wafting your way along the slipstreams of the Info Highway

from Bubbles = Tom Digby



Issue #9

New Moon of September 24, 1995

Contents copyright 1997 by Thomas G. Digby, with a liberal definition of "fair use". In other words, feel free to quote excerpts elsewhere (with proper attribution), post the entire zine (verbatim, including this notice) on other boards that don't charge specifically for reading the zine, link my Web page, and so on, but if something from here forms a substantial part of something you make money from, it's only fair that I get a cut of the profits.

For more background info, details of how the mailing list works, etc., look at issue #Zero.

If you email me a reply or comment, please make clear whether or not it's for publication.

Someone said they wrote to me several issues back but I didn't do anything with it. That's probably because I hadn't come up with a policy of what to do with letters, and their letter probably wasn't clearly marked as to whether or not it was for publication.

This may change, but what I'm leaning toward is to publish only those letters (email, of course) that say, either in the Subject line or the body, that they're for publication or for the Letters column or some other wording to that effect.

I don't know how many of you are interested in sending letters for publication. If it's a relative few, I'll probably print just about all of them. If it's a fair number, I may put out a supplemental Letters issue now and then. And if it's REALLY a lot, I may see about getting some sort of automated mailing list set up so you can post to the list instead of having me manually paste them into the zine.

Birds are singing outside (or were when I first wrote this). The stereotype is that birds sing because they're happy, but I think it's actually more business. It's been compared to the kinds of bragging drunks do in bars. "I can lick anybody in the place." "Any women around? Send 'em to me." And so on.

So here I am being cynical about birds singing. That comes of scientific education and a belief in evolution. Maybe it's sometimes best not to think too much about such things.

But I can't help wondering if birds really do feel emotion as we know it. Is there enough awareness for that, or is it all stimulus-response, programmed in by evolution? Are we projecting humanity onto birds? Only the gods know.

Perhaps birds are mostly organic robots, but now and then when a bird is free to be happy, one of the gods will slip in and ride with it for a while. Soar with the eagles. Rejoice at being early enough to get a worm. Or just sit there on a tree limb singing because it's a nice day. So maybe some bird song really is from happiness. But if it is, we'll never know from the outside.

Maybe all life is like that, with humans being different only in that the gods spend more time with us than with other species. That "I think, therefore I am" feeling means one of the gods is with you.

And there's something in the Bible (Exodus 3:13-15 KJV) that may be relevant: When Moses asks God's name, the reply is "I AM THAT I AM". And also, "Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you." If our consciousness comes from some god being with us, then "I AM" seems an appropriate name for that god.

So maybe that's what we are when we think of ourselves as being: God's (or gods') fingers sticking into the world.

In an earlier issue I proposed a search system for tunes, to compare different tunes for degree of similarity, or to find the closest matches to an unknown. This got forwarded to someone who has actually done computerized tune matching. I've asked him for a capsule summary:

_MelAnaly_ is software supporting a system of comparative melodic analysis. Although best suited to British and British-American dual- strain folk melodies, both system and software can be used with other genres.

_MelAnaly_, while designed for the study of oral melodic transmission, could be used in copyright infringement investigations and other situations.

For further information, contact:

J. Marshall Bevil (
(713) 859-5965 (after 18.00, U.S. Central Time)

One creativity exercise is to free-associate at the keyboard. And sometimes if you save these tidbits you can later string related ones from different sessions together, with a little editing here and there.

Ideas come prowling through my head like cats in the night ...

And here comes kittycat, with his tail across the keyboard so it gets in the way of typing. Another bid for attention? Or what? Something more sinister? Is kittycat really a double agent, sent by corporate spies bent on stealing ideas from various projects I'm working on, or maybe even getting advance copies of Silicon Soapware?

Oh, piffle paffle. Cats can't read. Or can they? Or even if they can't, maybe they don't have to. Maybe the spy gadget is an implant, reading the EM fields put out by the computer. That would explain why he likes to sit on top of the monitor while I'm writing.

But even if he got the data, how would he report it? Kittycat appears to be nonverbal, but how do I know that for sure? He doesn't have human vocal apparatus, but maybe there's a meow language he can report spy stuff in. Or maybe he can work the keyboard when I'm not around, dialing in to some secret BBS. Or maybe he even has his own machine, possibly in the bushes in the lot next door where I won't spot it.

