Squirrelage Shall Ensue

I received a few PayPal tips, Patreon support, and several comments about Boo. I’m inspired. Thanks.

Next week will be filled with squirrels. And Edna. I like Edna’s character. Oh, that’s right, you don’t know who Edna is. Well, you’ll just have to wait. Also I just ended a sentence with a preposition. I’m clearing out before Edna can comment.

Happy reading.


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Data Visualization

At this link you will find one of the best animated data visualizations you’ll ever see. It’s a map of the world with timed animation representing immigration into the US from 1820 to 2013. It only takes a few seconds. Watch it. What better thing are you going to do in the next two minutes?

It’s an elegant way to see the geographic distribution, timing, and scale of millions of peoples individual choices. Two relaxed minutes of watching colored dots will give you a better understanding than what you started with. In an ideal world, nobody would debate immigration in the US until they’d watched it. Twice.

Also, like most good visualizations, it’s beautiful.

Hat tip to Maggie’s Farm.

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Road To Portland: Part 13.01: Video Link

That poor dog…

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Road To Portland: Part 13: Me And You And A Dog Named Boo

“Me and you and a dog named boo
Travellin’ and livin’ off the land
Me and you and a dog named boo
How I love being a free man”

Boo was a dog. This would normally assure Boo a joyous life. Dogs, being filled with heart, nobility, loyalty, honesty, and heaping mounds of pure love, are uniquely suited among all God’s creatures for a life of joy. Unfortunately for Boo, part of that recipe is to be as dumb as a stump. The great genetic roulette wheel that creates us all had inexplicably planted a sizable intellect in a Labrador Retriever. It wasn’t an easy fit.

Boo tried, really he did. He did his best to adore his owner as all good Labs wish to do. He was hard wired for it and wanted to fulfill his destiny. But, possessing extraordinary wisdom, he simply couldn’t get around the fact that his owner was a gibbering idiot.

She was 23, had $190,000 in student loan debt, a C average, was majoring in Anthropology, pretended to be a vegetarian, and consumed great quantities of Captain Morgan mixed with diet Pepsi. She was sitting cross legged on the floor with a sewing needle in one hand and a plastic Star Wars cup of the infernal Morgan/Pepsi mix in the other. Boo half expected her to spill the drink… in which case he would rush to the scene and lap it up. She would think it nothing more than standard dog behavior but Boo craved a little rum to kill the pain.

She was happily jabbering with several like-minded friends, also sitting on the floor, which confused Boo since the room had couches and chairs. Aside from objects which he was not allowed to sleep on, what was the purpose of a couch? Men, who were rare in this room, but did show up from time to time, always sat on the couches; usually staring at the TV, whether it was on or not. Yet a gaggle of women chose, en masse, to sit on the floor? Human social customs were mysterious. One chair was ideally suited for a night’s quiet reading. It was near a pleasant bay window looking out on the rain and had a small overhanging light.  Boo’s owner never willingly read anything longer than 140 characters and this evening had buried it under the accumulated guest’s raincoats. This made Boo ponder the purpose of the empty coat rack in the corner.

On the low coffee table, there was a plate of kale chips and bargain basement guacamole. Boo’s owner nibbled them dutifully and the guests did too. Later tonight, as soon as the guests were gone, they would be taking a surreptitious walk. They would “happen” to pass the nearby Burger King and Boo’s owner would fret aloud about “just this once” making a purchase. She’d eat half the burger and then, in a fit of failed vegan guilt, give the rest to Boo while she devoured a large serving of greasy fries. Boo loved late night walks!

The women alternated between trying to sew vagina costumes and posting their scant progress on Facebook. Boo knew they had less than an hour left. Soon the Captain Morgan would finish off whatever sewing skills they’d started with. The dog part of Boo’s brain desperately hoped they succeeded in this mysterious, yet surely important, mission before it was too late. The aberrant part of his brain knew it was a lost cause. Someone would stab themselves with a needle very soon and that would be the end of today’s progress.

