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Switch Back To Power

Self Deception

Once a friend of mine were watching some videos at his house. This way back in high school, and his parents were out of town, so we had the house to ourselves. Nearby his parents place they were building a new group of houses, and they were at the stage where they all had that wooden skeleton look to them. After we grew bored watching our videos, we decided to go exploring through the construction site.

He lived in these hills, and the construction site was for some houses that were going to be pretty expensive. They were on the top of this one particular hill that had a decent view of the ocean a few miles way. So they were big, and fairly spread out. It was dark, and very windy. We didn’t really have any specific plans, other than to just walk around someplace at night that we weren’t supposed to be.

It was fun at first, walking through the houses, climbing up to the second story, and standing in the areas where the doors would go. Then we saw this big dark thing that seemed to be moving. My friend suggested it was some kind of guard that was well trained to attack if anybody got too close. We hadn’t brought any flashlights, and there was no moon out, so it was pretty dark. We stood there frozen for a few minutes trying to figure out what to do. Should we slowly approach this black object, and see what would happen? Or was this some trick, was this some highly trained guard dog that had been taught to lay in wait for its victims to get close enough, and then jump for the jugular. Perhaps it was on a long chain, and was waiting for us to get within striking distance.

I remember once another friend of mine and I were on this hike through the Sierra Nevada mountain range. We were on the second day of a weeklong backpacking trip. There was this particularly tough pass that we had to go over. Mountain passes can be the most difficult part of a hike, as they sometimes require you to spend several hours on these switchbacks. The side of the mountains you are trying to hike over are so steep, the only way to get over the top is to traverse back and forth at an angle several times. Our guidebook mentioned that this particular pass was one of the toughest in the whole mountain range, and when we got close enough to see it, I understood why.

Usually when you come up within site of a pass, you can sort of guess where the trail will lead up and over the lowest point, judging by the terrain and such. But this particular pass looked impossible. There didn’t seem to be any possible way to get over the looming pass on foot. I remember remarking to my friend that had I been a retreating general in charge of several hundred troops, upon sight of the pass I would have told my men to turn around prepare for a fight to the death, as this pass was impassable.

I remember when I was a kid, and I had to get this shot for one reason or another. It wasn’t my first shot, I’m pretty sure I don’t remember my first shot, but for some reason I wasn’t looking forward to this one. Maybe because I knew it was coming, and I had few days to look forward to it. I suppose I had built I up in my mind to be a gigantic rusty needle that they would stick in my behind and twist around for a few minutes before ripping out hunks of flesh. I couldn’t sleep the night before, and was in near tears when we got the doctors office.

The doctor sensed I was nervous, and started telling me a story about basketball. At first I was confused, but he seemed to be really interested in his own story, so I couldn’t help but to become a little curious.

He started talking about shooting free throws, and how it really helps to imagine the ball going in the hoop in your mind before you take the shot. It also helps to have taken plenty of practice shots before, so you know what to visualize. The funny thing is that he said you only need to make one or two shots when you practice. Even if you take fifty shots, if you only make five, that’s plenty. So when you are playing for real, and you have to make a free throw, just concentrate on those five that you made, and remember them in as much detail as possible.

He said that many players focus on the wrong thing. They focus on the empty basket, and the ball in their hands, and how they will move their arms, and how they should stand, or how many times you should bounce the ball before you shoot. He said when you do that your brain isn’t really sure what you want, so you always have mixed results.

He said that by only thinking of those few times (or many times, it doesn’t really matter) in the past that you got what you wanted, the rest will fall into place. That way when you are practicing, you are really just collecting a few data points to help to point your brain in the right direction the future. Kind of like when you preprogram your GPS in your car before you drive someplace. Once you set it, you just listen to the voice tell you where to go, and you can sit back and enjoy the scenery (but not too much) or listen to the radio, or chat with your partner.

He was telling me how good he became at making free throws, when I vaguely felt this wet sensation on my behind. Then I felt some nurse (who I didn’t even remember walking in) put one of those round band-aids on, and pull my pants back up. I didn’t remember her pulling them down. Then she handed the empty shot to the doctor, who turned and threw it dead center into the trashcan across the room.

“Told you I was good,” he said, and winked at me.

Once we started hiking up the seemingly impassable pass, the trail became clear. And the further up we got, the entire trail became visible. What seemed like an impossible task suddenly became just another set of switchbacks, and before we knew it we were on top of Sheperd’s Pass, the hardest pass in the Sierras, according to the guidebook we had.

After finally debated for a while, we decided to pick up a rock and throw it at this dog/thing/monster that was waiting to rip out our jugulars and then feast on our brains. Nothing. We threw another rock, nothing. Another rock, nothing.

When we got closer, it turned out to be a roll of that black asphalt stuff that had come undone. No big deal. We explored some more houses, vowed to become rich enough one day to buy a big house like that, and went back to his parents house to finish our videos, and whatever microwaveable food we could find in his parents fridge.


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Apples And Paper Cranes


Today’s topic is about apples. Apples are the most delicious things you can eat, except for oranges, even though I’m not particularly fond of oranges. Sometimes I can’t resist the smell, and I pick up a couple dozen. Sometimes at one of those roadside stands that are selling them by the bag for something like two dollars or something. It just seems like a deal that you cannot possibly pass up. These beautiful round, sweet smelling vitamin C loaded hunks of citrus selling for only two dollars for a giant bag. It’s almost too good to be true.

