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    • By Dr.Bedlam
      NICHOLAS, DUKE OF NOMADS

      SYMBOLISM: Craftiness, ambition, facial tattoos
      When reversed, do NOT give money to panhandlers today. When upright, today is a good day to look for treasure in the usual locations, particularly Hot Topic and your favorite hobby shop, but NOT used bookstores; to a Nomad, a book is something you use to level a table with one short leg.
      QUOTE: "I have something in which you may be interested..."
       PIFFLE, FOOL OF DRAGONLORDS

      SYMBOLISM: Humor, fun, sheltered idiocy
      When reversed, do NOT get into arguments online, and stay away from the comments sections. When upright, it's a good day to do something fun, but as always, avoid teh stoopidz unless you have a higher level of protection than most of us, who are bogged down with consequences.
      QUOTE: "I say, I say, I say!"
    • By Dr.Bedlam
      I’ve done it.
      I’ve done it.
      I’ve finally figured out what my Super Power is.
       
      Now guys like Superman, they get the combo platter. Not me. I knew I wouldn’t get anything like that. Hell, I’m amazed I got anything at all, and Murphy’s Law firmly dictates that I wouldn’t get anything USEFUL.
       
      At least not without a little thought.
       
      For years now, I have not much cared for the chore of grocery shopping. Grocery shopping is a pain in the tuckus. For some reason, in grocery stores, people don’t seem to notice my existence. People blaze in front of me like they’re in a desperate hurry to get to the bakery section before they run out of rolls... and then stop cold once they’re blocking my path. If I am attempting to buy, say, a can of beans, I will arrive at the beans only to find one or two people strategically blocking all the beans while they indulge in the Trance of Meditative Consumption, serenely contemplating the nature of beans and their place in the universe.
       
      And then they’ll give me a dirty look when I invade their personal space to reach over their fraggin’ shoulders to get a honkin’ can of beans.
       
      But today, though, it hit me. What if my particular super power is to interfere with the brain function of those around me?
       
      It doesn’t work on everyone, sure. My coworkers and my students don’t seem to get any dumber; it’d be kind of a bad thing for a teacher to have. Berni doesn’t seem to notice it, and she’s rather sharp, and gets no dumber in my presence. But it definitely affects some people, some more than others. It seems to hit the elderly and the very young particularly hard. And for some reason, it works like CRAZY when I’m at the supermarket.
       
      So today, I actually experimented, mapped it out. I discovered that it’s a FIELD, it surrounds me, and it extends about ten feet around me. What’s worse, the outer EDGE of it extends another five feet or so, and it SPEEDS UP brain function. Walk into that perimeter, you may or may not notice me, but suddenly, slow and sedentary Grandpa is going to RUSH LIKE HELL without even realizing it... and if his path takes him into the Dead Zone, he’ll suddenly stop right in front of me with an expression on his face that says, “Where did I leave my keys...?”
       
      And from MY perspective... or anyone else’s... Grandpa was making his leisurely way through the meat section, suddenly put on a burst of speed for no apparent reason, and stopped cold RIGHT in front of me, blocking my path, most likely with a confused look on his face...
       
      It’s not always that pronounced. Sometimes, they won’t stop, but they’ll slow down. Or suddenly decide to take five minutes to pick a brand of cereal. And other times they’ll stop cold with little OUT TO LUNCH signs in both eyes, right in my path, where just before, they were productively rolling along, picking products off the shelves. I think it also might account for the habit the bag boys have of loading all the canned goods on top of the bread and/or the eggs.
       
      This has been happening to me for years. I don’t even GO to Wal-Mart any more; the effect there is so pronounced, it can take me hours to find and pay for three items and work my way out the door. Weekends at King Soopers, it varies... but I’ve found that going to buy groceries on the weekdays, when there’s no one but retired people and young moms there? Be ready to stop the basket QUICK, because someone’s four year old WILL bolt in front of the basket and stop cold like he just forgot his name, and allow for some extra time at the dairy case, because Granny will suddenly go into a trance while she looks at the milk like she’s wondering which color would go with the kitchen drapes the best.
       
      And now I know. Now, all that’s left is to figure out how to best harness this power for good.
       
      Or failing that, how to use it to make a bunch of money...
    • By Dr.Bedlam
      The last time I felt like God was back around 1984, ‘85, or so.
       
      I was working for the news department in the campus radio station. On my first day, they showed me the Zombie Wire, the AP ticker where periodically, a bell would ring and the teletype would begin spitting out copy. My job was to rewrite the copy into short lucid bursts suitable for the news reader to read live on the air. One bell meant a standard news feed. Two bells, something important; a Presidential speech, a bank robbery, something. If TWELVE bells were heard, at an odd time, it was something of TRANSCENDENTAL importance, World War III, or something.
       
      Whole time I worked there? Never more than two bells.
       
      But that semester, they’d installed a new toy: the AP Newsfeed. It ran off this “Internet” thing, a continuous signal, through the phone lines via a dedicated modem at a lightning fast 56k, into a green CRT monitor at the news desk. Since I was usually the only person in the office, I got to monkeying with it one afternoon in an idle moment.
       
      And it utterly shocked me to my core.
       
      I quickly learned how to sweep various AP outlets in various locations, various countries, EVERY major city on the planet, and I realized I could access NEWS, in REAL TIME... everywhere.
       
