Take A Knee

Well, I had hoped to be a lot farther along by now, but que sera sera, as they say in the Army. The demolition of the wall was fun (click on the picture for a better view), but the finishing off is the longest part. I've still got two more coats of plaster to go on that wall before it's done.

I now really understand why cell phone reception in this house is so poor. Nearly every corner seems to be wrapped in wire mesh. I've added to the metallic content of the house because most of the top of this wall is meshed in, with a bit of lumber as support.

In addition to the knee wall, the solid wall along the staircase still needs in-fill, but that should be pretty straightforward, although it looks like the kitchen wall might come farther inside than the dining room wall.

The hard part, after the finishing of the two walls, is finishing the overhanging beam on the dining room side. Not really sure how I'm going to do that yet, but it'll have to wait: I return to work on Monday.

I think we're far enough along now to start looking at the cabinets that will go in front of this wall, and the bar-top that will go on top of the wall into the dining area.

Evolution

I've spent all my blog image time on the knee wall (the not so high half-wall that will remain between the dining room and kitchen), but I also have been working to cut the width of the short bit of floor-ceiling wall about six inches back from where the doorway used to be. It's like I'm trimming a hedge.

The picture shows the evolution of the gaping bit of wall as I put in a big stick and plastered it all into place. The plaster is rough, but once it dries, I'll throw on some beading and a nice smooth coat. I am making a big mess!

If the women don't find you handsome...

My speech in North Carolina was canceled and I'm done with traveling to Kansas (except for a one-day review in late October), so I'm taking the week off and concentrating on the kitchen. Remember the kitchen? It's been forever and a day, but some progress will be made, probably.

I imagine that watching me work on the kitchen would be mightily entertaining. Somewhere between Red Green's idiot nephew and Mr. Bean.

The mosquitoes are out in force today, the little evil tiger ones. They're gorged, too. I slapped one and got blood all over the place, so much so that when I later cut myself I didn't notice the extra blood from the cut. Ugh.

The Toymaker

This is much longer than the normal fare on this site. This is a story in response to Dragon Page Cover to Cover's Tick-Tock Hobbit challenge. The story's goal is to present a universe with three provided elements. I've treated this a bit like the 48 Hour Film Project, so it is exactly as it popped out.
The Toymaker

I was grumpy because my birthday came with rain. It had rained for a week. The water permeated everything, soaking our clothes, squiggling into the thatch of our roofs, and drowning my mood. Just walking across the lane from our cottage to Uncle Einar's shop was a dreary task, dodging the ponies who were no more happy about working in the rain than the folk, fording deep finger lakes left by the carters' wheels, and, truth-be-told, pushing each other around in the slippery ground. We arrived at the shop soaked and weary.

"See, he has wee furry feet, just like you," Uncle Einar said, when we had dried off at the hearth. He was holding the toy -- my birthday present -- by the scruff of its neck like it was a kitten.

"It's a toy," I said with all the embedded angst I could muster. "I'm twice twelve." At the time, I had the annoying habit of emphasizing every third word I spoke.

"Does it walk?" asked Agni.

"You're only twenty," I reminded him with a snort. I sighed dramatically to let him understand the burden he placed upon all of us by his mere existence. "All mechanicals walk."

Uncle Einar placed the automaton on the flagstone floor of his shop. It stood unsteadily for a moment. It really did look a lot like me at the time; Uncle Einar had done a remarkable job with the materials available from around the village. The russet hair was threaded to a cotton sack head; the hair stolen from a pony, most likely. The thing wore a plaid vest of red, black and green, cut from the same cloth as my own favorite jerkin. And, as Uncle Einar had so insensitively pointed out, the hairy feet were covered in some fur the same embarrassing two tones as my own.

The thing's trunk was a bit more solid than mine, to be sure. I suppose the inner workings forced it to present a profile much more square than my slope-shouldered outline. It pulled these shoulders back and jutted out its soft chin. Its right leg lifted forward. At three feet, the toy was nearly as tall as I. My height was the only thing I was proud of, most of the time. I had nearly reached Uncle Einar's height already. My hands shot out involuntarily as the robot wavered and fell forward. But it caught itself on its right foot and immediately repeated the process with its left leg. In this way, it jerkily hobbled around the shop floor.

