ZIP Beep #40
THE SIXTIES RE-BOOTED
by Don Fitzwater

"It was twenty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper told the band to play." - SGT. PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND

Who could forget the Beatles' landmark album? It coalesced psychedelia from a blend of rock music and eastern mysticism. Hippies, lightshows, happenings, protests, free love and gurus, all were a part of the past that we remember as the '60's.

But in today's America, concerned with leading edge high technology, investment plans, and conspicuous consumption, there's no room for the mystical any more, right? Wrong.

There's a new movement afoot among the acolytes of the great god of high tech in this country. Not surprisingly, it comes from the east...just as most of our cheap electronic goods come from the east.

Eastern mysticism and high tech America?

You betcha.

And it already has its first true guru - Baba Ramdisk. Baba Ramdisk came to America only two short years ago, but already his reputation has spread across the country.

A former Computer Science teacher from the New Delhi Polytechnical Institute, Baba Ramdisk claims to have attained enlightenment when a large case of 8" floppy disks fell on him in the computer lab's supply room. After regaining consciousness, further examination of the ancient floppies revealed volume after volume of high tech spiritual guidance.

These volumes chronicle the life and spiritual wisdom of Lord Krashnaught, an ancient hacker who wrote all his source code in sanskrit.

According to the files, Lord Krashnaught did battle with innumerable bugs, glitches and hardware failures all without a shred of technical support. Many of the poetic passages in these files have a frightening beauty all their own.

"Behold I am come -- Surge, destroyer of words, crasher of hard drives, creator of chaos." The archives go on to describe Lord Krashnaught's epic battle with Surge and a host of other cosmic villians, and his eventual triumph over the forces of disorder.

After years of transcendental computation and debugging, Baba Ramdisk has brought the teachings of Lord Krashnaught to the technically advanced but spiritually backward west.

Seated cross-legged on a dimly lit stage, with a garland of microchips around his neck, Baba Ramdisk holds forth on life, computers and everything. You can tell from his opening mantra that this is going to be an interesting session.

"Ohms, ohms," chants the Enlightened One as the smell of ozone from the overheated PC's at his feet permeates the auditorium. "Hurry Krashnaught, hurry RAM ROM, RAM ROM Krashnaught, Krashnaught Krashnaught, hurry, hurry."

And who, you may ask, is drawn to (of all things) a guru in this day and age of cold, hard facts? Just about everybody: programmers, database managers, system designers -- and yes, even musicians. You name it. Each and every one of them is a potential disciple.

Some see it as a shortcut to a better understanding of today's technology, some find it relieves the stress of a power user's world and still others join out of a need to believe in something.

According to Baba Ramdisk, the path to enlightenment starts simply enough.

"The first thing one must do to attain true enlightenment is to cast away all your documentation," exhorts Baba while bathed in the flickering light of several monitors. "Only by cutting your ties with the printed page can you gain the clarity of perception to attempt transcendental computation."

If the initiates can successfully complete this first step, then they're ready for a ceremony where they receive their spiritual name. Upon receiving this name the novice is ready to be indoctrinated to the ways of transcendental computation.

"Transcendental computation, or TC as we call it," explained Baba's press secretary Harvey "Devadipswitch" Palmer, "is the wave of the future in man/machine interfaces. The practitioner of TC shuns the use of technical support and/or owner's manuals when dealing with a hardware or software problem. Resorting to these manuals creates disharmony when the user finds that their problem isn't covered or that they could have avoided the problem in the first place by reading the manual. With TC, the user attempts to achieve mental synchronization with the hardware and software via meditation and chanting mantras. After the appropriate state of Nerdvanna is achieved, the user then can proceed with their computing in a more harmonious fashion."

Back onstage, Baba Ramdisk continues his lecture. "The secret to true happiness in computing lies with you, the user. The manufacturer may or may not make a good product, but only you can determine how you will respond to this product. To respond with anger, fear or disgust only makes you even more frustrated, and does nothing to solve your difficulties. But if you follow the teachings of Lord Krashnaught, you will find peace and harmony where only discord existed before. You still may not solve your problem, but at least you will not be quite so bent out of shape over it."