Now Kittycat is in my lap purring. So that's how the cat's transmitting the spy results! Scientists have wondered why cats purr, and now I know. It's digital spy data being transmitted. Each cycle = 1 bit, about 10 or 20 baud. Or maybe there's a clock cycle in there too, allowing only half that baud rate. Low bandwidth either way, but kittycat's got plenty of time. I haven't the foggiest idea what whoever kittycat is working for is using for a receiver, but the fact that kittycat is purring means they have something.

So who is the sinister power behind kittycat? Who is the mastermind behind this dastardly scheme? Perhaps someone not even human, thus throwing species-chauvinistic human detectives off the trail? I wouldn't put it past such a diabolical mastermind to not be human. Villains often do that kind of thing.

And if I were to go to an FBI office and ask to see their list of "arch-villains, non-human", they would just laugh at me (or snicker quietly if they were too polite to laugh in my face). Then they'd claim to not have such a list. And maybe they'd be telling the truth, if the arch-villain had already gotten to them and hypnotized them into not keeping lists of non-human arch-villains.

So how do I track down this fiend that kittycat and the FBI are working for? Do you think the Illuminati can help me? Watch for the next thrilling chapter in this saga, but don't hold your breath because I haven't the foggiest idea of what I'm going to put in it yet, or when.

What else? Kittycat is in my lap again. What did cats sit on before people had laps? I believe the feline line is older than homo sapiens even if some other hominids are older. But do gorillas and other great apes have sittable laps? And even if they did, would they allow cats to use them? I suspect they wouldn't, as a rule. And some of the more ferocious ones might even eat cats, so cats that had too strong a lap- sitting drive would've gotten eaten. So cats had to suppress their desire to sit in laps until humans who had enough other food to not want to eat cats came along. Millions of years of feline frustration. Perhaps that frustration drove them to take matters into their own paws, evolving humans and then hiding all signs of feline technology so humans wouldn't feel inferior? Perhaps. Probably not, but perhaps. You never know.

But that would explain a lot about why humans keep cats even when cats don't seem to do much in return. My cats refuse to get jobs to bring in extra money for household expenses. They don't seem to do much toward writing this zine. I can't even get them to do simple chores like computer backups. They just sort of freeload. So why do we put up with them? Because they evolved us to provide laps for them to sit or lie or otherwise lounge around in?

And this would explain who the spy cats are spying for. They're still monitoring their creations, keeping tabs on us to make sure we continue to meet their specifications. Rather understandable thing to do.

But then what of dogs? Why did the cats let us allow dogs around? They sometimes get along, but often don't. Perhaps because evolving humans was a joint venture? Dogs and cats splitting the project costs 50-50? Or maybe the cats took care of the fine detail work while the dogs did the heavy lifting? Maybe. So should we go looking for the ruins of ancient DNA labs in Africa? Would feline-canine DNA labs look enough like human-built DNA labs for us to recognize them? And even if we found one, would it get any real attention outside the tabloids? That's why the secret has been so well kept. Even when somebody finds evidence and blabs about it, nobody believes it. That built-in unbelief factor was probably part of the DNA code, further evidence of how clever they were. So we'll just continue on, with most of us believing we evolved naturally, with comfy laps cats can lie in being just a coincidence.

And here comes kittycat, in my lap again, just like that's what it was made for. Now he's settling down for a nap, maybe. Maybe.

And while we're dealing with things feline ...

                   Incident Along Fantasy Way 


I went to do some writing
But my favorite writing place was occupied
By the cats.

What to do?
Simple eviction was possible,
But didn't feel right.
Who can write poetry in the face of one's cats
Picketing against fascism?

So --
Fill out an Application for Use of Space
In quindriplicate
On that tissue-paper they always use for carbons
And submit it to the cats for

Then, while they are processing the application
Into bits and pieces to be filed
All over the house
I slip in
And take possession.  

                                   Thomas G. Digby
                                   written 0220 hr  7/23/75
                                   entered 2045 hr  3/29/92

                                -- END --

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