The Robots Are Coming! Part 1

In keeping with my temporary/permanent “eschew bitching about politics” initiative I’m going to point out a place of agreement between me (a deplorable, fire-breathing, small “l” libertarian, who clings to his guns and religion) and the most hippy-rific, socialist, dreadlocked, trustifarian, coastalite, to wander the streets of Seattle. I’m all about highlighting common ground. Kumbaya and all that. Group hug y’all!

Here’s the thing we both agree upon:

We both believe if the minimum wage gets high enough, awesome things will happen.

Whoa now, step away from the keyboard. Let me finish because the “awesome thing” is different to each of us. They want unicorn money and I want robots.

The standard Marxist ideal is that when minimum wage hits some magic number, rainbows and love will make everyone healthy, wealthy, and fulfilled. The exact value of this perfect minimum wage appears to be whatever minimum wage is now plus 10%. I presume it’ll always be plus 10%. When it comes to tweaking the economy, the perpetual answer to “how much” is “more”. Nonetheless, they’re entitled to their opinion and (with fits and starts as politics ebb and flow) seem intent on repeating the experiment until they get the answer they demand.

I see an upper limit to that experiment but I’m willing to let someone else who lives far away give it (yet) another self-inflicted shot. As their managed economy experiments continue I’ll apologize if I was wrong and everyone magically gets rich. Then I’ll move there and get rich too.

On the other hand, if my theories on economics are correct, I’ll enjoy schadenfreude and bacon sandwiches on my homestead while folks in Seattle/Venezuela/San Francisco/Vermont pay $18 for a cappuccino to wash down the $23 big mac they bought on the way to their $20/hour part time minimum wage job at the bong factory.

My hope is different. I expect that when minimum wage hits some very high level it’ll make robots unquestionably cost effective. When that happens, they’ll appear everywhere. (In particular there’s one kind of robot I’ll mention in part 2.)

I love robots! I’m not talking about the scary industrial arms that make car doors in Detroit. I’m talking about stuff that doesn’t even look like a robot but makes my life as a consumer… better.

I base this on robots that have already infiltrated our lives. Here are two examples:

The first ubiquitous robot is ATMs. Remember life before ATMs? (Some readers may have to ask an old person. Hint: old people don’t bite… usually.) Back then you had to plan ahead for the limited hours the bank was open, navigate the bank parking lot, trudge into a fussy looking building which highlighted an irrelevant but impressive safe door behind the counters, fill out a little slip of paper, and wait in line with 40 other grumpy people. Eventually your turn came and a kindly octogenarian grandma would count out your cash and send you on your way. (Some readers may have to ask an old person about “cash”.)

Pre-robot, elapsed time to grab enough cash for a night of binge drinking? Forty five minutes.

That ended 25 years ago. It was cratered by the ATM (which has already been largely replaced by point of sale card readers). The ATM, a soulless calculator cemented into a wall that spits out your cash in 30 seconds, very rarely makes an error and is open most of the time. (Yes, ATMs sometimes mess up but I’m sure they’re more accurate than the bank of my youthful memories.) Post robot elapsed time to grab enough cash for a night of binge drinking? Thirty seconds. (In the post ATM cashless world you just start drinking. If you maintain enough sense to hurl your debit card at the bartender before you slide under the barstool it’s all good.)

ATMs are cheaper than humans. Which is fine with me because I prefer ATMs to humans. The money counting robot wins.

Want another example? Back in the stone age you’d buy gas at what was then called “full service”. In 1940 that might have meant a mechanic checking your oil but by 1970 it was a flunky in company overalls who barely made eye contact while slopping leaded gas all over your rusting piece of Detroit crap. (Possibly an AMC Gremlin which would be partially dissolved by it.) “Full service” was degraded as an idea. You wouldn’t ask the attendant to check your oil, they wouldn’t do it anyway, and if they did they might put their own eye out. Now, we all pump your own gas. (Except for people in Oregon who are deemed by state law to be too stupid to operate a fuel pump. Those poor souls pay big time for the flunky that pumps gas.)

The fuel kiosk robot is simple. Step out of the car, swipe your card on the pump (convenience store owners sure didn’t like that new technology!), get your gas, and get the hell back on the road. Like the ATM it’s not perfect. Sometimes it’s snowing, sometimes it’s raining, it’s impersonal, and you have to stand outside your car like an idiot. So what? It’s efficient and cheap… which is just how I like it. If I want a companion to hang out with me while I buy fuel, I’ll put my dog in the truck.