Whether or not this approach actually works remains to be seen. But it is proving unusually popular with otherwise serious folks. Rumors have it that IBM's entire PS/2 line of computers were designed after the department heads of Big Blue's Research and Development division attended one of Baba Ramdisk's weekend retreats. Considering both TC's and IBM's reliance on wishful thinking, there may be more substance to this rumor than we know.

But there are storm clouds on the horizon. Charges have been leveled that Baba Ramdisk is heading up a dangerous cult, and that this whole movement is a thinly veiled attempt to generate personal income for Baba, who alledgedly wholesales all the discarded manuals to discount bookstores.

Group members are starting to show up in large numbers in the lobbies of computer and software stores, where they harass customers and attempt to sell them hardcopy editions of Lord Krashnaught's files. More and more programmers for large corporations have gone missing, only to turn up later at the movement's communes called Dat-Rams. Rumors abound of widespread drug use by members of the group, brought on, no doubt, by the tendency for group members to wander around blankly for large periods of time chanting, "Abort, Retry, Ignore."

Yet despite the controversy, tickets to Baba Ramdisk's personal appearances continue to sell well, as does his line of instructional videos -- in fact, one major department store is about to market a "Baba Bear" digital toy teddy bear that chants and talks in Baba's own voice.

Whatever the truth may be, one thing is for certain -- Baba Ramdisk will continue to be an bizarre link between those gurus of the '60's and today's high tech elite.

ZIP Beep #40
CAESAR'S WIFE'S LAWYER
Alternate Universe News reported by Chuck Strinz

(Well, the Alternate Universe News Service has come through for us again. Our satellite dish, which continual ZIP Beep readers know located next to a large aluminum building, has picked up more audio signals from the Alternate Universe. And once again, as in ZIP Beep #25, we were privledged to tune in the confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court nominee on that mysterious and presumably distant world. What follows is a transcript of the broadcast.--ED)

FEMALE VOICE:
--loveable, cuddly little plush toy bears. And they're (STATIC) with their names, one for each day of the week, printed right on their little (STATIC) with (STATIC) and easy payments of only $85 each month. Get them all for your children. It's the only way to show you really love them.

(MUSIC)

MALE VOICE:
This is the D'McGog News Network, the species' most important network, a service of Terncoat Broadcasting. We now return you live to the Senate floor, where Judge Canobeans is responding to a question from Senator Strong Vermun.

CANOBEANS:
--with the Constitution. I just don't have an answer for you off the top of my head, Senator, but I can assure you of this. I don't plan to monkey around with it.

VERMUN:
Thank you, Judge Canobeans. Mr. Chairman, I yield the remainder of the time to Senator Hatcheck.

CHAIRMAN:
Thank you, Senator Vermun. Before Senator Hatcheck begins, I'd like to remind everyone that it's rapidly approaching two o'clock and I'll need to shut down these procedings in about twenty minutes to attend the graduation ceremonies at the Happy Pup Obedience School. I wish I could get out of it, but I promised Sparky I'd be there long before Judge Canobeans was nominated. In fact, it was before the nominations of Judges Berg, Ginsbork, Andrews, Ciatti, Tamerand, Oswald, Smythe, Crosby, Stills, Nash, Davedee, Dozy, Beeky, Mick and Tick. We have a lot of ground to cover, but let's hope we'll all find Judge Canobeans acceptable so we can get back to the business of running the country. Senator Hatcheck, you have ten minutes.

HATCHECK:
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Judge Canobeans, it is indeed an honor to have you here today. Those of us on the Senate Law & Order Committee have followed your career for years, and I think I speak for all of us when I say we're all hoping to confirm a man or woman with a record like yours.

CANOBEANS:
Thank you, Senator.

HATCHECK:
I realize it's difficult to be on trial yourself, so to speak, but I'm sure you understand the necessity of it, especially considering the questionable character of many public officials these days.

CANOBEANS:
I understand, Senator, and I'll do my best to answer your questions as completely as possible.

HATCHECK:
Thank you, Judge Canobeans. Now, it's difficult for me to bring this up, because I normally back the President's nominees without question, but as you know I was disturbed over events just after Judge Ginsbork was named. We won't go into that now. But I'm afraid I need to ask you about some rather disturbing facts uncovered by my research team. Do you know what I'm referring to, Judge Canobeans?

CANOBEANS:
I...no, I'm trying to think...no, I have no idea.

