Category Archives: Humor

Phoneless in Seattle

My phone has gotten to the point where it’s starving by mid-afternoon.  I charge it every night; but its battery has gotten wimpy with age.  (Not like me!)

Apple doesn’t build a battery door into their phones; they’d rather you buy a new phone. But I found a shop that will put a new battery in your Apple phone, voiding your warranty and phone insurance while you wait.

I made an appointment on the shop’s website, and plotted a trip to the shop with Google Maps.  An hour later, I walked in the door.  I saw a lot of car batteries and I guess other manly stuff for cars.  I walked over to the glass counter.  Anthony stood on the other side, muscular, lavishly tattooed arms crossed on his black uniform shirt.

“Hi, I have a 4:30 appointment to put a new battery in my iPhone,” I said.

He stooped and peered into his computer; asked me my name; and turned to his assistant.  “Jason, when a confirmed appointment comes in, you need to print it and put the printout with the merchandise.  Now I’ve got to do this job, and there’s nobody here to mind the store but me, and you.”

“I could come back another time,” I offered.

“There’s no problem.  I’m just communicating with my employee,” he assured me.  He ran some tests on my phone and had me sign a waiver.  “I’ll need 45 minutes.  Do you have another contact number?”

“I only have the one cell phone.”

“Oh.  Well, come back after five, and it should be ready.”  Jason had disappeared into the back of the store; he started doing something that made a rhythmic whapping noise.  “JASON, I need you to stop doing that about 30 seconds ago,” Anthony commanded.  “It sounds like you’re shooting somebody.”

I didn’t want to sit on a car battery display, so I left.  Maybe there was a park nearby where I could text Pat and look at Facebook.  Wrong!  I’d search on Google Maps for nearby parks.  Or not!  I walked up to Northgate Mall.  I’d hang out there until five and head back.

I entered the mall next to an Azteca Mexican Restaurant and started looking for a clock.  There was a time when towns were proud of their public clocks.  Even in the 16th century when clocks only had hour hands, a public clock was borne aloft by the tower of every cathedral and city hall.  And I remember, as a child, large clocks gracing the walls and halls of public spaces.  Seattle had ornate four-sided clocks on pedestals on downtown street corners.  I remember the streamlined glassless clock over the elevators in the pillared main floor of Fredrick And Nelson’s sweeping away tardiness and disorder with its giant second-hand.

But now I walked the length and breadth of Northgate Mall without finding a single clock.  I peered into some jewelry stores, but all I could see inside was jewelry.  I went into Macy’s, the inheritor of Fredrick And Nelson’s legacy of quality and service, and looked around; no clock.  I didn’t want to pester people for the time every few minutes.  I own a watch, but I hadn’t thought to wear it; I just look at my phone for the time.

Finally I found a T-Mobile booth in the central hall that had some demo phones on display.  When I woke up the first one it showed an obviously wrong time, 11:24 PM; maybe it was set to a different time zone.  But I found two others that agreed on the same apparently current time.  I looked at badly-made shoes in Payless for a while and went back to the phones.  4:55; close enough.

Back in the battery store, Jason was in command of the glass counter (Anthony was eating his dinner).  He tested my phone competently and we completed our transaction.  I stepped out and googled a route home; a 41 express was going to pull up across the street in five minutes. While I waited, I texted Pat that I was on my way, and checked my mail.

I got on the bus and looked around at the other passengers.  It’s a little game I play; how many of the people whose hands I can see are using phones?  Tonight I could see six people’s hands.  Five of them were holding phones.  The last one was holding a phone in one hand and an e-book reader in the other.  What a bunch of zombies!

 

 

 

Advertisements

Fear of dentists

I just hate it when I go in for my semi annual cleaning and the dentist says “you know, I’ve been keeping an eye on this filling and I think it’s time to do something about it! ”  He demonstrates to the dental hygienist (who, perhaps, might grow up to be a dentist someday) by maneuvering his probe between an old filling on my left lower wisdom tooth and the tooth.

When I hear this, I’m afraid that he’s going to start drilling then and there. But this job is apparently too big for extemporaneous measures. I make an appointment and escape to Seattle’s gray, moist exterior, for now.  But this proves to be an unfortunate escape, because it gives me a week to think about what’s going to happen next!  In what seems like no time at all. I’m back in the chair.

