wafting your way along the slipstreams of the Info Highway

from Bubbles = Tom Digby



Issue #28

New Moon of April 7, 1997

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.

April Fool was just a few days ago, and one thing I did was print up the following, in suitably fancy typefaces, and stick it on the bulletin board in the laundry room:


Effective April 1

Dry only water-washed fabrics. Do not dry fabrics washed with dry-cleaning solvents, gasoline, or the like. These can catch fire and burn.

Do not dry fabrics washed with detergents not approved for Terran use. Detergents formulated for use on other planets may cause allergic reactions in humans and similar life-forms.

Do not dry natural fabrics grown on planets incompatible with Terran biochemistry. These can contaminate the dryer and cause allergic reactions in subsequent users.

Do not dry dead bodies.

Do not dry furniture.

Do not try to dry Dry Ice. Dry Ice is already as dry as it can get.

Do not try to dry regular ice to make Dry Ice. All you will get is a big mess.

Clean the lint trap daily. If necessary, replace the bait in the lint trap. Use a bait formula formulated for the type of lint prevalent in your area.

Socks lost in dryers are not tax-deductible.

Use of dryers in a manner violating applicable local, state, or Federal laws is illegal and can get you put in jail.

                             [illegible signature]
                             Bureaucrat Third Class
                             Bureau of Laundry Dryer Rules 
                             Badge Number 31415926

"Robots aren't smart enough yet, and angels haven't been available lately, so we've had to fill some positions in our customer support department with humans. We apologize for any inconvenience and emotional trauma this may have caused."

[As I originally wrote this item it was, according to the computer clock] 10:27 a.m. March 21, 1997 and fast-food places all over this time zone are getting rid of breakfast stuff, so it's too late for me to rush out and get a Sausage Biscuit or whatever, even if I wanted to. Maybe I should pass a law that fast-food places have to keep serving breakfast until I tell them it's OK to stop? But that's a big responsibility because if I somehow fail to make the announcement some morning then all the fast-food places would have to keep serving breakfast all day. In theory there's nothing to stop them from also starting to serve lunch, but some of the equipment can't handle both at the same time because it needs settings changed or something. So it's the middle of the afternoon and people in line want lunch, and the harried counter person is saying "Sorry, but Tom Digby hasn't given permission to end breakfast yet."

And so the people mutter and wonder who this person is, and why (especially in places like Seattle and Nashville and Orlando that I'm not likely to visit today) they have such a law in the first place. Some might even look me up to complain. So what kind of apology do I make when sleeping late or something means that tens of thousands of people can't get lunch when they want it? And what if I die some morning during breakfast time? Do they have to keep serving breakfast forever, which means they have to stay open 24 hours a day even if there are no customers late at night? Their management would grump at that, I'm pretty sure.

So I probably shouldn't pass a law that fast-food places have to keep serving breakfast every morning until I tell them it's OK to stop.

And even if I did pass such a law, it might not get enforced. If the normal law enforcement people don't enforce it when I notify them I've passed it, then what? I could hire my own police, but my funds are rather low right now. I suppose I could hire police and tell them to go around taking their salary from other people which they can do because they're police which means they're tax collectors instead of robbers when they go around taking money from random strangers, but other police forces might get jealous of the competition. Could my police arrest those other police faster than those other police could arrest my police?

And what would the public think when the streets are full of police arresting each other? Would they choose sides? Or would they start to question the whole idea of having police arrest people in the first place?

And what when all the police have arrested each other and there are none left to arrest criminals? That could be a problem. So maybe I'd better hold off for a while on passing laws and hiring police. And if it's after 10:30 am, settle for McNuggets or something instead of a Sausage Biscuit.

"If wishes were horses all beggars would ride." But what of the droppings? If they wish to have their horse droppings cleaned up, and that wish is another horse that drops still more horse droppings, does that cause a runaway positive feedback loop leading to the world being smothered in horse droppings? If so, then the only safe thing is for wishes to not be horses, or any other animal whose droppings people might wish to have cleaned up.

Easter Sunday evening I went out to eat. My first thought was KFC, but I ended up at Fatburger. It was moderately busy.

At one point a couple of children were going around giving out Easter eggs, just sort of leaving them on occupied tables. I was afraid to say anything to them because I thought they might be collecting money or something like that. But there didn't seem to be any such catch. It was just children passing out Easter eggs. Now I'm concerned I may have disappointed them by not reacting more favorably.

But in a sense it's not my fault. It's more the fault of people who go around with various money-collecting schemes, and who set things up so people feel guilty for not "buying". So that has poisoned the environment for true no-strings random acts of pleasure like handing out Easter eggs to strangers in a restaurant. More of what's wrong with this society, I guess.

It wasn't a real egg. It was actually a plastic egg with jelly beans inside. Should I eat them? Or are they poison? Most likely they're OK, but it's the kind of thing we have to watch out for nowadays. More wickedness in the world, driving out good.

Roller coasters for cats. That just sort of popped into my head. But what if cats don't like riding roller coasters? Force them to go anyway, so humans can delude themselves into thinking they're doing the cats a favor? Or let them refuse to go, perhaps leaving a whole carnival full of feline rides unused? That would be a monument to something or other in the folly department.

