Tag Archives: Story

The Staggering Tale Of The Armadillo’s Evolution

Trust Your Instincts

Once there was this little armadillo. He had separated from his tribe, and was starting to get a bit worried. He wasn’t old enough to be out by himself after dark, but he was old enough to start feeling a little frustrated and anxious whenever his parents started to boss him around. So while he was getting a bit concerned, part of him kind of secretly relished the idea of facing the elements on his own for the night. He was an armadillo, after all, and I’m sure you know what that means.

Many people aren’t aware that armadillos tend to be loners, and not hang out in packs. They don’t hunt in packs, as they prefer to scavenge alone for various ground dwelling animals, like squirrels and small rabbits. Occasionally an armadillo will survive on only insects, but it much prefers the meaty taste of a ground squirrel, or even a house. (Although mice are the hardest to catch. They seem to have a sixth sense that keeps him just out of reach of the armadillo).

It wasn’t always like that. Back during the heyday of the armadillos’ evolutionary period, it had several different iterations of itself. For a while it was even capable of short flights, up to a hundred meters on occasion. But Mother Nature soon corrected herself, as the flying armadillo didn’t really have any advantage, from a hunter-gatherer standpoint. It was more of a passing fad than anything else.

But our hero of this particular tale was heading due east, away from the setting sun. This had been programmed into the animal’s instincts by Mother Nature herself, as it just made it easier to forage for food. They started out with the sun at their backs, and scavenged around until the sun hit its apex. When the sun was in front of them, they merely turned and headed back the other direction.

This, incidentally, why armadillos only live in areas near the equator. There used to be quite a large armadillo population in the north, but due to the angle of the rising and setting sun, they never quite headed back at the end of the day to the same spot. So for a while, armadillos seemed to migrate in huge arcs across the northern plains, but that was merely due to the structure of their environment. If you happened to build yourself a time machine, as well as a human armadillo communication device, you would likely find that the armadillos didn’t really have any idea what was going on. They just knew that when they went home every single night, somebody had moved their house. So every night they would have to build a new one, only to find the same thing happen the next day.

(Altough, one would tend to wonder why you should build such a device if you had the technology to do so. You may be better of curing cancer or something, rather than going into the past and interviewing armadillos)

So it makes perfect sense as to why this particular species of northern armadillo didn’t survive.

Back to our story.

So as this young armadillo was following his ever-lengthening shadow, he started seeing thing moving about him that he’d never seen before. These small creatures that looked like mice, but they could fly. And they flew in a strange pattern. They didn’t fly in straight lines like insects; they kind of fluttered about as if they couldn’t see where they were going.

He figured if they couldn’t see where they were going, it would be pretty easy to eat them. So he crept a couple of low flying ones that were close by, and just as he stretched out his mouth, they shrieked this really high-pitched screech, and fluttered out of the way.

Try as he might, and despite getting very close to these strange creatures, he couldn’t sink his jaws into them. It was maidenly frustrating.

Then he heard the voice from behind him:

“Young hunter. You will need to determine more stealth to catch your prey. Despite their seeming ineptness, those creatures are equipped with a guidance system much different than yours. If you want to catch them, you must enter their world. You must learn to see in the dark, and respond to sound, and not sight.”

He turned around, and saw just the faint shadow of whatever creature had spoken to him slither off into the darkness.

He turned, and watched all these delicious fluttering entities that so far had proved to be just out of his reach.


The armadillo closed his eyes, and began to listen for the creatures. He heard cacophony he’d never imagined before. The fluttering of their wings, the insects under his feet, the breeze through the cacti. Suddenly, instinctively, he leapt into the air, and sunk his deeply into a fluttering creature of the night.

It was delicious.

The lost armadillo of the day, whose ancestors had followed the sun in circles across the northern plains, was now a hunter of the night.

The Mountain Man’s Secret

The Fish

Once there was this guy who lived up in the mountains. Through a particularly strange string of events, he’d found himself with quite a bit of money, enough to quit his job for good. At first he spent time traveling around, and learning about different cultures, a few languages here and there. But when the thrill had worn off, he longed for place to spend the rest of his days in quite solitude. On thing he learned about himself was that he rather enjoyed being by himself, and could spend hours just sitting and gazing out at a peaceful meadow or countryside farm.

So he spent time searching for the right place, until he stumbled on this area in a semi rural mountainous area. He bought several hundred acres, after making sure there was sufficient water, and electricity wouldn’t be a problem. He had to contract with some construction engineers to get his electricity and phone lines wired in, but that wasn’t much of a worry.

After everything was built and set up, he had himself a nice cabin that was right on the edge of a large meadow, with a rather large stream running through the middle of it, and a fairly dense forest. Traveling through the meadow, it would become more and more flat after a few miles, and then open up into a large valley, which channeled down to meet the main highway. The road came only part way to the valley, after that there was access only by off road vehicle.

He’d gotten specific permits from the county planning office, and surprisingly had to sign several legal release forms, as for a good part of the winter, his cabin would become completely inaccessible, except by helicopter. That was why he chose to build his cabin on the border between the meadow and the woods.

Should a particular emergency arise, it was still feasible to get to his place by helicopter, even in the deepest snow of winter. But just a mile or so into the woods, he would be completely cut off for until the spring thaw. While he liked the outdoors, and enjoyed being alone for long stretches of time, not having access to emergency medical aid was not something he wanted to worry about.