I prefer automated pumps to humans. The gas kiosk robot wins.

All this pales compared to the vision I have of the future. First mentioned as an aside in The Stainless Steel Rat is Born, a book I read three decades ago, I’ve been waiting for it’s arrival. The time is nigh! I’m convinced it hovers on the horizon somewhere between $15 and $18 minimum wage. (Depending on the inflation which everyone pretends isn’t happening.)

More on my hopes later…


P.S. For the folks who’ve read The Stainless Steel Rat Is Born the key is the McSwiney’s where the Bishop hid out:

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Road To Portland: Part 11: Becoming A Henchman

Doogie insisted on making a few purchases en route to what he was now calling “the rendezvous”. At an all-night convenience store Billy was instructed to lurk around the pumps looking suspicious. This was supposedly for the purpose of letting Doogie buy things (with Billy’s cash!) while remaining largely unnoticed by the staff which was (hopefully) focused on a ne’er-do-well. There was a certain… paranoia… to Doogie’s activities. Billy would have been happy to chalk it up to the unbelievability of sentient squirrels but it seemed to trace from Doogie’s assertion they were dealing with criminal masterminds.

“Actually,” Doogie interrupted Billy’s discussion of the matter, “I presume them to be alien. Thus, unaware of the situation surrounding online money transfers and such. Meaning they’d be quite naïve, the opposite of masterminds. I’ll be less concerned if I discover they’re actually well versed in crime.”

Billy drew a blank. Doogie patiently continued. “You say they have an iPhone. And they’ve got a PayPal account as well as other online accounts. Yet, what do they know of the underlying world? Suppose you came from Mars; knew nothing of society. Then I handed you the internet browser history from your laptop and said ‘learn what you can about contemporary America from this data feed’. What would you know? What would you not know?”

Billy thought about this novel concept. Porn. Yep, they’d know porn. Well that and Billy’s eternal concern with fractional reserve banking. Not good. “Knockers and fiat currency.” Billy concluded.

“Indeed. What wouldn’t they know? Would they know murder is illegal? Would they know taxes are related to assets? After all, it was the IRS that took down Capone, not the FBI. On a more mundane level, would they know Portland is a very long drive?”

“Nope. Hooters and hyperinflation. They’re doomed.”

Doogie chuckled. “Thus, we should presume they’ve left all sorts of virtual paper trails behind the money they’ve almost certainly stolen.”

“Great. And I’m implicated by delivering a bunch of pizzas?”

“Isn’t ‘virtual paper trail’ a wonderful concept. An oddity of language I think.”

“Doogie! Focus.”

“Relax, I’ve got this.” Doogie smiled as if getting entangled in crime and alien intelligences was no big deal. “Let me do the negotiating. Oh, and one more thing…”

They’d pulled into the abandoned field. Doogie stopped talking to observe.

“That thing?” Billy prompted.

“Oh,” Doogie was excitedly peering out at two squirrels perched on a tree with a bear snoring at its base, utterly uninterested in Billy’s concern. “If I point to any one of them and say ‘do it now’… shoot them instantly. I know you’re packing, you really should work on concealment you know.”

That jangled Billy’s nerves deeply. To toss an offhand comment like that. “What the…”

“Alien intelligence. Criminal. I’m sure it’s fine but if things go south just shoot the one I indicate. Or all three, whatever is necessary.”

“Um…” Billy didn’t like this hint of darkness.

“They’re friggin’ wildlife man! If I make the call, don’t pussy out on me. Drop the hammer and the worst you’ve done is a violation of hunting regulations.” With that, Doogie stepped out of the car and strode forth.

Beneath the tree, the bear yawned and stretched. The squirrels chittered happily. Billy stepped out of the car and slouched miserably.

As the greatest mind he’d ever met sallied forth to parley with the most alien creature who’d ever ‘talked’ to him, Billy had a sad realization. He was Doogie’s bear.