Of course when I get them home, I remember that I don’t particularly care for oranges. I’m a pretty lazy person, and eating them is just too much trouble. I like orange flavor. Usually when I pass by the vending machine and there are several different flavors of Fanta to choose from, I often choose orange. If somebody figured out a way to make an apple taste like an orange that would be fantastic.

Apples are the perfect fruit to eat, in my opinion. Not the perfect taste, or the most versatile, but as far as the mechanics of eating goes, they are as close to perfect as you can get. You can reach up, pull one off the tree, and start munching without a second thought. You only need one hand, there aren’t any peels to worry about, or small in every bite you need to worry about spitting out.

I was at my friends house recently, and she was telling me her dogs really love me. Her husband likes to make these barbecued chicken wings, and I never eat all the meat off them. So when we’re finished, and she gives all the bones to the dogs, they naturally like my leftovers the best because they have the most meat on the bones. So maybe I also leave more apple on the core than most people as well. I did mention that I am pretty lazy.

And from the apples perspective, it’s a great reproductive strategy. There you are, the seed in the middle, surrounded by all this fructose. Most people, when they eat an apple, don’t eat nearly all they can. That would take too long. To sit there and suck every last piece of pulp from the fruit. Most people just eat about 80 percent of the good stuff, and discard the rest. Of course in modern times we throw the empty in a garbage can.

But long long ago, when we wore loincloths and didn’t watch TV, we would throw the apples on the dirt. And the discarded apple core was a perfect vehicle for growing another tree. It has plenty of nutrients for the seeds to use to sprout and grow. What’s even better is animals that either are too dumb to know the difference, or don’t have hands to eat with, will eat the entire apple. Then when the animal in question does his business, there are seeds surrounded by the best plant generating material there is.

Of course, then there’s the metaphor about Johnny Appleseed, who roamed the country planting apple seeds every where, and is responsible for the vast number of apple trees across America. One wonders what saying “As American As Apple Pie” would have been if Johnny Appleseed planted watermelon seeds, or kiwi seeds. Perhaps we would have gone to war with New Zealand or something equally as senseless.

I guess having a metaphor as some happy guy planting apple trees sounds better for the kids. If you had a metaphor as some goofy animal roaming the country eating apples whole and then pooping out the seeds, or a bunch of prehistoric people eating apples and then littering everywhere, that wouldn’t sell as many children’s books. Johnny Appleseed sounds better than Johnny Apple Litterbug, or Spot The Fierce Apple Seed Pooper.

I suppose that happens a lot. We see something, we figure out how it works, or we have a basic idea of how it works, but instead of describing it accurately, we make up some story. Either the story sounds better, or it’s easier to come up with, or it’s simpler.

I was reading this essay once on memes (I’m afraid I don’t remember where, so I can’t link to it) and the guy who wrote it was saying there are several reasons why memes spread. One of them is how easy the idea is to understand. One example that is often used is how to fold a particular Japanese Origami. There are a certain number of steps, and depending on how faithfully you reproduce those steps, you’ll end up with a pretty decent shape.

Obviously, the Origami’s that last the longest are both easy to do, and have a result that is aesthetically, and symbolically pleasing. One of the most ubiquitous Origami shapes in Japan is the crane. Birds represent freedom (among other things) as they can fly wherever they want. Cranes are white which represent purity and peace (among other things). And folding a paper crane isn’t particularly difficult. Most elementary school kids in Japan can make one easy enough. So you have a shape that is fairly easy to fold, and the outcome gives the folder a pretty good feeling.

Compare that to some Origami shape where the outcome was symbolic of death and disease, and in order to fold it you have to be an Origami grand master, that particular meme wouldn’t lend itself very much to spreading.

When you throw in something like a naturally occurring event, like the number of apple trees in a particular area, that throws another variable in the mix. Now you’ve got this thing in reality that you need to describe. The outcome can’t be changed, (e.g. there are a bunch of apple trees) but the stories will vary widely, and depending how simple they are to transmit, and how happy they make the teller/listener, they will propagate at different rates, until one story is the exclusive story being told everywhere.

Maybe there were a bunch of different stories told to explain the number of apple trees. The one that stuck was the one that was easy to tell (some guy roamed the country planting them) and it sounded pretty good. (The guy that planted them was somebody that intended to provide apples for everybody.)

Of course there is one more variable that we could talk about, and that is intention. Johnny Appleseed has a pretty good intention, namely to help others. Some caveman litterbug’s or some pooping animal’s intentions aren’t so noteworthy. That, however, shall be addressed in another post.

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How Close Is Pure Insanity?

Floating Madness

Once there was the group of people. They lived in a small, close-knit community that was similar to most other communities. They had an occasional weekend barbecue at somebody’s house, and they had a community swimming pool that most of the kids went to on the weekends during the summer time.

A few of the families had been living there for more than one generation, and it wasn’t uncommon for the kids to grow up, move away to college, and then come back and start their own family. It also wasn’t uncommon for the kids to leave for college, never to return again, except for the occasional holiday. New families would move in from time to time as well, and were generally welcomed without any undue scrutiny.