During the other months, getting from his cabin to the main road through the valley below took a couple hours, and then to the nearest town where he could buy supplies was another hour. So he would make a run every couple of weeks, and load up his pickup truck with as many supplies as he would fit.

Make no mistake, because I’m using the word “supplies,” please don’t picture some scraggly mountain man buying beef jerky and shotgun shells. This guy liked his modern creature comforts just like the rest of us. In his cabin he had a large flat screen TV that was of course connected, as well as his Internet connection via satellite linkup, and having traveled the world extensively, he had acquired a taste for fine foods. He had an industrial size refrigerator, and a large walk in freezer that he kept fully stocked at all times, as well as an impressive wine cellar he had built to specific specifications to match identically that of a restaurant he’d grown quite fond of in the south of France.

But on to our story. One thing he particularly enjoyed was fishing in the stream/river that had started somewhere up in the mountains, ran down in front of his cabin (albeit a couple hundred yards awards away, as recommended by the builders) and became very large sometimes down the meadow.

There were plenty of trout, mostly rainbow, but a few brown trout in the stream. Despite all of the exotic food that he special ordered from time to time from the specialty stores in town, nothing tasted as good as freshly caught trout. He had developed several recipes that he used to prepare them, his most favorite being a simple lemon, garlic and butter concoction.

As he approached the stream, he found spot to start fishing. Long a fan of lures, he chose a spinner of no particular important, loaded it up and tossed it in. He slowly reeled it in, tossed it out again.

He did see a few interested fish, but none of them seemed too interested in his lure. He tried another lure, same thing. This wasn’t out of the ordinary. He’d once gone eight days in a row without catching any fish, so this wasn’t particularly frustrating, or out of the ordinary.

Until he saw it.

As he slowly reeled his lure back, after the 17th cast (had he been counting) there was a very large, very gold/orange fish following his lure. At first he thought it was one of those Japanese carp that some people build ponds for in their back yards, but it’s shape wasn’t quite right. The strange thing about this fish was that it didn’t immediately retreat when his lure drew close to the shore as he reeled it in. it seemed pause a little bit, swim up stream, and then drift just pas the point where the lure was to be pulled from the water. As if it somehow knew in advance where the lure was going to be extracted from the water.

After he set his rod for another cast the fish quickly darted back down stream. But when he cast and reeled in his line again, there was the same fish. Except this time, he was the only fish there. He performed the same peculiar behavior following the lure in, and then darting upstream, and drifting down just to the point of extraction. Then he (it) would linger just long enough, and then literally turn and dart downstream.

This went on for about more casts, when he decided to try another spot. He walked down stream for about thirty minutes, and found a spot where there was a large bend in the stream, where the flow slowed considerably, enough for large pool to form, much like a small lake.

He walked around the lake, stopping in several places. Each time the same thing happened. He’d cast out his lure, reel it, and it would be followed by the same peculiar fish, that would do the same peculiar thing.

Finally he decided to call it quits, as the sun would be setting within an hour or so. He walked back up stream toward his cabin. Just before he arrived, he decided he’d try one last cast. But there was that same fish, only this time, it didn’t dart away so quickly when he pulled is lure from the water.

He swam back and forth, seemingly agitated, jumping from the water at each turn. Perplexed, the stood and stared.

And then it happened.

There was a monstrous earthquake, that seemed to last several minutes. He could hear the rocks up through the forest come tumbling down the hillside, the loud cracking of trees as they plowed relentlessly through the woods.

When the shaking stopped, the fisherman looked down at the valley where he’d been fishing all day. All along the side of the river, as far as he could see, almost exactly parallel to the river, was a giant crevice that had opened up in the earth, and was slowly pulling all the water from the stream into it. Pretty soon the stream, now a gushing river, had completely changed direction.

He turned, quite shaken, and walked slowly back to his cabin, not sure what had just happened. One thing he did know, and that was he didn’t think he’d be eating fish any time soon.


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Don’t Look Behind You

A Pillar Of Salt

The other day I was out on my regular morning walk, a little earlier than usual. For some reason I had woken up about twenty minutes before my alarm went off, and I figured since I was already up, there was no point in going back to sleep. So I hauled myself out of bed and began my daily routine. Because everything was twenty minutes earlier, it was the same, only slightly different. The sun was a little bit more below the horizon, so it was a little bit darker. I didn’t see the same people I usually see, everything else was just slightly different.

Until I saw him.

Or rather, he saw me.

I was walking through these rice fields, and a few farmers put up scarecrow for obvious reasons. As I was walking down this road, I noticed a scarecrow that I hadn’t noticed before. It looked very much like a real person, almost. There was something about it that made it obvious that it was not real, but it looked close enough to give you the creeps.

If you are walking down the street, and you see some guy standing on the corner, and he turns and waves at you as you walk by, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. But something that is obviously not real, but looks as though it might turn and wave at you radiates a particularly unique kind of creepiness that you don’t come across too much in your daily life.

Other animals are pretty easy to fool. Ducks, insects, various mammals are all easily misled by accurate (or not so accurate) representations of it’s own species.

And humans aren’t the only ones that take advantage of how easy it is to fool other creatures. There is a certain variety of plant that tricks a certain variety of wasp into spreading its pollen. The flower gives off a scent that makes the wasp think it is a female wasp. The wasp buzzes in, does his business, and goes off to the next plant. In the process, all the flowers get pollinated. If the poor guy only knew, his friends would never let him hear the end of it.

