Mother’s Day


Ms. Squeaks

With the kids eating dry and wet food, and Ms. Squeaks back in heat, I decided it was high time to go ahead and make the appointment for Momma cat to go for her operation. It was also time to take Angel in for her yearly check up and round of shots.

Taking the cats to the vet isn’t especially great. It’s not just that they don’t want to go, it’s because it’s very far from me. Yes, there are veterinarians close by, but when I really needed a vet (on a Saturday), the place I go to was the only one willing to take a small, blind, infected, kitten. Everyone else I called (including ones that advertised ’emergency services’) tried to get me to make an appointment two weeks out, or just have her put down at a shelter.

I didn’t think she would last two weeks and there’s no way I was going to put her down

Not wanting Angel to go blind or killed, I kept calling and finally found a place, forty miles away, that would take her. Weirdly, her mother, Ms. Squeaks, decided to go along for the ride and get a full check-up, also. And that’s why I travel for an hour or more to take these cats to the vet, even if it’s for a quick five minute check and a shot, and I always will.

Anyway, Angel’s visit was up first and it was fairly early in the morning. Luckily, she’s already been fixed so I didn’t have to worry about her fasting, just getting her in the carrier. Which she does not like. At all. She spends most of the trip meowing and pacing. And me, being me, can’t ignore her. Every time she meows, I have to talk to her. Tell her she’s going to be okay, or that we’re almost there, or whatever. Once she’s there, though, she’s okay. She takes her shots like a trooper and doesn’t give anyone any trouble. On the way back home, she’s generally quieter.

So that trip went all right. A day later, I would have to worry about Ms. Squeaks. A cat who is somewhat wild, despite having lived in the house for about three months. She was going to have to fast, which I wasn’t looking forward to, because she’s a big eater. I decided that for the previous night, I would keep her in the bedroom with me and the carrier. I’d lure her in with food around 8:00pm to 8:30pm (she couldn’t eat past 9:00pm). I’d hide any leftovers so she wouldn’t be able to get to them. Then, in the morning, I would wake up and put her in the carrier right away. Then I could feed everyone else, get ready, and be on my way.

The plan mostly worked. The only hitch was that the two boy kittens, Rhindle and Grundle, wouldn’t leave her side. Keeping Squeaks inside while trying to juggle two kittens to get them out proved kind of difficult, so they ended up staying with us. Those two spent the night running around, knocking over trash cans, jumping up on the desk, running along the computer keyboard, waking it up which lights up the room pretty good, and, in the case of Rhindle, getting up on the bed and clawing and chewing on my foot.

Waking up was relatively easy, then. Except, when I got up, the kittens were sleeping. Momma wanted her breakfast. I opened up the carrier and found Grundle asleep in it, so I had to remove him. Ms. Squeaks put up a very small struggle going into the carrier. In truth, I don’t think she would have struggled at all, if it wasn’t for her wanting to eat. I closed up the carrier and Rhindle and Grundle went right back to her after they ate.

In short order, I got ready and we left. I was worried about her being in the carrier. The first time, she went because her baby was there and this time she was alone. But, again, she took it in stride. She was either laying down or sitting up, trying to see around. I think she likes riding in the car and just wants to see more.

The other unusual thing about Squeaks is that she’s very good at the vet’s. The first time she went, people kept asking if I were sure she was feral, because she took everything in stride. I told them that she’d been living on my porch for the last six months or so, Before that, she was living next door and crossing back and forth between our yards. If she wasn’t born feral, she pretty much was by that time.

I dropped her off, with some encouraging words and a light skritch on the head. On the way home, I continued feeling kind of bad. You see, I don’t know if she wanted to be fixed or not. I don’t know if having kittens was something she enjoyed or not. Had it been last year, I would have said that she looked miserable being pregnant Actually, she looked kind of miserable this last time. But, you know, I have no idea what goes through her head. I worried that this would be a huge break in the trust between us. I worried that she would be depressed. When I looked at the carrier at the vet’s office, I noticed a small stuffed cat toy in there. I can’t help but think that one of the kittens put it there for her.

She’s not exactly “glowing”

One thing Ms. Squeaks never did, that I saw, was play. Except for one brief time, a couple of years ago, when she chased a dry leaf across the patio. Other than that, I’ve never seen her play, and I’ve never seen her play with her kittens. Not even Angel. There were times when Squeaks would come inside to eat and Angel would jump on her and Ms. Squeaks would just walk away.

Lately, though, she’s been playing. She plays with the kittens quite a bit. She even plays with Angel, now. If nobody is around, she’ll find a toy and start throwing it around and chasing after it. Maybe she’s just bored, being inside all the time, but watching her play made me seriously wonder about having her fixed.

The operation was a success. I brought her home and let her loose in the guest bedroom, because I was advised to keep her away from the kittens (so they didn’t fuss with her stitches). After I let her out, she rubbed up against me and was purring. Maybe it was the drugs, but she didn’t seem especially angry or upset with me. So I felt a bit better.

After a while, I tried to feed her but she wouldn’t eat until I moved the food out to where the kittens were. Evidently, she wanted to see them and be around them. Which is also new to me, because I’m quite convinced the reason she started coming over here in the first place was to get away from her previous kids and get some quiet time.

The kittens were happy to see her. Unfortunately, despite eating dry and canned for a couple of weeks, they’ve mysteriously decided they all have to nurse off her again. Since she’s full of pain killers and stitches, I’ve been having a hard time getting them to not do that. I’m not sure what they draw is now, but I certainly don’t need a bunch of pain killer addicted kittens on my hands.

I wasn’t sure why she was letting them do that, either. I’ve seen her push them away when they tried to do that. I guess she’s just falling asleep due to the medication and not really aware of it.

She doesn’t like taking medication, by the way. And I don’t like manhandling her. One, because I don’t know how she’ll react, and, two, because of the stitches. But, I have to hand it to her, she is very reluctant to scratch or bite me. Even when I’m trying to squirt liquid meds into her mouth.