The hygienist checks my blood pressure and pulse with a little handheld gadget. “Your blood pressure is pretty high,” she remarks, rattling off numbers. “Is it always that high?”

“I’m kind of nervous,” I admit.

The dentist comes in. “I can’t be sure until I get in there; but there’s a good chance you’re going to need a crown.”  I got my first crown a couple years ago after I broke a tooth. I’ll bet my blood pressure is really up there now.

“Do what you’ve got to do,” I tell him.  I may be terrified, but I’m not stupid.  An hour and more Novacaine shots than I can count later, it’s become clear that I do need a crown.  The job is maybe half done but everybody is ready to call it a day. He makes some kind of temporary filling and says “let’s try something different next time. ”  Something different is nitrous oxide.  What I know about nitrous oxide: I once read a 1920s mystery in which the villain was a dentist. He used nitrous oxide to knock out the detective (who’d been so foolish as to climb into his chair) and make an escape.

Print

A week later, I’m back in the chair. My blood pressure checks out high. “The way nitrous oxide works is that it helps the anesthetic to work. It’s not actually an anesthetic itself. It relieves anxiety, which changes the signaling in your nervous system so the anesthetic can work. ”  He straps a sort of cap over my nose; I hear a hissing sound. “How does that feel?”

“I feel a little tingling in my toes. Honestly, I can’t say I’m very impressed.”

I get instructions on how to breathe nitrous oxide. Inhale deeply. hold my breath for five seconds, and exhale.  “It’s the 60s?”  Yes (laughter all around).  And exhale through your nose, not your mouth. We can’t enjoy what you’re enjoying; we have work to do.

“Let’s turn up your mixture, and have you practice for three minutes.”  I remember another relevant book here; The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe.  Or maybe the scene was from a different book?  Anyway, a drug test subject is challenged to say when some number of minutes has passed. He is pretty disoriented and has no grip on time; but he remembers his heart rate.  So he stealthily feels his pulse, counts his heartbeats and astounds the experimenters by telling them when the time is up.

I estimate that it will take me five seconds to inhale and exhale. This plus the five seconds during which I am to hold my breath sums to 10 seconds per breath.  That’s six breaths per minute, for a total of 18 breaths. I breathe and I count, maintaining separate totals for how long I hold each breath and how many breaths I’ve taken. The tingling feeling spreads upward, until I feel like I’m wrapped in a wonderful blanket.  After a while, a voice says “Open your mouth wider, please. ”  Are you talking to me?

The dentist gives me three Novacaine shots and starts in. I can feel what he’s doing, but it doesn’t hurt. And I’m really having too much fun to worry about whether it’s going to hurt.  They cram a lot of stuff into my mouth, and explain how to signal with my hand if I want more or less gas or need them to stop. I want more.  Things go along smoothly. They say I might feel sleepy; but I am alert, or so I suppose.  At one point the dentist starts squeezing my lower lip against my teeth.  I reach up and pull my lip out of the way, to his surprise.

The job is done. They let me enjoy their nitrous oxide for a couple more minutes while they are making my temporary crown.

I keep on taking 10 second breaths all the way to the bus stop.

Fun with Trump in Photoshop Elements – Part 3

Last post, we’d gotten to the point where we have one image of Nixon holding his left hand upward, and another image of Trump’s face.  Let’s put them together and have Nixon pulling off a Trump mask!

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-03-16-pm

I need to move the Nixon image over the Trump one, for reasons I explained last time.  I did some backing and filling last time to try to get the images in the same scale.  But I also need the canvas of the receiving image to be at least as big as the part of the sending image I want to use (which is all of it).  Image > Resize > Canvas in the Trump image to specify the height of the Nixon image. screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-09-38-pm

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-08-51-pm

In Nixon I Select > All layers.  A peculiarity of PSE is that the select functions are in their own menu, not the Edit menu.  Maybe that’s because there are so many of them?  To copy what I selected, Edit > Copy Merged.  This combination selects everything in all of the layers (let’s not forget the hand we worked so hard on), compressing the result into a single layer.screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-10-14-pm

Cue the drum-roll!  In the Trump image, Edit > Paste to put the new Nixon layer in the Trump picture.  In the top right corner, notice that I’ve moved the Trump layer on top of the Nixon layer to keep Trump’s face visible.

I find the result a bit disturbing.  Trump’s face is too lifelike, as if he’d been beheaded.  This isn’t Rome — at least, not yet.