Occasional solitary people would wander through in the evening twilight as the silent shapes took on strange aspects not seen by day, and reflect on things like human hubris and the pitfalls of projecting your own wishes onto others. And maybe, just maybe, one of the people happening by late at night as a full moon played hide-and-seek with the clouds would write a poem or something about it.

But the chances are kind of slim, and it may not be worth building a whole money-losing cat carnival just in hopes of getting one poem out of the deal. Or at least this society, which makes many of its decisions on monetary grounds, probably wouldn't think it was worth it.

But they might not need to. What with modern technology, we could put up some kind of virtual reality setup much cheaper than actually building physical buildings and carnival-ride machinery and stuff. Then various poets could somehow be enticed into putting on the viewing helmet and going through the program until at least one wrote a worthwhile poem about the experience. That way you don't waste building materials and real estate, and you don't have to wait for the moon to be full on the right kind of partly cloudy night. All you need is somebody's class project in computer school.

This could lead to a whole new art form.

Back on April Fool, another thing I did was save a couple of weeks' worth of old newspapers. I bundled them up fairly neatly in bundles about the size of a normal paper, and left them on random doorsteps in the dead of night on the eve of April Fool's Day. Attached to each bundle was the following, printed up in suitable fancy typefaces:

Los Angeles Times

Take advantage of our new "Delayed Subscription" offer!

Do you turn to radio or TV for fast-breaking news, but still enjoy reading newspapers for the comics, columnists, human interest stories, and feature articles? If you do, you may be interested in a Delayed Subscription to the Times for half the price of a regular Prompt Subscription.

The Times has warehouses full of perfectly good newspapers that for one reason or another were not sold on the day they were printed. Rather than throw them away, we have decided to offer them to people like you who value a newspaper more for timeless features than for breaking news.

Simply call 1 (800) LA TIMES and ask for the Delayed Subscription department.

SPECIAL EARLY-BIRD OFFER: If you call during regular business hours on April 1 your first month of Delayed Subscription will be FREE.

In a previous item my clumsy typing fingers somehow turned "responsibility" into "responbilitisy", leaving the spelling checker totally at sea. All it could do was say it had no suggestions.

That reminded me of my long-ago childhood when someone, usually another child, would use something like "Ain't" in a sentence and an adult would tell them that whatever they just used in that sentence was "not a word".

I've since wondered about that. I can see "responbilitisy" not being a word because it doesn't have any agreed-on pronunciation or meaning. It's just a bunch of letters that sort of happened. But other non-words like "ain't" have spelling, and meaning, and pronunciation. The only thing they seem to lack is word-hood. And that's not generally obvious at first glance, unless you've memorized a list of non-words or something.

So if you see or hear something used in a sentence as if it's a word, how do you know if it really is or not? Some people claim to know, but do they, really? Or are they just guessing, or going on the word (?) of others who may be equally ignorant of the true state of affairs? Blind leading the blind?

This leads to wondering whether anybody is keeping a list of these non- words and how they're spelled and pronounced and what they mean? You can't put them in the dictionary because being in dictionaries is a privilege reserved for words, but a dictionary-like compendium of non- words would still be useful.

And is there a word for a word-like thing that you can spell and pronounce and use in a sentence to convey meaning but which isn't a word? If there isn't a word for it, is there a non-word for it?

There's all kinds of stuff to think about, and so little time to think about it all in. And I think there will always be thoughts I haven't gotten around to thinking yet, even if I have infinite time in which to think an infinite number of thoughts. But will I think about all the things I haven't thought of yet? Most of those unthought thoughts are things I haven't thought of not yet having thought about, because thinking about not having thought of them is so similar to actually thinking about them that it's hard to maintain the distinction even when I try, which I usually don't. So it may not be possible to think about not having thought about X without actually thinking about X in the process. Thus there seems to be no way to catalog unthought thoughts so as to plan to think them in the future. But I'll muddle through somehow.

I've now and then stayed up all night. And sometimes when that's happened and I've had to go out into the world without having slept I've felt like I was trespassing in a day I didn't really belong in.

The feeling usually goes away with sleep, however brief, as long as it's "real" sleep in a bed or something. Falling sort-of-asleep in a chair at a party may not count. Sleeping on a plane does, usually, at least if it's billed as an overnight flight. Does the "overnight" label and the "next day" arrival time make sleeping on the plane "official", even if it's in a seat instead of a bed? Something like that, I think. Maybe.

                       Incident Along Fantasy Way 
                                Rush Hour

The party was fun,
But it lasted longer than usual.
By the time my bus arrives
The sky is beginning to lighten.
It is standing room only, and hardly any of that --
A sea of pallid faces.

I resist the urge to draw my coat collar tighter:
In these days of hemoglobin pie in the supermarkets
And bars serving real Bloody Marys
I need not fear vampires --
And besides, someone might be offended.

Three stops later is the cemetery.
Then I have the bus
Almost to myself.

                                   Thomas G. Digby
                                   written 2325 hr 12/14/74
                                   entered 1240 hr  4/09/92

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