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THE AMAZING TALKING CAT

by jim miller

SO I AM SITTING at my computing machine earning my living, and my cat wanders in and speaks to me.  I recognize that category of discourse immediately; it is meowus ordinari, the common house cry.

The two other primary varieties of cat speech are meowus bigtroubli, a sort of low growling moan, and screechus extremeli, which is an upper-register howl designed to alert people in Utah to the existence of certain troubling facts.

Those two modes of expression always demand my immediate attention.  The former usually means there's an opossum in the kitchen; the latter means that the cat is being abducted by aliens -- a not uncommon occurrence, alas.

Meowus ordinari often has to do with food.  Less often, it has to do with access.  Boomer has a cat door, but she does not like the cat door.  She is a large cat, and her door is not a large door.  She would much prefer the services of a doorman.

So I am sitting, as I say, my stubby fingers flying over the keys, and the cat is standing in the middle of the room and speaking.  Whatever she is talking about, I know she can wait just a minute.

I mean, she's a cat.  She weighs 13 pounds.  I weigh 195.  I do not have claws, but I have a certain animal cunning. I can purchase weapons.  I am the alpha male.  If I am creating lovely sentences, the cat is going to have to like it or lump it, although she will certainly lump it.

And she can just go on lumping it until I am ready to deal with her demands.  There can be nothing less than absolute clarity on the power dynamics.  Me:  Big human, opposable thumb, knows many words of French, can drive a car.  Her:  Small cat, no thumb, limited speech, owns no vehicles. I ask you:  Who is the master?

BUT SHE DOES not meow just once.  She meows and meows and meows.  She walks up and down, as though she were doing the Meow Play in a theater-in-the-round.  She attempts to establish eye contact.

Well, of course it is impossible to create prose with a damn cat yowling in one's ear.  I stand up, stare down at the cat and say, "OK, what is it?"

She immediately goes into the "Quick, Timmy, come quick, old farmer Roberts is drowning in the crick" dance.  She races toward the object of desire and turns to see if I'm coming.  If I'm not, she runs back toward me, turns and runs away.  "Follow me, Timmy, the whirlpool at Devil's Bend is dragging him under!"

Reluctantly, I follow her.  Unsurprisingly, our destination is the food bowl.

I GET DOWN on my knees.  I run my fingers through the kibble.  "Look, Boomer, plenty of food still left.  None of these Poultry Platter Flavor bits are over 24 hours old.  Besides, and forgive me for mentioning this, you're a cat."

But no.  The food doesn't smell right or something.  I know that if I were to leave the house in a rush and forget to fill the cat bowl, then somehow the vile food that did not smell right would be all gone when I returned home to strenuous recriminations.

Boomer understands my attitude instantly.  She runs in distressed circles.  "Poison, poison, my master is trying to poison me.  Whatever am I to do?  I am but a poor neutered cat with no means of support.  Oh, poor me, oh dear."

I know where this is leading.  If I go back into my room, she'll follow, and the dance will begin again.  I get some more food and put it in her bowl.

She walks away, not wishing to seem over-eager.  She lies down and starts washing herself. Food?  She is indifferent to food.  I let loose a howlus anguishii, the cry of the American cat owner.



OWED TO THE SPELL CHECKER

I have a spelling checker --
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it's weigh,
My checker tolled me sew.

A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when aye rime.

To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should be proud.
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaws are knot aloud.

And now bee cause my spelling
Is checked with such grate flare,
Their are know faults with in my cite,
Of none eye am a wear.

Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed to bee a joule
The checker poured over every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.

That's why aye brake in two averse
By righting wants too pleas.
Sow now ewe sea why aye dew prays
Such soft wear for pea seas!



MOM'S DICTIONARY

Adults  --  Group of people Mom longs to communicate with after several hours of talking in small words about topics like "who touched who first."

Airplane  --  What Mom impersonates to get a 1-yr.-old to eat strained beets.

Alien  --  What Mom would suspect had invaded her house if she spotted a child-sized creature cleaning up after itself.

Apple  --  Nutritious lunchtime dessert which children will trade for cupcakes.

Baby  --  1. Dad, when he gets a cold.  2. Mom's youngest child, even if he's 42.

