The New Numerology

Irrational, yet rooted in the compost of truth. I fear I have painted myself into a corner. Friday has come and gone, as it so often does, leaving in its wake the apprehension that comes from knowing how these things play out. Saturday followed, then Sunday, and here it's Monday already and all I can think about is Friday. The thing is, you can't have more than seven umpteenths in a month, which leaves me in a bit of a pickle when Friday rolls around. Not that I mind sitting in a corner waiting for the paint to dry; I have plenty of food, because if there's one thing I never get tired of, it's pickles. Sometimes I get tired of motorcycles, but that's Arlo's song, not mine.

When you think about it, you can't put an ump where a 20 used to be and call it a day. I didn't think about it, but I can tell you that I would have done things differently if I had. Friday the umpth is about as rational as ump divided by zero, and rationality is too important to be thrown into the compost with the roots of negative attention.

No matter how much paint I use, my calendar just gets more and more messed up. Duty in the face of dereliction is one thing, but there's a fine line between stubbornness and tenacity, an even finer line between truth and fiction, and a teensy weensy line on the refrigerator where my calendar used to be. I have plenty of turpentine, so I'm not worried about that.


Friday the Umpteenth

TGIFTU How many Fridays does it take to pull the wool over my eyes? To answer the question, I decided to perform a double-blind experiment in the privacy of my own laboratory, where a sheepish grin is all the proof I need that synthetic hypotheses are every bit as warm as their manmade counterparts, and how.

Recognizing that the how is to the why as the where is to welding goggles, I felt my way into the closet where the eye patches are kept. While the ordinary scientist may be content with the rudimentary blindness afforded by welding goggles, there isn't any point in pretending that a single-blind experiment produces repeatable results. Extraordinary clarity demands extraordinary eyewear, which is reason enough to put the patch before the goggle.

Having eliminated parallax error and its telltale itch, I was free to turn my attention to more important matters, such as how many Fridays it takes to pull the wool over my eyes. In the presence of polite company, staring may be seen as an indication of vulgar upbringing, but seeing isn't always believing, and belief is far too subjective to be quantified simply by averting one's eyes. Like counting sheep under a strobe light, the sheer volume of thirteens on the average calendar fools the eye, lending a certain lumpinessor umpiness, if scientific rigor even matters anymoreto the so-called equation.

In other words, appy ump day.


Conjuring Authenticity

The root of all evil. As the leaves begin their seasonal metamorphosis, I'm reminded that I have no easy way of changing my outward appearance. Sure, I can change my shirt or put on a pair of brown shoes, but leaves don't have to change their clothes, so it isn't really the same thing.

If the wizards at Monsanto can turn ordinary wheat to mahogany, I don't see why it shouldn't be possible to give an ordinary human the color and texture of an orange, or an overripe banana. More to the point, Halloween is just around the corner, and you are what you eat should be more than an empty threat to those of us who wanted to be a coconut last year, but lacked the proper training to modify our own DNA.

When I think of all the tears that went into last year's costume, I have to laugh. Not that crying over spilled coconut milk is my idea of a good time, but it's better than walking a mile in someone else's damp costume, especially at night.


Reflective Translucency

Really, self-reflection is. After I make a sentence, I like to second-guess its meaning. Is there an insinuation, and if so, why isn't it floating on the surface where I can touch it? Are there hidden patterns? How many words were sacrificed at the altar of translucency, or made to perform in their pajamas?

Where reasoned communication is the goal, the answer is no. Otherwise, an even mix of gypsum and dried plant matter solves the puzzle just as well, leaving ample time for reflective nesting, and the quiet enjoyment of a midsummer night's dream.

As the astute reader will have noted, Lucidum somniantes habitant, servatis in speculo tantum retro Dextrum autem somnium somnium in no way reflects the views of those whose dreams have been prerecorded, reformatted, or translated for broadcast in a foreign market.


Understanding Otto

The sun never sets on Otto's empire, man. Hopping a freight is a fine way to gain multicultural experience, but to fully appreciate the world's history, nothing compares to stowing away aboard a transatlantic flight.