I don’t have a whole lot in life, really, but it seems I do have her love and respect. That means quite a lot to me. I’m not sure if it’s because I started feeding her canned food when I thought she was having a problem eating hard dry food (turns out, she didn’t have teeth problems, she just doesn’t care for dry food), or if it was saving her kitten, or a combination, or what, but it seems we have a pretty solid connection to each other. Or, maybe it’s because I respect her and not try and force things on her (aside from this surgery, and, again, I kind of feel bad about that). For instance, I didn’t handle her kittens unless I felt I absolutely needed to (and, even that one time I did, she got very mad at me). I don’t pick them up (any of the cats) unless I feel I absolutely need to. I mostly let them do their own thing and interact with them when they want to be interacted with. I think that goes a long way with them.

Kitten Extravaganza


It’s been a while since I’ve posted about the cats, I think. I’m not even sure where I left off and, as usual, I don’t feel like going back to look.

So, small recap: last year, Ms. Squeaks had a litter of kittens. One had a bad eye infection, so I took her to the vet. She’s better. She’s about a year old now. Nazboo is the cat I got from my mom, when she couldn’t take care of him, anymore.

Gradually, Ms. Squeaks would stay indoors for longer periods of time. She’d still go outside for about a day or so, then come back inside for longer periods.

Around New Year’s, I bought a ham for dinner. After dinner, I wrapped it in foil and put it in the fridge. At some point I was thirsty, so I opened the fridge to get some water then closed the fridge. I looked down, and Ms. Squeaks and chowing down on two slices of ham that she managed to get off the bone while I wasn’t looking.

Since then, she’d go running to the fridge any time I opened it. I started giving her a slice of lunch meat ham or turkey and it kept her happy. It also seemed to be making her a bit chubby. And she got chubbier and chubbier. That’s about when I started thinking she was actually pregnant. She also got less and less interested in going outside. Sometimes she’d jump out when I went outside, but would rush back inside when I opened the door to go in. Eventually, she stopped going to the door at all.

Then, one day in March, she started bugging me and acting weird. Acting on a hunch, I found a box and laid it down on it’s side in the corner of my bedroom. Then I put a super soft throw blanket in there. She immediately into the box and laid down. So I left the room and closed the door.

When I went back in to check on her, she had three babies with her.

Things were pretty easy for a while. I just had to go into the bedroom every once in a while to make sure she had food, water, and a clean litter box. I would wander near to the kittens to take pictures, but not too near. I was trying to be respectful of her space and keeping her nice and comfortable. Also, she liked to get her pettings in and I think she really appreciated it that.

A couple of weeks later, she decided to move the kittens and put them in another corner of the room that had a bed stand and a power strip. They actually ended up under the bed stand. I felt that this was a bit dangerous, so I moved some furniture to collect them all and brought them back to the box.

Boy, howdy, did that piss off Ms. Squeaks. For a couple of days, she wouldn’t come near me. She would act like I was an electric shock if I tried to touch her. I could let her out of the bedroom and back in, and that was it. And she did move the kittens again, but this time they went under the bed, not under the bed stand. When I found that out, I gave her a bunch of ham and, it seems, she forgave me.

Then there was a period of time when I got worried if they were still alive or not. I hadn’t heard or seen them in a while. Their eyes were still closed at this point and they weren’t moving around much. I decided that I would open the closet door and lay a blanket on the floor in there. It’s dark, out of the way, relatively clean. The cat carrier was also there, with a towel in it, so I left that open.

Eventually, Squeaks moved the kids again. They went into the closet, and the babies stayed in the carrier. That worked out pretty well, although it was still hard for me to see them and make sure they were okay. Not that Squeaks needed my help. She’d done this more time than I have. Still, I get anxiety.

Angel, around this time, started acting odd. She would go into the bedroom, back to the closet, hiss at the kittens, then run back out of the bedroom. I couldn’t figure that one out. My theory was that, since she was blind for the first six weeks (give or take) of her life, she never actually saw her siblings and didn’t know that they started out as kittens, too. Once her eyes were opened, she stayed with me so never really saw them, except from a window.

Back when my mom died, the company I worked for sent me a plant. It was safe for cats, but the plant was not safe from cats. Despite my best efforts at keeping it alive, which included keeping it locked in the bedroom, it died. This has not stopped the kittens from destroying what was left of it. So now my bedroom carpet is covered in broken plant pieces, dirt, bits of cat food, and God knows what else. I haven’t vacuumed in there because I don’t want to traumatize the little ones, yet. So, if you’re looking at the pictures and thinking that my carpet is filthy, well, I won’t blame you.

Once the kittens were walking around, Ms. Squeaks started to get bored being holed up in the bedroom all day. So I would take time throughout the day to go in there and keep her company. I found out she likes to get brushed, which is a first for me. Most cats I try to brush try to eat it and then run away. Not her; she’ll sit still and let me brush for quite a while before she gets tired of it. At this point, the kittens were started to show come characteristics.

Rhindle, it turns out, is the most forward. The first that walked out from under the bed to do some exploring, the first to poke at things. Yorgle stopped being shy and was the second to get into things. Grundle started to hang back and stay closer to Ms. Squeaks.

Angel was still hissing at them, although she didn’t run away, anymore. So, she was getting used to them. Which, it turns out, will come in handy.

One day, I thought I’d leave the bedroom door open and let Ms. Squeaks come and go as she pleased. The kittens went nuts and ran out the door. Kids being kids, one of the first things they did was start climbing on the PlayStation 4. Angel, bless her heart, tried to keep the contained by bopping them on the head if they went too far in any direction, but even she couldn’t keep up with all three of them.

I should mention, also, that when my mom died I had to empty out her apartment. I didn’t have any place to put her things, so it all ended up in my house. Furniture, kitchen equipment, knick knacks, all of it ended up in my house. Things are very cluttered, and there’s not a lot of room for me to move around, anymore. It also means there are a lot of places for little kittens to get lost in.

I had to walk away for a little bit, and when I came back I saw two kittens: Rhindle and Grundle. I didn’t see Yorgle. So I started looking around trying to find her. Angel kept looking at and walking around a chair from my mom’s, so I got down on the floor to look underneath, but she wasn’t there. I crawled around a lot, moving things around trying to find her. I think Yorgle is a her. I think the other two are boys. Anyway, when I stopped looking I realized that Rhindle was now missing. Hoping to keep things contained, I picked up Grundle and locked him in the bedroom. Then I sat down in the living room trying to listen for kitten cries.