Boo sighed. His owner’s name was Kandi and she invariably signed with a little heart over the “i”. She’d named him after a wistful easy listening song from 1971. The bitch!

He was a dog. He was going to die sooner than his owner’s minivan and he was going to spend most of his short life watching drunk college girls sew vaginas.

“Ouch!” One of them had just jammed a needle in a thumb.

The rest rushed to offer moral support and post blurry snapshots of the tiny wound to social media. Kandi spilled her drink; Boo lapped it up and slunk behind the couch to await the sweet oblivion of sleep… or death. It was all the same to a very depressed Boo.

Every day, countless dogs are forced to live in houses where the only spilled food is kale chips and diet Pepsi. If you want to help dogs like Boo have a better life, feel free to click below:



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Ask Dr. Science

[Avoiding politics is a lot harder than it sounds. I’m just sayin’.]

My continuing half-assed and ineffective effort to avoid politics and procrasting while completing the Squirrel saga has painted me into a corner. I wish to write about something. Yet how does one avoid politics the day after President Cheeto addresses a joint session of Congress? (Unavoidable but abbreviated reporting: People wore white for reasons while looking constipated, Trump spoke without flinging feces which continues to surprise his detractors, and the press sustained its period of hyperventilation. Meanwhile the sky is still blue and the sun rose again the following day. There, I’ve covered the entire event in 41 words. You’ve been a great audience, pick up a CD in the lobby, have a safe drive home.)

A sustained drive in my truck forced me to address an interesting (though unfortunately political but at least removed-from-current-events) question: “Given that NPR has probably always been propaganda, why do I find it so repugnant now?” It’s an honest question. I used to listen to NPR with a grain of salt and that was enough. For example, I listened to them call the seven month Gulf War a “quagmire” in ’91 and cheer the election of Chavez in ’99. (How’d that work out for ya?)

Reporting on both events was biased as hell. Yet I didn’t feel like driving into a ditch to make them shut up. What happened? Did it always suck this much or have I changed?”

As part of my research I unearthed this. It’s only 8 minutes. It’s completely non-political. It’s hilarious:

For those of you who don’t know, “Ask Dr. Science” was on NPR back in the stone age. It remains as funny today as always. I loved it. Can you imagine a time when they had humor?

I think this answers my question; there’s a huge leap from propaganda to humorless propaganda. I just couldn’t cross the gulf.

I keep looking for a dash radio that picks up shortwave. Anyone heard of one that’s cheap and easy to cram into a Dodge? I miss Ask Dr. Science and something like that has to be out there still.

In the meantime I can reminisce; “It’s time for Ask Dr. Science, remember, he knows more than you…”

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Squirrelish Photoshoppery

A few extremely awesome readers support me via Patreon.

The Patreon site was an experiment. Would it work? This morning, as the calendar struck a new month, the system did what it does. (If a clock can strike midnight why can’t a calendar “strike” a new month?)

Based on that happy moment I decided it needed a new header. I came up with this:

Warning: Patreon is slick but has limitations. It’s excellent for automagically sending a monthly “squirrel nudge”. Unfortunately, signing in to Patreon (which you only need to do once) is the privacy version of a wet willy. If that’s not your cup of tea I get it. There’s always Paypal and/or you can just ignore me.

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Road To Portland: Part 12: Lets Be Bad Guys

Billy slumped against the hood in his best “James Dean’s bad posture” pose while Doogie strode directly toward the tree. The bear at the tree’s base got up, stretched, gave a massive toothy yawn (a warning?), and let Doogie pass.

Moving slowly, so the squirrels could see, Doogie extracted from his backpack the most pathetic electronic disappointment Billy had seen in years.

“You’ve got to be kidding!” Billy shouted.

“It has its place.” Doogie responded calmly. He was used to being mocked for his choices in electronics. At the university, he was electronically heretical. His phone was an Android Trackphone. (He kept several “burner phones” on stock as well; using them for the sake of privacy.) “Pay as you go” phones mystified students with elaborate data plans. More to the point, Doogie was largely off-grid but his fellow students couldn’t take a dump without using the “free time” to post from an iPhone to Facebook.