It’s well known that for many animals, the first thing they see that moves will make an impression of its mother. Baby chicks are often cited example of this. If you have a hatchery (or whatever you call those things baby chicks are born in) and there’s no chicken around when they hatch, then start to follow around the first big thing that moves. Which doesn’t work out so well if the first thing that moves is a cat or a poultry farmer.

For some reason, I just couldn’t keep from frequently turning to look at that particular scarecrow. It was much more detailed than the rest of the scarecrows. I doubt the crows could tell much difference, although they are pretty smart. They have been known to distinguish between farmers with hoes and rakes, and hunters with guns. You’d think that a bird would see both entities as the same, but I guess not.

About the third glance toward this incredibly realistic scarecrow is when I began to lose grips with reality. On the third, (or maybe the fourth) glance, I had noticed that he was facing a different direction. Not his (its) whole body, just the head. Ok, maybe I was seeing things. The sun was about ten minutes under the horizon, and the shadows were different than I’m used to, as I was twenty minutes early.

The fifth time I glanced at him, he was staring straight at me. OK, so maybe it wasn’t a scarecrow. Maybe it was just some creepy guy standing as still as possible in the middle of a rice field at six in the morning. That may even be more dangerous that a scarecrow that has come to life. I tried to stare him (it) down, but I could only look in his (its) general direction for a couple moments before turning away. Finally when I had walked sufficient distance past him, I couldn’t help but think that he was still watching me. I felt like that lady in the Old Testament story that wasn’t supposed to look back. I felt as if I looked back, something spooky would happen, like he would be right behind me, staring at me and waiting to drag me to the deep depths of everlasting insanity and mental torture. Generally not the way I like to end my morning walks.

As tough as it was, I ignored the impulse to spin around and look. For some reason I was reminded of Schroedinger’s cat. This is a famous experiment of quantum physics. They’ve (they being really smart physicists) done plenty of experiments regarding the dual nature of light. Sometimes light behaves as a wave, and sometimes light behaves as a particle. Light generally behaves as a wave, but when you set up specific equipment to measure it, on a really small level, it turns into a particle. It’s almost as if simply observing the event changes it. This can also be extended to other particles, like orbiting electrons. They are sometimes discreet particles, but other times exist only as a probability wave. Only when they specifically interact with other particles, or are observed by humans does their probability wave coalesce into an event, or a probability of 1.0.

This guy Schroedinger explained like having a cat in a box. If you don’t look in the box, there is only a probability of cat being in there. But as soon as you open up the top and look inside, the probability immediatley goes to 1.0, and the cat exists. This goes way beyond that old “tree in the forest falling” metaphor. On the level of quantum physics, things really don’t exist in discreet form unless they are observed.

Which is what I was trying really hard to convince myself regarding that creepy guy/scarecrow/guide to everlasting insanity who was behind me. So long as I didn’t turn around, he wouldn’t be there. But if I did, he would be standing right behind me, and I would be dragged (not kicking and screaming, but most likely comatose from shock) deep into the place that does not exist unless you go there.

Finally I ended up at the convenience store, and bought a small yogurt. As I was standing outside, sipping it down, I felt an odd sensation just off to my left. I turned, and there he was. The man/scarecrow/entity. He was looking at me calmly. And strangely enough, I didn’t quickly lapse into a fear-induced coma, although I was particularly frozen.

He smiled, slowly at first, and then breaking into warm, wide, teeth bearing grin. Almost. You can always tell a real smile from a fake smile by looking at the lines around the eyes. If the eyes are crinkled, then it’s a genuine, happy smile. If the eyes are open wide, and the lines (strangely enough called crow’s-feet) don’t crinkle up, then somebody’s lying. And this scarecrow didn’t have any crow’s-feet.

In his eyes was pure, unabashed evil. But for some reason, I took the evil to be extremely patient evil.

“Not today.” It said.
“Maybe not tomorrow.”
“Maybe not ever.”

Then it laughed, turned and walked away.

Needless to say, I try not to wake up early anymore.

(And now for something that makes even less sense)

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It’s Never Too Late – Never Give Up


There’s this guy that I know that I meet up with from time to time for various reasons. We usually meet in the same place, usually for hour or so or less. This guy is exceedingly busy, and doesn’t have a lot of free time. I hadn’t him around recently, but I ran into him last week. He had just finished his PhD doctoral thesis on some kind of advanced mathematics. Something to do with eigenvalues and laplacians and boundary levels. He was trying to explain how laplacian waveforms behave differently with and without boundaries. Of course, I have zero idea what that means, but I acted like I did. It has been a long time since I’ve studied calculus, and while many of the equations in his thesis looked to be written with symbols I was at least familiar with at one point in my life, I had forgotten the meanings.

The interesting thing was that he had spent the entire night before meticulously checking his final thesis for errors. In case you’ve read any of my other blog points, you may have come to the conclusion that checking for errors isn’t one of my particular strong points. And that’s a few hundred-word blog post. This guy had a several hundred page thesis densely packed with graduate level math equations. And he had spent the whole night hunting to make sure every last “t” and had been dotted and every indefinite integral had been properly tabulated.

