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from Bubbles = Tom Digby



Issue #23

New Moon of November 10, 1996

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.

Here I am sitting here wondering what to write about. And Kittycat is on top of the printer, seemingly sound asleep. No worries, as far as I can see. Such is the feline condition.

I recall that when I was around five I heard the phrase "turning over a new leaf" and got an image of turning over a leaf from a tree. Only much later did the use of the word "leaf" to mean a page of a book come to mind as a possible meaning. That's most likely the correct meaning: Turning a page of a book, putting some part of the past behind and going on to the future. But as a preschool child I didn't see that. I just saw a large green leaf, possibly something like sycamore or maple, and I wondered how turning it over would could possibly mean anything.

I let my machine screen calls for me. Most of the time when the phone rings, it doesn't seem to be anybody calling. Is the ghostly "Not Me" character from Family Circus prowling around offices and phone booths and such, calling people at random?

I was reading some ghost stories from the early part of the century, and came across one about a camera that would photograph the future. It had a dial that could be set for X number of years, and the resulting picture would show the scene from that far ahead. There was no hint of how it worked, except that the dial didn't seem to connect to anything on the inside of the camera. It was just magic or ghosts or something.

That reminded me of an old Bugs Bunny comic where Bugs tried to fix a TV, and the first thing he noticed when he looked inside was a dial with a pointer set midway between "P" and "F". He assumed the markings meant "Perfect" and "Faulty", and adjusted it accordingly. But it turned out to mean "Past" and "Future". He found that out by trial and error, getting what looked like old Westerns or else science-fiction type stuff instead of the normal programs, depending on which way he turned it.

That was from a time when TV was new and mysterious. As far as most of the public knew, it worked by magic. A little dial that had to be set midway between "Past" and "Future" to get programs the same day they were broadcast wasn't much more outlandish than the idea of sending pictures through the air in the first place.

Nowadays that mindset is out of style, even though most people probably know as little about what's inside their TV as they did forty years ago. In fact they may know less today, because there are no tubes to pull out and take to the store to test when something goes wrong. And today's TV doesn't go bad as often as in days of yore.

But even though most people still don't know the details of TV technology they know, or think they know, more about the boundaries of possibility. There are no more mystic fairytale realms hidden away inside the mysterious box. Television has been around long enough to not be magic any more. It just Is.

And there may be one more reason, perhaps the biggest of all: To most of the younger generation, TV didn't arrive in their town and in their homes amid great fanfare. It's always been there. Ho hum. Nothing special.

Because of the durability and low cost of TV sets nowadays, the TV repair person is a dying breed. That, plus the fact that people don't regard TV as magic like they did forty years ago, reminds me of the Larry Niven stories of magicians in a world where magic is dying. But that's for another time.

Ever thought about ATM machines for sperm banks?

One place I've been reading poetry at lately has paintings on the walls, featuring a different artist every month or two. In the most recent batch one wall had a bunch of space aliens, some of which had marks on their foreheads. What might they be?

The thing on one alien could have been something like the dot Indian women paint on their foreheads, but to me it looked more like a nipple. Perhaps they nurse that way, so the milk filters through the brain to convey knowledge?

Something about another space alien painting reminded me of chakras, which are supposed to be some kind of metaphysical energy centers in the human body. There are seven of them sort of in a vertical column, from about the genitals to just above the crown of the head. They go in rainbow color order with red on the bottom and violet on top.

Beyond that I don't know much about chakras. But I did get to wondering whether beings on other planets would have them. If so, what would space alien chakras be like? Would they have the same ones we have, with the same colors? Or might they have IR or UV chakras? And what of non- humanoid aliens? How would their chakras are arranged, especially if there's no spine, no vertical central axis, to line them up on?

There are all sorts of questions here, but I don't know enough xenobiology or xenotheology or xenowhatever to answer them.

Were I a painter, one picture I might paint would be of a lonely old man (or maybe a woman) standing alone in a deserted cemetery at dusk. Title: "75th High School Reunion".

Before the elections I dreamed about voting in the men's room, at the urinals. I don't know what triggered this, other than the idea that both voting and urination are supposed to be private in this society.