HATCHECK:
Are you sure you don't have anything to tell us?

CANOBEANS:
Not that I know of, Senator.

HATCHECK:
It would be much better for you to lay it on the line without forcing me to put the question to you, Judge Canobeans.

CANOBEANS:
I honestly don't know what you're referring to, Senator.

HATCHECK:
Alright. Judge Canobeans, I'm referring to a matter that disturbs me. Your record on enforcing the law speaks for itself, but it's not enough when your own personal conduct contradicts that record.

CANOBEANS:
Senator, could you come to the point?

HATCHECK:
The point, Judge Canobeans, is that you broke the law.

CANOBEANS:
What are you talking about, Senator?

HATCHECK:
I have here a document from a school you once attended. It indicates you were something of a rebel in your younger days.

CANOBEANS:
Senator, I must protest. I graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Bob Jones University, where I also found time for social work with underprivledged children. My post graduate studies in law enforcement led to an award from the National Council on Physical and Psychological Questioning Techniques, and at law school I --

HATCHECK:
Judge Canobeans, Judge Canobeans, we know all that. I'm talking about your actions as a youth. I'm talking about the basis of your moral fiber. It is my belief that a man's character is fully formed before he's eighteen years old, and we have uncovered evidence that you constantly and flagrantly broke the law in high school.

CANOBEANS:
Senator?

HATCHECK:
I have here a report from Principal Duane Hoot of Ducktown High School, which you attended until 1958. According to this report, you were caught chewing gum in school no fewer than one hundred fifteen times over the course of four years. Can you deny that?

CANOBEANS:
Senator, I'm at a loss for words. That was a long time ago --

HATCHECK:
So you don't deny it. Is that correct?

CANOBEANS:
Senator, it was the 50's. EVERYONE chewed gum in school.

HATCHECK:
But it was against the law.

CANOBEANS:
Well, technically, yes, on some level, but --

HATCHECK:
Judge Canobeans, before you say any more, let me continue with --

CANOBEANS:
This is incredible. Principal Hoot told me my future employers would want to see my school record, but I always thought --

HATCHECK:
Judge Canobeans, if I may continue. On no fewer than eighteen occasions, you were at least one minute late in returning from bathroom breaks. On five occasions, you were reported to have overdue library books. Your (STATIC) was lost on the day of a big test, let's see, seven, eight times? And your (STATIC) not turned in (STATIC) time for (STATIC) on (STATIC) because, quote, the dog ate it. On the (STATIC) in the last (STATIC) girl's (STATIC) inkwell, and a (STATIC) a kick me sign on his back that (STATIC) with (STATIC)

(TRANSMISSION LOST)

ZIP Beep #40
A BUNGLE OF JOY
by Susan L. Aubey

In August of 1981, I began a long term research project in childhood development. I have had a great opportunity for observing and recording behaviors without excessive outside influence. All the grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins live 300 miles away.

Now we are entering phase two of the project: The School Years. At this time it seems appropriate to share the information from the first 45,600 hours of data collection.

Those of you with new infants may want to take a few notes and possibly plan to modify your parenting based on my research. For those of you considering having a child in the future -- this is a warning.

- Immediately after leaving the maternity hospital, begin an accurate log of time spent with each set of grandparents to settle future disputes about who gets to see the grandchild the most.

- Infants will always spit up if either parent is wearing new clothes, or there is no burp-rag, spare diaper, towel, washcloth or even a facial tissue in the room.

- All infants defy the laws of thermodynamics: a teaspoon of rice cereal and two ounces of formula will yield gallons of non- recyclable waste products.

- At least once, a child's favorite blanket, pacifier, ragdoll, or teddy bear will be left at a friend's house, on the bus or in a store. The mysterious disappearance will only be detected five minutes before bedtime.

- Whatever you choose to feed your child will be written up six months later as detrimental to normal development.

- Always feed your kid food that matches the color of their clothing. In spite of the best precautions, more food will end up on the outside of the kid than on the inside. Color coordinate all ice cream cones -- strawberry, for example, goes especially well with anything pink.

- Children are most prone to carsickness in new autos with velour seats.

- Always carry crayons, Kleenex and a change of clothing for yourself and your child on any trip lasting 15 minutes or longer.