"It walked!" Agni shouted, delighted.

"Yeah, of course," I said.

"What makes it walk?" Agni wanted to know.

"Well, there are small clockwork bits inside his torso there," Uncle Einar replied, obviously proud. "I carved them myself."

"No," Agni interrupted. "What makes it go?"

"A little bit of magic," my uncle replied. Then he shouted with an urgency that made me jump, "Stop him! He's going into the fire!"

The toy had tottered over to the hearth and was about to walk into the flames. I rushed across the floor and tackled it before it got too close. I had saved the automaton.

"He's made out of wood, he is," Uncle Einar said to me. "He'll burn up in a fire. You must take care of him."

"Yes sir," I said. I thanked him for the present and we returned to our cottage, my hands responsibly holding on to Agni and the mechanical. The rain continued to fall as we crossed the rutted track that meandered through the village.

"Did you get your present?" my Mother asked when we were dried off.

"It walks!" Agni shouted.

"Does it?" Mother asked with a smile. "Mine does, too, you know. When I ask it to."

Agni ran over to the corner cabinet and stared at the doll perched atop it. It didn't occur to me at the time to wonder if it resembled a younger version of her in the same way that mine looked like me. It never occurred to me that there had ever been a younger version of my mother.

"Did your uncle remind you to protect him from fire?" she asked.

"Yes, he did," I huffed. I placed the automaton on the floor and it immediately took off toward the hearth. I grabbed him by the scruff.

"Contrary little thing," my mother noted. "A bit like his friend. I suspect if you ask him nicely, he'll do whatever you say."

I stood it upon its feet and ordered it to stay. When I let go, it wavered a bit, but did not move.

"I want one!" Agni shouted.

"When you're old enough, Teacakes, you'll be able to --" she was stopped by my snort.

"It's a toy," I said. "It's a doll."

"Agni, dear, would you go outside and play for a wee while?" Mother asked my brother.

"But it's raining," Agni pointed out.

"So it is," she said. "I had nearly forgot. Go to your room, then, I want to talk to --"

She was interrupted again, but this time it was by the storm. The loudest thunderclap I had yet heard in my short life shattered the afternoon. It shook our small cottage. The toy fell over, a few cups shifted in the cupboard, and a candle fell from its sconce. The candle rolled toward the fallen toy. I felt a touch of fear from the flame and leapt to pull the toy away from the danger. Most likely the guttering candle would have done no harm, but I reacted without thinking.

My mother watched me closely and nodded. She picked up the candle and returned it to its holder on the wall. She looked out the window at the rain. The window was about the same diameter as the toy, quite a prize piece of glass for a village our size. "Having something to protect is a daunting responsibility, Rugga. I thought your uncle was rushing it a bit. No other boy in this part of the Land has gotten an automaton so young. See you don't dash his faith in you."

"I won't, Mother," I said, cowed. Of course, I saw no honor in being singled out in yet another way. I had few enough friends as it was. On the other hand, my uncle was a looming presence in my life. I would rather die than disappoint him. "I'll be careful."

"Good. Run along then and introduce yourself to your new friend while I get tea together."

I took the mechanical man along to our room and with Agni put it through its paces. We found that he could walk and run when I asked. He could do sit ups and push ups and fetch smallish objects for me. He could not climb onto the bed, though his head and shoulders were above the straw. Vertical flat surfaces seemed to confuse him. If we constructed a staircase out of blocks and a bucket, though, he could venture to the top of the bed.

I named him Klintr, but I assured him that this did not mean that I cared for him or anything. I set him upon the table next to my bed. "More than likely," I told it, "I'll give you to Agni tomorrow."

Of course, I didn't give him to my little brother. While I dared not take the little man along with me to school for fear of being made fun of, I spent all of my non-chore time seeing what I could get Klintr to do. I found out pretty quickly that he was useless for doing chores. He couldn't lift anything worth lifting and he refused to operate if I left the room or ordered him beyond my sight.