The funny thing was this guy was just barely able to hold a normal conversation. His mind was obviously shot from a combination of no sleep, and stretching his brain to capacity. We were trying to have a normal conversation about current events and other boring topics, but his mind was bouncing all over the place.

At what point he was trying to explain something to me, and couldn’t quite think of the word. (English is his second language). After a moment of thought, he had completely lost track of what we were talking about. It was quite comical. Normally he is a very logical and intelligent sounding person, but during this particular conversation, he reminded me of that lyric from the White Stripe strong “Hardest Button to Button”:

“I got a brain that feels like pancake batter…”

I remember back when I was in junior high school. We were in weight training class; the gym teacher was explaining how the body builds muscle. You do some weight lifting, and the muscle fiber is actually broken down, on a physical level. The body, being the miracle machine that it is, goes right to work to rebuild it, but because it has been stressed due to overwork, it just rebuild it according to the same specifications as before. It upgrades its specs based on the fact that the muscles were broken down because they couldn’t handle the physical load. The body then responds by rebuilding a slightly stronger muscle that will be able to handle a better load the next time around.

It breaks down, becomes sore the next day, but comes back stronger. You repeat this process enough times, and you can get some pretty strong, or pretty fast, or pretty well coordinated muscles. Anybody that starts off with set of muscles and bones built to factory specs can, within certain limits, rebuild it any way you want, given the right training and diet. Combine that with increasing your control over your muscles through various mind/body practice and exercises, and you can become a very elegant world-class athlete in a wide variety sports, if you decide early enough and stick to it long enough.

Several years ago there was this fast food company, Jack in the Box. They had this horrible scandal, where some tainted meat got into their supply, and a few people actually died. Killing people with your fast food is probably the quickest way to going out of business. But within a couple of years, they came back stronger than ever. They reorganized their quality control, developed much tougher inspection standards, and started a whole new public relations campaign. Before the incident(s), they didn’t have such a stellar reputation. I remember as a kid sharing rumors that they used kangaroo meat in their hamburgers. But after they reorganized, and launched a public re imaging campaign, they were back on top again. Those commercials with Jack and his big head became pretty commonplace, and they wiped out any negative image that they had before.

Scientists are starting to think that the brain builds up connections and neural pathways much like a muscle builds stronger and more efficient muscle fiber. If you have a bunch of different neurons scattered all through your brain, and you are starting to fire them off in a sequence they’ve never been fired off in before (e.g. thinking a bunch of new thoughts regarding laplacian eigenvalue boundary problems) you brain will naturally reorganize, and create several million, If not billion new connections. This new huge collection of neural pathways and networks are more efficient, and you are much smarter, and are able to think new ideas without that feeling of confusion or anxiety that came with them when you first thought them.

When we exercise, and lift weighs, we tend to instinctively realize there is a “good soreness” that comes the day after a good workout. And when we’re pushing our bodies to capacity, either doing one more pushup or pull-up, or putting an extra bit of juice into that final spring around the curve, we realize that our bodies will recover, and likely come back stronger. So next time we’ll easily do a couple more pushups, or pull-ups, or run faster out of the gait.

When you realize the initial stress and anxiety that sometimes comes with learning new things and experiences can be thought of the same way, there’s no reason why you can’t exercise your brain, becoming smarter and smarter, just like some people exercise their bodies, and become stronger and stronger.

My friend with his new PhD is a great example of this. He’s in his late forties, and teaches Junior High School science. He decided to get his PhD in math a few years ago, and now he’s got it. All it took was as a decision, and some follow-up effort.

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Relentless Expansion

Should You Learn To Fight?

Recently I’ve been hearing a lot of talk about colonizing other planets. Well, maybe not so much as hearing as I’ve been reading many articles on the Internet about the subject. You know how that goes, you find something online, you find this pretty interesting, and you read more and more about this, and click around on the links, and pretty soon you find that you suddenly have developed an interest in this topic that you only maybe were vaguely aware of before now.

When I think back, I think it was all started by something I saw on TV, some crime drama involving some guys that were on this privately owned space ship that offered millionaires the chance to go into orbit for a few days. One of the characters mentioned that this is the golden age when it comes to space entrepreneurial ship. Whether that’s actually true obviously remains to be seen. But it doesn’t take much imagination to see the correlation with Europeans setting out across vast unknown bodies of water search of new lands hundreds of years ago to setting out across space to set up colonies on other planets.

Of course, then there’s that recent movie that is a fairly thin metaphor of what to do when you meet up with people already living in the new area that you’d like to colonize. Human strategies have ranged from killing them, joining them, assimilating them, and pitting them against one another.

Probably the most useful strategy, and resulted in the spread of the most culture, at least according to some historians, is Alexander of Macedonia, or Alexander the Great as he is commonly referred to. He lead a coalition of Greek forces across Persia, and to this date is the second greatest conqueror of all time, if you measure how great a conqueror is by the amount of land they took over. In the number one position is Genghis Khan. An interesting side not is that Genghis Khan was a peasant who’s parents were murdered by a rival chieftain, and yet he rose to become the greatest conqueror in human history, while Alexander was born into a royal family, and inherited his kingdom, which already had quite a bit of support from the various Greek city states when his father was murdered. So you don’t need to be born with a silver spoon in your mouth if you want to conquer the world.