I want to make Trump look more two-dimensional and mask-like.  I decide to remove everything below the jawline.  There isn’t much contrast between the parts I want to keep and remove; so instead of the Magnetic Lasso I try to Polygonal Lasso.  It’s a “dumb” lasso; it just selects what you draw around without trying to help you.  I make the Nixon layer invisible by closing the “eye” in the Layer Window.  But, the Polygonal Lasso doesn’t work!  The problem turns out to be the transparent background.  screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-16-56-pm

As scaffolding I make a layer under the sleeping Nixon layer, Select All, and dump green paint in it with the Paint Can tool.   screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-18-39-pm

Now the Polygonal Lasso works.  screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-19-45-pm

I erase the selected area with the Eraser tool.  Now it’s transparent.

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-23-57-pm

I wake Nixon up (opening that layer’s eye) and maneuver Trump’s face next to Nixon’s with the Move tool.  I rotate it a bit to approximate the way Nixon is holding his head.  I can’t get quite the right angle with the image I’ve got; maybe it could be warped somehow, but that’s beyond me.  I adjust Trump’s size (I’ll bet a lot of people would like to do that) to approximate Nixon’s by dragging the corner handles of his layer.

I move the Trump head over the hand.  But the fingers are behind it.  Oh yeah — the hand layer got combined with the main Nixon layer when I brought them over.  screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-25-15-pm

Back in Nixon world, I make the hand the active layer in the Layer Window, and Select > All and Edit > Copy.

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-26-11-pm

Edit > Paste in Trump world (sort of like WestWorld, a theme park you wouldn’t want to visit).  Now Nixon has two left hands.  In the Layer Window I make the new hand the top layer so the fingers will be on top of Trump’s chin.  I move it exactly on top of the hand in the underlying layer.
screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-29-57-pm

Drum-roll!  I move Trump’s face into the hand with the Move tool.

I’m not quite happy with this.  For one thing, Trump’s head is much fatter than Nixon’s.  (I’m just talking about the image; I mean nothing personal.). I could squeeze a side handle with the Move tool while holding down the Shift key to suppress the automatic maintenance of proportionality.  But then it might not look like Trump.  Guess I’ll let it go.screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-34-18-pm

The other thing that bothers me is that Trump’s eyes make the mask too lifelike and disturbing.  At high magnification, I use the Eraser tool to remove the eyes.  Like the Brush, the Eraser’s effect depends on how long you use it in an area.  I go over the eyes heavily to completely erase them.screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-40-06-pm

To help those kids who aren’t sure who Nixon was, I use the Text tool and type in Nixon’s most famous quote.  What a thing for a president to say — but “Grab her by the _____” still takes the cake.  The Comic font seems appropriate.

mask2

All ready for Facebook!  Hahaha

Fun with Trump in Photoshop Elements – Part 2

In Fun with Trump in Photoshop Elements – Part 1 I modified a picture of Richard Nixon to show him holding his left hand in front of him.  Now let’s make a Donald Trump mask for the hand to hold!

I google for pictures of Trump’s face looking slightly to his left — the same position as Nixon’s face.  I notice several pictures that combine Trump and Nixon!  Other people have been thinking the same as me.  One of them has the Trump face I want.  It’s in color.  I decide that’s a good thing; it will make the mask stand out in the black-and-white Nixon photo.

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-9-27-21-pm

As with Nixon’s hand, I need to get rid of the background around Trump’s face.  I use the Magnetic Lasso.  It’s too big to select all at once in the magnification I’m working in; so I set the Magnetic Lasso’s Add option.  This lets me select part at a time, and each new part will be added to those before to form a single selected area. screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-9-34-49-pm

Erasing a background replaces it with the background color.  But I need the image surrounding the face to be transparent.  So in the Layers window I right-click the background and use the floating menu to convert it to a layer.screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-9-36-38-pm

I invert the selection, protecting the face.  I erase everything around it.  But the darkness of the flag that Trump was standing in front of has polluted his hair!screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-9-43-01-pm

I’m not up to recoloring his hair.  So I invert the selected area again, and go back with a strongly-feathered eraser tool to lighten up the edge of the hair.