But that was before the incident.

Something happened which had irrevocably changed this small town from a safe place where kids could play in the street well past sunset to one of unimaginable terror and danger. A place where people knew it was foolish to even look out their windows past sunset,

Certain occupations that required their workers to be out after dark had to take extra precautions. However, these occupations were few and far between, as the demand for products and services that extended past sunset quickly dried up as residents learned that nighttime was best spent quietly inside, preferably in a room without windows. For if you happened to look outside at the wrong moment, and saw one of them for more than a split second, well, let’s just say it only happened a couple of times. And when the description of what happened after had quickly spread through this once happy town, people quickly learned to keep their heads down and their eyes averted after sunset.

For a short time after the incident, it was treated with nothing more than a peculiarity. A few scientists came in from neighboring universities to study what they thought was an interesting, albeit dangerous, phenomenon. What they found, at least that got in close enough to measure it, was beyond all human comprehension. Beyond all human logic and reason. Sure they had certain scientific instruments that measured certain pieces of data. Data they could later take apart and analyze back in their laboratory. But the implications of the data were absolutely horrifying.

Scientists base their whole method upon the idea that there are certain laws of physics, like gravity and electromagnetic radiation, that are absolutely true regardless of where and when in the universe they are operating. Sure many aspects of those laws may be outside of human understanding and experience, but they are rigid laws nonetheless.

Of course, many believe that laws are transient, and don’t always apply. One law of physics that holds true in this area of the universe over here, won’t necessarily hold true in that area of the universe over there. But those that believe in this kind of transient application of seemingly fluid physical laws don’t usually make it a point to build a career out of science.

Which is why these scientists are first were more than a bit puzzled when took apart their data. It just didn’t make sense. The anomaly seemed to emit certain levels of radiation and what they referred to as “electromagnetic shock,” although there was argument if this term was wholly appropriate. The entity seemed to sometimes obey the known laws of physics, and sometimes not.

This would be OK if it obeyed/disobeyed in a repeatable, predictable fashion, but the frequency that it seemed to switch “on” and “off” passed all statistical tests of randomness.

Then the “incident” occurred.

It flashed a burst of what would later be called an “enveloping incident.” It seemed to expand in size, and briefly enveloped a scientist who had gotten too close. It was only for a short fraction of a second, but it was enough. After it had retreated to it’s “shape” prior to the incident, the scientists himself exhibited all the signs of an entity that was no longer bound by seemingly unbreakable physical, chemical, and biological laws.

Brain synapses stopped functioning properly, muscle cells, transmission of nerve impulses stopped behaving according to the laws of biochemistry. Once he had become “infected,” he was classified as “entity number two” by his fellow scientists. Some who had worked with him for years. Even referring to “entity number two” was a stretch of the imagination.

At times he would appear somewhat close to human form, although in obvious physical and mental anguish. Other times “he” would simply be a cluster of improbability, unpredictable, and deemed too dangerous to measure.

This of course, had presented the scientists with a huge dilemma. Obviously, they had to keep this “incident” from repeating, but they all agreed that any form of matter that came close to it would be in danger of being removed from the laws of physics and chemistry. It would be turned into a ball of purely random energy, that didn’t behave in any predictable fashion.

So the government did the best thing they could. Which was to place an imaginary barrier around the town for hundred miles, and try and decide if they could contain the entity. As far as the townspeople were concerned, they would be left to fend for themselves.

As such, they were a fairly self-sufficient town, with enough farmland, and a source of water that they weren’t dependent on outside resources.

But that didn’t stop the terror, and the fear, and the absolute horror. Of being locked in with hell itself, floating around, slowly turning victims into itself, one by one.

To be continued…

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The Mumbling Neighbor

Loose Ends

Once I had this really strange neighbor. He would seemingly be awake at all times. I don’t think he ever slept. We had these really thing walls, and occasionally when I’d wake up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, I could hear him next door. And there were a few times that I’d stayed out all night, either at a friends house, or at some late night party, and I’d come home on a Saturday or Sunday morning at 5 A.M. He’d always be up, with his lights on, and he’d always be moving around.

I don’t think I ever saw him go to work. While it wasn’t in the ghetto, it wasn’t a particularly upscale apartment, so I didn’t think he was wealthy enough so that he didn’t have to work. I’d always figured he had some kind of government pension, or some kind of workers comp thing going, where he received just enough to pay the rent and the utilities, but not much else.

I’d pass by him on the stairway every now and then, and we’d exchange the normal greetings (Hi, What’sup, Howsitgoing, Hey, etc), or at least I’d start off the regular greetings. He would always acknowledge me, and it sounded like he was trying to say the same thing back to me, but he’d always add on a string of indecipherable mumblings after his apparent reciprocal greeting. They weren’t angry mumblings or what you may consider the mumblings of some homeless guy who has long drank himself past the point of sanity.

These were more like running commentaries that seemed to be going on all the time in his mind, and when I’d throw out a greeting, social conditions (from maybe a lifetime ago in his case) would require he respond in kind, but these responses would always bring with them whatever train of thought that was going on in his head. Like when you are fishing in a particularly deep portion of a lake, and you reel in your lure to recast, you bring up all the stuff that is growing on the bottom.