He was terribly clumsy, so he wasn't much help at fetching me a bit of nut bread or a pasty. If it was in my view, he could get to it, but he would drop his valuable cargo or trip and fall on his way back. A waste of good food, that was. So mostly, I sat out in the field or under a tree and daydreamed while I had Klintr perform drills.

I had Klintr following a beetle when the stranger appeared. We were atop the hill that was my Aunt Ola's house. I enjoyed having him follow insects. Butterflies were good for a laugh because Klintr was easily befuddled by their erratic movements, and they would rarely fly off before he had fallen three or four times. I would grow sorry for the thing, though, and ask him to follow a beetle. Beetles were good for keeping him occupied. Their slow and steady movements were no invitation to clumsiness and he could follow one for hours, taking a step every few minutes, without ever leaving my sight.

I noticed the stranger walking up the Great Southron Road toward the village when I took a break from snoozily counting clouds to check on Klintr's progress. It was an oddity, someone walking from that direction. We are not all rich enough to afford a cart and horse, but all things South were at such a distance across barren land that any sane person would avoid going that way on foot. For starters, you needed something to carry the food. The pedestrian's true oddity, though, became more apparent as he came closer. The tallest person I had ever known was my Great Aunt Iva. At nearly four and a half feet tall, she had been renowned as a giantess. "Had her pick of the apples, she did," was my Mother's phrase.

The stranger had two feet on Great Aunt Iva, if he had an inch.

I gathered up Klintr and ran down the slope to Uncle Einar's shop. He was sitting at his bench. Wooden gears and cogs and rods were scattered across the surface. He wore a great eyeglass strapped to his head and was studying a tiny bit of something, poking at it with a knife.

"There is a stranger coming," I said, when he finally looked up. "He's awfully tall."

Uncle Einar carefully placed his tools upon the table and removed his eyeglass. We walked out to the roadway to meet the stranger, who had by now entered the Village and looked around himself curiously. Though his height was striking, it was his hair I found most disturbing. The hair on his head was close-cropped and the back of his neck was bare. He had clothing on his feet.

Uncle Einar and the stranger exchanged greetings. I was a little embarrassed that my uncle had chosen to bring along his doll. The stranger identified himself as Eric and said that he was lost and in search of help. He had had some sort of accident out in the Barren and seemed confused about any specifics with regard to his past.

"I seem to have been knocked in the head," Eric told my uncle, and I thought of my cousin Sigrid, who had been kicked by a cow and couldn't remember her husband for a week. (My mother suspected she remembered a little quicker than she let on.)

"You're welcome to rest with us for a spell," Uncle Einar said. "Let us find you some food."

My mother arranged an impromptu celebration, as we are always ready to gather and eat. The stranger would have been a disappointment had we felt the kind of curiosity that our cousins in the Dell exhibit, what with his lack of memory. But we were simpler folk and just happy to get together (and break from work and chores). Through the feast, Eric was introduced to all the thirty-two adults in the Village. Uncle Einar offered him a sleeping space in his barn because none of the beds in the Village would fit him, and he seemed constantly uncomfortable in-doors, especially in the underhills.

Through the first week of his visit, we kids followed him nearly everywhere. Not only were we anxious to see him do something interesting, but every home he entered opened its larder to him and all his companions.

Of course, I was not terribly interested in the discussions of the other children, but I quickly noticed that they could not understand any of the words Eric used, though I could. I became the spokesman for the band of hangers-on he collected. I both enjoyed and despised this attention. It seemed that everywhere I turned, I was being forced to address the "responsibility" word.

In keeping with that, I tried to leave Klintr at home on these crowd-filled days. But Klintr seemed agitated by my attempts to leave him behind. When I finally succeeded in spending the day without him, I discovered that I could understand Eric no better than the other children. Much as I had resented the role, being just like the other kids was maddening. Fortunately, when I brought Klintr along on the next day, Eric's words were clear and obvious again.

Within a week, the novelty of Eric wore off and he became an accepted member of the community. His height was less startling, but his hair was always a wonder.