If you appreciate stories written by a guy who lacks a pet bear but gives his dog editorial control, you may want to click one of the links below:


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Road To Portland: Part 10: Escape From Academia

Billy’s mission to retrieve Doogie wasn’t without risk. Unless they were as dumb as they looked, campus security had figured out Billy had a hobby of throwing bricks through the “life skills” window. Also, there was the matter of a Transvestite MMA Fighter/ English major who had sworn to kill him. She, or he, or it, or whatever… was lurking in the vicinity. Further, his ex-girlfriend was still there, and probably doing unspeakable things with that dipshit Robert instead of who she should be shagging, which was Billy (Duh!).

As he drove to campus, Billy tried to make contact. Sadly, Doogie was just about the only person (and definitely the only college student) who wouldn’t respond to a text. Not only that but Billy was unwilling to volunteer any more information than; “Whassup? Billy here. Can I drop by?” In desperation, Billy made the ultimate faux pas of his generation and tried a voice call. Nobody answered.

Yet when Billy knocked on Doogie’s dorm room door at 3:00 am the kid was waiting. “You can brief me on the way.” Doogie said, without introduction, without even acknowledging that Billy had shown up unannounced at 3:00 am. Doogie was fully dressed. He shouldered a backpack which Billy guessed was filled with laptops (for reasons only known to him, Doogie carried three laptops) and motioned toward a gym bag. He indicated that Billy was to carry it. In five seconds, they were out the door and striding toward the parking lot. Billy hadn’t had time to say a single word. Doogie simply barked questions; “Anyone see you arrive? I assume you’re in your car?”

“Um, nobody saw me arrive. Yes.” Billy scrambled to keep up. He was about to launch in a diatribe about how decent civilized people say ‘hello’ and maybe shake hands or something… when he realized this was exactly why he’d come for Doogie’s help. If anyone can talk to a squirrel, it’s a person who answers the door at 3:00 am with words like ‘briefing’.

Without another word spoken, they piled in the Subaru (which was still muddy from the evening’s earlier hell ride) and were off. Silently, Doogie motioned for Billy’s phone. Billy, too confused to do otherwise, simply handed it over. Doogie stuffed it in an envelope which Billy recognized as an anti-static bag for component parts. With Doogie’s usual mental ability, the kid knew what he was thinking and shook his head. “Faraday cage. Got anything else? GPS? OnStar? Satellite radio? FitBit?”

The kid was definitely weird. That’s what smart will get ya’. Too much of it and you’re weird. “Nope. Nothing that requires a monthly payment.”

“OK that’s good.” Doogie let out a sigh of relief.

Billy hadn’t yet had a chance to explain why he was there. How does one breach such a subject? Does one simply announce they’ve got a unique opportunity to make some cash on the side, but they need help talking to a squirrel? Billy opened his mouth…

Doogie spoke first. “I need to know the scope of the situation. Which one did you kill. Robert? Your ex-girlfriend? Both? You realize I’m taking on a certain amount of risk helping you?”


“I’m aware of the rumors. Or at least what makes Facebook, which is plenty. The two of them hook up at Pizza Farm, then you disappear, then you text me at 3:00 am?”

“No! It’s not that.”

“Good, murder is an entanglement best avoided. So, what is it?”

It took Billy a moment to recover from the accusation of murder (delivered without shock or malice, which somehow made it worse). “You see I got this weird delivery… Wait! They hooked up and announced it on Facebook!?!”

“In a manner of speaking. She made some comments about liking Audis. Robert, acting something of a cad, posted… and I quote ‘SCORE! WOOT!’”

Billy sighed. “Kids these days.”

Doogie agreed. “I know, right? So, now that I know no bodies are involved… as a favor to me, don’t look in the bag.”

Billy eyed the nondescript gym bag. Scary smart people are a world apart. “Yeah, that’s cool. So, I’ve got this situation…” And he stopped speaking.

“And?” Doogie prompted.

Billy was at a loss for words. He opened his mouth, found no coherent sentences, and closed it. Doogie shrugged his shoulders and started manipulating Billy’s phone though a window in the envelope. “Still in the Faraday cage, I’m just going to read your texts ok?”

“Yes.” Billy agreed. That was the best way.

There was silence in the car for a few minutes as Doogie read. Billy kept driving. Then Doogie stared into space for two minutes. (Billy, still an engineer at heart, timed it.)

“Squirrels?” Doogie chuckled.

“Oh-my-God-am-I-insane-but-they-got money-and-there’s-nothing-illegal-about-delivering-pizzas-and…” Billy’s vocal dam broke.

