wafting your way along the slipstreams of the Info Highway

from Bubbles = Tom Digby



Issue #24

New Moon of December 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.

The strangest thing that ever happened to me while job-hunting took place a couple of years ago. I had pretty much exhausted the possibilities in the classifieds and in desperation was walking the streets looking for HELP WANTED signs.

I had too much gloom on my mind to really pay attention to where I was going, and presently I found myself in a strange part of town I'd never seen before. The buildings and cars and everything were all brightly colored but had a sort of unreal look about them, and things seemed to act strangely. Someone walked into an open manhole, and I could've sworn that he didn't fall in immediately but instead sort of hung there in midair for a second or so until he looked down and realized he was about to fall. And when somebody else got hit by a car, there was a big cloud of dust over everything and when it cleared there he was standing there already bandaged up and on crutches. No doctors, no ambulance, no nothing. Just Boom, and he's all bandaged up, like in cartoons or comic books.

But all that strangeness didn't really sink in at the time. What I did notice was an industrial complex of some sort behind a high wood fence. There were smokestacks and such visible over the fence, and there was a tower with a ladder leading to a little platform at the top sort of like a diving board, and there was a circus-type muscle-man climbing it with an anvil strapped to his back. And there was a HELP WANTED sign on the gate.

They were looking for anvil testers. "Short hours, good pay." It wasn't exactly my field, but I figured that a few hours a day of hammering might be good exercise, so I went on in.

The inside of the place was as strange as the town outside. There was a man in a hotel bellman's uniform struggling to carry what looked like a very heavy suitcase down the hall while someone followed him taking notes on a clipboard. Then right after I passed him I happened by a very large infirmary full of cartoony-looking people bandaged up in various ways, most with one or more limbs in traction. There was even one poor guy who had been flattened like a sheet of paper and was being pumped back up by a doctor. I found myself beginning to wonder about the working conditions.

When I got to the interview room the boss was on the phone. I could only hear one end of the conversation:

"Whaddaya mean the anvil didn't work?" (pause) "Ran away and hid? What were you doing to it?" (pause) "But ACME Funny Anvils aren't built to be hammered on. You can drop them on people's heads, or you can pack them in your luggage for extra weight, or you can paint them with invisible paint and let people stub their toes on them, and I suppose you can even do just a little bit of hammering on them to set a mood, but if you really want to be a real blacksmith and actually make things out of iron you should get yourself a serious anvil, not a funny one."

There may have been more to the conversation than that, but by then I'd sneaked out of there. I'd decided that no matter how desperate I was for a job, I didn't really want to make my living testing funny anvils.

I eventually found a more reasonable job in a more reasonable part of town. Every now and then I get the urge to go sightseeing in that weird neighborhood, but I've never again been able to find it.

*************** NEWS FLASH ***************

Terrorists today blew up the aerial tramway at the theme park, reportedly in retaliation for pranksters dropping anvils from the tram cars onto people in the crowds below. Several known habitual anvil-droppers are in the hospital all bandaged up like mummies, some with their arms and legs in splints or casts hanging from cables and pulleys and stuff. A number of other people were seen walking around the park on crutches, or wearing various sizes and kinds of bandages, but only the anvil-droppers appeared seriously hurt. The tram is expected to be rebuilt within a few days. Park management is said to be considering closing down the anvil-selling booths near the tram stations and otherwise beefing up security.

And there are reports that some Mad Scientist has been caught mixing Mad Scientist Chemicals with soap bubble solution so he could dissolve anvils in it. Allegedly the resulting iron-fortified bubbles would float along normally until they got right over some unsuspecting victim. Then they would suddenly turn back into the original anvils and fall down, conking the victim on the head. Some victims reported getting lumps six or eight inches high from the impact, while others had their heads all bandaged up for varying periods of time. There were even a few unconfirmed reports of people walking around all scroonched up like accordions.

Trial is scheduled for next week at The Courthouse. It is rumored that international spies are arriving from all over, hoping that details of the formula will be revealed in court testimony.

Anvils are too heavy to hang on a Christmas tree without making the branches sag way down. So let's change the subject.

I've sometimes wondered what happens when a child asks Santa for computer software. Do the elves just run off copies of Windows 95 and Flight Simulator and the latest games and so on? Even if the North Pole's copyright laws allow that, isn't it kind of unethical?

Or does Santa have some kind of secret agreement with various software developers (and book publishers and recording companies and so on)? Perhaps they let him copy stuff in exchange for extra gifts for their stockholders? Or maybe all those gift packages companies are always giving their customers and employees at holiday time are really from Santa, delivered early to reduce his prime-time Christmas Eve load?

Or maybe there's a gold mine or two hidden under the polar ice, and he can actually pay those companies money for copying privileges? Big as the software and book and record markets are, it's still a small enough part of the world economy that a few sacks of gold here and there wouldn't be noticed, especially if various bankers wanted to keep getting good things under their own trees every year.