When the plane has reached cruising altitude, I like to first question the captain as he strides up and down the aisle, which is how captains indicate that no one is at the controls. "Who's flying this plane?" is a good place to start, because all copilots are named Otto, giving the captain an opportunity to get at least one answer right, even with his mouth full. Some people think salted nuts are offered only to passengers, but they're not.

If the captain's answer is "Constantinople," it's a clear signal that he's waiting for his ears to pop, leaving the copilot as the only reliable source of historical information. This is how I learned that Otto has been accumulating real estate since 1453, which is even longer than Donald. I also learned that the sun never sets on his empire, so putting the fan on Otto is a pretty good idea. Since Otto is taller than everyone else, the air has a better chance of reaching his subjects when he delivers a speech, or a fiat.

I think Constantine drove an Opel. That's why he lost the war.


The Nesting Habits of Successful Programmers

Self-reflection isn't, really. Even as technology's decadent thrum brings remote viewing to the bedrooms of those who refuse to cover their smartphone lenses with tape, an equivalent crutch remains beyond the reach of the average lucid dreamer, leaving himor her, if gender even matters nowto hobble about in the dark.

Fortunately, the techniques of the ancients are available to those with the wisdom to sniff at page-ranking algorithms, for taste is rarely in the eye of the beholder. Optically speaking, the mind's eye has already done the heavy lifting, sparing us the nosebleeds and confusion that come from walking on ceilings, or falling up the stairs. Speaking subaudibly, the volume of sleepers in the nest has little effect on the content of the common dream, leaving sober reflection as the only reliable means of transport.

It goes without saying that nested lucid dreamers, when observed in a mirror, are reversed not only right to left, but dream to dream. How this might affect the portal itself is exactly the sort of question that wastes what little time we have left for writing software.


Gravity Incarnate

Dark is just light with no clothes on.

In my next life I think I'd like to be a rolling stone. Unencumbered by mosslike growths beneath the hat that won't stay put as I tumble, headlong, toward the unsuspecting villagers below, papa's sly smile would become a dizzying reminder of frowns turned upside down, then right side up, then upside down, for ad nauseam repetition makes the world go round.

Two-dimensional characters may seem ambulatory in the flat light of morning, but peppered with salty language and a twist, the self-thickening plot relies less on heroin than on the natural accumulation of grit as the rock . . . slips . . . a little . . . bit.


News, Plumbing, and Aristocracy

Hear ye, see ye, read ye! Contrary to what I may have heard through the grapevine below your window, not every white paper is a suitable replacement for the colorful news, weather, and sports delivered in virtual real time by youngsters who have nowhere to go but up, assuming Mars hasn't dropped below the horizon before the final countdown begins.

Reading between the lines below the fold proves that the trials and errors that pass for news are only fumes in the teapot, and should not be taken internally before the gas has been allowed to cool. This is not to say that a similarly tempestuous cooling period contributed to our naked ancestors' demise, before clothing burst into the limelight, and occasionally at the seams. Rather, an appropriate phrase would consist of proper nouns and their improper counterparts, leaving quarter notes to fill the white space left behind by shifting tectonic plates below my pressroom, where stability really counts.

Indeed, less is often more, evidenced by the nomenclature used to signify equality, although sometimes it's the other way around. Odd Thursdays are the exception to the rule, leaving the colonists to settle their differences the old-fashioned way, but not everyone has a duke at his disposal. Like a plumber on overtime, the gloves come off before the light goes on, leaving opposable thumbs to declog, demuck, and demystify the reversible threads that confound royalty and plainclothes workers alike, for these are not your father's pipes. If they were, you would have inhaled by now.


Questionable Certainties

Extra Special Ops Having reached the age of habituation, it's easy to take my surroundings for granted. A tree is still a tree, a hydrant is a hydrant, and the clouds are where they've always been, though they seem darker now. To avoid further complacency, I believe the time has come to take my surroundings with a grain of salt, questioning the certainties that frame my worldview, and cleaning the peephole I use to spy on the little terrorist across the hall.

Sure, I'm aware of my surroundings, but are my surroundings aware of me? Of course not. Espionage doesn't work that way.