But while Genghis Khan swept through land with fury and terror, and slaughtered everything in his path, Alexander took a more diplomatic approach. Much of the land he conquered, he didn’t even have to fight for. The Persian Empire at that time had undergone quite a bit of upheaval, and they were spread far and thin. Many times Alexander and his troops would ride into a city, and the city government would simply switch their alliance from Persia to Alexander.

But one thing that Alexander did that helped spread Greek culture throughout the world was to encouraged his men, at least the single ones, to take brides from the new cultures. Often times he would pick up fresh soldiers from the cities, and many of his soldiers would stay and build new lives. Of course, this wasn’t always the case. When Babylon fell to Alexander’s troops, he gave them free reign over the city. They raped, plundered, murdered and burned the city to the ground, as was fairly common practice back in those days. (And unfortunately today as well in many places).

Another interesting strategy is the divide and conquer strategy. This was used particularly effectively by the Catholic Church during the colonization of South America and part of Asia in the 1500’s and 1600’s. First they would send the priests, who would convert as many people as possible, including the leaders. Of course, not everybody would convert, and would stick to the old “pagan” religion. Including in some that converted, and some that didn’t would of course be those involved in government. Once there was sufficient division in the ruling classes, then the solders would come, their jobs having been made much easier by the priests that preceded them.

This was attempted in Japan during the same time period, but all the Christians were expelled, or executed before they could finish their plan.

Anytime you want to expand influence into a new area, there is going to be resistance, and there are always several different strategies to take to best overcome the resistance. Brute force, cooperation, or subversion, it depends the desired outcome, and what an appropriate level of risk you’re willing to take, and what skills you possess and how they could best be used. I doubt Alexander or Genghis Khan could have gotten very far by sending in priests. I also doubt that the Spanish Conquistadors would have done well with Alexander’s or Genghis Khan’s fighting strategies, as they required open fields, and many men galloping furiously on thousands of horses. That strategy doesn’t work well in the jungle.

One interesting, and some say natural, application to all these battle, warfare, and conquering strategies is in business. Classic books on warfare, like Sun Tzu’s “The Art Of War,” And Miyomoto Musashi’s “The Book Of Five Rings” are usually found in the business section of the bookstore.

The huge success of the British Empire was largely do it’s effective application of these strategies of warfare to business. One could argue that English is the second most spoken language in the world today, behind only Mandarin, is due to the effective application of timeless warfare strategies to business purposes.

If you own a business today, whether it is a twenty-year-old brick and mortar shop, or an online start up that you are doing in your spare time, it might help to keep some of these ancient warfare strategies in mind.

Because I guarantee you, whatever it is you are trying to sell to your customers, there’s several other people fighting for their attention, and would be pleased as punch to get their business instead of you.


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The Surfer’s Dilemma

Unwanted Attention

I was walking down the street the other day when something really strange happened to me. Something completely out of the blue that I would never have guessed in a million years. That seems to be happening to me a lot lately, strange things. I’m not sure if these kinds of things have always been happening, and I’m only now noticing because I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled for various reasons, or maybe there has been some kind of shift in the way I project my reality out there, I’m not sure.

Nevertheless, I seem to be finding myself in more and more weird situations lately. I don’t know if this has ever happened to you. Sometimes you are on the other side of the glass, watching all this interesting stuff happen to other people, and you wonder, why doesn’t that happen to me? And the more you think that way the more you seem to notice it happening to everybody but you. But as soon as you forget about paying attention to what is going on with other people, and just kind of relax and go with the flow, suddenly you find yourself in a sea of weirdness that the most psychotic dream couldn’t produce.

Like once I was at the beach, and we were wondering if it was worth going through the trouble of putting on our wetsuits and getting into the water. It was one of those blown out days where you may get a couple of decent sets, but then again you may sit out there for a couple hours freezing to death. Then this guy goes running out into the water with his board, and no wetsuit. We are all little surprised because the water was no more than 63 degrees, and nobody can really last that long at that temperature without a wetsuit. So he goes plunging in, and as soon got out past the junk this awesome set came in. He took the second wave, and started off like a pro, and then just completely and utterly wiped out.

He was underwater for a long time, and few guys were making moves to jump in and pull him out. We didn’t know of any rocks or coral or anything, but you never now. You could see his board, and it seemed like his leash was still attached. Finally after what seemed like much to long a time to hold our breath, he stood up, completely wrapped in seaweed. Not just wrapped, but it looked some undersea creatures had taken the time to do some really intricate rope work on him. The way he was wrapped up in seaweed, there was no way he could have just crashed into it and ended up like that. When he first came out of the water, he was kind of bent over with his arms closely at his sides and his fists clenched. He was barely out of the water, and it didn’t look like he could draw a breath with all that seaweed wrapped around him.

Finally, with an obviously huge effort, he stood and raises his arms up, breaking the seaweed, and screaming at the top of his lungs for what seemed like a long time, but in likelihood was only a few seconds. He reached down, grabbed his leash and pulled his board in.

Then the spooky part happened. As he walked back up to the beach, he kept asking people “Did you see them? Did you see them? Longer than you think man, longer than you think,” with this really fearful look on his face. We could tell that he kept wanting to look back towards the water, but was afraid to. Every time he would begin to turn his face towards the ocean, his eyes would get really big, and then he’d look directly down at the sand in front of him, before continuing on to the parking.