I’m hot to copy Trump’s face and paste it into the Nixon picture.  But when I try it, Trump’s face turns black-and-white.  I’m guessing that some internal color palette is established by the first layer in an image?  I can’t figure out how to tell PSE that color is really okay now.  I’d rather do the thing than research it; so I’ll move the Nixon image into the Trump one.  (I don’t expect Nixon to turn colored, and it doesn’t happen.).

There’s just one problem; the Trump image has higher resolution than does the Nixon one.  I don’t want the result to be pixellated, so it’s no good increasing the pixel count of the Nixon picture.  I need to reduce the pixel count (or maybe the Nixon count?) of the Trump picture to approximate Nixon’s.screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-9-44-09-pm

I do an Image > Resize > Image on Nixon, just to see its pixel dimensions, and cancel.  I do the same with Trump.  The real comparison should be between their faces, not the whole images; but PSE 11 doesn’t have the Measure tool.  On a scratchpad, I try to approximate the proportion of each image’s height in pixels that is face.  Dredging up some high-school math, I decide to reduce the Trump pixel count by 37%.screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-10-01-24-pm

Image > Resize > Image, and this time I’m going to do it.  In Pixel Dimensions I switch the unit of measure to Percent and enter 37.  I hit OK!

Cliff-hanger!  hahaha.  Join me in Part 3 to see how this pans out.

 

Fun with Trump in Photoshop Elements – Part 1

Q: How can you have fun with a man who might grab you by the … whatever?  Uh, when he’s president of the United States?

A: With your imagination, in Photoshop Elements.

During his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump called Barak Obama “The worst president in history.”  Baby-boomers will quickly offer an even worse president — the only one in history to resign in disgrace.  Richard Nixon.

Imagine Trump pulling off his face, which turns out to be a mask, to reveal that he’s really Nixon!

Will history repeat itself?  We’ll see.  In the meantime, what an interesting PSE project.  I haven’t totally mastered PSE, and I’m crutching it with version 11.  So if even I can pull this off, think what you can do!

First I need a picture of Nixon, preferably one in which he’s close to the position I need — holding one hand out in front of him.  I googled a good one; and it has a simple background in the area I need to edit.  This is important; I discovered by hard experience that if you remove an unwanted object from a picture, you don’t get what’s behind it — you get a hole in which you have to somehow reconstruct a background.

My picture is black and white, but that gives it an old-timey ambience, which is a clue for any kids out there who aren’t sure who Richard Nixon was.

Here we go!

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-4-23-02-pm

I enlarge the hand, and use the stamp tool to cover the hand with background.  What I need is a hand that’s holding a mask upright, not this hand.

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-4-25-17-pm

I use the rectangular marquee to select Nixon’s other hand.  I don’t need the pen, so I cut it off.  I make a new file for the hand copy with File > New > Image from clipboard .

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-4-26-59-pm

After some experimenting with my own hands to reassure myself that the little finger should be to the front, I flip the hand vertically with Image > Rotate > Flip layer vertical.  The thumb is just peeking out behind the middle finger.

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-4-32-49-pmI use the Magnetic Lasso to select the hand and omit everything else.  This tool automatically follows a border between contrasting color areas.  I help it by clicking on anchor-points I want the line to extend to, when it seems unsure.  If the line starts to veer off, I can just hit delete to take out an anchor-point.

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-4-33-18-pm

I invert the selection.  Now everything BUT the hand is selected.

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-4-34-33-pm

I erase the stuff around the hand with the Eraser tool.  My selection works like an eraser shield. (Kids, that’s a thin sheet of metal with variously-shaped holes in it that we used in the 20th century to limit the scope of our erasing.)  It protects the hand.

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-4-38-05-pm

Select > All the edited hand, and Edit > Copy it.  Edit > Paste it on Nixon’s left arm.  Not very convincing!

How can I make it better?  (There’s a lot of trial and error going on here; with Undo to back out mistakes, why not?)

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-4-39-53-pm

Because the paste created a new layer, I can select that layer and move it around.  I hover my mouse near a corner handle and drag to rotate the hand into a better position.

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-9-16-17-pm

I fix up the hand, erasing extra junk that came along with it and stamping more back and wrist from the skin I have to work with.  I give up on the hidden thumb; let’s say it’s behind the mask.  Okay, it’s not perfect; but I’m hoping that the Trump mask will distract you from my bad anatomy.cuffsI use the color-selector and the brush to extend Nixon’s shirt- and jacket-sleeves around the rear of the hand.

nixon-as-trump-2

From a distance, not too bad.