Bathroom  --  A room used by the entire family, believed by all except Mom to be self-cleaning.

Because  --  Mom's reason for having kids do things which can't be explained logically.

Bed and Breakfast  --  Two things the kids will never make for themselves.

Carpet  --  Expensive floor covering used to catch spills and clean mud off shoes.

Car Pool  --  Complicated system of transportation where Mom always winds up going the furthest with the biggest bunch of kids who have had the most sugar.

China  --  Legendary nation reportedly populated by children who love leftover vegetables.

Cook  --  1. Act of preparing food for consumption.  2. Mom's other name.

Couch Potato  --  What Mom finds under the sofa cushions after the kids eat dinner.

Date  --  Infrequent outings with Dad where Mom can enjoy worrying about the kids in a different setting.

Drinking Glass  --  Any carton or bottle left open in the fridge.

Dust  --  Insidious interloping particles of evil that turn a home into a battle zone.

Dust Rags  --  See "Dad's Underwear."

Ear  --  A place where kids store dirt.

Eat  --  What kids do between meals, but not at them.

Empty Nest  --  See "Wishful Thinking."

Energy  --  Element of vitality kids always have an oversupply of until asked to do something.

Excuse Me"  --  One of Mom's favorite phrases, reportedly used in past times by children.

Eye  --  The highly susceptible optic nerve which, according to Mom, can be "put out" by anything from a suction-arrow to a carelessly handled butter knife.

Fable  --  A story told by a teenager arriving home after curfew.

Food  --  The response Mom usually gives in answer to the question "What's fordinner tonight?" See "Sarcasm".

Frozen  --  1. A type of food.   2. How hell will be when Mom lets her daughter date an older guy with a motorcycle.

Garbage  --  A collection of refuse items, the taking out of which Mom assigns to a different family member each week, then winds up doing herself.

Geniuses  --  Amazingly, all of Mom's kids.

Gum  --  Adhesive for the hair.

Hamper  --  A wicker container with a lid, usually surrounded by, but not containing, dirty clothing.

Handi-Wipes  --  Pants, shirt-sleeves, drapes, etc.

Hands  --  Body appendages which must be scrubbed raw with volcanic soap and sterilized in boiling water immediately prior to consumption of the evening meal.

Hindsight  --  What Mom experiences from changing too many diapers.

Homemade Bread  --  An object of fiction like the Fountain of Youth and the Golden Fleece.

Ice  --  Cubes of frozen water which would be found in small plastic tray if kids or husbands ever filled the darn things instead of putting them back in the freezer empty.

Inside  --  That place that will suddenly look attractive to kids once Mom has spent a minimum of half an hour getting them ready to go outside.

"I Said So"  --  Reason enough, according to Mom.

Jackpot  --  When all the kids stay at friends' homes for the night.

Jeans  --  Which, according to kids, are appropriate for just about
any occasion, including church and funerals.

"Jeeeeeeeez!"  --  Slang for "Gee Mom, isn't there anything else
you can do to embarrass me in front of my friends?"

Joy Ride  --  Going somewhere without the kids.

Junk  --  Dad's stuff.

Ketchup  --  The sea of tomato-based goop kids use to drown the dish that Mom spent hours cooking and years perfecting to get the seasoning just right.

Kiss  --  Mom medicine.

Lake  --  Large body of water into which a kid will jump should his friends do so.

Lemonade Stand  --  Complicated business venture where Mom buys powdered mix, sugar, lemons, and paper cups, and sets up a table, chairs, pitchers and ice for kids who sitt here for three to six minutes and net a profit of 15 cents.

Lie  --  An "exaggeration" Mom uses to transform her child's paper-mache volcano science project into a Nobel Prize-winning experiment and a full-ride scholarship to Harvard.

Losers  --  See "Kids' Friends."

Makeup  --  Lipstick, eyeliner, blush,etc. which ironically make Mom look better while making her young daughter look "like a tramp."

Maybe  --  No.

Milk  --  A healthful beverage which kids will gladly drink once it's turned into junk food by the addition of sugar and cocoa.

"Mommmmmmmm!"  --  The cry of a child on another floor who wants something.