The next morning, seven bodies washed up on the beach. They were people that had been on the missing persons list or months, even years. And none of them showed any sign of decomposition whatsoever. Like they all died of shock, and had been dropped off into the water right after death just off shore, at the precise timing so that they would immediatley wash up. All of their eyes were open, in what was anonymously reported in the paper as “The most fearful look I’ve ever seen.”

So as I was walking down the street, waiting for the next weird thing to happen to me, I checked my watch. It had stopped about an hour previous, or so I thought. I asked around what time it was, and everybody gave me a completely different time. I mean like hours apart completely different. I would ask one guy, and he would say it was 3:30, which didn’t make sense, since it felt like I had just left my apartment an hour ago, at 10:30 am. I was only about a ten-minute walk from the station, and I knew I had taken the 10:45 train. The next person I asked said it was 8 am. They must have realized I didn’t believe them, because they showed me their watch. The person after that told me it was six thirty, again, showing me their watch. Nobody was exchanging any glances, like they were in on some practical joke. I would just ask them the time like normal, they’d quickly answer without a second thought, and then go back to their business.

Then I felt a really strange sensation, like I was being watched. I turned around, and that same surfer guy that was caught in the seaweed was staring at me from across the square. He had the same frightful look on his face.

I walked, not sure why, not sure what I was going to say. He started speaking before I could think of a question.

“They’re still out there, you know,” he said, his eyes darting around.

“That was only the beginning.” He added. I had no idea how to even begin to respond, so I turned to walk away. And just then the huge clock tower, which I had never noticed before, struck twelve noon. And as it did, everybody froze in their tracks and turned to stare at me.

Visit from Thanatos

You Never Know When He Comes For You

Once there was this old lady that owned this shop. She had worked there for a long time. Many years ago she had opened the shop with her husband, and would have supported him in any endeavor, provided it made enough sense. Back in those days it was considered quite a rebellious act to go against the status quo and start your own business from scratch, rather than to either follow in your fathers footsteps or to work for a large company. So in that respect, the particular business wasn’t her particular choice, but it had made sense at the time, and had made enough money to live a comfortable life, so she supported him all the way.

He, of course, passed away several years ago from various complications. She had been running the shop on her own for a number of years, due to his growing illness. So it was just natural that when he passed on, she would continue to do so. Sometimes, though, she wondered what would have happened had she not made the choices she did. She did have a decent life, several children, and grandchildren, all grown up and moved out. Having the shop kept her fairly busy, and there were plenty of times she wished that she had husband that had more a traditional business or work, one that wouldn’t require her support. She never shared these thoughts with others, for fear of coming across as ungrateful.

There was another choice, back in the day. When her husband had started courting her, there were also several others, of which only one was a serious contender in any measure. When it had come down to it, had they both proposed, she would have had a hard time deciding, but as things happened, her husband (obviously) was the first to propose, and back in those days, when an eligible suitor proposed, you just didn’t say no.

But she did allow herself to wonder sometimes. What would have happened if? If the other one had asked her first. He was being groomed to take over his fathers business, which was very large and very well established. She would have undoubtedly had a much easier life, and much more time to participate in high society affairs like watching the polo matches and such. But she never allowed herself to think those thoughts for very long, the mind seems to feed upon itself whether you wish you would have done things differently as well as when you appreciate your life for whatever it has brought you.

She was standing there, daydreaming like this, in her shop, when the strange gentlemen entered.

“Afternoon,” he said, tipping his hat. Strange, she thought, men hardly wear hats any more, let alone tip them to lonely old women in shops.
“What can I do for you?” she politely asked.
“Well, let me see,” he said pulling out a list. He looked at it briefly, and then handed it to her.
“Would you by chance have any of these?” he asked pleasantly.
She studied the list.
“Why yes, I think we have all of these items,” She said, leading him through the shop.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” He asked.
She paused, looking at him. He seemed quite young.
“I’m sorry, I can’t say that I do.” She said, more than a little bit curious.
“That’s OK, most people don’t. At least they like to pretend so.”
She wasn’t sure what she meant. She set the basket of items next to the register, and began to ring them up. It was still the same cash register from when the shop originally opened. When she was about halfway finished, he reached out, putting his hand on hers. It was ice cold. She unconsciously recoiled, and then was ashamed for her rudeness.

“I’m sorry, I…” she began.
“It’s ok.” He paused, waiting for her to understand. She looked him in his eyes, which betrayed a confidence and quiet determination well beyond his apparent years.
He reached out, one more and extended his hand. He held his hand as they did back in the day when polo matches were all the rage, and men and women both wore different hats for different occasions.
She understood.

“Is this how it ends?” She asked? More than a little nervous.
“Don’t worry. We’ll be there before you know it.”
“There?” She said, suddenly confused, worried, terror stricken.
“You’ll see.” He said, smiling.

Finally, she reached out, and took his hand.

External or Internal Motivation – Which Is Better?

Which Path Do You Take?

Once there was this pumpkin. He was a normal pumpkin, and went to a normal pumpkin school, like the rest of the kids in his neighborhood. His parents had tried to get him into one of those special schools for gifted pumpkins, but he didn’t think he passed the final entrance examination. They didn’t feel bad, neither did the pumpkin, as almost every pumpkin tries to get into one of those special schools, but very few make it. So his parents as well as he were in good company. Many parents teach their kids early on that the trying and failing is ok, so long as they try. That way, when the vast majority of the kids don’t get into the pumpkin school, they can feel proud of themselves for putting forth valiant effort.