Next; Trump’s face!

XC skiing at Deer Creek, WA; January 2017

January, 2017: The first day trip of the season for the 1 World Outing Club‘s Thursday group was Deer Creek on Forest Service land east of Verlot, WA. We had a 45-minute delay south of Snohomish due to a radiator leak. Our bus limped to a Starbucks coffee shop to wait for a rescue bus.

I found a table in the QFC grocery next door that had thoughtfully been provisioned with a Seattle Times. The new bus appeared as promised. We moved our things over to it; Lance and the drivers moved our skis. Lance extended our schedule to make up the lost time.

Soon we were driving up the winding two-lane Mountain Loop Highway past little farms, snowy woods and glimpses of the sprawling, partly frozen channels of the South Fork Stillaguamish River. East of Silverton, the plowed road ended beyond the Deer Creek turnoff at a mound of snow. I chose to ski further up the road, along with about eight other skiers. I was hoping to explore some back roads I’d noted on my map about three miles further along.

My zipper-pull thermometer read 24 F. The sun peered into the valley from its craggy southern rim, so l knew it wasn’t going to get any warmer. But I soon took off my jacket and changed from my heavy to my light fleece. The snow was well chewed by snowmobiles; it had a stiff, creaky consistency like crumbled styrofoam. My ski poles made a shuddering, squeaking noise with each stride. Crystals on the surface sparkled when they caught the sun.

A clutch of snowmobiles came howling up behind us, veering back and forth and belching a gassy stench. Get stuck, I mentally commanded them. They whined past me. Then four of them stopped ahead of me, and the one that went on came back to join them. When I reached them, the riders had gathered around one of the machines and were looking at it. I have godlike powers!

Past the Big Four Campground turnoff, I found my side road (NF 4062). Two ladies stood at its foot, looking at their maps. (Most cross country skiers are women.). We proceeded up the road, on much better snow; only one or two snowmobiles had marred it. Our way was a narrow aisle lined with fir trees robed in snow. We circumvented a few fallen branches and came to a turnoff. This seemed to be Route 4 (NF 4060) on our maps. It climbed steeply, and bore only the tracks of a lone snowshoer. The ladies thought it looked too forbidding; but I told them I’d give it a try.img_2491

The fresh snow was an inch or two deep on top of hard older snow. I had to clamber up with my ski tips spread out and inner edges down–the “herring-bone,” so called for the pattern this mode of travel makes in the snow. Around the corner, the way leveled out. I had a pleasant ski for half a mile, accompanied only by the ghostly snowshoer. The road ended in a little clearing with rabbit-prints all around.

I snacked on a nut bar and slices of raw peeled broccoli stem, and had a nice glide back down to the highway; the two ladies were out of sight.

Skiing back on the highway went a lot better than the trip up. The snowmobiles had softened up the snow, and the grade was slightly downhill. Skiing downhill is a light, sylphlike dance; uphill can be a slog. I took off my fleece; now I was down to my shirt and long underwear.

I passed a party of wallkers. I hate to ski over footprints in snow, but this time I figured they might as well enjoy themselves; the snow was all beaten up anyway. One of their dogs stalked me from behind, as dogs will do. I showed it the points of my poles, and it quit the game.

I explored more turnoffs on my way back. On one, I met a lady who was walking and carrying her skis; her friend was slowly skiing beside her. I asked if she was okay. “I’m tired, and I don’t want to get hurt,” she told me. “I have osteoporosis.”

“You’re a spirited lady. I’m happy to see you out here,” I told her.

Back on the bus, we ate our lunches; Lance provided chocolate cookies and hot drinks. I heard that it was 20 F. I don’t remember much about the return trip! When I woke up we were out of the mountains.

More pictures

Life at the bottom

My house is at the bottom of a bluff.  The houses of the street to the east are at the top of the bluff.  Looking out the window, I’m guessing that this bluff is about 30 feet high  But, judging by the condition of a Christmas tree that appeared at its bottom, it seems to be about four years high.

The bluff was platted as an alley; but it’s too steep to build on.  Instead it’s a vertical jungle of trees, Himalayan blackberry vines, English ivy and sucker-tree plants.  The neighborhood kids have a trail running thru it.  The overgrown ruin of a brick barbecue crouches in its center like a Mayan pyramid.