Realizing the Event Horizon

Don't judge a hole by its color. Historically, the sight of a crow heckling a large hawk causes me to avert my eyes. The outcome is predictable, severe, and does little to improve my already cynical worldview. This morning's episode, however, was different in one very important way: I had a realization. This is how I was able to connect the dots.

I saw that the connectivity of dots is hampered by their straightforward appearance, leading to the realization that coaxing them out of their hide-in-plain-sight surroundings and onto a sheet of carbon paper is the best way to observe their habits. This led to the conviction that too many dots spoil the graph, but it didn't matter because I had already arrived at my realization, which isn't the sort of thing that needs to be done twice.

If asked, I would simply indicate that the murder of crows is no longer my responsibility. If asked again, I would simply indicate that, yes, they do grow on trees. The third time, I would simply point to the nearest black hole, which is exactly like a hawk, only without the feathers. Superior encephalization quotient or not, crows should know that by now.


Nothing Doing

Don't do nothing. When I act as if nothing has happened, I'm setting the stage for a play on words. In theory, the act of doing nothing is less an act than the stubborn refusal to stand and deliver, but not everyone is good at thinking on their feet. In practice, talk is cheap, which is just one more reason to memorize the script before the fruit flies.

When actions speak louder than words, we immediately understand that something hasn't been properly lubricated. If joints could speak, they would ask for silencing gel, or a ride to the muffler shop. If joints could sing, they wouldn't have to spend their lives gazing into the wishing well of popular culture, where everyone is a star, or will be, or was.

Are we not stardust? Yes, and the fruit fly is stardust, too.



360 degrees of freedom, plus or minus.

Turtles dawdle when they walk
Shambhala shells along for the ride
But when they go sailing!
Their shells are unfurled
A pirouette of possibilities
Horizon's blue axis
Afloat on the waves.



Like a highly amplified tour bus. While discussing current events with one of my charges, the problem of negating false positives during the testing phase rose to the top of the stack, resulting in a noticeable puff of smoke that alarmed the fire department's chief observer, who chided us for leaving the lightning rod unplugged during the height of the storm.

When he had finished plugging in, the familiar strains of an old Hendrix song woke the neighbors, who came over to complain, but changed their tune when they realized that the drummer hadn't removed her breathing apparatus. As midnight came and went, it became obvious that the fire department intended to play until someone apologized for interrupting their sleep. They didn't see the humor in our reckless disregard for fire safety during a thunderstorm; they said we might as well have been on the roof, naked, with a metal pole.

They were right, of course. Like grounding a charging horse, a negative charge on the lightning rod guarantees a few extra winks in the firehouse, where the path of least resistance often leads to a brass pole, even at night.

wonder if horses understand electricity.


Multiple Choice

One of these things is not like the others.

There is only one correct question for each answer.

a) Reciprocity failure.
a) The intersection of two Venn diagrams.
a) I know this one.
a) A rectifier.
a) First there is a mountain.
a) The last owl.
a) Self-perpetrating prophesy.
a) I don't understand.
a) Beyond the shadow of reason.
a) Mere portals.
a) A catalyzing event.
a) There is no beep.

q) Is not the reciprocal a negative quantity?
q) When did his watch stop?
q) Molybdenum, as in Molybdenum?
q) If a lightning rod isn't connected, is it still a lightning rod?
q) How many quantum mechanics does it take to change?
q) Why not block the number?
q) Was that a comet?
q) You call that codified?
q) What hyperbolic chitchat?
q) The set of all known Venn diagrams?
q) What has happened here?
q) What color was the sky?
q) Where has all the flour gone?
q) If the bow breaks, what then?
q) That came from your printer?
q) If lightning strikes, who will take the reigns?
q) Did you come alone?


A Drop in the Dream Bucket

This is not a drop of golden sun. Compared to their nocturnal counterparts, my daydreams are sunsoaked romps in green meadows; they're happy-go-lucky strolls in the park; they don't require shoes. On the other hand, nighttime is the right time for laboring in labyrinths, which is a pretty good description of my after-dark dream activities, so I won't be editing this sentence anytime soon.