Mush  --  1. What a kid loves to do with a plateful of food.   2. Main element of Mom's favorite movies.

Nails  --  A hard covering on the end of the finger, which Mom can never have a full set of due to pitching for batting practice, opening stubborn modeling clay lids and removing heat ducts to retrieve army men and/or doll clothing.

Panic  --  What a mother goes thru when the darn wind-up swing stops.

Ocean  --  What the bathroom floor looks like after bath night for kids, assorted pets, two or three full-sized towels and several dozen toy boats, cars and animals.

Open  --  The position of children's mouths when they eat in front of company.

Overstuffed Recliner  --  Mom's nickname for Dad.

Penitentiary  --  Where children who don't eat their vegetables or clean their rooms eventually end up, according to Mom.

Pets  --  Small, furry creatures which follow kids home so Mom will have someone else to clean up after.

Piano  --  A large, expensive musical instrument which, after thousands of dollars worth of lessons and constant harping by Mom, kids will refuse to play in front of company.

Purse  --  A handbag in which Mom carries the checkbook and keys she can never find because they're buried under tissues, gum wrappers, a plastic container full of cereal, toys from a fast-food restaurant, a teddy bear, a football, wallpaper samples, a grocery list and several outdated coupons.

Quiet  --  A state of household serenity which occurs before the birth of the first child and occurs again after the last child has left for college.

Raincoat  --  Article of clothing Mom bought to keep a child dry and warm, rendered ineffective because it's in the bottom of a locker stuffed in a book bag or because the child refuses to wear "the geeky thing."

Refrigerator  --  Combination art gallery and air-conditioner for the kitchen.

Room Mother  --  A position of great honor and responsibility bestowed on a mom who inadvertently misses a PTA meeting.

School Play  --  Sadistic ritual in which adults derive pleasure from watching offspring stumble through coarse reenactments of famous historic events.

Screaming  --  Home P.A. system.

Snowsuits  --  Warm, padded outer garments that, when completely zipped and snapped performs two important functions: Protecting children from the cold and reminding them that they have to go to the bathroom.

Soap  --  A cleaning agent Mom puts on the sink on the off-chance one of her kids will accidentally grab it while reaching for the towel.

Spit  --  All-purpose cleaning fluid especially good on kids' faces.

Spoiled Rotten  --  What the kids become after as little as 15 minutes with Grandma.

Sweater  --  Magically charmed article of clothing that can ward away colds, and even pneumonia.

Sunday Best  --  Attractive, expensive children's clothing made of a fabric which attracts melted chocolate and grape juice.

Teacher Conference  --  A meeting between Mom and that person who has yet to understand her child's "special needs."

Terrible Two's  --  Having both kids at home all summer.

"That Way"  --  How kids shouldn't look at moms if they know What's good for them. Also applies to how they talk.

Towels  --  See "Floor Coverings"

Tramp  --  A woman with two kids and no stretch marks.

Trouble  --  Area of nonspecific space a child can always be sure to be in.

Umpteenth  --  Highly conservative estimate of the number of times Mom must instruct her offspring to do something before it actually gets done.

Underwear  --  An article of clothing, the cleanliness of which ensures the wearer will never have an accident.

Utopia  --  See "Bubble Bath"

Vacation  --  Where you take the family to get away from it all, only to find it there, too.

Vitamins  --  Tiny facsimiles of cave people Mom forces you to swallow each morning as part of her sinister plot
to have you grow up to be "Just like Daddy."

Walls  --  Complete set of drawing paper for kids that comes with every room.

Washing Machine  --  Household appliance used to clean blue jeans, permanent ink markers, loose change, homework, tissues and wads of gum.

"When Your Father Gets Home"  --  Standard measurement of time between crime and punishment.

XOXOXOXO  --  Mom salutation guaranteed to make the already embarrassing note in a kid's lunch box even more mortifying.

Xylophone  --  Small toy musical instrument often given as gifts to children who show their appreciation by playing the stupid thing constantly, over and over, all day long. See also "Drums"

Yard Sale  --  Heart-wrenching emotional process wherein Mom plans to sell kids' outdated toys and clothing that she decides at the last minute are treasured mementos she can't bear to part with.