“Hush.” Doogie interrupted. “They’re not just squirrels.”

“They’re lesbian activist…” Billy added, but was cut off again.

“…they’re white collar criminals.” Doogie pronounced.

“Erk?!” Billy’s mind, not for the first time this evening, hit a brick wall.

“They have money, not an insignificant amount of it. How do you suppose they acquired wealth? A job? Inheritance? Lottery ticket?”

Billy hadn’t considered this. Before he could complete his thoughts Doogie continued.

“I postulate identity theft, or perhaps swindle. Regardless, you are now in cahoots with criminals.”

Billy had nothing to say to this.

“Don’t be worried.” Doogie continued, in a tone meant to sound reassuring but which sounded like the pronouncement of a judge, “you were destined for a life of crime anyway.”

Billy thought about the bricks, and the fact he lived in a car, and the fact he hadn’t yet told his parents he was no longer a student. Bummer.

“In this endeavor, I’m now your partner. Good choice. We’ll fleece ‘em, keep you out of jail, and have fun doing it. I’ve been meaning to quit my studies anyway. It appears we are both dropouts.” He was beaming.

“Erk?” Billy was still sorting out the matter of his pre-destination.

Doogie didn’t hear. He was chuckling. “Finally, a worthy adversary.”

If you like reading stories written by a guy who (like Doogie) stashes his cell phone in a Faraday cage, you might want toss a few coppers in either account below:


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Road To Portland: Part 9: In Search Of A Squirrel Whisperer

There’s no getting around it, Billy thought, smart people really are different. He glanced at the passenger seat where Doogie was happily tapping his fingers on the dash in time to an obscure disco song and added an addendum; extremely smart people are scary. He based this assessment on the fact that Doogie had just read evidence of the unthinkable and instantly digested facts which Billy (who’d witnessed them in reality) could not.

How had events led to this late-night drive? Billy reflected on the last twelve hours. He considered his experiences so far and pondered Doogie’s role in what might ensue. Billy was smarter than the average person. This made him an entirely average engineering student. He was well aware that an average engineering student was, to the average human (i.e. non-engineer), an odd duck. For example, Billy was prone to getting ripped on Jägermeister and going on rants about fractional reserve banking. He was pretty sure most people didn’t know what fractional reserve banking meant; thus proving his “odd duck” self- evaluation.

But Doogie wasn’t an average engineering student. He was a child prodigy genius whose DNA had somehow self-assembled in a dipshit backwater town that had no expectation of such things. The people of that town endured his brilliant intellect, doing what they could to hammer it down to manageable size, before finally sending him off to college in the hope that Doogie would find a world where he belonged; somewhere far from their idyllic village. Perhaps a world with many long words? Maybe a place where people played chess and read books… old books with long words. Possibly books about chess.

The townspeople hoped the boy wouldn’t grow up to be a monster, but if he did, what was it to them? So long as he was more than a day’s drive from the county courthouse, all was well. They’d tried their best. They really had. Alas there wasn’t enough Budweiser and cable television to rein the creature in; so better to deliver him to the city and run.

Doogie, for his part, held no rancor against the oppression of his upbringing. He understood them to be kind, considerate, people who couldn’t help but be terrified of him. They simply had as much in common with him as he had with a hamster.

Which was good, because Doogie was scary smart. If he’d gone evil he’d be evil efficiently. For Billy, and pretty much everyone else, there’s something sinister about a mind that observes the same world you both inhabit but plumbs deeper realities usually unrecognized. It’s even more disconcerting if the superior mind, having recognized normally unseen and presumably delicate interactions of the universe, starts tweaking the settings on a machine only he can see. Billy glanced at the passenger seat with his peripheral vision. Doogie had the ability to make a rather bright (if former) engineering student feel like a drooling moron. He was glad Doogie was there to help, but wondered what he’d just unleashed.

They were both outcasts. Billy, until he dropped out, was the sole libertarian in a teeming campus full of lockstep hive mind liberals carefully tended as livestock by a teaching staff too young to have actually experienced the 1960’s yet mentally residing there. Doogie had a mind beyond all reasonable limits and also arrived on campus at age 15. It wasn’t a smooth landing. It is possible to be the smartest person in the time zone and simultaneously wind up mocked by a bubbly pre-pharmacy airhead whose main achievement is mammary development and loose morals. That was Doogie’s life.