When I fall asleep in the daytime, it's almost always because I can't keep my eyes open. If I also happen to be stretched out, with the sun in my face, the odds of sundrenched romping aren't even worth calculating. Mechanical contraptions become increasingly unreliable with age, so it's better to save the abacus for reckoning beans, or lumber.

Returning to my original point, a recent episode of Jeff Takes a Nap featured exactly the sort of eye-popping antics that have made me a lifelong fan, and keep me coming back no matter how much I have to pay for popcorn. Not only did my dream unfold entirely on and about a bed remarkably similar to the one where I lay napping, it raised the bar for future productions by forcing the lead characterthat would be meto continually pry his eyes open with his fingers in order to avoid bumping into the other cast members and ruining the play.

Interpreting a dream's underlying meaning has never been my strong suit, but desperation leads me to conclude that a simple lack of sleep is to blame for this one.


Cat o' Nine Tales

All cats are gifted comedians. And they're dark, too. When I see a cat racing through the house with loony eyes and a severe case of pooftail, my first thought is that I forgot to close the front door before I went to bed. On second thought, it generally occurs to me that the cat lives here, and is merely pursuing one of the local phantasms who seem to think that life is one big joke.

Cats know that life is considerably more complicated. While the average human muddles through, at most, one life at a time, cats are forced to juggle nine, leaving precious little time to practice their routines before a live audience. Fortunately, cats are gifted comedians, a trait that is only amplified by nine simultaneous lives in a multiverse known for its dark sense of humor.

Like the multiverse, cats know that a lighthearted story sells fewer copies than its shadowy counterpart; they understand that profitable storytelling relies on the accumulation of apprehension, and dread. This is why cats store dark matter in their tails.


The Soundtracks of Our Lives

Play that funky soundtrack, white boy. They say the truest test of infamy lies in the soundtrack that accompanies what we do when we think no one else is listening. This is just another way of assuming that the soundtrack has left its earmarks on the listener's tympanic membranes, but I don't believe everything I assume. If hearing is believing, I choose to believe that Craig knows a thing or two about soundtracks, and said so, thus leading me to a "'quartet of solo harmonica tunes, with a "strong degree of unselfconscious spontaneity, glee, and abandon"' that made me cry like a baby, or would have, if babies had pink mustaches.

They don't, of course, and therein lie the rubs that ruined the tape heads on my own portable Panasonic cassette recorder, which is why the harmonica sounds like a kazoo. But it isn't, and anyone who says otherwise should wake up and smell the frosting, then find his own soundtrack instead of staring at mine all the time.

So this is goodbye, Charlie Lewis, wherever you are. Finders keepers, losers weepers, and that goes double for the photograph of someone who may or may not look exactly like me, but will have to do until the surgeon arrives. In the meantime, everyone should go to their rooms, because it's my soundtrack now.


The Element of Surprise

Elementary, my dear Prudence. No longer the exclusive province of milk crates and cinder blocks, turning the tables on comfort and reliability has become something of a sport for those with nothing better to do. Unlike the label on the hyperallergenic mattress purchased by your farsighted friend, the element of surprise is considerably more difficult to ascertain, corrective lenses be damned.

Left outdoors in subzero temperatures, even the most elegant air furniture is no match for elements that change state on a whim, especially when liquids fill the spaces intended for carbon dioxide, or similarly vapid emissions. Left to the elements, a periodic table is an uncomfortable table, showing its grain to the world even as splinters accumulate in the elbows of visitors with no other place to sit.

Like an episodic relationship, the periodic table is rarely there when guests arrive, leaving hospitality to take up the slack, and serendipity to dish out the specific symbol required to make sense of star-crossed chemistry, with all the awkward surprises it brings to the table.

Aren't you hungry?


The Color of Noise

White noise, pink noise, grey noise — now in designer colors! Having recently come out as someone who hears voices from the fan in my bedroom window, I may as well also admit to nepotism when it comes to the color of noise. White noise is familiar noise, and pink was always there for me when I wanted to express my angst in a dark yet lyrical way. But what's coming out of the fan can only be described as grey, which may account for the accent that adds to the difficulty of deciphering the voices' true intent. It certainly isn't black and white, and though true intent is rarely transparent, I don't see the humor in a fan that doesn't say what it means.

