Augmenting cat reality

If my wife’s experience is representative of cat owners, then the enjoyment of selecting, buying, and gifting of toys to one’s cats must be one of the great rewards of cat ownership. She buys on average a cat toy or two each month, a number that has dropped considerably from the early kitten days. Our oldest cat is 16 years old which is 192 months, and you can do the rest of the math.

As you might imagine, Casa de Wyatt is awash in cat toys.  My wife wants to replace the rugs but I say we should just sew all the cat toys together because when arranged in a single contiguous layer they would cover about the same surface area.  There is some karmic justice in the idea because we wouldn’t need to replace the rugs if the cats had not scratched through them in places, puked up hairballs and worse on them, and occasionally subjected them to some out-of-the-box thinking.

The cats of course are under no obligation to return their toys to where they found them.  On the one hand this reveals cat migration patterns based on the distribution of toys around the house over time, if you are into that kind of thing.  On the other hand it sets a very bad example for our grandson Matt who believes that he too should be able to play with all the toys he keeps here, then leave them where they drop.

We insist that he pick up after himself and he interprets this as the cats having more privileges than he does.  When I explain that with greater intellect comes greater responsibility, he counters by trying to demonstrate less intellect than the cats.  This downward behavioral spiral vividly demonstrates the dangers of letting your kid, or grandson in this case, fall under a bad influence such as that of a gang of cats.

The biggest problem I have with the cat toys is when strangers are in the house.  I always feel compelled to explain that it just LOOKS like we are collecting cats because of the astronomical toy-to-cat ratio.  My fear is that without such an explanation the visitor is likely to report us to the Humane Society or nominate us for an episode of Hoarders.

“Yes, I suspect they are keeping more than 100 cats in there.”

“You ‘suspect’ this? Why? How many cats did you actually see? Do you have any proof?”

“There were only two cats in the house but based on the number of cat toys laying around  I’m pretty certain they were hiding the other 98 cats during my visit.”

“Thanks so much for the report. You did the right thing.  We’ll send one of our producers out there for a surprise visit next week.”

After watching Ready Player One over the weekend I think I finally have the perfect cover story for any visitors based on how the cat toys tend to cluster in certain spots.  I plan to tell visitors that each time a cat loses one of its 9 lives, all the coin and objects it was carrying fall in the spot where it died.  Those clusters of cat toys around the house mark the spots where a cat lost one of its lives.  The sheer volume of toys reflects both the advanced age of our cats and the high number of lives they’ve lost in that time.  Visitors will be asked to show respect for the dead by trying not to disturb the shrines and watching where they step.

I have a lot less anxiety about strangers in the house now that I have a plausible cover story that explains all the cat toys in a way that makes us seem perfectly normal.


Posted in Family, General, Humor | 1 Comment

My flying saucer encounter

As an IT Security guy I tend to get called a tin-foil-hat conspiracy theorist a lot.  So I appreciate the irony that I feel pretty much the same about people who claim to have been traumatized by encounters with flying saucers. I hereby apologize to all those people today, having finally had my own flying saucer experience – one that will probably leave me with quaking nightmares for some time.  Read on at your own peril.  You have been warned.

Continue reading

Posted in Humor | Tagged | 3 Comments

Big thanks for March For Our Lives

This is to thank the students from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas and from around the world who protested today. It turns out you were marching for my life today, too.

As a school kid I had epilepsy which was diagnosed, and Asperger’s which was not. That combination made me a bully magnet. What were, in the hindsight of an adult diagnosis, typically autistic traits were treated by teachers and even my parents as character defects. My stimming and spontaneous unfiltered utterances were the acts of a willful, disobedient, incorrigible kid as far as adults were concerned, so they tended to turn a blind eye to physical abuse by my classmates, and there was a lot of that. It started early and grew worse as I got older. By 9th grade it had become life-threatening.

When I was 13, a couple of boys from the neighborhood caught me at the local 7-11, threw me in the dumpster behind the store, and wired the lid closed. Florida sun turns a metal dumpster into an oven so when the sun rose over the roof of the store I started to bake. By mid-afternoon I was too weak to scream for help anymore, or even sit up. After I puked, pissed myself, crapped my pants, and puked again, I thought “this is how I die.” I laid down, closed my eyes and hoped the end would come quickly.

