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Collected editorials

Did you really want to read this?


My site is large because I steal from myself. I can get away with stealing from myself because I never notice that I’m being ripped off. The site is diverse because I screw it up when I’m copying from myself and it always comes out different.

This is called creativity.


Our Lady of the Large Black Dog has mentioned to me that I have been remiss by not having written about Jimmy. Indeed I have. In my defense that is as it should be; much about him is quite unmentionable. At least it would be in polite company. Fortunately this editorial was never intended for polite company.

Once upon a time when Our Lady’s son Nick was a young lad he had a thing about the name Jimmy. I’m not quite sure of the details but my understanding is that he named horses Jimmy, cattle Jimmy, dogs Jimmy, and even sundry small domestic rodents Jimmy. No doubt he would have christened aardvarks and armadillos Jimmy if it weren’t that South Dakota is singularly bereft of aardvarks and armadillos.

One day young Nicholas approached Our Lady with the news that there was a stray cat about. Alarmed, she told him not to feed it. Alas, he already had. (Naturally.) The cat was immediately dubbed Jimmy. I wouldn’t be surprised if he hadn’t acquired the name before his first bowl of milk.

Jimmy was a very skinny stray Oroblanco (orange and white) cat who had survived on his own quite handily due to his relentless and quite successful depredations of the local rodent and small bird populations. I’m not quite certain as to how large his small birds were. I imagine that he wouldn’t have tackled a vulture or a large hawk, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he took out a robin now and then.

I think it was those years of survival under adverse conditions that shaped his personality, a personality that can only be described thusly: Jimmy is the most evil cat I have ever known. That is no small claim, particularly for a cat.

It’s not just that he tears around the house knocking down small knicknacks (if you are going to keep cats you do well to confine your knicknacks to large items with a low center of gravity), clawing the furniture, climbing on tables and investigating interesting food, and turning Christmas trees into shambles. All cats do that sort of thing. It’s in the contract. What contract? Why, the contract that the progenitor of the cat race signed with You Know Who. (Note: even then cats cheated – the contract was signed in mouse blood.)

Our Lady is not fond of his habit of going outside, rolling in the dirt (he’s big on rolling in the dirt) and then shaking himself off on the dining room table as he attacks the center piece. This may be typical cat behaviour although in truth I have never observed it in any other cat, at least not with the blatant offensiveness that is Jimmy’s trademark.

Speaking of going outside, Jimmy has a little game that he enjoys and will continue to play as long as there is anyone who is willing to indulge him in it. It is a simple game. He stands by the door waiting to let out. Once out he walks around a bit and then stands by the door waiting to let back in. Once in he walks around a bit and then stands by the door waiting to let back out. He can do this for hours.

It is not a game that requires much intelligence, but the truth is that Jimmy does not have much intelligence. (Evil does not require intelligence – perversity suffices.) I fancy that his brain is about the size of a walnut – a badly shriveled walnut. So it is that he doesn’t understand the word “no”.

For example, suppose there is something interesting on a table. Something interesting may be meat or milk, or even a glass of ice water. Jimmy is particularly partial to ice water; he likes to stick his head in the glass and drink. If the water level is a little low he just squeezes his head down into the glass. A cat head in a glass is not just your ordinary sight. Whatever the object of his olfactory bulb, he simply keeps going for it. Pick him up, set him down, back he comes. Throw him down, back he comes. He just doesn’t give up. The only practical way to eat a meal in peace is to lock him in the cellar.

His persistence in being where he is not wanted is annoying but not truly evil. For true evil consider petting. There are animals that will bite the hand that feeds them. This is perverse enough, something many would consider evil, and yet it is understandable enough; a wild animal does not trust you even if it is eating food you give it. Jimmy doesn’t do any such thing; it would be simply too banal to be a true act of evil.

Instead Jimmy bites and claws the hand that pets him. Mind you, this is not because he doesn’t want to be petted. He wants to be petted. Jimmy loves me – a really sick kind of love. When I sit down he runs and jumps into my lap. If I don’t immediately start rubbing his head he reaches a paw out and tries to drag my hand to his head. Having gained his way, he bides his time and strikes, either biting or clawing. Satisfied, he sits in my lap, purrs, and goes to sleep.

I won’t even mention what he does in bed.

From out of the past

Some of the material in this issue is even more peculiar than usual. There is a reason for this. Several decades ago I was a college student. One of the things I did as a college student was to write poetry and fiction. In these latter days I have published much on it on the web in my poetry section. Much, but all.