"Yippee!"  --  What Mom would jump up and shout if the school year was changed to 12 months. See also "Yahoo!"

Zillion  --  Amount of times Mom must have gone To the supermarket already this week.

Zucchini  --  Vegetable which can be baked, boiled, fried or steamed before kids refuse to eat it.



ODD SIGNS FROM ENGLAND
   
Sign in a Laundromat:
AUTOMATIC WASHING MACHINES:
PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT
   
Sign in a London department store:
BARGAIN BASEMENT UPSTAIRS
   
In an office:
WOULD THE PERSON WHO TOOK THE STEP LADDER YESTERDAY
PLEASE BRING IT BACK OR FURTHER STEPS WILL BE TAKEN
   
Outside a farm:
HORSE MANURE 50p PER PRE-PACKED BAG OR 20p DO-IT-YOURSELF
   
In an office:
AFTER TEA BREAK STAFF SHOULD EMPTY THE TEAPOT
AND STAND UPSIDE DOWN ON THE DRAINING BOARD
   
On a church door:
THIS IS THE GATE OF HEAVEN. ENTER YE ALL BY THIS DOOR.
(THIS DOOR IS KEPT LOCKED BECAUSE OF THE DRAUGHT.
PLEASE USE SIDE DOOR.)
   
English sign in a German cafe:
MOTHERS, PLEASE WASH YOUR HANS BEFORE EATING
   
Outside a secondhand shop:
WE EXCHANGE ANYTHING -
BICYCLES, WASHING MACHINES ETC.
WHY NOT BRING YOUR WIFE ALONG
AND GET A WONDERFUL BARGAIN?
   
Sign outside a new town hall which was to be opened by the Prince of Wales:
THE TOWN HALL IS CLOSED UNTIL OPENING.
IT WILL REMAIN CLOSED AFTER BEING OPENED.
OPEN TOMORROW.
   
Outside a photographer's studio:
OUT TO LUNCH:
IF NOT BACK BY FIVE, OUT FOR DINNER TOO
   
Seen at the side of a Sussex road:
SLOW CATTLE CROSSING.
NO OVERTAKING FOR THE NEXT 100 YRS.
   
Outside a disco:
SMARTS IS THE MOST EXCLUSIVE DISCO IN TOWN.
EVERYONE WELCOME
   
Sign warning of quicksand:
QUICKSAND.
ANY PERSON PASSING THIS POINT WILL BE  DROWNED.
BY ORDER OF THE DISTRICT COUNCIL.
   
Notice sent to residents of a Whiltshire parish:
DUE TO INCREASING PROBLEMS WITH LETTER LOUTS AND VANDALS
WE MUST ASK ANYONE WITH RELATIVES BURIED IN THE GRAVEYARD
TO DO THEIR BEST TO KEEP THEM IN ORDER
   
Notice in a dry cleaner's window:
ANYONE LEAVING THEIR GARMENTS HERE
FOR MORE THAN 30 DAYS WILL BE DISPOSED OF.
   
Sign on motorway garage:
PLEASE DO NOT SMOKE NEAR OUR PETROL PUMPS.
YOUR LIFE MAY NOT BE WORTH MUCH BUT OUR PETROL IS
   
Notice in health food shop window:
CLOSED DUE TO ILLNESS
   
Spotted in a safari park:
ELEPHANTS PLEASE STAY IN YOUR CAR
   
Also:
LION PARK - YOU MUST STAY IN YOUR CAR.
POLITICIANS MAY USE BICYCLES
   
Seen during a conference:
FOR ANYONE WHO HAS CHILDREN AND DOESN'T KNOW IT,
THERE IS A DAY CARE ON THE FIRST FLOOR
   
Notice in a field:
THE FARMER ALLOWS WALKERS TO CROSS THE FIELD FOR FREE,
BUT THE BULL CHARGES
   
Message on a leaflet:
IF YOU CANNOT READ,
THIS LEAFLET WILL TELL YOU HOW TO GET LESSONS

Sign on a repair shop door:
WE CAN REPAIR ANYTHING.
(PLEASE KNOCK HARD ON THE DOOR -
THE BELL DOESN'T WORK)
   