The way the schools are set up, in case you aren’t familiar with them is that they are government run schools, and are completely paid for. There is a whole section of the pumpkin government devoted to the enrichment of its citizens. To that end they’ve created a panel of experts that teach the most cutting edge subjects. The school is a state of the art facility where most scientific and technological advances are made.

Many kids secretly don’t want to get into the advanced placement school. That would mean leaving their friends and family, as the school is located near the central government. Once they finish the school, they are required to spend no less than 5 years teaching at the school and further developing the curriculum. For a young pumpkin just entering into adolescence, this is an awfully large commitment.

Of course, the kids enjoy bragging about their scores, and comparing them to one another. Because they are completely meaningless if they aren’t accepted into the special school, the teasing and posturing of the young pumpkins is accepted as a normal part of every day school life.

Most pumpkins finish their primary education without moving on to higher levels. The pumpkin economy is sufficient to provide many well paying jobs to blue-collar pumpkin workers. Because these jobs are so plentiful, most pumpkins can easily find a way to make a living very near where they grew up.

It’s not uncommon to find neighborhoods with two and sometimes three generations of families spread throughout. Which is why the pumpkin of this particular story was overwhelmingly upset when he learned he was accepted, just barely, into the special pumpkin school. That meant ten years away from his friends and family. Five for the school itself, and five for the teaching commitment that came with it.

Of course, he knew very well that after finishing his teaching commitment, he was pretty much set for life. While many pumpkins stayed and taught at the special school after their commitment was fulfilled, it was by no means expected or even depended on. Virtually all the pumpkins that fulfilled their teaching requirements found extremely lucrative jobs in the technological fields, some even sitting on boards of directors of several large international conglomerations.

However, that didn’t appeal to our young pumpkin hero at all. He didn’t want a prestigious job in ten years. He didn’t want to start teaching at a prestigious university in five. He didn’t want to study there next fall. He wanted to stay right where he was.

He was in love.

They had begun hanging out together at lunchtime last spring. They had started sitting together at lunch, the way kids do. As time went on, they started sitting closer together, some days even exchanging a few words. Then one day, for some reason that neither of the cared about, when they showed up to their normal lunch table, it was only the two of them.

Of course they were both very nervous. But once they started talking, their nervousness was quickly replaced by the excitement of discovering new feelings and emotions that you never knew existed. Soon they started meeting when they knew it would only be just the two of them, if for only a few minutes. Sometimes they would talk about their math homework; sometimes they wouldn’t talk at all.

But now this young pumpkin had a decision to make. His acceptance letter, as a matter of law, would be reported to his school administrator. It is quite an honor for any school to have one of its students accepted to the government school of higher learning. Of course, attendance wasn’t compulsory, but no pumpkin had ever turned down such an opportunity. To attend a school, at no charge, with a virtual guarantee of economic success in only a few years. To do so would be unthinkable.

But that was just what the young pumpkin intended. The feelings he experienced when he was with his new girlfriend were far more wonderful than any ideas of economic success on the other end of a long, boring, ten-year separation from his friends and family.

But how in the world would he tell them?

One day he was moping about down at the park, when one of the elder pumpkins spotted him.

“What’s wrong?”

The young pumpkin explained everything, feeling a strange sense of relief at unloading his problems to a complete stranger. This was the first he’d told anyone of his predicament.

“That is a tough one.” Said the elder.

He paused, and the young pumpkin waited. After a deep breath, the elder turned to him and started.

“Many folks would tell you that young love is fleeting, that it doesn’t last. That you should focus on long term success, rather than short term feelings. That it is an honor and a privilege to be accepted to that school. That you have a duty to your family, to your school, to society to fulfill your destiny, as they’d say. To fulfill your talents. To use your creative gift to give to others what they may not be able to get for themselves.”

This is exactly what the young pumpkin was afraid of, and precisely what he didn’t want to hear.

The elder continued.

“Many will tell you tales of opportunities missed, of dreams that went unfulfilled. And they will tell you that if you do not take this opportunity, you will regret it for the rest of your life.”

The young pumpkin, although depressed beyond measure, was ready to accept his fate. His young mind was no match for such rhetoric from such an old and learned pumpkin.

“But here is one thing they will most assuredly not tell you. Their motives are selfish. They care not for you, but only for their own memories of their own lost opportunities. They see you on the cusp of success, and recall all of their failures. All of the times they could become great, but failed. In you they see their only chance of redemption, if only vicariously.”

The young pumpkin wasn’t sure he understood.

“It is a self perpetuating myth. An idea that isn’t true. They made a choice, and it didn’t turn out very well. So they see you, and by urging you to make the same choice and follow the same, expected path, they are hoping you will heal their wounds. Society is filled with people like that. Telling you what is right. Telling you what should be done. People seek comfort in the conformity of others. It helps them to believe that even if the choices they made didn’t bring them the happiness they expected, they are the common choices, and therefore the right choices.”

“Here is wisdom, young pumpkin. Many will tell you to make your choice based on what you want, and not what others want. But they forget to mention that that can only be done when you accept full responsibility for the outcome of your choice. And never expect others to undo what you’ve done. Ever. Ask yourself one question:

Can I live with it?”