They naturally formed an alliance. Billy didn’t want to see the world torment such a mind until it gets mean. It wouldn’t do to have Doogie bullied. Who knew what the kid would do? If you were paying attention (and most people weren’t) Doogie’s reaction when being mistreated reminded you that Darth Vader started out as a smiling nerd who liked robots. Doogie, for his part, looked out for Billy as one protects a lovable Labrador retriever who’s clueless enough to walk in front of a train while chasing butterflies. Which is precisely the reason Billy involved him in the day’s affairs.

After the “rodeo of the pizzas” there’d been a brief standoff where the squirrels, texting rapidly, tried to negotiate for Billy’s assistance. They wanted to get to Portland; without understanding the scale of distances more than a squirrel can run in a day. They dangled the possibility of “$$$ REWARDS”. Billy had issues with a smelly half-starved bear screwing up his Subaru’s upholstery. Well that and the much bigger mental hurdle that he was negotiating, through the intercession of an iPhone, with squirrels that had a Paypal account and pet bear.

They needed a driver. He was underemployed and had no other prospects. God and Ayn Rand (if it was allowable to put both in the same sentence) wanted this deal to go down. But the cultural divide was too great.

Finally, after many texts went back and forth, and the bear tried to attack Billy, and Billy demonstrated what a Glock can do… they were at an impasse. In a flash of brilliance (or at least brilliance at Billy’s level, for Doogie considered it an obvious idea that should have been tried immediately) Billy understood they both needed the assistance of a mind that was… flexible. He made a final text. “I will get another person who is wise and negotiate a mutually agreeable compromise. I will return with him at dawn. Agreed?”

To which the squirrels replied “GOOD IDEA. WE OFFER $$$. BRING MORE FOOD TOO.”

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Happy Birthday To Laura Ingalls Wilder

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “150th birthday” just passed. (Hat tip to Maggie’s Farm.)

I’m a huge fan of “Little House on the Prairie”. Those books, written in the midst of the great depression and covering a key time in America’s development, land high on my list of “things all young children need to hear”. Mrs. Curmudgeon read them to our kids and I was delighted to see their rapt attention. (And for that matter, I was listening nearby because they’re damn good stores.) Later, the kids reread much of the books themselves. (I had a tendency to snatch the books from the kid’s shelves when nobody was looking and read them myself.)

Kids: “Are you reading a little girl’s book?”

Me: “What? Me? Nah, I’m just trying to glean some details about yoking an ox. I’m thinking of buying one. We can save money if I sell the car and replace it with an ox drawn cart.”

Kids: “Mom! Help! Dad has more ideas. Hurry!”

The kids knew I was joking of course; I hate ox. Even so I couldn’t help myself and had to read them all. There’s wisdom and heart in those books. Real heart, not the sad cynical alternative you’ll often see in stories these days. They cover all the bases that a child needs to, if not practice, at least see coming on the horizon; self reliance, independence, pride, family, patience, hard work, honestly, adaptability. The list goes on and on.

If that weren’t enough. The stories teach a child to “shut the hell up” about material goods. Listening to the heartfelt joy and bliss of a kid who got a tin cup or a piece of penny candy for Christmas is perfect. It captures the joy of the season and the reader shares in it’s power. It’s also an inoculation against kids feeling crushed because they wanted the red power ranger with the Turboencabulator death ray of awesomeness and only got the blue one with the default backpack of boredom.

In my eyes, most adults need to hear the stories too.

The stories, even thought they seem from a different world, aren’t as removed in time as we’d think. Such a span of events and changes in that brief interval! I’ve had similar experiences in my life. When I lost a dear relative I wept not just over a death but that I had lost the stories of a man who’d started life on a farm with horse drawn plows and ended in a world with Prius tax subsidies. So much he had seen but in only one life. So too with Mrs. Wilder (link):

“At Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, Missouri, the place where Laura and her husband Almanzo Wilder settled in 1894, there is a photograph of the two of them in front of their car. Yes – their car. Ponder that for a moment: Both Laura and Almanzo traveled west as children via covered wagon, they conducted their courtship over Sunday drives in a horse-drawn buggy, and, ultimately, they retraced their journeys on the northern plains — in their 1923 Buick.