Doogie knew this to be true because he’d tested it. Shortly after entering college, Doogie, following a fleeting interest in epidemiology, had whipped up an analysis of georeferenced Facebook posts cross referenced to a map of every shitter on campus. Initially he’d hoped to help humanity by identifying group instances of food poisoning. He’d eventually abandoned the idea. Public welfare or not, having a complete record of every campus bowel movement was a cross for someone else to carry. The point was, Doogie was well aware of what could be correlated, inferred, and derived from cell phones. He was not about to let metadata associate him with white collar criminal squirrels.

He tied a length of p-cord to a battered Alphasmart Neo2, typed something on the ample keyboard, and hurled it up and over the branch where the squirrels were waiting.

“An Alphasmart?” Billy whined. “Are you trying to embarrass me?” The Alphasmart, a moronic little teaching device, was long obsolete. It ran on AA batteries, couldn’t think its way out of a paper bag, link to wifi, or support any serious word processing software. It was more a calculator than a computer. They were popular on e-bay with pretentious fiction writers, irrelevant bloggers, and other fools who’d barely evolved beyond crayons.  They repulsed Billy. Even the squirrels had an iPhone and they lived in a tree! (The irony that he had an iPhone and lived in a car escaped him.) Like most Americans, Billy was disturbed by Doogie’s insistence in using “just the right amount” of technology. The proper American approach to technology was to use all possible technology. Billy’s pencils were always mechanical.

The squirrels read the crude LCD screen on the battered device. “Hunters can track iPhone. Type on this device instead.”

The squirrels, who had never used a physical keyboard, were impressed by the tactile feel. They were only dimly aware an iPhone’s interface was a touchscreen facsimile of a physical keyboard.

Also, Doogie’s choice in vocabulary (selected after careful consideration) had stuck a cord. He had intended to imply risk and menace. He suspected ‘hunter’ would resonate to a game animal whereas ‘law enforcement’ would mean nothing to them.

“What do you mean hunters?” The squirrels responded. When they finished typing Doogie fed the rope hand over hand and the device descended to his level.

“NSA. Do not use iPhone again until you understand what NSA is. They will kill you.” It was a risky opening gambit. Would the squirrels, like most college students and virtually all college professors, reject information they didn’t want to hear? It was Doogie’s experience that people found it easier to dismiss uncomfortable knowledge as incorrect rather than ponder the alternative; in this case that powerful unseen forces are out to get you.

The squirrels were more clear thinking than college students though. “Turning off iPhone. Explain NSA.”

Excellent! The hook was set! Billy had been negotiating as a form of transportation. In one exchange Doogie had vaulted their value from “drivers” to “protection”. He typed quickly, before they had time to reconsider their nervousness. “NSA monitors all your $$.” Doogie remembered the squirrels used $ instead of dollar. Another indication of their internet only knowledge base. “NSA can track iPhone.” He added.

“Can NSA locate iPhone anywhere? Can NSA explode tree?” The squirrels asked.

That was odd. Doogie indicated assent; along with assurance that the dumb, low-tech, stand-alone, obsolete, Alphasmart NEO was safe from NSA incursion. He sent the device aloft again.

The response from the squirrels was much longer this time; and disturbing.

Doogie paused and waved Billy over. “Do you still have that handheld GPS?” He asked. Billy, in preparation for “bugging out” after “the shit hit the fan” had all sorts of camping equipment in his trunk.

“Yeah. So? You don’t have to get paranoid about that, it’s a receiver only.” Billy wasn’t a fan of Doogie’s fear of the NSA. Everyone with half a brain knew NSA spying was a diversion. It was the Federal Reserve that would ruin everything.

“When’s the last time you updated the Google earth imagery?” Doogie asked, ignoring Billy’s impatience.

