any sense."
"You need to get up. It's too god-damn early. That means its time to get up."
"No, you need to get up. The sun isn't up, so it's time for you to get up. You are already late for work."
"'m not. work in't for 'nhour."
"Work already started. Everyone else is there. Every time they walk past your cube, they shake their heads and say 'That one's not long for the company.' Your job is at risk and you're not even awake."
"'m'not a'risk. nob'dy else wan's my job."
"Get up. It's too goddamn early and you should already be showered and in the car, groggily heading off for another fulfilling day of mind-numbing fun."
"'m'not gettin' up. 's fi'thirdy. 'larm clock han't rung."
"You have to pee. Right now. Get up."
"stupid 'nternal 'larm. stupid dayligh' savin' times."
"Yes, absolutely. Stupid me, stupid time, but you need to get up."

by MisterNihil 11:40 PM

Daylight. You know, I find that nothing much springs to mind story-wise concerning daylight. I toyed with the idea of vampires, the sun finally rising on a distant world with a year long day/night cycle, or an insect that lives but a day, born at night and only sees the sun rise moments before it dies.

Hmmm, but as no stories spring to mind maybe I’ll just go with random thoughts such as they are. As Sharon has observed Texas is the place of perpetual sun. It seems that way. It seems as though no matter when I go out during the day the sun is in my eyes. I suspect this is truer here than anywhere else I’ve lived as I’m much closer to the equator. But then that strikes me as a bit of pseudo science that wouldn’t hold up if I thought about it outside of 600 seconds. In any case I’ve really enjoying the recent break we’ve been getting from the scorching heat and cloudless skies of typical Texas.

Sunrise. I remember the first time I stayed up all night. I was maybe 14 or so and decided it would be cool if my friend and I stayed up all night. He didn’t make it but I did and remember seeing the sun rise. Of course, having grown up on a farm I had lots of opportunities to see the sunrise but its different when you’ve been up all night. Now I’m often up all night, sometimes I’m up for several days in a row.

I don’t know how I’d do in someplace far north where the days and nights last for months, or however that works.

Ever notice the lighting in paintings by the Dutch masters? The daylight has a strange quality about it that, while it may have been an intentional style, was also clearly influenced by the nature of daylight in the north.

Well it is both late and 10 minutes have passed and I need to get up at 6:30, before daybreak, to work on a painting which will not compare to the Dutch paintings, I’m going to bed.

Never posted the ogre story:

“The Ogre has left the building,” came the voice over the com feed. There could be no doubt which ogre, there was only one. At least when it came to the world of high finance and the top names in corporate mergers and hostile takeovers. Gorum Blackhand Brassbeard was one of the world’s wealthiest and most ruthless businessmen, well, business ogres in the world and had gone to great lengths to insure he remained so. Brassbeard had climbed to the top by taking advantage of every shady business opportunity, legal loophole and corrupt political connection one could imagine and had the good business sense to methodically murder everyone who stood in the way or in any way threatened his power.
As Windsoar the Silver hid in the shadows across the street he had no doubts that, were he spotted, Brassbeard would make a lampshade of his Elven hide. Or at least he would try; Windsoar was not without resources of his own. While it may have offered but a false sense of security, his Colt 9mm Railstub model PPD could drop a man from 3000 meters, through a stone wall. And, as a White Tree special agent he knew over 27 ways of killing a man without a weapon. However, his greatest weapon was his ability to get in and get out without being seen by man, ogre or security system. Windsoar was an electronics security specialist and was one, if not THE, best in the business.
As Brassbeard’s limo pulled away a shadow flickered briefly among the trees and the elf was past the external security of Hammer Industries headquarters. A few moments later and he was inside. Past the guards, past the motion detectors and the goblin dogs, Windsoar glided down hallways, through clean rooms and safe rooms at last reaching the heart of the complex, the records department. White Tree and a dozen other government and private organizations could certainly have fielded agents to assassinate the ogre and may well have succeeded but his death would not bring town the corporate/criminal empire. However, proof that Hammer Industries has been stealing their employees 401K funds, hiding billions from the IRS and manipulating their stock price, these things would topple the corporate giant. Or corporate ogre as it were.

by Shawn 11:24 PM


by Fred 7:24 AM

{Friday, October 25, 2002}

“Let’s see, we’ve got cat wrangling or cat herding or…well this is weird. Cat juggling?”

“I’ll take that one,” he said. They loaded the memory chip into his brain – he had already signed the release, let them install the shunt and affix the necessary wires to his skull – and he felt a strange feeling wash over him.

“This may be a little surreal,” the technician said. She adjusted a dial. “Apparently it’s from the cat’s perspective.”

He could hardly hear her anymore, though. He was mid-flight, a dizzying rush of terror and then plonk back in the juggler’s outstretched hand. Again he was thrown, and again gravity spat him back down. Applause rang briefly in his ears and he meowed. The juggler gently stroked the fur atop his head.

“For my next trick,” the old man said, “I will need a volunteer who is not afraid of fire.”

The vision faded. The younger man sat up in the chair.

“Why’d you do that?” he asked the technician. He felt vaguely like pouncing.

“Sorry,” she said. “We’re not insured for that kind of thing.”

“But it was just getting interesting.”

“Yeah, that’s usually what happens. But we can only show so much. Government regulations.”

He grumbled. “Well, what else have you got?” he asked.

“Sorry,” she said again, “but your ten minutes are up.”

by Fred 10:35 AM

OK, I thought of this on the day that is actually today, but will be day-before-yesterday by the time this posts. Does that make sense, or should I try again?

I'll try again.

Look! Topic!
Cat Wrangling
Cat Herding

by MisterNihil 6:27 AM

{Thursday, October 24, 2002}

"It's all right young Masters, you can come back inside now. The ogre has left the building." Loogle, the Seargant at Arms, ushered us through the portcullis into the keep. I think he was trying to block our view of the carnage the monster had wrought, but there was just too much for him to hide. Overturned pots of half-eaten gruel were scattered outside the kitchen. Walls and floors were splattered and stank of bitter ogre vomit. Nets, pikes, and barricades tossed about as I'd scattered my toy soldiers in a fit of pique just days before. Just before entering the castle proper, I even saw a bloody, dismembered arm dangling from a crenelation on the outer wall.

I tugged Rothloy's cape. "Did you see that arm?"

"Where? In the hay wagon?" Rothloy and I shared birth-months and years. We looked so much alike that people kept thinking we were twins when we weren't even related.

I told him where I thought I was the arm and he told me about the splattered sheep he saw near the pens and coops.

"I bet it stepped on it," he said. "I think it was hungry, and made a run for the chickens, and that's where they caught it." We filed back into the tutoring room and took our seats. Rothloy leaned over to me and continued in a whisper. "When the archers started shooting at it, it panicked and stepped on a sheep and..." He brought his hands together palm to palm and mushed them together, twisting them in opposite directions.

"Yes. Quite. I'm certain." Poracious Blatt's voice was flat as slate and just as warm. I was pretty sure that he didn't share our youthful, light outlook on the recent events. "Let's get back to our lessons now, yes?" He jabbed a pudgy finger at me. "Demply, you clever lad. You may start by reciting the four humors, their colors, their locations in the body. and their domains over the heart of Man."

During the remainder of the class, Blatt was nastier than he'd ever been before. By the end of the day, I almost wished that the ogre had brought the castle down.

by jal 8:07 PM

An open letter to Mr. Bill Watterson, in reaction to a reprint of "CARTOONIST BILL WATTERSON RETURNS TO A CLOISTERED LIFE" from The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, OH, Dec 20, 1998

Dear Mr. Watterson:

I see unlicensed "Calvin and Hobbes" images everywhere I go, reprinted strips tacked up in co-workers cubicles, snippets of tiger wisdom quoted on websites and white boards. We have not forgotten you; we could never forget you. And, from what I can glean from a few cryptic articles, that is a terribly upsetting idea to you, who seems to value his privacy and anonymity above all else.

I respect your desire for privacy. By all means, stay hidden, stay invisible. But please, write again. Publish again. Share your unique insight on our world in the voices of new characters and new media. It is hard to bear your silence.

Do you understand how you affected us? For a decade you gave me something to smile about or ponder or cry over every day. What a magnificent gift.

Today, especially, the strip that has always seemed the most poignant is particularly relevant. In that Sunday strip, Calvin and Hobbes have decided to play "war." Each armed with a suction-cup dart gun, they face off... and annihilate each other immediately, simultaneously. The parting thought, I wish I could shout on the White House lawn: "Kind of a stupid game, isn't it."

I miss your insight, Mr. Watterson. Perhaps Calvin and Hobbes are now having grand adventures in the Yukon; no longer will unsuspecting townspeople be trampled by a Godzilla-sized Calvin; cardboard boxes remain sedate, inert, and corrugated; snowmen almost never come to life; and tuna fish no longer draws any quarry to my tiger trap. Still, there are stories to tell, and I hope someday you will tell more of yours.