On the night a fortnight after Eric's arrival, I went to bed very tired. It had been a busy day; Eric seemed determined to revisit every dwelling and outbuilding in the Village. Most of the kids had lost interest in Eric, but Agni and I were more stubborn. We had trailed him everywhere that day -- and answered a million of his questions -- and my body and spirit were both ready for a bit of stillness as night crept in. Klintr, on the other hand, was restless. He kept waking me as he paced from his normal perch on the table to the tiny round window of our room.

I woke to Klintr's kicking. He had managed to scale the bed and was kicking methodically at my right foot.

"OK, OK," I mumbled. "What's a matter? Ger off, would you?" Klintr leapt off the bed and stumbled to the window, which he started kicking with the same vigor he had shown on my foot. I eased out of bed and put out my hand to catch his foot in flight. "Are you trying to break it?" I asked.

I looked out the window and saw the field behind the house. The full moon cast a bright silver hue across the grass. I saw a movement on the south side of the field. Klintr kicked. The shape was unmistakably Eric. He had a pack and was creeping away from the Village. I felt a pang of regret at seeing him go and sank back onto my bed.

Klintr jumped down from the window and rushed to the door of the room. He kicked it. "What's with the kicking? Stop it." He stopped kicking and mimed pushing on the door. Yes, dull as I was, it took me to this point to realize what he was after. "You think we should follow him? Oh, no, I don't think so. The bed is nice and warm and there are bound to be pop-overs for breakfast. I'm not going out -- ow!" The mechanical kicked me again.

I gave in to his insistence.

We snuck out the side door and back through the field to catch up to Eric, who had already reached the Great Southron Road. I carried Klintr because I distrusted his clumsiness. I, however, had no trouble shadowing Eric without his notice. We walked into the Barren for an hour and it occurred to me to wish I had brought some sort of snack or at least a bit of water. Eric walked with a long stride, of course, so I concentrated on keeping up and keeping invisible. After two hours, he walked up and over a rise, where the sky was already growing light.

As I scrambled up the rise and peeked over the edge, I saw that the sky's lightness was not caused by the impending dawn but by bright white fires lit in a circle around an encampment. Seventy men of Eric's size milled around within the ring of fire. One or two entered a large silver egg. The egg was large enough to accommodate twice the men in the ring, had they wanted to enter, and assuming it was hollow inside. There were doors in the egg and one end was obviously damaged, the silver blackened as by fire and large crumples and cracks lined the bottom side. The egg lay in a furrow drawn in the ground as if by a giant's plow.

Eric did not enter the ring of fire, but had stopped a few feet beyond the rise. A man left the ring of fire to join Eric. I lay flat to listen to their conversation.

"Report," the new man said.

"The settlement is sparsely populated," Eric responded. He was standing straighter than I'd noticed during his stay with us. "There are approximately 30 adults, none of whom are in fighting shape. There is an abundance of food, which seems to be enjoyed to the point of indulgence. They are merry folk --"

"No color," the man snapped.

"Yes, sir. I simply meant to point out that they are not warriors."

"Technology?"

"None to speak of. The society is pre-industrial agrarian. The most complicated mechanism was a clock, which seemed to be formed from wood entirely. No metallurgy evidenced. Not sure how they might work springs --"

"Mission prognosis?"

"Success. Estimated time -- how did the ship fare?" Eric asked.

"She isn't moving again. But the weapons and food stores are intact. All men present and accounted for. Two flyers should be operational within the week."

"Then there should be no problem at all. We should easily overcome and subdue in time to contact base and request pickup."

I slipped back down the hill a bit so I could let myself breathe. An invasion of some sort. No wonder Eric had been so interested in everything. He was a part of a conquering army. I did not understand their weaponry or their vehicles, but I could certainly understand their intent. What to do? I was a mere lad. How could I stop this?

Obviously, I could not stop this on my own. The only thing I could do, really, would be to warn my Uncle and hope he could do something. I stood and prepared to run back to the Village as fast as I could. As soon as I was standing, a large hand grabbed me by the scruff of my neck and lifted me a few inches off the ground. It was Eric.

"And what brings you out here, little friend?" he asked. I was too scared to respond. "You dropped your doll." He picked Klintr from the ground and put him my hands.

"What's that?" asked Eric's chief.

"One of the kids from the settlement," Eric replied. "He's harmless as he is, but I don't think we should let him go back and warn his people."