Sign at Norfolk farm gate:
BEWARE!  I SHOOT EVERY TENTH TRESPASSER
AND THE NINTH ONE HAS JUST LEFT



THE OPERATING MANUAL

The following are Windows messages under consideration for the next version:

1. Smash forehead on keyboard to continue.

2. Enter any 11-digit prime number to continue.

3. Press any key to continue or any other key to quit.

4. Press any key except... no, No, NO, NOT THAT ONE!

5. Press Ctrl-Alt-Del now for IQ test.

6. Close your eyes and press escape three times.

7. Bad command or file name! Go stand in the corner.

8. This will end your Windows session. Do you want to play another game?

9. Windows message: "Error saving file!  Format drive now? (Y/Y)"

10. This is a message from God Gates: "Rebooting the world.  Please log off."

11. To "shut down" your system, type "WIN."

12. COFFEE.SYS missing... Insert cup in cup holder and press any key.

13. File not found. Should I fake it? (Y/N)

14. Runtime Error 6D at 417A:32CF: Incompetent User.

15. WinErr 16547: LPT1 not found. Use backup. (PENCIL & PAPER.SYS)

16. User Error: Replace user.

17. Welcome to Microsoft's World - Your Mortgage is Past Due...

18. Your hard drive has been scanned and all stolen software titles have been deleted. The police are on the way

19. Windows VirusScan 1.0 - "Windows found: Remove it? (Y/N)"



INTERESTING BEER FACTS

It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that, for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink.  Mead is a honey beer, and, because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the "honey month" or what we know today as the "honeymoon."

In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts.  So in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them to mind their own pints and quarts and settle down.  It's where we get the phrase "mind your P's and Q's."

Beer was the reason the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. It's clear from the Mayflower's log that the crew didn't want to waste beer looking for a better site.  The log goes on to state that the passengers "were hasted ashore and made to drink water so that the seamen might have the more beer."

After consuming a bucket or two of vibrant brew they called aul or ale, the Vikings would head fearlessly into battle often without armor, or even shirts.  In fact, the term "berserk" means "bare shirt" in Norse, and eventually took on the meaning of their wild battles.

In 1740 Admiral Vernon of the British fleet decided to water down the Navy's rum.  Needless to say, the sailors weren't too pleased and called Admiral Vernon "Old Grog" after the stiff wool grogram coats he wore.  The term "grog" soon began to mean the watered down drink itself.  When you were drunk on this grog, you were "groggy."

Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim or handle of their ceramic cups.  When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service.  "Wet your whistle" is the phrase inspired by this practice.

English prisoners who were sentenced to hanging were taken from the prison to the gallows on a wagon. Along the way the prisoner was allowed to go into a pub for a pint. Hence the terms "On the wagon" and "Off the wagon."

Now you, too, can appreciate the importance of beer throughout history!



ERROR MESSAGES

Imagine if, instead of cryptic, geeky text strings,
your computer produced error messages in Haiku. 
They would read like these:

- - - - - - - - - - - -

A file that big?
It might be very useful.
But now it is gone.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

The Web site you seek
cannot be located but
endless others exist

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Chaos reigns within.
Reflect, repent, and reboot.
Order shall return.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

ABORTED effort:
Close all that you have.
You ask far too much.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

First snow, then silence.
This thousand dollar screen dies
so beautifully.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

With searching comes loss
and the presence of absence:
"My Novel" not found.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

The Tao that is seen
Is not the true Tao, until
You bring fresh toner.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Windows NT crashed.
I am the Blue Screen of Death.
No one hears your screams.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Stay the patient course
Of little worth is your ire
The network is down

- - - - - - - - - - - -

A crash reduces
your expensive computer
to a simple stone.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Yesterday it worked
Today it is not working
Windows is like that

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

You step in the stream,
but the water has moved on.
This page is not here.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Out of memory.
We wish to hold the whole sky,
But we never will.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Having been erased,
The document you're seeking
Must now be retyped.

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Rather than a beep
Or a rude error message,
These words: "File not found."

- - - - - - - - - - - -

Serious error.
All shortcuts have disappeared.
Screen. Mind. Both are blank.