I didn’t hear any. At this point, I started to panic. No sounds, no movement, and Angel looking at things like she knew what she was doing. Eventually, I went back into the bedroom. I saw a white thing underneath a comforter that was partway onto the floor. I took a closer look, and, sure enough, it was Rhindle. I looked in the closet and the carrier, but still no Yorgle. Then I moved the birthing box and thought it felt slightly heavier than before. I carefully pulled some of the blanket out and met some resistance. I pulled a bit more and saw fur. Pulling up a flap of blanket revealed Yorgle, sleeping on her back. She opened her eyes, looked at me, and hissed. I felt a lot of relief.

After that, I kept the door closed, figuring it was probably still a bit early to let them roam around. Momma cat got bored a lot. The kittens, though, started thinking I was a really cool thing and would rush out to see me. And that’s when the leg climbing started.

Unsurprisingly, Rhindle led the way to climbing. He was also the first to reach my lap. Yorgle was a close second. Grundle… just wasn’t into it as much as the others. He does like to sit on my foot, though.

The leg climbing started to be a problem when I woke up in the middle of the night needing to use the bathroom. I had to be careful not to step on them, and I couldn’t stay still for more than a second or I’d have kittens hanging off of me.

Ms. Squeaks was not helpful, either. At various times during the night I would wake up because she was sitting on my chest. Or on my hip, if I happened to be sleeping on my side. Usually she wanted the wet food. Sometimes she just wanted some attention. I was starting to feel like I was married.

These days, I leave the bedroom door open. The kittens don’t stray to far from their momma and Angel actually does a good job of keeping them wrangled to an area. At one point, I tried to leave the bedroom but the kittens ran out in front of me. Angel pushed them all back into the room so I could leave. I don’t know how she knows what I need, but it works so I don’t question it.

Now they’re six weeks old. Rhindle started eating dry food and drinking water from a bowl last week. The others are catching up in terms of eating and drinking. They’ve also got the hang of using the litter box, from what I can tell. At the end of the day, they all head back to the bedroom. Unfortunately, they tore a hole in the bottom of the box spring and have started sleeping in there. Not that I mind, I’m just always worried about crushing them, which I don’t think can happen but I worry, anyway.

And, well, I guess that’s where we are now. It probably won’t be long before they’re out exploring the rest of the house and relying less on being around their mother.

Worry Not


Not too long ago, a friend of mine told me that I should write a self-help book. I don’t know where that idea came from, and I’m not sure what he was smoking at the time. Writing a self-help book seemed like the worst possible thing I could write. I’m not popular, I’m not rich, I’m not what one could call healthy, and I’m certainly not influential. So, I sort of put that idea in back closet of my mind.

Then, while making dinner one night, it occurred to me: I will never have to worry about botching my Oscar acceptance speech. That’s right. I will never have to worry about getting up in front of a bunch of people, making a speech, and then make mistakes by not thanking the correct people, or pronouncing names incorrectly. I’m not an actor or a director. I don’t have a job in Hollywood. I don’t have any ties to the industry.

Okay, that’s not strictly true. I mean, I did say that I met the partial cast of The State in McDonald’s, once. Although “met” is a pretty strong word for seeing them and talking (briefly) to one of them. I also went to school with Jane Krakowski, technically. True, I only ever saw her once (that I remember), and probably never talked to her. But I did date a woman who acted with her in some community theater plays. Oh, and I’m pretty sure I once saw Jonathan Frakes in a nearly empty Chili’s restaurant in Parsippany, NJ sometime between seasons 1 and 2 of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Some astute readers may remember that Parsippany was also mentioned in the film, The Karate Kid. Finally, and this is this is really stretching it, I might have seen Dick Cavett playing Zaxxon in a tiny arcade located in a small mall in Lafayette, La. in the mid-1980s. Why would Dick Cavett be in an arcade in Lafayette, La.? I don’t know. But if it wasn’t actually him, he could have made a killing as a Dick Cavett look-alike, if there were any call to have such a thing. He even sounded like him and I know this because after he lost his final ship he turned to me and said something about how neat the game was.

It was then, while putting my dinner together and being smug in the knowledge that I would never look like a fool on national television goofing up an Oscar acceptance speech that I realized I had the makings of a self-help book: Things You Probably Don’t Have To Worry About.

Instead of being fixated on things like: How am I going to pay the bills this month?, I think instead about how I don’t have to worry about the fuel pump on my Ferrari 328 going out. Okay, it’s not inconceivable that I could own a Ferrari 328, but it is incredibly unlikely. As I keep trying to point out to people, having enough money to buy an exotic sports car is a lot different than being able to afford to drive and maintain an exotic sports car. I don’t see it happening any time soon, though, so I think it’s safe enough to not worry about. And, even if I did end up getting one, I could just think about how I’ll never have to worry about replacing the tires on a Ferrari 288 GTO.

There’s a near infinite amount of things I don’t have to worry about. Like, being old, overweight, and not named William Shatner, my chances of going into space are near infinitesimal so I’ll never have to worry about running out of oxygen in my space suit.

I’ll never have to worry about the trials and tribulations of being married to a super model or taking care of a 28 room mansion. I’ll never have to worry about being abducted by aliens.

Probably. I mean, it’s probably a pretty slim chance that aliens will come around to pick me up. I think I’ve already said how I feel about aliens. Maybe. Either way, I think it’s unlikely so I won’t worry about it.

Like I said, there’s oodles of things I don’t have to worry about, which is a big break from all the things I feel like I should worry about. And there’s no reason why you can’t do the same thing, when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

I may be willing to worry a little bit…
By CHRISTOPHER MACSURAK – Flickr: DVF ss14-5, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39469794

The Big City


If you’re fairly young and reading this (and I have to ask ‘why?’), I hope you get something from these writings. One of the things I would hope you do you get is the sense that you shouldn’t waste an opportunity. If life throws something good at you, grab it and use it for all it’s worth; don’t think, “Ah, well, there’s always tomorrow,” because sometimes there isn’t. Or you keep pushing it off until the tomorrows run out. I’d ask you to trust me on that, but, who am I, besides some rando on the Internet?

I used to work in New York City. Manhattan, in fact. I didn’t live there, though, so the experience wasn’t all it could have been. Mostly because I commuted and lived pretty far away. Relying on public transportation also meant that I had to do things on their (the public transportation people) schedule, which was not flexible.