- Children get dirty even in a sterile environment. They can spontaneously create dirt and like to spread it around.

- Buy three identical pairs of mittens in October; there's a chance you will still have at least two left hands left in April.

- Toys designed to last for years and grow with your child will lose a crucial part down the toilet or floor vent within fifteen minutes of opening the package.

- Toddlers will thrive on a steady diet of peanut butter, french fries, bologna and apple juice for indefinite periods of time.

- Your child's favorite food will not be on the menu at a restaurant. If it is available, your child will develop a new set of taste buds between placing the order and receiving the meal. French fries, for example, can suddenly become "yukky."

- If it is junk food, fun or dangerous, the kid will prefer it to the healthy, educational or safe alternative.

- If a child must accompany you to a place of business, that child will find something to spill on the white upholstery, carpet and someone else's critical documents.

- A quiet, normally well behaved child will forget all table manners when an important guest comes to dinner.

- Preschoolers are most likely to test their knowledge of profanity at Sunday School.

- The only thing your child will remember about a seldom seen relative is the one derogatory remark you made after bedtime a year ago. Your child will certainly try to verify that statement with the person in question at the next family reunion.

- Any toy you object to giving your child will arrive as a special gift from Grandma and Grandpa a few days after the tantrum.

- Nightlights always burn out the night the roller skates are left on the floor.

- Your child will fall down stairs, run into a door or otherwise blacken an eye the day before school photos are taken, or the child is to take part in a relative's formal wedding.

- The day your child wears new clothes to preschool is the day they paint pictures -- without smocks.

- The jingle you hate most on TV is the one your child will memorize and sing all day long. In several different keys. Simultaneously.

- Precocious preschoolers will bore you for years with recitations of the alphabet, numbers, nursery rhymes and the fifty state capitals, and then forget their own name and what color grass is on the day of the kindergarten entrance test.

I hope these observations will be useful to others entering the parenting arena. As my research regarding the child and the public schools continues I will periodically share insights if I can locate my data sheets under the PTA memos and hand shaped turkey drawings.

ZIP Beep #40
MEANDERING - ON WHO ACTUALLY STOLE THE KISCHKA
by Dennis Wallaker

In spite of my salty surroundings, I'm a very gentle person, bordering on being boring. Not so with many of my friends and neighbors who seem to like to use their arms and legs for things other than gourmet cooking and speed walking. I'm not saying they are stupid or insensitive, I'm just saying they're incredibly violent by my standards. Why they like spending time with me is a mystery.

I've never (legally or illegally) killed anyone, haven't decked anybody since the third grade, and that was a girl. I haven't tried to choke anyone to death since the second grade (that was a guy, though) and yet these hombres are always patting me on the back and saying, "For a pale skinny wimp, you ain't a bad guy."

Example: Yesterday morning there was a knock on the door. I had been up till 5:00AM 'cause that's the only way you can catch the "ADAM 12" reruns around here. So I was on my second hour of sleep at the time of this knock. People have often told me that I should just set the alarm clock for "ADAM 12" but I feel when watching a social statement of that magnitude, one should prepare oneself beforehand with at least two or three late night movies.

Not to digress a whole lot further, but I should mention that I, along with many others here at the lovely Laurel Apartments, had not paid the rent yet. This is cool, it happens; you tell the manager that you'll have it in by the 9th and then if you don't they send over this guy named Gerard who ain't that tough but once he starts talking about the problems that he's having with his Saab, you just can't wait to get down to the pawnshop and hock your stereo. There really should be a law against people talking that stuff unless they're paying you to listen.

But back to the knock. I heard it, I tried to come up with something cute to say but the best I could do was, "Who's there?"

"The owner of the building."

I said, "Hold on. Let me get a pair of pants on." I put my pants on and opened the door to a man I'd never seen in my life. He began to strongarm me about the rent and a host of things that I'd already made arrangements concerning and instead of telling him where I thought he should stick his clipboard, I went into my shivering knees routine and told him I'm on my way downtown right now! Even though the bank wouldn't be open for another two hours.

He left and I went to the sink and started cleaning up. Then I realized he was walking towards Steve's apartment. I've mentioned Steve before; Viet Nam vet and a guy so violent that the government was forced to give him medals for it.