I went on a backpacking trip once, and we were particularly after some good fishing lakes. We had planned our trip through areas that had plenty of lakes, so that whenever we’d stop for the night, we would hopefully catch our supper.

This worked out pretty good, and we caught a lot of fish on that trip. The lakes were small enough so that you could walk around them, stopping every now and then to cast out a lure, and real it in, in an hour or so.

But there was this one lake, where after fishing all day, I calculated for every fish I caught, I would lose one lure. (Good thing I brought plenty of lures). Every cast that didn’t catch a fish would get snagged in the tall growing plants on the bottom of the lake, and I would invariably lose the lure to the lake. Perhaps the gods of freshwater rainbow trout demanded payment of some sort.

Payment is a tricky thing. Especially in the west, there are all kinds of different ways to tip people. I had a couple of friends once that went on a short cruise, and they were astounded at the number of people that you are supposed to tip on those ships. They were lucky they brought plenty of cash, despite the brochure saying that the price was all-inclusive. I suppose that at the bottom in small print, they likely had something like “gratuity not included,” but unless you know what’s up, you’d likely not even pay attention to that part.

Even in most restaurants today, if you have more than six or eight people, they automatically add 15% to the bill. In other parts of the world, tipping is completely foreign, and they always laugh at American’s who feel the need to leave extra money wherever you go.

Which is why I was so surprised that one day in Starbucks.

I had just paid for my triple shot of espresso (on ice), and had received my change from the cashier.

“Don’t forget the tip.” I heard the voice from behind me say.

I nodded my head. It was if the voice knew what I was thinking. Normally when I get a triple shot of espresso (with ice) I slam it right then and there, throw it in the garbage, and I’m on my way. I don’t bother sitting down. So I’m normally not thinking in “tip” mode. Contrarily, when I bring my newspaper and get something like a triple mocha, and I’m going to be spending an hour or so there, I always leave a generous tip.

But when you think about it, the work that goes into making both drinks is about the same, and the time I’m going to be sitting there shouldn’t factor in, since they don’t bring anything to your table, or come up to you and ask if you’d like dessert or anything.

As I dropped my coins in the cup they have at the register for that specific purpose, I turned to see who this self-proclaimed tip police officer was. I was shocked to see it was my crazy neighbor, except he looked completely sane.

He was dressed in a very sharp looking suit. His eyes were completely clear, he was clean-shaven, and I swore I detected a scent of Cool Water, by Davidoff.

“Hey.” I said, not having any clue what to say in this situation. You know the one I’m talking about. The one where you see your neighbor you’d assumed was on disability due to some mental issues looking, smelling, and acting like the head sales rep for some cutting edge pharmaceutical firm.

“I know what you’re thinking.” He started. Now if I had no idea what I was thinking, how in the world did he?

“You see, things aren’t always what they appear. Some things are contextual; some things are based on structure, while others are based on content. The secret is that many things which appear to be based on content, are really based on structure, and really aren’t all that contextual.” He smiled, as if he made some incredibly and obviously salient observation of reality.

I, on the other hand, had no clue whatsoever what he meant by that.

“You’d better drink your espresso before the ice melts.” He smiled, motioning toward my plastic cup, which had been placed on the counter. I mumbled something in response, what I’m not sure. After I’d slammed my espresso, and looked back up, he was gone.

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Blast Through Resistance


Had I known things were going to end up like this, I might have started differently. I might have decided to shoot for another outcome, or come up with a backup plan.

Maybe, but not likely.

I was about three minutes away from find out if it really was going to end up like I feared. Probably. What’s the worst that can happen? Well, I didn’t really want to think about the worst. I have a pretty good imagination; I can imagine some pretty awful things. If I let my imagination run loose unrestrained it wouldn’t take long for me to turn into a raving lunatic. Maybe that’s I didn’t plan for too many options. That would require looking too carefully into the future, a future that might have me ending.

I remember once when I was a kid, me and a couple of friends had always wanted to climb to the top of this mountain. Not really a mountain, more like a hill, the elevation was only a couple hundred feet. But when you’re a kid, that’s high enough. The trees were thick, and it didn’t take long to lose sight of the road below. We’d tried a couple times, but never got really far.

There wasn’t anything particularly special about this one little hill. There hadn’t been any mass murders, or abandoned mines that swallowed kids whole, or a couple of wildcats that lived in the area. It was just a hill. But every time we’d started out, we’d lost our nerve. The trees were thick, and the road wasn’t the only thing we lost sight of.

You could easily see the top as you walked toward it, but once you started pushing through the brush, all you could see was five maybe ten yard ahead. The only thing that kept you pointed in the right direction was the slope of the hill. We figured that as long as we were walking up hill, we were going towards the top.

But there was one area that had these really strange trees. They had very thick branches, and blocked most of the light from coming through. So it got pretty dark, pretty quick. There was also that strange feeling, just outside of consciousness, like we were being watched. We never made it very part past that point.

At least until that one day.

We’d always given each other a hard time, never taking full responsibility for not following through. Always blaming somebody else. Of course, we’d jump on any excuse we could to turn back, but once we got back to the main road, and our fear had vanished, we would turn that excuse into an example of weakness for whoever had originally come up with the excuse.