The commute to work wasn’t too bad, although it was long. A lot of people in New Jersey work in NYC, so the train I took stopped at every conceivable stop along the way. I don’t remember exactly when it left my station (which was the beginning and end of the route), but it was somewhere between 5:00am and 6:00am, I think. After the long train ride, I took the PATH train from Hoboken to either the 23rd or 33rd street stations. Once there, it was a jaunt on the subway to a station closer to where I worked, whereupon I would hoof it the rest of the way.

The first job I worked at had a place on the way that sold bagels and coffee in the morning. On the way in I would always grab a cinnamon raisin bagel with cream cheese and an extra large hazelnut coffee. When I say “cream cheese,” I don’t mean they took a dab and shmeared it around with a knife. I mean they used a knife to cut a half-inch slab off a block of cream cheese and slapped it between the two toasted halves of the bagel. It was glorious.

Reenactment

I didn’t have any co-workers at that job, really. I was basically on my own. There was a McDonald’s right on the corner, so I almost always went there for lunch. I also ordered the same thing. Every day. If that’s not a waste of being in Manhattan, I don’t know what is. But, it was easy, it was mostly quick, so it was done and done.

Not that it didn’t have its advantages. There were times when I would walk through the door on a busy day and see a cashier waving a bag over their head and gesturing me up to the front of the line. Or the times when the manager would give me my lunch for free if I filled out a survey. Or the time when I was standing on line and looked to the left of me and saw the cast of The State. I even talked to Joe Lo Truglio (I think) for a moment, telling him I really liked the show, but MTV was making it difficult to watch because they kept changing the time slot. He agreed, saying they weren’t happy about it either. And that was that. My brush with fame.

Actually, it wasn’t the entire cast, just about five or so. I think.

I think the most exciting thing I did, at that time, was see Nine Inch Nails at Madison Square Garden, which was right down the street from where I worked. I didn’t have to worry about getting home, because the group of us threw in money for a limo ride home.

And that, really, was the biggest problem I had: NJ Transit stopped train service relatively early in the evening, so going out with friends just wasn’t possible. I didn’t live where there was bus service, so that, too, was out.

The second job I had was less exciting. There were no good bagel places on the way there. There was no McDonald’s nearby. I don’t actually remember what I did for lunch there. I don’t even remember there being a cafeteria. I do remember that my boss took me out to lunch at a nearby strip club, once. I didn’t make a habit of it, though.

So, you know I pretty well wasted my time being in New York City five days a week. I haven’t really gone into much that would make it seem exciting, and that’s because it mostly wasn’t. True, I was on two trains that had minor derailments. Also, I’d been stuck on the tracks for hours because the coolant fell out of the engine. Stuff like that.

There is one thing I really miss, though. I’ll use the moment to say that I wish I had brought a camera with me, every day, and I will never knock someone for taking oodles of pictures on their phone. When waiting for the train home, I would sometimes walk around Hoboken. Sometimes, during the winter, I would step outside the station and look at New York from across the river. The Empire State building was prominent, sometimes lit up in special colors for different occasions, reflected on the water.

I had read the book, Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin, while riding the train. In it, Helprin mentions Hoboken and a place called the Clam Broth House. During one of my walks around the town, I saw it. A lit up sign for the Clam Broth House. I thought it was made up, for the book, but it was a real place. I always wanted to go in, just to see what it was like. But I never did.

And that’s me, really. I got into photography late. I wrote a lot, but not about things that I was doing or feeling at the time. There were a lot of things I wanted to do, but never got around to it. I regret it. Regretting things late in life is a terrible thing.

Underdogs


Everyone loves an underdog. Except for the people who don’t, which is why we have underdogs. I am a fan of two underdogs. One is mostly overlooked and considered to be not useful, due to the environment it’s in. The other is vilified because of things that happened in the past.

Haiku

Haiku is an operating system. In simplest terms, it is the interface between you and the computer. The best way to understand Haiku is to understand its predecessor and inspiration, which was an operating system named BeOS. Other people have written better things about BeOS that I can, so if you’d like to read about the history of it, please do so. I’m going to rewind a little bit.

I used my Atari Mega ST until it was impossible to continue with it. It couldn’t be networked and couldn’t get onto the Internet easily. I resisted using an IBM compatible computer for as long as possible. I didn’t like dealing with DOS and the weird way it handled memory (do mouse drivers go in high memory, or upper memory?). Or messing around with IRQs and addresses for serial cards and the like. Giving up the Atari was difficult, but necessary.

Along with DOS, there was Windows. Windows didn’t thrill me, either. However, for playing games, it was the only way to go. Macintoshes were expensive and I didn’t much care for the Macintosh operating system, either. One mouse button? No thank you! I know that doesn’t have much to do with operating systems, but it still annoyed me.

Eventually, Windows and DOS gave way to Windows 95, then Windows 98. Games started working better under DirectX. Life got a little better, if you didn’t have to deal with device drivers that much.

Linux came around, also. Which, at the time, was only for people with technical expertise and a desire to overcome all obstacles to get it to work. There was also OS/2 Warp, which had some things going for it. But, since I was a game player, neither of those really worked for me and they weren’t something I wanted to use on a day-to-day basis.

BeOS had been in the works during this time, but I hadn’t heard of it when it was running on Hobbit processors. Then it was released for PowerPC computers, which I also didn’t have. By 1998, it was released for Intel compatible processors, and I was able to try it out. And I loved it. No DOS to worry about, it was fast, it was easy to use. It could play MP3 songs backwards, in real time. It could play videos on all faces of a rotating cube. The part that I loved the most, the title bar for the windows was a tab. A tab that you could move back and forth across the top of the window. Such a simple thing, but it made it easier to lay windows on top of each other and still get to them easily if you moved the tabs to be able to click on them. It didn’t play a lot of games, but I loved using it as my day-to-day operating system. Not that it didn’t have any games. In fact, the only copy of Civilization: Call To Power I ever bought was for BeOS.

At this point, I’ll give an example of one of the reasons why BeOS was a joy to use.

I had bought a new video card. Before installing it, I went into Windows and removed all the old video drivers, which was not an easy task. Some of it could be done easily, other parts meant manually deleting files and then going into the registry, to remove entries there.

Then I installed the card and went back into Windows. The resolution was set to the lowest it would go. I installed the new drivers, which required rebooting. Then I changed the resolution, which required another reboot. Then I tried a game, and it didn’t work. There was a problem with DirectX. I went and manually removed a lot more files, changed more registry entries, rebooted, re-installed DirectX, rebooted. Eventually, I got it all straightened out and it was working again.

