Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pub Fare

This is chapter 2 of Window Weather, a serial fiction novel on FITK

The pub was situated in an alley a block away from Seattle’s Pike Place Market. It was an unusual place for a job interview. Not really private, but busy enough that any serious conversation would be lost in the ambiance.

“Alright, Mr. Carroll, let’s get down to business. What makes you think ADR would be interested in you? We aren’t the usual background check firm. And, to be frank, we don’t get many applicants with your history—not that it would preclude you from the position.”

Mrs. Robinson, the woman who was interviewing Sean, possessed a faint but definite air of smugness. He knew quite a bit about her—her identity was hidden from the usual internet scrutiny—but one piece of data which hadn’t been scrubbed was her meteoric history in role-playing games. Was it a matter of pride? If so, it possibly was the only weakness she had.  It didn’t take too long to get her story once he had cracked her avatar: starting small when only a teen, she quickly made a small fortune in on-line gaming, then she developed a lucrative algorithm which turned game points into cash, getting out just before the Russians who had cloned the system could catch up to her.  She was a legend in RPG circles, even more so now that she had ‘vanished.’ The money she had made then started her current business, Applied Diffusion Research. On the surface, it was a ‘background check’ service—and it did do the routine stuff—but it wasn’t beneath supplying (or removing) information for blackmailers, divorce lawyers, and other grifters. Sean had run across her work previously but had kept the information secret. He knew that she was smart.

“I am the person you want to be on your side, believe me, Alleystar.”

The mention of her online alias erased her tight smile for a millisecond. A vein on her forehead started pulsing. It was nothing most people would notice, but something a card shark would term ‘a tell.’ Sean knew then that he had the job, everything else was a formality.

“I see,” said the woman, “What is it you really want?” Mrs. Robinson said coolly. Sean noticed that the vein kept throbbing.

“I want to work. And I want to work with the best,” he said with a smile.

“When I got the recommendation from your last employer, I gave you an interview as a courtesy to an old friend. May I assume that you know what our business really entails?”

“Yes. I know that you work for both sides, making sure that names stay out of the paper and off the internet. And keeping the cash flow invisible, all for a percentage.”

“I’ll ask you again, what is it that you really want in this position?”

“I want to disappear.”

“You’ve got the job.”

It was a Sunday morning, a couple of months later. The view of the rock garden from Sean and Molly’s ground level apartment window was elegant, albeit severe.

“Sean, you still haven’t answered my question.”

“It’s a data job, that’s all, herding files in the great Northwest.”

They had been literally living under Molly’s mother for three months. Their basement apartment was alright—it was quiet and private, if uninspired. Molly had returned to work in an HR department at a large insurance outfit. It was a branch of the same company where she had been working when Sean had met her in Chicago.

“What kind of data—like financials, or background checks, or social networking?” asked Molly.

Sean never talked about his work. It was a no-win situation. In this kind of work if you were ever found out you were finished.

“Yes,” he replied.

”Yes, what?”

“Yes to everything you said. It’s all private. Boring, really.”

That was a lie. Sean was a developer. He would be assigned a target, usually a person, but sometimes a business or organization. His job was to build a workable case against the target to the point where a larger team of ‘information specialists’ could fill in the gaps and bring it to fruition. Sean found that start of a case was a bit dull but when he got a strong lead on his target things developed in a hurry. The situation could become extremely intense. When he had enough information to bring things to a head, he would present the findings to the client. They weren’t always happy, but they were usually satisfied. And they always paid.

“You’re a private eye, aren’t you?” said Molly.

“No,” another lie, “I’m just someone who checks data for consistency and validity.”

Not exactly a lie, but not the whole truth either.

“Hmph. I’ll have to take your word for it. Let’s go over to The Grateful Bread and get some breakfast,” said Molly, “And could you shave, so you won’t look like a private eye?”

“Yes. I’ll even shave, so I won’t look so mysteriously attractive.”



“Don’t check on me, OK? I mean my past life wasn’t that outrageous, but I can’t be completely naked—draw the line at my skin and leave my skeleton in peace.”

“I won’t, Molly. I won’t.”

Next Chapter: Lake Union

By Professor Batty

Friday, January 27, 2012

Sharon We Dance

Qualm dances with calm.