The young pumpkin thought. Thought about ten years of doing things other people wanted him to, followed by who knows how many years doing who knows what. Could he live with that?

Then he thought of his friends, his family, his girlfriend, and the life he would likely lead should he turn down the opportunity of a lifetime.

The decision became lucidly clear. He smiled, and walked home.

Revenge of the Rabbits

Once upon a time there was a small village filled with people that had been there for many many years. They were a strange people, and they hadn’t reproduced in over three generations, making the idea of a generation kind of redundant, if you can follow my logic.

Anyway, one afternoon the town mayor was out for a stroll, and he noticed three rabbits chatting. He got close enough to hear what they were saying without scaring them off. He was astonished to learn the heated topic of their conversation.

They were arguing when they should launch their assault of the small village. It turns out that the villagers had been throwing away their garbage for several years behind the old chestnut tree, without much thought to the consequences.

As it turns out, the garbage had begun seeping down into the ground, which fed the carrot patch, which was the rabbit’s main source of food. The rabbits at first tried to discuss what to do, and they initially decided to be peaceful, and send an emissary to the villagers to explain their situation.

This didn’t quite work out as planned, as the group of representatives from the rabbit community were summarily killed and eaten by the villagers.

This of course, enraged the rabbit community, which led to the current situation.

When our hero returned back to town to report the news, nobody believed him. Nobody believed that rabbits could talk, let alone develop long ranged plans based on agricultural concerns. Our hero was run out of town.

The townspeople were surprised at the first wave of the rabbit attack. Surprised, and wholly unprepared. The rabbits inflicted considerable casualties, and burned over half of the town.

That was just the beginning. The second wave of attack was even more brutal. The rabbits viscously killed whoever hadn’t fled. And those that did flee, the rabbits had set up a trap that caught them as well.

It only took three days before the rabbit had killed and consumed the entire village. And after they cleaned up the garbage dump behind the chestnut tree, they lived happily every after.

How To Find Your Niche – The Baker’s Success Story

There used to be this guy that worked in a bakery. It was a small shop in a small neighborhood. He had owned the bakery for several years, and had slowly developed a large following in the town, inasmuch as baker can develop a following.  He was he go to guy for all of the birthday parties, wedding celebrations and all other gatherings of friends and family that required any kind of bread product. He was the man.

It wasn’t always that way. When he first moved into town, he didn’t have a nickel to his name. He moved into town back during the transitional time in the local economy, when the city was just starting out. The city had been a small bedroom community for many manufacturing plants in the next town over. Many people that worked in the plants made their home in this small town.

The baker, who back then wasn’t yet a baker, moved to town in hopes of finding a good job in one of the factories. He had just finished six years in the service, and was hoping to apply his skills to one of the many technical based manufacturing plants in the area.

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out quite as well as he’d hoped. Just when he moved into town, the economy suffered a series of serious setbacks. Jobs moving overseas, a significant drop in demand for the manufactured products. Many people lost their jobs, and a lot of secondary businesses that depended on those people simply went out of business. It’s hard to stay in business when nobody can afford to buy your product.

So this ex military man was in a bit of a tough spot. He had saved enough money to get him by for a couple months, but he had really been depending on the source of income from one of the factories. That was his first lesson.

Never depend on a source of income that isn’t yours yet.

So he did a quick inventory of his skills. In the service he had been assigned to the maintenance department on large carriers. He was pretty good at fixing things, small things, big things. Anything mechanical, he could fix it.

That is what led him to his first job fixing the bread machine. He had always loved sourdough bread, and one day he happened into a bread shop to buy a loaf, or half a loaf. The owner was very sad, because his large mixing machine wasn’t working properly. He explained to the ex military man that the part was on order, but wasn’t expected for at least a week. He was beside himself, because without the mixing machine, he would lose what little business he had left. That’s when the ex military man recognized the second lesson.

Always have a back up plan.

Of course, the bread shop owner didn’t have a back up plan, and was exposed to significant risk. The ex-military man, his heart set on eating some sourdough bread, decided to offer his services. He wasn’t doing anything, and maybe the shop owner would give him some free bread. He suggested the trade, and the shop owner quickly agreed.

It didn’t take long for the shop owner to realize what a resource the military man was. The shop owner was getting old, and he knew an opportunity when he saw one. He had worked in this same shop for almost twenty years, and all the equipment was very old. If he could convince this ex military man to be his repairman, he could stay in business a few years longer. So they struck a bargain.

The ex military man would help out around the shop, and repair and keep all the equipment running smoothly. The bread shop owner would pay him a modest salary, and give him all the bread he could eat. Both the ex-military man the bread shop owner noticed the third lesson at the same time.

Always be open to new opportunities.

It didn’t take long for the military man to realize he had a love for bread. He began experimenting with different recipes, different cooking methods, and more and more people began coming to the shop to eat the delicious bread made by this ex sailor.

It didn’t take long for the townspeople to forget about his military past and see him only as the baker’s apprentice. The baker himself began to plan his retirement, certain that his apprentice would take over.

And when he did retire, and the bakers apprentice became the baker, it was a smooth a transition as you could imagine.  There was a big celebration, a farewell party of sorts (although the retired baker still lived in the town and was president of the Lions Club), and the apprentice became the baker.

And maybe he realized it, maybe he didn’t, but here’s the fourth lesson:

Sometimes you find your niche in life, but more often than not, your niche will find you.