Admitting a noise-color bias is one thing, but I enthusiastically deny having come down with schizophrenia, and it's unlikely I've been newly gifted with the ability to receive radio broadcasts through my hair. That would be insane. Instead, I believe this is a simple case of air in a hurry, which is often mistaken for humanlike speech by those neither fully awake nor altogether asleep. This so-called La La Landor Grey Area 52, for those whose color perception remains unhampered by technical jargonhas been poked and examined with microscopes and white papers alike, leaving little to the imagination that runs wild wherever dreams are sold.

Pecuniary interest aside, an accumulating wind in the halls of Dreamland is never more than the sum of its parts, or the product of its blades. Though plastic is favored for its malleability, wind-driven voices are clearer and more to the point when a paintable material is used. A noise by any other color is still a noise, but suffering for the questionable taste of others isn't my idea of high fidelity.


Punctuation Ethics

Mirroring situation ethics with a semicolon to spare. Reflections of mirrors afloat on the water;
A blue recollection of words in the glass
A retrograde journey, like father, like daughter;
The mind in the mirror foreshadows the past.

The Rhythm of the Rails

The loco motives of semantics derailed.

Sometimes, the light at the end of the tunnel leads me to the awkward realization that my train of thought has derailed before it even had the opportunity to hop a freight. While jumping the tracks of musical folklore may result in a similar rush, hormones in a hurry don't care how many channels were blended to achieve the final mix, nor whether the boxcar is responsible for keeping track of its riders, restless or otherwise.

Years of training have taught me that, when the going gets tough, the tough get hopping. The proof of this can be seen in the shoelaces tied together by pranksters, who never tire of abusing the semantics that would allow boarding in a more reasonable way.

Next time I'm overcome by the need to ramble, I'll be leaving my shoes behind. Putting the pushcart before the locomotive leaves the horse to decide what goes in the playlist, and as any audio engineer will tell you, two tracks of rhythmic clunking don't make a lullaby any more than four tracks improve the headroom in a miniature caboose.


Guerilla Navigation

Where do you want this chillin' done? Out on highway 61.

When I'm bored, I enjoy driving under the influence of the synthetic female voice from the GPS navigation system, letting the day's dramas melt away in the mirror behind the seat. The mispronounced street names always make me smile, and I have to laugh when I'm routed into oncoming traffic, or onto a bicycle path.

After entering a destination, it's fun to disobey the directions in an attempt to force the system into hysteria.

"In one-quarter mile, make a u-turn to stay on East Embryo."

"In 300 feet, make a u-turn to stay on East Embryo."

"Make a u-turn."

"Make a u-turn."

[warbling shriek]

"This is a bad neighborhood."

When I'm in one of my little moods, I like to fool the navigation system into believing I'm on a bicycle, when in fact I have no intention of even rolling down the windows.

"Continue west on East Embryo for one-half mile."

"In one-quarter mile, merge onto Viva Apocalypse Bicycle Trail."

"In 300 feet, merge onto Viva Apocalypse Bicycle Trail."


"Merge! Merge! Merge!"


"I want to get out."

When I'm in one of my larger moods, I understand the futility of expecting an electronic sextant to do my thinking for me, but then I remember that I can't see the stars anyway, so it's all good.


Gaseous Fanfare

A fanfare of flaming gaseous factoids. You will recall that timing and delivery are crucial elements in the pizza industry, but if memory serves up a plate of cold cabbage where gas exploration is concerned, it may be that you simply haven't been attending classes on a regular basis.

As you may or may not recall, a gas mine doesn't exactly dig itself, nor is it capable of drilling down to the root of the argument, which is where the process of discovery comes in to play. After recess, the professor may decide that a pop quiz is the proper tool for separating fact from factoid, thus alerting the graduate student-in-waiting to the possibility of physical exercise.

As you have undoubtedly forgotten, illuminating quarrelsome details is best left to the experts, but that doesn't mean you should remain silent. Raising your hand is an excellent way to start, particularly when it's followed by one or more glib factoids delivered with the air of authority, which should be ignited beforehand for maximum effect. While the nonglib factoid is likely to result in unwanted doubt, on-time delivery lulls the recipient's eyebrows before they have the opportunity to go nonlinear, or otherwise get out of line.