"Of course not. Tie him up over there. I need you to take a look at this map."

"Yes, sir." Eric quickly tied me to a stake in the shadow of the silver egg. He condescended to leave Klintr leaning at my side. "For comfort," he snickered. When he had gone, I sat staring at the ground in despair. I had done nothing to help my family. I had failed to live up to the expectations of my uncle. We were all going to die and it was my fault.

I was a whiner, all right.

I could tell from the conversations of soldiers that passed my stake that they were not simply excited to conquer. Many of them admitted to being stir-crazy and ready for "fun." At my age, many of the conversations about this "fun" were beyond my understanding, although I could make out the words. Good thing I had Klintr along to provide some sort of translation. Klintr. Of course, Klintr was still mobile. I doubted, as I thought back over the fortnight, whether Eric had ever seen one of the mechanicals move. None of the adults had seemed interested in demonstrating and I had been always slightly beneath his complete notice.

Could I get Klintr to return to the Village? If he could get there, surely he could kick my uncle until he came to see what was the matter. But I had never been able to get Klintr to leave my sight under his own power.

"Klintr," I said quietly to the automaton. Klintr did not sit up, but he moved his head in my direction. "Look, I need you to go back to the Village and fetch help." Klintr stiffened. "I know you do not want to go, and I do not want to be left alone, but if you do not go, there will be no hope. You have to. I insist. But be as quiet as possible."

Klintr lay there immobile. I was not sure whether he did not understand me or whether he was not able to heed my request. I threw my head back and moaned. I closed my eyes and imagined an empty Village. I reached over to Klintr to hold him; if he couldn't go, then at least he could comfort me.

He was gone.

I sat up and looked around me. Klintr was out of my sight. He must have crawled off silently while I bawled. I was momentarily relieved and exhilarated. Help would come! This feeling was quickly replaced by fear. What if he didn't make it. Could he move without my presence? I had not bothered to learn enough about my responsibility.

I sat attached to my stake as the sun rose and moved through the sky. I was not offered breakfast or second breakfast or even lunch. I was ignored, for the most part. I grew very hungry, but I decided not to let my hosts know. If they ignored me, all the better. I could be as invisible as the next person.

A wee snack would have been nice, though.

As pre-tea and tea times went by, I felt a little let down. There had been plenty of time to rescue me. Had Klintr gotten lost? Had my Village just given up in dispair? When would I ever eat again? I stayed in this mood as darkness fell. I'm not sure why my captors never felt the need to visit or even water me. Perhaps it was just another example of their disdain.

Activity around the camp decreased as night set in. Many of the men moved into the egg, while the remaining formed small clusters near the firelights. I grew drowsy and napped. I dreamt of custard and pie, small beer and cakes. I was enjoying a particularly plump pudding when I was awakened by a kick.

"Ger off!" I said and waved about in the air. I did not open my eyes until another kick came. "Hey!" I said, but suddenly remembered where I was and clapped my hand on my mouth. Klintr stood at my feet. I sat up. He held a knife in his padded hands. I wondered how he made it all this way without falling on it. He pushed it toward me and I took it. I looked at it curiously and he kicked me again. Cheeky monkey. I used the knife to cut my rope and followed Klintr up and over the hill.

On the other side of the hill were 32 mechanicals and their companions. My knees buckled at the site and I slid down the hill to their midst. Uncle Einar lifted me to my feet and put his finger to his lips. The adults were all carrying a spear and a dagger. I had my knife. The mechanicals, though, were unarmed. They formed a pair of queues and marched up and over the hill. We crept up to the top of the hill to watch.

The mechanicals were all quiet but fast. They approached the egg and then encircled it. There were not enough to circle it while touching, but they were spaced evenly around it in three foot intervals. Once in position, the mechanicals lifted their arms to point at each other. It looked like a small picket fence of dolls. Then, I heard a hum. It came from the mechanicals or the egg, I could not tell which. The hum grew in intensity. As the hum became unbearably loud, the egg began to vibrate, some of the soldiers from the firelight approached the ring of mechanicals, but before they could interfere, the circle of robots was replaced by a circle of fire, brighter by ten than the firelights of the invaders. The circle grew steadily vertical, forming a cylinder that grew slowly to enclose the entire egg. The hum turned to a shriek and the fire collapsed in on itself with a terrible crash. When my eyes re-focused, I saw that the entire egg had disappeared, leaving behind only a black mark on the ground.