I had been two weeks, and we’d been talking to each other pretty harshly. Brining up all the previous times we’d given up, sharing as much criticism of each other as we could remember. We made a pact, to the top. Only to the top. No excuses. No backing out. Even If we saw the living dead we wouldn’t turn back.

So we started out, until we got to the dark spot. Again we hesitated. But we pushed through. We were surprised when we saw the cabin. Not really a cabin, more like a shack. We were sure that nobody lived up here.

We stopped, studying the shack. It looked deserted. We approached it slowly, the strength of our unbreakable pact quickly shrinking into the back of our minds. We peered into the window. Nothing. We checked the front door. Not even a lock. We pushed it open, nothing. Empty.

Just a shack.

We decided to keep pushing toward the top. We’d check the shack again on the way back. We left the shack and started walking up hill. Within about twenty minutes, the trees thinned out considerable, and we could see the top. The sun became bright again, and we started running. When we reached the top, all of us were smiling. Big, huge, smiles of both happiness and relief. All those times we’d started out, and then turned back gone. We’d beaten those demons in our heads.

We remembered the shack. Our minds raced with excitement. Maybe we could sleep there one night. We formed a plan. We’d tell each of our parents we were staying at each other’s house. Then we’d all meet up with our sleeping bags. We’d have to bring some flashlights, and some candles. And maybe some food. Like a loaf of bread, and a jar of peanut butter.

I checked my watch. It was time. I blocked the fears from my mind, and pushed forward into the light. I suddenly had a feeling somehow that everything was going to work out.

I walked out on stage, and audience stood, and applauded. I smiled.

It was showtime.


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The Strangest Purchase I Ever Made

I’ll Take It

Due to the overwhelming response to something that happened before I even knew that I wasn’t aware of it, I’ve decided to do what most everyboyd already figured out. Which is precisely what you’ve probably been thinking.


My tale starts out with a vague feeling of déjà vu, although not quite. I had walked into this shop, and I’m positive I’d never been in there before, but for some reason I knew where everything was. Not that that is such a big deal, because most shops are pretty much laid out with the customer in mind, and to make it as easy as possible for them to make a purchased and get on out without excessive lingering.

But something about this store seemed odd, but at the same time, strangely familiar. The shopkeeper even looked at me with a sort of expectation, like I was in there a week before and I’d just come back to finalize my purchase or something. But then again, it may have all been my imagination. That has been happening a lot to me lately.

Déjà vu is an interesting, widely experienced, but often misunderstood brain phenomenon. It seems to happen at random, so they can’t really do any experiments to reproduce the effect. And they can’t very well hook electrodes into people’s brains, and have them sit around in a laboratory waiting to get hit with passing cloud of déjà vu.

According to various esoteric theories of probability and philosophy, combined with a few cold and hard facts about the known universe, there may very well be an infinite number of worlds just like this one, but only with sleight differences. The theory goes that since the universe is infinite, there are an infinite number of particles that can combine in an infinite number of combinations, making every possible combination a highly probable event. So somewhere in some corner of the universe is somebody just like you, reading a post just like this, sitting in a chair just like that, only something is slightly different. Like instead of that thought that just entered into our head, your counterpart in the parallel universe is thinking the thought that you are about to think, or perhaps the same thought that you thought the same time yesterday.

They theorize that déjà vu is some kind of vague and brief connection between you and one of your other universe counterparts. Some kind of a long distance resonance between bodies of particles that happen coincidently share congruence before phase shifting into randomness.

Our eyes only connected for about a second, before I realized my feeling of connection wasn’t backed by any game plan, so I just broke off eye contact, like you do when you are too embarrassed to say anything, and you’d like to just pretend your eyes never met. But our eyes did meet, and I could still feel them following them throughout the store.

“Did you forget something?” She asked.

Wait, what?

“Huh?” I turned, surprised.

She looked around helpfully, and then looked at me with her head cocked.
“You weren’t carrying any bags, did you put something down that was in your pockets?” She asked with genuine concern.

My pockets. I stuck my hands in both of them. Nothing there but my keys, and my wallet. Which is what I always carry when I leave the house. No bag.

I shook my head, and stood hoping for some more unsolicited information that might help me out.

“Did you change your mind? About the machine?”


“Um..” I started. Not sure. Starting to feel a real desire to get the hell out of there.

“I can’t really go any lower. It does sound it could be very useful to you. It does come with a three month guarantee.”

I had an idea.

“Um, could you show it to me, once more?” I asked. Staring directly her, so I wouldn’t look in the opposite direction by accident, and look like an idiot. (Who am I kidding here?)

“Sure.” She said, smiling and pulled out a catalogue. It was big, and thick. About half as thick as a phone book. It looked very expensive; all the pages were glossy and full color. She was slowly thumbing through the pages; I couldn’t quite glimpse what sort of things was in there. I stepped closer to get a better look.

“Aha, here it is.” She announced, turning the book around so I could see.

I was looking at that? What in the world. I checked the price. Sixteen thousand dollars. She must have noticed my eyes.

“As I said before, I can go as low as twelve thousand. We’ll scarcely make any money on this.”