Some hours later I was roused by the sound of the store owner cursing about the dumpster being wired shut. He was cleaning up to close which meant I’d been trapped for over 12 hours. This was my first, but not my last, near-death experience at the hands of bullies.

The culture in which I grew up was very protective of the “us” group but treated “them” with a brutality so casual that it seemed almost normal. Between the epilepsy and the autism, I was never in anyone’s “us” group so I lived as a prey animal both at school and in my own neighborhood. A few of the football players even had a point system for the types of injury they might inflict on me. Lowest points were for a shoulder check. More points if I was knocked off my feet. More still if I had to go to the school nurse afterward. Whenever I was among people, I was either looking around the corner or looking over my shoulder.

assaultA few months after the dumpster incident one of the football players attacked me from behind, shoving me face-first into a brick wall. My forehead was split open to the bone, and my upper lip was split to the gums. My nose was broken and one nostril torn. There were cuts ringing my eyes where my broken glasses had dug in. Despite the 10-day suspension, my attacker was allowed to keep his athletic eligibility and make up his work to preserve his GPA. When I found out I made my own plans to go shoot up my school, starting with my attacker and then as many of his buddies as possible.

After I calmed down I went a different direction and tried to commit suicide instead. I dropped out of school the following year.

As soon as it was possible, I moved to a different town, changed my name, and built a new life. I distinguished myself as a Computer Operator, then as a Programmer, in a field with lots of diversity and in which my autism was more of a benefit than a burden. I allowed myself to believe the past was behind me. Or at least that my hometown, a regional Klan headquarters, was an outlier and not representative of the country.

Then Trump announced his candidacy and suddenly it seemed the whole country turned into my hometown. The decades I’d spent overcoming the emotional and physical abuses of my childhood disappeared and suddenly I was that kid again, that prey animal. Except now that casual brutality inflicted on me in my youth was aimed entire populations of people. People of color. Women of any color. Muslims. LGBTQ. The disabled.

Being autistic, social media had been a refuge for me. The place where I was able to find community and be part of someone’s “us” group. That ended with the campaign and the total abandonment of any civility of discourse. No matter how well researched and reasoned my argument, I was a “libtard,” a “snowflake,” a “cuck” and worse. When I reported a Facebook group advocating incarceration or murder of all autistic people, jailing or killing people like me in other words, Facebook’s initial response was that it didn’t violate their Terms of Service. Contempt had become the new normal.

My last hope was that this would all die down after the election, but then Trump won and all hope was lost. I had no idea what we’d become with Trump as President, I just knew I didn’t want to live to see it. My wife said I should give it some time. Once I got over the shock, she assured me, I’d see that all the good people who had been there before were still there. Everything I valued was still there.

After I promised her to stick around, things just kept getting worse. Every day that passed in the Trump Presidency was another day trapped in that oven of a dumpster, clawing for the light, screaming into the void, eventually passing out exhausted. Except that in this version I wake up in the same nightmare the next morning and a bit worse off. Stephen King’s version of Groundhog Day.

EmmaPodiumThen this evening the first thing I saw when I turned on the news was Emma Gonzalez holding the podium in complete silence. I missed the first part and didn’t know what was going on. You never see dead air on TV but there she stood commanding our attention, and the camera didn’t break away. I didn’t know what this was but I understood instantly that it was important.

I sat down, eyes glued to the screen and watched. When Emma finally continued tears started streaming down my face as she recounted the timeline of the shooting. Then came the clips of Naomi Wadler, Jaclyn Corin, Yolanda Renee King, Edna Chavez, David Hogg, Cameron Kasky, Alex Wind, and so many more.

My wife was right. I just needed to wait. If this movement can arise in the trump era, if these leaders can spring from the halls of high schools and middle schools, then we are going to be okay after all.

I was still watching the news when my Matt came in to say goodnight. He saw the river of tears and was concerned.

“What’s wrong, Grandpa?”

“Nothing, buddy” I said, wrapping him in a big hug. He hugged me back. Then I held him at arm’s length so I could get a good look at our future. “Not anymore.”