In our forty-some years at the bottom of the bluff, I’ve seen it all; bags of used diapers, scrap wood, tree-trimming debris, and of course lots of tires.  I’ve tried speaking to my neighbors at the top of the bluff.  They swear up and down that they never throw anything down the bluff, and point to the last people who owned their house.  Once I caught one of them dumping grass clippings; he claimed he was just building up the edge of his yard.


When our house was new, it stood on raw earth.  The builder had sprinkled wood chips in the front yard.  The back yard was just dirt.  We determined that the dirt was a thin layer of soil on clay.  The way we determined this was that, after a heavy rain, the back yard filled up with water. In addition to our proper share of rainfall, we also got the runoff from the bluff.  Then children would slither down the embankment from their jungle trail and line up along the shore of our pond to get their shoes wet. Once, while my wife was watching, a little girl stumbled into the water.  She gave my wife an exasperated look like “Some boy pushed me!

Worried that the water might back up into our basement, we contacted a landscaper.  He put in a pair of drains, and built an oval patio to divert the water from the house.  He sold us a load of fill.  We spread it out, marked it off into squares, and adjusted each square with a level, until the yard looked like a big drainboard.  Which basically it is.

We talked about clearing the bluff and making a rock-garden.  We could put a gazebo up there and reclaim some of the great ocean-and-mountains view we were missing down in our hollow.  But my wife pointed out that, without the blackberry vines to defend us, our yard would always be full of kids.  Of course, in due time, it was anyway.


dogWe once had a neighbor at the top of the bluff whose dog bayed and howled like a crazy monster.  We thought it was trapped and panicking in the blackberries.  Their thorns are half an inch long.  If you get hooked by a vine, it embraces you like an Iron Maiden.  My wife and I put on gardening gloves and double layers of sweatshirts for armor.  We scrambled up into the jungle to rescue the animal; but we couldn’t find him.

“What are you doing?” our uphill neighbor demanded to know.

“We heard your dog crying.  We’re trying to find him.”

“He’s fine.  He’s up here with me.  He always barks like that.”

Time proved the man right; his dog always barked like that.  Someday, I imagined, he’ll come down here and eat us all up.


When a cable TV company came through our neighborhood, they liberally trimmed the bluff trees in the process of stringing their wiring on the utility poles that line the theoretical alley above our house.  They didn’t trouble to take away their debris.  Then they had the nerve to beat on my door and try to sell me a subscription.

“I’ll think about it.  In the meantime, how about going back up there and hauling out your tree limbs?”

“Oh … erm … that’s a different crew!”


marsI don’t know the proper biological name of the sucker-tree plants.  We call them that because our neighbors to the south used to have a rubbery, alien-looking tree in their back yard.  It had thorns on the undersides of its fronds.  And in late spring it put out swollen purple blossoms that looked like the talking plant in “Little Shop Of Horrors.”

One year, they cut it down.  The part they left underground devised a clever plan; colonize my yard!  Each year since, suckers appear in the grass.  When I dig one up, I find that it’s connected to another, and that one to yet another, by thick underground runners.  If I pull on a runner, It rips up the lawn like the Martian machines in Spielberg’s “War Of The Worlds.”  The bark covering slides off in my hands, revealing a strong, slippery hawser like wet nylon.

I dig up the suckers and rip up all the runner I can.  But I can’t stop them from growing on the bluff.  It, or they, have established a new base up there — a tree much larger than the original that harbors a cold, malevolent plant-brain and network manager.


meteorOne morning, my wife looked out the bedroom window and called me over.  “There’s a meteor in our back yard!”  Without my glasses, it looked like she might be right.  A massive, craggy object lay on the grass at the foot of the bluff.

In the interests of science, I put on my glasses and went down to examine it.  The space object was a heavy mass of slightly porous light-gray material.  Dirt clung to it, and random pebbles stuck out of it.  One side of it was flat and bore a deep, square depression four inches on a side.  It was a most unnatural depression, and I thought it strongly suggested that there was intelligent life somewhere in the galaxy.

We talked about quietly delivering it to the front lawn of an uphill neighbor at midnight.  But instead the meteor accompanied our next load to the transfer station.


Despite the flood-diversion system we built, drowning earthworms still crawl under the patio doors onto the rec-room floor when it rains.