I have to admit, even though I wasn’t quite sure what you would use a contraption like that for, it sure looked nice. Twelve thousand really wasn’t that much, considering. What the hell.

“Uh..” I started. How to start.

“Payment is, uh…” I hoped she’d finish for me. She did.

“Don’t worry sir, we won’t need to check your credit again.”

Again? Wait, if they ran my credit, that would mean…

“Ten percent down, and then the balance is up to you. Most of our customers secure financing on their own, but with your unique circumstances, that won’t be necessary. As I said before, you can just pay us twelve monthly payments on the balance. No interest.”

That did sound like a pretty good deal. What the hell.

“Ok,” I heard myself say.
“I’ll take it.”

That was just when I’d noticed the wedding band on my finger. When did I get married? I just hoped that my wife, whoever she was, wasn’t going to be angry at this purchase.

To be continued…

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A Funny Thing Happened To Me On The Way To The Movies

This Post Ends With Whiskey

So the other day I was supposed to meet my friend downtown. She didn’t show up, and she usually isn’t late, so I gave her a call. Turns out I had my dates mixed up, so I figured I’d wander around. We were going to hang out at a coffee shop and then go see a movie, so I figured I might give that a shot. Only I hadn’t brought anything to read, and sitting in a coffee shop by yourself without anything to read can get pretty boring.

So I thought maybe I’d strike up a conversation with a stranger, and see how far I could get. I walked into the coffee shop, no luck. Nobody seemed interesting, or interested in having a chat with some strange guy who can’t keep his days straight. No worries.

I headed over to the bookstore; maybe they’d have something interesting enough. I checked the movie times, and there was something that looked interesting that was starting in a couple of hours. That’s the problem with living in a foreign country where not too many people speak English. When you go to the movies, often times you don’t have much choice.

Not like back home, where I can roll up to a thirty screen multi plex and spend fifteen minutes pondering the many movies starting within the next twenty minutes. Bookstores here are the same. If they do have an English section, there’s sometimes something interesting, sometimes not. Today there wasn’t anything that looked good enough. Back out to the street.

Which way, left or right? Left. I headed left, and figured I’d wander this direction for an hour or so before turning around. That way I’d make it to the 4 pm show. I’d hoped. I wasn’t aware of the incredible adventure I was about to go on.

Once when I was a kid I got lost in the mall. I thought my mom had deserted me. One minute she was there, the next she’d vanished, like in that creepy movie where aliens sucked people right through their bedroom windows.

This lady had this husband, and a kid, or something. Then these weird things started happening, like she’d remember her husband, but nobody else would. It was like he was erased from everybody’s memory but hers. All his pictures, her wedding ring, everything.

Then her son disappeared. Same thing. Nobody remembered him but her. She was all-alone, and everybody, from her best friends to her psychiatrist told her she’d always been alone, and she must be imagining the whole thing.

Only later to find out that aliens were stealing certain people, and erasing the memories of everybody around them. But when they took the people, they would snatch them, and suck them really really fast up into the sky. It was pretty funny, although I’m pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to be. Great set up, but goofy ending.
Anytime they have aliens as the culprits, you know something is fishy. Unless the fish themselves are aliens, in which case you’ve got some serious explaining to.

So there I was on the street, suddenly realizing I had no idea where I was. That was ok, as I sort of remembered some landmarks as I wandered about. Only when I looked around, I couldn’t see any of the landmarks I’d chosen. Perhaps I should have chosen some taller ones.

Suddenly I heard a voice from behind me.

“Son, you look lost.” He said. He sounded as if he had a thick Scottish accent. Only I wasn’t in Scotland. Hadn’t been for years.

“Yea, I was wondering how to get back to the…” Where was I going?
“The Movie Theater?” He finished my thought for me. How did he do that?

“Up that street, and then…” after that I couldn’t understand a word he said, as it was in such a thick Scottish dialect, he could have been sending me to the organ donor hospital for all I knew. I tried following his gestures, but they only told me to head back in the direction where I thought I’d come. Big help Scottish guy.

“Wait, one more time, please. More slowly.” I asked. He repeated the directions, only this time his gestures and words seemed completely different. I wasn’t sure what to make of it.

I was reminded once of a distant relative in New York who explained that if you are lost, and happen to stop someone long enough to ask for directions be careful how they answer. If they give you a short, direct answer, they’re usually being truthful. However, if they give you some long winded answer, they are likely sending you on a wild goose chase to end you up in some location that is further removed from where you thought you’d wanted to go in the first place.

“But first, son, have a dram with me.” He said, putting his hand gently on my shoulder. He motioned his head back, and behind him was a Malt Whiskey bar. I didn’t know they had those in this part of the world.

“What the heck,” I figured. I didn’t really want to see that movie anyway. And it had been long time since I savored a nice single malt.

What happened next, is a story for another day.

(And Now For Something Completely Different)

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Plan For Luck?


I wasn’t sure how this was going to work out. It sounded like such a good plan when we’d laid it all out. On paper. In the safety of our hotel room three hours earlier. Now it didn’t seem so easy. Not that we had any chance to back out. We had committed. We had to follow through, or else pay the consequences.