The mechanicals were gone, too.

I leapt to my feet, but Uncle Einar caught me before I rushed down the hill. I grabbed his cloak and sobbed. Klintr was no more.

Uncle Einar led the Village adults down to the encampment and quickly dispatched the ten who had remained outside the egg. It was not pretty, but I suppose they felt it was necessary. Uncle Einar compared it to killing lame farm animals when they became a danger to themselves or others. I don't suppose it particularly mattered to me; I was too deep in self-pity for losing Klintr.

As I followed Uncle Einar back to the Village, he explained the origin and function of our mechanicals to me, telling me of past battles and even of those who had tried to manage them for attack instead of defense.

"To protect a particular way of life, it is often necessary to compromise, but never necessary to give in," he said to me as if I were adult enough to understand.

He also explained that now that this new threat had been recognized, we must prepare for its return. I explained about the conversation I had overheard. Uncle Einar suspected that without the signal to base, the next wave might be some years away. However, it was best to begin preparation and he would need help. So, I volunteered to become Uncle Einar's apprentice and we rushed to make the initial 33 replacements for the mechanicals we had just lost. We contacted other Villages in the Land to warn them of the danger and some of them helped us quickly replace our lost companions.

And that is how I both came to make my companion, SkĂșli, here, and to become a toymaker's apprentice.

Talk Like Galaxy Quest Day

All right, so everybody else is going on and on about Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Yawn!

I hereby declare tomorrow to be Talk Like Galaxy Quest Day. More specifically, it'll be talk like Dr. Lazarus of Tev'Meck, the character played by Alan Rickman. He had the best catch phrase.

So, tomorrow, if anybody asks you to do anything, respond with "By Grabthar's hammer, by the sons of Warvan, you shall be avenged!"

Here's a list of quotes if you can't think of any to use on your own: Wikipedia Quotes.

Pretty Boy Dam

It's fun running around saying "dam!" a lot. It's almost like being kinda naughty, but not really, 'cause you're really just saying "dam!" Gosh, one of these days, I might act like a real adult, but not really soon.

After a quick visit to a bike clinic Saturday morning, we ventured up north of Baltimore to visit Gunpowder Falls Park. When I was young, back in the dark ages, we used to raft on the down the river (though it might have been the Little Gunpowder), but I don't remember ever getting up to the north end where Pretty Boy Dam creates Pretty Boy Reservoir.

For the most part, the "falls" are really just simple rapids. The falls line pretty much follows I-95 along the US East Coast dividing the Piedmont from the shore lands. So, in Maryland anyway, we refer to several river drops as "falls". We never call them waterfalls, though. That would be wrong.

Can you guess how many steps are over there? We walked all the way down, plus a smaller set in the upper right hand corner. Then we walked a mile or two down the river. It's a beautiful gorge, and it wasn't so crowded as I expected. All-in-all, a nice afternoon.

Sadly, we got back to Baltimore much later than expected and found that we didn't have any zombie phone numbers! So, we were horribly rude to our favorite neighbors and stood them up. We are so dang sorry we are ripping ourselves up inside. I mean, the Brunette is falling to pieces. I, of course, am maintaining my stoic exterior, stiff upper lip and all, while feeling absolutely miserable inside. I hope they forgive us. Please? At least let us still watch your TV!

Lawrence of Kansas

To paraphrase a candidate for the presidency: "My butt hurts." Since I'm stuck in Kansas over the weekend, I took advantage of a bike shop's rental service to get out on the road -- something I haven't done since May. I got in a nice 30 mile ride. Even though Kansas is flatter than home, I'm still a bit weary from this one. I think I got some sun, too.


View Larger Map

Kansas roads are pretty much laid out grid-like, so there wasn't a lot of danger getting lost. Instead, the risks were that a particular road might turn to gravel or otherwise just peter out. Last thing you want to do after a five mile exploratory mission is turn around and go back the same way.