Trip the light fantastic with Sharon, Fridays at Flippism is the Key

Used by permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Vintage Emo

The Sorrows of Young Werther
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This book (the blockbuster of 1774) is the story of a troubled young man whose conflicts were almost entirely internal. It was Goethe's breakthrough novel with an almost cult-like devotion among its admirers and numerous parodies from its detractors. It has been credited as the spark which ignited romantic literature. It remains a perennial favorite and is no doubt the inspiration of thousands of stories of unrequited love. I received a copy courtesy of Music Box Films via Caroline at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat as part of her German Literature Month theme last year (thanks Caroline!)

It's hard to review a classic of literature- one which has stood the test of time and has had a life of its own since its publication. It really isn't a coming-of-age book either, for Young Werther fails to achieve any sort of insight or maturity- a good part of the book's appeal is in its shocking, messy and most unhappy ending. Werther's situation is almost a case study of manic-depression, where he goes from the highest peak of euphoria to the depths of despair, often between chapters. Written in the form of letters and journal entries (with comments from the "editor"), the book's form had a definite appeal to my voyeur instinct. While a very short book its florid language made it read much longer. Werther's "suffering" quickly came to be a bit much- at least for this reader.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sharon Fried


Ketchup with Sharon
, Fridays at FITK

Used by permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Stacy, Minnesota, 1981.

It would never be this easy again. No mortgage, no hassles, no money, but young enough to enjoy the spare time that would be in short supply in the future. Life was good then, wasn't it?

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Why a Duck?

The Google+ fiasco is only growing. Google search results are so loaded with SEO- tainted (Search Engine Optimization) ads that its almost the the old bad internet (let's party like its 1999!) There are alternatives, one of the most pleasant ones I've found is Duck Duck Go, good for general searches, and the results come back clean- no bogus ads or other malarkey. And if you want to go further, there is always a link to Google or Bing at the end of the results. It doesn't do images, but does have a "goodies" section with handy converters and other neat stuff.

Finally, check out their privacy page to see how ALL internet sites should operate.

UPDATE: There is now a hack to restore Google to its original function

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, January 16, 2012

Blue Eyes

This is chapter 1 of Window Weather, a serial fiction novel on FITK

July, 2010

The couple in the grimy sedan pulled into a dusty roadhouse–but not for a beer. They had too many miles to go before they could start drinking again. They just needed a break from the heat and the road and the sun and all that monotonous farmland. Stultifying. The only features breaking the horizon line were the rows of other-worldly wind turbines that marched across the terrain.

The roadhouse was a small place decorated with beer signs and worn-out farm implements. There was a stage in the corner for the weekend bands. After the noise of the wind and the tires on the road the tavern seemed profoundly still. The bartender was restocking the bar; Sean Carroll, out of work data analyst and Molly Berenson, currently unemployed MBA, were his only customers.

“Two lemonades, thanks,” said Sean.

“Hey, play something while I hit the john,” Molly said. The nearly empty roadhouse was that quiet. The joint was a throw-back—it still had a jukebox.  The Seeburg held mostly Country Music, or what passed for it nowadays, but Sean still managed to find a dollar’s worth of listenable tunes. He sat down at a corner table as the music began to play. The bartender brought their drinks to the table. Molly came out of the restroom. She had washed her face but hadn’t redone her makeup. There was not much point in that—not when you were going back out to a humid ninety degrees in a car without A/C.

It had been too noisy to talk in the car and now, as the couple drank their sours, they continued to exercise their right to remain silent. The last song started; it had an old Fred Rose lyric that Sean liked:
Every night alone I miss her
Her eyes blue as a clear sky after rain
She told me soon she’d be returning
I still see her at the train...
“Shit,” said Molly.

“What?” said Sean.

“You would have to play that song.”

They had met the week before, hitting it off quickly, but with only as much ardor as two people who have been through the routine more than twice are capable of. Love may be wonderful the second time around, but not so much the third. There weren’t many illusions between them, but there were many unread pages in their life stories.
Now I’m fading like the embers
Of a fire left out in the rain
I try so hard to keep my hopes up
When will she be on that train…

“Sorry, it’s just something out of my past. It’s nothing really, there’s no way you could have known," Molly said.

Sean tried not to gulp his lemonade.
She said she’d come back in the winter
When the snow replaced the rain
But now I know I’ll never see her
Blue eyes on that lonesome train…
As the song ended tears began rimming Molly’s eyes.

“Let’s get out of here,” she said, “I’ll drive."

The motel room was dark, only a faint glow from the lights in the parking lot leaked through the window shade. A sliver of light from under the bathroom door was the only other source of illumination. Cool, if somewhat musty, air blew from the air conditioner. Molly was in the shower. After a while, the sound of running water stopped and a few minutes later she came out of the bathroom dressed in a full slip.