How might it be done? I suppose you could have different urinals designated for different candidates and such, and instead of counting ballots in the traditional sense you measure total urine volume. "This precinct reports 43.7 gallons for Clinton, 31.9 for Dole." Thing is, you're limited in how many different issues you can vote on that way. Cast too big a vote for President and you'll have nothing left for your Congressman. But that may be an advantage, because you get to apportion your vote by strength of feelings. There have been voting systems sort of like that, but none using urine as far as I know.

More questions arise. Do diabetics unfairly get extra votes? And would drinking lots of liquids on the way to the polls be considered vote fraud? And under this system women would find voting more awkward than men would. Would the courts rule it unconstitutional for that reason? This clearly needs work before it will be practical.

You may be familiar with the "Game of Life", a form of cellular automaton. It consists of a grid of spaces on which individual cells live or die according to certain rules. It was invented by John Horton Conway and popularized by Martin Gardner who wrote a number of columns about it in Scientific American.

I've written a version of it for Windows 3.1 (or later). The only requirement over and above standard Windows is a mouse. To read more, and possibly download it, check out  

or just start exploring my page at

and wend your way to the Computer Club, on the Real-World terminal.

One of the reasons I wrote it is to draw attention to the fact that I'm available for small programming projects, so while you're in my page check out my resume in the "About the Author" areas.

If I were writing the laws for some new settlement somewhere, what might I make different from present-day American law, assuming I could start from scratch?

For one thing, I might make things a little harder for large corporations. For example, the reasonable doubt standard of proof in criminal matters might not apply to them. For them it might be a preponderance of evidence, as in civil trials. That would balance their greater ability to hire better lawyers. But I don't think I'd apply that to mom-and-pop operations that can't afford expensive legal talent.

Maybe make it more general? The more you spend on lawyers, the weaker the standard of proof the other side has to meet. Level the playing field that way, maybe.

But whatever I do, I wouldn't want to make it easy for the Establishment to hassle individuals. More thought may be needed here.

I'd also have something about following the spirit of the law, and that interpretation of anything ambiguous should go against anyone trying to exploit loopholes. But again, I'd need to do a lot of thinking on that, to prevent it becoming a tool for discriminating against minorities.

Sunset clauses, so that laws expire unless renewed? Maybe.

Another thought is to make the social contract more explicit. To get full rights you'd need to pledge to respect the rights of others.

Other thoughts?

They were tearing up the sidewalk near last Friday's poetry reading, and some of the parking meters were missing. That reminded me of this:

                              Meter Madness

One morning recently on the way to work
I encountered a crew
cutting little holes in the sidewalk
and planting
parking meters.  

That brought back memories from high school days 
of a summer job on the parking meter farm
tending cuttings while they took root
and grew to the proper size
for the streets.

Yes, you could grow them from seed
but they might not breed true.
They pick up pollen from wild strains
or even now and then mutate
to offer sixty-two thousand years for a quarter
or else maybe fourteen point three nanoseconds
for some coin not yet invented.
With cuttings you know what you're getting
and besides, most varieties are seedless
to allow no chance for a half-forgotten meter
on some deserted side street
to go to seed,
scattering to the wind
to sprout in the most awkward places.

Few things can match the fury
of some quiet suburban homeowner
finding his lawn infested
with parking meters,
not to mention the possibilities of interbreeding
with fire hydrants,
street lights,
and newspaper vending machines.  

So now they use the seedless types
and give them anti-growth hormones 
so they won't get too tall
and the roots won't invade the sewers.
Like, how would you like
to get up in the night for a call of nature
only to find, emerging straight and proud 
from the toilet bowl:
I hear it used to happen
and that's how they got the idea
for the pay toilet.

But that's another story,
along with the rumors that they're working on new breeds
for the indoor potted-plant market 
to replace African violets 
and cacti
and catnip
and even hanging plants
(by crossing them with Salvador Dali's watches).  
That sounds kind of interesting,
as long as no one comes around
to give out tickets. 

                                        Thomas G. Digby
                                        written 0440 hr  1/29/79
                                        typed   0345 hr  3/25/79
                                        entered 2325 hr  3/16/92

                                -- END --

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