      This was a jolt. CNN existed by then, but it was a rather new thing, and simply rebroadcast the news every half hour, with any fresh happenings plugged in. Most people still got daily newspapers, or just watched the Six O’Clock News on their local stations. But I could access the soccer scores in Nice, France, examine police blotters in Barcelona, Glasgow, and Zurich, and get neighborhood reports from Nairobi, with nothing less than fifteen minutes old, if I wished it. Anything on THIS side of the iron curtain? I could know it in seconds. All as fast as it took me to read that little eye murdering green CRT screen.

      No one... ANYWHERE... was as well informed as I was. Except the other newsmen, sifting the AP feed for copy for their next broadcast. The entire PLANET was under MY SCRUTINY, for as long as I cared to WATCH it!
       
      No graphics, no video, just text. But I still felt like God.
       
      Today, I have color, high resolution, video, audio, and the iron curtain ain’t there any more.
       
      And nowadays, I feel more ill informed than ever...

    • By Dr.Bedlam
      “Well, there’s no such thing as cowboys,” the child said. “They’re imaginary, they’re in movies and TV and stuff. They’re not real. Like Santa Claus and dinosaurs.”
       
      The conversation between the sixth graders had been about Halloween costumes, and whether or not Li’l Shannon could reasonably go as a cowboy. Not a cowgirl; a cowboy. Jeans, boots, and so on. She seemed to feel that cowboys were cool, whereas cowgirls were lame, and where does one find pink jeans and pink Stetson, anyway? And Josh blew it all out of the water with “I don’t believe in cowboys. They aren’t real.”
       
      And it was at this point where I had to ask, “Josh, what makes you think cowboys aren’t real? I grew up in deep south Texas. I knew lots of cowboys. Who do you think raises the cattle that go to make your hamburgers?”
       
      “Well,” said Josh, a little taken aback, “There USED to be cowboys, sure. But now all that is automated, and stuff.”
       
      I had a bizarre vision, out of nowhere, of robot cowboys riding motorcyles, herding cattle, and squealing ‘yee haw’ in electronic voices.
       
      “So... you’re honestly telling me to my face that you believe that cowboys are extinct?”
       
      He looked troubled. Contradicting one’s teachers isn’t normally standard procedure for sixth graders, but he felt like he needed to stand up for his belief system. “Well, I said there USED to be cowboys,” he said. “I mean, someone had to fight the Indians*, and fight at the Alamo**, like Sam Houston and Davy Crockett, and all that. But now, there’s just people who dress UP like cowboys. They don’t carry six shooters, they don’t ride horses, and they don’t have anything to do with cows. Nowadays, it’s all about being in movies about old timey days, back in cowboy times. There aren’t any cowboys NOW. It’s like dinosaurs, you know? We know there USED to be tyrannosaurs, but now they’re only in MOVIES. Y’know? Like private detectives.”
       
      I may have stood there with my mouth open. Admittedly, I can’t say I knew any private detectives in high school, but...
       
      “Um... Josh,” I began, as gently as I could. “Cowboys exist. So do private investigators. Look up PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR in the Yellow Pages, and--”
       
      “Yellow what?” he said, confused. Errrgh. Okay, I stepped into that one. Sigh.
       
      “Josh, you live in Colorado. Colorado has mountains at one end, and plains on the other. Those plains are full of farms and ranches. The ranches are infested with cattle. You’ve seen them, every road trip you ever took. Who do you think looks after those cattle? And you can hire a private investigator any time.”
       
      “Well, that’s just silly,” said Josh, indignant. “Why would you HIRE a detective when you can just call the cops for FREE? Private detectives aren’t REAL, they’re just in TV shows and movies. Like cowboys. Or dragons. It’s all PRETEND. You dress UP as one, you can’t really BE one. And cattle are domesticated, these days. You just CALL them, right?”
       
      I had yet another unbidden vision of a rancher blowing a whistle, and the cattle queuing up neatly to jump into a meat grinder. He was so durn sure of himself. Howthehell do you explain the truth to a child who’s quite sure you’re wrong? I know that insurance companies employ hordes of private investigators to check insurance fraud, even if they don’t look like Tom Selleck or Humphrey Bogart, I know you can hire a PI to see if your spouse is cheating on you and get photos for the divorce lawyer, and I went to HIGH SCHOOL with cowboys, fa potato’s sake, but how do you explain all this to a SIXTH GRADER--
       
      He smiled at me. “Look,” he said. “I appreciate you want to help preserve my sense of childish wonder. My parents felt the same way about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. But it’s okay. I’m grown up***, now. And you have to let go of your childish dreams sometime.”
       
      And that was how I witnessed the Twilight Of The Cowboys, right there in the sixth grade...
       
      *Actually, cowboys did not often fight Indians. Usually only on long trail drives, and even then, they’d rather negotiate than try to fight anyone while trying to keep a herd of skittish cattle from stampeding.
       
      **I do not know how many cowboys fought at the Battle of the Alamo. I do know that neither Sam Houston nor Davy Crockett were cowboys. Sam Houston, in fact, grew up among the Cherokee Indians, and was not at the actual battle... and Crockett was a woodsman and bear hunter who later held a seat in Congress. And while cowboys and Congressmen do have some things in common, they are far from the same thing.
       
      ***Don’t talk to ME about grown up, ya little broccoli, with half your education still in front of you, and just WAIT till puberty gets involved...

      ****Did I mention that this child plays Dungeons and Dragons? But still doesn't believe in cowboys?
    • By Pingo
      HAPPY BIRTHDAY!  May it be ... Well, you know!  
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