“Tuesday. I update everything within a few hundred miles weekly.” Billy was proud of this.

“Get it out and scan everything for as far as…” Doogie paused. “…as far as a squirrel can walk in a day.”

Billy wasn’t happy about this, the tiny GPS screen was for navigation, not sightseeing.

“What am I looking for?”

Doogie grimaced. “I don’t want you to freak out. I just want to see if we can corroborate the squirrel’s story.”

“And I’m looking for what? A pile of acorns?”

“A missile strike.”

Billy held Doogie’s gaze a long time. “You’re shitting me.”

“Improbable things happen all the time. Better safe than sorry.”

Doogie explained to the squirrels that his colleague was examining navigational aids in search of the dreaded NSA hunters. Perhaps they and their bear would like breakfast in the meantime? For the squirrels, he produced a half pound of sunflower seeds, for the bear a five-pound bag of dogfood.

Billy’s search was slow. By mutual agreement nobody was willing to turn on a laptop and the handheld GPS wasn’t particularly good at searching aerial imagery. Doogie munched a stale éclair he’d bought at the gas station and weighed his options. He had a special present for Billy. He would deploy it should his partner (the only person present with a driver’s license) get jittery.

“I found it!” Billy shouted.

He passed the GPS to Doogie who examined the smudge in the satellite overlay. It could be many things, a small lightning strike for example, but it was almost certainly sign of an explosion. If a missile had taken out a quarter acre of forest, this is precisely what one would expect to see. He shrugged.

“The image collaborates the squirrel’s story. It gives me an opening to explain to them what risks they’ve exposed themselves to and why they should retain our services in protection from the NSA.” Doogie grinned.

“Us? Protect them from the NSA? Are you mental!” Billy fumed.

Doogie shrugged again while Billy glared at the GPS and fiddled with the display. “Wait. There’s more.” Billy announced. He’d manipulated the tiny GPS to show a patch of swamp grass near the strike zone. He handed it back to Doogie.

“IT IS ON MOTHERFU…” Billy stopped himself from reading the whole thing. Who stomps epithets into swamp grass? “It seems our friends,” he glanced at the animals who’d forgotten everything save the food, “have quite a story to tell.”

Billy nervously scanned the horizon. Cruise missiles? NSA? Swamp grass messages? Fuck this!

He turned to Doogie, the words on his lips, he was done. Nobody smart becomes an enemy of the state for an Uber tip!

Before Billy could speak, Doogie played his card. He shoved a beer in Billy’s hands. It was cold. Billy realized he was thirsty.

“What’s this?” Billy asked.

“Courage. Drink up.” Doogie smiled reassuringly. “I bought it at the gas station last night. There’s a cooler with ice in your trunk. Two six packs. Bottles of microbrew for you. Cans of Miller for the bear.”

Billy’s objections, his concerns, his worries, were forgotten. He popped the cap off with a Swiss army knife and took a long swig. There’s something epic about drinking beer for breakfast! He considered the situation. His car was filthy. Doogie was a mad genius who’d stashed a dufflebag loaded with something in the trunk. A bear was taking a dump less than 30 yards away. He was already getting used to having the beast in the vicinity. The squirrels we’re lesbian, activist, criminals, that had somehow avoided an air strike. Someone nearby had communicated loud and clear that they were in no mood to put up with the NSA’s shit. Everything around him was hard core.

Billy, was finally amid his tribe. He was a goddamned bad ass too and they all belonged together. It felt… right.

He rooted around in the cooler and grabbed two more beers. That first beer had gone down rather nicely. He popped open his bottle and tossed a can of cheap swill to the bear. It chomped into the aluminum and chugged its contents like a battle-hardened fraternity pledge.

“You still in?” Doogie inquired.

“Yeah! Let’s be bad guys.”

If you appreciate stories written by a guy who forgets to add his Paypal/Pateron links (but goes back and inserts them later) you may want to click below:


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The Robots Are Coming: Part 2

Many moons ago I first read the excellent Stainless Steel Rat series. Harry Harrison rocks. I highly recommend the books as young reader escapist “literature”; particularly for any SciFi leaning kid with a libertarian bent. Reading his books as a young curmudgeon it felt like Harrison was reading my mind!