Charles had thought of this plan back when we were in Tucson, three months earlier. We had been working on this hotel, construction. The three of us had been doing odd jobs for the past several years, ever since the incident. Nothing more than a few months at a time. Trying to stay ahead. This was supposed to put us over the top, but you never know. Sometimes things have a way of backfiring, and ending up not quite like you’d expected. But then again, sometimes everything goes perfectly, and you end up coming up much better than your wildest dreams.

That had only happened once before. About halfway through, I thought that everything was going to go quickly to hell, but suddenly everything turned around, and all the pieces magically fell into place. It was perfect. The most beautiful thing you could ever imagine, unfolding right before your eyes. Something like that can spoil you, if it happens to early. It’s like you get a taste of perfection, and you spend the rest of your life chasing after something that only has a probability of happening once every three or four lifetimes. Only they don’t tell you that until it’s too late.

Something told me that this was one of those times.

You never know. Even when it’s too late, even when it’s obvious you should just cut and run, people tend to ignore the obvious and hold out for a miracle. I’ll never forget how it went down that one time before. We had been planning it for about six months, everything was detailed out, every last angle was sketched out, and planned for, and rehearsed. Every contingency was brought up, acted out, role played to death. Everything.

Then that kid showed up when he did.

I mean, what the hell are you supposed to do when that happens, just ignore it? You can’t do that. I mean there he is, right in the middle of everything, you can’t just not pay attention to something like that. So we hesitated, and tried to blend him into our plan, to make sure everything turned out ok. At first it looked like we might have a chance, a real shot at success.

But then they showed up. Like they were expecting us, almost as if somebody had tipped them off. But that was impossible, wasn’t it? We’d been so careful. Maybe the kid had something to do with it.

Then all hell broke loose. People screaming, alarms going off, tires screeching, everything you didn’t want to happen, happened. And just when we thought we were done for, that guy just showed up out of nowhere, with a solution so obvious, yet so outstandingly bold, we jumped at the chance. The kid and everything. And before you knew it, we were in the clear. Everything was just clicking, like it was all planned out.

Only it wasn’t planned out. We were just making it up as we went along. And the funny thing was, it was working out much better than our best plan. There we were, with this total and complete stranger, why he was helping us I still don’t know, and we were completely making things up as we went along, and it was going better than our best laid plans.

Nothing was ever so easy after that.

Every other job since then was never as perfect as that one time. We tried everything, but you just can’t plan for things like that. Sometimes we planned as much as we did that one time, other times we relied on chance, but never did we have such an easy follow through as when that guy showed up.

And we never even figured out his name, or where he was from, or anything.

Just as quickly as he showed up, he was gone. No advice, no words of wisdom. He only lent a hand, and then split.

So there we were, things looking like they might collapse at any second, but not nearly as worse as they’d been before. So we kept pushing, and hoping.

But not praying. Never praying.

That was the one thing that we were forbidden to do. Not that we argued. It seemed a good enough reason when the edict had been handed down. We’d readily agreed, given our options. Sure, sometimes, some of us secretly wished we’d never struck that bargain, but we held fast to our agreement.

No prayers.

It was almost time to make the move. I checked, made eye contact with the other two that were within sight, and they both checked the two they could see. We all gave each other the signal. It was time to move.

Now or never.

We burst through, with as much hope and force as we could muster, given the circumstances.

We had no idea what was waiting for us on the other side…

To be continued….


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The Final Battle

A Second Chance?

They had been waiting for generations. One group lined up behind the next, and the next. Sixty in all. Roughly thirty in each group. The clans had come together in what they hoped would be the final push to their independence. They were tired, they were angry, they were ready. The plan was to attack at noon. It was just after eleven.

Inside the farmhouse, they were nervous. They had never seen so many outside. Well, that’s not exactly true. They had seen this many, many times. Or more. Only before, they’d just swirled around in some random collection of black specks against the sky. But not today. Today they seemed prepared. Organized. As if they had some kind of plan. But that was impossible.

“What happens if worst comes to worst, and they attack in some kind of organized fashion?”

“Don’t be silly. There’s got to be an explanation. They can’t be organized. That’s impossible. That would mean…” he trailed off, not willing to complete his thought.

“Just supposing they do, what should we do? I mean, I have two shotguns, and maybe thirty, forty shells with me. There’s got to be a couple thousand of them out there. Even when they feed, shotgun blasts don’t bother them much. If they were organized somehow…”

“OK, worst case, we save our ammunition. We lock all the windows, the doors, seal up all the entrances. Just choose a spot, and pick ’em off as they come.”

He didn’t sound convinced of his own plan.

“And when we run out of shot?”

“Hunker down?”

“Why don’t we call the state police, they might know what to do.” She finally said. She had been quite the entire time.

“By the time they got out here, it would be too late. Sides, they wouldn’t us anyhow.”

They were all silent for several minutes. They were startle when the clock struck noon.

The leader felt the time was right. His kind didn’t need clocks or alarms. They just knew. They had developed a form of telepathic communication centuries before, and the elders of time past had agreed it would be best not to communicate with the humans. For what they knew about the past of the humans would plunge their world into eternal darkness.