“This sure beats those sweaty jeans I was wearing… ”

The previous 12 hours Molly and Sean had spent on the plains in a hot car was just a rapidly fading bad dream now. Tomorrow, they would leave South Dakota behind and head northwest into Montana and then go through the Rockies. It would be cooler there.  They would reach Seattle late tomorrow night. Molly had a lead on an office job; her mother lived there in a duplex with a basement apartment that Molly and Sean could rent cheaply enough. Sean had a job lead as well. He was looking for something more stimulating than his last one was: sitting in a cubicle with a monitor and a telephone.

“I don’t have anything nearly as provocative,” he said, “But after I shower I’ll put on a clean tee.”

As Sean stood under the shower he thought about the previous week. How Molly had entered his life. He had been living alone too long. His usual reluctance against starting a new relationship was dissolved by their second bottle of wine. Sean wasn’t worried about what could go wrong. Not like those other times he had fallen in love. Maybe the difference was that now he just didn’t care about ‘passion’ anymore. This time, without any unrealistic expectations, things seemed to be going better.

As Sean stepped out of the shower he realized that his clean clothes were still in his suitcase—on the luggage rack by the bed. He thought about just walking out naked but he and Molly hadn’t quite yet reached the stage of ‘casual’ nudity. He wrapped a towel around his waist and headed out.

“Oooh! You look delicious!” said Molly.

As she grabbed his arms her lips parted—her teeth reflected the light from the open bathroom door. She playfully lunged at Sean with her open mouth but misjudged the distance. As her teeth sank into his chest her jaws clamped shut—hard—forming a pair of red semicircles on the skin—just over his heart. He began to bleed.

“Ohmigod! I’m so sorry—I didn’t mean to hurt you!” Molly said, aghast.

“That’s alright, it was only a reflex action.”

Molly turned Sean around so that the light from the bathroom fell on his chest.

“That’s gonna leave a mark!” they said, laughing simultaneously.

“Just wait and see… you’ll find I can leave all sorts of marks,” said Molly

“A biter. I would never have thought it… ” said Sean, shaking his head.

"Go back and turn off the light," said Molly, “… and leave the towel.”

A red smear of blood began to ooze down Sean’s chest.

“I’ll need a couple of band-aids first,” said Sean, “That bite really might leave a mark.”

Next Chapter: Pub Fare

By Professor Batty

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sharon Busted

What's this about luck be a lady?

Free Sharon Now! Fridays at FITK

Used by permission

By Professor Batty

Comments: 0 

Thursday, January 12, 2012


Minneapolis, 1978

I had been living in a small house for years, renting it from an agreeable Mexican landlord who lived next door. One day he moved out and asked us if I would like to rent both houses. Knowing several people who were looking for affordable housing, I said yes without hesitation. After the landlord moved out, we quickly got a group of people together and settled in. This shed was in the back of the lot. The landlord said to use whatever I wanted from it. It was packed with boxes and cans, old wood, appliances, even a barrel of umbrellas! But the roof had been leaky for some time and everything in it was rusted, moldy or decayed.

I just ignored it for a while, but when the kids started to come it obviously had to go. So we knocked it down, got some dumpsters, filled them and had them hauled away. We planted a nice flower garden where the shed stood and gradually the place actually became kind of  pretty. I was surprised at the difference. It is one thing to have a picturesque building to photograph. It is quite another to live with what was essentially a big pile of trash. I had been getting down on myself and my lot in life for a while; getting rid of this junk made a big difference in my outlook.

A North Fifth Street Story

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Style Pointers

Mooney by Batty, Batty by Mooney, Minneapolis, 1979

I don't remember exactly how this situation came to pass, but be assured that we were just two crazy kids with a shared a love of ceramic tile. Notice the elegant Japanese inspired wrap on the the young woman and the always fashionable paisley print shirt on the young man. The classic Hawaiian shirt on the door was property of the bathroom's owner. A vintage anodized aluminum drinking glass perches twixt the toothbrushes. A small vase of cut flowers completes the festive, yet simple look.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 2 

Monday, January 09, 2012

I'm Ok, You Aren't

“You have one identity...”
“... The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly...”
“... Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity...”