The changes that they saw in their lifetimes are nothing short of astonishing. Almanzo lived from 1857 and died in 1946; his birth predated the Civil War and his death happened after the dropping of the atomic bomb. Laura lived from 1867 to 1957; she was born during Reconstruction and died in the same year that Sputnik I was launched. She lived to see the introduction of electricity, the telephone, penicillin, movies, television, air travel, space travel, and two World Wars. She was born in an era of twig brooms and eating hard tack on the trail, and died in the age of vacuum cleaners and counter-top blenders.

Such a humble life, seemingly simple and uncomplex as it was lived, serves as yardstick measuring the changes that swept across America over a period of just one lifetime. This realization forces the question: Will the changes we see over our lifetimes be just as profound?”

That puts it in perspective doesn’t it? When the television (which you might be streaming via internet to your iDevice) screams that this week’s political kerfluffle is the most Hitlerastic disaster in the history of ever… remember how much water can flow under the bridge in a human lifetime. Civil war to space travel. It’s been done. What will we do?

If you have kids of the appropriate age, or friends with kids of the appropriate age, get them a boxed set. (This is one of the few times I’d suggest paper over kindle.) Read them aloud to the young ones, encourage budding readers to enjoy them independently, and (if necessary) hurl them with great force at any overly cynical teenagers in the vicinity. (Also, if you haven’t yet read them yourself, steal the books back from the kids and enjoy.)

Consider this a hearty recommendation from the Curmudgeon and a continuation of my recent policy of “as little politics as possible while people calm down”. You can find them here or the link below (or maybe you’ve already got them on your bookshelf?).

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In 1918 Children Kept The Squirrel Menace At Bay

“Are you not willing then to give your whole-hearted support to this state-wide movement to KILL THE SQUIRREL?”

Well are ya? Unless you are, the war effort may flounder… pussy!

Imagine the good old days (in this case 1918) when the government encouraged kids to protect the food supply and use buckets of poison. Now adults are warned that everything from sawdust to laughter is a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer. The children and lobotomized and covered in bubble wrap until they’re old enough to take out student loans in puppetry and dabble in community organizing.

Check it out:

Remember children, be careful when using buckets of poison.

California’s children in 1918; “Get out there and kill!”
California’s children in 2017; “Todo el mundo tiene una A.“*

The whole story is rather fascinating; though it fails to mention the force multiplying effect of Abba. (Possibly because future president and then U.S. Food Administration mega-wonk Herbert Hoover failed to anticipate the tragic rise disco balls and Swedish vocalists fifty years later.)

History is awesome! I encourage you to read it all at PJ Media.


* “Everyone gets an A.” (Unless I screwed up a tense or something.)

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Road To Portland: Part 8: Peering Through The Fog

The Analyst was having a bad day. He was out of Mountain Dew, the transmission on his SUV had crapped out, and the data… The data was completely vexing.

“You seem nervous.” It was the Cigarette Smoking man, who is totally for real. He had appeared silently and from behind. Creepy.

“You’re being creepy.” The Analyst muttered. He’d long ago made peace with the idea that he worked with not only a spook but a force of darkness. He hoped he would be allowed to retire in peace rather than wind up… wherever. The analyst went to great lengths to never find out where the Smoking Man’s “loose ends” went. In exchange the Smoking Man provided a great health plan (with dental!), two weeks paid vacation, and hadn’t yet killed him. Compared to most jobs open to a quantitative analyist, it was a supportive work environment.

It allowed the Analyst to focus on what was really important to him; teasing out patterns in what looks (to muggles who don’t know better) like random noise. He briefed the Smoking Man:

“OK so, ‘Operation Deplorable’ was a total failure. The guy’s just not for sale.”

His boss nodded. His way of saying “continue and don’t assume I’m an idiot like everyone else”.

“I ran it by the shrinks. They came up with a new approach. Seems to be working.”

Another nod.

“It’s called the ‘Leave Him The Hell Alone’ plan. I like their reasoning.”

“And he subject is accepting this?”

“From what we can tell, yes. Except…”

The Smoking Man had his doubts. Men who weren’t greedy were exceedingly rare. “This is where you tell me he’s wheedling for more bribes?”

“Nope, it looks like someone stole some of the checks from him. Several have been deposited in various accounts.”