(Warning: mild risk of spoilers from books 30 years old.) In The Stainless Steel Rat Is Born, the hero and his mentor hole up in a futuristic fast food restaurant (essentially a metaphorical space McDonalds). The whole operation is robotic. The only sign of life is routine maintenance and a steady flow of customers showing up to chow down on Porcuswine burgers. Yum!

I thought this was a nifty idea. After all, fast food is the very epitome of an assembly line and the food is judged exclusively on uniformity and cost. (We all know that being somewhat inedible is tolerable in fast food but variation isn’t. I doubt any of us can recall a particular exceptionally high quality Big Mac or Whopper but we’ve eaten dozens of forgettable ones.)

Later I got a job as a fast food flunky and confirmed my suspicions. Not only could a monkey do my job but a monkey might do better than I, an actual human, who kept getting pissed at the scratchy uniform and the skeevy boss (who was the owner’s son).

A photo from the Curmudgeon’s resume. Also, “here’s your burger dumbass.”

I have no regrets. Perhaps all young people should do a thankless job where they’re a nameless widget serving a corporate overlord. Couple that with a paycheck that has had the first third siphoned in taxes and you’ve now had a shared experience. It’s things like this that once tied us together as a nation. Lacking that learning experience is risky. It makes one prone to becoming a snowflake in a safe space a half decade later; pondering thousands of dollars in student loan debt and plumbing the logic that led to a degree in unemployability.

But I digress. Robot-like food delivery is not a new idea. Here’s a photo from New York City in 1942 (link):

An automat. Virtually no human interaction. Isn’t it beautiful?

Despite the futuristic 1940’s, by the 1970’s a fast food robot was science fiction satire. (Nor did I get the goddamn flying car they promised!) Progress slowed and hovered around an assembly line type fast food kitchen but with humans at the grill. (Though the grill at my job was actually a conveyor belt so there’s that.) By the 1980’s we (meaning monkeys like me) stopped filling the paper cup. We merely shoved it across the counter at a customer who poured his own cola.

Here’s a cup. Pour your own damn soda.

I counted change like the Neanderthal I was. But eventually automatic change counters showed up because it’s easier to make a machine count than train a monkey.

Here’s your nickels. I’m too busy to count ’em. Get them out of the dish yourself. In fact, just quit bothering me.

By now automatic ordering devices are commonplace; though not yet found everywhere.

Is this really so shocking?

I notice that my old tasks (such as divvying up fries into the baskets) are increasingly done by a machine. (Also the kitchen at a McDonald is so filled with beeps and clicks that it sounds surprisingly like the deck of the Enterprise.)

As for the entirely human free hamburger experience? Not yet but soon. The ever rising cost (and red tape hassle) of labor cannot be denied. The Japanese famously vending machine deliver damn near everything. Stateside, hamburger robot prototypes already exist. They make the news from time to time. This link is goes to a hamburger robot situation being tested in Kansas where labor is cheap San Fransico. Here’s another “human interaction free” “restaurant of the future” that just happens to be in San Francisco and in no way corresponds to labor prices. It looks like an automat from the 1940’s.

Sooner or later the labor cost will push them into production. When it happens I’ll pretend to be Slippery Jim Degriz and type “Porcuswine Special” into the kiosk.


P.S. In the interest of full disclosure I have had a job where I was laid off because the minimum wage increased and I have mixed positive and negative feelings about that. I have also taken a job where I replaced a robot because I was cheaper than the robot. Change/automation is not the same as “disaster”… sometimes it’s just change.

P.S.2. In honor of my old job I present Beavis and Butthead. Wouldn’t you prefer a robot to those two? Also, any young folks getting grief from a Gen X person about how culture was better in the past can use this to remind them that stupidity predates Facebook.

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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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