As I struggle to remember the cardinal points of history's droning lecture, the three-point memory aid tattooed on my cheek reminds me that forewarned is forearmed, but that isn't the only place I should expect to find a tattoo.

1) Drilling for natural gas in my underwear is less likely to bear fruit than unnatural gas.

2) Gas is a known byproduct of cabbage.

3) Cabbage isn't fruit.


Parroting the Dreamer Within

Polly want a monolith?

If dreams are sideways expressions of waking thoughts and activities, those who spend their waking hours standing on their heads should expect east and west to be reversed. It follows, then, that no such expectation exists for the north and south poles, since the inner ear never accompanies the dreamer where frivolous delirium is the only option on the menu.

In space, any directional cues come directly from headquarters, which is useful if the audio hasn't been muted for naptime, or otherwise made to squelch objectionable content that might intrude on the dreamer's sense of equilibrium. Unlike its terrestrial counterpart, the spacefaring ear has no qualms about ingesting whatever is put in front of it, even when the result is of questionable taste.

In a similar way, pondering the inverse relationship between a microwave and a bird is likely to result in dreamwise regurgitation, which is only hastened by the related ingredients of evolutionary speculation and an iconic alien lifeform stewing in its own incomprehensible juices. In other words, it should have come as no surprise when a parrot pecked its way into my quiescent mind. Obviously, a quiescent mind isn't always a dreaming mind, and dreams are free to fly in and have a look around any time the window is open, so the insinuation that I might have been sleeping is wrongheaded, and mean.

The point I was trying to make is that, when a dream-parrot is bobbing its head and spewing gibberish, such as "Polly want a monolith," it's the dreamer's responsibility to decide whether or not the bird is using a pseudonym, and how it is that parrots so rarely employ the concept of a polymonolithic entity, if indeed they ever do.


Bad Timing

Dark and stormy nights don't care what time it is. It was a dark and stormy night. The fancy lamp timer programmed with sunrise and sunset times for the entire year provided a sense of invulnerability in the predawn world of carelessly placed objects, but there were no clouds in the morning.

Next time I'm at the hardware store, I think I'll get one of those old-school light sensors. I like clichés as much as the next guy, but breathing through my mouth gives me a sore throat.

How did they pack so much gauze in my nose? That's the real mystery.


Prefeeding Announcements

From plaintive beeping to catcalls. With its colorful language and an attitude to match, nothing says "feed me" like the parroted expressions of a poorly trained kitchen appliance. Using synthetic speech as an excuse, yesterday's plaintive beepings have been transformed into exactly the sort of ear-popping dialogue predicted by past futurists, most of whom were ignored until it was too late to do anything but roll our eyes at their alarmist tactics.

Unlike eating in reverse, feeding forward ensures a steady supply of verbal nutrients when the cupboard is bare, or in poor taste. While feedback in the drive thru only amplifies the botched orders and disorders of life in the fast lane, feedforward neatly neutralizes the howling vowels and glottal slop that even the most refined parrot may learn to ape. This leaves open a channel of communication between the lost and the lonely, and indeed any marginalized group with the desire to reach out and touch the add-to-cart button.

Tonight, when you can't sleep because your microwave is making suggestive comments to your parrot, who only responds with porn-film clichés, remember that your return privileges are every bit as valid at Amazon as they were at the brick-and-mortar outfit that sold you the loutish appliance, when it was weak, and needed a friend.


A Diminutive History

Too small to feel the sting of the cloying crowd. Recent discussions of fairytale livesand the characters who inhabit themare reason enough to question the real meaning of family, and how many dwarves can be comfortably accommodated in a foyer that was never zoned for the business at hand, namely, waiting for so-and-so to wake up and smell the coffee.

While it seems obvious that the fates of the seven outweigh the fate of the one, such a formulaic solution is of little value when applied to Watery, Coughy, and Dimple, the missing dwarves long thought to have emigrated to the coastal regions of Saskatchewan, but who had, instead, fallen in with a nomadic tribe of Philadelphian beekeepers, thus affording them a measure of immunity from the cloying crowd and their stinging remarks.