“And the subject didn’t cash them?”

“Nope. He hasn’t left his compound for weeks. Apparently, he shot a large buck and then found his favorite bourbon on sale. Last transactions were a taxidermist and a liquor store. He seems to have attained some sort of peace. Returned to his dump of a house and hasn’t moved since.”

“Did he shift the money online?”

“Nope, we monitor all of his internet activities and…” He frowned.

“That weird?”

“You have no idea. One day he’s talking about a duck, the next day he’s bitching about politics, it’s just a total mess. The profilers assigned to him are miserable.”

“I can’t imagine someone stole the checks from him. We sent three agents to his compound and he identified and defeated them all.”

They both bent their heads in respect for the victims of this rural loon. There would be no more attempts at a clandestine operation of that sort. It was too risky.

The third and last attempt had been a promising young agent disguised as a Jehovah’s witness. He went missing two days before he was found in a chicken coop in adjacent state. He was unharmed, thank the Gods and Hoover, but he had been stripped naked, spray painted orange, and ‘leave me alone’ had been tattooed on his forehead. It had been done with a tattoo kit usually reserved for cattle ears!

This has been the inspiration for the shrink’s decision to re-orient “Operation Deplorable” into “Operation Leave Him Alone”. (The Analyst secretly believed the shrinks were so dense they wouldn’t have figured it out without having it literally written on an agent’s body. He wondered how people that dumb got through the day.)

The other two agents were similarly unharmed but both were shaken. The first was a judo master posing as a utility linesman. He was inexplicably overpowered and found in a grain bin in Wichita with ‘wolverines!’ painted on his chest. He had subsequently quit the force and was now a florist in Seattle.

The second posed as a surveyor. The Curmudgeon had surprised the ‘surveyor’ from behind and sent him packing with very little to report. An hour later his vehicle was attacked by unknown assailants. The vehicle was found at the bottom of a lake in Maine with ‘stay off my lawn’ scratched into the hood. The agent was found, drugged and unconscious but unharmed, on a Greyhound bus bound for Barstow.

From this, the Analyst surmised he was dealing with a combination of James Bond from the Sean Connery era and Animal from the Muppets.

“Obviously, nobody took the checks by force.” The Analyst agreed. “But somehow they got cashed. The lab thinks they spent some time lying in a snowbank before being re-inserted into the banking system… which makes no sense.” He sighed. “Also, the checks were deposited in the ‘Gynocentric Utopian World Order fund’ and there’s no indication that he knows about that organization. Most of the deposits are associated with…” He shuffled his papers “Professor Rothschild.”

“Is she in on it?’

“We think not. Several agents have interviewed her and the consensus is she’s not a likely white collar criminal. Reports say she’s too dumb and abrasive for anything more complex than hiding on a campus and bullying freshmen.”

“You’re sure of this?”

“Yes, of the four agents who’ve contacted her, in disguise of course, none have reported a lick of the cunning I’d associate with money laundering. She maced the first agent, sexually harassed the second, fled in terror from the third, and the fourth has been sued for discrimination… though on what grounds seems to be vague. She couldn’t have penetrated the Curmudgeon’s perimeter and probably can’t survive long off campus anyway. I doubt they’ve ever met. We suspect a third party is using her name.”

“A laundering operation?”

“Yes, perhaps combined with an identity theft gambit? Actually, it’s a good gambit to utilize those two personalities. I don’t know how they got documents past the Curmudgeon but a guy who communicates directly with satellites by stomping swampgrass isn’t likely to interact with staff at a university. On the other side of things, a professor of grievance studies probably can’t do anything on-line more complex than Facebook so she’s not going to notice accounts appearing and disappearing.”

“Ok, so someone has retrieved the money in obscure ways. What are they doing with it?” The cigarette smoking man knew it wasn’t the theft that gave hints, it was the spending of the funds. What was the money going toward? Guns? Donations to churches? Yachts? Hookers and cocaine? A Teletubby suit? (He involuntarily shivered at the memory of the Teletubby Massacre of 1993. He’d never forget that poor bastard with the… He shook his head. Best to keep that memory suppressed.)

“Pizzas. An unusual Uber ride.”

“No guns? Nothing illicit?”

More paper shuffling. “Several unlocked iPhones. A large bag of dogfood. Six 10 ounce bars of silver.”