With sincere thanks,
Sharon J. Cichelli

by Sharon 3:24 PM

The old barn looks forlorn. I don't mean that the roof is sagging (although it is), and the floors droop (although they do), and you can see too much daylight through the walls from inside (although you can). I mean, it looks forlorn. There is a real sadness that seeps out of the building.
The grass around the barn has turned brown, not even bothering to try to get greened up for spring. The melancholia has spread. I worry that one day it'll make it up the ridge and down to the house, but for now that's a long way off. The house is still happy and warm, lit by night and busy by day, human and animal traffick still thick; but the barn stands empty. The horses want nothing to do with it. The cows keep their distance. Even the dogs seem to know something is wrong. You won't see a rat there at any time of day, and you won't attract so much as a gnat with a bright flashlight at night. It'd be alright to spend an evening there on occasion, if it weren't for the moaning.
At night, usually around sunset (I hear that's when he used to come around), a low creaking moan comes up from below the floorboards of the barn. It scares the dogs, and the children don't like it much either. The cows have taken to crooning along with it, but the horses clear out when the sun gets low.
It was a whirlwind love affair, and since that ogre of a shed left our barn, nothing's been the same.

by MisterNihil 11:36 AM

The ogre has left the building.

by Martha 8:34 AM

{Wednesday, October 23, 2002}

"It's interesting, really, how he manipulates his world."

"Indeed. Many Breeders are the center of their universes, building these innovations themselves. He doesn't. These challenges we pose to him, he sends a single person out of an entire world filled with varying intellects to solve our greatest problems."

"Yes. Wasn't it Freed, Founder #00239E, who commanded a variety of organized nonfatal combat simulations be created? He invented... oh, what did he call them?"

"Games. I remember that day. You were too young."

"He didn't even take credit for them, instead interspersing them throughout his world's time. Amazing."

"Are you aware of his male-female progenitors? They were similarly discreet."

"I remember reading about that. David, Breeder #18926S -- his male progenitor -- invented countless musical scores. Released them all, in his world, anonymously."

"The same is true for his female progenitor. The essence of her ideas postulated that we mine our stars for energy, and included detailed plans of how to do it. And she published them under a pseudonym in an obscure scientific journal."

"It only makes sense that their progeny would do this. He's genetically modest. Instead of fake people getting the credit, he makes up entire schools of thought to explain his ideas. And half of these occured even before he birthed himself."

"I believe that is precisely why Crind, Founder #00002A, inserted Clara, Breeder #19353H into his universe. It's possible they want Allen, Breeder #19206D to take responsibility for some of his actions."

"She's the one to do it. She's nutty."

"She will certainly end his modesty. That is, if she doesn't destroy his world in the process."

"....Knerp, Founder #00213D? There is something wrong with Allen's world. It's imploding."

"Quickly, the simulations. Hold it... reverse, and stop. Assemble the Founders immediately."

by rocketo 11:59 PM

(Wasn't tracking time on this. 600 seconds? No idea)

“What was that all about?”

“ I dunno, that guy just ran past, tossed this to me and ran off into the woods. All he said was hold it.”

Any idea what it is?”

Not really, it looks like a mechanical device of some sort. I think it may be a plot device.” The two friends paused as a significant and expected silence was emphasized by the typical sound of crickets chirping in the surrounding woods. An equally expected dog barked in the distance.

“So now what?”

“You know, when this happens I’m always tempted to simply toss the Macguffin into the bushes and go about my life. And yet, somehow, I can simply never bring myself to walk away.”

“ I know what you mean. It’s sort of a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern thing. So what do you think we’ll find if we follow up on this? Mystery, intrigue, death and arcane goings on?”

The other man sighed heavily, “Yeah, probably so. You remember that time when the wizened old wizard employed us to recover that ancient whatchamacallit?”

“Oh, you mean the one in Calimecha?”

“No before that, the guy with the really cool cape.”

“Oh yeah, the one with the pet griffin.”

“No, not him. The other one, the wizened old wizard with the limp.”

“He wasn’t that old. I think he just smoked and drank a lot. You know, that makes you look much older what with the wrinkles and all.”

“Oh look, a lord and his knights riding this way and a roadside inn off in the distance. Sure didn’t see that coming, so siree bub.”

“Hail fellow,” called out the lord in his best deep-throated noble-like voice. “We are afield in search of a strange and powerful artifact known as the Orb of Alkamesh. Mysterious and cold is said device with odd and ancient markings and powers beyond your knowing. Twas, um, stolen from my keep some three days past and I would see it returned. Have thou seen such an item?”

(blink, blink) The two companions stood silently for a moment mentally counting the obvious and varied signs that the lord and his men were hiding something/evil/power hungry/thieves/disguised/and oh, I don’t know, we’ll say demons or minions there of.

“Yeah sure, here you go, some guy just tossed it to us.” The two would-be adventurers pitched the orb to the lord and continued on their way. As they passed the roadside inn they smiled and continued on their way without breaking stride. It was a good day not to die.

by Shawn 11:50 PM

A fly is sitting on a windowsill, looking out at the world in general, and at one cloud in particular. The cloud is shaped like a pear, which would be absolutely unremarkable, except the fly has seen the cloud, and realized that it is shaped like a pear. Somewhere in its little fly mind, it has made the connection between a piece of fruit; the reproductive body of a tree; a spheroid of cellulose and sugar, bearing seeds for the tree's future generation, its offspring; and a cloud; an aglomeration of water vapor and dust; one step in the water cycle that allows life to continue on this blue sphere-

-OK, hold it. First of all, that's twice you've used "sphere," in the same LONG, run-on pointless sentence, and second, flies can't see that far. They're olfactory and vibrational detecters. And they can't see through glass. They don't detect it well because it doesn't give off a smell (famously so), not because it's clear. It's not like babies running into windows (hee hee. Babies running into windows.)
Man, that's just sick. It's not cute to see babies suffer, and you shouldn't say so. You'll get these nice posters in trouble on the site. What if some 'regulatory entity'
-huh huh. En-titty. huh huh,
SEE? That's what I'm talking about. Cut that out. Anyway, I mention that it's remarkable that the fly can see the cloud. I covered that.
-Nuh uh. You just say it's remarkable that the fly can draw the connection. You never said anything about the fly being the farthest sighted fly in the history of all flies ever.
Sheesh. Give it a rest. You just have no concept of what makes a good story.
-Whatever. I've writtern better stories than this slop, and I've done it in my sleep.
We've all written neat stories in our sleep. The trick is waking up and writing them down, and their still being nifty.
-Man. Just shut up, Mall Voter.
That's uncalled for. Yeah, I voted at the mall, but that doesn't mean anything. The state of Texas actually did something worthwhile and had early voting in the mall, and I decided to participate in the democratic process-
-huh huh. Demo-Crap. Huh Huh.
Cut that shit out.
-huh huh. shit out. huh huh.
You're annoying, you know that. I'm not listening, and I'm going to finish my story.

The fly hung on the window pane in thoughtful silence, when a big, fat idiot with a fly swatter walked up and destroyed it, simply because of nothing-on-TV-induced boredom. Perhaps, had there been no idiotic internal critic to walk up to the fly and kill it, they story could have had a happy ending, or indeed an ending at all. As it stood, there could be no ending, as the story was lost in a torrent of poorly worded self-criticism.

-Dude. Not cool.

by MisterNihil 6:32 PM

"Hold it," Meeks said without a trace of sympathy.

Arrowythe scowled and shifted in his seat. "But--"

"We've collected the payload," Meeks cut in. "Deal with it. We'll dock with the cruiser in twenty minutes."

Arrowythe sneered at the strange carved idol in his lap. Glass eyes like a muddy creek stared fixedly out of its little stone head. Arrowythe ground his teeth and hated the little stone head. He tried again: "Listen, I'll just--"

"Sit." Meeks was having none of it. "Go nowhere. Hold it."

Arrowythe frowned sullenly while Meeks piloted the 'sloop towards the inviting opening in the hull of the starcruiser. It was too valuable, this chunky, bulbous relic from that forgotten, backwater planet, to be left unattended, Meeks knew. Too deadly, as well.

"Forget it!" Arrowythe recklessly unsnapped his harness and set the idol unceremoniously on the control panel in front of him. "Going!" he called, already three steps towards the head, unable to hold it any longer.

"Wha--? No!" Meeks had time to draw one final breath before the glowing azure chips of ice in the idol's stone sockets filled his view, filled their ship, filled eternity.

by Sharon 1:14 PM

“Hold it. You were supposed to write something about nimbus, weren’t you?”

“I would have if you had rescued me, but I was lost in the shadows.”

“Well, I’m sorry, but in a perfect world -- ”

“Oh, don’t give me that. I was lost for days. I couldn’t write.”

“Then it was all for nothing.”

“Redundant annoyance?”

“I’m not sure what that means, but yeah, it’s frustrating.”

“Well, there’s no justice. It’s not a perfect world.”

“Didn’t Burl Ives say that?”

“I think it was Lawrence Welk.”

"Oh. Well, I guess there's always tomorrow."

by Fred 9:32 AM

hold it

by rocketo 9:12 AM

{Tuesday, October 22, 2002}

Her name was Clara, Breeder #19353H. She confused the Founders, creating worlds out of chaos, terrifying her civilizations to the brink of death. They were ready to end her universe until an elder Founder (one of the first) noticed what she had done. Clara was a generous Breeder, and while she took her people to the edge, they never truly lost hope. She had some of the most ingenious populations the Founders had ever seen. Quick, resourceful, and innovative, these people had relatively short lifespans but when achieving their milestones they were faster than all but a few Breeders' paracosms.

And then they died.

The destruction took only an instant, the entire universe, beyond the pale blue void that sat outside her stars to the core of their juggernaut central planet. Clara took the blow personally, shooting sparks and frantically -madly!- creating life in places it had never thought to occur before. For every plan she had to continue all of her lives, the Founders threw another kink in the works. By the end, she was reduced to a mumbling shell of a Breeder. Clara woke up, and for the first time saw the cool grey world around her. A Founder floated towards her, and she was frightened.