This means there must be record (and CD) pressing plants and videotape duplicators and printing presses up there in Santa's workshop, along with a silicon wafer fabrication line for the chips for all the computers and computer-based toys Santa delivers, not to mention circuit board etching facilities and assembly stations and a clean room in which to assemble hard drives and other critical items. He might still have a few rooms of workbenches with elves hand-carving and hand-painting wooden soldiers and rocking horses and such, but they would only be a minor part of the operation, little more than window dressing for tourists and news reporters.

And there's the copyright issue again: Do the elves copy wafer and board layouts from the likes of IBM and Intel, or do they design their own? We're not used to thinking of elves at the North Pole using the latest CAD technology to lay out silicon wafers and multi-layer circuit boards, but maybe they do.

All this leads to an even more disturbing thought: Technology is making such strides that to most of us it seems like magic. But what if it really IS magic? What if all the stories about umpteen zillion transistors on the latest 68xx86 are just a coverup? What if there's really nothing in there but a North Pole snowflake kept from melting by a magic spell that also makes it do computer-chip-type things?

Modern high-tech items like computers are so complex that no one person can understand more than a small part of them in detail. So what if the parts that everybody thinks somebody else is doing are really being done by Santa's elves? And what if those parts work only so long as various magic spells are kept alive?

I think it means that anyone using anything high-tech enough to seem magical, such as a computer capable of doing Web and Internet things, had better be good. Or else.

Once upon a time I wrote a poem, or maybe it's a story, titled "The Christmas Cat". I often reprint it around this time of year. Last year I got to wondering if anybody else was talking about it, or whether anything else of that title existed, so I did a search on the Net. The search turned up a few things like cats born or adopted around Christmas time, a company with a line of feline-themed greeting cards, so on. And it also turned up an Icelandic legend.

The Icelandic Christmas Cat is not as gentle as the one in my story. Far from it. Their Christmas Cat is a horrible monster that eats children. But it only eats certain children: Those who didn't get clothes for Christmas. If someone gave you a jacket or a sweater, or even so much as a pair or socks or mittens, then you're safe. So if you're a child in Iceland, be grateful for any clothes you get for Christmas.

For more on this, try

or go to and search for "Christmas Cat".

And for myths and literature in general check out

And is all this stuff about Christmas and cats leading up to something? Look past the separator and see.

          Comes now the time for the traditional reprinting of

                            THE CHRISTMAS CAT

Once upon a time in a village
In a little mountain valley in Borschtenstein
Lived a wicked millionaire
Whose hobby was foreclosing mortgages
And sending people out into the snow.
He also took great pride in having
The best Christmas decorations in the village.

Also in this same village
In the little valley in Borschtenstein
Lived a poor family
Whose mortgage, which came due on Christmas,
Was designed to be impossible to pay off.
The Christmas weather forecast was for snow
And the millionaire's eviction lawyers were waiting.

Now this wicked millionaire
In the valley village etcetera, etcetera, etcetera,
Also had the monopoly on Christmas trees
To be sure of having the prettiest Christmas decorations
In the whole village.
Thus the poor family had nothing at all
To put their presents under.

Now by chance it so happened
In that village in etcetera, etcetera, etcetera,
The wicked millionaire had evicted his cat
Because its ears and tail were the wrong color
And it hadn't paid its mortgage.
And the poor family had taken it in
And given it a home.

So just before Christmas
When the Good Fairies asked the animals of the village
About people in need and deserving of help
The poor family got the highest recommendation.
"We will help them!" said the elves and fairies,
"They won't have to worry about that mortgage
And they'll have the prettiest Christmas decorations in town!"

The mortgage was really not much problem:
If the millionaire couldn't throw people out into the snow
He wouldn't bother throwing them out at all.
So the elves spoke to the North Wind and they agreed:
No more snow to throw people out into.
Some people in the village would have liked snow to play in
But agreed the sacrifice was for a good cause.

Christmas trees were more of a problem:
They had already given them out to other needy families
And there were none left at all.
They rummaged around in forgotten corners
But not a Christmas tree could they find.
Then someone had an idea:
"Let's decorate their cat!"

While one of the elves who spoke Feline
Worked out the details with the cat
The fairies flew around gathering decorations:
Borrowed bits of light from small stars nobody ever notices,
Streamers of leftover comet tails,
And other assorted trinkets
From odd corners of the universe.

So the poor family gathered around their Christmas cat
And sang songs and opened presents
And had the happiest Christmas imaginable
While all agreed they had the prettiest decorations
The village had ever seen
And the millionaire's eviction lawyers
Waited in vain for snow.

So that is why, to this day,
In that valley village in Borschtenstein,
It never snows
Unless the eviction lawyers are out of town
And every year the millionaire tries to decorate a Christmas cat
But gets nothing for his pains
But bleeding scratches.


While overnight miracles are rare outside of story books,
Even those who learn slowly do learn.
So keep checking the weather reports for Borschtenstein.
If some Christmas it snows there
You will know the millionaire has given up being wicked
And has found a truer meaning 
Of Christmas.

                                first draft written  0115 hr 12/25/74
                                this version edited  2320 hr 12/14/86

                                signature & greeting reformatted 
                                for Silicon Soapware 0850 hr 11/22/95


          May you have the happiest holiday season imaginable!

                             Thomas G. Digby


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