For several thousand years they had allowed them to grow, to build, to prosper. To allow their cities to expand and envelope their own territory. But they had gone too far. They agreed they would never be able breach the communication barrier set up many thousands of years ago, for obvious reasons. It would mean certain doom. The humans had reached a critical mass, and the knowledge of they kept hidden would destroy not only them, but also everything else.

The elders had foreseen this, but had allowed them to flourish anyway. There had been hope they would see; that they would avoid what many thought was inevitable. But they hadn’t.

Now it was time.

The leader took off, sounding the cry of attack. Those that studied these particular species, had they been paying attention, would have noticed that his particular cry had never been heard before, never been catalogued in any scientific journal, never been studied and meaning determined.

This cry reserved for only the final battle. And to all those that heard it, and repeated it, it only meant one thing.

Kill them all. Quickly and without mercy.

“Jesus Mother of God!” He said, dropping his shotgun. The others stood, and outside the windows, off in the distance, the thousands of black figures took off as one, and formed a shape in the sky. A shape so terrifying and recognizable that it only meant one thing.

No hunkering down would save them, no running, no desperate call to the office of the state police. Shotgun shells, what little they had, would be useless.

The women among them fainted, and the men began to weep, and howl as children.

Death was coming. Fast.

The same scenario repeated, all over the world. Before sunset, the entire of humanity had been wiped completely off the face of the earth.


There had been a few left alive. It was believed that the shock and horror of what they had seen sold wipe their memories clean.
They would be allowed to start over again. To spend hundreds of thousands of years wandering as nomads before inventing fire, and the wheel, agriculture, religion, and their gods. Perhaps it would be different next time.


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Italian Food Is Hard To Come By

What Did Euclid Know About Meatballs?

Spaghetti and meatballs. At least that’s what she promised me. It was on the fence when she called me and invited me over for dinner. There was a good movie on, I had woken up early that morning had finished a long painful day at work. I had a lot of personal things I needed to get done the next day, so I was looking forward to some cheesy movie in TV, and then an early night. If I went out, I knew I’d stay out late, get to bed late, and sleep in the next day, sabotaging all my plans.

But it had been a long time since I had a good plate of spaghetti and meatballs. And she doesn’t just make them the regular way. She does something extra, I’m not sure if it’s in the sauce, or the meatballs themselves, but it’s like nothing I’ve ever tasted before. And in my neck of the woods good, authentic Italian food of any sort is hard to come by.

Hence my dilemma. So there I was on the phone, trying to decide. She wanted an answer, as she would need to get started. I don’t why she decided to cook that that night, or why she called me. I wondered what thought came first in her mind. The spaghetti, and then me to help her eat it, (as she knows I love it) or was it me, and the spaghetti was merely a lure (as she knows I love it).

What to do.

What hell. I told her I’d be over at seven. It was 4:30. I had finished work at three, after starting at 5:00 A.M. It was going to be a long night. The only thing I hadn’t figured out yet was why. For I was about to begin one of the strangest evenings of my life.

Once I tried to make spaghetti and meatballs myself, but it came out disastrous. I think if I focused only on spaghetti, I’d be OK. Any fool can make spaghetti. Boils some noodles, open a can of sauce and stick it in the microwave for a minute or two. Dump some Parmesan cheese on top. Bam. Meatballs, also, not a stretch. Take some hamburger meat, mix in some spices, maybe an egg or some breadcrumbs, and cook them somehow. I’m told the best way is to throw them in the sauce as it’s cooking, but when your strategy for cooking spaghetti sauce is pouring it into a bowl and nuking it for two minutes, that doesn’t work. Two minutes is enough to warm sauce, but not enough to cook meatballs.

I was reading this article in a science magazine the other day. It was talking about some of the fundamental differences between men and women. According to the article, it goes way beyond just plumbing. Females are better at communicating, and multitasking. Males are better at something else, like watching TV. It has something to do with how many connections there are between the hemispheres of the brain. A typical female can talk on the phone, cook dinner, and watch the kids all at the same time. If a man tried to do that it would be a disaster. Our fields of vision are different as well. Men are much better at seeing things far off in the distance, but have terrible peripheral vision. Something to do with our evolutionary past of chasing after zebras and throwing spears at them. Females on the other hand, have much better peripheral vision, along the aforementioned communication skills. Something to do with collecting berries, watching the kids, and keeping up to date on everybody’s ever changing social status back at the cave while the men were out chasing zebras.

The article mentioned that this is one of the reasons why most teachers are women, and most air traffic controllers are men. Two completely different skill sets, filled by people who are naturally proficient with those skills. It also mentioned that the person with the best set of natural skills to be a leader in a society that wasn’t always at war would be a woman, but the person most driven to become a leader would be a man.

So I think I tried cooking the whole shebang, spaghetti, meatballs, sauce from scratch, only once.

Never again.

I don’t even want to go into what happened. Which is why I agreed to go to my friends house. And by the time I got there, her motives were clear. The spaghetti was the bait, and I was the prey. Not that I was complaining. Seeing what other bait she prepared for me, my plans for the next suddenly didn’t seem so important. In fact, as I stood there, looking at her, smelling that delicious aroma wafting in from her kitchen, I could scarcely remember what my plans were to begin with.

Something to do with Euclidean Geometry, and a Taco Stand, but I could be mistaken. I often am.

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