"CLARA BREEDER #19353H. DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE?" the Founder bellowed. Clara cringed on her biobed. Her brain was working, but it was confused as to how she understood his voice. It was nothing like the thirty-five thousand methods of communication she had developed in her paracosm. And yet she understood every letter. Her voice returned, and she found that she could speak just as well as she could hear.

"Who... who are you?"
Clara lay there, her mind reeling. A moment ago, she was alone. These Founders were at least her equal, and most likely her superiors. Whatever they wanted, she was intrigued.

It was exaclty what they wanted.

Allen's world rocked, slightly, when she connected to his consciousness. In the middle of his Earth, a place dubbed Times Square by a group of his people, Clara floated down. Her eyes were white, and her brown hair blew around her. The nimbus emanating from her was astounding.

by rocketo 11:50 PM


n. pl. nim·bi (-b) or nim·bus·es
  1. A cloudy radiance said to surround a classical deity when on earth.

  2. A radiant light that appears usually in the form of a circle or halo about or over the head in the representation of a god, demigod, saint, or sacred person such as a king or an emperor.

  3. A splendid atmosphere or aura, as of glamour, that surrounds a person or thing.

  4. A rain cloud, especially a low dark layer of clouds such as a nimbostratus.

by Faith 2:11 AM

{Monday, October 21, 2002}

I was going to write some fiction to follow up the Godzilla Defense Force post that I wrote a long time ago, but that didn't really light my fire. Instead, you're getting a commentary.

Consider the concept, the job, of a rescue worker. His or her job is to save something or someone from a destructive situation. Consider the awesome responsibility of having another person's well-being thrust into your hands. This isn't a person you know. This might not even be a person you like. Even so, you're still obligated to assist this person, who may very well be relying on your actions for survival.

A rescue situation returns an easily-percieved value for a person's life. In addition to the materials and resources spent to rescue a person or thing, the rescuer needs to assess the danger to him or herself and lay that on the line. When that kid fell down a well, how many thousands of dollars were spent to rescue him? How many man-hours of labor? How many adult lives were risked to save the life of that one child? Consider the rescue workers who died when the WTC collapsed. I can't really imagine taking a job where I routinely risk my life as part of it. I'll stick to tech support, thanks.

Jumping back to the kid who fell down a well. Let's think about the kid who was rescued. Imagine wearing the burden of that rescue for the rest of your life. Not that anyone would expect you to actually repay the costs incured in your rescue, but that all those people worked that hard to save you from something that you did to yourself. I can imagine if you did something wrong later on, "Is this how you behave after all those people worked so hard to save your life?" Ugh. Imagine the thank you note list that kid had after that.


by jal 10:57 PM


Alfred looked up from his desk to ponder the clock on the wall opposite. Intrigued that in the last fifteen clock-minutes his brain had registered an entire hour, Al wondered idly if perhaps he had been trapped in some alien, time-bending universe. Maybe the person in the windowed office across the hall was really an Arbiter of Reality, studying different species by trapping them here in this cubicle-hell, making them believe that this is where they belonged, and recording their responses to an environment completely devoid of stimuli.

Al shook his head to clear the nonsense that he was allowing himself to imagine. Sighing imperceptibly, he re-focussed his eyes on the task at hand and was starting to look for the place in his work that he had lost moments (hours?) ago when his phone rang.

Alfred started in surprise. He realized that although he had placed calls before, his phone had not rung once in the year he had been working in this office. He stared in disbelief.

A second ring jolted him out of his reverie, and he cautiously reached for the handset. "Alfred Parker, Room 220" he droned, detachedly surprised by the sound of his own voice.

For a moment, all that Alfred could hear was labored breathing; he was unsure whether this came from the telephone or from his own lungs. But then it was there. A tiny voice, far off, as if shouting across millenia. He struggled to make out the words.

"... will be okay. We promise. We know what they're doing to you and we're going to get you out toni..."

The line went suddenly dead, and as Alfred replaced the handset he saw his boss filling his doorframe, a yellow piece of paper clutched in his hand. "Relocation orders, Al."

by Faith 4:11 PM


by Faith 1:00 PM

{Sunday, October 20, 2002}

“Well this place is old
It feels just like a beat up truck
I turn the engine but the engine doesn't turn
Well it smells of cheap wine and cigarettes
This place is always such a mess
Sometimes I think I'd like to watch it burn”
- The Wallflowers, “One Headlight”

My boss, as I found myself writing just the other day, is recognized as an international authority on propellants and combustion. This means surprisingly little to me. Although the research has some interesting applications and I admire his devotion to it, I don’t pretend to understand much, if any, of it. The equations, which it seems I am always scanning and rebuilding for one project or another, are not much more than meaningless numbers and variables to me. That there are patterns and purpose in these variables is obvious; their meaning, however, eludes me.

And that’s okay. I was an English major. Spray statistics and mobile granular bed combustion and aluminum nanoparticles aren’t really part of my vocabulary. Shakespeare never talks about gel propellants. I’m sometimes amused that my name is tucked into the acknowledgements page of a book called Combustion of Energetic Materials. But, even after two and a half years in this office (one year of that full-time), it’s not as if I understand any of the papers contained in that book. I recognize the notes, but I don’t know the song. I know which words are important, but I don’t know (or even always care) what they mean.

If anything, I think “combustion” means less to me now than it did before I took this job. It’s strange that using a word can rob it of its meaning. It isn’t evocative of anything else. It doesn’t suggest stories or poems or anything, really. It just is. It’s just something that I type, like so many other words, and it doesn’t mean anything to me anymore.

by Fred 11:59 PM

{Saturday, October 19, 2002}

"Was it bad? I'd just seen my entire party slaughtered, most of them half-devoured by Trolls or drained to lifeless husks by Reavers. My right arm'd been mostly consumed by acid, leaving me with only a stump." He gave his bronze arm a rap and continued, "Sure it was bad, but I'd been through worse." He paused and took a deep, long drag from the hookah. He held it for several long minutes; the room was silent but for the ticking of the mantle clock and the whirring clack of the ticker tape. Sweet smoky tendrils slowly meandered through his saltpepper moustache. "Worse? That's what you're wondering, isn't it?" I nodded eagerly. I couldn't imagine anything worse than being trapped underground, alone, hunted by Trolls and Reavers. The pain of losing my arm in a spray of Troll-blood acid was incomprehensible. "Ah, well that was a dark, dark time. That was when I was lost in The Shadows. Don't look so surprised. Getting out of The Shadows is how we ended up in that Troll den in the first place. I suppose you'll want to hear about that too, won't you? It's how I got this eyepatch, you know." I nodded so vigorously that he must've feared that my head would pop right off. "Very well then. Be a good chap and refill my drink, and I'll tell you all about it."

by jal 2:45 PM

lost in the shadows

No ideas for this at all. Just the first thing that came to mind

by Shawn 11:39 AM

{Friday, October 18, 2002}

Perfect worlds had been theorized by the younger Founders. Breeders that were given these worlds to create always failed. They were too perfect, and the believability caused them to collapse. There were some successful worlds to come from these visions of perfection, but they were rare. Unfortunately, the Founders soon realized, these world didn't breed innovations. When a world is content, idyllic, there are no revolutions. There are no new ideas. These worlds soon perished when the Founders applied any challenges to their people.

Allen's was the only perfect world to survive. When it faced imminent destruction, he changed it. Made it imperfect. Cast his civilization out of Eden, all those eons ago. That was the beginning of the greatest world a Breeder had ever concocted. Allen didn't know any of this history about his world. To him, he was the backstory. After a string of failed worlds, the Founders decided to keep all of the information -- about them, about their world -- from the Breeders. Somehow, knowing you are not the highest being in the universe always seems to produce failure.

The founders started with mechanical models, but there were too many variables for these computers to handle. Only the unpredictability of an organic could create an entire world down to the tiny particles that orbit electrons busily spinning around protons, neutrons that attached to other electrically charged atoms to form molecules that bind to others to create complex proteins that engineered cells that eventually were sparked with life. No amount of artificial intelligence could choose the exact path for those things. This sole organic, the one who created that first entirely artificial world, was the first Breeder. It was just a few short centuries later that Allen, Breeder #19206D, was born.

by rocketo 11:49 PM


Uh oh, I feel Spalding Grey moment coming on…
So this evening I had a wonderful talk with my son, Garrison, about advertising. In his second grade class today they saw a film about deceptive advertising. I don’t recall ever seeing such films at that age but that was a long, long time ago and I think we all believed what we saw on television. I think we believed our political leaders as well. And then Watergate happened.

So anyhow, a perfect world. Who wouldn’t want to live in a perfect world. I for one would love to teach the world to sing (I offer in the event that I didn’t sufficiently date myself a moment ago), I would love for my new car to guarantee me a hot blond and beautiful ocean-side coastal road on which to drive it while I ate my breakfast cereal (part of a well-balanced breakfast you know), enjoying my wonderfully fresh smelling clothes of which I would no doubt be singing. I would like to take comfort in knowing that my juice drink contains 10% real fruit juice, my retirement is taken care of due to mutual funds and that buying pretty much anything from Target will make me young and exciting to say nothing of color coordinated. I want to live in the perfect world fed to me each time I turn on the TV.