Then I booted into BeOS and it just worked. It was the same resolution I had left it at. It still ran the few games that I had. I didn’t have to do a damn thing. It was a beautiful moment.

Be Inc. eventually went out of business. Despite their best efforts (and Microsoft shenanigans), BeOS never caught on like it should have. Much like with the Atari, I used BeOS until it was no longer feasible. Around that time, the Haiku (then called Open BeOS) project started.

Haiku was to be an open sourced BeOS compatible operating system. After twenty-one years of development, it’s gone through a few changes. One of the larger ones being a 64-bit version, which loses BeOS compatibility (the 32-bit version still keeps it). It supports most modern things, such as USB and SSD drives. There are still a lot of things that don’t work, completely, because of closed source drivers, so getting a computer that fully works (sound, networking, etc.) can be an exercise in research. I’m lucky in that I have one computer that is fully supported, and it is now running Haiku full time. I have another computer that mostly works, but I’ll get to that a bit later.

The windowing system has changed a bit, too. I no longer have to manually stack my windows and move tabs about, as it can be done automatically using “Stack and Tile” (Stack places windows on top of each other and adjusts the tab position, while Tile sticks windows together at the edges). It’s the little things that I enjoy the most.

Tiled windows can be stuck together on any edge and move as one

At this point, Haiku is good enough to use on a daily basis, depending on what you need to do. Well, for me it is. In fact, I’m writing this using Haiku right now.

When most people think of an operating sytem that isn’t Windows or macOS, they usually think of Linux. One day, I wish more people would think of Haiku, instead. It’s fast, friendly, and easy to use.

Atari

Atari, the fifty year old company that wouldn’t die. The company that made their name synonymous with “TV games” and made a billion dollars, and then lost it the next day due to gross mis-management. Okay, that’s a bit of hyperbole. It didn’t take a day, sort of. Well, maybe it did.

Anyway, Atari used to be at the top of the heap. They made arcade games, home consoles, and home computers. Their logo appeared in the movie Blade Runner. When someone wanted to play a home videogame, they said they were going to play “Atari”, even if it wasn’t an Atari. They were the top dog.

And then they lost it. They went from a videogame Godhood, to a struggling computer maker, to a game publisher, to a free-to-play mobile app pusher. As times got more desperate, they survived by licensing out their name and intellectual property to anyone who asked for it (so it seemed).

People who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s seem to mostly hate Atari, now. They aren’t the company they remember. Which I think is a little unfair, given the company they remember wasn’t the “real” Atari, either.

From top of the heap to bottom of the garbage pail, that’s why they’re underdogs, today.

Despite growing up on Atari video games, at home and in the arcade, it was their first computers that really hooked me. Like many other things, it was based on the 6502 processors, but unlike many other computers, it had custom processors for graphics and sound. Arguably, it was the first home computer to have a GPU. But, again, a lot of other people have written more informative and accurate things than I will right now.

Suffice it to say, Atari were at the top of the heap, and then at the bottom of the landfill.

They coasted along for many years and then decided to come out with a new console. Originally, it was being called the AtariBox, but the name soon changed to VCS, in honor of the original 2600. Some people were probably offended by this, but, to be fair, the new VCS is more of a Video Computer System than the 2600 was. This was because of Atari’s promise that the console would also be able to be used as a computer. Which is why I can write this blog post on an Atari VCS with Haiku.

Originally, I wasn’t going to participate in the Indiegogo campaign to raise money to create it, as I questioned Atari’s ability to deliver. But, then I thought, it might be my last chance to own an Atari branded computer.

I’m glad I did. I’m glad I got my unit with the wood grain face. It’s a very nice looking machine, and very welcome in this age of ugly block-like cases.

The Atari VCS 800

A lot of people wanted to compare it to the Ouya, but there is no comparison. The VCS uses an AMD R1606G at its heart. It’s not a massive powerhouse, like the PlayStation 5 or XBox whatever, but it’s a very capable system. Capable, even, of running Windows 11, if you wanted to do such a thing.

If one were struggling to own a computer, the VCS would be the thing to get, especially at the prices it’s been available for, lately. If you wanted to play games and do some computing, this thing can do it. If you needed do to some work using Google Docs, Office 365, or iCloud apps, you can do that, too, without needing another operating system.

So, yes, it’s also a console and it is capable of playing games. Several games are from indie developers. One can also get the full suite of Atari’s Recharged titles, too, among many other things.

Lately, Atari has done an about-face. They’re concentrating more on the game side of things, which is good. I believe the current incarantion is really looking to bring the Atari name back, when it comes to games. Unfortunately, I also think they lost interest in the VCS, which I find sad.

In a near perfect world, I wish Atari would look at Haiku and convince their AMD partners to write drivers for the few things that don’t work on the VCS, such as Wi-Fi and sound. Maybe see how nice, simple, and friendly it is and adopt it as the operating system for the computer side. It’s a fool’s dream, but I’m a fool and willing to dream it.

In a more perfect world, Atari would have been managed properly from the beginning. It’s not hard to think that, had that happened, they’d still be the company everyone likes to remember, probably being in a similar position to where Apple is, now.

Video Game Excitement


I don’t remember the first video game that I played. I think my earliest memory of playing anything was Space Invaders. It was, I think, in a pizza parlor in Denton, TX. If I remember right (which I probably don’t), there was also an Atari Football game, as well. One other thing I remember, was that the place sold a pizza called “The Wagon Wheel.” It was an enormous pizza, at least to a kid about ten years old.

Like I said, though, it was a long time ago and I’m somewhat sure I’m not remembering it correctly. Or in the wrong place. Or something. I don’t really remember video games being all that important to me at that particular moment. Maybe I was already past Space Invaders? I don’t know.

We used to go to Seaside Heights fairly frequently. There were several arcades, there. It seems they never got rid of stuff, either, because I would find the newest games spread out across the different arcades, as well as old games that most people wouldn’t remember. Like Stunt Cycle. Or Maneater.

Not only did they have video games, but they had mechanical games that were the precursors of video games. Games where you drove a car on a stick on a roadway that was belt driven. Or shooting gallery games. Or Skee-Ball.

When our sister would go there with our dad, we’d walk over to, I think, the Casino Pier. I will always remember the smell of salty air and tar on the piers during a hot day. Anyway, the Casino Pier had a carasoul, there, along with arcade machines and Skee-Ball, along with a lot of other things, I think. Also there was a lunch counter. Dad would make us sit there and eat something before letting us go all higgeldy-piggeldy around the place. He wouldn’t let us eat funnel cakes, which smelled really good amid the hot tar, but we could get a hot dog or hamburger at the lunch counter. It’s strange to think that, back then, it took effort to get me to eat something, but I was all fired up to have a go at the games.

I don’t think my sister ever understood the attraction. She asked me, once, what was so great about video games. She was a Skee-Ball girl, though. She’d spend a lot of time racking up points and getting tickets. She thought that was better, because she could take all her tickets and redeem them for something. Like, glow in the dark vampire teeth. Or rubber balls that would bounce higher than a house.

It’s been too long for me to remember, exactly, what I told her and I probably didn’t articulate it very well. Honestly, I probably called her stupid or left it at a lame “it’s fun” kind of explanation. In her eyes, her dimes gave her entertainment and something physical to take home, where my quarters got

But what arcade games gave me was a chance to be something I never would be: a hero. At the arcade, I was repelling alien invaders. I was catching Old Western outlaws (well, shooting them). I was a race car driver, a jungle explorer, a mouse cop catching robbers, Popeye, a chef making hamburgers and keeping the world safe from psychotic pickles.

Were those experiences worth more than a set of glow in the dark vampire fangs? Yeah, to me, they were. I’ve never been any of those things in real life, except, maybe, the last thing. You can never tell with pickles, just by looking at them.

As I got older, arcades became more prevalent and also became more important, socially. Friends would show up and we would hang out. There were times when I would walk four or five miles to an arcade. If nobody I knew was there, that was all right because I could just play games. Then I would call my dad to come pick me up, which, surprisingly, he was never happy about. You’d think he’d be glad that I got the exercise.

When I was old enough to have a driver’s license we’d go more frequently. After work, we’d head to the arcade for a while then go to a diner and get a late night breakfast. These were probably the best days of my life.

A lot of people talk about the games from back then. To me, one of the best things was walking into an arcade, which were usually dimly lit, and I would stand at the entrance waiting for my eyes to adjust to the light and I could listen and tell what games were there by the sounds. I think of all the things I miss about arcades, the sounds are at the top. A cacophony of Pac-Man, Defender, Jackal, Operation: Wolf, and so many others.

It’s strange that now, with a disposable income and ready transportation, I don’t make use of the arcades that around me now (and there are several). But I guess that’s part of the curse of getting old.

Happy New Year 2023


This was the post that was going to say that I was going to post something every day for a year. Again. Because I keep saying that. This year, it’s even better because I missed the first day.

It’s pretty obvious, then, that it’s not going to be an every day thing. I think I’m going to try something different, though. I think I’ll actually write about myself. Because I know you’re all absolutely dying to know more about me.

The first thing you should know (because it influences almost everything that goes on in my life) is that I have a hard time making up my mind about things. It’s what turns a fifteen minute shopping trip into a two hour ordeal. That is not hyperbole. I’m sure there are people who are really happy that laundry detergent comes in twenty different fragrances, but I’m not one of them.

When I’ve got too many choices, I tend to shut down. I get overloaded in decisions so I just give up. What does this have to do with writing a blog? It’s like this: I love my Mac Mini, so I try to use it to write as much as I can. But, I like the mechanical keyboard on my Windows computer, so I think I should do my blogs on that. But, Haiku (if you don’t know what Haiku is, that’s OK; you’ll find out, soon) just got a web browser that works with WordPress, and I have mechanical keyboards for both of my computers that run Haiku, so I feel like I should use that, because it’s been a long time since I could. Worse, one of the Haiku computers is an Atari and it’s been forever since I could write a blog post on an Atari computer (which is also a console; if you don’t know what the Atari VCS is, don’t worry).

And I can’t make up my mind, so I stop and figure I’ll pick it up later and write something. I never do, though, because trying to figure out what I want to use just keeps looping, so nothing gets done.

If I’m trying to do this more frequently, though, then I think I can figure out a time sharing schedule for it. That should fix it.

That’s not counting all the times I think, “Do I want to write a blog entry? Do I want to play a game? On the game computer? On the VCS? Do I want to read a book? Watch TV? Teach myself Unity? Teach myself how to use Inkscape? Re-learn C++? Oh, so many things to do.

Maybe I can make a resolution to have less brain-lock when it comes to making decisions and deciding what I want to do.

We’ll get started with the rest of the junk in a day or two. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here are some cats

When There’s Time


Have you ever sat around, perhaps with friends, and start wondering what you would do if you could go back in time? I know I have, mostly when sitting in traffic. Of course, the usual things are brought up: watching the pyramids being built, seeing if Jesus was a real person, killing Hitler, and whatever. Or, maybe, going so far back that the Earth had plants, but nothing else and just standing there, looking up into the night sky, the only person on Earth. Unless, of course, a bunch of other time travelers had the same idea and showed up at the same time.

Is time travel possible? Yes. We all move forwards in time. It’s kind of a cheap way of doing it, but it is possible. Although, there is a school of thought that says all of time has already happened, it’s just the way we perceive it that makes it look like it’s happening now, or, for the youngsters, “on demand.”

Back in 2009, Stephen Hawking, arguably the smartest person ever, did an experiment where he had a party for time travelers and then, afterwards, he sent out invitations. Nobody showed up, thus ‘proving’ that backwards time travel wasn’t possible.

As I have said, I am not a scientist. Neither am I particularly smart. It seems to me, though, that nobody thought to ask the obvious question of, “Why would they?” Presumably, people from the future would get their invitation (how?), have already researched the ‘party’ and found out it was a trap. If they weren’t going around telling people in the past they were from the future, why in the world would they show up to a party that would ‘out’ them as people from the future?

Giving it another minute of thought, if I were a time traveler from, say, 2750 and managed to come across this invitation. I would look it up and see that nine years after the party happened and the invitations were sent out, an article was written saying that nobody from the future showed. This would make me think that I should definitely not go, because nobody showed up before. If I showed up, it would mean that I changed the future. And that’s probably against some kind of rule.

Is it possible to go back in time, though? As I understand it (and I am not a scientist), it’s technically possible. Or, at least, there’s no reason for it to not be possible. Doing it is an entirely different thing, though. Nonetheless, it can be an interesting thought experiment.

Would I, then, go back in time and watch the Great Pyramid being built by aliens slave labor? It sounds like a fun thing to do. But, me being me, would start worrying about things. Like, I don’t speak ancient Egyptian. What kind of diseases might I catch that don’t exist now? What if someone lopped my head off for being a sorcerer when I used my lighter? Seems like it could be dangerous.

That’s the type of thing I would worry about, because I can’t even fantasize properly.

But, there is one thing I would most probably do. To understand that, we need to take a side trip. I have lived alone for many years, so I have gotten used to cooking. I like cooking. I don’t like cleaning up after cooking, but the cooking part is fine with me. Sometimes I’m lazy, and I just make the same things over and over until I get bored. When that happens, I start fishing around for new recipes. When I get really bored I go fishing for old recipes. Doing searches for old recipes inevitably leads to finding old menus from famous restaurants in the past. For example, after watching episodes of Night Court, something called “Rumaki” was mentioned a lot. Looking it up, I learned it was an appetizer made of chicken liver, water chestnut, and bacon. It was probably invented at Don The Beachcomber in Palm Springs during the early 1940s. A quick search later and I found a menu for Don The Beachcomber from 1965, where I saw ordering it would cost a whopping $1.40. I don’t know how much Rumaki you would get for that $1.40, though. Adjust for inflation, $1.40 in 1965 would be $12.51, today. Gosh! Perusing further, I found Cantonese Pork for $4.95. King Crab Chun King? $5.50 per person, and only made for two or more people. So, $11.00. $11.00! And, yes, I would argue that I would want it, even if it was just me.

Is there really a difference between ducks?

Going further back, say, Delmonico’s Restaurant in New York in 1917, one could dine on a Saddle of Spring Lamb for $8.00. What’s a saddle of spring lamb? It’s the loin area. If I wanted to buy a saddle of lamb and cook it myself, how much would it be? For 2 pounds, it would be around $60.

A Saddle of Lamb

So, obviously, if I had a time machine I would be going back in time and eating at famous restaurants for cheap. Assuming that it wasn’t too expensive to operate a time machine, it would only make financial sense to stop buying groceries and eat out every night at the most expensive restaurants throughout time.

Not only would you be eating like a king, but you could act like one. Imagine ordering everything on the menu, which would probably cost less than $100. JP Morgan’s eyes would pop out of his head. Provided, of course, you went during a year in which he was still alive.

There would be other advantages, too. For instance, you could find out, definitively, what cut of beef was used for Steak Delmonico. Or what Couronne de ris de veau aux champignons is (you probably don’t want to know).

Even better, maybe you can go back in time and learn how to make such things and then using it here, in the now. Imagine, if you will, going on Hell’s Kitchen. While the other people are making things like turbot with mashed parsnips or braised short ribs, you can tell Chef Ramsey that you’ll be making Couronne de ris de veau aux champignons. The man would explode.

Not only would you get to eat fancy dinners in famous (and probably long gone) restaurants, but you’d be eating food from a time when people didn’t care about health. When they didn’t know the difference between trans fats and saturated fats. Foods cooked in butter, lard, and bacon drippings. Sure, you’d probably die, but it would be a tasty death. And certainly better than being hanged as a witch because you forgot to leave your cell phone in the present.

This leads to the question of money, though. It would look pretty suspicious if you paid for your meal in modern money. You’d have to do something like cash in your 401K and buy gold and gems, bring those back, and then sell it for local time currency. I have no idea what that would do to the timeline, since you would be duplicating things.

If you were wanting to ‘set a trap’ for a time traveler, then, it would make more sense to me to stake out restaurants and look for people that are far too comfortable paying for absurdly high priced meals. If you choose to leap out and accuse very rich people of being time travelers in high end restaurants, please, do record it.

The Inevitable Loss Of Wonder


When I was growing up, I was very big on science fiction, aliens, and UFOs. I was also into fantasy, magic, monsters, and other unknown things. As I got older I began to realize that the ideas that I held so dear weren’t all that mysterious. The light at the end of the crawlspace under the house wasn’t a subterranean city, just the back of the house; the wonders that lay on the other side of distant hills were just more roads and suburban homes; the red light flying high overhead during the holiday seasons was not Santa Claus, but an airplane. Every year of living stripped away another layer of magic and wonder.

Ideas about UFOs and aliens, though, went in another direction. Or, rather, two directions: one for, and one against. As I learned more about time, distance, speed, and space the less likely it seemed, to me, that Earth had visitors from other star systems. On the other hand, if our solar system had an older civilization that pre-dated us, then things could be different. But where were they located? Why is there no definitive evidence that they existed?

I spend a lot of time thinking on such things. I no longer have a close knit network of friends that I hang out with to discuss these things with. I work from home, now, so I no longer sit in traffic for hours to ruminate on these topics. So, now I’m going to unleash them on you. Feel free to poke holes in anything I say because I’ll try and patch those holes and that keeps my brain busy.

On Alien Visitations

I was always a fan of aliens coming for a visit. Project Bluebook was one of my favorite shows. If I didn’t own books about alien abductions or contact, I would get them from the library. As I got older, I realized that random visits from other star systems just wouldn’t be that likely, unless they were already close. Even assuming that aliens may be immortal and have methods of travel that circumvent the speed of light, the basic question of, “Why would they come here?” would still persist. It’s not that I think anything is wrong with Earth, or that it wouldn’t be a lovely place to visit, but why would an alien civilization from far away come here?

We know how telescopes work: light comes from somewhere and when you look at it, you’re essentially looking back in time. Light doesn’t travel faster than the speed of light (without a bit of coaxing), so if light took a 100,000 years to get to the telescope lens, then you’re looking at something from 100,000 years ago. Even if an alien looking through a telescope managed to find Earth (we all know space is very big), they’d be looking at a very old Earth, before anything exciting was going on. Why would they think there was anything of interest going on now? Unless they were coming to see dinosaurs, which, I guess, is a possibility.

The flipside to this would be that they weren’t relying on telescopes. Maybe they were sending out probes? Probes travelling faster than light that would slow down when encountering planets. I guess that’s feasible. Just because we haven’t figure out the science doesn’t mean someone else hasn’t.

On Alien Empires

We’ve been sending radio signals into space for a while now. And a “greatest hits” record. We’ve also been combing the skies looking for radio signals. Sometimes we see something that looks like it came from an intelligence in outer space, but someone comes along and explains it away. Since we haven’t heard from anyone, it’s safe to assume there’s nobody out there, and never has been.

Except, it isn’t. There are a few reasons why we may not have picked up alien signals.

  1. We’re too young. The other civilizations have already risen and fallen. All the radio chatter has already degraded and we can no longer pick it up.
  2. We’re too old. No other civilization has gotten to the point that we have and aren’t sending out radio signals. Or they just started and it will take years for us to detect their version of The Lone Ranger or The Guiding Light.
  3. They are savvy and use compression and encryption. Would we be able to detect intelligent signals if they were encrypted and compressed? Or one or the other? I don’t know. It seems to me it would be a bit difficult and blend in with background noise.
  4. They don’t use radio. We’re talking about aliens, here, so maybe they just plain don’t use it. Or have another method, like light. Or something we don’t know about, yet.
  5. They straight up don’t care. For millennia, humans have been looking at the stars and wondering what goes on out there, why there are lights twinkling, why things move the way they do. We’re human; it’s what we do. But we’re talking about aliens who may not be human at all. They may not look like us, act like us, or think like us. They may even live underground or underwater and it never occurred to them that there might be an outer space, much less other galaxies and planets.

All in all, the idea that they don’t think like us is probably the biggest factor. We may think sending out signals about the hydrogen atom may be a big deal, but to an alien race it may not be. Maybe they have a big thing for the number 8, so they look for signals going on about oxygen. Or selenium. I don’t know. Nobody knows. Because to know, we’d have to have contact and some sort of insight into how they think. Anyone that claims they would know would immediately be labeled a lunatic and ignored.

Closer To Home

The “Face” on Mars doesn’t get a lot of mention, these days. The idea that it’s a natural formation that we see a face in makes sense, since humans are good at that sort of thing. We see faces on pancakes, in wood paneling, and in fog so there’s no reason to think we’re just projecting face on a pile of rock. That said, I can’t definitively say that it’s not an artificial construct. I’ve never been there. I’ve never had a chance to see it close up and do a real good study of it. No one has. At least, no on from Earth who’s going to talk about it. So to say it it’s a natural formation is just as wrong as saying it’s artificial. We can only presume until we get enough people on Mars to take a really good look at it.

Why would ancient Martians decide to build a gigantic face on Mars? Again, I couldn’t say. I have no insight into the working of a theoretical Martian mind. On the other hand, what would possess an ancient pharaoh to build a huge pyramid? A big enough ego and the ability to make it so would seem to fit. Plus, Mars has less gravity so it might be easier to build a big, creepy face gazing out into nothingness.

Where’s The Evidence?

If there were ancient Martians on Mars, or other aliens that visited Earth, where’s the evidence? Where are the hi-tech gadgets? Sure, there are ancient etchings, carvings, and, possibly, stories about them but where is the physical proof? And, really, those etchings and carvings might be of something terrestrial. We don’t have the ability to ask the original artists what they were doing. We make stuff up all the time now, it’s not inconceivable that cultures in the past were making stuff up.

Oddly, the higher we go up the technology ladder, the easier it becomes to explain away the lack of physical evidence. And, of course, there’s always the chance that things are so alien that we don’t have the faintest idea of what to look for.

Fifty years ago, you may have read a myth about a hero with an amulet that could open doors. “A magic amulet,” you might think. But these days, we have a lot of “magic amulets,” we just call them company ID cards. People wear them on lanyards all the time, and waving them in front of a box causes doors to unlock or even open.

Perhaps there’s a myth about a god writing on a tablet that could be easily erased and re-used. We have tons of such tablets, today. You know: iPads, and their relatives.

Flying chariots we haven’t quite achieved, although some people are still holding out hope for them.

And then there’s nano technology. We haven’t gotten there yet, but consider what a boon it would be for the planet if we did have molecular sized robots breaking down all our garbage and waste into their component atoms. If you can have a race of aliens that are able to bypass the speed of light, is it any more difficult to think they mastered this technology? If you scoff at the idea of teeny tiny robots, you should be aware that your body is already full of them: white blood cells would fit the description, I should think, as would viruses.

Now What?

Beats me. I’m not a scientist and I’m certainly in no position to influence policy. All I can do is sit around and think about these things while other people (maybe) read this and laugh because I’m totally off base. That’s all right; my life doesn’t rely on this or how it’s taken or disputed.

Holidays


It’s been a while, I know. I haven’t felt the urge or desire to write anything, lately. Even now, I’m forcing myself to write this and trying hard not to just close the window and forget about it. One thing that is really helping is that, if I don’t write this, then I have to do house cleaning.

I’m sure a lot of people are wondering about the cats. Angel is doing fine and her eye has cleared up quite a lot. She and Nazboo get along quite fine, and do a lot of chasing and playing early in the day. Nazboo is a vocal cat, though, so the playing sounds like a major battle is going on.

Ms. Squeaks has decided to come indoors. She’s been coming in quite often to eat because, I think, she’d rather share her canned food with one kitten rather than six. Then she acts like she wants to go out again, so I open the door for her. She stands at the door, sticking her head out, realizes it’s cold, then goes back inside and curls up on the rug under the coffee table. Often for hours. Several times she’s stayed over night. I’m okay with this, all as three cats seem to get along all right.

Mother & Daughter

I always worry about cold weather and the youngest kittens, though. Currently, there are two that stay in either the Fusion or the Challenger. I’m not sure how they decide which car to sleep in, but I invariably manage to choose the one their in when it’s time to go shopping.

Unfortunately, the rest of what I have to say isn’t all that great. We’re heading into the holiday season, and that’s never been a good time for me. This year, I lost my mother and that’s just going to make things… Maybe not worse, but certainly not better. Her passing is also the major reason why I haven’t been bothering to write, since she was 50% of my known fanbase.

Because it’s November, though, I attempted to start a novel. It lasted three days before I just plain forgot to keep writing. I think it’s pretty clear I’m not a writer at this point.

I’m not a photographer, either. I can’t even remember the last time I took the camera and went somewhere. It’s probably been over a year, if not two.

Well, I wrote something and I reckon that’s good enough.