I wish I had discovered Lawrence earlier. A quick ride through the business district shows a lot more non-Mexican ethnic restaurants than Topeka, and a glance at bumper stickers (many anti-Bush and/or anti-war) shows a bit more liberalism than one might expect. Actually, I saw this on a sign right outside of Topeka this morning:

Impeachment is not an option. It's a duty.

Flatland (Edwin Abbott)

I sat at the gardenside window contemplating the music of the spheres -- How exactly do spheres make music? What's so special about it? Do they take requests? Rattles are kind of spherical, but is rhythm alone music? -- These and a myriad of other questions flitted through my feeble brain which was not up to the task of decipherment. So it is slightly possible that I was really just watching the cat, Tubby, watching the squirrel cavort in the garden.

And, yes, it's possible that I snickered when Tubby bumped his head trying to follow a squirrel who ran close to the house's foundation. Sometimes the Neanderthal can't be held in.

Then I noticed two boys arguing out in the Square. The Square is a patch of grass surrounded by three courts: 23, 25 and 2. I recognized the lads immediately: two imaginary kids from my neighborhood. Somehow, though these boys live only in my brain, I can only ever remember the name of the younger, smaller one. Prasad is generally the better dressed of the two. Today, though, he had loosened his tie in order to demonstrate his emphatic seriousness.

Prasad's friend turned his back on Prasad, which did nothing to calm him down. Prasad shouted and rushed forward to push at whats-his-name's back.

"Oy!" I shouted. "Stop that!" In a fluster of concern, I leaned my head forward and right into the glass with a smack!

Tubby looked at me and sneezed.

"Yeah, real funny," I said to the cat and rushed out the door. The last thing one wants filling up one's head is a couple of squabbling pre-teens. When I reached the Square, Prasad was still pushing on the back of the other boy, who had not been moved.

"What are you two doing?" I demanded.

"Proving a point," Prasad's friend said.

"Hi, Mr. Blake," Prasad said around grunts.

"I am proving to Prasad that he cannot prove there are three dimensions if I don't choose to believe him."

"That was the arguing bit?" I said. "I thought you two were going to come to blows."

"Oh, yes, sir," answered Prasad. "Sadly, words failed to do the job -- which in itself brings up all sorts of wonderful lines of discussion -- so I was forced to turn to physicality."

"Do you not believe there are three dimensions?" I asked.

"Sure, there are many more than that. What we disagree about is whether it can be proved." The older boy had a knack for building extra dimensions of scorn into his tone. "Say, for example, that you could only experience two dimensions. How would you grow to believe in three?"

"I see," I said. "You've been reading Flatland." The boys nodded. "I figured you would get to this book, but somehow I had imagined you would be experiencing girl trouble from accidentally quoting this from the book:"

With women, we speak of "love", "duty", "right", "wrong", "pity", "hope", and other irrational and emotional conceptions, which have no existence, and the fiction of which has no object except to control feminine exuberances.

They looked at me blankly for a moment.

"See?" said the taller boy. "He is a great example of my position."

"I dunno," responded Prasad.

"What position is that?" I asked warily.

"We were discussing the bit of the book about 3-D creatures evangelizing to 2-D creatures to get them to believe that there are more than two dimensions. I maintain that if the poor creatures don't understand and cannot perceive more than 2-D, what value is there in telling them?"

"On the other hand," Prasad commented, "it is the responsibility of us all to help give the less privileged a hand up."

"They only get upset," his friend said.

"So how am I an example of this position?" I wanted to know.

"Well --"

"Hey!" Prasad interrupted. "I think I hear my mother!"

"I don't hear her," I said.

"Trust me," Prasad said and ran off.

"Upward, not Northward," his friend said and followed him. I watched after them for a bit and then walked to my house. Maybe the music of the spheres is like Prasad's mother's voice, I thought. You have to be especially tuned in to hear it.

Captain, My Captain

A few weeks ago, I mentioned my CEO's predilection for forwarding You-Tube videos.

I am terribly crushed today because my favorite CEO passed away this weekend. So, here's a You-Tube video for him.