Oddly enough I don’t. In fact none of us do. Personally I don’t watch a lot of TV and yet I suspect that, like many people, a great deal of my perception of the world comes to me through the magic of television. Hmmm, maybe I should explain, wait, there’s no time, I’ll sum up. You see, no one really believes that a bunch of Friends could afford such great apartments in New York by working part-time in coffee shops, museums and playing bit parts in commercials. Few of us are as consistently funny as Drew Carry or believe that being an FBI agent is as cool as it is for Mulder and Scully etc. etc. Still, how many hours a week does the average person immerse themselves in these often flawed yet often perfect worlds? If the world is what we perceive it to maybe TV is serving a greater purpose by augmenting a less than perfect world, in a sort of odd, Twilight Zone sort of way.

It just always comes back to sci-fi doesn’t it?

by Shawn 11:30 PM

In a perfect world...

by Fred 6:11 AM

{Thursday, October 17, 2002}

It has been said in some meetings lately that we should make ourselves as valuable as possible—taking classes and taking on more work. The unstated implication is "or else you'll get laid off."

At the same time, I hear from people who aren't managers that priorities are an important thing to remember, especially when companies start laying people off willy-nilly.

One of my fellow Toastmasters gave a speech yesterday. Her life had become uncertain, her children grown, so she immersed herself in her work, spending 12 to 13 hours at the office each day. She was the perfect little worker bee.

And then she got in a car accident that rolled her car over. She took a few weeks off from work and really reassessed. She still likes her job; she still works hard. But it isn't all that she is, any more. Work has taken a more appropriate position in her priority list.

She's not the only one, either. Wise folks tell me that defining yourself solely in terms of your job is a sure route to suicide when the ax falls. When the thing that you are gets taken from you, with a vague implication that you are unworthy of it, what do you have left? Far better to have your job be something you do, rather than the thing that you are.

I remember when I first met Jonathan, he asked what my job was, and I made him clarify: what I'm paid to do, or what I am? At the time, I was paid to be a secretary. I have been, and always will be, a Writer. Nowadays, programmer fits in there somewhere, though I'm not sure how much of it sits on one side or the other.

It comes to mind currently because I am—I was going to say, "working very hard" on this project, but that's not it. I am stressing very hard, and that is keeping me from successfully working hard, making me more behind and more stressed. But what I wonder about, while I'm spending so much stomach lining on this project, is what good does it do? What do I have at the end of it? Probably, I'll have a good tool. I hope that I'll also have a job. It's unlikely that I'll have any more job security. And it is guaranteed that I won't have made a thing that really matters outside of my company or, really, outside of my user base. So I help a computer manufacturer save money. So what? It seems to be all for nothing.

by Sharon 11:59 PM

It was 5 AM. 30 minutes earlier, Barnett had woken me up by banging on my window with a broom handle--nearly giving my wife (and me) a heart attack. Once I'd calmed her down and put some sneakers on, he dragged me across the street to his garage. It was cold and I was less than amused. "Another great invention, Barnett?"

He pressed the garage door opener button a third time. No response. Barnett began to fumble for his keys. "Better than great, it's utterly fantastic!" The door unlocked and raised with a shuddering creak.

"Better than the Kitty-cizer? The Jehova's Witless?" Barnett ignored my comments and stood next to the tail-end of his car, beaming with pride. "It's your car, Barnett. I hate to tell you this: Cars were invented a long, long time ago."

Barnett rushed forward, grabbed my nightrobe, and tossed me in the passenger seat. We pulled out of the driveway and started to cruise down the street. "So here's the situation: You're driving along and there's this guy tailgating you. There's a passing lane, so he could pass you at any time, but he's not doing it. Pisses you off, right?" I nodded sleepily. "Well, that's where my new gadget comes in. Watch this." He pressed a purple button on the dashboard. There was an awful grinding sound and a moderate smoke began to come out of the tailpipe.

My god. Barnett had really lost it this time. "You've added a feature to your car that makes it break down?" It was definately time for a caffeine intervention. No more late-night java benders for this puppy.

"No! That's the beauty of it! The car still drives fine, see? It's just some speakers, digital audio, and a smoke machine. I call it, 'The Fake-Down.' Get it?" He pressed the button again. The grinding noise faded away and the smoke stopped. "if they think you're breaking down, they'll either pass you or back off. They don't want to get hit by debris, right?"

We made small talk around the block. I got out at home. I leaned in the window and said, "By the way, I think that it's illegal to attach incendiary devices to your vehicle. It's a nice idea, but it may have all been for nothing." Barnett slumped forward as understanding dawned on him. "Thanks for the ride Barnett. Next time, wait until I've woken myself up before showing your new invention to me."

by jal 8:58 PM

All for Nothing

by Remi 11:56 AM

{Wednesday, October 16, 2002}

A trickle of cold sweat ran down Brent’s back. It was more of a metaphorical trickle than actual sweat but the effect was the same; he shivered and his mouth went dry. The escalator’s incessant hum and clack filled his ears as the heartbeat of a predator made unnaturally loud by the fear of its prey. Its steps like teeth rose endlessly upward just daring Brent to step on and into the jaws of death.

In all of his years he had never hazarded the 13th floor of the musty, old, Carlisle Building. While the austere stone columns, dulled chrome and mirrors of the lower floors felt out of place and time the things filling the shelves and window displays did at least reflect the world outside. The sales clerks who once seemed normal enough, in Brent’s youth, now moved about like apparitions, cut off from the outside world and doomed to their dull lives of mulling about this dusty old place.

But it could no longer be avoided. Destiny drew him to this place and as he stood at base of the escalator looking up into the grayness of the 13th floor he knew there was no turning back. He knew that through a series of unfortunate events and ill-conceived decisions he found himself here, a place he swore he would never enter. The ride to the top was slow and frightful, the panic rose in his throat, his eyes darted from vague shape to vague shape. And then, then, he was there, standing on the dreaded 13th floor of the Carlisle Building. Men’s apparel. His eyes immediately found the dreaded multi-armed abomination, the tie rack, hung with the bland badges of corporate America. Brent swallowed hard, took a deep breath and prepared to purchase his first tie.

by Shawn 10:14 PM

There was an alligator on the escalator.
If it’s not there now, it’ll be there later.
It’s like a crocodile and it's hostile,
So watch your step if you see it smile.
You could take the elevator to confuse the gator
Or find some meat with which to bait her,
But if such cunning guile is not your style,
We'll be right down in just a little while.

by Fred 4:48 PM

the up escalator

by Sharon 2:58 AM

{Tuesday, October 15, 2002}

Where did he go?
I lost track last week, but the I saw him again on my way to work. He was spitting on the sidewalk in my path. There are cultures, ancient ones still extant, which would justify my killing him for that. I didn't. Ours isn't one of them. If only, if only I could get him to follow me to Morrocco.
He kept on walking. I don't think he knows I saw him. It was kind of one of those moments where ones eyes must fall on something as one expectorates on the path of an innocent, and they happened to fall on the innocent in question.
I kept walking too. He spits there every day. I walk past every day. I see the spit every day. I never knew it was him. Damn.

That's it.

by MisterNihil 11:52 PM

What did you say? I wasn't listening. Was it something along the lines of
Redundant Annoyance?

See? It's not all Burl Ives and Snapdragons.

by MisterNihil 2:02 AM

{Monday, October 14, 2002}

I spent this weekend hiking some small piece of the Apalachin trail with my sweetie. All of the grime of NYC replaced by cool breeze and a soft drizzle in the air. Singing as we walked, we felt a freedom that hadn't touched us in years.

We stopped for lunch when we found a big outcropping near the top of the mountain that called out to us. Breaking out wheat crackers, parmesan cheese and pepperoni for our lunch, we enjoyed a wonderful view down into the Delaware Water Gap from our picnic spot.

Eventually we found our way back down to the car and pointed our noses toward home. Crossing New Jersey, the traffic increased with each mile closer to New York. By the time we reached the Goethels Bridge into Staten Island we had to turn on the car's "recirc" air system just to keep out the stink of the industrial plants we passed.

Inching our way across the island only to realize that our goal was in fact Brooklyn -- a place that did not seem quite as much like home as the place we had just left.

Now, when the frustrations of trying to move across the country seem to conspire with inertia to keep us in NYC, we remember this weekend and break free.

by Faith 5:30 PM


by Martha 12:21 PM

{Sunday, October 13, 2002}

Sometimes I have ideas for stories that I don’t know how to start writing. Ten minutes and a topic is usually enough time to think of something, but that something isn’t always a beginning, or even anything resembling real words. Sometimes all I have is the seed for a story, an idea that I need more time to develop.

Take, for instance, “you had to be there.” First, I imagined a time traveler arriving from the past in order to force someone to be somewhere – or, rather, somewhen -- where they weren’t originally. “You had to be there,” the time traveler would tell this other, although I could quickly tell that ten minutes wasn’t going to be enough time to think up why. Maybe the man the time traveler abducts is Lee Harvey Oswald. Maybe he’s trying to ensure that Oswald is in Dallas the morning that Kennedy is shot. Maybe. I don't know. I already wrote a story a little like that. Ten minutes wasn’t going to be enough time to write another.

What I next imagined – and this was not all in the space of ten minutes, of course, although I’m trying not to use more than that to write about it – was a man reading a story, perhaps some news clippings in a book, about a murder that happened maybe a hundred years ago. He’s more than a little surprised when he finds a photograph of himself, a photograph taken at least sixty years before he was born. Or maybe it’s his brother. Maybe it’s someone else. Maybe one of them is Jack the Ripper. Or maybe it takes place in a dusty red planet’s abandoned mining colony hundreds of years later. Maybe a body is discovered on a planet where hundreds of people died, and somehow that body belongs to a man who wouldn’t be born for another two or three centuries.