Posted in Aspergers, Global issues, Social issues | Tagged , | 5 Comments

Gentlemens’ club plans cancelled

My new gentlemens’ club concept has possibly been the most badly-kept secret ever so now that the investors have all backed out it seems easier to post publicly about what went wrong than try to explain to my friends individually. The concept is, in my estimation, visionary and ground breaking. The backers unanimously said it wasn’t practical. I have to take this on faith since they are the experts in running nightclubs and I’m an old computer programmer.

Continue reading

Posted in Humor | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

It was a good day

On the scale of days, today was a good one for me. I saved the lives of an entire family, repaired part of a French drain in my yard, finally completed the replacement of a bathroom exhaust fan in the attic, and scratched two items off of my to-do list. Continue reading

Posted in General | Leave a comment

And the Oscar goes to…

We went to Bonefish Grill in Concord today and while ordering I mentioned to our waiter that we were running out of things on the menu we haven’t tried. There are a variety of glazes and salsas you can get with the grilled fish and the waiter asked if we’d tried “Oscar style.” This option costs a few dollars more so I guess he figured we might have skipped it until now. And I imagine the management likes an upsell so win-win if we bite.

Oscar-style by the way involves adding crab cakes, asparagus, and Bearnaise sauce. I Googled it later and it’s a real thing similar to how calling a recipe “florentine” means you added spinach. I’d never had it before and somehow had managed to completely overlook it on the menu. This was the first time I’d ever heard of it.

It sounds tasty, right? Start with a nice salmon filet cooked to perfection, then top with tender asparagus tips, some lump crab cake, and drizzle a bit of cream sauce over the whole thing. Yum!

Except we never found out because as soon as he mentioned it I lost it. Not just giggling or a quick chuckle, but almost falling-out-of-the-chair ROTFL laughing. My wife, who is accustomed to my fits of free-association entertainment after 35 years, looked on with nothing more than mild interest. To her these are like mild seizures. You just wait them out and pick up where you left off.

The unfortunate waiter on the other hand was a bit taken aback by my reaction.

“Did I say something wrong?” he asked, fidgeting nervously.

“We have a cat named Oscar,” I explained between gasps. “To us Oscar-style means you wolf the food down really fast, find a high-foot-traffic area, throw it all back up on the rug, then casually walk away like nothing happened. So no, we do not want Oscar Style and I really don’t think you want it for us either.”

“I think you’d enjoy it,” he persisted. “Perhaps we can switch out your Coke and Malbec for a Sprite and a nice white wine?”

Now THAT is great customer service. Although I’m not sure the other diners would agree if they had overheard the exchange.

In the end she ordered the mango salsa and I had the pesto, both on the side. As tasty as it might be, we will probably never experience Oscar-style anything. She’ll abstain because she’s as wise as she is beautiful. I’ll take a pass because I’m pretty sure it would be a major choking hazard if every time I tried to take a bite of food I imagined puking it up at the base of the maître d’ station, telling the hostess “I meant to do that,” then casually walking away.


What? Something wrong? Did you find my gift?

Posted in Family, General, Humor | Tagged | 4 Comments

A party by any other name

My wife put Maraschino cherries on the shopping list and for the life of me I couldn’t seem to find the damned things in the store today. Fortunately, I stumbled into the guy who stocks the shelves.

(I’m convinced that other than the cashiers and manager on duty there is never more than one uniformed employee in the store, and often less. Hence “the” guy and not “a” guy.)

“Excuse me. Do you know where they keep the Maraschino cherries?”


“Cherries? Like for ice cream sundaes or for making mixed drinks?”

“Ah, si,” he said, then led me briskly toward the Baking Supplies aisle. He glanced over his shoulder to make sure I was keeping up. “You making drinks or dessert?”

“My wife, actually. She’s rediscovered the lost art of mixing exotic drinks,” I replied.

Continue reading

Posted in Family | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

On the durability of ephemera

If 30 years ago a merchant had told me “We’re sorry, your shopping cart no longer exists” it would have freaked me out. I don’t have a screen shot of the message I just received because it wasn’t until after blowing past it that I paused to consider how odd it is that we now accept such a statement as routine. It isn’t “I had a shopping cart but now it’s not here. It was taken by another shopper or by an overzealous employee who has returned it to the cart bay but we expect it still exists somewhere.” Now it’s more like “I had a shopping cart but then suddenly it winked out of existence.”