In those days I had a folder containing draft material, mostly handwritten, of things I was working on. At some point I typed fresh copies of selected material and put it in a binder. Many years later I transcribed the contents of the binder onto the web.

But what, you might ask, of the original binder. Did it not perish the way of flesh or at least all paper? Don’t be silly. Many years ago, not long after my days as a babbling bard, I acquired a desk and a filing cabinet. Over the decades the filing cabinet has been replaced; the desk has not. The desk has a drawer for folders; a drawer whose contents have remained mostly undisturbed for decades. The original filing cabinet has been replaced by others over time; however the original contents have tended to migrate from one filing cabinet to the next. For the most part the folders remain there, undisturbed, waiting their turn to be opened and the efforts contained within to be renewed.

The other day I was doing a bit of reorganizing. I do this every other decade or so when that part of my filing system that is actually in use becomes too disorganized. In this instance I was organizing the collection of user instructions for various appliances and user electronics that litter the house. Having done my duty by those folders I glanced at the folder immediately past them. Lo, what do we have here? Why it is that ancient folder containing all of those mouldering poems, posted and unposted, in all there revisions. Aha, I said, that takes care of December.

So it is that December’s issue has half a dozen poems and a couple of short stories, all rather odd. In defense of my younger self he was never, as far as I know, a psychopathic serial killer with an obsessive hatred of humanity.

Good lies

Good lies are self evident and widely believed.

Aluminum helmets

Students at MIT apparently have too much time on their hands or perhaps they have a misplaced sense of values. There is much evidence for the latter proposition. One group has done a study on the effectiveness of aluminum helmets as protection from mind control rays. They have published a paper on the net at URL http://people.csail.mit.edu/rahimi/helmet/ The abstract for their paper reads:

Among a fringe community of paranoids, aluminum helmets serve as the protective measure of choice against invasive radio signals. We investigate the efficacy of three aluminum helmet designs on a sample group of four individuals. Using a $250,000 network analyser, we find that although on average all helmets attenuate invasive radio frequencies in either directions (either emanating from an outside source, or emanating from the cranium of the subject), certain frequencies are in fact greatly amplified. These amplified frequencies coincide with radio bands reserved for government use according to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Statistical evidence suggests the use of helmets may in fact enhance the government’s invasive abilities. We theorize that the government may in fact have started the helmet craze for this reason.
By all means check it out. The photos are quite amusing. As for their results, all I can say is,
“Foiled again!”

Flash crowds

Larry Niven did a series of short stories that centered on teleportation. Two of the themes in them were flash crowds and mutual interest clubs. The thought in the flash crowds theme was that lots of people would teleport to any place where something interesting was happening. The phenomenon would be self-amplifying. That is, the mere existence of a flash crowd gathering would be interesting in its own right.

In a society where people are completely mobile it is hard to put together the elements of a social life. Niven suggested that one mechanism would be clubs – places where like-minded people could gather together.

I was thinking about denial of service attacks – not so much the attacks organized by hackers as the ones I am subjected to by overly enthusiastic readers – and it occurred to me that the internet has become a form of virtual teleportation. We can go any where – not physically but rather electronically. Our social mobility has been amplified; we can and do form friendships and acquaintanceships all over the world.

This virtual mobility is liberating – our minds are not constrained to dwell within our own small section of turf – but it has its downside. There are too many possibilities open to us. In a world of endless flux and possibilities there are no solid anchors, no solid focal points on which to build.

Sewing and ironing

Some mothers teach their sons sewing and ironing on the grounds that they might not have a woman around at some point in their lives. My mother never bothered with such foolishness – she knew her son. Nonetheless I didn’t remain ignorant.

My introduction to sewing and ironing was from my Marine Corp Drill Instructor, who certainly wasn’t my mother, although he was a mother of sorts. At least some of the troops had a name for him that started with mother… Not that they used it in his hearing, of course.

Any way, that mother* insisted that we had a thorough practical knowledge of repair sewing and ironing. He didn’t say anything about not having a woman around, though. Then again, maybe he was confused about what gender we were, considering some of the things he called us.


“The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable hunk of rock or coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds a spot to it takes root, it doesn’t need its brain anymore so it eats it. It’s rather like getting tenure.”

Daniel Dennett – Consciousness Explained

Works for me.

This page was last updated December 1, 2005.
It was reformatted and moved October 16, 2006

table of contents
Collected editorials