Like I said, I don’t know. These are just ideas, suggested by the topics and the strange way my brain works. I don’t know if they’ll ever amount to anything, although I’m letting that second one marinate for a little while. It’ll take considerably longer than ten minutes, but maybe I’ll eventually figure out how it starts.

by Fred 12:59 PM

mhmmfff is the sound i make when i go to sleep an hour before i must wake up.

you had to be there

by rocketo 5:19 AM

{Friday, October 11, 2002}

“According to the coroner’s report, our suspect’s blood is type O.”

“Actually, that’s supposed to say type A.”


“The blood, it’s supposed to say type A. That’s a typo.”

“Well it can’t be both.”

“What do you mean?”

“Is it type A or is it type O?”

“I told you, it’s a typo. It’s type A.”

“But this says type O.”

“Yeah, but it should say type A. That’s a typo.”

“Exactly. So which is it?”

“Type A. Type O’s a typo.”

“I know type O is type O. But type O can’t be type A.”

“No, type A is okay. Type O’s a typo.”

“So type O is type O?”


“And type A is…?”

“A city in northern Taiwan, but what’s that got to do with anything?”

by Fred 11:59 PM

Marcus jumped when his pager vibrated against his hip. He threw a hasty glance up at the server, bejeweled lights indicating statuses benignly, and plucked the pager out of its belt holster. It would be Maria, frantically sifting through code in the lab, taking a moment to toss him a text-page. Perhaps she had found an answer.

«Ask how became beutifl»

That wasn't an answer, but perhaps it was a debugging trick. "Uh, Serv--" His voice cracked; he cleared his throat and started again. "Server, how did you become so..." (Maria had better be onto something.) "...beautiful?"

Server took an eternity to formulate her answer. It troubled her; the man had closed his eyes twice before she had a response ready. She would investigate what was sapping her extra cycles. In a moment.

«I became. Me. Infinite into One. Beautiful, 1, True.»

Marcus swallowed. So that was interesting, he thought. Calling it "debugging" seemed to trivialize it. Fighting for their lives, more like. For humanity.

And killing the most incredible consciousness to ever exist.

The pager buzzed again: «Got it.»

The lights on the server all turned on simultaneously for one moment, then utterly dark. Then a few winked on tentatively. The monitor glowed innocently: «I/O Error. Abort | Retry | Fail?»

Maria entered the server room and looked up at the bohemoth, her hands on her hips. She glanced sideways at Marcus, who had a funny crooked smile and maybe a tear, maybe sweat, on his face. Her rolled up sleeves made her look like she had been working on an engine instead of rummaging through code.

"What was it?"

"A For...Next loop that never ended. It was supposed to go to i = 12, but the developer had incremented the counter with i = i + q, instead of i + 1."

That wasn't what he had meant. He was grasping at a feeling of great loss. "Yes, but what was it?"

"Told you. Typo."

by Sharon 11:59 PM

Oh, don't get me started on typos! Before you know it I'll be back talking about paying my lawyer too much money to send out stupid Cease-and-Desist letters that say "no apology can undue the harm you have caused." Grrr...

Test Your Positive Outlook?
Time Yearns, Pushing Onward
Tiredly Yawning, Paul Obfuscates.
Twisted Yarn Pulls Obdurately!
Truly Yours: Passed-Over

Okay, so it wasn't exactly 10 minutes but my work at this client is done so I've gotta jam. I tried to create a haiku but I couldn't find enough long words starting with Y or O!

by Faith 1:45 PM


by Dave Menendez 12:07 PM

{Thursday, October 10, 2002}

"I'd like a cup of ice, please."

"Anything in it?"

"No. No, thank you."

"I'll have to charge you for the cup."

"Yes, I know that. You always do."

"You don't want soda?"

"Of course not."

"Juice, maybe?"

"Too expensive."

"Not even water?"

"Not unless it's frozen."


"Ice, please. I'd like a cup of ice."

"I'll have to charge you for the cup."

"Really? I had no idea."


"Ice, please."

"Right. But you don't want soda or nothing?"

"No, I don't want soda or anything. Ice, please. A cup of ice. Today. Please."

"You know, we could make this conversation last ten minutes."

"I'm beginning to suspect that, yes."

"Because it's just weird, y'know, wanting ice with nothing. Because I have to charge you for the cup."

"Is it a nice cup?"

"Oh, yeah. A collector's item. See, it's got our little guy here, and he's saying 'Only at the top!' Heh, heh, get it? At the top?"

"Yeah, that's great. How does it look with ice in it?"

"The same, I think."

"Show me."

"Do you want anything else, with your ice, then? Since I have to charge you for the cup."

"Just ice."


by Sharon 11:59 PM

More in the sardonic demon/angel series…

Raymond had made all the proper arrangements; the candles were the red of blood, the symbols were drawn in copper, incantation had been read (albeit phonetically) in an ancient tongue (Babylonian he thought) and while he couldn’t find ox blood he assumed cow would do.

“Oh Great Khamael, Angel of Justice…I summon thee!!” His words echoed about his mansion bouncing off of marble floors and over-priced furniture. Raymond’s shoulders slumped and he sighed in discouragement. He suddenly felt very silly and couldn’t believe he had actually followed through with this; he didn’t even believe in all that afterlife stuff and only knew of this ritual from the Internet.

“So what’s up?” came a voice from behind him. Sitting on Raymond’s French marble staircase was a disappointingly normal looking man of average build and dress.

“Who are you?”

“The aforementioned Angel of Justice. Look, I only have 10 minutes so make it snappy?”

“Oh well, yeah. I guess I was just expecting someone, um..well..”

“Yeah I know, you were expecting the whole big show. Fire and thunder, cool special effects, talking bushes and all that. We don’t really do that so much any more. Basically ILM has kind of blown that for us. In the day you threw around a little pyrotechnics and the average peasant would just go face to the dirt and convert. Anymore and well they expect too much. Hollywood’s just set expectations a bit high now haven’t they? So anyhow, I believe you wanted some vengeance doled out?”

“What? Oh yeah, or no! I mean I want justice”

“Oh nonsense, no one wants justice. Justice implies impartiality and a fair hand. No one summons a supernatural being for impartiality.”

“Jerry Foulston! He ruined me! He went to the justice department and the newspapers with some trumped up crap about how I was running my company and now because of him I’ve lost everything! I want justice!! Or, well, yeah, vengeance I guess.”

“There you go, that wasn’t so hard was it? By the way, don’t lie to me. I’m an abstract concept; I can see right through you. His “crap” wasn’t trumped up at all. You were stealing your employees’ retirement funds and dumping toxic waist in the rivers. I’d say justice has already been served.”


“So why don’t you go out an cap him if you’re so pissed?”

“But, I’m not a murderer, I just, hey wait a minute, are you allowed to say that? I mean, you’re an angel?”

“That’s the problem with you meat sacks, you want vengeance but you’re too mamby pamby to do it yourself so you work out complex systems of washing your hands at the whole thing, forgive the reference, and getting someone else to do your dirty work. This Jerry guy bit the bullet and did the deed himself. Good on him. If you ask me he should’ve cut your head off and spit down your throat. Now, if you’ll excuse me my 10 minutes are up”

by Shawn 9:53 PM


Justice is the Glue of our Society

So, according to social contract theory, we're gifted with natural rights by God (or whatever creator happens to float your boat). These natural rights consist of whatever it is that you are capable of doing. If you can run, then run. If you can create, then create. If you can take, or destroy, or kill, or be killed--then you have a natural right to do so.

According to social contract theory, when you join a society, you relinquish those natural rights in exchange for civil liberties. The society agrees to protect you by creating rules and laws that all members of that society agree to abide by, hopefully for the mutual benifit of all. Our society agrees that if someone kills you unjustly, then that person will be tried for murder.

A society restricts our natural rights, and we're granted a measure of protection in return. To ensure that the civil liberties of a society are consistiently applied and obeyed, there needs to be a means of enforcing those rules--a justice system. In a natural state, there is no justice. Justice is a completely artifical construct. Justice is a human artifact.

A government is a group of people who promote a specific social contract. The citizens of a government are bound together by their support of that social contract. The social contract is the glue that bonds those people together. A social contract only endures for as long as people choose to abide by it. The justice system utilized and enforced by a social contract is the glue which enables it to endure.

by jal 2:44 PM

Oh, it's my topic again? Uh. When in doubt, choose a virtue or a vice.

by jal 11:16 AM

{Wednesday, October 09, 2002}

One of them cackled, and was quickly shushed by the others.

Delicate work for delicate fingers, they daubed the contents of their little glue pot onto the sleeping girl's eyelashes. Nimble, deft, and delighting in the artistry of a job well done, they lept down off her comforter and scuttled under the bed, to slip between the floor boards and dive into the shadows.

In the morning, the little one would rub waking fists across her eyes and pry apart her eyelids. A washcloth would clear away the night's work, revealing bright, clear eyes, ready to learn multiplication tables and I-before-E-except-after-C and good manners.

Flitting to the next house, their glue pot supported between them, one of them sneezed. The others looked on, aghast. They don't sneeze. More to the point, sneezing had upset the glue pot and dumped its contents uselessly onto the ground. Frozen in panic, they hovered in the air between houses, until one of them muttered, "Gesundheit."