Back in the 80’s or 90’s I could have at least argued that regardless of what you’ve done to the shopping cart, it still exists. You could reduce it to individual atoms or even to energy but Newtonian physics and and Einsteinian relativity demand that, one way or another, it remains in existence. Now when the merchant says “your cart no longer exists” it’s pretty close to the truth.

Continue reading

Posted in General, Humor, Tech | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Leading by example vs. herding from behind

To me leadership isn’t forcing people to behave the way you want, but making a good enough case to persuade, and leading by example. Our legislature in NC doesn’t feel the same way. To them leadership means forcing people to behave a certain way at the point of a gun, which in turn makes it convenient for them to ignore anyone who doesn’t fit their narrow definitions of the human experience.

Leading by example and persuasion is a tough path to walk. So much easier to force people to behave through guilt, fear, or threat of harm than to make a convincing case and demonstrate the benefits by living it. Christ made his case and then lived it. Our legislature for some reason thinks getting the outcomes (that they believe) He would have wanted is more important than the methods they use to achieve the outcomes, even though they invoke His name to justify their actions.  It’s the last thing He would have wanted.

The whole point of “we are all sinners” is that the methods are more important than the outcomes. We won’t always get the outcomes you want, especially when the goal is to change other people’s behaviors. But we can consistently approach our mission, whatever it is, from a place of love and compassion and that’s what counts.

Sadly, our elected representatives lack the courage to lead by example and persuasion. They are in very visible positions of power. Why can’t they make a compelling case and then demonstrate the benefits of their belief in their daily life?  Is it because they have no confidence that their case is compelling unless it is backed by threat of State violence?  If they don’t have enough faith in their faith to risk letting people make up their own mind, why should we listen to them at all?

Instead they spread fear. They make secret back-room deals with wealthy campaign donors and rush bills through votes without proper review. They impose restrictions at the polls designed to favor their party while allowing the real election fraud to run rampant in the form of ghost voting in the legislature. They torture boundaries of voting districts for political advantage. And when it comes to influencing people’s moral behavior they do so at the point of a gun, approaching us from behind and prodding us toward their chosen goal.

HEY ELECTED PEOPLE: It isn’t leadership if you do it from behind.  What you do is called herding.  We don’t like it.

All of which is why I really like the anthology project being organized by John Hartness of Falstaff Books. Instead of asking people to change what they do and how they behave for the cause, he asks writers to write. He asks people capable of making that good case to make it in print, and he in turn will put it in front of readers. Whether those readers consume it as entertainment or with purpose matters less than exposure to the idea that we are all human beings worthy of the same basic human rights and dignities.

John and the participating authors have the courage to live their example, make their case, and trust us to make up our own mind. The project is just getting started and I have no idea what the finished book will look like, I only know that I’ll find more true leadership in those pages than I’d find if I spent a lifetime reading the accumulated output of our state legislature.

Want to submit a story?  Want to buy or read the book?  Follow along on Facebook or Falstaff Books at the links above.  As of this writing, the call for submissions is as follows:

Call for Submissions – Charity Anthology – We Are Not This – Carolina Writers Against HB2 (subtitle subject to change)

Looking for writers with a strong connection to North Carolina to provide a 5,000 word or less story featuring an LGBTQ character for a fundraising anthology. Reprints accepted. Non-Exclusive print and digital rights requested. All proceeds donated to the NC Human Rights Campaign. Not accepting erotica. No other restrictions on genre.

Send submissions or queries to anthology [at] Word Doc, 12 Pt. Standard MSS format. No RTF files.

Poetry and non-fiction also accepted.

Deadline – June 1, 2016

Posted in Clue train, Global issues, Rant, Social issues | 3 Comments

Toes by any other name…

So my wife and I were sitting around trying to decide what our porn star names would be. OK, we were sitting around trying to decide what her porn star name would be. Mine would be T-Bone, obviously. Hers is up for grabs.

First we had to decide what qualities her character would have. You can’t do that kind of work and have self-esteem issues so we decided her character would be as over-confident as my wife is under-confident. She’d dress to stand out rather than blend in. She’d be tough rather than tender. She’d be assertive rather than diplomatic. Five minutes into this exercise I realized my wife’s porn star character is a whip-totin’, leather wearin’ dominatrix.

Continue reading

Posted in Humor | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment