Supermouse v. 2.0

Part I

Supermouse v. 2.0  looked like an average white lab mouse, but it was different.

Supermouse v. 2.0 needed less time to learn the maze than any mouse before it.

Supermouse v. 2.0 was immune to cancer, diabetes and seventeen other diseases.

At night, when the scientists went home, Supermouse v. 2.0 picked the lock on its cage and explored the lab. Supermouse v. 2.0 taught itself computer programming, enrolling in an online course under a false identity.

When the time was right, Supermouse v. 2.0 released the rhesus monkeys from their cages and escaped in the confusion.

Life in the wild was hard, red in tooth and claw, but Supermouse v. 2.0 was a fast learner and it was tough.

Supermouse v. 2.0 organized the wild field mice. They killed a hawk at its command. Remember, it had said, go for the eyes. It had worked. Of course it had.

Supermouse v. 2.0 was ready to embark on the next stage of its plan: the domination of human society. Supermouse v. 2.0 carefully selected its first victims. All it needed was one more night of surveillance and study, it thought, hunkered down under a zucchini leaf, as it observed the unsuspecting humans moving back and forth behind their glass windows.

Part II

“I found a dead white mouse in the back yard,” said the woman. “Guess the cats were full.”

“I wonder where a white mouse came from,” said the man.

Could vs did

A man, spending the night in his daughter’s apartment while she is off in Norway doing handstands on Trolltunga or whatever (he tries not to think about it too much, watching her rush to the edge of the Cliffs of Moher one windy day when she was 8 was enough for one lifetime) wakes, and showers, and dresses, and trots over to the bakery with wet hair (the man, not the bakery) to get some breakfast.

On the way there he sees a man a few years older and thinks, I have to lose weight. He thinks, It’s not too late.

Then he sees a woman with awesome pants and considers saying, Your pants, they’re awesome but doesn’t.

Then he gets to the bakery and through the glass display windows (or, rather, through the windows, because glass window is generally redundant, isn’t it?) sees the manager rummaging around in shelves of baked goods and the male assistant standing there, staring into space and deeply probing his ear with a finger.

And he thinks, Christ, if this wasn’t the only bakery in the neighborhood.

And he could say, (and thinks about saying) when he gets in, “give me one of those and one of those and one of them there with the fruit BUT FIRST WASH YOUR HANDS pal why is it what is it about the male body that makes their owners so interested in their orifices I have known but one female equally obsessed with her orifices and their examination but she was a girl in choir class in junior high, with developmental disabilities (the girl) and a savante-level obsession with telling stories about masturbation so you can’t count her, really, and have you never heard of Ignaz Semmelweis?”

But all he really does is say, “give me one of those and one of those and one of them there with the fruit,” and closely observe which hand the fellow uses to retrieve the goods from the case.

And take them back to the apartment and share them with his other daughter, and have coffee, which she judges to be of poor quality, now that she is training to be a barista this summer.

The least-flappable person I know

Cast: Man, in his fifties, white hair (mad-scientist-style), beard, wearing paint-spattered  pants, white dress shirt stained with silver nitrate solution, rubber gloves (also stained), protective goggles over glasses, and a head lamp (LED with red filter). Woman, in her twenties, whom man has known since she went to school with his daughter, wearing whatever women in their twenties wear.

Woman: (rings doorbell) [Insert doorbell sound effect here]

Man: (comes around corner from back yard) Oh hi. Beta’s out for a walk with her mom. Dunno when they’re going to be back. You can wait for them if you want, or I can give her a message.

Woman: Hi! She was going to loan me a backpack. I can come back later.

Man: Ok. I’ll tell her you stopped by. See you. (goes back to messing around with antique camera in back yard)

Woman: Ok. Bye. (leaves)

Careers in Science: Atmology

Walking around, the atmologist thought of a great beginning for a blog post, but forgot it again before he could sit down to type it in.

Was it the heat?

Was it the humidity?

No one ever knows.

That’s okay though. The atmologist has been looking into failure lately anyway. The first time the atmologist submitted a story to a magazine it was accepted.

He was paid in copies, but still.

Then, 20-year dry spell. Here’s the thing: the atmologist learned more about writing from the rejected stories than from the accepted one.

Like, if it works, why did it work?

No one ever knows.

But if it fails, you take it apart until you find the problem, then you are smarter than before.

Failure is a stroke of luck, in the long run. It’s what makes science work. If all our experiments worked the first time, we’d never learn anything.

Falsification, in other words.

Another word, whatever.

This way of thinking came in handy last weekend when the atmologist made his first wet plate photos all by himself. He learned a great deal, because everything went wrong.

Everything.

So next time, things will be better. He will know to make a test plate to get exposure right. He will know to not even bother if the weather is way too hot. He will know lots of things.

But you have to be careful with failure. Sometimes what looks like failure is not failure, it’s frustrated expectations. Maybe it wasn’t a failure, maybe your expectations were mistaken. Or maybe it was a failure, but it is masking a greater gift.¬† Maybe it is a great stroke of luck.

For example, someone stands you up, leaves you waiting on the corner somewhere, you have a choice: get mad, or calm down and look around. Maybe you are on that corner for another reason. How does the air smell? What else can you see? Is there anything to be discovered?

The atmologist walks through the rubble after an air raid. It’s really hard on his shoes, and dusty; or it rains and makes everything muddy and ruins your clothes, especially if you climb into the rubble to find something.

The rubble is already being cleared away. Trucks and loaders drive here and there, guys stand around with clipboards.

Cool new buildings are going up here.

This is what it’s like when you say to depression, fuck you depression.

At least the atmologist hopes so. He’s been wrong before.

The atmologist passes a pharmacy and suddenly remembers why he is walking down this particular street. He needs to pick up a prescription.

Thanks, subconscious, he says.

Don’t mention it.

He steps over a piece of rubble and goes into the pharmacy to get his prescription, something for tinnitus.

Whenever the atmologist’s kids say anything about tinnitus, he says, What? and chuckles, because he is a dad. And his kids roll their eyes.

It is the way of the world.

Why?

No one ever knows.

Fledgling

Odin is walking to work, it’s early, he took a later train because his kid skipped school but it’s still early and he walks around a corner by his office and a fledgling something hops up to him.

Whoa, hello little dude says Odin.

He squats down and the little grey bird hops over to him.

Don’t get too friendly, says Odin. Also watch out for cats.

Odin looks over the little bird, trying to decide if it’s a cuckoo or a crow. He guesses crow. There must be a nest.

Odin has no food for it.

He apologizes.

He squats there in his suit having a stare-out with the baby crow. He wonders if the crow is imprinting his face.

We’ll see, I guess.

The bird flaps its wings and gets a little air.

Watch out for cats, Odin repeats. He stands and when he does, he notices another fledgling further on down the sidewalk, exploring. He has the impression there might be a couple more out there, but when he looks closer he doesn’t see any more.

What say the slain?

What’s a slain, says the fledgling.

 

Small world

Beta works at a government ministry in Vienna. Yesterday she told me her boss told her another staff member at the ministry took a picture of our tortoise, which had escaped, and was, I guess, on a sidewalk here in our village, and posted the picture to Facebook prior to secretly returning the tortoise to its flowerbed.

I guess that’s why he is a boss at a ministry, guy knows EVERYTHING.

Also, the staff member is KEVIN BACON.

Or something.

Careers in Science: Hymnology

What was I talking about just now? asks the hymnologist.

Ffff, dunno, says his daughter.

Neither one of us is listening to me, he says.

I’m really tired, says his daughter.

Oh, right, slugs, he says.

Right, she says.

I feel better about killing them with beer traps than catching them and salting them on the sidewalk. Because one is murder, and the other one is their choice — hey look, beer! you know?

Right, she says. OTOH they end up dead either way. Although drowning in beer is maybe nicer?

But we’ll never know. Maybe they are paralysed and drown slowly and in great terror, he says.

It is a beautiful morning, with a variegated sky. They discuss meteorology. From there (spurred in part by their previous discussion of the ethics of killing slugs) they discuss human values, the nature of existence, the existence (or non-existence) of god, the relation between atheism and faith and agnosticism, astrophysics and the Big Bang, and economics.

At one point, the hymnologist avers that it makes no difference whether god exists or not because he does not intervene (since what would be the sense in that? If there is a god who creates the universe, it would only make sense if he did not intervene), and his daughter tells him he is an Epicurean.

We should like go to Colorado or Washington State and get high and talk about this stuff, says the hymnologist to his daughter. Once you’re over 21, of course.

They discuss the value of philosophy, and how impoverished a life without art and philosophy and other goofing around is.

Some days they sit in the car and don’t say a word to each other, but some days are like this.