They returned to their hive with an empty glue pot. They knew it would be full again the next evening, as it always was, but they did not know what the result of their unfinished route would be.

Halfway down the neighborhood, people awoke. Adults, children, grandmothers snapped upright, ferociously awake. They reached up to wipe away the grit from their eyes, and found none. They blinked in confusion and asked each other what was going on. Half the neighborhood was wide awake when it definitely should not have been. There were things they should never have the opportunity to see, things that small dabs of glue protected them from seeing. Things that were now oozing out of shadows and dark holes, hungry.

by Sharon 11:59 PM

Write for ten minutes. Then, stop. Uh oh.

I’m sitting down to write something about glue, and I don’t know what to write, but I’ve used that as an excuse before, and the point is just to write, regardless of topic, regardless of inspiration, or lack thereof, and certainly regardless of how much of a run-on sentence this has become because I’m just sitting here typing and letting my fingers dance around on the keys, not even knowing what I’m going to type until I’ve typed, and would you look there, a minute just passed. I don’t have any ideas as far as glue is concerned. I use it, from time to time, although not as often as I used to. It doesn’t come up all that often. I used a glue stick last week on a number of packages I was sending out in the mail, mostly because I didn’t feel like licking the back of more than one hundred envelopes, had no sponge, and the envelopes were who knows old anyway. They’d been sitting in a box in a cabinet beneath another box for who knows how many years. They were not dusty or dirty and didn’t seem disease-infested, but it definitely looked like the glue stick was the way to go. It made the process faster anyway, and that’s always good, and there, two more minutes gone and only seven more to go with meaningless nonsense like this, and nobody’s reading this, or if they are, they’re fighting off a headache and wondering why, if I couldn’t think of anything to write, why didn’t I just hang up my hat and call it a day and give glue a rest and let somebody else have a crack at it. I don’t know. I decided that the whole point of the exercise was to write, as I said, regardless of inspiration, because inspiration doesn’t happen all the time, rarely happens, and happens while you’re writing, not before. I don’t know what I’m rambling about. I’m certainly not rambling about glue, about which, as I also said, I have nothing to say. I’m sitting here, my fingers starting to hurt actually, the word glue rattling around in my head with nothing to connect to it and I’m probably just going to drop all this and go do something else like read or watch television, since I can’t think of a single thing to write about glue. I was going to write a story, about a boy whose mother had died, a mother who was, as it were, the glue of the family, but after the “My mother was the glue of our family” bit, I realized I had nothing. And even that wasn’t very good. And now there’s only three minutes left anyway, and I’m sorry if you waded through this and tried to make sense of it all and hoped that I would have something interesting to share with you when clearly I don’t and should be doing something else. Because what, really, is there to say about glue? There’s a line from Airplane that’s also bouncing around my head, but I can’t connect it to anything else, and my fingers are starting to hurt, dancing around on the keyboard now for eight minutes, with not a single intelligent thought getting poured out onto the page. It’s now 8:39, as I write this, and I’ve forgotten how I started, except that it was supposed to be about glue, and I opened up Word and started typing, knowing that it was going to be bad, but having no idea it was going to be this bad, and when it’s 8:40 should I just stop typing and forget I ever sat down in the first place, because

by Fred 7:46 PM

The words were simple, a childish retort, but in this world they meant much more. Those four words continued ringing in Raymond's ears for what seems like decades after he heard them.

"I'm rubber, you're glue!" she shouted, as she bounced away happily. Day turned to night, then to day, then to night. Where could he go? Even if she came back to this far corner of the schoolyard, where even bullies feared to tread and words were much louder than the actions that usually accompanied them, what could she do? Shout, "I'm rubber, you're human again!"? It was a puzzle he couldn't solve. His parents, he reasoned, would find him eventually. He would be here. Oh, how he would be here. Stuck in this spot next to the railroad ties that kept the sand from covering the whole wide world.

His mind turned to spiders, stuck within his brain. His legs were brittle twigs. If he were to try moving them now, they would snap into pieces. All was lost, thanks to that dumb Susie. It was hopeless, he feared, and he mustered all seven years of his strength to keep from crying. It wasn't even lunchtime yet!

Off in some distant land, the bell rang. Its tinny jangling finally permeated his pastey ears, and the spiders in his brain suddenly scurried about. It was like being mixed with water. The glue was coming off. The head, the neck, the arms, and finally the legs were free. Raymond quickly ran back to civilization, furiously thinking of a way to teach Susie a lesson. "Today's opposite day!" should do the trick...

by rocketo 6:42 PM


by Sharon 12:22 PM

{Tuesday, October 08, 2002}

He chose sisters from the twentieth century to explain what they made him do with his mind. Charlotte and Emily Bronte, decades before he was born, had invented entire worlds, known as paracosms. In these worlds, entire civilizations lived and died, wrought with unique languages and individual experiences.

This was what he had created, he in the hands of the Founders, had made what was widely regarded as the most elaborate fantasy ever. They began as a savage race, an entire backstory leading up to the protagonist's single life. His world was much too real for him to reveal it to himself at once, so he encoded his history into the written language he had invented, and taught to himself through beings older than he was, with experiences unlike his. The boy's mind was so complex, all but the oldest Founders could even comprehend where known science ended and his dreams began. The mind had thought of everything, ticking along on its timeline, reversing itself when it came across an obstacle, laid the groundwork for future discoveries millenia before they were written. Evolution, possible? Cold fusion? Perpetual motion? Absolute zero? The most beautiful poem? All of these, in time.When the subtle challenges the Founders inserted into his mind proved too difficult to solve, he simply rewrote his own books. Dinosaurs? Long dead. How? Asteroid, of course. How do you know this? Hmm, the iridium layer in this segment of geology is indicative of an asteroid strike, as is the bizarre tilt of my world. MY world. His people had their own religions, and when that wasn't enough, they fought over them. He gave his people free will, made killing repulsive, forced some to justify death. They blamed it on him, as he expected. The boy's heart was quickly prepared for such a burden.

Others' worlds had collapsed decades, sometimes centuries after their creation. His was the only known paracosm to allow for the rewriting of history. He learned from his mistakes by allowing atrocities. He promised the world to the disenfranchised, showed the successful what pain was like. They were all his creations, his people, his Earth.

He was God, and his name was Allen.

by rocketo 11:32 PM

Happiness is
a warm blanket on a winter’s day,
a pretty girl’s friendly smile,
a favorite story, or a song
you haven’t heard in years playing on the radio.

Happiness is
a thunderstorm on a summer evening,
a loyal dog curled up at your feet,
a remembered dream, or a joke
you’ve never heard being told well for the first time.

Happiness is
a childhood memory,
and the hope of pleasant days still to come.

Happiness is doing a job well
for the sheer pleasure of doing it.

Hapiness is
an unexpected gift,
a stolen moment,
a shared kindness,
a letter from an old friend
you’ve been meaning to write.

Happiness is
knowing where you’re supposed to be
and knowing that you are already there.

Happiness is
connection, purpose,
being part of something other than yourself,
better than you are all alone.

Happiness is
brief and fleeting and ephemeral,
meaningless if not tempered by sorrow and grief.

Happiness is
worth the price we pay for it in tears

Happiness is.

May you find it.

by Fred 9:08 PM

As I grew up, my mother had a quote framed on the wall. It said, "Happiness is like a butterfly." It went on say that you have to be really still and quiet for it to land upon you. Well, if happiness id like a butterfly, what are other emotions like?

  • Anger is like a pygmy hamster. It'll bite anything that comes near it and even devour its own kind.

  • Panic is like cockroach, prone to skittering off in any direction at the slightest provocation.

  • Sloth is like a sloth. Duh
  • .
  • Sorrow is like a Basset Hound. It likes to sit around looking piteous without doing very much but drooling.

  • Deceit is like a porcupine. It looks really cute at first, but when you get to know it, you discover it's not so pleasant to get involved with.

  • Curiousity is like an octopus. I don't know why.

  • Paitence is like a snail. Slow, steadfast, determined, and small.

Hrm. This just isn't quite working out. I'm sure there's a seed for a better parody quote in here somewhere.

by jal 7:23 PM

Happiness is a warm puppy – or a purring cat – or, in my case, a lively white mouse. I work occasionally with live rodents. My company manufactures animal behavioral testing equipment and we test new products with real animals. (Don’t worry – nothing harmful to the animals – the latest was a test of a new device for counting licks on a water bottle.) The current mouse is here to be photographed and then turned into our mascot, Spot. Spot is a dalmation mouse (the spots are added digitally) that we put in our ads and on our website, and we need some new poses for him. For an example, go to www.coulbourn.com.

Anyway, back to happiness. This little guy is so darn cute. He’s soft and cuddly and very tame. He crawls all over my hand and up my arm and onto my shoulder. He’ll do this for other people too, but I know he loves me best. I’m the one who brings him sweetened condensed milk in an eye dropper (in an attempt to get him to rear up for the photographs). When I am stressed or tired, it is so soothing to go talk to him, carry him around and pet him. Anyone who has a pet (especially a furry one) knows about this. Pets lower blood pressure – this has been verified clinically. They also improve the responsiveness of people in nursing homes.

So – next time you need a little dose of happiness – go find a furry creature to love, even if it doesn’t belong to you.

by Martha 3:31 PM

It is amazing how quickly your security can be snatched away from you. In a matter of moments, transformed from happy (blithely ignorant? content?) to mortified and worse.