I heard this guy knock on Steve's door. Steve doesn't answer the door unless he knows you 'cause if he don't know you he don't like you. Then I heard this guy let himself in with a pass key and I shuddered.

I can't describe the language that was used but there was a crunching which I assumed to be bones, and Steve's promise to put a bullet in his head if he ever saw him again -- which I figure is really a cruddy way of making friends but then what do I know?

I could hear the dude start running, slamming the security door behind him and then I heard it slam again. Steve wanted more.

I was walking down the hall when Steve returned.

"Did you catch him?"

"Naw. Who was he anyway?"

"I think he's the new owner."

"Hmmm, could make life interesting."

"You gonna pay your rent?"

"Are you kidding. I'm going to sue him for illegal entry."

In my opinion, it's this kind of thinking that makes America great.

So we kept our eyes peeled for a while and then unpeeled them, going our separate ways for the day.

You have to admire a guy like Steve. His closet looks like an army arsenal and yet he can't remember where he put the shells. He thinks they may be in the van. Again, it's this kind of thinking that makes America great.

Later, that evening, I was invited to attend the World's Best Drummer contest. As always with an affair like this, I inquire if there's going to be any food there because if there isn't I feel pretty strange walking around with all these Ziploc bags.

I'd been invited because my longtime friend and enemy, Antonio, was in slot #8 and wanted some moral support. Rios, my partner and the world's most precious Puerto Rican miniature, tugged on my ear for hours before I said, "O.K. Man, let's go."

Antonio and I have a mutual admiration society thing. He thinks I'm a genius, and I think he's a genius. We both know we're wrong and hate each other for it.

I checked the room out and made my way toward Antonio. I said, "You checked out the crowd yet?"

"Yeah man, what about them?"

I replied, "Gringo City, man!"

"So?"

"So don't do your regular thing. Play something stupid. Ya know, single stroke rolls etc.?"

"Naw man, I ain't going to play stupid for a drum contest. Nada."

"Man, I'm telling you there are people out there who still think the drum solo on 'In A Gadda Da Vida' is about as good as it gets."

He shook his head and went up to do the thing. He was good as always and as always surrounded by a bunch of chin-nose combinations that didn't have the faintest idea of what he was trying to do. Besides that, he went over the time limit and got disqualified which is nothing new if you know Antonio.

Let's digress. Antonio (Tony) is a very violent guy. If a guy does something Tony doesn't like, he hits him. No "picking a fight" type of thing; total sucker punching. "Ooops, my fist forgot you were there."

For years, he's wanted me to come back and play with him and for years I've said, "No man, not until you quit hitting people whenever you don't like what they're doing. I'm surprised you never hit me."

"Didn't think you could take the punch. Besides I don't do that anymore."

We started reconnecting lately and I was thinking maybe we should start playing again. So he's disqualified at this contest; upset but keeping up that westside reserve that Chicanos around here are so famous for.

He walked up to me and I said, "Man, what can I say? I thought it was great." He smiled and then he saw a guy talking to his girlfriend. He started moving like a shark with me in tow. I nodded to Rios who grasped the situation immediately and started flanking. About a foot from the drop zone, I grabbed his arm and said, "Hey, you ain't thinking about -- ?"

"Man, I'm beyond all that."

So I turned my back, then he coldcocked the guy and left him sprawled out on the floor like a pat of butter. Such is life.

At the same time, these are really good guys to have around when you want to move from one apartment to another. Such is life.

POSTSCRIPT

Things have changed around here a little since the previous writing. While I imagine Tony is still trying to wash the guy's aftershave off his fist, Steve and I have become local heroes.

Steve because of his insensitivity to a "property owner's" pain (turns out that the dude was some bogus third-rate enforcer who could have been hung with the illegal entry rap and that this building changes hands more often than Michael Jackson changes noses). And me for my charm, good looks, mild manner and the fact that I finally emptied that catbox.

The management formally apologized, helped Steve fix his van, gave him time on the rent and asked me when I wanted the pesticide man to come by. I said, "Give me some time." Spike, my cat, does not like guys in uniform walking around here with large canisters of chemicals.

If there's a moral in this, it must go back to the Buddhist concept of balance -- "The Middle Road" -- whether achieved violently or non-violently.

Shakespeare said, "First, we kill all the lawyers."

I say, "Next, we beat the crap out of all the landlords."

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