~Mark Zuckerberg in The Facebook Effect
The single-identity, let-it-all-hang-out approach is libertarian—the kind of libertarianism that leads to thinking of 1880 as the Golden Age of Liberty (because only straight rich white males are real people, after all—everyone else is just support staff).
~ "Dr. Science", commenter on Crooked Timber

Facebook, Google+ and other "social networks" are moving toward an enforced lack of privacy. I've been running this blog pretty much under the "Professor Batty"  pen name or literary double. It helps to simplify things, in that I don't have to worry too much about people I know getting themselves tied up in knots over what I've posted here. It is also liberating, in that most people expect a comic book character to create things out of the norm, to inspire and provoke thought about life in new ways. Just how much of this "Professor Batty" may actually accomplish is debatable, but it remains a clear line of demarcation.

Mark Zuckerberg is a 20-something billionaire who lucked out on a formula to generate wealth by selling personal data to corporate interests. You can be sure that he has a whole team of people securing his right to privacy, (with a notable lack of success!) I hardly think he should be the final arbiter on personal interactions. Google+ is even worse, with the same intentions, but hid behind pages of "privacy protection" which only ensures that their customers (the advertisers- you are the product!) have a more profitable experience.

By eliminating the ability to create an internet personality, one is faced with the possibility of Identity Theft completely destroying a person's on-line presence with no recourse to build another (a very useful tool for political operatives) to say nothing of the loss of an on-line presence to those who have been victimized by stalkers and predators (already a reality.)

So it goes. There is a sizable reaction growing to these abuses of social networks, there are numerous start-ups trying to supplant FB and Google+, hard to do when the competition has billions of dollars, but not impossible. The internet was built on pseudonyms and artificial personas. Eliminating them, so that everyone except those who can afford it becomes naked and vulnerable, is a big step backward.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 7 

Friday, January 06, 2012

Sharon's Disclosure

I know not for what I come
nor from whence I came.

Phone home with Sharon, Fridays at FITK

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

The Wallflower

Minneapolis, 1976

House parties were the norm when young and poor. A few of cases of beer was cheap enough, and more than enough. No food needed. Remnants of the awkward divide between the boys and the girls, left over from high school, still lingered. If you weren't coupled up, you ran the risk of standing by yourself in the corner- just like grade school when you had been bad. Any chance of pleasant small talk was drowned out by raucous whinnying between the young stallions.

And if you went home alone, no one cared.

Wallflower, wallflower
Won't you dance with me?
I'm sad and lonely too.
Wallflower, wallflower
Won't you dance with me?
I'm fallin' in love with you.

Just like you I'm wondrin' what I'm doin' here.
Just like you I'm wondrin' what's goin' on.
Wallflower, wallflower
Won't you dance with me?
The night will soon be gone.

I have seen you standing in the smoky haze
And I know you're gonna be mine one of these days,
Mine alone.

Wallflower, wallflower
Take a chance on me.
Please let me ride you home.

~Wallflower by Bob Dylan

By Professor Batty

Comments: 1 

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Bus Stop

Minneapolis, 1972

By Professor Batty

Comments: 4 

Monday, January 02, 2012

Future Imperfect

   The new year brings opportunities- resolutions made, vacations mapped out, major purchases considered, but with all the turmoil going on these days, it has become hard to plan anything. If the US Postal Service can't be counted on, what can? I seem to have developed a wariness of "Meatworld"- physical reality- versus "Dataworld"- the internet, media and other abstractions. I think I'm more comfortable in Dataworld because I pretty much know that most of it is baloney, and I know which part of it is. Meatworld, on the other hand, is messy, smelly, fraught with uncertainties, and what can be even more terrifying- opportunities.

   I think it has to do with my hair. When I was young I wore it long, it kept people away. Since I turned 50, it has been shaved once a year, in accord with the seasons. It is getting long now, and is pretty much white. For some reason, people find me more approachable- "I'll just ask this nice old man." The last time I was in the supermarket TWO women struck up conversations with me. That has never happened before. One was looking for shampoo so we had a nice chat about the pros and cons of the various brands (I like "Mane and Tail" horse shampoo) and she was undecided, but the extent of her (visible) tattoos made me think she was just looking for a diversion until her boyfriend got out of prison. I ran into another woman as we were both scrounging around the bottom shelf of the coffee display where were both looking for the Kona Blend. She had a sense of humor about the ridiculousness of the situation.

   At any rate, It's the NEW YEAR. I spent the hour before 12 o'clock on New Year's Eve wrestling with a satellite TV remote that was so confusing that the only show I was able to select was "New Options for Prostate Health".

   I hope that isn't an omen.

By Professor Batty

Comments: 5 

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