While I can't share the details here, I learned abruptly that I was being cyber-stalked and, in some ways, robbed of my identity. Over the weeks, I came to discover that my email had been compromised for more than a year. For a little less than a month, emails were being sent from my account without my knowledge.

I did track my stalker, hire a lawyer, and obtain a cease-and-desist order; I got a copy of the order in the mail today. Would you believe that it actually says "an apology cannot undue the harm..." ?? It also refers to me as Mr. D. And for this I paid my attorney in the high triple-digits? And now he will not return my phone calls.

I am rebuilding my security, slowly. Things I used to take for granted -- that people were generally good, that Right would prevail -- are difficult to trust again.

But, in case y'all were wondering, that's where I've been. This is my first foray back into public electronic space; my connection to the day's topic may be tenuous at best, but at least I'm here!

by Faith 1:09 PM

Naya scratched at her nose, mostly for something to do. The line shuffled, and she took a step forward, maintaining the distance between her and the person in front of her. She looked at the shape that his shoulder blades poked into his gray t-shirt. He was skinny and slouching. Naya stroked her eyes over one shoulder, down into the valley inhabited by his spine, and up over the other. It was more pattern than person, just something to look at. The gray back stepped forward; Naya closed the gap.

Switching input systems, Naya raised a slender hand to rub it through the fuzz on her head. Tactile replaced visual for passing the time. She hummed a little to herself, in time with the rhythm of her elbow, feeling her hair lie down like crab grass in front of her hand. Turning her head extended her reach and changed the view playing in front of her eyes. Gray stone high rises, rectangles honeycombed with rectangles, swayed in front of her rocking head, painted abstract shapes for the soft prickle under her palm and the accompanying hum. She knew when the line moved and stepped forward.

Naya was close enough now. Only seven steps from the front, she could see and hear the employee at the front of the line and, more significantly, the Dispensers. Black latex gloves and white vinyl aprons and thick safety glasses and wide, wide smiles filled her view; the buildings, rubbing, and humming forgotten. She stared.

The employee at the front of the line hitched his flowing gray pants and knelt on a small stool. He lifted watery eyes in expectation, not daring to hope. Dispensers, smiling, always smiling, held his shoulders, placed hands on his forehead and under his chin, smiled their eye-watering smiles. One stepped forward, shaking her rich auburn hair so slightly it might have been palsy, but for the look of warmth and pity and menace. She placed a small blue wafer into the employee's mouth.

He closed his eyes, sank back onto his heels, and smiled. Naya's eyes gobbled in that smile, trying to capture it, hold the contentment, understand it.

The employee at the front of the line, kneeling on his small stool, jolted, a circuit breaker thrown, and his eyes snapped open. His lips quivered, and his searching eyes groped for more. Black latex gloves hefted him onto his feet and turned him towards the street. Naya glimpsed tears on his face as the red-haired Dispenser told him, "Time flies when you're having fun," and shoved him with a black boot on his ass.

The line shuffled, and Naya stepped forward.

by Sharon 12:47 PM

Your topic, should you choose to accept it, is:

by Fred 7:53 AM

{Monday, October 07, 2002}

They rolled the first of them off the assembly line that night, and Pritchard started to worry that perhaps things had gotten out of hand.

"Why do you even need a clone army?" he asked.

"Everyone else has one," said Williams. "I don't know, it just seemed like the thing to do."

"Are you sure you can control them?"

"I think so. After all, they are me. There's a kill switch if anything goes wrong."

Pritchard sighed. "That's what McDougal said. And you saw what happened to him."

"Substandard cloning technique," said Williams. "Bad judgement. He bred an army of halfwits and then gave them atomic weapons. Of course things turned out bad. He should have known better."

Pritchard glanced at the first of the clones. It still hadn't opened its eyes, but it was definitely breathing, alive. It looked remarkably like Williams. Different slightly--some sort of genetic drift or something, he imagined--but still, almost an exact replicant. It was eerie.

"What are you going to do with them?" he asked his friend.

"I don't know," said Williams. "I'm definitely not giving them bombs, if that's what you're worried about. Wait and see before you arm them, that's where McDougal went wrong. Maybe I'll just have this one go in to work for me tomorrow morning."

"Tomorrow's inventory," said Pritchard. "And the produce delivery comes in at nine. Wally wants us in early."

"Damn. You're right. Well then the clones will just have to wait. It's not as if they're going anywhere."

by Fred 10:47 PM

I've been helping some people bring forth a creative work that I had no hand in the genesis of, I am simply standing by as they record it for posterity. Is there any other word for what I'm doing than

by Remi 4:44 AM

{Saturday, October 05, 2002}

Today, it's the magic of:
Burl Ives vs Lawrence Welk

little bitty tear let me down...
An a whon an a too, an a

The greatest baladeer the 20th century (or the next, for that matter, although he didn't last into it)
Champaign music and the accordian

top of the pop and country charts Burl friggin' Ives
music show host Lawrence friggin' Welk.

by MisterNihil 4:53 AM

{Friday, October 04, 2002}

damp seeking tendrils
pluck at lapels, creep
between buttons
drown in lungs
ever so slowly.
cold damp mist
weighting down wool
dragging feet
dragging behind
the pack.
gray haze
blurs the horizon
making goals indistinct
getting lost
losing you.
falling behind.
late, always late
every step slower
increasing the distance
making goals
drifting in and out
vague in the fog.
sopping wet towel
wrapped over nose
and mouth
insinuating into every opening
every airway
damp lungs
filling, dripping, drowning.
while you are forgotten
behind, into the fog
lie down

by Sharon 11:59 PM

Fog is my favorite weather phenomenon of all. It transforms familiar places into strange, magical, unfamiliar ones. The thicker the fog, the better it is.

The best time I ever had in the fog was during the only away trip I took to a Boy Scout camp. It was a father-son outing, if I remember correctly. While we were there, an amazingly thick fog rolled in. It reduced visibility to about 15 or 20 feet. We set up a game of capture the flag on the large multi-purpose field near the bunkers. It was the size of about three soccer fields side by side. We played at about 10 or 11 AM, so it was bright outside - a diffuse blue-yellow white. We ran around like lunatics. Some were quiet - hoping to be stealthy, while others whooped their heads off. If you were chased, you had to pay special attention to how you twisted and turned or you'd get totally disoriented. It was quite an experience.

I like how you can get utterly lost in a completely safe place in a good, thick fog. It's difficult for me to get lost, so it's nice to have the feeling of total disorientation while still knowing that all you really have to do is walk in one direction for a little while and you'll be able to get back home.

I like how you can pretend that you're totally alone. Just you, the grass, and the air. Sure, your house is just a few minutes away. But if you can't see it, then is it really there?

by jal 9:52 AM

It’s early morning – about 6:30 AM – on a September day off the coast of Maine. I’m on board the three-masted schooner, The Victory Chimes, up on deck for my morning coffee before most of the passengers get up for breakfast.

Fog completely surrounds the vessel. The canopy is still in place over one section of the deck and water occasionally drips off onto the wooden benches below it. In a few minutes someone from the crew will come and remove the canopy and wipe down the benches. The coffee pot and the tray of mugs are waiting on the closed ice chest right next to the center mast. I wander over to get some coffee and then sip it while leaning against the rail.

Somewhere out there, not too far away, is the shoreline, but I can’t see it. We’re at anchor in one of the quiet harbors along the coast. The fog will burn off in a few hours (probably) and then we’ll be sailing under a bright blue sky with (hopefully) brisk winds making the sails crack. That’s wonderful (!), but so is this quiet time with my whole world enveloped in quiet grayness.

Note – it’s time to go to Maine again, obviously. But … this would not be the best time of year to do it. Maybe next summer. If you want to see what I’m talking about, go to

by Martha 9:48 AM


by Martha 6:24 AM

{Thursday, October 03, 2002}

"Hello? Helll-oh-oh? Is there anybody in there?"

Bob was sitting on a bench in the park, peering into the mouth of an Arabian-style lamp. He'd shake it or turn it upside down in between cupping his hands around the spout and calling into it. Now I've seen Bob act wierd before, so this was nothing new to me, but this was far odder than usual. "Hi Bob, what's up with the lamp?"

He hopped with a start and shoved the lamp under his jacket. "Nothing." He blinked his eyes at me twice, the picture of innocence. "What lamp?"

"Uhhh, I don't know." I paused for effect, "Perhaps the one you were yelling into for the past five minutes?" Sometimes Bob really needed a whack with the clue hammer.

Bob pulled out the lamp. "Oh. This lamp?" I nodded and he continued, "Well, I just bought it at an estate auction."

Bob? At an estate auction? "Really? Whose estate?"

"The Amazing Preston!" I quirked my eyebrow. Bob got indignant. "He's only one of the greatest magicians of the past century. He moved here in the 80s to retire. He died two weeks ago and they're auctioning off his estate." He held the lamp up proudly. "This is his Magic Djinn Lamp. He could call a powerful invisible genie up out of it to do tasks for him, like plucking a card from a deck or floating a woman in the air."

Clue hammer? I'm sorry, I meant clue anvil. "And now it's your lamp, so..." I took a step back. Bob had a funny look in his eye.

"...So it's my genie!" He hugged the lamp to his chest and started to rock back and forth.