Further unscrewing the lid of historical fact, it seems the trio had been adopted by Punzle, a barista from the heel of France, whose maternal instincts were honed by the blended aromas issuing from her grandfather's beard, where the beans were kept. The three had spent their formative years hidden beneath Punzle's towering hairpiece, thus giving rise to lies and legends surrounding the true underpinnings of her beehive, while generating the sort of media buzz that only a stage mother could love to hear.

Though the meteoric rise of the trio's biological brothers is the stuff of legend, the legendary stuffing distributed by Watery Culinary Supply would go on to grace the turkeys of many, while Dimple ruffled their feathers with extraordinary renditions of cold cases, hot mustard, and their combined effect on the gastric stability of jurisprudence on the international stage.

As for Coughy, the trail goes cold somewhere in the backwoods of Kentucky, but not before he's rumored to have invented the Portabilly, a mechanical contrivance designed to quicken the pace of progress on the uphill sides of mountains too steep to climb without the aid of a local porter. Even the most clear-eyed Sherpa can't be expected to see the forest through a mule's bulky load of glamour shots, but that doesn't mean he should ignore the buzzing in his backpack.


The Cowardice of Disabling Java

Turing, Custer, and Java, together at last. It's possible that recent advisories regarding Java-based jitters overamplify our habituated dependence on oracles and similarly mystical overstimulation, but blaming the messenger for haphazard code is a bit like blaming cold-filtered coffee for our inability to sleep off the effects of an all-night hacking binge. Sure, it's tempting to simply disable the source of our insomnia, but one disability leads to another, until everyone is self-medicating at the local coffee shop instead of facing their symptoms head on, as Turing intended.

Unlike throwing the baby out with the bathwater, disposing of pre-owned coffee isn't grounds for prosecution, but that doesn't make it any less useful when the afternoon doldrums begin their incessant pounding. Clearly, a pound of used java is worth two in the unplugged coffeepot, which is where the whole idea of disabling it goes terribly wrong.

The proof of this lies in the region below and slightly east of the sternum, where the effects of such a brouhaha are most pronounced. Simply put, those who don't have the stomach for strong coffee and bricked computers shouldn't be allowed to vote.

I think that's what Custer was really trying to say.


The Track Less Travelled

Mining the train of thought. Blame loco motives for greasing the wheels that squeak, mouselike, above the caverns where coal blossoms grow. There, free from the pressures thrust upon their multifaceted kin, they live in monklike isolation, feeding on koans and comics with only the occasional canary to interrupt their scholarly pursuits.

When the mood is right, they shift to the left, swaying to the rhythm of the rails that run amok in their haste to make waste, for smog is seldom carbon-neutral in any botanical sense.

When the mood is in the seventh house, it's understood that harvest time has come. All that blossoms is not gold, but that's no reason to take chances during an identity crisis. Bags packed and passports at the ready, no 'niners are going to shovel their dreams away this time.

No sir.


Stairs in a Hurry

Pity the poor staircase. Where do the stairs go when they don't go anywhere at all? Downtrodden, the static staircase has little to be thankful for. Go ahead, walk all over me. That's what the staircase says. Upstairs? Downstairs? What does it matter? Direction is futile.

In its next life, the staircase wants to be an escalator. Pardon me if I stare, but those are some dynamic steps you have there. Stairs in motion. Stairs with a purpose. That's what people will say to the staircase in its next life.

I don't think elevators want to be reincarnated.


The Gumline of Sustainable Agriculture

Eh bwa. We ur stik peepul. We ar smrt. Brushing my tooth this morning, it dawned on me that, like gingivitis, the root of sustainable agriculture lies just below the gumline. This strikes casual inspection from the list of effective tools we might use to sniff out unwanted decay, or potatoes.

While an entrenching tool is certainly useful, no such certainty exists when the time comes to poke holes in the half-baked specimen turning in a field of microscopic waves. Here, tradition speaks louder than words, which is where the humble fork comes in to play a quick game of Fiddlesticks before turning to the task at hand, which is poking holes in a half-baked caricature of sustainable agriculture. But you already knew that.

What you may not have known is how potato-farming ties in with my tooth.