“We intercepted the order but couldn’t get there before the materials were delivered. We have no idea who picked it up.”

“Amazon!” It was a constant complaint in the spycraft world that Amazon delivered so quickly that agents couldn’t interfere with deliveries to their own ends. Not like the good old postal service that helpfully delayed everyone’s mail a few days as part of Hoover’s Directive 029-349-REDACTED-REDACTED.

“Well we did get tracking properties inserted to two of the iPhones so that may provide information in the future.” The Analyst reached for his Mountain Dew and remembered he was out. “Other purchases were season tickets to an MMA arena and flowers delivered to a transvestite fighter. Before you ask, we’ve got no idea but we’ve got people looking into it. Also,” The analyst frowned. “200 gallons of diesel and… Oh My God!”

The Smoking Man had been reading the list. Both of them were paranoid geniuses and they both reached the same conclusion at the same time.

The Analyst kept reading, slowly, as if to deny the obvious. “Six boxed sets of Abba and a UHaul rental.”

The Smoking Man read the destination on the rental agreement (Detroit) and immediately dialed a cell phone. (The Analyst noticed the phone, one of several the Smoking Man carried, had been secreted in a Faraday cage envelope before the call.) The Analyst heard only half the conversation.

“I need a team. Authorization code 27/b. Yes. Yes. Lesbian Squirrels. I know that. You missed, you’re incompetent, and you’ve got this one chance to rectify it. Shut up! Target? Detroit. Yes, I’m sure. Possibly an ANFO device in a UHaul. We don’t know. You’ll receive the vehicle identification information shortly.”

While he was speaking, the Analyst assembled the information and activated a secure communication protocol. The Smoking Man nodded. The Analyst clicked ‘send’.

The Smoking Man finished his call and pressed a specific key combination. Hastily he put the phone back in its Faraday cage envelope which scarcely contained the exothermic reaction occurring within. They waited. In a few seconds the reaction was complete. The Smoking Man tossed the cooling plastic mass in the trash. Must be a Samsung.

“Anything else?” The Analyst asked.

“I wouldn’t go to Detroit this weekend.”

They exchanged a glance. The city might be leveled.

The Analyst thought of his recently out of warranty Buick and its broken transmission. He smiled. It couldn’t happen to a better city.

If you appreciate stories where Detroit gets vaporized you may want to click one of the links below:


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Social Media

Start today by signing this waiver, or don’t sign it; we’re doing this thing!

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Coffee Moment: Details

Kyle asked about our off grid (non-electric) coffee grinder. Here it is (image linked to Amazon):

Hand operated coffee grinder. When the grid goes down you’ll be able to rent this out!

I highly recommend it. You can unscrew the glass bowl and use it to store your freshly ground coffee. Brilliant. Plus it works well. I have the suspicion that many hand grinders are more for show than for use.

Also, it’s on sale right now!

On. Sale. Now!

I don’t know why. It just is. No need to thank me. I’m here to help.


P.S. I couldn’t find a link to the very relevant “coffee grinder stampede” from the movie City Slickers but those of you who watched it know what I’m talking about. Poor coffee grinder choices ruined Billy Crystal’s day. There are pros and cons screwing up Billy Crystal’s day but the grinder I recommend is better because it won’t cause a stampede.

My coffee grinder is battery operated and will therefore cause a shitload of chaos.

I couldn’t help including this clip that’s pointless and off topic.


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This Is How It’s Done

My local gas station periodically has a coffee can next to the cash register. It’s an informal community response to unfortunate (and invariably expensive) events. There will be a little description of what happened “Sam Smith had a car accident and needs help paying medical bills”. Folks reach past the beef jerky and lottery tickets to stuff money in the can. It’s not a perfect solution but it’s voluntary, charitable, and kind. It’s one of the few times “community” really means “community” and “charity” really means “charity”.

It’s a good thing and I’m glad it happens. (Not Sam Smith’s car accident; but the idea that folks will help Sam out of nothing more than kindness.)

A longtime reader’s local elementary school had a fire and he sent me these links. Apparently they’re gathering money to rebuild (or at least keep the kids supplied in the interim). Just like the coffee can it’s voluntary, charitable, and an opportunity for kindness. If you’re interested, the links are below. No pressure, just do what you feel.


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