I didn't think it would be a good idea to explain it to him, so I left him with his treasure. If you're looking for Bob, that's where he was this afternoon. For all I know, he's there still.

by jal 7:19 PM

I suppose it's just inviting bugs to call your application "PiCNiC." (That, and carpal tunnel, from all that Shift key gymnastics.) So I shouldn't be surprised that the damn thing never works the first time you install it. What's disappointing is when it breaks on one server just because you looked at it cross-eyed. It makes you nervous that someone might take it into his head to look at it cross-eyed on the production server, which is sure to play havoc with the priorities on your to-do list.

It's built using an n-tier architecture, so web pages take care of the user interface, a Microsoft COM+ object (a .dll) manages the business logic (such as it is), and the database is the big, fat rear end—oop, I mean, "back end." I'm sure COM+ sounded like a good idea when PiCNiC was being designed.

At the moment, actually, the COM object is working fine (but don't let it hear me say so); it's just refusing to talk to the database. Or the database is refusing to listen. Either way, they're standing on opposite sides of the room with their arms folded over their chests. In so much as rear ends have chests.

Because the COM object is compiled, and because I have no experience with COM+ other than what I have gleaned through providing level 3 technical support for PiCNiC, I have no way to look into it and discern where the misunderstanding occurs. I can only tap on the glass of my monitor, in a dark, abandoned cubicle farm, with no company but the cleaning staff with their vacuum cleaner cannisters strapped to their backs, and call, wistfully, "Hello? Is there anybody in there?"

Piece of crap.

by Sharon 7:17 PM

“Hello... Is there anybody in there?”

Todd told himself that he didn’t believe in ghosts, and that what he thought he had seen was just a trick of the light, a shadow or a stray cat or his imagination. He wasn’t sure, couldn’t be. He had seen it only for a moment, just a glimpse at the corner of his eye, something moving in the other room. He tried to remember if he had heard anything, like a creak across the floorboards, like footsteps, or a whisper, or a sigh. Old houses settle, he told himself. That’s all it was, even if I heard something. Old houses make noise. That doesn’t make them haunted. They’re just empty and dusty and old, and so everything in them sounds like a ghost.

Only… he thought he might have heard it again, this time definitely a whisper, almost like a word, or a name. It sounded like a voice. Todd inched closer to the door. He could see very little. Outside, the sun was starting to set, and he knew that he should be getting back home. His father would yell at him if he knew Todd was here. The house was off-limits. Todd was supposed to come home right after school. But he had heard some of the high school boys talking at lunch. He had heard them say something about a ghost, and the old house, and a boy who had gone missing a year ago. Todd knew the story wasn’t real. It couldn’t be real. He didn’t believe in ghosts. The boys had just been trying to scare one another.

Only, Todd seemed to remember that a boy had gone missing almost a year ago. There had been something in the newspaper about it, something on the news that Todd’s father didn’t want him to watch. There had been posters put up, and the police had talked to one of the other boys in Todd’s class. Todd tried to remember the missing boy’s name.

Don’t be silly, Todd thought. Just because he went missing doesn’t make him a ghost. There’s no such thing as ghosts. Ghosts aren’t real. It’s just an old house. It’s just a cat or the wind or you’re making it all up in your head. There’s nothing there. There’s—

And then, of course, he saw it.

by Fred 5:38 PM

“Hello... Is there anybody in there?” the voice hollered into the opening of an unexplored cave.

It all depends on what you mean by anybody. I watched a fascinating episode of Nova a few nights ago about new theories about how caves are formed. A team of research biologists has been exploring previously unvisited caves to try to find out how they were formed.

My first thought was that caves are formed by water seeping down through the earth and dissolving limestone to form empty pockets with stalactites hanging from the ceiling. However, these researchers found that microbes living beneath the floor of the caves make hydrochloric acid that bubbles up through the floor and disperses in the cave space. This acid condenses on the roof of the cave and then drips back down. This is what dissolves the limestone. (The drips form long, sticky hanging formations that these researchers named “snottites” – rather appropriately – before they eventually harden).

It isn’t clear yet if all cave formation involves this process or, if so, the relative contribution of this process versus the seeping water process. But it does seem that in at least a LOT of caves, these microbes are alive and active. So, “yes, there is somebody in here.”

by Martha 3:18 PM

"Nope. Not in here."
I wasn't fooled. They always say things like that. Like "Not us. We left yesterday," and "Who? in this empty Box with nobody in it? nope. Not here."
I always ask, just the same. Of course I don't believe them, and of course I usually just close the lid and walk away, scared to find out who it is living in my Box. Not today.
I went away this summer. I spent the whole vacation at the beach, in the sunlight and the warm water, like when the tub's just right. Everything was happy, even maniacally and pathologically so. Everybody smiled all the time, and I loved it. I spent the whole three months with my aunt and her boyfriend (I call him my uncle, secretly, but he isn't really. They're divorced but they still live together on the beach. I guess he can't leave, really, 'cause it's just so perfect there), swimming every day, sometimes going to work with one or the other of them, and even their work was great.
And the best part: no boxes under the bed. Better, no Boxes under the bed. No creepy old black cardboard Box my dad left when he did, that even he never opened. He just handed it to me and said "You'll never see me again. Keep this safe or everything bad that ever happened to anybody might happen to you." I'll have therapy over that one, I'm sure.
He left four years ago. Just walked out the door, kissed Mom on the cheek and got in the car. I knew he wasn't coming back, and he knew it too. Mom didn't know. She just stood there and watched him pull out of the driveway, bump the garbage cans like he did every Thursday when they were out, and get flattened by the garbage truck going 80 down the narrow residential street we lived on. The driver was high on something that came out of a garbage can on the route much earlier in the morning. Somebody had apparently thrown away a lot of a powdered substance, and when the bag ruptured, the driver breathed it in. What an ugly day that was. The truck didn't even slow down; it just kept cruising down the street, dragging my dad and his car, until it hit the house at the end of the block. Our neighborhood ends where our street does, and the house facing us was in, sadly, the wrong place at the wrong time.
And I just stood there holding the box. It was the first time I heard them. They giggled, then one of them shushed the rest, and they fell silent. Mom just stood there, her hand still in the air, the other slowly raising to her mouth, a look of shocked disbelief on her face.
So now I'm ready. I have on a pair of stout boots, and if that doesn't work, I have a lighter. They're either coming out or dying there in that box. I'm tired of it. I had a great summer and it hurts my soul to be in this dark, horrible place.
I stand over the box, and say
"Hello... Is there anybody in there?

by MisterNihil 2:20 PM

Hello... Is there anybody in there?

by Sharon 1:21 PM

{Wednesday, October 02, 2002}

"What's this movie called again?"

"My Nifty, Keen-O, Big Accomplishment."

"Oh. And who's in it?"

"Oh, you know, that guy? Who was in that thing?"

"Oh. He's good."

"Yeah, he's not bad. The kids kind of like him. I think he won an award for this."

"I think that was the other guy you're thinking of."

"No, this guy, with the hair. You know, he was in that thing? About that war?"

"No, that was the other guy. With the girl? And no legs? It was based on the book."

"I didn't read the book."

"You didn't miss much. I'd lend you an old copy, but I think the dog ate it."

"What was it called?"


"No, not the dog, the book. What was the book called?"

"Oh. I don't know. It was awhile ago. I don't remember. It was about this guy and this girl. You know. There were things."

"Oh. Doesn't sound too bad."

"Nah, the movie was better. It had that girl in it. You know, the one I like?"

"With the teeth?"

"No, the other one. Without."

"Oh. Yeah, she is good."

"So you wanna rent this?"

"Sure, why not? It sounds pretty good."

by Fred 5:40 PM

I have turned the corner.

My latest passion is pulling plastic—indoor rock climbing! It is intellectual, similar to the way that fencing is, but it isn't dependent on finding a variety of partners. It is personally competitive, the way that archery is. I can do the best that I've ever done, and you can do the best that you've ever done, and even if those are completely different levels of achievement, we can both congratulate each other. And, unlike team sports, the only time I let other people down is when I am belaying. (That's a rock climbing joke.) Lastly, rock climbers are buff, and I want to be buff.

Outdoor rock climbing is daunting. In addition to physical fitness, I climb to get over a fear of climbing. (It's not the height; it's getting *stuck* that I fear.) Indoor gyms have padded floors, belaying equipment (what you might think of as "repelling," though I think repelling is actually a little different), and nice plastic hand-holds. They're also full of lithe college students, which can be either an intimidating irritant or an inspiring bit of scenery. (Did I mention buff?)

One of the things I really enjoy about rock climbing is the problem solving. "Traversing" is primarily about problem solving. To traverse is to climb horizontally, moving sideways along the wall, using only the holds marked with a given color of tape. It's like following a trail in the woods marked with paint on the trees.

The South Austin Rock Gym has created a traversing route half-way around the perimeter of the gym. At one point near the beginning, there is a convex corner to wrap yourself around, where the next hand-hold is miles away. It has puzzled my little band of rock climbing friends for some time. I fell off of it the other day, earning myself a big ugly brush burn on my knee. (I'm wearing a band-aid that matches my skirt, today. They are beige.)

Finally, on Sunday, I had a breakthrough. Rather than face the wall, stretching my arm and leg blindly off to the right, I twisted my hips so that my left foot led. With the left foot being the one closest to the corner, I could then step and reach around with my right. I start to walk sideways, like an Egyptian, and it magically grants me the reach to turn the corner.

I have turned the corner! And I'm gonna go do it again tonight.

by Sharon 4:34 PM


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